Friday, July 31, 2009

TV on DVD: Prison Break - The Final Break

Prison Break: The Final Break

It’s finally over. This show should have ended with season two, something I’ve said over and over again, and the series finale proved that by arbitrarily wrapping things up when it seems that it could have happened at any point during the show’s run. Well, just to emphasize how completely ridiculous the people behind “Prison Break” want its legacy to be, here’s another story that’s completely unnecessary. The show ended, and it looks like someone wasn’t happy with Michael only breaking out of two prisons during the show’s run, and therefore orchestrating a third highly illogical breakout must have seemed the logical solution. This also doubles as the women-in-prison spin-off that FOX had always planned to make. At least this TV movie was only two hours long, and viewers don’t have to be subjected to an entire series based around the ill-advised concept. Anyone who acknowledges and cherishes the existence of the third and fourth seasons of the show can easily pretend this movie never occurred, because Michael’s death was already established in the series finale. In any case, this final presentation should absolutely be ignored. But, I’d still like to share my reasons for hating it.

The biggest reason this movie stinks (and there are many) is that the show has gone and repeated itself over and over and over, to an unbearable point. The Company’s time has come and gone, Mahone’s allegiance has been questioned and proven time and time again, and Michael’s daring means of devising an escape have been tried and exhausted too many times to count. The fact that the government would still want to get Michael Scofield after he received a pardon from whomever Kellerman was working for doesn’t make much sense, and is hardly a legitimate premise for this epilogue. Then again, it’s been a long time since anything on “Prison Break” has needed a valid reason to go down any road. It seems like Michael has some sort of addiction to breaking people out of jail, and it’s literally what he does up until his final moment. But the crucial problem with Michael’s final plan is that Sara won’t have the free, peaceful life he would like for her as a permanent fugitive, though the show doesn’t seem to acknowledge that in any way. Michael would have been better off finding a way to actually get here free and clear and actually pardoned, and I know that Michael, with that brain of his, could have come up with some better plan that didn’t leave Sara alone for what would have been the remainder of his life and might have left her a free woman.

Besides those obvious issues, the movie has other problems. The entire jail scenario is at the same time devastatingly tired and highly preposterous. The initial offer of the seemingly kind-hearted guard to transfer Sara to a more comfortable room is extremely evident from the start, and though I don’t find her to be terribly intelligent, Sara’s smarter than that. The attempt to mirror the brothers’ prison situation is laughable. Sara’s “daddy” is almost an exact female version of T-Bag, and the angry, silent woman who Sara pushes her into is just a silly, stupid character. The need to incorporate Gretchen is pathetic, especially because this only proves that she has allegiance to absolutely no one, and tries to imply that she’s a caring mother who only wants the best for her daughter even though we’ve seen her act over and over as a cold, cruel, vicious killer. The reappearance of both the general and T-Bag is also only an epitaph for their characters, proving that bad people really get what’s coming to them, and no one likes a rat. Getting the rest of the gang together is fine, but wouldn’t these people want to move on with their lives? I know I sure do. That’s all the “Prison Break” I can take.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I’m Watching: Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13: Season 1, Episode 4 “Claudia” (C)

No more even pacing here than last week, that’s for sure. This episode again falls under the category this show continues to find itself slipping into – too much, too fast. While I understand the desire to develop background on all the characters, delving so deep into Artie’s past is a mistake for the show so soon. The episode at first appeared to be trying to deviate from the formula of the mysterious object every time, but then Pete and Myka realized that the compass was in fact a supernaturally-powerful artifact. Artie’s an entertaining character, and there’s no debating that, but he’s not really capable of anchoring the show all by his lonesome. It doesn’t help that the woman he’s sharing his screentime with a crazy woman. The flashbacks were intriguing but not quite as meaningful or powerful as they should have been, and having Mrs. Frederick appear in them didn’t make a whole lot of sense. That can be said for the whole storyline of bringing Joshua back, and it seemed more like sheer luck, and also like quite a simple task. Pete and Myka’s presence felt very extraneous, and was only entertaining for their brief interaction with the intimidating Mrs. Frederick and the revelation that Myka was a huge nerd growing up. It’s not exactly ground-breaking territory, and I think the show needs to think a bit more outside the box, especially considering the vast warehouse of possibilities at its disposal, and try something that actually deviates from the formula but still incorporates the lead characters in a major way. Making the two leads on a new show feel unnecessary in the fourth episode is decidedly not a good thing.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 5, Episode 8 “A Distinctive Horn” (B)

This episode is a return to the kind of show that “Weeds” was in the first half of its fourth season, when Albert Brooks was hanging around and teaching the clan about Judaism. Nancy’s attempted to completely cut herself off from Esteban and embrace Andy as the symbolic father of her child. They would make a good family unit, in my opinion, but Nancy’s forgetting one very crucial thing – Esteban’s not out of the picture. And until Nancy successfully maneuvers herself out of this situation, the show’s going to be on hold. Esteban has gone from an intriguing, romantic, mysterious character to a quick-to-anger, ruthless mob boss who doesn’t even seem to care about Nancy at all. Finally, Andy has shaven his beard, which is a terrific thing, and the bris in this episode is quite enjoyable. On the other side of things, teaming up Celia and Dean is usually a good idea, though I’m not exactly sold on what’s currently in the works. I did love Dean’s price for his services, and I also enjoyed the quick cut to Doug’s screaming still being heard in a frozen yogurt place. The subtle return of Lupita is a nice touch, and I like that the show’s trying to return to older times. Then again, it seems that the show keeps doing that, simply erasing plotline after plotline from the show’s memory as it loops around and around to Nancy trying to wiggle herself out of the next problem, never looking back to her past debacles for assistance in dealing with her current problems.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer, Season 5, Episode 8 “Elysian Field” (B)

This episode suffers from the common phenomenon of the special guest star. Tom Skerritt, Emmy-winning star of “Picket Fences” back in the early 1990s, shows up as a retired detective who just happens to have a particular interest in the case of the week, and lo and behold, he’s the perpetrator. While it’s obvious from the start that the advertised guest is the one behind the crime, it’s still interesting to see his motives played out, and to have each of the victim’s family members lawyer up and appear to be suspects made for some good suspense throughout. I also like seeing Flynn and Provenza so intricately involved in the case and having them feel personally connected to Skerritt’s character was great. I’m very happy that the show has decided to embrace a recurring storyline, that of the crooked lawyer slash rapist played by Billy Burke. I thought he was terrific last season in his one-shot guest spot, and I’m glad that Brenda’s become obsessed with this one case, which she’ll hopefully revisit too. Burke’s character is the perfect threat, too, though I did enjoy Jason O’Mara’s (relatively) harmless firestarter from last season.

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 6, Episode 3 “One Car, Two Car, Red Car, Blue Car” (B)

“Entourage” hasn’t quite found its funk this season. It’s still entertaining, and while this episode tries to get the wheels spinning on several fronts, it doesn’t get too far and, at the same time, altogether ignores other threads. Turtle takes the spotlight for a change, since it’s his birthday, and he also gets some free advice from Ari on how to start his own company, or rather how he needs to get himself together before even considering a business venture. The fact that both Vince and Jamie got him the same gift is pretty funny, but like Ari brings up, why does Turtle suddenly have the urge to pull his life together? Besides turning thirty, nothing’s really occurred in his life to inspire him to pull away from his very comfortable lifestyle and try to go it on his own. Eric also gets a dose of reality, and it seems like he’s doing the right thing walking out on the project after his lead star and client gets ousted. I’m curious whether new girlfriend (or whatever she is) Alexis Dziena will stick around, since he doesn’t seem too interested in her and she’s already managed to outstay her welcome after her first sleepover. Eric’s big moment, however, when he burst into the office and demanded his star not be fired, and called her a racist, was pretty terrific, especially because he really was just doing his best impression of Ari. Vince doesn’t really do anything this episode, and neither does Drama. Will this show become like “Lost,” where several characters are featured in one episode and don’t even appear in the next? Ari didn’t have much to do either, though I did enjoy his cackling at Eric’s big scene and his son’s reaction to his methods.

