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  • Posted 9/22/14 at 6:00 PM
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Madam Secretary Creator Barbara Hall on Being a Female Showrunner and Creating a Reluctant Hero

Last night, CBS debuted Madam Secretary, the new show from Joan of Arcadia creator Barbara Hall in which Téa Leoni plays the secretary of State, to a very good-size audience. In his review, Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, "Madam Secretary is ... attuned to the ways in which women exercise (and are expected to exercise) great power on those occasions when they manage to acquire it." When John Horn, host of Southern California Public Radio's new arts and entertainment show, the Frame, spoke with Hall, she spoke about how her time being a woman in a man's world has influenced Madam Secretary and her other shows. (Listen to Horn and Hall's interview below and subscribe to the Frame at iTunes or Stitcher.)


Here Are the Villains You’ll Meet Tonight on Gotham

Tonight is the series premiere of Gotham, Fox's serialized-procedural hybrid touting Batman-related characters sans Batman. The show follows young detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and tracks his rise through the Gotham City Police Department ranks, as well as his heroic exploits as the last good man in a treacherous town. Every week the show will dive into a crime element, as well as sub-plot threads that detail the back-stories of Batman's most notorious arch-nemeses. Gotham's creators and writers have undertaken the unruly task of introducing a cadre of colorful super-villains from the DC Comics universe to a mixed audience of fans and newcomers that might be at once uber-familiar and completely out of the loop. Vulture talked to the rogues’ real-life counterparts at last week’s East Coast premiere of the show to see how their characters’ pop-culture backstories compare to those teased tonight on Gotham’s first episode.

Don't fret the small stuff. »

Why Are 23.4 Million People Watching The Big Bang Theory?

This piece was originally published on May 4, 2014, but it may be useful before tonight's Big Bang Theory season premiere.

TV shows are not supposed to be this popular, not in the age of DVRs, Netflix, and cord-cutting. Nevertheless, CBS’s The Big Bang Theory—an old-fashioned multi-camera comedy about four nerdy men and three women who tolerate them—is not only television’s No. 1 show but also the highest-rated sitcom since Friends signed off in 2004. Here’s why. 

The number of people who watched at least six minutes of The Big Bang Theory this season: 84.2 million. »

TV Review: If CBS’s Scorpion Is About Geniuses, Why Is It So Dumb?

That guy over there? He's a genius. You can tell he's a genius by the way he's constantly rude and dismissive to women. He pedantically and unceasingly lectures that woman he somehow was dating; he criticizes that waitress's nail polish because yeah, she's definitely doing that for his benefit and analysis. He's just such a genius, you see. It's impossible for him to relate to anyone who's not a genius, and obviously, at the genius club there is only room for one woman, so everyone else who's not a genius — goats? Is that the opposite of a genius? Who can care? — will simply have to step aside. Genius coming through. Watch out for the genius. Genius here.

It's like The Big Bang Theory, but not even trying to be funny. »

What You Need to Know Before Watching Season 2 of The Blacklist

NBC's The Blacklist, one of last year's breakouts, returns for a second season tonight at 10 p.m. (before moving to Thursdays at 9 p.m. starting in February). If you haven't seen the show yet, or you've forgotten certain things, or maybe you're just now getting to it, here's a quick rundown of what you need to know from season one.

Okay, so there's this blacklist ... »

Kenan Thompson May Not Be Leaving Saturday Night Live

Earlier today, TMZ reported that Kenan Thompson would be leaving SNL after this season, citing sources who claim that Thompson planned to leave after last season but stayed on as a favor to Lorne Michaels. Its report continued by saying that Thompson plans to move to L.A. and is in talks for a new show. Yet an SNL spokesperson called TMZ's report "incredibly inaccurate," adding, "The season hasn’t even started and cast decisions aren’t made until the end of the season."

At Least 3 New York Times Editors Saw Nothing Wrong With Rhimes Article [Updated]

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has written a preliminary response to Alessandra Stanley's widely criticized article about Shonda Rhimes. Sullivan writes that she agrees with readers' strong negative reaction to the piece, and that she's asked Stanley and Stanley's editors for a response. In the meantime,

I'll say this much: The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.

At best, astonishingly tone-deaf. At worst, something the chronically incorrect Stanley will almost certainly not learn from.

Update: Sullivan updated her post at 12:58 p.m. with a response from the Times's culture editor Danielle Mattoon.

"There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did," Ms. Mattoon said. "Alessandra used a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren't sensitive enough to the language being used."

Ms. Mattoon called the article "a serious piece of criticism," adding, "I do think there were interesting and important ideas raised that are being swamped" by the protests. She told me that multiple editors — at least three — read the article in advance but that none of them raised any objections or questioned the elements of the article that have been criticized.

This piece was not largely positive. It was factually inaccurate, had a completely unsupported central claim, and relied on exhausting, damaging racial stereotypes. That so many people saw nothing wrong with the piece is shameful.

Mattoon also said that the response to the article was "a signal" that editors need to "constantly remind ourselves … of our blind spots." Consider sticking a Post-it note on your computer that says "Did you check for racism? Check again."

This post has been updated throughout.

It’s Live, Die, Repeat for Ioan Gruffudd in ABC’s Forever

It's risky to base an entire TV show around the charisma of your lead actor, but if you insist on doing so, you could do a lot worse than hire Ioan Gruffudd, who's in every scene of the fantasy drama Forever and narrates it as well. The Welsh actor plays Henry, a New York City medical examiner who happens to be immortal. He just keeps getting killed again and again and again throughout history, only to be "reborn" in a body of water (in this case, the Hudson River) and emerge naked onto the shore to start over. Live, die, repeat, as the taglines for Edge of Tomorrow promised. 

That's an amusing premise for a series, and Gruffudd plays it just right. »

  • Posted 9/22/14 at 1:45 PM
  • Primers

Sleepy Hollow Season 2: Where the Show Left Off and Where We Hope It’s Headed

Sleepy Hollow fans will be watching Fox tonight when their favorite sci-fi/pseudo-historical/detective-buddy/bonkers drama finally returns for its second season. But just in case you’re still scratching your head over last season’s truly bananas finale, here’s a rundown of where the major characters stand.

Let’s work backwards from the last place we saw Ichabod Crane. »

Fall TV Ratings Report: Madam Secretary Gets Sampled by Big Audience

At least 14 million viewers checked out the premiere of CBS’s new Téa Leoni drama Madam Secretary, according to early Nielsen estimates. Some of Sunday’s big Denver-Seattle game spilled into primetime on the East Coast, which means final numbers will change when they’re released tomorrow. However, two industry insiders reached by Vulture suggested it’s possible Madam could actually go up when all is said and done. Whatever the final figure, Madam was certainly sampled by a big audience, which is exactly what CBS was hoping by scheduling its debut the same day as the Denver-Seattle rematch and 24 hours before tonight’s official start of the season. Now the Eye just needs those viewers to return next week, when Madam will face off against the Frozen-themed season premiere of ABC’s Sunday hit Once Upon a Time.

Animator David Silverman on 8 Early and Previously Unseen Simpsons Sketches

Animator David Silverman has been with The Simpsons since the beginning — literally: He directed the first episode of the series, as well as subsequent classics “The Way We Was,” “Krusty Gets Kancelled,” and “Homie the Clown,” not to mention The Simpsons Movie and the Academy Award–nominated short The Longest Daycare. FXX’s recent marathon and upcoming "Simpsons World" experience in the FXNOW app has reignited an interest in the show’s earliest days, so Vulture asked Silverman to share the stories behind some previously unreleased sketches and storyboards from his personal collection. Twenty-seven years later, the characters look virtually the same as they did then, an impressive feat when you consider their animation motto at the time was “done equals good.” Click through to see eight early prototypes and to read Silverman’s stories behind each of them.

  • Posted 9/22/14 at 1:00 PM
  • Primers

Everything We Know About The Good Wife’s Lemond Bishop

It's entirely possible that when Lemond Bishop made a major return to The Good Wife in season six's premiere, you had one of two reactions. Either you were pumped to see one of the show's more complex villains again, or you squinted at your television while thinking, Wait, who? Your confusion would be justified — The Good Wife has a Mister Rogers–esque cast of rotating guest characters, all of whom tend to pop by unannounced when you're least expecting them to.

Bishop's back. But who is he, really? »

Which Sophomore Shows Will Thrive, and Which Will Take a Ratings Dive?

Network television’s new fall season kicks off today, officially ushering in the arrival of a couple dozen shiny new series. Broadcasters have invested millions in the production and promotion of these newcomers, and after months of hype, we’ll now finally get to see which ones have a future — and which will end up buried next to the corpses of long-forgotten short-timers such as My Own Worst Enemy, The Unusuals, or Life on a Stick. Vulture and other business and entertainment outlets will pay lots of attention to these debuts over the coming weeks (check back tomorrow for the first big Nielsen report card). Yet despite the understandable obsession with what’s new, network suits will be following another class of programs nearly as closely: the sophomores. These are the shows which defied network TV’s long odds to make it to a second season and now have to prove they really do have long-term value. This has become particularly true in recent years: With breakout hits less common, series which in the past might not have graduated to a second season are now getting more time to connect with audiences. Year two can be the time when network patience either pays off with a sophomore surge (see: ScandalChicago Fire) or is rewarded with definitive audience rejection (Smash, Revolution).

Early signs look promising. »

The Many Sex Faces of Outlander’s Jamie

[This post contains spoilers for Outlander, though not major ones — like, if you've seen a poster for Outlander, you can probably guess what happened on this week's episode.]

Prepare yourself. »

What You Missed From Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run HBO Special

Not that I'm complaining — please don't hurt me, Beyhive — but we've been bombarded by moments from Beyoncé and Jay Z's On the Run tour ever since it was announced. So when HBO aired the entire thing on Saturday, there wasn't much that the diehards hadn't already seen. But still: It was Beyoncé and Jay Z onstage together, which means that there were plenty of highlights. Here's what you missed over the weekend.

20 Years Later: Friends’ 10 Most Quotable Lines

Today marks the 20h anniversary of Friends' premiere episode. We are rerunning this piece, which was originally published on March 11, 2013. Vulture's commenters had many more suggestions, which you can read here. And read Margaret Lyons's piece on why she still loves the show a decade after it ended.

PI-vot! If you've moved a couch in the last ten years, some unhelpful person has probably shouted this as you've hoisted it down a hallway or flight of stairs. PI-vot! Ross Geller will live on forever. But that's just one of many Friends lines that's worked its way into everyday use. Let's take a walk through the show's most potent quotables and concepts, covering romance, revenge, and, yes, couch-moving.

Gotham Is the Best-Looking New Show on Network TV, Though You Have to Grade It on the Superhero Curve

If you're looking for a handsomely produced cop show set in a Blade Runner–ish world gone to hell, Gotham will give you what you crave. Created by Bruno Heller, who gave us CBS's The Mentalist, it's certainly the best-looking new series on network television: The dystopian cityscapes are feature-film quality.

Be warned, though: There's no superhero action. »

  • Posted 9/22/14 at 10:35 AM
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Netflix Finds That Some People Spoil TV As an Interpersonal Power Play

Netflix hired cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken to examine our national attitude towards spoilers, and found that more than 75 percent of us weren't really bothered by finding out unwanted info about our favorite television shows. That's probably because everyone is doing it — so much so that McCracken categorized five different types of TV spoilers. Most disconcerting is the Power Spoiler, who ruins television shows as a way of demonstrating his or her high social value. As McCracken put it, "To know about a show that you don't know about is to have power. I live in the future that you are about to occupy." To avoid this type of spoiler, never talk television with a guy who looks like this.

Lost Turns 10: Take Our Quiz and Guess the Character’s Eyeball

Ten years ago today, Lost aired the first part of its two-hour pilot episode, which opened with a shot of one of the main character's eyeballs. In Vulture's time-honored tradition of celebrating anniversaries with quizzes, we've ginned up one for all you Lost heads. Identify the people to which these ten eyeball close-ups belong to. Match the man or woman to his or her iris and, if you're really good, see if you can remember what he or she was looking at. (That'll be extra credit; leave those guesses in the comments.)

Masters of Sex Recap: Lights, Camera, Masters

An important question before we dive into last night's Masters of Sex: Who on the set of the show was responsible for the construction and rigging of Bill Masters' fake morning erection? Is it a costume piece, or is it something the props department puts together? And what's it made of, anyway? Feel free to leave ideas in the comments.

“CBS doesn’t like dildos.” »