Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What I'm Watching: Law & Order

Law & Order: Season 18, Episode 10 "Tango" (C)

I hope everyone now agrees with me about the despicable character that is Mike Cutter. He gets jealous because Connie throws him out of an interview and gets back at her by objectifying her deliberately so that a juror will fall for her. Jesse L. Martin's Eddie Green is getting swapped out; can Linus Roache go with him? This show could use some new blood to invigorate it. S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterston, who have both been on the show now for over ten years, may want to think about handing in their badges. I only started watching this season, but it really feels like they have been around too long. And I certainly do not think that Anthony Anderson coming in is the way to go. How about someone else from "The Shield"? The show is airing its final season and I would love to see one of the characters transfer over from the Barn in California to New York for some "Law & Order". I am certain that would never happen, but I would settle for an actor (Walton Goggins, perhaps? Or even Catherine Dent?)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pilot Review: Quarterlife

Quarterlife (NBC)
Premiered February 26 at 10pm

This new drama stems from an Internet mini-series which now makes the transition to network television. The show tells the story of six twentysomething friends who are all at uncertain positions in their various careers (or lack thereof). The main character, Dylan, runs a blog where she admits all her deep dark secrets as well as carelessly and thoughtlessly revealing information about her friends. She seems surprised when her friends do not take it well, and for someone who speaks so freely to her Internet viewership, she gets taken aback pretty easily. There are far too many love triangles among these six friends, and the plot is dense as anything. The dialogue is horrendous, and the writing is unimaginative and choppy. There does not appear to be an ounce of talent among the cast. This is one series that should have been relegated to the Internet.

How will it work as a series? I would have to assume that it would become repetitive almost instantly, and that can get pretty grating.
How long will it last? Anyone who just finished watching "One Tree Hill" may have had enough of post-teen drama and angst, before realizing that even if they wanted to watch this show, maybe they should do it online. This was strike filler, and now that the strike is over, I expect this show to be gone as soon as NBC can find fresh programming to replace it.

Pilot grade: F

What I'm Watching: Jericho

Jericho: Season 2, Episode 3 “Jennings & Rall” (B+)

I have never seen so villainous a polo shirt. The Ravenwood guys, led by the incomparable D.B. Sweeney, walk around not wearing suits or uniforms yet they are still some scary goons. I am really excited to see Hawkins expose the conspiracy and especially to find out who this guy on the phone is. I wonder if it is someone we know.

What I'm Watching: Carpoolers

Carpoolers: Season 1, Episode 12 “Lost in America” (D+)

This episode is just a notch better than some of the more recent installments, but hardly. Any plot description would read horrendously, but the overall concept is kind of amusing. Just a little. The pure fact that the writers of this show were able to sustain a character as idiotic as Marmaduke for twelve episodes is a commendable feat deserving of some praise. Dougie’s rebellious phase is quite pathetic, I must say. One more episode to go here, and I think that is all this show is possibly good for. Once this ends: try to find episodes of “Sons & Daughters” online to redeem your opinion of Fred Goss, a.k.a. Gracen.

What I'm Watching: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Demon Hand”

Perhaps it is unfair of me to review this episode, and that is why I am neglecting to give it a grade. For some reason, my reception on FOX and the CW is completely unreliable and often impossible to see, with the sound cutting out for minutes at a time. This has not been such a problem in recent weeks, but in this episode I missed pretty much everything Bruce Davison’s crazed psychiatrist or whatever he was said. Cameron is getting pretty sketchy, but the relationship between her and Reese is occasionally interesting to watch. It is good that the FBI agent is becoming more than a one-note character, and hopefully next week’s two-part (series?) finale will bow out at the highest quality the show has seen so far.

Second Run TV: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 6 “Babylon” (B-)

I dropped this show towards the end of the summer when I realized I had less time to keep up with a mid-week show that did not fully grab my interest. I had never intended to stop watching, so when I found out that the show was being rerun on Sundays at midnight, I decided to pick the show back up, starting with the first installment I had not seen this week. I had forgotten how slow the pace was, but the material is good and the feel of the show is appropriate. It really attempts to, and as far as I know succeeds in, capture the time and the way people act and interact. The amount of mistresses on this show is staggering, and it is interesting that one of the women he has been courting is now falling for him. The cinematography is this show is quite good.

What I'm Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 1, Episode 5 “Gray Matter” (B-)

The parallel storylines of Walt and Jesse continue to get more interesting with this episode. The story drags along slowly enough, and very little actually happens, but most of it is of decent quality. The party and the intervention scene are serious enough, but I am not wholly impressed with these characters. The sister-in-law is far too antagonistic, though I do like Hank, who keeps eating all the vegetables and changes his side halfway through. It was a decent speech by Walt towards the end there. Jesse’s own obsession with perfection now that he has worked with Walt is intriguing, and it is a good thing that he dodged that crossbow here. That could have done some major damage. The last scene is great – “Wanna cook?”

What I'm Watching: The L Word

The L Word: Season 5, Episode 8 "Lay Down the Law" (B+)

Must every public interaction between Bette and Tina be so awkward? At least Tina is standing up for herself a bit. I am glad that Tasha's trial is finally over because that was beginning to drag on, but at least it has a somewhat surprising and ultimately happy ending. Hopefully Alice will spend more time with Tasha and stop compromising herself on television so that people will like her. It is good to see Shane's straight girl finally starting to come around to the idea of them getting together. Adele is becoming sketchier by the second - I can imagine her kidnapping Jenny and pretending to be her in the next few weeks. Though I wonder what the reaction would be. Who is the greater evil, the mysterious Adele or the detestable Jenny?

Monday, February 25, 2008

What I'm Watching: Monk (Season Finale)

Monk: Season 6, Episode 16 “Mr. Monk Is on the Run, Part II” (B+)

This episode provides a fitting resolution for the season, but the case seems sealed up a bit too easily and tightly. It is hilarious to see Monk compulsively cleaning cars, insisting upon perfection and wearing a backwards baseball cap. The reactions to Monk’s death and the subsequent revelation of his being alive by Natalie and Randy are lots of fun. Good old Leland really is the noblest guy ever. The attempted assassination of the governor seemed to come out of left field, and the conspiracy to frame Monk for the murder of the henchman seems over-enforced, reminiscent of the first season of “Prison Break”, not in a good way. Dale the Whale – I did not understand who he was and thought maybe that he had been on the show before (I only started watching week-to-week last season), but my research indicates no. It was a bizarre subplot which I did not understand. Nonetheless, it has been a great season, and I look forward to the show’s return in June.

What I'm Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 4, Episode 4 “Eggtown” (B-)

My theory about this season of “Lost” is that it will not seem nearly as good in retrospect, with each episode providing a Major Shocker but otherwise not moving the plot forward too much. It would have been nice if Aaron being the baby Kate was claiming as her own had actually been a surprise, but Claire’s presence throughout the episode and her repeated baby references were too much of a giveaway. I have to imagine that Claire cannot leave the island for some reason, and willingly gives Kate her baby to take off the island, rather than meeting some malicious end at the hands of some evil menace, or worse, at the hands of Kate herself. It is an interesting shortened story that Jack tells about the fate of the eight survivors (who are the two who died on the island in this fiction?). As far as on-island happenings, the survivors living in the Others’ barracks, inviting each other over for coffee and some slight reading slash lovemaking, is becoming a little weird. They are far too comfortable and not nearly uneasy enough with their present state. Locke just took a dive from mildly controlling to manically crazy with the grenade trick and his harsh reaction to the bizarrely exact demand placed by Miles to Ben. And where the hell are Sayid and Desmond? Intriguing…next week cannot come soon enough.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What I'm Watching: Law & Order

Law & Order: Season 18, Episode 9 "Executioner" (C+)

I was thrilled when I saw both Michael Rooker and James Rebhorn in the guest cast credits. Both arre fine actors who have often small but crucial and terrific roles in a number of films and television over the years (Rooker most recently on FX's spectacular "Thief"; Rebhorn most famously in "Meet the Parents" and "Independence Day"). Neither is given fantastic material here, but the plot is intriguing. If only the pace could be sped up just a bit. I had planned to stop watching this show once the writers' strike ended, but there is just nothing on Wednesday nights, and my three shows that used to be on have either been postponed to fall ("Pushing Daisies", "Dirty Sexy Money") or have been rumored for cancellation ("Bionic Woman"). With a number of shows returning to Tuesday nights ("Jericho", "The Riches", this new "Quarterlife"), I may have to let those spill over onto Wednesday night and cancel out this tired legal drama.

In "Law & Order" news, Jesse L. Martin is planning to leave the show really soon. Before the season ends, I believe. says Anthony Anderson may be replacing him. I like Anderson, but he is much more effetive in roles like Antwon Mitchell on "The Shield" where he is an evil villain rather than the New Orleans cop in the presumed-dead "K-Ville". If you are a budding actor and want a starring role on a major drama, try out for "Law & Order": they cycle their casts like no other.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What I'm Watching: Jericho

Jericho: Season 2, Episode 2 “Condor” (B+)

I really like George Newbern as the new President. He is comforting and friendly yet there is still something off about the whole situation. The alternate history textbooks in particular are quite frightening. This season may have a good deal more sunlight, but everything is just as eerie and disturbing as ever. I had always thought that Alicia Coppola as Mimi stuck out from the rest of the cast in a bit of an obnoxious way, yet she does fit in now and I commend the show for shaping her character and keeping her as a central yet not distracting force on the show. I like the omnipresence of Jennings & Rall and how you just know there is something fishy about them yet they seem to be doing everything they can to help everyone get back on their feet. And while the “previously on” segment sort of gave it away, welcome back D.B. Sweeney!

What I'm Watching: Carpoolers

Carpoolers: Season 1, Episode 11 "The Recital" (F)

Back when this show was about to start, the creator promised that only a small fraction of each episode would take place in a car. But too much of each episode is caught up with the carpool. These people should have normal lives and not have to obsess about carpool boundaries and such lame stuff like that. There is not a single laugh in this episode, which is a real shame, given that this show was performing better than I would have expected for a while; now it has fallen far below the ranks of "The Knights of Prosperity" and "In Case of Emergency".

