Bill Lawrence on “Undateable,” rewarding fans, and the future of televised content

Even for an usually brutal winter, it’s a damn cold night in Boston as Bill Lawrence and the core cast of the upcoming NBC comedy “Undateable” roll into Boston this past March. Already unbearably cold for local denizens, the temperature seems to stun the Los Angeles natives that embarked on a multi-city comedy tour in order to promote a show that at the time didn’t even have an official premiere date. Not only does Lawrence serve as producer on the show, but he also is serving as emcee for the evening’s event on this, the second night of the tour. It’s also Lawrence’s second time on stage in nearly twenty years.

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The Only Guide To The ATX Television Festival That You’ll Need, Except For All The Other Ones

With the ATX Television Festival about two weeks away, I thought I’d offer up some thoughts as to what one might expect should one find oneself in Austin for the fest. Man, that’s a lot of hypotheticals already. We’re off to a bad start here.

Nonetheless, I figured I’d offer up some thoughts for those who are going for the first time or are thinking about ways to vary past experiences. Let’s break this down, FAQ style.

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Review: The Americans, “Echo”

(Note: my podcast about tonight’s final with Mo Ryan can be found here.)

Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” didn’t come out until 1989, the last year in the decade depicted in FX’s “The Americans.” But as the show’s second stellar season drew to a close, you could see all the major players reaching out and trying to touch faith. But all of those attempts fell crushingly short, as whatever source of strength that governed their actions throughout the season either proved inadequate or proved non-existent. False idolatry need not occur in the realm of pure religion, after all. It can happen when it comes to patriotism, love, or the sense that any one person is in full control of his/her destiny.

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Getting to “yes”: Redefining “big” stakes in modern television

The best and worst thing about having years of thoughts about television easily searchable online is that anyone can point to two statements that seemingly contradict one another and exclaim, “Aha! Hypocrite! Turn in your critic’s badge at the door and henceforth be gone from Al Gore’s interwebs!” Which is, of course, silly. There’s no such thing as a critic’s badge. There IS a critic’s pin, which is fashioned in the shape of a monocle, but that’s something else altogether.

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Why shows that break your heart are the most important ones to watch

If you watch enough TV, then it will inevitably break your heart. Maybe a show you love will kill off a character, or maybe it will go completely off the rails and lose any of the charm you once found in it. Or, as in the potential case of a show like “Enlisted,” not enough people will love the same thing you do, forcing the business side of the industry to step in and take that show prematurely off the air. All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again. And all of this is perfectly fine and healthy.

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Review: Scandal, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”

All hail Shonda Rhimes.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is not just the best season three episode of “Scandal,” but a necessary reaffirmation of what makes the show so great when everything’s working at peak efficiency. If that weren’t enough, it also managed to solve the show’s central problem, pointing towards a potentially even better future for the series.

But other than that? It didn’t really do all that much, I guess.

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Who Moved My TV Character’s Cheese: Why we respond to strongly to vocational competency on television

Last night’s “Saturday Night Live” parody of “Scandal” was simultaneously funny and instructive. As a fan of both shows, I had reservations when the sketch started: recent “SNL” parodies of programs such as “The Walking Dead” and “Homeland” have missed core aspects of the show so badly that the mockery didn’t land at all. But with “Scandal,” the show not only got to provide super fan Lena Dunham with the chance to act inside one of her favorite hour-long dramas (albeit in sketch form). It also provided a key insight into one of the aspects that gives so many fans pleasure: The act of seeing characters who are really good at their jobs succeed in their everyday roles.

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Review: Enlisted, “Brothers And Sister”

If “Pete’s Airstream” serves as what “Enlisted” can do when actually digging into the core trauma of life in military service, then “Brothers And Sister” serves as an example of how this show can function on a week-to-week level as a celebration of difference between people of fundamentally different temperaments. That’s an insanely pretentious way to describe what a nominally silly show like this is doing on a weekly basis, but while “Airstream” is probably a better episode, it’s not necessarily one that “Enlisted” can do every week. Pulling at the heartstrings is something we know the show can do. But it need not do that all the time, nor should it: After all, it’s hard to earn those emotional moments if they are deployed like clockwork three minutes before the end of each episode.

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Review: Enlisted, “Pete’s Airstream”

It’s always fun to watch shows make “the leap,” even thought what constitutes that leap can be difficult to pinpoint. Usually a show makes “the leap” somewhere in the second season, after a full year of the program as a whole finding its feet and recognizing its strengths while still having oodles of story to tell. (See: “Parks and Recreation,” “Arrow,” and a few hundred others.) And what pushes the show from “good” to “great” is in the eye of the beholder: What feels like augmentation to one feels like denigration to another. All of this is a way of saying that I’ll understand why you don’t think “Pete’s Airstream” is “Enlisted” making “the leap,” but it certainly feels like the first time that the show put everything together and discovered its full potential. Yes, we’re only three episodes into its first season. But damnit if it’s not going to be hard for the show to top this anytime soon.

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Why renewing “Parks And Recreation” may not be the best move for either NBC or the show itself

News broke today that NBC would be renewing “Parks And Recreation” for a seventh season. It’s a piece of news that’s somewhat surprising: “Parks” has never been high in the ratings, and it’s been perpetually on the chopping block. That has meant that Mike Schur and company have written what amounted to series finales at least three times during the course of the show’s run, only to have to start all over again once picked up for more episodes. This is a good problem for a show to have, but has also pushed the program’s stories along to the point where there really aren’t that many stories left to tell. In particular, last week’s episode suggested that less, not more, episodes in the future might actually be the best thing for the entity as a whole.

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