Sunday, September 30, 2007

Season Premiere Review: Grey's Anatomy (Season 4)

Grey's Anatomy [s4 ep01]: "A Change is Gonna Come"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • The interns are all residents now and each have four new interns of their own to teach. The exception is George who failed his internship and is having to start all over as one of Meredith's interns. Meanwhile, one of Christina's interns is Lexie Grey, Meredith's half sister.

  • Bailey seems upset over not getting the Chief Resident promotion

  • Callie is turning out to be a bossy Chief Resident not earning the respect of those under her.

  • After a car pile up, trauma cases come in. Meredith's team is assigned to a single pregnant woman who's arm was sliced off in the wreck. Karev's team is assigned to a hungry guy who will eat *anything* that will fit into his mouth including cotton balls, clamps, and coins. Christina's team is assigned to a guy whose spinal cord is severed inside his neck. Izzie's team gets stuck treating the deer that caused the wreck in the first place.

  • George is still avoiding Izzie. Callie and George are still not acting like a normal married couple. Meredith is still avoiding Derek. Christina hasn't heard from Burke and later finds out Burke resigned and left permanently. Karev still misses Rebecca, his Jane Doe case from last season. Derek misses having someone to hang out with.

Opinions and Observations

  • Luckily, the medical cases were a little more interesting in this episode.

  • I'm growing tired of George's mannerisms, way of speaking, and the way he handles his relationships. I'm tired of Izzie's melodramatic ramblings (see quote below). I'm tired of Derek and Meredith constantly changing their mind about being together or being apart. And, I've never really liked the Christina character.

  • * Horrible Izzie Dialogue Example *

    Izzie: I'm Bambi! I'm Bambi, George, okay. If anyone in this situation is a sad little cartoon character, it's me. I'm all alone in the forest. All alone in the forest, George. And, my mother's been shot by a hunter, and where are you? Where the hell are you?

  • This wasn't exactly a bad episode. It has some redeeming qualities that make it average, but it's got some flaws, as mentioned above, that are getting too frequent.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I think the character of Lexie Grey might turn out to be more likable than some of the pre-existing characters.

  • According to internet buzz, this season is going to be more lighthearted compared to last season's heavy melodrama. I hope the buzz is correct.

  • I like the show, but I've never liked it quite as much as the rest of the world. If it doesn't get better soon and if I need to dump a show to make room from any new ones that escape cancelation, this one will be first choice to dump.

Season Premiere Review: Ugly Betty (Season 2)

Ugly Betty [s2 ep01]: "How Betty Got Her Grieve Back"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Betty is trying to balance things at work and at home. Daniel is still in the hospital, Justin is at some kind of day camp, Hilda is hibernating in her room, and Betty's dad is still stuck in Mexico.

  • Claire Meade and her ally from prison have escaped and are hiding out in the beach house owned by a friend of the Meade family. Claire wants to see her children and get her husband back.

  • Wilhelmina is still engaged to Bradford Meade and is trying to keep Claire away.

  • Daniel's sister Alexis is still in a coma. She wakes up by the end of the episode but doesn't remember having had a sex change. She thinks she's still Alex, Daniel's brother.

  • Amanda has gained a lot of weight on candy ever since she learned that Fey Summers is her biological mother. She's shocked further to find out her non-biological parents are swingers and that her on-again-off-again relationship with Daniel was incest, since he would be her half brother.

  • Betty still misses Henry. Daniel convinces her to have a "funeral" of sorts in which she buries any items that remind her of Henry. At the end of the episode, we see that Henry has arrived back in New York, no doubt hoping to work things out with Betty.

  • Justin sneaks out of camp and into Mode where he gives fashion advice. Later, he's given an apprenticeship at Mode for the two weeks before school starts again.

  • We see Hilda spending time in her room with Santos, who supposedly survived his gunshot wounds from the store robbery in the season finale. But, by the end of the episode, we see that Santos has been dead and that Hilda has just been in her room grieving and wishing he was still there.

Opinions and Observations

  • None of the Amanda subplot comes as a shock. I guessed that Bradford Meade was her biological father back in the season finale the instant it was revealed that Fey Summers was her biological mother. Her quick and excessive weight gain in just a few weeks seems unrealistic. I'm guessing she'll already be back to normal by next week or soon after.

  • The Betty-Henry-Charlie love triangle is getting old. The Daniel-Alexis fued is also getting old, so maybe her amnesia will fix all that.

  • I kind of had a feeling that Hilda's time with Santos was a dream, hallucination, or just wishful imaginings. Granted, I might have been more easily fooled had I not accidentally seen a spoiler on a blog implying he had died.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I hope Amanda loses her weight at a realistic rate, not in one episode like Lee Adama did in Battlestar Galactica season three.

  • I hope it's revealed that Bradford Meade has not been duped by Wilhelmenia and that he's known all along she's marrying him to get to his money and his magazine business. I'd like to see him dupe her back.

  • I hope Hilda doesn't mope forever.

  • I hope Daniel cleans up his act as he says he should during Betty's funeral of Henry-related items.

Series Premiere Review: Private Practice

Private Practice [s1 ep01]: "In Which They Meet Addison, a Nice Girl From Somewhere Else"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Pediatric surgeon Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) quits Seattle Grace Hospital and moves to L.A. to work at Oceanside Wellness Center. Her friend Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald), a fertility specialist, owns 55% of the business and has hired Addison without consulting the other four business partners which include her ex-husband Dr. Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs), the center's internal medicine specialist.

  • A couple visits the center with fertility issues. While giving a, uh, donation, the man has a heart attack and dies. The younger girlfriend want his sperm so she can still have his baby. The emergency room doctor refuses the postumous donation. Sam & Naomi fight for the girlfriend's rights, which get complicated when the man's wife shows up.

  • Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman), the wellness center's psychiatrist, goes to a department store where a patient of hers named Jenny is obsessively counting floor tiles. Violet tries to figure out what's wrong with Jenny and is joined by Dr. Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstien), the center's pediatrician, who shows up to help out. They discover Jenny's episode was triggered by a store camping advertisement video that reminded her of the last trip her family took with her son who died of brain cancer. (Note: This was the best part of the episode; only reason I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 3.)

  • A pregnant teenager, accompanied by her angry father, goes into premature labor at the center and has complications. Bothered by the lack of the center's surgical equipment or sterile environment (the center is not intended for surgeries, and an ambulance won't get there in time), Addison has no choice but to operate on the girl to save both her and the baby.

  • The four other partners are upset about Naomi hiring Addison, but Addison babbles on about how much she needs to be there, how much they need her there, etc. and basically insists on not leaving. No one puts up a fight, so the matter is closed.

Opinions and Observations

  • The acting is really impressive. It'd have to be because the casting is so good. The script, however, isn't so good in spots, but the actors do the best they can with it.

  • I like Paul Adelstein's character. It's refreshing to see him play someone funnier and more likable compared to his corrupt Secret Service Agent character on Prison Break.

  • I was worried about Amy Brenneman's characrer being annoying, because she's so fragile and neurotic, but she's growing on me.

  • The scene where Violet and Cooper are talking to Jenny after discovering what happened to Jenny's son was very powerful. It was well written, well acted, and genuinely tear-jerking.

  • The character of Addison has become to talky, too quirky, and too silly. She wasn't the most interesting character on Grey's Anatomy in the first place, and her dialogue here, especially her tirade near the end, is the worst of the episode.

  • Tim Daly's character thinking Addison would ever have moved from Seattle to L.A. just because the two of them kissed a few weeks earlier is arrogant and unrealistic.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • This pilot was not as bad as the negative internet buzz implied. I found it more enjoyable than the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy.

  • After the pilot, I'm actually willing to give this show a chance. However, I'm watching *a lot* of TV already, and Scrubs and Pushing Daisies haven't even premiered yet. If I have to dump any shows, Grey's Anatomy is my first choice among returning shows, and I may also tire of Private Practice by association.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Series Premiere Review: Bionic Woman

Bionic Woman [s1 ep01]: "Second Chances"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Jamie Summers is a 24-year-old bartender in San Francisco. She's the legal guardian of her teenage sister named Becca who, for some reason, has a court order saying she can't use a computer that's hooked up to the internet.

  • After revealing to her boyfriend that she's pregnant during dinner, they get into a drastic car wreck. Jamie loses the baby, both legs, and an arm, eye, and ear from her right side.

  • Jamie's boyfriend is part of a secret organization specializing in nanotechnology. To save Jamie's life, he uses his security clearance to have anthrocytes implanted in her body. The anthrocytes form for her new body parts. The legs and arm kick in almost immediately. The eye and ear don't come online until a few days later.

  • It turns out that the woman driving the truck that collides with them is the first bionic woman (making the wreck obviously intentional for not-so-obvious reasons). The first bionic woman, named Sarah Corvus (Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackoff) had a relationship of some kind with another member of the nanotech organization.

  • Sarah visits Jamie at the bar around the time Jamie's bionic senses come online. Later, after Sarah shoots Jamie's boyfriend, the two get into a fight on a rooftop in the rain.

  • Jamie agrees to work with the nanotech organization but only under her terms.

Opinions and Observations

  • To be honest, there's not much to comment about yet. The pilot episode is almost all setup, not a lot of character development. There are hints at a larger conspiracy going on, but it's not obvious what direction that'll take yet.

  • Jamie and her boyfriend don't have a lot of chemistry.

  • Jamie reacts negatively to the concept of bionic parts inside her. Sure, it would be strange and disorienting, but the alternatives would be either death or a life lived with only one limb, one eye, and one ear. You'd think she'd have a smiggen of gratitude. Other than having the first bionic woman, who seems half psychotic, following her and beating her up, having bionic parts isn't so bad.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • Although the pilot episode was not spectactular, it has potential. Now that all the setup is out of the way, I hope we see more character development and more depth of storytelling in future episodes.

Season Premiere Review: House (Season 4)

House [s4 ep01]: "Alone"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • It's been two weeks since Foreman & Cameron quit and Chase was fired. House has done nothing but now has a new patient. The patient was pulled out of rubble six hours after her office building collapsed from a gas main explosion. House makes a deal with Cuddy that if he can diagnose the patient's problems without a team, she must leave him alone for a week.

  • Needing someone to bounce ideas off of, House enlists the help of a janitor and even dresses him up as a doctor to help interact with the patient's mother and boyfriend.

  • Wilson kidnaps House's guitar and holds it ransom until House agrees to interview candidates for a new team.

  • In the course of his diagnosis, House discovers that his patient was on anti-depressants, was an alcoholic, and had an abortion, none of which the mother or boyfriend were aware.

  • House solves the case by realizing that the symptoms weren't lying, but the chart was. The physical injuries from the building collapse were so bad that the mother and boyfriend didn't realize...the patient was someone else. The woman they knew has already died. This patient is someone who worked in the same building and had a very similar hair color, figure, and facial features. With the severe facial injuries, the two patients looked practically the same.

  • House is finally convinced to hire a team but plans to have some fun in the process. So, he plans to narrow down his team from a group of 40 potential doctors, no doubt embarrassing and mentally torturing them for several episodes to come.

Opinions and Observations

  • It was a great inside joke when the janitor says, "Maybe it's Lupus. My grandmother has Lupus." It's a running gag of the show that Lupus is a commonly hypothesized diagnosis.

  • I know House ultimately outsmarts everyone, but it's very fun to watch Wilson and Cuddy come close sometimes. Wilson's idea to kidnap House's guitar was ingenious and hilarious. Cuddy's idea to stop enabling House was good too. Unfortunately, she couldn't carry through on her intentions because doing so would be the equivalent of patient neglect.

  • The three cast members of House's old team are still in the opening credits. Previews for next week's episode plus internet rumors suggest that they'll still be on the show, and their characters will still be at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital; they just won't be working for House.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I'm glad they're switching things up this year. Even though Foreman, Cameron, and Chase were good enough to still be on the show, their chemistry with House was getting old. He says something obnoxious, and they roll their eyes at him. House needs new blood, and I look forward to seeing who he chooses for his new team.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Season Premiere Review: Boston Legal (Season 4)

Boston Legal [s4 ep01]: "Beauty and the Beast"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Denny is arrested for soliciting a prostitute after his date requests payment for sex, which Denny accepts, and then turns out to be a cop. Alan's girlfriend, Judge Gloria Weldon, tells the prosecuting attorney to drop the case. Earlier in the evening in question, Alan & Gloria were on a double date with Denny and the female cop, and Gloria feels the cop's acting job as a genuine date went beyond entrapment before payment was requested.

  • Shirley gets sued for retracting a donation to Stanford for political reasons. She asks Alan to represent her. Opposing council turns out to be Lorraine Weller (Saffron Burrows), an irresistable and compulsively tempting ex-flame of Alan's. He tries to resist her advances but cheats on Gloria twice in the court elevator. From next week's previews, it appears Shirley hires Lorraine at Crane, Poole & Schmidt.

  • Carl Sack (John Larroquette), is a senior partner who makes waves when he transfers from the New York branch to Boston. He is interpreted by several to be mean and impersonable. He gradually loosens up, and near the end of the episode we're shown that he and Shirley are secretly in a relationship.

  • Sack has researched the Boston office's associates and finds a YouTube video of Clarence dressed as Clarice, singing and dancing in a duet. Clarence has entered a singing contest with a fellow shyness-recovering female friend, and they are in the finals. Despite this, Sack insists Clarence leave the competition so as not to embarrass the firm. After an empassioned plea from Clarence regarding the quarkiness and family nature of the Boston branch, Sack backs down, and Clarence keeps his job. Sack turns down an invitation to attend the contest but secretly shows up and watches Clarence and his friend sing, to which he is surprisingly amused.

  • Jerry Espenson is drafted to help out newly-graduated and recently-hired associate Katie Lloyd (Tara Summers) in a challenging murder trial, her first trial ever. The case is made more difficult by the defendant being silent and aggressive. Katie's niceness, patience, persistence, and soft, British voice eventually lead to her defendant opening up to her. She believes he's genuinely innocent despite all the evidence and circumstance stacked against him. The defendant won't accept help from Alan, and Jerry insists to Katie that it will be her sweet demeanor and faith in the client that will get a jury to side with her. The story will continue into future episodes.

Opinions and Observations

  • I love this show. It's the perfect blend of preposterous quirkiness, dry humor, serious drama, even more serious social commentary, and all around comforting entertainment. Some subplots, like this episode's storyline about Shirley getting sued by a university, aren't that great, and some episodes are better than others. But, there's always at least one redeeming quality per episode, and this one had several gems in it.

  • David E. Kelley loves shuffling around the casts of his shows, and I think Boston Legal has seen the most changes. There's of course the returning "big three" of James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner. This season the characters of Paul Lewiston (Rene Auberjonois), Denise Bauer (Julie Bowen), Brad Chase (Mark Valley), and Claire Simms (Constance Zimmer) are all out or, at best, reduced to recurring status. Tough senior partner Carl Sack (John Larroquette), sweet British newbie Katie Lloyd (Tara Summers), and Alan's ex-flame Lorraine Weller (Saffron Burrows) are all new. Christian Clemenson is promoted to main cast as Jerry Espenson, the former tax lawyer who's dealing with Asperger's Syndrome and taking on trial cases. And, Gary Anthony Williams continues to get opening credits billing he started getting midway through last season as shy assistant-turned-lawyer Clarence Bell who sometimes cross-dresses as Clarice to deal with his shyness.

  • I'm thrilled about the new cast. I think David E. Kelley finally got it right. The characters he got rid of were all boring and under-used anyway. The dysfunctional but likable and relatable characters of Jerry and Clarence add innocence and even more quirkiness to the freak show that is this law firm. Carl Sack acts as the much overdue love interest for Shirley Schmidt. I'm a little worried that Lorraine Weller will turn into the Alan Shore sex partner of the month and not be interesting after that, but I'm intrigued by the fresh but unshakable Katie Lloyd character.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I hope the cast changes bring a fresh new chemistry to the show. It already appears that it will.

  • Even though Shirley is in a relationship with Carl Sack, I hope we see more moments of intimate yet plutonic friendship between her and Denny Crane, like we did in this episode. Denny singing "You Are My Sunshine" to Shirley while she rested her head on his shoulder, after a discussion about getting older and remembering happier times, was the best moment of the episode.

  • I also hope we get more social and political commentary in future episodes. This show always does a great job showing you two sides of an important issue and then hitting one side of the argument out of the park. It's always powerful whether you agree with the viewpoint or not.

Series Premiere Review: Journeyman

Journeyman [s1 ep01]: "Pilot"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) is a normal husband and father, of one son, who works as a newspaper reporter for the San Francisco Register.

  • For some unknown reason, Dan begins traveling back and forth through time, particularly 1987, 1997, and 2007.

  • It appears he is meant to save the life of a certain person, but he eventually realizes it is the man's wife and child that are in danger, and he must save them instead.

  • Along the way, he runs into his ex-fiance, Livia Beale (Moon Bloodgood), as well as the 1997 version of his 2007 wife, Katie (Gretchen Egolf).

  • While in 1997, Dan runs into an older version of Livia who says cyrptic things about his disorientation and things he should do during his experiences, implying she's jumping around in time too. Livia should not appear to be that much older because she died in an airplane crash in 1997 or not long after.

  • Dan's jumps through time occur at random, including while he's driving, and keep him away from 2007 for hours or days at a time, worrying his family. At one point, his wife and friends arrange an intervention for him, but his police officer brother Jack uses a plausible (but ultimately unprovable) hit-and-run charge against Dan to get him out of it, suspecting the problem is almost anything but drugs and alcohol.

  • During one jump to 1997, Dan hides a 1997 newspaper and his wife's ring, that he's recently gotten re-sized, in a toolbox in the ground behind the house that would someday be his. To prove he's jumping around in time, he has his wife in 2007 watch him smash up their patio, laid in 2000, to get to the toolbox he hid in 1997.

Opinions and Observations

  • This looks like an interesting show. The pilot episode is almost all setup, but hopefully we'll get more character development in future episodes. I'm willing to continue giving it a chance.

  • The comparisons to Quantum Leap are inevitable (and already exist), but I think the show is unique enough to stand on its own. Also, Quantum Leap was very episodic, but Journeyman exists in the era of continuing story arcs (thanks to the style being revived by Babylon 5 in the '90s). So, I'm hoping and assuming that there are layers of underlying storline to be revealed gradually over the course of the show.

  • As an added twist on time travel, Dan faces the moral dillema of loving his wife Katie in 2007 and still having an attraction to ex-fiance Livia in 1997. He's tempted by Livia in the first episode but doesn't screw up his vows yet. I think it will be interesting to see how he handles this in future episodes, especially since there's both past and present versions of Livia and that Katie was a friend to both Dan in Livia in 1997.

  • According to Journeyman's entry at Wikipedia, Dan Vasser's house in the show is right next to the house inhabited by the Haliwell sisters in WB's Charmed.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • The show doesn't bother explaining the science behind the time jumps or who's controlling them. I'm okay with that in the pilot, but I hope we do get some hints as to the science fiction element later on.

  • I hope future episodes have better sound quality. Several times in the pilot I felt like the music was drowning out the dialogue and that some dubbing was really obvious, especially dialogue spoken by the Livia character.

Season Premiere Review: Heroes (Season 2)

Heroes [s2 ep01]: "Four Months Later"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • It is four months after the events of the first season finale, and our Heroes have moved on...

  • Mohinder is in India giving speeches about special abilities and human evolution. He is being followed by someone who is probably part of "The Company." Later, we learn Mohinder has been giving the speeches as a way of luring out someone from the Company.

  • Siblings Maya and Alejandro (new characters) are in Honduras running from the police. They are trying to make it to New York to see Dr. Suresh. Later, we learn that the Maya's power has something to do with unintentionally killing people in her vicinity.

  • Claire Bennet, her dad Noah (HRG), and her mother and brother have moved to Costa Verde, California, and are trying to keep a low profile away from the Company. HRG tells his daughter to be as un-extraordinary as possible, so as not to attract attention. Claire meets a boy at school.

  • Hiro is in 1671 Japan. After witnessing an eclipse, he saves his hero, Takezo Kensei from a rain of arrows. To Hiro's surprise, Kensei is a caucasian con-man from England, not a native Japanese warrior.

  • Matt Parkman is in Manhattan taking his police exam. He has survived his four bullet wounds (obviously), has gotten divorced, and is a co-guardian (along with Mohinder) of the hero-detecting Molly. Molly is having bad dreams about the person she feels is worse than Sylar. Her teacher shows Parkman the creepy pictures Molly's drawing, but Molly doesn't want to talk about it when Parkman brings it up.

  • Ando has become a friend of Hiro's father Kaito (George Takei). Kaito finds in his newspaper a warning that he is going to get killed. Ando agrees to stick with Kaito no matter what.

  • Nathan Petrelli and his mother Angela are in Peter's apartment. Nathan is still in grief over his brother's apparent death. He's bearded, his family has given up on him, and it would seem he gave up on public office. Nathan and Angela argue, and then Angela gets an assassination warning like Kaito did.

  • Claire Bennett calls Nathan Petrelli, her biological father, but he's in too much grief to be of comfort and quickly blows her off. We see the boy from school hovering outside Claire's window, and then he flies off.

  • Before Ando can get a sword to Kaito, a hooded figure pushes Kaito off the roof of the building. Kaito *appears* to be dead in the alleyway, but his assassin is gone.

  • In Cork, Ireland, three guys knock out a guard and look for a particular freight bin. When they pry it open, Peter Petrelli is inside, still with at least one power (radioactive Ted's hand blasts) but with no memory of who he is.

  • Niki and Micah are not shown. We don't know if D.L. survived being shot. Candace, Sylar, and "the Haitian" are not around either.

Opinions and Observations

  • This was more of a refresher episode than a blowout season premiere. Because the timeframe has advanced by four months, this episode mostly just explains where everyone is at.

  • I am curious what exactly Maya and Alejandro's power(s) is/are. I have read somewhere that they share a power that only works in tandem. From one scene in the episode, it looks more like their power is to kill people at a distance or infect them with a virus whenever they're separated from each other.

  • I'm glad Peter Petrelli and Matt Parkman survived the season one finale. I'm pretty sure Sylar survived too. I'm impartial about Nathan's survival. Surely, D.L. actually died and is still dead. I would rather it have been Niki. D.L.'s power is cooler.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • From what I've read, there will be several new characters with all new powers this season. I look forward to seeing who and what they are.

  • I hope the person that is "worse than Sylar" turns out to be a satisfying villain.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Series Premiere Review: Chuck

Chuck [s1 ep01]: "Pilot"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Series Premiere

  • Chuck Bartowski is a geeky tech repair guy at the Nerd Herd inside a Buy More (fictional version of Geek Squad in Best Buy) where his best friend Morgan also works.

  • Chuck lives in a nice condo (that he could never afford on his own) with his successful sister Ellie and her boyfriend. Ellie and her boyfriend are both doctors, and Ellie's boyfriend is so good at everything he does that Chuck has nicknamed him Captain, short for Captain Awesome.

  • Several years ago, Chuck dropped out of Stanford University when he broke up with the only girlfriend he's had in the past few years.

  • Chuck's former roommate from Stanford, Bryce Larkin, is now a CIA agent. Bryce steals a massive amount of government secrets and, realizing he's about to be killed by his pursuer, e-mails all the data to Chuck.

  • When Chuck opens the e-mail, *all* of the government's secrets are downloaded into his head via several hours worth of subliminal images.

  • Two agents are sent to retrieve the data, Major John Casey from the NSA and the beautiful Sarah Walker from the CIA. Tracing the e-mail to Chuck, Sarah wants to protect him from the NSA, and Casey wants to threaten Chuck to get to the data.

  • Upon discovering that all the data is in Chuck's head, Casey and Sarah work together in protecting Chuck. Chuck then uses his knowledge to lead them to a terrorist bomb that is meant to assassinate a high profile military general. Chuck defeats the bomb by downloading a virus onto the laptop computer attached to the bomb.

  • Using his leverage as a living computer, Chuck insists on returning to his normal life. We learn that Sarah and Bryce were in a relationship. By the end of the episode, Casey has been hired as the newest Buy More employee so that he can keep an eye on Chuck. Posing as a customer, Sarah keeps an eye on him too. One of the pieces of top secret information that flashes in Chuck's head is about Sarah's past.

Opinions and Observations

  • This was one of the most well-made and entertaining pilots I've seen since the first episode of Alias (a masterpiece pilot that its latter two seasons didn't live up to). In the past few years, only Lost and maybe Ugly Betty or Men In Trees have had pilot episodes that have come this close to perfect.

  • Everything in the episode just clicks. The characters are interesting, the humor has perfect wit and timing, the action is exciting and fast-paced, etc.

  • I like that Chuck's sister Ellie comes off as loving and supporting. She's smart, beautiful, professional, social, and has money and a relationship. Chuck, meanwhile, makes $11 an hour and crashes in an extra room in her condo. It would be easy for her to be a b**chy, self-righteous character. Instead, she cares for Chuck, throws him a birthday party (inviting all her friends because he only has one), tries to help him get a girlfriend, and helps him prepare for his date with Sarah (before he discovers Sarah is a CIA agent).

  • The show is already quirky enough all around, but Chuck's best friend Morgan provides even more comic relief.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • Strangely, I wasn't looking forward to this show much. But, I admit, I'm thoroughly impressed. I'm a little worried how they'll sustain the show's concept for a whole season or more, but they're definitely off to an amazing start.

  • It's probably inevitable that Chuck and Sarah will hook up at some point in the series. On their fake date, they genuinely got along. For a geek, Chuck is actually charming, and when Sarah smiled or laughed at things he said, it didn't always seem like she was acting just to get to his secret info. Their moment sitting on the beach, the morning after defusing the bomb, was very sweet. Sarah may be as smart and skilled as Sydney Bristow from Alias, but she's got the same amount of heart too.

My 100th Post of 2007

Woohoo!!! This is my 100th post of 2007.

I don't have anything special to say for it. I just wanted to mark the milestone.

#100!!! Yay!!!

Season Premiere Review: Survivor - China (Season 15)

Survivor: China [s15 ep01]: "A Chicken's a Little Bit Smarter"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • This year takes place in China. Near the beginning of the episode, the sixteen players attended a Buddhist welcome ceremony. Leslie, a Christian radio talk show host, chose to leave the ceremony because it felt too religious to her. Afterwards, Jeff Probst told the contestants that, as a reflection of giving up personal possessions in Buddhism, they would have to leave behind all of their luggage and go to their respective camps with nothing but the clothes on their back.

  • The two tribes are: Zhan Hu, meaning Fighting Tiger, wearing yellow; and Fei Long, meaning Flying Dragon, wearing red.

  • Everyone was given a copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War and was told that reading it would give them ideas how to survive the game.

  • For the challenge, the players were provided with their running shoes from their previously abandoned luggage, and they were allowed to wear their running shoes back to camp with them.

  • Fei Long won the elaborate reward/immunity challenge.

  • In the first Tribal Council, Zhan Hu sent home Chicken, the old farmer from Virginia.

  • Part of the reward challege Fei Long won was flint for fire. In a rare move for the series, Jeff allowed losing tribe Zhan Hu to take their Tribal Council torches back with them, so now both teams have fire. On top of that, he also gave them free flint.

Opinions and Observations

  • I don't like that the players have to wear the clothes on their back. When they did that in Pearl Islands (season seven), some people ended up wearing weird things or nothing at all. For instance, Rupert, one of the most popular players of Survivor history, had to wear a skirt made out of a dress that a female player donated to him. Sure enough, in the first episode of Survivor China, people are walking around in their underwear.

  • Courtney, the New York City waitress, is obnoxious, unpleasant, and self-centered.

  • Jean-Robert desperately needs a belt for his pants.

  • Ashley, a WWE female wrestler, has the most annoying lip piercings. They look like tusks.

  • Dave is proving to be underhanded already. He assured Ashley she shouldn't worry about being on the chopping block just because she was sick, then in an interview, he said she would be the first to go.

  • I like that Leslie approached James to try to get to know him. He's a professional grave digger and is so used to working alone that he came off as being very shy.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I've read that the new twist this season is that tribes get to kidnap or capture players from opposing teams as part of their reward for challenges. I look forward to seeing how that affects the game and hope it's more interesting than Exile Island was.

  • So far, several players are annoying. Granted, it's always tough to find likable players this early in the game, but I don't get a great impression of anyone. I'm a little worried that this will be a boring and/or frustrating season. But, we'll see...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kid Nation [s1 ep02]: "To Kill or Not to Kill"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Having just gotten around to writing the review of last week's series premiere of Kid Nation, I've already gotten to see tonight's 2nd episode. I have to say, I'm a little more concerned about the 2nd episode.

Chicken Issues
For starters, the title of the episode comes from the fact that the pioneers were given a choice to make: kill two of the egg-laying chickens for meat or go without protein a little while longer. First, the Town Council put it to a vote. The vote was close, but the need for protein won out. Some kids were so upset, they locked themselves in with the chickens out of protest. Eventually, they gave in.

I never would have thought they'd let kids kill their own chickens, but Greg, the oldest pioneer, happens to have worked with a butcher. He rattled off about a half dozen different animals that he's butchered. It was kind of creepy but made him well qualified. Greg not only did most of the work killing the chickens but calmly instructed his assistants on what to do and talked onlookers through the process.

Tough Gold Star Choices
You could tell Greg was working really hard for the $20K gold star. Unfortunately for him, everyone else could tell too. While he worked extra hard for the gold star, Michael worked extra hard just because of his attitude that hard work is best for the town. Work plus attitude won Michael the prize. From a preview for next week's episode, it appears Greg reacts badly to his loss, and his rage may ruin any chance of him winning next time.

Cold Again? Then Why More Wet Stuff?
The other bizarre thing is that the 2nd challenge is once again a water-based activity, with even more water splashing about than last time. And, it's so cold that when the pioneers woke up one morning, their one water pump and buckets of laundry were all frozen. Later that day, they were doing a plumbing challenge that got them all soaked. These kids are going to catch pneumonia.

Even worse, the two prizes they got to choose between were a 40-foot inflatable water slide (albeit heated) and several modern non-freeze water pumps. This time around, the 4th place team wasn't fast enough, and the town won neither prize. So, now they're still all soaked, cold, and forced to use boiled water to thaw out their only water pump whenever the temperature gets below freezing. Why did they not film this show during summer?

The Town Council Needs Term Limits
I'm baffled by one more thing... The show has not yet introduced a way of switching out their Council members. Taylor, the Councilperson from the Yellow District, is acting like a little queen, not wanting to do any work. Her district was responsible for cooking, but one morning she woke up cold and stayed warm in the cabin with a friend. When a fellow Yellow team member came by to ask the two of them to come help with the cooking, Taylor refused with attitude.

When the problem was addressed at the Town Hall Meeting, Taylor used the excuse that her district consisted of many of the youngest kids and that it was so cold the morning she refused to work that the town would "just have to starve." Taylor is *not* working out as a Councilperson. There needs to be an election, and Taylor needs to lose her seat, plain and simple.

I still respect the kids for their hard work, their determination, their genuine support of one another, etc. I like most of the kids we've been introduced to so far, especially Michael, Laurel, and DK. Even Greg has his likable moments. So, I'm still giving the show a chance. However, I do feel some caution going into next week's episode. The previews show the pioneers having to deal with a sand storm, since they're basically in the middle of the desert, and I again feel that their location may be too extreme for this social experiment.

Series Premiere Review: Kid Nation

Kid Nation [s1 ep01]: "I'm Trying to Be a Leader Here"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Points of Series Premiere

  • Forty kids between the ages of eight and 15 are dropped off in the New Mexico desert to caravan to an old west ghost town called Bonanza City where they will create their own society, without the assistance of their family or any other adults, and live there for 40 days. Thirty-six of them are dropped off at the caravan point by school bus. The other four are helicoptered in and are introduced as the group's pre-selected Town Council.

  • Later on in the episode, the town is divided into four color-coded districts, with each Town Council member in charge of a district.
    Mike, 11, a boy scout from Washington state, gets the Red District.
    Taylor, 10, a pageant queen from Georgia, gets the Yellow District.
    Anjay, 12, a spelling bee champ from Texas, gets the Blue District.
    Laurel, 12, a student leader from Massachusetts (easy to tell from her thick Boston accent and her pride of being Irish), gets the Green District.

  • Every four days the Town Council gets to award the most deserving kid with a gold star, literally worth it's weigh in gold, equaling $20,000.

  • Despite some initial chaos, including a leg injury along the caravan, some trial-and-error with the kids cooking their own food, and the Town Council forgeting on the first day to check the chapel for a book with further instructions (as told by the host Jonathon), they division of districts brings order to things.

  • The first challenge resembled the pumping of oil from the ground using pumping towers, only they pumped colored water instead of oil. The order in which each district won determined their class and salary for the next four days.
    1st: Mike's Red District = Upper Class = $1.00 each.
    2nd: Anjay's Blue District = Merchant Class = $0.50 each.
    3rd: Taylor's Yellow District = Cook Class = $0.25 each.
    4th: Laurel's Green District = Laborer Class = $0.10 each.
    Also, by all four teams finishing in less than an hour (with literally a few seconds to spare), the Town Council got to choose between two possible prizes for the whole town: a TV or seven more outhouses (in addition to the solitary outhouse they had so far). The Council rightly chose the outhouses.

  • As the Merchant Class, the Red District got to run the town stores where kids could spend their winnings on food, drinks, games, and supplies.

  • Every few days, the pioneers gather for a Town Hall Meeting where kids get to state concerns or grievances, elect to go home if they want to, and have the $20K gold star awarded to one pioneer by the Town Council. At the first meeting, homesick Councilperson Taylor decided to tough it out and stay (to a round of applause), but youngest pioneer Jimmy insisted on going home (despite an older kid saying he's more mature than others). Despite some complaining about cooks not cleaning up after themselves, Sophia was still awarded the gold star. As part of the reward, she got to use the town's only phone to call her mom and tell her about the gold star.

Opinions and Observations

  • The chaos during supper and the unofficial town meeting reminded me a little much of my one and only year of teaching public school. Luckily, Michael, age 14 from Washington state, stepped up and gave an inspirational speech that motivated the other kids and got them to calm down and let the Council begin to organize things. Unlike an adult on a reality competition program who may have resented such unsought leadership, Councilperson Mike appreciate Michael stepping up and helping gain order.

  • I felt bad for the show's youngest pioneer named Jimmy, only eight-and-a-half years old from New Hampshire, who started crying on the 2nd day because he was already so homesick and felt he was too young to be trying this. Then, I almost started crying when Laurel, his leader on the Green team, tried to console him and said she would do her best to substitute for his mom and dad while he was there and asked if he would give her that chance. It's that kid-sticking-up-for-up-for-kid aspect that I think is going to make this show so cool.

  • A couple of the 14 & 15 year old kids from Blue District wrote graffiti on bunkhouses of other districts. I liked it when their fellow teammate Alex, 9 years old from Nevada, said the graffiti was stupid, juvenile, two-year-old behavior. When Greg, the oldest pioneer and ring leader of the graffiti hoodlums asked if the homesick Jimmy wanted to be his "new wingman," even Jimmy had the good sense to say no.

  • I liked that Sophia, a Green District 14-year-old from Florida, stepped up when it came to cooking (at least until the Yellow District came in 3rd place in the challenge and, consequently, took over as the town cooks for the next four days). She was also ambitious enough to entertain for tips, helping her afford the general store's bicycle which cost $3.00, when she only started off with 10 cents. Sophia had to step up again and prod kids into cleaning up when the Yellow District refused to clean after they were done cooking.

  • Despite Sophia under-estimating the Yellow District's cooking abilities, they did really well. I liked that Sophia was able to admit they did a good job and that kids starting cheering for the good job the Yellow District did.

  • This show has earned some controversy, but it doesn't look that bad to me. I think the experiment of having 40 kids build their own society is big enough, so mixing it with the inhabitation of an old west town does go a little far sometimes. For instance, 40 kids having only one outhouse at first seems a little extreme. It also seems weird that kids were sleeping on floors in sleeping bags and that the first challenge involved water when it appeared the weather was chilly when the show was being filmed. Beyond these nitpicks and some other off-camera mishaps that may have happened even with adults around, I'd say the show, when it comes to living conditions and adult presense, isn't too different from summer camp.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • One pioneer named Leila, a nine year old on the Yellow District team, is from my home state of North Carolina. So, I'll probably root for her automatically.

  • Despite the controversy about this show's handling of child labor and lack of adult supervision, I think it's a relatively harmless show, and I find some of the ways the kids support each other to be uplifting. Sophia and her mom's reactions to her winning the $20K gold star are really genuine and heart-warming. Even graffiti hooldum Greg gave Sophia a hug and said he wanted to win a gold star too. This was one my most anticipated fall shows, and I'm going to continue giving it a chance.

Season Premiere Review: Beauty and the Geek (Season 4)

Beauty and the Geek [s4 ep1]: "A Curveball for the New Contestants"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • The new 2-hour premiere kicks off with the host, Mike Richards, and last year's unlikely love connection couple, Nate and Jenny Lee, traveling to the following cities for casting: Boston, Mass.; Washington, D.C; my home state's captial, **Raleigh, North Carolina**; Chicago, Illinois; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada (lots of beauties, no geeks).

  • Nine male geeks and nine female beauties are chosen. After the lengthy introductions of contestants on both sides, the cast gets to have an outdoor slumber party in tents on the back lawn.

  • For their first challenge, the beauties undergo an intellectual skills analysis and the geeks undergo a social skills analysis. The purpose is to measure how much each contestant needs to improve.

  • After the analysis tests, Mike revealed that the lowest scoring beauty Shay and geek Joshua were the winners of the challenge because it showed they had the furthest to go to improve. Their reward was to choose their own teams, and assign everyone else's teams as well.

  • After some arguing over strategy, Shay and Joshua chose to team up together, even though they were both the lowest scoring people in the challenge. They slowly reveal their other pairings. Aspiring Playboy model Amanda got her wish to be paired with Asian, bowtie-wearing Tony. David was disappointed to be paired with Jasmine instead of Katie. Overly-bleached "blond" (practically white-haired) Erin was thrilled to be paired with Jesse. Natalie, who looks amazingly like Denise Richards, got John. The quiet Jen got red-headed William, who was hoping to be paired with Rebecca or Hollie and found it hard to hide his surprise and disappointment. Rebecca, the most attractive beauty among them, got Will. Professional Betty Boop Impersonator Hollie got Josh, despite how much Hollie and Luke wanted to be paired together. Luke was left with the sweet and understanding Katie.

  • The big "shock" this season is that, for the first time, there will be a tenth team consisting of a female geek and a male beauty.

Opinions and Observations

  • I know some people are better at book-smarts than others, and that part of the point of the show is to find female beauties who use their appearance and social skills to survive, but it still astonishes me how uneducated some of them tend to be. One of the frequently asked questions of the potential beauties during casting was, "Who won the Civil War?" Some of the answers were, "Who was that between," and "We did...We win all the wars."

  • Mike Richards: Who's the current Vice President?
    Chicago Beauty: Are you kidding me?!? Pass!! Hehh.
    Mike Richards: What's closer, the moon or the sun?
    Chicago Beauty: They're both equal. {she says confidently}
    Mike Richards: What are the three branches of the U.S. government?
    Chicago Beauty: They're's branches?

    Mike Richards: How many stripes on the U.S. flag?
    Another Chicago Beauty: Fifty-two.
    Mike Richards: How many stars?
    Another Chicago Beauty: Hmm. Eight?
    Mike Richards: What was the last book you read?
    Another Chicago Beauty: Well since I've been at school I haven't been reading much because I've had to study a lot.

  • The beauties this year look a little better than last year. On average, there seem to be fewer "over-processed" girls. There also seems to be a better balance between blonds and brunettes.

  • One brunette named Amanda who may have been "over-processed" but in a good way and in one particular area (if you know what I mean) seemed to be very proud of her enhancement and very open about her ambition to be in Playboy. She has one of the best faces of all the beauties, so with her enhancement included, she should have no trouble getting in the magazine.

  • One of my favorite beauties so far is Katie who seems to be sweet and more open-minded about the geeks. She feels sorry for them when they're nervous, said one of them was cute, and said that another was going to be "like a diamond in the rust." (Yes, she said "rust" not "rough.")

  • Usually respectful of the unique strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of the contestants, the show hit an uncharacteristic low point with the geeks' social skills tests. They had to draw their ideal woman (hello, what do art skills have to do with this contest?), undergo an ink-blot test (what???), and--most insulting of all--hug and kiss a feminine mannequin. The mannequin test was so absurd and degrading that they only showed three of the geeks take that test (I'd like to think the other six refused). As if the request to hug and kiss a mannequin weren't insulting enough already, the mannequin was leaning back at a bit of an angle, making it physically awkward to even complete the task. Wouldn't it have been just as informative yet less degrading to ask the geeks questions about dating, fashion, romance, etc.?

  • The beauties' analysis test wasn't much better. They were given a math problem, which wasn't too bad, especially since they made it a word problem about shopping for clothes. However, they also made the beauties read a paragraph with a few big words in it, which just made the beauties seem illiterate.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • I think it's a good idea to switch the genders on one team. I always wondered if they would do a whole season of male hunks and female geekettes. I guess having one team like that this season is the test run for such a thing.

  • Overall, I love this show, even though it is hard to endure sometimes. Sometimes I identify with the geeks a little too much, and other times they're so geeky in ways I'm not that it's almost embarrassing to watch. I'd like to think I'm not quite as awkward as these guys are. On the other hand, I almost envy how smart they are.

  • I like that the beauties, so far anyway, seem to be sweeter, kinder, and more open-minded than than some of the overly shallow, b**chy contestants they got last year.

  • It's too soon to have any favorite teams, but I just hope they keep this a genuine social experiment as they have in the past. I sometimes get emotionally invested in the players the way some people do in sports teams. I'm often impressed and even a little envious as to how much some contestants improve. I hope this season is even more enjoyable than the past ones.

Season Premiere Review: Prison Break (Season 3)

Prison Break [s3 ep1]: "Orientacion"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

Key Plot Points of Season Premiere

  • Picking up right where the season finale left off, "The Company" has arranged for Michael Scofield to be dropped in Sona, a prison in Panama that is so bad that guards backed out after riots a year ago, leaving the inmates to run their own little society.

  • Michael's brother Lincoln Burrows has been acquitted of all charges. As a free man, it is up to him to help out Michael. He confers with the American Embassy in Panama to get Michael released. For now, they hope to at least get him transferred to a safer prison.

  • Other characters also imprisoned in Sona along with Michael: former Fox River Prison guard Brad Bellick, former FBI agent (and killer of Michael's father) Alex Mahone, and former Fox River inmate Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell.

  • Sona is run by an inmate kingpin named Luchero.

  • Someone with the Company visits Michael telling him they want him to break out and that they'll help him if he finds someone named Whistler and breaks him out too.

  • Lincoln is visited by a mysterious woman with the Company. Afterwards, Lincoln visits Michael agreeing that he has to break out with Whistler as the Company has insisted because the woman has shown Lincoln video of Michael's girlfriend Sarah and Lincoln's son L.J. being help captive by the Company.

Opinions and Observations

  • While I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Bellick character, it is getting annoying and creepy to see him stumbling around, thirsty and beaten, wearing nothing but his white jockey underwear. (Because I'm reviewing the season premiere a little late, I've already seen the 2nd episode, and luckily, Bellick is able to make a deal for clothing by the latter half of the episode. Unfortunately, he obtains the clothing by supplying Luchero with intel and betraying Michael in the process.)

  • Thanks to Sarah Wayne Callies having left the show permanently after the birth of her baby, her character of Sarah Tancredi is seen in the hostage video facing away from the camera. This show has seemed plagued with casting problems, especially among its female support characters.

Hopes, Concerns, or Expectations for New Season

  • This should be an interesting season because Michael once again must depend on unlikely allies to break out of a prison. But, this time, he has no plan, a shorter time frame, and even worse allies than before (Bellick, Mahone, T-Bag).

  • Because I've also seen the 2nd episode, I happen to know that Sucre (not seen in the season premiere) finds out that Mari-Cruz is safe and that he must give her up for her to stay that way. Previews for next week seem to imply that Sucre joins up with Lincoln to help get Michael and Whistler out of Sona.

  • For a show that probably should have lasted only one season, two at the most, I do actually like the concept they've established for season three. With the theme back on breaking out of prison, it will feel more like season one, but with the conspiracy backstory from season two and a Panamanian setting, the third season should have more flavor and twists and turns. I just hope they don't have any more casting issues.

  • Because of the aforementioned casting issue, I wonder how long it will be before the character of Sarah is killed off (or re-cast, although I'd doubt they'd do that considering the prominence of her character for the first two seasons). If she survives, perhaps they'll go the plastic surgery route. She could be severely beaten as a hostage and need facial repair or she may elect for plastic surgery in order to change her identity upon eventual return to the U.S. I doubt they'd go that far. On the other *hand* (pun partially intended), they did spend a lot of time on T-Bag's character finding a prosthetic replacement for his severed hand in season two.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Season Finale Review: The 4400

The 4400 [s4 ep13]: "The Great Leap Forward"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Danny's Promicin-induced ability is one of the most bizarre (and there have been some bizarre powers this season), but it moves the overall story arc foward in an extreme and intriguing direction.

  • Stories about people with weird powers this season have paid off because everything has set the stage for the complicated yet exciting and satisfying chain of events that occur in this non-stop, epic season finale.

  • The distribution of Ubiquinone gives the government, NTAC, and The 4400 Centre a chance to work together, which might be a necessary alliance to wrestle control of Seattle back from Jordan Collier in season five.

  • Excellent performances, especially by Patrick Flueger as Shawn Farrell whose character must react to the death of his mother and the realization that he must kill his own brother to save thousands.

  • NTAC's computer geek, Marco Pacella, gets the best of the new powers from the Promicin virus. Able to transport himself to any place of which he sees a picture, his ability reminds me a lot of the use of Trumps from Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles, one of my all-time favorite book series.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Sometimes this season's "heaven-on-earth" motif and references to Jordan Collier being some kind of modern day messiah seem cliche. Calling the agents from the future The Marked might also be a reference to the mark of the beast in Revelation. I sometimes feel uneasy when sci-fi tries to use the Bible as inspiration for some fantastical storyline.

10 Story
8 Performances
10 Drama/Intensity
10 Suspense/Cliffhanging
10 Nostalgia/Coolness
Picking up where the last episode left off, Diana has just shot Tom who is has been infected with an alternate personality from the future by way of nanites, making him one of the Marked. The Marked are a faction who want the future to remain the way it is and must stop the 4400 in order to maintain the status quo. They place their personalities in nine host bodies in order to manipulate things from our current time.

Rescuing Tom
To get the real Tom back, Meghan and Diana plan to inject Tom with a lethal dose of Polonium, which will kill the nanites, and then have Tom's 4400 nephew Shawn use his healing ability to repair Tom's body from the radiation. The plan works.

Later, when Tom is able to get to Jordan, he tells Jordan how to rid himself of his Mark, and gives him the names of the seven other Marked so that Jordan can free them as well. Tom feels Jordan should be the one to do so because NTAC and the government would never be able to get to the other Marked through official channels.

Free Promicin for Everyone, Not the Way You'd Expect
Meanwhile, Shawn's mother is rushed to the hospital after his brother Danny has told her that he took the Promicin shot and she started bleeding and coughing. Once at the hospital, others who come close to Danny start bleeding and coughing too.

Apparently, Danny's Promicin-induced ability is to spread Promicin like an airborne virus. Everyone who comes near him reacts as if they've taken the Promicin shot. They have a 50% chance of dying or a 50% chance of developing an ability. The virus eventually spreads to the rest of Seattle, including NTAC. In effect, he's spread Promicin to most of the city and has inadvertantly killed his own mother and thousands others in the process.

Dr. Burkhoff gives Danny the Promicin inhibitor, but without airborne release, the virus continues to build up in Danny, eating away at him. Meanwhile, the chaos and panic from the Promicin deaths get so bad that Meghan reluctantly accepts Kyle Baldwin's public offer to use 4400s and other Promicin-positives to restore order throughout Seattle with their special abilities.

Realizing there's no cure for his Promicin build up and that going off the inhibitor would endanger thousands, Danny asks Shawn to kill him. Shawn argues at first but reluctantly and painfully agrees. Shawn is forced to use his healing abilities in reverse on Danny. In a few seconds, Danny is gone, and Shawn curls up and cries beside the 2nd family member he's lost in one day's time.

Diana's Immunity = Key to Promicin Cure
Because Dr. Burkhoff experimented on Diana with an early version of Promicin last year, her body built up an immunity to Promicin. She never did develop an ability and still doesn't, but the Promicin virus doesn't kill her either. The immunity comes from a build up of Ubiquinone which is conventiently available to the public via an over-the-counter supplement. By telling people to take these pills, they can stop the spread of the Promicin virus (although they can't undo the damage that's already done).

The End of the Line for Isabelle
The Marked, in order to keep control of Seattle away from Promicin-positives, send Isabelle to Promise City to kill Kyle Baldwin, who's taken a leadership role during Jordan Collier's abduction. When Tom attempts to infiltrate the Marked by pretending to still be Marked himself, he gives away his cover with a slight flinch when told of the plans to kill Kyle. He's locked away with Jordan.

Isabelle goes to Promise City to kill Kyle. She tries but can't go through with it. Tired of being manipulated by people from the future, she fights against her handlers and their painful killswitch that they implanted in her, and she rescues Jordan and Tom. Isabelle's fight is her last act as the killswitch is enough to finish her off.

Eight Days Later
The best scene in the episode is the funeral of Susan and Danny Farrell, Shawn's mom and brother. Kyle stands off in the distance but comes over to Shawn after the service. Kyle and his dad Tom reconcile too. Tom hugs his son and nephew and says they'll get through this. Despite all the weird sci-fi elements, this show at its heart has always been about family. So, not only is this a touching scene, but Tom, Kyle, and Shawn now represent NTAC, Promise City, and The 4400 Centre, respectively. Despite a possibly dark future, this scene shows that the Baldwin/Farrell family will be the key to maintaining balance and hopefully, someday, bringing harmony to a world complicated by Promicin.

Meghan tells Diana that there are 9000 *confirmed* dead, which means there are also 9000 more Promicin-positive people who will now have abilities. For now, Jordan Collier's people are maintaining order, which is unavoidably necssary while Seattle is under quarantine. But Diana wonders whether Jordan will be willing to stand down when the quarantine is eventually lifted.

Jordan Collier gives the public a rousing speech about healing, the thousands of dead being "heralds" of a new age, and how he plans to guide the city into the future. Standing beside him is Kyle Baldwin, holding the book of Promicin-related prophecy he procured earlier in the season (in Revelation, I believe the anti-Christ has a chief priest; is that where they're going with these two?).

Diana and her adopted 4400 daughter Maia watch Jordan Collier on TV. They disagree about what they see, much to Diana's dismay:

Maia: See, I told you he was a good guy.

Diana: Maia, can't you see what's happening? Jordan Collier is naming himself dictator of Seattle. There's nothing good about that.

Maia: You're wrong, Mom. *We're* in charge now. It's better that way.

Meanwhile, we see the special abilities that survivors at NTAC have gained from the Promicin virus:

  • Meghan Doyle is writing something at her desk when her pen gradually turns into a flower.

  • Jed Garrity stands up from a bottom file drawer to see an exact duplicate of himself standing beside him.

  • Marco Pacella, with the coolest ability of all, skims through some photos of Promise City while in his office. After focusing on one photo in particular, he finds he has instantaneously transported himself there to that same spot in Promise City.

Jordan Collier: ...I've spoken to the world before of heaven on earth. Many of you thought it impossible. But, now, I'm convinced...WE WILL SEE IT IN OUR LIFETIME!!! {to great applause from the crowd around him}

Kyle Baldwin goes home to his dad. Tom is lamenting all the people he's lost. He wonders how to move on. Kyle lays the Promicin shot that his book of prophecy claims Tom must take. "Dad, it's time," Kyle says. Does he take it? Does he refuse? I guess we'll find out next summer.

In a closing shot of a highway, we see the Seattle skyline off in the distance. The camera pans down to a sign that says, "Welcome to Seattle." The word "Seattle" has been crossed out with red spray paint and painted over it are the words, "Promise City."

WOW!!! I'd say season five is going to be just a... Little. Bit. Different. I love this show, and this was a virtually flawless season finale. It was probably as good, if not better, than their season two finale, which also blew me away with its many shocking reveals.

In fact, I'd say I've enjoyed the season finales of The 4400 even more than the season finales of shows with bigger hype such as Lost or Battlestar Galactica.

For a summer season show that's only lasted 47 episodes so far, the story arc has moved much faster than it feels like it has. This show masterfully mixes sci-fi elements, an underlying theme of family, compelling drama, and exciting action. I can't wait until next summer!

Season Finale Review: Rescue Me

Rescue Me had its season finale almost two weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to watching it one last time before clearing it off TiVo (making room for new fall shows), so I thought I'd review it while I watch.

Rescue Me [s4 ep13]: "Yaz"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • A funny scene in which Tommy & Kenny are on top of the roof of an elevator that rockets all the way to the top and then shoots back down a few seconds later.

  • An oddly touching scene in which Tommy fulfills his dad's wish to see a minor league baseball game only to have his dad pass away quietly as they watch.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • The near-hookup scene between Tommy and Janet is intriguing but, by going nowhere, seems pointless.

  • In general, a mild and subtle finale to an already uneven season. The death of Tommy's dad is supposed to be the big shock at the end, but it kind of felt like it was coming. Hopefully, the 4th season was meant to be a subtle yet intricate setup to a blowout 5th season.

6 Story
8 Performances
6 Drama/Intensity
5 Suspense/Cliffhanging
5 Nostalgia/Coolness
This was a very strange season, even for this show.

Strange Things From Season Four

  • Tommy not drinking (strange in a good way).

  • Tommy smoking only once (one time too many, but I'll give him a pass since he was trying to talk Mike out of suicide at the time). Come to think of it, hardly anyone smoked this season. Garrity and Mike were the most frequent offenders. I guess the no-smoking bet they instituted last season had a lasting effect, even after the contest was over.

  • The frequent close-ups of the words in Tommy's 12-step book.

  • Tommy's disfunctional family AA meetings.

  • Tommy going from seeing ghosts of dead family members to more vivid hallucinations, such as his apartment being on fire and daydreaming of boozing and womanizing while spending time with his dad over club soda in bars.

  • Tommy pretending to be the ghost of his 9/11-victim cousin Jimmy Keefe for reasons that aren't 100% obvious.

  • Tommy coming extremely close to dropping the un-named baby (of Janet and his dead brother Johnny who had an affair last season) into the Hudson River, at the behest of Johnny's ghost, since no one in the family was connecting emotionally with the baby but Tommy. Instead, Tommy accepted Sheila's offer to take the baby. Janet uses her younger daughter in a ploy to get the baby back from Sheila. Afterwards, Tommy secretly shares the baby with Sheila whenever the baby is supposed to be with him. Janet *finally* names the baby Wyatt (after Wyatt Earp), much to the disapproval of Sheila who prefers the name Elvis.

  • Chief Jerry taking his own life early in the season, just because he was assigned to desk duty at work, after a heart attack (granted, his problems with his gay son getting married probably helped in his decision). Even stranger was Jerry eating a salad as his last meal instead of enjoying a steak or junk food.

  • Jerry's replacement Chief Feinberg repeatedly prodding Tommy to date his daughter only to blow his top when Tommy finally goes out on two dates with her and on their 2nd date semi-accidentally cupping one of her boobs.

  • *Every* woman in Tommy's life continuing to be eccentric, frustrating, and borderline insane. This is a running theme of the show but was especially true with Tommy's latest "relationship" with Valerie who prefers super quick, uh, gratification over any romance whatsoever but then still expects monogamy from Tommy.

Tommy Going From Seeing Ghosts to Pretending to Be One
As far as Tommy pretending to be the ghost of his cousin Jimmy--by wearing Jimmy's old fire jacket, sneaking into firetruck storage bins during his time off, and rescuing people in fires anonymously... It seems he's doing it to mess with some of the background characters in the firehouse who have been drinking too much in between fires. Now, they all think their seeing the ghost of Jimmy Keefe and decide to cut down on the booze. But, I think it's deeper than that. I think Tommy is replacing his addiction to alcohol and cigarettes with an addiction to saving people.

One of the coolest scenes from this season was a few episodes back when Tommy left his bizarre date with the chief's bipolar daughter to rescue people from a nearby fire only to return to the date, covered in soot, acting like nothing ever happened, and attracting the attention of a new cleavage-bearing character Valerie (Gina Gerson) who puts her phone number in Tommy's shirt pocket without saying a word. I think Tommy's life, family, friends, and romantic/sexual partners are all so messed up, that he takes solace (and earns cool points) by saving people from fires. Doing so while wearing his dead cousin's jacket may be a way of paying tribute to Jimmy and/or paying penance for hooking up with Jimmy's crazy wife Sheila in the first season.

Sublots Wrapped Up or Left Hanging in Season Finale
Some subplots get wrapped up, such as Garrity and Tommy's sister Maggie splitting up, Kenny and his cousin not being mad at each other for sleeping with each other's girlfriends, and Tommy's daughter Colleen breaking up with her loser bass-playing boyfriend (who recently used the credit card Tommy gave Colleen to pay for his other girlfriend's engagement ring, something Tommy was surprisingly okay with as long the loser wasn't marrying Colleen).

One thing that may continue to get explored next season is Tommy finding a way of making his "relationship" with gratification-obsessed/romance-hating Valerie work. Early in this episode he tries to break up with her. Later, he storms into her apartment, tells her to put on lingerie, throws a couple steaks on the counter for her to cook, starts to read the paper, and tells her that they'll have sex on the table after she's cooked him supper. She seems willing and intrigued.

One subplot that just doesn't invoke too much interest is Franco's on-again-off-again relationship with Natalie. Although hanging by a thread, it might just get revived later thanks to a meaningful phone call they have while she's in Chicago.

At the Game with Tommy's Dad
The subtle yet touching highlight of the episode is Tommy fulfilling his dad's wish to see a minor league baseball game. The two of them, along with Kenny, Garrity, and Uncle Teddy (who all have separate seats away from Tommy and his dad) go to a game where Tommy's dad looks happy for the first time in a long time. They reminisce, they talk about baseball, and they even sing a little bit of a song.

Musical Montage that Ends the Season Finale

  • Sheila, drunk and hanging around at the fire station hoping to see the ghost of her dead husband Jimmy (like everyone else allegedly is), finds the storage room where Tommy and his new dog have secretly been staying while in between apartments. In it, she also finds Jimmy's fire jacket that Tommy has been secretly wearing at fires. On the inside, Jimmy wrote, "To my Godson, Connor. Love, Uncle Jimmy. 4/26/97" (Connor was Tommy's son who was killed by a drunk driver in season 2 episode 12.) Sheila curls up with the jacket and breaks into tears.

  • Probie Firefighter Bart, a.k.a "Black Sean," and Tommy's daughter Colleen are sharing a romantic picnic in the park after having met each other for the first time at the firehouse earlier in the day (Tommy is sooo going to punch Black Sean out at some point next season).

  • Chief Feinberg--who also discovered Tommy's hiding place, dog, and cousin's fire jacket, earlier in the episode--is filling out paperwork on Tommy for Section Eight, a designation for firefighters that go crazy.

  • Against Natalie's wishes, her mentally-challenged brother Richie is getting married to his wheelchair-bound girlfriend. Depsite knowing Natalie was afraid of leaving Richie alone while she's in Chicago for this very reason, Franco approves and serves as Richie's witness and best man at the ceremony.

  • While out with her new boyfriend from work, Janet notices that one of baby Wyatt's ears is pierced, something Sheila wanted to have done on Wyatt despite Tommy's disapproval.

  • While still at the baseball game, Tommy's dad quietly passes away in his seat. Instead of alarming Kenny, Garrity, and Uncle Teddy, Tommy just puts his arm around his father and continues to watch the game with him.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eyeborgs Preview & Teaser Trailer

I just reviewed the TV movie Highlander: The Source, starring Adrian Paul. It's obviously a bad review, but I don't blame that on Adrian Paul. He's a great actor, I loved him on Highlander: The Series, and I've heard that he takes all his work very seriously.

I actually got a chance to meet Adrian Paul recently. There was a low-budget science fiction movie called Eyeborgs that was filmed here locally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in July 2007, and Adrian Paul was the star of the film (not sure if he was playing the lead role, but he was at least the biggest name actor in it).

My friend and local director/producer/writer/editor Ike Quigley was the script supervisor on the production. So, when I and the other producer on our 48 Hour Film Project entry had to meet with Ike (our director on our 48 Hour project), he let us come by the Eyeborgs set and watch the crew blow up a van and set a guy on fire for some pyrotechnic scenes.

Adrian Paul was not in the scenes but eventually came out of his trailer to watch the pyrotechnics. Ike introduced Paul to myself and our producer's husband who also got to hang around and help with still photography. I only got a chance to say, "Hi, nice to meet you," to Paul before he went back to talking to Ike about the previous day's footage. I get to meet famous people so rarely that even that was kind of cool.

Anyway... While looking up Highlander and Adrian Paul stuff online while writing my Source review, I came across the Eyeborgs preview at its official site. There are several shots of the Winston-Salem skyline throughout the preview. There's a scene in the preview of a "Spy-der" robot harrassing a pedestrian. The pedestrian looks like Eyeborgs' director/co-writer Richard Clabaugh, who I think is also a film professor at North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

And, just now, I dug a little further and found the Eyeborgs teaser trailer on YouTube. It's different from the preview, which has a more documentary type feel to it. The teaser trailer is embedded below:

I recognize The Depot in Greensboro, NC, as one of the shooting locations for the teaser trailer. We got clearance to use The Depot as one of our shooting locations for the 48 Hour Film Project too. In fact, I scouted The Depot for 48HFP the same day that either Eyeborgs or another local production was filming in the building.

In further Eyeborgs/48HFP crossover trivia, several cast & crew from Eyeborgs worked on our team, 9 lb. Hammer, in the 48 Hour Film Project this year. In fact, the lead actor in our entry, entitled Dekay, was Juan-Carlos "J.C." Guzman, who is also in Eyeborgs. Also, several other crew members of Eyeborgs were veteran directors of the 48 Hour Film Project in Greensboro as well as other local productions.

[UPDATE] After even more digging, I also found an extensive Yes Weekly article about Eyeborgs by local movie reviewer Mark Burger, who had full access to the Eyeborgs shoot (I also got to meet him the night I visited the set). The article was written back in June and includes a lot of details about the cast, crew, and shooting locations of Eyeborgs.

Near the end of the article there are a few mentions of the Millennium Center, one of the movie's shooting locations. The Millennium Center is an old, large, historic building in downtown Winston-Salem which used to serve as the central post office a long time ago and looks a lot like a museum from the outside. It's been used as a shooting location for a variety of movies, from student films to big-budget productions.

The Millennium Center also happened to be the primary shooting location for our entry in the 48 Hour Film Project in 2006, entitled Gone to Ground. Ike Quigley was also the director on that project, and I was one of two assistant producers. If you've ever noticed the video of Gone to Ground on the right column of this blog or in my MySpace profile, that's why it's there. I was also used as an extra in the boardroom scene. You can see the side of my face as a few other people talk. Originally, I had a line of dialogue, but we had to scrap it to conserve on camera setups.

TV Movie Review: Highlander: The Source

Highlander: The Source

In Brief: What's Good

  • Because it was originally meant for theatrical release, the production quality is higher than a typical Sci-Fi Channel original movie.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Weird, unclear plot.

  • Lame villain.

  • Unsatisfying, anti-climactic, nonsensical ending.

  • No historical flashbacks, a trademark element of the previous movies and TV show.

F Story
C Acting
C Directing
C Visuals

Duncan MacLeod, from the Clan MacLeod, is the Scottish Highlander immortal. In an apparent near-future setting, the world has turned to crap, and Duncan is now a brooding, drinking loner somewhere in a perpetually-burning Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, his human ex-fiance named Anna is having visions of planets aligning and is hearing something in her head about the Source. The Source is, well, I just watched the movie, and I still don't totally understand what it is. But, I think it's supposed to be some supernatural energy that is the source of immortal power and contains a special "gift" to the one most worthy to receive it (I won't give away what the gift is).

Duncan, Anna, and three other mortals go on a "quest" to find the Source. Along the way, they face further visions, fights, betrayals, losses, a weird motorcycle-driving woodland cult, and the Guardian. The Guardian is--if I "understand" correctly--another immortal who is so old and so powerful that he has the ability to move super-fast. Despite being powerful and "evil" (I guess), he's also almost laughably corny. Basically, he's an immortal, a WWE wrestler, and The Flash, all wrapped into one.

The worst thing about the Highlander franchise is that it shouldn't be a franchise. The very first movie, way back in the '80s, is self-contained and should permanently wrap up the mythology of the immortals. But, every movie ignores the one before. Highlander 2 is, without any doubt whatsoever, one of the most painfully bad movies in cinematic history, and Highlander 3 is just okay (thanks to totally ignoring Highlander 2).

The never-should-have-been franchise was redeemed somewhat, however, by the TV show about Connor MacLeod's immortal clan cousin, Duncan. I actually liked it and probably saw every episode. It ignored the ending of the first movie, leading to something astoundingly retconish {retroactive continuity -ish} in the first Duncan-based movie, Highlander: Endgame.

Well, as if the Highlander franchise wasn't self-destructive enough already, Highlander: The Source breaks the rules even more. When an immortal takes another immortal's head, there's a series of explosive energy bursts called the Quickening. Despite several heads being taken in this movie, there's only one Quickening. Is the lack of Quickenings an appropriate element of the story, or is it simply a budget constraint? Perhaps both. There's also a scene where Duncan draws a sword on another immortal while on holy ground, a *huge* no-no. His characteristic Japanese katana, which he wielded with sufficient coolness throughout the entire TV series, is broken at some point in the movie, leaving Duncan to fight with two dinky short swords, and occasionally no sword at all.

There are also several logic flaws and inconsistencies in the movie:

(1) When immortals take heads, they supposedly gain the "power" of the immortals they kill. Very rarely, usually only with villains, have we seen the "power" manifest itself as super-human abilities or strength. Immortals, despite their rapid healing, lack of aging, inability to have children, and ability to sense the proximity of other immortals, are relatively human in other ways. But, there's a scene near the beginning in which Duncan MacLeod jumps off a high building and lands flat on his feet, like he were a comic book superhero or kung-fu action star.

(2) Anna and her accompanying immortals keep looking up at the night sky to see the planets aligning. The planets look enormous, as if they're millions of miles closer to the Earth than they actually are. If they were close enough to see that well, as they are in this movie, the gravitational forces would probably rip Earth apart, or at the very least cause some gargantumongous tsunamis.

(3) There's one point in the movie in which the Guardian is able to sneak up on an immortal, something immortals can't do since they can detect when other immortals are around. One of the characters even asks why the Guardian was able to bypass their detection? In the very next scene, all the immortals do sense another immortal around, and it's the Guardian. So, can the Guardian be detected by other immortals or not?

(4) This last nitpick may be less of an inconsistency and more a case of the writers playing around with timelines or alternate realities. The setting for this movie appears to be a post-apocolyptic future. It's at least a few years in the future because Methos and a couple other immortals are using holographic communication technology that does not exist currently. Plus, there's been enough time for almost all the Watchers (a secret organization of humans that observe immortals and record their history) to be wiped out, leaving Duncan's ex-Watcher Joe Dawson as one of the few--if not only--surviving Watchers. But, despite the futuristic setting, Joe Dawson doesn't look much older than he did in the TV show, even though the show has been off the air almost a decade. You'd think they'd have made Joe look about 10 to 20 years older to explain the timeline jump, but he seems to have aged pretty slowly in a harsh world.

Nitpicks aside, the story is very disjointed. Duncan MacLeod, as a brooding, defeated mess who's lost his woman and his favorite sword is not as interesting to watch as the noble and honorable hero we're used to seeing. The quest he and his companions are on seems underdeveloped as this Source that they're after feels very vague. We really don't know until the end what the point of the Source is supposed to be, and even that is explained using a series of clips from earlier in the movie, a voice-over by Anna, and a handful of light-bathed images. The revelation at the end is not satisfying, spits somewhat in the face of the Highlander mythology (unless this is mercifully the last installment of the franchise), and is revealed only a minute or two before the end credits, leaving no time to reflect or follow up on this new change in Duncan's life.

Despite all the negatives, the movie just barely redeems itself from absolute failure by inducing less boredom and having slightly higher production quality than the usual Sci-Fi Channel original movie. It's also nice to see old TV characters Duncan MacLeod, Methos, and Joe Dawson again, even if I don't like what happens to them. It's oddly comforting in a way to see them again even if the story surrounding them is crap. It's kind of like finding an old college sweatshirt in the bottom drawer of your spare dresser: The sweatshirt doesn't fit the same as it used to and has that weird been-in-a-drawer-for-years smell to it, but it's still warm and soft to the touch. You can't quite bring yourself to donate it to Goodwill yet, but you don't want to wear it again either. (Is this a weird analogy? Okay, I won't use it again.)

Fun Facts from Wikipedia

The movie was filmed in 2005 and faced a series of delays in being released. Originally meant for theatrical release, it finally premiered as a direct-to-TV movie on Sci-Fi Channel on Saturday 15 September 2007. Plans for The Source to be the first of a new Highlander trilogy are now up in the air.

Bizarre Facts from Internet Movie Database

Joel Soisson's version of the script had Duncan MacLeod living at a gas station, next to a run-down airplane, in the middle of the desert. Also in the script, MacLeod smoked, wore cowboy boots and a hat, and had a pet monkey named Connor. {Wow, this version of the movie sounds even worse than what I just watched.}