Saturday, December 10, 2005

Coughing up, catching up

If the blog's seemed like a ghost town the last few days, it's because I've been hip-deep in toddler triage, which involve such lovely Catch-22s as my daughter refusing to drink anything at all because she doesn't feel well, even though fluids are pretty much the only way she'll feel better.

Fortunately, there hasn't been much to watch during this battle of wills, but here's what I did see in between calls to the pediatrician:

"Veronica Mars": Ahhh, the "12 Angry Men" homage, which is almost always the sign of a show with a budget or scheduling crunch. It's a testament to what an amazing movie that was that everything from "Happy Days" to "Picket Fences" to "Veronica Mars" can steal from it. This version was okay, but nothing special, especially for this show; the only part of the plot that really felt like it belonged was when Veronica's car got vandalized again. I'm disappointed that they got rid of Leo, who I didn't like at first but grew on me, and I'm damn glad to have Wallace back. My one worry at this point is that the two major story arcs -- Who Killed Felix and Who Engineered the Bus Crash -- are developing too many tangential branches over time. Last year's two big mysteries felt a little purer and straightforward to me, while here we keep diverting from the plots for things like Meg's baby. How long until the next episode again?

"Survivor": FYI, this is being written before I've watched the finale and reunion. I'll say this for Guatemala: what the season may have lacked in dynamic casting, it's more than compensated with clever twists like the mini-idol, the immunity clue and now the Car Curse Question. I think Cindy was placed in a no-win situation there; keep the car and some people (surprisingly, Rafe) resent you for your lack of generosity, give four cars away and suddenly you're so popular that no one wants to face you in the final two. Unless she could have leveraged the car giveaway into a guaranteed berth in the final three (and, as Judd and Jamie both learned, no promise lasts forever here), she was better off keeping the SUV in hand. For all my bitching about Stephenie this season (including this column that ran the day before Probst officially announced his desire to stick around), she came across as fairly likable in this episode. I still think Rafe has the inside track to the win (and I can't believe the preview for the finale gives away the results of the 4--->3 immunity challenge), but pretty much anything can happen.

"Saturday Night Live": Sometimes, I think Lorne Michaels is just screwing with me. Even if I didn't have the Season Pass, I would've tuned in for Alec Baldwin's latest appearance. (At this point, I think he and the show would both be much better off if he was a permanent castmember.) But this was easily the most underwhelming Baldwin episode I can remember (even "The Tony Bennett Show" sucked)... until the very last sketch of the show, which took the greatest five minutes of Baldwin's entire career and transplanted it into Santa's workshop. As scripted, it was brilliant, and made even better by Alec's screw-up on the Always Be Cobbling line; I'm sure he has so many people quoting "Glengarry Glen Ross" to him that he recites those lines in his sleep. The funniest "SNL" blooper since the first Debbie Downer sketch. So why was it at the very end of the show? Because, my paranoid brain is telling me, Lorne knows that this season is awful, but he knows that longtime fans/suckers like me are afraid that they're going to miss out on some great watercooler moment if they don't watch the whole thing, so he sticks it at the 12:50 mark as a warning shot to anyone who wants to tune out after "Weekend Update." It's a plan worthy of Dr. Evil, I think.

More "Survivor" talk on Monday, and if I have time before then, keep an eye out for my ode to the underdog sports movie.

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