Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summing Up: Lost

Things have gotten pretty crazy since I last checked in with "Lost". The episode with Jack's bursting appendix was rather plodding, all save for the big finish ("Dad?" - Claire). Later on, the idea of moving the island is rather hokey and before the finale seemed like a pretty ridiculous idea. "Lost" isn't grounding itself in reality enough, and all the far-fetched sci-fi/fantasy stuff doesn't work as well as it should, in my opinion. The action on the freighter is much better to watch, but that's some scary stuff happening there with the violent and crazy Keamy killing off anything and anyone who gets in his way.

Now, to the finale. Part one which aired two weeks ago was fine but offered little in terms of actual, gratifying excitement. Mostly it was a "delay of game" to wait for things to get really exciting in part two & three (though they weren't quite that altogether exciting). Keamy really likes hitting people in the face with guns right before commercial breaks (see: Michael, Ben). I enjoyed the sudden appearance of Richard and his crew who most definitely outnumbered Kate and Sayid. As for the freighter, I was really worried that Desmond was going to blow up along with his fellow failed bomb-diffusers.

But then, part two and three came. It delivered several truly exciting moments, introduced some new shocking mysteries, and otherwise was a bit of a letdown. Going right in from the "previously on" segment from last season's finale to this one was a great move, and as awesome and dramatic it is hearing Kate yelling at Jack, there wasn't actually as much "horrible" stuff that occured on the beach as she continually claimed there was. I'm upset that Ben killed Keamy because it seems like he's always in control and to see him lose it so easily (obviously he had good reason, but he's always been so perfectly in control) is unfortunate. Did anyone else notice that the weapons Richard and his band of Others used to kill Keamy and his crew were just like those used to kill Rousseau and Carl? Could this be an indicator of the "terrible things" Locke claims will happen on the island? The Others in league with Widmore's people?

My two favorite scenes of the finale were the freighter's demise and the island moving. Desmond shouting and trying to wave the helicopter away was quickly replaced by a speedy exit minus a certain Korean cast member. Nice and dramatic, and should leave little doubt as to whether Michael and Jin are really dead. Although this is "Lost" and you never know. The last-minute appearance of the whispering Others and Christian on the freighter might indicate otherwise. While I found Ben's turning of that mystical-looking wheel to be a bit much, I did find the sequence with the island actually disappearing to work quite well. Now we have Daniel and those people in the boat alive as well, but with the exception of one Jeremy Davies, the rest of the passengers are just random filler people, so they couldn't possibly have any role in the next season, could they?

I'm excited about the future, especially with no-funny-business attitudes from Sayid and Sun, frantic notions from Jack and Hurley, and worried antics from Kate, but I don't know about this new direction. Them all having to go back, with Locke in the coffin (why the new name?) continues to make the show too hokey. I had always hoped that there would be an overarching explanation for the show that had little to do with supernatural phenomena, but now it seems far too intrisically linked to that kind of idea. Regardless, I do hope that next season will flashback to show us more of what happened between the moment of the opening of the coffin and the Oceanic Six's return to society. I'm sure I'll think of more to say, and may post it here later on.

Season grade: B-
Season finale: B-/B
Season MVP: Michael Emerson

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Summing Up: 30 Rock

"Sandwich Day" is a hilarious episode that works only too well. Very funny and I love the dynamic between Liz and Floyd. The finale is even more spectacular. Matthew Broderick, Jack's new job, the gay bomb - all great. And Liz's pregnancy scare, complete with reaction from Dennis, was terrific. I especially loved the parting scene with Jack offering to help Liz get her baby - but not as a surrogate father. What a great show! I'm thrilled for next season.

Season grade: B+/A-
Season finale: A-
Season MVP: Tina Fey

Summing Up: The Office

"Did I Stutter?" didn't do much for me as Michael embarassing himself is pretty much the theme of every episode, and having that as the central element of the episode doesn't leave room for much else. Not a terrible episode, and a few funny Creed moments as well as a somewhat poignant, dramatic ending with Michael asking Stanley to respect him. "Job Fair" was a good deal better, with Michael's comments about kids "being wary of lured" into his booth due to "Dateline". Jim's golf game was sort of fun as well.

I did enjoy the finale. I never loved Toby as a character but I suppose his exit is pretty much adequate. Andy's proposal to Angela is pretty shocking ("My parents are here!") and her acceptance ever moreso. Great little finish with Dwight and Angela having their affair the night of her engagement. It's too bad that Jim didn't propose to Pam, and I worry that it will have negative effects on the future of their relationship. I don't know how to feel about Jan's pregnancy, but hopefully that will play out well next season. The best part of the finale was guest star Amy Ryan, so unrecognizable from her recent Oscar-nominated turn in "Gone Baby Gone". She did an amazing job as Toby's replacement, making fun of him and flirting with Michael. I hope she gets an Emmy nomination and I hope she sticks around next season. What a great potential addition to the show. My one worry is - what next? Where does this lead us for next year? I'd like to hope for the best.

Season grade: B+
Season finale: B+
Season MVP: The fabulous foursome - Carrell, Fischer, Krasinski, and Wilson

Summing Up: Scrubs

Truth be told, I hardly even remember the show's penultimate installment of the season. I think it was somewhat entertaining, but it wasn't terrific. I'd like to focus my attention here on the finale. First and foremost, I think it's inexcusable that there was not even any acknowledgement (during the episode) that Dr. Kelso (and, less importantly, Laverne) was in the episode in his former post as chief of medicine. I know that Zach Braff explained it, that the episode was aired out of order, but still - this is one sucker of a finale. It ties up pretty much nothing, providing only one small resolution no one wanted (J.D. and Elliot end up just friends). This was a goofy episode that definitely should not have functioned as a finale. It's a good thing this show is coming back for another season on ABC - they really need a chance to get everything right again.

Season grade: C+
Season finale: C
Season MVP: Neil Flynn as the Janitor

Summing Up: Smallville

The vision of a world without Clark is pretty ridiculous, but I suppose it's sort of fun. I was surprised to find myself enjoying Lois hitting on Clark quite a bit. Regardless, the episode ended predictably poorly and was pretty much a waste of time. The next episode was a little better, as Robert Picardo (the Emergency Medical Hologram on "Star Trek: Voyager") is always a welcome guest. I don't really see why he had to try to kill Clark, but I'll let it slide.

Now, the finale I actually kind of liked. A superb beginning with Kara on the plane, set to a cool, fast-paced score was a good kick-off for a pretty action-packed finale. I enjoyed Clark's interactions with "Kara" especially when he gave a harsh talking-to and then tried to stop her from flying with little success. Though it was a bit corny, I liked the sort of slowing-of-time effect when Clark listened in to the black box. "Kara" going to Lex and saying "Don't you already know?" in relation to the Traveler was probably the best scene of the evening. Unfortunately, the episode couldn't reach complete greatness mostly because of Chloe's quick apprehension following Jimmy's proposal (yeah, what?!). Lex is not the kind of guy who would turn him in - it does not benefit him at all; he'd rather just hold it over Jimmy's head. I guess Lana's breakup with Clark is a good thing, and it was actually probably Tom Welling's best moment of acting with the fake crying and such (and Lois' hug - I wonder what's going to happen there...). The finale scene should have been a bit more climactic (the previews made it seem like it would be), but it is pretty fantastic to hear Lex say that he would have helped Clark become a hero.

The real problem with the finale is the need to end on such a cliffhanger. Every season until this point has done so, usually with more success. But why can't they resolve what's happening with Lex? Cable shows tend to have a big shocker towards the end of the season finale which is resolved by the episode's close and which will send the next season in a whole new direction. A perfect example is the most reason season ender of "The Shield" which did just that (watch it! It's so good!).

***Stop reading now if you don't want to know anything about next season.***

Having this cliffhanger seems especially pointless given the casting news for next season. Michael Rosenbaum is not returning to the show, so keeping his storyline going is rather anticlimactic. I'm sure that will be resolved by the end of the first episode or two. I'm actually rather concerned about a skeleton cast, which The Futon Critic's press release says includes only Welling, Kristin Kreuk, Erica Durance, and Aaron Ashmore. Allison Mack (Chloe) has since been confirmed as returning, and I think Kreuk will only be back in a recurring capacity. I'm hoping for the addition of some good new characters, and I wouldn't really mind the return of Laura Vandervoort as Kara. I've come around to her character, and I think they could do interesting things with her.

New showrunners next season=a better show? I hope so. We'll see. Chances are, I'll probably still be watching anyway.

Season grade: D+
Season finale: B
Season MVP: Oh dear...probably Vandervoort in the finale only

What I'm Watching: Two and a Half Deaths

By the title, I'm referring to the two episodes of television for which the writers of "CSI" and "Two and a Half Men" crossed over and penned a script for the other show. "Two and a Half Deaths" is also the title of the "CSI" episode. I must say that I found the "Two and a Half Men" episode, which ended in a shocking and completely unlikely twist involving the con couple of Courtney and her "father", something that really does not suit the show. George Eads' two-second cameo was pretty pointless and it sickens me to think that he probably made thousands of dollars for that unfunny line. The next episode, for the record, was much better.

The good news is that "CSI" was pretty terrific. Katey Segal, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Diedrich Bader were all perfectly cast and I really loved the puns and the jokes that all the characters made. This half of the swap was a good idea. And they really know how to do the cameo - having them drive past the "Two and a Half Men" cast, all of whom are dressed up, on the way to the other TV studio. The plot was actually pretty great, and my favorite scene was when the writers asked to be considered accomplices in the murder of the actress. Good times.

I guess my conclusion from this is that neither show is great, but each has the potential for decent episodes. I like the idea of crossovers, and I believe it should happen more often.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Quick Note About Show Previews

I've noticed something very interesting, which I think is actually quite clever. Both FX's "Damages" and USA's forthcoming "In Plain Sight" have used marketing campaigns which include two very different TV spot styles. I commented on this briefly before "Damages" started, but I'll say more about it now. The first set of ads for each feature a very comic tone, with the former show emphasizing Tate Donovan's humorous introduction of Patty Hewes, and the latter framing Mary McCormack as devilishly witty and sarcastic. The next series of "Damages" ads showed the dramatic battle between Patty and criminal Arthur Frobisher, while the new "In Plain Sight" commercials ask the question "what if your life changed in an instant" and preview some of the more serious "Saving Grace"-style cop drama sure to be seen on the show. I suppose this is an effective strategy, creating two essentially different series through two markedly sets of ads. I had more interest in the dramatic "Damages" and the comedic "In Plain Sight". Given how "Damages" turned out, it's likely that "In Plain Sight" might also end up a drama, but its placement on USA alongside shows like "Monk" and "Psych" might suggest otherwise. Any comments on the contradictory campaigns?

Summing Up: Women's Murder Club

I must say that I was really digging the direction they were taking this show in for the final three episodes of its freshman season. While the episodes themselves could have used a bit of work, I did enjoy the fast pace and tweaked style of the show. It's refreshing to see Lindsay happy with someone, and Joel Gretsch was a good choice to play Pete. Lindsay's relationship with her father wasn't as compelling as the show wanted it to be, but it worked well enough. The finale is a fitting send-off for the show, solving the mystery of the Kiss Me Not Killer in a dramatic way. I was satisfied with the finale up until the last ten seconds. It could have ended so perfectly, but they had to go ahead and add in a cliffhanger about dear old dad's health at the last minute. It's a real shame, as is the show's cancellation. Armed with a new showrunner and a newly developed sense of all the characters, season two would have been pretty good. Alas, another fine crime drama cancelled too soon.

Series grade: B
Season finale: B+
Season MVP: Angie Harmon

Summing Up: Reaper

I still can't get a grip on what exactly this show is trying to achieve. It's just so out there in terms of where it goes with the subplots, most notably the gay demons and Ben's green card marriage/prison term. How can the current direction of the show have been perceived from the pilot? The two shows are almost nothing alike. Sam as the Devil's son? That changes everything. I do like Steve going to heaven and communicating with Sam and Tony, but what are these demons doing? It's just bizarre, and I have no clue what audience this show is trying to appeal to. The last revelation of immortality (?) of Sam's father comes sort of out of nowhere. I am glad Andi finally found out Sam's secret, but she seems to be taking it rather well and playing it off too casually. I'd like to see more of Ben's relationship with Cassidy as well as either that demon girl or Josie with Sock. I can't believe that Lucy Davis who played Ben's Sara is the same actress who was Dawn on the British version of "The Office", the Pam equivalent. I really applaud Ray Wise for his stellar work all season, and especially enjoyed seeing Richard Burgi playing a role truly suited to him.

The biggest thing about this show that always gets me is the age of the characters. This seems like it would be a perfect pitch for a high school show where characters have to deal with more truthfully immature problems instead of going out legally drinking every night. It's as if the writers just transplanted Bret Harrison's character Sam from "The Loop" and based this less stable show around him. The characters on "Reaper" just aren't that interesting. As I said some time ago, this show pales in comparison to the somewhat similar "Chuck" because Chuck is praised for his leadership abilities whereas Sam constantly gets crap for everything he tries to do. This show really needs a makeover for a successful season two.

Season grade: C
Season finale: C
Season MVP: Ray Wise

Summing Up: NCIS

I'll comment on the episodes "In the Zone", "Recoil", and "About Face" very briefly before moving on to the far more impressive season finale. The trip to Baghdad in "In the Zone" is very unlike "NCIS", and branching out doesn't really add much to the show. Ziva's shooting experience in "Recoil" could have been played out a bit more dramatically, but I suppose the episode is fine. "About Face" is an utter waste of time, as I couldn't really care less about Palmer trying to solve his own case and bolster his ego.

Now, to the finale: Jenny's side plotlines were getting to be distracting, and this proved to be a fine sendoff for her character. The episode wasn't fascinatingly interesting, but it's fun to see the team try to work behind Vance's back. I can't say I'm too interested in dissecting what was really going on with Jenny and everyone else, I'll just say that I'm happy everything has been taken care of and resolved effectively. As for the last-minute shocker that the team is being dissolved, I'm pretty sure that it will prove as trivial as Gibbs' departure a few seasons back, and that everyone should be back a few episodes in. I'd love to see a new team and then have everyone incorporated, but I do worry that this will mean the definite depature of Ziva, who is such a great character, and I would really hate to see Tony go. Overall, this year bounced back after a shaky start, but hopefully a fresh beginning next year will be promising.

Season grade: C+/B-
Season finale: B+
Season MVP: Michael Wetherly (this episode)

Summing Up: Samantha Who?

There isn't much to say about the last three episodes of the freshman comedy. The first two are a bit lacking, and Sam continues to try too hard to make things awkward at everyone else's expense. Chase and Dena together remains weird but slightly enjoyable. It would have been nice if Jerry O'Connell had been given a bit more to do than just seem like a really nice guy who was actually a criminal. He's much better when he plays mean. However slow Todd and Sam's getting back together was, I'm glad it did in fact happen. I enjoyed Chloe's attempt to mock Sam and remind her that she has amnesia and she had already pretended that she and Todd were having an affair. The end of the finale is actually quite fitting - Todd and Sam are planning to start over and season two should be a lot of fun.

Season grade: B-
Season finale: B
Season MVP: Everyone (terrific cast!)

Summing Up: Desperate Housewives

The final few episodes leading up to the season finale of "Desperate Housewives" proved to be throughouly annoying and pretty much entirely uninteresting. By the start of the first hour of the finale, all of the characters' plotlines had deteriorated to unbearable points. The formula of having each comedic plotline suddenly turn deathly dramatic did not work well at all. Susan and Lynette's stories proved cyclical, while Gabrielle's were tiring and Bree's didn't seem to make much sense.

The twins burning down Rick's restaurant was a bit much to ask viewers to believe, in my opinion. I particularly detested and disapproved of the return of Kayla, the worst character even to appear on the show, who had been all but written out a while ago after her dreadful initial appearance. There was absolutely no reason to bring her back, and its disturbing nature did not fit the show. Last year, when Matt Roth guest-starred as a pedophile, the disturbing drama was done well. Here Kayla is made out to be much smarter and more cunning that she should be, and for no purpose other than to make the already overburdened Lynette get more stressed out. Regarding the finale, Tom's impression of a secret agent with that phone call was less than impressive. Once written out, there seemed to have been no reason Kayla ever needed to be there in the first place. At least Tom and Lynette still love each other - but does anyone care at this point?

It seemed inevitable that Orson and Bree would get back together, and the introduction of this super-sketchy priest was unnecessary. Anything with Susan was hardly interesting at all, and its ridiculousness only led each time to a conclusion that things will turn out okay and Mike will be there for her. Mike's mom wasn't that terrific. The Maynard fiasco was just annoying and tedious. Carlos going blind could have been interesting, but it just showed how spoiled Gabrielle was. The conclusion each time there was that Gabrielle shouldn't feel blind too, but it got tired pretty quickly.

The big reveal with Katherine, much like that two years ago with Betty, proved to be a bit of a letdown. After a season of mystery, there was little left to be found out. Gary Cole's guest appearance was good but more could have been done with that, rather than simply making him out to be a savage wife-beater. He claimed that Katherine's tale was not altogether fair to him, but it hardly seems that way. Adam's somewhat-supernatural skills in faking unconsciousness seemed a bit of a stretch. As for the finale, Katherine seems to have been cemented into the official Housewives club, effectively replacing Edie.

Now about that flash-forward finish. I had heard that the show would be traveling either five years forward or five years back, and I think that the decision to go forward should be a good one. Seeing a successful Bree and a happy Katherine is comforting. Gabrielle with kids should probably be more annoying than amusing, but who knows? Lynette having to deal with unruly children who are now common criminals may not be the best thing, since a happy and relaxed Lynette might be nice after a season of cancer and an evil daughter. The most exciting and interesting thing is Susan with a new lover who most definitely is not Mike. Purposely making the actresses up to look older and spending a number of episodes attempting to cleverly sum up all that has occured over the missing five years could prove extremely tedious, but a fresh start could be just what this show needs to reinvigorate itself.

Season grade: C-
Season finale: C+
Season MVP: Dana Delany

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Check Back in June!

After a long and unintentional hiatus, TV with Abe will return by the beginning of June with thoughts on the final episodes of the season of each of my favorite shows as well as Emmy predictions beginning soon. Check back shortly!

In the meantime, check out 5 TV Shows on DVD To Get You Hooked, as well as an exciting new Minute with Abe video review over at Movies with Abe.