For those of you who perhaps missed our inaugural podcast where we all presented our favorite TV shows of 2014… First of all, don’t worry – there’s plenty of time to catch up with the fun by subscribing via iTunes or manually through our RSS feed. Second, here’s a handy cheat sheet of our picks. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

From all of us at ADTV and the Water Cooler podcast to you, here’s wishing you a very happy and safe New Year’s Eve and a fantastic 2015 ahead!

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* Craig’s list beyond True Detective is alphabetical.

The New Year is right around the corner which means all your favorite midseason shows are coming back and they’ll be joined by a pant-load of new ones vying for your affections. Check out the complete list of shows below in the order of their premiere dates. New series debuts have been given descriptive blurbs carefully hand crafted by slave labor in third world countries to give you an idea what to expect. The new shows that look the most promising are marked with an asterisk (No children were harmed in the manufacture of these asterisks).

Besides the returning series, I’m most curious about ABC’s Agent Carter and American Crime; AMC’s Better Call Saul; Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore; CBS’s The Late Late Show with James Corden; FOX’s Wayward Pines; HBO’s Togetherness; NBC’s Odyssey; Netflix’s Daredevil and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; and Sundance Channel’s Babylon.

Megan, Joey, Clarence and I will be discussing the shows we’re most excited about having back or checking out for the first time in our next ADTV Water Cooler Podcast (airing January 5), so take a look at what’s coming and let us know in the comments which shows you’re most looking forward to yourself.

Undercover Boss (1/2 CBS – Fridays)

Downton Abbey (1/4 PBS – Sundays)

Galavant (1/4 ABC – Sundays) 4-episode musical with tunes by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater filling the space during Once Upon a Time‘s hiatus. The story follows the heroic title character in his adventures against an evil king who stole his lady love.

The Celebrity Apprentice (1/4 NBC – Sundays)

Worst Cooks in America (1/4 Food – Sundays)

The Bachelor (1/5 ABC – Mondays)


*Marvel’s Agent Carter (1/6 ABC – Tuesdays) The Marvel super hero universe carves out another hour on the small screen with this 8-part post-war spinoff of Captain America. Haley Atwell (The Duchess, Captain America) plays Peggy Carter who does office work for the Strategic Scientific Reserve while also secretly doing espionage work for Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Iron Man’s dad and the future founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. James D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas) plays Stark’s butler, Jarvis, who assists Carter on her adventures. Agent Carter will occupy the time slot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during that show’s winter hiatus.

Cougar Town (1/6 TBS – Tuesdays)

MasterChef Junior (1/6 FOX – Tuesdays)

The Challenge (1/6 MTV – Tuesdays)

American Idol (1/7 FOX – Wednesdays)

Empire (1/7 FOX – Wednesdays) This new musical drama set in the Hip Hop universe was created by Lee Daniels (The Butler) and it stars Hustle and Flow‘s Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson along with Gabourey Sidibe (Lee Daniels’ Precious).

Hindsight (1/7 VH1 – Wednesdays) On the eve of her second wedding, a woman is given the opportunity to see if she can make better choices in her life when she’s sent back in time to New York in the mid-90s on the morning of her first wedding to a man who was all wrong for her.

Archer (1/8 FX – Thursdays)

*Babylon (1/8 Sundance – Thursdays) This 6-part, hour-long police comedy-drama from Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) originally aired on England’s Channel 4 and now it comes to the United States. Brit Marling (Another Earth) plays an American PR expert who travels to England to help spruce up the image of the London Police, but runs into conflict with the officers and administration including Police Commissioner James Nesbitt (Five Minutes of Heaven).

Portlandia (1/8 IFC – Thursdays)

Banshee (1/9 MAX – Fridays)

Cold Justice (1/9 TNT – Fridays)

Comedy Bang! Bang! (1/9 IFC – Fridays)

Glee (1/9 FOX – Fridays)

Episodes (1/11 SHO – Sundays)

Girls (1/11 HBO – Sundays)

House of Lies (1/11 SHO – Sundays)

Looking (1/11 HBO – Sundays)

Shameless (1/11 SHO – Sundays)


*Togetherness (1/11 HBO – Sundays) Indie filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home) hit the small screen with this half-hour comedy-drama about two married couples sharing living space. Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, The Informant) play a couple whose relationship is fizzling. Steve Zissis (Jeff, Who Lives at Home) and Amanda Peet (Please Give, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) the other couple who are Duplass’s best friend and Lynskey’s sister respectively. Complications ensue.

Eye Candy (1/12 MTV – Mondays) This thriller based on R.L. Stine’s (Goosebumps) book of the same name follows a young hacker (Victoria Justice, LOL) who helps the police investigate a possible cyber-stalker.

Face Off (1/13 Syfy – Tuesdays)

Parks and Recreation (1/13 NBC – Tuesdays)

Broad City (1/14 COM – Wednesdays)

Man Seeking Woman (1/14 FXX – Wednesdays) Jay Baruchel (This is the End) plays a 20-something single guy who just wants to find the woman of… ZzzZZZzZZZZzzZZ.

Workaholics (1/14 COM – Wednesdays)

12 Monkeys (1/16 Syfy – Fridays) Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi cult hit starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis gets adapted for the small screen. A man is sent back from the future to stop a plague from destroying mankind except he lands a few years before the plague hits and gets institutionalized as a nutjob (is he or isn’t he?).

Helix (1/16 Syfy – Fridays)

The Fall (1/16 NFX)

World’s Funniest Fails (1/16 FOX – Fridays) Another in a long line of shows with clips of stupid people doing stupid things.

The Musketeers (1/17 BBC – Saturdays)


*The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (1/19 COM – Mondays) The Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore steps into Stephen Colbert’s rather massive clown shoes.

Justified (1/20 FX – Tuesdays)

Arrow (1/21 CW – Wednesdays)

Best New Restaurant (1/21 Bravo – Wednesdays) Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio hosts this reality competition show pits promising new restaurants against each other in challenges in hope of finding “Best New Restaurant.”

Backstrom (1/22 FOX – Thursdays) Rainn Wilson (The Office) is an ornery Portland detective in this crime procedural based on the novels by Swedish author Leif G.W. Persson.

King of the Nerds (1/23 TBS – Fridays)

Black Sails (1/24 Starz – Saturdays)

Sirens (1/27 USA – Tuesdays)

Suits (1/28 USA – Wednesdays)

The Americans (1/28 FX – Wednesdays)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2/? HBO) Described by HBO as “documentary event,” this six-parter from Andrew Jarecki  and Marc Smerling (Capturing the Friedmans) “exposes long-buried information discovered during their seven-year investigation of a series of unsolved crimes, and the man suspected of being at its center – Robert Durst, scion of New York’s billionaire Durst family – and was made with his full cooperation.”

Fresh Off the Boat (2/4 ABC – Tuesdays) Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir about his Asian family’s assimilation into suburban US culture in the 1990s gets the sitcom treatment. While the show debuts on a Wednesday, its regular slot is Tuesday.

Allegiance (2/5 NBC – Thursdays) NBC rips off The Americans with Hope Davis and Scott Cohen as a couple of re-activated Russian spies who must convince their CIA analyst son to turn to betray his country.


*Better Call Saul (2/8 AMC – Mondays) Breaking Bad favorite Saul Goodman Attorney at Law gets his own hour-long spinoff series. Six years before he met Walter White, Saul was a lawyer named Jimmy McGill rising in the legal ranks defending all manner of Albuquerque scum. The show debuts in two parts on Sunday 2/8 and Monday 2/9. Its regular slot will be Mondays.

Schitt’s Creek (2/11 POP – Wednesdays) I almost completely wrote off this Canadian comedy debuting on the former TV Guide Network just based on the title alone until I realized it starred SCTV alum Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. They play a wealthy couple forced to move to a backwater town after losing all their money.

The Slap (2/12 NBC – Thursdays) An eight-part drama based on an Australian mini looking at what happens when someone slaps another parent’s brat at a birthday party. Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, Thandie Newton, Melissa George, and Zachary Quinto star.

Rizzoli & Isles (2/17 TNT – Tuesdays)

The Odd Couple (2/19 CBS – Thursdays) Matthew Perry takes another crack at post-Friends success as the messy Oscar opposite Thomas Lennon’s (Reno 911) fussy Felix, the two friends from Neil Simon’s play (and the hit 70s sitcom) who are thrown together following a divorce.

Vikings (2/19 HIST – Thursdays)

The Night Shift (2/23 NBC – Mondays)

Survivor (2/25 CBS – Wednesdays)

The Amazing Race (2/25 CBS – Wednesdays)

House of Cards (2/27 NFX)

Battle Creek (3/1 CBS – Sundays) Because it doesn’t have any non-CSI ideas, CBS hopes lightning can strike twice for Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and they’ve pulled one of his 10-year-old scripts out of the trash. Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters star as a pair of odd couple detectives in the titular Michigan town.

Secrets & Lies (3/1 ABC – Sundays) Former Mr. Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe, stars as a man who finds a dead child only to get pinned for the murder. Juliette Lewis is the detective investigating the crime. In True Detective fashion, the story will be wrapped up over the course of 10 episodes.

The Last Man on Earth (3/1 FOX – Sundays) SNL vet Will Forte is the title character. Comedy ensues as he looks for other humans to repopulate the world.

Broadchurch (3/4 BBC – Wednesdays)

CSI: Cyber (3/4 CBS – Wednesdays) Because apparently the world needed another CSI show. This is their effort to appeal to a younger audience. The new team, which investigates computer crimes, is made up of Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal), rap artist Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, and Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210).

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*American Crime (3/5 ABC – Thursdays) Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Earl Brown, Richard Cabral, and Penelope Ann Miller star in 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley’s drama about racial tension unleashed by a murder trial.

Dig (3/5 USA – Thursdays) Jason Isaacs (Awake), Anne Heche and Lauren Ambrose star in this six-episode mini-thriller from the creators of Homeland and Heroes. An archeologist digging around Jerusalem uncovers an ancient conspiracy that could alter what we think we know about history.

*Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – (3/6 NFX) Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are the creators behind this new comedy about a woman (Ellie Kemper, The Office, Bridesmaids) who flees a doomsday cult and takes a job in Manhattan as a nanny for a wealthy socialite (Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock, Ally McBeal)

The Royals (3/15 E! – Sundays) We waged a war of independence almost 250 years ago so we could one day have sitcoms about English royalty. Elizabeth Hurley stars.

One Big Happy (3/17 NBC – Tuesdays) Ellen DeGeneres executive produces this multi-camera sitcom starring 24‘s Elisha Cuthbert as a lesbian who recruits her best friend (Nick Zano) to help her raise a child only to have him fall in love with and marry the woman of his dreams (Kelly Brook).

Undateable (3/17 NBC – Tuesdays)

*The Late Late Show with James Corden (3/23 CBS – Mondays) British actor James Corden (Doctor Who, Into the Woods) takes his first shot at hosting an American late night chat show when he takes over from Craig Ferguson.

Call The Midwife (3/29 PBS – Sundays)

The Dovekeepers (3/31 CBS – Tuesdays) Roma Downey and Mark Burnett who previously produced The Bible for TV turn their sights on the story of the Roman siege of Masada as told through the eyes of four women. Two-night miniseries.

Weird Loners (3/31 FOX – Tuesdays) More 20-somethings looking for love. These ones live in Queens.

Younger (3/31 TV Land – Tuesdays) Darren Star (Sex and the City) delivers a new show starring Sutton Foster (Bunheads) as a 40-something single mom who has to re-enter the working world and recruits her best friend (Debi Mazar) to give her a makeover so she can pass for 26.

Veep (4/? HBO – Sundays) No premiere date set as of this writing.

Silicon Valley (4/? HBO – Sundays) No premiere date set as of this writing.

Game of Thrones (4/? HBO – Sundays)  No premiere date set as of this writing.

Hannibal (4/? NBC) No premiere date set as of this writing.

Outlander (4/4 Starz – Saturdays)

A.D. (4/5 NBC – Sundays) In a sequel to History Channel’s The Bible, the story picks up after the death of Christ.


*Odyssey (4/5 NBC – Sundays) Described by the network as a Traffic-like action drama, Odyssey stars Anna Friel (Land of the Lost, Pushing Daisies) as a Special Forces soldier who discovers the jihadists her unit is fighting are funded by a U.S. corporation. Her unit is wiped out and the official story is that they were ambushed by the enemy, but Friel survives and knows that it was a private U.S. military contractor. Meanwhile, Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) is a lawyer fighting a merger with the same jihadist-funding corporation and Nate Mooney (The Riches) is a hacker hired by a trust-fund activist to investigate the whole conspiracy.

*Daredevil (4/10 NFX) After a couple of previously aborted attempts at a series and one disastrous theatrical film, Marvel’s “Man Without Fear” takes another crack at the small screen.

Orphan Black (4/18 BBC – Saturdays)

*Wayward Pines (5/14 FOX – Thursdays) M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and then some mostly terrible movies) produces this 10-episode miniseries starring Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent sent to investigate a couple of missing Feds in the titular Idaho small town. Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo and Terrence Howard co-star.

This morning’s Golden Globe television nominations rather shockingly and dramatically flipped the script over last year’s nominations. Today’s field looks significantly different largely due a sizeable number of omissions, a few category shifts, and the Globe’s ability to consistently recognize new blood.

Starting with the omissions, major awards-bait series were completely ignored by the Globes after a storied history of nominations and wins. This list includes Showtime’s Masters of Sex, AMC’s Mad Men, FOX’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, ABC’s Modern Family, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, ABC’s Scandal, BBC’s Orphan Black among many, many others.

It’s a staggering list when you look at it really.

I’m not saying we were repeat-free. Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Girls all saw repeat success this year in addition to a scattering of repeat nominations. But you do have to admire the Globes for recognizing so much new talent / new series.

Personally, I am most thrilled with the large support for Showtime’s The Affair with three nominations including Dramatic Series as well as acting bids for Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. I’ve raved about the series in both this site and on our new TV Water Cooler podcast, and I’m excited about its potential Emmy chances down the road.

But also receiving well deserved bids were Viola Davis for her work in How to Get Away with Murder, Claire Danes for largely driving the successful reboot of Homeland, and Comedy Series/Actor bids for Amazon Prime’s Transparent – a first for the fledgling content provider.

Additionally, the Globes can be counted on to embrace at least one comedy ingénue each year. This year’s recipient of that honor was Gina Rodriguez and her series Jane the Virgin, which is *thisclose* to be a real buzzed-about event. No doubt this recognition will further that along.

This being an awards show, there’s always something to complain about. Only one nod for Veep? No Game of Thrones performances? And just when Tatiana Maslany starts making headway with her SAG nomination this week, the Globes pulls the rug out from under her by neglecting to cite her for her ongoing brilliant work. Similarly, I am sensing a downward trend in the reactions to this year’s American Horror Story outing, Freak Show, based on early awards possibilities. Sure, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates made it in at the Globes, but the series was shut out at the SAG nominations and did not receive a Miniseries bid at the Globes this year (it also missed out on its Asylum outing as well).

My chief complaint here was in Kathy Bates’s recognition in her underwritten role as the bearded lady. Given her meaty role in Coven, Bates seemingly slept through Freak Show – no reflection of her talent but more ill will against her ill-conceived role. I would rather have seen Sarah Paulson in as the conjoined twins given the degree of difficulty alone. Perhaps the Globes are righting past wrongs with Bates.

Finally, in some category shenanigans, Orange is the New Black magically transformed itself from a Drama to a Comedy and saw three nominations as a result. True Detective, which has been recognized in almost every other voting body as a Drama Series, was relegated to the Miniseries category and received four nominations, including one for Supporting Actress Michelle Monaghan.

Which brings up a consistent complaint of mine: the Globes sees fit to break down television (and film) into Drama and Comedy categories, which I think is fine, but continues to lump supporting performances from television series (both Drama and Comedy) in with the TV-Movie and Miniseries performances. This is a bone-headed category that clearly makes no sense. Aside from the bizarre comparisons voters are forced to make (pitting one-shot performances with sustained, series long performances), they are omitting several great supporting performances that aren’t bubbling up to the surface. I’m thinking of the extensive Veep and Game of Thrones supporting casts as well as the broad perspective offered in The Normal Heart.

