Sunday, October 26, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 5, Episode 4 "Crime Aid" (B+)

This is an overall enjoyable episode, particularly fun because it highlights the terrific yet somewhat dysfunctional relationship between Michael and Holly, now sure to come to an end due to their indiscretion around one David Wallace. I thought the auction was great, especially all the items that Michael got together, including Phyllis' hug that went for $1000 ("$500 and one penny!") and David Wallace's surprising willingness to come auction off a weekend at his country home. Dwight's hopeless pursuit of Angela and his turning to Phyllis for aid was alternately endearing and hilarious. Jim and Pam seem to be on the sidelines for the moment, but I like that their relationship seems to endure even though we never see them together.

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 5 "Granny Pants" (C-)

I suspected that Lindsay Lohan would be back, but I'm unhappy that I was correct. Her presence is almost disastrous for the show. After two seasons, Betty has finally found her place at Mode, and I can tell you exactly how this is all going to turn out. Daniel's eventually going to apologize to Betty after seeing the light and Kimmie's going to be erased from the show's history. It's as if Betty doesn't have enough problems - would it kill the show to make her happy for once? Everyone else can be miserable, but why must she be treated like this, especially when everyone (including her) saw it coming all along? I enjoyed Justin's misunderstanding of the pound when his closet dancer bully finally accepted him in the end, and Daniel and Wilhelmina's accidental date was funny as well. This show isn't completely lost, this is just a completely unnecessary detour that should soon be quickly forgotten.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 6 “Prey” (C-)

I’d think a man from Mars who was able to live among humans for years would possess a bit more subtlety than our good friend “Jones” does here. Receiving confidential, secretive identities from Clark sends him right to all their homes so that his source is immediately outed? Not exactly meteoric police work. I'm glad to see Davis back in the spotlight, especially since it's clear that he's going to play a bigger role now that he's been revealed as the killer. It's hard to decide whether he is aware of his destructive powers or whether he's actually innocent, and I'm still not sure. I'm sure all will be made clear soon. I know that I never used to say this, but I'm actually missing Lois, and I think bringing her back for more episodes and reducing the screen time of Chloe's support group would do this show some good. Also, Tess and Oliver should be featured more prominently every episode.

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 3 "The Star Witness" (B-)

This show is slipping a bit in a lot of its overall plotlines, but there are certain elements I love. The main thing this episode is the meeting between Karen and Lisa, where Lisa finally really tells Karen off - and she sort of gets it. Jeremy's dalliance with and falling for Nola, however predictable, is semi-touching. Nick's trip to visit his mother is also fairly effective, but I feel like she's been too quickly written off. I also enjoyed Brian's trip to Brazil to see his son, and it's crazy that Brian Jr. actually snuck onto the plane and is headed back to America! I doubt his mother will believe Brian when he tells her that. As far as the problems go, this show is a bit too narrow-minded where Patrick is concerned in the same way that "Heroes" so easily catapults Nathan to the presidency in every flash-forward. It's as if there's no scrutiny being placed on these popular public figures. Patrick almost confesses to the death cover-up, thinking mistakenly that there will be no consequences, on live national television. When he sees his father and Carmelita, he launches into some pathetic story about how Ellen wasn't a regular smoker. I just don't buy it, and it's that very short-sightedness of this show that's dragging it down in my opinion.

What I'm Watching: Gary Unmarried

I'm covering this show on a weekly basis for a reviewing course I'm taking. I'll copy my thoughts onto this blog every week as well.

Gary Unmarried: Season 1, Episode 5 “Gary Breaks Up His Ex-Wife and Girlfriend” (C-)

It’s tragically apparent from its title that this episode is just as contrived in its setup as those before it. Gary is forced to deal with the oft-explored sitcom problem of his former wife and current girlfriend becoming fast friends, something which will inevitably lead to a discussion of embarrassing facts which could negatively impact Gary’s relationship with Vanessa. Gary’s insecurity and worries that Vanessa won’t like him anymore based solely on the ravings of his ex are the kind of loose, conventional thinking that keep this show from achieving greatness. The most suspicious aspect of this setup is the sudden highlighting of Vanessa’s relationship with the kids. Prior to this point, no mention was made of her frequently helping Gary out by giving the kids rides from their activities. She also has this sudden relationship with Tom, Gary’s son, where he’s constantly flirting with her and desirous of her attention. This episode does provide a spotlight for Gary’s daughter Louise beyond her overly mature remarks, and includes her commenting on how the temporary tattoo artist couldn’t figure out how to tattoo the recycling symbol. Louise now plays basketball, and for some inane reason, Gary is the new basketball coach. His competitive spirit is unsurprisingly rather childish, emphasizing winning over the more respectable notion of friendly competition. It’s all generally irrelevant, because the central focus of this episode is on Vanessa and Allison. Allison doesn’t actually reveal anything embarrassing about Gary’s past, but too much worrying leads Gary to come clean with Vanessa and confess all his questionable deeds preemptively. This is entirely obvious, circular plotting, and there’s not much keeping this show alive. CBS, however, seems to disagree. In a cleverly titled post (“Gary No Longer Married to Wednesday Time Slot?”), reports that CBS is planning a special airing of the "Gary Unmarried" pilot this coming Monday night at 9:30pm, right behind repeats of the monstrously successful Monday night lineup of "The Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Two and a Half Men." Matt Mitovich, who broke the news, doesn’t believe the change is permanent, since "Worst Week," which usually airs at 9:30pm on Mondays, is doing well. Mitovich also dismisses previously reported news that four additional episodes of "Gary Unmarried" have been ordered, but notes that the show is doing well retaining, and occasionally even building on, the audience for Wednesday night lead-in "The New Adventures of Old Christine.: That’s good news all-around for this so-so sitcom.

What I'm Watching: Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies: Season 2, Episode 4 "Frescorts" (B+)

I always like the fanciful ideas this show comes up with for all its crime setup scenarios. I especially like the way things start out - with everyone saying that the victim was their best friend, and the eventual realization that it's a friend escort. I also liked the positioning of David Arquette as a friend escort client who was paying his escort by being his roommate. I wish we had seen more of Emerson's mother since I agree with him in the belief that he didn't get to spend enough time with his mother. Hopefully she'll be back though soon. Emerson is quite possibly my favorite character (maybe Olive), and I like to see him spotlighted as much as possible.

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 8 "Parracide" (B+)

I'm shocked that Twoman gave up Shane and now the whole department knows that he tried to kill Ronnie. Too bad only Vic and Ronnie figured out that he also tried to kill Vic. That was an insane scene, watching Shane sort of step out of there slowly before anyone realized that he was about to get pinned. Vic's ultimate act of handing in his badge is I suppose a good step for the show, as long as he doesn't go too far off the grid. Mara coming to Corinne and telling her that she'll be in touch with her and confessing all of Vic's secrets is quite a surprise, but it's clear that Mara and Shane are in this together. Vic telling Corinne that he's done a lot of things he regrets is also a surprising moment. Vic's undercover assignment may not work out as well as he had hoped now that he's quit, but this show has just exploded and the next few episodes are going to be legendary.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 5 "Nine Lives" (B-)

I like having Fornell around as a recurring character who's popped in and out throughout this entire show, especially since his relationship with Gibbs is pretty irresistible. The plot here is a bit obvious, and quite repetitive seeing all the people tortured. I guess Ray Abruzzo is the go-to "Sopranos" alumnus to play the resident gangster, although he comes off as exceedingly over-the-top. This show has its moments, and then it just sort of doesn't come through as too memorable.

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episode 2 "Out of Africa" (C)

Okay, Sam needs to start trying a little harder. A spontaneous trip to Africa was hardly in her cards, and the subsequent coincidental disaster/hostage situation there feels more than forced. This show has great characters, it's just struggling how to sustain this amnesia premise and find something to do with all of them. The preview for next week is perhaps a step in the right direction (though I saw it with the sound off), but let's get rid of the field trips and focus in on the terrific cast members the show has and maybe this show can get back on track.

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 3, Episode 6 "Dying of the Light" (C)

There are a few cool moments in this episode, but there's also a great deal of stupidity. I liked Hiro going back in time and telling Ando that he'll have to fake-kill him, and I enjoyed Arthur Petrelli turning Adam to dust with merely a touch. Same goes for Tracy's clever positioning of Mohinder so that she could knock him out by freezing him. Otherwise, Claire and her two moms' adventure is just pathetically stupid, save for her final declaration of, "it's me, Mom. Shoot me!" although they have done that at least once before. Peter's a bit overaggressive, but I guess his father taking his powers should send things in a new direction. It feels like things have been building up for a while now, and maybe they're finally ready to get started?

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 5, Episode 8 "The Price" (F)

I've never understood the need villains feel to always use brute force when the situation just plainly doesn't call for it. Wyatt doesn't need to shoot Roland right off the bat when he's spent episodes slowly torturing all the other now-dead characters on the show. Also, shouldn't he wait for confirmation before killing him? Especially because his need to shoot first results in his getting hit over the head by those dastardly prison escapees. I know Lincoln's worried about Michael's ticking nose bleeds, but I'm more worried about Lincoln's anger management issues. Sara's flashbacks to her being whipped are indeed the stupidest thing ever, and her decision not to re-whip Gretchen but instead nearly slit her throat was sort of funny and entirely uncharacteristic. What else is new on this show? Lincoln's idea to "oh, let's just ram his car like that one time" is pretty loose and clearly ineffective due to Roland's decision to ruin the entire plan with one fell swoop. We're supposed to feel sympathy for Roland, sure, but he yells at Michael to apologize when he really is guilty so I'm glad he's gone. I'm glad that someone with some cunning is trying to bring down Gretchen, though I have a striking suspicion that he's going to end up losing another limb (and probably a redhead) along the way. So now that the General is aware that the brothers and crew are coming after him, where will this show go?

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 4 "Chuck Versus the Cougars" (B)

Ben Savage! From "Boy Meets World," it's Cory! I suppose it's a bit strange that I'm more excited about that than Nicole Ritchie's highly-touted guest spot as the girl who made Sarah's life in high school hell, but maybe that's because Savage is actually an actor. I couldn't believe that Savage was old enough to be playing that role, but I checked it out on IMDB and it turns out that Mr. Savage and Mr. Levi are in fact the same age, both 28. Hard to believe, but I guess "Boy Meets World" did in fact premiere 15 years ago when Savage was in fact 15. Anyway, he's sadly underused here in favor of the untalented Nicole Ritchie. It is cool to see Sarah's reactions to her past, and I look forward to more such revelations. Chuck's reactions to wanting to know about her past are great too. In the continuing attempt to incorporate the Buy More into the show, this latest effort is actually sort of funny, offering ridiculous discounts on everything that having a ripper which goes virtually unnoticed save for that one falling fish.

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 4 "The Raw & the Cooked" (B+)

Now this is a priceless installment of this series. What better way to really dig into these characters than by bringing them all together at a dinner party? And of course, in Hank and Karen's world, youngsters Becca, boyfriend, and Mia are all invited to the decidedly adult affair. All the conversation is completely intriguing, and I enjoyed Hank and Becca's boyfriend's interactions. I'm continually impressed by the cable curve, where an actress who appears on a weekly network sitcom is one hundred times better just because she's on a better cable show. That actress would be Paula Marshall, currently appearing on "Gary Unmarried" while moonlighting here as (gasp!) the mother of Hank's unborn child. It's so incredible how this show subtly reveals things like that, especially with Mia as the one to point out the unfortunate truth. Karen's ultimate rejection of Hank sort of puts him back where he started in season one, albeit a far more mature human being. What will become of him now?

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 7 "Gotta Look Up To Get Down" (B-)

This whole Vince/supermodel plot is a lot like treading water. There's not really anywhere for Vince to go at the moment because there's nothing for him to do. As a result, he spends the whole episode lusting after a girl he only met once. This was by far Jason Isaacs' most bizarre role, as a flamboyant, flashy fashion mogul who isn't guy but still wants Vince. The man from "Brotherhood" and "The State Within" doesn't strike me as the type to play that character. Regardless, the important action here is all about Ari. Alan Dale, not content to have played pretty much the most powerful characters on "24," "The O.C.," "NCIS," "Ugly Betty," "The X-Files," and "Lost," is now the most powerful character on this show, offering Ari the coveted job of studio head, something he's wanted all his life and where he can put Vince in any movie he wants. This could not only be the saving grace for Ari but also for the show as a whole. TV Guide reported Gary Cole will be joining the cast as an agent next season - I think Ari's going to get this job, and Cole's going to be Vince's new agent. Frankly, I'm excited. Enough things have gone wrong for the guys on this show, and it's about time that things start looking up.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 12 "The Mountain King" (B+)

It's wonderful to see Don is his early days, when he abandons the name he took and goes around living his life at a much slower, more relaxed pace, commenting on cars and introducing himself as Dick Whitman. It's refreshing to see the positive relationship he has with his namesake's former wife, and how he turns to her for comfort since he knows she's the only person who can truly understand him. Joan's forceful fiancee is a heartbreaker, especially since he's seemed so nice until now, but it's interesting to see Joan actually embracing the comfort Peggy is offering, since she usually presents such a steely front. Pete's own marital control issues are beginning to become a problem for him, and we're getting back to the sad sack Pete who's utterly slimy but you can't help sympathizing with since he just can't get anything accomplished no matter how hard he may try. This Sunday is the show's season finale, and I'm hopeful that this will be the kind of typical cable finale, which offers up intriguing new information but makes the wait for next year bearable with an appropriate amount of closure.

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 4 "All in the Family" (B+)

It's great to see Dexter's oddball manner of going about things, proposing to Rita and finding a way to express his warped sense of the world while still coming across as charming, and most importantly, likable to Rita's kids. I'm enjoying Dexter's conversations with Miguel more and more, especially when Miguel starts talking about how there's only one person he can trust, and Dexter thinks it's himself, but Miguel's actually talking about Dexter. That's one thing Dexter hasn't quite had in this show yet (save for Harry in the flashbacks, of course) - an ally. He's always had a terrific adversary who's sort of also a friend, be it the Ice Truck Killer or Lundy, but now having a friend is I think the best thing for the newly betrothed serial killer.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 4 "Back in Business" (C-)

Nothing new here. Bree has already been the envy of her friends for her successes, Lynette has already pondered going back to work, Gaby has put her foot in her mouth every single episode of the series, and if you didn't see Jackson teaching MJ how to ride the bike coming, I don't know what show you were watching. Orson working with Bree will never be a good idea. It seems like Gaby is desperate to alienate every single person she ever meets, and I'd like to see her actually get some new friends. The only strong point continues to be Neal McDonough as Dave, who really doesn't like the guy Tom loves for the band, and is so suspiciously generous as to allow Mike to move in to the house down the street, so that he can be closer to MJ and...Dave?

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 7 "Burning House of Love" (B)

I understand the desire to position Bill as the good vampire and therefore to have the other three be the really evil ones, but their presence to me often offsets the terrific tone of this show. Bill's interactions with everyone are interesting enough, that the need for these uber-villains just isn't quite there. I'm sure that Bill isn't dead since he really is the central character of the show. I'm amazed by Sookie's fascination with Bill and her desire to sleep in the coffin with him (his response is also so terrific and as usual deadpan). This episode does provide one of the best Jason plotlines to date, having him try to get into the vampire bar only to be recognized as Sookie's brother, and then running into Lizzy Caplan of all people (I knew it was her!), who really is a terrific actress and is superbly awesome on this show. I hope she sticks around for a while.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pilot Review: Crash

Crash (Starz)
Premiered October 17 at 10pm

I'm a huge fan of the Oscar-winning Best Picture that this show is based on. This series, however, is a blatant rip-off, rather than an appropriate remake, of the movie. All the plotlines are virtually copied and then tweaked in a way that makes them less interesting. No one in the cast is really that great, including Dennis Hopper who overdoes it as an insane and possessive record producer. The show uses excessive coarse language to try to seem more self-important, but it's off-putting and annoying. The show is pretty slow, especially in its attempts to cover so much ground and involve a large number of characters. Additionally, the need to have cops and EMTs responding to crashes or situations at every point gets tiring right off the bat. Episode two is worse than the first, and I don't think this show has too much hope. It gets lost in its attempt to copy the movie and cover too much information.

How will it work as a series? The movie was effective because it had a power-punch of devastating occurrences, one after another. Here, they're trying to squeeze too much in and as a result it's not as strong. I don't think this should have been made into a show, since everything seems like it's already come full-circle after only two episodes.
How long will it last? No way to know that, because this is Starz's first original series. My bet is that it won't get a second season because of potential ratings woes and lackluster critical reviews, but I'd also suspect that Starz might be very much invested in making this show successful.

Pilot grade: F

Pilot Review: Crusoe

Crusoe (NBC)
Premiered October 17 at 8pm

I'm not familiar at all with any of the Robinson Crusoe mythology, but I think I can get the gist of it from this premiere. It's an undeniably hokey show which I find pretty difficult to take seriously. Philip Winchester gives it all his corny best as the lead character, who seems like the nicest and jolliest guy ever. Friday's also a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. The guest star pirates in this episode are all entirely ridiculous characters, and I just can't image how anyone's supposed to take them seriously. I do like the adventure music that plays whenever Crusoe's running, and the traps and effects are a high point of the show. Otherwise, it's devastatingly slow and boring, but is that really a surprise?

How will it work as a series? Sure, in the first episode there were pirates, but after that, how will this show remain interesting? There are only two characters and next week looks to involve ghosts as a way to make things exciting. If there are constant shipwrecks or pirates plundering the island, that could easily get old right away. The relationship between Crusoe and Friday doesn't seem that deep, so it's going to have to depend on flashbacks to Crusoe's former life to keep it fresh.
How long will it last? I think this one will be gone within just a few weeks. I'm sure it's insanely expensive, and it's just not good enough to merit the money. I also don't think it is likely to have a very high audience.

Pilot grade: D

What I'm Watching: Life on Mars

Life on Mars: Season 1, Episode 2 "The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler" (C-)

That's going to do it for me with this show. It's surprisingly boring, and already super-repetitive after only one premiere installment. All of the characters (namely Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel) are far too outlandish to be taken seriously. This isn't 1973, it's a cartoonish version of the past. Jason O'Mara is an able lead, and he has Gretchen Mol supporting him, but that can't save this show from being very much corny and just as often uninteresting.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 5, Episode 3 "Baby Shower" (B+)

It's just like Jan to have her baby before her baby shower just so that she can use the event to break the news to Michael. It's really too bad, because Michael was prepping so hard with fake watermelons to help out with the birth. It was uncomfortable seeing Michael continually be so mean to Holly, but at least there's a happy, somewhat awkward ending in store for them. Jan has really become such a detestable, manipulative, awful character. Dwight's side plotline of testing the indestructibility of the baby carriage was a real hoot. The closing missed calls and voicemails between Jim and Pam are hopefully an acknowledgment of the fact that their relationship will stand the test of time. They still were finishing each others' sentences, even if they couldn't reach each other at the same time.

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 4 "Betty Suarez Land" (B)

Wilhelmina really just won't go away, will she? I'm getting a bit tired of her constant scheming and somehow always coming out ahead, especially with Claire agreeing to give her back a share in the magazine. I suppose the show does need a villain, though. Especially since everyone else really does seem to be rather saintly, Alexis wanting to spend time in prison to atone for her sins and ensure that Wilhelmina doesn't get the upper hand, and Daniel trying to keep Daniel Jr., even though his grandparents are pretty much the nicest people ever. I'm excited that Gio's back, although I hope that he and Betty can truly work out their differences and things can return to the way they were. I don't like him as much when he's mean; I prefer him when he's just a nice guy who makes sandwiches. I was pretty surprised by Tony's wife showing up, but I suppose it's for the best that Hilda can now move on with her life - and maybe go for Gio?

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 5 "Committed" (C-)

I don't really see the need to have these kinds of episodes, especially since this show already did a similar thing like this with the Lionel-"Saw" episode from a few years back. I like the fact that it's not really clear whether Lois was actually still under lie-detector supervision when she said she loved Clark, or not. I'm eager for them to get on with their romance, since it's been a long time coming and now it actually seems to make sense. I like seeing Oliver and Tess try their relationship again, but I'd like to see more of their history and what really went wrong. Next week, it looks like the recently-absent Davis will be taking center stage again, which is very exciting!

What I'm Watching: Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies: Season 2, Episode 3 "Bad Habits" (B)

Well, I'm glad this little detour with Olive at the nunnery is over. Fun as it was, it's good that she'll be returning back to the Pie Hole. This episode was just sort of wacky. Emerson and Ned as priests and Chuck as a nun are amusing images, and this installment certainly took advantage of how ridiculous they were. The music here was of course great, as always, and that's one of the things I love about this show. I hope that Chuck being informed about her real mother will lead her to telling her aunts that she's still alive, since Lily and Vivian are two characters I'd really like to see more of on this show.

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 7 "Bitches Brew" (B+)

This final season of "The Shield" keeps getting even more intense. I don't think we've ever seen Ronnie quite so angry, especially when Shane seems lost while they're chasing down the guy who's running. The return of Bottom Bitch yielded predictable results of deception and depravity. Vic's really doing his very best to stay in the game now, making deals with Olivia and her bosses to go undercover and trying to keep all his children in his life somehow. Seeing Danny packing up to leave town is a major indicator that things are going to explode soon. Dutch and Claudette's interactions really are touching, and with the exception of Vic and Ronnie, they're actually the duo on this show who work best together. Shane hiring the perp at the end to kill Vic (or Ronnie?) - I can't imagine that will have positive results. I can't say it enough times - this season is truly intense.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 4 "Heartland" (B+)

It's fun to see a window into the life of the least known-about character on this show, the one and only Gibbs. Well, I guess not - since he's got a father, as all the team seems shocked to find out. I particularly enjoyed the interactions of Gibbs' father and all of the team. I also appreciated the flashbacks, which usually seem more than a bit random on this show, because they can us some insight into Gibbs' history of being a troublemaker and then meeting the woman he first loved. I always approve of field trips - especially when they take you back in time as well.

Pilot Review: My Own Worst Enemy

My Own Worst Enemy (NBC)
Premiered September 13 at 10pm

This show is certainly fun, and rather harmless, but I'm just not sure how much depth there is to it. At first glance, it seems a tiny bit like NBC's new reboot of "Knight Rider," but I think and hope that there's more there. Christian Slater is a decent enough lead, and Alfre Woodard was born to play the manipulative bossy type. I like the idea of dual lives but I'm not sure how long they're going to stick with that. The concept is clever, however the spy situations need to be amped up a bit. This show has some promise, but it may tread too close to boring territory if it doesn't position Edward as a Sydney Bristow-type spy with cool gadgets and impressive fighting techniques. There's nothing really wrong with it, it's just not overall quite that exciting.

How will it work as a series? Again, I don't know how the Henry/Edward situation will be handled from now on, and that's really the crux of this show's originality. They can only have Henry discover he has another identity, and the spy stuff is going to have to make up for that.
How long will it last? NBC's been advertising it a lot, and they really want it to succeed, but I think this one may just last out the season. I'm sure its ratings will be better than "Studio 60," but I don't imagine they'll be that great.

Pilot grade: B-

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who? (Season Premiere)

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episode 1 "So I Think I Can Dance" (C+)

I do like this show and its stars, but this season premiere feels rather contrived. Sam thinks she knows how to dance, but it's evident that she won't be able to relearn it in time. I'm always disappointed when half-hour comedies feel rather empty (not like "The Office" or "30 Rock"), and follow only one real major plotline. I want to see more of Andrea and her meddling/attempted but failed flirtation with Todd, and Dena's joy at getting to do tech once a year. This show still has some potential, but I'd like to see the ensemble used to more effect. Let Sam take a backseat and highlight her friends and family.

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 3, Episode 5 "Angels and Monsters" (C+)

They really are trying to redefine the lives of good and evil here, with Peter nearly taking off his mother's brain and Sylar being the one to step in and save her. The guest star of the week has one of those Niki-like powers that doesn't make much sense, and the fact that he puts himself into a vortex to avoid being forced to kill someone doesn't fly in my book. The return of Adam is a little ridiculous because that guy is so slippery, and Hiro should really know to keep an eye on him. Hiro killing Ando, even if he can go back and undo it, is shocking and completely out of character for him. I don't get it. It's weird that Maya finally gets herself in too deep and presumably gets killed (or at least cocooned) by Mohinder. Last season I so wanted her to get killed off and now I don't even mind her. What does excite me is where this show might be heading. Another character (Daphne) is talking to the ghost of Linderman, but it's revealed that it's all actually Murray, a.k.a. Matt's dad, pulling the strings, on behalf of one Arthur Petrelli. Good thing I didn't see the previews for this episode, by the way, because they completely gave away the end of the episode. I like the idea that they're trying to bring all the heroes together, because I've always felt this show would work better if the scattered characters were all united in an X-Men sort of fashion.

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 3 "Chuck Versus the Break-Up" (B+)

Bryce's return wasn't as distracting as I thought, and it's fun to see Sarah actually appreciating Chuck, and also the changing perspectives of both Casey and Bryce. Morgan's sub-plotline isn't as distracting to the overall tone of the show as it often is, and it's funny to see him make a deal that gets things resolved and him screwed. What I particularly enjoyed about this episode is not just how Chuck resolved the crisis and saved everyone's lives, but the incorporation of Ellie and Captain Awesome into the main storyline. I'd like to see more of the kind of interactions that we saw between Awesome and Bryce.

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 3 "No Way To Treat A Lady" (B+)

I was very excited by the return of Judy Greer as Trixie, since I'm a big fan of her as an actress and her character the first time around was great. Here, she's terrific once again, though she does seem to cause a bit of trouble for Hank by not identifying when she slept with Hank. Callum Keith Rennie's Lew Ashby really is a wacky guy, but I enjoy him. Becca's attitude at school is entertaining, and it's nice to see her entering the spotlight once again. Charlie's porn shoot ridealong is a bit unintelligent even for him, but I suppose he may do something now with recurring guest star Carla Gallo and enter the porn agent business.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 6 "Redomption" (C+)

This isn't a bad episode, this show just doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere. I could have told you that Turtle as Drama's assistant wouldn't work out, and while it's briefly amusing, it's tired. The unexpected, somewhat random return of two season three characters in the same episode provides a jolt of nostalgia, though neither character is really as exciting as they once were. Dom, whose bad news guest spot a few years ago was a decent enough detour for the gang, is back here, calling Vince of all people to bail him out. He's a changed man, but he's going back to prison. Too bad for him. That whole plot sort of just meandered, and the relationship between E and Dom is very much the same as it was before. The return of Bob is a disappointment because he really was a terrific character when he was a well-intentioned, boring guy, but as an obnoxious, mean guy here the gimmick doesn't work as well. The idea that hatred for Ari could kill someone is amusing, but it comes off as completely out of left field. I don't really know where this show is heading, but it's going to need to pick itself back up soon to regain some of the quality it used to have.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 11 "The Jet Set" (B+)

What a packed episode! I've always felt, now more than ever, that "intoxicating" is a perfect word to describe this show. Away on a business trip in California, Don scolds Pete for thinking that perhaps he might go swimming before they meet up with the clients, and then Don abandons Pete completely by going off with a woman he just met. Don's heat exhaustion and seeing him actually happy, not dressed so stuffily as he usually is, is a wonderful exploration of his character. And that phone call he made at the end - who could he be calling using his real name? Pete's adaptation to Don's absence is rather amusing, since he seems to be doing just fine without Don and is enjoying the poolside nature of things. Back at the office, the coming out of one of the characters provides a disturbing scene that reminds of the closemindedness of the time. Really too bad for Sal, who is clearly silently distraught that Ken does not approve of homosexuals. Peggy takes it in stride, though, undergoing a makeover sure to attract the attention of her coworkers. Last but not least, Duck's attempts to plan his future at Sterling-Cooper are ardent, and he's really giving it his all to make sure things turn out the way he wants them to.

"Mad Men" just got renewed for a third season (next week is the finale), and talks are already underway for a fourth. Exciting news for a great show!

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 3 "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (B+)

I really like it when Dexter has something on his mind which constantly plagues an entire episode, and in this case, his thoughts about being a father are truly enticing. I like Rita's openness and willingness to let him make his own choice. I'm finding Jimmy Smits' character to be all the more intriguing, especially his continuous efforts to befriend and entertain Dexter since they both share one hell of a secret.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 3 "Kids Ain't Like Everybody Else" (C-)

I had hoped that the five-year time jump would make this show feel a bit more fresh than before, but sadly, it doesn't appear much has changed. Danielle's return is brief, and Bree makes such an effort to screw up by force-feeding her grandson meat that it's not even a pleasure to watch. Lynette continues to condescend to Tom, though thanks to the manipulations of Dave, perhaps things won't go the same way they usually do. Mrs. McCluskey and Katharine's attempts to get to know the truth behind Dave are a bit forced and awkward, though I still am convinced that Dave is a good character and he's the most promising thing about the show right now. The bullying that Gaby's daughter is doing to Susan's son is slightly funny, but not enough to invigorate this show.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 6 "Cold Ground" (B+)

This show just has a certain intensity about it and the small-town where everyone knows each other setting really works to its advantage. I'm thoroughly impressed with Anna Paquin's acting and her character of Sookie, who sort of goes off the deep end with some anger outbreaks (swearing at the town when she can hear their thoughts, telling off that woman who wants to eat her grandmother's pie). I'm also amused by Bill's work with the police and his slightly condescending tone when he's aware that he's smarter than them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pilot Review: Testees

Testees (FX)
Premiered October 9 at 10:30pm

To say this show is the worst show ever doesn't feel like a stretch. There is not one redeeming thing about this horrendous freak of nature of a show. Starting with that immature title, there shouldn't ever have been any hope for this show. Airing right after "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" suggests that there might be some hidden cleverness or hilarity hidden somewhere in the inanity, but there isn't. Not even a glimmer of it. The two leads are so detestably stupid and the plot so devastatingly agonizing to sit through. Within moments of beginning the show, I couldn't believe it was actually real. These people just have stupid stuff happen to them because they're test subjects. What a loose, dumb idea for a show. And that's not even spoiling the first episode, which I can promise has one of the worst "surprise" endings in the history of life. I'll warn you carefully - don't watch it even if you're curious to see just how bad it is. You'll get stupider.

How will it work as a series? The preview for next week shows them getting gender-reassigned. Completely lame, predictable, and, oh yeah, almost a repeat of this past week's episode. Already, only one week into the show, things are getting cyclical? Unbelievable.
How long will it last? Cable is hard to predict, but if this network renews "Testees" after prematurely canceling "Thief" and "The Riches," I may have to stop watching TV (don't hold me to that, I do like watching TV). But seriously, this show needs to go, and I'm talking mid-week cancellation.

Pilot grade: F--

Pilot Review: Eleventh Hour

Eleventh Hour (CBS)
Premiered October 9 at 10pm

Wouldn't you know it, this show is also based on another British show, which sounds super cool since it stars Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") and Ashley Jensen ("Extras", "Ugly Betty"). I so have to watch that. This, not so much. It's so much bad as boring. I like the fact that instead of being an obnoxious hard-ass, Jacob Hood is just a nice enough guy without the gift of excessive social skills who ultimately gets the job done. And his guardian Rachel is rather funny with her attitude and relationship with Hood. Other than that, there's not much to praise. The plot is sort of thin and unexciting, and while the leads are far better than on "Fringe," I can't see what this show has to offer in the way of invigorating drama.

How will it work as a series? Science case to science case, should be fine. Whether it will be interesting is another question. It's "Fringe" and "The X-Files" but without as much of the sci-fi or the fast-pacedness. I don't believe that will ultimately work, especially because I believe the UK version was a mini-series.
How long will it last? It's well-positioned, right after another semi-scientific show, "CSI," and given the recent full-season pickups for "Fringe" and "The Mentalist," it appears that this may be just the show people want. Millions of people watch "NCIS" every week and this could be a well-seen show that flies similarly under the radar. I'm not sure it has enough power to get to season two, though.

Pilot grade: C

Pilot Review: Life on Mars

Life on Mars (ABC)
Premiered October 9 at 10pm

This is one of those shows where the pilot may not really be a good indicator of how the show will turn out to be. It's very much a setup episode, as heavily touted by the mounds of previews aired before this pilot. I'm fairly certain that I need to give this show a second chance before truly deciding how I feel about it. Jason O'Mara is a strong actor (I really liked him in his recent guest spot as the creepy pyromaniac on "The Closer"), and he'll do a good job of carrying this show. The main problem is that this show may drown in its constant references to all the differences between then and now, like "sell what" and countless others. Once Sam Tyler accepts that's he stuck in the past, this show can go far. Harvey Keitel's a bit ridiculous, but he's funny, and Michael Imperioli should probably shave his mustache soon. I really liked Gretchen Mol, whose disappearing act speech was the high point of the episode.

How will it work as a series? Like a lot of other shows premiering these days, this show is based on a successful British series and therefore has that precedent. As I said, if it lets go of the need to stress differences between 1973 and 2008, I think it should be alright. More thoughts last week.
How long will it last? ABC seems remarkably invested in some of its shows, and I feel like they will stick by this one. Unless it plummets eventually in the ratings, like "Commander-in-Chief," it should do well and may even get a second season like "October Road" or "Notes from the Underbelly." A good time slot and a much better plot than "Big Shots" should take it far.

Pilot grade: C+

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 5, Episode 2 "Business Ethics" (B+)

The office's response to Jim and Pam's engagement, and Michael's subsequent (but predicted by Pam!) tackling of Jim, provides a great start to this episode. "The Office" is particularly strong with its openings, and this one is no exception. I love seeing Michael and Holly running into the meeting together with sweatbands, and though I find Michael's bumbling of every Holly-related situation thoroughly uncomfortable, I do like Michael's ultimate act of support for Holly and that exchanged, knowing glance. Jim and Dwight plotlines are always terrific, and it's nice to see Jim wasting time again keeping track of Dwight who really is not wasting any time. I'm sure this will stand in my memory as one of my favorite moments of the season - Jim talking to Andy about a warped version of "Battlestar Galactica" which he knows will annoy Dwight, with Klingons, Wookies, and Dumbledore Calrissian going to Mordor to find the ring. Oh, and also being a shot-for-shot remake of the original. I get that some of this is obvious (the Dumbledore part), but I don't imagine this is quite as funny to non-BSG fans.

Pilot Review: Kath & Kim

Kath & Kim (NBC)
Premiered October 9 at 8:30pm

I can't comprehend how this show went so wrong. It's based on a wildly successful Australian series, and stars two talented comediennes. Therefore, I have no explanation for how this show is so terrible. I did laugh a few times, but it's horrendously uneven. The show resolves any awkward conservation or heated argument by reverting to Kath and Kim as best friends who like to gossip with each other rather than mother and daughter. Molly Shannon is so wonderfully energetic and neurotically composed at times that it's a shame to see her character go to waste as she becomes quickly unbearable. Selma Blair, doing her best to repeat her "Cruel Intentions" performance without the heavy flirtation, is funny once in a blue moon but irreconcilably irritating for the rest of the show. I'm continually ready to get excited by John Michael Higgins' enthusiasm, recalling some show or movie he was in where he was jumping all around with glee, but I just can't place it. I suppose it says something about the show that this was what I was thinking about for most of it. It's not the worst show ever, but it's pretty damn bad (and unoriginal)!

How will it work as a series? Again, I'll point to the well-liked Australian show, though each of that series' four seasons only has eight episodes, so maybe this material can only go so far. This show is likely to become tired and cyclical within a few episodes.
How long will it last? It's nestled comfortably between NBC's hit comedies "My Name is Earl" and "The Office," and NBC has kept around the struggling but critically acclaimed "30 Rock." I think it did okay with the ratings, but its quality indicates to me that this show will be gone after one season.

Pilot grade: F

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 3 "Crimes of Fashion" (C+)

It doesn't seem entirely necessary to devote an entire episode to solving a mystery that could easily have been summed up in a single scene. "Ugly Betty" has already done this, and to much better effect, in the show's first season when Wilhelmina was interrogating Betty, Marc, and Amanda to find out which one of them blabbed about Mode's upcoming shoot plans and they framed someone else. We do of course have that tremendous bombshell at the end of the episode, that Alexis is actually Daniel Jr.'s father, not Daniel. Shouldn't ultimately make much of a difference, but Daniel is going to be extremely upset and if Alexis is headed off to jail, might Daniel Jr. be shipped back to France and Daniel headed toward another depression?

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 4 "Instinct" (C)

Okay, so things here are good except for the central plot. I could have told you that it would be a lame idea to have a sex-hungry being searching for a compatible celestial mate, and I also think that "Smallville" has tried something like that in past years. Other than that, though, the assertion of Clark and Lois' future relationship serves as a positive development for the show, as well as finally some closure for Chloe and Jimmy and the elephant in their relationship also known as Clark. Tess still strikes me as a bit much of an eternally present and omnipotent manipulator, but she's a decent character. Where are Sam Witwer and Justin Hartley! Bring them back and this show can be great again!

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 2 "The Family Lawyer" (B)

Who didn't see that coming? Nick as Tripp's pick, making every single person jealous? It was painful to watch Brian actually stand up, though he was rather graceful and subtle about sitting down quickly and applauding. In a sense, the selection of Nick highlights one of the strengths of this show - its refusal to pick any of the Darling children as a favorite or a lead (least of all the absent Juliet). Nick's wife has gone back to being uninteresting, while Blair Underwood's character has just gotten sketchier. I'd like to see a bit more action here rather than simply setup for the remainder of the season.

What I'm Watching: Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies: Season 2, Episode 2 "Circus Circus" (B+)

I'm really liking a lot of the relationships on this show. I love seeing Emerson with his pop-up crime book, and delving deeper into the story of his missing daughter is an interesting route for the show to take. Ned and Chuck's constantly changing interaction is wonderful to watch, especially their fresh start. I like whenever Chuck is placed in a situation where she has to hide from her aunts but still communicate with them. I'm still not certain why Olive is still at the nunnery, but I'm hoping that's only temporary. A dozen dead clowns in a car can only keep things going for so long.

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 6 "Animal Control" (B+)

Wow. I can't get over these endings. First of all, this episode was so tight in its direction and execution. I was nervous that Vic's plan to sell out Shane would result in some really bad stuff going down as well as the whole situation being dragged out for a number of episodes. Luckily, this was an incredibly intense hour which actually wrapped things up with a dead Rezian and a whole new problem for the team. Shane realizing that Vic set him up and stealing the money Rezian was going to use to buy the burn box is a terrific new twist which is really going to fuel the rest of the season. I know that I keep talking about how exciting things are going to be and some might argue that they're already here, and I think that's partially true. Dutch getting exasperated and telling Billings that he really does need his help is one great thing. Claudette getting even angrier, especially her scene yelling at Ronnie, is wonderful proof of CCH Pounder's excellent skill and why she really needs to get nominated for (and win!) another Emmy this year.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 3 "Capitol Offense" (B+)

I like this kind of "NCIS" episode where Gibbs has a personal connection to the case that doesn't ultimately ruin his objectivity. Additionally, Abby has a small subplot that luckily doesn't involve a furry animal but does add a good deal of fun humor which isn't distracting. It's cool that this isn't your typical resolution, where the culprit is actually a good guy who's not guilty of the initial murder, but eventually ends up implicating himself in a cover-up murder. Great use of the cast here, especially lead performer Mark Harmon.

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 7 "Hollywood Forever" (F)

I feel like this kind of show always has a themed episode like this where all the characters get together for a big event. I do feel like I'm repeating myself because, well, so is this show. Dixon appears not to have been reprimanded at all for his punching that guy in the face last episode, but he so easily gets himself into trouble straightaway for falling asleep past his curfew while watching horror movies with Silver. I'm dismayed by Silver's sudden character change - she wouldn't have a big blowout birthday bash because she doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and certainly wouldn't made a big deal about a birthday of all things. I think it's a ridiculous, stupid notion to have an undercover cop trying to make a drug bust, and worst still to have eternal high school girl Jessica Lucas (of "life as we know it" fame, though she broke out of that briefly by playing a twentysomething in "Cloverfield") playing her. This show is aimless and awful.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 2, Episode 4 "I Am Become Death" (C)

Okay, hold on a sec. In the current future, Sylar, the only one truly bad guy on this entire show, is the lone good guy, and everyone, including optimist Claire and jokester Daphne are bad guys? And somehow Peter is an even badder guy? I understand the idea that this season is all about villains, but this just doesn't make sense. This world is way too small, with Daphne and Parkman getting together, and Nathan so easily making it to the White House with Tracy in tow. It's an intriguing future, but there's just so much disconnect and so much missing here. Peter taking Sylar's powers is a bit of an unnecessary leap, especially since, as I've said any times before, he is so powerful and I wish that the writers would run with that rather than making him seem weak. I do have serious doubts that Sylar, or rather Gabriel, would ever greet Peter like they're best friends. Even if Sylar somehow miraculous repents and reforms, Peter would never love him like a brother - maybe tolerate him, but never like him. I agree with Myles on the note that "Heroes" really shouldn't be flashing to the future so much. It needs first to establish its presence in the present and get its things in order before relying on the future all the time. All I know is that this series has done irreparable damage to science fiction ideas of the time-space continuum. The return of Adam wasn't a surprise for me, especially since he was for some reason credited in last week's episode as a special guest star. I wouldn't be shocked if he was pardoned just as quickly as Sylar and started working with the Company. I do think that might actually be a good way to go since Adam was a semi-decent character and having actual villains in the show rather than heroes pretending to villains in the future might do everyone some good.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 7 "Five the Hard Way" (F)

My roommate asked me while I was watching this, "Where's the prison?" I wasn't going to harp on that point again in this review, but I figured it was worth mentioning. You might think I'd have had an answer for him as an actual viewer of the show, but alas, no such luck. This show is now on a whole new path, and it would be enjoyable if not for its absolute inane plotting. It's another fun day trip in disguise to Las Vegas, and there always has to be some obstacle/ticking clock permitting them from getting the card. And Roland really feels the need to tempt fate by cheating at a slot machine with the device he's using to cheat right in front of him? I don't buy it. Lincoln has some serious anger issues to work out, and his only useful dialogue in this episode is to reveal that the life expectancy of Scofield nosebleeders is 31. The gang looks like it will all be working together once again, with T-Bag and Gretchen added to the repertoire, all due to this show's fondness for having characters following characters following characters (in this case, Gretchen following Mahone following T-Bag, just like in season two when Lincoln was following Mahone who was following Michael, or whatever. I've lost track). I'm rolling my eyes and getting tired just thinking about it.

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 2 "Chuck Versus the Seduction" (B+)

This turned out to be a pretty good episode, though I do have some qualms about what could have been. First off, much as some of Chuck's seduction technique was pretty clever, that could have been taken further. Secondly, Melinda Clarke plays a wonderfully hilarious character type (Julie Cooper on "The O.C." being the best instance), and here her performance is masked by a deafening and unexciting foreign accent. Thirdly, multiple Emmy winner John Laroquette should have been infinitely funnier. He wasn't nearly as one-note as Tim Conway on "30 Rock" (who so undeservedly won an Emmy for his guest spot), but I've seen him be hilarious on "Boston Legal" and I don't even like that show. Regardless, even with all these follies, the episode still comes out well mostly due to Sarah and Chuck's true passion, all the Buy More employees coming to work in regular clothes, and the ultimately happy resolution of the show. Now as far as Bryce Larkin is concerned - that guy just never goes away, does he?

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 2 "The Great Ashby" (B+)

So I do like this show a lot, but I'm appalled at the crazy direction it's taken. I'm speaking specifically about Charlie and Marcy. Watching Charlie watch himself masturbating intensely at every possible moment is both troubling and amusing. The two of them really are crazy, but I'm glad that a lot of the focus is on them now. Carla Gallo's guest appearance as Marcy's porn actress massage patient was all too brief, but I'm rather excited about another recurring guest star whose role just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Callum Keith Rennie, a.k.a. Leoben from "Battlestar Galactica," is Hank's new friend who may just help reboot both his and Charlie's career, and I'm excited to see more of him. Currently things are in a state of panic, and while I said last week that I worried about things becoming too normalized, I'd be happy to see everyone's lives return to relative stability soon.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 5 "Tree Trippers" (C+)

It really starts to show that you've got nowhere to go when everyone spends an entire episode out in the wilderness getting high on mushrooms. I'm still wary of criticizing it too much since it's not altogether unenjoyable. Eric Roberts seems to be the go-to deadbeat guest star (he was a short-lived Company man on "Heroes" and Shane's trouble-causing dad on "The L Word"). I'm only really interested here in Ari's hallucinogenic trip, though as "Heroes" has proved, sending characters out on thought-provoking journeys is always a potential risk. I am thrilled that Lloyd features prominently in this episode, though I do wish we would have gotten to see his run-in with Mrs. Ari.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 9 "The Inheritance" (B+)

It's quite interesting to get a peek into each of the characters' family lives, in this case Betty and Pete and their respective parents. I'm fascinated by the way things now work at the office with Roger, who seems especially lonely and like has he nothing to do and no one to talk to. The scene where he comes in and interrupts Joan and Don with nothing to actually say epitomizes this new setup. It's rather harsh the way Don simply bumps Paul from his trip to Los Angeles just so that he can get away for a bit. Only two more episodes from this season - I'm hoping to see more of the inner workings at the office as well as some of the supporting characters, like Sal and Peggy.

Pilot Review: Easy Money

Easy Money (CW)
Premiered October 4 at 9pm

To say this show is just not interesting is probably the best way to describe it. It comes off as a lesser version of "Sons of Anarchy," loan sharks who run everything in the town, except in this show there's no motorcycle club. The characters are uniformly one-note and not one of them stuck with me. Airing right after "Valentine," this show couldn't possibly be as bad, but it doesn't improve terribly upon its lead-in. Casting Jeff Hephner, Sandy's one-time protege on "The O.C." as the lead here doesn't do the show any favors, and I couldn't even recognize Laurie Metcalf, and now that I do, I'm convinced her talents are not being served here. And then there's the always terrible Jay R. Ferguson, whose previous credits include the abysmal "Glory Days" and "Surface" (he did hit a career high with an acceptable arc on "Sleeper Cell"), whose casting as the token underachiever just makes the show such anymore. Plain and simple, there's nothing remotely good about this show, and I lost interest way too early to give it another shot.

How will it work as a series? Well, supposedly there's some kind of story here, but it should be difficult enough to get into considering the unbreachable nature of the pilot.
How long will it last? It got horrific ratings, as did lead-in "Valentine," but I know that Sunday night programming isn't quite fully in the hands of CW. It could survive longer than "Valentine," but I doubt it will still be around come January.

Pilot grade: F

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 2 "Finding Freebo" (B+)

Dexter is awesome. He manages to find Freebo, get caught, and still come out ahead with a new friend permanently indebted to him and willing to go to any lengths to protect him. That's really the height of the excitement in this episode, but it's well worth it. Dexter's always fascinating when he has friends in high places. Dexter and Rita listing the pros and cons of having a child together is great, and I'm very happy with her decision to have the child and give Dexter the option of being a part of its life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 2 "We're So Happy You're So Happy" (C)

Things are becoming dangerously cyclical once again here. In other cases, they're just plain uninteresting. Gaby's deliberate attempt to get herself into a sticky situation results in an uncomfortable and embarrassing result she never should have been in the first place. Lynette's Facebook clone scandal is so painfully obvious in its eventual outcome from the start that it's not even remotely fun to watch. Mike's run-in with Jackson is fun the first time around, but tires quickly, and just goes to show that Jackson is very much a waste of space. I don't know why they're making Orson into such a control freak, as I've always thought he was actually more of the "nice guy" type so well epitomized by Tom. The plotline I do approve of, even if it's proceeding along a bit questionably, is Dave's continuing activities on Wisteria Lane. It's cool that Mrs. McCluskey is enlisting Katharine's help to look stuff up on him - that could go somewhere good.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 5 "Sparks Fly Out" (B+)

Now here's an example of a well-crafted, far more focused episode of this show. Until this point, I haven't been completely convinced by the installments, but this one is pretty terrific. Instead of sending Jason on another pointless sexcapade, he gets super high and the effects are interesting to watch. I really enjoyed the town meeting and seeing everyone's varied reaction to Bill speaking. I'm not traditionally a fan of flashbacks to old war times (it really bothered me on "New Amsterdam"), but it works very well here. Watching Bill long for his family and get tricked by that vampire is heartbreaking and at the same time very effective. I worried for a bit that he might be a one-note character, but it's clear now that he's not. I was pretty shocked and generally dismayed by the end of the episode, as Gran was pretty much the only truly sweet and kind character on the show. She'll be missed, and I have to note that her death helps the death rate on this show approach the likes of "24" and "Prison Break," considering the number of dead bodies each episode.

Pilot Review: Valentine

Valentine (CW)
Premiered October 5 at 8pm

Do not watch this show. I can't stress that enough. There is absolutely nothing remotely rewarding about it. Within minutes, I was confident (and this was reassured throughout the rest of this episode), that this show belongs to a special class of awfulness which also includes the likes of "Cavemen," "Lipstick Jungle," and "One Tree Hill." It's the most ludicrous premise I've ever seen, and attempts to use guns that spit out cupid juice and real-life bows and arrows as desperate homages to cupid myths are embarrassing. Jaime Murray, good for just a bit on "Dexter" last season, is a good fit for the role as the leading love goddess, but she's absolutely ridiculous. Kristoffer Palaha, whose resume includes such misses as "North Shore" and "South Beach," is a waste of space, plain and simple. Much as I'd love to watch Autumn Reeser on a weekly basis, this show is so abysmally dreadful it's completely unbearable. Don't get curious because what I've said and go watch it - I promise it's a terrible idea.

How will it work as a series? This episode felt dreadfully self-contained in its predictability and sappy ending. It's a very week-to-week kind of show in its conception, as far as the rather uninventive notion of helping soulmates find their ways to each other. Will it get old quick? Yes. Dreadfully so.
How long will it last? I can't predict how well the numbers were, but I know that this night of programming isn't quite being run by the CW so there may be different rules at play here. I think it will be gone before the end of the season, and for any casual television viewer's sake, I hope so.

Pilot grade: F-

Pilot Review: The Ex List

The Ex List (CBS)
Premiered October 3 at 9pm

I'll admit that this is a clever premise, adapted from an apparently brilliant Israeli series. It could be a more joyous and quality version of "My Name is Earl," with a decidedly different twist. As such, this first episode does an appropriate job setting things up. My problems with the show don't lie so much with its plot as with its characters. Elizabeth Reaser, recently an Emmy nominee for her guest appearance on "Grey's Anatomy," and also the lead in the highly underseen and underrated "Puccini for Beginners," is the star here. She's really not a very likable character - her neurosis pervades any hope of her becoming a compelling lead figure. She's just too annoying, and it's nearly impossible to sympathize with her and her quest. I couldn't honestly care less about whether she finds the man of her dreams. Additionally, subplots about roommate Vivian's pubic hair were not funny at all and I think they were supposed to be. This show could work, but right now it just doesn't have a leg to stand on.

How will it work as a series? The Israeli version only lasted eleven episodes, if I'm correct, so that doesn't exactly bode well for the life of this show. Then again, the British version of "The Office" was only twelve episodes and the American version is healthily entering its fifth seasons. "My Name is Earl" seems like it could keep going for years, and as long as this show doesn't try to have Bella settle down too quickly, it should be good for a while.
How long will it last? I've read that the numbers weren't much better than the canceled "Moonlight" which used to occupy the same time slot. It is nicely nested within CBS' Friday-night lineup, in between the uber-successful "Ghost Whisperer" and "Numb3rs." Will this appeal to the same crowd? Possibly, but I think it's a season and out here.

Pilot grade: C-

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pilot Review: Sanctuary

Sanctuary (SciFi)
Premiered October 3 at 9pm

This show was heavily profiled in the SciFi magazine fall preview I happened to pick up a month or so ago, and they seemed to be looking rather forward to it. As a sci-fi fan myself, I thought perhaps it might be a good idea to look into it. What it is, as it turns out, is somewhat of an ineffective hybrid of the very poor "Charlie Jade" and the cult sensation "Supernatural." In many ways, it's actually just another version of "Fringe," especially since lead actor Robin Dunne seems to follow in Joshua Jackson's footsteps, appearing as the lead in both "Cruel Intentions 2" and "The Skulls II," both not quite released in theatres. Dunne's actually okay for the role, and that's actually one of the better things about the show. Obviously the token unbelieving cop sucks, but Christopher Heyerdahl makes for a great villain (he has the look and the voice), and Amanda Tapping is a decent mentor. I'd need to warm up to Emilie Ullerup, since she seems a bit annoying at the moment, as does the groundskeeper/cleanup character, or whatever his function is. The show is intent on highlighting its creatures, but its obsession with being dark and mythic is what drags it down. It's dying to be a cult hit, and I'm not sure that's a recipe for success. I'm by no means decrying individualism, but it's just not successful or terribly interesting. I'm not sure why I watched both hours, but the dialogue just got worse and the show got more boring. I can't really stand much more of it.

How will it work as a series? Week-to-week, things should work out pretty well, since it's mostly a "freak-of-the-week" show a la "X-Files," "Smallville," or "Fringe." It does have that undercurrent of Druitt as the recurring villain and Ashley's father, so that should help it along. Basically, anyone who watched and liked this pilot episode should have no trouble getting fully behind this series.
How long will it last? SciFi is often kind to its shows, at least for a while, looking specifically at "Eureka" and "Battlestar Galactica." I think at least a season is in store for this show, but beyond that, this show could go the way of "The Dresden Files" and "Painkiller Jane."

Pilot grade: D+

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 2 "Filing for the Enemy" (B)

First of all, very clever title for this episode. This show really always does have clever titles, I just haven't noticed because this is my first time watching the season live. I'm glad things are finally back as they should be, and I'm impressed by the depth of Marc's character, even if his depth is really just sort of self-interested shallowness. I'm still annoyed that Amanda has barely been in this season, though I love her and Marc's fawning over Coach Diaz. Having Daniel back in control over Mode should be great, since this show is at its best when Daniel and Betty are working side-by-side effectively. I wonder what's next for Wilhelmina (the launch of Slater 2?), although I'd be more intrigued if she was the one who pushed Christina down the stairs so as to assert some claim that Claire tried to oust her by force. I don't think it was Claire who pushed Christina, though when she told Wilhelmina that she has no idea how far she'd go to protect her family, all I could think of was, check your brakes before you get in the car.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 3 "Toxic" (B-)

The preview for this episode had me doubting its relevance to the show, with Green Arrow's beginning being realized. Instead, it sort of worked well, but I sort of wish that his whole transformation into expert marksman had been showcased a bit more. I also hope that this isn't the last we'll hear of Tess and Oliver's relationship. I'd like to know why they ended up breaking things off. Was anyone else reminded of the "Paolo lies"/"Paralyzed" Niki/Paolo episode of "Lost" by this one, especially with Oliver's blurting out of "Mercy" when he meant Tess Mercer? I like the ragtag band of Chloe, Lois, Clark, and Davis working in secret to save Oliver, and I hope that this in indicative of the future of this show, and we can look forward to less hokey setups and more collective teamwork from a newly impressive cast.

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money (Season Premiere)

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 1 "The Birthday Present" (B+)

It's so fun to have this wacky family back, even if they might be missing one of their more outlandish members in Samaire Armstrong. No worries though, the rest of them can make up for it well. I was pretty surprised by the demise of Ellen, though I suppose that's a long time coming. Her revelation, however, that Patrick will never find Carmelita, is both troubling and possibly refreshing. What will Patrick do now, with both women in his life gone? I'm amused by Clark's complicity in everything, and his dry reaction to the Darling properties going up in flames. I'm glad that this whole Jeremy/Lisa thing got to where it did and then is now over. I continue to have to accept the fact that Nick George will never be Nate Fisher, and that Nick could never throw a punch as well as Nate. Alas, the Simon-Karen affair is intriguing, especially considering how duplicitous both of them are. I did love Karen's speedy stripping for Nick as a birthday present. The opening/final scene is ridiculous in so many ways - they're just itching for ways to spend lavish amounts of money, and you have to guess which one of the Darlings is being arrested, and for what crime. I seriously doubt that Letitia had anything to do with Dutch's death, but I suppose we'll find out in time.

What I'm Watching: Gary Unmarried

I'm covering this show on a weekly basis for a reviewing course I'm taking. I'll copy my thoughts onto this blog every week as well.

Gary Unmarried: Season 1, Episode 2 "Gary Gets Boundaries" (C-)

In its second installment, "Gary Unmarried" offers more of the same kind of comedy it did in its first attempt, but little of the promise. Jay Mohr seems determined to shout all of his lines, and it doesn’t make him a terribly compelling character. The biggest disappointment of the episode is its clich├ęd setup. Painter Gary finds that his back can’t keep up with the furious amounts of sex he and his new girlfriend are having. Instead of telling her that, as a normal person might do, he spends the length of the episode attempting to find ways to hide his debilitating pain, turning even to his ex-wife rather than his girlfriend so as to feel like more of a man in the sack. The chemistry between Mohr and Jaime King does work very well, and it’s perhaps the show’s greatest asset. Paula Marshall, despite overdoing it a bit, does provide an amusing eternal antagonist to the selfish but well-intending Gary as his ex-wife. The marriage therapist played by Ed Begley Jr. is a character who shouldn’t really be a series regular because he has no business appearing in every episode, but the people behind the show are clearly wise enough to realize that keeping Begley around is in everyone’s best interest. He’s by far the best, and also the funniest, actor on the show. What’s most jarring about this episode is the sudden replacement of the actress who plays Gary’s daughter. I noted two weeks ago before the show’s premiere that Laura Marano’s role has been recast and Gary’s daughter Louise would now be played by Kathryn Newton. I was surprised to note that Marano was in fact in last week’s episode, and now Newton has taken over the part. Her hair color has changed, but her screen time has not. The actress switch is not acknowledged in the episode. It seems like most of the focus on Gary’s offspring will be on his son Tom, who continues to have plotlines which put him in sexual situations way over his head (this time, his girlfriend needs to be on top of him at all times). The show bears a striking resemblance to fellow CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men," which relishes in sexual humor which is just barely allowable on network television. Gary Unmarried isn’t nearly as crude as "Two and a Half Men," but with a few more subtle comments about Gary’s son “getting hand,” it may just get there.

What I'm Watching: Pushing Daisies (Season Premiere)

Pushing Daisies: Season 2, Episode 1 "Bzzzzzz!" (B+)

I'll give this episode a good grade but note importantly that Olive being at a nunnery is just plain weird. I have no idea where the writers are going there. Yes, it does provide its share of funny moments - Olive singing like in "The Sound of Music" and being shhhed by nuns, confusing "the porter" with "the poor," and yelling at Lily for confessing yet another secret, but otherwise, it's just bizarre. I don't get it. Back at the Pie Hole, things are business as usual, which is a good thing, and it's nice to see everyone back again, especially Emerson, who I do love as a character. I'm very glad this show is back, and I'm looking forward to getting back into it and seeing it develop past its short nine-episode season from last year.

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 5 "Game Face" (B+)

Claudette yelling at people is one of the reasons I love CCH Pounder as an actress. I'm really hoping that this final season can come through and score some Emmy nominations, because a measly six nominations over six years is pretty pathetic, especially for what I consider the best show I've ever seen (the commonly considered best show ever did of course only manage two nods in its five-year history, and "The Shield" managed to win an Emmy in its first year for Michael Chiklis). I'm happy to see Danny being let in on Claudette's illness, and also to see Julien really getting to be part of the Strike Team. Seeing him smile when Vic and the others busted in on him and the fake robbers was shocking - I'm not sure I've ever seen him smile liek that. The real kicker here is of course the awesome ending, which this show really succeeds in doing so well. After realizing that Olivia might not be able to be trusted, he confronts her, only to have her admit that she's in too deep. "You've come to the right guy" - wow, I love this show.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 2 "Agent Afloat" (B)

It's fun to see Tony take the lead, especially since he was hardly in last week's episode. His comic relief is best utilized when he's actually doing something helpful, as is the case here. I'm always a fan of seeing Chris Mulkey in a powerful guest spot (anyone who doesn't know who he is, watch the second season of "Sleeper Cell" - he's terrific), though of course his part isn't really played up here. Then again, it's rare that guest actors ever really get a big spot on this show unless they're actually the ones who committed the crime. In any case, it's good to have the team all back together, and I'm looking forward to getting back into gear now that the season-beginning problems have been resolved.

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 6 "Model Behavior" (F)

One of my favorite things about shows like this, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, is how all the characters can end up in exactly the same place pretty much the whole time. It's so utterly preposterous. I'm unconvinced by Silver's sudden decision that she might actually want to be a model, and I seriously doubt that someone who is a guidance counselor would allow her teenage sister to live in a house all by herself, unsupervised. That girl is going to throw parties up the wazoo. And everyone is going to be there, because of course they are. Annie's befriending of Adriana is just as forced as Dixon coming onto Silver, and Adriana's inevitable confession about Ty seems completely out of character. I suppose it's for the best that Ty is now out of the picture - anyone and everyone is rooting for Annie and Ethan, right? Naomi's frequent meddling with her parents' relationship is proof of why shows like this (I'm talking specifically about the worst show on television here, "One Tree Hill") should not focus on the parents. It's just not interesting; that's not what this show should be about. Then again, Shannon Doherty and Jennie Garth sort of straddle the generation gap. And without parents, we wouldn't get to see Dixon punching anyone in the face, channeling the brooding star of a former great television show.

Checking In: Life (Season Premiere)

Life: Season 2, Episode 1 "Find Your Happy Place" (F)

Like fellow sophomore NBC drama "Lipstick Jungle," I watched the pilot of "Life" and found it utterly uninteresting and truthfully a terrible show. Oddly enough, this show actually got rave reviews from some and earned a full season rather quickly, unlike "Jungle," which was more of a surprise pickup. In any case, like "Jungle," this show is no better than it was the first time around. Sarah Shahi, so terrific as Carmen on "The L Word," is absolutely wasted as Crews' partner Reese. Casting Noel Fisher as a suspect is a dead giveaway - obviously he did it. The show just isn't clever to make it stand out in any way from all the "Law & Order" franchise shows, and Crews' investigation into how framed him is still going on? The most bizarre thing to me is the addition of Donal Logue as a series regular. The guy is known for his comedy, and was one of the reasons "The Knights of Prosperity" was actually funny. He is totally miscast here, and his scene telling Reese that he'd like to have someone like her in his life one day and then taking it back is painful at best. I will not be checking back in with this show anytime soon.

