Friday, December 29, 2006

Year-End Thoughts

My final thoughts of 2006 and being a first-time TV critic, expressed in haiku form:

Television is
not necessarily an
awful medium.

It's been a pretty good TV year. Not perfect, but more good than bad. Here's hoping for a better 2007.

May you have better luck than the survivors on "Lost."


The TV Guy.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Georgia fans can go through another angst-ridden Saturday when the Bulldogs square off against Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

The academically depleted Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech face the we-did-better-on-our-final exams Mountaineers of West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Monday (CBS, 1 p.m.)

You can choose which network you want to see have the big ball drop, but I think there's a law somewhere against not watching Dick Clark on Jan. 1 (ABC, midnight).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Super Re-Runs

In anticipation for next month's Justice League origins episode, "Smallville" is re-running the debuts of some of the heroes who will return.

Tonight, the repeats of "Run" and "Cyborg" (CW, 8-10 p.m.), which introduced us to the Flash and Cyborg. Next week, the reruns in which Clark encounters Aquaman and Green Arrow for the first time. All of the characters then get together to save the world from evil in the episode, "Justice," set to air in January.

SCRUBS MUSICAL: "Scrubs" returns Jan. 4 with new episodes, and its highly publicized musical episode hits the air Jan. 18.

But thanks to YouTube, you can catch a preview of the episode online beginning today.

THURSDAY'S BEST BET: Catch the finale of "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) tonight. This series has gotten better every week, and the ratings have been strong for a cable show, so hopefully this will return in the fall.

Fans of the surprising Georgia basketball team can watch tonight's matchup at Clemson at 7 p.m. on Fox SportsSouth.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Catch-up Time

Just a brief update today, since I've been swamped doing stories about James Brown.

For some reason, The Telegraph tends to always send me out to do the story when somebody dies. I don't really know why that is. But put it this way: If I'm showing up on your doorstep to talk, odds are somebody somewhere is having a bad day.

May we all be as well-loved as James Brown was when our time comes.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: This is dedicated to Gina, one of the literally dozens of loyal readers to the blog.

A belated Christmas gift, with four episodes of "Heroes" running tonight (Sci-Fi, 7 p.m.) will give you the chance to catch up. Not only that, three more re-runs air Monday night on NBC, so this is a good chance to catch up.

Speaking of catching up, you can see the three most-recent episodes of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) tonight, so here's a chance to see this excellent series once more.

A heads up to readers, "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) is wrapping up its freshman season this week with two more new episodes tonight and its finale on Thursday at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Year's Best Wrap-up

I got a call over the weekend telling me how I got it wrong with my year's best Top 10 list and how the caller disagreed with virtually all my choices.

The caller was my dad. He left the country a couple days later.

The timing of his leaving was purely coincidental and should in no way be construed that I can't take criticism.

But it just goes to show you that people can have vastly different cultural tastes, even within the same family.

Perhaps I should have clarified my Top 10 list this way: These are the 10 hours of TV I, Phillip Ramati, The TV Guy, can't miss at all, for any reason. If I do, furniture will likely be smashed.

That's not to say I don't enjoy the other shows I didn't put on the Top 10. As I wrote previously, "Ugly Betty" or "Scrubs" or any of them could have easily been included. But even though I don't want to miss any of those episodes, I feel that if I did, I'd still survive.

I can't say the same if I missed an installment of "The Shield" or "Battlestar Galactica." Some criticized my choice of "The Sopranos" in the Top 10, but at the end of the day, I still look forward to watching a first-run episode more than just about anything, because of the potential of what might happen.

And there are plenty of shows out there that I hope to catch at some point, like "The Wire" (produced by some of the same people that did "Homicide: Life on the Street," my all-time favorite American cop show) or "Dexter."

I like to watch a show from the beginning. I like to see story arcs in the order they are supposed to go and characters develop over time. In some cases, like "Lost," for example, you simply can't watch it out of order and be able to follow what is going on.

But in other cases, I think it simply adds to the enjoyment of the show. For example, I didn't catch "Buffy" when it first came out, mainly because I had no desire to see a TV show based on a crappy movie. Clearly, though, the TV series was a completely different animal.

I could have jumped on the "Buffy" bandwagon during any one of its subsequent seasons, but I decided to wait. I'm glad I did. I was able to catch up on repeats once FX started airing episodes, and it made for a better viewing experience watching the various characters develop over time.

Maybe that will happen with other shows currently on the air, which I never caught the first time around for whatever reason.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Your favorite TV critic (at least, your favorite that isn't named Matt Roush or Mo Ryan) is a little worn out from being the only working reporter for real news during the holiday season. So the holiday TV break isn't all a bad thing, especially since new episodes will hit the airwaves just after the new year. Look for some comments late this week or early next week on new series such as "Dirt" and "Knights of Prosperity."

In the meantime, it's not all reruns. You can try to catch "Big Day" (ABC, 9 p.m.) while it's still on the air (which likely won't be that long).

Also, two more new episodes of "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) hit the air. This series is more enjoyable every week, though I stress that no sportswriter I've ever met has a career like P.J.'s, in which you get every night off to play poker with your friends. I try to look past all that, however.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Season's Greetings

No posting today except to say Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Best of 2006, Part III: The Top 10

If you've read the postings the last two days, you know that I didn't include some pretty darn good shows on my personal Top 10 list. I hope you remember that and it shows you how highly I regard the shows below.

