Senior TV Columnist Nightfly recaps & reviews his favorite shows from the previous week of primetime programming.
TV Week in Review (week of 2/13/11)
Before kicking off this week I'd like to first apologize for neglecting to mention last week's premiere of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. It slipped past my radar and I'll have to check it out online to catch up. I'm not sure it's a show I'll end up liking but I at least wanted to give it a look. Regarding regular column business, CBS took three of my four Sitcom spots, only ABC scored more than one Scripted List slot, Spartacus returns to my column, Top Gear is surprisingly omitted, and what was formerly reserved as my Guilty Pleasure Award is now a renamed home for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This Wednesday brings the season premiere of America's Next Top Model (hosted by Tyra Banks) and the series debut of Shedding for the Wedding (hosted by Sara Rue) both on CW. Also premiering this Wednesday are Speed Channel series Car Warriors & Car Science. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena airs its mini-series finale this Friday, I predict it'll be quite the spectacle.
* Potential Spoilers Below *
6. Primeval - "4.7" (BBC-America)
Writer Paul Mousley (Hollyoaks) keeps the action steady while still delivering the most story-heavy episode of the season; expertly directed by Mark Everest (Law & Order: UK). A cascade of revelations and surprising events unfold, chief among them the brief reunion, conflict, and departure of brothers Ethan & Danny (Jason Flemyng, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Anderson's confession that he's not of our time, and the truth that his mission is to stop his post-apocalyptic future from occurring. Beautiful Emily Merchant - instantly one of my favorite characters in a long time - returns home to 1867 tearfully leaving behind the first man she might've ever loved. The temporal anomolies become dangerously more anomolous and start multiplying at a catastrophic rate. While the ARC team battles Ethan and grapples with the "seriously weird" anomolies, they must also contend with larger-than-man sized Dodo birds from the Pleistocene era unusually resistant to their weaponry. Ruth Bradley's obvious talent made me an instant fan, for her story alone I highly recommend this entry.
* Past character Helen Cutter is mentioned in this story. Since this is my first season watching Primeval, I went here to learn more about her.
Jason Flemyng, Ruth Bradley & Ciarán McManamin in Primeval
5. The Cape - "The Lich, Pt.1" (NBC)
Fleming's brash attempt to buy his own port compels insane Conrad Chandler (a.k.a. The Lich) to stop him with a plan to turn Palm City's residents into zombies. Dana's grief at Vince's loss is magnified when her friend and co-worker Travis Hall mistakes her affection for flirting, while Vince struggles with the nightmare of being dead to his family. Eminent guests Tom Noonan (RoboCop 2), Alicia Lagano (CSI, Dexter), Glenn Fitzgerald (Dirty Sexy Money), Natalie Morales (The Middleman), and Illeana Douglas intensify the drama, and, surprisingly The Cape & Chief Voyt collaborate to thwart The Lich's attack. This chilling episode is the first half of a mysterious two part tale.
David Lyons is The Cape in "The Lich, Pt.1"
4. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - "Reckoning" (STRZ)
What appears to've once been a honorable ludus, under Batiatus' brief stewardship, fell to deceit, rape, and now homicide all due to desperation & debauchery. Lucretia trailblazed the most dishonorable paths, while Batiatus' primary crime was ambition. Though most of this mini-series' uglier, darker aspects persist here the beyond-stellar acting combined with Diona's hopeful escape elevate this entry above recent offerings and earn it rightful placement on this List. Crixus' rise to House Champion is depicted - a hollow victory that surprisingly seals the fate of Melitta in addition to Gannicus. Incredible acting, combat, and music make this one 'must-see' and guarantee I'll be watching this week's upcoming season finale.
Lesley-Ann Brandt holding Jessica Grace Smith in "Reckoning"
3. No Ordinary Family - "No Ordinary Powell" (ABC)
Whereas last week left me wondering, this week conclusively shows Steph sees Dr. King for what he is and is now in a position to counteract him. J.J. & Daphne suspensefully bring closure for Natalie (Tarver) by discovering her mother's killer and retrieving her mother's locket. Gorgeous ginger Rebecca Mader closes out her guest run with a thrilling battle of Jims that literally had me on the edge of my seat. Josh and Steph come to a mutual understanding, King learns the entire Powell family is superpowered, and George uncovers King's adoptive connection to Victoria (Mader). Sonny Postiglione (Human Target, NYPD Blue) & Exec-Producer Ali Adler (Chuck) pen this sensational epi, an entertaining ride I heartily recommend! John Kapelos (Flight 29 Down, Stick It) also guests.
Julie Benz & Michael Chiklis in "No Ordinary Powell"
2. Nikita - "Alexandra" (CW)
Bouncing back from an epi I didn't much care for last week, this entry prevails despite my approaching it rather skeptically. Secrets from Alex's past come to light and the alliance between Michael & Nikita is reforged. Out on a routine mission Alex bumps into an old friend leading to a reunion with her former slaver and the revelation that she is secretly a royal princess. Mark Ivanir (Fringe, CSI: Miami) villainously guests as sex-trafficker Vlad while Canadian stunner Ksenia Solo (Life Unexpected, Black Swan) plays Alex's friend Irina; a past and ongoing victim of Vlad's. Director Kenneth Fink (Fringe, CSI) impressively helms this provocative character study compellingly penned by Andrew Colville (Mad Men, The 4400). As this series is as much Alex's as it is Nikita's, this epi should be considered essential to understanding Alex's origins and the root(s) of her underlying strength.
* Please visit Stop Child Trafficking Now, look over their menus, and consider joining their Red With Love campaign. Millions of lives are touched by this monstrous crime each year but there are things you can do to help stop it. Check out this video by DoTheExtraordinary and share it with like-minded friends. This global scourge is only getting worse, not better, and good people need to step up to end it!
Ksenia Solo & Lyndsy Fonseca in "Alexandra"
1. V - "Siege" (ABC)
If you're at all interested in this series, you'd be wise not to miss this explosive episode in which major characters are killed, a potentially powerful new alliance is formed, and Erica simultaneously clears her name with the FBI while becoming the new head of The Fifth Column. Father Jack Landry is officially defrocked and all out war breaks out in the street in this intensely dramatic entry written by series co-producer Dean Widenmann (CSI: Miami) & directed by John Behring (Hellcats, Dark Blue). Unfortunately for Erica, The Fifth Column is subverted and deeply penetrated by yet another mole now covertly answerable to Anna. Incredible performances by Elizabeth Mitchell, Morena Baccarin, Morris Chestnut, Oded Fehr, and Nicholas Lea propelled this epi to my Top of the List position. For awhile, at the end, the only thing missing was Morton Downey Jr. yelling, "Where's the mayor!?" Simply an awesome episode. I'm actually trying not to give too much away.
Morris Chestnut & Elizabeth Mitchell in "Siege"
The Clone Wars Report - Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "The Citadel" (TOON)
Writer Matt Michnovetz (24) crafts an exciting prison break story (complete with torture droid) in which Jedis assault The Citadel - a facility specializing in breaking Jedi - to rescue Jedi-General Evan Piell. Control over the Nexus Route drives this action-fueled epi, featuring the introduction of Captain Tarkin, upgraded Jedi-fighting droids, R2 reprogramming battle droids, Ahsoka disobeying a direct order from Anakin, and the L.A. Lakers inspired K2-B4 droid you can read more about here. I loved the ratcheted up action and tension, the close quarters lightsaber combat, Snips' contributions to the mission, and the first meeting (and instant distrust) between Ani & Tarkin all make this an epi I'm eager to recommend. Home theater owners will notice the richness of this entry's colors and sound, a fantastic first chapter to this Citadel-centric trilogy.
* Hopefully you noticed this section's new name - pronouncing the 't' at the end is optional. From now on during weeks in which The Clone Wars airs this section will be so named... when The Clone Wars isn't offering new epis (like for instance next week) its moniker will revert back to normal.
Snips, Ani, & Obi-Wan in "The Citadel"
Guest Star of the Week: Sarah Jones on Justified (FX)
Sarah Jones @ Justified's s2 Premiere Party
Trivia Question of the Week: Which other FX series is Sarah Jones most known for recently appearing on? [answered]
Current Medal Standing:
~ Last week's answer: The Simpsons (Winner: misac)
* Outstanding Sitcoms *
4. Mad Love - "Fireworks" (CBS)
If HIMYM has a sibling show this is most definitely it, and not just because all three female leads have appeared on it. Though Sarah Wright (as Tiffany) is listed as guest cast I'm assuming, as Connie's employer, we'll see lots more of her which is cool since she's one of the pilot's funniest characters. Sarah Chalke and Judy Greer are as enchanting as always and since both are actresses I adore, 'sorry other shows', this just became one of my new most favorite series - expect to see it on this Sitcoms List a lot. Besides the casting, the show's tenor and tone more closely matches HIMYM than any other series I've seen come along since. Series creator Matt Tarses' (Scrubs, Sports Night) enagaging pilot script is charmingly directed by Pamela Fryman (Two and a Half Men, Just Shoot Me!) deftly setting up the friendship between Munsch (Tyler Labine, Invasion) and Ben (Jason Biggs). With HIMYM nearing the end of its sixth season I couldn't be happier to have this romantic gem as its successor. It's sweet, funny, well-cast and I love it!
Jason Biggs & Sarah Chalke in "Fireworks"
3. $#*! My Dad Says - "Who's Your Daddy" (CBS)
This series' freshman season finale brings Bonnie & Vince welcome, though unexpected, news and Ed a cliff-hanging introduction to a son he never knew he had. Writer Steve Gabriel (Will & Grace) & director Steve Zuckerman (According to Jim) expertly utilize guests Riki Lindhome (BtVS), Camille Donatacci Grammer, and journeyman thesp Joel Brooks (Shake It Up!) to deliver one of the funnier episodes this season. Shatner's exceedingly hilarious, Vince & Bonnie made me LOL, and Laura Griffin's a character I'd surely like to see more of? Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) is repeatedly mentioned and amusingly teased, and, Facebook gets name checked as well. A strong close to a very successful first season.
William Shatner as Ed in "Who's Your Daddy"
2. Parks and Recreation - "Media Blitz" (NBC)
To publicize the all-important Harvest Festival the Parks and Recreation department embarks on a media blitz that spotlights members of Pawnee's broadcast community and reveals Ben Wyatt's humorous stage fright while on-air. Ron continues helping Andy win April back which is, finally, successfully accomplished in this epi. Ann's future with Chris is still to be determined but with April reuniting with Andy it appears she won't be following Chris afterall. RoboCop, Oprah, and Brooks Brothers get namedropped in one of my favorite episodes from this series this season. Pawnee media figures spotlighted include Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins, MADtv), Shauna Malwae-Tweep (Alison Becker, Mayne Street), Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson), Crazy Ira (Matt Besser, Reno 911!), & The Douche (Nick Kroll, The League). AltaVista.
* You can play with Crazy Ira & The Douche's soundboard here, and watch three (3) deleted scenes from the epi here.
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in "Media Blitz"
1. How I Met Your Mother - "Desperation Day" (CBS)
As Valentine's Day approaches Barney declares February thirteenth 'Desperation Day', because on the eve of Valentine's Day women are desperate to make dates for the following day. This epi picks up right where the last one left off, with Ted & Zoey kissing in the hallway. Consumed by missing Marshall, Lily goes to his mom's house to retrieve him only to be joined there by Ted who's cowardly hiding from a mistake he made with Zoey. Robin's new work friends are introduced, a darling trio comprised of Artemis Pebdani (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Lennon Parham (Accidentally on Purpose), and award winning beauty Nazanin Boniadi (HawthoRNe) as Nora, the object of Barney's latest obsession. Notable nods are given to Nintendo's Super Mario, Huey Lewis & The News, Sleepless in Seattle, Urkel, and Arnold's Predator which [in particular] gets served with much love. Probably for the last time ever Suzie Plakson & Bill Fagerbakke both guest in an episode, truly an emotional landmark in Marshall's adulthood. An undeniably significant epi, not just for Marshall but for Ted & potentially Barney as well.
Cobie Smulders & Neil Patrick Harris in "Desperation Day"
* Reality Shows *
3. Top Shot - "Shoot or Be Shot" (History)
The most entertaining epi this season comes from revisiting the prohibition era, as competitors first shoot a .38 cal Official Police revolver and later unleash two fully automatic Tommy Guns - the heater that made the '20s roar. Dissent rears its head on the Blue Team though in the end they earn their first (team) win. Now expert instructors, while prepping contestants for the team challenges, will choose an "Expert Pick" from each team based on their mastery of that day's lessons. The first "Expert Picks", in regards to the .38 caliber handgun, were Brian 'Gunny' Zins (for the Red Team) and Department of Homeland Security instructor Jermaine Finks (for the Blue). Even though the Blue Team honorably lets the Red Team's injured man sit out, the Red Team still loses the day thereafter nominating "Pride of the Navy" Jamie Franks, and, three time world champion Athena Lee to compete head to head for elimination. Jamie & Athena fire Thompson submachine guns in their elimination challenge with Athena Lee unfortunately firing "her last shot." This entry was extra unique in that shooters, for the first time in series history, were themselves under fire (from paintballs) throughout part of the Team competition; a practice I'd appreciate seeing repeated.
* Athena's departure leaves only one female competitor remaining. Meet professional shooter Maggie Reese in this web exclusive video via Hulu.
* Here are a couple bonus vids from The History Channel; The Anatomy of a Shot about the inclusion of paintball fire, and, a Weapons Rundown featurette covering the Tommy Gun challenge.
World Champion Athena Lee for Top Shot
2. Top Chef: All-Stars - "Lock Down" (Bravo)
With the competition boiled down to "The Magnificent Seven" the proverbial targets on their backs were made real with an overnite Elimination Challenge in a 'locked down' Target store. Far more entertaining though, is the Sesame Street inspired Quickfire Challenge featuring guest judges Cookie Monster, Telly Monster, and Elmo selecting the finest cookie made in forty-five minutes. Unsurprisingly Blais employs liquid nitrogen for this challenge. Dale and Antonia most impress the muppets with Dale emerging victor; especially noteworthy since this was his first attempt baking cookies. Target home designer Thomas O'Brien & Chef Ming Tsai join in as guest judges for the Elimination Challenge - its $25k prize the largest non-finale cash award in TC history. Chef Dale Talde again scores the win, this time for a tasty tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches cooked with clothes irons. Sadly, fan favorite Angelo Sosa gets asked to "pack his knives" for an intolerably over-salted potato soup. This fast-paced entry is fun, intense, and a joy for me to recommend. COOKIE!!!
Telly, Cookie Monster, Padma, & Elmo in "Lock Down"
1. An Idiot Abroad - "Egypt" (SCI)
Ricky's practical joke on Karl, otherwise known as the entirety of this series, gets particularly profound this week as poor Karl stays in the same Windsor Hotel Michael Palin once stayed in, but in a severely dilapidated room next door to the (much much nicer) presidential suite Palin famously occupied. On the streets of Cairo Karl is fast annoyed by the persistence of merchants 'politely' introducing themselves 'n hassling him with offers of goods & services. Amusing (Ricky-ordered) activities include another scrotum abusing camel ride, getting Karl to unwittingly eat a meal of male animal genitalia, assigning the purchase and modeling of a Fez hat, and an astonishingly informative (and forced) trip to The Egyptian Museum. It takes two trips to The Giza Plateau before Karl gets a clear look at the Great Pyramids due to a sandstorm, and of course, once seen his actions and comments are [typically] outrageous. Pop-cultural references to Planet of the Apes, the game Jenga, the The Bangles' hit "Walk Like an Egyptian", and the utility of Snow White's dwarves get discussed. My favorite moments were Karl impressing the Belly Dancer, his time with the new agers, and his unintentionally comedic commentary at KFC's Community Care Restaurant. Karl's ignorance about the Pyramids is a wonder in itself to behold, you should see it.
Karl Pilkington is An Idiot Abroad in Egypt
Of the thirty-four plus hours of primetime programming I watched to compile this column the shows coming closest to my Scripted List were Glee, Fringe, Hellcats, Hawaii Five-0, Justified, and Private Practice. Two and a Half Men, The Simpsons, Mike & Molly, and Raising Hope just missed my Sitcoms List, while the Reality bench was filled by Top Gear, Face Off, and What Not to Wear.
This column is publishing later than I'd like so I'm gonna keep it short and just say thanks, as always, for your ongoing interest and support. Be Well & Happy Viewing!
Written or Contributed by: Nightfly