Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fringe “No Brainer” Gets In Your Head

Image from Fox
Fringe (Fox) is becoming one of those shows that I just don’t want to miss. It is very reminiscent of The X-Files in the manner where there is an underlying theme with each episode, yet each story can still stand alone. In other words, if you miss an episode, it is still very easy to keep up with what is going on. But I have no plans to miss any episodes.

The episode “The No Brainer” was one of those stories that make one think about an everyday activity that one may not normally give a second thought. Apparently a man who was bitter about being fired from his job and a failed marriage decided to take it out on everyone in a rather different way. It seems he was able to send a program via a computer that seemed to hypnotize whoever was looking at the screen, and while they watched the images flash on the screen, their brains would literally liquefy. While this occurred, it seemed that a hallucination – or was it? – of a hand reached out and grabbed onto the person’s brain. I have to admit that I am thinking right now about that same hand coming out and grabbing my head right as I write this blog.

As Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is called in to investigate, she also finds that she is running into a brick wall in the form of Sanford Harris (Michael Gaston). He is investigating the Fringe Division for FBI Internal Affairs, and he has a “history” with Olivia – she once had him prosecuted for a sexual assault, a charge that was later overturned. Harris wants to make life difficult for Olivia. He tries to control how she handles this investigation, which gets more cumbersome as more deaths by brain liquefactions occur. Things reach a fever pitch when Olivia’s niece Ella (Lily Pilblad) is on a computer at Olivia’s home and the program begins to unleash itself n her. Luckily Olivia and Peter get there in time before it does any damage. Olivia decides to ignore Harris and handle the case her own way. With help from her colleagues, she makes the connections between all the deaths to help crack the case and catch the man who had created and unleashed this deadly computer program on people who were related to those who hurt him. Despite Harris’ threats to Olivia, her boss, Agent Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), tells Harris that he will give Olivia full support, and that Harris had better back off.

While all this is going on, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) receives a mysterious letter, and then receives a mysterious phone call on an old phone that was in Dr. Walter Bishop’s (John Noble) lab. We later find that it’s from a woman - Jessica Warren (Mary Beth Peil) - trying to reach Walter about the death of her daughter that had occurred in a fire many years prior in his lab. Peter wants to protect Walter from this woman, as he thinks it will trigger memories that will cause Walter to have to go back into the psychiatric hospital. Olivia tries to convince Peter that Walter is stronger than he gives him credit, and ultimately Peter relents and sets up the meeting with Walter and the woman. It actually goes well, much to Peter’s surprise, as the woman just wants to learn more about her daughter from Walter, not unleash her anger at him.

They may be trying to create a spark between Peter and Olivia’s sister Rachel (Ari Graynor). She appears a little taken with him, and he sparkles a bit when he sees her as well. Olivia has also picked up on something with those two, as she seems to be thinking about it as she shuts the door as Peter leaves.

So far, Fringe has provided very interesting storylines, and is weaving in the personal drama in a very subtle fashion. I have been warming up a little to Peter, and he seems to be a character that will continue to grow on me as the series progresses. As he discovers more about his father, it is as if it has softened him a bit, at the same time opening up his mind a more about what type of man his father really is. Anna Torv continues to be very strong in her role of Olivia. While Torv is very pretty, they downplay it, making viewers look more at Olivia as a person and an agent. It is almost as if they don’t want her appearance to be a distraction to her job and her resolve to get to the bottom of each case. I find myself becoming very interested in what happens to her, not just in her job, but also in her personal life. I don’t think it’s dangerous that they add what seems like a possible attraction between Peter and her sister, because I think it only adds to the complexities of Olivia’s life, not to mention Peter’s. Besides, the characters on this show are so likeable and so intriguing that it almost begs viewers to want to expand their exposure to the character’s personal lives.

I also appreciate that Fox is showing Fringe with abbreviated commercial interruptions, as it really makes the show go much faster and helps keep the exciting momentum.

Personally, I don’t know why The Mentalist is performing so well when a series like Fringe is airing at the same time. I suspect with the often weird and dark nature of the Fringe storylines, it may not appeal to everyone. But I believe it is the best new show on television this season.

“The No Brainer” Clip

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Closer “Good Faith” Just OK

Image from TNT

”The Closer” (TNT) returned on January 26 with a new episode titled “Good Faith.” Some time has passed since we last left Major Crimes, as Detective Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) is already back to work after being nearly fatally shot in the episode “Time Bomb” from last September 2008. It appears that Sanchez has had multiple surgeries, and is awaiting approval to return to full duty. But, as we find out toward the end of the show, it’s his mind, not his body, keeping him from being cleared.

Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is preparing for her wedding to FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney), her mother and father helping her with the plans. In the midst of her trying on wedding dresses, she gets called in to a case that first looks like a suicide, but the coroner Dr. Morales (Jonathan Del Arco) believes it to be a murder. He makes a strong case to get the Major Crimes Division involved.

The same cast has returned to serve in Major Crimes, and that’s a good thing. They work very well together and create a very believable working environment. In this particular episode, however, the case seems to take a back seat to Brenda’s wedding plans, with her parents helping. She actually brings her parents Willie Ray (Frances Sternhagen) and Clay Johnson (Barry Corbin) along to question one of the possible suspects, a church minister, under the guise of checking out his “church” for her wedding. She also brings samples of her potential wedding cake into the squad for them to help tell her which one to pick.

The suicide/murder case is mediocre at best. It felt more like an episode trying to tie up a loose end with Sanchez’s shooting, and an attempt to move along on Brenda’s and Fritz’s wedding plans. To add to Brenda’s problems, her father has a heart attack, which makes him unable to go on the Hawaiian vacation he and Willie Ray had planned. This helps Brenda’s parents to suggest a small wedding for Brenda, which is what she really wanted anyway.

But, back to the case. There was a case in there somewhere. I found it somewhat predictable that the girlfriend/phony cancer patient had done it. It was a little too easy to figure out, especially once they brought forward the invoice for a cancer treatment that wasn’t itemized. I also thought that some of the forensics work was a little cheesy. It seemed cumbersome to me to have them use a montage of printed photos in order to recreate a full image of the body lying on the floor, with a similar image of the blood splatter on the doorway. The way these things were pieced together, I wouldn’t think that they would have been allowable to use as evidence in a trial. Again, we have another case where a suspect confesses a little to quickly. You would think with all the crime shows these days, that the first words out of a suspect’s mouth would be “I want a lawyer” rather than an admission of guilt.

Personally, I can’t wait until Brenda and Fritz get married because I think the storyline is becoming a little too consuming. The crimes seem to be taking more of a back seat, and I think this is a detriment to the show. The premise of the show originally was Brenda’s ability to solve crime in creative ways, and now it’s become more about Brenda’s personal life. I am fine with her personal life coming in to the show; I just would like to see it in smaller doses. Hopefully the wedding will take place and we can "close" that matter and get back to Brenda solving crimes, which is where she, and the show, excels.

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House: “Big Baby” Left Me Crying For The Show

This week’s episode of House(Fox), “Big Baby” completed the “dumbification” of Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). At least this week we got a real baby playing the role of Cuddy’s baby, not the rubber-looking cabbage patch doll we had last week in the episode “Painless.”

In this episode, the patient of the week was a woman who seemed to be bleeding from an unknown source, and is admitted to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital so Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) and his staff could figure out her problem. But that’s not important right now. What was important in this show is that after months of wanting a baby, preparing for a baby, and finally experiencing great joy by getting a baby, Cuddy falls into some sort of deep funk because she can’t “bond” with the baby. She’s even abdicated some of her job duties to Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) whose only experience seems to be is that she was a doctor who used to work for House. Now really, in the real world, wouldn’t one think that someone would need just a little more experience to take over even temporarily for the dean of medicine? I found myself questioning Cuddy’s sanity, seeing that she seemed to want to give up a job that mattered so much to her, and at the same time, she gets the baby she wanted and it seems to have made her fall into depression at the speed of light. I would understand more if she actually had given birth to the baby and she was experiencing postpartum depression, but is it really normal for someone to go off the deep end so completely by adopting a baby?

Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) tries to help Cuddy cope. Of course, he loses his mind when he spills the secret to House that Cuddy can’t handle being a new mom. House tells Cuddy it’s because Wilson was worried about her, but still, why would Wilson tell such a secret to someone who would do nothing but manipulate Cuddy with it?

Meanwhile, Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) is conflicted because he knows that Dr.Thirteen, AKA Remy (Olivia Wilde), is getting a placebo as part of the drug trials, and he wants to change the test and give her the real drug. He asks his colleagues for advice, and gets to the point where he asks House because he values House’s opinion. Of course, House tell him not to risk his career…unless Foreman loves her, of course. We see at the end of the show, and in the preview for next week, that Foreman makes his choice, and seemingly creates big problems for himself. I suppose that now since Cuddy has been dumbed down, the show feels that it must move on to Foreman, who up until now has been one of the few rational heads on the show. I guess that’s what love can do to a person.

Cameron is also feeling some power and control over House, but it’s just a chess game. While he is trying to figure out her next move and tries to maneuver his requests to ultimately get what he wants, Cameron is trying to stay one step ahead of him and giving him – or not giving him – what he wants in order to play with his head. Yeah, she’s real qualified to sit in the big chair. I’m being sarcastic here.

Of course, House gets his epiphany with the patient of the week (remember her?) while cutting off the top of her head to do some brain tests. Cuddy has gotten wind of the test and calls the operating room to halt the procedure, with a screaming baby also yelling into the phone. The patient, who seems normally tolerant of kids, becomes highly agitated at the sound of a crying baby. Who wouldn’t? And magically, Cuddy also manages at the same time to bond with the baby by screaming and yelling at it. She called it “talking”, I called it screaming and yelling. Frankly, when my mom screamed at me I never felt like bonding. And if Cuddy continues to yell at the baby in order to get the baby to listen, I feel very sorry for that kid as she grows up. By the way, hasn’t Cuddy ever heard of cuddling the baby, or using a soothing voice to calm the baby, or the whole host of other baby calming techniques that even people who don’t have kids know how to use? I am convinced now that Cuddy is inept not just as a mother, but as a woman. Later, when Cuddy brings the baby to the hospital to talk to House and tell him that she “bonded” with the baby, she has him hold the baby, who proceeds to spit up on House. Very predictable.

Ultimately, House discovers that the patient's heart didn't form correctly, which caused blood to flow away from the left side of her brain when she got stressed. Since the left side of the brain registers annoyance, and during the brain test when her blood pressure was low, she became annoyed with Cuddy's baby's crying. I am a little confused as to how he made the connection to her geart, or maybe I just didn’t care how he came to that conclusion. Let’s be honest, the patient of the week is become less important to the show.

Cameron later tells Cuddy that she quits her job as Cuddy’s alternate because she didn’t get the proper procedures or get proper proof before she approved House’s request to cut open the patient’s skull. Cuddy thinks she did fine, but Cameron feels she will always say yes to House. Of course, that’s because women on this show have no backbone when it comes to House, much to my dismay. If he worked for me, I would have fired him a long time ago. Sure, I get it. Without House there would be no show. Still, I’d like to see someone – anyone – on this show step forward to act like a real boss in the real world, someone who could actually test House and add some real drama to the show.

I suppose this episode was appropriately called “Big Baby” because House and Cuddy continue to act like one, and it left me crying over what has happened to a once edgy and dramatic show. It’s as if the writers and producers just spit up on the viewers.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

CSI "The Grave Shift”: Fishburne ‘s Perfect Performance

In this episode of CSI, ‘The Grave Shift”, Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) has his first day on the job. And what a first day it was, starting off with a burglary and then adding in an apparent arson including a homicide.

Both cases were interesting. But what made the show even more interesting was watching Langston come to the realization of what kind of world his just entered. It’s a world where he seems to be told he’s not to care about the people involved in the case, just the evidence. He seems to find this hard to deal with, and when he makes his last attempt to help a young man whose mother was involved in a robbery, he gets thanked for his concern with a spit in the face.

I have to admit that while I was never much of a fan of Fishburne that I thought he nailed his performance. It was as if you were actually the mind of Dr. Langston, thinking about trying to do what he thought was right, yet finding that not everyone can, or should be helped. It was also interesting to watch him as he came to a crime scene thinking he was prepared, and finding in some cases he was over prepared, and in others, under prepared. Watching him at the end of the episode practicing dusting fingerprints showed that despite the way his day went, he was resolved to get better in his job. And maybe that spit in the face was a wakeup call he needed to make him fully understand the world of crime and forensics, and his role in it. I suspect that we will also see him wearing different attire in future episodes, seeing that his tie was cut off because he got “evidence” on it, and his nice shoes seemed ruined from walking in the burned out home.

In what I though was a direct slap to CSI Miami – and it made me laugh – was when one of the other CSIs Riley Adams (Lauren Lee Smith) tells Langston that they are not social workers. As regular viewers of CSI Miami know, Horatio Caine (David Caruso) is always sticking his nose in other people’s business, especially when there are kids involved. CSI in Las Vegas doesn’t have the desire to go there, at least not often, thankfully.

In also a reference to Gil’s departure, Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann) tells Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) that he doesn’t want to turn Grissom’s office into a shrine. Catherine doesn’t seem to want to move in to the office, so she gives the office to Nick (George Eads). Nick does a nice thing by sharing the wealth with his co-workers, allowing some of them to move in there with him.

Of course we were treated to the normal bitchery of Hodges (Wallace Langham) who seems to be a little threatened by Langston and gives him a hard time just because he can. But even Hodges seems to be won over. When Langston asks him a question Hodges says he didn’t know the answer, Langston remarks that this isn’t Hodges' reputation. This seems to bring a smile to Hodges' face. Later, when Langston realizes the detonator for the explosion in the house was a cornmeal timer, and Langston creates an explosion by making his own cornmeal timer, Hodges looks at Langston as if he was in love.

All in all, a great start for Fishburne. In this one episode, I think they have established what kind of person that Langston will be. While he seems to be a bit of a perfectionist in what he does, he may be a little naïve in what he faces in his new job. I am sure there are more challenges to come. But for his first outing as a CSI Level One, I thought Fishburne was just perfect. I think that CSI will continue to do very well in the ratings and may even draw in new fans with Fishburne on the team. And, like Hodges, I found myself loving the character at the end of the show. I can’t wait to learn more about him, and I think it will be an interesting experience for viewers!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Lost” Returns, With More Twists and Turns

I don’t think there is any show on television right now that has more twists and turns than ‘Lost.” Last night’s two hour season 5 premier – the episodes were titled “Because You Left” and “The Lie,” cover what is happening to the people who returned from the island, and those who stayed there. I won’t go into completely recapping both episodes because I think my head is still spinning from all the details. You can get the full recaps from ABC’s “Lost" web site. By the way, I was grateful to be able to watch the second episode on line, seeing that already recording CSI NY and Law & Order blocked me from being able to watch or record the second hour of Lost.

Bottom line is that some of those who returned want to go back, some don’t. Those left on the island are having problems of their own. It seems they are traveling through time, one of them, Faraday (Jeremy Davies) made contact with Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) as he was when he was guarding the Orchid station in the past. Hurley (Jorge Garcia) can’t handle the burden of his lie about the island, and after escaping from the nut house, he gets help from Sayid (Naveen Andrews), who murders some people who were after them. He also continues to see dead people, this time seeing Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) Hurley eventually tells his story to his mother, who says she doesn’t understand him, but she believes him. Later, Hurley surrenders to the police in an attempt to keep Ben away from him.

Jack (Matthew Fox) is trying to help revive Sayid, who was shot with some sort of tranquilizer by the people who tried to kill him. Ben (Michael Emerson) has enlisted the help of Jack to get everyone back to the island, and this includes taking Locke’s (Terry O'Quinn) body with them. This is a little confusing seeing that Locke still seems to be on the island, specifically in what time we do not know. Kate (Evangeline Lilly) feels that someone is on to their lie, as someone came to the house to draw blood from Aaron for a test. She takes off, and meets up with Sun (Yunjin Kim), who seems to forgive Kate for leaving Jin on the boat, which later exploded.

To make things even rougher for the islanders, they are bombarded with flaming arrows dropping from the sky, which kill some of them. Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) are caught by what appears to be young military men, who demand to know why they are on their island. But when they threaten to cut off Juliet’s hands, Locke works his magic from the shadows and manages to kill one of them by throwing his knife. Needless to say, Sawyer and Juliet are surprised to see him.

At the end, at another location, a woman in a hooded robe is writing some sort of equation on a blackboard, while a large pendulum-type stylus seems to be marking out some sort of pattern. She types something into a computer, which returns a message saying “event window determined.” She opens a hatch and goes into another room and up a circular staircase, to a church interior, and Ben is there, standing near some votive candles. He asks her, “any luck?” and she says “yes.” He seems surprised at this response, and when she asks about him, he says he is having some difficulty. She says he’d better get busy, because he only has 70 hours. When he objects that this is not enough time, she tells him that’s all the time he’s got. When she turns around, it’s a woman we’ve seen on the show before, her name was Miss Hawking (Fionnula Flanagan). He tells her that he lost Reyes, and he wants to know what happens if he can’t get them to all come back. She responds, ‘Then God help us all.”

Oh, my head! I think it is spinning from too much information. Not that this was all bad, though. These episodes seemed to deliver a lot of suspense, and actually made me get some of my interest back in the show. It also seems to raise suspicion about Ben’s intentions. I went from being sure he was up to no good, to think he was trying to help more than once during these two hours. Ben obviously knows what the score is, and it makes me wonder if his motives were truly good, otherwise why wouldn’t he just tell everyone the truth?

Lucky for me that this show will be normally airing on Wednesday at 9:00 PM, which should solve my 10:00 PM program conflicts for future airings. Hopefully, the wait for these episodes will be worthwhile, and maybe they can rekindle the excitement this show had during its first season. Maybe we will all time travel and find ourselves back where we started, in the end, if you know what I mean. I do think I know why they call the show “Lost’ – because if you miss one episode, you will be completely lost.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CSI Miami: “And They’re Offed” Is “Off-Ful”

All images from CBS

Monday’s episode of CSI Miami(CBS) titled “And They’re Offed” brought us a very mindless murder case which seemed less about the murder and more about the CSI Miami team themselves.

In this case, a murder occurs at a racetrack during a horse race. Despite the fact that the victim is in a luxury box that seems to have a huge glass window that appears to be glass on more than one side, no one saw the murder take place. Despite the fact that the murder took place in a crowed racetrack on a floor where it seems only the elite have access, no one saw anyone else come in or leave the room. And no one but a couple on their way to another suite was able to find the body, even though the victim’s bloody face was plastered all over the window. Dr. Price (Megalyn Echikunwoke) notes, "There must be 10,000 people out there," as if we are blind to the crowd. But Horatio Caine (David Caruso) has the perfect answer "And one of them is my killer." Well, considering it took so long for someone to find the body and probably for anyone to get to the crime scene, the killer could have been long gone.

Yes, it was another one of those “CSI for Dummies” cases, where the case is so insipid and ridiculous that it is an embarrassment to the franchise.

Adding to the silliness was the “costume” that Calleigh (Emily Procter) was wearing, which made her look like she should be waiting tables in a posh restaurant, not working a crime scene. Who dresses these people?

Adding to the crime is that it just so happens that Ryan (Jonathan Togo) has an oblique connection. A lost boy seems to find Horatio – who is a like a kid magnet, but adults tend to run from him – and when Horatio helps the boy find his father, Ryan just so happens to be at the man’s house, defending him with his fists against a Russian mobster. Of course, the Russian mobster would rather slit his own throat than suffer the interrogation of Horatio Caine. But they believe the man is affiliated with one of Horatio’s nemeses - Ivan Sarnoff. And Ryan believes that his sponsor, who was to keep him from gambling, has gotten himself involved in gambling and drugs. But, since Ryan’s sponsor told them he couldn’t give the horse the drugs, they simply take his word for it. But, he just so happens to be connected with the Sarnoff because he is in to Sarnoff for a gambling debt and Sarnoff wanted him to fix races for him.

Also at the scene of the murder is a box of what coincidentally happens to be Calleigh’s favorite chocolates – so she knows how she can crack the case. Amazing crime scene work! This comes in to play later on when Eric (Adam Rodriguez) decides to treat Calleigh to a box of those chocolates, leaving them on her desk. But Calleigh is off riding a horse with another man, who they happened to question earlier and who offered Calleigh a ride…on the "horse". Of course, since Calleigh found the man to be very attractive, she was able to eliminate him as being involved in the case almost immediately, just because the guy said he could never hurt a horse.

It turns out that Horatio previously spoke to the murderer without realizing it; they originally caught him trying to grab claim tickets out of the trash. I guess their big dragnet over the racetrack was just a waste of time. But, they were able to catch a poor hapless jockey who admitted to cheating – only this once! – to help her sluggish horse with the race. Yes, the CSIs will root out crime everywhere! Since they can’t get the Russian mobster Sarnoff for the murder of the owner of the horse, they use Ryan’s sponsor to set him up for extortion and race fixing. Despite the fact that Ryan’s sponsor and Sarnoff are in a parking garage all alone, they never hear any footsteps from either Ryan or Horatio, who manage to get right up to them with their guns drawn on Sarnoff. They must float like angels, a few feet off the ground.

