James Poniewozik

James Poniewozik writes TIME magazine's Tuned In column, about pop culture and society. Tuned In, the blog version, is about the stuff we used to call "TV," whether it's in your living room, on your computer or - once the networks figure out the technology and line up the advertisers - in your dreams themselves.

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How HBO Does Diversity (and Doesn't)

Watching some upcoming episodes of HBO’s engrossing Rome recently, I saw something unusual for that show: a black man. The episode takes place in Egypt; the character is a Nubian soldier under King Ptolemy XIII. He has, by my count, one line, before being killed.

TV critics, understandably, have taken shots at the major networks for

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Will & Grace Lives — For One Night, Anyway

When Will & Grace announced it was doing a live performance for its season opener, Americans shared the same reaction: "Damn it! Will & Grace is still on the air! I owe the guy in the next cubicle five bucks!" Which is pretty much what NBC was going for. In a few short years, Must-See Thursday devolved into Must-Tape-While-Watching-CBS

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How I Met Your Mother: Who Says Men Hate Marriage?

On TV, to paraphrase Jane Austen, a young man in possession of a new sitcom is generally considered to be in no need of a wife. Not so on How I Met Your Mother (Mondays, 8:30 p.m. E.T., CBS). On the face of it, Mother is a pretty conventional sitcom. There’s a laugh track; there’s no single-camera movie look to it; there are young

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Lost vs. Desperate Housewives: The Monster Wins

It’s probably an exaggeration to say that you’re either a Lost person or a Desperate Housewives person—considering the ratings, plenty of people must watch both. But I’m definitely a Lost person, and to know why you need only watch the season  premieres of both shows.

The Lost debut was excellent on a story level: it showed us

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Like Hollywood-centric Comedy? HBO Always Has Some Extra

Let it never be said that HBO’s sitcoms neglect the wide panoply of human experience. They’re about such diverse people as aspiring actors, sitcom creators, washed-up actresses and hot young actors and their agents. Now Ricky Gervais (The Office) has created Extras, debuting Sunday, about, yes, the people who stand around in the

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Nighttime Martha: Too Real for Prime Time?

So our long national crisis of uncertainty is over. We know what Martha Stewart’s Apprentice catchphrase is. "You just don’t fit in," she told the first ejectee, before writing him a "farewell letter"—presumably on stationery for which she felled and pulped the trees herself.

In most respects, Martha’s Apprentice is like Donald

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E-Ring: What If They Had A War and Nobody Watched?

E-Ring, NBC’s new drama about the Pentagon, debuts at 9 p.m. tonight. As it’s scheduled against ABC powerhouse Lost, there is every likelihood it will be canceled by 9:15. But it’s worth looking at, anyway, if only as a case study in how TV can take a fascinating subject and work really hard to make it as boring as possible.


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Tyra Gets Something Off Her Chest

On America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks is distinguished from other reality hosts by her willingness to get personal and put it out there — talking to the aspiring catwalkers about her flaws, her weight problems, the racial issues of the fashion world. You might cynically think those weepy sister-to-sister sessions looked like practice

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And the Winner Is… Huh?

Apparently there is a home-field advantage in awards shows; as CBS took its turn with the Emmys, “Everybody Loves Raymond” walked off with the Best Comedy award. I was rooting for “Arrested Development,” of course, but took a perverse satisfaction that “Desperate Housewives” got upset. The undeserving beaten by the really undeserving — …

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