Saturday, September 27, 2008

Patches, billboards and memorials

Time for the first grab-bag post of the season. Quick-hit spoilers for, in order, "ER," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I patch over a rival fantasy football team so I can bolster my running back corps...

Giving up on "ER" as anything but casual viewing has made me far more forgiving of things that would have driven me nuts about it when I actually cared. So they killed off Pratt, and it should be ridiculous and over-the-top given the number of ER personnel they've bumped off in extreme ways (Lucy gets stabbed, Mark Greene takes forever to die of cancer, Rocket Romano somehow angers the helicopter gods twice), but instead of rolling my eyes, I was actually a little moved by it. It helped that they distanced his death from the explosion, that there was a period where he seemed fine and was even giving orders about how he should be treated; it made his death feel less part of a lame, sensationalistic cliffhanger and more of a character piece. Like Lucy mouthing her own diagnosis right before she crashed, Pratt's awareness of just how bad this was made it hit a lot harder than it otherwise might have. And, of course, it helps that Mekhi Phifer is such an expressive actor.

Given that they devoted an entire act of the episode to memorializing him (a treatment not all the dearly departed -- like Rocket -- received), it would have been nice for Abby or one of the old-school nurses to remark on what a massive tool Pratt was when he first arrived at County. Most of the other characters in the run of the show have either started off fully-formed or got written out before they had a chance to evolve; other than Carter, Pratt arguably grew the most of anyone in the entire run of the series, and there's something to be said for that, even at this extremely late date. He annoyed the hell out of me when he was introduced -- as I'm sure he was supposed to -- and now I'm going to miss him for the limited time the show has left.

Not a good double-header for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" this week, I thought. The two season-opening episodes, while typically uneven, at least had some very funny individual moments -- Dee and Charlie trying to reconcile cannibalism with racism, the three guys all trying to seduce the loan officer, any scene featuring the cry of "Wild card!" -- where these two were fairly flat throughout. Other than the return of Green Man, and maybe the scene where Charlie and Dennis thought they were listening to Mac tell The Waitress about some cross-dressing sex fantasy, I doubt I'll even remember what happened a day or two from now.

Finally, "Sons of Anarchy" goes for more of an action episode, with a couple of bike-on-bike chases and the shootout at the Nevada biker bar. I'm slowly warming to the ancillary characters -- Tig's refusal to bond with Juice was a highlight -- but still not feeling Jax, unfortunately.

Also, I'm a little shocked by how different Jay Karnes looks and acts here than he does as Dutch on "The Shield." I know he's an actor, and that some of it's simply the haircut (and letting the gray show through, which is actually an improvement), but I'm so used to him as the dweeby serial killer-phile that it's strange to see him as this more confident ATF guy.

What did everybody else think? Anybody still watching "Sons of Anarchy" at this point? Or "ER," for that matter?

24 comments:

Kristen said...

Because I always think promos lie, I didn't really think anyone would die on ER. So, I found it kinda moving.

Do you know why the actor left?

Andrew said...

I actually liked the second Sunny episode quite a bit. It really had a bare-bones charm to it since it only featured the main trio. By focusing primarily on their interaction, it reminded me of some of their moderately restrained episodes (emphasis on moderately) in the first season. I especially liked the scene where Charlie declines to play connect four because there's "too much counting." I also liked watching Dennis's ego-fueled friend seduction of Charlie. I agree on the first episode, though. The only really good laughs were Dennis's monologue where he tears apart Frank's appearance and Frank concluding that he no longer finds mules sexy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do you know why the actor left?

Just a guess, but given the low ratings the last few years and the fact that last year was supposed to be the end, I wouldn't be surprised if the final season renewal came at a lower budget, so they're paring down the cast a bit before the end. Phifer had been there longer than anyone but Maura Tierney, and the longer you stay on a show, the more expensive you get.

Or, as he put it in one interview, "It's time to move on and do something fresh."

melanie said...

Although he hasn't been on the show as long as Pratt, I would say that Archie has evolved quite a bit as well.

DolphinFan said...

Regarding Mekhi Phifer's departure from ER:
ER always films a few episodes of the next season right after they've finished filming the current season (that's why you could always find detailed spoilers on ER episodes a lot earlier than most network dramas). And they were especially motivated to do so this year because of A) the threat of an SAG strike that would force another compressed season and B) it would give them space to give departing cast members well-constructed sendoffs.
And I doubt Phifer left for budgetary reasons. Even with its reduced ratings, ER still has desirable demographics, does well in TNT repeats, sells DVD packages, etc. He'd given a great run on the show and it was time to do something else. Certainly with his track record, we can expect great work from Mr. Phifer in movies or possibly TV down the line.

Anonymous said...

Although he hasn't been on the show as long as Pratt, I would say that Archie has evolved quite a bit as well.

I liked Frank miming smoking weed behind Morris's back.

Hey, do we know if Abraham Benrubi will come back to ER?

Andrew said...

Hey, do we know if Abraham Benrubi will come back to ER?

I believe he's set to appear in that much ballyhooed upcoming flashback episode (along with Anthony Edwards, Paul McCrane, and Laura Innes).

DonBoy said...

In fact, as I recall it, it's sort of Morris' fault that Romano is dead, although he doesn't know it. Romano sees Morris getting high and crosses the street to confront him, which is when the helicopter gets him.

Jim said...

I watch ER out of a sort of lazy curiosity now, though I do like Maura Tierney a lot. And they have sadly neutered Linda Cardinelli's character. I thought yesterday's episode seeped into the maudlin, though I did like the way they showed Frank being deeply affected by Pratt's death, one of the only understated moments on the show.
One of the things I liked about the show in the early years was how major characters would just walk away with relatively little fanfare. But I guess they gave that up with the endless farewell to Mark Green.

And Neela using the smug Brit as a bootycall. That's pretty interesting.

Jenn. said...

I actually was just saying today that I could not believe how much I was moved by Pratt's death, given how much I did not like him initially.

Anonymous said...

Watching SONS OF ANARCHY; my favorite new show so far this year, and if it sticks around, looks like it will help me cope with the end of THE SHIELD...

Not entirely sold on Jax's inner journey to the past, but I'm fine with the character otherwise. Enjoyed the biker culture thang.

dez said...

I actually was just saying today that I could not believe how much I was moved by Pratt's death, given how much I did not like him initially.

Same here, though I said it out loud to myself as he was dying ("I can't believe I'm crying for Pratt!").

I'll watch ER to the bitter end, sort of the same way I went down with the SS H:LOTS. Also still watching SoA and also not feeling Jax's inner journey so much, though I think I like him more than you do, Alan.

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks for posting about this (why didn't i come here first? would have saved me so much tail chasing at nbc.com)

Since I watched 2 hours worth of Grey's *twice* in a row on Thursday, I didn't get to ER till Friday, and I spent most of Pratt's dying believing it was not going to happpen. (Grey's overdose, I guess - either that or Why on earth do this on the show's last season? it makes as much sense as killing Trip Tucker (only apparently I cared more about Pratt!)

thanks for the link. i have not yet followed it. I agree that Morris has grown *amost* as much. I'm glad someome noticed.
I wonder in anyone will bother to tell Leon (who must be related to Chuck Cunningham) that Greg died.

The ring nearly killed me. And since no one I know watches the show, there was no place to go.... (and those darn nbc message boards don't let you edit your own posts - how stupid!)

I've watched ER for the beginning - every episode (though I missed Doug Ross' heroics in the storm drain till the *third* rerun (okay, third airing) and I once got *two seasons* behind)

Lrguzamo and the Darfur/Congo eps really turned me off on the show (oh, and Sam and Tony - who only seem to be together since they are male, female, and on ER (and they call Grey's silly!)) and Abby was more annoying than I ever found Meredith to be. But eventually, she was, at least, a good caring doctor. her last fall off the wagon did *not* inspire me to echo Luka's "you're not that pretty, you're not that special!" as I wanted to so many times before (and kudos to Sally Field for being far less annoying on B&S.)

A couple of years ago I missed Mark and Susan and Carter and all, and I did a run of reruns on TNT - for months and months and...

Anyway - the day Romano was going to fire Morris, he was going to fire Pratt too. Good thing he didn't.

Since last spring was so long ago and since I knew Abby wasn't going to die, (and since I don't care about Sam any more than she remembers she has a son) I put the whole mess out of my mind. So, combined with this being the end, anyway, I was stunned by Pratt.

And the look on Frank's face...
I cried. Friday. And again... whatever day today is.

And I'll be going off to read that link now.

Bye Greg. I guess some things you just don't miss till they're gone.

(and I dare* Private Practice to ever impact anyone like this)

thanks for letting me vent (or whatever that was)

Stephen said...

And Neela using the smug Brit as a bootycall. That's pretty interesting.

That's an Australian accent.

Pamela Jaye said...

there was a booty call? I'm more out of it than i thought.

the med student who knows everything - is she new?

Pamela Jaye said...

and did they happen to *mention* "forgoing the 'national search'" for Chief of the ER (again) this time?

(and does ER think that ER is relevant anymore? if it weren't for recording equipment, I wouldn't have seen it last week (or any time after the 5th episode of Chicago Hope for that matter, except they moved CH to Mondays...))

Pamela Jaye said...

oddly, my comments on my Grey's Anatomy list about the possible deaths of characters X, Y and Z (on ER - everyone's on a delay with ER, especially on *that* list, if they even watch it at all, so I didn't want to say who died or didn't) caused two people to verbally hope that they had "taped" it...

also, I shouldn't type at 5 a.m.

gina said...

I'm watching SOA, Alan, and I'm really liking it. Right now, it's more of a superficial 'like' - the music, the bikes, the 'bad boys', the humor - with the exception of Katey Sagal, who I think is the breakout character so far. I'm hoping that as I watch more I will become more invested in the other characters and the larger story arc.

Anonymous said...

always sunny not funny??

alan u need to relax there

Anonymous said...

Im goin to stick with SOA for the rest of the year. The show has problems, but it is an entertaining hour.

Its Always Sunny has not come out strong at all. The wildcard episode is the only one I could watch again.

Nicole said...

I will admit that this week's episodes of Sunny weren't as funny as the "Wild Card Bitches!!" episode of last week. However, there were still some funny moments in both, and I think the first episode this week was a little bit stronger, probably because of the insanity of Green Man, and how it riffed on "lonelygirl" from the internets.


I don't think Alan said he was giving up on Sunny, just on ER, which I totally support. In fact, until I read who played Pratt, I didn't really know which character it was. I may watch the flashback ER, but other then that, this show should have been put out of its misery years ago... about the time Noah Wylie left.

Karen said...

I agree about Sunny--I was pretty unengaged, and thought a lot of the jokes fell like a lead balloon. Dee's "characters" were painful both in her world and in ours. The Philly's Next Top Billboard Model competition was uneventful and the payoff shot of the billboard was ho-hum. I was already only half watching during the waitress episode, but nothing grabbed me there, either.

The season so far has been extremely disappointing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Although he hasn't been on the show as long as Pratt, I would say that Archie has evolved quite a bit as well.

A good point there. And Morris was even more annoying at the beginning than Pratt. Greg was at least competent most of the time, if impulsive and obnoxious.

Karl Ruben said...

Also watching SoA, and I hope you'll be checking in with it - sporadically at least - until the end of the season (which might be the end of the show period, if the ratings don't pick up). The big hook so far for me is the whole Jay Karnes/Maggie Siff stalker plot; it's going to be real interesting to see how that plays out. Like Gina further up the thread, I'm enjoying the worldbuilding, and all the great music. Fu Manchu!