Sunday, April 27, 2008

What I'm Watching: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Episode 4 "Escape Velocity" (B-)

Wow, Tyrol really railed on Cally in this episode! That was pretty tough to take. I'm absolutely thrilled to see the secret Cylons tear the fleet apart with stuff like this. For the moment, however, this show needs a bit of an adrenaline shot. Last week provided it with Cally's super intense death but failed to follow up this week. The episode was by no means bad, it was just a bit slow. I guess the big reveal in this episode was supposed to be that people are really listening to Baltar and he's gained a lot of influence, though we sort of knew that already. I am happy to see Lee doing good work as a political man and I think it suits him well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What I'm Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 4, Episode 9 "The Shape of Things to Come" (B-)

Ah, I want to love this show so much! Some of the few answers provided in this episode seem too simplistic, like the reason Sayid and Ben are working together, however sensible they may be. "Lost" is also cheating the system, taking things to a whole new level by killing off minor, unimportant characters, most notably the three nameless survivors dumb enough to leap out into the gunfire. Alex's death seems premature, though it makes sense as a catalyst for the final scene we see at the very end of the episode (more on that later). I was shocked that both Sawyer and Claire weren't killed off in this episode, since that would provide the perfect reason for Aaron to be in the hands of Kate in the future. Miles ringing the doorbell was hilarious but I'm glad that he's now with the castaways. The release of the smoke monster was cool, and actually the least annoyed I've been with it since its very debut (explaining what it was to a first-time "Lost" watcher was a bit challenging, however). It's unfortunate that even Daniel is lying to the castaways, but Bernard's stepping in was fairly awesome. So many questions, so few answers! As far as the flash-forwards go, the last scene is really the only truly important one. It gives the show more fodder for after everyone gets off the island, and why Widmore can't find the island and why Ben won't be able to find Penny are sure to prove to be interesting when we get to them.

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 2, Episode 13 "Succession" (B)

This episode suffers only because it's far too predictable: Geiss' untimely diabetic coma is obvious from the start, and Devon's coup is none too shocking. It's too bad, really, because it would have been more fun to see Liz with too much power than Jack with too little. Tracy's porn-videogame is a fun idea, but I wish they had shown some of the finished product (obviously with nothing inappropriate, per network standards). Best moment of the episode is probably Jack's responds to Liz's congratulatory embrace: "Hugging - it's such an ethnic custom."

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 4, Episode 11 "Night Out" (B+)

I loved that Dwight was the only one who actually got any action in this episode. When I saw him making out with that girl, I could hardly believe it was him. Ryan high on ecstasy or whatever was pretty funny, but nothing could be as great as Dwight interrogating the hobbit look-a-like. A good time had by all, except of course for Toby. That stroking of Pam's leg was pretty damn awkward, and his mad dash to hop the fence and move to Costa Rica was great. And gotta love the unlikely couple that is Angela and Andy, who take a vote on whether people like them or Pam better.

What I'm Watching: Scrubs

Scrubs: Season 7, Episode 9 "My Dumb Luck" (B-)

Nothing much new to report on here. It's just the same old stuff. Kelso gets a ten-minute monologue throughout the episode to produce an overly thought-out corny resolve that Kelso did in fact care about the hospital. It's interesting that he just up and quit after getting the decision into his own hands. However surprising that was, it just makes everything else seem all the more pointless. I'm really starting to think that "Scrubs" could be really for its swan song, unless they have some crazy cool idea for turning the show around and bringing in a new chief of medicine or anything like that. For the moment, they need to get a move on and start reworking the show.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 17 "Sleeper" (F)

Just to get the record straight, Clark wants to read to Lana instead of saving all of humanity from the evil of Lex? Sadly, that's not even remotely the most inept part of this episode. I'd hope the FBI had better surveillance techniques with more stealth than to pop up with a message that says "duplicating files" on the main computer that's being hacked. It's probably newbie Jimmy, who has no idea what he's doing, since if I have it correct he got trained to be a hacker and super-spy in less than half a day, and got outsmarted by Chloe but still managed to outsmart the supposedly intelligent FBI. Oh, and he got tango lessons. It's hard to decide which is more unbelievable: Chloe as a terrorist or Jimmy as a spy. Maybe this episode was making a pathetic attempt at a Bond parody, but it's a complete failure. You'll never guess what was sitting next to Chloe's cell phone - Stride gum. I hate product placement. Anyway, now Jimmy's indebted to Lex and we'll have to see an entire episode devoted to him outsmarting Lex to get out from under his iron grasp. I love time travel, but I don't think they're going about it the right way here. There was also a crazy scene from the preview that wasn't even in this episode (I guess it's still coming up), but I thought it was going to be the last scene and I'd have to rail on the CW for promoting the shocking last scene in the weekly previews (though of course it's my own fault for watching them).

One reader in particular keeps asking me why I continue to watch this show if I hate every episode so much. To address his concern, I used to love "Smallville" and I feel like it could get better. I gave up after the show's fifth season ended, having suffered through three terrible seasons in a row. I started watching the sixth season during summer reruns because there was nothing else on and the presence of Oliver Queen and some other elements really made the show good for a few episodes. Season seven plummeted right back down, but the recent announcement that new showrunners will be taking over gives me hope for the show's eighth season, so I have to keep watching until then to keep up with the plotline. In any case, it's only once a week.

What I'm Watching: Law & Order

Law & Order: Season 18, Episode 14 "Burn Card" (C+)

I wouldn't really consider this a fitting goodbye for Jesse L. Martin's Detective Green. I've only been following his character for the past fourteen episodes, but he's been on the show for nine years. I would have loved to see him go out in a blaze of glory, saving some kid or even his partner. Instead, he has to exit the show on uncertain charges and a general blemish to his record. I can hardly see how Anthony Anderson will become his partner, but I suppose that might work well. The problem is that both Anderson and Sisto play dynamic, eccentric characters. In an onscreen partnership, it's usually better to have one more dynamic character and a straight man, which was provided by Luppo and Green most recently on this show. I'm not sure how well this will all work out, but I think I'll at least finish out the season.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Riches

The Riches: Season 2, Episode 6 “Dead Caelm” (B-)

Here we have the same old, unfocused and directionless Malloys. Cael’s starting to like his new home, though crazy prison guy has to be hiding some tricks up his sleeve. Di Di’s getting herself involved in a new relationship and a new school activity, which can’t be good given the fact that the Malloys are looking to make a quick getaway any time now. It’s great to see Sam finally getting some affection from someone. What I’m not so thrilled about is the activities of the parents – Dahlia, who was previously lying to Wayne about the parole violation confession, now hypocritically demands the truth out of him and blames him for covering up something Dale did. Her descent back into addiction seems hardly mentionable, whereas I would have thought it would have been a big deal. Jim’s death also seems to be swept out of everyone’s minds pretty quickly. I cannot understand how Dale and his cohorts were able to conjure up effective enough portfolios to seem impressive enough to be hired by Wayne as Doug. One more episode to go, and then hopefully a third season for this show to find its footing once again.

What I'm Watching: Reaper

Reaper: Season 1, Episode 14 "Rebellion" (C)

I'm really not sure how to feel about this show. I feel like it's trying to be just a bit too modern by having Sam ask the devil for his cell phone number. I knew that there was something fishy about this whole demon-next-door-neighbor thing and them being gay was just a bit strange. The rebellion idea is interesting, but I think it played out too comically. Ray Wise continues to own the screen and I hope he gets rewarded somehow from some random awards guild (or the Emmys - wouldn't that be cool? Better than Neil Patrick Harris and Jon Cryer anyway). The element of the show I am happy with is that Andi and Sam are finally getting it on. That was in the making for way too long, and it should be great while it lasts, but I think I know how it will end, with him not telling her his secrets and her being unable to get over it. I hope I'm wrong.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 5, Episode 14 “Internal Affairs” (B)

The grainy flashbacks that account for a good eighth or so of this episode are a bit strange but generally work pretty well. The case is a cool one, but it seems a bit too easily solved, which is of course an improper statement in itself since it’s not actually ever really solved. That part of the episode I did enjoy, but I wish that Tony had not written off Jean completely. I don’t see why it’s necessary to hurt her, and I think they could have done well together. That was one of the reasons I thought Michael Wetherly was deserving of a spot on my AFT Awards list for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series last year – his relationship with Jean made the character even better. What does he have left now? The show needs to refocus itself and get a new dramatic direction, like the one with Ari in the first two seasons. That would help inject it with some new spirit.

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 1, Episode 12 “The Butterflies” (C+)

I enjoy Rick Hoffman’s overacted performance as Chase, and his tryst with Dena, however odd, is fun to watch. As for the rest of this episode, this show still has a lot of kinks to work out, and hopefully the next season should give it a nice shot to do that. My recommendation would be more of Kevin Dunn as Sam’s dad, Barry Watson as Todd, and Jennifer Esposito as Andrea. I do love Melissa McCarthy and Jean Smart, but the rest of the supporting cast is truly great and they can help take some of the spotlight away from Sam’s amnesia flashbacks, which aren’t quite as good as they used to be.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 4, Episode 12 “In Buddy’s Eyes” (C-)

Meh. I’m not terribly into this show any more, especially since the focus has pretty much gone all to repetitive, cyclical comedy. Edie is a running joke now, and her rivalries with Susan and Gabrielle have pretty much all been forgotten, something that was once a strong element of the show. I believe that Gabrielle can have and has had good dramatic plotlines, like with Victor, but this stuff, like with visiting Lynette in the hospital, just makes her seem like a bad person before ultimately having her break down in tears. I know I’m pretty much alone in this, but I think Eva Longoria is a talented actress and should be given more credit. Bringing back old plotlines is also not the way to go. Rick should have been long gone a while ago and Tom should remain being the Nicest Guy Ever rather than an angry, jealous husband. Orson’s sleepwalking ends up being too comical, though I am always happy to see more of Kyle MacLachlan (though I don’t need to see quite that much; fortunately this show is on ABC and not HBO). I hope this turns out well and Julie doesn’t involve Susan in an obnoxious way. This show really needs to decide what it wants to focus on, comedy or drama, and I personally vote for drama.

What I'm Watching: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Ties That Bind” (B+)

I was holding my breath during that last scene. Though it might have been obvious that Tory was going to send Cally out the airlock, it still came as quite a shock to me. That super-strength push that sent Cally flying was the first time any of the final four have demonstrated any Cylon-like activity, and I’m sure this is only the first in a series of crazy-intense freak-outs by all of them. I can do without the messed-up relationship between Sam and Kara and any of the political meetings. It is great to see some good speeches by Adama and especially by Roslin. Additionally, it is always a pleasure to see Richard Hatch guest-star as Tom Zarek, though I wish they would give him more to do. The Cylon civil war is pretty frakking awesome, but I still can’t hope to figure out who’s on the good side and who’s on the bad side.

What I'm Watching: Scrubs

Scrubs: Season 7, Episode 8 “My Manhood” (B)

It’s clear they’re just cycling through old plotlines on this show but there are enough small new things that liven up this episode to make it pretty worthwhile. Turk’s missing testicle-induced testosterone drive is fun but also drives home the deepness of J.D. and Turk’s friendship. I understand that Kelso wants Elliot’s help but his whole ruse with the cell phone and the unnecessary flashback (a plot device I find thoroughly distracting and inappropriate on shows like this) seem too much like a way of filling up time in the episode. The Janitorial and the Janitor’s making up interviews style is really great and definitely my favorite part of this episode.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Chair Model” (B+)

This episode isn’t quite as overwhelmingly funny as last week’s, but it’s still a hoot. Plotlines such as that of Michael’s crush on the chair model make good fodder for jokes but diminish the seriousness of the series, which is not something terribly important for the show. Michael seems just a bit too unlikeable when he is made out to be such a despicable person who bases his opinions of people purely on their looks. Nonetheless, Michael’s graveyard song tribute is a lot of fun. Kevin and Andy’s dogged pursuit of justice and the whole Five Families business is simply terrific. The most wonderful and affecting part of this episode is the relationship between Jim and Pam. Their joking banter about getting engaged is very amusing. My heart did actually stop for a second when Jim got down on one knee but I was even more impressed with his little joke to freak Pam out. I’m thrilled to see where this goes and I think this is a convincing argument for why Jim and Pam are TV’s number one couple.

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 2, Episode 12 “Subway Hero” (B+)

There is an unbelievable amount of laugh-out-loud hilarious material in this episode. Liz’s reaction to Dennis being the subway hero is priceless. Dean Winters is actually really funny in this episode, a lot more outlandishly so than I remember him being in previous episodes. It’s good to see Jane Krakowski again, but I wish some of this terrific material was given to her. Jack McBrayer could also go for some better writing, though his bigot star idol gives him enough to do in this episode. Tracy’s plotline is amazing, with his hallucination of Jack and Twofer as famous Republicans. Jack as Nixon was stellar. The best part of this episode, however, is saved for last: Tracy’s shout-out to “Blackmericans” telling them to vote Republican ultimately turns into an ad telling black people not to vote. Why? Because they can play three whole games of pool in the time it would take them to vote. On what other show could you find such a plotline?

On another note, I’m excited to report that I passed Lonny Ross, a.k.a. Josh, on the street earlier today heading down Broadway.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 16 “Descent” (C+)

First things first, I don’t believe Lionel is dead. But his death was pretty well-done, with Lex’s declaration that “no one will even remember your name.” There a bunch of elements of this episode that work quite well, like the idea that Lex’s loyal servant would have helped him solve the mystery he had waited all his life to solve but he didn’t think he could trust her so he had her killed first, but the execution needs some work. Time also passes way too quickly, with Lex’s disciple moving from place to place with her gun at impossible speed. Lois and Jimmy’s relationship is really being forced, and the two of them are just so annoying by themselves that together they’ll be unbearable. Who makes jokes and comes up with puns when someone has a gun pointed at them? And Lois’ response to getting shot: “Are you serious? You actually shot me?” Fortunately, Chloe is actually spared terrible lines during the second half of the episode in her half-moving, impassioned speech to Clark. The Jonathan/Jor-El/Lionel comparison is actually fairly effective, certainly more so than the rest of the things on this show.

What I'm Watching: The Riches

The Riches: Season 2, Episode 5 “Trust Never Sleeps” (B+)

I was quite impressed with the bit before the opening credits (which I love, by the way, in case I haven’t said it yet). The shadow inside the tent which flashes with the lightning behind Sam makes this seem a whole lot like noir, which was pretty cool. Dahlia’s dalliance with living righteously is all good and finished, which is a good thing, and Cal is getting himself in way over his head without knowing it. I would think after his poor decision making last season, he would be just a bit more cautious about trusting people. Only two more episodes to go in this shortened season – I do hope it gets renewed.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 5, Episode 13 “Dog Tags” (D+)

I really don’t care for shows that take entire episodes to devote to plot revolving around animals. There was a lot of hype about this one and trillions of photographs of Pauley Perrette (Abby) posing with the dog. Just because it might be germane to the show, it doesn’t make it a good episode.

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Boss” (B)

Timothy Olyphant is one star who I think will have a good long career ahead of him, and though some people may think he is typecast, I think he is pretty able to play any different number of roles. On “Deadwood” he was an honest sheriff, in “Meet Bill” he was a smarmy weatherman, in “Hitman” I’m going to presume he was a vengeful hitman and in “Live Free or Die Hard” he was a determined computer hacker slash wannabe terrorist. Here he is a cocky but likeable boss slash suitor, and I like him a lot. This episode also does a lot better than most of Sam’s recent adventures. The ending kiss between Todd and Sam is amusing, and should lead to interesting places.

Second Run TV: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 13 “The Wheel” (B+)

A fitting title for a fitting finale for the first season of this show. Season one concludes the way many other great cable shows have finished out their freshmen seasons (“The Shield” and “Rescue Me”, for instance), with the central character, likeable but flawed, realize that their work and the way they work has come into serious conflict with their connection to their families. Don’s imagined coming home to his family before they depart is especially poignant and effective. Mark Moses, no longer a player on “Desperate Housewives”, is a fine addition to the cast as the guy who did get the job Pete was going for. I’m pretty excited for the second season of this show, and I think it will be thoroughly impressive and enjoyable.

Season one grade: B+

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 4, Episode 11 “Sunday” (D-)

After all this time off the air, I had hoped that “Desperate Houseewives” might be able to offer something new rather than just continually repeating the same arcs. No such luck. Unsurprisingly, Lynette has a wacky idea and then complains when people find it objectionable, and whines her way into making it seem like a legitimate personal issue rather than just her trying to make a problem out of everything. I mean, come on, asking questions in church? Bree is deteriorating into a mere caricature of a character, and sadly for the extremely talented Kyle Machlachlan, so is Orson. Gabrielle is just overly cruel to Carlos. The man is blind, does she really have to put obstacles in his way? Much as I see the need for some development, and quick, on the Katherine situation, the introduction of Chris Carmack (a.k.a. Luke from “The O.C.”; you tell me if you could ever take him seriously) is completely ridiculous and unnecessary. More focus on her, less focus on a need to keep Susan in the story!

What I'm Watching: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Episode 2 “Six of One” (B+)

Now this is more like it. It’s great to see the head Cylon models again, especially the most underused and one of my favorites, the model played by Rick Worthy. Dean Stockwell and Tricia Helfer are fascinating to watch together; I just hope we can see them again with Lucy Lawless if the D’Anna model does in fact get brought back as rumors seem to suggest it will. Number Six’s decision is interesting, but a bit puzzling. Maybe I’m just not following, but I’m not certain if she’s trying to help the humans, however inadvertently, or to ensure the survival of the Cylons by whatever means necessary. Back on the Galactica, the final four Cylons have a wonderful dynamic. Tory in particular is finally getting a real plot, and watching her interact with Gaius and his ego are cool too. I don’t quite understand why he’s now imagining his own image talking to himself rather than the red dress-wearing Number Six. Katee Sackhoff really is going all out – “We’re going the wrong waaaaaay!” but I think her new mission should be a good direction for the show.

What I'm Watching: Scrubs

Scrubs: Season 7, Episode 7 "My Bad Too" (B+)

Maybe it's the time that has passed since the last episode of this show aired, but I loved this episode! I've missed J.D. and Turk, and this was a great re-introduction to the show. Sure, the general plotline was fairly repetitive, what with the worse-than-it-seems guy who they manage to get to graduation but he falls flat on his face, but seeing J.D. and Turk together was great. I laughed for so long during the incredibly and wonderously lengthy Spanish daydream sequence, and I love "Scrubs" for not cutting down the runtime of those glorious (I've been using that word a lot lately) moments. I know this is no longer the last season of "Scrubs" since ABC is likely to be picking it up, but I think that's a good thing. I was ready to let it go, but it now seems to be getting its groove back.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 4, Episode 9 "Dinner Party" (A-)

What a glorious recovery from the last "Office" episode in November! And when I said that the office workers needed to stop taking field trips, perhaps I spoke too soon! This episode is absolutely and completely funny, and enormous credit is due to the eight actors who play the dinner party attendees. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer especially excel in this episode, and the looks on their faces when Jim attempts to escape with that flood excuse and leave Pam behind are priceless. They should definitely submit these episodes to get Emmy nominations. Steve Carrell does a commendable job as well, though the episode where he drove his car into the lake may well be the one that could garner him an Emmy, if he doesn't get thwarted by the ever-popular Alec Baldwin. Jan is crazy! Enough said! There are so many funny moments in this episode; simply put, if you didn't see it, go watch it now. Here's to a tremendously fantastic rest of the season!

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

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What I'm Watching: The Riches

The Riches: Season 2, Episode 4 "Slums of Bayou Hills" (B)

One of the most compelling elements of this show that initially drew me in was the relationship between Wayne and Dahlia. In one of the show's first few episodes, the two had a phone conversation which was supposed to be Cherine's lawyer talking to Cherine on behalf of her ex, and the scene was entirely terrific (and should have won Minnie Driver an Emmy, though she opted to submit the pilot instead). Now, they have become estranged, and Dahlia's need to come clean is oddly hypocritical because she refuses to admit what she's doing to Wayne, thereby putting the entire family at risk. Wayne of course does have his own problems to deal with - someone who knew a bald Doug Rich who maybe he did not get along with 100% well. Wayne sure is going to have a tough time getting out of this bind and not screwing over Hugh, but I for one am excited to see just how well he can pull it off.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 5, Episode 12 "Stakeout" (B+)

What a clever beginning to this episode! "It feels like we've just been sitting around doing nothing for months." No truer words have been spoken (at least not in the past few months). While the entire episode isn't as glorious as its opening moment, it's still fun to see the team try to pull pranks on each other and it's nice to have this team back.

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 1, Episode 10 "The Girlfriend" (C)

I see what this episode is trying to do, but I can't say it works terribly effectively. As has always been the central problem of this show, Sam doesn't seem like an amnesiac, she just seems like a stupid person. Moving in with her ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend is a dumb thing to do, and tailor-made to be awkward and produce those scenes which I guess were supposed to be funny (Chloe and Sam trying to sabotage and frame each other). I was hoping they might invigorate it with a nod to another ABC show and have Chloe start talking about how Paolo lies (another get the reference? comment if you do!). This show is currently sailing on Christina Applegate's popularity, but I don't know how long that can sustain it.

Second Run TV: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 12 "Nixon vs. Kennedy" (B+)

This is one show that I will not give up on again. It's fascinating to watch how the office responds to the election and their certainty that Nixon will win, and to watch the secretaries sneak out of the boss' offices in the morning. Don, stoic as he is, is truly an admirable character, who despite his many affairs and attempts to escape reality, sticks true to his principles and refuses to cave in to blackmail. His contempt for Pete is one of the best things about this show, telling him to go get a little box and put all his things in it towards the beginning of the season for taking unapproved incentive, and now denying him a promotion he doesn't deserve. Their rivalry is terrific, and Pete is sure to stick around due to his in-laws. Next week is the show's season finale, and the show should return early this summer (along with "Weeds", it was the first show to go back into production, even before the writers' strike was over).

What I'm Watching: Battlestar Galactica (Season Premiere)

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Episode 1 "He That Believeth In Me" (B)

Is it bad that I'm disappointed after all this time? I've only waited six or seven months for my first ever fresh episode of BSG while most fans have waited about a year. Regardless, I guess I wasn't prepared for everything still being in the middle of the action, and with the exception of the final four who are freaking out about being Cylons and Anders getting scanned by the raider, there wasn't too much overly exciting about this installment. I am pretty confident that future episodes will live up to my expectations, and this is more of a warm-up, just to get the blood flowing and prepare everyone to be floored soon. Like with that ending - what is Starbuck thinking?!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Riches

The Riches: Season 2, Episode 3 "Field of Dreams" (B-)

I had hoped that Dale's presence in the vincinity of the Malloys/Riches meant that we had seen the last of the other Travelers back at their camp. Yet now there is a new, somewhat angry and invincible-seeming Traveler fresh out of jail who looks like nothing but violent, agressive trouble. The Malloys are certainly capable of getting themselves into enough trouble, with spontaneous do-gooder confessions from both Cal and Dahlia to majorly mess things up for the whole bunch. This show acts very sharply, infusing twists and turns into every episode, yet there still seems to be no clear idea of where it's going. Maybe that's the point, but with only seven episodes this season (four to go), I'd prefer a bit more of a path right now.