Friday, September 30, 2011

Review - Nikita Season 2 Episode 2 Falling Ash

Without the strict constraints of Division dictating every characters' moves, Nikita can freely explore different plots without any hindrance. In "Falling Ash," Owen returns and we get to see more of the bad things in the world, a defunct brainwashing program which Division burned down. Division's involvement is very minimal, allowing us to see more of Birkhoff and his side of the operation.

Talking to Owen, Michael is conflicted about the quest he's on. He has everything he wants but is still on the quest to destroy Division and that may not be worth it. He picks up the snow globe at the end of the episode and stares at it, troubled at the position he's in.

It is revealed at the end of the episode that Owen is working for Ari Tasarov and Gogol, a twist that wasn't completely out of the blue since Owen suggested he got work since the last we saw him. This sure is a complicated situation.

Score: 8.7/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Thursday 9/29/11

FOX won with The X Factor (3.9).

CBS was second with The Big Bang Theory (4.9), How To Be A Gentleman (2.7), Person Of Interest (2.7), and The Mentalist (2.6). Weak premiere for How to be a Gentleman, much lower than the now-canceled $#*! My Dad Said.

ABC was third with Charlie's Angels (1.5), Grey's Anatomy (3.6), and Private Practice (2.8). Charlie's Angels took a big drop and I won't be surprised if it's canceled soon.

NBC was last with Community (1.8), Parks & Recreation (2.1), The Office (3.5), Whitney (2.5), and Prime Suspect (1.5). Both Whitney and Prime Suspect took tumbles from their premieres. Whitney is fine for now while Prime Suspect is pretty much a goner.

Review - The Secret Circle Season 1 Episode 3 Loner

I almost didn't want to review "Loner" because I was so bored with the episode, but here a couple thoughts. The relationships--Cassie and Adam, Melissa and Nick--dominated the episode and went nowhere. We get a better idea who both Melissa and Nick are, but that's it. The scenes with Cassie and Adam are still embarrassingly bad, and Cassie and Diana scenes aren't much better. It's so obvious what the writers are going for--the super romantic "they're destined for each other" stuff--but the dialogue and acting is so stiled that it's cringe-worthy.

Score: 7.3/10

Review - The Mentalist Season 4 Episode 2 Little Red Book

The scheme to reinstate Lisbon to the CBI rides on the premise that Jane is so indispensable to the CBI that they would do anything to keep him on. This is problematic since we're not presented with any relevant statistics and Jane causes trouble throughout the episode.  Is Jane really that much better than all the CBI agents that he can cause an inordinate amount of problems on a daily basis? In my mind the only way Jane should be kept around is if he closed twice as many cases as all other agents combined. Besides that, how can Jane be good? He skirts the law, gets other agents in trouble, and even shot someone to death.

But there was probably no way the writers could have gotten around this issue, given how they've written his character for three years. We'll just have to live with Jane and all his shenanigans and assume he'll be here to stay no matter what he does. Simon Baker has enough charisma that anything he does is charming.

Jane believes he did not kill Red John and brings back the blind woman from, I believe, the second season. She touches Carters and tells him that wasn't the man she knew, who Jane believes is the real Red John. Unless she is lying, Jane is right and has more work cut out for him.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - The Vampire Diaries Season 3 Episode 3 The End of the Affair

"The End of the Affair" is a heady episode of television, using flashbacks to 1920s Chicago to introduce a multitude of new plots. First, there's the retcon-y part of Klaus being friends with Stefan back then which dredges up Stefan's bloody past. This leads to more questions from the past--who Rebecca is, what her necklace does, and what she knows, who was hunting Klaus and his sister--and we can see how dense this material can get, filling the season. Now that Klaus restored Stefan's memory of this time, how will he change?

Elena and Damon headed out to Chicago and Elena comes face to face with Stefan--twice! I was already surprised when Stefan saw her in the hidden compartment, and even more when they actually talked and Stefan told her he wasn't coming with them. What's great about this is that Elena and Stefan being apart isn't physical, as if Stefan couldn't be found, but because Stefan's mind is somewhere else right now. With Rebecca's return it looks like Stefan and Elena won't be getting back together anytime soon. Which is fine because there are 19 episodes left this season, plenty of time to tell more story.

There was just enough time in the episode for Caroline to get screen time and conclude her captivity. There are obvious parallels to gays as Caroline is tortured by her father who believes she is a monster, and while it's not all that original, it feels less forced than in True Blood. Liz explains that this way of thinking has been passed down through the generations, so it makes sense why everyone would act the way they did.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 5 Episode 3 The Pulled Groin Extrapolation

The funnest part of The Big Bang Theory these days is seeing Mayim Bialik play Amy Farrah Fowler. Amy has this notion that she should follow societal norms, but doesn't act on the notion actively. In one moment, she's doing her blank stare and in the other, she has a big grin on her face, as dictated by what she thinks she should do in the situation. This leads to a train of laughs when she hangs out with Leonard, and I really liked the main plot.

Of course, it isn't an episode of The Big Bang Theory without some character bashing. The B-plot was one of the worst in a long time, a painful return of Howard being the biggest loser in history. Bernadette sees his behavior in the episode--the weird relationship he has with his mother, references to his weird relationship with Raj, not even cutting his meat--and you wonder why she doesn't run off. The writers cease to treat Howard as a person and instead use him for cheap jokes. As good as Amy was in the episode, I don't think it offsets the awfulness of the rest of the episode.

Score: 8.1/10

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review - How to Be a Gentleman Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Every time I read a summary of How to Be a Gentleman, I couldn't wrap my head around how it would work as a comedy. Indeed, the concept doesn't work and the pilot is a snoozer. I don't know if the show could work, but the writers never give it a chance. They give us a set of generic characters--the timid gentleman, the jock, the mean sister, the mean sister's weird husband--and that's about it. There's no indication of any future dynamics between the characters that would be worth watching, no interesting plots going ahead, nothing worth seeing.

Score: 6.5/10

Review - The Office Season 8 Episode 2 The Incentive

The first half of "The Incentive" is more or less what we'd expect from The Office these days. We don't know what to make of Robert California, Andy is looking like Michael Scott-lite,  there are random things happening like Darryl's ex-wife showing up, and the cold open itself was more stupid than Kevin.

But it all turns around in the second half, as the episode picks up a head of steam and doesn't look back. In order to meet Robert's mandate of doubling sales, Andy institutes a rewards program, which Jim exploits, proposing that every pools their points for some crazy prize. Andy offers various rewards, including tattooing his butt. Instantly, the normally laid back office goes into overdrive and we see them all working hard, which brought a smile to my face. The episode was capped by a sweetness that always elevates the episode. Instead of following through with the tattoo of a baby exiting Andy's butt, they tattoo a dog labeled 'nard.'

Score: 8.6/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Wednesday 9/28/11

FOX won with The X Factor (4.1),

ABC was second with The Middle (2.7), Suburgatory (3.3), Modern Family (5.7), Happy Endings (3.1), and Revenge (2.7). Solid premieres for Suburgatory and Happy Endings. Revenge held up well without Modern Family as a lead in.

CBS was third with Survivor (3.2), Criminal Minds (3.6), and CSI (3.1).

NBC was last with Up All Night (2.1), Free Agents (1.0), Harry's Law (1.2), and Law & Order: SVU (2.1). Once again, not pretty for NBC. Up All Night is fine, but expect Free Agents to be replaced by reruns of The Office. And Harry's Law may face a similar fate if it continues dropping.

Review - Community Season 3 Episode 2 Geography of Global Conflict

"Geography of Global Conflict" falls in the category of too weird, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Community has had plenty of weird episodes in the past, but they always came together in the end for something meaningful between the characters. In this week's episode, however, things go crazy and never come back down to earth (or Earth-2).

The A-plot is a Model UN-off with Annie versus Annie Kim, and there's plenty of cartoonish behavior to pass around. There's the floating head montage with Garrett yelling "Crisis alert!" among other nonsensical comments, Jeff constantly calling Annie "kiddo," then Annie and Jeff's semi-creepy conversation. I could buy the Model UN, but Jeff didn't feel like Jeff at times.

The B-plot is even more bizarre, featuring new security guard Chang and renewed protester Britta. Chang needs a lawbreaker to handle and Britta needs to be oppressed, so it's a perfect match, initiating the same romantic song each time. The writers poke fun at this idea of people needing each other, but it is limited by the satirical nature of the plot. Anyway, Chang was a riot while Britta was predictably annoying in activist mode.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - Parks and Recreation Season 4 Episode 2 Ron & Tammys

Any plot revolving around Ron Swanson is bound to be good, and it's no exception in "Ron & Tammys." It actually goes beyond the usual Ron being awesome plot, kicking him down a notch--losing his mustache and manhood to the creature from Hell, his first ex-wife Tammy One. Played by Patricia Clarkson, she's one cold bitch and has this ability to command people. The episode has tons of laughs, from the way the others react to Tammy One to Ron's new look and demeanor. And lastly, we get to see Tammy Zero, Ron's mother, who is also cut from the same cloth. It culminates in a glorious final scene where Tammy Zero, Tammy One, and Leslie face off to decide Ron's fate, competing to drink Swanson home brew alcohol. Amy Poehler does some hilarious faces and then Ron saves the day after returning to normal.

The other plots mostly fills in the blanks, but the stuff with Chris and Ann was a little unnecessary. While Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are great, it just stood still with Chris repeating the PSA over and over while Ann wondered over and over why she dated him. We get to see what's been going on at Entertainment 720, and if you the way Tom described it sounded sketchy, then you were definitely right. They aren't making any money at all and throwing it all away on useless things. I have no clue how they got so much capital in a place like Pawnee, but Tom finally realizes the truth and maybe we'll see the company do something tangible.

Score: 9.4/10

Review - Criminal Minds Season 7 Episode 2 Proof

"Proof" definitely ranks close to the top of creepiest Criminal Minds episodes. From beginning to end, Andy Milder plays the role of a sick fuck perfectly and the had some deranged idea when writing the episode. There the normal family drama in the episode, and then the writers introduce more family drama spanning many years that's behind comprehensible. Scary stuff.

The B plot of the episode is Reid trying to get over the lies he's endured.   Reid makes snarky comments until JJ pries the information out of him. Apparently, he went to JJ crying for 10 weeks and she continued to deceive him. Obviously he doesn't feel good about this. Emily talks to Reid afterwards and tries to convince him it wasn't anyone's fault, but I don't think this is something that can be resolved in one episode. And if this topic isn't revisited, then we can blame in on the easy punching bags, the writers.

After 6 seasons of being media liaison, JJ upgrades to profiler. While I like that she has more to do now, it wouldn't been interesting to see her become a profiler from the beginning rather than this point where she's already taken classes.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Revenge Season 1 Episode 2 Trust

Following the pilot in which we learned of Emily's adversaries and her motivations, Revenge could have gone down a couple paths--serialized, where Emily concocts a massive plot to take down Victoria, or the procedural route, which Revenge is taking. Both would be unrealistic given the circumstances, but the procedural route is easier to handle, as the audience doesn't really need to watch every week to keep up and the writers don't need an overly complex web of plots.

What we see from "Trust" is an ability to blend the procedural parts--Emily taking down Bill Harmon, a very good friend of her father--and the backstory which still needs filling. The procedural parts bring new people for Emily to destroy and in turn the audience sees what this person did in Emily's past. Put in procedural terms, the somewhat dense mythology seems much simpler. Meanwhile, Emily courts the Hamptonites and endears herself to Daniel who we know is her fiance in the future and will be killed. Victoria digs up Emily's past and there are anomalies found, so this won't be an unimpeded revengefest for Emily.

I'm troubled by the random plots outside of Emily, however. The stuff with Declan, or the Porters in general, seems disconnected from Emily. Yes, Emily knows Nolan, Emily knows Jack from the past, and Nolan is hanging out with Jack, but these connections don't seem to be leading anywhere. Declan, of course, is the most useless of all, with the typical class stratification plot.

Score: 8.7/10

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review - Modern Family Season 3 Episode 3 Phil on Wire

The return to the three plots per episode format reminds me that Modern Family works best when the show consolidates the characters. There's a lot going on in "Phil on Wire," but little of it felt important. Gloria off being annoyed at the dog and Phil managing to walk on a tightrope could have been taken out of the episode, because they contributed nothing to the episode (and Claire thinking Phil was showing his daughters what to do was a big stretch).

The main plot of the episode, Haley and Alex being in the same class, had much more substance, and I'd like to see it revisited in the future. Haley and Alex interacting is always great and this dynamic has lots of potential that the constraints of this episode tied down.

Mitch and Cam's plot was fun, mostly due to Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, but the climax was the same as it is every week--one of them turning into a blubbering idiot. It seems like either one or both of them has to completely break down at the climax each week before calming down. Do the writers think that's why gay men do?

Score: 7.9/10

Review - Free Agents Season 1 Episode 3 Dr. Hu

A quick look at Free Agent's ratings shows an ugly picture. It premiered with a mediocre 2.1 adults 18-49 and dropped steeply the next week to 1.3. It's doubtful the show will get a second season or even a full season pick-up, but I'm hanging in. I like what's there are where the show can go.

"Dr. Hu" divided me more than the previous two episodes, presenting two plots with contrasting qualities. On the one hand, we finally get to see the broad picture of Alex's work, something missing from the first two episodes, and we get to see Emma grow beyond the secretary role. On the other hand, Helen is useless in the episode, continuously ranting to Alex's therapist about how she doesn't need therapy. It was good for a while, but it got old, and it's never good when a smart character acts crazy for an entire episode.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - Suburgatory Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Suburgatory is the most promising comedy pilot I've seen this season. With the single-camera format and great cast, there are few distinct weaknesses that arise. The premise naturally lends itself to plenty of plots in the future,  with glimpses of the many places Tessa can go to, all couched in the satire of the show.

Exploring high school and showing the kind of people there is nothing new, but it's something that could work on television regardless of originality. Jane Levy, who plays Tessa, is very earnest in the role, and she comes off likable and recognizable among a sea of tanned, plastic women. The rest of the characters are not put off to the side, pegged as the irredeemable crazies. The writers want to find the good in the suburbs, the small acts by Dallas and those like her that go beyond the facile exteriors.

There is one problem that will cross everyone's minds as they watch the pilot, the initial reason why Tessa has to live in a new place. Her father finds a box of unopened condoms and won't believe Tessa when she tells him the truth (assuming her voiceovers are her telling the truth). This overreaction is quite wild and outlandish, more fitting in the land of Suburgatory than anywhere else. But then again, denizens of Surburgatory don't seem to care about boxes of condoms and don't freak out. The setup is an odd blip on the pilot that can't really be explained.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Up All Night Season 1 Episode 3 Working Late and Working It

"Working Late and Working It" features one of the most generic post-pregnancy plots--when the husband begins to have problems with how his wife dresses. There's really no way this plot can't be generic, so it's no surprise the episode plays out like every other iteration of this. Chris makes a comment, Regan gets made, Chris tries to make things better with a lame gesture, Regan returns home miffed, and finally Chris does a sweet, meaningful gesture.

We learn an additional detail about Ava, that she was a pop star, but her character is still really weird compared to the rest of the show. She's just the dysfunctional character on the side doing wild things, and she doesn't bring anything other than that.

Score: 8.0/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 9/27/11

FOX won with Glee (3.7), New Girl (4.5), and Raising Hope (2.9). New Girl had a strong second week and will given a full-season order of 24 episodes total.

CBS was second with NCIS (4.2), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.6). Unforgettable (2.5). Unforgettable is slipping into dangerous territory, so we'll have to keep an eye on it.

NBC was third with The Biggest Loser (2.3) and Parenthood (2.2). Parenthood is still doing fine even on NBC.

ABC was last with Dancing With the Stars (1.9, 2.6) and Body of Proof (1.8). Body of Proof needs to stop dropping.

Review - Body of Proof Season 2 Episode 2 Hunting Party

I didn't have enough time to review Body of Proof last week, but I'm not sure there was any need. The show remains pretty much  the same. Megan and Kate have difficulties working together and Ethan and Curtis do funny things in the background. The biggest difference is that Peter has been put in some kind of sexual capacity versus whatever generic characterization he has last season.

The plot this week had a good bit of forensic magic, but the home video at the end of the episode really highlighted how terrible the crimes were. I don't think anyone watches for the police work anyway, so it's never a big deal.

Supposedly, there are four episodes left from the first season that will be in the second season (I can't find any reputable sources, though, so send me a link over Twitter if you find one). These first two episodes of the season don't seem to be of those four, as the relationship stuff doesn't seem quite the same as it did the first season..

Score: 8.3/10

Review - New Girl Season 1 Episode 2 Kryptonite

I liked "Kryptonite" more than the pilot, despite the hasty addition of Winston, and think it shows far more promise than the pilot did. While the plot of the first episode basically revolved around Jessica being wacky at their place and the bar, "Kryptonite" tries to tackle an issue in her life, her ex-boyfriend. The confrontation with him was great and had all the comedic things down. After this episode, I'm on board and will be watching each week for sure.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Episode 4 Una Venta

"Una Venta" features a twist on the classic "don't do drugs" message, and it hangs over SAMCRO and their activity for the rest of the season. The Tuscon charter is ostensibly addicted to drugs, unable to stop dealing even after learning of the devious methods which got them started in the first place. The cash flow is simply too great to give up. Then the Sons see the drugs at the end of the episode, and they've officially become mules. Now they're all embroiled in the world of drugs, which would have made JT squirm a whole lot if guns made him worried, and addicted to the money it brings.

It goes back to Jax's statement earlier in the season that the club is held together by fear and greed. Those who voted against drugs are too scared to do anything (and Bobby, who did speak loudly against it, will probably be dealt with via the information and photos Potter gave Otto) and those who voted for drugs only do it for the money. It's getting increasingly impossible for the club as a whole to be seen in positive light, and while there haven't been much negative consequences yet, I'm sure they're coming.

Aside from that, there weren't any big plot moments in the episode and "Una Venta" served mostly as a setup episode. Gemma gets to know Roosevelt's wife who is a florist while Potter informs her of a way Jacob Hale could lose out, hoping to push the club towards making a wrong move. This is promising stuff--and nothing as dumb as the truck plot last week--so I'm still optimistic about this season.

Score: 9.1/10

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review - Glee Season 3 Episode 2 I Am Unicorn

After last week's episode, one could surmise that the writers don't know what makes Glee good beyond the costly productions. Indeed, the season premiere was kind of a mess, with errant plotlines flying left and right. But the second episode of the season, "I Am Unicorn," strikes the good parts of the show, returning back to the first season, a bygone era when one could respectfully say that Glee was not bad.

It's not all pretty how Glee reenters this world, though. The second season was so awful on the character front that a lot of the material in the episode, meaningful character development, comes out of nowhere. Shelby randomly pops up through a contrivance (if Sugar becomes a running gag...), Quinn and Puck finally remember their baby after a year, and Rachel has major problems with her mother after not caring for a year (of course, these problems disappear once the singing starts). Essentially, it would work if this episode were the second episode of the second season, not the second episode of the third season. (Yes, that is a very big gap.) Ignore the second season and everything works fine. But regardless of how Glee reached this point, it's a solid episode for tackling character issues in nontrivial ways (which is to say it wasn't the par for the course, crappy stuff that's been the norm).

The biggest thing to come out of this is Quinn returning back to normal--in order to get custody of her daughter. Yes, this point was never even hinted at before this. However, if not for the writers' prior incompetence, this would seem like a logical step. Quinn is supposed to be the blonde bitch and this is something she'd do. Puck is supposed to be the dude who appears to not give a fuck but actually cares. From these development, it looks like the writers will be giving Puck and Quinn more to do this season, although this is Glee where entire episodes can be erased from memory.

Kurt's plot was fine as well, with the realization that Kurt doesn't want to be defined by his sexual orientation. I'm not sure how sorry I feel for Kurt since he makes it a point to let everyone know he's proud of being gay, but Chris Colfer sure sells the scenes. And Brittany being Kurt's campaign manager then as his rival was funny, so I was pleased with most plots.

Looking ahead, I don't believe Glee will continue on the course set by "I Am Unicorn." Some plot elements may carry over, but the show has be so flimsy that the promise of something good down the road is usually dispelled. The writers have missed the mark plenty of times in the past, so one solid episode differing from the pack doesn't lead me to believe the show will change for the better.

If there is one piece of evidence proving the writers have no clue what they're doing, look no further than Sue. It's old by now, purely vindictive and evil. The writers are going to continue to tug at our heartstrings (like the one time she and Will went to the hospital) while having her do mean things, and it's just ridiculous.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - NCIS Season 9 Episode 2 Restless

I get what Steven Binder is going for in "Restless," but it's complete inconceivable. We're supposed to believe that Tony has believed for years that he was the one who hung people up on flagpoles. After he tries to apologize to the victim, he remembers one small detail: he was the one being hung up on the flagpoles. Uh... really? Tony forgot those kind of details? He forgot recent events in the season premiere, but forgetting events from high school is completely different. Wasn't Tony supposed to be the coolest guy on the block, playing sports and everything?

