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TV Lust
Television reviews and recaps
'The Americans' recap: KGB spies struggle to infiltrate CIA

It's November 1982 and the Soviet Union is in turmoil as “The Americans” period drama begins its third season on FX with Episode 301 (“EST Men”).

Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev has just died. The Cold War with the West is escalating, and young soldiers are returning in caskets as the Soviets battle relentless mujahedin fighters on their home turf in Afghanistan.

It’s also a tumultuous time for KGB spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell). While posing as ordinary American citizens dwelling in suburban Washington, they risk life imprisonment or worse as they struggle to infiltrate the CIA.

Then there’s the issue of their increasingly social-justice-minded daughter Paige (Holly Taylor), who’s being targeted by the KGB as a second-generation spy.

Dad fiercely opposes this recruitment, arguing that his 14-year-old daughter isn’t old enough to enter a perilous life of espionage. But Mom isn’t so sure: Maybe it’s time for Paige to step up and join the real...

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Justified 'Cash Game' recap: Two ends against the middle

For a town supposedly on its death bed, Harlan County sure has a bunch of people interested in its future.

After a premiere that seemed interested in laying the track for the Raylan-Boyd confrontation that appears destined to mark the end of "Justified," Tuesday night's "Cash Game" takes a minute to introduce us to faux-property baron Ty Walker and his band of ex-military goons, a crew who could easily put Raylan or Boyd in the ground long before they can finish their own rivalry.

"Cash Game" is a perfectly adequate episode of "Justified," but it really stands out to me for repairing two of Season 5's largest flaws. The fleshed-out introductions to Walker, his child-brained leg breaker "Choo Choo," and Sam Elliot’s crime boss character do plenty to erase the stain left by the Crowe clowns from last year, while Ava’s dangerous game of pinball between Raylan and Boyd make her scenes instantly tense and engaging, a complete 180 from last year’s prison storyline.

Walker isn’t the first...

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Delighted to have 'The Americans' back on FX and the dark streets of D.C.

“The Americans” returns tonight for the start of Season 3 on FX, and I’m right back in Ronald Reagan’s America with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings.

After decades of writing about TV, it still pleasantly surprises me how I can lose track of a fine TV series after its season ends and then, after watching only a few seconds of the new season, be pleasurably transported back to its fictional universe. And it feels like I never left.

Some fast update without spoilers:

The pressure builds on Elizabeth and Philip to start socializing their 14-year-old daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), to becoming a “second generation” spy for the motherland. And Elizabeth and Philip don’t exactly agree on how to handle this.

Stan (Noah Emmerich) gets some news on Nina (Annet Mahendru) and some advice on living in the moment.

And Special Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas) gets a very bloody nose.

I have been trying  to figure this series out for two years.

Part of the success involves some...

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For TV watchers, the past has never been hotter

The past has never been bigger on TV than it is today. From Norsemen invading England circa 800 in "Vikings" to Chinese immigrants heading to Orlando circa 1990 in "Fresh off the Boat," series set in the past are all the rage.

Some, like AMC's 1960s drama "Mad Men," are known for their scrupulous devotion to historical accuracy. Others, such as Starz's 18th-century pirate adventure "Black Sails," take a more liberal interpretation. But in all cases the series revel in their settings.

Of course, tales of the past always have enthralled audiences. "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" were stories from long ago even when set down in the eighth century B.C. Shakespeare's first surviving play was about Henry VI, England's ill-fated king from a century earlier.

So in some ways it's surprising that TV shows set in past eras haven't been more common. But before the era of high-definition, it rarely paid off to make the investment in period sets and costumes.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Westerns...

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Wednesday's TV Highlights: 'The Americans' on FX

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TV listings for the week of Jan. 25 - 31, 2015 in PDF format

This week's TV Movies


 

SERIES

Secrets of the Dead The season premiere follows up on human skeletal remains found in the basement of Ben Franklin's British home, which may have been illegally used for science. 7 and 10 p.m. KOCE

The Mentalist Abbott's (Rockmond Dunbar) career will be over unless Jane (Simon Baker) can pull off a complicated scheme. Robin Tunney and Tim Kang also star. 8 p.m. CBS

The Middle Frankie and Mike (Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn) search for second jobs to help pay Sue's (Eden Sher) college tuition. Brock Ciarlelli and Alphonso McAuley guest star in this new episode. 8 p.m. ABC

American Idol Auditions continue in this new episode. 8 p.m. Fox

SoCal Connected This new episode investigates the effect of global warming on a local ski area and other businesses. 8 p.m. KCET

Nature The new episode visits the Antarctic...

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From Sia videos to 'Dance Moms,' 12-year-old dancer steps into pop culture fame

PITTSBURGH Fame might well be fleeting, but Maddie Ziegler is keeping pace.

It has been quite the year for Maddie, who has a global following from her appearances on Lifetime's "Dance Moms." She dwells in that fuzzy realm of reality television, which often crosses from "actually real" to "not-at-all-real," but there's little doubt her star is ascending.

"I have a lot of hopes," said Maddie, 12, who lives in Murrysville, Pa., with her mom, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, little sister Mackenzie and stepfather Greg Gisoni. "But I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone in the future."

Here's a start: Maddie, her mother and sister are in Los Angeles for three weeks shooting "Dance Moms." The show starring studio owner Abby Lee Miller will shoot in Ireland next month. Then it's on to Australia and more time in Los Angeles as Miller works on establishing a West Coast version of her Abby Lee Dance Company.

"It's crazy; I feel like I spend more time on airplanes or in the car than at...

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