Quick spoilers for last night's episodes of, in order, "Grey's Anatomy," "ER" and "Life on Mars" coming up just as soon as I make sure my floor is clean...
"Grey's Anatomy" continues its recent streak of solid, back-to-basics episodes. The things that either annoy me or that I don't care about (say, the Mer/Der tension) are things I never liked in the first place, while there's been much more focus on the part of the show that I do enjoy, like the cutthroat nature of the surgical program (the cafeteria scene was a highlight) or relationship stories that don't make me want to slit my throat (like Callie turning to McSteamy for sub-equatorial advice, a decision that will no doubt backfire amusingly in an episode or two). Plus, they continue to do a stellar job of guest casting. How perfect was Carl Lumbly as the estranged dad?
Speaking of perfect guest casting of African-American actors of a certain age, it was a pleasure to see Glynn Turman show up on "ER," though he didn't have as much to do as I would have liked. (For those of you who were as knocked out as I was by Turman's Emmy-winning appearances on "In Treatment," keep an eye out for "Scrubs" when it returns: Bill Lawrence and Zach Braff were just as blown away by Turman's work there and crafted a whole episode around him.)
The rest of the episode was a mixed bag. It's always a pleasure to watch Angela Bassett beat people up (if the "X-Men" movies had been made even a few years earlier, she would have been a perfect, studio-acceptable choice to play Storm), and the necessary softening of Dr. Banfield is beginning. On the other hand, even if every commercial for hadn't screamed that the little sister was eeeeeevil!, the episode way telegraphed it, which ruined what should have been a wonderfully creepy moment when her true sociopathic colors came out at the end.
Also, two annoying things from a longtime "ER" fan standpoint. First, I'm sure the show has occasionally recycled guest stars (though never with the frequency of an "NYPD Blue" or "Law & Order"), but it bugged me to see Molly Price as the mom, since I had only recent channel-surfed past the "ER"/"Third Watch" crossover where Susan Lewis goes to New York so Yoakas and Bosco can help her find her sister. Second, late in the hour there was a plug for NBC's website where Linda Cardellini asked, while discussing a poll about best "ER" characters of all time, "Dr. Ross or Dr. Gates? It's a tough question." Um, no. Stamos has been just fine the last few years, but no. Not even in the same ballpark.
Finally, the ratings for "Life on Mars" continue to slide right along with my interest in it. I continue to enjoy some of the '70s touches -- the unexpected song choices, the "Starsky & Hutch"-esque score, Michael Imperioli's amazing mustache -- but the heart of the show is starting to feel as thin as I began to find the British show by its second season. It's just too close to an actual '70s cop show -- and a middle-of-the-road one, at that -- for me to stick around much longer, cool music and moostashes or no. This show needs some weird in a hurry.
What did everybody else think?