Thursday, June 26, 2008

Emmy Update: Top 10s for Best Comedy & Drama Series

The top 10 lists for the Best Comedy Series and Best Drama Series have been revealed one day early. I'm happy to have correctly predicted 8/10 for each category, with my 11th choices for both making it in. On the comedy side of things, two former nominees way past their creative primes, "Desperate Housewives" and "Scrubs", were snubbed in favor of two first-time contenders, "Family Guy" and "Flight of the Conchords". "Family Guy" has never before been submitted and this category and its inclusion in the top 10 is quite a surprise. I hope it doesn't get nominated. I am, however, ecstatic about "Flight of the Conchords", which really deserves a good shot and I'm happy it got some recognition. On the drama side, one HBO show and one non-HBO cable show are in, just not the ones I thought. Too bad for "The Closer", which I had hoped would get nominated (now I have to change my predictions), and it doesn't mean too much for "In Treatment". "The Tudors" was not included in last year's top ten and may now figure into the race. "The Wire" gets mentioned for the first time, and it's possible that it could get in largely due to the universal acclaim it's always gotten and the measly one nomination it's accrued over four years.

What does this mean for the eventual nominees? I think both "Family Guy" and "Flight of the Conchords" will sit this one out, but there's a chance they could make it in. On the drama side, I would say that the choice of the finale of "The Wire" could hurt it if people aren't familiar enough with the storyline (I have never seen the show - I may be wrong). "The Tudors" may break into the top five. I'll go through individual episodes submitted when I go back through all the categories to make official predictions. At this point, I haven't seen the submitted episodes for "Family Guy", "Ugly Betty", "Friday Night Lights", "Grey's Anatomy", "House", "The Tudors", and "The Wire". I'll be sure to watch as many of them as I can before I make my predictions. From what I know, I'll say that all of the comedies save for "Two and a Half Men" submitted excellently, so it should be a tight race between the original top-ranked seven I predicted. Dramatically speaky, "Damages", "Dexter", "Lost" and "Mad Men" all submitted smartly, but I don't think that the episode chosen by "Boston Legal" bodes as well for that show (at least I hope). It's too preposterous, far more so than last year by any rate. Again, I'll have detailed episode submission analysis soon. Check back for that. My current predictions, which I may revise soon are:

Comedy series (same as before):

Drama series:

Additional (later) thoughts: Does this impact the other top 10s at all? I don't think it changes my predictions at all, save for the likelihood that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will make it in for Best Actor. I'm not sure who to bump, though I fear it will be either Eddie Izzard or Bryan Cranston, or maybe even Denis Leary in a surprise snub? It's not certain that all the top 10s will in fact be announced, but I'll post reactions of similar length when there are updates.

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

This is going to be a tough race. Excellent episode choices by my top-ranked six should lead to some fierce competition. “Pushing Daisies” submitted its pilot which should give it a nice edge over “Ugly Betty”, which submitted wisely but has lost buzz this year. I’m convinced “Entourage” will return, while I believe that this is the year that “Two and a Half Men” will all but disappear from Emmy radar. “Weeds” has a fantastic episode submission, but it’s possible voters won’t appreciate it without having seen the whole show. I’m personally pulling for both “Flight of the Conchords” and “Californication”, so here’s hoping.

Current predicted winner: Pushing Daisies

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

I believe that only “Mad Men” is a lock, even though it would be the first non-HBO cable show nominated in this category. “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy” are still popular and chose episodes that should appeal to what fans love about them. “Damages”, “The Closer”, and “Dexter” are also non-HBO cable shows that should benefit from impressive episode submissions and critical raves. I hope that “Boston Legal” won’t return, especially with a submission that’s far more comic than last year’s more dramatic episode. “Lost” will suffer from the need to have seen every episode of the show to appreciate it. I think that “Friday Night Lights” should round out the top ten but won’t be able to crack the top five. Watch out for cable shows with positive buzz like “The Tudors”, “Big Love”, “The Wire” and “Battlestar Galactica” to have a shot at breaking through. I think this is going to be an important year for cable shows, but the groundbreaking honors will go to “Mad Men”, “Damages”, and “The Closer”. I expect some major surprises in the top ten.

Current predicted winner: Mad Men

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. For the guest categories, I’ve only picked ten contenders, given the wide nature of each field. These are my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees. I'll add commentary to my revised predictions after the announcement of the top ten finalists.

Predicted top ten (in alphabetical order):
Polly Bergen, Desperate Housewives
Sarah Chalke, How I Met Your Mother
Edie Falco, 30 Rock
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock
Janeane Garofalo, Two and a Half Men
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Shirley Knight, Desperate Housewives
Amy Ryan, The Office
Britney Spears, How I Met Your Mother
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Current predicted winner: Amy Ryan

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. For the guest categories, I’ve only picked ten contenders, given the wide nature of each field. These are my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees. I'll add commentary to my revised predictions after the announcement of the top ten finalists.

Predicted top ten (in alphabetical order):
Will Arnett, 30 Rock
Beau Bridges, My Name is Earl
Matthew Broderick, 30 Rock
Victor Garber, Ugly Betty
Stanley Kamel, Monk
Matthew Modine, Weeds
Giovanni Ribisi, My Name is Earl
Freddy Rodriguez, Ugly Betty
David Schwimmer, 30 Rock
Jerry Seinfeld, 30 Rock

Current predicted winner: Will Arnett

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. For the guest categories, I’ve only picked ten contenders, given the wide nature of each field. These are my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees. I'll add commentary to my revised predictions after the announcement of the top ten finalists.

Predicted top ten (in alphabetical order):
Ellen Burstyn, Big Love
Anne Dudek, House
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: SVU
Rosie O’Donnell, Nip/Tuck
Elizabeth Reaser, Grey’s Anatomy
Amy Ryan, The Wire
Jurnee Smollett, Grey’s Anatomy
Mira Sorvino, House
Frances Sternhagen, The Closer
Kate Walsh, Grey’s Anatomy

Current predicted winner: Cynthia Nixon

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. For the guest categories, I’ve only picked ten contenders, given the wide nature of each field. These are my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees. I'll add commentary to my revised predictions after the announcement of the top ten finalists.

Predicted top ten (in alphabetical order):
Keith Carradine, Dexter
Brad Dourif, Law & Order
Charles Durning, Rescue Me
Danny Glover, Brothers & Sisters
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Peter O’Toole, The Tudors
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck
Stanley Tucci, ER
Glynn Turman, In Treatment
Robin Williams, Law & Order: SVU

Current predicted winner: Robin Williams

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

I really couldn’t decide who to bump from my top ten predictions because I’m fairly certain that Jane Krakowski and Becki Newton will in fact make it in. I opted to bump Conchata Ferrell of “Two and a Half Men” though they do seem to love her. Jean Smart, two-time nominee for “24”, may fare well, and Melora Hardin has a great episode submission though I doubt she’ll be able to crack the top ten. It’s going to be a really competitive field within that top ten, and I’m just hoping that Kristin Chenoweth can make it in for her fantastic work on “Pushing Daisies”. Dana Delany does a whole lot more comedically than Alfre Woodard ever did on “Desperate Housewives” and thus should easily get in. Otherwise, Jaime Pressly, Jenna Fischer, and Vanessa Williams should manage to get in again after their nominations last year, but Elizabeth Perkins and Holland Taylor are just as likely, as well as Cheryl Hines, whose show didn’t air during the eligibility period last year. I’m pulling for Becki Newton, personally, and hoping that Ferrell and Taylor don’t get in again over far more deserving candidates who actually appear in every episode of their shows.

Current predicted winner: ?? Kristin Chenoweth

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

This is one category where pretty much every predictor I’ve seen agrees on as far as the top ten goes. I’d love to see Rhys Darby, a.k.a. Murray from “Flight of the Conchords” make it into the top ten, but I just don’t think he has enough buzz. Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon, funny as they are on “Weeds”, are unlikely to make the cut. And John C. McGinley’s ship has sailed. As far as the actual contenders are concerned, the top four are pretty likely, with John Krasinski hopefully (finally) getting his first nomination. I think this is the year that “Two and a Half Men” falls off Emmy’s radar, including star Jon Cryer. Kevin Dillon may also miss out due to meager material. Tracy Morgan submitted himself in the supporting category this year, which is far better for him and I think he’ll fare well here. Michael Urie (along with Becki Newton) really outshines the rest of the cast on “Ugly Betty” and it would be cool for him to make the top ten and even get nominated, though I doubt he’ll be able to. I’d be thrilled if the fantastic Chi McBride got recognized for “Pushing Daisies”, but at the moment I’m favoring Jack McBrayer from “30 Rock”, who was robbed last year and may coast on the popularity of the show to a nomination this year.

Current predicted winner: (pains me to say it) Neil Patrick Harris

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

Katherine Heigl didn’t submit herself for consideration this year, which many believe will lead to a better shot for costar Sara Ramirez. As far as the “Grey’s Anatomy” ladies are concerned, both Chandra Wilson should easily return this year, and Sandra Oh will be a contender as well though word is that she wasn’t so good this season. Rachel Griffiths should be back, and Connie Britton may have a better chance this year in the supporting field though the buzz for “Friday Night Lights” is much dimmer than it was last year. It would be nice if Yunjin Kim got in for “Lost”, but she’ll have to beat out four new contenders: January Jones of “Mad Men”, Rose Byrne of “Damages”, Mia Wasikowska of “In Treatment” and Candice Bergen of “Boston Legal”, who didn’t submit herself last year. I may also be underestimating both Dianne Wiest and Jill Clayburgh. Since I like to go out on a limb and make at least one crazy prediction, I figure I’ll do it here. Kristen Bell was consistently ignored by Emmy voters for “Veronica Mars”, and maybe the buzz last year for “Heroes” and her spectacular performance on the show can help her break through. My one really “out-there” prediction.

Current predicted winner: Chandra Wilson

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

Without question, this is the most competitive category of all. With a staggering 179 contenders, there are easily thirty or so actors who might be deserving of a nomination. Two shows in particular may dominate the top ten: “Lost” and “Boston Legal”. Michael Emerson should have no problem getting in, with a nomination last year and a stellar episode submission. Last year’s winner Terry O’Quinn wasn’t even his flashback episode this year (in the flashback scenes), and I think he’ll miss out last year. Naveen Andrews is another past nominee who has a terrific episode in which he’s really good, but I think he’ll miss the cut. There is also slight buzz for Jorge Garcia and Josh Holloway. I am fairly confident that Henry Ian Cusick will fill the last “Lost” slot due to his excellent submission of “The Constant” and his previous guest acting nomination. He didn’t get nominated last year with a good submission, so it’s always possible he’ll miss out. “Boston Legal” boasts William Shatner, who does have a good submission to ensure he won’t fall off the list, guest acting winner Christian Clemenson who’s been promoted to supporting, and John Laroquette, who won four Emmys in a row for “Night Court” in the 1980s. Last year’s nominees T.R. Knight and Masi Oka shouldn’t be back, but Knight stands a chance of returning if voters don’t want to embrace new shows. Ted Danson should get in for “Damages”, though many are unhappy with his episode submission choice. Co-star Zeljko Ivanek, despite his unfortunate accent, got some terrific buzz from fans of the show but isn’t well known enough to break into the top 10. Donald Sutherland should make the top ten for “Dirty Sexy Money” but the show has been off the air for a while and pretty much lost all its buzz. The final two major contenders are John Slattery and Blair Underwood, two actors who have been around for a while on many different shows, even this year, moonlighting on “Desperate Housewives” and “Dirty Sexy Money”, respectively, but have yet to find awards attention. Both chose excellent episodes and have a good shot at getting nominated if enough people have heard of their shows (for Underwood) and pay attention to the actors (for Slattery). This race should be full of surprises, I’m just hoping that the surprise won’t be that both Knight and Oka got in again, or that “Boston Legal” swept the field. Ugh.

Current predicted winner: Blair Underwood

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

The top five seems pretty obvious here too, with differentiation potential depending, more or less, on how desperate each of the housewives is. Tina Fey is on fire, Julia-Louis Dreyfus should manage to stick it out even though she and her show are awful, Christina Applegate benefits from being on a new show which is popular and fun, and I doubt that voters will soon forget about “Ugly Betty” (and America Ferrera submitted fairly well). I’m really hoping that Mary-Louise Parker can get nominated for her stellar work this year on “Weeds”, but other predictors seem uncertain about her chances. Truth be told, she’s only been nominated once, and it feels way too soon for her to drop off altogether. Sadly, I know that it’s not how the Emmys work. I still think she’ll make it in over the likes of Felicity Huffman, who had all dramatic plotlines this year. Marcia Cross comes next and may well have a shot, especially since she wasn’t really in last season and now has a chance to come back with more interesting and concrete plotlines (though not enough for my tastes). Hatcher should make the top ten but definitely won’t get nominated. Anna Friel of “Pushing Daisies” will have to hope for some good luck, but it might happen. And I certainly hope that voters will be smart enough to realize that, while Patricia Heaton can be considered a good actress, “Back to You” sucked big time. A lot of Judy Greer fans are hoping that she’ll make the top ten for “Miss/Guided”, but I think she’ll just miss out, and I do have faith that she’ll get another, better shot some time soon. And yes, I do have Miley Cyrus in there at #14. Quite honestly, though, there are only 16 real contenders in this field, and the only one I left off was Joely Fisher on “’Til Death”.

