Sometimes, I try to have a common theme when I do multiple shows in one post. Today's theme is a simple one: Stuff I Either Watched In Advance Or Got Through Before Falling Asleep On Wednesday Night, Plus "Cavemen." (Got all that?) Unconnected spoilers of varying lengths for, in order, "Pushing Daisies," "Cavemen," "Life," "Private Practice," "America's Next Top Model" and the "Top Chef" finale coming up just as soon as I try to figure out when I'll have time on Thursday to watch all the other stuff that was on...
The "Pushing Daisies" column review presented most of my thoughts on the show. Loved the look, love Jim Dale (even though his narration is the twee-est thing about the whole thing), liked Lee Pace and Anna Friel's chemistry, like the cynical note provided by Chi McBride (whose "Bitch, I was in the proximity" compensated for at least 20 minutes worth of twee)... I just want to see a second episode until I make up my mind. (Technically, I want to see a third episode, as I believe Sonnenfeld directed the second one before the studio banned him for going over budget.) I just worry that a little of this level of concentrated preciousness goes a very long way.
Because (some of) you demanded it, I should say a few words about "Cavemen." A lot of other critics have already beaten me to the one-word review joke ("Ugh"), but my buddy Fienberg summed it up best in an e-mail shortly after it aired: "They made Cavemen less offensive... And somehow less funny... How is this possible?" The version I saw in June -- the one that led to one of the more savage press conferences I've ever attended -- was far more overt with the racial allegory stuff. I think we scared the creators away from that angle, so all that's left is a lame buddy comedy that could very well have been someone's unused script for a late '90s NBC sitcom, modified slightly to fit the cavemen in. Flat, smug and just not good. My kingdom for "I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC: The Series!"
I saw the second episode of "Life" a few weeks back, and while I was glad they dialed down the "Crews is amazed by modern technology!" gags (which, for the most part, called to mind Phil Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, each sketch of which was a thousand times funnier than "Cavemen"), but the fruit and zen aspects of the character still feel like the writers are trying too hard. And Crews is far too pleased with himself at all times, which is an attitude I'll accept from House because House is funny, where Crews is just an oddball who sometimes has good hunches. The case was boring again (and one of those Law of Economy of Casting things where the most recognizable guest star was the perp), but at least there were some interesting things going on with Crews' ex-partner and the start of his search for the real killers. Gets another week or two out of Damian Lewis loyalty, I guess.
This episode of "Private Practice" was supposed to be the fourth one, but it got pushed up because ABC thought the baby swap storyline would really resonate with viewers. I don't know that it's a good sign that a new show that's so much about showing developing relationships can shift episodes around without it even being noticeable, though. Shouldn't Addison's bond with each of her new co-workers be different in episode four than it's going to seem in episode two? Then again, Addison was largely a spectator this week, as the focus shifted to Sam, Naomi, Violet and, to a lesser extent, Cooper. The house calls idea, while I'm sure it seems cute and another obvious way to show how Oceanside Wellness does things differently (from both Seattle Grace and standard medical shows), didn't really work here, because what little we've seen of the clinic suggests it's a boutique for very rich people, and Sam's drunk patient was very blue collar. I'll give Shonda and company that the scene where the two moms shared the kind of details only those babies' mothers would know (though why can't the women be in each other's lives for a while? what would be wrong with that?), but most of the hour was forgettable.
I've watched previous "America's Next Top Model" seasons sporadically, but even I know that Tyra wouldn't get rid of a vintage bitch like Bianca this early in the competition, especially since she and Heather have gotten by far the most screen time thus far. (And, interestingly, Bianca seems okay with Heather. Her comment about having to get rid of her before she becomes too hard to beat was a kind of bizarre triumph of equal opportunity for people with disabilities, wasn't it?) Kimberly was, I believe, the one who gave that vile talking head last week about how "people like (Heather) cling" to you if you're nice, so she was already dead to me. Good riddance. Makeovers come next week, and that's usually when the real fun begins. Anyone want to predict which girl Tyra gives the semi-annual, tear-inducing short haircut to? I had figured it would be Kimberly, actually, and now she's gone.
Finally, the "Top Chef" finale threw in a wrinkle of sorts. After spending weeks of the show establishing the Hung vs. Casey/technical brilliance vs. "soul" dynamic, Casey performed terribly -- falling prey, oddly, to Dale's usual trap of making things up on the fly and not having a backup plan in place for when things went awry -- and the actual decision came down to Hung vs. Dale. Based on consistency throughout the season, Hung was the obvious choice. Based solely on the final meal, it gets more interesting. I'm waffling on whether I'm with Colicchio (that Dale shouldn't win because he made the worst meal of the night) or Gail (that Dale should be forgiven, because he was more ambitious, whereas Hung played it ultra-conservative with his chocolate cake). In the end, though, I think they made the right choice. Admittedly, I'm a newcomer to the Magical Elves family of shows, but it's been a while since I watched a reality competition series where the right guy won.
I'm sleepy now. What did everybody else think about any or all of the above?