Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I’m Watching: Caprica

Caprica: Season 1, Episode 5 “There Is Another Sky” (B-)

Just as this show was about to hit rock bottom, it rebounds in a major way by spotlighting one character for an entire episode who just happens to be the most interesting character this show has seen yet. Part of what makes her fascinating is that it’s clear how she will lead to the eventual Cylon, one who quickly picks up abilities that she shouldn’t have, like taking out all of the people around her in seconds with a gun, and executes them mercilessly. Tamara is someone we’ve barely seen until now, but her storyline is completely superior to anything else this show has been doing yet. The fact that she was smart enough to send her newfound friend out into the real world to tell her father what was going on was impressive, though it’s probably for the best that he ran away, fearful of the rage Joseph seems to possess. I’m very intrigued to see more of what happens with Tamara, and I think that’s what can keep this show decent for the rest of the season. In the real world, Daniel’s efforts to save his position at the company by introducing the Cylon to the board signal a considerable shift in the direction of the show from here on out, but it’s probably a good thing. I don’t know about him telling Zoe to rip her arm off as a display of how they are subservient, because anyone knows that when the machines become self-aware they are going to get revenge for things just like that. In any case, more Tamara, more Cylons, and less Willie skipping school are hopefully ahead in this show’s future.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 9, Episode 14 “Conspiracy” (C+)

So now we’re finally on to something real and progressive for this show, but it doesn’t play out especially well. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be remembering and identifying all the specific Kandorians, but their incorporation here finally made sense, where those responsible for torturing humans get a taste of their own medicine. The idea of Clark and Zod as different kinds of saviors for the Kandorians is interesting, and their rivalry for the position of hero to their people also works pretty well. Unfortunately, the dialogue works to counteract the effectiveness of the story here, with everything that comes out of Lois’ mouth serving to derail the legitimacy of the guy trying to expose the Kandorians. Clark’s style of investigative reporting also threw me for a loop. His method of intimidation, where he purported “that’s what reporters do, make up the rest and cite you as the source,” doesn’t strike me as remotely correct or fitting for his do-gooder character. Luckily, thee coroner in question was quite easy to intimidate and therefore Clark didn’t have to resort to anything completely out of character. There was something suspicious about Zod just walking in to rescue the Kandorians and getting shot right away, and it seemed likely that he had a master plan all along. The last scene was almost great, but the need to keep Zod evil is endlessly frustrating. Why does he have to be evil? And now he can fly? It’s sort of cool, but it’s just annoying that everyone always has to have an ulterior motive.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 15 “Good Intentions” (B+)

Only one episode of this season left already? That’s a shame. Fortunately, USA does have one of the most awesome airing schedules for its shows, so that we only have to wait a couple of months before this show returns. Things certainly do seem to be moving very quickly, with uber-villain Gilroy getting outsmarted and violently taken out by an even more malicious enemy whose face we almost got to see in this episode. Hopefully Michael will finally learn his identity in the finale, and then he’ll have a whole new set of problems to deal with in season four. Gilroy didn’t contribute much to the show aside from forcing a jittery Michael to buckle down and get serious, and his arc certainly didn’t compare to that of Carla or even the tragically short-lived recurring appearance of Detective Paxson. Gilroy not factoring that much into the show was fine though, especially because it allowed Michael in this episode to help his friends out for once at a moment’s notice instead of the other way around. I do love seeing Sam and Fiona work together. Sam had two great lines in this episode, the first to Michael – “if he offers you a ride, treat it like it’s candy, and you say no. Oh Mike, don’t you dare” – and the second to Fiona: “Fiona, don’t go in that house. I really need some new friends.” The appearance of “24” veteran Carlos Bernard was a bit fun, and it was amusing to see him put on an accent to try to differentiate from his often one-note performance on FOX’s real-time thriller. Among all of the entertaining Michael narration bits, the one I enjoyed most was “fighting two against one is never ideal.” Thanks, Michael, I never would have guessed.

What I’m Watching: The Deep End (Season Finale)

The Deep End: Season 1, Episode 6 “White Lies, Black Ties” (C+)

So this potentially short-lived series goes on out on a more ridiculous than quality drama note, but that’s okay. The characters are a whole lot of fun, and that’s what ultimately is important to a law show these days in my mind since so many of the same cases have been covered time and time again. These characters are certainly much more entertaining than those currently defending and prosecuting criminals on “The Good Wife” and “Law & Order,” so there’s something. I thought there was supposed to be a seventh episode of this show airing, but I guess that’s not the case. I would be happy if this show returned, however, because it’s a soapy show that still proves interesting and even occasionally legitimately dramatic. The solutions they come up with to help defend their clients, despite being overwhelmingly and unrealistically hopeful, are continually impressive, and the genuine excitement and pride the main characters feel when declaring them is an added asset. Seeing all of them dressed up in their tuxes and fancy dresses while they pitched their eleventh-hour deals was amusing, as was Rowdy’s attempt to convince Hart to allow certain musicians by tackling the dilemma legally. It’s a good thing that Addy finally broke the news to her boyfriend, but I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to be with Malcolm. Despite their overly cheesy proclamation of love that took predictably took place while everyone suddenly got silent, Liam and Beth should be fine, and I suppose Dylan will just go on being a single do-gooder. For the past six weeks, this show really has been my guilty pleasure. I hope it comes back for another round even though it likely won’t.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Tina Marjorino

Friday, February 26, 2010

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 4, Episode 14 “Think Tank” (B+)

The 1989 opening to this episode was one of the more memorable and awesome introductions to the episode, where a fascinated and trouble-seeking Shawn gets outsmarted by a challenge from his far cleverer and less showy dad. Shawn being corrected by his dad right as he was about to announce the wrong culprit was amusing, and I enjoyed Shawn’s own twisted thank you for his help: “everything else you do falls under fatherly duties.” Bruce Davis was a fun guest star, and I immediately enjoyed how he knew so much about Gus and the fact that he was willing to honor all of Shawn’s ridiculous demands that no one else ever takes seriously. His knowledge of all of the fake names Shawn always gave for Gus was impressive, especially the one that was said on a top-secret base with no one else around. I loved Shawn’s episode-long conviction that President Mitchell from the movie “Dave” was real and that the made-up guy was just someone named Dave who looked like him. Before we get to a list of this episode’s best lines, since it had so many, I’d like to express my approval for the running theme of Shawn and Gus ratting each other out and then turning to each other and crying out “why would you say that?” Shawn’s technique of getting the bad guy not to shoot him by creating a loud noise was cool, and the fact that he asked the inventor only seconds later if he hated waking up with bed head in the mornings to hype his “pillow that combs your hair in your sleep” idea was hilarious.

A few other great lines from this episode:
Shawn: “I can just make out the clock from here. Is it 3? 2? Is that a clock?”
Gus: “The hand to the head thing is not working.” Shawn: “I know, that’s why I’m adding sound effects.”
Shawn: “Where is the hoverboard technology that we all saw in ‘Back to the Future II’ twenty years ago?”

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 1, Episode 12 “Bottlenecked” (B+)

It seems like Peter is just going under cover all the time these days, doesn’t it? Well, fortunately that’s not a bad thing, and it’s equally entertaining every time. In this instance, he gets the chance to make Neal’s jaw drop by very accurately and succinctly describing the wine he tries after making him think that he has no idea what he’s talking about at all. Neal’s transferal of Peter’s attempt at classifying a wine as “rich with nice body” to the woman who came over to them was very funny indeed. The conversations between Neal and Peter are always the best part of the show, and this episode featured a great scene where Peter immediately said “no” and Neal proceeded to point out, “that’s your favorite word isn’t it?” Another unexpectedly enjoyable exchange was between Peter and the little-seen Reese (James Rebhorn), where Peter remarked “this can’t be good” and Reese asked, “why does everyone say that when I walk into their office,” to which Peter retorted, “do you have good news,” and Reese despondently replied, “no.” Humor always works well on this and other USA shows, and it’s one of their strongest assets, especially for this program. A nice bonus, however, was hearing the fast-paced thriller-style music playing during the search in the garage. Neal and Peter may seem like they’re goofing off most of the time, but when all is said and done, Peter is still an FBI agent and he occasionally likes to take his job seriously and catch the bad guys. And what a clever way to do it in this episode.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I'm Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 6, Episode 5 "Lighthouse" (B+)

This episode isn't quite as exciting as last week's, but it's headed in the right direction and it certainly maintains the quality of last week as opposed to the disappointing first three hours of the season. The less interesting half of the story is actually getting much more intriguing and better by the minute. Jack's flash-sideways was cool, and it was nice to see him finally experiencing some sort of happiness with his son. I was hoping that the mother would be someone completely shocking and connected, but I'll settle for the appearance of Dogen at David's audition. I could tell it was going to be him when his son started talking to Jack, and it's those kind of moments alone that will make this season incredibly satisfying for me. On the island, the shared determination of Jack and Hurley to finally get to the bottom of some of these damn mysteries is refreshing, and despite their limited luck in actually findingn answers, I'm pretty happy with the results. The mirror that reflected Jack's past was insanely awesome, and Jacob saying that Jack needed to understand why he is important prepares us for some truly exciting stuff later in the season. The fact that Claire is crazy because she listens only to Christian and her "friend" is certainly disconcerting, and hopefully Jin can work his way out of this unfortunate mess. Her ability to see Locke as something other than whatever everyone else perceives him to be is intriguing, and I'm anxious to see where that goes. Claire's desire to kill Kate if she took her baby is bad news, and I'm more than a little worried about Ms. Austen should their paths inevitably cross.

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 3, Episode 4 “Series 3, Episode 4” (B+)

Well, this episode just continues the trend of this show being incredibly stunning this season. It was always good, but it feels like it’s getting even better now. All of that sploshing stuff with the food was pretty crazy, and to see even Belle turned off by the idea was intense. It was reassuring that the guy who was into all of the weird stuff was actually incredibly nice and didn’t get angry with her when he realized she wasn’t into it. Fortunately, the equally funny and disturbing ending shot of an excited-looking Belle plopping down with the guy into whatever cake that was leaves us with the notion that Belle is trying to be happy in the midst of her relationships with everyone around her. I was going to mention how consistently impeccable the music choices were about halfway through the episode, and then on came the heartbreaking “Breathe Me” by Sia, used in the final moments of the unforgettable “Six Feet Under” series finale. And then there was “The Scarlet Tide” from “Cold Mountain,” not as great a song but just as effective. The montage with Bambi moments was marvelous, and I love how this show functions so well as both a comedy and a drama. Belle’s comment “who needs boys” was amusing, and having Bambi’s new boyfriend show up only seconds later with a tremendous show of affection for his belle worked very well to alienate Belle, forcing her back into her investigation of kinkiness to find some companionship and release. What magnificent characters there are on this show, including the two males with questionable ties to two ladies in a certain family.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 3, Episode 5 “It’s Not My Birthday” (B)

That was quite a creepy introduction to the episode with Patty’s dream about the pony featuring guest appearances from Pete and Ellen, setting an extraordinarily serious tone for this episode. Patty was pretty formidable in this hour. Her fiercest and most impressionable moment was her casual delivery of the line, “Are you sure you guys don’t want a muffin?” Having Ellen maintain her ties with the firm through her sit-ins with the D.A.’s depositions and meetings is a good way of utilizing her, and the new associate candidate certainly frames her situation in an interesting light when she asks her how she came to stop working for Patty Hewes. While her performance is decent enough, I’m not overly enthusiastic about Tara Summers as Ellen’s replacement at the firm. She brings with her memories of a horrid excuse for a legal show, “Boston Legal,” which, even if I haven’t always been overly enthusiastic about this series, is infinitely poorer than this show in every respect. But that’s probably just the “Boston Legal” hater in me talking, and I should give her more of a shot. After all, Martin Short is absolutely astonishing in every one of his scenes, and it’s hard to believe that’s the same guy who starred in “Primetime Glick.” This episode features a new twist which goes in a heretofore unexplored direction but shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the gravity of the situation on the show: the implication of another Tobin family member in a far more severe criminal act than fraud. Could she be the one who ultimately kills Tom?

What I’m Watching: 24

24: Season 8, Episode 9 “12:00AM-1:00AM” (F)

We’re officially back in failing territory. It didn’t take long, but that’s hardly a surprise. It’s falling back into all of the same traps as in past seasons, and treading painfully familiar ground. Doesn’t the bureau of justice or whoever it is have more important things to do than hanging one of their own out to dry for the death of a murderous criminal? The crisis is still ongoing? CTU seems to have some ridiculous desire to offer immunity up to criminals everywhere at the drop of a hat, and it also appears that terrorists have the telephone number for CTU stored in the address books on their cell phones the moment they decide to try and kill their cohorts. Immunity aside, everyone turning on each other is dizzying, and it’s enough already. How does anything get done if people insist on betraying each other every second? Jack won’t stand for it, of course, so he thinks it’s a smart idea to break into the questioning room, put his hands around the throat of Renee’s inquisitor, and act like he’s above the law he insists everyone else follow. The arrogance of Jack is appalling, even for this tried-and-true defiant character. The way he outwardly defies orders and loudly scoffs at Hastings’ plans is almost as shocking as the way he reacts as if is surprised by the reprimands. Cole certainly stepped up to the plate to help Dana, and it’s a good thing considering her truly bad idea about taking out the two guys with a gun. Because murder is better than getting fired, obviously. Cole’s tough-guy line of “if I ever see you in this city again” was a wake-up call that we are still in New York. I might have forgotten if not for all of the Forest Hills references. Dana could have been rid of Kevin for good with the help of her loyal boyfriend, but instead we get yet another twist in the form of yet another stabbing and more dead bodies. What’s left to do but roll my eyes and groan?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Round Two: How to Make It in America

How to Make It in America: Season 1, Episode 2 “Crisp” (C-)

So what we have here are two guys who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and think that the best use of their time and their surprisingly impressive ability to make connections is to ignore the advice of professionals and fumble their way through making a new denim jeans line. It hardly seems a worthwhile endeavor, and the prospect of following along with this show is just as unappealing and dim. Nevertheless, I’m planning to stick with it for at least a few more episodes in case it does get better with time as HBO’s previous two comedies did. I suppose the title suggests that it’s all about learning a lesson or two in order to hit and big. I just hope the lessons learned following failures amount to something rather than just repeated failures. I’m increasingly unimpressed by Bryan Greenberg as the lead for this show, and part of that should be attributed to the fact that he delivered a similarly bland and boring performance in this past weekend’s “The Good Guy,” and I’m starting to think this man just isn’t capable of much. I’m also unsurprised by the lacking turn by Lake Bell as Ben’s ex-girlfriend who can’t seem to stay out of his life. While I have liked Victor Rasuk in the past, he’s simply too front-and-center in this show and never seems to pipe down. It looks like Luis Guzman’s bad boy cousin Rene is going to take a more active role in the show, and that likely means bankrolling their denim operation in exchange for a profit down the road. I can’t imagine that will go very well, but hey, that’s the point, isn’t it?

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 6, Episode 15 “Lovely” (B-)

This episode stood out to me because of the format in which it was presented. I don’t remember the titles being used anytime in the past to fragment the story into chapters except when it announced a time jump. Splintering the plot into Robin’s interactions with the five housewives (welcome back, Katherine!) was a good way of really introducing her to the neighborhood, but it all felt a bit too simplistic, sort of like when handyman Beau Bridges hijacked an entire episode to help the housewives discover something meaningful about themselves. On “Dexter,” Julie Benz was impossibly annoying, but the show didn’t treat her as such. Here, it’s acknowledged that she’s a thorn in everyone’s side, but the attempt is to establish that maybe she could be a decent character if given time to develop properly. Some of the arcs worked well; others didn’t. Ultimately the concluding parable offered by Mary Alice made it seem more worthwhile than it was. It just feels as if everything else has suddenly been put on hold, save of course for two threads: Ana and Orson. Gaby’s rush to ship Ana off to her modeling career is silly, but that should hopefully help quickly unravel the mystery the Bolen family has been shrouded in since their arrival on Wisteria Lane. Bree’s ill-fated attempt at a lap dance was productive in its end result of fostering a renewed tranquility between her and Orson. Besides that, not much was accomplished in this episode, save for one thing. Katherine may well have finally found herself some happiness by trying her luck with a person of a different gender.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What I’m Watching: Caprica

Caprica: Season 1, Episode 4 “Gravedancing” (D+)

Most of the arcs on this show are getting less and less interesting as they become more and more preposterous, and the only one that still seems legitimately intriguing is given only a quick scene at the beginning and at the end of the episode. Sister Clarice’s involvement with the Soldiers of the One is that one somewhat bright plotline, but there’s nothing at this point about it to suggest it will be given any more emphasis, and the bumbling detectives will likely never stumble upon it because they’re too caught up with the Graystones. The writing on this show has now reached a point of being abysmal, and it’s really a problem. Amanda showing up and just parading out in front of the cameras to once again say something stupid is ridiculous. That woman, and her husband for that matter, needs to learn that admissions of guilt and personal conversations should not take place on live national television. Amanda is quickly becoming the worst character on this show who is so unbelievably annoying that she ranks, in my mind at least, higher than someone like Rita on “Dexter” as a character who needs to go ASAP. They had the chance to kill her, but of course Sam had to opt not to because he just wanted to “frak with” Joseph and prolong his agony. The mixture of tones does not work well at all, going from the comedy on the talk show one moment to the deathly serious drive with Sam and Amanda the next. The obnoxious tech guy taunting and dancing with the Cylon Zoe doesn’t make any sense either since he doesn’t know that she’s female, and the shots of Zoe dancing in her dress are comical rather than dramatically effective. The Adama matriarch did have a decent line, even though it was hardly in context with anything else: “you get the best things from enemies because they’re scared of you.” If only the show would try to focus on stuff like that instead of using cell phones for text messaging, a concept which has no place on this show or in the BSG universe.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 9, Episode 13 “Persuasion” (F)

It’s episodes like this that lend credence to the argument that this show should be cancelled immediately. There’s no need for holiday-themed episodes on this show, putting aside the fact that it’s a week too late to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This has to be the umpteenth time that some sort of love potion has affected the residents of Smallville, dating all the way back to the season one episode “Nicodemus,” which aired almost eight years ago. To not have come anywhere in eight years, besides the replacement of a red bikini-wearing Lana with a beef-baking Lois, is a real shame. This episode was laden with terrible music choices to complement the havoc-wreaking love potion that sent everyone spinning. Emil’s intoxication was particularly dumb, and it’s such a pity that Alessandro Juliani’s first-three dimensional performance and chance to act had to be this tragic scene where he actually says stuff like “whatevs” and “use it or lose it.” As this hour went on, it became clear just how much of a waste this episode was. Especially if we’re still concerned with the Kandorians, why do we need to worry about this? Proof that it’s a distraction comes when Clark actually has to take time out from finding a cure for Lois to confront Zod about killing his father. I did like the line “you don’t think I want justice? You don’t think I want revenge,” but it would have been nice if it wasn’t uttered in such a poor context. Clark’s decision to destroy the solar tower was probably a good decision, but I don’t have too much faith anymore in what it will mean for the future of the show.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 14 “Partners in Crime” (B+)

This episode was very fun because it had all three of its main characters going undercover in untraditional roles. Michael has always been good at putting on accents, but for some reason I truly enjoyed his Russian accent from the very first moment, and it really makes me think about how much he puts people like Jack Bauer who think that being able to speak a language excuses the fact that you don’t even try to speak like someone from that country. Sam certainly had a lot of fun doing the Horatio Caine trademark effect with the sunglasses not once but twice. This show doesn’t tend to directly mimic other shows (unlike fellow USA series “Psych,” which references “The Mentalist” constantly), and therefore that threw me for a bit of a loop, but it worked quite well and was a lot of fun. Another surprise was seeing Fiona playing a part that didn’t involve aggression, intimidation, or seduction. Sure, she did have jump into that role too to flip the Polish contact, but the sight of her bound and gagged inside a trunk was unexpected. She certainly had fun with it, and it was also enjoyable to see Michael pretend to be so mad. It’s a relief to see Michael expressing an enormous amount of anger when it’s not actually real because, as much fun as last week was, it’s good to see all of the characters getting along once again. A particularly fantastic scene in this episode was the one featuring a delighted Michael picking up sharp things to make the guy think he’s going to hurt him.

