Friday, November 21, 2008

TV with Abe On Hiatus

I've been frantically watching as many episodes as possible in the midst of a whole lot of schoolwork, and for the moment I've fallen too far behind to catch up. As it happens, I'll be leaving the country for the coming week of Thanksgiving and won't be able to watch any of my regular television series, let alone review them. The week following that will be busy as well, but after that I'll have a chance to start reviewing on a regular basis, just in time for mid-season cliffhangers. I won't be going back to the episodes I neglected to review, but I would like to inform you of six notable television events this coming week which I'll be taping and reviewing once I get back:

1) The 2-hour TV-movie return of "24" a.k.a. "24: Redemption" Sunday on FOX from 8pm-10pm
2) The season finale of HBO's wonderful "True Blood" Sunday from 9pm-10pm
3) The season finale of HBO's so-so-these-days "Entourage" Sunday from 10pm-10:30pm
5) A special holiday episode of "Monk" on Friday on USA from 9pm-10pm
6) A special holiday episode of "Psych" on Friday on USA from 10pm-11pm

Besides that, don't miss episodes of "Dexter," "Californication," "Chuck," "Prison Break," "Heroes," "NCIS," "Pushing Daisies," "Gary Unmarried," and "Dirty Sexy Money" during the coming week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episode 5 "Help!" (B-)

I was glad to see Mary-Kate Olsen as a guest star here since she was extremely impressive on "Weeds" last year. Her role as advertised in the previews looked pretty terrific, and Sam slapping her was especially entertaining-looking because the post-amnesia Sam really is a kind soul and to see her get so fed up with someone, in this case someone truly obnoxious, is amusing. Unfortunately, Olsen's guest turn is remarkably short-lived and makes for a quick chuckle but nothing lasting. That's the impression I'm getting from this show. It seems like a comedy that shouldn't be tied down to a traditional sitcom week-by-week format, focusing instead on the recurring idea of Sam regaining her memory. Instead, it's pretty contrived and each week is so independent from the next that it's hard to keep each week straight and piece them together. I'd like to see a major tightening of this show's story arcs really soon.

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 3, Episode 8 "Villains" (D+)

First of all, that opening credits shot with the "Villains" logo instead of "Heroes" was absolutely preposterous and laughable. This show needs to spend more time grounded in the present because, much as I do love time travel, nothing is being developed by going back in time. The new ground that is being covered is just making way for new characters who weren't around when the show started (Elle, Meredith, Arthur Petrelli) and changing the origins of the heroes to make everything make more sense. Linderman certainly is a completely reworked character, who never would have served Petrelli so blindly (until his betrayal) as he did in this flashback. It's been made clear that Sylar used to be bad, but now is good. They shouldn't try to shift it and make it seem that Sylar was really always good, but he was tricked and manipulated into being bad! I don't know why we're following Meredith and her brother since no one really cares and we already know the Company is corrupt. Bringing back long-gone recurring cast members like Eric Roberts and Rena Sofer is bizarre and nonsensical. Was this supposed to be a trip back to the glory days? It sure feels like treading water because they've got nowhere to go. Villains also need to stop pulling people's heads off; it's just plain ridiculous.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 10 "The Legend" (F)

I'm wondering if perhaps I should apply to be a cop or an FBI agent - it seems that the age criteria is pretty low. With Jessica Lucas posing as a high school student on "90210" and Shannon Lucio (who's not quite as young as she looks, but she'll always be Lindsay from "The O.C." to me) here working for Don Self, it seems that it's pretty darn easy to go deep undercover on what's likely your first assignment. The fact that Lucio's Trishanne is undercover is a bit sticky plot-wise, since Don would have had to know way more than he does to bring her in so early before T-Bag arrived, which she seemed to indicate when she spoke with Self. Sara is a terrible liar and is really dragging down Michael, but what I enjoyed most was the doctor who uttered the obvious, "I know who you are," and still wanted to help Michael. These people are walking around in broad daylight every single day and it's a wonder they haven't been caught yet. This whole operation thing is a bit ridiculous and I'm starting to lose my grip on what's going on. The flashback homages to Bellick are so ludicrous considering how everyone detested Bellick so much at the beginning of the show.

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 6 "Chuck Versus the Ex" (B+)

I wouldn't have imagined Jordana Brewster from "The Fast and the Furious" (they're making a fourth movie with the original cast, by the way) as Chuck's ex-girlfriend, but she's pretty great. I laughed for quite some time at Casey's disguise, complete with a fake hairdo, normally reserved for other cast members. It's often hard to tell who's good and who's bad on this show, and I'm still not quite sure about Jill. She is a fun character to have around though. What I enjoyed most about this episode was oddly enough the Buy More plotline, with new dictator assistant manager Emmett mandating a CPR course, taught by Captain Awesome, where all Morgan, Jeff, and Lester all plan to cheat off Chuck. I love that they forced Jeff to start choking to have Awesome explain how to do CPR, and of course also loved the encounter between Ellie, Awesome, and Morgan when he was holding her underwear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 7 "In a Lonely Place" (B)

I couldn't quite place who she was for a bit, but Justine Bateman was a fantastic guest star as Damien's mother. Each scene with her, Hank, and Damien was incredibly hilarious. On the other side of things, all the Daisy/porn stuff is getting a bit out of hand. The dramatic revelation that Marcy is still addicted to coke should work as a nice turning point for Charlie's out-of-control storyline, but I don't know what will happen with Daisy. I wished at first that she'd be on the show more than she was, but now I'm thinking that what was for a while a nice, unexpected turn of events has turned into a wild, dangerous experiment.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 10 "Seth Green Day" (C+)

Ah, Seth Green. This show chooses certain celebrities to focus on as their real selves. Seth Green is an odd choice and I must say that he was far more relevant and appropriate for the previous episode. While the end of the episode with Seth Green getting punched right before the meeting is somewhat worth it, it's a waste of an episode in the same way that Seth making Eric run around town like an idiot is a waste of his time. Vince needs to be done with "Smokejumpers" right now because it's already old and not funny. Ari continues to be the reason to watch this show, embarrassing Barbara when she refuses to accept Andrew into the company. His scene with all the other women is by far the only great part of this episode. Only two more episodes left this season, and then hopefully season six can start fresh and good.

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 7 "Easy as Pie" (B+)

This episode provides the opportunity to really get inside Miguel Prado's psyche. Up until now, he's been an intriguing character who seemed to sympathize with Dexter's notion of righteous killing. Now, Miguel really lets his anger boil up and lashes out at Dexter when our hero refuses to kill someone he isn't certain is guilty of unforgivable sins. The revelation that she is in fact noble is an important step for the show, and more importantly, something extremely relevant to the relationship between Dexter and Miguel. It had seemed as if they would become an avenging angel duo, but now perhaps they'll more likely keep each other in check. Deb's stupidity and naivete has become too much, as she can't decide who to trust and just keeps shooting her mouth off to anyone who will, or won't, listen. Dexter's final act for Camilla is moving, and she really has been a terrific recurring character for the series. Her telling Dexter that she knows about Rudy and understands Dexter should provide Dexter with appropriate closure. He now has three people in the world who at one point knew what he was (Miguel is the only surviving one), and hopefully that means he'll feel all the more compelled to share his motivations and feelings with Miguel.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 7 "What More Do I Need?" (C-)

We've gone from repetitive to just plain uninteresting. Jackson paints - wow! His moment of actual connection with Susan and that "look she's seen in the mirror" is almost moving, but the rest is just garbage. Porter's more-than-dalliance with Mrs. Schilling is sure to end in her being written out of the show, but the main problem is that they're trying to make him into a major character when we (or at least I) just don't care enough about him to be so actively interested in his life. Isn't there another twin? Porter has been the center of attention now with the Facebook clone incident and now this - where did the other one go? I wish Frances Conroy's character hadn't gone south so immediately and sabotaged Carlos right off, but that would have required her to have been introduced a little more smoothly and probably earlier, before Carlos aroused her. Bree and Orson's impromptu sex scene seems rather out of character for both of them, and of course it's merely a facade to reveal that Katharine is sleeping with Mike, which is a decent development for the show. I, for one, am thrilled that Dave's doctor knows his location now and that he's presumably on his way to come confront Dave and seriously expose whatever devastating secret he's hiding.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 10 "I Don't Wanna Know" (B+)

