Saturday, May 19, 2007

“Yeah, funny long list, we get it” – Scrubs

A pretty decent double-episode finale for Scrubs. It managed to deal with the JD – Kim situation while remaining consistently funny (only the gym teacher rabbit conscience thing really fell flat) and giving every actor a chance to shine. My personal favourite part was the Janitor obsessing over what present to get for Elliott with his brain trust. (Although who else misses Randall? I guess he’s too busy making Pirates of the Caribbean movies.) JD’s developing relationship with his unborn child was also disarmingly sweet and well played by Zach Braff.

Yet despite all the aspects of this double-episode that I enjoyed, there’s only one thing I really want to talk about: JD & Kim and JD & Elliott. Personally I love the former as a couple; JD and Elliot are old news, and to get them together at this point would only render pointless their development into strong friends over the last couple seasons. Some fans argue that JD and Elliott are like Rachel and Ross (a comparison that the show itself has mocked – twice) in that they simply have to end up together. Which sort of makes sense, I guess. But to me it reeks more of an easy way out. The harder option would be to actually build up a new character that would make an ideal partner for JD and get the audience behind the relationship within a season (since the next is definitely the show’s last). I’m not denying the immensity of that challenge, but the writers are only making it more difficult for themselves by having a great character like Kim betray JD so utterly. This finale was already arguing that this act has knocked her out of the running as JD’s eventual soul mate, which is a shame because Banks is such a great actress and the two have definite chemistry.

However, I won’t be heartbroken or anything if Kim is politely nudged out of JD’s love life next season. I’m fine with a new love interest, or even with JD still single and looking by the finale. But please, please Bill Lawrence, don’t get JD and Elliott together if you don’t intend to keep them together. That would be akin to proclaiming that JD has not evolved as a character since season three. As was clearly shown by his decision to give a relationship with Kim a shot, JD is not as immature as he used to be. If the writers really do choose to repeat this tired and over-done story arc, I'll begin to question their sense of their own show.

Still, we didn’t actually see JD and Elliott get together, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Either way season six has been a disappointment, but if the writers kick off season seven with JD making the mature decision and taking a step back, they’ll be on the right track already.


Friday, May 18, 2007

The CW and Fox cannot meet our high standards for cast photo quality

We mean that.


Aliens in America:

Todd: It's a good thing TV's here to teach us to be tolerant! I so often forget.

Libby: That kid better find himself a Green Bay Packers jersey right quick.

Watch the video here.

Todd: When I was a picked-on, misunderstood high school student, I wish MY family had taken in a Muslim exchange student to bear the brunt of the other students' wrath! Maybe I wouldn't be so bitter now!

David: Most boring edgy comedy ever?

Gossip Girl:

Todd: This makes me feel a little. . .well, a little uncomfortable. At least it's set in New York so we know the bikinis won't be coming out!

Libby: Ugh! I hate teenagers! All of them!

The video is here.

Todd: It was fun while it lasted, Veronica Mars. Now, you can just narrate the cattiest nature documentary ever. *sigh*

David: Kristen Bell sounds like she's commenting on a bad porn movie.

Life Is Wild:

Todd: I have only one thing to say. "The cheetah is catching the bunny!"

Libby: For a show set in South Africa, these people sure are white. . .

Watch the video here.

Todd: I'm glad they made a television version of The Constant Gardener!

David: It's Born Free meets The Shield! Except not nearly as good as that sounds.


Todd: I love Tyler Labine. AND Ray Wise. But Nikki Reed, co-screenwriter of Thirteen? I may not be tuning in for this. . .

Libby: Finally, proof that the retail world is Satan's domain.

The video is here.

Todd: Once you knew him as the Prince of Darkness and the Father of Lies, but this fall on The CW, Satan himself is the Prince of Action and the Father of Laughs! It's. . .REAPER!

David: I barely understand what this show is, but ... Ray Wise as Satan? It'd be even better if they made it a musical!


Back to You:

Todd: Speaking of Satan's domain. . .


The video's here.

Todd: You know what they won't be expecting in a sitcom? The ol' walk-n-talk.

David: WHERE IS FRED WILLARD?! They should go for less Studio 60 and more Ron Burgundy.

Canterbury's Law:

Todd: Thank God we have these people standing around their offices, looking very important. I don't know how we'd ever get anything done otherwise.

Libby: Julianna Margulies is evidently Turning Japanese. So, there's that.

(You really think so?)

There's a video here.

Todd: Boy, it's a GOOD THING Elizabeth Canterbury doesn't PLAY BY THE RULES. Not only does it make for great results, but it makes for ORIGINAL and COMPELLING DRAMA.

They should just give her a penis and be done with it.

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares:

Todd: Oh man. This giant head is going to solve all of America's culinary problems!

Libby: I AM a fan of yelling. . .

(No video on this one! Sorry.)


Todd: The K is for forced Kwality.

Libby: The K is for Krappy.

I want a Mexican video.

It's as though they crossed The Shield with The Wire, then mixed it all together with that show on CBS from a few years ago about the kid who plays baseball or whatever.

David: I thought it was really INVENTIVE to have the partners be at odds with each other. the gritty style and deep characterization makes me think this will REINVENT the cop show!

New Amsterdam:

I guess CSI would be a bigger hit if they cross-bred it with The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Libby: Wow. Immortal detective. Didn't see that one coming.

Immortals fighting crime right here.

Todd: After watching this trailer, I already know what the series finale will be. Ergo, I don't need to watch this show. I mean, is there any way the true love isn't the partner?

David: I didn't know being immortal made you make odd pauses in your awkward dialogue!

The Return of Jezebel James:

Todd: They're the same, but REALLY, THEY'RE DIFFERENT. Did you get that? If not, we'll have a lot of cross-cutting and some musical montages to drive the point home.

Libby: There's a place where these two would be sisters. And that place is called nowhere.

The hilarity is here.

Todd: It's like Amy Sherman-Palladino's brain exploded all over a series of cameras.

David: I can't believe we have to wait until April to see if this is a huge disappointment.

The Rules for Starting Over:

Todd: Man, when I look at the faces of these genial, smiling white people, I know I'm going to get some good times!

Last night I couldn't sleep at all. I could think about was what was going to happen on The Office next year. I mean, how will the resolv ... oh, wait. Nevermind.

Laughter starts now.

Todd: The leprechaun should be a main character.

David: The monkey should be a main character.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles:

Todd: I hope every episode of this show has a disembodied male voice yelling, "Watch out for killer robots!" on the soundtrack.

Libby: So. Yeah. I've never seen these movies. So. . .I'm out.

Execute video.

Todd: Y'know. . .the time for metal men is now. What's with all this touchy-feely crap?


And CBS has finally uploaded a Viva Laughlin video, which you can watch here.

Todd: The Mick Jagger/Hugh Jackman duet isn't really the best. He should actually be singing or he should be lip synching. There's no in between!

David: I'd watch anything with Jackman in it. Too bad he's not really in this? I hate LIES.

Thanks for hanging out with us this upfront season! Hope you keep coming back to read our reviews of the new shows and of the returning shows we know and love.


"You suck.": Grey's Anatomy

OH MY GOD YAWNSNORE. God. That made last year's prom in the hospital, like, completely frickin' awesome in comparison. Yes, the extra-specially long Grey's finale had all the characters sort of, have horrible things happen to them...and that's basically it. Shonda Rhimes said something about next year being awesome fun kooky Grey's again, which I can actually see, but still, this final third of the season has been pretty dreary. Let's see what happened then shall we eh? Eh?

Well the centerpiece was Cristina and Burke's marriage so I suppose I'll start with that even though I've been avoiding blogging about it as it's been a fairly uninteresting storyline. Well, I didn't think he'd go ahead and break up with her basically right on the altar! Geez! Have a little COMPASSION, Burkey! OK, I guess calling off the wedding at the last second is a tried-and-tested TV storyline (hello, even Buffy did it!) but I didn't get that Burke would be that...cruel. Like, even if he did call off the wedding, he goes ahead and basically abandons Cristina too? Say what!? The manner of Burke's departure seemed to be geared towards the higher-ups making a decision on Washington's future on the show (personally, I think he's safe, but you never know). He could return when season 4 begins a grumpier Burke, or he could just vanish with only brief mentions being made of his name, a la Maria Bello in ER. Sandra Oh's big breakdown after she realized Burke had made off with his trumpet and picture of grandmother was a totally Emmy moment, but Oh's a good actress and I expected histrionics, so that was acceptable enough (the choker metaphor was over the top, no two ways around that one).

Then you have Derek suddenly making some bizarre ultimatum to Meredith that I didn't particularly understand after making brief eyes with her half-sister (gross), who is by the way a total hottie and is apparently going to be a regular/at least a recurring next season. Woot woot! Seriously, I didn't get the Derek/Meredith thing (apparently the appropriate contraction is MerDer? I had no idea, but it makes sense) at ALL. Are they even broken up? Or are they just sort of, in a relationship but staring blankly into space while big indie ballads play over the soundtrack? My guess is the second, but there's going to have to have been some sort of resolution there after the show comes back. Derek's behavior was completely frustrating here, and has been over the last few weeks (considering Meredith's been fairly normal, at least by her standards, apart from getting slapped in public by her dad, which was hardly her fault). Let 'em break up. What do I even care. It's sort of amusing when Meredith is post-McDreamy, because then it means the protagonist of the biggest drama on US TV is a drunken, promiscuous, 100-pound abyss of hate. Just kidding Mer--love ya!

Even MORE boneheaded was Callie, who was clearly on LSD the entire episode, suddenly declaring her innate and powerful desire to make a baby with George. Like, right away. Um, WHAT?! Callie tends to be one of the more level-headed ones in the nutty boinkfest that is Seattle Grace, yet here she is trying to stake her claim on her barely-there hubby by making a baby? C'mon, she's smarter than that. I didn't buy it AT ALL. But then again, Izzie's little speech, while not one of the worst she's given this season (hello, her pep talk of evil when Meredith drowned!) seemed ill-fitted in just to leave George even more hanging. The poor guy. Not only does he have two hotties watching his every move, but hottie number three, the aforementioned half-Meredith played by Chyler Leigh, was making eyes at him as she entered the surgical program (what are the odds?!). Not only that, but Georgie Porgie went and failed his intern exam, meaning he has to do the WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN. Can you believe that! It took him three seasons to do it the first time, there'll probably be another spinoff brewing by the time he does it again! Still, if that lets him be Mr. "I already know all this crap" to all the hot little interns, he should totally do it again.

By the way, my suggestion for spinoff number two: Mark's crazy sex adventures across the country. Medical bag in one hand. Bottle of tequila in the other. It'll have to air on Showtime, but so what?

My favorite storyline of the post-ferry episodes, Alex and Jane Doe, came to a fairly well-done but still sad conclusion as Alex failed to grow the stones to claim Jane/Ava/Rebecca as his own before she was whisked off by her lame-o husband. I mean, sure, after a gentle nudge by Addison, he went for it, but she was already gone by then. Ain't that just the way, Karev! Now, I guess he'll be repressing his inner pain by having plenty o' random sex through season 4. Predictions on how long it takes him to hook up with Meredith? I say four episodes.

Finally, the Chief (who quietly gave the best perf of the episode--he's a sly dog, that Pickens!) found out his wife was 1/in the hospital, 2/collapsed, 3/pregnant, 4/having a miscarriage. Poor Chiefy! I dunno how they'll keep Loretta around a lot seeing as she's in Eli Stone, but I guess she'll just drop in every so often to tell it like it is, which is fine by me. Anyway, they definitely looked pretty united at the end of the ep. Of course, when Chief hands his Chiefship to Derek, Derek selflessly passes it right back to him, a decision that was much more Derek-like than some of his wanker moves this season. They really write him schizophrenically. So my prediction of Mark turned out to be wrong, but I always secretly knew they weren't gonna drop Pickens (new nicknames for him: the Pickster, Picky McPick, Jimmy Junior), I just kept forgetting to tell all of you. Oops!

SO where does this leave us all? It leaves all the characters miserable and considering their futures at Seattle Grace, although I'm sure they'll all be back next season (yes, even Burke), and apparently they'll all be having crazy sexy fun too. Hmm. I'm sure I'll be recapping it too (Todd can't fire me off of this show! I'm a hoot!), so I'll see you all then. Those of you who stick with it. Yeah. Watch your back, Shonda!


“I’m you, only more bizarre” – Smallville

Okay, so as I’ve said before, Smallville series finales are never not awesome. Sure they cheat – every character was in some kind of mortal danger by the end of ‘Phantom’, but all of them will probably turn out to be fine – yet I love these episodes because they break free of all the show’s conventions and just spin completely out of control. One of the advantages of Smallville’s ludicrous internal logic is that it can get away with this without making any major changes to the show, and yet still retain viewers! Increasingly frustrated viewers, sure, but viewers nonetheless.

‘Phantom’ heralded several big events. First there was the return of The Martian Manhunter (guest star Phil Morris) who exuded awesome but was sadly wasted, disappearing halfway through the episode. At least his character was explained, albeit nonsensically; apparently he was asked by Jor-El to look after Clark, and had been “watching from a distance” for five seasons before choosing to make an appearance. More knowledgeable Smallville fans than I could probably think of a hundred situations where a little help would’ve been very welcome to Clark, but that’s Smallville for you. Phil Morris clearly relishes the role so lets hope he’ll make more appearances next season.

Second, there was Lana finally leaving Lex. Their short-lived marriage has to rank among the most fucked up in TV history, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Almost every episode they were each keeping some new secret or plotting new evils against one another; its been ridiculous, yes, but also surprisingly entertaining (in a twisted way). It came to a suitable end here with Lex reacting to her intent to leave him by hitting her. That’s one way to deal with it. Lana subsequently appeared to die when her car erupted into a ball of flame, although a conveniently placed ice cream truck meant we didn’t actually see her get into the car. Hmm. See you next season, Miss Kreuk.

That was fake death number one. Number two was Lois, whose attempt at investigative journalism ended with a knife in her chest. She was saved, however, by Chloe, whose power turned out to be healing. Kinda like Malcolm McDowell in Heroes. All that healing seemed to take it out of her though – when Lois woke up, Chloe appeared to be dead. Again, it’s clear that she’s not (no way they’d kill off a character without showing the actual death onscreen), so that makes three fake deaths and counting!

Actually leaving the show, it seems, is Annette O’Toole. Martha Kent got a job as a senator and had an emotional farewell with Clark early in the episode, so while I doubt that’s the last we’ll see of her, apparently O’Toole will not be a regular next season. Since Martha has had virtually nothing to do all season the whole thing reeks of getting a dead weight character out of the way. Which I can get on board with.

The dam setting of the episode’s big finale was a shameless rip-off of X2. Also, has it become an unwritten law of storytelling that whenever a dam is involved, it will always crack and start spurting out water at the worst possible moment? Nonetheless, the suitably insane final scenes had me on the edge of my seat, from the creepy child/phantom killing machine murdering Lex’s goons, to Lex getting arrested for Lana’s murder, to that completely ‘WTF?’ moment where the killer child turned into a Bizarro version of Clark. It made little sense, but darn me if it wasn’t entertaining.

The next season of Smallville should have more going on than usual, based on this finale, the rumoured (and in my book very welcome) addition of Aaron Ashmore to the principal cast and the season end departure of Michael Rosenbaum. Despite all its flaws, whenver one season of Smallville comes to an end I’m still excited for the next. Anyone else share my pleasure/pain?


"I'll give you a billion Stanley nickels if you never talk to me again.": The Office

OK, look. It was just fine, and it was sweet and all, but it wasn't this or this. All right? It wasn't even this!

It seems a little unfair to bring up the UK Office in the context of the US Office, especially when the US version has so clearly grown in such a different direction from the original (still one of the most perfect series ever broadcast). But the Jim and Pam relationship has wandered along so long that when it has moments that feel like callbacks to the original show (or even the current show's recent history), it's hard to not compare and contrast. In particular, the Jim/Pam thing is starting to no longer feel organic -- it feels like two people being pushed together. I like Karen a lot (and know she's leaving for another show), and I liked Roy before he randomly became insanely angry. And I even like the Jim and Pam relationship. It just feels as if the time has passed and now the gang's trying to go back. But I realize I'm alone in this.