What I'm Watching: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1, Episode 6 “Dungeons & Dragons” (C-)

Those opening and closing quotes are really getting to me, and not in the good sense. Why this episode flashes forward so much to tell us information we do not need to know is a mystery to me. The future is for the most part a desolate wasteland where the only interesting thing is the half-cool visual effects which hide a lot less than they show. The time machine is a bit more fun, but it sucks that they had to cut the flash-forward before we got to see a future John Connor. It seems like it would have been a much more interesting show if the plot centered around the freedom fighters sent from the future. No such luck. Interesting to see that Derek was the one who did kill Andy, and also that Cameron might not be good after all.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break (Season Finale)

Prison Break: Season 3, Episode 13 “The Art of the Deal” (D-)

This season ender should be looked at in comparison to the finales of the previous two seasons, one of which was unbelievably amazing and the other which was dismally atrocious. At the close of season one, Michael, Lincoln, Sucre, and Abruzzi, fresh out of prison, saw their plane take off without them and darted off towards the woods to run for their lives. Season two ended with Michael, T-Bag, Bellick, and Mahone inexplicably ending up back in prison, this time in Panama, when Michael easily should have gotten away and the series should have ended. The first season of this show was impressive but constrained by the embellishments the plot tried to pass off as believable, while the second was remarkable for sustaining itself with them on the outside, but became tiresome and repetitive about halfway through. This is the definitive show which deserves thirteen episodes a season, and finally in its third year it accidentally gets an appropriate order. Dragging this escape out would have been dreadful. After it took them an entire twenty-one episodes to get out of Fox River, their escape from Sona was actually quite disappointing, though way overdue. This finale is quite a letdown as well, offering few solutions and keeping a number of semi-sympathetic characters in prison (Sucre, Bellick, and T-Bag). Whistler was actually bad all along, but he has to be the least menacing and most apologetic villain ever to grace television screens. Mahone is always looking out for his own good, but joining up with the Company cannot be a good choice. Michael deciding that after all this, he is going to go on a Kill Bill-like revenge trip is terribly unexciting because Michael is such a nice guy and the thought of him punishing anyone (save for stabbing T-Bag in his hand last season) is a joke. On the subject of unbelievability, is no one looking for these escaped cons? They spend so much time interrogating Sucre but no one bothers to check the kid’s house where his entire family is gathered for a surprise welcome-home party. The song played at the end of the episode attempts to immortalize the show and keep its characters as ever-existing, ambiguous inmates and fugitives, but it honestly worked much better when it was used in the David Lynch film “Mulholland Drive.” It is a key example of this show taking itself too seriously. Hopefully this is the end of the road for this show which needs to be put out of its misery, though rumors of a female Prison Break spin-off are horrifying. Who needs to see women get dragged through the same lengthy and far-fetched prison escape plans? This show has run its course, and its plot should die with it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dexter on CBS: Go for it?

When originally presented on Showtime in October 2006, this pilot was one of the strongest I had seen in a while. The show only got better from there and its second season, despite having a few flawed subplots, was equally impressive. Out of all the Showtime offerings currently airing on the network, this one makes the most sense as an import to CBS because it contains strong language that can easily be edited out and scenes of graphic violence which can be cleanly shortened. The result does feel rather choppy, with certain scenes jumping unexpectedly to avoid showing too much violence, and this was not a show made to be presented with commercials. In one scene, he is talking and pretty much just stops as the commercial comes on. The language is not a big deal, save for one character whose representation is completely shattered by the censorship – Doakes. He is not nearly as menacing as he is in the original version, and at one point his swearing is re-edited to “mother lover”. While the plot itself is fairly intact, I would recommend that anyone who wants to get into this show rent the DVD of the first season for the pure, unadulterated version. This is not like NBC rerunning USA or SCI FI programs; “Dexter” was clearly made for cable and should remain there.

What I'm Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 1, Episode 4 “Cancer Man” (B-)

The best moments in this show come from lengthy dialogues between one or two characters where one of them goes off on a long nostalgia trip and for a moment the show seems unimportant and all that exists is the bond between those two characters. This week’s exceptional scene comes when Walt recounts how he met Skyler, an account which results in her breaking down in tears. It is nice to see Hank assuring Walt that they will take care of his family if anything happens to him, but otherwise they seem rather angry at him for not telling them sooner rather than deeply sympathetic. Jesse’s family situation attempts to reach the same dramatic heights but falls a bit flat. More of the pursuit of Walt by the DEA might be helpful to reenergize this show since it has moved past its initial plot and needs somewhere to go now. The initial episode order was for a mere seven installments, which means there are only three left, so this may end up being one self-resolved arc, though AMC will likely have faith in their endeavor and give it a second shot next year.

What I'm Watching: The L Word

The L Word: Season 5, Episode 7 “Lesbians Gone Wild” (B+)

Wow, Niki and Jenny really do not know how to keep a lid on their relationship. That is definitely going to south, and as an avid Jenny-hater, I am super-excited for that moment, though right now it would seem that Jenny will be on top for a good long while. I am rather upset with Alice’s self-betrayal, outing people on TV just because she wants people to like/hire her. If Dana was around, she would never stand for this crap. Tasha needs to decide where her priorities lie, with the army or with her lifestyle. This trial is going to drag on and on, and it has not even started yet. Bette and Tina have truly become a great cheating couple who are growing more sympathetic by the moment. I do think they are being really obvious and should watch their backs a bit. Score for Kit – though the She-Bar (spelling?) does provide a good setting for this very in-depth partying which includes some Turkish oil wrestling, of course. I do think this show has its best moments when the ladies are partying and having a good time. I am excited to see what happens with Phyllis’ daughter.

What I'm Watching: Psych (Season Finale)

Psych: Season 2, Episode 16 “Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead” (B+)

This is somewhat of a disappointment as a season ender, though it is still a fine episode. This one focuses more on getting into the creepy mythology which seems to be at work behind the scenes rather than the utterly hilarious situations Shawn and Gus have gotten themselves into recently. This is actually in a lot of ways similar to last year’s finale, “Scary Sherry”, which found Juliet going undercover in a sorority to expose a supernatural-seeming murder spree. This episode is a good deal more on track, and I am thrilled for the return of our wacky detectives next season, or this July, when the show should begin the first half of its third season. I do wish that a new chief had been appointed since the current one does little for me. The appearance of Shawn’s mom was expected based on Shawn’s dad’s anxiety, but what does that mean for next season? And who will play her? I guess we will have to see come July.

What I'm Watching: Monk

Monk: Season 6, Episode 15 “Mr. Monk Is on the Run” (B+)

This episode, part one of a two-part season ender, balances its drama and comedy quite effectively which providing an additional notion of suspense and intrigue which is often lacking in this show (not that it is always necessary, of course). My favorite part of this episode has to be “can you make it an even million?” from Monk’s lawyer when his bail is set at $900,000. The shake that Natalie makes uses the drill looks pretty gross, and evn more hilarious then that Randy heartily sneaks a few gulps. Scott Glenn and C.S. Lee (Masuka on “Dexter”) guest star as the rather serious lawmen who bring Monk in, and Glenn’s character seems to have some vendetta against Monk with the whole framing him thing. That ending to me seems very obviously staged – Leland planning to shoot Monk with fake bullets so that he can go on the run – but it was still a good ending and I am excited for next week’s finale.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What I'm Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Economist” (B)

No way! Sayid made it off the island? As much as that is a shock, boy is he slick as an assassin in the future with some kick-ass long hair. Great to see Thekla Reuten, recently in the film “In Bruges” and a former cast member on the second season of “Sleeper Cell”, guest star as Sayid’s duplicitous love interest slash job. On the island, these shockeroos are fun and all but it gets to be a bit much to take to grasp the idea that the survivors of 815 would not persist in trying to gain answers from their supposed rescuers. Hurley’s role playing is obvious right away, and it seems like a good chunk of this episode has been cut out or trimmed to create real impact with “gotcha” moments. It is pretty crazy that they finally got off the island and are finally heading to some place off of it – I cannot way for next week. Ben making it off the island – not what I expected at all. My bet is that next week’s Oceanic Six survivor will be Sawyer and that Ben does not count. Juliet also should not count because she was not on the plane and the sixth survivor will be… Sun. We’ll see.

In post-strike news, “Lost” will be producing I think five or so episodes after the five more that are already finished, and once the new ones start to air (around April), the show will be moving to the 10pm timeslot to make room for the return of “Grey’s Anatomy”.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 12 “Fracture” (F)

Talk about starting an episode in media res! The flashbacks via Lex’s brain should be more interesting, however, the nature of “Smallville” and its relentless refusal to kill off characters (see Lois, Lana, and Chloe who are all still alive after dying in last season’s finale) makes fatalistic episodes like this where one character bites the bullet so much less intense because you just know that everyone except the freak of the week is going to survive. Clark being in Lex’s mind proves to be entirely less exciting than it should be because a ghoulish Lex is “fractured” (as per the title) into a younger version of his self, called Alexander. Clark talking to Alexander as if he is his best pal is weird enough since the characterization is so obnoxiously concrete. All the techno-babble should be interpreted by a far more scientific mind than mine, but I think it is mostly crap. Clark getting ready to leave via the transporter beam is pretty ridiculous. Chloe’s powers are way too “catch-all” and fully effective in any situation, which is especially lame given the fact that this situation is hardly one that calls for her powers. The freak-of-the-week is hardly even in this episode, and his motivations are never really revealed, save for that final scene. Lois and Kara together in a number of scenes is something I can definitely live without. Clark’s theatrics are a bit much at the end of the drama there. And this episode is a perfect instance of the tendency for an epilogue at the end of each episode which just seems unnecessary – why attempt to sustain the show for an extra commercial break rather than just cut it a little early or extend out the central conflict of the episode.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What I'm Watching: Law & Order

Law & Order: Season 18, Episode 8 "Illegal" (C)

I understand the theory behind the setup of this episode, but why would McCoy turn to some random assistant D.A. we have never met before for this case rather than turning to Cutter? I was of course glad that Linus Roache did not show up until well into the episode, but I sort of wish he had been the one fired. The effort this show constantly makes to remain political is often taxing and does not pay off as dramatically as it should (or used to, back when I only watched the "Law & Order" series in infrequent spurts). Weird to see Luppo and Cutter trying to bond very awkwardly. Now that the strike is over, it may be time to stop watching this show, but then again, this is an easy show that does not require too much mental commitment or concentration.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What I'm Watching: Jericho (Season Premiere!)

Jericho: Season 2, Episode 1 “Reconstruction” (B+)

What a fitting title for this fulfilling premiere. While it might not be as exciting as some of the previous episodes of the show’s first season, it is certainly a fresh and well-intentioned installment which will launch the theoretically one-season premise into a whole new direction. Less than five minutes in, one of the characters is chomping away on some peanuts in a not-so-subtle nod to the resurrection story of the show. It would have been easy for this show to fall apart on both fronts: behind-the-scenes due to the period of time where the show was cancelled and cast and crew who might have moved on, as well as creatively due to the introduction of an actual law enforcement system. Yet this show stays strong, infusing previously unseen bright colors and sunny weather into the normally dreary landscape of Jericho. Esai Morales brings a great new presence as the army commander in charge of overseeing and implementing peace between Jericho and New Bern. Most of the ensemble cast from last season is in, minus a few faces who may or may not come back later (Shoshannah Stern as Bonnie, Pamela Reed as Gail Green), but for the most part, things are progressing along as they should. I would really love to see Erin Daniels as Maggie return to the show, but I do not know if she will. I am really looking forward to the president’s arrival and to whatever Hawkins and his buddy are scheming up to out the corrupt government system. Seven episodes is definitely not enough.

What I'm Watching: Carpoolers

Carpoolers: Season 1, Episode 10 "Wheels of Fortune" (F)

What better way to ensure that you offend your audience than by mocking the handicapped? This show somehow manages to hit a new low with this dreadfully unfunny foolish episode which derives its plot from a truly carpool-based concept, which this show had up until now generally successfully relegated to side stories and subplots. This show does not take itself seriously, and that is its major problem right now. The ending I thought I saw coming (they get to keep the handicapped space because they are both in wheelchairs) was avoided, but I would wholeheartedly have preferred that to the ghastly mock-courtroom scene. Painful and embarassing. There is little hope for this show both in terms of redeeming itself and staying on the air. ABC has just given renewals to 9 of its series, including four new shows ("Dirty Sexy Money", "Private Practice", "Pushing Daisies", and "Samantha Who?"). While this one has a better shot than the pretty much already-dead "Big Shots" and "Cavemen", I would say that it is a definite goner. Whether its remaining episodes get shown is a mystery, but I think ABC will continue airing them until they can get their staple shows back on the air.

What I'm Watching: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1, Episode 5 “Queen’s Gambit” (C-)

The overarching story here might be a good one, but the specific plotlines are dull as anything. Like a former occupant of the Mondays-at-9pm timeslot (“Heroes”), the fact that a character is in high school is taken too much to heart and far too much of the series takes place at the school with unneeded emphasis on math homework and guidance counselors. Get back to the main point of the show! That does not mean more computer-talk involving that chess player. Additionally, Sarah spilling the beans to John about Reese’s identity is not a good move for the space-time continuum. There is no way the future can turn out as it was supposed to after all the damage done by the 1,420 Terminators sent back in time. What this episode does do well is harp on drama at the right moments. When Cameron unscrews the Terminator’s brain or whatever she did, she experiences a moment of uncertainty and looks quite pained and conflicted by the experience. At least there is a way to really kill these things and make sure they do not come back. The ending is the strongest part of the episode (and possibly the entire show so far). After going so long without being able to trust a soul, John chooses to trust a genuinely kind person who used to be part of his and Sarah’s life. The looks exchanged between the three of them possess an effective subtlety that this show should utilize far more often.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 3, Episode 12 “Hell or High Water” (D)

This episode is markedly better than its recent predecessors merely because it is such a relief to finally see them get out of prison. Not nearly as exciting as the first time about 20 months ago, but this at least jump-starts the pace of the series. Michael deserves the Humanitarian of the Year Award for his frequent heroics, keeping the bad guys (Lechero and T-Bag) in jail and constantly offering to share his breathing tube with the basketball-playing kid. Lincoln seems like he would fit in better in some comedy here, constantly jumping down Mahone’s throat with taunts of “sucks for you” and “screw you”. Not to mention that he nearly killed him right then and there. The problems facing this show now are its dependence on keeping at least some characters in prison (if it continues to follow the storylines of Sucre, T-Bag, and Bellick rather than abandoning them to their fates) and that L.J. and Sofia are still hostages. There is entirely too much double-crossing, and what is Whistler possibly thinking? It is not like he has a cell phone so he can plan to rendezvous with Michael. How will they communicate and arrange a plan? For the record, Gretchen is wearing quite a bright shade of lipstick which sticks out like a sore thumb. Same goes for the basketball kid’s bright red shirt. Ever heard of discretion? Next week is the season finale, which for the first time comes at the ideal number of episodes – thirteen. If only the season had been just a bit better (or a whole hell of a lot better).

Jericho Returns Tonight!