Things are certainly intensifying. I suppose that Amy murdering Eddie was inevitable, but I would have liked to have that character around for a while. Though Tara is ready to rip her head off, Miss Jeanette does have a great point about Tara's mom being believing she's been cured and changing her ways. I like the idea of Sam as Sookie's protector, and I think eventually she'll fully come around to his shapeshifting ways. The flashbacks to Sam were a nice, unexpected touch, since usually only Sookie gets that kind of treatment. Bill's trial was rather intense, and I was delighted to see Zeljko Ivanek, now a big name after his "Damages" Emmy win, as the presiding judge. I was surprised that his guest turn hadn't been touted since big news was made over his upcoming appearance on "Heroes" this January. He plays great kind-of-evil, and this time was no surprise. The punishment for Bill was perfectly appropriate, something that he hated to do and really makes him regret what he did. Hopefully he'll return home next episode, since I'm dying to find out who the killer is. We almost found out with Sookie's mind-reading flashbacks, and I'd like to see more. I couldn't hope to guess who it was since we seem to be following everyone so closely, and I'm pretty sure it's a major character. My only guess would be Amy, which doesn't make sense because she's not a regular cast member.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 3, Episode 2 "Believe in the Stars" (B)

I do love this show, but when it's a bit too uncontrollably wacky, I hesitate a bit. The fake Oprah bit was sort of cool, but it's the unfocused nature of Liz's hallucinogenic state that's just peculiar. The setup was pretty great, with Jack insisting on Liz taking pills and her sharing her strategy for getting out of jury duty. Tracy and Jenna are both crazy characters, and I think putting them together just makes for too much chaos. The funniest part of this episode was most certainly the fake Olympic games, which are devastatingly hilarious. The essence of Kenneth's character is also wonderfully underlined here with the cable bit.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 5, Episode 6 "Customer Survey" (B+)

Against all odds, Jim and Dwight actually make for a fantastic team when they're truly working together. The humorous mug revelation was really funny, and giving Kelly more to do is always a pleasure. The fake sales call with Michael, Jim, and Dwight was terrific, and a wonderful characteristic of the classic quality of "The Office." My favorite thing here was not the Bluetooths that constantly connected Jim and Pam, but the one marvelous scene it led to: Pam's delighted exclamation of "That's what she said!" three times in a row. The actually serious conversation Jim overheard about Pam's possible future in New York is great drama, but seriously troubling for this fantastic couple.

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 7 "Crush'd" (B-)

Hooray for an episode that features Amanda! While the episode's premise was a bit thin, I do love seeing her on a regular basis and particularly enjoyed the way she dealt with advertising the party. I was a fan of both Henry and Gio, so it will always sadden me to have Betty's heart fluttering over some random musician. Marc's personal life seems to shift in and out of focus, and his mistaken notion to propose to Cliff is sure not to turn out well. The new financial planner at Mode isn't working out quite as well as I had hoped, but hopefully now that everything's out in the open, things will improve. Wilhelmina's bonding moment with Betty towards the end of the episode is yet another example of the true heart of this show: ultimately everyone can empathize with Betty.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 8 "Bloodline" (C)

I can't count the number of times every single character on this show has been possessed, though I'm happy to acknowledge that this isn't the worst time it's been done like this. Part of the reason for that is that this episode involves delving further into the backstory of one Davis Bloome and his dangerous superpowers. I've appreciated the grander focuses of episodes recently, rather than on just one specific plotline, but in this case the only supporting story is the return of Kara, who I'll admit I haven't missed, though her performance in the show's previous season finale was pretty terrific. I'm not sure whether she's sticking around, but considering how the rest of the show has sort of turned around this season, hopefully they can incorporate her and improve her as well.

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 5 "The Verdict" (B)

This episode felt like a wondrous return to the unfettered wackiness of the pilot, which wasn't quite as high in quality but way up there in terms of hilarity. The episode, especially in its final moments, contained two monstrously huge, interconnected revelations: Nola has the ability to get a new job within five minutes, and she's working with Simon to infiltrate and bring down the Darling family. My favorite part of the episode was the interaction between Jeremy and Nick, and I can't describe how funny they are together. Nick's decision to leave Lisa probably won't be permanent, but it really does shake things up a bit. I'm excited to see where things go next.

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 6 "Gary Meets the Gang" (D+)

Given the traditional web of sitcom plotlines, I’m surprised it took Gary this long to meet “the gang.” Why any guy would think it would be a good idea to try to impress all of his girlfriend’s friends without her approval is inexplicable. And yet, Gary goes for it anyway. It seems like he’s trying to be especially obnoxious when he speaks to them, deliberately insulting them and then acting as if he’s too dumb to realize that’s what he was doing. There is one hilarious moment in “Gary Meets the Gang” where Gary’s ex-wife Allison asks him to name some of Vanessa’s friends and he stumbles, blurting out Chandler, Monica, and Joey (an amusing series of references to "Friends" ensues). The joke directly contradicts the previous scene, where Vanessa outlines her friends’ names for Gary, but this is the world of sitcoms where earlier moments are irrelevant if there’s an ample opportunity for comedy. Perhaps tackling "Gary Unmarried" with such severity is a mistake, and a confusion of its genre expectations, but it seems that the show goes for the easiest option and often finds itself luckily coming out on top. As a whole, this episode, like all those before it, is hardly memorable and just another easy-to-categorize typical comedy episode. Most disappointing about "Gary Unmarried" is the waning number of impressive moments per episode, since the premiere’s multiple chuckles have now diminished to an occasional burst of brief hilarity. Gary desperately escaping the discomfort of putting his foot in his mouth in front of Vanessa’s friends leads to his futile attempt to jump out the window, only to be tricked into believing he’s high up when he’s actually only two inches from the ground – that’s slightly funny, but can’t sustain itself long enough to engage a viewer. Shows like "Two and a Half Men" are in fact able to function purely on one-liners and a lack of any attention paid to plot, but that’s a rarity. Charlie Sheen knows that the show he’s on is not "Frasier." It’s hardly quality television, and that’s the beauty of it. Jay Mohr seems blissfully unaware that the show around him isn’t a masterpiece, and both he and the show might benefit from a new perspective. If this comedy wants to go for broke and succeed based off of its dumbness, it should. But it can’t straddle the line between good and bad and expect to do well. "That 70s Show" was never a truly good show, yet it lasted for years because it acknowledged that in the way storylines were crafted and the characters carried themselves. "Gary Unmarried" needs to get with the program and reframe itself under a new lens, or everyone involved needs to step it up and start churning out a better quality show.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 10 "Party Line" (B+)

I'm not sure I've ever seen such real anger and passion from Aceveda. This episode spotlighted a terrific, unexpected performance from Benito Martinez, who hasn't had scenes like this since the show's third season. I was shocked that Beltran so quickly put out a hit on Pezuela, and of course I'm impressed by Vic's handling of the situation. All that stuff is really heating up. Corinne going to the police still felt like a surprise even though it's not really out of character for her, and Claudette coming in on Mara's call was pretty intense. Shane and Mara do see pretty loyal to each other, and I doubt either of them would let the other take the fall. Ronnie and Vic's Plan B to run south doesn't seem like it will pan out - remember how well that worked for Lem? I'm still grasping the painful realization that this show only has three more episodes ever, but word has it that the last two are incredible, so I'm beyond excited.

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 9 "Secrets and Lies" (F)

Silver's renewed friendship with Naomi is puzzling to me, but no more so than the other elements of this series. Of all people, Dixon is the one who invites over a million guys so that the low-key sleepover could turn into a huge ripper? You'd think a cop like Kimberly, a.k.a. the least convincing cop EVER, would be smarter than to get picked up from a party by a teacher where she could easily be spotted by any number of students. I did enjoy Debbie's threat of violence towards Tracy, but who wouldn't? For those confused, Debbie is the name of Lori Loughlin's character. I had to look it up - I had no idea.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episode 4 "The Building" (B)

James Tupper is a fine addition to this show's cast, and his relationship with Sam is something that should propel it in an excellent direction. The element of unreality with Regina coming up with ads portraying her and Sam as sisters is a bit frustrating, since the rest of this show is pretty grounded. Even Sam's flashbacks tend to feel real. Andrea's subplot with Todd's friend is actually a good use of her talents, and I like that he was fully aware of what she was doing. This show does have its moments.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 9 "Greatness Achieved" (F)

I don't quite understand why Bellick needed to die, but maybe that's just because I wasn't paying close enough attention. His 180-degree transformation from vicious prison guard to sympathetic loser was entirely inexplicable, so I suppose it's for the best that his character arc has come to an end. I thought for a few minutes that they were going to kill off Michael, which would have inspired me to stop watching this show instantly. The quick disposal of Wyatt is peculiar given how they could have used him, and I sincerely hope that Gretchen is playing the Company because otherwise this show is going to go on forever. What excited me most about this episode was that the digital voice recorder Self used to trick Wyatt and edit his random babbling into exactly what they wanted him to say is the same recorder I use when I go to press days or conduct interviews for journalism classes. That was quite cool. Unfortunately, this show is so not.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 6 "Coke Dick and the First Kick" (B-)

I'm not quite sure where all these little plots are headed. Hank looking for Ashby's lover doesn't look like it's going much of anywhere, and Charlie's porn endeavors are funny but not substantial enough to get the show going. I really do like "Californication" and I admire its ability to completely go off the deep end and explore storylines other shows typically wouldn't. Unfortunately, here it seems really aimless and like all of the Sunday night shows, I'm hoping it can whip itself back into shape before it clocks out for the season in just a few weeks.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 9 "Pie" (C)

Ever get the feeling that nothing at all is happening on this show? And this after the show finally got back into its groove, or so I thought. Jason Patric is a pretty random actor to cast as the star of "Smoke Jumpers," and I can't say that I'm impressed with his performance or his character. Drama and Turtle trying to sabotage him is nothing new, and as usual, it's up to Ari to save the day. While I'm not quite certain what Gary Cole's agent will be up to, he seems to be interesting and I know I love the actor, so hopefully his casting will lead to the show being steadily and continuously improved.

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 6 "Si Se Puede" (B)

It's fun to see Dexter and Miguel working together more, especially as Dexter feigns stupidity to constantly deceive Miguel and one-up him to protect his secret killer instinct. Deb's plotline is also improving, which is good, since her actual smart ideas are unsurprisingly her best. I do worry that little is actually happening in each episode here, and that things could slow down a lot if the adventures of Dexter and Miguel continue to be so easy. Things aren't dire yet, and "Dexter" has always managed to rebound effectively, even after the dreaded Lila incident. I'm looking forward for a heightening of the pace.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 6 "There's Always a Woman" (C)

This feels familiar. Andrew sleeping with Lee Tergesen's character, a.k.a. Bree's one-time lover, and Edie's nephew sleeping with Katherine. Children have constantly been mistaken for adults, and I see no reason why one of the Scavo twins should possibly end up sleeping with Gail O'Grady's character. I have to imagine that Lynette would at least confront Tom rather than simply throwing in the towel and packing her life up. Susan's shower scene is additional proof that walking in on someone in the shower is never a good idea. Though she is a klutz, she should be smart enough to know that. The comedy keeps getting dumber and dumber. I'm thrilled that the talent is growing, however, with new guest stars Frances Conroy and Lily Tomlin. Tomlin seems like she'll have the meatier role, especially as Karen McCluskey's sister. As an avid "Six Feet Under" fan, I do hope that Conroy's role becomes a recurring one and her part improves a bit.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 9 "Plaisir D'Amour" (B)

The central plotline of this episode just didn't cut it for me. I do think that the head vampire guy is thoroughly fascinating and any of Anna Paquin's reactions to blood being everywhere are priceless and incredible, but sending Bill away is a dangerous move. This also had to serve as the interim episode where he's leaving, which didn't really amount to much. Ditto Tara's plotline. Her mother's exorcism worked better than it should have, but believing in this kind of supernatural influence is a bit kooky, even for a show about vampires. If she really gets into it, then I believe it can work effectively. What really gets me about this episode is comparable to the scene that really made me like "Breaking Bad" - an incomparably intense bonding and brief sense of empathy between captor and captive. In both cases, the captor isn't really a bad guy, and he's not the one truly responsible for kidnapping the guy. In both cases, it doesn't end well, but here it's a starkly compelling character study of both the vampire and Jason, who usually isn't as three-dimensional and interesting as he is here. With respect to the Sam-is-a-dog reveal at the end of the episode, this show is weird but I guess it all does make sense. I think that should provide an interesting twist and work in the show's favor, especially in the absence of one Bill Compton.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock (Season Premiere)

30 Rock: Season 3, Episode 1 "Do-Over" (B+)

Much as I'm excited by this show's return, I didn't go quite as ga-ga for this episode as others did. It's still a whole lot of fun, though. Highlights include Jack getting multiple promotions within one day and Liz talking about her annual sex guest. Megan Mullally was a fun guest, and her performance underscores this show's superiority over predecessors like "Will & Grace" where guest stars were flaunted and dominated the show rather than casually appearing in the episode. NBC is promoting the show as if it's like "Will & Grace" with the guest stars, but hopefully they won't be too distractingly showy.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 5, Episode 5 "Employee Transfer" (B-)

This isn't a bad episode, it just feels incomplete. Three storylines that feel like subplots can't quite carry the episode, since none of them are sufficiently strong. The multiple Jokers and Creed's dead-on, creepy impersonation are good for a quick laugh. Jim and Pam's dinner with the brothers is uncomfortable and awkward with no real comedic value. That one tanked from the start. Michael's departure with Holly is sad because it means that Amy Ryan is leaving the show, which is truly devastating, and a few funny moments in this episode only recall the sad nature of Michael's big dreams that could never possibly come true. I'd rather have done away with this episode together and signed Ryan on for five more seasons. The subplot involving Dwight and Andy is a lot of fun, although, as Alan Sepinwall points out, Dwight is oddly assuming Jim's role as office clown and perpetual time-waster. This feels like a bump in the road rather than a downward turn for the series. Once Holly is fully out of the picture next episode, things should be back on track with new directions and hopefully, new laughs.

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 6 "Ugly Berry" (B)

The contrived setup coming out of last week's episode is here remedied quickly by a positive outcome that reaffirms the strengths of "Ugly Betty." I was a bit fed up with the constant, unsubtle badgering of characters to vote (also on "Dirty Sexy Money" this week), but giving Hilda a new plotline is probably for the best, especially since Eddie Cibrian seems to be gone for good (the men on this show don't last long, do they? See Christopher Gorham and Freddy Rodriguez for further evidence). Lindsay Lohan wasn't a bad guest star per se but she didn't add a whole lot (like, say, Mary-Kate Olsen, whose performance on "Weeds" was better than I could ever have expected). I love any chance to see more of Marc and especially Amanda, and in this case when they're working for the common "good" with Betty it's even more delicious. What really makes me happy is the heart of "Ugly Betty" that is driven home in the end with the notion that Betty can always save the day and bond with the big stars through simple honesty and kindness. And while I was pretty sure he was Sean Bean, I'm glad to see Grant Bowler (the freighter captain from "Lost") as Daniel's new buddy who worked with him to trick Wilhelmina into hiring him.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 7 "Identity" (B)

I'm very pleased with the Superman-style direction this show is taking. Positioning Oliver as the fake Superman works quite well, and while I thought Clark was about to mess up his plan by having to go save Lois, it turned out perfectly in the end. I wonder how this show will cope with masking Clark's face, since it seems unlikely that they would have him running around as he is during his presumably upcoming transformation into the Superman character we know and love. I can forgive the slight plot defects - Lois calls Clark out of all people to help her, Chloe is planning to hit Jimmy with her car when he could very easily recognize her and presumably her car - in favor of a positive direction this show seems to finally be taking.

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 4 "The Silence" (C+)

Most of the occurrences in this episode are just too obvious and expected. Patrick is too eternally blinded by his affection for Carmelita to realize that he can't expose her to the entire world only weeks (days? months? no idea) after the supposedly tragic death of his wife. Tripp is always looking out for the family with a stern attitude that sacrifices personal happiness for professional well-being. Karen is too constantly oblivious to realize that Nick doesn't actually want to be with her, but that Simon is really the one she should be worrying about. That does make the character of Simon a tad more compelling, since he exposed his own motives so that he will be able to throw them back in everyone's faces later. Nick's outright refusal to even entertain Lisa's business proposition is very much unlike him, but I am impressed with his detective work, exploiting Jeremy's stupidity to find out who he's secretly dating, a revelation which will likely explode in the coming episode.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What I'm Watching: Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies: Season 2, Episode 5 "Dim Sum Lose Some" (B+)

This really is quite a peculiar show, but I do enjoy it. The lavish setups and surprising connections to the case are amusing and inventive. The plea to Emerson for help via fortune is incredibly original, and his reaction to everything, especially his love for the food, is great. It's also fun that the show brought back a supposedly one-shot character, one of the four wives from season one, whose interaction with Emerson is terrific and who I feel might be popping up again on the show. I'm always perplexed by how the whole gang ends up going undercover so quickly, but it's well worth it for the amount of humor that comes out of it.

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 9 "Moving Day" (B+)

There's something very spooky about Shane being a known criminal and having the upper hand against Vic by blackmailing his family. I've really grown to detest both Shane and Mara, even though they're in theory supposed to be somewhat sympathetic. It makes their being on the run even more real, since they're clearly the villains while Vic and Ronnie are clearly the heroes of our story. Dutch being outed for his undercover investigation turned dating scheme is too bad, since Frances Fisher is always a welcome actress. Billings finally gets his first good dramatic plot line since setting up Dutch to catch Tina in the act, and it's a good one. His relentless pursuit of the pedophile in his daughter's neighborhood is impressive, and the parallel Dutch makes about being Shane to his Vic is pretty powerful. And Tina's finally back, her absence explained away by a long weekend. I'm glad Vic is working hard to save his job as undercover man in Pezuela's organization, since Vic as an outlaw doesn't quite suit him as well as his badge.

What I'm Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 6 "Murder 2.0" (B)

This episode as a whole is a bit weak but some of its individual components are decently strong. I like the end reveal of the perpetrator, since crime procedurals often make it way too obvious who the guy is from the start. Despite the bizarre incorporation of the Dragostea Din Tei video, the computer stuff is pretty cool. I'm always happy to see Max Gail drop by a show since his wonderful role as the patriarch on "Sons & Daughters" was far too long ago and remembered by no one except me.

What I'm Watching: 90210

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

Ah, the relationship of Dixon and Silver never ceases to amuse me. The constantly changing character of Silver gets nicer and less like herself every minute, hopped up on painkillers after a wisdom teeth extraction. Dixon, on the other hand, continues to be the complete opposite of Silver in every possible way, and somehow their relationship works as only such relationships can work on shows like this, "The O.C." and "One Tree Hill." I'm still curious if people as truly goodhearted and obliviously noble as Annie really exist in the real world. Her driving test scene with her mother was actually quite funny, a rare good use of Lori Loughlin. Number one honest teacher is a bit too pushy, but I guess he gets rewarded in the way he wishes.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What I'm Watching: Samantha Who?

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episode 3 "The Pill" (C+)

Sam's repeated memory flashbacks are fun, and I sort of think that having so many revelations every episode could infuse this show with some much needed direction. It could also get old pretty quick. I like the idea that, however forced in its execution, Sam remembers Todd's proposal and then forgets it by the end of the episode, though the ring lying in the apartment should mean that it will eventually be revealed once again. Tony Hale's creepy doctor is just about as random as Andrea's attempts to seduce the lesbian at her job. These unfocused side plots are a bit of a problem for this potentially decent show.

