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Nightfly's TV Week in Review 2/20/11 - Spartacus, Raising Hope & more!

Written by Nightfly on Monday, March 07 2011 and posted in Features

Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime programming.

TV Week in Review (week of 2/20/11)
By Nightfly

I'm sure I must sound like a broken record sometimes but this was an especially hard week to choose my Lists.  Not just choosing which to include but further choosing in what order to place them.  FOX surprisingly scores half my Outstanding Sitcoms slots, ABC & The CW both earn two Scripted List spots, and the Science Channel again tops my Reality Show category via the travels of Karl Pilkington!  Nothing new debuts or premieres this week I'm aware of so, without further ado, onto my Lists...
* Potential Spoilers Below *

6. Hellcats - "Fancy Dan" (CW)

Matt Barr (Dan Patch) finally returns in this sweet, emotionally complicated episode written by series co-executive producer Anne Kenney, deftly directed by John Dahl.  It may be tempting to think, "oh, well, John Dahl directed it so naturally Nightfly heralds it" and while that is true to a certain extent, this quiet epi shines for its handling of the show's four female leads; Marti & Savannah reuniting with Dan, Vanessa losing Derrick over Red, and Alice keeping her (previously) insincere promise to Jake.  I detect a glimmer of a chance Travis and Wanda may even develop a thing in the near future.  Rolling Stones fans are treated to Aly's covering "Let's Spend The Night Together" and one of my all-time favorites, "Wild Horses."  If you still haven't realized why this show rocks or why Savannah is just so damned awesome, this'd be one to see.  CW has a true gem on their hands with this series, I look forward to seeing it all week.
* Not sure this show is for you? Watch this preview clip.  Then learn how Superman inspired Matt to act, and more about Dan's relationships with the girls in this CW Connect interview with series star Matt Barr.
Alyson Michalka as Marti in "Fancy Dan"

5. Glee - "Blame It on the Alcohol" (FOX)

Are you aware how fun alcohol is?  A rash of drunkenness at McKinley High spurs an Alcohol Awareness Week which in turn spurs The Rachel Berry House Party trainwreck extravaganza!  Ian Brennan's hilarious script is brilliantly realized by director Eric Stoltz bringing forth one of the funnest, funniest, and most music packed episodes in some time.  Inarguably fans of Figgins, Beiste, Rachel, and Brittany are sated here, and those who frequently complain about Kurt's (alleged) self-centered thoughtlessness should be pleased to see it bite him with both Blaine and his dad in this story.  Emma and Will start to catch up 'n reconnect but the giggle juice and Sue fast undermine that bit of development.  My favorite moments, and there were Many, included Santittany's & Artcedes' walk and talk with Puck, witnessing Rachel's first drink & her first steps from "little princess to Natural Woman", Sylvester's violent visit to Westvale, Shannon The Cannon's rowdy roadhouse night out with Shue, and,... the object of teen vomit fetishists' delight, the spewtastic Alcohol Awareness Assembly starring Brittany singing Ke$ha's "TiK ToK."  Nods to Love Story and Brokeback Mountain were amusing, if not entirely relevant.  I could easily go on and on about this sensational epi but instead I'll just say, "everybody drink responsibly."
* See this epi's Behind the Glee clip (via Hulu) to learn why one shooting day was extra special for Heather.
* If burning a compilation disc to commemorate this episode, these are the songs I'd choose;
1. "Blame It" - Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain
2. "Like a G6" - Far East Movement featuring The Cataracs & DEV
3. "Don't You Want Me" - The Human League
4. "Both Sides Now" - Joni Mitchell
5. "I Feel The Earth Move" - Carol King
6. "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" - Carol King
7. "So Far Away" - Carol King
8. "Johnny Are You Queer?" - Josie Cotton
9. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" - George Thorogood
10. "TiK ToK" - Ke$ha
~ and the bonus tracks (I'd call) "inspired by this episode"
11. "Love In An Elevator" - Aerosmith
12. "Livin' On The Edge" - Aerosmith
13. "My Own Worst Enemy" - Lit
Ushkowitz, Riley, & Morris "Blame It on the Alcohol"

4. Nikita - "Echoes" (CW)
In what I consider to be her finest performance yet, Lyndsy Fonseca cranks it up a notch and delivers an illuminating exploration into Alexandra's subconscious, her past, and possible futures.  Picking right up from last week, Amanda multitasks by utilizing an anti-opiate's suggestibility side effects to interrogate Alex during treatment.  Eliana Jones returns as young Alex as does Vieslav Krystyan in the role of her oligarch father, Nikolai Udinov.  Nick Copus (The 4400, Painkiller Jane) directs this first Nikita script by Kristen Reidel (Drive) wonderfully actualizing the old addage "leave 'em wanting more."  Michael & Birkhoff discover Alex can evade being tracked and Michael at last discovers Niki's lair.  Learning more about Operation Superdollar and the details surrounding Zetrov will assure I'll be counting the days until Nikita returns to the schedule April 7th.
* Correction: In last week's WiR column I erroneously referred to Alex as a "royal" princess which I've since been informed was incorrect.  I wasn't alone in being fooled, as I hear a vast number of reviewers made the exact same mistake.  Beyond admitting ignorance of Russian history & culture, I will offer in my defense that the term Princess was tossed about a fair bit and while billionaire oligarchs sometimes treat their daughters like princesses in America, they're very rarely referred to as such.  Nevertheless, I do regret the error with apologies, along with the hope I make fewer of them in the future.
* Here's a couple cool clips I thought I'd share, first the action-packed & informative "Behind The Guns" via Kia.  And for those who just can't wait here's the preview for April 7th's new episode "Covenants".
Lyndsy Fonseca as Alexandra in "Echoes"

3. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Proposal" (ABC)

Events take a turn for the worst this week as Dr. King finally gets Katie & the Powells to distrust Joshua, Litchfield sets up and blackmails J.J., and Daphne's friend Chris steals Steph's super-serum.  Anthony Michael Hall guest stars as Chris' abusive dad who, once healed, commits crimes, attacks Katie & Steph, and gets a lesson in the sweet science of boxing via Jim (via George).  Stephen Surjik (Burn Notice, Psych) expertly helms this first ever script by former Brothers & Sisters production staffers Andrew Major & Emily Silver, brimming with highly charged emotions.  Luke Kleintank (Gossip Girl) as Chris, and Stephen Collins (as Dr. King), both standout in this thrilling entry, as does the resilient toughness of Steph.  My favorite comics references this week pertained to Wolverine, and the sexuality of Robin.  An exceedingly solid, if somber, episode not to be missed by Josh Stewart and/or Anthony Michael Hall fans.
No Ordinary Family
Julie Benz, Autumn Reeser, & Anthony Michael Hall in "No Ordinary Proposal"

2. V - "Birth Pangs" (ABC)

This series is truly one of my favorites.  A rare show written and paced such that, chapter to chapter, its valleys are as engaging as its peaks.  Still grieving Joe, Erica and Ty suppress their emotions and push on with their preconceived futures, separately.  Lisa strikingly defies her mother, stays true to her feelings for Ty, and embraces Grandma Diana's advice with a profound gesture of trust.  As Erica handles fifth column business in China, Anna finds a more ideal candidate to breed with Lisa and wonders if Tyler remains necessary.  Ryan Nichols resurfaces to ask Jack for help rescuing his daughter from Anna (and is rejected)... unfortunately, by the time Ryan next sees his beloved baby she's been rapidly aged into a toddler; who now cares more for Anna as a parent than him.  Action director David Barrett (Nikita, Human Target) grippingly showcases Cathryn Humphris' (Mad Men, Supernatural) first V script, one with breathtaking heroics (and revelations).  Outstanding guest stars include Ash Lee (Smallville, SGU), Charlie Carrick (Supernatural), and renowned film stunt woman Marny Eng as fertility specialist Dr. Rai, with notable supporting performances by Zak Santiago (Caprica, The Crow: StH), Mark Hildreth, and Jane Badler.  A very strong episode I happily recommend!
* With Lisa and Diana growing closer I thought V's second official podcast (first released last month) featuring the three generations of dysfunctional royal women was worth re-examining, also included is Scott Wolf's footage from V's visit to Comic-Con 2010! (via Hulu)
Zak Santiago, Charles Mesure, & Elizabeth Mitchell in "Birth Pangs"

1. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - "The Bitter End" (STRZ)

This mini-series and I didn't always get along (despite its account graciously following me on twitter).  I suspected going in it would emphasize Batiatus' villainy such that the audience would hunger for Spartacus' upcoming war - and boy did it.  Where Blood and Sand highlighted the suffering and slavedom of Batiatus' gladiators, this prequel series focused heavily on the female house slaves; fewer splashtastic death matches gave way to repeated spotlight slave rapes, of varying sorts, which (I confess) explains its exclusion from my column most weeks.  Absent my love and loyalty to the names Raimi, DeKnight, and Whedon I would've abandoned this series with malice, but in their thoughtful hands the psycho-sexual brutality served its purpose and I'm now primed to wait the requisite year for the high-budget clash yet to come.  Even this week, I was equally torn between ranking this extravagant episode lower on my list (such as 6th position) for the terrible fate of Diona,... but its overall artistry and intent, combined with Gannicus' incredible personal journey and the direction of Rick Jacobson (Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Xena: Warrior Princess) prevented me from denying this epic installment's terrible magnificence or its seat at the Top of my List.  This moving prequel season definitely leads well into season one.
* Watch Lucy Lawless discuss her sex scenes on Spartacus as well as the recasting of the series' lead character for season two here via TV Guide & Hulu.
Peter Mensah, Dustin Clare, & Jaime Murray for Spartacus:GotA

Guilty Pleasure Award - Camelot - "Homecoming" (STRZ)

The question was never if I'd like this star filled sword & sorcery series, the only question was by how much.  Eva Green and Claire Forlani are actresses I've adored for years and thesps Joseph Fiennes, Sean Pertwee (Devil's Playground, Equilibrium), and James Purefoy (Rome, A Knight's Tale) are actors I seriously admire and respect.  The younger cast is also impressive; Philip Winchester (a.k.a. Frank Stanton from Fringe) plays loyal Leontes, Tamsin Egerton (young Morgaine in The Mists of Avalon) is a luminous vision as Guinevere, and Jamie Campbell Bower (The Prisoner) humanizes Arthur making him an open-hearted, more vulnerable version than expected.  I didn't love Camelot's rechristening in murderous blood, but series creators Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who, Torchwood) & Michael Hirst (The Tudors, Elizabeth) did craft an epic 'pilot' that captured my attention forthrightly, guaranteeing I'll be onboard from this point forward.
* Camelot appears here for being a Sneak Preview, scheduled to re-air on April Fool's Day.  No doubt it'll appear in my Top 6 Scripted List then.
Jamie Campbell Bower & Eva Green in Camelot

Guest Star of the Week: Orla Brady on Fringe (FOX)
Orla Brady as Elizabeth Bishop in "Subject 13"
Trivia Question of the Week: Glee's co-creator Ryan Murphy previously worked with (Merlin) Joseph Fiennes in which edgy film?  [answered]

Current Medal Standing:
Dragavon: Dragavon

~ Last week's answer: Sons of Anarchy  (Winner: GOSD)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *

4. Rules of Engagement - "Jeff Day" (CBS)
Safe to say when charges are almost filed, 'Jeff Day' is officially over.  Audrey's first day returning to work offers Jeff the chance to celebrate a day free of human contact, but his self-named holiday's humorously disrupted by his lack of intercultural communication skills.  Jen's news of an open date at a favorite chapel causes Adam to misdiagnose a disfiguring food allergy for a douchey anti-wedding reaction from his subconscious.  Timmy wages a covert vengeance-fueled campaign to cause Russell to miss dates, creating multiple opportunities for him to impersonate Spade's DunbarDumbo the flying elephant gains mention.  As it's been a few weeks since this sitcom's made this List, I feel behooved to mention it's here now due to Hudson's and Kalyan's performances consummately directed by Gail Mancuso (Modern Family, $#*! My Dad Says).  Comely Caitlin Chapman guests - it'd be cool if she became a recurring character. Happy Jeff Day to us all!!
Mr. T Cereal
Mr. T cereal (for "Jeff Day")

3. Parks and Recreation - "Indianapolis" (NBC)

This week we learn that last week we saw Chris break up with Ann, didn't realize it?  Neither did I, and most importantly neither did she.  Ron's amusingly traumatized after learning his absolute favorite place in the world, Mulligan's Steak House, has been unceremoniously closed over health code violations.  Tom's dream of marketing his signature scent miserably fails, but in failing he finds a new friend in Ben.  April and Andy compete for free stuff, and, Leslie finds humorously misleading clues while searching Chris' house.  I'd like Ben & Chris to permanently join the cast - I have a feeling Rob Lowe won't, but I've grown to like Adam Scott as Ben, and really hope his character stays.  Knope's drive back home with Ann is a highpoint, and, Master Yoda gets named in this entry.  Another must-see for Ron fans.
* Here's a couple bonus clips for your enjoyment, first a short 86sec clip of Aubrey and Chris joking around between takes, and a deleted scene involving Ron's formal reaction to the closing of Mulligan's Steak House.
Parks and Recreation
Aubrey Plaza for Parks and Recreation

2. The Simpsons - "Angry Dad: The Movie" (FOX)

When a forgotten web cartoon Bart once made is purchased and turned into a film, awards season takes center stage as Bart's short wins The Golden Globe and eventually the Oscar.  Frustrated by Homer's hogging all the credit and speech time at multiple awards shows, Bart tricks Homer into nearly missing the Oscars at which numerous animation styles are showcased.  Simon Rodia's world renown folk art masterpiece, The Watts Towers, gets served with love followed by Marge & Homer becoming honorary (lifetime) members of the Rollin' 80s; bumpin' Tupac's "California Love" down the freeway.  Numerous celebs are referenced but the epi's most notable official guests are Halle Berry, Russell Brand, Nick Park, and a laughably innapproriate Ricky Gervais.  Mickey & Snoopy get name-dropped and a full-length Itchy & Scratchy cartoon ("The Great Brawl of China") is unveiled.  An easy entry to recommend, especially for Animation and/or Ricky Gervais fans.
The Simpsons
N. Park, R. Gervais, R. Brand, & H. Berry in "Angry Dad: The Movie"

1. Raising Hope - "What Up, Cuz?" (FOX)

Special guest Amy Sedaris (Royal Pains, Strangers with Candy) increases the ridiculousness of this outrageously hilarious series as Virginia's long absent cousin Delilah, now back to negotiate for her half of Maw Maw's estate.  Flashbacks reveal Delilah originally liked Burt first, and that Virginia knowingly stole him from her.  In addtion to Kelly Heyer (teenage Virginia) & Desiree Cooper (eight year old Virginia), this epi guests Izabela Vidovic (Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior) and Laura Avey as 8yr old and teenaged versions of Delilah respectively.  Neff, Woodward, and Leachman are amazing as always but the star of this story is Sedaris - she's such a natural fit for this show I hope she returns again (and again, and again).  This one made me laugh out loud a lot.
Amy Sedaris
Amy Sedaris as Delilah in "What Up, Cuz?"

Her Universe
* Reality Shows *

3. Face Off - "Switched and Hitched" (Syfy)
Though every episode of this series has been good, I found this one especially funny.  Guest judge Steve LaPorte (Lost, Galaxy Quest) oversees the entertaining Foundation Challenge, asking each contestant to hand lay facial hair for models dressed from varying historical time periods.  Tate 'Yeti Fingers' Steinsiek wins the early challenge with an outstanding job blending black & gray facial hair based on a Trek-like crewman from the future.  A pressure-filled, gender swapping Spotlight Challenge spawns a battle of bangs between Jo Holland and Megan as Jo repeatedly accuses Megan of not doing enough, even calling her out for it to the judges.  Ironically, Megan's beauty-makeup experience propels her to the win (which I agreed with) while nosy Jo gets laughed at and told to go home.  One of my favorite epis so far.
Face Off
Jo Holland (far right) along with her losing work in "Switched and Hitched"

2. Top Gear - "16.5" (BBC-America)

Two super-expensive cars, a pair of unavailable cars, news of a Ferrari V12 4WD hatchback, and a Volvo that's widely beloved but not going into production helped bring Top Gear back to this List this week.  In response to an Albanian mobster's inquiry the boys tour Albania while testing two luxury saloons and a Yugo to learn which would better suit a mafioso's needs.  While there they drag race on an abandoned airfield they know to be mined, and the senior hosts explore a cold war era graveyard of MiGs.  Television and radio presenter Jonathan Ross strikingly guests as this week's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, his interview with Jeremy is quite funny.  Best vehicles of the night include the Volvo PCP and an illustrious AMG tuned V12 Twin-Turbo Mercedes S-65.  BTW, did you know Princess Anne owns a Reliant Scimitar?
Ferrari FF
2011 Ferrari FF

1. An Idiot Abroad - "Brazil" (SCI)

Karl's visit to Rio de Janeiro to see ("Wonder of the World") Christ the Redeemer and take part in Carnival proves to be one of the most hilarious episodes to date.  Flabbergasted by the oppressive heat, Karl seeks solitude at the beach but is only directed to either gay ones or nude ones.  Leery of crowds and parties, Karl's especially displeased with his hostel dorm accommodations and we never see him get a decent night's sleep while there.  Among Karl's assigned activities are getting waxed, thong shopping, hanging with a female impersonator, and visiting the Christ statue from both ground level and air.  I laughed at Karl's dancing (as I always do), his references to Chucky, Snow White, and bungee jumping, but, I was perhaps most entertained by Karl's aversion to folks showing skin, much less nudity.  Despite his worry of crashing, Karl ultimately enjoys his first helicopter ride and finds "the Jesus thing" alright as well.
An Idiot Abroad
Karl Pilkington is An Idiot Abroad in Brazil

Of the thirty-five and a half hours of original programming I screened to compile this column the shows coming closest to my Top Scripted List were Private Practice, The Cape, Justified, NCIS, Off The Map, and, an extra intense installment of White Collar.  A turning point episode of The Game, Mad Love, a humorously violent finale of Episodes, and Mr. Sunshine (guest starring Lindsay Sloane) nearly made my Outstanding Sitcoms List, while Top Chef, Top Shot, and What Not to Wear warm my favorite Reality Shows bench.

Sadly, my column's running quite late again this week so let me just say, "Thanks for Reading! 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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