The Week In TV

Another Thanksgiving is in the books, and I'm sure we all had a good weekend eating disturbing amounts of food and trying not to think about the whole genocide-of-the-Native-Americans thing. It tends to make USA's Elf marathons kind of a downer. This was the (slow) week in TV Land:

• First up, some movie news that concerns a TV show with a powerful following. Warner Bros. is going ahead with its plan to make a new feature film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This would probably be a good idea, or at least a financially safer one, if the story had only ever existed in the low-budget and laughably uneven film from 1992 that starred Kristy Swanson as the titular vampire-killer. However, when the original movie was rebooted as a TV show in 1997, it became a fictional universe that would spawn legions of seriously devoted fans who embraced the growing mythology and endearing characters. The TV series' seven seasons became, in essence, the real story, turning the original film into something almost non-canonical in terms of relating to the rest of the narrative world. The comic books that continued the story after the series ended have stuck with the character designs and relationships of the show, and no one from the original film has ever reappeared--it basically became the Star Wars Holiday Special of creator Joss Whedon's world.

Yet that TV series--it feels wrong to call it a "cult show," since it has a higher pop cultural profile than, say, Undeclared--is being swept aside for yet another reboot, which producer Charles Roven described as "not your high school Buffy," perhaps ignoring the fact that the character had long since aged out of high school on the original show. He also says the character will be "just as witty, tough, and sexy as we all remember her to be," perhaps not fully appreciating the fact that most people haven't forgotten a show that ended seven years ago, especially with the ability to preserve the show's lifespan and impact via DVD. I mean, honestly: Who does he think he's fooling? Whedon fans are some of the most cold-bloodedly devoted people you will ever meet -- they kept Dollhouse going for two years (!), which is kind of ridiculous -- so there's no way Warner Bros. honestly expects to win them over with a new film. Plus, thanks to rights issues between media, none of the TV characters aside from Buffy will show up in the new film. This thing is too narrow to play to regular audiences and too apocryphal to score with geeks. Why the hell are they even making this?

• For the second week in a row, The Simpsons took a shot at Fox News. Their first jab -- an animated Fox News helicopter bearing the slogan "Not Racist, But #1 With Racists" -- upset Bill "Papa Bear" O'Reilly so much that he even mentioned it on his show. Then last night, they returned with another slogan for the cable network, this one reading, "Unsuitable for Viewers Under 75." In the words of Fat Tony: It's funny because it's true.

• J.J. Abrams, fresh off two landmark TV series that went from pop-culture touchstones to questionable punch lines, thanks to the way they ended, just can't stay away from the small screen (insert your own "We have to go back!" jokes here). He's got a new pilot for Fox called Alcatraz, and it was announced last week that Jorge Garcia, aka Hurley, aka seriously how did he not lose one pound on that island with all the walking and fruit, will star in it. The show will revolve around a group of Alcatraz prisoners and guards who disappear and then turn up in the present, and Garcia will play Dr. Diego Soto, who helps the FBI track down and investigate the time-traveling shenanigans. Expect him to call everyone "dude."

• Netflix announced recently that it's going to raise the prices slightly for its rental plans and introduce a streaming-only plan, finally acting on the knowledge that most of its customers are not only helplessly addicted to the service but also think waiting one or even two whole days to see a movie with sharp sound and picture is a less enjoyable option than instantly streaming one of lower aesthetic quality. The move has its ups and downs. Sure, it's nice to catch up on TV series via Netflix's streaming content instead of having to spread out the rentals of the individual DVDs. Yet their Watch Instantly catalogue still pales next to their DVD stock, so for now, you'll have to stick with physical discs if you want to replay or get into Breaking Bad, Fringe, Deadwood, The Larry Sanders Show, Undeclared, The Prisoner, Five Days, State of Play, Prime Suspect, Rome, Carnivale, Party Down, or ... you get the idea. But hey, at least you can stream Charles in Charge. It's a holiday miracle!

• Also last week, Fox released its midseason schedule, sadly confirming that this whole bizarre story of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez hosting American Idol is not a bad dream you had after eating bad pumpkin pie. Their schedule includes a few new series like The Chicago Code and the animated Bob's Burgers, but it's Idol that again proves to be the centerpiece of their spring schedule and the reigning titan of annual network programming. The most notable change is that Idol, after those interminable first few weeks when it airs three times a week, will shift to Wednesday and Thursday nights after years on Tuesday-Wednesday. This lets Fox position Glee on its own on Tuesdays, assuring the network's ratings dominance as well as their apparent desire to find a way to air debatable karaoke competitions three nights a week. Putting the Idol results show on Thursdays will make for a crowded night, too, and I have to wonder how hard the evening's comedies, especially NBC's Community, will be hit by the change. My heart and soul are with Community, though, and I'd like to see it continue to hold its ground.

• The schedule gets back to normal this week. Of note: on Tuesday, ABC is airing How the Grinch Stole Christmas at 7 p.m. CT, which means Wednesday you'll be singing like Thurl Ravenscroft all day at work. Also worth checking out is this Sunday's season finale of Boardwalk Empire, which (and I am just guessing here, but come on) will probably continue the streak of the season's first 11 episodes and be awesome.

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