What I’m Watching: The Deep End

The Deep End: Season 1, Episode 5 “An Innocent Man” (C+)

Perhaps my initial enthusiasm about this show was a bit strong, and there are certain elements which are now giving me pause about its quality. The ridiculous moments are at this point at risk of dominating the legitimate, serious ones, and that could be a problem. Maybe Addy’s boyfriend moving into her place without asking and then proposing only hours later isn’t a flaw of the show but rather a decent plotline, and at least it’s serving to help Addy and Malcolm get closer. I’m talking more about Liam punching the client to help him fake being sick and then using the phrase “given his verticality and lack of deadness” as a legal argument. The stubbornness of the judge, or rather the way she was so comically portrayed, is also somewhat problematic, but fortunately some of the more entertaining moments ultimately save the episode. Hart’s appearance in any scene is a boon for the show, and his best-delivered line this episode was “Gentlemen, tidy up. This is a place of business, not a dorm room.” It’s also good to see Rowdy actually stepping in and doing something helpful for once. The fact that he jokingly stole Dylan’s wallet at the end is something that I can work with, some boundary-pushing humor that does play out effectively on this show. Addy’s face when she walked in on Cliff and Susan fighting and her subsequent decision that she doesn’t use cream were funny, and, while it was a bit obvious, the way that their marriage problems played out was actually good for the episode. I also enjoyed how Beth was pissed off at Addy for keeping both her boyfriend and her birthday secret. Digging into the personal lives of these characters is exactly what this show needs!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 4, Episode 13 “Death Is in the Air” (B+)

This episode was a whole lot more serious than most, but it just shows how this show is so effective at drama as well as comedy, and at mixing the two. One such instance included the serious music was Shawn was on the phone with Juliet in the hotel, and only moments later, in response to the maid saying “this room’s not clean,” he proclaimed, “that’s okay, neither are we.” The doctor helped provide much of the comic relief, starting with his affirmation that if Lassie were to grow out his hair, his ears wouldn’t stick out as much. His obsession with analyzing Shawn’s DNA and dissecting Gus’ round head was funny, and Shawn’s reply of “Weird. Uncomfortable. Yes” was great. Shawn and Gus certainly had their fair share of fun with this potential virus outbreak, pretending to be ground control before they started to interview the hospital patients. Shawn shampooing his hair while getting hosed down was almost the funniest part of that scene, though Lassie’s aggressive bantering certainly gave him a run for his money. All of the hair-related conversations with entertaining, especially the fact that Juliet was the one who told Shawn that he was just jealous of Patrick Dempsey’s hair. Lassie confessing to having practiced figure skating and then changing it to ice hockey was terrific, especially because no one was listening. Shawn’s analogy of cereal boxes when almost confessing his love for Juliet was a wonderful moment, and I absolutely loved Gus’ face when he realized Shawn was about to go through with it. It’s a shame that Shawn didn’t actually tell her, but it will happen eventually. And he still had the best line of the episode, talking to Gus: “don’t be Nic Cage’s accent from ‘Con Air.’”

What I’m Watching: Human Target

Human Target: Season 1, Episode 6 “Lockdown” (B+)

Kevin Weisman (“Alias”), Autumn Reeser (“The O.C.”) and Mitch Pileggi (“The X-Files”) all in one episode? Awesome. It’s also an exciting reunion for a fan of short-lived shows between two actors from the second episode of “Eyes,” Pileggi and series regular Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon. All four were perfectly cast for their roles, most especially Weisman, who was fantastically reminiscent of his Marshall Flinkman character from J.J. Abrams’ classic series. Reeser toned it down a bit from her obnoxious high-strung Taylor Townsend to play the great geek who was just as technologically capable as Flinkman’s Martin. Pileggi was at the most energetic I’ve ever seen him, after spending seasons sedated as assistant director Skinner on the right side of the law and then slumming around as a white supremacist on “Sons of Anarchy” the past two seasons. It turns out he’s able to do it pretty well. All of the antics inside Centronics were amusing, the best of which was definitely Martin having brought a fish with them while they were trying to speedily and subtly escape. Martin also had a terrific line: “great moments in peer pressure – don’t think too much.” The eventual face-to-face meeting between Martin and Reeser’s Layla was plenty awkward but also quite fun. The rescue operation on the outside was equally entertaining. The debate over whether the correct term was an Aunt Linda or an Uncle Dan was hilarious, and it’s great to have Winston actually on board for once and interacting consistently with Winston, who delivered an excellent early line: “Do me a favor and don’t get dead.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

What I’m Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 6, Episode 4 “The Substitute” (B+)

Yes. This is fantastic, and it’s just what this season should have been, making me feel infinitely more confident about how these final episodes are going to turn out. It doesn’t mean that every episode is going to be great, of course, since this part of the story is clearly much more interesting than Dogen, Jack, and crew, but at least there’s something to look forward to and this stuff is inarguably awesome. What’s especially satisfying about this installment is that it confirms that the flash-sideways device can truly work well and is absolutely worth pursuing. Having all of the characters appear in the alternate version of 2007 and meet each other is truly cool, and seeing Rose, Ben, and especially Hurley introduce themselves to Locke. It’s so interesting to see what a different man he becomes, and Terry O’Quinn delivered his finest performance in a long time in this episode. The notion that both realities will echo each other and everyone will be brought together is a fascinating one, and that makes me extremely excited once again to watch this show. I love the title of this episode, which I knew referred to Locke because it was his body that was substituted for Christian Shepherd’s body on the plane, but the fact that he became a substitute teacher as well was pretty terrific. On the island, Locke running around with a surprisingly agreeable Sawyer and showing him the list of all the candidates was pretty interesting, and it’s worth noting that Kate was not on the list, though if Jin is in fact that Kwon listed there, it can be assumed that the candidate for some reason has to be male. Seeing Richard scared out of his mind with his eyes nearly popping out of his head made the gravity of this situation far more intense, and that creepy young blond child telling Locke that he wasn’t allowed to kill him creates a whole new layer of potential excitement. Basically, the fact that this is more of a direct examination of the island leadership role without the interference of countless new Others means that we’re getting closer to unearthing the truth and things are a whole lot more gripping. I’m also very pleased with the new odd grouping of Ilana, Ben, Lapidus, and Sun. The sight of Ben wearing an undershirt while he was digging the grave was quite strange, on a humorous note.

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 3, Episode 3 “Series 3, Episode 3” (B+)

The start to this episode was nowhere near as beautifully choreographed and musically accompanied as the previous two installments of this show, and it was fantastic. Belle’s narration of her exploits where she mistakenly counted three feet was hilarious and had me laughing out loud. As she says, she’s much better with the actual actions than with her words. There was such clever editing in this episode, like when Belle and Bambi were talking over the phone looking into mirrors and the two frames were placed across from each other and positioned as if they were looking at each other. Belle’s animal-obsessed client was quite weird, and Belle’s confusion at his command to make the sound made by a ewe was funny. Jackie’s continued presence is not an annoyance but rather a guilty pleasure, and though it’s taking her an awfully long time to deduce Belle’s true profession, what she’s doing in the meantime is plenty amusing enough. Her asking Belle if Ben ever did a specific something and Belle getting unbelievably grossed out was great, and Belle’s realization that she should have thrown them out instead of herself since it really was very cold was extremely funny. It’s nice that she still has her friendship with Bambi, even if the less experienced call girl is beginning to blur the lines between client and boyfriend. Belle’s end-of-episode declaration that she doesn’t fancy her editor which quickly turned into an admission that she did a bit, but only in the same way that you might fancy one of your teachers, was wonderful, and it’s lovely to see her finding a kindred spirit who’s well aware of her profession before they ever jump into bed together.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 3, Episode 4 “Don’t Throw That at the Chicken” (B)

After an episode gloriously free of a peek into the future six months ahead, the signature device is back right away, and I stand by my assertion last week that their presence does weaken the show. It’s especially true for the episode-end shouting and looks on characters’ faces that won’t be fully fleshed out for a few episodes. What’s happening in the present is perfectly interesting enough on its own merit. The professional conversation between Patty and Michael represents quite an intense relationship between mother and son, and that scene was pretty extreme and uncomfortable. It was made even more powerful by the subsequent revelation of Michael’s big lie to Patty, and the fact that his much-older girlfriend is pregnant. Ellen’s family drama isn’t as interesting as it was last week, and perhaps it’s best if the two leading ladies return to the pressing case at hand. Seeing the look on Tom’s face when Louis Tobin says it’s nice to meet him was certainly gripping, but it’s not the most powerful look given in this episode. That shot comes from Martin Short, who makes a goofy face on the TV screens while everyone else looks deathly serious as Joe considers taking another drink and the elder Tobin ends his life. For the moment, there are a few too many questions and mysteries up in the air, and given how last week’s episode was so good due to the events which actually transpired during it, I’m hopefully that future installments can mimic that rather than this one.

What I’m Watching: 24

24: Season 8, Episode 8 “11:00PM-12:00AM” (D)

Nothing’s getting better, and everything’s just getting worse, both in terms of things not going well and the show’s quality plummeting towards horrific. The most striking and regrettable part of this episode is the way that this show has been transformed. It’s a change I’ve noted repeatedly in the past, but it has never been more apparent than in this hour. This show used to be a smart thriller that focused on many characters and created suspense and thrills from its awesome story. Now it strives week after week to outdo itself with violent content and make Jack into the most superhuman hero ever. Everything continues to get stupider as Jack is the only one who, single-handedly of course, can get anything done. His ability to shock the guy who’s torturing him by using his feet is preposterous, and classifying Jack as some kind of super-powered brute who jumps down from the ceiling to take out his enemies and overturns tables ferociously to avoid getting shot just doesn’t make any sense. I’ll remind you that he got stabbed only half an hour earlier. Suspension of disbelief wouldn’t be such a problem if the show had anything else to offer. Josef clearly doesn’t share his father’s vision of the world, and therefore his taking over the sale of nuclear rods just to get back at his father doesn’t track. President Hassan’s story is getting less interesting by the moment since he’s no longer actually hunting any villains and instead just looking for trouble in his own camp. And regarding Dana, they obviously weren’t going to let Dana off the hook that easily, and now her deception is all for naught. Worse still, she actually leaves CTU in the middle of the crisis to go to a club to likely do something very dumb. Arlo has now gone ahead and crossed the line by showing Cole the photos of Dana getting close with Kevin, and that can’t possibly pan out well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pilot Review: How to Make It in America

How to Make It in America (HBO)
Premiered February 14 at 10pm

This show has been hailed as a very similar version of “Entourage,” which isn’t surprising because it comes from the same creative team. Looking at the two in comparison, the new show is an extremely unimpressive copy. It’s not as HBO’s hit series, which will begin its seventh season this summer, took time to develop and hone the relationship dynamic of its quartet. From its first installment, the interaction between the four buddies clearly demonstrated their lifelong friendship, and the show immediately found its signature cool tone. Yet it’s important to mention that HBO’s two most recent comedy series, “Hung” and “Bored to Death,” both had lackluster pilot and secondary episodes, and it wasn’t until the third episode that things really turned around and became quality shows. This one, however, pales in comparison to those two even with only its first episode. The main characters have yet to be ironed out, and this is very much a show in transition about people in transition. It favors fleeting flashbacks to fill in missing pieces of information rather than actual human conversations, and has no clear focal point. It doesn’t seem to be about anything in particular, and its all-encompassing title means that its subject matter could be excessively broad. The cast is disappointing at best, and with the exception of the two leads, it’s not apparent who will actually have a large part to play in the series as a whole. Bryan Greenberg, whose credits include “One Tree Hill” and “October Road,” seems remarkably uncomfortable in his own skin as main character Ben, and his costar Victor Rasuk seems to be picking up all of the slack. Rasuk, first seen five feet high and rising in director Peter Sollett’s short film and subsequent feature “Raising Victor Vargas,” is lazy, uninspired, overly chatty, and just generally self-involved. Supporting roles played by Eddie Kaye Thomas and Luis Guzman seem like poor fits for the actors since both characters are hardly comic enough. On the top of the disappointing cast, this show just doesn’t have much to offer, and there doesn’t seem to be any real appeal.

How will it work as a series? As I stated before, HBO shows recently have taken some time to find their footing, and therefore I won’t give up on this show just yet. If the path of these two characters and the importance of the supporting players can be properly ironed out in the coming episodes, this show may be able to prove itself as a worthwhile show. Many fans of “The Office” found “Parks and Recreation” unfunny at first, so perhaps this show might need a bit of time as well.
How long will it last? As a cable network, HBO puts much more faith in its shows than a broadcast network might, and therefore this show might find itself on the path to early renewal quite soon based purely on the goodwill that “Entourage” has inspired. I doubt it will have the lasting power of that show, but I think it may be subject to a premature renewal even if reviews aren’t strong.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 9, Episode 12 “Warrior” (D+)

This episode manages to take two things that have been extraordinarily problematic for this show and explore them both at once, which is nearly not a positive thing. Like last week, the notion of amazement that comes with legendary superheroes is cool, but the execution is unbelievably flawed. This whole Warrior Angel business bears a striking similarity to Clark’s own story, but it’s not as if Clark has gone anywhere. The quick shot of one guy seemingly dressed up as the Blur was fun, but devoting an entire episode to Warrior Angel is inappropriate. The ways that his childishness is referenced are painful at best, starting with his request for a glass of milk instead of coffee at a street stand and ending with his use of a wedgie to deal with the bullies that were tormenting a kid. It may all be in the service of Chloe coming to grips with her role in this world of superheroes, but it’s all too much. The ending of this episode was the sole bright spot of this episode, suggesting the pairing of Chloe and Oliver, which would really be a good thing. What served to counterbalance it, however, was the second problematic issue for this show. The incorporation and use of witchcraft is simply unbearable, and it reminds me of some of the truly awful episodes from seasons three and four, which is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll ask the same question I asked last week – what happened to the Kandorians? Isn’t that more pressing than a kid with superpowers?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 13 “Enemies Closer” (B+)

I think this is the first time I’ve seen everything truly hit the fan and elicit real rage from all of the characters. Fiona and Madeline have shown their fair share of resentment towards Michael, but I haven’t seen that kind of fury in Sam before. Michael also doesn’t actually yell that much, especially not at his friends. There were death threats aplenty in this episode, setting the stakes as all the more serious this time around. “Burn Notice,” more than most shows I currently watch, likes to incorporate recurring characters on a regular basis. For someone like me who didn’t watch season one, it’s hard to recall whether we’ve seen these people before or whether we’re simply supposed to take Michael’s word for it that this is an old friend of his who has now become a client. In any case, Michael sure has made a lot of enemies over the years who aren’t quite enemies but still manage to drag him into all of their illicit business and then come crying to him for help when things go sour. It’s refreshing to see that Michael isn’t messing around with Gilroy anymore and stop playing dumb, at least a little bit. Nate’s arrival with his new wife didn’t quite go over well, and while Madeline’s dislike of her new daughter-in-law was entertaining, it was Michael’s reaction that was perhaps the most interesting and enjoyable. Clearly, Michael is the number one son since Nate’s never around and is hardly as dependable as Michael, but it’s weird to think of Michael having any family besides his three trusted companions: Fiona, Sam, and his mother.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 13 “Anna Howard Shaw Day” (B+)

While Liz’s hallucinations don’t usually get me, this time around things worked out pretty well. The exciting return of past Liz Lemon boyfriends Jon Hamm, Dean Winters, and Jason Sudeikis was a nice treat, and it’s fun to see them all act together in the midst of Liz’s wild fantasy Valentine’s Day reunion. Her seemingly brilliant decision to schedule a root canal on Valentine’s Day to combat societal notions played out fantastically when she ended up needing someone to accompany her to ensure that she got home safely and could find no one. Liz’s phone call was amazing, calling the receptionist sister, but not because she’s black, because Liz is black too, but then realizing that they’re going to meet each other so she wouldn’t be able to pull that lie off. Jack’s courtship of Avery Jessup was amusing, particularly for the way that she didn’t fall for all of the important phone calls he got from his assistant. Elizabeth Banks was great in the role, and her previous employment at Peace Corp where they drilled for oil instead of the Peace Corps was hilarious. It makes sense that Jenna would be more obsessed with her stalker than he was with her, and while that montage of creepy moments where he popped out of somewhere and she started screaming was somewhat entertaining, I’m glad that it was Kenneth who came to her rescue and was there for her to cut off a strand of her hair. Who knew this absurdist Valentine’s Day could be such a blast?

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 6, Episode 16 “Manager and Salesman” (B+)

Alas, the incredibly inefficient and less-than-sensible dual manager trial period always had to come to an end. Michael’s inability to process anything or think a decision over until it’s far too late comes in handy for Jim, who finds the idea of unlimited commissions in sales quite appealing. Seeing Jim as the sole manager wasn’t terribly satisfying, and it’s certainly not nearly as entertaining as having the hapless Michael in charge. What’s particularly fun about having Erin around as the secretary slash receptionist is that she’s far more into all of Michael’s shenanigans and impressively willing to play along. Her delivery of the ants on a log to an uninterested Jim was somewhat sad, and her delighted celebration with Michael upon the reclamation of his office was a nice moment for both of them. Unfortunately for Erin, however, Andy’s still just as clueless as he’s ever been, giving Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in the office so that Erin wouldn’t suspect that he liked her. Kelly’s reaction to the whole thing was funny, especially since we haven’t seen much of her lately. Erin in many ways is the new Pam, silently longing for companionship at the receptionist’s desk from a seemingly uninterested coworker, but as I mentioned before, she’s really very different and is definitely her own person. The mutiny being engineered by Dwight and Ryan is not going too well, but it’s still a lot of fun. The guest appearance by Kathy Bates was highly enjoyable, and her interview with the cameras where she talked about how she slept with three of the same men as Truman Capote was a highlight.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 2, Episode 16 “Galentine’s Day” (B+)

So many shows try to come up with a new way to incorporate the time-honored celebration of Valentine’s Day that it hardly seems like anything new would be possible. Yet the low-key but entertaining Galentine’s Day tradition was pitch-perfect, complimented by Ann’s first time experiencing it and Leslie’s delight at acting out the drama of her mother’s story after hearing it for the umpteenth time. Seeking out the man from the legendary tale with Justin was never going to end well, but it was worthwhile for the way that it exposed Justin’s true nature. I find it incredibly touching that Ron was the one who asked Justin what Leslie thought of the whole situation and that he was kind enough to have the fateful talk with her about him being a tourist and being selfish. It’s another instance of what made this show stand out in its first season finale when Leslie and Mark had a moving heart-to-heart. It makes me so happy that Ron actually cares about Leslie enough to help her realize how she could be happier. The post-credits scene where Justin appeared to be talking to Leslie about how nothing would change and they would still see each other all the time was classic in its revelation that it was not Leslie but Tom worrying about what would become of them. April’s realization that she doesn’t want to have everything she says buried under “fifteen layers of irony,” as she put it, is terrific, and hopefully she and Andy can find true happiness together, at least for a little while. April’s rather condescending conversation with Ann was also a really nice treat.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Deep End

The Deep End: Season 1, Episode 4 “Nothing Personal” (B)

I think more than anything that this show succeeds in having a good number of characters so that each of them can be paired up and mixed and matched each episode to create and expose compelling dynamics and interesting relationships. Unlike a show like “Grey’s Anatomy” where cast members are added constantly, this show has thus far kept it under wraps and I’m even starting to remember some of the characters’ names without having to look them up (not all of them, though). Granted this show is only in its infancy, but still, I’m enjoying pretty much every moment of it. Maybe this is my guilty pleasure show, but I think there are far too many other programs I watch that would fall under that description as well. Liam and Malcolm’s inane conversation comparing their heights was amusing, and it got so much better when Hart came in and said that he should be glad their belts were still buckled while they were measuring each other. His decision to give the case to the one who was taller was hilarious. Liam and Malcolm play well together because they’re both competitive but neither is truly interested in using dirty tricks or maliciousness to get ahead. Hart is a fearsome presence whose mere arrival in scenes improves them. Addy bouncing on her ball and falling off when he came in was just one of those moments. Rowdy’s advice to Addy that she’s smart, capable, and too little to hit was funny, and she countered right back with a piece of sage wisdom: “when is offering someone dessert ever a bad idea?” To top off all of this episode’s particular ridiculousness, how funny is it that Liam can’t order a drink in a bar because he’s only using Australian expressions? Liam is, unfortunately, way too gullible for his own good, though all that whispering was quite amusing.

