Archive for September, 2006

ER 13.2 — “Graduation Day”

September 30, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  In an episode that takes place over several months, Abby and Luke struggle to keep faith that their premature baby, Joe, can survive the critical last ten weeks that he couldn’t spend in the womb.  They’re helped by the timely (but initially thought untimely) arrival of Abby’s Type 1 Bipolar mom, Maggie (Sally Field, in great, fussy form) who rallies kinda like their own Dr. Bombay (because Endora was eeevil and none of Samantha’s other relatives were as heartfelt).  Neela starts to drink too much in the wake of Gallant’s death, but Pratt, Ray, and Tony Gates (new regular The Stamos), each help her in their own way.  Weaver falls on her sword for Luka when he’s about to be fired for the Clemente situation from last season happening on his watch and she does it because she takes responsibility for being the one who hired him.  Morris, who’s now bored stiff pushing experimental drug trials and realizing how much he misses the ER, begs practically everybody at the hospital to take him back.  Sam gets help from her connected lawyer friend to quickly deal with the situation in which she, like, shot and killed her ex-husband in what she doesn’t think was (but actually was) self-defense.

Comments:  I repeat:  ER is back.  I mean, I’m still decompressing the newest episode of Gilmore Girls in my head and not even my desire to write a review for Studio 60, my new #2 show, could shake my concentration on Gg.  And then ER went and did just about everything right.  Morris’s subplot in which he begs to get his job back was classic comic relief that worked in merry counterpoint to both Abby & Luka’s struggle to keep what will be their only biological baby alive and to Sam’s internal struggle to find out if she belongs in jail for killing her ex-husband.  Also bringing welcome bounce to the episode was — and I love calling her this — the Great Sally Field.  With her Maggie (Abby’s Bipolar Mom) in a much better place due to her meds working, she proves to be a warm, funny, strong woman who finally gets the chance to return the help she got from Abby that she was never able to give her before.  Plus, in a great psych-out, the show keeps us in the dark about the fate of Joseph for just about the last fifteen minutes, talking ambiguously about Abby and Luke dealing with the situation and needing time to themselves, even panning over an empty crib in a dark room, prepping us to think, “Oh, shit, it’s another Carter and Kem, the show is done, the show can’t bounce back no matter how good The Stamos is,” until they pan up and over to Abby and they still psych us out by her sitting in a chair with her back to the camera and thenthey pan around to show Abby cradling a healthy baby.  And I cheered.  Blatant manipulation like that is fun when you realize that the show-makers were deliberately tweaking you.  This touching final scene, which ends with Maggie saying bye-for-now and Abby standing to rock Joseph to sleep, works metatextually as an apology from the show specifically for the Carter-Kem storyline and more generally for the depressing, turgid nature of the series between the disintegration and death of Dr. Mark Greene and the departure of Carter from full-time status on the show two years ago.  The show’s been back in great form since the beginning of last year (season frickin’ 12), so be sure to tell your friends that if they haven’t seen ER in a while, they haven’t seen ER return to greatness.

One more thing:  I hope that Sally Field gets a Guest Actress nomination for this episode.  I’m so hopeful, in fact, that I feel kinda guilty wishing her new show Brothers and Sisters would fail just so that ER could bring her back more regularly as her now-stable fussbudget character.  On the other hand, the episode did make a great coda for Maggie’s time on the show, making her struggle with Bipolar Type 1 (the mood-swingy type) ultimately one of the few storylines from the show’s Great Depression worthwhile, even before the happy ending.

Episode Grade:  A+


Maintenance:  No, I haven’t forgotten to post my full-review of this week’s Gg (and no, the commentary below doesn’t count).  The show almost always takes me longer to process than most other shows.


Initial Reactions: Gilmore Girls 7.1 — “The Long ‘Morrow”

September 27, 2006

I’m still mulling over the fantastic Palladino-less season premiere of Gilmore Girls, which to me exceeded expectations immensely and proved that Amy was right, the show can not just survive, but thrive without her.  But before I do an in-depth analysis (give me a day or three — I have four pages of notes), here are my initial ratings post from and then my email to Hercules at AICN for her massively wrongheaded review of the episode.

First, my ratings post to atgg:

 5 out of 5, a perfect episode.

These are just my initial reactions as I’m still decompressing it in my head, but here’s a few of my initial thoughts:

1)  I read Ausiello’s misreading of the finer points of the episode at absolutely correctly.  Lauren was deliberately and marvelously underplaying.  Lorelai’s in a post-breakup depression, after all.

2)  Any accusations that the show has lost its zip are false.  The
show is still zippy.  Lorelai is not in a zippy place.  The zip comes
elsewhere until she has a zipless fuck one of these days.

3)  Loved that the crash wasn’t really Kirk’s fault, it was Taylor’s.  (PS:  Damn fool didn’t know that these cameras normally don’t come with flashbulbs for this very reason.)

4)  The car crashed into the very spot where Lor and Rory usually ate.  Had Lor and Luke not broken up and Lor just watched from the Diner, she would have died.  Also, way to make the metaphor about their breakup blatant.

5)  At the end, Luke learns the lesson of “Too little, too late.” It’s totally his fault.

Waaaaaaay more to come.   Blog-long.

  — Rob

 And then there was Herc’s insulting, totally off-base post at AICN .  Totally pissed me off.

Subject:  Gilmore Girls and the Geek (Herc) Who Cried Shark

Date: 9-27-2006



Herc — you blew it. 

Gilmore Girls is *far* from over.  In fact, EW, Michael Ausiello, Kristin Veitch, a begrudging Matt Roush, and others got it right.  The show has sounded more like itself in the season premiere than it has in a couple of years.  The problem is that Lorelai is in a major depression after breaking up with the person she thought was the love of her life.  Lorelai justifiably has no zip.  Yes, she’s *supposed* to be the source of most of the zip of the show most of the time, but this was clearly, deliberately, NOT one of those times where she could be zippy and funny and Ambush Bug in drag.  Because of the nature of her story, she couldn’t possibly be the clown and Lauren played her part brilliantly and with profound, moving and very necessary sadness.  But Lorelai’s depression should not be mistaken for the show having no zip or verve, as so many critics who baldly misread the show have done in their terrible, nonsensical, even misleading reviews.

The zip — all of the amount of zip and life that the show normally has and the show has normally embodied in Lorelai, was indeed still in the show tonight — just elsewhere.  In Rory, with Bledel more energized than she’s been since the last time she understood her part in the show — which was season 3 — in Kirk and Babette, Luke whining that he can’t handle pressure.  It was an hilarious, bittersweet episode that was *better* than most episodes the Palladinos wrote last year (except for their sublime Partings and I Get a Sidekick Out of You), but that should be no surprise to anyone who actually watched season 6’s instant classic, Super Cool Party People, which was also written by tonight’s writer and the show’s new showrunner, David Rosenthal.  He has the patter down pat. 

And how about that hole in the side of the Diner being the metaphorical hole of Lor and Luke’s smashed relationship?  Shades of the structure of last season’s hole in the side of the Crap Shack.  Rosenthal has his sense of Gilmore structure, too — especially if one considers that if Lorelai had been watching the proceedings of the traffic light from her normal spot in the Diner because she was too busy making googly eyes with Luke, she would have *died.*  So breaking up with him saved her, metaphorically and literally.  Rosenthal *is* the show now, every bit as much and every bit as good at it as the Palladinos.

Herc, you’re the Geek Who Cried Shark — not to be believed on this subject.  You’re wrong about the continuing state of the best show on television and you owe the show a deep apology for bailing on it after just *one* episode that you clearly didn’t give a snowball’s chance in hell.


  Rob Jensen,

  Straight Guy Who Loves Gilmore Girls

  (Also, I’m the shutuprob in Kristin’s E! Chats, but please don’t hold that against me.  😉  )

Review: Without a Trace 5.1 — “Stolen”

September 26, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  It’s the Steven Stayner kidnapping story from two decades ago.

Comments:  I started watching the show this summer, preparing myself for when there was nothing on NBC but football.  I’m liking what I see, but there are too many main cast members.  Poppy Montgomery is the best actor on the show as the whimsically named Sam Spade, but at times co-stars Enrique Murciano and Eric Close seem superfluous, specifically to make room for the unnecessary Roselyn Sanchez.  What I like about the show is that it’s an antidote to the all-Death all-the-time procedurals, with most cases here ending up with the victim being found alive.  It’s a wistful, hopeful show.  But Poppy needs to stay away from the Fake Tanning booths as her tan this episode looked bad.

Episode Grade:  B.

Review: Law & Order 17.1 — “Fame” (aka “Popo Zao Gets His Revenge”)

September 25, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  Basically, K-Fed Marty from Gilmore Girlskills an off-duty cop while scoring some dope.  (They say you are what you put up your wife’s nose.)  It’s also Detective Nina Cassidy’s first day on the job as Green’s junior partner (Fontana has retired) and nobody trusts her judgment because she got her Detective’s shield by foiling a high-profile beauty shop robbery rather than pay her dues for umpty-zillion years.  Oh, and McCoy has a new ADA, Eric Delko’s sister Mare-ee-sole, who apparently lost a lot of hair when Riaz shot her on CSI: Horatio!

Comments:  Forget the cases.  They’re pretty much solid comfort food at this stage.  Martin and Govich’s chemistry is fantastic and Alana de la Garza Delko Caine makes a good ADA so far.  Nina’s greenhorn status creates great friction and story/character opportunities (and it helps that she’s nice to look at).  Now all they gotta do is get rid of the tired Waterston and it’s a rejuvenated show again.  It’s gone from being one of the worst police procedurals to one of the best just through the cast turmoil. 

Episode Grade:  A-

Review: The Office 3.1 — “Gay Witch Hunt”

September 24, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  After being rebuffed by Pam, Jim transfers to Dunder-Mifflin’s Stamford branch (which should have been destroyed at the start of Marvel’s Civil War, But I Digress).  Michael inadvertantly outs Oscar and then, when confronted with the insensitivity of it by Toby, the human rescources guy, he outs Oscar some more

Comments:  Got to hand it to them, they spilt audience expectations about Jim and Pam halfway down the middle.  Perfect.  Loved that Pam called off the wedding so close to the wedding date that they still had catering to eat three months later.  Jim clearly doesn’t know that they didn’t get married.

Meredith licking the hand lotion was hee-larious.  Why?  Because they’re isopropyl alcohol based and Meredith is a noted alcoholic.

Highlight line:

Michael (through blinds in his office):  Can you imagine Angela with another woman?”

Dwight: (wicked smile) 

Bottom line:  The episode was made by the ensemble’s continuing skewed take on the mundane.  Everybody had a moment.

Episode Grade:  A-.

Review: My Name Is Earl 2.1 — “Very Bad Things”

September 23, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  Earl decides to cross #183 off his list, which is to back up his ex-wife, Joy, no matter what.  Even when she doesn’t deserve it.  Even when doing so could be a criminal act.

Comments:  My Name Is Earl is basically a series of Shaggy Dog stories based around the concept of Karma coming back to bite you on the ass.  You’d think that that’d have a short shelf-life, but it doesn’t, due primarily to the demented writing team and the consistently oddball acting of leads Jason Lee, Jaime Pressley and, especially, Ethan Suplee.  Much missed this episode was the fourth member of their gang, Catalina (Nadine Velasquez).  Highlights include — it’s finally broadcast in widescreen!  Also, Randy (Suplee) has a very funny scene in which he sucks air from a balloon, proceeds to sing, “We Represent the Lollipop Guild” from The Wizard of Oz and is then reminded by Darnell the Crabman that there is no helium in the balloons.

Episode Grade:  B+

Special Note:  Be on the lookout for the special “Good Karma Deluxe DVD Set” of season 1, available only at Best Buy.  The initial shipment includes a version of the set clad in a flannel-shirt-esque cover and a bonus CD that includes 3 songs from the show’s soundtrack.

Review: Grey’s Anatomy 3.1 — “The Time Has Come”

September 23, 2006

Vauge-ish Recap:  Interspersed among flashbacks to when the various characters first met pre-episode 1, we have the quietest season premiere in a long time.  The hospital is struck with a minor scare regarding the bubonic plague, resulting in Derek and George in quarantine together and Miranda keeping the spirit of the husband of a plague victim alive.  Addison has to figure out which of four teens dumped a newborn baby in a trashcan at a dance.  Meanwhile, everybody tries to get Izzy to open up about Derek, but she’s catatonic on the floor of the bathroom, still in her prom dress.  Meanwhile, Addison has found Meredith’s undies from when the latter boinked Derek in the season 2 finale.

Comments:  I have insomnia.  I’m not supposed to be able to write a review at 1:30 in the morning.  But what I liked about this episode was how quiet it was, especially for a season finale.  Miranda’s getting so close to Omar seems to reflect on how close Izzy could get to Derek.  George and Derek trapped in quarantine together is a typical story trope that doesn’t go nearly as far as Shonda thinks it does, but Callie’s devotion to George makes it worth it anyway.  Great performances overall, particularly from Ellen Pompeo and Sara Ramierez — and Sandra Oh in her final scene with Burke.

Episode Grade:  A-.

Review: ER 13.1 — “Bloodline”

September 22, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  The aftermath of the shootout from last season’s finale.  Newly hip Carrie comes into Cook County to discover Ray, Duvenko and eventually Neela working frantically to save Jerry’s life.  Frank is freaked by the carnage.  Morris shows his human side by showing deep concern for Jerry’s fate.  Carrie then discovers the unconscious Abby and cuffed-up Luka.  Abby suffers an abrupted placenta and the baby has to be delivered early, but not without further cost to Abby than just a premature baby.  Sam and Alex are held hostage by her ex-husband and their accomplices, but Sam finds a way out at the end of the episode.

Comments:  For those of you that didn’t know because you didn’t watch the show last season, ER responded to the swift kick in the pants that the raging success of Grey’s Anatomy gave them by producing the best season of the series since Clooney’s last, kinda middling season.  ER took the best lesson it could from Grey’s, which was to inject humor and hope into the series.  Gone is the turgid, ponderous, relentless feeling of tragedy.  Now, the tragic moments are earned by being leavened with character-revealing humor and an overall brisker pace, helped not in the least by confining most of the storylines to the ER itself.  Morris is a great, lovable weasel, Pratt has come into his own as a heroic doctor, Ray’s being torn between careers becomes believable and even Neela’s career identity crisis came to a head.  Plus, when you go to Darfur for four episodes, grinding the rest of the show to a screeching halt and it doesn’t kill the momentum as Carter’s previous digression to Africa in season 11 did, you know that ER is definitely back.

With that preface, what is there left to say about this episode?  Scott Grimes presents a sweet example of comic relief in the way that he roots for Jerry to survive his wounds in the OR.  Abby and Luka have such a great, quiet, humorous rapport that the news of Abby’s emergency hysterectomy hurts all the more without being so overwhelmingly tragic, so overcooked and obvious, as the way Carter’s stillborn baby was handled two and a half years ago.  And I did NOT see the last moment of the episode coming.  Bravo for Sam!  It can all be chalked to self-defense, can’t it?

Episode Grade:  A+


Maintenance:  I’ve just discovered that I write pro-active reviews better and more often in the morning than I do in the late evening.  The problem is, I have insomnia.  See the Catch-22?  I’ll be experimenting with waking up in the morning no matter what so that I can get that one-review a day format up and running.  This also means that I’ll likely be responding to comments later in the day and at night.  Thanks for your continuing patience and support in helping me get this blog going just by reading it.

HIMYM Reviewlet: “Come On” (Season 1 Finale)

September 12, 2006

Vague-ish Recap:  Ted makes a Hail Mary Pass at Robin (literally, if there was hail in that rainstorm.)  Lily and Marshall reach an impasse regarding her speculative application to an art institute in San Francisco.

Comments:  I’m starting to think that maybe the Shrub hates the superb HIMYM, otherwise, he wouldn’t have scheduled press conferences on both nights that the Eye broadcast the season finale of the show.  The first time around, last May 15th, the scheduling havoc ultimately made me miss the finale, which aired after the Shrub’s nonsense.  This time around, with no King of Queensto worry about until January, CBS just pushed HIMYM up a half-hour to the 8pm timeslot, where it belongs (but still won’t be airing there permanently).  So I finally got to tape it while watching the new Prison Break.  (Reminder:  If I tape a given show, it’s likely moreimportant to me than what I watch live as I want to be able to rewind the taped show at a moment’s notice to write down lines of dialogue or rewatch an entire jaw-dropping scene.)

Amazingly enough for cynical/skeptical ol’ me, the first season finale of HIMYM was worth the wait.  I’m not used to a first-year show not stumbling at some point, much less one so heavily influenced by Friends, much less one going for a Ross-and-Rachel moment by having its two romantic leads hook up as soon as the first season finale.  Not even Friendsdid that — Ross and Rachel had their first rain-shower kiss in the middle of the secondseason.  The chemistry between leads Josh Radnor and Cobie SmoldersSmulders is so palpable that I’ve gotto believe that Future!Ted was lying to his kids in the pilot when he identified Ms. Sherbotsky as their “Aunt Robin.”  At this point, it doesn’t matter how convoluted it gets to reconcile Future!Ted’s narration with the fate of Now!Ted and Robin’s relationship, the show has already pegged Future!Ted as one of the least concise, most digressive, most nonlinear narrators in modern television, so I think the writers can just go ahead and push him that last 10% into full-on Unreliable Narrator territory.  Future!Ted has got to be lying about something regarding Now!Ted and Robin.

Other highlights besides Radnor and Smolders’Smulders’ heartfelt performances:  Amy Acker’s guest appearance as a former flame of Barney’s who teaches Ted how to rain-dance (she would sooooo fit into the cast as the third gal to complete the 3 guys/3 girls format perfected by Friends).  Lily & Marshall’s VCR-like ability to “pause” their fights for hours or even days on end — compartmentalization was never weirder or funnier.  The running joke of various cast members slapping Barney and saying it was the universe working through them (after he tries it on Ted first.)  My Name Is Earlmay have gotten a lot of deserved compliments for being such a well-written and acted freshman show, but HIMYM deserves them even more.

Episode Grade:  A+

Review: House 3.1 — “Meaning”

September 9, 2006

Vauge, TV-Guide-ish Recap:  Two months after he was shot in last season’s finale, House returns to the hospital, rehabilitated from even his existing leg injury byan experimental Ketamine treatment.  His first two cases:  a hot (seemingly) hypochondriac and a quadriplegic brain cancer survivor who drives his wheelchair into his backyard swimming pool.  Basically, everyone on the staff of the hospital not just doubts but openly questions House’s abilities to treat both of these patients because he’s of sound mind and not abusing Vicodin for the first time in, like, a zillion years.

Comments:  The ironies abound in the season opener, what, with everyone doubting House’s medical judgment just because he’s just too darn happy for them.  And Cuddhy choosing to put her faith in House’s hunch after everyone on his team has abandoned him by giving the paralyzed father the simple shot of cortisol that cured everything.  Wilson’s pressure on Cuddhy not to tell House that the shot worked prompts House to doubt his own sound judgment and steal a prescription of Vicodin off Wilson’s scrip pad (which, if I remember correctly, is a felony or something).  It’s a well-written variation on the normal House CSI: Hospital formula that requires everyone to doubt him until the very end.

There’s not really a whole lot that can be said about a typically good episode of House like this one other than it’s well-written and reasonably well-acted, especially by (duh!) Hugh Laurie as the title character and Jennifer Morrison as Cameron.  The show is dependable comfort food.  I was a bit underwhelmed by the usually good Kathleen Quinlan, who took on the thanklessly underwritten role of the paralyzed father’s wife.  Usually, the Guest Patients and Guest Patient’s Guest Family are better written than they were in this episode.  But hey, it’s only the season opener. 

Also, Jennifer Morrison has taken on a look for Cameron, with the longer, darker hair, bangs and cats-eye-ish makeup, that makes her look enough like Alexis Bledel’s older sister that she could take on the much better-written (and far more poorly acted) role of Rory Gilmore whenever Bledel wanted to leavel her own show.  And anyone who’s  seen the ghost-story movie Stir of Echoes knows that Morrison and Gilmore Girls’Liza Weil already have good onscreen chemistry even though they barely shared a scene with each other. 

Robert Sean Leonard is on the verge of overselling his doubt of House and needs to pull back before his performances devolve into the undermotivation of melodrama.

Episode Grade:  B-.