Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Dramas (1-10 of 564)

'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

'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

'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

'The Following' premiere review: Kevin Bacon, Edgar Allan Poe, violence, vodka, and regret

Because it is the first new series to premiere containing substantial gore since the killings in Newtown, CT, The Following has taken an unfair amount of criticism for depictions of violence on television. As always with pop culture, drawing direct lines to entertainment that “glorifies” or even inspires violence is a vexed proposition. The Following is certainly no more violent than, say, American Horror Story: Asylum, which is wrapping up what’s turned out to be a very artful season this week, or Criminal Minds, which has long been drearily cynical.

Creator-producer-writer Kevin Williamson played horror for giggles in Scream, but the horrors of a mass murderer get a grim, humorless treatment in The Following. It’s a series that makes the most of the gaunt face of star Kevin Bacon. Bacon, whose previous TV acting consisted mostly of pre-stardom soap opera roles, was ripe for a television series: In his early 50s, he’s got the trim, wiry body of someone at least a decade younger. He’s become the Iggy Pop of soulful acting. READ FULL STORY

'Continuum' premiere review: Can this Syfy show be your new sci-fi obsession?

Continuum is a crisp, crackerjack series that premiered on Monday night on the Syfy channel. It’s a hit in Canada, where the Vancouver-filmed and -set series has already aired its first season, and it deserves a substantial audience in America. READ FULL STORY

Golden Globes review: Fey and Poehler presided over a night loaded with surprises

You knew going into it that The Golden Globes were bound to be funny. Nearly every joke told or stunt pulled by hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was solidly, often exceedingly, funny, from Poehler’s line “When it comes to torture I trust the woman married for three years to James Cameron” to Fey’s admonition to Taylor Swift to “stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son” — startled-looking, handsome Sam Fox, this year’s Mr. Golden Globe. READ FULL STORY

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