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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pushing Daisies: Frescorts

Ah, friendship. As all of the Pushing Daisies characters learn one way or another, it's a necessary component to a full life. Then again, when you get trapped in a locker or gifted a creepy taxidermied dog, friends don't look so good, do they? This episode is one quirky meditation on friendship.

Starting with my favorite thing about this episode: Emerson! Through meeting Young Emerson, I learn he's been a spy since babyhood and grew up super-close with his P.I. mother. The appearance of Calista Cod is all-around fantastic, as she turns out to be investigating Emerson himself after she came across a rejection letter for Lil' Gumshoe. I loved the way Emerson breaks out this sad puppy-dog face around his mama, and the scene with the two of them simultaneously interrogating their clients is outstanding. And in the end, Mama Cod gives Emerson some wise advice: If he wants to bring his daughter home, he should stop talking about what a cool kid he was and start focusing on what a great dad he'll be.

While all of that is going on, the case leads the team to My Best Friend Inc., a rent-a-friend company where the murder victim was working as a "frescort." Suspicion initially falls on Randy Mann (guest star David Arquette), considering he likes taxidermy and meat pies and obviously needs some friends. He and Ned start to form a bond, since Ned gets the whole loneliness thing, but when Randy gives Ned a taxidermied golden retriever with a guitar, well, all bets are off. Another suspect, Barb, was dating Joe, and she starts to look guilty after she shoves Chuck and Olive in a locker, but she turns up dead in a hug machine. Finally, the team hits on its culprit: Buddy Amicus (ha), the nerdy founder of My Best Friend Inc. who invented the lie that he was a former star quarterback just trying to pass on his abundant social skills to others. This is all revealed in a particularly quirky sequence involving Spartan costumes and jock straps.


Oh, Ned is so, so lonely. I loved his reactions to the hug machine — first horror, then a resigned, schmoopy-happy face as the arms close around him.

It's nice that he recognizes that this loneliness is something he can work on, though. Yes, Chuck can know all his secrets, but that's not an excuse to avoid dealing with the regular world.

Chuck and Olive trapped in a locker together is one of my favorite scenes of the season. Obviously their issues were big enough that all that water wasn't going to stay under the bridge.

The "Our universe is forever expanding" "Like your neediness" exchange was harsh, and Chuck's "I feel like a sachet in the panty drawer of a shut-in who was shut in her closet by her cats so they wouldn't have to smell the scent of freesia" was just . . . wow.

Actually, this episode has a few great Chuck and Olive moments, including the one where they imitate different emotions to get hired at My Best Friend. "Consternation!"

"I want to duvet you right this second" is my new favorite expression. But I am surprised that a buck-naked Chuck is a comfort to Ned, considering the whole no-touching thing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eli Stone: Grace

Well I think we all know what the big to-do was regarding this whole episode: Mrs. Tom Cruise. If she wasn't married to Tom Cruise, I can guarantee you that there wouldn't have been nearly as big of a deal made about a former star of Dawson's Creek appearing on Eli Stone. Certainly she didn't make herself into an international sensation with her performance on Batman Begins. Hell, she was replaced in that for the sequel.

So how did Mrs. Tom Cruise do? Well, I won't say that she brought a whole new level of magic to the show, because it has plenty of that already. But she proved a nice diversion, and not too distracting from the ongoing plotlines. From her opening musical number, in which she performed very well, to the final moments on-screen with Eli, she showed quite a range of talent. Maybe Tom will let her out of the compound more often to get some more acting gigs. She should remind him that's what she did before she became Mrs. Tom Cruise.

Legal Motions

In the end, I'm not going to say that I completely understand the point of Eli's vision, or of Nathan's actions in response to his dad's notebook. I guess Dad knew Nathan would find the notebook at just the right time and then wanted him to send Grace the ticket but not tell Eli about it. Man, Dad's visions were a helluva lot more specific (and far reaching) than Eli's. Maybe Eli's will grow with time.

The continuing evolution of Jordan Weathersby is interesting to watch. I fully expected him to get huge resistance from the rest of the partners, especially Posner and Klein, and it was great to see Katey Sagal back in that latter role. It's such a turnaround from how Jordan's character started last year, and it seems to have come upon him so abruptly I can certainly see how they'd think he'd lost it. I'm not even sure he hasn't.

Isn't it a shame that no matter how many times Eli proves himself to Taylor, by the very next episode she's resisting everything he says or does or thinks. At least he has Maggie in his corner. Poor guy.

The "visions" have been tremendously toned down this season thus far, as have been the extravagant musical numbers. Is it a budget issue or a modification of the direction of the show? Maybe less visions and more traditional legal maneuverings is on the horizon. Personally, I hope not because as goofy as some of them could be, it was those visions that really made Eli, and Eli for that matter, stand out. In fact, the case that was at the center of this week's episode was pretty mundane.

Ultimately, I'll say Grace was a bittersweet presence for Eli Stone. I'm not sure that I buy into the notion that they were just there to show the other that happiness was still possible for people like them. I think I'd have rather them choose an actress with some more availability than Mrs. Tom Cruise and actually give Eli a relationship for awhile. They could always kill her off if they wanted to move in a different direction.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fringe: The Cure

"Where can I get one of those white suits?" - Walter, asking for a hazmat suit

Let's start at the end of this episode. I felt a little spark of something when Olivia and Peter were talking. At one point, he almost looked like he was going to lean over and kiss her. If so, I hope they don't go there -- at least, not quite yet.

The story follows the theme that someone is out there experimenting on people, with clues leading back to Massive Dynamic. Nina was only too happy to hand over the Intrepus intel to Peter, only now he's indebted to her, so I'll see where that leads in the future. But it's good for Nina, because the Intrepus' stock plunged, which gives Massive an edge.

The question is, why does someone want to turn humans into weapons? As Peter suggested, it's not only a matter of humans being used for guinea pigs, but also that someone is possibly preparing for something.

Points of interest:

Agent Broyles is surely one of the most intense guys on TV. His eyes burn laser holes into the head of whomever he's talking to, and I get the feeling that if you tipped him over, he'd crack into a million tiny pieces.

Walter continues to crack me up.

Nina told Peter that she and Walter were quite close years ago, and that she spent a lot of time with Peter when he was a kid.

I learned a little of Olivia's past, with her abusive stepfather and the card he always sends on her birthday. I wonder if he has any connections to what's going on.

A few of Walter's memorable lines:
"If you're going out, could you bring me back some cotton candy? Blue, not pink."
"Was I humming? I thought it was in my head."
"Could I get some of this onion soup? It looks delicious."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bob Dylan Lets His Music Do The Talking

Without any plans to do so, I found myself at the Bob Dylan concert at Wings Stadium thanks to my friend Greg. Dylan is not one of my favorite artists, but I figured he is such an icon that I just had to see him for myself.

With a five-man band that rocked loosely enough to follow his vocals, Dylan croaked along in a gravely voice much of the night. His voice at 67 is perfect for the bluesy numbers. It's not so perfect for the slower songs.

Dylan was dressed in a white wide-brimmed hat and black suit, looking like an itinerant rabbinical preacher of the 1800s Wild West.

He did move as he sang, played keyboard and harmonica. He even did a brief bit of footwork, but otherwise Dylan was a somber presence.

He gave two hours, with encore, no opening act. Dylan introduced the band, but said nothing else the audience.

After the show, Greg and I were a little peeved that he didn't even thank the crowd. But that's how he is. He is a silent enigma, an icon.

Dylan played a few classics, which he's tweaked just enough to make fresh. Plus many new songs.

At the end, the crowd was stomping and clapping for more. Dylan stood at the edge of the stage with his band, wavering back and forth excitedly, maybe even smiling, before leaving.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pam's New Music Downloads

The brothers Gallagher of Oasis can't seem to stay out of trouble. When they're not fighting each other, they're getting roughed up by others. Thankfully things are a lot more harmonious on Oasis' new album, Dig Out Your Soul. They rock out on the standout single "The Shock of the Lightning".

Lucinda Williams' new album may be titled Little Honey, but Lucinda has never been the sugary type. She keeps it raw on this strong follow-up to last year's excellent West. "If Wishes Were Horses," is a dusty heart breaker.

Keane has always been moody dudes, but on their third album, Perfect Symmetry, they actually sound like they're having fun. "Spiralling," the opening cut and first single, sets the bouncy tone with its '80s-inspired dance pop.

After returning to Rilo Kiley last year, Jenny Lewis released her second solo disc, Acid Tongue. "The New Messiah," is a winner on many levels.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy: The Hummingbird

It's got to be a hard pill to swallow when you find out that you're whole life is made up. And an even harder pill when you're the so-called "normal" half of a split personality. Yes, on My Own Worst Enemy, it's the Jekyll personality "Henry" that has to deal with the fact that he's really a gun-toting torturing Hyde named "Edward." And to make things worse, the personality switcheroo chip in his brain is malfunctioning so he's becoming both Henry and Edward at ill-opportune moments. Like turning into Henry when on top-secret missions in Berlin, or becoming Edward when Henry's about to watch hours and hours of old home movies.

In "The Hummingbird," Henry has become a bit more frantic. He might just be capable enough to not get killed in foreign lands, but he's still overly-anxious about the whole "we made up your whole life" thing. In fact, his memories are so real to him, that he just can't buy that they're fake. He sifts through his old childhood keepsakes, watches old home movies from when he was a child, and even tries calling anyone he might have ever known going back more than nineteen years - all in a desperate effort to discover the truth.

After all this, I buy that he might really have a reason to be paying regular visits to his shrink, Dr. Skinner . In the first episode "Breakdown," the visits were just because of his intense dream-age, but now he's got a lot to get off his chest. Not only is everything that Henry's ever known about growing up become a work of total fiction, but "Edward" seems to be getting more quality "sheet time" with his wife, Angie. And to make things even more horrible, Edward is a sexual dynamo who's taking Angie to new levels of ecstasy - with help of course from a depraved, yet titillating move known only to us as "The Hummingbird."

Slater is actually pretty great at being both Edward and Henry. Edward's disdain for anything mundane is quite palpable, but not overly-cooked and Henry's queasy quest for a small piece of mind is just as believable. Back at the secret underground spy lair, Mavis is doing her best to keep Edward's vulnerable condition a secret from her boss Trumbell. If it gets out that they are unable to control Edward's switch, he'll get put down like a sick dog. In fact, Edward's co-worker, in the spy world and the fake work world, Raymond, thinks he's too much of a risk and should just get executed. It's a nice little power play by all, with each character having their own reasons for either wanting Edward dead or alive.

And talk about a scene that plays on many levels - Henry has to interrogate a German prisoner to gain the whereabouts of a terrorist cell in London. But he has to act like he's Edward, since Trumboll is looking in on the brutal proceedings. Meanwhile Mavis is trying to tell Henry what to say through a hidden earpiece. It was quite good. And it would have been interesting, but also way too easy, to have Henry somehow use his "normal guy" smarts to get the info without using torture. He's just not that clever. He just needs to buy time until Edward re-emerges. And what gets the job done in the end? Well, torture.

Henry tries to hide from "the Agency" as he goes off to see his old college buddy, who's now a doctor, and get a cat-scan on his brain. It's an earnest attempt, but he learns a hard lesson after he gets gassed on a bus and taken back to headquarters, and the doctor himself winds up murdered, despite Henry's attempts to protect him. I'm not exactly sure what Mavis' motivations are for wanting to keep Edward alive, seeing as how she's pretty cold and condones torture and all that. But for some reason she's got a smidge of compassion for him. Either that or she just doesn't want her higher-ups to know she's totally screwed up.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Prison Break: The Price

An unexpected death, an unlikely alliance, Wyatt's capture, and a plan gone horribly wrong highlight this action-packed episode of Prison Break.

With the final piece of Scylla in the General's hands, the team seems close to finally accomplishing their mission. Unfortunately, the boneheaded Roland decided to try his luck gambling and lose the one piece of technology that made him useful to the team - the remote card reader. Without the device, there's no easy way to get a hold on the final card. Lincoln comes up with a daring plan to crash into the General's car on his way home from work and take the card by force. The plan could have worked, except for one problem - Roland, in a final act of annoyance, decides to turn on the team and informs Wyatt about the brothers' plan, in exchange for money.

Much to the delight of one irritated fan of the series, Roland is killed at the end of the episode by the cold-blooded Wyatt. His death was not in vain however, as Scofield cleverly planted his GPS device inside Roland's laptop, which allows them to capture the cold-blooded Company hit-man. Mahone even gets a few shots at his son's killer before Lincoln stops him. It seems like the gang has plans for Wyatt, and Alex is certainly hoping that these involve him getting revenge.

It seems that Scylla is more than what I've been led to believe so far. It's more than a means to bring down the Company, it's worth quite a bit to some of Gretchen's associates. Speaking of Gretchen, her "making things even" with Sara side story felt extremely forced. Sara's numerous flashback sequences felt more than a little redundant. I am well aware of the history between Gretchen and Sara and there was little reason to remind me about it at every possible opportunity. The bit where Gretchen gives Sara a chance to get even by taking a few whip cracks at her was borderline childish. Nevertheless, it did allow for some interesting exchanges between the characters.

Sara's confrontation about Michael's nosebleed, on the other hand, was better handled. There really is something going on with Scofield's condition, and I', definitely anticipating it being addressed in the near future. Sucre being shot was rather unexpected. It did give Sara the chance to use her medical skills and stitch him up, but it definitely didn't help in creating any remorse for Roland's final confrontation with Wyatt.

Wyatt was fantastic in this episode. His scenes with the General and Roland were well acted and entertaining to watch. The General suggesting the Scylla be moved, despite the logistic and security risks that such a move would present, was also great to see. Does this mean there's an opportunity for the team to exploit in the near future?

Don Self's role in this endeavor has been mostly reduced to that of an errand boy for Scofield. While he does have a decent scene with Gretchen and T-Bag, the rest of the time he's neither entertaining or useful to the team.

Overall, this episode featured some key developments that really pushed the storyline forward. Despite not getting their hands on the final Scylla piece, the team did manage to capture Wyatt, and I did learn more about Scylla - not enough to know what it is, but certainly enough to know that it's more than just a contact list.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

From my blog to yours, I wish all my faithful readers, friends, and family a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for your support and love!

My gift to you during this wonderful time of the year is my Top Four TV Shows of 2008:

1. Mad Men
What AMC's brilliantly seductive period piece is selling, I'm buying. "It's like looking into something very deep," says one of the show's admen about the modernist Rothko painting haning in his boss' office. Same could be said for this series, which weaves Beat poetry and new Wave cinema into its irresistible soap opera. My No. 1 show two years running is basic cable's first ever best-drama Emmy Champ. Mad Men is a sophisticated and emotionally complex character study of '60s mores and (often bad) manners. As office intrigue collides with domestic drama 9the collapse of Don and Betty Draper's seemingly picture-perfect marriage), no one's American dream is safe.

2. Lost
TV's greatest escape was trippier than ever in its comeback fourth season, a thrill ride of heart-wrenching flashbacks and flash-forwards - sometimes within the same episode -that had me on the edge of my seat while reaching for my tissues as Sun lost Jin, Desmond found Penny, and Jack and Kate left Sawyer behind. And the island? Vanished into thin air! Can't wait to see them try to top that. ABC's Lost is my "constant."

3. Masterpiece
PBS' long-running literary anthology, re-branded and revitalized at age 37, more than lived up its revered name with some of the year's most spirited, enthralling entertainment. Some were labeled "Classic," such as the lovely cycle of Jane Austen remakes, followed by the heartbreaking WWI docudrama My Boy Jack, with Daniel Radcliffe as Kipling's ill-fated son, and, most memorably, the delightfully captivating Cranford miniseries, starring Judi Dench as a village spinster. And then there were bold "Contemporary" masterpieces, like the gripping, high-tech, paranoid thriller The Last Enemy. Masterpiece is the TV equivalent of curling up with a great book.

4. Friday Night Lights
My favorite bailout of the year? Direct TV's rescue of this sublime drama about a small town with a giant heart and the football team that embodies its dreams and values. The third season provides poignant closure for several beloved characters while deepening my affection for those staying in Dillon, Texas, nurtured through good and bad times by the coach and his wife. They're champs in my book.

Seasons Greetings.
Pam & Earnhardt

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The tower Is Tall but the Fall is Short

This episode felt a little slow, but there was a lot going on. I got to see what the story was with Katherine Weaver and her “daughter.” The poor kid is living with a Terminator. More specifically, the Terminator that killed her real mom, presumably. The episode drew interesting parallels between Katherine Weaver and Sarah Connor - both women (well, one woman, one Terminator), struggling to raise their emotionally-crippled children. My perverse sense of humor would really love to see a sitcom about a Terminator trying to raise a child.

This episode finds another mystery name from the bloody wall. This time it’s Dr. Sherman, a therapist who specializes in children. The Connor clan pose as patients in order to plant a bug and keep tabs on the good doctor, but it turns out that maybe they really could use a little therapy. John, in particular, seems desperate for someone to talk to. Seems that the future savior of mankind might have a little touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trust me, Johnny, it’s only going to get worse from here. Poor Sarah tries to reach out to the bratty little teenager but is rebuffed. What more can this poor woman do? Hopefully John will be able to find the help he needs so that he can actually save mankind, and not just mope around with his pet robot.

Speaking of the pet robot, Cameron and Derek get seemingly pointless subplots this week. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Derek hooked up with an old flame who has come from the future for some unknown reason. She is, however, collecting pictures of the Connors. Looks like trouble. I hope she sticks around for more than just an episode or two. Cameron happens upon another lady Terminator at Dr. Sherman’s and a kick ass fight scene ensues. I’m all for the plot and character development, but I’m ready for a little more action. Hopefully with the sweeps coming up we’ll get to see some more Cameron doing what she does best (and I don’t mean ballet).

By the end of the episode, I see that Katherine Weaver learns a little bit about what it means to be human (aww, just like the Grinch), and Sarah realizes that maybe a little therapy would help her too. It’s just a shame that her therapist is helping Katherine Weaver “raise” Skynet. Oops!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Music Videos: Oasis and Kings of Leon

Interested in some moody, soul-searching tunes and visuals to match? Well, I have just the thing for you by way of two moody, soul-searching bands.

First up, a new video from Kings of Leon for the song "Use Somebody" off the Kings' new album, Only by the Night. The video cuts from a close-up of lead singer Caleb Followill pouring his heart out to shots of the band playing for live audiences, practicing at rehearsal, hanging out shooting pool, and heating things up between Caleb (well, I think it's him) and one lucky lady. The video definitely does the tune justice.

The second video is from Oasis for their single "I'm Outta Time" off the band's Dig Out Your Soul, which is out now. The black-and-white visuals are pretty with or without the sound on, in my opinion.

Ready to watch? Just click below.

Kings of Leon - Use Somebody

Kings of Leon - Use Somebody

Oasis - I'm Outta Time

Oasis - I'm Outta Time

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mad Men: The Mountain King

A lot went down in this episode of Mad Men, which makes sense as the next episode will mark the conclusion of season two (boo!). However, despite some character story lines progressing along, this episode doesn't offer many clues as to how Betty and Don will resolve their marital issues.

I did learn a bunch of stuff about other characters, though, including the fact that Pete is violently opposed to adoption and poor Joan is caught up in a terrible relationship with a wretched man. And while Don's away in California indulging in a mother of an identity crisis, Peggy's slowly but surely proving herself to be the brightest star in the office. So much to talk about!

Don Draper: Whoa. Talk about getting some answers. I finally learn the identity of the mysterious woman who showed up at Don's car dealership job in a flashback a few episodes back. She's the real Don Draper's wife! (And I so called it, as soon as I understood who she was, that she's the person to whom Don mailed the Meditations in an Emergency!) Turns out the two struck a deal that was financial as well as emotional. The "real" Mrs. Draper allowed Don to live as her legal husband until, of course, he met Betty. The flashback where he comes home to tell Mrs. Draper about the beautiful model he wants to marry is a nice glimpse into his early feelings for Betty, and I loved that dopey grin on his face as he described Betty to Anna. I can't decide if Anna (Mrs. Draper) is a force for good in Don's life or a kind of enabler. On the one hand, the little family they form together is sweet, but on the other hand she offers rationalizations like this one after he finally admits he's ruined everything by lying to Betty: "You love her. You don't have to tell her everything." I think I get what she's saying, but hopefully Don won't take this to mean that he doesn't have to be honest with Betty.

Peggy: Peggy continues to be the character I enjoy rooting for the most. Even though I know she's made some bizarre, confused decisions in the past, she still seems to be the most well-adjusted, rational person in the office. The way she lands the popsicle account is brilliant and I love watching how quickly she's become one of the guys (in their own way they seem to accept now that she's reaching their level, professionally) and they respect her. I also really enjoyed her exchange with Joan. It seems they've realized that they both struggle to stay afloat in a man's world. The cherry on top of last night? Peggy landing her own office. Hurray! When Pete is curious how she landed such a sweet situation she deadpans, "I’m sleeping with Don. It’s really working out.” Sassy, funny, upwardly mobile Peggy? Yes, please!

More thoughts:

OMG, Sally Draper smoking is so disturbing but I laughed out loud. It's heartbreaking to hear her tell her mom that daddy left because Betty is "mean and stupid." Ugh! That kid is going to be a handful as a teenager, especially if she (crossing fingers!) becomes some kind of '60s hippie activist. Probably won't be able to stick her in a closet then!

For some reason Ken's contribution to the popsicle campaign brainstorm made me laugh: "In Vermont we made our own ice cream. It was a pain in the ass."

OK, Pete's reaction to the adoption agency is crazy! After he screams "Hells bells Trudy! That's final!" and tosses dinner over the balcony, I loved how Trudy put him in his place: "You don't speak to me that way!"

Aaand. . . Daddy pulls the Clearasil campaign from Pete, who is too stubborn to back down and keep the business for Sterling-Cooper. I'm amazed that Pete's personal issues cause a client to withdraw, and Pete doesn't seem to care much about it.

Let's get the terrible scene with Joan and her fiance out of the way. Just, ugh. I could hardly stand to watch that go down in Don's office. I've never felt as sympathetic toward Joan as I do now. How soul-shattering was it that they went straight to dinner afterwards (though she left the flowers on the desk, which seems like even more heartbreaking symbolism)? She cannot marry that jerk.

One of the funniest lines to me was when Anna comments on Don's crush on Betty: "Look at you. You're in the lavender haze." Ha! People in the '60s used funny phrases.

Betty's call to Sarah Beth is also insane! Sarah Beth accuses Betty of encouraging her affair with Arthur and Betty shoots back that there's a difference between "wanting and having." It's an intense scene that makes Betty look like the puppet master over these people as a way of working out her own desires. Maybe?

Cooper's sister Alice is fabulously powerful as a character and I enjoyed her back-and-forth with Roger. She appears to convince Cooper of agreeing to the merger. And does it seem darkly foreshadow-y when she says something in the beginning about letting Roger Sterling die in the arms of a 20-year-old? Anyway, the staff is going to flip out! I can't wait.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Family Guy: Road to Germany

Family Guy had some redeeming to do for their episode a few weeks ago, “I Dream of Jesus”. And boy did they deliver! Let me admit, that I was in Germany this September so I was anxious to see where they would take this episode.

The episode had a pretty simple premise with a lot of good laughs along the way and a story that revolves around Brian and Stewie (and, OK, Mort Goldman, too). While attending a party Mort has to use the restroom (he took a combination of laxatives and stool hardeners which, needless to say, was not working out well for him) so he runs upstairs. Meg’s occupying the bathroom (and Quagmire, evidently, is videotaping her from behind the shower curtain) so Mort runs into Stewie’s room. I want to add that Stewie had a funny hand-drawn sign that said “keep out, Brian” that I think is worth mentioning!

At any rate, Mort finds what he thinks is a porta-potty in Stewie’s room and goes inside. Mort had in fact just stepped into a time machine. An hour later, when Stewie and Brian find out what’s happened (and after some always entertaining Stewie-Brian banter) they decide they have to go after Mort. Stewie and Brian find themselves in Warsaw, Poland on September 1, 1939 attending the wedding of one of Mort’s old relatives (Mort, for the record, thought he was in Heaven, which was pretty amusing).

Brian vaguely remembers that “something” happens on that date in Poland but his memory is hazy so they decide to stay for some more of the wedding. The reception, of course, ends up being broken up by the German invasion of Poland on that day! Stewie, Brian and Mort now have to escape occupied Poland. This leads us to a car chase that is based on Biff chasing Marty a la “Back to the Future”. This will represent AWESOME MOVIE REFERENCE NUMBER ONE!

The gang makes it back to England but realize they have to go back to Berlin for some Uranium to make Stewie’s time travel pod work again. So what do they do? Of course, they join the Royal Air Force and dog fight the German Luftwaffe! This results in Stewie saying “Talk to me, Goose” (though Brian asks him NOT to call him Goose) which, of course, is a reference to Top Gun, and will represent AWESOME MOVIE REFERENCE NUMBER TWO!

Their plane takes on gun fire and they have to abandon their plane. Imagine an old plane hurdling toward a mountain with no parachutes- only a life raft. Any movies come to mind? Yes, exactly!! In AWESOME MOVIE REFERENCE NUMBER THREE Stewie screams “We’re not sinking- we’re crashing”, and the gang jumps out in the raft, over the mountains, over a waterfall, a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!

Stewie, Brian and Mort do make it to Berlin and in order to gain access to a Nazi Weapons Lab (for the Uranium) they jump some soldiers in an alley and take their Nazi uniforms-setting up, by far, the best scene in the episode. Stewie notices something on his lapel and says “hey that’s weird there is something on here”. We zoom and see that one of the Nazi officers was wearing a “McCAIN-PALIN” button on their lapel. By far, the moment of the night, as far as this am concerned!

Stewie, Brian and Mort eventually get their Uranium (but not before Hitler and Stewie meet briefly) and make it back to the present time. All in all, this was a great episode. Good story, great Brian-Stewie dialogue, great jokes, and three amazing movie scene references! Definitely the best episode of this season so far! I hope that in an upcoming episode they find a way to integrate references to more of my favorite movies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Simpsons: Double Double Boy In Trouble

I have talked about how The Simpsons has become like an old friend. Sure, the quality of the episodes may not be the same as in its heyday, but the series is packed with characters that I have grown to know and love. So come Sunday night, whether it's a fantastic episode or one that's trying too hard, I'm happy to sit down with these old friends and watch their adventures.

"Double Double Boy in Trouble" was one of those pleasant, "hanging out with the gang" experiences. It was a far from groundbreaking episode, to be sure, but my familiarity of the characters and the fair amount of laughs made for yet another pleasurable viewing experience from this 20-season-old stalwart.

And the episode began in a very familiar fashion: with Bart causing trouble. The writers fully realize that this is a commonplace situation, so Bart's exclamation of "Look at me! I'm doing stuff," was humorously self-aware. Bart's behavior in the Kwik-E-Mart drew Homer away from buying the last lottery scratch ticket from Apu. Lenny purchased the ticket instead and ended up winning $50,000. In a great line, Homer declared that Bart had reached "a Dennis-level of menace."

Meanwhile, Lenny took his winnings and threw an extravagant party for his friends. While there, Bart got into the gift bags and turned on all the Vac-U-Bots, changing their settings to "malevolent sentience." Homer and Marge had had enough and started listing possible punishments. Again, this is nothing new, so it was funny to hear Marge run through a generic list -- "no more TV," etc. -- only to finally land on "no more non-dice board games." ("You can't take away my Balderdash!")

The episode then introduced Bart's doppelganger in the form of Simon Woosterfield. Simon is one of the heirs to a tremendous fortune, but he confided his general unhappiness to Bart. Tired of being harassed by his parents and excited to live the life of the wealthy, Bart switched identities with Simon. This, of course, is a tried and true sitcom plotline, and one that The Simpsons have used several times before in various forms. But there was enough humor to keep me distracted from feeling like I've seen this all before.

The majority of the laughs in this ol' switcheroo came from Bart's new, wealthy lifestyle. His bedroom was especially memorable, with a candy corn volcano, a ceiling from one of Saddam's palaces and a Joe Montana poster that was actually the real Joe Montana holding a pose. Eventually Bart learned that Simon was standing in the way of his half-brother and sister receiving their full inheritance and that the siblings planned to off him. Lisa, meanwhile, had figured out Simon's rouse based on his politeness and reluctance to punch. Simon confessed to the trickery in time for the family to save Bart from being killed on an Aspen ski trip.

Aside from everything going back to normal so quickly at the end, the story as a whole was interesting and the jokes were funny enough to illicit several audible guffaws. But the other important factor that made "Double Double" enjoyable was the 19 previous seasons of the series. Being so familiar with Lenny made his "friends" party that much funnier. And my shared history with Milhouse made his visit to Bart as Simon a standout moment in the episode. Milhouse regarding the half-brother and sister: "They're beautiful. I mean just the girl. I didn't notice the beautiful boy." Apu, Krusty, Wiggum and Mr. Burns also added great bits to this episode. They're old friends, just like the series. And, yes, sometimes friends can let you down. But when they are there to make you smile and laugh, it sure feels good to know they're still around.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eleventh Hour: Cardiac

When three eleven year-old boys drop dead of heart-attacks, their entire small Georgia town goes all apewire. I mean, why wouldn't they? Eleven year-old boys don't usually have heart attacks. And I heard this statement said over and over. Within the first five minutes, I pretty much understood the fact that eleven year-old boys + heart attacks = out of the ordinary.

In "Cardiac," Hood and Young travel down south to dabble in CSI and House territory, while trying to discover the culprit invloved in these boys untimely demise. This episode deals less with evil scientists and refocuses the show back on "crimes of a scientific nature." I think I was so used to Fringe that I expected Eleventh to take off into the same fantastical horizons of bizarre hoodoo science. But this episode was grounded in real toxins and ailments, which managed to make both Hood and Young seem less grandiose.

Hood is still Young's responsibility, but she has been taken down a notch or two here. She doesn't act like manic guard dog that she did in "Resurrection." I recall that she flipped a police officer to the ground, pulling a gun on him, because she thought that Hood might have been in danger. At a sealed off crime scene. It gave me the impression that he was truly a hot commodity.

In "Cardiac," we lose that tension and are simply left with the feeling that he's just a really smart guy who happens to be well versed in just about everything. And Young is now the woman who stands next to him and asks "what are you thinking?"

The twists and turns certainly keep the pace flowing in "Cardiac" and just when you think you know who might be behind it all, or what the poison is, it keeps changing on you. By the end however, when the great scheme is revealed, I felt myself giving a big "okay what?" to the show. I just didn't buy it. It was simple enough, and yet nothing really led me to believe that Hood could have stumbled onto it. I know, it's the usual curse of a crimey procedural show, but I was hoping for more. I still really like Rufus Sewell as Hood. He brings a very cerebral and genial presence to the show. I hope we delve more into his supposed rebellious and harmful antics that apparently have made him a "target" in need of around the clock protection.

Grief is hard emotion to pin down too. Especially "angry grief." It was nice to see one mother cry as she discovered that her dead son had actually been recording a video diary on his computer. As if she could connect with him once more. Then there was an angry dad who was like "What are you fancy guys here to do!? Solve the mystery of my son's death! Stop meddling, god dammit!" I'm paraphrasing a bit of course, but you get the idea.

And yes, I made up the word "apewire." It's free for all to use.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life On Mars: The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler

What’s real, and what’s not real?

This episode wasted no time at all in telling me that the mystery surrounding Sam’s predicament is fresh on his mind and not shuffled off to a comfortable back seat already. I am going to be invested in this show to learn what the heck is going on. As long as I'm constantly getting fed information and clues, I should be happy. It’s when the clues lead to nothing new that gets me pissed off .

What Sam was writing on the chalkboard (and, as I saw later, the mirror in his apartment) shows that Sam is thinking like me. People who will follow this show and discuss it with friends will likely make their own mental lists of what could possibly be happening to Sam. He seemed to have it pretty well covered. Do the creators have one of those possibilities in mind for an ending, or am I already not thinking hard enough?

I’m loving the ’70s references and especially the soundtrack. The multiple references to how police business was done over 30 years ago adds some great detail to the show. What’s a little strange is that drinking on the job, the treatment of suspects and planting and tampering of evidence in the ’70s is so shocking to Sam. He knows what year it is and is old enough to know how it was done “in the old days,” so why so surprised?

Something that took me by surprise was Ray Carling’s attitude toward Sam. I just never got a feeling that he didn’t like Sam, but it all came out. It’s too bad, as I think Ray and Sam as a team feels more natural than them as enemies at this point.

Then, of course, there’s the visions Sam saw in this episode. Two times he saw the “Red Rover”-like robot, and later saw a reflection of the 2008 department in Gene’s door. I’ve got a couple of observances about these:

That robot looked a hell of a lot like the Mars Rover of today. I mean a lot. I didn’t think that was significant until Sam found the Red Rover toy in 1973. So either NASA developed the Mars Rover based on a ’70s toy, or I just witnessed something from the future mingling with the past … other than Sam, of course.
In the reflection on the window, Sam saw Maya approach him. So either she was in the same room in 2008 and happened to see Sam’s reflection just as Sam did, or it really highlights that something’s going on with Sam’s head to cause what’s going on.

Again, when Sam grabbed the Red Rover toy, I heard hospital machines. I’m probably reading way too much into this, but could Red Rover mean “red herring?”

Other points:

I was surprised that June turned out to be involved with the crime, though it’s not really a new trick for new shows to eliminate what seemed like a key character in the first couple of episodes.

The fight in the hospital was classic. Street braun trumps martial arts.

“I’m sick of this cosmic joke that everyone seems to be in on but me!” - Sam

Songs in this episode:
“All the Way from Memphis” - Mott the Hoople
“Get Down” - Gilbert O’Sullivan
“Life on Mars?” - David Bowie
“I Am a Rock” - Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Movie Review: "Zack & Miri Make a Porno" is Shockingly Sweet

Don't get me wrong: Zack and Miri Make a Porno is extremely disgusting at times. But I expected that. I didn't expect it to be quite so sweet or touching (in the emotional way, gutter mind). I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan, and this latest product of his dirty, dirty mind does not disappoint. It's one part sex jokes, one part sweetness and eight parts F-bombs. It's certainly not for everyone and it's not going to go down in history as a cinematic tour de force, but it is hilarious and raunchy and oddly sweet.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) have been best friends since childhood, and now they room together in a Pittsburgh apartment. They're not the most ambitious pair, and when they run out of money, they need to come up with some fast cash in order to pay the rent and bills. Thus, they decide to make a porno. Their friend Delaney helps with casting, and soon four more (including real-life ladies from the world of adult entertainment, Traci Lords and Katie Morgan) join the project and the group is on its way to making a pornographic movie. But things get a little complicated (see? I could have used the word "sticky," but I didn't because that would have been gross) when these two just-friends decide to have sex together on camera. The main joke seems to be that pesky things like emotions and love get in the way of great, entertaining porn.

As I said, I like Kevin Smith's stuff in general, but this movie is on a different level, due in large part to the outrageously endearing lead duo. And here is an example of a male-female, lifelong friendship that honestly rings true, as opposed to other attempts like, say, the absurd relationship at the heart of Made of Honor. Seth Rogen seems like a guy you might legitimately be friends with, and it's so easy to relate to the funny and kinda weird Elizabeth Banks. They're just so dang lovable! So it stands to reason that in the movie, they would love each other.

Smith gives a lot of credit to Judd Apatow for having paved the road for mainstream acceptance of this style of comedic movies, films that theoretically could be called romantic comedies, but with humor so raunchy you gag a little sometimes. And it's true: With the success of comedies like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, audiences have been exposed (har-dee-har) to this kind of humor in an appealing way and with likable actors like Steve Carell and Seth Rogen. But I actually think Smith is even better at this than Apatow is. His stories are set in places like New Jersey and Pittsburgh, for Pete's sake. There's just something beautifully unkempt and down-to-earth about these characters, and this somehow makes the funny funnier, the dirty dirtier, and the sweetness that much sweeter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Supernatural: Monster Movie

After kicking the season off with four pretty heavy episodes, it was time for a little break. And that’s a good thing. While they don’t do it often, the Supernatural team does comedy very well. This time, the classic movie monsters provided the backdrop for the laughs. It was largely tongue in cheek, with lots of cues from the classic horror movies, but there was still time to uncover a rather familiar foe.

Before I get to that big ol’ mystery though, I should probably talk about the production. I really like the choice to do the whole thing in black and white. Sure, it would have worked just fine in color, but the different look added to the atmosphere. As soon as the classic credits popped up on the screen, I was in. They carried it right on through in the way they shot everything as well, most notably with the brightly lit eyes on Dracula.

Getting to the story, where do I start? The script was chock full of great references and one-liners. At the same time on occasion, as I saw with Dean’s revelation about his health post-Hell, “Brother, I have been rehymenated, and the Dude will not abide.” A hymen joke, and The Big Lebowski, all mashed together for you. I also really liked Jamie’s line, trying to put it all in perspective: “You guys are like Mulder and Scully or something? And the X-Files are real?” There was the Goethe theater, “I’m a maverick Ma’am,” Anne Rice, and they even wrapped the mystery with a classic. From King Kong: “It was beauty that killed the beast.” I could go on.

Getting, slightly, more serious, were you guessing shape shifter right away? I was actually going with a trickster. Shape shifter worked well though, and it is impressive that they can reuse the creature and not have it feel tired. It certainly didn’t hurt that they cast Todd Stashwick. He’s been on a roll lately, having followed up his run on The Riches. This was a great part, but you have to imagine he had an odd reaction upon learning that he is a Vespa riding vampire.

As much as I loved all the gags, my favorite scene in the episode took on a much more serious tone. That would be Dean’s little chat with Jamie (Melinda Sward) where he came clean about his “near death experience.” Her description, “That must suck. You’re giving up your life for this terrible responsibility.” and his reaction, “Last few years, I started thinking that way,” tell the story very well. That was then followed by Dean telling her things were different. “I save them. And I gotta say, it’s awesome. Kind of like a mission from God.” Dean really has changed. Of course, the fact that Dean shared this moment with Jamie, and not Sam, is also very telling of where they are with other parts of the ongoing story.

All things considered, “Monster Movie” made for a nice little season four intermission.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

CSI: The Happy Place

Back to classic CSI with three unrelated victims: a woman who gets dressed for the beach and then jumps off her balcony; a gambler who is found dead in an alley with her eyes pushed in; and a coma victim who is taken off of life support. There isn't much team interaction this week, but Sara gets sucked into an investigation which just confirms her disillusionment with CSI work, so she leaves...again.

Nick and Catherine investigate the death of a woman named Sprig. Seriously, her name is Sprig and, no, it is not plot related. Anyway. Sprig is cooking dinner until she gets a phone call which prompts her to change into a bikini and then jump off her balcony. Maybe she just received her latest cell phone bill—I know I'm tempted to commit suicide when I do. Unfortunately, Sprig's fall is not cushioned by the bus she falls on. A point that is quite ickly illustrated when the coroner decides to play move-the-limb -with-the-crushed-bones. Ew. Catherine and Nick discover that Sprig was engaged to be married and cooking a dinner for her soon-to-be in-laws. Her fiance, Brad (I was expecting him to be called Twig or Branch), informs them that Sprig wasn't depressed at all. She was on a crazy, obsessive diet and had just lost her job as a bank teller after being accused of stealing from the till, but apparently, she was still cheery.

Nick reviews the security tape at the bank where Sprig hands a man $10,000.00 as change for two $50 dollar bills. Nick discovers that the same person robbed another teller, Grace, who is fortunately still alive. Grace tells Catherine that she doesn't remember the robbery at all even after seeing it on the tape. Catherine discovers that both Sprig and Grace were seeing the same hypnotherapist.The hypnotherapist claims that she was just helping Sprig and Grace lose weight and quit smoking, but Catherine matches the therapist's driver's license photo to the person at the bank. They also find her prints on the phone booth right across from Sprig's apartment. Catherine and Nick arrest her.

The second victim is Paula, a guidance counsellor and gambling addict. Paula is found in an alley with her head bashed in and her eyes pushed in. Grissom, who has finally decided to answer his phone, surmises that the murder was committed with a lot of rage. You think? They go to her house and find her son, Scott. Scott wants to know where his sister Lexie is. The cops have no idea, so they issue an Amber Alert. Video surveillance of the casino shows that Paula was gambling her money away when she was approached by a man who grabbed her and took her to a pawn shop.The cops track down Paula's car and the man who stole it. The man is a loan shark that Paula owed money to, so he took her car and her child, Lexie, who was in the back seat. They find Lexie safe at a day-care. It looks like the loan shark is guilty until they find her son Scott trying to turn in a $500.00 chip that Paula won that night. It turns out that her son is not her son—he was her student and Lexie is their child. He killed her because she'd lost interest in him now that he was “old”. At 18! Yuck.

The last case is one that Sara had worked on as a CSI. Tom Adler unplugs his wife, who was the victim of a rape, from her life support. He claims that the man who raped her, Thorpe, was harassing him and threatening her, so he had to save her. Sara believes him and fights with Grissom over it—only the fight turns into a discussion about their relationship. When she finds out that Thorpe has been in a wheelchair for months, so he couldn't have been harassing the Adlers, she realizes that Tom Adler lied. He admits that he needed to move on, and the only way he could do it was to unplug his wife's life support. Sara is upset and disillusioned and the last scene of the episode is her leaving.

I liked this episode. I thought the few references to Warrick were well done, and it was nice to see a crack in Grissom's CSI armor. For once, he just didn't want to answer his phone or work.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Name Is Earl: We've Got Spirit

This episode started with Darnell attempting to follow an impossible dream: classing up the Crab Shack. Instead of “getting rid of that smell,” Darnell starts offering a variety of cakes, which pleases Randy to no end since German is his favorite flavor. While Earl and Randy are at the bar, Joy’s son draws a picture of Catalina rather than of Joy, and Earl sees a “dude cheerleader” on TV. This takes him back to the list. Years earlier, Earl made fun of Kenny for wanting to be a cheerleader, and he sets about making that right. But unfortunately for Earl, Kenny wasn’t the one who wanted to cheer.

Kenny can’t keep a secret, and he reveals to Earl that Randy was the one who wanted to be a dude cheerleader. To get Randy crossed off the list, Earl pretends to also want to go to Kimmi Himler (nice Nazi reference) Cheer Academy. Once they sign the “No Statutory Rape” contract, they’re in. At cheer camp, the guys meet Kimmi Himler, played by Jenna Elfman, finally in a show that someone wants to watch for a change (remember Dharma and Greg, anyone? I wish I didn’t.) Her face is covered in hideous scars from an unfortunate incident that ended in a badger mauling, and one of her eyes drips all the time. It’s gross, and I thought it was hilarious.

While Earl and Randy are learning about team spirit, Joy tries to convince her son that she’s attractive. “Blond hair and blue eyes is rare, so it’s considered a treasure of the human race. That’s what World War II was about.” Once again, I have to admit that Joy is a genius. Still angry that Catalina is more attractive to her son, she says that he “just likes her because she’s the color of pancakes,” and who could blame him? Pancakes are delicious. But I digress.

Earl and Randy find themselves on a cheer squad with “preggers, headgear, chunk, and black girl,” none of whom take much pride in their cheering until Randy takes charge. Kimmie, desperate for her daughter to be the best, tries to kick them out. Earl decides to pay the ultimate price to help Randy achieve his dream, and he has sex with Kimmie and learns firsthand about that “eye milk.” While Earl is committing disgusting acts for someone he cares about, Joy is still trying to be sexy enough so that her son will need her, which is also pretty gross. To make her feel better, Darnell pushes a fan onto their son, who comes running to Joy.

Now that things are good with Joy, she brings everyone from the Crab Shack to watch the cheerleading. Joy takes this opportunity to tell Earl he’s a douchebag, and this makes Earl realize that he doesn’t want to do this, especially since everyone brought their camcorders so he and Randy will “look stupid and 10 pounds heavier.” But it doesn’t matter how bad they look, they still end up being the best cheer squad Camden has ever seen, which is not at all surprising.

I loved this episode. The more screen time Randy gets, the funnier I feel like the show is, because Ethan Suplee is hilarious. I didn’t really find much fault with this one, since there were some great one-liners in there and everyone got their chance to shine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pushing Daisies: Bad Habits

Pushing Daisies started this season by piling secrets on top of secrets, and this episode many of them come tumbling out. A suspicious death at the nunnery forces Ned, Olive, and Chuck together again, which means Olive's faced with everything she'd "taken the veil" to avoid. The episode involves Night Ranger references, glitter paint family trees, and gourmet truffles.

It all starts with a family tree — Chuck's, from elementary school, mostly blank. Even the investigator she hires to look into her past comes up empty-handed. The explanation for that, of course, is that Lily is her mother and not her aunt (well, step-aunt; I'm glad we've got that sorted out). It's a big enough secret to drive Olive to a nunnery, where she's been living in seclusion — until the possible murder of Sister LaRue leads her to seek Emerson's help. It's sweet that Olive thinks he's just a great private eye; I wonder if she'd think less of him if she knew about the whole waking-the-dead bit.

So Ned and Chuck arrive in the place where Olive's gone to keep secrets, which of course means secrets can't be kept for too long. And boy, do they come out: Olive admits her crush on Ned (who brushes it off like "OK, good to know," much to Olive's dismay); Ned finds out about Lily through a guessing game (that ends when Olive finally covers up one eye in a photo of Lily); and I learn how deep Ned's issues with his father truly run. I was glad to see Ned tell Chuck the truth about her mother — and even happier to see Chuck take the news with a smile. She's been feeling trapped all season somewhere between life and death. Maybe this news will "un-stick" her — and maybe it will prompt Ned to start working through issues of his own.

All of this happens against the backdrop of the murder of a foul-mouthed nun, whose awakening would have been much funnier on cable — it just didn't quite work with all the dirty words removed. This might have been my favorite case of the season overall, though, involving contraband feminine hygiene products, specially engineered truffles, bat poo, and a murderous pig. In such a heavy episode, it was nice to have some comic relief (er, as comic as dying nuns can ever be).
Some other thoughts:
Hooray for the introduction to Young Olive, who brims with optimism and digs for buried treasure/secrets.
Emerson's reaction to Sister Olive is priceless: He delivers a booming belly laugh, makes a little finger frame around her face to block his view of her teal habit, and inquires, "What got thee to a nunnery?"
Apparently there's a new waitress at the Pie Hole: "Brandy, Candy, somebody named after booze or food."
Some scenes had so many bleeps and bloops I could barely focus on the dialogue.

The "by-proxy high five" is amazing, and by Emerson's reaction, I assume this is something Ned and Chuck have done before.
Ned simply salivates over the truffles. How perfect that the piemaker is a foodie!
Possibly my very favorite bit of dialogue from this show ever:
"Sister Christian is nothing but a heavy-petting power ballad.""We're motorin'."
I glad (most of) the secrets are out and am happy to be getting Olive back at the Pie Hole. Plus I have a craving for Georgia peach pie with cinnamon ice cream.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eli Stone: The Path

So there were no doubts about what show I was watching, the new season of Eli Stone kicked off with a huge musical number. Okay, actually it started with Eli in a therapist's office talking to guest star Sigourney Weaver, revealing that it's been six months since his surgery and that the aforementioned dance number was the first time he'd heard singing and music like that since.

I kind of liked the approach of filtering my catch-up on Eli's life through his therapy session. But since this is Eli Stone, things aren't always as they appear to be. What is as it appears to be is the fact that Eli Stone is returning to the prime-time lineup in fine fashion. Some of you may recall that I wasn't gushing with praise about this show last season, but I really feel that it's found its feet and evolved into a pretty good little show. I even found myself *gasp* caring about what happened to various characters throughout tonight's episode.

So therapy sessions with Sigourney Weaver were a whole new form of delusion for Mr. Stone. Or is she really God's fiduciary? And his sessions with her set up a whole new layer to the show. If Eli is an appointed visionary, it makes perfect sense that when he removed the aneurysm from his brain, effectively "quitting," they'd look for a suitable replacement. Whoever "they" is. And why not like right next door.

I don't know why, and I certainly didn't see it coming, but I absolutely loved seeing Eli's brother Nathan have a vision. I thought Eli's vision at the open of the episode had signified that he didn't need an aneurysm to have them, but maybe that was induced by Sigourney? However short-lived it was a great dynamic for Eli's skeptical brother to have a chance to experience the life disruptions he put up with last year.

It's also nice to see that Eli's inspiration and presence at the firm is going to continue poisoning Jordan Wethersby. By poisoning, I mean turning him for the better. Now if only I could stop being distracted by his weirdly "car door open" left ear. I'm sure the ramifications of his having abandoned the bank meeting and insulted their management will create new challenges for him at the firm and with his daughter.

I'm envisioning a struggle throughout this season between the forces of good (Stone, Maggie and Jordan) and the forces of stereotypically evil lawyers (Matt, Taylor and Posner). Considering that the firm has been performing so much on the dark side over the years, this could be disastrous for Eli and Jordan. And I won't commit to which side Matt and Taylor will utlimately sit on, but they've been strangely resistant to long-term change for the better thus far.


Post-surgery, post-visions, Patti gave Eli an MP3 player so he could hear music while he worked. A very sweet gesture as well as a statement of what side of Eli she preferred. It's easy to forget what kind of a guy he used to be.

So Dr. Chen is in the smoothy business now. Acupuncture chased down by a delicious fruit smoothy. Feel the fruity goodness seeping out of hundreds of tiny little holes all over your body. Huh, I guess it could work.

I know it's not politically correct to say so, but Ms. Henstridge looks like she's put on a little weight during the off-season.

The door was left open for Ms. Weaver to return in the role of God's fiduciary, or whatever I'll decide to call her, and I hope they let her walk through it again. It adds a depth and sense of purpose and plan to the visions. It gives me something to try and work out between episodes.

George Michael doesn't have a song named "The Path." Just another example that the show appears to be evolving into something more this season.

It is annoying that after so many visions and predictions proven true over and over again last season, nobody believes Eli still.

I wanted to see Posner's reaction to the fact that Eli was right. He's just one of those personalities you want to rub it in over and over again.

Eli never got his license to practice law renewed. And then he practiced law. Wonder if they'll follow up on that. In the end, Eli made a deal with Sigourney Weaver, or God, to take the aneurysm and the visions back. It's a little disappointing that I won't get to see the visionary brothers Stone, but it does look like I'm going to see Eli and Jordan on some kind of crusade. After all, Jordan told Eli, "I know what we have to do now."

I'm pleased to see this show reaching out to become something more than what it was. It was a nice little gem at mid-season last year and due to the strike it was one of the few "new" shows on the air.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fringe: Power Hungry

“You were hoping for something more specific, maybe?”

Fringe is getting consistently better week to week. Walter is fantastic as usual, Peter is subtly opening up, and even Olivia is improving. Last episode I commented on her lack of personal life being a detriment, and this episode actually addressed that a bit, giving her some nice interactions with fellow agent Charlie and having her show actual emotion. Yay Fringe!

The story centered on Joe, a delivery guy who just happens to cause electronics to go on the fritz when he’s upset. While delivering a package in an office building, to a girl he has a crush on, he gets mad in the elevator and sends it plummeting to the basement, killing everyone on board. Except him. Oh, and I saw The Observer just before the crash. Meanwhile, Olivia tells Charlie that she saw John. She knows it’s a hallucination. Charlie tells her to roll with it; it’s a manifestation of her guilt and confusion about everything that happened. Across town, Walter tells Peter the man who tortured him looked familiar. He is frustrated that he still can’t access parts of his mind. Peter gives him the sweetest look and says gently, “You’re doing fine.” Awwwww.

The continuity of this ep is all over the place. Peter, who was tortured in the last episode, is still all messed up; they even put rope marks on his wrists. But Astrid, who refused Walter’s apology in the last episode, is all smiles now. Grrrr.

While examining the bodies in the elevator, Walter realizes they were all electrocuted before the elevator hit bottom. Back in the day, he worked on a project to make humans trackable to homing pigeons. Each human being has a unique electromagnetic signature, and the idea was to augment the field in order to track people. However (of course), it had dire consequences. Broyles tells Olivia about Jacob Fischer, a biotechnology expert wanted in several states who lured in subjects via “the kind of commercials you see on TV at 3 AM” and then performed unspeakable tests on them.

I’m still not so sure Broyles is a good guy.

While Olivia is reading up on Fischer, the lights go out. I know I compare Fringe to Alias too much, but I wouldn’t mind if the show gave the impression that Olivia could actually defend herself without a gun. She seems sort of … weak. Anyway, she sees John again. He is reassuring, asks her to trust him, and says he truly loved her. Past tense. Interesting. John says she is on the right track and that soon he will prove that he loved her. It’s kind of creepy. He gets into an elevator and it actually moves, going down. Olivia races down the stairs, but when the doors open the car is empty.

However, Olivia sees the “maximum capacity” sign and does some research. She goes to see Peter, explaining that someone walked away from the elevator crash while Walter does a weird little dance in the background. Suddenly, Walter shocks Peter. Cute! His dance was to create electromagnetism. Meanwhile, Fischer tracks Joe down, takes him to a lab, and does things that make him scream his head off. After searching Joe’s apartment, Walter uses a cassette tape that Joe touched, which then became magnetized, to show pigeons how to track him. It sounds stupid, but it was actually kind of fun. Olivia is concerned about the pigeons’ welfare. Peter says, “We’re putting GPS chips on pigeons to track a man who can control electricity. This is your fault, right?” They’re so adorable.

Moments later, Olivia sees John again. He moves inhumanly fast but he kisses her, and that kiss seems real. He says, “I didn’t betray you, I wasn’t the one.” Peter interrupts and John disappears. Peter saw nothing. They follow the pigeons to a warehouse, and Olivia asks if Peter will have more faith in Walter if the scheme works. Peter says no. But he totally means yes. They save Joe, who just wants to go home, but he has to be tested and whatnot.

In the end, Walter tells Olivia she doesn’t seem herself. He knows she’s been seeing John. When she was in the tank, part of John’s consciousness crossed over and this is her brain’s way of working through it. But moments later, Olivia sees John again out on the street and follows him to an underground lair full of boxes and files. It turns out John was conducting his own investigations into the Pattern. And (so cliché) Olivia finds an engagement ring among John’s belongings.

Hmmm. Is Olivia’s mind really just working through something, as Walter & Charlie said (albeit for different reasons)? Or does this have something to do with Massive Dynamic? Since they have John’s body it would be a pretty huge coincidence if it didn’t. And speaking of MD, where has Nina been? She and Olivia had that loaded “everything we do leads us to each other” conversation … and then suddenly it doesn’t anymore? And finally, am I going to have to wait until the season finale to hear Peter call Walter “dad”? I think so.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy: Breakdown

It’s easy to dismiss My Own Worst Enemy as derivative and while that’s true, it doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have value. How many times have great songs been completely derivative of other songs that came before them? This series unfortunately didn't survive. It stars Alfre Woodard and Christian Slater. It’s also slick, fast paced, and action packed.

Christian Slater plays Edward, a highly trained secret agent sent on various sorts of missions around the world. Slater also plays Henry, an identity created by the covert agency Edward works for. Henry is a mild mannered guy who works a job where he must travel all the time. Henry isn’t aware that he has an alter ego but he is aware that something is wrong because he’s started seeing a psychiatrist to discuss some very vivid dreams, so vivid in fact that he dreamed he was in Paris and he found a matchbook from a Parisian hotel in his pocket. Henry is literally turned off when Edward is needed and a fake story about Henry having to work late or travel for work is added to Henry’s profile. The only problem is that the chip in Edward’s head that controls all of these functions is failing and without going too far in spoiler-ville, Henry becomes aware of Edward. Once this happens, the two men find some entertaining ways to work together and exist in each others lives when the chip malfunctions causing that to happen.

While the action is fun and well executed and the characters are well portrayed and entertaining, there are several questions must be answered in future episodes for this series to work. First of all, why do this to Edward? It seems that he lives this other life as a really deep cover, a place for him to hide from his enemies until he is needed. If that’s the case then the cover, with all of its extreme measures, is a failure. Also, if the agency seems to be very detail oriented in its planning of Henry, down to shaving accidents, but they leave a stray matchbook in his pocket? Also, why would the agency allow Henry to go to a psychiatrist? Wouldn’t that jeopardize the cover potentially? Are they just so confident in their system that they aren’t worried about what might happen in the sessions?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mad Men: The Jet Set

“My father will take care of you. He likes you. You’re beautiful and you don’t talk too much.” - Joy, to Don

Don is the James Bond of Mad Men. Seriously, the guy can seemingly get any women that he wants. He doesn’t even have to make a play or flirt or anything, they just zero in on him from across a bar or fall at his feet. First we had Midge and Rachel and then Bobbie (oh yeah, and his wife Betty) and in this episode a young nomad Joy, who seems to want to take him away with her so he can be her plaything. The interesting thing is that Don goes for it.

That’s just one of the many incredible developments in this episode, the best so far this season.
Seriously, isn’t this episode just spectacular? It easily, easily could be the season-ender; it had so many revelations and potential show-changers. Let’s take a look at what is jam-packed into this episode:

During the first part of the episode I make a note about how I can’t understand a lot of what Kurt is saying, but you understand clearly when he says “I’m a homosexual.” I didn’t expect that at all. Not that I didn’t call it on his first appearance on the show, but I didn’t expect him to just blurt it out in front of the entire Sterling Cooper staff (Europeans are a bit more honest about stuff like that I guess). The reactions of everyone is just perfect: Ken, shocked after he made a joke about Kurt dating Peggy, Harry and his wiseass jokes (”Which bathroom does he use?”), and of course Sal, with a look of shock and awe on his face that someone could be so honest. (Speaking of Sal, isn’t it funny how he’s pretending to enjoy Playboy one moment and the next he’s talking about the curtains used on The New Loretta Young Show?)

The romance between Roger and Jane is in hyperdrive. He not only proposes but wants to speed up his divorce to Mona (using the same divorce lawyer that Duck’s ex had.)

Speaking of Duck, just when I thought this was the episode where they can him for not bringing in enough business (and asking to be partner!), it turns out to be the episode that could change Sterling Cooper forever. At first I thought Cooper was going to make one of his surprising decisions and say to Duck “No, we don’t want millions of dollars in business,” but it looks like this could turn into an exciting cliffhanger as it approaches the end of the season.

Kurt gives Peggy a new hairdo. More independent, That Girl-ish than the conservative do she’s been sporting so far.

Of course, the big plot of the episode is Don being a DICK, leaving Pete at the business meeting and going to Palm Springs to be with yet another conquest, Joy the 21 year-old. These L.A. scenes are like a whole different show; the sense of sun and pools is so strong. There’s a great shot of Don standing by the pool in his suit and hat, smoking a cigarette, that I wish I could have used as the pic for this review. At the end Don sends his luggage back home. He’s actually decided to stay out West with Joy and her weird group (love the women’s look when Don asks if they’re all rich)!

Maybe there can be a spinoff show after Mad Men ends: Don Draper: Private Eye. I can picture him out West after a marriage that breaks up, solving crimes. After all, the whole meeting of Joy and her gang seemed like one of those things from a Ross Macdonald or Raymond Chandler novel, where the P.I. meets a weird family that has secrets. Not sure why Don fainted (high blood pressure?), why he was looking at his drink so closely later (something in it?), and I have no idea who he called on the phone and said “this is Dick Whitman” to. Any guesses? (Oh, and what a spectacular shot of Don on the couch, the opposite of the Mad Men logo!)

Besides the one above, this ep had some great lines:
- “Handing out towels?” - Don, to Pete, after Pete said he saw Tony Curtis in the men’s room.
- “Where are the valets? So much for cheap labor.” - Pete
- “Kurt’s a homo.” - Ken, after Pete asked what went on while he was in L.A.

This episode has so many goodies I could have put it in the OMG/WTF? category. No Betty, but her figure loomed large everytime they showed Don’s face. What an awesome show this is.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Eleventh Hour: Resurrection

Dr. Jacob Hood is the FBI’s go-to guy when it comes to cases of a scientific nature. Hood travels around, solving crimes and scientific mysteries that no one else can. Unfortunately, his dogged quest for the truth and his refusal to hide it has made him some sort of target among the people he has implicated in crimes, and as a result he is constantly accompanied by glorified bodyguard Special Agent Rachel Young and a “panic button” with design flaws.

The pilot of Eleventh Hour, appropriately for the series’ title, features a storyline involving a woman who, quite literally, has a ticking time bomb of death in her womb. Hood and Young are called to the Cascades in Washington State, where local Detective McNeil has caught a security guard by the name of Sanders disposing of fetuses in biohazard containment barrels. There are nineteen of them total, all with an identical genetic makeup. Hood catches on to the idea that if there are nineteen fetuses, there must be nineteen mothers, and he and Young set out to find those mothers, or at least whichever one will be number twenty.

Meanwhile, I'm introduced to heavily pregnant surrogate Kelly, a twenty-year-old with a four-year-old son and another on the way. After being confronted by an angry ex in a supermarket, Kelly experiences a small pregnancy scare and consorts with her “doctors.” Her doctors turn out to be a shady bunch, led by Lea Muller (a woman with no obvious connection to the medical profession but with the lack of conscience needed to go through with some of the more unsavory details of the plans) and Dr. Sidney Hayward, a disgraced obstetrician forced into cloning out of lack of other options.

Hood and Young follow the scent of dead babies and track down Will Sanders, the security guard who was caught with the fetuses. He was unable to burn the fetuses as instructed out of conflict of religion, and Hood uses his faith rather brutally against him, dragging Sanders into a church and demanding that he confess in front of God who charged him with the task of burning the bodies. Sanders doesn’t know, but he does know that the woman who hired him talks to someone on the phone named “Geppetto.” Sanders leads them to an abandoned warehouse in Seattle where they find an implantation facility for the cloned eggs. They are interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Hayward, who narrowly escapes only after Hood gets his license plate.

The name “Geppetto” awakens something in Hood’s mind, realizing that the only reason to clone instead of just having a baby naturally is to regain someone specific who was lost, and he decides to look for parents (rich parents, mind you – cloning is expensive) who have lost children in the past few years. He hits upon Phillip Gifford, a Seattle billionaire whose son Gabriel died of meningitis a few years back.

Kelly the incubator, meanwhile, is experiencing some problems. She begins to bleed and, against the recommendations of Dr. Hayward, goes to the hospital. She balks when social services takes her son David away, so she splits with David when she has the chance. Hood and Young, who have been watching the hospitals for suspicious activity, hear about Kelly and learn that she will die if she doesn’t receive medical attention.

Our gumshoes then pay a little visit to the billionaire and interrogate him, asking him about Kelly and rattling his cage. He denies everything, but after they leave Young gets sneaky and listens in on Gifford’s phone as he calls Muller and Hayward to panic a bit. Hayward says that they will get Kelly and go to an abandoned clinic on Bainbridge Island. They head to her apartment and nab her, stabbing her ex in the process.

Hood and Young decide that it’s more pressing to teach Gifford a lesson than to save Kelly, so before going after her they make a detour to his mansion, bringing along with them one of the expired fetuses to give him. Hood reminds Gifford that Gabriel can’t just be grown, that there was more to the boy than DNA strands. Gifford is suitably ashamed and grieved and our heroes decide to mosey on over and save the dying girl.

When they get there, Hayward has been dispatched of and a strange blonde lady is busy giving Kelly CPR. Young goes to find some blood for a transfusion and intercepts Muller in the process, incapacitating. Hood is left with the task of resuscitating Kelly with the stranger. Kelly has lost the baby boy, she tells him, and he realizes she must be the fabled Geppetto. She is familiar with Hood, of course, and leaves him doing chest compressions with practically a promise of a reunion in a future episode. Kelly is saved and gets to go home to her own son and Hood and Young ride off into the sunset to stop some other wackos from messing around with test tubes.

So far, the Eleventh Hour seems a little like a more down-to-Earth version of Fringe, a little more based in science and less in sci-fi. It’s easy to make comparisons to The X-Files as well, but what I'm looking at here is a much simpler concept. Hood isn’t like Mulder who wants to believe. He already believes, and he should because it’s the truth. He is just the only one who understands it.

Which makes me question what role Young is going to play in the future. As far as I can tell, her assignment seems like the pits, and she’s already made a reference to the fact that no one else could cut it in with this job before her. But she’s evidently a go-getter who doesn’t give up, so maybe her virtue will be the fact that she’s always there at Hood’s back with a gun for protection.

Let’s hope that she doesn’t have the gun pointed at Hood’s back though, because let’s face it, his pursuit of the truth looks like it could get to be a pain in the ass. He seems almost naïve in his search, oblivious at the fact that some people are willing to kill in order to keep things a secret. He doesn’t seem bothered when he drags Young from her bed by accidentally sitting on the alarm button, but that’s to be expected. They haven’t formed the crucial bonds of TV brain and brawn yet.

All in all, it was a fairly promising start. I worry a bit about the science overtaking the characters, leaving Hood as a glorified medical dictionary with no obvious personality and Young as the one who has to ask the dumb questions for the rest of us. If the writers can make Hood and Young’s relationship interesting to watch, the rest should follow. After all, who doesn’t want to hear about the creepy things we can do with science?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Life on Mars: Out Here in the Fields

Am I time traveller? Am I in a coma? Am I a lunatic? These are the minor questions that plaque Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) formerly a NYC police detective in 2008 and now a NYC police detective in 1973. One day Sam is hit by a car and wakes up in Mars...I mean in the 1973. Fortunately, David Bowie is around both times to cushion the blow.

We're introduced to Sam Tyler and his girlfriend and partner Maya (Lisa Bonet). They're arguing on their way to apprehend a serial killer. Maya wants Sam to meet her family, but Sam wants to talk about it later. Since this is a TV show, he's going to regret those words.

They arrive at Colin Raimes' (Michael Bertolini) apartment—the man they suspect of kidnapping young women and then strangling them. Raimes sees them coming and a chase ensues. He jumps out a 2 storey window followed by Sam. After a fight, which Sam wins, he takes Raimes in for questioning.

During the interview, we discover that while they have fiber evidence, Raimes has something better: a video alibi of him gambling. They have to let him go, but Maya isn't convinced by the alibi, so she starts following Raimes alone. Meanwhile, Sam finds out that Raimes has a twin brother. This knowledge is too late for Maya though, she's gone missing with just her bloody blouse left in the playground, like the rest of the victims.

Sam rushes to her apartment building. David Bowie's “Life on Mars” is playing on his iPod. He gets out of the car to cross the street and is hit by an oncoming vehicle.

Life on Mars is still playing as Sam wakes up. He looks around and sees that Maya's apartment building is an empty site. Sam, who is now wearing a leather jacket and red bell bottoms. David Bowie is still playing though, but on an 8-track tape this time. Sam's a little confused. It doesn't help when a cop rolls up to tell him that he can't park there. Sam insists that the car isn't his, despite the police officer pulling out a registration in Sam's name. Sam is not convinced, until he looks up and sees the Twin Towers.

Wandering the streets of a very 1970s New York, complete with more polyester than you can shake a stick at and transistor radios, Sam finds a detective badge in his pocket and proceeds to his police station where Chris (Jonathon Murphy), one of the detectives, explains to him that they're expecting him. He's apparently a transfer from Hyde. Not that Sam knows where Hyde is.

Sam, well, Sam proceeds to completely wig out. He starts ranting about his desk and his office until he gets the attention of the head detective: Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel). Gene, with a punch to the stomach, lets Sam know who's boss. When Sam starts hearing voices from what seems to be 2008, he starts screaming, which prompts Ray (Michael Imperioli) to send Sam to be checked out by Annie (Gretchen Mol).

Annie's a member of the Police Women's Bureau, which means that she is basically treated like crap by the chauvinistic detectives in the division despite her psychology degree. Sam confides in her that he thinks he's a time traveller. Fortunately for him, she just takes him to his apartment, provided by the department and complete with clothes from Hyde, and suggests that he stop thinking they're all figments of his imagination. It's good advice, but it's something Sam can't do, especially when his TV starts talking to him. The scientist on the TV suggests that Sam is in a vegetative state and that his occasional movements might suggest that he's in an alternate dimension. Sam yells at the screen, but all he gets is a stand by pattern.

On the crime front, the serial killer from 2008 seems to be active in 1973. Sam immediately thinks of Raimes, and then realizes that Raimes must be a child. He finds the same artificial fibers under the latest victim's fingers. He tries to get Annie to provide a psychological profile. When she's ridiculed by the team and sent packing by Gene, he leaves the station and tries to out walk his delusion. Sam figures that if he wanders long enough, his brain won't be able to sustain the intense level of detail.

Instead, he finds a record store that his mother used to take him to when he was a boy. After waxing nostalgic about vinyl for awhile, he has an idea. The artificial fibers could be soundproofing. This idea is just in time because another girl has gone missing.

He tells Gene and the rest of the detectives his theory, but they're skeptical until Colin Raimes' grandmother is brought in at Sam's request. She tells them about a neighbor, Willie (Austin Basis), who used to play his music too loud...at least until he had his apartment soundproofed.

Gene and Sam head over to Willie's apartment. Gene breaks down the door sans warrant and they find the missing girl. Willie's also there, but he gets away. Sam chases him, but Willie gets Sam's gun, and holds Sam at gunpoint. To Sam's surprise and then relief, Willie starts muttering about a bullet being the only way to get home. Sam figures that solving the crime in 1973 will save Maya and send him home, so he starts yelling at Willie to shoot him.

But, Ray arrives to apprehend Willie. Ray is amused by Sam's “crazy” behavior and thinks that he might fit in after all. Considering Sam's reaction when Ray punches out the already handcuffed suspect, I doubt it.

As they take Willie away, Sam sees him smile and wave at a little boy: Colin Raimes (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). Sam realizes that Maya was right. Raimes was trying to impress Willie—the murders were copycats. A worried Sam goes back to the house to talk to the boy Raimes. He tells the child that it's good to be afraid—that Willie didn't have the answers. He says all this while holding his gun. Just when I think he's going to shoot the child to protect Maya in the future, his radio comes on: it's Maya. She tells Sam that she's safe; that he shouldn't worry about her. Sam tries to talk to her, but she doesn't hear him. Sam puts his gun away even as the radio comes on again. Chris tells Sam that he's needed at an armed robbery. Sam, reluctantly, puts a siren on his car and drives off—still in 1973.

My favorite part? The detailed recreation of the 1970s: music, fashion, cars, and attitudes. I am really going to need a soundtrack for this TV show.