The Week in TV: Ellen Degeneres Realizes American Idol Sucks
• The Television Critics Association summer press tour has been going on for the past few days. The biannual event is a chance for networks to preview material for critics at an expo in Los Angeles and try their hardest to avoid looking bad. I can't begin to sum up all the mundane ins and outs of the TCA tour; check out The Live Feed or HitFix for extensive recaps from panels about shows you will forget existed by this time next year. Some interesting news for some of my favorite comedies, though: Rob Lowe has been added to the cast of Parks and Recreation as a series regular, and 30 Rock will air a live episode in October, one for each coast.
• The TCA tour also handed out its annual awards the other day, and the list of accolades is both predictable and lamentable. No love at all for Friday Night Lights, Justified, Community, etc., but Glee took Program of the Year, Outstanding New Program, and Individual Achievement in Comedy (for Jane Lynch). Breaking Bad even had to share its trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Drama with Lost. I'm surprised they didn't give an award to The Closer.
• In American Idol news, Ellen DeGeneres has stepped down as judge after realizing she's not at all qualified to be one. She's a hell of a nice person, and her talk show is one of the best on the air right now, but she never offered a single valid bit of praise or criticism for the contestants, and she knew it. What's more, Kara DioGuardi -- captured by TMZ in what has to be the most unflattering photo of her on the web -- has been shown the door, and Jennifer Lopez apparently has been brought in as a new judge despite her busy schedule of collecting royalties. That leaves just J-Lo and Randy Jackson for now, with the third seat, the one vacated by Simon Cowell, up for grabs. I mentioned last week that Chris Isaak's name has been floated, and producers have previously swung for the fences by mentioning Justin Timberlake and Elton John, perhaps overlooking the fact that those guys have legit careers going and do not need to spend half a year refereeing Gen Y's version of The Gong Show. My hope against hope is that, regardless of who's brought in, the show dies a violently painful death now that Cowell is gone, and we can all enter the next decade shrugging of Idol as just one of those embarrassing things we did in the Aughts, like American Apparel or invading Iraq.
• Speaking of shows that need to go away: The Office is bracing for life without Steve Carell. The inimitable Alan Sepinwall chatted with exec producer Paul Lieberstein -- aka pitiable HR rep Toby -- about the show's future. Lieberstein's pretty optimistic about the show's future post-Carell, though he's smart enough to know that no actor or character could replace Carell's Michael Scott. The dynamic of the show would have to be different. And while I think he's right to think the show has to grow, I question the extent to which it can, or at least grow enough to continue being rewarding. Last season was one of the weakest and most erratic yet: Michael was taken to painful extremes (the mere mention of "Scott's Tots" makes me shudder), but character relationships were often reset from episode to episode just to make certain stories work. I think the show's had an impressive run, and its seventh season has every chance to return to its glory days. But I have my doubts about its viability after that, at least artistically. Commercially, it's still NBC"s biggest comedy, despite being left in the dust last year by Community and Parks and Recreation. But with P&R pushed to midseason for the stupid-looking Outsourced, and with Community facing off against the lowest-common-denominator juggernaut of The Big Bang Theory, who knows what dark fates await NBC's comedy lineup.
• Showtime's upcoming series The Big C is a comedy (kinda) about a woman with cancer. It stars Laura Linney, so there's a decent chance it's going to be good, or at least worth checking out for a while. It premieres August 16, but the first episode is available for free online right here. You're welcome.
• Speaking of free TV: I'm going with a classic this week and recommending that you revisit Arrested Development. If you missed it when it aired from 2003-06, that's understandable; if you haven't checked it out since then, that's criminal. Netflix members can watch the entire show via Watch Instantly, and Hulu's got episodes as well. Stop working and watch it, right now:
• Finally, to celebrate the long-awaited DVD release of the awesome British comedy Look Around You, I'm going to leave you with this important lesson about maths: