This Week in Tv: Glenn Beck Leaves and Other Realities Come Forth
Buh bye Glenn
Glenn Beck's retiring? Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking. This was the week in TV Land:
• Sad news last week: Glenn Beck, despite a long and storied career of high-concept insanity, is leaving Fox News. Beck's been at FNC since 2009, and before that he was at Headline News. It's true that Beck's ratings have decreased over the past year, but there's no denying he's still a perfectly formed brand; when he leaves the network, he takes with him an instantly recognizable personality and approach that is almost impossible to replicate (at least not without copious amounts of SSRIs and repeated readings of Atlas Shrugged and literal interpretations of the Book of Revelation). Of course, the announcement of his departure was softened with news that he'd be working with Fox News to "develop and produce a variety of television products" for them, so here's hoping we get Cooking With Glenn Beck: A Patriot's Guide to the Freedom Kitchen sometime soon. Of all the responses to Beck's departure, Jon Stewart's was the best:
• Alec Baldwin, perhaps jealous of all the attention Charlie Sheen's been getting, decided to try and get his own show to implode last week when he told New York Magazine's Vulture blog that next season will be 30 Rock's last. Look, we all know NBC is wacky and unpredictable, like that uncle who gets really intense when he talks about his concealed handgun license, but even they can't be crazy enough to cancel a brand property like 30 Rock when it's one of the few things bringing them viewers. The network declined to comment, except to leak to Nikki Finke that the comments were "total nonsense." Baldwin, who probably got a stern talking-to about proprietary information and doing interviews while drunk, later blogged on the Huffington Post (since he's one of the few staff writers there who can afford to write for free) that, though his "days on network TV may be numbered," he hopes 30 Rock goes forever, or at least five more seasons. It's news that his days are numbered, though. Maybe he's got a ton of hat commercials lined up.
• Do you like Bravo's reality TV lineup? Sure you do; you hate yourself, and other TV series are all full of stories or something, and unwinding with a book is all ready and brainsploding. Well, you're in luck, because Bravo's working on a ton of new reality shows, as well as a scripted one. (Pro tip: reality TV is also scripted, it's just the easiest way to describe shows about actual terrible people who are filmed for minor profit.) Bravo, which long ago stopped having anything to do with arts and culture, is prepping The Kristoffer Winters Project, about a guy who flips mansions, you know, like you do; Women of Wall Street, a crazy, outside-the-box show about women who work in finance (in this day and age? Get out!); and The Wedding Planner, which one assumes is about meat curing. The scripted series will be called Face Down and revolve around a "charming and flawed" (their words) make-up artist who is also presumably fierce and passionate and really fierce and dramatic and hairspray kisses shoes leather scarves fierce fierce. The full lineup is here.
• Netflix, which is giving Google a run for its money in the category of "Service you depend on so greatly you are starting to forget what existence was like without it," is adding ever more series to its Watch Instantly feature. In a major coup for the DVD and streaming service company, they've snapped up rerun rights for AMC's Mad Men (which will, eventually, return), meaning the first place to see the episodes after they air on AMC is on Netflix. They paid upwards of $750,000 per episode to do it, too. The previous seasons will arrive on Netflix in late July. In other Netflix news, they've picked up streaming rights for the first season of Glee, so you can relive all the candy-colored melodrama of a plastic high school, and The Wonder Years, so you can relive all the sepia-colored melodrama of a 1960s high school. I'm assuming the Wonder Years deal means they got clearance for at least some of the music, right? The classic tunes that filled the show have been its biggest obstacle to seeing DVD release. Maybe this means they've been restored, at least in part.
• Last week's Justified was amazing, as usual. The season started off balancing the crook-of-the-week stories with larger plot arcs, but now we're deep into the murders and conspiracies that are pulling apart the characters. One of the series' many successes is its ability to evoke sympathy for evil people. It's wrong to say there are no bad guys here, or that everyone is both bad and good; rather, the show is excellent at giving each character believable motivations that let them act in their own self-interest to pursue a goal that, for them, is good. The bad guys don't think they're bad guys, in other words, which makes them way more interesting than the stock villains you get on procedurals down in the lower part of the dial. Jeremy Davies had some amazing moments as a criminal and beat-up man just trying to do right by his mama, Margo Martindale, who is the pinnacle of stone-cold killer. Hulu's got a crazy deal worked out with FX for this one -- they get episodes a month after air, keep them for a few days, and dump them -- so I'd suggest catching up via Netflix rentals or a straight-up purchase. It's worth it. Whether going through iTunes or Amazon, you can download the first season for about $20. Do it already.
• MTV has ordered two Jersey Shore spinoffs, which, fine, whatever. Honest question: Who still watches MTV? And do they do so unironically? It seems impossible to imagine anyone watching Jersey Shore and getting caught up in the antics of the cast beyond a sick and distanced fascination with them; compared to these kids, the Real World cast looked like Rhodes Scholars. So, who out there watches?
• The Dark Tower, the seven-volume Stephen King fantasy-horror series that's being adapted into a combination film and TV series media extravaganza, may have finally found its lead. Javier Bardem is in the final stages of locking up the deal to play Roland, the gunslinger at the heart of the story whose journey through his dying world provides the backbone for the series. This whole shebang is obviously a long way from happening -- we're just at the casting stage, and whole movies and TV shows have to get shot and distributed -- but still, Bardem's a high-profile and talented choice, so maybe producer-director Ron Howard is really determined to bring his A-game on this one. You know, like he did with Backdraft. And The Da Vinci Code. And EdTV. And oh no.
• We're all doing this from now, you guys. Spread it:
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