Friday, October 24, 2008

Mid-Friday catch-up: Grey's Anatomy, ER and Life on Mars

Quick spoilers for last night's episodes of, in order, "Grey's Anatomy," "ER" and "Life on Mars" coming up just as soon as I make sure my floor is clean...

"Grey's Anatomy" continues its recent streak of solid, back-to-basics episodes. The things that either annoy me or that I don't care about (say, the Mer/Der tension) are things I never liked in the first place, while there's been much more focus on the part of the show that I do enjoy, like the cutthroat nature of the surgical program (the cafeteria scene was a highlight) or relationship stories that don't make me want to slit my throat (like Callie turning to McSteamy for sub-equatorial advice, a decision that will no doubt backfire amusingly in an episode or two). Plus, they continue to do a stellar job of guest casting. How perfect was Carl Lumbly as the estranged dad?

Speaking of perfect guest casting of African-American actors of a certain age, it was a pleasure to see Glynn Turman show up on "ER," though he didn't have as much to do as I would have liked. (For those of you who were as knocked out as I was by Turman's Emmy-winning appearances on "In Treatment," keep an eye out for "Scrubs" when it returns: Bill Lawrence and Zach Braff were just as blown away by Turman's work there and crafted a whole episode around him.)

The rest of the episode was a mixed bag. It's always a pleasure to watch Angela Bassett beat people up (if the "X-Men" movies had been made even a few years earlier, she would have been a perfect, studio-acceptable choice to play Storm), and the necessary softening of Dr. Banfield is beginning. On the other hand, even if every commercial for hadn't screamed that the little sister was eeeeeevil!, the episode way telegraphed it, which ruined what should have been a wonderfully creepy moment when her true sociopathic colors came out at the end.

Also, two annoying things from a longtime "ER" fan standpoint. First, I'm sure the show has occasionally recycled guest stars (though never with the frequency of an "NYPD Blue" or "Law & Order"), but it bugged me to see Molly Price as the mom, since I had only recent channel-surfed past the "ER"/"Third Watch" crossover where Susan Lewis goes to New York so Yoakas and Bosco can help her find her sister. Second, late in the hour there was a plug for NBC's website where Linda Cardellini asked, while discussing a poll about best "ER" characters of all time, "Dr. Ross or Dr. Gates? It's a tough question." Um, no. Stamos has been just fine the last few years, but no. Not even in the same ballpark.

Finally, the ratings for "Life on Mars" continue to slide right along with my interest in it. I continue to enjoy some of the '70s touches -- the unexpected song choices, the "Starsky & Hutch"-esque score, Michael Imperioli's amazing mustache -- but the heart of the show is starting to feel as thin as I began to find the British show by its second season. It's just too close to an actual '70s cop show -- and a middle-of-the-road one, at that -- for me to stick around much longer, cool music and moostashes or no. This show needs some weird in a hurry.

What did everybody else think?


dark tyler said...

The multiple payoff sequence in Grey's was pure Shonda magic. Especially with Alex shouting to the angry abandoned Lumbly's son. I'm so glad I returned to the show this year.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, and I should add about Life on Mars: Imperioli's "1968 called, and it wants its hippies back" (or whatever the exact phrasing was) was as lame as it was anachronistic.

[obsessive fanboy]
Unless they wanted it to be anachronistic! Maybe that quip was a clue that Sam didn't really travel back in time!
[/obsessive fanboy]

Nicole said...

Life on Mars has some good parts, but there was an awkward 9/11 reference in an episode that otherwise dealt with a gay veteran that did make any sense. It was horrible writing that no actor could have made better.

Pamela Jaye said...

random thoughts

Loved Grey's as lately. Loved Izzie giving up on Alex and then not giving up. Odd as that sounds. Hopefully he will continue to grow as will their relationship. I like them together.

Love Cristina deciding to keep Lexopedia, who she disliked so much last season that Lex was found charting in a closet.

Lumbly I recognized, not sure who Turman is (guessing father of no blood alcohol level son). Remember him from movie where black family gets white exchange student from South Africa.

Happy George did not choose Lex due to potential Greys-type conflict of interest. (and they can take their time with this pairing. I think someone, preferably Izzie, should inform Lex of how George pined wordlessly over Mer for so long - as a cautionary tale. Most characters on this show only can tell their issues to a third party - and that's half the problem)

Dropped transplantables last seen on Chicago Hope (by actress last seen as patient on Grey's). Said organ was also kicked around the ER

Cheers for remembering medjor medical breakthrough. Boo hiss for forgetting Mer, and for not realizing this might upset her. Cheers for apology present.

Mer reading mom's diary and saying "I'm half the durgeon my mother was at my age" - yes, Mer, but you are *twice* the *person* she was. (let's give Mer a break - she might whine a lot, but she cares for (most of) her patients, and she binds her friends together. *Cristina* is more self-absorbed than Mer is.

A bit tired of the Chief's publicity hunger.

New ER chief - wandering past dark alleys on phone? seriously? I could see that coming.

the little girl looked familiar (as did mom - thanks foe explaining that) but imbd'ed her and i don't watch anything she was listed as having been in.

continue to hate aussie doc.
(and why do they have to put last five second guest cameos in opening credits on Grey's? do they think we don't read?)

Alex shouting at transplant patient's son was vaguely reminiscent - okay not vaguely - of season 2 ep 2 liver transplant patient's son (with abused mother) except last time Alex didn't yell. Still obviously it was all about Alex - which is okay since this in TV and not Real Life.
Side note from 2.02 - Alex's dad is not dead i'm guessing, since Alex once said something about how he might as well not have a dad or similar wording - he's virtually dead (in theory but not is fact) and I would not mind seeing him

Also - patient on ER once (single, no kids) later appeared (years later) married and possibly having lost family (forget details) - also having gained weight. Name, Cynthia something. I'm sure there are many actresses in LA who could have been used instead. (we won't get into actors from Ally/The Practice recycled on Boston Legal as different people - especially the recurring ones like Joey Herrick or John Cage of Scott Gruber (who was on BP/BL/TP - two of them as a judge.

Honestly I didn't know tongue studs were used for that. I thought they were just to create speech impediments.

Mars was giving me Jouneyman - there's my dad who left me when I was x years old flashbacks. (though they looked more like Chuck's flashes). Not that that was a bad thing.
as someone said - I don't feel Sam's pain/confusion/urgency as I got the impression he is in a coma. Bad move there.

Pamela Jaye said...


Said organ was also kicked around the *OR*

Pamela Jaye said...

also surgeon, not durgeon

KLE said...

I couldn't watch more than one epi of American LOM. The first episode was so close tot he original that I just couldn't see the point of even bothering. The few moments that strayed from the original script were very poorly written.

I also was so blown away by how the original series ended that I just couldn't stomach sticking around for a dragged out 3-5 year program that would probably totally chicken out in an American network show kind of way with how the story is supposed to end.

ER has always overblown it's scenes for the next week and commercials and telegraphed the twists, to the point that it's a common joke in our house about every week being "the most shocking ER ever."

Has Vorenus appeared on Grey's yet? I've never watched it, but might try to catch an epi when he's on.

Adam said...

Alan, really: was Doug Ross a more interesting character than Peter Benton? I'll throw down on that one if you want.

Was it a star-making reluctant troubled hero role? Sure. But I'll take Benton's relationship with Carter and the whole Vucelich arc over Doug Ross' best any day.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Has Vorenus appeared on Grey's yet? I've never watched it, but might try to catch an epi when he's on.

He was in the two hour season premiere, and then cameo'ed at the end of last night's episode, signaling that he'll be back for a while starting next week.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, really: was Doug Ross a more interesting character than Peter Benton? I'll throw down on that one if you want.

Oh, Benton is my favorite ER character ever. That's not even a question. I'm just saying that Ross vs. Gates is a blowout of epic proportions.

Actually, might as well ask on a slow day leading into a "Mad Men" packed weekend: who's your favorite "ER" character ever, and why?

Anonymous said...

I like Helee (not sure how to spell it), the stalwart supporting character nurse. She's my favorite ER character ever. Is she even still on? I haven't watched in a few years. But if she's not, she sure was on for a long time, and she was a no-nonsense, realistic portrayal of a real-life ER nurse. I've had other favorites over the years, but they always disappoint me in the end. But not Helee--with her, what you see is what you get, time after time. It would be much easier to pick most hated ER character ever (that particular honor goes to the helicopter smooshed doc with one what was his name???).

Anonymous said...

Actually, might as well ask on a slow day leading into a "Mad Men" packed weekend: who's your favorite "ER" character ever, and why?

Romano easily, no question about it. He provided a counterbalance that held the entire show together, which the writers learned the hard way when they killed him in the most profoundly idiotic manner imaginable (STILL the dumbest thing the show has ever done). While I liked a lot of the other characters, the fact that just about all of them were passionate people willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to do the right thing could become kind of suffocating at times. You have to have at least one guy who treats the whole thing like it is, a job, and thinks that all these other people are jackasses. Every scene of his was a breath of fresh air. Romano was a character least similar any of the other characters.

joy said...

Hey Alan? Wasn't sure where to post these questions, but since you're reviewing 3 shows in this one post, it sort of fits here:

1) How do you find time to watch all the shows you cover? (I know you've mentioned that with all the shows that you *have* to watch, you're more inclined to cut bait sooner this year on stuff like Life on Mars and even Fringe, if they don't get better soon.)

2) If you had to hazard a guess, how many shows do you actually watch? (including the shows you cover here and for the paper, obvi)

I'm asking because I blogged today on how many shows I actually watch during the year (, and am getting tagged for being a nut with 62 shows. And I'd like a little validation, please. :-)

Bix said...

Hmm, favorite ER character.

Carol probably managed to be the most interesting/least annoying for the longest of the original characters, but I'm partial to Anna del Amico because Maria Bello was excellent, the Unresolved Sexual Tension with Carter was handled well aside from the "OMG CARTER'S RICH" part, they did a good job writing different aspects of the character, most notably the conflict in the abortion clinic bombing episode, and they never got to ruin the character.

Adam said...

Benton, and it's not close, so if I have to pick a more obscure second it'd be Donald Anspaugh, who brought decency to an "establishment" job, and David Morgentstern because WHM always makes me smile.

Also, I miss the Carter-Keaton fling.

Anonymous said...

Romano easily, no question about it. He provided a counterbalance that held the entire show together, which the writers learned the hard way when they killed him in the most profoundly idiotic manner imaginable (STILL the dumbest thing the show has ever done).

ITA, but don't blame Chopper--he was only doing the stunts required of him! :-D

Romano is probably my fave character, too, and for the same reasons you mentioned. I'm also partial to Luka, Greene, Ross, and Jerry (Frank's okay, but Jerry was awesome!).

David J. Loehr said...

[obsessive fanboy]
Unless they wanted it to be anachronistic! Maybe that quip was a clue that Sam didn't really travel back in time!
[/obsessive fanboy]

Part of me is hoping the US version resolves itself into something like the (extremely odd) late-era Mission: Impossible episode where the team convinces William Shatner's mob boss that he's gone back in time, and that he's like 50 years younger, etc. Who would see that coming?

(Yes, I'm ashamed I remember as much of that episode as I do...)

Mac said...

I'm sure Alan will post about this soon, but "Life" has been rescued from the Friday death slot and will be on Wednesdays paired with the returning "Law & Order", back where it belongs.

Oaktown Girl said...

For those of you who were as knocked out as I was by Turman's Emmy-winning appearances on "In Treatment..."

His was truly a jaw-dropping performance. I am so happy that he was recognized for it.

Pamela Jaye said...

Has Vorenus appeared on Grey's yet?

after looking him up in IMDB - yes, Kevin McKidd (or as I call him, Journeyman) was in the season 5 premiere and the very end of this week's ep (5.05)
I'm guessing he'll be staying now (I did not see the previews; I read half a sentence in some magazine before realizing I should stop reading, so I won't say *why* they said he would be on the show)

Pamela Jaye said...

sorry for that already answered answer.

at first thought
who's your favorite "ER" character ever, and why?

Mark Greene. just cause he was mostly a good guy.
But I will think on it further (and read the other posts)
Carter was good most of the time.
And did anyone ever notice that whenever a character "went bad" on ER, they always took up smoking?

Pamela Jaye said...

Haleh is spelled thru (thanks, captions)

Is she the only nurse still there?

I remember a mention of a season opener ep she could not be on, as it was set two weeks (?) after the previous ep, but in the meantime she has lost a LOT of weight.

(also she was in Fred Savage's show "Working" (?) (it was so boring, i've probably got the name wrong. I did not notice his brother Ben as the twerp on Chuck this week - even after I was told he was on it))

Pamela Jaye said...

btw, is nurse Dawn from New Orleans now working without any further recognition? Thought I saw her, but she's never mentioned.

(also, loved Abby Keaton)

Shawn Anderson said...

Anyone catch the call back line (LoM) to last week's use of Mott the Hoople's "All the Way to Memphis"?

Sticker (leader of the 'hippy freaks') points out Sam as someone who "looks like a star but is really out on parole," a lyric from the song, and also on target with his situation.

I also liked how they used the most innocuous music from the sixties (Tommy James & the Shondells, The Turtles) to underscore how toothless the sixties movement was becoming after Nixon ended the war.

I liked the new 70's cop score, but those flourishes just made it even more apparent that there needs to be a bit more camp in the scenes to make it work. I'm still of the mind that it's doing at least as well as The Office did starting out, and it got better as it began to move away from the original material, thanks to the writing staff. I'm not sure how much confidence I have in these October Road veterans.

JakesAlterEgo said...

I think Romano wins for my favorite character ever just because he has--after Mark Green saying "You're my last patient"--the most lasting memory of the show in my mind. I will never be able to forget when he stitched up Lucy. That just...broke my heart.

Also, I absolutely love Kellie Martin. Like...way too much. I think it goes back to Seaquest.

David J. Loehr said...

I'm not sure how much confidence I have in these October Road veterans.

Exactly. Not that I think David E. Kelley would have made it work either, but at least it would have been interesting to see what happened.

Anonymous said...

My favorite TV characters were Benton and Weaver, but Weaver hung around too long and they started to make her "likeable". Anspach was a good recurring character. I may be one of the few who prefer Frank to Jerry.

My word verification code is "rupersht". I just find that funny.

Anonymous said...

Favorite ER character?

Abby Lockhart, no doubt. Always felt Maura Tierney did a great job, and while ER can be rightfully accused of excess and melodrama, I found the portrayal of Abby's struggles and her messed up childhood pretty realistic and very sympathetic.

Dennis said...

It's a shot in the dark here but does anyone know why CTV in Canada isn't carrying tonight's Mad Men S2 finale?

Nicole said...

I don't think CTV has aired any of the season 2 episodes yet. I have seen Bravo air the early season 2 episodes, but as usual, CTV likes to wait until the buzz is over to start airing the show.

They do seem to have up to episode 12 online at, so if you're really stuck, you can wait until they put it on the website.

Dennis said...

Yeah, it's been airing on the A-Channel affiliates and then CTV's had the eps on line.

Just found out that it won't air here in Canada until Next Sunday.

I don't know why they made that decision. I won't be able to wait to read about it and I'll be looking to watch it somewhere else later on as well.

Anonymous said...

LOM: Mostly enjoyed it more than some here, but: Gene Hunt is less stone-age than the other cops? No, no, no, no, no. You're trying to soften Gene Hunt especially given that he's Harvey Keitel? What a misunderstanding of how the show should go.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of nurses, whatever happened to Yosh? They didn't kill him off during one of the seasons I wasn't watching did they?

And I agree the patient/nurse/dr. with the same troubles thing is so tired and overdone on this show (the shots with Angela Basset's character evertime a kid's in danger). I'm guessing County must have a box with, "please check the appropriate emotional issue". Then they match the staff accordingly.

Pamela Jaye said...


I don't remember anything happening to Yosh (or any of the other nurses not in the main cast) - they just sort of fade away, and are rarely mentioned again (like they could still be there, working shifts we don't see - after all, the docs we do see can't be the entire ER staff, can they? Only Grey's Anatomy has attempted to assert that such a thing is true - "it wouldn't be wise for the only remaining healthy attending to be exposed" said Mark, with, I believe, non-altruistic motives)