Rob Owen

Rob Owen


Click here for a link to headlines of recent TV news and views posts.

TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Submit a question to TV Q&A by clicking here.

This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Chicago Fire,” “The Americans” and “The Affair.” As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

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Top 10 new TV shows of 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014 08:45


So here is this TV critic’s dirty little secret about making Top 10 lists: I hate it.

First, there’s the problem that I watch so much TV, I remember little of it from months ago. Reaching back in my memory is always a challenge. I knew I wanted “Fargo” to be my top series in May but beyond that the assemblage of a Top 10 list is as random as can be.

Want to argue with what I included and what I left out? Have at it. I might even agree with you because it’s such a subjective process. Several shows on the Honorable Mention list in Weeked Mag today could just as easily have been in the Top 10. And there are shows that did make the Top 10 that I could easily argue off the list and onto the Honorable Mention consolation prize.

Then online site Hitfix asked me for a Top 10 list of new shows, which begat another headache. Again, I could argue with this list, too, but it was a little easier to put together because there were more parameters, most notably, it had to be a series that was first broadcast in 2014. That shrinks the universe of potential series and made it easier to brainstorm.

Read what I came up with after the jump. …

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PBS prepares 'The Manners of Downton Abbey'

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:00

Downton Christmas

In advance of the Jan. 4 premiere of the fifth season of "Downton Abbey," PBS will make season four available on PBS station websites and at for one week beginning Dec. 29. Episodes have already been re-airing on WQED Sunday nights.

The fifth season premiere will be followed by a new special, "The Manners of Downton Abbey" (10:15 p.m. Jan. 4, WQED-TV), hosted by the series' historical adviser, Alastair Bruce.

Watch a preview of the new special after the jump. ...

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More gift ideas for the TV nut on your list

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 11:50

Discovery Kids Interchangeable Kinetic Space Lab

In today's Post-Gazette Shop Holiday feature, I offer up some gift ideas for the TV fan on your list. But there were more items than space allowed so here are a few others.

Let's start with a kids product that's vaguely connected to TV -- both Discovery Kids and Animal Planet have product lines tied to their brands rather than specific shows -- and move on to some books.

TMNT Subway Train Set BoxFor children ages 8 and up, Discovery Kids offers an Interchangeable Kinetic Space Lab ($19.99, available at TJMaxx and reminiscent of a children's museum exhibit where kids build tracks for balls to run in (pictured above).

The popular Power City Trains line introduces a train set themed to Nickelodeon's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" ($29.99, available at Toys R Us and K-Mart).

For adults, the worst-timed biography ever may be out this holiday season. Read more after the jump. ...

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'Elf' gets animated, musical TV spin-off

Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00


buddy blog

NBC’s new animated special “Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas” (8 p.m. Tuesday, WPXI) is based on the Broadway musical version of the 2003 Will Ferrell movie “Elf.” This new made-for-TV special isn’t a sequel, it’s basically a retelling of the same story using stop-motion animation. But “Buddy’s Musical Christmas” is no classic.

It’s too much of a rehash of the original, superior “Elf” and the songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin while fine, won’t stick with viewers for a minute after the program concludes.

Read more after the jump. ...

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Click here for a link to headlines of recent TV news and views posts.

TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Submit a question to TV Q&A by clicking here.

This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Undercover Boss,” “Giuliana & Bill” and WQED’s World Channel. As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

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marco blog

It's amazing to consider just how much TV has changed in the past decade, and I don't just mean TV technology but also the programming.

Back in the late '90s and early 2000s, period dramas were considered a mistake. Broadcasters had little success with them as weekly series in the '80s and '90s (think "I'll Fly Away," "Homefront") and consequently it wasn't a style of programming they actively developed.

Cut to today when so many series are set in the past, from "Mad Men," which really started this trend, to "Vikings" and "The Americans" and more.

Netflix gets into the period drama business Friday with the debut of the 10-episode first season of "Marco Polo," the story of an adventurer whose name is perhaps best known today as a call-and-response game played in swmming pools.

Read more and watch a trailer after the jump. ...

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Ending 'Sons of Anarchy'

Wednesday, 10 December 2014 07:34

sons finale

FX's "Sons of Anarchy" was a series I enjoyed from the start. A pulpy, Shakespearean drama about a motorcycle gang, it crackled with energy in its early seasons as Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) tried to follow in the footsteps of his dead father and take his motorcycle club straight (or at least straight-ish).

But as much as I enjoyed the show and its storytelling in its early years, "Sons" grew wearying as it became more violent in ways that seemed more and more gratuitous as the seasons passed.

TV critic Alan Sepinwell offered this thoughtful essay on his own reservations as the show aged and points out how episodes grew longer and flabbier. The indudgence wasn't limited to the show's violence but also its storytelling.

So in recent seasons, I've pretty much just watched the season premiere and the season finale. And with the exception of a character killed off here and there, I never felt like I missed much.

Read more (spoilers for the final two episodes included) after the jump. ...

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bing crosby blog

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – PBS’s “American Masters” revisits the life and career of celebrated crooner Bing Crosby in “Bing Crosby Rediscovered” (8 p.m. Wednesday, repeats at 9 p.m. Dec. 26, WQED-TV), a 90-minute documentary written and directed by Robert Trachtenberg (“Mel Brooks: Make a Noise”).

The film, timed to capitalize on the annual popularity of Mr. Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas,” explores Mr. Crosby’s career that spanned radio, records, film and television and his home life that included some scandal when son Gary, from Mr. Crosby’s first marriage to Dixie Lee, wrote a book claiming he was abused by his father.

“The film does address it with never‑before‑seen interviews with Gary and other material, so we let them speak for themselves firsthand,” Mr. Trachtenberg said at a July PBS press conference.

But much of the movie is about Crosby’s life with his second wife, Kathryn, and their children, who are interviewed in the film.

“Bring Crosby Rediscovered” makes only passing reference to Mr. Crosby’s part-ownership of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946 until the mid-1980s but son Nathaniel Crosby explained how his family’s stake in the team came about.

Read more after the jump. ...

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HBO's "State of Play" (10 p.m. Tuesday) explores the lives of the wives pro athletes and coaches in this week's episode titled "First Ladies." Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his fashion designer wife, Kiya Tomlin, are featured in the program.

"I actually feel like I'm a part of it," Kiya says of her husband's work. " I enable him to be able to live that way adn to experience that, that's my return."

Here's how HBO describes the program:

A deeply personal look at another side of professional sports, the fourth film focuses on the challenges of balancing the pursuit of professional success and family obligations.  FIRST LADIES focuses on three couples whose vows shape their decisions on the field and at home.  What role has each of these spouses played in her family's success? Profiled are Mike and Kiya Tomlin, Kevin and DeLana Harvick, and Scott and Megan Lenhoff.  Mike Tomlin is head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin Harvick drives a racecar on the NASCAR circuit, and Scott Lenhoff is head football coach at Steele High School in Cibolo, Tex.

Watch a trailer after the jump. ...

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