At the end of the show, someone is watching all of Horatio’s team, and with Sarnoff’s threats, I assume we are supposed to think he or his people are behind it. It’s a lame attempt at drama. And poor Eric is being set up to have his heart broken by Calleigh, who is seemingly smitten by a man and his “horse.” Predictable.

“And They’re Offed” is simply awful. I wouldn’t bet on it to win, place, or show.

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House “Painless”: Painful to Watch

This won't hurt...OK, I lied.
After watching this episode of House (Fox),“Painless”, I found myself asking why they didn’t call this episode ‘The Further Dumbing Down of Dr. Cuddy”, because that’s how it seemed.

Oh sure, we had the patient of the week, who was feeling so much pain in his body that he attempted to kill himself. After trying various diagnoses, House finally figures it out when he sees a plumber scratching his crotch. Yes, you read that right.

We got the newbie doctors revealing more about themselves as they work the case (snore). We get Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) trying to work through their relationship issues (more snoring). We got very little of Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). We had House (Hugh Laurie) being his normal crotchety old self, the only scene making me wonder what was going to happen next when the camera first showed him breathing heavily in the bathtub. Because it’s the 8:00 PM prime time hour, we find he is only stroking his...troubled leg. And suddenly House has gone back to popping pain pills as if they were candy.

But the big annoyance for me was the continued focus on Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and her new baby. Don’t the writers know that adding a baby to the show is a certain show killer? Cuddy is worried that she won’t pass muster with the DYFS inspector, who is set to arrive any time now. Of course, this woman who can run a hospital and wanted a baby so badly seems to be mentally ill equipped to handle the job. Worse yet, she seems oblivious to the fact that she can’t do it all and rather than get help, she asks Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) to help take over part of her job. Now really, how silly is that? Wouldn’t it have been smarter for her to hire a nanny or a good babysitter? Doesn’t Cuddy watch any TV these days, where most executive women get help from nannies in raising their kids? I’ve known a few executive women and non-executive women in my time who have had children (of their own, mind you, not adopted) and even the woman in the lowest job on the totem poll seemed to know that if they wanted to keep their job, they needed to enlist help from family members all the way up to nannies. Yet we are supposed to believe that Dr. Cuddy is so insecure that she doesn’t know that she needs to get help from someone, not abdicate her job. And suddenly when she passes the inspector’s scrutiny, she’s annoyed that it’s only by the inspector's “meager” standards, not hers. Wilson states what everyone else is thinking - she's creating ridiculous standards and she should get help. Also, in the one scene where we saw the baby, it sure looked fake, almost rubber-like. Cuddy was even holding it like it was a toy. They should have just left the "cabbage patch" kid out of the scene.

Let's not forget a big flaw in the episode, when Foreman noted to the nurse working the drug trial that the IV bag for Thirteen was leaking. The nurse tipped him off to how he could tell that Thirteen was getting a placebo, not the new drug. Wasn’t this supposed to be a double-blind study and even if the nurse DID know which meds they got, should she have told Foreman?

I continue to be very disappointed in what the writers have done to Cuddy this season and last. It is almost as if they have some stereotypical idea in their minds that once a woman in a high position has a baby, they lose all of their brains. It is simply insulting to me.

Of course, the big reveal of the show seems to be that the loose pipe which caused House’s plumbing problem was caused by the fact that he is using the pipes to support himself as he gets in an out of the tub. More snoring.

This show is becoming as trite and repetitive as they get. Has it run its course? If you asked me that one season ago, I would have never expected to see this series run out of gas so soon. But clearly the writers are suffering from some sort of writer’s block or lazy writer syndrome. Maybe they need to be treated – by Dr. House – who hopefully won’t kill them in the process of diagnosing them.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Battlestar Galactica "Sometimes a Great Notion": The Plot Thickens

Battlestar Galactica (SciFi) returned to finish off its ten-episode closing of the story. And now that the series seems to have found its way – after being lost so long in a quagmire of too many pointless personal storylines – I’m almost sorry that this is the beginning of the end.

First, a quick recap of the episode "Sometimes a Great Notion", more comments from me afterwards:

When we last left the rag-tag members of the Battlestar Galactica (in the epsiode ”Revelations”), they had found earth, but it wasn’t quite the earth they expected. What they found was the desolate remnants of a largely populated planet, which had been reduced to wreckage and radioactive soil. Needless to say, they were disappointed. President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) picks up a lone plant that she finds sprouting from the ground. There are no signs of human life. It appears the planet was nuked about 2,000 years ago, and they realize they traded one nuked planet – Caprica – for another. Admiral Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos) wants to call it a day and just leave to look for another home.

Meanwhile, Dee (Kandyse McClure ) finds a pocket watch in the sand with a bag with a ball and jacks and she takes them back to Galactica with her. Roslin wants to get out and she seems to later spiral into a depression, not taking her meds, burning the Pythian prophecy scriptures book, and isolating herself from everyone.

But before they abandon all hope, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff ) decides to try to find the source of the beacon signal that drew them to Earth. She and Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie) find an emergency locator beacon, and also some debris. Close by, they find wreckage from a Colonial viper, with the number "757 NC” to which Starbuck states the number on her viper is 8757 NC. Worse yet, there is a body in the viper, with blonde hair, and wearing an ID tag that clearly says “Thrace”. As the “hybrid” once told Starbuck she was the harbinger of death and that she would lead them all to their end, she freaks. Horrified, she wonders if that is her body in the viper, then who is she? Later, she burns the body in a pyre.

Also still on earth scoping out the situation are the Cylons, who find bones and a metal helmet which looks like a Cylon centurion helmet head. Roslin concludes that the 13th tribe settled here and created their own Cylons, with Apollo (Jamie Bamber) adding that, like on Caprica, the machines rose up and killed their masters. But, all of the bones found on Earth are Cylon bones, which imply that the 13th tribe was made up of Cylons, Centurions and “skin jobs.”

Roslin is horrified, and when Apollo says she must tell the Quorum something, she walks away silently, and Adama tells Apollo, "Carry the ball."

Adding to the unsettled feeling, both Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), Anders (Michael Trucco), and Tory (Rekha Sharma) who are still back on Earth, begin to have what they believe are memories of life on earth, and they realize that they had lived there before – before all the devastation 2,000 years prior.

Back on the Galactica, it seems that depression is setting in with the crew. Apollo and Dee seem to have a nice evening together and it appears maybe they are going to recapture their love for each other. After Adama gives a speech to all members of the fleet to help motivate them to continue on to look for a new home, tragedy strikes. Despite the fact that Dee told Apollo that their “date” was the most fun she's had in a long time, she hangs up a locket, her ring, pulls out her weapon, and shoots herself in the head. The death seems to devastate Apollo and Adama.

This causes Adama to obtain a gun from a crew member, and he takes it into see Tighe (Michael Hogan) who is drinking, just like Adama has been. Adama and Tighe argue about Tighe being a Cylon, and Adama thinks that Ellen - Tighe’s dead wife – may have realized that there was something wrong with Tighe and why she was always looking to other men. He’s clearly trying to pick a fight. But Tighe is on to Adama, and won’t use Adama’s gun the way Adama may want him to. They both end up just drinking more. But later, Adama instructs his crew to look for the closest G, F, or K-class star system nearby, and to ask the Cylons if they want to come along for the ride. He promises the fleet he will find a new home.

Back on earth, Tighe talks to D’Anna (Lucy Lawless) and she’s decided to stay on earth. Later, when Tighe walks into the water – is he going to just end it all? – he puts his hands in the water and picks up some debris. It triggers a memory of him in a suit, in an area that appears to have been bombed. In his memory, he sees Ellen lying under a pile of rubble, and back in the water, we see him groping at the water as if he is trying to dig Ellen out. But in his vision, Ellen tells him all will be OK, everything is in place, and they will be reborn together. As there is an explosion in his vision, Tighe find himself back in the water, with Tighe saying, "Ellen, you're the fifth."

I thought this was a very well crafted episode. It seemed to answer some questions, while raising a few more. If Ellen is the fifth, then what does that make Starbuck, who is alive, yet what seems to be her dead body was found in a wrecked viper? And if the other 4 are having memories of earth before the devastation, could this mean that there are more of them than the “final five” who may have been "resurrected"? Is it possible that they are all decedents of the 13th colony and they are all Cylons? Would it be odd if the people they are looking for are really themselves? Still, it is clear that some of them have been there before and may have the answers buried in the memories.

I was not surprised to see members of the fleet reflect a sense of defeat and hopelessness, but Dee’s suicide took me completely by surprise. I suppose I should have seen it coming – she was happier than she had ever been, and probably assumed that it was the best she would ever feel. With their arrival on earth a huge disappointment, her actions signaled what many in the fleet, including the leadership, was feeling – a deep sense of loss, that everything they had worked for, fought for, and died for, turned out to be dashed, with no hope remaining. Still, it almost seemed selfish of Dee to take that way out, in essence, adding to the despair of the others.

And who is – or what is – Starbuck? If that was her body in the viper, then how did she become “resurrected” and whose hands? She always felt someone was guiding them to Earth, and maybe she knows there is some power out there who is waiting in the wings – somewhere – or who is watching over them, sometimes taking a direct hand in guiding them. Somehow I think that Starbuck will have the answer to it all.

These final 10 episode are off to a great start, and I am looking forward to wherever the story will take me. Somehow, I have a sense things will end out well for them if they can just all hang in long enough. It would be a great reward for people who stuck with the series even through the bad times.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

CSI “One To Go” : Grissom Departs, Goes To Grissom Heaven

All Images From CBS

The departure of Gil Grissom – and William Petersen – from the forefront of the CSI series has finally come. While this episode of CSI (CBS), “One to Go” was dark and depressing, Gil isn’t really sad, though. He'll be on to better things. His colleagues are thankful of the support that Gil has given them over the years, but in the end they know they have to let him go. At the end of the show, the sad picture of Gil Grissom walking with his back to the audience is replaced by images of Gil as he arrives in what is probably his own personal heaven - lots of nature, lots of bugs, and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox).

But the case in this episode wasn’t all that great. I am not a big fan of serial killer storylines, which seems to glamorize and stylize murder in such a horrid way. This episode is a continuation of the episode “19 Down” where the CSI team work on the resurgence of murders seemingly at the hand of the Dick & Jane killer. Grissom brings in a college professor, Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne), in on the case as a consultant, which makes Langston happy because he feels his serial killer lecture helped to enable more murders at the hands of a possible accomplice. Later, when the case is over, Grissom offers Langston a job, which we all know he will take seeing that Fishburne’s addition to the cast was so well publicized. I think Fishburne will do a fine job and hopefully bring a new spark to the show.

My opinion is that no one cared about this case anyway, at least not the viewers. Everyone wanted to see how the team was dealing with Gil’s departure. Some people got their chance for goodbyes in “19 Down” and the rest of the gang was able to finish in “One to Go.” It was touching to see Gil and Nick (George Eads) say their farewells, and hysterical to watch Hodges (Wallace Langham) pontificate, Grissom rolling his eyes.

One thing that has been bugging me with the series as late is that it seems that every time they are in the lab or when Capt. Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) is in interrogation, everything looks so blue. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we used to look through the glass bottles of “Halo” shampoo, which was a blue color. It would always make everything look so cold. Maybe they are purposely going for a cold, sterile look by putting what looks like a blue filter on these shots, but it is hard on my eyes and it just looks too darn depressing.

But it brought a tear to my eye watching Gil walk away, but even more so to see him enter a jungled rain forest area in Costa Rica, filled with plants and of course lots of bugs. You could almost feel the delight Gil would be feeling as the camera turns its lens to a bug sitting on a large leaf. And while I am not a Gil/Sara “shipper”, I think it was a nice touch to have them be with each other at the end, both of them probably feeling a kind of joy that had been missing for a good part of their recent lives. It was a fitting farewell to a character that spent so much time analyzing the seedy, ugly side of people’s lives to be rewarded with a happy ending, and hopefully, a much happier life.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NCIS and The Mentalist, and Why I Don’t Watch American Idol – Yet

I don’t watch American Idol when the season first starts. In the few times I had watched the show early on, I found the negativity overbearing and the bad singing intolerable. But there is another reason why I don’t bother. It’s because the media covers almost every single cringe worthy part of the show the next day. The show is covered in the newspapers, on the morning shows, on talk shows, everywhere. Why waste my time in spending two hours watching something that frankly isn’t entertaining to me?

I’d rather spend my time watching CBS’s NCIS (CBS) and even The Mentalist. I’m still on the fence on The Mentalist, and I admit that I haven’t watched last night’s episode - “Red Rum” – yet. The title alone made me think of poor little Danny in the Stephen King book and movie, whose little inner personality (Tony) kept saying “Redrum”, which read a “murder” when viewed in a mirror.

NCIS delivered a fine episode in ‘Broken Bird” – the story was a bit of a stretch mind you – but it gave David McCallum a chance to show his acting chops by playing the troubled Dr. “Ducky” Mallard. Ducky was carrying years of guilt with him about a death that occurred at his hands while he was in the military. Ducky also had just suffered injuries from a knife attack by a woman who also blamed Ducky for this same death. You just knew things were going to be OK for Ducky when a bird, which flew down his chimney into his home, turned out to have survived rather than died. I am very familiar with the omen about finding a dead bird in one’s home, which is supposed to mean that someone in the house will soon die. My mother told us about it after it happened when we were young and a bird got in the basement and my youngest sister died suddenly a few weeks later. Needless to say we were spooked. And when a starling somehow got into my basement a few years ago – we are still not sure how it got in, as the chimney damper was closed – I took great care to get the bird with a net and release it outside, very much alive. So when Ducky had a bird fly into his living room, and when he thought it had died, I felt a bit of foreboding for him. I was glad to see the bird was fine, just so I could get that silly old wives tale out of my head. But I digress. David McCallum is one of my favorites from years past – I just loved him when I was a kid watching The Man From Uncle – so I was glad to see him given such a central story line. I was also glad when Abby (Pauley Perette) finally seemed to acknowledge her overload with worrying about her teammates by taking a very subdued approach to Ducky’s dilemma. It’s almost like they heard my comments from last week.

I find that "reality" shows like American Idol just don’t offer enough brain stimulation for me, at least at this stage of the game, in order to warrant any investment of my time. When it gets down to the last 10 contestants or so, I will likely record the show so I can watch the performances and feedback segments only. I usually don’t watch it live until they are down to maybe the last 5 people or so. When if there is something better available, I’ll record AI on my DVR to zip past the boring parts. I’m a big music lover, and I just can’t tolerate cringe-worthy performances, much less Ryan Seacrest and the rest of the Idol panel.

So if you’re looking here for weekly American Idol commentary, this is one place where you won’t get it. There is already too much of it out there as it is.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"24" - 10AM to 12PM: Jack Goes Undercover

Jack Bauer's idea of an embrace

After the two-hour season premier Sunday night, 24 continued the story on Monday for another two hours of action and intrigue. And Jack falls back into his old, familiar habits that leave people unconscious, an amazing escape, and a few wrecked cars.

The big reveal was not muchof a surprise, frankly: Tony’s not a bad guy. We all suspected that this would be the case, no? But, the show wouldn’t be 24 without some stretching of believability. There were only a couple problems I could see with these episodes where I found it hard to believe. Wouldn’t the FBI first secure all exits and entrances once a breakout is attempted? This should also have included having, as a rule, more secure windows that opened to another escape route, like a parking garage. Lucky for Jack that he was trapped by gunfire behind a car that he could steal, and the position of the car just so happened to allow him to drive right off the deck and to land right where he and Tony were to be picked up by Bill. And if you wanted to drive through Washington DC incognito, would you chose an electric blue colored van? Nope. I’d pick white or back, but not blue. Still, it was expected that Jack would only get out via the perfect alignments of the planets – or in his case, a stairway, a window, a parking garage, and a well-placed vehicle.

Still, the show never disappoints. The story continues to weave in the intrigue, and the excitement can only build from here. Here’s a quick recap, with a few more of my comments interspersed:

In these two episodes, President Alison Taylor (Cherry Jones) anguishes over the choice of submitting to Colonel Dubaku’s (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) demands that the President withdraw troops in Sangala. He’s threatened to use the CIP module to gain control of key processes in the U.S infrastructure.

Renee (Annie Wersching) tells Larry (Jeffrey Nordling) that Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland), suspects a mole in the FBI. (What would the writers do without the threat of a mole? ) We’re led to suspect that it may be Sean Hillinger (Rhys Coiro), but when Janis (Janeane Garofalo) begins to check her suspicions, Sean admits he’s simply tracking his wife’s flight, and she’s stuck in the air by this crisis. Of course, in typical 24 fashion, Sean puts his wife’s safety ahead of everyone else’s and, posing as his boss Larry, he calls and gets his wife’s flight bumped up in the landing cue. You just know this is going to turn out badly later on.

Larry and Renee let Jack question Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), who is now in FBI custody. When Jack nearly chokes Tony, he utters the words “deep sky”, which Jack recognizes as an old CTU code. Jack makes a phone call, and is surprised to find Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) at the other end. Buchanan, with the help of Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), are working with Tony to root out the source of the deep government corruption that seems to be helping Dubaku. Bill, Tony, and Chloe are working outside the agency, however.

But it’s key that Jack get Tony out of the FBI so Tony’s deep cover can be maintained. Jack knocks out Renee and takes her access card, and also takes out Larry and a guard and he and Tony make their way out. They have help from Chloe, who has hacked into the FBI cameras. But Sean sees that Larry has been taken out, and he and Janis work to track Tony and Jack, with Janis disabling Chloe’s camera access.

Jack manages to get out via a parking garage, with Jack hotwiring a car in a matter of seconds under gunfire, and Jack driving the car out of the higher level of the garage and onto two parked cars below. Lucky for him, Tony was not standing underneath that area. When Buchanan arrives in a very noticeable blue van, he whisks Tony and Jack away to his fortress of solitude – I mean, what Bill calls the remnants of CTU. Here, Bill and Tony explain that Tony was working on the dark side for a while when he was recruited by Emerson, who also helped initially bring Tony back to life after being dead for ten minutes. Tony was angry over his wife Michelle’s death, and Emerson used this fact to recruit Tony to help his efforts with Dubaku. But when Tony saw things going bad and innocent people would die, he knew he had to do something. Jack decides to help them and pretend he’s going to the dark side as well.

When Tony and Jack get to Emerson’s place, Emerson tries to take out Jack but Jack is on to it and thwarts it. This wins Emerson’s trust – for now. Jack and Tony's first assignment - capture Matobo.

Ethan (Bob Gunton) tells Henry Taylor (Colm Feore) that Henry’s wife knows the reason for their son Roger’s suicide – Roger was in deep with insider trading and they didn’t want the information to get out and reflect badly on the president. Henry, dejected, later gets a call from Samantha Roth (Carly Pope) who says that Roger was murdered, and asks for a meeting. Henry asks his secret service agent to take him to a meeting and this time keep it off the books. When Henry meets with Samantha, she tells him that Roger was framed for trading on inside information, and powerful people made his death look like a suicide. Roger had uncovered bank records implicating senior White House Administration officials that were doing business in Sangala. She gives him a flash drive with all of the data, all under the watchful eye of Henry’s secret service agent, who is spying with binoculars from far away.

Back at the White House. President Taylor tells former Prime Minister Matobo (Isaach De Bankolé) that she has a big decision to make – withdraw from Sangala or allow Americans to die. Ethan wants her to give in to Dubaku's demands, but she is concerned about the fallout from those actions.

With the sniper at the hospital, Renee takes Janis with her, and Renee plans to question him. Even though he asks for a lawyer, Renee tells Janis to stall his attorney’s arrival at the room. Renee blocks his ventilator tubes in order to torture him into talking about the whereabouts of the CIP module. She finds that Tony's crew is planning to abduct Matobo. Renee heads to Matobo’s residence as Larry calls them to warn them to take cover, and he sends backup. Matobo and his wife Alama (Tonya Pinkins) head into a safe room. When Emerson, Tony, and Jack arrive, they find that the room can only be opened from the inside. Jack and Tony know they must get Matobo out in order get to Dubaku, and they ponder how to get in as the epsiode closes.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

24: That’s A Fact, Jack Is Back

Last night’s two-hour premier of Fox’s “24” may have shown a more subdued Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), but fans of the show knew that wouldn’t last for long. By the time those two hours were up, four people were killed (or at least appeared to be killed), and Jack threatened one using torture. It’s nice to know things haven’t changed much. But these first two hours seemed more about laying out a story rather than highlighting the fact that where Jack goes, violence, explosions, and “moles” are soon to follow. These first two hours were far more engaging that the two hours of ”Redemption” and may to set up what could be one of the more interesting seasons of 24 so far. It was worth the wait. In case you missed it, here’s what was learned in these first two hours, which starts the day at 8:00 AM – I have more comments after this recap:

Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) is still alive, and was instrumental in getting Michael Latham (John Billingsley), a computer engineer, abducted. He is forcing Latham to work, with a man named Masters (Nick Chinlund), on a firewall module which will allow them access to key government controls such as air traffic control, water systems, etc.

Meanwhile, Jack is giving his testimony to a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. about human rights violations at his hands when he worked for the recently disbanded CTU. Jack is firm when he says he has no regrets in the choices he made. But during his testimony, FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) interrupts the hearing with a subpoena to obtain Jack, and Jack is told he needs to return to the hearing the same time tomorrow. He is taken to FBI headquarters, which has the same kinds of annoying and/or loser people that we saw at CTU. (Again, things haven’t changed much) He encounters Agent Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) and members of his support team, Janis Gold (Janeane Garofalo) and Sean Hillinger (Rhys Coiro). Renee brings Jack up to speed with the firewall problems and the big fact that Toy Almeida, who Jack believed to be dead and buried, was in fact very much alive and appears to be behind a home grown terror group trying to hack in and control key systems. Tony seems to be angry about his wife’s death and may be out for vengeance, but Jack thinks that Tony’s motives may be not what they seem.

We are re-introduced to President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) who is at the White House, working to stop the "ethnic cleansing" in (fictional) Sangala, Africa. An invasion is being planned, with some disagreement and hesitation with some in her cabinet. Her husband Henry (Colm Feore) is also helping in that effort, but seems to be obsessed and distracted with another more personal matter – the suicide of their son, Roger. It appears Henry is convinced his son was murdered and Henry continues to work behind the scenes to uncover the truth. (If you recall in the episode “Redemption” that their son became privy to some information that got his friend murdered, and I suspect that the Taylor son was likely murdered as well, making it to look like a suicide.) Henry asks his assigned secret service Agent Gedge to keep a meeting with Roger’s girlfriend a secret, and of course the agent tattles about it the first chance he gets. But the girlfriend insists that what looks like a payoff was not.

When the president is informed that it appears someone may have breached the air traffic control system, she doesn’t think it necessary as yet to ground all air traffic. This proved to cause a problem when Almeida and his team manage to get into the system and create a scenario where two planes nearly collide upon landing.

While Jack is looking at information on the matter with FBI employee Sean, Jack finds information that may indicate Tony got help from an old CTU informant named Schector (Tommy Flanagan), who is in Washington. Since Jack believes that Schector will call his lawyers if the FBI goes in with a warrant, he wants to go there and handle it himself, and Renee decides to go with him. But Larry thinks Jack will use torture, and Renee promises she will keep a close watch on Jack. Jack and Renee go to see Schector, who refuses to give any information, and Renee gives Jack the go ahead to try firmer measures. Jack picked up a pen and held it to Schector’s eye, and when Schector reluctantly agrees to talk, he and the other guy with him are shot dead by a sniper. When the phone rings immediately afterwards, Jack answers it and it’s Tony on the other end, warning Jack to keep out of things. Later, this causes Jack to tell Renee that he thinks there is someone inside at the FBI who tipped off Tony’s group, as no one else should have known they were visiting Schector at that precise time.

After Tony and his group avert the planes colliding, they release the FAA computers.. Someone named Emerson (Peter Wingfield) arrives where Tony and his group are working, and is shown the module that Latham has fixed. Tony tells Emerson that he can handle Jack, but Emerson still doesn’t give Tony any more information about the end game of his plan.

Back in the White House, House Press Secretary Angela Nelson informs reporters that the President supports protecting Sangala against Juma, and that the President is meeting with former Sangala Prime Minister Matobo (Isaach De Bankolé). In a meeting with Matobo, President Taylor obtains Matobo’s assurances that they will handle Juma in accordance with law, and not simply execute him outright. Later, when the President is told about the problems at air traffic control, she decides to ground the planes and wants to meet with Homeland Security.

When the sniper who took out Schecter calls Tony and tells him he is trapped by the Feds in the building from where he made his shot, Tony manages to get an FBI agent in there to help disguise the sniper as an agent so he can escape. But Jack easily spots the guy because he isn’t wearing typical FBI agent shoes. Jack convinces Renee to give chase in a stealth mode, since he believes the FBI is compromised and doesn’t want to tip anyone else off. When Larry calls Renee to ask about her whereabouts, she lies to him, but then asks him to trust her. Of course he doesn’t, and asks Janis to track Renee’s walkie-talkie.

Elsewhere, we see Emerson, who is showing the module to Colonel Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) of Juma's army. It seems they want to use this as the bargaining chip to get the President to back off her actions in Sangala, and Dubaku seems to want revenge for the killing of his brother.

Jack and Renee have tracked the sniper to Tony's hideout on a boat, and Renee hands Jack a gun. They manage to apprehend the sniper, and Jack asks if Tony is there. Jack takes out a surveillance camera with his gun, which Tony immediately notices it is out of commission. Gunfire from the boat erupts, and Jack and Renee return fire. When they enter the boat, Renee finds a computer there in the process of deleting its files, and Jack runs in to Tony. As Jack holds on to Tony, Renee tells him the device is gone and the files deleted. Jack pressures Tony to tell him the location of the device but Tony offers nothing. Larry arrives on a chopper and sees that Jack has Tony in custody, as Jack wonders to Tony "What the hell happened to you?"

I really enjoyed these first two hours, and think that while it brought viewers several seemingly disconnected storylines, we know they will all likely connect as the season progresses. Over the years, CTU has been filled with employees that can’t be trusted, and it does seem that the show is getting lazy by implying that the FBI has the same problem. I would like to think for a change that not every federal law enforcement agency has corrupt people working for them, or that the storyline can only be furthered by having a mole on the inside working against him.

It was interesting to see Jack somewhat subdued and controlled, yet somehow stronger. It didn’t take him long, however, to get into his old habits once given the green light to use other methods to extract information.

The fact that The President’s son had died sometime between “Redemption” and this new season seemed to be a disconnect, and it may have had more value if they had closed out ”Redemption” showing his death. But, considering that I thought “Redemption” was just created from cast offs from their failed first attempt at this season, I guess I can forgive them for just throwing his death at us in an oblique way.

Somewhat humorous and well placed was the ad for Allstate that appeared during the show, featuring Dennis Haysbert, “President Palmer” from previous seasons of 24. Now that’s product placement.

The next two episodes are due to air tonight (January 12) at 8:00 PM. I won’t be missing it!

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Richard Belzer to NBC: You’re Desperate and Dying

Leave it to Law & Order SVU's Richard Belzer to come out and say what everyone else is thinking – and say it bluntly. On January 7, the LA Times reported that during Belzer’s participation in a PBS panel (talking about the late George Carlin), Belzer was asked his opinion of NBC's recent decision to place Jay Leno in the weekday 10:00 PM time slot in the fall, putting an end to 5 prime time hours of scripted programming. And he told it like it is, as he said he has a contract that renders him untouchable.

"I just think it’s a network that’s desperate…It’s the last gasp of a dying network, which can turn out to be brilliant financially. But in terms of writers, actors, producers and other people who work on shows, I think it’s a tragedy, frankly."

I only disagree with Belzer on one point – I don’t even think the move is brilliant financially. I can’t see NBC being able to sustain the number of viewers that it received with the 10 PM programming like Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, or even the departing ER. Sure, those shows cost a lot more to produce than a show like Leno’s, but they also likely commanded higher advertising dollars. And NBC will still have a lot of overhead to cover. If the network calculates or measures a "cost per employee" or "profit per employee", it would be interesting to see how those numbers are affected after this change is made. My projection is that cost per employee goes up, and profit goes down.

But I agree strongly with Belzer that this is a tragedy, maybe not because it would put writers, actors, et al. out of work, but that it may mark the death of creative dramatic programming for NBC. Everybody likes a good story. And everybody likes to see good actors in a good story. People like to have that time to watch some fictional show on television, maybe to take their minds off their own problems. But everyone has a limit, and even 5 days of Law & Order would get old after a while. OK – let me think about that – there was a time when NBC had a Law & Order franchise show on 3 days a week (Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, and Law & Order Criminal Intent). But when they tried to add in Law & Order Trial by Jury and Conviction, both new shows failed. I think it was simple overload, and maybe some Law & Order fatigue set in with the creative end of the franchise. Five days of a talk show at 10:00 PM when there are other choices on other networks would be worse than Law & Order fatigue, and could happen much faster. My opinion is that NBC's opinion of the draw of Jay Leno is inflated.

So, what does it say about a network like NBC that doesn’t have the talent or can’t afford to put together 5 extra hours of scripted programming? Like Belzer, I’d say they are dying.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NCIS “Caged” Should Be Kept Locked Up

Last night’s episode of NCIS (CBS) , “Caged", got the NCIS crew out of their element as Agent McGee (Sean Murray) gets caught up in a women’s prison uprising. McGee was sent to the prison to obtain a confession from a woman, Celia Roberts (Martha Hackett), who had already been incarcerated there for two previous murders. As a third body was found – the murders long ago attributed to the woman - NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) wanted to tie up this last loose end so he could close the books on the case, which he originally investigated. Rather than send Agent DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) to a woman’s prison, and maybe not sure Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was right for the task, he sends McGee in to do the job, and tells him not to come back without a signed confession.

While McGee is talking with Celia Roberts in a separate room, one of the guards gets murdered and the prisoners overtake the other guards. When McGee hears the commotion and checks it out, he’s taken hostage too. This pulls in the NCIS team, who seemed to be able to easily gain access to the prison, despite the prison being on lockdown.

Of course, the only one who can save the day is McGee, as he convinces the impromptu and uncoordinated group of women to use him as a hostage negotiator. If that wasn’t a stretch to begin with, things got even more unbelievable when McGee communicated the groups’ demands to the warden and to Agent Gibbs, and they just go ahead and agree with the demands. This included releasing all the other guards and visitors who were in the area at the time, and bringing in the NCIS team to help solve the murder. As the hostages are being released, the first thing that went through my mind is that no one seemed to be concerned that any of these people had any involvement in the murder. I would think that all the hostages and guards should have been taken to one separate area for questioning. And, as Gibbs seemed to be criticizing the warden for the warden’s lack of experience in these situations, I wondered why Gibbs thought that he and his own NCIS team could do a better job. I can’t recall any time where Gibbs handled a hostage situation like that, much less at a prison. Clearly Gibbs should have known not to just let all the hostages and visitors take off, but he seemed to miss that important step.

The episode continues to spiral downward as the team has to bring some of the prison guards back in for questioning as they suspected their involvement. And what is a prison storyline without drug smuggling? It seems the writers couldn’t resist adding the drug smuggling and drug use component to the story, making it even more trite.

Particularly annoying in this episode was Abby (Pauley Perrette). Usually I enjoy her antics, but for some reason, her panic over McGee’s situation seemed a little juvenile. In fact, I think that the character of Abby is getting to be a little too repetitive. While I would like Abby to retain her edginess and her quirkiness, sometimes I wish that they could develop her character past her current persona. It’s getting old.

Also not a surprise was Roberts taking the rap for not only the body they recently found, but for the murder of the guard. She didn’t want the real killer, a woman who was only in prison for one more year and had a daughter who the guard was abusing, to have to face the penalties. I could see that one coming from a mile away.

But the whole experience must have turned McGee into a real man, because when he got back, he laid down the law to his auto mechanic. Personally, I would worry a little bit about a field agent who couldn’t have spotted his mechanic trying to rip him off sooner.

This episode, while entertaining, was not one of NCIS’ best. Frankly, “Caged” should have just kept itself locked up.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

24, Lost, Battlestar, Closer: Premiers and Restarts In January 2009

The winter doldrums, filled with reruns after reruns, will soon be over with the season premiers and season restarts of a few good shows in January. Here’s what’s coming up:

Sunday 8:00 PM January 11, Fox

After waiting for what seems like an eternity, the new season of 24 will get off to its official start. If you recall, we had a 2 hour “bridge” to the new season which aired on November 23 titled “Redemption” . This two hour episode was billed as a set up to the new season, but those that know better understand that it was just the discards of their failed start on the season. That two hour “bridge” episode was passable, but they were wise to change venue and move on to something more interesting. In fact, watching that two-hour episode only piqued my interest when they aired the preview of the real new season at the end.

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is coming back to Washington DC to face his accusers, and of course trouble ensues. A national security matter drags Jack back into the fray, and he’s shocked to find that his dead friend – who now appears undead – Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), has a hand in it. It looks interesting and may be the best show starting up in January. The season premiers on Sunday with a two hour episode, and continues in its normal day on Monday January 12 at 8:00 PM for another two hours.

24 Preview

Battlestar Galactica
Friday 10:00 PM January 16, SciFi

The crew of the Battlestar Galactica has reached earth. But the earth of when? Things look desolate and all blown to bits. Was it at the hands of earth people or someone else? What will it mean for the people of the Galactica, whose whole purpose since the first season was to reach earth and now find it desolate?

Personally, I’m glad that this will be the final run for the show. The show languished in a deep pit of depressing storylines that went nowhere for what seemed like 2-3 seasons. Now that they finally got somewhere and they’re where they wanted to be – with problems of course – hopefully they will have a big finish. Technically, this isn’t a new season; it’s billed as season 4.5, the last half of season 4. But there has been so much time between segments that it feels like a new season. Since I usually like to finish what I’ve started, I’ll see this series through to the end. But, I think I’d rather see Jamie Bamber start up his new role in the UK version of Law & Order.

BSG Preview

Wednesday 8:00 PM January 21, ABC

The Lost season premier is being billed as a three hour event , with the first hour a recap of what happened in the previous season. And I’m one of those people that will need a recap. I remember only the last bits of the final episode from last season, and if I recall correctly, the island blew up and disappeared, with some members of the group making their escape. This series has probably taken more twists and turns than any other show out there, and this has been a detriment. When the series first started it was almost fun to spot all the little embedded codes and messages that seemed to be the cornerstone of the mystery, and after a while those little things became so numerous it was burdensome to try to keep up. The flashbacks were joined by flash-forwards that made things worse. This is another series that has run its course and needs to be over. Because frankly, it lost me.

Lost Short Recap

The Closer
Monday 9:00 PM January 26, TNT

Kyra Sedgwick returns as LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, but instead of being in charge of the Priority Homicide Squad, she wrangled herself into the top spot of the newly created Major Crimes Division. This was a smart move for the series, as it will allow the team to get involved in a whole new myriad of crimes. When we last left the team, they were trying to thwart a plan to massacre hundreds of people, which gets one of their squad directly in the line of fire. I’m assuming the season premier – or shall I call it a season restart since the episode is still listed as being in season 4 - titled “Good Faith” will wrap up this story.

Brenda’s also has her wedding coming up with the woefully underutilized FBI Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney), but if we know Brenda, we should expect that even the process of getting hitched won’t go off without a hitch.

The Closer is a great series with a great cast.Hopefully with their new focus of “Major Crimes” they can expand their horizons and make this good show even better.

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