Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: PBS (1-10 of 22)

Shame on you, PBS, for firing Fred Willard: #FreeFred

Oh, PBS, things were going so well for you yesterday. All those Emmy nominations for Downton Abbey and Sherlock; how well-deserved. Then you had to go and fire Fred Willard. READ FULL STORY

'Mad Men,' 'Sherlock,' 'Girls,' 'The Killing': Sunday-night mini-reviews, from A to B-minus

So much TV on Sunday night; inaugurating a new occasional feature: A round-up of mini-reviews. (All rights reserved to expand upon these thoughts later in the week.)

Mad Men: “I got a million of ‘em,” said Michael Ginsberg, quoting Jimmy Durante and referring to ideas he has for ad campaigns. He’ll need ‘em, since this week’s theme was “every man for himself.” I know — when isn’t that a Mad Men theme? This night READ FULL STORY

'Sherlock' season premiere review: Was 'A Scandal in Belgravia' a Holmes romp, or a sexist rout?

Sherlock returned for a second season Sunday night on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery!, and offered its take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia” by giving you a chance to match wits with the Master in… cracking the password to Irene Adler’s smartphone. READ FULL STORY

'Sherlock' returns tonight: A video preview

Sherlock returns tonight for a second season on PBS’ Masterpiece. Before the first series premiered, I had been dubious: A modern Sherlock Holmes, adapting to new technology with a Watson who blogged the Great Detective exploits? That seemed dubious. READ FULL STORY

'Cougar Town': Its strengths and weaknesses, its ratings challenge: VIDEO review

Cougar Town is on tonight, once again facing overwhelming counter-programming from American Idol, NCIS, The (gag) Biggest Loser, and a PBS documentary about The Amish (no kidding, it’s good). Is Cougar Town the little, misnamed-sitcom that can prevail, can retain an audience large enough to keep it alive? READ FULL STORY

'Downton Abbey' season finale review: God bless us, one and all!

The second season of Downton Abbey came to a somewhat merry, certainly satisfying conclusion on Sunday night by wrapping up some subplots and leaving others dangling, tantalizingly. Abbey is, at bottom, a work of pastiche. Creator-writer Julian Fellowes is using literary models that have worked for a long time, freshening them with his vivid characterization and (most of the time) crisply precise dialogue. What Fellowes has done so cannily is to render the servant-master relationship in two distinct modes: His models are Charles Dickens melodrama downstairs, and Anthony Powell archness upstairs. READ FULL STORY

'Downton Abbey' premiere review: 'You'll find there's never a dull moment in this house': True?

For pure Sunday night escapism, PBS’ Downton Abbey exceeds the previous champion of the Lord’s Day of Rest, HBO’s Game of Thrones. There was a grungy realism to Thrones‘ sword and sorcery epic; by contrast, Abbey is, to American eyes, nearly fantastical. All the politeness that prevails, even during World War I! Mr. Carson articulated this quality early on in the second-season premiere as the downstairs help polished the silver and prepared meals for the upstairs grandees: “Keeping up standards is the only way to show the Germans that they will not beat us in the end.” READ FULL STORY

Completing 2011's TV Top 20: Ken Tucker's Nos. 11-20 shows, including 'Community,' 'Parenthood,' 'Game of Thrones'...

Here, as I do every year, I follow up my TV Top 10 with my picks for numbers 11 through 20. Some of you have said these are consolation prizes, but that’s not so. There’s so much good television, that for a few years, I was stuffing my Top 10 with entries that allowed for multiple shows (“Best Thursday-night sitcoms,” for instance, to let me to sneak three shows into one number) until that started to become unwieldy and ridiculous. (Besides, as a part-time music critic, I like the “Top 20” phrase, with its roots in old pop-music radio.) I had no problem this year coming up with a clean-cut Top 10; what follows are shows that grazed the list, missed it for reasons I’ll occasionally articulate below, and yet are nonetheless full of value.

11. Community So full of pop-culture allusions, it’s the one sitcom steeped in irony that isn’t smug about its own smarts. The series tried to dig a bit deeper emotionally this season, to warm some of the characters and perhaps increase its audience-outreach without betraying itself. Me, I could do with less Chang, more Britta, and a Jeff who doesn’t sometimes seem a charmingly quizzical bystander.

12. Parenthood This was the season that’s come the closest to juggling its big cast most deftly, providing nearly every character with a strong plotline. If it’s inevitable that Lauren Graham’s Sarah and Dax Shepard’s Crosby – the show’s most bumptious personalities – dominated the latter half of the season, I was glad to see strong showcases for Peter Krause, Monica Potter, and Bonnie Bedelia.

13. Prohibition Ken Burns and booze proved to be a smooth yet exciting combination. The year’s best TV documentary extended beyond the history of Prohibition to chronicle the era of women’s sufferage and the rise of gangsterism as well.

14. Modern Family The nation’s most popular sitcom had some growing pains this season: In an admirable attempt to try to widen and deepen its characters, it bumped into some sentimental moments that didn’t quite work emotionally. But that’s just a sign that MF is not becoming complacent, and its ensemble cast is a match for that of any drama on TV. READ FULL STORY

Golden Globes TV nominations: Why are the choices so smart, yet so frustrating?

The TV nominations for the Golden Globes were such a predictable mishmash of well-deserved semi-surprises, the usual suspects, and dismaying disappointments that, like the SAG nominations yesterday and the Emmy nominations perennially, it makes me wonder two things: Why do I — and you; we — get so het up about awards, and is America ever going to reward John Noble? READ FULL STORY

'Prohibition' premiere review: Get drunk on this good stuff

Watching Prohibition, you can almost hear Ken Burns knock back a shot of Bushmills, slam the glass on the bar, and yell, “Yee haw — let’s make us some television!” There’s a hot-cheeked vigor to this three-night production on PBS, crammed with history, revelation, drama, and opinion. It’s both an eye-opener to the past, and a remarkable metaphor for the woozy present we’re reeling through today. READ FULL STORY

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