Current predicted winner: Tina Fey

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

This race is pretty much the simplest of the bunch to predict. The top ten is almost entirely locked up, though I’d hope that one of the “Flight of the Conchords” men can get in and replace either Kelsey Grammer or Jason Lee, and I know that fans of “The Big Bang Theory” really love Jim Parsons. Otherwise, Alec Baldwin, Steve Carrell, and Tony Shalhoub are all but guaranteed and Larry David should be fine. The only real question is whether voters will wisely choose David Duchovny instead of the evidently terrible Charlie Sheen. And then there’s always the chance that Lee Pace could break through if “Pushing Daisies” is embraced by voters. I'd love to see James Roday from "Psych" break through, but I'm not that optimistic. One important thing to note: Steve Carrell chose quite an unfortunate submission (“Branch Wars”) where he isn’t showy at all. I can’t imagine he’ll be snubbed, but this one is definitely going to…

Current predicted winner: ...Alec Baldwin (go here to see why)

Cult TV: Firefly

Minor spoilers about the show; nothing too revealing. I knew I was going to have to watch this show at some point, I just didn’t know it would be this past week. I happened upon a listing at a local movie theatre for a midnight showing of the follow-up film “Serenity” and promptly forwarded the information to a friend of mine who is fully obsessed with the show. She urged me to get into the show and accompany her to the screening. As a result, I watched the entire series straight through over the course of about a week. This is definitely a good show to watch in marathon form, I just wish there was more left, because after all fourteen episodes, I was finally really into it and I was (and still am) eager for more. That’s where the movie comes in. But first: the show itself.

Describing it to anyone while I was watching it, I consistently said that it’s a true space western, a term often used to describe the genre of “Star Wars”. In this case, it’s even more relevant: they fly around in spaceships and then land on spaceships and ride around on horses. What I was initially perplexed by and quickly came to enjoy is the sheer disregard for, well, anything that all the characters have. Mal goes around shooting people, sometimes kicking them into an engine and killing them, and he just doesn’t care. The preacher aboard the ship jokes about how it’s okay to shoot people in the kneecaps because he’s not killing them (I believe John Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger had a similar understanding). They accept dangerous jobs without the slightest hesitation. They all act so recklessly, and it’s a wonder that they come out of everything okay. But that’s what’s so fun about the show.

The cast is very smartly assembled and they all play their roles quite well. I particularly enjoy Adam Baldwin as Jayne and Alan Tudyk as Wash. Kaylee sorts of annoys me and Inara’s just weird (the clothes!), but they work well enough in their respective roles. It’s refreshing to see Gina Torres in this kind of role, since I’m familiar with her primarily from her turn as Anna Espinosa on “Alias” and her regrettable appearance in season three of “24”. I didn’t realize she had a calm, polite side. At first I thought Nathan Fillion’s Mal was too much of an asshole, but by episode two or three I was a fan. The show’s brief season does include some cool guest stars, including two pre-“Desperate Housewives” husbands, Doug Savant and Richard Burgi, as Alliance henchmen; Christina Hendricks, currently starring on “Mad Men”, as Saffron; Mark Sheppard as Badger; Melinda Clarke as Nandi the prostitute; and a truly superb Richard Brooks as Jubal Early.

Basically, I’m into the show. I’m not going to dress up as a character any time soon (read my take on the movie for more on that), but I will consider myself a fan. I enjoyed it, and I’d like to see more. Unfortunately, however, I can’t. The show was pulled off the air after less than a season. I watched it on Hulu, and checked a separate episode guide only to find that the episodes had been aired on FOX in a completely different order. The most jarring switch was the two-hour pilot, which aired after all the other installments rather than before. The episodes as I watched them followed a seamless timeline and I cannot imagine how people watching the show live could possibly have followed it – and more importantly, how FOX could have expected a mass audience to sign up for a show which was aired hopelessly out of order. The reasoning, as I’ve been told by the friend who got me into the show, was that episode two (“The Train Job”) contained more action than the pilot. It’s just stupid, in my mind, and even more embarrassing and despicable than NBC’s recent folly with the “Scrubs” season finale. It makes me even angrier than CBS’s passion for killing off new shows by airing them Tuesdays at 10pm.

Luckily for me, “Firefly” has perhaps the most devoted fan base with which I have ever come into contact. The entire cast came back three years later to make a movie – not one cast member missing! And three years after the release of that movie, insane numbers of fans flock to screenings around the country to see it for the umpteenth time! This is the kind of thing that gets me excited all over again about being really into movies and television. Cult fans are terrific for sharing obsessions with – especially when they’re way more into it than you. I definitely recommend getting into this if you like sci-fi and especially if you like having fun. That’s really the spirit of this show, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The show: B+
Best episode: “Pilot” or “Objects in Space”
Where to watch: or DVD

Continue on to my review of “Serenity”

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

I think this one is pretty locked up as far as the first seven contenders, but the final three are somewhat more up in the air. The final five will be made up of some combination of this group: Patricia Arquette, Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Sally Field, Mariska Hargitay, Holly Hunter, and Kyra Sedgwick. Arquette is out (at least I hope) because her episode submission just isn’t good – even if people don’t think she’s bad on the show it’s not a good episode to submit. Hargitay chose decently, I suppose, with an episode where she goes undercover in prison and almost gets raped, but I don’t think she’s very good. She’s most vulnerable as someone on a procedural since her show doesn’t necessarily get any more inventive as time goes on. I have faith in Minnie Driver, even though others don’t – she got nominated last year with what was a rather poor submission in my opinion, and she has an amazing tape for this year. I think that Evangeline Lilly and Ellen Pompeo will make the top ten again this year though they’ll likely never be nominated, though it would be cool to see Lilly replace the likes of Sally Field in the top five. Spot number ten I’m going to go out on a limb and predict going to Mary McDonnell of “Battlestar Galactica”. Her episode tape is great, but this is a year of the powerhouse female film stars, and it’s going to be an interesting race.

Current predicted winner: Glenn Close

Monday, June 23, 2008

Early Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Contenders are listed in the order I think they’re likely to get nominated. The first ten represent my predictions for the top ten run-off, with the first five as my predictions for the eventual nominees.

Four out of five seem highly likely – Hugh Laurie, Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, and James Spader. Each are only slightly handicapped: Laurie and Spader were unexpectedly snubbed two years ago (and their submitted episodes still have not yet been revealed); getting nominated for a non-HBO cable show isn’t usually as easy as it should be for Hamm; and Hall was horrifically and shockingly snubbed last year for the first season of “Dexter”. I think this is the year where Denis Leary falls off the list, especially given the arguably more popular Michael Chiklis dropping off after only two years of being nominated for “The Shield”. Much as I’d love to predict Eddie Izzard, he didn’t get in last year with a killer submission and his material this year wasn’t quite as terrific. Both Kyle Chandler and Matthew Fox face separate challenges: “Friday Night Lights” doesn’t have enough buzz, especially this year, and Fox, to be blunt, isn’t that great as Jack on “Lost” (and his episode submission is as of yet unknown). Though this could be the year where “Battlestar Galactica” finally breaks through and Edward James Olmos gets into the top ten, he barely had any material this season. Bill Paxton and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will also have to rely on their shows making the cut, and neither has extraordinary buzz, however much their respective networks hype them. I think the final two slots in the top ten will go to two great lead actors on two relatively small cable newcomers: Gabriel Byrne of “In Treatment” and Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad”. I give Byrne the upper hand, especially since even “Mad Men” hasn’t yet been nominated for an Emmy and two nominees in the same category from an AMC show seems highly unlikely.

Current predicted winner: Jon Hamm

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pilot Review: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Showtime)
Premiered June 16 at 10:30pm

I was fortunate enough to catch the unedited pilot of this show online at Showtime’s website less than 24 hours before they took it down, though unfortunately the second episode wasn’t available anymore by the time I went back to watch it. I would have liked to see it because I believe the second or third episode will be far more of a determining factor in how good this show than the pilot itself. That said, it’s a pretty decent pilot, but it stresses exposition and catch-up rather than furthering the plot at all (unlike, say, “Criminal Minds”, which jumped right in to a cliffhanger at the end of its very first episode). That’s not a bad thing, it’s just hard to judge the show based on that. It has a relatively small episode order for its first season, though it has been picked up for a number of additional episodes beyond that. I think it could work very well on an episode-to-episode basis; the important thing to keep in mind is that Billie Piper is pretty much anchoring this show all by herself. Showy guest stars will be floating in and out of the show, I’m sure, but it’s Piper’s charm that will have to keep it going. She does a terrific job of introducing everything in the first episode, and it’s certainly a fascinating, innovative look at her life. Her attitude towards her work makes it incredibly interesting, and I’m eager to see more of the show. There's a lot of sex, but unlike recent shows like "Tell Me You Love Me", it doesn't seem to be an overbearing element of the show - more integrated into its style, like on "The L Word". I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up with it simply because it’s on Showtime and I may fall behind due to episode unavailability on the Internet, but I’ll be providing reviews as long as I’m watching it.

How will it work as a series? I touched upon that above, but I think it should work very well, but each episode will really stand on its own and it may vary incredibly from episode to episode in quality. Hopefully not, but a sour plotline could drag one episode down and then have absolutely no effect on the next.
How long will it last? Cable shows are always harder to judge than network ones, since they usually go in with a more stable and certain commitment. In the case of this show, it’s pretty much guaranteed a long and healthy life, with a dozen more episodes already ordered for the next season. Showtime has been doing well for itself lately, and that will only help this series, not to mention the prime time slot due to the postponement of the second season of “Californication”.

Pilot grade: B+

What I'm Watching: Weeds (Season Premiere)

Weeds: Season 4, Episode 1 “Mother Thinks The Birds Are After Her” (B)

Season three of this show went out in style, and we get a chance to relive that with the burning opening credits of this episode. This is a token “in transition” installment, where things are supposed to be out of place and not quite right because the show is changing over from what it used to be – a suburban mom dealing pot to her neighbors – to what it will be later – something like: Nancy trying to ferry drugs across the border, using her looks to escape scrutiny and trouble. Mary-Louise Parker doesn’t seem quite as on target as she was last season, but I think that part of it is the transitional nature of this episode. Once things get back to normal, so will she (or at least as normal as she can be). I’d like to see more of the kids but Justin Kirk is doing a terrific job as always as Andy. I’m not such a big fan of Albert Brooks as Andy and Judah’s father, and I hope he doesn’t stick around long, as his “not-Francie” and “not-Judah” nicknames could get old real quick. My favorite part of this episode includes the happenings back in Agrestic, where Doug, Dean, Isabelle, and Sanjay all turn on Celia and frame her as the drug dealer masterminding the whole operation. I particularly enjoyed all their interviews, especially being asked about Nancy. I hope Maulik Pancholy sticks around, because he really is hilarious as Sanjay. If not, I’m sure he’ll be back on “30 Rock” come fall. Back to “Weeds” – I’m hoping for a more solid episode next week and for this show to find its sure footing quickly, without any unexpected “u-turns” or anything like that.

Summing Up: Battlestar Galactica

I stopped reviewing this show less than halfway into the season, so I have a lot of catching up to do here. I don’t actually have that much to say about the majority of the episodes, but here goes. Episode five (“The Road Less Traveled”) was a very plodding hour, trying to emphasize the subsequent mental breakdowns of both Tyrol and Starbuck. The ending felt very contrived, with the “I’m removing you of command” coming from Helo right after Starbuck just removed him from command. I get lost just thinking about it. Why would Adama have put her in charge? It makes much more sense for Helo to have been put in charge, considering his wealth of experience, his higher rank, and the fact that he’s not under suspicion of being a Cylon/hearing voices in his head telling him which way to Earth. The follow-up episode, on the other hand, was a good deal better. Mary McDonnell turns in a good performance in her Emmy-submitted episode, but it’s the Cylons I’m much more excited about here. The idea of an alliance between the humans and the Cylons is entirely cool and interesting. I was intrigued from the beginning, and now that the season has had its chance to play out, I’m glad they went with it. “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner” was a pretty great episode, chosen by many of the performers, including the excellent Tricia Helfer, playing so many different roles. Gaeta’s singing provided a nice dramatic feel for the episode. The ending was by far the best part, with the shocking instant jump executed by the just-activated hybrid.

The next episode, “Sine Qua Non” was really just filler, and quite dull at that. Edward James Olmos chose it as his Emmy submission, and in a season of sparse material, I can see why, especially given the ending where he opts to stay behind by himself in a raptor (spelling?). That was the only truly great part of the episode, as I could really care less about deciding who will become president (Lee = shocker? No!). Mark Sheppard’s fun to watch as the wacky attorney but he overplays the role just a bit in my mind. When this episode aired, all I wanted to know about was what happened on the other ship. This just wasn’t terribly interesting. Again, filler. The following episode, this season’s penultimate installment, made up for this one for sure. The destruction of the resurrection hub was a bit underplayed, but how significant! It’s fascinating to hear the Cylons talk about how they don’t want immortality so that their lives can have meaning. The entire episode was really solid, and seeing the human pilots and the Cylons about to fly together was cool. Of course, the most exciting aspect of this episode was the reactivation of D’Anna, certainly the most anticipated character return I’ve ever personally experienced. And what a way to come back – complaining right away then killing Cavil. Her telling the President that she was the final Cylon and then laughing was a relief – I thought that the previews had given away the surprise of the century. Much as I would love for everything to work out, I suppose it’s only fair that she wants to save her own skin by bartering a bit first. Gaius was quite entertaining in this episode as well, trying to convince the centurion that it should be entitled to more in life. It was a good moment between the President and Gaius when he finally comes clean, even though that was a LONG time coming. Great that she almost let him die and then changed her mind.

Now on to the finale. I may have been too excited for it (it’s possible) but regardless of the hype I gave it, it still felt like an episode that just existed to move things along like this season’s weak installments “He That Believeth in Me”, “The Road Less Traveled”, and “Sine Qua Non”. It was a fair deal better than those episodes, but the action was all very rushed, too much too fast. After a season which built up questions and anticipated momentous events, everything seemed to dissipate too quickly. Much like season one of “Heroes”, the episode before the finale was the one that really got things flowing, injecting some much-needed adrenaline into the show and getting everyone pumped for the next episode (I would also submit the final two episodes of “The Sopranos” here). D’Anna’s move to execute hostages seemed to come out of nowhere, and was happened rather early on in the negotiations process. They did, however, circumvent the far-too-often-used plotline of killing off all the cast members who aren’t regulars first by not ever revealing who was executed (it was one of those guys, though – I promise). Tigh giving himself up was a bit of a letdown, as was Starbuck’s pretty much nonexistent reaction to Anders or Tyrol being Cylons. After an entire season of keeping their identities secret, the only one who really made an impact was Tory, in a brief moment of defiance to the President and pledging allegiance to her newfound family/race. Adama breaking down was significant, but I would have liked to see more of a reaction from anyone and everyone.

Watching the finale and many of the episodes leading up to it, I realized how strange the hierarchies and chains of command seem. Both Adama and Dualla address Lee stoically as Mr. President, even though he is son and ex-husband to each of them, respectively. Perhaps it’s a lack of familiarity with military conduct or life, but the whole system feels very inbred. Starbuck especially fits in, as far as her relationship with Anders, Lee, Adama, and Helo are concerned. I’m not saying it’s a huge problem – it just might not hurt the show to branch out a bit. Introducing a host of new characters might not help, but maybe let Gaius or Tom Zarek have a chance to shine in the political arena or give the other Cylons more of a place in the chain of command, especially given the recent direction of things. Going from executing hostages one minute to a steady alliance the next seems like quite a jump, but it should be nice to see what things are like next season on that front, especially for Tory who wants to be with the Cylons and the other three who aren’t ready to leave their supposedly human lives behind (yet).

So they found Earth. I guess it makes sense in the grand scheme of things given where things were left off at the end of last season with Starbuck declaring that she knows the way there and such. But does it have to be over in five or so minutes? Everyone’s cheering and so excited to get there, even though it was accomplished simply by some weird Cylon sixth sense or maybe even just luck. Did anyone else see Lee leap up and jump on to something in the CIC? Anyway, Earth is not the paradise everyone thought it would be, and appears to have been devastated by nuclear war. Next season should be really good, but I would rather have not left off this way. The big revelation at the end of this finale should have been the final Cylon, not Earth. The direction of the show has to change in a major way now that one of the driving forces has been resolved, or rather reshaped. I’m sure it will be great, but at this point I’m feeling a bit disappointed. The season as a whole was uneven, but did have some sparkling episodes (“Six of One”, “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner”, “The Hub”). I watched the first three seasons in marathon form on DVD, so I’m not sure I was ever convinced that this show was entirely excellent or that those seasons were any better. What I can say for certain is that I do really like this show and since I started watching the mini-series, I am officially hooked. It’s a great show as a concept and when you look at it as an entire series, there are just some nooks and crannies along the way that need a little cleaning out. Season four’s second half doesn’t begin until January 2009 at the very earliest, but the good news is that there may be an eleven installment tacked on to the previously announced ten final episodes.

Season grade: B
Season finale: B
Season MVP: Tricia Helfer

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Pilots Galore

Summer always brings a number of new shows, the majority of which don't make it anywhere close to a renewal. This year should be no different, as the first three big scripted series of the season start up. They're all quite bad. Not that I'd expect much more, though summer has provided some memorable series, such as FOX's "The Inside" and last year's so-bad-it's-good CW "O.C." clone "Hidden Palms".

The first new show of this summer is "In Plain Sight". Its quality is especially disappointing for me because I was so looking forward to it. There's no reason it had to be this bad. I know that Mary McCormack can act well, and I wish that her character bore more similarity to her "West Wing" persona, as I'd think it would work a lot better for this show. I've been accused in the past of finding characters too often "unlikeable", and while that's certainly true here, her character just doesn't work. She tries desperately to be snappy and witty all the time but fails miserably. The show takes a similar route, making every single mistake in the book. Lead character Mary is burdened with an excessively lame sidekick who's both slimy and ineffective at the same time. Her boss spends far more time trying to decide what kind of gift to get for Mary than actually doing his job. It's supposed to be funny, I gather, but it's not. The Russian girl who wants the breast implants isn't terribly interesting, especially as an opening case. Just in case you didn't believe that the couple in Witness Protection was linked to the mob, they cast two recurring cast members from "The Sopranos" (Mikey Palmice and Charmaine Bucco). Not that I have a problem with typecasting, but it seems like too much. The show isn't nearly funny or dramatic enough to merit going back for another look. I had planned to watch the show's second installment to see if it might get a bit better (and because the guest stars this time were Wendell Pierce and Alfre Woodard), but didn't get around to it. This show may make it to a second season only because of the network it's on and the success of other USA summer shows ("Burn Notice", "Monk", "Psych"). It also did incredibly well in the ratings.

The next new show can't exactly be called "big" and, more significantly, I don't know if it can be called "new". "Charlie Jade" premiered on SciFi channel on June 6, 2008. It's definitely a British import, but I don't think it's a remake, and may instead just be re-aired, similar to "Extras" on HBO. The show isn't worth doing that much research. It's instantly unbearable, which is a difficult thing for a show to manage to do. Its lead, Jeffrey Pierce, is most reminiscent of Alex O'Loughlin's main character on the recently-canceled vampire drama "Moonlight" - except he isn't a vampire. There's actually very little that's special about him, save for some hallucinogenic visions he has every once in a while. It looks like "Sin City" and jumps back and forth between three parallel universes in an incoherent, rushed manner. The universes are converging for some reason, with constantly shifting color schemes and everything. The opening line of the show, following some soundless transference of watermelons between the universes, is "Our balls are bigger than your balls". Don't waste any time even thinking about this show. I've already written too much about it.

The third show was far more interesting than the other two, but I can't help feeling it's trying WAY too hard to offer a smothering excess of sexuality on a network that doesn't really allow it. If you haven't guessed yet, the show I'm referring to is CBS's "Swingtown". The premise is highly amusing, and the costumes and settings are impressive. It bears a striking resemblance in the way it plays itself out to NBC's short-lived summer offering "Windfall" from a few years back, also starring Lana Parilla. A large ensemble with no clear main character all get detailed plotlines and everything plays out in a very corny way that doesn't seem believable. I don't know if it's supposed to, though, and it might work. The main swinger couple is pretty outlandish and it's fun how they try to corrupt everyone. I was very impressed with the acting by Molly Parker as the redhead who's excited by the prospect of all this sleeping around. I'm not sure I can take this show on a week-to-week basis, but I have the second episode taped and might get around to watching it.

In Plain Sight: F
Charlie Jade: F
Swingtown: C

Season recap of "Battlestar Galactica" and Emmy predictions to come soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Coming Up...

I'm keeping up with "Battlestar Galactica" which has two episodes left this season, and will post my thoughts on that soon. "In Plain Sight" was unspeakly bad, so don't wait to read my review before you decide not to watch it. I don't have high hopes for "Swingtown", premiering tomorrow night, but I'll put up a review soon.

I plan to post reviews quite soon, but at the moment I'm making my way through various episodes of "Brothers and Sisters", "Boston Legal", "Medium", "How I Met Your Mother", "Ugly Betty" and a number of others watching Emmy-submitted episodes in preparation for my most in-depth Emmy predictions yet. The deadline for submitting tapes was this past Saturday, and some of the tapes have yet to be revealed. Starting next week (as an estimate), I'll be predicting each category with detailed analysis. In July, get excited for the 2nd Annual AFT Television Awards!