Friday, March 30, 2007

Funny Dance Marathon, Day 3

Chicken dance fever from "Arrested Development" Click here to read the full post

The spoiler policy

Okay, for the second time in a couple of weeks, someone's posted a comment that's either a spoiler or is a rumored spoiler. Either way, it's time to make it very clear what the deal with spoilers is around here.

Simply put, I don't want 'em. We're here to talk about shows after they've aired, and if I include a review or even some brief comments ahead of time based on screeners I've watched, I go out of my way to not give away anything important.

If you've read a spoiler someplace else, or if you have some kind of inside connection that gives you a spoiler, or if you happened to be on your way to lunch when you saw "The Sopranos" filming a murder scene, do not post about it here. There are lots of places on the Web to both find and talk about spoilers, and this is not one of them. Okay?

Now, speaking of "The Sopranos," Isaac at Throwing Things pointed me towards this hilarious YouTube recap of the previous six seasons, all in seven minutes. My favorite part is his connecting Artie getting hit with a milkshake in "Christopher" to Artie attempting suicide in "Everybody Hurts." Click here to read the full post

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Now if only he could do the Fish Out of Water...

Phil Rosenthal -- "Everybody Loves Raymond" Phil Rosenthal, not My Friend Phil -- is of the belief that in comedy, when all else fails, you put in some funny dancing. So in keeping with the spirit of yesterday's embedded YouTube clip, I present two fine examples of funny dancing in action, the first from Rosenthal himself (or his two on-screen surrogates), the second from a recent "My Name Is Earl."

I'm going to see if I can make it at least into next week with a daily silly TV dancing clip. Suggest away, because everything is on YouTube. Click here to read the full post

Notes on a death

So last night, as part of my immersion into all things "Sopranos," I attended a panel at the Museum of TV & Radio titled, bluntly, "Whacked Sopranos," with writers David Chase and Terry Winter and actors David Proval (Richie Aprile), Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy), Annabella Sciorra (Gloria Trillo), Drea de Matteo (Adriana) and Steve Buscemi (Tony Blundetto) talked about the ins and outs of getting whacked.

Now, I had already written a story on this, but only heard the perspectives of Chase and Winter, so it was illuminating to hear Proval talk about how he coped with his impending unemployment by acting like a jackass on set in the days leading up to Richie's death, or to hear de Matteo talk about how she had to encourage an uncomfortable Steve Van Zandt to pull her by the hair and call her the C-word during her death scene.

I also finally got an answer to a question that's been bothering me for a few years: at what point in that long car ride in "Long-Term Parking" did Adriana know that she was being taken to her own murder? Was it the entire time, only when Silvio stopped the car, or sometime in between?

Drea said that, at least in her mind, it was at the moment when Silvio turned onto the side road into the woods. So now I have to go watch that scene for the 57th time to do another frame-by-frame of one of the great moments in show history. Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lost: Who are these people?

Spoilers for "Lost" coming up just as soon as I kick my nicotine gum habit...

What the hell was that? It was like the "Lost" equivalent of "The Zeppo," only if Xander had only showed up three weeks earlier and sucked, crossed with a bad parlor mystery...

...and yet it was a kind of compelling trainwreck, so strange, so agressively meta -- and, in the flashbacks, so seamlessly edited to insert Nikki and Paulo into familiar scenes -- that, if nothing else, I'll take it over the Jack tattoo episode. And, hey, it ended with those two losers buried alive, so it couldn't be all bad, could it?

Back at press tour, someone asked Carlton and Damon what the point of Nikki and Paulo was, and Carlton replied, "The point will become very clear in episode 314," and Damon said that they had a really cool idea for a standalone episode about two castaways we hadn't met before, but they felt it would pay off better if they were introduced earlier in the season so viewers wouldn't spend the entire showcase episode saying, "Wait a minute. I have never seen
those guys before."

Having watched "Expose," I have a hard time buying that version of the story, because if this was their brilliant idea that necessitated all those earlier appearances, then there be far bigger problems here than I thought. As it is, I think the episode only works on the level of the creators apologizing for Nikki and Paulo's utter uselessness by turning them into even more selfish asses than we had already thought.

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

American Idol: Top 10 results

My thoughts on the booted contestant at, but you can discuss him/her here. Click here to read the full post

Friday Night Lights: We must protect this cow pasture!

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" just as soon as I put an incredible piece of art on the wall of my house...

Okay, so when I wrote my In Praise of "Friday Night Lights" column last week, it was with a little bit of reluctance, because while I liked much of last week's episode (particularly the Coach/Julie stuff), it didn't represent to me the series at its absolute best, and I usually like to write those kind of flattery-filled reviews to run on a night where newcomers can really see what I'm talking about. But I had an empty space in my schedule last week and knew I would be swamped in "Sopranos"-dom this week, so last week it ran.

This episode, though -- this was the one I was really writing about at the time, because this one was overflowing with so much of what makes "Friday Night Lights" great. I don't know that I'd go so far as is as Dan Fienberg in calling it the best episode since the pilot, if only because of a little thing I like to call The Talk from "I Think We Should Have Sex," but on the sports side of the ledger, this was as good as this show gets.

What did I love about it? I loved Coach's growing contempt for the commercialization of the playoff game, and for the Brant coach ("Does your brother run the clock up there? Is that part of the deal?"), and I loved how he took advantage of the chemical spill to take the team, the town and the game back to their roots. (I also love the irony, intentional or not, of him telling Buddy that this would be "football without all the crap" as he was in the process of moving things to a cow pasture that would no doubt be full of crap.)

I loved the use of "Read My Mind" (by far the best track from The Killers' sometimes overwrought "Sam's Town" album) on the soundtrack, and I loved the Woodstock-meets-state-fair-meets-Thunderdome atmosphere the show created around the Mud Bowl. I loved that Landry didn't get to run through the rain to declare his love for Tyra, RomCom-style, and I love that she had to save herself from the rapist. (Given last week's "Back to the Future" viewing by Riggins and company, I was half-expecting some kind of George McFly/Biff scene where Landry focused his chi into his fist until it become unto a thing of iron, or something like that.)

Mostly, though, I loved the football game. The producers can't do this sort of thing every week, both from a logistics point of view and because it would eventually be a turn-off to the fans who had to be talked into watching "that football show," but when they set their mind to it, boy howdy they give good Underdog Sports Movie. All the Mud Bowl was lacking was a scene where Riggins' father randomly showed up to lead the crowd in a chant of "LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY!" Just as Dan did when he saw it, I literally pointed my hands straight at the ceiling and called out "TOUCHDOWN!" when Saracen scored on that roll out play.

Before I open it up to comments, I leave you with this quote: "Blood, sweat and tears, it all stays right here on this field right now! This is our dirt, this is our mud, this is ours, baby!"

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

I don't know what "it" is, but he's got it.

Because I'm once again bogged down in "Sopranos" minutiae, because I'm too tired and too busy to say much about last night's "House" beyond my desire for them to lay off the dream sequences for a while, and because I'm so darned pleased with myself for finally figuring out how to embed YouTube clips (because, yes, I'm just that slow), I present to you this blog's favorite YouTube clip of all time. Click here to read the full post

American Idol: Top 10 (aka Pop go the Idols)

Top 10 thoughts over at, and then you can comment here. Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Good-looking corpse: yea or nay?

Something to keep people occupied while I'm off writing about mobsters in tacky track suits:

Between the "Lost" producers declaring their intention to end the show sooner rather than later, Ron Moore's comments that "Galactica" is entering its third act, and "The Sopranos" and "The Shield" in various stages of wrapping everything up, I'm wondering what people's thoughts are about when/if their favorite shows should call it quits.

It's hard to be more fixated on a show than I was with "NYPD Blue," but I was ready for that show to end long before it did. I feel like the last few seasons, while competent enough, dragged down my opinion of the series as a whole because they kept hitting the same notes that had been played so beautifully in the early seasons. At the same time, I kept getting e-mails through my website from people who were anguished that things were coming to a close; they couldn't get enough of their weekly Sipowicz fix, no matter how watered-down or repetitive it might have been. A few of them even asked me what they could do to change ABC's mind about the cancellation.

We all know that "X-Files" would have been better off ending on Chris Carter's original five-year plan, and I'm sure some of the weak spots in latter-day "Sopranos" have come from David Chase and company trying to stretch out their material past the point of usefulness. I loved the last season, but at the same time I could see how the episodes began losing their momentum halfway through -- right around the point when the writing staff realized they would be doing another batch of episodes after that one. And even "The Shield," which has been remarkably consistent throughout its run, bothers me from time to time with the fact that Vic keeps narrowly escaping justice, year after year.

So, a few questions for the peanut gallery:
  1. On average, would you rather a show you like overstay its welcome just so you can spend more time with the characters, or do you subscribe to the old Branch Rickey "better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late" philosophy?
  2. In the past, what shows do you like that have suffered the most from sticking around too long?
  3. Have any shows that you love seemingly overstayed their welcome, only to have an unexpected creative resurgence towards the end? (I'd put "Cheers," "Frasier" and, to a certain extent, "NYPD Blue" on that list.)
Fire away. Rerun season's a good time for open threads. Click here to read the full post

This guy walks into a psychiatrist's office...

So thanks to that wacky "Battlestar Galactica" finale, yesterday was by far the most-visited day in What's Alan Watching? history (or, at least, since I installed a hit counter a few months ago). And what do I have as an encore for all these potential new readers? Um... uh... nothing right this second, sorry.

We're entering that annual period where my life gets taken over by "The Sopranos." The Star-Ledger is more than a little obsessed with the show, and between what Matt wrote in the first three seasons and what I've done from season four on, we've written enough to fill a book or two. (You can find some of the highlights over at's "Sopranos" page.) I'm just glad the show is so great; I can't imagine how awful the last eight years would have been if, say, David E. Kelley had written a hit drama where the main character waddles down to pick up his Star-Ledger at the start of every season.

So between now and the April 8 premiere, I've been pulled off of virtually any non-"Sopranos" assignment, which means no new column links this week. (I managed to carve out time in my schedule to watch and write about "The Shield," which is possibly even more awesome than ever, and "Entourage," which has some problems, but also has Carla Gugino, so it ain't all bad.) Plus, a lot of my evenings are being devoted to "Sopranos" content. I passed over all of primetime last night to get ahead on some of my writing ("24" is my only Monday show that wasn't in reruns), and I'll be at "Sopranos" events in NYC tonight and tomorrow.

I'll be blogging as much as I can ("American Idol" posts will just get done later than usual, and I intend to say lots about this week's brilliant, goosebump-inducing "Friday Night Lights"), but between "Sopranos" overload and the fact that so many shows in the usual rotation are still in reruns, content may be more irregular than I would like. Sorry. Click here to read the full post

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Let us not talk falsely now

Spoilers -- big, big, giant honking spoilers, the kind you should run screaming from if you're time-shifting or waiting to watch the season on DVD or whatever, or if you ignored my prior warning to pad your recording for the extra few minutes, because you are going to hate yourself if you read this stuff without having watched -- for the "Battlestar Galactica" season finale coming up just as soon as I ask this important question: Are you experienced?

Everybody who hasn't seen the episode is gone, right?


Are we clear?

Okay, that's enough. Insert whatever profane expression you want to here, because I uttered damn near all of them after that last 20 minutes. So which revelation was the biggest stunner?

Was it that Starbuck seems to be very much not dead, after all?

That Baltar got off?

That we know the identity of not just one of the Final Five, but four of them?

Or that Saul Mother Effing Tigh is apparently a Cylon?

Are you frakking kidding me? I've had nearly a month to process this and it's still making my brain hurt.

Let's start with the Final Four -- or, rather, if we believe that that's what they are. If it was just Anders, Tyrol and Tory, I would accept it almost unquestioningly, but Tigh complicates things. Saul Tigh fought in the first Cylon war -- back in the days when the Cylons were all allegedly of the toaster variety -- has known Adama for more than 40 years, has very clearly aged over that time. We know there can be elderly Cylon skinjobs -- see Brother Cavil -- but presumably Cavil has always looked like that. So unless there is a whole lot we don't know about Cylon history and physiology, like the fact that the skinjobs existed well ahead of when humanity thinks they did, and that they can change their appearance over time, then something's not right.

But what, exactly? It can't be a coincidence that these were four of the five leaders of the New Caprica insurgency (the fifth being Laura Roslin, and isn't that damned interesting?), but Tigh's the only one we know of who spent any time in Cylon custody. So if they're not Cylons, why are they all hearing the same Jimi Hendrix song? (Much more on that, by the way, below.) Why are they all drawn to the same room on Galactica, and why are they so convinced that they are, in fact, Cylons? It can't be just the song -- though, with the right drugs involved, Jimi's music can make you think you're a god -- so what? Did they somehow implant chips in all of them? (This could also be how the Cylon fleet is really tracking the fleet, and not via the fuel ship's energy signature.) If so, when?

And if they are Cylons, how does that work? We know that sleeper agents can have memory implants (see Boomer), so maybe Tyrol's ultra-religious parents don't exist, and maybe Anders is so great at Pyramid because he has robot parts. But what are the odds that four members of the Final Five would A)survive the initial genocide, B)survive months or years of battle with the Cylons (in Anders' case, stranded in an occupied radioactive wasteland), C)survive all the deaths associated with New Caprica (including Gina's nuke), and D)end up leading the resistance against their secret brothers and sisters?

Maureen Ryan and I talked a little after we both saw all four episodes, and she has a bunch of theories, including the idea that there's been an ongoing Cylon civil war, and maybe even that everyone is really a Cylon, that humanity ceased to exist a long time ago and the Cylons have been having the same civil war over and over again, causing so much destruction that, by the end, they've forgotten who and what they all are. (UPDATE: For more on Maureen's take, visit her fine and dandy blog.) I don't know if I go that far, but I think of the number of times that characters on this show (usually the religious nuts like Leoben) talk about how all of this has happened before and will happen again and I wonder: how long have the Cylons been around?

Or maybe the explanation is this: the Final Five didn't always look like this, but after a massive philosophical disagreement with the other seven about what to do to their human creators, they built new bodies for themselves based on pre-existing humans, downloaded into those bodies along with memory implants to convince themselves that they had always been Tigh and Tyrol and Anders and Tory, and left their old bodies and friends behind.

I don't know. But I do know this: all four actors in general, and Michael Hogan in particular, were amazing in that scene. I love the idea of them finding out that they're Cylons and deciding that this doesn't change anything about who they consider themselves to be and where their loyalties lie:

"My name is Saul Tigh. I am an officer in the Colonial fleet. Whatever else I am, whatever else it means, that's the man I want to be. And if I die today, that's the man I'll be."

A-frakking-men. Goosebumps galore at that. Some of this is obviously echoing the Boomer arc from season one, but I feel like there's a lot of mileage left in the concept, whether these four are really Cylons or not.

Meanwhile, is Laura the fifth? Again, she was the only resistance leader not in that room, but she's also suddenly projecting herself into the opera house, which Caprica Six seemed to think was impossible. So either Laura's also been a Cylon this whole time, or Hera's blood is turning her into enough of one that she can pull certain Cylon tricks like projection.

Or is Kara the fifth? That's certainly the easiest explanation of how she survived the Viper explosion, but then it would make her entire backstory and all the flashbacks in "Maelstrom" into a lie. I'm okay with dismissing what we know of Tyrol's childhood as a memory implant or something, but Kara's biography is too important to who she is for it to be dumped -- especially after we devoted her entire "death" episode to it.

And I have to applaud Ron and Mrs. Ron for being able to so casually lie through their teeth about Kara being dead during the "Maelstrom" podcast. As you all know, I was sure taken in by the death, and I was apparently wrong -- unless the Cylons do have the capabilities to make duplicate bodies of humans, which ties back in to one of the theories for how Tigh could be a Cylon. Or maybe it's Occam's Razor, and the phantom Raider we saw in "Malestrom" somehow picked her up right before the explosion (though, as I recall, the canopy was still intact when the ship blew, so it didn't seem like she ejected).

Again, my brain hurts. So let's move on to the rest of the episode.

I think it was inevitable that Baltar would be acquitted, because he's too valuable a character to shove out an airlock, or even to turn him into Hannibal Lecter in a cell forever. As things went, I think the writers did a good job of showing how three of the judges -- including Adama -- could have been swayed to vote that way, and of course we have the benefit of knowing that Baltar's sins go much, much deeper than the charges in this trial. (Laura suspects his role in the genocide but has no proof, Caprica Six ain't testifying, and the only people who know about Baltar and the nuke are Baltar and a dead Cylon.) In that speech on the witness stand, which was brilliant except that it was on the witness stand (we'll get back to that), Lee made some excellent points about the hypocrisy of this trial.

So there's a general amnesty for everything that happened on New Caprica, except where Gaius Baltar's involved? So he and Laura and Adama are all completely innocent and untouched by what happened in the military coup storyline that bridged seasons one and two? So Helo disobeys orders and ruins their best chance of eliminating the Cylon threat forever because he's having a crisis of conscience, and it's no harm and no foul? At this point, it's all about degrees of sin, because everyone's dirty in some way or other. Everyone in this gang they claim to call a civilization.

