Friday, October 06, 2006

"I need to start drinking during the day": Gleanage cleanage

Although I am quickly becoming swamped by the task of trying to recap every half-decent television show on the box (I think Todd agrees with me on this), I will for the moment persevere and recap some of this week's episodes that interested me the most.

I'll begin with Gilmore Girls, a show that's most dear to my heart, which aired its second episode minus its creators on Tuesday. Now, when the news that Amy Sherman-Palladino, who I believe to be one of television's finest writers, was jumping ship and taking her wingman husband Daniel Palladino with her, I feared the show would become nigh-unwatchable. However, so far that's not really the case: new showrunner David S. Rosenthal is so far keeping the Girls above water, although barely. The required pop culture references don't have the wonderfully odd variety of yesteryear, and the supporting players have so far been used poorly (Taylor installing a traffic camera in the season 7 premiere was a direct ripoff of an earlier storyline, Paris being a scary tutor seemed very stale, and Liz & TJ's dinner with Luke was very, very dull), but Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel have been acting their asses off and keeping all scenes involving them--which is 90% of the show--either perky or emotionally resonant. My sympathies still lie with Rosenthal for the corner last year's finale wrote him into, and he made the brave decision to keep these opening episodes mostly confined to Lorelai's emotional turmoil following her one-night stand with Christopher. Scott Patterson must too be applauded for his tightly-sealed take on a shellshocked Luke in Tuesday's episode. Luke could have been played in a much more sympathetic way, but his behavior here (basically bottling up his emotions and diving into denial) is in keeping with his character and in the end, endears him to me more. I'm the first to admit that Graham & Patterson don't exactly set the screen alight when it comes to physical chemistry, but I think too much has been invested in the 'written in the stars' pairing of Luke and Lorelai for it to be dashed now. If Rosenthal continues to handle the fallout of the breakup as maturely as he's been doing so far, I just don't think one can write off the Girls just yet.

That aside, there's no denying Gilmore Girls has been a bit of a downer this season. My pick for the heir to its throne of 'most charming show on television' is Ugly Betty, which looks to be the deserved breakout show of the year. The telenovela-inspired machinations of Vanessa Williams and the zombified lady she's in cahoots with couldn't interest me less, and the message of this week's episode ("Models don't have to be so thin!") wasn't exactly news. But there's just so much to love about the earnest, plucky title character. I also enjoy the unlikely team of her and her playboy boss, and Ashley Jensen of Extras is inspired best-friend casting (with Lucy Davis of the original Office also showing up this week in Betty along with her cameo in Studio 60, Ricky Gervais' eye for talent is clearly strong). Ugly Betty is simply hypnotizingly sweet. I swear, my lower lip trembled when I saw her bunny had been ripped up. Let's hope the need for a ridiculous plotline doesn't over-burden this show as it has Desperate Housewives.

Shark is proceeding along nicely, although it hasn't even vaguely broken outside of its formula so far. Now, that's OK--we're only three episodes in, and how long did it take before House started really hitting home runs? Still, outside of James Woods's electric performance, Shark is having clear trouble distinguishing itself at all. The ensemble of junior lawyers are a grey blur who all behave in the same basic lapdog manner, with just a slight variance in morality between characters. House quickly went to the trouble of giving its side characters backgrounds so that we could identify with their behavior better, but so far Stark's legal team are barely more than glorified assistants. Because, honestly, who wants to see anyone but James Woods deliver that closing statement at the end of the show? This week's episode included Stark grilling an adorable child about his possibly murderous father. That in itself is on the right side of ambiguous, but so far Stark's cases have been considered guilty from the start, with Stark's team merely trying to build the best case to prove such. A little more ambiguity towards the defendants, as well as a little conflict between the attorneys, might make things here more interesting.

I'll admit it. Grey's Anatomy kinda has me hooked, and these episodes haven't even really been very good! There's something about a beautiful cast and a hospital setting that just gets me hook, line & sinker. This week's melodrama included one good storyline, where Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin played a girl who could feel no pain. The rest ranged from boringly obvious (George confesses to Callie that he needs space; Cristina realizes she needs to motivate Burke to get well) to boringly boring (Meredith continues toying with the boring vet and McDreamy, but still comes out thinking she's been wronged) to boringly incredibly annoying (Izzie stands outside the hospital for the whole episode, trying to work up the courage to talk to the Chief). Izzie's journey this season has been particularly laborious, and having her stand motionless for a whole episode seemed distressingly similar to having her lie motionless for a whole episode just two weeks ago. Grey's can also be very amateur in the way that it links patients' sufferings to the doctors' inner turmoils, and everything going on here really did hit the nail on the head in a yawnsome, formulaic manner. NEVERTHELESS. Have you noticed how pretty the cast is? 22.48 million Americans can't be wrong!

I want to cover NBC's comedies too, but I don't really have the energy. Basically, I thought Earl was fine, with Joy's moments being (as usual) the funniest due to her gleeful political incorrectness and Earl's reconcilliation with a circus sideshow being fairly standard stuff. and The Office was erring towards its darker side, which I approve of (even though it meant sacrificing a few laughs). I'm still not totally taken with Rainn Wilson's performance as Dwight though--he's just a little too broad for me. If he played things a little more low-key, especially in his scenes with the similarly (but far more effectively) broad Steve Carrell, he'd have less trouble winning me over.

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