Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Prison Break: Is It Over Yet?


I am officially over Fox's “Prison Break.” Oh sure, I’ll still watch it, but only so I can finish what I started. I hope that when Prison Break returns from its winter finale that the show will just wrap up the story and go off into the sunset.

The series has been a huge disappointment. Last season, when it spent all that time in Sona, they lost all the momentum the show had built up in previous seasons. It was like someone took the original writers hostage and brought in some high school amateurs. The story had no purpose and also had characters that no one cared about.

But this season, it’s still bad, but in a different way. It seems like the writers are just making things up as they go along, and not caring about continuity or even believability. Monday’s winter finale, titled “The Sunshine State” tried very hard to capture the initial suspense of the show, but failed miserably. The most glaring problem: Michael Scofield (the increasingly pudgy Wentworth Miller) just had brain surgery, but when he wakes up in a different location, there isn’t any evidence at all that he’s even had a mark on his head. Not one scar, not even one tiny mark in his hair. That was just as laughable as the time he decided to have his full body tattoos removed in one sitting, and had no scars or marks to show for it. I think the writers and producers of this show must think the viewers are idiots. Well, maybe they just think the viewers in their precious young demographic are idiots.

In this episode, it’s made clear that ‘The Company” wants to mold Michael for their own means. And Michael and Lincoln’s (Dominic Purcell) mother is still alive. And she’s got some involvement with acquiring Scylla, the data thingy that everyone seems to want. Meanwhile, Linc is charged with taking his rag-tag team of losers and psychopaths – Ex Agent Don Self (played horribly by Michael Rapaport), T-Bag (Robert Knepper), Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) and Mahone (William Fichtner, the only decent actor on the show) – to get Scylla back for The Company and win their freedom in the process. It also seems that Michael’s main squeeze, Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) is being held in a hotel room with a very pointed, glassy windowed corner and a nice view, and she's being kept away from Michael, at least until he's be made ready by The Company.

But as Michael is being held hostage somewhere, and when “The General” orders Michael to be drugged and forced into submission so he can apparently be brainwashed into being a Company man, Sara is kidnapped by the General’s daughter Lisa (Stacy Haiduk), who tells her where Michael is being held. Lucky for her, Michael find a way to make an explosion occur just exactly at the time they are coming to drug him, and he escapes just at the time that Sara is driving her way up to get him. Michael almost gets caught, as he stupidly continues to run across the road while being chased by men driving a vehicle using same the road. If the area was as remote as they said it was, and it looked heavily wooded, it seemed like he could have easily found a place to hide just for a few minutes until the chasing vehicle had passed. But, I suppose that if they hadn't caught up with him, Sara would never have had the chance to ram their vehicle and save Michael from recapture.

Also becoming tiresome is the members of the team working against each other. If this didn’t happen so often it would actually be suspenseful, but it seems that people like Gretchen and Self and T-Bag have been so consistently untrustworthy that nothing they do surprises. Very misplaced in this episode was Gretchen suddenly coming on to Linc. Where did that come from and what purpose was it supposed to serve? I laughed during that awkward scene. Later, when Gretchen turns on the team and holds a gun on them, she has a strange change of heart that seems to be triggered when Self basically stands there and calls her names and puts her down. It was laughable that the hardhearted Gretchen would decide to shoot the bad guys just because Self called her names. It was also no surprise when she gets shot, they leave her there. Personally, I would have shot the bad guys and then Self, because he’s a poorly conceived and poorly acted character. Equally laughable was hearing T-Bag pleading to Linc not to kill Gretchen because she has a kid. Of course, they believe her when she indicates she’ll keep her mouth shut in prison. Why would they believe her this time?

Of course, there is no surprise when Linc gets a call on the bad guy’s phone (T-Bag took it off his body after Gretchen shot him) and when he hears no voice at the other end, he says to the caller "Your boys are dead and now I'm coming after you." Of course, what Linc doesn’t know is that’s his and Michael’s mom (played by Kathleen Quinlan)on the other end of that phone. She was supposed to be dead but is really alive, and she has Scylla in her possession. She tells the other person in the room, "That was my son, Lincoln." Well, no surprise here.

Personally, I just want the whole thing to be over. Every episode seems to be just a continuation of someone’s stream of consciousness writing. It seems like they are trying to make lemonade out of lemons at this point, but the end result is still something very sour and bitter to the taste. At this point, I am not sure that I care anymore what Scylla really is and why Michael and Lincoln’s mother is still alive and involved in the whole mess. But now, I feel that I have to finish it, only if to see if they are able to make sense of the time Michael spent in Sona that was orchestrated by the company. If they wanted to recruit him for The Company, why did they get him into Sona and let him struggle to get out? I am not sure how they can write themselves out of that one, but I will be watching only to see if they can. I can only hope that they find a way, in the next 6 episodes, to lock up this whole series…and throw away the key.


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Monday, December 22, 2008

The Mentalist: Looks Like I Picked a Bad Day to Start Watching

I decided to watch the Mentalist last week because Elisabeth Röhm, who used to be on Law & Order, was a guest star. I wanted to see if she would be as wooden on The Mentalist as she was on Law & Order.
While she wasn’t quite as horrible as I expected in this episode titled “Red Brick and Ivy”, she wasn’t great either and was still wooden as ever. Still, after hearing raves about the series, after watching this episode I wondered what on earth was the big deal about it? My disappointment with this episode was more that the lifeless Röhm. The story left me cold, and the cast was forgettable.

