Monday, October 20, 2008

Post-weekend catch-up: Life, ER, Entourage, Crusoe and Easy Money

Time for another ever-unpopular grab-bag post, in which I attempt to briefly address the latest episodes of, in order, "Life," "ER," "Entourage," "Crusoe" and "Easy Money," just as soon as I tear the nameplate off my locker...

Not one of the better "Life"s of the season, I thought. The image of the guy crushed inside the car wasn't as disturbingly pretty as the show usually goes for, and Bethany's lookalike mom (who's also playing a nasty mom on "90210," I believe) was the obvious killer at least 20 minutes before they revealed the truth. Not a very engaging major case, and my interest in the conspiracy isn't very strong at the moment. Other than some isolated moments like Ted's students being impressed by his real resume (which I assumed would have come up back when the class was full of laptop-wielders) or Charlie's ex messing with his head at the storage locker, it was forgettable, and a real comedown after the great Stanford Prison Experiment ep the week before.

I wasn't wild about Maura Tierney's "ER" farewell, either. I've always loved Tierney, though my like for Abby has waxed and waned over the years. The period when she was just a black hole of misery -- I want to say around the time she got beat up by her neighbor and started drinking again, but all the mishaps of that era all blend together, which is part of the problem -- was what led me to kick the "ER" habit for a while. But I recognize that she's a terrific actress, that she has one of the longest tenures in the history of the show (I'm guessing, though I haven't done the math, that only Noah Wyle and Laura Innes put in more time at County) and that, once the writers let Abby smile now and again, she could be a very appealing character.

I just prefer the less-is-more approach to "ER" character exits. I was always fond of the way that Jeannie just walked out of the ER one day, or how what was supposed to be our last glimpse of Peter Benton (until some executive decided to make Eriq La Salle earn every cent of his contract) was him jogging away from Carter after cracking a joke at his protege's expense. For that matter, I really liked the first of the two Mark Greene exits -- Mark's last day in the hospital, which was also Pratt's first day -- and if that had been Anthony Edwards' final appearance (before the flashback he's doing later this season), followed by the episode where the ER got the letter about his death, people might think more fondly on that story arc.

So doing a whole hour of Abby unfiltered, and of every single character getting an individual goodbye scene with her, seemed a bit much. I liked several of them individually -- particularly the bit with Haleh and the nameplates(*) -- but I think the writers needed to pick just one or two and scrap the rest.

(*) If you freeze-framed the nameplates, you'd see not only the name of every former regular character, but most of the show's long-time former producers, like Lydia Woodward and Jack Orman. The entire thing works better as a meta moment than an actual in-character bit -- it's hard to imagine the nurses caring enough to put Dave Malucci's name up there, for instance.

I really don't have anything to say about "Entourage," but I know a lot of you are like me and can't stop watching. Other than being amused that Alan Dale now must play every high-powered CEO on television, there wasn't anything worth laughing at, and Ari's job offer mainly seems like yet another excuse for the writers to put Vince into "Smoke Jumpers" -- which, for some reason, is the only project of interest to him in all of Hollywood.

I also don't have much to say about "Crusoe" other than what was in my initial review, but since I did have a surprising amount of fun watching it -- and since nobody had much to say on the initial post, I thought I'd bring it up here. I can see this one taking a steep dive off a cliff (much like both Crusoe and Friday did at various points in the pilot) starting with episode two, but this one played like a higher-end Robert Halmi production.

Finally, I'm not even sure there's much point about writing about "Easy Money." Even by the historical standards of how both the CW and the WB previously did on Sunday nights, this outsourced lineup is a ratings catastrophe. All the shows are well under a million total viewers, and "Easy Money" got a zero share of the 18-49 demo. Zero. Both "Easy Money" and "Valentine, Inc." have already shut down production in a move that's billed as "temporary." Uh-huh.

But I bring it up because three episodes in, "Easy Money" is one of the few newbies still holding my interest. Laurie Metcalfe is doing really strong work as the conniving Bobette (as soon as the blonde showed up, you just knew Bobette was going to lop off that braid, didn't you?), and this world continues to interest me enough that I'll be disappointed but not surprised when the episodes run out.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I am really loving LIFE this year. I agree that this episode wasn't great but had a lot of great moments, besides the moments you mentioned I really like when they notified girlfriend. Its a moment not often seen on the show and it was simple in a way those scenes usually aren't.

I was also suprised by how much I liked Crusoe. I love the swiss Family Robinson house and loved the Friday and Crusoe relationship. I have no idea how this is going to be more than a 2 hour miniseries. But I watch at least one more to see what they do.

Anonymous said...

I'm a sucker for Entourage, and have actually enjoyed much of it this season. Seeing Alan Dale (again!) was a hoot, and I was touched by the scene between Ari and Vince at the airport. Though I would hate to see Ari not take the studio job just to "finish what they started" with Vince. Doesn't look like that's going to happen. Here's hoping that "I Want to be Sedated" comes back around!

Grimoald said...

Entourage was largely terrible, as is its want, but Tambor was gold.

Also, its always nice to see Jason Isaacs pick up a paycheck.

Diane said...

In Life I loved the picture hanging over the record mogul's desk, and how it took their second visit to the office for Charlie to really get a look at it. They didn't go for the obvious joke though, which I appreciated as well.

Nicole said...

Crusoe was pretty decent, and any show that has Sean Bean, even for brief flashbacks, gets a pass from me. I'm not sure how long this can last, but them again it's on a Friday night, and there are cool gadgets and a hot guy, with the added advantage of British accents. The quality of the guest stars also seems pretty high, with Bean, Sam Neill and Joaquin de Almeida so if the episodes are on par with what aired, it will be worth watching.

Anonymous said...

I more or less enjoyed Crusoe. I really REALLY liked the Friday character in this version, although I thought the "he speaks 12 languages" bit was a bit much. Friday's fun, but he's got a lot of depth. I liked him teasing Crusoe about his cannibalism ("As long as there are goats on the island, I won't eat human flesh," "And what if we run out of goats?" "Then don't go to sleep.") I liked his lecture about the fact that Crusoe created all these elaborate traps on the island to protect against savages, not considering that Europeans can be evil too. I liked his statement that he had given his life to Crusoe, but was not his slave.

Hated the maudlin flashbacks, though. They didn't really add anything to the plot, didn't much explain the character or situation we see now. I find myself wondering how a man who clearly was so very in love with his wife and family could have gone off on an ocean voyage in that time, when pirates and shipwrecks were not uncommon. The original Robinson Crusoe was a bachelor, if I recall correctly, which makes more sense.

Karen said...

No "Skins"?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No "Skins"?

What is the first rule of Fight Club? Um, I mean, of What's Alan Watching? I don't write about shows until after I've watched them, and I watch them when I get a chance to watch them.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know of a "save easy money" campaign anywhere? pretty sure this is my favorite new show this fall. damnit.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alison, you really, really, really shouldn't bother. A zero share in 18-49 means it's done, and that no one else will ever in a million years think of picking it up.

Anonymous said...

I actually really enjoyed Entourage last night. The end scene was pretty good, and Tambor was brilliant. Everything he said was about as funny as Entourage has ever been.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Easy Money isn't worth saving. There could be a pretty effective campaign of people sending in cash to the network... Lord knows they could use it, but they would probably use it to buy more billboards for 90210...

Crusoe was a lot of fun, but I am curious to see what they can do with it as a series. They can't have people coming to the island every week, because this isn't Gilligan's island, after all, but can you really do a series with only two people in a remote location? There are only so many "stuck in a cave/under a tree/in a rising body of water" stories that can fill an hour at a time... Gotta love the gadgets, though.

Alan: Can we blame the awfulness of the new shows this season on the strike? I know that changed how they did the pilot season this year, but the fact that "mediocre" has become one of the highest accolades these shows recieve, and "could have been worse" is the equivalent of a rave review, comparatively, but this new crop has been astoundingly weak. You'd think SOME quality could have sneaked through... Seems like with the possible exceptions of Easy MOney (about to be cancelled), Life on Mars (we'll see if it can sustain) and Crusoe (too early to tell, really) there is nothing but drivel this year. In the words of the Kids in the Hall, "Who's to Blame???"

BF said...

Best moment of the weekend (by far): Phil's dad showing up as the Mat Greeter on The Amazing Race

Eric said...

Here's my belief about what's happened this year- the writer's strike, as many prophesied that it might, was the tipping point for a lot of people who just no longer make TV the priority of their evening. There's too many other options, including "I'll rent it from Netflix next year."

I know between Wii and World of Warcraft, I've decided to drop Heroes this year, and never picked up Fringe or Terminator, both of which I might have previously watched.

So CBS is the network in the best shape, and The Mentalist is the season's only new hit. It's TV for People With Nothing Better to Do. The one possible bright spot for networks, is that although those people have never been a coveted demographic, I think research will show that these day's they're the most susceptible to traditional advertising.

Unknown said...

I'm guessing, though I haven't done the math, that only Noah Wyle and Laura Innes put in more time at County

Of the major cast members, yes; although she beat Goran Visnjic by only three episodes:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Really? Huh. I know Goran preceded her by half a season or so, but he also hasn't been a regular on the show in a while.

Was Tierney absent for a while at some point?

JakesAlterEgo said...

I *loved* Dr. Green's exit from the show. It's one of those things that always, always turns up in a list of TV moments that make you cry, no matter what. (Along with the ending of "Jurassic Bark" from Futurama). That was right around the time when my affection for the show was at my highest, so watching Carter kinda stumble over reading the second fax was and always will be heartbreaking for me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That was right around the time when my affection for the show was at my highest, so watching Carter kinda stumble over reading the second fax was and always will be heartbreaking for me.

Yes, but that scene is from "The Letter," which I liked. What I objected to was, the following week, spending an hour watching Mark die in Hawaii. I would have much rather seen Mark exit the hospital at the end of "Orion in the Sky," then have Carter read the letter, and that be that. As far as I was concerned, Mark's story ended when he left the job, and everything after was just excess.

They didn't just kill Mark; they overkilled him.

JakesAlterEgo said...

That's a good point. The thing that always kicks off the crying is Mark telling the little girl that she's his last patient, followed by the appreciative dad, followed by him seeing Carter in the parking lot.

Here's a YouTube clip that kind of gets it right.

Anonymous said...

I read that ratings for Life were up 20% this week. I liked the episode more than you did but still not sure about the scenes with Charlie and his ex. Strange to hear Clem Snide's "Ed" theme on NBC again.

afoglia said...

"Life" is really having a sophomore slump. This episode reminded me of "Farthingale," with the questions of identity. Unfortunately, it was much worse.

I put a lot of the blame on Donal Logue's character. He's ruined the dynamic between Crews and Reese. Last year, Crews would have to explain himself to Reese. Now they both explain him to Tidwell, who has no problems following. It weakens whatever uniqueness Crews brings.

Mapeel said...

What I objected to was, the following week, spending an hour watching Mark die in Hawaii.

I found that hour very moving. It was needed for the "fix Rachel" story line, and we were invested in Mark outside of the hospital.

Plus, the image of that white, white room with the blowing curtains has stayed with me.

Pamela Jaye said...

I hated (new) Rachel and I still do. I wasn't fond of the final, flashback, Mark actually dies episode and would have been happier with Alan's scenario

They didn't just kill Mark; they overkilled him.

Love it.
The only thing about the death ep that I didn't hate, that ever so slightly redeemed, was the song, at the end.
(and the fact that the ep made my brother cry. my crying was granted. his was...well, I remember my best friend once saying she wanted a man who cried (like Charles Ingalls). She would have been happy. He didn't sit thru howevermany seasons of Mark like me. Just random eps while doing email on my computer. But man, that ep just brought it all out. I was impressed.)

so, aside from that and the song, I agree. The thing is - I never did like eps that took place away from County anyway. The only one I can think of that was bearable was the one where Carter, Abby, Susan and Luka had that "seminar."
I didn't like Doug and Mark's road trip. They seemed to hate their fathers as much as I did mine. And Abby's trip to get Maggie, Sam's trip to get Alex... Anything in Africa... (and now I am sad again that Pratt finally got it together - for nothing)

As for Abby - a lot of the time (though it didn't coincide) I'd have taken Meredith Grey's angst over hers, easily.
I'm not totally sure why. There was just something about Abby that rubbed me wrong.
Abusive nutty mother - check
Absent father - check
Alcoholic - pretty darn close
Good nurse/doctor, smart and good with patients - check
Maybe it was the smoking. But Abby didn't resonate with me from the beginning, and Meredith did.
Abby did have one thing Mer did not - she had to take care of her little brother. Mer only had to be perfect. (and likely never went hungry)

Michael said...

Looking at the wall of nameplates on "ER", I note that Carole Hathaway is the only nurse so honored. What about nurses Connie, Lydia, and Yosh? Or Jerry at the front desk? How about Jeannie Boulet? Drs. Morganstern, Legaspi, and even Clemente and early docs Taglieri and Cvetic?

Amazingly, Chuny and Malik are the current cast members with the most episodes, with Haleh passing Luka and Abby in 4-5 episodes.

And Neela has now been in more episodes than Doug Ross.

(Full disclosure: I looked up the full cast list on IMDB.)

Anonymous said...

I'd almost rather see Entourage dump Vince and the boys and focus solely on Ari as a studio boss.

Anonymous said...

I like Crusoe but it feels more like a Sunday night family viewing show than the Friday graveyard.

Pamela Jaye: The "Breakfast Club" episode of ER (does that make Gallant the nerd?)- I always thought that was forced in making Kovacs such a hero and Carter a stock spoiled rich boy.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was the best episode of Entourage I've seen in years.

monic said...

I had trouble with this episode. I'm known in my circle as a 'Life' fan and push it on friends as much Charlie does with his fruit but the episode disappointed me a lot.

And I've been trying to keep an open mind about the changes but I am close to hating Tidwell's character. Sure, he's funny but I hate how he constantly hits on Reese and how the show is pushing it so much that we know that Reese might fall for his tricks. He hasn't contributed anything to the plot and only serve to break up the fantastic two person partner chemistry Crews and Reese developed over the course of the first season.

Also, I'm beginning to hate how Reese is always sidelined (not to mentioned saddled with Tidwell plot of all things) and how they're slowly taking away all the things that made her such a fantastic, compelling character. Is this the hand of the network make Reese more 'accessible' and dull her sharp edges? Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping Martin Landau would be back as a regular, and I'm guessing he will, there was some mention of the Ramones script on the golf course. That's something I might be interested in. And more Tambor. That was freakin' awesome!
Hard to believe a guy like Ari wouldn't be able to rationalize taking the studio job and his friendship with Vince in about two seconds.

I'm a big Maura Tierney fan. The last scene was exceptionally lame, I thought, with everyone standing around watching her walk away as if she's embarking on a boat. Nobody's gonna go say hi/good-bye to Luca? Not even his two ex-lovers? (Luca did have a fling with Chuni, didn't he?) Linda Cardinelli no longer has a character on that show. She was pretty good her first couple seasons, I though. John Stamos, having served as Cloris Leachman's foil, has now served his onl conceivable purpose on televison.

Exile said...

first good entourage of the season. I was really pissed for a while, but the combination of Ari on top of a situation, eric getting bossed by a hot slavstress, and the first sensible plot element presented by the tension between Ari and Vince by the offer made it a great episode. also drama looking like an idiot helped.

Maura tierney is a goddess. as far as I cam concerned ER is now over.

Anonymous said...

Entourage felt like a filler episode, but entertaining nonetheless, right up until the last scene at the airport, which was just great. I didnt expect Vince to be that heartbroken at the prospect of losing Ari as a manager, I figured he and the gang would just be up for doing all WB movies from now on. Good conflict to fill the last 5 eps.

Pamela Jaye said...

anonymous 9:17am -

I've actually never seen a John Hughes (?) movie (though, obviously I've read an article about him) - unless he wrote St. Elmo's Fire.

What I notice about 80's (teen?) movies is that everyone smokes a lot (ick. and yes, I was 22 in 81 and there was as much smoking in my office as in Mad Men, so the teens shouldn't seem odd... but it's annoying - though not as much as it was to live thru (oh and coke was big too. i was a square and never invited, thankfully. in fact my days at John Hancock wwere pretty much a continuation of High School, with worse air quality.)

Pamela Jaye said...

Mark had an affair with Chuny. I don't think Luka did, but I'm not positive

Anonymous said...

Definitely the best episode of "Entourage" of the season. If I wasn't so certain that the premise of this show is always about returning things to the status quo, I'd be excited about next season being about Ari as the studio head. Instead though, I think that the show will have Ari continue to be Vince's agent, and that Dana Gordon will take Ari's position. I'd prefer they not, but that's just my opinion of where they're going. I hope to be proven wrong, because it'd be a breath of fresh air to see Ari the studio head instead of Ari the agent after 5 seasons.

JMC said...

Chuny had flings with both Greene and Luka. With Luka it turned into that whole sexual harassment thing.

Anonymous said...

I'am obssesed with "crusoe" i love it so.much the tree house is so cool.the gadgets are awesome not to mention how handy my little sister thinks crusoe is and hey i can't denie either I love the cast the plot the suspense how it gets better each week