Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Good night, and a few more opinions and recommendations

Here’s the way I began this blog in 2008:

“Hello. I’ll use this space to: talk about what I watched last night
 (strong opinions guaranteed); what I think you shouldn’t miss tonight; and
 what’s coming up that you should set your DVR for. Absolutely anything is
 open for dissection, celebration, criticism, and discussion, from an actor’s 
great performance, to a story-line that’s starting to stink, to championing 
TV shows both obscure and famous. I watch TV, you watch TV: Let’s share our 
thoughts and passions, OK?” READ FULL STORY

'Southland' season premiere review: Hot town, hot tempers, hot show

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Southland returned for its fifth season on Wednesday night energetically unrepentant: This is a cop saga at once deeply satisfying (its roots in the best tradition of the oldest, most sere TV police procedurals, such as Dragnet and Naked City) yet stubbornly determined to unsettle viewers with stark frankness and emotionalism. READ FULL STORY

State of the Union speech and Christopher Dorner: The attention of TV news was divided

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Coverage of a California cabin thought to hold former LA police officer Christopher Dorner ran right up to the cable new networks’ coverage of President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. The dramatic image of a fire, and with it the possibility of a conclusion to Dorner’s tragic, death-dealing fugitive trek, was kept on-screen even when channels such as CNN and Fox News tried to introduce some pre-game analysis of the President’s address to the nation. READ FULL STORY

'Law and Order: SVU' with Mike Tyson tonight: Using a convicted rapist to play a victim of rape

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Tonight on Law & Order: SVU, you can watch convicted rapist Mike Tyson portray a victim of rape. It’s a perfectly competent performance, even if it doesn’t require Tyson to do much more than be a variation on himself, a tough man who tends to speak, in public, in a soft voice. (Though he does one growling “Get outta here!” quite convincingly.) Still, this is stunt-casting operating at a nervy level of cynicism. READ FULL STORY

'Smash' season premiere review: Jennifer Hudson, more of a 'Bombshell' than Katharine McPhee? Plus, why 'hate-watching' should be mothballed

As someone whose knowledge of musical theater began most forcefully listening, as a child, to my mother’s vinyl copy of The Music Man cast album (she had a crush of Robert Preston), my pleasure in watching Smash has to do with an admiration for the Harold Hill-like hustle and jive the TV show tries to pull off on its audience. The new, supposedly improved edition of Smash that premiered on Tuesday night offered not so much a boost in quality by conventional standards (more interesting storytelling, clarified motivations, etc.) but rather a whole new set of characters, plot lines, music, and bits of dialogue that add up to reasserting Smash as a TV show about a Broadway show used as a metaphor for a TV show that was flopping creatively. READ FULL STORY

What was the best Super Bowl ad? This one. About farmers. With the voice of Paul Harvey.


What was the Super Bowl ad that stopped you in your tracks? What was the one that sent a chill up your spine? What was the one you wanted to see again the instant it was over? READ FULL STORY

'House of Cards' review: Netflix gives Kevin Spacey and David Fincher a finely nasty showcase

House of Cards finds Kevin Spacey being waspish, supercilious, and meanly clever — in other words, just the way we like him, and the way he’s been most effective in movies such as Swimming with Sharks, L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, and (in a glorious early-career TV role) as Mel Profitt in Wiseguy. In House of Cards, he’s House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, passed over for Secretary of State and out for payback. READ FULL STORY

'The Americans' premiere review: Are you rooting for these Russians?

So how long did it take you to buy into the premise of The Americans, the new FX show that premiered on Wednesday night? I’m honestly not sure I still accept — that is, can watch without an occasional snort of disbelief — Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as suburban parents/KGB agents, and I’ve seen more than one episode of the thing. But, for sure, I want to keep watching, because this series will either turn into something very special, or descend into the sort of muted, dignified camp that characterizes some would-be classy cable fare. READ FULL STORY

'Dallas' season premiere review: Larry Hagman's J.R. remains the big draw, but John Ross is worthy evil spawn

Dallas came back with back-to-back season premiere episodes that confirmed that this reconfiguration of Dallas Classic is potent stuff — especially for as long as the late Larry Hagman remains on-screen as J.R. Ewing. And Hagman is at his best here when he’s paired with his evil spawn, Josh Henderson’s increasingly skillful, Great Gatsby-reading rat-face-boy, John Ross. Together, they’re the king and prince of nighttime-soap dirtiness. A FEW SPOILERS AHEAD. READ FULL STORY

'Parenthood' season finale review: The saga of the Bravermans, all tied up?

Parenthood has been so good this season, I hope you’ll forgive me if I express some disappointment with its season — and what sometimes looked like its series — finale. For a show that at its best likes to keep things unkempt and frowsy, this hour was a mite too neatly tied up with a pretty bow.

To be sure, this hour also contained many great pleasures.  READ FULL STORY

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