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TV Junkie: 'Boardwalk Empire'/'Fringe'/'SNL' Return; Postmortem of NBC Premieres

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Weekend Edition

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HBO's Emmy winning "Boardwalk Empire" returns this Sunday at 9pm and Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson has his hands full.
Although Martin Scorsese won an Emmy last Sunday for his work on "Boardwalk Empire," I got the feeling that the series was snubbed in order to pay homage to the cancelled show "Friday Night Lights." Thankfully "Boardwalk Empire" returns to us this Sunday night with more of the great writing and performances that will bring the show many more nominations in 2012 - let's just hope that the TV Academy gets it right next time (dream on). Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson faces both internal and external threats from the season premiere and on and one wonders who he can trust in this semi-romantic presentation of Prohibition era Atlantic City. I'm hopeful that we'll see more of Michael Kenneth Williams as black gang leader Chalky White (wasn't he great on "Community" last night?) - this Sunday I'll post a brief interview I did with the man, renowned for his portrayal of Omar in "The Wire." There will be plenty of titillating violence and sex, to be sure, but most of it is integral to a plot that is getting so convoluted that even master criminal/politician (same thing?) Nucky can't keep it straight.
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What did you think about NBC's Thursday comedy block? I'm not sure I appreciated the musical opening to "Community" but it was a great episode - these characters are so much more human than they were 2 seasons ago. Show creator Dan Harmon and his talented team have put the work in and you can tell - can't wait for more.

"Parks and Recreation" had a bit of a jarring "the-story-so-far" synopsis to kick off the episode but before we knew it, we were right back into the crazy mix that is Pawnee, Indiana. It was great to see a bit more of Jim O'Heir ("Jerry") but Nick Offerman's "Ron Swanson" stole the show as usual. On a deeply personal note, I could have used more of Aubrey Plaza but I understand that show creators Greg Daniels, Michael Schur are making the most of the scant 22 minutes that they're given to present their show.

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James Spader brought his gravitas to bear on "The Office" and I liked it a lot. Steve Carell was definitely missed, but he'd been transitioning out of the show for so long that this was minimized as best as they can. Can fans of the show enjoy what's been created without continually pining for Carell, hoping that he will just pop his head around the corner? There are a lot of stubborn people out there but I hope they give this edition of the show a fair shake.

Whitney Cummings is a fantastic stand-up comedian, I can't recommend going to one of her shows enough - you will love it. As a TV showrunner, I wonder if she's bitten off more than she can chew with both "Whitney" and "2 Broke Girls" to work on, considering her relative lack of experience at that level of production. A first question is: why do both of her shows feel so dated? "2 Broke Girls" has the 3-cameras on a sound stage look and feel of a show from 1983 and "Whitney" has a horrific laugh track that is jarring and unnecessary. I'm not a fan of "2 Broke Girls" but I think that there are some good bones to "Whitney."

Cummings has great rapport with co-star Chris D'Elia and they did have some good writing evident in many scenes, it was just difficult to concentrate on it because of distractions caused by the laugh track and some of the secondary characters, particularly Rhea Seehorn's "Roxanne" - hey, there's a whole show dedicated to jaded wine-drinking women, it's called "Cougar Town." It wouldn't be unheard of for a show to drop a laugh track halfway through the season - "Sports Night" famously did this and it improved the show tremendously. I think people who hate "Whitney" hate the way that it and Whitney Cummings herself were marketed, not that she had a lot of control over that.

Another NBC show whose marketing rubbed me the wrong way was "Prime Suspect" starring Maria Bello. She's actually pretty good in it and gives her character ("Jane Timoney") a lot more depth than one would expect from the flip and superficial marketing NBC gave the show. The show is well shot but horribly scored - hey showrunners, silence can be golden, try it sometime. The biggest problem I had was with the cookie cutter male characters, is this some kind of retribution for all the cookie cutter female characters we've seen in cop shows over the years? Are there bigot male cops in real life? Yeah, I'm sure there are, but it makes for boring and predictable TV. I'm a big fan of Bello's co-star Kenny Johnson but I think he's in danger of being typecast as the male companion of the strong female lead as his role of "Matt Webb" is surprisingly similar to that of "Ham Dewey" during his stint on "Saving Grace." It's a pleasure to see Johnson on screen though and I'm optimistic that "Prime Suspect" can get better.

It seemed like the world took a giant dump on the new "Charlie's Angels" last night - how could this have been a surprise?
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"Dexter" fans will want to check out Showtime's Matsuka's Intern Program Facebook app where you get to play the part of a forensic technician. I guess the best player gets recognized by Showtime every week. "Dexter" returns on Sunday, October 2nd.
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The TV Junkie Must-Watch Plan: Tonight - "Real Time With Bill Maher," "Fringe," "The Soup," "Fashion Police," "Late Show With David Letterman," "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson." Saturday - "Doctor Who," "The Nerdist," "Saturday Night Live." Sunday - "Curiosity," "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad"

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Tonight

8:00pm Real Time With Bill Maher HBO - Journalist John Avlon; former Calif. Rep. Jane Harman; filmmaker Michael Moore; musician Tom Morello; journalist Ron Suskind.

8:00pm A Gifted Man CBS - Series Premiere. Pilot A brilliant surgeon's life changes forever when he is visited by the ghost of his deceased ex-wife.

8:00pm Nikita The CW - Season Premiere. Game Change Michael and Nikita are ready to use the black box's contents to take down Division and Oversight;

9:00pm Fringe Fox - Season Premiere. Neither Here Nor There Lincoln Lee joins the team as they investigate a shapeshifter case that he is personally invested in.

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9:00pm CSI: NY CBS - Season Premiere. Indelible Mac and the team remember moments from 9/11.

9:00pm Unleashed Sundance - I'm Never Going to Take It All Off New mother goes out for the first time since giving birth; a 6-foot-tall woman.

9:00pm Supernatural The CW - Season Premiere. Meet the New Boss Castiel issues a warning to Dean, Sam and Bobby; Dean winds up in a confrontation with Death

10:00pm The Soup E! - Joel McHale & Co. deconstruct the week's media hilariously

10:00pm Blue Bloods CBS - Season Premiere. Mercy Frank is put on the spot when one of the mayor-elect's supporters is found dead; Jamie goes under cover at a bar.

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10:30pm Fashion Police E! - Joan Rivers & Co. get picky about fashion (Joan dumps on celebs)

11:35pm Late Show With David Letterman CBS - Actor Nathan Fillion; comic Larry Miller; Jayhawks perform.

11:35pm The Tonight Show With Jay Leno NBC - Actor Hugh Jackman; actress Maya Rudolph; Tony Bennett performs.

12:35am The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson CBS - Actor Gerard Butler; actress Kat Dennings.

12:35am Late Night With Jimmy Fallon NBC - Actor Taylor Lautner; actress Florence Henderson; Beyoncé performs.

Saturday

9:00pm Doctor Who BBC America - Closing Time When the Doctor visits an old friend, he discovers the Cybermen are waiting for him.

10:00pm The Nerdist BBC America - Premiere. Chris Hardwick's roundtable discussion of pop culture, news and tech trends.

11:25pm Saturday Night Live NBC - Host Alec Baldwin; Radiohead performs.

Sunday

8:00pm Curiosity Discovery - Atlantis Uncovered Mixing dramatic recreation with science, "Lost" star, Terry O'Quinn tells the story of archaeological finds unearthed in the last decad

8:00pm The Amazing Race CBS - Season Premiere. Kindness of Strangers The teams begin the competition to win a million-dollar prize.

8:00pm The Simpsons Fox - Season Premiere. The Falcon and the D'OhmanThe Simpsons

8:00pm Chabad Telethon The CW - From Hollywood, Calif., the annual program raises funds for educational and nonsectarian social services.

8:30pm The Cleveland Show Fox - Season Premiere. BFFs

9:00pm Boardwalk Empire HBO - Season Premiere. 21 Nucky is shocked by an insurrection among his inner circle; an attack threatens Chalky's life and livelihood; Margaret deals with her son's problems; Angela vies for Jimmy's affection; Van Alden shows his wife around town.

9:00pm Desperate Housewives ABC - Secrets That I Never Want to Know After helping Carlos conceal his crime, guilt weighs heavily on Susan, Gaby, Bree and Lynette

9:00pm Family Guy Fox -Season Premiere. Lottery Fever

9:00pm Masterpiece Mystery! PBS SoCal/KOCE - Inspector Lewis, Series IV: The Mind Has Mountains A professor is questioned when a student is found dead.

9:00pm The Great Food Truck Race Food - Miami Heat The final two teams arrive in Miami and race to the finish line in South Beach for the grand prize.

9:00pm The Good Wife CBS - Season Premiere. A New Day Alicia must put aside personal distractions as she defends a Muslim student accused of murdering a Jewish classmate.

9:00pm The Circus TCM - (1928) The little tramp (Charlie Chaplin) joins a circus, befriends a bareback rider (Merna Kennedy) and walks the tightrope.

9:30pm American Dad Fox -Season Premiere. Hot Water

10:00pm Breaking Bad AMC - Crawl Space Walt takes drastic action to protect his secret and Gus; Skyler's efforts to solve Ted's financial problems hit a wall.

10:00pm CSI: Miami CBS - Season Premiere. Countermeasures As Natalia and Horatio's lives hang in the balance, the team tries to catch an escaped killer.

10:00pm Pan Am ABC - Series Premiere. Pilot Dean pilots the Clipper Majestic's first New York to London flight; Maggie picks up a flight

10:00pm Storm Chasers Discovery - Season Premiere. Dixie Alley Outbreak All three teams are on the front lines when hundreds of twisters ravage Mississippi and Alabama.