What I’m Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 4, Episode 14 “Smokin’ Hot” (B+)

It’s always sad to see when Betty doesn’t get the credit she deserves and gets walked on by other people. This episode made it work well, however, presenting a number of funny moments and an ultimately satisfying conclusion in the form of a small victory for Betty. Betty’s bellowing out of “I’m going to make you a star” and her subsequent takeback was amusing, and it was lovely to see Aubrey Dollar from “Women’s Murder Club” as the up-and-coming fashion designer. Marc’s use of a cardboard cutout of Wilhelmina to show Betty how she needs to talk to her and his demonstration with the pointer where she has to look in order to prevent Wilhelmina from picking up her phone and starting to text was priceless. Marc’s closing comment that he learned from the best when Wilhelmina steals the credit from both of her underlings was bittersweet, and Wilhelmina’s complimenting of Betty’s shoes was a really nice precious moment. Daniel certainly didn’t have any such success in this episode, using a hard-to-manage state-of-the-art earpiece and having someone think that he was hurt while he was trying to practice his runway walk. That someone, by the way, was Katrina Bowden, who plays Cerie on “30 Rock” and demonstrated considerably more range in this impressive and enjoyable guest spot, even if her function was mostly to make Daniel jealous of his half-brother. Hopefully Claire will find a way to break the news to Daniel since the South Dakota native seems to be the nicest person ever, and actually reminds me quite a bit of the robot from “30 Rock.” Back in Queens, I was thinking how awful it was that Bobby catered to Hilda’s doubts about him by predictably torching her salon in order to collect an insurance payment, and was shocked to learn that it was really Justin who sent the place up in flames. Now it’s even worse since Bobby truly is innocent of the crime and Justin’s going to have to eventually own up to his misdeed.

I neglected to mention last week that “Ugly Betty” has been cancelled and will end after this season. I’m not happy about it, but I did read a great article from the TV Addict that gives me some comfort. What do you think?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 4, Episode 12 “A Very Juliet Episode” (B+)

I’ve been excited about this episode ever since I first heard about since I’m a huge fan of Juliet. This was the first episode I’ve scene that started with Juliet instead of Shawn back in 1989, and I very much enjoyed how the show kept flashing forward with the “exactly” how ever many minutes or years later title. Juliet pursuing her romance was a wonderful storyline, and her return to that train station in that stunning red dress quickly demonstrated just how much she cared about this guy. All of the advice she got from everyone was enjoyable. Lassie’s proclamation that all romance ends in despair or death was great, as was his later granting permission to her due to the fact that he never gets to be a confidante because people don’t really talk to him. The way he says “all people are just out there to destroy any chance of happiness you will ever have” and then jumps right to “I feel a hug coming on” is indicative of the truly different world he inhabits. Juliet shared a fabulous scene with the chief, where she emphasized, “actually, I was trying to sound like a hardass” and Juliet immediately responded “well, mission accomplished.” Gus’ declaration that he was known the vault of secrets was amusing, and I laughed out loud when he walked into the door on his way out. This episode did of course include a whole number of classic Gus moments: confusing J.T. Waring for J.K. Rowling, knocking on the door of the murderer without thinking about it being a bad idea, picking up on relationship signs between Scott and Juliet, using Gus’ real name for the first time while introducing him to a big-time criminal in jail, and distracting the killer with the simple power of his banal words. Gus gets the credit for the best moment of the episode, however, claiming that he was wearing a $260 shirt when he only paid $18 for it but insisting that he was quoting list price.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 1, Episode 15 “My Funky Valentine” (B+)

I love how this show succeeds marvelously in having special holiday-themed episodes and manages to avoid any clich├ęs and instead be incredibly funny. Dylan’s arrival with the humongous photograph painting of something Haley’s parents really hoped didn’t happen in real life prompted them to spice up their ordinary Valentine’s Day plans, which proved unbelievably fantastic. The bar scene was hilarious, especially with Phil’s nametag and his accidental citing of how his wife makes lists of things for him to do. He recovered well, however, and the return of a not-so-clothed Claire was quite entertaining. The fact that they would run into literally everyone they knew when Claire’s coat got stuck in the escalator was brilliant, and it was great that Gloria was the one to come and save the day. Jay taking Gloria to see a stand-up comedian was never going to pan out well, but him taking infinite cracks at Jay’s age was something I didn’t see coming and something that produced a decent dramatic moment followed by a terribly funny scene where Jay wasn’t so cool with the idea of Gloria getting fat. Valentine’s Day for Cameron and Mitchell proved to have a nice surprise in store as well, which was giving the less showy member of the couple the chance to take the spotlight and do something ridiculous. Even though it was obviously coming, Mitchell repeating his speech from court was a terrific over-the-top performance. Manny really does have some great uncles watching his back, and Cameron sure knows how to waste time conducting over-the-phone surveys.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What I’m Watching: Human Target

Human Target: Season 1, Episode 5 “Run” (B+)

This show manages to pick some pretty exciting plotlines with some thrilling twists along the way to set up each of the episodes. A district attorney trying to protect a witness and then, only minutes later, on the run from corrupt police officers, made for a great story arc in this episode. The actress who played the district attorney was Kristin Lehman, whose resume includes poor vehicles like “Drive” and “Killer Instinct,” but she didn’t do a half bad job, and watching her shocked reaction to everything Chance did made it all even more fun. Chance made a very speedy discovery of who were the villains were, which was cool, and then Allyson did some extremely impressive driving to help them get away. The reveal that the major confidential informant was actually her father was fantastic, and I did not see that coming at all, which made it all the more exciting. This show often makes me smile, and this episode’s moment came when a stunned Allyson asked Chance if he was thinking about driving an ambulance through the front door and he responded with delight, “have you ever tried that?” He also pulled off another stellar serious line when she said that she wouldn’t know who to trust in there and he simply said, “trust me.” This show has some really stellar guests, featuring in this episode the dependable Chris Mulkey (“Sleeper Cell”), who I had hoped would become a recurring player, but sadly was killed off in his first appearance. I knew from the first moment of the episode that the informant’s voice was none other than the Cigarette Smoking Man from “The X-Files,” William B. Davis himself, and was very proud of myself when he popped up later to help his daughter out. Bring on the great guest stars!

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 1, Episode 11 “Home Invasion” (B+)

An episode title like this would usually indicate a horrifyingly violent installment of a crime drama where a house gets burglarized and any people inside get tortured and or killed. I think I like this a lot better, because it’s far infinitely lighter and understandably much more entertaining. Peter being evicted from his home due to electronic repairs was a nice setup, and it was amusing seeing him as the one more put out and in need of assistance when Neal usually occupies that role. Peter’s sarcastic line, “su casa is not even su casa” was terrific, and his discovery of his “motel with an M” which was severely lacking a TV put the icing on the cake, setting the two pals up for the necessity of shacking up together. Their need to constantly one-up each other is hilarious and awesome. Peter’s response to Neal’s claim of “that’s my chair,” was brilliantly childish: “I didn’t see your name on it.” Peter’s delight at watching Neal squirm with embarrassment at the guy who kept trying to be like him and wear a hat was fun. It was inevitable that their being roommates wouldn’t work out, and the finale was great. Their exchange was priceless, staring with “What kind of friend would I be if I made you get your own bags,” and ending with “it’s for so many reasons, Peter.” Peter’s warning that anyone who messed with anything in his house would be answerable to his wife was terrific. I’m extraordinarily impressed by Neal’s ability to transmit Morse code while disabling his anklet – that’s pretty damn cool.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pilot Review: Past Life

Past Life (FOX)
Premiered February 9 at 9pm

The premise of this show ensures that it starts off at a considerable disadvantage. Unlike shows like “The X-Files,” “Millennium,” “Night Stalker,” or “Fringe,” this show doesn’t predicate itself on the universal existence of supernatural phenomena, only on the idea of reincarnation as a definitively true thing. It still sets itself up as a procedural drama along the lines of “The Forgotten,” where it’s not quite cops who are doing the investigation and their methods aren’t exactly subject to legal approval. It does bear some similarity to FOX’s other new midseason entry, “Human Target,” but it’s inferior in so many ways. The tone of the whole team is uniformly grumpy and disgruntled, but none of them seem truthfully good at what they do, and it’s almost just sheer luck that enables them to solve their first big case. It’s hard to decide which of the two lead cast members is more annoying. Kelli Giddish’s Southern drawl isn’t the only thing that’s unbearable about her, and her incessant need to try to be witty and charming gives her accent a run for its money. Nicholas Bishop’s laidback, lazy attitude doesn’t do his boring character any favors, and besides his inability to operate a video camera too effectively, he doesn’t seem to contribute anything but skepticism to the team. It’s sad to see Richard Schiff of “West Wing” fame saddled with such an unexciting role, but his gruff exterior is still probably the most sufferable part of the show. It doesn’t help that the acting from the guest stars in this episode is uniformly awful. The dialogue was rather poor throughout, and took a dismal nosedive when lead character Kate’s mother uttered the line “husbands are like Jesus; just another white man telling me what to do.” The use of the Coldplay song “42” with the all-too-appropriate lyrics “those who are dead are not dead, just living in my head” towards the end of the episode just sealed this show’s fate as hokey in an unsalvageable way. Give me a break.

How will it work as a series? Every episode, this crackpot duo will have to convince a new set of skeptics that they really believe in reincarnation, and some lost soul and his or her loved ones will be able to come to terms with events of the past. Eventually, protagonist Price will probably even encounter his dead wife. This is just like any other procedural tweaked with the twist of victims being reincarnated. If that’s your thing, tune in. Otherwise, don’t bother.
How long will it last? This show didn’t premiere in its regular time slot, and it doesn’t seem to have performed too well or too poorly. Still, this show doesn’t seem like it has the life in it to stay on the air for a while, especially compared to all of FOX’s other fare. I think it should last out this season but that will be it. Look for it to be reincarnated soon in the form of other shows with the same stars.

Pilot review: F

What I’m Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 6, Episode 3 “What Kate Does” (C+)

The title of this episode is by far the cleverest thing about it. Modifying the season two episode’s moniker “What Kate Did” to adjust history for the new parallel timeline is cool, and it’s fantastically interesting to have a second chance to see characters pop up where they’re least expected. Ethan’s appearance as Claire’s doctor off the island is one such occurrence, though it’s hard to be surprised by it if you’re as familiar as I am with the names of actors who appear in the opening credits, but I still didn’t expect him to show up when and where he did. The notion of Kate and Claire forming such a close bond, and of Kate being there while she is giving birth, demonstrates once again that there is some clear importance to the interaction of all of these people. Following only one person each episode in these “flash-sideways” (as they’ve been termed) is frustrating because there’s so little time left in the show, and it would be nice to see more of what was going on. It would also be great if the events on the island were anywhere near as interesting, and if that scope was widened to include more characters. That has been a problem on this show since well before time ever started messing with the survivors of Oceanic 815, and seeing only Jack, Sayid, and crew interspersed with Kate and Sawyer isn’t going to cut it. Jack’s angry declaration that he doesn’t think that Dogen and Lennon are going to tell them anything turns out to be completely true, and I’m pretty fed up with not being let in on all these secrets. A shot of a Rousseau-like Claire is only so interesting; what about everyone else? Let’s get this show on the road. In the meantime – two notable guest stars from this episode: the cab driver was David H. Lawrence XVII who plays Doyle on “Heroes” and agitated Other Aldo was Rob McElhenney from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

What I’m Watching: NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 1, Episode 15 “The Bank Job” (B+)

This is one case where the “24 hours earlier” device works alright with pulling the rug out from under its audience by revealing that all was definitely not as it seemed. The fact that the whole thing was staged was sort of cool, and definitely helpful because it enabled them to track the bank employee tangled up in the case and reveal the bank manager’s complicity. While it’s interesting to learn a bit about Kensi’s background and her relationship with her father, what’s considerably more intriguing and entertaining is the way the rest of the team interacts when the notion of keeping precious and prized possessions safe comes up. Everyone fishing through Kensi’s box produced several enjoyable scenes, and I loved Kensi’s comment to Nate: “you need to get out of the office more often.” I was surprised and amused to learn that among Sam’s beloved holdings is the entire run of the Silver Surfer comic book series. The relationship between Callen and Sam is certainly unique, and it’s very funny. Callen pressing Sam with “that’s your ‘I’m hiding something’ laugh” was just one memorable instance, as was his extremely casual first comment after being shot at: “you really have tickets to the Lakers game tomorrow night?” Their conversation with Mike Renko about something with a horse which wasn’t technically illegal but still disturbing was a perfect aside that serves to catch viewers off guard for just a second without devoting too much time to it. The scene near the end of the episode with Ketty holding a gun much bigger than her and Nate having to ensure that it’s not loaded was a hoot, and a great way to send off a particularly fun episode.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I’m Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 7, Episode 15 “Jack Knife” (B+)

This episode was terrific fun due to the rather unresponsive and sleepy state McGee was in the whole time and the whole group dynamic. McGee’s initial confusion about getting Ziva and Tony out of their individual beds rather than the bed in which they were sleeping together was a great start to his inability to cope with the long hours. It was entertaining hearing McGee talk about how Gibbs does so much and he can’t keep up with him, and Gibbs answering “coffee” and then demanding that McGee fetch him some was a great finish for the scene. Tony yelling at McGee for tapping on the dashboard while he was drinking his coffee was great, and it was even more fantastic that McGee was actually translating the Morse Code. His utterance of “F-U-E-L” was spectacularly done. The look on Tony’s face when he McGee was excitedly yammering about the lingo was also classic. That first shot of Fornell’s facial hair and Gibbs’ comment of “what happened to your face” was a nice reintroduction to a recurring character, and this was by far their most fun reunion. Their argument in Ducky’s lab where Ducky had to be the one to bring them back to seriousness was indicative of how loose they felt this episode, and they seemed to have a fantastic time causing trouble to seem obvious while tailing the truck. On a more serious note, the intense look in Ziva’s eyes when she stands there as the truck almost hits her was powerful. To end on a more humorous note, however, Abby’s comment when McGee told her that Gibbs saved him by pushing him out of the way was hilarious: “Pushing people is really rude, McGee.”

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 3, Episode 2 “Series 3, Episode 2” (B+)

I love these introductions with spectacular music choices that really get into the unique tone this show has managed to set. The lyrics “come with me and you’ll be in a world of your imagination” coupled with the old-fashioned clothing and scenery were magnificent. The club Belle took her sister to was pretty crazy, even by this show’s standards. The best part was seeing Belle’s face as Stephanie was about to meet that drill of sorts since even she seemed to find it a bit off-putting, and that’s saying something. This was a wonderful episode for Bambi, and it makes me so glad that Ashley Madekwe didn’t get stranded on the CW’s “The Beautiful Life,” which aired a grand total of two episodes this past fall. Her outburst at Stephanie’s inflammatory comments was fantastic, and it was fun to see her get so mad at a very confused and preoccupied Belle. The scene with Jackie picking up and putting down the book while struggling with whether or not she should start engaging in another activity was hilarious and amazingly choreographed, and Ben’s arrival was classic. He’s really having a great season. Belle asking viewers not to take notes because she hasn’t had the chance to prepare adequately for her perfect night was terrific. The end scene with the conversation between Belle and Duncan was great, and it’s very nice to see them forming a relationship. This show managed with only a couple of characters before now, but having it expanded to six featured cast members now is doing it a wondrous favor.

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 3, Episode 3 “Flight’s at 11:08” (B+)

If I hadn’t accidentally read about it before I watched the episode, I would have been quite surprised by the lack of any flashes to six months in the future. There doesn’t seem to be much reason for the change besides trying something new (read the TV Guide piece), and I think it’s fantastic. I was never a big fan of that part of the show, and I do think this is one of the strongest episodes the show has done yet. It’s great that they actually stick with their three major threads, and I think they’re all interesting. Ellen had one of her most legitimate storylines thus far, going home to visit her family and trying to comfort her sister until she realizes that she hasn’t been completely honest with her. That was Miriam Shor (“Swingtown”) as Ellen’s sister, who did such a great job that I almost didn’t recognize her from when she played a conservative 1960s housewife a couple of summers ago. Back to the case at hand, watching Joe as he spirals further and further downward, telling Danielle she’s okay to fly after the doctor says she might die and just completely panicking in the situation, was incredibly compelling. The revelation that he and Danielle apparently had an affair is all the more shocking and makes everything much more serious. Joe’s really getting in over his head, but it’s good that he doesn’t try to run from the police and instead just says that she has to go to the hospital. He’s not a criminal by nature, and therefore he will ultimately do the right thing. His lawyer, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. It’s awesome to see him out on a date at first and how he handles that, and then to have him sweep in to take control of the situation with impressive finesse and calm. Martin Short deserves an Emmy for his work, and I do hope he gets some recognition since the wrong players (William Hurt and Rose Byrne) have been getting nominated over the infinitely more deserving ones (Marcia Gay Harden and Timothy Olyphant). Patty’s operative preparedness in this episode is also quite stunning in a good way, and her confrontation with Leonard at the airport was fantastic. Really, get rid of the flash-forward device altogether; it makes for a much tighter episode and we already have enough information about what to expect in the future to proceed forward accordingly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What I’m Watching: 24

24: Season 8, Episode 7 “10:00PM-11:00PM” (C-)

It’s really a shame when diplomacy and democracy lose out to endless suspicion. That’s what’s going on with President Hassan, and I had thought that he was truly interested in achieving peace and taking the advice of Tarin seriously without going behind his back and having him arrested because he wants to secure peace. The assertion from the guards that they’ve been searching everywhere for him when it’s been only ten minutes since Hassan even spoke with him lends itself to the real lack of credibility the real-time format often has on this show. Sadly, that’s the least of its problems. President Taylor isn’t being too smart or subtle revealing top secret information to one delegate in a room full of people, and it’s hardly necessary to maintaining diplomatic relations since her line of work likely demands secretiveness on a daily basis. The idiocy of Kevin and his cohort is unbelievable, and really diminishes the already questionable quality of this show. The fact that he complains about having to remember too many numbers and wastes time by using a squirt gun on Kevin is preposterous and inane. Who jokes about a holdup and, more importantly, who brings a water gun to a major crime? His speedy changeover into an excessively violent manic only minutes later makes even less sense. Renee has managed to single-handedly mess everything up by stabbing not just the crucial villain but also the hero. Sorry Jack, but you’ve just been stabbed; there’s no way you can throw a knife into some guy. And come on Jack, that’s clearly not CTU already there. They obviously aren’t ahead of schedule since they can’t even maintain simple surveillance to track the Russians. Of course it was more Russians – those people are everywhere on this show. Where can this possibly go next?

What I’m Watching: Heroes (Season Finale)

Heroes: Season 4, Episode 19 “Brave New World” (D-)

Up until the last few minutes of this episode, I was feeling the same way I have been all season about it, and I’m not entirely convinced by those last few minutes. But first, let’s take a look at the rest of the episode. Doyle forcing Emma to play her cello while dressed in that blue tux was overly creepy and just plain ridiculous. The presence of Old Charlie seems an unfortunate ruse necessary only because Jayma Mays is currently occupied starring on “Glee.” While the actress selected to play her, K Callan, does bear a striking physical resemblance to her, she’s hardly old enough to be playing that part. Callan was born in 1942, whereas Mays, who was almost thirty years old when she appeared on the show, would have already been that old when she was transported to 1944. The sudden appearance of Tracy, finally using a power she can control, was quite a surprise, and I don’t know whether to be dumbfounded or wowed. Noah’s fatalism was uncalled for because there’s no way he was going to die. This is “Heroes,” after all. It took Nathan like fifteen seasons to die. The culmination of all these events finally coming together doesn’t change the fact that the carnival route was always a bad idea and Emma still has the stupidest power in the universe. So now, all of a sudden, Sylar has proclaimed himself a hero. If only the buildup made sense like it did a few years ago when he was flipping pancakes in the future. It’s too late, and I don’t buy that he’s changed since all he did was break down a brick wall with Peter for forty-five minutes. Also, speaking of Claire’s confession, didn’t Nathan try to go public a few seasons back and then get shot for that effort? Clearly the writers haven’t forgotten about past seasons since Claire referenced her jumping attempts in the last line, so why not have Claire pay tribute to her late father’s legacy? Coming out to the whole world is a fresh idea, which is great, and it might just work if all these characters weren’t so damn annoying. Hopefully, the show will end at this point and not continue any further, but if it does, let’s hope for a fateful fresh start.

Season grade: F
Season MVP: Yikes – Robert Knepper?

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chuck Versus the Mask” (B+)

This episode was quite thrilling from start to finish, beginning with that superb spoof of the classic scene from “Mission Impossible” with Shaw in the Ethan Hunt role. I’m spectacularly impressed by the incorporation of Hannah, which is done in a very legitimate way that allows her to take on a big part and be a central component of the action plotline without knowing it. I enjoyed the interposed shots of Chuck and Hannah and Shaw and Sarah packing up for their respective missions. The genuine anger and disappointment from Hannah when she realized that Chuck had been spending time with Sarah felt extremely real, and Kristin Kreuk is really giving this performance her all. I loved the way she asked Chuck if he could keep a secret and the way that he pauses and coughs nervously before he answers. Back to the other prospective couple, I’m extraordinarily excited about Shaw and Sarah. Their dynamic is terrific, and it’s really nice for Sarah since she hasn’t had this workplace romance too much outside of Bryce. The fact that Shaw got Casey coffee too (“black and bitter”) was very fun. Their conversation when they thought they were dying was excellent because it wasn’t overly sappy but it was still touching, and Shaw’s immediate heroic action upon realizing that the worst is over was superbly cool. Chuck’s line that if he had to see Sarah with someone else, it might as well be a hero was completely appropriate considering Shaw’s awesomeness. Shaw uttered the best line ever at the end of the episode: “Relax, Sarah, I’m the safest guy in the world,” and the cut to the very Big Brother-looking Ring Panel proclaiming Shaw’s death warrant was a terrific finish. Henri Lubatti was a stellar villain, as always like on “24” and “Sleeper Cell.” Casey’s disappointment about not being able to blow stuff up was great, and it’s good that he continues to be incorporated even when he hasn’t been given central plotlines since that Angel de la Muerte storyline. The supporting plot involving Ellie and Morgan was quite entertaining as well. Ellie’s failure to remember the secret knock was hilarious, and that scene where they both discovered Chuck making out with Hannah was amazing. The joy on the Ellie’s face contrasted with the hurt on Morgan’s was simply stunning. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Take Three: Caprica

Caprica: Season 1, Episode 3 “Reins of a Waterfall” (C)

Only three episodes in, this show has already become far too centralized, essentially dealing with only one story. The attempted offshoots – mishandling of the case in the police department and Sister Clarice’s involvement in the one-deity movement – don’t really work that well and aren’t anywhere near as interesting as the subject that is hardly broached in this installment: there’s a frakking human living in a Cylon body in her parents’ living room! What exactly does virtual Zoe do with her days? I doubt she stays put in the Cylon body, and her travails through her house would likely be more than apparent if her maker ever checked on her status. And while she was almost subject to the sight of her parents reconciling physically right in front of her, it ended up being only a semi-touching moment where the Graystones tried to come to grips with what they think happened. The fact that the discussion ends with Daniel pointing out that it’s hard to deal privately with this information after Amanda blabbed it to the whole world just serves as a reminder that there’s no going back from that, and this series may well be plagued by that announcement for a long time. Well, at least the Graystones are actively doing something, while Adama Senior spends most of his time concocting elaborate ways to intimidate Daniel and force him to show him his daughter again, who just happens to escape the virtual room only minutes before her father shows up. None of these threads are terribly interesting, I fear, and I’m not sure how the show will be able to sustain them going forward.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 9, Episode 11 “Absolute Justice” (C)

This two-hour TV movie has been touted for a while now, and I have to say that I’m unimpressed. My disappointment is doubly true since it’s precisely when this show experimented with expanding its trope of heroes to include more than just Clark that it started to get good again. Part of the problem is that the two central plotlines currently on this show – Clark & Lois and the omnipresence of displaced aliens on Earth – aren’t strong enough to be swept under the rug by these other distractions. Also, there are just too many characters in the Justice Society of America to be able to devote enough time to keep up with all of them. I’ll admit that I’m not knowledgeable at all about DC Comics since I pride myself on being a Marvel man, but the JSA just seems like a rip-off of the Watchmen, regardless of which came first. This notion of Clark as a hero who can also serve as a beacon of hope has been explored in the past, and John Jones doesn’t need to get his powers back for that point to be driven home. The big fight scene with the ice villain was quite a letdown considering the incredible talent gathered in one room, and the fact that one super-bad agent was able to fell him with a bullet to the head when an entire legion of superheroes couldn’t casts serious doubt on their abilities. Having Pam Grier on the show is probably a good thing, though thus far I’m not too sold on her role. Tess Mercer’s complicity in her Checkmate operation should at least serve to bring that character back and create for a formidable duo, but doesn’t Tess have a whole host of Kandorians to contend with and a solar tower she’s supposed to be building? Let’s deal with that problem before moving on to an entirely separate, unrelated group of superheroes.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 3, Episode 12 “Noble Causes” (B+)

Michael certainly has his hands full with two major operations going on at the same time, but that’s never really been a problem for this particular ex-spy. Gilroy is shaping up to be more and more like Carla was, serving as Michael’s only contact who makes his life miserable by forcing him to put on an act to cover up his other jobs. The introduction of third wheel Claude was only a temporary distraction, since he’s out of the picture now, likely killed by Gilroy for some malicious, manipulative reason. I love the way that Fiona is acting around Michael, looking up information for him like he asks her but then just sitting seductively on the bed reading, reluctant to tell him all about it or pay him much attention. I was delighted to recognize this week’s token guest star as Erik King, also known as Sergeant Doakes from “Dexter.” It was great to see him, especially in a showy role that allowed him to be more comically over-the-top than he ever was when he was just swearing repeatedly at Dexter Morgan. Michael’s fake laugh during that meeting was pretty creepy, I must say. It’s hilarious that Madeline is getting an award, and even better that it’s for reporting cars stolen by Michael. His inability to convey the preposterousness of the concept to her was terrific, and it’s really so nice to see more of Madeline in each episode. It’s touching that Michael came through for her in the end, and that she was willing to leave and spend some time elsewhere with him. She’s still his mother after all, and that’s how she knows that he’s incredibly eager to take his off as soon as humanly possible.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 12 “Verna” (B+)

This was a pretty kooky and somewhat disturbing episode, but ultimately things came together and it proved to be pretty brilliant. Jack sitting down to try and brainwash Jenna about something is always an entertaining idea, and I liked how his first remark was “mothers…you can’t kill them,” followed by dead silence. His very technically unimpressive PowerPoint presentation was goofy, and the inclusion of “no” in all languages seemed woefully unnecessary. Jenna clearly wasn’t listening though, since her only response was “best friend with benefits?” The fact that Jenna’s mother suggested that Jack dress down to go to a fancy dinner was amusing. Jack’s dismay at Jenna getting along with her mother was great, but it’s nice that he actually cleverly made a deal with her mom to protect her, even if it was just to keep the show on track. The Liz-Jenna healthy diet was clearly never going to work, but it was a load of fun while it lasted. Liz didn’t seem disturbed enough that her chips were manufactured in a plant that also processes food, which was really wacky. Pete’s attempt to drive home his resistance drive by citing that his family refused to fight in seven wars was hilarious, as was Liz’s outing of Frank’s misdeeds, with her referential cry of “J’accuse!” and her self-congratulatory delight revolving around “if only some genius had secretly videotaped her living room last night.” Liz’s comment about believing in herself, just like the last scene of all movies was a hoot, and Liz’s sleep-eating, including the cigarettes, was simply craziness. Kenneth thinking he could spend quality time with Pete was about as much of a mistake as the notion that he’s interesting, and the quick cut to Pete at a fight club taking a punch was the perfect way to sum up his feelings about the situation. Kenneth’s ending comments about a show called Doctor with a guy named Doctor who’s a piano player was pretty fantastic, and the show managed to live up to its ridiculous nature by showing a weird shot of the cartoon talking to Jack in the elevator. Oh, this show.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 6, Episode 15 “Sabre” (B+)

