Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Cancellations (11-20 of 23)

'Law & Order': Why it was important, and why you weren't watching it

Now that the cancellation of Law & Order has been announced, I can say what I’ve been wanting to write for the past 24 hours: Everyone who’s now talking about how much the show will be missed… where were ya when it counted?

Law & Order has been having a very good season. The frequent fireworks between Sam Waterston and his ADAs played by Linus Roache and Alana de la Garza were colorful sparklers. The series’ rare private-life subplot — the cancer READ FULL STORY

'24' tonight: Is one big reason you keep watching because you know it's canceled?

It makes sense. You want to know how 24 ends, right? No matter how ridiculous, exhausted, or suddenly inspired that conclusion turns out to be.

This occurred to me as I approached last week’s edition of 24 as a matter of duty-not-pleasure, that the primary reason I was seeing this lousy season through to its end was that I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t — that as repetitive and predictable as 24 has become, I had to be able to say I’d seen Jack Bauer through every single hour of his (in our universe) nine-year-long agony.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Unlike Lost, whose brilliant decision to announce the end of the series has only increased fan fervor and speculation, the 24 cancellation comes as some combination of relief, sorrow, inevitability, and tease. It was pretty clear, when this season began with Jack dandling his grandchild in New York City, that Bauer was not in the midst of a cliff-hanger, as he’d been in some seasons before. Indeed, Jack’s disconnection from his action-hero life mirrored ours. Even if you remain an enthused fan of 24, you’re now watching it less for the story itself but for the way the methods of storytelling are playing out — what variations in the formula are being introduced.

Lately, those variations are at once surprising (Chloe taking over at CTU?) and predictable (Cherry Jones has never been given much to do as president except worry, so why not bring back the most eccentric, jittery President of all, Gregory Itzen’s version?).

Shooting Renee last week deprived us of the season’s sole interesting character — what Annie Wersching was doing with Renee’s mixture of anger, vulnerability, and despair was fascinating — but it was also totally in keeping with the old Jack-cannot-ever-be-happy theme.

Now he’s — what else? — “out for revenge,” as Fox puts it. So we’ll sit through a few more weeks of watching Jack run and shoot and wrestle with the way his rage-fuelled sorrow contradicts his patriotic duty and tortures him more than any mere terrorist could. Bauer’s inner conflicts have always been compelling. It’s the repetitive procession of foreign enemies and allies, the bombs and the bureaucratic red-tape, that has become stultifying.

Plus, we know we have to stay to the bitter end because it’s not the bitter end. There’s the announced 24 feature film to ponder. How will the show leave Jack so that he can transition to the big screen?

How about you? Will you be sticking around until the show ends on May 24? Are you watching out of pleasure, habit, or both?

Follow @kentucker

Brad Garrett: "'Til Death' cancelled, weird 7-Up commercials: Some career advice

I’ve always liked Brad Garrett as a stand-up comedian, and he was the perfect guy for the woefully imperfect brother on Everybody Loves Raymond. But with READ FULL STORY

A '24' movie: Let's cast the film!

With the news that the final episode of 24 will air May 24 came the added quote that Kiefer Sutherland and his fellow producers hope to make a 24 feature film. Sutherland: “There has been a demand and an interest in a 24 film, which would be a two-hour representation of a 24-hour day.”

Sutherland has expressed this idea before, of course. In 2006, Sutherland told an interviewer, “The script is actually in development right now.” At that point, the star had hoped to shoot a film during the break between TV seasons. The current screenplay is being written by Billy Ray (State of Play).

But we should help out old Jack Bauer in the casting, don’t you think?

First of all, READ FULL STORY

'At The Movies' is cancelled: A bad thing for criticism on TV?

The news that At The Movies has been cancelled — a show that began its life under the title Sneak Previews on PBS in 1978 — is certainly the end of an era in the TV presentation of reviewing and criticism. And it’s sadly ironic that the show should be snuffed just as it attained two hosts, A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips, who are probably READ FULL STORY

'Dollhouse' ends: The ultimate winners and losers

For folks who never watched “Epitaph One” (the unaired, DVD-extra, 13th episode of season one), Dollhouse really ended last week, with “The Hollow Men,” the last episode that took place in the present-day of the original Dollhouse universe.

