Saturday, July 31, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 6, Episode 3 “In Custody” (B+)

It’s fun imagining how Major Crimes would be run if someone besides Brenda was in charge. Unfortunately, Brenda doesn’t seem to have faith in anyone except for Sergeant Gabriel, who strikes me as not intimidating enough to command a team. Watching Provenza lead the investigation at the crime scene when Brenda wasn’t able to get there was highly enjoyable, and the initially antagonistic Flynn could be a good choice too. Commander Taylor would be great also, especially since he really doesn’t have much to do on the show at this point – the character or the actor, wandering around trying to find his office and wishing he could be a part of Major Crimes. I wonder how Pope will react when he finds out that Brenda is going to apply, and I’m sure it will be just as entertaining, if not more so, as Fritz’s fury upon finding out. Watching Lieutenant Tau tackle a suspect while Sanchez was being chewed out for bringing a kid to the crime scene was funny, and it’s interesting to see Sanchez as this deeply loyal family man who got his own showcase a couple of seasons back when his brother got gunned down. On the guest star front this week, we have Geoffrey Arend, who played Tom’s best friend McKenzie in “500 Days of Summer” and can currently be seen looking suspicious in the trailer for the M. Night Shyamalan-involved film “Devil,” as the jittery boyfriend. This case definitely got serious very quickly, and I think that worked well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 7, Episode 4 “Tequila Sunrise” (B+)

More so than any other show, I’d say, this series is skilled at doing what might otherwise come off as stunt casting and making it seem natural. Sometimes it isn’t thrilling, in the case of directors like James Cameron or Gus Van Sant whose acting turns out to be rather one-note, but here it works great. John Stamos is certainly more interesting as a character than the other former “Full House” cast member who has recurred on this show in the past, even if he’s not quite as infinitely more likable as would be expected. It’s no surprise that Drama messes up initially in his first meeting with Stamos, but in his defense, Stamos really is just a jerk who only wants to hang out with Vince. It seems like the show might actually get going and Drama might be able to reboot his career. It’s good to put an end to the Eric-Scott rivalry and have them play as a team, though I suspect that their new friendship is going to quickly get Eric in trouble with his fiancée. It’s sad to see Turtle get used just for his connection to Vince, though he may have found an ideal romantic relationship out of it, and Vince can always use another gig to ensure that he doesn’t have an off year like the one he had last season. I find it somewhat hard to believe that Lizzie is able to pull off a coup similar to the one Ari did at Terence’s agency (I doubt she would have the same pull), but the idea of Autumn Reeser in a more major role is definitely something I’d be okay with, so bring on the competition!

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the tenth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Lizzy Caplan, Michelle Forbes, Kandyse McClure, Melinda McGraw, Laura Ramsey

Emmy nominees: Shirley Jones, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mary Kay Place, Sissy Spacek, Lily Tomlin

Semi-finalists: Amy Acker (Human Target), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Flash Forward), Moon Bloodgood (Human Target), Tricia Helfer (Human Target), Mary McDonnell (The Closer), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Grace Park (Human Target), Callie Thorne (Royal Pains), Callie Thorne (White Collar)

Finalists: Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy) was both formidable and pathetic in the way that she played so closely and dangerously with the boys of SAMCRO. Abigail Spencer (Mad Men) was this season’s standout female who stole Don Draper’s attention. Courtney Ford (Human Target) made the possible silliness of her episode work well thanks to her concentrated and sharp performance. Autumn Reeser (Human Target) infused some much-needed female blood into an all-male team. Annabeth Gish (Flash Forward) was barely seen, but was easily one of the most enticing and mysterious figures of the season who should have earned more screen time.

The nominees:

Maura Tierney (Rescue Me) was dry, sarcastic, and an entirely loose cannon as the latest woman to throw Tommy for a loop. Lily Tomlin (Damages) played the part of a disgraced wife with elegance, poise, and a cutthroat edge. Emmanuelle Vaugier (Human Target) didn’t let Christopher Chance toss her aside and became an intricate and necessary part of the show. Courtney Ford (Dexter) was initially a distraction but became so much more due to her smart reading of an extremely complicated character.

The winner:

Summer Glau (Dollhouse) brilliantly played an instantly memorable and deeply disturbed technician whose emotions and connections were crucial and absolutely central to the show’s second season.

Next Up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 2, Episode 4 “Sing It Again Ray or Home Plate” (B+)

I am absolutely loving the integration of the supporting characters in this season. Lenore, Damon, and Ronnie all had terrific showcases in this episode that emphasize that this show has truly great characters aside from its two main protagonists. I’m not sure I’ve appropriately commended Rebecca Creskoff, who has been front and center this season as Lenore and appears in a quick but fantastic scene at the beginning of this episode. While I suspect her business relationship with Ray and Tanya won’t persist in its current form forever, I doubt she’ll be exiting either of their lives anytime soon. Damon urinating on home plate at the start of the episode paved the way for two excellent lines and another great story arc that was launched at the end of this episode. Ray’s dismay over how he “pissed on America’s pastime” (and Tanya’s subsequent moving walkway pratfall) was great, and the way Damon said “I wasn’t pissing on you, Dad” was just great. I love the fact that Tanya and Damon are now bonding, though I worry that Tanya’s mention of Ray’s job and Damon’s “art” will alienate him at a time when she can’t professionally afford to be distanced from him because of Lenore’s craziness and domination in their business. Ronnie had a hilarious zany speech about oatmeal, and it was so memorable that I had a dream about trying to make the most delicious cinnamon oatmeal the night after I watched it. Ray’s client of the week and her obsession with him singing “Happy Birthday” to her in different ways was a lot of fun as a subplot too.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Glades

The Glades: Season 1, Episode 3 “A Perfect Storm” (B+)

It’s interesting to see how the police department functions when a hurricane is about to hit, and also just how little regard for protocol or his safety Jim seems to have. The scenario does provide a great opportunity for Carlos to step up to the plate and make a grandstanding speech about putting the patients in the hospital above the hospital itself. It’s a nice chance for Colleen to express some concern for Jim too with her ordering him not to get shot. Jim certainly has a blast at the reunion, and it was a fun way of investigating the crime. Three episodes in, Jim is shaping up to be a more than competent lead whose quirks are an asset rather than an annoyance (I’m sure some don’t agree with me on that point and find him detestable). I’m still really intrigued by the relationship between Jim and Callie. His offer to go pick up her son while Callie was busy at work didn’t come as a surprise at all, though she seemed to have been caught off guard a bit by it. The fact that she both told him about her husband calling and gave him the confidential patient information indicates that she’s willing to open herself up to him and compromise herself personally and professionally to develop some kind of relationship with him. It may not be explicitly sexual or romantic, but the chemistry and their flirtation during the post-hurricane cleanup was palpable. These two are definitely going to get together soon.

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the ninth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Patrick Fischler, Richard Hatch, Alessandro Juliani, John de Lancie, Stephen Root

Emmy nominees: Dylan Baker, Beau Bridges, Alan Cumming, Ted Danson, Gregory Itzin, John Lithgow, Robert Morse

Semi-finalists: Erick Avari (Human Target), Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Craig Bierko (The Good Wife), Keith Carradine (Dexter), Kim Coates (Human Target), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Alan Dale (Lost), M.C. Gainey (Justified), Lennie James (Human Target), Sean Maher (Human Target), William Mapother (Human Target), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), Mark Moses (Mad Men), Chris Mulkey (Human Target), Timothy Omundson (Human Target), Mark Pellegrino (Lost), Henry Rollins (Sons of Anarchy), Chelcie Ross (Mad Men), Kevin Weisman (Human Target)

Finalists: David Costabile (Breaking Bad) displayed a mesmerizing calm and desperate need for approval as Walt’s new lab assistant. Len Cariou (Damages) crafted a tragic portrait of a Madoff-like man desperate to leave his family with something. Dominic Chianese (Damages) played against type as a fully mentally-present money man and was just as compelling as Uncle Junior. Jared Harris (Mad Men) was by far the best part of the British invasion of Sterling Cooper. Raymond J. Barry (Justified) played the world’s worst father who straddled the line between good and bad in an extraordinarily gripping manner.

The nominees:

Allan Hyde (True Blood) was heartbreaking and, more importantly, actually believable as a centuries-old vampire ready to leave his life behind. John Lithgow (Dexter) was a perfect match for Dexter as a family man with a dark secret life. Adam Arkin (Sons of Anarchy) was intimidating and fearsome without ever raising his voice or showing his hand as the most severe threat to SAMCRO yet. Walton Goggins (Justified) played a character just as morally ambiguous as Shane Vendrell, and was a fantastic nemesis for Raylan.

The winner:

James Callis (Flash Forward) showed up midway through the season and immediately stole the show with his eccentric, disturbed key piece of the puzzle.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Season Premiere)

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 1 “Public Relations” (B+)

This really is the Don Draper show. Peggy couldn’t have said it better when she told Don outright that everything everyone does is to please him. As this Emmy-winning show returns for its fourth season, it’s even clearer how much of an influence Don has on everything that goes on around him. His simply not saying someone has such a drastic influence on how his profile is received, and his fury at the clients who weren’t open to hearing any of his ideas was even more indicative of just how much he runs things. His behavior is certainly self-destructive and won’t long go tolerated by those who don’t fear him, a group that encompasses his partners and Peggy on a good day. Peggy and Pete’s plan to have the women fight over a ham was actually quite clever, and it’s a pity that Don couldn’t even take a second to congratulate her before ripping her a new one for having to call him and ask for bail money. Everything is not blissful for the newly married ex-Mrs. Draper, and Henry Francis has to juggle convincing his mother of Betty’s good nature and not getting caught in between Don and Betty in the midst of a vicious argument. The new structure at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will definitely take some getting used to, and that process should be an intriguing and enlightening one. All of the actors, most notably Jon Hamm and Elisabeth moss, still turn in powerhouse performances, and it’s a great thing to have this show back.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 3, Episode 6 “I Got a Right to Sing the Blues” (B)

When a show puts its central characters in jeopardy, it’s hard to believe that they’re not going to survive their ordeals. Someone like Tara may be expandable, sure, although they’ve kept her around much longer than most would like, but there’s no way Bill’s going to die, despite having all of his blood drained and pretty much coming as close to dying as he possibly can. I flashed back to him running in the sunlight to save Sookie and just collapsing in a heap in the first season finale, so I have little doubt that Bill will soon be good and fine. I am hopeful that Lorena will soon depart from this show’s universe since she’s been nothing but trouble since she first showed up. I am very intrigued about exactly what Eric is up to since he’s betraying so many allegiances that soon no one will trust him. It’s good to see the Queen again, and the idea of her and the King as a pair should be quite interesting. Sookie asking the King all of her questions just breaks down how little she knows and how much crazy stuff there is to know. Tara and Sookie’s decently-coordinated escape plan seems doomed to fail, and Lorena feasting on Sookie certainly won’t help matters. The arrival of Alcide should, though. Even if it’s a bit more slow-moving, I’m finding the events back in Bon Temps to be the most engaging. Lafayette and his unlikely romance with Jesus, now most likely threatened by the revelation of Lafayette’s profession. Arlene and Jessica are quite fun together, and Jessica glamoring the grumpy customer to leave all her money and then feeding on her was a neat, devilish trick.

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the eighth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Kristin Chenoweth, Jenna Fischer, Ashley Madekwe, Portia de Rossi, Vanessa Williams

Emmy nominees: Julie Bowen, Jane Krakowski, Jane Lynch, Holland Taylor, Sofia Vergara, Kristin Wiig

Semi-finalists: Sharon Gless (Burn Notice) – nominated in Emmy Drama category, Traylor Howard (Monk), Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Maggie Lawson (Psych), Jayma Mays (Glee), Reshma Shetty (Royal Pains)

Finalists: Julie Bowen (Modern Family) had the very difficult job of being the straight man in a cast of wacky characters and pulled it off magnificently. Jenna Fischer (The Office) had two wonderful hour-long episodes to get married and have a baby and excelled in both of them. Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty) tried for her final revenge against the Meade family, and it was just as deliciously evil and fashionable as ever. Robyn Cohen (Gravity) was hypnotic in her all-too-few scenes as a quirky suicidal wife on Starz’s underseen cancelled series. Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) was energetic and clueless like always, and I can’t wait to see her in next role on NBC’s “Love Bites” sometime this coming season.

The nominees:

Jane Lynch (Glee) didn’t initially do much singing but stole every scene she was in with her harsh and incredible insults. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) found a sticking series and a great role as the extremely Colombian and very often incomprehensible mother of one and wife of another. Portia de Rossi (Better Off Ted) burst bubbles and devastated dreams as the one and only Veronica Palmer in ABC’s tragically cancelled workplace comedy. Ellie Kemper (The Office) was this season’s best find as she came into her own as the permanent receptionist who was even sweeter and more willing to put up with Michael than her predecessor.

The winner:

Audrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) was unrelentingly hilarious in what could have been a forgettable, throwaway part, and the way she dryly delivers every one of her lines is unparalleled.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Take Three: Haven

Haven: Season 1, Episode 3 “Harmony” (C+)

That’s three for three now on a different family member/spouse possessing a power than originally thought. Even though it’s a commonly used device on crime dramas, it’s becoming increasingly tiresome here (especially when I’m tuning into another Syfy show, “Warehouse 13,” which often plays out exactly the same way). This is by far the least intriguing and engaging of the three installments of this show that have aired thus far. Perhaps it’s that the music plotline doesn’t exactly resound as much as it should. Additionally, having one of the main characters fall prey to the mysterious spell cast by the husband’s music is a dangerous line to cross. In this case, seeing him rant and rave about how great it must be to feel pain isn’t nearly as compelling as the show seems to think it is. While I haven’t yet warmed to Audrey or decided against her, I’ve never been terribly intrigued by Nathan as a character. Duke doesn’t really cut it either, and what happened to all of the other townsfolk? Shouldn’t they be around to answer Audrey’s question about her mother, instead of having the only person with any information sail off into the distance? I’m not sure this show is going to cut it, unless it brings in some serious reinforcements in terms of regular characters and original plotlines that don’t involve obvious familial twists. I didn’t want to just drop off and stop reviewing this show, but if next week doesn’t thrill, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a review.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 7 “Comfort’s Overrated” (B+)

At this point, I’m starting to come around to the idea that if I’m able to predict what’s wrong with patients, that means I’m an intellectual viewer rather than something negative or repetitive about the show itself. Each episode continues to be a blast, so if the big reveal about someone’s condition doesn’t floor me, I think that’s alright. The presence of Dr. Emily Peck and her rival concierge doctor service, minus the bickering support team, of course, helps makes this episode all the more entertaining. What’s particularly fun about it is the relationship between Hank and Emily. Her saying “you stoled my client” and “go Danish” are certainly puzzling, but she did have a good recovery when she debated the true difference between Dutch and Danish. I’d like to see more of their professional clashing and personal flirting. On the guest star front, we have Ian Gomez, also known as Andy from “Cougar Town,” as the husband who can’t stop hitting on every woman and pissing off his wife. Sadly, his role here was hardly as fun as his part on ABC’s misnamed comedy series. The concept of the faux-beau was enjoyable, although seeing poor Evan have a great day and then suddenly be cast side and subsequently overhear that she thought it was the worst day ever was quite sad. Maybe they’ll embark on a true romance now that her Cairo-bound boyfriend is out of the picture? There may be some competition, however, since Divya is destined to be with someone else other than her fiancé, and I doubt I’m the only one who suspects it’s Evan.

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the seventh category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Adam Baldwin, Rhys Darby, Chi McBride, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson

Emmy nominees: Ty Burrell, Chris Colfer, Jon Cryer, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Stonestreet

Semi-finalists: Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice), Paulo Costanzo (Royal Pains), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Jason Gray-Stanford (Monk), Ed Helms (The Office), Dulé Hill (Psych), Ted Levine (Monk), Rainn Wilson (The Office)

Finalists: Ed O’Neill (Modern Family) showed himself to be very layered after he gradually made his gruff patriarch somewhat sweet and endearing. Adam Baldwin (Chuck) didn’t have the spotlight in the show’s third season but that didn’t stop him from stealing every scene. Jeremy Piven (Entourage) and Rex Lee (Entourage) continued to make their declining show entertaining as they both found surprising new career options only slightly separate from each other. John Krasinski (The Office) couldn’t succeed as a manager, but his heartfelt portrayal of the new husband and father was one of the strongest parts of the show’s uneven season.

The nominees:

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was magnificently unconcerned with efficiency at his job and monumentally entertaining as the inimitable Ron Swanson. Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) could have created a flat stereotype, but instead crafted one of the most lavish and lovable characters on television. Eric Schaeffer (Gravity) was unrelenting in his fascinating portrayal of a peculiar cop with absolutely no filter who made his show worth watching even before it found its footing. Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) didn’t have as much to do as the rest of his cast, but he never let an opportunity for a dumb or inappropriate comment get by him.

The winner:

Ty Burrell (Modern Family) found a perfect role for his droll humor and created a fantastically uncool dad who turned out to be the funniest new character on the funniest new comedy of the season.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 4, Episode 7 “Past & Future Tense” (B+)

It's quite a catch for this show to get Burt Reynolds to guest star as an old spy accidentally thrust back into the game and in need of some assistance from one Michael Westen. What's cool about this episode is that it does deviate considerably from the normal client-of-the-week episode because Jesse is the one in need of help and they just happen to come upon some seemingly criminal activity and Michael and company feel the need to start investigating. Reynolds is definitely a fun addition for this installment. The notion, reinforced by the title of this episode, that Reynolds’ Paul is the future version of Michael, is quite intriguing, but there’s also just the pure entertainment value of having the two of them on screen together. Michael yelling at Paul to “stop that” when he’s shooting at the Russians was particularly fun, and Paul’s closing assertion that he has the right to kill some Russians if they invade Florida was amusing as well. Madeline’s role in getting the congressman to meet with Paul was fantastic, and it gave her a great scene as well as a terrific departing quote: “That sounds like a really bad idea. I think I’ll just take a cab.” The casting of funnyman Richard Kind as Jesse’s generally humorless and scared boss is questionable, but it worked out fine and gave Fiona something enjoyable to do. The final scene with Fiona smacking Michael and then going at him a second time was a more dramatic closer, bringing back the idea that Jesse is going to want to seriously hurt Michael when he inevitably finds out that Michael was responsible for burning him.

Cool news: read about this Sam-centric prequel movie in the works, announced at Comic-Con last week.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 5, Episode 2 “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now” (B+)

If any show exists that is able to get away with one of its cops tap dancing right as a murderer is about to confess, it’s this show. The fact that Gus (and Dulé Hill, it appears) happens to be an excellent tap dancer certainly helps, though this show is also able to pull off having Lassie perform with the little kids at the end of the episode and make a startling realization about the identity of the West Side Rapist. What’s most fun about this episode is the wacky pairings it presents in Lassie and Gus and Shawn and Juliet, and they’re both equally entertaining. Gus’ surprise at being introduced by his real name and his pharmaceutical knowledge mixed with Lassie’s over-sharing about his divorce-related therapy worked great, and Shawn and Juliet were a lot of fun too. It’s especially strange that they went on a date afterwards considering just how immature Juliet thinks Shawn is. Henry’s success at punishing Shawn even when he’s doing something nice for him, as Shawn pointed out, was brilliant, and while it appears to signal less of the chief, having Henry in that position is working out positively. I was certainly impressed by the flirtatiousness of the lab tech who was revealed to have no authority, but I’m less taken by the guest spot by Lauren Lee Smith, who once had to be tested to determine her sexual orientation on “The L Word” when her chef character sent tennis player Dana food with no other clues about her intentions, as the ultimately-revealed killer. It’s not a part that needed to come alive, but I’ve enjoyed Smith’s parts in the past, and this one was less than memorable. Shawn's mistaken belief that it was 2008, however, had me chuckling for quite a while.

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

This is the sixth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Tricia Helfer, Elizabeth Mitchell, Alison Pill

Emmy nominees: Christine Baranski, Rose Byrne, Sharon Gless, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Archie Panjabi

Semi-finalists: Morena Baccarin (V), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Callie Thorne (Rescue Me), Laura Vandervoort (V), Natalie Zea (Justified)

Finalists: Linda Hunt (NCIS: Los Angeles) was unflinchingly hilarious as Hetty and managed to create an NCIS boss worthy of comparison to Gibbs. Mae Whitman (Parenthood) impressed just as much as the adults as the intelligent but troubled Amber. Michelle Forbes (True Blood) was fearsome and deliciously insane as the unstoppable Maryann. Kim Dickens (Treme) was an excellent representative of New Orleans tradition, struggling to keep her restaurant and the spirit of her city alive. Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood) turned what could have been a disaster of a character into a sympathetic, endearing new addition.

The nominees:

Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) kept Peggy grounded as she started to see what her future might look like and began to debate other options. Joelle Carter (Justified) was instantly alluring and charming, and was just as unforgettable to audiences as she was to Raylan. Amy Acker (Dollhouse) proved to be someone completely different that she had seemed, and the transformation was fantastic. Tina Marjorino (The Deep End) was a wonderful, quirky part of an all too short-lived legal show who needs to be getting more work immediately.

The winner:

Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) transformed completely when her character finally accepted her role as a SAMCRO old lady and beat the hell out of her hospital supervisor, creating an unrecognizable woman out of a once-timid girl.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

Rescue Me: Season 6, Episode 4 “Breakout” (B+)

This episode marks a great return to one of the things “Rescue Me” does best: comedy played out as a result of brotherhood. It’s not a moving dramatic installment necessarily, but it is an entertaining hour than makes great use of all the characters. Lou’s nurse is extremely helpful in kicking that off by pointing out everyone’s flaws, which resounds particularly for Black Shawn, who is dismayed to learn that his eyes are too far apart. Franco’s charm is quite hilarious, and the positioning of all of the firemen as doctors, orderlies, and random people standing by was magnificently comical. Black Shawn’s failure to name any black doctors by first citing Dr. Bill Cosby, then Dr. Huxtable, and then Reverend Sharpton was very amusing, and it’s a treat to see the character get a chance to embarrass himself since he’s usually the voice of reason, compared to Sean and Mike in particular. Sean staying with his friend at the hospital was touching, though of course he isn’t quite able to deliver by immediately admitting that he doesn’t have some grand plan to take care of him. Tommy’s visit with Father Phil proved much more powerful than expected, and Father Phil, played by the always-great Peter Gallagher, is quite a fun character, asking awkwardly if he can keep the photo of Janet after insisting that Tommy needs to look at it again. Tommy’s misconception about Franco and Janet, made even more tragic by the fact that Franco didn’t let anything happen while it seems like Janet probably would have, is a major setback for the not-too-forward-moving Tommy, and I imagine tensions will begin to explode in the next episode and just go downhill from there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Round Two: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 1, Episode 2 “Walter’s Walk” (C+)

If my faith in the incorruptibility of law enforcement hadn’t already been shaken as described in my “Rizzoli & Isles” review from this week after recent screenings of episodes of “The Closer,” “The Glades,” and a “Law & Order: SVU” installment from last season, the denouement of this episode makes me question everything once again. Isn’t there some sort of vetting process that would ideally reveal that a spy has obvious ideological alignments with the enemy? It would just seem to make sense. This second episode doesn’t do any more or less for me than the first, still not proving to me that it’s a worthwhile new series. The addition of Sendhil Ramamurthy as Jai isn’t half bad, especially because he’s a million times better than he was as Mohinder on “Heroes.” He also has the good sense to point out to annoyed boss Joan that, unlike what bosses on shows like “24” would have you think, there’s usually no harm in pursuing an agent’s hunch. I would like to see more of the CIA agents in the field rather than just hanging around in the office bickering about married life. Additionally, it seems all too convenient that Annie would just happen to stumble upon an actual case during her very first day of entertaining walk-ins. I refer back to “Alias” and recommend this show take a page from its playbook. Sydney always went on routine missions, and she more often than not had an actual partner from the CIA to back her up. I bet it would be a blast to see Auggie in the field, though I suspect Jai would do quite well too. And I personally would love to see Joan and Arthur go on a mission together.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 2 “Need to Know” (B+)

The second season of this show is really impressing thus far, picking up the pace a bit from the already great first season by solidifying the strong relationship between its main characters. The revelation that Peter knows that Diana has the box cements the notion of trust, even if Peter is still deceiving Neal for his own good. Diana’s presence also serves to enhance the level of entertainment on the show since her interactions with both Neal and Peter are a whole lot of fun. Neal’s ability to lie so convincingly and just spew so much completely made-up garbage is wildly impressive, and it’s fantastic to see how readily everyone eats them up. Aside from the wondrous scenes featuring any combination of Neal, Peter, and Diana, I’m still most excited, like last week, about everything and anything related to Mozzie. I think I might be a bit behind the curve, since many fans of the show really liked him last season, as far as I can tell. He was great then too; he’s just really come into his own now, in my opinion. Neal’s initial mention of how he votes more often than Peter would think – or approve of – had me cracking up, and then Mozzie and Peter wandering around together with Mozzie giving Peter stuff to read so he wouldn’t concern himself with the allegedly illegal activity Mozzie was engaging in was hilarious. Mozzie’s despair when he found out that it was his preferred politician who might be guilty of misdeeds added an unexpected semi-moral but more so amusing component to an already awesome investigation.

Round Two: Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli & Isles: Season 1, Episode 2 “Boston Strangler Redux” (B+)

From the first two episodes of this show, it seems clear that it’s going to be considerably darker than TNT’s other female-centric crime-fighting show, “The Closer.” This second round, just like the first, centers on a serial killer just starting back up again, making the cases infinitely more dire and deadly than a random killing. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Rizzoli only encounters such monstrously severe and important cases, but I won’t hold it against the show since it executes it pretty well. I’d also like to log the fact that my faith in law enforcement has been severely decreased after recent incidents on both “The Glades” and “The Closer” in the past two weeks and a screening of the “Law & Order: SVU” episode featuring Emmy-nominated guest star Ann-Margret, where (spoiler alert) the culprit turns out to be a cop. It’s unfair to blame this episode for being the straw that breaks the camel’s back, however, so I’ll let that slide. What this episode does do well is to bring out the secondary character, Maura Isles, and actually give her something to do. Her dorky baseball suit and her diagnosis of her date with a life-threatening disease after one quick kiss make her stand out as a memorable and fantastic character. I like the addition of Donnie Wahlberg as Lieutenant Grant in what I can only hope will become a recurring role. Wahlberg was excellent as an anchor for NBC’s all-too-brief cop show “Boomtown,” and I love the fact that Rizzoli still holds a grudge against him for stuff he did in middle school. In case you weren’t buying the fact that Angie Harmon is Italian, now there’s not only Lorraine Bracco as her mother but another undeniable Italian as her father, Chazz Palminteri.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 6, Episode 2 “Help Wanted” (B+)

It’s always a treat to have Mary McDonnell return to play Captain Raydor, and I’m glad that this show has favored her as a recurring player. She’s only the first of a few exciting guest stars. The couple that Major Crimes initially speaks to about the disappearance of the nanny is played by two terrific thespians. Catherine Dent sadly hasn’t done much since “The Shield” ended, though hopefully the “Lie to Me” episode featuring a whole number of former cast members from the groundbreaking FX drama will eventually air. She was great as the wife, especially impressive because of her acting partner. Titus Welliver has been popping up everywhere recently, most notably as the Man in Black on “Lost” and Peter Florrick’s nemesis on “The Good Wife,” and he’s the perfect person to play the role of the anger-prone but ultimately innocent husband. Towards the end of the episode, things got uncharacteristically intense, and sniper Fritz really came through and ended up saving the day. His immediate angry reaction and snap to screaming at Brenda for almost getting herself killed was a sharp reminder that Brenda doesn’t quite play by the rules. That may of course benefit her, considering the episode’s big bombshell: Raydor wasn’t there to vet Pope, but to vet Brenda! I have a feeling that she won’t ultimately get the top job because that would radically transform the show (maybe a good thing, though), but her likely decision to apply for the position should cause a rift between her and Pope, who has really been acting like a jerk lately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 7, Episode 3 “Dramedy” (B+)

Everything is really kicking into gear in this episode as each of the characters gets something concrete to do that should keep them occupied for the next couple of weeks. Vince is still kicking back and relaxing as he doesn’t have much to do, living it up and racing people on motorcycles (“can’t be careful, we’re racing!”) in the middle of searching for jobs with the help of Eric’s number one nemesis Scott. Turtle’s financial woes may give him his most interesting plotline in years, allowing him to reconnect with Alex and embark on some new, potentially illegal international venture. As long as Alex doesn’t start bleeding from the eyes and reveal that she has a twin brother, I’m happy to have her around. I like the spot-on casting of Jeff Garlin, who stars on another long-running HBO comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as the Emmy-winning writer brought in by Lloyd to reinvigorate his finances and Drama’s career. I like Eric and Drama together, and I think that Drama and John Stamos can hopefully do some good work and help put Drama back in the game. Even though I always tend to like Ari’s plotlines, here he has a fresh and interesting one, for once putting his wife’s wishes ahead of his desire to succeed. I enjoyed Ari not threatening his employee’s jobs but their lives, and I was also delighted to see him take part in a dramatic plotline for a change. His delivery of “I’m sorry, kid, but I’m not the one who’s going to satisfy you” was very impressive. If only the Emmys weren’t over Jeremy Piven – he’s probably going to deserve his accolades at the end of this season just as much as in years past.

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This is the fifth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Jeremy Davies, Walton Goggins, Josh Holloway, Vincent Kartheiser, Brian F. O’Byrne

Emmy nominees: Andre Braugher, Michael Emerson, Terry O’Quinn, Aaron Paul, Martin Short, John Slattery

Semi-finalists: Nelsan Ellis (True Blood), Enver Gjokay (Dollhouse), Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Chi McBride (Human Target), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood)

Finalists: Campbell Scott (Damages) blurred the line between good and evil with his portrayal of a man struggling to cope with financial ruin and disgrace. Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) was an astonishingly stoic and shrewd businessman with the most memorable of personal touches. Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad) connived his way around the latest of Walt’s misdeeds and came out seeming seedier than ever. Josh Charles (The Good Wife) delivered a heartfelt and realistic performance as a law firm partner with an all-too-obvious predilection for one of his junior associates. Bryan Batt (Mad Men) sent off Sal as one of the most endearing and tragic casualties of the 1960s.

The nominees:
Terry O’Quinn (Lost) played two roles and created a whole new character in the Man in Black, making the duality between the two of them utterly captivating. Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) gave the gruff motorcycle gang leader a much-needed dosage of compassion. John Goodman (Treme) was instantly memorable as an outspoken government critic in New Orleans and became even more vital to the show as the season progressed. Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) made Pete even more compelling as he took on a new shared position at Sterling Cooper.

The winner:

Martin Short (Damages) was unrecognizable without a fat suit and utterly mesmerizing as the Tobin family lawyer whose motivations and allegiances were never quite clear.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 2, Episode 3 “Mind Bullets or Bang Bang Bang Motherfucker” (B+)

I love when episodes on this show have themes, and this one definitely gets off to a strong and meaningful start with Ray jogging backwards while talking to his children about getting in shape and debating whether he would have been friends with his kids in high school. Citing Tanya as a high school friend he still hangs out with and bringing her along to a movie with his kids to prove it emphasizes the fact that he likely wouldn’t have, a fact which seems to disturb him quite a bit. Tanya taking them to see “Battleship Potemkin” was hilarious, and I enjoyed Ray’s comment about how “people are trying to sleep in here.” Tanya really has it rough with her obnoxious coworker becoming her boss and forcing her to get a free date with Ray in exchange for keeping her job. I am happy, however, that Tanya is having trouble because that forces her to meet up with her pimp friend played by the fantastic Lennie James, who spews ridiculous and awesome ideas like “mind bullets.” I hope he sticks around for many episodes to come. Tanya’s going to need some help, because Lenore is one crazy woman. Stealing Tanya’s sweater to make her think she’s nuts is one thing, but replacing the dog Tanya stole is absolutely crazy (Ray’s comment about them looking like twins didn’t really help matters). I’m hopeful that Ray will wake up to her insanity after realizing that she’s been befriending Jessica. Jessica turning to Ray for comfort is very interesting, and I definitely want to see where that goes. There were three terrific memorable dramatic lines in this episode from three different characters: “I’m not going to climb into any box, or climb out of any box” (Ray’s son), “sometimes being a good guy has its price” (Ray), and “I’m so confused. Marriage is so confusing.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Round Two: The Glades

The Glades: Season 1, Episode 2 “Bird in the Hand” (B+)

Love him or hate him, the lead character on this show truly makes it interesting. Having him narrate his own opening credits says a lot about the format about this show and just how him-centric it is. He just seems to get so excited by the opportunity to really annoy some people and makes cases that might otherwise not be anywhere near as fun or engaging infinitely more so because of his energy. After all, most of this episode does revolve around an endangered bird. The delivery of lines like “is it still a crime in Florida to shoot a mail carrier?” and the look on his face after he says “how about if someone drained the gas tank?” are part of what makes his charisma so effective. He’s not the only one with the great lines. Leave that to the guy who refuses to be his new partner: “another way to get shot: hanging out with the wife of a guy in prison” and “that’s contagious; go home” in reference to the excitable medical examiner’s case of pink eye. Francesco Quinn was an inspired choice to play the drug lord who ended up getting busted on his illegal possession of the endangered newt, and his rivalry with the boss was fun. What’s most enjoyable and entertaining about this episode is the relationship between Callie and Jim, which is progressing quite a bit despite her best efforts. I liked her line at the end of the episode: “What often seems like a beautiful new challenge may end up being more trouble than it’s worth.” I’m definitely interested to see him try.

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the fourth category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.
Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Tina Fey, Natasha McElhone, Billie Piper, Amy Poehler, Yvonne Strahovski

Emmy nominees: Toni Collette, Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lea Michele, Amy Poehler

Semi-finalists: None

Finalists: America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) sent Betty Suarez off with a wonderful final look at this unique and marvelous character. Krysten Ritter (Gravity) crafted an enormously intriguing personality out of a damaged girl who sells makeup at a department store and changes lives (watch this show!!!). Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) took Nancy down an even slipperier path than ever as she struggled to hold on to her life and her sanity. Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck) actually changed as she combated her feelings for two different agents. Gabrielle Anwar (Burn Notice) refused to put up with Michael as usual as she helped her with even more shenanigans.

The nominees:

Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) was always airheaded but surprisingly talented and endearing as the hard-headed Leslie Knope. Billie Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) went public but remained just as personal as she experimented with yet another doomed relationship. Tina Fey (30 Rock) handled hallucinations and more insurgency from her cast as comically brilliantly as ever. Jane Adams (Hung) was a surprisingly talented and altogether entertaining pimp for the show’s newfound gigolo.

The winner:

Lea Michele (Glee) led the cast of the season’s biggest sensation with perfect pitch not only in song but also as the unpopular perfectionist and perpetually performing Rachel Berry.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 3, Episode 5 “Trouble” (B)

This really is a weird show. Explaining it to someone else is quite difficult, and might sound even more preposterous than “Lost.” The connection between Eric’s pre-vampire past and the King of Mississippi is definitely going to shake things up, especially considering how honest and forthright Eric was when Bill walked in and he was caught in his lie about who was responsible for selling the vampire blood. It’s a relief that Bill still ran to Sookie’s rescue even after claiming not to care for her and informing Eric that she is no longer his. I found Eric and Lorena’s reactions to the presence of the other to be quite entertaining and interesting. There are so many layers of duplicity going on here, and it now seems that the sides are being clearly defined, with Bill, Sookie, Alcide, and probably Eric on one side and pretty much every vampire and werewolf on the opposite side. The other supporting characters are busy engaging in sexual affairs, some much more questionable and less safe than others. The pleasant budding relationship is that of Lafeyette and his mother’s caretaker Jesus, and it’s nice to see Lafayette get along well with someone who likes him for a change. Tara certainly looks terrified of the zany Franklin’s plan to make her his forever by turning her into a vampire, and I’d much rather he just killed her and didn’t revive her than keep her as a distraction for Bill and Sookie to have to rescue instead of starting to wage their war right away. Jason is the worst cop ever, pulling a woman over for nothing at all without a badge or a shirt, and his new romance with a mysterious creature (mermaid?) will likely lead only to weird places. By far the most intriguing and awesome part of the episode is Jessica, who glamors customers into not giving the spiteful Arlene tips and starts to bond with Sam’s brother (giving him something useful to do) over the presence of Hoyt in the bar. Sookie's display of power was also pretty damn cool.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Round Two: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Fat Lady Sings the Blues” (B)

Well, nothing scares this guy. Not the threat of going to jail or getting shot by an armed hostage taker with a gun. He’s even willing to procure some heroin for two armed men holding a café hostage. If nothing else, Frank Leo is a unique character, a sort of real-life superman who anyone on the police force seeking justice can call in for any problem, big or small. His nonchalant reaction to being rhetorically asked whether he’s the one doing the hostage negotiating indicates just how ready he is to go to bat for any member of the police force who feels like they’ve been wronged. The way this episode ends, with a close-up on Frank’s face as medical attention is called in for the beaten police officer, cements the tone and theme of this series. When a villain gives a five-minute ultimatum when there are only three minutes left in the episode, it can only be so thrilling. Still, those last few minutes proved to be quite intense, as all of the cops riddle the hostage takers with bullets even after they put their hands up to surrender because of how savagely they treated (and possibly murdered) their fellow officer. This isn’t a great episode, but it does help solidify the format of the show and make it seem like a premise that could last and carry the show for a while. I was hoping for more of a connection between the waitress who was in on it, especially when the cop told Frank that he suspected that, but alas this was just an average, less than extraordinary case.

Yikes! As of late last night, "The Bridge" has been unceremoniously cancelled by CBS. Airing only two episodes is hardly giving a show a chance, but putting it on Saturday nights during the summer isn't exactly fair either. If you like the show, it will still be airing in Canada, but no more episodes will grace the airwaves in the United States.

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the third category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.
Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Steve Carell, Jeffrey Donovan, Zachary Levi, Danny McBride, James Roday

Emmy nominees: Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, Larry David, Matthew Morrison, Jim Parsons, Tony Shalhoub

Semi-finalists: Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Tim DeKay (White Collar), Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains), Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death)

Finalists: Tony Shalhoub (Monk) kept the obsessive-compulsive detective endearing as he closed the last of his open cases. Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) remained hilariously sarcastic as he took on yet another mysterious enemy. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) spewed typical ridiculousness as he went crazy for two women at the same time. Cory Monteith (Glee) makes dumb look so blissful as the musically talented but intellectually inept Finn Hudson. Matthew Bomer (White Collar) found a perfect role for his distinctive charm and charisma in art thief and forger extraordinaire Neal Caffrey.

The nominees:

David Duchovny (Californication) juggled three relationships as he embarked on an entertaining teaching job. Zachary Levi (Chuck) handled his new abilities with expected reserve and heart. James Roday (Psych) kept Shawn remarkably relaxed and aloof even as he encountered deadly enemies. Steve Carell (The Office) dealt with Dundler-Mifflin’s new form as clumsily and awkwardly as ever.

The winner:

Thomas Jane (Hung) created a compelling character from a down-on-his-luck teacher whose second job was to provide others with fulfillment, even if he wasn’t fulfilling himself.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Round Two: Haven

Haven: Season 1, Episode 2 “Butterfly” (B)

In week two, we’re now two for two on bad guys with mysterious abilities who are actually good (and may not even know about their powers) in addition to a false positive early on initially pegging the wrong family member or spouse as the one with the abilities. It’s similar to the frustration that I had occasionally had with “The X-Files” – every once in a while it seemed like it would be appropriate to have some supernatural event explained away by logic instead of the mystical. In any case, this episode isn’t really any better or worse than the premiere last week, presenting another semi-intriguing case that doesn’t pack too many surprises. The priest really gives Haven the same feeling as the “Our Town” episode of “The X-Files” where an entire town didn’t take terribly kindly to intruders. Setting this show in a small town where everyone knows and has a history with each other is definitely an asset, and it’s much more effective than the similar premise in ABC’s short-lived “Happy Town” earlier this year. While this episode certainly doesn’t present anything nearly as intriguing in terms of dreams and their connection to reality as the new film “Inception,” it is interesting that he knows that he’s hurting people and therefore wants to stay awake and keep himself from falling asleep. Even if she doesn’t have the charm of fellow skeptic Mulder, Audrey is much smarter than she looks, able to talk Bobby down during those frantic jump cuts between Bobby’s family and the two agents in the car. Her getting a job offer to permanently stay and find out about her possible mother is a positive plot development, and I like the line that comes close to the end of the episode: “I guess we’re going to find out.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 6 “In Vino Veritas” (B+)

I like these mini-trips that take Hank and company into the field but not out of the Hamptons. It also buys HankMed a bit of time to continue taking on their own cases before having to compete with another on-call physician trying to stake her claim to the clientele of the Hamptons. Tucker has been a great recurring character, and his discussions with Hank always prove compelling. The notable guest star of this week was Zoe McClellan as the taste bud-deprived winemaker, who I know from her role as Nick Darling’s long-suffering wife on “Dirty Sexy Money.” I found it quite coincidental that her character here had an AVM considering that Nate Fisher on “Six Feet Under,” played by Peter Krause, the very same actor who played Nick Darling, also had an AVM. Maybe that’s too many degrees of television separation, but I think it’s interesting. For a while, it seemed that Evan and Hank’s misguided belief that Divya was pregnant felt extremely tedious, but the way it worked to help Divya realize that someone was in fact pregnant, namely the woman they were about to put into an MRI machine, was smart. Jill and Divya hanging out continues to be a blast, and I enjoy their interactions immensely. While the idea is certainly better than the actual execution, it’s good to see Eddie and Hank working together right in the middle of a timely crisis. They definitely do make quite a good team, and hopefully they can now get a long a little bit better after sharing a bonding experience.

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

This is the second category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.
Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Annabeth Gish, January Jones, Mary McDonnell, Anna Paquin, Kyra Sedgwick

Emmy nominees: Connie Britton, Glenn Close, Mariska Hargitay, January Jones, Julianna Marguiles, Kyra Sedgwick

Semi-finalists: None.

Finalists: Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) continued to lead Major Crimes with her distinctive style and Southern twang. Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife) emerged from her husband’s show and helped CBS find itself a great new show. Melissa Leo (Treme) was a fierce, determined lawyer who valued her clients much more than they knew. Glenn Close (Damages) waged war on yet another villain, but had to contend with her own demons as well. Evangeline Lilly (Lost) tried to find her purpose and help set things straight with Claire and on the island.

The nominees:

January Jones (Mad Men) made like her husband and stepped out on her marriage, finally achieving some sort of fulfillment. Lauren Graham (Parenthood) was a snarky sibling and frustrated mother who was the comic heart of the Braverman family. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) wouldn’t stand for her husband’s lies anymore and made a staggering effort to reclaim her life. Anna Paquin (True Blood) took on a new enemy at home as supernatural creatures of all kinds harvested their obsession with her.

The winner:
Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) suffered a brutal attack and heartbreakingly had to hide it from the men who loved her and stay strong, which she miraculously executed brilliantly.

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

What I'm Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 4, Episode 6 “Entry Point” (B+)

It’s somewhat of a relief that new team member Jesse actually gets along so well with Michael and the rest of the gang since they haven’t always had such a spotless record when it comes to getting along with people who desire to be involved in their ventures. Take Buddy, for instance, who serves as a continual annoyance for Michael and Fiona while they’re trying to help him and expresses his wishes to be included in all of the action even though he really can’t handle it. But speaking about the new guy who does fit in, Jesse is doing a much better job. Having him there as a literal sounding board for Michael’s ideas and helpful tips is even more entertaining than Michael’s usual narration. There’s also the added bonus of having Michael commend Jesse on his success at assuming the role of the weak and sentimental henchman. Tricking Kendra into thinking that her bank accounts had been trained and motivating her towards revenge proved to be a clever trick, and it’s good that he didn’t give himself away and reveal his duplicity. While it might have been fun to have Kendra stick around for a bit, it’s probably for the best that her arc ends with this episode since Navi Rawat’s stubbornness and forehead-splitting reminded me too much of her irksome and whiny guest spot on “24” during the show’s first season as a jealous nemesis of Kim Bauer’s. I did enjoy Jesse asking Sam if it’s weird that he misses him, though the best-delivered line of the episode was definitely Fiona’s affirmation to Michael of her abilities when it comes to getting what she wants from firefighters. Even if the villain in this episode was obvious from the start, it was worth it for that line alone.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What I’m Watching: Psych (Season Premiere)

Psych: Season 5, Episode 1 “Romeo and Juliet and Juliet” (B+)

It’s really so wonderful to have this show back. In the absence of sitcoms like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” I haven’t had a chance to really laugh during an episode yet this episode, let alone several times throughout one episode. The first thing that really got me going was Shawn’s ambiguity about which Triad gang he wanted to meet with when talking to the horribly abused Ken. Gus trying to both legitimize and curb Shawn’s blatantly racist and preposterous assertions about Ken’s past made for a good time as well. While Gus needing to approve all of Shawn’s fake identities for him might seem like a drag, I have faith that they’ll make it work and that Shawn will definitely not adhere so strictly to Gus’ new rule. Having Henry working in the police department as the buffer between Shawn and the Chief should likely create hilarity for a while, though I worry about it going on for too long, unless Henry actively becomes a part of every case since he doesn’t really have that much to do otherwise. Juliet biding her time in returning to work makes sense, and it’s also a lot of fun to see both the Chief and Lassie give her extremely boring busy work to do and refusing to leave her alone. I’m hopeful that the whole gang will soon get back together and work in tandem on all of their cases, since this still fantastic episode hardly featured Lassie at all, despite his humorous quick scenes with both Henry and Juliet. Bonus points for a cool episode title and having part of the opening credits in Chinese (text only) like they've done once or twice before.

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

This is the first category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This year, semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work being done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.
Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Michael Chiklis, Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Denis Leary

Emmy nominees: Kyle Chandler, Bryan Cranston, Matthew Foxx, Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Hugh Laurie

Semi-finalists: None.

Finalists: Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) was fantastically unhinged as he waged war on his own club. Denis Leary (Resecue Me) was more self-destructive than ever as he helped his whole family fall off the wagon. Stephen Moyer (True Blood) kept himself together while wearing himself thin with Maenads and deadly vampires all around him. LL Cool J (NCIS: Los Angeles) was hilarious but also remarkably dedicated. Mark Valley (Human Target) became anyone he needed to and was just as effective and entertaining each time.

The nominees:
Jon Hamm (Mad Men) smooth-talked and flirted his way through another year as his wife distanced herself from him and a billionaire took an active interest in him. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) faced off with another serial killer and had to work hard to remind himself that they were different people as he became a father. Peter Krause (Parenthood) was the world’s most supportive dad, but he also had to deal with family issues from another generation in a role almost as good as Nate Fisher. Timothy Olyphant (Justified) took the law into his own hands in a marvelous role that fit him like a glove.

The winner:
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) took Walt down a darker path than he’s ever been down, and his seeming indifference to the things he was doing was mesmerizing and chilling.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

Rescue Me: Season 6, Episode 3 “Comeback” (B-)

I think the chances of this show getting completely back on track as about as likely as Tommy permanently quitting drinking. After two decent introductory episodes, this show is starting to slip as the only consistent, forward-moving plotline is a desperate attempt to hang on for dear life for the ailing firehouse. Tommy being convinced that there’s a big party in the works for him and not letting it go is just plain uncomfortable and a huge waste of time. There’s something somewhat interesting about Mike and Sean discussing just how dumb they are and trying to do a good deed, which elicits a ridiculous conversation about George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but it makes the show feel even more sluggish and aimless. A near-rumble between the firefighters from the rival houses, complete with both Sean and Damien hitting on the female probie, is a much more interesting direction that the show should explore in the coming episodes. Tommy’s assertion of “me, I’m happy just being a firefighter” was a good line, and having Sean and Black Shawn talk about being with the Gavin family ladies was a nice throwback to long-forgotten plotlines. It’s unfathomable that Franco is clueless that Tommy might be bothered by his blatant flirting with Janet, and that’s quite frustrating. It’s bittersweet to have the crazy Sheila back, freaking out when she learns that Damien’s getting a medal and acting all loopy when the fire trucks drive past, because her insanity is something entertaining but also something that often gets taken too far. I was pleasantly surprised by the sudden appearance of Peter Gallagher, who began a regular gig on “Covert Affairs” during this very timeslot, who came in to praise Tommy’s rescue of the statue. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the coming episodes. Of course there are much more pressing matters to attend to, like Lou’s health. His character has been a bit off for a while now, but it’s hard to imagine what the show, and more importantly the firehouse, would be like without Lou.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pilot Review: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs (USA)
Premiered July 13 at 10pm

I want to like this show. I’m a big fan of spy-related thrillers, and I did enjoy “Alias” a few years back. While the creative people behind this show may insist that the two aren’t alike, the comparisons are obvious. This first super-sized episode feels a lot more like the part of “Alias” that was only ever revealed in the thirty-second intro to each episode and in brief flashbacks, where she underwent her training before becoming an awesome spy. Even if Sydney Bristow didn’t have the first clue about SD-6 in the pilot, she certainly knew how to handle herself in an operation. The biggest problem with “Covert Affairs” can be summed up by a season five “Alias” episode title: “There’s Only One Sydney Bristow.” Jennifer Garner may not be the most talented thespian in the world, but she was born to play Sydney Bristow, and any actress who needs to assume false identities on a moment’s notice should look no further than “Alias” to learn everything they need to know. Piper Perabo is no Jennifer Garner. For the whole first episode, it feels like agent Annie Walker is operating on training wheels, and that’s due in large part to Perabo’s lackluster performance. Annie doesn’t present herself professionally, and I don’t think that’s what the show is going for in terms of establishing its lead character. This show would work one hundred times better with Sydney, and Garner for that matter, replacing Annie. Beyond its lead character, however, “Covert Affairs” has other unresolved issues. Marriage in the workplace on television is just as ill-advised as marriage in the workplace in real life, but hopefully Peter Gallagher (“The O.C.”) and Kari Matchett (“Invasion”) can make it work. They definitely both seem like intriguing characters more than capable of intimidating their subordinates. It’s fun to see Christopher Gorham (“Ugly Betty”) as blind tech guy Auggie, though at this point he’s hardly Marshall Flinkman. Perhaps it’s unfair to continually bring this show back to its inferiority to “Alias,” but it really does seem like a toned-down, less interesting version of that great ABC show. I’m willing to give this show another chance, but right now I’m feel pretty unengaged.

How will it work as a series? Annie does have her home life, but already in the first episode she ran into her sister’s friend in the middle of a mission, so I’m not sure how carefully the balance between personal life and work will be handled. The presence of a mysterious assassin from Annie and the CIA’s pasts could present the opportunity for a long-term thread, but this show may also benefit from weekly distractions in the form of episode-long missions.
How long will it last? I suspect that USA will give this show a chance considering the extensive promotional campaign they underwent in anticipation of this show’s premiere. The desire to constantly expand the Characters Welcome brand will probably overcome critical reception, and the only factor should be ratings, therefore likely securing this show a second season sometime soon.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: White Collar (Season Premiere)

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 1 “Withdrawal” (B+)

This show is back, and it’s just as good as it was in season two, though I must cite that the best part of the show has changed. It’s no longer the relationship between Peter and Neal, which continues to be as great as ever. Now it’s the interactions between Peter and Mozzie, who are both trying to look out for Neal’s best interests by clandestinely meeting to discuss what he is and isn’t doing to try and find Kate’s killer (raise your hand if you think Kate’s actually still alive). Their meetings in the park were absolutely hilarious, and I loved Peter’s reaction to Mozzie using a voice changer and wanting to do the bird thing instead of just the newspaper thing. I hope their relationship continues for many episodes and seasons to come. Despite his potential preoccupation with finding out who (may have) killed Kate, Neal seems to be in back to his old self. I was very impressed with the clever sequence of Neal conning his way into a bank, which was set up to look like another escape from prison but turned out to be an operation run by Peter and the FBI. Neal’s method of turning off the woman he was flirting with was quite effective and entertaining. I didn’t see the twist at the end revealing the true culprit coming, so that turned out to be a nice surprise. I must admit that I’m hopelessly confused about this whole Fowler mess, especially now that Diana (forgetting her name, I wanted to just use her “Lost” character’s name, Naomi) is involved, but I’m looking forward to some clarity in the coming weeks.

The Top 25 Episodes of 2009-2010: #5-1

As a forerunner to the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards, my choices for the best of the most recent TV season which begin next week, here is a reader-requested run-through of the top 25 episodes of the 2009-2010 television season. Click on episode titles to read my original reviews of the episodes. Beware spoilers.

#5: “Chuck Versus the Beard” (Chuck)

Having a spy’s best friend discover that he’s a spy is a risky move for any show, and this series pulled it off remarkably well. The dual plotlines of the Buy More employees combating what they thought were the buyers and Chuck, Morgan, Sarah, and Casey fending off the invasion of the ring made for an extraordinarily fun hour that resulted in a great half-season of the Beard being in the loop.

#4: “No More Good Days” (Flash Forward)

Before this show got all convoluted and then cancelled at the end of its freshman season, it started off extremely well with this thrilling and engaging pilot. The blackout sequence by itself deserves commendation, and this was easily the best drama pilot of the 2009-2010 season. It’s a pity it couldn’t live up to its potential.

#3: “Pilot” (Modern Family)

This heartwarming but more importantly hilarious comedy got off to a brilliant start with a pilot episode that saved its best surprise for last – these three families are all related. While all of the cast members ultimately became memorable, the standout from the pilot is Phil, whose efforts to be the cool dad failed so miserably. This was the beginning of something truly fantastic.

#2: “Getting Closer” (Dollhouse)

The third-to-last episode of this short-lived Joss Whedon venture was astonishing and delivered not one but two completely unpredictable and awesome twists. Gone was the lovely Bennett (Summer Glau) – at the hands of Whisky, no less – and Boyd turned out to be the super bad guy in charge! This is an indicator of how great the whole show might have been had it been given more time to address all of its plotlines.

#1: “Shut the Door, Have a Seat” (Mad Men)

There’s really no comparison to the best episode of one of the greatest shows on television right now. Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce pulled off the ultimate mutiny and jumped ship to start their own agency, and the way it all played out was simply magnificent. Seeing them all huddled in a small hotel room was a great way to reboot an already masterfully good show.

Come back on Monday for the first category of the 4th Annual AFT Television Awards!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pilot Review: Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli & Isles (TNT)
Premiered July 12 at 10pm

TNT is shaping up to be more than just a network that knows drama and threatening to truly rival USA’s character brand with some token personalities of its own. Turner Network Television has been applauded in the past for showcasing a strong female lead character on lead-in series “The Closer,” and this show, regardless of any creative issues, should garner similar praise. Angie Harmon’s return to television gives the network another tough, respectable law enforcement officer to anchor one of its series. The pilot follows in the footsteps of other shows like “The Mentalist” and “Profiler” by setting up its lead cop with a serial killer nemesis with all-too personal vendetta against her. The difference with this show is that it actually features a repeat encounter with said nemesis in the very first episode, and resolves that storyline by having Harmon’s Rizzoli rid herself of her enemy by episode’s end. It’s a ferocious start to a series that likely won’t be as deadly or severe each episode, but it helps kick it off properly. For those who think that this show, with its somewhat tongue-twisting title, is merely a halved version of Harmon’s previous TV series, the underrated “Women’s Murder Club,” that’s not the case at all. For one thing, cop Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles hardly get along famously, as even in the first episode Isles withholds information from her friend rather than put their close relationship above the law. The major disappointment of the first episode is that Isles seems so sidelined and barely features into the storyline, especially compared to her costar, who dominates the pilot. Part of the reason this is a concern is that it’s absolutely wonderful to have Sasha Alexander back on television, five years after her exit from “NCIS.” I do love Ziva, but it was still hard to replace Kate, and it’s fantastic to have her part on a show, even if Tony DiNozzo is nowhere to be found. Harmon’s return is a welcome one too, and while her character seems a whole lot more stressed out and humorless than her previous role, Lindsay Boxer, she’s just as effective as a lead. The supporting cast includes two terrific cops played by Bruce McGill and Lee Thompson Young, late of ABC’s cancelled “Flash Forward.” They’re both quite different and should provide Rizzoli with ample support via their varied areas of expertise. “The Sopranos” therapist Lorraine Bracco is also a member of the credited cast, received the coveted “and” billing, as the immutably Italian mother of Rizzoli. Her role should be much like that of Kate Mulgrew on last year’s “Mercy,” an occasionally welcome though hardly necessarily distraction from the main plot. The pilot shows some expert casting, taking the secondary villains from season one and two of “24” and positioning them as Rizzoli’s nemesis (Michael Massee) and a mysterious federal agent (Billy Burke). This show is definitely off to a positive start.

How will it work with a series? Based on the first episode, it should be a fairly generic cop show, but the twist is that we get the medical point of view as well as the police one. The pilot didn’t make Isles seem too prominent, though I suspect that will change in episode two, enabling this to be very similar to its lead-in – an above-average procedural aided by sharp casting and great characters.
How long will it last? Unsurprisingly, TNT’s new show now boasts the title of cable’s #1 commercial-supported series launch of all time. There isn’t much more to say – that should translate to a renewal within the next few weeks, if not right away. TNT wants more good shows, and this is one people are actually watching, so they’ll want to hang onto it for sure.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: The Closer (Season Premiere)

The Closer: Season 6, Episode 1 “The Big Bang” (B+)

It doesn’t really feel like summer until Brenda Leigh Johnson and Major Crimes are back with new episodes of TNT’s flagship drama series. It’s both hard to believe and impressive that this show hasn’t become stale at all as it enters its sixth year, still managing to create new and inventive plotlines while keeping its cast on their toes. Strong guest stars are a big part of the show’s success, and the series actually just earned its first-ever non-Kyra Sedgwick Emmy nomination for Beau Bridges’ turn as the cross-dressing Georgette in the “Make Over” episode from last year. In this episode we have two men who have played important guest-starring roles on different TV series, among other accomplishments. Patrick St. Esprit, who played the strangling-prone husband, recurred on “Sons of Anarchy” and “Sleeper Cell” and played a pivotal role in “United 93.” Currie Graham, who played the ultimately-revealed perpetrator, was recently stuck on the dud “Raising the Bar” but will also be instantly recognizable to me as presumed innocent businessman/actual Russian bad guy Ted Cofell from two episodes of the first season of “24.” Regarding our regular players, Will did seem awfully energetic and at times even stupidly careless, particularly when he waved suggestively at a person of interest in the case. You would think that someone up for a big promotion would exercise more caution rather than less. The question is, if Will gets a promotion, who takes over his job? The office-less Taylor? Whatever happens should prove interesting. The continuous maze and ineffectiveness of the new building was enormously entertaining, second only to Fritz’s hilarious expression of his feelings during his role play workshop session with Brenda.