Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hidden Palms: Desperate Houseteens

Complete the following analogy.
Muppet Babies : The Muppet Show : : Hidden Palms : ______
A) Muppets Tonight
C) Desperate Housewives
D) The Venture Brothers

Time's up--put down your pencils. The correct answer was C, Desperate Housewives. Yes, Hidden Palms is like a baby version of Desperate Housewives, right down to the mysterious death kicking off the season. You've got your unrealistically sexy cast, your secretive (and possibly criminal) neighbors, your idyllic suburban setting, and your mystery lurking underneath the surface.

Our protagonist is Johnny, a high school student whose slutty mom caused his drunken dad to shoot himself a year ago (right in front of Johnny, natch), which in turn caused poor little Johnny to mess up his hair, start taking voyeuristic pictures, self-medicate, and end up in rehab. Sober for three months now, Johnny's moving to Palm Springs with his mom and new step-dad. And he makes new friends quickly: first with Cliff, his ambiguously gay, unambiguously hot, but clearly evil puppy-kicking neighbor; then with Greta, an "enigmatic" (read: alluringly crazy) hottie. (See a hot pattern here?) Cliff and Greta were both close to Eddie, who used to live in Johnny's house...and they appear to share a secret about Eddie's sudden death.

The cast is rounded out by a bunch of catty middle-aged women, a couple of other cute neighborhood gals (one a brilliant tomboy, one the mayor's friendly daughter), and a formerly alcoholic drag queen played by the supremely awesome Leslie Jordan. The show repeatedly refers to the fact that Palm Springs is populated by old people and that these numerous high schoolers and botox queens are the exception, but it appears Cliff killed all the old people off, or something, because we hardly see any of them.

So yeah, Hidden Palms is basically a low-rent CW/Kevin Williamson version of Desperate Housewives, with less likeable characters, worse dialogue, and far, FAR less tongue-in-cheek sensibility. And also less sex so far. Yikes.

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Traveler: Needs More Running

Getting invested in serial dramas this season has, for the most part, meant nothing but heartbreak. I was burned by the losses of Kidnapped and Day Break, while Liz was jilted by The Nine. Meanwhile, there's a whole Peanut Brigade that won't let Jericho go without a fight. I wondered, before I tuned in to Traveler, whether it would even be worth it to watch. Why get drawn in, if only to get hurt? As it turns out, I shouldn't have been worried.

The premise: three guys who want to pretend to be Kerouac for a while before they have to become working stiffs start a road trip in New York City. Will (the eponymous "Traveler") comes up with a plan for the lamest prank ever – rollerblading through a museum, like, way to stick it to the man – and, when his buddies Jay and Tyler have bladed out, the building explodes. Suddenly, and inexplicably, Jay and Tyler are all over the news as suspects in the bombing, the FBI is after them, and there's no evidence that Will ever existed. It's all part of a shadowy conspiracy, probably a shadowy government conspiracy, if Neal McDonough's appearance as a nefarious Homeland Security agent is any indication.

The exploration of what can happen when you're on the wrong side of the anti-terrorism laws is certainly interesting, and hits a nerve in these times; every time Jay mentioned something that they government could do to them, like declare them enemy combatants and send them to Guantanamo Bay or kidnap them abroad, rather than going through extradition, I felt the tension. Because that, I can believe. But I didn't feel any tension during the action scenes. Even with all the running, and the running, and the more running, and the exploding, and the car chasing, it seems like the show drags on forever. Probably because there's a lot of running. A lot.

The best part of the show is Stephen Culp, as the world's most hard-assed FBI agent, who won't even let his subordinates chew gum and who refuses to entertain any possibility that the guys weren't responsible for blowing up the museum. In fact, part of the problem may be that I'm rooting for him rather than the two doinks running around blindly. It's good to see him again; it's been too long since he left Desperate Housewives.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, ABC promo department - why did you promote last night's doubleheader as the "sneak preview" and the "series premiere"? How can the second episode be a "series premiere"? I understand why you called the pilot a "sneak preview" when you first aired it a couple of weeks ago, but it's not a "sneak preview" anymore, not when there's another episode on right after it.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

House: Burning Down the House

Last night on House, our hero torched the place. Metaphorically speaking, of course (although I wouldn't put literal torching past him). But first, our Case of the Week. A man and wife are fished out of the ocean by the Coast Guard after risking a trip from Cuba on a tiny boat, all to see the good Doctor House. The wife, you see, has some sort of mystery illness--the kind that's pretty difficult to diagnose when her medical records are still floating in the Straits of Florida. The kind that's extra-difficult to diagnose when the doctor won't even bother to see the patient. The kind that's even more difficult to diagnose once her heart stops beating. Death is no match for House (or God, depending on who you ask), however, and the heart starts beating again. Turns out, she has some sort of crazy rare heart defect that's easily corrected by surgery. If you take the miraculous God/praying stuff out of it, the case isn't really that interesting, so I'll move on to the more meaty plots.

Failing to cope with change (his arch-nemesis) in the face of Foreman's imminent departure, House lashes out and fires Chase, claiming Chase is finished learning from him. Chase deals with it pretty well, and even better once he's back sucking face with Cameron. House crashes and burns at a last-ditch effort to try and keep Foreman, who seems more determined than ever to become something other than a change-hating misanthrope. Cameron, for her part, hands in her resignation letter when it becomes clear that House won't be inviting Chase back. (And her last great passive-aggressive salvo comes in the form of her goodbye gift to Foreman: a framed copy of the journal article he essentially stole from her.)

So yes, House's entire team: gone. Now it's just a lonely guy and his new guitar. (The new guitar, you see, indicates that House may be capable of change after all.) For someone who really hates talking to patients, he'll have to do a fair bit of that before he can find three new suck-ups to boss around. Or, more likely, before he can somehow convince the original suck-ups to return, one by one, in the first four or five episodes of the new season. You know, if I had to guess.

Last House-ku of the season:
House is all alone
How bananas is this show?
See you in the fall.

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On the Lot: Are we done yet?

I'm gonna be straight with you guys here: I didn't watch On the Lot last night. I had sat through two hours of coma-inducing boredom the night before, and couldn't force myself to watch an hour-long show that was almost entirely filler. And it's a good thing, too, since even READING about America's terrible, terrible taste made me want to go outside and start slapping people silly. How terrible is America's taste? Jason's Getta Rhoom, which pretty blatantly mocked the developmentally disabled, was one of America's top three shorts. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You suck, America.

Rounding out the top three were Zach's Danger Zone (awesome), and Will's Lucky Penny, (obvious and barely amusing). And who got cut? I'll give you a hint: The guy that made the worst minute of film I've ever seen (and that includes Manos: The Hands of Fate) is still in. So's the woman who made a movie about someone peeing on the bus. So's the guy who made a one-minute trailer for a movie instead of an actual movie. One of my honorable mentions, on the other hand, didn't make the cut. Sorry, Phil--go back to Britain, where they'll appreciate your talent. Also out were Carolina and Claudia, whose movies were certainly weird, but far from the worst.

Happily, it seems, most of America is with me in being reluctant to watch this turd of a show, so maybe it's just that those who do watch (and actually bother to vote) already have such a high tolerance for suckiness, it's a skewed sample.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On the Lot: So. Very. Long. (That's what she said.)

Does it seem to anyone else like On the Lot is on, like, twelve hours a week? Because I feel like it's eating up a substantial portion of my weeknights. And yet, somehow I managed to miss the last audition episode due to the vagaries of the Fox schedule. For reals, I'm still not sure when that sucker aired. Anyway, last night was the two hour premiere of the actual show, with the final 18 contestants and the fancy theater with the studio audience and the new host. It was...long. Really, really long. Mind-numbingly, soul-wrenchingly long.

Brett Crapner (RATner? Fatner? Ratnerd? I don't like him, at any rate...) is gone, and now it seems like our permanent judges are Carrie Fisher and Gary Marshall (who, it seems, thinks women can't or shouldn't do bathroom humor) plus a guest judge (this week, Disturbia director D.J. Caruso). And they are very...forgiving. Think three sober Paula's. I realize that the acerbic Brit has become a bit of a Reality TV judging cliché, and I by no means demand another Simon (much as I love him), but last night was a bit absurdly lovey-dovey. In every other way, this show appears to be an American Idol clone, format-wise. Tonight's challenge: one-minute comedy shorts.

The very good: Adam's Dance Man, which played on my love for overly serious British narrators and was oddly rockin'. Zach's Danger Zone, which took advantage of his mad special effects skillz without letting them overwhelm the piece. Shira-Lee's Check Out, which was funny, clever, well-acted, and generally awesome. Sam's Replication Theory, which was very funny considering it was based entirely on a fart joke, and probably made the most of anyone out of the allotted one minute. (Honorable mentions: Trever and Phil.)

The disgusting: Well, a lot of them. But most notably for me, Hilary's Bus #1, about a woman who pees in a coffee cup on the bus. And believe it or not, it just goes downhill from there (and yes, that could be referring to the urine running downhill after she throws the cup out the window).

The truly terrible: Kenny's Wack Alley Cab, for which the expression "WTF?!" was created. So. Freaking. Weird. And also impossible to follow. The remaining short films were either rather unfunny, difficult to follow, poorly-made, or all of the above. And yet, I sat through all of them. With a set of commercials between every two films. And no, I can't say it was worth it. Hopefully, this will get more tolerable as the judges grow bitter and hardened (like me), and the crappy contestants are eliminated. (I'm counting on you for that one, America. Make it happen.)

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Miss Universe: Miss Sweden Has a Point

The Miss Universe pageant isn't without its problems. For one thing, the sticky fingers of Donald Trump are all over it. Then there's Miss Mexico's original National Costume of Death, the withdrawal of Miss Sweden (though I can't say I blame her) and the rigging that keeps Miss USA in at least the top ten every year to encourage Americans to watch. Oops, I wasn't supposed to know about that last one, was I? Even with all the scandal and the Trump involved, however, I was still able to find some things to enjoy about the bloated, elderly contest.

The broadly interpreted "national costumes." Some of them made sense, like Miss Cyprus' classic toga, and even Miss Australia's swimsuit and Miss Canada's hockey gear paid homage to their national pastimes. But why was Miss Bahamas dressed as a police officer? Is it because the rest of the world knows more about the Bahamian legal system than about the rest of the islands' culture, thanks to the Anna Nicole case? And why did Miss Slovenia's national costume look like she ripped up Kayne's Miss USA dress? My favorite costumes, though, were the ones with props, like Miss Korea's drum and Miss Tanzania's giant pot, because the women could use those to take out their competitors backstage. Fierce! You might have noticed that I didn't even mention Miss USA. I had to save her for last. She was dressed in a sparkly Elvis jumpsuit, complete with red, white and blue guitar. And while I support the guitar, for reasons already outlined above, there is a case to be made that Elvis impersonation is not merely an American thing.

The co-hosts. No, not the insipid banter between the hosts, who this year were Vanessa Minnillo and Mario Lopez, but the hilariously different ways that the writers come up with for them to call the finalists up to the Circles of Judgment at the front of the stage. "The wait is over… Thailand!" "You wished for it, you got it… Mexico!" "Around the world to… Nicaragua!" "Let go… Brazil!" There is a part in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest in which a kid reading tennis scores comes up with increasingly ridiculous ways to say "defeats," and that's what this makes me think of. And I hope all two of you in the reading audience who have read Infinite Jest enjoyed that reference.

The judges, who included Nina Garcia and James Kyson Lee, both very cool. In fact, they may be too cool for this pageant. Nina! James! Blink twice if you've been kidnapped and forced into servitude by Donald Trump!

Miss Tanzania. In addition to having the giant pot which I've already mentioned, girl is bald, and looks like a million bucks. Go, bald lady!

The "contestants exploring the country" montage. Poor girls had to wear their sashes outside of their life jackets, presumably so the organizers can determine what action to take if a contestant falls into the water. "Eh, it's only Miss Turks & Caicos. We'll swing by and get her on the way back." (Also, I swear I saw the contestants riding Segways through Mexico City at one point. You can't make this stuff up.)

The evening gowns. There were some great gowns, like that of the winner, Miss Japan, and then there was Miss Korea's, which looked like she was wearing a figure skating outfit with a long skirt. And this year, Miss USA fell on her butt. She recovered gracefully, but it was bound to happen to one of them. I'm only surprised it wasn't Miss India, who had to clutch part of her skirts with a death grip just to mince down the runway.

The judges' interview questions. Most of them were actually insightful – okay, pageant insightful – questions, like a lesson that the contestant learned as a child or whether it is more important to follow one's heart or mind. And then James Kyson Lee had to go and plug Heroes by asking Miss Korea what superpower she would want to have. Come on, James. You're above that, aren't you? And as many times a day as I'm sure you get that question, why would you want to inflict it on anyone else?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

CSI vs. Grey's Anatomy: Round One

The results are in from the season-long death match between CSI and Grey's Anatomy, and the winner is: CSI. CSI is the fourth-rated show of the year to Grey's seventh, and the only non-American Idol or Dancing with the Stars airing in the top five, but it still lost to Grey's Anatomy when the latter had a new episode. So how did it win the season? Repeats. And it's not like Grey's didn't have repeats all over the place this season. The fact is, everyone wants to know what's going to happen to the doctors in Seattle Grace – the relationships, the patients, the Sweeps Ferry Accident of Meredith's Doom and the subsequent Hospital of the Damned storyline – but it's all so utterly depressing and hopeless that no one wants to see it again. I know if I come across a Grey's repeat, I immediately think, "Oh, right, this is the one where Meredith/Cristina/Alex/George gets her/his heart stomped on," and then I don't feel the need to watch it anymore, because I could be watching something happier, like a murder mystery. Even the gruesome, frequently ironic deaths on CSI are preferable to watching characters I don't even like that much (but especially characters I do like) get emotionally beaten with a sand-filled sock. Again.

And yet – why can't I stop watching in the first place? Honestly, that show is like Pringles. You just can't stop yourself once you get going.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

On the Lot: Dun dun DUUUUNNN!

...Okay. I just caught the second episode of On the Lot, and this show is something I can work with. I think the half-hour episode left less room for squabbling, or something, because I found the show substantially more tolerable this week. As you may recall, the groups are still working feverishly on their 24-hour short films, and the Marty vs. Jeff: Battle of the Whiny Egomaniacs continues (with the third team member, who is apparently mute, standing by). But, thank god, we do get to see some other teams this week.

We've got Zach, who has promised his team a lot in terms of special effects, and absolutely has to deliver. We have Kenny, who is becoming more and more obnoxious with every passing second, and his two hapless teammates, Hannah and Jessica, who try to do the best they can with his footage, while getting in the occasional dig about his lack of a film school education. Okay, so we don't get to see that many other teams. The show's editors try and pump up the boring "sitting at the computer editing" scenes with completely overwrought film soundtrack music, which is hi-LARIOUS ("dun dun dun DUN DUN DUN!"), and then we move on to the judging.

This week, Gary Marshall is out, and producer/director Jon Avnet is in. We finally get to see a few films (you can see the rest here), and two of them are GREAT. The first, Random Acts of Kindness is an offbeat piece about a woman trying to do something nice for a homeless man. If you ask me, almost anything with an overly serious British narrator is bound to be a winner. The second, Time Out, is about a couple whose fighting stops time. Zach's special effects blow the roof off of this one. None of these films' directors are eliminated.

The other two films we see are those by the two fighting groups. And they're...not quite as good. Although to be fair, I think much of the trouble here isn't due to fighting, or lack of talent, but rather genre choice. The two great shorts were quirky little gems, which seem to work much better in this format than actual dramatic stories. Whatever the reason, neither really seemed to make that much sense or hold together very well for me. Jessica's and Marty's directing stood out above the rest, and the judges recognize Kenny's cinematography as excellent as well (I beg to differ). Hannah gets booted from the Kenny/Jessica/Hannah group, and Jeff gets booted from the Jeff vs. Marty + Mute Guy group. Whatev. In tomorrow's episode, the contestants will be shooting a one-page script in one hour, without having slept in 48 hours. (Soundtrack: "Dun dun DUUUUNNN!!!")

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Studio 60: Allison! Freaking! Janney!

Since last we saw Studio 60, the show has been cancelled (and I really can't argue with that), but NBC is doing us the dubious favor of burning off the remaining six or so episodes on Thursday nights, now that ER is over (speaking of shows that should be cancelled). So where did we leave off? Matt was struggling with a drug addiction, there was a pending sexual harassment lawsuit, Danny went from stalker to lov-ah, Jordan was having a baby, Matt and Harriet were feuding/flirting, and something about the FCC and Macau.

Thursday night's episode dealt with exactly one of those plotlines, and only to crap all over it. Not that I'm complaining--quite the opposite, in fact. I found most of those stories obnoxious and unnecessary. As unnecessary as Matt and Danny, apparently, since they were nowhere to be seen (along with Jordan and her giant belly). So what DO we have, besides the backup cast speaking for me (and, I suspect, most of the show's audience) when they tell Harriet that they're sick of hearing about her drama with Matt? (I'm not sure how much more I can take either, Sorkin!)

We have "the disaster show," that one show every year in which everything goes to hell. In this case, the prop masters and cue card...commanders...have gone on strike thanks to Danny and his big, opinionated mouth. And have left chaos and booby-trapped props in their wake. Oh, and there's a bomb threat, too. Allison Janney, the awesomest TV actress that ever awesomed, has the unfortunate honor of hosting the disaster show, and looking like a total screw-up in the process. Cal has the unfortunate honor of being in charge of the show in Danny's absence, and bearing the brunt of The Wrath of Janney. (Yeah, CJ/Danny reunion!)

Best of all, I didn't notice a strong Sorpinion slapping me in the face this week. No annoying speeches, no preachy storylines (except for the one about Cal realizing that white kids can make bomb threats, too), and even some possible meta acknowledgement that this show could be better. Well-played, Sorkin. Well-played.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Blinding Me With Food Science

I recently caught an episode Iron Chef America after a few months off, and, well, I noticed something interesting. So I've decided to bring it to the Internets to see if anyone out there's got an answer for me. When, exactly, did Alton Brown become Thomas Dolby circa 1982? Don't get me wrong, Alton is cool, and he can do whatever he wants, as far as I'm concerned. But the spiky hair and round glasses only add to the eerie resemblance between them. He's gotta know that, right?

(Here's where I would post a picture, if I could find any of Alton as Dolby, but I can't. But I insist that I am not crazy, and that this actually happened.)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

On the Lot: Brett Ratner? Seriously?

So I caught the premiere of On the Lot, Fox's new filmmaking reality show, the other night. A Mark Burnett/Stephen Spielberg venture, On the Lot features 50 aspiring filmmakers competing for a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks. Good news: It's got potential. Bad news: It wasn't engaging enough to keep my attention--I pulled out my laptop halfway through and started checking my email.

I think one of the problems is the huge number of contestants, which has resulted in lengthy "audition rounds" to cut some of the fat, which most reality shows don't bother with until future seasons when they have an established viewership. The audition rounds are fine and all--it was actually fairly interesting seeing all the contestants take prompts (or "log lines," apparently) such as "a crate from a secret military base is accidentally delivered to a suburban family" and turn them into full-fledged movie pitches. It's just that I've now spent an hour watching these amateur filmmakers compete, but because there are too many contestants for any level of focus, I have yet to see more than a split-second of their work. Is it professional-quality? Is it a dude in the backyard with a camcorder? Beats me! A few clips of the audition films they sent in would have gone a long way. Much further, in fact, than a few other things eating up time on the show, such as the Academy Awards-style montage about how awesome movies are (especially Indiana Jones), or the Universal Studios backlot tour, featuring the War of the Worlds set and a Jaws attraction. (See a pattern here? And to think I almost forgot Spielberg was producing.)

There also seems to be a substantial bias towards commercial filmmaking. Fair enough, I suppose, and unsurprising given the judges. We have Princess Leia, Gary Marshall, and Brett Ratner, the man solely responsible for ruining the X-Men franchise. Asshole. Also problematic is the amount of time they spend focusing on in-fighting amongst the contestant groups while the teams scramble to make a movie in 24 hours. In fact, at least 75% of the time they spend showing us that challenge is spent on the fighting between two members of one team (of twelve teams total). How about showing a little filmmaking, guys? At least in the first episode? Pretty please? I promise you can devolve into a show about conflict, rather than talent, in future seasons, à la Top Chef.

That said, I really like the concept, and I'm willing to hang around long enough to see the contestants' work. Assuming we ever get past these audition rounds.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Veronica Mars: Only the Good Shows Die Young

It's over. The sassy show about a tiny blonde junior detective armed with a sharp wit and a taser has reached the end of the line, entirely too soon. Even its worst episodes had better writing and acting than some shows that have run twice as long. The TV landscape will be a lot duller without my favorite female superhero. (Sorry, Claire.)

So, okay, let's just forget about the first hour of the finale. Except for Veronica's obvious glee in whipping out her PI shield, the most screen time Weevil has gotten since maybe season one, and the line "Rob Thomas is a whore" (no, the other one), there's nothing to report. Just a case about ID fraud, nothing that you really want to remember this show for. The fireworks start in the second hour, when a tape of Veronica and Piz fooling around goes public, and Veronica gets her vengeance on to track down the guys who made it. Said vengeance is truly a wonder to behold, and something I will miss very, very much. The video is traced to a secret society, interested in Wallace, called The Castle. Think Skull & Bones at Yale, or The Tritons at Neptune High. I could complain about recycling plots, but I'll give them a pass because a) it's the last episode, and b) it's just a backdrop for much bigger things. To wit: Veronica tracks The Castle to the Kane house where, to get a list of Castle members, she steals Jake Kane's hard drive, but leaves behind fiber and video evidence. And Keith – aw, Keith – tampers with the evidence for her. He ends up with charges filed against him, so in the fictional town of Neptune that will live on in my imagination even if it won't on the CW, he's probably not going to be sheriff anymore. On the plus side, he's just cemented his status as the best protect-his-daughter-at-all-costs dad on TV since Jack Bristow. And that is an exclusive, and awesome, club.

But it's not only Keith and Weevil who get appropriate send-offs. Veronica Mars has a talented ensemble cast, and almost all of them get their due. Yes, there could have been more Mac, but Wallace, who has seriously dropped off the best-friend radar recently, resurfaces and acquits himself well, spying on The Castle for Veronica and offering to throw down with Logan. And why would he make such an offer? Because Logan is not only the world's worst boyfriend, but the world's worst ex-boyfriend. He acts like a dink to Veronica's current boyfriend for no reason, and then beats the hell out of Piz for the tape he thinks Piz made. Oh, Logan, I think I'll miss you least of all! Thank the good Rob Thomas that Parker finally sees the light and dumps his worthless ass.

So that's it. The talented cast and crew they've assembled here will go on to other things, and the sooner, the better. Of course we'll get to see Chris Lowell in Private Practice, and Kristen Bell is using her mad voiceover skillz on Gossip Girl, and Tina Majorino's got Big Love, but it's not enough. Please, please, please, showrunners, one of you has to snap up Enrico Colantoni. There is nothing not to love in his performance as Keith Mars, and I will miss him terribly. Put him back on my TV as soon as you can. (NOT in a Celine Dion biopic. That is NOT what I meant!)

And to the non-whore Rob Thomas: Thank you for three good seasons. Whatever you're doing next, I want to know about it.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heroes: It's the Bomb.

It's the season finale of the most intricately plotted show this season. And if you weren't gasping or jumping in your seat every five minutes, then you were probably watching Dancing with the Stars, weren't you? In this episode we get a few choice revelations: Mama Petrelli knew Richard Roundtree (remember? Simone's dad?), there's a guy worse than Sylar out there (season two!), and Bennet's first name is Noah. I know! Season finale time also means it's time to say goodbye, at least for a little while, to the characters we've come to love, and there are some really sweet scenes. You guys know I love Hiro and Ando, so it's no surprise that Hiro leaving Ando behind in Japan made me melt into a little puddle. Hiro gives Ando his sword, as a guarantee he'll be back, and Ando tells him he looks bad-ass. So, I mean, essentially they're declaring their love for each other. And how could I not love Molly, when she took her words to Matt right out of my mouth? Yeah, he's my hero too, girl. And, for real, don't die, Matt. But there was one pair I wasn't expecting to care about: the Petrelli brothers. The two of them – oh. Wait. That's the big stuff. We'll just hold off on that for now.

Okay, first: The Buildup. The Bad Petrellis (Mama and Nathan) separate the Good Petrellis (Peter and Claire) and threaten to take Claire out of the city, even as they're all, "Eh, Peter can regenerate. He'll be fine." So can Claire, remember, so why take her out of New York? Anyway. Niki taps into her strength to beat up Candice and get Micah back. Hiro saves Ando, of course. And Matt breaks up the standoff over Molly, through sheer force of awesome. Or maybe just by telling them to knock it off.

Then: The Bomb. The entire season has been leading up to this moment, and damn near every hero is on hand to play his or her part. It's awesome. Everyone attacks Sylar, starting with Bennet, who gets thrown into a wall. Matt shoots at him, the idiot, and gets his own bullets in the abdomen for his trouble. Niki wails on Sylar with a parking meter. Hiro stabs him and gives a totally bad-ass "Yata!", easily one of the greatest things in this episode for its sheer unexpectedness. Anyway, the stabbing takes Sylar out of commission for the moment, so as Peter goes nuclear, Claire steps up with the gun – but can't do it. Instead, it's Nathan who swoops in to save the day, to pick up his brother and fly off with him into the atmosphere, where they can explode harmlessly. Awww. I admit, I'm at a loss as to what they're going to do without the Petrelli brothers, particularly Peter (but then, I suppose he could always have survived). But if they had to go out, this was the nicest send-off they could have given them. It brings their story full circle. When we first met them, their powers seemed to be the same, and now we find that they were complementary.

Who I'll be worried about over the summer: Sylar, mortally wounded and skulking around the sewers; Matt, shot in the gut (D.L. seemed to recover from the same wound pretty fast, so that's good news for Matt, I guess); and Hiro, transported back to 1671 Japan. Yata?

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24: Free Time? What's He Supposed to Do With Free Time?

Another 24 finale, another crossroads for Jack. He's not captured by anyone, he has no obligations, and he has nothing to look forward to, but all the same, he needs to take some time off to figure things out. Or maybe he just needs a vacation. Either way, when he busts in on Heller, shouting and pointing his gun, Heller somehow convinces him to leave Audrey alone – which he does, after a nice little goodbye, and then he stares out at the ocean with a look of anguish. There's something very off-kilter about the way the season ends, and I think it's this: Jack has nothing to do. It's not like the season four "striding off into the sunrise" ending, because he had a purpose then, to go underground. Now he has no idea what to do and nowhere to go, and that's scary. It's very un-Jack. Quick, let's get back to the Jack Nukem we know.

Reason #634 why you always listen to Jack Bauer: because if you don't, you could put someone's eye out. You would have thought that they would have learned by now. But they haven't, so CTU has to put Jack in custody so he doesn't ruin the Josh-for-component plan. That lasts about as long as you'd expect – roughly 20 minutes or so – before Buchanan breaks him out, but they're too late to save poor Doyle, who's blinded when the fake component explodes in his face during the trade. So, having failed at that, Jack and Buchanan go on to save Josh. It's clear from the start that Jack and Buchanan were practically made for each other, in terms of rogue operations. Buchanan flies the helicopter while Jack runs around the platform and confronts his father, and when the F-16s near the platform to blow it up on executive orders, Buchanan lets down the ladder so that Jack can make a spectacular leap to the helicopter while the platform explodes in a huge fireball behind him. See? Soul mates!

And then there's Chloe. She collapses at the end of the first hour, but when she appears in the clinic at the top of the second hour, with no ill effects, insisting that she's fine, that's when I'm all, "Oh, snap, she's pregnant." And she is. With parents like Chloe and Morris, that kid can't help but be messed up. Probably not as much as Jack and little Jennifer Dylan Cox, but it still wouldn't hurt for the O'Brian kid to join them in some sort of support group.

By the way, I haven't really given Peter MacNicol his due, but he was easily the best part of this season's Washington scenes. Tom Lennox vacillated back and forth between slimy Machiavellian dealmaker and principled Palmer loyalist, but in his hands, it wasn't a contradiction – they were two parts of a complex whole. Good on you, Mr. MacNicol, for singlehandedly making the Washington scenes bearable, and for not allowing me to make the Ghostbusters II joke I was dying to make all season.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

All (Okay, Some) of Your Upfront Questions - Answered!

Last week, the four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) and their annoying little sibling (the CW) announced their fall schedules. And now that all the hoopla, the shouting, and the singing (in the case of ABC's Ugly Betty presentation – I told you those people were Broadway mad) are over, it's time for reality to set in, as we take a look at what we've got and say, "Is this it?"

Q. How many shows about supernatural detectives can you have?
A. At least two: Moonlight (he's a vampire) and New Amsterdam (he's immortal). Also, the magic-touch guy in Pushing Daisies will probably be solving some mysteries, and I'm sure the same is true of the Bionic Woman and that time-traveler guy on Journeyman (currently my favorite to get cancelled, because it's occupying the Death Slot behind Heroes).

Q. What's up with Moon Bloodgood and time-travel shows, anyway?
A. I know, right?

Q. Damn you, CW! What will I do without Veronica Mars?
A. Well, there's always Gossip Girl, which will feature Kristen Bell's disembodied voice. And Piz will be on Private Practice, of course. Other than that… you'll probably have to watch the DVDs.

Q. What's the difference between Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle?
A. One has three women and a cosmetic in the title, and the other has four women and a fabric in the title. And since Cashmere Mafia is on at midseason and Lipstick Jungle is on NBC, aka Nuthin' But Cancellations, I wonder how ABC will feel about their girlfriends-in-the-city show if/when the other one is gone.

Q. I would like to see some shows about butt-kicking women, please. What do you have for me?
A. Well, there's Bionic Woman and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, both of which are about tough ladies. And if you want to see some women taking on bad guys with their minds, there's Women's Murder Club. Assuming, of course, that you have nothing to do on Friday nights.

Q. So what does Dick Wolf have on the NBC executives?
A. I'd say that he had granted ratings success in exchange for their immortal souls and eternal syndication royalties for Law & Order, if a) I didn't already suspect that a certain Horatio Caine was the devil, and b) that deal hadn't, clearly, already expired. So, as that isn't a possibility, I'll have to go with… something about goats.

Q. Hey, who's that actor I'm excited to see has a new show? You know, that one?
A. Is it Jean Smart (Sam I Am)? Kim Raver (Lipstick Jungle)? Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)? Victor Garber (Eli Stone)? Everyone on Private Practice?

Q. I like the cavemen commercials and all, but doesn't it seem like too little joke for a half-hour show?
A. Yes. I mean, I haven't seen it, but – yes.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: Bring back the happy, Shonda!

Last night's season finale of Grey's Anatomy kept up the heart-crushingly depressing tone of this season, as everyone failed at life. (And tests.) First, the most literal failure: George didn't pass his intern exam. You know, that final exam that transforms you from a sexy but increasingly depressed intern into a soulless cutting machine of a resident. The one that forces you to repeat your intern year if you fail it. Yeah. That exam. Ouch. Oh, and he and Callie (and her raging hormones) are trying to have a baby. And Izzie declares her love for him (and fails to get a response). And now his wife is the new chief resident, because the Chief is off his damn rocker. Vengeance will be yours, Bailey! So anyway, not a great day for George.

Alex, in the meantime, totally disses Eva/Rebecca/Formerly Amnesiatic Chick when she asks him to give her a reason not to go back to her unhappy marriage. Addison gives him a kick in the pants, but he doesn't get to the hospital in time to catch her. As far as the Fab Four go, Sloane, Addison, and Burke get turned down for Chief outright. Derek, on the other hand, actually gets offered Chief, but turns it down to give the old Chief a chance to lean from his mistakes and do it all again. Which, fine, but since it seems that the Chief is now back with Adele (yes, he's the baby daddy), I don't understand how he can do the job without repeating the exact same mistakes. Wasn't his whole point about the job that you can't do it AND have a good outside life at the same time?

As for Derek, he tells Meredith that she's the only one for him, but he doesn't want to waste his time if she's not in it to win it, too. And she...says that she really, really needs to get Cristina down that aisle. Derek is not encouraged. And neither is Meredith when Cristina and Burke fail to get married. Cristina, completely emasculated (esurgeonated?) in a horrible Burke family choker and with no eyebrows (yeah, Burke's mom may be evil), professes wholeheartedly that she "thinks" she wants to get married. That's not quite enough for Burke, who realizes he may have pushed her too far. Of course, not getting Chief and leaving Cristina at the altar in one day is a bit much for him, and he bails. Like, bails. No trumpet, no record collection, no picture of his grandmother left. Just a sad, destroyed bride.

And that's it. Oh, except that there's a new crop of interns arriving at the hospital, and one of them is Meredith's half-sister...AND the chick who was hitting on Derek at the bar. Intriiiiguing.

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Ugly Betty: It Ain't Over 'Til the Cute Kid Sings

I am telling you, this show is Broadway-crazy. They make the Sondheim title-poaching Desperate Housewives staff look like dilettantes. There are musicals all over this episode, from the guest appearance of Kristin Chenoweth as the world's perkiest hygienist to Justin's starring appearance in West Side Story, and I'm pleased to say that Mark Indelicato is really quite a good singer. So when he sings "Something's Coming" over the final montage, it's rather sweet. I mean the singing, not the stuff that it's over. And another cast member gets to sing in this episode: Vanessa Williams performs "The Way We Were" over a touching montage of Marc and Wilhelmina moments. So how long do you suppose it'll be until they actually do a musical episode? Half a season?

Ah, but you probably want to know what actually happens, since it's the season finale and all. Here we go: Wilhelmina briefly trades Marc to Fabia in exchange for a cathedral booking for her wedding, but decides she can't do without her minion. A good thing, too, because Fabia tests her products on Marc, and I can't support that kind of cruelty to Marc. Claire breaks out of prison, because she's finally found a posse of bad girls just like her. Christina and Amanda get locked in Fey's love dungeon, and discover a birth certificate that says that Fey is Amanda's mom. What about her dad, though? I mean, it couldn't be Bradford. Not with the thing she and Daniel have going on. …Right? Speaking of Daniel, he has a bit of a breakdown and takes a bunch of pills and booze. But as Alexis is taking him for help along a dark, twisty road, she discovers that the brake line has been cut. It's her own fault for taking that twisty road, and for hiring that guy to take out her dad without warning her not to use her dad's car. Henry's finally broken up with Charlie, and he and Betty make plans for their first date, which Charlie ruins. Because she's pregnant. Henry, being the good guy we love, goes back to Tucson with her, but Betty and Kristin Chenoweth figure out that Charlie's been secretly dating Dr. Farkus – remember him? – and that the kid may be his. Hey, as long as it gets Henry back for next season. But please, please, no more of those longing looks. And finally, Santos is killed in a convenience store robbery. I was always perfectly ambivalent about Santos, but Ana Ortiz sells the hell out of the final scene, and yeah, I was crying. Damn you, Ugly Betty, for having to end on such a sad, sad note. I didn't even care about Santos!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Veronica Mars: Well, nuts.

Damn! I guess that's it for Veronica Mars. Stupid CW. I'd boycott, but I'm somehow addicted to the skinny bitches (and the one fat one*) on America's Next Top Model. Shut up--it's a schadenfreude thing.

Happily for me, I still have 2/3 of a season left on my DVR! That's right--I'm that far behind on VM. Once I missed a few episodes to watch House, there was no getting caught up. And this way, I'll be watching "fresh" episodes while the rest of you suckers cry over the stale leftovers of the last great teen drama on television. (Incidentally, my summer will also be spent getting caught up on Heroes.)

So what does this mean for the CW? Have they completely given up on any critical acclaim? Is it going to be all Pussycat Dolls, all the time? Frankly, I don't care. Hear me now, CW: You are dead to me. Except for Wednesday nights at 8.

*No, not seriously.

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House: Christ, What an Asshole.

So as you may have noticed, Lori has been picking up the slack lately due to my inability to get home from work in time to watch TV (or eat dinner or do anything but collapse exhaustedly into bed, for that matter). Yes, ladies and gentleman, I have been almost entirely without television for the past week and a half. My DVR is now 87% full, and giving me an angry warning every time I try to set it to record something new. Not. Cool. That said, last night I began my mission to get caught up, and I am now fully apprised of the goings-on at the most killingest (most painful testingest?) hospital in New Jersey.

Last week, there was a vegan! And it was that chick from Coyote Ugly! And House totally looooves her! Of course, that's probably not interesting to the non-vegan world, so I'll move on to this week.

Foreman and House are still having a lovers' quarrel, because Foreman is too chicken to tell House he still has more to learn, and House is too passive aggressive to tell Foreman that he'd like him to stay. Or something. Cuddy tries to double Foreman's salary and make him independent from House in an attempt to keep him there, but he turns her down because he'd still have to go to House for help. Or something. Basically, everyone's acting crazy. Possibly due to the fact that House secretly sabotaged Foreman's big job interview in some sort of giant, back-stabbing, paranoia-creating love letter. 'Cause that's how they roll in Jersey.

Meanwhile, their patient is the second-biggest asshole to ever enter the doors of the Princeton Plains Teaching Hospital. He's a teenage chess-playing genius, and everyone's sure he's got some sort of evil asshole-creating disease (or alternatively, some sort of evil, asshole-creating disease). His mom, who not-so-secretly wanted him to die a horrible death (he's that much of an asshole), is relieved to hear that he might be sick, and not just a terrible person.

Uuuunfortunately, it turns out that he's just got some sort of iron over-production issue that went crazy when he stopped being a vegetarian (coughkarmacough), curable through some good old-fashioned bloodletting. However, while being an enormous jerk may not have been a symptom of his disease, it will likely still end up being the cause of his death. And pummeling may be a worse way to go than liver and kidney failure.

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24: Again! Again!

Fox has just renewed 24 for two more seasons, which means that Jack Bauer will be screaming himself hoarse through at least 2009. I've said this earlier this week, but it bears repeating: it doesn't matter if they change up the format, as long as they bring some variety to the plotlines. Stop making the show so predictable. Stop making it so easy for us to play 24 Bingo at home. Stop writing the scripts like they're Mad Libs. Stop ripping yourselves off. Of course it's to be expected that in its sixth year, a show is going to be a little stale and repetitive. But this season is ridiculous. Think of all the plot points that have been recycled from previous seasons: the teenage terrorist next door, the invoking of the 25th Amendment, the CTU agent helping the terrorists to save the woman he loves, the woman sent to entrap her enemy agent lover, the invasion of CTU, the invasion of an embassy, Jack cutting off digits, Jack being targeted by a terrorist looking for revenge for the death of a family member…. When 24 began, it was entirely original, like nothing we'd ever seen before. But now we can't say that, because we have five other seasons to compare it to, and those five seasons all did this season's plotlines better than this season did. 24 should be suspenseful, and that's difficult to achieve when a sense of déjà vu pervades every episode.

So, yes, shake things up next season, and the next. Shake whatever you can up. Get out of this rut. And for the love of Jack, get out of the White House. The only time the presidential scenes have ever been interesting was last season, when the president was evil. (Which reminds me: are we ever getting closure on Logan?)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Veronica Mars: The Kids Will Be All Right

After three years, Veronica's a real private investigator! She passes the test and everything, and her first client is a Ugandan man who wants to prove that a Hearst student, who wrote a best-selling memoir about his experiences as a child soldier, is his son. Veronica hears that Apollo didn't write the book and that his movie deal isn't going through, and tells Possible Dad not to expect a big check, so Possible Dad bolts. Except Apollo was just feeding Veronica disinformation so he could test the guy's sincerity. Except except Possible Dad was actually picked up by the police and couldn't make the meeting, and turns out they really are father and son. Awww. For such a sad story (all the more sad for being true), it's nice that the ending came out happy. Especially since this is not a show that tends to go for the happy ending.

This is also the week when the kids decide what they're doing on their summer vacations, and, with the unsurprising exception of Logan, they're all taking on more responsibility. Ah, they grow up so fast when there's the possibility of a tesseract between seasons. Veronica's going to the FBI (yes, we know), Piz has a radio internship, and Wallace is volunteering in Africa. (Just reason #46 why Wallace is awesome. Reason #47 is his admonishment to Veronica this week that she try not to rip out Piz's heart. Word, Wallace.) Parker and Mac, meanwhile, are starting to realize that their boyfriends aren't that great. And I'm only surprised that it took Parker this long to catch on. If Logan had a business card, you know it would say, "Logan Echolls, Bad Boyfriend/Internet Ass Entrepreneur." And Dick? Dick has discovered feelings. I know, I can't believe it either, but for practically the only time in a year, he's expressed grief and guilt for his brother's death. It's kind of freaking me out, but it's also kind of nice, you know?

Around Neptune, the Fitzpatricks are working hard to make Vinnie the next sheriff, which means that, should the show get picked up, Keith will soon be going back to his outsider role. Which I preferred to Keith's sheriff role, so I'm not complaining. The Marses have always been iconoclasts, and they work better outside the establishment. Oh, also: Cliff! Yay, Cliff!

Next week: two-hour finale. We may not even know after tomorrow's CW upfront what to call it. Please stop jerking this show around, CW. I know this means there's still hope for it, but I'd rather know for sure, even if it's bad news.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Heroes: I Wish Not Stepping All Over Cliffhangers Was One of Peter's Super Powers

So, okay, you remember how the big cliffhanger from last week was Peter preparing to go nuclear? Yeah, so when we begin this week's episode, Peter is all, "Oh, never mind, I got it." Look, I'm not as annoyed with Peter as I once was, so I'm not so desperate for him to get knocked cold, but at least whacking Peter upside the head wouldn't have been as anticlimactic. Fortunately, things actually happen in the rest of the episode. Sylar kills Ted and takes his power, as you knew he had to, and Bennet ends up in an isoceles Mexican standoff with Mohinder over little Molly. (Matt is currently on the floor, having gotten the cold-cocking that was meant for Peter.) And as we go into next week's finale, a few other things are happening:

Linderman: He starts out on a high note, healing Nathan's wife, but then – well, you know – he's bad, still. Turns out what he wanted to use Micah for was rigging the election, which the kid does. And when D.L. and Jessica decide to kill him, Linderman tries his sneaky best to turn matters to his advantage, offering Jessica a whole bunch of money if she'll kill D.L. instead. She won't, and D.L. and Linderman end up killing each other. Barring some miraculous recovery, of course. But if Linderman really is gone, then I'm going to miss that British Person. He sank his teeth into that role and he seemed to really enjoy it. Ta-ta, A British Person.

Hiro: George Takei brings his smooth voice back for another episode, and if there was anything more important that he said other than "I was once a part of the Super Best Friends, along with Linderman and Papa Petrelli," I'm sure I missed it, because that voice is hypnotic. Hiro's dad teaches him to swordfight, but they take too long and Ando heads out to kill Sylar himself. Now the plan is: save Ando, because he's going to get himself seriously killed. And I think we all know how important Ando is after the episode in the future, so, for real, save Ando.

Special Note About Matt: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Heroes writers, for what you've done for Matt. You've given him a mission, constructive uses of his power like getting past guards and saving Bennet's bacon, and little throwaway lines that Greg Grunberg can knock out of the park. He's even good when he's not saying a word, like his reaction to Jessica bringing up the defenestration incident. Although you just had to show Matt bleeding profusely in the previews for next week, didn't you? You bastards.

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24: Forty-Seventh Verse, Same as the First

The description on my channel guide for this week's episode of 24 reads as follows: "The administration copes with a compromising situation; Jack stops at nothing to protect the country from an international incident." And if you think this sounds like every episode this season, not to mention every episode perhaps ever, then you've hit on the problem: 24 Fatigue. Always the same thing: the politicians get blackmailed or are forced to make morally ambiguous decisions, and CTU gets invaded at least once a season, never listens to Jack when they should, and lets the bad guy slip through their fingers about twelve dozen times. If the rumors are true and they are going to break out of the confines of CTU next season, that should help things, but it may take more than a change of venue to break them out of the cycle of the same plots over and over.

Like in this episode. Just like in season 1, sending the woman back to spy on her lover ends very badly, with the woman attacking the guy, but this time, Lisa ends up with the worst of it. Not dead, but in bad shape. Then, just as in every season, most recently the last one, CTU gets invaded by the higher-ups. It's Division's turn this year, as they send a team right quick to investigate how CTU let a team of commandos in. Too quick, almost. Are they fakes, sent by Grandpa Bauer? I hope so, since that would make things interesting for the finale. And I certainly wouldn't put it past CTU to get invaded twice in a little over an hour.

Meanwhile, Josh shows himself to be a true Bauer kid, needing to be saved right when Jack is trying to corner Cheng. So, of course, Cheng gets away. Grandpa gets all mad at the Chinese and decides to take his component and go home, but, for whatever reason, he's desperate to take Josh with him. He's really fixated on Josh as the one to carry on his legacy, as though he doesn't have any other grandkids. (I love that they've forgotten all about Kim. No, seriously, I really do love it. I wish I could forget so easily.) Grandpa ends up making a deal with the vice president – Josh for the component – which the vice president is only too happy to make. Exile a Bauer kid and avoid war with Russia? What's the downside?

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Does That Include the Headgear?

This Yahoo! news story will first make you go, "Huh?", then make you go, "Aww", and then (yes, you'll be riding a rollercoaster of emotions) make you appreciate the transformation America Ferrera undertakes every time she goes on set. Hey, if the Oscars love to reward women who ugg themselves up for a role, does that mean the Emmys might like to as well?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Ugly Betty: ¡Vamos a México!

The Suarezes head down to Guadalajara this week, and while there is precious little Justin to show for it, there is Rita Moreno. Because this show is all about the Broadway stars. But then it all turns a little weird, when Betty is told by a healer that she'll never be happy until she finds a tree with missing branches. Betty thinks this means her family tree, since she doesn't know anything about her mother's family, and sets off to find her grandmother. A vision quest, with a hallucinated Henry on a motorbike as her spirit guide, leads her straight to Abuela. Hey, while we're on the subject, when did this show turn into Scrubs? Betty's suddenly having a lot of fantasies, J.D.-style, lately – the witch hunt of a couple of weeks ago, last week's knight fight, now this. It's just a little strange, is all, because they never used to go inside her head. Anyway, Abuela's mind is mostly gone, but, in accordance with the Rule of TV Senility, she takes Betty for her long-lost daughter, Mama Suarez, begs for forgiveness, and encourages her to fight for Henry. Well, that's the way Betty hears it. Also, Papa can't go back to the U.S., and someone is looking for revenge on him. Maybe Rosa's first husband isn't really dead?

Back in New York, Bradford loses his damn mind, finds it again, and then loses it again when he signs the divorce papers. Idiot. Why would you want to/not be scared to divorce Claire? A pill-popping, manic Daniel spends the episode jumping on the office furniture, demanding high fives, and putting the moves on Rebecca Gayheart, Alex's ex-girlfriend. And, hey, Medicated Daniel is a lot of fun. I mean, don't do drugs, kids, of course, but all that energy really makes a difference, for the better. But then there's a drug deal that goes bad, just in case you were thinking about doing drugs. Which you shouldn't. And then there's Marc and Amanda, who I just find myself loving more and more every week. Why? This week, Marc is horrified by Amanda's relationship, and tells her she deserves more than a seeeeecret boyfriend who treats her like dirt in public. So Marc defends her, and outs – ins – whatever – Tavares, but they don't really hurt him until Amanda shows off his ugly, ugly buttons. It's like a Fashion Justice League. It's awesome. And then they find the love dungeon! Is there anything these two can't do? By the way, the love dungeon still scares me. After the revelations we've previously had about Bradford's sexual preferences, I'm not looking forward to seeing what's inside.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

They Are Women, Hear Them Dork

With the '06-'07 season drawing swiftly to a close, I'm ready to declare it the Season of the Nerdy Woman. In addition to the elevation of preexisting nerd Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie to the main credits of Veronica Mars, this season added two more female nerds to the roster: Betty Suarez and Liz Lemon. (One of the other members of the club, Chloe O'Brian, got a stupid never-ending ex storyline, but you can't have everything.) In fact, the two new geeks on the block are the stars of their respective shows, and while they ostensibly serve as the sane centers around which all the zaniness of Mode and TGS revolve, they're still able to dork out in their own unique ways. And it's a large part of what makes them interesting, engaging characters, and makes their shows even more fun to watch. 30 Rock allowed Liz to get geekier as time went on, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the show became more appealing at the same time. Anyone who can swear by the hammer of Thor in her everyday life is a) not someone you see on TV all the time, and b) someone you should be seeing more of. Besides, there's a huge, underrepresented group of nerdy women out there and, speaking as part of this group, I'm pleased that we're getting some serious role models on TV.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Veronica Mars: Paul Rudd Will Take This Episode To Go, Please

So, okay, the mystery was kind of weak this week. Was it the groupie? No. Was it the bellboy? No. Is it all an innocent mix-up? Why yes, yes it is. But it's okay, because it's not really about the mystery this week. From the moment that a disheveled, dashing Paul Rudd shows up, the episode is about him, and he sticks it in his back pocket and walks away with it. He plays a washed-up, drunk rock star playing a benefit at Hearst. Really, though, he's there to hassle Piz, the designated Rudd wrangler, compare Veronica to a "feisty young Barbara Eden," tease Keith a little about the Beatles, and, finally, get his groove back, playing cool new material. Damn, is Paul Rudd ever awesome. He shunts everyone else in his scenes to the sidelines, and yet, Chris Lowell still does more in this episode than he did on last week's Grey's Anatomy. (Hope you enjoy taking your shirt off for a living, Chris.)

Also, Deputy Leo comes back to Neptune, since he can't show his face in New York again, after getting beat up by Betty. He comes to Keith about a possible robbery, the guys work together on it, and Leo winds up as a deputy again. By the way, I have to confess, I knew that someone would be running for sheriff against Keith, and for the entire episode, I was convinced that it was Leo. But no. It's so much better. Are you ready? I don't think you are. But I'm going to tell you anyway. It's Vinnie Van Lowe. Oh, yes. And if he wins, then the days of the unqualified sheriff live again.

In relationship news, Piz and Veronica are totally awkward with each other and poor Wallace gets stuck in the middle, but some serious hand-holding seems to make it all okay. Mac wavers between Bronson and Max, and finally decides to break up with Bronson. It's sad, yeah, and all of this is a little sudden, but after such a long drought and that one murderous boyfriend, I'm actually happy that Mac has two guys to choose from. She's the best, and it's nice that more than one guy at a time appreciates that.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Heroes: Some Bad Mothers (Shut Your Mouth)

Just in time for Mother's Day, it's an episode filled with moms who really make you appreciate your own mom. There are icy, manipulative moms like Mama Petrelli, fake, kidnapping, threatening moms like Candice, and a mom who unwittingly helps her son along to further evil. This last would be Sylar's mom. See, Sylar runs to his mom when he becomes afraid that he's the exploding man, because killing people is wrong, when they're innocents and in numbers greater than one. He wants his mom to tell him it's okay to be normal – which she refuses to do. He shows her his powers, one thing leads to another, and she ends up with scissors in her heart. It was a nice humanizing thing while it lasted, but we'll probably never get that again. Shame, because one of the really interesting things about Sylar is how nerdy and earnest he is when he's not filled with murderous intent. Oh, and also: Sylar breaks the Sword of Destiny. But what was that I saw George Takei brandishing at Hiro in the previews? Sword of Destiny II?

So Bennet, Ted, and Matt (blink twice and you miss 'em) are on their way to New York to destroy the Walker tracking system, right? The Walker system turns out to be – dun dun! – a little girl named Molly Walker, who can find the location of anyone just by thinking about them. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Molly is the same girl Matt found hiding when we first met him. Molly's got the same immune thing that Mohinder's sister had, which is blocking her power. Then there's no reason for The Dream Team to take her out, right? Except that Mohinder fixes her. So… that was really just an excuse to talk about Shanti for an entire episode, huh? If she's the tracking system the guys are looking for, why else would she need to be broken and then fixed again?

Meanwhile, Peter bonds with his niece by asking her to shoot him if he goes nuclear. Awww. That chance comes sooner than you'd think, because Peter and Claire run into The Dream Team upon their arrival in New York, and Peter's hands immediately start glowing. Matt, the erstwhile cop and security professional, and Bennet, the man with the plans, just stand there. You guys, how hard is it to knock him out? Ah, well, I'm sure they do it at the beginning of next week's episode. Right, Matt? Bennet?

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24: See How You Like It, Jack

So, Jack: the tables have turned! Once upon a time, you invaded the Chinese embassy to get one guy out, and now they've done the same to you! Cheng sends a team to invade CTU, and they meet (un)surprisingly little resistance as they search for Josh. Yes, I said Josh. You remember Josh – Jack's "nephew"? I don't know why they can't just ask for him. If it was his "cousin" they wanted, you can bet that CTU would be tossing her out the door and cheerfully asking what else they can get for the tattooed mercenaries on their doorstep. Jack, of course, goes all Die Hard on them, taking out several of the mercenaries single-handedly. But it's not enough, because they get Josh anyway, and they terrorize the people on the floor while they're at it: they ask who's in charge, Milo says it's him to protect Nadia, and the mercenaries shoot him in the head. Milo makes a noble sacrifice for Nadia, but since the guys find out ten minutes later that she's in charge anyway and they don't kill her, maybe they really just wanted to shoot Milo. (Update: Actually, they were working on Eric Balfour's orders, which I guess explains how suddenly and, ultimately, pointlessly he dies.) At any rate, it's sad to see another veteran go, even though he was only barely in Season 1 and only distinguished himself this season with the mission he went on. So long, Milo. But we'll see you next week when they still haven't moved your body off the CTU floor.

But why Josh? Who could possibly want him? Grandpa Bauer, as it turns out, who's fixing the broken component in exchange for his grandson. Yay! He's the closest thing we've had to a really good bad guy this season, and I'm glad he's back. He's certainly a match for his son, so hopefully this will make the final few episodes exciting.

The White House? Don't worry about them. They're just recycling an old plot thread. Look, I know Season 1 was a long time ago, well over 10 years ago in Bauer Time, but I remember another betrayed woman being sent to spy on her duplicitous lover, and I don't recall that it turned out so well.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

The Amazing Race: It's Raining Men, Still

It's the finale! Three teams remain! One will win! Two are losers! Losers! Phil, in summarizing the remaining teams, tells some lies (Eric and Danielle's "growing respect for each other") and some euphemisms (Charla and Mirna's "brash tenacity," which, when you translate it out of Really Nice, means "annoying people until they get their way"). When it comes to Dustin and Kandice, he talks about their "prowess," which I only mention because it sounds real hot in a Kiwi accent. Sigh. The teams are sent off to Hawaii, which, by now, is the required last stop for every other eastbound race. And here we get another demonstration of the Charla and Mirna Paradox: laser-focused in airports, and discombobulated on the ground. Although they are able to wangle themselves the earlier flight to Honolulu, the other teams catch up to them in a run along the beach and pass them because of their completely sucktastic kayaking skills. Seriously, Dustin and Kandice get out of their kayak and capsize and they still beat Charla and Mirna. The Paradox: how they got this far, and why they were never, ever going to win.

The final city is San Francisco, and the test at the end this time is about how well the teams know each other. One person sets the combination to a safe based on their responses to a quiz about the other teams; the partner then tries to unlock that safe by guessing the answers. And which is the only team to finish within ten minutes? Eric and Danielle. And when you consider that much of the challenge hinges on how much you've complained about the other teams, it starts to make sense. Whatever the reason, their success with the task is what gets them across the finish line first. And because Rob does not body-check them out of the way, shrieking "Nooooo!" as he hurls himself at the mat, Eric and Danielle are the unimpeded winners. Dustin and Kandice come in second, and the cousins must settle for third. Eric shares the good news with his erstwhile partner Jeremy (no love for Dani?), who seems to think that he, too, is rich (beeyotch), even though he's not the one who was asked to come back. And since Jeremy kind of screwed Eric on the flag thing, I'd say Eric doesn't owe him a dime.

So, only one guy in the final three teams, and his is the one that wins. Damn, an all-female team is never going to win, is it? I mean, unless they do an all-female Amazing Race, and while that could be really cool, I'd hate for that to be what we have to do to get two women across the finish line.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: California, Califooorniaaa, here we coooome...

Last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy, as everyone probably knows, served as a backdoor pilot for next season's spin-off starring my favorite crazy redheaded doctor, Addison Montgomery-Shepherd. The good doctor has decided to visit her old best friend Naomi in LA. Naomi, as it happens, is one of the best fertility specialists in the country. Yes, Addison is trying to get knocked up. Unfortunately, a natural-born baby isn't in the cards for her, as she's basically infertile.

Luckily, there are lots of pretty (and recognizable!) faces at her friend's clinic to distract her from her troubles. We've got Tim Daly (of the late, great show The Nine), the naturopath; Judging Amy, the psychologist; Evil Francie, the aforementioned best friend; Taye Diggs, the best friend's ex-husband/medical guru; Piz, the hot receptionist; and Secret Service Special Agent Paul Kellerman, some sort of baby-related doctor who happens to date hot internet women. As an added bonus, the episode featured a special guest appearance by Sark, so it was an Alias reunion of sorts! Oh, and conveniently enough, the beachfront practice currently has an OB/GYN opening. Hmmmmm....

Back at Seattle Grace things are gloomier, which makes sense weather-wise, I suppose. Jane Doe has bleeding in her brain, and despite the discovery during wide-awake brain surgery that she speaks three other languages, is no closer to regaining her memory. McSteamy is all kinds of pissed at Alex for driving Addison away. Burke and Cristina's moms are in town raising wedding hell, until Burke kicks them out for pushing Cristina too far (but then wonders if he may be pushing her too far). The George/Callie/Izzie drama continues as George realizes he loves both women, Izzie tells him it isn't fair for him to leave, and they end up making out in an elevator. Ruh-roh.

McDreamy continues to match Meredith's best communication efforts with a total lack of sharing, and the beginnings of emotional distancing. Not promising. Oh, and Meredith's other mom dies. After coming in to be treated for a bad case of the hiccups. Um, this isn't PPTH, guys. And as if Meredith couldn't have a worse family situation, her dad smacks her in the face after she breaks the bad news. Damn. That's damaging on so many levels.

In summation, I'm totally psyched for Private Practice, and Grey's Anatomy has continued in its quest to make me cry every single week. Lay off, yo!

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Ugly Betty: Chivalry is Giant Q-Tips

So many great moments in this episode. Amanda's acting reel, Marc and Amanda's running "Hi, Grandma" joke (and their rhyming banter), everything Deputy Leo does, and, of course, "no touching." Because, really, what's a parent-child scene in a prison without a "no touching" reference?

So, as promised last week, Betty and the other assistants, as well as Henry and Christina, go to "The Middle Ages," and let's not kid ourselves. We all know what it is, and we've all been there. (Admit it.) There, Betty attempts to win a thousand dollars riding a mechanical bull, and Deputy Leo gets his dink on so Henry can defend his not-girlfriend's honor in an American Gladiators-type joust. Naturally, he gets the snot beat out of him, because that's the Henry we know and love. And when he confesses his love to Betty, of course Charlie is standing right there. But she still doesn't break up with him. Look, Charlie, I understand. Henry is mad cute. But seriously, when your boyfriend chooses to spend his time with another woman, fighting for her with giant Q-tips and making puppy eyes at her, it's probably time to break up with him.

Meanwhile, I am very disappointed in Claire. I would have thought that by now, she would have her own gang in prison, and be ruling the other inmates and the guards through her patented icy disdain. Instead, all she's scored is toilet wine and a beating from a beefy inmate. And while Wilhelmina does get a beating in this episode, it's not on Claire's orders. It's Marc, acting on Wil's orders, so she can pin it on Claire and wangle a divorce out of Bradford. Come on, Claire, if you're going to get blamed for a beating, you might as well do it. What's happened to you in prison?

Oh, and, good news: Daniel is trying to get over his sex addiction. Bad news: he's getting off his sex addiction by popping pills. Which means he's going to be the new, caneless, non-covertly British, sex-addicted House. In other words, the less fun House.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

House: I call them "House-ku"s

Okay, I have a finite amount of time here, so here are some more House haikus to get you caught up:

House gets a new cane
But loses his canine clone
To Wilson's ex-wife

Foreman is timid
After last week's disaster
House wants to fire him

He gets his groove back
By torturing a young boy
And thus becomes House

Foreman hates what he's become
And says he's quitting

Worst haikus ever?
I'd tend to agree with you
I'll have prose next week

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Pirate Master: Just When I Thought It Couldn't Sound Any Stranger...

The cast list for the craziest-sounding series of the summer, Pirate Master (a Mark Burnett production, in case you were wondering) has just been announced, and after reading it, I am as intrigued as about the scientist/Chippendale dancer. There must be a cheat in there somewhere, like "scientist" as a euphemism for "grad student," but I can see why. You list your occupation as scientist/Chippendale dancer, and Burnett's going to be all over it.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Veronica Mars: Look, What Did I Just Say About the Ethnic Slurs?

A long time ago, there used to be a show about a college-age private eye, and I've thought about it a lot lately, because its future is extremely uncertain. Will it be back? If it is, will Veronica be back in college or with the FBI? As you go about your business today, spare a thought for Veronica and for Rob Thomas, who's pitching Season 4 to the CW execs today. Send him your good thoughts, or send the CW your threatening mail. You know, whatever you think will help.

On her first day back in months, Veronica takes on a case of vandalism at a restaurant owned by a Middle Eastern family. The perp is a kid whose brother came back wounded from Iraq, but, as this is Veronica Mars, things aren't so clear-cut. The kid was provoked by an anti-American cartoon produced by an immigrant who works at the restaurant. The owner meets with the kid and decides not to press charges, everyone's proud to be an American, there's forgiveness all around – except for the guy who works at the restaurant, who gets the INS called on him. Kind of sours the "yay, freedom" ending a little bit. Meanwhile, Keith is cracking down on underage drinking and having to deal with lazy, disrespectful deputies, who all get canned when Keith decides to start kicking some ass. Man, did I ever miss incompetence in the Balboa County sheriff's department. I know, it's weird, but Lamb left a very big hole. Happily, the whole thing provides a good excuse for Keith to work with/blackmail Wallace and Piz. It's always nice when Wallace has something to do.

In fact, Wallace has two things to do this week (I know! It's crazy!) – besides helping Keith with his sting operation, he also tries to get Piz a girl and keep him away from Veronica. It doesn't work so well, because Piz ends up kissing Veronica. But Veronica kisses him back! And then Logan sees them! Veronica, I'm pleased that you were finally able to locate, much less jump on, the "Piz is cool" bandwagon, and, really, better late than never, but it is still pretty late in the game. Chris Lowell is leaving at the end of the season for the new Grey's Anatomy spinoff, and what's going to happen then? Ah, I should just enjoy it while it lasts, and be glad they won't have time to get like Veronica and Logan.

Next week: Paul Rudd. This is going to be GREAT.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

America's Next Top Model: Clip shows are SO not fierce

As usual on ANTM, just when things start to get interesting, Tyra hits us with a clip show. Here's what we learned:

  • Cassandra was a million times greater than we ever got a chance to realize. The girls had a pretend fashion show one night in which they sort of portrayed each other, and Cassandra was a Russian model. It was hilarious and amazing. Too bad she sucked at modeling.
  • Jael, on the other hand, was a million times crazier and more annoying than we knew. Renee earns my (probably not undying, but still quite strong) affection by calling Jael "a female Kramer."
  • Jaslene was more up in people's faces than we saw before, but is pretty much exactly as full of herself as we thought.
  • Renee kept talking about how much she misses her kid, which, fair enough. But when she repeatedly says stuff like, "I would give anything in the world to take my kid to the park right now," she loses my affection (told you it wasn't undying). Anything, Renee? Your kid's not dead, you just decided to go on a reality show. You'd clearly give anything but the chance to be Top Model. Shut up, Renee.
  • These chicks are pretty tough! Cassandra got frostbite and had to go to the hospital from holding ice cream in her hand for too long. Natasha got a cavity in her wisdom tooth and had to have the tooth extracted. With minimal painkillers, apparently. Damn.

Those are pretty much the highlights of the clip show. No huge surprises, no crazy revelations. Let's hope they make up for it this week with some Aussie craziness. (I'm crossing my fingers for male models AND venomous snakes, but not at the same time.)

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Heroes: Welcome to the World of Tomorrow

Remember on Alias when Sydney woke up after two years and found herself in Opposite Land? (Sloane was good! Jack was in prison! Vaughn was married! Marshall knocked someone up! Weiss… lost weight!) The same thing is true of Heroes five years in the future. Everyone is different; no two people are the same. (Apologies to Strong Bad.) As a result, the episode is extremely fun and surprising. Let's visit the heroes… of the future!

Some people are President of the United States. Nathan is trying to control the hero population. At first this means sending Evil Matt after them, but it's not really helping anymore, so Nathan's all, "What if we tried killing them all? That might work." Mohinder, his advisor, is horrified, and so are we all, except it's not really Nathan! It's Sylar, with Candice's power! Which sets up an important plot point for the next few weeks: someone has to kill Sylar before all of this happens. I'm voting for Peter, just because he has the best shot at it, and he's not bothering me so much anymore.

Some people are very tall and merciless. Matt is with Homeland Security. Which really just means he goes around arresting people with abilities and getting information out of them. And I could really like Evil Matt if he didn't spend half his time punching or tasering or killing (!) Hiro. That's never cool. Otherwise, though: bad looks good on him. I don't know that I want Matt to be bad, but I do want Greg Grunberg to consider more bad-guy roles.

Some people are no longer pretty. Peter has a wicked scar running across his face. He's also, for some reason, with Niki, who's lost D.L., Micah, and Jessica over the past five years, but is otherwise much the same, having gone back to stripping. Peter is awfully bad-ass, which looks good on him, too – I wouldn't mind seeing him turn out that way – and he helps Ando and Future Hiro get Present Hiro back. And then there's a big hero battle with Sylar, and I don't know how many times they'll be able to pull that off without it getting old, but for right now, it's still exciting.

Some people have set up a witness protection program for heroes. Bennet continues to rock, and he's rocking some thinner glasses, too. Some people have gone brunette. Claire… really doesn't do a whole lot in this episode. Except get killed by Sylar.

Some people are black-clad, soul-patched terrorists. Hiro is completely unrecognizable. And why is he so different? Because Ando died when New York exploded, and all of Hiro's fun died with him. Aw! And ever since, he's been obsessed with trying to change the past and save Ando! Awwww! You guys, I did so much "awww"ing over these guys this week that you would have thought I was watching a boxful of kittens romp around on my TV screen. I just love those two so much. As far as I'm concerned, they have one of the sweetest, strongest relationships on TV, and here's hoping Hiro never becomes the terrorist kendo master of the future. Save Ando!

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24: All About Audrey

The first rule of being in charge of CTU: always listen to Jack Bauer. How do you think Buchanan lasted so long? He rolled over almost every single time for Jack, and it was always the right call. Nadia has to learn this rule the hard way this week when Jack insists on being allowed to talk to Audrey to try to snap her out of her catatonic state. The alternative is a pharmaceutical procedure with a high likelihood of killing her, and I have no idea if this is sound psychology or not, but given how eager the psychologist is to try it, I'd say the problem rests squarely with him. Certainly he has some sort of problem, since he delivers all his lines in a super-fast monotone that makes me wonder if anyone explained to him that "There's no time!" is just an expression that Jack likes to throw around. There's always time for taking a breath, shrink guy. With a little help from Doyle, Jack breaks out Audrey and manages to get through to her, because Jack is always right. But it really is a sweet scene between the two of them, so I can't complain. The episode ends with Heller (yay, William Devane!) showing up to call Jack a curse (it's true) and take Audrey home. No! I don't want Kim Raver to leave yet! She's doing a fantastic job – particularly as Audrey is slowly coming around – and she's the most interesting thing going on right now. Thank goodness IMDb says she's staying.

Meanwhile, in the White House, they're getting all kinds of threats from the Russians, who know about the chip, and poor Tom gets seriously grossed out when Daniels tells him about his affair with Lisa. At least, that's what it looked like to me, although I could have been projecting. And then there's Morris, who somehow hasn't learned yet that working, or doing anything, with Chloe is always going to be uncomfortable. He whines some more, but Nadia awesomely shuts him down. She's really doing a good job running CTU. But Chloe goes missing, which sucks, because why the hell can't Morris be the one who disappears?

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