NBC, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET/PT, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |
Radio personality Howard Stern's arrival on the judges' panel of the reality competition might have been expected to go off like a Molotov cocktail. Instead the notorious shock jock's first week gave off the benign fizz of a pop-top soda can. Stern, who looks something like Big Bird's evil twin, kept the tone friendly even when his comments had a sting. (When one singer told the judges his parents were dead, Stern asked, "And they died of embarrassment?") And he wasn't afraid to reverently gush, "I thank you for lifting everyone's spirits." Yet this is right for the show, now in season 7, and it's way better than Piers Morgan's chiding pomposity. He always seemed to be vetting candidates for a cabinet post. With Stern joining Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne, Talent has found its most agreeably balanced lineup of judges yet. Mandel is the most interesting of the three, not only because of his obsessive-compulsive aversion to being touched by contestants or audience members, but also his perverse fondness for performers who shouldn't be anywhere near a stage. He was crazy about a music teacher who sang while covered by an unsanitary flock of birds. The auditions bring the usual crowd of musicians, extreme dancers and oddities, including an 80-year-old rapper. Stern seems ready to smile on just about all of them.
Hemingway & Gellhorn
HBO, May 28, 9 p.m. ET/PT |
Clive Owen teams with Nicole Kidman for a long, lopsided slog through the life of Ernest Hemingway and war journalist Martha Gellhorn. She was the novelist's third wife, from 1940 to 1945, until she got sick of his drunken, sexist swaggering and asked for a divorce so she could pursue bylines unencumbered. It's A Star Is Born for writers: Gellhorn rises while Hemingway sinks (he killed himself in 1961). And yet a viewer's empathy with Gellhorn goes only so far. Owen gives "Papa" a desperation that's pathetically touching, while Kidman marches on with blazing eyes and grand, actressy command. Her Gellhorn wouldn't just report wars, she'd start and finish them.
Hatfields & McCoys
History, May 28-30, 9 p.m. ET/PT |
No matter how many bodies fall in clouds of gun smoke in this powerful six-hour production, you keep waiting for Kevin Costner to turn up, his sharp nose invariably pointing like a compass needle toward trouble. He's excellent as Devil Anse Hatfield, the calculating and unforgiving head of the clan that battled the McCoys in the legendary post-Civil War feud. The causes, ultimately pointless, were large and small: One tipping point was a disputed pig that may have been stolen from patriarch Randall McCoy, played by Bill Paxton (Big Love) as a spiritually righteous man who comes to see himself as a backwoods Job. McCoy is the tragic counterweight to Costner's cooler Hatfield. The pace sags, but the accumulation of sacrificed lives gives it all a haunting sorrow.
DOGS IN THE CITY
New reality series. Justin Silver solves the peculiar alpha-beta fights and more of New Yorkers and their canines. CBS, May 30.
Kiefer Sutherland's custody battle over his mysterious son ratchets up in the fate-twisting drama's season finale. FOX, May 31.
In perhaps the season's best episode, Marnie (Allison Williams) has a heartbreakingly lousy time at a massive party. HBO, May 27.
The networks unveiled their new shows—and I've get my remote ready for:
THE MINDY PROJECT
The network found a breakout hit with New Girl's adorkable Zooey Deschanel. Can it repeat the magic with The Office's Mindy Kaling? Both writer and star, she has a sensibility that's trickier (girly romanticism edged with irony) and maybe funnier.
This modern take on Sherlock Holmes probably can't match the sleek ingenuity of Masterpiece Mystery's Sherlock, but Jonny Lee Miller's performance looks terrific: wiry and sharp as a thorn. Lucy Liu is Dr. Watson. Honest. Look at the photo!
Connie Britton plays a fading country singer forced to go out on tour with a ruthless rising star, played by Hayden Panettiere in her first series since Heroes. ABC is dependably the best network for this kind of froth, so let the twangin' haranguin' begin!
The latest puzzle thriller with J.J. Abrams high in the credits-so at least the premise has an inspired hook. A global power failure has created a literal dark age. Now, 15 years later, Tracy Spiridakos (above left) learns her father may have been involved.
666 PARK AVENUE
Horror drama about a deluxe but sinister Manhattan apartment complex that offers an exclusive hell for tenants. Terry O'Quinn owns the joint, and wife Vanessa Williams appears to be a welcome wagon you'd be wise to avoid.
Mermaids: The Body Found (Animal Planet, May 27) is a silly faux-documentary accusing the government of suppressing the ocean's merpersons. (We should be politically correct.) The idea that our evolutionary tree split into land-and sea-dwelling species is intriguing, but the cheesy CGI creatures swish about like Cirque du Soleil performers with tails.
HAVE YOU EVER NEEDED COUPLES THERAPY LIKE YOUR LAW CHARACTER?
I've never been in a relationship that needed therapy, but I have been in volatile ones. In my late 20s I was attracted to women who had a lot of fire. I liked the drama. We would yell a lot and fight, but it always made the sex better. I've changed, and I'm way past that phase now.
WHAT'S YOUR TYPE?
I love a woman who's passionate. That's sexy to me. I'm single right now, but I met this female car salesman the other day, and she was so sexy because she was in her element and loved her job. I don't need a car but almost bought one from her. That's how good she was. I also love good posture. When you see a woman stand up straight, it really works.
WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED ABOUT WOMEN?
At 13, my mom taught me the importance of opening a door and to always be a gentleman. It's made a huge difference.
DO YOU HAVE A GUILTY PLEASURE THAT YOU NEED COUNSELING TO FIX?
I'm a huge fan of Ice Loves Coco. What I like most is their amusing life. They set up a date for their dog Spartacus to mate with another bulldog. That's crazy!