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Nightfly's TV Week in Review #11 (9/19/10) - Fringe, Top Gear, & more!

Written by Nightfly on Thursday, September 30 2010 and posted in Features

Outhouse tvphile Nightfly reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of premiere-filled television.

Nightfly's TV Week in Review #11 (week of 9/19/10)
written by Nightfly

Believe it or not I screened 21hrs of hour-long scripted tv (27hrs counting reality shows) this past week, with another 4hrs worth of half-hour sitcoms.  It's from that pool I draw when formulating this Week in Review List.  All but one of my Top 6 List honorees is a new premiere and all the sitcoms are new premieres debuting this past week.  FOX dominated the first week of the fall season, earning the most Scripted List entries as well the most slots overall compared to all other networks.  With all the programs currently airing I'm sure I've neglected some of your favorites... many of my own didn't make the cut.  But there's only so many slots.  The competition gets even stiffer this upcoming week (9/26) with the premieres of Human Target, No Ordinary Family, Dexter, Stargate SGU, Eastbound and Down, The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives and more!
* Potential Spoilers Below *

6. Undercovers - "Pilot" (NBC)

J.J. Abrams announced his primetime presence with two exciting premieres this week, Undercovers being the first.  Former agents Steven and Samantha Bloom are pulled back into the spy game for operation 'Black Swan', a deadly undercover mission to save Sam's former boyfriend and partner Leo Nash.  Boris Kodjoe & Gugu Mbatha-Raw rocked in this explosively well written & well directed opener by executive producer Abrams himself.  Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon, Major Dad) is perfect for his role as handler Carlton Shaw, and agency liaison Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz) was funny in his loving adoration for Steven.  My expectations were exceedingly high for this new series, what with the glut of spy shows lately, and in multiple ways I felt it delivered big-time!  Abrams helming spy action is a music I'm used to grooving to.  A badass guest star as the villain would've propelled this pilot higher on my list, but as is it still brought the action, laughs, intensity, and sexpionage the ads promised and that was cool enough for me!
Samantha Bloom
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Samantha Bloom

* Check out the weekly online recipes courtesy of Bloom Catering here:

This week's recipe is for Eggplant Parmesan.

5. Warehouse 13 - "Reset" (SyFy)

Few have been as critical of this show as I've been over its first two seasons, but in its last nine or so epis it got so much better.  It seemed to finally find its footing; Pete finally became a character I actually liked instead of merely tolerating.  Claudia continued her ascension to nerd goddesshood, while Myka and Artie became characters I genuinely cared about as well as laughed along with.  Jaime Murray's emotional arc dramatically improved this campy fun series and the last couple episodes, comprising its finale, were truly impressive.  Too bad Kelly (Paula Garcés) didn't wanna be Pete's one - I would've liked to see more of her.  Though the whole cast were powerful in this moving story (and the special efx were great), the acting skills of Joanne Kelly and Jaime Murray were what really made this finale special.  For all my criticisms over the years I must salute the producers for eventually getting it right this season with notable guest stars, more emotionally intense storylines, and an emphasis on Claudia's unstoppable awesomeness.  I hope Joanne (Myka) returns for a third season, I know I will if she does.
Eddie McClintock & Joanne Kelly

4. House - "Now What?" (FOX)

No it wasn't a hallucination, Cuddy's really in love with House.  What could've easily been titled, 'The Trial of Huddy' turned out to be a sex-fueled premiere filled with numerous subtextual tests & psychoanalysis (ooh what fun) mostly coming from House.  Olivia Wilde's leave of absence played out as 'Thirteen' requesting an extended leave of absence, lying to the the team about where she was going, and disappearing without even dropping by her farewell party.  Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) added entertaining distractions to Greg's 'n Lisa's day off, while (often naked) Laurie and Edelstein put the microscope on Huddy's chances in this revealing episode.  Once all was said and done I think, and they believe, they have a fighting chance of making it work together.  They unquestionably love each other - of course, that's not always enough.  After six seasons of thinking House & Cuddy could be a kickass couple, I'm glad this seventh season is giving it a try.
I miss Remy already...whoever fills in for her better be good.

3. Grey's Anatomy - "With You I'm Born Again" (ABC)

Though months have passed, the surgeons at Seattle Grace are still reeling in the aftermath of last season's horrific finale.  Meredith still hasn't told Derek about her miscarriage, which seems sensible since he hasn't adjusted well to his trauma - evermore addicted to adrenaline and now being constantly arrested from it.  Immediately after returning from one of his numerous arrests, Derek resigns the Chief of Surgery position giving it back to an overjoyed Webber.  Treating and clearing the staff as the new in-house shrink is James Tupper (Men in Trees, Mercy) playing Dr. Perkins; semi-secretly dating Teddy (Kim Raver).  Grey and Christina, for reasons of 'dishonesty', still haven't been cleared to cut again; they're the last two.  Relationship transitions abounded this week as Callie and Arizona decided to officially live together, Bailey broke up with Ben, and Yang married Owen in a touching home ceremony that emotionally ended this seventh season premiere.

2. Boardwalk Empire - "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)

Like Deadwood & Rome before it, the lushness of this 1920s period series is incomparable to any other show on television.  Master auteur and executive producer Martin Scorsese directs the premiere and his signature sensibilities pervade throughout.  Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald brilliantly lead this cast, supported by Michael Pitt and Michael Shannon among others, peering deeply into 'the dark side of the American Dream.'.  Every bit of sophistication, class, and violence Scorsese fans expect can be found in this brutal tale of prohibition era Atlantic City.  Despite Sunday being one of the week's most packed viewing nights for me - particularly starting tonight - I'm determined to keep up with this series.  In truth, I almost can't believe a fan of Scorsese's past work wouldn't like this incredibly high caliber, historical series.

1. Fringe - "Olivia" (FOX)

Poor Olivia.  This (third) season premiere, directed by Joe Chappelle (The Wire), heartbreakingly follows Olivia as she struggles to hold onto her former life... ultimately doomed to live the manufactured life Walternate concocted for her as his agent and assassin.  Anna Torv acts her ass off in this penetrating actioner.  It would seem all hope is lost for our dear Olivia, I seriously hope not.  On our side of reality Peter and Walter have no clue the Olivia they're with is Walternate's agent.  Will she really destroy our dimension?  What will Walternate use our Olivia for?  Boardwalk Empire had a lock on this week's Top of the List spot until this impressively ominous opener premiered.
Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham
Guilty Pleasure Award - Stan Lee's Superhumans - "Rubber Band Man" (History)
Stan's show about Superhumans just didn't live up to its name [again] this week, imo.  As I mentioned in a separate review, this installment seemed themed around the skills usually found among Hydra or Cobra level agents.  If wikipedia is to be believed the next episode may be the season finale - I'm not sure if that's true - but one can hope.
Guest Star of the Week: Olivia Williams on Terriers (FX)
Trivia Question of the Week:
Detroit 1-8-7 cast member D.J. Cotrona co-starred in a short-lived Jerry Bruckheimer series with which House cast member?
D.J. Cotrona
D.J. Cotrona as Det. John Stone

Current Medal Standing:
Bluestreak: MVPmvp
Dragavon: MVPMVP
misac: MVP
Psivage: MVP
Punchy: MVP
~ Last week's answer: Benjamin Linus  {Winner: Punchy}
* Outstanding Sitcoms *

4. Running Wilde - "Pilot" (FOX)

Arrested Development fans would have to be nuts not to watch this outrageously funny new series from Will Arnett & Mitchell Hurwitz.  Arnett plays over the top narcissist Steven Wilde, (still) wildly in love with childhood sweetheart Emmy (played by Keri Russell).  David Cross guest starred in this episode documenting Emmy's (and her daughter Puddle's) exodus from the jungle back into Wilde's life.  A rich cast of comedic characters, along with the tribe Steven relocated from the jungle, all contributed to the zaniness.  I hope the tribe sticks around.  This instant favorite made me laugh so much my jaw actually hurt.  What is Puddle's thing? Will Emmy ever be able to change Steve?  I look forward to finding out.

3. How I Met Your Mother - "Big Days" (CBS)

With Lyndsy Fonseca still on the couch, Ted once again tells his kids how he met their mother.  The sixth season opener, guest starring Rachel Bilson, centered on Lily And Marshall trying to get pregnant and Marshall's sharing too many details about it with his Dad.  Shields-Up Robin humorously dwells on her breakup misery, while Ted and Barney bet on the availability of a young woman who turns out to be on a date already.  Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders play two of my favorite characters on the show, so their being the focus made this premiere extra sweet!  Hopefully this'll be a more active season for Lily and Robin since both actresses are no longer pregnant IRL like they both were last season (despite neither of their characters ever being pregnant).  Though most epis have a distinctly charming bent, this premiere especially tugged the heartstrings (at the end) concerning Lily's fears of disappointing Marshall - which, of course, is impossible times infinity.
Alyson Hannigan as Lily Aldrin

2. Raising Hope - "Pilot" (FOX)
Greg Garcia once again managed to create a wonderfully offbeat series as heartwarming as it is hilarious, this time starring newcomer Lucas Neff (as 23yr old Jimmy Chance).  After meeting Bijou Phillips by random chance, Jimmy's Life Plan is completely rewritten when Bijou (as Lucy Carlyle) ends up pregnant, in prison, and eventually executed by the state with Jimmy and his newborn daughter looking on.  Shannon Woodward (The Riches) fetchingly plays Jimmy's friend at the store (soon-to-be girlfriend, I'm sure), while his irreverent family is played buffoonishly by Martha Plimpton, Cloris Leachman, and standout joker Garrett Dillahunt (Deadwood, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).  Not often can a reviewer honestly say, "I laughed, I cried..." but this debut made it so.  Jimmy's immediate determination to keep the baby was heartening and the lullaby ending was simply beautiful.  I can't recommend this series highly enough.  The other (unorthodox) baby show this season will be Dexter; I was hoping Finn and Quinn (of Glee) would make it three, but is wasn't meant to be.  I'll be watching the Chance family raise Hope each week from now on though, to be sure.

1. Rules of Engagement - "Surro-gate" (CBS)

Some might be surprised that this premiere earned my inaugural Top Sitcom slot, but frankly I'm not.  No matter the timeslot or night of the week, this teflon comedy has prevailed.  Its fifth season opener was suprisingly funnier than even I, a loyal fan, expected.  Jaime Pressly and David Spade make a great pair, I really hope her character joins the cast.  Audrey's initial excitement and eventual devastation at Pam's befouling was the highlight of the show for me.  Adam's asstastic b-story made me laugh out loud repeatedly.  I can't wait to find out who becomes the new surrogate?  Check out this Top of the List sitcom if you like to laugh!
Rules of Engagement
Adhir Kalyan, David Spade, Oliver Hudson, and Patrick Warburton
* Reality Shows *

3. Top Chef: Washington D.C. - "Reunion" (Bravo)

These reunion shows are usually as juicy as you'd want 'em to be as no interpersonal stone is left unturned regarding conflicts, disagreements, and the like.  Host Andy Cohen deeply probed the vanishing pea puree affair, Ed's unhappiness with Elan in his final challenge, and revealed the All-Star lineup for Top Chef's eighth season entitled, Top Chef: All-Stars - comprised of popular losers from all seven seasons.  In my daily update I referred to All-Stars as an upcoming spinoff, but in fact, it's just the premise for next season's (Padma hosted) Top Chef proper.  Kevin Sbraga represented himself well and took further steps towards redeeming himself, in my eyes, for his hot-tempered bitchiness throughout the season.  Of the season seven chefs, Tiffany & Angelo will be the All-Stars competing next season.  Below is the list of all 18 All-Star cheftestants you can expect to see next in season eight;
Stephen Asprinio; Season 1, top five
Tiffani Faison; Season 1 finalist
Elia Aboumrad; Season 2, final four
Marcel Vigneron; Season 2 finalist
Dale Levitski; Season 3 finalist
Casey Thompson; Season 3 finalist and Fan Favorite
Tre Wilcox; Season 3, top eight
Richard Blais; Season 4 finalist
Antonia Lofaso; Season 4, final four
Spike Mendelsohn; Season 4, top five
Dale Talde; Season 4, top six
Carla Hall; Season 5 finalist
Jamie Lauren; Season 5, top seven
Fabio Viviani; Season 5, final four and Fan Favorite
Jennifer Carroll; Season 6, final four
Mike Isabella; Season 6, top seven
Tiffany Derry; Season 7, top five
Angelo Sosa; Season 7 finalist

2. American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. - "PJD Bike Part 2" (TLC)
Anti-Venom and the Geico bike builds continued apace this week, even as Lee Stamper stopped by to waste two days, and Paul Senior attempted sabotage.  Senior's karmic retribution came swiftly when he had to absorb the entire cost of the FBI themed bike OCC (his valueless empire) had been proudly building.  Slight friction arises when Mikey's painting on an important catalog leads him to feeling exiled without a home in the shop, as (for some reason) the sweet art studio area he formerly occupied is now inundated with crap/stuff.  The new fabricator Junior hires to replace flaky Lee ends up being quite a find; an exceedingly professional crafstman I hope PJD can sign on permanently.  Check out the new guy's work on the gas tank of the finished Geico bike (pictured) below.
Geico Bike
Geico Bike by PJD

1. Top Gear: The Lost Episodes (BBC-America)

Top Gear's 2004 'lost' season concluded this week with an ender focused entirely on non-supercars for a change.  The fastest car profiled, which was quite fast indeed, was the Ariel Atom (bodyless) boutique car which happens to be astonishingly affordable (and unusual).  James May got things started road testing the 1-series BMW hatchback; the smallest car BMW has ever made, or will ever make if James' prediction is correct.  James finds lots of problems with the model from the impractical controls, inferior tires, exorbitant price, to the "second rate" materials used in the interior as well as the overall lack of speed.  May definitely does not recommend it.  Richard Hammond takes a (handbuilt) Mercedes-Benz Jeep Wagon G55 AMG 'round the English countryside loving every one of its 476 supercharged horses.  Next, Richard loses the 'Hot Hatchbacks' race in a Citron C2 VTS (126 mph top speed) to Jeremy Clarkson driving a Ford Fiesta ST 150 (129 mph top speed).  Though the Fiesta has the edge in speed, it comes at a steep price for younger drivers worried about insurance classifications.  Trinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine of the original (British) What Not to Wear guested as this week's "stars in a reasonably priced car."  Top Gear launches its 15th season/series this Monday (9/27) on BBC-America!  Don't miss it!

This week was far and away the toughest I've faced relating to list selection.  For all the programs I screened, next week will bring even more - the multiple upcoming premieres I mentioned in my column's opening paragraph.  I badly wanted to watch NBC's 30 Rock, one of my favorite shows, but wasn't able to record it that night (I recorded The Big Bang Theory instead, and will continue to do so).  It sucks in relation to my inaugural Sitcom List, but I'm afraid I'll have to catch up with 30 Rock(s) OnDemand.

I genuinely appreciate your continued interest in my (highly subjective) ongoing review column.  Please feel encouraged to suggest shows you don't see on my list, or argue with me over shows you do.
Come back for my twelfth tv week in review column next week.

Written or Contributed by: Nightfly

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About the Author - Nightfly

A proud member of NBCUniversal's and A+E Television Networks’ Digital Media Teams, Nightfly routinely interviews producers, creators and stars of various network programs and films with a concentrated emphasis on the Syfy channel. Formally educated in Communications, Computer Science and Music, his résumé reflects more than a decade broadcasting in the fields of television and radio. With pieces routinely published at ScreenFad and Press Pass L.A., his primary areas of interest include TV, film, music, web series, comic books, fashion, pen 'n paper RPG gaming as well as various other pop-culture topics. An avid Twitter user, Nightfly supports the arts, the entertainment community, numerous charities and crowdfunding projects through his journalistic netizenship and non-partisan, multicultural-centric activism.

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