Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his preferred picks from the previous week of primetime programming.
TV Week in Review (week of 3/27/11)
The primetime week for this column was an eventful one with significant finales and premieres. The week said goodbye for this season to Working Class, The Game, Top Chef: All-Stars, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. Camelot, Chaos, and Monster Bug Wars debuted this week, all three appearing on this week's lists. History's made a couple times over this column, not only by Mad Love rising to top my Sitcoms List for the first time, but also by Army Wives claiming rank on my Scripted List for the second week in a row (a first for that show). Tonight (4/3) four new series premiere: The Kennedys (Reelz), 4th and Forever (Current TV), The Borgias (Showtime), and The Killing on AMC. Wednesday serves up the third season premiere of Top Chef: Masters and Thursday welcomes Nikita back to the primetime schedule! I'm trying a change in approach this week by revealing as few spoilers as possible. If I'm to restore my column to more than just skeletal lists I believe this is the path I should take. This WiR is unusually well balanced with drama and action both present in roughly equal measure. I hope you enjoy my column's new form.
* Much Fewer Spoilers Below *
6. NCIS:L.A. - "The Job" (CBS)
Though I'm a fan of both Chis O'Donnell & LL Cool J, they weren't initially enough of a draw to get me onboard this series' launch. Frankly, at the time this series premiered I wasn't a regular watcher of NCIS (proper) either. Once I finally tried NCIS, just this season, I liked it immediately and wondered if its L.A. based sibling was as good and/or as action-packed as its commercials seem. Having now watched a couple episodes of NCIS:L.A., I can happily attest to its quality and raucous explosiveness. Eric Christian Olsen (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd) and Portuguese beauty Daniela Ruah are two of my favorite characters on the series and they're both dramatically featured here. Victor Webster's unexpectedly villainous as this week's guest bad guy.
Victor Webster & Daniela Ruah in "The Job"
5. Army Wives - "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation" (Lifetime)
Catherine Bell delivers a heartbreaking portrayal of unthinkable loss in one of AW's most tragic episodes ever. The army wives and Roland collectively console Bell's character Denise spotlighting the rich talents of the ensemble, but most especially illuminating Bell. Drew Fuller, Terry Serpico (Rescue Me), and guest actress Erin Krakow also turn in award-worthy performances in this terribly sad, turning point episode movingly directed by John Terlesky (Castle, Human Target). A can't miss episode for fans.
* FYI, this series prides itself on not being political and it's very successful in that regard. Its focus has always, keenly, been on the families throughout its previous four seasons and this fifth season has dutifully held to form. Many people profess to support 'the troops' and no doubt there are many ways to do so; I humbly suggest that learning about the struggles military families face and overcome at home is just one of the many ways we can support them. Not being in a military family myself, Army Wives has opened my eyes to a lot.
Catherine Bell as Denise Sherwood in "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation"
4. Justified - "The Spoil" (FX)
Easily one of the best, most intense episodes in this series' run, driven by powerful performances from Olyphant, Margo Martindale, and Rebecca Creskoff (Hung). The action, danger, and threat to multiple characters increases as the Bennett clan gets rowdier than usual, and the Chief somehow seems to know about the money. As remarkable as this ballistic epi is, one of the roughest I can remember for Raylan, it also serves to setup potentially bombastic events to come. Don't miss this Wednesday's new episode at 10p.
* By visiting the shows Episode Guide and selecting episode #8 you can hear high quality samples of Glenn Hughes' "Justified Man", Five 2's "Sweet End", and "Honey" by Raen all featured in this particularly intense story.
Margo Martindale in "The Spoil"
3. Chaos - "Pilot" (CBS)
Being a big fan of Brett Ratner's I've grown accustomed to his shows impressing me, as an even bigger fan of spy shows, I'm happy to report this brilliant opener didn't disappoint. Ambitious in scope, unusually funny for the genre and boasting a superlative cast, Chaos expertly fills a void I hadn't even realized existed. Freddy Rodriguez is endearingly sympathetic as Rick Martinez, new to a job none but the most desperate would want. Gorgeous Londoner Carmen Ejogo officially became one to watch as one of the most captivating characters in the pilot. I can't wait to see what mayhem the team gets into next! FYI, Eric Close & James Murray are now both on twitter.
Freddy Rodriguez is Rick 'Scorpion' Martinez in Chaos.
2. Grey's Anatomy - "Song Beneath the Song" (ABC)
One of the most anticipated entries in Grey's history, this week unveiled the musical epi in which meaningful songs from past stories were woven through the episode's dialogue, surprisingly well sung by the cast. Atop the many layers to appreciate are the sensational performances of Sara Ramirez and Kevin McKidd who do the majority of the singing, and do so quite movingly. Jessica Capshaw, Justin Chambers, Kim Ravers and a special guest also shine as does (upcoming Charlie's Angel) Rachael Taylor. Reaction to this experiment was decidedly mixed after airing but fans of "musicals" (such as Glee) liked it more often than not; I personally loved it! If you're a Glee fan that hasn't tried Grey's yet this would surely be a great epi to sample.
* Check out this Behind the Scenes clip on the set of the musical episode (below) with producer-director Tony Phelan! Then watch Sara Ramirez - provided you won't be spoiled - sing the story's climactic song of awakening.
1. Camelot - "Homecoming" (Starz)
Last month when the first half of this premiere was previewed, post Spartacus, I adoringly called it "epic." I soon learned I wasn't alone. "Epic" was the word most reviewers ended up using to describe it and rest assured no epicness was lost in its second hour - no, very much the opposite. Sean Pertwee & James Purefoy again bring the thunder and Tamsin Egerton is finally, properly introduced as Guinevere. Fans of Fiennes, Forlani and Green enjoy an embarrassment of riches with this series, a production I expect to grace (if not rule) my Scripted List henceforth. If you missed out on Spartacus don't get left behind again,... this series is worth subscribing to Starz for and subscribers enjoy OnDemand access to all previously aired entries, so it's still not too late to catch up.
* Speaking of Spartacus, Steven DeKnight tweeted an update that Spartacus: Vengeance began shooting today in New Zealand.
Joseph Fiennes as Merlin in Camelot.
The Clone Wars Report - Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Padawan Lost; Wookiee Hunt" (TOON)
This bold [two-part] third season finale features Ahsoka taking care of business, lots of exciting Trandoshan action, and the much publicized appearance of Star Wars' most beloved Wookiee, Chewbacca. Ahsoka's leadership qualities and fierceness in battle are mercilessly tested and the results are what one would expect. Thanks (in no small part) to the climactic clash at the end the awesomeness of this finale is exceptional - and that's really sayin' something! Ahsoka and Chewie fans are lovingly well served, and fans of The Big Lebowski should keep an eye out for Sochek. Spoiler Alert: an ancient Mandalorian Neo-Crusader helmet is shown.
* since this was a two-part tale don't forget to peruse both story's Episode Guide pages here and here.
Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Clone Wars finale.
Trivia Question of the Week: Corresponding with the week of Grey's Anatomy's musical, Sara Ramirez released on EP on iTunes. Name the title of her debut EP?
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: No Ordinary Family (Winner: avengingtitan)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Traffic Light - "Kiss Me, Kate" (FOX)
Since Kathryn Hahn's character's name is Kate, the title would be the first indicator she's in this week's episode. I've been a big fan of Hahn's since her days on the drama Crossing Jordan, and thanks to her appearing in Will Ferrell films I've also grown to love her comedic skills. In this hilariously outrageous episode, as well as the last, Kathryn's come strikingly close to earning my Guest Star of the Week honor and if she returns she'll (I'm sure) immediately be in the running again. In this one Adam enjoys 'Cake Day', Liza Lapira rocks a blue one piece bathing suit, and old an ping-pong score gets settled!
Kris Marshall, David Denman & Liza Lapira in "Kiss Me, Kate"
3. The Big Bang Theory - "The Zarnecki Incursion" (CBS)
When Sheldon falls victim to a MMORPG crime the wardogs slip to San Diego on a quest for justice, er, to get Sheldon's stuff back. Penny's relationship with Priya remains as prickly as ever, a situation deliberated on by the girls (Penny, Bernadette, and Amy). The overall mix and utilization of characters in this episode was exquisite; not many epis this season have gotten it this right. For example, just about every time I thought to myself, "it's time for more Penny" she very soon after appeared! Beyond using the ensemble notably well, this one was extraordinarily funny. If you're a Penny fan, a comedy fan, or just enjoy seeing Sheldon perturbed than this is the episode for you - unquestionably one of my all-time faves. Kunal Nayyar gets many great lines in this one!
Kaley Cuoco as Penny in "The Zarnecki Incursion"
2. The Simpsons - "Love Is a Many-Strangled Thing" (FOX)
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar guest stars this week as a therapeutic tool through which Homer realizes the inappropriateness of strangling Bart. Unsurprisingly, as Homer stops his harsh punishment method Bart takes advantage of the situation. Homer's therapy and all of Kareem's surreal cameos combine to make this one the funniest and most unexpected Simpsons episodes of all-time. I've been a fan of Kareem's for decades. I got his autograph in the tunnels of the Forum and witnessed his unstoppable Skyhook in person numerous times... for me, it's always a treat to see 'Cap'!
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar guests in "Love Is a Many Strangled Thing"
1. Mad Love - "Baby, You Can Drive My Car" (CBS)
A simple parking ticket turns into a road trip that leads to a relationship milestone for Kate & Ben. Kate's "amazing funbags" certainly deliver in this unexpectedly fun and significant episode. If you've been following this series till now you're probably pulling for Kate & Ben - if so, definitely don't miss this romantic entry. Since this is the first time Mad Love's claimed my Sitcom List's first position it goes without saying it's my favorite epi so far.
* As per my new policy, I'll try not to always spoil guest stars, however Chris Parnell's picture (below) is the first thing you see on the show's official website so I thought it'd be okay in this case.
Chris Parnell guest stars in "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"
3. Top Chef: All-Stars - "Finale" (Bravo)
My new spoiler-free approach makes this review in particular an interesting challenge. Assuming you've watched up till now you know the last two cheftestants were season four's Richard Blais and season six Jersey Boy Michael Isabella. This season's previously eliminated chefs return here to form teams of sous chefs for the final two, every chef involved gives it their all. Much beloved Hubert Keller, Top Chef: Masters season one runner-up, guest judges in this nailbiting episode for the ages. As usual Blais never stops worrying till the very end - will his worries be justified in this finale? Don't forget to watch the Reunion Show this week as well as the season 3 premiere of Top Chef: Masters. Meet the Masters competing in season three here.
* Watch this video of Padma recalling the highlights of Top Chef: All-Stars and discussing the finale's outcome.
2. Monster Bug Wars - "Death at Midnight" (Sc)
Animal combat is typically fierce but giant insect species defending their native territories are astonishingly brutal. In this series the one constant among these clashes is the death of at least one, if not both, combatants. The ads for this show's premiere predominantly showcased the giant rainforest mantis which made me wonder if each epi would focus mainly on just a single match-up? While the mantis defintely got his time to shine I was pleasantly surprised at how many bug battles were featured in this entry - many more than I anticipated. Reactions to the overlayed bestial sound efx have been mixed, perhaps with a majority unhappy with their inclusion, but as a frequent viewer of nature shows I confess to finding it preferrable to typical bug battle silence. Since these melees were, assumably, not staged for broadcast it's not like there was an array of microphones to catch the sounds of bug parts clashing. Irregardless, the combat shown receives expert scientific analysis, describing the strengths and weaknesses of the figting species, and Henry Strozier provides superb narration throughout. Watch it and you shall be entertained!
Giant Rainforest Mantis in "Death at Midnight"
1. Top Shot - "Catch .22" (History)
As a shooter myself, I love this series because of the exciting and atypical challenges the show's producers create. In this entry the original field of sixteen has been reduced to eight, and two of the show's earliest rivals compete to avoid elimination. The weapons this week: the good ol' Ruger 10/22 .22 cal rifle and a Smith & Wesson .22 cal revolver. Hijinx lighten the mood to get the episode started and a solemn U.S.M.C. tradition is later observed. 'Cowboy Action Shooting Expert' Spencer Hoglund coaches the shooters in more accurate, quicker tactics and, unsurprisingly, finds Jay the least open to change. George Reinas complains about this week's choice of weapon, says some funny stuff and makes an unintentionally funny face (during the hijinx). The art of pure marksmanship takes center stage in this exceedingly fun episode I highly recommend you catch! Does Jay bring the civilian magic yet again? For sure an "awesome" mess is made.
* Enjoy this week's Weapons Rundown clip (below) describing the history of .22 caliber firearms.
Of the twenty-two and a half hours of primetime programming watched to compile this Week in Review The Good Wife & Private Practice came closest to making my Scripted List, Working Class and Rules of Engagement very nearly made my Sitcoms List, with TLC's What Not to Wear being the one show to just barely miss my Reality Shows List.
It's gonna suck not having The Clone Wars Report in my column for so long, that's a series I'm already missing. :(
To see all the shows I viewed this week click here.
Thanks for hanging with me over the past few weeks as my column found its new form and focus. Hopefully this week will bring good luck for us all. Be Well & Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly