Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 TV in Review

This was a good year for TV. Too good. I had to upgrage from a normal 40-hour TiVo to a dual-tuner 80-hour TiVo. Now that I've started watching Scrubs, I have my first 3-way scheduling conflict (new episodes of Scrubs are on at the same time as Grey's Anatomy and The O.C.). In a way, I almost hope some stuff gets cancelled in 2007 so that I can actually stop watching TV. For now though, it's all just too good. Here are more 2006-in-reviews lists:

Top 5 Returning Shows

[1] Prison Break: The tension-building first season ended with eight inmates breaking out of Fox River, and the second season followed up with the nail-biting adventures of the eight on the run and often the victim of the political conspiracy that would see the escapees dead rather than re-captured. Often far-fecthed or even downright preposterous, I can forgive all the coincidences and instances of convenient timing for the pure suspense and intrigue of it all. This is a show that doesn't let up or slow down.
[2] House: I started watching this show late but enjoyed catching up. It's second season finale was not as good as the previous episodes but led to a season three premiere that had House walking without the cane or the Vicodin. His cure was temporary though, and House's attitude and addiction would lead to the provocation of his greatest adversary yet, a detective named Tritter who will stop at nothing to see House prosecuted for practicing medicine while addicted to narcotics. The last episode before the Christmas hiatus almost left House in danger of going to jail.
[3] Lost: While the six-episode arc of the third season is not that great so far, the last half of the second season was full of mystery & surprises, including the death of Ana-Lucia & Libby at Michael's hands, the revelation of what caused the crash of flight 815, and the capture of Jack, Sawyer, and Kate by the Others.
[4] Grey's Anatomy: While I'm not as thrilled with this series as most people are, the post-Super Bowl two-parter and the three-part season finale were forces to be reckoned with. The third season so far is not as spectacular but is holding steady.
[5] Battlestar Galactica: After the intense Pegasus/Cain story arc, several episodes of the season two's second half were duds, but they made up for it with the massive New Caprica story arc that took up the season two finale and the first four episodes of season three.

Top 5 New Fall Shows

[1] Heroes: Despite my skepticism that a show about people with superpowers would catch on, much less grab critical acclaim (including a Golden Globe nomination), this seems to be the hot new show of the season and helped revive NBC (or at least their Monday night line-up).
[2] Men In Trees: Despite the lack of positive hype, this show is a pleasant surprise. Getting moved from 9:00 on Fridays to 10:00 on Thursdays (after Grey's Anatomy) may help this quirky, romantic dramedy find the attention it deserves.
[3] Jericho: Another unexpected surprise is the quality of storytelling in this apacolyptic drama about a small Kansas town surviving and dealing with the nuking of dozens of major U.S. cities. With a sprawling cast, an interesting look into survival, and the obligatory conspiracy group, this show has lots of directions it can take.
[4] Ugly Betty: This dramedy makes fun of cliches in the world of fashion and celebrities and avoids some other cliches you would expect them to make. This show has great performances and good character interaction. The fashion stuff is a little annoying though.
[5] Standoff: This show has a nice combination of police-style drama, humor, sexiness, and action. While the last few episodes have not been as impressive, this show leaped out of the gate with a lot of potential.

Top 5 Comebacks

[1] The West Wing: I had all been given up on this show when the intriguing storyline about the competition to replace Bartlett heated up. The presidential campaigns and election gave a lot of opportunity for new story directions.
[2] Survivor: The winter/spring season was a major disappointment, but the fall season was one of the best yet. With the racial diversity, ethnically divided teams, surprising admissions of admiration to Candice by Billy, the Candice mutiny, the Jonathon flip-flopping, the larger jury, the first time with a final three (instead of final two), and the most enjoyable and watchable alliances (Yul/Becky/Ozzie/Sundra) ever, this show regained my respect.
[3] The O.C.: After a dismal season three, they finally killed off Marissa (THANK YOU). Despite the continued focus on the Marissa death aftermath in the first few episodes of season four, the show took a positive direction with the hooking-up of Ryan and Taylor, a very odd couple that's becoming the main reason to watch.
[4] Gilmore Girls: After a dismal season six and a forehead-smacking season finale, as well as the departure of creator/exec-producer Amy Sherman-Palladino and her writer/director husband Dan, the show made the best of what it had to work with under new leader David Rosenthal. While the Lorelai-Christopher marriage is going too far the other direction, Luke's newfound daughter April and Rory's long-distance boyfriend Logan are both becoming easier to stomach. It's not back to the superb quality of the first five seasons, but recovering from season six was a challenge I wasn't sure the show could achieve.
[5] Desperate Housewives: Out of all dismal seasons, I think DH's second year was the worst. It's still not great and will probably never return to its freshman year greatness, but DH's season three has become far more watchable. That's still not saying a lot, and I still debate whether it's a lost cause or not.

Most Disappointing Cancellation

Commander-in-Chief: Probably already forgotten by many, this was one of my favorite shows in the 2005-2006 season. The show being about a female president was not the problem. Behind-the-scenes turmoil saw the executive producer replaced--twice. Eventually, the show became too much trouble, somehow slipped off the radar, and was cancelled. In terms of writing, acting, and overall story quality, it still deserved a second season.

Shows That Deserve More Credit Than Given

Stargate: SG-1
Stargate: Atlantis
The Nine
Six Degrees

Best Show I Haven't Been Watching But Will Start Watching Now


Best Show That's Still Good But Dropped Off the Radar

Boston Legal

Good Shows That Aren't As Good As Some People Say They Are

Brothers & Sisters
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Show I'm This [ ] Close to Giving Up On

Desperate Housewives

My Top 10 Movie List of 2006

Okay, now that I totally bashed A. O. Scott for his top ten list in my last blog entry, now it's time to give my own top ten list, which may be equally as frustrating to some.

I'll have to confess right up front, that I only saw about 20 movies in the theater this year. All of them, except Talladega Nights, are reviewed at my MySpace page, and some of the more recent ones are included here at Blogger as well. I hope to see The Queen some time in the next few days. If it or any other 2006 movies I see later deserve to be in the top ten, I'll update my list accordingly (but will probably only go to the trouble if I see it in the theater in January or February, not on video several months later).

Anyway, out of only 20 movies, a top ten list is really more like a "Better Half" list, but I gave all ten of these movies between a B+ and A rating, which all rank as 4-stars or 5-stars on my 1-to-5 star system (no half-stars). But, at least it's a fairly mainstream list, something the average person may be able to appreciate (no documentaries or foreign language films in the bunch).

[10] The Nativity Story

Although you can often tell when a biblical city in the distance is really a matte painting or computer graphic, the movie delivers an interesting and faithful portrayal of the birth of Christ. The movie helps flesh out the political climate of the time, people's skepticism toward Mary's claim of her virgin pregnancy, and a theory as to what kind of husband Joseph may have been. While connecting all the dots from the Bible as carefully as possible, the writers take creative license with the wise men from the East, lending to the movie some humor, a demonstration of faith, and a sense of wonder.

[09] My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Panned by many but strongly recommended by a friend of mine at work, this movie takes a comical approach to the concept of superheroes, and for me, was more entertaining and enjoyable than Superman Returns. Uma Thurman is perfect as the mentally unstable female superhero struggling to have a relationship with an average man.

[08] V for Vendetta

Based on a graphic novel, V for Vendetta paints an intriguing picture of a fascist, future Britain in which one masked radicalist wants to complete a feat attempted by Guy Fawkes several hundred years prior--blowing up the Houses of Parliament as a political statement. Although a bit too violent at times, the film is unique, unpredictable, thought-provoking, and enjoyable.

[07] World Trade Center

An emotional story about two police officers trapped in the rubble at ground zero on 9/11, World Trade Center delivers excellent performances, especially from Maggie Gyllenhall and Maria Bello, who play the wives of the trapped officers.

[06] Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith skillfully carries this movie, portraying an intelligent man extremely down on his luck financially. Forced to raise his son alone on almost no cash while enrolled in a prestigious, non-paying internship at Dean Witter, this is a great story about dreams, determination, and survival. Will Smith's real-life son does a great job in the role of the main character's son.

[05] Casino Royale

A re-boot to the long-lived James Bond franchise, Casino Royale delivers action, drama, romance, and even a little humor with Daniel Craig playing a new 007 of less experience, fewer gadgets, and a cat-like physicality. Royale makes one look forward to future Bond movies which may delve into a continuing story arc, if internet rumors are correct. Men, beware the torture scene; it's not easy to sit through.

[04] Cars

A movie in which humans don't exist and automobiles are the people is made believable through some of Pixar's best computer graphics yet and excellent performances from the voice cast. Visually impressive, funny, and heart-felt, this movie delivers for viewers of all ages.

[03] The Lake House

While never explaining just how a man from 2004 and a woman from 2006 can communicate to each other through a magical mailbox at a lake house they both own (at different times), this movie delivers believable romantic drama. In addition to excellent performances by Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, the movie includes superb camerawork and a real architectural appreciation for the city of Chicago.

[02] The Prestige

With a double twist that no one should spoil for you, this is a must-see-twice story about obsessed magicians competing over the perfect magic trick in turn-of-the-century London. Written & directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johanssen, and the excellent Michael Caine, this movie has enough intrigue, mystery, and overall quality for two movies. I was really tempted to make this my #1 pick for the year.

[01] Akeelah and the Bee

Yes, that's right, a movie about an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles training and competing her way to the National Spelling Bee is better than all the superhero movies, better than James Bond, better than Pixar, etc. I never would have thought it.

Severely overlooked while it was in theaters, I watched Akeelah and the Bee again on DVD today (thank goodness I got it as a Christmas present), and it confirmed how much I liked it in the first place. The publicity it got made it sound like an artsy fartsy film, but it really feels more mainstream than that. In a way, it's like a sports movie, only instead of playing football or basketball, this underdog spells words.

It may sound boring, but it's not. Skillfully written & directed by Doug Atchison and starring Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett, the movie has a good pace, smart dialogue, and excellent performances. It tugs at the heart but in a way that feels genuine. The movie earns every laugh and--okay I'll admit it--every tear. While not as intriguing or visually impressive as The Prestige, it is the unexpected emotional impact in Akeelah and the Bee that put the movie over the top for my #1 spot.

A Rant About Artsy-Fartsy Top 10's

I miss Roger Ebert (still recovering from salivary gland cancer), but I still watch Ebert & Roeper, with Richard Roeper and revolving guest critics, every weekend. I tend to thing of Ebert as the more reasonable, more open-minded one, but with him on medical hiatus, Richard Roeper sometimes becomes the voice of reason compared to some of his guest reviewers.

I was especially disappointed with the choices made on this weekend's Top 10 of 2006 edition of Ebert & Roeper. Roeper did okay, choosing mostly mainstream movies. I have not seen any of the ten movies in his list (technically, eleven, because he counted Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima together as his #3 spot), but I have been tempted to see several of them or wouldn't mind sitting through others.

For instance, I still want to see The Queen (his #2 pick), United 93 (his #4), and maybe even The Good Shepherd (#8). I wasn't interested in Little Miss Sunshine (his #9), but I've heard such consistently positive reviews, I may have to give in after all. And, I could probably sit through The Departed (his #1) if I were sufficiently persuaded, and I just haven't heard enough about Babel (his #6) to know for sure.

However... A.O. Scott, a columnist for the NY Times and frequent guest critic, was sitting in for Roger Ebert this week and gave a bizarre top ten list. Six out of his top ten were foreign language films, one was a documentary, and he confessed that he gave Prarie Home Companion the #10 spot not because it was the tenth best movie of the year but as a tribute to its director Robert Altman who passed away recently.

Don't get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so his top is his top ten (and mine will be mine). However, I don't think Scott's list is representative of what the average movie-goer would typically appreciate, and therefore, I think a more mainstream critic should have been selected to help sum up the year in Ebert's place. Most of the films he listed have probably only been released in big cities. Several of them, I've never even heard of before.

I guess the point of a positive review is that you encourage someone to see something they wouldn't normally have thought to be good. However, many people consider subtitles a deal-breaker. To choose six foreign language films I thinks alienates people more than it encourages them. Again, there's nothing wrong with his choices (he likes what he likes), but I think there is something wrong with the choice to have him on the show.

A. O. Scott filled in for Ebert probably between three to five times. But, Aisha Tyler also filled in at least three times. I would have been much more interested in knowing her top ten film list for the year.

Roger, please, come back soon.

For a diverse list of top ten film lists of 2006, check out

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Scrubs: Not a Four-Camera Sitcom, Thank Goodness

I gave up on sitcoms several years ago. It was around the time that Seinfeld had gone off the air, Friends started to get bad, Niles & Daphne were about to hook up on Frasier, Michael J. Fox was about to leave Spin City, and That 70's Show talked too much about sex.

I was getting tired of characters who were always the same, who hardly ever grew or changed, and of storylines that depended far too much on misunderstandings, lack of communication, and coincidences of bad timing to create situations of conflict and/or humor. I also got sick of the laugh tracks and the fake "feel" of the shows. I started preferring one hour dramas (like The Practice, The West Wing, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer--which was good until season six) and shows that did a better job blending drama and comedy (like Ally McBeal).

However... I have had a slight change of heart and have been giving Scrubs a chance, now that its repeats are being shown in great numbers on Comedy Central, WGN, and in syndication. And, I have to confess, I really like it. I like the quirky characters, the complex relationships, the sharp dialogue, the poignant blend of comedy & drama (often in the form of sadness as the show does not ignore the tragedies that sometime occur with hospital patients), and the witty and often bizarre fantasy & daydreaming sequences that take place in main character John Dorian's (J.D.'s) head (ala Ally McBeal).

Last night, I saw a repeat entitled "My Life in Four Cameras" in which J.D. tries to deny the plight of a dying patient by imagining life in the hospital as a typical four-camera sitcom, complete with all the classic sitcom conventions and the laughs from a live studio audience. It was probably meant to be funny and to serve as a bit of a stunt for the show. To me, it helped me realize how ridiculous & unlikable the show could be as a four-camera sitcom. It would be silly (okay, it already is silly but in a way that is endearing, not annoying), the characters would be more archetypical & exaggerated, it would not have the poignant moments because nothing bad would ever truly happen, and we wouldn't get the fantasy sequences that demonstrate what's going on inside J.D.'s quirky mind.

It made me thankful that the show is styled the way it is. As a single-camera show, it allows extensive editing, music, and special effects to enhance the look and the feel of the storytelling. The episodes also feel short (maybe because I've become so used to one-hour dramas). By fast-forwarding through the show's only two commercial breaks, the episodes feel very quick, only about 22 minutes each. Each episode is a concise morality tale, full of laughs, with dialogue, performances, and visual style that are easy to appreciate in a short amount of time.

Just great, like I need yet another TV show to add to my TiVo Season Pass list. ;)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Movie Reviews: The Pursuit of Happyness, Charlotte's Web, The Nativity Story

The Pursuit of Happyness

Based on a true story, Will Smith portrays Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman in 1981 who goes to great lengths to secure a prestigious job to support a life for his son, played by Will Smith's real-life son Jaden.

This is a well told story about an intelligent, resourceful husband & father who hits rock bottom thanks to bad luck & a bad sales investment and who struggles against seemingly insurmountable odds to juggle work, fatherhood, and just finding food & shelter for the night. Losing practically everything but his son & the clothes on his back, Chris skips over the low-paying grunt work option and lands a non-paying internship at Dean Witter in the hopes it will lead to a prize job with long-term financial security for his family.

The film occasionally feels too slow, and if you've seen the previews and can predict the ending, there may not be many surprises in store for you. Ultimately, the film relies & flourishes on the excellent performance by Will Smith and the understandably excellent father-son chemistry he has with his on-screen/real-life son.

If some films are guilty of using sappy background music to help manipulate the emotions of the viewer, I'd say this movie might be guilty of not using enough music or at least not the right kind of music. This movie should have been a tear-jerker but didn't quite cross that line, and I don't think it's the fault of Will Smith or the writing.

Charlotte's Web

Based on a children's story (that I've never read or heard myself), Dakota Fanning plays a young girl growing up on a farm in Maine and who befriends a pet pig that she saves from slaughter and names Wilbur. A bit of an outsider among the horse, two cows, two geese, five sheep, and a rat, Wilbur somehow gains the respect and admiration of a spider named Charlotte A Cavatica (voiced by Julia Roberts). Charlotte is able to use a special spider ability to make people fascinated in Wilbur so that he can once again escape the threat of slaughter.

This is well-told story, nicely geared toward kids but also mature enough for adults. The movie has an all-star cast, including Oprah Winfrey & Robert Redford, to voice the animals occupying the barn with Wilbur, but only Julia Roberts (Charlotte), Steve Buschemi (Templeton the Rat), John Cleese (Samuel the Sheep), and Thomas Haden Church (Brooks the Crow) really sound like themselves.

Thanks to some unexpected drowsiness (that is no fault of the movie's), I dozed off during an entire scene involving the rat and the two crows, and I'm still not sure exactly what Beau Bridges (Stargate: SG-1) was doing in the movie (I think he was a doctor or school principal or something like that). Wikipedia & Internet Movie Database both list Sam Shepard as the Narrator, but he sounded so much like Beau Bridges, why didn't they just get Bridges to do the narration too?

The Nativity Story

Portraying the events leading up to the birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary, this movie skillfully depicts a biblical time period, explains Herod's ruthless & paranoid reign, and portrays the kind of suspicion that Mary would have faced being pregnant while still in the first year of arranged marriage (during which a woman is considered the man's wife although they do not live together or consumate the union yet).

Joseph is shown as being suspicious & conflicted at first himself until a dream from an angel gives him the same faith Mary has. Aside from the moment that Jesus is born, the best parts involve the three wise men who are fleshed out with interesting personalities that reflect faith, logic, humor, and awe.

The visuals are sometimes weak, with matte paintings or models being obvious stand-ins for ancients cities, but the important thing here is the story. It could have felt a little more epic or majestic, especially near the end, but this is a thorough & faithful telling of the nativity story that is worth seeing for all who believe (or all who want to).

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!! See My Geeky Christmas Tree.

Merry Christmas!!! I hope everyone has had a great holiday season and will have a great New Year.

I've been meaning to post pictures of my Christmas tree and maybe even do movie reviews of Christmas movies, but my holiday has been a little busier than I though it'd be. And, when I haven't been busy, I've been lazy.

Here are pics of my Christmas tree, quite possibly the geekiest Christmas tree ever (I collect a lot of Star Wars & Star Trek ornaments from Hallmark). You can click on a pic to see a bigger version.

Here are some profile pics of the tree. This one is a few inches taller than I usually get, but it's not as full, and it's a little lopsided with more branches on the front end than the back end. I actually had to tilt it back toward the window by a few degrees to balance it.

This is the Star Wars section, mostly in the front center of the tree. Hallmark has been doing their Star Wars line for so long that they've started recylcling some characters. So, it may be hard to tell but I have two Darth Vaders (one with lightsaber, one reaching out for Luke from Empire Strikes Back), two Chewbaccas (one shooting crossbow, one shooting with blaster with parts of C3PO in his backpack), and two Princess Leias (one with bun hairdo from A New Hope, one with Jabba slave girl outfit from Return of the Jedi).

This is Star Trek stuff spread out over the top, left side, and bottom-left area of the tree.

These are pictures of the comic book section in the bottom-front area, the angel section on the left side (one of the angels is blocking the view of Gandalf, and he didn't make it in the shot, but Frodo is right beside Gandalf), the lighthouse section right below the angels, and the two Kermit ornaments in the front-left bottom section.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Take on the Golden Globe Nominations Announced this Morning

When Amrie, one of the bloggers at, made her Golden Globe wishlist on Tuesday, I meant to do the same in my own blog, but I've gotten behind. Now, the announcements have been made this morning, so I'll combine my reactions to the real nominations and my wishes for what they should have been, all in one. Here are the nominations, with my picks in bold:

Best Drama Series

  • Heroes

  • Lost

  • Grey's Anatomy

  • Big Love

  • 24

Who Got Left Out: House, Battlestar Galactica, Prison Break
Commentary: I'm shocked Heroes got nominated, but also disappointed that House wasn't. I'm okay with Lost and Grey's Anatomy getting nominated too although Lost has been uneven lately, and I don't like Grey's as much as most people do. I don't watch Big Love because I don't have premium cable channels, and I'm the only upright-walking primate who doesn't like 24.

Best Drama Lead Actor

  • Hugh Laurie (House)

  • Patrick Dempsey (Grey's Anatomy)

  • Bill Paxton (Big Love)

  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)

  • Kiefer Sutherland (24)

Who Got Left Out: James Spader (Boston Legal), Edward James Olmos (Batttlestar Galactica), Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Denis Leary (Rescue Me), Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Commentary: This category really needs to be expanded to 10 or 12 nominees; so many good choices got ignored. Hugh Laurie has got to get this one; anything else would be a travesty. Out of these, the only other show I watch is Grey's Anatomy, but Dempsey doesn't stand out in my mind. Without premium cable, I don't know about Paxton & Hall's performances, and the commercials for 24 alone make me think Kiefer Sutherland consistently over-acts.

Best Drama Lead Actress

  • Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy)

  • Evangeline Lilly (Lost)

  • Patricia Arquette (Medium)

  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

  • Edie Falco (The Sopranos)

Who Got Left Out: Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy), Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica), Anne Heche (Men in Trees)
Commentary: I only watch Grey's and Lost (have also seen an episode or two of Medium), so Pompeo wins in my book by default. I'm unsure as to whether Lilly deserves the nomination, and I don't think she's quite good enough to win. I'd also be okay with Arquette winning since I've never seen the other two shows.

Best Comedy Series

  • Ugly Betty

  • Desperate Housewives

  • The Office

  • Entourage

  • Weeds

Commentary: I gave up on sitcoms long ago, but with new one-hour Ugly Betty in the Comedy category, I have a great show to root for again. Desperate Housewives is in decline and doesn't deserve it. I've never seen Weeds, but is it even a comedy?

Best Comedy Lead Actor

  • Zach Braff (Scrubs)

  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

  • Steve Carrell (The Office)

  • Jason Lee (My Name is Earl)

  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Commentary: Like I said, I gave up on sitcoms. However, I have started watching Scrubs reruns on Comedy Central, so I'll go with Zach Braff by default. My guess is that Tony Shaloub will get it. I actually have seen an occastional episode of Monk; it's okay but not award-worthy.

Best Comedy Lead Actress

  • America Ferrera (Ugly Betty)

  • Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives)

  • Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives)

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (New Adventures of Old Christine)

  • Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)

Who Got Left Out: Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls)
Commentary: No Lauren Graham again?!? Is she related to Susan Lucci? Despite the bad writing on Desperate Housewives last season, the performances have still been strong. Huffman & Cross are the best two on DH. However, my pick is definitely America Ferrera for Ugly Betty.

Best Series/Mini-Series/TV-Movie Supporting Actor

  • Masi Oka (Heroes)

  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage)

  • Thomas Haden Church (Broken Trail)

  • Jeremy Irons (Elizabeth I)

  • Justin Kirk (Weeds)

Who Got Left Out: Forest Whitaker (The Shield)
Commentary: I actually predicted on the TVAddict blog that Masi Oka might deserve a nomination for Best Actor as Hiro on Heroes. I'm thrilled to see that I was half right and that he's at least nominated in the Supporting category (which looks like a mixed bag; I guess since Golden Globes include big screen movies too that they have to condense their Supporting TV categories to include series, mini-series, and TV movies).

Best Series/Mini-Series/TV-Movie Supporting Actress

  • Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)

  • Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy)

  • Toni Collette (Tsunami, The Aftermath)

  • Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)

  • Emily Blunt (Gideon's Daughter)

Who Got Left Out: Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls), Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty)
Commentary: I got another prediction half right. I thought Sarah Paulson might get a Lead Actress nomination for Studio 60, so Supporting is better than nothing. While I'm not thrilled with Studio 60 overall, or even Paulson's character (which is often used as the pawn for social commentary), her performance is great (who else does perfect impressions of Holly Hunter and Juliette Lewis -- in fact, who else would bother trying???). I also watch Grey's Anatomy. Katherine Heigl was excellent as Izzie in the last half of season two, but after her fiance died in the season finale, I felt her season three performance was overly melodramatic. Perhaps that should be blamed more on the writing, and if so, I'd be okay if she got the win too.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"Semi-Live" Blog: Studio 60: Very Special Christmas Episode (on the Sunset Strip)

Entitled: "The Christmas Show"

Danny & Jordan are in a doctor's waiting room. Jordan takes a poll, and she is the only pregnant woman present who is not with a husband or the father of the woman's baby. Danny goes back to the exam room with Jordan. Their chat seems to imply that Danny is not the father as some people online have theorized. She says the father is an ex-boyfriend. He questions how it is she and that guy didn't know about the plethora of different birth control methods available. She tells the doctor that her assistant and Danny are the only ones who know she's pregnant.


Commentary: Rats! I, like many, thought maybe Danny was the father--that maybe the two of them hooked up off camera sometime. I guess not. Not only does Danny have no concern that it could be his, but his comment about birth control implies that even if he and Jordan had hooked up in the past, he would have insisted on protection.


Matt brings in a sad looking, half-dead Christmas tree into the writers room--odd, since he's Jewish. Matt, for some reason, is eager to do a Christmas show, even though Wes, the old executive producer, always skipped it because he thought it didn't feel very "L.A." In fact, Matt is insisting on a Christmas show.

Danny tells Cal & Matt about Jordan's pregnancy behind closed doors. They ask who the father is, and Danny says is is the insurance guy who "outed" Danny [on his drug use that screwed up his film contract before getting the Studio 60 gig].

Jack is in an extremely foul mood about an FCC fine when Jordan goes to tell him she's pregnant. She says she's due in the middle of May. Jack wants to know who the father is. Jack congratulates her on the baby.


Commentary: Wow, the first thing people ask Jordan is who the father is. Is that okay in real life? Surely there's got to be a taboo about that. Don't get me wrong, that would be the first thing to cross my mind too, but I'd like to think I'd have the tact to say or ask something else first. There's, "Congratulations!" and then, "Who's the father?". There's, "Wow, that's great! I don't know what to say. Is everything okay? You doing good? It's healthy? You're healthy?" and then, "So, uh, who's the father?". I wonder if Jordan will get the chance to tell one of the other female characters, and if so, I wonder what they'll say first.


Cal tells Matt he can write in as much snow as he wants because they just got a load of coconuts (during the last act, they had a discussion about how they could turn coconut-covered treats into snowballs). When Matt asks Tom & Simon for Christmas ideas, Simon complains about Jesus being born in Africa but looking like Bee Gee, and Tom clarifies that the star of Bethlehem was actually comet. When Matt tells them to help his writing staff, Tom admits that he likes Lucy.

Harriet is at lunch with a movie guy (director? producer? casting director?) named Luke. He asks about her future plans and suggests for her a part in his Rolling Stones movie (Anita Palemburg? Not sure who that is).

The writers are bantering about ideas and some stuff about a Christmas poem having the wrong words. Cal comes in with a coconut. He asks how to open it. Darius says you use a machete (sp?). Cal, instead, tries to break it on the table, cracking the table in half with everything on it sliding toward the gap between the two halves and into the floor.

If Jordan's baby is due in May, Matt wonders who will do the upfronts. He's surprised by how much interest & concern Danny has about the question.

Harriet tells Matt about the role offer from Luke. Matt seems to think Luke has interest in Harriet and that that is why he offered her the part.

Danny expresses concern to Jordan about her being due around the time of the upfronts, thinking she could go into labor while she's introducing NBS's fall schedule.


Commentary: I like Aaron Sorkin's writing when he's profound and witty. It usually came off better on The West Wing. Sometimes, however, is writing is a bit over my head. Not *way* over my head; I'm not stupid. But, sometimes, it's hard to follow exactly what some of his characters are saying when they're not just coming right out and saying it or what some characters are thinking when they overact to something. This last act of this episode was like that. I just didn't catch everything. Despite having it TiVo'ed, I don't feel too motivated to rewind to re-catch everything either.

Unless things better, I have a feeling I'm not going to like this episode as much as the Canadians that gave it glowing reviews this morning at Ain't It Cool News and

I'm beginning to wonder if maybe Danny could be the father of Jordan's baby afterall. He's acting oddly interested in her pregnancy. Maybe they did have a one-night stand, and maybe Jordan is just blowing it off because she doesn't think he's a likely candidate (maybe they used protection but it just didn't work, I don't know).


Cal shows Matt that they have a snow machine. He's happy about that but concerned when he sees a Santa Claus in a Heil Hitler pose. Cal agrees to get rid of the Santa Claus.

The writers are still nitpicking over minutia like when Jesus was born and when the image of Santa Claus was invented. Simon still insists that Jesus was African (wouldn't he be more like Middle-Eastern, which maybe be similar but not quite the same thing?), and Matt's assistant is drying her socks on Matt's wimpy Christmas tree.

Jack and other board members are discussing the FCC violation that occurred on NBS news (one of those things explained earlier in the episode that I glossed over and didn't backtrack to clarify). Jordan comes by and insists on sitting in.

The band, including a substitute trumpet player, are practicing. Kevin Eubanks is sitting in the stands and is impressed with the trumpet player. Danny tells him he could probably get a job on the Tonight Show, but the guy says he's only substituting to do a guy a favor.

Lucy is still obsessing over the four year discrepancy in the calendar system, regarding when Jesus was actually born. Matt doesn't care.

Danny clarifies to Matt the band situation. The regular members of local bands, including TV bands, are calling in sick to have New Orleans musicians stand in for them. They're hoping the New Orleans musicians can get a chance at some jobs.


Commentary: Okay, don't people in L.A. celebrate Christmas too? Some on this show are acting like Christmas is an alien festival. How realistic is it that the Jewish guy has the most Christmas spirit and that a roomful of writers spend an hour or two nitpicking over the calendar system and the skin color of Jesus as if those are the only directions they can take with Christmas-themed sketches? Regardless of the "quality" of the writing, sometimes this show just isn't believable.


Harriet and Simon are practicing reading their cue cards for the weekly News 60 sketch. (The jokes they're reading are particularly long and not funny at all.) Luke comes by and gives Harriet flowers and admits that he is trying to date Harriet, again. He assures her that it is not the reason he cast her.

In the first sketch of the Friday show, Santa comes crashing down the chimney, Tom's character comes through the door, and text comes on the screen, "To Catch A Predator." Tom is playing Chris Hanson from Dateline and asks Santa what he's doing coming to see a 12-year old girl in the middle of the night.

Matt pulls Harriet aside and kisses her right before she goes on for News 60. It throws her off as she almost introduces herself as Matt.

Jack goes to Wilson White to explain the news incident in which a reporter was interviewing a soldier, an RPG went off nearby, and one of them said the F-word. Wilson White knew about it. Jack offers to resign so that the FCC won't block the merger with the Chinese company that White has been working with. White says he won't pay a fine of any amount and that he won't delay the news. He doesn't accept Jack's offer to resign.

When the show comes back from a commercial, Simon introduces, "the city of New Orleans." About six or eight N.O. musicians they could find are on stage playing "O Holy Night" on trumpets, saxophones, etc., with a slide show of N.O. images behind them.

While the band is playing, Jordan is in a room with Wilson White and his family stuffing her face with a sandwich (eating for two now). Danny asks to talk with her privately. He says, "I've been married twice before, and I'm a recovering cocaine addict. And, I know that's no woman's dream of a man, or of a father. Nonetheless, I believe I'm falling in love with you. If you want to run, I understand. But, you better get a good head start, because I'm coming for you Jordan. ...You should go ahead and chew that sandwich." Jordan just looks stunned (and stuffed) as Danny walks away.

Back on the slide show behind the band, there is a sign that says, "All I want for Christmas is my city back."

Danny tells Matt that he "said it" (told Jordan). Matt says Danny was right, "We do live here now." They tell each other Merry Christmas.


Commentary: Okay, the episode ended on a more positive note. Danny's feelings for Jordan seemed to come from almost nowhere. I didn't even think they had had that many scenes together. Regardless, I think they might make an interesting couple, and it's not everyday you see someone on TV or in real life profess their newfound love to a woman who is recently pregnant with someone else's baby. Also, it's nice to see Bradley Whitford play a character who starts a relationship quickly when compared to his West Wing character, Josh Lyman, who took a little over six seasons to finally hook up with his assistant Donna (with whom the two had obvious chemistry almost immediately).

So far, this show is still too cerebral at times. Don't get me wrong; I don't mind shows that make you think. But, sometimes I feel like to totally comprehend, accept, and enjoy an episode of an Aaron Sorkin show, you actually need to *be* Aaron Sorkin, or at least have some facsimile of his brain implanted in your own skull. Sometimes, I just don't get everything that goes on in his brain. It's hit and miss; sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I don't know what to think.

This episode had a lot of Sorkinesque stuff I could have done without, which kept the show from being as enjoyable for me as it could have been for others. Unlike the Canandians online, I'd have to give the episode 3 out of 5 stars. Maybe I'm just disappointed because their reviews made it sound so much better.

I think this might have been the last episode until January, so to recap the season... The pilot was a major disappointment compared to critical reviews, but some of the follow-up episodes showed more potential. I still think the "West Coast Feed" episode was the best so far, the one where they realize they may have plaguarized a joke by accident and have to break into the West Coast feed to do News 60 live a 2nd time with a makeshift audience for the purpose of apologizing for the error. The two-parter about Tom being arrested in Parump, Nevada, had a mixed bag of good points and bad points, but the last five minutes of the Part 2 episode had two really good laugh-out-loud moments. I vaguely remember thinking that one episode sometime after that was pretty good but that other episodes felt very transitional. And, I really wasn't too fond of last week's episode at all.

I'll continue to give the show a chance, especially since they're guaranteed at least one full season to get it right, but I do hope things get better from here.


Like I said, I started to depend on TiVo; so much for "live" blogging. Anyway, it's 12:23AM, my TiVo unpaused itself to show the Tonight Show playing live. Leno just got done interviewing Cate Blanchett, and now Larry the Cable Guy is on. He keeps trying to include Cate in his interview. She just looks like she doesn't know what to think of Larry. She keeps grinning and nodding like she wishes Larry would leave her alone. I don't think Leno is witty very often, but I have to admit it was funny when he said of Cate & Larry, "You two look like the worst eHarmony match up ever." :)

Live Blog: Heroes: Fall Finale

Entitled: "Fallout"

Claire has told her father about her power. Her father tells her he has known all along. He says there are others out there like Sylar, and they can all hurt her. He wants her to destroy the tapes she and Zack made.

Matt and his FBI colleague Audrey are investigating the Sylar incident and are going to question Peter who's in custody. Matt is having a lot of headaches.

Peter thinks Nathan has come to get him released from jail, but it's actually just a dream about Sylar.


Niki/Jessica successfully shot D.L. in the chest. When she aimed for his head, he used his power to have the bullet pass right through him.

Sylar has been injured and is in a large metal room that blocks his power. Eden has held guard overnight, HRG goes to talk to Sylar. Sylar confirms that he can take people's powers, and that why he's after Claire. Eden says she can have Sylar kill himself, but HRG turns down the offer.

D.L. and his son are in the woods and come across an abandoned cabin. He uses his power to unlock the door from outside. Micah helps bandage D.L. up, but D.L. passes out.

Matt & Audrey interrogate Peter where Peter gets Matt's powers. They are reading each others' minds, but it's confusing to both of them.


Commentary: I can't help but wondering where the Niki/Jessica storyline is going, but I'm glad that Matt & Peter are crossing paths. Hoping we get to see more of Hiro.


Mohinder returns to his father's NYC apartment. There is a note from Eden that says, "Welcome back. Now get back to work." He finds a sticky note with Isaac's name on it.

Eden talks to Isaac. He said he can't seem to draw the future without the drugs, but he enjoys art without the drugs. Eden tells him Claire was saved. Eden tells him she's leaving and hands him a some kind of card and a cell phone.

Hiro and Ando are at the high school and have heard about Claire's friend but thinks it was Claire. Hiro laments not being able to save Charlie (the waitress from the last episode) or Claire. He says their mission now is to find Peter and the artist and to stop the bomb. Isaac uses the phone from Eden to call Hiro. He says he wants to meet Hiro.

Audrey is questioning Claire with her father there. Matt is outside. Matt is trying to read Claire, but he's getting interference. HRG's Haitian mind-blocker is probably nearby. Claire wants to talk to Peter. Matt talks to HRG but still can't read anything. Matt tells Audrey he recognizes the interference from the bar where he lost a day. Sure enough, the Haitian was in the building.

Jessica is chasing after D.L. and Micah, but then Niki takes over and laments that D.L. is injured (she finds his bloody jacket). Niki & Jessica argue. Niki tries to take over, but Jessica is still too strong. When she/they hear Micah yell for help, Jessica pulls her gun out before running toward his voice.


Commentary: So far, Matt, Claire, and Peter are all converging together, and Isaac & Hiro are about to meet. I like that we're getting closer to see the "team" get together. I still don't get how the Niki/D.L./Micah triangle factor into everything.


Peter sees Claire again and meets Peter. Peter is glad to see Claire alive. HRG leaves, and Claire asks Peter how long he's been special. He figures out she can heal herself. He tells her she's the key to saving the world. Peter says he didn't know he was going to heal when he jumped off the building to save Claire.

Niki/Jessica catches up to Micah & D.L. D.L. is ready for Jessica and they fight, with Jessica unintentionally hurting Micah. Niki takes back over. She apologizes to both Micah & D.L.

Zack & Claire meet. He brings the tapes. She stomps on them. He promises he won't tell anyone.

Hiro & Ando meet Isaac, and they go back to the Burnt Toast Diner. They explain each other's powers. Hiro even tells Isaac he finds him dead in the future. Two days ago, Isaac drew Hiro & Charlie together. Isaac says he recently painted a picture of a man exploding. Hiro asks, "How do stop an exploding man?"


Commentary: Isaac has become such a background character, I almost forgot that he illustrated the comic book about Hiro & Ando that they've been using to guide them and that it was Isaac who Hiro found dead in the future. So, it is actually pretty fitting that these three should meet up together.


Claire tells her brother Lyle that their dad knows about her power and that he knows Lyle knows. Claire asks Lyle questions he can't answer. He says he can't remember (for a minute there, I thought he was going to be a shape-shifter posing as Lyle to get to Claire).

Niki, D.L., and Micah are now together and trying to go for help. Niki is worried that Jessica is going to come back. When D.L. & Micah aren't looking, Niki sneaks off and tells a cop to arrest her murder.

Matt & Audrey discuss Matt's marriage and whether he should fight for her marriage. They see HRG and the Haitian. Matt starts to get the interferece again, and his nose even bleeds from trying so hard to read them. He only gets one word, "Sylar."

Claire has asked Zack to meet her. He doesn't remember the last few weeks of being her friend. She realizes that Zack & Lyle have had their memories of her powers erased.


HRG goes back to talk to Sylar. Sylar says in a way, both he and HRG collect people with powers.

Hiro tries to get Isaac to paint the future without the drugs. He goes into the white-eyes trance and starts drawing.

Claire calls her dad and tells here that Zack & Lyle don't remember. She asks where her mom & Lyle are. Someone enters. It's the Haitian. He says her father sent her to make her forget, like he did with Zack & Lyle. He also says he's made her mom forget multiple times, so this is something he does often, and that might explain why Claire's mom is so spacey. However, the Haitian decides that Claire should remember and should keep it a secret.

Isaac has painted a picture of Hiro holding up a katana (sword) near a tyrannosaurus rex. Hiro says if he steps on a bug in the past, he could change the future. ....And that he really needs to find that sword. :)

Eden calls Mohinder, tells him she's been lying to him, says she's sorry and that she'll explain everything, and says that she needs to make things right by eliminating the man who killed Mohinder's father. When she hangs up, she enters Sylars cell with a gun. She says she lived next door to Chandra Suresh and that she's going to make Sylar shoot himself in the head. He telekinetically pulls her through the glass and starts to strangle her. He says he's going to take her power. She raises the gun. He says she can't hurt him with that. Instead, she shoots herself.

Nathan comes to get Peter out of jail. Nathan is still skeptical and annoyed about the superpower stuff that Peter is obsessed with. Peter faints. Either he's having a vision or has been transported in time, but either way, he appears to be in NYC. Time has stopped, as some things are in motion, but everyone has abandoned their cars. He's outside his brother's campaign headquarters. He sees Mohinder leave a cab, and then sees Matt, Niki, D.L., Micah, Claire, Nathan, Isaac, Simone, Hiro, and Ando. Isaac stops Simone from running toward Peter. Claire and the others move away from Peter, except Nathan move near him. Peter's hands and then the rest of his body start to glow. It turns out Peter is the exploding man. It was a vision; Peter is back in the present and is passed out in Nathan's arms.

That's it. The show returns January 22.


Commentary: Okay, not exactly "live" blogging. I used TiVo to let me pause to catch up on typing and then fast forward through commercials. I'm about 20 minutes behind here at the end.

Anyway, really good episode. I'm glad to see more heroes teaming up. I hate that the one time seeing them all together is in a vision of a future that may or may not happen. Odd to see that Peter is the exploding man that causes the destruction of NYC. I would have thought it'd be the radioactive guy that Matt & Audrey found in a previous episode. Could it be that it's the same power as that guy, but that Peter's close enough that it manifests through his ability to borrow the powers of others? Also, how did Peter see this vision? Does he still have some residual future-telling from his borrowing of Isaac's power? Or, since we've seen Peter have cryptic dreams before, is that a power all his own? Also, if Peter has future-telling dreams and can borrow powers, I wonder if he's the only one with more than one special ability (not counting Sylar). Lastly, it's odd that every hero was in Peter's dream when he has only met Nathan, Claire, Matt, Isaac, and Simone.

The scene with Sylar and Eden was pretty intense. However, I tend to hate scenes of suicide in TV & movies, so I can't say I liked the way things ended there, even though it may have been necessary. I'm guessing that Sylar has to kill to steal a power but that he can't if someone is already dead. If I'm right, Eden's suicide keeps him from stealing her ability and becoming that much more powerful. Logical & necessary, but it still makes me uncomfortable.

Really good show. Can't wait until January 22.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

TV Week in Review

With November Sweeps over with and certain shows at or near their fall finales, this might be a good time to fit in a little TV commentary before we're bombarded with reruns. Overall, I'd say the winners this week were Prison Break, Jericho, Men In Trees, and surprisingly, Survivor and The O.C.

(Note: At first, I was determined to be brief with this TV commentary. But, it's hard to review a show without summarizing it at least a little, and with each episode having multiple subplots, it's hard to summarize briefly and not leave something out.)


Desperate Housewives: Not a memorable episode (I've already forgotten much of it). As a disturbing twist, Lynnette tries to apologize to new neighbor Art for mistaking him as a pedophile and turning the neighborhood against him, only to find out, after the death of Art's sister, that he really is a pedophile afterall. I continue to "Sookie" (fast-forward) past any scene with Gabrielle and/or Carlos, and the show is still more enjoyable that way (although this week, even that didn't help much).

Boston Legal: On a special night, this was the first installment of a special two-parter. Unfortunately, the focus of this two-parter was on Lincoln Meyer's fascination with Shirley Schmidt with the episode ending with her abduction. The episode also dealt with a friend of Jerry blacking out and wondering if she murdered her lesbian ex-lover who allegedly committed suicide.


Prison Break: This was the fall finale. The show is supposed to return sometime between January and March of 2007 (can't remember exactly, and I think it's supposed to be earlier than originally planned). In the continuing story of T-Bag's missing hand, he has now stolen the prosthetic hand of a war veteran. Then, he seduced a postal worker, killed her, and got the new address of his old girlfriend to whom he paid a terrorizing visit.

Sucre parachuted safely across the border, Sarah has cut & dyed her hair in an attempt to disguise herself, and Bellick has returned to Fox River not as a guard but as an inmate with no special treatment except the kind he doesn't want, considering his cellmate is the notorious Avocado.

Michael & Lincoln narrowly escaped a prison tranport van thanks to a traffic obstruction staged by Mahone, and in an unexpected twist, it was Kellerman, not Mahone, who changed sides to help Michael & Lincoln escape at the last minute. This show continues to stick to preposterous twists & coincidences that I should be tired of (and some people probably are), and yet somehow, I love coming back for more.

Heroes: This episode was more insightful than it was exciting. Except for the last minute or two, the episode took place six months in the past when Chandra Suresh was still alive and the "heroes" were just beginning to discover their powers. We also find out:

  • Hiro, having time travelled six months in the past to save the sweet waitress with superhuman memory, falls in love with her only to realize she has a blood clot in her brain and that he can't save her no matter what he tries.

  • Claire joined the cheerleading squad only six months ago and discovered her invulnerability after cutting her hand in a squabble with her friend.

  • Matt's now-shaky marriage was actually good only six months ago, and he keeps failing his detective exams because he's dislexic.

  • Nathan's wife Heidi was still walking six months ago, and his first time flying was during the car accident that crippled her.

  • Niki, D.L., and Micah were a happy family six months ago, and Niki's aggressive alter ego is that of her long dead sister Jessica who was killed by their abusive, alcoholic father.

  • Eden was a rebel using her power of influence for mischief (and she looked better with long hair six months ago).

  • The mysterious and murderous Sylar is one of the first special people to be found by Chandra. A rather nerdy watch-maker with a temper, Gabrial Gray takes the name Sylar after he kills a person with telekinesis and discovers by accident that he can absorb the powers of those he kills.

I believe this was the next to last episode of 2006 with this coming Monday's episode being the fall finale, hopefully the episode when most, if not all, of the heroes finally cross paths.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: This was a boring transitional episode about the whole cast, except Harriet, getting sick on Friday night and still trying to perform the show with fevers. The episode had a few amusing moments here and there but hit a new low during a scene of the cast members spitting water on each other for fun. Scratch that, the low point was when Matt decided to fill in an unexpected gap of time in Friday night's show with a sketch filled with spit-takes--and acted like it was an ingenious idea.

At least, this episode toned down the political & religious overtones and didn't try to make the comedy sketch show seem more socially relevant than it possibly could be (has the real life Saturday Night Live ever been that politically or religiously controversial???). Plus, Jordan revealed she's pregnant, which is good since Amanda Peet is pregnant in real life and they haven't done a great job of hiding Jordan's/Amanda's recent weight gain.


Standoff: Neither bad nor exceptional, this episode was about a group of teenage geeks getting revenge on the bullies that tormented them by taking them hostage and attempting to broadcast their revenge to the whole student body over a webcam. The twist was that the new kid in the group of outcasts was the only one to have a loaded gun, so he eventually replaces the head geek as the leader of the situation and shoots (not fatally) one of the bullies in the process.

It turns out that the new guy was the sole care-taker of his mother who had died of breast cancer. He wanted to go through with the hostage situation as a way of punishing himself for not keeping his mother alive. The complexity of the plot didn't leave much room for character development of our regular characters except for the fact that Emily was once picked on a lot in high school and Matt regrets having some experience as a bully himself.

Gilmore Girls: Overall, this episode was not too funny or exciting until the end. The time devoted to showing Christopher as being out of place in Stars Hollow is slow & boring but leads up to the satisfying moment when Chris pays off the town's bridge re-building fund making the rest of the knitting fund-raiser pointless. It was good to see Chris's throwing around of money to finally get him in trouble as the quirky Hollowites secretly preferred to finish the knit-a-thon because they like their quirky activities and working for their money

Even more satisfying was Luke finally standing up to Anna, insisting that if she moves to New Mexico (or was it Arizona?) with April that they have some kind of arrangement where he can still have time with his daughter. With Chris starting to falter and Luke becoming more vocal and a better parent (and an uncle for the 2nd time, with Liz & T.J. having their baby in this episode), this episode most likely marked the start of Luke & Lorelai's gradual re-connection.

House: Detective Tritter continues to tighten the reins on House, indirectly, by freezing Foreman and Cameron's accounts. It was very sneaky of him to not freeze Chase's, forcing Chase to pretend his accounts were frozen or else it would look like he squealed on House.

House's medical case this week was a little girl who seemed to be allergic to everything. Her divorced parents fought over how she should be cared for, leading House to pursue legal help from a judge. One day he convinces the judge that the father should make the decision because the mother isn't acting rational, then he has to ask that authority go to the mother the next day after the father starts acting stupid. Ultimately, the judge gives medical authority over the child to Dr. Cuddy. When Cuddy plays it too safe with the girls' treatment, House yells that she would make a lousy parent, and the little girl has to be prepped for surgical amputation of one arm and one leg. Cuddy reveals to Wilson that she's been trying to get pregnant after he realizes House must have said something to her that hit too close to home.

It was an interesting twist in the end when the girl turned out to be allergic to light (a condition for which both parents had to be carriers--so in a way they're equally at "fault"). Chase figured it out and got House to stop the amputation surgery just in time but not before getting punched in the face by House for his diagnosis. Despite Chase being enraged over the punch and his accounts finally getting frozen by Tritter, it was an even better twist when Wilson went to Tritter to give up the dirt on House.

Boston Legal: A continuation of Sunday night's "special" episode. As much as I like the neurotic Jerry, it seems like he's in almost every episode now. At least this time he was the one helping someone instead of the one in trouble, and he actually handled his part of the trial well, with a little assistance from Allan. There was a nice subplot in which Denny gets jealous over Allan & Jerry's friendship, giving Allan another opportunity to philosophize out loud over how close he & Denny are as friends.

So far, this season is bugging me. I'm tired of the running Lincoln Meyer storyline and was disappointed to see he was only injured and not killed by his own crossbow bolt. I also don't see the point of bringing on two new regular characters when they still under-use Mark Valley and Rene Auberjoinois. And while Denny dating a "midget" who he later discovers may be his daughter was good for a laugh, it's still hard to to believe she would date him considering how disgusting she thinks he is, and I'm not crazy about the storyline where her mother, played by Delta Burke, still pines for Denny.

In general, this show is better when it's more The Practice and less Ally McBeal or vice versa, but riding the line 50/50 has watered down these last few episodes.


Jericho: This was the fall finale and one of the best hours of TV this week. The episode mostly centered around Jonah getting shot by one of his own men and seeking help from his daughter and Jake.

Jonah is suspected in the murder of Gracie which happened at the end of the last episode. It turns out to have been Mitchell, one of Jonah's "men" (are they like a gang), that killed Gracie. In one of the shocking final moments of the episode, Dale, who inherited Gracie's store and her problems with Jonah's men upon her death, takes revenge and secures his authority over the store by shooting Mitchell in the chest.

It was nice seeing Stanley and Mimi become a couple but hard seeing Stanley's deaf sister Bonnie getting ticked off about it and hooking up with one of the local skater punks. Even harder was seeing Gray Anderson win the mayoral election over Johnston Greene who had been mayor for 25 years. While Johnston's style of leadership looks almost too cautious in comparison, Gray's impulsive leadership style is sure to lead to disaster later on, hopefully enough to see Johnston returned to office.

Two other big twists: Just as Emily & Jake are about to hook up, Emily's fiance and other plane crash survivors show up in Jericho; and after lying to his colleagues about being compromised so he can spend more time with his family, Hawkins's co-conspirators call him on his lie and say they'll see him soon.

Day Break: It's hard to summarize this episode, as the conspiracy embedded in this show seems to be very complex after just three episodes. Brett Hopper continues to investigate why he's getting framed for murder on a day that keeps repeating itself. He constantly has to modify his routine to compensate for the new knowledge he gained in the prior iteration of the day.

This episode never showed him saving the lady from getting hit by the bus, so we have to assume he does that off-camera or focuses on his own problems in certain iterations. However, in this episode, he's more distracted by the problems of his police partner who is in hot water of her own, both with the dept. and an ex-boyfriend, and she always seems to get killed for it. It was impressive storytelling to see Hopper almost give up on her as it seems he has no chance of saving her no matter what he does.

In the end, he discovers during one iteration of the day that his partner does something different that day, and Brett starts to wonder if anomolies can occur in his repeating day or if minor differences per iteration eventually add up to bigger changes.


Survivor: This was one of the best episodes of the last two or three seasons of Survivor. I am really happy with my four Aitu underdogs and how they are owning this game. However, as the game progresses, I am seeing more and more lacks in judgment.

I'm not sure it was smart of Yul to reveal to everyone that he has had the hidden immunity idol, but he already told his allies, and if his enemies were smarter, they'd have figured it out already anyway. I also wonder if it was going too far not sharing food with Candice, Parvati, and Adam, but if they're not going to work at all, they probably need a wake-up call. It was also stupid for Jonathon to get cocky about winning all the food at the reward challenge. You'd think people would learn not to gloat in this game. While his attitude about the food was annoying and his brain is constantly strategizing, I'm not sure he's earned the curse of being so reviled.

I was happy to see Candice get sent to Exile Island (again) and get voted out of the game, continued punishment for disloyalty during the opporunity to mutiny a while back. It's a shame; I like Nate's personality, I think Parvati is hot, and I'm glad that Candice & Adam are so close, but they just made the mistake of being unfocused & of feeding off each others' laziness and lack of strategic thinking.

Since this season started with four ethnically-divided tribes and has a larger jury than usual, with only three episodes left, my theory is that the final decision will be over a final three or four instead of the normal final two.

Ugly Betty: It's odd that after the last episode's visit from immigration that Betty's father's citizenship problems are barely mentioned in this episode. The focus is more on Christmas and Daniel's "love" for Sofia. Considering that Daniel & Sofia's relationship went from disdain, to lust, to whatever is now in just the course of two or three episodes, it's hard to believe Daniel is truly in love with Sofia.

More believable is Daniel's feeling that Betty should work for Sofia, not because he wants to get rid of her but because she's so good that she deserves a better position. I like the boss-employee relationship that Daniel and Betty are developing. They're almost like brother & sister, and it's one of the better plutonic relationship on TV right now (maybe not quite as good as Allan Shore & Denny Crane on Boston Legal, yet).

The O.C.: Taylor Townsend is the new reason to watch The O.C. Because of her, The O.C. had one of its best episodes in the last two or three seasons. All the ways Taylor chased after Ryan, both direct and subtle, were very well written. They don't seem like they would fit as a couple, but the writers even address that. One of the other characters, I think Sandy, comes right out and says they'd make an odd couple. Then, they show Ryan and Taylor thinking each others' thoughts, and it all seems more plausible.

It's good enough just having Marissa gone, but having Taylor take her place is even better. Christmukkah should be just around the corner, and that's usually a bonus.

Grey's Anatomy: This was a strong episode. I think I just realized that it helped that the episode had nothing to do with Grey & Derek as a couple, or Izzy depressed over Denny, or Addison getting upset or jealous over Derek or Mark, etc.

This episode was more about the medicine and about the trouble that Burke & Yang got into. I liked Miranda's reaction that if they don't get punished, then Izzy shouldn't be punished any longer over what happened to Denny. The situation with George's father is also interesting, but George's anger at everyone seemed over-the-top, so it was good to see that subside a bit by the end of the episode.

It was pretty harsh at the beginning when Meredith's mother said to Meredith (not knowing it was her because of the Alzheimers) she should never have had children so she could have run off with Chief Webber during their affair years ago. So, it was nice to see at the end of the episode Ellis actually recognized Meredith for the first time in quite a while, showing maybe they still have a connection afterall.

Shark: Woops. Was that a new episode this week? If so, I haven't gotten around to watching it on TiVo yet.

Men In Trees: After a hiatus of several weeks, this show is back on a new night and time, where hopefully it will pick up a bigger audience. It was probably one of the three best episodes they've done so far, including the pilot episode and the power-themed episode (I think the third episode).

In this episode, the first of a two-parter, Marin returns to New York for Thanksgiving and to choose a publisher for her new book, the town finally convinces Jack to read the first chapter of Marin's book (it's all about him but she didn't get around to changing the name before Jane sent the chapter off to be published in the New Yorker magazine), Annie is stranded in Elmo for Thanksgiving where she feels like a fifth wheel among Patrick and his new extended family, Ben and Theresa re-connect as they organize the "orphans" Thanksgiving meal, and Plow Guy surprises Jane with a visit to New York.

All the things wrong with Marin's NY apartment and the dove outside her window being away from home are both nice metaphors for how she now belongs in Alaska more than NY. I like that we got to see Marin's sister without the episode being all about her. The exclusion of Annie at Thanksgiving dinner felt a little forced. Even if Patrick's mom Celia doesn't like her, surely Buzz, Mai, or Patrick himself should have had enough common sense and courtesy to make sure Annie got in one of the family photos and got a piece of pie. I mean she's not invisible, and a pie can be cut five ways.

There was a nice twist at the end. We see Marin leaving to return to Elmo. Then we see Jack waiting for the plane to dock and expect Marin to get out. Even though I knew Justine Bateman was guest starring on the show soon, I wasn't expecting her to get off the plane, playing Jack's ex-girlfriend Lynn, who broke his heart just a few months ago.

And speaking of the plane, how is it that the weather kept Buzz from flying Annie out of Elmo, but Plow Guy still got out of Elmo and Lynn still flew into Elmo?


Battlestar Galactica: This was probably the worst episode of an otherwise impressive season. The episode involved the Galactica officers engaging in boxing matches to get out their aggressions and get grudges behind them.

The next-to-last fight was between Admiral Adama & Chief Tyrol. Apparently, Adama felt betrayed for Tyrol and Callie wanting to move down to New Caprica to raise their baby. After getting his older body torn up by Tyrol, Adama gave an awkward speech about how he let people get too close and too comfortable with each other instead of acting like soldiers, that they paid the price for his mistake with lives, and that he wouldn't make that mistake again. After that, Tigh tried to shut down the fights, but Starbuck insisted on one more fight, her versus Li Adama (she refers to him as Major; is he not a Commander anymore, or was she just insulting him???).

The scenes of boxing were intercut with flashbacks to 17 months ago when things were still good on New Caprica and the Cylons hadn't invaded yet. The flashbacks of Li & Starbuck show them burying their feelings for one another as they each try to make lives with Dualla and Sam, respectively. Then we see a flashback where Li & Starbuck have sex in the desert and yell out--with apparently no one around for miles--that they love each other (awkward, badly written scene). The next flashback shows Li looking for Starbuck the next morning only to have his father tell him that Starbuck married Sam that morning. Confused and angry, Li retaliated by solidifying his relationship with Dualla.

In the present, the boxing match between Li & Starbuck gets ugly with kicks & leg-sweeps, then turns into them hugging each other. Dualla & Sam look on at their respective mates, knowing what it means. Sam was already having marital trouble with Starbuck, but I'm guessing the next episode or two may spell a messy break for Li & Dualla.

Justice: I TiVo'ed this, and I've only watched about 15 minutes of it so far.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Movie Reviews: Deja Vu, Casino Royale, The Prestige

Deja Vu

Denzel Washington plays an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives) agent investigating a New Orleans ferry boat explosion that killed 500+ passengers, including some kids on a field trip and a significant number of naval officers.

A well-written time travel adventure, masterfully edited, this film is a detective caper around the edges and a sci-fi action movie in the middle. A certain glowing review at Ain't It Cool News would have you believe this movie is The Matrix, Memento, Back to the Future, and Die Hard all thrown into a blender. It's good but not quite that good.

The sci-fi aspect of the movie is provided by some time-bending technology that is gimmicky & overly convenient. Even within the bounds of sci-fi, you have to suspend some disbelief in the capability and plausibility of such technology to full enjoy the middle of the movie. On the other hand, the time travel technology used in the movie is pretty cool, useful, semi-original, and explained in a brisk manner.

Paula Patton plays Claire Kuchever, the gorgeous & sympathetic murder victim whose last four days alive are the keys to solving the mystery behind the ferry explosion. Val Kilmer (The Saint, Batman Forever) puts in a few minutes as an FBI agent who brings Denzel's character into the project & Jim Caviezel (Frequency, Passion of the Christ) also stars as the renegade bomber.

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig plays the new British MI6 agent 007 in the 21st [official] installment of the James Bond franchise.

Serving as a re-boot of the series, Royale opens with Bond earning his double-0 status, his licence to kill, by making two kills. With more seriousness & athleticism, but considerably fewer gadgets, Bond uses his many skills -- including no-limit Texas Hold'Em Poker -- to fight an organization funding terrorism.

Daniel Craig carries the movie exceptionally well for his first time playing Bond. He's more serious like Sean Connery's version of Bond, but not nearly as humorless as Timothy Dalton's version. This movie shows Bond being a little less experienced, but not quite as novice as I would have expected considering this is supposed to the beginning of his career as a double-0. A particularly hard to watch torture scene demonstrates Bond's endurance and a very odd sense of humor during a difficult moment that Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan probably could not have pulled off successfully.

At almost 2.5 hours, the movie is a bit too long. The middle feels fine, but the last third of the movie feels oddly structured, and became harder and harder to tell whether the movie was about to end or still had more story to tell. Overall, it doesn't feel exactly like a James Bond movie, but with a new Bond actor, a re-booted continuity, and new kind of villain to fight, I guess we must adapt to a new kind of Bond the way the franchise must adapt to a new kind of world we live in today.

Despite the movie being a re-boot, the perpetually award-nominated Judi Dench returns for her fifth turn as "M". Eva Green plays a British accountant who exposes Bond's softer side. The Aston Martin, a tuxedo, and Bond's vodka martinis all make appearances; but Miss Moneypenny & Major Boothroyd ("Q") do not. According to internet rumor this is not a stand-alone movie but begins a multi-film story arc for Craig's version of Bond. The way this installment ended, having some continuation between movies might be nice.

The Prestige

Christian Bale (Batman Begins) and Hugh Jackman (X-Men) play rival magicians turn-of-the-century London, viciously competing over the perfect magic trick & using drastically different means to achieve it. Christopher Nolan wrote & directed this movie, as well as the equally intelligent Memento and Batman Begins.

This doesn't have quite as many loose ends compared to Memento, but it is just complex enough to see a 2nd time, to connect all the dots once you know what to look for. I did see it a 2nd time, and some points in the story are still a little tricky. Nolan did an excellent job hiding the clues in the story without making the twists so obvious. That's twists, plural. There is not just one but two major twists in the movie. Don't let anyone spoil the ending for you.

The movie includes excellent performances by Bale, Jackman, Michael Caine (Batman Begins, Muppet Christmas Carol) as a magician's engineer, and Scarlett Johansson (In Good Company, Lost in Translation) as a beautiful magician's assistant, along with Andy Serkis (Gollum from Lord of the Rings), Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, Lost & Delirious), and David Bowie (yeah, seriously, David Bowie) in welcome yet under-used supporting roles.

Bowie plays Nikola Tesla, the electricity-obsessed scientist who has his own dangerous rivalry with the off-screen Thomas Edison. That rivalry serves as a nice parallel to what goes on between Bale and Jackman's two characters.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Premiere Magazine’s Top 20 Most Over-Rated Movies

Premiere Magazine recently came out with their list of top 20 most over-rated movies. I think this might be a list they update and re-publish every year, as I found a similar list by Premiere online with a previous year attached to it. Here’s their current list as of 2006:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • A Beautiful Mind

  • American Beauty

  • An American in Paris

  • Chariots of Fire

  • Chicago

  • Clerks

  • Easy Rider

  • Fantasia

  • Forrest Gump

  • Field of Dreams

  • Gone with the Wind

  • Good Will Hunting

  • Jules and Jim

  • Monster's Ball

  • Moonstruck

  • Mystic River

  • Nashville

  • The Red Shoes

  • The Wizard of Oz

Most of these I’ve never seen or even heard of (Jules & Jim??? The Red Shoes???), but I can weigh in on six of them. First of all, I strongly agree that American Beauty and Forrest Gump are over-rated.

I remember American Beauty being a good movie the one time I saw it, but I’ve never been motivated enough to see it again. I may rent it someday to see if, in retrospect, I can figure out what everyone else saw in it and why it actually won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1999. It was good but not *that* good. I also saw three of the four movies it was up against that year (The Sixth Sense, The Green Mile, and Cider House Rules), and all three were better. Perhaps, Sixth Sense and Green Mile didn’t stand much chance since Oscars rarely go to movies with a supernatural element. Next time you go to the video store, see how many copies they have of American Beauty and how many of those are actually checked out. It’s pretty sad for a movie “worthy” of an Oscar.

Forrest Gump, while mildly amusing in spots and poignant in others, still thoroughly annoyed me. The worst part was Forrest’s long crush over the enormously screwed up Jenny. The movie tries to imply that Forrest’s big heart can overcome the deficiencies in his mind, but he wasn’t totally stupid, and even the heart has some built-in “intelligence.” To continue to kiss the ground Jenny walked on despite how much she walked all over him doesn’t have anything to do with a low I.Q. I just can’t endure Forrest’s misplaced emotions for Jenny. I know love is blind, but bad love felt by such a good heart should have its limits too. To me, it ruins any credibility or likeability that Forrest was supposed to have.

I didn’t really like Lieutenant Dan or Bubba either, and the movie loses all credibility with Forrest’s non-stop jog across America. I think it’s a travesty that Forrest Gump got the Oscar for Best Film of 1994 over Shawshank Redemption, one of my top nine favorite movies. I’m just as delighted as I am surprised to see someone in the media say this movie is over-rated, as I have always felt rather lonely in that opinion.

For 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gone with Wind, and Wizard of Oz, I have mixed feelings. I’m not particularly fond of those three movies. In fact, I have no interest in seeing any three of them again. However, I do also understand how they were probably revolutionary movies for their time. Even if I personally don’t like them, I understand their status as classics. Therefore, calling them over-rated is okay by my standards, but I’m very surprised Premiere Magazine says so too.

One movie I don’t think should be on this list is Good Will Hunting. Granted, I haven’t seen it in a while either. Maybe the movie, as a whole, doesn’t stand the test of time. But if you condense the movie into certain key scenes, particularly the “How do you like them apples!!!” scene, Affleck’s speech about Damon’s character being too good to live poor and work a blue collar job, and any scene with Robin Williams in it, you’ve still got a product I could re-watch occasionally if it came on TV more often. One major deficiency of the movie is the ending. Even though you know where Matt Damon’s character is driving to and what he’s going to do once he’s there, I still would have preferred seeing the result of that rather than seeing the back end of a car while the credits rolled.


Following are ten movies not on Premiere’s list that I would consider to be over-rated, not necessarily bad, just not as good as everyone else in the world thinks.

Blade Runner: I admit I’ve never seen this one all the way through, but anytime I catch a few minutes of it on cable TV, it looks slow & boring. I’ve heard what the gist of the story is, and to me, it had a bit of a “so what” factor to it.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Despite awesome special effects, the run-and-levitate form of flying just looks like an awkward puppet dance rather than a supernatural martial arts technique. The overly-long flashback in the middle of the movie was particularly jarring, especially since it was so hard to tell at first that it was a flashback.

The English Patient: Just plain painful to sit through. I rented it on video, so maybe I didn’t sit through it all. I’ve blocked most of it out of memory, and I’m quite thankful for that.

Fargo: Siskel & Ebert both said this was their #1 favorite movie of 1996. It was well-made and mildly amusing at times, but like American Beauty, I just don’t get how it’s *that* good.

Gladiator: Too long, too boring, waaaayyyy too much shaky cam, and too dark & shadowy an interpretation of ancient Rome. I can’t believe this won the Oscar over Erin Brockovich for Best Film of 2000.

Lost in Translation: This is another decent movie that seemed to be inflated into something more than it was. It served as a breakout role for Scarlett Johanssen and an opportunity for Bill Murray to get serious, but as a story it’s jumbled and unsatisfying.

Master & Commander: I caught parts of this on TV one Saturday. The boring story seemed to be overshadowed by how good the sound & visuals are.

Million Dollar Baby: Well made with excellent performances, this movie is also dreary & depressing, way too much a downer to bother seeing again.

Pulp Fiction: I admit I have never seen this one all the way through, but it was boring and crappy-looking up until the extremely gross scene that made me not want to see the rest of it.

Titanic: A well-made, well-acted movie, ruined in retrospect by an exhausting and annoying amount of hype. I’ve seen it once; maybe could sit through it again (probably fast-forwarding quite a lot until the scene where Kate Winslett poses for a sketch). But, after it first came out, I got tired of hearing about so many people, from teenagers to grandparents, seeing the movie dozens of times, if not more than 100 times. That’s just craziness. As a movie, I think Titanic floats; as a phenomenon, I’ve never been on board.