Outhouse tvphile Nightfly reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of (holiday) primetime programming.
Nightfly's TV Week in Review (week of 11/28/10)
written by Nightfly
Welcome to my first unnumbered Week in Review! This week was dominated by FOX in both the (one hour) Scripted and (half hour) Sitcom categories. The Walking Dead sits where it does not for any deficiencies in quality, but for previously stated qualms with its story direction - thanks to the end of the epi reviewed here next week might see TWD actually break into my Scripted List (proper). This week American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. starts a new season (Mon.), The Closer returns to primetime for six new episodes (Mon.), Eureka & Warehouse 13 celebrate SyFy's "Countdown to Christmas Week" (Tues.), and Leverage pulls its next new job next Sunday. This week, like last, I've posted fewer Daily Updates but I'm trying hard to put up at least one or two most days and believe I can maintain that pledge even in the midst of this busy season. I'm considering it my present to myself. ;) Now onto the lists....
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Dexter - "In The Beginning" (SHO)
I've often wondered how Dex's vigilantism might be received by his sister or law enforcement family if his Dark Passenger was ever discovered... In Jordan Chase the series' writers have actually created a monster so intolerably evil, I'm more than a little convinced everybody (including Liddy) might not just forgive and accept Dexter's past, but could conceivably opt to join his and Lumen's current vengeance quest. Two new characters are introduced this week both advancing Lumen's story significantly. Angela Bettis (Perfume) debuts as Emily Birch, Jordan's apparent first victim and the woman whose blood he wears around his neck. After conveying lots of crucial information to Lumen, it's revealed Emily's beguiled by Jordan to this day; oddly, according to instructions, everything she told Lumen is supposedly completely true. Director Keith Gordon (Waking The Dead) stirringly restores and reawakens Lumen's spirit after her first hands-on kill of (newly introduced) co-torturer Alex Tilden, played by Scott Grimes (ER). The dvds of Jordan's depravity were horribly hard to even hear pieces of, just the thought of Deb's having to watch them all made me tear up a bit on her behalf. If this gutwrenching season isn't used to bring some (degree or form of) understanding for Dex from his family, than I must assume no season ever will. Tonight's the penultimate episode - surely one not to be missed! I really hope Jordan gets off'd but I hope Lumen survives this season even more.
Michael C. Hall & Julia Stiles in "In The Beginning"
5. Boardwalk Empire - "Paris Green" (HBO)
Margaret finally leaves Nucky and Angela tries to leave Jimmy in this powerful episode directed by Allen Coulter (Sons of Anarchy, Nurse Jackie). Dabney Coleman as The Commodore tells Jimmy that Nuck's not the right person to run Atlantic City while Jimmy visits him at Gillian's behest. Angela leaves a note and takes Tommy in hopes of running off to Paris only to discover that Mary left with her husband at the last minute instead. When Angela returns home it's clear Jimmy's read her note and he talks to Tommy about the future involving just the two of them. The whole sorted tale of how The Commodore came to meet Gillian is disclosed, as are the angry resentments of Eli towards Nuck. Agent Van Alden graduates from fornication to blatant murder along his dark slide towards the abyss, using baptism as a pretext to exorcise the life right out of Nucky's paid-for Agent Sebso (Erik Weiner, Unscripted). Memorable sidelines include the introduction of Hardeen (Remy Auberjonois, Weeds) and the outburst of returning guest Michael Badalucco. Don't miss the powerful first season finale of this historic series tonight!
4. Fringe - "Entrada" (FOX)
Olivia's bidimensional odyssey concludes with her getting home but at the terrible cost of heroic Alt+Broyles' life. The suspense starts immediately as this epi picks up with Peter in bed with Altlivia receiving the call telling him who he's really not in bed with. Altlivia gets the drop on Peter and flees, ultimately getting back to her side (after a lethal standoff) with the crucial component needed for Walternate's doomsday device. Astrid and Walter piece together clues that help Broyles apprehend Altlivia but even cuffed and under arrest she (dimensionally) escapes capture. Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist) gets the most from the ensemble, directing one of my favorite entries from this series and brilliantly spotlighting the talents of beautiful Anna Torv. Both Olivias may be back in their rightful dimensions, still, the war has barely begun. Walternate has his critical doomsday piece now, and, our side has the magic typewriter... its anybody's guess as to which will be more useful. Lance Reddick shines again in my favorite performance from him since Olivia saved his son - he certainly evened the score, and most importantly restored hope. In a word, Superb!
Anna Torv as Altlivia in "Entrada"
3. Human Target - "Taking Ames" (FOX)
Ames and the Sisters of Antwerp become the latest clients relying on Pucci's outfit to save them, this time requiring no less than the aiding and abetting of a felony in order to get Ames' fosterbrother and her out of trouble. Paul Edwards (H5O, Lost) tantalizingly directs this action-filled episode penned by co-executive producer David Simkins (W13, Charmed). Spectacular fight scenes are the norm for this show and this entry follows that trend thrillingly; Chance's end fight with Yuri (Douglas O'Keefe, Smallville), and the office throwdown with Mike Dopud (SGU) were visual feasts, as was the explosive bench-bomb at the end. Hakeem Kae-Kazim (24, The Fourth Kind) & J.D. Pardo (90210, Drive) compellingly contribute to this striking story of loyalty's value - both personal and professional. Another stellar offering from my favorite (straight-up) actioner on tv!
Mark Valley & Janet Montgomery in "Taking Ames"
2. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Anniversary" (ABC)
Once again this endearing series tops all other big-three fare, with its most dazzling and dangerous episode yet! Alex Solowitz (of Liquid Zu) guest stars as Theo Patton, a murderous supervillian that kills with and can turn into fire. Will (Josh Stewart) surprisingly defies Dr. King and is punished, beginning what I hope will become an eventual alliance between he, Katie, and the Powells. Eighteen years of marriage are celebrated by battling pyscho-serial arsonist Theo, thus testing the limits of Jim's and Steph's powers. Daphne helps J.J. cheat in poker and more importantly gains recognition of Will's mental ability. Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis are undeniably great in this one and Autumn Reeser's charm is (typically) uncontainable. This series just keeps getting better, impressing me more and more with each outing. Fans have been wanting more incredible opponents and this entry delivers most enjoyably! David Semel (BtVS, Angel) rocks the action and spotlights Steph in a way Joss Whedon fans will surely find irresistible. Respect to Julie Benz for mixing it up and adding even more stuntastic spectacle to this already exhilarating thrillride! Lately more than ever there's been no excuse for superhero fans not to be watching this genuinely amazing series, so get a late pass if needed, but get wise before you miss anymore astonishing action!!
* Chiklis fans might consider picking up his Pantheon tpb (from IDW), available for pre-order now. A super-cool gift for comics and/or NOF fans this holiday season.
Julie Benz tours the lair in "No Ordinary Anniversary"
1. Stargate Universe - "Resurgence" (SyFy)
Presumed to be dead or enslaved, Col. Telford arrives out of nowhere just in time to rescue Destiny from a sizeable squad of attack ships. The Ursini, according to Telford, were more desperate than hostile and weren't as interested in harming him as they were in communicating with him (eventually done via stasis pod). Despite trusting Telford the Ursini mistrust Destiny's crew enough to mislead them from one outnumbered battle into another. It's a good thing Young finally gets to claim his rightful Chair because this installment serves up loads of ship-to-ship combat! Varro (Mike Dopud) continues to bond with TJ, while Chloe begins the dreaded dangerous phase of her bio-physical transformation. Fans of visual efx will enjoy nerdgasms from not just the battling but also the graveyard of ships... remembering the TNG days of budgeting window shots, I'm ridiculously delighted everytime they merely drop out of FTL. Elyse Levesque is heartbreaking as the girl just waiting to be killed. The Last Starfighter & HALO get namedropped by Eli in this feast for the eyes and ears extravaganza of space-pyro greatness! I can't recommend this episode highly enough; simply calling it Awesome seems a woefully pathetic understatement.
Young in the Command Chair on Destiny's bridge
Guilty Pleasure Award - The Walking Dead - "Wildfire" (AMC)
I asked for it and apparently I've gotten it... finally a third leg for this series to counterbalance the bipolar dynamic of zombies vs. humans (I almost typed zombies vs. monsters - I wonder why). This week Shane casually considers Grimes' lack of orange hunting vest while Dale indignantly watches him deliberate, this in the same episode Shane blames Grimes for the costly attack on their camp (from the epi before). Andrea waits for Emma's reanimation to put her out of her final misery herself. Lori, Shane, and the bulk of the group skeptically [reluctantly] follow Grimes' plan to seek refuge at the militarized C.D.C. base nearby where, at the last suspenseful moment, its door opens. Jim (Andrew Rothenberg, Weeds) makes a self-sacrificial choice - I wonder if we'll see 'him' again? Noah Emmerich (Backwash, White Collar) is introduced as suicidally unstable Jenner in this turning point episode written by Glen Mazzara (HawthoRNe, The Shield) and movingly directed by auteur Ernest Dickerson. Laurie Holden should submit this episode for Best Actress consideration for next year's primetime Emmy Awards, and, though it took me longer than Rick I think I'm finally (slowly) starting to forgive Lori. At long last, I can admit I'm seriously looking forward to tonight's season finale with renewed interest and am tentatively beginning to even look forward to next season!?!
