Q: I am hooked on "Criminal Minds." I watch reruns and more reruns. What is the history behind this series? And is it out on DVD?
A: "Criminal Minds" premiered on CBS in September 2005. It focused on a group of criminal profilers working for the FBI; the team was led by Jason Gideon, played by Mandy Patinkin; the cast also included Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Lola Glaudini, A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness. At the beginning of the second season, Glaudini left the show and Paget Brewster joined the cast. After the end of the second season, Patinkin left the show, reportedly because of creative differences. He was replaced by Joe Mantegna. Cook later left the cast amid talk that it was having to trim budget, and it appeared Brewster was out, too. A show producer once told me, "In every respect, I run the show except for the cast. The cast actually works for the network. There's some decisions that ... we had to accept and move on."
But fans hollered about Cook and Brewster. And for the current, seventh season, which began Wednesday, CBS lists Mantegna, Gibson, Moore, Gubler, Vangsness, Cook and Brewster as regular cast members.
A spinoff series, "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," aired on CBS earlier this year. In spite of a cast led by Forest Whitaker, it was not picked up for a second season. But "Suspect Behavior" is on DVD, as are six seasons of the original "Criminal Minds."
Q: I saw an episode of "The Closer" about a family trying to get a girl singer a break in Hollywood. There was a grandfather who looked like Ken Howard (but OLD and with a big potbelly). Was that him? Oh, well, none of us looks good after 20 years.
A: That was indeed Ken Howard, the former star of "The White Shadow" and other shows. He is 67 years old and still a regular presence onscreen -- and in board rooms, since he is the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Besides "The Closer," other recent credits have included "30 Rock," where he has played Hank Hooper in several episodes, and "Fairly Legal." He won a 2009 Emmy as best supporting actor in a miniseries or movie for his performance in "Grey Gardens." By the way, "The White Shadow" ended 30 years ago.
Q: I love the series "Justified" but I have not seen anything about it returning. Will it be back?
A: FX has ordered a third season of the drama starring Timothy Olyphant and based on work by Elmore Leonard. Look for it in 2012. The series has certainly been a good roll in its first two seasons. The fine character actress Margo Martindale picked up an Emmy not long ago for her performance on the show.