Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime programming.
TV Week in Review (week of 1/23/11)
This week's selection process was amongst the toughest in a long while for each respective category, particularly for the Top 6 List. FOX unsurprisingly dominates the Scripted List, but only by garnering two slots when every other net only garnered one. NBC claims half the Outstanding Sitcom spots this week, with no network monopolizing the Reality Show section. Off The Map makes its first official appearance in my WiR column, as does bombastic animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Tonite (Mon, 1/31) Human Target returns to primetime, my home theater and I have been counting the days, and Lie to Me follows with its third deception-busting season finale. Otherwise, there aren't any premieres or notable returns happening this week I know of to tell you about.
So now onto the mayhem that generally comprises my Lists.
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Primeval - "4.5" (BBC-America)
This series keeps winning me over with its action, pace, acting, and visual efx. Having only seen a handful of episodes, I'm amazed at how thoroughly I've been drawn into the characters, scenarios, and overall world of this reliably exciting actioner. Perhaps I just have a juvenile mind, but I completely prefer seeing affable characters running for their lives & battling prehistoric creatures over debaucherous slave rape, or, endless 'will they or won't they' (would-be) romances. Here we definitively learn that Ethan is indeed not native to the same time as Emily, that Philip puts anomaly research ahead of human life, and that James really is more formidable than outward appearances might indicate. Ruth Bradley & Jonathan Byrne are again prominent and, along with the dynamic cast, are the main reasons this epi made my List. As this series doesn't title its epis I'd name this one, "The Witchfield Worm."
5. Lie to Me - "Gone" (FOX)
A troubled family crosses Cal's path when their baby is kidnapped while out with its mother. Guest stars Doug Hutchison (The Practice, The X-Files) and Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes) engrossingly play a dysfunctional mother and father, expertly directed by Adam Arkin. This episode made it onto this List lacking gun battles, kickfights, dinosaurs, an alternate reality and/or cape due to the solid acting, writing, and directing that are ongoing hallmarks of this masterful (astonishingly on-the-bubble) crime drama. I won't spoil the ending of this super tense case, but I will note that Monique Gabriela Curnen shows up again in this one. Roth, Hutchison, and Kathleen Rose Perkins are exceptional here.
* Reminder: Lie to Me's third season finale airs tonight (1/31), and it could really use a ratings bump... just sayin.
Doug Hutchison & Tim Roth in "Gone"
4. Hawaii Five-O - "Kai e' e" (CBS)
A special episode for a special nite by a writing team most associated with Leverage incorporated a host of beloved secondary characters as well as four noteworthy guest stars. Director Duane Clark (CSI:NY, CSI: Miami) helms this highly suspenseful script by Melissa Glenn & Jessica Rieder featuring a Tsunami centric story involving the forfeiture funds McGarrett's team recently raided to save Chin Ho. Semi-regulars Michelle Borth, Al Harrington, Taylor Wily, and Teilor Grubbs appear as do guests Joel David Moore (Bones), Joanna 'JoJo' Levesque (True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet), Agnes Bruckner (The Craigslist Killer), and Brian Goodman (Rizzoli & Isles). There've surely been more action-packed episodes from this series but this one actually tilts towards the acting and ends on a mysteriously dubious note. Curiously, one of the Governor's most impactful scenes occurs in an epi sans Jean Smart - chalk it up to the [free] gravitas one gets when hiring amazing talent. Dano is particularly funny in this one,...all worried about the impending Tsunami and not trusting the local watermen, seriously. :-D I wonder if he still wants to learn to surf?
Grace Park as Kono Kalakaua in "Kai e' e"
3. The Cape - "Scales" (NBC)
This is by far my favorite episode of this series' first four, primarily because of the increased intensity all around as well as the sentimental story of Vince trying not to miss Trip's birthday. The acting by Frain, Glau, and Keith David excels while dynamic performances from Vinnie Jones, Richard Schiff, and Dayton Callie also goose the mix mightily. The very concept of The Cape fighting his Carnival of Crime mates entices, and this thrilling entry only begins to lay the groundwork for that inevitably audacious battle. In this one, Vince simply gets no help from the Carnival of Crime as they plan to rob the mayor's train while Faraday fights Scales (Jones) and works with Fleming to save all the passengers lives. I personally appreciated Orwell's nod to Tonto. If you haven't sampled this series yet this epi is an excellent first one to try! Dennie Gordon (Hellcats, Burn Notice) directs.
* Reminder: Mena Suvari guest stars in tonite's (1/31) entry named after her character, "Dice." Don't miss it.
Summer Glau as Orwell in "Scales"
2. Fringe - "Reciprocity" (FOX)
I haven't looked 'em up online, but reportedly there were numerous easter eggs to be found in this episode. I did notice the seahorse on the briefcase at the beginning. Intriguingly, Peter's mere proximity to Walternate's doomsday machine triggers an electromagnetic spike that activates the device and weaponizes Peter's psychology/personality. The acting is incredible in this stunner while the series' meta-arc is unnervingly advanced by director Jeannot Szwarc (Supergirl, Somewhere in Time) & writer (Co-Executive Producer) Josh Singer. When Fauxlivia was the focus of past epis I detected her growing sympathies for the Fringe team on our side, which is why I voiced my hopes she might swap loyalties (so we could have two Olivias)! Now I don't know if I should be happier for the new weaponized Peter (who could be another Human Target type hero when needed), or sadder for the loss of "reactionary" Peter? I know I liked the old Peter. Will I like the new one? If nothing else it'll give Joshua Jackson a new broader range of emotions & motivations to play with. This epi truthfully came very close to taking this week's Top of the List spot.
* included in this tale were the songs "Bungle in the Jungle" by Jethro Tull (off the Warchild album), and, "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" by Leo Sayer.
Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop in "Reciprocity"
1. Nikita - "Free" (CW)
Writer Kalinda Vazquez (Human Target, Prison Break) & director Jonathan Glassner (Covert Affairs, Stargate SG-1) engagingly launch this series' post-training phase while powerfully reiterating Alex's original intent and why she continues to pursue it. Thad Luckinbill (a.k.a. 'R.J.' from Buffy's love spell episode "Him") joins the cast as Alex's friendly new neighbor Nathan - essentially this series' Dermot Mulroney following the Point of No Return paradigm. Noah Bean (Damages, Dark Blue) returns as CIA analyst Ryan Fletcher, delivering an intensely memorable performance and paving the way for a possible future romance with Niki. The multiple fight scenes, details about Birkhoff's past, and Alex's ridiculous first shopping choices all helped propel this heavily-missed actioner to this week's Top of the List status. The flashbacks with Alex's father (and his Obi-Wan Kenobi line) were effectively telling. Nikita's absence was torturous and her return eagerly anticipated, I was most pleased this installment rocked as hard as it did!!
* Watch Undercover Operations interviews with the cast about the show and characters here (courtesy of the Kia Optima).
Lyndsy Fonseca & Maggie Q in Nikita
Guilty Pleasure Award - Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Overlords" (TOON)
Series like this one and The Game make my life kinda difficult because although they're a half hour long and scripted, both are true dramedies (equal parts drama and comedy) with some epis far less humorous than others. This series would never land in my Sitcoms category, so, for the time being I may just start putting it here; perhaps with some regularity. Liam Neeson returns to the role of Qui-Gon Jinn in this dramatic one-off onboard a conduit through which the entire Force of the Universe flows. Qui-Gon questions Obi-Wan as to whether he's been training Ani as he was asked to, in Neeson's first SW performance since wrapping The Phantom Menace. Yet another decision point, this time pressed by the immensely powerful Anchorites, moves Anakin a giant step away from his prophesied "Balance Bringer" status... but inarguably proves he's "The Chosen One." Ashley Eckstein plays an adult version of Ahsoka giving dire warning to her younger self in a portrayal worthy of praise. This is perhaps my favorite epi of this series ever, a great stand alone story friendly to new or merely casual fans, written by Christian Taylor (Lost)
* If you haven't clicked the Her Universe banner I routinely include in my columns, I should tell you it's a company owned and operated by Ashley Eckstein (a.k.a. Ahsoka Tano). Check out her super-cool site's SW inspired lady gear here.
Anakin Skywalker in "Overlords"
Guest Star of the Week: Tessa Thompson on Off The Map (ABC)
Trivia Question(s) of the Week:
#1) In this WiR column Jean Smart is linked to her characters in positions of power & prominence, namely the Governor of Hawaii and a local Homeowners Association Vice President. In which action series did Jean previously play the First Lady of The United States? [answered]
#2) For which fashionable series did Dita Von Teese originally grace Nightfly's WiR column?
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: ??? (Winner: none)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. The Simpsons - "Homer the Father" (FOX)
This week's superior entry involves Homer modeling his parenting after a 1980s sitcom he grows enamored with, applying its lessons to Bart's newfound desire for a (Street Assassin) mini-bike. Bart studies hard, earning an A+ in math for his (suggested) "reward" but Homer stiffs him leading Bart to seek the funds via treason. Pursuing nuclear secrets, Bart spends time with Homer genuinely bonding with him in the process. For a tvphile such as myself this television-oriented epi holds obvious charms, further elevated by David Mamet, James Lipton, Michael Paul Chan, and Garry Marshall guesting. The USB flash drive, mobile texting devices, and Simpson family widescreen flat are fun to see featured so prominently of late... I like that the series keeps up with the times (technologically). Very fun episode, it cracked me up repeatedly! Even Bart's chalkboard sentence and the show's opening Couch segment were superb.
* Homer finds a new favorite song in this episode; rock-out to his (stated) previous favorite here.
David Mamet (c.1986)
3. $#*! My Dad Says - "Ed Goes to Court" (CBS)
Ed says, "please somebody make this interesting"... then Rosemary Pernworth knocks on his door. The obvious chemistry between Ed & Rosemary seen on her previous appearance blossoms in this episode romatically written by Jeff Astrof (The New Adventures of Old Christine, Friends) and helmed by Ted Wass (Rules of Engagement, Less Than Perfect). Pine Lane, apparently, is plumb full of cool characters played by favorite 80s actors! Tila Tequila and Don Lake (The Bonnie Hunt Show) add laughs to this fun opening chapter of Ed's latest great romance. Bonnie's revelation that Ed never asked for advice regarding any woman before bespeaks the depth of his feelings for Rosemary; I'm glad he put himself out there again. Henry & Vince have an amusing moustache growing contest, and, Ed's AI commentary made me laugh out loud. Great episode all around - I highly & happily recommend it!
Bill Shatner & Jean Smart in "Ed Goes to Court"
2. Parks and Recreation - "The Flu" (NBC)
Just as crucial organizing for the relaunch of Pawnee's Annual Harvest Festival is required April, Leslie and Chris (Rob Lowe) get the flu so bad they have to be hospitalized. Various relationships undergo noteworthy growth, most notably Chris & Ann, Ben & Leslie, Ron & Andy, Andy & April, and even a little bit for April & Ann. Ann & April enjoy more screentime than usual which pleased me since I'm a big fan of both actresses and their characters. On the culinary front, Leslie's waffle love is competently highlighted and Andy introduces Ron to the tasty new meat delivery system that is Mexican Food: "You had me at Meat Tornado." Andy as "unstoppable good idea machine", and Leslie & Chris under the flu effects were true comedic highlights of my week. One of my favorite epis from this series ever! I'm glad Ben & Chris will be extending their visit for the festival.
1. 30 Rock - "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning" (NBC)
As the last vestiges of G.E. give way to Kabletown, Donaghy's latest "Jack Attack" revolves around a plan to prepare for every possible disaster scenario with a pre-taped, ready-made celebrity benefit show for the occasion. Robert De Niro guest stars, appearing in the benefit under threat of blackmail by Jack. Tracy & L.L. entertain as Angie's reality show cameras alter Tracy's bahavior provoking a crazy battle between he and Liz that escalates hilariously. Alternate realities are glimpsed, super-intelligent sharks are invoked, Kenneth dons his dress blues, and Jenna sings life into the computer generated lyric "help the people the thing that happened, happened to." Marvel's upcoming Captain America starring Chris Evans is referenced, and, the Fijian island of Mago is spotlighted.
* Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" and OneRepublic's "Secrets" were well utilized this epi so I decided to attach links to their videos with this review. Watch the Making of "Secrets" (starring German actress Nora Tschirner) here.
Alec Baldwin & Bob De Niro in "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning"
* Reality Shows *
3. Face Off - "Welcome to the Jungle" (SyFy)
Though the first crop of contestants only moderately impress, the judges are what make this competition series most special to me! I'm somewhat known for citing past credits in my reviews and, well, the filmographies of these judges frankly surpass my ability to broach them here. Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill, and Patrick Tatopoulos are the series' three judges with lovely McKenzie Westmore serving as host. Apparently the selection process was tough and potential contestant pool vast, nevertheless, the series ended up with a group slanted primarily towards horror and trauma (as opposed to fantasy, animal, alien, etc). The premiere episode focused mainly on Fantasy makeup but there were still enough simulated gaping wounds shown to make me wish I'd chosen a different dinner time. Artists Tom Devlin & Gage Hubbard top the imaginative "Foundation Challenge" with Gage getting the first win, and with it immunity. Gage's immunity came in handy as he ended up in one of the bottom two teams in the intense & eliminative "Spotlight Challenge." Jessica Kramer [former student of Tom Savini's School for Special Makeup EFX] gets sent home this inaugural episode, while full-time Joe Blasco Makeup School teacher Conor McCullagh (The Vampire Diaries) earns the series' first individual win for a human/elephant hybrid that was my personal favorite too. Conor's & Tom Devlin's winning creation is the first seen in this video showcasing all the transformations from this entertaining opening episode. I plan to keep watching, do you?
Watch Face Off on SyFy
2. American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. - "Lee Returns" (DSC)
This week's PJD half of the episode concentrated on finishing and unveiling the FaroArm® bike formed after the (top secret) 3D scanning tool known as 'The Edge'. Vinnie and Mikey struggle in learning to juggle while unicycling, Odie gets a beautiful portrait drawn for him by Mikey, and Nubby endures a thirty-nine hour painting marathon to deliver the specific carbon fibre pattern matching the cutting edge FaroArm® scanner. Faro's hiring PJD motivates Paul Sr. to file another lawsuit against his son, in this case for hiring former OCC employee Joe (whom Sr. claims used OCC insider info/connections to steal Faro's business). Mikey's scream therapy made me laugh. (Hehe). The final product is a brazenly badass ('cosmic grey') bike Vinnie declares "the best lookin' bike" they've ever built, and Nub calls one of his favorite paint jobs ever. Though Senior's legal intimidation dampens spirits in the shop slightly, "The Edge" starts up and runs perfectly and not even complaining phonecalls from Sr. dissuade Faro from expressing genuine awe & approval over PJD's striking custom creation.
Faro Bike "The Edge" by PJD
1. The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection - "Finale" (Bravo)
The final three designers drew very different inspirations for their collections, lovingly featured in this series' sophomore season finale. Each designer was required to create nine looks in a week, along with a tenth predictably added later. For their tenth look(s) the designers gained assistance from their best friends from throughout the season - Tran reunited with Tamara, Jeffrey reteamed with favored collaborator Cindy, and to no one's surprise Dominique got to work with David. Jeffrey, with the most extra cash from past wins, based his collection on his journey throughout the show and its challenges, dedicating it to his stylishly inspirational mother who he tragically lost to breast cancer. Twenty-one year old Dominique based her collection largely on her personal style which she descibed as "grungy wearable sportswear", utilizing tie dye techniques learned from working with Cesar. Calvin Tran embraced a decidedly minimalist approach, choosing high fashion wearability over high fashion couture. Jeffrey's final collection was named "Ultimate" by the judges, prompting Iman to quote Bill Blass and (superstar) guest judge Mary J. Blige to volunteer she'd wear every single look he sent down the runway. With his win Iman, Isaac, Laura Brown, Glenda Bailey, and Mary J. Blige award Jeffrey the prized Harper's Bazzaar editorial feature and $125k to launch his own line confidently content in the knowledge he's "truly an original." I thought Jeffrey deserved to win too, but, I was impressed by all three finale collections.
* See Jeffrey's extended & emotional exit interview here. I was also entertained by Tran's critical exit video here, if you want to check it out.
Jeffrey Williams, Season 2 Winner!!
As mentioned above this really was a very tough week for picking final selections, much less ordering them. Before I get to my usual Honorable Mentions I'll point out that within the week covered by this column The History Channel concluded its freshman season of Top Gear with a 'Best Of' show I'll most likely not end up ever seeing. THC is asking for comments and suggestions about the series at their site - you should check it out for a laugh, there are "fans" there even more disgruntled than me.
The hour long scripted dramas almost making my List this week included Castle, Bones, Hellcats, White Collar, Fairly Legal and my favorite episode of Off The Map yet. Comedies coming closest to my Sitcoms List basically boiled down to Episodes, and, CMT's first ever scripted sitcom Working Class (specifically its second episode, guest starring Ryan Stiles as the dentist). The Game was very good but won't often make my Sitcom List due to its frequently serious situations.
I don't usually watch The Office, but I understand original creator Ricky Gervais guest starred this week as the same character he played in the original. If you're a fan you probably know this already still I thought I'd spread the word here anyway. :)
Unfortunately, I may not publish a WiR column next week due to my having to attend Jury Duty. I'm gonna do everthing I normally do, as far as taking notes, selecting images, and prepping my column as best I can... but the lion's share of work is always done on Sunday leading into Monday and I'll have to be at court early Monday morning. Hopefully even if worst comes to worst I'll publish a mostly graphical version (meaning primarily just pictures with almost no written reviews), or I'll publish the full column but maybe a day later than usual? I just want to warn everyone now that it'll be up in the air until further notice. As is often the case, my twitter followers will be the first to know (hint, hint) until then Be Well & Happy Viewing!
P.S. Don't forget to watch Human Target and the season finale of Lie to Me live tonight (Mon 1/31) as they could both benefit greatly from bumps in their ratings. Also remember Mena Suvari debuts as "Dice" in tonight's (sure to be) thrilling episode of The Cape!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly
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About the Author - Nightfly
A proud member of NBCUniversal's and A+E Television Networks’ Digital Media Teams, Nightfly routinely interviews producers, creators and stars of various network programs and films with a concentrated emphasis on the Syfy channel. Formally educated in Communications, Computer Science and Music, his résumé reflects more than a decade broadcasting in the fields of television and radio. With pieces routinely published at ScreenFad and Press Pass L.A., his primary areas of interest include TV, film, music, web series, comic books, fashion, pen 'n paper RPG gaming as well as various other pop-culture topics. An avid Twitter user, Nightfly supports the arts, the entertainment community, numerous charities and crowdfunding projects through his journalistic netizenship and non-partisan, multicultural-centric activism.
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