• Rachel Harris of the new television show "Surviving Jack" participates in Fox Broadcasting Company's part of the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter 2014 presentations in Pasadena, California, January 13, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

    I Love the ‘90s

    ‘The Bitch’ Survives Typecasting

    After years of being typecast as ‘the bitch’ thanks to ‘The Hangover,’ Rachael Harris finally gets the warm sitcom role she deserves in Fox’s Surviving Jack.

    Rachael Harris is not a bitch.

    That's important to clarify right off the bat, because you just might have the wrong impression of the Surviving Jack star. Before landing the role as the warm, but mischievous, mother in the '90s-set ABC sitcom, Harris has made a career out of playing the kind of sharp-tongued, caustic characters that you relish watching on TV and in movies but wouldn't be able to handle spending two minutes in the same room with in real life. You know, for the sake of your self-esteem.

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  • Brendan O'Sullivan/Photoshot, via Getty

    The Week in Death

    You Didn’t Mess With This Fat Lady

    The chequered life of Clarissa Dickson Wright, the larger of the two stars on the eccentric cooking show ‘Two Fat Ladies.’

    Clarissa Dickson Wright, who has died aged 66, sprang to celebrity as the larger of the Two Fat Ladies in the astonishingly popular television series.

    Clarissa Dickson Wright was a recovering alcoholic, running a bookshop for cooks in Edinburgh when the producer Patricia Llewellyn was inspired to pair her with the equally eccentric Jennifer Paterson, then a cook and columnist at The Spectator. The emphasis of the program was to be on “suets and tipsy cake rather than rocket salad and sun-dried tomatoes,” the producer declared. Hence bombastic tributes to such delights as cream cakes and animal fats were mingled with contemptuous references to “manky little vegetarians.”

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  • Vivian ZInk/ABC via Getty

    The ‘Trophy Wife’

    A Trophy Wife’s Life After ‘SNL’

    Could getting fired from ‘SNL’ boost an actress’s career? That seems to be the case for the Trophy Wife star who’s quickly become Hollywood’s most in-demand scene-stealer.

    “I do like to play people I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes in a room with,” says Trophy Wife star Michaela Watkins.

    It’s a good thing, too, considering the treasure trove of hilarious scene-stealing—and wacky blunt, and sometimes maddeningly annoying—characters the actress has unleashed on us since breaking out in 2008 during her infamously (and unjustly) short year on Saturday Night Live. (Remember those “Bitch, pleeeze” sketches?)

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  • Lou Rocco/ABC

    She’s Back!

    Rosie’s Explosive Return

    Seven years after quitting ‘The View,’ Rosie O’Donnell returned to the couch. Funny, engaging, and reliably controversial, she proved her unparalleled worth.

    “Is Hasselbeck here? Just checking.”

    With one naughty, haughty question, Rosie O’Donnell transports us all back to what was, at once, the most exciting and despicable time in daytime television: the Rosie O’Donnell/Elisabeth Hasselbeck wars of 2007. It was energizing, captivating television, watching two strong women unapologetically articulate their respectively controversial viewpoints and un-self-consciously debate and defend them against each other. It would’ve been inspiring had the moments—and they were the epitome of television “moments”—been organic. Instead, they were so callously orchestrated by The View’s producers (remember that offensive Jerry Springer-esque split screen shot?) that O’Donnell—that rare breath of air that’s fresh precisely because it’s a bit crude and rancid—quit the show feeling disgraced and used.

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  • MTV

    Real Housewives

    ‘Teen Mom’s Shocking Abortion

    A new season of ‘Teen Mom 2’ is back, and no, shows like it did not reduce teen pregnancy rates, whatever the claims. But the series is so grim that we might believe in its powers.

    If watching Teen Mom 2 was mandatory for American teens, then maybe the MTV show really would reduce teen births by 6 percent. The show is grim. Really grim. Each episode is like watching The Empire Strikes Back on repeat, with no trilogy-ending, daddy-issues-resolving finale on the horizon. This documentary isn’t MTV’s The Hills or Laguna Beach. The show doesn’t resemble a show. It’s more like boring old life, strenuous and unyielding.

