It's Friday, which means it's time for another ever-popular grab-bag post, with spoilers on, in order, "Life on Mars," "ER," "Private Practice" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," all coming right up...
Hell of a night for homages to "The Wire." First, Dwight on "The Office" talks about juking the stats, and then "Life on Mars" features three different "Wire" alums -- Chad Coleman (Cutty), Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka) and Clarke Peters (Cool Lester Smooth) -- in guest roles. Now, Peters was already in the show's premiere episode, and you see a lot of "Wire" actors turn up on shows shot in New York because they're East Coast-based, but I'm thinking the producers are fans to put three in one episode.
Unfortunately, the guest cast (which also featured Edi Gathegi, aka Big Love from "House," as a younger version of Peters' character, plus Whoopi Goldberg) was more interesting than the episode itself. My interest in the remake is fading even more rapidly than my interest in the original. They've already softened Gene Hunt far too much (and, yes, I say that about an episode where he was prepared to execute a murder suspect without trial or any real evidence), the cases don't interest me, and I don't think I'm going to really care about the clues about where/when Sam really is until we get to an actual finale. (Based on the ratings, that should be sometime this season.) The "Ice Ice Baby" gag was amusing in the same way that sort of joke usually works in any time travel story (see also Marty McFly inventing both the skateboard and rock music), but overall, the show's pretty flat.
(Also, I was waiting for the inevitable moment where Gathegi's character raised an eyebrow at Sam telling a story about a black NYPD detective he met when he was 17 years old, which would have been the 1950s. Was the NYPD progressive enough to have black detectives back then?)
I actually watched a screener of next week's "ER" with the resurrection of Mark Greene earlier yesterday, so it felt a little like watching "Memento" to then see this episode, which sets up stuff the characters will be talking about next week, like Gates and Sam moving in together, or Gates' homeless veteran patient.
Even had I watched them in the proper order, I suspect I would have found this one to be a pretty blah episode, even by later-period standards. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing with the new interns; isn't Shiri Appleby dating (or maybe even married to) the young surgeon, and, if so, why is she drooling all over Gates? (I mean, Stamos is handsome, but he's also got 15 years on her.) Also, casting Carl Weather as the father of a boxer is one of those ideas that probably sounded great on paper but inadvertently turned that entire story into a big meta joke. (The only way it would have been weirder was if they had mixed in some "Arrested Development" cheapskate jokes about Weathers.)
Matt at Throwing Things recently argued that "Private Practice" has been this year's most improved show so far. I can see that, in that it's gone from teeth-grindingly awful to mediocrity, which is probably a bigger leap than the good-to-wonderful one "Chuck" has taken, but the show is still, at best, something I have on while doing three other things. Glad as I am to see Addison behaving like Addison again, and to see more of a focus on the cases and the ethical problems contained therein, I still don't feel attached to any of the other characters. And even when a case involves life or death, as it did this week with the terminally ill teen who desperately wanted a baby, the setting somehow makes the stakes feel much lower. I can't explain exactly why, but put that exact same storyline into a hospital show and it would have felt a lot more powerful, I think.
Finally, it's a shame nobody's watching "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" -- and that even fewer will be watching once the show moves to Fridays -- because they're really on a roll of late. Other than the subplot with Derek and his time-traveling girlfriend, where I constantly feel like they're leaving all the exposition on the cutting room floor (how does she know Derek's fence, for instance?), every storyline was clicking this week. Stupid as it is for John to not tell his mom about Cromartie visiting the house, or about Cameron going walkabout a few episodes back, his desire to have something resembling a normal life -- with a normal girlfriend who did a much better job dealing with Cromartie than any other person to date -- is understandable and a good idea for the show to explore. (When John was whining to Sarah about her not protecting him from killing Sarkisian, she really should have told him that he needs to get ready to kill a whole lot of people and things.) And Ellison's ongoing crisis of faith in the wake of learning that SkyNet is real has been very well-done. I'm still not sure exactly how much, if anything, he suspects about Shirley Manson, and I'm taking a wait-and-see approach on this apparent SkyNet civil war plotline they've been setting up, but this season has been really engaging so far.
What did everybody else think?