Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Veronica Mars: Country Hooker Jamboree

Veronica Mars: it's a detective show for the whole family. What could be more wholesome than a daughter giving her dad tips on stripping, a hooker jamboree, or a judge with tickle-fight proclivities? It's funny that the show is paired with Gilmore Girls, because, while both shows do have the rapid-fire, sharp dialogue, that's the only thing they have in common. Consider the characters: on Veronica Mars, they're smart, tough, and witty, while on Gilmore Girls, there are few characters left I'd run into a burning house to save. Heck, I'd throw Kirk into the inferno.

But anyway, this post is about Veronica Mars, and we might as well start with the hooker jamboree. Max, who you may remember as the guy who runs himself a successful little cheating business, hires Veronica to help him find the girl of his dreams. Who is a hooker. Veronica is as skeptical of romance as ever (I love consistency in a character), and thinks Wendy the Hooker is playing Max, but she isn't – she really likes him. Sadly, they break up, because the show isn't big on going for the happy endings. Not that I'm complaining – I like that VM is willing to go for disappointing, but realistic, resolutions. In one case, however, I could really use any ending at all. Veronica learns this week that while she and Logan were on a break, he had a fling with Madison Sinclair. And I've already made my feelings on their relationship very clear, but honestly, do they have to have some sort of crisis of trust every week?

Keith's still on the Dean O'Dell case, and this week he's following the trail of eggs left by the feminists. To question them, he breaks out his old sheriff's uniform, and while he's quickly busted by Nish, he at least gets a great throwaway scene with Lamb out of it. It's classic. And he does come away with the knowledge that someone else in the dean's family was at his office the night he died. Stepson, maybe? Also: Keith sings, and it makes me want a musical episode of Veronica Mars. Hey, we already know Kristen Bell can sing.

Special for Sagehens in the reading audience: Give yourself 50 points if, after the mention of "a tiny West Coast liberal arts college no one's ever heard of," you said, "Pomona!"

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Heroes: Takei Time

Yeah, it's finally here. George Takei on Heroes. And he has… no dialogue. Why even bring George Takei on if you don't plan on making use of his mellifluous voice? Sigh. Next week, I suppose.

Hiro and Ando are kidnapped by some shadowy guys in a van, one of whom speaks Japanese, and it's all very mysterious and tense unless you know that George Takei is guest starring as Hiro's dad, in which case you know that they're taking them to him. But no time with Hiro and Ando is ever wasted, and, in fact, there's a very sweet moment when Hiro comes back for Ando, explaining, "This is how we roll." Aw, I love these guys.

Nathan and Mohinder have a plan to fix Peter (so he doesn't, you know, explode), but Peter's decided he can beat it with a little coaching from Christopher Eccleston (calling himself Claude, as in Claude Rains). Turns out Claude has taught others in the past, but to hear him talk about it, you'd think that all his pupils died in some horrible teaching-related explosion. But Claude proves himself to be the mentor I'd hoped, giving Peter just enough crap and showing just enough of that caddish Eccleston charm to make him my favorite new character. Long may he snark.

As for the other characters, Micah rips off an ATM (Hey, kid, who do you think you are, John Connor? Because that's Zach), Matt's life sucks and then he gets a baby, Claire tracks down her pyrokinetic, non-dead birth mom, and Sylar breaks out. And Niki meets with a psychiatrist to try to get rid of/integrate Jessica, which only leads me to believe that either Niki or Jessica is going to be the one who dies during sweeps. It's sneaky enough, killing a character without actually getting rid of the actor, that it seems extremely plausible. If I were a producer, that's what I'd do.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Studio 60: Where's Samuel L. Jackson When You Need Him?

Hmm. Well, on the one hand, last night’s Studio 60 wasn’t as chock full of creepy stalking as last week’s episode. On the other hand, it wasn’t really full of things you’d want your male significant other to imitate, either. As far as last week’s bad boys are concerned, Danny gets Jordan stuck on the roof in his attempt to apologize for his obsessive actions (points to Danny for apologizing, though). Matt morphs from sweet ex-and-possibly-future boyfriend to obnoxious “I don’t want her, but I don’t want anyone else to have her either” guy (points to Harriet for not buying it).

And we have a new entrant into the “Suckiest Future-Boyfriend Ever” contest: Tom, who’s gained entry into the contest by choosing Matt as his relationship coach. Yeah. Tom has to break his date with Lucy because Jack wants him to go out with that rich dude’s daughter and convince her to start playing the viola again, or something. Good excuse, right? Nope, not good enough for Matt! He convinces Tom to lie about it and, of course, Lucy sees him with the (surprisingly slutty) rich girl. Sigh.

In Snakes on a Set news, there’s a poisonous viper loose on the set of Studio 60! I hope it bites everyone but Jordan, Jack, Cal, and Harriet. And Lucy. Everyone else could use a little near-death experience to reexamine their priorities in life. Oh, and what’s with this “To Be Continued” shit? It’s not Heroes, Sorkin. You should be able to wrap up these plotlines in an hour.

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24: Mamas, Don't Misspell Your Babies' Names

Before we get to it, I have to clarify something. Graham, as I learned from the previouslies, isn't Graham so much as… Graem? Seriously? Oh, IMDb, you screw me over again. Also, McCrane's about forty years too old for one of those twee purposely-misspelled names like Johnnithyn or Bryin. I bet that's why he turned evil, because when he's in charge, no one will dare misspell his name! Ha ha ha!

So after months of anticipation, we finally get to see Philip Bauer, as played by James Cromwell, fresh off his role as another, slightly more ineffectual patriarch named Philip. Well, okay, I just met Philip Bauer, I probably shouldn't be calling him ineffectual, but with one son a superhero and one a supervillain, it's hard to see how he could make them listen to him unless he's either of those things. And, indeed, just as Philip's making the decision that their company should cooperate with CTU, Graem reveals the Bluetooth-enabled evil of which we know he is capable. This involves bringing out his hired goons and having them shackle his father and brother and load them into a van – probably not so they can take the Bauers out for frosty chocolate milkshakes. I have to assume that this is leading up to a father-son breakout next week, and I'm very excited for that.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Tom is all pumped to start herding up and detaining all Arab-Americans, but Karen's giving him a lot of jibber-jabber about "civil rights" and the "Constitution" and crap like that. So Tom blackmails her. It's the American way. Thanks to his minion, Chad Lowe, one of the very few actors dorkier than Peter MacNicol and therefore believable as his minion, Tom discovers that Buchanan allowed Abu Fayed to be released from detention months ago and Karen covered it up. She resigns, and asks to be transferred to L.A., which means she's either going to spend the second half of the season at CTU or her plane is going to get shot down. I'd have to go with the latter, because whenever 24 shows you a plane that Jack Bauer isn't on, that plane is going to explode.

And, somehow, Walid continues to be the most inexplicably talented amateur spy ever, actually managing to pick a guy's pocket to steal his cell phone. How does he have all of these abilities that are so conducive to espionage? I mean, except for the one he could really use: fluency in Arabic. Ah, I suppose it's the magic of writing. It's the same magic that makes Walid unable to then return the phone, so that the detainees (who aren't terrorists after all) find it on him and then start beating him. I want to like Walid, I really do, but it seems like his personality is dictated by the script. If he needs to be a fantastic spy, he is, but if he has to get found out, suddenly he loses all his cunning. I have yet to get a handle on what he's really like, except for "a paragon of virtue."

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Grease - YTOTIW: Final 12ish!

Last night, Grease: You're the One That I Want had its first live show, where we got introduced to the final twelve fourteen potential Sandy’s and Danny’s and were forced to look at Olivia Newton-John’s extremely plastic face for two hours. Overall, I’m actually pretty impressed with the talent they found—is this what American Idol would be like if they brought in ringers?

Since I love me some judging and opinionating, here’s my breakdown on the final twelve fourteen:

Derek— This guy is SO my new secret boyfriend (even though, let’s face it, he’s probably gay). Billy Bush nicknamed him “Wholesome Danny,” but I definitely don’t see the wholesomeness. Derek, who sang “This Thing Called Love,” is super-hot (sort of a Stamos/Clooney combo), has a great voice and tons of stage presence/charisma, and can actually move well. Go, Derek!

Austin— I find Austin pretty creepy, and I don’t think it’s just because he stands out as the only blonde Danny, or because he’s 30 years old trying to pass for 18. And he’s definitely not “Hot Danny,” despite what Billy Bush may claim. However, Austin’s got a great voice (although not really shown off singing “Mony Mony”), and can certainly dance, so that’s something.

Allie— At 19, she’s the closest to Sandy’s intended age, earning her the moniker “Baby Sandy.” Unfortunately, Allie chose to sing “I Love Rock and Roll,” which, while a great song, didn’t show off her voice at all, especially in the low register she chose to sing it in. So…judgment reserved.

Kate— “Serious Sandy” sang “All by Myself,” which is a pretty intense song choice for the first live show. So props for that, and for the impressive voice. Despite the voice, she didn’t really blow me away, and I think it’s because she’s lacking in the stage presence department.

And now, for the lamest twist ever…they’re bringing back two eliminated contestants! Gasp!

The new Danny is Matt, the guy who got eliminated for having no experience and not enough talent. Come on, producers. He wasn’t even that good the first time! Bad dancer, average singer, total lack of charisma. Sigh. “Second Chance Danny” chose to sing “Pretty Woman”…in the character of a child molester scouting for new victims. Seriously, enough with the creepy mannerisms, dude! And he looked seriously uncomfortable up there, and can’t even hold his notes without breaking. I’ll just assume America will send him home this week, because he is SO not deserving of a third chance.

The new Sandy is Ashley A., the nervous crybaby who kept missing notes in the auditions. I can think of, like, a half-dozen eliminated girls who were WAY better than Ashley A., in every way except her perfect sweet Sandy look. And she was a total choker! Sigh. “Emotional Sandy” sang “Still the One” with a nervous, wavering voice. Just…not that good. Man. These second chance people were obviously cut for a reason, NBC. And now back to the people with an actual chance of winning…

Jason— He’s 31, which is a bit iffy, but totally mollified me by singing “Faith,” by George Michael. That song cracks me up every time I hear it. Love! Plus, “Boy Band Danny” is Mormon, which makes it all the more hilarious (I’m not sure why, but it totally does). He’s got a strong voice, although not as good as Austin and Derek, and good stage presence and movement.

Max—I hate to be mean (LIE), but Max is just not hot enough to be Danny. He seems like a nice, cool guy, but Danny needs to be a heartthrob. Otherwise the show just doesn’t make much sense. Sorry, Max. “Slacker Danny” sang “Summer of ’69,” and while he has a very good voice, he seemed awkward and trying-too-hard, like his movements were choreographed and unnatural. And he’s not too charismatic, either. And holy crap with the Britney Spears chest-shaking shimmy thing. Yeah.

Laura— She’s 21, engaged, and planning her wedding (BARF). “Small-Town Sandy” sang “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and, aside from the annoying fake-giggly thing, did a great job. She has a really beautiful voice.

Kathleen—She and her husband love going to church together, where she’s a “worship leader” (BARF). Hate to break it to you, Kathleen, but as I’ve told many an Amazing Race contestant, God doesn’t care if you win. “Spiritual Sandy” chose “Suddenly I See,” and actually did a pretty great job. She’s got a good voice, and really felt the song as she was singing it, if that makes sense. Good…emoting, I guess.

Kevin— “Bellhop Danny” (um, okay…) sang “Walkin’ in Memphis.” I love that song! So he gets mad points for the song choice, and for being a total cutie. Also for having a great voice and good charisma. Did they just stick all the average Danny’s in the middle of the show, and leave the best for the beginning and end? (Answer: Yes, and the Sandy’s too.)

Chad— For some reason, I don’t really like Chad. Yeah, he’s good, yeah, he seems likeable, but there’s just something about him that seems weird…oddly childlike or something. I dunno. He’s “Ambitious Danny,” and he sang “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” He’s got a great voice, and seemed really excited, which is endearing, but got a little over-the-top at times.

Julianna— “Rock Chick Sandy” sang “The First Cut is the Deepest,” which may have been a bit too modern for this competition. She’s got a lovely voice, and a good personality, but doesn’t really seem like Sandy. And I don’t think it’s just ‘cause she’s a brunette, or sang a Sheryl Crow song.

Ashley S.— Let’s face it: There are a number of strong singers in this competition, any whom could sing a lead part in Grease. Logically, then, it should come down to acting and dancing ability, which I hope will be showcased in later episodes. And in Ashley S., we have an actual legit dancer. “Ballerina Sandy” sang “It’s in His Kiss,” and had a great stage presence, a strong voice, and is generally totally adorable. Go, Ashley S.!

And that’s all the contestants! David Ian has managed to steal my picks for Danny and Sandy (Derek and Ashley S.), so let it be known that I’m NOT copying, and that they were even my faves from last week. Now let’s hope we get to see some acting and dancing challenges in two weeks, so that we can stray further from the American Idol mold. Oh, and the special guest judge at that time will be...Andrew Lloyd Webber. Say it with me: BARF!

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Anderson Cooper: #2 Silver Fox, #1 Anchor

Oh, Anderson Cooper. He's only the second foxiest silver fox on TV, behind Tim Gunn, but I don't think he would mind; he clearly has an interest in the sartorial, if his piece on dictator fashion is any indication. And Tim's no competition for the anchor's chair. Anderson can not only handle the serious subjects with knowledge and aplomb, but he's also got a sense of humor about himself, one of the best things an anchor can have. (Try to think of Dan Rather taking himself seriously. Would you have watched his election night coverage then?) There's Anderson chugging Pat Robertson's protein shake. Anderson attempting the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment while wearing his CNN-issued hurricane-coverage-strength poncho for protection. Or his crew, wearing party hats and having themselves a "Miss USA Got a Second Chance, w00t!" party. Like I said last week, I love it when the crew gets some love. Yet my favorite Anderson moment came about a year ago. He'd met a family in West Virginia while covering the Sago story, and had them on the show a couple weeks later to check in. During the interview, he mentioned that he'd been exchanging e-mails with the little girl. How many anchors would do that? Particularly if they've got two-hour shows to prep for every weeknight and they're constantly being sent around the world to cover the big stories? Why would he bother? Because he's the best, that's why.

The one problem I have with Anderson: when he reports from a war zone, he never wears a helmet. I'm only thinking about your safety, Anderson. Please, try not to die.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: Surgery Smarts and Relationship Smarts are Inversely Correlated

Sigh. Is this dysfunctional relationship week? First the stalker twins on Studio 60, now two incredibly ill-timed marriage proposals on Grey’s Anatomy.

Look, Burke: If your first words to your partner in what must be at least several weeks are “Marry me,” that’s not romantic; it’s unhealthy. You spend ages in an incredibly immature contest over who can stay quiet the longest. Then when your partner (unlike you) chooses to be the adult in the relationship and say where she went wrong, you act like now that she’s admitted fault, she’s worthy of marriage? What the hell kind of dominant male ideology is that? You were only going to marry her if she essentially submitted herself to you and admitted she was wrong, whereas you don't have to accept any blame at all? DUMP HIM, Cristina—he doesn't deserve you! Update: As Tiff points out in the comments, Cristina didn't literally admit fault--rather, she conceded the argument by speaking first and thus "losing" by their terms of engagement. I'm still gonna call that an act of submission, and stick to my Burke-hating guns.

And that brings us to our second marriage proposal of the night—grief-stricken and sex-obsessed George asks Callie to marry him. I don’t even think I need to lay out why that proposal is poorly-timed and unhealthy. I mean, they just got back together after his father died, and he’s just been using her (over and over again, apparently) as a distraction to avoid dealing with his feelings. Not the best circumstances for a marriage proposal, especially considering that the last time they were in a relationship he freaked out and refused to talk to her about it, driving her to live in a hotel and sleep with McSteamy. How about actually dating for a few weeks, George?

As a side note, I loved the scene between Addison and Alex where he was all “um, yeah, I’m just not that into you…and I want my cool surgeries back!” I don’t think I actually believe him, but I thought it was incredibly well-played on his part, and a pretty hilarious way to throw her off-balance.

Last side note: Is McSteamy getting less and less hot every week? What’s going on here?! He looks all pasty and unhealthy. Not cool.

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The Apprentice: Is That a Shark?

With ratings sagging and the Trumpremacy the show had enjoyed in the first few seasons all but left behind, it's not surprising that Trump & Co. would want to change things around on The Apprentice to get people to watch. But they'd have to be good changes first. Among the bad ideas this season: Carolyn and George are gone; loserly contestants camp out in the backyard; the rules seem to change from week to week, allowing one team to take a week off for no real reason; perpetual PM Heidi is either going to win the whole thing or be fired in a blaze of glory the first time she loses; and everyone is heartily sick of Trump after the whole Miss USA/Rosie/Barbara flap. While Survivor can go forever, this show isn't Business Survivor. It's always been about Trump rather than the contestants, and Trump, I think, has worn out his welcome. Add to that the retooling of this season, and there seems to be a very clear shark-jumping point right here. Is there any way to save this show? Maybe, if they put Ivanka in charge and restricted Trump to guest appearances. More Ivanka is actually the one change they made for the better this season.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Studio 60: It’s Stalker-riffic!

Studio 60 returned Monday night, after long last, and made me want to jump into the television and thwack Matt and Danny with a rolled-up newspaper. I mean, come on!

Matt obsessively follows an online auction for a date with Harriet, his ex, bids thousands of dollars to try and win the date, but turns down an actual offer from Harriet for the same date! Sigh. He’s clearly too emotionally stunted to man up and admit he still has feelings for her, but somehow thinks it’s okay to secretly buy her online? And to think he’s the one that was yelling at Danny to “say it!”

Speaking of Danny, he has fallen completely off the deep end. I, unlike some, chose to find his speech about how he had fallen for Jordan and was “coming for [her]” romantic, rather than creepy. And oh, how wrong I was!

First he calls her repeatedly over the holiday break, moving from cute to pathetic to stalker in the space of a couple weeks. Then he exposes his creepy obsession for all of Hollywood to see, getting his famous friends to fax in “letters of recommendation” to her, in hopes that she’ll be so impressed that she’ll change her mind and go out with him.

So let’s see, she’s recently been publicly humiliated by a man who chose to air their dirty laundry in front of the entire world for fun and profit. She is emotional and hormonal and dealing with a pregnancy by herself, one which is probably also not a point of pride for her. What better than to have the most important people in her industry beg her to go out on a date with one of her employees? Jesus Christ, Danny!

Let’s just hope that Tom doesn’t follow in their footsteps during his courtship of Lucy.

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Heroes: Kring Speaketh

In a press release about TV Guide's Heroes cover story next week, creator Tim Kring talks about Monday's episode and, per usual for a showrunner, drops tiny, tantalizing hints about what's to come. He mentions how season 2 will have a lot about Hiro's family, jumping off from Monday's episode with George Takei as Hiro's dad. And if you're not ready for Takei, you need to watch his appearance on The Daily Show last week (go here and look for "Faux Klingons"). It will make you ready. Kring also has more tidbits: new high-tech hero! Claire's dad is someone we know! But more importantly - someone will die during February sweeps! A regular, no less! Now that Heroes has a regular character death on the table, how will 24, the granddaddy of blithely killing people off, respond? They may have to raise them two regulars and a nuked city.

And in other Heroes/TV Guide news, check out this interview with James Kyson Lee (Ando). I think he's got some good ideas about possible superpowers. I suggest they take him on as a writer.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Veronica Mars: This Episode is Cruelty-Free

Because the CW doesn't care about the State of the Union, so long as the president doesn't introduce legislation that will outlaw Chad Michael Murray forever, we get a new Veronica Mars this week. Ah, I missed that plucky girl detective. We're going headlong into the mystery of Dean O'Dell's death, now that Mrs. O'Dell has asked Keith to look into it. Initially he assumes it was suicide, but his suspicions are raised by the unopened bottle of 40-year-old scotch (…six weeks after his death, but okay, it's still sitting in his office). Keith is given further pause when Veronica reveals that the circumstances surrounding the death – fake suicide with clichéd note on computer – are exactly what she posited in her "perfect crime" paper for Landry. But because circumstances point so strongly to Landry, he couldn't possibly have done it. So the question becomes, who had access to Veronica's paper, but is not too obvious to have done it? (Veronica! Shame on you!)

Veronica's case this week centers on stolen lab animals, including a capuchin who's been the subject of extensive research and will have to die for that research to reach its conclusion. Naturally, all this points squarely to those pesky, vegan, unwashed, Free Waterfall animal rights hippies. Except they didn't really do it, so they come off as cool and well-scrubbed, including the leader, who is hot and likes Mac, so you know he has good taste. (As though to make up for the lack of Mac earlier in the season, this episode was a veritable Mac attack, with everyone's favorite helpful nerd getting tons of screen time and makeout time to boot. Yay Mac!) Veronica eventually turns her sights away from the animal rights group, but not before punking a thinly veiled Ted Nugent, and I mean really thinly veiled. Not exactly "Ned Tugent," but near as dammit. The thief, as it turns out, is one of the lab techs, who gave the monkey a name. I have to commend the writers for ending the story on a bittersweet note, with Oscar the monkey saved but another monkey brought in to take his place. It's a difficult issue, and a happy ending would have felt artificial.

Also in this episode, Parker and Dick try to get Veronica and Logan back into the dating game, with the sort of results you'd expect. Dick's plan involves drunk beach floozies (I know, that's his answer to everything), while Parker's involves parties attended primarily by the Loser Guy Brigade, Neptune Chapter. Veronica ends up chatting with Piz, who hints very strongly about how one should not waste one's time with people who aren't cute and awesome. Veronica thinks about what he said, and then goes to the Grand to plant one on Logan. Dammit, Veronica, he was talking about himself! Worst detective ever! And didn't Veronica and Logan just break up in the last episode? How many times are they going to break up and get back together again? I think they're already rivaling Ross and Rachel's record. I hate when TV couples can't decide if they want to be together or not. It may be realistic, but it also gets real old real fast.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Heroes: Somehow Heists Are Less Fun With Superpowers

Linderman, Linderman, Linderman. Everything comes back to Linderman. D.L. owes him a favor, he's got Hiro's Katana of Destiny – we'd really better meet him at some point, and it had better be soon, or else he'll end up the Maris of this show. (Hey, maybe Borgnine could play him!)

So what have the heroes been up to since they've been gone? Um, not much, actually. Most of the characters have storylines that can be summed up in one sentence. Nikica gets moved into a psych ward. Matt leads an unfruitful raid on the paper factory. Claire reveals her secret to Zach again. Bennet chats with Mohinder about The List. Not that it wasn't nice to see Claire and Zach interacting again, even if he wasn't at his normal cuteness level, and not that it's not great to see Bennet get his menace on after the long break. But it was a bit of a slow episode. The biggest advancements come in two storylines.

Hiro: Hiro tracks the katana from the painting to a museum in New York, where Ando figures out that the S-symbol on the handle is a combination of two characters, meaning "great talent" and "godsend" – a reference to the heroes' powers. The sword is under glass, which means a heist is in order. I confess, at this point I had visions of Hiro being lowered into the room at night, using aerosol to illuminate the lasers, but no such luck. He just slows time down and nabs the katana. So disappointing. Happily, after Hiro discovers the sword's a fake and Linderman has the real one, he meets up with Nathan, and their interaction is, as usual, priceless. Hiro seems to have a special affection for Nathan, maybe because he was the first other hero he ever met, and for all that Nathan tries to remain impassive, he clearly likes the little guy too. I'm starting to think that Nathan doesn't end up a supervillain after all. How can someone who likes Hiro be evil?

Peter: Because Peter spends most of the episode in a coma, there's less of his whining than usual. In fact, I don't think he whines at all. A first, perhaps? Anyway, in Peter's coma dream/vision thing about him exploding, there's a guy standing off to the side laughing at him. I would have liked this guy just for that, even if he weren't played by Christopher Eccleston, who you may know as one of the many, many Doctor Whos (he also played a delightfully dastardly Iago in a British TV production of Othello). Once Peter's awake and roaming around Manhattan, he sees Christopher – even though he shouldn't. Because Christopher's invisible. The previews suggest that Peter adopts Christopher as his sensei, which I wholeheartedly support, as long as Christopher is a graduate of the Dr. Cox School of Mentoring. I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out. I know, I can't believe I said that about a storyline of Peter's, either.

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24: Putting the "Torture" in "Dysfunctional"

If you've been following the news, you know that Muslim groups are again protesting 24's use of Muslim terrorists, and I understand their frustration. You think you've got everything sorted out, you've explained your position to them, and then they go and do a complete retread of season four as soon as your back is turned. They've brought in radical Islamic terrorists, a teen terrorist, and nukes, not to mention the awkwardness of CTUers having slept with one of their own (Aisha), Jack teaming up with someone who should be his enemy (remember Paul Raines?) and a return to the presidential bunker. None of these things ring any bells for the writers, like they might have put them together at some point before. It's very disappointing that they have to go back to Muslim terrorists. Isn't there a new group that can menace the U.S.? What about homegrown terrorists? Like a radical militia group or something? Jack could infiltrate their compound! He'd love to do that! Ernest Borgnine could play the group's leader. I hear he's looking for work.

But until Fox picks up my season seven idea (seriously, Fox – call me), we've still got nukes. When last we left Jack, he'd quit, but we all knew that wouldn't last. When Jack's country needs him, he springs into action, and after he helps pull a guy out of the wreckage of a helicopter, he's back on board. (Hilariously, the helicopter subsequently explodes in a massive fireball. Like, visible from space. What an odd-sized explosion.) CTU, questioning Assad, gets the name of a Russian general who's Fayed's nuke contact and who just happens to have had contact with Philip Bauer, Jack's dad. Jack can't find his dad, but he does find…

Okay. So. You remember last season's shadowy bad guy? The one with the Bluetooth headset who Logan was always talking to? Played by Paul "Chopper" McCrane? Graham? You know what Graham's last name is? It's Bauer. Yeah, he's Jack's brother. No, for real. Except they don't really treat each other like brothers. Having not seen each other for years, they immediately start in on a game of cat and mouse – which I suppose is justified, since we do know Graham is bad, but still. And since Graham is bad, and Jack is the paragon of virile world-saving studliness, his sister-in-law carries a torch for him. Come on, 24, do we really need that? Next thing, you're going to tell us that Josh is really Jack's son. He looks enough like Kim, poor kid. Anyway, Graham's not giving up Dad's location, so Jack, who was so queasy of torture a couple hours ago, decides to get right back on the torture horse. Starting with his own brother. Are the writers' memory spans that short or is there something about the Bauer family dynamic that is conducive to torture? Either explanation would make sense to me.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Desperate Housewives: Girlfriend in a Coma (I Know it’s Serious)

I unfortunately can’t write much right now, but can we discuss how entertaining Wisteria Lane is these days? Mike’s out of prison, Ian’s cheating girlfriend in a coma is dead, Zach is mad obsessed with Gabrielle, and Orson got date raped by Alma (where was his Unicorn of Rape Defense when he needed it?). Oh, and Lynette is working at Tom’s pizza place (yawn).

Oh, the intrigue! Oh, the excitement! Oh, the potential for seeing much more of Mike! Oh, the increasingly difficult job of hiding Marcia Cross’s ginormously pregnant belly! Oh, the…pizza. Yeah, okay. So it's only mostly entertaining. Still pretty damn great!

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Get Yourself a Dirty Job

When my dad, whose judgment I normally trust, told me about Dirty Jobs, I was skeptical. I mean, we both like MythBusters, but who doesn't? It's fun to watch the guys explode (ahem) urban legends. But what's fun about watching a guy travel around the country doing dirty and/or gross jobs, like worm farming? Turns out, it depends on the guy. The show would not be watchable without host Mike Rowe, whose quick, self-deprecating wit and game attitude make him a joy to watch whatever he's doing - a good thing on this show, where the jobs, like salvaging fixtures from an old dorm, sometimes don't make good TV by themselves. The viewers aren't the only ones who like Mike; he charms everyone he works with, becoming best buddies with them by the time he leaves. Probably the only person who ever didn't like him was the guy at the charcoal place in Missouri, who was forced to work with Mike by his dad, and who got upset with him for slowing everyone down. He's a comedian, guy. Did you expect he would be good at your job?

What I also love about this show: the recognition it gives its crew. I can't think of any other reality show, educational or otherwise, that makes its sound and camera guys part of the show. Mike features them in his Dirty Jobs song and nearly flattens field producer Dave Barsky while cutting down a tree, but there's one episode, at a South African monkey sanctuary, where the crew gets a starring role. The crew is terrorized by an evil monkey (like the monkey in Chris Griffin's closet, only with less pointing), bonked, bitten and scratched in just the first few hours there, so that the first fifteen minutes are given over to their terror. When Barsky gets on the phone with producers in the U.S. and tells them, with no preamble, "Dude, we're all going to die," he's kidding, but he's also... not kidding. When monkeys are evil, they're very, very evil.

So get yourself a dirty job - or, at least, watch someone else do one. There's only a little bit of schadenfreude involved.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: Team Addison

Right, so…is Addison rapidly becoming anyone else’s favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy? I mean, I’ve been a huge fan of hers for a long time now, but I think this week she actually managed to bump Bailey – Bailey! – out of the top slot.

She’s smart, she’s confident, she’s sexy, she’s interesting, and she’s actually grown as a person since we met her. I’ve said for a long time now that the mark of Grey’s Anatomy as good television is the fact that Shonda Rhimes has managed to slowly worm Addison into our hearts. First she was despised, then tolerated, begrudgingly respected, guiltily liked, legitimately liked and now, at least for me, beloved. I even like this new subplot with Alex. Addison has made me like Alex! Up is down! North is south! Crazy is sane!

So right, aside from my full-blown love affair with Addison, what else happened last night? Let’s see…Anne from Arrested Development (Her?) got to stand up straight, Izzie thinks she can be a surgeon who is personally involved with her patients (fair enough…it made her a millionaire the first time), George’s dad died (and I may have almost cried), Burke and Cristina came closer to talking (I didn’t come closer to caring), Addison chose not to have McSteamy’s baby nine months ago, and Meredith sorta kinda had a meaningful conversation with her dad. Oh, and Addison and Alex totally made out. ‘Cause that’s how the Golden Globe winner for Best Drama rolls.

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Ugly Betty: Romijn Event

A bit of Ugly Betty news before we get into it: In case you haven't heard, Tim Gunn, America's fashion sensei, the foxiest of all silver foxes (sorry, Anderson, but I have to believe that you love him too), will guest star on two episodes during February sweeps. Why am I telling you this? First, because Tim Gunn is awesome, and second, because this week's episode was, coincidentally, all about "are you in or out?" Bandage Lady has finally decided that it's go time on the Mode coup, so Wilhelmina is trying to decide who will be auf'd when she takes over, and Amanda, among others, is on the out list. Marc tries to save his gal pal, which means a lot of Marc and Amanda – never a bad thing. Especially when it involves secret bird codes and Marc briefly turning Amanda evil. So why isn't Michael Urie part of the main cast? Why is he still listed as a guest star? Give him the respect he deserves, producers!

Remember how Daniel was missing last week? Apparently nobody thought to look in his apartment, because he was there. Betty drags him out, gets her job back (to complete last week's reset), and then has the great idea to set him up with a supermodel – but Evil Amanda cancels the date. Betty arrives to save face for the cameras, and the two of them spend a night on the town together, played out over an adorable series of scenes: Betty and Daniel get pizza, Betty and Daniel sing "I Got You Babe," and, best of all, Daniel encourages Betty to go after Henry. I always knew you were on our side, Daniel! From the beginning of the show, I thought that the Betty/Daniel partnership had a lot of potential, and it was realized this week. Betty's cute trying to shake him out of his funk, and Daniel finally takes a serious interest in Betty's life. Of course, it's nice just to see someone champion Henry's cause, Hilda. (Speaking of Hilda, if you want an approximation of her subplot this week, just play this game.)

And there's finally a serious advancement in the Bandage Lady subplot, because her bandages are removed, revealing – Rebecca Romijn! Who is playing Alexis Meade! Formerly Alex Meade! Daniel's non-dead brother! I know! Damn, I'm going to have to start paying attention to this storyline. Things seem to be happening in it.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scrubs: My Musical!

Just a quick note to remind everyone that the long, long-awaited musical episode of Scrubs premieres tonight at 9 on NBC.

I am excited beyond words.

UPDATE: It was all the awesomeness I had hoped for and so, so much more. Can't write much now, but can I just say that Neil Flynn, Donald Faison, and Judy Reyes especially have surprisingly awesome singing voices? (Sarah Chalke, as was widely reported, not so much.)

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It's the winter Television Critics Association press tour, which means it's time for the networks to make all their mid-season announcements. NBC had quite a bit of news, and we'll start with the best: Heroes will be back next season! Sure, it was a given, but it's always nice to have confirmation (as fans of Veronica Mars or Scrubs will tell you). Heroes is also getting another episode added on to this season's order - good news, but unusual enough that I have to wonder if the producers asked the network for it. Maybe they needed another episode to cram everything in? Whatever, as long as it means more Hiro.

NBC also provided some hope for fans of good, but bubble-y, shows like Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, and Studio 60, with president Kevin Reilly saying he will "stick with quality" (more encouraging than another comment of his: "[A]t least some of those shows will be back next season"). A network that prides itself on quality, even when it's low-rated? Are we in the Sorkin-verse? Or perhaps they don't want to be the network that canceled all of its new shows except for the one hit. I'm sorry I'm being so cynical here, but years as a Scrubs fan have taught me not to trust NBC.

Finally, Today continues its quest to slowly take over the entire NBC schedule - it'll be creeping into a fourth hour in September. It will still only have 15 minutes of actual news content.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Desperate Housewives: All Bree Wanted for Christmas was a Bag of Teeth

This week's Desperate Housewives was action-packed! We've got Mike, who has met Paul in prison and realized that he is Up To No Good. The tip-off: Paul paid some dudes to beat Mike up just so Paul could jump in and save him. Sounds like somebody wants to be Mike's knight in shining armor...and reap the benefits, if you know what I mean.

Lynette, in the meantime, has taken to flashing old men in order to save her husband's business. The restaurant looks totally cute, though, so I guess it's for a worthy cause. Unlike Lynette, Gabrielle's felony of choice isn't exhibitionism, but the much more predictable pedophilia. Once a cradle-robber, always a cradle-robber. And this time, her boyfriend (/stalker) isn't even hot--it's a creepily bewigged and newly rich Zach! Yeah, ew.

Susan's plot was pretty boring in comparison: Julie wants her some birth control pills, and she's willing to go to Edie to get them. Unfortunately, she totally gets busted by Susan. Double-unfortunately, so does Austin as he's boning Little Miss Van de Tramp. Oops.

Bree spends the episode trying to get Alma to move out (no luck there, since Alma has an evil blackmail plan to get Orson back and make Bree doubt him), and then clutching a bunch of gross, bloody teeth. For real. She found them under a floorboard in Alma's new house, and instead of calling the police, chose to hold them contemplatively in her BARE HANDS. I think Paranoid Scheming Bree may have killed OCD Cleanfreak Bree once and for all, unfortunately. Just as Insane Manipulative Lynette must have killed Insane Manipulative Kayla, since she was nowhere to be seen this week.

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The Amazing Race: All-Stars Roster

CBS has finally announced the lineup for the all-star season of The Amazing Race, and the teams are... pretty much what we'd already expected. But although I'd been spoiled, there was still one pleasant surprise: Kevin and Drew! Yaaaaaay!

The full list:

  • Bill and Joe, season 1
  • Kevin and Drew, season 1
  • Danny and Oswald, season 2
  • Jill and John Vito, season 3
  • Teri and Ian, season 3
  • Charla and Mirna, season 5
  • Uchenna and Joyce, season 7
  • Rob and Amber, season 7
  • Eric and Danielle, season 9
  • Dustin and Kandice, season 10
  • David and Mary, season 10

As excited as I am for the further adventures of some of the better teams (Kevin and Drew!), I'm also looking forward to some interesting interactions between these teams. Who will be Mary's new BFFs? Will Dustin, Kandice, and Danielle fight over who is blondest? Exactly how much will Mirna hate Rob on sight? How cute is Joyce with her short hair? We'll discover the answers to all of those questions on February 18! (Except for the one about Joyce's hair - you can find that out here.)

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globes: Yawn.

I don’t have much time to delve into details right now, but let’s talk Golden Globes. Overall, they managed to keep me interested for the first two hours, but I barely paid attention to what awards were being handed out in the third hour. This is obviously a problem, since most of the biggies are given out at the end. The problem could be blamed on drowsiness-inducing cough syrup, but I blame the boring presenters and boring acceptance speeches. Not the boring winners, though, because there were actually a few pleasant surprised last night. Which brings me to my favorite and least favorite moments…

Favorite Moment: America Ferrera wins for best actress in a comedy. Seriously—it brought tears to my eyes. And I’m kind of a cold-hearted bitch.

Least Favorite Moment: Warren Beatty Yawnfest ’07. This may be where I lost interest and went to make myself nachos.

Other happy surprises: Hugh Laurie. Okay, not so much a surprise, but happy nonetheless (and not just because he consistently delivers amusing acceptance speeches). Alec Baldwin. Hooray for 30 Rock!

Other boringness: Helen Mirren. Not that she’s boring, per se, but did they have to nominate her projects in every category?

What about you guys? Any surprises or disappointments?

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24: Bring Back the Cougar!

Okay, everyone. You can all relax now. The Great Morris/Milo Slapfight of '07 has been resolved. Turns out they were fighting over Chloe. What a gripping storyline that was! I can't think of any storyline that held my interest more – except, perhaps, for every other storyline that's ever been on this show, and that's including the one with the cougar. At least there was the possibility that Kim would get eaten by the cougar. No one ever releases a cougar into CTU. Shut up, Morris and Milo.

You remember Ahmed, the teen terrorist from yesterday? Well, he may be young, but he's possibly the most fearsome terrorist ever. In fact, he must be, because despite being outnumbered, severely injured, whacked out on painkillers, and the star of Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, Ahmed still manages to cow the stupid neighbors into doing what he wants, which is: retrieving a piece of equipment and delivering it to Fayed. This little piece of hardware is for a suitcase nuke, which the nuclear scientist that Fayed broke out of prison (uh, by the way, he broke a nuclear scientist out of prison) is putting together. Yes, it's another season with nukes. At least, it's starting out with nukes – by the end of the season, it'll probably be sharks with laser beams on their heads or something.

Walid, meanwhile, keeps doing his good works, to assuage the producers' guilt over all the negative portrayals of Muslims they've shown over the years. I mean, I assume that's what he's doing. Even though the government has shunted him into a detention camp, he manages to remain a fighter for justice, standing up for the other guys, and a loyal American, eavesdropping on the conversations of terrorists around him. He even manages to pass one of the terrorists' phrases on to the authorities, perfectly, despite speaking no Arabic. But why doesn't he speak Arabic? Are we supposed to trust him more if he doesn't speak it, because Arabic is the language of the terrorists? I find it suspicious that he doesn't speak Arabic, because what, then, is the accent for? Decoration?

And in the Jack Plot: Assad and Jack continue their buddy cop hijinks, managing, through an ingenious piece of street theater, to wangle their suspect into the car with Assad so they can follow him. Everything is all sunshine, puppies, and roses with Jack and his new best friend until Curtis shows up with a beef. Apparently Assad killed Curtis' men way back when he was a baddie, so now Curtis is going to kill Assad. Jack, faced with the choice between them, kills Curtis. Yes, kills him dead. I know! To his credit, this is one of the few deaths he's caused that he's actually pretty upset about. But before he can get too broken up about it, the nuclear bomb goes off! And there's the promise of four more! Oh, the tension! Just wait until they release the sharks!

Bonus Kiefer Footage! Check out these three spots for CalorieMate, a Japanese energy bar. The company not only hired Kiefer to sell their product, but also brought along makeup, set, and costume artists to make the spots seem like real episodes of 24. Real episodes of 24 in which Jack has an inexplicable Japanese sidekick with an obsession for CalorieMate bars, that is. Although I kind of like the sidekick. Can he be a regular?

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Monday, January 15, 2007

24: Taking a Bite Out of Terror

Jack bites a guy to death. Bites him. To death. Yeah. It's kind of like, when Jack Bauer is on the case, everyone is safe – and no one is safe. 24 is back for sure.

So this day starts in the middle of an 11-week string of terrorist attacks, when everyone is paranoid and blaming every vaguely Arab person they see (with good reason, because most of them are terrorists – it's the 24 Law of Averages). Their only lead to Assad, the man behind the attacks, is Fayed, who says he will lead them to Assad if they give him Jack, and that's how he gets sprung out of his Chinese prison. Jack is totally cool with dying to save millions of Americans, but if there's one thing he can't stand, it's dying for nothing. So when Fayed, with a typical villain's arrogance, tells Jack that he's actually the one behind the attacks and Assad's been suing for non-violent solutions, Jack gets mad. And that's when the biting occurs. Way to leave him alone with a redshirt, Fayed.

Jack tries to warn the brass, as he always does, and as they always do, the brass ignore him Рinstead, they decide to go ahead and launch an airstrike on Assad's position, which happens to be a house. In the middle of a residential neighborhood. That seems like a spectacularly bad idea to me, given the high probability of collateral damage, as well as the fact that it's bound to send the already frightened citizens into a panic. But the neighbors don't care. They don't panic, but neither do they come out waving little American flags and brandishing apple pies. If they're so blas̩ about airstrikes in their own backyards, what does that say about the Palmer II administration? Anyway, Jack gets Assad out of the house in time, and the two of them team up. Jack has finally met his match in Assad, who loves torture as much as he does (if not more Р20 months in a Chinese prison has sort of taken away Jack's appetite for it, which is a little sad, but at the same time - not so fun when it happens to you, is it?), and the two of them make a good team. Assad is certainly one of the few competent partners Jack has ever had, so that's a point in his favor.

Lest you think that all Muslims, except perhaps Assad, are bad, there's Kal Penn, as a teenager whose dad gets carted away for no reason – but who is totally, and obviously, a terrorist himself. But wait! We've also got Marisol Nichols as Nadia Yassir, an Arab-American woman in a leadership position at CTU – who has the whiff of incompetence about her, and, if patterns hold, will be summarily dismissed and/or die stupidly halfway through the season. How about Harry Lennix, as the head of the Islamic-American Alliance? There we go. Knew there was one good one – for now, anyway. It's nice to know that actors of Arab extraction, or who just look like it, will always be able to get roles on 24, either as terrorists or as the exceptions that prove the rule. Whatever happened to that PSA, Kiefer?

Wayne Palmer is now, inexplicably, president – I guess they needed someone who had a connection to Jack and William Devane was busy. He's awfully indecisive, but that's why he has Karen Hayes (now the National Security Adviser and Mrs. Buchanan) and Peter MacNicol to advise him – or, really, to bicker like the little angel and devil on his shoulders. Peter MacNicol is the devil in this metaphor, as he's advocating moving all Muslims to concentration camps. And yet, Muslims usually are terrorists on this show, so, in practice, he's right. But he's still the bad guy in the administration. There's always one.

And what else? Milo is back, and useless; another Palmer has crawled out of the woodwork, in the form of sister Sandra; and Morris is creepy, and not just because he calls Chloe a hottie and squeezes her ass. Does anyone else think he's up to something? Or that he's actually working for the terrorists? Because there's something about that middle-distance stare he's working as he hugs Chloe that I don't like. It's a stare that says, "I am totally a mole, and you will never suspect me, because I'm too obvious to be a mole, and yet I am anyway."

Tonight: two more hours!

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Friday, January 12, 2007

30 Rock: An Open Letter to Tina Fey

Dear Tina,

Thanks so much for 30 Rock. It's a hilarious show, even if the People's Choice Awards voters don't think so, but that's probably because they're all busy watching Grey's Anatomy while your show is on. Besides, you don't really want to win a People's Choice Award, do you? It's the Charles Shaw of awards. Anyway, I think your cast is terrific. Alec Baldwin, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski – they're all great. Even Tracy Morgan is funny when his character is off his meds. Occasionally even when he's on his meds. But I can't understand why you keep shoehorning Rachel Dratch into the show. Does she have something on you? Is there some embarrassing video she's threatening to put up on YouTube if you don't give her a role every week? Because everyone else on your show is funny, and then there's her. You know what I mean. There's that twitchy character she plays, that other twitchy character she plays, and then whatever she did this week – I had to check the credits to make sure she was supposed to be playing Barbara Walters. (She was.) Really, the wig did all the work. Throw that wig on that one guy and he could do a better Barbara Walters impression. What I'm saying is, don't let her blackmail you. Whatever it is Rachel has on you, I'm sure it's not that bad. And even if it is that bad, no one will care, because: see above about everyone watching Grey's Anatomy instead.
Love the show!

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Ugly Betty: Reset!

After last week's reheated episode, Ugly Betty is back to its usual deliciousness. Hooray! Some of the highlights: Marc's Betty-centric screensaver, Christina going crazy, strip club-style, and, finally, Papa Suarez getting a storyline that doesn't make me long for the next scene. This is due entirely to Constance, his immigration caseworker, who starts out with an admirable smackdown and then develops a kooky crush on him. See, writers? If you wanted me to care about this storyline, all you had to do was throw in a bad-ass crazy lady and a craft project. Also, Wilhelmina's cowboy boyfriend has turned her into an armadillo, which is to say, a laid-back, jeans-wearing version of Wil who freaks Marc right the hell out. Happily for us, and Marc, Cowboy Ted dumps her and she goes back to her evil self.

And the big stories: when last we (really) left Mode, Betty had just left for MYW and Daniel was totally in love with Salma Hayek. Betty's new job means that she now works in the office equivalent of The View: a chatty group of women of different ethnicities, body types, and handicapabilities, and even a Bizzaro Betty thrown in for good measure. But Salma Hayek's got places to be, and Betty's got to go back to work at Mode. So how to hit the reset button? Easily – by making Sofia a manipulative skank. She uses Betty to get Daniel to propose, then reveals that the whole relationship was just fodder for her first cover story – Fling to Ring in 60 Days – and summarily dumps him on live TV. So Betty quits MYW, and Sofia is now gone, but not before getting a handbag beatdown by Amanda. Everything's back to normal, right? Yeah, except that Daniel's AWOL. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll turn up in someone's bed.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

House: Everybody Lies

This week on House, everybody’s a liar. The Patient of the Week’s brain lied to him about being in love (and then gave him heart attacks, to boot!). House lied to everyone about being in rehab (I knew he wouldn’t turn all nice and polite without the Vicodin). Cuddy lied (perjured herself, in fact) about giving House placebo pills to keep him out of jail. Tritter lied…well, okay, he didn’t really lie about anything. He was just an asshole. Good riddance, asshole.

I am all for ending the whole Tritter subplot, and I suspect the rest of the world is right there with me. I mean, yeah, House is addicted to drugs—that much is obvious. But it’s also obvious that he feels real pain, and needs the drugs to function. He’s more harmful off the drugs than on the drugs. It’s an interesting subject to debate, to be sure, but not over the course of several months. And not at the expense of actual, non-annoying plots. So here’s to the return of the REAL House!

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Armed and Famous: Don't Tell Tito!

So I watched Armed and Famous last night, the show where allegedly famous people are sent to join the Muncie, Indiana police force. (Hey. I did it for you. Because I am committed to covering television.) At its core, it's nothing more than Cops with celebrities. The most surprising thing about it is that someone didn't have this idea earlier, because there are certain things about law enforcement that are naturally more entertaining with famous people. Take what I'm sure is the real reason why the show is located in Indiana: tasering. Under Indiana law, you can only carry a taser if you've been tasered yourself, which means that all of our "stars" have to get shocked. Haven't you ever wanted to see Erik Estrada get what's coming to him? Well, if you watched this show, you did. Hey, Erik, were you on a cop show? Did you play some guy named Ponch? Because it's been at least three minutes since the last time you told us. Clearly haven't been doing anything since then, have you?

Probably the best part of the entire show, and the only reason to watch, would be La Toya Jackson, who is just precious. She's been sheltered her entire life, to the point of never having done laundry, has never used a coin slot (she keeps trying to feed a dollar bill into it), and is used to eating at restaurants with tablecloths and finger bowls (so of course they take her to Texas Roadhouse, the place where you take peanuts out of a bucket and drop the shells on the floor). The producers were probably hoping to get some freakouts or moans of disgust at the horrible lifestyles of the lower middle class from La Toya, but she's just so game and excited about everything that you have to like her. She really wants to do it! And it's very sweet how she calls her brother Jackie and begs him not to tell Mom, lest she get worried. But then she has to go and undercut it all by also begging him not to tell Jermaine, Tito, or Michael, because those guys are the instant punchlines of the Jackson family. Admit it, you laughed right there. Tito is comedy gold.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What the Hell, America?

Okay, look, people. And by "people," I mean as in, "People's Choice Awards voters." Now, I will give you Grey's Anatomy and Heroes. I'm even willing to concede Two and a Half Men, mostly because I've never seen it, so maybe it is good, I don't know. But... The Class? For best new comedy? Is this a joke? I saw the pilot, and that was enough, but Liz kept watching, and I trust her when she says it didn't improve. People of America! Watch 30 Rock instead! I guarantee you it'll be a better use of your time! And stop watching bad shows - you'll only encourage the networks!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ugly Betty: Right On!

Well, thanks to a DVRed New Years marathon on ABC Family, I’m all caught up with Ugly Betty. And yeah, it is AWESOME. (Semi-) evil gay sycophants, cute but nerdy accountants, a makeover episode that made the subject of the makeover worse—what’s not to love?

I also watched part of Real Women Have Curves, America Ferrera’s big debut, over the weekend. She’s just as fabulous as one would expect, and significantly, well, curvier than she is as Betty. I wonder if ABC had her lose the weight so she’d be ready for primetime. That would be pretty ironic, given the character she’s playing. Maybe they thought Betty wouldn’t be sympathetic enough if she had glasses, braces, big eyebrows, AND curves. Or hey, maybe America Ferrera gained weight for Real Women Have Curves. It was a few years ago. Who knows?

At any rate, props to Ugly Betty for being awesome, and props to the writers for avoiding the obvious “Betty loses glasses and braces, gets an eyebrow wax, and becomes beautiful!” storyline. Because I’ve seen She’s All That, and it sucked. Negative props, however, for making the first new episode after I got all caught up a crappy, out-of-order flashback story. What the hell, guys?

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24 Bingo!

Sunday marks the triumphant return of 24, in the two-night, four-hour event we've come to expect. But what if you're a 24 fan who wants to celebrate the show's premiere and all the recurring tropes that go with it, but you can't do a drinking game because of work the next day? That's where this ingenious 24 bingo card comes in. Besides, if you took a shot every time a vital suspect or witness is killed before he/she can be interrogated, you'd have alcohol poisoning by the end of the night.

Beware, though: just like the real 24, there are a few red herrings thrown in there just to make things more difficult - you're never going to make bingo in the row that has "Someone eats something" or "Chloe professes her undying love to Jack," of course.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Grease - YTOTIW: It's Electrifying!

Last night, NBC debuted the eagerly-anticipated (by me, at least) show Grease: You're the One That I Want, which is essentially an extended audition for the roles of Sandy and Danny in a Broadway revival of Grease. As someone who has always enjoyed cruelly mocking American Idol contestants, but wished they sung more songs from musicals (yes, I love musicals) and made the uncoordinated people dance, Grease: YTOTIW is very appealing to me. To the other 99% of America, maybe not so much. I mean, even I was sick of hearing the bridge of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by the end of the episode.

The show does have legitimacy on its side, partly because the judges have a personal stake in the outcome, which I appreciate. David Ian, mean British guy, is actually producing the revival. Jim Jacobs, potential Paula Abdul, co-wrote the original Grease. Finally, Kathleen Marshall is a fantastic, Tony-winning Broadway director/choreographer, and it seems like she'll be directing and/or choreographing the Grease revival. I've seen four of her productions ("The Pajama Game," "Wonderful Town," "Little Shop of Horrors," and "Kiss Me Kate"), and she's the real deal. I'm honestly pretty surprised that she's attached her name to this show.

Not on Grease: YTOTIW's side is originality. The show is basically American Idol with two co-hosts and dancing. Oh, and the "prestigious" "Grease Academy," where the 50 semi-finalists will be sent to learn all things Grease.

Type-casting will be an interesting issue as the weeks go by. They put a couple of overweight girls through to the second day of auditions (dancing), but neither made it to Grease Academy. Interestingly, one of those girls was actually a very strong dancer, so one would assume that if she was good enough to get into the dancing round, she should have been good enough to make it out. And the judges would never be cynical enough as to make those contestants go through the second round to quell criticism that no heavy girls were considered, only to cut them immediately after. ...Right?

Oh, and while apparently Sandy can't be overweight (which I can kind of understand, if they're not trying to be radically different from previous incarnations of Grease), it's totally cool for Danny to be 42 years old. Because that guy made it through to Grease Academy. I guess a middle-aged Danny and a teenage Sandy would add a whole new element to the show.

Grease: YTOTIW will totally be this year's American Idol for me, but if you aren't a fan of musicals, don't have a leather jacket/greasy hair fetish, and don't want to watch multiple talent reality shows, I see no reason why you wouldn't watch American Idol instead. Making fun of Paula Abdul's drunken ramblings is a hard habit to kick, after all.

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The Apprentice: Trump Takes L.A.

Are you ready for the return of the greatest reality show of all time? Uh, no, not Project Runway. No, not The Amazing Race, either. No, not American Idol. Look, I'll just tell you what it is: The Apprentice. Why do I say it's the greatest reality show of all time? Well, as Martha and Rosie know, and as Ivanka said on Today Thursday morning, if you say anything negative about Trump, ever, he will come after you with both barrels loaded. With that in mind, I say: Long live Trump the Magnificent!

Trump's greatest creation in a career full of great creations (like refreshing Trump Ice!) is back for its sixth season, with more crazed-up sycophants, another Trump, and a new setting: Los Angeles. Because if Trump is California dreamin' on this winter's day, all the rest of you should be, too. And Trump, in his wisdom and his good hair, has instituted even more changes to completely redesign the show, so it is entirely unrecognizable from that show that started to suck as soon as Martha Stewart got her hands on it. This show is completely different! It's like New Coke! Now, the winning project manager gets to stay project manager and gets to assist in the boardroom. The losing team has to sleep in tents on the lawn like the losers they are. Losers! You have failed Trump! You don't deserve lavish, gold-plated furnishings, much less plumbing or electricity! On the plus side, however, the lack of light does give Mark Burnett an excuse to break out his much-beloved night-vision cameras. Which are completely as great as he thinks they are. Everything is better in night-vision!

With Carolyn summarily dismissed, George enjoying a well-deserved break, and one of the boardroom chairs being filled by the winning project manager, the role of Trump's lieutenant falls to Ivanka. Who is pretty cool, but she hasn't yet reached her dad's superlative, incomparable level of awesome. I mean, calling Rosie's behavior "uncalled for"? How can she hope to destroy her enemies with such wussy language? However, she does fill the void left by Carolyn of icy Connecticut disdain of the candidates (particularly Martin), so she's an okay addition to the show. I mean, she'll do fine until she learns to call people fat losers and to threaten to send virile man friends to steal away lesbians' girlfriends. Not until then will she truly be a Trump.

The candidates' task is to run a car wash (c'mon and sing it with me!), and three candidates distinguish themselves: competent winning PM Heidi, who uses man candy and free lunch to get people inside; loud but incompetent losing PM Frank, whose tiny signs earn Ivanka's big scorn; and Martin, he of the loud shirts and constant aphorisms, who even Trump calls a pompous ass. Uh, I mean, who Trump insightfully pegs as a pompous ass.

In the boardroom, Heidi has a clever plan to keep the weakest link on the opposing team, but she's not clever enough for Trump, who has seen through that strategy, as staggeringly clever and original as it is. It's like he's a mind reader! Unsurprisingly, it comes down to a shouting match between Martin and Frank (Tim, the third person brought to the boardroom, having scrammed like a good doobie when Trump told him to), and here's where I thought Frank would get it. For one thing, Trump practically tells him to shut up as soon as he meets him; for another, he's project manager; and finally, Martin is one of those irritating personalities who manages to hang on just to create drama. But, due in large part, as I believe, to Ivanka's dismissive hatred of Martin, it is he who gets the ax. Interesting plan, Mr. Trump, getting rid of the most divisive personality first. Is that Mark Burnett I hear weeping softly?

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Desperate Housewives: Night of the Living Dead

For our first new episode in a long while, we have a couple characters back from the dead. First off, there's Alma Hodges. Turns out she's not so murdered-by-Orson after all! Way to be alive, Alma. Hope you enjoyed Winnipeg.

Also back in the land of the living is Kayla, who has come to live with Lynette and her merry band of misfits. Was Kayla in Winnipeg, too? Kayla, it seems, has inherited manipulative psycopathy from her mother, and irritating obstinacy from her father. Charming.

Elsewhere on Wisteria Lane, everyone's sleeping around and acting jealous. And yes, there is an elephant in the room that I haven't mentioned yet: Marcia Cross and her giant, pregnant-with-twins self. For a show with such crazy plotlines, I probably would have gone with a "runs away from Orson only to discover that it was really his evil twin that was cheating on Alma with Monique and then killed the latter, so then returns home" story rather than a "happens to be standing behind large pieces of furniture at all times and is not at all noticeably heavier with giant cleavage" strategy. The first one is just so much more believable.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Comedy Tonight!

My deepest apologies to my deprived readers and my put-upon co-blogger, Lori. I’ve been incredibly busy with work these past couple weeks, and literally haven’t even had a chance to check my personal email more than once a day. Sorry!

Now that I have a free minute, let’s turn our attention to the only three television shows I’ve had a chance to watch this week: The Knights of Prosperity, In Case of Emergency, and, of course, Scrubs. The Knights of Prosperity (formerly Let’s Rob Mick Jagger) was mildly funny, with moments of complete hilarity. Most of those moments involved things like Mick Jagger showing us his hat collection, the swimming pool for his dogs, and his soccer-playing houseboy. The rest of the episode was just okay. Mostly, I now think Mick Jagger needs his own TV show. That would be amazing.

In Case of Emergency was a pleasant surprise. Sure, it stars Jonathan Silverman (another of my many sitcom nemeses), and has an annoyingly Class-like premise (former classmates reunite years later under wacky circumstances!), but it also has something going for it. Namely, it totally sucked up to me by paying tribute to two of my favorite comedies: Friends (David Arquette’s character used Phoebe's made-up word “phalange”) and Arrested Development (“No touching! No touching!”). Well-played, In Case of Emergency. Plus, I actually laughed out loud a couple times. Yeah, I was exhausted and punchy, but it still counts a little, right? So I’ll be sticking around for a few weeks to see how this one turns out.

And finally, Scrubs is awesome because:
1) It tackles serious subjects like post-partum depression with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.
2) It gives me fabulous new expressions like “megaloathe.”
3) Stealing babies is funny if you give it a name like “Code Pink.”

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Ugly Betty: Leftovers and Knockoffs

This week on Ugly Betty: four months ago. No, really. Either the episode order has gotten hopelessly discombobulated or the writers were feeling lazy, because we've gotten what is essentially a new repeat. Everything is what it was in September: Wilhelmina is still trying to take Daniel down, Amanda and Marc are still mean to Betty, Papa Suarez is still having HMO issues, and Walter is stalking Betty. All of this is dressed up in the frame of Betty's last day at Mode, as Betty packs up her desk and tells the whole pointless tale to Christina. The frame story gets ridiculous during Betty's past conversations with Christina – is Betty really rehashing those for Christina's benefit? Wasn't she there? And then there's a bit in the "four months ago" story in which Christina asks after Betty's Magical Gucci Bag - the same question that sparked the whole frame story thing in the first place.

The Magical Gucci Bag is, of course, this week's MacGuffin; Christina is cleaning out the closet and everyone has an eye on that bag. Even Betty likes it, although, like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, she insists that she doesn't care about fashion. Betty, I say to you as I said to Anne: it's your job. Learn to care. To her credit, she does, thanks to the Magical Gucci Bag, which reminds her of one Mama Suarez had and makes her feel good – so Christina saves it for her. But if the Magical Gucci Bag represents one thing, it's love, so Betty barters it for her father's heart medication. Aw. And because knockoff Magical Gucci Bags represent cheap, discount love, Walter gets her one of those to replace the real MGB. Which she promptly gives to Evil Marc anyway, so ha! Walter, I hope Marc is very happy with your "please don't turn me in to the cops for stalking you" present.

Meanwhile, the office politics are – well, they're what they were four months ago. You remember when every episode used to follow the same pattern: Daniel needs to land a big client in order to prove himself, Wilhelmina throws a wrench into his plans, Betty gets an idea that saves their bacon? Yeah, well, same thing, only with a minimalist Japanese designer, insufficient funds, and a White Castle knockoff. At least there's Henry to savor, as we get the first meeting between Betty and the world's cutest accountant (she steals his coffee and bagel for Daniel). Sadly, much of Henry's time is consumed with actual accountancy in this episode, like going over expense reports and trying to determine how to go about seizing Wilhelmina's improperly expensed butt lift, so he doesn't get much of a chance to shine. But it's nice just to look at him.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Let Us Now Praise The King of Queens

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, "You know, what the world really needs is a paean to the glory that is The King of Queens"? If so, you can now die happy, because The New York Times has served up just that. And... why? It's fair to say that the show reached "is that show still on" status at least three years ago. It's now in its ninth season, which seems unfair when you consider the case of Arrested Development (or any other show ignominiously and prematurely canceled by Fox). Now, I'll admit I've never seen The King of Queens. It could very well be a funny show. But I'm not sure it's the jewel of the dial that Virginia Heffernan is trying to convince me that it is. In fact, it can't possibly be, given the hyperbolic terms she uses to discuss the show. Heffernan rapturously describes the childish antics of the characters (frosting a sofa cushion? cheating at a board game?) as though they are not only the height of comedy, but also have something important to tell us about our own inherent humanity. She goes so far as to compare it to The Pilgrim's Progress. And I'm the first person to say that TV deserves respect (okay, some TV), but what's wrong with just saying the show is funny? Is it funny? Who are you trying to convince, anyway?

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Desperate Housewives: Suburb of the Dolls

Some TV shows lend themselves well to dolls and action figures. These would be the cult/sci-fi shows like Buffy, The X-Files, and Futurama, as well as any kids' show from the '80s or '90s. If you're in your twenties, dollars to donuts you had either My Little Pony dolls or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures. (And, if you're Liz, you had a cheesy TMNT video in which the Turtles sing about pizza.) All of these toys are fun, of course, even now, when they can be used as cubicle decoration and stress relief (pretend Zoidberg is your boss and crash the Planet Express ship into him!). But I don't see what the inherent fun is in the Desperate Housewives dolls that were recently unveiled. For one thing, they're Barbie-type dolls, but I can't see many little girls playing with them, unless it's to perfect their Mary Alice-style trite narration skills. For another, they're kind of creepy-looking. The Susan doll is particularly so, because, breaking the rule of pretty much every doll/action figure based on a real person, it really does look like Teri Hatcher. Of course, Teri Hatcher looks like a Barbie doll her own self, so that's probably why.

But of all the current TV shows, it's obviously Heroes that would make the best toys. Think of it: a Hiro action figure. He'd go "Yahoo!" when you pressed a button on his back, and if you dunked him in cold water, a little soul patch would appear and he'd be Future Hiro. That'd be sweet.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Scrubs: Everything Comes Down to Poo

Happy new year, everyone! What better way to start off 2007 than with a new song from the upcoming Scrubs musical episode? The song, now on the Scrubs website, is called "Everything Comes Down to Poo," and is not suitable for viewers who may have partied too hard last night or who are eating. Because it really is all about poo. But never mind that, because it's got everything you've come to expect from a Scrubs musical number. Like "Guy Love," it's got clever, catchy lyrics ("Our number one test is your number two!"), and the choreography is fantastic, reminiscent of the surgeons vs. doctors West Side Story sequence from a few years ago. Once again, Donald Faison and Zach Braff do an excellent job with the song, but I can't wait to hear some of the other cast members sing. Come on, Janitor!

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