Tuesday, September 28, 2010

House “Selfish” Recap & Review

All photos from Fox

Last week’s episode of House, “Now What?” almost had me running away from the television, screaming. This week’s episode was an improvement. But House(Fox) still has a ways to go before it finds its way back into my “favorite shows” list.

The problem? It’s the whole House/Cuddy (or in “shipper speak”, “Huddy”) relationship. Maybe the writers realize the problem themselves by writing this episode where both House and Cuddy go through their day at the hospital, trying to act normal and not have the personal relationship affect their business relationship.

The patient of the week is a young girl, Della, who collapses while pushing her brother, who is wheelchair-bound and has a terminal illness, around an indoor skateboard track. I’ll be perfectly honest here: as House’s staff race to find out what ails her, I find myself hearing their words as nothing but gobbledygook. Usually I can follow all the medical jargon used in medical shows, in this episode, it seemed like the doctors got a case of “let’s rattle off the lines as quickly as possible.” (The medical dialog had the feel of the dialog on the NBC series “West Wing” during the last season or two, you know, after Aaron Sorkin left and the writers/producers tried to recapture the quick, clipped dialog that Sorkin’s team did so well.) As a result of the way they handled this case in "Selfish", not only did I lose interest quickly in her case, but I think I completely missed what was wrong with her to begin with. All I know is that House wanted to use some of her disabled brother’s bone marrow and a part of his lung to save her, which would likely cut his already short life expectancy even shorter.

I was also slightly distracted at the sight of Stephanie Courtney playing the mother of the patient. Since she is better known as “Flo” from the Progressive Insurance commercials, I kept thinking about her insurance commercials rather than take her seriously as the patient’s anguished mother.

The scenes between House and Cuddy felt forced and almost awkward. Now that House (Hugh Laurie) is having a sexual relationship with Cuddy, it is as if he is walking on eggs. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) seems to have no problem still being his boss, until she realizes that even she is being affected by the relationship. Despite the fact that she and House make their relationship known to the Human Resources department and sign a contract to protect the hospital from any fallout from their relationship, they both seem to be second guessing themselves. It gets so bad that Cuddy goes back to HR to see if they can assign someone else to supervise House. No surprise – nobody wants that job.

The only watchable parts of the episode involved House’s trusty sidekick, Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). It’s the only part of the episode that seems genuine, with Leonard using facial expressions to enhance the already amusing dialog.

The episode seems to go through the motions and falls flat. Even though the parents – and the patient’s brother – have a tough decision to make that means life or death for both children, I find no real emotional pull. It’s been a long while since I actually cared for the “patient of the week” on this show as it seems they are simply a backdrop for House’s “problem of the week.” Yes, I know the show is called House so the story would normally revolve around him, but I used to be drawn more to how he solved both his problems and his medical cases. Somehow his relationship with Cuddy doesn’t rise to the level of importance with me than his other problems.

I’m still a devoted watcher of the show, although it is not one of those shows that I anticipate seeing every week like I used to. My diagnosis – the show has reached the doldrums and House needs a new, and more formidable challenge. I can only hope that it will come soon.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Mad Men “Hands and Knees” Recap & Review

All Photos from AMC

This episode of Mad Men “Hands and Knees” closes with the melody of the Beatles Song, “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” because the episode was all about secrets. Things seem to be unraveling for everybody, and only the women seem to be keeping cool heads. Don’s (Jon Hamm) big secret has him teetering on complete ruin. The one thing that “Mad Men” does well is build a story over a period of several episodes. Don’s secret identity is the gift that keeps on giving over the years. In this episode, it is becoming clear that the stability of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in question, and there isn’t much time to get the business back on solid footing. Roger’s life also looks solid on the outside, but he’s also on the edge of destroying everything, both business and personal. This was a wonderful episode that set up a horrible sense of foreboding for the company and for the key players. I wonder, though, if Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) has some secrets of his own that are just waiting to be exposed?

Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) secret: she’s pregnant. She drops the bomb on Roger (John Slattery), telling him the baby is his. Roger knows this is a big problem, and he and Joan later discuss whether Joan wants to keep it or not. She doesn’t, and Roger offers to go with her for the procedure. (I don’t think he really means it.) Joan calmly goes through the process and it isn’t the first time she’s had to do so.

Roger, meanwhile, is harboring his own secret. After Joan tells him she is pregnant, Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie ) tells Roger that the board of Lucky Strike is dropping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to consolidate all their accounts with one agency - and that’s not with SCDP. Lee wants the files immediately, but when Roger begs and pleads for 30 days before Lee says anything, bringing out all things he’s done for Lee, Lee gives him that time. After Lee leaves, Roger pops what looks like a nitro pill. At a later time, Roger is making calls from his rolodex, trying to drum up new business.

Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is expecting his son to come from London for a visit, and instead he gets his father, Robert (W. Morgan Sheppard). Lane is clearly disappointed, but tries to make the best of it, taking his father, along with Don, to the local Playboy club, where Lane seems to have a thing for a black Playboy bunny, Toni (Naturi Naughton ). Robert wants Roger to come home to London, and it becomes clear that he’s not happy with Lane’s dalliances. When Lane invites his father out to dinner, along with Toni, and it becomes clear to Robert that Lane seems to be in a very serious, intimate relationship with her, Robert essentially dismisses her. After she leave the apartment, Robert clocks Lane’s head with his cane, knocking Lane to the ground. He steps on Lane’s hand on the door until Lane agrees to return to England.

Don’s big secret – that he had taken the identity of another soldier who was killed in action – is threatening to come out in a big way. His day starts out well when he announces to his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that he is taking her to the Beatles concert in Shea Stadium and Sally shrieks with glee. He also goes to a meeting with executives of North American Aviation, an account that Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) has been working on for years, and it looks like things are a go. The first clue that there may be looming issues is the volume of heavily redacted documents that NAA gives them, and they are told the redacting will diminish as the partnership with SCDP progresses.

What Don - and likely nobody else – realizes, is that in order to do business with NAA, the key people at SCDP must go through a government background checks. Two government agents visit Betty (January Jones) without warning, and ask her very pointed questions about Don’s background, including "Do you have any reason to believe that Mr. Draper isn't who he says he is?" After a brief pause, Betty calmly answers no. When she calls Don to complain about the questioning, he knows nothing about it. Despite the fact that Don is clearly rattled, he thanks Betty for what she did. He takes it out on his secretary Megan (Jessica ParĂ©) and is upset that even though he did sign the application, that she didn’t call it to his attention. Even more agitated, he gets on Pete’s case, and Pete at first seems flip about it. Don demands that Pete get with his contact in the defense apartment and find out how far it’s gone.

Later that night, Betty tells Henry (Christopher Stanley) about the FBI coming to question her about Don, saying she doesn’t want any secrets between them. (I have this feeling that Henry has some secrets of his own. )

When Pete gives Don the update on the background checks and thinks the agency can survive Don’s exposure, Don’s argues back that there is no statute of limitations for desertion, and despite Pete’s years of work to cultivate the account, Don tells him to get rid of it. Don later instructs his accountant to establish trust funds for his children and allow Betty access. Despite the accountant’s objections, Don tells him to create the trusts immediately.

When Faye (Cara Buono) comes for a visit, Don is clearly in a complete meltdown, and she says he has a fever and orders him to go home. When Don and Faye get to his apartment, two men approach them trying to locate an address, and Don seems to go into full panic mode, thinking they are government agents. When he gets into the apartment, he rips off his shirt and tie, thinking he is having a heart attack, but he throws up instead. Faye stays with him and when she tries to help him relax, he tells her he is tired of running and tells her his secret.

When Pete arrives at Don’s the next morning, he sees Faye is there, and she leaves silently. After she leaves, Pete tells Don that he hasn't been exposed yet and if the agency drops the account the investigation will cease.

At a meeting of the partners, Pete says that an error on his part has cost the agency NAA's business. Roger slams Pete over it and both Don and Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) object to Roger’s anger at Pete, with Cooper telling Roger to apologize (he does). Lane then announces he’s taking a long leave of absence to return to London and quickly exits the meeting, but before he leaves, he says the company is in sound fiscal shape. When Joan asks the remaining partners to report on the status of current accounts, starting with Lucky Strike, Roger gives the thumbs up.

Faye loops back with Don to make sure he's OK, and they set a date for Saturday. When Faye leaves, Megan enters with the Beatles tickets Don wanted, saying that “Everything worked out.” As the melody of The Beatles song “Do You Want to Know a Secret” plays, Don gazes at Megan, standing at her desk, applying lipstick, and we fade to black.
Video Recap of Mad Men “Hands and Knees”

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Fringe “Olivia” Recap & Review (Season Premiere)

All photos from Fox

“She’s OUR Olivia now.” Well, The Secretary – AKA “The Walternate” may think this is the case, but somehow I feel that Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), trapped in the alternate universe, may still have the upper hand. Again, Fringe (Fox) does not disappoint, with an action packed and intense season premiere. It’s primarily set in the alternate universe, and subsequent shows will alternate episodes between universes so we can follow what is happening on both sides. In the alternate, Olivia is trying desperately to get back to her home universe. But, Walter (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) think that the Olivia that came back with them is “their” Olivia. My money is on “our” Olivia, who is fighting to get back home, and may have what I see as an advantage – her real memories, and the memories and skills of her alternate. At least, I hope she still has her real memories. The alternate, “faux” Olivia is now in the real Olivia's universe, and may make real trouble for the unsuspecting Walter and Peter.

The episode begins with Olivia still trapped in the alternate universe, still confined, and now being questioned by a psychologist who seems bent on convincing Olivia she is really from “their” side. It is clear the Olivia is not playing along. We later find that The Secretary (John Noble) is having Olivia injected with a treatment that is supposed to give her the memories of the alternate, “faux” Olivia. He also wants to understand how she can travel from both universes.

Of course, Olivia is smarter than they think, and The Secretary orders her to be injected again in order to hasten her assimilation of faux Olivia’s memories. But, she fakes having a bad reaction to the treatment and escapes from the men administering it. She makes a dramatic exit by jumping off the high wall at Liberty Island, and swims to safety in the city. It’s not before she looks back and sees an almost brand new looking Statue of Liberty.

Soaking wet, she gets into Manhattan and hijacks a cab, being driven by a man named Henry (Andre Royo). She pulls the gun she stole while escaping and points it at him, ordering him to drive. She later tells him her hard-to-believe story about the government experimenting on her. He doesn’t want trouble for him or his family, so he goes along with her, even to the point of buying her fresh clothes when she orders him to do so.

Meanwhile, Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) is recovering from the burns he received while battling Olivia’s colleagues, and he wants work to help Charlie (Kirk Acevedo) track her down. It’s clear that they think it’s their Olivia they are working to recover, apparently being told she had some kind of psychotic break after the episode at the Opera House (in the season finale).

Henry takes Olivia to the Opera House, and it’s now being encased in amber to seal the hole between the universes, and she now realizes she has no way out. She also is spotted there, tipping off the alternate Broyles (Lance Reddick). While Olivia thinks over her dilemma, Henry gets a call from his wife.

Olivia asks him to take her to the address of Massive Dynamic, only to find it’s never been built there in the alternate universe. She orders Henry to drive away and later, when they stop at a gas station, Olivia breaks down in the rest room. When she exits, she finds Lincoln Lee waiting there, and Charlie not far behind. Lincoln Lee confronts her about her behavior saying she is just suffering the effects of a head injury from the incident at the Opera House. She aims and shoots at both men with amazing accuracy and escapes. She realizes that she now has the skill of her alternate, who was an Olympic marksman.

She gets an idea and gives Henry an address that pops into her mind – she thinks it’s some sort of safe house. Henry takes out the cab’s tracking device and they are off the grid.

Meanwhile, The Secretary thinks the treatment is actually working, because only Olivia’s alternate could shoot like that.

When Olivia arrives at what she thinks is a safe house, she later finds her alternate mother there, very much alive. Her mother believes Olivia is just suffering from a breakdown and tries to reason with her. Olivia resists at first, but then, in her mother’s arms, she seems to have all the faux-Olivia’s memories flood in. Later, when Charlie arrives for a visit, Olivia seems to treat him as if she is who Walternate wants her to be – the alternate.

The Secretary and the doctors discuss this turn of events, saying the treatments worked and that the adrenaline from her escape helped the transfer. The Secretary gloats, "For all intents and purposes, she is our Olivia now.”

Charlie drives away from her mother's home with Olivia in the car, but Henry watches from his cab. Olivia thanks Charlie for being a friend, and he thanks her for not shooting him.

The Secretary tells the alternate Broyles that Olivia should be OK to work on Monday, but doesn't tell Broyles what is really going on with her.

As we look up to the sky over the Capitol building, we see a blimp flying above, and in a poof, it’s gone. We’re now back in our own universe, with Peter on Capitol Hill telling the story of what happened to them, with a man taking notes. Peter tells them how the Walternate misled him into trying to get him to stay there, and the man asks Peter why he came back. We then see the faux-Olivia standing on the steps with Walter as Peter exits the building. Peter tells Olivia that the whole time he was in there, she was only thing he could think about, and he kisses her.

This episode sets up a whole host of new questions. Is Henry the cabbie really who he seems to be? Is he working for the other side, or, is he there as some sort of protector for Olivia? Has Olivia’s mind been completely taken over by the memories of her alternate, or, does she have the memories of both and will use that to her advantage? Will Peter figure out that the Olivia he thinks is the one who loves him is not who she says she is? And will Olivia find her way back to her real universe, or, will she be content to stay where she is and reconnect with her mother and force the others to come get her? One thing is for sure, this is going to be an interesting season.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

House “Now What?” Recap & Review: Entering JumpTheSharksville

Photos from Fox
I knew when I saw a Fox promotional photo for the new season of House(Fox) with Hugh Laurie in a clown face (I hate clowns) that the show may be on the down slide. During last night’s season premiere titled “Now What?” House (Hugh Laurie) asks Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) that same question after they have a romp in the bed. I find myself thinking that I really do not care what they want to do next. I should go on record to say that I am not a House/Cuddy (AKA “Huddy”) “shipper”; in fact, I think the two of them getting together may ruin the show. After watching the season premiere, my opinion is the show is teetering on the edge of a cliff, inches away from dropping off the edge into JumpTheSharksville.

The episode opened where last season left off, with House and Cuddy connecting romantically after working on a building collapse. The episode is filled with romantic, intimate, and treacle-y scenes with the two of them, in bed, in the bathtub, etc.etc. They seem to be worried about what they need to do to make the relationship work. I find that I am more worried about who is taking care of Cuddy’s kid and the out of control and soon to be shut down Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

While House and Cuddy are off playing their indoor games, House’s staff is working to keep the hospital running. Apparently there must be a neurosurgeon on duty at all times, otherwise the hospital can’t operate as a Level 1 Trauma Center. When House fields a call for Cuddy and gives Cuddy’s assistant an order to send the only neurosurgeon on staff to go home sick, the assistant is legally obligated to report it to the proper authorities. Of course, Cuddy has no clue about this. In fact, Cuddy seems to not have a clue about anything, brushing off her hospital duties a little too easily. Being a career woman myself for many years, I don’t think that a woman who worked so hard to get to the top would be so eager to just turn it off so completely, well, unless of course the woman is insecure and desperate for a man. At least that’s what they want you to think. Me? Since a crisis had just occurred the day before, I would have at least called in to someone to tell them where I could be reached in case of emergency but to only call if it is an emergency. Cuddy did nothing. I now have zero respect for her.

Meanwhile, House’s staff runs around trying to cure the neurosurgeon's illness in order to prevent the ER and trauma center from being closed. It was a dull and lifeless scenario. Also dull and lifeless was the attempt at drama and mystery with Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) and her apparent departure to Rome – except they find later that is not where she is going. I find myself thinking I don’t care where she is going, I just want her to go and not come back. (With Olivia Wilde's reported extended leave of absence from the show, I will get my wish.)
The only interesting scenes are those that involve House and Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). I enjoyed Wilson’s phone call where House fakes he’s the answering machine, and when Wilson later crawls in the kitchen window. I realize that I am, at heart, a House and Wilson shipper, because these two really make a great pair.

When Cuddy finally - FINALLY! - leaves House’s apartment and says, “It's gonna be great" I say out loud, “No, it’s not.” Both have a look of concern on their face, but it doesn’t anywhere near match the look of worry on mine. House is slowly working its way off my “must watch” list.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Mad Men “The Beautiful Girls” Recap & Review

All photos from AMC

“Jesus, what a mess”. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) couldn’t have said it any better, because things sure got messy for just about everybody in this episode of Mad Men, “The Beautiful Girls.” Don had what many may call a day from hell, but things weren’t exactly perfect for all the women in his life. This was an episode with lots of drama but also lots of dark humor.

It’s clear that Sally is having some serious coping problems that likely will not get fixed by her mother or her father. She wants out of her mother’s house, but Don, while he loves Sally, doesn’t want a young child complicating his life. While Don seems to be striking up a serious relationship with Faye, I wonder how long it will really last, and if the beautiful receptionist Megan – who seems to have a way with kids – will be Faye’s competition.

Joan is struggling with her husband going off to war, and the tug of her past relationship with Roger. Roger and Joan are great together but know that their respective marriages complicates thing greatly. Somehow, I have this feeling that the marriage issue will be “resolved” with Greg going to Vietnam (and maybe not coming back). Peggy, on the other hand, is growing a conscience, and while she is concerned about racial equality, she seems even more concerned about gender equality. Sadly, no one can see her viewpoint on the latter.

Here’s what happened:

It seems Don’s day is going to go well when Don slips out for a nooner with Faye (Cara Buono), but goes downhill fast when he gets back to work and things don’t go well with his meeting with Fillmore Auto Parts, Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) also seems to be back to his normal, cocky self, which seems to annoy Don.

Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet) drops by to invite Peggy for drinks, and Jjoyce seems to be impervious to Stan Rizzo’s (Jay R. Ferguson) lesbian jokes. It seems that the invitation for drinks is just an excuse for Abe Drexler (Charlie Hofheimer) to stop by and connect with Peggy. Things seem to be going well until Abe starts on his anti-corporate diatribe and talks about Fillmore Auto Parts’ refusal to hire black workers in the South. When Peggy relates it to the injustice women face in the workplace, Abe gets flip about it and Peggy gets offended and leaves.

Joan (Christina Hendricks), meanwhile, is in a bad mood as her husband Greg is now going to Vietnam right after basic training. Roger (John Slattery) – who is still trying to get someone interested in his memoirs - wants to console her in his own special way, but she is having none of it. He later sends two women to Joan’s apartment to give her a massage, manicure, and pedicure. She gets somewhat annoyed at him the following day when it seems he expects something in return for his gesture.

But the mess really cranks up when Sally (Kiernan Shipka) decides to take the train to Don’s office – alone, and without having the money to pay. An older woman (a stranger) escorts Sally to the office, and Don, who is taken out of the Fillmore meeting for this news, is not thrilled one bit with Sally, making her stay in his office. Things get worse when Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller) dies at her desk. The secretaries try to cover things up so the Fillmore people don't see the events when the coroner arrives.

Peggy gets even more upset with Abe, who has dropped by the office with an article he wrote, inspired by Peggy, called "Nuremberg on Madison Avenue." After Peggy reads it, she returns to a waiting Abe and she is furious as Abe has mentioned the corporate racial issue with Fillmore Auto Parts. She is worried this will implicate her and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and tears it up, saying she could lose her job over it. Abe feels he misjudged her.

Joan tries to calm Roger after Miss Blankenship’s death, and Roger moans he doesn’t want to die in the office. He invites her to dinner, where Roger tells Joan she’s not in his memoirs, although she has been all the “good stuff” in his life. Later, after dinner, Roger and Joan are robbed, which shakes Joan up, especially since her wedding ring was stolen. That doesn’t stop her from responding to Roger’s kiss.

Don has to deal with Sally, and asks Faye to take her to his apartment and watch her until he gets home. After Faye exits Don's apartment, Sally promises Don she’ll never do it again, and then asks questions about Faye, which Don gingerly answers. The next morning, Sally makes Don some French toast and puts rum on it, thinking it is maple syrup. Don eats it anyway. He agrees to take the morning off and spend time with her before she has to go back home to her mother.

Back at the office, when Cooper and Roger have difficulty writing Miss Blankenship's obituary they call in Joan. After Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) walks out of the room – commenting that Blankenship was born on a farm and died on the 37th floor, calling her an astronaut – he leaves Joan and Roger alone. Roger apologizes for what happened "in the heat of the moment" but Joan replies that she not sorry, and reminds him that they're both married.

Working on the Fillmore campaign, Peggy suggests the use of black entertainers for their jingle, thinking this will help them in the south. But Don disagrees, saying, "Our job is to make men like Fillmore Auto, not Fillmore Auto like Negroes.”

Things get ugly again for Don when Betty (January Jones) arrives to get Sally and Sally does not want to go home with her. When Don brings in Faye to help out, Sally gets even more upset, screams and yells, then runs down the hall, making a scene. She falls face down on the slippery floor, and Megan (Jessica Pare), the receptionist, easily consoles Sally. When Megan tells her “It’s going to be alright,” Sally replies “No, it’s not.” Sally leaves with Betty, looking back sadly. This whole situation rattles Faye, who goes into Don’s office and pours herself a drink and gets upset with Don, saying she feels like she failed a test, going into why she wanted a career and not children at this time. Don assures her that what happened with Sally wasn't her fault. When Faye leave his office, Don sips on her drink.

When Joyce stops by to visit Peggy, Joyce tells Peggy that men are like soup and compares women to soup pots, asking. "Who wants to be a pot?" She adds that she wouldn't have helped Abe with Peggy "if I didn't think he was some very interesting soup." When Joyce asks Peggy "Are you angry or lovesick?" Peggy is not sure.

At the end of the day. Joan, Peggy, and Faye get into the elevator together, three beautiful girls who has three different kinds of days, all affected by three different men.


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Friday, September 17, 2010

Conan’s “Wild. Nocturnal.” Photos + BTS Video

Conan’s new TBS (“Very Funny”) show will be premiering in November and as far as I am concerned, it can’t come a moment too soon. Here are several photos of Conan that have been released by Turner Network for TBS, plus a behind the scenes video of the photo shoot. It’s a real hoot!

Photo Credit: Art Streiber
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Closer “Executive Order” Recap & Review

All photos from TNT

”The Closer” (TNT) wrapped up its summer season last night with a fast moving episode, “Executive Order”, involving murder, terrorism, and a competition for the top job of Chief of Police. Guest stars Courtney B. Vance and Matthew Glave were great choices to anchor the episode, Vance as Chief Tommy Delk of the Counter Terrorism Unit (No, not that "CTU") and Glave as the angry terrorist and resident lunatic who wants revenge.

When two paramedics are killed responding to a 911 call, apparently by the 911 caller, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick) and her team respond. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence left as the killer took great pains to erase all fingerprints, and they feel the killer has one up on them. But Lieutenant Tao (Michael Paul Chan) realizes that the method the paramedics used to lift the 911 “victim” may have left prints on one of the paramedics’ gloves. And they DO find a print that leads them to a man named Kevin Mason (Glave) but he’s nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, other evidence ties this crime to a previous case that means that the FBI, and also the Counter Terrorism Unit and its Chief Tommy Delk (Vance), must be called in to work the case. Delk is also vying for the position of Chief of Police. Brenda holds her head high and works with Delk, and they both make an agreement to keep their theories away from FBI interference. Brenda makes the connection that the FBI had not been able to make working the old case for a few years – Glave is a psycho who is upset over being rejected by the LA Fire Department, and his killing of two paramedics is only a way to set up killing many more members of law enforcement. She also realizes that the most likely place for Mason to pull off his bigger event is at the funeral for the two paramedics, which will clearly draw a large number of people in law enforcement.

Mason, meanwhile, continues to work his plan while working at a nursing home under another name. He records his ranting manifesto and also uses a patient’s own powered wheelchair and oxygen tanks to carry out his plan. When the patient demands his powered wheelchair back, Mason coldly kills him, and then gets in a police disguise and the wheelchair (to fake that he was disabled) to work his way into the funeral. While Brenda, Delk, and their teams move in to try to prevent Mason from getting into the event, Brenda worries that disaster still looms and she wants to cancel the event. Assistant Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) knows that if she is wrong about this it will blow her chances for the Chief of Police position, and he makes the decision to cancel it.

Luckily the funeral event was canceled, as Mason was on his way through security. Meanwhile, Brenda’s team has already located the van Mason stole which is now in a parking garage, and they find the disk with his recorded manifesto. Unfortunately, cell reception in the garage is spotty and Brenda can’t hear Tao’s frantic phone call that Mason is packing sarin gas in the stolen oxygen tanks. But everyone gets a surprise when Mason returns to the van and he spots Brenda as Brenda spots him. Tao and Detective Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) race to the scene to give Brenda the message about the sarin, while Brenda tries to talk Mason down by playing to his massive psycho ego. He’s got a trigger release and they can’t let his finger off of it, and Sgt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) works his way in close to Mason. As the situation deteriorates, Brenda has no choice but to take a shot, killing Mason and causing Gabriel to lunge to keep a hand on the trigger.

After all is said and done, while Brenda’s theories and her quick thinking helped bring a close to the case, it’s Tommy Delk who is appointed the new Chief of Police. While Brenda, Pope, and the rest of the team ponder their future, Brenda hands them all a “Ding Dong” to soothe their worries. Mason’s manifesto, though, seems to have been “lost” in the process – Brenda didn’t want to think about it being played over and over on the news, giving Mason exactly what he wanted. Of course, the disk was not lost; Brenda had it and made sure that she destroyed it.

The Closer will return in December with some new episodes, and we can only wonder what, if anything will change for Brenda and her team, and for Pope, who is certain he is out of a job. What I see is a very strong cast all around, and Courtney Vance would be a great addition. Vance does authority figures very well (I think it’s the voice) and I can see him stirring up the pot – in his own way - for the LAPD. My guess is that everything will be status quo; after all, the current cast in their current roles is what makes this show so good. One thing is certain – I’ll be back, glued to The Closer, when it returns!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Mad Men “The Summer Man” Recap & Review

All photos from AMC
Mad Men “The Summer Man” felt slightly different from other episodes this season. It was partly because of the intermittent voice over from Don Draper (Jon Hamm) as he writes in his journal, and partly because it seems Don is trying to cut back on his drinking. He’s exercising, his apartment looks a little brighter as it seems like he’s letting more light in. It also appears that Don, while he feels like he’s in a fog, is more than likely coming OUT of a fog.

But Don still hasn’t quit drinking. He substitutes a beer for the liquor, has wine at dinner, and seems to think twice about taking that sip of whiskey when in a meeting with his creative staff. And, when Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller), who is having vision problems after just recovering from cataract surgery, goes out and buys Don several bottles of whiskey, he tells her to take them back. I have also been waiting for a long time for the show to bring in a snippet of the Rolling Stones song, “Satisfaction” that includes the lyrics that pretty much describes what an ad man like Don Draper is supposed to do:

“When I'm watchin' my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
the same cigarettes as me.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.”

Don also seems to be moving on with his life, still dating the somewhat prudish Bethany (Anna Camp), and then deciding to make a move with Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono). The latter happens after he overhears her talking on the telephone telling her apparent boyfriend to “go shit in the ocean,” a Yiddish term which may mean that Faye is Jewish. At dinner, Faye also tells Don that her father is not with the mob, but he has a candy store and has some association with mob people. I found that Don’s behavior with Faye in the back seat of the car was more like how Bethany acts towards Don - a bit of a tease but not ready to take things to the “next step.” The next step for Bethany – and for Don – may seem like the same thing, but I don't think they are.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Joey’s (Matt Long) cocky, bratty, and immature attitude cause him to get fired. At first, he crosses the line with Joan (Christina Hendricks) when, after she chastises him for his behavior, he tells her "What do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?” Despite Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) warning that Joey should not cross the line with the powerful Joan, he draws a cartoon of Joan performing a sexual service for Lane Pryce (Jared Harris). Joan tries to handle the situation in her own way, but when Peggy sees the cartoon, she runs to Don and he observes that it is bothering her too so he tells her to handle it, saying "You want some respect” and telling her to "Go out there and get it for yourself." When Peggy takes Joey aside, he makes the mistake of turning the problem onto her, and she fires him. Later, when Peggy tells Joan that she fired Joey, she finds Joan is upset about it. Joan was handling it in her own way and thinks that Peggy only fired Joey because Joey crossed Peggy, adding that "All you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch" and "No matter how powerful we get around here, they can just draw a cartoon." Peggy is one of those people who seems to need constant validation and approval from others, and maybe her firing of Joey was her way of trying to get validation from Joan, a person who always seems hard on Peggy. Joan may be right that Peggy’s action set back Joan trying to establish her own power base, but I think Peggy’s way of handling Joey showed that her new way of handling things – directly and to the point – may be where the real power lies. Personally, it was obvious that Joey’s days were numbered. His cocky behavior has been growing by the week, and even his belief that Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) is an “old fairy” coming on to him shows that Joey thinks a lot more of himself. OK, it WAS a little weird how Harry was gushing over trying to get a TV role for Joey, almost acting as his agent, but I chalked that up to Harry just wanting to give the appearance that he has some power with the Hollywood crowd.

We also find that Joan’s husband Greg (Sam Page) is heading off to basic training. Joan is worried for him but gets more upset when he tells her she will be able to talk to her friends at the office. Joan apparently doesn’t think she has any friends there.

Betty (January Jones) and Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) are having a little trouble of their own. At a dinner with a man who represents Congressman John Lindsay, who’s considering running for President and who wants Henry to run the campaign, Betty sees Don and Bethany at the same restaurant, and it’s all downhill from there. She has too much to drink and is clearly preoccupied with Don, and on the way home in the car, she and Henry have an argument. The next morning she seems to try to make it right. Henry, on the other hand, decides to run his car into the boxes of Don’s stuff that are stored in the garage, and later calls Don to come get them, using an excuse that he is buying a boat and needs the garage space. When Don comes to get them, the boxes are neatly stacked on the sidewalk, with Henry cutting the lawn with a manual rotary mower. Don takes his things directly to a dumpster and puts them in the trash.. Don has clearly moved on and apparently doesn’t want anything from that life.