What I'm Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Pickle Jar” (B+)

This fourth installment continues its positive streak with a second consecutive great episode. Part of that is due to the always fantastic Margo Martindale, who has lit up the small screen on shows like “The Riches” and “Dexter.” She always brings a warm sensibility to all of her characters, and in this case, she’s a bit less touching and friendly, but she’s still just as fabulous as always. Her role as one of Ray’s clients is quite helpful for the development of Ray as both a character and as a prostitute. He’s beginning to realize that he has to be completely open to any and all kinds of clients, and also that he can really help people feel good about themselves. The fact that he’s now taking on a number of clients at a time means that he can have several positive, dramatic experiences each episode as well as hilarious and unexpected awkward scenarios. Tanya’s doing her job well as his pimp, constantly working to establish her reputation and Ray’s reputation. The drama with Ray’s children isn’t terribly interesting, but at least they’re trying. And the best moment was Anne Heche’s interaction with Ray’s first client, and meetings like that are always entertaining where characters have no idea how close they actually are to the situation they’ve just encountered (just like “Breaking Bad,” though in a far less serious mode).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 2, Episode 6 “Hard-Hearted Hannah” (B+)

What a full episode that really gets the heart pumping. Every character has some sort of dynamic, intense experience, all of which is building towards an interaction of all the characters. Sam falls completely under Daphne’s spell, and it seems that she’s in league with Maryann, who now has Sam in her clutches for whatever purposes she desires. Eggs and Tara have also ended up in the same place, though it’s not clear that Tara recognized Maryann before she was placed under her creep, black-oil-eyes trance. I love storylines like this one with Eggs, where a character is convinced they’ve been somewhere before and can’t remember why, yet still they know where to go and they can tell it’s familiar to them. Maryann’s obviously a bit of a puzzle, and I’m hopeful that the focus on her supernatural abilities will pay off when her character is revealed to be integral to the overarching “True Blood” mythology. Having both Andy Bellefleur and Lafayette return to the regular rotation is fun, in the different incarnations of delusional, persistent cop, and terrified, transformed vampire-servant. Jason continues to grow as a character, and his latest sexual interaction with Sarah probably won’t do well, considering her husband’s latest temper tantrum. I was shocked and somewhat scared to find Sookie and her companion so quickly and easily forced into going down to the basement, though everything became frighteningly clear when Sookie heard Steve’s excitement at bringing the captive vampire up and frying him in the sun. Meanwhile, it looks like Bill’s not going anywhere anytime soon, as his own violent vampire past is revealed in those extraordinarily powerful and dramatic flashbacks to old times.

Miniseries: The Storm (Part 1)

If you thought “Impact” and “Meteor” were bad, you won’t believe how awful the latest summer weather miniseries is. “The Storm” abandons impending objects of destruction for the real villain that lies in mother nature – the weather. That’s not the only malicious force at work here, however. The government is also heavily corrupt – they’re attempting to control the weather, which, while it may have good intentions, is a really, really bad thing. And once they realize that, they’re more than happy to go around taking out any and all people who might be able to expose them as the ones responsible for this devastating storm, which really takes a backseat to the conspiracy plot. The storm has hardly even taken anyone out yet, as opposed to, say, “Meteor,” where major characters were felled and deterred by the weather. Here, it’s just a very evil-sounding Treat Williams commanding his underlings to discredit a defecting doctor and murder all those who could possibly back up his whistle-blowing claims. James Van Der Beek stars as the highly ethical but otherwise useless doctor, and his most impressive quality is his jarring physical resemblance to Luke Perry (anyone else agree?), who, confusingly enough, pops up later as a like-minded but nonetheless intimidating individual who wants to help Van Der Beek save the world and expose the government (not sure about the last one, but this story was confusing as hell).The rest of the cast includes a smattering of familiar faces, all of whom serve no real purpose. John Laroquette, who’s mostly effectively comically but can also do drama, is particularly wasted as a newspaper editor with no intrinsic value as a character. David James Elliott, not content with the weather-movie damage he wreaked in “Impact,” stops by as someone high up and in league with Treat Williams’ character, and he ends up being just one in an array of evil faces hidden in shadows. Marisol Nichols, recognizable to me as Nadia from season six of “24,” is a cop sharply and extensively investigating the doctor’s trail and the murders along it, and she almost seems like the star of the miniseries. I thought it was supposed to be about weather – I guess I was wrong? The music, however, seemed very familiar to me, and sounded just a bit like the score from “Meteor.” I headed over to IMDB, and sure enough, composer Jonathan Snipes wrote the music for both. That would seem to imply that the two were conceived together as weather/natural-disaster miniseries. So why does the storm feel so irrelevant here? I imagine it will play a bigger role in the second half next Sunday, but I will under no circumstances be tuning in to find out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I’m Watching: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 11 “The Convertible” (B-)

The first real new episode of ABC’s departing dramedy is a whole lot better than last week’s waste of time, but it’s not that terrific. It’s an incredibly silly episode that’s altogether preposterous like the pilot, though still a lot of fun. Pairing up the show’s two most ridiculous characters, Karen and Brian, is a great idea, and having Nate there to temper them probably sounded like a smart idea, but in this case, he’s just as ungrounded. I don’t know if anyone else thought that perhaps the plane had been sabotaged just like Dutch’s, but things still got crazy when the plane started hitting turbulence. Karen’s confession is no surprise, but Nick’s, on the other hand, is quite a whopper. He’s so effortlessly casual about it that it almost doesn’t seem real, and I must say that their joint surprise at the plane not crashing was an unfortunate moment for the acting world. But Brian, on the other hand, was spot-on, and everyone’s amazement at his actually stopping to pray was quite funny. Everyone’s arc throughout the episode was entertaining if not spectacular. Karen’s own, highly selective search for a sperm donor was enjoyable, and her ultimate revelation that she’s pregnant with Simon’s baby is a pretty nasty twist. Nick’s realization that his wife is seeing someone else and that, for the sake of his daughter, he should let her stay for the weekend. The newfound relationship between Nick and Karen is perfect, and I hope that her pregnancy doesn’t stand in the way of that. Brian is the only one who actually matures, although his impure repeated attempts at trying to get with his ex-wife are a load of fun. Patrick isn’t doing much at the moment, and guest star John Schneider, while nice to see out of his boring “Smallville” shell, was an appropriate force to meet with him, and I was entertained by how that interaction ended with Patrick completely messing it up after sending the wrong signals and getting shot down after shooting him down. The wackiest part of the episode came at the end, when the most outrageous character, Simon Elder, confirmed Jeremy still had his memory, and in true uber-villain fashion, ominously told Jeremy he’d have to kill someone, and that someone would be Elder himself. I have a slight suspicion that Elder’s faking his own death, but it’s still pretty out-there, and it’s hard to care very much about what’s going to happen next when the show’s fate is already sealed. That’s not the fault of anyone involved with the show, however. Two more episodes to go – what crazy things will occur next?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 1, Episode 7 “Crazy Love” (B+)

I think it’s truly impressive how, in every episode, the four main characters are always the ones to come upon these patients in the midst of their medical breakdowns. This episode features Divya driving in that particular situation, and I really love any and all of her interactions with people. It was a pleasure to finally see her fiancĂ©e, and to see how she’d like to have an actual relationship with him. The working dynamic between Divya and Hank has really become terrific, and it’s one of the strongest points of the show. A favorite part of mine in this episode was the MSG term which Evan was so offended not to be called, and I’m glad that Hank actually cares what Jill’s friends think about him. Hank and Jill don’t seem to be having too much trouble keeping their relationship where they want it, but I think that’s partially because other things are at the forefront of their minds, and again, it’s only summer. As I’ve mentioned before in my posts about this show, it’s extremely possible that the series could fast-forward to the next summer once it (presumably) returns next summer and therefore skip the seasons when the Hamptons might not be in full bloom. Regarding its future, the show is doing a good job of prepping some of its most long-term plans. Involving Boris in a more central way is fantastic, and the notion that he has some sort of disease as well as mysterious reasons for keeping it a secret is quite intriguing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 7 “Shot in the Dark” (B+)

Here’s Michael Westen back on track, doing exactly what he always does, helping those in need as they come find him. The twist here was that a kid approached Michael on behalf of his mother (reminding me of a “Grey’s Anatomy” installment where Meredith yelled at a mother for doing nothing to stand up to abuse when her daughter shot her stepfather), and Michael dealing with children is something we haven’t seen much of, though it’s really quite fun when it occurs. Madeline’s involvement in that portion of the case was also humorous; she loves taking in the helpless families and offering them her own particular brand of comfort and affection. Seeing Jay Harrington of “Better Off Ted” as the dumb but evil guest star here was slightly strange, since he just doesn’t seem threatening, but it was entertaining to see him squirm once he realized that Michael was playing him. I also recognized Nicholas Lea, a.k.a. Alex Krycek from “The X-Files,” as the fearsome brother, and I really wish he had been given more of a part, since he’s capable of being truly seedy. Fiona’s lust for blood was particularly entertaining here, and I loved her line, “technically, he can run and bleed.” This team’s pretty stellar, and having them all show up in the same place and pretend to be hallucinations was a lot of fun. I know that some, like G1000, may disagree and prefer installments that deviate from the traditional formula, but I think this is an example of the show at its best.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What I’m Watching: Samantha Who (Series Finale)

Samantha Who: Season 2, Episodes 19 & 20 “The Other Woman” & “With this Ring”

These final two episodes couple together very well as a final ode to the show’s beloved characters – with one glaring exception. First, the good. All three of the show’s leading ladies are faced with a romantic dilemma, whether it’s the guy or the lifestyle. Andrea’s sham marriage to Tony Dane becomes an even clearer charade as her parents are replaced by stunt parents and Todd’s original loser friend returns to declare his affection for her. A secret relationship with an unattractive guy who actually likes her is about as much as the shallow Andrea deserves. Dena, on the other hand, has the behind-the-curve Chase bending over backwards trying to find a substantially romantic unromantic way of proposing to her, although she realizes and admits that it’s not the life she’d like, but she does want to live with him and with her animals. She’s always been a bit of a peculiar character, but Melissa McCarthy did a great job with the role and sending her off this way is entirely fitting. Sam, on the other hand, develops an attraction to Winston as she sees all the romantic stuff he did for her, but then ultimately comes upon that incriminating video where he schemes to send Todd away with a job offer he can’t refuse. Angie Harmon guest-starring as Winston’s ex-wife was a spectacular choice, and having Sam’s hit-and-run driver revealed was a wise move as well, since it’s obvious that she alienated so many people and it’s only fair to assume one of them would have been angry enough to hit her with a car. Sam’s ultimate manipulation of Winston and choice of Todd was fun, and I especially loved the lines, “I remembered that you sucked” and “I am not your puppet in your little puppet theatre show,” a nice finale for the character of Samantha Newly. The final both-held-as-terrorist-suspects airport scene with the spontaneous marriage proposal was cute, and while it felt a bit too “extra special series finale,” it actually worked, and if any two television characters are going to end up unwittingly held at an airport as potential threats, I think Sam and Todd are the ones.

Now the one problem – the show’s about to end, Sam and Todd are walking into their apartment as a newly engaged couple, and Regina’s sitting on the couch, announcing her separation from Howard and plan to move in with them. Regina and Howard’s storyline really started to derail here, and I think it’s the popular need for shows to keep the parental generation involved way past their expiration date. Teen series like “The O.C.” and “One Tree Hill” do this to a fault, keeping the adults just as front-and-center as the teenage drama, but in this case, it probably didn’t seem like as big of a deal. Kevin Dunn was always great comic relief as the sarcastic but loving Howard, and Jean Smart was over-the-top and funny as the persistent and determined Regina. The recent turn of events for them wasn’t great, and having them separate seems entirely out of character. Throughout the first season, Howard always did whatever was best for Regina, even if he didn’t do it right away. Seeing him take a different route this season as he explored his past and his future options wasn’t really in the style of his character, and it was too bad, since they always seemed like a fun couple. I imagine this point is where the season was supposed to end and go into season three, where Sam’s amnesia is the least of her problems, she’s engaged to Todd, and she’s dealing with having her mother around. I’m not sure that’s a wise place to go, and therefore perhaps it’s fate that this show got canceled and still got a chance to finish out its storylines. Sam couldn’t be an amnesiac forever, and while season two was nothing great, at least the show ended (pretty) well. The way to look at it, in my mind, is that nothing was ever going to be perfectly right for Sam, because, well, that would have been boring. Sam’s new obstacle would have been her mom, and I suppose that’s a decent route to have gone. I’ll just pretend the show ended thirty second earlier.

Series finale: B
Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Christina Applegate
Series grade: B
Series MVP: Jennifer Esposito/Melissa McCarthy

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I’m Watching: Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13: Season 1, Episode 3 “Magnetism” (C)

It’s hard to chart a show like this because individual episodes can be good or bad depending upon the mysterious object of the week. The hunt for the object in this episode, with constantly changing suspects, was sort of fun, but it’s the setting that really hindered this one. It felt like installments of “The X-Files” where Mulder and Scully were stuck in a town where all the people banded together in a communal manner like the episode “Our Town.” Obviously, Myka and Pete will be the odd people out every time as they travel from place to place seeking out these objects, but the big town scenes have occurred a few too many times already, and it would be nice if they didn’t encounter such a large, broad group each time. The show’s also having tremendous trouble finding a static tone. Myka and Pete’s practical joke on Artie is a nice, odd bit of teamwork, but nothing in the forty or so minutes leading up to it indicated that they would have bonded like that. The sexual desires of the affected guy who kept trying to grab Myka’s breasts were amusing but not terribly consistent. Myka’s inner wishes, however, were quite entertaining, hitting Pete in the face every few seconds. Maybe episode four will find a more even pacing.

What I’m Watching: Better Off Ted

Better Off Ted: Season 1, Episode 11 “Father, Can You Hair Me?” (B+)

Now here’s a show that really knows its characters. Veronica is highly competitive and generally unsentimental, and a deeply spirited back-and-forth battle with her father to release new products first makes a lot of sense. Her very literal Frisbee-tossing and park bench hangout with her father were both very funny moments, and Geoff Pierson (President Keeler on “24”) was a fitting choice to portray her dying father. The episode’s end with Veronica tricking her father into picking up the hair-growing parasite after hugging and kissing him was a nice coda for their relationship. Ted’s personality is also very well-defined. He’s highly motivated to excel, and projects that same determination onto his daughter. Similarly, he wants to be the first out of the gate with the patent for the hair-growing product, even testing it on himself. He is grounded enough, however, to realize and accept that his daughter doesn’t necessarily have the same desires he does, and that’s what makes him a good parent – and “Better Off Ted” a good show.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 5, Episode 7 “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (B)

This season of “Weeds” definitely goes down in my book as wildly unfocused and entirely scatter-brained. This episode isn’t all bad, but it’s puzzling both in its plot directions and its execution. Andy’s beard still being present is one of the more puzzling, anger-inducing elements, though his purchase of the antique car with doors welded shut is amusing and completely in character. His presence on the show at all is somewhat extraneous, and only after this episode should he once again become relevant. Nancy’s reckless decision to have the baby born at the hospital just shows how she’s continually only looking out for herself, completely shunning her children and seemingly searching only for an escape route to preserve her life. Celia’s a good character to have in the spotlight, but just like Andy, she doesn’t belong. The fact that Isabelle may now have a romantic plotline of her own is great, since she’s one of the best characters left on the show. Silas and Doug’s feuding was tedious for a while, but their eventual arrest scene was well worth it. I’m curious where that will go next. By the way, did anyone notice how the entire episode, with the exception of one brief, unsatisfying scene, didn’t really relate at all to the surprise ending from last week? Yeah, it’s a bit troubling.

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 5, Episode 7 “Strike Three” (B+)

Hooray for recurring guest stars, especially when they include Mary McDonnell! Her continuing clashes with Brenda, on the heels of her appearance in episode three, are terrific entertainment and the two light up the screen when they’re having a discussion/argument. The ending scene where both stress what’s most important to them was a great finish, purposely not resolving the clash so that hopefully McDonnell’s Captain Raider can return again to wreak more law-abiding havoc for Brenda. I love it when Chief Pope takes sides and actually defends Brenda’s abrasive behavior, and in this case he went further in insisting that Brenda hand-deliver all the evidence back to the Major Crimes Unit herself. The episode’s skinhead-centric crime plotline was fine, but things were a bit crowded. I was a bit surprised when Lieutenant Provenza assured Brenda that soon enough, it would be back to just the six of them. With Lieutenant Daniels off the squad, and Chief Pope, Commander Taylor, and Fritz not counting as part of the team, I suppose it is only six: Brenda, Provenza, Flynn, Gabriel, Sanchez, and Tau. It just never seemed that small to me, because I remember when the ensemble was first nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award back in 2006, and I was dismayed that only seven cast members were recognized, since Sanchez, Tau, and Daniels weren’t credited at that point. In any case, it seems that Provenza forgot about Buzz. I guess he’s not necessarily a member of their team, but he is a credited member of the cast who comes with them to record evidence at every crime scene and assists in some way, even if it’s only a technical one, in solving their cases. Regardless of its numbers, the ensemble continues to do a terrific job working together.

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 6, Episode 2 “Amongst Friends” (B)

Well, I can’t say that things really got going here. It’s the premiere of Scorsese’s “The Great Gatsby,” and therefore Vince and his buddies are living large just like they used to, free and clear of the continual problems that plagued them during season five. Nothing much is happening with the guys, however, and therefore the show doesn’t really have any momentum on which to coast at the moment. E’s two different possible romances are both somewhat intriguing, but I imagine he’ll bounce back and forth a lot and perhaps head nowhere. Having Emanuelle Chriqui back is good, and casting Alexis Dziena (“Invasion”) as E’s other potential flame is a smart choice. Jamie-Lynn Sigler is proving not to be as interesting as she could have been, and Turtle just seems so baffled that he’s actually dating her. I worry that’s an indicator of what will soon happen – he’ll no longer have her in his life and be right back to what he was before. The problem with that is that it’s a doomed plotline; it doesn’t seem like there’s anywhere for it to go. There’s nothing worth mentioning about Drama or Vince. The one area where this episode excels is incorporating new agent Andrew Klein into Ari’s story. It’s always a treat to see more of Perrey Reeves as Ari’s wife, and watching her have fun is quite enjoyable. The introduction of Autumn Reeser (“The O.C.”) as rising agent Lizzie Grant should be a boon for the show, if she stays on for an extended arc. Turning Ari into the moral person he’s not is a cool revision of his character that keeps him fresh, and keeps Jeremy Piven’s Emmy-snubbed performance excellent, just as it was at the start of the show.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 1, Episode 3 “Strange Friends or The Truth Is, You’re Sexy” (B+)

This episode was a spectacular improvement on the first two episodes, and gives me enormous confidence in the future potential of this series. Everything’s finally coming together, and the focus is much clearer. Ray’s interaction with his neighbor who continues to complain about him urinating in the lake was absolutely fantastic. That’s the kind of subplot that could really work. Ray’s main contact, with Tanya, is what will keep this show going. Tanya’s anger and defensive tactics after Lenore refuses to pay her are really quite entertaining, and she’s quickly becoming a terrific character. Lenore’s a pretty fun chick to have around too, and I hope that she’s kept on in a recurring role. Anne Heche did a fine job this episode as well. This was generally a fantastic showcase for everyone involved, and I like that Ray’s taking a proactive role in his own life, and Tanya’s helping him out too with cleverly-placed apologetic fortunes. This is a show that’s quickly developing the possibility of becoming truly good. Two episodes thus far have been so-so, and I’m hoping that episode four will be as good as episode three.

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 2, Episode 5 “Never Let Me Go” (B+)

Everyone’s in different places, both location-wise and in their lives, but this show’s still being held together well. The fact that both Sam and Sookie are discovering people with the same supernatural abilities as them is really cool. Sam’s newfound sexual relationship with Daphne spices up things back at the bar while Sookie and Jason are away, though of course the return of Lafayette is nice, and it’s deeply spooky to see him so deathly serious. Maryann’s manipulation of Tara is sure to turn out badly, but I’m happy with anything as long as it keeps the terrific Michelle Forbes around. I’m hopeful that she’ll soon interact more with both Sookie and Sam since I’m entirely curious about her character. Jason’s conversion into a deeply religious vampire hunter was definitely subtle and pretty fascinating. His newfound humanity is quite intriguing, helping his mortal enemy and attempting to refuse the advances of a married woman. Sookie was very funny in her efforts to bond with the bellhop, and his different perception on life was extremely interesting. I’m very much in favor of the flashbacks to older times, and seeing Eric meet his maker was one of the most powerful moments of the season. These other vampires seem like they’ll be causing some trouble for Sookie and Bill – I doubt Sookie will get bitten, but I’m a tad nervous for our two heroes.

What I'm Watching: Dirty Sexy Money (Series Return)

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2, Episode 10 “The Facts” (C-)

This episode is not a good way to get back into “Dirty Sexy Money” right before its three final episodes begin next week. This installment is from way back in November, and was filmed as the seventh episode of the show to serve as a filler hour. It never aired, so here it is now. The biggest reason it doesn’t work is that every actor on the show regularly plays their roles way over the top, and making them even more unbelievable by having them tailor to fanciful made-up plotlines about them is simply too much. Shawn Michael Patrick, who plays Clark, isn’t the most enthusiastic of actors. While he is great in small doses, as he was in the second season premiere, he’s not really capable of carrying an entire episode by himself. The fact that the role of the reporter went to Rena Sofer only makes matters worse. I could barely stand watching television when Sofer was guest-starring on both “24” and “Heroes” at the same time since watching her attempt to act just makes me cringe. She’s so grating and uninteresting, and her characters are one-note and lame. Her reporter here was all talk, and her continuous threatening of Clark was obvious from the start. The ending of the episode wasn’t anything stunning – the very direct parody of “The Usual Suspects” is good for a laugh or two, but it doesn’t really work with the bulk of the episode that came before it. Clark’s promise to give the reporter inside scoop from that point forward makes no sense if he made the whole thing up; why wouldn’t he just leave her feeling like she got everything she wanted? I know I’m looking too closely, and “Dirty Sexy Money” isn’t that complex. This episode shouldn’t be judged so harshly because it was designed to fill in the gaps instead of airing a repeat of the show. Hopefully the remaining three installments will be much better than this, a return to the incredible awesomeness of “The Chiavennasca,” but my hopes aren’t too high.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 1, Episode 6 “If I Were a Sick Man” (B+)

I’m continually impressed by how each character is so fully incorporated into each episode, and several threads are sown together in each installment and work perfectly. The inclusion of Evan in everything is particularly fun, especially as he gets the opportunity to meet Tucker and almost mess up his relationship. Tucker’s a great recurring character, and his girlfriend’s medical phobias are pretty darn funny. The meat of this episode was the preposterous notion of a bark mitzvah, a concept I hadn’t heard of before this. Ms. Newberg, another recurring player, is the perfect person to host such a lavish event. The linear way the story went, starting out with Jill and Hank almost having breakfast in bed, was cool because it was a nice excuse to keep them together for the whole day. Their different perceptions about the way their relationship was going were fun, and their attempts to discuss it during the bark mitzvah were entertaining as well. The revelation that Divya is preparing for an arranged marriage is not all that surprising, and it’s terrific that Evan’s the one who found out about it. I enjoy their bantering more than anything else on this show, since they’re both considerably edgier than the main couple on this show. Overall, this was one entertaining installment, driven by the insanely ridiculous storyline and some intense medical competition.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 6 “The Hunter” (B)

It’s always fun to see how Michael can get out of a jam, and especially thrilling to see how he communicates his situation to Fiona and Sam so that they can come help rescue him. It’s also nice pairing Michael with a hapless other who seems at first intimidating and then turns out not to be so brave, but sometimes it gets in the way. Michael’s very good at dealing with situations, and having an incompetent there often distracts from his accomplishments. Michael’s having enough trouble figuring out where he stands in the spy community; he doesn’t need his own supposed allies messing up in the midst of a mission. Sam and Fiona’s constant bickering is amusing, but the highlight of this episode is Madeleine. Sharon Gless has hardly ever had so much screen time, and in this case she uses it to infuse Madeleine with a whole lot of attitude we knew she had as well as a very take-no-prisoners approach to interrogation. Her successful intimidation of their prisoner was entertaining, and it would be wise for Madeleine to take a bigger role in the missions in the future. Her best line followed her disclosure of information to Sam and Fiona – “Do I have to go rescue my son too?” The opening fighting scene was also great, watching Fiona take out her anger at Michael’s endless job hunt on him in a physical way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miniseries: Meteor (Part 2)

The second part of this space-related natural disaster miniseries event is just as fun as the first, and also equally terrible. The entirety of Imogene’s slow-paced journey to the right side of the border is equally enthralling and laughable, highlighted by her shooting of some vicious Mexicans and her attempts to plead with a border control officer to help save the world. The big revelation that only half of the meteor actually hit made for a nice bit of suspense as Imogene struggled to make contact, and Jason Alexander’s Dr. Chetwyn bumbled about trying to foresee what was happening for himself. And then we have the presentation’s most entertaining thread, which would be rogue cop Stark, portrayed by Michael Rooker, insanely intent on wreaking havoc for Billy Campbell’s Jack by trying to murder his father and his daughter. He’s a great Terminator-scale villain, who just keeps coming back every time you think he’s dead. His own excitement at his trick of wearing a vest was worth the price of admission. Jack’s own pursuit of justice, stopping along the way while his daughter was in mortal danger to help some random woman being threatened by two menacing men, was an interesting show of his character. When the end of the world looms near, how will people act? “Meteor” answers that question by assuming everyone will panic and become terrible human beings, with the exception of its core cast members. This is a hardly a worthwhile and legitimate pondering on the subject, but it’s an entirely entertaining piece of garbage that actually serves suspense at times over its two parts. Most of the suspense isn’t related to the meteor, sure, but I never thought that inanimate objects, however large and looming, made for great villains.

Part 2 Grade: F
Entertainment Value: B+

Emmy Nominees: Best Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/7, choosing “Scrubs” and “Two and a Half Men” over the big surprises

Well, this is quite a breath of fresh air. A bit too much fresh air in some cases, like Family Guy, which makes history as the second animated program ever nominated in this category. I’m not a fan of the series, but I suppose it’s a notable triumph. Still, I’m happy that Emmy voters thought outside the box here. While I would have preferred “Chuck” or “Eastbound and Down” over How I Met Your Mother, I know that its devoted fanbase, including JG, is thrilled that it finally got nominated. The surprising omission of “Two and a Half Men” is pretty great – I imagined it would be a long time before voters grew tired of it. It’s especially shocking that it didn’t make the cut when the field was expanded to seven nominees, but again, creative thinking! The inclusion of both Flight of the Conchords and Weeds is great, especially considering “Flight of the Conchords” has already been canceled and this is the final honor it will likely receive. A fitting one, at that. Entourage made it in despite having a pretty bad year, and then of course the expected nominees The Office and 30 Rock are here. “30 Rock” continues to be wildly popular with nominations for all five of its core cast members, five guest acting nominations, three directing nominations, and a whopping four out of five writing nominations. Overall, this category doesn’t quite address the creativity of comedies out there, but it’s a fine start.

Who should win? “30 Rock” or “Weeds”
Who will win? Probably “30 Rock,” but who the hell knows now?

Emmy Nominees: Best Drama Series

My predictions: 5/7, choosing “Boston Legal” over “Big Love” and “Breaking Bad”

It figures that the first time I actually decide to give up and predict “Boston Legal,” it doesn’t get nominated. I’m ecstatic, of course. Sorry JG. What has me scratching my head is the inclusion of “Big Love,” which made it in for its third season after earning only a Best Directing nod for the pilot and a guest actress mention for Ellen Burstyn last year. Even more strangely, it’s the only nomination for Big Love this year, just like “Scrubs” when it earned zero other nominations a few years ago. Its inclusion is strange, but it shouldn’t figure it to the running for the win at all. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, achieved an enormous breakthrough by getting a nomination here, and it’s a well-deserved one that’s been building from a superb season. The other five nominees all transfer over from last year. Like when the five-nominee category expanded last year to include Dexter, this year it did the same to add the new two shows while keeping “Dexter” and returning nominees Damages, House, Lost, and Mad Men. It’s very sad that “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Shield,” and “True Blood” aren’t here, but it’s not that much of a surprise, sadly. I suppose there was only one spot reserved for thinking outside the box, and at least “Breaking Bad” got that instead of something like "Fringe" or "The Mentalist."

Who should win? “Mad Men” though “Breaking Bad” was quite good
Who will win? “Breaking Bad” actually represents a legitimate threat to “Mad Men,” but for now I think “Mad Men” still takes it

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/5, but only one of my predicted “30 Rock” episodes made it

The nominees:
30 ROCK, “Apollo, Apollo”
30 ROCK, “Mamma Mia”
30 ROCK, "Kidney Now"
30 ROCK, "Reunion"

So, just like “Mad Men,” the reigning comedy equivalent 30 Rock dominates the writing category with four out of five nominations. I can support “Mamma Mia,” but the other three, especially “Kidney Now,” really don’t belong here. The Flight of the Conchords episode was terrific, and I’m glad that’s here. I don’t know why no episodes of “The Office” are nominated – the writing on “30 Rock” is good, but some of the episodes of “The Office” deserve recognition too. That show won an Emmy for its second season, but it’s never truly been an Emmy favorite like “30 Rock.” Also to note – “30 Rock” is so overwhelmingly popular that voters forgot to invite Diablo Cody to the party for “The United States of Tara.” I’m okay with that.

Who should win? “Flight of the Conchords”
Who will win? “30 Rock” – “Mamma Mia”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, technically, but only with “Flight of the Conchords” did I have the correct episode (wrong picks for “The Office” and “30 Rock”)

The nominees:
ENTOURAGE, "Tree Trippers"
THE OFFICE, “Stress Relief”
30 ROCK, “Apollo, Apollo”
30 ROCK, “Generalissimo”
30 ROCK, "Reunion"

I really have to stop neglecting the cardinal rules of this category. I was right about Flight of the Conchords, but that was easy because there was only one episode to select. I went for a different installment of The Office, and “Stress Relief” wasn’t a terrific episode. The same holds true, per the rule, for 30 Rock. The show had some excellent episodes to submit, but these three weren’t great, especially “Generalissimo.” And the real example of something being nominated just because that’s what happens every year: Entourage. This is, in fact, the episode where the whole cast was high on mushrooms the entire episode. This category feels like a checklist, with voters just checking off “30 Rock” episodes with clever titles and a default “Entourage” nod. What about “Parks and Recreation” – where is that show?

Who should win? “Flight of the Conchords”
Who will win? “30 Rock” – probably “Apollo, Apollo”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5, citing two nominated “Mad Men” episodes

The nominees:
LOST, "The Incident"
MAD MEN, "The Jet Set"
MAD MEN, “Meditations in an Emergency”
MAD MEN, "A Night to Remember"
MAD MEN, “Six Month Leave”

Well, Mad Men is like “The Sopranos.” It’s dominating this category with four nominations, contending only with the Lost season finale. All I can say is that this is a terrific list, and while I would have loved to see both “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Shield” here, these are all excellent episodes of television that are incredibly well-written.

Who should win? Any of them
Who will win? “Mad Men” – “Six Month Leave”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5, BSG and the wrong “Mad Men” episode

The nominees:
BOSTON LEGAL, "Mad in China/Last Call"
DAMAGES, "Trust Me"
ER, "And In The End"
MAD MEN, “The Jet Set”

Woohoo for Battlestar Galactica. Though this is its only recognition, at least it’s something. Emmy voters also said goodbye to Boston Legal and ER by recognizing their series finales, neglecting the pilots of shows like “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” and “True Blood,” which should instead be here. I’m actually really happy that “The Jet Set” is the episode that Mad Men ended up with here, since that’s my favorite episode of the season! I don’t know what about the Damages season finale makes it Emmy-worthy, but hopefully BSG or “Mad Men” can win here.

Who should win? BSG or “Mad Men”
Who will win? “Mad Men”

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking only Tina Fey and Elaine Stritch

For the second year in a row, this category includes six nominees but not Amy Ryan from “The Office.” What does she have to do to earn an Emmy nomination? The answer, according to this category: guest-star on “Monk” (Gena Rowlands this year, Sarah Silverman last year), guest-star on “30 Rock” when you have a TV-Friendly past (Jennifer Aniston), or be Betty White. Those three didn’t do much to merit a nomination for these performances. Otherwise, previous winner Elaine Stritch is back, and Tina Fey was nominated last year for “Saturday Night Live,” but in the now-defunct variety performance category. Rounding out the list is Christine Baranski for “The Big Bang Theory,” and I even though I don’t like the show, I’ll concede that she fit in perfectly and interacted just the right way with star Jim Parsons.

Who should win? Fey
Who will win? Fey

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/5, picking Albert Brooks and Roger Bart over Justin Timberlake and Beau Bridges

So, even when “Weeds” gets nominated for the top award, it still can’t earn a place for its recurring male players (Martin Donovan and Matthew Modine previously, Albert Brooks and Demian Bichir this year). Instead, it’s three deserving “30 Rock” gents: Alan Alda, Jon Hamm, and Steve Martin, which is a real relief considering the males nominated from the show last year barely had a part. These three all did a terrific job and deserve their nominations. I haven’t seen the episode of “Saturday Night Live” that Justin Timberlake guests in, but I’m wary of mixing variety and series players in the same category. The last person here is really a filler nominee - Beau Bridges, who just nods and smiles as he conducts the plotline of his episode, serving as the only indication that “Desperate Housewives” is still on the air as far as Emmy voters are concerned.

Who should win? Martin or Hamm
Who will win? It might be Alan Alda, but I’ll go with Jon Hamm, especially since he may not win for his other nominated role.

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5, picking only Brenda Blethyn and Ellen Burstyn

This category is dominated by “Law & Order: SVU” actresses: Brenda Blethyn, Carol Burnett, and Ellen Burstyn. I’ve seen all their performances, and I think that Burnett got it on her name alone, Burstyn on the role, and Blethyn on the performance. I haven’t seen the other two contenders. Despite suffering through seven episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” to try to weed out contenders, I didn’t catch Sharon Lawrence’s performance. And I’ll have to go hunting to find CCH Pounder’s role on the otherwise shut-out “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” presumably a consolation prize for being snubbed for her role on "The Shield." Interesting that this category contains no “ER” actresses, especially since the show got a directing nomination for its final episode. And even though several very talented ladies guest-starred on “Mad Men” this year, none of them is represented here.

Who should win? Haven’t seen all – Blethyn?
Who will win? Perhaps…Burstyn

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/5, picking Patrick Fischler and last year’s winner Glynn Turman over Ed Asner and Jimmy Smits

I applied historical logic in my predictions here: no incarnation of “CSI” had ever before delivered a guest acting Emmy nomination, and last year, Keith Carradine’s season-long arc on “Dexter” failed to make the cut, just like Matthew Modine, Demian Bichir, and Albert Wooks on “Weeds.” This year, Ed Asner makes history as the first “CSI” guest actor to get nominated, and Jimmy Smits comes through, even though his Emmy-less role on “The West Wing” was far better than this. It’s puzzling to me. The omission of the terrific, hard-working Patrick Fischler is especially unfortunate, because like January Jones, he’s on an extremely successful show that Emmy voters throw nominations at, but he doesn’t get one of them. I guess Glynn Turman’s role on “In Treatment” was far more substantial this year, and therefore the other nominees are the elderly Ernest Borgnine for “ER,” Ted Danson shifting his category down on “Damages,” and Michael J. Fox, a former nominee in this category for “Boston Legal,” for FX’s “Rescue Me.” I’ll have my own list for this category soon, and it includes many other deserving candidates who should have been here.

Who should win? Fox?
Who will win? Hard to say, but I feel like it will be Ed Asner.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/6, missing Jane Krakowski, Amy Poehler, and Kristin Wiig for Jenna Fischer, Jean Smart, and Holland Taylor

This category is a bit behind the times. The nomination for Jane Krakowski is way overdue, to the point that she doesn’t have much of anything to do on the show anymore. Amy Poehler was here last year, but this year voters should have followed her to her new show and recognized her in the lead category. Kristin Wiig makes sense, and it’s great to see the hard-working improviser get some recognition. It is a bit strange to me, however, that variety players are mixed in here with series regulars. I don’t like that too much, and I think they should scrap the reality host category and make two variety performance categories, one per gender. The omission of Jenna Fischer is unfortunate, especially because “The Office” has so many great players, and to see only two of them (Steve Carrell and Rainn Wilson) nominated is a real pity. It is good, however, that scene-stealer Holland Taylor has been dropped from this category to make way for actresses with more screen time. Elizabeth Perkins returns to the fold as “Weeds” earns its first-ever Best Comedy Series nomination, and both Vanessa Williams and Kristin Chenoweth held on as their series lost buzz and got cancelled, respectively. It’s actually a decent list here; I’m just upset about some of the snubs.

Who should win? Chenoweth or Williams
Who will win? With last year’s winner Jean Smart out of the way, the frontrunner is unknown, but I’d put my money on Jane Krakowski, whose show may very well sweep the awards.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, predicting Jeremy Piven and John Krasinski over Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer

This category includes the biggest surprise of all – three-time winner Jeremy Piven is out. I guess the bad press he got for leaving his play due to food poisoning hurt him a lot. Even more surprising, costar Kevin Dillon is still in. That opens up the field considerably, allowing for the entrance of both “30 Rock” supporting men – Jack McBrayer and Tracy Morgan. Rounding out the list are perennial nominees Jon Cryer, Neil Patrick Harris and Rainn Wilson. If you’re counting, that’s five years on “The Office” for John Krasinski, zero Emmy nominations to show for it. I don’t know why Dillon is still here, and while Morgan is certainly funny, he doesn’t exactly deserve an award for his performance. Glad to see McBrayer make it in, even if it’s two years too late.

Who should win? Wilson
Who will win? As JG points out, it’s probably open for Neil Patrick Harris to take it at this point. The series nomination for “How I Met Your Mother” helps, though “30 Rock” is super popular and Tracy Morgan may just eclipse him.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/6, choosing America Ferrera, Amy Poehler, and Billie Piper over Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Toni Collette and Sarah Silverman

I’m extremely surprised that Sarah Silverman got in. She was buzzed about last year, and earned a nomination for her tamer guest role on “Monk.” Her presence here is completely out of left field, and it’s too bad because it probably displaced America Ferrera (Ugly Betty). “Parks and Recreation” follows the example of “The Office” and gets shut out its first year, but at the same time, Toni Collette ignores the rule of Showtime stars being shut out the first year their shows are on the air. It’s interesting that Christina Applegate is still here since her show was cancelled and costar Jean Smart didn’t make it into the supporting category, and that she was able to bump off Ferrera. Otherwise, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is still winning over Emmy voters, and both Tina Fey and Mary-Louise Parker return as their shows earn more Emmy love than ever before. I guess Billie Piper was asking too much…?

Who should win? Fey
Who will win? Probably Collette, though it could be Fey or Silverman

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, missing Jim Parsons and Jemaine Clement for David Duchovny and Lee Pace

Jemaine Clement!!!!! I actually shouted with glee when I heard his name called. How superb! But completely unexpected! I did realize, on the other hand, when Chandra Wilson and Jim Parsons were announcing the nominations that it couldn’t possibly occur that neither of them would make the cut, and not having either of them on my predictions was probably foolish. “The Big Bang Theory” didn’t really place anywhere else though, except for guest actress (Christine Baranski). In any case, it’s a real shame that David Duchovny just can’t catch a break for “Californication.” He does great work on that show – it’s too bad he doesn’t get recognized. Otherwise, the usual lineup of Alec Baldwin, Steve Carrell, and Tony Shalhoub is here, and yes, the actor of actors, Charlie Sheen. “Two and a Half Men” got bumped out of the Best Comedy Series category, but Sheen still gets credit for his supposed acting? I’m only half-happy.

Who should win? Carrell or Clement
Who will win? This may be the year Carrell finally takes it home, provided he chooses an episode wisely.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 1/6, picking only Dianne Wiest

Okay, let me explain. I mentioned all five of the nominees I didn’t choose in my predictions, and I knew that the “Grey’s Anatomy” ladies (Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson) and that lead actress from “Damages” (Rose Byrne) might make the cut. I didn’t quite expect the same for Cherry Jones, since “24” didn’t end up with any major nominations besides her own. I imagine she made it on based on her reputation as a stage actress. Dianne Wiest, last year’s winner, was a lock for “In Treatment,” and I’m particularly thrilled about the sixth nominee here: Hope Davis. As I’ve been catching up with the show (something I’m in the process of doing), I’ve been increasingly impressed with her performance. It’s too bad that costar Allison Pill couldn’t have made it in over one of those “Grey’s Anatomy” girls, but at least Davis earned some recognition.

Who should win? Davis!
Who will win? Hard to say. Could easily be Wiest again, could also be Wilson finally, or Byrne due to her being snubbed last year. I’ll go with Wiest for now.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 5/6, missing Christian Clemenson for John Mahoney

This category isn’t too exciting, recognizing the deserving Aaron Paul for his work in the second season of “Breaking Bad,” but failing to mention Josh Holloway from “Lost,” though at least costar Michael Emerson made it in. The real surprise is that Christian Clemenson, a former guest acting winner for “Boston Legal,” made it in this year instead of last year, when he switched categories, especially since “Boston Legal” was all but abandoned by Emmy voters this year (save for this category, which also includes William Shatner). Bad actor that he is, William Hurt still got a nomination for “Damages,” and John Slattery again represents the incredible success that is “Mad Men” here. It’s too bad that John Mahoney got snubbed for “In Treatment” – but I should have trusted my instincts. Blair Underwood got snubbed last year after being a “sure thing,” so why would Mahoney have any more luck? And yes, no Walton Goggins. “The Shield” received zero Emmy nominations this year, making its grand total for its entire run six nominations and one win. Pitiful.

Who should win? Emerson
Who will win? Paul will probably be the breakout star here, but don’t be surprised if Oscar winner Hurt or Emmy magnet William Shatner take it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/6, being too hopeful with January Jones, Anna Paquin, and Mary McDonnell missing out in favor of Mariska Hargitay, Holly Hunter, and Elisabeth Moss

This category is a real disappointment, since it’s exactly the same as last year, leaving room for only one new nominee. Elisabeth Moss did do terrific work on “Mad Men” this season, but it’s a pity that she’s the only one recognized. This was the last chance for “Battlestar Galactica,” which managed only a directing nomination, though it fared better than “True Blood,” which only broke into the art direction, casting, and main title design categories. Poor Anna Paquin, she also got snubbed for her TV movie “The Courageous Heart of Ilene Sandler.” There’s always next year. I was somewhat surprised that Jeanne Tripplehorn wasn't here after "Big Love" earned its surprising nomination for Best Drama Series. No need to welcome in too many new people all at once, I suppose. This year’s other nominees: Glenn Close, Sally Field, Mariska Hargitay, Holly Hunter, and Kyra Sedgwick, all repeating from last year.

Who should win? Sedgwick or Moss
Who will win? Maybe Moss or Hunter? No one’s had a big year.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking James Spader over Simon Baker

This category works out almost as expected, mirroring last year’s list with one notable dismissal: James Spader, whose dismal cancelled series, “Boston Legal,” finally got the boot in the series category as well. Gabriel Byrne, Bryan Cranston, and even Jon Hamm all improved in the second seasons of their various shows, and Michael C. Hall is still as great as ever on “Dexter.” I’ve accepted that Hugh Laurie will be nominated until the end of time, and that’s fine. Now the last slot was a huge shocker. Somehow Tom O’Neil called it, I don’t know how, but instead of Kiefer Sutherland (who got his nomination this year for the TV movie “24” made back in November), it’s Simon Baker from CBS’ “The Mentalist.” When’s the last time CBS had a legitimate dramatic contender? “CSI” and “Without a Trace” used to be nominated back in the day, but “The Mentalist” is hardly the show to recognize, and Baker’s performance is nothing great. That’s probably the biggest shocker of the nominations ceremony. If Tom O’Neil hadn’t predicted it, I would have been floored completely.

Who should win? Hamm
Who will win? Probably Cranston again, but anyone could take it. Watch out for Baker, though, since Patricia Arquette pulled off the same feat several years ago, scoring a nomination for a clairvoyant performance on a network procedural, and she won, beating out far more legitimate candidates.

Emmy Nominations Announced

Emmy nominations were announced this morning, and there are plenty of surprises. I scored 66% (108/164 correct), but there were a number of extra nominees in some categories. I'll be posting my reactions, one category at a time every four hours, over the weekend. For the moment, here are the nominees. Check back frequently this weekend and weigh in with your thoughts on the nominees!

Big Love
Breaking Bad
Mad Men

Simon Baker, The Mentalist
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House

Glenn Close, Damages
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Krya Sedgwick, The Closer

Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
Michael Emerson, Lost
William Hurt, Damages
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
William Shatner, Boston Legal
John Slattery, Mad Men

Rose Byrne, Damages
Hope Davis, In Treatment
Cherry Jones, 24
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment

Ed Asner, CSI: New York
Ernest Borgnine, ER
Ted Danson, Damages
Michael J. Fox, Rescue Me
Jimmy Smits, Dexter

Carol Burnett, Law and Order: SVU
Brenda Blethyn, Law and Order: SVU
Ellen Burstyn, Law and Order: SVU
Sharon Lawrence, Grey's Anatomy
CCH Pounder, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

BOSTON LEGAL, "Mad in China/Last Call"
DAMAGES, "Trust Me"
ER, "And In The End"
MAD MEN, “The Jet Set”

LOST, "The Incident"
MAD MEN, "The Jet Set"
MAD MEN, “Meditations in an Emergency”
MAD MEN, "A Night to Remember"
MAD MEN, “Six Month Leave”

Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
The Office
30 Rock

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carrell, The Office
Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords (!)
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Toni Collette, The United States of Tara
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary Louise Parker, Weeds
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program

Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Jack MacBrayer, 30 Rock
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Rainn Wilson, The Office

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Alan Alda, 30 Rock
Beau Bridges, Desperate Housewives
Jon Hamm, 30 Rock
Steve Martin, 30 Rock
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live

Jennifer Aniston, 30 Rock
Christine Baranski, The Big Bang Theory
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Gena Rowlands, Monk
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock
Betty White, My Name is Earl

ENTOURAGE, "Tree Trippers"
THE OFFICE, “Stress Relief”
30 ROCK, “Apollo, Apollo”
30 ROCK, “Generalissimo”
30 ROCK, "Reunion"

30 ROCK, “Apollo, Apollo”
30 ROCK, “Mamma Mia”
30 ROCK, "Kidney Now"
30 ROCK, "Reunion"

Generation Kill
Little Dorrit

Coco Chanel
Grey Gardens
Into the Storm
Prayers for Bobby
Taking Chance

Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
Kenneth Branagh, Wallander: One Step Behind
Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm
Kevin Kline, Cyrano de Bergerac
Ian McKellen, King Lear
Kiefer Sutherland, 24: Redemption

Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
Shirley MacLaine, Coco Chanel
Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby
Chandra Wilson, Accidental Friendship

Len Cariou, Into the Storm
Tom Courtenay, Little Dorrit
Ken Howard, Grey Gardens
Bob Newhart, The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice
Andy Serkis, Little Dorrit

Marcia Gay Harden, Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Jeanne Tripplehorne, Grey Gardens
Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Saddam
Janet McTeer, Into the Storm
Cicely Tyson, Relative Stranger

Generation Kill
Grey Gardens
Into the Storm
Little Dorrit
Taking Chance
Wallander: One Step Behind

Generation Kill
Grey Gardens
Into the Storm
Little Dorrit
Taking Chance

Colbert Report
Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Late Show with David Letterman
Real Time with Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger
Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut a B****
The Kennedy Center Honors
Ricky Gervais: Out of England
Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America

Antiques Roadshow
Dirty Jobs
Dog Whisperer
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing with the Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Padma Lakshmi & Tom Colicchio, Top Chef
Jeff Probst, Survivor
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Pilot Review: Dark Blue

Dark Blue (TNT)
Premiered July 15 at 10pm

TNT’s latest offering is a dark, gritty, undercover cop drama, and it tries really, really hard to make sure you know it. Dylan McDermott is uber-serious as a mysterious, hardened cop who runs a special, off-the-books unit. In his first moments on screen, it’s made painfully clear that McDermott’s Carter Shaw is a disgruntled, humorless guy who can handle any situation and will chew out anyone who can’t. If he weren’t so busy trying to prove how bad-ass he was and uttering lines like “I haven’t seen 7am since 1992,” he might be a more compelling character. It’s implied that he has a troubled past, but now he’s the coolest thing since Michael Clayton. His team includes a dedicated husband desperate not to go undercover and a rookie female with a criminal past, as well as one operative who may be in too deep. Logan Marshall-Green is the familiar face who plays the undercover cop, and he displays the same forced lack of emotion as he did on “24” and “The O.C.” That’s not all – there are also two hapless investigators hot on Carter’s trail and determined to uncover his true identity. McDermott’s anger doesn’t inspire much believability in his character. The lines are incredibly trite – “Your own backyard is the Wild West!” and “Well, isn’t it the Federal Bureau of Intimidation?” The music is dark and dramatic, but it’s mostly just to convey and beat to death the notion that Carter should be considered a fearsome legend. Instead, he’s just a grumpy guy whose operations work more because of his crew and sheer luck than anything he puts into it. To top it off, the villains are exceptionally cartoonish. The entire pilot is a clichĂ© from start to finish, and like its TNT Wednesday partner “Leverage,” it just doesn’t offer much in the way of pulling the audience in. There’s nothing to recommend it or to differentiate from any generic cop show, which is all the more regrettable because it’s supposed to be so bold, daring, and, well, dark. Unfortunately, it’s just not.

How will it work as a series? It seems like they’ll be going undercover on a different mission each episode, which could become tiresome but could also mean that a certain episode is better than a previous one. It feels like it could become a more violent, crime-fueled version of “The Cleaner” with a bit of a more frantic pace. That could work, and “Dark Blue” is similar to the show that airs before it, “Leverage.”
How long will it last? TNT is very kind to their big earners, like “The Closer,” “Raising the Bar,” and “Saving Grace,” and if this show achieves ratings success, it could be quickly welcomed into the fold. I don’t think the promotion was very good for this series, however, and I think it will simply manage to finish out the current season and then fade into oblivion.

Pilot grade: D

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Round Two: Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13: Season 1, Episode 2 “Resonance” (B-)

This is the first real test of the durability of “Warehouse 13” since its pilot last week mainly served to put the characters in the correct place. In its second installment, Syfy’s new show certainly has some things going for it. The character of Artie (Saul Rubinek), beloved in the pilot by some reviewers, has become far less annoying and much more crucial to the whole story. His interaction with Dickinson was pretty terrific, and their back-and-forth banter is exactly what this tone-starved show needs. I must confess that the old-fashioned camera that Artie used to freeze Dickinson in the middle of his sentence was super-cool, and that kind of thing will keep me watching this show. The investigative duo of Pete and Myka still isn’t doing it for me, but it’s good that guest stars like the always-fantastic Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) will pop up. I’m very grateful that Helfer’s character wasn’t corrupt since that always seems to be the way things end up when agencies interact. In this case, she was slightly obnoxious, but not too detrimental to the solving of the case. That’s how things should go down, and hopefully this show, which is not hell-bent on government conspiracy theories, will continue to portray interagency relations. The most intriguing part of this decent second effort is an improvement of the “vessel” (still can’t get “Reaper” out of my mind), or rather the mysteriously powerful object. The haunting effect of the speakers was pretty incredible, and despite that its effect was to make people woozy and laugh, I was awed by the scene where Myka is trying to not be affected by it and it’s just overtaking everyone. It reminded me, if only slighty, of “Threshold,” which would have been a perfect, perfect, perfect fit for Syfy. Hopefully this show will get there.

What I’m Watching: Better Off Ted

Better Off Ted: Season 1, Episode 10 “Trust and Consequences” (B+)

It’s always a bit of a risk to utilize a flashback device so early in a show’s run, but this is a harmless comedy, and here it’s entirely effective. Ted and Veronica are completely the same, Linda’s just as awkwardly over-chatty, and both Lem and Phil have hilarious hairstyles (which, of course, makes for a terrific joke about it being 60s day rather than actually a really long time ago). The premise for the episode is perfectly appropriate for the tone of the show. Linda’s willingness to be acknowledged as the scapegoat was entertaining, and everyone being interviewed and showing how they perform under pressure was fun. Lem and Phil’s lies to each other were also completely hilarious – and the reactions each of them had to Phil’s attendance at the University of Aruba (his comment about the academics there was great) and Lem’s superfluous wearing of glasses were terrific. The whole existence of the sex tape and its story was a great driving plot point – and the interactions between Ted and Veronica, and Linda for that matter, in the episode were all high quality. The best part was a recurring player who it seems will now be off the show, Dr. Bhamba, played by Maz Jobrani from “The Knights of Prosperity.” Jobrani has a very distinctive style which many probably find grating, but in this case it was incredible. His continuous declaration of all the drugs he smoked, and the places he smoked them, was a major highlight.