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Welcome Back, Dick Clark

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 31, 2005

Dick Clark has been recovering from a stroke and, as he noted at the beginning of ''New Year's Rockin' Eve,'' he is still re-learning how to speak. It was difficult to listen to someone so famous for being smooth and professional as he struggled with some words. I even wondered if he might have prerecorded some of his segments to make it easier, but Clark said he was broadcasting live -- and you would think prerecording would have prevented his botching of the countdown to 2006.

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The Inevitable Best-Of List (Sort Of)

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 31, 2005

I don't usually do a best-of at the end of the year. They're inevitably arbitrary, and I usually end up leaving out something that I really liked -- especially if it aired early in the year. But I do write a list of reasons why TV made me happy this year. While it was scheduled for Sunday's Beacon Journal, it has already popped up on ohio.com and you can find it here:

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I Know, Christmas Is Over...

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 30, 2005

... but the following note from a music company just arrived, and it may be of use to people who want to get a jump on their holiday tunes for next year. (The Hampton String Quartet, by the way, popped up in one of my Christmas-music ruminations for its playing of holiday standards in the style of classical composers. I have the old RCA cassette mentioned in the note.) Here's the news:

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''The Year of Magical Thinking''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 29, 2005

Joan Didion has done a remarkable thing with her book, something many authors long to accomplish. She has described a universal experience by sticking to specific, personal details.

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A Week of Living Quietly

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 28, 2005

The ''Firefly'' marathon proved somewhat brief, although it did last long enough that my wife wants to watch the rest of the series on our DVD set. We celebrated Target Demo's birthday with dinner last night, then relaxed and watched other odds and ends: ''Greg the Bunny,'' ''Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge.'' Laughter accompanied. Today, TD has headed home, dogs in tow, and the house is eerily quiet.

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Happy Birthday, Kris!

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 27, 2005

Target Demo turns 30 today and is celebrating the occasion with a Dairy Queen ice-cream cake (traditional favorite), a dinner involving beef tonight and, at the moment, a ''Firefly'' marathon, courtesy of her birthday-gift DVD. Depending on how long that lasts, it will be followed by the ''Serenity'' DVD, also a birthday goodie. (A later note: The marathon has intrigued TD's mother, so there will probably be more ''Firefly'' viewing in the House of Heldenfels.)

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''Four Kings'': No, One Ace

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 26, 2005

My wife kindly offered to watch some TV pilots tonight, since there is a pile of January stuff and she is still full of the Christmas spirit. We gave a try to ''Four Kings,'' the NBC comedy premiering Jan. 5, about four childhood friends who are still hanging out together.

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Early disgruntlement (Updated After Game's End)

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 26, 2005

This e-mail arrived this afternoon, during the Motor City Bowl. (I know, I'm on vacation. I told you I couldn't stay away.) Here's the e-mail:

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And on through the weekend

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 26, 2005

We finished that Alan Rickman Christmas double feature on Christmas Eve with a big dose of ''Die Hard'' and successfully fought the urge to watch ''Love Actually'' again. Caught a little of the Browns-Steelers, but it's not easy to stay interested in a game once it's 20-0 and feels much worse than that sounds.

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The Eve of Christmas Eve

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 23, 2005

My TV watching today consisted of some of the Cavs game (which they have won after a late scare) and the DVD of ''Love Actually,'' which felt appropriate to the occasion. I figure it's going to steadily climb the list of all-time great holiday movies. Maybe not as great as ''It's a Wonderful Life'' and ''A Christmas Story,'' but high in the standings nonetheless.

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''Love Monkey'' and other business

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 22, 2005

Today was technically my last day at work in 2005. I say ''technically'' for three reasons:

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A Holiday Party

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 22, 2005

Last night was my union's holiday party. There were skits and food and some annual traditions, and a good crowd of people. As my wife and I left, I couldn't help wondering how many of us will be at the party next year.

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James Marsters, James Marsters

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 21, 2005

When I put together my recent list of strong supporting actors on TV series, I created a special category for a ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' alumni who worked (well) in prime-time shows this season. Unfortunately, I left one out, leading to e-mails like this one:

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''Nip/Tuck'': The Morning After

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 21, 2005

I watched part of the season finale of ''Nip/Tuck'' on Tuesday night but saved most of it for the morning. And was reasonably glad I did so, given the grisly business going on in the episode. Not the sort of thing for a peaceful sleep.

