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Breaking down the demographics of prime-time's hits and misses

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The zombies keep plodding, but The Walking Dead continues to be a runaway hit with advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds. AMC photo

By ED BARK
TV’s coin of the realm, the advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-old audience, continues to work against those shows that dare to “skew old.”

It’s not fair and never has been. But it’s pretty much the reality. Age-ism remains in full bloom when it comes to renewing or canceling series of all shapes, sizes, genres and colors. And I’d say that even if I weren’t well beyond this advertiser-prized demographic. Well, maybe I wouldn’t.

The age composition of the audience is less important if you’re HBO, Showtime, Starz, Netflix, Amazon Prime or other extra-fee-per-month “premium” or streaming networks. For them, your money’s good even if your teeth are in a cup and a zombie can out-run you. Here’s one notable example. Longmire, canceled by A&E because its audience was deemed to have too many liver spots, got picked up by Netflix and will start streaming all 10 Season 4 episodes on September 10th.

“Our viewers did skew older,” co-executive producer Greer Shephard said last month at the Television Critics Association press tour. “And A&E did not have an ownership stake in the show. We are, mercifully, now at a wonderful company that values viewers over demos.”

Those old enough to have experienced the 1960s first-hand shouldn’t get overly cranked up, though. Longmire is an aberration -- sort of like Betty White. The easiest path to renewal is still a solid percentage of 18-to-49-year-olds, even if your total viewership looks deficient on paper.

This brings us to the FX network’s always helpful statistical compilations, which it puts out on a non-partisan basis during every TV press tour. One of the latest is a ranking of all prime-time series that aired from Dec. 29, 2014 to May 17th of this year. Streaming sites are excluded because they still won’t provide any audience numbers for individual shows. And NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which would have been No. 2 among 18-to-49-year-olds, finished its regular season in December.

The kingpin of the 18-to-49 kingdom is AMC’s The Walking Dead, which has a median age of just 36 and ranked third in total viewers with 20.067 million in the Live + 7 Day Nielsen ratings. But here’s what scares the competition even more. An astonishing 13.228 million of those viewers were in the 18-to-49 motherlode.

Walking Dead also ranked No. 1 with 18-to-34-year-olds, averaging 6.775 million per episode.

Here are the other top 10 members of the 18-to-49 club.

2. Empire (Fox) -- 9.028 million
3. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) -- 8.011 million
4. Modern Family (ABC) -- 6.505 million
5. Game of Thrones (HBO) -- 6.160 million
6. How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) -- 5.880 million
7. Scandal (ABC) -- 5.378 million
8. The Voice (NBC) -- 4.944 million
9. The Voice (Tuesday) -- 4.892 million
10. The Blacklist (NBC) -- 4.819 million

Among these top performers, only Walking Dead, Empire and Game of Thrones drew more than half their total audience from the 18-to-49 age range. GOT was the biggest over-achiever, ranking just 42nd in total viewers.

Two animated Fox series, The Simpsons and Family Guy, also pole-vaulted into 18-to-49 prominence despite relatively low total viewer ranks. The Simpsons, which begin its gazillionth season this fall, ranked 50th in total viewers but No. 12 among 18-to-49-year-olds. Family Guy jumped from 88th to 38th place.

In the cable arena, AMC’s Talking Dead rated 65th in total viewers but 13th with 18-to-49-year-olds. FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show soared from 74th to 18th place in those two ratings groups while AMC’s Better Call Saul was almost as impressive with a 72nd place finish in total viewers and a No. 19 ranking in the 18-to-49 demographic.

Both of the Fox cartoons and the three above cable series all drew more than half their audience from the 18-to-49 pool. Your renewal prospects are solid gold if you bat more than 50 percent in the 18-to-49 league.

Let’s look at a few opposite cases.

CBS’ Blue Bloods ranked 7th in total viewers with an average of 15.234 million per episode. But it skewed almost older than your neighborhood cemetery with just 2.659 million 18-to-49-year-olds. That put Blue Bloods in the 60th spot and also “on the bubble” regarding the year-end decision-making on whether to give it another season. The Tom Selleck cop show got a reprieve this time while low overall achievers such as ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were considered shoe-ins for another season.

Blue Bloods averaged 8.242 million more total viewers than S.H.I.E.L.D., but trailed the ABC show among 18-to-49-year-olds by 695,000. In the rather twisted economics of network television, S.H.I.E.L.D. is considered the stronger property. Furthermore, Blue Bloods’ median age is 63 while S.H.I.E.L.D.’s is 47.

Why the premium on 18-to-49-year-olds and the discounting of older viewers? Whether or not it really makes sense anymore, younger viewers are still seen by Madison Avenue as more “impressionable” buyers of new and often crappy products while grandma and grandpa supposedly are set in their ways and wedded to many of the things they’ve been buying for years.

This is the argument even though relative oldsters tend to have far more disposable income than their younger descendants. Still, Jimmy Gamer can always ask his elders for enough money to buy a somersaulting cell phone and the latest Gargantuan Paul Bunyan Mega-Burger -- piled high with four all-beef patties, six slices of bacon, four melting cheeses, three onion rings, a fried egg, hash browns and cotton candy on a Frisbee-sized bun with baked-in M&Ms.

Let’s close by telling you why CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation got canceled and Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine didn’t.

CSI, which will get a two-hour movie sendoff on Sept. 27th, still did quite well in the total viewer ratings, ranking 31st with an average of 11.108 million. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was 98th in this measurement with 4.407 million.

Among 18-to-49-year-olds, CSI ranked 61st with 2.629 million. Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t all that much better with 2.751 million viewers and a 57th place finish.

But even though CSI drew 6.701 million more total viewers, its percentage of 18-to-49-year-olds stunk when compared to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s. Remember that rule of 50 percent? Brooklyn Nine-Nine easily surpassed this threshold while CSI’s 18-to-49-year-old audience was less than 25 percent of its total.

In the end, that’s the overriding reason why one cop show gets a body bag and the other continues to patrol prime-time. From a critical standpoint and even though I’m an ancient mariner, I’m glad Brooklyn Nine-Nine survived. But 11.108 million viewers were still tuned to CSI every week. Problem is, they just weren’t the “right” ones.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Broad, loud -- and funny: NBC's The Carmichael Show

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Jerrod Carmichael (center) stars in and produces the Peacock’s summer sitcom surprise, The Carmichael Show. NBC photo


Premiering: Wednesday, Aug. 26th at 8 p.m. (central) with back-to-back episodes on NBC
Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine, Amber Stevens West, Lil Rel Howery
Produced by: Jerrod Carmichael, Nicholas Stoller, Ravi Nandan

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Loud is loud, and The Carmichael Show certainly is that.

Funny is funny, too. And here’s a fractious family sitcom with lots going for it as a throwback to the likes of Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and Good Times.

Not much was expected going in. NBC seemingly is burning off The Carmichael Show -- as it did with Mr. Robinson -- by airing back-to-back episodes for three consecutive Wednesdays before the so-called “regular season” kicks in. Both comedies are propelled by black male stars. But Mr. Robinson landed its jokes with a series of big thuds while The Carmichael Family is much smoother, even in the face of decibel levels that threaten to shatter the sound barrier whenever Momma and Daddy are spouting their decidedly old-school values.

The show’s quieter presence is North Carolina-bred comedian Jerrod Carmichael as Jerrod Carmichael. His “therapist in training” girlfriend, Maxine (a well-tuned Amber Stevens West), has recently moved in with him. But Jerrod very much wants to keep this a secret from his parents, Joe and Cynthia (David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine). That’s because he knows they’ll go all crazy on him. Not that they wouldn’t anyway.

Dad, a truck driver and triple bypass survivor, is first seen eating ribs with nacho cheese dipping sauce while wearing a “Neo-Bama” t shirt. His wife, a devout Bible believer, is also Joe’s enabler. Her cooking could clog the Hoover Dam and she still preaches the virtues of Paula Deen’s biscuits (in the third of three episodes sent for review).

An even-tempered but opinionated son beset by rigid parents is an eternal sitcom trope. But if the trope fits . . . Somehow it does with The Carmichael Show, which can be laugh-out-loud funny because its cast knows just what to do with some pretty sharp material.

Momma’s favorite diss is “nasty.” As in, “Votin’ Republican and livin’ in sin. Just nasty!”

But Joe says he once voted for George W. Bush because his administration sent him a $1,600 stimulus check. No, his vote can’t be bought. But yes, “it can be stimulated.” Grier knows how to deliver such lines after a long career in TV comedy that first took hold with In Living Color. Devine’s a seasoned pro, too, selling her shrill bursts with complete conviction.

There’s also a less than cerebral older brother named Bobby (Lil Rel Howery), who hasn’t yet told his parents he’s divorced. Jerrod uses this information as last-ditch leverage in hope’s of thwarting Maxine’s insistence that they come clean with Joe and Cynthia. In Wednesday’s first episode, it all plays out without ever petering out.

Episode 2 is built around protests in Charlotte over a police shooting of an unarmed young black man. It also happens to be Jerrod’s birthday. Maxine, wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t shirt, finds a surprisingly willing protest partner in Cynthia while Jerrod just wants to enjoy his birthday in peace and Joe is matter-of-factly indifferent.

“Do you always get this giddy when somebody gets shot?” he asks. But Cynthia has marched many times before and is eager to get back in that groove. “I can hear the bells of justice ringin’ and I’m answering the call,” she proclaims before heading upstairs to change into her “civil rights clothes.”

The pros and cons keep piling up, with Jerrod caught in the middle. It’s a fairly daring, message-sending episode, with perhaps something to offend just about everyone. A certain other comedy series with a Bunker mentality used to do much the same. And they were loud about it, too.

Episode 3 is more conventionally built around Joe’s continued artery issues and Cynthia’s refusal to alter his diet. She gets the best line after Jerrod foists kale on them during a family dinner at which Maxine strives to be better-liked by stifling her heart-healthy cooking. “It was just nasty,” Momma says. “Felt like Christmas tree in my mouth.”

The Carmichael Show won’t win any prizes for originality. It does, however, play very well with the above-average material it has. That’s in no small part due to the well-blended cast. Jerrod Carmichael seems comfy in the sitcom realm as a lower-keyed son with occasional flareups. Amber Stevens West is instantly appealing in a reactive/assertive role while David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine turn up the heat without scalding everything.

It all makes for a pleasant surprise in one of television’s longstanding nowhere lands between the end of summer and the start of all that fall season “excitement.” In that context, NBC is tossing on a show that really shouldn’t be tossed out after its six episodes quickly come and go.

GRADE: B

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Public Morals gives TNT a sharply defined period cop drama

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Two dicks, a fedora and a pork pie in Public Morals TNT photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Aug. 25th at 9 p.m. (central) on TNT
Starring: Edward Burns, Michael Rapaport, Elizabeth Masucci, Katrina Bowden, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Austin Stowell, Wass Stevens, Brian Wiles, Neal McDonough, Brian Dennehy, Robert Knepper, Kevin Corrigan, Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Keith Nobbs, Patrick Murney, Lyndon Smith, Cormac Cullinane
Produced by: Edward Burns, Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Aaron Lubin

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Everybody cracks wise in Public Morals, a crisp and lively new TNT series that might actually generate a little buzz for the oft-overlooked “We Know Drama” network.

Set in 1960s New York and also set initially to The Doors’ version of “Back Door Man,” it mixes tough-talking vice cops on the take with turf-protecting crime bosses and their not always subservient underlings. Short tempers abound, as do swaggering, sharp-dressing and women who know what they want. “Bullshit” is the operative denunciation, and it’s used with impunity in the four episodes made available for review.

Actor Edward Burns created the series and also stars in it as plainclothes officer Terry Muldoon. He has a sharply drawn wife, Christine (well-played by Elizabeth Masucci), and a simpatico partner named Charlie Bullman (Michael Rapaport again in solid form after a bravura guest shot in this season’s Louie).

Muldoon, Bullman and their hats patrol the boiling Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, where prostitution, gambling and other illicit vices are managed rather than quashed. Protection payments are expected in return. Otherwise you’re goin’ downtown.

Burns, whose character also is the father of three children, gives himself plenty to do in Tuesday’s premiere hour. He rasps his way through meaty chunks of verbiage, laying down the law on both the streets and the home front, where trouble-prone 13-year-old son James (Cormac Cullinane) is on the receiving end of some very blunt tough love.

“Try a softer touch with him,” his wife advises.

“The line between the good guys and the bad guys is very thin,” he retorts after repeatedly deriding his oldest son for being both an “asshole” and a “moron.” But the kid seems to be getting the message, and willingly leads the family in grace before a family dinner in Episode 2.

Public Morals otherwise is teeming with supporting players, none more vivid than the redoubtable Brian Dennehy as Irish crime patriarch Joe Patton. Dennehy doesn’t pop in until Episode 2. But boy, does he pop, particularly when belittling his trigger-happy son, Rusty (Neal McDonough). There’s another terrific scene in Episode 3, with old Joe telling a shaky subordinate mobster known as “Smitty” (fine work by Kevin Corrigan) how it’s gonna go down in the aftermath of a lethal hit at the end of Episode 1.

Three of the first four hours end with murders. But the violence isn’t of the blood-spurting type -- not yet anyway. One of Burns’ co-producers is Steven Spielberg, who’s never been big on buckets of blood. The beatings also are quick and efficient.

Interestingly, Public Morals shares the same name as an instantly canceled 1996 comedy series about the NYPD vice squad. Produced by Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and TNT’s current Murder in the First), it was widely derided before its premiere for a coarse approach that included use of the term “pussy posse.” Bochco reluctantly excised those words from the on-air first episode, but CBS decided to make it one and done for Public Morals. Those who missed the show on the night of Oct. 30, 1996 were fated to never see it at all.

Peter Gerety, who co-starred in the original Public Morals, has a recurring role in the far superior TNT version as Muldoon’s acerbic father. And yes, the term “pussy posse” is used in Episode 2. There’ll be no uproar this time.

Public Morals has many characters to service. And by the end of the first four of 10 Season 1 episodes, viewers have been given a fair chance to get a handle on most of them.

Robert Knepper, best known as the sadist from Prison Break, registers as the hard-bitten Capt. Johanson while rookie Jimmy Shea (Brian Wiles) is quickly introduced to a world of cops who know that much of their bread is buttered with kickbacks.

Sean O’Bannon (Austin Stowell) is the volatile young cop son of a brutal, drunken mobster while plainclothes vice officer Vince Latucci (Wass Stevens) is a sharp-dressed man with an even sharper-tongued wife. Deirdre Duffy (Lyndon Smith), sister of a two-bit hood fresh out of jail, takes a strong liking to Sean’s manly looks and ways while a schoolteacher/prostitute named Fortune (Katrina Bowden) draws closer to Muldoon’s partner, Charlie.

Burns, the overall architect, convincingly acts his part while also bringing a sense of order to all of these proceedings. New TNT programming head Kevin Reilly has said he’s re-positioning TNT as an edgier network with more challenging fare. The second coming of Public Morals, in an altogether different form, looks to be a strong step in that direction. It clicks, crackles and arrests attention with a blend of compromised cops, assorted criminals and homier family values.

GRADE: B+

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Fear the Walking Dead makes it a twosome on AMC

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A new body of work in Fear the Walking Dead prequel. AMC photo

Premiering: Sunday, August 23rd at 8 p.m. (central) on AMC
Starring: Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lorenzo James Henrie, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Ruben Blades, Mercedes Mason, Patricia Reyes Spindola,
Produced by: Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Erickson, Greg Nicotero, David Alpert

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
The possibilities are staggering, and not just from a zombie standpoint.

