Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Since I been gone

Spent the weekend in Boston, which should be my last travel weekend for a while, but it still leaves me lagging behind on TV.

Before I get to what I have seen lately, some links:

  • Monday's All TV column, with Matt giving what may be The Star-Ledger's first positive review of a Lifetime original production in three years (since "Any Day Now" got canceled).
  • Today's All TV column, leading off with my review of the disappointing season finale of "Over There" (which was pretty disappointing all season, frankly).
  • Ellen Gray in the Philly Daily News delivering a backlash against the predictable "Desperate Housewives" backlash.
  • A column by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen about the rise of dramas with female leads.
  • Melanie McFarland from the Seattle P-I giving some blunt advice to Martha Stewart and Tyra Banks.

As for what I've watched in the last day or so, let's go in reverse chronological order:

"Prison Break": Hey, did you know this show is on Fox? They were so subtle in plugging it during the baseball playoffs that I wasn't sure if everyone knew about it. (As Phil Rosenthal pointed out to me, the "Prison Break" ads weren't as unintentionally funny as the "Skin" campaign ("His father is THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!!!!!!") or last year's "House" ads ("You're risking A PATIENT'S LIFE!!!") because none of the main characters on "Prison Break" yell much.)

Way back in August, I called this the best new drama of the season. It probably still is, but more by default, and I spend more time multi-tasking while watching it than I should during a thriller. I'm a sucker for stories about men of different backgrounds forced together to do a tough job ("The Magnificent Seven," "The Professionals" and, of course, "The Great Escape"), and the scenes inside the prison walls are fun, if completely ridiculous. I mean, the chief hack strangled a cat, for God's sake! But whenever we cut back to The Conspiracy, I zone out. Not even the relevation that Patricia Wettig is the Vice-President was much of a shock, given that this is the season of "Commander-in-Chief."

"How I Met Your Mother": Not as good as last week's club episode, but passable. The angel and the devil battling for Ted's soul was the highlight, along with Barney's constant costume changes (you can read more about them on his blog), and the trick photo of the parrot on the pirate's shoulder. Given that last scene, though, I think the creators are making a big mistake being so definitive that Robin isn't Ted's future wife. Ted is a lot more interesting and likable when he's with her than he's been with any other woman, but barring some real Houdini writing, they're destined to stay apart.

"The West Wing": I once asked my mom what she thought of some depressing Oscar-bait movie (I think it was "The Hours") and, after a long pause to figure out something nice to say about it, replied, "There was a lot of acting. Basically, it was all about acting." This week's "West Wing" was all about acting, but in a good way. I don't for a second believe that Toby would have let the leak investigation go as far as it did before he martyred himself, but the scenes between him and CJ, him and Babish and him and the president were terrific. Too bad the flash-forward from the season premiere eliminates any suspense over Toby possibly doing serious jail time.

"Grey's Anatomy": Apparently, the DGA has some sort of clause that requires every hospital drama to hire Mark Tinker to direct at least one episode. First he was one of the executive producers on "St. Elsewhere," then directed episodes of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and now "Grey's." This was another episode with stories we've seen a million times before on other doctor shows, but they felt specific to this one. "ER" played the trapped in an elevator bit for major suspense; here, it was more of black comedy. And next week's episode looks an awful lot like the "Subway" episode of "Homicide," but I expect just enough variety to keep it interesting. The highlight of the episode, by far: Sandra Oh's bored, embarrassed porn story. That, and all the references to the Hmong making me think of the "Wayne's World" sketch where Garth was freaked out by the word "mung."

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