The Week In TV: The Dead of Winter

Nothing like trimming the tree while it's 80 degrees outside. This was the week in TV Land:

• Weirdly timed to coincide with the first-season finale of The Walking Dead (which I haven't seen yet because I was writing up Boardwalk Empire, so no spoilers), news came down last week that the entire writing staff of the AMC show has been put out to pasture. Frank Darabont, the head writer as well as a director and executive producer, has apparently opted to take the reins for the next season by more tightly controlling the story and farming out other scripts to freelancers instead of having a dedicated writing staff. This idea isn't new -- Torchwood uses the same set-up -- but still, it's an interesting twist for the series.

Maybe a shake-up in the writers' room would help the scripts come up with some better characterizations than the broad stereotypes that have tended to dominate the first season (the black guy named T-Dog sporting a backward Kangol cap, etc.). Comic book creator Robert Kirkman subsequently spoke with TV Guide about the changes, but his comments don't really clear things up. In an attempt to eliminate rumors that Darabont had just fired everyone, Kirkman said that Chic Eglee, the No. 2 writer, actually left because he "didn't want to be second-in-command on a show when he's used to being top dog," since apparently being an egomaniac looks better on one's c.v. than getting canned. Regardless, expect some changes when the show returns for its second season, this time featuring 13 episodes, late next year.

• Steve Carell is already lining up projects for his life after The Office, announcing recently that he's sold a half-hour, single-camera comedy to NBC that will revolve around a quirky group of characters working together at a paper company post office. The series, titled The Post-Graduate Project for now, is drawn in part from Carell's own experiences as a mailman before hitting it big in that business they call show. Carell is set to write and executive produce the show, but not star in it.

• Speaking of The Office: I wasn't able to make it more than 10 minutes into last week's episode, "China." Howlingly dull and just plain unfunny, especially watching Dwight go from uptight do-gooder to cruel tenement landlord. I'm guessing the Newsweek article that made Michael so afraid of China was a couple years old, but I didn't want to hang around for the twist to pay off. The series had some decent episodes earlier this season -- well, two, anyway -- but it's almost as if the creative team is trying to make the show so bad that the departure of Carell after this season will feel like less of a loss. I say it's time to put the show out of its misery.

• Eliza Dushku, who seems pretty likable even though she can't act at all, is getting another shot at making a TV show you'll eventually forget ever aired with TNT's Bird Dog. The series -- which let's remember is aimed at boomers and not so much with the logical constituency -- will revolve around a cop (Dushku) who leaves the big city to work in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, only to wind up being partnered with her father, who is also a cop and for some reason has left the big city to relocate to the same tiny town as his daughter. TNT is pretty big on clunk procedurals starring cartoonish women (see The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles, Saving Grace, what have you), so there's a good chance Bird Dog will fit right in with their programming slate. Expect to hear all about it from your folks next Thanksgiving.

• One of the great things about IFC is their commitment to airing critically adored but short-lived TV series, as seen in their recent runs of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. The network is adding even more modern classic comedy to the mix next month, having recently acquired the complete runs of The Larry Sanders Show, The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show With Bob and David, and Action. IFC is grouping its new shows in a 90-minute comedy block that will air three nights a week beginning January 3 and feature new interviews with cast members. This is great news, especially in the case of The Larry Sanders Show, which wasn't available in its entirety on DVD until last month. They're all great shows and fine examples of cult comedy, and I think we should celebrate by learning to count with Bruce Springsteen:

• For the tens of you who've been dreaming of a mash-up of Gilmore Girls and Glee, you no longer have to resort to LiveJournal fanfic: ABC is gonna help you out. The network is developing an hour-long musical series starring Idina Menzel (you know, from Glee! and Broadway and etc.) as a single mom who works odd jobs and sings at weddings in order to make ends meet for her daughter and also pursue her dream. Menzel actually worked such jobs when she was getting her start, which adds a nice touch of verisimilitude that will probably be lost when large groups of strangers break into spontaneous choreography.

• We're about to enter the unofficial winter break period when some network series are in reruns; for example, after this week's Christmas episode, Community is gone until NBC unveils its revamped comedy block on January 20. In return, NBC is bringing back The Sing-Off for a winter run beginning tonight (Monday). Winter's always a little slower.

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