Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime programming.
TV Week in Review: Torpedo of Truth Edition (week of 2/27/11)
A number of series aired repeats this week, allowing a couple shows to make it into my column that'd never made it in before. ABC commands half my Top 6 Scripted List (a feat its achieved before), ABC and CBS each split half of my Sitcoms List, and my Reality Shows section exactly matches the same lineup as last week. Yesterday (Sunday) eventfully debuted series premieres for America's Next Great Restaurant (NBC), Secret Millionaire (ABC), Coming Home (Lifetime), and A&E's Breakout Kings; as well as unveiling new season premieres for The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC) and Army Wives (Lifetime). [Not to mention the first web broadcast of Sheen's Korner on UStream]. The Clone Wars came back this week so The Clone Wars Report returned with it. Many series are showing repeats again this week but that's not always such a bad thing.... In my Castle review I mention Prepon's recent episode "Nikki Heat," and it turns out ABC's rerunning that one tonight, so,.. Winning! Duh!
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Hellcats - "Don't Make Promises (You Can't Keep)" (CW)
In a week without Glee this music-centric episode offered sweet relief, and though all cylinders were certainly firing, it was the musical aspects of this entry that made it so outstanding. Bob Berlinger (Parenthood, Grey's Anatomy) beautifully directs this turning point story for Marti and handles the high-flying cheerleader acrobatics as well as any director to date. Here, both the Hellcats and Cyclones believe they've secured exclusive rights to use a local band's song for nationals, but each squad had received clearance from different band members who didn't know what the other had done. 'Nasty' Kathy (played by Magda Apanowicz, who together with fellow Caprica castaway Teryl Rothery have become delicious secondary characters for this show) lets slip that the father of Charlotte's baby is Savannah's old boyfriend - the fundraising auction date she rejected. Ironically, it was the night of that charity date he later sought comfort from and ended up impregnating Charlotte. The cheer-off for Werewolf v. Unicorn is spectacular and Lewis' reaction at the end is correct. I hope Kathy and Lewis become an item, more Magda is always preferred. A great epi on many levels, not the least being Marti's researching her dad. On a lighter note Lil' Kim is amusingly namechecked.
* Fastball; This story ends with Marti learning about her dad to the song "Little Bit of Rain" by Sid Selvidge (from the album A Little Bit of Rain). Read more about it from the thoughtful fans at Wetpaint here.
Aly M. in "Don't Make Promises (You Can't Keep)"
5. The Good Wife - "Great Firewall" (CBS)
Recently fellow Outhouser (and WiR Trivia Medal winner) ThirtyFiveMinutesAgo asked why this series doesn't make my List more often? Well, with this week being light on shoot 'em ups and remarkably significant developments occuring in this episode, this was its week to shine! Season long story arcs for both Peter and the firm get resolved, Kalinda learns she's being targeted, and Zach finally proves to Eli that Becca can be truly trusted! Rita Wilson (Homework, It's Complicated) winningly returns as Atty. Viola Walsh and extends an intriguing offer to Alicia. Michael Boatman (China Beach), Michael Ealy (Californication), Titus Welliver (Sons of Anarchy), and guest Ken Leung (Lost, Strip Search) all contribute riveting performances in this can't miss epi for even the most casual of fans. My favorite Alan Cumming episode by far!
Michael Ealy & Michael Boatman in "Great Firewall"
4. Justified - "For Blood or Money" (FX)
Having previously only seen the first three or four episodes from the first season, I'm still catching up on what's transpired. This season's Dixie Mafia story has interested me, as has Boyd's struggle to stay clean and away from Kyle (Michael Mosley, Scrubs). Series co-producer Wendy Calhoun (Life) wrote this uncompromising script engrossingly directed by John Dahl. Larenz Tate (Rescue Me, Dead Presidents) is introduced as Rachel's brother-in-law who seemingly damages everything he touches. Mags' boys devise a plot to kill Raylan, and, Winona's husband officially files for divorce. FYI, these first four epis have mainly been setup: Boyd's upcoming job and the Bennett boys' hit on Raylan are still yet to come - I can't wait!
* Justified is one of the cool series that not only lists all the tunes played in each epi on their website, but even includes high quality samples of each track there as well. Check it out.