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The ''Joey'' Thing

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 20, 2005

There are shows that can drive you crazy if you look at them long enough. The ones that you keep thinking, ''There is probably something really good in the middle of this, but no one has any idea how to get to it.'' Or, ''That was a great laugh there, and I wish there had been eight or 10 more in this episode.'' Or, ''This actor is quite accomplished, and I would like to see him/her in something better than this.''

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''Nip/Tuck''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 19, 2005

I know the Carver is supposed to be revealed tomorrow night and, since I haven't seen the season finale, I'm mildly interested in finding out who it is. (My upset special: Liz.) I've been watching the show closely for the last few weeks, but feeling bad about doing so.

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More Music for Christmas

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 19, 2005

Well, it looks as if I am going to have to do another piece on odd Christmas music for the Beacon Journal next year. The 2005 one has been picked up by newspapers around the country and brought all sorts of enthusiastic e-mails; one gentleman sent a list of his more obscure fare along with a promise to forward his discography of Liberace's Christmas recordings.

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''Chris''-Mas

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 18, 2005

My friend and colleague Diane Werts has written a new book about Christmas on television. It's one of those ''gee, I wish I thought of it'' ideas, and one that Diane has been working on for years, and a topic that could call for regular, newly updated editions of the book.

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I'll Be Back Soon...

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 18, 2005

I took Friday off from work but did plan to blog here and there. Unfortunately, Typepad was jammed almost all of the day, so I couldn't post, even though I had the urge several times. I was finally back late Friday, and I was able to post the note about John Spencer.

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John Spencer

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 16, 2005

Word reached me a little while ago that John Spencer of ''The West Wing'' has died. It's quite a blow. You can see my admiration of his work and his character in my recent ''Journey of Leo McGarry'' post. I also had a chance to talk to John several times over the years, and not just about ''The West Wing,'' and he was one of the nicest guys in the world. At the moment, I don't know what ''West Wing'' will do without Leo, and I pretty much don't care. Instead, I'm saddened by the loss of such a terrific actor, and glad I had the chance to know him a little.

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Deadline for Supporting Actors Suggestions

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 14, 2005

(Update Thursday morning: The column is done. Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions.)

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''Amazing Race'': Finally...

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 13, 2005

At the office today, one of my friends offered an occasional chant of ''no Weavers no Weavers,'' borrowed from the game-show mantra ''no Whammies.'' And, as I've said more than once, I have wanted to cry out ''Down go Weavers.''

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Great Team Players

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 12, 2005

I'm working on a list of great supporting performers on TV shows. Feel free to contribute in the comment section below. (Hello to everyone who has linked over from TV Tattle and from AVS Forum. And thanks to the Forum for recommending your participation here.)

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The Journey of Leo McGarry

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 12, 2005

''The West Wing'' has been about a lot of people. President Bartlet, a little-seen figure in the series pilot, has constantly stepped center-stage. Josh has had a lot of emotional moments, and I hope we haven't seen the last of Toby. But when we sit down to write the complete history of ''The West Wing,'' Leo should be at the center.

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Faces of the Dead

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 12, 2005

Television can be like a scrapbook, and not a well organized one. Think of the channels as different pages holding bits of your past, little reminders that you  either seek out or come across without expecting them.

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''Survivor: Anticlimax''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 11, 2005

There was a Christmas music concert at my church tonight, so I didn't get home until about 9, just in time to see Lydia voted out. (Thank goodness for football overruns.) The only remaining suspense involved the last immunity challenge and whom Stephenie might take with her to the final if she won immunity. But if either Rafe or Danni won, taking Stephenie seemed a no-brainer; she had enough enemies on the jury to put her at a huge disadvantage against anyone else, and it's been that way for several weeks.

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Richard Pryor

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor probably won't be thought of as a TV guy. He was a brilliant standup, and the big-screen releases of his standup routines could set movie theaters rolling. He was a very good actor, also mainly in the movies. But let's not forget his TV legacy, which was sporadic but important.

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Kitchen Confidential,'' R.I.P.

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 9, 2005

I was looking up something else on the Fox Web site today and saw that ''Kitchen Confidential's'' return proved horribly brief. After bad ratings for Monday's telecast, the network has yanked the show again, and this time it won't be back. Fox will double-run ''Arrested Development'' this Monday to fill the ''KC'' time slot.

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''Survivor'': The Last Temptation of Stephenie?

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 8, 2005

When we first saw Stephenie on the previous ''Survivor,'' her will to win was not only powerful but endearing, since she managed to outlast everyone else in The Worst Tribe Ever before being stopped. This time, her will to win is just as strong, but it has taken on a merciless, hypocritical quality that keeps feeling like the sort of thing that bites you hard at jury time.

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''Veronica Mars''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 7, 2005

Kind of a snore tonight, although I suspect they knew that going in. And so tried to save it with that scene at the end.

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Away from the TV Set

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 7, 2005

I spend most of my work time watching TV, thinking about what I've seen and writing about what I think. But some days I go beyond that. I mentioned the story about the Indians' TV deal earlier this week, and also noted I was heading for Canton. Let me tell you about that.

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''Amazing Race'': Down to 3

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 6, 2005

Well, my weekly cheering for ABW (Anybody But Weavers) took another hit this week as the snotty little hypocrites made it to the final three on the show as the Godlewskis' run finally came to an end. And it didn't help that Phil was kissing up to the Weavers big-time at the pit stop, treating them like gutsy independents instead of as the (still) annoying little crew that they are. But I can at least take comfort that there are still two teams I prefer over the Weavers: The Bransens and the Linzes. My wife has been a Linz fan from the beginning, and they are fun, but there's also a sweetness to the Bransens that would make them deserving champions.

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Some Days...

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 6, 2005

I planned to spend most of yesterday at home, catching up on some viewing and clearing up some paperwork. Of course, that was a day when the phone rang. A bunch.

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''World News Tonight'' Transition

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 5, 2005

While the talk gets louder about Katie Couric possibly leaving NBC to anchor CBS's evening newscast, ABC has announced its plans for ''World News Tonight'' in the wake of Peter Jennings's death.

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''The West Wing''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 5, 2005

Sometimes I think every review I write should have a note about the viewing conditions. You know, ''This prime-time show was watched between 7:30 and 8 a.m. on a Tuesday when I had the house all to myself, with a second part viewed piecemeal late that evening when I wished I could be asleep instead. I then watched the end of the second part at my office, where I couldn't hear all the lines because I have to keep the volume somewhat low and other people were talking, but it at least went quickly since my preview copy didn't have commercials.''

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''Kitchen Confidential''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 5, 2005

''Arrested Development'' and ''Kitchen Confidential'' are back on Fox's schedule tonight, for what appears to be their last stand. Neither show is on the network's January 2006 lineup, and it would take a miracle -- like everything else on Fox failing -- to guarantee them an extended life.

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Notes

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 2, 2005

-- Still more comments have been added to the previous posts about ''Over There.'' You can find them below. I continue to marvel at the passion for the show. Clearly FX missed something in giving up on the show so soon (and I want to go back and look at it, and see more plainly what was missed).

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When David Met Oprah (Updated)

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 2, 2005

It's always a little surprising to see Oprah Winfrey look nervous. She is wealthy, she is accomplished and, within the confines of her many TV projects, she is firmly in control. But you could tell that she was waiting for an anvil to fall on her head during her appearance on David Letterman's show last night -- or at least for some prank, fretting as she did that Letterman might have an unflattering childhood picture of her in her hated glasses. She even expressed surprise at how serious Dave was, quizzing her about the troubles in Africa and Oprah's work there.

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''Survivor''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 1, 2005

After years of watching ''Survivor,'' I am skeptical of the breaking-up of established alliances. Time and again we see groups with a solid majority start to turn on each other, ruining their chances for a successful finish. I wonder if that happened again tonight.

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NBC Tweaks: ''Scrubs'' Back, Comedy Shakeup, Look for ''Book of Daniel''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 1, 2005

In today's TV mailbag I have a reader question about ''Scrubs'' and its possible return. Didn't have an airdate for it then, but I do now, since NBC has announced mid-season plans, including the much-speculated-about move of ''My Name Is Earl'' from its Tuesday stronghold to Thursdays, and the benching of ''Joey.''

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''Veronica'': How Far Is Too Far?

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 1, 2005

I wish that either ''Lost'' or ''Veronica Mars'' would get out of that 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot. There must be a plot-twist limit for any time period, and one of those shows by itself uses up the quota every week. With both there, well, all the obsessing over the twists makes me too tired to start the day on Thursday.

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