Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Screw the cheerleader. Screw your friend.

Spoilers for "Heroes" and "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I get some cupcakes out of the oven...

On "Heroes," Claire's dad -- or H.R.G. (Horn-Rimmed Glasses), as NBC officially bills him -- is quickly gaining on Hiro in the favorite character sweepstakes. They even had equally hilarious reactions to phone news, Hiro to his future sword (the entire Peter/Hiro/Ando conversation was great), H.R.G. to the idea that someone has the power to stop time. With Jack Coleman becoming a regular and the way he's been portrayed the last few weeks, I'm wondering whether he's really evil or just morally gray. When he and his bald buddy abducted Matt Parkman, for instance, all they did was scan his powers and then send him home without his memory of their encounter.

If he's not the big villain, then maybe Niki is. We knew her mirror-self was willing to do things she wouldn't, and some people had even guessed that those bodies in the desert were the people D.L. had been accused of killing, but that was some hard-core badness from her last night. Her fight with D.L. was the first straight-up comic book-style fight, down to D.L. using the Vision trick of phasing his hand into an opponent's body and then solidifying it just enough to make them pass out from the pain. (At least, I assume she's just passed out, as I can't imagine NBC allowing them to kill off Ali Larter this quickly.) I wish the episode had ended on D.L. running out of the room with Michah, because the quick cut to Eden (aka Pixie Girl) sapped some of the cool cliffhanger juice, making two episodes in a row that didn't end right on a stunner.

Also, no Nathan, Parkman or Simone this week. I know Peter and Isaac need to get the painting from Simone, but I'm hoping the producers have started to realize her pointlessness and are easing her out to make room for other characters like Ando and H.R.G.

I'm damn curious to see the ratings for "Friday Night Lights" this morning. If it did even marginally better than "Studio 60," then that's likely all she wrote for Sorkin's Folly. If it did the same number, or even lower (and, with real football as competition, that wouldn't shock me), then NBC has some tough decisions to make.

It's just too bad the "FNL" people couldn't have thrown together a stronger episode for this unplanned Monday showcase. There were parts of it that were very strong (the team visit to Street's room), and overall it was fine, but compared to previous weeks, it felt like a drop-off.

In particular, I think they fumbled the resolution to the QB One issue, first by making Voodoo such an obvious screw-up that no coach in America would have left him on the field, and second by skipping over some of the obvious beats after Taylor made the switch (the crowd's unhappy reaction to Saracen's return, followed by Saracen beginning to play well, etc.). The Voodoo scene in coach's office painted the character as morally ambiguous enough that the writers could have either gotten more mileage out of him or, at least, made Taylor's decision much tougher. (Though I continue to love any scene where Taylor goes berserk on one of his players. Kyle Chandler usually plays such easy-going characters that I didn't know he had this type of screaming in him.)

The Tyra subplot felt divorced from the rest of the show and was made especially odd by the fact that, outside of her High School Slut-wear, Tyra looked roughly the same age as the scruffy young businessman. The show had already done a good job of establishing that she's a lot smarter than she looks and that she longs to get out of this one-horse town, so unless (as Marian guessed) she winds up pregnant as a result, not sure what the point was.

Whether it was the visit by the team (and, especially, Riggins) or he was going to do it on his own, glad to see Street decide to skip over the six months of self-pity and move directly towards training for some Murderball. I think I would feel more investment in the love triangle if the actors playing Lyla and Rigggins were better, but Street's cool.

What did everybody else think?
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Monday, October 30, 2006

Wire week 8 talk for the On Demand'ers

Talk here about episode 8, "Corner Boys." Click here to read the full post

Dynamic duo

Two columns today for the price of one. First, a look at the new "Cracker" movie and the final "Prime Suspect" story:

They look like polar opposites at first blush, they do. She's petite and classy; he's built like a polar bear and dresses like a toupee salesman. She's reserved and cold to the point of complete isolation; he sees himself as the life of every party, preferably ones to which he wasn't invited.

But Jane Tennison and Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald are two British law-enforcement lions in winter. They drink too much, rub too many important people the wrong way, and are never more comfortable than when they're on the trail of a murderer.

And within the next two weeks, we may never see them again.

To read the rest, click here. After that, there's a mailbag column in which I present opinions on "Lost," "Friday Night Lights" and "Studio 60" that will be familiar to anyone who hangs out here. Click here to read the full post

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Wire, "Unto Others": Getting better all the time?

Spoilers for "The Wire" just as soon as I finish making a potato silencer...

“Unto Others” is the literal halfway point of season four (show 7 out of 13), and it represents a kind of turning point. After six episodes of Murphy’s Law reigning supreme -- of Marlo killing with impunity, Prez bumbling around the classroom, Burrell and Rawls marching to Royce’s CYA beat – things are getting better. At least, better by the grim standards of “The Wire.”

The subpoenas that Rhonda thought would spell her professional doom have instead catapulted her into a top position under the new State’s Attorney. Daniels’ competence and vision have caught the eye of mayor-in-waiting Carcetti. Omar has The Bunk on his side. Prez is mastering ways to teach his kids (and finding lots of great new supplies gathering dust in the book room). Cutty has started to learn the error of his player ways, even if he hasn’t totally won Michael’s respect. Kima earns her Homicide stripes with an unexpected solution to the Braddock case. Hell, even Royce himself seems like a changed man without the weight of the election and the office. (Some of that, no doubt, was an act to protect his pride, but not all of it.)

This being “The Wire,” I don’t think any of us expects these halcyon days to last – especially since it’s still not all flowers and puppies. Bubbs has lost Sherrod to the corners and is being routinely menaced by that hulking dope fiend. Bunny and company are having a hard time getting through to Namond and the others. Carcetti may not be able to get rid of Burrell right away. And the only people going after Marlo are the members of the gutted MCU, led by Herc, who personifies the kind of functionally illiterate street cop Daniels was describing at ComSTAT.

Especially troubling is the fact that Randy’s future is now in Herc’s clumsy hands, through a chain of bizarre events beyond anyone’s control. Forget what Randy himself did to get in this mess (and if he had kept to the code and avoided snitching, he’d be home-free since the girl recanted). Just consider how things might be different if Prez had taken the case to Lester instead of Daniels, if Carver hadn’t felt so guilty about having outgrown Herc, if Prop Joe hadn’t told Marlo to steal the camera, if Omar hadn’t called in his chit with Bunk, if Crutchfield wasn’t so pissed off at Bunk for interfering in his case, etc., etc., etc.

While Herc is still struggling to differentiate between his own bodily orifices and various holes in the ground, Bunk and Omar have resumed their duet from season three's "Homecoming." Bunk tries to act above it all, like the job is just a job, the murders don't affect him, and all he's about is the wardrobe and the booze and the ladies. But Omar, who grew up on the same streets and even went to the same schools, gets to him, forces him to confront his own choices in life and views on crime. And Omar knows the man well enough to know the right card to play -- not the literal one from Ilene Nathan, but the one that points out that Bunk is letting the killer of a citizen walk to punish Omar for killing dope slingers. Very strong scene between the two of them.

When I interviewed Simon and Ed Burns before the season, one of the things I was really hung up on was Prez finding the new books and computer untouched in the book room. I wasn't naive enough to think that couldn't have happened during Ed's teaching days; I just assumed that there was a reason they kept the stuff down there, that they didn't trust the kids with nicer books, an expensive computer, etc. No, he told me: the administration just forgot they were there. (The middle school he taught out also had a locked-up, abandoned room full of tens of thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment. It was designed to use a specific type of software to communicate with schools around the world, but the system also had a firewall that prevented it from connecting with any computers outside the state, and only one other school in Maryland had compatible software. Whoops.)

The smile on DuQuan's face when he got the computer up and running was almost heartbreaking, in comparison to the usually guarded, downcast expression he usually sports. And Prez is learning how to reach out to the entire class, and not just Dukie. It was only a matter of time, I think. Prez's gift has always been problem-solving (see his breaking the Barksdale pager code), and while his students aren't just an abstract concept, there are certain universal methods of dealing with them. Tricking kids into learning is a method I've seen work just as well in a rich suburban white school as it did for Michael and Randy and the rest.

Things are moving at a much slower pace in Bunny's special class, but then, it took half a season to get Hamsterdam up and running, and he got an earlier start on that than he's had here. Beyond the segregation, we're seeing Bunny and his team changing another fundamental element of these corner kids' school lives: one-on-one guidance counselor talk instead of suspensions. And the kids seem just as baffled by that as the hoppers were by the idea of Hamsterdam.

But for now, at least, progress is being made, in City Hall, at Tilghman Middle, in the Homicide unit, etc. Optimism is such a rare emotion on this show that I'm a little afraid of it. But for every bit of hope, Simon and company were sure to throw in an equal dose of realism. Tommy may have grand plans for this city, but how much time is he going to have to pull it all off if, as the former mayor explains, he's going to spend all day, every day, eating shit?

Some other random thoughts:
  • I forgot to note last time the journey of Old-Face Andre’s gawdy ring, which Marlo took as punishment for being robbed, which Omar then took during the poker game heist, and which Officer Walker now proudly wears after taking it off Omar during his arrest. The last segment of this season's credits features one circular image after another -- the pass-through at Andre's store, a kids' merry-go-round, a spare tire, etc. -- as a way to illustrate the endless loop of these people's lives, that the same events, the same mistakes, will happen again and again, no matter how much people like Tommy or Prez or Bunny try to change things. Keep an eye on this particular circle; its travels aren't over yet.
  • Dammit, I actually feel some affection for Clarence Royce after he invited Tommy to sit in his chair. Any thoughts on how much of his behavior in that scene was saving face, how much was relief at not having the job anymore, and how much was simply a realization that this was just business, not personal?
  • Was I the only one who didn't realize the angry kid in the camo jacket was Sherrod until Bubbs went to talk to him? Between the absence of his familiar white t-shirt, the hat obscuring his features a little and the fact that he rarely talks, I had no idea it was him and wondered why we were spending this much time with a random unaffiliated corner crew.
  • Sherrod is seemingly out of Bubbs' life, but he left behind a nightmarish legacy in that giant dope fiend who keeps treating Bubbs as his personal ATM. Definitely a no good deed goes unpunished situation: if Bubbs hadn't tried to help Sherrod against this goon (and if he wasn't trying to better himself with the shopping cart business), none of this would be happening to him.
  • I love it when this show just steps back and shows people doing their work, whether it's Bunk and McNulty in the famous "fuck" scene from season one, or McNulty studying navigation charts so he can stick Rawls with the dead hookers case, or, here, Kima using "soft eyes" to figure out who really killed Braddock and why. Two and a half minutes of screen time may not seem like a lot, but I can't imagine any other show on television devoting that much time to a silent sequence of someone just looking and thinking.
  • While Bodie's crew is still selling Pandemic, Namond's junior bunch (including Donut and that little kid, Kennard, who looks to be about nine) are slinging around the Big Yellow Bird. I'm not sure I can watch "Sesame Street" with my daughter anymore without cringing. If someone introduces a Snuffleupagus brand-name, I'm out.
  • After all her career-threatened whining about Lester's subpoenas, it was nice to see Rhonda acknowledge, even under her breath, that the man in the reading glasses is responsible for her fancy new job.
  • If Cutty was still holding out any hope of getting back with Ms. Sampson -- and, given his fondness for the neighborhood ladies, I don't think he was -- that awkward encounter at Tilghman Middle should have put the end to that dream. "Be well" is just a polite way of saying "Smell ya later!," isn't it? But I'm glad he seems to have learned some lessons from what happened with Spider, even if Michael still doesn't seem that impressed by him. Also, interesting to see Cutty's soldier instincts come out as they did when he saved Namond from Sherrod; Chad L. Coleman can pull the crazy eyes when he wants.
Lines of the Week:
  • Omar to Big Man #2: "They got Honey Nut Cheerios in here?"
  • Big Man #2 to Omar: "Sheeeeit!"
  • Landsman contemplating Freamon’s lucrative dollhouse business: "Fuck me. I need a hobby."
  • Namond trying to be polite: “Mr. Colvin, sir? Fuck. You.”
  • Herc, re: Carver calling them an enabling relationship: "Enable me, Carv. Enable me to find my camera."
  • Herc on the sum of his intelligence on Marlo: “I know he’s a drug dealer. I can’t prove it or nothing.”
  • Crutchfield: "Fuck The Bunk!"
What did everybody else think?
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stadium 60

If Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball, by one of my favorite "Cheers" writers, Ken Levine. Click here to read the full post

Friday, October 27, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Airlocks for everyone!

Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica" coming right up...
"We all feel the need for justice, and we all feel the need for vengeance, and telling the difference between the two can be difficult at times." -Laura Roslin
After the budget-blowing action epic that was "Exodus Pt. II," we get what the "Star Trek" people used to call a bottle show, an entire episode that takes place on existing sets, with minimal use of special effects and guest stars. But where NextGen tended to treat its bottle shows as trifling throw-aways, "Collaborators" is just as important and, in its own way, just as dramatic as what we saw over the previous three weeks.

Ever since Chief Tyrol gave his speech to Gaeta in "Precipice" about what he intended to do with the collaborators once they got off that rock, I was anticipating the exact climax we got here. But it wasn't so much predictable as inevitable. If I had one problem with it, it's the idea that Gaeta didn't know who he was dealing with in the resistance. Maybe I'm just naive about how dead drops work and all that, but wouldn't Gaeta have needed some idea of who he was passing information to -- and, if so, wouldn't he have gone up to that person after the exodus to say, "Hey, no need to thank me, but I was the dude who delivered you every single piece of intel that was necessary to get us off New Caprica. Just so you know, I like my breakfast in bed to have poached eggs and a half canteloupe"?

But there was some contrivance level necessary to put Gaeta in that room and to show just how low our heroes are prepared to sink to get their pound of flesh -- any old flesh will do. Kara ordering him to beg for his life is one of the most horrible, chilling things I've seen any quasi-heroic TV character do. But if it hadn't been for her taunts, The Circle would have gone and executed the biggest hero of the entire damn resistance.

Back in our pre-season interview, Ron Moore did a good job fending and parrying any attempt by me to have him position the New Caprica storyline as a straight one-to-one Iraq allegory. But when I asked him whether Roslin's "It is not an option to be discarded at the president's whim" speech about secret military tribunals was a specific dig at Dubya, he admitted, "That is a statement of principal, and if you want to ascribe that to me as the author as well, I'll take that." Now, I don't know that Laura's general amnesty idea is the right thing to do -- I imagine it'll lead to a lot of vigilante justice from people like the Circle member whose kid died -- but I suppose you can justify it the same way Ford justified the Nixon pardon: there was too much else to worry about for him to spend the bulk of his time dealing with this one problem.

I like the feel of this post-New Caprica fleet. The reset button has been pressed, in that the fleet is back on the run with only Galactica to protect it, but it hasn't, in that so many characters bear scars from the last year and a half. Tigh is never going to be emotionally whole after losing Ellen and his eye (in that order). Leoben's four-month mindfrak ripped Kara into itty-bitty pieces, then scotch-taped them back together in random order. Gaeta was betrayed by his idol, then nearly murdered by the people whose lives he saved. Galactica, once a ghost ship after the settlement, is now vastly overpopulated with the surviving crewmembers from two ships.

(Which raises some interesting questions: Will Adama allow a lot of people to muster out? If so, who gets to become a civilian? And where do they go? Do you have to apply to go to another ship, to become a drain on their resources? etc. Moore has said he's only interested in the nuts and bolts of the fleet to a certain point -- and when he went beyond that point, we got "Black Market" -- but I'd like to see some of this addressed. If nothing else, how crappy is life on the run now that nobody can go party on Cloud Nine?)

A very, very strong start to life after the settlement.

Couple of other random thoughts:
  • When I asked Moore how long Jamie Bamber would have to wear the fatsuit, he laughed and said, "Not long, thank God." I guess Apollo is going to have many, many, many dates with that jump rope.
  • Not exactly wowed by our glimpse of the Cylon ship so far. Admittedly, it's just the one room, and I know we're going to get a more extended look at the place in future episodes, but it just looked like a Swedish architect's apartment or something. Very spartan, but not that unusual.
So what did everybody else think?
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

30 Rock: Is it because she's a lesbian?

Today's column deals with NBC's Thursday shake-up at greater length, plus Liev Schreiber doing fill-in work for William Petersen on "CSI."

As for "30 Rock" itself, Alec Baldwin continues to carry the show on his broad, hairy back. Liz choking alone (twice) was lifted from a Miranda subplot on "Sex and the City," but I thought it was funny that they cast a hot blonde "Law & Order" alum as Liz's lesbian date, only they didn't get the right one. Ah, it's okay -- Alexandra Cabot always gave out a butchier vibe than Serena.

What did everybody else think? Click here to read the full post

Lost: A tale of two islands

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as I drop one of my two or three favorite "Used Cars" quotes: "If I can build and install a pacemaker in this man's chest, well I can damn well bounce a microwave off a satellite!"

So, the big mind-blowing revelation that the ads were promising is... what? That The Others Goodtime Family Aquarium Solution is on an entirely different island? That Sawyer is only slightly less guillible than Locke? (Not that we didn't already know this.) That New Guy Paulo is such a dick that, not only does he not want to help anybody ever, but he likes to pass the time hitting the castaways' limited supply of golf balls into the ocean? Help me out here, folks, because my mind remains thoroughly unblown.

These extended visits with The Others are starting to bother me, and not just because it means we've spent about 70% of the season so far away from Hurley, Locke, Eko and Desmond. It's just getting too repetitive, and we're only a month in. The Others have the ultimate home court advantage, can do anything to their three prisoners, can play random mindgames, etc., without giving so much as a hint of what they're about. As I've said a million times before, I don't care about getting answers, but in this particular case, the answers are quickly becoming the only potentially intersting thing about The Others. (Save Ben, since I could probably spend an hour a week watching Michael Emerson get mad and beat up Sawyer, torture bunnies, etc., etc.)

A decent enough flashback, especially since I'm always in favor of seeing Kim Dickens get a paycheck, but did anyone not see that Sawyer was playing Mr. Nia Vardalos?

Anyway, after enjoying most of the first two episodes, I've been checking my watch a lot the last two weeks. Not a good trend, especially since there are only two more episodes before the show goes away until February.

What did everybody else think?
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Logan + Logan = ????

Thoughts on, in order, "Veronica Logan," "Logan Girls" and "Friday Night Logans" just as soon as I Logan my Logan with some Logan, and possibly top it with an order of Loganberry pancakes...

So what exactly are the differences between VM-Logan and GG-Logan? Both are sons of privilege, with abusive (or, at least in the case of Mitchum Huntzberger, emotionally distant) fathers, they surround themselves with obnoxious rich friends, know how to be polite in front of adults but generally behave like asshats except when they're around their respective girlfriend -- and even there, it can be iffy. Genetics aside, if Jason Dohring and Matt Czuchry tried to pull the Prince and the Pauper gag and traded places for a week, would anyone be able to tell?

Which, of course, made casting Czuchry as VM-Logan's long-lost half-brother on last night's "Veronica Mars" seem like such genius casting that it didn't occur to me that he was an impostor until he mentioned that he surfed. (The episode was called "Charlie Don't Surf," an "Apocalypse Now" tribute.) A nice showcase for Mr. Dohring and a better Logan/Veronica story than last week.

The "Just Shoot Me" reunion gave an interesting twist to the usual private eye infidelity case, in that Keith's client badly wanted her husband to be a cheat -- and not just because she liked having barefoot pizza parties with Keith. Looked like Keith wanted that, too. I am unspoiled on this, and am curious to see if she returns down the road.

The heavier focus on the rape storyline was welcome, though the amount of time spent on Logan Squared robbed it of some urgency, particularly at the end. I'm sure we'll deal with the mysterious Asian guy in the photograph next week, but it felt off to have Veronica clear the frat and then immediately go back to helping Logan without making any apparent effort to track this guy down.

Speaking of our mystery man, there was a "Lebowski" shout-out in that scene where Veronica said "The Chinaman is not the issue here," but the censors cut it. So we had to settle for the "Careful, man, there's a beverage here!" In other Things That Got Cut, the girl with the rat trap idea was at one point going to be Alia Shawkat's character from "The Rapes of Graff," but they couldn't get Shawkat to come back for some logistical reason. And I have to assume there were more Wallace scenes that wound up on the cutting room floor, because I know how carefully Rob and company try to dole out appearances by the non-Veronica/Keith/Logan characters, and they wouldn't waste one of Percy Daggs' episodes on a single scene, would they?

On to the show where the other Logan actually plays Logan, "Gilmore Girls" continues the hard sell on the Lorelai/Christopher relationship, arguably past the point they needed to. I think I understood Lorelai's point in the scene where she contrasted Chris abandoning Rory with Sherry abandoning GiGi, but it came across as her absolving him of all guilt because he was just a stupid kid. (As opposed to him continuing to float in and out of Rory's life through all of his 20s and most of his 30s...) And I'm surprised Lorelai or Sookie failed to mention the other pitfall of sending GiGi to Paris on her own: if Sherry suddenly becomes so gripped with maternal feelings that she doesn't want to give her back, Christopher's going to have a much harder time re-asserting custody across international borders.

While GG-Logan doesn't make me want to punch him in the face quite as often as when he was first introduced, I still don't care much about him or his relationship with Rory. But once again I'm relieved that the Rosenthal regime has characters actually expressing their feelings immediately instead of passive-agressively stewing for half a season. And wasn't that the Orbit gum girl as Logan's leggy colleague?

For me, the highlight of the episode -- outside of the look of pure, Stanley on Pretzel Day glee on Richard's face at the prospect of seeing the Emily in jail photos -- was the bad pickle smell, which was silly and broad but got just enough screentime that I didn't get sick of everyone's horrified reaction to it.

Finally, we have our one non-Logan-related drama of the evening in "Friday Night Lights." (And I tried really, really hard to find some kind of Logan-ish element. Closest I came was the fact that the actor who plays Voodoo is also on "The Game," which airs on the same network as both of the Logans.)

I don't know that this episode was quite as gripping as the first three, but I liked the extended focus on Saracen, as well as continued realistic friction in the Taylor marriage -- and the meeting of the two stories when Coach realized he had just suggested that his quarterback get his daughter into the back of a Volkswagen (or similarly uncomfortable place).

Questions: Is there any way the Street rehab storyline doesn't turn into "Murderball: The Series"? Will the writers need to make Voodoo commit some particularly heinous act to justify Saracen's continued status as QB One? And whatever happened to the good old days when high school sports rivals just stole each other's goat mascots?

What did everybody else think?
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NBC brings the funny back to Thursdays

Sorry for the delay in comments on "Gilmore," "Veronica" and "Friday Night Lights," but while I was wrestling with my thoughts on each, NBC went and announced a big shake-up of their Thursday lineup. Short version: "Deal or No Deal" is gone from the night, and beginning Nov. 30, "Scrubs" and "30 Rock" take over the 9 o'clock hour. ("30 Rock" also gets a super-sized episode on Nov. 16, along with extra-length "Earl" and "Office.")

Not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I'm glad to see "Scrubs" back early, and to see "30 Rock" getting a chance on a different night. ("20 Good Years" is dead.) But I can't see any scenario where those two shows aren't going to get destroyed by "Grey's" and "CSI" -- especially since there's so much thematic overlap between "Grey's" and "Scrubs."

And I need a ruling: Is it ironic that "30 Rock" is now going to air in the timeslot that NBC was afraid to leave "Studio 60" in? Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Studio 60: Try not to be funny, we're doing a TV show

"Studio 60" spoilers just as soon as I can get Aaron Sorkin to quit clubbing me over the head with the clue-by-four...

Hey, on the plus side, we didn't have to sit through sketches that weren't funny (though, apparently, Matt has now written Commedia Dell'Arte into three of the four episodes since he took over, because that's not remotely hacky at all), and Lauren Graham got fractionally more to do than the week before. (In fairness, she probably just ran over to the "Studio 60" soundstage on lunch breaks, so I doubt they could have given her a major role, but it was a waste.)

On the downside, Simon wasn't the only person who could see every. single. line. coming before it did. As soon as Eli Wallach wandered in, I knew he had worked in the building and waited in increasing frustration for the lightbulb to turn on above Cal's head. As soon as Jordan asked Darren to sign the ball, I knew he wrote his phone number. As soon as Matt and Simon walked out on the first comic, I knew they would wind up discovering another black comedian who was more their speed. (Did you catch the guy making a reference to 19th century madrigals as Matt was trying to shut Simon up? That's only a hop, skip and a jump away from the Commedia Dell'Arte! Kindred spirits, baby!) About the only thing I didn't call in advance was that Tom's brother was fighting in Afghanistan; I assumed it was a "Stand By Me" situation where the favorite son died. Aaron's not the most subtle writer even on his best days, but the entire hour was thuddingly obvious.

And since I didn't have any sketches to drive me up a wall (save the Commedia references at the top), I had to take comfort in the paint-by-numbers characterizations: the Midwestern parents who are such sheltered rubes that they've never even heard of "Who's on First?," or the cheap black comic who tells the kinds of jokes Homer Simpson was laughing at 15 years ago ("We are sooooo lame!") and yet is somehow considered promising enough that Bud Friedman invited Simon to watch him, or Simon revealing himself to be a character from "Boyz N the Hood" or "Juice," or the bimbettes who want to break into the business but don't understand what a writer does. And, of course, Jordan turning into Aaron's classic Seemingly Tough Professional Woman who's really just a big, messy ball of mush. Swell.

There were some promising ideas at work here, but the execution made them all seem like the sort of thing Beavis and Hackboy might dream up. Speaking of which, where are those guys? Or Young Aaron Sorkin, whose "West Wing"-esque "Nations" led to the one genuinely funny scene, with Jack hassling Danny? Will we start getting new Sorkin stand-ins every week until the show becomes, as my friend Phil joked, like that scene in "Being John Malkovich" where Malkovich goes inside his own head? Sorkin. Sorkin. Sorkin? SORKIN!!!!!!!

I could rant more at length, but I have to get back to "Prime Suspect." So what did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... guy in his pajamas?

Superheroic feats -- or, in some cases, just costumes -- abounded on "How I Met Your Mother," "The Class" and "Heroes." Spoilers, in that order, coming up right about now...

One of the many things I love about "How I Met Your Mother" is the way it's only nominally a three-camera sitcom. Yes, it's shot on video and has a laughtrack, but every week the writers come up with some new storytelling twist, whether it's subtitles at a noisy club, flashbacks shown twice with different meanings or, last night, Barney going all Marlin Perkins with his analysis of how to identify and bag The Cougar. Bonus points for finding post-"Malcolm" employment for the genius that is Bryan Cranston and for picking up the baton that "Wedding Crashers" dropped after 20 minutes and making good use of Jane Seymour's, um, attributes. After "The Office," this is the best comedy on TV right now...

...which makes each episode of "The Class" suffer even more in comparison than if it aired after, say, "Old Christine." After this one, I think I'm out. I like many of the actors, and there are occasionally funny bits (last night it was the FDR costume), but the bad stuff is just so grating, and six episodes in, it's obvious that Crane and Klarik aren't getting the memo about Holly and her husband. Somebody let me know if they ever get around to punting about half the cast and I'll give it another go.

The first "Heroes" without an OMFG cliffhanger, but the circularity of Peter passing Future Hiro's message back to present Hiro was cool enough to compensate. The characters continue to come together nicely, whether it's Hiro's fanboy encounter with Nathan at the diner (and for series TV, the effects on Nathan's supersonic flight were pretty nifty) or Ando showing up at Niki's doorstep. I even don't mind her and Peter anymore, so they're doing something right. Plus, Jack Coleman (Claire's good/bad dad) just got made a regular castmember, cementing one of the more unlikely TV second acts in recent memory. (He was Gay Steven #2 on "Dynasty," then spent the last two decades doing mostly anonymous guest star work.)

A few minor problems: 1)Present-day Hiro's grasp of English took a major leap forward from last week to this one. If he's able to carry on even a clumsy conversation with Nathan, why can't he leave a semi-coherent message for Isaac?; 2)Don't really care about Officer Matt's marital problems and would like to get him integrated with some other main characters, and soon; and 3)While Niki's ex-husband and Claire's father's sidekick don't look exactly alike, there's enough of a resemblance that the fact that neither one has spoken so far is confusing. Get them both talking, or put one of them in a rainbow clown wig. I don't care. Just do something.

What did everybody else think?
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Speaking of Massive Attack...

... it's time for a massive catch-up, before I get too bogged down toggling between Giants-Cowboys and my regular Monday night shows. Really brief spoilers for, in order, "Gilmore Girls," "The Nine," "My Name Is Earl," "Kidnapped" and "Dexter" coming up in a jiffy...

Here's the funny thing about "Gilmore Girls": For all the deserved bitching about April as the Cousin Oliver and Lorelai sleeping with Christopher, I don't have a problem with either April or a Lorelai/Christopher couple in a vacuum. I just hated how April was used to make the Lorelai/Christopher thing happen. April as a character is fun, and she brings out a diffrent side of Luke. Meanwhile, Lorelai and Chris have always had chemistry, and the last year or so of the show established that he had finally grown up, so I can see them working together, even if the first six years of the show conditioned me to want Lorelai to end up with Luke. The "Snakes on a Plane" teaser was the most "Gilmore"-y scene we've gotten post-Palladinos, and Lorelai basking in Emily's arrest was close behind.

For all that Hank Steinberg has said he learned from "Lost" and "Prison Break" how not to piss off his audience with the slow reveal, it really feels like "The Nine" is dragging out its account of the hostage crisis. Three episodes in and we're still only on the first 10 minutes or so of the robbbery. It's especially frustrating because the robbery scenes are far and away the best part of each episode, making this show a kind of mirror, mirror version of "Lost," only instead of spending too much time on the past, they're spending too much on the present.

Despite featuring minimal contributions from Joy and Randy, this was probably my favorite "My Name Is Earl" of the season, thanks to TV-Kramer as the lead singer and another fine appearance by Vonnie Ribisi as Ralph.

And so "Kidnapped" begins its end on Saturday nights. I'll be curious to see whether NBC sticks to their commitment to air all 13. I believe Kevin Reilly would, but is he or Zucker calling shots like that? And because they're compressing a 22 episode story down to 13, I find myself not bothering to think too much about whodunnit and why. Instead, I just enjoy watching this group of actors work together. Damn shame they won't get to do it for very long.

Finally, I'm still loving "Dexter," but aside from Dexter himself, Flashback Harry and maybe Rita, I find myself not caring all that much about the characters. I understand the philosophy behind wanting to flesh out the supporting cast -- if this show runs for years and years, Dexter won't be able to carry every episode all by his lonesome -- but he's such a bizarre, unique, riveting character that the relatively normal concerns of Angel with his failed marriage or Doakes and his hassles with the mob or the Lieutenant displaying human emotion feel really pedestrian. On the plus side, the revelation that the security guard was still alive, albeit not all in one piece, was extra-creepy, and reminded me a little of Mr. Sloth from "Seven" or the William Hurt charcter in the original "A History of Violence" graphic novel. (When I heard the movie eliminated that story element, I was stunned: how do you get David Cronenberg to direct a movie where one of the characters has all of his limbs gradually amputated over several decades and then cut all the amputations?)

Back to football...
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Great moments in scratch music

So this afternoon I watched a rough cut of the pilot for "3 lbs.," the CBS drama that's going to take over the "Smith" timeslot in a couple of weeks. It stars Stanely Tucci as a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon and Showkiller Mark Feuerstein as his compassionate young sidekick, and if that description doesn't already remind you of "House," about two-thirds of the way through the pilot, the song that pops up on the temp soundtrack is "Teardrop," by Massive Attack -- better known as the theme from "House." Click here to read the full post

Doctor. Doctor. Glad I'm not sick.

Spoilers for the latest episode of "Doctor Who," plus some brief heretical thoughts on a bit of vintage "Who" coming right up...

So, on the recommendation of people here and elsewhere, I Netflix'ed the Tom Baker-era "City of Death" to see an example of the original series at its height. But what it mostly accomplished was to remind me of how terrific the modern series is.

Don't get me wrong: Tom Baker is a riot as The Doctor, and an obvious inspiration for David Tennant's performance, and with a pseudonymous Douglas Adams on the script, the dialogue is absurd and absurdly witty. (My favorite moment: when the dumb lug of a private eye smashes the sonic screwdriver into functionality, and The Doctor asks if the guy wants to be his scientific advisor.)

But I had a hell of a time trying to get past just how cheap the old show looked, not even the special effects, but the low-quality videotape, the minimalist sets and, most of all, the clumsy blocking. The modern show may not have the slickest production values, but it moves, you know?

Now, I understand that the old show had to operate on a shoestring budget, and in the context of both that and the era in which it was produced, I understand why the whole endeavor resembles a cross between a live TV show from the '50s, public access, and a Saturday morning puppet show. But having seen the Eccleston/Tennant version, I've been spoiled. And if I got so frustrated sitting through what many have claimed is the height of classic "Who," I don't know that I'll have the patience to go back and watch more. And I say that as someone with a healthy appreciation for old movies and TV shows that are even stagier than this. Sorry.

For me, "City of Death" stood in especially awkward contrast to Friday night's "The Girl in the Fireplace," which also had The Doctor dealing with historical figures, paradoxes and malevolent aliens. Even though I don't believe The Doctor would be dumb enough to not remember the different rates time passes on each side of the fireplace, his unconsummated love story with Madame de Pompadour moved me at least as much as last week's reunion with Sarah Jane.

I know it's not fair to compare an emotionally heavy episode to a four-part light romp, but I'm more engaged on every level -- including the comic -- by the newer series. If I had started watching the original as a kid, I would no doubt feel differently, would let nostalgia allow me to ignore the clumsiness of it all the same way I like to go back and re-read fairly primitive superhero comics from the early '80s. But like The Doctor and Reinette, I can't go back and rewrite my own past. It is what it is.
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Wire week 7 talk for the On Demand'ers

After taking last night off to avoid competing with Game 2 of the World Series, "The Wire" is back this week with the mid-point episode, "Unto Others." Have at it. Click here to read the full post

Monday morning links

Two, two, two columns for the price of one today. Well, technically one ran yesterday, but who wants to be technical?

First up is a discussion from Sunday of why some foreign translations ("The Office," "Ugly Betty") work and some don't ("Coupling"). Today, I reviewed "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy," a Lifetime movie I actually didn't hate. Click here to read the full post

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Binging and purging

First column link in a few days, in which I make fun of Jeff Zucker's "no scripted shows at 8 o'clock" proclamation, plus some thoughts on the ugliness that is "Breaking Bonaduce" season two.

Spoilers for "Ugly Betty" and "Survivor" coming right up...

"Ugly Betty" came reeeeeeallly close to going 4-for-4 with Betty offering to quit with the scene where Betty tried to fall on her sword in front of Wilhemina, but I didn't much care this time because the episode overall was a lot of fun. Betty's worlds colliding -- not sure which was funnier: her nephew in heaven at Mode or Amanda and Marc in Queens -- some new colors for all of the "villains," Betty yielding to her worst impulses in cursing out (Non)Fat Carol, even the first time I've cared at all about the Fey Summers subplot. The only downside: after that sweet final scene with Walter and Betty, I had "Beauty and the Beast" stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

The lesson seems to have sunk in with the "Survivor" producers: wrestling or fighting-related immunity challenges rule. Always. Beyond that, continued meh. The double-elimination was necessary with this many contestants -- they arguably need to do one or two more before the merge -- but both boots were exactly who you would have figured would go, "Plan Voodoo" fake-out or no "Plan Voodoo" fake-out. The only player I especially care about is Jonathan, in part because he seems the rare player to really understand both the game and the fact that it's not personal, in part because I once spent a nice evening with him and his wife back in the NBC days of "The Naked Truth."

What did everybody else think?
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Let's get the hell out of here

Spoilers for “Battlestar Galactica” just as soon as I go set off this nuke I have lying around...

“Galactica” is not an action show. Ron Moore says this over and over in interviews, on the podcasts, at audience panels, probably even while he’s cleaning out the litter box. But as “Exodus, Part 2” showed, it isn’t that Moore and company can’t do action, but that they usually prefer to do other things.

Because this? This was like sixty straight minutes of “Hell, yeah!” Even though I expected most of the big action beats – the arrival of the Pegasus, Starbuck twisting the knife on Leoben one last time, Gaeta pulling a gun on Baltar – long before they happened, I still cheered them all. (The Kara/Leoben moment was especially tasty, because you knew she was playing him, knew he was too blinded by the crazy to see it, and knew that she was going to get out of that damn apartment for good.) I watched a version with extremely rough computer FX, but the image of Galactica descending through the atmosphere to get the fighters off so low to the ground was awesome even in the cartoony stage.

At the same time, there were almost as many chances to mourn as there were to applaud.

Tigh taking it upon himself to kill Ellen? Devastating. The Emmys are useless, anyway, but Michael Hogan deserves some kind of award for these first four hours. As if Tigh didn’t hate himself enough, now he has this on his conscience? Even if it may have been justified – and with the rescue attempt imminent, an argument could have been made to just bind and gag Ellen and deal with her back on the ship – you just don’t come back from having to murder your own wife, and for the crime of trying to save your own miserable alkie existence.

Katee Sackhoff was also superb, both in the aforementioned Leoben scene and the moment on the hangar deck when she discovered who Kacey(sp?) really was. A wee bit convenient that the poor kid’s mother happened to be right on Galactica at that moment instead of another ship in the fleet, but since I think we all knew Kacey wasn’t really her daughter, I’ll go with it.

That entire hangar sequence was just beautiful in its contrast of triumph and tragedy, of Adama and Lee hugging and being applauded while Saul walks off to be alone with his own pain and Kara stands to the side, unwilling to accept the full truth of what just happened to her. After having made peace with her own terrible upbringing and preparing to be a better mom to Kacey than her own mom ever was to her, someone literally snatches the kid away from her life.

Some other thoughts:
  • “Damn you, Lee... Thank you, Lee.” Well, alright. I wonder if they teach you the whole “crash your Battlestar into a Cylon base ship at just the right angle that a big piece will fly away and crash into a second base ship” trick at the Caprica military academy. Now we know why Moore didn’t immediately get rid of the Pegasus the way the original show did, and I look forward to seeing the consequences of its destruction. This was the newer, stronger ship, not to mention the one with the facilities to build badly-needed new Vipers. So now the rag-tag fleet is down its strongest protector and the only place to have fun (Cloud Nine)? Something tells me the long journey to Earth is going to start feeling like those 8-hour road trips my family would take to Montreal where the only thing to pass the time was Mad Libs and the Geography game. Good times...
  • Of course Roslin wanted to get away on Caprica One. That woman doesn’t mess around. Though, with Baltar gone, the ship technically belongs to Zarek, who was elected vice-president before the settlement.
  • How horrible is Sharon’s meltdown going to be when she finds out that Hera is alive, and that the Cylons have her?
  • Yet another parallel to Iraq/Israel/Northern Ireland/etc. with the scene where Baltar asks why the Cylons won't just leave, and they tell him that they can't afford to now because the humans are going to raise their children to hate Cylons, the cycle of violence will never end, yada yada. "Live and let live" seems to be a rapidly vanishing concept.
So what did everybody else think?
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Grey's Anatomy: Can you eat Reese's Pieces at an M&M?

Spoilers for the best "Grey's Anatomy" of the season coming right up...

So pleased, virtually all around. The Bailey subplot totally made up for that horrid "My pregnancy is the reason Denny died" monologue from a few weeks ago. I actually felt some emotion about all the McDreamy/McSteamy sturm und drang. I liked the segue of the Prince Albert storyline from farcical Montgomery/Shepherd parallel to crisis point for Burke. (The hand tremor plot is stolen from a "St. Elsewhere" plot where Dr. Craig injured his hand, but it's been 20 years, and if you're gonna steal, steal from the best.) Firing on all cylinders...

...well, almost all cylinders. All the stuff with Izzie made me as crazy as it usually does. Time for the all-caps: SHE KILLED A GUY. Not through a screw-up, or even a moment of weakness like the one the Chief described as a lame attempt for Shonda to get her off the hook. She deliberately broke every ethical code in the book and endangered the health of a patient because she had gone batshit crazy in love. Better that they just stop bringing it up then to continue these annoying attempts to pretend that they didn't do something that should have written Izzie off the show.

Oh, and can one of those interns please get Izzie into a headlock and drag her and her big wrinkled check down to the bank to deposit it in a passbook account or something? It's fine to wait until you know what to do with the money, but only a complete imbecile or lunatic -- like, maybe, the type of person who would cut an LVAD wire to move her bohunk up the transplant list -- would just leave the thing, uncashed, under a refrigerator magnet.

And now I see that I've written twice as much about what I hated about the episode than what I liked. Oh, "Grey's," why do you vex me so?

What did everybody else think?
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The Office: Pretzel Day is here!

Thoughts on "The Office" just as soon as I zap my Aeron chair with some WD-40...

Last week, I asked who was funnier: Stanley or Creed? I love Creed and his kleptomania and tales of free love and complete disconnect from reality, but after watching Stanley literally skip out the door when he heard the Pretzel Day announcement, I think our friend with the crossword puzzles is currently in the lead. Hell, the pretzels even gave Stanley a brief moment of common ground with archnemesis Michael.

Despite -- or, more likely, because of -- the lack of a central plot, this was the best episode they've done since the season premiere. From Ryan's passively resisting Dwight's taunting brain-teasers to the look on Jim's face when Ed Helms realized he had inherited the squeaky chair, this was a hilarious episode throughout.

Or, almost throughout. Knowing NBC's bait-and-switch promo pattern, I assumed that Jim and Pam's phone call was going to last about five seconds longer than the commercials showed. Instead, we got a lengthy, sweet but honestly awkward quasi-reunion for our favorite couple. Really nice all around.

Couple of other notes:
  • Did you catch Kelly trying to describe "Lazy Sunday" to Michael on the pretzel line?
  • They're really pushing Michael's salesmanship skillz this season. Hmm...
  • With Mose finally getting a speaking part, that's four members of the writing staff to appear on the show. Ryan, Kelly and Toby are the others -- and if you want to be technical, Greg Daniels does appear in a deleted scene from "Office Olympics" as Michael's condo neighbor.
  • How does Michael take a name like "Coselli" (or however you spell it) and launch into a bad Cosby impression when the opportunity for a bad Howard Cosell impression was staring him in the face?
So what did everybody else think?
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lost: Pantsless pot-growing polar bears!

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as I see if iTunes has the new Geronimo Jackson album...

It takes a lot to make me bored with an episode largely focused on my three favorite characters -- Locke, Hurley and Mr. Eko -- but damn if "Further Instructions" didn't pull it off. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't care about getting answers to the mysteries, because my default assumption is that Lindelof and company don't know what they are, and in exchange for my not caring, all I expect is for them to engage me on an episode-by-episode basis. And this one really didn't.

Start with the sweat lodge hallucination, which took up oodles of screentime to tell us... what? That Mr. Eko was unaccounted for and badly injured? We knew that, and Locke at least knew the first part (I don't remember whether he saw how badly Eko was hurt in the hatch, or if it was just Desmond). Even if you want to say that the shock of the implosion made him temporarily forget about his Jesus stick-wielding pal, that was still an entire act devoted to a very pedestrian dream sequence that wasn't visually or metaphorically interesting enough to compensate for the lack of revelations. And, no, Il Returno de Boone doesn't really count. I know he was a reminder of what Locke's obsession with the island has cost him, but then make the hallucination deal more directly with that instead of having Ian Somerhalder show up with a different haircut to play tour guide.

The flashback also didn't do a lot for me. Because the writers have waited so long to reveal what caused Locke's paralysis, ther's this weight that hangs over all his flashbacks. Every time he gets into a car, or makes someone mad -- or, in this case, picks up a rifle -- all I can think is, "Is this when he finally gets messed up?" And I'm almost disappointed when he gets through another one unscathed. At this point, they're either holding that one out on us because it's really awesome or because they have no idea and are stalling as long as possible until they can think of something vaguely awesome. Based on the previous two seasons, my money's on the latter theory.

But beyond that, I don't feel like our visit to Locke's marijuana farm really showed us anything new about the character. We already knew that he was a screw-up, that he was easily taken in by family types, and that he often lost his nerve in big moments. Now, the FlashJack from the premiere didn't tell us anything we didn't already know about Jack, but at least Matthew Fox and John Terry acted the hell out of those scenes. Terry O'Quinn didn't get much of a chance to show why he's the best actor in this ensemble.

There were some nice moments here and there, like Hurley's entrance with the canteen, Hurley meeting Desmond, Hurley listening to Locke's speech -- really, anything with Hurley was fine -- and I wasn't even that jarred by the introduction of Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro as The Two Oceanic 815 Survivors You Never Met Before, Even Though They Act Like They're Part of the Inner Circle.

But I want Eko to wake up, and soon, and I want the next Locke showcase to be more worthy of both the character and the actor playing him.

What did everybody else think?
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A world of pain

'Twas a football-themed night of TV for me. Spoilers for, in order, "Veronica Mars" and "Friday Night Lights," just as soon as I pour myself a white Russian...

I have a friend who's a massive Veronica/Logan 'shipper, so when a "Veronica Mars" episode barely has the two interacting, she gets mad, no matter how good the rest of the hour might have been. After the two of them shared only one scene last week, I think she was on the verge of driving to the production office and smashing all the windows on Rob's car while bellowing something about how this is what happens when you do something bad to a stranger...

Sorry, went on a "Lebowski" digression there for a second, though I was helped along by maybe the best shout-out to The Dude and Walter that they've done so far, with the Wichita linebacker's "Where's the playbook, Larry? Where's the playbook? You're entering a world of pain, Larry." Really, the only thing that would have made it better was if Larry's roommate was in an iron lung at the time.

Anyway, back to Veronica and her fella. This was a rare episode when all the mysteries took a backseat to Veronica's love life, with the playbook story in particular almost feeling like an afterthought. But I suppose you have to feed the 'shippers from time to time, and I liked that Veronica realized what a paranoid loon she was becoming. Plus, that story featured my favorite non-Lebowski line, with Logan's joke about Madison Sinclair being able to testify to Dick's status as a minute man.

This was a fairly light-hearted hour, with the two darkest events -- Weevil beating up the abusive boyfriend and the blonde getting raped -- taking place off-screen. And if the purpose of doing shorter arcs was to avoid the loss of momentum that both the bus crash and the bridge stabbing suffered in the middle of last year, I'm not sure it's working yet. There's going to be a significant rape storyline next week, but that'll still mean two out of the first four episodes barely dealt with it at all.

And am I the only one who wishes Weevil got to keep his job as Keith's new guy Friday?

Meanwhile, "Friday Night Lights" offered up its first non-Berg-directed episode. At first, I didn't feel the same sense of urgency I got in the first two episodes (the ditching of the day of the week title cards didn't help), but then we got to Taylor taking a page out of the Herb Brooks playbook and making the guys run until they came back together. (Though as a huge fan of "Miracle," the blatant theft/homage was a little distracting even there. It's one thing for "Battlestar Galactica" to steal from a 40-year-old movie like "The Great Escape," and another for this show to steal from a movie that came out two years ago.) Even without Berg behind the camera, the show continues to look amazing, particularly those shots at the end of the ringer QB from New Orleans wandering through the Dillon practice. And Kyle Chandler, usually such a mellow guy on screen, really had me believing in Taylor's new red-ass approach.

Haven't gotten all the way through "Gilmore Girls" yet, and probably won't until tonight. Off to write a column...
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Old business: Doctor Who, Ugly Betty and Survivor

Spoilers for, in order, "Doctor Who," "Ugly Betty" and "Survivor" after the jump. (And, out of curiosity, anybody here still watching "Dexter"? Now that Showtime's caught up with the episodes I've seen, I may add it to the rotation next week.)

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I'm a "Doctor Who" newbie, having come to the show late in the Eccleston season. I Netflix'ed the Tom Baker "City of Death" DVD, but haven't had much time to watch it -- and, besides, it doesn't feature either Sarah Jane Smith or K-9. So, in theory, I shouldn't be the target audience for such a continuity-heavy episode as "School Reunion" -- yet I was more moved by it than anything on the show since The Doctor cured all the gas-mask people in "The Doctor Dances." All that I really needed to know was that Sarah Jane was the Rose of the early '70s, and Elisabeth Sladen's performance did the rest -- with some support from David Tennant, who actually made me sad that the tin dog was about to die. A really touching meditation on the difficulty of living a normal life on Earth after getting a chance to see the entire universe. And, for added value, Anthony Head was having himself a fine old time vamping it up as the head baddie. The only thing I didn't like at all was Rose's reaction to Mickey becoming a companion. Don't keep stringing the guy along if you're clearly that over him, okay?

"Ugly Betty" is now three-for-three with episodes where Betty breaks down crying and either quits or offers to before Daniel talks her out of it. There's a TV-producing philosophy that says you have to essentially re-do your pilot a bunch of times in a row, both for the benefit of viewers who missed the first episode and to help reinforce the characters for everyone else. But I feel like we've seen enough of that device for a while. Also, while Betty's hoochie makeover was an obvious attempt to derail any questions of why she wouldn't start dressing better with the new job, I can't totally suspend my disbelief yet. After all, why wouldn't Daniel -- who needs her brain but also realizes that her image is a potential distraction -- just hire her a personal shopper for an afternoon or something? But if I can buy Clark Kent's glasses as the ultimate disguise, I can go with this for now.

I've delayed so long saying anything about "Survivor" because I'm not sure what I have to say. As I wrote last week, once they got rid of the racial component, a lot of the air went out of this season for me. I think the casting's been pretty good (loved Jonathan The Actor heckling Probst's punny play-by-play, followed by Jeff's lemon-sucking face), and I even like most of the challenges (the climax to this week's IC was one of the more intense ones we've had), but I'm feeling "Survivor"ed out at the moment. Maybe after they cut loose a lot of deadweight -- starting with this week's double-elimination -- I'll feel more into it, but for now, not so much.
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New business: Heroes & HIMYM

Spoilers for, in order, "Heroes" and "How I Met Your Mother" just as soon as I place a call to Japan about those 300-inch TVs...

Well, after three weeks of moving the plot incrementally before unleashing a great cliffhanger, "Heroes" gives us an entire hour of story -- or, close to it, since Marian needed the defibrillator paddles to rouse me after the Peter and Simone scene. We get a closer look at Claire's dad and his eeeeevil sidekick, witness Niki's mirror personality in action for the first time, get a more concrete description of what Peter's ability is, and put more characters in rooms together (Nathan and Niki, Peter and Mohinder). The Peter/Mohinder two-in-one team-up was especially good, because Mohinder's skepticism lent a comic note to the show's mopiest character. All that, and a "Rain Man" homage (Ando and Hiro in their new suits on the escalator) and the appearance of a staff-wielding, soul patch-sporting, fluent English-speaking Future Hiro as an even better cliffhanger than Claire's autopsy last week.

(Speaking of which, other than The Love That Dare Not Be Interesting between Peter and Simone, the only misstep was the speedy resolution of the autopsy gag. Would have been cooler if the ME had already removed several organs and Claire had to stumble around, trying to remember biology lessons about where she should be putting everything.)

An hour earlier, "How I Met Your Mother" had maybe its best episode of the season so far, a funny interchange of two faux-couples, with Barney and Lily's mock marriage gradually turning into the real thing, while Marshall and his law school buddy inadvertently turned into each other's rebound. I like Ted and Robin, but I'm pleased that the writers feel comfortable enough at this stage that they can put them in the deep background of an entire episode.

What did everybody else think?
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Studio 60: Better?

Spoilers for "Studio 60" just as soon as I take off my radio mic...

Wow. An episode where I didn't feel the need to yell at the TV even once -- or, at least, where Sorkin pre-empted my yelling at the last minute. Martha/Maureen delivering another speech about how Important this show is? Deftly undercut by the appearance of Tom in a lobster suit. The "Jenny Doesn't Have a Baby" sketch being the kind of thing "SNL" would dump after the second musical number? Matt admits it's not funny. The Nancy Grace sketch wasn't much better, but even there, Matt damned it with faint praise by referring to it simply as the best thing they had that week.

So with a minimum of Sorkin telling me one thing and showing me something else, I could appreciate the characters more. This was the first week, for instance, that I actually liked Harriet. And while the "Search and Destroy" subplot was another case of Aaron being way behind the curve in the TV business -- reality sleaze lost its mass appeal years ago, and all of the big current hits are about becoming rich, famous or both -- I really liked the scenes where Jordan stood up to Jack and then got Bob Wright (or whatever the character's name is) on her side. (A negative: how in the world does Jordan not know who Bill Parcells is?)

I would have liked more of Lauren Graham -- if ever there was an actress born to deliver Sorkin dialogue, it's her -- but I'm hoping she'll have a larger showcase next week.

What did everybody else think?
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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Wire, "Margin of Error": Primary color

Spoilers for "The Wire" episode six, "Margin of Error," just as soon as I find my Curtis Mayfield CD...

Once upon a time, back before it looked like HBO needed to be shamed into ordering a fourth and, especially, a fifth season of "The Wire," David Simon had plans for a miniseries called "The Hall." It would follow Tommy Carcetti, Clarence Royce and Tony Grey in their race for mayor, possibly include some other "Wire" characters in small roles, then have Tommy in office to start season four.

"The Hall" obviously never happened, and so Tommy's miracle victory had to be folded back into the show proper, bumping up against the four boys, the rise and fall of the MCU, Marlo's ascendancy, Bubbs' new business, etc. That's an awful lot to squeeze into 13 episodes, but Simon and company have managed it.

For this one episode, however, Tommy's story dominates, leaving a little wiggle room for Namond's forced entry into the family business, Randy folding like a card table for Ms. D, Marlo getting one over on Herc, and Omar trapped in an episode of "Oz."

But let's start with Tommy. Because of this show's cynical worldview, not to mention Tommy's philandering and narcissism, it would be easy to peg his campaign as one massive ego trip. Maybe that's what it was at the beginning, but he definitely cares now about trying to fix the city, and his victory over Royce was a rare "Wire" instance of the good guy coming out on top. (It's not a spoiler to say that Tommy will win the general election, since even the show treats that as an afterthought.) Now, whether Tommy can actually accomplish anything in the same broken system that rewards the Burrells and spits out the Bunny Colvins, I don't know. But the moment when he got the call and told his wife the good news was really quite moving -- especially because it was the first time Tommy realized what he was in for.

Again, if you want to be cynical, you could say that Tommy turned Theresa down simply to avoid a potential scandal now that he's on a bigger stage, but I think there was more to it than that. He wanted to sleep with her, even began kissing her a second time after he initially broke away, but the weight of running an entire city -- not to mention his intimate moments with Jen in the days leading up to the victory -- has him thinking that maybe it's time to be a better person. By the way, I like that Theresa was enough of a grown-up to both understand and not be offended by the rejection.

And speaking of behaving like grown-ups -- sort of -- I loved the scene with Clay Davis at the victory party, yukking it up about how he went easy on Tommy and Norman. It's easy to laugh about that stuff when you've won, but Clay is also like the scorpion from the fable about the frog. What do you expect when you give money to this guy? Being a greedy double-dealing sleaze is just his nature, you know?

Clay ripping off the campaign also neatly paralleled Dukie and Donut blowing off mailbox-stuffing duty once they realized that Randy had already been paid. Randy was my favorite of the four boys going in (the smile when he thought up the piss-balloon gag was what did it), but the moment when he watches Dukie head off to Lake Trout, then turns around to finish the job won me to his side forever...

...which, of course, makes it even more painful that Ms. Donnelly has put him into such an awful position. Snitching on kids for tagging is bad enough in the world Randy lives in, but snitching on a murder is practically a capital offense. You could see how terrified Miss Anna was at the possibility of other kids finding out what Randy did. But Ms. D is a guardian of the system, albeit a well-meaning one, sort of the school board equivalent of Sgt. Landsman. In fact, the scene where she got Randy to break down felt an awful lot like seeing Munch or Pembleton get a confession in The Box. ("How do you know? You weren't there.") As always happens on this show, it's little moments that wind up having unintended consequences; if Paul and Monell hadn't been so dismissive of Tiffany when they and Namond passed her in the hallway, she doesn't go crying rape to the cops and Randy doesn't wind up getting squeezed like this. Poor, sweet kid, but Cutty saw it coming when he shook his head at Randy giving up the graffiti artist a few episodes ago.

Simon said that Cutty was one of the characters who got the shortest shrift when he had to incorporate the election back into the series. I imagine, for instance, the writers could have done a better job establishing how lousy it was that Dennis' wham bam thank you ma'am lifestyle chased Spider away from the gym and back to the street. Instead, it was used mainly to illustrate one of the reasons why Michael is so uncomfortable around him. Cutty's "Yo, boy, I love the women!" comment to Michael seemed out of character the first time I saw it, but after going back and watching the scene at the boxing match where all Michael could talk about was girls, this was just Cutty's clumsy way of trying to bond with a kid who's being resistant to the mentoring idea.

As bad as I felt for Randy, the kid who has the worst plight at this moment is Namond. Yeah, he talks a lot of crap and is easily the least likable of the four, but when he has a mom like De'Londa, how else was he going to turn out? The money fawcet gets shut off by Brianna (given her feelings towards Avon, I'm surprised she kept paying this long), and rather than getting a job or anything else that a responsible parent might do, she shoves her 14-year-old son out onto the street and orders him to start moving drugs so she can maintain her blinged-out lifestyle? Awful, awful woman. You have to get up early and work really hard to make yourself the worst parent in a scene involving Brianna, but I think she pulled it off. (Brianna may have talked her own son into taking a 20-year sentence to avoid destroying the family business, but at least D'Angelo was a grown man more capable of making his own decisions.)

Finally, we have Omar trapped in a hell of his own making. Sure, Chris set him up for the jail stint, but Omar's done plenty over the years to merit a humble or twelve, yet he's gone and pissed off practically every drug player in the city. If he didn't have Butchie -- and, through Butchie -- those two gigantic (and, I'm guessing, gay) trustees, he probably wouldn't survive a single night in lock up.

Some other random thoughts:
  • Herc is finding new and different ways to be a screw-up. He couldn't possibly be so dumb that he believed Marlo would pick up a package himself, could he? Oh, that's right: he could. Sorry, must have been thinking of somebody else.
  • Welcome to day one of the U of Maryland pilot program. Nice confrontation between Namond and Bunny, though Namond's solitary metaphor wasn't quite right. This isn't prison; this is Hamsterdam. They're separating the troublemakers from the rule-abiding kids, and then going to work to see if the troublemakers can conduct themselves in a healthier way.
  • Hey, it's McNulty! Who knew he was still on the show? Nice bit with him offering Omar the phone, especially Santangelo's "You some kind of Democrat or what?"
  • In the review copy, Norman suggests countering the slumlord ad with a doctored photo of Royce in a motel room "with a dead girl and a live boy." Did that survive to the air version? With the Foley scandal, I had a sliver of doubt that it might get cut, less for being tasteless than for being a distraction.
  • Simon insists on using music rarely, and only if it starts off from a real source, like Prez listening to "Walk the Line" while documenting the MCU's progress in the port case, or, here, Cutty jogging through a whole lot of election day business while he has Curtis Mayfield on his headphones. A very apropos choice for old-school Cutty, since the young pups who don't want to listen to his stories about how things used to be probably only know the song as the sample Kanye West used for "Touch the Sky."
Lines of the week:
  • Reverend to Tommy: "Moses will do for now. We'll save Jesus for your second term."
  • De'Londa to Namond: "I ain't take no for an answer!"
  • Namond to De'Londa: "You just did."
  • Det. Crutchfield on the anxiety brought by a visit from command to the Homicide office: "I need a minute just to unclench my asshole."
  • Rawls to Landsman: "American democracy. Let's show those third-world fucks how it's done."
  • Namond figuring out the purpose of the pilot program: "Ready for GenPop. This is prison, yo. And we in solitary and shit."
  • Norman (entirely for the delivery): "'Moolies'?"
  • Bodie to Namond: "Damn, boy. Your mama's what niggers call a dragon lady... Gave me some insight, though... Why you is what you is."
So what did everybody else think?
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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

Spoilers for the latest "Battlestar Galactica" just as soon as I decide whether to wear my glass eye or eyepatch today...
"Look around you. Take a good look at the men and women that stand next to you. Remember their faces, for one day you will tell your children, and your grandchildren, that you served with such men and women as the universe has never seen. And together, you accomplished a feat that will be told and retold down through the ages. And find immortality as only the gods once knew. I'm proud to serve with you. The dignity and integrity of the human race rides with us. Good hunting."
Chills, people. I got chills. If that's not the band of brothers on St. Crispin's Day-level great, it's because the language is plainer, but Edward James Olmos sells the hell out of it. In a way, the speech reminded me of the pep talk Coach Taylor gives Matt Saracen in the latest "Friday Night Lights," an attempt to psych up someone or someones who clearly aren't up to the task at hand but have to be, anyway. The difference is that Coach Taylor obviously thinks this is a lost cause even as he's doing it, while Adama -- true believer that he is -- has convinced himself that, yes, this raggiest of the ragtag bunch of pilots and soldiers have a chance of pulling off this impossible mission.

(Also chill-inducing? Adama leading the deck crew in a farewell salute to Fat Apollo, complete with the Adama family bagpipe theme.)

Down on the ground, things are seriously frakked for all parties. The Cylons can't agree on anything (though I'm curious about how much the other Sixes and Eights are still with Caprica-Six and Sharon), Six and Baltar are just having hate sex, Tigh is finding out that Ellen betrayed them (and how brilliant is Michael Hogan that he can say so much with only one eye?), and D'Anna is hot on the trail of baby Hera -- even telling Sharon about her. (Though, at the moment, Sharon's too invested with her regained entry into Unca Bill's inner circle to believe he could have perpetrated such a horrible lie upon her.)

My only significant gripe was with the punchless resolution to the cliffhanger. It's cheap -- especially for a show like this that is all about consequences -- to set up a situation where it looks like several characters we know and care about are going to die and then kill exactly none of them. Although the human victory there did giveus another insight into just how hard-core Brother Cavil is -- he cut his own carotid with a spent shell just so he could resurrect faster! Nice use of each regeneration being harder on the Cylons as a metaphor for the rising body count in any occupation.

So what did everybody else think?
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Friday, October 13, 2006

What'd the mama tomato say to the baby tomato?

Catch-up time, so look for comments on, in order, "Gilmore Girls," "Jericho," "The Nine," "South Park" and "Grey's Anatomy," just as soon as I figure out whethere I left my $8 million check in the pocket of those jeans I just put in the wash...

Now that's more like it, "Gilmore Girls." Amazing how just bringing back Richard and Emily makes the show feel more like itself, isn't it? (And that's even with Emily's cleverness quotient only at 80 percent or so of normal.) I've always preferred the fluffier stories to the more overtly soapy material, so an episode dealing with Lorelai's fear of cotillions, Rory's fear of text-sex and Lane and Zach's fear of the life-changing creature growing in her belly was right up my alley. I'm even in an optimistic enough mood to say I'm looking forward to Lorelai and Christopher giving things one last shot. Independent of the idiocy with Luke and April, last season did an effective job of transforming Chris into the kind of guy Lorelai might actually want to be with long-term (and that's not just because of his money), so while there will no doubt be Internet rioting if she doesn't get back with Luke eventually, this isn't a terrible avenue to explore.

I'm really riding the knife edge with "Jericho." Like the idea, love Gerald McRaney, like certain moments (the outcast kid discovering the train, the scattered TV images), am more often bored than not with the execution. It feels like the show only occasionally wants to act like the country has been nuked -- in particular, the stuff with the teenagers bear no resemblance to how anyone, even teenagers, would behave in this situation -- the crisis of the week stuff is rarely compelling, and McRaney's been reduced to delivering a speech at the end of every other episode. If there was anything remotely more compelling in the timeslot, I'd be long gone.

Well, "The Nine" absolutely cratered in the ratings in week two. And unlike the pitiful Nielsens for "Friday Night Lights" (my other favorite pilot of the season), I'm okay with that. I'd said all along that I had no idea what the weekly show would be like, and if this is an example of that, I could take it or leave it. Some nice moments, mainly involving Egan acting out all those "Dead Poets Society" life lessons and Felicia realizing that her 911 call created all the problems, but overall it was meh. Because of the time-cut in the pilot, we had to imagine most of what happened during the robbery, and our actual glimpses of it aren't really living up to that.

"South Park" has come back with two duds in a row. The "World of Warcraft" episode was like an "SNL" sketch: funny idea that just kept going and going and going. (And there wasn't even a good payoff to all those images of the fat loser player; how did he react to getting killed?) The 9/11 episode, meanwhile, felt built on a strawman premise ("Ha ha! Look at all these idiots who don't think Al Qaeda caused 9/11!"), and the only parts that made me laugh at all were Mr. Mackey's quest to find the dookie-dropper, and the tumescent hijinks of the Hardly Boys.

And this was the first "Grey's Anatomy" all season where I didn't once feel the need to yell at the TV. I think the whole "Derek is The One" stuff is fairly lame, but at least the show finally acknowledged that he's an asshole who's probably going to cause her more pain, and at least Finn escaped with more dignity than, say, Aiden did on "Sex and the City." I like that McSteamy's even more of an overt jerk than Derek, and as soon as I saw the salesman patient's face light up real good, I turned to Marian and said, "Well, it's a good thing the hospital finally hired its first plastic surgeon so they'll have someone to deal with this," in the same way that any case remotely involving a woman's reproductive organs or children gets assigned to Addison, anything in the head is Derek's and everything else goes to Burke.

So Denny's father is Remo Williams? Huh. No idea where they're going with Izzy's newfound fortune, although realistically, the only way she could actually get back into the surgical program after, you know, killing a guy, would be through bribery. Callie and McSteamy are an interesting pairing as the two odd hotties out, and Korev and McSteamy are made for each other, professionally.

So what did everybody else think? Off to watch "Survivor" and "Ugly Betty."
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The Office: On the wings of love

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I do a blind taste test of Utz vs. Herr's chips...

As soon as word got out that NBC was going to adapt "The Office," everyone's default assumption was that they would screw it up, that they would water down the boss character by making him more sympathetic, that the workplace couldn't be nearly as depressing, that there would be hugs, etc., etc.

As it turned out, Michael Scott is more sympathetic than David Brent, the Dunder-Mifflin folk hate their jobs but occasionally have fun (thanks mainly to Jim), there have been hugs in a lot of episodes... and if forced to choose between the British series or the equivalent number of American episodes in a Desert Island Disc-type challenge, I wouldn't think twice about going with Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight and the rest.

This episode really illustrated the genius of what Greg Daniels and company have accomplished here. I frequently feel bad for Michael in a way I never did for David, but the awareness that he's just a sad and lonely little man doesn't in any way mitigate what an ass he can be most of the time. In that way, I guess my reaction is a bit like Pam. She usually can't stand him, takes advantage of opportunities to get one over on him (the coffee gag pre-credits), but she also knew that the hug request wasn't a come-on, and she had the decency to not only make the bird coffin but craft a eulogy that got at the heart of Michael's despair about dying alone. And then, just as I'm on the verge of "Awwww...," Dwight and Pam begin dueting on "On the Wings of Love." Genius.

(One question about Michael's fear: if he's been dating Carol the realtor for several months, I don't know that he'd be quite as freaked about being alone. Either the relationship isn't going nearly as well as Michael would have us believe -- not at all outside the realm of possibility -- or the writers have dropped the ball a little. I totally see Michael as the guy who won't shut up about his awesome new girlfriend, and he usually only mentions her to the camera crew.)

It's interesting to see how Jim has succeeded in creating a new Pam (and with a woman who doesn't come with her own Roy attached), while Pam is still adrift. She got Ryan and Kevin to play along with her movie reference joke, but overall she's become more of a solo act. Given her body language in the car scene, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see her take Roy back -- perhaps just in time to discover that Jim is dating Bizarro Pam.

Question of the day: Who's funnier, Stanley or Creed? Both usually get only one or two lines an episode, but they always slay me.

Back later to catch up on some Tuesday and Wednesday shows, plus "Grey's" and, if I have time to watchthem, "Ugly Betty" and "Survivor."
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lost: They're gonna need another boat

I'll try to hit "The Nine" (which I haven't seen yet), "Gilmore Girls" and "Jericho" (both of which I have) later today. In the meantime, "Lost" thoughts just as soon as I can down a fifth of Chivas to blot out memories of the 2004 ALCS...

When I was writing my newbie's guide to "Lost," I initially referred to The Others as "hostile natives," until it occurred to me that the odds were slim that someone as old as Michael Emerson was born on the island back in the '50s. Whoops. But the best part of that final scene wasn't the tiny clue about the origins of The Others, but the payoff to the old bit about Christian Shephard believing the Red Sox would never win the World Series.

Overall, The Others still don't make a lot of sense to me. If they have easy access to the outside world, why would Ben be so obsessed with getting his hands on Desmond's boat? He used to have his own, not to mention a compass heading that allegedly would allow someone to escape the island's pull. The "Cool Hand Luke" chain-gang stuff, meanwhile, doesn't really fit with their whole "We're the good guys" image, and seemed there mainly as an excuse for Kate to get sweaty in that sundress, for Sawyer to make the fangirls go wild with that kiss, and for Sawyer to once again prove that he's the roughest, toughest hand-to-hand fightin' grifter of all time. (I could have done without Kate being turned into a damsel in distress again, though. I'm not even a fan of the character, and there was arguably nothing she could have done in that situation without a gun, but it's irritating how they spent so much time setting her up as a bad-ass and then inevitably use her as a human shield for the bad guys.)

But internal logic has never been this show's strength. As someone once said (I think on this blog, though I can't find the comment), "Lost" is great at the micro (action scenes, bizarre imagery) and lousy at the macro (the "mythology"). I accepted it a long time ago, so now my only question is whether an episode engaged me on an individual level, which this one did.

A strong flashback, thanks to the always sterling performances by Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim, plus a rarity for such a late-date "Lost" flashback, in that we learned something important -- in this case, that Sun was wise to decide in the Sydney airport that the man she fell in love with hadn't disappeared completely.

Meanwhile, does anyone more anal than me want to do a tally of number of Oceanic 815 passengers killed by The Others vs. Others killed by Oceanic 815 folk? It's hard without knowing what The Others did with all of the tailies they abducted (are they some of the people busting rocks with Sawyer and Kate?), plus the question of whether you count the murders of Ana-Lucia and Libby since Michael was working for The Others. Judges? Either way, just when I was feeling happy that Paula Malcomson had found an ongoing post-"Deadwood" gig, Sun has to go and shoot her. Somewhere (most likely in Kansas), Gerald McRaney is smiling.

As I understand it, this episode and next week's were originally reversed, which I suppose means we won't be seeing any of last night's characters for at least a couple of weeks. Feels weird that we've gone so long without Locke, Mr. Eko, Hurley and the rest. Hell, I even miss Charlie a little. A little.

What did everybody else think?
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

30 Rock: Plugs within plugs

Since I had already watched the "30 Rock" pilot (both the Dratch and Krakowski versions), I didn't bother tuning into it tonight, but my buddy Phil just called me to point out that, shortly after a scene where Alec Baldwin's character talks up a certain type of GE oven, NBC actually ran an ad for said oven. Anybody else catch this?

Also, feel free to use this thread as a place to comment on both "30 Rock" and "Twenty Good Years," for anyone who watched. Click here to read the full post

Sitcoms by the numbers

I'm taking this week off from the paper, but I wrote this review of "30 Rock" and "Twenty Good Years" before I left. On "30 Rock":
People in show business tend to be narcissists by trade, which is why there have been so many movies and TV shows devoted to the inner workings of Hollywood. Problem is, nobody in the real world is ever as fascinated by deal-brokering, craft services and the struggle between art and commerce as the people in LA think they should be.

Here's an inside-show-biz story for you: A couple of years ago, Tina Fey started writing a sitcom loosely based on her experiences on "Saturday Night Live." Then she got pregnant and shelved the project until the next development season, only to learn that NBC had outbid several other networks for Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" -- which, on paper, sounded exactly like her show.

After some nail-biting, NBC decided to put both shows on the fall schedule, but before Fey could enjoy the moment too much, she had to deal with the demotion (not that anyone will admit that's what it is, even though it is) of best friend Rachel Dratch from a major role to a series of glorified cameos, and then...

I'm sorry. Does anybody have a drool cup?

On "Twenty Good Years":

Watching John Lithgow in NBC's new sitcom "Twenty Good Years," I was reminded of that line from "This Is Spinal Tap" where Rob Reiner explains of the group, "They've earned a distinguished place in rock history as one of England's loudest bands."

There's a school of thought in entertainment that if a song isn't interesting enough or a joke not funny enough or a movie scene not scary enough, all you have to do is push the volume up to 11 and you can create the illusion of something better.

Lithgow wasn't exactly the model of subtlety on "3rd Rock from the Sun," but as a surgeon whose imminent mandatory retirement has forced him to rethink his whole life, he's so loud that NBC may have to distribute ear baffles to all its viewers or risk a class-action suit.

To read the full column, click here. Click here to read the full post