Sunday, February 28, 2010

Modern Family goes, ugh, Hawaiin

       Many shows have played the vacation card during their runs, and Hawaii is a frequent target (think The Brady Bunch).  ABC's freshman comedy turns out to be no different.  Apparently, the cast and crew are hopping a plane to the island state this week to film an episode that will air near the end of the season in May.  It's actually the second half of a two parter, the first taking place in the airport before they leave.    The trip was kind of accidental, as the staff felt let down after doing the airport thing that we wouldn't get to see the family it the tropical setting.
     Uh, sure.  I buy that.  Certainly everyone involved just didn't want to get a little fun and sun.  Yes, they're still working, but who wouldn't want to jet off for some R & R at the end of a long season?  The question is, is this more gimmick or flimsy excuse?  Rarely do shows go off to some distant locale because it improves the story.  Sure, the wedding of the janitor on the beach on Scrubs was fun, but was it necessary for them to go there?  Not really.  Travel episodes of long running shows are usually a disappointment, at least in my opinion.
     They have a plot this time, too.  It's Jay's (Ed O'Neill, Married with Children) birthday and he wants to go away for a romantic time with his young, virile wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara, The Knights of Prosperity).  Instead, she has decided to spring the rest of his family on him.  Lame.  Yes, this particular TV family may be the current funniest on television.  Every episode so far has killed with laughs, and honestly, the airport plot sounds quite amusing.  Who knows?  They might pull it off.  I am just hugely disappointed with the cheap gag of going to Hawaii.  What an unnecessary stunt for such a well made show.
     Modern Family, which is generally very much worth watching, airs on ABC Wednesdays at 9pm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Colbert scores high at the Olympics

    As most people know by now, Stephen Colbert urged his Colbert Nation to step in and sponsor the USA Olympic Speed Skating Team when they lost their top donor.  As such, Colbert was named the Assistant Sports Psychologist for the team and got to attend the games in Vancouver these past two weeks.  This week, he is airing his show, The Colbert Report, from the games, which special Olympic "Vancouverage".      On Monday's first episode, Colbert spoke with his brother about what he could and could not say to keep him from getting sued while covering the games, as NBC paid a lot of money to be the sole network at hand.  However, despite all the amusing restrictions, and his brother's insistence that pretty much anything he did would be met with legal action, Colbert already had a deal worked out in advance, so any controversy is purely contrived.  That didn't stop it from making good entertainment.
     Part of the deal must have included an interview with NBC lead anchor for the games, Bob Costas, who not only did an interview with Colbert, put sat on a moose to the delight of the massive live crowd.  (Note: Colbert also sat down with Bob Costas on NBC last Wednesday).  Among others, Colbert also spoke with Olympic athletes Scott Hamilton, Ryan St. Onge, Lindsey Vonn, and Shaun White, the latter two having already earned medals this year.  Colbert also showed himself fulfilling his duty as Assistant Psychologist, as well as partying at other countries's houses, especially Ireland.  Generally, Colbert seems to be having much fun with his usual trademark egotism, and Canada, despite his digs on them in recent weeks, loves him for it.  The crowds at his outside segments are immense.
     If you like The Colbert Report, you should love this week's episodes.  And if you have never tuned into Colbert, but are interested in the Olympics, tonight would be a good time to try him out.  Colbert's coverage will conclude tonight at 11:30 on Comedy Central (channel 60 analog, 148 digital cable, or 249 satellite here in Lexington) as he interviews Shani Davis and Seth Wescott.
     The best way to watch The Colbert Report, of course, is in High Definition, but Lexington's Insight Cable declines to air Comedy Central in HD.  To request that they start, as I have done several times, please go to this link.  While you're there, please also request the CW in HD.  It isn't even cable!  Most cities already have the CW in HD.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't Psych Juliet Out

USA’s best show, Psych, is heating up!  If you don’t know, the show is about a faux psychic detective, who uses his keen observational skills and overacting chops to solve crimes, usually in very entertaining and funny ways.  Last season, the ‘psychic’, Shawn (James Roday) has to choose between high school crush, Abigail (Rachael Leigh Cook, She’s All That) and co-worker, Detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson).  Shawn made, to many viewers, the wrong choice, picking Abigail.  For the show’s creators, it was another roadblock on the way to the romance that has to be: Shawn and Juliet.
Like any good romantic tension between two show leads, it must be strung out for many years.  Psych is currently in it’s fourth season.  Unlike other shows, however, they are not the two main characters.  Shawn and Gus (Dule Hill,The West Wing) are, if any two, and Juliet and her partner,  Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), are more supporting.  However, the “will they, won’t they?” has become of issue as the show goes on.
Romance can be successfully done mid-series.  While critics often point to Moonlighting as an example of failure, this past season The Big Bang Theory showed that it can have two main characters get together, and the show doesn’t lose anything for it.  Psych needs to copy the latter.  The longer they wait, the more frustrated audiences get.  Look at Bones and Booth on Bones.  Fans won’t stand them apart much longer.  Psych should not make the same mistakes.
That being said, this has been a banner year for the dramedy, and each episode has been better than average.  Last week’s guest appearance by Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club, Suddenly Susan) continues the trend of ’80’s references.  And Shawn almost told Juliet how he felt about her.  Plus, during this winter run, the extended theme song has played every episode, and it it truly the best current theme song on television!  Tune in every Wednesday night at 10pm, including tonight, to see how it all plays out.