What I'm Watching: Heroes

Heroes: Season 2, Episode 7 "Eris Quod Sum" (C)

I'm totally behind the idea that Sylar is now transforming into a hero rather than a villain. What doesn't make sense is that the grand Arthur Petrelli doesn't see through his scheme to save Peter's life. I also don't get why Daphne is in fact working for Arthur rather than trying to legitimately help Matt. And correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't Matt be able to read her mind and figure out that she's deceiving him? There are way too many plot holes in this show. I always welcome the return of Kristen Bell, but her antsy flying skills here and nervous demeanor doesn't suit her. Why Claire wants to get rid of her powers escapes me. She's pretty annoying, but I am liking the assembly of groups and teams of our heroes and villains.

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 2, Episode 5 "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer" (B+)

It's cool that "Chuck" is attempting to spotlight some of the minor characters and give them legitimate back stories and purposes on the show. I totally believe that Jeff could have been a world class video gamer. While I got lost with the whole formula for winning thing, I like that it's always Chuck who's there to save the day. Tony Hale, who's also popping up on "Samantha Who," is a fine addition to the cast here and is sure to serve as an amusing thorn in Chuck's side. I'm sure he'll be a better assistant manager than Lester.

What I'm Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 2, Episode 5 "Vaginatown" (B+)

Wow, Chloe Metz really was an obnoxious character but it was great to have her around. Her transformation from flirtatious chatterbox to having an insane meltdown is humorous and unexpected. I like where Charlie's plotline is heading, becoming a bona-fide porn agent. This show is so peculiar, but I do think it's great and I thoroughly enjoy every episode. It's the definition of a non-sitcom comedy, and it's wonderful.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 8 "First Class Jerk" (B+)

I thought I had gone and accidentally spoiled the outcome of Ari's decision for myself when I read about Gary Cole's casting as an agent/series regular in season six. Instead, "Entourage" pulls off a terrific shocker which may well point it now in the right direction. Dana Gordon has always been a great character, and her interactions with Ari are pretty much priceless. Constance Zimmer, despite having appeared on "Boston Legal," is actually a good actress and I'm hoping that she can help change Vince and this show's fortunes.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 13 "Meditations in an Emergency" (B+)

This is what I asked for: a good, powerful finale which leaves ambiguity without a tragic cliffhanger. It's unclear as to what will happen at the newly-owned Sterling-Cooper, since I have a feeling that Duck will be out of his own deal and Don will still be in power. Don's return to the office is pretty awesome, as is the enlightening conversation between Peggy and Pete. This season has been terrific, and I'm eagerly awaiting seasons three and four.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Jon Hamm & January Jones

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 3, Episode 5 "Turning Biminese" (B+)

This episode may not have moved at a furious pace, but it's all worth it for the incredible finish. The notion that Miguel really is a sympathetic friend for Dexter who understands him and does see him as the "Dark Defender" is absolutely stellar. I'm thrilled for the direction this show is headed in. Dexter's interactions with Rita and constant debates over what's happening with him makes for a good subplot, and I think focusing on Dexter in both of his elements rather than some of the supporting characters is probably best. I can't wait for Dexter's new relationship with Miguel.

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 5, Episode 5 "Mirror, Mirror" (B-)

This episode is really much more of a filler episode than anything, but it's good to have some back story for everything. I'm still waiting to hear more about Dave, especially considering his latest move. I liked his conversation with Mrs. McCluskey in the ambulance at the end (though why did they need to call an ambulance) since that's the only real look into his true nature we've seen thus far. I'm pleased with how Orson dealt with working with Bree and Katherine, and hopefully it won't turn too comic because that could become cyclical and predictable almost instantly. And while I hope Tom doesn't take the family cross-country in an RV, I do like the fact that he's standing up for himself. Is this show in good shape? I think it's doing a lot better than it's done in a while.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 8 "The Fourth Man in the Fire" (B+)

I knew Bill couldn't be dead, but I wasn't prepared for his awesome return, lunging up from underneath the ground and then engaging in a passionate sex scene with Sookie. I'm liking him more and more nowadays, and this show continues to impress me. I guess Lizzy Caplan will be sticking around for a bit, especially considering that insane finale. Stephen Root, who really is a great actor, giving a performance so directly opposite from his "Office Space" role as Milton, creates a sympathetic but needy portrait of a friendly vampire. I'm saddened to think what will happen to him, as Jason's new girl is nowhere near as innocent as she first seemed.