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Monday, October 31, 2011

Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection on DVD

     Pie in the Sky will finally be available as a Complete Collection this Tuesday, November 1st from Acorn Media. Previously released as five separate sets, the series follows Detective Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths, The History Boys, Harry Potter), who is nearly at retirement. Looking forward to opening his own restaurant, Crabbe is deeply disappointed when he is investigated for taking a bribe. Though Crabbe is completely innocent, his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Freddie Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Casino Royale, V for Vendetta), uses the incident to force Crabbe to take occasional cases. Thus, Pie in the Sky follows Crabbe as he simultaneously serves as a police detective and a chef in a restaurant that shares the series title.

     Crabbe just wants some peace, but it seems he will never have it. Fisher puts him on a number of cases over forty episodes, constantly pulling him out of the kitchen. Thankfully, he has some help on the force. Sophia Cambridge (Bella Enahoro, Mister Johnson) is his partner for much of the run, while Ed Guthrie (Derren Litten, The Catherine Tate Show) and Jane Morton (Mary Woodvine, Doctors) help out in Series 5. Crabbe is obviously the brains of any partnership, seeing that the police force will not allow him to retire. But the trio aren't completely incompetent, and are enough help that Crabbe can get back to his restaurant periodically.

     Not that things are much calmer there. For one thing, his cheap wife, Margaret (Maggie Steed, Clatterford, Born and Bred), who has no palette to speak of, actually owns Pie in the Sky, so Henry is often beholden to her. Not to mention, there are plenty of other employees on staff, including chefs Steve Turner (Joe Duttine, Coronation Street) and Gary Palmer (Nicholas Lamont, Going Off Big Time), both around for about half the show each. Leon Henderson (Nick Raggett, The Sins, Arcadia) supplies the produce and helps clean up. Plus, there's John the waiter (Ashley Russell, Jupiter Moon), and a rotating number of waitresses, including Sally (Marsha Thomason, White Collar, Lost). Not that Henry hates any of these people, as he is a gentle, kind soul — but there is certainly no rest for the weary.

     Pie in the Sky is a light-hearted romp, never taking itself too darkly. Yes, there are crimes that need solving, and dishes that need cooking, but Henry takes both just about as equally serious. That, in of itself, lends a sense of fun that won't be found in the hard boiled dramas that dominate networks today. This distinction is a nostalgic hook, sure to entice many new viewers looking for something different.

     Henry is a great character, whose pain viewers will feel, as he just wants to be left alone to explore his culinary passion. Who cannot sympathize with such longing? Griffiths is a brilliant actor, that handles nuance well, but that's well-known by 2011. It is immediately apparent that Crabbe, this multi-talented man — like the actor who plays him — will be in demand no matter what he is doing. It's a curse as well as a blessing.

     Over the course of five series, Pie in the Sky wracks up its share of notable guest stars. Among them are Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings), Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes), and Jane Wymark (Midsomer Muders). Do they take these parts just to keep working, or because who wouldn't want to be involved with Griffiths and his charming series? The biggest take away from Pie in the Sky is that it must be delightfully fun to perform on the show, or so it seems by the way the actors devour their roles with relish, excuse the puns.

     At thirteen discs, Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection is a hefty set, value priced, and providing hours of enjoyment. About thirty-two and a half hours, to be more precise. The series is presented in 4:3 full screen format, as it aired, but there are 16:9 widescreen bonus features, in case anyone is worried that corners are being cut. Not all of the original broadcast music survives, but that's common among DVD sets, especially when the series predates such releases, as this one from the mid-1990s does. Still, well worth the price.

     The bonus features are predictably few, with little intention of making such extras as the series is in production. There is a biography of star Richard Griffiths, and filmographies for the rest of the cast. Production notes are interesting. The best part is a nearly twenty minute interview with Griffiths's on-screen wife, Maggie Steed. She is amusing and charming, much like the series, and it's the only feature that actually delves into what making the series was like. It's great that it is included.

     Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection will go on sale this Tuesday, November 1st. Be sure to get yourself a copy. And it would make an excellent Christmas present if you have relations that enjoy older, whimsical, British mystery.

     Click here to order Pie in the Sky: Complete Collection on DVD.

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Article first published as DVD Review: Pie in the Sky - Complete Collection on Blogcritics.

Meet Allen Gregory

     FOX's newest animated series is Allen Gregory, which premiered its "Pilot" last night. Allen Gregory De Longpre (Jonah Hill, Superbad, Get Him to the Greek) begins first grade at a public school. Spoiled by his rich father, Richard (French Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Allen Gregory has the niceties and attitude of an older gentleman, and thus is ill prepared to deal with his peers. He quickly falls for well-into-middle age Principal Judith Gottlieb (Renée Taylor, The Nanny), then poops his pants. Luckily, Allen Gregory has a second father, whom he calls Jeremy (Nat Faxon, The Cleveland Show, Happy Hour) whom convinces Allen Gregory to give it another try.

     There are many hints, not so subtle, that make one think Richard is having money problems. Thus, Jeremy must get a job, rather than stay at home to tutor Allen Gregory. Richard is very selfish, so it's understandable that he would cut back on his son before himself. Looking at Richard, who is practically a clone of Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) from Community, with a hint of Dr. Venture thrown in, it's very clear just how Allen Gregory becomes who he is.

     If there is a major complaint to be had, it's that Superintendent Jeremy Rossmyre (Will Forte, Saturday Night Live, The Cleveland Show) bends over backwards to suck up to Richard. One presumes this is because Rossmyre wants money from Richard, and doesn't realize that Richard has none to give. Rossmyre is too dumb to figure this out. But offering up the principal as a girlfriend for Allen Gregory crosses so many lines, that his character is standard cartoonish, without any realistic bend to him at all. Not always a bad thing in an animated series, but Rossmyre is twisted odd in such a way that he detracts from the enjoyment.

     Many critics have lambasted Allen Gregory and its title character as annoying and hard to relate to. This may be so, but one cannot blame the child completely for the sins of the father. Allen Gregory is a product of his world, and is the way Richard raises him to be. As he is so young, there is still time to change him. Should Allen Gregory continue to call his teacher by her first name and bring wine to school indefinitely, this series will not be funny, However, should the titular boy grow and chance, Allen Gregory could be a very interesting, and unique, cartoon. It's funny enough to keep watching for now.

