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Z on TV
Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
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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Tim Tunison named news director at WBAL-TV

Tim Tunison has been named news director at WBAL-TV, according to Dan Joerres, president and general manger of the Hearst-owned station.

Tunison, a graduate of Ithaca College, has been assistant news director since 2005.

He succeeds Michelle Butt, who left WBAL last week to become general manager at a Hearst station in North Carolina.

“Tim has done outstanding work for our station in various roles,” Joerres, said. “His appreciation for localism, coupled with a commitment to investigative journalism, will enable us to continue to build upon WBAL-TV’s position... in our viewing area.”

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Kevin Spacey wins SAG award as best drama actor

Kevin Spacey won the Screen Actors Guild Award as outstanding actor in a drama series Sunday.

It was his second major award in two weeks for his performance as Frank Underwood in the Maryland-made political thriller "House of Cards" from Netflix. He also won the Golden Globe as best actor in a drama series.

Spacey was not at the awards ceremony, which was televised on cable channel TNT.

The other nominees from Maryland-made productions lost Sunday.

They included Robin Wright as best female actor in a drama series for her work in "House of Cards" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as best female actor in a comedy for performance in HBO's "Veep."

Viola Davis, of "How to Get Away With Murder" (ABC) won for best female actor in a drama, while Uzo Aduba, of "Orange Is the New Black" (Netflix) won as best female actor in a comedy.

"House of Cards" was also nominated for best ensemble performance in a drama, while "Veep" was nominated for best ensemble performance in a comedy.

"Downton Abbey" (PBS) won...

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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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