Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grey's supersizes McDreamy

    With Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) only available on a limited basis, and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) taking a break, who does Grey’s Anatomy bring to the forefront? Well, this week it was Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), the neurosurgeon nicknamed after a fast food franchise.

      Shepherd has, of course, had plot before, but most of the major points revolved around Meredith. This time, it was all about him, the surgeon god. And he pulled it off wonderfully. I was worried about it being too predictable, or too slow moving, or just plain dumb, but it was none of those things. He was appropriate parts cocky jerk and caring physician, and the rest of the hospital staff really rallied around him. For the first time, someone other than Bailey actually demonstrated the personality and skills needed to succeed Richard as chief of medicine, when and if he ever retires.

      Which is a question that has been nagging. For awhile, it seemed foregone that Richard was done with the hospital. Thankfully, that did not come to pass, and he stayed on. Bailey was the obvious choice to the viewer, if not to the characters, but Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) is an interesting character played by a wonderful actor, and it would not help the show to jettison him. However, should a series finale be looming (Grey’s is, after all, in its sixth season), Derek would make a worthy successor.

      Alex, too, has had meaty moments, dealing with Izzie going AWOL. Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) was not initially in the original pilot, though reshoots allowed him to be edited in after the fact. He has turned into one of the most intriguing characters in the series, though, and maybe Shonda (Rhimes, the show’s creator) should go ahead and let Katherine Heigl out of her contract. Then in an ideal world, Alex would travel to Private Practice and finally finish out his romance with the lovely Dr. Addison Montgomery.

Coming Up This Week:  Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, The League Series Premiere, and V (the new one)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heroes down but not out

    Many fans of NBC’s Heroes have fled, claiming the show will never be as good as it was in the first season. Truthfully, I feel the first season was ok, but the second season was the zenith. That was when Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and David Anders (Alias) joined the cast. They were signed to become full time characters, but a shortened season, because of the writer’s strike, and failing ratings interfered, and both ended up leaving early in season three. I agree, that the show has floundered unevenly since then, but don’t give up hope yet.

      This week’s episode, “Strange Attractors”, proved that the show can be good, and not just when Hiro and Ando are the focus, as the popular Japanese duo sat this one out entirely. Look for more of them next week when Hiro goes back in time save his love, Charlie (Glee’s perky guidance counselor, Jayma Mays). Anyway, Claire has FINALLY become interesting, trying to lead a normal, college life and possibly falling in love with the wonderfully understanding Gretchen (Madeline Zima from The Nanny and Californication). I hope Gretchen sticks around, and Claire goes for it. The comparisons between her and one Buffy Summers have been quite evident, but unlike Buffy, Claire’s lesbianism should stick.

      Nathan and Peter have had much reduced plots, which is welcome, as they both tend to make the plot drag. As the real Nathan is dead, one can only hope that the actor will be leaving the show soon as well. Of course, Zachary Quinto’s Sylar, living in two different places at once, is richly enjoyable. That show will never shortchange that actor if they know what’s good for them. Plus, I am really digging Robert Knepper, fresh off a fantastic four year stint on Prison Break. It’s not certain what is going on with him and his mysterious circus, but he is acting the hell out of the role.

      Unfortunately, not all is clear skies. HRG is actually trying to do good, and not doing very well at it. He has always been a favorite character, and after the dissolution of his marriage and the loss of his job, does he keep having to get beat on? Also, Mohinder has been missing for quite awhile, though word is he will be back soon. But will he be back full time, or just as a guest star? Lastly, the less they focus on Ali Larter’s character(s) the better. I think it’s time she leaves for good, though I wouldn’t object to her son, Micah, returning to the show.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Balthazar Getty has left the building

     Fans of ABC’s Brothers & Sisters might have been confused recently by a name in the opening credits: Balthazar Getty. The actor portraying Tommy Walker has not appeared in any episodes this season, and was scarce at the end of last year, but his name is still listed as one of the lead stars at the beginning of every episode. You may ask, why?

      Last season Getty was released from the show in the spring because of drama on the set. The one time star of Alias had split with his wife, Rosetta, who was beloved by the cast, and began dating Sienna Miller. Getty had four children with Rosetta. To make matters worse, it was reported that he would show up to the set late and acting offensively, upsetting his fellow co-stars. Consequently, he was told he would not continue full time in the role. Sadly, it was decided that Sarah Jane Morris, who played Tommy’s lovely on-screen wife, Julia, would also leave, as it would be hard to keep her character relevant after a plot where Tommy got into major trouble abandoned his family. Her final episode in the spring was called, appropriately, “Julia”, and the character took her child and moved to be near her own parents. Getty then appeared in only a handful of episodes as the Walker family dealt with his disgrace, and he went into hiding. He was later found, but decided not to return home.

      Which brings us to this season, as Getty was asked to come back for only a very limited number of episodes. As one of the ‘Brothers’ in Brothers & Sisters, he would show up once in awhile, but not be a huge part of the ongoing saga. In last week’s Ask Ausiello, it was reported that Getty insisted that his name be kept in the opening credits as a condition for him returning in any small capacity. Very odd move in television. No other instance when this was done before springs to mind. However, that’s the story, as it’s currently known. Balthazar Getty will do just a few episodes this year, but he is not returning full time. Get used to his name getting more screen time than he himself does.

Belonging to the Dollhouse

    Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse has been benched through the November sweeps, and when it returns in December, Fox will be burning off double episodes. It looks like it may be over for the ratings challenged drama, and Fox has killed yet another of Joss Whedon’s fantastic universes. For fans who remember how Firefly was also pushed onto Fridays nights and wasn’t even given a full season, the unexpected, last minute second season pickup of Dollhouse was a breath of fresh air, which was quickly taken away again.

      After several episodes that made the show feel like a procedural last winter, it really started to soar into the spring, and continues to due so this fall. Led by the exceptionally talented Eliza Dushku, also a producer on the show, the series revolves around the mysterious Dollhouse, which wipes people’s minds and programs them for ‘encounters’ for wealthy clients. Also in the cast are several employees of the Dollhouse, including Paul Ballard, an FBI agent who was attempting to bring them down, and now secretly still is, from the inside. The series is original and brilliant, but put in an unenviable time slot, it is all but dead.

      This week’s episode, “Belonging”, was amazing. Viewers discovered that the alluring Sierra was actually drugged into psychosis by a raving lunatic, who arranged for her to become a doll, as she has been for the past year. The employees of the company faced a tough, moral dilemma when they were ordered to hand over Sierra permanently to the madman, or face a ruined life if they refused. They did hand Sierra over, but with an awareness that allowed her to kill and get revenge. Unfortunately, that left another mess to cleanup, and more moral issues for each character to face.

     In the ongoing plot of the series, Sierra and Victor continue with a blossoming romance, despite supposedly being wiped of all personal feelings, while Echo retains more and more memory. It is a Jurassic Park-esque scenario, where nature will find a way, and no man can control everything, as much as he (or she) may want to. It’s an intriguing concept, but sadly it seems not fated to play out. A huge shame and waste of glorious potential.

Save Dollhouse!

Monday, October 26, 2009

M-M-M-Monk's Sharona

    If you tuned into USA’s Monk this weekend, you saw a familiar face. Bitty Schram, who played Sharona Fleming, Monk’s assistant for the first two and a half seasons of the show, returned. It was her first appearance since her abrupt departure five years ago, when she remarried her ex-husband and moved to New Jersey, and will likely be her last appearance on the show, which is scheduled to conclude its eight season run on December 4th.

      This episode was predictably fun, but as Monk often does, it stayed too true to the formula instead of allowing itself to roam free. Though there was no official police investigation, leading to little screen time for Randy and Stottlemeyer, the show stayed on the murder plot too much, allowing only a bit of clashing between Sharona and her replacement, Natalie. Near the end of the episode, their bickering did cause Monk to have a little bit of a breakdown and run off, but there was prime opportunity here to deal with a Monk who was hurt very deeply by his assistant leaving, and this was overlooked completely. Instead, their first meeting dealt only with Monk trying to find out what happened to a shirt that she took to a dry cleaner’s shortly before she left, one that he never did find.

      There was a bright spot, however, in that the episode did, albeit very briefly, delve into Randy’s crush on Sharona. It was an ongoing plot never resolved in the early seasons of Monk, and as Sharona left, the audience did get to see her give him a little kiss. Unfortunately, it is left up to your imagination whether anything more will happen with them. With only a few weeks left, and Sharona not announced as returning again, it is unlikely that they will end up together, though one can hope that that may be a surprise tucked into the series finale.

      Check back in this column after Monk comes to end for a review of the series finale, and make sure you watch on Friday nights, as Monk will reportedly finally solve his one still-open case, the murder of his wife, Trudy.

White Collar rollicking good fun

     This past Friday, USA premiered the 6th of their ‘Characters Welcome’ series lineup. While Monk can be a great procedural, the problem with procedural dramas is that it can feel like you’re watching the same episode over and over again. It is also the only consistent USA series to be up for any kind of Emmy. Psych was a procedural that added more serial elements, and Burn Notice took it a step further. Both shows can sometimes become rote, but both also produce several episodes per year that break the stale cycle. Unfortunately, In Plain Sight and Royal Pains copied this formula so well that they don’t seem fresh. Which brings us to the newest attempt, White Collar.

      The promos that had been running for this newest show were not that enticing, but White Collar definitely felt like it could bring USA out of the rut. It deserves a season pass on your DVR, for now. It is witty, has interesting characters (of course), and may not be the same show every week. Serial elements such as Neal’s uneasy position with the FBI and his missing lover should kick it up to Burn Level style excitement. Better yet, it doesn’t copy Burn Notice or any of the other USA shows, bringing a stylistic element and interactions that are more complicated than other leading characters.

      The show is led by Matthew Bomer (Chuck) and Tim DeKay (Carnviale), and the supporting cast certainly only raise the shop up. From Peter’s assistant, to Neal’s landlord, and the informant played by Willie Garson, there were characters who could stand on their own, and weren’t just bit players in another man’s story. There was actually depth and back story already implied by their small scenes in the pilot. Plus, the previews for future episodes showed Kirk Acevedo, fresh off of his run on Fox’s Fringe. Not to mention that the villain of episode one was the wickedly entertaining Mark Sheppard, veteran of 24, Battlestar Gallactica, Dollhouse, and a slew of guest spots including in the other USA shows.

      All in all, while this show may end up ultimately disappointing, it certainly has the ingredients to help put USA back on the map, and possibly taking over as the award winning flagship when Monk goes off the air soon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Would the real J Peterman please stand up?

     “You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me." ~ John O'Hurley as J Peterman, Seinfeld

      I recently had the pleasure, after moving to a new city, to temp for The J Peterman Company. For any of you who remember the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld, J Peterman was Elaine's eccentric boss for several seasons. That person was merely a character, initially created without any input from the actual man, but later done with permission. I got to work for the real deal.

      The real J Peterman, or John as he's known around the small office of about 30 staff members in Lexington, Kentucky, does not seem half as crazy as the one on television. Though I had little interaction with the man himself, mostly a warm handshake and a "Hi, I'm John" everyone I briefly worked with knew and talked about him, and his lovely wife, Audrey, could not have been more welcome and kind. It is definitely one of the nicest companies I’ve ever worked for. The items that they sell are on the odd end, as you'd expect, but I can attest that the quality is fantastic and I would love to own almost everything they sell.

      I'm not writing a commercial for The J Peterman Company. I not on their payroll, and no one in the company even is aware that I am writing this article. The company's reputation, products, and especially the truly unique Owner's Manual catalogue speak for themselves. But it's not every day that you come across an icon known from the television set and see who the real life man that inspired him is. I didn't seek out this temp job, nor do anything just for the purpose of working there or to write this article, but it was one of life's pleasant surprises to be there for a short time, and I thank J Peterman very much for the opportunity.

      “If you haven’t stayed in touch with your dreams, the good news is that it’s never too late to reclaim them.” ~ The Real J. Peterman

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Glee shines brightly

    This season’s biggest new hit is the Fox musical Glee. While several networks have tried musical-based shows without success (think the 2007 train wreck Viva Laughlin), Glee somehow pulls it off. How does a show like this reach such a large, enthusiastic audience?

     One reason has got to be the large and varied cast. Not every character is part of the Glee Club, and even some of the ones that are aren’t completely focused on music. There are football players and cheerleaders. There’s a black girl yearning to shine in a white-dominated school. There’s a pregnant teenager, and the baby isn’t her boyfriend’s. There’s the boy struggling with homosexuality in an unwelcome environment. There’s the coach in love with a woman in love with another man, and the woman married and lying to the latter. And of course, there’s the always fabulous, always surprisingly, always hilarious Jane Lynch.

      Of course, Jane is far from the only cast member that has proved their range. The most memorable up until now was Kurt (Chris Colfer) in “Preggers” a few weeks ago. In this week’s episode, the appropriately titled “Mash-Up”, several students struggled to meld parts of their lives that didn’t go well together. Puck (Mark Salling) was finally given a meaty role to work with, revealing his family life and his heart’s desire. Here was someone mostly confined to the background and now he had some serious plot, and pulled it off well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the young man begins getting film work on his summer hiatus. While with a cast this size, it may take awhile to get around to everyone, others will surely get their chance to be featured as the series goes along.

     The show will be off for a couple of weeks, as most Fox shows are at this time of years, but the tantalizing trailer left viewers anxious and eager for the next installment of this delicious drama.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Next time it will take more than children to save you

     After a fourteen month wait, not atypical for this particular show, Adult Swim’s The Venture Brothers premiered Sunday at midnight (or Monday?). Though this was merely the fourth season, the show has been around since 2004. Thankfully, this season will have sixteen episodes, instead of the usual thirteen, split into two runs, so a wait for season five, if one is ordered, should be shorter.

      The premiere episode was confusing as all get out, jumping around over several months without any obvious way to determine scene order. West Coast viewers had it even worse, because of a mis-airing by the network. For those who saw the full episode, the premise seemed to hinge on whichever superhero Brock most resembled at the time, ordered by value of the original comic book. One of the show’s creators, Jackson Publick, advised viewers to watch the length of Hank’s hair to determine the timeline.

      Because bodyguard Brock Samson quit at the end of season three, the theme song was changed to show a new character filling his role, though long-time fans will remember that the theme song to season two’s premiere was also changed when the Venture Brothers were still apparently dead, but it reverted back to
normal the following week. Because of the plot of this week’s episode, it seems likely this will happen again.
      Overall, the episode was interesting. They used many comic references, again, and paid a wonderful tribute to Raiders of the Lost Ark (see this article’s title). The only disappointment was that, because of the meandering timeline, the villain’s story of cloning Hitler was lost amid the things happening to the principal four characters over the months since season three ended.

      A convenient subplot of The Venture Brothers is that whenever the brothers die, their father just clones them again. While this has been used sparingly up until now, the cloning process was integral to this week’s story. This is important because of the tragic loss of Henchman 24. While Dr. Venture says he can clone him only as a baby, which may provide an amusing plot for 21 for a time, let’s hope 24 returns intact soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Smallville less than super

     Smallville, the series about the origin of Superman, was rumored to be nearing a conclusion several seasons ago, and probably should have ended already. The freshman season of the show was rough, a ‘meteor freak of the week’ procedural. By season two the show had found its legs and kept it up through season six with rich, adventure stories, wonderful additions to the Superman back story, two delightfully acted parents, and Chloe evolving from an annoying dweeb to someone truly worthy of sidekick status. After that, things started to take a nose dive, though I admit, getting rid of Lana Lang was the best move made in the last three years.

      First there was Supergirl, Clark’s lame cousin added to the cast merely as eye candy. Then Doomsday appeared, but was only a shadow of the enemy that once killed Superman in the comic pages. Now Jimmy Olsen is ‘dead’, Zod is part of a futuristic army story line, and Clark is known by the uninspired name ‘Red Blue Blur’.

      Last week’s zombie episode entitled “Rabid” was a prime example of unoriginal story telling that has lost the spirit of the original character. Instead of Clark really growing and blossoming into the hero that he needs to be, he’s floundering around, allowing Lois to weaken him, and Oliver, a hero in his own right, is sinking into a deep, dark place that he should never have gone to.

      The only bright spot on the horizon is rumors that Lex Luthor may return to the show, Michael Rosenbaum’s brilliantly portrayed arch-nemesis. If Lex does indeed return in a big way, the show may once again recapture some of its glory. If not, well, Superman has died before. It may be time to do it again.