Timothy Olyphant in s2 of Justified
3. Castle - "Countdown" (ABC)
This was the first epi to really impress me since Laura Prepon stopped by to 'do' Beckett, yet the aspect that impressed me most repelled many of the fans that liked Prepon's episode. Responding to a twitter critique that this entry was "too dark", a reply (I believe from one of the writers) indicated that they pride themselves on being able to please lots of different types of fans by handling a rich variety of stories... well, I'm certainly a fan (have never missed an epi) but Castle rarely lands on my Top Scripted List because their varied menu so rarely includes Intensity. Whereas Prepon brought a comedic and sensual intensity to the series, this installment is all about the ticking clock. It's a good thing Beckett & Castle didn't seek warmth the way I would've suggested, 'cause her boyfriend wouldnt've liked how he found them. Nathan offers a flash of Mal when discussing the myth of 'fairness' and Adrian Pasdar's guest role is affectively tragic and touching. I guess I can understand this series' current fans not wanting such dark seriousness, but Fillion's most cherished series (Firefly, now airing Sundays on the Science Channel) brought comedy, romance and fun, all with serious amounts intensity. Of course NYC's fate need not always be at stake, but I could do with a few more stories like this one.
* I know I've mentioned it before but believe it's worth mentioning again that Castle's costume designer Luke Reichle tweets along with the west coast broadcasts week to week. His commentary and helpful answers to fashion related questions honestly add a lot to each show. I know of no other series, at least none that I regularly watch, with any staffer or star that similarly tweets along to each episode; some shows have folks do it sometimes but Reichle's dedicated reliability is a rarity. Winning!
Nathan Fillion as Castle in "Countdown"
2. V - "Uneasy Lies the Head" (ABC)
An awful lot happens in this entertainingly convoluted episode, notably graphic in its horror. Significant players realign here and surprising, unlikely alliances form. The burden of leadership drives Erica to cold blooded choices and extreme measures in her attack on Anna's super-strain of DNA. Ryan boldly sneaks back onto Anna's mothership to attempt to rescue his child - while onboard he spares Joshua's life and reunites with his former queen, Diana. Lisa's and Tyler's relationship suffers a setback this week, and (former Father) Jack seems surprised, if not repelled, by Erica's unflinching ruthlessness. Though Erica's DNA-bombs fail in the end, Anna is forced to announce the rebirth of The Fifth Column which Erica counts as a win. Anna's win is in finally injecting Tyler with her murderously assembled mega-strain of DNA. Marcus resurfaces in this suspenseful script by series producers Cameron Litvack & Greg Hurwitz, shockingly directed by Jeff Woolnough (The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural). A story-rich installment I highly recommend!
* Erica's new closeness to Hobbes inspired me to read more about him at his Character Bio page here.
Elizabeth Mitchell & Charles Mesure in "Uneasy Lies the Head"
1. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Love" (ABC)
This extraordinarily fun series delivered another win this episode for its meaningful developments and genre Goddess guests! Romantic specialists Kate Barnow & Elisabeth Finch (both writing staffers from True Blood) pen their second impressive NOF script, once again focused on love, family, and honesty - the previous being "No Ordinary Anniversary." BSG fans are treated to a reunion of six and three (Tricia Helfer and Lucy Lawless) but only one will be returning in the future. Eric Balfour (Haven, Skyline) also guests as King's latest creation; his ability to extrude and retract bear like claws (from each knuckle) a first in King's history of experiments. Peter Werner (Justified, Gracie's Choice) expertly directs this enthralling entry including amusing references to Spartacus, and, Jim "acting like Charlie Sheen." :)
Lucy Lawless & Tricia Helfer in "No Ordinary Love"
The Clone Wars Report - Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Counterattack" (TOON)
Like most second chapters in three chapter stories, this one is all about the action. Matt Michnovetz (24) penned this roucous thrillride featuring the Jedi and Imperial officers still escaping from the Citadel, and (of course), the threat of torture. Captain Tarkin remains untrusting, not just of Ani but now also of Ahsoka, and asks the reasonable question why agents of peace are leading the war? Their escape vessel gets destroyed, and a valued trooper falls in combat in this exemplary entry for Ahsoka fans. R2's battle droid plan humorously comes together, and, the epi ends with the Jedi Council preparing to launch another rescue. A fantastically gnarly feast for the eyes and ears!
* Truth Torpedo: K2-B4's colors work well as the droid's name is a nod to winning Laker Kobe Bryant (#24). Duh!
R2-D2 & K2-B4 in "Counterattack"
Guest Star of the Week: Adrian Pasdar on Castle (ABC)
Adrian Pasdar as Agent Fallon in "Countdown"
Trivia Question of the Week: Goddesses Julianna Margulies and Sarah Chalke both appear in my column this week leading their current respective shows. Name the medical series in which they last both appeared together? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: Running With Scissors (Winner: avengingtitan)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Mad Love - "The Kate Gatsby" (CBS)
Ben romantically signs Kate's 25yr old permission slip in this sweetly sublime episode, my favorite so far for both leading ladies (and Tiffany). Original meetings are revisited and a past dalliance between Larry and Connie is discovered as this lovable series builds momentum, increasingly impressing me with each airing. Adrian Wenner (My Boys) scores big with his first script for this series, well directed by fellow series n00b Rob Schiller (Working Class, $#*! My Dad Says). This epi raises the quality bar so high I'll be surprised if upcoming entries can match it. The various themed costumes were entertaining and easily my favorites from any scripted show this week. King Kong cameos via poster.
Sarah Chalke & Jason Biggs in "The Kate Gatsby"
3. Mike & Molly - "Mike's Feet" (CBS)
It could be argued that this epi is only on this week's List because certain other sitcoms didn't air new ones, I'm not sure of the veracity of that theory but I can say I thought this entry was even funnier than usual. In this story Molly learns that Mike and Carl have big fallouts each year during extreme temperatures from being cooped up in their squad car too long. Mike's stinky feet are the subject of this winter fight, further exasperated by a car crash in heavy snow. When a romantic getaway between Mike & Molly is ruined by Mike's constant complaints about Carl, Molly goes to Grandma's house to find a way to mend the boys' friendship. Swoosie Kurtz (as Joyce) and Cleo King (as Grandma) are laugh out loud funny and the epi overall is a win - M&M is TV's #1 new comedy, Duh! KFC and Popeyes Chicken are referenced.
Billy Gardell & Reno Wilson in "Mike's Feet"
2. Mr. Sunshine - "Hostile Workplace" (ABC)
Air Conditioning maintenance issues prompt Ben to learn his fellow employee's names leading to outrageous insults and laughs. Bobert's name is fully revealed, Romy Rosemont (Glee) makes her first appearance as Sunshine Center employee Diana, and Alice makes an undeserved assumption about Crystal. Exec-prod Eric Gilliland (My Boys, That '70s Show) pens his first script for this series, amusingly directed by Mr. Sunshine first-timer Bryan Gordon (Party Down, Curb Your Ethusiasm). Musical references include Diana Ross' Concert in Central Park, Yo-Yo Ma, Los Lobos, and a special tribute to Cher's "Believe" by Roman. Both Lord of the Flies, and, The Lord of the Rings gain mention. Four episodes in, this was my favorite installment so far and the first to make my Outstanding Sitcoms List.
Allison Janney as Crystal in "Hostile Workplace"
1. Modern Family - "Two Monkeys and a Panda" (ABC)
This week I finally caught my first full episode of this series, but it was last week's episode (online). I thought since there were about ten hours worth of fewer shows on this week, as compared to last, I'd give this series a sincere try. It wasn't until after I'd fully watched and enjoyed last week's entry (entitled, "Regrets Only") that I realized I'd watched the wrong one, a fortuitous error, as this week's episode was equally hilarious and solidified my ongoing fandom for this show! Comedy legend Carol Leifer wrote this insightful episode, her first for this series, and knocked it right out of the park. Julie Bowen was on my radar well before Ed, and Sofía Vergara first caught my eye in Big Trouble - later fully winning me over in The Knights of Prosperity. After Better Off Ted was cancelled I was mad at ABC and decided to avoid their sitcoms. Better With You first made me bust my boycott, followed recently by Mr. Sunshine. The ladies of the upcoming series Happy Endings are actresses I very much like, so, checking out (critically praised) Modern Family only seemed right. I'm very glad I did. I regret that my late pass is soo damned late, but I'm onboard now nevertheless. If you're not already watching this series, try this epi out and let me know if you agree with my assessment. To quote Carol Leifer's twitter bio, "As Charlie says, "Winning!!""
Ed O'Neill & Sofía Vergara in "Two Monkeys and a Panda"
* Reality Shows *
3. Face Off - "The Dancing Dead" (Syfy)
Surely a gem for zombie fans, this special episode features zombies that dance and a realistic bloody crime scene Foundation Challenge. Tom wins the foundational crime scene challenge by impressing guest judge & former L.A. police detective Bob Jakucs with his sparingly applied, realistic appearing splatter pattern. The contestants are overjoyed to learn the Spotlight Challenge is focused on zombies, but midway through the process they're informed the zombies have to be able to dance. Industry superstar Greg Nicotero guest judges the Spotlight Challenge, showcasing contestants ghastly creations in a choreographed dance to "Zombie" (by Natalia Kills). You'll have to watch the epi to see the zombie dance, but you can watch the official "Zombie" music video here. Shockingly two artists are sent home, Anthony Pepe and Foundation Challenge winner Tom Devlin. Despite Tate's ignoring Glenn Hetrick's advice he wins the night with his horrific "home invasion zombie" (convincingly brought to life by model Deb). I'm not really as into zombies as some, but this epi is inarguably exceptional!!
Conor McCullagh's zombie creation on Face Off
2. Top Gear - "16.6" (BBC-America)
Entertaining and uncut, this entry features a fun producers challenge, one of the best Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car segments ever, and a loving profile of Pagani's Zonda line. The challenge was for each host to buy a convertible 4-seater for two thousand pounds or less; surprisingly all three hosts buy BMW 325i models from the late 1980s thereby turning it into a used BMW comparison. The numerous tests associated with this challenge as well as the final scoring made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Jeremy's Zonda film was informative, exciting, and spotlighted the Tricolore and Zonda R fantastically. Comedy film partners Simon Pegg and Nick Frost drop by (promoting pAUL) and separately take the Reasonably Priced Car for a run. Though Frost beats Pegg by four tenths of a second he still falls three tenths of a second short of Tom Cruise's time, which both he and Pegg were gunning for. Both stars share how their love of Star Wars formed the basis of their friendship, and, Simon talks about training for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Superstitious Magpie rituals are revealed, and, my ears hear the term "gentleman's relish" for the first time in memory. Certainly the funniest episode this season!!
* Fastball Fact: this series featured two (self-described) "Specials" at the beginning of the season that neither clicker or I counted as regular episodes. However, I've since learned that Top Gear itself does count those as normal episodes which makes this entry reflect the 6th not the 4th episode of Top Gear (by their numbering). The clicker link still says "episode 4" but it's for what TG would call epi.6. You can tell by the description it's the correct one. Reading.
Mr. Magpie & Pagani Zonda Tricolore on Top Gear
1. An Idiot Abroad - "Peru" (SCI)
The penultimate episode of this outrageous series was as funny as any that came before it. In this one Karl travels on and along the Amazon river so deep in the heart of darkness he finds himself at the mercy of 'former' cannibals. Amazonian flora and fauna is examined, highlighting ants, a dolphin, a snake, numerous cooked rodents and an especially poisonous frog. Karl exposes the travelogue techniques of David Attenborough, declines all local food offered him, gets cleansed by a guinea pig wielding medicine man, and finally bails on the last three hours of an eleven hour hike to 'the wonder.' Karl's never been more out of his element or more relentlessly dumbstruck than in this jungle-filled epi and for that (alone) it's quite epic! Karl in the bush is a sight. Machu Picchu was the seventh and final Wonder to be visited, yet I can't say I detect any discernible difference in Karl's outlook or worldview?!? We'll ultimately learn what he's absorbed in the can't miss upcoming series finale (Sat 3/12) when Karl's debriefed by his buds.
Machu Picchu, Peru
I'd prefer to say my column's running late again, but after three weeks in a row it'd appear that this is the new normal. So, from now on I wouldn't expect to see my WiRs published until Monday afternoon at the earliest or Tuesday afternoon at the latest (at least until the summer). From the twenty-six hours of original programming I watched to compile this column the shows almost making my Top 6 Scripted List were White Collar, Fairly Legal, NCIS, House, CSI: Miami and the last broadcast epi of The Cape. Raising Hope, Rules of Engagement, HIMYM, and CMT's Working Class came closest to making my Sitcoms List while Top Shot, Top Chef, & What Not to Wear for the second week in a row rode my Reality Shows bench.
I honestly can't thank you all enough for supporting my efforts through your readership, comments, and answered trivia questions. Have a gnarls gnarlington kind of week and, as always, Happy Viewing! Duh! Winning!!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly