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Z on TV
Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
Duff Goldman 'Ace' of two Food Network shows now

At the start of Duff Goldman's new Food Network show, "Kids Baking Championship," which premieres next week,eight pint-sized pastry-chef contestants are lined up onstage to meet their co-hosts, Goldman and actress Valerie Bertinelli.

As the two make their entrance and approachthe kids, a trembling boy whispers to the child next to him, "I didn't think they were real."

I don't know about Bertinelli, kid, but Goldman is definitely real.

The last time I saw Goldman, back in 2011, he was winding up the last season of "Ace of Cakes," the Food Channel show that made him TV-famous, and was about to open a new bakery in Los Angeles as a complement to the home office in Baltimore. He held nothing back about the life passage he was navigating.

I asked him if he was nervous about the big L.A. gamble, and his unprintable answer involved being so "scared" that bodily functions were altered.

With Goldman, you get it raw with almost no showbiz blah-blah-blah.

And so it was again when we reconnected...

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Ex-Baltimore sports reporter Jen Royle eliminated on ABC's 'The Taste'

Former Baltimore radio sports reporter Jen Royle was eliminated Thursday on ABC’s “The Taste” after making it to the finals.

The 39-year-old Royle was the only one of five finalists who was not a professional chef, and she was constantly referred to as the “home cook.” She was the first of the five to be eliminated.

“If you had told me I’m going to wind up in the finals, I would have said no. I never would have believed it,” Royle says at the the top of the show.

Her mentor was Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre, and it felt as if he spent most of the evening's first segment yelling at her for putting too much salt in her sausage gravy.

“He’s going to kill me,” Royle said just before Ludo started yelling.

“You [expletive] up big time,” he shouted.

Each of the five finalists cooked two dishes – one labeled a “saint” and one a “sinner” – which were served to Jonathan Waxman, chef at New York’s Barbuto.

Waxman picked Royle’s as the worst.

Royle showed the same kind of toughness during the run...

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Amazon streams its way to a leading TV role

It's been an epic week for Amazon, Maura Pfefferman and streaming TV.

Two Golden Globes for "Transparent," a daring dramedy starring Jeffrey Tambor on a gender-changing journey from Mort to Maura Pfefferman, got the ball rolling at the televised awards show last Sunday night. And then came the announcement Tuesday that Woody Allen had been signed to write and direct a series that was guaranteed a one-season commitment from the online service.

Two days later, Amazon premiered pilots for seven new series, including "The Man in the High Castle", an alternative history circa 1962, had America lost World War II. It's produced by Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner") and adapted by Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files") from the Philip K. Dick novel.

Beyond buying books and baby food online, subscribers to Amazon Prime now have the chance to vote on the pilots and play a role in determining which series will get a full-season commitment. Those productions given a green light will debut in September, as...

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Cris Collinsworth explains his kiss-up Goodell comments

I'm not sure if it's damage control or Cris Collinsworth really thinking there was no problem with him and Al Michaels during Saturday's game trying to whitewash NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice matter.

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Michelle Butt leaving WBAL to head North Carolina station

Michelle Butt, news director at WBAL-TV and radio station WBAL-AM, is leaving to be president and general manager at WXII-TV, an NBC affiliate in North Carolina.

Butt has run WBAL's TV newsroom since 2003. She took on the added duties on the radio side in 2013.

WXII-TV broadcasts to the North Carolina communities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

The new job is effective immediately, according to Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television Inc., which owns WBAL and WXII.

No successor has yet been named at WBAL, according to a spokesman for Hearst.


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Kevin Spacey wins Golden Globe as best drama actor

Kevin Spacey, star of Maryland-made "House of Cards," won a Golden Globe Sunday night as best actor in a drama.

And he won it over some tough competition including Dominick West, who starred in Showtime's "The Affair," which won the Golden Globe as best drama.

It was Spacey's eighth nomination, and he was bleeped as he tried to suggest how shocked he was to finally win.

But Spacey went on to deliver one of the most eloquent acceptance speeches of the night in sharing an anecdote from a meeting he had with Stanley Kramer ("Judgment at Nuremberg") in the final days of the legendary filmmaker's life.

The point of the anecdote was to try and continue to grow as an artist and do both good and socially conscious work.

Like Kramer, Spacey has done both. Congratulations to him on the award.

Robin Wright, who won last year as best actress, was again nominated. But Ruth Wilson, from "The Affair," won the Globe.

I picked "The Affair" as my drama of the year in a 2014 year-end piece.

"House of...

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