Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Eve Marathons

The one good thing about New Year’s Eve is you can count on the cable networks running plenty of marathons.

The Twilight Zone marathon on Sci-Fi has been an annual staple of mine. I never get tired of seeing them every year. But, in case YOU get tired of them, here’s a few other marathons I spotted, starting New Year's Eve:

TNT: Law & Order
USA: Law & Order Criminal Intent
Spike: CSI
Discovery: Mythbusters

Nothing like bring in the New Year with crime, mystery, and a few nerdy guys, I say. Have a happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frank TV – A short review for a short show

When I was young, there were tons of voice impersonators out there, some so good, some not so good. (I could never understand what anybody saw in Rich Little.) But Frank Caliendo, currently on the TBS show “Frank TV” is probably the best one I’ve seen in a long time. So I decided to give his TV show a try.

While it’s not sidesplitting funny, some of his impressions are so accurate that it is amazing. It’s not just the voices that he nails, but it’s the person’s mannerisms. It’s amusing that he changes his appearances to look more like the person he’s impersonating. But, I can’t get used to his Pacino look, although if I don’t look at the television while he’s on, I’d swear it was Pacino himself. His impersonation of President George W. Bush is unbelievably accurate, as is his Robert De Niro and John Madden.

The sketches that Frank performs on his show aren’t always very funny, but I have to admit that at least once in every show I laugh hard and loud. So I have been making it a point to watch every week, even though Frank needs to get better writers for the humor.

If you’ve missed episodes of Frank TV (which has been airing Tuesdays on TBS at 11:00 PM), they are available on the TBS website, link below.

Link to Frank TV TBS web site

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Prime Time Game and Reality Shows: The Dumbing Down of TV

My mother had to spend the night at my house the other day. My prime time television watching doesn’t include game shows or reality shows. Once or twice, I tried watching them out of desperation, but realize usually after a few minutes that I actually have more of a brain than they realize.

Anyway, my mother WILL watch these kinds of shows, so since she was my guest, I let her have complete control over the remote control. Since she doesn’t have high definition television, I assumed she’d make a beeline for some nature show or drama that was in high def. Not my luck. In instead, she chose “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” (the answer for me is yes, thankfully) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”.

They were mind numbing.

I wouldn’t have so many problems with the 5th grader show, had the adults not seemed so stupid and that they spent more time on asking actual questions. There was too much filler on this show. I used to watch Jeopardy as a child and felt that was a show that made me smarter, but not 5th Grader. (By the way, I don’t watch Jeopardy anymore either, unless I am at someone else’s house and I am forced to.)

As far as Don’t Forget the Lyrics, there really are no words - but I'll try. The first contestant was a mother and two sons, who seemed pretty good with lyrics. But, again, the show was a lot of filler with a lot of pauses meant to build suspense (they didn’t). The second contestant was a woman who didn’t have one clue as to any lyrics for any of the songs. Why they would have a contestant that clearly couldn’t actually have a chance is beyond me. In addition to all this, we had to sit through endless teasers about the show itself while we were watching the show. For example, I think they showed several preview of the second contestant kicking up her leg, and doing the splits. So by the time that part of the show came up, the interest in this contestant had waned.

After watching these two shows, I felt like some of my brain cells actually died.

And because of the writer’s strike, the outlook looks even worse, with more game shows and reality shows set to start in January. I suspect that the IQ of Americans who watches this programming will drop significantly after the first week. The networks should be a little more creative when thinking of filling prime time hours. An occasional broadcast of something EDUCATIONAL that was shown on PBS, or stations like Discovery, couldn’t really hurt now, could it? It’s time that the networks try “smarting up” their viewers rather than dumbing them down. Then we wouldn't have to worry about if people were really smarter than a 5th grader, would we?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CSI: NY – The weak CSI sibling

Photo CBS/Anthony Mandler

I’ve been an on-and-off watcher of CSI: NY. I watched it for the first year, but the show was so - cold. It looked cold; everything seemed to have a bluish cast. It was the polar opposite of CSI: Miami, where everything looked warm and, well, orange. I suppose the bluish coloring was supposed to emphasize the grittiness of New York City; instead it made me feel like my body and brain was slowly being frozen.

Then there’s the cast. They were cold and emotionless during the first year, and the chemistry was just not there. So after watching for a good part of the season, I gave up on it.

I picked up a few episodes in the following seasons. They appeared to add some color to the show, making it look slightly cartoonish. Still, the ambiance was a little better than the first season. But, that pesky old cast of characters remained. Despite the fact that they tried to make the show look more realistic, the actors still seemed lifeless, like they were going through the motions. I really couldn’t have cared less about any of them, and I think that is the kiss of death for a show as far as I am concerned. If I can’t get at least a little emotionally involved with the characters in a show, it makes the whole reason to watch a show disappear.

The other problem I have is the completely unrealistic story lines. Yes, all the shows in the CSI franchise seem to be afflicted with this, but CSI: NY defines the word “ridiculous.” The forensics are too outlandish and frankly just too convenient that even if they are credible explanations, they come across as being silly.

I started watching the show again toward the end of last season, and continuing this season. They had an on-going story arc with the “333” stalker who was harassing Mac. And you know what? I still could care less about what happens to Mac. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that Gary Sinise is just horrible in this role, always looking like he has a bad case of gas pains. The rest of the cast is, for the most part, uninteresting to me. There is just something missing in this show and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The only person where there is hope is with Stella, played by Melina Kanakaredes. (STELLA! I am compelled to yell it out like Brando in “Streetcar” every time I hear her name. It is like the strange compulsion I have to scream along with Roger Daltry after one of Horatio Caine’s one-liners in CSI: Miami. But I digress.) Stella seems to be the only person working in the New York crime lab that actually has some life to her. But I don’t think it’s enough for me in the long run.

I know CSI: NY does pretty well in the ratings, but it will be interesting to see what happens after Law & Order returns to its original time slot in January. The invigorated L&O cast, along with a much needed promotion for Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) to District Attorney, is giving the show a lot of good buzz. The question will be, who fights crime better in New York City? My vote is with the grounded, reliable, and ever faithful Law & Order gang.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Numb3rs – I’m Lost in the Chinese Box

Friday’s (December 14) episode of Numb3ers left me a little confused. The episode was called “Chinese Box” and involved David (Alimi Ballard) being taken hostage in an elevator. The story itself was good, as is usually the case for the show.

The problem with this episode is that I still don’t have the vaguest understanding of the mathematical solution that Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) was proposing, called a ‘Chinese Box”. To make matters worse, Charlie seemed to be throwing quite a hissy fit that nobody (meaning his brother Don – played by Rob Morrow) would listen to his solution. And even after Charlie explained it again, I’m still not sure I get it.

The longer I watch this show, the more amazed I become at how they insert very complicated math to solve what may be very simple problems. Many times it’s interesting; sometime, like with “Chinese Box”, the math goes a little over my head and muddles the show. While I am not a math genius like Charlie, I think I can grasp a lot of the concepts most of the time.

As Charlie was having his little meltdown about being ignored, I came to the conclusion that I am really starting to dislike Charlie. There are many times that he seems to act like a petulant child. It’s not hard for me to figure out why no one will listen to him.

I think this is a great show, with a cast that seems to have the right chemistry. I think, though, for the show to go to the next level and continue to stay fresh, Charlie has to grow up and act more like a mature adult and less like a spoiled child. And I didn’t need a complex math formula to figure that out. But if someone can better explain the Chinese Box concept to me, I’d appreciate it.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Las Vegas" - Fictional Vegas Falls Short

Last Friday, since there wasn’t a new episode of Numb3rs, I decided to watch Las Vegas on NBC. I watched the show during its first year, but stopped when I realized that there HAD to be something better available.

After watching Friday’s episode, I found myself asking, “Why is this show still on television?” It was absolutely devoid of anything substantial.

For those of you who have never watched this show (lucky you!), it revolves around various happenings at the fictional Las Vegas casino, the Montecito. In previous years, Ed Deline, played by a pasty-looking James Caan, headed the Montecito. What a comedown for Caan, I say. This season, Ed was replaced by Jim Cooper, played by Tom Selleck, who probably could stand to lose a few pounds and get in shape.

This particular episode involved Mike – a guy who used to be a valet but now seems to be head honcho of security – going through a Dickens-ish Christmas Carol storyline, with some of the Montecito women playing the various Dickens’ ghosts. How many ways can I say it was mind-numbingly horrible? Once is probably enough.

There were various excuses to showcase scantily clad women throughout the show, which I assume is the real purpose of the show. But, to give you a clue at how bad the show is, even with all the cleavage showing, my husband said the show was one of the worst hours on television he'd seem in a while. It seems like the show is tailored for the 14-18 year old male demographic, most of which are probably asleep or out partying at 10:00 on a Friday night.

I found myself wondering why NBC passed on Law & Order Criminal Intent for this Friday night slot, instead of moving it to the USA Network? It seems to me that CI is of much higher quality than the likes of Las Vegas and would draw more viewers.

In the case of this show, what happens in fictional Vegas should STAY in fictional Vegas, and off the TV screen.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My View on "The View"

I am an occasional watcher of The View. I find that when I do watch, I usually only watch the Hot Topics, and change the channel when that segment is over.

I grew very tired of the show when Rosie O’Donnell was host. In fact, I renamed the show “Women Behaving Badly” because it seemed Rosie brought out the worst in everyone and in everything. For a show that was supposed to be based on the varying opinion of various women, Rosie seemed to frequently bully the conversation, and treated the her role of host as her opportunity to push her own obsessions and agendas.

So when it was announced that Rosie was leaving, I was thrilled. This was the big chance for the show to get back to some rational discussion, if the chose the right replacement.

When I heard that Whoopi Goldberg would be the new host, I was a bit skeptical. Her guest host appearances hadn’t really wowed me. But, as she settled in to the show, I have to admit that she was probably he perfect choice. Not only is she funny, but she’s rational, she’s knowledgeable, and she can control the discussion. Best of all, when someone on the show says something completely moronic (usually spoken by Sherri Shepherd), Whoopi is able to calmly show the person the error of their thinking. And in those times where the rest of the panel starts talking over themselves – or over Whoopi – she is able to bring order to the chaos.

The show still has weak spots. Joy Behar, the longest running member of the panel, is more caustic with her humor, and frankly sometimes sounds like she’s just a little to angry about things. Sherri Shepherd continues to confound with her bubble headed, idiotic comments. (Examples: when she really couldn’t say that the world was round, and recently when she indicated that Jesus predated the Romans and the Greeks.) Elisabeth Hasselback has a one track, narrow political mind, which frankly has gotten old and tiring. Let’s not forget Barbara Walters, whose repertoire seems to be filled with the words “Me” and “I”. It’s as if she sees the show as her one big chance to promote anything having to do with herself.

The bottom line is that the show is much more tolerable to watch with Whoopi as host. Still, it would be much better if the show would bring on other women to host the show that aren’t comedians, idiots, or egomaniacs.

I’d be happy to make myself available!

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Bobby Goren – Off the Deep End

Last night’s episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent (“Untethered”) took Detective Bobby Goren over the to dark side. The question now is, will he ever really return?

I hope for the sake of the show, yes. We used to only see snippets of the inner workings of the clearly complex mind and personality of Bobby Goren. The show now seems to be giving almost too much of a look into what may - or may not be – his unstable mind. Let’s hope the series moves away from too many personal storylines and gets back to covering crime.

Mind you, Vincent D’Onofrio was excellent as Goren, going undercover to expose a suspicious death in a mental ward of a correctional facility, reported to him from a newly found nephew. His scenes in the room called “Heaven”, strapped to a metal table in a hot room for hours on end with no water made me feel a little claustrophobic and queasy. It was the one time where Goren had virtually no control of what his mind would do. D’Onofrio always seems to excel (ok, maybe overact) in the unusual roles, and in this case his performance seemed very real. I found myself wondering how much of what we were seeing was Goren, and how much was D’Onofrio himself?

Kathryn Erbe, as always, was perfect last night, as the even-tempered Detective Eames, who always seems to be a victim of Goren’s whims. Eames may the one person who has the only chance of keeping Goren grounded.

The most horrific scene of the show, however, was seeing Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian) dressed in a tux, stepping into an elevator to greet a waiting ME Rogers, dressed for a night at Lincoln Center. Maybe it’s just me, but I found the thought of those two out for a night on the town together the most sickening part of the show. What an awful couple. Although come to think of it, she deals with dead people all day, and Bogosian acts like he’s dead, so it could be a match made in heaven.

Another cause for my continued alarm is Vincent D’Onofrio’s massive weight gain this season. It appears to be visible affecting his gait. So while Goren seems to be falling into mental disrepair, I find I am more concerned with D’Onofrio’s physical health.

The good thing is that CI’s move to USA has not diminished the quality of the shows, in fact, the feel of the show seems a little more edgy, and in a good way. I’m looking forward to NBC rebroadcasting these episodes, starting in January, so those like me that don’t get USA in HD can enjoy them even more.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Heroes - The Second Volume "Generations" Finale

Some background first. I didn’t start watching Heroes right away when the series first started. I’m not quite sure why. Lucky for me, NBC decided to string a bunch of episodes together, I think over one weekend, so everyone could catch up. Afterwards, I couldn’t catch my breath – I found the show different and exciting.

Some are complaining that for this latest season of Heroes that the show has lost some momentum, but I disagree. I believe the characters only became more interesting and more three-dimensional. I admit that at first, I couldn’t understand why they spent so much time on Hiro far into the past, but in the last few weeks, it became more and more clear as to why that was necessary. I believe that this show does the best job of any television show of late in weaving complex storylines that don’t turn out to be red herrings. It’s almost as if even the most minute detail will have meaning somewhere down the road. So I’m learning to pay very very close attention.

Last night’s episode, “Powerless” was powerFUL. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) seems to have found a new resolve, but her father needed her to pull back. Hiro (Masi Oka) has become very controlled and precise in his time travel. Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) continues to unwittingly throw wrenches into everything. Sylar (Zachary Quinto) seems even MORE creepy than before, if that’s possible. Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) has become even more powerful, yet at the same time, more gullible and too trusting of the wrong people. And Nathan’s (Adrian Pasdar) shooting at the end shocked me. I knew something had to happen, but frankly I didn’t quite expect THAT. And the biggest creep-out of all was Adam (David Anders), in a coffin, buried in a grave. Personally, the thought of being buried alive is horrific to me, and while I know Adam has been up to no good, I got a little wigged out for him during that scene. And is Niki (Ali Larter) really dead?

Heroes is one show that keeps you guessing, but also give you a lot of answers. As the season started I was disappointed that they didn’t seem to close the loop with the ending of the previous season, but I was satisfied how the story played out later. The show seems to be trying to teach me some patience by telling the story in a non-linear way.

If you haven’t watched Heroes, you may want to rent Season One over the holidays to catch up. Since many shows won’t be starting up again until after the beginning of the year, or even later because of the writer’s strike, this could be a perfect time to watch. I’m looking forward to Heroes return…whenever that may be.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

We now enter TV's winter doldrums

There is nothing worse than, while waiting for a preview of next week's show, to hear words like “When (fill in the blank) show returns in January…” (I think I heard it this past week for House, Bones, NCIS, and so on.) We all know what that means. We have entered TV’s winter doldrums.

Just when the nights get longer and colder, TV gets more boring. It’s bad enough that NBC already shows reruns from earlier in the week on Saturday nights. Now we probably won’t even get that.

The writers’ strike really didn’t have much to do with this, because this seems to happen every year at this time. What makes it worse is because of the strike, some of the shows we count on to start in January will likely be late, which will make getting through January even harder. You’ve heard about SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – where people get what is sometimes referred to as a winter depression? Well, we need an acronym for the winter TV doldrums. How about RAD – Rerun Affective Disorder? Or BORED - Boring Old Repeats Every Day? I’m sure with nothing to watch over the next few weeks, we’ll have time to come up with something.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CSI Miami: Drama - or Comedy?

CSI Miami is one of those shows you love to hate; a show that you hate to watch but you can’t miss an episode. It’s not because of the drama, the stories, and the forensics.

It’s because of Horatio Caine (David Caruso).

There is no crime fighter on television right now quite like Horatio. He is part super hero, part Sherlock Holmes, part lady killer, part protector of the children. But one thing is for sure – he’s pure 100% ham.

Who else besides David Caruso could play a character in such a way that is both calm and subdued, yet over the top? Face it, there is no one else that could pull off the stance of keeping their hands on their hips and standing sideways to look at everything, or the second most used stance of having sunglasses in hand and standing sideways. Maybe poor Horatio needs to get his eyes checked if he is unable to look at things straight on?

Then there are frequent attempts at “Lennie Briscoe-isms” which fall flat and even sends Roger Daltry into a scream. In fact, in our household, we scream along with Roger during the intro, because we know what is in store. Poor Frank Tripp (Rex Lynn), I think working with Horatio all these years made him suddenly lose all this hair. (Why, Rex, why did they make you get rid of that small amount of hair you had left? Was it to make Horatio’s red hair look even more dramatic?)

Let’s not forget Horatio’s talents in being able to get perps to confess simply by looking at them or asking one question. I swear the criminals in Miami are the dumbest on television.
I could go on and on about Horatio and CSI Miami but I think you know exactly what I mean. And I bet you don’t miss a show either. It’s some of the best comedy on television.

For your enjoyment, the YouTube favorite of "Endless Caruso One Liners"

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Booyah! Welcome to “Cramerica”: Mad Money Jim Cramer

At 6:00 weekdays, something happens in my household that reminds me of “The Outer Limits” TV show that I used to watch as a kid. The show’s intro went something like this:

“ There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission… For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... “

And then I hear shouts of BOOYAH coming from my TV set, in addition to wailing babies, bull sounds, bear sounds, BUY! BUY! BUY! and SELL! SELL! SELL!

Yes, there is nothing like watching CNBC’s Mad Money, hosted by Jim Cramer. It’s part business show, part sideshow. Jim’s goal is to help everyday people like you and me to make money. He has an uncanny way of bringing the complicated world of the stock market to the masses in a way that is understandable, fun, and usable. Many business shows have the same boring stock charts, the same boring talking heads, and the same boring stock market drivel. (The exception is the new Fox Business Channel, which is worse, since frankly it seems to have no real substance.) This is definitely not the case with Mad Money.

With Jim Cramer’s show, you get a fast-paced hour filled with timely information that’s relevant to what’s happened that day – and what Jim thinks is ahead. Sometimes Jim has business guests like the occasional CEO, and every now and then he takes the show on the road to colleges and does the show live. While Jim’s show is always filled with energy, the live shows really crank it up a notch or two. It’s hard not to get involved.

Of course, the best part of the show, in my opinion, is The Lightning Round, where Jim takes calls and gives on the spot commentary based on the callers stock pick. This is when Jim’s sound effects panel gets a heavy workout, telling callers to buy, sell, cry (hence the crying baby sound), plus a host of other sounds that punctuate his comments. Jim says he gets no advance notice on what stocks the callers will question, and there are times – but not often – that he’s stumped. Of course, The Lightning Round features the ubiquitous “booyah” greeting from the callers to Jim, including the enjoyable “familial booyah” where parents get their kids to join in to the shout out.

I won’t pass any judgment on the accuracy or success of Cramer’s picks. I don’t track his performance, but I also don’t track the performance of other analysts or talking heads on business TV. Any time anyone gives you investment advice, you should always look at that advice carefully before making any investments of your own.

Jim has written several books, including “Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich”, “Jim Cramer's Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World”, and the soon to be released “Jim Cramer's Stay Mad for Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer)”. The latter is on my husband’s Christmas list and I’ll be at the store to get it when it’s released (December 4).

If you’re interested in investing and want meaningful information delivered with a lot of excitement, check out Mad Money. It’s on CNBC, weekdays at 6:00 PM ET (it usually repeats later in the evening). Booyah!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Closer: Special 2 Hour Episode December 3

For all you fans of The Closer, the show is returning to TNT on Monday, December 3rd at 8:00 PM with a special two hour episode. The episode, called “Next of Kin” has a holiday theme. According to the TV Guide website, “Brenda and Fritz journey to Georgia to arrest a fugitive, who's a suspect in a deadly Los Angeles-based robbery, and then escort him back to California. The trip affords Brenda a chance to visit her old home and her parents (Barry Corbin, Frances Sternhagen) for the holidays.” Sounds like fun. Or trouble. Or both. Either way, I won’t miss it.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

CSI : Sara’s gone, should we care?

Crime scene investigator Sara Sidle, played by Jorja Fox, took her leave of the CSI team in the episode that aired on November 15 called “Goodbye and Good Luck.” Clearly in a despondent funk, likely a carryover from her own recent run in with death, she states her reasons in a letter to Gil Grissom (William Petersen):

“Gil, You know I love you. I feel I've loved you forever. Lately, I haven't been feeling very well. Truth be told, I'm tired. Out in the desert, under that car that night, I realized something, and I haven't been able to shake it. Since my father died, I've spent almost my entire life with ghosts. We've been like close friends, and out there in the desert, it occurred to me that it was time for me to bury them. I can't do that here. I'm so sorry. No matter how hard I try to fight it off, I'm left with the feeling that I have to go. I have no idea where I'm going, but I know I have to do this. If I don't, I'm afraid I'll self destruct, and worse, you'll be there to see it happen. Be safe. Know that I tried very hard to stay. Know that you're my one and only. I will miss you with every beat of my heart. Our life together was the only home I've ever really had. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love you. I always will. Good bye”

Was I the only one who was cheering at her swan song?

I’ve always found Sara’s angst a little hard to tolerate. I don’t do well around unhappy people. I suppose that working in forensics and being around crime and death all the time can take a toll on a person’s outlook. But I think it was more than that for me.

I just never got into the Gil/Sara relationship. It seemed – wrong, like if the chemistry was lacking. Gil, was somewhat intense yet introspective, and Sara, was also somewhat intense and introspective. But, adding years of her unhappiness and conflict, both inner and departmental, I could never see what Gil, let alone anyone else saw in her. She had too much baggage. In fact, her character seemed to suck the life force out of me just watching her on screen.

Thankfully, the show followed up that episode with a delightfully funny episode on Thanksgiving evening called “You Kill Me.” Hodges (Wallace Langham), one of the resident lab geeks, treats us to hypothetical murders of other lab members, and elicits input from some of those same people to solve, in some cases, their own murders. It’s all for a board game he’s developing called “Lab Rats.” It was a great break from the show’s formula, and it came at a great time, both for viewers AND for Gil Grissom. It seemed Gil came back to life, with his concern for Sara put aside for a short time, while he played the same with Hodges.

So I won’t be one to miss Sara, or Jorja Fox for that matter. I am looking forward to maybe seeing the “old Gil” back again, and to get away from the distraction of the whole relationship.

As far as Hodges, all I can say is, keep the humor coming.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Inclement Weather for the Weather Channel

When we first got cable TV, The Weather Channel (TWC) was a huge hit in our household. Wow, imagine getting a local news forecast and radar image every 8 minutes! It was like being able to see into the future, without having to wait for the local evening news. There was little to no competition from other TV stations. Whenever there was a big weather story, one turned to TWC to get up to the minute information. And for weather junkies like me, it was great.

Then, the Internet happened, offering on-line weather information, including radar. Anyone with a computer and Internet access could get local weather information with a few mouse clicks. Was The Weather Channel doomed?

For me, it was doomed, to a point. While I had computer access, I could get all the quick weather information I needed right away. And I didn’t have to wait through 8 minutes of talk about weather that may not affect me, and many commercials, to get to the “Local on the 8s.”

Possibly sensing trouble, TWC started to offer weather specific programs like “Storm Stories” in order to grab viewers. I did watch them on occasion, but the time that the shows aired often conflicted with other prime time television that I was more interested in watching. I did manage to catch some parts of the shows. But the stories seem to repeat often, and there were so many “recreations” that it got old. So again, TWC lost me as a regular viewer.

Since bad weather likely translates to more viewers, TWC seemed to ramp up its "in person” coverage of big weather events, always seeming to send Mike Seidel out to be windblown, snowed on, rained on, etc. Every now and then, probably when it was more “safe” and/or the weather story was bigger, they sent their star, Jim Cantore, to get in harms way. The next problem I saw for TWC is that EVERYBODY now wanted in to reporting big weather events, so the broadcast networks and cable news channels like CNN. Fox, and MSNBC got into the picture. There was a glut of weather coverage, and during hurricane season, it was sometimes too much.

While TWC is available in HD, it’s not available in HD yet in my area. I find watching TWC in “regular format” TV a little boring, and even too hard on the eyes. The Abrams and Bettes show that airs at 8:00 PM ET weeknights looks like a glare of red and orange, more like a set geared toward heat and fire, and not weather.

It may be time for The Weather Channel to reinvent itself. Competition from other national channels like NBC Weather Plus is out there, and the Internet continues to have a huge influence on weather followers. Local TV channels frequently offer their own weather sections offering forecasts and live radar. If TWC wants to be more than the channel people go to during commercials on other shows, they need to get creative with their weather delivery and content. There are many weather junkies like me out there, and they are ready for something new.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Day Television

Everybody likes to vegetate on Thanksgiving. For me, I can’t stand to watch the Macy’s parade for longer than 5 minutes. I suppose if I had young kids at home I would be forced to watch it. Now that Macy’s has taken over the area’s Kauffman stores and the selection and quality has gone downhill, I like the parade even less. But I digress.

What we can be thankful for on Thanksgiving is the whole host of other TV choices that are available to us. As a child, I recall having only 3 networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) and once UHF became available, a PBS station and maybe one other local station. Now, with cable and satellite TV, there are hundreds of channels at a viewer’s fingertips, some in beautiful HD. Yes, I know there are times that there is still nothing on, but it’s still amazing from what one has to choose.

Of course, networks can get a little lazy with programming on Thanksgiving, after all, they deserve a holiday too. This brings us the ubiquitous marathons of select TV shows. I did a quick check and saw USA is showing Law & Orders SVU and CI; TNT seems to be showing Charmed. But there are a host of other marathons going on at that time on other channels. Let’s not forget adding NFL games into the mix, although I do tire of seeing the Lions and the Cowboys every year.

Then there are the other holidays. On Christmas Eve, TNT airs a 24-hour marathon of the movie “A Christmas Story.” insuring everyone has a chance to see it, or at least part of it. Of course, there are the usual New Year’s showings of The Twilight Zone on Sci-Fi, spanning more than 24 hours.

Still, the best thing about Thanksgiving is the long afternoon nap, where you sleep through it all. That is the best part of all.

Enjoy the holiday!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NCIS Grows Up

I started watching NCIS when it had the redundant name “Navy NICS” or the more bloated name of “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.” I wasn’t sure exactly why I watched it, though. The stories were tepid, and the antics of the characters were sometimes overly juvenile. But, I stuck with it for a long while, getting very comfortable with the chemistry of some on the show. Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) leads the NCIS team, with quirky characters like examiner Doctor Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) and goth techno-geek Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perette).

I was originally drawn to the show because Harmon and McCallum have been favorites of mine for a long time. (In the case of McCallum – a VERY long time!) I continued to come back to the show each week, well, almost each week. You see, there was just something wrong with the show, something just a little - off. I couldn’t get past the increasingly rising number of juvenile sexual innuendo, which seemed to be spreading on the show like kudzu. I started not feeling the need to watch every week. And with last season’s end and a storyline becoming too complicated that it wasn’t even interesting, I wasn’t sure I would be back this year.

Hearing rumors of trouble between the show’s producer, Donald P. Bellisario and Mark Harmon, and the hearing the later news that Bellisario was backing away from having close hands-on involvement in the show, I thought I’d continue to watch to see how the dust settled. I’m glad to say the show seems to have grown up a bit, and in a good way. After wrapping up the overly complicated storyline, the cases seemed to be getting more basic, but still more interesting. They’ve cut back in the innuendo, or at least it’s grown up past the grade school level. Finally, they gave Director Shepard (Lauren Holly) some hair so she doesn’t look as cold and harsh as last season. (It doesn’t always look like real hair but it's an improvement.)

But what’s more likable about the show is not the cases but the chemistry between the characters. It still works very well. Ducky and Abby continue to shine with their idiosyncrasies; in fact, Gibbs seems almost human around those two people. The show’s viewership continues to rise, despite seemingly being virtually ignored by the TV Guide and other publications.

So I’ll stick with the show – and if you haven’t checked it out, I suggest you give it a try. You may be surprised.

Official site for the show:

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Ann Curry - The Talent Right Underneath Our Noses

Is it my imagination, or has the departure of Katie Couric from The Today Show been the best thing for Ann Curry?

It certainly seems like the dark shadow of Katie has moved away, and has allowed the limelight to shine onto Ann. It’s not as if Ann wasn’t visible before that, it seems that she has just suddenly started to get more attention for her hard work. Last year, she did a gripping story on the plight of the people of Darfur. She’s interviewed world leaders and asks tough questions that some struggle to answer. Most recently, she made a trek to the South Pole, and also did a heart-wrenching, almost horrifying story on how disabled children are being treated in Serbia.

Today is Ann’s 50th birthday, and The Today Show did a short piece about Ann and her contributions. Seeing her on the show almost every weekday morning, I never realized what an accomplished reporter she is. Over the years, she’s become so much more than a woman who just sits there and reads the teleprompter. She’s involved herself in the important stories of our times, and worked hard to bring the spotlight, and emotional perspective, on subjects that many may find too tough to cover.

I wouldn’t be a stretch to see Ann sitting in the anchor chair for a major television network. So Katie and the rest of the gang – watch what’s coming up behind you. That sound you hear could be Ann Curry pulling the anchor chair from underneath you.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Rise of the DVR - The Demise of the TV Guide

No, this isn’t about the fact that the TV Guide magazine changed from its smaller bookish format to a larger, magazine sized publication. That in itself was bothersome since the smaller size didn’t require a lot of space next to the TV (or wherever one kept it) and the new version seemed HUGE in comparison.

This is about the rise of the DVR.

Since I’ve gotten a DVR, I have never looked at a TV guide. Ever. There’s no need. Everything you wanted to know about what’s on TV for weeks on end are right at your fingertips. And even more fantastic is the fact that you can select to record a program right as you look at its information in the guide. No more VCR programming numbers, no more remembering to set the time to record, etc. etc. It’s a timesaving wonder.

But, there seems to be some resistance to some people to the use of DVRs. Is it the added cost the cable companies charge? Is it not having the right kind of TV with which to use it? Is it because some people are techno-phobes?

Regardless of the reason, one thing is for sure. As the proliferation of DVRs will rise, the TV Guide will likely die out. Some weekly newspapers have scaled down or even discontinued creating a weekly program guide. With the change in format, the TV Guide seemed to be trying to reinvent itself as an entertainment news magazine with less focus on the program guide. I don’t think it will be enough. With programming available on DVRs, and faster access to entertainment news on line, I don’t see the TV Guide surviving, as a program guide, longer than five more years.

I’m sure that will please millions of trees.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Those annoying pop up ads and TV logos

You’ve seen it before. You’re watching a TV show (TNT is the worst offender), and suddenly you see an actor pop up on your screen with a huge banner touting a future airing of their TV show. Or, a crawl line may appear across the screen, reminding you of another TV show or sporting event. Then there are the ubiquitous channel logos, which are always in a spot on the screen where it’s always obscuring something. And don’t forget the local channels that love to interrupt programming to put a weather warning up there with crawl lines AND radar boxes. Sometimes these things can happen all at once, and one finds the picture for the show getting smaller and smaller. Maybe this is why we need these huge TV screens now?

There’s got to be a better way.

With the proliferation of DVRs and new technology in general, wouldn’t it be nice if someone invented a way that your DVR can suppress – or show - all this information while viewing the show? After all, most TVs allow one to chose whether to show closed captioning. Or, as in the case of weather alerts, it would be great if using the DVR and a button on the remote could chose whether or not to see them. All the stations would need to do it put something like a small symbol in the screen to signal if there is some weather alert, or the all too frequent “BREAKING NEWS” alert, that you may want to look at briefly. (Don’t get me started on those breaking news alerts; I’ll save that for a later time.)

I’m really not looking to the day when I have to get a 50+ inch screen TV, just so I can get a picture big enough so I can see the actual programming through all the alerts, ads, and logos!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Sam Waterston vs. Jack McCoy: Who’s the real star?

Yesterday was Sam Waterston’s 67th birthday. I’ve always found Sam to be an interesting actor. His performance in the film “The Killing Fields” earned him an Oscar nomination. He also had a few Emmy nominations for his role as Jack McCoy on Law & Order, a role that now seems to have defined his career. He did have some missteps – like Capricorn One and, in my opinion, Mindwalk (which should have been named “Sleepwalk” because it was so dull.)

On the recent episode of Law & Order SVU (the episode was named “Blinded”), Sam appeared, for the first time, as Jack McCoy, district attorney. It was done with little – ok, with NO - fanfare or promotion on the part of the network. This is strange behavior for a network that should be kissing Sam’s feet for keeping L&O alive. In fact, to many people, Sam IS the show. (Jerry Orbach was another L&O staple, and in a way the show is still reeling from the absence of Lennie Briscoe.)

As I watched Jack sitting behind the big desk, it got me wondering. Do I watch the show because of Sam Waterston, or is it because of Jack McCoy? How much of Jack McCoy IS Sam Waterston? Is Sam a great actor, or is credit due to the creative team behind the show that has made Jack into such a compelling character? Was it because that in his first episode with L&O (“Second Opinion”, I think) he changed his pants in front of Claire in his office? I’m not quite sure.

Regardless of all the above, I’m glad Jack McCoy is moving up in the world. I’m saddened that it may mean less screen time for Sam. But maybe it will mean more time for him to do other things. Either way, I hope he enjoys himself!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where are all the HD Channels?

I know I’m not the first one to say this, but High Definition television is fantastic. I love the crisp, clear picture and the wide screen. When we got our first HDTV, I remember saying that it was like I just got a new pair of glasses. I could see detail that I never noticed before. I always enjoyed sports on TV, but like it a lot more with HD.

I have Time Warner Cable, and like any other cable company, they push hard for you to get their digital and HD packages. My big gripe? Time Warner in our area offers few high def channels. I have 16 available, 5 of which are networks (including PBS), 4 premium movie channels (which I don’t bother to have because the programming is tepid at best), and a few sports channels (one of which only comes on once a week or so for special local sports events). It seems that channels HDT, UHD, and MOJO show the same programs over and over, ad nauseam, so there isn’t the need to watch them often. Talking to other people about their cable companies, this offering sounds about as thin as what they have available.

I keep hearing that DISH network will have close to 100 HD channels by the end of the year. I am resistant to convert to satellite dish; after all, I still have memories of hassling with the huge antenna on the roof of my house, and the related picture problems. AT & T is talking about fiber optic networking for our area, for phone, internet, and TV. If they offer a better number and selection of HD channels, it’s bye-bye to Time Warner. But, I'm sure it's a long way away from reality.

If DISH can offer so many HD channels, why can’t the others? And why can’t I choose the HD channels that I know I will watch? I would imagine that’s possible with DVRs.

Cable companies need to step up to the plate. The technology is there – and the content is there – that more HD channels can be offered. It’s seems that cable is just a tease, dangling HD in front of viewers, but “dishing” it out in small portions.

For the price paid for cable or satellite service, viewers deserve more.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Better than TV – Comet Holmes

Despite the fact that I’m often glued to the TV, there are things that sometime pull me away. I enjoy astronomy – I imagine it to be television for people who lived BEFORE television.

The comet was discovered by British amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes on November 6, 1892. (See? In the day before television!) In October of 2007, this comet went from a magnitude 17 to 2.5 in less than 48 hours. (The magnitude measures brightness; the lower the number, the brighter the object.) The angle of the comet, seemingly directly opposite earth, makes it look less like the traditional comet (where a tail is visible) and more like a faint, fuzzy ball of light.

Right now, Comet Holmes can be seen in the northeastern sky in the early evening. Sky charts can be found on line at Sky and Telescope. If you are lucky enough to have clear skies in the evening, take the time to take a look at this celestial event. You can see it very well with binoculars, so you don’t need a fancy telescope. Trust me, I have a fancy telescope and it took me less time and efoort to find it with binoculars.

Step away from the TV and, as a certain daytime show says, “take some time to enjoy the view.”

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams comes to Cleveland

NBC Nightly News has been my news program of choice for many years. I grew up on Huntley and Brinkley, and I suppose it just carried on from there.

Monday night’s show (November 12) was from Cleveland, Ohio. I was born in Cleveland and have lived in the area all my life. (For those of you who understand the area, I was born a west sider but lived most of my life as an east sider.) It’s a great city and metro area, but is often the target of jokes. So I was happy to see Brian Williams and the NBC news team do a show from Cleveland, featuring its issues and people.

The backdrop was a very rainy Cleveland skyline, and even included one large flash of lightning. (We were getting hit with a very heavy storm at the time. So what else is new?) The show covered the mortgage foreclosure problem in the Slavic Village area of Cleveland and in the suburb of Maple Heights, the push for healthier food choices (and healthier people) at the Cleveland Clinic, and featured a Cleveland fireman who is also a veteran with a Bronze Star. The focus on city stories was brief, but since the show is only 30 minutes long, one can’t expect too much. I have to admit that I was shocked at how badly the mortgage foreclosure problem has impacted some local communities.

Despite the very quick coverage, I was happy for the attention. Cleveland is a very misunderstood place. Before the national newscast, Brian spoke with the local news anchors and recalled how, as a child, he came to Cleveland for summer vacations from his home in Elmira, NY. He said that for him, it was like coming to the Riviera. While now in some areas it’s far from being like the Riviera, the city and the metropolitan area has a lot to offer. It is a great place to have fun, be entertained, enjoy the shores of Lake Erie, and be immersed in various cultural diversions.

So this is just a big THANK YOU to Brian and the NBC News team for coming here and putting the spotlight, albeit a short one, on a town that needs all the attention it can get. (Sorry we couldn’t get you some better weather.)

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Monday, November 12, 2007

A burning question about "Shark" - James Woods

I've been watching "Shark" since it started, with the exception of a few episodes. I have one question that bugs me every week:

Where are James Woods' eyebrows?

I just find it so strange that they seem to be missing. I feel like I need to take an eyebrow pencil and draw them onto his face.

About the show in general, I'm not quite sure why I watch it. The story lines are dull, Woods over-acts, the rest of the cast is lifeless and there seems to be little chemistry, and the dialog is predictable. The show would be greatly improved if they would get rid of the story line about his daughter (played by Danielle Panabaker). I mean really, for a show that airs at 10 PM, who wants to see what seems to be such a juvenile story line?

I sense that soon "Shark" will drop off my watch list, as I did with "Cold Case" last season.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday night TV – a vast wasteland

What can I say about network TV on Saturday night except it’s a vast wasteland of reruns. NBC is even passing along shows that the TV Guide has marked as “new” when they are just reruns of new episodes shown earlier in the week.

Is there so little creativity out there that no one can come up with something fresh for Saturday? Does network TV have such little respect for anyone out of the 18-49 year old demographic that they can’t come up with shows that cater to the 40-60 crowd? After all, that group may have a lot more money to spend, despite the fact that they may be more cautious on how they spend it.

A few years ago, networks also seemed to be abandoning Friday night. It still has the stigma of being a day and time where shows go to die. NBC almost killed Law & Order there (had the bad acting of Elisabeth Rohm not killed it first). But lately they are trying to offer better shows on Friday, like Numb3rs and the new – but a little rough around the edges – Women’s Murder Club.

So networks, let’s get with it. I’d support advertisers who are interested in me. Get some decent shows out there on Saturday and you may find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crime Shows: Let there be light

I watch a lot of crime shows: Law & Order (original recipe, CI and SVU), CSI (Las Vegas, NY and Miami), NCIS, Numb3rs, Bones, etc. The Law & Order franchise seems the most realistic in how it presents the crime and the supporting crime scene people. But for the rest, there seems to be one glaring anomaly that I see every week:

When the crime scene investigators enter a dark room or home, why don’t they turn on the lights?

It seems in almost every show, some crime scene person scans the crime scene, using only a flashlight. Wouldn’t they get a much better view of the evidence, or even FIND more evidence, if the lights were turned on? A related mystery is when the investigator enters a scene during the full light of day, yet the room itself seems dark and sometime even hazy, requiring them to turn on the flashlight. Are places like Las Vegas, Miami, etc. so dark during the day that flashlights are needed? The L&O franchise shows seem to be fairly good in showing crime scenes in the most realistic environment, with lights on or rooms with plenty of light coming from outside.

So it’s a mystery to me. Is there some rational reason why normal lights are shunned by crime scene investigators? If someone has the answer, please enlighten ME.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

The Writers Guild Strike – are you with them, or against them?

The Writers Guild of American went on strike the other day, and in some cases, the effects were felt immediately.

Late night talk shows like Letterman and Leno went into reruns. Many people may not be aware that people like Leno and Letterman are so dependent on the Writers Guild members for their material that they can't do a decent show without them. (And you thought those guys really had the talent.) Associated Press has reported that Fox’s “24” will be postponed. Other shows are affected, for example, “Lost” will not be lost, but “Late”. Many celebrities are supporting the strikers, partly because they are part of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and partly because they feel the writers’ pain.

At issue are residuals, especially for content that is aired over the internet. As networks continue to drive content to the internet in order to drive up ad revenues and drive excitement for their shows, people like the writers are overlooked in getting their piece of an increasing larger profit pie.

The fact that so many shows are going into reruns, or being postponed, speaks to the importance of the writers. It’s too bad that, in this day and age, we still need unions and strikes to drive the point home. But, as long as corporations continue to make big profits and refuse to share with the people who often do the heavy lifting, then unions will continue to thrive. The Writers, however, also need to be mindful of the various entertainment options open to people, and that they don’t drive their customers (the viewer) away from TV and to personal internet content or more technologically advanced video gaming like Xbox 360 and Wii.

Let’s hope everyone comes to their senses soon and reach an agreement that’s fair to all.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

House: My Differential Diagnosis

Would YOU want to be treated at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital?

Nothing would frighten me more than becoming ill and having to go to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH). Well, maybe there is one thing that would frighten me more – going there for treatment and finding that your doctor is Dr. Greg House (Hugh Laurie). Why? Because under his care, you’re likely to be closer to death than when you first came in for treatment – and sometimes your closer to death more than once.

The show follows a predictable formula. The show starts with the person of the week (often abbreviated to POTW) becoming ill. House’s staff initially spends time reviewing the patient’s history, all the while having to dodge the frequent insults and barbs from House. With the current season, House is screening a group of doctors to replace Chase, Foreman, and Cameron. Still, it’s the same formula as previous seasons, only with different doctors, and more of them.

The show continues while House, and the doctors, diagnose and treat the illness. I call it educated guessing. This is where the patient usually nearly dies, several times over, while they undergo frequently torturous treatments. Interspersed between this activity is House repeatedly insulting, abusing, and otherwise being generally annoying to everyone to which he comes in contact. Of course, the show would not be complete without some sexual innuendo, Dr. Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) frequent quips, and Dr. Cuddy’s (Lisa Edelstein) low-cut attire. (Side note: Do women in high level positions really dress that way and expect to be respected? I’ve never seen it.) In previous seasons, there was House’s all too obvious pill popping and drug experimentation; this year, that subject is less noticeable. Also a staple in the show is House asking one of the doctors to break into someone’s home to find information to explain the illness. This season, we’re seeing some ridiculous scenarios as a twist on the "break-in" theme. Case in point: the doctors digging up a grave, at House’s insistence, in “Guardian Angels”. I mean really - does this happen in real life?

Let's not forget the obligatory operation and/or the scenes of blood, guts, and vomiting!

Toward the end of the show, House has some revelation and the patient is treated and becomes instantly better.

After a while, all this can become all too predictable and makes for a boring show.

I’ve never worked in any job dealing with the medical profession, but it seems that people I know that do, it doesn’t resemble anything near what we see at PPTH. It seems to me that if Greg House was the fantastic diagnostician that he’s billed to be, then he would be wrong so many times before he lands on the right diagnosis. It almost makes a case for having a computer diagnose the illness. And who in their right mind would want someone working for them who continually make harassing and racist comments? It certainly makes Dr. Cuddy look weak in ineffective. The show likely does it for shock value, but after a while, it becomes trite.

The only reason why I continue to watch the show is because the actors have great chemistry and they are very talented. The first season was the show at its best – great drama with interesting and more “real” people. The episode “Three Stories” is an example of the show at its best, giving a glimpse into the inner workings of House in a manner that draws you in. Lately, the show is becoming a caricature of itself, taking elements that worked well previously in small doses, and dishing them out in huge portions. And now I’m getting full on it. Too much of a good thing doesn’t make it a better thing.

I hope the show can somehow get back to the quality of the first season. I also hope that the show can work to portray a hospital environment that’s a little more realistic. More drama, less comedy.

And that’s my diagnosis.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Law & Order SVU hits rock bottom

The episode that aired Tuesday, November 6, 2007 (“Svengali”) is proof positive that with this season of L&O SVU, the show has finally hit bottom. I think that SVU should now stand for “Something Very Ugly”.

Clearly the show has been dumbed down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Here’s the evidence:

1. The detectives need their TARU group in order to identify the image of Venus De Milo. I would think anyone with an 8th grade education could do it without the computers. And why couldn’t the image recognition software also make the connection with the elevator murder with the images in the graphic novel? How did the detectives rationalize the fact that the woman in the bar was just abducted yet by the time the police got to the bar there was this elaborate drawing – in blood – on the floor?

2. Olivia (Mariska Hargitay) is threatened, yet doesn’t give a second thought to a pizza delivery made to her that she didn’t order? Isn’t that the oldest trick in the book? And isn’t it weird that Fin (Ice-T) just knew there was a pizza in it because it FELT like there was one? Wouldn’t the first instinct be to open it up? No…because they had to find a way to get it to explode without really killing anyone.

3.What detective in their right mind wouldn't be suspicious of a loose light bulb outside their apartment, right after a threat was made on her life? Why was there no police detail on her since those threats AND after the bomb?

4.I still can’t figure out how someone can go unnoticed burying anything at a gravesite, much less something so deep into the ground. Are we to expect that slight-build girl did all that digging?

Let’s not forget the wooden acting of Adam Beach, who clearly graduated from the “Elisabeth Rohm School of Acting”. In fact, he makes Elisabeth's acting look good. Maybe we SHOULD forget Adam Beach.

Are we sure that the “Hollywood Writers” weren’t already on strike, and this episode was written by fanfic people? It was amateur at best. (Sorry, no insult was meant to fanfic people.)

The preview for next week – Elliot (Chris Meloni) goes blind – seems like an act of desperation.

SVU may soon find itself off my watch list if the poor quality of storylines continues this season.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Like to Watch TV !

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I like to watch television. In fact, I love TV. No, I'm not a couch potato or someone who can't sleep unless the TV is turned on. I can walk away from it for long periods of time. But when I do have time to watch, I enjoy just about everything I get from it. There's a whole spectrum of TV shows, tons of news shows and channels, not to mention movies, reruns, and "how to" shows. I do have my limits, though: reality shows are NOT on my watch list.

Still, even with the few hundred channels and now with great HD channels, there are still times when there is nothing worthwhile to watch.

I thought I'd start this blog to add my commentary on just about anything relating to television. So stay tuned, there will be more after a break from our sponsors!

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