This is the kind of terrific episode I’ve been waiting for all season. The opening moments were a great start, with Oscar refusing to pass on Michael and Erin’s comment, instead emphasizing that they didn’t know what they were saying.” Dwight’s comment when they were trying to put the box back together that it was impossible since Michael opened it like an ape was spectacular. Creed’s suggestion to try and make everything smaller was completely typical and awesomely random. Michael calling out “scissor me” and having Erin throw the scissors at him was worthwhile just to see Pam panic every time. I immediately recognized the guy from Sabre as Zach Woods (had to look up the name though), one of the obnoxious rival assistants in “In the Loop.” The confusion about the pronunciation of Sabre was hilarious, especially because Andy and Erin really couldn’t handle it. It’s really sweet that Erin is excited about seeing what Andy’s going to do next but so tragic that Andy isn’t on the same page. These lovebirds are never going to get together at this rate. The Saber video was pretty ridiculous, especially the line, “have you ever tasted a rainbow? At Saber you will!” Michael’s excitement at seeing Christian Slater narrating the video was quite funny, and the cuts to Michael saying “don’t like that” after everything had me worried that he was going to resign again. Fortunately, his visit to David Wallace knocked some sense into him, and when Michael doesn’t even want to work with him, that’s a big deal. This episode had some great guest stars, staring with a fearsome Kathy Bates as the CEO of Sabre and Joey Slotnick from “Nip/Tuck” and “Alias” as the day care interviewer. Jim’s initial joke about the infantry had me laughing, but I could not have prepared myself for the hilarity of the bathroom problem and how it led to such an angry interview. It was one of the most awkward conversations ever, but it was executed so perfectly, making for a fantastic plotline.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 2, Episode 15 “Sweetums” (B+)

I love this show. There were so many great moments; I’m not sure if I can even list them all, but I’ll certainly try. When Tom was trying stuff on in the very first scene, even Leslie got the chance to look at the camera with a shocked expression usually reserved for Ann on this show and Jim on “The Office.” I don’t know which is crazier – April’s response to Tom asking for help that she’d rather watch a sex tape of her grandparents or Andy’s completely serious follow-up comment that it’s really sweet that her grandparents still make love. It’s awesome and completely believable that Leslie carries her BAC card with her, and her sitting on Ron’s car to make sure he couldn’t drive home right away was terrific. Ann spraying Leslie in the face to relieve her of the effects of her sugar rush was very reminiscent of Jim spraying Dwight in the face on “The Office” when he got a concussion, but reminiscent in a very good, just-as-funny kind of way. The questions fielded by Ann were fantastic, such as “if sugar is so bad for you, how come Jesus made it taste good,” “corn’s a fruit, sugar comes from a bush,” and “how do we know you’re really a nurse.” Leslie’s feud with the librarian was entertaining, starting with Leslie’s crack about her being cocky for someone whose job is obsolete because of the Internet and followed by the librarian announcing Leslie’s overdue orgasm book over the loudspeaker. It’s wonderful to see April so prominently, and it’s also becoming increasingly obvious that she really likes Andy but is too intimidated to do anything about it. The ending scene wrapping up the great Tom moving plotline was a nice coda, and it’s truly amusing that everyone gives Jerry such a hard time. Because it was so great, here’s the best line of the episode, from Leslie to Ron: “If you eat three pieces of steak every day, you’re going to die. And though I’ve already written your eulogy, I’d prefer not to give it for a while. Here’s the first line: O captain, my captain. Ron Swanson, a swan song.” Oh, Leslie.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Take Three: The Deep End

The Deep End: Season 1, Episode 3 “To Have and To Hold” (B)

This show is settling into what seems like its normative pattern, and I think I like it. I’m particularly enjoying the bonds forming between all of the newbies at the firm. Beth and Liam’s relationship is heating up and getting more serious despite some bad advice from a bizarrely sedated Rowdy. Beth and Addy were fun together as they only sort of repelled the come-ons of their highly objectionable client, and seeing them get react to the outfits they received was entertaining. Their dynamic with the least intimidating senior lawyer at the firm, Susan, is also great, and I don’t mind the high-fiving as much I might have thought I would. The sweet dynamic building between Addy and Malcolm is also nice, and I’m loving Addy more and more every episode, especially in this one where she declared herself Malcolm’s brother’s lawyer to the principal of the school. Turning to the major case of the episode, it was fantastic to see Hart impart some of his wisdom to Dylan because he really seems like a good guy but he’s still fierce and intimidating to be sure. The big guest star of the week was Julia Ling, who made a splash on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” before going on to star in the first two seasons of “Chuck” as Buy More employee Anna. Unfortunately, she was victim of budget cuts and therefore it was good to see her here, even if she didn’t have the chance to do anything comedic. Though it may eventually become tiring, it is nice to see so many positive and life-affirming verdicts for the cases on this show.

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 4, Episode 11 “Thrill Seekers & Hell Raisers” (B+)

First of all, I cannot express my joy at being able to see Sarah Shahi back on television in something other than her role on NBC’s “Life.” She was fantastic for two seasons on “The L Word” and her subsequent part didn’t do her justice at all. This role is a whole lot better, though I still wish she would stick around for much longer. She’s wonderfully skilled at deftly handling humor and handling Shawn, and that was very fun to see. One of her more amusing lines was her emphasis of the trust circle, and I really do hope she’ll be back one day. Couldn’t she become a regular? I’d be more than on board with that move. In any case, the rest of the cast was certainly in top form as well. Gus’ response to Shawn’s theory that his secret girlfriend might be involved – “the only thing she’s involved in is being awesome” – was hilarious. Shawn’s confusion about the notion of the trust circle/trust triangle was funny, especially when he got so hung up on the fact that you can’t have a circle with two people. Shawn confusing all of the cases and being immediately corrected after each one by Gus was fantastic and completely typical in the best way for this show. Henry got a great line too, in response to Shawn’s question about how drunk he was: “more than a little and less than a lot, but I still make sense, don’t I?” I’d like to officially welcome the chief back even if it was only for a minute, and she still did a great job of handling those two women yelling at each other. Lassiter’s closing line was at the same time hilarious and creepy, which is no surprise for the socially awkward detective.

What I’m Watching: Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty: Season 4, Episode 13 “Chica and the Man” (B+)

While Betty has made flubs like this in the past and the situation quickly spiraling out of control was hardly a surprise, this episode actually worked pretty well due to way that its resolution justified its occurrence and the strength of its subplots. All of the jokes about whether the “L” in BLOB stood for Latina or Lesbian were amusing. Ignacio’s transvestite fetish was a bit odd, I’ll admit, but a chance to see more of the stellar supporting characters is always a treat. Amanda had several great lines as usual, including “good things come to those who weigh less” and “Daniel, you sound like such a douche.” Her hilarity is never really dependent on those playing off her, like Kristen Johnson, whose appearance sadly didn’t add too much to this episode. I hope that, if she does stick around, her character will become a bit stronger. The surprise star of this episode was Wilhelmina, whose discovery of a drag show mocking her led to her re-appropriation of the performer in question in order to enhance her public image by having him do nice things while posing as her. It was quite a kooky plotline since no one except Betty and her family had even an inkling that it was an impostor, but on this show, it works. The way Wilhelmina seized the situation and performed magnificently was a pleasant and wonderful delight, and Vanessa Williams really does love the spotlight, and knows how to milk it for all it’s worth.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 1, Episode 14 “Moon Landing” (B+)

This show has done a great job thus far of not letting its semi-parade of celebrity guest stars get in the way of its quality. While it’s always nice to see the lovely Minnie Driver, however, couldn’t they have given her something to do other than make Claire display a whole range of emotions in one conversation? Julie Bowen is great at playing the straight man (woman), and seeing her get all riled up because she thinks someone is judging her is very entertaining. Putting Jay and Cameron together in one room is always a stellar idea, and it never gets old to see Cameron so unfazed by all the outrageous things he says and does while Jay becomes so easily uncomfortable as a result of the same events. Jay’s attempts to express his fabricated comfort the situation did not work out well for him at all, but that was hardly a surprise. Another novel interaction between three other characters made for a lot of fun. Incorporating Mitchell’s career into the show is good, and the way he deals with both Manny’s fear of upsetting his mother by confessing about her poor driving and Gloria’s eccentric flair for getting easily upset and insisting that everyone else is a bad driver was quite funny. Phil didn’t go far in this episode, but the mere wearing of that mustache is hilarious enough; he doesn’t have to do much else. And who knew that Dylan would become such a fixture in this show? That fight between them played out pretty ridiculously.

What I’m Watching: Human Target

Human Target: Season 1, Episode 4 “Sanctuary” (B+)

Though it’s hardly as unserious or colorful, I couldn’t help thinking for the whole of this episode about Chi McBride’s last trip to a place of worship while on a case. That may have been a nunnery while this was a monastery, but there were definitely some similarities. I like the way that this episode started out, with Chance taking off his hood and revealing himself and then freezing while Winston narrated the whole thing. Winston does have a knack for narration, and that’s really great, especially since his demeanor contrasts well with the two other main characters on this show. Chance is marvelously subdued and always cool under pressure, eager to take risks just for the thrill of it. I was impressed at the bravery of Abbot Stevens, especially since he should have been furious at John Grey for betraying his trust. Though we didn’t see very much of him in this episode, it’s always great to have the reliable William Mapother (Ethan from “Lost” and Gunneson on “Threshold”) on board, here as the uber-villain. This episode also provided us more of a glimpse into the awesome and crazed personality of Guerrero, who engineered a seemingly malicious break-in into Winston’s apartment while ignoring countless calls from the man himself. He might have done better to turn his cell phone off, but he ultimately proved slightly helpful when Winston panicked since Chance kept mistaking Guerrero’s role in multiple bomb diffusions for Winston’s. It looked for the whole of the episode that Guerrero was a bad guy, but his big move to protect Winston and Chance at the end was a nice twist.