Sunday, September 30, 2007

Desperate Housewives: In with the New

It's a new season on Desperate Housewives, and you know what that means! New neighbors, with new secrets. Although in tonight's episode, which picks up one month after the season finale left off, there were more than enough secrets to go around. All in all, a pretty good start to the season, although it wasn't as engaging as the show once was. Probably because at this point, I think it's impossible for Marc Cherry to shock me anymore. Also, because the characters are largely pretty annoying and ridiculous. But hey, they still make for some relatively entertaining television, and I welcome the new blood to freshen things up a little.

The new neighbors are Katherine (played by Dana Delany), Adam, and Dylan. Katherine and Dylan, her daughter, used to live on Wisteria lane with Katherine's aunt, Mrs. Sims. After a sudden departure 12 years ago, Katherine and Dylan have returned to care for Mrs. Sims with Katherine's new husband, Adam, who is a gynecologist. Katherine, it should be noted, is awful, and highly likely to get into a catfight with Bree, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Mysteriously, Dylan can't remember anything about her time living at Wisteria Lane as a child, even her former best friend, Julie. Julie, for her part, doesn't even think Dylan is the same girl--especially after Dylan confesses that her earliest "memory" is a recurring dream about a man in her room trying to grab her, and that her mom freaked out when she asked about going into therapy for it. Oh, and Katherine won't let her live in one of the rooms in the house, because of something that happened there in the past, I think. So...either "Dylan" was kidnapped by Katherine and her first husband after the real Dylan died accidentally or something, or else some horrible traumatic thing happened and they somehow brainwashed Dylan completely. They're only back in Wisteria Lane because they had "no choice." Bananas!

Let's get caught up with the old gang, shall we?

Edie never intended to kill herself. She just hung onto the ceiling until she heard Carlos get home, and then waited for him to find her. Which he did, although not immediately. Unfortunately for Carlos, Edie's "suicide attempt" put an end to the plans he and Gabby had to run away together (on her wedding night, natch), because Carlos responds well to emotional blackmail. One month later, Edie is out of the "clinic" and back on The Lane, where she immediately busies herself nosing into Carlos's personal affairs, including his $10 million offshore bank account (which you'd think would be better hidden), so she can more literally blackmail him into staying with her. What the heck happened to Edie? She used to be so confident, and now she's just disgustingly needy and co-dependent. And also very mentally unbalanced. I guess this is what you get when you focus a maneater's attentions on just one man...yikes.

Susan senses that Mike isn't totally satisfied with married life, and only gets more worried when Adam, acting as her substitute OB-GYN, suggests that she may be starting menopause. Ouch. She freaks out, as expected. However, it turns out that it's not so much menopause. In fact, she's pregnant (insert sarcastic gasp here). And finally, Mike is happy. Susan seems happy, but she said before that she didn't want (more) kids. That's quite the change of heart. Although I guess when the alternative is menopause... Knowing this show, though, Susan and Mike can't finally settle down and have a normal, happy relationship. Thus, I'm betting the baby is Ian's. Who's with me?

Lynette is bald. And the bald cap hiding all her hair makes her head look huge. Like, alien huge. Oh, and she spends most of the episode pretending to everyone but Tom and her mother that she doesn't have cancer. Um, what? With the how? And the huh? Is that even possible? I mean, I know she slips up once and barfs in someone's purse during a school play, but it seems like you wouldn't be able to hide a month of chemo while still maintaining your normal schedule. Anyway, she reveals all in a fabulous de-wigging, but her friends are understandably upset that she'd keep something like that from them. Thus, a "no more secrets" pact is formed and broken instantaneously, because who on this show doesn't have crazy secrets?

Bree, for her part, is still pretending to be pregnant. Despite accidentally stabbing her fake belly with a barbeque fork in front of witnesses at a party. Orson tries to be the voice of reason, but she refuses to give up the charade, correctly stating that Danielle is totally incapable of raising a healthy child. Of course, by that standard, Bree's not really one to judge. However, she really wants a second (third, really) chance at it, and Orson won't deny her that. Man, if I were Bree, I would fake needing bed rest pretty darn soon, especially with a gynecologist hanging around.

Gabby is still with the Mayor, but only in body (and not much of that, either, since he's busy with work all the time). In spirit, she's waiting to run away with Carlos. It might be a long wait. But in the meantime, she and Carlos sleep together on the sly, though it seems inevitable that they'll be totally, totally busted. Probably by a homicidal Edie.

My favorite quote of the episode, by the way, was when Edie was openly discussing her "suicide attempt" with the women at a barbeque, much to their shock. "It's okay. The doctor encouraged me to talk about it." -Edie. "Surely not over food." -Bree. This show has its ups and its downs (and yes, a lot of downs lately), but it's almost worth watching for Bree's quips alone. No sign of the gay couple so far, but I kind of can't wait, if only to see how Bree reacts to them.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Dexter: Splattering its way to a commute near you

So on my way home from work yesterday, as I was going about my normal business, I ran into a fountain filled with blood. Or rather, filled with artificial blood. The fountain itself isn't even usually there, let alone filled with red water. Hmm. As I walked over, I saw a couple of people in lab coats standing there talking to people. Hmm. Upon closer inspection, though, their lab coats had the Showtime logo on them, and also the logo from their show about a serial killer, Dexter. Craziest promotion ever, you guys!

And apparently, my city wasn't the only one hit. Showtime claims that the water is red because it's their "corporate color," and isn't meant to portray blood, but I'm not buying it. I mean, the employees were wearing lab coats. And in some of the cities, it seems, the fountains were surrounded by fake crime scene tape. Showtime, if you've going to pull a gruesome stunt like this one, you kind of have to OWN it. That said, it certainly livened up my commute!

[Photo courtesy of the fabulous DCist and their guest photographer Eddie Kim, since I wasn't clever enough to take a picture with my cell phone.]

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: We're all freaking out

Oh. My. God. Ohmygod. OMG. (Deep breaths, deep breaths.) Okay. Phew. So. I told myself over the summer that Grey's and I were through. That it went way, way downhill last season (true story), and that I would only watch it critically, with appropriate detachment and probable mocking this season. And now? I'm kind of sucked back in. Sigh. This was so predictable. Does anyone else hate themselves a little for still getting into this show? Because I do, and more than a little. This episode wasn't even that great, for godsakes!

All episodes have a theme, of course, and this week's installment was all about change, or lack thereof. The more things change: Burke is gone, Meredith and Derek are broken up, Meredith's sister is an intern, almost everyone's a resident, and Callie is chief resident and possibly pregnant. The more they stay the same: George is still an intern, Callie is still getting crapped on, Meredith and Derek are still having sex, Bailey is still kicking ass and taking names, and Gizzie's reign of terror continues unabated. ARGH. We'll get into that later.

Oh, and there are also still quirky cases (man eats enough coins to do a month's worth of laundry, plus some medical equipment and cotton balls), cases that parallel our characters' lives (pregnant woman tries to go it alone, but realizes that you need people to rely on in case things go wrong; Izzie tries to save a deer when everyone else has given up on it, or didn't care in the first place), and heart-wrenching cases (internally decapitated man and his loving family prepare for him to die in surgery). So not much difference there, either.

Since I'm apparently on a roll with the lists, here are the things I loved about the episode, in no particular order:

  • The speech the new residents gave to their new interns, which mimicked the speech Bailey gave them in the show's pilot episode. Aww, they're all grown up!
  • That Alex is clearly still in love with Eva/Rebecca, even while he's pretending to lust over other girls (like Meredith's sister, ew).
  • McSteamy's "I came to Seattle to get you back" speech to Derek. I can hear the clickity clack of a thousand new slash fics being written right this very instant...
  • The fact that when Callie was bemoaning her life, instead of caving and giving her some sage advice on how to deal with the interns, Bailey just said, "Hope tomorrow's better." Love! Her!
  • Izzie's fierce speech to her interns at the end of the episode, in which she called them all duds. God, I hope we see more of that Izzie this season.
  • Lexie. I think. Maybe. Although the whole history with Derek and the flirting at the bar is more than a bit much.

Here are the things that made me mad (either on behalf of the characters, or because it actually pissed me off), in no particular order except that the last item on the list outweighs all others, plus everything on the previous list, too:

  • That the Chief gave Callie the chief resident position just so that Bailey could focus on becoming a great surgeon, even though he thought she'd be great at it. Um, not really your call to make, Chief. She applied, so you should have considered her on her merits.
  • Izzie's "I'm Bambi! All alone in the forest!" speech. Um, yeah. That's taking the metaphor a bit too far. Or at least spelling it out too much.
  • That George won't just freaking tell everyone that he blames them a little for his failing the intern exam. Man up, George!
  • That when George did man up, it was to tell Izzie that he loves her, too. NOOOOOO! I thought we were going to wash our hands of this Gizzie business, for once and for all! This is going to put a serious damper on my enjoyment of the show. Seriously.

There's a lot more to get in to, but I could probably rant and rave about this show (or anything else, for that matter) forever, so I think I'll just leave you with this quote from Meredith: "Much better to be alone and be a success, than be in a relationship and feel like a failure all the time." Hmm. I guess everyone in this episode is much better off, then, since they were all so completely, completely alone. Hear that, George and Izzie?

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Project Runway: Meet the Cast of Season 4!

My wish is Bravo's command! Not only do we now know that Project Runway will be returning November 14th, but Bravo has provided us with photos and detailed bios of all the new cast members. Based on looks alone, it seems like we've got a new Jay, a new Jeffrey, and... a Sweet P. Right. Although I'm sure the bios are inflated just a tad, we have some pretty fancy resumes! Elisa and Rami, in particular, come with impressive backgrounds.

The contestants vary in age from 21 to 46. We also appear to have at least a couple of self-taught designers, and at least one whose experience lies predominantly in menswear. And the designers as a group seem to be very into Alexander McQueen and boots. Hmm.

Looks like a great, highly-skilled (mostly) group, at any rate. Mark November 14th on your calendar, people. Or, just brace yourself for the onslaught of Bravo promos that won't let up until November 14th. I can't wait!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

America's Next Top Model: Tyra saves the world!

This week on Top Model, Tyra takes a stand against all that is wrong with the world, and vows to right those wrongs using the medium of reality television. Just when I thought I couldn't love this show any more, she kicks things up a notch. Tyra's my hero, you guys.

The girls start their first day by meeting Orange Jay, whose hair is distinctly whiter than usual. I think the cooler silvery color really brings out the orange in his skin. He brings them out to their new biodiesel limo/bus. It's awesome, and may actually begin to make up for the horrifyingly gas-guzzling transportation used in previous cycles. Go, Tyra!!! They drive to their new pad, which is also green-themed. Plants everywhere, and tips for being eco-friendly scattered about, though I wonder if it's truly eco-friendly like the bitch bus. Alternative energy? Composting? Low-flow showerheads? Green roof? I kind of doubt it, but that would be pretty sweet. And guess what?! The difference-making isn't done yet! Later, at the end of panel, Tyra announces that this is a non-smoking cycle, because Top Model is Taking. A. Stand. Two stands in one episode? Best cycle ever! I can't wait to watch Jenah (who smokes) get bitchier and bitchier as the stress of the competition builds...I just wish I knew who else smoked.

Okay, time to gossip about the girls. Heather, who has Aspergers, spends a lot of time on her own. And staring into space. Aww. She gives the others a little lecture on Aspergers, but they still don't seem to be taking to her, though they do seem to pity her a bit. Interestingly, they keep coming up with reasons why Heather's disability will make the competition really difficult for her. Threatened, much? Victoria, who is awesome, is bothered by the other girls talking about Heather behind her back (not that she does anything to stop it). Kimberly, in particular, is pretty mean. Nuts. I kind of liked her. Now that Heather is a top contender, I wonder if they'll be treating her any differently.

Now, I know Ebony is getting the bitch label, but I have to say, I think Bianca is worse. I mean, at least Ebony owns it! Bianca is, like, stealth-bitch. Lisa and Bianca snipe back and forth at each other a lot at the photo shoot. Now, I know Lisa's more mature, so I don't know why she's even bothering getting into it with that bitch. Bianca actually makes her cry when she says that the next Top Model won't be an exotic dancer. Orange Jay has to come in to tell them to get their act together and quit fighting, and then they make nice back at the pool. ...Or do they?! Bianca totally admits in an interview that she only apologized because she didn't want it to come up at panel. Worst. Ever!

Alright, time to talk photo shoot. The first shoot's theme is...(drumroll please)...anti-smoking! Aww, you guys, Top Model is being all adorably responsible this season! Can next week's theme be about the dangers of eating disorders? And then make the next one about how throwing phones at people is bad for your career? It's a double-shoot, with each contestant shooting one glam photo lighting up a cigarette, and one darker photo, which will be shown as a reflection in the mirror, of the side effects or end results of smoking. And, as you might have guessed, this is one of the Most Controversial Shoots Ever. If they keep topping themselves like this, they're going to have to have the girls strangle puppies or something just to get the controversial label.

Ambreal's photo depicts lung cancer, in the form of her coughing up blood. It's pretty gross. The judges see a great model in her photos, but less so in person. Jenah is portraying baldness from chemotherapy. Oh, and she's a smoker, but she claims to have quit after the shoot. Nice touch, Jenah! I bet you thought you'd get some happy tears from Tyra for that one. Little did you know, Tyra'd be making you quit anyway! The judges really like her photos, but give her a few posing tips. Privately, they think she's already getting a bit boring. Mila, who is possibly the most cheerful person I've ever seen, is also doing chemo hair loss, but can't stop laughing how crazy her patchy hair looks. Um, yeah. Not great. She gets some criticism for her posing and gets tagged with the dreaded Dead Eye label. Uh oh.

Janet is a burn victim with makeup that looks completely painted-on. The judges love her photo, but I'm not really feelin' it. And Twiggy doesn't think she looks like a model. Probably because of the semi-mullet. I'm with ya, Twiggy. Chantal has the throat hole thing. URGH. The judges like her photos, but think her eyes were a bit too "bedroom." I think she looks pretty hot. In the one without the throat hole, obvs. Heather and Saleisha are together depicting the effects of second-hand smoke. Quite the astonishing coincidence that the girl with a social disorder gets put in a photo with another girl on her first shoot, eh? Heather has a tough time interacting with Saleisha, but the judges love their photos.

Kimberly is doing "sunken face," which...okay. Is that even a real thing, or just an excuse for crazy makeup? The judges think she's a bit too hoochie, but love her "tragic" shot. What could be more tragic than "sunken face," after all? I have to say, the judges seem to be grading on a bit of a curve this week. They're usually so harsh, especially on the first few shoots, and now they're giving the mildest criticism ever, combined with effusive praise. Is this the kinder, gentler Top Model? At any rate, Sarah is doing premature aging, and her makeup is hysterical. She looks a little like Melrose, as a matter of fact. The judges love her photos. Victoria is portraying a smoker who has given birth to a stillborn child. Yikes. The judges love her photos, but say she needs to work on her people skills a bit. Never change, Victoria! Never change!

Ebony doesn't quite rock the shoot--she's depicting a collapsed lung. The judges think her posing is stiff, but like her reflection shot. Which barely even shows her face, or anything but props, but whatever. Nigel thinks she's the most beautiful girl there. Oh, Nigel. So horny and thus untrustworthy when it comes to judging potential models. Bianca has "severe gingivitis," and they put some kind of scary witch/hillbilly teeth in her. YUCK. The judges think she's too posey and has the Dead Eye, and they love her reflection photo, which looks totally freaking absurd to me. Lisa is working with a "face tumor," which is just gross. The judges think her photos are great, though, and they are right. They looove her, and are right about that, too. Yay, Lisa!

Before judging, the girls get a quick styling challenge/Old Navy Commercial. They're instructed by Miss Jay to head over to Old Navy (which is full of great basics!) to pick out an outfit to wear to panel that fits their personal style, but makes them look like a model. And they only have ten minutes, of course, because what's Top Model without a gaggle of girls running all over a store in various states of undress while totally trashing the place? Benny Ninja, the flamiest posing instructor in all the land, meets them there to pimp Old Navy and yell stuff at them as they frantically shop. He tells them to not be boring, but that seems like some sort of sneaky trap, since Miss Jay said to keep things clean and simple. At panel, judges mostly complain about too many accessories. Victoria gets props, but Saleisha wins the $1,000 Old Navy shopping spree, as well the chance to do an ad for Old Navy.

And finally, the moment of truth at panel. Heather gets called first! Take that, bitches. Lisa (yay!), Chantal, Sarah, Jenah, Saleisha, Ambreal, Victoria (yay!), Janet, Kimberly, and Bianca (boo) are all also in. Ebony is totally already crying, but it's cheerful optimist Mila who's out, still smiling, of course. Fair enough, I guess...her photos weren't great, and she doesn't bring the drama that Ebony brings. (Also, Nigel's totally right. The chick is gorgeous.) Still, it would've been nice to have had a sunny person like Mila around the house. Either that, or it would have gotten old in, like, five minutes.

In other news, Jaslene's "My Life as a Covergirl" was extremely uneventful. Um, the Teen Choice Awards? Lame! Does anyone remember when these were good, or is it just my imagination? Lisa, for her part, is the Covergirl of the Week. Well done, America. Well done.

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Flight of the Conchords: It's business time for the first season DVD!

In an impressively quick turnaround, HBO is releasing the first season DVD of Flight of the Conchords on November 6th, just two months after the season finale aired. While a small part of me worries that the speedy production will result in fewer awesome extras (especially since it's apparently just two disks), most of me is rejoicing that it will be available in plenty of time for my birthday (hint, hint).

Amazon.com has a pre-order option for a mere $19.99, so to not buy it would be practically inexcusable. This show is so great, it's a bargain at twice the price. In fact, buy two, and give one away to a deserving potential fan!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eureka: The beginning of the end (of the season)

This week's installment of Eureka, part one of the two-part season finale (already?!), was extremely eventful. Drama, intrigue, alchemy--the whole kit and caboodle, at a breakneck pace. It also confused me a little, possibly due to the aforementioned breakneck pace, so we may need to work through this one together in the comments. (Bear with me, I'm operating on very little sleep and a long day at work.)

First, let's get the crazy science malfunction of the week out of the way: the town's turning to gold. Specifically, all the metal in the town, thanks to some kind of infectious, gold-creating bacteria. "Not so bad," you may think to yourself, but Henry points out that gold is substantially softer than steel, which makes up most of the town's infrastructure. Best exchange ever: “We’d be rich, but dangerously unstable.” –Henry “Like…Paris Hilton.” –Jo. Things take a turn for the even worse, though, when the bacteria mutates and quickly begins to corrode the gold, causing heavy metal objects to crash to the ground (including some of GD's support beams).

They manage to deduce that Zoe's bracelet, a gift from now-boyfriend Lucas,is the source of the bacteria, and that Lucas made it out of scrap metal from an artist's studio. Here's where things get a little crazy--the artist is also a secret alchemist, and claims that the metal must be infected with "the alchemist's curse," which causes chaotic mutation in metal until the society that dared to try and master the elements is destroyed. (See: Babylon, Atlantis, and the Maya.) In a scenario that's a bit too deus ex machina for my taste, Kevin uses his magic Artifact-given powers to complete the formula that will stop the infection. Despite not even knowing about the formula in need of completion in the first place.

Kevin, you see, is practically a normal kid now. Aside from the whole "being able to read minds" thing and all. Allison is really worried, especially when she thinks about what happened to Carl Carlson, the "invincible" scientist killed by his interaction with the Artifact last season. Allison, it must be noted, is being pretty darn cold to Carter, especially when it comes to all things related to investigating Henry, Kim's death, Beverly, and the Artifact. Stark seems pretty confident that Carter will never find Beverly, though. I wonder why?

Maybe because he has her locked up in a cell, out at his old lab. DoD transferred her there from Guantanamo so that Stark could speak to her first, after he promised DoD the evidence against her. BANANAS!!! Allison and Stark both offer Beverly potential freedom if she shares her information about the Artifact. She simply tells Stark that she knows what he knows, including that it’s capable of human interface, and that the energy release can be life-threatening if the cellular mutations aren’t reversed, “which is why he’s probably already dead.” She plays coy when Stark asks how to help "him," even though she totally knows he's referring to Kevin.

Stark tries to get Kevin to read Beverly’s mind, but Henry interrupts them to tell Stark about the alchemy developments, totally overhears everything, and sees the security camera video of Beverly’s cell. Oooh, BUSTED. Stark: “Guests usually knock.” Henry: “Friends don’t usually care.” Snap! Henry also recognizes a couple formulas in the alchemist's studio as part of Kim’s research on the Artifact, and tries to get Stark to let him help. Stark refuses, and so Henry breaks into Beverly’s cell. He's angry that she murdered the love of his life and all, but she claims to have left behind the evidence of her sabotage for Henry to find, because he’s the only person who could understand why she had to do what she did. She claims Kim's death was an accident, and goes on to explain the Artifact/Kevin human interface issue. She doesn’t believe that humans should or can control such power.

Later in the episode, and this is where things get confusing for me, we get an oddly sudden cut to Henry showing Carter a skeleton in the morgue that could have contracted a mutated version of the metal-eating bacteria which affects the iron in bodies and essentially eats people. Henry says he told Stark, but when Carter asks him what they’re going to do about it, Stark doesn’t know anything about the problem. Hmm. Meanwhile, Henry drops in on Allison, and explains to her that he knows what’s going on with Kevin. Oh, and that he busted Beverly out of her cell, and here she is! Of course, now GD goes into emergency security lockdown due to the mutated, people-eating bacteria, trapping Allison and Kevin with Henry and Beverly. Craaazy! And also confusing. Is the people-eating bacteria a real thing, or was it just a ruse for Henry to get Allison and Kevin alone? Everything happened so fast!

Well, anyway, it seems that next week we're going to see a lot more of Evil Henry. Like, to a scary degree. I kind of love it. Although I don't love Allison's new, super-professional look. It's so cold! Intense Mother Allison is way less fun than Flirting with Carter Allison, though I suppose they both have something to contribute to the show, and depth of character is usually a good thing. Can I also say that I love that Jo chaperoned Zoe's boy-girl party? And then got busted by Carter while making out in the closet with Zane? Awesome.

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The Bachelor: Meet, greet, and try not to drink too heavily

This fall, I'm absurdly psyched to be recapping the eight zillionth season of The Bachelor, which my friends assure me is the progenitor of the completely hysterical Age of Love. (Believe it or not, I'm a Bachelor virgin!) ABC's intro sums up how tired this show is far better than I ever could: "After 956 roses, 620 limos, 355 crying girls, 19 crying men, 167 hot tubs, $35 million in diamonds, 719 kisses, 2 gun-toting dads, 8 proposals, 1 marriage, and 1 happy and healthy baby boy named Max, the show is better, and sexier, than ever." Um, right. Not buying it, ABC.


Our bachelor this season is Brad Womack, a 34-year-old businessman from Austin, Texas. They say he's the hottest bachelor yet, but I'm unconvinced. Can any regular viewers weigh in on that? Brad, as you may have read, is quite the catch. He co-owns four bars with his brothers (one of whom is an identical twin). Yes, co-owns. Yes, four. Yes, bars. Um, score? He's "here to find true love" (yawn). We get his whole life story (literally), interspersed with video of him jogging shirtless. Which I can't really complain about.

We head over to the girls' hotel, where we get shots of the contestants working out, jumping on furniture, showering, choosing outfits, and interviewing about their sad, desperate love lives and how much they want him to fall in love with them. So far I'm going to give this show an '8' for depressing, and only a '6' for hilarious. Pick up the pace, ladies! As they meet each other and head off to meet Brad, we see interviews of them discussing their various strategies. "Talk Greek to him" isn't quite a surefire winner. But "not cry, and not get drunk" could at least get you through the opening rounds, I'd imagine.

And now, it's time to meet our "sexiest bachelor ever!" Chris Harrison, the host, sits him down for a little chat. After an uncomfortable amount of pushing, Brad admits he's a millionaire (those must be some bars), emphasizing that he worked for every penny. He says that his brothers are supportive because they've seen some of the success stories from previous Bachelor seasons, which confuses me a bit. According to Wikipedia, only two of the ten previous bachelors are still with the show's winners. That's not a real great record, Brad's brothers. Chris acknowledges up front that some of the contestants are crazy, which shows what I think is an impressive commitment to the truth for a reality show. Brad, rather than running for the hills, confirms that he's optimistic about finding his future bride here.

The girls arrive and meet Brad, limo by limo, at the Malibu mansion. He greets them all with a mildly salacious "How are you?" After they're all in the mansion, he tells Chris that he can't believe his wife may be in there. I'm fairly certain he means that in a good way, but the girls seemed so overly made-up and fake that I could kind of believe the flip meaning, too. Chris instructs Brad to give one girl a "first impression" rose, which will keep her safe from elimination, once he gets inside the party.
Inside the mansion, the girls pee themselves over Brad's babe-itude and treat him like a hot chick walking through a construction site. Um, if they were the construction workers. And they were guys. Shut up, you know what I mean. There are wolf whistles and many, many "woo-hoo's." He revels in the attention, and all the girls try to get one-on-one time with him. Apparently, these sorts of parties aren't very fun if you're stuck in a corner sipping champagne with a bunch of other jealous chicks. Who knew?

The women who managed to not painfully embarrass themselves at the party are: DeAnna, 25, a realtor. Brad likes that she bartends on the side, and is southern. Lindsey, 25, a model. She cleverly gives him a rose, which is pretty funny. But then she ruins the moment by singing terribly about a yellow rose in Texas. Mallory, 24, a nanny. She puts on a bikini and hops in the pool, genius-style. The giant, um, flotation devices on her chest convince Brad that it's safe to join her poolside, although she isn't able to lure him into the water with her. Jenni, 27, a Phoenix Suns dancer. She does that thing where you laughs hysterically at everything your crush says, which he appreciates. Oh, and she also dances for him, which...doesn't hurt. At all. In fact, it gets her the first impression rose.

The women who weren't quite so lucky are: Jessica, 27, a news anchor. When she meets him, she says, "They told me you were hot, but I didn't know you were a fire extinguisher!" Which makes absolutely no sense, when you think about it. At the party, she busts in to "interview" Brad as he's talking to Erin and Hilary. Juli, 24, a law student. She puts her legs behind her head for him. Um, wow. Kristy, 29, an acupuncturist. She diagnoses him as stressed out after looking at his tongue. Melissa, 28, an event planner. She gets drunk, loses one of her boob inserts, and rambles on about "sweetness" in front of him. Morgan, 24, a grad student. She shows him her webbed toes in an attempt to get the first impression rose. It's amazing. He can't even get through describing it without cracking up, which makes me like him a little. Tauni, 31, an ER nurse. She sticks her butt in his face. Seriously. There's really not much more to it than that.

And now, we've got our first rose ceremony. Hilariously, there's a special "deliberation room," complete with framed photos of all the women. He's so measured in his comments, though, that we don't really get any dirt from the so-called deliberations. LAME! Brad tells the girls that this is the toughest decision he's ever faced in his life. Really, Brad? Tougher than the decision to go on this crazy show?

Those receiving roses are Jade (24, boutique sales), Bettina (27, realtor/surfer girl), McCarten (26, account manager), Hilary (27, registered nurse), DeAnna, Michele (30, realtor), Sheena (23, internet marketing), Estefania/"Stefi" (26, executive assistant), Erin (25, publishing sales), Solisa (25, esthetician), Lindsey, Sarah (23, bar manager), Mallory (much to the other contestants' dismay), and Kristy the tongue whisperer.

This leaves the remaining contestants out in the cold, including several we barely even met: Kim, 31, a very tall realtor. Lori, 33, a biology teacher whose strategy not to cry or get drunk goes out the window as soon as she gets the boot (well, the first half, at least...I'm assuming the drunkenness will occur soon enough). Natalie, 25, a law student. Rigina, 31, an account representative who introduced herself as "Miss Brown Sugar." And finally, Susan, 35, a project analyst. Farewell, desperados. We hardly knew ye.

This season on The Bachelor: Nudity, extreme sports, extreme catfights, and identical twins!

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall Preview: Cane

Hmm. On the one hand, Cane sports an outstanding cast and a compelling premise (and a great South Florida location). On the other hand, the pilot felt like it was three hours long, not one. And not really in a good way. The drama (and I don't use that word lightly) is about Cuban-American family with a rum and sugar cane empire. In the pilot, the Duque patriarch names Alex (played by the always-fantastic Jimmy Smits) head of the Duque operation over his brother Frank, who was born a Duque (Alex was adopted) and had different ideas about the direction he wanted the company to take. Besides a furious and potentially traitorous brother, Alex has murderous rival sugar cane growers to deal with, several difficult family situations, and, you know, an empire to run. I feel a migraine coming on already.

My main problem with Cane is the tone, I suppose. It's such a dramatic show, with so many crazy things going on even in the pilot, that it gets over-the-top at times. However, the tone is super-serious, which just makes it seem a little ridiculous. I mean, God, save some of the drama for the rest of the season, guys! I understand that pilots are usually a bit packed with exposition, but this takes it to a whole other level. And it's almost stressful to watch, with the unrelenting heaviness--a few moments of lightness could really go a long way. Just in terms of plot, there's way too much going on, with too many characters, for me to get into any one aspect. (Note to writers: Not every character needs a subplot in every episode--even the pilot.)

I guess I just don't know. Cane has such an amazing cast that I really want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but realistically I don't see myself watching it, especially not with so many other promising new shows this season. Why watch something you're not really enjoying, right? And this one seems like it may need to be weekly viewing in order to follow what's going on. At any rate, it's definitely not a bad show, and despite this somewhat negative review, the pilot was far from a universal turn-off. I just had higher expectations given the caliber of talent involved, I guess. See for yourself when it premieres September 25th on CBS, up against Boston Legal at 10.

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TV Bloggers' Picks for the Fall Season

As Lori has pointed out, you can't always judge a show by its pilot. So-so shows improve, and great ones go downhill fast. However, I'm pretty comfortable saying that you can get a general read on what's garbage and what's not from a show's pilot. And, in this crowded fall season, sometimes there are timeslots when you just have to make a snap judgment. With that in mind, here is a chart--fabulously prepared by theTVaddict and TapeWorthy--with 13 TV bloggers' ratings (including mine) of most of the new fall pilots. (Click for a larger version.)

Fall Bloggers Grid

Legend
1 - Don't waste your time unless you find According to Jim funny.
2 - Not great, but at least doesn't offend me.
3 - Fun to watch if nothing else is on.
4 - Has potential. Worth a second look.
5 - Set your TiVo to Season Pass!
N/A - Haven't watched yet.

Participating Blogs
BuzzSugar, DaemonsTV, DuckyDoesTV, GiveMeMyRemote, Glowy Box, MikeyLikesTV, ScooterMcGavin, SillyPipeDreams, Seat42f, TapeWorthy, theTVaddict, TiFaux and TubeTalk.

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You can't judge a series by its pilot

The new TV season is all up on us, which means that the networks are madly flinging pilots at us and looking to see what sticks. These days, networks are only too eager to pull middling-rated shows after as little as the first episode (latest casualty: Anchorwoman). For the most part, these are the irredeemably bad shows. At least, we assume they are – how do we know how the rest of the series takes off if we don't see the second episode? How do we know what the series is really like from week to week if all we see is the set-up in the pilot?

The pilot serves two purposes: to set the tone and to provide exposition, telling you what the show's going to be about. But it's the second episode that shows you what the show actually be. Once we've been introduced to everyone and the situation has been all set up for us – teenage private eye! SNL-like show! SNL-like show, only for serious! – the second episode is able to get on with the business of the show, and to put all those characters you met the week before into new and hopefully exciting situations. It'll give you a taste of what the show will be like, well, every other week, for the rest of its run.

This is why I always wait for the second episode before I decide if I like a show or not. Pilots aren't everything. You remember that great pilot for Studio 60? Yeah. That was a high-flying pilot, but the landing gear was stuck. Then there are the pilots clogged with too much "meet the characters, dammit!" that they forget to be entertaining or funny (sorry, Tina, but 30 Rock was like that – and hey, I grew to like it, didn't I? Also, you have an Emmy, so relax). Or the show is retooled following the pilot. Yeah, I know, usually it's a bad sign, but it happened with my beloved NewsRadio. Sometimes they just need an episode to figure out what they're doing. (And sometimes they need an entire season to figure it out. Ask a Blackadder fan, we'll tell you – first season isn't worth it.)

So please try to keep the networks from screwing us out of the next great show by watching beyond the pilot. It's okay to bail out after episode two if it still sucks – in fact, I encourage it, it'll save room for actually good shows, or repeats of good shows – but remember, even the greatest shows sucked sometimes. Except for Arrested Development.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fall Preview: Journeyman

Journeyman, NBC's new show about a time-traveling reporter (yeah, I know, right?), left me pretty cold for the first half of the pilot. I didn't love the lead actor, the concept seemed too bizarre and out of left field, and I just wasn't that interested in where it was headed. For the first half. Then, it kind of grabbed me.

I stopped seeing Journeyman as an unfortunate Early Edition/Quantum Leap stepchild, and started seeing it as a mystery--more than just "reporter randomly finds himself traveling through time in order to help people and make things right." It became a show about an unassuming man somehow chosen for a mysterious purpose, and the affect his sudden and uncontrollable disappearances have on his relationships, his career, and his psyche, which is far more interesting than just straight-up time traveling and people-helping. I was happy to hear that there's some sort of larger purpose to the time traveling, as well, and I look forward to learning more about it (I won't say any more, because I don't want to give away one of the more surprising moments in the pilot).

I don't think Journeyman will end up as appointment viewing for me, but I think it's something I'll certainly DVR for the first few episodes, partly because I'm really curious to see where it's going. Especially since it has a bit of a troubled romance angle, with NBC even billing it as a "romantic mystery-drama," which seems pretty unusual for this type of show. All in all, it was much better than I expected, and I'd recommend at least watching the entire first episode before forming a firm opinion one way or the other. Journeyman premieres September 24th, and will air in the relatively uncrowded Mondays at 10 PM slot.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fall Preview: The Big Bang Theory

As you read this review, please keep in mind that I am extremely picky about television comedies. Especially multi-camera ones with a laugh track. So, now that you have context that will possibly make this review predictable and meaningless, here it is: I really, really didn't like The Big Bang Theory. And not just because it's from the twisted mind that unleashed Two and a Half Men upon us, either. It's because the entire premise of the show is one giant nerd stereotype, and you won't find the jokes funny unless you find the stereotype funny. Here's a sample piece of dialogue:

Nerd #1: We need to widen our [social] circle.
Nerd #2: I have a very wide circle. I have 212 friends on MySpace. [Audience laughs]
Nerd #1: Yes, and you've never met one of them. [Audience laughs harder]
Nerd #2: That's the beauty of it! [Audience pees their pants]

Yeah. The show is about a ditzy blonde who moves in across the hall from two extremely stereotypical nerds, one of whom may have a mild form of Asperger syndrome, the other of whom wants to "big bang" the neighbor, if you catch my drift. It's full of jokes about playing Boggle in Klingon, watching Battlestar Galactica DVDs, and doing quantum mechanics for fun. The raucous canned laughter only serves to emphasize how unfunny the dialogue is, though the three lead actors certainly do their best with it. Given the choice between watching a dark TV screen and watching The Big Bang Theory, I'd probably go with the dark screen...at least that's meditative, right? Just so you know when to avoid turning your TV to CBS, the show premieres Monday, September 24th at 8:30.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Burn Notice: Double your pleasure, double your fun!

Burn Notice! Two-hour season finale! Now! On USA! (Yeah, I'm a little pumped. Wanna fight about it?) We open with an artful shot of Michael working out shirtless. Did I mention I love this show? Oh, and the Charger (for those who, like me, were saddened by its brush with explosives last week) is back in prime condition, incredibly enough. And then, as if it couldn't get any better, Michael heads out to meet Cowan, the man who burned him. And, as we all know by now, he's played by Richard. Freaking. Schiff! Toby!!! This show has the greatest casting ever, you guys. (Gabrielle Anwar and her cruddy American accent and skeletal figure excepted, of course.)

Fiona brings up a valid point, though, while Michael is trying so hard to talk to Toby: Why does he want so badly to get back in to the CIA? He's helping people in Miami, he has Fiona (not so great according to me, but still), they keep trying to kill him... He says he wants to clear his name and find out why he was burned, but I can't help but agree with Fiona on this one, at least a little.

Once he finally does make contact with Toby, he only gets a wave and a coded message. Oh, Toby. So cryptic. So mysterious. So missed by me. Michael cracks Toby's code and is rewarded with a meeting time and another message. In the meantime, Nate (Michael's ne’er-do-well brother) is back in town to watch out for their mom, and Sam heads out to take a case on his own. About dang time! Goooo Sam! A security employee is being blackmailed into smuggling drugs, and wants out. Sam, clever fellow that he is, recruits Fiona to help. Fiona agrees, for a price. They manage to track down the bad guy, but it turns out he's not the bad guy after all, and the employee is being set up by a friend whom she thought was also being blackmailed. Ouch. They recruit Michael to help turn the double blackmail until a triple blackmail. Unfortunately, the Charger's windshield gets a bit shot up in the process. Oh, and the client (and Michael) almost get blown up. And, Michael's shirt gets dirty! It's hard out there for an (ex-)spy. Plus, while helping Sam and Fiona, Michael has managed to miss his meeting with Toby.

He and Toby finally meet up, though, and my heart fills with joy at seeing Richard Schiff on TV again. Toby claims that he didn't burn Michael after all--that it was a much larger conspiracy. Though he does cop to trying to have Michael killed, so there's that. Apparently, the "powerful, dangerous people" that Toby works for have big plans for Michael. And in the injustice to end all injustices, they snipe Toby in the chest right as he's explaining everything. Well, cryptically hinting at everything, anyway. But more importantly: NOOOOOO!!!! TOOOOBBBYYYYY!!! Just as my heart was swelling with joy! With joy!!! There aren't enough exclamation points in the world to express my sorrow. Oh, and in the meantime, things only go downhill for Sam and Fiona as the lower-level smugglers get themselves exploded, and Sam gets himself kidnapped by the higher-level smugglers, so...super. Sam: kidnapped. Toby: dead. Thank God it's a two-hour finale, and not a cliffhanger! You'd better make it up to me in the second hour, Burn Notice. Consider yourself on notice.

We return to find Michael's place surrounded by the folks who killed Toby and had him burned. Fiona calls him in a panic, and he and Nate, who is helpfully playing chauffer, head off to her rescue. And, hopefully, Sam's rescue (if not, USA Network is getting a strongly-worded letter from yours truly). Sweet shoot-em-up-ness and homemade truck/bomb-ness ensues. I really, really love this show. They make it out okay, but emerge Sam-less. Michael gets Nate to bring their mom to Nate's place (their new hideout) for safety, while Sam gets the tar beat out of him by his heroin-dealing captors for refusing to talk. It's really tough to watch, but at least he has some pretty good post-punch comebacks. Alias-worthy, even. Michael tries to negotiate Sam's return while Fiona gathers weaponry. You know, just in case. Sam, for his part, discreetly tries to discourage Michael and Fiona from even bothering a rescue. Don't give up, Sam! My viewership next season is partially dependent on your survival!

The government-types who shot Toby clearly want to bring Michael in, and when Michael and Fiona head over to check them out, they barely make it out safely. A mysterious woman, one of the burners, calls and wants to talk about Michael's burn notice and his past, but Michael's more worried about Sam at this point. Barry the money launderer helpfully and semi-unwillingly steers Michael toward some other heroin dealers who might know who has Sam. A few explosives and threats later (I feel like I saw that a lot, recapping this show), Michael gets the heroin boss's name, and heads out with Fiona to check out the operation and set a meeting with the boss. Sam tries valiantly to get himself killed, so that Michael won't step into a trap trying to rescue him. Aw, Sam! He's such a loyal BFF. But seriously, dude, cut it OUT.

It takes some doing, but Michael convinces his mom to leave town with Nate. Of course, they get themselves a little bit followed. She would be the worst spy ever, yo. Michael saves the day, as usual, allowing Nate and his mom to get out of town, but only by agreeing to come in alive after the burners give him 12 hours to save Sam. Otherwise, he threatens suicide. Um, there are only ten minutes left in the episode at this point. I smell an unsatisfying ending!

Michael and Fiona share a goodbye kiss before riding off into the sunset to save Sam. (Fiona's there too, of course, but up on a building playing sniper.) When most of the bad guys leave their hideout (a boat) to supposedly meet Michael and Fiona, Michael scubas over to the boat, SEAL-style, and stages a crazy rescue. Complete, as always, with homemade explosives and plenty o' shooting. (Best moment: When the bad guy calls Michael to finish the deal, only to hear a phone ringing outside the door. Oh, and the obligatory "running away in slo-mo as the boat explodes" shot. AWESOME!)

In the ultimate act of gratitude, Sam lets Michael borrow the Cadillac to drive off to find his destiny. And also the reason he was burned. And who burned him. And what they want from him now. The mysterious woman is very much looking forward to meeting him, and Michael tells himself that some information is worth risking everything for, as he drives the Cadillac into a giant truck parked on a bridge. And...that's all she wrote, unfortunately. As USA unhelpfully reminds us, Burn Notice returns with all-new episodes NEXT SUMMER. So until then, I'd suggest re-watching this season, checking out Chuck for your spy fix, and maybe getting a screen grab of Michael's shirtless workout. You know, for the memories. It's been fun, y'all!

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Back to You: It's not a spoiler if everyone can guess

All right, Fox. I'm sure you get this a lot, but - what the hell? For real. Why did Ray Romano freak you out so much at the Emmys on Sunday, when he gave away part of the backstory behind Patricia Heaton's and Kelsey Grammer's characters on Back to You? Was it that important? Or was it because everyone could guess the Big Huge Secret of the pilot from the info that he dropped? Honestly, secrecy that tight should only be reserved for true gaspers, like the end of The Sopranos or the end of the Heroes pilot. The Big Huge Secret of Back to You that Fox was so desperate to keep under wraps was nothing like that; in fact, it was nothing that a six-year-old couldn't have guessed, provided that the six-year-old watched a lot of TV. I guessed what it was merely by reading the New York Times review. It was obvious and stale, but that's only fitting, because most of the jokes were, too.


In conclusion, I'm really just mad at myself, because I realize now I could have saved myself 22 minutes of my life and not watched the pilot at all. And I wouldn't have had to witness its egregious misuse of Fred Willard. I should have just watched that street fight scene in Anchorman instead. Man, remember when Tim Robbins shows up with his PBS crew? Awesome.

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Fall Preview: Chuck

I have to say, when I saw the previews for Chuck, NBC's new nerd-turned-spy action comedy, I was skeptical. It looked to be heavy on the geek-mocking and light on the actual comedy, and I didn't think the concept would hold up for one hour, let alone an entire season. Plus, I wasn't sure executive producer Josh Schwartz could branch out from The OC's soap satire to something more conventionally funny. Now that I've seen the pilot, however, I'm completely on board. In fact, I loved it!
The premise, if you've somehow missed the zillions of commercials NBC has been running, is that nerdy tech guy Chuck has been sent a file containing all of the government's biggest secrets, which were subliminally encoded into his head upon his viewing the file. See why I was skeptical? But the writing is great, Zachary Levi is extremely likeable as the titular character, and the show is so darn fun to watch that you find yourself intentionally ignoring any plot points that strain credulity (like, all of them). Here's hoping they can keep it up!

In fact, I had so much fun watching it that I'm reluctant write any more about what happens in the episode, because you guys should probably just see for yourselves. So if you're in the mood for an entertaining action comedy, with just a bit of drama and intrigue built in, I definitely recommend that you watch Chuck, Mondays at 8 on NBC (or DVR it and watch after How I Met Your Mother is over...your call). Premieres September 24th, or check out the pilot now on Yahoo TV.

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Top Chef: It's already been broughten

I am so rooting for someone (probably Casey, the roll she's been on) to shut Hung up in the finale. The man has skills, there's no denying that. Considering the ease with which he breezed through this week's Quickfire, and his knowledge of food, and his knifework - except for that one time when he nearly stabbed Casey - it's clear that he's one of the most technically accomplished chefs they've ever had on Top Chef. And he knows it, too. He was all excited in the elimination challenge to show the other chefs "what technique is all about." I'm sure they appreciated the lesson. (Even more annoying: he actually did show them, because he won. Curse you and your refined palates, judges!) It may be true that Hung is better than the other chefs, but the more anyone tells you how awesome he is, the less awesome he actually becomes. Naturally, it's all going to come down to Hung and someone else, and now that CJ is gone, I've found myself in Camp Casey. She's the best non-Hung chef remaining, and I would love to see a woman win. I think it's time. Go, Casey, go!

Oh, and Padma, I just want you to know that you suck for making me think, for that terrible second, that my boy Dale was going home, before you announced that Sara was eliminated. Not cool, Lakshmi. What would I do without Dale in the finale? Who would regale me with classic lines like "Jesus' apostles of culinary greatness" or insist, bizarrely, that he knows when a chef has gotten his/her heart broken or gotten laid, just by tasting the food? I don't want Dale to ever leave me. I want him to do commentary on other shows when Top Chef has finished up. Better yet, I want him to come over and watch TV with me, and rip on everything while I make margaritas. I make an excellent margarita, Dale!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

America's Next Top Model: The Bitch is Back

I hope you're ready for some skinny bitches, because America's Next Top Model is back with a vengeance. And you know I love me some ANTM. If you read my preview and watched this episode, then you know how hilariously wrong I was about half of the girls. However, you'll also know that I was totally right about at least two of them. So, you know, there's that. And I’m going to kick things off with the disclaimer that if you’re watching this show and think that you want to look like any of the contestants, you should probably go into the kitchen right now and eat a big bar of chocolate. For reals. Anyway, enough with the cycle-opening formalities, and let's delve right into the bitchy meat of it all! (Spoilers ahead, so don't read if you don't want to know!)

This cycle opens with a bit of an exciting (for the girls, not for us) difference: the semi-finalists are going to the Caribbean! This is explained by the fact that lots of models do photo shoots in the Caribbean. Um, right. Whatever you say, CW. I'm pretty sure you and I both know that this entire episode was an advertisement for Royal Caribbean, right down to Miss Jay giving the girls a tour of the cruise ship and its many luxurious amenities (including nice bathrooms, hopefully, since one of the semi-finalists totally gets some kind of cruise ship dysentery).

After they see their digs, the girls head up to the deck for a "safety briefing." But no! It's a fake out! (First fake out of the season, you guys! I'm getting all sentimental!) Instead, the contestants are walking the "runway," in lifejackets, in front of a bunch of cruise ship passengers. This is both hilarious AND a devious mind game, because those lifejackets totally make you feel way fatter and more ridiculous than you actually look. The walkers we see are largely unimpressive, although Miss Jay claims that some of the girls did well. A beautiful contestant named Ebony is very confident, while a hunchbacked girl named Heather is more insecure, and upset by Miss Jay's criticism.

Next up: DINNER THEATER! Oh. Em. Gee. I'm just going to come out and say it: this show is genius. The more over-the-top it gets, the more I fall in love with it. In that way, my feelings about this show are very similar to my feelings about Cher. Also, this show and Cher are now both inextricably connected to big ships in my head. Aaaanyway, as the girls are eating dinner, Tyra comes out on the stage wearing a crazy outfit with a giant feather headdress (yet another Cher comparison!), accompanied by male dancers in sailor outfits. She sing/talks about finding her next Top Model to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." Ha. Ha. HA!!! It's extraordinary, and the girls recognize this fact by shrieking at epic decibels.

And now, it's time for interviews with Tyra and the Jays! First up is Ambreal, who goes to Howard University. She does some different runway walks, including a choreographed one with Tyra, and seems pretty fun. Chantal, a tall, thin blonde (which surprisingly doesn't describe half the contestants on ANTM), is very into fashion, and Orange Jay finds her very "modelesque." Heather (the hunchback) starts off insulting Tyra by saying "Hey pretty lady...and Tyra" when she enters. But, she has a good sob story, so Tyra forgives her. Turns out she's been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism which makes her socially awkward. Though she's a terrible walker, the panel thinks she'll be great for editorial photos (and, let's face it, very interesting to have in the house with all the bitches). Saleisha actually knows Tyra from time they spent together at Tyra's TZONE camp for disadvantaged girls. She plays the suck-up card well, saying that the camp really helped her self-esteem. In fact, it helped it enough that she now wants to do Victoria's Secret and Sports Illustrated! Aww...I feel a little inspired myself.

Victoria (AKA "Liz's initial favorite who will probably end up totally incapable of taking good photos") is a nerdy Yale student with an unusually long face and chill personality. She's the poor contestant who got sick on the cruise ship. She says that she should win because she's smart and strong, and only when pressed admits that she thinks some of the other girls are a little...less than smart. Janet, from Georgia, is an aesthetician who describes how to wax butt cracks, and then kind of molests Tyra. She has a semi-mullet and gets really excited about Wal-Mart coming to her town. Janet and I will never be BFF. Marvita has a really sad story about sexual abuse at the hands of relatives, but looks a little too old to be a new model.

Mila, an Eastern European-looking blonde, is very, very talkative. Sabrina, who is really into her hair, is extremely, extremely confident. Like, she can't come up with her worst feature, and calls her talent "extraordinaire." Sabrina doesn't believe in tempting fate, clearly. Jenah is also very confident, and although I like her unusual look, she kind of reminds me of someone who is reinventing herself as a bitchy girl. She claims that girls hate her, that she's really smart, that she only hangs out with guys, something about beer pong, etc., etc. Whatever, Jenah. Sarah, who plays a joke on the panel involving pulling a long strand of paper from her nose, is kind of awesome. Unfortunately, she's also our token plus-size model for the cycle, so she's probably doomed. Especially since she's not actually plus-size--she's just not skeletal. In fact, she appears to be about my size (if I were eight feet taller), and I consider myself to be on the slim side. This show is bad for my self-esteem, you guys.

Lisa, a "bikini dancer" (read: exotic dancer without the nudity), is gorgeous, and seems like a cool person who's overcome a fair amount in life (6 years of foster care, to be exact). Bianca chooses to spend her time talking about different kinds of bitches: fun bitches (her), and bitchy bitches (Ebony). She really, really wants this. Jennifer, a bah-tender from Boston, is apparently blind in one eye (and also really wants this). Kimberly brings Tyra a weird painted horse figurine from her hometown and screams like crazy when asked what she does when stressed. The panel loves her. Ebony (the aforementioned bitch) uses the tried and true "the girls that don't like me are just jealous" defense. She's actually really beautiful. Tyra plays talk show host and gets her to cry talking about her drug-addicted mom. Not cool, Tyra! Apparently, Ebony only lashes out at other people because she's in pain. I'm sure the girls she's mean to will feel totally better about it once they hear that.

After the interviews, the models head off to a beach in Antigua with the Jays, where they see Jaslene, last cycle's winner, posing for a totally fake photo shoot! Jaslene talks about how great it is to be a top model. (Yeah, honey, if your completely lame first My Life as a CoverGirl didn't convince me, this won't either.) She looks really skinny, which is per usual, I guess. In fact, she's probably put on some weight since this shoot. At any rate, the girls are there for their own, slightly less fake, photo shoot. They all get in the water to have their photo taken while the other semi-finalists stand around and make mean comments. The standouts, in my opinion, are Victoria, Lisa, and Heather.

And it's finally time for the first cut. Sabrina, unaware that the first cut is the deepest, is totally psyched for it, because she thinks there are a lot of girls who don't deserve to be there. Wow, the girl clearly doesn't have a superstitious bone in her body, but (spoiler alert!) is about to learn a valuable lesson. The usual "find your photo and start screaming and jumping up and down, or crying if you don't find it" mayhem ensues, and Sabrina is one of the criers. After gathering the remaining 20 contestants together and asking each one why they should be in the competition (and getting boring, vaguely inspirational answers from each girl that they show), Tyra meets with the Jays to go over photos. Their favorites seem to be Jenah, Mila, Lisa, Victoria, Chantal, Heather, and Janet. They think Saleisha and Bianca would be much better post-makeover. They like that Marvita looks different, but don't really see "high fashion" in her. Because God knows all Top Model winners go on to careers modeling couture.

All the semi-finalists gather at the pool, which has a hilarious transparent runway/bridge going across it, so that anyone whose name is called can't get too excited running up to Tyra without risking falling in. (Unfortunately, this never happens.) In are Mila, Bianca, Jenah, Chantal, and Ambreal, at which point the remaining girls start to tear up. Victoria, Sarah, Saleisha, Kimberly, Ebony, Janet, and Heather are also in, and Lisa is weeping by now. But wait! She's in! Hooray! The losers, according to Tyra, are "all special" (according to me, they're largely crybabies, with the exception of Marvita), but they aren't "role models." Um, what? Tyra is crazy, you guys. CRAZY. And that, my friends, is why I love her. And this show. No, I'm not afraid to admit it. (Although seriously, I do think it's probably creating a whole new generation of bulimic youngsters, so I'm really hoping they'll do an all plus-size cycle, or something. Because Jesus Christ, these girls are dangerously skinny. And it's turning them mean, if the clips from next week's episode are any indication.)

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Fall Preview: Bionic Woman

NBC's Bionic Woman, a remake of the 70's show, is all about control, or lack thereof. The pilot opens with a scene of carnage at a biotech research facility. The cause of the carnage, a blonde woman kneeling over a dead body, has this to say to the armed men who discover and then kill her: "I didn't want to. I'm not in control." Three years later, it's bartender Jaime Sommers who isn't in control.

After she's critically injured in a car accident, Jaime's scientist boyfriend takes her to that same biotech facility, where he apparently works. They are able to save her life, but she's now (dum dumdumdum!) The Bionic Woman. Super-strong, super-fast, super-everything, with just one little catch: the people in charge of the facility want to make her into a super-soldier. Oh, and that murderous blonde woman from the beginning? She's still alive, and causing trouble Jason Bourne-style, although not entirely on her own. Also, she's played by Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) of Battlestar Galactica, for you legions of BSG fans.

Jaime is certainly sympathetic as a responsible older sister who has medical procedures performed on her against her will, can't control her own body, and whose ex-captors are trying to force her into becoming a fighter--and the fight sequences are pretty exciting. However, this show didn't really grab me. I guess I can't call it a Dark Angel rip-off, since this is a remake and the rip-off was probably the other way around, but it doesn't really feel like anything new or fresh, and it could probably stand to take a break from the heaviness once in a while. If Bionic Woman is aiming to be the next Alias, it's either going to need to improve the writing, or I'm going to need some more appealing man-candy on the screen than Miguel Ferrer, great actor though he is.

If you're really into serious action shows, especially ones with ass-kicking heroines (which I am, of course, all for), this could be the show for you. Otherwise, I'd advise you to spend Wednesdays at 9 watching the episode of America's Next Top Model that you DVR'd during Pushing Daisies while you're waiting for Dirty Sexy Money to come on. God, Wednesdays are exhausting me already. Premieres September 26th, or you can catch a 15-minute sneak preview over at AOL TV.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eureka: Feeling hot hot hot!

In Eureka, if it isn't one thing, it's another. (In this case "one thing" refers to a breakdown of Eureka's underground cooling system, and "another" refers to Mild-Mannered Sheriff Jack Carter being transformed into Irresistible Man-Meat Jack Carter.) All in all, I'd call this episode a successful bounce back from the bottom-of-the-barrel junker last week, although it was totally Zoe-less, which is sad.

I really loved the opening scene, in which Carter and Jo are forced to act out a sexual harassment scenario in front of a bunch of G.D. employees. While I would never want to see the characters linked romantically, I love the great back-and-forth that Colin Ferguson and Erica Cerra have in scenes when they're together. Great platonic chemistry, if that's an actual thing.

Anyway, it seems the air conditioning in Eureka is on the fritz, and a bit difficult to repair due to its being literal "air conditioning." Eureka's cooling, plumbing, and everything else are run through an integrated underground network mimicking a biological system. You know, the inconvenient kind where if one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. And, of course, the guy who designed and maintains the system has gone missing. I still totally love finding out things about day-to-day life in Eureka, like the aforementioned high-tech cooling system, and the fact that women use lasers to pluck their eyebrows. It's the little details that really flesh out the Eureka universe.

At any rate, as Carter is trying to solve the Mystery of the Broken A/C (and, at this point in the chain reaction spectrum, Mystery of the Exploding Toilets and Crazy Shockwaves), he suddenly becomes irresistible to women. Like, Jo kisses him right in front of Zane, and Allison and the sexual harassment instructor get into a fight over him. While I can totally understand Carter having this effect over women, the good townsfolk are concerned, especially once they test him and realize that he's producing gallons of the hormone that causes sexual attraction. Best quote of the episode goes to Allison: "Carter, I can't have you running around out there! You're too irresistible. I thought I was going to tear you apart!" Awesome. Of course, in the end, it's a crazy spore in the underground tunnels that's causing all the harm, and once they rescue the similarly-affected tunnel scientist from his randy wife and flush the air of spores, it's no harm, no foul. Well, mostly. Carter and Callie have a few uncomfortable moments to recover from, which it seems they plan on doing at her uncle's cabin in the woods, so all's well that ends well, I guess.

In the meantime, though, Carter has started digging around about Beverly's role in Kim's accident, asking Allison for the files on Kim's death. Allison shares his request with Stark, who expresses concern that if Carter keeps investigating, the DOD will find out about Kevin's relation to the Artifact and want to experiment on him E.T.-style. To protect Kevin, Allison shuts down all research on the Artifact, revoking Henry's clearance to study it. Which, fair enough, but it looks like she caved to Stark's request to continue his research, which is totally sketch. He doesn't care about Kevin, Allison, he only cares about the Artifact! Duh! And wow, I think Evil Henry is going to rear his ugly head pretty soon--the dude seemed pissed. Just goes to show how awesome Eureka is, that they can take the most friendly, innocuous character and make him broody and menacing, eh?

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Fall Preview: Life

Life is a new police drama on NBC that I had heard virtually nothing about prior to watching the pilot. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed. The story centers around Charlie Crews (played by a magnetic Damian Lewis), a detective who served 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit and is now exonerated and back on the force. Charlie is a complex and interesting character--he's rich thanks to a large court settlement, and he's got good reason to be pissed off at the police, but he's back on the force anyway, bringing a new Zen mindset and D'Onofrio-esque unpredictability to the job.

His philosophy seems to be based on living in the present and doing what gives him pleasure (big house, fancy car, beautiful women, pulling over his ex-wife's new husband for changing lanes without signaling). However, it appears there's more going on beneath the surface, particularly when it comes to the circumstances surrounding his framing and conviction, and the damage all those years in prison did to his psyche. Charlie's new partner on the force, a hot young recovering drug addict who may or may not be spying on him for the upper brass, serves as a good foil for his sometimes over-the-top behavior. I also love Adam Arkin's character, a white collar criminal who has taken over Charlie's finances after Charlie helped him out in prison.

The show's narrative style is an odd combination of normal dramatic storytelling and documentary-style interviews. It doesn't seem like the whole thing is supposed to be a documentary, so I wish the writers had been more clear in describing who was doing the interviews, and for what purpose. I also wish that Life were less of a crime procedural and more about the characters and the overarching plot, but maybe I'm just being pessimistic on that front based on the uninteresting case featured in the pilot. The whole "Wow, pictures on a cell phone? It's like I'm living in the future!" thing will hopefully wear off quickly--I mean, didn't they have television in prison, which presumably featured advertisements for these very devices?

All in all, though, this is definitely a show I'll be watching for at least a few more episodes, even though I'm not generally into the police genre. Charlie Crews has me very intrigued, I must say, and I'm not put off by the fact that the creators are clearly trying to capitalize off of the trend for...unusual...main characters started by House. I mean, hello, I love House! So if for some crazy reason you aren't watching Dirty Sexy Money on Wednesdays at 10, I suggest you check out Life, especially if you're looking for a good take on a procedural. Premieres September 26th, or you can see the pilot episode for yourself here on AOL TV.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

America's Next Top Model: Cycle Nine Preview

Ah, America's Next Top Model: Cycle 9. Crazy Tyra, skinny bitches, judges both hot and flaming, um, more skinny bitches... It's the show we all pretend to love to hate, but secretly kind of just love. (You know, aside from the enormously damaging effect it's probably having on the collective psyche of female adolescent America. Note to young girls: this is disgusting, not sexy.)

Anyway, the time has come for a new "cycle," which means we have a new crop of wannabe models! And (spoilers ahead for the casting portion of the premiere) the latest contestants for America's Next Top Skinny Bitch are:

Ambreal, a 19-year-old college student from Dallas, seems likeable enough, although her photos don't scream "model" to me.

Bianca, an 18-year-old college student from Queens, is really into walking the runway--fairly unusual among Top Model contestants--so I'm intrigued. She also seems to have a...bold...personality, and really wants this, which both bode well for her results on the show.

Chantal, a 19-year-old student from Austin, has unimpressive photos and a pretty boring interview--I don't expect her to last long.

Ebony, a 20-year-old nursing student from Chicago, has auditioned for the show three times. I like her photos, her look, and her engaging personality, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one.

Heather, a 21-year-old college student from Indiana, will henceforth be referred to as "the nose." She likes to talk, at length, about how pretty other people think she is and how much she loves attention. Can you tell I kind of hate her already?

Janet, a 22-year-old aesthetician from Georgia, is the token short-haired girl. While that would normally mean I'd be rooting for her, I'm just not feelin' it this time around.

Jenah, an 18-year-old student from Connecticut, is pretty likeable. However, since she repeatedly claims to "welcome" critique...she has giant teeth and is a nervous over-talker (me too, Jenah, me too).

Kimberly, a 20-year-old college student from Florida, seems like she'll be fun, has decent photos, and has a good attitude about the competition. So...she'll probably be eliminated early on, because that's just my luck.

Lisa, a 20-year-old dancer from Jersey City, takes beautiful photographs. If she can stay interesting to the judges, she'll do well.

Mila, a 20-year-old "college graduate" from Boston, does not take beautiful photographs. You seem like a sweet, good-looking girl, Mila, so I apologize in advance for all the mean things I'll likely say about your photos.

Saleisha, a 21-year-old receptionist from LA, looks the most like Tyra out of the bunch (can you say five-head?), so that should serve her pretty well. She also seems to be good at posing.

Sarah, a 20-year-old college student from Massachusetts, seems smart, expressive, and relatable. I hope she makes it far, although she may be too conventionally pretty to do well, so we'll see.

Victoria, a 20-year-old college student from Connecticut, is most certainly not conventionally pretty. She has a very long face, which may be a good thing since the judges sometimes seem to love exaggerated features, and seems like a pretty chill, down-to-earth girl. God, I almost feel sorry for her.

So that's our current crop of contestants! More students than you can shake a stick at, and a bunch of girls who don't seem to have considered modeling as a career until they made it on the show (although I'd probably claim I auditioned as a joke, too, come to think of it).

Watch America's Next Top Model on Wednesdays at 8 on the CW starting this week, and you can see for yourself just how wrong I probably was about all the girls in this post. It's so hard to tell from a couple photos and a short interview!

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The 4400: A whole new world

With no word on a fifth season, The 4400 had two choices for its season finale: meekly beg for a renewal, or burn as many bridges as it could while still leaving the door open for another season. The show chose the latter option, and we were left with a very different Seattle, and a very high body count that included some important characters.

(I hope I don't have to warn you about spoilers at this point.)

Before it did anything else this week, The 4400 addressed the two cliffhangers it had left from last week: Danny's mom, Susan, having a bad promicin reaction, and Tom getting shot by Diana. The good news was that Tom got shot up with polonium and quickly healed by Shawn, leaving him healthy and unmarked. The bad news was that Danny accompanied his mother to a hospital, infected everyone there with promicin, and started a city-wide contagion. Half the people who were exposed died, including Susan, half became promicin-positive, and it seemed to spread just fine without Danny's help, because as Danny was seeking shelter with Shawn at the 4400 Center, the virus was reaching NTAC. Inside NTAC, the only victims of the virus were, luckily, a few redshirts and one person with a speaking role, Brady the nerd. Brady, we hardly knew ye. Seriously, though, we didn't know anything about you. And I had to look up your name.

The only person who didn't end up with an ability or dead was Diana, thanks to the early-stage synthetic promicin Dr. Kevin injected her with last year, which gave her a promicin resistance, according to Marco's magical science explanation. Conveniently, the very substance that caused the resistance was available over the counter, so Meghan, Kyle, and their respective commands, NTAC and Jordan's Army, teamed up to get the medicine out at the few non-looted pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Penny Johnson Jerald was given one last evil hurrah, as Parrish captured Tom when he infiltrated the Marked House to rescue Jordan, and then, in an act so cruel it was clear that Parrish wouldn't survive the hour, ordered Isabelle to kill Kyle. Of course Isabelle couldn't do it, so she kissed Kyle goodbye and then it was her turn to go out in style. She defenestrated, speared, and threw around a few minions before taking on Parrish. In killing her, Isabelle's own "kill switch" was activated, which meant that she had just enough time to free Tom and Jordan and exchange a few heartfelt words with them before dying nobly. But what a way for Isabelle to go. She proved her change of heart once and for all, and she got to kick serious butt doing it.

For Isabelle's death, I cheered, because she was so awesome at taking everyone down with her. But there was another death that was nothing but tearjerking, and I was unable to resist its maudlin spell. That was Danny Farrell's. Although Dr. Kevin and Shawn managed to get Danny on the inhibitor, his body was still producing promicin, but with nowhere to put it, so Danny was essentially drowning in promicin. Danny, in the most heartbreaking scene ever, begged his brother to kill him. I lost it after Danny said, "I love you," and I was crying like Andrae explaining his denim chi pao as Shawn finally did as his brother asked. Curse you, The 4400. I didn't even care about Danny that much!

Finally, there was a quick check-in with the new p-positives at NTAC, each of whom had an ability that was surprisingly appropriate. Meghan's ability, turning things into flowers, was pretty, but of questionable usefulness. Garrity, the emergency backup NTAC agent, had the ability to clone himself, providing a cheap source of manpower and/or redshirts. And Marco? Just like Hiro Nakamura, that other loveable nerd on that other show about people with special powers, Marco can teleport! But to my eternal disappointment, he did not yell, "Yata!" at finding himself unexpectedly in Promise City. It still made me happier than possibly any other ability they could have given him, and almost completely made up for Danny's awful, weeping-inducing death scene.

The episode and season ended with Jordan effectively in charge in Seattle as it more or less became absorbed into Promise City, almost everyone in the city exposed to promicin in some way, either positive or resistant, Maia predicting good things for the future, and Kyle placing a promicin shot in front of Tom.

It was a tremendous end to the season, and I hope that there will be a season five. There are so many new avenues to explore now: Seattle under the control of Jordan and his crew, the breakdown of distinctions between positives and NTAC, NTAC agents with abilities, how the rest of the world will respond, etc. Here's hoping we'll find out what happens next summer.

Note to Glowy Box readers: Starting this week, I'm scaling down my blogging. Instead of doing regular posts on a handful of shows, I'll be doing occasional posts on special topics, i.e. whatever I feel like. So look out!

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Emmy Awards: The Highs and the Lows

I'm bottling up my usual Emmy results-related volcano of rage, so that on the happy day when I somehow meet all the Emmy voters I can finally allow it to spew forth, burying them in hot, angry lava. Thus, I'm not going to express my opinion of the horrendously unjust results here. Instead, here are a few of the highlights and lowlights from tonight's ceremony, in semi-chronological order.

Highlight: The Green Emmys! (And Al Gore!)

Highlight (the corresponding Lowlight is a very orange Teri Hatcher, but I didn't want to subject you guys to that):












Highlight: Stewie and Brian from The Family Guy singing the opening number, inasmuch as it meant that Ryan Seacrest would not be singing the opening number.

Lowlight: The weird-ass, completely impractical "theatre in the round" gimmick.

Lowlight: Ray Freaking Romano. It's not standup, Ray, and nobody cares what you're up to anymore. NOBODY CARES!

Highlight: Katherine Heigl clearly saying "shit" in her winning reaction shot, but getting the bleep-out and the quick cutaway.

Highlight: Christina Aguilera singing her ass off on live TV just a week after Britney tanked at the VMA's. Oh, snap! (Corresponding lowlight: Mad lack of Britney appearance as rumored.)

Lowlight to the millionth power: All that miniseries crap (AKA, time for me to go do the dishes, fold my laundry, and take a not-so-short nap). Who the H-E-double hockey sticks watches those things, anyway?

Highlight-turned-lowlight: The cast of Jersey Boys singing "Walk Like a Man" to clips of the Sopranos was a cute sendoff. Then, they sang two or three more songs. Shit like that is why the winners of the night's biggest awards always get cut off, like, two words into their acceptance speeches.

Highlight: Elaine Stritch. Crazy, or crazy like a hilarious, hilarious fox? I think the latter.

Lowlight: Bizarre personal video player product placement stunt during the award for best comedy writing.

Lowlight: Ryan Seacrest in tights.

Highlight: John Stewart and Steven Colbert giving Ricky Gervais's Emmy away to Steve Carell.

Highlight: America Ferrera's perfectly poised - but appropriately emotional - acceptance speech. Love! Her!

UPDATE - Lowlight: Sally Field being censored when expressing an anti-war sentiment. You know you're on Fox when they not only cut away/bleep the mild expletive, but manage to cut out the entire thought, even to the point where I couldn't tell what she was talking about or why they were cutting away for so long during the broadcast, and only realized it was about the war when reading the news this morning.

That's it for this year's Emmys! A mixed bag, to be sure, although I can't help but think it would have been almost tolerable if all that miniseries/TV special business were excluded. Ah, well. Congratulations to 30 Rock (not that a Best Comedy Emmy saved Arrested Development in the end, but it can't hurt, right?), and to all the other deserving winners.

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