Sunday, January 31, 2010

Foreclosure on the Dollhouse

    Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) and Eliza Dushku's (Tru Calling) Dollhouse went off the air for good this past Friday night, proving once again what a jerk Fox can be, especially to Whedon.  After a rocky start to the first season, where the show was mostly serial, with a different mission each week, it found it's footing midway through the spring and delivered some brilliant twists.  The show had already been pegged as canceled, but a last minute miracle save earned them a second thirteen episode season this fall.  In the second round, Joss didn't attempt to tone down his plot, and went full blown into a conspiracy and technology war.  Friday night's finale was a fairly appropriate closer, that left fans somewhat satisfied.

     The final episode was called "Epitaph Two: Return", a follow up to the first season, unaired, lost episode called "Epitaph One".  Set ten years after the majority of the series, and starring Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog), it showed a post-apocalyptic world.  This was a logical step, considering that the plot of the two seasons was fairly well tied up in the penultimate episode, when the Dollhouse staff discovered the man behind the curtain was their friend Boyd (Harry Lennix, 24, Commander in Chief).  It was a fantastic episode, and Boyd's comeupance was wonderfully done.  However, fans who bought the first season DVD last summer would have felt a little cheated had they not followed up "Epitaph" and Day's character.

     Rewatching "Epitaph One", there were a couple of possible plot holes with the way season two played out, however, those could have been explained away had the show been given a third season.  Instead, there is much missing that viewers would have liked to see.  For instance, how did Alpha (Alan Tudyk, Serenity, V) end up a good guy, working with the resistance?  And why was Whiskey (Amy Acker, Angel, Alias) in the abandoned house in "One", but had disappeared by "Two"?  A television movie should be made to fill in the gap.  If a feature film is eventually commissioned, a la Serenity's begot from the canceled Firefly, it would likely go to the world after the end, but could reveal some of those things through flashbacks.  Honestly, there probably just wasn't time for Alpha's story in the one hour closer, and it was unlikely Acker was available, as she now stars in a new show.  "Two" combined the main cast with the characters we had met in "One", and did it's best to wrap it all up.  There was even a surprise cameo by Summer Glau, (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) whose character had previously been killed.

     The series was, overall, a work of genius, and a credit to each of the principal and recurring cast members, as well as the storytellers.  It was innovative and dealt with real issues of our day.  It was canceled well before it's time, and yet it presents almost a complete story, with a nifty ending.  Most characters had a cap.  Echo / Caroline (Dushku) got to (briefly) deal with pain of losing Paul (Tahmoh Penikett, Battlestar Galactica).  Victor / Tony (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra / Priya (Dichen Lachman, Neighbours) were together with their son.  Adelle (Olivia Williams) was playing mother hen to a whole new flock.  And Topher (Fran Kranz) gave himself up in a self-sacrificial move, guilted by the knowledge he had caused the whole mess.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another sister leaves the nest (sort of)

     Last week I pretty much ranted on Rob Lowe (The West Wing) leaving Brothers & Sisters, and fans, hanging with his planned abrupt departure.  News broke today that only deepened the upcoming pain, although it shed a little more light onto Lowe's decision.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not forgiving Lowe, and am still extremely disappointed he is choosing to leave the ABC series, but now I kind of get it, and I'm kind of angry at a second cast member, though I promise not to get too angry in my writing this time.

     Lowe's TV wife, Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) is downgrading next season to a limited involvement.  Sources close to the network say she is staying on officially as a main character, but she won't be in every episode (13 of the 22, as one popular rumor goes).  Does that bode well for a possible run for office for Kitty Walker, her character?  It may, but apparently Lowe was worried about being cut out even more himself, which seems silly, considering he was still going to stay Kevin's (Matthew Rhys) boss, or so the story seemed to be unfolding.  Other comparisons, however, remind us of Sarah Jane Morris's (Felicity) Julia, who was axed completely when her husband, Tommy, (Balthazar Getty, Alias) was also kicked out.

     But Getty has negotiated a return this year that kept his name in the opening credits, even though he is only doing a limited number of episodes, and so may put him on par with Flockhart next year.  Or not.  If Getty has his way, he'll swap her and be back in the cast full time.  But is more Tommy and less Kitty really what the show needs?  The problem with expanding the cast at this stage in the game, though, is it would be hard for audiences to buy another secret sibling, so unless Sarah (Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under) gets married, the cast is likely to remain stagnant after the latest shakeup.

     A return of Tommy may end up being surprisingly good, but with Flockhart appearing in less episodes, and Lowe making the third Brothers & Sisters spouse to be gone from the cast (Sarah was married to Joe, played by Caprica's John Pyper-Ferguson, when the show started), it's appearing the nest is getting quite empty indeed.  Brothers & Sisters airs Sundays at 10pm on ABC.

La La Land is blah blah

    British comic Marc Wootton has done what is basically Borat: The Series for Showtime.  Called La La Land, it premiered this past Monday.  Wootton portrays three different characters, two with an assistant, who interact with real people and films it.  Each character is not the least bit likable, and considering that Sacha Baron Cohen has already done it in a series and two movies, it feels stale.  The show has the same type of shock and gross out humor Cohen did.  All in all, a disappointment.

     The first character Wootton plays is a documentary filmmaker named Branden who looks a bit like a skinnier Michael Moore.  His brilliant idea in the pilot is to build a camera that can film underwater, go down in a cage, and record sharks.  He argues and argues with a producer that he is the first to think of the idea, which any sane person knows is far from the truth.  The second is an aspiring actor named Gary, whose porn-star mother told him from her death bed that he needed to try show business.  He has brought his mother's ashes with him.  Again, he acts completely idiotic, even clashing with the guy who is supposed to take his head shot.

     Finally, the third character is one Wootton already did on British televison: Shirley Ghostman.  Shirley has poofy hair and painted fingers, but is a man, and is not gay, as he angrily asserts.  He is a psychic who can talk to dead people and hypnotize others, but clearly has no talent anyone would buy into.  Shirley supposedly has a warrant for his arrest in England after he told a couple that their kidnapped child was dead, and then the child turned up.  Thank god that wasn't a sketch, or the low-class show would have been even worse.

     If you're looking for people getting the wool pulled over their eyes by an imbecile in a costume, acting like a complete jerk, watch the movie Borat, which I admit was very funny.  However, this show is not worth anyone's time.  La La Land airs on Showtime Mondays at 11pm.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Anatomy of Grey's casting drama

     Casting drama is all the rage over at Grey's Anatomy.  While characters have rotated in and out almost since the show's inception, there has been a lot of news as of late.  Most notably, Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver, 24, Lipstick Jungle), after only a handful of episodes, has been picked up as a full time cast member.

     Of the original characters from the pilot, three have long been involved in controversy and infighting.  The first, Isaiah Washington, was let go way back in the spring of 2007.  While that should have ended it, T.R. Knight seemed to stay unhappy until he was let go last spring.  Now the final member of the trio, who has also had her share of saying the wrong thing in interviews and when accepting awards, is trying to be released, and rumor is, she's going to get her wish.  Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up) still has a year left on her contract, but she has been largely absent from this season, and it would not be a surprise if they just let her get out of their hair.

     In happier news, Grey's has recently recast two of its older characters to do a flashback to 1982 in the February 18th episode, entitled "Time Warp".  J. August Richards (Angel, Raising the Bar) will take over for James Pickens Jr. when he plays young Richard, and Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip) will play the younger version of Ellis Grey.  Sarah, in particular, resembles Kate Burton, the actress who played Ellis in fifteen episodes of the series.  We will also see flashbacks for Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Callie (Sara Ramirez), but the actresses currently playing those roles will stay the same, as it won't be as far in the past.

     Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9pm on ABC.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burn Notice still an ember

     USA's Burn Notice returned this week for more episodes about the spy Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) who was burned and dumped in his hometown of Miami.  The show is in it's third season, and while it continues to have some really exciting stuff, it is bogged down by a weekly client story.  Each week Michael decides to help someone, the client, with their problem.  You would not believe how many bad people are in Miami!  Michael makes them all go away by the end of each hour.  That's the thing that's holding back the show.  Otherwise, there are still a lot of good qualities in the drama, not the last of which are the actors playing Michael's two cohorts, Sam (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead films) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, The Tudors).

     The story that is most interesting is Michael's own.  Only a few minutes of each episode are devoted to Michael trying to figure out who burned him, why, and clear his name, and yet those are usually the best ones.  The plot has been advanced quite a bit over the years.  Most recently Michael had been talking to someone in the CIA, but his contact was murdered as the show went on break.  Often, season premieres and finales spend more time on this serial plot, although this week's did not.  Instead, it focused on taking down insurance fraud.  Yawn.  The clients seem to be getting a little repetitive.

     There was a great twist, though, as Michael's mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless, Queer as Folk) befriended an asset, causing many problems in Michael's case.  For Gless fans, it was a real treat, as her Cagney & Lacey co-star, Tyne Daly, played said asset.  The mother role started fairly small, not even appearing in every episode, but had gone notably over time.  While Madeline is often a character that gets in the way and seems superfluous, she had had some shining moments, usually when she gets involved in the action.  This week was one of her best, and gave her a reason to be in the show.  If the writer's keep this kind of story going for her, she may become better appreciated.

     Burn Notice will continue with new episodes Thursday nights at 10pm on the USA Network.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guess who's coming back to Smallville?

     The CW's Smallville is having an exciting year, especially where guest stars are concerned.  With a new two hour TV movie coming up in a couple of weeks, featuring a whole bunch of other heroes, the show is brimming with talent.  However, some news broke a few days ago that is even bigger for the show.  Two Superman heavyweights are returning.  No, no, sorry.  Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor is not coming back...yet, anyway.  It seems that actor is reluctant to go bald again.  But hey, Gene Hackman played Lex with hair, so why not Rosenbaum?  Anyway, I think you will be pleased with who is returning.

     Annette O'Toole (Nash Bridges) played mother Martha Kent for 132 episodes of the series, leaving almost two years ago.  (Fun fact: Annette O'Toole also played Superman love interest Lana Lang in the movie Superman III.)  The last of the adults to leave the cast, Martha went to take her deceased husband's job as a Senator in Washington D.C.  Though fans had been promised an occasional return of Ma Kent, she has been absent from the show since May 2007.  However, I am please to report that she is returning to the town of Smallville this May in the season's penultimate episode.

     Shortly after O'Toole's return was announced, so was the comeback in the same episode of her real life husband, Christopher Guest movie staple, Michael McKean (Clue, Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap).  McKean was previously on Smallville back in a  2003 titled "Perry", when he played the legendary editor of the Metropolis newspaper The Daily Planet, Perry White.  White has been portrayed by many actors in many versions of Superman, including Jackie Cooper in four movies, Lane Smith in the television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and most recently Frank Langella (Frost / Nixon) in the 2006 film Superman Returns.  McKean's take was memorable, however, as his Perry White has a drunkard, washed up, unemployed loser.  Clark met him and set him on the proper path, and viewers of the show have long awaited his triumphant remergence.  It is not clear if McKean will become recurring, as both Clark (Tom Welling) and Lois (Erica Durance) currently work at The Daily Planet on the show.  There have been several editors of the newspaper on Smallville, including Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher (Star Wars).  Could Perry White have finally arrived once and for all?  And is he romantically linked to Martha Kent?  Considering how important a role White plays in the Superman legacy, his return to the show is big news.

     While O'Toole and McKean won't arrive until May, you can watch Smallville every Friday night on The CW, as it returns from its winter hiatus this coming Friday.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Deep End fits well in ABC's Thursday

    The Deep End has been placed on ABC Thursdays nights just before Grey's Anatomy, and this is the perfect spot for it.  It resembles the other show in many ways.  It stars five attractive, young people at the bottom of the rung on a law firm, and the cast is peppered with older, established potential mentors at different tiers in the same law firm.  It's the legal version of Grey's, and the music, tone, and sensibilities are also incredibly similar.  Does that mean that this show is more of the same?  Not exactly.  It's a formula that works, with a different take.  As long as it is done correctly, and it appears from the pilot that it has been, then it should do all right, though critics aren't too impressed.  The question is, will audiences embrace it?  Based on ABC's track record, they should.

     The two young women joining the firm are Addy (Tina Majorino, Veronica Mars, Big Love, Napoleon Dynamite) and Beth (Leah Pipes).  The guys are Liam (Ben Lawson, Neighbours), Malcolm (Mehcad Brooks, True Blood, Desperate Housewives), and Dylan (Matt Long, Jack & Bobby).  Liam and Beth have already slept together, so the requisite sexual tension is already starting among the group.  Four of them already demonstrated a fun dynamic, though Malcolm showed up late in the pilot, and hasn't yet had much interaction.  They are different enough to keep the show interesting, but have enough similarities to mostly gel as a group.  They are all recently hired out of law school, the most promising candidates picked from a pool of thousands.  They will clearly be the heart and soul of the show, and the focus of the series.

     Elsewhere in the firm, Cliff a.k.a. The Prince of Darkness (Billy Zane, Samantha Who?, Titanic) has been running the place for three years, while sometimes clashing with fellow employee, and his spouse, Susan (Nicole Ari Parker, Soul Food).  However, now the old boss, Hart (Clancy Brown, Carnivale, SpongeBob SquarePants) is back, and the two have to find a way to work together.  The new recruit's marginally effective mentor is Rowdy (Norbert Leo Butz).  Each have their own concerns, but will also have to help out, or torture until they turn out right, the rookies.

     The Deep End will run Thursdays at 8pm on ABC.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rob Lowe bails on another show

     Rob Lowe (Austin Powers) has asked to be let go from the show Brothers & Sisters, despite being under contract, and ABC has agreed to write him off later this season.  This is devastating news for fans of the show.  Rob Lowe's character of Robert was introduced midway through season one, quickly fell for Kitty Walker (Calista Flockhart, Ally McBeal), and soon married her.  The two happily hummed along through season two, but in season three, their bond was plagued with trouble and an emotional affair.  This past fall, after Robert's heart attack and Kitty's bout with cancer, both have recovered now, and the couple finally seemed to be in a good place.  Thanks a lot, Rob Lowe, I say sarcastically.  Chances are, either the fighting will come back and quickly culminate in divorce, or preferably Robert will suffer a second heart attack and die.  I say preferably because I don't see fans of the show welcoming him back down the road after abandoning the character at this juncture.

     Lowe has a history of jumping off of shows.  He starred in The West Wing for the first three seasons (and part of season four), but in that show, turnover made sense.  In fact, the show kept most of the presidential staffers for the entire run of the series, despite the fact that their real life counterparts don't last nearly as long.  Lowe, though often thought of as the star of that show, and on a high from a career revival because of the series, was forgiven for leaving, and invited back to reprise his role at the end of the series.  Of course, it was often rumored that he left that show because of money issues, while this time he's citing lack of creative development.  He's had at least as much plot as anyone else in the cast!  He knew it was a large cast when he signed on.  Get over it!

     ABC isn't nearly as angry at Rob Lowe as much of America is about to be.  In fact, he is currently in talks to remain on the network, starring in his own show.  This time, he would be the lead, not one of a large ensemble.  I think I can speak for many when I say that I hope it flops as big as his previous attempts to do the same thing (Dr. Vegas, The Lyon's Den).  Don't get me wrong.  He's a wonderful actor.  He just apparently likes to disappoint.

     Brothers & Sisters, for now including Rob Lowe, runs on ABC on Sunday nights at 10pm.

Caprica different from Galactica, in a good way

     For fans of Battlestar Galactica, it was a sad, though very satisfying, day when the series when dark for good last spring.  Four years, a wonderful story, and a heck of a conclusion.  It wasn't about space.  It was about the characters.  Now, we have a replacement, in the same world, but with a totally different concept.  Well, not totally different.  It's still about the characters.  It is important to note that viewers should be able to start watching this show with no prior knowledge of Galactica, as it takes place many years before, and is clearly it's own thing.  But for fans, we get to see a barely-heard-about chapter unfurl in full life, a real treat.

     While Caprica premieres tonight on SyFy, the pilot has been available on DVD since last April.  The show already has fans, before it even launches.  I can report that it is an intriguing, exciting, and dark pilot, scratching the surface of grief that will surely be delved into.  I won't spoil any major twists, in case you still haven't seen the episode, but I can tell you that one of the main characters, (yes, one of the ones mentioned below) dies early in the episode, and it launches what will be a hell of an adventure.  This person's death has far reaching repercussions, and after the twist at the end of the two hours, fans of Galactica will be surprised, hopefully in a good way, about a connection between the character and the previous series.  Viewers will see the 'invention' of the Cylons, though we know that Cylons have been around much longer than the humans in this show will think they have.

     Set fifty eight years before the events of Battlestar Galactica, it doesn't feature humans running for their lives.  Instead, two families are brought together by the deaths of their loved ones, from a suicide bomber.  There are heavy religious tones to this series, even more so than Galactica.  It is a world on the brink of sin, with teenagers escaping into virtual clubs that feature group sex and human sacrifice.  Technology is god, and Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), a genius, is at the forefront.  He works so hard that he practically ignores his equally inventive daughter, Zoe (Alessandra Torresani).  He does, however, seem to spend time with his wife, Amanda (Paula Malcomson, Deadwood).  Zoe doesn't get along with her mother, either.

     The other family is immediately recognizable.  We have heard about Joseph Adama (Esai Morales, NYPD Blue) and his eleven year old son, William, (Sina Najafi) who was of course the commander of Galactica, portrayed by Edward James Olmos.  While not obvious in the pilot, the other important Adama in this series is Joseph's brother, Sam (Sasha Roiz).  The Adamas are from Tauron, and are only working on Caprica.  They are looked down on for that, although Joseph, a.k.a. Yosef, seems to often reject his heritage to fit in on the world, even publicly using the last name Adams instead of Adama.  At this point, the Twelve Colonies do not have one united government.

     The show also stars Polly Walker (Rome) and my personal favorite, Magda Apanowicz (Kyle XY).  Nineteen episodes, not including the pilot, have been made.  It airs on SyFy Friday nights at 9pm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's official: Conan is done with NBC

     It's a done deal.  Multiple news sites (like this one, this one, and even this one!) have reported that Conan O'Brien has accepted a $45 million severance package to leave NBC for good.  It had been reported that the major obstacle left to be worked out concerned what would happen to Conan's staff.  Under the final deal, Conan will take $33 million, and the rest will be split among his roughly 200 employees.

     Something else that needed to be negotiated was how long Conan needed to stay off the air waves after leaving NBC.  While he was still supposed to be under contract to the network for some time, this current deal will allow him to return to television as early as September 1st of this year, assuming someone else hires him.  ABC doesn't seem to be much interested, and Fox, which was willing to pay a heck of a lot a few short years ago, is playing coy.  Comedy Central is said to be a possibility, but how he would fit in with the very popular Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert remains to be seen.

     Conan will air his final episode as host of The Tonight Show tomorrow night, and will feature guests Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell.  You may remember that Farrell was on his first show, way back last June.  NBC will air reruns of the show next week, which had previously been scheduled, but there is no word yet on what will do during the last two weeks before the Olympics, during which Conan was supposed to film new episodes, but will now not.  NBC wasted no time in confirming that after the Olympics are over, Jay Leno will resume his previous job as host of The Tonight Show in it's customary time slot.  While Leno had better ratings than Conan ever achieved, popular support in the current fight has been mostly behind the Irish red head.

      The Tonight Show, no matter who is hosting, airs on NBC at 11:35pm Monday through Friday.

Grey's gets Private

    Last week, in both of their first episodes of 2010, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice did a "Crossover Event".  What that means for these two ABC shows, who do this about once a year or so, is that Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh, The Drew Carey Show) returns back to Seattle Grace, the hospital she worked at before getting her own spin off, and then someone goes back to Los Angeles with her for the second hour.  It's not really a true crossover, in my opinion.  I would rather they do a two hour, interconnected story instead of keeping their characters so segregated.  Once, Addison brought some friends with her on her visit, and a couple of patients have made the trip, but it's still always a little bit of a let down, more so now that Addison has almost been in L.A. longer than she was as Seattle.

     That aside, both shows have really stepped up their game this season.  As I mentioned before the holidays,  Private Practice has been improving, and now with the growing relationship between Addison and Sam, (Taye Diggs, Rent) things seem to be finally growing and changing.  Dell (Chris Lowell, Veronica Mars) is getting over his dead wife, Pete (Tim Daly, Wings) is becoming a great father, and Violet (Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy) is starting to get over last season's tragedy.  The only story not doing it for me is the messy melt down between Cooper (Paul Adelstein, Prison Break) and Charlotte (KaDee Strickland, The Wedding Bells).  They have always been rocky, the basis of their relationship from an internet sex chat room, but it appears to be finally over, and that is very sad.  Perhaps the writers decided they couldn't keep it fresh, but the two of them had always been so good together, it's a real shame.

     On the Grey's front, another wonderful relationship has ended, with Mark (Eric Dane, Marley & Me) and Lexie (Chyler Leigh, The Practice) calling it quits over his pregnant teenage daughter, Sloan (Levin Rambin, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).  It's terrible news, as she had really humanized and grew his character in ways he needed.  I was kind of rooting for Mark to stay with Addison in L.A., but since she's getting closer to Sam, I guess the timing just wasn't right for them.  Instead, he needs to try to win Lexie back, especially if his daughter gives the kid up for adoption.  Or better yet, perhaps Mark will adopt his own grandchild.  Either way, any path to get the two back together will be difficult because of Mark's recent tryst with Addison, and while he was away, Lexie also feel into the bed with Alex (Justin Chambers).  Oh, and Cristina (Sandra Oh, Sideways) was willing to give up Owen (Kevin McKidd, Rome) just to keep her heart goddess, Teddy (Kim Raver, 24, Lipstick Jungle)?  WTF?  (Side note, Kim Raver was recently picked up as a full time cast member.)

     Tonight's Grey's will feature the return of former doctor Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up).  We'll see how she reacts when she found out that Alex cheated on her, though she has abandoned him pretty much since the wedding, so he's not entirely to blame.  Down the coast, Sam and Naomi (Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun) will find out that their own teenage daughter is pregnant!  Oh, the drama!

     The two shows, both created by Shonda Rhimes, air Thursdays, including tonight, on ABC at 9 and 10pm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

White Collar remains must-see

     Back in October I raved about USA's newest series, White Collar.  What I didn't write about was that three weeks later, I gave it up.  It fell into the rut that most of the network's dramas do, where the case of the week was much more important than the overall story, and that was a huge disappointment to me.  However, with a new premiere looming and rumors that the fall finale had been game changing, I decided to review both where the show left off, and where it picked up again last night.  It made me wish I had never canceled my season pass, which has been restored to the TiVo.

     While each week Neal (Matthew Bomer, Chuck) is still doing the FBI's dirty work, the drama about his missing girl, Kate, (All My Children's Alexandra Daddario) has become more prominent.  She is still around, working for (willfully or not is still a mystery) a crooked agent.  What's more, the mid-season finale left viewers thinking that the man behind the curtain was Neal's partner, Peter (Tim DeKay, Carnivale).  While this would have completely changed the tone and action of the series, and part of me is still wishing it had been true, last night's episode revealed that it is not Peter, but he is onto the real baddie, and remains committed to helping Neal with the issue, though he is suspicious of Kate's motivations.

     Another element I am really enjoying is the developing relationship between Neal and Peter's wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen, Saved By the Bell, Beverly Hills 90210).  It is not sexual, but a good friendship that is blossoming.  That Neal often goes to Elizabeth when he begins to doubt Peter, or turns to her when he can't rely on Peter, speaks volumes about the two.  It is a welcome intimacy not often found on television: friendship between straight members of the opposite sex without additional urges.  It may be the number one reason I recommend this show.

     White Collar also stars two other delightful actors: Sex in the City alum, Willie Garson and former The Middleman lead, Natalie MoralesWhite Collar airs on the USA Network Tuesday nights at 10pm.

Television Interrupted

     One of my biggest pet peeves is when television stations do not allow us to watch an episode of a show, or the air time moves in some unpredictable, last minute way, and the DVR of your choice records the correct time, but the wrong show.  For us fans who carefully record each and every installment, missing an episode of a television show, especially a serial one, where each plot hinges on last week's action, it is a huge disappointment, and often a major source of frustration.  Here are the biggest offenders and what can be done:

     Power Outages - this is the most forgivable event, of course, as it is something not really under human control.  However, my beef is how certain networks take these instances into account.  ABC and NBC usually have their episodes online, for free by the next day, and keep them up for a good, long while.  Fox, on the other hand, can make you wait up to eight days to catch up on House, after the next week's episode has aired!  CBS is the worst offender, as practically none of their shows are online.  And if you miss a cable program, without resorting to illegal downloading, you are often out of luck.  Solution: Every network should take a page from ABC and NBC and post their stuff.  Or allow you to get it on demand, free of charge from your cable company or TiVo if it is missed.

     Other Weather Related Events - The most extreme was during one bad storm, an hour of weather coverage replaced Ghost Whisperer, and due to copyright laws, it was not allowed to be rerun, even though thousands of people didn't have it available in their area.  Ridiculous!  The most common problem, though, is the damn school and business closing, or even weather alert scrolls.  They have gotten bigger and bigger.  Here in Lexington, there is much blank space beneath the words as the words take up on some HD channels, plus it stretches the picture to a weird aspect ratio.  Most people have internet these days, so they're not as necessary.  Solution: Run scrolls small and see through at the VERY BOTTOM of the screen please!  And for goodness sakes, do not run them the entire prime time!  Twice or thrice an hour should be enough.  And if you are one of the few without a web connection, well... First of all, join us in 2010 and GET ONE! Or turn on your radio.

     Sports Games - I am not talking about a huge event like the Superbowl.  A normal Sunday NFL game can cause my American Dad or Brothers & Sisters to be pushed back and missed.  Because the TiVo only updates programming about once a day, it's not current enough to catch the mistake.  In the city that I live, Lexington, Kentucky, this week and last, The New Adventures of Old Christine is airing at 1:37am so that some stupid basketball game can be shown!  Two weeks ago, Saturday Night Live was pushed back 30 minutes, and it's supposed to go LIVE at 11:30pm!  Solution: Quit airing sports games over our shows!  Either cut off the broadcast at a given time, or schedule more time and just fill it in with post-game coverage if it ends early.  If it happened once or twice, it would be ok, but this happens WAY too often to be excusable.  Or get the DVR technology more up to date and adaptable.  For now, I just set my season passes of the aforementioned shows to run an extra hour.  An annoyance, but one that has come in handy.

     Bottom line, the weather and sports are not nearly as important to me, and many, many other television watchers as our shows.  If a tornado is heading for us, let us know.  Other than that, stay out of our broadcasts!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Unexpected delivers better than expected

     Although Life Unexpected was expected to do all right for the CW, no one could have predicted it would do as well as it did.  It matched first season Gossip Girl ratings, actually improved significantly on the 8pm audience of long time drama, One Tree Hill.  Though it is merely a mid-season replacement, and hasn't surpassed The Vampire Diaries as CW's best new show of the year, it is well on its way to becoming a staple on the teen-focused network.

     The pilot deserves the numbers it pulled in.  The story was sweet, original, not too campy, and set up an interesting premise while introducing complex characters.  The series stars Brittany Robertson (Swingtown) as Lux, a girl given up for adoption fifteen years ago, but because of a series of surgeries to correct a hole in her heart, was instead bounced around the foster care system.  It seems no one wants to adopt a damaged three year old, or older.  Lux goes from one bad family to the next, and as she approaches her sixteenth birthday, she decides to seek emancipation so she can begin to live on her own.  There's just one small problem: apparently there was a paperwork snafu, and her parents never officially gave up all custody to her.  So she sets off to find them and get them to sign her paper.

     The said parents, who had a one night stand in high school, are bar owner Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) and the host of Lux's favorite morning radio show, Cate (Shiri Appleby, Roswell).  Baze has not really grown up, living with a couple of roommates above the bar, but immediately connects with Lux and wants to help her any way he can.  Cate, similarly is drawn to Lux, though she has her own issues, including a major fear of commitment and lack of communication skills.  This is best illustrated by her dysfunctional relationship with her co-host slash fiance, Ryan (Kerr Smith, Dawson's Creek).  The judge is reluctant to grant Lux her independence without a source of income or residence, so the two biological parents are awarded joint custody.

     All three of the main characters are well defined, and have their own interesting sets of issues.  Each parent steps up when asked, and Lux, though a bit bitter from her life thus far, wants what any child really wants - a loving family.  It is not too late for her, and obviously, through her, both of her parents will be learning life lessons as well.  As the series start, Lux is turning sixteen, and only two years away from being on her own anyway.  It will be interesting to see what turns the series takes to get her to adulthood, and how the relationships will change if the show continues past that point.  An intriguing, well written concept with a lot of heart.  Add it to your television lineup.

     Life Unexpected airs on Monday nights at 9pm on the CW.

Getting intimate with Aziz Ansari

     Comedian Aziz Ansari has come a long way in a short amount of time.  Most people had never heard of him when he created, wrote, produced, and starred in the MTV series Human Giant in 2007.  Shortly thereafter, he briefly joined the cast of Scrubs last year as the intern Ed, part of a new class that mostly did not take hold, although he left by choice.  Now he stars in the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation as Tom Haverford and has several movies under his belt, including I Love You, Man and Funny People.  He also has a three film deal with Judd Apatow and Universal Pictures.

     This past week, Aziz premiered a new Comedy Central special entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, and it is clear to anyone who tuned in how he has achieved what he has.  Whether he was griping about misleading threat count labels on sheets, or punking his little cousin, Harrison, on facebook, Aziz led the jokes through surprisingly, original, and hilarious twists and turns.  He was especially funny as he relayed a story of giving blowjobs for concert tickets and an annoying roommate.  In fact, there were practically no flops in the entire hour and fifteen minute special.  His tales of hanging out with Kanye and R. Kelly were equally entertaining, and while he didn't do much in the way of impressions, he definitely painted the picture effectively.  Not only was the audience on television in stitches, but my wife and I were as well, watching from our couch at home.  If you aren't aware who Aziz is, this is a great way to get to sample his humor.

     The only low point to the special was the last two segments, featuring Aziz as his character Raaaaaaaandy from the movie Funny People.  Apparently he created the obnoxious sex-aholic specifically for the film, and it gained much popularity with internet shorts promoting it.  In fact, a Raaaaaaaandy movie is currently in development.  Basically, Raaaaaaaandy's jokes are similar to Aziz's, but the character is way too overconfident, and kind of a jerk.  I found this segment not nearly as funny, and wished that the special had ended when Aziz said goodnight just before the commercial break.

     The DVD and CD of the special come out today, and are on sale now.  The special is next airing on Comedy Central this Friday evening at 8pm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 Golden Globes results

     Ricky Gervais (the British version of The Office, Extras) hosted the 67th Golden Globes, the first host in fifteen years for the ceremony, and to no one's surprise, knocked it out of the park.  He started strong with an opening monologue mocking Steve Carell, NBC, Jay Leno, and cosmetic surgery, praising actors like Hugh Laurie (House) and Kiefer Sutherland (24), and pushing his Office DVDs.  The only sad part of Gervais's performance was how short it was.  Not allowing him more screen time was what hurt the Globes the worst.  Sir Paul McCartney wins for second funniest man of the night, when he said that cartoons aren't just for kids any more, but also "drug-taking adults".

     Some of the awards went to exactly who they should have gone to.  Glee won Best Musical or Comedy series, and hands down, it was the front runner.  The brilliant freshman show proves that geeks are definitely in vogue, and winners to boot!  Drew Barrymore, while having an unnecessarily long speech, came off sweet and sincere for her win portraying Little Edie in Grey Gardens.  Having finally seen the performance a few days ago, it was well deserved.  The series itself won, as I predicted it would.  Toni Collette certainly deserved an award, though I did not recommend her in my original picks. This was because I hadn't yet seen the show, but now I have, and I was blown away. My problem was which one she was given - Best Actress in a Comedy. United States of Tara is much more drama than comedy, but she is amazing in it, so I will overlook the gaff.

     Others were mistakes, at least in this reviewer's opinion.  Why, oh why, does Mad Men keep winning best series?  I tried to watch it.  I stuck with it for seven episodes.  It was incredibly boring.  Guess it's time to give it another chance, since it even beat True Blood.  And while I dearly love Alec Baldwin's performance in 30 Rock, there are other deserving actors.  He shouldn't keep getting the awards year after year.  I haven't yet seen Big Love so I shouldn't jump all over Chloe Sevigny taking the best supporting actress awards, but Jane Lynch is just so perfect in Glee that I can't help it!  Maybe supporting actor and actress need to split into Drama and Comedy categories like the other awards.  Next year, Jane Lynch!

     Other television winners included Michael C. Hall (Dexter) for Best Actor in a Drama, Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) for Best Actress in a Drama, Kevin Bacon (Taking Chance) for Best Actor in a Miniseries, and John Lithgow (Dexter) for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries.

     On a slightly more sober note, many of the stars wore red ribbons to the event in support of the tragedy in Haiti.  People all across the country, and the world, have contributed to relief efforts.  Even in Lexington, there is something you can do.  The easiest thing is just to give money.  To donate, please visit or text 'Haiti' to 90999 for ten dollars to be added to your cell phone bill.

Another 24 hours for Jack Bauer

     Last night Fox aired the first two hours of their annual 24 season premiere event, and as usual, it did not disappoint.  Opening with Grandpa Jack (Kiefer Sutherland), happy and satisfied with his family, fully recovered from the biological weapon that almost killed him last season, it took a bit longer than usual for Jack Bauer to get fully involved in the action.  In fact, Jack didn't agree to commit to stopping the latest terrorist plot until nearly the end of the two hours, even denying his best friend, Chloe, (Mary Lynn Rajskub) the favor he so seriously owed her.

     Speaking of Chloe, it is awesome to see the technical guru playing fish out of water, presumably having fallen out of practice and the latest innovations because she was spending time with her own family, and was forced back to work by her husband getting laid off.  Chloe, who started as an annoying, anti-social tech whiz at Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) back in season three, and has become the series's second most important character, after Jack.  Last year, she only appeared in about half the episodes, and she was certainly missed.  It's nice to see her back in action, with a new and fresh plot.

     The sparkling new CTU New York Chloe is working at is welcome, after CTU had been disbanded and put on trial sometime before last season.  While the FBI bureau filled in for it, it wasn't the same.  Already we are putting together all the pieces of our typical CTU formula: a hot shot new agent following in Jack's footsteps (Freddie Prinze Jr., Scooby Doo), someone with a secret that should have never been missed when they joined the group (Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica), an inept boss who won't listen when Jack tells him what is really going on (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump).  The only thing missing is the inevitable mole within the unit that works for the terrorist, but surely that will show up soon as well.  Believe it or not, that formula somehow manages to never get stale, and when it was changed a bit last season, it was felt.  The best part of the FBI last year, Agent Renne Walker, (Annie Wersching, General Hospital) should be showing up in tonight's installment.

     Also nice to see back President Allison Taylor, (Cherry Jones) the woman who choose to continue to serve her country rather than let her daughter get away with murder.  This year she is working on an historic middle east peace accord with President Omar Hassan (Anil Kapoor, Slumdog Millionaire), who is the target of the assassination plot Jack is trying to stop.  Fans of 24 know that the murder is only the beginning or what will be a rapidly falling domino array that Jack must stop before he can get back to his family.  Despite the fact that Jack kept saying "I'll be done soon" last night, we know he will be in done in exactly 24 hours, not a minute more or less.

     Hours three and four of 24 will air tonight on Fox, before settling into one-hour-per-week episodes next Monday.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paint a target on Human Target

     Tonight on Fox, before 24 kicked off it's two night, four hour premiere, they decided to show a new action-packed show with spies, shootouts, and questionable ethics.  It's called Human Target, based on the comic book adventures by DC.  It was already turned into a failed summer television show in 1992, starring Rick Springfield, and lasting a mere seven episodes.  While I have not seen that version, it seems safe to say that this one is better, although by how much is debatable.  This time, the target himself, Christopher Chance, is played by Boston Legal's Mark Valley.  Though it has been met with favorable reaction by critics thus far, it certainly is far from original.  Exciting, yes.  Plenty of thrilling events, of course.  But staying power, I find it unlikely.

     Mark Valley does fine as the guy who makes himself a part of his client's lives to serve as part detective, part body guard.  He is appropriately tough, resourceful, suave, and smart.  He is supported by his business manager, Winston, played by Chi McBride (Boston Public), who is basically playing the same role he played on the recently canceled Pushing Daisies.  Joining the time this week, and as a series regular, is Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen), who used to be more bad than good, and seems very good at getting information.  Each are welcome character actors who fill the supporting roles admirably.

     In the first episode, Chance acts as an interpreter for guest star Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), and even after he stops the wood be assassin, they are still rocketing away on a train going two hundred miles per hour.  Then Chance and the girl save the passengers, but they are still stuck on a speeding engine.  This all went down after a bank standoff opening, totally unconnected to the rest of the episode.  There was also an unconnected scene at the end featuring Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon).  I was on the edge of my seat, and while it seems like it will likely be a procedural, it will probably be one of the better ones, if it survives.

     The problem for me is, like any procedural, character development will likely be low, if any.  Now how exciting Chance's adventures can be, keeping the adrenaline high week after week is hard to do, and it will likely produce its share of dud episodes along the way.  The show is built on a few quirky characters, and while that works for a handful of shows (Psych springs to mind), it is not a formula for a new classic.  It could easily become a show that sticks for awhile, but does not yet appear to be headed towards must-watch status.

     The show will run on Wednesday nights at 9pm on Fox.

FX takes a page from Adult Swim with Archer

     FX has a new cartoon series called Archer, created by Adam Reed (Sealab 2021, Frisky Dingo).  After watching the first two episodes this past Thursday night, it would have been right at home with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.  In humor and animation style, it was reminiscent of The Venture Brothers or Sealab 2021, two wonderful classics.  What sets the series apart from those others, though, is the well known voice cast behind the zany characters.

     The show is a James Bond spoof, with Sterling Archer, (voice acting heavy H. Jon Benjamin) codename Duchess, as the international title spy.  Archer has serious mommy issues, not made any better by the fact that his mother, Malory (Jessica Walter channeling her Arrested Development character, Lucille Bluth), is his boss at the secret agency.  He also has to work with ex-girlfriend and fellow spy, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler, 24, Ghost Whisperer), whom he has not gotten over.  Her current boyfriend, the geeky comptroller Cyril (Chris Parnell, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) is also a part of the team.  Rounding out the series regulars is Judy Greer (Arrested Development, Miss Guided) as secretary Cheryl.  There are also several other funny characters who have sticking-around potential, including Fat Carol and butler / nanny Woodhouse.

     In the first episode, Archer has to train Cyril, as Malory hopes that if she can make Lana's new boyfriend tough, she can keep Archer and Lana apart.  It appears Archer's odd relationship isn't entirely one-sided.  Malory shined in this episode, playing most of it blind as Cheryl and Fat Carol pretty much did whatever they wanted to run the spy operation.  It was followed immediately by a second episode, where Archer tries to break into his own agency and cover up his abuse of expense reports.  Each made me laugh out loud several times.

     Six episodes have been ordered, as well as four additional scripts, should the first six get decent ratings.  They appear to be stand alone episodes, so you can jump in next week without having seen the first two, which I highly recommend you do.  The first two episodes of Archer will re-air tonight at 11pm, and new episodes first run on Thursday nights at 10pm

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leverage returns to finish second season

     TNT's hit drama Leverage returns tonight to air the final six episodes of their second season.  When the show first premiered, I likened it to a small screen version of Ocean's Eleven.  Each week a team of ex-crooks pulls off a con against someone that has done wrong and gives it back to the little guy.  High tech Robin Hoods, if you will.  It is one of the most interesting procedurals on television, but because each episode went pretty much the same, per the definition of 'procedural', I gave up watching it midway through season one.

     Recently, Turner sent me a screen of the summer finale from September and the first two episodes of the six about to air.  As it had been awhile since I watched the show, I popped them into the player.  It was as entertaining as I remembered.  Apparently, the first season was sort of like a stand alone miniseries, with an ending, but the team reformed for season two.  However, by the end of the summer episodes, one member of the team, Sophie (Gina Bellman, Coupling), has left.  She is still part of the main cast, and does appear in the premiere, but she is currently being temporarily replaced by her friend Tara, (Jeri Ryan, Star Trek: Voyager, Shark) who was in the summer finale.  Ryan is fantastic, already finding her groove with the rest of the team.  The one problem facing the series, besides coming up with new con ideas each week, is that Ryan is actually quite a bit better than Bellman, and it will be a disappointment when the former concludes her guest run and the latter returns to the show in her previous capacity.

     The rest of the main cast members are fantastic.  Timothy Hutton leads the group as Nate.  He is brilliant at slipping into different characters, and whoever did the original casting did right by the show by putting Hutton in the head seat.  Equally entertaining is Christian Kane (Angel, Close to Home) as Eliot, the muscle of the group.  Nerdy Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge, Friday Night Lights) and the beautiful, but emotionally stunted Parker (Beth Riesgraf) round out the team.  The end of the season will bring several new escapades, as the group takes on the fashion world, a medium, an Irish loan shark, and in the two part finale, a mayor obsessed with baseball.  Upcoming guest stars, besides Ryan, include Luke Perry and the return of the underrated Mark Sheppard's Sterling, who will help Nate try to get his ex-wife out of a Ukranian prison.

     If you are a fan of procedurals, and haven't discovered the show, it is worth checking out.  Leverage will air the next six Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on TNT, and a third season, consisting of fifteen episodes, has been ordered.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Simon Cowell's last American Idol

     Despite the fact that it will rob us of our beloved Glee until April, most Americans are glad to see American Idol return to Fox for yet another round of the singing talent competition.  It is is advisable to tune in tonight as the judges travel to Boston (and tomorrow in Atlanta), as this may be the last great season of the ratings smash hit.

     Let's be honest, shall we?  Everyone will miss Paula Abdul, who left her position as judge this season.  But the only real reason to tune in is to watch Simon Cowell deliver his honest and scathing criticism.  Fox and Cowell confirmed yesterday that this will be his final season judging the show.  While rumors circulated that he was playing chicken, hoping to renegotiate his contract to allow him to bring The X Factor over from Britain, as it was forbidden under current terms, his press release today left no doubt that that was not the reason for his leaving.  Yes, he will be launching an American X Factor in 2011 on Fox, but he felt he did not have enough time to do both.  Buzz on the street is that Cowell may offer former co-host Paula Abdul a berth at his side on the new show, and that would certainly make it worth watching.  If he steals host Ryan Seacrest as well, X Factor will surely take Idol's place as our favorite television show.

      What will be left when Simon leaves Idol?  Well, the only original judge on the panel will be Randy Jackson, the one who contributes least to the process.  Last year, a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, came on board, and despite her huge song writing talent, turned out to be just as useless in her televised position.  However, as of right now, Seacrest may still be around, and Paula's replacement once the show makes it to Hollywood this year is funny lady Ellen Degeneres.  It is too early to know whether she will be entertaining, but smart money is on 'yes'.  If Seacrest and Ellen remain, there may be something worth watching, though surely X Factor will beat it soundly.

     Anyway, we still have lots of time to enjoy the nation's favorite past time.  This year, anyway, it will deliver the same fun and snarkiness we American have become accustomed to.  Tune in tonight and tomorrow on Fox.

Southland returns on TNT

     Southland was a gritty cop show set in Los Angeles that aired on NBC last spring for seven episodes.  Although it was initially renewed for a thirteen episode second season, the premiere date in the fall was pushed back, and then the show was abruptly canceled, without the final six filmed episodes ever seeing the light of day.  Part of the reason the show was pulled was because of its dark tone.  The direction of the series also changed for the second season, focusing more on Adams, Sherman, and their partners, giving less importance to the rest of the ensemble.  It was also to be more procedural, less serial, than before.

     Beginning tonight at ten p.m., TNT will air all thirteen filmed episodes.  Depending on how the ratings go, perhaps they may even order more.  Though an extension has not yet been announced, TNT owns the rights to do so.  The episodes will air in production order, starting with an extended version (by about six minutes) of the pilot.  As of March 2nd, the show will have exhausted the already aired episodes, and begin showing new ones, for those fans who have already seen the first seven.  TNT has also restored language that was cut due to broadcast content standards that cable is not constrained by.

     The series stars Regina King (24), Benjamin McKenzie (The O.C.), Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do), and Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers) as the aforementioned partners.  Also starring are Kevin Alejandro (Shark), Arija Bareikis, Shawn Hatosy, and Michael McGrady (Day Break).  The show is not really my cup of tea, but if you enjoyed it last spring, this is all very good news for you.  It definitely stood apart from other cop dramas currently on television.

     SPOILER ALERT!  Although I have not yet been sent the new episodes, I can reveal that Ben will have to face dealing with John's pain medication addiction, Chickie will be ostracized by the other cops, Lydia will have trouble balancing her personal life and her job, and Sammy will feel left out when he and Nate join a drug task force with Gil, an old friend of Nate's.  Sammy also will be trying to have a baby, and Mercedes will not be very accepting of Nate as her father, which will end up causing something really bad.  Sal's daughter will manipulate him, black mailing him after she finds out about his affair.  These are but a few of the details already released about upcoming episodes.