(This morning's topics, in order: "Prison Break," "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Simpsons.")
So now we see what "Lost" has wrought; when a show with a complicated ongoing storyline needs to stall, it busts out a flashback episode. Last night's "Prison Break" actually one-upped "Lost" by devoting the entire hour to flashbacks, which meant the writers didn't even have to pretend they were advancing the plot.
Just like some of the "Lost" flashbacks were really valuable in season one at filling in blanks about these characters, a couple of the "Prison Break" threads last night were useful: we knew C-Note's family thought he was in Iraq, but didn't have details beyond that, and images of Dr. Tancredi as a heroin junkie might actually make me want to rewatch some of her older scenes to see if I can spot any clues to that. (Probably not; I'm guessing not all of this is planned out elaborately.) And T-Bag helping his girlfriend's kids with their homework was a whole coffee pot full of creepy.
And just like most of the "Lost" flashbacks this season keep repeating information we already know, the rest of this episode was largely a waste of time, showing us things we'd been told about months ago, and not being interesting enough as a character study to compensate for the wheel-spinning.
I was worried about watching "Grey's Anatomy" after spotting this comment in the "Sopranos" thread:
For the first time in a while (maybe not the first but...) Grey's Anatomy is starting to really bug. It's so cutesy, so wacky, and then so manipulatively melodramatic -- can you say Ally McBeal? The characters are starting to become like smug little children. Much more of Meredith Grey breaking plaster because her dad abandoned her, and I will abandon her too. Is this show just a little too in love with itself now???Now, that's been my big issue with "Grey's" this season. (Woulda been last season, too, but nine episodes isn't enough to get frustrated by a show's tics.) The cutesy score (I don't know why they don't just use songs all the time, since they almost universally rock), the inappropriate boyfriend discussions during surgery, the sledgehammer narration by Meredith -- the show always seems like it's one bad pun from turning into "Sex and the City: The Pathetic Later Years." Plus, when I listen to the podcasts where Shonda Rhimes and a rotating group of producers laugh off all criticism and spend a lot of time talking about how they just like to go to the set to stare at Patrick Dempsey and whatever hunks are around that day, I worry.
But just when the show is threatening to, like San Francisco on "South Park," disappear up its own asshole, it gives me moments like Laurie Metcalf's speech to her daughter (which felt earned instead of cheap sentimentalism because Laurie Metcalf is awesome), or that horrible three-way confrontation between George, Meredith and Meredith's dad, where George discovered that his sexual nightmare with Mere was actually worse than he had thought, since she slept with him right after seeing her dad (who does, in fact, look like an older George, just as we'd been told in the past).
That's some nail on the head writing right there, and it makes me willing to forgive weird excesses like Sara Ramirez having a secret apartment inside the hospital, which was way too much like The Biscuit's hidden room on "Ally McBeal." In fact, "Grey's" at both its good and bad moments reminds me of David E. Kelley, but so far, the good Kelley is winning out over the irritatingly wacky Kelley. So far. I expect things are going to end badly between me and this show, but for now, I'm with it.
The perils of the TiVo 30-second skip cheat: sometime's, you miss a commercial you wanted to see. I had figured the big "Simpsons" announcement was going to be about the movie, but I got to the end of the episode without seeing it. Then I came to work the next day, watched the trailer on YouTube and discovered later that the trailer had aired around the 20-minute mark of the show, but I was hitting the skip button so fast that I missed it. Anyway, the trailer and the constant teases brought back fond memories of the Russell Crowe Fightin' 'Round the World episode of "South Park," where the kids sitting through Russell and Tugger's global ass-kicking so they could see the Terence & Phillip trailer, which featured about two seconds of actual footage. ("They were wearing cowboy hats!") Not sure how to feel about the prospect of a movie: on the one hand, Matt, James L. Brooks and the rest are insisting that they were never going to do it until they had a script that merited it, but the show has been in a massive slump for about three years now. Couldn't they have done this before, you know, they ran out of ideas?
The episode itself was decent. Loved the mushroom cloud logo for the Springfield Meltdowns and Grampa's dying wish to see footage of cops beating hippies scored to the music of Glen Miller, but Lisa's appeal to Grampa's better instincts came out of nowhere, not just for this episode, but the series itself -- Lisa's always been just as annoyed by Abe as the rest of the family.
Oh, and I've been lax with non-"Sopranos" linkage lately, so here's the last two All TV columns: from Monday, a review of "City of Men" (a Brazillian TV spin-off of "City of God"; if you liked the movie, you'll like this), and from Tuesday, Matt being nicer to "Pepper Dennis" than I would have been, plus me inviting all kinds of angry e-mails from both sides of the political spectrum by calling HBO's "All Aboard!: Rosie's Family Cruise" a 90-minute infomercial. (UPDATE: After I left the office yesterday, the column got reshuffled to allow for a Katie Couric to CBS item, which means the Rosie thing is getting bumped a day or two.)
Off to watch "24" and then write tomorrow's column. What will it be about? Who knows at this point in the live on the razor's edge, laugh in the face of death world of TV criticism?