Betty seems to make the attempt to at least appear that she has moved on, when Don shows up at Gene’s 2nd birthday party and she brings Gene to Don and refers to Don as Gene’s father. She had earlier told her friend Francine (Anne Dudek) that Don is "living the life," and that "He doesn't get to have this family and that." But Francine counters that "Don has nothing to lose, and you have everything.” Henry may think that her gesture of handing Gene to Don means that Betty is finally getting over him, but the look on her face gives the appearance that she really has not.

It was a bit of a relief to see that maybe Don hit bottom in last week’s episode, “The Suitcase” where Anna’s death, and Peggy’s pointed comments about Don’s behavior may have at least had him seriously reflect on where his life was headed. But, while his cutting back on his drinking is a positive step, until he stops altogether, he will always be at risk for jumping right back in to constant drinking if he hits another rough patch in his life. At least, while Don may not think he is completely clear headed, his life – and even his apartment interior - looks brighter.

Betty is still a simmering mess, though, and Henry’s tolerance for her may be wearing thin. If he does run the Lindsay campaign, he can’t afford to have a wife that is a liability. Betty may be trying to show a tougher exterior, but in reality I believe she is far more fragile than she lets on. Don should be the least of Henry’s worries; unless he gets Betty under control, she could wreck more that their marriage.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

The Closer “Executive Order” Season Finale Advance Photos

TNT has released some advance photos of the season finale of The Closer, “Executive Order” including show stars Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, and Jon Tenney. The episode airs on Monday September 13, 2010 at 9:00 PM ET on TNT (check your local listings). Courtney B. Vance guest stars as the counter-terrorism unit's Chief Tommy Delk, who is also one of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson's competitors for the job of Chief of Police.

All photos by Karen Neal for TNT

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Rizzoli & Isles Season Finale “When the Gun Goes Bang, Bang, Bang” Advance Photos

Here are several photos from the season finale of Rizzoli & Isles, “When the Gun Goes Bang, Bang, Bang” which will air on September 13, 2010 at 10 PM on TNT (check your local listings). The photos feature series stars Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Lee Thompson Young, and Bruce McGill

All photos by Danny Feld for TNT

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Closer “Last Woman Standing” Recap & Review

Photo from TNT

The season finale of ”The Closer” (TNT) is almost upon us, and “Last Woman Standing” puts Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) standing on the brink of a major promotion. But first, she has to solve the murder of an actress who seemed to have been killed by someone she met via an on line dating service. This episode highlights what the show does best - it seamlessly weaves the personal drama in with the drama of solving a major crime.

It seems that Brenda is the only one really focused on the murder, while her boss Assistant Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) and IA Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) are more worried about Brenda’s interview with the Mayor for the position of Chief of Police. Brenda seems to be having second thoughts about taking the position, probably because her boss and long time friend Will Pope coveted the job so badly and is now out of the running. Pope tries to convince Brenda that is best for all of them if she goes for the job and gets it. Raydor tries to coach Brenda on what to wear to the interview – and what kind of purse to bring – because she also wants Brenda to make a good showing for women. Raydor also is highly complementary of Brenda which seems to pump Brenda up a bit as she heads over to the Mayor’s office.

But let’s not forget that brutal murder. While all the evidence points to a serial philanderer that the victim met on the Internet, Brenda continues to dig deep until she exposes a man who works at the victim’s apartment building as the real killer.

At the end of the episode, while Brenda stands looking at Los Angeles City Hall from outside the offices of the LAPD – in a flaming red dress that demands to be noticed - she looks ready to jump into her interview with confidence. But, we may have to wait until next week’s summer finale titled “Executive Order” where the episode tease says that Brenda is forced to work with a counter-terrorism official who is also is a final candidate for the police chief post. Hopefully, Brenda – and viewers – will get their answer.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Closer “Last Woman Standing” Advance Photos

Here are a few photos released by TNT from the September 6, 2010 episode of ”The Closer” titled “Last Woman Standing” featuring Kyra Sedgwick and guest star Mary McDonnell.

All photos from TNT

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