"Parks and Recreation" took on the subject of data-mining this week, and the episode was not only hilarious, it veered eerily close to reality too. At issue was the growing presence of a huge tech company that was about to invest $90 million in a large parcel of real estate in the center of town. Unhappy about the company's looming dominance, bureaucrat Leslie Knope and husband Ben hit on a plan to fight back by exposing how the company invades the privacy of residents -- mainly by collecting data on their personal lives via their phone calls, e-mails and text …
You are more likely to hit commercials these days than actual program content while clicking through the cable lineup at any given time. And now, two separate research studies have quantified the situation. The reports -- one from Todd Juenger of Bernstein Research and the other from Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson -- found that a number of networks, particularly on cable, really loaded up on commercials in the fourth quarter of last year.
Two TV stories in the news lately are great examples of the wide gulf that sometimes exists between reporters in the pursuit of truth and those who wish to quash or at least blunt those reporters' efforts -- illustrating the fruitlessness of the PR strategy known as the "official" denial. You can't blame anyone for denying a story that reflects unfavorably on the subject in question. But when the denial is inserted midway into a story that in all other ways runs overwhelmingly in the opposite direction, then the denial feels like a lie, whether it is one or not.
Midway into the "Downton Abbey" season we find ourselves confronted with an incredibly ill-mannered dinner guest: Miss Sarah Bunting, a liberal schoolteacher who apparently detests the English ruling class and doesn't mind saying so. In the last few weeks, she has not hesitated to make her feelings known -- particularly at the dinner table with the lords and ladies she hates so much.
Call it Cold War 2.0. That's the feeling one gets when watching NBC's upcoming spy series "Allegiance" -- particularly if you watch the premiere episode right after previewing this week's season premiere of "The Americans" on FX. That's what I did on Monday morning -- fully expecting "Allegiance" to be a typical "network television" imitation of a cable TV drama -- in this case "The Americans." However, "Allegiance" turns out to be nearly as unsettling as "The Americans" -- a nice surprise. Why write about them both in the same blog post? Their similarities make it irresistible.
It's possible to come upon a show you find so appalling, you might wonder if you have stumbled upon the "worst" show on TV. Consider "Little Women: LA," which started its second season on Lifetime earlier this month. It's an "unscripted" show about six dwarves -- all women -- who live in Los Angeles. When it comes to reality television, little people -- specifically, the six little women on this show -- are as desperate for attention as any other ensemble of reality-show participants -- and they will do or say almost anything to get it.
In his new series, "Backstrom," Rainn Wilson smokes a cigar like a guy who has seen too many old movies with guys smoking cigars. The title character he plays on this new, gloomy cop show -- Everett Backstrom, a detective on the Portland, Ore. police force -- is recalcitrant, stubborn and grouchy. He is pot-bellied and unshaven. He's a scowler who snaps at co-workers, complains when he eats broccoli, and makes derogatory comments about ethnic groups.
When Fox reality series "Anchorwoman" came to the air in 2007, the negative reaction was so strong that it was easy to conclude that you wouldn't be seeing more reality shows about local TV news any time soon. Eight years after the cancellation of "Anchorwoman" -- mere hours after its low-rated premiere -- the new reality series "Breaking Greenville," about life in the local-TV news biz, will premiere on TruTV on Jan. 29. "Breaking Greenville" showcases two rival TV stations serving Greenwood-Greenville, Miss. -- the 190th-ranked DMA out of 210 with 65,200 TV households, according to Nielsen.
Maybe they should have kept the "Minority Report" title, because the new "Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" on Comedy Central looks to be shaping up as a nightly discourse on race relations. It's not easy to balance so-called "serious" issues with comedy, but when a show is successful at this balancing act, it becomes, well, "The Colbert Report" or "The Daily Show." "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" -- which was called "The Minority Report" when it was first announced -- is the replacement for "Colbert," but in its premiere last night, it was hardly up to the "Colbert" standard.
For the past 12 years or so, FX has produced one iconic, groundbreaking show after another, breaking all kinds of barriers and taboos for advertiser-supported TV shows -- language, nudity, sex, violence -- you name it. It hasn't always been pretty, and it hasn't always been appropriate. Yet FX has accomplished something that not too long ago would have been unthinkable -- successfully selling spots within programs whose contents were once out of bounds. FX airs shows that are often as challenging (if not extreme) in their contents as pay-cable HBO shows -- but remains a basic-cable network with commercials.