Kind of an odd day for me, so all of last night’s viewing gets the round-up treatment. Brief spoilers for, in order, “Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice” and “Life” coming up just as soon as I ask my doctor whether I can get a gorilla arm transplant...
As with “Reaper,” a Halloween episode is kind of a gimme for “Pushing Daisies.” They’ve done better episodes -- usually the ones with more of Emerson snarking on everybody else -- but the show has yet to put out a bad hour. Five episodes is a small sample size, but almost every new show stumbles in some noticeable way by this point, and “Pushing Daisies” hasn’t yet.
A nice showcase for Kristen Chenoweth, whose flair for comic bitchiness wasn’t really on display in her previous TV roles, and Lee Pace got to carry more of an emotional load than usual as we dealt with the reason why Ned, like Ray Wise as the Devil, hates Halloween. (One minor complaint about that storyline: in the pilot, Chuck’s dad lived across the street from Ned, while her aunts lived elsewhere, which is why they said goodbye at their parents’ funerals.) Interesting that they had The Narrator speaking in verse this week; I find in general that he works best in the flashbacks and for exposition and get annoyed when they use him to underline the emotions that are clearly on the actors’ faces.
I haven’t written about “Private Practice” lately, even though I’ve seen every episode. It’s definitely improved in a number of ways, notably in how the characters are beginning to act their age instead of squeaky-voiced teens. But I still find it to be completely inconsequential viewing. When “Grey’s Anatomy” is working – as, I have to admit, it was for most of last week’s unblogged-about episode -- the hospital setting lends an urgency to all the relationship angst going on around the cases. Here, despite attempts to create crisis storylines like the abused girl here or the blue girls a few weeks ago, everything feels too laid-back. The stakes aren’t high enough for me to get invested in whether Addison and Pete are a good match or whether Cooper will ever get the stones to ask out Violet. I know Shonda wanted to differentiate the spin-off from the original by changing the workplace setting as much as possible while still staying in medicine, but it feels like a waste of everybody’s talents, both off-camera and on. (What the hell is a world-class neo-natal surgeon doing at this place?)
“Life,” meanwhile, has grown on me quite a bit. While the things that annoyed me -- the fruit obsession, the Zen koans, Charlie marveling at modern technology -- are all still in place, Damian Lewis has such strong presence that I’ve learned to tune the quirkiness out like so much background noise. The cases still need improvement – which, as I’ve written, is a genre-wide problem at the moment – but I’m enjoying it just enough that I’ll be disappointed when the low ratings or the strike brings about cancellation.
That said, this wasn’t one of their stronger episodes, because the focus was on Reese instead of Charlie. I get that the partner has to become a more well-rounded character so it’s not just the Charlie Crews Genius Hour, but I still don’t buy Sarah Shahi in this part. I think about how often the female partners on “Criminal Intent” have to stand around and goggle at their partner’s brilliance and wish that, say, Shahi and Kathryn Erbe could swap series. Erbe would’ve killed with the AA story.
What did everybody else think? And, out of curiosity, did anybody watch the debut of Joe “Joey Mants” Mantegna on “Criminal Minds”? I watched a screener but found it as stultifying as every other episode of the show I’ve seen.