So a couple of weeks ago, a reader sends me an e-mail complimenting Neil Patrick Harris for his ability to succeed playing a character so different from Doogie Howser, and whether I could think of other TV actors who had successfully reinvented themselves like that. I didn't have space in that week's mailbag, so I held the letter a week and put it into today's column -- not realizing, of course, that ol' NPH would come out of the closet over the weekend. Not that it invalidates anything I wrote, but on this Monday morning, the man's versatility isn't really the top subject people are interested in.
So in honor of Doogie -- and to compensate for a busy weekend that didn't give me much writing time -- quick hit spoilers coming up on, in order, "Desperate Housewives," "Dexter" and "Doctor Who," plus honorary D show "Battlestar Galactica."
Now that's how you do a Very Special Episode, "Desperate Housewives." I figured the much-publicized death would be of a non-regular, but the shooting of Nora happened so abruptly that it shook me, and this is a show that I generally consider a Take One For The Team selection. Some fine performances all around, but especially by Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Laurie Metcalf, may Carolyn Bigsby rest in peace. When even Teri Hatcher isn't annoying me at the moment, it's a sign that Marc Cherry and company really have gotten things back on track.
One of the best "Dexter" episodes so far, in which the creators' ability to make us like this guy have us suddenly rooting for a serial killer to escape justice. I thought the Patrick Bateman alias was a little too clever, but the tension between Dexter and Deb gave some weight to his scrambling. (Also, is this the first we know that Deb was Harry's biological daughter? I had been under the impression they were both foster kids.)
I didn't comment on last week's "Doctor Who" because so much of it was set-up for the Cybermen conclusion. And while it didn't move me on the same level as "The Girl in the Fireplace" or "School Reunion," it worked very well. Raise your hands, anyone who's ever read or seen another parallel universe story who didn't assume Mickey would stay to take Rickey's place. (And was I the only one wondering if Rickey and the blonde guy were a couple? Apparently, it was in the script but then got cut.) What I love about this series is how every character gets their turn in the spotlight, whether it's Mickey escaping tin dog status, Alt-Pete proving to be a swell guy, or, my favorite, Mrs. Moore becoming a character I liked and mourned in the space of about four minutes. (Until she got zapped by the Cybermen, Tennant was looking at her like he was ready to sign up another companion.) Hell, I even felt bad for the poor bride-to-be who got Cyber-ized, and she had, like, three lines of voice-modulated dialogue. Aside from the deux ex machina of using the TARDIS power cell to get out of the cliffhanger, another superb outing from these fine folks.
Ron Moore spends the latest "Battlestar Galactica" podcast discussing how much of this episode had to be saved in post-production, particularly the Cylon scenes. And it's a credit to the editors and writing team that very few of the seams showed in the final version. There was too much tell and not enough show in the subplot about Starbuck and Tigh sowing dissent throughout the ship, but beyond that, it worked. The use of dissolves and classical music lent the Baltar storyline just the right amount of unreality, and Adama's showdown with his surrogate brother and daughter was the best moment Edward James Olmos has had all season, St. Crispin's Day included. Interesting, the divergent paths that Kara and Saul take after that meeting. But then, the person who was taken away from Kara still exists -- as much as it may hurt at first, she can have some kind of relationship with Kacey -- where Saul has nobody and nothing to live for.
What did everybody else think about any of these?