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Television Review

ENTERTAINMENT
May 1, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
How many films about the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden can the market bear? The answer appears to be three - a bad one, a good one and now, a messy but provocative one. National Geographic Channel's docudrama "Seal Team Six" was first out of the Bin Laden box, although its combo of histrionic drama and sketchy intel made for a better headline than film. Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," on the other hand, provided a master class in how to turn a crowded, complicated, highly emotional series of events into a beautifully constructed, if factually controversial, story.
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ENTERTAINMENT
April 19, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
Back when I was young and the world was new and only one kid we knew had a (very small, black-and-white) TV in his room, my cousins, my brother and I used to put on plays in the basement. We were big fans of "Night Stalker," so these were often quite violent plays, involving pentagrams, blood rituals and monsters constructed with whatever we had on hand - my mother's old hula skirt got a lot of use, as did her sheared raccoon coat, a ratty old "That Girl" wig and the fake blood we breathlessly purchased with Our Own Money from the back of comic books.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 12, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
Like its title character, "Da Vinci's Demons" prefers to flaunt rather than follow, flagrantly borrowing from film, television and video games to create something new, inarguably flawed, possibly revolutionary and certainly fun to watch. For several years, Starz has been flailing around in search of a show that would satisfy the youthful proclivities of its "Spartacus" audience while lending the network a bit more artistic heft. With its "Assassin's Creed" overtones and "Game of Thrones" top notes, "Demons" should satisfy the former, and even a story that too often turns Leonardo da Vinci into a Florentine Sherlock Holmes can't diminish the artistic heft of the original Renaissance man. After a quasi-mystical "Leonardo liked to get stoned" opener, creator David S. Goyer flamboyantly uses "Downton Abbey's" Hugh Bonneville to quickly establish the show's premium cable status: Bonneville's Duke of Milan greets the morn by first urinating, naked and on-camera (when did this become the new hallmark of cable's hard R?
ENTERTAINMENT
April 4, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
NBC sent out five episodes of its "Silence of the Lambs" prequel "Hannibal," and although the reasons to stop watching (when in doubt, impale a woman!) too often outweighed the reasons to continue (Hugh Dancy, tracked by a dangerous dream deer), I swallowed my bile and soldiered on. And indeed, Episode 5 proved an epiphany. No spoilers here, but it costars Eddie Izzard, whose natural gift for twinkling malice threw everything into perspective. The problem with "Hannibal" is not the graphic violence or the absurd back-story tweaks - Dancy's Will Graham is no longer just a super-great FBI profiler with a photographic memory, he's a shivering, night-sweating, natural-born empath, whatever the heck that is - or even the fact that it is rather late to a very crowded serial-killer crime scene.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 3, 2013 | By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
It's a big week on BBC America for fans of "Doctor Who. " Saturday brought the return of the series itself and Wednesday sees David Tennant, its no-longer-employed-there 10th Doctor, starring in the prewar romantic thriller "Spies of Warsaw. " Burn Gorman of the "Who" spinoff "Torchwood" is in it, too, for incidental frisson. Adapted by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais from Alan Furst's 2008 novel of nearly the same name, it features Tennant as Jean-Francois Mercier - you can tell he's French by the English accent - a World War I hero and aristocrat diplomatically posted to Poland but engaged in a variety of undercover activities.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 30, 2013 | By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
From the nation that brought you "Are You Being Served?" comes "Mr. Selfridge," a loose dramatization of the founding of a British retail institution, the Selfridge & Co. department store, familiarly called Selfridges. Its eight-part run begins Sunday, under the colors of PBS' "Masterpiece. " Starring Jeremy Piven as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the American who brought recreational shopping to Britain, it is neither a miniseries nor a biopic, but a full-on, open-ended TV series - a second season is already slated for 2014 - which, like "The Tudors/The Borgias," takes real people from a real place and time and embroiders their lives with the sort of things you watch television for. There are resemblances to "Mad Men," as well, in that it is a period piece about the business of selling and the dreaminess of buying; and of "Downton Abbey" because it is concerned with social mobility at the end of the Edwardian era and ... big hats.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 2, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
To create a successful antihero, a writer must pull off a narrative sleight of hand, convincing the audience that black is white, or at least an acceptable shade of gray. The trick is to pull it off without getting caught, which is the first failure of ABC's high-aspiring but poorly executed "Red Widow. " In the series, which premieres Sunday, the antihero is Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell) living the uber Mommy high life in Marin County until her husband is gunned down in her driveway.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 19, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
No art form is more sensitive to social media than television. Over the years, shows as disparate as "Grey's Anatomy," "Mad Men" and "The Colbert Report" widened and intensified their fan bases through Twitter, Facebook, network websites and YouTube, making devotion just as important as ratings in defining a show's success. But there can be a dark side to this intensity; a fan's feeling of ownership can erupt in vitriolic hysteria when a beloved character is killed or an episode doesn't deliver - the social-media furor over the first season finale of "The Killing" almost got the show canceled.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 8, 2013 | By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
"The Job," which premieres Friday on CBS, puts a reality-show spin on the hiring process - which is to say, it does explicitly what many reality shows do figuratively. Here, five "highly qualified candidates," a new batch each week, sell themselves to a tribunal of executives who will hire one for their company (also new each week) within the hour. Linking their series to the weak economy and job market, the producers (including Mark Burnett of "Survivor" and "Shark Tank" and "The Celebrity Apprentice")
ENTERTAINMENT
February 1, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
For those who follow the Gospel According to Netflix, Friday is the day the world changes, instantly and forever. The day when viewers, too long oppressed by commercials, cliffhangers and increasingly erratic scheduling dictated by greedy network overlords, rise up in glorious revolution and seize the means of consumption. As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, all 13 episodes of the highly pedigreed "House of Cards" - Adapted from a British miniseries! Directed, at least initially, by "The Social Network's" David Fincher!
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