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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cougar Town finally goes to Napa

ABC's Cougar Town ended its third and final season on the alphabet network last night, before it moves to TBS next year. The full hour episode, entitled "My Life; Your World," felt nothing like a series finale, so it's a good thing that it will not serve as such. Instead, what is presented is a very transitional episode, setting up what next season might be like.

Central to "My Life; Your World" is the marriage of Jules (Courteney Cox) and Grayson (Josh Hopkins). Though planned for four months from now, Grayson suggests eloping after growing frustrated that the rest of the gang is always around. Unfortunately, Jules doesn't understand that he means he wants only the two of them to be present, and she invites the rest of the Cul de Sac Crew to travel to Napa (where else would wine lovers go?) with them! Plans fall apart even further when Jules cannot get Grayson's daughter to join them, and so they decide to wait until they go home to get hitched.

Strangely, TVLine.com's Michael Ausiello seems to be a mute bartender in Napa. For goodness sakes, where are the man's lines?

This disagreement between Jules and Grayson, over privacy is one that seems like a huge stumbling block. Grayson starts out as a character that is not part of the pack. Even after he begins hanging out with the others, he separates from time to time. But lately, he is always with the gang. Does his reaction, which manifests itself in some pretty angry outbursts, stem from a real desire to be alone sometimes, or is he just getting cold feet?

Hopefully, it's mostly the latter, since Jules' friends will not be going anywhere. And this does seem to be the case when Grayson not only gets over his hangup, but proposes to Ellie (Christa Miller), Andy (Ian Gomez), and Bobby (Brian Van Holt), too. If Grayson had not been able to come to terms with this, this would have been a major deal breaker. After all, if the group did not spend every waking moment together, what would the show be about?

Also, before Jules can admit she's got a problem, too, which is eventually shoved under the rug, making Grayson be the one that adapts, totally in character, there is a great homage to Groundhog Day.  Jules has never seen the movie. She makes her friends explain it to her, and it still confused. But as they make her live it until she admits that she's wrong, the hilarity ensues. Great use of a classic film!

The actual nuptials end up being really sweet, as Lynn (Nicole Sullivan) suggests that they be spontaneous, which is exactly what they do. While the couple cannot get permission to marry on the beach, Jules' dream, they stage a guerrilla wedding there anyway. As the cops (including one played by series creator Bill Lawrence) close in, they quickly become a moving wedding. It's a funny scene that really fits the tone of the series, both ridiculous and heart warming. Especially when Chick (Ken Jenkins) brings along his horse to keep him from crying.

Of course, there are other plots in "My Life; Your World," too. Travis (Dan Byrd) turns 21. This is celebrated in Napa by the gang pulling him out of bed and shoving a glass of wine into his hands. His resulting claim to not really care for the vino provides the appropriate shocked reaction from Jules. But that doesn't take away from how satisfying it is to finally see Travis drinking with the others.

As the kid on the show, he has always been a little bit outside of the group. In recent episodes, this has started to change, with less scenes of Travis at college, and more of him being included. Especially cool is his recent friendship with Ellie. The wine is the perfect initiation ceremony to move into the gang fully. And the terrible singing of happy birthday seems more realistic than most shows do.

Andy gets a father-son moment in the first half of the episode. With the joy of Penny Can having been sapped away when Travis points out how silly it's gotten, with all of the additional rules, Andy and Bobby mourn. However, Travis is able to boost their spirits by helping them introduce Stan (Sawyer Ever) to the game. The sight of Andy as a loving, devoted father is precious, and it's sort of a passing of the torch from Travis to Stan as the token kid, now that Travis has joined the adult world.

Is it a little odd that Travis might want to join his mother's circle of friends? Yes and no. Yes, because he's still in college, and they're all much older, and being too chummy with one's mom is a little creepy. No, because Jules has the coolest friends, which includes Travis' dad, whose father-son relationship is not at all creepy. But most of all, it works because of Travis' attraction to Laurie (Busy Philipps).

Ever since the start of Cougar Town, there has been a chemistry between Travis and Laurie. While Laurie is definitely the youngest one of the adults, it didn't work at first, when Travis is still a teenager, because of the age difference. By "My Life; Your World," it begins to feel a lot more natural. Travis makes a play for her, getting smashed, naked, and declaring his love, in front of the entire gang and Laurie's boyfriend, no less.

Laurie doesn't go for Travis yet, but the seed is planted. At the wedding on the beach, she looks at him, and there is definitely something between them, even stronger than before. She is surely actually seeing him as boyfriend material now. Will it work out between them? Who knows? But it will be very surprising if they do not become a couple sometime in season four.

The final plot involves Ellie falling for a hotel concierge named Daniel (David Arquette) who will do anything for her, which eventually lands him in jail. This entire subplot feels wrong and strange. Watching how not cool this all is with Andy, one keeps waiting for the inevitable moment where Ellie realizes she has hurt her husband and apologizes. It never comes. In the tag at the end of the episode, she is still rubbing his face into it. Not even Ellie is this cruel, and so the story falls flat. But it is the only really weak spot in the entire hour, so it can be overlooked.

Cougar Town will pack its bags and move to TBS soon. Make sure to watch for details about when it will come back! My recommended way to do this is to follow Bill Lawrence on twitter @VDOOZER.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to buy DVDs and streaming episodes of Cougar Town. Read every Cougar Town review I've ever written! Article first published as Cougar Town finally goes to Napa on TheTVKing.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Investigate Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray

Few series are as popular as the BBC's Sherlock, especially considering the impact that it has had internationally, including in the United States, where it just finished a run on PBS. From Doctor Who scribes Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, and based on the legendary tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock brilliantly blends a literary treasure with the modern world. Season one was highly successful, but the game is afoot even further in season two.

Unlike in season one, which mostly deals with lesser known Sherlock Holmes stories, season two tackles three of the most infamous plots. Does it help or hurt the series to thrust itself into the spotlight, allowing fans to compare it against various incarnations that have come before it? It would be simplistic and outright wrong to say choosing stories that the public is familiar with is the reason season two is better, as character development, fantastic production value, and top notch acting and writing deserve most of the credit. However, these stories are popular for a reason, and they make a heck of an exciting run for the show!

First up is "A Scandal in Belgravia." Before the mystery can really begin, however, some transition is needed. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch, Warhorse, Atonement) and Watson (Martin Freeman, Love Actually, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) survive their showdown with Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott, John Adams, Saving Private Ryan) because of a mysterious phone call.  Then, through a montage, viewers learn that Sherlock has become as famous in his fictional world as he is in the real one. Case after case is solved, a photo is captured with the titular character wearing his iconic hat, even if the wardrobe choice is an accident, and Watson's blog takes off! Watson is concerned that this notoriety will attract the wrong kind of attention. Of course, he is right.

Sherlock is asked to stop a political scandal. Dominatrix Irene Adler, a.k.a. The Woman (Lara Pulver, MI-5, True Blood) has something on a member of the royal family, and Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (series co-creator Mark Gatiss), would like to correct that. It's not a case that Sherlock would like to take, and he isn't eager to get on with it. But what Sherlock does not expect is the draw this woman has over him. Over a period of months, Holmes and Adler strike up a relationship that is as raw and real as any love story, even if their affection is never shown to be consummated.

It's funny to see how Sherlock handles romantic attraction. He cares for Watson and Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs, Mist: Sheepdog Tales), but that only extends to keeping them around to help him, not acting nice towards them. Sherlock isn't exactly lovey-dovey with Irene, either, but there's some palpable chemistry in the air between the, which the actors capture expertly. It's a new side of this man, one that is not explored in any other episode of the show. For that alone, "A Scandal in Belgravia" will remain one of the best entries in the series.

Next up is "The Hounds of Baskerville." This tale presents a unique challenge, in that it features a monster. It's a chilling suspense story, and, on paper, one that would be hard to match with the modern sensibilities with Sherlock. Yet, it is a triumph, too! By turning the whole thing into a conspiracy, and with a few twists I will not reveal here, this episode serves the story it is based on, but also makes itself solidly authentic in reality. Helped by a terrific appearance by Russell Tovey, who is known for playing a werewolf himself on Being Human, and treating fans to a more Watson-focused sequence, this creepy investigation should keep you guessing til the end.

Finally, the third feature-length installment in season two is "The Reichenbach Fall." Moriarty returns with a vengeance, playing a long game that Sherlock has much difficulty figuring out. The two may be a match intellectually, but if one has a huge head start, setting all the rules of the game before the other even knows he's playing, there is a distinct advantage. With Moriarty brilliantly turning the public against Sherlock, it is clear that the beloved detective is in hot water. Throughout the ninety minutes, one thing after another keeps going down, with the connections tenuous at best, making them difficult to piece together on the fly.

The tragic climax is one seen coming from a mile away, in retrospect. What happens is built up because of the two episodes before it, and while still surprising, it feels like a natural conclusion. Again, no spoilers here, but it really asks Sherlock to examine just who he is as a person, who and what he cares about, and what he is willing to do to protect them. It's a masterpiece of cinema, and should not disappoint anyone who watches. No one has publicly figured out how the ending is pulled off, though the creators assure their fans that all the clues needed to solve this final mystery are present in the episode.

The special features are a bit sparse. A twenty minute "Sherlock Uncovered" is very interesting, giving facts, secrets, and tricks that are used in all three episodes. Two of the tales have audio commentary, but regrettably, not the final one. And that's it. With four and a half hour of solid excellence, one really wants to know more about the show. But apparently, we are left to deduct our own truth, which, admittedly, is in the tradition of the main character.

Sherlock looks fantastic on Blu-ray, the recommended way to purchase this season. From the special effects in the finale and premiere, to the dark, fog-lined hollow in the middle installment, there are elements of each episode that just will not be as impressive in standard definition. Sherlock delivers for those inclined to invest in the superior audio and visual capabilities, and there is tangible reward to view it that way. It truly looks fantastic in high definition.

A third series of Sherlock has been commissioned, but will not begin production until 2013. For now, buy Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray, on sale now.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article originally published as Investigate Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray on TheTVKing.com.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teen Wolf The Complete Season One on DVD

If one drew up a list of films that should get a remake for the television screen, the campy Teen Wolf would likely not be near the top. Yet, last year MTV aired a series loosely based on the movie of the same name, and received pretty positive reviews. With season two airing this summer, those who missed it the first go-round may want to catch up with The Complete Season One DVD, on sale now.

MTV's Teen Wolf differs from the movie in many ways. For one, the television series is much darker, building suspense, mystery, and mythology into the story. Goofy humor will only take you so far, and Teen Wolf is mainly a drama, not a sitcom. As such, many of the film's conventions had to go.

But that doesn't mean that the message has changed. Teen Wolf still features a teenage werewolf, struggling not only with normal adolescence and hormones, but supercharged by the strange change that has come over him. One might draw parallels between the curse and puberty. After all, both find young men not sure how to deal with new emotions, aggression, and body hair. But Teen Wolf takes itself completely seriously, and viewers who tune in will likely do the same.

Season one sets a lot of things up. In the first episode, Scott McCall (Tyler Posey, Lincoln Heights, Doc) is bitten. The only person he can trust with his secret is best friend, Stiles (Dylan O'Brien, The First Time), who is quite impressed with the changes in Scott, once he gets over the initial shock. However, neither of these boys know what is going on, exactly, or what to do about it.

Enter Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin, 7th Heaven), a local man, who also happens to be a werewolf. Derek's entire family dealt with this issue, and the end result was most of them being burnt alive. Derek skulks the woods, and while his motivations remain unclear initially, he becomes a sort of mentor to Scott. Too bad Derek's not the only wolf around.

Scott has other worries besides wolves. Not everyone is in the dark about the werewolf race. There are a group of hunters who have long sought to rid the world of the beasts. Very unlucky for Scott, the girl he likes, Allison (Crystal Reed, Crazy, Stupid, Love), just happens to be the daughter of one such enemy (JR Bourne, The Secret Circle, The Exorcism of Emily Rose). Talk about a scary dad!

The cast is mostly young and good looking, as one would expect from a series such as this. Thankfully, most of them are also decent performers. Posey struggles a little, but has enough charm that many fans, especially the female ones, will forgive him, much like Tom Welling in early episodes of Smallville. It's likely he will grow better as the series progresses, especially when he is surrounded by even better talent.

There are a number of special features on The Complete Season One DVD, for fans who would like to go a little deeper into the show. "Meet the Cast of Teen Wolf" is probably the most interesting and informative of the extras. There is also some commentary on select episodes.

For the teen girls who love the show, there's "Teen Wolf: Working the Red Carpet," "Love Bites!" and "Shirtless Montage." A gag reel is included, too.

There are also bonuses for those who favor substance over presentation. An extended version of the season finale, "Code Breaker," is included. There are deleted, alternate, and extended scenes, which give even more glimpses into what has been filmed, and how it all comes together, and is edited down for broadcast.

Teen Wolf The Complete Season One is a worthwhile release, with enough to keep viewers engaged for many an hour. It is a pretty enjoyable series, that only gets a little too hokey and melodramatic occasionally. One could categorize this show as being part of the better programming MTV is putting out this past year or so, and worth setting a DVR for. Pick up your copy today.

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

Monroe Series 1 on DVD tomorrow

Already missing FOX's House? Well, then I have the series for you! Monroe, a British show about a genius, flawed, ego-driven neurosurgeon who goes by the same name as the series, comes to DVD in the United States tomorrow. Six episodes long, a second series has already been commissioned.

Monroe (James Nesbitt, Murphy's Law, Cold Feet) is a complex character. He is described by ITV as "a brilliant and unusual neurosurgeon – a flawed genius who never lets anyone forget his flaws or his genius." It's an accurate description. The man who works on brains is awfully proud of his own, but that doesn't mean that he completely understands it. He clashes with others constantly, not one to abide by the rules everyone else must follow, and has a very hard time being a good father and husband. Surely, someone as smart as Monroe realizes personal relationships are just as important as the work that he does.

Nesbitt brings a fantastic, nuanced talent to the part. In the title role, he really captures what it is that makes the lead character tick, even if it isn't always obvious to himself. A show like Monroe needs a strong actor to head it, and this one has such a man in spades. If nothing else, watch Monroe for the great performance given by Nesbitt.

Humorous and dramatic, with a fair amount of warmth as well, Monroe ventures deeper into the personal lives of those involved than most medical shows. It's clear that a career in such a demanding, competitive field would have an effect at home, as well as at work. Now, we get to see those consequences.

Susan Lynch (From Hell, Bodies) plays Monroe's wife, Anna, while Perry Millward (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) is son Nick. These two really help give a more rounded view of the doctor, showcasing what life is like for his loved ones. Unlike House, whom Monroe will be endlessly compared to, Monroe isn't a loner, exactly. He has a family. Just what kind of family man will someone like this be? Not a good one, of course, but you'll have to watch the DVD to find out the specifics!

Monroe is also surrounded by a slew of others at the hospital, too, played by some very talented actors. Of particular note is Dr. Jenny Bremner (Sarah Parish, Hatfields & McCoys, Mistresses), a heart surgeon that is a frequent subject of discord with Monroe. Not that Bremner has it all together, either. Dr. Daniel Springer (Luke Allen-Gale, The Promise) is a wonderful source of laughs, especially when battling theater nurses or losing patients, literally. Tom Riley (I Want Candy, Lost in Austen), Manjinder Virk (The Arbor), Christina Chong (Johnny English Reborn), Thomas Morrison (Brideshead Revisited), Michelle Asante (London Boulevard), and Liz Hume Dawson (4 O'Clock Club) fill out the cast, each appearing in all six episodes.

Of course, with any doctor, there are going to be patients. It won't be hard to guess that Monroe isn't exactly an easy communicator with the people who need his help. Each episode brings various guest stars across his path, with differing results. Monroe isn't heartless, but he isn't in tune with feelings, either. So the result is a complex interaction, which makes for better entertainment, and feels more realistic. The lead character is not a stereotype, but rather, a great character study of a specific type of man.

Monroe Series 1 is presented on two discs, in 16:9 widescreen ratio, with stereo sound. Considering that the show aired just last year, it's a shame that there isn't more done to pump up the visual and auditory aspects of the series. Is this the way it aired in Britain? If so, it's regrettable. There are also no bonus features, which is a real shame. It's lucky that the episodes are good and not readily available any other way in the States, because that is all the DVD has to go on. Perhaps this isn't unusual for our friends across the pond, but for an American buyer, this release feels stripped down and empty.

Still, as I said, the show is good, so check it out. Monroe Series 1 goes on sale tomorrow from Acorn Media.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published as Monroe Series 1 on DVD tomorrow on TheTVKing.com.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Visit to the Set of USA's Suits

Recently, I was lucky enough to represent BlogCritics and TheTVKing on a visit to the Toronto set of USA's Suits, along with 18 other Internet media folks. This was an absolutely wonderful experience, getting a really cool view of things that few fans get the opportunity to see. The people involved, those organizing the trip, and those taking the time to sit with us for lengthy interviews, couldn't have been more gracious and generous. I would like to share some of the highlights of that visit with you now, and look for follow up articles from me soon that go more in-depth on some of the events mentioned in this article.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must mentioned that this trip was completely paid for by the studio. I did not have to shell out my own money to go, and for that I am extremely grateful. Television reviewing is a passion of mine, and I devote a lot of time to it, but I do not earn a living doing so. Not even close. Without the kindness of the folks organizing this trip, this is an opportunity I would never have been able to afford.

In spite of this, I will attempt to write with as little bias as possible. I am extremely grateful, to be sure, but also take my role as a journalist very seriously. I admit to a certain amount of wonder and enthusiasm during the duration of the event, but then, that's natural for someone who is a fan of TV in general, and Suits in particular. As such, the gushing comes from a place of personal joy, rather than because of bribery.

We flew into Toronto this past Thursday, arriving at the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown. The accommodations were very nice. There was plenty of time to get settled before gathering in the lobby for dinner. We walked across the street to a French restaurant called Zazou, where we were escorted up to a private dining room.

As we waited for things to begin, we got to know each other, exchanging names and websites, and pawing through our goody bags from USA. These people could not have been nicer. Many of them knew each other from previous events, but they were welcoming to a newbie like me, too. The organizers sat among us, enjoying and participating in our conversations, every bit as much a part of the group as those of us flown out to observe and write.

We were served an interesting cuisine complete with dessert and plenty of wine. Among the choices were the infamous frog legs, which I can now report do taste quite a bit like chicken, but with a consistency and texture closer to fish.

During dinner, we got the opportunity to watch the second-season premiere of Suits, which airs on Thursday, June 14th. The episode is called "She Knows," which should leave you with little doubt about what Trevor told Jessica just after the fantastic season finale ended last summer. The version we saw was missing a handful of scenes, which had just been filmed in New York, but what those scenes will contain is impossible to tell. It felt like a complete episode to me.

A full review of "She Knows" will be forthcoming, but suffice it to say, the questions left hanging last season are addressed almost immediately. What's more, there are far bigger things going on than that, which completely changes the game for the characters. Sure, there will be lasting repercussions to what "She Knows," but that's not even close to the whole story. More plot is packed into this hour than most shows do in an entire season! And all six main characters get their moments to shine, not just Harvey and Mike.
With full bellies and lots of discussion having been had over the twists and turns of a great hour of television, we returned to our hotels to get some sleep before the next day's set visit.

Late the next morning, after a great breakfast buffet in the hotel, we boarded a bus and were driven outside of the city to the television studio where Suits is made. It isn't much to look at as your drive up. Surprisingly, it sits in a huge warehouse where you can also drop off your recycling, and a roller derby team practices. But the place is huge! And what they've done inside is amazing!

The first place we were escorted to is the Peason Hardman conference room. Apparently, this set has been completely revamped for season two, with a reception area and elevator bank added so that those scenes will not have to be shot on location anymore. Extra glass let us see the elevators right from the table, and the magnificent backdrop of the city skyline hung behind us. From our seats, we could only see set, so if one didn't look around the corner at the lights, or too closely at the painting, one could easily believe they were in an office building downtown!

Working from the conference room all day (the electric outlets can be used!), actors were brought to us for group interviews. Articles will be written about each interview individually, but for now, a few highlights.
First up was Patrick J. Adams, who stars as Mike. He could not have been nicer. Patrick actually seems a lot like Mike, in personality, anyway, and he appeared to enjoy spending time with us. He really is terrible at impressions, and he is definitely a geek, referencing Lost and Star Trek during the interview. Not only did he stay for nearly half an hour in the conference room, and posed for a group photo, but he also offered us a tour of the set!

I'll go into more detail in a separate article covering the set tour, but again, here are some highlights. Besides the elevator bank, the sound stage we were on included a new bathroom piece, with interchangeable stalls and urinals, Rachel's new office, the file room, and another office who belongs to someone I cannot name at this time without spoiling something big, which I will do in other articles. Patrick then jumped on a skateboard and led us to another stage, where they had constructed a full courtroom for season two, not far from where Mike's apartment is housed!

If you look at the picture I've included, that's me reflected in the glass behind Patrick while he gives us the tour!

On the way back to the conference room, we bumped into Max Topplin, who plays recurring character Harold. He was just exiting the third sound stage, where he had been filming some webisodes. He followed us back to the conference room, and got to tell us a few things, including what his role will be going forward. An energetic and entertaining young man, Max really matched the spirit of enthusiasm the rest of us felt at being there!

Then, lunch! It was quite a trek to find the lunch room, but the spread was fantastic. There were many options, and in copious amounts. Tucked away in the basement, it wasn't as glamorous as dinner the night before. But the folding chairs and tables were spruced up with tablecloths and flowers, so that was nice!

Returning to the conference room, there was a total surprise! See, in the same building, as we walked down the corridor, we could see that Covert Affairs was being filmed right across the very big hallway. Those doors were closed to us, but someone came through them for a visit. Christopher Gorham, who plays Auggie, was filming webisodes for that series, and stopped by in full costume! He talked about location shooting, the positive impact he's feeling from the blind community, being a sighted actor playing a blind man, and what's next for Auggie and Annie! One gets the feeling he would have said more, but he kept stopping himself, and asking input on what he was allowed to reveal from producer Gene Klein.

Later, we would actually get to talk directly to Gene, who works on both Covert Affairs and Suits, which was very exciting! Not only did he gives us some teasers about both shows, but he also talked further about the webisodes, and shared stories from the writer's room. Among the topics covered with Gene were the show's music and clothing brands.

But directly after Chris, Meghan Markle and Rick Hoffman gave us a few minutes in between takes. They had just come from the set, where Rick had been screwing up all his lines while feeding to Megan, who was the one actually being filmed! Gene later told us that Rick nailed everything when the camera turned to him. Rick and Megan have a great chemistry, with Rick joking a lot, and sort of staying in character, albeit being much nicer than Louis is.

A little while later the room went absolutely wild when Gabriel Macht showed up wearing a tuxedo! At first, he claimed he was not filming, this was simply what he wore every day, but when pressed, he admitted otherwise. Gabriel's interview took a more serious tone than the others, with him really thinking about, and analyzing, his character. In fact, he kept saying I, then correct himself by saying Harvey. It was very clear just how important and dear this role is to him.

During a break, we were allowed to visit the third set, where filming had been going on earlier. We saw Jessica, Louis, and Harvey's offices, Donna's desk, the associates' bullpen where Mike works, and the library. It was incredible to see the level of detail that went into each piece, from doctored photos to business cards to Jessica's very, very uncomfortable chair! Not only that, but most of the books in the library were real, and there were a heck of a lot of them!

By this time, the day was feeling long, not helped by the fact that the "outside" lights had been turned off in the conference room, making it appear to be night. But things picked up when Sarah Rafferty, on her day off, no less, came to see us! She reveled in her character of Donna, and actually got a few spoilers from the reporters, based on things others had said earlier! She mused that Donna should date George Clooney and Brad Pitt, or at least characters those actors play. The biggest spoiler we learned from Sarah? Donna is not always right, and viewers will soon get to see this in a big way come episode five of the season!

After Sarah left, Gina Torres was the final visit of the day. She was well worth the wait, though! Perfectly poised, she exhibited a warmth her character doesn't always display. There was such a gravitas she exuded just by being in the room! She discussed her character at length, and wished Jessica would just get some already and loosen up!

Then, we weary reporters emerged from the studio to discover that, contrary to how it felt the past couple of hours, it was still bright daylight outside! Boarding the bus home, where we would be turned loose on our own until our return flights, most the next day, there was a sense of exhaustion and satisfaction. What an experience! I do not believe it is one any of us will soon forget!

Writing this, less than an hour before I check out and fly home, I must again thank all of those involved for putting this together! USA, 360 Media, and the tireless work of Terry, Justin, Jennifer, Amanda, and all the rest really went to great lengths to put this trip together. I am extremely grateful. It was an amazing experience!

I look forward very much to watching Suits this coming summer. Keep an eye out for my set visit and interview articles, as well as reviews of select episodes, including the season premiere. This trip gave me so much to write about, and I will be providing a steady stream of content about Suits for the next couple of weeks!

Watch Suits on USA, returning for season two on June 14th!

Read all of my Suits coverage and reviews here.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! A shortened version of this article was first published as A Visit to the Set of USA's Suits on Blogcritics

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Modern Family brings a new "Baby on Board"

ABC's Modern Family makes it clear from the beginning of this episode that baby news is on the way! Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) get a call from Mexico that the little boy they intend to adopt is about to be born. They rush off, with Gloria (Sofia Vergara) in tow to translate. The result is a twisty Mexican soap opera, and in the end, they don't get the baby.

Doing "Baby on Board" in the soapy style is funny. Because it ties into a television drama that both Cameron and Sofia are fans of, it's even better. Then, the fact that neither of them even mention the parallel to their show, kicks this story up another notch. It is one thing to play on a convention for a joke. To trust that your audience gets it without slamming it into their faces is far superior. And to make the slapstick short-lived, bringing out some real, deep, emotional moments for Cam and Mitch, who deal with the disappointing news in different ways, is absolutely pitch perfect! Because of the tone of the series, this kind of levity is needed to balance out the seriousness, and it's a delicious blend in this episode!

Will the couple give up on their dream of a second child? Mitch seems ready to. But it's difficult to make decisions in such a distraught state as he is in by the end of this episode. He may reconsider once they return home. For now, at least, their hopes have been dashed, like so many other prospective adoptive parents. It's a relatable, wonderfully executed story.

However, there is also a surprise at the end, hinted at throughout the episode, but not in such a way that it spoils the reveal. Gloria is pregnant! This is unexpected, given the age of her son, but she's still plenty young enough, and it's joyous news! This child will likely be the only one that she and Jay (Ed O'Neill) share, biologically speaking. It will also completely disrupt the family dynamic, tying Manny (Rico Rodriguez), Mitchell, and Claire (Julie Bowen) closer together as siblings!

Will Jay want a child with Gloria? He loves Manny, to be sure, and is a good father to him. But Manny is growing. He isn't so young anymore. And we see how great a grandfather Jay is in "Baby on Board" as he cares for Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons), even getting up and dancing on stage with her when she is frightened. Ironically, with the wisdom of his age and life experiences, he is best prepared to be the perfect dad for this baby at a time where he is probably getting ready for retirement. He definitely tried with Mitch and Claire, but he has shown growth, even in just the last few years, into a more warm, paternal figure. He will come around this time, to be sure, but it will be awfully unexpected if he takes an instant shine to the event.

Claire and Phil (Ty Burrell) have their own child drama to deal with in "Baby on Board." And no, that isn't a reference to the *drama* Alex's (Ariel Winter) date probably sparkles with at their unseen prom, which gives Winter some great comedic moments. Claire and Phil are told of Haley's (Sarah Hyland) intention to move in with Dylan (Reid Ewing). Considering that Haley has spent all of one entire episode acting grown up and mature. They can certainly be forgiven for having a negative reaction. Yes, Haley is technically an adult and can make her own decisions, but this one has mistake written all over it when viewed from any angle.

It would have been interesting to see what Modern Family would have done with this story. The series isn't dark enough for Haley to get into anything too heavy. But she would have been frustrated and broke, probably ending up back at home before too long. Even though this is not the path the story pursues, credit must be given to the series for tackling an adult subject, as they have done regarding Haley's sex life, with a light touch, keeping true to the tone of the show, and staying away from the forced melodrama or movie of the week tropes.

But instead of disaster, the twist here is that Luke (Nola Gould), showing a sweet, little brother kind of care, has been hiding Haley's acceptance letter to college so that she will not move away and leave him. Once Dylan finds out, he does the right thing and insists that Haley go away to school. Haley and her parents are all excited, the latter because disaster has been avoided. Hopefully, Dylan will return again, because his actions in "Baby on Board" prove that, despite his faults, he is a worthy man for Haley to be with. Or he will be once he begins earning a liveable wage, anyway.

A great ending do a show that is still, three years in, consistently good almost every week! Modern Family will return to ABC next fall.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to buy Modern Family DVDs and streaming episodes. Article first published as Modern Family brings a new "Baby on Board" on TheTVKing.com.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 still not trusthworthy

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 brings its super short, seven episode, freshman run to an end this week with "Shitagi Nashi." It's an interesting end to the initial arc, with June (Dreama Walker) finally finding her new, hard-hitting lifestyle catching up to her. See, since she has befriended Chloe (Krysten Ritter), she has taken to doing what the cool kids do, which involves a lot of drinking. And poor June's liver isn't equipped to handle such copious amounts of alcohol. In a surprisingly realistic development, this lands June in the hospital, where she has to get her stomach pumped.

Many shows would not take the time to do this plot. At first, it may seem strange that Don't Trust The B---- is the type of series that would pay attention to what would really happen, when plenty of others let their characters do whatever they want without consequence. Then again, a large part of the draw of Chloe's character is her outrageousness. Seeing June go down trying to follow in her footsteps makes total sense, from that perspective, and helps play up who Chloe is.

Even better, Chloe and James (James Van Der Beek) continue throughout the episode to think June is faking her illness. Of course they do; that is a scheme they would totally use to trick someone. They don't care about others. It's a little odd they even care about June, but apparently, she has managed to get inside of their exclusive bubble. So, while taking the path of June being hospitalized may be realistic, the reaction that comes after doesn't quite gel with everything else shown about the characters thus far.

Don't Trust The B---- is a study of contradiction in its characters. It's about a girl with good morals who goes wild, struggling with two opposing sides of herself. It's about an actor, working desperately to stay relevant and escape his past. And it's about another girl who has major insecurities, and lives loudly to try to overcome that uncertainty be being as large a personality as possible.

Insecure, Chloe definitely is. "Shitagi Nashi" finds her grow jealous after June replaces her as the subject of a comic. June, true to her homey charm, does her best to make Chloe feel better, cementing the friendship they have developed. Believe it or not, it actually feels strange to see Chloe laid bare a little bit. Obviously, something is behind the front she puts up. But her cover is so effective that it's only in retrospect when one begins to truly wonder what makes her the way she is. This episode is the first true attempt to delve into this matter.

While there are more than three main characters, only a trio of players are essential to the plot of the show, while the rest are more in a supporting role. Rounding out this threesome is James, who in "Shitagi Nashi" feuds with Dean Cain (himself) when he realizes Dean's Dancing With the Stars dressing room is six inches bigger. The DWTS arc has been quite amusing, really giving James a chance to play with his arrogance and narcissism. It's one of the most ridiculous, and funny, stories he's been given yet, and he nails it, as usual! Hopefully, it will continue into next season, and parts of the competition shown.

It's hard to judge Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 yet, as it still isn't clear where it's going. However, many series stumble a bit in the first season, and with the way the three main actors really sell their schtick week after week, there is definitely something here. Cartoonish, yes, but in an amusing way. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the second season.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 will return to ABC next fall. Article first published as Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 still not trusthworthy on TheTVKing.com

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wave "Goodbye" to Glee!


Glee says "Goodbye" to its graduating seniors this week in an hour packed with tears and nostalgia. Right off the bat, Will (Matthew Morrison) approaches the choir room and hears the original members of the glee club singing the very first song they ever sang in the series, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." Images of them doing it horribly three years ago are mixed with this new, much improved performance. With this, "Goodbye" spells out its mission statement.

For three years, things have remained relatively predictable at McKinley High. The kids grew the New Directions into a sizable, respected group. Each year they did better in competition, until finally winning Nationals just before eight of their number graduate. It's an uplifting, satisfying arc. Now it's over, and the future is uncertain. Consider this boat rocked!

Where will Glee go from here? Ryan Murphy has said that all of the original cast members will return for season four, though not all as series regulars. And while it has been leaked that Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Kurt (Chris Colfer) are all heading for New York, and will likely remain main characters, the rest of the stories are a mystery! So it is with great anticipation that one looks forward to next season, and what it might bring.

The issue with the characters staying behind is that they just don't have the sheer power the graduating seniors do. All of the powerhouse vocalists, save Blaine (Darren Criss), graduated. Sam (Chord Overstreet) could be promoted to a series regular, and Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) might get more screen time, but none of them have the talent that, or are as interesting, as Rachel, Santana (Naya Rivera), or Mercedes (Amber Riley). With that in mind, if Nationals will even be on the line, it's time to bring in some more new students. Perhaps Unique (Alex Newell)?

If there's any doubt about the point I make in the previous paragraph, look at the music the two groups sing in "Goodbye" as evidence. The seniors' "You Get What Your Give" is far, far better than the underclassmen's "In My Life." Maybe the younger kids just need time to grow, but they are certainly not at the level of their peers yet. There will need to be a lot of maturation in season four, and members finally coming into their own, if the New Directions are going to go anywhere. Anyone else smell a rebuilding year?

Or, Glee could just skip an entire year and catch up with everyone then, with even more of the characters graduated. It may cheat some of them out of the goodbye given to the eight this year, but those characters aren't as important, and it would make for an interesting series, pulled in many directions. This also would allow time for some plot twists from the finale to sort themselves out.

Before straying too far into the future, it would be nice to take a look back. Burt (Mike O'Malley) gives Kurt a startling graduation gift: a performance of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," with Tina and Brittany (Heather Morris) serving as back up dancers. This calls to mind one of the earliest episodes of the series, where Burt catches Kurt performing the number in their basement with the two ladies. This number is a testament to how far father and son have come, and how much they care about each other. Showing scenes from that season one episode interpersed is really moving, too.

At the moment, though, Kurt isn't slated to leave for New York. He, Finn, and Rachel gather in the choir room to open the letters from their chosen schools, and only Rachel is accepted. This is in contrast to what Glee has been touted to be next season, and one wonders how the characters will get from here to there. Still, even with the future all but assured, it's heartbreaking to see them get rejected.

Finn has another purpose to fulfill. In "Goodbye," he brings up his father again, and mentions wanting to do something to honor his memory. Combined with the college rejection, this path points to Finn joining the army. Is this really the right journey for him? While personally rewarding, perhaps, it's hard to see Finn as an army guy. Where is Glee going with this?

Finn says that part of the reason he chooses the army is so that Rachel can't follow him. As "Goodbye" comes to an end, Finn cancels the wedding and sends Rachel packing to New York. He refuses to not let her follow her dreams, and thinks he is only holding her back. She is in tears, upset at the choice being taken away from her, but goes, bolstered by all of her friends at the train station.

Is it right for Finn to make this decision without consulting Rachel? Yes, he has her best interests in mind, but he's acting like a parent, not a partner. It seems a little chauvinistic. Not to mention, does he really expect Rachel to be happy by his breaking it off with her? She's in love with him!

The scene is emotional, but falls flat when considered against the rest of the story, even keeping in mind that Rachel worrying about sacrificing her dream for Finn, something she doesn't want to do, is a plot point in the season two finale. Now, here she is willing to make that adjustment, and he refuses to let her. This is forced drama.

Luckily, instead of ending "Goodbye" with this, the episode follows Rachel to New York City as she sings "Roots Before Branches." At least this feels satisfying for her, as she finally makes it to the big city she always dreams of. Rachel is where she belongs, of that, there is no doubt!

The girl most at risk of losing her dreams is Santana. With girlfriend Brittany having flunked senior year, and jealous of her friends, such as Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) and Mercedes, who are starting performing careers, Santana considers abandoning her college plans. Her mother (Gloria Estefan) tries to talk her out of it, but in the end, gives Santana a large sum of money and leaves the decision up to her.

Yes, Santana is an adult now, and her mom doesn't want to risk a chasm between them, as Santana is still hurting from her abuela's disapproval. But that doesn't mean that mom shouldn't give daughter some sound advice. This is a college scholarship she is passing up! Free money to get a degree! Degrees may not mean what they used to, but it's hard to argue against taking one when you don't have to shell out the ridiculous price they now cost. From almost any perspective, it would be a huge mistake for Santana to give this chance up, no matter what her dreams her. Her mother is right; New York will still be there in four years.

There is no question that Quinn (Dianna Agron) is heading off to college. She finally has her life back on track. Even as wildly unrealistic as her chosen school seems, given her suffering grades at certain points of her high school career, it's nice to see her achieve this accomplishment. Her goodbye scene with Sue (Jane Lynch) is a touching farewell, and easily one of the best things about "Goodbye."

It's a little surprising that Quinn buys a train pass for Rachel, so that they can visit each other. Even with their "friendship," developed late in the Glee run, the pair do not seem close. Is Rachel really someone Quinn will keep in regular contact with?

Even more weird is Quinn's rekindled relationship with Puck (Mark Salling). Perhaps she is just trying to boost his confidence so that he will pass his test and graduate, which he does. But it seems like she wants to get back together. Would he accompany her to the East Coast? What would he do there? How would a guy like Puck figure into Quinn's bright future? These questions could be ignored if a real, deep romance had blossomed between them, but there just isn't evidence of that, no matter what their past has been.

The music in "Goodbye" is just as uneven as the stories. Will's "Forever Young" is a good, not great, adieu to the seniors. Kurt's "I'll Remember" is also good, but not as terrific as other, much more memorable performances he has given over the past three seasons. But Puck and Finn leading the senior class in "Glory Days," no matter how hokey the scene itself is, comes across as pure awesome.

Some great moments balance out this mixed bag musical lineup. Will confesses to Finn about the pot in his locker from the "Pilot," to which Finn responds that Will is cooler than Finn gives him credit for being. James Lipton (himself) watches Finn audition. Sue hugs Will during the graduation. Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) helps Puck study. Brittany says she intends to be a two-term senior class president. These things help where the melody lacks.

One final bit of plot sneaks into "Goodbye." Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes) enlists Sue's help in taking down Figgins (Iqbal Theba). While amusing, Figgins is superfluous, as I've said before, back when Sue is briefly principal in season two. It could save Glee some time and money to ditch him and put one of the better developed characters in his place. But who?

Roz would suck as principal, and Leakes has a new series next year, anyway, so the character might not even stick around. Sue fails miserably as principal her first go-round, but she's grown a lot this year. With the baby on the way, and actual affection for Will and the New Directions, she could end up being a great leader, if she doesn't let the power go to her head. Bieste might also be a candidate. Though she hasn't been at the school very long, it would be nice to beef up her part any way Glee can. Will is too busy to tackle the responsibility.

Emma (Jayma Mays) might just be the best bet. She is fair, but firm. She isn't always great at managing people, but like Sue, she has shown a lot of maturation. Plus, giving her the position would open up a story for Sue to accuse her of favoritism, and give Emma some good episodes battling wits with Sue, something we haven't seen. So my vote is for Emma!

Glee's "Goodbye" may not rank among the best episodes of the series, but it is pretty good. Even if the music and plot is, at times, weak, the emotional heartstrings are played by a virtuoso. I look forward very much to season four next fall, and the changes it will bring!

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of the Glee reviews I've ever written. To purchase Glee DVDs, streaming episodes, music, and more, please click here. Article first published as TV Review: Glee - "Goodbye" on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Everybody Dies" in House series finale

As "Everybody Dies," the series finale of FOX's House opens, Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) is lying next to the dead body of his patient of the week (or, POtW) in a burning building. Throughout most of the hour, House converses with hallucinations of some important people in his life, as he tries to decide whether he should live or die.

"Everybody Dies" is dark. There is no denying that. It's obvious when the first image House sees is Dr. Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn), a fellow who killed himself. Strangely, though, Kutner is trying to talk House out of suicide, while House is the one arguing that life is pointless.

Then Amber (Anne Dudek) appears. Her death is more tragic, but she still argues for life. Stacy (Sela Ward) wants House to try to find happiness again, but he continues to resist. Finally, though, Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) tells him to just lie down, letting the choice be taken from him. This House does, before thinking better of it.

These people are House's subconscious, and as such, he appears to be waging a war within himself. It's thrilling to see these former characters reappear, but besides being a gift to viewers, who they are isn't so important as what they say. House knows that death is the easy way out. He is not going to be able to enjoy the sort of life he has been enjoying much longer, even though his life hasn't been all that fun. Soon, his best friend will be dead, and even sooner, House will be back in jail, wasting Wilson's (Robert Sean Leonard) final moments on earth. So why not end it all?

Even in this darkest of moments, though, House fights on, as he always has. By making the people from his past appear to him, he talks himself out of such a deed. It's telling that he starts with the most tragic figure, and builds to the ones that love him the most. The trajectory is an upswing, and in retrospect, House moves closer to life with each passing moment. But viewers are tricked into missing this by the POW scenes, which are of a more depressing nature.

While House is battling his inner demons in an extremely slowly burning building, he is not left to die alone. The two people he leans on most, who enable all of his crap, are desperately searching from him. Wilson and Foreman (Omar Epps) know that House is missing, and giving the desperateness of the situation, fear the worst. They even interrupt Dr. Nolan's (Andre Braugher) group therapy session to ask for advice. Eventually, they are able to put the pieces together and get to the building where House is.

But they arrive too late. House has decided to live, and is heading towards the front door, visible through the window to Foreman and Wilson, when the ceiling collapses. Gone in a rush of flame, a body identified as House is pulled from the wreckage. It's a tragic ending.

Or is it? House's wife Dominika (Karolina Wydra) and former colleagues, including Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), Taub (Peter Jacobson), Adams (Odette Annable), Masters (Amber Tamblyn), and Park (Charlyne Yi), wax poetic about him at his funeral. But Wilson alone lashes out in anger, instead, calling House a selfish idiot, which, of course, he is. Then Wilson is interrupted by a text message. He doesn't tell the others, but he goes and finds House, who has faked his death so that he can spend Wilson's final five months doing whatever Wilson wants to do. They ride off into the sunset together on motorcycles, great music playing, the ultimate happy ending.

Is this House's plan all along? Or is this something he comes up with at the last minute? It seems a little unrealistic that he is able to escape from the collapsing building, but at the same time, it's hard to complain about the perfect build up of suspense and twist. Not to mention, the metaphors of purgatory and hell are thrown in to make things even more surreal. "Everybody Dies" is a brilliant piece of art, and any inauthenticities can be chalked up to artistic license, not fretted about needlessly.

House has gone to dark places before, but the titular character has always emerged triumphantly. He argues that no one changes, but his growth over the years proves otherwise. Perhaps there have been backslides, as he is self-destructive. But in the end, the goodness within him wins out. This could be because of Wilson. The person House cares about most, the one who sticks by him through it all, needs him, and House wants to be there.

What will happen in five months when Wilson dies? House will not be able to just return to his former life. He gives that up for Wilson. Will he he hide out in a foreign land and practice medicine? Return and take his punishment so that he can honestly go back to his job? Who knows? Who cares? "Everybody Dies" is very satisfying and uplifting.

Before the credits roll, viewers are reminded of the positive impact House has had in the lives of his fellows, too. Cameron is married with a baby. Chase (Jesse Spencer) has taken over House's department, with Adams and Park staying on under him. Taub enjoys spending time with his daughters. These may not all be House's doing, but he has certainly played a role in who they are. Freeing them from himself by his death actually helps them to move on from his crap, and so it is a favor to them, too. Though he deserves credit for teaching them to how to live.

Well, everyone but Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). It makes sense that she doesn't appear, seeing as how House caused her more pain than anyone, and she has the least reason to still care about him. But to bake anything, there will always be a few broken eggs, and she qualifies as this.

The only person besides Wilson who learns of House's survival is Foreman. Foreman is the only one this information would make a positive impact on. Gone from the team, Foreman has already found his happy career. He might blame himself for not controlling House better if he is allowed to continue to believe the lie. By sending him a signal, as House does, Foreman can go on, knowing that he has nothing to feel guilty for. Plus, of all the fellows, Foreman is the one least likely to tell on House.

Thank you to the cast and crew of House for eight mostly amazing years. It is a series that will not soon be forgotten, and one that has, at times, touched viewers just as much as House himself touches the other characters. House reminds us that a procedural doesn't have to just be a procedural, and there is plenty of mystery still to be found when examining the human spirit. We appreciate the lesson!

I highly recommend you read Barbara Barnett's review of "Everybody Dies" when it posts, and also pick up a copy of her book about House, Chasing Zebras. She has been a brilliant House expert over the years, and who has spoken with wonderful insight and wisdom. Going by her past work, and her thoughts during her live online chat party last night, her article will definitely be something worth reading for every House fan.

One last bit of trivia. The POW in "Everybody Dies" is played by James LeGros. LeGros starred in the short lived medical drama Mercy, and, besides guest starring in the House finale, he also appears in this year's season finale of Grey's Anatomy, which aired last week. Talk about success in the fictional medical community!

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! To purchase House DVDs and streaming episodes, please click here. Article first published as TV Review: House - "Everybody Dies" on Blogcritics.

Grey's Anatomy takes a "Flight"

This season of ABC's Grey's Anatomy doesn't end with happiness. In fact, it doesn't leave viewers with any good feelings at all. It's an uncomfortable hour of misery, with nothing resolved at the end. Which doesn't mean that it's bad by any means; the quality of the series is still quite high. The finale, "Flight," is just extremely unsettling.

Seattle Grace Mercy Death, er, West, sends six of its doctors to another hospital to perform a tricky surgery. En route, the plane goes down. It breaks apart, and the people and pieces are strewn throughout a forest. One doctor does not survive, and the rest are injured, as is the pilot. It's a gruesome scene, not made any better by the fact that the survivors are stranded, with no sign of rescue as the season comes to a close.

The worst part of this plot is the death of Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh). Coming unexpectedly early in the hour, Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) holds her hand, confessing his love as she slips away. This is a truly heartbreaking scene. Despite the fact that Mark has a serious girlfriend, the chemistry between he and Lexie has never gone away. The expectations are high going into "Flight" that they will soon get back together, and Mark even tells her they are meant to be just before she passes. Sadly, this is now impossible.

Even more tragic is the fact that Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), searching for missing husband, Derek (Patrick Dempsey), doesn't make it back in time to say goodbye to her sister. Meredith finds Lexie, but assumes she will be all right while Meredith searches for her spouse. This is a mistake she cannot take back, and leads to an incredibly powerful moment of Meredith breaking down. Pompeo is mesmerizing as the grieving sibling who has lost so much, and now loses the only family she really has ever bonded with.

Losing Leigh will be a blow to Grey's Anatomy. She is a terrific actress who brings a joyful spark to an often angsty show. Her character helps Meredith come out of her dark shell, and she certainly brings joy to everyone she touches, including the fans at home. Unlike some past deaths, where there isn't too much regret that the character is gone, Lexie is a hard one to take. Next year will not be the same without her.

Soon enough, viewers learn that Mark is also injured pretty badly, though his damage is internal. There is a second suspenseful scene where Mark appears to say goodbye to Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), ready to join Lexie in the afterlife. This doesn't happen, thank goodness. While there would be a certain poetry to the two former lovers dying together, Mark has a baby girl that he must raise. And so, for now at least, Grey's Anatomy spares him.

As "Flight" closes, Arizona, Meredith, Cristina (Sandra Oh), Derek, Mark, and the pilot, Jerry (James LeGros, Mildred Pierce, Mercy), sit in the woods, darkness drawing in around them. Rescue needs to come soon if Mark is to survive and Derek is to keep his hand, something Derek could not happily live without. What a depressing way to end the season, no matter how great the acting and storytelling of "Flight" is!

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, no one even knows their friends are missing. Owen (Kevin McKidd) is too busy all day to take the phone calls from the destination hospital, asking where his people are. Sending his phone to voice mail may make sense at the time, but considering Cristina is one of those lost, this is not something Owen will easily be able to forgive himself for.

Owen and Cristina are not in a great place. They have been fighting for most of this season, and have been separated for quite awhile. But there is obviously still a deep affection between the two. Cristina does say she will soon be moving away, but it's not an easy decision for her to make. Perhaps the plane crash will realign her priorities, and the couple will decide to give it another shot. One can only hope.

Cristina and Owen's relationship is very interesting. While he is not the first romance to come along for the seemingly chilly Yang, she really values him in a way that is a bit surprising for her character. Cristina may seem tough, but when she talks about Owen, she does so with a vulnerability and rawness. Even after the abortion and the cheating, these feelings do not go away. They may have hurt each other deeply, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily done.

Teddy (Kim Raver) is done. She is offered a very prestigious job working for the army, but turns it down. Owen has been a great friend to her since her husband died, and she wants to repay the favor, seeing how deeply Owen is hurting over Cristina. Staying true to who he is, and continuing to support his friend, Owen refuses to accept her giving up this grand opportunity, firing her so that she must go. Tearily, they hug, and she departs.

Unlike Lexie, Teddy won't be missed so much. At times, she is a character one can relate to. But at other times, she isn't. The arc involving her marrying a patient actually turns out quite sweet, but it has been pretty uncomfortable watching her deal with the death. This story proves that Raver has the acting chops to hang. Considering the unevenness, though, and that her particular story has come to an end, it feels like a good time for her to leave. There might have been other tales to tell with her, but if she is going to walk out before they are all told, now is the perfect time to do so. Plus, it leaves an open spot for a new cardio god, which Cristina would be more than qualified to fill.

Teddy isn't the only one fired. Owen also lets April (Sarah Drew) go because she fails her boards. This isn't a cruel choice, even though April has no where else to go; it's just business. Owen and April have long been friends, of a sort, and it's doubtful Owen wants to release her. There has been no announcement of Drew quitting the series, unlike Raver and Leigh, so this seems like the sort of thing that will be worked out next season. No idea how, though.

Perhaps Owen has to let April go to meet Alex's (Justin Chambers) demands, as the two events happen at roughly the same time, and prior to learning that Alex decides against staying. Which, of course, he is unlikely to go through with, since Chambers just signed a new contract. So might Alex be willing to give a little to help a colleague out? If he learns of April's predicament, he very well might. Alex may act tough, but he's sweet at heart, and cares about the people that he works with.

Alex gets to show this side of himself in "Flight." Arizona is furious that Alex would leave after everything she has done for him. That's why she takes his spot on the plane. This is the opportunity of a life time, but Alex feels guilty for hurting her, of course, and calls to tell her so. His voice mail to her stays in character, but is exactly what he needs to say, within the constrains of being Alex. He isn't the jerk that he started out as, and Grey's Anatomy cannot afford to lose him.

The show can't loose any of the residents, soon to be fellows! Alex, Cristina, Jackson (Jesse Williams), Meredith, and by extension, Derek, all quit in "Flight" or just prior to it. This is a huge blow to the cast. All but Williams were at the end of their contracts, and might not have returned to the show. But now, they've all renewed. So what will keep their characters in Seattle? Perhaps they will be drawn together by this tragedy?

It's such a shame that these dark events have to keep happening to them, though. It has not gotten to the point where these sort of things feel forced into the story, but one has to admit that they do occur a lot. Cristina talks of wanting to leave simply because of the amount of bad luck that happens to the doctors at Seattle Grace. However, they also all have each other to lean on, and that just might be a good enough reason to take the risk and stay.

Webber (James Pickens Jr.) certainly wants them to stick around. He continues his tradition of throwing a dinner for the outgoing residents in "Flight." Strangely, only the main character residents seem to be invited, even though we know there are many more residents that work at the hospital. Regardless, it's a sad scene for Webber to sit at a dinner table and stare at the empty seats where Meredith and Cristina should be sitting. Hopefully, he doesn't take this as a sign of abandonment. He thinks he is losing them soon enough! If he believes they stood him up, he is going to be really hurt.

Which just leaves Bailey (Chandra Wilson) dealing with Ben's (Jason George) impending departure. See, Ben, who is not a main character, accepts a surgical internship in California. Bailey decides to marry him anyway, but they will now have to deal with a long distance relationship. This sort of arrangement might work fine for a few episodes, but both the character and fans will want Ben back. So can't Seattle Grace make room for him in their program? After all, Ben has already left the show before and come back, so it sucks to make him do it again. I smell the next main character for Grey's Anatomy, assuming his summer series, Mistresses, doesn't blow up. And it's a summer series on network television, so what are the chances of that?

This sad, tragic hour brings season eight of Grey's Anatomy, which shows no signs of its age, to a close. Luckily, season nine will bring almost everyone back in the fall! How exciting!

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to read every Grey's Anatomy review I've ever written. To buy Grey's Anatomy DVDs and streaming episodes, please click here. Article first published as Grey's Anatomy takes a "Flight" on TheTVKing.com

The John Wayne Film Collection

The Duke. John Wayne. One of the big screen’s biggest legends. New from FOX, just in time for Father’s Day, comes The John Wayne Film Collection. This ten disc set gathers together a variety of films spanning Wayne’s career. Included are westerns and war movies. There are award winners, and even a movie that has never been released on DVD before!

The John Wayne Film Collection kicks off with Wayne's very first starring role. The director of The Big Trail, Raoul Walsh, discovered Marion Morrison as a prop man, and gave him the famous moniker of John Wayne. In the film, originally released in 1930, Wayne plays Breck Coleman, a fur trader on the Oregon Trail seeking vengeance for a friend that was killed. Along the way, he not only finds the killers, but falls in love as well.

Although Wayne was praised for this portrayal, and the movie was an expensive, grand-looking epic, the release of it in mainly in widescreen doomed it to failure. The country was in the midst of hard times, economically speaking, and theaters didn't want to pay to upgrade to the new, fancier screens. Thus, not many people saw it, and it would be about a decade before Wayne would land another starring role.

This DVD set actually contains the fullscreen version of The Big Trail, rather than the widescreen. The two different editions have scenes often shot at different angles from one another, and they sometimes use different takes. One version is also significantly longer than the other, and the widescreen variation contains fewer close ups. As such, it is almost as if two different films exist, and it's hard to judge which is better, especially when only one version is included in this collection.

Skip forward almost two decades for the next movie, Red River. John Wayne is Thomas Dunson, a Texas cattle driver moving his herd along the Chisholm Trail to Kansas. Haunted by a tragic past, Dunson grows desperate trying to get his cattle North, as the South is too poor to buy them. This puts him at odds with the boy he raised, who is named Matt (four time Academy Award Nominee Montgomery Clift).

Red River is a widely lauded piece of cinema, nominated for a couple of Oscars. Not only does it feature incredibly memorable, nuanced performances by both Wayne and Clift, but the characters are complex. There is obviously real love between the two, no matter what comes between them. The plot flows along in a very natural way, but even when the two are at odds with one another, it’s hard not to wish for a peaceful resolution. Some have mentioned homoerotic undertones to the relationship between the two men, but others argue that it’s just a father-son bond. Whichever way one chooses to view it, the affection makes for a heck of a suspenseful showdown!

This version of Red River, like The Big Trail, is also in full screen, though the other eight movies in this set are presented in widescreen.

The crown jewel of The John Wayne Collection is arguably The Alamo (1960). Nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, John Wayne directs and stars as Davy Crockett alongside a truly all-star cast. There’s Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Frankie Avalon, and lots of others! With such a bevy of talented players, as well as one of the most compelling stories in American history, this was a surefire hit right from the get-go! As opposed to the 2004 movie version of the same battle, also featuring a cast of big names, which was a colossal flop. But I digress…

There is no need to rehash the story of The Alamo. It’s known far and wide. The behind the scenes tale of this film is a little less famous. Wayne put his heart and soul into the picture, and only agreed to act in it because his backers insisted. On set, he had to battle his former mentor, John Ford, who showed up and tried to take over, and a few actors with bruised egos who didn’t like being ordered around by one of their own. One cast member broke his foot, and another died during a domestic dispute. Through it all, Wayne persevered, and many of the people involved spoke very highly of his skills afterwards. His directorial fate did not match that of his character.

The result is a sweeping epic. The numerous performances are wonderful, the setting lovingly crafted in authentic detail, and the plot terrifically paced. The film is a positive reflection of Wayne, who is known for portraying the American spirit in movies, and manages to translate it onto the screen here in his own creation. It’s a masterpiece of film and truly worth watching.

These three films are the type John Wayne is known for making, but others stray a little further from that genre. Legend of the Lost (1957) finds Wayne playing a guide on a treasure hunt in the Sahara, with Sophia Loren as his love interest! This outlandish tale, written by a top Hollywood screenwriter and directed by the same man who would go on to make Wayne’s legendary True Grit, was not well reviewed, and with good reason. It’s unfortunate, given the incredible ingredients that go into the mix, but it is not one of the better films in this DVD set.

Another movie off the beaten path is 1958’s The Barbarian and the Geisha, which makes its DVD debut here. Set in 1850s Japan, this isn’t the cowboy fans are used to. Wayne is, instead, a diplomat, struggling to understand a hostile people. Luckily, he has a geisha companion to help him out, and eventually, he is able to understand these foreigners. Sadly, this is also not one of the greatest pieces of cinema, though it definitely shows another side of the actor, which is why this (along with the previous movie) is worth watching.

Rounding out the collection are Civil War-set The Horse Soldiers (1959), comedy North to Alaska (1960), The Comancheros (1961), World War II picture The Longest Day (1962), and The Undefeated (1969). Paragraphs could be written about each of these, too, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just list them. Suffice it to say, what is included in The John Wayne Film Collection is a wide range of the Duke’s work, giving fans an overall picture of his talent.

Because of the numerous cameras, of varying models and sophistication used, picture and sound quality is wildly different from film to film, which are each presented on their own disc. Add to that, each is in a different state of restoration. Some have been cleaned up lovingly, while others remain old-looking and grainy. On a entertainment system calibrated for high definition, expect some softness and lack of clarity in both the visual and auditory aspects. It would be impossible to be consistent, though, given the source material, so one should just be grateful for what’s given.

Grateful, except the lack of extras. Someone could have done better with providing bonus materials. That isn’t really excusable. But it’s priced cheaply, so you may not mind as much.

Overall, The John Wayne Film Collection delights and surprises. It will deliver some movies one might not be aware of, and also some better known films. It’s a good, interesting mix and will make a great Father’s Day gift!

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