This is a terrific time for cable's FX network, with two superb 10 p.m. dramas back-to-back -- "Justified" (which started its final season Jan. 20) on Tuesdays, "The Americans" (which starts its third season Jan. 28) on Wednesdays. There's also comedy -- a pretty good one ("Archer") now on Thursdays, an excellent one (Billy Crystal and Josh Gad in "The Comedians") coming up. Here's the "Americans" story I sent to papers:
OK, now I know I should have saved all my childhood toys and comics. Here's the story I sent to papers about the fascinating creator of "The Strain":
By MIKE HUGHES
During a busy blur of new cable shows, "Fargo" is the one that seized my attention. The series (which starts at 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 15) is good in every way -- beautifully written, filmed and -- with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton playing opposites -- acted. And as someone who has spent a lot of time in Minnesota, I can attest to the fact that it captures that region's quiet and quirky charm. Here's the story I sent to papers:
You've probably heard the notion of the crying clown, the idea that comedy springs from tortured souls. At times, we're told, that's wrong; from Jerry Seinfeld to Jimmy Fallon or Tina Fey, humor comes from cheery people.
Cable keeps finding new ways to dominate the summer. HBO is doing it with quality ("The Newsroom"), TNT and USA with sleek quantity. And now FX has anew approach.
In one overcrowded Thursday, it debuts shows by two eccentric sorts -- Charlie Sheen and Russell Brand -- sandwiching them around the returns of a good show ("Wilfred") and a sometimes-great one ("Louie"). Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
If Thursdays are meant for laughs -- they are, really -- then why stops at 10 p.m.?
Wise viewers start with CBS' "Big Bang Theory," then switch to NBC for three more comedies. There's more tonight, though, with the season-opener of the animated "Archer" at 10, with Burt Reynolds as guest star; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
The world seems to have an unlimited amount of television and a too-limited amount of really good television. So let's celebrate three bursts of good news -- two relating to shows tonight (Wednesday):
1) "Justified" has been renewed for a third season. This show (10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX) crackles with great characters and sharp dialog. Tonight's hour is a pretty good one, as two strong women -- a coal executive and a crime matriarch -- battle over mining rights.
OK, apparently some cable shows do get canceled after all.
The good news this week was that both "Southland" and "Onion News Network" were renewed for a second season. The bad news came this afternoon: "Lights Out" won't be back.
That's too bad, but it's easy to see the up side: This is a show with a logical one-season arc, as "Lights" Leary struggled for a comeback bout to avoid bankruptcy. It's ending with:
One of the best surprises this summer was "Huge," a show with subtlety, charm and flawed characters. It won't be back for a second season.
One of the best surprises this fall was "Terriers," with subtlety, charm and flawed characters. It won't be back next season.
Yes, there's a trend here.
The Fox network started by cleverly going where the others weren't. At various points, it tried all the things the big networks had abandoned. Some failed (there are, at times, good reasons for abandoment) and some succeeded splendidly; Fox revived primetime cartoons ("Simpsons"), variety shows ("In Living Color"), sci-fi ("X-Files") and amateur competitions ("American Idol").