Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime.
TV Week in Review (week of 1/16/11)
For the second of the last three weeks ABC has earned the majority of my Scripted List spots, though this week no other network appears on that List more than once. Cable network Starz takes Top of the List honors with its very first WiR appearance. NBC earns half the Outstanding Sitcom slots and Bravo (unremarkably) reclaims dominance in the Reality Shows category. This upcoming week a slate of new reality shows premiere (check for show titles and dates here) but the only one I'm looking forward to is Face Off on SyFy this Wednesday. I'm excited about Nikita's return to the CW this Thursday! USA's new series Fairly Legal, starring Sarah Shahi, exceeded my high expectations - watch its ratings winning Pilot here. My pick for Guest Star of the Week will possibly seem controversial,... but in all honesty Dita's beguiling appearance is easily one of my favorites in CSI's long history. To coincide with her WiR win I thought I'd highlight one of her signature wearables (that she tweeted about Friday), so, click her Secrets in Lace banner below if Dita modeling stockings interests you.
Now to the superheroes, aliens, and Gladiators...
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. The Cape - "Kozmo" (NBC)
An Increased focus on Orwell, and the villainous introduction of Gregor the Great captured my attention this week and unveiled key aspects of the show's unfolding mythos. Writer Craig Titley (SW:The Clone Wars, Scooby-Doo) impresses with this, his first script for this series, compellingly directed by David Jackson (Charmed, Miami Vice). The gripping performances of Summer Glau, Keith David, and, guest Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong, Blade II) as the previous wearer of The Cape are most responsible for this series' scintillating debut on my List. Had some of the Cape's mystical legends been mentioned earlier, like in the series premiere, I think I would've been more forgiving of its overtly magical powers -- of course now that I know it was possibly worn by Merlin and traces back to the Pharoahs of Egypt, I totally get it. This rousing thrillride doesn't disappoint, I heartily recommend it!
Summer Glau in "Kozmo"
5. V - "Laid Bare" (ABC)
Picking up from last week's climactic car crash, this deadly episode begins with a fight between Erica and Malik. David Barrett (Nikita, Veronica Mars) helms this captivating story penned by Gwen Parker (Without A Trace, Windfall) feauturing the tortured death of Visitor double agent Sarita Malik (Rekha Sharma, BSG). Compelling Erica's actions is the discovery that Tyler was born genetically altered by the Visitors, assumedly to fascilitate some form of hybridization. I thought the acting was notably strong in this epi, particularly from Sharma, Mitchell, and Vandervoort; plus Jane Badler (reprising Diana) is a fun bit of casting, no doubt. The special efx in this entry are also worthy of praise. If you haven't watched the new V yet, now would be a good time to start - the plot is thickening each week.
Elizabeth Mitchell in "Laid Bare"
4. Hawaii Five-O - "He Kane Hewa' Ole" (CBS)
Director Chris Fisher (Cold Case, Moonlight) movingly reunites with Alex O'Loughlin in this powerful story by Executive Producers Peter Lenkov (24, La Femme Nikita) & Paul Zbyszewski (Lost, After the Sunset). Stirring guests Tzi Ma (24, Rush Hour), Greg Germann (Ally McBeal), Reiko Aylesworth (24, AVPR), Jordan Belfi (Entourage), and gorgeous Amanda Schull (Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill) add to the drama - plus Masi Oka makes another appearance. Though the typically awesome action is present, this epi stands out for its acting, story, and direction. Caan's forward roll out of the Camaro was incredibly cool and Kono's opening chase provided fun product placement for the Chevy Cruze. I hope we get to see more of Mr. Chi, and, since Chin Ho is the main biker of the show I'd think the rightful 'Ponch' would be him.
Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim & Reiko Aylesworth in "He Kane Hewa' Ole"
3. Lie to Me - "Saved" (FOX)
"Amazing" guest stars Annabeth Gish (Brotherhood, The X-Files) & Kevin Rankin (Trauma, Big Love) play criminal siblings badly scarred from the childhood loss of their mother. Writers Samantha Howard Corbin (ER, Kevin Hill) & Dailyn Rodriguez (In Plain Sight) show us a sick brother annually rubbing his guilt-ridden sister's nose in the anniversary of their mother's death for sixteen years (the entirety of their adult lives). Merle Dandridge also guests as D.A. Jill Ottinger and shares some intense exchanges with Monica Raymund. It's not all mysterious and dark though, thanks to Tim's scenes with Hayley McFarland. Raymund's saying Gillian's usual line (about working for the truth) was a great way to show Ria's growth. Roth and Gish are utterly superb in this entry, which should come as a surprise to no one; together they make this an episode not to be missed.
* Note: Apparently the jury is still out as to whether this riveting, award winning drama will get a fourth season?!? So, needless to say, ratings are as important as ever. Please spread the word.
Annabeth Gish & Tim Roth in "Saved"
2. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Detention" (ABC)
"You guys remember Die Hard?" This week lovely guest Joanne Kelly (W13) witnesses Jim do his best John McClane and ends up [after getting shot] blessing his vigilante heroism. Major secrets are revealed and significant developments occur for nearly every character but especially for the Powell kids, and, Katie & Joshua (as a couple). While Jim saves the police station from terrorists, sultry Rebecca Mader (Lost, Justice) villainously exposes her powers to get Joshua to take the super-serum. Daphne and J.J. are each unexpectedly kissed thanks to a particularly truthy game of Truth or Dare, and the epic relationship between Katie & Joshua is strengthened by the revelation of his powers. Director David Petrarca (True Blood, Eli Stone) does a sensational job eliciting top shelf performances from the regular cast as well as guest baddie Andrew Rothenberg (TWD, Weeds) as NOF's Hans Gruber. Natalie breaks up with J.J. but luminous Bailey (Katrina Begin, Gossip Girl) immediately gives him something new to think about, meanwhile, Daphne's relationship with Chris (Luke Kleintank, Gossip Girl) deepens. This superlative episode is unquestionably my favorite Big Three [primetime] offering of the week; Autumn Reeser is doubly fantastic in this one!
Romany Malco & Joanne Kelly in "No Ordinary Detention"
1. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - "Past Transgressions" (STRZ)
Co-Executive Producer and series creator Steven S. DeKnight (Angel, BtVS) bridges Spartacus' bloody first season to the upcoming second with this special six part prequel mini-series, expanded from what was originally a single episodic flashback idea. Sadly, Andy Whitfield (Spartacus) has had to bow out of the production due to life threatening illness thus necessitating a replacement for him in that role - a role only recently filled by fellow Aussie Liam McIntyre. Though Batiatus & Lucretia were slain in the first season's finale, these six epis allow them (as well as the other first season characters) to tell the story leading up to season one. Bewitching Jaime Murray (W13, Dexter) and Australian TV star Dustin Clare (Satisfaction, Underbelly) join the cast as Lucretia's bad influence and the current Champion of the House of Batiatus respectively. To quote "force of nature" Gaia, this premiere "positively burns". Jesse Warn (Spartacus:B&S, Legend of the Seeker) boldly directed this opener, nicely introducing Marisa Ramirez (Mental, The Young and the Restless) as Oenomaus' wife Melitta. If you liked Spartacus' first season it's safe to assume you'll like this mini-series equally, if not more!
Lucy Lawless & Jaime Murray in "Past Transgressions"
Guilty Pleasure Award - Top Gear-US - "America's Toughest Trucks" (History)
The title of America's Toughest Truck was fought over this week by champions bought for three thousand dollars (sight unseen) and with at least one hundred and fifty thousand miles on them. Tanner buys a 1983 Chevy Stepside, Adam a 1976 Ford F250, and Rutledge a 1997 Dodge Ram to traverse the natural proving grounds of untamed Alaska. I've made no secret that I'm not really wild about this TG incarnation but this episode was undeniably enjoyable. I laughed out loud a few times with this one, so if you're happy with these hosts you'll likely consider this entry a freshman season high point. I won't spoil the finish order but the ultimate winner is Tanner in his spoilerific Smurf-colored Stepside. I happily recommend this episode - these hosts are at home in these pickups.
Guest Star of the Week: Dita Von Teese on CSI (CBS)
Rita Von Squeeze in "A Kiss Before Frying"
Trivia Question of the Week: For which fashionable series did Dita Von Teese last grace Nightfly's column?
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: Dragonball: Evolution (Winner: AMS)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Episodes - "1.2" (SHO)
Last column I wondered how this series (from the creators of Friends and Mad About You) would hold up against a full schedule of network sitcoms, indeed it held up rather well. The cussing gives it a bit of a leg up, but the crisp comedy and impressive acting are the main reasons I love this new series so much. Matt LeBlanc finally arrives to the series in an outrageously self-centered performance featuring him laughing about children with Tourette Syndrome and ending on a note of retaliatory manipulation. Genevieve O'Reilly (SW:Revenge of the Sith, MI-5) is introduced as Merc's wife Jamie, whose blindness he exploits to mock her. I'm honestly a little surprised by how funny this series is, it bested some stiff competition to make this List (and earned bonus points for namedropping Dushku). From now on I've decided I'm going to start suggesting titles for untitled episodes... for this one I offer a) "Pucks" [surely the most obivous choice], b) "The Dinner Party", or my personal favorite "Go Fun Yourself".
* The Tourette Syndrome Association® Kids Newsletter, "That Darn Tic" can be viewed & subscribed to here. Consider visiting the Natl. Tourette Syndrome Association to learn more about the involuntary neurological disorder .
John Pankow & Matt LeBlanc in Episodes
3. Parks and Recreation - "Go Big or Go Home" (NBC)
"We Back!" The third season opens with Leslie Knope's Parks Dept. called back after three months of unpaid leave. While the ensemble is fairly well served new cast members Rob Lowe (as Chris) and Adam Scott (as Ben) get lots of screentime in this epi in which we learn the source of Chris' effusive positivity. Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness is a hoot, as is his rivalry with Tom, producing the most hilariously called game of basketball I can ever remember seeing. Jama Williamson and Natalie Morales return as Wendy and Lucy respectively, and Carlo Mendez (Bitch Slap, Diary of a Single Mom) is introduced as April's new hunky Venezualan boyfriend. Poehler is super-funny as usual, and, Chris & Ben are entertaining enough characters I'd watch them on a show of their own. Knope's 'Hope' poster at The Bulge and her Jurassic Park shout-out were just a couple of my many favorite moments of hers here.
* Gentlemen, take the show's advice and (occasionally) "Check Your Testicles for Lumps."
Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness (via Aziz is Bored)
2. Two and a Half Men - "Lookin' for Japanese Subs" (CBS)
She's back!! Rose (Melanie Lynskey), whom I've always considered a central character of the series, returns from her faux-honeymoon to immediately see her plan start coming together. Now that she's married Charlie [of course] realizes he's in love with her; he spies on her, begins climbing the balcony for her, begs her for time alone, tells her he loves her, and ends up sleeping with her all while believing she's Manny's new bride. Though that storyline is entertaining enough to've made my WiR List, Jake & Eldridge deliver loads of extra laughs with their Jackass inspired web series, Dumbass. Don't miss this charmingly hilarious episode - one of my favorite from the series' eight seasons.
1. 30 Rock - "Mrs. Donaghy" (NBC)
What is Art? Are elegance and attitude the same thing? Who is the true protagonist of this show? The definition of marriage? These are just a few of the thoughtful questions raised by this uproarious episode in which Jack & Liz learn they've mistakenly been married. NBC's cable consolidation deal [naturally] forces budget cuts that Liz combats using divorce-oriented blackmail. Convinced Tracy is dying, Angie (Sherri Shepherd) decides to break into show business since "entertainment is where untalented people go to get rich." Jenna, Danny and Kenneth share an amusing storyline, and Chris Parnell returns as Dr. Leo Spaceman giving Tracy the fatal diagnosis. The nods to Rocky and Bravo were funny.
Tina Fey & Jean Brassard in "Mrs. Donaghy"
* Reality Shows *
3. The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection - "Elemental Fashion" (Bravo)
In this last episode as Houses, the final four designers are tasked with creating collections inspired by Earth, water, and air. Tran & Dominique represent House of Nami while Cesar & Jeffrey try to get a last win for House of Emerald. Each designer's responsible for producing three independently and collectively cohesive looks. Dominique put her destiny in fate's hands first letting Tran take the lead and then following, which pays off in multiple ways. HoN reigns victorious again closing team scoring with a record of 9 wins and only 2 losses. Both winning designers drove away with a bonus prize of a 2011 Ford Edge. Sadly, talented Texan Cesar Galindo got told he was "out of fashion" as guest judge Glenda Bailey (EIC of Harper's Bazaar) looked on. I highly recommend this episode, definitely one of the best of this season.
Windswept Geisha Girl by Calvin Tran
2. American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. - "Invitation Accepted" (DSC)
So, this was my first week fully ignoring half the show, a first for my reviewing history too. Talented fabricator Brendan returns for PJD's latest build, guaranteeing he'll miss his child's birth for the gig (in this economy I totally sympathize). FaroArm® Portable Laser Scanners, which Vinnie has used and is familiar with, enthusiastically commissions PJD to build a radical chopper celebrating their company's 30th anniversary and the launch of their latest 3D scanner called 'The Edge'. The Teutul brothers help each other cope with this week's crap from their dad, reacclimate to Mikey using the shop for a studio again, and sit down with Iron Horse magazine to correct the record regarding their dad's slanderous recent interview. The previews for this upcoming Tuesday's epi reveal PJD frivolously and pathetically sued again by you-know-who. Coincidentally, I read this week that OCC has gone into foreclosure... so, perhaps this "versus" format won't be around for much longer! :)
1. Top Chef: All-Stars - "Restaurant Wars: One Night Only" (Bravo)
Yet another first for this All-Star season, a couple of firsts, actually. In this "Pop Up" Restaurant Wars Elimination Challenge the diners, for the first time ever on TC, alone chose the winners and losers. An additional first is that it's the first time Chef Anthony Bourdain has amused me enough to inspire me to want to watch his own show, No Reservations. Judges table comments can often get creatively insulting, especially in the extended videos (available on their website), but after being away for awhile Bourdain comes back with some zingers. Guest Chef Ludo Lefebvre sits in for Gail this week, and they all slam Marcel in this clip. Thankfully, super-douche Marcel gets asked to pack his knives for (can you believe it) another dish featuring foam?!? Fans of Dale, Fabio, and Richard Blais will enjoy this installment in which Blais wins the challenge and a $10k bonus prize. Food and Wine Magazine EIC Dana Cowin also guests.
Pop Up Restaurant Wars winner Richard Blais
Before listing the Honorable Mentions I wanted to recognize the moving guest appearance of Bob Newhart on this week's NCIS. Thanks to Outhouse Editor misac for directing me to Newhart's praiseworthy performance. Other outstanding guest turns came from Joanne Kelly (in NOF) and Dallas icon Larry Hagman on Desperate Housewives. Drama series nearly making my Scripted List this time included (new series) Fairly Legal, NCIS, The Good Wife, White Collar, and Off The Map. I liked Off The Map's second episode better than its Pilot. A notable Guilty Pleasure this week was CSI: Miami's babe filled Roller Derby entry, and,... how could I not mention the return of American Idol (with new judges Steven Tyler & J-Lo). Sitcoms almost making this WiR were HIMYM, Rules of Engagement, $#*! My Dad Says, and a fabulous installment of The Simpsons (guest starring Kristen Wiig & Alyson Hannigan).
Thanks for your readership and please leave any comments or personal reviews in this thread for any shows you'd like. I sincerely appreciate your continued support and encouragement, and couldn't keep doing this without you. Hope to see you again next week, until then Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly