Time for a round-up of thematically-unrelated weekend programming. Spoilers for, in order, "Doctor Who," "Kill Point," "Entourage" and "Big Love" coming up just as soon as I play a few rounds of pub trivia...
I realize that the current incarnation of "Doctor Who" has certain episodes it has to do each year: a trip to pre-20th century England, a trip to New Earth, the Daleks show up, etc. I just hadn't realized that "trapped on a spacecraft orbiting a dangerous spatial anomaly while members of the crew become possessed killing machines" was one of them. If "42" wasn't a direct remake of last season's two-parter with the Ood and the Satan pit, it was a little too close for comfort. ("New Earth" and "Gridlock," to pick another pair of same-locale episodes, felt very different.) There were some nice moments here and there -- the Doctor's silent "I will save you!" screams as Martha's pod jettisoned, the Doctor's fear of being possessed (and him trying to explain regeneration to Martha), and Martha finally saving the day and being rewarded with a TARDIS key -- but I like my time and space travel with a touch more variation. (Also, as others have pointed out, watching this one with commercial interruptions wasn't much fun; even though I could fastforward with the DVR, it really interrupted the flow.)
The penultimate "Kill Point" had some problems, notably the cheesey, '80s TV show production quality-level gun battle in the tunnel, where of course the only people who were going to get shot and killed were the two redshirts from the platoon. Can't do with bumping off a significant character before the end game, can we? Also, the razor product placement was one of the clumsier bits of its kind I've seen in a while. (Maybe I just noticed it more because Spike sent out samples of its razors with the original DVD screener; become a TV critic, boys and girls, and you too can live this glamorous lifestyle!) I'll reserve judgment beyond that until we see how the two-hour finale plays out. When you have a show that's almost all plot, the payoff's going to matter a lot more than on, say, "Big Love." All I know is that Omar the Sniper better get involved at some point, because while I won't complain about Michael K. Williams getting a paycheck, I'm going to feel awfully teased by his presence if he's just window-dressing.
After a few weeks of even lamer-than-usual celebrity fantasy camp hijinks, "Entourage" gets back to the business of show, with Ari being directly involved in Vince's career in the first time since forever, E's second client distracting him from his first, Walsh causing headaches for everyone, etc. On paper, that sounds much better, but the execution was as lacking as it's been on everything of late. The plot with E and Anna Farris' boyfriend could have been a great opportunity to show why Eric's useful as a manager beyond being BFFs with Vince, but he was beyond clumsy in solving that problem. Why not show him figuring out how to successfully push the boyfriend's buttons to get him to lay off Anna? Oh, that's right: because the plot isn't really about E the manager at all, but setting up some kind of lame romantic tension between him and Anna by getting the boyfriend out of the picture as quickly and rudely as possible. And for the 7,000th time, Walsh is a complete lunatic and yet everything works out fine for Vince and company. I know it's just masochism to expect anything else from the show by now -- wish-fulfillment is what they do, and the only thing they're interested in doing -- but I'm barely even amused by Ari's plate-spinning anymore because I know nothing's going to get broken.
Speaking of plates being spun, there's quite a lot of china in jeopardy as "Big Love" zooms towards next week's season finale. As I've said before, I find Alby and the rest of the Juniper Creek crew too cartoonish and two-dimensional to make interesting villains, and as with my hopes that Vince and E might lose on occasion are pointless, so too is my hope that this show might ever leave those characters far behind. (I see that Alby's keeping Roman alive, albeit sedated, for reasons unknown. Does he fear eternal punishment should he murder his daddy?) It is what the show is, unfortunately for me.
But stories like last night's wedding scandal are, too, and they're the reason I stick around. (That and my wife's fierce devotion to the show.) It was an outstanding bit of casting (both for acting chops and genetic resemblance) to bring in Ellen Burstyn as Barb's disapproving mom, and I liked watching her presence at the wedding bring up all kinds of wounds from every branch of the family: Margene resents being viewed as a baby-maker by Barb, Nicki resents Barb's constant angling to get out of the principle, Sarah bluntly tells Bill that she will never pay attention to anything he has to say on the subject of relationships, Barb's family judges her left and right, no one seems able to penetrate Ben's two-for-the-price-of-one adolescent horniness. A lot of outstanding performances all around, but particularly by Jeanne Tripplehorn and Amanda Seyfried.
What did everybody else think?