    In the vein of True Life, the show follows the girls from the second season of 16 and Pregnant as they grapple with adulthood, single-parenting, and deadbeat fathers. As a running PSA for abstinence (or whatever you have to do to avoid getting knocked up), Teen Mom 2 never misses a moment to drop wisdom.

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  • From left, Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan in Dexter; Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden in The Killing; Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland. (Showtime (2); AMC)

    Zeitgeist

    Television's Mad Women

    Thane Rosenbaum on the rise of the mentally unstable, lonely, workaholic heroine.

    American culture is undergoing a dramatic shift in how it likes to see its heroines portrayed on TV and in film. Gone are the days of Mary Tyler Moore, Rachel and Monica, and the fun-loving, heart-of-gold Sex in the City girls. In fact, both men and women are painted in the most unflattering of lights on the small screen these days. We’ve got philanderers and serial killers, bipolar ice queens and small-town drug dealers. While the results can often be dramatically exhilarating, our attachments to these characters can get downright confusing. Harkening back to that Simon & Garfunkel song, it’s no longer just ‘Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio'—the same now hold true for Mrs. Robinson herself. We’ve seen her kind before, but the women on TV and in film today aren’t evil—they’re mental.

    Bad boys and mad men are very much the rage nowadays. Chivalry is dead when it comes to TV’s male heroes, replaced by dissolute behavior and moral ambiguity. The public seems to have grown to appreciate the seedier exploits of the new antihero—morally compromised louts though they may all be. James Gandolfini’s recent death was a reminder of his iconic portrayal of a mafia chieftain who was conflicted about almost everything except murder in The Sopranos. The dapper but hopelessly depraved Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) in Mad Men is becoming increasingly harder to root for. And Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine dealer in Breaking Bad, can make a viewer long for the innocence, and even some of the inanity, of Welcome Back Kotter.

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  • Chanel Omari, Ashlee White, Casey Cohen, Joey Lauren in a scene from the Bravo reality series "Princesses: Long Island." (Giovanni Rufino/Bravo)

    Cable Jews

    The Most Offensive TV Show Ever?

    The Jewish stars of Princesses Long Island have no problem behaving like stereotypes. Andrew Romano asks: is it a new low for TV?

    There are moments in the course of human history when civilization suddenly casts off the shackles of convention, crosses some proverbial line, and boldly ventures further than it ever dared to go before. Columbus’s transatlantic voyage. Don Quixote. That time we sent three men to the moon in a rocketship.

    Have we come to another one of these turning points?

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  • David M. Russell/CBS

    Reality TV

    ‘The Good Wife’ Is Real Life

    The Spitzer scandal inspired the CBS drama. Now, says Kevin Fallon, it seems the show is inspiring him.

    It’s a peculiar thing, when art imitates life, and then life in turn begins imitating that art. But that’s what’s happening in the case of Eliot Spitzer’s recent political resurrection and his relationship with spouse Silda Wall Spitzer—or as the story ought to be called now, The Good Wife…in Real Life.

    When the CBS legal drama/political soap opera hybrid debuted in 2009, it was easy to identify the glaring similarities between the show and the still-fresh details of the Spitzer prostitution scandal that was unveiled the previous spring. The series launched with an all-too-familiar scene: Alicia Florrick (played with elegant ferocity by Julianna Margulies) stands stunned and stonefaced next to her politico husband (Chris Noth)—who had just been caught cheating on her with a hooker—at his press conference announcing his resignation. It was as if Margulies had taken care to recreate, second-by-second, the expression worn by Silda Wall Spitzer as she stood by her husband in the press conference that served as inspiration for the series.

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  • ABC/Vivian Zink/Frederick M. Brown/Getty/BET

    TV Revolution

    Black Women Seize Center Stage

    After three-decade drought, a new generation of black women is shaking up TV, reports Allison Samuels.

    Mara Brock Akil has been living with a woman named Mary Jane in her head for years. As a successful TV writer, she longed to bring the story of a single, professional black woman into the homes of millions of Americans.

    For almost three decades, the timing didn’t seem to be right. White male executives at the helm of most major television networks showed little appetite for shows about multidimensional black women struggling to achieve their own versions of “happily ever after.”

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  • MTV's "Girl Code," a lazy show that regurgitates stereotypes and is slowly striving toward undoing any progress woman have made over the past 50 years. (MTV)

    Trash Talk

    How to Trivialize a Teen

    This reality talk show supposedly addresses the real problems of teen girls, but most of the time is wasted on mockery and cheap jokes, writes Lizzie Crocker.

    Has your boyfriend been noticeably less affectionate of late? Has he insisted on hanging out with his friends, who are girls, who have bigger breasts than you do?

    If you’ve ever watched MTV’s Girl Code, which aired the two-hour finale of its wildly popular first season earlier this month (and is recycled endlessly), you’re likely familiar with these telltale signs that you’re about to get dumped. The show features a handful of third-tier comedians weighing in on lady issues—“getting dumped,” “pregnancy scares,” “mean girls”—and making light of them in a way that calls to mind auditions for a lowbrow stand-up show. Except they’re sitting down, individually, against a backdrop of random images—a unicorn or sunglasses, for example—as they discuss the merits of different types of “penises” (the Banana, the Hook, the Torpedo) or dole out useless advice on how to “be classy” (hint: “don’t fucking swear too much”).

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  • Fox

    THE GIRL ON TV

    TV’s Sexual Targets

    Teen girls bear brunt of exploitation, according to study.

    Teenage female characters on broadcast network shows are sexually exploited on television, one advocacy group found. According to a study of 238 sitcom dramas airing over four weeks in 2011 and 2012, one third of the episodes had content that sexually exploited females. The study, released by the Parents Television Council on Tuesday, found that scenes with exploitation most likely happened when a teen girl was involved—as opposed to adult women, who were 10 percentage points (43 percent versus 33 percent) less likely to be the butt of a sexually exploitive joke. The guilty shows range from wholesome Glee, in a scene where teens play strip poker, to the not-so-politically-correct Family Guy, where the Griffins’ daughter, Meg, always seems to be the brunt of sexual jokes and misconduct.

    Read it at The Huffington Post
  • Daenerys Targaryen and Robb Stark of "Game of Thrones". (HBO)

    OMG!

    The ‘Game of Thrones’ Sex Ad

    Marlow Stern on the hilarious ‘Game of Thrones’-themed Craigslist ad that has to be seen to be believed.

    So much carnal knowledge is on display in Game of Thrones, HBO’s hit swords and sandals fantasy series, that the show inspired media critics to coin the term sexposition—providing plot exposition mid-humping.

    But this may be a bit too kinky…even for the Seven Kingdoms.

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  • (L-R) Allison Williams, Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham attend L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade At Culver Studios at Culver Studios on September 29, 2012 in Culver City, California. (Stefanie Keenan/WireImage)

    Secret Weapon

    The Woman Behind ‘Girls’

    She’s Lena Dunham’s biggest fan. She’s Lena Dunham’s best friend. She’s Lena Dunham’s professional partner. Meet Jenni Konner, the other girl behind ‘Girls.’

    When Girls premiered last spring and devoured the zeitgeist, critics—heck, all of us—coronated creator-star-writer-director Lena Dunham as the voice of a generation. If that’s true, then Jenni Konner, the woman who brought Dunham’s talents to the attention of executive producer Judd Apatow and now acts as Girls’ showrunner, is that voice’s silent partner.

    She’s also, as Dunham said in January in her acceptance speech for the Golden Globe for best actress in a TV comedy, “my best friend and the person who I aspire to be.”

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