Men of a Certain Age finishes strong

     Men of a Certain Age finished it's first season Monday night on TNT, though it has already been picked up for a second, so it shouldn't be gone too long.  The drama was pretty good, so far.  At first, I was a little turned off by the fact that the plot was so slow moving in some episodes, but it really found it's place and it's voice by the end of the ten episodes.      I like the realism, that they're good friends, but they don't hang out every day, unlike most other buddy shows on television.  They each have their own lives and own things going on, and their main plot points rarely cross.  Of course, since the season ended with Terry (Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise) deciding to go work for Owen (Andre Braugher, Homicide: Life on the Street), that may change a bit.  But it came about naturally in a progression that made sense.  It might be interesting to see how Joe (Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond) reacts being left out of that equation.
     I am disappointed by the quick dissolution of both Joe and Terry's relationships.  I guess I get Dory (Sarah Clarke, 24) leaving Joe, as he did confess to making a huge gamble, but Terry's girlfriend, Annie (Carla Gallo, Carnivale) encouraged him to get back in the movie business.  She practically forced him into the job that took him out of town.  And despite his promise to teach her surfing, him taking the job appeared to be what she wanted.  Also, perhaps the time line wasn't real clear, but it seemed to me that Terry was only gone for a week or so.  Two max.  Why would she give up on him so easily?  And then be so vindictive at the coffee shop after?  Let's hope it was only done so that she can appear more frequently on Bones.
     All in all, the show had a good first year out.  Be sure to watch for the second season to premiere on TNT, and if you missed the first, surely reruns will be showing, though only one is showing up in the listings at this time, so keep an eye out for that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Betty White: hotter than ever

     And by hotter, I mean in demand.  No offense to the former Golden Girl, and sure, she looks great for her age, but senior citizens aren't really my thing.  :)  However, big news on the heels of her Superbowl commercial success:  Betty White may soon be hosting Saturday Night Live!  This is more than a rumor, but it's not yet a done deal, either.  Yet, being the key word, as talks are currently in progress.
     The hub bub started with a facebook group. which at the time of this writing, had over 425,000 fans and is steadily climbing, started petitioning for her.  The 88 year old actress has surprisingly never hosted the long running sketch comedy.  However, with SNL in a slump, and White as amazing as ever, when would be a better time for the two to unite?  To help the aging star handle the workload of hosting the 90 minute program, it has been suggested that she bring out other Ladies of Comedy to assist.  Rumor is that former SNL cast members Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, and the fantastic Tina Fey would be on board as her entourage.  As giddy as I would be for a White-hosted episode, imagining all of these wonderful comediennes together seems even better.
     White, who starred in such comedies as The Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Boston Legal certainly has the comedic chops to pull off such a project.  Fey (30 Rock) has been reportedly thinking about bringing back the hugely popular Sarah Palin impersonation.  Poehler's Parks and Recreation may easily be the most improved show this year.  And despite the failure of last season's Kath & Kim, we all know Shannon can handle the laughs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's Monday and that means House, but not this week

     It is Monday and that means House, right?  Unfortunately, not this week.  Or next.  Fox will air episodes of the popular drama, but they are reruns, not new ones.  As a recent House convert (I devoured the entire series this summer and was caught up by October), I am disappointed not to get a new chapter.  After all, this season has been one of the show's best, beginning with Gregory House's (Hugh Laurie) stint in a mental hospital, up through Dr. Chase (Jesse Spencer) getting relevant again, to the departure of Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and culminating in last week's Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) -centric episode, one of the best hours of drama on any show.
     In fact, I have to take a moment and marvel at the Cuddy episode, entitled "5 to 9".  It was a day in the life of the hospital's administrator, with House and his team moving in and out of her scope only periphery.  Considering the actress playing her is marvelously talented, it was amazing to see her get such a meaty script. I cheered with her in triumph at the end when she got what she wanted from the insurance giant, a story making our national health care debate all the more relevant when seen played out in such a form.  Kudos to everyone involved!  More Cuddy story will be forthcoming, as series creator David Shore has stated that House and Cuddy will be eventually getting together romantically, a development many fans will welcome.
     What has caused this resurgence in a show that has reinvented itself before?  It is important to keep any series fresh, and that was done in a huge way when after season three, all three of House's staff were off the case.  While remaining in the theme song, their plots were mostly small as House spent most of the year having a competition among potential replacements.  Now two are fully reinstated, and the two new one left from the contest are also integrated on the team.  Despite the first two hours of this season focusing on only House, each member of the cast has had much more to do lately than ever, and it's made for a great ensemble drama.  Add to that, rumors are circulating that Dr. Wilson's (Robert Sean Leonard) first wife, who will soon be making her first appearance (April 19th), and played by Lost alum Cynthia Watros, may up for a full time contract by next season, House is certainly setting itself apart from other medical shows.
     What's next for House?  I can't say for sure, but it's likely to be exciting.  Watch for House to return soon Mondays at 8pm on Fox.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some series already renewed for next season, others will be left hanging: cable edition

Cable is a different beast than broadcast networks because their seasons run at all different times, rather than the traditional September through May.  Still, many fans will be glad to know that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, Greek, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Rescue Me, Big Love, Bored to Death, Hung, True Blood, Drop Dead Diva, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Weeds, The Tudors, Party Down, Eureka, My Boys, The Closer, Leverage, Men of a Certain Age, Psych, Burn Notice, White Collar, and Royal Pains, among many others, have been picked up for another season.  Some of those seasons begin soon, others will air next year.  Below are some shows whose fate is still unknown, though.  Again, I use Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly as reference for my list.