Cast of The Walking Dead
Guest Stars of the Week: Cast of Twin Peaks on Psych (USA)
Trivia Question of the Week: Talented actor Noah Emmerich debuted on The Walking Dead last week as C.D.C. scientist Jenner. Name the 1990s film in which he and Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) share credits with Black Swan star Natalie Portman? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answers: #1) Shattered #2) 000 (Dual Winner: avengingtitan)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Running Wilde - "Mental Flaws" (FOX)
A doctored fashion mag photo propels this hilarious episode into the pitfall-filled subject of just how superficial Steve really is. New York's annual "Safe Water in Africa" gala instigates a decidedly unglamorous campaign by Emmy to measure the depths of Steve's character,... only to discover that he's wholeheartedly attentive to her when most needed. Peter Serafinowicz and Mel Rodriguez (Migo) maintain there comedic excellence, and Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) guest stars as himself in this unshallow, uncreepy epi deftly directed by John Fortenberry (Memphis Beat, Rescue Me). Typical for this series, I laughed out loud repeatedly! Teen superstars Justin Bieber and The Jonas Brothers are amusingly namedropped, as is Marlon Brando, Hogan's Heroes, and Apocalypse Now!
* Speaking of "Safe Water in Africa", actress-designer-philanthropist Alyssa Milano has made safe water in Africa her real life priority and has chosen to ask fans to help celebrate her birthday this month by giving to charity: water. Last year her birthday drive helped bring clean water to 18 Ethiopian communities totalling nearly five thousand people! Watch Scott Harrison's video to her about it here, and go here to make her birthday special again this year.
3. Raising Hope - "Burt Rocks" (FOX)
Barney's annual 'Grocery-Palooza' becomes the epic stage on which Burt's youthful dreams of glory are fulfilled in brash fashion. Garcia vet Jason Lee (Memphis Beat) drops by to embody legendary, one hit wonder Smokey Floyd, a rocker who inspired Burt & Virginia as kids but who's now way past his prime. Parenting doldrums hit Jimmy hard leading Burt to suggest he take up a creative outlet or hobby. With a talent for illustration, Jimmy finds fast reinforcement for his skills causing Burt to lament his youthful decision to take infant Jimmy to an audition (to join) Smokey's band. Jimmy gets Floyd booked for 'Grocery-Palooza' with Burt backing him on guitar. Hope, like infant Jimmy before her, draws insults from Smokey prompting a tirade against the concert crowd and Chance family. Musician, local businessman, and dragonslayer Burthew 'The Grass Cutter' ends the crowd's suffering with a K.O. blow to Floyd's head with his mighty (electric) axe. The auto-tune song of his triumph & the picture book Jimmy made for Hope were charming, and Burt's newfound fame well deserved! One of my faves from this series and certainly one of the best Burt episodes ever!!
Garret Dillahunt as Burt in "Burt Rocks"
2. The Simpsons - "How Munched is That Birdie in the Window" (FOX)
A major breach of trust between a boy and his dog occurs when Santa's Little Helper eats Bart's beloved homing pigeon that crashed into his life, requiring his care and attention to nurse back to health. Luckily SLH's loyalty, protective instincts, and particular penchant for birds saves Bart, and his place among The Simpsons, in this entirely enjoyable laugher featuring guest stars Rachel Weisz (as Dr. Thurston) & sexy racer Danica Patrick (whom Marge calls a "Brickyard Bimbo", then catfights with). References to Indiana Jones, Bye Bye Birdie, and Mad Max were appreciated. Whether a fan of Santa's Little Helper, or not, this outstanding episode is 'must-see' and even funnier the second time around. "Dogday Hellody of 1933" is an Itchy & Scratchy toon designed to offend dog lovers, so beware.
1. 30 Rock - "Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish" (NBC)
The impact of male role models pervades this outrageous installment in which Jack's off his game, giving flawed advice to both Lemon and Tracy. He barely heads off a disastrous chain reaction of mental anguish after Liz uses (and infects) Kenneth as her therapist due to Jack's recommendation she get one. Michael Benjamin Washington (100 Questions) returns as Donald, Tracy's son that's older than him, peddling his latest tragically misnamed venture, while, Will Forte (MacGruber) as Paul L'Astname walks out of Jenna's life, with dignity. Alec Baldwin's "I am a protein" scene was a highlight of this superlative entry, including an extra funny performance by Jack McBrayer!
Will Forte & Jane Krakowski in "Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish"
* Reality Shows *
3. Top Chef: All-Stars - "History Never Repeats" (Bravo)
Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) joins the judging table for this eighth season of Top Chef, this time focusing on all-stars who failed to win during their respective past seasons. Back in NYC again, this season raises the stakes all around, handing out half a million dollars in cash and prizes with the season winner earning $200k for that win alone. Old rivalries, irritations, and friendships resurface as the strong personalities of these overwhelmingly bragadocious cheftestants immediately pick up where their prior relationships left off. The season two team wins the Quickfire Challenge of making food inspired by the city their season competed in with winningly delicious "Chicago Dogs". Back in individual competition for the Elimination Challenge, Angelo redeems his previous loss by conquering the dish that last sent him home and wins ten thousand dollars as a bonus. Season two finalist Elia Aboumrad is told to pack her knives for plating a remarkably raw fish dish made in almost exactly the same manner as that which sent her home last time. I wonder if she'll shave her head again in protest. Angelo and Fabio have most of my support at this point. Padma and Gail were luminously gorgeous as always.
Tom Colicchio & Padma Lakshmi in "History Never Repeats"
2. The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection - "Time Capsule" (Bravo)
New York's American Museum of Natural History hosts the designers this week where, in the shadow of The New York Times Capsule, they open metal boxes determining which year their garment must me modeled after. The House of Nami goes a little too "plaid mad" and finally loses to the more cohesive and elegant line presented by the humble House of Emerald, earning a first individual win for Jeffrey Williams (along with $500 for his final design should he make the finals). Rolando Tamez is sent packing for a design I personally liked, while David Caldwell narrowly escapes the cut. Now that House of Emerald have broken their losing streak it looks like a real game's afoot. Momentum is fashionably building and potential fans should definitely jump onboard now.
1. Bully Beatdown - "The Royal Rumble" (MTV)
Believe it or not bullies quitting between rounds is rather rare, in all three seasons so far I can recall less than a handful punking out in so cowardly a fashion. This week just such a royal coward turns up when Evermont King bows to the reign of American MMA and Brazilian Jujitsu practitioner Bobby 'The King' Green. With a professional record of thirteen wins and only three loses, Junior Welterweight Champ Bobby Green turns Evermont's gangsta raps to teary-eyed taps causing the (unfit) bully to voice fear for his very life. Evermont, the self-described "lion", quits in super-douche despair trading in his "Take It!" mantra for a plaintive speech to the crowd about how unfairly overmatched he was. Mayhem makes the most of this Cowardly Lion and true 'King' Bobby Green destroys Evermont in the grappling round to a degree he'll undoubtedly never ever forget! For all the blood Evermont drew from victims Jesse & Colton, I'd think even non-violent types could appreciate this bit of harmless (yet effective) justice. Evermont's pathetic attempts at rapping alone make this entry one of the most entertaining BB epis ever!
Each week I use this space to give honorable mention to shows nearly making my lists. So many shows unveiled massive developments this week that this might've been the toughest selection process ever. Glee, Bones, Burn Notice, Hellcats, Undercovers, Psych, and both Shonda Rhimes shows nearly made my Scripted List. Every sitcom I saw is represented in this week's Sitcom List. Almost making my Reality Show List were both outstanding episodes of Hollywood Treasure. This month and next will surely be short on regularly scheduled shows but I'm hopeful there'll be enough to still fill out my column(s). I was unable to catch Nikita this week, though I heard it was especially action-packed: if it had made it online or OnDemand (by today) it might've made my list again but because I missed its sole airing this week I'll have to wait to find out how good it was sometime later.
As always, thanks so much to all who've watched me evolve as a reviewer these past twenty-one weeks, your support inspires me to continually strive to improve. Don't forget the special holiday shows I mentioned in my opening paragraph. Have fun and be safe during this season, and please follow me on twitter if you're not doing so already. Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly