Outhouse tvphile Nightfly reviews his favorite shows from the previous (holiday) week of primetime television.
Nightfly's TV Week in Review #20 (week of 11/21/10)
written by Nightfly
Thanksgiving knocked a cornucopia of primetime shows off the air, yet enough remained to compile an acceptable list. Only FOX claimed multiple spots on my Top Scripted List, while CBS nearly made a historic sweep of my Sitcoms section. The American Top Gear premiered this week on The History Channel and AMC's The Walking Dead debuts on my list for the very first time. Comic legends, a fan favorite Lostie, and a neo-burlesque icon await you in the lovingly crafted reviews you'll find below. Sorry for the shortage of Daily Updates this week but the holiday did provide a much appreciated respite. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and in case you missed some of the new shows that aired (while watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving instead) perhaps my lists will help you learn what you want to catch up on....and away we go.
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Dexter - "Teenage Wasteland" (SHO)
Masterful director Ernest R. Dickerson ups the stakes audaciously in the wake of Cole Harmon's disposal, with both Liddy and Jordan ready to call Dexter's bet. Astor unexpectedly shows up with her physically abused friend Olivia (Tabitha Morella) discovering Lumen, and, driving Dexter to mete out the most methodically punishing beatdown I can ever remember him delivering! Harry's ghost takes pride in previously unknown potential within his son, and the squad are finally, unavoidably introduced to Lumen as Dex's new tenant. Deb's unjust exile to the file room uncovers a break in the barrel girl murders forcing Laguerta to reluctantly reopen multiple cases. Laguerta bitterly informs Deb that she's been protecting Dexter for some time from Quinn's probing of him, prompting Deb to break off her fling with Quinn curtly. The highly suspenseful drama is all the more heightened when the girls suddenly go missing right around the time Jordan Chase learns about Lumen and Dex. Jonny Lee Miller, Peter Weller, and most notably Christina Robinson (as Astor Bennett) each knock it out of the park with their individually award-worthy performances; Stiles continues to captivate as damaged, justice-driven Lumen... a much needed confidant and partner for Dex.
Michael C. Hall & Jonny Lee Miller in "Teenage Wasteland"
5. Stargate Universe - "Visitation" (SyFy)
Fans of Lt. Johansen, hoping to see Carmen again, were sorely disappointed as the former crewmates she left her with suddenly arrive alongside Destiny without the infant or even their own memories. The amnesiatic shuttle occupants give everyone the creeps then strangely begin dying just after recalling their deaths on the world they called Eden. Former Eden residents Tygh Runyan (BSG), Camille Sullivan (Da Vinci's Inquest), and super-talented Michelle Harrison (Eureka, Wild Roses) impress in their respective guest roles, while cast regulars Huffman, Ming-Na, Levesque and Jamil Walker Smith brilliantly shine as well. Dr. Lisa Park and Sgt. Greer appear on the verge of possibly dating, and, sadly Chloe starts refusing to visit Scott in this stirringly written entry from Remi Aubuchon (Caprica, Chicago Hope), directed by Stargate master William Waring. While this episode is not a cheerful happy time it does have its inspiring moments... Young finally in the Captain's chair is a significant one. Sci-fi fans not following this show are unreasonably doing themselves a disservice. An additional SGU bonus is that a fair portion of the cast are active tweeters. BTW, I'm not convinced TJ's baby was ever with this supposed group of Edenites. The Carmen question remains open in my mind until more concrete information comes along; to me shadows just don't carry much weight.
* SyFy has yet to announce renewal for this series so your viewership can still make a world of difference. Put the word out if you'd like not to lose this thoughtfully conceived space thriller.
4. Boardwalk Empire - "The Emerald City" (HBO)
This week's especially telling installment featured dramatic turning points compellingly directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Generation Kill). Women finally get the Right to Vote, Unofficial North Side Mayor Chalky White finally gets some justice for his previously murdered men, and Margaret articulately addresses Atlantic City's first official meeting of the League of Women Voters. Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) surprisingly betrays Rothstein, gleefully spilling the full details of Arnold's plan to Nucky. Harrow acclimates Margaret's children to his visage by claiming to be the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz, while Judaic wisdom inspires a profound maturation within the spirit of Al Capone. Burdened by the lack of a case versus Jimmy or Nuck, Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) crosses several clear lines in desperation; he enters Margaret's home under false pretenses (efforting to save her Eternal Soul), gets whiskey'd up and beds Lucy doing so in multiple non-missionary positions. Obviously, he's losin' it. Revealingly, I was relieved he didn't do anything violent to her or Schroeder. Among the many luminous performances, not the least of which from Kelly Macdonald, are standout turns by Lisa Joyce as Angela's lover Mary Dittrich & Anatol Yusef (O Jerusalem) as the always composed Meyer Lansky. Yet another benchmark episode from one of the finest series in HBO's proud history! Margaret's (insincerely felt) speech on behalf of Bader (Kevin O'Rourke, Remember WENN), at the subtle-yet-urgent behest of Nuck, combined with her literally guarded new life makes her reexamine Van Alden's perspective & makes this episode unequivocally 'must-see'.
Aleksa Palladino, Michael Pitt, & Brady/Connor Noon
3. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Accident" (ABC)
Love blossoms and a heart literally breaks (er, is pierced, and not by cupid's arrow) in this week's rousing tale of superherodom. Jim mysteriously experiences inconsistent power levels with occasional intermittent outages leaving him vulnerable and painfully endangered. J.J. nearly lands in big trouble when Mr. Litchfield catches him red-handedly hacking into the school's computer in the act of changing Kenny's grade. After a two year dry spell, George finally invites a lady to chez Jorge and that lady is the lovely Amanda Grayson (Amy Acker, Angel). Stephanie investigates the causal factors impeding Jim's powers while Daphne explores the wrong turns her powers could lead her to. Katie and Will (described by Katie as a dash of Edward mixed in with a smidge of Wolverine) continue getting closer, as Mr. Litchfield's very life rests in J.J.'s & Steph's hands after a terrible [typically fatal] car crash. Katie deduces that Steph's kiss is causing Jim's troubles as he's allergic to her most recent brand of lipgloss. The whole ensemble shines in this tautly enjoyable entry! I'm hoping Will (The Watcher) can't resist Katie's cuteness and decides to help the Powells in the end (hope, hope). I'd sure be super-happy if he did.
* Julie Benz and Jaime Murray are great friends and get into seriously funny twitter conversations (pretty much daily), particularly about their feet size. Jaime Blip'd a link to this awesome song to which Benz replied, "OMG I love it!! finally found my life theme song!!" Enjoy the enlivening, shoe-centric tune here.
** TV by the Numbers classifies this series as "likely to be canceled". Please tell your friends and family how engaging and promising this super series is!! Let's not let it die an unwarranted premature death.
2. Glee - "Furt" (FOX)
Being the specific kind of tv fan I am, with my individual frames of reference, I'd place (Mike O'Malley as) Burt Hummell among the pantheon of greatest fathers in tv history - right there with affectionate, understanding heroes like Ben Sisko, Mr. 'C', going all the way back to Andy Taylor... But, none of those legendary fathers faced the identity shaping challenge of parenting a gay teenager in a predominantly intolerant world (much less in a small, somewhat regressive midwestern community). I know the show's not all about Burt, still, I just wanted to point out how admirable & rare such a father is even in the happy escapist land(s) of fiction. As honestly as Finn loves his Mom, you just know he's gotta be happy such an open-hearted & honorable man is becoming her partner and his stepdad. And Burt's just as lucky as Carole is. Having finally caught the last Nazi, absentee mother Doris Sylvester (guest legend Carol Burnett) returns to attend Sue's self-wedding and melodiously ponder why-o she ever left Ohio. Daniel Roebuck (Lost, Woke Up Dead) is introduced as Dave Karofsky's knowing and observant father, Paul. Ryan Murphy pens one of the most beautiful episodes in this series' entire run, poignantly punctuated by Kurt's announcement he'll be leaving his friends to seek the safe zero tolerance, anti-bullying policy of Dalton Academy. Lynch and Burnett are magnificent, and the "Marry You" number is divine. In light of Sam's romantic Promise Ring proposal, I couldn't help but imagine which (if any) of the couples dancing down the aisle might someday tie the knot themselves? This entry happily gets my highest recommendation for a series not featuring gunplay.
* Relive the fun with videos of the key songs here (via Hulu)
Romy Rosemont & Mike O'Malley in "Furt"
1. Human Target - "The Wife's Tale" (FOX)
Who watches the Watchers? Mrs. Pucci and Rebecca Brooks do, that's who. One episode past the premiere brings Ilsa's first look at the gray zone Chance, Winston, and Guerrero live in. Historic drama fans should appreciate Deadwood meeting Rome in the form of Molly Parker and Indira Varma, mesmerizingly elegant & talented, particularly in their riveting scenes together. Guest starring along with Parker is M.C. Gainey (Tom Friendly from Lost) in my favorite performance from him since Roscoe P. Coltrane in The Dukes of Hazzard. Watchmen stuntman Adrian Hein plays badass assassin 'Kevin', with fellow Watchmen thesp John Shaw (Fringe) playing Rebecca's "close" friend at the college [not the interrogated shot-in-the-head guy I erroneously reported in my Daily Update review for this episode. D'Oh! Ugh.]. The actor interrogated by Guerrero and Ames is capable Curtis Caravaggio whose played Marines, Airmen, and Special Forces Commandos in AVP: Requiem, BSG, Stargate: Atlantis, and The 4400 -- I apologize for previously getting that detail wrong. :( Curtis' overall scene was fun, another in the line making me fall in love with Ames; this has been my introduction to Janet Montgomery and she's now got a loyal fan in me for the foreseeable future. I find her charm and charisma irresistible. This episode was a little less action packed than the premiere, still, director Mimi Leder provided intensely affective moments & an overriding tone I thought was nothing short of sensational. Writers Zev Borow (Chuck) & Andrea Newman (24) did such a great job I'd be happy if they wrote every epi from now on. Hard-hitting & incredible. Lord, I love Mrs. Pucci, she could be my employer any day!
* This series could really use a boost in the ratings. I'd expect fans of shows like Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, Nikita, H50, etc, to want to support an actioner with the pedigree and production value of this one. Please spread the word of its excellence to help it avoid cancellation.
Jackie Earle Haley, Indira Varma, Mark Valley & Janet Montgomery
Guilty Pleasure Award - The Walking Dead - "Vatos" (AMC)
Unconnected to this series' comic origin as I am, I fast ran out of patience for this mostly one-note melodrama (without even a kickfighting expert in the bunch). I like the good times to roll and this series only ever rolls through hell. Certain critically acclaimed (basic cable) series have apparently decided to make up in sorrow for what they're unable to dish out in nudity and/or language, thus ushering in a *new* Sophie's Choice genre of tv wherein even the brightest rainbows are still only ever made-up of shades of black. That one (devil's chord) note was tweaked a bit this week with the introduction of the vatos, adding a turn to the story I wouldnt've ever seen coming. In my book Steven Yeun is the star of the series because at least he appears to appreciate, if not quasi-celebrate, the small victories (as few and far between and tiny as they are). Johan Renck (Breaking Bad) engrossingly directs Robert Kirkman's tragic script making me cry not once, but twice - at the beginning and the end. The acting is typically impressive with standout performances from Noel Gugliemi (The Shield, BtVS), Neil Brown Jr. (Fast & Furious, South Beach), Andrew Rothenberg (Weeds, The Watcher), and of course the persevering sisters played by Laurie Holden & Emma Bell. Killing Amy is just another in an ongoing line of choices I vehemently disagree with. There aren't many likable characters on TWD to begin with!?! I plan to watch the rest of this premiere season but I can't promise I'll be back for their second. Adding some sort of Umbrella Corp. equivalent, sooner than later, would help me appreciate this series a lot more: some deeper exploration of the "why" of it seems increasingly vital about now.
Emma Bell as Amy (dead too soon)
Guest Star of the Week: Annette O'Toole on Lie to Me (FOX)
Trivia Questions of the Week:
#1) Actresses Molly Parker & Camille Sullivan both guest starred on shows making my Scripted List this week. Name the Canadian cop show they both co-starred together in this year? [answered]
#2) Pro MMA fighter Jason 'Mayhem' Miller, host of MTV's Bully Beatdown, numbers his fan club members and calls them "Mayhem Monkeys". MMs are assigned numbers, with 'Mayhem' Miller having a number assigned too. What is Jason's own "Mayhem Monkey" number? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: Duets (Winner: ThirtyFiveMinutesAgo)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Two and a Half Men - "Ow, Ow, Don't Stop" (CBS)
Chuck Lorre employed two McCarthy cousins this week, Jenny in this show, and Melissa in Mike & Molly. After weeks of extreme drunkeness Charlie seems to be on a better path, soberly celebrating Thanksgiving with his family. Immediately after Charlie toasts the importance of 'being there' for family & friends, convicted con-woman Courtney (Jenny McCarthy) shows up at his door fresh from three sexless years in prison: he naturally leaves with her post-haste. Comic legend Carl Reiner also guests in this tale mainly examining the degree of golddigger Courtney is, or isnt?!? Unwilling to pay for her brother James' rent, Courtney leaves Charlie driving him back to extreme drunkeness. Inebriated Vajayjay Fever leads Charlie to walk through a glass door cutting up his face & arms quite grotesquely (Alan pukes at the mere sight of him). Will she financially suck Charlie dry? Is it true he's really the one she cares about? I wouldn't wanna bet either way, but, I know I would've liked to've seen the yellow one. Time to send up the Rose signal?
3. Rules of Engagement - "Fun Run" (CBS)
Following a spectacular one nite stand with alluring Heather, Russell wants to pursue her further but keeps getting treatment remarkably similar to what he typically dishes out. Worried about money, Jeff calls his co-workers parasites for hitting him up to contribute to raffles, showers, and the like. Coincidentally, Audrey's signed up for a charity Fun Run and now wants Jeff to seek donations at work. Brooklyn McLinn (Diary of a Single Mom), Ben Hermes, and Chet Grissom (Monk) guest as Jeff's workmates while gorgeous Bree Turner (The Ugly Truth, Bring It on Again) plays the object of Russell's desire. Bianca Kajlich is notably absent this week, though Megyn Price and Adhir Kalyan step up with exceptionally risible turns. I happily recommend this (busty) laugher! Bree and Megyn are simply superb.
2. Raising Hope - "Meet the Grandparents" (FOX)
Jimmy's wish to have a "real" Thanksgiving inspires a highly amusing episode with Lucy's parents and all of Jimmy's friends crystalizing the fundamental difference between relatives and 'family'. Greg Germann (as Dr. Dale) and Valerie Mahaffey (as Margine) make the scene as Hope's maternal grandparents who're every bit as screwed up as Burt & Virginia (but in different ways). Jace Alexander (Rescue Me, Law & Order) humorously directs Burt's buffoonery still managing to serve up a message about the saving grace of 'found family'. Gregg Binkley contributes greatly to this entry; I'm sure Paula Deen appreciated his apron shout out! Marcus, Javier, Shelley, and Sabrina join in the fun filling Hope's first turkey day with family, thanks, and song. Leachman, as always, is outrageous. One of my favorite holiday themed episodes from any series this season. I LOL'd quite a bit!
1. How I Met Your Mother - "Blitzgiving" (CBS)
Fire up a sandwich with me, gentle reader, and recall the occasion that marked the beginning of Ted's and Zoey's friendship. Thanksgiving 2010, the curse of The Blitz plays musical chairs while Ted historically invents the Turturkeykey (a smaller turkey stuffed into a larger one = wrong). Zoey enjoys her first invitation to 'the booth' (an honor Jennifer Morrison tweeted about shooting) in this epic installment featuring Lost's Jorge Garcia serving up multiple references to his former show including the random phone number 481-516-2342. The curse of the Blitz, of which we learn much Blitztory, in concert with Zoey's estrangement from her stepdaughter Hannah lead to the gang celebrating a truly wonderful Thanksgiving at her (and The Captain's) luxurious place. Though both Barney and Ted spend time as The Blitz it was Barney's cursed time that was funniest... the 'Lady in Red' (played by Rachele Brooke Smith, Center Stage: Turn it Up) was certainly the best curse-breaker ever!! Moral of the story, don't be the one to call it an early night or risk missing something awesome once you've left.
HIMYM Cast w/ Jennifer Morrison & Jorge Garcia
* Reality Shows *
3. Top Gear - "Cobra Attack" (History)
Firstly, I'll admit to having a bias against this show going in. So to put it mildly, it totally needed to win me over; it mostly didn't. But I will continue watching and reviewing it knowing it has nowhere to go but up. I purposefully stayed ignorant to the hosts qualifications, opting not to read about them beforehand, and sadly they weren't overly impressive (or very personality filled) imo. I've since read their bios and appreciate their diversity of experience. Fans used to the British hosts, often called Pythonesque, will find none of their charm or humor here. But for comedian Adam Ferrara's repeated F-word exclamations (in one segment), the hosts personalities are remarkably flat and similar. Their style and presentation could stand a lot of improving, I'm hoping it gets better with time. Fans of Jeremy Clarkson's more detail-oriented dvds will appreciate the stats heavy appraoch of this incarnation; Grand Turismo gamers who make advanced tuning adjustments may like this Top Gear even better than its British progenitor. The "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment has been replaced with "Big Star, Small Car", employing a Suzuki SX4 (FWD) compact which inaugural star Buzz Aldrin declared a "swift little car for that track." Interviewed by Ferrara (Rescue Me, Paul Blart: Mall Cop) astronaut Aldrin recalls the favorite cars he's owned and cites his personal top speed at around twenty-five thousand miles per hour (leaving Earth's orbit on his way to the moon). Dodge Viper enthusiasts will love the attention given this most dangerous production car that champion racer, co-host Tanner Foust (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Dukes of Hazzard) calls, "the most American car I've ever driven." With Foust behind the wheel, he and co-host/NASCAR aficionado Rutledge Wood ride the 2010 Viper SRT-10 in a game of "kill me if you can" versus a slower AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter (using laser guidance signals only). Lastly, the premiere closes with one of the most informative, loving, and yes, enjoyable segments you'll ever see on the most super of Lamborghini's legendary supercar line; the Gallardo Superleggera, the striped Gallardo Balboni (named after company test driver Valentino Balboni), and the Murciélago SV [SuperVelocé]. Bottom line, because of my comparison-based expectations & 'show me' attitude it took a second viewing for me to finally like this show at all... but eventually I did warm up to it. I'll be back for more. Happily, The Stig hopped the pond to join the Yank production and takes all three Lambos and a Ltd. Edition Viper ACR 133 around the American Top Gear track racking up impressive first times, with the Viper owning the Power Lap Board by eight tenths of a second over the [mid-priced] Superleggera.
Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust, & Rutledge Wood
2. The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection - "Femme Fatale" (Bravo)
The iconographic Femme Fatale drove the impetus for this week's sultry challenge guest judged by ultimate showgirl Dita Von Teese. Given only twenty-four straight hours to make a cohesive femme fatale line, both fashion houses were pushed to the point of exhaustion (save for Tamara Jones who kept wide awake throughout). House of Nami soared in fabric selection, again, while the twice defeated House of Emerald failed to impress with both fabric choice and color range. The extra hour Eduardo gained from last week's win was quite useful, helping him win for a second time in a row. Forced to nominate a team member to face possible elimination alongside the members of the losing house [HoE], Eduardo assigns that dishonor to Tran. Upon hearing of Tamara's loss and ejection Tran tearfully volunteers to go home in her place; Mizrahi disallows his selflessness. I wouldnt've sent Tamara home but then I wouldnt've named Eduardo the winner either. Since Iman and Dita both wanted Eduardo's dress I have to defer to their tastes. Dita Von Teese's judging style was ruthlessly to-the-point.
Dita Von Teese, Isaac Mizrahi, Iman, & Laura Brown
1. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team 5 (CMT)
The candidates' first field rehearsal reinforced my confusion at some statements Kelli made early on. I guess the idea that they'd mostly be out of the small mirrored room, doing the bulk of their evaluating via Jumbotron, was discarded behind the scenes without mention. I suspect had they used the Jumbotron for practice more often Mandy Corea's field issue could've been spotted and remedied much earlier. In this nail biting episode, set to select the final squad, first field rehearsal turns quickly to dreaded final rehearsal nite. Agonized and sick from deliberations, DCC Director Kelli McGonagill Finglass and Team Choreagrapher Judy Trammell tackle what Kelli says, "seems like the hardest year to choose a final squad" sending no fewer than four dedicated candidates home. Beautiful Brittney Schram, charmer Katelynn Johnson, spunky Paula Tabares, and comely Mandy Corea all get dismissed with praise and open invitations to try again; Mandy even got hugs from Kelli & Judy. Each of the four dismissed girls represented themselves with great dignity, only Katelynn shed any tears but she did so in a dignified (unshattered) manner. With her window of time quickly closing, Brooke Sorenson's friend Stephanie Heymann is called "thick", nearly gets cut for gaining weight during camp, and is saved from ejection only tentatively. The worst massacre behind them, the ladies prepare for the calendar shoot which will be spotlighted in the next exciting episode! I can't wait!!
Other outstanding dramas that very nearly made my list included Hawaii Five-0, The Good Wife, Lie to Me, House, and a notably rough CSI: Miami. The only two sitcoms I watched this week not making the list were The Simpsons and Mike & Molly. The Simpsons delivered an all-time favorite Mr. Burns episode, and, although Mike & Molly's Thanksgiving may not've looked like the cover of a magazine it was as beautiful & warm as could be. One series I should mention because I'm so mad at myself for missing, is TBS' new comedy Glory Daze. I believe this week (starting today) will bring its third episode, none of which I've seen up till now. My intent is to catch up as soon as possible just so I can see what it's all about. Between now and January many shows will either not air or air repeats, though some shows will be returning next week.
It's hard to believe twenty whole weeks have passed since I volunteered to write this weekly/daily column. Previously, the only writing for the web I'd ever done consisted solely of posts left on message boards. Somewhere around week thirteen I wondered how much easier it might be if only I had a thesaurus... now I have two. I'm still nowhere near the 'writer' I aspire to be, but I've noticed my phrase-turning abilities improving over that span of time (I guess that's all I can ask for). After this week I'm gonna stop numbering my columns and instead sequence them only by date. I've included two trivia questions again this week, maintaining the same one medal per answerer rule. I'll leave the 'Mayhem Monkeys' question up until someone answers it correctly. Thanks again for your support and interest in this endeavor. Without you it'd literally be pointless, so thank you for letting me continue to do this!
See you next week. Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly