Tuned In: 'Nurse Jackie' stale; locally shot 'Kill' shaky


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First "Dexter," now "Nurse Jackie."

Showtime is in danger of becoming a network that clings to its onetime hits for several seasons longer than it should.

Not only is "Nurse Jackie" back for a sixth season that takes the story of drug addict ER nurse Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) back to where she started in season one -- she's popping pills like they're M&Ms again -- but Showtime already renewed the series for a seventh season.

Too bad. Running a show into the ground only hurts its legacy. Look no further than "Dexter," which ran too long and got saddled with a terribly dull, unsatisfying ending, for proof.

As season six begins (9 p.m. Sunday), Jackie is still with her cop boyfriend, Frank (Adam Ferrara), but unbeknownst to him, she's back on drugs even while attending AA meetings.

Jackie is also estranged from her daughters in ways that don't mesh with the character as established in earlier seasons. Even when Jackie was on drugs previously, she always stayed on top of what was happening with her kids; it stretches credulity that she's surprised to learn her oldest daughter is in an AP biology class.

Another head-scratcher: Jackie scams her way into getting an OxyContin prescription but doesn't seem to know that in New York there's a 24-hour waiting period before she can pick it up. Really? Isn't that the sort of thing any experienced drug addict, especially one who is a nurse, would know?

At one time, it was possible to enjoy "Nurse Jackie" even for viewers who were over Jackie's drama because the supporting cast was so much fun. But there's something less entertaining about them these days, too. Their plots sometimes feel like a stretch, as if the writers are grasping for stories for them.

In the new season's first two episodes, the show's writers introduce a new friend for Jackie, an understandable development after the departure of Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best) last season.

Like O'Hara, this new friend, Antoinette (Julie White), is outspoken with a self-proclaimed "big personality." But the writers try to change up the dynamics of the friendship by making Antoinette part of Jackie's AA group, allowing Jackie to be more honest with this new character than she can be with her work colleagues. She comes clean quicker to Antoinette than she did to O'Hara. It's a welcome effort to try a twist on what worked in the past, but at this point in the show's life there's not much that hasn't been done.

Sevigny in new pilot

As if we need further proof that shot-in-Pittsburgh "Those Who Kill" won't be back for a second season, this week the show's star, actress Chloe Sevigny, signed on to a new pilot, Amazon.com's "The Cosmopolitans" from director Whit Stillman ("Metropolitan").

"The Cosmopolitans" stars Ms. Sevigny as a part of a group of American expatriates living in Paris. Adam Brody ("The O.C.") also stars in the series that begins production this month in Paris.

Technically, Ms. Sevigny is still committed to "Those Who Kill," which has not been officially canceled. Actors on series that seem marginal to continue will often land jobs in new pilots where they are considered in "second position," meaning if the first, likely-to-be-canceled series is somehow renewed, they will have to fulfill that commitment and producers of the new series will have to recast and re-film scenes.

Amazon is gambling that "Those Who Kill" will not continue beyond its first season, now airing at 10 p.m. Sunday on LMN, which seems like a pretty safe bet.

Cornerstone Network at 35

Wall-based Christian broadcaster Cornerstone TeleVision (WPCB, Channel 40) celebrates the 35th anniversary of its Cornerstone Network with an on-air celebration (8 p.m. Saturday on "Real Life").

At 10 a.m. May 7, WPCB will debut a new program, "Sister 2 Sister," which expands from a segment to become its own series.

WQED's education efforts

Former WQED chief operating officer Mel Ming, who worked at Pittsburgh's PBS station from 1994-96 and is now CEO of "Sesame Street" producer Sesame Workshop, returned Thursday for a presentation to funders, foundation representatives, educators and state representatives about the importance of educational partnerships.

WQED executive director of educational partnerships Jennifer Stancil presented details of outreach efforts that resulted from a state education grant, including contact with at least 3,161 teachers, parents and care providers.

