Wednesday, October 29, 2008

House: No ”Joy” Here

I have a hard time describing last night’s episode of House, “Joy.” I found it interesting at first, with the patient of the week having some sort of mental problem where he seemed to be loosing big chunks of time. But, as t unfolded, the patient’s story seemed a little predictable to me, and I actually figured out the guy was sleepwalking long before House did. I also don’t know why it took so long for them to see that his daughter also had a problem. Maybe because House is too worried about his own life and messing around with the lives of his colleagues that he forgets that his job is to be a doctor.

The other case involved a woman who was carrying the child that Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) was to adopt. No surprise – the woman develops a simple medical problem, which turns into a complicated medical problem. Of course, the patient decides to put her own life above the life of the baby she is carrying, much to Cuddy’s dismay. Everything seems to turn out fine when Dr. Chase (Jesse Spencer) helps to surgically delivery the baby and the baby cries, indicating her lungs seem to be working. But Cuddy’s joy with baby “Joy” disappears quickly when the birth mother decided to keep the baby. No surprise here, either.

During this whole episode, House (Hugh Laurie) acts like a spoiled brat, trying to convince Cuddy she’d be a terrible mother. He thinks Cuddy will put her job first. He thinks she’ll have wardrobe fits from getting a little baby barf on her clothes. He thinks Cuddy won’t like her nice things broken. Now really, did House have to knock her desk lamp onto the floor to break it to make his point? Who is really the baby here? It sounds like someone needs a time out in the corner.

When House interrupts surgery with the baby’s mother in order to get Cuddy to sign some papers, she is angered by his presence. He doesn’t seem to care. This is the guy that seemed worried that Cuddy would find a child an intrusion to her work life, yet when she seems to want to put the baby first, he behaves like a child who feels ignored my his parents.

Things come to a head when, as Cuddy is at home, upset about not getting the baby, House arrives and tells her there are more babies out there. It was heartless in a way; like telling someone that just lost their own child that they can just have another. While Cuddy never carried the baby, she had planned for it as if she had. She tells him she’s not going to go through it again, and he flippantly tells her "It's too bad, you would've been a good mother." Cuddy explodes at him, saying that when she was planning for the baby he told her she would suck as a mother, but now that she doesn’t have the baby he says she would be a good one. She asks, “Why do you have to negate everything?” to which House responds, “I don't know’. Then, in what I think was a somewhat awkward scene, he leans down and they share a kiss. But, there was something about that kiss that made me groan. I was hoping the show would never go to any type of House/Cuddy romance, or even hint at it. Still, the kiss seemed hardy romantic in a way; in fact, it seemed like House was just taking advantage of her. Of course, he immediately leaves, quickly detaching himself from the situation.

Another thing about this show that annoys me is the unconventional ways that they get information to use to diagnose a patient’s illness. The silliest one was when House sent Taub (Peter Jacobson) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) out to buy cocaine. Yeah, right, like any real, reputable doctor would commit a felony and risk their careers for a patient. I swear some writers are just sitting in a room, thinking “what stupid things can we make House get those doctors to do?” It seems that there is no foundation in reality for House’s medical and diagnostic techniques. Breaking into homes, buying drugs, private investigators... what's next, posing as a prostitute?

By the way, the original patient – remember him? – and his daughter seemed to be
anhidonic, or incapable of feeling pleasure. But Foreman (Omar Epps) doesn’t think their profile matches. House deduces that they were lying about their backgrounds and the man admits his name was Jamal Hamoud and he changed it year ago when the U.S. invaded Iraq the first time. House explained they had Familial Mediterranean Fever, a disease contracted by people of Mediterranean decent. And you know, I didn’t really care what was wrong with them. You see, the patient of the week has long ago ceased to be interesting. It seems all we get is a rattling off of symptoms and more guesses on the diagnosis. They are only a backdrop to the juvenile antics of House, which themselves have seemed to become too staged. In fact, House is becoming more like an immature child every week. I almost wish he was back to being a drug addict.

The preview of next week disturbed me a bit. If, in fact, that House was referring to Cuddy when he said he “hit that last night and now she's all over my jock", it seems like "the kiss" really was meaningless for him and he was only using her. Hopefully Cuddy will not be more of a target for his growing meanness. It truly is sad that after all this time, House hasn’t grown or developed into anything more than a doctor who is unhappy with himself so he seemingly wants everyone else to be miserable. He certainly has no joy in his life, so he envies and is skeptical of any of his colleagues that seem to want joy in theirs.

But as far as this episode “Joy” – it was devoid of any of it.

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NCIS Murder 2.0: Unbelievable 1.0

NCIS is one of those shows that I watch faithfully every week, but I’m not quite sure why. At least this season has been more enjoyable since they got rid of “Madame” Director. They’ve also seemed to tone down the immature banter between Tony and Ziva (Cote de Pablo), and, well, between Tony and anybody else for that matter. The chemistry between the cast members is very good, and that’s what makes the show so watchable. Now I’ll admit, I usually DVR the show to watch later, because I’d rather watch House.

In this episode of NCIS, “Murder 2.0", it seems that there is a serial killer on the lose. You know, with all the crime shows with story lines on serial killers, it seems like the country is flooded with them. I have never been a fan of serial killer themed shows because the stories are usually filled with trite plot contrivances. As in this one, the serial killer seems to have his/her eyes set on Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). I guess serial killers just like to taunt member of law enforcement.

The NCIS gang gets pulled into the investigation of a murder of a Navy Petty Officer. It turns out that someone left a message in his mouth that had only a web address on it. The web address led them to a video which gave them cryptic clues about the crime. While investigating the crime, they encounter a fledgling rock band to which the murder victim had belonged. The girl in the band, Rose Woodhouse (Naama Kates) makes eyes for Gibbs, much to the dismay of Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly). And, what a coincidence: Rose recognizes a place in one of the videos, and they find another body at the location with another message in its mouth with another web address and another video. Also on a tip from Rose, they track down a person who may have made the video, Sam Loomis (Max Gail) who indicates that he made videos like that for the band from a canned program off the internet. The one thing that is becoming clear is that to be a serial killer these days, you must have access to the internet.

Abby (Pauley Perrette) gets a scare put into her when she taps into a feed which shows that someone has video of her lab. But Agent McGee (Sean Murray) realizes it’s a live web camera and the killer may be right outside Abby’s lab door. Not to worry, though, it’s only the janitor, and someone planted a camera in his lunch box. This place has terrible security.

Based on all the video evidence, they believe the next murder will come at 5 minutes to midnight, and they decide to haul in Loomis, thinking he is the killer. But no, he’s not, and magically he dies in their custody at 5 minutes to midnight. Now that is one precise and crafty serial killer. And of course, it’s not Loomis because he is now dead.

To make a long story short, they think it’s Rose who is behind all this, and when they arrive at the garage where the band practices, she is holding a gun on her band partner Tommy Doyle (Patrick J. Adams), refusing to put it down. She looks panicked, and Gibbs correctly deduces that she’s not the killer; it’s her band mate Tommy that is making her do it. But wait! He’s wired her with C-4 explosive and he has the kill switch! But Gibbs talks him down, reminding him that he doesn’t want to die! Of course, the serial killer wants to be famous! And he thinks he made both he AND Gibbs household names! But, they rob him of his fame by having the media not release his name and Gibbs name as well. Oh, the drama...OK, just kidding.

Seriously now, this whole episode was just plain ludicrous. For a serial killer who made all these videos, set up all these web addresses, broke Navy security to plant a web camera, planned a man’s death – in custody no less – to the minute, and obtain and wire someone with C-4 explosives, he seemed incredibly stupid. Did he really think that Gibbs and the crew would just shoot Rose? And why was he so fixated on Gibbs? Maybe I missed something, but was it because Gibbs just happened to catch the case and Rose was smitten with him? Did it not matter who investigated the original case, he just wanted someone to taunt? And why must TV serial killers always seem to be fixated on taunting members of law enforcement? It seems like any serial killer that I’ve ever read about in the REAL world do their best to lay low and keep out of the eyes of the law. Why send law enforcement hints and clues to your crimes? I don’t get it. I suppose if serial killers didn’t do that for TV, then these agents and detectives would actually have to investigate a case using real evidence, and they wouldn't get solved so quickly.

This episode was not horrible, but it was not one of their best. Hopefully, we won’t ever get to Murder 2.1.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween In The CSI Miami Lab

Since CSI Miami was a rerun last night, I though this was a good time to trot out some CSI Miami Halloween images for all of you to enjoy. You've probably always wondered what goes on in the Miami Dade Police Lab on Halloween, now you know! The intent was to have some fun with fan’s favorite CSI Miami stars like David Caruso, not to mock any of them.

David Caruso Buys Some Pumpkins. I wonder why he chose these?

David as Dracula

David as “The Mummy”

In the CSI Miami Halloween Lab


I always knew they used magic in their lab!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Mad Men: "Meditations” on a Season Finale

In this episode of AMC’s “Mad Men”, “Mediations in an Emergency”, it seems that while the US is involved in Cuban Missile Crisis and the threat of nuclear war increases, there are bombs dropping all over the place in the lives of the people at Sterling Cooper.

Here’s what happened, my review after the recap:

Betty (January Jones) finds out that she is pregnant, and she doesn’t want to go through with it. The doctor doesn’t seem wiling to “help” her in this predicament. In fact, he seems to take the approach that because she is a married woman of means, she should just go along with it and everything will be OK. But it’s clear Betty isn’t as confident.

While in Harry’s office with Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) and Kisney (Michael Gladis), Ken Cosgrove(Aaron Staton) brings is their revenue projections. They speculate as to why this information is needed, and Harry (Rich Sommer) complains that the Clearasil information is missing. They also speculate if it has something to do with Don’s sudden and mysterious absence. Harry thinks Don is out there landing a big aerospace contract, while Kinsey wonders if Don is going to break out on his own. Harry is also concerned that President Kennedy's speech will run over prime time and throw a wrench into his ad spots. After Peggy leaves the meeting, she goes to Pete and questions why he hasn’t broken the news about the loss of the Clearasil account. Pete doesn’t know if he can just tell Duck that his father-in-law hates him, and Peggy urges him to be honest, and that people respect honesty.

At the stables, Betty gets off her horse – despite her doctor’s warning not to ride – and Don (Jon Hamm) is waiting. When she asks where he has been, he says he just needed time to think, and Betty sarcastically tells him that must be nice to need the time and take it, with no concern for others. He admits he was "not respectful" to her, and she says that at least his admission means she's not crazy. He wants to get back together, he wants to see the kids, but she says she can’t deal with that right now and will make arrangements for visiting with the children.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) stops by Duck’s (Mark Moses) office, and he pours him a drink. Pete tells him they lost Clearasil and Duck correctly concludes that it’s problem with Peter’s father-in-law. When Pete says he is working on replacing the account , Duck confidentially tells him about the merger and that Clearasil would have been in conflict with a British client so it really doesn't matter. He recognizes Pete’s loyalty during the American Airlines crash, and then says he says he will place him as head of accounts. He says he can do this because he will be the new president of Sterling Cooper. After mutual congratulations, Pete wonders about Don’s acceptance of this whole thing, and Duck tells him that as president, he doesn't need Don's permission to promote Pete. He also says that Don will fall in line or find another career outside of advertising because of the non-compete clause in his contract.

The next day, the Cuban missile crisis getting even more intense, Don returns to Sterling Cooper. Joan (Christina Hendricks) is happy to see him, and Don seems surprised to see Peggy come out of the office next to hers. She explains that Roger gave her the office because she landed the Popsicle account. Joan follows Don into his office and she briefly brings him up to speed, and he sets up a meeting with his team and then with Roger. As Joan leaves, Pete enters. They talk briefly about Don’s disappearing in California, and Don tells Pete hr left him there because he knew he could handle it. Pete seems surprised to hear that Don had confidence in him. When Pete says he's is very close to landing North American Aviation, Don says he obviously made the right call and said “good work.” He also advises Pete that he knows he wants everything the minute he wants it, but sometimes it's better to wait until you're ready. Pete questions - “so you think I'm ready?” Don says he is, and Pete seems energized by Don’s positive comments.

Don arrives at Roger’s (John Slattery) office, and they briefly discuss his three-week absence. Roger says he hopes Don was looking for a job since he's going to need one, but Don counters that he'll stack his absences up against Roger's any day, and that the office walls still seem to be standing. Roger agrees, but says the sold those walls to Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Don seems stunned. Roger adds that PP&L is arriving on Friday to talk about strategy, management structure and logistics. Don asks how much, and Roger says he'll clear a little over a half million dollars. Roger also tells him that Duck put the deal together in a bar, and Don questions "Duck was in a bar?" When Don asks if there were any conflicts with the deal, Roger tells him Mona hasn't been pleasant since his engagement. Don laughs - he meant the business deal. Roger tells Don that Cooper and Alice jumped on it, and Don can go back to his office and try to figure out how much money Roger made out of the deal. As they shake hands, Roger adds. "Kennedy's daring them to bomb us, right when I get a second chance." Don says that nobody really knows what's going on.

At church, Father Gill (Colin Hanks) is giving a sermon about Khrushchev, Kennedy, and Castro and the threat of nuclear war. He tells the congregation not to be angry, even on the cross Jesus forgave his transgressors. As he says they are all sinners, they all bow their heads and pray .

Betty is at the hair salon, listening to talk about the threat the country is facing. One woman asks them to stop talking because it is upsetting her daughter. Francine (Anne Dudek) says the Times said people should tell their children and adds that her husband Carlton says he heard the market crashed because there are Russian troops off the coast of Key West. The other woman continues to tell her to cut the chatter. As Francine gets up to leave, she comments to Betty that she looks “wan”. She offers her a Miltown (tranquilizer). Betty declines and admits to Francine she's pregnant. Francine gives her a half-hearted, questioning "congratulations" and adds that her daughter was an accident and look how happy she is now. Betty says she can't have the baby and worries what she's going to do, it's not a good time. Francine tells her there is a doctor in Albany – or Puerto Rico – the latter not a good place to be right now, that can take care of it. She tells Betty sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing and wait.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Kinsey, Cosgrove, and Sal (Bryan Batt) are banging on the static filled TV in Harry’s office, worried about both the Cuban crisis and the accounting evaluation. When Harry arrives and messes up the TV even worse, they decide to find out what’s going on at the company. They corner Lois from the switchboard for information, who resists telling them anything at first because they are not supposed to talk about what they overhear. But, she tells them about the merger anyway and possible job looses due to redundancies. Clearly rattled by the news, they thank her. She says that if any of them get to stay one of them has to take her off the switchboard and they agree, even though it’s clear that is the farthest thing from their minds.

At Don’s hotel room, Betty has dropped off the kids for the evening, and tells Don to drop them off in the morning. The get room service and watch “Leave It To Beaver.” Walking past a department store window display she mulls the well-dressed mannequins. After shopping, she enters a bar, she orders a glass of water, and a gimlet. The bartender tells her that a man at the end of the bar had paid for the drink. He later approaches her and she gives him a bit of a cold shoulder, and when he asks her name, she simply thanks him for the drink. When Betty goes to the rest room. She finds it’s locked. While waiting, the man who bought her the drink approaches her and asks what she's doing here. When she answers that she's waiting, he moves closer towards her and kisses her, and she responds in kind. He opens a door to a private room, and she says she's married. Laying on a couch in the room, he begins to remove her clothes and continues to get passionate. When they are done, as she is fixing her hosiery, he asks her name. As the bartender opens the door, they are quickly exiting and he asks what they're doing in there.

At the church Peggy is dropping off some food, Father Gill asks how she is and she has discomfort with a possible nuclear war, as they could all be gone tomorrow. He says he feels like God called him to the parish to reach her, and she seems taken aback. He adds that hell is serious and very real, and she should “unburden” herself otherwise she won't know peace. She says he's upsetting her. He continues that is her guilt, she needs to reconcile herself with God or else she'll go to hell. She responds that this can't believe that that's the way God is and she leaves.

Pete’s wife Trudy is going into hiding with her parents, and she's bringing the silver just in case. She wants Pete to come but he points out the futility of going there if a nuclear war should occur. He’d rather die in Manhattan. Trudy says if he loved her he'd want to be with her, and he agrees. But he still doesn’t leave with her, only offering to help pack the car.

While Sal, Kinsey, Cosgrove, and Harry all listen to news of the Cuban missile crisis, Harry seems even more concerned about the impending doom at the company, saying that there are good canapés in the fridge and the conference room being signed out for the day. Kinsey also says they shampooed the carpets. When Cosgrove calls Pete over and asks about the gossip, Pete says he's just waiting to see what happens. Harry tells them that his dad apparently told him that regime changes are always sticky, and that loyalists get hung so it’s best to remain neutral. Harry adds that to PP&L they're all just a bunch of numbers on a ledger and they don't want to get caught on the wrong side of the bottom line. Pete adds nothing and walks away.

Pete goes to Don's office and says he's coming to Don anonymously with information. He proceeds to tell him that he knows about the merger and about Duck being president. When Don asks why Duck would tell Pete, Pete says Duck must be picking sides. Don also questions why Pete is telling him, and Pete says if he was Don he'd want to know. Don is thankful. As he leaves, Pete notes that the U.S. stopped a ship this morning and the Russians may be reconsidering now that the U.S. is making a stand.

At the Draper house Betty enters and finds a note from Don that he left with Carla for her. As she reads it, we hear Don's voiceover. He wrote the letter while he was with the kids, and while he regrets what he did, he understands why she wants to go on without him. She is thinking over his letter very seriously.

At Sterling Cooper, Don sits in on a meeting with the PP&L people and Duck, Bert (Robert Morse), and Roger. PP&L says Sterling Cooper will have some autonomy. Bert says they're not expecting autonomy, but is curious as to who is going to be running things. They respond that it’s Duck, who fakes his surprise and accepts immediately. Roger says it makes sense, and Bert congratulates him. Duck says he will treat the founding members of Sterling Cooper with the respect they deserve. The PP&L people turn the meeting over to Duck to hear his vision, and he says he's a little unprepared but that he wants to bring the company to financial maturity. This means Creative can't be running the show, and he wants to go all in with television. Bert comments that he didn't hear the word client once. Duck adds that when the economy is good, people buy things and when it's not they don't so there's no reason to give in to Creative's fantasies. PP&L calls it ambitious, but Bert wants Don’s opinion. Don says he thinks it sounds like a great agency, and Duck is the man for the job, but if that’s how it shakes out, he leaving. PP&L seems surprised, but Duck seems to enjoy Don’s reaction, calling it an outburst of Don's artistic temperament. He adds that Don loves to hear his own voice and to save the day but now he needs to get with a team, that Don he can either honor his contract or walk out the door and start selling insurance. Cool, calm, and collected Don drops a bomb of his own: "I don't have a contract." Roger nonchalantly states that since they're close he didn't think they needed one. Don rises, buttons his coat, saying he sells products not advertising, and that he can't see as far into the future as Duck but if the world is still here Monday, they can talk then and leaves.

Duck is doing a slow burn, and says to let him go and that he can hire a young gun to replace him. He also raises his voice about Don’s three weeks absence while he put together the deal, and pounds the table. Roger advises him to simmer down, but the PP&L people are slightly unsettled but trying not to show it. They ask Duck to leave for a minute. After Duck walks out of the room, Roger asks if it affects the merger, they are reassure it doesn’t, that Duck could never hold his liquor.

As Don is leaving his office, Joan tells him that Betty called and wants him to come home. He tells her to go home also, but she declines. Later, as the office has cleared out, Pete stops Peggy as she is leaving and asks her to have a drink with him. Pete clearly has something he needs to get off his chest, and he tells Peggy he thinks she's perfect. She says she's not. He reinforces that she is and that he wishes he'd picked her then, and adds he loves her and wants to be with her. She smiles a forced smile as he grabs her hand. She has something on her mind, too, telling him she could've had him in her life forever if she wanted to and she could have shamed him into being with her but she didn't. He looks confused, and she goes on to tell him about the baby. He is silently shocked when she says "I had your baby and I gave it away." She wanted other things. Pete is clearly thrown off kilter by this news. She adds, "Well, one day you're there and then all of sudden there's less of you and you wonder where that part went, if it's living somewhere outside of you and you keep thinking maybe you'll get it back and then you realize it's just gone." She apologizes, and as she leaves, she puts her hand on his shoulder.

As the story close, we see Don coming home, the kids cheering. He sits next to Betty on the love seat while the kids watch TV. At Sterling Cooper, it appears Pete is at his desk in the dark, looking like he has a rifle in his hands. Peggy lies in bed, crosses herself, and prays. At the Draper household, Don enters the kitchen, the kids are in bed. The news is on TV, and Don shuts it off when Betty says she has to talk. She tells him she's pregnant. Don looks serious and Betty seems uncomfortable. Don reaches for her hand across the kitchen table, and the episode closes as they sit there silently.

I thought this was an excellent episode, which tied together many of the events of the season. The backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed fitting, as the fate of the entire country was on the line at the same time as the fate of so many involved with Sterling Cooper. And while everyone seemed to be dropping some bombs of their own, the only one that I didn’t see coming was Don’s announcement that he had no contract. It is possible that this issue came up before and I just missed it, but it was a total surprise to me and clearly a surprise to Duck and the PP&L gang. In fact, I think I enjoyed that scene the most, as Duck may be seeing his spot in the president’s chair slipping away. In all honesty, I thought for a minute that Roger and Bert held back the information about Don’s lack of contract on purpose, maybe just to stick it to Duck. While we have to wait a while for the “Monday” that Don says that will be coming, I suspect that his value to the company will outweigh Duck’s. And if Duck remains as president, I suspect his drinking will get the better of him soon enough.

Clearly there is more wrong with Betty than just her pregnancy. Her increasingly risky behavior implies more trouble ahead for the Drapers. Sure, Don is back home, and Betty has dropped on him the news of her pregnancy, but still it seems that she is not happy with her life, and there is probably more to do with it than Don.

I was also interesting to see Peggy take her own advice and tell the truth to Pete, although he seems crushed by her news. In a way, rather than confess to Father Gill, she decided to confess to Pete, because that is probably the only way she can begin to move forward with her own life. But, can Pete handle the news? I was also glad to see Peggy stand up to the priest and refuse to buy into his view of God which frankly doesn’t sound very god-like.

Pete also played it smart by giving Don the heads up. Granted, he did it only after Don complemented him, but it showed that Pete had the smarts to try to use the information he had to play both sides. By straddling both sides, he may land on his feet no matter who winds up in charge, be it Duck or maybe Don.

All in all, this was a very complex, layered episode that left me anxious for more. Overall, the series is mature, it’s deep, it’s compelling. Sadly, we’ll all have to wait a while for the new season to begin; hopefully there will be one. There really is no drama on television quite like this.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Law & Order Returns In November – Fans Rejoice!

Did you feel something odd yesterday? Was it like a small earthquake, or maybe a tremor in “The Force”? Did it seem that the stars realigned and suddenly the universe was back in balance? Well, it was none of those things. What you felt was the collective jumping up and down and the overall joy of Law & Order fans upon reading the news from NBC that their beloved Law & Order would be returning on November 5, 2008. This is much earlier than the January premier date that was originally planned.

What is even better is that it is returning to its original Wednesday night at 10:00 PM time slot, which is where the show had lived for many years until NBC banished it to other not so preferred nights of the week. Law & Order fans now may seem vindicated in their original dismay years ago when the show seemed to be pushed out of the way for other shows which have since failed.

The show still faces stiff competition on Wednesday night, though, as CSI NY airs at the same time on CBS. And, after Law & Order moved from Wednesday night, the move only seemed to open the door to strengthen the viewership of CSI NY, which frequently dominates the time slot and is also frequently in the weekly ratings top 10.

That’s OK. There is plenty of room for more viewers, and I think that Law & Order fans who may have left the fold when the show moved may find themselves coming back. After all, the show re-energized itself last season with new cast members Linus Roache, Jeremy Sisto, and Anthony Anderson, and also by moving Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) into the top spot as District Attorney. And when we finished last season, Jack may have found himself in a little trouble with the governor, which I suspect may come back at him this season.

So, there is a lot to be happy about. If you left the Law & Order fold a few seasons ago, it may be time for you to come back again. For the rest of you die-hard fans like me - continue your celebration!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

House: “Lucky Thirteen” Unlucky In Love

In this episode of House, “Lucky Thirteen” was almost as if the viewers were walking into a Dr. Greg House fantasy. At least, it seemed that way for Greg House (Hugh Laurie). It also seemed to bring back some normalcy between House and Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard.) Here’s what happened:

The patient of the week happens to be a one night stand, female lover of Dr. Hadley (Olivia Wilde) – who House refers to as “Thirteen” from her days of trying out for her current job. House probably wishes that his private investigator friend Lucas (Michael Weston) was stalking Thirteen when she brought over a lover that night. He would have enjoyed the pictures. But the situation wasn’t so enjoyable for Dr. Hadley, when her companion – whose name she didn’t know – has a seizure. Making matters worse, the woman had also been taking ecstasy with alcohol.

To make a long story short, the woman with Dr. Hadley, whose name I don’t think was ever revealed in the episode (she was played by Helena Barrett), goes through a whole host of treatments at the hands of House and his staff. Of course, the show can’t seem to get away from House and his gang taking educated guesses about what is wrong with the patients. At one point, he speculates the patient was a drug user, which annoys Thirteen. In fact, Thirteen seems to want to rule out many issues as not being diagnostically relevant. In typical House fashion, he also makes several sexual innuendo-laden comments (example: his "huge, throbbing ... diagnostic skills") during the differentials and some of the tests. House also seemed utterly thrilled to find an excuse to snoop through Thirteen’s apartment.

Dr. Hadley gets a rude awakening when her one night stand rates her as a 7, and also when she finds out that the woman sought out Hadley in order to get in to see House for her previous medical problems. Hadley seems unaffected. and tells her that she didn’t expect to see her again anyway. Still, when the team determines (of course, incorrectly) that the patient will die from what they think is wrong with her, Hadley determines that she, not House, should be the one to break the news to the patient. And she does so with what seems to be genuine care and concern. This may be because she knows her own disease – Huntington’s – is more advanced than she originally thought, and her own time may be short. This is also why Hadley seems to be engaging in somewhat risky behavior, and she tells Forman (Omar Epps) that having sex with strangers was her way of having some fun, that she’s "cramming as much life into my life as I can."

To make matters worse for Hadley, Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) catches her giving herself an IV. Cuddy wants Hadley drug tested, but oddly, House defends Thirteen and takes her out of Cuddy’s office, leaving Cuddy to smolder. But, House says he did that only so he could fire her. He said he did so to save her from a drug test, which would have killed her career, and adding he’s "already taking responsibility for one doctor with a drug habit," popping a couple of Vicodin in the process.

House is also glad that Dr. Wilson has returned to his job, so glad that he played a prank on him and then laid in wait to see how it turned out. When he doesn’t seem to get the complete reaction he wanted from Wilson, he decides to have his PI Lucas look into what Wilson had been up to lately. During the course of their spying on Wilson, they see what looks like a prostitute enter Wilson’s apartment. The PI also thinks he’s hit pay dirt when he hands House a bag of Wilson's trash, which had some used syringes. "He's using," the PI concluded. House, happy, walked into Wilson's office and praised him for his craftiness. He knows that the syringes and the prostitute were made up because Wilson knew that House was having him watched. Wilson's prank may mean he's back to normal. House is even more impressed that Wilson invoked Amber's name in his elaborate deception. But, House still didn’t get the answer as to where Wilson was that morning. Knowing House would not let up on the surveillance, told House to be outside his house at 8 o'clock that night.

House later noticed that Thirteen's lips were cracked and concluded that the patient was suffering from Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes tears and saliva production to dry up. It also made her mouth vulnerable to a yeast infection, which she had passed to Thirteen. Sjögren's syndrome also explained the patient's other symptoms, including the lung cysts. It also meant that the patient was no longer going to die. Of course, later, House un-fires Hadley.

House followed Wilson that night they were supposed to meet. He finds Wilson at a baby store where he and Cuddy was shopping for a crib. Cuddy reveals that she is adopting a baby and used Wilson as a character reference - that’s where Wilson was that morning. House looked stunned by the news. Cuddy asked if he was going to congratulate her, he responded, "If you're happy, I'm..." and he left the store.

Later, we see Hadley back at home, and she’s hooked up with another strange woman.

In this episode, the patient’s problem was not really the central focus. That’s usually the way it’s been with the show as of late. This was perfectly OK to me. The issue wasn’t the patient; it was Dr. Hadley and her own illness and her resulting behaviors. The whole woman-to-woman affair did seem rather gratuitous though. As I said before, it was as if we were walking into one of House’s fantasies, and he seemed to be enjoying it that way. In some way, I found the whole scenario just a little too forced. But, that may be because I just don’t care for Thirteen/Hadley. I was very disappointed when House rehired her. She seems to be overly depressing, and I don’t think it’s just her illness. Are they also making her character look shabby, maybe to make it seem like she doesn’t care about her appearance pr her own life. Maybe it’s just me, bit with her hair plastered to her head, it looks dirty and it makes her head look immense. Her appearance is actually a distraction to me and to the story.

The episode did seem nice to have some of the House/Wilson playfulness back. But the PI guy has got to go. His presence and his whole premise for being there is ludicrous. And frankly, it takes away from the House’s edginess. I also think the show is suffering from two many supporting doctors. Hadley got all the attention in this episode, but it seems that everyone else is fading into the woodwork. I find myself wishing that they would just cut some of them loose – maybe Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Chase (Jesse Spencer) as it seems their story lines have run their course.

Somehow, the show needs to get the drama back. It reminds me in a way of what happened to the USA Network Show Monk – when it first came out it focused on the drama, and now seems to be more of a comedy. (I stopped watching Monk long ago.) I hope House doesn’t go the same way, but it seems to be headed in that direction. Don’t get me wrong, I like the show and watch it because Hugh Laurie does such a fantastic job as Greg House, and he has a solid (but overstaffed) supporting cast. They need to get rid of the silly distractions – the PI for starters - and try to make House less of a comic character. I want his edge back, I want the drama back.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heroes "Dying of the Light" Resurrects A Petrelli

This episode of Heroes, “Dying of the Light”, seemed to stay in the present long enough to really help me follow the overall story a little better.

There were a few main story arcs in this episode:

1. Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) dupes Tracy (Ali Larter) and Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) into thinking he wants to help them, when that’s not his motive.

2. Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando (James Kyson Lee) continue to work to track down the formula, but are also working alongside Daphne, who seems to be telling them what they have to do next.

3. Meredith (Jessalyn Gilsig) gets trapped by a man whose powers seem to be to control anyone he wishes, and Claire (Hayden Panettiere) and her mother Sandra (Ashley Crow) go off to save her and end up get trapped themselves.

4. Daphne (Brea Grant) meets up with Parkman (Greg Grunberg) and he tries to convince her they are meant for each other and he’s trying to save her. She’s not into the whole idea at this point.

5. Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) and Sylar (Zachary Quinto) continue their struggles with their powers and with each other.

6. Big Daddy Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forster) sucks the life force out of Adam (David Anders), which allows him to get off life support.

First of all, I am officially l sick and tired of Suresh. He always was the most annoying character of the show, and now that he has what seem to be evil powers, he’s even more annoying. What I don’t get is why, in a previous episode, he was able to trap Maya in his cocoon-like trap, and she somehow couldn’t use her own super deadly powers to kill him at that time. Did I miss something, or wasn’t she conscious at one point when he trapped her on his trophy wall? And, once Tracy got loose and got Nathan loose, why didn’t Nathan just grab her and fly out of the room, or can’t he make simple indoor flying moves? Can he only zoom at high speeds outdoors? I guess I don’t know why he couldn’t use his flying to get away.

As far as Hiro and Ando, the “killing” of Ando last week was an obvious red herring. I hate red herrings. But, I have to admit that I found Hiro’s attempts to catch up with the man in Africa who can see the future quite entertaining, as Hiro gets clobbered on the head not once but twice. What I don’t get is whether Hiro uses his powers or not, the guy can still see the future and predict what Hiro will do to catch him, right? So why was the guy in Africa so impressed that Hiro caught up with him by NOT using his powers? The guy still new he was coming. But I guess he felt he had to make the point that Hiro still needed to use his brains, and not always rely on his powers. Snore.

The whole story line with Meredith getting trapped by puppet master guy, and Claire and her mom coming to save her was a waste of time and contributed nothing to advancing the overall story, in my opinion. And the outcome of spin-the-gun-Russian-roulette segment was completely predictable.

The Daphne/Parkman relationship also doesn’t do much for me, probably because this show is famous for showing people the future but then not having it happen exactly that way. So Parkman’s attempt to help her will probably change the future, but maybe in more ways that Parkman may want or not want. Still, it seems irrelevant to the overall story. It also seemed such a waste for Daphne to have Parkman wait all day at the airport for her, when she just blew him off when she returned.

Peter and Sylar’s struggles, both with their powers and with each other, are getting a little repetitive. Sylar’s love for his mother – who is now in a coma that we know has been induced by a mind-game on the part of her own husband - seemed a little thin to me, seeing as he hasn’t really known her all that long.

Pinehearst seems to be tying everything together. Its logo has been popping up everywhere lately, and also showed up in the first season. Big Daddy Arthur Petrelli seems to be big man on campus at Pinehearst. Despite the fact that he has been on life support for what appears to be a long time, he suddenly becomes healthy after sucking everything he could get out of Adam. He also seems very happy to almost do the same to his own son Peter. At least, Peter doesn’t instantly decompose as Adam did, as Adam seemed to age his entire 400 years in a matter of seconds. Arthur’s power is to steal people’s powers through physical contact, and it made me wonder, why didn’t he find someone else to heal him sooner? I guess he knew of no one else with powers to heal or to live forever. In fact, I wonder why he didn’t just snap up Claire for her never-die powers? I guess I lost track of exactly what made Adam different from Claire and why Adam was the guy Arther needed to restore his health. Like Claire, Adam couldn’t die, but was there also some other power? Still, this storyline has the most promise and made the episode worth watching. Finally we may get to see a little bit more of the big picture behind the whole group of “heroes” and “villains”, and it may get interesting now that Daddy Petrelli seems to be getting even more powerful.

But, I think the story needs some credible successes. Claire using her ability to help save Meredith and her mother is just not enough. Hiro and Ando, while quite entertaining, need to see some positive results from their efforts. I know that having too many good things happen can rob a show of conflict and with it, drama. On the flip side, having too many things go wrong, or to have so many bad things happen, also can make for a dull show. I think that Arthur Petrelli coming into play in the Heroes storyline may be the kick in the pants this show needs.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Mad Men: “Mountain King” Reaching A Climax

The AMC series “Mad Men” continues to impress me with its method of weaving multiple stories and characters together without being overly confusing. It also makes me feel something for almost all the people involved. In some cases I want things to go well for a character, in other cases, I don’t wish them well at all. It slowly draws viewers in. That’s the sign of a well written and thought out series. This season of “Mad Men” is one that has built up slowly over time, to the point that one feels like they are a fly on the wall, watching these people’s lives unfold right in front of their eyes.

In this second last episode of the season for Mad Men, “The Mountain King”, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has continued in his drop off the radar as he’s still in California. Betty (January Jones) is struggling with her daughter’s behavior and her questions at home. Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) gets aggressive and as a result, gets her own office. The proposed merger between Sterling Cooper and Putnam, Powell, and Lowe is in play. And for Joan (Christina Hendricks), the tarnish is starting to appear on her relationship with her fiancé.

Don is having a crisis of sorts. He’s in San Pedro, reconnecting with Anna Draper, the wife of the man whose identity he assumed. We see Don (AKA Dick Whitman) flashing to the past, with his early encounters with Anna where she calls him out for not being the real Don Draper. He tells her the truth how he assumed Don’s identity, and they seem to become very close over the years. He even seemingly asks her permission when he wants to marry Betty, but of course it’s partly because he needs a divorce from Anna to keep things legal with the identity of Don Draper. Of course, Don will support Anna, and he also keeps the secret from Betty. Anna even tells him that she “always felt we met so both our lives could be better." But Don, looking at a book of poetry at Anna’s home called “Meditations in an Emergency,” seems to be feeling more disconnected than ever. Anna attempts a tarot card reading that she seems to imply good things for Don, yet it seems clear that Don just can’t see anything positive.

Back at home, Betty goes for a cigarette and realizes she’s a little low on them, and she finds Sally (Kiernan Shipka) smoking in the bathroom. When Betty tries to administer discipline, Sally hits Betty with a low blow, changing the subject and bringing up her father and why he’s not home. Sally also says that Don “left because you're stupid and mean," and "why won’t you let him come home?" Betty seems to be off kilter about the matter, but later, seemingly bribes Sally with a new pair of riding boots after which she tells Sally that she and Don are having problems. There may be new cause for concern, when after Sally asks to go riding, Betty stands up and both Sally and Betty realize that Betty has left blood on the couch.

Meanwhile, back at Sterling Cooper, life continues. Merger talks are in the works. Even though Don is partner, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) says that his voting power wouldn’t have an impact, so they go ahead and vote to make a counter offer with the merger without Don’s input. Bert’s sister Alice, who seemed to be pushing Bert hard to go along with the merger, gets in a perfect zinger at Roger (John Slattery), when she tells Roger that he has "children to think of." When Roger corrects her, "I just have the one," she dryly responds with Alice's perfect, "Really?" clearly referring to his relationship with Jane.

Peggy is working on the Popsicle account with the rest of the team and comes up with the idea that really helps sell the ad program to the Popsicle people. Feeling confident, she also gets frustrated and annoyed after she gets chewed out by the copy machine repair man, who seems to assume that because she shares the office with the machines that she’s a nobody at the company. Peggy carefully ambushes Roger and states her case to take over Freddy’s office, and he compliments her on her balls in doing so. He agrees to the move, and her peers are shocked, probably jealous, when they see her moving in to the big office next to Don's. She also jokingly says to Peter that sleeping with Don is really paying off.

Peter (Vincent Kartheiser) is very upset when he learns his wife Trudy has made an appointment with Spence Chapin for an adoption. At home, he fights with her, and throws dinner out the window. But his anger with his wife comes back to haunt him, as his father in law, Tom, who is with Clearasil, tells Peter the Clearasil account is up for review, a clear threat to Peter. At this point, Peter doesn’t appreciate the blackmail attempt, so he tells Tom to just pull his account now. Peter later confides with Peggy that he’s not sure how Don will take the loss of the account.

Unfortunately, things aren’t looking very rosy for Joan. At home in bed with her fiancé the doctor, Greg (Sam Page), she makes an advance towards him, getting on top of him, a maneuver to which he is says he is unfamiliar. He wonders where she learned it, and she implies that she really has no sexual past. He brushes her off, saying he’s tired. Later, when Joan brings Greg to the office, Greg seems to pick up something between Roger and Joan, and decides to take action. He asks Joan to go into Don’s office since Don is not there, pushes her onto the floor despite her repeatedly saying no, and he forces himself upon her. Joan’s eyes go blank as she stares off at the floor. The next day, when Peggy is moving into her new office, she strikes up conversation with Joan, and Joan seems almost unsure as to how to respond about questions of her upcoming marriage. Clearly Joan is having second thoughts about Greg.

As the episode draws to a close, we see Don, walking into the surf, alone. It’s not clear to me whether he is feeling bad about himself or good. But it does almost seem like a baptism of sorts, where he is letting the waves wash over him and take away all of his sins. It’s hard to tell if it means that he wants to start a new life in California, or, if he’s just washing away a troubled past so he can go back to his wife Betty and start over.

For Don, though, the stakes are high. He could stay in California, disappear, and start over again. But if the merger goes through and he doesn’t return, he’s walking away from a small fortune. On the flip side, if he returns and the merger goes through, he could find himself working for Duck, who seems to be anxious for some payback. Betty seems not to want Don around, yet she is becoming more destructive to her so called friends because it seems she wants them to hurt as she is hurting. Are there other problems with Betty, and is her bleeding a sign she is pregnant, miscarrying, or another medical problem and will this force Don back home?

We may see Joan decide that she wants to be her own woman and not someone just attached to any man just for the sake of saying she’s married. While Greg violated her in a physical way, it may also have been an emotional attack on Joan’s own self image. Will it be a wake up call for her to change how people perceive her, and decide what kind of person she wants to become? For now, she seems to give the impression to Peggy that everything is fine with Greg, and it’s hard to tell if she’s doing that because she wants to believe it herself, or of she just wants to buy some time to figure out what to do next.

I also see changes coming for Peggy. Taking the initiative to get her own office – and a nice one at that – may give her an extra shot of confidence that may make her more aggressive. This could be a threat to her male co-workers, who seem to have underestimated her. But, was the symbolic celebration drink from the stash that Freddy left going to turn into a problem for her later on, if she thinks she must drink to keep up with the boys?

But of course, while Bert Cooper seems to make Don Draper out to be a small player when it comes to the company partnership, we all know that Don is the glue that holds the whole company, and probably the whole Mad Men story, together. Will Don’s romp in the surf wash away his past and will he stay in California and start over? Or, was he just washing away his guilt for what he’s done in the past, and will the reality of an impending merger, and possible medical issues with Betty bring him back home? The season finale next week will hopefully provide some answers.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

ER: The Book of Abby Finally Closes - Thankfully

Since I’ve already written off CBS’ Eleventh Hour in the Thursday 10 PM time slot, I decided to take a look and see what was happening on ER. I was pleased to see that it was Abby’s (Maura Tierney) last day on the job. I never liked Abby.

And, in typical Abby behavior, even on her last day, she’s being inconsiderate of others, including her “best friend” Neela (Parminder Nagra). Neela is hurt that she had to find out about Abby’s departure through the rumor mill. And, also in typical Abby fashion, she tells off her new boss Dr. Cate Banfield (Angela Bassett) because Abby thinks she knows better, and of course, she doesn’t care because she’s going to be gone at the end of the day anyway.

Later, she also tells off a hospital board that was in the process of disciplining Sam (Linda Cardellini). It seems that Sam sent a patient home with an IV still attached, and if I followed things correctly, the patient injected themselves, using the IV, with another drug and it created problems. Abby’s defense for Sam made it sound like they fly by the seat of their pants every day in treating patients because they are understaffed and they get all the patients no one else wants. Excuse me, but that is no excuse for substandard care. And that’s the thing that sometimes bothered me about ER. They were always rationalizing their poor treatment of patients. In fact, it’s happened so many times over the years that I think the writers just made it the standard operating procedure at County Hospital.

When the staff says farewell to Abby, it was very telling about how bad the turnover has been on the show. It seemed that too many people were newer to me and as a result, the whole scene seemed almost hollow. What made the whole farewell episode even worse was the corny voice over of Abby reading what I believe to be Bible passages. Doubly corny was the whole contrived scene with Frank trying to learn how to tango, complete with the feet decals on the floor to help him with his steps. If he worked for me, I would have told him to remove them and get to work stat. But, I guess nobody really works at County. It turns out that Abby can save the day when she helps Frank at the very end by doing the tango with him, which he executes flawlessly. It was sappy.

And how could I forget Abby trying to talk a boy off the hospital roof by giving him a syringe that he could inject himself with at a later time, in order, I think, to end it all. Later, when she asks for the syringe back, he states, half questioning, that that she wouldn’t have let him do it. She says that she hadn’t though it through. Typical Abby. She always seemed too impulsive, and I don’t think her character grew much over the years.

The only person on the show who is mildly interesting is Dr. Archie Morris (Scott Grimes), who has, over the years, morphed from a joint-smoking doctor to someone who is somewhat responsible. There may be hope for him, but sadly he seems to be destined for comic relief on the show.

With Abby leaving, though, I have no reason to watch ER any more because there is no one left in which I am interested – both to praise OR to criticize. It looks like Thursday night at 10 is offering nothing compelling to watch. I may have to force myself to watch ABC. That’s when I know the time slot has gotten bad.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

House and Wilson: BFF Again

Photo TV Guide
Last night’s epsiode, “Birthmarks”, reunites Dr. Greg House (Hugh Laurie) and Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), after their short but painful separation, apparently over the death of Wilson’s girlfriend, Amber. There was a medical case in there somewhere, but it clearly was in the shadow of the big House/Wilson melodrama.

The medical case involved a young Asian woman who was trying to connect with her birth parents in China. They didn’t want any part of it. While dealing with the rejection, the woman becomes ill and throws up blood (never a good sign). She eventually gets to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital where the staff tries to figure out her problem. To make a long story short, the “one child” restrictions in China were a problem for the parents, so they tried to kill her by sticking needles in her head, which later in life pressed on centers of her brain and created all kinds of problems. If they took the pins out she’d be fine.

I’m glad that’s out of the way, because that really wasn’t the main story.

The big news was that House’s father had died, and House doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with the funeral. He never liked his father. His mother, though, wants House at the funeral to deliver a eulogy, and he avoids talking to his mother about it as he does not want to go. But, to force House to deal with it, Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) drugs him under the guise of being a shot to guard against SARS, which they thought the patient who'd been in Asia had contracted. But, it really was something was to knock out House, which he later does so, dropping down, out stone cold, onto the floor. Needless to say he is a little annoyed when he wakes up in a moving car, with Wilson at the wheel. Wilson tells him, "I am not doing this because I care."

Apparently House’s mother called Wilson to enlist his help to get House to come to the funeral. Of course, he felt the need to oblige. While on the way, House tells Wilson that he believes his father is not really his biological father, and that he’s suspected it since he was a child. House also creates trouble when he asks to make a bathroom stop, and manages to knock Wilson’s car keys into a drain grate. While Wilson – always prepared – asks House to hold a flashlight he had in his trunk so he can see what he’s doing while he fishes out the keys, House throws the flashlight down the drain too. Luckily, Wilson has a second flashlight and apparently a long coat hanger or some other long wire and he is able to retrieve his keys.

House also sees a police car ahead on the road and uses his cane to press down the accelerator so the car would speed past the police car, and Wilson is pulled over. They are both soon arrested when it’s discovered that Wilson has an open warrant for his arrest from Louisiana. Wilson is not shocked, he just looks annoyed.

While sitting in the police station, House and Wilson argue. Wilson tells House "You told me you'd taken care of this. First words you ever said to me." It seems Wilson had been charged with vandalism, destruction of property, and assault. As Wilson begins to explain, he also says that House was avoiding his father's funeral, which gets the officer’s attention.

Wilson further explained that at a medical convention in New Orleans, he had set off a bar fight by throwing a glass at an antique mirror after someone wouldn't stop playing Billy Joel's "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." House apparently bailed him out even though he didn't know him at the time, House saying that he was bored at the convention. Wilson comes to the realization that the whole foundation of their friendship was that House was bored one weekend. After all this, the office tells them they were free to go because Louisiana didn't want to pay to get Wilson sent back, and tells House to "stop acting like such an ingrate and go pay your respects to your father."

At the funeral home, House’s mother Blythe (Diane Baker) is thrilled to see him. But, you know things will not go well when House gets up to say a few words about his dad. He painted a picture of a controlling man who enjoyed his work. He also said he was who he was because of his father. He approached the open coffin, bent over and kissed his father on the forehead, and while doing so, out of sight of the rest of the mourners, clipped what look like a piece of his ear so he could do a paternity test. One odd thing here, I swear I saw blood coming from his dad’s ear lobe after House clipped it. I didn’t think dead people bled, especially after being prepped for burial.

In another room in the funeral home (another body is laid out) House and Wilson argue loudly. House tells Wilson that Wilson was the one who is afraid of losing their friendship, which was why he walked away from it. He taunted Wilson, repeating, "Admit it! Admit it!" and Wilson, in frustration picked up a bottle of liquor and threw it through a stained-glass window. House’s reaction? "Still not boring," House said.

At the end of the episode, Wilson comes to House’s office, where House is having what seems to be a celebratory drink. House tells him it’s because he got the DNA results, and his DNA did not match his father's. But for House, after all this time, it didn't seem to make any difference.

Regular readers of my blog may recall that last February. I wrote about House and Wilson being TV’s power couple. It seems that they are trying to cement this relationship even more for viewers but I think they are going a little overboard. I preferred the more subtle House/Wilson friendship with the occasional jabs, innuendos, and practical jokes. I always had the understanding that they were very close friends, and really didn’t care to know more of a back story. But, just as House must overdo it on the Vicodan, viewers must be forced to sit through an overdone story about their long friendship. I know that sometimes people become friends over sometimes strange circumstances, but this one seemed just too contrived. I just felt indifferent to the whole thing, and as result, the whole bit at the police station and then later at the funeral home seemed forced. In fact, House and Wilson seemed like two teenage girls who have been nursing a hurt for years. It really did seem like they were having more of a girl fight than a guy fight.

I also am appalled at Cuddy lying to House and then drugging him. Dangerous, very dangerous. Who knows what pills House is taking and in what dosage? She could have killed him by adding her knock-out coctail to the mix. Also, he could have fallen over and hit his head on the desk. People have been killed simply by falling and hitting their head like that. I don’t know where Cuddy’s brain is, but it’s clearly not in her head.

And frankly, I had zero interest in the medical case, and zero interest in the other doctors. The whole chemistry of the show is messed up a bit. Again, Drs. Cameron and Chase have minimal screen time, and even Dr. Foreman and the three new doctors seem to be just window dressing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the writers are running out of fresh ideas for the show. And, even after House and Wilson patched things up, I am still not sure that their relationship will be any better off than it was before – House will probably still be the user and abuser, and Wilson the whipping boy.

I’ll admit that the problem may even be me. Am I simply falling out of love with the show, or the characters? Or, are the characters becoming too one-dimensional and the medical stories too formulaic? Is the playful spontaneity in the relationship between House and Wilson now gone? Either way, the show just doesn’t grab me like it used to. I think it may need some medical attention of its own, stat!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CSI Miami: “Raging Cannibal” A Raging Bore

I’m really glad that I spent my Monday evening watching the Cleveland Browns maul the New York Giants. At least there was some drama there, seeing that it was expected that the Browns were facing certain humiliation.

But the only humiliation Monday evening should be with the producers, writers, and cast of CSI Miami. The episode “Raging Cannibal” was devoid of drama and interest.

The episode was about a double murder in the Everglades and the Russian mob. Frankly, crime shows have done the whole Russian mob thing to death. In fact, mob-centered storylines in general have become a bore. But it is made even worse when it seems that the cast is just going through the motions. You know, for a minute there, I almost thought that David Caruso was channeling Jack Webb – AKA Joe Friday of the old series “Dragnet.” During one scene I had looked away from the screen, and when heard Horatio talking, for split second I thought that when I looked back to the screen I would be seeing Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, M’am. “

Frankly, I am not sure what else to write about the episode. It really didn’t interest me. There wasn’t much suspense in the crime, and the forensics were dull. The only hopeful spot seems to be Dr. Tara Price (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who seems to be working out pretty well in her role as the new ME. The one person who I am becoming increasingly annoyed with is Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo). Besides the fact that he really never seems to be doing much of anything except taking credit for everyone else’s work, he makes some of the worst wardrobe choices. I swear he gets his clothes from Ringling Brothers.

But the case? Dull. Too much gratuitous blood and gore. Really now, did the guy really need to bite the other guy in the neck and open up one of his main arteries? I can’t imagine in this day of blood-borne diseases that even an idiot would want to do this. OK, this is CSI Miami, where idiots rule.

Of course, Horatio gets his man in Ivan Sarnoff (Andrew Divoff). Unfortunately, Ivan already had someone else ready to take the rap for the murder. As Sarnoff leaves the Miami Dade Police department, Horatio warns, I’m after you, Ivan, and I'm going to get you." This means this could be Horatio’s new nemesis, who will probably show up in a later episode where Horatio does get him.

And that is unfortunate for us.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

CBS’s Eleventh Hour: Time’s Up Already

Let me be blunt. Eleventh Hour is horrible. The premier episode, “Resurrection” had an overused plot (cloning), wooden acting, amateur dialog, and the worst excuse I could see for showing a woman run out of her room into a public area in her undies and a bathrobe. It’s almost as if some teenager decided to write some fan fiction adding together elements from any current crime show + Fringe + The X-Files, and then tried to find a reason to add a contrived scene where a woman is in a partial state of undress. Let me be even MORE honest: Eleventh Hour makes CSI Miami look like compelling drama.

The main characters are Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell) and Rachel Young (Marley Shelton). Jacob Hood’s “hook” – or his special talent – seemed to be the only mystery in this episode. Why should we care about what he thinks or says? All I know is he carries a panic button for some reason, probably only to bring out his apparent bodyguard, Rachel, while she is in her sleepwear. The episode gave me no reason to even care about who he is or put any credence to his words. His talent only seems to be to speak softly and glare at the camera.

Rachel Young’s special talent seems to be a blank face, corny dialog, and eye candy. Shelton’s acting skills makes Law & Order’s Elisabeth Rohm’s talents look Oscar-worthy.

Both characters seem to be sloppily conceived and poorly written. Keep in mind I have never watched the UK’s original version under the same name (“Eleventh Hour”) which I understand starred Patrick Stewart, so I can’t draw a comparison. I would, however, watch an hour long TV show of paint drying if Patrick Stewart was in it. But watching the actors in the US version is like watching paint PEEL – it takes a lot longer and is more boring than watching paint dry. There is ZERO chemistry between Jacob and Rachel, probably because Sewell and Shelton are both horribly miscast.

The storyline didn’t help as it was mind-numbingly boring and overdone. I mean really, does every sci-fi type show have to include the mad-scientist-does-cloning story? This has been so overdone, and clearly done better by other shows. This was a very poor choice for them to use to kick off this show. If “Resurrection” was their pilot episode, I wouldn’t have bought any more of it. In fact, as a viewer, I won’t be because I’m not going to watch it again. I think time has already run out for the “Eleventh Hour.”

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Friday, October 10, 2008

CSI “For Warrick” Gripping, Yet Anticlimactic

It should have been no surprise to any follower of CSI that Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) wasn’t going to survive a point blank bullet to the head, given to him courtesy of Undersheriff McKeen (Conor O'Farrell). So in a sense this episode, while covering such a sad topic as the death of a long time CSI, was somewhat anticlimactic. Viewers had months to prepare. And thanks to the endless teaser commercials for the episode, even Gil’s anguish over finding Warrick and not being able to save him seemed to have the drama sucked out of it.

Also expected was the return of Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), the only surprise being that she looked like she’s curled her hair and gained a few pounds. It not only seemed to age her a bit, but it also gave the character a bit of a more calming, stable appearance. If fact, despite the reasons she returned to the CSI crew, she actually looked happier and more rested than her character has ever looked.

Hopefully, the CSIs re-learned a hard lesson – that the person who “finds” the body or “stumbles” on the crime is often the likely perpetrator of that crime. Warrick’s shooting and his resulting death clearly threw them off kilter and they didn’t check McKeen for any evidence immediately at the scene. Of course, if McKeen were checked for gun shot residue (GSR) right away, the episode wouldn’t have needed the hunt for Warrick’s killer, or the drama from finding that it was McKeen who murdered him, and that McKeen was the insider for Lou Gedda, the notorious local crime figure that Warrick had been chasing down.

A little strange to me was the scene where Gil Grissom (William Petersen) is rushing to work on the crime and Sara stops him, implying what she has to show him is critical. It’s a video of Warrick taking about trying to gain custody of his son, but also talking about his admiration for Gil. While I am sure this was important to add to the whole tone of the grief that Warrick’s colleagues were feeling, it really didn’t seem critical to the resolution of the crime itself. It probably could have waited. Also surprising to me was when the usually prickly Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann) let them all work on the case; as they were all so close to Warrick it could have presented conflicts. But, maybe Ecklie has softened a bit over the years and concluded that those that knew Warrick best would be able to sort through his life, and the evidence, to determine his killer.

One plus for the show is that they kept the forensics simple. The episode instead focused on the range of emotions for Warrick’s colleagues as they dealt with his murder. In a way, the downplaying of the usually stylized presentation of the forensics helped to create a very dark and depressing tone which one would expect from the death of one of their own.

And the grief seemed very real for Doc Robbins (Robert David Hall) and even for the show’s usual drama queen Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger). In fact, I thought Marg was completely believable in her apparent shock and horror when arriving at the crime scene. Interesting was Captain Jim Brass (Paul Guilfoyle), who over the years has been at odds with Warrick, but now seemed to be silently enraged at Warrick’s death. Of course, Guilfoyle has always played Brass as one who is constantly simmering underneath. But clearly Brass was worried that once Nick (George Eads) went off on his own to chase down McKeen that it could turn out badly. It was probably because Brass was hiding the same feelings about McKeen that Nick was showing right out on the surface. Luckily, Nick fired his gun at McKeen and “missed”, meaning if McKeen survived his wounds, Nick and the rest of the CSI team will take pleasure in the ensuing prosecution and McKeen’s jailing.

Of course, the obligatory scene where Gil must remove his bloody clothes was expected the minute that Gil came upon Warrick in the alley. Still, it was interesting to see that Gil still went through the motions in a rather clinical fashion, yet with a look on his face that showed an inner pain that he knew he could not let out. But the gripping scene was his eulogy at Warrick’s funeral service where it seemed that even while Gil was honoring Warrick, he was reflecting too on his own direction in life. It was probably the most emotional episode for Gil Grissom, and probably is also the set up for Petersen’s upcoming departure from the show.

All in all, while there were no surprises, the episode was solid and seemed to appropriately set the stage for the changes to come for the cast and the show. It may take a while to work through all the fallout from Warrick’s death. Hopefully, the dark pall that is hanging over the show won’t continue too long. The team – and the viewers – needs to move on.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

CSI NY “Turbulence” A Smooth Ride

The episode of CSI NY which aired last night, "Turbulence", was probably one the better episodes in the CSI franchise that I’ve seen in a while. Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) is on a fight from New York to Washington DC. It seems that someone murdered an air marshal in one of the plane lavatories. The problem is, the person is not really an air marshal, the real air marshal having been murdered back in his New York hotel room.

There were several things that made the episode interesting. The most obvious was the fact that the crime scene was outside their normal realm of the city. Mac also had to improvise to collect evidence and document the scene. I do question being able to use lipstick, an airsickness back, and a camera phone to get viable fingerprints, or at least any that can be easily identified from a camera phone picture. Still, I didn’t find it too bothersome because it seemed like a very creative way to try to get the murder victim identified in the absence of an ID.

The episode also succeeded because it focused more on the story and less on special effects. Every show in the CSI franchise seems to get caught up in stylizing the forensics; CSI Miami is the worst offender of the bunch, and CSI NY seemed to be adding more of it. But in this episode, there wasn’t as much of it as usual and I think it helped make the story seem more credible.

I have to admit, though, that I noticed early on that the flight attendant Susan Montgomery (Michaela McManus) wasn’t wearing her airline wings on her blouse, so when it was determined that Anton Greenway (Ben Youcef) was stabbed, I concluded she likely committed the murder. It does seem a little hard to believe that she didn’t get more blood on herself while doing so, though, and I wonder if those wing pins are really sturdy enough to do the job. And why didn't they make the connection sooner that she had also worked for the same place that the victim and other suspect had previously worked? It seemed that once they found money stashed on the plane, an inside job would have been the logical conclusion, and anyone working on the plane should have rapidly moved up high on the list of suspects. A side note on McManus: she is the new ADA on Law & Order SVU, and I wasn’t surprised play the role as the flight attendant in the same wooden fashion she plays the ADA on SVU.

There were a few funny interludes. One was with Ed Riley (Justin Shilton) who was the quirky guy sitting next to Mac on the plane with his “wig lock” invention. Another was when Adam (AJ Buckley) had to sift through the airplane lavatory waste to find evidence. I’m sure his statement “I hate poop” will go down as being one of his most memorable lines.

The show even had a few decent red herrings. One was in nightclub owner Terrence Davis (recording artist Nelly). He had peripheral involvement in the crime, but he may have set himself up for repeat appearances since he now sold his soul to Flack (Eddie Cahill) as a confidential informant, in order to get away from harsher prosecution. I suspect we will see him again in another episode, either as informant, criminal, or murder victim. The other red herring was the guy who seemed to be married to two women in two cities. Mac seemed to hone in on him a little too quickly though, which made me discount him as the murderer just as quickly.

Mac also seemed a little too surprised that he couldn’t hold the passengers longer than 24 hours. It does seem odd to me that if a murder occurs in such an enclosed, isolated environment like an airborne airplane, it isn’t enough for the detectives to get a warrant faster or hold people a little longer. I guess that's just the way the law works.

All in all, a decent episode. And while I used to not like CSI NY so much, it’s rapidly moving up on my list as one of may favorite shows. In fact, I see little turbulence ahead for CSI NY.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Heroes: Inflicting Time Travel Whiplash

Can one’s brain get whiplash? If so, I think Heroes is giving it to me. Monday night’s episode of NBC’s Heroes, “ I Am Become Death” seemed to jump around in time to the point that I wasn’t sure where I was at – the present? The future? And while it’s an interesting plot device to move into the future to show how things can be, if overused, the technique only serves to confuse the viewer.

Also somewhat overused in science fiction or fantasy type shows – soap operas too – is the use of twins, or in the case of Heroes, triplets. How nice it must be for the writers to kill off a character, in this case Niki (Ali Larter) – only to have her return as another character Tracy Strauss, who finds she is one of a set of triplets. Sure, this can initially add to the drama when the other people realize that she’s not who they think she is, as in the case of Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar). Nathan decides to save Tracy’s life when she becomes despondent over her powers, and it also seems that he’s going to pick up right where he left off with Niki. After a while, though, the novelty of her being one of a matched set can wear off, especially when we all know that another one of her is presumably still out there.

Also, the doubles issue was already a problem with Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) who is faced with tangling with his future persona. I'm getting confused about which Peter is which, despite the scar on "future" Peter.

As I mentioned in my review last week ( Heroes: Dark, Confusing Start to the Season ), the show seems to have too many things going on all at the same time. While each of the segments is interesting, it is becoming difficult to retain certain elements of the story from week to week. For example, I am still trying to remember how Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando (James Kyson Lee) got locked up in a room, unable to just “teleport” their way out. Worse yet, while watching Parkman (Greg Grunberg) go on his mind journey into the future, I started to lose track if I was seeing Parkman’s future, or Peter’s future, or, well, you get it. It seems like I started to loose all sense of where in time I was supposed to be, and from whose eyes I was seeing it.

And while I do like the majority of the characters on the show and find them interesting, I’m starting to wish that they could find a way to better collect them to work in groups so I don’t have to juggle so many storylines in my head. They need to FOCUS. I keep reading reports of the show seemingly slipping in its viewer numbers compared to when the show premiered, and in my opinion, that coincides with when they started adding more characters and varying timelines. While some of the characters are worried about saving the world, I’d just be satisfied if someone can save this show from becoming bloated with too many people and stories within stories. If they continue at the current rate, it will take a heroic effort for fans to keep up.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CSI: Miami “And How Does That Make You Kill?” Killed the Drama

As I watched last night’s episode of CSI Miami “And How Does That Make You Kill?” I was struck by the fact that it could have actually been a decent story. But CSI Miami’s penchant for style over substance just killed it.

This episode is about the murder of the daughter of Eric Delko’s (Adam Rodriguez) therapist, Dr. Rachel Marsh (Gail O’Grady). While investigating the murder, it’s discovered that the doctor's confidential patient files were missing, including the doctor’s file on Eric. Later, the therapist herself is murdered.

The episode falls down in several places. First and foremost is that everything just seems to be too easy. It seems like it’s almost no effort for them to identity potential murder suspects. The suspects are too quick to give the investigators information. Even the red herrings (the patient who also happened to be a “cutter”) just so happened to leave enough evidence to point to her; after all they needed to add someone to the mix just to try to make things interesting. The problem is, it doesn’t. In fact, the show has become so rote that the drama is completely absent. Also sapping the drama is the repeated problem with the criminals on this show – they confess far too easily. Maybe it’s the Miami sun that is cooking their brains and taking away their self-preservation instinct? Think about it – if a person is willing to kill to protect something that they value, shouldn’t that same person want to continue to protect it by keeping their mouth shut?

Adding to the problem is the one dimensional performance of David Caruso, to the point where the character of Horatio Caine has become nothing but a man who seems more concerned with how he poses for the suspects he is questioning. While there are some people out there who will grab onto my comments and try to twist them into something damning about Caruso, let me assure you that they are not intended to be. Frankly, I think that the show is doing a terrible disservice to Caruso’s portrayal of Horatio Caine. Some may dispute that it is Caruso himself that is driving the persona of Caine, and that may be partly true. But, I do believe that Caruso can play Horatio with more of an edge and less "drama queen" if he were given a script and story lines that weren’t so insipid. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that the show’s producers are happy with Horatio Caine drawing such constant ridicule. Viewers, however, or becoming less happy with what I see as an insult to their intelligence. Caruso deserves better.

Also odd is that Calleigh (Emily Procter), always the stickler for rules, regulations, and ethics, seems to give those up pretty quickly when Eric tells her that looking at the patient files will help them direct them to evidence that could help them identify the doctor’s murderer. Of course, Calleigh would have the chance to read Eric’s file if she looked at those confidential files, so she may have had other motivations to break rules. Still, if they did find information in those files that led them to the killer, wouldn’t that be considered “fruit from the poisonous tree” and also be thrown out? If you get evidence in an illegal manner, that evidence is not admissible. Why would Calleigh take that chance? I guess reading the deep dark secrets of Eric is just too tempting. Of course, she is rewarded for breaking rules when she reads Eric's true feelings for her.

Let’s not forget the most ridiculous part of the show. As they are reading the doctor's files, the words from some of the files and the voices of the patients are superimposed over Eric and Calleigh. But it’s the words flashing on the screen that was too corny for words. I laughed when the line from Eric’s file is read about him putting things in perspective that his words were written across the screen - in perspective. It seemed amateur and cheesy. In fact, that whole scene seemed ridiculous, like if they had to spell it out for us that they were reading the files of the patients and putting the evidence together for us, as if we couldn’t follow the simple plot to begin with. Again, it was style over substance.

One positive addition to the show is the character of Dr. Tara Price (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who I think seems far more believable in her role than her predecessor, Khandi Alexander. The only thing that seemed off was Dr. Price removing a bullet from the murdered body of Eric’s doctor in the parking lot.

It’s a shame that the producers and writers of CSI Miami don’t take the show very seriously. While CSI and CSI NY seem to be relatively respected shows, CSI Miami is viewed as the joke of the franchise. If they tried harder, they really could make the show much better. If they just turned down the ham with Caruso he may actually be able to show his acting range. It IS there, I just know it.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Numb3ers: “High Exposure” Low Results

Numb3rs is one of those shows that I watch regularly, but I am not exactly quite sure why. I suppose the premise of the show itself – using a math genius to help solve crimes – is interesting. The problem is I can’t seem to stand the math genius, Charlie Epps (David Krumholtz). But more on this later.

Last night the season premier of Numb3rs aired, titled “High Exposure.” The story picks up some time after the events in the season finale, “When Worlds Collide.” In that episode, Charlie gets in trouble by leaking information to other scientists that belonged to man whose intentions with the information was in question by Homeland Security.

But the season opener takes the easy way out, basically glossing over Charlie’s trouble and his arrest in the finale, by making reference to the fact that he wound up just losing his FBI clearance for his actions. Of course, this loss of clearance creates problems for his FBI agent brother Don (Rob Morrow), who relies on Charlie’s math skills to help him to solve crimes.

As I mentioned last December in a review I wrote about the episode ”Chinese Box”, this show still has a tendency to insert very complicated math or even technology to solve what may be very simple problems. There are times this adds to the interest, but there are also times when I can’t believe they took such convoluted measures to solve a simple issue. They did it again in this season opener.

In this episode, “High Exposure,” two climbers are killed, and an uncut diamond is found. It is believed the climbers accidentally discovered a small plane crash of someone who stole the diamond, and someone seems to be looking for the plane crash and the rest of diamonds. During the course of the investigation, the team has to enlist Charlie’s help because they seem helpless to think out the problem without a math professor. At one point, they need Charlie just to obtain satellite imagery that they couple with topographical maps and a projected flight path of the plane to find a crashed airplane carrying uncut diamonds. Leading up to that was seeing Don in the mountains, with him watching three men holding two other climbers at gunpoint. Don uses a radio he found to distract 2 of the men, and he sneaks up on the third to help the hostages get away. The rest of the team, who is also out looking for the crashed plane, gets worried when they can’t reach Don by their radios and then they hear gunfire. What was silly about the scenario in question is that at one point Agent Ian Edgerton (Lou Diamond Phillips) says he need to take a helicopter someplace that will only take 8 minutes – and he goes to fetch Charlie for his help, and gets him to the FBI so he can work his magic with the satellite imagery and maps to find where the plan landed. Excuse me, but if he had a helicopter right there, why couldn’t they fly over the immediate area and just look for a bunch of people running and shooting, while someone else could radio to get Charlie for his brain power? It just seemed that they made the situation much more complicated than needed.

But the big annoyance to this show, oddly enough, is Charlie himself. I was getting pretty tired of his whiny, petulant behavior last season, and he seems to be showing a touch of it still. He seems to be lost because he can’t work with the FBI. Yet when the Assistant United States Attorney Robin Brooks (Michelle Nolden) offers to help him get his clearance back, he seems resistant. It isn’t until the end, sitting around the table with Don, Nolden, and Amita (Navi Rawat) that he gets the urge to fight to get his clearance back, only when he knows Don is OK with him doing so.

The show does have some good things going for it. Agents David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard) and Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno) make a great pair of agents. The new agent Nikki Betancourt (Sophina Brown, from the thankfully canceled CBS show “Shark’) who replaced Agent Megan Reeves (Diane Farr) seems like an acceptable substitute. And Peter MacNicol continues to shine in his role of Dr. Larry Fleinhardt. In fact, I think I like his input much better than Charlie’s.

All in all, it was just an OK start for the season. I wish we could have seen a little more of the melodrama that may have ensued from Charlie’s arrest in the season finale. After all, they made such a big deal about it then. Maybe they are planning a more detailed story on the issue as he tries to get his clearance returned. Either way, their treatment of the subject was a disappointment.

As a side note, we don’t refer to the show as ”Numbers” in our household, we pronounce it “Num-three-ers” because that’s how CBS writes the title. I know it’s a math show but the novelty of the title wore off on me long ago.

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