The 10 best TV shows of 2014

Some TV shows, it’s true, start to run out of ideas after a couple of seasons. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on a series just because it’s been around. Some of 2014’s best shows kept being the best partly because they knew how to leverage their history into fresh drama. Here are our picks for the top 10: 1. “Mad Men” (AMC). Okay, it’s lost the “new-car smell” and some of its buzz. It’s also a challenge to navigate the more complex late 1960s. It remains a first-rate drama, with flawed characters we care about and an unblinking eye on the moral compass of the America Don Draper and his cohorts are trying to navigate. 2. “Sons of Anarchy” (FX). It was called a soap opera for guys, not without reason, and maybe I just bought the pitch. But Jax and Gemma Teller were great characters — driven, loyal, arrogant, insecure and in the end just human. If you had to suspend some disbelief to buy into their world, that’s neither the first time nor the worst decision. 3. “Downton Abbey” (PBS). A very different kind of soap, and no less satisfying. Downton is a world that’s just plain fun to visit, with wonderful dialogue, sumptuous visuals and a steady stream of minidramas that lend themselves to pleasant discussion. It’s a show you can talk about without having to know another language. 4. “Faking It” (MTV). Don’t look now, but some of the most engaging shows on TV are the “young adult” dramas and comedies. “Faking It” has elements of both, plus a great pair of leads in Katie Stevens and Rita Volk. It’s a sitcom that’s smart, which most recent broadcast sitcoms haven’t even tried to be. 5. “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO). Steve Buscemi was terrific as Nucky Thompson, but this show’s real Continue Reading

Here are the TV shows to watch for in 2015

A whole new year, a whole new batch of TV shows for us to devour. So in the spirit of the season, here are 10 shows that are among our resolutions — to pay serious attention to. “Marvel’s Agent Carter” (ABC) She’s Captain America’s girlfriend and after he goes missing and is feared dead during WWII, she becomes an elite agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent during WW2 after her boyfriend, Steve Rogers (Captain America) is feared dead in an explosion. Debuts: Jan. 6 “12 Monkeys” (Syfy) Okay, we’ll admit that most shows on Syfy are fairly lame. Junky special effects and countless terribly written and produced series have plagued this once promising channel for years. And yet... The 1995 film “12 Monkeys” was awesome, so we’re willing to give this a chance. A big chance. Like the movie, the show follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race. Fingers crossed. Debuts: Jan. 16 “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” (Comedy Central) He’s an Emmy-winning TV producer (“The Bernie Mac Show,” “The PJs”) actor, comedian and former “Daily Show” correspondent and now... a talk show host replacing Stephen Colbert. We can’t wait. Debuts: Jan. 19 “Better Call Saul” (AMC) Bob Odenkirk returns as Saul Goodman the sleazy criminal defense lawyer who high-school-teacher-turned-drug-lord Walter White turned to for help in “Breaking Bad.” The twist here? The show takes place years before Saul meets Walter. Debuts: Feb. 8 “The Odd Couple” (CBS) It’s been a Broadway hit, a classic movie and TV show, and there have been countless attempts at remakes. The latest Continue Reading

CBS, like HBO, takes on Netflix with a service to deliver TV shows via broadband

It may be the best thing to happen to TV since color. CBS and HBO are the first big broadcasters to leap into the increasingly brutal fight for broadband viewers, going head to head against Netflix on the streaming giant’s own turf. Both broadcasters unveiled plans this week to offer programming on demand, 24 hours a day. HBO talked about launching its service next year, while CBS revealed a fully operational service on Thursday that costs $5.99 a month. For the money, viewers get access to full current seasons of 15 CBS prime-time shows, with episodes available the day after they air. The site also offers live streams of local CBS stations in 14 of the largest markets, including New York, and full past seasons of eight major current series, including “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods” and “Survivor.” In addition, there are 5,000 episodes of older shows, shows including every episode of Paramount-produced series like “Star Trek,” “Cheers” “MacGyver” “Twin Peaks” and “CSI: Miami.” Almost everything — with the exception of some extras from CBS special events, like the Grammy telecast — is already available elsewhere online. The details of HBO’s stand-alone broadband service are far more sketchy. But network insiders say it will offer the same 2,200 titles already found monthly on HBO Go, the cable channel’s popular app that is only available to HBO subscribers. Neither of the new services will pose much of a threat to Netflix, which has moved from simply renting DVDs through the mail to offering thousands of movies and TV shows streamed directly into viewer’s devices, like tablets, phones and TV sets. Netflix changed the game further a few years ago when it began to produce its own programming, like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” and the Continue Reading

Chef Dave Santos of West Village’s Louro creates menus inspired by TV shows

What would Don Draper eat? Or Sookie Stackhouse? Or Dexter Morgan? David Santos, chef-owner of West Village hot spot Louro has a few ideas. And he’s showcasing them with wildly creative, one-night-only menus inspired by hit TV shows and movies. His “True Blood” dinner on June 17 — the day after season 6 premieres on HBO — “focuses either on a blood element, or a lack-of-blood element,” Santos says. “Bloody bull” ravioli will bathe in tomato and horseradish sauce. Mako shark will rest of a bed of beets and leeks, with bone-marrow butter. “But the most interesting course is going to be dessert,” he adds. “I tried to figure out how to work blood into it.” The result: Sanguinaccio, a sweet pudding made with pork blood, accompanied by chocolate crumble and spiced hazelnut ice cream. The upcoming season 6 finale of AMC's “Mad Men” will spark a retro-cool menu that’s less gory, but no less thrilling, on June 24. “This was the ’60s, the era of huge cocktails and cigarettes,” Santos says. Cocktails like Blue Hawaiians and Old Fashioneds will set the mood. A veggie patty with rye gravy and smoked salmon will pay homage to late, great lower East Side hangout Ratner’s, which appeared in “Mad Men” season 5. “Smoked duck” will pair duck ragout with tobacco foam and pickled cherries. And for dessert, Santos continues to play with the show’s most visible vice. “Since they smoke so much, we put tobacco in the dessert,” Santos says. His tobacco panna cotta with poached cherries will feature “really good cream” infused with the addictive plant’s essence. Santos is saving his “favorite” dinner for July 1, the day after season 8 of Showtime’s “Dexter” premieres. His witty, macabre “Dexter” menu features a course based on each of Continue Reading

Happy 4/20! Get a contact high from these TV shows and movies

Maybe friends used to get a contact high just from walking into your college apartment on a Saturday night, but you have long since retired the bong because you've got kids or a job where they hold random drug tests.Or maybe you are a self-avowed square like me, who despite having graduated from a school with a place called Bong Hill, never danced with Mary Jane and who for a long time wasn't completely sure what the term 420 meant.  It's traced back to 1971, when a group of high schoolers from San Rafael, Calif., known as the Waldos,  agreed to meet at 4:20 p.m. with map in hand to search for a plot of marijuana plants that had been abandoned by its owner.The notion of 420 as a countercultural holiday became a thing in the 1990s when a group of Grateful Dead fans posted flyers in Oakland, Calif., urging fans to light up on April 20 at 4:20 p.m.We don't care where you fall on the pot spectrum.  We're here to suggest pot-themed movies and TV shows for just about every altered state:If you want a classic with your chronic: Up In SmokePot comedy got its start this 1978 Cheech and Chong caper, in which the comics unwittingly drive a "fiberweed" van built entirely out of hardened marijuana resin from Mexico to the USA while being tailed by an incompetent narcotics officer (Stacy Keach).Watch Up in Smoke for free with your Starz subscription or rent on iTunesIf you want to see how much attitudes about marijuana have changed: Reefer MadnessPicture an after-school special with 1930s production values and you've got Reefer Madness, a black-and-white morality tale intended to scare youth away from experimenting with "the burning weed with its roots in hell"  — which, if you believed the film, might lead teens to commit murder,  suicide or order someone to play the piano as fast as possible. But by the 1970s, Reefer Madness came to be seen as a case study of everything pot opponents got wrong — and Continue Reading

Readers sound off on dumb TV shows and Mitt Romney’s dog

The reality of TV programming Brooklyn: I agree with Voicer Butch Dener. The popularity of reality TV shows is a reflection of a dumbed-down public. As “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm said, “Stupidity is certainly celebrated.” We have become a truth-denying, gadget-obsessed, social media-frenzied nation where more people vote for an American Idol than they do for a President of the United States. And that’s just how corporate America wants it. Bill Lambiase Tuckahoe, N.Y.: To Voicer Butch Dener: As widely reported in the media, HBO’s “Luck” was canceled as a result of three horses dying on the set, not because a “dumbed-down public didn’t get it.” Kiley Blackman Carlstadt, N.J.: Please explain why “CSI Miami” and “CSI New York” have been canceled. They take off good shows and put on these stupid reality shows which make no sense. How people subject themselves to ridicule is beyond me. Geri Sabia Canine queries Manhattan: With every primary Mitt Romney wins, I have to ask myself: Don’t any of these voters have a family pet whom they love and care for and know how he callously treated his dog? Or do they find nothing wrong with the way he subjected his dog to a terrifying 12-hour highway trip strapped to the roof of his car, which made the poor dog sick? We can learn a lot from the way a person treats his pet Max E. Forman What the future holds Bronx: The church always has the big picture and the future of the church in mind. It is trying to convince us, and doing it well, that only church-going men and women in committed relationships and marriages should bring children into this world. The real deal here is that no contraception now means more paying customers in the future. Dean Crasno Hooray for Kelly Freeport, L.I.: Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has been kicked in the butt from New York to New Jersey when it should be kissed by those who Continue Reading

Why are some TV show streams web-only?

Question: Why is it that I can watch some TV shows on a company's Web site but not in its apps? Answer. This can be a singularly annoying experience — you fire up the app on a tablet or a connected TV, search for the programming that you know is available online, and see it listed as "Web only" or not appear in search results at all.But it doesn't happen for a single reason.In some cases, such as Hulu not offering NBC's 30 Rock in its mobile and TV apps, you can blame the contracts that the service negotiated with the studio or network that owns the show. Hulu originally negotiated only rights for Web viewing; when it began to ship separate apps, it had to go back to those same companies and strike a separate deal.NBC publicists said they'd look into the situation but had not responded by Friday.(You can still watch the dearly-departed comedy in NBC's own iOS app. But if we wind up having to run a different app to watch each network's fare, I will not be happy.)In other cases, the company that owns the TV content elected to make in-app viewing a premium feature you must pay extra for, either via a direct subscription or by signing up for a separate service first.That's how ESPN handles its ESPN3 online-only channel. Its site welcomes subscribers of more than 340 participating Internet providers to watch as much as they want of ESPN3 subject only to regional blackouts.But tuning into that same channel in the sports network's WatchESPN apps requires that you also have TV service from one of only eight firms: Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Midcontinent Communications, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Fios (with AT&T's U-verse coming soon).That is one way to run a video business. But when viewers run into these roadblocks, how many pay up or sign up? How many instead open a laptop to watch in a browser (possibly using an HDMI cable to play the video on a TV)? And who among them just give up and do something else?Another Continue Reading

‘Murder Town’ TV show would have been good for Wilmington

The proposed TV legal drama “Murder Town” was exactly what Delaware’s biggest city needed.Wilmington leaders and politicians decried the concept when it was revealed. Now that "Murder Town" appears to be a no-go, they're surely relieved. Meanwhile, people keep getting shot and killed in Wilmington.Step One of the 12 Step Program is admitting that you have a problem, and “Murder Town” would have forced an entire city to do just that. But instead of looking in the mirror, owning up to their transgressions, and taking responsibility for their faults, Wilmington leaders bought more time to maintain the status quo.On Dec. 9, 2014, Abigail Jones from Newsweek published the story that started all of this, dubbing Wilmington, "Murder Town USA."On Nov., 10 2015, ABC announced that its was going to launch a TV crime drama that would be set in Wilmington. The next day, we at The News Journal wrote a front page editorial titled, “Wilmington, our broken city, must be saved.” There were many meetings about what we should say in that editorial. But, as usual, my thinking was different. I felt the same as I do now. “Hey guys, I think this is a good thing.”Last week it was announced that the show is “probably dead at his point," according to Lynn Gardner, spokeswoman for A+E Studios, the producers who were behind the project.Wilmington is a dangerous city. We know it, and so does everybody else.But, it could be worse.Trust me, I know. Wilmington ranks third for violence among 450 cities of comparable size, behind the Michigan towns of Saginaw and Flint, according to a Wilmington News Journal report. For a city mired in violence, the most stunning fact of all may be that Wilmington just got its first homicide unit.That's from Jones’ Newsweek story. My focus is on the first sentence.I was born and raised in Saginaw, and proudly call it home. I have family in Flint and spent the majority of my free Continue Reading

Twitter plans reality TV show in next step toward total media domination

Twitter already owns the Internet, and now the red-hot social-networking site has set out to take over TV too., powered by more than 7 million users who post frequent "micro-blog" updates of 140 characters or fewer, has partnered with Reveille productions and Brillstein Entertainment Partners to develop a reality television show. A statement by the producers Monday described it as involving "ordinary people put on the trail of celebrities in a competitive format" - using Twitter as a guide. "Twitter is transforming the way people communicate, especially celebrities and their fans," Reveille managing director Howard Owens said. He said he expects the show to "unlock Twitter's potential on TV." Twitter, based in San Francisco, launched in 2006 but has grown exponentially in recent months with mainstream pop culture icons like Oprah Winfrey signing on. It will be interesting to watch Twitter take its first real stab at turning a profit, as up to now the company has relied on venture capitalists for funding. "The idea of putting a reality TV show out there with the Twitter aura around it sounds like a good idea,"  Syracuse University Professor Robert Thompson, who heads the school's Center for Television and Popular Culture, told the Daily News. "The very word 'Twitter' gets everybody vibrating about the future." Still, said Thompson, the details are "very, very vague" and there are numerous potential pitfalls, especially if Twitter TV follows the standard reality show format. "The very thing that makes Twitter so appealing - its immediacy - is something this TV show likely isn't going to capture," he said. Plus, the way things move on the Internet, Twitter could already be on its way out. "By the time this makes it on the air," said Thompson, "Twitter could be something we expect to appear on VH1's 'I Love the 2008s.'" Twitter's partners, though, do have some chops. Reveille has produced NBC's "The Office" and "The Biggest Loser," plus Continue Reading

HBO’s Maher runs and tosses heckler on live TV show

View the uncensored video from 'Real Time with Bill Maher.' LOS ANGELES - Bill Maher can add "security guard" to his job description alongside comedian and political commentator. Maher on Friday night helped security remove a rowdy protester from the studio during his weekly HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher" - and it was all captured on live television. Maher was talking science during one of his weekly panel discussions when a protester in his audience stood up, held up a smuggled-in sign reading "9/11 is a cover up fraud" and shouted comments to the same effect. The host tried to shout down the audience member, who only became more agitated. "Do we have some [expletive] security in this building?" Maher yelled, "or do I have to come down there and kick his [expletive]?" After security reached the man's aisle and the man resisted leaving, Maher ran into the seats and helped them push him out the door, shouting "Out! Out! Out!" Several other protesters, sprinkled throughout the audience, then stood up and shouted. "This isn't the Iowa Caucus, okay, we're not here to debate," Maher shouted, with most of his audience cheering him on. "This is the problem with live television." The incident was shown live on the East Coast, and the network appeared to show the entire affair unedited for the tape-delayed West Coast version. After the instigators were ejected, Maher told his panelists - MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) - that they often linger outside his studio to share 9/11 conspiracy theories with him and try to get into the show. "It's the only time I defend Bush," he said. "I'm thinking about firing my audience department," he added. Regular audience members found the ruckus thrilling. "We picked a very exciting night to be here," Eliot Stein, a 54-year-old high school teacher, said via cell phone. "There's few live TV shows anymore, and here you got to see, Continue Reading