Mr. Ming emphasized the importance of the local component of "Sesame Street's" efforts, saying that all the educational content in the world won't do any good if viewers can't receive it from an outlet such as WQED.

"That last mile of distribution is getting it into the home," he said. "Children that have an adult and are serious about their learning do well. Those that don't, we lose."

'Sharknado 2' supports sharks

Former Pittsburgher David Shiffman, a 2003 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School who's now working on his doctorate in marine biology at the University of Miami, is hoping to get research funding from the producers of Syfy's "Sharknado 2: The Second One" (9 p.m. July 30).

The Asylum, the production company for "Sharknado," is crowdfunding a bonus scene (online at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/produce-a-scene-in-sharknado-2) with a $50,000 goal and plans to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami.

The scene will involve "sharks, chain saws, and chain saws being used in the vicinity of sharks," according to The Asylum's crowd-funding site. As of Thursday the site had raised $1,885 with 50 days left in the campaign.

CNN's new lineup

CNN will debut a new prime-time lineup this summer that brings Mike Rowe ("Dirty Jobs") back to TV.

His CNN series, "Somebody's Gotta Do It," will debut this fall and follow innovators, entrepreneurs, do-gooders and fanatics in their day-to-day life.

Mr. Rowe's series will join new programs hosted by Lisa Ling, John Walsh, Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock that will air at 9 p.m.

The rest of the new lineup includes "Erin Burnett Outfront" (7 p.m.), "Anderson Cooper 360" (8 p.m.) and the new one-hour news program "CNN Tonight" (10 p.m.).

Keep/cancel

It's that time of year when TV shows on the bubble either sink or swim as networks renew and cancel prime-time shows in advance of the May upfront presentations of new programming for advertisers.

Viewers can play programmer in the Post-Gazette's annual Keep or Cancel poll at http://old.post-gazette.com/tv/poll/default.asp. Deadline to vote is April 20. So cast your ballot today.

In this week's renewal news, FXX ordered an additional two seasons of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf announced a third-season renewal for "The Americans" is forthcoming.

VH1 canceled scripted comedy "Single Ladies" but BET network Centric has revived the series for a fourth season.

A&E ordered a third season of "Bates Motel."

HBO ordered fifth and sixth seasons of "Game of Thrones" following Sunday's fourth-season premiere, which became the show's most-watched episode yet, drawing 6.6 million viewers.

Nat Geo Wild ordered a second season of "Cesar 911" featuring dog trainer Cesar Milan.

DirecTV settles with weather

The Weather Channel's boneheaded attack on DirecTV ended with an apology Tuesday from the cable network and the return of Weather Channel to DirecTV's lineup almost three months after it was removed in a retransmission dispute.

"Our viewers deserve better than a public dispute and we pledge to reward their loyalty with exceptional programming and more weather focused news," Weather Channel executives wrote in a statement.

Weather Channel also agreed to reduce its reality programming by half on weekdays.

Channel surfing

A CBS religion special, "A New Calling: Spiritual Second Careers," will air on KDKA-TV after midnight Sunday (approximately 2:05 a.m. Monday) and will look at professionals who make midlife career changes to become teachers, ministers or caregivers in their respective Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. ... Netflix's Ricky Gervais series "Derek" returns for its second season May 30. ... TV Land will launch a 10-episode new version of the hidden camera series "Candid Camera" this summer. ... Jane Pauley, formerly of NBC News, has joined "CBS Sunday Morning" as a contributor. ... DISH Network has added Disney Junior as Channel 168.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "How I Met Your Mother," "Pittsburgh Today Live" and Pennsylvania Lottery drawings on WTAE. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Those Who Kill," "Your Inner Fish," "Years of Living Dangerously," WTAE's retransmission dispute with DISH Network and Ken Burns' "The Address." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Silicon Valley," "Doll & Em" and the rash of TV show deaths. Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.


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