Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime in a WiR full of firsts.
TV Week in Review (week of 1/9/11)
The action genre, not surprisingly, accounts for half of my (hour long) Scripted List section, but heroics - in varied forms - lead in all of my categories this week. A festival of firsts, this column represents the first time a bonafide 'repeat' has made any of my Lists, the first time an hour long entry has legitimately graced my Sitcoms list, the first time Primeval has made my Scripted List, the first time a BET series has appeared on any of my Lists, and the first time a Showtime series has took my top Sitcoms slot. In light of this website's focus I feel behooved to mention NBC's The Cape; its exclusion from my column could rightly be considered controversial but, in truth, until Primeval concluded Saturday nite The Cape's pilot had occupied my sixth Scripted List spot. So, while on the one hand it's the quintessential example of an almost-made-it honorable mention... on the other hand its absence from my column correctly reflects my opinion that its first 2hrs suffered from some serious deficiencies (the superb casting not being one of them). Sensationalized, often violence-fueled action heroics will always be a mainstay of my column(s) however family oriented heroics played prominently in this week's Lists as well. It, of course, goes without saying that no mention of heroics would be complete this week without acknowledging the exceptional valor of national hero Daniel Hernández and the indomitable spirit of his personal hero Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. They've been in my thoughts a lot.
Now onto the fictional world where dinosaurs wait in my sixth slot...
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Primeval - 4.3 (BBC-America)
This rousing episode introduces Lady Emily Merchant - a striking woman of action, great mystery, and beauty. Emily and Ethan Dobrowski are from a band of lost 19th century Londoners trapped in a dino-dimension, viciously hunted by arboreal velociraptors. Alexander Siddig (Syriana, DS9), trapped and suffocating, delivers his strongest performance this season, while Ruth Bradley (Innocent) captivates to a remarkably impressive degree. The pressurized pairings of Anderson & Emily, Abby & Becker, and Connor & Jess provided great intensity and satisfyingly fast paced editing. What future mayhem will Ethan (Jonathan Byrne) unleash? And what's special project "New Dawn"? I unwisely missed out on this series' first three seasons but I'm glad I'm onboard now for its fourth. Cool CG dinosaurs, futuristic guns, hot chicks, and hi-tech unsurprisingly make a combo I'm highly susceptible to! I hope Emily Merchant gets to stick around for awhile.
Alexander Siddig & Ruth Bradley in Primeval
5. Castle - "Poof! You're Dead" (ABC)
Talented Millicent Shelton (Leverage, 30 Rock) charmingly directs this well-balanced script from series producer Terri Miller featuring significant developments for our characters and a quartet of guest stars I like. Castle's enthusiasm for a magic themed case was predictable but the burgeoning romance between Esposito and Lanie was not... nor was Beckett's kindness towards Castle after overhearing his [latest] breakup with Gina. Entertaining guests Gilles Marini (Brothers & Sisters), Jeff Hephner (Hellcats), lovely Vanessa Lengies (HawthoRNe), and the always intense Brett Cullen (Make It or Break It) all helped make this one of my favorite epis from this season. This series is named after Rick but Beckett's the character I always want to know more about. Stana continuously reveals new layers to Kate's complexity that, in my book, rank her among the most riveting characters on tv today (female or otherwise). Enthralling acting and a magical mystery await any who view this installment!
4. Lie to Me - "Funhouse" (FOX)
Returning from its holiday break, this double People's Choice Award winner for Favorite Crime Drama & Favorite TV Crime Fighter came back with a dramatic father-daughter story movingly directed by Daniel Sackheim (House, Life). Responding to help Emily's friend Amanda (Alexa Nikolas, Zoey 101), Cal gets himself admitted into the private mental hospital that's treated her dad for the past five years with no improvement. Stellar guest stars Fay Masterson (Sex and the Austen Girl), Erik Jensen (Gravity), David Costabile (Damages), and Paula Malcomson elevate the drama in an epi spotlighting one of Roth's most understated performances from this series. His conversations with his parents were certainly telling. Immediately after winning their two PCAs Hayley McFarland tweeted that 'the people' had just ensured this show gets a fourth season - well done peeps!! It's heartening to know folks recognize how great this powerful series is. This stirring entry was dedicated to the loving memory of staff writer James O. Turner, may he rest in peace.
* If you're interested in supporting awareness for and treatment of those affected by mental illness consider joining NAMI to help further their good and important work. Learn about the various ways you can help here.
Tim Roth & Paula Malcomson in "Funhouse"
3. Shameless - "Pilot" (SHO)
I almost always bother to screen Listed episodes at least twice, I generally take notes the first time then watch again for details and more generalized impressions. I purposefully decided not to do that with this bold opener, I guess, for a number of reasons. The primary reason being the sincerely perfect impression its first viewing left in my memory. For a production without gunplay, supernatural monsters, or a fight team, this gritty look at reality is about as good as it gets. William H. Macy is of course the show's biggest star, but Emmy Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow) and Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) play the characters I'm inarguably most taken with. Their love story has the potential to be truly epic, and imo Rossum's Fiona instantly became one of television's most fascinating female characters of all-time. I could've never predicted that the same guy who helmed Ali G Indahouse (one of my favorite comedies ever btw) could also help shape a character as multi-dimensional & fiercely heroic as Fiona. Well done! I can only hope its second episode lives up to the high standard set by its unmistakably magnificent pilot.
* This episode doesn't invoke AA, but I feel it only right to say that before you or a loved one is allowed to sink as low as Macy's Frank Gallagher please try to find a way to get Alcoholics Anonymous involved. I imagine we'll eventually see some of Frank's good sides, but in the premiere he seems little more than a lush.
Emmy Rossum as Fiona in Shameless
2. Human Target - "Imbroglio" (FOX)
Still a bit shaken from her deadly struggle with Hecter Lopez, this episode picks up with a visit from Ilsa's sister-in-law whom we learn is Chairman of the Board for the Pucci Foundation. Upset by all the car chases & shootouts the board sends Marshall's sister Connie to see if Ilsa's "lost sight of Marshall's mission." Security shop talk reveals a system breach at the opera house Ilsa and Connie are to attend inspiring Chance to tag along just in case. As action-luck would have it, terrorists indeed take hostages and plan to invade the CIA from the very opera house the ladies are visiting. Carlo Rota (Little Mosque On the Prairie) guest stars as Eli Rosko in this caped entry directed by stunt master & supervising producer Steve Boyum (Supernatural, Predator). Olga Sosnovska (MI-5) plays Connie Pucci, while, Smallville vets Daren A. Herbert & Kendall Cross play on-scene FBI agents guided by Winston. Ilsa's joining in the critical teamwork in this episode bespeaks a trend I hope will continue - a character of her strength and grace can be (as Leverage's Sophie has proved) quite invaluable out in the field. Winston doesn't get to throwdown in this epi, but Chance & Guerrero kick some serious ass!
1. Human Target - "Cool Hand Guerrero" (FOX)
"Looks like we got a troublemaker here, boys" hahaha, yeah Warden Cole, you have no idea. James Remar (Dexter's dad) guests as the Southern warden that kills Guerrero's childhood friend, frames Guerrero for it, and intends to kill Guerrero (or at minimum imprison him) all to protect a meth lab operation housed within his prison's walls. Fans of Rorschach's intensity will notice glimmers of it from Haley in this episode. G's agency friends call upon his trust to let them free him through legal channels, but his trust only comes after a gripping armlock battle between he and Chance. Ilsa's initial concern for Guerrero's whereabouts was amusing and her scenes with Ames were a real treat. John Cassini (soon to be seen in The Chicago Code) makes an endearing impression in his brief opening scene with Haley. Matt Whitney (Greek) pens this fisticuffs filled epi, expertly helmed by master stunt coordinator Craig Baxley (Predator, The A-Team). Little touches like Tim Jones' Rawhide influenced score, the well choreographed fight scenes, and Remar's delivery of classic lines like "you'll not be leaving here alive" all contribute to this being one of the series' most awesome episodes ever!! The teamwork between characters and scene distribution amongst the cast was about as perfect as it can get, to quote Pucci, "Bravo." I also enjoyed the nod to Stephen King's "It".
Jackie Earle Haley in "Cool Hand Guerrero"
Guilty Pleasure Award - Top Gear-US - "Car vs. Plane" (History)
This week Rutledge takes the roomy new Porsche Panamera Turbo sedan through its paces, Stig also drives it for time on a run exceptionally well narrated by Tanner. The bulk of the show is consumed by a race from Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to Las Vegas featuring Tanner driving a Ferrari California versus Rutledge on a commercial flight in a test to see which is faster. Tanner wins their race by a matter of minutes but only because Wood's flight was delayed by a quarter hour. Rocker and reality star Bret Michaels takes his turn as the last Big Star, Small Car guest of this season and ends up fourth behind Tim Allen, Kid Rock, and season one champ Tony Hawk. Lastly, Tanner examines BMW's monsterous X6 M, followed by Stig taking it for a run around the TG track.
Guest Star of the Week: Ellen Woglom on The Defenders (CBS)
Trivia Question of the Week: Shameless co-stars Emmy Rossum & Justin Chatwin both starred in which 2009 action film spectacle together? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: Ready Or Not (Winner: avengingtitan)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. The Simpsons - "Moms I'd Like to Forget" (FOX)
An inter-school rivalry over a dodgeball championship leads Bart and his main dodgeball rival to discover they each share identical scars. Further investigation reveals that when Bart was a toddler Marge made a group of friends from the mom's she met at his toddler gym and two other kids from that gym share the exact same scar. Marge reconnects with her old friends, none of whom she's seen for seven years. Having a social life makes Marge noticeably happier but it causes jealousy by Bart for her time (and attention). The origin of the boys' "mark of the sword" also explains Flanders' moustache. Among the multiple laughs I most appreciated were Bart's imagining of The Jets vs. The Sharks, the Bully Log Book, and Marge's reference about Charlie Sheen regarding Tuesday(s). While Bart and Marge are the focus of this epi, Lisa and Homer have some funny moments too; Lisa's scene in The Android's Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop provided a couple of my favorite moments for her character this season.
3. The Game - "Parachutes: Beach Chairs" (BET)
Beginning its new season on a new network home, this series broke some new ground as the first hourlong sitcom to ever make my List. The cast returns in full force for this super-sized premiere now joined by Michael Beach (Justice League, ER) and gorgeous Meagan Good (Stomp the Yard, D.E.B.S.). The ladies are fantastic in this fourth season premiere and Tia Mowry gives a luminous, multi-faceted performance. Salim Akil (Girlfriends, Soul Food) deftly directs this script he co-wrote with wife Mara Brock Akil (Cougar Town, Girlfriends), centered on the games people play when in love. Besides Tia, I thought Wendy Raquel Robinson also shined brightly and, as always, Brittany Daniel (Skyline) & Coby Bell (Burn Notice) were electric together. The Essence cover bit was a smooth & stylish touch. Try to catch this premiere if you're lucky enough to get a chance.
Cast of The Game
2. $#*! My Dad Says - "The Better Father" (CBS)
With a last name like Bonerz, it only makes sense Peter would find his fortune making comedy. Bonerz (whose directing career includes The Bob Newhart Show, Murphy Brown, and Friends to name just a few) makes his directorial debut for this PCA winning series, tackling the unfunny combo of disappointing dads & gambling addiction. Jeff Astrof (The New Adventures of Old Christine, Friends) wrote this emotional story, brilliantly showcasing the core cast as well as guest Ed Begley Jr. as Bonnie's gambling addicted dad. Sullivan and Sasso excel, each at the top of their game, and guest Clyde Kusatsu (ST:TNG, M*A*S*H) shares great chemistry with Begley & Shatner. I'd like to see more of Kusatsu in the future. In my youth characters like Kirk & T.J. Hooker helped shape my concept of heroism... now, in this stage of his career (and me in my early forties) Bill's modeling heroism of a more realistic, down to Earth sort. As Ed, in a way very similar to Shameless' Fiona, Bill demonstrates family-based heroism worthy of praise & imitation. A touching episode, to be sure.
* If you wonder if you might have a gambling problem, or just want to know the warning signs to prevent one, check out these 20 questions from Gamblers Anonymous. No man should ever let his daughter down in the ways Terry fails Bonnie here.
Tim Bagley, Bill Shatner, & Nicole Sullivan in "The Better Father"
1. Episodes - "Pilot" (SHO)
Fans of HBO's Bored to Death will probably be most receptive to this series about writer's dilemmas, specifically television writers in this case. Stephen Mangan (Free Agents) & Tamsin Greig (Emma) humorously enchant as reluctant fish out of water couple Sean & Beverly Lincoln. LeBlanc is barely in this premiere, literally appearing for just about a minute... still, the outrageous story of 'Merc the Jerk' conning the Lincolns into this series plainly signals the quality of comedy to come. John Pankow (To Live and Die in L.A.), stunning Kathleen Rose Perkins (NCIS: Los Angeles), and, Richard Griffiths (a.k.a. Vernon Dursley) as thesp Julian Bullard all rise to the occasion and (collectively) make up for the lack of LeBlanc. Joey was my favorite character on Friends and I never missed an epi of his spinoff - I also bought Lost in Space the day of its release, so, it's easy to predict I'll like this series but I was surprised to love this debut so much since Matt's barely in it. I'm curious how this sitcom will stack up when all the sitcoms are fully back on the schedule? Hmm? Questions like that are a big part of why I write this column! :)
Kathleen Rose Perkins & John Pankow in Episodes
* Reality Shows *
3. Black Ops Brothers: Howe & Howe - "Hollywood Howes" (DSC)
This week I tried this show for the first time and very much liked what I found. I'd never heard of 'em before but apparently the Howe twins are respected and renowned internationally for designing and fabricating extreme vehicles for the US Army as well as Police and Firefighting agencies. In this episode, the fourth of its second season, the inventive and hardworking brothers finalize construction and testing of their first project for an unnamed major Hollywood film (sequel), and, an amphibious assault tank for their biggest client, the US Army. Meeting these brothers for the first time, as it were, I enjoyed their sometimes cantankerous energy and also appreciated their entertainingly ambitious partnership. The dedication and good humor of their crew was also impressively noteworthy. I will be making time for this series in my viewing schedule from now on, I sincerely recommend you do too.
Mike & Geoff Howe are the Black Ops Brothers
2. Top Chef: All-Stars - "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat" (Bravo)
Skipping the Quickfire Challenge this week, TC starts the epi off by sending the cheftestants fishing. The final dozen competitors are split into four randomly chosen teams of three, all going boat fishing off Montauk Long Island. Marcel (unrealistically) acts the epic ass, causing my respect for Dale to grow a little for managing to tolerate it. Executive Chef, friend of Tom's, and fish expert Kerry Heffernan sits in for Bourdain as guest judge spicing up this week's cook what you catch themed challenge. Though stuck with the least desirable type of fish Carla Hall emerges victorious for the masterful manner in which she prepares them. Falling prey to this epi's double elimination are chefs Tiffani & fellow losing teammate Jamie (finally). Angelo's fear of sharks is chuckle worthy and Dale proves he's a natural born angler. A fun installment I actually enjoyed more the second time.
* Check out this extended judges table, particularly interesting as it pertains to Jamie
Carla Hall in "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat"
1. Mythbusters - "Green Hornet Special" (DSC)
The Lone Ranger's great-newphew, a.k.a. The Green Hornet premiered on movie screens all across America this weekend and was featured on Mythbusters last month! I missed the episode then, but caught the wisely timed replay on Friday with guest star Seth Rogen joining the fun. Rogen, Jamie and Adam also showcase The Black Beauty in special commercials highlighting the supercar's features and advertising the film's opening weekend. This special themed epi revolves around two tested 'myths' from the film, one of them being multiple myths in one. Chief Mythbusters Jamie and Adam attempt to recreate one of the movie's more explosive scenes (involving a bulldozer), while the junior squad, Tory, Grant, and Kari entertainingly cut The Black Beauty in half, still endeavoring to drive it away afterwards. Mythbusters fans will undoubtedly love this super-fun episode and fans of The Green Hornet should dig it twice as much. Despite being a repeat, though one I hadn't seen before, I honestly found this to be the best reality show of this week! (original airdate Dec 15, 2010)
The Black Beauty, 1966 Chrysler Imperial
This week's honorable mentions include The Defenders, No Ordinary Family, Off The Map, The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, and as mentioned above The Cape. Half of my favorite sitcoms didn't air this week so there aren't any I watched that didn't make my List. I did wonder, for a moment, where I might put The Ricky Gervais Show but then I remembered I don't review chat shows (animated or not).
I genuinely appreciate any comments, arguments, or reviews you'd like to add to this thread. And most of all I appreciate your readership. Just as some read my column even though they don't watch the reviewed shows, I'd love to read reviews about shows I don't watch but that you do - your reviews could win your favorite shows new fans. Just something to consider.
Be Well & Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly