Friday, November 02, 2007

“There's nothing like scoring a Caddie and mowing down street hoes”: Scrubs

















So, an interesting thing. I watched episode four of Grey’s Anatomy right after watching this episode of Scrubs, and that really drove home for me how much Scrubs is wasting no time in tying up its loose ends. In Grey’s land, the whole George-Izzie-Callie saga is showing no signs of going anywhere any time soon. Scrubs, conversely, is wiping away its past missteps as quickly as possible. Last week, the JD and Elliot possibility was swiftly swept under the carpet (although I’d be surprised if it didn’t crop up again soon). Now this week sees the end of JD’s disastrous relationship with Kim. Again, this doesn’t mean the absolute end for these two, as they’ve just had a baby together; but it still reeks of the Scrubs writers tossing away one troublesome plotline (Kim as a romantic interest) and only keeping the other (their baby) out of sheer necessity.

This is a shame on one level, and one level only: Elizabeth Banks is excellent. She really is, and she proved it this episode with a great performance. Honestly, it’s the first time I can remember her getting anything decent to play since the end of season five. Basically she freaks out while giving birth, screams and J.D. a bit, and then breaks up with him. Banks has fun with it, sticking to a lighter approach even in the darkest of moments, and mostly I found it believable. Plus Kim has become a dead weight lately anyway, so it’s a wise move to push her into the background. (Also, Kim’s bad side was highlighted once more when she claimed J.D. had broken up with her after she really broke up with him. She hasn't been very likeable since the beginning of season six.)

Meanwhile, funnier stuff happened. Turk’s on a desperate mission to complete Halo 3 before Carla gets rid of it. He plays with J.D. (of course); then the Janitor, who gets a suitably bizarre monologue/eulogy to a dead alien along the way; and finally Carla, who turns out to be a dap hand at X-Box 360. I liked the reveal that Carla was actually a video game addict, and the stuff between her and Turk really rang true. Not that it doesn’t usually, but it felt especially poignant this time round. Kelso made some wry comments about his mess of a family (apparently Enid has kicked him out), and even he produces a touching yet hilarious moment in comforting Harrison about breaking up with someone who stole his fillings. Elliot just dipped in and out, but had some funny lines. The only thing that didn’t work was Cox’s searching for someone to give his daughter an injection, although I liked the idea behind it.

All in all, better. The comic stuff was funnier, and the dramatic stuff was much more effective. There’s still an element missing that made the earlier seasons so much better, but maybe Tom Cavanagh, returning as J.D.’s brother next week, will bring the old charm back with him.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

“I wasn't always a tucker, you know. Then one day it just happened.”: Chuck

















“This is great. Just being able to sit in a coffee shop, and talk.” So says the primary guest star of this week’s Chuck, ‘Chuck versus The Sandworm’ and he couldn’t be more right. Much as I’ve been liking Chuck so far, my reviews have consistently noted all of the character moments, often in mild relief. Not such a good sign. So it’s a pleasure to see that at least for this episode, Chuck has mostly left out the action stuff (which has sometimes felt shoehorned in) and put its characters front and centre, whether going for dramatic or comic effect.

‘Chuck versus The Sandworm’ is in part about Lazslo, a young prodigy who for years had been kept in a secret government lab. He’s understandably gone a little nutso, but Chuck sympathises with him and the two bond a bit, before Chuck realises Lazslo’s aspirations towards mass destruction. Lazslo was a perfect example of a villain working so much better when you get to know them first. Good writing and a sensitive yet suitably crazy performance from Jonathan Sadowski kept the character quite sympathetic – that is until Lazslo’s sympathy for Bond villains revealed his darker side, in a brilliant touch.

Meanwhile, Chuck has trust issues when he finds out that Sarah and Casey placed bugs in his home. Even the fake photo Sarah made of her and Chuck at Comic-Con was a bug (again, a nice little detail). Once again Levi and Strahovski played their stuff with great subtlety and sensitivity. More and more, I have to admit I’m rooting for them as a possible couple (even if it would be ludicrous). Casey was also hilarious this week, especially as you can totally imagine him sitting in his house listening to Chuck and Morgan go on and on. Also, his angry messages to Chuck (“Tie it in a knot, shove it straight up your…”) and his expression in the final shot, were both brilliant.

The episode highlight has to be one thing though, and that’s the montage of Captain Awesome teaching Morgan how to live. Definitely one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. This show needs to use Awesome more, even if it’s just him showing up in random, nonsensical locations and being awesome. Morgan’s transformation was also funny, and I liked his speech (although I was really glad it didn’t get Chuck the job, as that would have stretched plausibility to far even for this show). Unlike this week’s brilliant Reaper, the Halloween theme stayed mostly in the background, but it did provide some hilarious costumes and classic moments for Big Mike. The rest of the Buy More staff were also funny – Chuck’s guest actors play the hell out of every little line they get!

So, in conclusion, yes. That is the way to do it. I’m already looking forward to next week, which looks to be a ‘mythology’ episode and will reportedly feature the return of Matthew Bomer as Bryce Larkin (in flashbacks, of course). Awesome.

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"Powerless" - Life, episode 1.6

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When the promos for this week's episode promised that Det. Reese and her addictions (which so far cover alcohol, drugs, and sex with strangers) would be at the foreground of the story, I was hoping for some hard backstory on how Reese ended up at the bottom of the detectives' food chain and partnered with Charlie Crews. After all, most of what we know about Reese's background came from her encounter with the Russian mobster Roman last week, and he's not exactly a reliable narrator.

That was probably too much to expect from a show that is going to depend on doling out information slowly over the course of a season. Instead what we got was something darker, more troubling, and a little less credible. On her way to an AA meeting, Dani stops in for a cold one and makes eye contact with a handsome stranger across the bar. The guy, Rick, introduces himself and it turns out they're both headed for the same meeting. Just as Dani is about to bail on the meeting early, Rick gets up to share. (Sneaking out of AA meetings is the new shorthand to denote a well-meaning character who hasn't pulled it together yet; see Things We Lost In The Fire) Rick shares that when drunk he had previously assaulted a woman, but he's suspiciously vague on the details. Dani nails Rick on his withholding after the meeting, but Rick correctly figures out that Dani isn't opening up about her history either.

While Charlie and Dani search 911 records for Rick's victim, Charlie is also trying to figure out how the 15-year old Bank of L.A. shootout (and the disappearance of millions of dollars afterwards) might relate to his false imprisonment. Last week Roman had hinted that Charlie's ex-partner Stark might know something about the case. Stark had always claimed to have been at the center of the shooting, but Charlie learns from Lt. Davis that the shooting was done by SWAT and the uniform cops merely manned the barricades. Stark admits his exaggeration and the whole thing seems for the moment to have been a red herring. Brent Sexton continues to play Stark with an overgrown-boy energy that makes the idea of his being a cop just a little scary.

The ending of "Powerless" zig where it should zag; Rick (after making bail on that old rape charge) pays Dani a visit. He doesn't attack her, instead he forces her to drink and open up about her history. We know from "What They Saw" that Reese's insight into other addicts' behavior is pretty strong; she plays into Rick's vanity and need to see himself as troubled while the cavalry pulls up outside. At the end, we find Dani back at AA admitting her powerlessness.

Could the character of Ted (Adam Arkin), Charlie's ex-con financial advisor/boarder, be traded to another show? Maybe to Big Shots for Nia Long's character. This week Ted is stranded in his own story when his ex-partner in crime writes a tell-all book. I hope someone figures out a way to integrate Ted into the central stories. Adam Arkin does have one very good acting moment when it appears he's about to wallop his old friend.

I'm mixed on "Powerless." Sarah Shahi got more screen time, but the show spun its wheels on the central mystery. Next week Dani goes up on Charlie's wall, as he continues to untangle the mystery of his murder charge.

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"I love you, shovel.": Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies celebrated Halloween (a night I have no idea why the networks continue to program, low-rated as it can be) with an agreeably creepy ghost story, full of goofy wit and a collection of horror types and tropes that gave a sly wink to the whole genre. It was the perfect Halloween episode and just might have been the best episode the show has done so far. I like how the show is growing its universe and suggesting new avenues for story possibilities, even as it sticks to its procedural nature. I realize that some are disappointed the show's originality comes around the edges. Its stories are essentially old detective stories dusted off and given a glossy new coat. But that's fine with me as long as the stuff going on elsewhere is as much fun as it has been.

In particular, tonight's episode dusted off the old classic -- the Halloween episode that doubles as a ghost story. Whether or not your show had a supernatural bent, you could reliably do a ghost story at Halloween. Sometimes, the ghosts were real. More often, they were not. But somehow, the story commented on where the characters on the show were in their lives at the time. Daisies' ghost story was, essentially, a Scooby Doo episode (right down to the true culprit pulling off their mask and revealing their fiendish plan and how all of the clues that were dropped throughout the episode fit together), but it was a well-executed one that hit on a lot of Gothic ideals, right down to the secret boy who lived where no one could see him.

But, somehow, the episode was also about loneliness, especially the loneliness of death. Up until now, death has just been something that existed in the Daisies universe so it could have that cool fairy tale twinge to it. You never got the sense that the writers or creator Bryan Fuller had a point-of-view on death -- whether that was a sort of free-wheeling take on it as the next step in life or a mournful take. This episode, though, finally uncapped some of the emotions Chuck's aunts feel about her passing and nicely tied them in to how Ned feels about his father's abandonment (the Lil' Ned flashback this week dealt with how Ned learned his father had remarried led to one of the few forced moments in the episode -- Ned spending Halloween in the house he grew up in -- but it also drove home Ned's loneliness in a way that intensified his feelings for both Chuck and Olive).

But there was more. The fire-breathing horse was genuinely frightening, and while the resolution of who was posing as the ghost was pretty obvious (I mean, did anyone NOT guess it), a few of the twists and turns on the way there were worth the price of admission (including the way that the case made Olive and Chuck closer). The whole twisted past of Olive being a jockey could have been too much, but Chi McBride and Kristen Chenoweth sold it, and the cheesily awful horse-racing footage somehow became a plus, rather than a minus.

On top of all of that, though, this was a funny, funny episode, maybe the funniest so far. From the jokes about Olive's cleavage to her bed jumping to everything involving Digby to "Up next: Kittens on parade!", I think I laughed at more things in this episode than I have at any show this season so far (well, maybe not as much as last week's 30 Rock).

So. . .are we at the point now where we can just say that Pushing Daisies is safe, that it's going to turn out quite a few impressive episodes in this its (full) first season? I mean, that's five episodes in a row, with only episode two being as much of a miss as a hit. In a very disappointing fall, Pushing Daisies has been a nice little treat every week. I'll be sad to have to wait two weeks to see another one.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

“No-one’s keeping score! You’re losing.”: House

















Foreman’s back (baby) and better than ever. Though he had always been a strong character well-played by Omar Epps, Foreman was getting a little dull by the end of season three. This may have been because he was straddled with Foreman’s mini freak-out over becoming too much like House, which had worked fine as a character trait but as an actual plotline ended up making Foreman kinda irritating and whiny. No longer. The last couple weeks he served well as a slowly building B-plot, and this week he returns to the forefront. It’s a relief, really, to see Foreman is now closer to the guy we liked in the first place.

Even nicer was the developing relationship between him and House. Their respective progressions were hardly groundbreaking on a plot level – they start out both hating the situation and trying to change it, but by the end they’ve made peace with it – but what made it great was seeing these two as something close to friends. Laurie and Epps (both on high form, if this even needs stating) have a great chemistry, whether they’re locked in a battle of wills or just chatting friendlily (a rare sight that made a heart-warming final scene for this episode). It’s true that the writers have pitted these characters against each other many times before, and ‘Mirror Mirror’ was occasionally a little too reminiscent of the season two plotline where Foreman briefly became House’s boss. But lets not begrudge House a little story repetition here and there, especially not in a season of almost complete upheaval for the show.

The patient this week was my favourite of the season so far. The progression of his medical state was actually pretty confusing, but wisely sidelined. Instead he was used as a device to explore the remaining applicants for House’s team. He has something called mirror syndrome, a condition that forces the sufferer to read and imitate the person they’re speaking to, which creates a clever situation of the characters verbally confronting their own consciences. So it seems that Thirteen is scared, House has the hots for her, and Travis is bored and doesn’t want to be there. (There was also some cool stuff about Kal Penn, although I can't recall the specifics.) I could have done with a little more use of this idea, or with seeing some of Cole and Thirteen’s exploits.

I don’t have any more to say about this one, so I’ll stop. But I will note that House is now the show I most look forward to seeing every week, a status it hasn’t had with me since its first season. This is quite a resurgence, Shore and co., so please keep it up!

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Heroes Tuesdays: Season Two, Episode 29, "The Line"



Heroes is now a quarter of the way into its second season, but its sixth episode "The Line" is evident of the lack of progress the show has made since returning in September. The vast (and ever-expanding) ensemble remains scattered to the winds, their various plots lumbering sluggishly towards recycled conclusions. The cliffhanger at the end of "The Line" finally hints at a possible unifying save-the-world arc for the show to rally around -- just the thing Heroes needs to regain its zeitgeist credibility. The problem is, the cliffhanger is a lame rip-off of the show’s own material, which just serves to hit home how this season has been a rather pale imitation of the first.
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Read the rest of the article here.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"It's the shoes. It's always the shoes": Journeyman

It figures that the week I decide to give up on this show is the week it finally turns in a compelling hour that fully lives up to the promise of the series' premise. Effectively weaving Dan's work and home life, increasing tension with his brother Jack and Dan's adventures in time travel, "Keepers" was, well, a keeper. (GROAN, sorry.)

Part of the reason I've been having such a hard time getting invested in this series is that it never seemed to understand what kind of a show it wanted to be. Did it want to be a procedural? A family drama? A mythology-based sci fi/mystery? By attempting to throw all of these elements in the mix without first cementing who these characters were, the first five weeks felt at times like a book I picked up in the middle and decided to keep reading because I had nothing else to do. In this episode, all of these disparate elements came together (along with some great character development) to create a show with a real assuredness of tone, and it made all the difference.

The "past person of the week" story was definitely the best of the season so far. These plots are usually hackneyed and lazy, disconnected from the rest of the hour as if they only exist in the show's universe to have a reason to stick some time travel into each episode. Dan's quest this week to save two brothers who were essentially abandoned by their abusive father to fend for themselves was not only well paced, written and acted, but it also closely mirrored Dan and Jack's own personal situation and therefore had an emotional relevance to the present day that has been sorely lacking thus far. Tack on the fact that one of the brothers (Stephen Kowalchuk, in case the name comes up again later in the season) was a genius-level mathematician (with a slight chemical imbalance) who not only figured out Dan was a time traveler but used his experience with Dan to embark on research on the plausibility of time travel, research that brought him in contact with Elliot Langley, and you have the makings of an interesting plot indeed.

In the end, Stephen disavowed any of the research he did when he was mentally unstable, chalking up his belief in time travel to being off his meds, but his shifty nature when being asked about his research (especially when Langley's name came up) and his offhanded comment to Dan about his shoes that perfectly mirrored a comment he made to Dan in the past really makes you wonder. Is he afraid of Langley and only pretending time travel doesn't exist for fear of some sort of retribution? Does he know exactly who Dan is and what he can do? Why does Langley keep coming up at all? Even Dan's boss knows who he is, spouting two different companies Langley has worked for on cue. They wouldn't keep bringing him up if he wasn't integral to the show's mythology, and they did a great job of weaving him in this week.

As for the present day stories, they were dominated by Jack and his belief that Dan's strange behavior as of late means he's gambling again. Due to his previous relationship with Katie, Jack's a little more invested in the situation than he should be and goes completely overboard, using his detective status to check into their bank accounts and credit cards. It's pretty assy. Jack has been a tough character since the beginning, completely bullheaded and unlikable seemingly without cause. (Well, other than having his brother marry his ex-girlfriend, which must sting.) This week we got some very welcome insight into his state of mind when Dan walked into some flashbacks of his own life. First it was a nice scene from when they were teenagers, which showed that Jack looked out for Dan and much of the strife in their relationship comes from their father taking off on them. The second scene he overheard was a conversation between Katie and Jack right before Dan married her, where Katie reveals to Jack that she's pregnant with Dan's baby and is going to marry him. When she expresses (valid) concern that everything in their relationship is happening too quickly after Livia's death, Jack nicely assuages her fears and tells her Dan loves her and basically paves the road for their marriage.

These flashbacks were absolutely essential to strengthen both Dan and Katie's marital relationship and Jack and Dan's brother relationship, and both were very successful. That is definitely one interesting thing about this show -- they can use the flashback without ever having to do a cheesy flashback device, as their device is built right into the premise. By having Dan be present in the actual flashback it adds another layer of interest to the scene, and they really should be using this very effective device more often. They've set up a lot of complicated dynamics to the relationships on this show, and flashing back to how they all came to be can only help to cement the viewers' interest in them.

One thing that isn't working quite as well lately is Livia. At first it seemed like her character would serve a very interesting purpose, explaining to Dan why they were time traveling and helping him out with his journeys. Unfortunately in this episode she revealed that she doesn't know anything more about what's going on than he does, and her showing up at his every turn just kind of seems tedious if she's only there to hot wire a car now and then. Their relationship was one of the things that initially interested me about this show, but now that they've completely let it go in favor of solidifying the Dan/Katie bond, she just sort of seems out of place. Moon Bloodgood is a lovely actress, and I hope they figure out a way to make her more interesting in the future because otherwise her weekly visits will not be something I look forward to.

All in all, an engrossing episode that allays some of my fears about the series as a whole. And how about those previews for next week? Dan could affect something in the past that could erase his entire life as he knows it! And has to race to prevent everything from falling apart! Now that's what I've been waiting for, Journeyman! I'm not saying you're out of the woods yet because you could so easily slip back into banality next week, but I guess I won't give up on you after all.

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Hey. Wanna write for us?

We're looking for someone to cover the following. . .

--Prison Break
--Dirty Sexy Money
--Survivor

If that somebody is you, please e-mail me.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

"Lance Hardwood, sex architect, starring Ted Mosby.": How I Met Your Mother

Hurrah for good HIMYM! After three weeks of mediocre to pretty good TV, HIMYM is back to its season two level best, and it's managing to get there by being as zippy and time-manipulate-y and story juggling-y as it ever was. Granted, this one didn't jump around in time as much as last week's (how could it have?), but its story of twentysomethings confronting their worst professional fears to find happiness (and credit card debt!) was the sort of thing this show does so well. I'm glad that the show isn't doing stock romantic comedy stuff anymore. Even though this show has done a story about the temptation of Marshall before, it's the sort of thing you just don't see done on sitcoms all that often (television doesn't really like to get into how you have to betray your ideals to get the security you want to live all that often).

It helped that the B-story, hacky as it could have been, somehow kept a nicely modulated pitch, never getting too creepy or too guarded, when it must have seemed like it would have been easy to go either way. The best gag, of course, was Ted talking to Adult Video Weekly and thinking it was Architectural Vision Weekly (and how would that even be a thing?). The misunderstandings stemming from that were pretty great, and I also liked the visit with the fake Ted Mosby (and his failure to understand how his taking Ted's name was a problem for an architect). Most of this was kept afloat by Barney. I realize it's cliche to say it by now, but Neil Patrick Harris manages to make plot after plot work on this show, sometimes just through force of will. I'm glad the producers ditched their idea of a Jack Black-esque Barney when they saw Harris' audition.

Robin was very funny here too, particularly her failure to make a good, clever joke about Jude Law and then her attempts to explain her lame joke. Cobie Smulders is best when the show doesn't strain too hard to make her funny. She's a funny actress, but she's not exactly a one-liner machine, y'know? It's better to put her in awkward situations because Smulders is great at playing the pretty girl who gets in over her head and finds her confidence slowly seeping away from her. And she managed to prompt Lily's revelation about how she gets all her nice things (and has a sitcom character explained that ever? thanks, Robin!).

But it was the Marshall/Lily storyline that really hit home with me. I've written often about how Marshall and Lily hit home as realistic characters for Libby and me in a variety of ways, and this episode just deepened those similarities, from the rampant credit card debt to the way Lily wanted to push Marshall into the big law firm job but ultimately acquiesced to his dreams of working for the NRDC to the way they text each other at all times. And if you needed any proof of Alyson Hannigan's range as this character (and, indeed, in the first season, there was a lot of skepticism as to her suitability for the part), it was in this episode, where she ricocheted from happy to sad to orgasmic for shoes.

Marshall's courtship by the law firm was very funny as well, and I particularly liked his long, sad walk back from Jeff's office (John Cho was great in that part) and the way he couldn't hide his excitement at seeing Patrick Swayze. Sometimes, you have to trade in on your ideals to get other things you want (like a safe life for your wife), and I was glad that the show didn't judge Marshall for doing this, choosing instead to show how he might be a little depressed about this but ready to save the amusement park of dreams.

While this one wasn't quite as good as last week's episode, it was a very funny one in its own right, and it even managed to set up a number of plotlines that should be interesting in the weeks to come. It's not just because I have to blog about it that makes me watch HIMYM first every Monday night -- it's episodes like this one, which balance the show's sweetly goofy charm with the tough choices you make in your twenties.

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"The two of you were gonna play gin the way you do every Tuesday.": Brotherhood

After five episodes, Brotherhood is now at the midpoint of its second season, and it feels as if things are slowly picking up speed. We should be all downhill from here, and I'm thinking that we're going to see resolutions to most of these storylines. Though, hey, remember when Michael had disappeared for that long period of time, and there was a big mystery as to where he was and it was heavily implied that he and Eileen had had a thing back in the day? Whatever happened to THAT?

Probably the biggest development was that Tommy and Eileen briefly split (for, like, a day) before he took her back in. His relationship with Dana continues to grow, and it's obvious that he's mostly keeping Eileen in his life for the kids and to win the election (he asked her, in fact, if they could table the discussion until after the election -- a line I thought was too on-the-nose; there's no way he ALWAYS talks in political-ese). I'm enjoying watching Tommy's bitterness at his wife slowly grow more and more rancorous and turn more and more inward. I can't imagine this ending well, but maybe he's just making his journey toward some form of forgiveness.

The other plotline I was most interested in was Colin finding out that his birth father was Judd (of all people). Len Cariou's performance as Judd has long been one of my favorites, and I like this new angle they've given him, particularly as it lets him share scenes with Brian F. O'Byrne. I didn't quite buy that everyone in Providence would be THIS incestuous (I mean, don't they have ANYone else to hang out with?), but, hey, it was interesting, and I'll gladly watch Cariou, O'Byrne and Fionnuala Flanagan in scenes together.

I'm going to cut this short because I didn't get to it until late (and only, like, two of you read these anyway), but I'll give you fuller analysis next week, as we head downhill toward the end of the season. Are you liking this season so far? And what happened to Michael's head trauma?

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"Remind me to make a donation to Pro-Choice America.": Brothers and Sisters


After several weeks of fairly lackluster episodes, Brothers and Sisters stepped up in a big way this week with "Domestic Issues." Let's mix it up this time and start out with what didn't work. Todd is constantly telling me that typical married life does not make for interesting television and while I agree with him to a certain extent, the lengths to which some creators go to break up any and all marriages on their shows is a bit disturbing. While I can't say that Greg Berlanti (whom I love) has quite reached Shonda Rhimes levels yet, he sure is getting close. The seemingly inevitable dissolution of Tommy's marriage, though vaguely reasonable when considering the stressors the marriage faces, still seems forced, as does the mashing together of him and his office drone. As entertaining as it is having Holly get her hypocrite on, the whole thing is just messy and a real drag on the show.

Additionally, Justin's readdiction to the pain medication is a tired plot device that is wholly regrettable. It's just so lame: Justin doesn't want to take drugs, for fear of resparking his addiction; Justin is convinced to take drugs for own benefit; Justin is hiding addiction to drugs. We all know how this ends: Sally Field cries, everyone hugs. Don't get me wrong, I love it when the Field cries, it's just a little too much retread a little too soon.

Enough of that. Let's get to the good.

I feel like before I go too far I should tell you how much I disliked Rachel Griffiths on Six Feet Under. I imagine that my opinion was based mainly on her character, I just could not get past my loathing. To that end, I was actually a little put off when I originally learned that she was in this cast, but willing to overlook it in order to attempt and give the show a fair shake. And I'm so glad I did. She is a revelation in this role, able to take things that may be soapy and trite and give them a heart and a resonance that not just any actress could. Her versatility astounds and her performance in this week's episode was heartbreaking.

Paired with the Sarah's incredible shrinking family, I loved Kitty's ever expanding one. While some may see Kitty's sudden pregnancy as an easy out with regards to the McCallister campaign (after all, before this, who in his base WOULDN'T vote for the guy!?) I found it to be an accurate display of how occasionally the best things happen at the worst times. And while I find McCallister to often be orange, wooden and hyper-perfect, he and Kitty's fight this episode was pitch perfect, horrifying and hurtful, all the things real fights are, though we wish they weren't.

Obviously if you've read my reviews before, you know that I loved everything involving the full family. The fact that everyone knew Kitty was pregnant immediately was spot on, (No really, I knew my sister was pregnant with her last child approximately 36 hours after she conceived. Okay, maybe not. But close) as was the fact that truly, every mother has a "tell." I would tell you what my mother's is, but then she may find out and actively work against it. I just can't take that risk, people.

As for next week, Internet scouring has found me zilch when it comes to a "next week on" package, though I watched a full scene at ABC.com and have pieced together the following tidbits about the upcoming episode: 1. Danny Glover. (wtf!?) 2. Nora and Kitty fast-talk. (woo!) 3. The episode looks as though it will feature a shotgun wedding. (yay!) Well, I'm sold. Go, go, November sweeps!

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"You've got a kid who came flying out of the closet and a husband looking for the doorknob.": Desperate Housewives


Well, five weeks into the season I've finally figured out what makes a decent episode of this show: no Susan.
Susan's character works as an element in another storyline, but whenever she gets a story of her very own it's so far over the top and out of anything resembling reality that it becomes painful. This episode had three main storylines, all of them decently entertaining and none of them revolving around Susan, and it added up to a very pleasant episode indeed.

Center stage was Wisteria Lane's battle with the new kids on the block, Bob and Lee, and their godawful fountain. The second it went up the ladies of the block deemed it an eyesore and vowed to get rid of it at all costs, which involved electing a new president of the homeowners association, a post that was vacated when Mary Alice committed suicide. Now, I don't know if any of you live in a place with a homeowners association, but the thought of a block that bitchy allowing the presidential position to be open for four years is patently ridiculous. Those homeowners associations are cutthroat, and someone else on the board would have been gunning for the top spot while Mary Alice's body was still warm.

Katherine decides to run for the top spot and initially runs unopposed, until she hints to Lynnette that the tree house in her yard will have to come down as well because it isn't up to code. Lynnette decides to run against her because her kids use the tree house as a "safe zone" from cancer and she feels guilty. She drums up enough support to cause a tie at the vote but it turns out it's only a tie because Susan, stuck in the middle between supporting a friend and wanting the very ugly and loud fountain gone, votes twice. When pressed, Susan goes with Katherine and upsets Lynnette. In the end, Lynnette confronts Katherine about how she is sticky sweet some moments and super bitchy the next, and Katherine backs down and allows her to keep the tree house. Katherine isn't so forgiving of Bob and Lee's fountain, but when she goes to tell them to get rid of it they prove they will fit right in on Wisteria Lane by blackmailing her with threats of revealing what happened with her husband Adam in Chicago if she makes them remove the fountain. I still don't know what happened in Chicago, but it reeks of some sort of sexual harassment scandal, and that is really not interesting enough for the amount of time they are spending teasing out the reveal.

Surprisingly interesting this week were Gabby and Carlos, whose plan to meet at a fancy hotel for a weekend tryst is foiled when Gabby runs into ex-lover John and his pregnant wife in the lobby. John takes this chance meeting as a sign he and Gabby should be together again, and tries to restart their relationship. Carlos overhears their conversation and has to face some hard truths about what he and Gabby are doing. Thankfully, he finally comes to a sane and adult decision and tells Gabby it's time to end the affair, break it off with their significant others, and wait a few months before getting back together out of respect for Victor and Edie. Too bad for them this very adult decision comes at the exact wrong time, as Edie's hired private eye catches them during their goodbye kiss and turns the photos over to Edie. I have a feeling Edie's going to tell Victor, and this is all about to get very, very ugly. Right when Carlos and Gabby were becoming likable again! The faster they finish this story the better, because as uninteresting as I find Gabby and Carlos most of the time, I find Victor to be ten times worse.

Bree is busy retrieving Danielle from her grandmother's clutches by promises of convertibles, college in Florida and fun over her current option: raising a baby and living in a retirement home with her grandmother. Danielle, ever the shallow girl, goes with the fun in return for letting Bree raise her baby as her own. Hopefully Andrew will get a new storyline soon, because as amusing as I find Danielle I really miss devious Andrew. He's had a few moments this year but nothing close to how much fun he has shown he can be in past seasons.

All in all, a very nice way to spend an hour. In next week's Halloween episode, Danielle hilariously dresses up like her pregnant mother, but things go wrong when her water breaks in the middle of the Halloween party. Wacky hijinx are sure to ensue!

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"She even has a juice drink named after her in China. And a lawnmower!": Men in Trees


Men in Trees begins an interesting tightrope walk this week as Marin and Jack's "will they or won't they" romance rises to the surface yet again. Now that Lynn is out of the picture for good, they are going to have to make a decision: do they put off the inevitable pairing, or buck convention and put them back together permanently and find a way to write an interesting committed relationship? After only one episode the writers aren't quite showing what direction they're headed yet, but luckily for them they have so many wonderful supporting characters to work with that no matter what they do the show feels like it can survive.

Jack spends the episode ridding himself of any traces of Lynn in his life, sending all of her belongings to her new home in Vancouver and even getting his "Lynn" tattoo removed. He now realizes what an idiot he was to mess his relationship with Marin up so badly, and even tells her so in a very nice scene at Marin's cabin. Marin explains that she cannot talk to him about this so soon after the breakup because she doesn't want to do something she regrets, by which she obviously means jumping back into it with him too soon. She nicely encourages him to let the town help him heal, and he does just that by showing up at the big Spring Skate festival at the end of the episode. It's a very nice way to end the whole Lynn chapter and potentially start a new chapter in the Marin/Jack saga, and it felt very natural. Anne Heche is always a joy to watch in this role, but she really shines in her scenes with James Tupper, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Elsewhere in Elmo, Mai's famous ice dancing cousin Lucy Wu comes into town for a visit just in time to meet Buzz's gay son George (who is in Alaska scouting fat camp locations). Lucy laments that she cannot get a green card and stay in Alaska with Mai, so George nicely offers to marry her until she finds a suitable husband. This doesn't sit well with George's boyfriend, who admits he wants a committed relationship. Lucy goes back to her ice dancing tour, George and his boyfriend embark on a committed relationship, and it is all very sweet.

Also as sweet as ever are Annie and Patrick, who are preparing for their wedding. After inadvertently asking George to be his best man, Patrick realizes that George wants a slightly different wedding than he does (butterscotch fountain vs. cupcakes, raw bar vs. mini quesadillas, etc.) and asks Marin to be his best man instead. Annie freaks out because she already asked Marin to be her maid of honor, but in the end gives Marin to Patrick because he simply needs more help than she does. And that...sounds like a very lame story, but it was quite cute. Really.

Cash and Marin are living in domestic bliss, but once Cash realizes how comfortable he is, he decides he needs to take off because he hates becoming attached. He takes off only to get sick and have to go back to Marin's house for some healing chicken soup. He only ends up leaving again, but I don't think he's left Elmo for good. My question is: where are they going with this Cash character? If they are hoping we buy him as an obstacle for the Jack/Marin relationship they are sorely mistaken. Cash is no Jack.

Next week: bachelor/bachelorette party madness! Complete with mud wrestlers!

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"Humans ain't our job.": Supernatural


On Friday morning I sat down to write my review of "Sin City," fingers poised to absolutely rip the episode to shreds. As I typed out the first scathing paragraph, though, I realized I just couldn't do it. I couldn't give a show I love such a bad review without a second viewing. Upon re-watching I found a few things to prevent this episode from going on my list of least favorite episodes of all time (along with "Bugs," "Houses of the Holy" and "Route 666"), but overall I was right the first time around -- this was one stinker of an hour.

The main focus of the episode was Sam and Dean's investigation of a town in Ohio where everyone is succumbing to their basest instincts: drinking, gambling, sex and the like. Unfortunately, they do most of this investigating separately which automatically makes for a weaker episode. The boys are best when they are together, as their relationship and the acting chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki is what makes this show really sing.

When arriving they run into a ridiculous hunter from Jersey (via central casting) named Richie, who is a total moron and immediately gets himself killed by the demon encouraging all of the town debauchery, who is conveniently wrapped in the package of a hottie bartender. Dean figures out what happened to Richie and tricks Casey the bartender into stepping right into a devil's trap. Unfortunately for Dean, and the audience, Casey is quite powerful and uses her demon mojo to cause the basement they are in to collapse, trapping Dean and ripping his Latin book away, preventing him from exorcising her to hell.

I say this is unfortunate for the audience because all Dean and Casey do for the next half hour is talk, and good gravy is it BORING. Through this conversation we learn that demons have a "God" that they call Lucifer, but he isn't necessarily the devil; Yellow Eyed Demon has a name, Azazel; and Azazel had a plan to have Sam lead all of the demons once they were released from hell but now that Azazel is dead there is chaos, which is worse than what the army would have done. Dean forms a bit of a bond with Casey the demon and she with him, and in the end when her demon partner (the town priest, natch) shows up and tries to kill him, she pleads for mercy. She gets no mercy when Sam shows up to save the day, and despite Dean's protests coldly kills both of them with the revived Colt.

Besides the fact that this demon conversation was so deadly boring, there were other problems with this story. First of all, Supernatural does not to these "nature of good and evil" debates very well. They are always overly simplistic and clunky. In this case it was learning that demons have a higher power and they they have faith in something, and that was simply one bit of mythology that I could have done without. One comforting thing about the Supernatural world is that demons are evil, and need to be killed. Plain and simple. It's part of what makes watching this show fun -- there's no debate, just boys kicking some demon ass, and that works. Once they edge into these murky waters of "some demons aren't so bad," it's tough to turn back and a lot of the fun of the premise is lost.

I also hated that Dean didn't want Sam to kill Casey the demon. What did he want to do, nicely send her back to hell so she could climb her way back out again? I know that they are pushing this whole "Sam came back wrong" thing and that part of the problem with him killing Casey is that he killed the human hosting the demon as well, but only four episodes into the season and this story is starting to get old. With this entire season seemingly focused on the demons that made their way out of hell I foresee a lot of stories where they have to kill demons in the future, and I am already over it. There are only so many ways you can kill a demon, and I think they've fully explored them all before so it's going to get repetitive, and quick. It's no coincidence that the best episode of the season so far had nothing to do with the mytharc of the season and revolved around a simple cursed object. Demons, it turns out? Kind of boring.

Finally, Ruby. I'm not sure what to make of Ruby yet. It is very interesting that she helped Bobby make the Colt work again (although why that was done off screen is a complete mystery to me -- I wanted to see how she did it!) but her back and forth with Sam is already a bit tired. I'm ready for him to just go along with her so we can see a little more of what she's really up to. If we spend every episode rehashing that Sam doesn't want to work with her, I'm going to go ahead and start banging my head against a wall right now in preparation. My very underdeveloped theory is that Ruby is using Sam to kill these demons and then use him exactly like Azazel intended, as the unintentional boy king and leader. Perhaps the Colt didn't work that well after all and Ruby is actually Azazel? I doubt that's right, but wouldn't it be interesting?

Overall, this is an episode I won't be watching again any time in the near future. Next week the boys take on classic fairy tales, and I sort of can't wait. Even after a subpar outing, there's nowhere I'd rather spend my Thursday nights than with the Winchesters.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

"You're spending all this time with a boy who doesn't seem to have a name.": Friday Night Lights


Take a look at that man. When you inevitably see him later in the season, coaching one of the Dillon Panthers' rivals in the playoffs, you can smile to yourself (because, hopefully, the show is back on track again now) and remember that that man was probably the least realistic and developed character in the show's history. Sure, he got kind of a nice moment on the way out, but for most of these first four episodes, he was a crazy strawman, designed to bring the show false drama.

I've harped on how the show really biffed the "Coach Taylor goes to Austin" plotline (and, actually, everyone who writes about this show has), but it really bears repeating: This storyline just wasn't that interesting when it made everyone miserable with the status quo. That made it too easy for the show to return to the OLD status quo, and thus, one of the biggest storylines of the first four episodes always felt like a bit of a waste. It was nice to see Tami trying to get by without him and struggling, and it was interesting to see how Julie took all of this as license to have her brief rebellion with THE SWEDE (whose real name was Anton -- which is awesome).

Hopefully, now that Taylor's back, the show will regain its center. Back when the writers talked about dialing down the football in favor of character-based stuff, I didn't think it was such a bad idea, but now that the show is actually doing that, I kind of think that having football at the center of the show was a good thing. It gave the storylines a natural place to stem from, which is why I got a little jolt of familiarity when Taylor stepped into that room and talked to the team again as his team. I may not have liked the inevitability of the storyline that got him there, but I liked the destination, if that makes sense.

I didn't mind the Street and Riggins in Mexico storyline as much as I thought I might, but it was still pretty stupid, even if that moment when Street talked about how much he hates Dillon was heartbreaking (though it makes little to no sense -- he couldn't have left?), and I even sort of enjoyed Riggins here. Still, how are these two able to make this big escape and not have to worry about school or other responsibilities? And, again, FNL, if you make Street walk again, I will inject shark blood (or whatever) into YOUR body.

Lyla's conversion to Christianity continues to fascinate me with just how insincere she makes sincerity seem. She's trying her hardest, but it's clear this is just a reaction to the way her life has spiraled out of control. Meanwhile, her dad has somehow pulled it together enough to stage what's apparently an effective coup d'etat to get Coach Plot Device out of town so Taylor can come back. I have no idea what the writers are doing with Buddy -- he's in a different place in the town's social hierarchy with every week.

Also, the Panthers lost their game, which was sad.

Landry and Tyra continued to be backburnered. The resolution of the storyline here -- the cops confirming that the dead body was of Tyra's would-be rapist -- might have been a place to bring the thing to a close so we could all forget any of this ever happened. Instead, I had to read in the LA Times that this is going to go on for NINE EPISODES. Oh good Lord. Fortunately, Landry goes to that fictional church where the sermon always directly comments on the storylines the characters are involved in that all television characters go to. It was awfully nice of the pastor to talk about guilt and sin and redemption! That helped move the story along thematically! Also, are Landry and Tyra out as a couple now? Or do they just SEEM like a couple everywhere and save the physical stuff for when no one can see? Have they been holding hands or something? I can't tell. Landry's dad continues to be a fascinating character, and it makes me hope that the writers have a powerhouse scene coming up featuring him when he finds out what his son did. It'll almost make up for the clunky plotting.

Anyway, I liked how this episode brought a lot of storylines to a close, so it seems as if a bunch of them will be gone in time for next week's episode. I'm hoping that this is a good sign of how the story will speed along now, and that this early portion of the season was just a misguided attempt to get away from what FNL does best.

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