The episode was about a murder of a man billed as “one of the nation's leading cosmonauts” from a poisoning, and the lead character of show, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) gets called in by Sofie Miller (Röhm), who was Jane’s therapist when he had some sort of breakdown in years past. She needs Jane’s help to prove she didn’t commit murder of the cosmonaut, who just so happened to be her ex-husband. But it turns out she didn’t murder him, but she was involved in a fraud involving a scientific research study for some sort of “morality engine” that they are making appear that it is a success. It turns out that the murderer was Chancellor Stern (Lawrence Pressman), who was trying to protect Professor Stutzer (John Aylward) who was heading up the experiment. Sofie helps Jane create a situation that forces the Chancellor’s confession.

Boring! It was dull and predictable. But what bothered me even more was what I saw as a weak cast. I don’t get what the big deal is about Simon Baker. I saw nothing special in his character - is there supposed to be some magic talent with him? If so, I saw nothing, only a guy who looks like he’s dressing for the 1970s. It’s the vest thing. It looked very dated. Another cast member, Robin Tunney, who plays CBI Agent Teresa Lisbon, is also a big detractor for me, and for a very superficial reason. I usually try not to let a person’s appearance get in the way of a show, but no matter what show she has been on, her face is just a major turnoff for me. No, she’s not ugly, but she has a weird cheek-dimply thing going on that always makes her face look like it is sagging. Normally I can get past a person’s quirky look, but for her, I have never been able to overlook it. My husband, also watching this episode, commented that Tunney had a blank look on her face many times during the show. Her character is also very forgettable, at least for this episode. The rest of the cast just faded into the background and added no interest whatsoever.

After we finished watching the episode, I turned to my husband and asked what he thought of it. After a few ummmms – which meant he didn’t know exactly what to say – I said that I thought this episode was a dog and that I didn’t get the appeal. He agreed, saying that he was looking for the words to say that he wasn’t impressed.

After tuning out Eleventh Hour after one episode, I am tempted to do the same with The Mentalist. But, after reading many reviews of this series, it may be that this show just has a consistency problem. It sounds like there are great episodes, and then there are some that aren’t so great. I must have decided to watch on the day where they showed the worst episode of the year. So I will give it one more chance. After all, it’s rerun season, and I’m desperate to watch anything that is new to me. (Well, except for Eleventh Hour.) So I’ll give it one more chance, but that’s about it. If the Mentalist can’t get into my head after two episodes, it’s not worth wasting any more time on it.



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Thursday, December 18, 2008

CSI NY ‘Forbidden Fruit”: Sweet!

CSI NY is becoming one of those shows that I look forward to watching, which is quite a switch for me, seeing that I used to abhor this show. But, unlike its campy and corny sister show CSI Miami, CSI NY actually provides some believable stories with believable characters and believable acting.

Last night’s episode, “Forbidden Fruit” seemed to seamlessly weave several ongoing story lines over new murder cases. Lindsay (Anna Belknap) and Danny’s (Carmine Giovinazzo) relationship is moving to a new level with Lindsay’s pregnancy, and it’s nice to see them headed in a somewhat stable direction, at least for now. Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) is becoming a tad obsessed with busting Sebastian, finding another murder that seems to fit the pattern of the murder of the Rat Fisher and some involvement in rare coins. She’s taking steps to solve the case that have caused Mac (Gary Sinise) some grief, and he wants her to stop working on it, but Stella doesn’t heed his advice. And if this isn’t enough for you, Mac is now the subject of someone else’s obsession, when Ella McBride (Casey LaBow), who became acquainted with Mac during his investigation of the murder of her father, now seems to be fixated on Mac, stalking him in a grocery store, faking evidence, and a questionable suicide attempt.

The murder of Isabelle Vaughn (Kristin Cavallari), which opened the show, served as an interesting backdrop to all the other drama going on. It seems that Vaughn was given a” miracle berry” which, when eaten, allows a person to taste sweet instead of bitter. The murderer - her former boss Marina (Morgan Hewitt) who just so happened to be in a legal battle with Vaughn – used the berry to help disguise a drink made of drain cleaner which literally liquefied Vaughn's internal organs. In the meantime, Mac finds that Ella faked some evidence in that case in order to get his attention and he is furious with her. But, she continues to string him along by calling him and sounding desperate, causing him to burst into her apartment where he finds her bloody from her self inflicted wrist slitting. Problem is, she didn’t cut deep enough to kill herself, something that should have been another clue to Mac that she was just trying to get his affection. As he carries her out to take her to the hospital, the camera focuses on one postcard on her wall of postcard confessions, which says, “I Will Make Him Love Me.” We are being led to presume that Ella wrote that card herself.

The real grabbers in this episode weren’t the murder cases, but all the behind the scenes drama with the CSIs. I think CSI NY has done the best job in all the CSI franchise of bringing in the personal lives of its main characters than the others in the franchise. It’s something that the original CSI had already done but I don’t think as well, and CSI Miami’s attempts at it are weak and laughable.

What I really liked about this episode is that it left me very interested – and very invested – in what happens next. I think that with Stella continuing to work on a case she was told not to can only spell trouble. Danny and Lindsay’s once rocky relationship seems to have leveled off with a child on the way, but will it last? Needless to say, Mac seems to be headed for problems as he seems to be getting more involved with Ella, whether he likes it or not. The show is putting out some good stuff as of late, and despite my deep and endearing love for Law & Order, I am almost ashamed to say that CSI NY is the best show in that 10:00 PM Wednesday time slot. Hopefully when Leno moves to that slot for NBC next fall, that my beloved and much improved Law & Order will move to an earlier time slot where it can get noticed for its new energy and actually have a fighting chance.



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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CSI Miami “Tipping Point” A New Low

What can I say except “”Tipping Point” was probably the most inane CSI Miami (CBS) episode of the season – so far. I say so far because we still have more of the season to come and it could get worse, if that is even possible.

This episode was called “Tipping Point” because it centered on a murder and the people involved afterwards who either act as tipsters or have connections to tipsters. This episode was heavy with repetitive flashbacks, red herrings, and convenient evidence, plus it had the added benefit of helpful criminals, and lazy construction workers.

The show starts with a scene of man, who appears to be drugged or injured, in the back seat of a car, and later, he seems to be buried in a wooden box that is unearthed by a construction company. While a construction auger digs deep, it pierces the wooden box and kills the man, who turns out to be a local reverend who is helping to rehabilitate neighborhood kids. My questions are: Does it seem odd to anyone that for the first day of construction (as the worker said it was) that they would be drilling holes with an auger? And, why would someone decide to use his auger in a place just because it looked like the dirt was loose and it would be easy to begin there? What exactly was he drilling into the ground for? Wouldn’t there be plans on where to drill, where to dig, and where to use earthmovers? Construction workers don’t just arrive and decide to work in an area just because it looks like an easy place to start.

As they investigate the murder further, the CSI team makes a few references to tipsters and basically says they are worthless “crackpots.” If this is the case, why do police departments so often ask for help from tipsters? Of course, in this case, the tipster really isn’t the original tipster, but she is just being fed the information by someone else so she can collect the money. How nice that the original tipster used this woman and put her life in danger to further his own agenda of saving the neighborhood from local gangs.

Of course, we have to have a red herring. Natalia (Eva La Rue) decides to help a woman secure the decent burial for her daughter that the woman had original paid for but where the funeral director wanted to charge more. How convenient for Natalia that when she is talking to the woman about this great act that she did to get the woman an upgrade on the funeral service, a gun goes off in the next room. It just so happens that the woman’s young son was given the gun that had ultimately shot the reverend. An amazing turn of events!

And lucky for Horatio Caine (David Caruso) that he managed long ago to touch the life of one Hector Salazar (Jon Seda), so Hector would want to help turn his own life around and help save the ‘hood. When Hector was “inside” there was a kid who killed a guy in his cell, and usually no one cares about those people in prison. But not Horatio! He cares! He was a cop then, who didn’t look at things “that way” and helped prove that the killing was self-defense and “gave him justice.” Hector now wants to help Horatio to return the favor. Horatio puts his trust in Hector, saying “Don’t disappoint me.” Amazing! Horatio is the man with the golden touch, so golden that he must constantly wear sunglasses just to keep himself from being blinded while looking at himself.

One of these days, I am going to try to quantify the amount of time that the show spends on worthless flashbacks. How many times did we have to see the man get skewered by the auger, or the bomb detonation? Did we have to see Hector getting released from prison and them giving him his belongings? Speaking of a waste of time, as Horatio enters the soon to be exploded home, Delko (Adam Rodriguez) tells him that he only has 30 seconds to get the person out of there. So Horatio wastes time untying the woman, yet he still picks her up and carries her out. Now why would you waste time untying someone if you were going to just pick them up and carry them out anyway? I think Horatio took longer than 30 seconds, by the way.

Then, of course, another example of the fine team spirit of the CSIs, when Wolfe (Jonathan Togo) states, “That’s Delko’s job.” Also, Wolfe’s wardrobe choice of an orange striped shirt and blue tie proves again that he gets his clothes from Ringling Brothers.

And isn’t it amazing that the house was blown up in such a huge explosion but it still seemed that the entire outside framing of the house was completely intact? I suppose that the gang knew how to only do a “special effects” explosion where only the windows get blown out. An explosion that looked that large to blow out those windows in that manner would have shown more structural damage. But that house looked really good afterwards. A miracle!

All in all, this episode was worse than mediocre, it was downright awful. The story was weak, the acting stiff and lifeless, and the dialog was fit for a grade schooler. A sure sign of lazy writing is when the show has to use what seems like half of its airtime to show flashbacks. I’d say this episode was aptly named “Tipping Point" because they just tipped themselves over the edge into the deep pit of mediocrity.

Video



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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Has NBC Cut Off Their Nose to Spite Their Face?

Earlier this month I wrote about Tuesday being so crammed with programming that it was hard for me to fit it all in. NBC may have thrown another wrench into viewing patterns when, a few days later, NBC made the announcement that next fall, they would be filling the 10:00 PM time slot with a show hosted by Jay Leno. It didn’t take long for CBS’ head honcho Les Moonves to scoff at NBC’s actions, basically saying that he will be able to kick NBC’s butt at that time slot, thank you very much.

NBC may see this as an innovative move to change the look of television and save a bundle in the process. After all, they seem proud that it will cost them less money to produce Leno’s shows, even doing it 5 days a week, over a scripted drama. But NBC forgets a big fact here – if the show isn’t a big draw, it will also product a lot less in advertising revenue. They also forget that they just essentially opened the door wide for CBS and ABC to take commanding leads in that time slot, maybe even with mediocre dramas.

For me, since I am a very early riser, it is rare for me to be up past 10:00 PM as it is. I have always recorded my favorite shows at 10:00. But for a show like Leno’s, which NBC seems proud it will not be a good candidate to DVR because of the timely nature of the content, it also means that I won’t be setting my DVR to record any shows on NBC at 10:00 anymore. Despite the fact that advertisers bemoan DVRs as they let you pass through the commercials, I still have to SEE what is passing by my eyes as I forward through the commercials. I admit that some commercials seem to be done well enough that you can still get the idea of what is being advertised even as one zips through them. So even DVR commercials get some eyeballs, to a degree. And if NBC thinks that the 10:00 PM time slot just isn’t worth viewers eyes, and if they think less and less people are watching at that time anyway because people simply just want to get to bed, then why don’t they just turn over the time slot to the local affiliates for their news as Fox does? That would save them a bundle of money, wouldn’t it? From my perspective, NBC has made this change all about costs, and throwing Jay Leno into the mix is really just a stunt to try to grab whatever they can on the cheap. NBC also seems to be admitting that the don’t have a creative clue on how to come up with exciting programs for five hours a week to fill the 10:00 PM time slot. It’s almost too hard to believe.

Let’s not forget how this move could also sabotage the changeover to Conan O’Brien as host of the Tonight Show. A few years back, CNBC used to show recent reruns of Conan’s Late Night show, and I watched them every day. I grew to really like Conan and personally felt that his show was infinitely better that Leno’s. Sure, I tried to watch Leno a few times but I just can’t tolerate him. The thought of having him on at 10:00 PM every weeknight makes me feel as excited as I was hearing about Rosie O’Donnell and her failed variety show – which is not excited at all, in case you were wondering. In fact, both Rosie and Jay send me feeling from the TV, albeit for different reasons. But now, if people who watch Jay now at the late night hour can watch him at 10:00 PM, why stay up late to watch Conan?

This also brings up the issue of the local affiliates, who currently have a scripted show leading up to their 11:00 PM local newscasts. If less people tune in for Leno, it may mean less people turning in for the local news afterwards. I’m sure they are less than thrilled with NBC right now, since it seems NBC just threw them under the bus.

I have a tendency to agree with Les Moonves that this move will only mean sunnier days and more viewers for CBS, and likely ABC as well. Think about this: two of NBC popular main stays are Law & Order and Law & Order SVU. Now, those viewers who used to watch those shows at 10:00 will likely still gravitate to another drama on another network. Then, NBC may find that when they pit these two shows up against other shows airing at 8:00 or 9:00 PM that are already well established, that they will draw less viewers for Law & Order and SVU than if they aired at 10:00 PM. If they were looking to try to kill the Law & Order franchise, they may have just found the vehicle to do so. Dick Wolf is probably going crazy at the prospect.

If I turn out wrong about this move I’ll be the first to admit it. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to see how ABC and CBS structure their new fall lineup. I suspect that they are already working on the issue, anticipating dealing a knockout punch to NBC. After all, NBC already put themselves on the ropes.



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Saturday, December 13, 2008

CSI “19 Down”, One to Go?

It’s unusual for a CSI episode to end with the words “To Be Continued”, but Thursday’s episode “19 Down” did just that. It seems that a serial killer is somehow back to work again…even though he’s been in jail. It’s suspected there has been an accomplice involved all along.

But the real news in the episode was Gil Grissom (William Petersen) telling his group that he was leaving, and the show introducing university professor Dr. Raymond Langston, played by Laurence Fishburne. What was interesting in the episode was the reaction of Gil’s colleagues to his leaving. Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) said she knew it even before Gil did, Hodges (Wallace Langham) was clearly hurt and a little bent out of shape that he heard of Grissom’s leaving via the grapevine, and Gil’s comments to "Super” Dave (David Berman) seemed to really tear at Dave’s heart and made me a little teary eyed myself. It’s going to be a sad day when William Petersen leaves the show, but since many viewers have already prepared themselves for it, it shouldn’t be too traumatic.

The real test for the show will be how Fishburne’s character will be integrated into the team. I’ve said before that I have never been a big fan of Fishburne and I was underwhlemed when I heard he was joining the cast. But I have to admit that his limited appearance in “19 Down” was just enough to pique my interest. With only this brief exposure to go on, he seems like a very intense character, much more so than the introspective Grissom. Maybe this will turn out to be a good match for the show.

What displeases me more is that CSI seems to be taking a very dark turn with its stories as of late. This episode made me even more disappointed in the direction the show is taking. Sure, CSIs must deal with all kinds of crime, many not so pretty in nature. But it seems like serial killers must be everywhere if we look at the world from the eyes of CSI. We just seemed to get over the miniature killer and now we have a new nutball to worry about. Are serial killers the only way that this show can sustain a continuing story line? Another problem with serial killers in CSI and other shows is that they always seem to be portrayed as evil geniuses that seem to plot and scheme their murders as if they are artwork. It seems to glorify who I see as really sick, sick people. Thinking of real serial killers we’ve seen over the years, none of them seemed particularly bright to me, just crazy. Sure, last night’s serial killer did come off as being a sicko, but the fact that he actually got a chance to be interviewed for a college lecture seems to give him the fame and importance he wanted. Why reward someone like that with all that attention?

What was also odd was letting this serial killer actual see his audience, especially if there is a chance that he does have an accomplice out there. Granted, Gil didn’t tell Dr. Langston that he had suspicions the killer had a partner, but still, why even give the killer a chance to target someone else in some other manner? Funny was the ditzy blond who was told to put on a sweater to cover her cleavage and arms, yet she still let her cleavage clearly visible. What part of cover up didn’t she understand? Also, the professor should have covered the attire long before anyone came to that lecture.

One thing that was a true amusement to me was Gil deciding to throw away his crossword puzzle with one word left blank – which I assume is where they got the title for the episode “19 Down”. It seemed that Gil was ready to put aside his structured job as head of the CSI team, where he had to make sure every I was dotted, every T was crossed, and every blank filled in. Sure, he probably had the answer in his head, but he didn’t feel the need to finish it off and actually write it in. He had already mentally moved on. But what was the missing word? Take a look, and see if you can figure it out. Does the missing word mean anything, or is it just a tease to make fans crazy? The second half of this two-part show is titled “One to Go” which may speak to Gil's going, so maybe we need to see the whole story before we decide.



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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

House: “Joy To The World” a Sorry Episode

Last night’s episode of House, “Joy to the World’ was a holiday-themed episode. Sadly, it didn’t bring me much cheer as the show continues to be stuck in a storyline with House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) dancing around their feelings for each other. But what I got out of it was one question – does Dr. Cuddy spend any time actually doing HER JOB? For a person who is supposed to be the Dean of Medicine and in charge of hospital administration, she seems solely focused on two things: a baby, and throwing herself at House, not necessarily in that order. She seems to have plenty of time to concentrate on the patient of the week. Lucky for Cuddy that it turns out that the patient had given birth and abandoned the baby. Cuddy tracks down where the patient left the baby and goes there alone and recovers it from the strangers that found her. Again, lucky for Cuddy the patient is going to die, and she wastes no time to make sure is able to adopt the baby. I found her selfishness sickening and pathetic. I wasn’t happy at all for her that she got this baby.

Each week I hope that they get away from Cuddy’s constant preoccupation with House, and each week it only gets worse. It seems like bad joke that may have been funny at first, but when you keep hearing it, the humor is no longer there. The storyline ran its course long ago. Maybe if we get lucky, Cuddy will be too absorbed with being a new mom that she won’t be throwing herself at House for a while.

The one part of the show that continues to work well is any scene with House and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). Those two are great together and the writers seem to consistently give them good dialog.

But the curve ball last night was the passionate kiss between 13 – AKA Remy (Olivia Wilde) – and Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps). It was a bit of a surprise to me because I feel these two have zero chemistry together. In fact, those two don’t seem to have any chemistry with anyone on the show. Out of the large cast that they have, I am not quite sure why they decided to put these two together. Foreman is not exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy, and 13 isn’t exactly Ms. Warm and Inviting.

At this point, I think I am watching the show out of sheer habit, in the hopes that it will return to the quality and intensity it had before. I now put the show in the same category as USA’s “Monk” (which I haven’t watched I don’t know how long). It’s not a drama as much as it is a comedy. I hate having to call it a “dramedy” because to me, that is the kiss of death for any credible show.

On a side note, I forgot that I had made this House Christmas video months ago and never finished it. So here it is, maybe this will put House viewers in the holiday spirit. Last night’s episode surely didn’t do the trick!


A House Christmas




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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CSI Miami: “The DeLuca Motel” Checks in Strong, Checks out Flat

This episode of CSI Miami “The DeLuca Motel” had an intriguing opening. But, the episode proceeds to get ruined as it is cluttered with somewhat "forced" murders and dull forensics. In its attempt to construct and interesting story for Eric, it only does the job halfway, probably because the writers don’t know how to dial down the camp.

Here’s what happened:

The show opened strong, with a scenario that piqued my interest. Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez) seems to be living in the DeLuca Motel, and being overly cautious on top of it. He’s taking great pains to check out his car, he’s very aware of the people at the hotel in the surrounding area. And before you can say “Horatio”, there is a shooting death at the hotel, with Eric getting grazed in the process. Of course, Horatio Caine (David Caruso) has to show up to investigate. And Horatio is wondering –as are the viewers – what is Delko doing in a dive like this?

As his colleagues investigate the crime scene, they wonder the same thing, but Eric remains tight lipped on the subject. Ryan (Jonathan Togo) picks up a piece of paper in Eric’s room referencing a meeting with an "Enrico Moldano." Meanwhile, ME Price ( Megalyn Echikunwoke) discovers a clue that makes her believe the victim’s death was part of a hazing, and before you can say “Horatio, ” the victim’s frat brother is being scrutinized by Horatio. He admits to the hazing but denies having anything to do with the murder. Red herring.

Calleigh (Emily Procter) and Eric examine the crime scene and use lasers to find out where the bullet originated. I am not quite sure why they needed lasers, because a simple line of sight could have been just as useful. A broken bottle is found in the suspected path of the bullet, and Eric recalls exactly when he heard the bottle break, when a couple was arguing by the pool right before the shooting. Before you can say “Horatio,” the arguing couple, Carl and Molly Reston, are brought in for questioning. Of course they deny having anything to do with the murder.

Ryan, under the guise of concern for his colleague, tattles on Eric about the paper he found in Eric’s place about a meeting with Moldano. This is just another case as to how the CSI Miami team really doesn’t act like a team. It seems Ryan’s first instinct is to report Eric, rather than check things out first. Horatio thinks it’s none of their business but Ryan also say he “knows the signs” and thinks Eric is in trouble. It seems more to me that Ryan is dealing a little payback here, just because he once got in trouble himself, he thinks this is his chance to cast a dark shadow on the sainted Eric. But ultimately Horatio decides to check it out anyway. Before you can say “Horatio, ” Caine confronts Moldano at a nearby bar, who tells him Eric gave him $1,000 in exchange for "documents." But Moldano offers nothing more.

Back at the scene, Frank (Rex Linn) and Calleigh are still looking for a gun, and when Calleigh crawls through a vent, she sees a dead body in another room, lying in a bathtub on ice. (Frank looks clearly uncomfortable having to hold Calleigh's backside at his face level while he kept her propped up in that duct.) A pregnant woman in the hotel room with the body says she didn’t kill her boyfriend, but he had been in the vent before he died and was suddenly happy about their future when he came out…and then he just died. She kept him literally on ice to continue to collect his disability benefits.

Back at the lab, Eric chides Ryan for sticking his nose into his business, but the annoying Ryan tells Eric he thinks someone is gunning for him. Eric decides to check on Moldano, who turns up dead in the alley behind the bar. Before you can say “Horatio,” he is at the scene. When Horatio finds that Enrico had obtained Eric’s birth certificate for him, and that Eric has been trying to find out about his family, and that Eric feels like he is being watched, Horatio pulls him off the case.

When a .38 is found at the scene, it points them back to Carl Reston. Before you can say “Horatio,” Reston is being questioned by Horatio and Frank. Reston can now be tied to Moldano’s death and the death of the frat boy. Reston admits he came into a lot of money and hid it in the air conditioning duct, but when he came back for it the money was gone. He argued with Molly about it, and the gun accidentally went off. He tossed the gun away. Ryan and Natalia (Eva La Rue) find the area where the gun was probably tossed, but it is not there, but they see very clear tire tracks, from a three-wheeled vehicle.

Calleigh tells Linda that her husband died of a heart attack. When she asks about what he had found in the air vent, Linda says she didn’t know what it was. When Calleigh asks Linda where she found him, she tells her it was by the ice machine. Calleigh find a sack of cash hidden in th ice machine. That's some cold hard cash for you.

At the lab - why he wouldn't speak to her in a private place outside the lab I have idea - Eric has a discussion with his mother and talks about the inconsistencies in her stories about how they got to the US and his birth. He tells her, "My birth certificate is a fake" and that he got the real one from Enrico Moldano. He was born in Cuba and his biological father’s name is Alexander Shirova His mother says Eric's real father was her boss at the factory, saying it was a mistake, he was a bad man, and to let it go. She days he doesn’t know Eric exists. She apologizes to Eric and they share a hug.

Later at the lab, Calleigh questions Molly Reston. She admits the money is hers. But, the uniform nature of the bills make it appear that it has something to do with drugs. And when Calleigh confronts her with possible charges, Molly says "I must have misheard you, I've never seen that bag before in my life."

Later, back at the motel. Calleigh hands Linda an envelope with money in it, saying it was what Joe found in the vent, and according to Florida law, whoever finds the money has the right to claim it if the real owner refuses to claim it. As the real owner, Molly, changed her mind and said it wasn’t her money, it goes on record as being unclaimed by the real owner. Calleigh is now free to give the money to Linda. Linda of course is thrilled to receive the $26,000. Now really, how ludicrous was this? First of all, wasn’t this money evidence in a murder? While it wasn’t directly involved in the cause of the murder, it belonged to one of the murderers, and probably should have been given to the victim of the crime first, not to someone that Calleigh simply felt sorry for. Usually Calleigh is super ethical and in this case she seemed to be completely out of character, not to mention being simply cheesy and corny as well.

Back at the lab, tapping Horatio’s infinite wisdom, Natalia finds an unusual match to the vehicle for the three wheeled tire marks found at the first murder scene. He also tells her to look for a woman since lipstick was found at the Moldano scene. Among the owners of the vehicles, only three are woman, and Horatio recognizes one of them: Kate Hawkes, who was spotted at Moldano's bar when Horatio first visited Moldano at the bar. It means Hawkes has now been placed at both scenes.

Before you can say “Horatio.” Ryan and Horatio confront Hawkes, and she admits it’s her vehicle and blood found on it means they can put the gun in her hand. In a flashback we see she shot Moldano – not sure why - and that she was also gunning for Eric but she missed. She knows that they don’t have all the information, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. She tells them, "It was a job. " They think she was hired by Alexander Shirova, and they ask his whereabouts, but asks for a deal instead. Horatio thinks this means she doesn’t know, and he speeds off. As they take her into the Miami Dade police department, Eric arrives and talks the matter over with Horatio and his real father. Caine comments, "He's not going away. This is just the beginning." Eric drives off, as Horatio poses, and poses, and poses, and walks straight into the camera.


As I said earlier, the episode started off very well, creating great interest in finding out exactly what Eric was up to. It’s really too bad that dull, secondary cases caused all the drama to be sucked out of the story. It is implied, though, that the story of Eric’s background is just beginning. Let’s hope that as they continue this story that they don’t clutter it up with cheesy, half-hearted crime stories to go along with it. This show has a chance to actually come up with something decent for one of the characters that could get the series out of the all-cheesiness-all-the-time rut for CSI Miami. But I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it.


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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Numb3ers” Conspiracy Theory” Weak, Yet Entertaining

Friday’s episode of Numb3rs – AKA Numbers – titled "Conspiracy Theory" offered a crime story that was somewhat thin. The show was more interesting watching the FBI agents, friends, and family debate famous, and maybe personal, cover-ups.

The story involves a Global Development Organization (GDO) is taking place. The GDO is labeled as a charity organization made up of wealthy and influential individuals. Because of the members' status, the group has a reputation among conspiracy theorists as a secret society that controls many world events, even the Superbowl. At first, the agents go after the conspiracy theorists themselves, but when they realize this is a dead end, they use the stereotypical nerdy conspiracy theorist to help crack the case. They are led to an extremist group, who they conveniently kill during their attempt to capture them, but one of the men has a connection to the owner of the building, and it turns out he orchestrated the whole thing just so he could force the razing of the building so he could build another building in it’s place.

Snore.

What was more fun was listening to Agents Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno) and David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard) debate the Kennedy assassination. I think those two have some of the best chemistry of any two law enforcement guys on television. Their banter is very comfortable and seems very real. I think the weak spot of the show, maybe with the series itself, is the Epps brothers themselves, who are central to every show.

As I wrote back in October, Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) is still an annoyance. In this episode, he seems to be quite put out that Amita (Navi Rawat) didn’t tell him about a long past arrest record that she had. It was for a minor infraction that was classed as a misdemeanor, but Charlie seemed put out that she hadn’t told him about it. Amita tells him that she can’t be expected to tell him every little thing. But later, caving in, the weak Amita later decides that she has to give Charlie her diary to read, that she has kept up since a child, so he can know all there is to know about her. Now really, wasn’t that just indulging Charlie’s petulant, spoiled behavior? If he can’t handle not knowing every little thing that his girlfriend has done in her lifetime long before she met him, then he has some growing up to do.

Also bordering on becoming annoying is Charlie’s brother Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) who suddenly seems to want to rediscover his Jewish faith, and is put out that his girlfriend seems to have some skepticism about religion. Later, she gets him tickets to an event where a topic is to be discussed and debated by a rabbi and someone else not connected to a specific faith. That was a much smarter move than Amita’s, as it shows she possible wants Don to learn tolerance and respect for the opinions of others.

The mathematics in the show are always interesting, even though sometimes it seems like the hard, overly complicated way to solve a crime. Still, since it is the “hook” for the show, it has to be expected that a crime can’t be solved without some kind of mathematical solution.

Always enjoyable with the show are Judd Hirsch (as daddy Eppes) and Peter MacNicol (as Dr. Larry Fleinhardt), who both seem to have their hands full in trying to teach the Eppes boys the real lessons of life. In this episode, Alan Eppes tries to show Colby and David his own model of the Kennedy assassination and offer input on how his own friends at the time handled it, causing Colby and David decide to leave well enough alone.

Numb3rs remains an entertaining series. The cast is good, the stories passable, and the math interesting. It could be better if the Eppes brothers could learn that life isn’t all about them. I think Don is working to learn that lesson, but I think that it may be a lost cause for Charlie – as there may not be a mathematical answer to life not revolving around him!

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tuesday Prime Time TV – So Much to Watch, So Little Time

As my moniker indicates, I like to watch TV. A lot. But I also like to have a life. It can be very time consuming to get into detailed commentary on every show I watch during prime time, and Tuesday night seems to be the toughest to tackle. Of course, I always have to do very detailed summaries of all the shows in the Law & Order franchise, which sometimes leaves me little time to cover some of the other great shows. The viewing crunch is very noticeable on Tuesday nights, where there is House, Fringe, NCIS, Without a Trace, and Law & Order SVU.

So to be able to have my say on these shows, I’m going to give some brief commentary on those that I think were the high – and low - points of the night.

Warning, Don't Touch The Rug!
House
First, let me cover the dog of the evening. I’m sorry to say that House may have just jumped the shark. Or, shall I say, grabbed a breast and THEN jumped the shark. This show took a horrible turn a few weeks ago in the episode ”Joy” where House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) shared a kiss, and then House agonized over it in ”The Itch.” I begged, I prayed that they wouldn’t go any further, but my pleas were not heard. To make matters worse, with the hostage crisis that occurred in last week’s episode, “Last Resort”, where Cuddy’s office was used to hold the hostages, she decides to take over House’s office while hers is being redecorated. Wearing clothes more fitting for a streetwalker (even House asks her why she’s dressed like that), she practically throws herself at House, setting the image of women in high management positions back another 20 years. My advice to Lisa Cuddy is to find someone much younger to get laid and give her a baby, and leave the rest of us alone. It’s embarrassing, frankly, and Hugh Laurie must be ashamed that he is even a part of this storyline. If he isn’t, he should be.


Fringe
Fringe is probably the best new show I’ve seen in a long time. It’s quirky, it’s got interesting story lines, and it’s got a great cast. Anna Torv, who plays Agent Olivia Dunham and Joshua Jackson play well off each other, although I admit at first I wasn’t too sure about Jackson. But the real star of the show is John Noble, who plays Dr. Walter Bishop, the mad, crazy, but likable scientist. Tuesday’s episode, “Safe” involved bank robberies to obtain some time travel equipment that Walter Bishop stashed away in safe deposit boxes years ago, and it leads to the escape of a psycho from a prison for psychos like him. It had the right amount of suspense, humor, and hints of a bigger story, and it can suck you right in. This is one show that is on my must watch list, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it, they will be re-airing it starting from the beginning on Fox each week until new episodes return in January. I encourage you to catch it.

NCIS
I just wrote about NCIS the other day (NCIS – The New Hot Property) and this week’s episode - “Road Kill” - was another solid show. It involved street fighting, which ended in murder by car crash. I found myself more interested in Tony DiNozzo’s (Michael Weatherly) air guitar techniques, though. The interaction with the cast is what keeps this show moving at a quick pace, and the hour flies by. Well, it could also be because I record it on my DVR and zip through all the commercials, but you get the picture. Even a crime show can work with the right amount of humor, and NCIS seems to get the balance just right.


Without A Trace
I admit, I haven’t finished watching this episode as yet. It was titled “Push Comes to Shove” where a hospital doctor disappears. I started to fall asleep during it. What’s bad about that is that I DVR the show and watch it the following day, so I really don’t have an excuse for falling asleep during the first 15 minutes show. I don’t think it’s a bad sign for the show itself, I just think that Anthony LaPaglia sometimes bores me into drowsiness, even when I watch him early in the day. I like Without a Trace but it needs…something.


Law & Order SVU
This week’s episode, PTSD, was about Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) going a little off the deep end as far as her post traumatic stress from her attack during an undercover operation 6 months ago. From the show previews, I expected an exaggerated emphasis on Hargitay during the episode, but have to admit that while she was central to the case, the episode was better than most of what we’ve seen of SVU for the season. Sure, there was no Chris Meloni in this episode, but since we’ve been force fed his family drama ad nauseam over the last several episodes, it suited me just fine that he wasn’t there with all his excess baggage. But, the SVU writing and producing teams need to watch that someone’s obvious desire to get an Emmy for either Hargitay or Meloni doesn’t make the show too soap opera-ish. It needs to take the lead from its Wednesday night “mothership” series, Law & Order, which is really putting out some great stuff lately, with DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) stirring the pot both inside his office and out. SVU also needs to cut their losses with Michaela McManus, as her acting skills are as wooden as a sequoia.



That’s it for this Tuesday’s viewing. Out of all the Tuesday shows, I think House needs the most help. If it continues with the House and Cuddy silliness, they may find themselves losing more of their precious demographic to NCIS. Someone needs to get House and Cuddy laid, but not with each other. Their sexual tension just isn’t pretty.


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Monday, December 1, 2008

NCIS – The New Hot Property

Last year about this time, I commented that NCIS seemed to be growing up a bit. Last April, I commented that CBS’s NCIS seemed to have ”jettisoned some of the juvenile banter” that frequently came out of the mouth of Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly). More recently, I’ve written here that NCIS is one of those shows that I’ve watched every week but I really don’t know why. The last two seasons, viewers had to tolerate bad acting and bad hair days from Lauren Holly, who played the ever-annoying Director Jenny Shepard. This tested even the most loyal of fans. Last season’s finale had the team being broken up and scattered al over the place. It’s an overused plot device for many shows when they want viewers to think their beloved stars are leaving the show, creating what I feel is artificial drama. Everyone knows a show would never intentionally get rid of a popular cast or character, especially when the cast has great chemistry and the show seems to be gaining viewership.

But, for some reason, NCIS this season seems to be climbing high in the ratings, much higher than it has before. Presumably it’s being discovered by many new viewers, who find themselves quickly hooked. For me, a person who has watched the show since about day 1 - sometimes to my own puzzlement - I can see why the show is becoming more popular. It has finally been tweaked to the point that it works really well. Sure, sometimes the story lines are weak and implausible. But it is the chemistry with the cast, and the personalities of the characters, that makes the show fun to watch.

In my opinion, the two big draws to the show are Mark Harmon, as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and Michael Weatherly, as Agent Tony DiNozzo. Both characters couldn’t be more opposite. Gibbs is frequently overly serious and almost all business, constantly keeping the crew in line, at the same time respecting the talents of his staff and colleagues and using their strengths to solve cases. On the flip side, DiNozzo is the comic relief, serving as a younger, more playful version of Law & Order’s Lennie Briscoe. DiNozzo uses his investigative talents and instincts, plus his love for movie trivia to crack a case and add levity. Everyone else on the cast, while all strong characters and actors, simply serve as the background scenery for Harmon and Weatherly. But don’t get me wrong, these other characters are very important to the show. What would the show be without the quirks of Abby (Pauley Perrette) and Ducky (David McCallum)? Probably boring.

But what is making this show work so much better this season is change at the top at NCIS: getting rid of Director Shepard and the boring, confusing story line that came with her. Instead, we now have NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), who is all business, just like Gibbs. Vance also seems to like pull strings and sometimes has his own agenda that he may not always share with his staff. It’s quite a refreshing change from Director Shepard, who seemed to dredge up her past relationship or romance with Gibbs every chance she got. And frankly, viewers were not interested in her past with Gibbs, which made those scenes even harder to tolerate.

Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and Tony also continue their veiled flirting. At least it has progressed from previous seasons where it was at the grade school level to something a little more realistic. Are they trying to create more sexual tension between these two so viewers will want them to have a deeper relationship? Probably. Do I want them to do any further? No. I think if those two changed their relationship to anything more than what it is now, it would ruin everything. Sometimes is better to leave well enough alone. If the show is smart, they’ll keep some distance in their relationship in order to keep the fans guessing.
Tony and Ziva


The only main character on the show who may be expendable is the sometimes-hapless Agent McGee (Sean Murray) who seems to be the odd man out. Don’t get me wrong, I like him on the show and I think he is perfect for role. It’s just that McGee is somewhat disconnected from everyone else, possibly because his job specialty and the fact that tech geeks could easily be replaced. Still, at this point in time, his presence as NCIS object of constant ridicule and a release for DiNozzo’s need for pranks is probably critical. After all, they do need someone to pick on!

I’m glad to see that the show is finally getting more attention from viewers. If you’re looking for a grittier crime drama like Law & Order or CSI, you won’t find that with NCIS. Sure, the show is about crime, but it’s really become about the relationships between the members of NCIS team, and the crime just happens to be the backdrop.



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