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Eric Deggans

When I saw the first episode of BBC America's Orphan Black last year, I was convinced it was a crappy Canadian police drama.

That's because the set-up seemed like the oddest sort of crime procedural nonsense. A street urchin-style grifter sees a middle class woman who looks just like her leap in front of a commuter train, nabs her purse and climbs into her life – only to find her doppelganger is a troubled police officer with problems of her own.

CBS is planning a one-hour season finale for Robin Williams' The Crazy Ones. It was one of three sitcoms built around big established stars this season, all three of which suffered in the ratings. It raises the question: Does television make stars, or is it the other way around?

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There is a moment, deep inside the first episode of FX's excellent re-imagination of the Coen brothers' masterful film Fargo, when a police officer gets a phone call.

He's sleeping next to his pregnant wife. It's early. And the well-meaning but sometimes complacent police chief is suddenly called to the scene of a bizarre crime.

***For Mad Men fans who missed Sunday night's Season 7 premiere, be warned: There are spoilers below.

Don Draper finally told the truth, and it ruined his life.

Perhaps that shouldn't have been such a surprise. Because Don has mostly been a master of the lie — especially in the form of an ad pitch. And he never lost his touch: He suckered everyone last season with one of his best pitches for Hershey's chocolate bars.

CBS just ended the longest-running joke in TV history by naming Stephen Colbert to succeed retiring late-night host David Letterman

That's because Colbert, who has won all kinds of acclaim playing fictional right-wing cable TV news host "Stephen Colbert" on The Colbert Report, will now play a new character when he takes over Letterman's Late Show:

Himself.

The Weather Channel will return to DIRECTV on Wednesday, ending a three month dispute which saw the cable channel yanked from the satellite television system reaching 20 million subscribers.

But the new agreement comes with a price: the Weather Channel has agreed to cut back its reality programming by half during weekdays, restore instant local weather and allow DIRECTV subscribers to watch the cable channel on a range of devices in and out of their homes.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melisa Block, hosting this week from member station KERA in Dallas.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

David Letterman, the longest-serving late night television host, is retiring.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, 'LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN')

The view from inside a media circus is an odd one, indeed.

But I got a glimpse of the scenery a few days ago, when CNN asked me to weigh in on the similarities between the real-life missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the myriad of fictional TV shows or movies where similar events have unfolded.

Why are we so drawn to these stories? anchor Suzanne Malveaux asked me in a few different ways, perhaps wanting an emotional take on how the plane crash scene in the TV series Lost or the film Alive could have ended Flight 370's mysterious voyage.

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The best thing about late-night TV can also be the trickiest.

On the fringes of TV's big stage, shows airing after midnight can be a home for invention; a place where quirky personalities and developing talent can try things with the potential for massive success or demoralizing failure with relatively low stakes.

That history — and its potential for greatness — may be one reason why Seth Meyers' funny, well-paced, completely professional debut Monday as the new host of NBC's 12:35 a.m. Late Night show nevertheless left me a little underwhelmed.

When the interviewer for BBC Radio finally reached me Monday to talk about the failure of Piers Morgan's 9 p.m. interview show on CNN, she basically had one question, asked many different ways.

Are Americans finally tired of arrogant British TV personalities?

When Jimmy Fallon first stepped up to lead a late-night talk show in 2009, he looked like a teenager trying to drive his dad's Ferrari: a good kid who was out of his depth.

[Editor's Note: This piece references plot points from the first season of House of Cards. If you've been waiting a year to binge-watch it, consider this your spoiler alert.]

When Netflix's groundbreaking online series House of Cards releases its second season to the world Friday — unleashing 13 new episodes about a wily congressman willing to kill to reach the vice presidency — fans will get more than another jolt of TV's most addictive political drama.

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It felt like a rerun from a long-ago time, with a twist.

Once again, an NBC executive was facing a crowd of TV critic and reporters, saying nice things about Jay Leno just as he was leaving as host of The Tonight Show.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

"American Idol" is back for its 12th season tonight. The show's huge success gave rise to an entire genre of reality talent shows on TV. For the last few seasons, though, ratings for "American Idol" have been off. So they've freshened up the format and brought in some new judges. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says "American Idol" is trying something new: being nice.

Nothing exposes you like asking a tough question.

Like a boxer extending a jab, you reveal yourself in the moment, stepping aggressively to a subject in a way that also makes you vulnerable. Handle the moment badly, and like an off-balance prizefighter, you might be the one hugging the canvas after a knockout blow.

Who should be eligible to receive an award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? And if that definition becomes flexible, what does that do to the mission of the award itself?

That's a question worth asking as the NAACP Thursday unveiled a huge roster of nominees for its 45th annual Image Awards — a ceremony long thought to be a way to honor African-American performers who are often ignored by mainstream Hollywood awards contests.

Woody Harrelson has a simple explanation for how he handled playing the same detective over a 17-year span of time for HBO's newest foray into quality TV, True Detective.

"I just took off my wig," joked Harrelson, sporting a beard and his naturally receding hairline for a press conference here Thursday to tell a roomful of TV critics about HBO's attempt to reinvent the buddy cop story.

Chris Hardwick could be the nerd king of television. Crown or no crown, no one is a better guide for TV-obsessed fans.

Hardwick's biggest gig is hosting Talking Dead, a show where he and his guests dissect the gore and heartbreak in each episode of AMC's zombie drama The Walking Dead.

"I'm just lucky that people need therapy after a show like The Walking Dead. That's what we provide," Hardwick explains. "We provide a comedown so you can get into bed and your brain stops buzzing."

Here's why picking a Top 10 list of best TV shows has become such treacherous work for critics this year: Quite simply, 2013 was the year quality exploded in the television industry.

Thanks to the simultaneous maturing of Netflix, AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, Amazon, BBC America, Sundance Channel, iTunes and many more media platforms, fans of great television had more options than ever to find high-quality product whenever and wherever they liked.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's look back now on 2013 with our TV critic Eric Deggans. He says it was the year of the binge viewer and a special kind of program made it so.

The email arrived with the kind of snarky tone reserved for a moment when the author is sure he — and it's usually a he — thinks he's hoisted you with your own petard.

A bit of back story: Last week, I tweeted a question wondering why CBS This Morning used a clip of Toto's hit song "Africa" under a montage of photos from Nelson Mandela's funeral. The tweet went viral, sparking stories on several websites and agreement from a co-founder of the band.

One more lesson on the power of social media:

As the holiday season approaches, the TV cupboard may seem a bit bare; the industry winds down like everything else, filling cable and broadcast networks with holiday specials, reruns and also-ran reality shows.

But there are bright gifts, too: TNT offers Mob City, a three-week, lavishly produced noir-ish TV show about cops and crooks vying for control of 1947-era Los Angeles, airing Wednesdays.

On Dec. 8 and 9, A&E presents a four-hour miniseries on Bonnie and Clyde, retelling the story of the Depression-era outlaws and lovers.

[Plot details regarding Sunday night's Walking Dead midseason finale follow. Proceed at your own risk.]

This is a strange thing to say about a TV show which ended its fall season Sunday with the death of two children, a gun battle, waves of flesh-eating zombies and a decapitation.

But it is easy to forget, in the midst of all the carnage, that The Walking Dead is essentially a show about hope.

Depending on which analyst you read, Katie Couric's move to become "global anchor" for Yahoo! News is either a "bad bet" and an "awkward fit," or an "upheaval in the pecking order" that could "signal the end of old media dominance."

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