Don't miss the season premiere of "Jericho" tonight at 10pm on CBS. I've seen it already, and it is quite good. It is really crucial that this show gets a lot of viewers in order to be renewed for a third season.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I'm Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 1, Episode 3 “…and the Bag’s in the River” (B)

The third installment of this new series embellishes its strong qualities while still being held back a bit by its lagging elements. This episode definitely has its moments, especially the extended scene during which Walter bonds with his hostage and for a minute almost makes us forget that the guy is a vicious drug dealer. Bryan Cranston really goes for broke in his fierce but apologetic execution of the unavoidable murder. The episode’s ending is another compelling argument for AMC’s continued endeavors in television. The simple declaration of “I need to tell you something” ends just at the right moment and leaves a lasting impact despite its brevity. The show as a whole is excessively dark, in the sort of sense that it seems like there may be no light at the end of the tunnel. This show is not (yet) good enough that it should be so much gloom and doom. A lame attempt at alleviating the serious nature of the show is played out with Hank trying to scare Walter Jr. straight while it merely serves to reintroduce the character. This format has been done before, where the protagonist is pursued by his unknowing and unsuspecting friends, in shows like “Dexter”, and I think this could be a strong direction for the show to take, though it should be hesitant not to simply infuse cheap jokes to lighten its dark tone, but rather work on melding the two into a balanced and impressive show.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What I'm Watching: The L Word

The L Word: Season 5, Episode 6 "Lights! Camera! Action!" (B+)

This show has really reformatted itself into an almost completely new show, what with the focus on the movie and all. Shane's plotlines are being recycled but not growing old, and the rest is all fresh. I actually saw this episode at a special L Word brunch in Brooklyn, and it was quite interesting to see the reactions of the crowd. While some suspicious older men were quite creepy, the lesbian population that attended the screening was really rooting for Bette and Tina, going ecstatic every time they flirted, sympathetic towards Alice, and generally hateful towards Jenny. One attendee cited Jenny as her favorite character, which drew boos from the crowd, but she redeemed herself with a spot-on impression of Jenny, and took how Season 4 on DVD as a prize. I really hope that the Bette-Jodi affair does not end too badly, and I am glad that Phyllis is back and her daughter seems like she will make a fun character. And by the way, Adele is a psycho.

What I'm Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 2, Episode 15 "Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion" (B+)

Sadly there was no accompanying "Monk" episode tonight, but this hour did just fine by itself. The witty remarks are priceless and hilarious. Lassiter's reponse of "I'd rather sleep with a bear" to Shawn's offer of help, and basically anything Shawn says to his father or the chief. It is nice that Gus gets to be the romantic lead everyone admires while Shawn is the odd one out for a change. The whole "Black/Tan" thing ("why would you assume he was Black and I was Tan?") will keep me chuckling for a while.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pilot Review: Lipstick Jungle

Lipstick Jungle (NBC)
Premieres February 7 at 10pm

This is a show as bad as its title. Jungle noises spelled almost immediate doom for the ill-fated Denise Richards series “Sex, Love, and Secrets” a few years ago, and they do not work any better here. If the lunchroom jungle analogy in “Mean Girls” is an example of what to do, this is an example of what not to do. The story of three high-powered women is in almost every way unoriginal, and I have hardly seen anything as gratingly boring, and it gets less interesting by the minute. I never watched “Sex and the City”, but I feel like this show, which steals every song from a previous series, is probably quite the obvious rip-off (“Cashmere Mafia” is about on the same level. It is hard to decide which of the three leads is worst – Kim Raver (Audrey from “24”), Brooke Shields (not a big surprise), or Lindsay Price. Each of them fights so hard to stay firmly in control in their competitive and obstacle-plagued jobs, yet they are woefully unaware of and unprepared for their troubles in their personal lives. Men are completely ignored and women are the topic of discussion almost as much as on “The L Word”. Celebrity names are dropped frequently just to ensure that the women seem important. Maybe it is from watching too much “Entourage”, but the need for everyone in Shields’ production office to continually say Leonardo DiCaprio’s full name was incredibly annoying. Can’t they just call him Leonardo, or even Leo? This show features only a trio of leads, which makes for an awkward balance and I constantly found myself waiting to meet the fourth woman. Some shows have succeeded with only three main cast members, but taking a look at most successful series (“Desperate Housewives”, “Seinfeld”, “Sex and the City”, “Friends”), an even number seems to be the way to go.

How will it work as a series? The pilot covers far too much too quickly, and most of the plotlines could have been effectively stretched over a few episodes. With that said, there are a number of obstacles for each of the characters introduced at episode’s end which could make it interesting for all of ten minutes.
How long will it last? With the strike possibly ending now, it is impossible to judge how quickly programming will be left on the air. I do think this one will fail to pick up an audience and be swapped for “Law & Order” repeats after only a few weeks. If other new programming returns, this one is a goner for sure.

Pilot grade: F

What I'm Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 4, Episode 2 “Confirmed Dead” (B+)

The flash-forwards take a break as not one but four new characters are introduced through a series of extremely brief but informative flashbacks. This is where “Lost” becomes very frustrating and more questions are raised than answered. Yet a lot of important information is revealed in this episode – the team of four was led by Naomi and organized by Lance Reddick’s character who threatened Hurley at the asylum last week (in “Lost” time: in the future). Two things were bothersome during this episode – Miles, the feistiest and angriest of the team, is a ghost whisperer of some sort, which feels a bit too overtly supernatural and not explicable by any realistic excuse. Also, there is a lot of “Naomi doesn’t have a sister” chatter which could easily be left at “we had a code”. This is made up for by the cooler elements of this hour: Locke would have died if he had not given his father his kidney and Jack seems to know that Sayid and Juliet are in the woods and seems to making it up at first (and of course explaining it a bit too much later on, as with the Naomi-code situation). Ben knowing all the information about the parachuter is beyond intriguing, especially when he reveals he has a man on the boat, but we need some more answers! I am getting a little worried that everyone seems to be running off in every direction – I think a little “living together” might keep them from “dying alone”.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 11 “Siren” (F)

All this Clark-Lana drama is killing me. Lana looks ridiculous in her glasses (which she by the way does not need) and should definitely not be the first person Lionel turns to for trust after she violently held him captive for weeks. Bizarre also that Lana and Lionel are the only ones who care that Grant Gabriel is dead. Wasn’t Lois in love with him or something like that? I forgot to mention the death of Michael Cassidy’s character last week; he will be missed. But unfortunately in his last few episodes on the show, his character’s credibility (and sanity, for that matter) took a nosedive like that of two former Lana Lovers on the show, Ian Somerhalder and Jensen Ackles. Oliver Queen’s return to the show is hardly a cause for celebration, because despite the underwhelming revelation for Lois that he is the Green Arrow, he is outshone by that lame Green Arrowette impersonator girl. Her philosophy of trust is extremely similar to the one I discussed that was featured on last night’s Law & Order.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What I'm Watching: Law & Order

Law & Order: Season 18, Episode 7 "Quit Claim" (C)

I had hoped that Alana de la Garza's unusual appearance in the first fifteen minutes of this episode meant that Linus Roache would not be in this hour, but alas I was incorrect. And did both Garza and Sam Waterston use the same expression, about getting off the train? The detective work here seems quite sloppy. These guys go undercover at a moment's notice but leave their star criminal with a completely unknown woman/possible accomplice. Their reasoning for trusting people seems more to follow the logic of Peter Petrelli from "Heroes" - trust any old person with your life for no reason, then just flip and choose a new person to trust for no reason. Also not good - using "You don't know Jack" in the preview for next week. Lame.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1, Episode 4 "Heavy Metal" (F)

Did anything happen in this episode, or did John just jump on a truck and chill for forty-five minutes? I want to like this show so much but it is doing nothing to prove its worth. The fact that the dumb cops picked up the terminator guy before the terminator actually got to him is cheap. What a terrible detective the guy is who says that someone might be trying to steal his identity without somehow checking to make sure it is really him (in all fairness, I guess he would have had no way of knowing). Something that has really gotten to me over the past few weeks, and which was always a problem with the "Terminator" movies, is that these supposedly intelligent machines need to always push and shove all the time rather than being cunning and subtle. Slamming someone's face into a mirror is not necessarily the best way to kill someone. And hardly the most effective or discreet.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What I'm Watching: The L Word

The L Word: Season 5, Episode 5 "Lookin' At You, Kid" (B+)

I love how all the actresses rsemble the characters Jenny likes and completely do not resemble the ones she does not. She is really quite horrible to everyone in her life save for her newfound muse. That could be one way of getting her off the movie - having sex with your star is sure to cause some problems and create a conflict of interest. I cannot believe that not one but two actresses from the abysmal MyTV series "American Heiress" are now recurring players on this series, one as a major pain in Shane's ass and the other as one of the actresses cast in Jenny's film (Alicia Leigh Willis and Angela Gots, respectively). I am officially on the Bette-Tina reunion team at this point, finding Jodi a bit lame and Bette way too tense for her own good.

Pilot Review: Welcome to the Captain

Welcome to the Captain (CBS)
Premiered February 4 at 8:30pm

Not only does this show have one of the worst titles in recent television history, but its plot is also dismal. It almost seems less worth it than 2006's extremely short-lived FOX sitcom "Happy Hour". This show has a thin premise and a terrible lead. Comedy veterans Jeffrey Tambor and Raquel Welch are not even incorporated in the plot; they just pop up and deliver a one-liner in random scenes. Chris Klein keeps trying to look alive, and does not do a very good job of it. There is so little to even comment on here, and I am bored already.

How will it work as a series? Guy likes girl, girl has boyfriend, guy talks to uninteresting blabbermouths while trying to get girl. How long can that possibly last?
How long will it last? Nestled between CBS's other Monday night high-rated comedies, this show could go the route of "Rules of Engagement", but with the strike close to an end, I doubt that anyone will want to watch this.

Pilot grade: F

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 3, Episode 11 "Under & Out" (F)

Having a cell phone in jail totally counts as cheating. Everyone thinks Sona is so bad, but honestly they have a whole lot of amenities there which other prisons (Fox River included) lack. The idea of having each of the escapees talk one-on-one and plot together is a fine concept, but it is sort of too little, too late. They have been in prison for weeks now and now after ten episodes they finally decide to take sides? And the soccer kid just gets a free pass and special invitation at the last minute? This is a show that really could have benefited from 13-episode seasons. They have been dragging this all out to such a painful extent and it is just too much. After all this, they still cannot break out this episode, it has to be put off until next week? Next week better be damn good. Tonight's stupid quote: "Fisherman grew himself a set of oysters". Spoken by? Susan B. Anthony, of course.

Week One: In Treatment

In Treatment: Season 1, Episode 1 "Laura - Week One" (D-)
In Treatment: Season 1, Episode 2 "Alex - Week One" (C+)
In Treatment: Season 1, Episode 3 "Sophie - Week One" (C)
In Treatment: Season 1, Episode 4 "Jake & Amy - Week One" (F)
In Treatment: Season 1, Episode 5 "Paul & Gina - Week One" (F)

This innovative HBO series is based on a popular Israeli television show which I have not seen, but apparently works well. I cannot say the same for this show. First of all, I really wish that Paul had an office. His house is just too casual a setting for this. It would be nice if Gabriel Byrne had ditched his native accent and put on a less grating voice, like the one he used in "The Usual Suspects". I realize that sounds harsh, but if he is going to be talking every single episode, then I would hope he would have a less obnoxious voice. The reverse goes for Melissa George, whose Laura would have been slightly interesting had she kept her Australian accent. All the patients find it far too easy to talk, and Paul is always reluctant to speak and then says exactly what his patients want to hear. Without the presence of flashbacks, these stories are going to be pretty boring. The only mildly interesting patients are Alex and Sophie. Blair Underwood's Alex is so cocky and confident in how he structures everything in his life. Mia Wasikowska brings an intriguing kind of energy to her sessions but she seems way too mature for her age. I cannot stand the couple, and Paul vents his own issues far too angrily with his own therapist. Week-to-week, I do not think I can take this show. If I can get ahold of this week's episodes somehow, perhaps I will give them a glance but otherwise, I think I am all but finished with this show.

Friday Night Fun: Monk & Psych

Monk: Season 6, Episode 14 "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpieces" (B+)
Psych: Season 2, Episode 14 "Dis-Lodged" (B+)

Good times here on USA Fridays. These two episodes are much fluffier in nature than some of the best episodes but they are nonethless quite amusing and entertaining. Monk's paintings are so terrible, and Peter Stormare is a great person to come in and offer a great comedic performance which so clearly mimicks his more serious work in films like "Fargo". Later in the evening, Shawn joins a secret society - of course - and has a grand old time while Gus takes on a good deal of clients. I like seeing a lot of Lassiter and of course having Philip Baker Hall as a guest star can never go wrong. I do wish he had been given a juicier part. Ah, well.

Pilot Review: Eli Stone

Eli Stone (ABC)
Premiered January 31 at 10pm

For starters, this show reeks of "Men in Trees". While that show is not a bad one, there needs to be some semblance of order and semi-reality in a week-to-week series. A friend commented that the pilot was in itself self-resolving and seemed to need no continuation, and I am tempted to agree (though I hardly found the first installment satisfying). Eli talks a whole lot about how he is a prophet, yet it feels to me like he is merely taking the word of a fraudulent massage therapist to propel his own image in his mind. Sticking with his law firm cannot be a good idea, and Victor Garber needs a better part. Jonny Lee Miller is charismatic, but the show needs to be improved in a major way before it can even remotely hold my interest.

How will it work as a series? It strikes me as very repetitive in nature and very much uninteresting. Especially if everyone already knows about his supposed powers.
How long will it last? I cannot imagine who will want to stick with this one, and worse, sticking it after "Lost" seems an unwise move.

Pilot grade: D-

What I'm Watching: Lost (Season Premiere)

Lost: Season 4, Episode 1 "The Beginning of the End" (A-)

What a premiere! This is one show I am welcoming back with open arms. Sticking true to its stunning finale last May, this episode now continues with the flash-forward strategy and it works wonders. The thing to be careful of is of course turning it into a failed experiment like "The Nine", where the present-set "flash-forwards" were far less interesting than the actual events in the past but the story focused far too much on the lesser of the two. For the moment, "Lost" seems to be doing fine, especially with the revelation of its "Oceanic Six" bit. Who could the final three be? My money is on Sawyer being one of them and Sayid not. We will have to see, I guess. I am thrilled, however, that Charlie was incorporated into this episode and that the Jacob storyline has been made into a certifiable and good subplot. It was intensely thrilling when Hurley was running through the woods, saw the house with Jacob (actually Jack's father??!!) in it, turned the other way, ran a bit, and then stumbled back to the house again! The coolest part was that he closed his eyes and just made it go away. There is so much to like about this show and I have to be sure to write my review much quicker after I see the next episode so that I remember all the exciting stuff I enjoyed about it. While the last moment of this episode was a bit lame, it was a terrific ending and boy am I excited for this week.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 7, Episode 10 "Persona" (F)

And now for something different...or not. Big surprise, of course. After everything Bizarro is back and Jor-El conveniently happens to let Clark go just in time to stop his alter ego from destroying everything that is good and pure in the "Smallville" universe. I cannot stand Lana whenever she appears on screen. She has deteriorated into the dumbest character ever, constantly falling sway to evil plans and being less than stealthy in her quest for the truth. Bring back Oliver Queen already!