Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week Wrap-Up

And here we are back on Sunday. Last Sunday, I kicked off my expanded coverage of TV's Premiere Week, with looks ahead at each network's schedule for each night of the week, and reviews of every new show (except the awful ones I allowed myself to skip).

I think I've written more entries, and more total words, on this blog during my Fall 2007 TV coverage than I ever have during a similar amount of time. Since September 19, I've written 25 entries specifically about television, totalling nearly 13,000 words (not counting this one, of course). It's been 19 entries and over 10,500 words just since last Sunday's Premiere Week post. Dang! I'm getting paid by the word, right?

Tonight will be my last look forward at the evening's programming (a little late for the Eastern half of the country, but oh well), though I'll still be reviewing each new show as it debuts -- there are plenty left, including Pushing Daisies and Viva Laughlin -- as well as keeping a running diary of what I'm watching, and how it's stacking up. I'm enjoying this weirdly prolific rhythm I've gotten into with all this writing. Let's see if I can keep going! And it's bringing in many new visitors -- my hits have been up from what I normally expect by 25-50% or more over the past ten days or so. And even better, many of these new people are leaving comments, which I love. Hope you keep coming back!

Also, allow me to note: GO CAL! Yesterday, the California Golden Bears defeated the Oregon Ducks on the road for the first time since 1987, the year before my Freshman year at Cal, by 31-24, in a real nailbiting, heart attack-inducing game. We are now #3 in the country, our highest ranking since 1952. Look out, Rose Bowl, here we come!

Here's a look at Sunday of Premiere Week. Again.

Right this second, NBC's Sunday Night Football is going on. It's a 0-0 tie in the second quarter. Yay.

Starting at 7:00, The CW offers CW Now, Online Nation, Gossip Girl, and America's Next Top Model. Four shows which not only have I never seen, I consider it a point of pride that I never will see them.

Fox has repeats of King of the Hill and The Simpsons at 7:00, followed by new episodes of Simpsons, King, Family Guy, and the season debut of American Dad, now in its fourth year. I actually like that show, but I'm still a bit surprised it's made it four years.

CBS has two hours of 60 Minutes, which should technically make it 120 Minutes. But then it would just be Matt Pinfield showing alternative music videos, which would beat the hell out of Andy Rooney. New episodes of Cold Case and Shark follow.

ABC is probably the big story tonight, with all season premieres. First up, a two-part, two-hour Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Next, the fourth season debut of Desperate Housewives, which I kind of want to watch, due to the addition of Nathan Fillion and former OoMA Dana Delany. Finally, Brothers & Sisters begins its second season. Another show I have no desire to watch.

No new series to review tonight, so I get a bit of a break. Thanks for following along with my TV addiction!

Fall 2007 TV: Big Shots

Big Shots (ABC)

Big Shots is ABC's stab at a new comedic soap, like their successes with Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. The premise here is actually spoken by one of the characters: "Men are the new women." Or, more accurately, Michael Vartan, Joshua Malina, Christopher Titus, and Dylan McDermott are the new Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte.

At least, that's the intent. But it fails, at the comedy aspects and the soapy intrigue aspects. It's just a big, stupid, distasteful mess.

Most everybody here seems to be playing against their strengths. McDermott is usually cast as the dreamboat, but here he's a repugnant, charm-free lech. He's trying to mend a broken relationship with his teenage daughter, but he's so unseemly, it's almost frightening to see her speaking to him. Run away! He will molest you! I found it hilarious (through no intention of the writers, I'm sure) that the big father-daughter bonding moment comes when she discovers he's involved in a sex scandal with a transgendered hooker (what's with all the trannie hookers this season?). This is what they connect over? She's just as gross as he is!

Christopher Titus is known for his edgy, brutally honest, painfully real stand-up material. But in Big Shots, he's saddled with nothing but the lamest of henpecked husband humor. And Joshua Malina, who generally plays the sensitive nebbish, is cheating on his loving wife -- complete with text messages reading, "I miss your penis." How can you even begin to like these people, let alone want to spend an hour a week with them? Vartan is the only one with any semblance of dignity, or a real character, but his agonizing realization that his wife has been cheating on him feels jarringly out of place, surrounded by all the other trivial, supposedly humorous jackanapery.

Malina, by the way, is so terribly bad in this role, blatantly channeling all the quirks and stammers of Woody Allen from one of his lesser films, it's made me want to reevaluate his past work. Has he always been this bad, and I've just ignored it because the writing was so good (as on Sports Night, for example)?

Speaking of the writing: awful. Just rotten. Filled with bits like the "Men are the new women" line, or the "penis" text message, or Malina, after telling his wife on the phone to trust him, practically turning to the camera to exposit -- out loud, with people around -- "This is the first and last time I'm ever having an affair!!"

The show looks nice; obviously, money was no object, and it's all onscreen. And the actors all have the potential to do good work, but not when anchored by these characters and this writing. This is a total misfire. If men are the new women, women are in trouble.

Rating: 2 out of 10

Exceptions include Joe Montana and Paul McCartney

Regarding last night's 33rd season premiere of SNL, hosted by LeBron James with musical guest Kanye West:

The only thing worse than a Saturday Night Live hosted by an athlete is a Saturday Night Live in which the musical guest participates in a sketch.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Saturday

The only thing I watched on Friday night was Moonlight, and as you can see from my review, I deeply regret that decision. My Big Shots review is still pending. Hope you haven't been on pins and needles with anticipation. I'll try to get to it early tomorrow. Let's just move on to Saturday of Premiere Week.

Saturday has nothing new worth mentioning. Okay, I'll mention some of it anyway.

CBS has reairings of Moonlight (NOOOO!!!), Cane, and a 48 Hours Mystery which may or may not be new.

NBC has reairings of Heroes, Chuck, and Law & Order: SVU.

The CW has a local special: KTLA Presents Planet LA, a celebration of the station's 60th anniversary. I was just at the KTLA Studios, for Merv Griffin's Crosswords. Maybe I'll watch some of this, just to see if they mention (and they had better) Tom Hatten, beloved host of the cartoon showcase Popeye and His Friends, as well as the Family Film Festival, for many of my childhood years. His show is where I first saw "George of the Jungle," "Super Chicken," and "Tom Slick," and I'll be forever grateful to him for that.

Fox has Cops and America's Most Wanted. Cops is now in its 20th season. Yikes.

ABC has the only new content of note, Saturday Night College Football. And it doesn't even air during prime time on the West Coast. Looks like it's Ohio State at Minnesota. I don't give a crap about that game, anyway. It's all about #6 Cal (GO CAL!) at #11 Oregon (boo, hiss). Barring some bizarre scheduling shenanigans, the Cal game should be on ABC at 12:30 Pacific, which will make it the first game I'll get to see on TV since opening weekend. It is going to be awesome. Hooray!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Moonlight

Moonlight (CBS)

That was sheer punishment. What an awful, awful show. This ranks among the very worst hours of television I have ever seen. And I've seen Manimal.

I noted in my Unfair Previews that a show about a vampire detective that actually uses the line, "Being a vampire sucks," indicates tremendously bad writing. Little did I know that line would practically be the highlight of the show. The line is spoken in the first minute, putting the show in a hole it never digs its way out of. In fact, it keeps digging deeper. By the end, it's hit China.

I'd like to be generous and say the horrendous line delivery of the two leads, Alex O'Loughlin as vampire Mick St. John and Sophia Myles as "beautiful, ambitious Internet investigative reporter" (quoting from the CBS home page) Beth Turner, is owing to the fact that they're both attempting American accents. O'Loughlin is Australian, but speaking like an oily Jersey douchebag thug in the lowest echelons of the Sopranos crew. And Myles is British, but speaking like she's had a stroke and is still relearning her verbal skills.

I'd like to be generous, but that would be dishonest. They are both terrible, terrible actors. Myles may in fact be the single worst actress I have ever seen in a non-pornographic production.

The writing, as I said, is wretched, packed with stupid vampire cliches, pathetic attempts at cleverness ("Garlic?" Mick is asked regarding vampire weaknesses; "Tastes good on pizza," he coolly replies), and endless repetition. I lost count of which happens more, Mick tells someone, "There's no such thing as vampires," or he reminds the audience that he is in fact a vampire during his pointless, moronic narration. They're both in the double digits, I'm betting. The title of the episode is actually, no fooling, "There's No Such Thing as Vampires." This is the kind of show where someone will be talking to Mick, they'll turn their back on him for a second, then turn back again -- to reveal he's dramatically disappeared! He's not a vampire, he's Batman!!

My jaw dropped open at the staggering stupidity of it all at around the twenty minute mark. I was wincing with pain after forty minutes. By the end of the show, I was ready to punch my hand through the TV screen and slash my wrist on the jagged glass.

The only minuscule spark of life in this whole fiasco is Jason Dohring, late of Veronica Mars, and I have to assume the two or three lines of his that are any good were ad-libs. Even Kevin Weisman, so entertaining as Marshall Flinkman on Alias, is a disappointment.

I am now actually looking forward to the Geico Cavemen sitcom, to cleanse my palate of the foul taste of this garbage. I feel like apologizing for all the bad things I've said about Gossip Girl, which can't possibly be cruddier than this. I can only hope and pray that this is the worst new show I will have to see for the rest of this year, or ever.

Rating: 1 out of 10 (there is no zero on my rating scale, but if there were, this would be it)

Fall 2007 TV: Reaper

Reaper (The CW)

Ah, The CW. Home of Gossip Girl. Canceller of Veronica Mars. Is there nothing you can do that I will not hate?

Turns out: yes. Reaper, the action/comedy about a slacker who becomes a bounty hunter for Satan, is exciting, funny, charming -- a real winner. I expect it to be killed by Christmas.

Reaper stars Bret Harrison (of Grounded For Life and the uneven but generally underrated The Loop) as Sam Oliver, an underachiever who dropped out of college because it made him "tired," is living with his parents, and killing time at the Home Depot-like Work Bench store. On his 21st birthday, he receives the alarming news that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born, payment due when he turns 21. And the Devil has come to collect, taking the form of the scary but charismatic Ray Wise (whom of course you all know as Leon Nash from RoboCop. Oh, and also Twin Peaks).

Satan doesn't just want to drag Sam to Hell, though. He wants to put Sam to work as a bounty hunter, recapturing souls who have escaped from Hell. With the help of some Satan-granted powers, a magic vessel that looks like a Dirt Devil, and his slacker friends (mainly Bert "Sock" Wysocki, played by Tyler Labine), Sam tracks down and defeats a pyrokinetic escapee, all while keeping Andi, the girl he secretly loves (played by Heroes' Missy Peregrym, replacing Nikki Reed from the original pilot), in the dark about his new calling.

Harrison is perfectly cast in the lead, funny, high-strung, and awkward, believable both as a hopeless slacker and as someone with great, untapped potential. Ray Wise is about seven different kinds of awesome as Satan; he absolutely makes this show. I'm not entirely sold on Labine as the sidekick; he has his crack-up moments, but when one of his first actions is to smack a tiny dog with a car door (even if that dog does turn out to be a devil dog)... that's more being an irredeemable asshole, than a scampish ne'er-do-well. And I don't agree with the many reviews who claim he's ripping off Jack Black's routine. Preposterous! ...Clearly, he's ripping off Kevin Smith's routine.

Speaking of whom, Smith directed the pilot episode. In some ways, it really shows: much of the juvenile but hilarious banter between Sam and Sock is classic Smith, practically straight out of Clerks, if a little cleaned up for TV. And in some ways, it really doesn't show, which is a good thing: Reaper looks better than pretty much any Kevin Smith movie. Better cinematography, better staging, less wooden line readings, and the action supersedes anything Smith has directed before. I've always said that Smith, whatever other assets he may have as a director, is utterly incapable of directing a convincing action scene. But he manages it here, giving the showdowns between Sam and the fire demon the energy and excitement he's never been able to create in a feature film. It doesn't hold a candle to, say, the look and action of Lost, or even another CW show, Smallville, but for Smith and The CW in general, it's practically Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

There's one little highlight that I want to point out, that may not really have made an impression on other viewers. It's the scene in which Sam comes home to find his mother drowning her sorrows and shame in a bottle of vodka. She's devastated that she has let this awful thing happen to her son, and she begs him to refuse to do the Devil's work, to let him take her soul instead. I thought that was a very genuine and touching moment amidst the craziness, well-written and well-played.

Good comedy, good action, a sweet relationship between Sam and the adorable Andi, and Ray Wise. I've now got one strong reason to watch The CW. Who'd have thunk it?

Rating: 8 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Life

Life (NBC)

"Life was his sentence, life is what he got back," as we are told a hundred times in this opening episode. (Okay, twice.) I was expecting the entire pilot to hammer us over the head that bluntly, to be as humorless and full of faux-profundity. Instead, I found it to be thoughtful, cute, and compelling. I enjoyed this show.

Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a cop sentenced to life for a triple homicide. After twelve years in prison, a reinvestigation proves the evidence to have been false; he was framed. Crews is released, and given a gigantic financial settlement and a job as a police detective. But the years in prison have changed him. Where before (we are told) he was coldly by-the-book, now he's more aware, more sympathetic, more contemplative. He's also packed full of the Zen teachings he studied while in prison, and he loves to eat fruit.

Crews could've been a collection of quirks rather than a character, but Lewis humanizes him and makes him identifiable as someone trying to get a second chance at life. I liked this character a lot. He probably goes to the "Zen Sayings 101" well a little too often, but it feels to me more like an intentional character flaw rather than a flaw in the writing. He's trying a little too hard to be Zen, and frequently failing, as when he keeps harassing the man who married his ex-wife, or when he gets a little too attached to his expensive new car.

At least his partner is there to check him. "That's Zen," she observes of one of his remarks. "Is it?" he replies. "That's Zen, too." "Is it?" "Say 'is it' again and I'll shoot you." His partner Dani Reese is played by Sarah Shahi, who is one of those tiny supermodels who so often become cops on TV. She doesn't look like a cop, but I liked her; there's a lot of light, humorous interplay between her and Crews. She's sharp-tongued, but willing to listen to and learn from Crews, and she's got plenty of flaws of her own -- drug-related, apparently -- which is why she got stuck as Crews' partner. And also the reason for her gratuitous shower scene: she gets sprayed with cocaine (or some kind of white powdery drug, anyway) at a crime scene, and she freaks out, strips down to her underwear, and showers off right there in the crack den. Gratuitous, yes, but I'm all right with that.

Robin Weigert (Deadwood's Calamity Jane, all cleaned up and pretty) is Crews and Reese's lieutenant, and looking to nail Crews for any kind of infraction. She apparently had some part in the vast conspiracy that landed him in jail. And Adam Arkin is financial advisor for Crews' new fortune. He was in jail with Crews for insider trading, and Crews saved his life. I'm very pleased to see both Weigert and Arkin as part of this show, but they didn't have an awful lot of work to do in the pilot. Maybe as the series progresses we'll see more of them, which would be nice.

And Brooke Langton is Constance, the lawyer who got Crews sprung from jail. There's a deep connection between them that isn't fully explained in the pilot; it could simply be mutual attraction, but it seems deeper, and sadder, than that. I suspect Constance is somehow linked to one of the people Crews was framed for murdering (the crime isn't fully explained in the pilot, either).

There are several mysteries left dangling at the end of this first hour, chief among them being who framed Crews, but unlike, say, Bionic Woman, I became invested in the mysteries because I was invested in the characters. I'd like to learn more about Crews and Reese, and what has happened to them in the past -- and I consider that an accomplishment, and enough to hook me in.

There are a few things that didn't quite work for me. As I said, Crews tends to go Zen mystic a bit too often. And I thought it was bizarre that the entire police department seems to despise Crews, rather than being happy one of their own was exonerated. There's a line in the show about something Crews did to a corrections officer while he was in prison, but whatever that incident was, it can't have soured everybody against him. Maybe they're all in the conspiracy that framed him!

Life was a nifty little surprise. I'm not wildly enthusiastic, but it's a nicely made show. (And it didn't feel to me at all like a retread of House, as many critics have been suggesting. Both shows are about people who do things differently, but the comparison begins and ends there.) I'll keep tuning in.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Friday

I've now watched Life, and I enjoyed it. I've also watched Reaper, which I liked a lot, and Big Shots, which I very much did not. Reviews of all coming tomorrow. My Name Is Earl and The Office are taped, to be watched soon. I caught the season premiere of Ugly Betty, which I liked, for the most part. There was a lot of wheel-spinning: Betty's dad is still in Mexico, Henry is out of the picture, no, wait, he's back in again... but America Ferrera and Ashley Jensen are always entertaining, Amanda in the fat suit was a nice gag, and the scenes with Hilda and Santos -- I could immediately see where it was going, but it was still very affecting. However, Alexis getting amnesia? No, I don't think so. If that's the kind of road this show is heading down, I'll be getting off pretty soon. That just smacks of a desperate lack of imagination.

Friday is traditionally a lackluster night of programming. Let's see what Premiere Week brings us.

The CW has Friday Night SmackDown! (and yes, that's "SmackDown!" with a capital D and an exclamation point). I haven't watched wrestling for twenty years, and you know what? That has been time well saved.

ABC has two episodes of Just For Laughs, which is a prank show of some kind, and two episodes of 20/20. One of those shows involves a man in a gorilla suit. You guess which.

Fox has a new episode of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, and a rerun of the most recent K-Ville. Nothing for me.

NBC has Deal Or No Deal, again, followed by the two-hour season 5 premiere of Las Vegas. The fact that Tom Selleck is replacing James Caan almost makes me want to watch a whole episode for the first time. That's right, I prefer Thomas Magnum to Sonny Corleone. So sue me.

And CBS starts off with Ghost Whisperer, which celebrates its third season of glorifying the con artists who call themselves psychics. This show actively harms society by professing to be inspired by "real-life" psychics, thereby manipulating the gullible and bereft into being more vulnerable to these frauds. You are a bad person if you support this show. Not that I'm judging. After that is new show Moonlight, about a vampire detective, which to me is more believable than a "real-life" psychic. And finally, there's Numb3rs, which really does have a "3" in the title. I haven't watched this show since Sabrina Lloyd left, but I enjoyed it; I just don't feel much of a need to keep up with it. Hey, I don't have to watch everything, believe it or not.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's Linking Me Now?

Here's an odd thing: according to my Sitemeter stats, at least twice someone has come to this site via Tuned In, Time Magazine's TV blog, written by their TV critic, James Poniewozik. Yet looking that site over, I can't find a link to this blog anywhere.

Am I just missing it? You'd think it would be easy to find, if it were actually there. If it's not there -- how am I getting hits from that site? Maybe Poniewozik just likes to visit my blog secretly. Hey, if you're reading this blog, link me on your sidebar, dude! I could use an extra thousand hits.

Fall 2007 TV: Dirty Sexy Money

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)

Every fall, there seems to be one show that builds my expectations up high, then disappoints me. Studio 60 is a recent example. Bionic Woman is this year's example. And there usually seems to be one show for which I had negative expectations, but which takes me by surprise, and becomes one of my favorites. How I Met Your Mother is a recent example. Dirty Sexy Money is this year's example.

That's right: I loved it. Despite the amazing cast, I thought it would be just another disposable nighttime soap. And it is a soap, that much is true. But it's hilarious. It had me laughing from beginning to end, and loving the whole crew of characters, even the sad and despicable ones. Well played, ABC.

Peter Krause is Nick George. As a child, he watched his father devote all his time and attention -- and love -- as lawyer to the ultra-rich, and ultra-messed up, Darling family, while Nick was left by the wayside. Now Nick is an idealistic lawyer helping the disadvantaged, his father is dead from a mysterious (of course) plane crash, and the Darling family want him to take his father's place as their lawyer.

Well, most of them do, mainly patriarch Tripp Darling, played by Donald Sutherland with magnificent charm concealing an underlying darkness. His wife Letitia (Jill Clayburgh) supports his decision, but is conflicted owing to the 40-year affair she had with Nick's father. The oldest daughter, Karen (Natalie Zea), has been in love with Nick since they were kids; through three divorces and an impending fourth marriage, she loves him still. Oldest son Patrick (William "don't call me Billy" Baldwin), a New York Attorney General, trusts Nick enough to ask him for help in breaking up with his transgendered mistress. The youngest children, twins Juliet (Samaire Armstrong, whom I loved on Entourage) and Jeremy (Seth Gabel), rely on Nick to help them out of the pathetic screw-ups they keep finding themselves in. Only middle child Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald), an Episcopalian reverend, doesn't want Nick involved with the Darling family; he openly hates Nick, and isn't reticent to let him know this -- even at his father's funeral.

There are any number of standout moments that had me in stitches all throughout the pilot. Sutherland's Tripp had me won over as soon as he began negotiating with Nick to get him to sign on as their lawyer: "I'm gonna put my nuts on the table," Tripp says. "Okay, if you have to," Nick replies. Nick's assistant programs his cell phone with custom ring tones for each member of the Darling family, which keeps ringing at the most inopportune moments -- Juliet is "Rich Girl," Karen is "Pretty Woman." Jeremy wins a yacht in Ethan Hawke's poker game -- a yacht which happens to be carrying illegal immigrants. When Patrick enlists Nick's help to buy off his mistress, Nick refuses to go to a hotel room to give a check to a "trannie hooker." Patrick: "You make it sound so dirty." In Nick's office, Karen tells her new fiance matter-of-factly, "Nick deflowered me." Brian's first words onscreen, as a child, to Nick: "I hate you." When Nick eventually snaps and tackles Brian, I was howling. For crying out loud, Dan Rather makes a cameo at the senior Darlings' anniversary party! Now that's comedy.

But the show has layers, without which the comedy might not work so well. There's a sadness, a sense of being lost, underlying much of the tomfoolery. Karen is desperately lonely, despite her many marriages. Juliet, the obvious Paris Hilton analogue, is a failure at everything she attempts (even suicide); despite her shallow exterior, she yearns to succeed on her own, without daddy there to catch her. Jeremy, though he'll never have to work a day in his life, thinks he's got it worse than anyone on Earth -- and you almost believe him. And Nick is trying to deal with the loss of a father he never really knew -- a father who very likely was killed by one of the Darlings.

So it's a soap, all right, but a wonderfully written and acted, and fantastically funny one. That's how you get me to watch a soap: a sense of humor (which is why I watched Desperate Housewives in the beginning). I could do without the voiceover from Nick, which gets a little obvious and overbearing. But I want to find out what happens next to these people. I want to see more of their casual cruelties, and comical peccadilloes. I like these people (or, when it comes to Brian, like to hate them), and I can't wait to discover what's next.

Whether I stick with it for the long haul, I can't say; down the line, maybe they'll run out of clever twists, or maybe I'll tire of following all the relationships and antics. I usually do, even with the best of these kinds of shows. When the original bag of tricks is exhausted, soaps often quickly turn to bigger and more outrageous, which for me usually translates to boring and more ridiculous.

But for now, I'm in. This is my favorite so far of the Fall's new offerings.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Thursday

Didn't watch a lot of TV last night. My thoughts on Bionic Woman (which may surprise you) are already posted, and my thoughts on Dirty Sexy Money (which may also surprise you) will be posted in the morning. And I haven't watched Life yet.

So we're up to Thursday already in Premiere Week. This is traditionally supposed to be the most competitive night of television, owing largely to the huge advertising budget spent on promoting Friday-opening movies. We'll just see how it looks to me.

ABC has Ugly Betty, which I mostly enjoyed last year, but which I don't think I talked about much here. I'll be watching it. Next is Grey's Anatomy, which I won't be watching. And they finish things off with new show Big Shots, which has a good cast but looks unsavory to me.

Fox has two shows with sentence-ending punctuation in their titles, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Don't Forget the Lyrics! I won't be watching either of them, full stop.

CBS has a new episode of Survivor, the eighth season debut of C.S.I., and the sixth season debut of Without a Trace. Wow, six seasons? Do people really watch that show? I guess they must, but I don't know any of them.

The CW has the seventh season debut of Smallville. Wow. I finally gave up on it for good last year. Or was it the year before? Anyway, I won't be tuning in, even with the promise of Supergirl to sex things up. Didn't they just bring in Lois Lane to sex things up? Hell, that was probably five years ago now. No, wait, it was three years ago. I remember because of this entry I wrote about the actress joining the cast in that role. The mention of the actress' name directed so many unpleasant Google searches here that I vowed never to mention her name again. And I haven't!

Where was I? Ah, yes: also on The CW is the repeat of the Reaper pilot from Tuesday night. I'll be watching it.

So if I'm watching Ugly Betty at 8:00 and Reaper at 9:00, that must mean NBC is getting the VCR treatment. First is the hour-long debut of My Name Is Earl, which I would be looking forward to even more if NBC would stop running those damn promos with the "Free Earl" song. And then comes the hour-long premiere of The Office. Frankly, I think running four hour-long episodes as the first four episodes of the season might lead to a bit of an overload for the audience, but no one asked me. And then at 10:00 is ER, which has been on the air since the Truman administration. Won't somebody please, please kill that show already?? (It's actually more shocking if I don't exaggerate: this is the fourteenth season. Yeah. There are probably people reading this blog who are younger than that. Also: don't read this blog if you're younger than that. It will warp you, and probably make me feel old and sad.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Bionic Woman

Bionic Woman (NBC)

What a disappointment.

I know I built my expectations up pretty high, but even for those with more realistic expectations, or no expectations at all, the revamped Bionic Woman falls short.

Michelle Ryan, a Brit with a flawless American accent, plays Jaime Sommers, a bartender with a dead mother, a missing father, and custody of a troublesome teenage sister. Her professor boyfriend Will Anthros (Chris Bowers) works secretly for the government, developing high-tech surgical enhancements for humans. When Will and Jaime are in a car accident, the severe injuries to Jaime prompt Will to save her life by replacing her injured parts with bionic parts -- one ear, one eye, one arm, both legs. This is much to the displeasure of Will's superior, Jonas Bledsoe, played by a typically menacing Miguel Ferrer.

Jaime tries to return to her normal life, but she's confronted by Sarah Corvus (a lively Katee Sackhoff), the first bionic woman -- who appeared to have been killed at the top of the episode. Guess not! It was Sarah, by the way, who was responsible for Jaime's accident. Jaime also faces off with Bledsoe, who wants to force her into becoming a super soldier, of sorts. Meanwhile, a mysterious man (whom IMDb credits as "The Man," played by Thomas Kretschmann) has been using Sarah to try to assassinate Will, for some reason; at the end of the episode, Will's father, the inventor of the bionics technology, who was in prison, for some reason, is broken out of prison, for some reason, by "The Man."

There are an awful lot of unexplained plot threads here, and not a lot to get me to care about them. Why did Sarah kill a bunch of people at the bionics lab? Why was she "killed"? Why did she survive? Did "The Man" save her, and if so, why? And who is he, anyway? And why do they want to kill Will? And so on and so forth. The problem is, none of these mysteries are engaging me so far.

Start with Ryan. She's pretty, and a decent enough actress, but she's not tremendously charismatic. I didn't really find any reason to care about her, aside from the cool bionics. Her home life is deadly dull at best, actively annoying at worst. Jaime's sister Becca, played by Lucy Hale (who was deaf in the original version of the pilot -- and also played by someone else) is an obnoxious little shit, and apparently also some kind of superhacker (I'm sure that will be convenient in future episodes). Jaime's relationship with Will is bland and lifeless; when she announces she's pregnant (she loses the baby in the car crash), it barely even registers.

I dig Miguel Ferrer, and he brings a certain amount of cool darkness to his character, but he could do this role in his sleep (and possibly is). Not a lot to work with. Katee Sackhoff is the only person who brings any energy or humor to this show, and she's only a guest star.

Some excitement is generated when Jaime finally gets down to testing out the abilities her bionic upgrade has given her. There are some fun scenes with her racing through the woods at superhuman speeds, or leaping across the street from one rooftop to another. And I really like the idea that her bloodstream is filled with nanobots called Anthrosites (presumably named after Will or his father), which I guess perform maintenance on the bionics, as well as quickly healing any injury to Jaime. That's an interesting new touch.

But Jaime's adaptation to the changes the bionics have made to her body and to her life is so rapid and complete it defies belief. There is a suggestion at one point that the bionics almost have a life of their own, that when Jaime tangles with a mugger, she has to force herself not to kill him. So maybe that's the out the writers are using. The climactic battle between Jaime and Sarah, for example: sure, Jaime has super strength now, but where did she learn all those martial arts moves? I guess the writers can explain it away with, "It's the bionics taking over." Which is a bit of a cheat, especially if I, the audience, have to fill in the blanks for them.

As for that big battle: it's very satisfying, a vicious rush. But so much of it (and so much of the rest of the show) makes use of the MTV-trained director's bag of tricks that never fails to irk me. Quick cuts, whip pans, blurs and flashes -- all the usual suspects that do more to conceal the action than showcase it. Irritating.

And let me make note of the setting. While I'm disappointed that Jaime Sommers no longer lives in my hometown of Ojai, CA, I thought it was nifty that Jaime's new location, as established at the top of the show, was San Francisco. Until I saw that the unrelenting overcast and industrial greys of Vancouver would be playing the role of San Francisco. That is seriously weak. Why even bother to set your show in S.F. if you have no intention of taking advantage of the specialness and uniqueness of the actual city? (I could ask the same of Monk.) Another NBC show, Journeyman, actually films in the City, making Bionic Woman look even cheaper and more ridiculous by contrast.

Honestly, there's not a lot I liked about this pilot episode. Which is a damn shame. So much wasted potential. But the premise, inseparably linked to nostalgia for the TV of my youth, has got me hooked. It's in my DNA. I can only hope that the kinks have all gotten worked out in this first episode, and that future installments, unhindered with establishing the premise, will be more exciting. Despite my relatively low rating, there's no way I won't be watching this show. For a while, anyway.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Non-TV notes

Let's take a brief break from my intense TV coverage this week to take a look at (as Stephen Colbert would put it):

WHO'S HONORING ME NOW?

Julie's Blog has bestowed the "BEST KEPT SECRET" award upon this blog. Right here. Yay for me! I don't really know what that means, but I shall greedily accept it and jealously defend it.


Apparently this award was created by Bobbarama.com, and according to that link, now that it's been given to me, I'm supposed to give it to three to five other bloggers "with great style and wit and warmth who [haven't] been discovered yet." Uh, okay. Here are a few blogs I've discovered, but maybe you haven't.

--Here's a new one I've been enjoying a lot: The Baboon Bellows. Lots of nifty comic book covers and DVD reviews, and a recent project is looking through new TV schedules from years past and seeing what worked and what didn't, which is right up my alley.

--I've liked Delenda Est Carthago for a long time. It's run by Greg Burgas, whom I met at the San Diego Comic Con this year. Good guy! Lots of in-depth book reviews, NFL analysis, great songs lists, Seinfeld minutiae, and suchlike and so forth.

--And Ramblin' with Roger is a wise and funny blog by Roger Owen Green, Jeopardy! champion, proud papa, and one of this blog's most frequent and favorite commenters.



I was also recently listed as one of TiFaux's Friends of the Faux. Click if you want to read my silly answers to their questionnaire. TiFaux is a damn fine TV-centric (as you might have guessed) site -- they've got charts and everything. Please don't hold it against them that they paid attention to my blog.



And finally, in case you didn't already know (and why wouldn't you?): Bill O'Reilly is a god damned racist. Here's what happened: he had dinner at a Harlem restaurant owned and managed by African Americans, then said on his radio program that he "couldn't get over the fact" that it was run like, of all things, a restaurant. Without gangsta rap or black men raping white women or anything!!! Among the many revelations that came as a surprise to O'Reilly:

--"It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun."

--"There wasn't any kind of craziness at all."

--"There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M.F.-er, I want more iced tea.'"

That's right: Bill O'Reilly, shocked -- shocked! -- that in a nice, but black-run, restaurant, patrons and employees somehow managed to refrain from shouting obscenities at each other.

And now, he's saying that the people taking exception to his ignorance and prejudice are smearing him. Not so pleasant when the shoe's on the other foot, is it, Bill?

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Wednesday

Last night's Fox double header of anti-social geniuses, Bones and House, failed to impress me much. I like pretty much the whole cast of Bones, especially the super hot Emily Deschanel (along with her sister, one of the very earliest of the Objects of My Affection), and I like the idea that this opening case is going to turn into a season-long puzzle. I'm not really sure what I don't like. I guess it just feels inessential. I like it fine, but I feel no urge to watch it. I guess it didn't win me back after all. And I think House made a misstep by excluding House's former support team entirely from this episode, as well as waiting until the very last seconds to introduce the job interview competition that's been touted as a major draw for this season. I really enjoyed certain parts of the show -- the guitar-napping was hilarious, and the reveal that House's disfigured patient had been misidentified was a stunner. But, as I've said before, the show remains take-it-or-leave-it for me. I always like it when I watch it, but I don't feel I've missed out on anything if I don't.

And so we come to the Wednesday night offerings of Premiere Week.

CBS gives us the new episode of Kid Nation, which I don't watch due to my severe allergy to reality shows. (I break out in anger and swearing.) Then comes the season premiere of Criminal Minds, which I have never seen, but I understand Mandy Patinkin is leaving the show under unpleasant circumstances. Didn't he do the same thing on Chicago Hope? Hmm. There's gotta be a point where casting agents would say, "I don't care how good he is, we're not hiring him," don't you think? I guess that point hasn't been reached yet. And then one of the C.S.I.ses returns. Enjoy, if that's your thing.

Fox has an easy to ignore night: Back To You, 'Til Death, and Kitchen Nightmares, all of which had their debuts last week. And thank goodness they did -- now I don't have to watch Back To You this week!

The CW has new episodes of America's Next Top Model and Gossip Girl, both of which also debuted last week, and both of which I hate, despite never having seen them. (Okay, I've seen a few minutes of Model on MTV or VH1, one of those music video channels that doesn't even show music-related programming anymore, let alone actual music videos. And I gotta say: that Tyra Banks is batshit crazy.)

ABC has Dancing with the Stars, which makes three straight nights of that show. Seriously, there's that much demand for Mark Cuban and Wayne Newton attempting to cha-cha? I hate America. At 9:00, Private Practice premieres, and, as I've already said, this is one of the new shows I will not be reviewing, because it has already caused me unspeakable pain. And finally, there is new show Dirty Sexy Money, which may have a great cast but, sight unseen, already feels like it's trying too hard.

NBC has the big debut of the night for me. No, not Deal Or No Deal. After that. It's Bionic Woman, my most anticipated new show of the season. I fear I've already built it up so much in my head, it's sure to disappoint me, but that's my problem, not yours. Side note: really, NBC, you feel like the best pairing for Bionic Woman is Deal Or No Deal? Not that other show about heroes, oh, what's it called... Heroes? I expect a scheduling switch within six weeks. And wrapping up the night we have Life, another new show, and one that I am not especially eager to see. But I will anyway.

So that's nothing at 8:00, Bionic Woman at 9:00, and taping Dirty Sexy Money while I watch Life at 10:00. Not one returning show I want to watch, and only one new show I expect to be watching after this week. That's not a very good Wednesday lineup.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Cane

Cane (CBS)

I don't watch soap operas, but if I did, I would watch Cane. It's got a phenomenal cast, a sleek, appealing look, a gorgeous setting in South Florida, and lots of sex, violence, and intrigue. Just what a soap needs!

The Duques are like the Ewings, but with sugar instead of oil. (Although a plot twist suggests their sugar fields will soon be valuable more as ingredients for ethanol, rather than their traditional use in rum, so maybe they're exactly like the Ewings.) The awesome Hector Elizondo is Pancho Duque, head of the clan, who discovers he's got less than a year to live; the magnificent Rita Moreno is his wife, Amalia. Nestor Carbonell (whom I've liked for ages, even before he started being in good stuff, like The Tick; I mean, I'm talking all the way back to Muscle, part of The WB's original lineup in 1995, which also featured a pre-Spin City pairing of Michael Boatman and Alan Ruck. But I digress), is Pancho's firstborn son, Frank. And Jimmy Smits is Alex Vega, Pancho's adopted son, and husband to Pancho's daughter (a little weird there). Pancho has just named Alex the new president and CEO of Duque Rum, which an enraged Frank considers a betrayal.

Meanwhile, the Duques' sugar competitors, the Samuels family, have designs on the Duque sugar fields. Polly Walker, who was scorchingly brilliant as Atia on Rome, is Ellis Samuels, who is secretly sleeping with Frank, hoping to gain control of the empire through sex. (Hey, it worked in Rome.) Lee Tergesen, so creepy in Oz, is her brother Lamont, equally creepy here. And Ken Howard, the ol' White Shadow himself, is their father, Joe Samuels, who will do anything to get that land. Thirty-five years ago, he had Pancho's three-year-old daughter kidnapped (and eventually killed) to force Pancho into selling his land for the ransom money. (How Pancho got the land back, I don't know.) Pancho is unaware Joe was behind the crime, but Alex knows, and is willing to resort to murder himself in order to protect his family and their interests.

So, yeah: a big, convoluted, spicy soap. And I haven't even touched on a dozen other important characters, or a dozen other plot threads. This is a well-made, well-acted, relatively well-written (as far as soapy dramas go), addictive program.

For somebody else. I said it at the beginning: I don't watch soaps. And the high quality of this one is not going to get me to change my mind. I just can't bring myself to get caught up in all the characters and the backstories and the double-crosses and the who's-sleeping-with-whos and so on. I don't have the patience, the interest, or really the capacity to care. I'm giving this a fairly high rating, because if you like this kind of thing, then this is the thing for you. But it's not for me.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Journeyman

Journeyman (NBC)

Journeyman is the story of San Francisco journalist Dan Vasser (Rome's Kevin McKidd), happily married to Katie (Gretchen Egolf) and father of a young son, who suddenly finds himself coming unstuck in time, and traveling back into his past. On his first trip back, Dan spies Livia (played by the double-vowel intense Moon Bloodgood), the former love of his life who has been dead for almost ten years, and feels old emotions beginning to resurface.

In the past, Dan also saves the life of a man trying to kill himself, named Neal Gaines. It begins to seem that there's some purpose behind his time-traveling, as on subsequent trips he keeps running across both Neal and Livia. Is he meant to change their lives for the better? Meanwhile, his trips are making his own life worse, as his family and friends despair over his disappearances.

I was surprised by how wrapped up in this show I got. The writing is sharp and involving, giving you just enough information without spelling everything out. For example, I love how everyone in Dan's life immediately suspects the worst when he first starts disappearing. His boss thinks it's gambling, his wife thinks drugs (she asks if he's hanging out with "Eddie" again, whom we never meet, but know must be bad news), and his cop brother Jack thinks he's having an affair (and when it's finally revealed Dan's wife Katie was dating Jack before Livia died, we know why Jack's so quick to jump to that conclusion). Clearly, Dan's life has gone through some dark turns in the past, which makes it even harder for anyone to accept his outlandish explanations.

And the story kept me guessing, with some clever twists throughout. I was thrown when it was eventually revealed that, despite his apparent purpose in meeting Neal, Dan's goal was not to save him -- it was to keep Neal from murdering his own son, who would go on to save many lives on his own. Didn't see that coming. Another fine twist comes when Dan runs across Livia in the past -- and then, at the same time, another, older version of Livia, and discovers that she never died in that plane crash, and seems to be on the same kind of time-traveling mission Dan is on.

The weakest part of the show is probably the actual moments in which Dan passes through time; they're accompanied by unnecessary flashes of light and big ripples in the air and a goofy "VOOOMP!" sound. The subtlety of the writing does not cross over to the FX department.

But just about everything else in the show worked for me. McKidd is a gifted actor (though a little too intense at times; he needs to bring it down a notch in some places, especially if he's going to live up to the character's alleged sense of humor), and the rest of the cast is fine; and the writing ably mixes drama, mystery, and romance. Plus, I love those San Francisco location shots! Makes me miss the City all over again. Hopefully the series lives up to the pilot. This doesn't quite reach flat-out greatness, but it's easily the best of the new shows I've seen so far.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Chuck

Chuck (NBC)

It's hard to describe exactly why the comedic spy series Chuck didn't work very well for me. I liked the star, Zachary Levi, as Kipp on Less Than Perfect, and I like him even more here, as the hapless Chuck, the Buy More "Nerd Herd" employee who accidentally gets every government secret downloaded into his brain. His sidekick, the even nerdier Morgan (Joshua Gomez), is very funny, a real scene-stealer. The CIA operative sent to retrieve the lost information, Sarah, played by the ridiculously beautiful Yvonne Strzechowski [EDITED to note that in the opening credits, she's billed as "Yvonne Strahovski," which I guess is the phonetic approximation of "Strzechowski"], is sweet and charming (if not tremendously believable as a lethal fighting machine), and she and Chuck have a very nice chemistry together. I even enjoyed the interactions between Chuck and his pushy but loving sister (the also ridiculously beautiful Sarah Lancaster) and her dopey boyfriend, whom Chuck calls "Captain Awesome."

It's a funny enough show. The interactions between Chuck and Morgan and the other Nerd Herders are particular highlights. The comedy even works during a couple of action sequences, such as the ninja attack in Chuck's apartment, during which Morgan keeps injuring Chuck while trying to fight the intruder.

But there's just something about the tone of the show that doesn't quite click. Most of the action scenes are staged poorly, and not very exciting or inventive (despite the efforts at the top of the episode to replicate the parkour-style stunts in the last James Bond movie). The NSA agent played by Adam Baldwin is introduced killing a CIA agent, which makes subsequent efforts to inject levity into his character (as when he goes undercover as a Buy More employee at the close of the show) flop. The unique premise of the show quickly resolves itself in the most conventional of fashions: clearly, each week Chuck will get a flash from the information in his head, and the CIA and NSA will help and/or hinder him in solving whatever dilemma he's become aware of.

And Chuck suffers most when its titular character is offscreen. Levi carries the show, and every minute spent away from him, behind the scenes with the government agents and agencies, is a wasted minute (well, except for the scenes in which Strzechowski is in her underwear -- twice in the first episode. Bravo!).

It all adds up to an overall "offness" in the tone. There's a disconnect between the serious and comedic that never quite resolves itself satisfactorily. I'd like to lay the blame at the feet of the director, McG, the hackmeister responsible for unleashing the reprehensible Charlie's Angels movies on the public, and frankly, some of it is his fault. The frenetic but unsatisfying action shots, certain poorly realized comedy bits -- those all smack of classic McG. But it goes a bit deeper than that, to the point where I'm hard-pressed to say exactly how, or even if, the show can be fixed.

But I liked the lead characters, and the moments of comedy that do work, enough to mildly recommend the show, and to stick with it myself, at least for a few more weeks. I hope it finds a way to get better, but honestly, I suspect it's more likely to fall into a rut it can't climb back out of.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Tuesday

"-dary!"

Yes! Barney finishes the "legendary" begun last season, and How I Met Your Mother is back in a big way. I love this show, and loved last night's episode. And I tell you what, that Mandy Moore is a little hottie. As Noel promised in the comments a couple posts ago, the mockery of Ted's facial hair was copious and hilarious, as was the mockery of his accidental tattoo -- or, more accurately, tramp stamp. I also got a huge kick out of Barney vowing once again, "This is so going in my blog!" And I especially loved the introduction into the show of SlapCountdown.com, which I've previously brought to your attention.

As for the rest of the night's viewing: I've already posted my thoughts on The Big Bang Theory; I've watched Chuck, and will review it in the morning; I'll watch Journeyman tomorrow, and hopefully review it by late afternoon; and I haven't watched Heroes yet, but I'm going to get to it as soon as I finish this post. I stay up late. I'm wild!!!

Let's take a look at the lineup for Tuesday of Premiere Week.

Tuesday night's going to be a little tricky for me, mainly because of ABC. I can, and will, skip the 90-minute Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately, I've become interested in Boston Legal again, due entirely to the addition of John Larroquette, who joins following yet another cast purge and replenishment. Man, this show has gone through more major characters than all of Shakespeare's plays put together. At any rate, tonight's fourth season debut is also 90 minutes, which means it's interfering with the 9:00 hour. I'll have to do some creative scheduling to work this out.

NBC makes things easy for me, with a two-hour episode of The Biggest Loser, followed by season nine of Law & Order: Sports Utility Vehicle. Skip!

Fox adds to the trickiness. Bones begins season three, and then House begins season four. There's nothing I care about up against Bones, so I might check that out, just to see if it draws me back in. But at 9:30, the second half of House will overlap the beginning half hour of Boston Legal, and I'd really like to see them both. I can tape Boston and watch House, but that still leaves some difficulty.

CBS begins with NCIS, which I've never seen and probably never will. Then The Unit's third season starts at 9:00. I caught a couple of episodes of this hard-boiled, action-packed military drama at the end of last season, and really liked it. I'm curious to find out how the cliffhanger is resolved. Sadly, I'm not going to have that opportunity. Oh, well. Chalk up another sacrifice to the gods of scheduling. At 10:00 is the debut of new show Cane, which I am obligated to watch, for the sake of this blog. I can watch it while taping Boston Legal.

That leaves The CW, where my real dilemma lies. At 8:00 is Beauty and the Geek, and to hell with that. But at 9:00 is Reaper, the one new CW show I might actually get into. Due to ABC's shenanigans, it's up against Boston Legal when it ordinarily would not be. So how do I tape Boston Legal, watch House, and still review Reaper? I don't. Not on Tuesday night, anyway. But it turns out The CW will be repeating the pilot episode of Reaper on Thursday night at 9:00. Surprisingly, that's an easier time slot for me to work around. So my viewing, and reviewing, of Reaper will be tardy, but it'll happen. Hooray!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Well, how about that. Imagine my surprise to find out this show actually isn't as horrible as the commercials made it look!

Possibly because of my lowered expectations, I wound up enjoying The Big Bang Theory a lot more than anticipated. The chemistry between the two leads is very funny and believable -- and I'm talking here about the two lead nerds, not the nerd and the blonde neighbor.

I've liked Johnny Galecki (as lead nerd Leonard) since his days on Roseanne, where he first began perfecting his sensitive nerd routine. I'm not familiar with Jim Parsons, who plays the other main nerd, Sheldon, but he's very funny here, as the kind of nerd whose heightened understanding of the universe leads to the uncontrollable blurting of uncomfortable truths to those less evolved (i.e. the blonde neighbor hung up on astrology), and whose comfort zone is easily violated (as when blonde neighbor sits in his seat). Galecki and Parsons have a nice back-and-forth between them, and while many of their jokes are clunkers, I laughed at a respectable percentage of them.

"Blonde neighbor" is Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco of 8 Simple Rules. She's the very pretty new tenant in the building who throws the nerds for a loop. As a comedic actress... she's very pretty. She's not awful, but she doesn't have much to do other than look pretty and react with adorable puzzlement to her new supergenius friends. I'm not confident that if she had more to do, she could do it, so perhaps this is for the best.

It's not a tremendously strong show. Starting the episode off in a sperm bank was a misstep, introducing the characters in an unusual and somewhat unseemly setting, already out of their element, when it would've been better to see them comfortable at first, perhaps at their work, and then forced out of their element by Penny's introduction (though I did laugh at the payoff later in the episode: when Penny asks what they do for fun, Sheldon replies, "Well, today we tried masturbating for money"). And the whole show is powerfully traditional (not in a flattering way) in terms of staging and punchline delivery -- though Galecki and Parsons offer some nice variations.

But I laughed at it several times, and I like the lead characters. Since I'll probably be watching the show anyway, considering its timeslot (right after How I Met Your Mother), it's good to see I won't be hating it, and that there's a chance it might develop into something genuinely worthwhile, rather than simply an amiable timekiller.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Monday

Hey folks. Good TV last night. I thought The Simpsons was sharper and funnier than it's been in a long time; Colbert was great, and the opening credits revision to reflect the aftermath of The Simpsons Movie was brilliant. King of the Hill also kicked ass; loved seeing Hank and crew's devotion to what I guess will forcibly become my second favorite college football team when I finally move to Austin. Hook 'em Horns! "Second favorite" because not even threat of torture (or Texas) can ever challenge my allegiance to the California Golden Bears. Who, by the way, are ranked #6 in the nation this week; Texas is #7. Go Cal!!!

And I really enjoyed the Family Guy Star Wars spoof. Especially the argument at the end between Peter and Chris, over the fact that Robot Chicken beat Family Guy by devoting a full episode to a Star Wars spoof several months ago. Chris, of course, is voiced by Seth Green, creator of Robot Chicken. It wouldn't be Family Guy, though, if several of the gags didn't go on for too long; that bit with the couch was endless. That's the Family Guy philosophy: if you don't laugh during the first minute of the joke, maybe you'll be worn down enough to laugh during the second minute.

Anywho, let's take a look at what we've got coming at us tonight, Monday of Premiere Week.

CBS gives us the return of How I Met Your Mother, which, honestly, I'm looking forward to even more than the return of Heroes. Love this show. It's got a couple big name guest stars, Mandy Moore and Enrique Iglesias, which is the kind of stunt casting I'm usually wary of. Iglesias really troubles me, but at least I know from past experience (Scrubs, Entourage, American Dreamz) that Moore is a fine and funny actress. The hell with those people, anyway, I just want to hear Barney finish the "legen-" he left hanging at the end of last season.

Next up is The Big Bang Theory, which I'm hoping isn't nearly as horrible as the commercials have been making it look. But I ain't betting money on it. The season premieres of Two and a Half Men and Rules of Engagement are next, and if there's a better sign of the sorry state of TV comedy than the fact that the awful Rules has not merely survived to a second season, it's thriving, I don't know what it is. And finally -- hey, CSI: Miami has now been on the air for six years! Isn't that sad?

ABC has 90 minute episodes of both Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor. Thanks for making things so easy for me, ABC.

NBC offers the new show Chuck, which I've already noted is one of the few newbies I'm still looking forward to. Hope it doesn't let me down too badly. As mentioned above, the other exciting return for me this night is Heroes, beginning its second season. Let's see if they've figured out how to avoid that Lost-style sophomore slump. And wrapping up the evening is the new Journeyman, which I am willing to like, but it's going to have to do better than what I've seen of it so far.

The CW is all repeats. Thanks for making things so easy for me, The CW! Not that I would've watched your shows even if they were new. No slight meant to Everybody Hates Chris, a good show I never really have the chance (nor, if I'm being honest, the desire) to watch.

Fox offers new episodes of Prison Break and K-Ville. And, following up on my post about that obnoxious Back To You promo, I've now noticed a promo for K-Ville which proclaims it the "#1 New Drama." God DAMN you, Fox, there is only one other new drama that has debuted so far, and it was the thrice-damned Gossip Girl. Wow, you placed in the top half out of a field of two!!! Whoopty-doo. And the other show is on The CW. Beating The CW is nothing to be proud of.

Idiots.

Expect reviews of Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, and Journeyman by Tuesday. (Maybe.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's also the #1 new show starring Kelsey Grammer

Quick note: I just saw a Fox promo boasting that Back To You is the "#1 New Comedy" of this season.

This makes my head hurt. Pardon me while I yell at Fox:

THAT'S BECAUSE NO OTHER COMEDIES HAVE PREMIERED YET!!!

Idiots. I hate TV.

Fall 2007 TV: Premiere Week, Sunday

Welcome to TV's Premiere Week! Sure, a few shows have already gotten an early start out of the gate -- a few awful shows. (You know who you are... Gossip Girl.) But tonight is when the real magic begins! If by magic you mean "slack-jawed, glass-eyed, brain-dead tube-watching." And I do!

I thought every day this week, I'd take a look at what some of the highlights and lowlights for the evening are going to be. So here's what's in store for you this Sunday.

No new series are debuting tonight. That's not true. CW Now and Online Nation are debuting at 7 PM on The CW. But I'm ignoring them. The CW's other new Sunday show, Life Is Wild, is being held until Oct. 7, and CBS's Viva Laughlin is four weeks away from premiering. And six weeks away from cancellation!

ABC, I think, makes the oddest choice of the majors by essentially opting out of tonight's competition. A repeat of Extreme Home Makeover or whatever it's called is followed not by new episodes of two of the network's most popular shows, but by recap episodes instead: Desperate Housewives: Secrets & Lies, and Brothers & Sisters: Family Album. And since these recaps have never aired before, they're being touted as "new" episodes in TV Guide. Pretty weak, ABC.

NBC's got Sunday Night Football. Dallas at Chicago. Should be pretty good.

CBS has the season premiere of 60 Minutes (oh boy oh boy oh boy, I can't wait to see what Andy Rooney got grumpy about over the summer!!!), followed by the season finale of the inexplicably popular summer game show Power of 10. Something about this show just irritates me. Probably because I'm so bad at it. "What percentage of Americans think Vin Diesel invented the Diesel engine?" My guess: uh, nobody? Because that's fucking stupid? Real answer: twenty-five percent, folks. Twenty-five percent. Yeah. I can't handle learning things like that. Also on CBS: new episodes of Cold Case, which I have never watched, and Shark, which I kind of liked for a while until I got a James Woods overdose. And there's no inoculation against a James Woods overdose.

The CW reruns Gossip Girl's pilot episode, in case you hate yourself, but didn't get a chance to punish yourself with the original airing on Wednesday. And yes, I will continue talking smack about this show without watching it for the foreseeable future. Also being rerun, America's Top Model, which, amazingly, is now in its ninth iteration. It's a double header for masochists!

And finally, the best of the night: the majority of Fox's animation block returns with new episodes, beginning with the 19th (!!!) season opener of The Simpsons. Stephen Colbert guest stars! Or guest voices. Whatever. Next up, King of the Hill, which is beginning its twelfth season. That's pretty spectacular. How many times has it gotten this close to being cancelled? And it's still around -- thankfully. Right now, this is the real gem in Fox's cartoon collection. Great, character-based humor, as opposed to the random gag machine The Simpsons has become. Speaking of which: Family Guy is next. And despite all the criticisms against it -- aimless, disconnected, crude, and so on -- which are all true -- I still like it. So there. Tonight is the special hour-long Star Wars spoof episode, which I'm actually excited about. The title of the episode is "Blue Harvest," which is already a nifty inside joke for Star Wars devotees: that was the fake title used to misdirect press and fans during filming of Return of the Jedi. Allow me to respond to myself on your behalf: NEEERRRRRRRRRDD!!!!!

Alternate, non-network programming: at 9 PM, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham has a new special on Comedy Central, called Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity. I actually kind of want to see this. Dunham can be pretty funny. Sadly, I'm not kidding. I'm lowbrow! And, for you MST3K fans, his act is the origin of the line, "He's a Woozle, and his name is Peanut."

I'm not proud of this one

Let's have a moment of silence for Marcel Marceau.

...

I'm sorry, that was way too cheap and easy. I hope a million other bloggers haven't already done the same joke.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: What I'm Watching

Some shows have gotten an early jump, but the majority of new network programming rolls out next week, beginning tomorrow. So I thought I'd take a look at what my likely viewing habits are going to be. I'm using the TV grid at Laurel's TV Picks for my research.

I'm pleasantly surprised to see there are very few conflicts, and absolutely no conflicts that can't be solved with a VCR; not one hour of the week has three shows I want to watch at the same time, which is a rarity these days. Is this because the networks are backing away from cutthroat scheduling, or is this because they don't have enough good shows to create that kind of conflict? Probably the latter.

MONDAYS

8:00
Minor conflict: How I Met Your Mother goes up against the new Chuck, which is one of only two or three yet-to-debut shows I'm expecting to like. The VCR should solve that. If push comes to shove, I'll take HIMYM.

9:00
Heroes wins. I've given up on Two and a Half Men, which I was briefly, shamefully hooked on, and nothing else holds the slightest interest.

10:00
Maybe Journeyman. We'll see how I like next week's premiere.

TUESDAYS

8:00
Nothing. I never really got into Bones, and ABC's two new sitcoms, Cavemen and Carpoolers, look to be horrible.

9:00
Possible conflict. House is on, and that's a take-it-or-leave-it show for me, but it's generally pretty good. New at this hour is The CW's Reaper, which is the only program on that network that holds the slightest interest for me. Who knows, though, I might hate it after one episode.

10:00
I think I've given up on Boston Legal. The new Cane has a decent cast, but I'm not really into soaps.

WEDNESDAYS

8:00
Pushing Daisies is one of those few new shows that look good to me. Nothing else of interest.

9:00
Even against strong competition, Bionic Woman would win by a mile. But here's what it's up against: Private Practice, Criminal Minds, Kitchen Nightmares, and Gossip Girl. I have never watched, and will never watch, an episode of any of those shows (that's right, I'm giving myself a pass on reviewing the Grey's Anatomy spinoff, which has already caused me such pain).

10:00
The only possibilities on the major networks are two new shows whose premises don't really grab me: Dirty Sexy Money and Life. I'm sure I'll be watching the new seasons of South Park and The Sarah Silverman Show instead.

THURSDAYS

8:00
My Name Is Earl and 30 Rock. Probably Ugly Betty on the VCR.

9:00
The Office and Scrubs.

10:00
Nothing on the networks. I'll be opting for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX.

FRIDAYS

8:00
Absolutely nothing.

9:00
I'll give new shows Women's Murder Club and Moonlight a chance, but they seem equally unlikely to grab me. Friday Night Lights is on; I've watched exactly one episode of that show, last season's finale. And you know what? It is damn good! But I don't really feel the urge to pick up on it now. Sorry, fans! So it'll probably be nothing for me at this hour.

10:00
Small chance I might try to get back into Men in Trees, which I liked for a while, but which lost me. Nothing else.

SATURDAYS

As usual, nothing but Saturday Night Live.

SUNDAYS

Fox's two-hour animation block will likely have my undivided attention. Viva Laughlin might be fun to check out, but I'm sure it'll be cancelled by Thanksgiving. Nothing else of interest for the night, unless there's a good Sunday Night Football game.



See, I don't watch that much TV! Right? Right??? Now excuse me, I have to go watch some TV.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Avatar: The Last Airbender

But I believe Aang can save the world.

This is too late to notify anyone who's not on the West Coast, but the third season of the excellent cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender debuts on Nickelodeon tonight at 8:30 -- which is less than half an hour from now!

Avatar is a fine series -- smart, funny, and action-packed, with an immense and well-defined world, complex and ever-developing characters, and a boatload of just-plain-coolness. I've praised it here before, and I know Johnny B for one will back me up. If you like animation, you'll like this show. Nick is sure to repeat tonight's episode several times over the next week. Check it out!

Fall 2007 TV: The Complete List

Here's the complete list of new shows debuting on the major networks this Fall, along with their scheduled premiere dates. I'll be adding a link to this list to the sidebar for easy reference, under "TOM'S FALL 2007 TV SEASON REVIEWS," to go along with the lists from 2005 and 2006.

For each network below, I've linked to my Unfair Previews of that network's lineup. Let's see if my snap judgments as to the overall awfulness of the Fall lineup were as accurate as I fear they were.

As I review each new show, I'll link to that review from this main list. You can see I've eliminated a few shows from consideration, either because they fall under reality programming, which I don't watch, or they look really, really frickin' awful, and even I have my limits (hint: Gossip Girl, Private Practice).

ABC

Big Shots -- Sept. 27
Carpoolers -- Oct. 2
Cavemen -- Oct. 2
Dirty Sexy Money -- Sept. 26
Private Practice -- Sept. 26 (no way in hell)
Pushing Daisies -- Oct. 3
Samantha Who? (formerly Sam I Am) -- Oct. 15
Women's Murder Club -- Oct. 12

CBS

The Big Bang Theory -- Sept. 24
Cane -- Sept. 25
Kid Nation -- Sept. 19 (no reality shows!)
Moonlight -- Sept. 28
Viva Laughlin -- Oct. 21

The CW

Aliens in America -- Oct. 11
CW Now -- Sept. 23 (I already vowed never to watch it)
Gossip Girl -- Sept. 19 (no way in hell)
Life Is Wild -- Oct. 7
Online Nation -- Sept. 23 (see CW Now)
Reaper -- Sept. 25

Fox

Back To You -- Sept. 19
Kitchen Nightmares -- Sept. 19 (no reality shows!)
K-Ville -- Sept. 17
Nashville -- Sept. 14 (no reality shows!)
New Amsterdam (postponed to midseason)
The Search for the Next Great American Band -- Oct. 19 (no reality shows!)

NBC

Bionic Woman -- Sept. 26
Chuck -- Sept. 24
Journeyman -- Sept. 24
Life -- Sept. 26

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: K-Ville

K-Ville (Fox)

During my Unfair Previews, I said that K-Ville was one of the few Fall shows that I thought held some promise. It's a buddy cop show, sure, but one set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and anchored by Anthony Anderson, who was so amazing on The Shield. I imagined the setting, the star, and Fox's track record of putting interesting spins on well-worn genres would elevate K-Ville above its "buddy cop" base.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. K-Ville doesn't even seem to aspire to be more than a buddy cop show, and a less-than-mediocre one at that. Sure, it's filmed on location in a still-devastated New Orleans, but rather than enhancing the drama or generating empathy and understanding for the plight of the locals, the setting seems tawdry and exploitative instead. "Gee, look at what a bummer it is to be here," is about all the show has to say about the situation, in between unimaginatively staged gun battles and car chases.

Anderson can't carry the show by himself, not that he'd have all that much to carry. While his partner, Cole Hauser, nearly matches Anderson's intensity, their head-butting/grudging respect routine is tired and lazy. (Though the twist on Hauser's character -- he's a prison escapee whose records were destroyed by Katrina -- is one I haven't seen before, I have to admit.) The rest of the supporting cast barely registers.

And the villainous plot in the debut episode, a convoluted revenge scheme involving buying up land from those who fled Katrina, out of spite for them, is simply preposterous. As is the bad guys' methods of intimidation: they stick a fire hose through Anderson's second story window and flood his house, thus terrifying his daughter, who, traumatized by Katrina, "cries whenever it rains." Forget the wild coincidence that the flooding is somehow the scariest possible thing the bad guys could've done to Anderson's daughter. I'm still trying to figure out how it's even possible to get a heavy fire hose attached to a hydrant up to a second story window while people are inside the house without anybody noticing.

I'm not against buddy cop shows in theory. In fact, I'd welcome a good one, since most cop shows these days are C.S.I.-type procedurals (and K-Ville does get off a good zinger directed at such shows). Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather see an exciting gun fight over a dramatic DNA examination. But the action scenes in K-Ville are as uninspired as the plot and characters. Coupled with the fact that shootings and car crashes played for entertainment in a city that already looks like a war zone is vaguely unseemly, if not just plain wrong.

If it felt like the crimes depicted were genuine attempts to examine the current lawlessness of the city, rather than absurd, writerly flights of fantasy, or if it felt like the main characters' emotions truly tapped into the deep loss and betrayal that was Katrina, rather than mostly scraping together character sketches from Katrina news footage and combining them with buddy cop prototypes... then I might be able to get behind this show. As it is, it's very disappointing. I might give it one more chance, just because Anderson is still a very charismatic presence, but I can't see it developing into anything worthwhile.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Fall 2007 TV: Back To You

Back To You (Fox)

Hoo boy. This was even worse than I imagined. And I was imagining pretty damn bad.

Kelsey Grammer plays a news anchor in L.A. whose accidental, profanity-laced on-air tirade gets him fired. He winds up back at the Pittsburgh station he'd left ten years before. It took me a while to catch on that it was only ten years ago: the show begins in a flashback to his last newscast in Pittsburgh, but I missed, like, the first two seconds of the show, in which they must've established the date. And in the flashback, everybody's wardrobe, as well as the news desk set, all indicate "1970s," not "late '90s." Hmm, a '70s look and accidental on-air profanity that leads to a firing. I have to imagine the show's creators wrote the pilot episode immediately after watching Anchorman. Maybe during.

Anywho. In Pittsburgh, Grammer is reunited with his former co-anchor, Patricia Heaton, still at the same job. Several of his other co-workers are also still there, including Fred Willard (who was actually in Anchorman) and Ty Burrell (who was pretty good in Dawn of the Dead and incredibly horrible in every other thing I've ever seen him in, including this), along with new faces, such as a Latina caricature and a fat nerd caricature who don't deserve to be mentioned by name.

Turns out, Grammer slept with Heaton the night he left Pittsburgh. Also turns out, she's got a ten-year-old daughter, of which Grammer is the father. Oh, joy, a child actress is going to be integral to this already criminally wasted (Willard) or untalented (everybody else) supporting cast. In all fairness, the child actress is actually better than everyone but Willard, Grammer, and Heaton.

Yes, Grammer and Heaton are decent enough. They have a tremendous amount of talent between them. But they're given nothing to do with that talent. They trade weak barbs, they make stupid innuendos. Grammer leers at younger women. Meanwhile, the fat nerd stammers and sweats, and the Latina acts like a whore. The humor level on this show is next to non-existent. Everybody keeps calling this a throwback to traditional sitcoms, but that's an insult to the great traditional sitcoms like Cheers, Barney Miller, Taxi, and Back To You's obvious predecessor, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. No, this is a throwback to bad traditional sitcoms. Fox desperately wants you to believe this is the new Frasier, or Everybody Loves Raymond, when it's really the new Single Guy.

Or perhaps even more accurately: it's the new Just Shoot Me, which was also created by Back To You's Steven Levitan. Like Just Shoot Me, it's an office sitcom packed with thinly-sketched stereotypes. And it also subscribes to the same drive-by school of hack comedy. Which is: two characters are having a conversation, one of whom makes an incredibly leading comment; a third character then swiftly enters from someplace offscreen, from which he couldn't have possibly heard the prior comment, nonetheless makes a bitchy and obvious one-line retort to the comment (disparaging the commenter's virtue, if the commenter is female, or the commenter's manhood, if male), and disappears offscreen, never breaking stride. The drive-by! That happens about half a dozen times in Back To You's pilot.

Unlike Just Shoot Me, however, Back To You will never last seven seasons. It'll be lucky to survive this one. Though, considering Fox renewed 'Til Death, which is now only the second worst sitcom on the network, and considering the vast amounts of money Fox must've pumped into this show, including the ubiquitous promos and the two leads' salaries, maybe Back To You will have some staying power after all, if only out of sheer stubbornness.

Rating: 3 out of 10 (based on the grading system I established at the conclusion of my Fall 2005 TV reviews)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall 2007 TV Reviews!

It's time for my Fall 2007 TV season reviews!

For the past couple years, I've made it my mission to review all (or as close as possible) of the new series premiering on network TV. This has been a horrible, horrible burden. But I do it for you!

Some of the new shows have already launched, so let's take a look.

Nashville (Fox): I don't watch reality shows.

Kid Nation (CBS): I don't watch reality shows.

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox): I don't watch reality shows.

Gossip Girl (The CW): Sight unseen, I can tell this is so god damnably contemptible that I refuse to even consider watching it.

Well, that was easy!

A couple of real reviews to follow soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Merv Griffin's Crosswords follow-up

Hey! Following up on my post about Merv Griffin's Crosswords: I got on the show! It taped today, and will air sometime in the future, probably at least two months down the line. They'll call me when it's going to air, and I'll let you know here.

Well, maybe I'll let you know. I'm not supposed to reveal the outcome, so let me try to put this in code for you: I'm not saying whether I won or lost, but what happened to me does not rhyme with, "I won." Say no more!

I'll tell you what: I had a blast being there, and having the experience. I'm honestly, and surprisingly, not all that disappointed. Everybody who works on the show was incredibly cool and friendly and the atmosphere was somehow simultaneously exciting and relaxing. It's an incredibly fun and challenging game, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. I wish I'd done better, but I'm not kicking myself over it. (As opposed to 1 Vs. 100; I still wake up in a cold sweat about once a week, screaming "Why didn't I pick answer C???" That will haunt me to the day I die.)

Anywho. I urge you to try out for the show, even if you're a little camera shy. The best thing about the show is that they don't waste a lot of time talking to the damn contestants, getting them to tell stories about their lives and whatnot. Here's how it works with the two opening round contestants: "This is Joe Schmoe, from Idaho. Joe, I hear you ran three marathons this year." "Yep, one in L.A., one in Oregon, and one in San Francisco." "All right, let's play the game!" Quick and easy. And the three "spoiler" contestants don't have to talk to the host at all!

And if you hate game shows these days because they're so damn slow, taking ten minutes to ask one question -- Crosswords is nothing like that. It's the fastest game show on TV, by a mile. Clue, answer, done. Clue, answer, done. Takes about ten seconds for each question. It's awesome. So be sure to tune in. Keep the show on TV until my episode airs!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan

Author Robert Jordan died yesterday.

Jordan, creator of the mammoth Wheel of Time series, was one of my favorite fantasy writers ever, right up there with Tolkien. But I haven't read a book by him in almost a decade. I decided when Book 8 of WoT was released, in 1998, that I was sick of his stalling -- Books 6 and 7 were meandering space-fillers, doing little to nothing to advance the plot that had been so exciting, or develop the characters that I had come to love so much. I decided I would wait until he finished the series once and for all, and then read the whole thing through from beginning to end, rather than absorbing one 800-page tome every couple years or so.

Well, I guess I can get started reading. The 12th, and allegedly final volume of WoT, was left unfinished. That saddens me, and angers me at the same time. A lot of frustrated readers will probably agree with me: Jordan could've wrapped this series up three or four books ago. Now we'll never get to see the ending -- the true ending, anyway; I'm sure someone will eventually finish the book for him, for better or worse.

Note to George R.R. Martin: get off your ass and finish A Song of Ice and Fire before the same thing happens to you!

Ah, well. Rest in peace, Robert Jordan. At least now I know what my reading project will be after I finish 2007's Kurt Vonnegut Project.

The 2007 Emmys Ceremony

Sadly, this will not be my traditional minute-by-minute recap. But I did take notes while watching the Emmys tonight, and I would like to share them with you now, at great length, losing my thread several times, until the orchestra drowns me out and we cut to commercial.

--The Family Guy opening number was funny enough, I thought, but cutting to (and zooming dramatically in on) T.R. Knight immediately after the Isaiah Washington/Kramer in blackface joke seemed like poorer taste on the part of the ceremony's director than the people behind the cartoon. Really, director? Did you expect him to smile and be mirthful at that moment? Way to start things out on an incredibly uncomfortable note.

--Speaking of uncomfortable, this is directly from my notes:

SEACREST + THEATER IN THE ROUND = DEATH
I'd still pick him over Whoopi any day, but then, I'd pick Ebola over Whoopi.

--Seacrest spends several full minutes explaining where people are sitting in the audience. Yes, we understand that the cast of Ugly Betty is all sitting together! Move along!!

--Again from my notes:

WAS RAY ROMANO CENSORED???
Yes, yes he was. As were several others throughout the night. I couldn't even tell what he said, since instead of muting the volume, as censors normally do for these kinds of broadcasts, they actually cut to a neutral camera in the ceiling, behind a decorative mirror ball, from which the stage couldn't even be seen. Overkill! Yahoo reports that Romano joked about "his former Everybody Loves Raymond wife, Patricia Heaton, sleeping with her new Back to You co-star Kelsey Grammer. But he used a stronger word than 'sleeping'." Wha?? Now, I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing a TV vet like Romano knows better than to say "fucking" during a live (tape-delayed to the West Coast) telecast. I'm guessing he actually said something far more innocuous, like "screwing." And for Fox, of all networks, to panic at that... well, just another sign of the huge backwards steps we've been making during this new Puritanical era.

--The first Emmy of the night, for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy, goes to Jeremy Piven. So, contrary to my predictions, he does indeed repeat. Things going contrary to my predictions would become a running theme of the night, to go along with the censorship.

--Another surprise in the Supporting Actor, Drama category: Terry O'Quinn wins for Lost, rather than Michael Imperioli for The Sopranos. The Sopranos weren't nearly the juggernaut I predicted they'd be. Oh well, it's not like O'Quinn was a bad choice. Not at all. Very cool, and good for him.

--Again from my notes:

SEACREST MAKES MY HATE RISE WITH EVERY WORD
--Another note, a moment later:

TINA FEY + JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS = SO HOT, SO FUNNY
I stand by that. Key quote: "Both of us have Emmys, and children, which we love equally."

--Jaime Pressly wins Supporting Actress, Comedy for My Name Is Earl. In my predictions, I said she had a solid chance. Too bad I didn't commit and pick her for the win. I'm an early 0-for-3.

--The ceremony's announcer introduces Katherine Heigl as "Katherine Hi-jull." I actually thought for a second: wow, I've been saying it wrong for so long. But then Heigl corrected the pronunciation onstage (it's a hard G: Hi-gull). Whew!

--Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie goes to Thomas Haden Church for Broken Trail. I was not wrong about the Broken Trail juggernaut. My first correct prediction!

--Supporting Actress, Drama goes to Katherine Heigl! So much for my Grey's Anatomy shutout prediction. She also gets censored! According to Yahoo, she "mouthed an expletive after winning." Just mouthed? Just the vision of her lips forming the word "shit" or "fuck" is enough now to destroy America? Guess you better stop showing Tiger Woods playing golf, 'cause that sumbitch curses all the time. Tiger Woods is destroying America!!

--Heigl says during her speech, "Even my mother told me I didn't have a shot in hell!" Gee, I wonder if some later award winner will pick up on that?

--Immediately afterward, Late Night with Conan O'Brien wins Best Writing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Program, and the head writer says, "I do have to thank Katherine Heigl's mother, who said we would win." Boy, that didn't take long at all!

--Best Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program goes to Tony Bennett: An American Classic. I think that's my second correct pick.

--Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie goes to Robert Duvall for Broken Trail. And apparently Robert Duvall has hit the point where he doesn't give a shit about what's going on outside his head, or even what the words coming out of his mouth are. He rambles, and rambles, and rambles some more. Seacrest has to tackle him and physically drag him from the stage. (Not really, but it's close.)

--The cast of Roots is honored in a touching fashion, on the 30th anniversary of the broadcast of that landmark miniseries. They then present the Best Miniseries award to Broken Trail, and Robert Duvall starts rambling AGAIN!! Holy crap, old man! Go bore your grandchildren instead!

--Best Director, Drama goes to The Sopranos. That brings me back up to a respectable .500 average for my predictions, 5-for-10 so far.

--Best Writing, Drama, also goes to The Sopranos. I talked myself out of picking them for this category because they had three nominations in it. I should've stuck with it; I should've known the last episode of the series would get a nod. However, I clearly should've picked against them in every acting category; they didn't win a damn thing there.

--Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series goes to The Daily Show again. I jumped the gun on The Colbert Report. This was not its year, not quite yet. It won nothing, sadly. Well, I said it had a 50-50 chance of winning everything or getting shut out! I just picked the wrong 50.

--Best Variety, Music Or Comedy Special goes to Tony Bennett: An American Classic again. Tony Bennett is a juggernaut.

--Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie goes to Judy Davis. Hey, I said she was always a strong pick. I just didn't expect her to win for crap like The Starter Wife. My mistake.

--Best Made for Television Movie is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Brad Garrett would later make a joke that he and his co-star/co-presenter Joely Fisher were going to make a movie called "Bury My Head Between Your Knees." And that doesn't get censored? Now, don't think I'm coming down on the side of the censors. I don't find the words especially offensive -- just the image now stuck in my head. God damn you, Brad Garrett!!

--Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie goes to Helen Mirren for Prime Suspect. She says she's going to keep talking until the music cuts her off, and then, when it doesn't, she actually says, "Come on, music! I'm going on and on!" Awesomely refreshing. She should have a chat with Robert Duvall. After dropping off for a bit, I'm back at .500, 8-for-16. (I think. I'm not paying very close attention.)

--Here's a strange moment: Lewis Black does a two-minute comedy bit, but then leaves without actually presenting an award. That never happens! Even the Jersey Boys song and dance number earlier in the show seems normal compared to that.

--Best Directing and Best Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special go to Prime Suspect. That surprises the heck out of me. So much for Broken Trail. Still, it spares us from more Duvall, so huzzah!

--There's some nonsense with Al Gore and some internet TV channel at about this point that I choose to ignore.

--Best Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program goes to Tony Bennett. Too bad, Stephen Colbert! Bennett comes out and does his best Robert Duvall; he begins by thanking Target, his show's sponsor. Aye-yi-yi.

--Elaine Stritch (winner of an Emmy for her guest appearance on 30 Rock), while engaging in banter before presenting an award, loses her place. She snaps, "I'm not faking this -- I really don't know what the hell I'm doing!" I kind of love her for that.

--Best Directing, Comedy goes to... Ugly Betty? Really? I did not see that coming. I don't think it's outrageously wrong or anything, just surprising. In fact, so far, the Emmys have been gentle on my heart condition -- there haven't been any awards where I've really been angered or devastated. Anywho, I'm stuck at eight correct picks, 8-for-20 now.

--Best Writing, Comedy goes to the "Gay Witch Hunt" episode of The Office. Hey, I called it! Although, watching the clips, I think I'd have gone with one of the 30 Rocks if I'd been voting. Poor 30 Rock, it's just not going to win anything tonight, is it? <--Ironic foreshadowing

--Wayne Brady, Kanye West, and Rainn Wilson do a ridiculous Don't Forget the Lyrics skit, wherein Kanye loses to Rainn because he gets his own lyrics wrong. Instead of "ya," he sings "you." Dumb as it is, it's worth it just for Brady's line: "You picked a bad time to speak properly."

--Best Reality Competition goes to The Amazing Race for the fifth year in a row. It has now won literally every single year the award has existed. If I were you, Dancing With the Stars, I would just stay the fuck home next year.

--Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart do a decently funny extended comedy routine about the "green" Emmys, then give Best Lead Actor in a Comedy to... Ricky Gervais?? WOW. I'm sorry, but that has to be considered a huge upset, over Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell. It's pretty awesome, but it's shocking. But the real awesomeness occurs when it becomes clear Gervais is not present to accept the award. Stewart says, "Ricky Gervais could not be here tonight. Instead we're going to give this to our friend, Steve Carell." And Carell, instantly committing to the joke, races to the stage, and the three of them jump and frolic and scream with delight. I couldn't stop laughing for ages. That's one of the best awards moments ever. Seriously, find it on YouTube as soon as it gets posted. SO GREAT.

--Lead Actress, Drama goes to Sally Field. And she gets censored, too! At least this time, I could tell why: she said something along the lines of, "If mothers ran the world, there wouldn't be this god-da[CENSORED]." I'm going to take a wild guess and say she was speaking out against the war. It's a shame that such a namby-pamby curse as "god-damned" got her anti-war sentiments dumped -- but then, it was being broadcast on a Rupert "Fox News" Murdoch channel, after all; maybe it was the anti-war sentiments and not the curse that got her cut. Conspiracy!

--And now we come to the Who Croaked This Year? salute. Applaud for your favorite dead entertainer! The applause is muted throughout, but a few people trigger solid responses. Calvert DeForest, aka Larry "Bud" Melman, gets the first significant ovation, over industry vets such as Joseph Barbera, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Sidney Sheldon. Wow. Steve Irwin also gets some recognition, as does Joel Siegel, and it gets even louder for Peter Boyle. Charles Nelson Reilly gets some decent applause, which is nice, as do Jack Palance, Tom Poston, Ed Bradley, and Luciano Pavarotti. And finally, we have -- Merv Griffin. MERV GRIFFIN! MERV GRIFFIN!!! Merv Griffin is the most popular dead entertainer at the 2007 Emmys!

--And, as always, while going to commercial afterward, rather than hearing the announcer tell us which celebrities will be appearing next, we simply fade to black. Because we're so somber and mournful.

--We're in the home stretch! America Ferrera wins for Best Actress, Comedy. So that's two for Ugly Betty I was not anticipating. I've got nothing against this win; I like her, and I like her show. Ah, how nice it is, to have an Emmys ceremony where nothing enrages me. <--Ironic foreshadowing

--And now we have Best Actor, Drama. This one is such a slamdunk, I'm already writing the name in my notes before they announce it. James Gandolfini, of course! How could he not win? How could he be denied this crowning acknowledgement of his brilliance as Tony Soprano? So I write James... and then something goes terribly, terribly wrong. Here, look at my notes:

Serious horseshit.

Horseshit, indeed. I thought the fact that William Shatner failed to win his third Emmy earlier was a sign that the Television Academy was beginning to recognize the rot at the core of Boston Legal. But it turns out: not so, not so. Inexplicably, the Academy still wants to honor the ridiculous, hammy performances in what has become a trainwreck of a show. Dumbest mistake of the night.

--Followed by the sharpest, most insightful, decision: Best Comedy goes to 30 Rock! Amazing. I'd thought after Alec Baldwin lost Best Actor, it didn't have a shot. But they pulled out a miraculous, and possibly series-saving, win (as Tina Fey quips in her speech, she would like to thank "our dozens and dozens of viewers"). What fantastic recognition for what may very well have been the best comedy of last year (the second half of its season, I have to say, edged out The Office in overall quality). Then again, Arrested Development also won Best Comedy against all odds, and look what happened to it.

--Best Drama goes to The Sopranos, and how could it not?

And it's over. Ryan Seacrest stayed out of sight enough that I didn't have to hurl a beer bottle through the TV screen, and only one really painfully stupid upset occurred, so overall, this was not the disaster it could've been.

By the way, if my count is correct, my predictions went a miserable 11-for-28. I used to be so good at this! I can't even say I need to cut out the minor categories, since I picked up a lot of points there, and did so poorly in the majors.

Sorry I couldn't entertain you with constant liveblogging updates, but I hope this suffices instead. Good night!

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