AMC’s The Walking Dead still reigns as the runaway winner in ratings among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds, with 13.2 million of its 20.1 viewers in that age range. The distant No. 2 prime-time scripted series, Fox’s Empire, had a Season 1 average of 9 million viewers in this key demographic, according to Live +7 (days after) ratings from Nielsen Media Research.

In that respect, AMC’s new Fear the Walking Dead prequel might just as well be called Milking The Walking Dead For All It’s Worth. Premiering on Sunday, Aug. 23rd with a 90-minute episode, it’ll be a hit if it draws even half of the original’s 18-to-49-year-old crowd. That would match this season’s haul for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Season 1 of Fear will be just six episodes, with Season 2 ramping way up to 15. The producers say they’re aiming for a “slow burn” this time out, with up-close looks at uninfected characters initially taking precedence over the mutants beginning to terrorize East L.A. OK, fine. But it’s easy to envision the original’s rabid fans getting restless and thirsting for quick gratification in the form of multiple exploding zombie heads and attendant violent acts. I mean, let’s get real here. This is not an audience that likely would sit still for even five minutes of Downton Abbey.

Episode 1 of Fear begins in an abandoned church where something bad has happened. Drug-addicted misfit Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) rouses to this occasion after sleeping off his latest stupor. The young woman he’s been with has suddenly turned into a hideous something else. Fleeing the premises in a hurry, Nick is hit by a car and taken to a hospital in police custody. Why? Because he appeared to be on the run from a foul deed or something.

It turns out Nick is the son of high school guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), a single mother whose fiancee is divorced English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis). He also has a problematic, resentful son (Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris) while Madison’s daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), is a high-achiever who’s fed up with her brother.

So there’s a lot of angst here for starters. But beyond that, one question keeps rising above all of this. Let’s briefly set the stage.

Nick insistently tells Travis, “I was running away from what I saw,” and not hallucinating again. “If that came out of me, I’m insane . . . I really don’t want to be insane.”

Travis then visits the church to check out Nick’s story. He sees some very bloody remains, but DOES NOT CALL THE COPS to investigate further and hopefully clear Nick’s name. Instead he tells Madison, “There was a lot of blood.” But she blithely replies that “bad things happen.”

Travis and Madison then visit the church together so she can see for herself. Madison agrees that “something bad happened here.” But THEY DO NOT CALL THE COPS. Meanwhile, shackled Nick has rather unconvincingly escaped from the hospital in hopes of clearing his head and finding out if his girlfriend in fact was eating people alive at that church where bad things indeed happened but NO ONE CALLED THE COPS.

Maybe I’m expecting too much elementary logic 101 from a series about an impending zombie apocalypse. Still, this kept eating at me, so to speak.

Fear eventually gets around to a traffic jam caused by a staggering zombie and another bad thing happening to Nick. At the end of the premiere episode -- and this really isn’t giving away anything -- we get a two-pronged WTF from Travis and Madison.

“What the hell is happening?” she asks.

“I have no idea,” he replies.

The producers of Fear say they won’t be catching up to the first days of The Walking Dead anytime soon. Nor will they be explaining how the zombies originated before they began to rapidly multiply.

So good luck with all that. Fear the Walking Dead probably is in no danger of becoming an out-and-out flop in its first season. But its opening episode is appreciably less gripping than the 2010 unveiling of the smash hit original. There’s also the growing possibility that zombie and even shark fatigue might finally be settling in as the world perhaps moves on to -- oh, I don’t know -- pesticide-crazed giant killer potatoes from Idaho.

GRADE: C

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Starz's Blunt Talk does some funny business for Patrick Stewart

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Patrick Stewart is seriously comedic in Blunt Talk. Starz photo

Premiering: Saturday, Aug. 22nd at 8 p.m. (central) on Starz
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough, Timm Sharp, Dolly Wells, Jacki Weaver, Mary Holland, Karan Soni, Richard Lewis, Ed Begley Jr., Romany Malco
Produced by: Jonathan Ames, Seth MacFarlane, Stephanie Davis, Tristram Shapeero, Duncan Birmingham, Reed Agnew, Eli Jorne

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Brittle Brit Walter Blunt is bombastic, needy, oft-besotted, four times divorced and newly dedicated to reinventing himself for the greater glory of the American people. But this is only after an embarrassing incident further jeopardizes his already low-rated cable news network show.

The network just happens to be UBS. And the link to the classic 1976 film Network is fully intentional. Blunt Talk’s creator, Jonathan Ames, acknowledges without hesitation that his star player is “very much” meant to be an extension of Howard Beale, whose “Mad as Hell” clarion call is still echoing.

“In preparation for writing this, I re-watched Network,” Ames recently told TV critics. “And I thought, ‘Wait, I want more Howard Beale . . . Let’s get behind the scenes with Howard Beale.’ “

The millions who have seen the movie know what happened to Beale in the end. So Blunt is a resurrection in this half-hour darkly comic series that’s already been renewed for Season 2.

Four episodes were sent for review, and there’s more than enough here to make Blunt Talk worth a continued investment. It hasn’t quite found itself yet. But each of these early episodes has an inspired high point or two, whether it’s Blunt interviewing himself; being conquered by automated airport bathroom devices; getting towel-whipped as penance by his faithful manservant; faking a report from hurricane-threatened Galveston; or debating whether to affect his Bono or Peter Jennings look before heading off to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Stewart, who came to prominence on these shores as stern Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, adapts nicely to this considerable change of pace. He’s aided by a solid supporting cast, most notably Adrian Scarborough as the loyal Harry, whose activities range from reading Blunt bedtime stories to posing for a nude portrait that figures heavily into the plot of Episode 2. The two of them have been inseparable since serving together in the military.

Blunt is first seen on his own, getting drunk and making his own form of grandiose small talk with a bartender before heading out unsteadily into the night. A few marijuana chocolates and a transsexual later, Blunt finds himself impulsively kicking a cop in the testicles and then shouting from the hood of his Jaguar while it’s all captured on video by a “ZMT” crew.

It’s the hottest water he’s ever been in, but Blunt is nothing if not resilient -- and deluded. He rallies his staff and concocts a plan of action and reaction. Rosalie (Jacki Weaver), his veteran producer and manager, offers to soothingly spoon with Blunt on an inflatable mattress before he’s delivered unto a UBS psychiatrist played by, of all people, Richard Lewis.

Blunt confesses that he fears the same fate as disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was dismissed and soon died. But on what could be his last show, he declares to one and all, “I am no lion in his winter! I am an eagle in the spring! Yes, a bald eagle if you like.”

Well, it all somehow works. Otherwise Blunt Talk would be over, out and done with Blunt’s TV tagline, “Right here. Right now.” Which wouldn’t make for much of a show.

In subsequent episodes he’s newly determined to “be a better father to the American people -- and of course to my own children.” Furthermore, “From now on I want to be in the hope business.”

That’s pretty much Beale talk. But Blunt’s careening misadventures take him to the next level. Episode 2 finds him resorting to a porn film director who demands something in return for faking Blunt’s live shot from Galveston. The sight of Stewart in a yellow UBS rain slicker and matching brimmed hat is alone worth the price of admission to this one.

Episode 3, the strongest so far, also works in the romantic entanglements of Blunt’s staffers, with Ed Begley Jr. popping in to play Jacki’s “open marriage” husband, Teddy.

The fourth half-hour is built around Blunt’s efforts to in fact be a better father to his five-year-old son. There’s also a closer look at the bonds that bind Blunt and manservant Harry. Singer-songwriter Moby, who wrote the theme music for Blunt Talk, plays himself to good effect in this one. Also look for a brief appearance by the late Windell Middlebrooks, a Fort Worth native who became best known as the no-nonsense deliveryman in a series of Miller High Life commercials. The episode is dedicated to him.

Blunt Talk’s overall absurdity at times over-reaches and grabs viewers too hard by the throat. Still, its excesses are offset by enough inspired lunacy to carry the day. I’m still grinning at Blunt’s grapplings in that airport restroom. They’re positively Kramer-esque, with apologies to Howard Beale.

GRADE: B+

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net