Archer ~ I love this half hour comedy on FX, but apparently, it's considered a long shot to be picked back up.  Teeming with great voice talent, it is a good addition to the network's other shows.   UPDATE 02/23: ARCHER HAS BEEN RENEWED FOR A SECOND SEASON.
Damages ~ This show was picked up for two more seasons at the conclusion of the first, but now that they are currently airing the third, FX is unsure if it would like more or not.  This one could go either way.  I, for one, would love to see it continue.  It has won and been nominated for several Emmys, and deserved them all.
Curb Your Enthusiasm ~ This show from Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, has run for seven years so far, and is quite funny.  It's a similar type of humor to his earlier effort, and last season featured the reunion of the Seinfeld cast.  It would be nice if HBO asks for another season, but even though it is already done airing the last season filmed, it's fate is still up in the air.
Caprica ~ Although billed as a spin-off of Battlestar Galactica, this prequel set nearly sixty years prior is definitely it's own beast.  So far it has been intriguing and exciting, and I hope it runs for several years.
Southland ~ "Wasn't that show already canceled?" you may ask.  And yes, it was.  However, TNT has been running the episodes that originally aired, plus new ones, and reserves the right to order more if it desires.  Considering that the cast and crew was let go last fall, it seems doubtful, but Ausiello lists this as a 'could go either way', so we'll see.
Crash ~ I've never seen it, and apparently most of you haven't either.  Based on the movie of the same name, Starz has tried and failed to market this show.  It probably won't be renewed, but you never know.

Crazy Heart a good, solid film

I don’t know what I was expecting when I went to see Crazy Heart yesterday, but I was certainly touched and moved by the story.  The film stars Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a washed up country singer / songwriter who now plays gigs in bars and bowling alleys.  At a gig in Santa Fe, he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an aspiring young reporter who knows quite a bit about him.  Although he is easily old enough to be her father, and usually sleeps with a different woman every night, the two form an almost instant attraction and soon become involved.  And no, there is no cheating.  That would be too easy. Jean has a four year old son, though, (the adorable Jack Nation) and she doesn’t want to fall in with another bad guy.    She tries to start slow with their involvement, but after Bad falls asleep at the wheel, she brings him into her home to take care of him and things begin to really heat up.  She does have one rule: don’t drink in front of her son.  Easier said than done for Bad, who is an alcoholic.
I won’t spoil anything further, as there are a few twists, and the plot is not quite predictable.  Full of great, old style country music, the film itself is a character.  Lovable, yes, but hopelessly flawed.  And despite the best of intentions, things won’t always go right.  But there are plenty of charming things in this story, not just depression.  Colin Farrell shows up as Bad’s former protege, now a superstar.  Though he has far surpassed his mentor, he clearly still looks up to Bad, and wants to do right by him.  Robert Duvall plays Wayne, Bad’s best friend, a bartender.  When Bad is at home, he plays at Wayne’s place.  With these guys behind Bad, you know immediately that no matter what he does, deep down he’s a good guy deserving of love and friendship.
I highly recommend this film.  Although I couldn’t call everything in it original, it didn’t fall into the expected traps, had something to say, and definitely invoked a few emotions before the end credits roll.  Bridges and Gyllenhaal are both up for Oscars for their roles, deservedly so, and one of the songs is also nominated.  The song and Bridges already won their categories at The Golden Globes, and the movie has plenty of other nominations and wins already.  Let’s hope it gets a couple more.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ricky Gervais Show podcast cartoon

     The Ricky Gervais Show premiered last night on HBO.  Essentially, it is bits of a podcast set to Flintstone-esque animation.  Mostly, it shows three guys sitting around the table with microphones, and then there are little flashes to illustrated whatever one of them has said.  The series stars the British The Office and Extras cohorts Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, along with the real star of the show, a producer named Karl Pilkington.
     Listening to it, one is immediately struck with the idea that Karl is such an idiot that he can't possibly be for real.  He says the most inane random tidbits, and Merchant and Gervais have a ball laughing at him.  No one can possibly be as stupid as Karl comes off as being.  However, both of his co-stars insist that it's all real, and that's really how Karl acts in real life.  It's why they added him to the show.  Gervais even insists the show is being done to make Karl a star, though other articles have speculated it's because Gervais was complaining about giving away this brilliant podcast for free.
     I can't decide if I should give the show a good review or not, and so I won't give it a star rating.  It's laugh out loud funny.  Hilarious in many sections.  The thing is, though, this is a podcast, and the animation is not why it's funny.  I would be just as amused listening to it on my iPod as I was watching the cartoon version.  What is enjoyable is Karl's assertions and Merchant and Gervais tearing him apart, and that would still be as jovial in any fashion that it is presented.
      That being said, it should be apparent that the title of the show is merely to attract attention and play off Gervais's fame.  More accurately, it would be called The Karl Pilkington Show, and in fact, Merchant and Gervais would be interchangeable with practically any two men on the planet.  They really don't add a thing to the project, despite the fact that both have proven themselves brilliant in their own right.
     Tune in to HBO Friday nights at 9pm and see for yourself. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lost leaving viewers more... well, lost

     Four hours of the final season of ABC's Lost have already been aired in the last three weeks, which is about a quarter of the season.  Despite being promised many answers as the season progresses, so far there is much more confusion than explanation.  We saw the island on the bottom of the sea, and as many expected, Oceanic 815 landed without problem at LAX in 2004.  However, our favorite castaways are also still on the island, clearly not at the bottom of the ocean, and I have no idea why.  Gone are the flashbacks, flash forwards, and time jumps, but here to stay is presumably either alternate realities or parallel dimensions.

     The people that landed in Los Angeles are clearly not the same ones we met throughout the series.  There are a number of differences in their lives from the ones we previously saw.  Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is lucky, not unlucky.  John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is planning a wedding to his fiance, Helen (Katey Sagal, Married With Children, Sons of Anarchy, Futurama) and seemingly getting along with his father.  And the paths of our beloved characters keep crossing uncontrollably.  Kate (Evangeline Lilly) unwittingly kidnaps Claire (Emilie de Ravin) during her escape from the police.  Locke talks to Jack (Matthew Fox) at baggage claim, then after seeking work from Hurley and Rose (L. Scott Caldwell), he runs into Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) while substitute teaching.  Seemingly it is destiny that they meet.

     Also curious is that the episodes featuring certain characters are airing in the same order as in the first season.  First we had a hodge podge in the two hour premiere, then Kate was the first standard episode, and Locke was second.  Following that logic, Jack and then the Kwans (Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim) should be next.  Of course, not every character from the first season is still starring, and there are plenty of new ones, so it seems doubtful this pattern will last.

    Back on the island in 2007, the Smoke Monster posing as Locke showed Sawyer (Josh Holloway) a list of names of the survivors that Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) had written on a rock, and most were crossed out.  All the names left were people Jacob was shown visiting throughout their lives in last season's finale. Except he visited Kate, and she wasn't on the list.  And all six of Hurley's lottery numbers were taken, so it must be significant that she isn't there, not just a simple edit mistake.  Is she something special and different, or did Jacob just not find her worthy when he visited her?  And does Kwon refer to Sun or Jin, and if it is Jin, is that why Sun wasn't tossed back to the 70's with everyone else?  Not only that, Jacob had a thing for J names, as the numbers in question name Jack, John, James, Jin (maybe), and Jarrah (Naveen Andrews).  But that leaves out Hurley, though Hugo can be spelled with a J for Spanish names.  All are male, too.  Also, screen caps reveal Claire's last name as #313, Charlie's (Dominic Monaghan) as #195, and other last names from island characters, including Linus and Goodspeed, which could refer to several people.  Why?  Weird.

     Lots more questions and answers await, and Lost will continue to air Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some series already renewed for next season, others will be left hanging

     It has already started.  Networks have begun announcing which of our favorite television shows will be returning to the air waves next year.  Shows like Cougar Town, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, American Dad, Bones, Glee, Friday Night Lights, Parks & Recreation, 90210, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries have already been given that green light.  Many more shows will be told to wait, possibly even until summer, for a decision.  Ausiello at Entertainment Weekly keeps this handy score card up to date.  Below are some shows waiting for a decision, what their chances are, and why they should or should not be picked up.

Better Off Ted - Hilarious new show last spring, but wasted many episodes during the summer.  It's considered unlikely to be picked up, but it definitely should be.  Fresh and original.

Scrubs - The show basically had a series finale last year, and is back as a watered down "Med School" version.  It will likely be let go, and probably should be.

V / Flash Forward - One show started strong and got weak, the other did the opposite.  Unfortunately, ABC gave both very long breaks so the audience could forget about them.  Their pick up chances will depend upon their spring showings.

Medium - Moved over to CBS this season, the show has gone on a nice, long time.  Though Ausiello says it could go either way, it's been less interesting this season than in the past.  It may be time to end it.

24 - Many factors will go into the decision to get another year of Jack Bauer or not.  Among them, a film is already in the works for when the series ends.  I could always use another dose of Jack, but he has already saved the world eight times.  Since the character will surely live on, perhaps he should leave the small screen now.

Fringe - In it's second season, the series has failed to get great ratings, but Fox seems committed to keeping it on, and it has stayed mind boggling.  It needs another year.

Chuck - For the first time this show is listed as a 'safe bet'.  After struggling for three years, Chuck has finally found its fan base, and that is a well earned triumph.  Let's hope NBC doesn't wait too long to confirm it.

Life Unexpected - It's good, but is it good enough?  Ausiello says it can go either way, and as far as myself watching it, I could as well.

Smallville - Ratings wise, it's safe.  Creatively, it's also in a good place, yet again.  Question is, can the CW pay Tom Welling enough to stay?

24: The Dana Walsh Problem

     After eight years, it has become apparent that Fox’s 24, despite all of the exciting twists, turns, and torture, is a formula show.  It feels fresh every year, but there are certain elements in place.  For instance, we all know that there will be a mole in CTU, the CTU boss will clash heads and not listen to Jack at some point, and Jack will be proven right and save the day, but suffer some personal sacrifice.  The part of the formula, however, that doesn’t work, but keeps popping up, is the whiny CTU agent with some family or personal issue.

      This season that subplot is made worse by the fact that the character is Dana Walsh, who is played by the great Katee Sackhoff.  Fans of Battlestar Galactica, thrilled that Starbucks would be on the action packed series, tuned in excitedly, waiting for Dana to kick some butt.  Instead, she sits in an office and calls her ex-boyfriend, blackmailed and subservient.  It has gone on for a third of the season now, and still has not dissipated.  Surely, Dana will eventually get to do something cool once the whole mess is behind her, but when will that be?  Instead, it’s dragging down the otherwise awesome show.

      Why must 24 even go down this road, time after time?  It’s not like they can’t write better stuff.  They do.  And yet, it keeps coming back.  Perhaps it’s reasoned as a time filler, a way to bring down the adrenaline for a few minutes.  After all, audiences would have a stroke if Jack keeps running and shooting for twenty four hours straight.  But please, please, please remember next season, if there is a next season, to leave the whiny character at home, not in the action, and do not make it Starbuck.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Make It in America doesn't quite make it

     HBO has a new show out called How to Make It in America.  It is about friends Ben (Bryan Greenberg, October Road) and Cam (Victor Rasuk, ER) trying to make money while living in New York City, apparently in the fashion scene, though after watching, I thought it was more the art world.  It is attempting to be gritty and realistic, or at least it comes across that way.  The theme song may be confusing, but it resembles the photographs shown at an artist showcase later in the pilot episode.

     This series has plenty going for it.  Besides Greenberg, it boasts other notable stars such as Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie, 'Til Death), Lake Bell (Boston Legal), Shannyn Sossamon (Moonlight), Martha Plimpton, and Luis Guzman.  Unfortunately, it didn't land in the premiere.  There was plenty of the two main guys, but very little of anyone else.  They are charming and interesting, but there wasn't enough plot to adequately set up what the series is going to be about.  Not only that, unlike other recent HBO shows, I didn't get invested in the characters right away.  At this point, I could never watch another episode and never wonder what happened.

     However, I am going to watch next week's episode.  It does intrigue me that I don't what it's about.  I've always thought that pilots are often a poor representation of the series, and I hope this one is as well.  Because I can't predict what else is coming, I will watch at least another half hour or two until I decide whether or not it is worth my time.

     If you'd like to check it out, How to Make It in America will rerun throughout the week, and new episodes will be presented Sundays at 10pm on HBO.

Friday Night Lights to go dark

     The drama Friday Night Lights has confirmed that it is currently working on it’s fifth and final season, as evidenced by this Entertainment Weekly article.  “What is that show?  Is it still on?”, you may ask, and millions of fans would like to slug you after you pose such queries.  Though loved by critics, the show was on shaky grounds when it premiered on NBC, and was thought to be done after it’s second season, cut to 15 episodes because of the Writer’s Strike.  However, a deal with DirecTV to share production costs kept it going, and subsequent 13 episode seasons aired on the satellite carrier first, then later on NBC.  Last year, that meant cable watchers had to wait until winter to watch.  This year, the season four premiere date is not until April 30th, pushing much of the season into the summer.  That would point to bad news for the series, if it hadn’t already announced an end date.  The show will stop filming by the middle of the summer, but it will likely by 2011 before NBC airs the final batch.

     Headlined by the amazing Connie Britton (24, Spin City) and Kyle Chandler (Grey’s Anatomy, Early Edition) as Tami and Eric Taylor, the show centered on the Dylan Panthers football team, and was based on the book and movie of the same name.  Tami eventually became principal of the school, and when the high school split in two at the end of the third season, Eric was forced to go to the other side of town and coach at the new school.

     A number of students were also part of the cast, mostly football players, and have rotated through the show’s five seasons.  Most notably were the Taylor’s daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden), bad boy who wants to be good Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), quarterback and grandmother caretaker Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), religious cheerleader Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly, Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue), struggling-to-make-something-of-herself-and-not-stay-stuck-in-Dylan girl Tyra (Adrianne Palicki), and the guy that is in love with her, Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons).  They, along with others, finished their high school days on the show, but returned at least part time for arcs to finish their stories.

     That was what was important about the show: stories, not football.  Be sure to watch it when it returns to NBC at the end of April.

Friday, February 12, 2010

We Are the World: 2010 Olympics open tonight, with Stephen Colbert

    Many people await the Olympics with great anticipation, and this year is no exception.  Every four years athletes gather to compete in the Winter Games (and in between, Summer Games), and the 2010 event has arrived.  The nearly two week contest will start with an opening ceremony, airing tonight at 7:30pm on NBC (in Lexington, WLEX, airing on channel 8 (antenna), 382 (satellite), and 906 (high def cable).  Details about the opening are kept mostly under wraps, but considering the awesome spectacle China hosted two years ago for the summer games, surely it will attempt to top that.

     One thing that will be part of the opening ceremony will be the premiere of the new version of "We Are the World"Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie, who organized the original, along with the late Michael Jackson, have done it again with a whole new batch of celebrities.  Janet Jackson, Michael's sister, took Michael's part, and the celebrities participating in the remake include Barbra Streisand, Randy Jackson, Kanye West, Usher, Jason Mraz, Tony Bennett, Jeff Bridges, Katherine McPhee, Celine Dion, Vince Vaughn, and many, many more worth mentioning, but I won't for the sake of brevity.  The song will benefit the earthquake victims in Haiti.

     Many events will be feature the next two weeks including figure skating, cross country skiing, luge, bobsledding, hockey, curling, and speed skating.  The last has gotten much attention recently, as they lost their lead sponsor, and Stephen Colbert and his Colbert Nation stepped in to save them.  The host will be joining the team, and filming episodes the air beginning February 22nd.  He also graced the Olympic Preview edition of Sports Illustrated recently.

     This year's event takes place in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Portions of many events will air on NBC and their various affiliated channels, so check your listings for times.  Many events air in the middle of the night.  Other footage will be posted on their web site.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ellen lightens up American Idol

     Anyone that Simon Cowell calls a sadist deserves attention, and that's exactly how he described Ellen DeGeneres during a recent episode of American Idol.  Although the attention is supposed be on the contestants, the judge shakeup has caused more headlines about Ellen for the Fox show than anything else.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  As ratings begin slipping for the nine year old show, though it does consistently remain the most watched series on television, an injection of fresh blood is needed.  Last year's addition of fourth judge Kara DioGuardi certainly didn't do it, and so, with the departure of the unintentionally funny Paula Abdul, the show turned to a woman from whom funnies is not an accident, but a lifestyle.

     And Ellen succeeded brilliantly her first two night on the air, joining the team during Hollywood Week.  She was hilarious, clearly had her own opinion, and actually seemed to add something to the discussion.  This is a very good thing for Idol, as up until now, Simon Cowell has been the only judge worth listening to, and while the show has been renewed for three more seasons, this will be Cowell's last.  There are still many weeks over which Ellen will have to prove herself if viewers are to tune in next season, but she was off to a good start.

     Looking at the contestants, Big Mike surely has the most moving story, with his child being born the morning of Group Day.  Thank goodness he passed on through the first two Hollywood rounds, as surely every viewer was rooting for him, attending the birth of his first offspring only by phone in order to pursue a dream.  It was a tough decision, and I'm sure glad I didn't have to make it.  He definitely has an understanding wife.  Other front runners include Andrew Garcia, who did an amazing rendition of "Straight Up", Lilly Scott, who channeled Ella Fitzgerald, and Didi Benami, who sang "Terrified".  But they all have a long way to go, as there were 71 contestants left after Group Day, and they will be cut down to 24 next week.

     American Idol airs on Fox, currently Tuesday and Wednesday nights, though keep an eye out on listings, as episode times and days often move around a little bit with each successive round.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Past Life already past its shelf life

     Fox added a new show to their lineup last night called Past Life.  Taking Fringe's normal Thursday 9pm time slot for now, aside from last night's 'special preview episode', it is clear that the network is hoping to cash in on viewers already accepting of the strange and supernatural.  That idea would be sound, if this show were any good at all.

     Following a long-used formula, two partners attempt to solve crimes.  The believer is Dr. Kate McGinn (Kelli Giddish, All My Children), who has recently hired ex-police detective Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop, Home and Away) to assist her.  Of course, Price is skeptical, but Kate says that is fine, as long as he uses his skills.  By the end of the preview episode, he is starting to believe.  A lot too quickly.  Combine that with his natural superstitiousness, and none of it even feels genuine.  Both characters are flat, predictable, and too ill defined, as well as poorly acted.  Their chemistry is not great, even though surely that is what is supposed to hook viewers enough to tune in week after week.

     They are joined on the team by Dr. Malachi Talmadge (Richard Schiff, The West Wing) and Dr. Rishi Karna (Ravi Patel, Easy Money), the grumpy boss and the token Indian, respectively.  And who came up with the character names on this series?  Anyway, considering the premise, that they are investigating people who remember past lives, and were victims of an unsolved crime in said past life, you'd imagine the client list is small, no?  Yet, they can budget four professionals, three of them with doctorates, in an office?  I don't believe it.  I have a hard time believing they can find a dozen or two clients a year in the entire country, let alone this.

     The script was weak, the acting hokey.  Schiff can act, but he's wasted here.  I recommend not tuning in.  However, if you are so inclined, it will be airing on Fox Thursdays at 9pm.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Heroes begins a brave new chapter

     Last night NBC's Heroes completed their fourth season, fifth volume.  While it was a good ending to Samuel's (Robert Knepper, Prison Break) carnival, the most interesting parts of the episode had nothing to do with this season's new characters.  Instead, Heroes will continue to fuel a new creative resurgence by making its core characters interesting again.  For example, Hiro (Masi Oka) also got a bittersweet ending to his quest, finding his beloved Charlie (Jayma Mays, Glee) had already lived a full life without him. She helped Hiro understand what Ando (James Kyson-Lee) had been hinting at, that Hiro would only interfere more with her for him own sake, not hers.

     Sylar (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek) appears to finally be ready to make amends and become a full fledged hero.  This plot has been toyed with before on the show, but the writer's threw circumstances and obstacles at him to drag him back down.  Despite some bad choices (his plot for the entire first half of the season), leaving him and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia, Gilmore Girls) alone in a mind trap for five years, to their perspective, led to acceptance and forgiveness I never thought possible.  It allowed Sylar the time, free from distractions, to come to grips with who he is versus who he'd like to be, something he was already grappling with before his entrapment.  And Peter, who is often dull, got to deal with the death of his brother, and proved that he is a real hero in how he relates to others.

     The best part of the episode, however, though I never expected to write these words, was Claire (Hayden Panettiere).  She came to terms with the dark side of her father, Noah (Jack Coleman, Dynasty) and grew up enough to make her own life choice.  In fact, this development made the Volume Six teaser at the end not only Heroes's most exciting one, but also more stunning than the actual Volume Five finale.  Deciding to reveal who she was to the world at large, and that there are people with gifts walking among us will rock the Heroes universe in a way that no other plot twist has.  Again, this direction was played with earlier in the series, but abandoned.  It's nice to see it embraced.

     Sadly, there was no similar fitting revelations or triumphs for one my favorite actors, Greg Grunberg, (Alias) who plays the character of Matt Parkman, and seems to have run his course at present.  Hopefully, that will be corrected early next season.  Heroes will likely return to NBC in the fall, though the decision to renew it is not yet final.  However, if this was the end, a lot of fans will be very angry at the giant cliffhanger and enormous potential left untapped.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Smallville: Absolute Justice an absolute joy

     Long anticipated, Friday night's two hour television movie Smallville: Absolute Justice was more than just two episodes of the CW's popular Smallville series.  It mapped out the direction the show is heading towards.  The story centered on the discovery of an old group of super heroes known as the Justice Society of America DC Comics readers will know that this group was the original grouping of heroes.  However, besides adding new, possibly recurring characters such as Hawkman (Michael Shanks, Stargate SG-1) and Stargirl (Brittney Irvin), it also gave us large clues into what Clark's (Tom Welling) fate on the series will be, as per the visions of Dr. Fate (Brent Stait).

     By the end of the tv movie, it was clear that Clark would be forming his own society soon.  Currently, that consists of Chloe a.k.a. Watchtower (Allison Mack) and Oliver a.k.a. Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), as well as the newly reinvigorated John Jones a.k.a. Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris).  While we have seen Clark and company working with other superheroes in the show, they were all strangely absent, as were almost all the rest of Hawkman's team.  This was presumably due to budget and time constraints, though it gives hope that many or all will return soon.  The question is, will it just be another chapter in Clark's life?  Or will that be the new direction the show makes, as the network has no desire to end Smallville, but Welling seems ready to go?  Would a bigger ensemble series where his role is much more limited appeal to him?  It is an intriguing concept for a show that has often reinvented itself.

     For now, though, it seems Clark and his group will soon be facing a large army of super villians, and he is being manipulated into getting heroes together by Checkmate and Agent Waller (Pam Grier, The L Word), who clearly are far from moralistic.  This will be an interesting plot, and will it be connected or seperate from this season's big bad, Zod (Callum Blue, Dead Like Me, The Tudors)?  Other tidbits found out in the two hour special were that Tess (Cassidy Freeman) is a part of Checkmate, and to no one's surprise, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) is still alive, and will be Clark's archnemesis.  Fans have long anticipated Lex's return, and the reveal will only fuel calls to get Rosenbaum back on the show.  Ultimately, for the series finale to be truly satisfying, whenever that ends up being, Lex will have to play a part.

     Smallville continues to air Friday nights at 8pm on the CW.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Oscar stars also grace smaller screens (part II: the gals)

     The line between television and movies has been getting thinner and thinner for years. While once movie stars were seen as something above their television counterparts, that has long since ceased to be the case. There is so much crossover now between the two groups, that it is almost unnoticeable. Furthermore, the awards shows for movies are carried on television. Movies air on television all the time, especially on premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, which in turn now make their own television shows. Although almost all of this year's Oscar female nominees have some television parts in their past, and though their small screen background isn't as established as the man, here are some of their parts:

Sandra Bullock (Best Actress,The Blind Side) ~ Bullock starred in the short lived television series Working Girl, based on the film.  She was also in three episodes of George Lopez.

Meryl Streep (Best Actress, Julie & Julia) ~ Her most famous small screen part was in the award winning miniseries Angels in America.  Not that long ago she also played Abigail Adams in Freedom: A History of Us, and in 1978 she won a lead actress Emmy for Holocaust.

Carey Mulligan (Best Actress, An Education) ~ Mulligan has starred in Bleak House and The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard for PBS.  She also guest starred on the latest incarnation of Doctor Who.

Vera Farmiga (Best Supporting Actress, Up in the Air) ~ She tried several series such as Touching Evil, UC: Undercover  and Roar before making it on the big screen.

Anna Kendrick (Best Supporting Actress, Up in the Air) ~ Although she has very few credits to her name at this time, besides, of course, the Twilight movies, Kendrick has appeared in Fear Itself and the quickly canceled Viva Laughlin.

Mo'Nique (Best Supporting Actress, Precious) ~ Much of her exposure has been television, including spots in Moesha, The Bernie Mac Show, Nip/Tuck, and Ugly Betty, as well as a starring role in the series The Parkers.

     The Oscars will be given out during the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday, March 7th at 8pm on ABC.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

House is about to get Lost

     Good news, everyone!  Lost alum Cynthia Watros, who played the ill fated Libby, will be joining the cast of Fox's House for at least several episodes starting this coming April.  For those who loves the blond on the island, romancing everyman Hurley (Jorge Garcia), you'll love her taking a turn as Wilson's (Robert Sean Leonard) girlfriend.  You'll love even more the back story between the two.

     As fans of House know, Wilson has had real relationship issues, where he immediately falls deeply in love with the woman he is dating.  And he's always trying to save her from something.  Cynthia's character will actually be the first of Wilson's three ex-wives, and she has come back into her life.  This should provide some interesting and unexpected back story on House's (Hugh Laurie) best friend, who hasn't had a significant love interest since Amber, (Anne Dudek, Big Love, Mad Men) a.k.a. Cutthroat B*tch, died.

     The burning questions will be: How has Wilson changed since Amber?  Has he gotten any better at dating without saving?  And will House feel threatened, as he often does, when someone else comes into his bromance?

     Watros has also starred in The Drew Carey Show and Titus, and won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress for her work in the soap opera Guiding Light.

     House airs every Monday at eight pm on Fox.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar stars also grace smaller screens (part I: the guys)

     The line between television and movies has been getting thinner and thinner for years.  While once movie stars were seen as something above their television counterparts, that has long since ceased to be the case.  There is so much crossover now between the two groups, that it is almost unnoticeable.  Furthermore, the awards shows for movies are carried on television.  Movies air on television all the time, especially on premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, which in turn now make their own television shows.  Although all of this year's Oscar male nominees have some television parts in their past, here are some of the strongest links:

George Clooney (Best Actor: Up in the Air) ~ The ultimate crossover, Clooney had his big break  starring in a popular television show called ER, before moving on to the cinema hits such as Ocean's Eleven, Good Night and Good Luck, and O Brother Where Art Thou?  Before any of that, he played recurring guest roles in shows such as Roseanne and The Facts of Life.

Colin Firth (Best Actor: A Single Man) ~ While many people know Firth from Bridget Jones's Diary and Love Actually, don't forget that he was Mr. Darcy in the television miniseries Pride and Prejudice, which is still arguably his best-known role.

Morgan Freeman (Best Actor: Invictus) ~ Freeman's defining part in The Shawshank Redemption may have been impressive, but he got his start on The Electric Company in the 1970's, appearing in almost eight hundred episodes.  He also guest starred on Ryan's Hope and portrayed Frederick Douglas in the 1990 award winning miniseries, The Civil War.

Woody Harrelson (Best Supporting Actor: The Messenger) ~ Harrelson is well known for his role on Cheers and his seven episode stint on Will & Grace.

Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor: The Last Station) ~ Long after he starred in The Sound of Music, Plummer played a number of roles on the small screen, including starring in the early 90's series Counterstrike, appearing in the miniseries The Thorn Birds, and a guest spot on The Cosby Show.

Stanley Tucci (Best Supporting Actor: The Lovely Bones) ~ Tucci was in ten episodes of ER, starred in the very short-lived series 3 lbs. and did twenty-three episodes of Murder One.

     The Oscars will be given out during the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday, March 7th at 8pm on ABC.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lost: it's time to be found

    ABC took a chance five years ago on a series called Lost.  Steeped in mystery, it was the ultimate serial.  The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 find themselves on an island, where all sorts of unexplained things occur, from a paralyzed man who can walk, to a polar bear, to a smoke monster.  Not only that, each of these castaways had a story, and each week we got a piece of the puzzle.  It was extremely popular at first, then fans tapered.  Yet, except for arguably season two, the show has only continued to get better with age, as the flashbacks became flash forwards, the Oceanic Six got off the island and returned, many of the characters did a stint in the 70's, and time became completely unhinged.  Tonight, the final season of the show begins.

     When we last left Jack, (Matthew Fox, Party of Five) Kate, (Evangeline Lilly, The Hurt Locker) and Sawyer, (Josh Holloway) the love triangle had fought, but decided to detonate a nuclear device that could possibly stop the entire series from happening.  It appears that may have worked, as the show began on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the characters kept talking about how they would awake on their plane on course if it worked, and the two part premiere tonight is called "LA X".  This is great news for Sayid (Naveen Andrews), who was bleeding to death, and to Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim, 24, Angel), a couple trapped more than three decades apart in time.  But what about the woman who actually set off the bomb and laid next to it as it went off, Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell, V)?  Is she dead?  She is not among the principal cast for this final season.

     Of course with Lost, nothing is certain.  Many dead characters are signed on to appear this year.  This has happened plenty of time before on the show, most notably with Jack's father, Christian (John Terry, Trauma), who despite having been dead when the flight left, appeared several times on the island.  But was it him, or the mysterious Man In Black (Titus Welliver, Deadwood), who possibly can appear as dead people, such as John Locke (Terry O'Quinn, Alias), who remains a main character despite his demise?  Other deceased characters slated to appear at least once this year, although in what form is unknown, include Charlie (Dominic Monaghan, FlashForward, Lord of the Rings), Michael (Harold Perrineau, Oz), Boone (Ian Somerhalder, The Vampire Diaries), Shannon (Maggie Grace, The Fog), Libby (Cynthia Watros, The Drew Carey Show), Charlotte (Rebecca Mader, Justice), Daniel (Jeremy Davies), Alex (Tania Raymonde, Cold Case), and even Arzt (Daniel Roebuck).  Also, rejoining the cast full time is Emilie de Ravin (Roswell), whose character, Claire, disappeared without explanation at the end of season four.

     I can't end this article without mentioning the other huge plot point left hanging from last season.  Locke, or perhaps the ghost of Locke, persuaded Ben (Michael Emerson) to kill Jacob (Mark Pellegrino, Dexter).  We also found out that Jacob visited many of the main characters in the past, although as to what purpose is unknown.

    The series also stars the wonderfully talented Jorge Garcia (Becker) as Hurley, my personal favorite character.  My other favorite character, Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) no longer stars, but will play an important role in the final season.  The show stars Ken Leung as Miles.  Joining the principal cast this season are longtime guest star Nestor Carbonell (Suddenly Susan, The Dark Knight), Jeff Fahey, and Zuleikha Robinson (The Lone Gunman).  Lost's sixth season will begin with a two hour premiere tonight at 9pm, and will air Tuesday nights through the spring.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Damages have arrived

     One of the best dramas on television, Damages, has just returned for a third season on FX.  There was much to like about the season premiere last Monday, including a new, lighter tone with welcome brighter colors.  That's not to say there isn't plenty of twisted stuff still going on.  In fact, one of my favorite characters, and one of only three principal actors in all three seasons, is shown dead in a body bag at the end of the episode.  Of course, much of Damages takes place in flashback, so the character will still be around for at least this year, if the person is actually dead, which I have my doubts about.  Either way, killer way to end the special no-commercial episode!

     As this season begins, ten months after the last, Ellen Parsons, (Rose Byrne) though she has forgiven her former boss, has moved on with her life and now works for the DA's office.  Meanwhile, the former boss, Patty Hewes (Glenn Close, who has deservedly won multiple awards for this role) is just getting around to allowing Ellen's office to be cleaned out, though she is certainly in a better mood than when we last left her.  She is even allowing longtime employee Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan, The OC) to add his name to the door of her firm.  Meanwhile, Tom has remained friendly with Ellen, and when Ellen suspects Patty secretly helped her with a client, the three are entwined further together.  If it wasn't Patty, who was it then?  One of these season's many mysteries, surely.

     The big case of season three deals with a Ponzi scheme of Madoff proportions.  The head criminal here is Louis Tobin (Len Cariou, Into the Storm), and both Patty and the DA are trying to bring him down.  Tobin's family is brilliantly cast, including Lily Tomlin (The West Wing, The Magic School Bus) as his wife and Reiko Aylesworth (24) as his daughter in law.  Joining the cast full time are Tobin's son Joe (Campbell Scott, Royal Pains) and family friend slash lawyer, Leonard Winstone (Martin Short, Primetime Glick, Father of the Bridge, Three Amigos).  Short, usually a comedian, plays this ore dramatic role well, and despite limited screen time in the first episode, he has managed to impress already.  Add to that the promised return of Frobisher, (Ted Danson, Bored to Death, Becker, Cheers) there will surely be no lack of star power.  Yet, unlike other shows, it never feels like stunt casting on Damages.

     This season's mystery will continue tonight and every Monday at 10pm on FX.