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 3, Episode 3 "One of Us, One of Them" (C)

Someone explain this to me. How did Sylar go from being a cold-blooded serial killer who tried to cut open Claire's head one second to a well-dressed official agent for the Company the next? Did I miss something? Despite the obvious gap in logic, the result was sort of cool, watching him really enjoy putting on a fake accent and then coming in and saving HRG. That was also a pretty funny moment, especially for any HRG haters, when he said "Thanks, Peter" and Jesse was like "Peter's not here anymore." Oh boy. I was so excited that Mohinder wasn't in the episode, and my bliss didn't even register until I heard his voice narrating the closing scene. Not-Niki is just as weird a character as the original one, and I guess she has to be better than her look-alike counterpart. Gotta love Micah, showing off how awesome he is. It looks as if Elle won't be on the show anymore, which sucks, and we'll have to sit through Parkman wandering through the desert. Claire's training with her mother should prove interesting, and I am ultimately glad that Sylar is working with the good guys, even if HRG is plotting to kill him. Did anyone else notice that the Haitian really is everywhere? "My powers aren't working - Oh look! There's the Haitian!"

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 6 "Blow Out" (F)

It's a day at the races! Every single one of this motley crew looks positively ridiculous in their brightly colored hats and supposed disguises. I'm most consistently astounded by Sara's sudden terrific acting skills that she never possessed back in Fox River (I was about to say Sona - too many prisons to keep track of on this show. Except of course for now, where this is no prison). Having a show rely on a computer screen get to 100% every episode is quite the paper-thin premise, but then again, "Prison Break" loves doing that kind of thing. I don't like the idea of trying to make Gretchen sympathetic, and I don't really care that she has a child she had to give to her daughter for her to take care of. The ending scene did make me laugh out loud though, T-Bag running out of his office only to be knocked out by Gretchen, who asks the only appropriate question: "Who the hell are you?"

What I'm Watching: Chuck (Season Premiere)

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 1 "Chuck Versus the First Date" (B+)

I saw this episode a few weeks ago at NBC's Fall Preview Party at the Paley Center for Media and I absolutely loved it. I didn't get the chance to watch it again, but it's still fresh in my mind. I noted a lot last year that one of the reasons "Chuck" is so much more effective than the somewhat similar "Reaper" is that people actually like Chuck. They realize he's good at what he does, and even a bitter, cold-hearted agent like Casey can grow to love him. Season two is a perfect return to the awesome nature of the season one premiere and its closing episodes. I love his chemistry with Sarah, and the fact that they do actually profess their feelings for each other. The real date was nice, even if it was interrupted by a certain someone. Casey's rotating target board was hilarious, especially with Ronald Reagan popping up. This show blends comedy and drama so well, as evidenced by Chuck calling Morgan and asking him to describe the video game takedown plan. Morgan and the whole Buy More craziness I'm not so into, but I think I can get around it with the rest of this fantastic show.

What I'm Watching: Californication (Season Premiere)

Californication: Season 2, Episode 1 "Slip of the Tongue" (B+)

Here it is, the return of last year's most underrated and Emmy-snubbed new comedy! And what a terrific return it is, successfully addressing the question of what's next for Hank Moody. With him finally happy and with the girl of his dreams, would there be nowhere left to go? Luckily, that's not the case. His vasectomy is a funny plotline and the way he interacts with both his daughter and that jailbait daughter of Bill's. He does of course manage to get himself into the usual sort of trouble when he accidentally starts going down on the wrong woman, but what else is new? The epitome of the greatness of this show is evidenced by its closing scene. Hank and Karen get pulled over, and she manages to note that he's high and that he's been drinking all while sort of trying to defend him. And of course, since things can never end well for Hank, he gets hit right in the vasectomy at the end of the episode. What a terrific show, bring on the rest of the episodes.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 4 "Fire Sale" (B-)

At this point, I'm starting to lose faith in this show. It's meandering out of control, and much as I like to see E working with his own clients and really building a reputation for himself, I'd much rather it wasn't so boring. Drama's appearance on "The View" brings no real surprises - I long for the days when he was asking someone whether their calves were real or trying to get into a medical marijuana club just to get the trucker hat. That's not to say that this show is incapable of being rescued - it's far from that. It just needs a little more fine-tuning, and a quickening of the pace. More Ari is also never a bad thing, and along those same lines, let's see more of Lloyd! He's awesome.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 9 "Six Month Leave" (B+)

It was weird to take a week off from this show because at the pace this show proceeds, it feels like an eternity. I've come to accept that as good thing, however, since this episode really does a great job of sucking you in. Freddy Rumsen to this point had been a very rarely seen character, and like Vito Spatafore or especially Eugene Pontecorvo on "The Sopranos," was never really a major player until just before his demise. This episode and the back-door casino do make it feel like Roger and Don are taking Freddy to his execution, and that idea is epitomized when Freddy says "Goodbye, Don" in response to Don's "Goodnight, Freddy." And the best thing here is that it's not a true loss that will be felt by the show. Not that Freddy's appearances weren't funny and impressive, but by making such a big deal out of a minor character affords the show the opportunity to capitalize on an intriguing plotline without having to say goodbye to one of its main players ("The L Word" would have remained a lot stronger had it not killed off its best character and had instead introduced a minor character to undergo that same storyline). Obviously Freddy is the center of the episode, but it's also fascinating to watch Pete and Peggy work their way to the top, and Betty unfolding at home. And then of course we have that capper - Roger leaving his wife for the secretary and telling his wife it's because Don told him to do what he wanted. A pretty intense and unexpected moment that should have major repercussions next week. Always a terrific closing moment to each episode of this show.

What I'm Watching: Dexter (Season Premiere)

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 1 "Our Father" (B+)

First off, what a great title. So appropriate to the theme of this episode. "Dexter" has always been good about that though. It's great to have America's favorite serial killer back, especially because now he's not so much of an avenging angel as an accidental cold-blooded murderer. I'm always impressed by how "Dexter" manages to quickly integrate its season-long case right at the beginning, be it the Ice Truck Killer, the Bay Harbor Butcher, or in this case, Dexter's own self-searching about what he's going to do now that he's killed an innocent man. I'm happy to see the cast interacting, whether it's Masuka excitedly showing Dexter his report on the Bay Harbor Butcher, Angel telling Deb she's off the case, or any other great scenes, with hopefully more to come. Jimmy Smits is a good addition to the cast, and I'll admit that I froze up when he asked what Dexter was doing looking into his brother's file. Smits is a good actor that way - he's quiet and nice, but pops up unsuspectingly at the right moment. Dexter did of course handle that moment, with another incredible performance from Michael C. Hall. Can't wait for next week's episode.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives (Season Premiere)

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 1 "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" (C+)

Welcome back to Wisteria Lane! When we last left our friends the housewives, things weren't going so well for the show and it sort of sucked a lot. After a five-year time leap, things are looking a bit better, though I'm not convinced they'll stay that way. The show is still obsessed with arcing every episode so that each character has some humorous obstacle in their way which ends in their taking it seriously and realizing something about their lives (and in Gaby and Susan crying, Lynette and Tom bonding, and Bree stammering). That device used to work marvelously (I may just have to go back to watch season one to remember how great this show used to be), but it's becoming rather tired. Gaby with kids is a nice change, but she's still the same selfish brat who needs to grow up. That's the main problem here - the characters haven't really changed. After five years, pretty much everything is the same. The storyline I think I'm most impressed with is Lynette's family, which is a shock considering I usually detest her, but having the kids all grown up and still delinquent should make for some less serious and effective humor (case in point: giving them Tom's car and then him kicking off the already-broken mirror). Susan's whole relationship with the obnoxious painter doesn't do it for me. I don't need to see him on the show; he's not a good character. I hope to see more of her fight with Mike and to really get inside that breakup. I hope that wasn't all of it this episode. Bree and Katharine seriously need new storylines - this was just a rehash of last season. Lastly, I'd like to warmly welcome new cast member Neal McDonough, who gave one of the best performances I've ever seen on NBC's short-lived "Boomtown" a few years ago (buy it from Amazon - it should be on sale for under $20). His introduction was fierce and awesome, counting down to make that guy move out of his house. He always has inner demons, but his uncontrollable rage does seem like a bit of a bizarre mystery. I'm assuming that is this season's token mystery, so I guess the big secret is who he wants to kill. Any guesses? I say it's Katharine.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 4 "Escape from Dragon House" (B)

So, here's the thing with this show. For every uneven part of an episode, or aspect that doesn't work entirely well, there's something utterly incredible to make up for it. The moment I'm talking about this week is the closing scene, where Bill and Sookie get pulled over by a cop. It goes from a generic plot device that could have just been a repetitive scene of vampire discrimination. Instead the subdued Stephen Moyer turns it into something astounding. Just to watch the cop's face as Bill starts talking down to him and tells him that he's 100 years younger than him is amazing. The music here is so pitch-perfect and haunting it's hard even to describe. Watch the clip I'm talking about here if you haven't seen it. It's great. This show has a lot of promise in it, and I'm looking forward to more quality scenes like this.