Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: History Detectives Special Investigations

The History Detectives Ask: Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?

Jimmy Hoffa
Next July will be the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of Teamster's union boss and alleged mobster Jimmy Hoffa outside a restaurant in Detroit. There, he was setup it seems by mafia boss Russell "The Quiet Don" Bufalino who had him killed.

Why? There's a compelling story pointing to Bufalino. Hoffa, whose Teamsters controlled 90% of the country's cargo trucks, was caught up in the middle of the U.S. government, all the way up to President Richard Nixon and the CIA and their work to end Castro's communist rule in Cuba. But Hoffa was also tied in the Mafia and its then growing interest in Las Vegas casinos.

The Mafia, it's believed, thought Hoffa was getting too cozy with the government - their longtime, uncomfortable ally and enemy.

Preview: Dan Rather Presents

The Great American Buffalo Divide

The American Buffalo is a symbol of our country's relentless push West toward the open plains and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The animals are big, strong and majestic. Yet, for centuries they have been on the brink of extinction - massacred early on to make way for cattle ranches and these days just pushed out by farms, homes and roads.

Investigative reporter Dan Rather takes a look at a new effort by American Indians and a group of investors to buy up countless of acres of land for the buffalo. The idea is to give the animals the room they need to thrive as they would had man not interfered.

Preview: Face Off

Really Good Special Effects Makeup Just in Time for Comic-Con

Often, all you can ask of a reality show is that it's not terrible.

Syfy's long-running reality competition Face Off (9pm) rises far above that standard. The show, which kicks off a new season tonight, is a competition that pits Hollywood special effects makeup artists against one another.

These are talented artists who'd come in handy this week as sci-fi geeks descend on San Diego's Comic-Con. They're judged by some of the movie industry's top makeup artists like Glenn Hetrick and Ve Neill.

Review: Restaurant Startup

Restaurant Makeover Show Could've Gone Wrong (But Doesn't)

Joe Bastianich
Here at TVFirstLook, we took our time tuning into CNBC's restaurant makeover show Restaurant Startup (10pm). We waited for a few episodes to check it out because it seemed like nothing more than a mish-mash of a million other shows, like Food Network's great and long-running Restaurant: Impossible, The Cooking Channel's Restaurant Takeover and CNBC's great The Profit, where entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis uses his own money to invest in a struggling company he believes in.

Of course, in TV it's hard to be completely original. As it turns out, borrowing from all its inspirations is a good thing for the entertaining Restaurant Startup.

On the show, Joe Bastianich from Fox's MasterChef and Tim Love from shows like Bravo's Top Chef: Masters take a promising restaurant and use their expertise, and the help of chef-designer Waylynn Lucas, to rework the menu, the restaurant's concept and its decor.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Preview: The Alternative Press Music Awards

Blink-182's Mark Hoppus Hosts First-Ever Televised Alt Press Awards

Alternative music is under loved by most music awards shows, but not by the Alternative Press Music Awards, airing on TV for the first time ever tonight (AXS TV, live 8pm Eastern). Blink-182's Mark Hoppus is hosting with performances by such bands as Panic at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, The Misfits and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

Preview: Dance for Me

Passionate Kids Dancing Across Countries

Competitive ballroom dancing may not get much attention in the United States, although its followers are passionate and its dancers are intensely competitive. But in some circles in Europe it's a life-defining passion that can take its youngest dancers across countries in search of the perfect partner.

On Dance for Me (10pm), a POV documentary airing Monday, 15-year-old Russian dancer Egor partners with 14-year-old Danish dancer Mie. They endlessly practice and win competitions.

Dance for Me is their coming-of-age story - their lives and futures are on the line. And it's about incredible, powerful and passionate dance moves.

Review: The Newburgh Sting

Convicted New York Terrorists May Have Taken the Fall
New York Times

The Newburgh Sting (HBO, 9pm) - Two characters stand out. Alicia McWilliams, aunt of David Williams, one of the conspirators, is magnificent in her anger, despair and dark humor. “How could you come in our community and prey on these damn fools?” she snaps. “David should have only got five years for not having common sense.”

And, perhaps perversely, it’s hard not to come away without some degree of admiration for [Shahed] Hussain, seen and heard only in the grainy videos shot in his car and living room. He puts on a superior performance over a long period of time and lies with breathtaking ease and quickness. If there were Oscars for informants, he’d be on the red carpet every year.

Keep reading.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

News: TCA Awards

The Television Critics Association Celebrates TV's Best Shows

Outstanding Drama winner The Good Wife
For the past few days, tucked away in a posh Beverly Hills hotel with all the world watching via Twitter tweets, the nation's top TV critics have been meeting the casts and crews of this fall's new shows - and grabbing, a times, seriously sweet swag bags (but I digress).

Last night, voting members of TCA handed out the TCA Awards to TV's best shows, best behind-the-scenes crews and the best actors and actresses. It's an un-televised awards show - last night, hosted by Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews - so goof ups are forgiven, while shows that gets nods and awards tend toward the, dare we say it, smartest and most deserving programs on TV - comedies like HBO's Veep and FX's Louie, dramas such as CBS's under-nominated The Good Wife and, deservedly, Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race for best reality show.

Click here for a complete list of the 2014 TCA Awards.

Stats: The Strain

Guillermo del Toro's Fantastic The Strain Drums Up 4.73 Million Viewers on New Viewing Standard

FX drama The Strain (10pm) has delivered impressive ratings since its Sunday night premiere, emerging as the biggest new cable drama in young adults this summer and perhaps the biggest ever for the network. But a bigger story is that it took FX this long to tout its performance.

In a first for a TV industry grappling to get an accurate handle on audience measurement in the DVR era, the network waited until Nielsen issued its “Live + 3″ numbers on Friday to release any ratings data to the press. 

Keep reading.

Review: The Lottery

Lifetime Nails It with Futuristic Drama The Lottery
Boston Herald

One of the bonuses of The Lottery (Lifetime, 10pm), at least in the pilot, is its unpredictability. The protagonists can be reckless and foolish. Alison has been looking up her facility’s sperm donors to get herself pregnant. Kyle acts without a plan. The baddies are not so broadly drawn that they can’t be redeemed — or at least they present a viewpoint that can be understood, if not accepted. It turns out a childless future includes a measure of black humor. Keep reading.