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For fall, ‘CSI' also stands for ‘comedy strategy implemented' on CBS

Glenn Garvin
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

CBS, for the past decade a network built around "CSI" and its gory crime-drama clones, Wednesday unveiled a fall schedule intended to make its viewers laugh as well as gag.

The network added two sitcoms, renewed a couple of others that seemed near cancellation just a few days ago, and expanded comedy programming from one night to two.

"One of the things we wanted to get across is how important comedy is for us," said CBS programming chief Nina Tassler. "Comedy has been significant for the network for many years. We had a fantastic comedy year."

To make room for the comedies, the network canceled three notable dramas, including "Cane," its groundbreaking nighttime soap about Cuban exiles in South Florida. Also biting the video dust were the vampire-detective cult favorite "Moonlight" and "Shark," which won James Woods rave reviews for his portrayal of an ethics-schmethics district attorney.

Tassler's announcements came at a press conference in New York where the broadcast networks are staging their upfronts, annual meetings where advertisers get to see clips from the new fall shows.

CBS renewed sitcoms "How I Met Your Mother" and "The New Adventures Of Old Christine," which had been dangling in the wind for the past several weeks. The new comedies are "Project Gary," with Jay Mohr ("Ghost Whisperer") and Paula Marshall ("Out of Practice") as dueling ex-spouses, and "Worst Week," a remake of a British series with frequent CBS guest star Kyle Bornheimer as a top-notch magazine editor but domestic bungler.

Combined with two previously renewed sitcoms, "Two And A Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory," they'll allow CBS to open both Monday and Wednesday nights with slates of comedies. "We really wanted to focus on comedy, and we had the goods to do it this year," said Tassler. "We've been looking to expand, to build out to another night. We have two of highest-testing new comedies we've had in years."

Not that the network is turning away from its crime-show corpsefests. The latest of the CSI clones is "The Mentalist," starring Simon Baker ("The Guardian") as a phony psychic turned cop whose hot-dogging ego bugs his colleagues. CBS also is adding "Eleventh Hour," which shares the name of a 1962 NBC series about psychiatrists and the content of Fox's 1990s hit "The X-Files." It stars Rufus Sewell ("The Illusionist") as a government agent who investigates cases of weird and threatening science.

Another new CBS series, "The Ex List," is a comedy-drama hybrid, with Elizabeth Reaser ("Grey's Anatomy") frantically re-dating former boyfriends after a psychic tells her one of them is her future husband - and she must marry him within the year or wind up alone.

Two other CBS shows in the ratings twilight zone, military drama "The Unit" and romantic-discord sitcom "Rules Of Engagement," were renewed but won't return until midseason. The network also formally canceled sitcom "Welcome To The Captain," musical drama "Viva Laughlin!" and cutthroat-kiddie reality series "Kid Nation," none of which have aired in months. The cancellation of another cult favorite, post-apocalyptic drama "Jericho," was announced several weeks ago.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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