I know, I know, I know... the four of you who actually read this blog have all been complaining about the tardiness of the latest entry, so I'll try to tackle Wednesday through the weekend (or what I've seen of it) as quick as I can.
"Lost": The whole Zen "no answers" thing works out really well for an episode like this, which was basically a one-hour expansion of a few lines of Ana-Lucia dialogue from the week before. If you're willing to accept that there's going to be wheel-spinning and hedging and no new information except when the writers have absolutely no choice, then you can enjoy the character and thriller aspects. I liked the extended look at the tailaways, and the sort of parallel structure to the main characters, with Ana-Lucia as Kate, Mr. Eko (my favorite character on the show by far these days) as Locke and Goodwin seeming to be Jack. Brett Cullen, who played Goodwin, is one of my favorite Hey, It's That Guys (TV division), and once again he got the job done. Hopefully, either this or "West Wing" is going to lead him to another regular job. (He has a supporting role on a WB midseason show with Rebecca Romijn, but it's so lousy that he'll probably be looking for a new gig inside a month.) The scene on top of the mountain where Ana-Lucia and Goodwin pleasantly chatted while each was sizing the other up for the kill was the kind of character-based suspense this show does so damn well that I'm willing to ignore the non-info thing.
The one problem the producers have is that they introduced Ana-Lucia in a way designed to make viewers just despise her -- sneering in every scene, bullying three of the main characters, yelling loudly whenever anyone tries to get answers and, last week, killing Shannon -- and now they're backtracking and trying to show why you should like her. It doesn't work that way, which J.J. Abrams (who I know isn't very hands-on these days) should remember from the "Alias" season with Melissa George. She was also intro'd in a manner where fans had no choice but to hate her (disrupting their long-awaited Sydney/Vaughn romance), and when the effort to make her sympathetic didn't work, J.J. admitted defeat and turned her evil full-time. Ana-Lucia has built up so much bad karma with the viewers over only a few weeks that she may never enter their good graces. Maybe she'll have to go and join The Others at some point.
"Veronica Mars": An odd episode, tonally darker than even this show usually gets. Sheriff Lamb is one of the show's better recurring characters, so I like giving him some depth, so long as he doesn't suddenly turn into a nice guy. (His jerkiness is his most likable trait.) Little movement on the bus crash and only slightly more on Logan's case, though the idea of having Logan and Duncan live together is genius, since it forces Veronica and Duncan to trade insults on a regular basis.
"South Park": I'm the only person I know who saw this one and was underwhelmed. I just feel like Tom Cruise and Scientology are like a turkey shoot these days, and this could have been a lot savager and funnier than it was. The two best jokes: the "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE" caption over the history video, and Stan (and, by proxy, Matt and Trey) daring the Scientologists to sue, followed by a closing credits full of John and Jane Smiths.
"Survivor": Hogeboom lives to landscape another day! Woo-hoo! What I liked about this episode the most was the irony Jamie becomes so paranoid that his allies are going to turn on him that his paranoia drives them to turn on him. Ever since Alanis Morissette ruined everyone's definition of irony, you rarely see the concept in its 100% pure form like this. Oh, and this blog entry has been brought to you by Folger's. Damn, that's good coffee! And hot!
"The O.C.": Well, I give them points for not letting Summer be dumb enough to fall into Taylor's jealousy trap -- yet -- and for letting Julie plausibly outsmart 7 of 9, but the show's overall IQ has dropped so many points since the first season that I feel uncomfortable watching it. Season three "O.C." is the kind of show that season one "O.C." would have mocked.
"ER": I'll give 'em this: as stupid as I thought the plane crash in Chicago idea was, it got me watching the show for the first time this season. Incredibly stupid, but entertaining in a C-level disaster movie way. No "ER" disaster episode is ever going to top season one's blizzard episode (where the producers didn't have to blow the budget on snow and crash effects, since everything took place inside the hospital), but this wasn't any cheesier than the helicopter crash, or the train crash, or the toxic waste spill, or the spree shooting, or... (As Matt put it, "Did they build this hospital on top of a Hellmouth?")
"SNL": I'm starting to feel like one of those monks from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" who wander around constantly smashing boards into their faces as mortification. Why else am I watching this show week after week? The problem isn't just the lousy writing and flimsy premises (a house music parody? a sketch designed to let the cast showcase their impressions of late '50s celebrities?), but the fact that it's a cast full of second and third-tier "SNL" types. The writing has been uneven practically since the show began, but the good casts always have at least one or two people who are funny even with lousy material: Gilda, Belushi and Murray in the original cast, Lovitz and Hartman in the late '80s, Will Ferrell in the late '90s. This group has some talented impressionists (Heder's Pacino is the best I've ever seen) and people who can be funny on the rare occasion when the sketch is working, but the closest thing they have to people who can rise above the material are Will Forte and Amy Poehler, but even they only occasionally can make something out of nothing.
"The Simpsons": Not the funniest episode of the season by a long stretch, but I give them points for a relatively coherent Homer-Lisa story, though the California recall election parody felt like filler between emotional beats of the story. This is two weeks in a row where they've tried to return to smaller stories about the family, and it's clear that most of the current writers have either let those muscles atrophy or never had them in the first place (the younger ones who grew up on the years of the show where Homer flew in the space shuttle and toured with Hullabalooza). Still, I appreciate the effort now and then; the first couple of seasons weren't always that hilarious, but there was a heart to those stories that kept me around, long after our hero turned into Jerkass Homer.
More on "Grey's Anatomy," "Curb" and other Sunday shows either later Monday or on Tuesday morning. I'll get a relatively fixed schedule on this thing sooner or later. Really.