This week, “Epitaph Two: Return,” set in 2020, wrapped things up in a way I found more effective, even moving, than I expected. I thought the Mad Max-iness of “One” was as derivative as that comparison makes it sound, but “Two” gave “One” context, and really made both of these book-enders cohere dramatically.

Rather than go through a recap of an episode that Dollhouse watchers without benefit of “Epitaph One” may have found baffling anyway, I’ll let you knowledgeable fans discuss it among yourselves in the Comments section below, and instead, I’ll tote up what I think are the Winners and Losers in the great Dollhouse experiment. As Paul Ballard said last night, “This is where it gets interesting.”


Joss Whedon He never stops trying something utterly different from what anyone else in television is doing, and he’s always punished for it with a modest-at-best audience. Who does the cancellation of Dollhouse make more wary: him or any broadcast-network exec tempted to work with him again?

Eliza Dushku Given (a) plum role(s), Dushku sometimes seemed not quite up to the task of portraying all the various characters with which she was imprinted. Sometimes they just seemed like a slight variations on either slow-talking robotic Echo, or butt-kicking Echo/Caroline. Where does the failure of this series leave her TV career? Maybe in search of something very different. Bet she’s looking at ABC’s Modern Family and wondering if her agent should get her the next smart sitcom.

Topher I went back and forth on this character, but ultimately (as in last night’s finale), his manic-nerd mannerisms, no matter how many times they were partially redeemed by a subplot showing the real man inside the man-boy, just grated. The challenge for actor Fran Kranz will be to prove he has the range to do something more nuanced than brilliant-but-squawky Topher.

Fox Not a terrible villain at all, but not a hero, either. The network took a chance, it didn’t pay off, which could have made them look gutsy. Instead, by doing things like the reported big-footing interference in the early-panic stage of the series, not airing “Epitaph One,” and burning off the second season on Friday nights, Fox looks a bit squirrely.


Joss Whedon He’s free to be courted by cable. FX, Showtime, HBO, AMC — who knows where he’ll take his next project, but who among us will not be front-and-center for its premiere?

Olivia Williams She was ultimately one of the two actors whose performances became richer, more sly and knowing, with each week. I’d love to see her in another series, soon.

Enver Gjokaj And he’s the other one who comes out of this looking like a deft, dexterous actor who could slide into almost any genre and succeed with charm to spare.

David Solomon He directed some of the best episodes, from “Spy In The House Of Love” to “The Public Eye” to both of “Epitaph” hours with flair and economy (both in his sense of atmospheric storytelling, and making do with the budget he had).

So, what did you think of the final Dollhouse? And who do you think are the winners and losers now that the series is over?

Follow me on Twitter @kentucker

Jay Leno on 'Oprah': Admits to lying, ridicules Conan's 'Tonight Show': This is damage control?

In a fascinating display of self-pity and hubris, Jay Leno went on Oprah today and really let loose: He said that the plan to return him to The Tonight Show was “a huge mess,” that he’d been “sucker-punched” by Jimmy Kimmel, that he’d lied when he told the public in 2004 he would retire when he left The Tonight Show in 2009, and that there’s “a lot of damage control that has to be done now.” Believe me: There’ll be even more to be done after this Oprah interview.

Jay Leno admitted to Oprah Winfrey that “I told a white lie READ FULL STORY

Conan O'Brien's last 'Tonight Show': Jokes, sure, but near tears, too: a full review

Conan O’Brien presided over a proper Irish wake for his final Tonight Show. It was a boisterously funny, sobbingly sad, unpredictable hour that demonstrated all of his strengths while never hiding the emotions behind those skills.

O’Brien delivered a fine monologue that included the hope that “when HBO makes a movie” about this late-night mess, “I want to be played by Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton.” A picture of Swinton loomed up beside Conan’s face and, yep — they really do look similar. He also continued his new “tradition” of giving us the “most expensive” sketches for NBC to fund. On his final night, a skeleton of a “giant ground sloth” that “sprayed Beluga on an original Picasso.”

He also had a list of ideas for what NBC could do with the newly-built studio Conan was leaving. My favorite was, “Leave the studio cold and empty and rename it ‘The World’s Largest Metaphor for NBC Programming.'”

Tom Hanks came out carrying glasses of “Scotch” (i.e., cream soda) for Conan and himself. Hanks talked about an upcoming movie he’s written and will direct, featuring Julia Roberts. Its subject? “It’s about a guy who loses his job,” Hanks said with a gulp as Conan did a double-take. It got a good laugh, but in the context of this celebratory wake, it almost seemed strange to watch Conan conduct a conventional celebrity interview. The night was, y’know, about Conan. But you had to admire O’Brien for sticking to some of the conventions right to the end.

Conan then introduced Neil Young by saying the singer-songwriter was “the very first person who called” him. Young sang a beautiful solo version of “Long May You Run.” Hell, I almost teared up.

A bit later, Conan sat at the desk to thank NBC with sincerity, saying he was grateful for his time at The Tonight Show. O’Brien’s voice cracked and his eyes seemed to well up, near tears, when he told his fans, “I can never thank you enough” and that their support had been “joyous and inspirational.”

To close out the show, Will Ferrell came out to sing “Free Bird” wearing a Ronnie Van Zant wig and hat, as well as a t-shirt bearing a picture of the Tonight’s The Night-era Neil Young. Conan strapped on a guitar to accompany him, as did Beck and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

It was, all in all, an hour that summed up O’Brien’s appeal: Wacky but modest, impishly intelligent and un-ironically sincere. On the one night when all the weeks of jokes about how he’s been messed-over by NBC could have come to a belligerent climax, Conan practiced what he preached when he said this night, “Please don’t be cynical… it doesn’t lead anywhere.”

Where that attitude will lead Conan O’Brien — last seen on The Tonight Show playing guitar furiously, yelling with pure joy as the band played “Free Bird” — will mark the next chapter in late-night television.

What did you think of last night’s farewell Tonight Show with Conan?

Follow me on Twitter @kentucker

For more: Conan’s final monologue

Oprah Winfrey cries on live show announcing the end of 'Oprah'

With tears in her eyes, Oprah Winfrey said on her Friday “live from Chicago” Oprah show that she will cancel her talk show as of Sept. 9, 2011. Pegging her show’s exit to its 25th anniversary, Winfrey said it “feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit.” Her voice breaking, she said haltingly that she valued “the yellow brick road of blessings” her show has brought her. She promised to “knock your socks off” with the “18-month ride.” The audience gave her a standing ovation.

Winfrey waited until we’d watched a grim, wrenching segment on a raped and murdered child, plus interviews with Gabourey Sidibe (the star of Precious, a movie to which Winfrey signed on as a co-producer) and with Ray Romano to make her announcement.

Frankly, during the opening segment, I hit the “mute” button as soon as I heard the phrases “sold into sex slavery” and “cigarette burns on her body.” I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of story, and frankly, was surprised that Winfrey still does segments like this.

But Oprah has done a lot of good that far outweighs the questionable stuff on Oprah. Thus, her announcement had the feeling of an American queen stepping down from her throne, or an unelected president resigning from office. And it’s not as though she’s going to disappear any time soon, which only adds to the pop-culture interest here. Unlike the few major broadcast entertainment figures comparable to her, from Arthur Godfrey to Johnny Carson, Winfrey’s decision to make this a long goodbye will yield a new model for how a beloved celebrity leaves the public stage ( …if only until she starts up her next TV project).

Even when she decides to end something, Oprah does it in a uniquely big way.

Did you watch? What do you think of Oprah ending Oprah?

More on Oprah Winfrey: Oprah says ending her show ‘feels right in my bones’

'Southland' lives! Picked up by TNT, to air opposite 'Jay Leno'


Southland has found new life and the home so many of us had hoped it would. Southland, cancelled by NBC when it scrambled its schedule to make room for The Jay Leno Show five nights a week, will air on TNT starting in January.

TNT announced this morning that it plans to re-air the series’ original seven episodes NBC broadcast, plus the six new hours that NBC ordered but chose not to air. Depending on ratings, TNT will order more. The cable network plans to run the tough cop drama Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. — opposite The Jay Leno Show. “This is a perfect opportunity for us to introduce the series to new viewers,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, in a statement released today.

So what do you think? Can Southland thrive on the same station that brings us The Closer, Saving Grace, and other highly-rated scripted dramas? Is this a good decision?

Me, I’m looking forward to seeing how those dangling storylines involving the officers played by Regina King and Michael Cudlitz play out.

How about you?

(Follow me on Twitter.)

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