Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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-.

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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.

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-.

Review: Prison Break 2.3 — “Scan”

September 8, 2006

Vague, TV-Guide-ish Recap:  The next step in Michael’s plans results in a convoluted digression out into the boonies.  The now-jobless Bellick deciides to after the brothers by following his own leads.  Sucre and C-Note start to do exactly the wrong thing if they want to stay out of jail: they start trying to get back into their respective women’s lives.  Dr. Sara’s governor father, now well on his way to the Vice-Presidency, uses his new-found clout to keep her out of jail and in rehab.  Paris Gellar’s fiancee (ie: Kellerman) inveigles his way into Dr. Sara’s rehab group.

Comments:  Over the opening weeks of the second season, there’ve been a lot of complaints from fans about how convoluted the plot it.  This coming from people who have been watching a show whose first episode ever promised, “We’re the Rube Goldberg of Conspiracy Theory Shows” by revealing that its lead character put all of his plans to break out of prison and stay out into a ginormous set of tatoos.  No doubt, the complainers are also mostly fans of 24, too, and the credibility-stretching plot convolutions there don’t seem to raise the same alarms.  Do I detect some hypocrisy here?

Anyway, while there are some gaping plot holes in the story — like, wouldn’t Fichtner’s task force have already had Michael’s Russian mail-order wife staked out long before Bellick even though of the lead? — none of them are deal-breaker implausible at this point and instead continue to reveal character.  Many of the turns simply continue to suggest (without outright stating) that Michael must have some form of OCD to have this much ability to 1) have his plans thought out sometimes years in advance and 2) to stick to the larger plan when some part of it (the loss of the backpack with fake IDs) goes awry.

That they’re continuing to include the previously disposable character of Michael’s mail-order bride . . . umm, what’s her name again, she’s that memorable? . . . strongly suggests that now that Veronica is dead, Linc is destined to fall for her and eventually remove the legal impediments to Hamlet Michael and Ophelia Dr. Sara finally hooking up at some point in the indeterminately near future.  And the more I thought about that implication, the more it became apparent to me that probably the sole reason Veronica was killed off was to make room in the budget for William Fichtner as the Inspector Javert-ish Gerard-ish man in charge of hunting the brothers down.  I certainly wouldn’t have killed Veronica off just for (or even primarily for, as I believe was done in this case) such budgetary reasons, but nevertheless, I like what Fichtner is bringing to the show.

On the other hand, Fichtner’s (umm, what is his character’s name again?) downing a few “tic-tacs” suggests that the character has the cliched deus-ex-machina-in-the-making of some sort of a heart problem looming over him.  I hope that they lose this cheap plot crutch by forgettting that they ever showed it.

The show, as always, runs on pure momentum, which the actors carry fine even when the story occasionally stumbles (but not where the fans think that it stumbles.)

Episode Grade:  B.

The First Lesson of Blogging: Write, Dammit!

September 8, 2006

(or “Blogging Sure Am Easy,” say Bizarro Rob.)

The First Lesson You Really Learn About Blogging is that you basically have no choice but to disappear for two weeks every time you get sick.  The last four or five days, I’ve been able to post more and more to atgg because newsgroup writing is pretty much reactive writing — but blogging is so much more active and so much more “Oh, I have to find my own excuse to write something now?!  That takes a totally different part of that side of the brain!”  The one that’s saying, “No, that sinus infection is making it sooooo hard to concentrate because all I can feel is the sloshing around of infected fluid in my inner ear and the more I think about that the more grossed out I get and the more grossed out I get, the less I can write for myself on this blog again” and suddenly, I’m in, well, a far less goth version of a downward spiral.  (Here’s where somebody tells me to RTFF about how to use WordPress.  Thanks, but I’m a kinaesthetic learner, not a visual learner.  Which is odd, considering that I’m a compulsive writer and comic book collector.  But not so odd if you consider that I like the tacticle sensation of both typing and holding a book, comic book, DVD or magazine in my hand.)

Oh, it’s nice to dream of being TV blogging’s equivalent of John Amato at www.crooksandliars.com and be able to bring in guest bloggers whenever you can’t blog, but hey, he’s actually (apparently) making a living at it while I don’t even know how to set up the frickin’ click-throughs to amazon yet.  (Oh, gee, probably means I need to finally set up that PayPal account I’ve always been threatening to get myself.)  But nooooooooOOOOOooooo, I’m not bitter.  I’m not jealous, I’m just settin’ my goal.

Oh well, at least I get to use the standard excuse of “This is just the beta version of my blog, the REAL version doesn’t go up until I know what the hell I’m doing.”  Pleading the truth normally works, don’t it?

Meanwhile, I get to reiterate (or even voice for the first time) my intentions about this blog, to post my 10-or-more-bulleted-point reviews of each new episode of Gilmore Girls every Wednesday or Thursday after a new episode, that I can’t possibly go into that level of anaylsis for every show I watch every week because it just isn’t humanly possible to write that much on a daily basis — the Gg reviews alone run 2-3 pages, so it would be something like 50 pages a day to give even just the shows I watch (and there are a few that I don’t) the same treatment that I give Gg.  And while I would like to give several other shows besides Gg that sort of treatment, my Gg reviews usually take 2-3 hours to write, even with 8 pages of notes in hand to decipher, so physically, I’d only be able to do, at most one show per day in that sort of depth and, well, like, I’d like to write about other things, too — like, how Katie Couric should never, ever wear a white blazer with a (real or) fake tan ever again.

You know, the other important stuff about TV.  If I couldn’t write about that, blogging would be no fun at all ’cause writing reviews would become a chore.

So here’s where I play the “I agree with you, I am clearly making this up as I go along” Card and promise to do some sort of mix of long reviews, primarily Gilmore-oriented reviews, many more short, one-paragraph-or-so graded reviews of most weekly shows that I watch, and stream-of-consciousness commentary such as this here entry that you’re (hopefully) reading right now.  And here’s where I promise to keep this blog 99 and 44/100 percent reality-show free — at least, as long as The Real World doesn’t pick another city that I’ve lived in or near, as with the San Diego and San Francisco casts.  I admit it, my prescription of reality shows is one Real World cast every three or four years, no more, no less.  That’s all I can stand before I remember that watching reality shows helps put my actor friends and other colleagues out of work. 

Reality-free, that’s me.

Coming up next:  I catch up on the last three or four days of shows, with bullet reviews of this week’s Prison Break, Bones, Blade and the season premiere of House.  Plus, I’ll review this week’s Eureka and try to figure out how to explain why it works at everything that Three Moons Over Stuckeyville Milford.  At least, if I threaten to write a longer review of Eureka, I might just have half a chance of getting one out there. 

Okay, Here’s How the Reviews are Gonna Work

August 28, 2006

1) Pretty much the only show that I’m guaranteeing to write a review for every episode this season is Gilmore Girls. 

2) Any absence of a review for any given show is not to be taken as any indication of what I think of it.  Like you, I’m just watching a lot of TV shows and there’s just not enough time in the day to cover them all even IF I stopped watch CSI, CSI: Miami, Law & Order and SVU.  BTW, Mariska Hargitay sure looked purty up there onstage getting her Emmy last night, but she sure didn’t deserve the Emmy for that episode (the terribly-acted, terribly-directed, blatantly obvious and blatantly obviously Emmy-bait-ish “911.”)  But I digress . . .

3) My reviews may be full reviews with letter grades or they may be general commentary about the gist and/or general direction of the show.  Yes, IMO, the graded reviews should be considered to carry more weight.  Conversely, ungraded commentary will almost always be intended to voice concerns abot the show that I am hoping that its creators address in the near future and such concerns will then likely be the focus of at least one fully graded review of a given episode *when I feel like it.*  Or, sometimes, all you might get is ungraded commentary.

3a) If given enough lead time, I do take requests, but only about scripted fiction.  No reality shows, no nature documentaries, no gory real-life hospital stories on Discovery Health.  I’m all about the stories.

4) I’ll admit it now:  I’m a screener whore.  Hint, hint. 

Edited to change a LOT of typos and clarify a phrase or three.  I didn’t sleep much last night.

Do You REALLY Wanna Know My Opinion of Three Moons Over Milford?

August 28, 2006

It shamelessly steals from Gilmore Girls — I mean, the main character is a rich, hot MILF named Laura, for crying out loud.  Small, wacky New England Town with odd town meetings.  Teenage daughter who’s too nice to be into the stuff that she’s strangely drawn to.  Then it steals from Joey’s Creek by having Lorelai’s Laura’s son, the show’s Pacey, sleep with an older woman.  Then it steals from Ed by having the Lauralai’s main love interest be a scrappy, goofy lawyer with mother issues of his own.  I swear, if I start hearing Sam Phillips’ La-la’s *I’m* gonna sue the show.

I could say more about how I find all the shameless theft from other, greater shows, is annoying me, but I won’t.  What I’ll be looking for is signs of it breaking away from its very obviously stolen source material influences.

Review: Prison Break Season Premiere 8-21-06

August 27, 2006

I’ll try to have the episode titles in the headers for each show that I review, but this time it escapes me (mostly because it’s late at night).

John Billingsley’s loss as the President’s brother is the show’s gain.  I loved Billingsley as Dr. Phlox, but he seemed rather heavy handed in the first season.  His replacement in the role, Jeff Perry, is one of the few times where recasting a role in a primetime show works.  Perry brings much more range to the character, making the death of Veronica all the more tragic.

And speaking of the death of Veronica — Sorry, but I ain’t gonna do spoiler warnings.  You read at your own risk.  I’ll miss Veronica because I still have warm fuzzy hormones feelings for her from The Craft, but still, her demise showed how being out on a limb by yourself in the most deadly situation can get you killed and suggests that the Prison Breakers’ best chance to stay alive, clear Linc and get D.B. Cooper’s Westmoreland’s stash of money in Utah is to stick together.  The death of Veronica, one of the lead characters of the series in the season premiere also quite neatly shows us that no one is safe in this story, anyone, even Linc or Michael, could die at any time.  Brilliant, brilliant move to kill off one of my favorite characters on the series in such a great way.

Also, I’m glad that Dr. Sara survived her heroin overdose in last season’s finale.  Between her sadness and instability, Michael’s intense inscruitability and Horatio’s Linc’s newfound moral steadfastness, I think what we’ve got here is a remake of Hamlet by the way of The Great Escape.

Grade:  A+

This review was edited and slightly expanded since I first posted it.