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2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

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The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

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Please, won’t you lend a television critic a hand?

The Television Critics Association has officially begun the gearing-up process for its 25th annual awards, which will honor the finest work of the 2008-09 season as selected by the association’s 200-plus member critics and journalists. One of those members is yours truly, and I figured I’d see what the readers of Premium Hollywood had to say about the nominations and who they’d like to see win the various categories. I’ll have to submit my votes by June 10th, but since the winners won’t be announced until August 1st (the ceremony takes place at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, CA, with Chelsea Handler opening the ceremony), so speak up quickly. There are a couple of things I’m on the fence about, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts before I make my final selections.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

* “Battlestar Galactica” (SciFi Channel)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* “30 Rock” (NBC)
* “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
* “The Daily Show” (Comedy Central)
* “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)
* “The Office” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
* “Friday Night Lights” (NBC/DirecTV)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT MOVIES, MINI-SERIES AND SPECIALS

* Summer Olympic Coverage (NBC)
* “24: Redemption” (Fox)
* “Generation Kill” (HBO)
* “Grey Gardens” (HBO)
* “Taking Chance” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

“Fringe” (Fox)
“The Mentalist” (CBS)
“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (HBO)
“True Blood” (HBO)
“United States of Tara” (Showtime)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
* Steve Carell (“The Office”)
* Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
* Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”)
* Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* Glenn Close (“Damages”)
* Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
* Walton Goggins (“The Shield”)
* Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
* Hugh Laurie (“House”)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

* “Camp Rock” (The Disney Channel)
* “The Electric Company” (PBS)
* “Nick News” (Nickelodeon)
* “Sid the Science Kid” (PBS)
* “Yo Gabba Gabba” (Nickelodeon)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION

* “60 Minutes” (CBS)
* “The Alzheimer’s Project” (HBO)
* “Frontline” (PBS)
* “The Rachel Maddow Show” (MSNBC)
* “We Shall Remain” (PBS)

HERITAGE AWARD

* “ER” (NBC)
* “M*A*S*H” (CBS)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)
* “Star Trek” (NBC)

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“Lost” time warps its way to #1 spot on Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

With the writers’ strike finally behind us, the television industry has sprung back remarkably well. Granted, it isn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream for all of our favorite shows, but after the strike forced us to cancel the spring edition of our semi-annual TV Power Rankings, it’s nice to be able to show some love for those series that had been gone for far too long. A quick look at our Winter 2008 list may suggest that a major shakeup has occurred in our new Top 20 below, but seven of the shows from last November are either on hiatus or cancelled. Likewise, nearly every eligible show previously on hiatus has snuck its way back into the Top 20, while five new shows have also cracked the list. Most of these are experiencing some of their best seasons ever, and though “Heroes” continues its mighty fall, the return of “24″ only further cements the notion that TV is back and better than ever.

Below you’ll find a few entries, but be sure to check out the full list, where we’ve also included links to DVD reviews and interviews, as well as a host of Honorable Mentions and our list of favorite shows currently on hiatus.

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“Friday Night Lights” gets two-season pickup!

It’s probably uncouth to use an exclamation point in the title of a blog post, but I don’t really care. DirecTV and NBC came to terms on an agreement that will give “Friday Night Lights” two more 13-episode seasons.

DirecTV will get the first window on the episodes, to run commercial-free as the marquee property on its 101 Network channel, which is rapidly adding new and library product with appeal to TV aficionados from Hollywood’s majors (Daily Variety, March 23). This season, DirecTV ran the 13 episodes comprising “FNL’s” third season in the fall, while NBC’s run began in January.

Although the show has a loyal core aud, “FNL” has had a hard time drawing a broadcast net-sized aud. But the license fee NBC receives from DirecTV makes it financially feasible for the Peacock to continue with the show, which lends an aura of quality to the net’s sked at a time when NBC is struggling to rebuild its roster of scripted series.

It’s understood that DirecTV’s license fee covers just under half of “FNL’s” weekly production budget of a little more than $2 million per hour, which is modest by broadcast net standards.

I’ve been a die-hard “FNL” fan from the beginning and I figured that the show would probably be canceled after this season, but the ratings (while not strong for broadcast television) haven’t sunk below 3.8 million all season. It may not be huge, but the “FNL” fan base is loyal.

I was a little suspicious of this DirecTV/NBC relationship, but now it’s given one of my favorite shows a three-season extension. I also prefer the 13-episode season because, generally speaking, the shorter the season, the tighter the storylines.

No regrets.

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Friday night — where good shows go to die

In theory, Fox had a solid idea. Pair Joss Whedon’s new hour-long drama, “Dollhouse,” with “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” to create a male-skewing sci-fi block on Friday night. They’ve had success on Friday’s in the past with sci-fi; “The X-Files” flourished there (or at least paid for itself) for several years. But The Live Feed reports that ratings for both shows were a disappointment.

The series premiere of Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” was seen by 4.7 million viewers Friday night and garnered a 2.0 preliminary adults 18-49 rating and 6 share. It was beaten in the 9 p.m. hour by ABC’s “Supernanny” (6.1 million viewers, 2.2/7) and is the lowest-rated scripted series premiere on a major broadcast network this season aside from NBC’s now-defunct “Crusoe.”

“Dollhouse” was paired with the midseason return of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (3.7 million, 1.3/5), which was shifted from its previous Monday post. “Terminator” came in third place in the hour and hit a series low (by like 27%). “Terminator” beat NBC’s “Howie Do It” (3.9 million, 1.2/4), but not by much. Both “Ghost Whisperer” (10.3 million, 2.4/8) and “Wife Swap” (4.3 million, 1.5/5) did better.

I thought “Dollhouse” had a pretty solid premiere, but I was by no means blown away. The premise is interesting — that there’s a business that can reprogram “dolls” to become whatever its clients need. In the premiere, Echo (Eliza Dushku), started out as a party girl meant to entertain a rich playboy, but was reprogrammed to become an expert in kidnapping scenarios. Dushku looks great in a dress, but was a little stiff when she was trying to convince the father of a kidnapped girl that she was the right person for the job. I’m not sure that she’s the right one to carry the series, though future episodes will decide this. Stepping back a bit, I’m not sure how some viewers may react to seeing this pretty girl having her brain wiped at least once per episode. If the heroine doesn’t have some consistent character traits week-to-week, she may be tough to relate to.


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“Kyle XY” canceled, “Leverage” renewed, “Friday Night Lights” ratings

TV.com reports that ABC Family has elected not to renew “Kyle XY” for a fourth season, but did pick up “Lincoln Heights” and “Greek” for additional seasons.

The news of Kyle XY’s cancellation first hit the Web via a report from EW.com’s Michael Ausiello, who believes that Kyle’s slumping ratings may have done it in. The show, ABC Family’s first original program, was one of the main reasons ABC Family has turned itself into a promising off-shoot of Disney and ABC. But now with other ABC Family shows–such as The Secret Life of the American Teenager–raising the bar, it appears that Kyle XY is the odd-man out.

I didn’t watch “Kyle XY,” but this has to be heartbreaking news to fans of the show. “Greek” makes for good summer viewing, so I’m happy to see it was picked up for another season.

In other news, TNT renewed “Leverage” for a 15-episode second season.

The early-December debut of Leverage drew an impressive 5.6 million viewers, and over its first nine episodes has averaged 3.2 million viewers.

“Leverage” has been sailing along, though it is pretty unbelievable at times. It has a sense of humor and doesn’t really take itself too seriously (except when it takes itself too seriously). The characters are diverse and strong, and though the humor can be a little “shticky” at times, it’s a pretty funny show.

“Friday Night Lights” fans have to be wondering how the ratings have been since the show debuted on NBC. Well, the show averaged 4.17 million viewers over its first three episodes, which is down from 5.61 million last season. Michael Ausiello says that the show “will be back provided all (or most) of the 4.6 million people that tuned in for last Friday’s season premiere … stick around for the entire season. And they’d be fools not to.”

Hopefully, “Friday Night Lights” can stay above the 4.0 million level so that NBC is getting enough out of the show to continue to co-own the rights with DirecTV.

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It’s time to set your TiVos…

There are a number of new (and returning) shows making their season debuts this month. Here is a list of the scripted shows that premiere in the next two weeks (through 1/19):

SCRUBS (ABC)
1/6/09 at 9:00 PM & 9:30 PM
8th season premiere

NIP/TUCK (FX)
1/6/09 at 10:00 PM
5th season winter premiere

10 ITEMS OR LESS (TBS)
1/6/09 at 11:00 PM
3rd season premiere

DAMAGES (FX)
1/7/09 at 10:00 PM
2nd season premiere


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2008: The Year in TV – Jeff Giles

TOP 3 SHOWS

1. “Lost,” ABC

After two seasons of listening to viewers bitch about everything from too many characters to plots not moving fast enough, the “Lost” writers whomped us all over the head with a run of episodes that was better than anything fans had seen since Season One. Many of the show’s most important riddles were answered – or at least what we thought were its most important riddles, because now there’s a whole new list of them to answer. Not even that damn writers’ strike was enough to put much of a dent in this season of “Lost” — and not even the new Fray single playing in the background is enough to keep us from geeking out over the Season Five promos that ABC recently started airing.

2. “The Office,” NBC
Few network shows – and zero sitcoms – have played as fast and loose with their casts as “The Office”; whether it’s Oscar going on “gaycation,” Andy entering anger management counseling, Jim transferring to Stamford, Toby fleeing to Costa Rica, or Pam wandering off to art school in New York, you never know who’s going to move off-canvas for a spell – kind of like your actual workplace environment. It’s this grounding – along with one of the best casts and some of the strongest comedy writing on television – that helps keep “The Office” from getting stale, and allows it to transcend such stereotypically show-killing plot devices as the star-crossed couple (in this case, Jim and Pam) that finally gets together. Of course, it helps when said couple isn’t even the hottest pairing on the show: this season, Dwight and Angela’s secret warehouse liaisons have proven that even a Second Life-playing, beet-farming paper salesman can get his mojo rising every once in awhile.

3. “Friday Night Lights,” DirecTV
Unless you have DirecTV, you haven’t seen any of “FNL’s” third season – and you won’t until early 2009, under the terms of a unique cost-sharing deal that saved the show from cancellation…for now, anyway. It certainly remains to be seen how non-DTV fans of the show will deal with this arrangement – if, for instance, they’ve managed to keep from spoiling the entire season in advance with recaps posted on the Web – or whether NBC will deign to promote content that’s already aired elsewhere. In the meantime, however, here’s what we can tell you: the third season of “Friday Night Lights” packs all of the addictive small-town drama and pulse-pounding gridiron action of Season One, minus the unwelcome addition of stupidly soapy ingredients that weakened Season Two (in other words, nobody’s throwing any bodies off bridges). We’ll be very surprised if “FNL” returns for a fourth season – on any network – but we’ve still got our fingers crossed.

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“Mad Men” tops Bullz-Eye’s 2008 TV Power Rankings

TV Power Rankings 2008

It’s been nine months since the writers’ strike shook up the entertainment industry – forcing some shows to shut down production for the rest of the season and leaving others to scramble for survival – and television still isn’t the same. Many of our favorite shows have yet to return to form (here’s looking at you “Heroes”), while some (like Power Rankings newcomer and new #1, “Mad Men”) have risen to the occasion and helped fill the void. If there’s any pattern to this year’s TV Power Rankings, however, it’s that there is none. While NBC’s reign in the top 10 continues, a dozen of the 20 shows below didn’t make the cut last year, and nine of those 12 are making their Power Rankings debut (“The Shield,” “The Daily Show” and “Family Guy” have popped up in previous editions). Still think the writers’ strike didn’t have a lasting effect? Think again.

Below you’ll find some sample entries, but be sure to check out the full list, where you’ll also find links to DVD reviews and interviews, as well as some Honorable Mentions and our list of favorite shows currently on hiatus.

1. Mad Men

In any sane world, Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men” would not be on any “power ranking,” much less in the #1 spot. This supremely stylish drama about the alcohol-soaked, nicotine-stained, sexual harassment and adultery-friendly lives of early ‘60s advertising execs started out as a low-profile curiosity from a former member of the writing staff of “The Sopranos.” Still, with some help from ecstatic reviews and the Emmys, the show has emerged as first-class appointment TV and a launch pad for at least one potential superstar in Jon Hamm. As the metaphysically secretive Don Draper, Hamm knocks back too many Old Fashioneds while casually invoking the sort of grown-up masculine charisma of classic era film stars Gregory Peck and William Holden. Better yet, Season Two saw the show’s large and very strong cast of supporting characters become even stronger and more layered as the subject matter grew bolder. A semi-surreal late-season left turn with a roving band of wealthy Euro-bohemians was just the tip of the iceberg as rape, nuclear annihilation, religion and the meaning of existence were broached, with vaguely disturbing yet highly entertaining and sexy results. “Mad Men” cannot be pegged, and that’s the best thing about it.

11. How I Met Your Mother

We were close. We were so damned close. Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had teased us for three years, but we were sure that Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) had finally found the mother of his kids in Stella Zinman (Sarah Chalke). Of course, as we now know, we were wrong, but it was a hell of a ride getting there. Last season, “How I Met Your Mother” found the largest audience of its history as a result of scoring a pair of guest appearances by the superstar train wreck that is Britney Spears. And, even more impressively, she was really funny. Greeted with these new viewers, the series rose to the challenge of keeping them on, offering us Ted and Stella’s courtship, Robin’s rebound relationships, Marshall looking for work, Lily dealing with her credit crisis, and Barney banging as many babes as possible. We’re still not sure about this new wrinkle that Barney’s pining for Robin, but we trust that Bays and Thomas won’t turn it into a jump-the-shark situation. Or if they do, they’ll do it with a knowing wink and a smile.

17. Sons of Anarchy

If you took all the best parts of “The Sopranos” and “The Shield” and smashed them into one show, you’d have something that looks a lot like “Sons of Anarchy.” Created by “The Shield” co-writer and executive producer Kurt Sutter, the series is more Shakespearean than anything on television. It’s essentially a retelling of “Hamlet,” but instead of Danish royalty, they’re a California biker gang. There’s Jax (Charlie Hunnam), the second-in-command; his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), the very definition of a queen bee; and his step dad Clay (Ron Perlman), the club’s hard-nosed president and best friend of Jax’s deceased father. Heck, there’s even an Ophelia in the group – Wendy (“The Sopranos” alum Drea de Matteo), the drug-addicted mother of Jax’s newborn son. The theme of family and brotherhood is something that was explored in great length in both “The Sopranos” and “The Shield,” and it’s the driving force behind “Sons of Anarchy.” Add to that a supporting cast made up of some of the best tough guy character actors in the business (Tommy Flanagan, Mark Boone Junior and Kim Coates) and a multi-episode guest stint by Jay Karnes and you’re looking at a top nominee for Best New Show of the Season.

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