Worst of all, it feels like Tony's thing was contrived to fit in with the the plot of the woman forgetting her abusive past and reliving her high school years. It's okay if the writers want to take Tony down a notch or two, because he's been amazingly resilient these past years despite what he's gone through, but this whole reversal on his high school memory is just bad.

Score: 7.8/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 9/26/11

CBS won with How I Met Your Mother (4.5), 2 Broke Girls (4.6), Two and a Half Men (7.4), Mike & Molly (4.8), and Hawaii Five-0 (3.3). CBS crushed the competition again. 99.9% positive all these shows will be renewed (and HIMYM already has an 8th season ordered).

ABC was second with Dancing with the Stars (3.3) and Castle (3.1). DWTS's ratings have waned this season, but Castle remains strong.

FOX was third with Terra Nova (3.1). These look like good ratings, but they aren't. For all the money FOX dumped into it, the ratings are paltry.

NBC was last with The Sing Off (1.7) and The Playboy Club (1.3). Looks like The Playboy Club is out the door soon. NBC continues to suck.

Review - Alphas Season 1 Episode 11 Original Sin

Sorry for not reviewing Alphas last week. I spent my free time on Monday watching all the shows I hadn't watched the night before and by the time I was done the Tuesday shows had started. So everything snowballed from there and I wasn't able to review Alphas. I liked the idea of the episode, putting them in confined area and sowing distrust among them. The reveal of the actual mole wasn't bad either, though I would have been really crazy if one of them had actually been the mole.

The first season finale of Alphas brings great promise of a show reaching to break out of the Syfy bubble. It tackles the issues head-on and, unlike other Syfy shows, does not back down in the end, reseting to the comfortable position. Instead, Alphas forges ahead, after the already-shocking massacre of Red Flag alphas, and sends the show in an entirely new direction with Rosen's revelation to the entire world. There's no turning back from this.

Even if the writers didn't go ahead and have Rosen give his big speech, Alphas would still have plenty to work with at the end of the first season. There's a government willing to imprison alphas, willing to kill them. And there's Stanton Parish who Danielle, Rosen's daughter, is working for. This is good stuff already and I'd be fine with that. But the episode ends with the vigor it did, Rosen dragged out and the signal lost, and it seals the episode, and the show, amazingly.

Score: 9.3/10

Review - Castle Season 4 Episode 2 Heroes & Villains

After the serious season premiere, Castle returns to the basics with a light episode featuring comic books and superheroes. This subject area is right up Castle's alley, and the writers know how to push that geek button. The crime solving aspect of the episode is a little hard to follow if you don't pay attention to the name, but the general idea gets across.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Terra Nova Season 1 Episode 1/2 Genesis (Parts 1 and 2)

The hype and delay for Terra Nova was so great that anything short of spectacular would fall short. And indeed, it's falls short in all aspects--plot, characters, ratings, even CGI at times. You gotta wonder what the producers did with the extra time. Surely they couldn't have been content with their scripts... or maybe they were, and Brannon Braga spent his free time thinking up more Star Trek ideas that sounded cool and original.

I'll be tuning in to Terra Nova each week, because it's a show I have to watch despite the quality or lack thereof. With Steve Spielberg pushing that sentimental family aspect of the show (which was the worst part of Falling Skies) and Braga, who hasn't done anything good since TNG, stinking up the place, the show will head downhill soon. But if we're going to judge the pilot by itself, then, yes, I liked it. It's obvious the episode cost a boatload of money, with an elaborate set, and lots of CGI, though it's not really that great. The show is visually pleasing, so I liked it (because a new sci-fi show is like a new toy on Christmas morning).

Besides the visual aesthetic, Terra Nova doesn't have much going for it. Stephen Lang is excellent as the leader, but that's it. The family is boring and the drama between the members is hardly exciting. The father went to prison for years, his wife is resentful of his old job (reminding him a billion times he's not a cop anymore), and he doesn't have a good relationship with his son either. Rote characterization at its finest. Still, it feels more alive than that on Falling Skies, if that counts for anything.

And now that the ratings are in, they're not pretty either. 3.0 adults 18-49, good for most shows, but bad for a show costing so much in both production and promotion.

Score: 8.4/10

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review - Hawaii Five-0 Season 2 Episode 2 Ua Lawe Wale

After the season premiere continued off what was leftover from the first season, "Ua Lawe Wale" gives us a look ahead at the second season. Lauren German joins the cast as Homeland Security officer Lori Weston, and Larisa Oleynik leaves the show, as Jenna claims her fiance may still be alive and leaves. It's obvious the angle the writers are going for with Lori, a capable female counterpart to McGarrett doubling as a love interest (though isn't Michelle Borth's character still his girlfriend?) and thorn in the side.

Without more information, the audience is still in the dark about Jenna and the writers are far less clear about her. There are a couple of possibilities. 1) Jenna is lying about her fiance so she can make a clean escape. 2) Jenna is telling the truth about her fiance and Wo Fat is using her. I suspect it is the later since Jenna seems like a good person, but we barely have any clues.

The plot of the episode involves a cult which is immediately written off a crazy, so there isn't an interesting dynamic at work. But it allows for a ton of action, which I'm guessing cost quite a lot of money as did the season premiere.

I was genuinely surprised when Kona got everything taken away from her this early in the season. While I know she'll be back eventually, Grace Park sat out for most of this episode and it'll be very hard for her to do anything of importance with the new watchdog. Are the writers really going to put her on the sidelines and for how long?

Score: 8.8/10

Review - 2 Broke Girls Season 1 Episode 2 And the Break-up Scene

There's not much difference between "And the Break-up Scene" and the pilot. Both begin with dumb racial stereotypes punctuated by one-liners consisting mostly of puns. It's pretty awful stuff which doesn't belong on the show but is probably sticking around for a while longer.

Then the second half of the episode rolls around, with Max and Caroline together, interacting, and it's really fun. Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs have amazing chemistry, and despite some iffy lines reminiscent of those in the first half, it ends on a high note. If the writers could get it together, 2 Broke Girls could turn out to be a really good show. But for now the writers are still struggling with the diner aspect of the show and it's holding the show back.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 7 Episode 3 Ducky Tie

"Ducky Tie" is a good episode of HIMYM, rapidly cutting back and forth between the funny plot, Barney trying to feel/see Lily's pregnancy boobs, and the serious plot, Ted reconnecting with his ex Victoria. Both plots are very solid, making this one a winner. We get to see how Barney came to wear the ducky tie, after seeing Lily's boobs which makes him loose the bet, and Victoria leaves Ted with parting words after she departs. (Thankfully, Victoria gets on the bus and leaves. I like her, but getting embroiled with Ted against would be problematic.)

When Victoria tells Ted that Robin is a problem and future Ted agrees with her that she was right, it's impossible not to be skeptical. We've seen the gang together for six seasons, two and half since Robin and Barney were over, and nothing has ever clued us in to Robin as the big problem. I don't get it, but I guess the writers will show us sooner or later.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Hart of Dixie Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

To say Hart of Dixie is complete unrealistic and dumb is accurate. To say Hart of Dixie is a fun show worth taking another look at is also accurate. Yes, the initial setup in the pilot's opening scenes are unbelievable; yes, all the characters besides Zoe come from a fantasy world; yes, Zoe is nicer person than how she describes herself, making the premise comes off even worse. But  in my eyes, the premise and shortfalls of Hart of Dixie do not break the show. It's still workable at the end of the day.

Beyond the many negatives is a show brimming with energy with Rachel Bilson leading the charge. As anyone can expect, she is cute as a button and fulfills the needs of the show. It's easy to hate everything about the show, but certainly not Bilson. The writers aren't going for anything deep. It's a drama in the WB tradition, more innocent than trashy, and is forgivable despite the many.

As far as Hart of Dixie's long-term prospects, the writers need to come up with something quick. Introduce all the characters in haphazard, stereotyped ways--fine. Continue treating them as quintessential 19th century southerners--not fine. Rachel Bilson can only carry the show so far and the writers have to step it up eventually.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Episode 1 21

I like Boardwalk Empire and think it's a pretty clever show most of the time, but I never really look forward to the next episode. There's something missing from it that prevents it from going into the must-watch category. And with Sundays getting even busier, I'm not sure I even want to review the show on a weekly basis.

Van Alden takes his wife around the Boardwalk and turns her on by raiding then restaurant they're act. Both are pleased, but Van Alden makes sure she doesn't stick around, showing her the lurid details of the city. It is then revealed that he has a good reason to not want his wife around. He is now living with Lucy and using confiscated money to pay her. This is all well and good, fairly interesting stuff, but I'm not grasping on the end of the this plot in order to find out what happens next.

The other plots of "21" focus on the family aspect of the show. Margaret is placed in a difficult situation because she knows Nucky is not reliable but believes he can be better, which he tries when dealing with Teddy. The Commodore, meanwhile, has been moving on Nucky, but we don't know if Jimmy is fully on board yet. There's more trouble on home, as Gillian and Angela still don't mesh well, and Richard is being Richard. Again, there's good things here, but I'm not in any hurry to watch the next episode.

My favorite part of the season premiere was the increased usage of Chalky, who is show to be only human when the KKK shoots up his place. We see the fear on his face and realize that he is not the Omar, the cool guy who'd stroll down the street with a shotgun. He's Chalky, a black man trying to earn money and respect in a world where little is to be found for his people. Nucky's response to the shooting is what we've come to expect from him: appease both sides.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 11 Crawl Space

Breaking Bad is currently looking over a precipice, staring into an abyss which has no end. Its toes are hanging over the edge and things are getting wobbly. A tiny movement can send it over the edge forever. But this is only the third to last episode of the second to last season. How can Breaking Bad go over the edge now? I have no clue, but the writers hammer the direness of the situation in the final 10 minutes, letting no stone go unturned.

To recap, Walt pleads with Jesse one last time, but that option was gone two weeks ago. Jesse has moved on, both professional and personally. Still, Jesse tells Gus not to kill Walt, either because he's a nice guy or figures that Walt in the picture gives him a potential exit. In any case, Walt strikes out with Jesse,

This leaves Walt to get tased and dragged to the desert where Gus clearly lays everything out: Walt won't be killed until Jesse gives the order, but Hank will be killed, and if Walt interferes, everyone dies. Walt begins to chide Gus about keeping him alive, trying to pull out that old Heisenberg magic which saved him a season ago. Except Walt has nothing. No cell phone, no big secret, nothing to leverage. As the sun goes down, so too does Walt's hopes.

On principle, Walt refuses to let family die, so he runs to Saul for the nuclear option, saving Hank and then running off forever. The entire package costs tons of money, which Walt is supposed to have. However, Skyler gave $600K to Ted and there's not enough left. Walt cries and laughs manically as Marie calls to tell Skyler about the threat against Hank. It's a twisted final scene, to be sure, but it also feels appropriate as if it were coming all along. The situation, once controlled solely by Walt, has spun out of control and he has nothing left. He has a bunch of money, but it's no good if he can't buy freedom. He has his family, but they're all going to be killed soon. Walt has nothing left. Damn... As always, Bryan Cranston is amazing, with the crazy urgency and distress one would expect of a dying man.

After a relatively slow start to the season and an unusual degree of complaining, there shouldn't be anyone complaining anymore. Every episode for the few weeks has ended on a bombshell and there's no question Vince Gilligan has a firm grasp on the show.

I've said that I didn't like the Ted plot, but I liked how it was wrapped up. While Saul's guys force Ted to give the money to the IRS, he slips on the rug and kills himself. It's humorous and silly, just what the show needed before the last act. Of course, the Skyler giving him the money have major plot implications, so it was a nice way to tie it all up. I guess it was a tad contrived, but you won't get any big complaints from me about it.

The question on everyone's minds is how Walt will get out of this one. There are 18 episodes left, of course, which means Walt will live for quite a bit longer unless there is the greatest coup in television history and Walt actually dies in the next episode. What options are left? It seems like the most logical choice would be to run for Hank, whose been on Gus's trail and has the friends to keep Walt safe for a while. I'll be eagerly awaiting next week's episode to see what happens.

Score: 9.4/10

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review - The Good Wife Season 3 Episode 1 A New Day

Since CBS started promoting the third season of The Good Wife, it's been perfectly clear where the writers are going: it's going to be a different show. And indeed, after watching "A New Day," I can confirm that it is a very different show, from the title sequence to Alicia's appearance to the sexual energy coursing through the show's veins.

These changes are part of what delineates The Good Wife from most network shows, and especially CBS shows. The writers aren't content to sit back and let things be the same year after year. Alicia won't always be at Peter's side, the characters won't always to friendly to each other, and the landscape they're in will change. It's good to know the writers are still pushing forward, tweaking things to make the show into a complete narrative.

Looking at the show from high up, there are moving pieces everywhere. Cary is working for Peter but is still in contact with Kalinda. Kalinda is still on the outs with Alicia but is in contact with Kelli Giddish's character who is also working for the State's Attorney's office. Eli is now working at Lockhart Gardener while working on Peter's governor campaign. Yeah, there's a lot going on.

The case of "A New Day" isn't all that great--the writers commenting on Muslim-Jewish relations rather directly and with added "Look, I know video games! That makes me hip!" dialogue--but we get to see Eli working his magic and Peter messing with Alicia during the case. It'll be interesting to see how Peter and Alicia deal with each other in the future, and with Eli suspecting something between Peter and Alicia (because he was lying to Peter, right?), things can get a lot worse.

The final scene shows us what's going through Alicia's mind and what she'll be thinking as the show progresses. She's just said good-bye to her husband and kids, and now, a less than an hour later, Will is at her door. At the hotel, at Will's place--those were far away, contained outside her bubble. But now Will is at her home and it's as personal as it gets. Alicia stares at herself in the mirror, not entirely sure who she is or what she wants.

Score: 8.8/10
  • I didn't comment on the tutor/video because I didn't get it. I might even prefer the weird Christian stuff at this point.

Review - Pan Am Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

After watching a week's worth of pilot, mostly average fare, Pan Am comes as a relief, an escapist guilty pleasure to top off the week. It's visually pleasing, with bright colors abound and slick sheen, and the snappy pacing smoothly carries the pilot along a multitude of plots and characters..

Compared to that of The Playboy Club, the social message of Pan Am comes off more reasonable and unforced. There is something about female empowerment in there, the freedom to fly around the world, but it's done in a way we can actually see. We don't need Hugh Hefner to tell us a ludicrous story to better understand who these women are. It's plausible that one would become a stewardess to go around the world, especially in an age when air travel was more glamorous than the bus-in-the-air way of flight these days.

The overriding plot point in the pilot is Kate getting embroiled in the Cold War spy games, and the spy world has also consumed Bridget, who is mentioned several times and seen in two flashbacks before showing up at the end, peering in to see Dean, he ex-boyfriend (I guess that's what they are now). While I'm unsure how the show will handle a spy plot each week, I'm always game for a good spy plot.

At the end of the day, comparisons to Mad Men, aside from the time period, are unnecessary and inappropriate. As Pan Am strives to show the glamor and fun of a certain time and place, Mad Men strives to show an entirely different place--in relatively the same period but almost a different world unto itself. I do want to note, though, that Kate has a line about Laura's picture on the cover of Life that could have come from Don Draper's mouth. The picture, she tells Kate, is not you, but the promise of you. That's something I guess.

Score: 9.2/10

Preview of Week 9/25/11 - 10/1/11

The Good Wife - CBS, Sunday, September 25, 9:00pm ET

From all the promos, I'll take a bold guess about the third season of The Good Wife: it's going in a new direction. How's that for taking a stand?

Boardwalk Empire - HBO, Sunday, September 25, 9:00pm ET  

At the end of the end of the first season, things had settled down between the fighting factions, as the episode title, "A Return to Normalcy," suggests. However, it was clear to everyone watching that there were still plenty of tension underlying this normalcy. With Boardwalk Empire's return, all these issues will be brought up once more.

Pan Am  - ABC, Sunday, September 25, 10:00pm ET  

Pan Am has been getting some of the best reviews this fall season. We'll see how good it actually is.

Terra Nova - FOX, Monday, September 26, 8:00pmm ET

After delays and delays, Terra Nova is finally here. I'm guessing the pilot will be spectacular, with a huge budget for CGI dinosaurs. Beyond that, though, we'll see if the writing can match up.

Hart of Dixie - CW, Monday September 26, 9:00pm ET

Hart of Dixie is predictable with all the Southern stereotypes imaginable, but Rachel Bilson sure is good.

How To Be A Gentleman - CBS, Thursday, September 29, 8:30pm ET

Another CBS multi-camera sitcom. Yay...

Review - The Secret Circle Season 1 Episode 2 Bound

The Secret Circle is off to a better start than The Vampire Diaries, for what it's worth, and the plotting is rather promising. However, it is still in the starting blocks, developing the characters, who are all fairly boring at this point, and trying to put Cassie and Adam together whenever possible.

"Bound" is a pretty boring episodes from a plot perspective since the whole episode is designed so Cassie will be bound in the circle at the end of the episode. There's nothing unexpected about what happens, nor are there any moments that stand out. We get to see more of Dawn and what she's up to, but we don't learn much other than that the magic is contained in a crystal and she's a really bad person who cares about her daughter.

Score: 8.3/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Friday 9/23/11

CBS won with A Gifted Man (1.4), CSI: NY (1.8), and Blue Bloods (2.0). Pretty good premieres for CSI: NY and Blue Bloods. Not so much for A Gifted Man.

NBC was second with repeats of Up All Night (0.8) and Whitney (0.9), and new episodes of Dateline (1.7, 2.2).

FOX was third with Kitchen Nightmares (1.6) and Fringe (1.5). Okay premiere for Fringe, but I'm not sure it matters since it's probably the final season unless a miracle happens.

ABC was last with repeats of Modern Family (1.0), Revenge (1.0), and a new episode of 20/20 (1.0).

I usually don't report on CW, but the premieres of Nikita and Supernatural got 0.6 and 0.8, respectively. Not good numbers but not horrible either.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review - The Vampire Diaries Season 3 Episode 2 The Hybrid

As "The Hybrid" comes to an end, with Klaus despairing over his failed plan to create a hybrid army, he tells Stefan that he is the only companion left. Perhaps the writers didn't need to be so explicit about this fact, but it speaks volumes about his character, that failing to make his army leaves him alone and without purpose. He'll go on and try again, but this initial defeat is as crushing as it gets.

What surprises and makes me happy about The Vampire Diaries is that all have great parity as they develop despite the obvious differences in screen time. Jeremy's ghost story doesn't get much more than a few scattered scenes, but the end result is more or less where Stefan plot is, interesting and forward-looking. Vicki shows up and tells Jeremy that she can come back, then Anna shows up and tells Jeremy not to trust Vicki. With a couple quick lines, everything is thrown out of balance and we're left wondering what's going on.

Elsewhere in Mystic Falls, Tyler reveals his lycanism to his mother in an intense scene, and Caroline is chained up by her father. Lots of stuff moving ahead which I'm sure the writers will tackle head-on.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Charlie's Angels Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

I don't remember the last time I saw an episode of television as shitty as the pilot of Charlie's Angels. It's so ridiculously bad that it makes Whitney, another pile of garbage, look like Community. It's not fun, it's not funny, it's not campy, it's not exciting, it's not well-acted, it's not logical, it's not entertaining, it's not exciting. It has nothing worth seeing. Heck, even the women, probably the only reason why someone would want to watch the show, are tamely dressed. You'd think the producers would slap them in string bikinis for sex appeal, but that never happens.

So if this show doesn't have any of the aforementioned items, what does it have? The writers try to make the show dark and gritty by throwing in backstory, but it doesn't work, especially because Minka Kelly telling a generic story begins to sound not only boring but also stupid. The major problems are solved by the end of the episode, so the promise of an ongoing plot is gone.

OK, one positive thing (earning the 0.5) Rachael Taylor's acting is about on par with the rest of the television landscape, meaning she isn't actively bad or too boring. I guess that's something.

Score: 0.5/10

Review - Nikita Season 2 Episode 1 Game Change

"Game Change" is, of course, about the game changing. Nikita Season 2 is vastly different than Nikita Season 1. Nikita and Michael are together, holding a black box and trying to take down Division. Alex, on the other hand, is also out of Division but is helping them retrieve the black box in exchange for help taking down the people who killed her father. Gone are the days when Alex was the innocent girl who was actually spying for Nikita. Gone are the days when Michael chased after Nikita.

The plot isn't to interesting--Nikita and Michael helping a guy framed for murdering and exposing one of Division's coverups--but the episode ends with a lasting, brutal scene. Facing down against Alex, Nikita kicks her ass, proceeds to break her arm and shoots her in the leg, all while Alex wails. It doesn't get more serious than that.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Supernatural Season 7 Episode 1 Meet the New Boss

Since the Apocalypse, which was more like a series of events than anything else, Supernatural on a grand scale hasn't been that all that exciting. Angels and demons pop up to do battle on occasion, but it always felt like isolated instances rather than a grand battle for Earth. Blame it on the lack of budget for sweeping CGI shots or whatever; it didn't seem like too big of a deal.

When Castiel sucked up the souls, however, it was a big deal because it dealt with a character we've come to love. There's significance to him as a main character, not just a random angel. Proclaiming himself God, Cas pretty much went off the deep end, leaving Sam, Dean, and Bobby behind and running off to do things that God is supposed to do. It turns out that Cas doesn't really have the right mindset, as it kills people left and right. The season begins with this shocking behavior right off the bat and it's all very scary.

After some plot development in the middle, with the return of Death who is always fun, Cas gives up the souls, surprisingly. I had expected Cas to retain his new powers for a couple episodes, but he loses them quite early, allowing us to see Cas's regret over what he'd done. If that had been it, I'd be a little disappointed, but there is another twist afterwards, the Leviathan staying in Cas's body and taking over. Needless to say, Mischa Collins is awesome in the final scene.

There is less focus on the Winchesters since Cas is doing his thing, but with Sam's wall broken, he's having problems. Lucifer shows up and tells him he's still in Hell, which probably isn't true, but must be psychologically harmful to Sam.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Fringe Season 4 Episode 1 Neither Here Nor There

I don't want to say this... but that just wasn't very good. After an excellent third season--the best, most consistent season of science fiction perhaps since Supernatural a few years back--Fringe had a lot prove and the season premiere did not deliver. I'm sure the writers have a long-term plan and it'll get better later on, but for now color me unimpressed. (And yes, I know my expectations for the show were probably too high, which makes me think the episode is worse than it actually is, but that's how I roll.)

If the writers are going to write Peter out for the being, the show should still be as entertaining as it was last season.. However, "Neither Here Nor There" is pretty bland, calling back to the first season when people dealt with freaky things. Lincoln tagging along made things slightly more interesting, but at the end of the day, the case was like many others, except with the added twist that the translucent people are human shape-shifters.

The third season also changed the fundamental DNA of the show, alternating between the blue and red worlds. That worked because there was continuity in the blue world while forging new paths and conflicts fro m the red world. The changes this season are very radical and, from the season premiere alone, not interesting. That's a step back in my book.

The other parts of the episode pertaining to the longer term arc didn't reveal much either and seemed like exposition more than a forward-driving narrative. September is tasked with erasing Peter from time and Peter's image pops up occasionally, with Walter freaking out at the sight of Peter, whom he does not recognize.

Score: 8.2/10

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review - A Gifted Man Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

A Gifted Man actually has a couple things going for it. Its greatest strength is in Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle who capture the screen whenever they are together. Their scenes are endearing and humorous at times, creating two likable characters by the end of the episode.

The rest of the show I'm less certain of. What is the show supposed to be, exactly? There are so many other random things--Michael's sister, the shaman, Anna's clinic--that, beyond Michael's gift, there is little to look forward to. But for now, I'll just stay that it was a decent pilot which makes the show worth another look.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Prime Suspect Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

What does the American version of Prime Suspect have to do with the original? Very little. The main reason why this is is that the format of the original was vastly different. Each installment had two episodes spanning a whopping three hours and twenty minutes collectively while the new version has roughly 40 minutes. So right off the back, there is clear disparity in how much the writers can fit in. Something had to be left out unless the writers decided to serialize the show.

Unfortunately, the parts the writers leave out contribute to the show's numerous problems. For one, they leave out the entire "prime suspect" idea and the crime solving is an afterthought rather than the focus. Second, the writers have an idea of these "moments" which are supposedly important; however, these moments are wholly unnatural and contrived, as they leave out the key developments which lead to the moments.

Without looking at the original, Prime Suspect isn't too bad. The writers clearly tried way too hard to make her into action woman, but Maria Bello is good throughout the episode. But given the start to the show and how busy Thursday is, I don't think I'll be tuning in again.

Score: 7.4/10

Review - Person of Interest Season 1 Episode 1

Make no mistakes about it--Person of Interest is just another procedural, wrapped up in technology and action to lead the viewer astray. So there's this machinethat spits out SSNs for Finch, who gets Reese to help him. The two man show is lacking in anything substantial and neither of the characters seem interesting. Reese, frankly, is disinterested all the time, even when kicking butt.

There's also this stupid gimmick with machine in which it doesn't say why it provided the number. It's basically a plot device that allows more mystery in episode. When writers go to such lengths, making the machine stupid in order create interesting situations, there's a big problem.

Score: 7.5/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Thursday 9/22/11

FOX won with The X Factor (4.3). Not Idol-like numbers again, but not bad either.

CBS was second with The Big Bang Theory (4.9, 5.1), Person Of Interest (3.1), and The Mentalist (2.8). CBS should be happy with those ratings.

ABC was third with Charlie's Angels (2.1) and Grey's Anatomy (4.1). Charlie's Angels topped what My Generations got last year, but that doesn't count for much. If the ratings stay the exact same, it should be fine, tough.

NBC was last with Community (1.7, Parks & Recreation (2.1), The Office (3.9), Whitney (3.3), and Prime Suspect (1.8). Mixed night for NBC, which is great news for them actually. Whitney held onto most of The Office's ratings, but Prime Suspect didn't do so well.

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 5 Episode 1 The Skank Reflex Analysis / 2 The Infestation Hypothesis

I haven't felt too strongly about The Big Bang Theory in a long time, and the first two episodes of the season are no exception. While the addition of Bernadette and Amy have been welcome, the show is still riding on its premise, rather than developing something more substantial.

Of all the plots last night, none were particularly good, but Amy's reactions to everything remain golden. And Penny finally got an acting job! One of the most disturbing/funny parts was the incredibly homoerotic scene of Howard and Raj kissing via mechanical proxies. That they did it in the first place was weird, and then it kep going.

The long-term plot developments seem to be headed for Penny and Leonard getting back together. The writers retcon Penny and Raj by making it so that Raj was way too early, if you get my drift, and the long-distance relationship between Leonard and Priya obviously won't work.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - The Mentalist Season 4 Episode 1 Scarlet Ribbons

Since the bombshell season finale in May, I've been eagerly awaiting The Mentalist's return and what would happen next. Jane had shot a man, presumably Red John, in a stunning twist as the season twist. It was a bold move from the writers after an already good two hours of television.

Well, the aftermath is far less impressive than the act itself. The writers set up a situation where Jane is on trial, charged with first degree murder. Obviously, Jane can't be convicted or there would be no show anymore, so the writers go throw the motions with the arguments and stuff. The prosecution makes a good case, that there is zero evidence that the guy was Red John besides Jane's testimony, which is fueled by vengeance. The best Jane can come up with is that the guy and his wife were crazy, keeping a girl chained up in their basement for years. I guess the jury thought that a serial killer like Red John would do something like that, though I don't know why the prosecution didn't bring in a criminologist to explain everything.

And then the twist, Jane announcing that Red John is still alive. What he implies is that Red John is not a single person but perhaps a mask, able to be placed on multiple persons. This would mean that Red John is still far from being caught and we'll have to deal with him for years to come.

While I still think The Mentalist is a very strong show, one of the best procedurals on television, I don't know how much more can be gotten out of Red John. Progress has been made, but with this new twists the plot is going around in circles. But I think the writers are on the right track. Instead of making things too plot-focused, they focus on Jane--how he reacts after killing a man.

Score: 8.4/10

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Wednesday 9/21/11

FOX won with The X Factor (4.4). If FOX were looking for Idol-like numbers with X Factor, which I'm guessing they were, the execs were surely disappointed. If they were looking for looking for average numbers, which I'm certain they weren't, then they'd be happy.

ABC was second with The Middle (3.1), Modern Family (6.1), and Revenge (3.3). Great premieres for ABC across the board.

CBS was third with Survivor (3.2), Criminal Minds (4.1), and CSI (3.2). CBS's Wednesday lineup, with the addition of CSI, performed very well.

NBC was last with Up All Night (2.4), Free Agents (1.3), Harry's Law (1.2), Law & Order: SVU (2.4). More NBC woes, you say? Up All Night and Law & Order are fine for now, but Free Agents and Harry's Law look dead.

Review - Parks and Recreation Season 4 Episode 1 I’m Leslie Knope

The last conversation between Leslie and Ben, in which Ben opens to box to reveal a "Knope 2012" pin, highlights one of Parks and Recreation's greatest assets. It can be dopey at times, with silly antics and behavior, but it can also be keenly self-aware of these characters and how great they are. The scene is heartbreaking and sweet, as Leslie moves forward in her professional life while leaving behind part of her personal life.

There was a substantial amount of plot development in the season premiere, with Andy hired as Leslie's assistant, Leslie officially running for office, and Tammy One's arrival. There wasn't enough time for funny things to happen, though the penis pictures and Ron Swanson were very funny. The episode sets up the plotlines for the season and I'm sure glad the show is back.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - The Office Season 8 Episode 1 The List

With Michael Scott gone from the show, there was a lot in the air before the season premiere aired, and there are more questions after the season premiere. I'm curious to see where the show goes from here, given how it seems to have hit a creative dead end plot-wise. There's this new guy Robert California and Andy is the new manager, but I don't see where this is going.

I have an uneasy feeling about Robert California, because I don't know who he is. I want to pin him down and say something definitive about him, but he's just a weird character, not in the obvious way Michael Scott was, but in an inscrutable, off-putting way. Magically, he took Jo's job and is now CEO of Saber. Why and how are important questions, but the writers don't even broach the subject. Next, his behavior in the episode--creating a list of people, then calling half winners and the other half losers--was mean, but his demeanor was pretty emotional. I don't get what's up with him. Worst of all, I didn't find him funny once.

OK, I admit I liked the planking parts, especially Meredith getting pushed into the toilet. Stanley's new thing, "shove it up your butt!" wasn't bad either since he isn't supposed to do stuff like that. If it were Ryan doing that, on the other hand, I'd probably be annoyed.

Score: 8.1/10

Review - Community Season 3 Episode 1 Biology 101

Although "Biology 101" isn't as good as some of the spectacular episodes of the second season, it contains plenty of laugh and a heady mix of plot. And best of all, Community is back! After an amazing second season with a bunch of unforgettable episodes, everyone must be glad that the third season is here.

The plot deals with a serious issue--what makes the study group the group. If everyone isn't taking the same class, can there be a group? What if one person isn't in the class? The prospects of being left out is scary as Jeff soon learns, but he's back in the biology class by the end of the episode. Still, with these questions about the group and Chang becoming security, the group will be tested more than it ever has.

"Biology 101" had two big guests/cast additions in John Goodman and Michael Kenneth Williams. Goodman's role is right up his wheelhouse, an over-the-top, loud guy who humiliates Dean Pelton. Williams, for obvious reasons, can't be Omar and has to create a new character (though the prospect of Omar walking down the halls of Greendale as students scatter sounds great). As far as we can tell, he's a stickler on rules and kicks Jeff out for his cellphone ringing twice. He's not immediately funny, but we'll see.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Whitney Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

There are the usual cliched comedies about relationships, and then there's Whitney, far worse than one can imagine. It is painfully ill-conceived from beginning to end, lacking anything of substance. The format is simple and pointless: generic joke about relationship--old couples not having sex, new couples having sex all the time, etc--which the characters talk about. You can see Whitney Cummings' stand-up background shine through and it's not pretty. There is no plot and just a steady stream of predictable lines.

Score: 5.0/10

Review - Criminal Minds Season 7 Episode 1 It Takes a Village

The one thing about Criminal Minds that lags far behind everything else is the writing, a problem clearly evident in the season premiere. The story of Emily's return and Doyle's death is framed around a Senate hearing, one that is completely lifeless. The senator questions, the agent answers, the senator pokes, the agent parries. It's all straightforward and bland, and without the threat of anything bad happening. Do the writers actually think it's dramatic when everyone knows nothing will happen in the end?

The Doyle plot isn't much better either. The writers hastily throw together a plot about Doyle's sons and some enemies he has, blend in the computer magic machine, and out pops a generic story about vengeance--from the BAU and Doyle's other enemies. Now that the team is back together, hopefully the writers stop trying to force these kind of dead-end episodes.

Score: 7.8/10

Review - Modern Family Season 3 Episode 1 Dude Ranch / 2 When Good Kids Go Bad

There seems to be a lot of people resentful of Modern Family's award success while better shows, such as Community and Parks and Recreation, are routinely ignored. While I don't believe Modern Family's sweep at the Emmys last Sunday was justified, I don't think there should be unfair backlash against the show for it. The show is still plenty funny and the two hours starting the season reflect that.

"Dude Ranch," the first installment of the night, doesn't have much of a central plot besides Dylan leaving the show to become a ranch hand. But, set in Wyoming, the episode leaves plenty of time for the characters to interact with the setting. The comedic timings of all the actors are so great that they can be funny with any situation, and especially in a special outdoors episode.

"When Good Kids Go Bad" returns to more familiar territory with the family back at home. There is a theme of people stealing, lying, etc and Sofia Vergara is hilarious as she tries to cover up Manny's theft. The episode ends with the funniest scene of either episode, with Claire busting out the video of Phil knocking her over. Julie Bowen's Emmy win appears to be well-deserved.

The most conspicuous change in the new season is Lily. Gone is the old Lily, the baby that sat there and did nothing. The new Lily talks and, based on my memory, is a lot bigger than the older one. I'm not sure the difference is realistic, but it doesn't matter too much because Lily finally has something to do.

Score: 8.9/10

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 9/20/11

FOX won with Glee (4.0), New Girl (4.8), and Raising Hope (3.1). Awesome start for New Girl, actually building off of Glee, and that carried over to Raising Hope.

CBS was second with NCIS (4.3), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.6), and Unforgettable (2.9). NCIS's as strong as ever, and Unforgettable premiered well.

ABC was third with Dancing with the Stars (2.1, 2.9) and Body of Proof (2.2). Body of Proof is right where it was last season, so it should be fine for now.

NBC was last with The Biggest Loser (2.3) and Parenthood (2.1). Not a good start for The Biggest Loser, but Parenthood held up well. I imagine NBC is worried about The Biggest Loser, which has been a safe bet for years.

Review - Free Agents Season 1 Episode 2 What I Did for Work

Like the writers of Up All Night, the writers of Free Agents seem to be on the right track. While they haven't hit the right formula yet, there are definite signs they are heading the right direction. There aren't too many shows on Wednesdays so I'll be hanging in for a while

"What I Did for Work" uses the work environment to provide Alex and Helen chances to tease each other and flirt while cutting back on the more obnoxious colleagues. Alex and Helen are always leading the plot, with the telecom guy and Emma, respectively. Since Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn are very capable leads, the result is pleasing and funny.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Up All Night Season 1 Episode 2 Cool Neighbors

Christina Appelegate and Will Arnett are perfectly charming as they try to show their new neighbors how cool they are. With a baby, though, they just aren't cool, and this leads to several amusing situations.  These situations aren't laugh out loud funny, but the writers seem to know what to do and the show still has potential.

I didn’t find Ava as intrusive as she was last week, but I still don’t get why she’s around. Her show is just an abstract idea that allows her to be weird and quirky (some would say crazy) and there isn’t much else to her. Her plot this week is that the baby keeps crying in her arms while the baby is fine in Nick Cannon’s arms. At the end of the episode, Ava gets the baby not to cry. Great, but how long can this go on for?

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Revenge Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

To get behind Revenge, one need only to get behind the main character and hang on for the ride, however messy and wild it may get. And with the fresh-faced Emily VamCamp playing the main character (also named Emily), it shouldn't be too hard. She looks so damn innocent, but her actions are the exact opposite, creating a subversive aura around she.

The plot is laid out in a peculiar manner, starting with the death of Emily's fiance, before going 5 months into the past and later, years into the past. The pieces are set for a sprawling guilty pleasure set in the Hamptons, with pretty people abound and money thrown left and right. At the center of it is Emily, whose desire for revenge provides the force behind the show. We see all the things the terrible things these people have done in the past and Emily taking them down one at a time sure feels good.

In comparison to Ringer, Revenge feels like a godsend. We actually learn the motivations of the main character and the pilot doesn't get two caught up on the soapier elements. With the intense focus on the revenge, it doesn't get tangled up along the way and Emily's acts carry a sense of earned justice.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Unforgettable Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

The worst crime a procedural can commit is being boring. Above all else, a procedural has to be interesting—whether through action, characters, or its premise—in order to mask the mundanity of formula. Unforgettable attempts to be interesting through its premise, a woman who can remember everything except her sister’s murder, but fails miserably. The execution is stale and nothing stands out. The crime is boring, the characters are boring, and the memory thing is boring from beginning to end. The main character stands there, looks at a freeze frame of herself at a particular moment, and finds a clue to that leads her forward. I don't see the appeal in that.

Poppy Montgomery is fine in her role, and there wasn't much to do with such a lifeless script. I've watch tons of procedurals and I can't remember the last time there was an episode this boring from all perspectives.

Score: 6.0/10

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Episode 3 Dorylus

There are several fascinating themes in "Dorylus," pushing the season ahead in an exciting way, and then there are several not-so-fascinating themes which are actually confusing. I like where this season is going and the good outweighed the bad in this episode, but there were some very questionable decisions on the writers' part.

I'll start with the positive, the 6-5 vote on working for the cartel. This issue looks like it will divide the club, not just in the short-run but also the long-run. On the one hand, there is Clay, who convinces Bobby by offering him the leadership of the club and explaining that Jax wants to leave. On the other, there is Jax, who convinces Bobby by agreeing to head the club without him. The immediate consequences will be a bunch of unhappy people working a dangerous job with the cartel, but there will be lasting effects from these lies and half-truths. Clay's behavior in the episode is especially troubling--smothering the already-dying Russian, getting physical with Gemma, and threatening to kill Piney--and gives us good reason why things will fall apart sooner than later.

We don't learn much more about JT or how Gemma was involved, but Gemma confronts Tara about it, telling her that digging further will bring up too many old wounds. Although the way she acted was convincing (because Katey Sagel is great), I don't think she's genuine. In any case, Tara doesn't really believe her and hides the file in a box in the garage.

The other parts of the episode I didn't like so much. What's up with Roosevelt talking to Juice about Juice's black father? SAMCRO might not be angels, but they're not like the KKK or anything. The other plot with the stolen guns was weird in that it didn't feel like Sons at all. A couple of street punks actually steal the truck from Kozik, which was stupid by Kozik and predictable. And the plot doesn't go anywhere either. The guys meet Cool Black Mama who disciplines her sons whom the guns were sold to and are off on their merry way.

Score: 8.7/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review - Glee Season 3 Episode 1 The Purple Piano Project

"The Purple Piano Project" has one moment that feels real and human--Rachel and Kurt breaking down in the car, realizing that they aren't so special before finding a small ray of hope. It's their final year of high school and they were eager to move ahead in their lives and reach their Broadway dreams, an overriding theme that's been emphasized many times in the past. It is crushed instantly, however, when they see the other talented kids perform. After seeing them strive so hard in the past two seasons--and becoming good friends in the process--it's impossible not to feel for them in their sadness and hopefulness.

Sadly, this is Glee, where the good usually comes with a whole lot of bad/mediocre. The writers apparently still think rapid firing plots is a good thing to do. So, following their example, I'll quickly rundown the rest of the plots. Sue's going wild again, Quinn is full-on weirdo (but she still wants to be in the club, as the fleeting glimpse of her in the final scene indicates), Santana is kicked out of the club, the new girl Sugar sucks at singing (at least she doesn't rely on Auto-Tune...), and Blaine decides to leave his super-awesome school and join McKinley all for Kurt. None of this is an urgent matter, so we'll see how long it takes for the entire club to come together and win nationals.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - New Girl Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Depending on individuals' feelings on Zooey Deschanel, everyone is going to have a different opinion about New Girl, because she's basically the show. There are a couple more characters to round out the ensemble, but they just more people for Jessica to interact with and show off her quirkiness. Personally I can stand large doses of her and had no problem accepting all the weird things her character does. I found her funny and liked the insanity which makes guys stay away.

The problem with the pilot, however, is that there is nothing to fall back on after Jessica. The other characters seem fine, but they don't immediately offer anything of value. And Coach, one of the flashier of "the Others," won't be on the show since Damon Wayans, Jr is going back to Happy Endings.

We'll see how the show develops in later episodes. Maybe Zooey Deschanel can sustain a show by herself and maybe not. There are still many unknowns, so I won't cast judgment on the entire show just yet.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - NCIS Season 9 Episode 1 Nature of the Beast

With the nature of Tony's new mission, which spanned several months and was hidden to the rest of the team, it was necessary for the writers to use a framing device and create an excuse for Tony's memory, and the episode turned out fine. The scenes of Dr. Rachel and Tony at the hospital aren't particularly riveting, but Michael Weatherly surely acts well enough so that we know there is something very wrong.

Then, the mystery unfolds in between, as the writers slowly dole at pieces of information. As it turns out, the broad strokes of the plot weren't too complex, although there are a couple unanswered questions which probably will never get answered. Tony was tasked with finding Cade and found EJ to help him, but in the end, Cade was innocent and the real bad guys are Stratton and the Office of Naval Intelligence guy played by Philip Casnoff. Stratton framed Tony for an agent's murder, but everything is cleared up now. Yes, there are many questions about various characters' motivations and the plot was overly complex, but we get a general idea of what happened and the writers were never sticklers for plot details.

Since there wasn't any evidence to follow up on Stratton, NCIS will return back to normal next week and the week after that. Those who didn't the episode have nothing to be worried about, and those who did like the episode got a special treat.

Score: 8.8/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 9/19/11

Ratings are back, everyone!

CBS won with How I Met Your Mother (4.7 .5.2), Two and a Half Men (10.7), 2 Broke Girls (7.1), and Hawaii Five-0 (3.4). You know what they say about publicity... and Two and a Half Men certainly wasn't lacking it over the summer. It got a whopping 10.7 and 2 Broke Girls held onto a good portion of that. We'll see if the ratings stay relatively similar right now. I'm guessing the CBS execs will be grinning ear to ear for a week.

ABC was second with Dancing with the Stars (4.0) and Castle (3.2). Castle has stabilized in the post-DWTS timeslot, so the show shouldn't have much problems in the future.

FOX was third with Hell's Kitchen (2.6).

NBC was last with The Sing-Off (1.9) and The Playboy Club (1.6). NBC's woes continue. The Sing-Off's move to the fall didn't help and The Playboy Club flopped. I guess you can't be surprised.

Review - Castle Season 4 Episode 1 Rise

I've enjoyed most of the serious Castle episodes in the past because they upped the stakes and they were generally well-written episodes. Increasingly, these serious episodes have been changed to add more melodrama and the annoying will-they-won't-they dynamic. This reaches a new height in "Rise," with all sorts of manufactured drama. Kate's boyfriend wants to attack Castle, Beckett explains the wall she has, and finally Beckett tells her psychologist Worf that she remembers everything, which would include Castle's admission of his love. Oh, the drama!

The problem is, Castle isn't a show built upon these "moments," but its charm, something severely lacking in the episode. The episode in Los Angeles was intense at times but could fall back on humor. In "Rise," however, things are too dark to find the funny.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Hawaii Five-0 Season 2 Episode 1 Haʻiʻole

Hawaii Five-0 writers know what works with the show and they hit all the right spots in "Haʻiʻole." There is tons of action, spectacularly directed by Steve Boyum, and the episode moves at a breakneck pace. These are the strong points of the show are they are greatly emphasize, resulting in one of the best episodes yet. On top of that, Terry O'Quinn joins the show as McGarrett's former commander and Masi Oka gets quite a bit more to do than in the previous season. They're great actors and are always charming on television.

As far as plot goes, McGarrett gets cleared and Five-0 is back together by the end of the episode. However, there are clearly unresolved issues as the season progresses. There is the implication that McGarrett's father may have been involved in illicit activity and Kona is still being pursued by IA even though the rest of the team is in the safe. And then killer twist to end the episode, the revelation that Jenna is working with Wo Fat. Very unexpected and crazy.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - The Playboy Club Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Of all the new pilots this season, The Playboy Club ranks pretty high up on my curiosity chart. With the initial surprise of the show's name and premise, the following outrage, comparisons to Mad Men, and the attempts to convince the public that the show was actually about female empowerment, there were plenty of questions that made the show intriguing.

Basically, the Playboy aspect is pointless and detrimental to the show. The writers want us to believe the club actually helps women and that the Bunnies were actually the only women out there who can be anything they want. Common sense would say that this is obviously not what happened in real life, and even the depiction in the show is far from Hugh Hefner's words. To top it off, Hef's voiceovers seem to suggest the club had a critical role in the women's rights movement and gay rights movements.

Sorry... but no, just no.

I don't see how dressing women in bunny outfits and turning them into objects by offering big money has anything to allowing women to be anything they want. In attempt to glorify the club and show how it is good, the writers turn themselves into a laughable group of people, twisting things so there is some kind of moral backbone to the show. At the best, the writers are too dumb to realize the contradictions. At the worst, the writers are engaging in revisionist history of the worst kind.

This Playboy thing turns into a big gimmick, with the Bunnies in their outfits, the mansion, and whatnot, while it clouds the plot, which may have had potential. A mob drama in a historic period, with high production value, would be cool. Unfortunately, these pieces are shuffled off to the side and we're left with little plot and a silly message about the club.

Given the paltry premiere ratings of 1.6, The Playboy Club will almost certainly be canceled. So what went wrong? First off, NBC never should have aired the show--and certainly not after family friendly The Sing-Off. It is a cable show through and through--maybe not for AMC, but TNT, A&E, and others. What could have worked better is if it were on Showtime and completely retooled, embracing the public's image of Playboy and getting rid of the message. Premium cable opens the boundaries of network television--nudity, violence, etc--which would fit perfectly with what people expect.

Score: 7.2/10

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review - Warehouse 13 Season 3 Episode 10 Insatiable

I'm always game for good zombie action, so most of "Insatiable" was likable. The zombies were integrated into the mythos of the show and Myka turning into a zombie instead of Pete was a good twist.

That said, the rest of the episode bothered me a lot. Everything outside the main plot was very contrived and it felt like the writers are forcing things to happen before the season finale. Between Claudia bothering her super-super-BFF Steve (who she met at the beginning of the season), the stuff with the Saleh artifact (try checking the database?), and a random new guy, it all seemed superfluous and lifeless. I like Claudia, but no of this seems too important.

Score: 8.1/10

Review - 2 Broke Girls Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Despite its many problems, 2 Broke Girls feels like a show with a lot more potential than most new comedies. The two characters, Max and Caroline, are set up very well through the half hour, before the show announces a monetary goal of $250K and even begins counting from zero. The premise is solid and could provide plenty of hours of entertainment. Kat Dennings is excellent as the hard-edged Max and Beth Behrs isn't bad doing the spoiled girl thing. By the end of the pilot, the show settles into its groove and gets pretty good. At the least, I'm tuning in next week.

Okay, so that's the good. And then there's the bad... The racial stereotypes are truly awful (and some might say offensive) and among the many one-liners are some really, really, really stupid ones. There is a large disparity between the great parts of the show, Kat Dennings and her character, and the bad parts, so I'm hesitant to endorse the show. Being that this is the pilot and much can change before the second episode, I'm hopeful the writers renovate the show and keep the good while getting rid of the bad.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 7 Episode 1 The Best Man / 2 The Naked Truth

By the seventh season, we shouldn't be expecting too much from How I Met Your Mother with regards to the identity of the Mother. The viewers have been tugged every which way and it's unlikely the we'll learn the truth anytime soon. However, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the show. The characters we love are still there and they're still funny as ever. If given the proper situation, they can do hilarious things, emotional things, and the Mother doesn't even have to be considered.

The season begins with "The Best Man," which has several promising themes, but comes up short from a plot perspective. There's really nothing moving the episode forward aside from what individuals are doing. Barney does "market research," Ted is schmosbying it up, Robin is dealing with her feelings for Barney, and Lily and Marshall hide their pregnancy. There's no central plot connecting everything, only the setting of Punchy's wedding. There were still good things to be found--Robin expressing her feelings to Barney when telling Barney what to say to Nora, Robin and Ted talking--and we get a general sense where the season is going.

I liked the second episode, "The Naked Truth" a bit more. There are more of the classic HIMYM gags with Beercules and Martin Short as Marshall's new boss, both of which aren't overly funny but are funny enough. And Barney's scenes with Nora really set the conflict that will arise. (If Colbie Smulders weren't so good, the scene in the first episode probably would be very cheesy.) Barney truly wants to change and Nora believes and accepts him. Meanwhile, Ted realizes what he needs in a woman, leading into the cliffhanger, Victoria's return. So now Victoria, Ted's old girlfriend, is back. I don't think she'll be the Mother, but I liked her originally so I'm guessing she'll be better than Zoey.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 10 Salud

There is the normal tension on television--when the bad guys have their guns drawn, when a big secret might get revealed, when someone is yelling at someone else--and then there is Breaking Bad tension. Everyone knows something will go down at Don Eladio's place. It's the site of Gus's great trauma, and all the tell-tale signs are there. Gus swallows something before gifting wine to Eladio and Mike tells Jesse all three are leaving together or not at all. So we get a good sense that terrible things will happen, but of course we don't learn instantly.

What differentiates Breaking Bad from the rest of the crop is its way drawing out these scenes, never tipping its full hand until absolutely necessary. The last scene plays brilliantly, as Gus, stonefaced, drinks the poisoned wine alongside Eladio, gives a logical reason why Jesse shouldn't drink the wine (because he is an addict), and even waits a while to throw-up--after the chicas have come out. This takes place in the span of 10 minutes--forever in a television episode--and the scene slowly plays out, drawing the audience closer and closer and closer before releasing. Then, as slowly as it built, the tension is let go in a blitz of action, Gus slumping over as Mike and Jesse drag him out, a gunman shooting Mike before Jesse kills him. Amazing.

Assuming Gus lives, he basically wins on all fronts. He gets his revenge on Eladio and takes care of the cartel in one bold move, careful planned and perfectly executed. I'm not even sure this will affect Walt at all immediately. After all, Walt didn't seem to care about the cartel, only caring about the short-term conflict with Gus. What it allows, however, is more time for Gus to deal with Hank, who was absent in the episode. After walking out into the fire last week, Gus is becoming more and more awesome, beyond his usual passive exterior, so I hope he survives.

Jesse and Walt took big turns in the episode, almost flipping their characters entirely. At the Mexican manufacturing place, Jesse channels his inner Walt, berating the head chemist for sucking, with the Jesse vocabulary we've come to love. Meanwhile, Walt finally (finally!!) comes to his senses after two seasons of blinding himself to reality. He's horrified at what he's done, especially to Jesse, and apologizes to Walt Jr. as a surrogate for Jesse. After sleeping for a while, he tells Walt Jr. a poignant, moving story about his own father's death, which came when he was only 6. He remembers his only memory of his father and how he wasn't sure his father even knew who he was, which gives us some reason why he became so willful and obtuse after his cancer diagnosis, doing the exact opposite of what his father did.

Back at home, Skyler buys Walt Jr. a PT Cruiser for his birthday. A fucking PT Cruiser. PT Cruiser--not cool. Charger--cool. But Skyler doesn't know the difference and Walt Jr. can only express muted thanks. Of course, Walt should have been helping her, so we can't completely blame Skyler. At the very least, Walt Jr. got a car, albeit one worse than the one he had a few episodes ago.

I liked how Skyler confronted Ted at the end, revealing it was her money he is using, but there was something unrealistic, too hokey about it. We're supposed to believe that Skyler gives Ted $600k to pay the IRS via a fake relative, complicated the plot further. This is more of a personal preference , but I would prefer the plot end soon, because I could hardly care about Skyler and Ted when far more interesting and exciting things are happening at the same time. But I probably shouldn't count out what Vince Gilligan has in store for the plot.

I'm curious to see how the writers begin next week's episode. This would appear to be a cliffhanger, and a big one at that, but I can't imagine a time in any previous Breaking Bad episodes when there was a situation quite like this. Tough spots, yes, but not two people potentially dying. Will the episode pick up right where this one left off or show us the aftermath?

Score: 9.5/10

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preview of Week 9/18/11 - 9/24/11

After a preview-less summer, they're back. I've listed all the new show premieres and some other premieres I'm looking forward to. Since there are so many shows, I don't have many thoughtful comments on them.

How I Met Your Mother - CBS, Monday, September 19, 8:00pm ET

Okay, so maybe we won't learn who the Mother is anytime soon. The show is still funny as hell.

2 Broke Girls - CBS, Monday, September 19, 9:00pm ET

The '2' in the show's title is somewhat worrisome, but the premise sounds promising.

Two and a Half Men - CBS, Monday, September 19, 9:30pm ET

What will the new Two and a Half Men look like? Probably a lot like the old one.

Hawaii Five-0 - CBS, Monday, September 19, 10:00pm ET

Regardless of whether the show resets back to normal procedural mode, Hawaii Five-0 at least has some interesting material to work with.

Castle - ABC, Monday, September 19, 10:00pm ET

Who's ready for another season of will-they-won't-they?

The Playboy Club - NBC, Monday, September 19, 10:00pm ET

The producers have said The Playboy Club is actually about female empowerment. Somehow I doubt that... It reminds me of the statement Tom Brady's people released the other day, clarifying that he meant "drink water and stay hydrated" when he told the fans to "start drinking early."

NCIS - CBS, Tuesday, September 20, 8:00pm ET

Tony is on another secret mission, so I guess I'm interested.

Glee - FOX, Tuesday, September 20, 8:00pm ET

Will Glee rebound after a very uneven sophomore season?

New Girl - FOX, Tuesday, September 20, 9:00pm ET

For those who love Zooey Deschanel in heavy, heavy doses, this is the perfect show. If not, get ready.

Unforgettable - CBS, Tuesday, September 20, 10:00pm ET

CBS has been airing lots of previews for the show and there's one thing that bothers me a lot--the possibility that the show will turn into Poppy Montgomery rattling off a list of facts to a stunned crowd.

Criminal Minds - CBS, Wednesday, September 21, 9:00pm ET

The return of Emily and JJ!

Modern Family - ABC, Wednesday, September 21, 9:00pm ET

Modern Family in the great outdoors should be fun.

CSI - CBS, Wednesday, September 21, 10:00pm ET

CSI takes another turn with a star, this time with Ted Danson.

Revenge - ABC, Wednesday, September 21, 10:00pm ET

Revenge sounds better than Ringer if that means anything. We'll see if the writers take things less seriously.

The Big Bang Theory - CBS, Thursday, September 22, 8:00pm ET

Penny and Raj... lol wut.

Community - NBC, Thursday, September 22, 8:00pm ET

The best comedy on television returns.

Charlie's Angels - ABC, Thursday, September 22, 8:00pm ET

ABC tries to make yet another show succeed at 8 PM on Thursday, and I think it'll work this time around.

Parks and Recreation - NBC, Thursday, September 22, 8:30pm ET

Ron's other ex-wife, also named Tammy, is here. What unspeakable crime did she perpetrate against him?

The Office - NBC, Thursday, September 22, 9:00pm ET

Life in the office after Michael Scott should be interesting.

Person of Interest - CBS, Thursday, September 22, 9:00pm ET

Michael Emerson is always welcome on television, so we'll see how the pans out.

Whitney - NBC, Thursday, September 22, 9:30pm ET

I'm not sure how this show could be interesting at all.

The Mentalist - CBS, Thursday, September 22, 10:00pm ET

After the bombshell season finale, what does The Mentalist have in store? Major props to the writers for turning things around in the third season after a pretty bad second season.

Prime Suspect - NBC, Thursday, September 22, 10:00pm ET

Another British remake hits American television, but I'm not sure the hour-long per week format really works with the premise of the original.

A Gifted Man - CBS, Friday, September 23, 8:00pm ET

Another CBS show about something communicating with a dead person. Hmm...

Supernatural - CW, Friday, September 23, 9:00pm ET

Alert! Wild angel on the loose!

Fringe - FOX, Friday, September 23, 9:00pm ET

After the stunning season three finale, I'm sure everyone is eagerly awaiting the season finale.

Emmy Awards 2011: Who should win and who will win

The Emmys are tonight and I won't be watching it, what with Breaking Bad on, but I'll throw out some predictions and whatnot. There's really no way to know how the Academy votes; sometimes it's infuriating, like when a declining show continues to win or get nominated, and sometimes we get a delightful surprise. So take everything with a grain of salt and remember that none of this really matters unless you're super-invested in a show.

Outstanding Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
Friday Night Lights
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men

Who should win: Mad Men
Who will win: Boardwalk Empire

This is a stacked category with a perennial winner in Mad Men, which had a stellar fourth season. I'm guessing the voters will take the HBO bait and pick the newcomer Boardwalk Empire. It would be very cool if Friday Night Lights somehow won. But if Dexter wins, I might have get my baseball bat...

Outstanding Comedy Series
Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock

Who should win: Parks and Recreation
Who will win: Modern Family

No cable shows!!!!

It's a shame Community wasn't nominated, but Parks and Recreation is a very worthy replacement. However, this is the Emmys where a poor season of The Office manages to get nominated. In all honesty, this category is easily the weakest in terms of absolute "outstandingness". Aside from Parks and Recreation, none of these shows were particularly good last season, relative to their previous seasons or even to other shows. Will the voters recognize this? I'm expecting a Modern Family repeat.

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Who should win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Who will win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

This is probably the toughest category. Elisabeth Moss submitted "The Suitcase," which has that scene, and will be stiff competition. Julianna Margulies, to everyone's surprise, did not win last year, which makes me  question whether she can win this year. Still, her submitted episode, "In Sickness," is quite intense in its own right, featuring the kind of Emmy bait voters look for. Maybe Connie Britton can win on the power of FNL's ending?

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama
Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Margo Martindale, Justified
Michelle Forbes, The Killing
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Who should win: Margo Martindale, Justified
Who will win: Margo Martindale, Justified

Margo Martindale was beyond good on Justified and stands out among this stacked category. But I'm not sure the voters buy into Justified, considering it got no big nominations last year. Archie Panjabi got a surprise win last year, so she may be able to put it out again. Along the same lines, maybe Kelly Macdonald and   Michelle Forbes, the newcomers, can win it.

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
John Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Timothy Olyphant, Justified

Who should win: John Hamm, Mad Men
Who will win: John Hamm, Mad Men

OK, I may have to take back my comment about Outstanding Actress in a Drama being the hardest. I have this position: Just give the damn Emmy to Jon Hamm already. I feel bad for Hugh Laurie, as he's still excellent on a dying show, but I feel it's worse for Jon Hamm, who knows Emmy voters like his show but still pass him up. Bryan Cranston isn't eligible this year so it's about time.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Walton Goggins, Justified
John Slattery, Mad Men
Andrew Braugher, Men of a Certain Age

Who should win: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Who will win: John Slattery, Mad Men

I love Alan Cumming and I'd love to see Walton Goggins win for all the times he was snubbed while on The Shield, but Peter Dinklage on Game of Thrones is the freshest on my mind and was funny at every turn. Choosing a winner is very hard, because there is a no clear favorite. Archie Pannjabi somehow won for The Good Wife last year, but Julianna Margulies did not. Justified, Game of Thrones, and Men of a Certain Age are unknowns with only a handful of big nominations between them. That leaves Mad Men, which has raked in the outstanding drama awards but has struck out in every acting category. Will this be John Slattery's year? I'll say yes.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Who should win: Toni Collete, United States of Tara (from the list: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation)
Who will win:  Laura Linney, The Big C

Showtime overload crowds out the more-deserving Toni Collete. What can you say? That leaves Amy Poehler as my choice, but I don't think she'll win.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy
Jane Lynch, Glee
Betty White, Hot In Cleveland
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock

Who should win: Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Who will win: Jane Lynch, Glee

As good as Sofia Vergara is on Modern Family, I think the voters will go back and pick Jane Lynch again. Jane Lynch is somewhat deserving, but the way the writers handled her character the past season--making her the ultimate villain (as in evil, literally trying to kill people, etc) while trying to have it both ways on occasion, showing us her other side which is supposedly sweet and loving. It was weird and unsettling to see the way the writers dealt with her.

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Louis C.K., Louie
Steve Carell, The Office
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Who should win: Steve Carell, The Office
Who will win: Steve Carell, The Office

Steve Carell's last season on The Office should be a no-brainer. And by no-brainer I mean something that may be outside the grasp of the Emmy voters.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy
Chris Colfer, Glee
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Who should win: Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation (Ron Swanson is fucking awesome so I won't even provide a pick from the list)
Who will win: Chris Colfer, Glee

Modern Family is the only show with supporting actors in a comedy! I was surprised when Eric Stonestreet won last year despite three Modern Family actors being in the mix. This year, there's four (four!) and no "Fizbo," so I don't think Eric Stonestreet will repeat nor will there be another Modern Family winner. This leaves Jon Cryer and Chris Colfer. Maybe the voters feel sorry for Jon Cryer having to put up with Charlie Sheen, but my bet is on Chris Colfer who was only of the few bright spots on Glee's second season.
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