No wonder they all drink at the ceremony.

Earlier this month, I walked with the dead. I cavorted with vampires. I survived an encounter with a face-hugging alien. I looked into the eyes of Michael Myers. I loved every second of it too.

For those who have experienced it firsthand, Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights inspires obsession. The combination of cinema-level makeup and special effects and the cathartic thrill of walking (running) through your favorite horror film or television show offers an intoxicating visceral experience. I speak of this with a firsthand knowledge: this year, its 24th in Universal Studios Orlando, marked my six consecutive year attending the event.

This is by no means a significant feat. I’ve met many over the years who have attended 15-plus years. For the more adventurous or horror-minded, the event is mandatory.

Also held in Universal Studios Hollywood, Singapore, and, occasionally, Japan, Halloween Horror Nights often features a combination of original concepts and, more frequently (frustratingly to its legions of fans), houses based on pre-existing intellectual property. Those in the know call them IP houses. It’s the IP houses that draw the crowds (and their pocketbooks).

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This year, Universal Studios Orlando headlined three major IP houses based on a mixture of film and television: The Walking Dead: The End of the Line, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Halloween (the John Carpenter version… none of that Rob Zombie nonsense here), From Dusk Till Dawn, and something of a preview to the current Universal film Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood. The three original houses were Dollhouse of the Damned, Giggles & Gore Inc., and Roanoke: Cannibal Colony. There are also more interactive experiences out in the streets of Universal Studios called scare zones.

As Horror Nights go, this was a very good year. While quality from house to house still varied, there were no outright stinkers where, typically, there is at least one. So, here are my thoughts on each of the experiences. I did not attend the Hollywood version, but some of the houses share similar themes with completely original experiences.

Why do I do it? Because I love it. I love the prospect of literally walking through a movie and the mixture of anticipation and dread that settles in my stomach before walking into a house.

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The house based on John Carpenter’s Halloween led this year’s crop in terms of quality and plentiful scares. A full-scale façade of the Myers house, video projections of the Judith Myers murder, and Carpenter’s booming theme set the mood early on as fans waited to enter the house. Once inside, the bloody body of Judith rests lifeless on the stairs with a child version of Michael popping out to scare in his famed clown costume and mask. True, this presentation was slightly off from the movie, but none of the houses have second floors, making the journey upstairs to Judith’s bedroom impossible.

We wander through additional scenes from the film including the famed strangulations of Annie and Lynda, the stabbing of Bob, and (most terrifyingly to me) a winding hallway full of louvered doors through which Michael crashes. This effect was particularly effective on me as Michael came crashing through one door and banged on another in a clever paring that sent me scampering down the hallway on childlike tiptoes. They also tossed in trick-or-treaters wearing the Silver Shamrock masks from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, and, if you listened closely, then you could hear the Silver Shamrock jingle. A very nice touch indeed in a classic house that thought of everything.

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The Walking Dead: The End of the Line

For the past three years, Universal Studios has partnered with AMC on The Walking Dead-themed houses that faithfully recreate scenes from associated seasons. This year’s house started outside with the fall-out from the Governor’s siege upon the prison complete with an incredibly lifelike recreation of poor Herschel’s severed head. Once inside, we relive the story of the virus that killed many of the survivors and turned them into zombies. Next, we stumble through a gunfight in the grocery store where zombies came crashing through the roof along with a giant helicopter.

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A few more scenes pass including a zombie-filled country club and the famous collapsed tunnel, and we’re presented with cannibal-haven Terminus, a nice way to end the house and (hopefully) the Walking Dead’s tenure at Horror Nights. It’s not that I particularly disliked the house. It’s that, after three years, zombie-based thrill houses aren’t that scary. There was one cool trick that Universal pulls out a few times: you enter a room full of a combination of dolls and actors (in this case, zombies) and, thanks to the pulsing strobe lights, you can’t tell what’s real. It was much more effective in the Halloween house where stumbling blindly through a room of Michael Myers clones made both my pulse and bowels quicken. The highest compliment I could pay the house is, as I watched season four, I could easily identify which television scenes the talented creative staff at Universal would undertake. They did not disappoint, but it just didn’t thrill me as much as other houses did.

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AVP: Alien vs. Predator

Based on the multi-media mythology, the AVPhouse realizes a movie monster mash-up between the aliens and the predators. There’s not much more there than that. What the house does offer are fantastic, no-expense-spared recreations of the famed creatures. All details are included with brilliant authenticity: the acid stains of their blood, the face huggers impregnating a victim, real body scans looking for the telltale signs of infestation, and those enormous predators popping up at you around every corner. There was one unintentional laugh: the Bishop-like android on display bore a strong resemblance to Richard Nixon. If I have a complaint, then it’s that the house felt too quick. I would have loved more interaction with the aliens, more humans screaming for mercy before the chest-bursting horrors take hold. As is, it’s a fine, thrilling house.

From Dusk Till Dawn

I know nothing about the television show From Dusk Till Dawn, so this house didn’t fully resonate with me. There are human sacrifices, snakes, and a temple located beneath a strip club headlined by vampires. And someone called Santanico Pandemonium who stands bloody and nude in a bathtub. Maybe I should have done my homework, but I was more confused than scared by the experience. Still, sometimes you just need slutty vampires in your life.

Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood

This house really should have been retitled Corporate Synergy. Serving as a live-action preview of the Universal film of the same name, Dracula Untold gives visitors the experience of walking through a Transylvanian setting sieged by bloodthirsty Turks. As you progress through the house, Vlad the Impaler transforms into Dracula to save his people, eventually turning other vampires to to aid in his quest. Universal has done this a few times before, most successfully with The Wolfman, and it feels a little cheap. Like someone’s forcing you to watch boring home movies. It’s not a bad house, per se. It’s just uninspired and redundant of the many vampire-inspired houses Universal has offered in past years.

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Original Houses

The three remaining houses were more adventurous as they were not based on pre-sold concepts. The best of these had to be Dollhouse of the Damned, a house with no central conceit other than to expose you to as many creepy dolls as they could possibly fit into the structure. You’ve got rag dolls, button-eyed dolls, marionettes, headless ballerinas, and a mirrored scene featuring dolls seemingly inspired by Eyes Wide Shut. Oh yeah, and don’t let me forget the giant babies in cribs who spread their poop all over the walls. Yes, it smells too. Also, I was simultaneously transfixed and horrified by the extra-large man dressed like Baby Herman and stuffed into a highchair.

Being from North Carolina, I’m very familiar with the legend of the Lost Colony, so the Roanoke: Cannibal Colony house was particularly amusing for me. The central story here is that the colony, whose inhabitants legendarily disappeared after associates sailed to London for supplies, were mauled by ye ole cannibals. This has to be the goriest house offered this year with images of burning bodies and colonists munching on corpses. It’s definitely more disgusting than scary, but, looking past the gore, the set design is pretty amazing.

Finally, the last original house was Giggles & Gore, Inc, a factory that supplies the world with psychotic clowns. As you progress through the house, the clowns go from merely eerie (such as your villainous ringmaster) to indescribably bizarre. Typically, Universal goes for a dark comedy house (“Leave It to Cleaver” was a personal favorite), but this one didn’t really balance the line between comedy and horror. Still, it was an imaginative event that I wish I’d been able to visit more than once to fully absorb. I may or may not have attempted to block this one from my mind as apparently I suffer from coulrophobia. Yes, that has a name. Given the recent trend of crazy clowns on American Horror Story and that guy posting scary ass pictures on Instagram, I’m not sure this house could fairly compete.

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Scare Zones

Designed to bring the terror out into the park, scare zones are located throughout much of the park and give the more tenderhearted an extra jolt or two. These are the chainsaw drill teams, the passersby that jump at you, and the opportunities for more lavish costumes. Falling squarely into the latter category is MASKerade: Unstitched, a gothic ballroom scene with actors on stilts, which is undeniably more elegant and beautiful than scary. The central set piece is a giant candle with human faces pushing out of it. The recent film The Purge: Anarchy shows up in another scare zone as actors dressed as one percenters murdering or auctioning off the poor for savagery. TV’s Face Off offers viewers a chance to absorb some incredible and award-winning makeup concepts, and Bayou of Blood features actors practicing voodoo and scaring people in heavy fog.

On a final note, Universal shamelessly caved this year and withdrew a special component of the Bayou of Blood set. In early performances, a voodoo priestess performed an extended ritualistic sacrifice on an “unsuspecting” participant. Rumor has it that Universal received complaints the session was too “satanic” and “un-Christian” for public viewing, so it was removed. The official word was that the scene ran too long for the event. Fortunately, You Tube has preserved it for posterity.

Take a look and decide for yourself. Happy Halloween all!

There are a slew of lead female characters this fall TV season. Kate Walsh’s Rebecca Wright on “Bad Judge.” Debra Messing’s Laura on “The Mysteries of Laura.” And Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder,” just to name a few.

And what do they all have in common? These female characters have their shit together in their careers, but their personal lives are a mess.

This is a common theme on most shows involving female protagonists (and who can complain, since personal issues make for entertaining television). But what’s interesting is that female protagonists on TV almost rarely experience the reverse: having their shit together in their personal lives, with professional lives that are a mess.

Think about it. It’s a classic TV plot device. But when are there female characters that have amazing personal lives with lackluster careers?

There are only a few that come to mind.

First, Fran Drescher on “The Nanny.” OK, so the show started with her being fired from her job and dumped by her boyfriend on the same day, but despite Nanny Fine struggling from episode to episode to manage the responsibility of childrearing, she was never one not to have a date or a friend to cry to. Even her relationship with her family—especially her mother and Grandma Yetta—was strong.

Another more modern example is “Two Broke Girls.” Caroline (Beth Behrs) and Max (Kat Denning) both reluctantly have jobs as waitresses at a diner in an effort to save money for their cupcake business, but the two have their personal lives in working order, meaning healthy sex lives (with hotties like Johnny and Candy Andy) and good company in each other.

Despite being a pretty cookie-cutter blonde on the show, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s Penny on “The Big Bang Theory” reverses this common TV stereotype, as a fine example of a woman that has a robust personal life, with friends that care about her, but a career that says otherwise (failed actress).

So why is it that women are rarely allowed to have burgeoning personal lives on television? One wonders whether there’s still a fear of sexism, that to depict a woman floundering at a job while being an excellent wife would be anti-feminist. But then of course, there’s CBS’ “Manhattan Love Story” and NBC’s “A to Z,” which both feature women who like purses and “girls’ girls,” which is just about as insulting as what’s supposed to be insulting on AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Maybe it’s just because personal issues are more entertaining. If Meredith Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy” only had career and hospital drama to deal with, the ABC series probably wouldn’t still be on the air. Sex sells, and while three female characters listed above are examples of flourishing personal lives, they are also on comedies, where it’s OK to be shitty at your job because it makes for hilarious television. If Olivia Pope was shitty at her job, all “Scandal” would be is a soap opera.

So why can’t characters have excellent personal and professional lives? Well, for one thing, there would be no conflict. Why else make a show if everything is going swimmingly for characters? There has to be some kind of conundrum that drives the story.

But the other hand, maybe TV is starting to realize that characters can have conflict while still “having it all.” CBS’ “Madam Secretary” is attempting to tackle this new plot device by portraying Tea Leoni’s Beth as a highly capable professional with a loving husband and two kids who’s just trying to make the United States a safer place. Maybe TV is headed into a new direction where women can be as good at their jobs as they are at their relationships and still make for compelling series television.


The phrase “We are in a Golden Age of Television” gets tossed around a lot these days. Originally coined to reflect the blossoming possibilities of the early days of television, the words have cycled through the cultural landscape nearly every decade since television’s inception. But, when considering the shows offered up as evidence of this “Golden Age,” the most frequently mentioned shows have one thing in common: they’re all dramas.

Masters of Sex. Breaking Bad. Rectify. Mad Men. Game of Thrones. Hannibal. The Good Wife. Boardwalk Empire. The Walking Dead. The Knick. Downton Abbey. House of Cards. True Detective. Homeland. The Americans. Fargo. The list of shows goes on and on and on, offering up a gluttony of fantastic dramatic television on which viewers can gorge themselves.

They’re all dramas, though. Where are the great comedies thriving in this “Golden Age of Television?”


Looking back through the history of television, there are indeed landmark dramatic series that could rival or surpass today’s crop, but television itself grew up and evolved on its comedies. Giants such as I Love Lucy, Maude, Good Times, All in the Family, The Cosby Show or Family Ties changed the television landscape, broadening our minds by exposing us to a variety of multi-cultural or socio-economic backgrounds. They gave us thoughtful stories and tackled difficult issues while making us laugh all the while.

Where are those shows now?

Last week, ABC’s Modern Family won its fifth consecutive Emmy for Best Comedy Series, a feat matched only by NBC’s Frasier in the 90s. Given that impressive pedigree, Modern Family must sit atop the heap in this new Golden era, right? Eh. Probably not.

While it’s a fine show that sometimes echoes the great social daringness of the comedies of the past (particularly in the recent gay marriage storyline), Modern Family has most certainly seen better days. It won that fifth Emmy not due to its insurmountable quality, in my opinion, but because there really wasn’t any significant competition. Personally, I would have given the trophy to the far superior (and more tough-minded) Veep, the only real choice in the category, but it’s apparently an acquired taste.

If we’re being honest, we are really in a “Golden Age” of dramatic television. Almost no one discussing the trend includes comedies in the conversation save one or two shows… maybe. If you look not only at the crop of recent Emmy nominees but the overall choices available to the Academy, it’s evident that the general state of comic TV shows is as anemic as it has been in decades.


Of the 2013-2014 TV season, only a handful of comedies rate in the top 20, according to the website Metacritic:

  • Portlandia, Season 4: 87
  • Veep, Season 3: 87
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 9: 85

That, my friends, is all they wrote.

Granted, Metacritic’s follow through on returning series leaves a little to be desired (it doesn’t even track reviews for Modern Family’s Emmy-winning fifth season), but you get the general idea. The rave reviews are reserved for the bigger shows, the buzzier dramas.

Of these highly rated comedies, only Veep made it into the Best Comedy Series circle, a grouping so weak that Netflix branded the freshman season of its popular Orange is the New Black (first season Metacritic: 79) a comedy despite having competed in earlier, non-Emmy competitions as a dramatic series. Showtime’s Shameless also retreated from its battles in the dramatic categories this year, redefined itself a comedy, and doubled its Emmy nomination count – granted, only two nominations.

I don’t watch Shameless, and I have long argued that Orange is a dramatic series given the heavily dramatic tone of its flashbacks. If both shows had stayed true to their more dramatic backgrounds, then they most certainly would have been lost in the dramatic series shuffle. Clearly, the Emmy voting body agreed, totally shutting out both shows in the major categories.

The comedy landscape wasn’t always this dry. Looking back on Emmy history, you see the category ripe with real competition as, frankly, there were more great comedies filling the landscape. Take a look at this year’s nominees and compare them to nominees two decades back:



Looking at these 10-year increments, not only will you see a more robust Emmy Comedy race, but you will also see the inclusion of more buzz-worthy, groundbreaking comic television. The Emmys took time to award niche comedies (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show) along with accomplished blue-collar television that appealed to a mass audience (Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement).

And those were the shows that were nominated. Left out of the top races were some of television’s most popular comedies: Friends, Malcolm in the Middle, Roseanne, and Murphy Brown to name a few. We simply did not see that robust of a lineup this year. Completely gone from the conversation are the working class, blue-collar comedies that were so relatable to the average American family. You would be hard-pressed to find significant competition for the recent Best Comedy Series Emmy slots.

So, what happened to the American sitcom?

Everyone knows the old saying, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Producers of televised content still churn out comedies. They’re just not very good. Of the 21 new comedies that premiered during the 2013 Fall TV season, a whopping 15 shows were cancelled. Fox’s Us and Them has the dubious honor of ending its run after only airing a single episode. Not that that was unique to the most recent TV season, but, lately, the networks just seem to be throwing anything against the wall, hoping something sticks.

I would imagine it becomes expensive to gear up production and advertisements around a hot new comedy only to see it die out in a matter of weeks. As television moved beyond the standard four major networks, viewers’ short attention span has been drawn to what seems to have replaced the water-cooler comedies: water-cooler reality shows.

Shows like Duck Dynasty or Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo seem to have taken the place of the great Middle American, blue-collar comedies that have historically served as the backbone of televised comedy. Why watch some overpaid actor work a fake, laugh-tracked audience when you can laugh at real people, American seems to say. Given the success of these shows and their presumed lower cost, why would the networks continue to churn out riskier, higher-priced comic ventures?

Instead, they have responded with more reality-based television than ever before in the history of television. I don’t need to rattle off the titles; you all know what they are. Dramatic television series don’t really compete with reality TV because people still seem to crave escapism in their entertainment. But, for laughs, reality TV is the next best thing to watching your next-door neighbor fall off a ladder.

Additionally, many of the most buzzed-about television have prominent big-screen talent behind them. These filmmakers are largely unable to tell the stories that most engage them in today’s popcorn flick culture. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh look to televised dramas to convey their trickier, more complex content. Television provides room to grow and develop characters and, in turn, provide adult stories that are captivating the nation, and the actors are following suit.


But these filmmakers aren’t going to television to make comedies. Sure, Armando Iannucci followed up his cult hit In the Loop (which was based on his UK show The Thick of It) with the great Veep, and Lena Dunham gave us Girls after breaking onto the scene with her independent film Tiny Furniture. These are but two examples of filmmakers looking to generate comic television content. Just this week, Scorsese announced his follow-up project to the final season of Boardwalk Empire – a prequel series to his film Shutter Island. Wouldn’t you absolutely love to see a Martin Scorsese-produced sitcom?

Just pause for a moment to think about that one…

With even critically panned film comedies continuing to perform (the recent Tammy has grossed to date over $80 million on a budget of $20 million), comic filmmakers aren’t giving up on the big screen and fleeing to television as quickly as their dramatic counterparts are. Thus, the recent influx of talent into television from big screen filmmakers only benefits dramatic content – not comedies.

I do not come here to bury the American sitcom. Comedies, like most everything, ebb and flow like the tides. Most recently, critics in the early 80s proclaimed the television comedy dead after an explosive period in the 1970s. But the sitcom came roaring back soon thereafter, heralded by classics like Family Ties, Cheers, and The Cosby Show.

So, no, I do not come here to bury the American sitcom, but I do come to put its picture on a milk carton.

There are still whispers of current sitcom greatness – even if the Emmys and audiences choose to ignore them. As more classic examples of comedies wane, niche or cult comedies are becoming more and more prevalent.

The much buzzed-about Community will live again on Yahoo! It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has thrived for years well past what critics, who are firmly on board with it now, originally thought it would. Comedy Central offers a great deal of edgy comedy programming, probably because the stakes are lower there, led by the best show you’ve never heard of – Broad City. HBO gets points for bringing back the great Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback, and there are hints that Netflix will return to the Arrested Development well once more.

Expand the definition of comedy, and you’ll find Archer, Portlandia, and Drunken History garnering significant buzz in smaller circles. Even web giant Amazon has gotten into original comic programming and currently offers a new batch of pilots by the likes of Wilt Stillman and David Gordon Green, recently reviewed by Craig.

These small, cult-inspiring gems will have to tide us over until the “Golden Age of Television” reflects a balance between great dramas and great comedies.

Labor Day is over, which means we’re headed into the fall TV season. A new crop of shows will be premiering on the big networks (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC).

Every year, I personally like to make a mental list of what I call “Drop Watch,” where I predict what will be canceled (past winners have included ABC’s “My Generation” and CBS’ “We Are Men”). This year, I’m going all out, with predictions for each new show of the season.

Here we go!

What Will Survive



What’s on the Bubble


What’s Getting Cancelled


Judging unscientifically by my Twitter feed last night, Emmys are an exercise in hate-watching. Judging by the internet headlines I’m seeing this morning, there are as many opinions on how to fix the awards as there were women in red dresses at the ceremony itself. Well, I’m here to tell you not to bother. They probably can’t be fixed. Enjoy them or not, but don’t take them seriously.

Believe me. I feel your pain. Even though Breaking Bad is one of my favorite shows in the past decade, I found myself wondering whether it was really necessary to reward it again when it already had multiple wins spread across every category. The Emmy voters, the only people whose opinion counted for anything last night, decided it was absolutely necessary. While Sherlock wound up with the most statues overall if you count the awards that weren’t handed out on TV last night (7 in the Miniseries/TV Movie categories), Breaking Bad won for Outstanding Drama, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Writing to go along with the Editing award it had already won off camera. It was a near sweep of the Drama categories and I’m sure Julianna Margulies went to sleep last night grateful the show did not have any lead female characters.

The biggest head scratcher for me though was Modern Family marching to its 5th straight Emmy for Outstanding Comedy. It’s a likable enough show, it’s always reliable for a few laughs and it still performs well in the ratings, but quality-wise I would be surprised if even its fans didn’t admit it’s been on a downward slide. Modern Family perfected its routine (quirky group of relations who don’t always like each other but realize at the end of every half hour episode that they love each other) in the first couple of seasons and has since simply been repeating it with diminishing results season after season. Meanwhile, several new shows including Veep and Louie have come along to shake things up and to challenge what we think of when we think of TV comedy. I could add the terrific Orange is the New Black to that list, and it was nominated, but there is much debate whether that even belongs in the Comedy category and that’s a subject for a completely different post.

It’s less about this or that individual winner and more about the repetition running contrary to innovation that makes the Emmys seem so irrelevant and everyone has an opinion about how to improve the results. Eliminating category fraud is thrown around a lot as regular stars are submitted as guest stars, hour long comedy/dramas are submitted along with half hour sitcoms and limited series compete with the dramas or vice versa. Firming up the rules in those areas would certainly reduce some of the controversy, but it’s not going to force the voters into making more interesting choices.

The Television Academy could introduce a whole new level of categories that focus on new shoes and performers, but if anything there are already too many categories and the show is already too long. Changing the voting mechanic is another suggestion I’ve read as though somehow the current system favors mediocrity.

The most common suggestion I’ve seen is to limit the number of wins any show or performer can receive. Obviously, if a performer wins for one role, they would still be eligible to win for future roles, just not the same one. This is the suggestion that would most likely have the desired result of keeping the Emmys fresh and interesting, but it also moves the awards the furthest away from what their real goal should be: to award the best. I’m not going to defend Modern Family, but I can’t argue that Breaking Bad did not deserve to win last night, especially since this season was its last and it accomplished the rare feat of wrapping up its story satisfactorily. I’m not sure I want an awards body that doesn’t let its voters pick what they truly think is the best.

The problem in the end is the voters themselves. As a body, they favor the safe over the challenging and the familiar over the new. That’s an unfortunate side-effect of pretty much any democratic process. Likable and non-threatening tends to rise above edgy and divisive. This is further complicated by the sheer number of hours of television the average person has to choose from. 12 episodes of a series running 50 minutes is 10 hours. Most series run more than 12 episodes and the number of them almost seems endless with all the different cable channels and even Netflix and Amazon getting into the series game. It’s doubtful if anyone working in the TV business has time to actually watch everything that is good to great in the medium they create. There wouldn’t be time for anything else.

The Oscars, flawed as they are, are a much more closed system. There are a finite number of movies eligible for consideration every year and of those, most are easily and quickly weeded out as non-contenders. Even so, the Oscars are constantly being tinkered with to the satisfaction of no one. It’s still an unruly beast prone to safe, boring choices. If you can’t fix the Oscars, there is no hope at all for the Emmys. Watch the show if you want and root for your favorites. Enjoy the spectacle if that’s your thing, but don’t expect the Emmys to actually mean something outside of the theater where they are presented.

Emmy Kiss

The Emmys veered wildly between stupid, boring picks and comfortable but awesome picks. I have no explanation for the continued enthusiasm for Modern Family in the face of vibrant competition like Veep and Orange is the New Black; and in my heart I was rooting for True Detective in the drama categories, but in the end I’m thrilled Breaking Bad got a great send off. For me it’s one of the best shows in the last many years.

The ceremony itself was mostly a snooze. Seth Meyers has always been a better writer than performer, but he wasn’t terrible. The musical cues were all weird. The In Memorium tribute was kind of devastating and the best part of the show was Billy Crystal capping it off with a loving remembrance of his friend Robin Williams. I’m still a little teary about that.

Anyway, that’s that. Your winners:

  • Drama: Breaking Bad
  • Comedy: Modern Family
  • Miniseries: Fargo
  • TV Movie: The Normal Heart
  • Variety Series: The Colbert Report
  • Reality: The Amazing Race
  • Actor – Comedy: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  • Actor – Drama: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
  • Actor – Mini/TV: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
  • Actress – Comedy: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  • Actress – Drama: Julianna Margulies
  • Actress – Mini/TV: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
  • Supporting Actor – Drama: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
  • Supporting Actor – Comedy: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
  • Supporting Actor – Mini/TV: Martin Freeman, Sherlock
  • Supporting Actress – Drama: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
  • Supporting Actress – Comedy: Allison Janney, Mom
  • Supporting Actress, Movie/Mini: Kathy Bates, American Horror Story
  • Writing – Drama: Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias”
  • Writing – Comedy: Louis C.K., Louie
  • Writing – Mini/TV: Steven Moffat, Sherlock
  • Writing – Variety Special: Sarah Silverman, We Are Miracles
  • Directing – Drama: Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective
  • Directing – Comedy: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family
  • Directing – Mini/TV: Colin Bucksey, Fargo
  • Directing – Variety Series: Glenn Weiss, 67th Tonys


Look on the bright side. It’s not 1900 and you probably don’t have syphilis… or if you do, at least your nose hasn’t fallen off. The Knick kind of likes to revel in how miserable life could be at the turn of the 20th Century (for rich and for poor) and, as if to prove that point, Dr. Thackery’s old flame Abigail Alford (Jennifer Ferrin) shows up at the beginning of episode 3 with a hole where her nose used to be.

As Thackery pokes and prods the crater in her face and describes to her the rather horrible and difficult process of grafting a flap of skin from her arm to her nose, Abigail gives us a few more glimpses into Thackery’s romantic past and personality. He was her first love, blah blah blah, but his dedication to his work was too crazy-making, yadda yadda yadda, and she chose to marry a more stable, less exciting fellow… who gave her the raging case of syphilis that destroyed her nose (cue Price is Right losing horn). It’s pretty obvious character development of Thackery as a man who chose work over love and has hardened into a lonely, bitter man. It’s this kind of unsubtle, kind of predictable writing that has been The Knick’s main weakness so far, but Seven Soderbergh (as director and as cinematographer “Peter Andrews”) orchestrates and shoots the whole thing with such subtle energy and class that it all seems much smarter than it really is.

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