And I don't mean to detract from what was a solid season finale overall. There were bits that went on a bit too long (as there are in all super-sized NBC comedy episodes), in particular some of Michael's speeches, but I thought this was by far the most successful of the super-sized Offices this season. Overall, in fact, I thought it was better than Casino Night, which I found short on laughs at the time. Tonight's episode had some instant classic bits -- like the Schrute bucks or the Stanley nickels or Creed's blog. And the final tag, where the person you weren't expecting at all got the corporate job, was maybe the funniest thing all year (particularly the look on B.J. Novak's face and the way Ryan broke up with Kelly).

Meanwhile, the Jan/Michael storyline was hilarious. I didn't quite buy the pairing all of last season, but it's become so clear this season that Jan's completely nuts and that Michael (now) wants to take care of her that the whole thing is hilarious. Melora Hardin made her case for Emmy glory in the episode, showing up with new, gigantic breasts, flying into a rage then breaking down in the car after she was fired. Michael's genuine concern for her but his skepticism about whether the relationship was the right thing humanized his character as well as anything the show has done.

The story with Dwight assuming control of the office mostly worked because it avoided the excess of some of the previous Dwight-centric storylines. Sure I didn't buy that he could paint the office that quickly, but many of his other ideas rung true as the ideas of an office drone who always dreamed he was meant for more and now wanted to carry those plans out. I particularly liked that Andy, who had recently been his enemy, was suddenly happy to do whatever he wanted, so deep was his desire to suck up to the powerful.

But the Jim/Pam/Karen triangle took up much of the episode. I like that the writers have resisted painting Karen as an outright bitch (even though it seems at times that they really want to), and I liked her concern about Jim moving away from Scranton, where the temptation of Pam always waits. Some in the fan community have portrayed this as her controlling nature, but it makes perfect sense for her to want her boyfriend to herself. And I liked the idea that Pam had concluded that the timing was just off and it was time to move on to something else, right before Jim opened the door and asked her on a date (that seemed to leave enough leeway for the writers to weasel out of it being a "date" date if they needed to). The look on Jenna Fischer's face was almost worth it, but the whole thing felt forced, particularly with the note Pam left Jim (which put me in mind of clip 2 linked above). The show now so rarely uses plot elements from the original series that when one turns up (purposely or not), it seems jarring. most of the time, it's easy to pretend that it wasn't a remake of something, until the show does something to remind you that it was a remake.

I'm not going to say that the Pam/Jim stuff was completely unbelievable, but it felt a bit rushed (and I know it's taken three seasons). Still, I liked the flashback to the scene at Beach Day, and I'm interested to see if the writers try to build the couple as an adult one without turning it into more will they/won't they action. Check out Marshall and Lily on HIMYM, Office writers! It can be done!

So what did you think of season three? I thought it was less solid than season two, but still very, very funny. I don't know that it's head and shoulders above every other comedy on TV (HIMYM and 30 Rock both made strong cases for themselves this season), but it's still remarkably well done. And what was your favorite episode? Mine's still the premiere -- Gay Witch Hunt.


"Hey, everyone. Betty's in heat.": Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty, apparently not happy to just come up with one mindblowing cliffhanger, just took a bunch of sort of mediocre cliffhangers and threw them all at the wall, hoping that, perhaps, having many cliffhangers would add up to having one awesome cliffhanger. And, perhaps surprisingly, it sort of worked. These sorts of "EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE" finales almost never work unless you're Joss Whedon, but Betty was smart to make all of the different cliffhangers play at different levels of seriousness. One was played as straight tragedy. Another was played as soapy silliness. Still another was mostly played for laughs. So as the long series of cliffhangers (seriously, only Marc didn't have a cliffhanger, if I'm counting right) unspooled, it didn't seem over-the-top, even though it should have. A cursory scan of TWOP shows me that there are some who disagree with this point of view, but we'll have all summer to debate it.

There's been a lot of criticism of Betty's last handful of episodes from the show's fans, and I'll agree that everything since the episode where Marc's mother came to visit hasn't been as sharp as the episodes before that one (which brilliantly summed up the show's central mission statement as succinctly as possible). In particular, the Mode plotlines have meandered, and the immigration subplot has gotten trapped in a long mire of story complications that just don't work. But so many of the subplots work in any given episode that I'm still willing to forgive the show its sins -- in particular, whatever Marc and Amanda do is entertaining, and I'm still on board with the Betty/Henry romance. The Hilda/Santos relationship and their attempt to build a relationship and a family with Justin also snuck up on me. In most episodes, there was more good than bad, but the show would do well to bulk up the storylines next season (particularly in such a competitive timeslot).

But, anyway, the finale.

I think my favorite thing about the finale was the concluding montage, set to the strains of West Side Story. It was grandly over-the-top, but it worked to ground the show's camp sensibilities in something approaching tragedy. While I have my doubts that Santos is truly dead (the gunshot looked fatal, but when you don't see the corpse, TV can do anything for a resurrection), the trick of cutting from him being shot to Justin acting out the same on stage in the musical was damn near gut-wrenching and one of the more ruthless editing choices this finale season. And Hilda's weeping in Betty's arms was well-acted, probably the finest moment this season for that actress. I also liked that the musical tied together some of the other cliffhangers in brief snippets.

The least interesting cliffhanger to me was the car crash, though I did like that karma came back to bite Alexis (when the car she took was the one the hitman had cut the brakes on to kill her father). It was just pure soapiness, without any fear for either Meade at all. I'm also unconcerned about Wilhelmina and Bradford's wedding, what with it not happening until November and all. Claire Meade's escape from prison tied in with this and was much more amusing, stoked in prison movie cliche as it was.

I liked that Amanda is the daughter of Fay Summers -- in general, I liked her whole sneaky approach to Fay's love dungeon (loved the spy movie moves she did early in the episode). And the Betty/Henry complications were sweetly dorky, like the whole storyline has been. Turning Charlie into an evil wench seems a bit beyond the pale (not just because it's Jayma Mays), since the character was initially constructed as the nice girl Betty couldn't hate, but I'm all for a good pregnancy scare cliffhanger.

Which brings me to my favorite scene in the episode -- when Betty and Henry met on the bridge and pledged their troth but admitted that Henry had to go take care of his child (or what he thought was his child at the time). Christopher Gorham and America Ferrera have a sweet chemistry, and I hope we get to see more of it next season.

So what are your thoughts on Ugly Betty, season one? And how about that Kristin Chenoweth? Delightfully insane? Or just insane?


Thursday, May 17, 2007

"They had that elusive quality all news teams need: chemistry": FOX 2007-08 Schedule Analysis

FOX is, of course, the most irritating network to cover, because they're so damn schizo. They have baseball in the fall that hampers all their new shows and puts everything on hiatus a couple months early, and then they have American Idol in January, which is so powerful it can give shows like TIL DEATH a boost of life.

Actually, Fox's development has been unusually strong this year. Only 'Til Death and Standoff got pickups at all from a really poor batch last year (and in Standoff's case, it seemed like they were picking it up just to pick up SOMETHING), but they have a lot of pretty buzzed pilots this time around. First of all, there's Back to You (formerly known as Action News), which Fox won in a massive bidding war over the Christopher Lloyd-created, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton-starring newsroom comedy. Although there are shades of last year's limp The Class in terms of pre-pilot hype, the buzz on Back to You hasn't been bad, so Fox might be onto a winner there. They also have The Return of Jezebel James on the comedy side, from Amy Sherman-Palladino, although the buzz has been so non-existent that it's been shunted to midseason, which is slightly worrying (despite the presence of Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose). Their drama pilots, while nothing too revolutionary, all have a solid feel to them as well.

Still, there's a lot of irritating shunting around here, and some reality shows that sound like desperate attempts to fill the gap in the Idol-less fall.

Let's have a gander:

7pm: The O.T. in 2007
8pm: The Simpsons
8.30pm: King of the Hill (new time)
9pm: Family Guy
9.30pm: American Dad

7pm: King of the Hill
7.30pm: American Dad
8pm: The Simpsons
8.30pm: Family Guy
9pm: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (new show)

The typical animated comedy on Sundays stays basically the same, with none of the new animated pilots making it and survivor King of the Hill hanging in their for a 12th season. Then in January, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, an action-packed Terminator prequel TV show, is supposed to launch out of the animated comedies. It could actually serve as decent counter-programming to female-skewing Desperate Housewives and old-skewing Cold Cast, but I'm surprised Fox held this one over to midseason and whacked it on a Sunday night.

Predictions: This IS the final season of King of the Hill. The Simpsons gets a bit of a boost from the release of the Simpsons movie in the summer. And Sarah Connor Chronicles manages to carve out a niche for itself to squeak a second season.

8pm: Prison Break
9pm: K-Ville (new show)

8pm: K-Ville
9pm: 24

8pm: Prison Break
9pm: 24

Owie. My head hurts. K-Ville, a stirring-sounding cop drama about post-Katrina New Orleans, is bound to garner notice, and the buzz is strong. I'm sure it'll be better than Vanished was last year. It doesn't quite feel right with Prison Break (although I don't know how fast-paced it is), but there really isn't anywhere else to put it, so this'll have to do. 24 returns in January and K-Ville (if it's still alive) moves back an hour to make way, and then Prison Break finishes off its season in concurrence with the Bauer hour once K-Ville is run through.

Predictions: Sadly, despite the buzz, I can't see a moody NoLa cop drama managing to cut viewers out of Heroes/DWTS/2.5 Men. K-Ville doesn't make it, maybe one of Fox's other midseason drams like Canterbury's Law steps in. Maybe not. Prison Break gets even more ridiculous, so it either collapses in on itself or somehow manages a fourth-season pickup. Sadly, the latter seems more likely. Bad buzz or not, 24 isn't going anywhere (picked up through the 08-09 season as it is).

8pm: New Amsterdam (new show)
9pm: House

8pm: American Idol
9pm: House

Last year, they switched House and its new partner (Standoff) to see if House could give Standoff a little boost. It didn't work and was generally just confusing, so I guess they've dropped that this year. New Amsterdam is about an immortal cop in search of love (sounds a lot like CBS' Moonlight, 'cept without the bloodsucking), but in a fairly easygoing timeslot it can survive, particularly if it gets a kick from being paired with House. Still, it'll take some critical notice to do so, as it doesn't sound very hot or youngster-skewing. In January, the behemoth that is the AI/House pairing descends to crush anything else that dares air opposite it.

Predictions: House's numbers without AI prove better than last year, to the terror of Chuck and Reaper. New Amsterdam might manage a pickup, as it is shuffled off to Fridays post-Idol anyway.

8pm: Back to You (new show)
8.30pm: 'Til Death (new time)
9pm: Bones

8pm: Back to You
8.30pm: 'Til Death
9pm: American Idol

8pm: Back to You
8.30pm: The Return of Jezebel James (new show)
9pm: American Idol
9.30pm: Til Death

Aah! Confusing! I guess the rumors about an all-comedy night on Fox turned out to be wrong, so we get this sort of halfway-ish equivalent instead. Back to You is buzzy enough to make a name for itself in a weak hour, and 'Til Death will probably evolve to the level of solid performer now that it's had its Idol bump. Bones works tirelessly away at 9, ready to be shuffled around if need be. Then, with the arrival of AI, we have to wait until APRIL to see if Jezebel James is really as underwhelming as many are alleging. Starting it off in April doesn't bode particularly well for its chances, but the AI bloc might help it out.

Predictions: Back to You is enough of a hit to survive. 'Til Death gets a third-season pickup. Jezebel such an unknown quantity, I can do little except hope that it'll blow us all away. Its timeslot is essentially good enough to give it a fighting chance, though.

8pm: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
9pm: Kitchen Nightmares (new show)

8pm: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
9pm: Canterbury's Law (new show)

Unsurprising hit Fifth Grader is already big enough that I think it could help out the shows it's leading into this season. Kitchen Nightmares is the Gordon Ramsey show that I actually like on UK TV, and I think it could translate well, and Canterbury's Law seems like a sort of safe, fun legal drama that plenty of people could settle into. Of course, that timeslot is murder, but I don't think Fox are interested in the greatest numbers from it.

Predictions: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader grows in power, eventually becoming a launchpad for Jeff Foxworthy's Presidential bid. Kitchen Nightmares does whatever it wants to do, maybe managing a renewal. Depending on reviews, Canterbury's Law either impresses enough to eke a renewal and a nicer timeslot, or fizzles pretty quickly a la Justice last year. Right now I'd guess the latter, but who knows?

8pm: The Search for the Next Great American Band (new show)
9pm: Nashville (new show)

8pm: Bones (new time)
9pm: New Amsterdam (new time)

The fall slate is so mind-numbing, I won't even address it. Frankly, I don't care if it gets picked up or not.

Bones on a Friday is kinda crappy, as it really shows they have little interest in making a real night around it. But I'm sure it'll do fine on Fridays, it does fine everywhere. New Amsterdam, if it survives, could make a little name for itself here. Or another show like K-Ville might find itself dumped here in an effort to keep it alive.

Predictions: The reality shows both get a second season. New Amsterdam, if it makes it, survives here. Bones smiles wistfully as it gets a fourth season.


"A charming, hard-working farmer who is happy with his life but lacking romance": The CW 2007-08 Schedule Analysis

Unlike many a blogger, I am not going to spend this whole post complaining about how The CW just dumped Veronica Mars so a farmer could teach hot girls how to use a tractor. No. I'm going to focus on the POSITIVES here. So, what are those then?

Actually, even though the CW still has 'struggling newbie' written all over it, this isn't the worst schedule in the world. There's an over-reliance on reality stuff, but they picked up more new shows than last year and they're shedding the more WB-era relics (7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls) that had become a bit stagnant (even though I will totally miss GG anyway). Truth be told, it's a little tough to criticise the CW because they're still struggling to make a name for themselves. Still, I don't think this is the schedule that is going to break them out of the box.

Let's take a look:

7pm: CW Now (new show)
7.30pm: Online Nation (new show)
8pm: Life is Wild (new show)
9pm: America's Next Top Model (encore)

Pretty weak stuff here, especially the new E! news ripoff CW Now and the "we turned a bunch of youtube clips into a halfhour show" Online Nation. Life is Wild at least gets a fairly easygoing timeslot for its debut, but I don't think a show about the majestic beauty of South Africa is a great pair with the crazy magazine program for teens.

Predictions: CW Now dies a quick death, Online Nation may not (it sounds so cheap to produce, anyway). Life is Wild gets OK enough critical notices in a sleepy timeslot to survive to a full season, although I dunno about a renewal. Or maybe it dies and FARMER WANTS A WIFE replaces it.

8pm: Everybody Hates Chris
8.30pm: Aliens in America (new show)
9pm: Girlfriends
9.30pm: The Game

The ol' comedy block is back, with Aliens in America replacing the departed All of Us. Last year, they shunted this to sundays but quickly realized their mistake, so I don't see them messing with this again. Aliens in America actually doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world, so this may stay unchanged all season?

Predictions: Nothing much going on here. Maybe Girlfriends will finally wrap it up after eight years, I don't know (I've never seen it!). I think Aliens of America is going to carve out a little bit of respect for itself. I'm basing this on the vaguest of buzz, but I don't see any replacement comedies on deck anyway.

8pm: Beauty and the Geek (new time)
9pm: Reaper (new show)

Last year, of course, we were all raving about how the pairing of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars would make this a night to remember. Well, they're both gone now, so the CW is instead banking a lot on launching a new show out of Beauty and the Geek. I'm actually looking forward to Reaper, even though it sounds like a derivative of Dead Like Me, mostly because it has Ray Wise as SATAN. But I dunno if it'll be able to stand to heat in a tough-ish timeslot (House, DWTS, The Unit and newbie Chuck).

Predictions: Beauty and the Geek does what it does, and Reaper doesn't manage a full season despite scattered critical plaudits. It could go either way, but I'm not optimistic, sadly. I guess One Tree Hill, being retooled for midseason, will replace it, or if Reaper is a hit, it'll just take the place of Beauty and the Geek when it goes away.

8pm: America's Next Top Model
9pm: Gossip Girl

Aah, the one night the CW can actually vaguely compete! Their flagship, ANTM, which isn't going anywhere, should provide an excellent lead-in to buzzed new series Gossip Girl, from Josh Schwartz and based on popular teen-lit.

Predictions: Gossip Girl performs relatively well and gets itself a pickup. ANTM, obviously, isn't going anywhere. I guess one of the midseason reality shows, like the beauty pageant one, replaces it when it goes on break.

8pm: Smallville
9pm: Supernatural

After a lot of humming and hawing, Supernatural stays in the toughest time slot on TV instead of being moved away to Sunday or some such. I think it's kinda the right call, as long as the CW is willing to stomach fairly anemic ratings from the well-liked monster hunters. They're a decent fit with Smallville, and it's not like the CW is ever gonna compete in that timeslot anyway.

Predictions: Smallville's seventh season is its last, as the cast declares they're getting too old for it. Supernatural plugs along and defies more bleak buzz to squeak out a fourth-season renewal.

8pm: WWE Smackdown

Not much to say here. Same as it ever was.

Next up: My analysis on crazy ol' FOX. Exciting!


FOX 2007-08 Schedule


7pm The OT (NFL Post-Game)
8pm The Simpsons
8:30pm King of the Hill+
9pm Family Guy
9:30pm American Dad

8pm Prison Break
9pm K-Ville*

8pm New Amsterdam*
9pm House

8pm Back to You*
8:30pm 'Til Death+
9pm Bones+

8pm Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
9pm Kitchen Nightmares*

8pm The Search For the Next Great American Band*
9pm Nashville* (Working Title)


7pm King of the Hill+
7:30pm American Dad+
8pm The Simpsons
8:30pm Family Guy+
9pm The Sarah Connor Chronicles*

8pm K-Ville+ (January) Prison Break (Spring)
9pm 24

8pm American Idol
9pm House

WEDNESDAY (January):
8pm Back to You
8:30pm 'Til Death
9pm American Idol


8pm Back to You
8:30pm The Return of Jezebel James*
9pm American Idol
9:30pm 'Til Death+

8pm Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
9pm Canterbury's Law*

8pm Bones+
9pm New Amsterdam+



7pm Online Nation*
7.30pm CW Now*
8pm Life is Wild*
9pm America's Next Top Model (encore)

8pm Everybody Hates Chris
8.30pm Aliens in America*
9pm Girlfriends
9.30pm The Game

8pm Beauty and the Geek+
9pm Reaper*

8pm America's Next Top Model
9pm Gossip Girl*

8pm Smallville
9pm Supernatural

8pm WWE Smackdown

Midseason: One Tree Hill, Crowned: The Mother Of All Pageants*, Farmer Wants a Wife*


"They know, Karl. But thanks.": Lost

Since mid-season one, Charlie has been the cool character to hate on Lost. He's whiny and insufferable, and only his very first flashback had any new information to impart to us. Similarly, the writers didn't quite seem to know what to do with him, having him drop out for large portions of season two before he briefly became a heroin addict again, then turned evil to get back at Locke, who was making time with his main squeeze, Claire (and, just typing that now, I realize JUST HOW LITTLE anyone knew what to do with Charlie). Basically, Charlie's last truly relevant moment in the show was when he almost died when Ethan strung him up from a tree (and Jack got to do that thing that works on TV where you raise your fist way above your head, then bring it down on someone's chest, finally restarting their heart).

It was really too bad that no one could quite figure out what to do with Charlie, as Dominic Monaghan is a pretty engaging actor (as his work in Lord of the Rings would testify). In particular, Monaghan does comedy well. Some of his scenes with Jorge Garcia's Hurley have been solidly funny, and the two's work in Tricia Tanaka Is Dead, officially the episode that causes the greatest split in Lost fandom, is warmly amusing, making you feel not only as though these two are old friends but that they're YOUR old friends. By obscuring Monaghan's central sunniness under layer after layer of heroin-y darkness, the writers did themselves a real disservice. Perhaps they thought Hurley was one comic relief character enough and he didn't need a counterpart, but on such a dour and self-important show, you need all of the people to poke a needle in the pomposity that you can find.

That's why it was nice when Desmond revealed to Charlie (in Flashes Before Your Eyes, still, for my money, the best episode of the season) that Charlie was destined to die. While some were irritated by the endless potential Charlie deaths (since many still really, really want Charlie to die), the whole concept gave Charlie a darkly humorous bent through the season. Tricia Tanaka would be a fine episode just because of Hurley's desire to break his "curse," but when you toss in Charlie's impending doom, it gives the whole episode a dark undercurrent that makes the humor that much funnier.

So that's why I've kinda been hoping Charlie won't die.

Not because I've warmed extensively to the character himself, but because I think there's a potential within the character for something more interesting and something that could be vital to the show. Plus, I'd rather the show not choose sides in the predestination vs. free will debate (since I know the episode expressing both points of view will be especially turgid), so it might be nice to see that Desmond can be wrong about some things (the show has an out here -- in Flashes we learned that Desmond and Penny don't reunite, and I have a hard time believing the show won't end with the two together). But if they did kill the character, I wouldn't blame them. It's clear they couldn't figure out anything to do with him beyond "drug-addled rock star." I'm just saying it's obvious for reasons other than Charlie being told he was going to die -- that whole business with the ring and the baby, anyone?

But tonight's episode, the penultimate one of the season, managed to both rejuvenate the character and make his death seem a sad inevitability. Largely, this was due to the flashback structure, which the writers have been playing with more and more throughout this season (perhaps presaging an abandonment of the format wholesale in season four, which wouldn't be unwelcome). Instead of telling one story that commented on the on-island action either obliquely or ham-fistedly, Charlie remembered a series of events from his life, which he wrote down on a note for Claire so when he didn't return from his mission, she would know just how much he cared for her. Most of these scenes were pretty maudlin and sentimental, but flashing back to season one is always a treat and the simplicity of the moments made the sentimentality the show was going for more palatable.

And, of course, Charlie managed to make it to the station, where he was accosted by hostiles. So did Desmond lie when he told Charlie he would drown, giving him a story of a hero's journey to get him to go? Or are Desmond's flashes increasingly inaccurate the more he saves Charlie (thus diverting the universe from its preferred course)? I don't know where all of this is heading, but if Charlie is killed brutally (and finally) by The Others, it might lessen the impact of the final moments of this episode where he decided to take grasp of his own destiny (and, indeed, the combination of his selflessness and the music rising on the score -- curse you, Giacchino! -- made the whole moment rather affecting). But we'll wait to see about that until next week.

In the other main storyline, Jack was proved right, which is growing more and more irritating, especially as his self-righteousness doesn't seem to be seen as a tragic flaw by the writers, who perhaps are investing him with some of the wishful thinking that many Americans have invested in the president (or maybe it's all a political commentary or something). I'm still hoping Jack gets his comeuppance, but I feel no certainty that that will happen. All things considered, Jack's plan to attack the Others is pretty good, and his ability to improvise a new plan is also sort of impressive. But I'm tired of the character overall, and it may take a comeuppance to rehabilitate him. For me, at least.

So what do you think happens in the season finale? We've been promised a massive cliffhanger. If you spoil it, I will hunt you down and kill you. I mean it. Just speculation for now, please!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CBS fails at life

So, it was every intention of ours to embed the videos CBS helpfully provided to bloggers so you cats could watch them. But they're frickin' GINORMOUS, and you can't adjust their size without the HTML getting mad at you. So we're just going to link you to a place where you CAN watch them and then you can pretend you watched them here and feel better about yourself.

In the meantime, CBS, you have failed to join the information age. Go back to watching NCIS!


The casts of CBS' new shows attempt to amuse us

Todd, Libby and David take on CBS' photos and clips. And CBS was nice enough to let us embed them too, though you can go here as well. Though it MUST be said that CBS' photos were rather weak AND that they didn't have a photo for Swingtown or a video for Viva Laughlin!

The Big Bang Theory:

Todd: OK. . .let's see. What's hot this year? Nerds? Definitely nerds. And breasts? Breasts are always hot!

Libby: Aw, it's "Two Guys, a Girl and a Theorem!"

(You can watch the trailer, like David and I just did, here.)

Todd: Urge to kill rising. . .

David: They should lose all the nerds, and just focus the show on Kaley Cuoco's chest. It'll be the next Ghost Whisperer!


Todd: Handsome. Athletic. Rugged. Make her love you. JIMMY SMITS. A new fragrance for men.

Libby: The name's Cane. CANDY Cane.

(Ahoy, trailer!)

Todd: I will watch this show when ABC does its version of it in six years.

David: It's the Hispanic Brothers & Sisters, except they murder people instead of sleeping with them!

Kid Nation:

Todd: "Guys! The REAL GOLD STAR is worth $20,000! Think of how much completely useless crap we could buy with that! At the very least, we can keep Claire's Accessories and Spencer's Gifts afloat!"

Libby: I hope that little girl he's pointing to just won "The Lottery." That's pretty much the only way I'd watch this show.

(The children, Clarice. They're screaming.)

Todd: This literally looks like a show that was conceived of by throwing darts at a bunch of random words scattered across a wall. It also looks like CBS answered my prayers for a reality TV Salute Your Shorts/Hey Dude hybrid. Also, this will be a massive, massive hit. American Idol sized. I mean. . .the WHEELCHAIR SPEECH!? I fear for America.

David: Soon, all of Texas will be run on this system.

Special guest-commentor Andy of Everything Oscar: Where is Al Swearengen?


He's rather stoic for a vampire. So at least he's got that goin' for him.

Libby: See, he's a vampire. So he has to be broody. That's what I've learned from this picture.

(Vampires are forever, forever, forever.)


David: This is like Angel meets Felicity. He's a vampire PI, but he stands on rooftops looking for love!


(There was no photo for this. Curse you, CBS!)

(Rick Moody is going to sue you, CBS.)

Todd: *wistful sigh* Ah, those South Dakota summers. . .so carefree. So full of casual sex. I know everyone's saying that CBS really thought out of the box this year, but, honestly, this is the first show that made me wonder how, exactly, IT ended up on CBS.

David: This show is gonna suck without nudity.

Viva Laughlin:

Todd: I hope that every episode of this show is just this guy knocking on doors around Laughlin and proclaiming, "Gotta dance!" whenever anyone opens them. Then he will dance. 60 minutes of that. 50 Emmys. Right there.

Libby: Yeah. He looks like he's about to burst into song.

(For some reason, CBS has yet to post a video for Viva Laughlin, so we can all just imagine how great/awful it will be in our heads.)


"They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses.": CBS 2007-08 Schedule Analysis

Sorry for the delay, though does this schedule really need THAT much analysis? Most networks nowadays have a schedule that's only 50% decent, the other 50% of which is in meh-to-crappy shape. CBS, meanwhile, has a schedule that, outside of a few sour spots (Tuesdays at 10, Wednesdays at 8), is programmed about as well as it can get, to the point that 10 million viewers on Friday is enough to get canceled, an amount all the other networks would die for on that night (Sorry, Close to Home).

Still, CBS is trying once again to shake things up. Last season they tried shaking things up, but the only show that survived was the pedestrian Shark, while Smith, The Class and Jericho all disappointed and got canceled. Here you have a "mystery drama with music" (their wording) in between the eternal 60 Minutes and crime drama Cold Case, a family soap (called "epic drama" in the press release) about a family-run rum and sugar business after The Unit in that deadly Tuesdays @ 10 slot, and a thriller about a P.I. vampire on Fridays after Jennifer Love Hewitt's Boobs. They also have a reality show with kids trying to reform a ghost town (exhilarating!) and the second comedy this season about a group of geeks. Those dramas are certainly daring for the network, and unfortunately for CBS, daring rarely pays off for them (again, only Shark survived this season). (Much of this may have to do with the fact that CBS routinely takes daring concepts and sands off all the rough edges -- in short, it CBSes them. But that's for another time. -- ed.)

But in between all of this uniqueness you have clumps of schedule untouched, from Mondays (Only Big Bang Theory is new) Tuesdays 8-10, Wednesdays 9-11 and Thursdays 8-10 (With Without a Trace returning after a mostly uneventful move to Sundays).

All right. I tried making this sound interesting, but I just can't. At least NBC's nuttiness was somewhat fascinating.


7 p.m.: 60 Minutes
8 p.m.: Viva Laughlin! (new show)
9 p.m.: Cold Case
10 p.m.: Shark (new night)

60 Minutes continues its run as longest-standing show in a single timeslot, while Cold Case stays put. Viva Laughlin! reminds me of Smith, only with a better time and smaller cast. Shark did decently after CSI, and I think it can hold enough of that audience (I actually know a few people that are fans of it) and Cold Case's audience.

Predictions: 60 Minutes and Cold Case do their thing, Shark thrives and Viva Laughlin! ... I could see it going either way: swift cancellation or dragging along for a season due to failure of the rest of the new shows and critical acclaim (assuming it comes). I'll lean towards the latter.

8 p.m.: How I Met Your Mother
8:30 p.m.: Big Bang Theory (new show)
9 p.m.: Two-and-a-Half Men
9:30 p.m.: Rules of Engagement
10 p.m.: CSI: Miami

After a cancellation scare, HIMYM survives to see another season despite mediocre ratings (At CBS, 8 million viewers is like 5 million to all other networks, with the exception of The CW, where it would be 1.5 million). The Big Bang Theory's success depends on critical reaction, and it doesn't seem like the kind of show that sets the critical world on fire. The other shows aren't too shocking.

Predictions: Maybe it's optimism, but I think airing after 2.5 Men over the summer should help HIMYM (hopefully) stay in the 9 million viewers range, decent up against Dancing with the Stars (and getting the series on iTunes would help too, CBS -- ed.). Big Bang Theory doesn't seem like the kind of show that'll set the actual world on fire either, so I think a cancellation and replacement with Old Christine is in order. 2.5 Men continues to be Television's Biggest Comedy (Ho hum), Rules of Engagement continues to be fed by 2.5 Men's success, and with NBC and ABC not doing much with Mondays at 10, CSI: Miami should continue its reign as the World's Biggest Show.

8 p.m.: NCIS
9 p.m.: The Unit
10 p.m.: Cane (new show)

While NCIS and The Unit were eroding viewers this season, they still have an enviable consistency and jive pretty well together, hence their sticking around. Cane meanwhile is probably hoping to catch Latino viewers, because I can't think of another reason they would find a drama about a family-run rum and sugar business to be a good idea.

Predictions: NCIS and The Unit continue to do their thing, while Cane dies before sweeps and gets replaced by CSI repeats. Again.

8 p.m.: Kid Nation (new show)
9 p.m.: Criminal Minds
10 p.m.: CSI: NY

Criminal Minds and CSI: NY is expected, but Kid Nation is not. It's a fascinating concept, but I don't see it appealing to anyone outside of Parents Television Council members. (I've learned to never underestimate the appeal of oddball reality TV. -- ed.)

Predictions: Kids Nation will probably get not-bad enough numbers to live out its run, but I doubt a second season will materialize. Criminal Minds and CSI: NY continue to do their thing.

8pm Survivor
9pm CSI
10pm Without a Trace (new night)

I guess CBS has decided that fixing something that didn't really need fixing was a bad idea (even though Shark was performing far better than WAT in its first season, though ER was actually a threat when WAT premiered), so they're trying to put it back together.

Predictions: Survivor will continue to go down, but anything above 13 million should be okay to CBS. CSI had the advantage this season over Grey's overall thanks to repeats, but ABC's move to eliminate repeats could put that in jeopardy. And with ER dying and Big Shots looking like an unlikely fit for Grey's, WAT should should post numbers higher than Shark and what it did on Sundays.

8 p.m.: Ghost Whisperer
9 p.m.: Moonlight*
10 p.m.: Numb3rs

While a VAMPIRE P.I. sounds pretty awesome (oh you crazy kids and your "I've never seen Angel!" attitudes -- ed.), it just doesn't seem like the kind of show that fits with the family-appealing Ghost Whisperer (assuming the PTC is still pushing it, are they?) and older-appealing Numb3rs.

Predictions: Moonlight doesn't survive the season, GW/Numb3rs do their thing. Ho hum.

Geez, success is DULL.

Coming up: Photos and videos.

Tomorrow: David takes on Fox and The CW, finds out if he's smarter than a fifth-grader and angrily rails against the success of One Tree Hill (I'm just assuming here).


“But how will people know you’re the world’s greatest reporter?” – Gilmore Girls

Several people have already said it, and I have to agree with them – David S. Rosenthal definitely knew that this was the end for Gilmore Girls. Or if not him then definitely Lauren Graham, who most likely demanded a rewrite of this episode (as she confirmed here) in order to give it a greater sense of finality. Really it’s hard to see the show continuing from this point – with Rory off on Barack Obama’s campaign trail, Lorelai and Emily settled into a peaceful relationship, and Luke and Lorelai back together, an eighth season from this point wouldn’t have been the Gilmore Girls we know and love.

Of course, it hasn’t been that for a while now. It’s true that this season has been a crushing and at times depressing disappointment, but lets not dwell on that too much now, especially when Rosenthal has managed to pull it all together so well with ‘Bon Voyage’. Sure the writing still wasn’t up to the Palladino level, but all the happenings of the episode felt like a natural end to each character’s plot strands, leaving aside the slightly rushed feeling to the proceedings. It was a sad episode, but at the same time a joyous one. There were moments of melodrama but mostly Gilmore’s usual cheerful tone was the order of the day. Every character got their moment, but the focus remained very much on Lorelai and Rory.

Some choice character moments: Luke staying up all night to build a massive tarp, Taylor’s gross speech (first time I’ve ever laughed at his lines), Richard allowing himself a moment of sentimentality and Emily trying to find excuses to keep Lorelai coming to visit. The only moment that rang false for me was Rory and Lane’s conversation – they haven’t been viable as ‘best friends’ for a while, and I feel Lane’s storyline has come to an unfeeling end with her burgeoning music career stopped short by an unintentional pregnancy. Lauren Graham got many chances to shine, and shine she did – the entire episode was like one long Emmy tape for her. Alexis Bledel also outdid herself, the dinner scene early in the episode an especial standout. In my eyes she has managed to keep Rory sympathetic and relatable through all her various escapades (especially in the first half of season six) and for that she deserves just as much praise as Graham.

Gilmore Girls has meant a lot to me over the last few years (see here), so I’m sad to see it go. As Lorelai herself says in the episode, it’s too soon. Still, I’m happy that it’s final episode proved a fitting send-off with many wonderful moments and chances for every actor to shine (except Liza Weil, but she got some great scenes in the last couple episodes). Overall I think it was best to end things here then stretch out the inevitable. So, goodbye Gilmore Girls. You shall be missed. And a message to Lauren Graham – please, please find yourself another juicy role. You’re far too good to just play wife to the big stars.


How Gilmore Girls turned my mother onto TV

(If you can tear your attention away from those thrilling upfronts for just a second, perhaps you might join me and the rest of the South Dakota Dark team in mourning the passing of Gilmore Girls, which aired its finale last night. Todd has written a great article on the show for The House Next Door which you should check out, and later I'll recap the finale. For now, here's my own Gilmore Girls related tale.)

Since he started his time at university, every holiday my brother David (yes, SDD’s own) seems to come home raving on about a new show that I absolutely must watch. My brother’s taste is almost always in tune with my own, and sure enough I’ve fallen for every one of these shows, from Veronica Mars to The Wire to Friday Night Lights. One of the first DVD box-sets he brought home, though, was the first season of Gilmore Girls.

Things didn’t start well. David had purchased the box-set cheap from eBay, so naturally it arrived with a hole through the first three discs. Normally I would have preferred watching a show from the very beginning, but David insisted it didn’t matter. More than not mattering, it turned out to be something of a blessing – the beginning chunk of Gilmore Girls’ first season is a mixed bag and very much at odds with the Gilmore Girls I ultimately fell in love with. The dialogue isn’t as sharp, the tone is off and the show’s very individual identity hadn’t yet been established. Plus lets face it, Gilmore Girls isn’t really loved for its plot – catching up took me a matter of minutes.

As is always the case with a quality show, after just one episode I was hooked. There wasn’t one particular thing that appealed to me, but rather the combination of the snappy dialogue, appealing mother-daughter relationship and casual pace. The latter was what most surprised me about the show. I got into TV at a time where slow-paced programmes unconcerned with plot were a rarity (in the last few years this has only become more true). What with obsessive and, when provoked, aggressive fans now hooking onto a show, all ready to tear it to pieces if it doesn’t satisfy them, Gilmore Girls was a breath of fresh air. Clearly creator Amy Sherman-Palladino put grabbing an audience second to sticking by her vision. She also remained true to the realities of a small town like Stars Hollow - where event episodes of other shows increasingly involve the death of a major character or a shocking twist in the tale, a 'biggie' in Gilmore Girls terms usually centred around a town event like a Winter Carnival ('Just Like Gwen and Gavin') or, if the Palladinos were feeling especially dramatic, the death of a pet ('Cinammon’s Wake'). Although dramatic events became more common as the show went on, they were always few and far between.

Me and my brother churned through four seasons of Gilmore Girls at a record pace, sometimes watching two, three or even four episodes in a single day. My mother had never been much of a television person, apart from a few exceptions (The O.C., Seinfeld, and oddly 24 among them). Indeed, at one point she walked in on me and David watching Gilmore and proclaimed it 'garbage' without having ever seen it (in her defence we had shirked some responsibility at the time). When we first introduced her to Gilmore Girls she was unconvinced. Her resistance, however, only lasted so long. Soon enough she was hooked and with my brother back at university I assumed the same role he had taken when watching the show with me: enjoying almost every episode just as much the second time around, trying (often unsuccessfully) to not reveal any of each season’s two or three big plot turning points, and, of course, turning to observe my mother’s reaction at big moments or especially hilarious lines. By season three through to the end of season five, me and my mother would be watching at least one episode of Gilmore Girls a night (which was a lot, considering that before this show she would only watch television a few nights a week). At especially gripping points she could be convinced into watching two or, on one monumental occasion, three episodes in a single viewing.

From these many months of viewing, a few choice reactions of my mother’s stick in my memory. I remember her stunned silence at the end of ‘Rory’s Dance,’ the first episode to prove that Gilmore Girls could pull off a powerful moment of human drama. I remember her slight disappointment at ‘They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?’ due in large part to me and David having built the episode up a bit excessively. (C'mon, it’s Rory and Dean’s big break-up!) I remember her hatred of the flashbacks in ‘Dear Emily and Richard,’ a view she shared with David but not myself (I think they’re sweet!). I remember how upset she was when Jess left the show at the end of season three, how happy she’d be every time he’d return, and how bummed she’d be when he would disappear once again. I remember her affection for Jason Stiles, and her shock when Richard screwed him over in ‘Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!’ I remember her extreme hatred of Dean in the opening chuck of season five, and her slightly less extreme hatred of Logan from the moment of his introduction.

She also detested all the cutesy town stuff with all her heart, to the point where she would grumble to herself or leave the room whenever this aspect of the show reared its head. At one point I exploded, ordering her to shut up because it was getting really irritating; she obliged, but soon I began to miss her grumblings and was relieved when they returned. Now, when I watch the show alone and Taylor or Miss Patty appear, I feel like something's missing.

The town stuff aside though, the main reason these reactions have stuck in my mind is because they are all very similar, if not identical, to my own when I was in her position. There are slight differences – I loved ‘They Shoot Gilmores…’ deeply, and where my hatred of Logan has faded over time, hers shows no signs of going anywhere. But I loved seeing how she would react to every nice moment, big or little, simply because it was as close as I was going to get to experiencing the show again for the first time.

That’s what Gilmore Girls was for me – an experience. An immensely pleasurable and satisfying experience. Many of the articles about Gilmore Girls’ end have put focus on its descent in quality over the last couple seasons, but I’ll save any bitterness over that for my review of the series finale. I don’t want to send Gilmore Girls out on a dour note. Because even if it’s not what it once was, for five seasons – ah hell, for six seasons (missteps aside, there are still some classic episodes in there!) it delivered quality television that did more than turn my mother onto television – it turned me onto television. Sure, I’d seen plenty of it before, but Gilmore Girls was the first time I actually immersed myself in a show. It's the only show I was or will ever be willing to watch twice through. To be honest I’d be happy to watch it through a third time. Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.



7pm 60 Minutes
8pm Viva Laughlin!*
9pm Cold Case
10pm Shark+

8pm How I Met Your Mother
8.30pm Big Bang Theory*
9pm Two and a Half Men
9.30pm Rules of Engagement
10pm CSI: Miami

8pm NCIS
9pm The Unit
10pm Cane*

8pm Kid Nation*
9pm Criminal Minds
10pm CSI: NY

8pm Survivor
9pm CSI
10pm Without a Trace+

8pm Ghost Whisperer
9pm Moonlight*
10pm Numb3rs

On the Bench: Swingtown*, New Adventures of Old Christine, The Amazing Race, Power of 10*


Welcome, Britisians!

For some reason, a blog on The Guardian's Web site linked to a post we made, and I see there are a lot of you flooding in, even as we speak. I hope you'll see that we're more than awkward cast photos and such!

Stop in and look around. It's upfront week, so we should have some new material up throughout the day, and we've got a wealth of reading from the week prior. And if you dig around in our archives, you'll find a lot of other great stuff and also some posts featuring turtles chasing cats.

Also, we count two of our writers among your number. So say hi to the brothers Sims before you must depart.

Enjoy your stay!


"Are you drunk?": American Idol

We're in the home stretch now, people. With only three contestants left, American Idol showcased their finest with three songs apiece.

Tonight was an interesting night consisting of some fairly decent performances. The formula allowed the competitors to either illustrate their range or focus on their strengths, depending on the choices made.

Also something I (and every other blogger) feel the need to comment on: The first-come, first-go curse. I was sure that the Idol producers would try and submarine Melinda with that top spot, assuring a teen-friendly Blake/Jordin finale. However, with Melinda in the closing spot and Jordin opening the night, it appears that the producers fear no superstitions. Good for them.

First up ...

1. Judge's Choice: Simon - Jordin Sparks - "Wishing On a Star": This seemed like a strange choice for Simon to make for Sparks. The song came across as dated and tired, poor arrangement or not. Outside of a disapproving Simon, the other judges thought that the performance was strong. So I guess we're off to a good start.

2. Judge's Choice: Paula - Blake Lewis - "Roxanne": Paula actually made a sound choice for Blake, and he made a solid showing of it. To a certain extent, I agree with Simon that there are certain songs that you'll inevitably sound like a poor man's version of the original. Unfortunately for Blake, this song is one of those.

3. Judge's Choice: Randy - Melinda Doolittle - "I Believe in You and Me": Randy went against all of his advice to "lesser" contestants and served up a Whitney Houston ballad for Melinda to take a whack at. To no one's surprise, Doolittle was more than up for the challenge.

So the first round was over and everyone came out okay.

4. Producer's Choice - Jordin - "She Works Hard For The Money": Hm. I was torn about this choice for Sparks. It wasn't exactly the hardest song musically, but everyone knows that Sparks doesn't exactly rule the roost when it comes to the upbeat songs. Ultimately, this was a bit of a challenge for her, but she performed admirably. The judges enjoyed the showing so the gauntlet had been thrown down.

5. Producer's Choice - Blake - "This Love": Gah. A complete softball. The producers obviously thought that anything even slightly challenging would completely sink Lewis' chances, so they gave him the most mainstream, perfect pick they could find. Needless to say, Lewis did a great job with this. But how pathetic would it have been if he hadn't?!

6. Producer's Choice - Melinda - "Nutbush City Limits": I really liked this choice for Melinda but it just goes to evidence that not every contestant is treated equally by the producers. This song was challenging and little-known. Compare this to the song chosen for Blake ... well, I don't think I need to say more. Again, Melinda was phenomenal.

Second round done.

7. Artist's Choice - Jordin - "I Who Have Nothing": I've read quite a few people who dislike when the contestants reprise songs from earlier in the season, and I completely understand the feeling. Though, at the same time I do kind of feel for the competitors. Lord knows how many individuals couldn't remember the words to their ONE song each week. Chris Richardson, I'm looking at you. (See, now we're just BEGGING for Bethany to come back and get angry with us! -- ed.) That said, Jordin did a quality job with this song, but as could be expected, the shine is kind of off the apple at this point. It's hard to regain the magic of your finest performance, especially when all you're trying to do is replicate it.

8. Artist's Choice - Blake - "When I Get You Alone": Choosing to replicate a previous song looks particularly bad when one of your peers learns a brand new song to break out. Blake shone with this song because he made it his own, and it showcased his strengths. If he makes it to the final two it's because he chose to stay true to his individuality as opposed to trying to recapture any past moment.

9. Artist's Choice - Melinda - "I'm a Woman": Melinda decided to change some things on her redo. For one thing, quite a few weeks have passed since the last time she sang this song, and Doolittle's confidence has skyrocketed since then. Tonight she stalked the stage with personality and verve. She incorporated her background singers as a tip to where she's been and the life she's left behind. Honestly people, this is your next American Idol. So, there's that.

Tomorrow night will be interesting. For the most part, I believe that Melinda is a sure thing for the finale, but I've been wrong before. The pending elimination will surely prove exciting.

Tonight's winner: Melinda Doolittle
Tonight's loser: Not Melinda. I don't know. It was a toss up.
Tomorrow's loser: Hard to say, but I guess I'll say ... Blake.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"A girl, a teenager, and a private detective. I'm a triple threat.": Veronica Mars

With the news coming that Veronica Mars is fighting its direst cancellation battle yet, it was hard to watch Tuesday night's episode and really concentrate on what was (ultimately) a rather anemic storyline. Instead, it became easier and easier to watch the show and think about what would be missed if it did go. Increasingly, the plotting of the show is haphazard (I really couldn't be bothered by the story of an impossibly virtuous book author, who turned out to be a fraud and then turned out to be. . .impossibly virtuous), but the dialogue and character writing is sharp. I know some fans are turned off by some of Veronica's behavior this season, but I'm still enjoying both the way the character is written and Kristen Bell's performance as her. I think the writers are still trying to figure out how to write standalone mysteries (the standalones in the second arc with the dean's murder were more interesting), but I'm not sure they care right now. Perhaps they're just trying to hang on to what they liked about the show and writing character moments they enjoy. Hey, it happens.

Anyway, the episode itself had its moments. I didn't buy the whole storyline with the author, who told his story of being a child soldier in Uganda. The whole thing screamed very special episode, right down to the PSA at the end where we were informed that we should go check out the Invisible Children site. Although this was a fine impulse and the issue is one that Americans could know more about, it clashed with the show's central ethos, which states that you can't really trust anyone because the whole world is full of liars and cheats. If the author had TRULY stolen the story from someone whose life really was that hard, that would have been a good way to call attention to the issue AND be true to Veronica Mars as we know it. Instead, the episode seemed like it was trying to have it both ways, which just didn't work.

Meanwhile, the show's love triangles spun their wheels for a week with Wallace popping up only to offer Veronica romantic advice on not breaking Piz's heart (though Keith sure seems to like the guy). I'm a fan of Piz, but his dilemma over choosing the lame internship to be with Veronica or the awesome internship to do something he loved felt like a false choice, simply because we know the show won't end with him and Veronica together (her joy over getting the FBI internship was palpable, though, and a good way to hedge bets if, indeed, the show comes back four years in the future with the FBI storyline).

Meanwhile, Logan and Parker's story feels played out, largely because the two don't have a ton of chemistry and we just don't know Parker very well (it seems as though she was brought into the show to give Veronica even more of a personal connection to the campus rapist, but then no one knew what to do with her). The Mac/Max pairing was marginally more successful, particularly Mac's fear that she would end up selling family heirlooms on eBay with the way she was ignoring class for the guy. I like all of Veronica's friends, and I really wish that the show had found a way to afford them being in more episodes, particularly Mac and Wallace.

And that was pretty much that. Next week, we have the two-hour season finale, and we may have a better idea of if it's a series finale or not. Are you at all wishing to see Veronica Mars at the FBI or are you over this show entirely?