Really, the only thing I would have changed about that speech was the fact that Lee was delivering it as testimony. When you do a courtroom story, even one in a sci-fi setting where the rules maybe aren't exactly the same as they are in 21st century America, you're relying on our knowledge of the basic frameworks of the legal system and of the last 100 years of legal dramas, and I don't care if Adama wanted to hear what he had to say, there ain't no way that defense counsel's assistant would be allowed to deliver sworn testimony in which he gave a speech about why their client should be found not guilty. Better that Lampkin had decided to have Lee deliver the closing argument because the judges would be more kindly disposed towards Lee than himself. Same exact speech, same sentiments, and you don't have the audience spending the entire time distracted by why the prosecutor doesn't object every five seconds, the judges' earlier ruling be damned.

But that's my only major complaint to an otherwise brilliant finale. A very inverse bell curve of a season, huh? Genius at the beginning and end, and lots of mediocrity in between.

Some other brief thoughts:
  • In the podcast for "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part II," Moore said that his original idea for what Baltar would find in the ruins of the temple was a room where a Jimi Hendrix song was playing, and Dirk Benedict would show up and ask Baltar if he recognized the tune, and Baltar would say he did, and Benedict would say, "Hi. I'm God." Moore said he moved off the idea because he had no idea what any of it meant, but clearly the Hendrix part stuck in his head ("All Along the Watchtower" is technically a Dylan song, but everyone knows Jimi's version the best), and I have to assume he knows exactly what that means now. Does it mean that this show takes place far, far into our future, or far, far into our past, and that "All Along the Watchtower" is a folk song that survived the 13th tribe's voyage across the galaxy?
  • And so farewell to Romo Lampkin. As I said a few weeks back, I grew to like him over time, but I wish he could have been proven thoroughly wrong on something, you know?
  • God, Gaeta really hates Baltar. First the stabbing, now the perjury.
  • So how many episodes into season four before Apollo's resignation is rescinded?
What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

Best. Couch gag. Ever?

Haven't watched the rest of tonight's "Simpsons" yet, but the couch gag -- in which Homer evolved from single-cell organism to 21st century man, with stops through prehistory and the Renaissance -- was definitely the longest I've ever seen and maybe the funniest. (Lenny and Moe's cameos alone were brilliant.)

Tell me I'm wrong. Name a better one.

UPDATE: So it's on YouTube, for now. Watch it while you can, and hopefully if NewsCorp has it pulled, an official version will go up on somewhere. Click here to read the full post

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Battlestar Galactica reminder

The finale is longer than an average episode, even though most on-line listings I've checked have placed it in a 60-minute timeslot. If you're not watching it live, you're going to want to pad your VCR or DVR recording by at least 5 minutes, if not 10 -- or, just to play it safe, record the 11 o'clock "Dresden Files" rerun.

You will be very mad if you miss the last few minutes. Click here to read the full post

Friday, March 23, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: Urge to kill... rising...

Very brief, bitter spoilers for"Grey's Anatomy" coming up, and if you want to use this thread to comment on "October Road," too, feel free...

In the comments on last week's episode, a number of people all but urged me to give up on the show in the wake of the George/Izzie sex fiasco, and after last night's episode, I think they may be right. I've just grown to hate virtually all of these characters, except for Addison (destined to escape to the spin-off), Karev and McSteamy (who never has enough to do because he's not currently sleeping with another character, and whose love interest is leaving for said spin-off), and my tolerance for the sledgehammer parallels between the patients and their doctors is wearing thin. Glad to see Catherine Dent out of "Shield" uniform, and Michael Boatman getting a paycheck (in a weird "Arli$$" reunion w/Sandra Oh), but I don't care anymore.

I'll probably keep watching for a while for professional purposes, but I don't know that I'll be blogging at length about it anymore, barring either a massive creative turnaround or an episode even worse than this one that inspires me to swear it off altogether. Maybe I'll put in my two cents on the backdoor pilot for the spin-off, I suppose. Sigh...

What did everybody else think, of either this or episode two of the Bryan Greenberg show?
Click here to read the full post

Scrubs & Andy Barker: Fate and the fat man

Spoilers for "Scrubs" and "Andy Barker, P.I." just as soon as I pack my thermos of emergency bisque...

"Scrubs" seems to be edging ever closer back to the real world, where strange things happen in the real world (the guys' perfectly-concocted lie about Mexican football), but the really bizarre stuff has been consigned back to JD's fantasies (the boobie horn, JD's perfect date), and I think the show is better for it. Not a fantastic episode, but funny enough in spots, and the Laverne twist both surprised me (I was expecting the tragedy from the episode description to be the loss of Jordan's baby, followed by Cox begging Laverne to give him a reason for it) and is going to provide some strong material for Mr. McGinley.

"Andy Barker," meanwhile, provided the funniest of the five episodes I've seen. (Co-written by celebrity blogger extraordinaire Jane Epsenson.) In particular, the running gag with the flashbacks to Guy's running made me laugh so long and so loud each time that Marian (on the phone with an old friend) had to get up and leave the room. It wasn't just the image of a fat guy running in slo-mo, but the context each time, plus the giant sub jiggling in his hand and that same music snippet over and over. (Also loved the tragic Vietnam movie score after Guy collapsed, and Guy's physique made Andy look positively svelte.) The addition of Nicole Randall Johnson from the pilot as Andy's disinterested secretary is a good choice, even though I'm constantly distracted by the fact that she looks a little and sounds a lot like Gina Torres, and her presence gave the otherwise misused Tony Hale something funny to do.

I wouldn't say it's all downhill from here, but I think the concept's a thin one for a series, and this is about the best they can do with this. If the show gets renewed, I hope Andy, Conan and company prove me wrong.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Feeding the beast

Question for those of you who read this blog via an RSS Reader or similar program: do you have a preference about whether the site feed publishes each post in its entirety or just the beginning? Given some recent issues with spoiler protection -- and with the spoiler-riffic "Galactica" finale coming up on Sunday -- I'm toying with switching to the partial feed option, but only if there aren't a lot of objections. Click here to read the full post

Worst. Theme. Ever.

From the Fox press release for next week's "American Idol":
Grammy Award-winning artist Gwen Stefani will work with the Top 10 finalists next week on AMERICAN IDOL Tuesday, March 27 (8:00-9:07 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed), and will perform “The Sweet Escape” with Akon on the results show Wednesday, March 28 (9:00-9:30 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. It will be a pop-themed week, as contestants pick their favorite songs from that genre.
When I assumed Stefani would be there for another '90s Week, I thought that was bad enough, since decade themes are just an open invitation for every contestant to pick the most boring song possible from their respective niche, when we all know that the best performances tend to come on themes that force the contestants to challenge themselves.

But Pop Week? Given how elastic the producers let the themes be, that's pretty much an excuse for the contestants to sing any damn song they want. This will be spectacularly boring, I think. Click here to read the full post

Six Degrees of trickery

Today's column features an interview with "Six Degrees" co-stars/old friends Hope Davis and Campbell Scott, plus some brief thoughts on Showtime's "This American Life" adaptation. The most interesting part is where the two talk about why they would leave their indie-movie cocoon to do a TV show:

So what made them want to do it?

"I was kind of lured into it," Davis says, referring to Laura's backstory as the widow of a TV reporter killed in Iraq, "thinking that my story was going to be quite political and that it was going to be about what it was like for the average American that you don't expect to be caught up in the Iraq war to be blown sideways. I thought my storyline was going to have much more to do with politics and the war, and it's hardly done that at all. It became clear that some powers that be wanted me to quickly recuperate and get on with my life, which wasn't what I intended.

And Scott?

"I bamboozled Campbell," Davis explains.

"I don't think 'bamboozled' is the correct word," he counters.

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

Lost: It's my dad in a box!

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as my wife and I work out our own code for "a man with a gun is holding my daughter in the closet"...

Curioser and curioser. I fully expect certain revelations like the truth about the island's Magic Box to be either too prolonged or too silly when they come, and I'm annoyed that Hurley's been AWOL the last two weeks (thank goodness he was in the previews), but I'm not going to complain overly much about any episode that features Kevin Tighe as Locke's terrifying dad, or one that has Locke back to his insanely selfish primitive man self from the pre-hatch days.

So let's see, John: You don't want to ever leave the island, so you blow up the only means of escape for everyone? That's not taking your ball and going home; that's taking your ball and then sealing everyone else inside the ball-free gym forever. If you don't want to leave some day if rescuers ever come, don't go with them. And if you're annoyed that The Others are cheating with their electricity and white meat chicken, just go live deep in the bowels of the jungle by your lonesome. Rousseau's shown that it can be done (though she did have a little cabin for a while).

But while Locke was being an idiot, he was doing it in the way that we all came to know and love in season one. I vastly prefer the zealot whose solution to every problem is a timed explosive to the guy who just pushes buttons all day.

I love watching Tighe work (and now that we know that one of his many aliases is Seward, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Sawyer, is their any doubt that he's the man who destroyed our Sawyer's family?), but I'm glad that the flashbacks were kept at a minimum. Better to spend more time on the island, especially with the Michael Emerson/Terry O'Quinn acting duel, which was the first time a character has successfully matched wits with Ben. Locke may have done what Ben wanted, but he understood that the whole time and didn't let Ben's agenda interfere with his own, where Jack would have done the opposite just to be a dick about it.

So now Seward/Sawyer/Cooper is on the island, eh? (Along with Nestor Carbonell from "Not in Portland.") This raises at least three possibilities: first, that when The Others gathered intel on the Oceanic 815 survivors, Ben decided for some reason that it would be valuable to have a personal means of manipulating some of them and had his people on the mainland kidnap Cooper (and possibly others); second, that Cooper was on a plane or a boat that unexpectedly crashed her the same way that Eko's brother did; third, that he came out of the Magic Box.

A few other thoughts:
  • Glad somebody finally tried to tell Alex the truth about her mom. (My wife rarely watches "Lost," but she was with me for this one, and when she asked what Sayid was talking about, I said, "Her mom's the crazy French lady who lives in the jungle," to which she replied, "Of course her mom's the crazy French lady who lives in the jungle!" Maybe you had to be there.)
  • Ben's latest henchman, the one who was guarding Sayid at the playground, was played by Brian Goodman, who was the best thing about ABC's otherwise underwhelming mobsters 'n FBI agents show "Line of Fire."
  • So weird to see Kate on the island sneaking into a tastefully-decorated bungalow and hearing piano music. Also, is this the first we've seen Jack can tickle the ivories, or did it come up in one of his flashbacks?
What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

American Idol: Sad but inevitable results

My comments on the results show over at, your comments can be right here. Click here to read the full post

Friday Night Lights: She's all growns up!

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I cook up some of my award-winning chili and then take hostages...

In my review today, I talked a bit about the genius of "I Think We Should Have Sex," and while this one wasn't quite as epic, it was another beautiful Taylor family tale. Kyle Chandler's specialty has been the hard-ass, sarcastic side of Coach, and he got to show a compellingly softer side here, especially in the scene where Tami suggests that Julie is really in love with Matt... about three seconds before Julie walks in looking extremely grown-up (but not all hoochie'd out the way she was that time Matt wore his Members Only jacket), and it finally hits him that his daughter is becoming a woman worthy of more respect and consideration.

I especially liked that the story didn't end with Julie's speech at the dance convincing Eric to give up on his dream job. It was much more realistic and, honestly, touching that he heard her out, made it clear that he understood her concerns but couldn't let those concerns be the sole factor in a decision that would affect the whole family's future.

The flip side of that was the story with Tyra and her mom, which very much fit the encroaching TV-ism that occasionally infects the writers. Up until the scene at the dance, I was really going with it, I liked how Mama Collette took Tami's mentoring as an indictment of her own motherhood, how her own hang-ups were making her push her daughter towards the same life she's had. And maybe if she came around to the college plan over time, or if some significant event happened to make her change her mind, I would have gone with the uplifting ending, but as it was, it just felt like the episode was coming to an end and so they had to wrap things up.

Street's story heads back towards making him a part of the main ensemble again. For all the liberties they've taken thus far with the Murderball storyline, it's still only been a few months since Street was put in that chair, and world-class athlete or not, he shouldn't be Paralympic-ready yet.

I've seen next week's episode, but it doesn't take a psychic to figure out what course Jason's going to travel from here. Loved the scene with the four guys -- the former superstar and the three players who have combined to carry the team in his place -- getting drunk, comparing sob stories ("Chair says I win. Every time.") and, eventually, scrimmaging to instill some confidence in poor Matt. Very "Dazed and Confused," only if Pink still gave a crap about the game.

Some other random thoughts:
  • I've talked before about how most of the kids are having to raise themselves and, in some cases, their parents, but this is the first time it's occurred to me that the only kids with fathers in their lives are Julie, Lyla, and Jason. Buddy's a waste of a human being and Mr. Street's clearly distanced himself from his son since the accident, so that really only leaves Julie. Huzzah for the nuclear family!
  • Lyla trashing Buddy's car lot was a nice touch. Minka Kelly's much better when she doesn't have to talk.
  • Is there some revisionist history at work about the Taylor's geographic history? This episode implied that they've moved around a lot over the years as Eric's moved from job to job, but the pilot established that he'd been coaching Street since Pee-Wee football. So unless the Streets have been moving around a lot while the Taylors followed their meal ticket from town to town, that doesn't make sense.
  • For them what care, the band at the Austin club where Street unleashed his bitterness on Herc was a local Austin band called Little Captain Travis. I liked the sound of them but can't find much about them online.
  • My issues with Riggins and the MILF next door story remain the same as last time: Bo's too sitcommy cute, and Taylor Kitsch and Brooke Langton look too close in age.
What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

Friday Night Lights: How do I love thee?

NBC kindly sent out the next two "Friday Night Lights" episodes, which gave me an excuse to write my first full-blown column about it since the pilot:

"Friday Night Lights" is a drama about a high school football team that rarely features more than five minutes of gridiron action, if that, per episode. It's a high school soap opera in which the most compelling lovebirds are the football coach and his guidance counselor wife, a show that raises familiar teen drama questions about sex and drug abuse and race without offering simple answers.

In other words, the "Friday Night Lights" writers are aiming at a target far smaller than the tire swing their quarterback hero rifles passes through in the opening credits. In general, female viewers who might love the relationships are too turned off by the football to watch; guys who love sports don't gravitate towards soaps, even ones in which the halfback option is as important as people talking about their feelings.

Creatively, though, the writers have hit their postage-stamp target with uncanny accuracy. Anyone who can get past their preconceptions for a show with that title and setting will find the best drama currently airing on any network.

To read the full thing, click here. I'll have an episode-specific post up tonight. Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American Idol: Shirley Bassey is coming! Shirley Bassey is coming!

British Invasion Night comments are up at, but you can do your commenting right here. Click here to read the full post

I've always been interested in drama

Very brief thoughts on "24," "The Riches" and "The Black Donnellys" coming up just as soon as I practice my chokehold move...

"24" continues its annual middle third dip; the only difference here is that the first third wasn't so hot, either. The writers are cobbling together bits and pieces from other seasons with minor tweaks (the Powers Boothe march to war plot is straight out of season two, with the difference being that the President himself is the one itching for an immoral war), but without the unifying Big Idea that Howard Gordon says they try to find for each season. I'm either apathetic or outright hostile towards most of the new supporting characters -- I'm a Ricky Schroder fan going back to his OCD/snot-rubbing days on "NYPD Blue," but Doyle may be the most badly-introduced TV character since Ana-Lucia on "Lost" -- and Jack is disappearing far too much within episodes.

The commenters last week seemed more into "The Riches" than I was. I think it works in spots -- the Russsian Roulette game with Wayne/Doug's golfing buddy was great -- but on a broader level I feel like the show's holding me at a distance.

Meanwhile, "The Black Donnellys" has turned into a punchline on a lot of other TV blogs and message boards; I've seen a phrase like, "Well, I didn't like this episode of Show X, but I watched it after The Black Donnellys, and it was a masterpiece in comparison." Maybe it's just my blind loyalty to the "Young EZ Streets" vibe Haggis and Moresco are going for, but I still don't hate it. That said, there be problems. Though NBC wouldn't allow the show to be a '70s period piece as originally intended, I think references to contemporary life should be few and far between to create the illusion of timelessness, and the entire subplot about Louie Downtown's tricked-out cell phone keeps ruining that. Also, while I like the rotating audience for Joey Ice Cream's narration, it feels like the writers have already started moving away from the unreliable quality of his stories that was one of the show's most appealing traits.

What did everybody else think? Anybody even watching "Donnellys" anymore?
Click here to read the full post

Veronica Mars, FBI?

Some people have been asking what I know about this Hollywood Reporter story about "Veronica Mars" doing a time jump to season four so that Veronica will be training at the FBI Academy in Quantico.

Getting details on this one has been hard, because no one wants to talk on the record, and Rob won't talk about it period, but here's what little I've been able to gather:
  • If this happens, Veronica won't be studying at the FBI Academy; she'll be a rookie agent.
  • All of the actors are still signed for next season, though I can't imagine all -- or even most, or maybe even anybody save Kristen Bell and maybe Jason Dohring -- surviving into the new format, unless Veronica gets assigned to the FBI's Neptune office. (Logan's rich and has nothing better to do than follow Veronica from place to place, assuming they ever get back together.)
  • The comparative success of the Pussycat Dolls show has made the chances of "Veronica Mars" returning in its current incarnation all but impossible. On the other hand, I know at least one decision-maker at the CW who's intrigued by the possible new format, and everyone there wants to stay in business with Kristen if they can.
So that's what I've got. Now three questions for you, my little research monkeys:
  • What shows have done a significant mid-series time jump? So far, I've got "Alias," "Galactica" and "Wonder Woman" (which shifted from WWII to the '70s between seasons). I don't count a show that just did a time jump for the finale, like most of the "Trek" spin-offs.
  • What shows have been successful after so thoroughly changing their premise? I guess if you count "All in the Family" and "Archie Bunker's Place" as one show, that counts, which leads me to...
  • If the CW decides they want a new title -- under the theory that new viewers aren't going to come to a fourth year show, even one that's been totally revamped -- what would you call the new show? And I'll pre-empt all the "Silence of the Lamb" suggestions right now. RIP, Lamb.
Fire away. Click here to read the full post

HIMYM: Provode?

"How I Met Your Mother" spoilers coming up just as soon as the second hand on my watch tells me 23 minutes have passed...

So good to have a new episode, even if we're back in reruns next week. Lots of funny stuff, which I'll list bullet point-style in a second (which is either my new shorthand for an episode too good to say anything else about, or else just a sign that I'm starting to phone it in), but also two important thematic elements.

First, another reminder that Ted and Robin aren't meant to be, and why. And the more I see of Robin independent of Ted, the more convinced I am that she and Barney are destined to be together -- though, given their obsessions with keeping their apartments just so, I imagine that they'll never actually co-habitate, just hang out for smokes, Laser Tag (and more potent firearms) and sex, then go happily sleep in their own beds.

Second, it established again that, while most of us could take or leave Ted, especially as the main character, Marshall and Lily and Barney all badly need Ted as he currently is to make their lives work. I guess the hug at the end said he was the inside tree, huh?

And now for the obligatory list o' funny stuff:
  • The 23 minutes flashbacks, especially the one with the woman looking to have revenge sex with Barney;
  • Lily and Marshall arguing about what they can say now that they can have loud sex (though I have a question: why did they bother to get dressed again in between the naked TV-watching and the sex?);
  • Barney's impression of the guy from "Saw," plus his Letterman top 10 list, which only former Letterman writers like Thomas and Bays should be allowed to do, since they got the whole structure right (the funniest jokes at the beginning, Barney repeating the joke that bombed) even before Barney broke the glass with the index card;
  • A callback to Robin's secret gun obsession ("A hand-grenade phone? Let me give you my work address") and her farewell smoke in the tub;
  • Marshall covered in wet toilet paper after his shower, and then the payoff when he failed to provode some more for Lily.
What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Family law

Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica" coming up just as soon as I figure out why Lee gets to keep his fancy quarters...

So much going on here, and yet almost all of it is set-up for the mind-blowingness to come with "Crossroads, Part II." And since I'm going to need about seven weeks just to put to paper all my thoughts on that, I'm taking the lazy way out and going straight to the bullet points.
  • How good is Mary McDonnell? So good that, as Romo Lampkin gives his opening statement about how Baltar's capitulation to the Cylons probably saved humanity, you can see Madame President fixing him with an incredible "revenge is a dish best served cold" smile, and she's not even in focus in the shot. Lee's cross-examination of her was also a superb moment from both her and Jamie Bamber, particularly her callback to the days when she called him Captain Apollo and they braided each other's hair and sang "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" together on karaoke nights.
  • Now how great is Michael Hogan? That entire sequence from Tigh visiting Caprica Six's cell through him drunk on the stand through him really drunk and being helped back to his cell by Adama rivaled Dennis Franz on the Classic TV Boozers of all time scale. Tour de freaking force.
  • And while I'm laying out the superlatives, more genius from Bamber and Edward James Olmos. I love that the show's willing to take these relationships to extremes, and that it has actors who can play those extremes.
  • Getting back to Lampkin's opening argument, does he have a point? If Laura was still president (and somehow had allowed herself to be convinced into settling New Caprica), would she have defied the Cylons? And would that have just resulted in her death, or the death of all humanity? It's a shame that the prosecutor can't introduce Baltar's role in the genocide (Lampkin's crowning achievement was getting Caprica Six back on their side), and that nobody knows that Baltar was responsible for the nuclear detonation that killed a good chunk of the fleet (add that to the whiteboard differential) and tipped off the Cylons about the location of New Caprica.
Really, I'm afraid to say anything more this time lest I betray what's coming, so take it away, folks. What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

The Amazing Race: First team to hug Phil may be AWESOME

"Amazing Race" spoilers coming up just as soon as I paint some fingernails...

On the one hand, not a well-designed leg at all. Way, way, way too much bunching, a Roadblock in which the Racers seemed like virtual bystanders, and a Detour so lopsided it allowed the loathsome, barely competent Mirna and Charla to go from worst to first simply because the other teams were too dim to realize that selling a buck's worth of nail painting would be easier than loading 10 bags of coal.

On the other hand, it featured the spectacle of a filthy Oswald chasing Phil off the mat, which may have been the funniest thing I've ever seen on this show. So there's that. Those two better stick around at least as long as they did the first time, preferably at the expense of this week's first-place finishers and immature homophobic sexist tool Eric.

I hadn't watched the last few seasons, so I didn't know about the new rules for the bottom team in a non-elimination leg. I vastly prefer this to the old mugging policy, as I find watching reality show contestants beg for cash really distasteful. Has any team to be hit with the new penalty avoided elimination on the next leg?

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

Grey's Anatomy: Why, George?

"Grey's Anatomy" spoilers coming right up...

Oy. As if Izzie's recent behavior towards Callie wasn't disgusting enough, now George (admittedly, a blotto George) falls into bed with her?

So, so many things wrong with this. For starters, the writers had made it pretty clear in the past that George and Izzy didn't think about each in That Way, and while people can do all sorts of stupid stuff while drunk, George's reaction to Callie's accusation suggested that he really is attracted to Izzie but considers her out of his league.

Worse, there's a part of me that feels like George having sex with Izzie in some way justifies all the vile stuff Izzie's been slinging towards his wife in the last batch of episodes. The writers may not go that way -- after George and Meredith had their unfortunate very special time together, both characters came out looking badly -- but on initial reaction, George sleeping with this woman who's been so horrid to his wife is just about the worst thing anyone on this show has ever done. I'm not looking forward to any of the fallout from this, especially if the writers intend for Callie and George to get back together. Yuck.

The rest of the episode was pretty okay, I suppose. Three top-notch guest stars in Roger Rees (Robin Colcord, baby!), Shohreh Aghdashloo and James Gammon (always golden for pissing on Roger Dorn's contract), the long-awaited thaw in the Meredith/Thatcher relationship, and more humanizing of Alex in his relationship with Jane Doe. But the George/Izzie/Callie stuff leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

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

Friday, March 16, 2007

Scrubs: My rerun

"Scrubs" spoilers coming up just as soon as I give someone a sneak hug...

Another pretty good episode (though I may have been in the minority about liking last week's), though the continuity fairy was only working two-thirds of the time.

On the one hand, we had the return of Sandy Chaplin (or Alexander Gaberman, or whatever he's calling himself these days) as the drug-scamming patient (now counselor, but still drug-scamming) and the callback to Carla losing Rowdy and The Janitor replacing him. On the other, the stolen scrubs plotline seemingly ignored the subplot from season one or two where the hospital installed a scrub dispensing machine that would only give out fresh scrubs if you inserted your old ones. (Elliott had to give up a nice blouse to get the thing to work.) Either I'm forgetting some development from that episode that resulted in Kelso ditching the machine, but it was there in the first place to prevent this kind of wholesale scrub theft.

Not a huge deal, and some very funny stuff, including the stealth hug, Caveman JD's narration, The Janitor's revelation of his Inuit heritage, a nod to The Todd's pansexuality, and the escalation of the writers' complete hatred of "Grey's Anatomy." Plus, Victoria Tennant acting for what seems like the first time since "L.A. Story" 16 years ago (though IMDb has a few credits in between).

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday newbies thread

Since I've already weighed in with my last two columns, use this post to comment on any or all of tonight's new shows: "Andy Barker, P.I.," "Raines" and "October Road." Click here to read the full post

If I've already seen it, what was new to me?

So, a few questions for anyone who watched the "newpeat" episodes of "The Office" tonight:

1)Other than the subplot about Pam winning the 6th grade art contest, was there anything new in the first half hour?

2)Was there anything new, period, in the second half hour? My DVR recorded both "The Office" and "Scrubs" but somehow cut off between 8:59 and 9. I'm assuming the Andy in anger management scene -- the entire point of the concept, to help correct the failed experiment -- was plugged back in, but I have no way of knowing for sure. And the rest of the episode was all familiar, though admittedly I watched the producer's cut on the morning after it originally aired.

I wasn't too enthralled by the execution. In particular, I felt "The Return" would have really benefited by the insertion of the scene where Jim tips off Michael about Andy's brown-nosing routine. Without it, Michael's uncharacteristically perceptive; with it, he's still Michael, and Jim's being even more decent than usual. Click here to read the full post

Lost: Are you ready for some football?

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as I run a fade route...

Another solid but not spectacular episode that managed to balance Wacky Beachfront Hijinks with the latest adventure plot with The Others.

I remember interviewing Carlton Cuse at a press tour event in July, and when I asked about Christian Shepard being Claire's father, he about had a heart attack; it was like it had never occurred to him and Damon that the fans would be able to decipher that scene in Ana-Lucia's death episode where Christian visited a blonde, blue-eyed Aussie woman and demanded to see his daughter, when in fact everyone did. So I'm glad that they didn't try to make that revelation into this episode's big moment, instead doing it around the halfway point. They went out of their way to have Christian not tell Claire his name, so there must be some plan in place for how Jack and Claire -- who, back in the days when all the characters lived on the beach, already had a nice sibling-style bond -- to find out how they're related. They already went the "Jack drops a familiar Christian turn of phrase" route with Sawyer, so I'm guessing this time the intel will come from The Others, who know everything about our castaways, up to and including the fact that Locke was para(lyzed) before the crash.

And by getting Claire's parentage out of the way quickly, the producers were able to deliver a real surprise at the end: Jack and Tom/Zeke are now BFFs, casually tossing around the pigskin and putting the first real smile Jack's shown in the last two and a half years. For the first time in a while, I'm actually interested in seeing what's been happening with The Others, though this could just be an absence makes the heart grow fonder thing.

I'm also glad to see that Locke's recent bumbling may not be an attempt to turn him into this show's Gilligan(*), but is instead back to pursuing his own agenda no matter what that means for his friends, season one-style. Is it just that he's afraid again of the prospect of rescue? Does he want to join up with The Others? Is he going insane without a button to push?

More season one nostalgia: Kate and Sayid working together as a great team. They've barely had an screen time together in the last year and a half, and I wonder if part of that is because the producers didn't want us to notice that Evangeline Lily's chemistry with Naveen Andrews is so much better than with either of her designated fellas, but they're a good pair, even platonically. The tree climb over the sonic fence was a strong example of how much the "Lost" score adds; I didn't for a second believe that Kate was going to get fried, but those ominous strings had me feeling nervous anyway.

(*) By the way, if anyone wants to do a "Lost"/"Gilligan's Island" character comparison chart in the comments, feel free. Important questions: Is Hurley the Mr. Howell, or is Jin? Is it possible for Sayid to be both the Skipper (always getting annoyed with Gilligan) and the Professor (always fixing up impossible gadgets)? And since Kate's a dead ringer for Mary Ann, who's Ginger?

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

If at first you don't succeed...

"Lost" post coming in a little while, but first the morning column link, in which I try to find something interesting to say about the not very interesting "October Road" and "Raines":
Every writer has a bag of tricks they reach into when all else fails. It can be a character type, a setting, a theme, a turn of phrase, whatever. In yesterday's "Andy Barker, P.I.," I made a reference to the six episodes of "Police Squad" and how half of them were terrible -- the same point I've already made, according to our archives, three other times in the last decade.

In TV, writers usually repeat things from their successes, whether it's Steven Bochco doing another cop show he knows critics will describe as "gritty" or David E. Kelley writing shows about weird, skinny female lawyers in short skirts. Occasionally, someone gets a chance to right a past wrong -- Joss Whedon turning the lousy "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie into the awesome "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV show -- but usually the TV business doesn't allow people to make the same perceived mistake twice.

That's what makes this mid-season's crop of dramas so strange, because we've seen one show after another that seems to be an attempt to recreate a prior failure.

A few weeks back, NBC gave us "The Black Donnellys," with the guys from "Crash" doing a younger, slightly more accessible take on their short-lived '90s masterpiece "EZ Streets." And tonight at 10, we get a pair of do-overs: ABC's "October Road," a quasi-sequel to a Showtime drama called "Going to California" that five people watched; and NBC's "Raines," another stab at modern-day L.A. noir from the creator of "Boomtown."
To read the full thing, click here. Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

American Idol: Top 12 results

Spoilers for who got the boot -- and other results show errata -- over at, but you can comment here. Click here to read the full post

CPA saves the day

Today's column reviews "Andy Barker, P.I.," which is either debuting tomorrow night on NBC or already available in all six episodes on
Andy Barker works tough cases involving murder, arson and police corruption. Andy Barker gets into brawls and shoot-outs with bad guys. Andy Barker is a hero.

Andy Barker is also an accountant with an ample belly who won't stop using his turn signal just because he's in a car chase, and who asks you to pardon his French if he has to use the term "P.O.'ed."

And it's in that contrast between Andy's hard-boiled work and soft-boiled personality that Andy Richter, Conan O'Brien and Jonathan Groff hope to make you laugh at on "Andy Barker, P.I." Unfortunately, the idea's a little too thin to support a weekly sitcom. The show's funny in short bursts, but it would work better as a sketch on "Saturday Night Live" (where Conan wrote years ago) or even a random bit on Conan's talk show (where all three worked in the early days, Groff as head writer, Andy as the funnier-than-you-think sidekick).

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

American Idol: Top 12 (or, top 3 women and everyone else)

I thought the success of "House" was supposed to make all these crushingly-padded two-hour shows a thing of the past. Wha happen? It's Diana Ross Night, which I suppose is a step up from Stevie Wonder Night in that we haven't heard so many of these songs repeatedly butchered in seasons past, but outside of the two obvious favorites and a contestant the producers are setting up as a dark horse, it was a dull, dull night.

To read the full thing, click here. Then come back here to comment. Click here to read the full post

Spare the snark -- or else?

Bravo just bought Television Without Pity, putting the entire site under the NBC/GE/Universal/Sheinhardt Wig Company umbrella. Can an independent voice survive under that arrangement?

UPDATE: Doing a conference call shortly with the TWoP founders and Bravo, so we'll see what they have to say about separation of church and state. That said, the new money means that TWoP is going to start recapping more shows, including "The Wire," and any additional pub for "The Wire" is okay by me.

UPDATE #2: So, on the call, the founders said that Bravo having any control over editorial content "wasn't even on the table" and that everyone knew going in that you can't let TWoP start having pity. (There was a lot of talk about "the brand.") Also, the "Real Housewives of Orange County" message board flap discussed in the comments was said to be a coincidence of timing, and that they often shut down certain boards for various reasons. (Which I've witnessed.) Click here to read the full post

An important question

No column today, and I haven't watched "24" yet, but as I'm working on a review of ABC's "October Road," I'm confronted with a tricky matter of terminology: do you call it air-banding if there are props involved? Because a bunch of the characters on the show get together every Saturday to lip-synch to cheesetastic classic rock songs by Boston and others, but they use tennis rackets for guitars, hairbrushes for microphones, etc.

And if it's not air-banding, what do you call it?

Also, feel free to use this as a catch-all thread for any non-"24" or "Riches" TV stuff from last night. Click here to read the full post

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mo' money, mo' problems

Today's column is a review of FX's "The Riches," a show I liked in certain spots but that left me cold overall:

Wayne Malloy has to convince upper management at a swank real-estate firm that he's Doug Rich, their new in-house counsel. A con man by trade, he doesn't have a law degree, or any formal education beyond the seventh grade. What he has is a big rock in his briefcase.

Wayne's wife Dahlia put it there to make the case seem full, but when he starts to lose his new audience, he pulls the rock out and lets the crowd decide for themselves what it means. Within moments, they're so stirred up that several would probably die for Wayne. Big rock 1, Harvard Law 0.

It's a funny, electric moment, and one that "The Riches" needs a lot more of. Despite two fine leading performances by Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver and a premise that's not like anything else on television, there's something missing in the execution.

To read the full thing, click here. We can also use this as a place to comment for anyone who watches it tonight.

Also, my account of the tension-filled Antonella Barba conference call on Friday, and hopefully this is the last time I will need to type the words "Antonella Barba" in any context in the future. Click here to read the full post

Battlestar Galactica: Gotta wear shades

"Battlestar Galactica" spoilers coming up just as soon as I put my eyedrops in so I have an excuse to wear my Wayfarers indoors...

We enter murky waters now, review-wise. After I finished my "Maelstrom" review, I sat down and watched my screener of the season's final three episodes, and it becomes very difficult for me to comment on things in "The Son Also Rises" without letting those comments be colored by both halves of "Crossroads." This is why I specifically wrote my "Maelstrom" review before I had seen anything else, because I worried that if later episodes feature any hints of Kara's survival -- or lack thereof -- I wouldn't be able to give an honest analysis of that episode that wouldn't in some way reveal what was to come.

Now, I reviewed every episode of "The Wire" season four after I had watched that season in its entirety, but those reviews were less about likes and dislikes (since virtually all of it was brilliant) than they were analysis of themes, of character development, of all the detail work that makes "The Wire" "The Wire." "Galactica," especially in an up-and-down season like this one, requires more straight discussion of my likes and dislikes, so I'm going to do the best I can to try to discuss the episode as the episode and not as the first third of something I've watched and you haven't.

That long preamble is my way of delicately approaching the character of Romo Lampkin, who all but takes over the show for the next three episodes. My feelings on him evolved over time, but in this first episode I think he strayed just over the wrong side of the line between intriguing, colorful new character and self-consciously kewl and irritating new character.

In particular, I could really do without his wardrobe choices. On the podcast, Moore says everyone wrestled with the question of Lampkin's omnipresent sunglasses and whether they were too much of a parody. Eventually, he gave into writer Michael Angeli's conception for the character because he loved the moment where Lampkin finally takes the stupid things off to make a deeper connection with Caprica Six. Now, anyone who's ever seen "The Blues Brothers" (original version, not the abomination that is the Landis director's cut DVD) knows how effective that particular sunglasses gag can be. I just don't think that one moment was worth Lampkin coming across like the "Galactica" version of Gambit from X-Men: the suave, too cool for school guy in the fancy trenchcoat and the obnoxiously charming exotic accent who's somehow right about everything and everyone he encounters. (I figure if you're reading a blog entry about "Battlestar Galactica," you're enough of a geek to remember how annoying Gambit was when Claremont introduced him -- unless you were young enough at the time to think he was wicked awesome.)

I think if you ditched the coat and the shades and maybe had Mark Sheppard dial down his brogue to its natural level, Lampkin would have made a much better first impression on me. As it is, I grew to like the guy -- and I liked certain other affectations from the start, like his kleptomania -- but it was an uphill climb that didn't need to be so steep.

Outside the mad bomber mystery (more on that below), most of the episode was set-up for Baltar's trial (Moore admits that he basically did a three-part finale without admitting as much to Sci Fi brass). So much of it hangs on the performances, and Jamie Bamber is getting maybe his best opportunity to date to show that he's more than just the token beefcake. Lee is often a self-contradictory character, and where some actors might make you view that as inconsistent writing, Bamber makes it seem like an inherent part of Lee's being. He's the guy who's always at war with himself, never sure when he's supposed to be the hard-ass, or the golden boy, or the moral compass, or the isolated thinker. A lot's expected of him because he's Bill Adama's son -- and, as we're finding out lately, Joe Adama's grandson -- and he responds to all the stress (plus his grief over Starbuck's death) by trying on different personas. At the moment, that's as rebellious son and advocate for the most hated man in the universe; I'm sure he'll become something else by early next season, and Bamber will make me believe that one, too.

Other random thoughts:
  • Maybe it's just because I recognize him more now that he's also Plow Guy on "Men in Trees," but it felt like we hadn't seen Capt. Kelly in forever, even though IMDb lists him as being in both halves of "Exodus." I mention that because as soon as I saw him, I wondered, "Why did they bring that guy back?" and once we got into the mystery of the bomber, I realized it had to be him. Law of Economy of Characters and all that. Would've liked it to be Cally, and for her to be airlocked immediately. And speaking of which...
  • The Athena/Cally scene felt like it was airlifted in from another episode, one that focused more on Sharon, who hasn't had much to do since she rescued Hera.
  • Moore tries not to let the show be a polemic for his own views, but occasionally he can't resist making Laura into his mouthpiece. Here, it was her declaration that "This administration will never allow terrorism to alter the framework of our legal system." Patriot Act and/or Gitmo, anyone?
  • I know Caprica Six sniffing the pen was supposed to be a deep moment about her feelings for Baltar, but all I could think was, "Where did Baltar have to hide that thing?"
  • Romo's quarters were awfully big for a ship that's carrying a double personnel load. Ah, maybe at this point I need to let go of the whole "What about the Pegasus crew?" issue.
  • Anders is now wearing military fatigues because he's training to become a Viper pilot. I don't think that's been mentioned in previous episodes, and it's not really explained down the road, but we'll see him with the other nuggets (including Seelix) in the next two episodes. Time to go looking through the deleted scenes again.
What did everybody else think?
Click here to read the full post

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Amazing Race: How do you spell "defeat"?

"Amazing Race" spoilers coming right up, with talk of the elimination at the top, so tread lightly, RSS readers...

I briefly toyed with titling this post "I hope you're all happy now (again)," but realized that would make the elimination too obvious. But CBS' suggestion that this would be the finish everyone would be talking about sure hinted that Rob and Ambuh would be taking a major, major humble, and they did.

While the prospect of the two of them winning leg after leg was going to grow tiring, and while Rob brought this defeat 100 percent on himself, I'm not jumping with joy over the result. Frankly, I'd rather have Romber, cockiness and all, around over Charla and (especially) Mirna, who are two of the most loathsome people I've ever watched on a reality show. So much to hate: Mirna complaining about her partner's "shortcomings," Mirna yelling at Charla during the signpost task as if Charla were a mentally defective child, Mirna's juvenile (and not even properly-phrased) "See you! Wouldn't want to be you!" taunt to Rob, and both of them calling Amber a bitch. They can't get off my TV fast enough. It's a measure of how much the other teams dislike them, I think, that everybody found Amber's "Got it!" misdirection so funny, even though everyone usually resents Rob and Amber's antics.

At the same time, though, I'm glad that if Rob had to lose early, it wouldn't be a loss he could blame on a broken-down car or any other kind of bad luck (which shows how much I know), but on the inexplicable disappearance of what had until now been a great Racing mind. First he screwed up with his choice of the signpost Detour, which sounded way the hell too complicated when Phil described it, then he misspelled Philippines (now spelled correctly by me) and failed to notice it and worst of all, he refused to listen to Amber when she told him it was time to give up and switch to the other task. It's rare that he's let stubborn pride get in the way of a smart Racing decision, but he buried them on that one and then finished off their fate by insisting on doing the Roadblock, even though he doesn't have the patience for a detail-oriented task like the mail-sorting. Not only did Charla and Mirna lap them on the task, but they must have done it by a wide margin, because there's no way Rob and Amber lose a footrace to them even if Charla has a small headstart.

So they're gone, and now things get interesting. Uchenna and Eric are left as physically strong racers, but neither of their partners are great at that side of the competition. The Cha-Chas, Guidos and Teri and Ian (who needs to watch those tantrums or he'll lose all this new goodwill) are the savviest travelers but are older and/or less in shape than some of the other teams, the beauty queens have no outstanding strengths but no major weaknesses, and Charla and Mirna... well... they're probably due for a non-elimination leg next week, I fear.

What did everybody else think? And is anyone else as eager as I am to watch this week's "Elimination Station" episode on to see how grouchy Rob is in sequester?
Click here to read the full post

Friday, March 09, 2007

Scrubs & 30 Rock: She's the decider!

Spoilers for NBC's two original comedies last night coming up just as soon as I get this blue ink off my hands...

While I'm still worried about the state of "Scrubs," this was the best episode they've done in quite some time, a nice mix of wacky comedy that actually worked and some pathos that felt earned because Private Dancer had been around for a while. Highlights: Cox going meta to explain everyone's comic function on the show (Ted's sad sack sigh made me laugh every time he did it), the Rashomon flashbacks to J.D. and Turk's college days (scored, I'm assuming, to a Kid N Play song), the revelation about the goldfish's name and Kelso's time in 'Nam, and (on a more serious level) the kiss between Elliott and Dancer. I'm not sure Sarah Chalke's ever looked prettier than she did in that moment, but what's Dudemeister going to say if he finds out his girlfriend is macking on random soldier boys?

"30 Rock" goes into its Andy Richter-induced hiatus with another terrific episode, featuring Tina Fey's best performance to date, completely insane and yet sympathetic because she knew how insane and awful she had become. Tracy's Scientology interview was awesome ("I believe vampires are the best golf players in the world and that their curse is that they'll never get to show it!"), and Nathan Lane underplayed nicely as Jack's brother. Molly Shannon always plays a good drunk, and nice to see Siobhan Fallon come out of mothballs to play another Donaghy sib. (Question: would it have been more or less distracting if Daniel, Stephen or Billy had played one of the siblings?)

What did everybody else think? If you could name your fists, what would those names be? And are you going to give "Andy Barker" a try or boycott it because it's temporarily taking this spot?
Click here to read the full post

Thursday, March 08, 2007

American Idol: Your top 12, America

Well, that was pleasantly surprising. Two elimination night posts as usual at, one on Antonella and the others being eliminated, the other breaking down the top 12.

Take a look, then come back here to comment. Click here to read the full post

Lost: Poor cows. Poor, poor cows.

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as I find my "Searching for Bobby Fischer" DVD...

Well, week two of the show's back-to-basics mission wasn't as entertaining as week one, but it advanced the plot more, so it's a wash. Things we seem to have learned:
  • That the Dharma Initiative's people are long dead;
  • That the undersea cable Sayid found way back in early season one leads to a sonar hub;
  • That Miss Clue (or however you spell it) wasn't on Alcatraz because she was keeping Andrew Divoff (who'll always be Frenchie from "EZ Streets" to me) company;
  • That there's more than one broadcast facility on the island, since Rousseau had never been to the cow farm but has previously referred to using an antenna to transmit her distress signal;
  • That The Others have a source of fresh milk (albeit a smaller one than they had before the episode started);
  • That Locke loves pushing computer buttons.
Okay, so the last few aren't exactly mind-blowing, but this was a solid example of moving the story forward and giving us some information while leaving the bigger picture still unclear. I also thought it worked on a straight action/thriller level, though it would have been even better if we didn't need to keep cutting away from Sayid and Mikhail's face-off to the flashback.

I'm not going to complain too loudly about Naveen Andrews getting an entire episode to himself after being MIA almost all season, but we know how guilty Sayid feels about his torture career. We've hit this same emotional note three or four times already, and despite good performances by him and the actress playing his victim, it's yet another flashback that felt like it was there not because the writers had anything interesting to say, but because this is the format they've established for themselves.

The ping-pong story got exactly the right amount of time, and while I thought the bet was unfairly stacked in Sawyer's favor -- a week of no nicknames versus permanent reacquisition of "his" stuff -- I'm glad the writers won't be able to lean on the nicknaming crutch for at least a couple of episodes. (The show's abandoned the strict one episode=one day timeline, but the next episode looks like it picks up shortly after this one.)

I'd be more annoyed at the destruction of The Flame if I didn't feel confident in the existence of a second broadcast place. The idea of a transmitter that didn't work but could be fixed at some point down the road is more interesting than "Gilligan's Island"-ing a potential rescue scenario by just blowing the place up.

But won't someone mourn for the cows?

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

American Idol: Top 8 women

Wow. I hate to agree with anything Randy Jackson said, but when he's right, he's right. It's like a different show when the girls come here, man.

Tonight's episode clearly established not only who the top six women should be, but who the top six contestants should be. Not that it'll work out that way, but I'd love to be able to hop into a time machine, skip straight past all the outrage over Sanjaya and Antonella making the finals, past Sundance continuing to be lame, past Chris Richardson's bouncing, straight ahead to what should be the LaKisha/Melinda final two. But with "Idol," I don't even know that we'll get that outcome. The show itself sure deserves a Sanjaya/Antonella final two.

To read the song-by-song reviews, click here, then come back here to comment. Click here to read the full post

Snowy morning catch-up

As I watch the winter's stubbborn refusal to go away, time to finally offer my own thoughts on Monday night's "Heroes" and "24," plus last night's "Gilmore Girls" and "House," all coming up...

You fine people have covered almost every aspect of "Heroes" in your comments, so I'll just add a few random thoughts:
  • While it was a strong episode overall with plenty of cliffhanger goodness to drive us crazy over the six-week break, it wasn't as good as last week's all-HRG and Claire hour, losing in emotional resonance what it tried to make up in business. I wouldn't want this show to become season two or three of "Lost," where most of the characters disappear for weeks on end while one person gets a spotlight at a time, but I think I'd like to see "Heroes" try at least a handful of single-focus episodes a season.
  • The Sylar/Peter cliffhanger would be scarier if we didn't know that Peter has to live to be involved in the nuke story, and that Future Hiro has seen him with a scar. Still, nice of Sylar to finally cut Peter's stupid hair.
  • Why would Linderman hire Jessica to kill Nathan if he was going to offer him the vice-presidency? Fienberg's theory is that Jessica wasn't supposed to kill him, just get rid of the feds and scare him into taking Linderman's offer, but Niki sure seemed to think Nathan's life was in danger from her alter ego.
  • The Haitian's "higher power" is Nathan and Peter's mom. Nicely done, a surprising revelation that at the same time makes perfect sense.
  • Either Ando is secretly a mole for Linderman, or Linderman's casino security is awful. You make the call.
Moving on to "24," I'm still not feeling this season. There are isolated good moments, like Lennox turning in Chad Lowe at the earliest opportunity, and Powers Boothe is going to be a more interesting figure than D.B. Woodside, but I still don't feel like a nuke actually went off in the LA area, and Jack is being dumber than usual with his method of assault on the consulate and inability to let Chloe know what was up. (Couldn't he have just kept his cell phone on in his pocket or something?) Even more than Daniel Craig's James Bond, Jack is a blunt instrument, but he's shown himself to be capable of slightly clever thinking in the past (see him stinging Logan last year), and I get bored when the plot rests on Jack thinking only with his fists and the nearest torture implement. (Also, Sam Raimi deserves some kind of royalty for stealing the cigar cutter gag from "Darkman.")

I feel like I'm still watching "Gilmore Girls" out of habit rather than anything in the show itself. I was glad to see Rory finally call Logan on his tired act of being a jerk and then pulling a grand gesture to make up for it. It was nice to revisit the lingering issues of Lorelai and Rory's time away from Emily, even though the recasting of Mia was distracting (if they hadn't done it, they could've run a scene from "The Ins and Outs of Inns" in the previouslies). But the humor doesn't really feel there right now; Zach, of all people, was the only character to make me laugh last night.

Very, very good "House," in both the patient storyline (Kurtwood Smith was wonderful, and seeing Hugh Laurie and Dave Matthews jam on the piano was a treat) and the "cancer" plot for House. I'm torn on the latter, though, since on the one hand I appreciate that the writers are letting their main character be pathetic and despicable to the degree that he would fake cancer to get high, but on the other hand this should be the final nail in the coffin of his career at this hospital, if not in medicine. After everything Cutty and Wilson did for him during the Tritter mess, he cheats his way through rehab and then pulls this? This is not a man's whose judgment on anything should be trusted anymore. I know that the show has always bent plausibility with the stuff House gets away with, but this felt like him going too far even within the rules the writers have laid out.

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

I don't. Really, I don't.

This morning's column will likely be the only time I ever write about "The Wedding Bells," either in the paper or the blog:

A decade ago, at a press conference for "Ally McBeal," a reporter, quoting "As Good As It Gets," asked David E. Kelley how he wrote women so well. This was early in that show's lifespan -- and midway through Kelley's transformation from primetime savior to carnival barker -- so it wasn't obvious yet that Kelley doesn't write women well, and that human beings in general are a stretch.

These days, whether in his ABC hit "Boston Legal" or his brand-new Fox show "The Wedding Bells," Kelley doesn't write people. He writes cartoons. They're often amusing, sometimes eloquent cartoons, but cartoons nonetheless, with self-conscious catch phrases and wacky tics and behavior that only makes sense if you know an eccentric, powerful producer is writing it for them.

"Boston Legal" at least has James Spader and William Shatner, two actors who embrace the caricature, and the occasional flowery monologue about the genius of our judicial system. Within the strange limitations Kelley's placed on his own talent, it mostly works.

"The Wedding Bells" doesn't. It abandons all of Kelley's strengths, like the legal setting and male bonding, and drowns itself in his weaknesses: women discussing their feelings, women flirting with men, women acting body-conscious... basically, anything involving the female gender.

To read the full thing, click here. Also, the column about tacky Jersey reality show contestants ran yesterday. Click here to read the full post