Outhouse tvphile Nightfly reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime television.
Nightfly's TV Week in Review (week of 1/2/11)
written by Nightfly
In the wake of the People's Choice Awards, I'd like to again reiterate that these Lists are nothing more than my subjective choices of what I think are the best primetime TV offerings each week. I grew up (born in 1969) adoring Batman & Star Trek then later The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, The A-Team and so on - and to be frank my tastes haven't changed all that much. Similar to the leads on Psych, I take pride in still loyally loving a lot of the juvenile things I did when I was younger. Do I also love and appreciate fine art? Of course. I've led my section(s) in award winning orchestras and traditional jazz bands and would one day (like most remotely educated folks) love to visit the Louvre. I guess I'm just this side of erudite enough to want to spend my primetime viewing focused on Masterpiece Theatre instead of bikinis, spaceships, explosions, and superheroes. This WiR likely reveals my biases most transparently. Speaking of superheroes... tonight (Sun) are the series premieres of three shows I've been waiting for; Shameless & Episodes both free via Showtime's trial period, and, NBC's latest superheroic endeavor aptly titled The Cape. Numerous series return with new seasons this week including; Californication, The Ricky Gervais Show, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Launching this week are new series; Bob's Burgers (Tonight 1/9), Onion Sportsdome, The Game & Lights Out (1/11), and Shonda Rhimes' new drama Off The Map debuting on Wednesday the 12th. In this WiR, for the week just ending, ABC takes half my Scripted List spots though FOX takes the top two spots with Human Target. Bravo dominates 2/3 of the Reality category which is in no way uncommon, but, the biggest news is CBS making WiR history by a) being the first ever to conquer all slots [in any category], b) all being on the same nite, and c) ranking in the order they aired; a triple record I bet won't be broken.
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Hawaii Five-O - "Ke Kinohi" (CBS)
This series' typical high level of action is increased this week as McGarrett's sister (Taryn Manning) is violently kidnapped in an epi starting with McG's home shockingly invaded. Steve's hunt for the responsible party leads to the chief Yakuza crime boss for Hawaii, further leading him to Governor Jameson's lunch table. Brad Turner (24, Stargate: Atlantis) excitingly directs the gunfights, car & helicopter stunts, and notable guests Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Balls of Fury), Al Harrington (who played Ben in 63 epis of the original H5O) as Mamo, and martial arts great Mark Dacascos briefly appearing as (the ever elusive) Wo Fat. I can't wait till McG and Wo Fat battle, I hope that fight's saved for the season finale. Fans of tension and suspense will appreciate this gripping entry, I personally consider one of the series' finest. O'Loughlin, Manning & Tagawa are superb & Scott Caan made me LOL more than once. Congratulations to H5O for winning the People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama this past week, an honor it richly deserved.
* Check out this astonishing clip of Mark Dacascos performing a jawdropping move (later slowed on film) for The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. You'll likely recognize it as the move used by the agents of The Matrix when famously dodging bullets.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jean Smart, Scott Caan & Alex O'Loughlin
5. V - "Red Rain" (ABC)
Though fans were made to wait for this series' return, the wait was entirely worth it! The horrific turning of our skies to red only lasts a few days and is explained away by Queen Anna as a helpful healing solution for the Earth. The violence, efx, and intensity are ratcheted up in this premiere, as is the provocative sexually charged undertone. Mitchell and Morena both sizzle in different ways, and Laura Vandervoort (a.k.a. Supergirl on Smallville) is typically gorgeous. The face of the V species (or at least half of it) and a full V skeleton are dramatically revealed by veteran genre director Bryan Spicer (Human Target, 24). Morena Baccarin & Elizabeth Mitchell - the two mothers - are the primary focus, as usual, but here another mother is introduced. Journalist Chad Decker & Father Landry find common ground, while friendly V Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut) gets significantly harder to trust. I'm very happy this monsterous series is back!
Logan Huffman & Elizabeth Mitchell in "Red Rain"
4. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Friends" (ABC)
Though the action and effects aren't exceptionally outstanding here, this epi's acting and story garnered it this (number four) spot. Terry McDonough (The Street) enjoyably directs Daphne's memory reclamation, as well as the introduction of an extraordinary family of new friends for the Powells. Rick Schroder & Annie Wersching (24, General Hospital) guest star as the Cottens with Billy Unger (You Again) and Conor Leslie (90210) portraying their kids, and influential schoolmates to Daphne, J.J. & Natalie (Katelyn Tarver). The development between Katie (Autmn Reeser) and Will/Joshua/'The Watcher' (Josh Stewart) was my favorite plot element, deftly penned by Allison Adler (Chuck) and Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone, L&O). Josh Stewart is truly captivating in this installment, finally going where I hoped his character would go since very first meeting him (i.e., going towards the Powell's side, for Katie). The ratings ticked up for this entry so hopefully more Americans are getting wise to how entertaining this series is! Personally, I'm always left wanting more. Katie's multiple references to The Matrix were, to me, very appreciated!
Michael Chiklis in "No Ordinary Friends"
3. Castle - "Nikki Heat" (ABC)
Kate Beckett gets Single White Detective'd and an unexpected rival for Castle's fantasies when film star Natalie Rhodes (guest star Laura Prepon) takes her invitation to do character research for Nikki Heat to levels beyond Beckett's comfort zone. Talented Jeff Bleckner (Boston Legal, Hill Street Blues) helms this delightful script by David Grae (Gilmore Girls) about a 'honeytrap' temptress case, brilliantly showcasing Prepon as well as scene stealing cameos by Stephen Macht (General Hospital), Melody Thomas Scott (The Young and the Restless), & Kelly Thiebaud (Chuck). Seamus Dever and real life wife Juliana add a dash of romance to the mix via one of the most romantic in-precinct proposals ever! I marveled at Prepon's luminous ability to be the episode's focus, in more than her fair share of scenes, yet only ever complimenting the two leads rather than detracting from them even the littlest bit. Well Done! The partnership of Katic & Fillion has never been more entertaining!
* This week's west coast audience got the extra treat of Luke Reichle (Castle's costume designer) tweeting along with the show. He enthusiastically commented on the subtle luxe added to Rhodes' Beckett-based wardrobe as well as style tricks relevant to the epi overall. Luke's a cool and active tweeter, I heartily recommend you follow him!
Nathan Fillion & Laura Prepon in "Nikki Heat"
2. Human Target - "A Problem Like Maria" (FOX)
This week's two-parter was simply awesome, with either part capable of claiming this List's number one spot. My readers know how much I love this show and these two epis are as powerful as any. The adventure begins when an old flame of Chance's duplicitously enlists his aid in rescuing her kidnapped husband. Sultry Leonor Varela (Hindsight) plays super-hot Maria who tricks Chance into kidnapping her husband's kidnapper's brother (guest David Barrera). Jordi Caballero (Justified) plays the dastardly kidnapper who, little to Maria's knowledge, could give a flip about the return of his brother. Ames in her glorious dress and Winston going totally ballistic help make this one of the best episodes from this beloved series yet. The unexpected power struggle between Pucci and Chance is riveting and entertaining right up to the very end...
Chi McBride in "A Problem Like Maria"
1. Human Target - "Communication Breakdown" (FOX)
Jordi Caballero as Hector Lopez returns in the second hour first shooting down Pucci's jet then vengefully hunting Chance and Ilsa from the crash site through a forest. As if not endangered enough Pucci and Chance unwittingly take sanctuary in a cabin full of a deadly breed of spiders. While the series' co-leads fight for their lives versus Lopez, Chance's old friend Harry (Tony Hale, Chuck) brings murderous Armenian mobsters to the agency's door(s). Under attack and pinned down, Guerrero, Winston, and Harry are saved by Ames and again later by Chance... though sadly Ilsa's forced to violently save herself. Fans of HT's ladies will unquestionably appreciate this scintillating and emotional episode, spotlighting both beauties in strikingly different ways. Since both explosive parts of this story are available free online I earnestly suggest you not miss them. Janet Montgomery fans should inarguably consider this epi must-see.
Mark Valley & Indira Varma in "Communication Breakdown"
Guilty Pleasure Award - Top Gear-US - "Used Car Salesman" (BBC-America)
Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment or maybe just an incurable Top Gear fan, but I have kept up with this series. By now my readers know I don't love this domestic version but as it's Top Gear's progeny I feel compelled to stick with it. This week Rutledge & Adam race through the streets of San Francisco competing against Professional Free-Mountain bikers in a hybrid Honda CR-Z, all three hosts compete in a Used Car Salesman challenge that takes up the bulk of the show, and, comedian Tim Allen guest stars as this week's entertaining driver in the 'Big Star, Small Car' segment. Tim Allen was an apropos guest and the primary reason why this episode's featured in this column.
Guest Star of the Week: Laura Prepon on Castle (ABC)
Seamus Dever & Laura Prepon in "Nikki Heat"
Trivia Question of the Week: Real life married couple Seamus & Juliana Dever play a couple on ABC's Castle. In which comedic 2009 film did they also share credits? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: Edmond (Winner: avengingtitan)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Mike & Molly - "Mike Goes to the Opera" (CBS)
Billy Gardell steals the show in this outrageously funny epi documenting Mike's uproarious descent into sickness. Feeling flu-stricken but refusing to rest Mike keeps working his beat, takes Molly on an amusing date to the opera, and thus predictably lands flat on his back quite ill. Molly and Mike's mom Peggy (Rondi Reed) take caring for poor Mike to a degree that can be called 'doing harm.' Fans of funny sick faces and snot humor will especially love this installment. While overtly outrageous in nature, the rivalry between Peggy and Molly speaks volumes - I'm hoping Rondi Reed gets more screentime in the future. Swoosie & Mixon are enchanting, as always.
3. Two and a Half Men - "Skunk, Dog, Crap and Ketchup" (CBS)
When Lyndsey and Charlie bond over her past, particularly subjects Alan is ignorant of, Alan suspects they're having an affair. Ryan Stiles & Conchata Ferrell bring extra laughs to the party but the hilarity revolves around Cryer. Alan's paranoia flares when his voiced suspicions get him disinvited from Lyndsey's refurbished housewarming party; his speculative commentary from the bushes and getting twice doused by the skunk were laugh out loud highlights for me. Whether or not Lyndsey gives Alan a key again, I doubt he'll be moving in with her anytime soon.
2. Rules of Engagement - "The Home Stretch" (CBS)
Easily the funniest sitcom of the week, this unabashed entry effectively raised my (post HIMYM) spirits and made me LOL repeatedly. Timmy and Russell compete over comely Beth (played by Emily Montague) a new waitress at The Island Diner, while, Jeff deals with feelings of jealousy over Audrey's hot Pilates instructor Terry (Jim Devoti, Middle Men). In my book the funnest storyline was Jen's and Adam's as she finally learns (conclusively) that he was a cheerleader. The cast is brilliantly utilized and brickhouse Bianca is fantastic reacting to Adam pridefully sporting his colors. "Pirates, not Sailors, but Pirates, but Pirates." Check this one out for guaranteed laughs!
1. How I Met Your Mother - "Bad News" (CBS)
One of the few sitcoms capable of such magnificent range, this week's event episode swung from standard hilarity to shocking unexpected tragedy. The death of a parent can't really be prepared for and of course when the news arrives it's always traumatic. Writer Jennifer Hendriks makes her debut on staff with this stunner, and if the subconscious countdown was her idea I give her credit for it being a very good one. Frankly, I didn't even notice it on first viewing - I tend to study actors faces - but the second time around it was foreboding yet preparatory in a way I'm sure must've helped all of us not be too shocked. Needless to say, Hannigan's delivery of the bad news was stirring, and, Norse father Marvin Eriksen Sr. (Bill Fagerbakke) will sorely be missed. Prior to the (now) controversial ending Cobie Smulders and (Hannigan's real life husband) Alexis Denisof are exceptionally funny in a story about Robin "steering into the skid." When HIMYM took my ultra Top of the List honor weeks ago it was for an episode mainly consistent in tone; this entry didn't take said Honor because it so successfully remained inconspicuous until the surprise. On a sidenote, I suspect Lily and Marshall will successfully get pregnant by this season's end.
PCA Winner Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Stangel
* Reality Shows *
3. The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection - "Civil Union" (Bravo)
Three gay couples are fitted for wedding looks in this fabulous installment splitting the remaining six designers into three teams. No one wants to be paired with Tran though that fate randomly falls on Cindy. Tran and Cindy design for two gay men while Dominique & Jeffrey and Eduardo & Cesar happily design garments for lesbian marriage ceremonies. Cindy Ayvar is sadly sent home, receiving an intimate hug from Iman before leaving, losing mostly for her inexperience designing for men. Despite her originally not wanting to be partnered with Tran, he sincerely does his best to help her and his efforts are genuinely appreciated. Rachel Zoe & Johnny Weir guest judge awarding the individual victory to Dominique (her second consecutive win) garnering her another $500 dollars for her look should she make the Finals. Only a handful of designers remain now and the drama is sure to increase! :) Don't miss it.
Johanna, Cesar, Dominique, & Jeffrey
2. Top Chef: All-Stars - "Dim Sum Lose Sum" (Bravo)
This week's exceptional episode of TC placed the All-Stars in direct competition with the time of Lifesaver, Jedi Master Chef, and Lord of the series Tom Colicchio. The Quickfire Challenge requires creation of a presentable dish as fast as Chef Colicchio who sets a time of under nine minutes. Jersey boy Mike Isabella scores the QF win earning Elimination immunity for that nite as well as a brand new Toyota Prius! For the Elimination Challenge the cheftestants take over operations of an existing Chinese restaurant and are tasked to handle its lunch rush. Master Chef Susur Lee, famous for blending Chinese with French cuisine, guest judges and surprisingly hails Fabio's marriage of Italian flavors with Chinese. As usual, Fabio worries about his ignorance of Asian food but ends up a favorite and receives lavish praise. Chef Dale Talde ultimately wins the Challenge, and, Casey Thompson is unjustly sent home. Not a single fan I know has disagreed that Jamie Lauren deserved to be eliminated, not Casey. At least Tom Colicchio fans will enjoy beholding his mastery here on full spectacular display. Easily one of the best Top Chef's ever!
Tom Colicchio & Padma Lakshmi
1. American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. - "A Crew Divided" (DSC)
This special episode focused on the crews and producers that collaboratively piece this show together despite not being allowed to openly interact with each other. Both bike shops rightfully distrust the crews of the other as it's pretty plain to see they're each loyal to their subjects (a.k.a. the 'talent'). Series Exec. Prod. Craig Piligian frankly explains how the series had literally been canceled until the vs. format was proposed, and how the increased ratings since virtually ensure the format holds going forward. I've been unusually critical of Senior and haven't tried to hide my PJD biases... from now on that bias has been codified. To dissuade any temptation of covering the affairs of Senior's empire from now I vow to mute that crew's side of the show; I will listen to interviews with Rick however I will not review them. Paul Senior has disappointed me for the last and final time. I feel bad for the charities that I could've spread the word about since with no capital left in his company tax deductable bikes seem the lion's share of his builds. Field Producer Joel Raatz, Dir. of Photography Omar Shaleem, and Piligian tell quite a sad & often jawdropping story. The good news is that the show is well-rated and in no current danger of cancellation, the bad news is that the series will hereafter definitely stay "divided". As a loyal fan of Jr., Mikey, Vinnie, Nub, and even Odie I'll most certainly keep watching the series but readers of my reviews will not even know they have a father much less what he may say or do.
Keeping with the theme of this column's opening paragraph, I again wish to stress that just because a show or episode you like doesn't rank in my WiR doesn't mean I think it's not worthwhile or quality programming. Moreover, if you wish to write your own reviews for shows (with graphics) feel free to post them to this thread. I try to keep my reviews to a single paragraph length but it's not a rule I'd enforce on others (though please do keep it within reason). I would ask you refrain from profanity because I've personally invited younger relatives to look in. Your contributions via comments and debate have always been welcomed!
Shows almost making my Scripted List this week included CSI: Miami, Desperate Housewives, The Closer, and a very timely, well-directed episode of Grey's Anatomy. The only sitcom that came close to making my List that didn't was The Big Bang Theory (another CBS show). I didn't catch yesterday's Primeval on BBC-America due to watching coverage of the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords, but I intend to catch it soon online or OnDemand. I do enjoy Primeval, it may even make my Scripted List someday!
Thanks for taking the time to read my reviews and hopefully following me on twitter. I look forward each week to your comments and maybe this week we'll get some bonus correspondent reviews too! Have A Good Week & Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly