Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime programming.
TV Week in Review: Jury Duty Edition (week of 1/30/11)
CW and FOX share dominance of my Scripted List this week, both claiming two spots each out of the six. CBS & NBC split the four slots in my Sitcom category, and the Science Channel makes WiR history claiming its first Reality win with the Ricky Gervais produced travelogue, An Idiot Abroad. As I mentioned last week, this Monday morning I've got Jury Duty to report to, so, the extra time I'd spend writing reviews Sunday into Monday has been eliminated. I didn't want to postpone the release of my WiR till Tuesday, and I really didn't want to forego publishing one altogether so...the best I can offer this week are slightly shortened & less in-depth reviews; I'm not happy about this but the situation is what it is. There were a lot of great shows this week as you'll see in the closing Honorable Mentions, hopefully next week's shows will be just as good! Tonight (Sun 2/6) Glee airs a special post-Superbowl episode, and returns anew this Tuesday (2/8) preceding the debut of Traffic Light. Also premiering February 8th is the second season of Top Shot on The History Channel. Wednesday brings the series premiere of Mr. Sunshine (on ABC) as well as the second season premiere of Justified (on FX). Tomorrow nite (Mon 2/7) Top Gear launches its sixteenth season premiere on BBC-America, and the much-anticipated Chicago Code makes its series debut on FOX.
Now onto the Lists...
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Hellcats - "Worried Baby Blues" (CW)
Fans of the female form, emotional stories, and excellent acting should sample this episode if no other - especially as preparation for the origin story upcoming (2/8). All the ladies stand out in this entry including Savannah's sister Charlotte and the matriarchs of both the Monroe and Perkins families. The Monroe clan confronts Charlotte's pregnancy as well as their past personal resentments providing the best performance by Emma Lahana I've seen so far. Alice and Marti find the answers they've lately been looking for, while, Vanessa finds her devotion to Derrick unsteady. Genuinely one of the best episodes from this season and a great introduction point for new fans. I've already watched this striking epi twice through and will likely screen it again!
* Toni Braxton's mournful "Un-Break My Heart" is prominently featured in this episode.
Heather Hemmens in "Worried Baby Blues"
5. V - "Unholy Alliance" (ABC)
Coast to Coast conspiracy fans will not want to miss this exciting epi, a prime example of media preparation for first contact (if you're inclined to believe such things). In real life the Pope has recently offered to baptise any would-be E.T. visitors, in this story, Anna reaches out to the Vatican first. The human soul is pondered and defended, outstanding new cast members are introduced, and a sleeper agent defiantly accomplishes his mission. Oded Fehr (Resident Evil: Extinction) and Jay Karnes (The Shield) contribute strongly, as does genre director Rockne S. O'Bannon (Farscape, Alien Nation). Typically great acting by Elizabeth Mitchell in this entry; and I'm really happy Fehr & Karnes are joining the mayhem.
Elizabeth Mitchell & Joel Gretsch in "Unholy Alliance"
4. The Cape - "Dice" (NBC)
"There are no accidents." And since this epi emphasizes the ladies it's no accident it placed well on this week's List. Series creator Tom Wheeler pens the origin story of Tracey Jerrod (a.k.a. "Dice"), fortuitously featuring the most screentime for both Raia and Dana to date, as well as captivating moments with Orwell. Director Michael Nankin (Lie to Me, BSG) deftly showcases Mena Suvari guest starring as sociopathic savante "Dice," master and commander of probabilities. The funambulism lesson with Raia (Izabella Miko, Save the Last Dance 2), Dana coping with Trip's coldness, and Elliott Gould's cameo were terrific additions to this already sensational episode. Fatalistic questions are posed, and perhaps answered, by flashbacks depicting critical conjunctions that led Vince to The Cape. A must-see episode for Suvari fans.
Mena Suvari & David Lyons in "Dice"
3. Human Target - "Kill Bob" (FOX)
One of the most unconventional love stories I've ever seen, engagingly reminiscent of Mrs. & Mrs. Smith and more recently Knight and Day, this is easily an all-time favorite from this series. Todd Grinnell & Lauren German (Happy Town, Dark Country) play a married couple stuck in a situation only 'Love Expert' Chance can see with true clarity. Ames surprises the gang with an announcement she's just gotten married, and Ilsa receives Russian intelligence photos that raise doubts regarding Marshall Pucci's faithfulness. This super-charged, ballistically romantic tale was dedicated to the loving memory of legendary casting director Peggy Kennedy who, beyond bringing Indira Varma to the series, is best known for casting Reservoir Dogs, 24, L.A. Law, and Chicago Hope.
* Kill Bob highlighted Young MC's classic track "Bust A Move." See young Max Perlich (pre-Whistler) bust a couple moves in the humorous video here.
Lauren German in "Kill Bob"
2. Human Target - "The Trouble With Harry" (FOX)
Infiltrating the home (compound) of an Erik Prince type private military baron requires Ilsa's going undercover into the field. Nicole Bilderback (Bring It On, BtVS) guests as client Sarah Han, the abused wife of mercenary mogul Henry Claypool played by Michael Massee (Rizzoli & Isles, The Crow). Tony Hale returns as lucky charm Harry, helping Chance get out of an especially explosive predicament. Guerrero convinces Ilsa Marshall was cheating on her, sending her somewhat reeling and eventually into the arms of Chance. Jericho writers Robert Levine & Jonathan E. Steinberg expertly set the pace thrillingly directed by Peter Lauer (Chuck, Strangers with Candy). This epi is probaby my new favorite mostly because I've always hoped Chance and Ilsa would end up together, and its comedy was as fun as its action. Adrian Holmes (Smallville, Jeremiah) also amusingly guests.
Mark Valley & Indira Varma in "The Trouble With Harry"
1. Nikita - "Coup de Grace" (CW)
Beatrice Rosen (Cuts, Smallville) guest stars as Georgian Princess Kristina attempting to assassinate her Prince (Paolo Mancini) husband using a false flag rouse via Percy. Nikita kicks some serious butt (including with a samurai sword), Michael reveals previously unknown resentment towards Nikita, and new Division Team Leader Steven is introduced (played by Brendan Fehr - a.k.a. Jared Booth). This gripping installment was written by series co-producer Albert Kim (Leverage) & directed by Nathan Hope (CSI, Fastlane). Despite my not declaring this one of my favorite episodes from the series, it's still awesome enough to again claim my Top of the List honor! Bravo!
Maggie Q is Nikita in "Coup de Grace"
Guilty Pleasure Award - Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Altar of Mortis" (TOON)
Just when you thought it was safe to leave mysterious Mortis, the darkly driven Anchorite Son pulls Anakin back to the surface by kidnapping (and corrupting) Ahsoka. Tainted and turned Ahsoka battles Ani and Obi-Wan, feeding the Son negative energy by doing so. The Anchorite siblings fight as the (Lightside fueled) Daughter tries to stop her (Darkside fueled) brother, eventually leading to the Daughter's dying trying to save their Father. Ahsoka is also killed but the powerful Anchorite Father and Daughter collectively channel the Daughter's last remaining lifeforce to restore & revive her. The action and swordplay are awesome in this installment, and I was well enthralled by the drama. For a time I genuinely wondered if I'd witnessed the end of Ahsoka Tano. Incredible!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars "Altar of Mortis"
Guest Star of the Week: Mena Suvari on The Cape (NBC)
Mena Suvari is "Dice" in The Cape
Trivia Question of the Week: For what series was Mena Suvari previously named Guest Star of the Week in Nightfly's column? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: 24 (Winner: misac)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Parks and Recreation - "Time Capsule" (NBC)
Guest Will Forte (SNL) made this entry extra fun as a dad dedicated to not disappointing his daughter. Lovely Lucy (Natalie Morales) charmingly explains to Tom why she broke up with him, while, Chris (Lowe) successfully helps Andy get April back from Eduardo. Predictably, a Pawnee community time capsule devolves into a crackpot convention, humorously handled by Leslie & Ben. Twihards will undoubtedly enjoy this uproarious epi highlighting the Twilight saga and analyzing the emotional lives of its characters. You'll be pleased to know "Nice & Band" are enough to win the day and that Zorp is, indeed, dead. No Chanting.
Amy Poehler & Chris Pratt in "Time Capsule"
3. The Big Bang Theory - "The Thespian Catalyst" (CBS)
Raj really needs a girlfriend. We learn that this week via Raj repeatedly daydreaming ways in which Howard bequeathes Bernadette to him (with her consent). Sheldon requests Penny's acting tutelage, to better command the attention of his students, leading to a bit of hysteria when he & Penny perform an autobiographical scene Sheldon wrote as a child... about being taken from his home by Mr. Spock (played by Penny). Talented Chantal Robeson choreographed the climactic Bollywood number, delightfully enlivened by Nayyar & Rauch. Easily one of my favorite epis from this series ever! Don't miss it.
* Chantal Robeson was recommended to Exec. Producer Bill Prady by Felicia Day based on her brilliant choreography for The Guild's "Game On" video.
Kunal Nayyar & Melissa Rauch in "The Thespian Catalyst"
2. 30 Rock - "iQue Sorpresa!" (NBC)
The arrival of Jack's new boss from kabletown, combined with investigative journalist Carmen Chao (Vanessa Minnillo) trying to out Avery's pregnancy, severely knocks him off his game and sets Donaghy spinning in this especially hilarious episode. Ken Howard (The White Shadow) guests as big boss Hank Hooper, much more in the mold of Kenneth than Jack. Brian Williams cameos as himself again, and L&O:SVU stars Richard Belzer & Ice-T add laughs with a SVU scene demolishing Jack's big idea. The guests and regular ensemble really shine, and Tina Fey scores a comedy touchdown with this one! Michael Kors' Wizard Cloak on Banks was enchanting. I LOL'd a lot with this one (an inarguable must-see for Kenneth fans)!
Vanessa Minnillo & Elizabeth Banks in "iQue Sorpresa!"
1. $#*! My Dad Says - "Well Suitored" (CBS)
Not quite Kirk vs. Steve Austin, but in a way, close enough. The day after Ed tells Rosemary he doesn't want to date her exclusively, her millionaire friend Don Reger (Lee Majors) drops by to make a final play for her heart. Statuesque Missi Pyle returns as Katie Palmer, former boss of Vince & Bonnie, offering the couple reproductive eggs she no longer cares to keep frozen. The alpha male competition flagrantly invokes Shatner's 'Kirk' cadence, resulting in a wildly outrageous, animal costumed battle. To me, this was the silliest and funniest sitcom all week, by far.
Lee Majors & William Shatner in "Well Suitored"
* Reality Shows *
3. Top Chef: All-Stars - "An Offer They Can't Refuse" (Bravo)
Sicilian cheftestant Antonia Lofaso emerges victorious in this Italian centric episode, featuring the legendary restaurant Rao's. Famed fashion designer and fellow Bravo celeb Isaac Mizrahi guest judges the purely aesthetic Quickfire Challenge, in which all 'books' were judged by their 'covers' (no food was actually tasted, just looked at). Angelo admits that for a long time he wanted to be a 'food stylist.' Oscar nominated actress Lorraine Bracco joins the feast at Rao's and sits as guest judge for final elimination. Though Antonia's dish ultimately wins, Tiffany's, Carla's or Fabio's could've easily won as well. Unfortunately Tre Wilcox is asked to pack his knives, yet he exits with class & dignity. Certainly one of the best epis this season.
Lorraine Bracco in "An Offer They Can't Refuse"
2. American Chopper: Sr. vs. Jr. - "Foreclosure" (DSC)
Just when PJD was needing a next bike to build, Florida based Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company comes through and commissions two! The frontpage news that Senior's shop is in foreclosure, for not making its mortgage payments, brings an unexpected level of worry to Junior as he wonders how he'll be litigiously blamed. Odie's ongoing attitude problems surface to a degree that clearly makes Vinnie regret bringing him in; proven further when Vin decides to finally bring Cody over from V-Force Customs!! w00t!! It seems clear Odie won't last much longer being so rude to everyone, frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a spy for Senior (if he isn't one already). Pictured below is a glimpse of the main Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company bike's see-thru tank, next week - once officially unveiled - I'll post a pic better showing both bikes.
Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company Bike by PJD (preview)
1. An Idiot Abroad - "Jordan" (SCI)
Continuing his quest to see the Seven Wonders of the World, Karl this week heads for the magnificent ancient ruins of Petra (memorably depicted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Along the way Exec. Producers Ricky and Stephen have Karl first land in Israel, then visit Palestine, and the Dead Sea before finally heading onto Petra. Described as a "real life Homer Simpson" (from Manchester), Karl gets some K&R based "extreme scenario training" after being faux-kidnapped and mock-interrogated in Israel. After 8hrs riding camelback and spending the nite with Bedouins, Karl insists on driving the final leg (pictured below) eventually embracing the destination and proving a personally profound point to himself. Luckily, I was able to catch the few epis pre-dating this one, so I'm up to speed now and will be reviewing the rest of the season from here out. This series is funny and educational, and unquestionably my favorite British documentary series since Top Gear.
Karl Pilkington is An Idiot Abroad
This really was a strong week of drama, imo. There were so many shows that could've made my Scripted List, I had to limit the bench to six. Fringe, The Good Wife, Spartacus, CSI, the season finale of Lie to Me, and, a twitterific Grey's Anatomy were all likely contenders; the only near miss sitcom being Showtime's Episodes. Reality runner ups, in order, were the freshman finale of Black Ops Bros., Face Off, and a ridiculously "cha cha" laden entry of What Not to Wear.
Thanks for bearing with this sparser than usual WiR column, hopefully things will be more back to normal next week. Starting tonight and throughout the rest of the week there are some cool shows returning and some new ones debuting, maybe a couple will be worth your time. Don't forget to catch the season finale (perhaps the final finale) of American Chopper. Be Well & Happy Viewing.
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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