"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eurkea: Maneater

The core plot of "Maneater" is something I've seen before. It's a Sci Fi device that has been used on Buffy, possibly on SG-1 and other shows as well. While Eureka is usually pretty good at taking a well worn device and making it all shiny again, that's not quite the case here. Nor is the episode totally salvaged by the progression of various character stories. This is a serviceable episode, but suffers from enough flaws to be what is probably the weakest of the season.

It's nice to see Taggert again, and Matt Frewer seems to have toned down his performance (and accent) just a notch so he doesn't clash as much as he did in previous episodes. There are two ideas at work here. One is that the town works on a kind of biological principle in terms of climate control, plumbing and other essential functions - and is now out of wack. The other is that Carter has somehow heightened his pheromones, making him unnaturally attractive to women. While this leads to some interesting scenes, particularly when Jo can't resist Carter, overall this plot never really reaches critical mass. The same can be said about the town's "biology" going crazy. Neither story ever really kicks into gear. And while the editing and music tries to convince me it's an exciting climax, filtering out the spores just doesn't really have the impact that was intended.

There's some progress here in the story of Kevin and the Artifact. The big development centers on Stark's efforts to keep Henry away from the Artifact in order to protect Kevin. This of course frustrates Henry's efforts to find out how Beverly was involved with Kim's death. There's a moment between Henry and Stark that leaves open the distinct possibility that a confrontation between the two men is coming.

Carter has a nice moment with Callie, and Jo moves along with Zane. However, even these moments seem to fall a bit short for relationships this late in the season. Zoe isn't in this episode. Beverly hasn't been on the show for most of the season, and at this point all of the setup for the Artifact and "The Consortium" seems to have been abandoned. It's likely that these plot elements will show up again in the finale, but it's a letdown that these elements have been left out for so many episodes.

This isn't a bad episode of television, and has some funny and charming moments (as every episode of Eureka does), but it's one of the show's weaker efforts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

DVD Review: Guess Who

With autumn settling in and the sun going down around 7pm, it's my favorite time of the year to catch up on all the DVD movies I have been meaning to watch.

Tonight I watched "Guess Who", which is a comic remake of the 1967 classic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." This time,the story is in the reverse as a Caucasian (Ashton Kutcher) wants to marry a black girl. Bernie Mac steals the movie as the girl's father.

Due to the story line, the sequences in the film become highly predictable. The Jones' are having a party and are renewing their vows, and also are meeting their eldest daughter's boyfriend for the first time. Percy Jones is a very aggressive type of father who dearly loves his daughter and wants the best for her. He wants to make sure that her boyfriend can offer her security and happiness for her future. There is just one thing though, Percy Jones does not know that his daughter's intended is white.

It starts off really well when the two main cast first meet, and with the added racial tension it is very funny. In the first 45 minutes it is a joy to watch with some genuine laugh out loud moments. For example:
  • the dinner scene, with racist jokes
  • the back massage
  • sharing the bed
  • and the multi-cultural songs playing in the car

But then the film starts to falter very fast with all the usual bonding and schmaltzy stuff, and predictably it all ends happily. It seems that the director knew what to do with all the race jokes and the awkward 'dad meeting' but ran out of ideas half way through.

The leads are very good especially Mac, who has all the best lines and steals the show from any one else. Ashton Kuetcher has a good haircut and looks like a nice clean cut male, not the long haired goof-ball I usually see. It's just that this movie was done so much better in 2000 with 'Meet The Parents' and will be forever compared to this.

Not a bad movie by all means. It's just a case of 'been there, seen that'.

Monday, October 29, 2007

K-Ville: Pilot

K-Ville billed itself as a "ground-breaking" drama, based on the fact that it is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Anthony Anderson stars as Marlin Boulet, a cop who works the "Upper Ninth Ward," the area that was one of the hardest hit by the flooding. He believes passionately, perhaps more than anyone around him, that it's the citizens of New Orleans duty to fight to rebuild their city.

The premise, the intentions and some of the performances in K-Ville have promise, but the pilot works pretty hard to squander as much of that potential as possible. Where K-Ville really goes wrong is in its adherence to all of the typical cop show clichés that have come and gone over the years. Boulet's first partner, Charlie, abandoned him when the storm hit and so he doesn't play well with others. Now he gets a new partner, Trevor Cobb, played by Cole Hauser.

It's never quite clear what kind of cops Boulet and Cobb are. They were blues, but apparently do the work of detectives as well. It's typical of a sloppy cop show - the "super cop" who just kind of does it all. While this decision was employed for dramatic convenience, the result is a lot of trite, silly moments that are unintentionally funny. Boulet and Cobb work a charity function, which gets shot up - leading to a high speed chase. The next day, there's another charity function - with no increased security of any note - another shooting and your typical running with guns scene. It doesn't help that all of the action is sloppily directed and lacks and real excitement or tension. T

The real shame here is that a good cast is being wasted. Anthony Anderson proved he could hold his own with dramatic material and he has several nice moments here. Unfortunately he's not well served by a bad script filled with groan-inducing dialogue and the kind of plot that you'd expect from The A-Team, and not a 21st century drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

The style of the show seems to be a bad impression of NYPD Blue, using the muted colors and now-required shaky-cam that tries to evoke a fly-on-the-wall documentary style. That may have worked if Anthony Anderson didn't have to say things like "Gumbo, man. It's what I do when I need to think!" See! I know it's New Orleans because he said gumbo! The rest of the police station is barely introduced, let alone fleshed out into full characters. The woman whose murder sparks the pilot's story is supposedly someone close to Boulet, but she is also given short shrift, leaving the audience wondering what the big deal is for an entire episode.

In the past, there have been good shows that have had bad pilots. Sometimes it just takes some time for a show to find its true voice. I'm hoping that happens with K-Ville, because the cast does a decent job and there's plenty of material here. Unfortunately, as it stands, K-Ville is a sub-standard and cliched cop show that's wrapping itself in social self-importance in the hopes that nobody will notice just how bad it is.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Prison Break: Orientacion

Can Prison Break be reinvented yet again - without feeling a little stale? The thought of the main characters returning to a prison setting definitely sounds appealing at first, but would I be subjected to a rehash of the first season? After the mixed reaction to season two's somewhat implausible rollercoaster storyline, will the forced confinement of a jail setting inject some much needed reality back into this drama? If the season premiere is any indicator, fans shouldn't worry - Prison Break is back, and this has the potential to be the most exciting year yet for Michael Scofield and friends.

The first thing I noticed about the Panamanian prison setting is how different it is from Fox River. Visually, Sona is a brighter locale with a much more "earthy" feel compared to the dark and bleak concrete jungle of the prison from the first season. There's much more sunlight, and you definitely get the impression that Sona is a hot and dry place. However, Sona is no vacation spot, and is a far more treacherous place than Fox River was.

The fact that there are no guards within the prison walls seems chaotic at first, but you soon realize that the idea of the "inmates running the asylum" kind of works here. There's an obvious hierarchy and some rules that guide the prisoners, all dictated by an inmate named Lechero. Lechero and his cronies control everything that happens within the prison walls. He controls access to food, water, and even clothing. He makes sure that the bottom dwellers do their job in keeping the toilets clean, and that those who are worthy of food are actually fed. To make life worse for our protagonist, Lechero knows of Scofield's antics and his superstar status; and he doesn't like it. He feels that Scofield is a threat and wants to put him in his place - by setting him up for a fight to the death with a much larger and stronger inmate.

Several other key members of the second season cast are also stuck in Sona. The troubled but brilliant former FBI Agent Alex Mahone is there as well. While it might seem natural that the two geniuses would work together, there's the little issue of Scofield having a problem with Mahone killing his father. While it's definitely in Mahone's interest to make peace with Scofield, this collaboration most probably won't be happening anytime soon.

Also in Sona are the easy to dislike Bellick and T-Bag. Bellick looks absolutely miserable and is left bloodied, nearly naked, and is forced to clean toilets. Despite his ragged conditions, it's hard to feel sorry for him. T-Bag, on the other hand, manages to win favor with Lechero and become one of his cronies. Bagwell always manages to impress with his tenacity and ability to adapt and survive, and he's as deliciously slimy as ever in this episode.

Lincoln's on the outside trying to get his brother out of prison through legal means; which means he gets to run around Panama talking to people in embassies. It doesn't seem like the most appealing role for Lincoln, and could potentially become as boring and unproductive as the Veronica storyline from the first season. Hopefully the writers will find a way for Linc to get his hands more dirty and play a more active role in actually helping Scofield break out.

One of the points not touched on here is character motivation. Scofield needs a reason to escape other than simple freedom. The writers have come up with a predictable, but serviceable reason for motivating Scofield to take action, which is revealed by the end of the episode.Overall there's much to like here, and there's definitely a lot of potential to make this another exciting action-packed season for Prison Break fans.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mad Men: Shoot

I have mentioned that I thought that one of the themes of this show is freedom, and I think in the opening scene of this week's episode solidifies that a little bit more. It's a shot of the neighbors prized birds flying off from the coop, though they return when he has food in his hand. I get that feeling that all the characters are looking for that freedom, or at least a change. Betty wants to go back to modeling, Don might want a new job, and Pete wants Peggy. Maybe. Kinda.

Jim Hobart from McCann Erickson wants Don to come work for them. They're bigger, getting more impressive accounts than Sterling Cooper (Coke, Pan Am, etc), and can promise him a great future. Hobart also offers Betty a modeling job on a Coke shoot, saying she looks like Grace Kelly. January Jones does look like Kelly, actually. He gives her his card, and she tells Don about it on the ride home. At first I thought he was going to be all 1960 manly with her, but he seems
slightly supportive of the idea.

Betty goes to the shrink and he tells her that she's angry at her mom (her mom used to hate her modeling and called her a prostitute). She gets pissed at him for this but you can tell she kinda believes it too, even if she does miss her.

At the office, the gang watches a film clip of Jackie O speaking Spanish, and they panic. What does this mean for the Nixon campaign? Pete comes up with the idea (without Don's approval) of running a ton of Secor Laxative ads in Illinois. At first I had no idea how this would help Nixon, but later when Roger and Cooper actually congratulate Pete on the idea (it's all laxative and Nixon ads in Illinois, so Kennedy will be stuck doing radio spots) I get it. Don is ticked that Pete didn't run the idea past him first.

It's interesting to note that Don makes $30,000 a year. I believe that it was revealed in an earlier episode that Pete makes $3500. Pete says something in this episode about "Don isn't worth 10 times what I'm worth," and I tend to agree. Though I guess we haven't seen what Don has done for the company before the show started. After intercepting a gift of golf clubs from Hobart, Roger tells Don that he shouldn't leave. For one thing, he'll never be able to fire clients at McCann Erickson, because they have stockholders to answer to. Second, he might not be doing the type of ads he thinks he will be. And third, he thinks this is personal, not business for some reason.

I like how this show is using real names for companies and products: McCann Erickson, BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Pan Am, Coca-Cola. It brings a heavy does of realism and retro-coolness to the show.

There's a running joke in this episode about Peggy's figure. It does seem she's getting, um, chunkier as the show progresses (Joan: "You're hiding a very attractive girl with too much lunch"). Pete joins in (what is this, 5th grade?) until Ken goes a little overboard, calling Peggy a "lobster" (all the meat's in the tail). He punches Ken and causes a brawl in the office. They shake hands, but it's baffling that no one really presses Pete as to why he punched Ken in the first place.

Back to the birds: the neighbor is showing the Draper kids how the birds come back for food when the Draper dog leaps into the air and chomps on one of them. I don't know what the symbolism is here...come back home and get in trouble? Try to be free and you'll get bitten on the ass? The neighbor tells the kids that if the dog is ever in the yard again he'll shoot it.

It turns out that Hobart only hired Betty to help his strategy of trying to get Don to come to McCann. He even tells Don this. Betty is let go (though told it's for other reasons). At home, she tells Don that she just doesn't want to be a model again, running around Manhattan with her portfolio like a young girl. Don says he understands but she could have done it if she wanted to. Interesting dynamic between Don and Betty, almost as if they have a more balanced marriage than in earlier episodes.

Don decides to stay with Sterling Cooper but not for the money, though he does insist on $45,000 and no contract. He wants to be able to leave at any moment to follow "do something else" while he still can (freedom again?). If and when he does leave, it won't be for more advertising.

Betty has had enough of the neighbor and the birds and what the birds represent too, especially after a day of cooking, doing laundry, and just sitting around the house smoking. In one of the great images on any show in quite some time, she stands outside with a BB gun, cigarette hanging out of her mouth, shooting at the birds in the sky, as the neighbor freaks out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rescue Me: Yaz

Initially, I really thought it was the end. Especially with the way it started. Tommy was drinking, womanizing just as he always had. Then he started day-dreaming. Remembering 9/11. Speaking to Jimmy one last time. Connor's accident. Johnny's funeral. All these defining moments popped into Tommy's head and for a brief moment, it felt like a series that was wrapping itself up and moving on.

Nope. All in Tommy's head. The only thing he was drinking was a soda... but it was all in his head. So for those who speculated that Tommy had been in a coma all season since the beach house fire, there was still hope. There was even that weird scene where he implanted himself into that guy's story at the AA meeting, having sex while Sheila and Janet watched. But, again... all in his head. So squash the coma idea too. The only thing that seems to be holding true is what Feinberg has been preaching for a few weeks now -- Tommy might just be plain 'ol nuts.

Well for someone who's potentially nuts, he seems to be alright. He's calm, collected, and has a grip on his drinking problem. He knows that he wants Janet back, but he'll apparently settle for Valerie instead. Granted, going into fires while wearing Jimmy's old coat still reeks of insanity, but I'm starting to think that his reasons were less self-serving and more about the memory of Jimmy. He never sees Jimmy anymore and as a result, I've sort of forgotten about him. So what about the people that never saw him at all? By "becoming Jimmy's ghost," Tommy is just keeping the candle burning in his own twisted way.

I think one of the things I liked best about this episode was how it presented this idea of stability as a function of living your life to the fullest. It culminated with Tommy's dad dying at the baseball game (everyone should have seen that one coming), while everyone else sort of found this peace in their own lives. Lou coming clean with Cousin Mike. Maggie and Sean calling it quits for good. Franco giving Natalie space and helping Richie fulfill his dreams. Janet moving on with her new boyfriend. Colleen getting back in the game with Bart.

The only person not making progress? Sheila. She found the coat, and if you ask me, put two and two together. She knows it was Tommy, especially after reading Jimmy's note to Connor. Why was she still crying? Not because she hadn't seen Jimmy's ghost, but because now she knows she never will.

So after all that, do they have enough to pull off a fifth season? I say yes, but only if it's the final one. The episode set up the need for closure in Tommy's life and now that story remains the only one left to tell. If not, it'll be a lot more of one thing I saw in this finale: Tommy on top of an elevator, going up and down, but not really making any progress.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Damages: We Are Not Animals

Structurally, this episode felt different. I had a hard time more than once, trying to determine where I was in "time." Some of the flashbacks lacked that bronze "antique" look and it caused confusion. Was it the actual flashback or was it something from Ellen's recollection to Hollis Nye? Normally there's three sets of time periods in the show. Obviously, the present -- Ellen sitting in an interrogation room. Then on top of that, there are two levels of flashbacks. There's the bulk of the episode, which covers everything that happened. But there's also that set of flashbacks that only encompass David's murder, Ellen's attack, the cops and their investigation, and Ellen's arrest. The two sets of flashbacks seemed to blur a little in this episode and that's where my confusion stemmed from... OK, moving on.

So what did I find out? Most of it was obvious or at least alluded to in a previous episode. Gregory Malina is the lynch pin to this case. OK, I knew that. While many speculated (myself included) that his cover-up was related to some kind of sexual involvement with Ray Fiske, I did not get any confirmation of that. Granted, Ray seemed emotionally torn up that Gregory's life has been destroyed but that could be his Southern charm kicking in. Here's to hoping that Ray turns out to be the "wealthy patron" who paid for Greg's trip down to Florida. Would the restaurant owner that Greg worked for recognize Ray?

Beyond that, the big puzzle pieces (if you can call them that) came out in the present tense as Ellen and Hollis spoke. I now know that the attacker was an unknown. Ellen didn't recognize him. Patty was out of town, Ellen had fought with David, and she spent the night at Patty's place. So, who was the attacker intending to kill? Was he there for Patty? Or had Patty hired him to kill Ellen? That might be a stretch but I do think he was there for Ellen. He beat Ellen's location out of David first, then went looking for his actual target. It'd actually be interesting to find out that David's murder and Ellen's attack were unrelated... although, even as I type that, it sounds like an easy out. Maybe not.
The biggest surprise of the episode? Ellen and Tom aren't as buddy-buddy as we thought. Patty played them against each other and it seems like it worked. No matter what, Tom can't help but be loyal to Patty. If that means lying to Ellen and betraying Ellen's trust, oh well. I loved the end of the episode, present tense. Ellen isn't stupid. She knows that Tom is "full of shit." He knows something. With Patty out of town, wherever she is, it wouldn't surprise me if Tom was the one who orchestrated the clean-up at Patty's place. The whole season, I've had an idea about Tom's true nature. Now I've seen it in action. He's the ultimate "yes man."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Closer: Til Death Do Us Part, Part II

The Closer brought season three to a close with an episode that delivered a fantastic conclusion to the last episode's cliffhanger. At the end of that episode, after thinking she had her suspect backed into a corner in court, Brenda was blindsided by the arrival of the alibi witness she didn't think existed. Part two of "Till Death Do Us Part" focused on Priority Homicide's mission to uncover the truth behind the mysterious Topper Barnes, as well as delving deeper into the issue of Fritz keeping his two DUIs a secret for so long.

As the episode began, I was cleverly reminded of what occurred last week via numerous news programs reporting on the progress of the trial. Larry King was even thrown in for a great touch a reality. All the key ingredients were pointed out: the dead divorce attorney, the drugs found in his system, the black car witnessed at the scene and the sudden arrival of Topper Barnes. Turns out Jonathan Schafer, the man on trial, wasn't completely truthfully with Brenda regarding his alibi. Topper's actually name is Eugene, and the boat they claimed to be fishing on was "Sugar Plum," not the "Super Plum" the squad had been looking for.

Brenda's interrogation of Eugene "Topper" Barnes was very entertaining. At first, Topper wasn't very cooperative, but Brenda slyly convinced him to answer her questions using her knowledge of his past criminal activity. Most enjoyable was watching DA Garnett attempt to control the interview by directing questions to Brenda through an earpiece. Brenda, of course, couldn't stand the man's impatience and was quick to rid herself of the auditory nuisance.

Though the interrogation was supposed to find a hole in the alibi, it instead produced footage of the men on said fishing trip. It was later established the footage was in fact filmed on the weekend of the murder. But as the case was falling apart, Brenda and her team refused to give up.
In a rare pairing for the show, I got to see Brenda team up with Lieutenant Daniels (who's been criminally absent most of this season) to follow some financial leads. Their path of investigation took them to Schafer's secret second home, which housed room after room of marijuana plants. At this point, the big picture started to come together. Schafer's pot house was discovered by his wife's divorce lawyer and the threat of his dealings coming to light led to the murder.

But what of that perfect alibi? How could Schafer be found guilty when he was clearly out to sea the weekend of the incident? I couldn't figure it out, but Brenda had all the answers.In another great interrogation scene, Brenda pulled out all the stops to get Schafer's wife to confess to being a part of the conspiracy to murder the divorce lawyer. Brenda even had the couple's daughter brought in to essentially wave in front of Mrs. Schafer's face as a reason to avoid the death penalty and testify against her husband.

These intense scenes bringing each case to a close are one of the major reasons I love tuning in to The Closer and I'm happy the finale gave me one of the season's best.Brenda also confronted Fritz about the fact he kept his DUIs a secret from her, prompting a fierce argument between the two characters. Fritz admitted to his alcoholism, but was set off by Brenda accusing him of being dishonest. It was great to watch their fight. Not only did they both make great arguments (I loved seeing Fritz calling out Brenda for her own dishonest behavior), but it was also the most passion I've seen from this couple in quite a long time. The entire issue may have been too quickly breezed over, with everything forgiven at episode's end, but it was worth it to see a little fire in Fritz's eyes.

Though there was no murder room shoot-out season ending cliffhanger like last year, this solid episode (solid two-parter, really) was a perfect way to end a season that delivered consistently entertaining television all summer long.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mad Men: The Hobo Code

So Don gets stoned ("I feel like Dorothy, and everything just turned to color" - must have been his first time) with Midge and her hip beatnik friends and has a flashback of meeting a hobo when he was a kid. That was just one of the revealing moments in this episode, which was really about parties. Midge throws a party with her friends, and Don shows up smokes weed with them. Peggy and the girls and the guys from the office go to P.J. Clarke's to dance and drink (Pete goes too, the hell with helping his wife move into the new apartment), and Sal meets Elliot, one of the sales reps for the lipstick company, at a bar. Elliot makes a play for him (yes, my instincts were correct), but Sal is too scared to do anything about it and just leaves after several drinks.

The more I think about this show the more I think its all about freedom and truth. This episode was just so jam-packed with unhappy people: Sal being unhappy living the lie he has lived in his life, Don unhappy with his marriage and wanting to go to Paris with Midge, and Pete unhappy with his marriage and doing it with Peggy on the sofa in his office. Note to Pete: if you're going to close the door to your office so you can get it on with your boss' secretary, make sure you have some sort of curtain or lighting so a giant shadow doesn't clearly show what you're doing to the outside.

Speaking of Peggy, what the heckl is wrong with her? Maybe it's just my fault for assuming that she's going to be the sweet, innocent, nice one to root for. But she's really messed up. Remember last week when she was turned on by Pete's bizarre hunting story? And then she went and got some giant pastry like she had never eaten before (pregnant maybe?). This week she acts as if she really wants things, namely her work approved and lots of sex, and not necessarily in that order. Her copy is a hit with the lipstick company (after some sharp work by Don to convince the company to go with Sterling Cooper), and that's great (even Don let her drink with the guys), I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to think about Peggy and her relationship with Pete. Romeo and Juliet or something creepy and temporary? She tells him at one point "you're not alone in this," meaning his loneliness and dislike of his marriage. Oooooooookay. At P.J. Clarke's, Peggy tries to get him to dance but he tells her "I don't like you like this" and leaves.

Some of my favorite scenes in this episode surrounded the goings-on in that closet where the switchboard operators work. The new one, Lois, likes to listen in on Sal's phone calls from his mom (he still lives at home...cough). She finds him handsome and debonair (I think it's his slick hair and the way he holds his cigarette). Boy, is she in for a surprise. I also liked the one operator who tells Lois not to put her name on a list for the bowling team because they keep track of everything they do there, like Joe McCarthy.

The boss gives Don a $2500 bonus for...something. He makes an odd speech about how he's appreciative of his talents. He also tells Don to take $1.99 and buy Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (if that comes into play at some point that would be quite cool). Don wants to use it on that Paris trip with Midge, but she decides to stay with her friends (from a picture Don surmises that she's in love with one of them).

But Don's flashback to a hobo showing up at his parent's home was...interesting. I learned that he was a "whore's child," his step-mom was a religious freak and his dad a jerk. I also learned the "hobo's code:" chalk marks made on homes and fences to tell other hobos if the house was worth stopping at (yup, I looked it up they're real). A pie drawing for food, teeth marks for dogs that are on the property, and a nasty hook telling people not to stop there. The hobo leaves this last mark at the Whitman home and leaves, but not before instilling some words of wisdom about freedom to young Dick/Don.

I really dig this show, to borrow a phrase Midge's friends might say. The dialogue is just so sharp, the scenes put together so well, a show I don't just watch but really sink into, like a great novel. No Roger or Helen or Betty in this episode, but to be honest they weren't missed a bit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rescue Me: Keefe

Where's Mark David Chapman when you need him?" - Tommy

One down and one to go. This season has gone by fast, huh? The horrible thing about it is that other than Jerry's suicide, I don't feel like all that much has happened. The stuff that has developed sort of just sputters along, offering no real resolution. Some of it is funny, but often that's not enough to salvage it. Here's to hoping that the finale puts a good spin on what has officially become my least favorite season of Rescue Me.

It's not that I don't like the show anymore. I still love it but I think it needs a fresh direction. That and it needs to be wrapped up in two more seasons at the most. Any longer and it definitely has the potential to become pretty stale. Look at this episode though. Natalie coming back to ask Franco for a favor. A new feud between Black Sean and Mike. Garrity putting on the beer goggles and hopping in bed with some ugly chick. Lou is sleeping with Latrina. I could go on but my point is this: do I really care? That's the problem. I don't. I just want to see what stupid crap Tommy is going to pull next.

More than any other season, this one really has been about Tommy and his road to recovery/search for meaning. The negative result of that focus on him is that the other characters have suffered greatly and received no real in-depth stories. There's nothing of substance going on with any of them. Gone are the "Lou gets duped by Candy the prostitute" and "Franco attempts to raise his daughter" stories. The show has lost a lot of what made it good in the first place.

Rather than giving the supporting cast something with episodic longevity, it seems like they've each got something different going on each week. As I've already said, it makes it hard to care when it changes so frequently. I can't attach yourself to anything.
What did I like? Well I suppose that's the irony. Plenty. Tommy putting on Jimmy's old jacket? Brilliant. It's almost as if he wants everyone to feel how he feels, constantly questioning if they're crazy or not. I was actually surprised that Jimmy didn't appear to Tommy during one of those fires. I was definitely expecting the "What the hell do you have my jacket on for?" scene.

I love how Feinberg and Tommy are officially at odds. I think it's hilarious that Needles had to be the voice of reason and point out to Feinberg that Tommy feels up girls. It's what he does. You sent him on the date so why be angry? Valid points, but I still like that it puts Tommy and management on opposite sides of the ring. Coincidentally, it seems like Sydney doesn't care for Needles much either. He made that remark about Needles and how he wouldn't be wearing white if the towers hadn't fell. I understand the as a result of all the deaths, promotions were probably handed out with some leniency, but does this mean Needles is inexperienced and undeserving of his rank? If so, I'd love to see that explored next season.

Also enjoyable? The fact that some definition was finally given to what Mike is going through. Figures that we get it now. Black Sean put his finger on it. Mike hates Tommy but he still wants to be just like him. He's depressed. He drinks on the job now. He's going to get himself killed is what will happen.

So with all that in mind, some questions as we wait for next week's finale:
  • Who's Tommy going to end up with? Beth? No way. Valerie? Possibly. Sheila? Possibly. My vote goes with Janet. He's always held a torch for her and she might be in better spirits now that Sheila has Wyatt/Elvis for good.
  • Is Colleen going to pull the crazy ex-girlfriend move and try to go after Tony and his new fiancé? She is a Gavin after all...
  • It didn't happen this episode, but is Jimmy going to show himself to Tommy again? Mick said all of it was a sign from God and Tommy has been trying to understand that stuff. Then again... he could just be crazy. "Section 8" as the guy from the day shift called it.
  • Are Maggie and Sean going to make up? Although, that falls under one of my "I'm not sure I care" story lines.

The biggest question? The one that tests the whole season? Will Tommy drink? I could be wrong, but I believe this is the first season where he hasn't had a drop. He came close when he was up on the roof with Mike, but then I found out the vodka bottle was filled with water. I guess I'll find out soon if this season was worth it or not.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eurkea: Sight Unseen

The fresh takes on classic Science Fiction plots has to be one of my favorite things about Eureka. Invisibility is an absolute classic. Solving the invisible man problem is a bit glossed over, but everything else was baked to simmering SciFi perfection.

With the exception of the quickly glossed over solution to invisibility, the show was a shining example of everything that Eureka is great at. Characters were stepping out of their bounds left and right, secrets were finally exposed and Zoe even got kissed.I felt for Zoe when her car was smashed by the invisible man. For any teenager, that first accident is always a trial. I was surprised that she told her dad as soon as she did. Personally, I'd have waited until after school at the very least. I know I did when I had mine.

Henry's sub-plot got some major development time. I found out just what the device was, and now that Stark's involved, things will probably get even more interesting. I'm not quite sure just why Stark and Henry are so concerned about Jack getting involved. Perhaps they both have more to hide?

It was refreshing to see Carter finally have a new love interest. I honestly thought she'd end up being guilty for a bit. I'd say that both Jack and Zoe were due for some fresh relationships. This was one of the best shows of the season, and I hope things keep on getting better.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bones: Killer In The Concrete

Organized crime in West Virginia? Who'd of thunk it! Oh, and cement is actually an ingredient in concrete. That's good to know.

A satisfying episode all around. It was Booth's turn to be abducted this time. Nothing as drastic as being buried alive, like Bones and Jack were. Just your normal, everyday abduction and torture.

I'll give it to both Seely and Temperance -- they have nerves of steel in times of adversity. Did you see the look on Booth's face while Gallagher was pummeling him? Stone cold, even when Gallagher showed Seely a photo of his son. Now, there's a man for you! And, I know I'm doing something I said I don't like to do, but those torture scenes reminded me of a first season episode of Angel where our hero is tortured by Spike and a friend.

On the family front, Brennan's father (played by Ryan O'Neal) returned, eager to talk to his daughter about her mother. When I first saw him I didn't really get a sense of who this person was, since he was disguised as a man of the cloth for most of the show. This time around I got to see who Max Keenan really is. First, he loves his children very much (he remembers that Bones used to love Snickerdoodles). Second, Max was is a ruthless killer. However, according to his rap sheet, it seems that he killed all of the right people. In other words, he didn't kill for killing sake.

When Booth was kidnapped Bones recruited her father to assist in the search for her missing partner. Although she would be aghast to admit it, Temperance has a bit of her father's ruthlessness in her: the way she bitch-slapped the bounty hunter they found in Icepick's room; her casual dismissal of her father suffocating said bounty hunter; the big lie she told the FBI when she discovered Booth's whereabouts. I'm sure Daddy was quite proud of her.

This episode had a number of good scenes that gave me gooselet bumps (not as big as goosebumps). One of them took place amongst the squints of the Jeffersonian. I do enjoy when this team of intellects steps away from their computers to think out a piece of evidence. I'm not too sure why, but when Jack and Zach were rattling off the compounds they found and then pieced it all together I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. While we are talking about the squints. . . Angela's holo-tank made a return visit. It's been a long time since I've seen that technological marvel.

The other scene that gave me gooselet bumps was actually the last scene of the episode, and the best one. It was between Booth and Bones, sitting together at the diner. No fighting, no trying to one-up each other. It was actually two friends talking about Bones' ethical dilemma as to what to do the next time her father shows up. During the conversation Temperance mentions the song 'Keep on Tryin' by country-rock band Poco, a song that her father used to sing to her. Booth knows the song and together the two sing a couple of verses. And, when you see Temperance trying to remember some of the words, and then chuckling when she gets them, it just shows the utterly human side to her. She's this extremely intelligent, analytical woman who's still a little girl inside.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Closer: Till Death Do Us Part, Part 1

Just recently I voiced my concern that The Closer was becoming a bit too predictable with its storylines, teetering dangerously on the edge of becoming a full-fledged crime procedural. All those concerns were erased Monday night with the fantastic episode "Til Death Do Us Part," which saw Brenda unable to procure a confession from a suspect for the first time in the history of the series.

The episode began through the lens of Buzz's crime scene video camera. This style was used to great effect in the first episode of the season, "Homewrecker" and has been present in several episodes since. This week, the videotaped footage was used to seamlessly move us from the scene of the crime to the courtroom where the yet-to-be identified defendant was on trial. These types of transitions-- taking me from the courtroom to flashbacks to videotaped interrogations-- were expertly used throughout the episode, never becoming confusing or overdone. In fact, jumping back and forth between present day and the investigation was one of the best elements of "Til Death Do Us Part" because it gave me more to anticipate other than simply "whodunit?" I was glued to the set to see who was actually on trial, why Brenda couldn't get a confession and how she might fair on the witness stand after all the doubt that arose during the investigation.

As for that investigation, it was one of the best of the season, mostly due to the fact that there was never a clear indication that the victim was in fact murdered. After a Hollywood divorce lawyer was found drowned in his pool, Brenda and the squad took their time trying to determine if it was an accident, suicide or something more heinous. After finding a sedative in the victim's system, Brenda was convinced it was murder.

The focus of the investigation was turned to Jonathan Schafer, who was in the middle of divorce proceedings with the vic, and also owned a black BMW like the one witnessed at the crime scene.Brenda was convinced Schafer was the murderer, but the suspect gave a perfect alibi, stating he was on a fishing trip with his friend Topper Barnes the day of the apparent murder. But an exhaustive search for Barnes and his boat came up empty, convincing Brenda the whole alibi was a lie. Soon after, I'm told that hairs found in the suspect's BMW matched the dog hairs of the victim's pet. Adding some great suspense, Brenda was told this evidence, the only clear-cut evidence connecting Schafer to the murder, was inadmissible due to a technicality.

In the courtroom, the knowing defense attorney (played competently by Desperate Housewives' Steven Culp) backed Brenda into a corner and repeatedly attempted to have her admit the police had no evidence tying Schafer to the scene. Brenda refused to say "no" as that would be a lie, which opened the door to having the dog hair evidence admitted to the court. Whether or not this is a realistic scenario is probably debatable, but it provided this episode with a great twist. The case might have been closed at that point if not for another intriguing twist-- the arrival of mystery man Topper Barnes to support Schafer's alibi.

Adding to my enjoyment of the episode were some great ancillary moments provided by the always-superb supporting cast. Tao had a fun scene subtly mocking the far-too-serious Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami. Provenza also provided several chuckles, including his not-so-subtle flirtation with a buxom suspect. With Brenda's illness apparently no longer an issue, a new problem was introduced into her life. It was revealed (by former lover Pope no less) that non-drinking Fritz has lied to Brenda about two DUI's in his past. With a fraudulent alibi still to break, and new personal dramas to contend with while doing so, I'm very excited to see how The Closer will bring season three to a close.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Made Men: Red In The Face

I've know a few alcoholics, but even they don't drink as much as Roger Sterling does. My God, did you see how much he sucked down? Straight vodka, whiskey, Martinis with chocolate cake. He even brought in a bottle of vodka as a gift for Don and took a glass - not a cup or bottle, but a glass - of booze and drove home with it. When Don said to him the next day that it looks like he got home OK, I was thinking, you knew he was drinking a lot, so why did you let him drink and drive? Even if it is 1960, the fact that Don wondered if he got home in one piece is proof that drinking and driving was a concern back then too.I've been going back and forth on whether Roger is a nice, misunderstood guy or a first class jerk. This episode made me tilt a little toward the latter.

Have you ever had a jerky boss over for dinner? I never have, come to think of it, but I can imagine it being a nightmare. Roger comes over, drinks a ton, eats a lot, then makes a pass at Betty while Don is out looking for more alcohol...and Don blames Betty? I'm glad he sort of acted sarcastic towards Roger the next day, and I'm also glad Roger apologized for it. His story of once being so drunk he "at some point we all park in the wrong garage" and comparing it to hitting on another's wife was kinda gross, but funny.

This guy is already cheating on his wife with Joan but also feels up a coworker's wife? Jeez. I did love his line to Pete though, after Pete said asked if they were talking. "Yeah, Don and I do that all the time when you're not around." Then saying "Goodnight Paul" was priceless (these are the moments when I like Roger).

The gang at Sterling Cooper is working on the Nixon campaign, and they're wondering how to approach. Most of the guys don't think that Kennedy will be the Democratic nominee (he's Catholic, doesn't wear a hat, etc), but Pete does, comparing JFK to Elvis. "That's what we're dealing with here." I have noticed that even though Pete is kind of a jerk too that he's often right about these ad campaigns? But the look that Don gives Roger during the meeting, when he dismisses the ideas of the younger execs...you know he's beginning to think different about his boss.

Speaking of Pete, he uses his lunch hour to return a "chip and dip" bowl to the store. He can't get his $22 back, but he gets store credit (his flirting with the clerk didn't help at all), and he decides to buy a rifle. He points it at all the women in the office (nice camera work showing the rifle view of the women in the office). This is supposedly some macho move, though as Trudy says later, "what are you going to do with that?!" There's trouble in that marriage too.

Meanwhile, in creepy Glen land, Helen confronts Betty in the supermarket about the lock of hair she gave him. "He's 9 years old, what were you thinking?" When Betty slapped Helen I cringed a bit (but Helen's right).

I'm very impressed with this show. We can talk about the production design and period detail again and again and again, but I love the acting and the dialogue. The scenes tonight with Don and Roger talking and smoking and drinking and eating...the way the dialogue incorporated everything from the Russians launching dogs into space to Lucy and Desi getting divorced. It's scenes like this that separate the great shows from the good.

I also love how they drop a line about a previous plot thread, even if that plot thread isn't really explored in the episode. For example, Roger saying to Don,"The way you drop your "g's" I thought you grew up on a farm. Somewhere with a swimming hole." This keeps the "what is Don's secret?" plot alive, and even advances it in a quiet but effective manner (Roger is now wondering about his background in a subtle way). And did that last scene with Don and Roger and the elevator come out of nowhere or what? Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Office: Women's Appreciation

This episode gave me some more great Michael Scott moments, once again running the range of uncomfortable silence to laugh-out-loud ridiculousness. In the course of the episode I learned some bizarre details about Angela's clothes, the secrets of the Dunder-Mifflin ladies' room, and the total freakiness of Jan & Michael's sex life. I also got some great over-reactions from Dwight, a sequence of awkwardly unfunny jokes by Michael about Phyllis being flashed outside the office, a nice and subtle Dwight prank by Pam, and some truly bizarre Creed moments.

The opening scene was funny. Dwight's long-winded explanation of his demerit and reprimand process was wonderfully ridiculous, especially the reveal that the eventual consequence would be a written disciplinary review given to Dwight's immediate superior, Jim himself. Jim's threat of "a full disadulation" was great as well, but was topped later in the episode by Pam's extended prank on Dwight, sketching an image of his face onto the poster for the accused flasher, just without his glasses and with a tiny moustache.It would be amusing to see the Dwight flasher posters come up again in a later episode (especially since Andy said he was going to hang them all over his neighborhood), but I highly doubt they will.

There were plenty of amusing little tidbits thrown in for fans this week, such as Angela's revelation that she not only wears kids' size 10 clothes but also large American Girl doll clothes. And we learned more than we really ever wanted to know about Jan and Michael's sex life, such as the fact that Michael would put on a dress to indulge a schoolgirl fantasy of Jan's and that Jan videotapes them having sex in order to both critique his lovemaking afterwards and to show to her therapist for discussion. It's one of those times that you can't help feeling sorry for Michael, no matter how big of an idiot he often is.

The highlight of the episode was at the end, as an emboldened Michael, fresh from his day out with the girls, decides to call Jan to break up with her… and proceeds to do it over voice mail, as Jan is walking into his office. The succeeding scene with Jan listening to the message as she asks Michael if he wants to go out to eat (and he feebly replies, "Maybe some Italian? Chinese?") is easily the funniest moment in the episode, and perfectly played by both Steve Carell and Melora Hardin.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rescue Me: Cycle

"I've got eight Frescas in me Lou. I'm on a massive NutraSweet high. Don't get me started." - Tommy

Did I miss where the title of this episode was referenced? I've racked my brain, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how the word "cycle" played into this episode. Doesn't matter. I've finally figured out what this whole season has been about. Maybe I'm slow (because it's been hinted at right along) but this time around it was thrown right in my face. Tommy's search for faith. The mysterious black figures. The prayer books. The only thing missing is Tommy's personal Jesus from season two. I know I've said before that maybe Tommy has a death wish. Maybe he doesn't, but he's definitely trying to defy something. The funny thing is that I don't think he knows what it is.

Just look at this episode. At his AA meetings, he's still questioning the existence of a higher power. Then by the end of the hour, he's driving the rig like a mad man and still running into fires with nothing more than a jacket on. He's pushing the limits. I get the feeling he'd be satisfied if he got injured. It's be a reassurance of some sort to him.

The unfortunate thing is that while I'm finally understanding and enjoying Tommy's season long plight, everything else is falling flat for me. It's just not going anywhere. Lou and Latrina came out of nowhere and frankly, I don't want to see where it goes. I liked Theresa and the "too much sex" storyline. That could have played out much longer. The same goes for Franco and Natalie. Although I have hope that that plot will be restored satisfactorily.

Then there's Mike. He's dead in the water too. He was only in this episode for one scene and let's be honest. Is the show really lacking or any different without him? Not really. Aside from Lou, I get the feeling most characters on this show could go (for whatever reason) and assuming a replacement was moved into position, not a lot would change. From Jerry to Feinberg. From Mike to Black Sean. Think about it. Faces change, not much else does though.

Moving on, I've got Sheila and Wyatt/Elvis. Or should I say Elvyatt? Wylvis? Whatever... do I care? This poor kid is going to be so screwed up and it has less to do with the fact that no one in his family wants him and more to do with the terrible writing. This is another instance where he could be forgotten and no one would really say anything. They do it with Tommy's siblings... although Rosemary was finally mentioned in this episode. She's alive! Still no Timo mention though.

Then there's Tommy's woman. As if his life wasn't dysfunctional enough, Tommy's now seeing Valerie (who gives new meaning to "quickie") and Beth (the bi-polar ice-pick chick). Everything here is so backwards, that it doesn't feel right. And please... don'te say "that's the point."
Did anything put a smile on my face? Well... yeah:
  • Sean "pretending" to be an alcoholic is a riot. He really loves Maggie and I truly believe he'll do anything to relate to her... but this is funny stuff.
  • I love how Tommy essentially adopted that dog... I mean, "wolf." Even better? It sleeps on the couch and Tommy passes out on the doggie bed.
  • I think I have to agree with Valerie and Janet. Kevin Costner played a way better Wyatt Earp then Kurt Russell.
  • And don't forget Tommy's dream that started off the episode. Obviously, the dream didn't make me smile. How it ended did though. You have to ask yourself, in term's of Tommy's situation, is it worse that he dreamt his whole crew died or that Needles asked him if he wanted a drink? Even in his subconscious, he's caving.
  • Ellie had David Lee Roth and Judge Reinhold on her list of people she had hurt as a result of her drinking?

It's not that I didn't like this episode. I feel like I say that nearly episode, but it's true. I've just slowly built up a dislike for the way this season has gone. It just doesn't feel as cohesive as seasons past. Maybe I'm flip-flopping on things I've said in past posts, but this episode really put it all in perspective for me. Maybe the point of the episode title was that shows themselves go through "cycles."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eurkea: E=MC...?

As Jo points out in this episode, whenever things go wrong, while she and Carter may put the pieces together, it tends to be the big brains in Eureka who do the heavy lifting needed to avert the latest scientifically created crisis. In this episode, Carter loses that crutch and has to trust someone new, the charming and rakish new comer Zane Donovan.

Donovan is everything Carter is not, impulsive, confident (with women anyway), and all too willing to break the rules. Allison has brought Donovan in to Eureka and enabled him to get away with stealing millions of dollars because he's "the best particle physicist around." This turns out to be rather handy since GD is conducting an experiment that will "recreate the Big Bang" in a contained (and presumably small scale) version. Unfortunately, after initiating the experiment, Allison, Stark, Henry and just about everybody else in town gets dumb, real fast.

Carter has only Jo and the reluctant compliance of Zane to help him solve the outbreak of stupidity before everything goes boom. There's some fun stuff here as Carter adds a GD veterinarian to the team, who is somehow not succumbed to the "stupidity outbreak." Zane proves an interesting foil for Carter, and there's definitely a fatherly streak that comes out in the Sherriff when he tells Zane that everyone needs a community and that he's "smart enough to know that."

There are a few interesting developments with Henry and Carter that seem to come out of nowhere and are bigger than either men realize. While these issues are not resolved in this episode, it's fairly certain that they will materialize relatively soon. Henry is great in his unguarded moment where he's just not smart enough to keep quiet about certain things.

The episode concludes in a way that lays the groundwork for a number of things. There seems to be more progress in the resurging relationship between Allison and Stark, much to Carter's dismay. It also appears possible that a romance between Zane and Jo could be in the near future.

Which brings up a question: where the heck is Taggart? It's been a while since I've seen him, and it was only briefly then. Meanwhile, Zoe is experiencing that being the Sherriff's daughter frightens away all the boys. Carter tries to assure her this isn't a problem until he overhears a boy inviting her to his "lake house" and then exerts as much intimidation as possible.

"E=MC…?" is a fun episode and shakes up the formula a bit. Eureka uses its Sci Fi premise to good effect by giving the actors lots of different situations to play. Whether it's losing their memory, having five years of experience nobody else has, living their dreams, or "playing stupid" I never know quite what to expect from the show. But with this excellent cast, that journey is always worth taking.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Closer: Lover's Leap

Lover's Leap" was your basic episode of The Closer, with a tense little reminder of the romantic history between Brenda and Pope. But when I say "basic," I mean things might be getting a little too formulaic. There's still a good amount of character development happening which keeps the show fresh and interesting, but certain patterns are becoming clear as it draws near to the end of the third season—some of which are starting to get on my nerves.

An apparent car accident involving an employee of the Department of Homeland Security has Brenda and the Priority Homicide Division climbing down a cliff in the Hollywood Hills to reach the scene as the episode opens. After further investigation, I learn that the driver, Maggie Scott, was an auditor for DHS and that the "accident" was in fact a murder. Following the path of information, Brenda learns that Maggie was auditing individuals associated with LAPD, including a former cop, Joe White, who was now running a company selling communications equipment to the department.

As the case developed, it became clear that Joe was embezzling money from the transactions and it was likely Maggie was on to the criminal activity. But instead of Joe being the murderer, it turns out it was Mrs. White who took out the auditor in a desperate attempt to retain the money-spending lifestyle she had grown accustom to.

Of course, getting there wasn't very straightforward for Brenda and the squad. She had to deal with the pain from her recent surgery, catching poison oak, involvement of the FBI and the fact that Chief Pope had recently been having an affair with the victim. While it's always fun to have some challenges to deal with in the course of an investigation, I'm starting to tire of the many outside inconveniences that having been plaguing Brenda's hunt for the killers.

This season alone I've seen Brenda's investigations suffer through WMD training, no overtime, bridezilla threats, mysterious illnesses and visiting parents. And while all this can be fun (except for the terribly annoying bridezilla incident) it takes away from the pleasure of following the criminal investigation. I hope that next season sees a return to season one-caliber episodes where the only challenges Brenda faced was with the suspects themselves.

Another annoying pattern that has slowly been developing this season is an increased amount of whining from Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. From the start of the series, she's always had her quirky tendencies, but lately the writers have been overdoing it with budget-induced stresses, early-onset menopause, relationship insecurities and so on. This episode they even gave her poison oak to whine about. What happened to the confident, against-all-odds Brenda I first fell for?

As for Pope's relationship with the victim, it didn't actually hinder the investigation as much as I first believed it would. It became just a peripheral fact rather than a turning point in the case. It did, however, present a fantastic scene between Brenda and Pope regarding the chief's behavior. Brenda was alarmed by the similarities between this affair and her own with Pope, while Pope hinted that it was Brenda's desertion of their relationship that led him down the familiar path. Their entire exchange was both smartly written and expertly performed.

"Lover's Leap" was still an entertaining episode. Giving the FBI the runaround through much of the episode was a highlight, as was the way Brenda smartly turned Mrs. White's explanation of her encounter with Maggie Scott into a tearful confession of murder. That's the Brenda we like best and we hope to see more suspect interaction like this in the episodes to come.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Kill Point: The Devil's Zoo Parts 1 & 2

What an absolutely disappointing summer miniseries The Kill Point turned out to be. Since it began, I've suffered through stereotypes and clichés with very little excitement or drama. The series could have blown me away with one intricate storyline, but instead I was given several "mini stories" that ultimately amounted to nothing. The two-hour finale did nothing to change my opinion, and only presented further proof that this potentially unique take on the hostage/negotiator scenario was put into the wrong hands.

Much of "The Devil's Zoo" was a chaotic mess, bouncing from idea to idea with very little direction. It started with Mike's delusional speech about his "Creepy Me," then moved into Henry's breakdown and temporary control of the bank. This gave way to Wolf's triumphant return to power, complete with the worst choreographed and directed fistfight in recent memory. Then there was Cali's short time inside the bank, followed by the SWAT team storming in and the hostage takers' unoriginal Ocean's 11-like escape. And not one bit of this action was the least bit emotionally resonating.

The Kill Point never gave me a chance to connect and care about any of these characters -- bank robbers, hostages or negotiators. Instead of character development, the series gave me plot after plot after plot. So when it reached the finale and people are being killed off or set free or actually getting away with six million dollars, none of it really mattered.

The best example of this lack of connection in the finale was the wholly unemotional release of the hostages after their lengthy and excruciating ordeal. This should have been a pinnacle moment of the finale, but instead it was just lame. Watching the now free hostages running to and hugging their families (in slow motion no less) pulled zero heartstrings. Heck, I don't even see these hostages as people. The Kill Point only made them recognizable as "bank manager," "black dude," "old gay guy," and "couple who were once hiding in the closet."

With a lack of character development, I might have expected an emphasis on a complicated plot twist in this final episode. The show did make such an attempt, but like they've done all season long with an interesting idea, the twist was poorly executed. Cali, after an unseen meeting with Wolf, was suddenly working with the hostage takers to help them escape. Well, anyone even peripherally following this series could have figured out that Wolf and his men on the outside had somehow gotten their hands on Cali's pregnant wife.

This obvious fact wasn't revealed until after Cali and Wolf's men were sufficiently clear of the now empty bank. Only at that time did Cali think to question Wolf about actually having his wife in their custody and demand some form of proof of life. Are you kidding? Cali helped his nemesis escape without verifying that Wolf was actually holding his wife?! It's bonehead, idiotic, utterly stupid plot points like this that have plagued the series since episode one.

Again, there's no denying this program has left me severely disappointed. Everything that I found interesting at the beginning of this series simply petered away to nothing as the show progressed. The covert deal with Mr. Beck went nowhere. The hostages fighting back went nowhere. Wolf's men working on a plan from the outside failed to live up to its potential… twice. Throughout the series, the dialogue was clunky, the direction was poor and the ultimate payoff was incredibly weak. If Spike TV brings another original miniseries next summer, let's hope they learn from the wasteful mistakes they committed with The Kill Point.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mad Men: Babylon

So Joan is having an affair with Roger. That slut! I met his wife and daughter this episode, and for some reason I just didn't think he was cheating on his wife. His daughter seems to have the hots for Don (wouldn't that be an interesting plot development down the road if that were to ever happen). I like how when Roger tells his daughter that he likes her pigtails because "it makes you look young," she responds by saying, "I like your hair daddy because it makes you look old").

This episode was about lipstick and Israel. Not necessarily in that order. Don and the guys have to come up with an ad campaign for Israel as a vacation spot ("How can we do that when Bermuda is only 3 hours away?"). This isn't easy, so Don calls Mencken for an "expert's opinion" on Jews and Israel ("Am I the only Jew you know in New York?"). He also wants to have an affair with her while he's having an affair with Midge and also taking care of wife Betty and his kids. All while smoking constantly. He's a multitasker.

This opens up some rather blunt and frank talk about Israel and Jews that you don't hear that much on modern-day set shows. Mad Men has gotten a lot of kudos for it's writing and dialogue, and this is another example. It's an interesting balancing act, trying to talk about people and society and places and products from 47 years ago without doing it just because it's so "cool" to contrast how things were back then with the way they are now. If it's too obvious it would seem gimmicky. This show does it just right. There's no hitting over the head with pop culture and music references. They do it through products in the background and ad campaigns and discussions of the book "Exodus" and Rona Jaffe and IBM typewriters and the clothes and all that cigarette smoke. Well done.

When Mencken leaves their lunch meeting after telling Don all she seems to know about her people, Don goes over to Midge's. They start to do it, and there's a knock at the door. It's Roy, another friend of Midge's. He convinces Don and Midge to go to a poetry reading with him. Don doesn't want to go, but ends up going. When he's there I'm treated to a guy on stage reading wedding announcements from the paper and then a group of three Jewish men singing a song ("Babylon"), which I'm sure will give Don some idea about how to approach the ad campaign (one small quibble I have about this show is that there always seems to be a handy parallel in another plot to help Don with his campaigns - Betty even tells him about a Jewish boy she kissed once - but it's a small quibble.) The scene does provide some humorous moments. It's great to see Don in his clean suit and shoes hanging out with beatniks, and when he asks Roy, "So Roy, if you had a job, what would you do?" I laughed out loud.

Oh, back to the lipstick. A makeup company hires Sterling Cooper so Fred and Joan and the guys get a bunch of lipstick samples and let the girls in the office (or as Fred calls them, "the chickens") try a bunch of different colors (while being watched behind a two-way mirror - one of the ad guy's even makes a masturbation joke). They all try different colors except Peggy, who doesn't try any because her color was taken. She knows what she likes. Fred and Sal find this interesting, and Fred likes her description of a trash barrel filled with lipstick-stained tissues as a "basket of kisses," so she's going to get a chance to work on the campaign.

I haven't mentioned the surreal flashback at the start of the episode, when Don falls down the stairs and looks across the room and sees his childhood "Dick" self on the floor, surrounded by his parents and his new baby brother Adam, who he paid off last episode to leave town.

So in this episode there is a flashback that shows Don is feeling guilty about his little bro, I find out that Roger is sleeping with Joan, I see the other part of Midge's world start to creep into her relationship with Don, and I see Peggy get some possible ad work at the office (and maybe a hint of jealousy from Joan?). Who says nothing ever happens on this show?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MTTT - University Roadhouse

The October M Thirsty Third Thursday group met last night on the Second Wednesday since the founder and planner of MTTT (me) will be gone for the next two weeks.

This month we visited the University Roadhouse, which is in between Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College. I have gone there a couple times and it is a very appealing restaurant.

The food came out quite fast. I had the Spinach Chicken Wrap, which I would recommend. Liz had the nachos. Rob had the chicken club. I can't remember what the rest of the group had. Our server was okay. When I first arrived and sat down with Cheryl, I had to go find out if we even had a waitress. But after that she was very attentive. Prices are reasonable. The drink special was Margaritas for $3.00 and this was in a very huge glass. My meal with a couple of drinks was around $15. And the food is presented with a touch of flair and tastes scrumptious.

The University Roadhouse is owned by Chris Housler, who also has partial ownership of most of the Main Street Pub restaurants. The Roadhouse may be close Western Michigan University but is generally not a hangout for students - the average age of diners is 40.

I'd choose University Roadhouse's pub fare over the pub fare at a lot of other restaurants in town.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Office: Product Recall

This episode of The Office, "Product Recall," had a hit-and-miss mix of laugh-out-loud moments and scenes that didn't work quite as well. The main concept -- Dunder-Mifflin has to apologize for an obscene image of a cartoon that appeared as a watermark on their paper -- is hilarious by itself, but the execution left a little to be desired.

Primarily I was left wondering throughout the episode why Michael is dealing with this public relations nightmare on his own -- it seems something that corporate, specifically Jan, would be heavily involved in as soon as it happened. There's no way Jan would trust Michael to deal with something like this on his own, so the only conclusion to draw is that she doesn't know about the situation. That seems pretty farfetched, however, considering every single one of the Scranton branch's customers were pissed off, and complaints like that must have gone to the home office as well. It's a poor lapse in keeping things realistic on a show that normally does an excellent job of making completely ridiculous situations believable.

The best comedy to come out of the watermark disaster involved the consistently funny Creed. Often relegated to the background, Creed was in the spotlight more this episode than he's been in the entire series to date, and I loved it. Just the concept that the completely unmotivated, kleptomaniac Creed is the employee in charge of quality control (in the one year he blew off his weekly quality checks) is classic. His scenes were some of the best this episode -- telling the interviewers he was supposed to catch the problem, explaining that "the only difference between me and a homeless man is this job," and collecting money for a farewell for the framed and fired Debbie Brown only to keep all the money for himself.

I didn't get any Jim & Pam interaction this episode, but I got some great moments from Jim, including the bookending scenes featuring Jim dressed as Dwight, and Dwight acting like Jim. Jim's Dwight impression was hilarious ("Question. What kind of bear is best?" "Bears eat beets.") and it was great to see one of the opening gags come up again at the end of the episode, with Dwight's ridiculously lame impression of Jim ("Blah, blah, a little comment. Yeah.").

Jim's interactions with Andy were great this episode as well, even though if Andy's situation seemed extremely contrived (his girlfriend, whom he had no idea was a minor, just happens to be attending the exact same high school Andy and Jim need to personally visit). From his initial tolerance of Andy's singing and "beer me" comments to their car ride back to the office with Jim starting "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," it's the nicest I've seen Jim be to Andy in quite a while.

Michael's presentation of the novelty check to Mrs. Allen was awkwardly amusing, but even when the bit worked I couldn't help but wonder how Michael was getting away with this insanity, without interference from Jan, or even just Toby. A better Michael moment this half-hour was the making of his latest apology video, with the ridiculous computer printout of a US flag in the background and the completely unapologetic content of Michael's diatribe ("It will take a SWAT team to remove me from this office"; "They are trying to make me an escape goat."; and "If I am fired, I swear to God that every single piece of copier paper in this town is going to have the F-word on it.").

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eureka: Duck, Duck Goose

The concept of a "Science Faire" run amok is an interesting one, and a natural one considering the kind of place Eureka is. However, this is mostly just a "mystery of the week" episode that doesn't quite hang together. The best stuff is the interplay between Zoe and Jack and the ongoing speculation on the results of Zoe's IQ test. While it's always fun to watch the characters of Eureka play against one another, the episode needed more than that to really stand out.

There's some awkward and overly silly material with Carter deliberately trying to impress Allison by going to the gym. Suddenly Carter is far less sure of himself than I've ever seen him before, and the writers seemed to push the character into a mold that doesn't fit - just for the sake of some fairly cheap comedy. There's a side story here with Taggert's robot geese that never really materializes into anything other than a bit of augmentation to the rest of the episode. The geese being confused in their directions is how they figure out some sort of magnetism is affecting Eureka, and it also touches on a bit of Jack's recurring fears about his competence as a parent. I haven't seen Taggert lately, and this is a bit of a waste of the actor and the character.

The "Heathers" storyline that pits Zoe against the bully girls at school is also a bit underdeveloped and seems to be relying on a shorthand that wasn't earned. While it's understandable that Zoe might be viewed as a "norm," this is a strange way to introduce this concept and resolve it in one episode. It's also unclear why Stark rewards Zoe second place if her project was really about fruit flies. Did he judge her on her quick thinking that helped save the day? How's that work exactly? Nonetheless, it's funny that she ends up getting the new car to go with that new license.

The mystery surrounding what's drawing the space debris to Eureka ends up being answered when Zoe and Jack's stories collide, revealing that the perpetrator is the mother of one of the Heathers, who robbed her own daughter's idea. The best thing that results from this is the line where Carter asks Henry "Area 51 is real?" And Henry nods his head yes and responds "No." It's the interplay between the characters (and these actors) that saves any episode of Eureka from being completely insubstantial. Nonetheless, this was, all in all, a ho-hum mystery followed up by a ho-hum conclusion

Monday, October 8, 2007

Damages: A Regular Earl Anthony

This was a bit of a split for me. While this was an enjoyable episode, it got a little bogged down with all the Tom scenes. I got the idea pretty early on that he was uneasy about leaving Patty, but it was continually pounded into my head over and over whether it be through conversation with his buddy (Donal Logue was an odd choice, no?) or through straight hallucinations of Patty with him in the men's room. It just got redundant and took away from the episode as a whole.

I knew from the very beginning that Tom would end up back with Patty. So why even try to pretend otherwise? It was the same deal with Patty's son and the grenades. I think the one thing to take away from it is how Tom's mind works. The Patty in his head says he's number one. The Patty in real life says he's number two. It's sad really, how she just whittles away at his self-esteem. All he wants is recognition and despite the fact that she gave him the title of partner, how's anyone going to know if his name isn't plastered next to hers on the front door? I hope before the season is out, that we see Tom (just once) really show Patty up.

OK, enough about Tom, because if you saw the episode there should only be one question on your mind. What the heck did Katie tell David about Ellen? Her "sordid sex life?" Whatever it was, it couldn't have been bad, because David didn't come home angry. But there is definitely a connection between Ellen and Gregory Molina. At least Patty says there is.

Moving on, let's talk about Frobisher. His actions confused me a little here. Why would he pull the settlement? He's guilty! I know it and no matter how many times he says otherwise, he knows it too. I don't think he's stupid... so why choose a trial? He wants his name back but he has to realize that he'll lose. Unless, and I've said this before, we're being fooled. What if he somehow is innocent? He can still be a bad guy, but what if he is in the clear here? I loved the scene when Tom told Ray that he wants to see him explain to a jury that Frobisher isn't a crook. Ray didn't really twitch though. That'd be a twist if it played out.

I'm on the edge of my seat for all this, but here's my one gripe. Does it feel a little forced to anyone else? As if the plot that's developing now didn't exist in the minds of the writers a few episodes ago? Like they're flying blind? That's my one fear for this series. It's so good and the plot is so intertwined, that I hope the writers aren't digging a huge hole and forgetting to bring a ladder so they can climb out.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Closer: Culture Shock

You know what I like about this show? I like that, when each episode opens, the crime has already happened. With CSI and Law & Order, the crime usually happens at the opening of the episode. But I get absolutely no context from The Closer, but I enjoy that.Okay, so this wasn't my favorite episode this season. In fact, I'd say it was my least favorite. It didn't suck--not by any means--but I just didn't find it all that intriguing. I think the case just was too simple. Even though Brenda and the detectives interviewed a handful of people, it didn't really seem to take any twists or turns. And, the presence of Brenda's parents derailed the case for me (as it did for her).

There were a few scenes that I really enjoyed, though. For instance, the scene at the dinner table where Brenda's father starts to make a toast that is so offensive to her. He's essentially trying to encourage Fritz to stay with the engagement even though his daughter is more like a used car because of her Early Onset Menopause. He basically said that sometimes you just have to settle--and he meant settle for his damaged daughter! How insulting!

Of course, the best scene came at the very end in the doctor's office where we learn that Brenda is not suffering from Early Onset Menopause, just some polyps on her uterus. How can she reverse it? Oh... stop eating sweets. I loved how her reaction to that news was more horrified than when she learned about the possible menopause or when she learned she didn't have cancer. So, I'll be back to watching Brenda try to avoid sweets. And now the pressure is on for her and Fritz to hurry up and marry so they can have a baby. But... I'm not so sure that she wants kids.

New Music Downloads

Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals' new CD, Lifeline. Harper performs with such intimacy on this folk-rock disc that you'll swear he's singing and strumming in your living room. Best is the title track, a stripped-bare thing of acoustic beauty.

After singing backup with husband Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band for the past 23 years, Patti Scialfa surely couldn't help but pick up a thing or two from the Boss. She does exude a similar wordy, wistful, introspective vibe, but a skillful mix of roots-rock, country, folk and soul give Scialfa, who wrote all 10 tracks on Play It As It Lays, a sound uniquely her own. The highlights on this, her third solo disc, are many - namely the up-temp "Rainy Day Man," "The Word," a bluesy song of betrayal, and the melancholy title track. "Black Ladder," is a sweetly soulful plea for affection.

There's no evidence of dysfunction on the second album, Combinations, by Eisley, a family band. Anchored by sisters Sherri and Stacy, Eisley builds on the pop feel with new influences like Evanescence and '70s-era Fleetwood Mac. The breakup ballad "Go Away,' with its instructive chorus, seems destined for the soundtrack of some MTV reality show. The best song, "Ten Cent Blues," could easily pass as a track from Rumours, whose 1977 release predates Eisley's oldest member by four years.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Kill Point: The Great Ape Escape

The Kill Point is a very frustrating limited series to watch. The idea of it had great potential, but nothing being done in the show is very original. And the unoriginal ideas are being executed poorly, with plenty of "Why don't they just do this?" moments. "The Great Ape Escape" stayed in the same vein as the episodes before it, with plenty of pseudo-tension and ideas that went nowhere.

The episode began incredibly slowly, with much exposition from our bank robbers as they settled down from the near takeover of their unit by the scheming hostages. None of it really mattered much since it did little in the way of giving me new insight into any of these characters. But the action started to pick up a bit when Mr. Wolf was informed that the extraction plan was underway and they would be out in less than two hours. This is what I've been waiting for -- the platoon members on the outside were finally ready to put their plan into action. Unfortunately, it wasn't worth the wait.

Their plan -- the one they've been meticulously preparing for almost from the start of the hostage situation -- was to enter the building next door to the bank and hammer out a hole in the wall. Wow. How creative. In their way were two SWAT members stationed in the adjacent building. This could have been a great opportunity to witness a rarely seen military tactic, but instead, Mr. Wolf gave a speech as a distraction while his men tip-toed up behind the SWAT guys and grabbed them. Sure, Wolf's speech was probably supposed to be a very stirring, impassioned plea for the rights of the soldiers caught in the war (and it was pretty powerful to see what appeared to be actual veterans displaying their real-life amputated arms and scarred bellies), but the monologue was a far cry from anything Emmy-worthy.

Things get a bit silly from there. When the men finally break through the wall, I got to watch five minutes of everybody greeting everyone. Seriously? Shut up and just get out of there already. As unamazing as this plan turned out to be, it was actually about to work and set these men free. Of course, that can't happen. There's more show to deliver. So the writers decided to put one-armed Leon in a car with a headset not 20 feet away from all the SWAT guys surrounding the bank. This is what I can't stand about the show. The characters do (or don't do) things simply to move the plot along. Last week, the hostages got the guns, but Ashley couldn't pull the trigger. She claimed this week that she just couldn't kill the guy. Well, fine -- fire off a round at his legs and get out of there. And now, for no reason whatsoever, Leon is in the exact position he needs to be to allow the cops to get clued in to the escape plan. It's ridiculous.

But now that the SWAT team was aware of where they were heading, maybe I'd get a climactic shootout to bring the episode to a close. Nope, wrong again. Like much of The Kill Point, it was a lot of build up to nothing. The gunfight lasted for quite sometime, but it was the most straightforward battle I've ever seen. And how only two people got hit I'll never know.

The end result? Everyone is back in the bank. The once tight unit ended the episode at odds, with Mike unable to take anymore of it. He wandered out of the bank, unarmed, with Mr. Wolf pleading with him to go back inside. In an unsuccessful attempt to build tension, the scene dragged on forever until finally ending with what sounded like a gunshot. Was somebody hit? Who fired the weapon? At this point, I hardly care.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Simpsons: You Kent Always Say What You Want

Rod: Daddy, what are you doing?
Ned Flanders: Imploring people I never met to pressure government with better things to do to punish a man who meant no harm for something nobody even saw, that's what I'm doing!

The only reference to this being a milestone (400th episode) of some sort occurred in the opening: a short from the Tracey Ullman days showing Homer trying to take a picture of his family. It was nice and simple and a way of saying, "hey, we've been going at it this long, and we're going to keep going." Maybe I'm just not one for a lot of fanfare and hoo-ha, but I found that quite touching.
Okay, on to this episode.

Some may think this episode was inspired by the recent Imus riff, but it wasn't. What it was really about is how often things that would normally slip by without incident can be blown completely out of proportion by overly sensitive people with way too much time on their hands. In this case, Ned Flanders.

Kent Brockman swears on TV, but since no one watches television anymore, nobody hears it. Of course, Ned Flanders scours all television for bad stuff.

The way this episode poked fun at the FOX network for providing entertainment for both ultra-conservatives and people who like to see shows about strippers flying planes was pretty funny, as was the completely-out-of-left-field ending with the network "dubbing" the voices of the characters and silencing Homer in the end, but it's not like making fun of FOX is new to the Simpsons.
Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the template the series now uses (well, it's been using it for a long time now) of starting off with one storyline and then veering off into the main plot later. Many have argued that it doesn't allow for the kind of story arcs that made the earlier seasons so great, and I have a tough time arguing with that.

Still, the whole dentist sequence did have some great moments. I loved the Raising Arizona sequence with Marge running home to get the kids to the dentist on time. And I loved how Bart pulled a prank on Skinner while Skinner was on nitrous (not to mention the fact that Skinner actually refers to him as "Doctor Bart").

As far as the main episode, my favorite moments were Krusty's voiceover on the "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoon, and the "Edward R. Murrow" segment complete with Lisa tapping his leg just as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly did.

So no, this wasn't the greatest episode ever, but I still liked it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mad Men: 5G

Am I a horrible, cynical person because I thought that Don was going to pull a gun out of his suitcase and shoot his step-brother? Oh, come on, I know others thought it too. The way they didn't show what he took out of his private, locked desk drawer, the way they set the scene in the hotel room with Adam talking to Don with his back turned, the way Don was waiting for just the right moment to reach into the briefcase. I thought the show was going to take a dark, Sopranos-like turn.
Luckily, even though Don has a lot of secrets, like affairs and a secret identity, murder isn't on his menu. But I can see how much Don wants to keep "Dick" in the past, so much that he even pays off his step-brother 5G (I was wondering if 5G was going to be a dollar amount or a hotel room number - turns out it was both!). It's interesting how he's so unhappy with his life that he's having an affair with Midge, wants to have an affair with Ms. Mencken, and is always contemplative and quiet, but he'll still spend $5000 (which is more than Pete makes in a year) to keep that life. Doesn't sound like his previous life was that great (when Adam tells him Don's stepmom died of stomach cancer, his reaction is "good."). I guess the summer house Betty wants is going to have to wait.

The part I most identified with in this episode was Ken having a short story published in The Atlantic. 1960 was a great time for short story writers, with a ton of outlets. It's not like that anymore, and that makes me a little sad. Pete and the rest of the Sterling Cooper guys aren't just angry that Ken had the story published, they're practically seething with anger, to the point of almost insulting him. (Paul tries to explain he's acting that way because he didn't know he was in competition with Ken too - Ken just says "you lost," ouch.)

Pete asks Trudy to ask her former boyfriend to publish his short story (about a hunter who imagines a bear is talking to him), and Charlie wants to have an affair with Trudy. She declines, but he'll publish the story anyway ... in Boy's Life. The scene where Trudy tells him it's Boy's Life and not The Atlantic or The New Yorker, well, it's almost like Pete wants Trudy to sleep with her ex if it will get his stories in better magazines."Boy's Life - it will probably be next to an ad for an exploding cigars."

At the start of this episode I saw that Don won an advertising award, a plaque with a horseshoe on it. Before the scene even ends the horseshoe comes undone and turns over (nice quality job there), symbolizing that Don's luck might be running out.

Peggy accidentally overhears him and Midge on the phone, he has to spend the money to get his step-brother out of town, and even when he's not off sleeping with Midge, Peggy thinks he is (funny family photo of the Drapers - almost like an Xmas photo taken during a hostage situation). Come on Peggy, Don's not going to be sleeping with someone every time he goes out at noon. And Peggy, telling Joan about Don's affair... bad, bad move.

This show is getting juicier, more complex, and the characters have really taken form. It's one of the very few shows I'd get upset about if I were to miss it.