     Allen Gregory has other influences besides Richard, of course. As mentioned, Jeffrey is a much more grounded individual, though as persistent as Richard is about what he wants, it doesn't quite gel that Jeffrey is a straight family man, stolen away by this flamboyant rich guy. It's every Republican's worst nightmare come true, but in a way that would never happen, thus mocking the concept. Allen Gregory also has a normal sister named Julie (Joy Osmanski, Grey's Anatomy, The Loop). But these two cannot get through to him because, like Richard, he sees them as inferior and treats them with disdain. It's not a healthy family situation that begs to have drama threaten to break it up.

     Bottom line, if Allen Gregory chooses, like most animated sitcoms, to keep things status quo every week, it won't be very good for very long. If it takes a bold risk and allows character growth from week to week, as well as some larger plot arcs, there is potential here for a really cool series. Though the chances are it will fall into the latter, it's hard not to hope for the former.

     Allen Gregory airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Chuck Versus the Zoom" in final season premiere

     NBC's Chuck begins its fifth and final season with "Chuck vs. the Zoom." Chuck (Zachary Levi) is jealous that Morgan (Joshua Gomez) now has the Intersect instead of him. This makes him feel more useless on missions, and Chuck's not sure that he can make Carmichael Industries a reality without his talent. But their latest mission not only makes Chuck step up to be a hero once more, but also results in the group losing all of their funds when Clyde Decker (Richard Burgi) freezes their accounts. Now they will have to rely on the Buy More making a profit to save the day.

     The title "Chuck vs. the Zoom" comes from Morgan's nicknaming of his Intersect moment as a zoom, rather than a flash, as Chuck always calls it. This is kind of the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak. Chuck is already feeling powerless and useless. He grows jealous of Morgan taking the lead in their missions, despite his attempts to not let those negative feelings show. He feels like he can no longer save the day. Chuck's life as a spy begins with the Intersect, and he places a lot of importance on the computer that resides in his brain. Except, it no longer does. Morgan makes it his own, and that makes Chuck sad.

     Luckily, Chuck is much more than just the Intersect by this point. Four seasons in, he is a self-made man and spy. Even without the computer, he proves invaluable, saving the day as the team goes after Roger Bale (Craig Kilborn, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn), a sleazy investment banker. Chuck also has wife Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) to build him up, as she is his wife for many more reasons than because he has a computer in his head for awhile.

     At the end of "Chuck vs. the Zoom," as Chuck wonders about his place on the team, Sarah says that he's their leader. When this becomes so is unclear, although it is part of a gradual process. When Chuck begins, Chuck defers to Sarah and Casey (Adam Baldwin) on everything. However, he steps outside of the rules when he thinks he knows better, and his presence demands theirs, as they are tasked with protecting them. Somewhere along the way, mostly beginning after Chuck gets the Intersect 2.0, and becomes more useful in the field, Chuck takes a more assertive role. With the founding of Carmichael Industries, and the departure of General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) and government mandate, his position as the captain is solidified. However, if one has not thought about this subtle shift in power, one may be surprised at Chuck being the team leader. That is, until one takes a moment to consider the character's growth over the series run.

     Where is Beckman? She leaves the Intersect glasses after Decker suppresses the computer in Chuck, hoping Chuck will fix himself, though Morgan is the one that ultimately puts the glasses on. This means that while Beckman may no longer be their boss, she arranges for their next professional stage. So why isn't she there to help them along? Why isn't she a mole for them inside the government? More importantly, why is her face no longer in the theme song, having finally been promoted to main character for season four? It is extremely unlikely that the last has been seen of Beckman, but her absence is notable, and has this fan wondering heavily where she is and what she is up to.

     There are also a number of questions raised in this episode. Why is Chuck still on Decker's radar? What's the end game? Why does Decker want to destroy a tech geek who has his powers taken away?

     Morgan is adjusting well to being more integral to the team. His behavior is reminiscent of early Chuck, though as the comic relief, Morgan will probably never grow into the super spy that Chuck has become. Morgan's dance with Sarah is nothing short of hilarious, seeing him in shoes that should be filled by Chuck. Morgan even identifies himself as Michael Carmichael, a play off of Chuck's spy name, Charles Carmichael. That's OK, because it's fun to have a bumbling guy adjusting to skills he doesn't know how to use again. It brings a freshness to the series, and any focus on the comically brilliant Gomez is more than welcome.

     Casey is probably the least satisfied with their new arrangement. This is because Casey has a very strong moral compass, and working for the government, he trusts that, at the end of the day, what he is doing is right. Even when the series takes it a little far and brings him to the defense of Rush Limbaugh. Now they have to work for private citizens who hire them, such as the guy (Ethan Phillips, Star Trek: Voyager) who wants them to go after Roger Bale, who Casey takes an instant, strong dislike to. This is a problem, because if Casey offends potential clients, Carmichael Industries will have a hard time attracting new business.

     It appears that Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) is now officially on the spy team, too. She is only briefly in "Chuck vs. the Zoom," but she is shown in Castle, and the one scene she does have shows her consulting on secret spy technology, specifically, the Intersect glasses, with Chuck. Ellie is coming around to spying being a family business, but it's still surprising to see her work so willingly, without trying to talk Chuck out of his dangerous assignments. Hopefully, it will stop being strange soon, and she can become even more involved.

     It is both ironic and fitting that the Buy More will hold the key to Chuck's spy career. Lingering, sometimes on the edge, during the entire series, the electronic super store will now provide all of the funding Carmichael Industries gets to try to make a go of things. Of course, Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) threaten the business, up to their usual tricks. And with manager Morgan frequently out of the country and working in Castle, there is no one to keep them in line. Might this be a job for Beckman? Or maybe Morgan just needs to promote Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence). He runs things pretty well in the earlier seasons.


     Do not miss Chuck, airing Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC for a mere twelve more episodes.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

     Click here to read every Chuck review I've ever written.

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Article first published as TV Review: Chuck - "Chuck vs. the Zoom" on Blogcritics.

Borgen finds "Decency in the Middle"

     The Danish series Borgen, or Government, as they are subtitling it internationally, begins with "Decency in the Middle." Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knundsen, Proof, Juletestamentet) is forced to take back her support in the upcoming election from Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind, 4-stjerners middag, Anna Pihl) of the Labour Party after he makes a racist statement. Birgitte's "spin-doctor," Kasper Juul (Johan Philip Asbæk, R, Worlds Apart) finds dirt on the incumbent, the Liberal Party's Lars Hesselboe (Søren Spanning, Park Road, At the Faber), but Birgitte refuses to use it. So Kasper leaks the info to Laugesen, who doesn't share Birgitte's scruples. Thus, the two major party leaders end up squabbling publicly, opening the door for Birgitte, who after making an impassioned, heartfelt speech, secures her party's control of the government. And that's just episode one! 

     Borgen actually translates as "The Castle," a nickname for Christiansborg Palace, where Denmark's Parliament conducts there business in Copenhagen. Perhaps the producers thought that "Government" would have a broader appeal, but at least in the United States, "The Castle" would have worked just as well. Americans understand how many politicians see themselves as above the people, and rule from their high seat in the center of power. Thus, the nickname would work on many levels here, too.

     Borgen's portrayal of Denmark's political system has much in common with the U.S.'s, making the series immediately and easily accessible for a stateside audience. Well, other than some Americans being lazy about subtitles, necessary for the mostly Danish dialogue, which one should be able to look past, especially for a remarkable, thrilling drama such as this one. While the Danish system has more parties than the U.S., and the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people there, the fighting between the opposing sides, not to mention the dirty plays of politics, is inherently familiar. In fact, the Danish system seems superior in some ways in "Decency in the Middle" because quite a few Americans wish that the Republicans and Democrats, who constantly argue like children, would self-destruct, making way for a centrist to step up.

     Birgitte Nyborg is a heroic figure. Standing by principal, even when she worries that her party will not appreciate it, she really cares about the average citizen. It is obvious she is into politics for all of the right reasons, wanting to help people, rather than just further her own image and popularity. The press materials for Borgen state that this series is partially about how power can change a person, so it's not certain that Nyborg will stay this idealistic leader. But she's off to a good start, refusing to get down in the muck, and fire off personal attacks. Plus, Borgen gets many comparisons to The West Wing, whose president also strayed from time to time, but always stepped up in the end, so hope is not lost.

     Nyborg seems so strong and brave that viewers will have little worry about whether she can triumph over a very messy political battle. Instead, concern turns towards how her family will adjust. Husband Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær, Aftermath, Sommer) is incredibly supportive and proud of Birgitte, and they have a warm, loving, teasing relationship. However, they also have a deal that they take turns with their careers, and Birgitte's turn is about up. She breaks the news to Philip that she is wanted for the Prime Minister position at the end of "Decency in the Middle," so it's not yet been shown if he will agree to stand aside any longer. After all, he's home taking care of their two children. Instinct says that he will recognize this high opportunity and let Birgitte have a little longer outside of the home, but marriage is complicated. Only those in it truly know how it works, and that's only as it applies to them. So until episode two airs, viewers may not predict how this will turn out.

     Kasper is an intriguing and familiar character. He is unconcerned with the ideals that Birgitte spouts, but instead, relishes the game of politics. He works for her, so he supports her. But he is also willing to leak damaging information to another party, which benefits Birgitte, even when she is against the maneuver. He may be loyal, but that doesn't mean he listens. He is the main reason Birgitte ends up where she is at the end of "Decency in the Middle," but she fires him instead of thanking him. Might she have a change of heart later? He is, after all, a main character. And whatever his faults, he is shrewd and smart, two qualities Birgitte needs in her office to succeed now that she will have real power. She may not like Kapser, but she needs him.

     Kasper also has his own share of personal drama to contend with. He used to be involved with a journalist, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Julie), who finds herself a rising star as Borgen begins. But she is also having a fling with Hesselboe's right hand man, a serious conflict of interest. Worse, the guy is married, and has a heart attack in their love nest. Katrine turns to Kasper to clean up the mess, which makes sense, given his talents in the political arena. This problem doesn't seem too foreign to what he does on a daily basis. But it also implicates him in scandal, should Katrine's relationship ever be revealed. This could threaten Birgitte's reputation by association, so let's hope this won't be an issue.

     Will Katrine be able to recover from her grief? She misses work, much to the dismay of her boss. Luckily for her, he's desperate enough to give her a second chance, even allowing her to host a big debate. But then she breaks down again backstage following the event, in front of her superior. She needs to pull it together, and hope her emotions don't raise suspicion, or she won't be long in her career.

     The entire scandal surrounding Laugesen is complicated, too. Borgen doesn't go for the easy, two-dimensional play. Instead, viewers see that he is forced to charge expensive items because his crazy wife, Lisbeth (Ida Dwinger, Sommer, Reconstruction), is making a huge scene. The only card he happens to have with him is one whose account is owned by the government. He has every intention of repaying the funds, and making sure the taxpayers don't foot the bill. Yet, because of Katrine's indiscretion, Kasper finds only the credit card receipt, not the truth. One will feel sorry for the political leader, as without knowing all of his body of work, all that is shown in "Decency in the Middle" is him going down for something that he shouldn't be entirely blamed for.

     If you don't like subtitles, NBC is planning a remake of Borgen soon. But considering this original is produced by the same people who created the original, Danish version of The Killing, a very successful series, one might want to sample the real thing before it is changed for "American taste." Trust me; it needs no change. The acting is already brilliant and the writing is smart.


     Borgen's first season is ten episodes long, and it is currently running a second season overseas. This means there is much more intrigue to come, and one shouldn't miss out on it. Borgen airs Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. PT, on Link TV. The episodes are also available at http://LinkTV.org/Borgen for up to two weeks after air date, for those that do not get Link TV.

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Article first published as TV Review: Borgen - "Decency in the Middle" on Blogcritics.

The Vampire Diaries haunted by "Ghost World"

     This week's entry of the CW's The Vampire Diaries is called "Ghost World." Damon (Ian Somerhalder) is surprised to be attacked by Mason Lockwood (Taylor Kinney), whom he killed. Then other ghosts begin showing up. Elena (Nina Dobrev) is pleased to see Lexi (Arielle Kebbel), who agrees to help Elena try to get through to Stefan (Paul Wesley). Stefan is still out of touch with his humanity, thanks to Klaus (Joseph Morgan). The deceased tomb vampires terrorize the town again. Bonnie (Kat Graham) is jealous of Jeremy's (Steven R. McQueen) closeness to his dead ex, Anna (Malese Jow). Luckily, Bonnie's grandmother, Sheila (Jasmine Guy), returns to help her send the ghosts, including the tomb vampires, Mason, Lexi, and Anna, back to the other side.

     "Ghost World" is thrilling because a number of characters fans think they may never seen again pop back up. Anna has been around for a handful of episodes now, but seeing Lexi, Mason, Sheila, and others is a fun diversion. The notable absence from all of this crazy is Jenna (Sara Canning). Not that there isn't enough going on already, but it would be nice if she appeared, considering how Elena, Jeremy, and Alaric (Matthew Davis) are still struggling to cope with her loss.

     Mason is the most surprising of the ghosts who invade Mystic Falls. When last seen, Mason is kind of a bad guy. But death changes him, making him realize what is really important in life. This time, Mason's biggest concern is helping his nephew, Tyler (Michael Trevino), who is Klaus's new hybrid vampire / werewolf. As such, Mason is able to put aside his differences with Damon, as he realizes that Damon is his best shot at taking out Klaus, thus freeing Tyler from very negative influence.

     Damon continues to struggle with whether he can be good or not. With Stefan going evil, there is a vacuum of positive vampire influence in town. Damon resists filling that gap, and yet, cannot help doing so to some extent. He's not warm and cuddly, barely apologizing to Mason for killing him, and only because he is forced to. But his friendship with Alaric, well on the way to a true bromance, feels more real, even if Damon won't verbally express his feelings. And, of course, he has true affection for Elena, which motivates him into helping her whenever possible.

     When Stefan returns to his right mind, will Damon go back to being bad? It seems like one of the Salvatore brothers must be somewhat ornery, because, despite their brotherly love, they can't stand being on the same page too often. Or, at least, Damon can't. He may be changed significantly by his time being the good brother, which he has been in the past, but this is unlikely to cause a permanent light to grow in Damon's soul. He struggles with both sides of his personality, and neither will ever win completely.

     Stefan was bad long before The Vampire Diaries begins, but within the relatively short span of a television series, he may not be able to get back to as truly good as he appears in the first couple of seasons. He kills too many people and acts like such a jerk to Elena, it's a wonder that she can maintain her love for him, under the circumstances. Sure, she realizes intellectually that Stefan isn't completely responsible for his actions. But he isn't completely innocent, either. Elena' determination to save Stefan's soul is likely to rob her of many of her feelings for the guy, even if she is convinced it isn't right to stop working to save him.

     Jeremy's love triangle with Anna and Bonnie is equally complicated. Bonnie has every right to be jealous that her boyfriend is spending romantic time with his ex. Yet, it's hard to blame Jeremy in "Ghost World" because of the circumstances. After all, he is still in love with Anna when she dies. How does one choose between a woman with whom his relationship is never resolved, and the one he is with now? Under normal circumstances, Jeremy's actions would be inexcusable. With such a complex set of happenings, though, it's hard to find fault with Jeremy as he sorts through the dilemma as best he can.

     That does not mean that Bonnie does not have a point when she gets angry at Jeremy. She is right when she says that Matt (Zach Roerig) lets go of his sister quicker than Jeremy can dismiss Anna. That means there is something wrong between Bonnie and Jeremy. Jeremy should have gotten over Anna by now, and be moving on. Or else he should not be with Bonnie. This calls into question whether Bonnie is some sort of rebound for Jeremy, rather than true love. If Jeremy is into Bonnie as much as she is into him, he wouldn't let anyone stand in their way, even someone from his past.

     Though Anna steals the necklace that can send the ghosts home in "Ghost World," she isn't a bad guy. Her actions are because she doesn't want to lose Jeremy again. Considering that their breakup is against both of their wishes, a second chance is something they deserve. But they cannot have it. Anna realizes this, after innocent townspeople are killed by the tomb vampires, and hands the jewelry back over to Bonnie. She is a good girl, and will not let others die just so she can be happy. It makes her return to the other side almost as tragic as the first time, albeit more noble.

     Bonnie is becoming downright scary in The Vampire Diaries. Her magical abilities raise Jeremy from the dead and allow ghosts to come through to this world. Considering her emotional reactions, Bonnie doesn't seem stable enough to be trusted with such awesome power. One who can command elements with that much far-reaching consequence should be wise, not a young girl who can't make up her mind about important matters. Sheila is kind to her granddaughter when helping clean up the mess, but maybe she should be a little more stern. Bonnie needs to stop messing with things she doesn't fully understand, at least until she gets a better head on her shoulders.

     During the town crisis in "Ghost World," Caroline (Candice Accola) saves Carol Lockwood (Susan Walters) from the tomb vampires. Will this mean a whole new relationship for Caroline and her boyfriend's mother? Carol is getting over Caroline's vampire status, after seeing that Tyler is also a supernatural being. But there isn't a lot of affection between the two women. Watching Caroline risk her life to save Carol's should help Carol change her tune. Even if it isn't totally believable that Caroline can take on a bunch of older, more powerful vamps on her own and triumph for very long.


     Watch The Vampire Diaries Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

     Click here to read every review of The Vampire Diaries I've ever written.

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Article first published as TV Review: The Vampire Diaries - "Ghost World" on Blogcritics.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Put Me In, Coach" to Grey's Anatomy

     On this week's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, new chief Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) tries to whip the staff into shape to play in a softball game against another hospital. He is assisted by Henry (Scott Foley), whom he temporarily hires at the hospital just to help out with the game. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Meredith's (Ellen Pompeo) simmering hostility finally erupts on the field, while Cristina (Sandra Oh) finds a new calmness in being a team player. Also, Callie (Sara Ramirez) works to save a mangled hand, Derek (Patrick Dempsey) tries experimental brain surgery, and Alex (Justin Chambers) nags officials to get Meredith and Derek's adoption process moving along.

     There is a lot going on in "Put Me In, Coach," and the sharing of plot by so many characters actually makes this a very strong episode. While not a single one person gets a ton of screen time, many move along their ongoing arcs, and get a little bit of focus. More so than could even fit in an opening summary paragraph. This is a great example of how to use an ensemble effectively, balancing many stories. Plus, it's fun to see everyone come together on the softball field, despite the drama going on in their lives.

     Speaking of the game, how come virtually all of the players were the main characters, with the entire central cast participating? Seattle Grace Mercy West is a huge hospital, and Hunt could only recruit his friends? Then again, one does tend to do things with one's friends, and considering how close all of the main characters are — as a group — it does sort of make sense that they would all help Hunt out. Even Henry, who thankfully feels like more a part of the group than ever before, since he's not a doctor. But no one with any athletic skills works in the hospital and has a desire to help out their place of employment?

     Cristina is not generally a team player. She has experienced much growth over the last year or so, but still, deferring to others is not her natural inclination. Yet, in "Put Me In, Coach," Cristina lets April (Sarah Drew) do a surgery. This impresses Teddy (Kim Raver) enough to finally get off Cristina's back and declare her done with her education. Yes, Cristina looks and acts highly professional in the operating room. Her skills have never been in doubt. But her temperament is finally evening out with maturity. She's not perfect, but who is? Cristina hasn't lost her edge, exactly, but honed it better.

     Alex also struggles with playing well with others on Grey's Anatomy. At the end of last season, this costs him a lot personally, especially pertaining to his friendship with Meredith. This week, Alex works very hard to help out Meredith get her adopted child back, still trying to make up for his colossal mistake. It's heartwarming to see him go to so much effort, though not surprising. Alex may do stupid things, but he does care. His actions in "Put Me In, Coach," although never revealed to the hopeful parents, ingratiate him with viewers even more.

     April needs to find her place in the group. Hunt accuses her of hiding behind paperwork, and others echo the sentiment. She is very good at the administrative aspects of being Chief Resident. Unfortunately, whether from fear or distraction, April is letting the surgical focus of her career slip. April has never been an easy one to pin down, but has become slowly likeable. Thus, here's hoping that the still-floundering woman will finally get some peace and direction soon. Understanding the problem is a good start.

     Meredith and Bailey's feud is brewing, and has been ever since Meredith gets Derek's study canned. It's interesting just how hostile Bailey has become towards the other woman. Is this because Meredith is a former student of Bailey's, and Bailey feels responsible for how Meredith turns out? Is it because Meredith's actions hurt Webber (James Pickens Jr.), a close friend of Bailey's, professionally, even if Webber has forgiven Meredith, and is satisfied with the outcome? Whatever the reason, Webber has it right by forcing the two to work together on his trial. They need to let off some steam, and Bailey needs to appreciate just how great a doctor Meredith is again. Their new partnership should be highly entertaining, as well as a catharsis.

     Webber is adjusting quite well to being just another surgeon on staff. He steps up as a leader when he needs to, such as to fix Bailey and Meredith's fight. But he also doesn't step on Hunt's toes. Grey's Anatomy experiments with a non-Chief Webber before, but this season's more permanent demotion is the best handled instance up to this point.

     Owen is making a fine replacement. When Webber previously considers stepping down, the attendings squabble, and none emerge as a real leader. Derek also never feels right in the job, during his temporary tenure. But Owen is different. He's fair. He is nice to everyone, and doesn't play favorites, or form preferences that influence him. He has near universal respect, and people follow him without complaint. As such, he makes for a good leader, and may even end up being a better chief than Webber, as sacrilegious as it feels to write that statement.

     Sloan (Eric Dane) has a new girlfriend, which sparks significant jealousy in Lexie (Chyler Leigh), much to Avery's (Jesse Williams) dismay. Lexie does not seem serious with Avery when they begin their sexual relationship. Yet, over time, Avery gets very serious about her, and it's almost as if Lexie will grow to feel the same. But she hasn't, and it's very clear in "Put Me In, Coach" that she still carries a torch for her former beau. Which is a little odd, since Mark Sloan makes many overtures to win her back, and she shoots him down repeatedly. What she is doing to both Avery and Mark isn't fair. But that doesn't mean many fans won't want Lexie and Mark to work things out, myself among them. Though that happiness will now be tempered with sorrow for Avery when it ends.

     With all of the other stories going on, one can be forgiven for overlooking any actual medical work that happens in Grey's Anatomy. "Put Me In, Coach" showcases two brilliant surgeons at the top of their games, though, so it must be paid attention to. Both Callie and Derek rise far above the already high expectations placed on them by themselves and their peers in this installment. Callie fixes a hand that most surgeons could not fix because she respects artistry so much, and Derek goes for removing a tumor that other neurosurgeons will only partially treat by doing something never done before. Sometimes, it's easy to forget what geniuses some of the main characters are. But not this week.


     Grey's Anatomy also stars Jessica Capshaw. Watch it Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Article first published as TV Review: Grey's Anatomy - "Put Me In, Coach" on Blogcritics.

Things looking Grimm

     Last night, NBC's Grimm premiered. In "Pilot," Detective Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli, Priveleged) begins seeing people morph into strange creatures. His dying Aunt Marie (Kate Burton, Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order), who raised him, warns that he is the next in a long line of Grimms, tasked with hunting down the supernatural. Since she will be gone soon, he is inheriting her powers. This comes in handy, as Nick is soon investigating a serial killer who goes after girls in red hoodies. Luckily, he meets Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, My Name is Earl, Prison Break), a reformed big bad wolf, who reluctantly tells him about the supernatural world, and helps him track down the killer, a postman (Tim Bagley, Monk, Web Therapy), who happens to be another Big Bad Wolf with a Red Riding Hood complex.

     Basically, Grimm is a crime procedural with a heavy supernatural twist. This makes it hard to figure out, exactly. With David Greenwalt, a creative force for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel on board, Grimm could start off with cases of the week, and grow into something truly special. Or it could continue this format for years to come and grow boring. Or it could pull off the rare feat of a procedural, making enough character development merge with whatever the crime is, and end up being successful because of the people in the series being extremely interesting. A cynic would think the middle choice is most likely, and looking at the fare on television, that is probably true. However, with a wonderful cast and cool mythology, Grimm certainly has the chance to be neat if the network lets it, and the writers and producers are so inclined.

     Poor Burton takes on another character that won't be long for the series. She does a similar thing in the first season of Grey's Anatomy, setting up the central character, before bowing out and letting them stand on their own. She surely won't be alive by season one's end, at the latest. It's too bad, because she makes Marie creepy and mysterious, loving and dangerous. It's a really complicated character, and Burton is up to the task. Thank goodness, even though the part may be temporary, an actress with skill is cast.

     How long will Nick stay with Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch, Quarterlife, Lonelygirl15)? She is someone that can go a number of ways, thus making her character a good one to put in the mix. Nick and Juliette are living together, and he wants to propose to her. But as Nick's Grimm destiny manifests, Marie warns him to dump Juliette, as being the spouse of a Grimm is far too dangerous. So in Grimm, Juliette, who is currently a main character, will have to go one of two ways. Either Nick is done with her, after much agonizing, and likely some serious threat to her life, which may or may not result in her death, or she bucks up and becomes a talented hunter alongside him. The latter option is the more unexpected one, and the more people helping Nick, the better his mission will go. That would be a step towards Buffy, and a sign that the series is on the right track. But maybe she'll just die, which would be boring.

     Nick and Eddie's partnership, while not at all original, has pretty good chemistry. Like so many other team ups that both characters are not equally as enthused about at first (see: White Collar, Bones, Castle, etc.), they will become fast friends very soon. Which is fine, because both have back stories that will serve to enhance the show's mysteries. Neither performer has had real starring, meaty roles before, and it's time to give them the chance, especially Mitchell, who has shone is recurring roles on popular series. In "Pilot," they seem capable. They relationship will be the heart of the series.

     On the other side of things, in what will surely clash with Nick's new career, he already has a partner in Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby, Lincoln Heights). Hank knows nothing about Nick's new abilities, but does seem to notice that Nick is now getting "instincts," which lead them to the bad guys. So Nick keeping the two sides of himself a secret is out. Hank's direction is nearly the same as Juliette's, though he probably won't just get reassigned and disappear. Either he becomes a valued ally, or he dies. Again, if the show is going for a strong ensemble with some serious serial staying power, he needs to step up. It would be a shame if Nick loses all of his connection to the human world, so minimally, either Juliette or Hank should stick. Both would be preferable.

     Lastly, Nick's boss, Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz, Caprica, Warehouse 13) is working with some of the creatures that Nick must hunt. Is he a baddie, too? What are his motives? First glance makes him see evil, but that is not necessarily the case. It's nice to see the great Roiz isn't regulated to toothless, bit part boss, but is instead an integral part of the larger story. The questions I have about Renard top all others to date, so he really makes Grimm worth looking forward to.

     Watch Grimm Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The series also stars Reggie Lee (No Ordinary Family, Prison Break).

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Friday, October 28, 2011

South Park has a "Broadway Bro Down"


     In this week's episode of Comedy Central's South Park, "Broadway Bro Down," Randy (Trey Parker) discovers that Broadway shows have subliminal messages that cause women to want to give their men blow jobs. Thus, he begins taking Sharon (April Stewart) to many of these performances. Annoyed at the inconvenience, he begins writing his own show, with the subtext more overt. This angers Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Elton John, all legendary Broadway giants, who come to South Park to challenge Randy. In the end, they all become friends, and help Randy with his show.

     Going after Broadway is timely and predictable, considering that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, have a Tony-award winning show, Book of Mormon, on the Great White Way right now. This does not detract from the enjoyment, of course, as obviously the duo have some serious skill in addressing the musical world. Robert Lopez, who worked with the boys on Book of Mormon, guest co-wrote this episode, too. But the guys don't shove their own thing down viewers' faces. In fact, other than an extremely brief advertisement for Book of Mormon just before the opening credits, their show is absent from reference in the episode.

     Plenty of other shows get the focus, most notable Wicked. The songs portrayed in the South Park version of Wicked are similar to those in the actual musical, but have some different lyrics, including the word "blowjob" inserted in many places. The same thing happens when other Broadway shows are glimpsed. Are the guys onto something? Does Broadway really make girls blowjob-crazy, despite the notable absence in reality of the subtext glimpsed in "Broadway Bro Down?" Well, that depends, of course. If the woman a man takes really likes the man and the show, the reward may be offered. But that's likely more a show of gratitude and affection, rather than anything in the actual material.

     The portrayal of the Broadway legends as beer drinking, "normal," manly men is the oddest part of "Broadway Bro Down." After all, these people have well-known personalities that do not match at all their South Park versions. But if they even see this episode, a possible, but far from guaranteed, occurrence, it probably won't be an issue. This is a well known recurring gag from the series, South Park always wanting to be unpredictable and force new perspectives. Thus, it comes across as light-hearted, funny, and not mean-spirited at all.

     Things do take a turn for the dark when Randy's daughter, Shelley (also Stewart) goes on a date to see Wicked with a vegan boy, whose last name happens to be Feegan, whom she has bonded with. Randy panics, and must tell Sharon the secret of Broadway, as they rush to stop their young daughter from giving oral sex. This is a bit disturbing, made even more so when Randy meets an older gentleman and his very young granddaughter in the audience. Thankfully, South Park does not actually address kids giving hummers, but instead, with a dig at the failure of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, disrupts the show. Shelley's guy's death is unfortunate, as it takes away possible character development, but not out of the realm for how South Park ties up loose ends.

     Watch South Park Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blu-ray Review: The Hour

     BBC's The Hour is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. The two-disc set contains all six episodes of the first series, which also recently aired in the States on BBC America. A second series has been commissioned, but this DVD does not say "Complete First Series" or anything to that effect on the packaging.

     It's 1956 when The Hour begins, and throughout series one, the story unfolds against the backdrop of the Suez Crisis. Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw, Criminal Justice, Layer Cake) and Bel Rowley (Romola Garai, The Crimson Petal and the White) are growing more and more frustrated with their jobs working on inane newsreels for BBC. A glimmer of hope shines, as they interview for Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser, Primeval), who is putting together a more serious news program called The Hour. Bel is awarded the producer role, and Freddie is forced to settle, after much consideration, with riding the Home Affairs desk. But a chance encounter with an old friend (Vanessa Kirby, Love/Loss) draws Freddie into a much bigger story. Not to mention the whole team will soon become entangled in the Suez story.

     It's hard not to compare The Hour to Mad Men, as many have done, because of the time period. Even though The Hour takes place in 1956, it feels more like the 1960s, and some mistakes, such as 1960s telephones, contribute to that. Yet, overall, with the authentic period stage, and the manner of the performers, the effect is a good one. The tone is slower and darker than Mad Men, and the action more plot-driven than character-driven, so it's certainly not a copy. As the hours unfold, the characters, a bit thin at first, become much better defined. As they get swept up in events, they begin to show their true colors. So it does start to resemble Mad Men slightly more, but it's still its own beast, despite the surface similarities.

     Freddie is drawn into a conspiracy plot by his aforementioned friend. The first clue, involving an academic murdered by a mysterious man (Burn Gorman, Torchwood) whom the academic sought to kill is pretty interesting. But Freddie, the main character in solving the plot, is abrasive and stubborn, which make him a little hard to like. He almost passes up a job at The Hour just because he can't take the position he wants, in front of the camera. Never mind; he will get to keep working with Bel, whom he adores, and have the freedom to pursue the types of scoops he likes. Freddie is definitely his own worst enemy.

     Bel is a much better character, daresay, the best one in The Hour. She is kind and tough. It's a bit refreshing, though odd, that in 1956 Bel is treated just like any other professional, other than the fact that she isn't allowed to gather in the brandy room after lunch. The impression is quickly given that Bel can handle her job, and will prove herself without making unnecessary waves.

     Of course, this being a drama, Bel is also caught in a romantic triangle between Freddie and Hector (Dominic West, The Wire, 300). Yes, Bel has a boring banker boyfriend when The Hour begins, but only Freddie and Hector seem to actually engage her in a way that she likes.

     Hector Madden is the playful anchor hired for The Hour. Hector's first appearance on screen is loathsome in the way that he treats Bel, but once viewers realize he is simply messing with her, it's hard not to be won over. Plus he has absolutely the right look for the role. The thing about Hector is, as he grows likeable, both to viewers and Bel, he begins to cheat on his wife. His reasons are complicated, but when doing something so mean to someone, can he ever truly be considered a good man?

     Those three carry the series, but they aren't alone on screen. A smattering of colorful supporting characters raise the overall quality of the series several notched. In particular Anna Chancellor (MI-5), Joshua McGuire, and Lisa Greenwood stand out. Which is why it is nice they all get to speak in the extras. 
 
     The features on this set are sparse, but valuable. Two featurettes, comprising approximately half an hour, go into the design of the series. Specific characters are discussed, and what drives them. It's a look behind the scenes with the cast and producers that really explains just what they were trying to do. Overall, they succeed.

     The Blu-ray version of The Hour is presented in 1080i High Definition, with a 16:9 picture ratio. The audio is Stereo 2.0 LPCM. What this means is, although the series is set long ago, it looks crisp, clean, and new with a perfect picture. Heavy Blu-ray users and spoiled Americans may miss the surround sound aspect, reduced merely to a two speaker system for this series. Because this isn't a big action piece, that's fine, but one does wish the newsroom scenes were a little more complete, from an audio standpoint. Who wouldn't want to be surrounded by the busy work sounds, immersed in such an otherwise rich world?

     Buy The Hour on Blu-ray today.

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Article first published as Blu-ray Review: The Hour on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How I Met Your Mother meets "Noretta"

     This week's How I Met Your Mother, "Noretta," delves into the chemistry of relationships. James (Wayne Brady) comes to visit, and is grossed out by just how much his brother Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) girlfriend, Nora (Nazanin Boniadi), is like their mother, Loretta (Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under, American Horror Story). Kevin (Kal Penn) says this is perfectly normal, that people often end up with spouses who have similarities to their parents. Suddenly, the whole group begins seeing their significant other this way, and all sexual attraction dissipates.

     Is this true? Do people really end up with their parents? It's certainly possible. Kids imitate the adults in their lives. Watching their parents interact shapes much of who they are, and it's what they grow up thinking of as normal. So, of course, they would seek out a similar person, so that they can have a similar relationship as their parents do. Even if the parents get don't along, it's still what the child is used to, which is why there are negative repeating patterns as well as positive. Luckily, in this series, and in the case of these characters, those qualities are overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, this does not hold true for everyone, or society would be stagnant, but it's a valid trend, and one worth noting.

     The conceit is great because it gives How I Met Your Mother the chance to bring back some of the wonderful performers who play the characters' parents, and all in one episode. Besides Loretta, there is Ted's (Josh Radnor) mother, Virginia (Christine Rose, Heroes), Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) father, Mickey (Chris Elliott, Everybody Loves Raymond, Eagleheart), a glimpse of Kevin's unseen-before mom, and best of all, the return of Marshall's (Jason Segel) deceased father, Marvin (Bill Fagerbakke, SpongeBob SquarePants, Coach). Robin's (Cobie Smulders) father, Robin Sr. (Ray Wise, Reaper, 24) sits this one out, but that's OK, because he appears in last week's episode. Each of these actors are great in various roles, and having them together in one episode is a wealth of riches.

     It should be noted that Fagerbakke's return, the subject of much sorrow and grief last season, is done in a lightly comedic way. There are no tears or sadness accompanying it, and that's a good thing. Marshall has really begun to move on with his life, something he needs to do.

     Hilarity ensues when the characters have to play opposite their parents in sexual situations. The elder performers give it their all, fully committing to the scene, leaving their "children" to shrink back in disgust. It's equal parts disturbing and funny. Perhaps the best gag, though, comes as Marshall and Lily both get the complex at the same time. This leads to Marvin and Mickey on screen together, leaning in for a kiss. It's not sexy, but it will have viewers roaring with laughter. Thank goodness the camera stops before it happens! To show that would turn into pure silliness, and ruin the moment.

     Of course, because this is a point that hits home with a lot of people, it would be uncool of How I Met Your Mother to leave viewers hanging without resolution. Thus, it's left to Barney to say that his mom is the coolest person he knows, and that any similarity between Nora and Loretta is wonderful. This is a healthy, mature attitude to take. Nora and Loretta don't look alike, so there's no conflict there. All Barney is saying is, you love your parents; why not pick someone who shares their best qualities? And he's right. One doesn't want someone exactly like one's parents, but it's impossible to imitate their relationship without a partner who is looking for the same things as you. Thus, it works on a number of levels.

     In "Noretta," Barney is looking forward to finally having sex with Nora. He's been patient, something unusual for the character, but necessary for the growth he is experiencing, and the level of effort he puts into the relationship. Because How I Met Your Mother is a sitcom, zany events pop up to try to derail his sexy night with his girl. Barney pushes through, as he always does. What's unusual here is that Barney isn't just pushing through for the sex, as he has numerous times before. Instead, there are real emotions present, and care for Nora in his actions. Which is why, despite everything, it appears that things work out in the end for the couple. Love wins the day, and can overcome anything. A nice message leaving viewers feeling good.

     "Noretta" is significant because there is a real focus on where Ted stands in the group. The entire theme of How I Met Your Mother involves Ted finding his future children's mother. Yet, at this point in season seven, he is the only one currently single. Lily and Marshall have been together since well before the series begins. But with commitment-phobic Barney and Robin now getting serious with Nora and Kevin, respectively, it reminds Ted just how much he is failing in this mission. He may very well end up being the last one left alone. It's not his fault, it's just the way the characters have developed.

     It's true that Ted is not in the right place in his life to settle down for most of the series thus far. As much as he wants a partner, he isn't emotionally ready. He goes through a series of mistakes, has trouble finding himself, and ends up acting like a jerk many times. This isn't the right attitude to have when finding the woman of one's dreams. But now Ted is turning things around, and finally getting to the soul of who he is. He is satisfied professionally, and not desperate but open to love. It's in this state that he is ready to meet the mother, and hopefully he soon will. How I Met Your Mother will be running at least through the spring of 2013, but the mystery cannot be stretched out that long. It's time to end it.

     Kevin is still an enigma in terms of how he fits into the group. He's rapidly getting past the creepy stage, which starts because he is Robin's therapist when they meet. But he can't help that encounter, and he's moved past it. He is correct in his criticisms of the codependent group, but that also makes him more of an outsider. The central characters aren't likely to change their behavior, so he either needs to get with the program and join in, as Nora does to some degree, or move on, as so many others have. What points to the former possibility is that he does make effort, such as this week when he pretends to be a Weird Al (who cameos a 1980s version of himself) fan to make Ted happy. It's a generous, compassionate move that bodes well for Kevin. 

     How I Met Your Mother is back on the right track, so for fans who gave up on it during the rocky last couple of years, it's time to come back. Watch How I Met Your Mother Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Article first published as TV Review: How I Met Your Mother - "Noretta" on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2 Broke Girls "And the Disappearing Bed"

     Last night's episode of CBS's 2 Broke Girls, "And the Disappearing Bed," takes a side trip from the main mission of saving up for a cupcake business. Caroline (Beth Behrs) does make business cards, and encourages Max (Kat Dennings) to give one to Peach (Brooke Lyons). But Peach doesn't use their cupcakes. And Caroline grows weary of sleeping on the couch, so she invests in a do-it-yourself Murphy bed. So the savings pot is considerably smaller by episode's end. Luckily, Max won't be worrying about that when awkward, charged moments with Johnny (Nick Zano, Melrose Place, Cougar Town) have her in a tizzy.

     The opening of "And the Disappearing Bed" is extremely satisfying for anyone who has ever worked in the service industry. Max calls out a very cheap tipper, who responds nastily that he doesn't have to tip, causing his date to dump him. It is required to tip. Sure, not by law. But society has agreed that its OK to pay waiters and waitresses far below minimum wage, relying on tips to make up the difference. As such, it's completely unacceptable to withhold gratuity, as people in the service industry are often poor without benefits, struggling to make ends meet. If you cannot afford to tip a decent amount, do not go out to eat. And if you can afford to and don't, it ought to be illegal, because you are effectively stealing straight from your poor waiter's pockets.

     Caroline is a brilliant sales person. It's too bad she doesn't go personally to speak with Peach, or it's very likely they could have landed the catering gig. Caroline might assume Max possesses the same skills, or some version of them, but she just doesn't. True, Caroline does get a few seconds on the phone with Peach, but in person, Peach could not hang up on her. Losing this one job aside, the business cards will likely pay off. Caroline knows what she is doing with marketing, too. Thus, while the total money saved does go down this week on 2 Broke Girls, one might consider it an investment in the future of the company that will reward them over time.

     The bed, of course, it less necessary. But it's also an investment. After all, how effective is a grumpy Caroline, sleeping on a crappy couch, going to be at selling the business? Thus, it's logical for her to write it off as business expense, even if it's a personal item. The only question here is, how did the bed, which Caroline, who is used to sleeping on very expensive stuff, declares very comfortable, come so cheaply?

     "And the Disappearing Bed" is fun because it lets Max try her romantic side. Not that there is much of one to the girl, but Dennings really finds a way to make her charming, even as she is mumbling and stumbling. Johnny is a fairly good match, as he doesn't judge her, and keeps coming back, though one wishes he would give a little more back towards her. Still, any movement on this part of Max's life is welcome, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.

     Watch 2 Broke Girls Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Bones The Complete Sixth Season

     Now out on Blu-ray and DVD is Bones The Complete Sixth Season. Year six begins with "The Mastodon in the Room," in which the team comes back together, after many months apart, to help Cam (Tamara Taylor). The absence has made Brennan (Emily Deschanel) realize that she wants to be with Booth (David Boreanaz), but in the interim, he has moved on with Hannah (Katheryn Winnick). Similarly, Daisy (Carlo Gallo) tries to reconnect with a jilted Sweets (John Francis Daley). But back together again, they all understand they are strongest together, no matter what personal woes plague them.

     The sixth season of Bones is an excellent one, with many fun highlights. In "The Maggots in the Meathead," Brennan visits the Jersey Shore to interact with Guidos, a cultural group she is very interested in. "The Body and the Bounty" finds Professor Bunsen Jude, The Science Dude (David Alan Grier), coming to the Jeffersonian to shoot an episode of his popular series. "The Bikini in the Soup" is an amusing Valentine's Day case. Many pairs of dismembered feet wash to shore in "The Feet on the Beach." Also, Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) welcome a child.

     But season six isn't all fun and games. "The Bullet in the Brain" brings with it the assassination of longtime foe, the Gravedigger (Deirdre Lovejoy), and kicks off Booth's hunting down of the shooter, his former friend Jacob (Arnold Vosloo). Even worse, before Booth can stop Jacob, the bad guy kills beloved squintern Vincent Nigel Murray (Ryan Cartwright), a tragedy that hits the entire team pretty hard. In the aftermath, taking comfort in Booth's arms, Brennan ends up (SHOCKER!) pregnant with his baby, a fact that will surely lead to all new chemistry between the leads in season seven.

     Among the other milestones in The Complete Sixth Season, Bones presents a backdoor pilot in "The Finder," introducing a couple of characters who will be headlining their own spinoff later this year or early next. It's a decent episode with an interesting concept. Because Bones will be doing a reduced number of episodes to accommodate Deschanel's real-life pregnancy in season seven, several Bones characters will appear in episodes of The Finder, further tying the two together. As such, this is a very important episode, in the universe of the series.

     Bones belongs on Blu-ray. With its special effects and detailed settings, HD is the best way to enjoy the series. Bones The Complete Sixth Season's Blu-ray release is in 1.78:1 widescreen high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Which means things look and sound crystal clear. I'm supposed to talk about just how good the picture quality is with any Blu-ray release, but to be honest, if you've seen one recent television show on Blu-ray, you've know exactly what this looks like. That isn't the point, though. Why would you want to watch Bones in anything but the best quality available?

     Extras are a little sparse, but the ones included are chosen well. Two episodes, "The Bikini in the Soup" and "The Daredevil in the Mold," are extended slightly. Audio commentaries are available on two other installments, "The Doctor in the Photo" and "The Blackout in the Blizzard," both heavily emotional entries for the character of Brennan. Additionally, "The Blackout in the Blizzard" has an eight plus minute behind the scenes look at the making of the hour, as the actors talk about doing a bottle episode, and the great elevator set.

     There is a twelve minute featurette on the visual effects of Bones, which will open fans' eyes to just how much goes into the show. After all, it is filmed in Los Angeles, but familiar Washington D.C. landmarks frequently appear in exterior backgrounds. On top of that, the special delves into adding sky and extras in "The Maggots in the Meathead," creating an underwater experience for "The Finder," and making a body explode in a visually stunning way. This will make you appreciate just how much technology and effort goes into each and every episode of the series.

     Plus, there's a four and a half minute gag reel. Those are always fun. And the pilot of AMC's remake of The Killing is included, presumably to entice customers to purchase that series on Blu-ray or DVD as well. If you haven't seen The Killing, it's great, and you really should check it out. Though it is a completely different series than Bones, so not sure about the wisdom of the pairing.

     Buy Bones: The Complete Sixth Season today, and don't miss the Season Seven premiere on November 3rd!

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Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Bones - The Complete Sixth Season on Blogcritics.