An anonymous poster said on yesterday's post that I didn't show enough love to HBO's shows, but I tend to disagree, since I've put most of them one or another of my lists. As I have said all along, TV viewing is extremely subjective; there aren't two people in the entire U.S. who would come up with the same Top 10. I could, in theory, be chastised by someone who thinks I was wrong leaving off "According to Jim" as I was leaving off "The Wire." Doesn't mean I am right or wrong, just that I have different tastes. I happen to think all of the shows on all my lists are worthwhile viewing.

These are my 10 'can't-miss' hours of TV.

In alphabetical order:

1. Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi): OK, the list is supposed to be alphabetical, but in this case, this would also probably be No. 1 in terms of quality. You simply can't have a better-written, better-acted drama. The effects are top-notch, and it's one of those rare shows that provides a great comment on our world today. If I listed all the adjectives I knew in praise of BSG, I'd run out of Internet.

2. Doctor Who (Sci-Fi/BBC): I was absolutely amazed at not only how good the show was under new Doctor Who David Tennant, but how consistent it was. "The Girl in the Fireplace" was one of the most beautiful hours of TV this year.

3. Heroes (NBC): I'll admit, this list is pretty tilted toward the Sci-Fi genre, but "Heroes" is on most people's list. In addition to the wonderfully compelling puzzle woven into the plot and Tim Sale's great art work, the cliffhanger twists have knocked my socks off all season long. It also has TV's best new character, Hiro (Masi Oka).

4. House (Fox): This has always been one of TV's best shows since it debuted, and it hasn't fallen off one bit. Hugh Laurie is simply amazing.

5. Life on Mars (BBC America): Far and away TV's coolest show, with that great 1970s soundtrack. John Simm and Philip Glenister are my kind of odd couple partners. From the same people who brought you "Hustle" and "MI-5."

6. Lost (ABC): Some people say the show has fallen off. Some people are idiots. So are the people at ABC, who seem intent on killing the show in the ratings. I re-arrange my life around "Lost" episodes. I even stop playing poker on those nights.

7. The Office (NBC): TV's best comedy has at least equalled, if not surpassed, the British original. There, I said it. I love, love, love watching this show.

8. Rescue Me (FX): Mo Ryan of The Chicago Tribune said this show hasn't lived up its previous seasons. I don't agree with that, but even if I did, 50 percent of "Rescue Me" is better than 100 percent of 90 percent of the shows out there. Creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan are totally unafraid to push the envelope.

9. The Shield (FX): I didn't think anything could surpass Season 4, which featured guest stars Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson. But, holy moly, Forest Whitaker comes in and Shazam! March can't come soon enough for me, when "The Shield" returns. TV's best cop show, and nothing else is even close.

10. The Sopranos (HBO): I debated this one a long time, because I don't think this season lived up to previous years. But at the end of the day, it always leaves you wanting more.

So, what are your Top 10 shows? Which ones did I get right, and which ones do you disagree with? Log in and post a comment!


AROUND THE DIAL: CBS announced it would end its run of "The Class" early this year, to make room for a new comedy, "Rules of Engagement." The Eye is doing some creative juggling of its Monday schedule.

"The Class" will run from Jan. 8 to March 5, when it will be replaced by "The New Adventures of Old Christine," which is on hiatus until then. "Rules of Engagement" debuts Feb. 5. "King of Queens," which is officially in its last season, starts its final run on April 9.

HBO, at least one viewer's network of all networks, announced that Season 2 of "Rome" will kick off Jan. 14 at 9 p.m., followed by the season premiere of the Ricky Gervais comedy "Extras" at 10 p.m. "Extras," by the way, probably could have made my also-rans list on Wednesday; the Hollywood guest stars like Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller were brilliant in playing send-ups of themselves.

FRIDAY'S BEST BETS: On Festivus Eve, a ton of early presents.

Sci-Fi presents a marathon of "Doctor Who" begining at 9 a.m. and wrapping up with the two-part season finale beginning at 8 p.m. Here's a hint: Daleks and Cybermen.

"Monk" fans rejoice, the defective detective returns tonight (USA, 9 p.m.) with a twist. The same episode is running back-to-back, but it's in black-and-white at 9 p.m., followed by a color version at 10 p.m.

And just a reminder for Zodin2008, who seems to keep missing "Justice," there is a new one tonight (Fox, 8 p.m.)

Good luck with your Festivus feats of strength!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Best of 2006, Part II: Honorable Mentions

These are the shows that nearly cracked my Top 10 list, but for one reason or another, didn't. It's more of a tribute to the 10 shows I rank ahead of them than a slap at any on this list.

In fact, look at this list here and you know how highly I regard the Top 10 I did pick.

In alphabetical order:

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO): The other heir apparent to "Seinfeld" (along with "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), this show is just too brilliant and funny for words.

2. Friday Night Lights (NBC): One of many shows with great quality but marginal ratings. I'm glad NBC is giving it a chance. As a sports writer who covered small-town high school football, a lot of this really rings true. But it's also the intersecting lives of the students at the school that makes this so worthwhile.

3. How I Met Your Mother (CBS): That I consider this the second-best comedy on TV (tied with "Scrubs") shows just how much I love "The Office." I can't decide which is funnier, Robin Sparkle or the slap fight between Marshall and Barney. This is the true heir apparent to "Friends."

4. Hustle (AMC): One of TV's most stylish shows, the only reason why it didn't crack the Top 10 is because they only do six episodes a season. It's a show about five con artists and their weekly capers, and it hits every note perfectly.

5. MI-5 (A&E): Produced by the same people who make "Hustle," this is far and away TV's best spy show. It has everything "24" lacks - realism, for a start. Those wankers at A&E have treated this show shamefully, putting it in a lousy timeslot, then pulling it.

6. Monk (USA): The plots sometimes leave a lot to be desired, but there's no denying Tony Shalhoub's genius and a top-notch supporting cast.

7. Scrubs (NBC): Glad to see this back on the air and as good as ever. It's a different kind of comedy, with its serious moments, but those only add to the show's quality.

8. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (NBC): For some reason, people in general are disappointed by this show, and I really don't know why. Perhaps because it's set in the world of a fictional comedy, people expect it to be a comedy. Though at points this season the writing was a little uneven, the cast has been terrific and it has already provided a lot of great moments. A worthy successor to "The West Wing," both for NBC and Aaron Sorkin.

9. Ugly Betty (ABC): Another near-miss for the Top 10. I really had no desire to watch this initially, a soap opera set in the world of fashion. But the raves over the summer were so good, and with my new role as TV critic, I was obligated to check it out at least once. I'm lucky I did. America Ferrera is a near-lock for an Emmy, and this may be the best supporting cast on TV.

10. Veronica Mars (CW): I really didn't like this show's second season, as the main mystery for this girl detective went off the beaten path. But it has bounced back strongly in Year 3. My major knock against the show is that, with the exception of Keith Mars (Enrico Colatani), the supporting characters aren't developed enough.

Coming Friday: The Top 10 of 2006.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Again, more reruns.

However, you can catch the brilliant Christmas episode of "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) in case you missed it last week. Pam's gift for Jim was truly a gift to all of us.

CBS also airs the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Interrupting Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

I didn't intend to break up my year-end wrapup, but two potentially really terrific pieces of news caught my attention and I wanted to share them.

News No. 1: The No. 1 here doubles as a pun. Variety is reporting that the new "Prisoner" TV miniseries will air on AMC in Jan. 2008. The series is being co-produced by Britain's Sky/Granada network.

This is a TV miniseries remake of the original "Prisoner" TV series from the 1960s, starring Patrick McGoohan. It shouldn't be confused with the movie-version remake of the same series, to be co-written by David Webb Peoples ("Unforgiven") and directed by Christopher Nolan ("Batman Begins," "Memento"). Perhaps appropriately, the number of initial episodes for the AMC series will be six.

News No. 2: We may see a new animated "Star Trek" series on the air. Unlike the 1970s series that ran for one season which continued the adventures of Captain Kirk & Co., the new proposed series would be set 150 years after "Star Trek: Nemesis" and feature an all-new crew. (I've been saying the Trek franchise should have gone in this direction instead of "Star Trek: Enterprise," but no one listens to me.)

The series would be set up along the lines of the very successful Cartoon Network series, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which ran a couple of years ago and bridged the gap between the second and third prequels.

Anyway, the Trek cartoon sounds pretty promising. You can read about it here:

Best of 2006, Part I: The Also-Rans

As pointed out in a recent posting on our music blog, Amped, Top 10 lists are a bit of a mixed bag that are pretty much dictated by the individual critic's taste.

Still, there's no new episodes of anything on, so I can stretch my Top 10 picks for 2006 out for three days' worth of postings.

I saw the year's end Top 10 list put together by the great Mo Ryan of The Chicago Tribune. It's a good list for the most part, though I took her to task for picking "Psych" over "Rescue Me." By the way, you should check out Mo's blog if you get the chance; it's always worth a read.

As Mo points out, there is so much good TV on right now that it's hard to limit it to just 10. So, in an effort to try, I am limiting myself to scripted, dramatic series. That means quality TV like "The Colbert Report" or "The Daily Show" don't make the list. Nor does any reality program. (Not a problem for me this year). Nor any TV movies or specials.

I am also limiting myself to shows I watch. As our music critic, Maggie Large, mentions on Amped, that's one of the drawbacks to doing lists of this kind: You can't see or listen to everything. For example, I don't have Showtime, so I don't get to see "Dexter" or "Weeds" or "Sleeper Cell," any one of which will make most critics' lists.

How good is TV these days? Even without listing the reality shows, fake news shows, and shows I don't watch, there's enough left over deserving to be mentioned. So much in fact, that today's list is the also-rans. These are good shows that don't even make my honorable mentions, let alone the Top 10. (Honorable mentions will come Thursday, Top 10 on Friday).

Here they are:
*Rome (HBO): This lavish, well-acted, well-written series could have broken into the Top 10. Sadly, it's so expensive to make that its second season will be its last.
*Prison Break (Fox): The writing stretches you beyond the point of belief, but it's a thrill-a-minute ride, and boasts one of TV's best villains in T-Bag (Rob Knepper).
*West Wing (NBC): The reason why this got bumped off the honorable mention list is that it ran last season. Kind of a dumb reason, since it was one of the venerable show's best seasons. The election was a great storyline, though I think Alan Alda should have won.
*NCIS (CBS): One of CBS' many procedurals, this one is produced by Don Bellisario, so it gets extra points there. You can tell the cast and crew also have a lot of fun with it.
*Bones (Fox): This show makes the list because of the terrific chemistry between TV's best couple, Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz. I also like the Squids, the series' lab techs. The plots, though, are far-fetched.
*Smallville (CW): Two years ago, they had the great addition of Erica Durance as Lois Lane. They've only added to that by building on the DC comics lore, adding Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) and Jimmy Olsen (a hilarious Aaron Ashmore). It also has another of TV's best villains, Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor.
*Supernatural (CW): This show is having one of the best sophomore runs of any on TV. The writers have done a great job in keeping the show clever and consistent.
*My Name is Earl (NBC): You can't help but love these characters.
*Kidnapped (NBC): Despite the dorks at NBC's attempts to kill this show, while it was on the air, it was one of TV's most compelling hours. Had it played out its run on the air instead of the internet, it would have easily moved into the honorable mentions.
*It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX): Along with "Rome," this one one of the most difficult shows to leave off the honorable mention list. It's the true heir apparent to "Seinfeld."
*Numb3rs (CBS): Yet another CBS procedural, this one makes math fun.
*Shark (CBS): It rips off the "House" formula, but James Woods makes it compelling.
*24 (Fox): I really hate this show. I really do. Why I keep watching it, I don't know. It's beyond ridiculous, the writing to get every disaster to fit into the span of a day. And Jack landing that plane on, what, 100 yards of freeway? I could to a 10 Worst List, and have "24" on it, no problem. I mean, it really bothers me to include this. Seriously. But the acting is good (especially Chloe, a character I hated but have grown to love) and one thing I can't say is that the show is dull.

Coming Thursday: Top 10 Honorable Mentions

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: Nuthin'. It's all re-runs. However, the second "Bones" (Fox, 9 p.m.) airing tonight is a pretty good repeat of last year's Christmas episode, when the gang is quarantined in the lab for the holiday after a deadly spore is accidentally released.

Also, you can catch the re-airing of Tuesday's "My Boys" (TBS, 11 p.m.) tonight. Since I'm already plugging Telegraph blogs, I was mentioning to 'Rose' of our Macon Love blog the other day, this series continues to get better each week, and these two installments were quite good.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Golden Globes, Part II: The Picks

Today I pick the eventual winners, and who should win, for the Golden Globe awards, to be broadcast on Jan. 15.

I'll stick with TV, since Keith Demko already made his movies picks over at Reel Fanatic, so check those out.

(I will say I hope "Thank You For Smoking" sweeps.)

The Golden Globes are certainly interesting in their nominees, to say the least. Forest Whitaker may win Best Actor for his movie role in "The Last King of Scotland," but didn't get nominated for his electrifying work on "The Shield." Helen Mirren has a shot at winning two Globes, both Best Actress in a movie ("The Queen") and in a Miniseries/TV movie (she faces off against herself in "Prime Suspect 7" and "Elizabeth I").

As always, there are plenty of deserving people left off (they wouldn't be if I ruled the universe, more is the pity that I don't) and a few less-than-deserving who are included.

BEST DRAMA: Nominees - "24," "Big Love," "Grey's Anatomy," "Heroes" and "Lost."
What should win: "Heroes," TV's best new show, bar none.
What will win: "Grey's," TV's most popular show, bar none.
Comments: How can you include "Big Love" and leave off "The Shield," "Rescue Me," "Battlestar Galactica" and "House?" Friggin' foreign press association!

BEST COMEDY: "Desperate Housewives," "Entourage," "The Office," "Ugly Betty," "Weeds."
What should win/will win: "The Office." Long live Dunder Mifflin.
Comments: If "Ugly Betty" pulls off an upset here, I won't be disappointed. If "DH" pulls one off, I demand that the foreign press be shipped back to France, toute suite!

BEST MINISERIES/MOVIE: "Bleak House," "Broken Trail," "Elizabeth I," "Mrs. Harris," "Prime Suspect."
What should win: "Prime Suspect." Helen Mirren's final bow as Jane Tennison was four of the best hours TV had to offer.
What will win: "Elizabeth I." Voters like those well-done historical dramas. Someone ought to do one on the battle of Hastings. Hey, that's a good idea!
Comments: As long as the person beating Helen Mirren is Helen Mirren, what do I care?

ACTOR, DRAMA: Patrick Dempsey; Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie, Bill Paxton, Kiefer Sutherland.
Who should win: Out of this group, please, Laurie in a no-contest vote.
Who will win: Sutherland. Voters for these awards are nitwits. I'd love to see Hall pull the upset if Laurie can't win.
Comments: Geez, McDreamy? Really? Can we get a little love for Edward James Olmos and Michael Chiklis here?

ACTRESS, DRAMA: Patricia Arquette, Edie Falco, Evangeline Lilly, Ellen Pompeo, Kyra Sedgwick.
Who should win: Falco. No one should ever beat Edie Falco in anything ever. Unless it's Helen Mirren.
Who will win: Sedgwick. Not a bad choice.
Comments: Enough with frakkin' Patricia Arquette already! Good God, voters should be ashamed of themselves that she's on the ballot and Kristin Bell and Mary McDonell aren't. You foreign press guys suck!

ACTOR, COMEDY: Zack Braff, Steve Carell, Alec Baldwin, Jason Lee, Tony Shalhoub.
Who should/will win: Baldwin. Carell got his Emmy, and Baldwin has re-invented himself as a near comic genius. He's really the only good thing about "30 Rock."
Comments: I'd love for Braff to get something at some point, but "Scrubs" always seems to get shafted.

ACTRESS, COMEDY: Marcia Cross, America Ferrera, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Felicity Huffman, Mary Louise Parker.
Who should/will win: Ferrera. You can't watch her and not vote for her. You really can't; I defy you to try!
Comments: Not even the brilliant Marcia Cross can save the drivel "Desperate Housewives" has become. The writing is beneath her. Look for Parker to score an upset here.

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Thomas Haden Church, Jeremy Irons, Justin Kirk, Masi Oka, Jeremy Piven.
Who will win: Piven. Hollywood insiders will love his Hollywood insider role.
Comments: Notice how I didn't say who SHOULD win? This is an idiotic category, foreign press guys. How can you compare a role in a weekly series, such as Oka from "Heroes" with a role in a TV movie, such as Irons with "Elizabeth I?" You can't. It's stupid to try. Go back to France already, foreign press. That being said, if anyone deserves the upset, it's Oka, the breakout star of 2006.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Emily Blunt, Tony Collette, Katherine Heigl, Sarah Paulson, Elizabeth Perkins.
Who will win: Heigl. Her whole trying-to-save-Denny storyline is the kind of thing actors live for. This is as close to a sure thing as any award listed.
Comments: See above for the stupidity of doing the category like this. Also, how could pick Paulson as the lone "Studio 60" nominee, especially ahead of the luminous Amanda Peet?

R.I.P.: Joseph Barbera, half of the great animation team of Hanna-Barbera. He was partly responsible for some of the best TV cartoons ever, including "The Jetsons" and "The Flintstones." I grew up on the "Superfriends."

MORE ABC SHOWS FINISHED: In addition to pulling "Day Break," ABC has also ended the William Shatner-fest game show, "Show Me the Money." In addition, Ted Danson's "Help Me Help You" appears done, since the network is burning off "Big Day" episodes two at a time on Tuesday nights.

TUESDAY'S BEST BET: A quiet night full of repeats. I only am making a pick here because "House" (Fox, 8-10 p.m.) is re-running two of its best episodes, the one where House is shot and the subsequent episode of his recovery. Why, it's a Golden Globe worthy performance!

Actually, there are a couple of things on. You can catch the classic "I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown!" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and two new episodes of "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.), a series that is growing on me despite the fact that it in no way depicts the life of a real-life sports writer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Golden Globes, Part I

The Golden Globes are already considered to be precursors for the more-ballyhooed Oscars and Emmys, but in reality, there are enough differences in who gets what award that the Globes are their own separate thing.

Picked by the Hollywood Foreign Press, the Globes have done a better job over the years, I think, in getting it right more than the Oscars or the Emmys.

For example, "House" star Hugh Laurie got a deserved Golden Globe for Best Actor last year. At the Emmys, he wasn't even nominated even though his show got a nomination for Best Drama. Anyone who watches five minutes of "House" can see the show doesn't work without Laurie's performance. Anyone, that is, except for the folks who run the Emmys.

Perhaps what I like best about the Globes is that they separate comedy and dramatic performances in the movies. That means someone like Aaron Eckart has a shot for winning for "Thank You For Smoking" (the year's best movie IMO) because he doesn't have to go against the likes of Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland," since they are completely at opposite ends of the spectrum.

That doesn't mean the Globes get right, however. How can Whitaker, for example, not be nominated for his TV work on "The Shield?"

More importantly, in the supporting actor/actress category in TV, the Globes don't separate comedies/dramas/miniseries. So you have Masi Oka of "Heroes" squaring off against Jeremy Irons for his performance in the TV movie "Elizabeth I." They aren't comparable, and it's really unfair to any of the performers. Would it kill the foreign press to add separate categories for supporting performers?

Coming Tuesday: Golden Globe picks.

DAY BROKEN: As predicted, ABC has pulled the plug on "Day Break," yet another fiasco for the network on Wednesday nights. The decision comes with two episodes yet to air, which will be shown on instead. The network will run comedies it had planned to run come January, such as "George Lopez" and "The World According to Jim." Thanks, ABC.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: NBC has been really good about sending me screeners for nearly all its series, so the fact that I didn't get anything for the new game show "Identity" (NBC, 9 p.m.) may be an indicator of the show's quality. Taking the idea of "What's My Line?" a little far, Penn Jillette serves as host on one of those laser-and-glass sets now required of all game shows.

Also, get that early Christmas with Rob Lowe in the TV movie "A Perfect Day" (TNT, 8 p.m.) I haven't seen it, but here's guessing that someone learns an important lesson about the true meaning of the holidays.

Finally, another pitch for "Eleventh Hour," (BBC-America, 9 p.m.), a pretty cool series with Patrick Stewart as a government scientist who troubleshoots crises and Ashley Jensen as his bodyguard.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Report Card V: Proud as a Peackock, But Not as Pretty

Ah, NBC, poor NBC. You work and you work, you put out some of the best shows on TV and how do the ingrate viewers reward you? By making you a third-place network, at best.

You really can't fault the programming chiefs over at NBC, who have developed about as good a slate as there could be on the dial. This isn't just my opinion; of the 10 shows picked by the American Film Institute as the best of the year, four came from the Peacock - "Friday Night Lights," "Heroes," "The West Wing" and "The Office." (A fifth, "Battlestar Galactica," is produced by NBC-owned The Sci-Fi Channel.) Only one other network, Fox, managed to make that same list with only one show, "24."

NBC also did very well among the Writers Guild of America choices, landing two of the top five comedies and four of the top five new shows. And NBC acquitted itself very well in the just-announced Golden Globes.

And yet, viewers seem to be avoiding NBC like the plague. Not counting Sunday night football, only two broadcast shows draw any sort of ratings: "ER" and "Heroes."

NBC's problem may be that the shows that have come out have been TOO good, that the American public doesn't want shows that challenge them intellectually.

The one silver lining to NBC's struggles is that the network is giving these shows a chance to find a place by giving most of them renewals for the full season, probably because it doesn't have anything else better sitting on the shelf. Most of the other networks wouldn't have been so generous.

THE GOOD: You can't accuse NBC of not trying. The Emmy-worthy quality of "Heroes," "Friday Night Lights," "Studio 60," "The Office," "Scrubs," "Kidnapped" et. al. is pretty undeniable, no matter what the numbers are.

"Heroes" has emerged as the season's breakout hit, despite the lukewarm reception it got from critics over the summer. While it could have been pigeonholed as a genre show, it has found a large, mainstream audience and has taken over the watercooler chats normally reserved for ABC's "Lost." It's also produced the breakout star of the season, Masi Oka.

NBC has actually used ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" to give some life to "ER," which has enjoyed a renaissance in the ratings. And game shows like "Deal or No Deal" and "1 vs. 100" have proven popular.

THE BAD: Why, oh why, is no one watching the rest of the stuff NBC puts out there? "Friday Night Lights" is arguably the best family show on TV, yet it has come under attack from family groups. "Studio 60" is perhaps the most expensive show on TV, yet really only survives because it's able to charge some of the most expensive rates. Unfortunately, viewers haven't stuck around to see Aaron Sorkin's return to TV, along with the most talented cast of any show.

Not everything NBC touched turned to gold. The network did foist "20 Good Years" upon us for three miserable weeks.

THE ANNOYING PROVERBIAL KICK TO THE JEWELS: One thing NBC royally screwed up was my second-favorite offering of the new season, "Kidnapped." Though some of why "Kidnapped" failed wasn't the network's fault - viewers had already been turned off to the concept by Fox's horrible "Vanished" debuting first and a general backlash to shows that have season-long arcs - NBC didn't do the show's loyal fans any favors by moving it to Saturdays, then yanking it for Internet-only telecasts. I finally gave up on "Kidnapped" because I missed a couple online because I couldn't find them. It was too much effort on my part, no matter how good the show was.

That leads to another criticism: NBC has the worst Web site among any network. They don't put up every episode of the season to let viewers catch up, the site works very poorly with Mac computers, and it's almost impossible to find where the episodes are on the Web site. At least here, NBC ought to take a page from ABC's playbook. I really hope you guys from the Peacock are reading this. Seriously.

OUTLOOK: Geez, who knows? I mean, what's NBC going to do, put out better shows than the ones they've got now? Perhaps it ought to spike the drinking water, give everyone a transplant of IQ points and taste. GRADE: A- in effort, C+ in results.

BEAM YOURSELVES UP: Some news for Trekkers. Fans of "Star Trek: Voyager" can watch that show again when it debuts on Spike TV Monday at 9 a.m., while fans of "Star Trek: Enterprise" can reminisce when the Sci-Fi Channel starts running it beginning in early January.

Also, writer-director J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Alias") who is helming the 11th film in the franchise, said to expect it out sometime in the summer of 2008.

FRIDAY'S BEST BET: It's beginning to become a blue Christmas as first-run episodes have virtually run out for 2006.

You still get a full night of new stuff on CBS, beginning with "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and followed by first-run shows of "Close To Home" and "Numb3rs."

Since a lot of people are annoyed at missing the final "Justice" episodes, here's another reminder to catch a new one (Fox, 8 p.m.)

"Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) has had a phenomenal run, and last week's installment may have been one of the cleverest hours of TV anywhere. Another new episode, "Fear Her," airs tonight. "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) wraps up its fall with the beginning of a two-part finale tonight.

Finally, a Happy Chanukkah to all from the TV Guy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Report Card IV: Fox in the Henhouse

Fox is the Jekyll and Hyde of network TV.

When the TV season kicks off, it offers very little and gets its butt kicked in the ratings. Come January, however, and Fox unleashes the monster that changes the landscape of TV: "American Idol."

With "AI" and the return of "24," Fox is actually in a position to do the butt-kicking in the winter. ABC has essentially acknowledged this, bumping back "Lost" to 10 p.m. so as not to compete with the "AI" phenomenon.

THE GOOD: Not a whole bunch between September and December. Fox really only had two shows of any quality that did well in the ratings - "Prison Break" and "House," and really only the latter can legitimately stake its claim as one of TV's best hours because the former often borders on the preposterous.

THE BAD: Virtually all of Fox's new shows this season bombed, including "Vanished" and "Justice." "Standoff" may make it through the rest of the season despite middling ratings because of the appeal of leads Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt. Shows such as "Bones" and "The O.C." have also seen a drop in the ratings.

Sitcom-wise, nothing the network has trotted out has been memorable, and even the quality of the Sunday night animation block has fallen off.

THE OY VEY, IS THAT UGLY: Fox was going to run its O.J. Simpson Special, "If I Did It," until the backlash against the network became so great that it had to pull it. When the network has to come in to put the leash on reality-savant Mike Darnell (see how I switched the words "reality" and "idiot?" Wasn't that cool?), you know they have crossed the line.

OUTLOOK: Despite lackluster fall ratings, Fox will be a contender by the end of the year because of its second-half schedule. How a network can keep its good stuff on the shelf for four months while foisting steaming piles of dog poo like "Vanished" upon us boggles the mind, but there you go. GRADE: C-

GOLDEN GLOBES: The list comes out today and will be in Friday's edition of The Telegraph. I will devote Monday's blog to the TV picks. I will say that I'm glad the voters remembered my favorite movie of 2006, "Thank You For Smoking." I hope the Oscar voters show the same savvy.

THURSDAY'S PICKS: Sadly, the first-run episodes of 2006 are fewer and fewer, but we do get one last holiday treat with the NBC Thursday night lineup, beginnig with a one-hour "The Office" at 8 p.m., followed by new episodes of "Scrubs" and "30 Rock" beginning at 9.

The ultimate holiday episode of any TV series ever is also supposed to be running tonight, when TBS re-airs the "Seinfeld" classic episode that introduced the world to Festivus. That Festivus remains part of the national culture nearly a decade after "Seinfeld" has left the airways really says something about our culture. What that is, however, I don't know. But I do have quite the long list of grievances to air. And I will be making my donations to The Human Fund.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Report Card III: Insert Clever Nickname Here

The CW seems to be born behind the 8-ball.

The product of the union of two failed networks, the grade for the fledgling CW probably should be "incomplete" as it wraps up its first fall.

After all, anything you say about the CW seems to be a qualified statement, as in "Veronica Mars gets good ratings FOR THE CW," point out that pretty much any show on the CW would be ratings toast if it appeared on one of the other networks.

Still, the outlook isn't all bleak. The CW manages to stay pretty competitive in the much-loved 18-49 age group, always a good sign.

THE GOOD: Again, you have to qualify this by remembering it's good FOR THE CW.

Culling the herd to bring with it the best the defunct UPN and WB had to offer, the CW doesn't have the worst lineup in the world. The network does pretty well with "America's Next Top Model," and its Thursday offerings of "Smallville" and "Supernatural" have been solid both ratings-wise (for the CW, anyway) and creatively.

"Veronica Mars" has actually seen a slight ratings bump on Tuesdays.

THE BAD: "Gilmore Girls," as much a signature show as anything the CW offers, has suffered both a ratings and critical decline since the move. Most of the new dramatic offerings by the network, such as "Runaway," were DOA. Very little new stuff seems to be coming on the horizon.

THE IRONIC: "Reba," a show the CW didn't want but sort of had to take because of certain contractual obligations, seems to be the network's best offering on Sundays in terms of ratings.

OUTLOOK: New shows that appear on the CW almost seem to have an instant death sentence. Still, the holdover shows from UPN and the WB seem to have their built-in audience and are holding steady for the most part. GRADE: Incomplete

AROUND THE DIAL: FX announced it's picking up a third season of documentarian Morgan Spurlock's series "30 Days." ... Orlando Jones will have an upcoming part on ABC's "Men In Trees." ... The Golden Globe nominees will be announced Thursday morning. ...

In the latest reality offering that makes me want to drive an icepick through my temple, CBS is coming out with ‘‘Armed & Famous’’ starring the likes of Erik Estrada, LaToya Jackson, Jack Osborne and other C-listers as volunteer cops with the Muncie, Ind. police force. Already, there have been issues with the show, since the producers and cops have had difficulties getting suspects to sign waivers so their face can appear on TV.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Thank you, cable TV, for forcing networks to broadcast more first-run episodes this late into the holiday season. On the drama side, you can get "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.), "CSI: NY" (CBS, 10 p.m.) and one of the final episodes of "Day Break" (ABC, 9 p.m.), though I gave up on this one about two weeks ago.

On the comedy side, there are two episode of "The King of Queens" (CBS, 8 p.m.), while reality TV offers the two-hour finales "America's Next Top Model" (CW, 8 p.m.) and "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.)

Speaking of finales, you can also catch the final part of the miniseries "The Lost Room" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) I've yet to catch Part 2, but Part 1 was pretty cool. You can catch Part 2's rerun at 7 p.m.

Finally, I promised updates on when to catch "Heroes" reruns. is supposedly offering all of the fall episodes of "Heroes" and its other shows on its Web site through the rest of the month. I find rather aggravating to navigate, but it should allow those of you who need to catch up the opportunity to do so before new episodes arrive in January.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Report Card II: Eye of the Beholder

CBS reminds me of one of the football programs that sticks to the wishbone offense years after everyone else has switched to something like the run-and-shoot.

CBS will continue with their old, reliable, grind-it-out formula and ultimately win that way.

The Eye has been able to claim victory so far, winning the overall ratings war for the first half of the TV season with its old standby: procedurals.

Between "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: NY," "NCIS," "Without a Trace," "Numb3rs," "Criminal Minds," "Cold Case," "Shark" et. al., CBS has bucked the recent trend of developing story arcs over a season in favor of telling stories that can conclude within an hour.

There's nothing wrong with that. If something is working for you, why not repeat the formula six or seven more times?

Of course, it doesn't leave a lot of room for variety. Shows like "Lost" or "Heroes" never would have found a home on CBS, denying the Eye a shot at putting greatness on the air.

THE GOOD: Well, whatever it is CBS is doing, it seems to be the right moves. True, the Eye isn't really battling for any of the 18-49 age group demographic that advertisers love, but CBS is dominating the ratings otherwise.

Among the new shows, "Jericho" - one of the few CBS shows to have a multi-arc storyline - and "Shark" have broken out as solid hits. Ratings for the existing CBS shows like the CSIs remain consistent.

CBS has also developed a solid block of comedy on Monday nights, though freshman show "The Class" has struggled.

Probably the biggest story of the year has been how "Criminal Minds" has beaten ABC's "Lost" head-to-head during the latter's final two episodes. "Criminal Minds" earned the coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot in February.

THE BAD: "Smith," one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall, died a quick death after three episodes despite a great cast including Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen. "Smith" probably killed any chance that CBS would try to go outside its game plan and develop shows with season-long arcs.

The show that replaced "Smith," the "House"-ripoff called "3 LBs," also had the plug pulled after three episodes.

On its news side, CBS' strategy and heavy promotion of Katie Couric as anchor for the nightly news has seemingly flopped, with ratings continuing to fall.

THE OUTDATED?: CBS used to rule the roost in reality TV with shows like "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," but both shows have suffered lately both in ratings and in quality. CBS doesn't have a music-based reality show like "American Idol' or "Dancing with the Stars" that seems to be all the rage these days.

OUTLOOK: Something tells me that CBS won't be getting away from the procedurals any time soon. No reason why it should necessarily if the ratings stay strong. Viewers may not get a ton of variety, but that's why they build TVs with remote controls. Grade: B

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Wow, I can't remember a year where you had fresh programming as late as Dec. 12, but welcome to the world of post-modern TV, where quality on cable has changed all of the rules.

Viewers get their choice of new episodes at 8 p.m. among CBS' "NCIS," NBC's "Friday Night Lights," and Fox's "Standoff." At 9 p.m., you have "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) and "The Unit" (CBS, 9 p.m.)

For those who like classics, you can celebrate the 40th Anniversary Special of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (ABC, 8 p.m.) And it wouldn't be a December without a Barbara Walters Special (ABC, 10 p.m.)

Also, Part 2 of "The Lost Room" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) airs tonight. If you missed Part I, you can catch it again at 7 p.m.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Report Cards I: Alphabet Soup

It's been an interesting fall for ABC, the network that refuses to add me to its critics' list.

The network would likely spin it is as a successful season, pointing out that the ABC was No. 1 in the ratings in the coveted 18-49 age group bracket.

But with ABC, for every good thing that happened, something bad seemed to always follow.

THE GOOD: ABC is still a contender for No. 1, with a roster that includes "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and its top show, "Grey's Anatomy." ABC also scored a major success on the reality front with "Dancing With the Stars." And of the new shows, "Ugly Betty" has been among the best of any network both critically and commercially. Even "Brothers and Sisters," which came into the season looking like a disaster, has seemed to find a home on Sundays.

THE BAD: "The Nine," one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall season, never found a ratings home and is gone. So is the heavily hyped new show, "Day Break." "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" have both seen ratings decline, and the latter show has been in a creative slump for two years now. "Men in Trees" is getting mediocre ratings, and "Six Degrees" never caught an audience. "Help Me Help You" needs a lot of help, period.

THE UGLY: ABC has totally mismanaged Wednesday nights, an area it once dominated. Not only has the network seen "Lost" slip into a tie in its timeslot with CBS' "Criminal Minds," but it also has hurt all of the shows around it.

ABC is practically giving up on the night when the winter season starts up by moving "Lost" to 10 p.m. so it doesn't have to face Fox's "American Idol." Instead, it will load up the 8-10 hours with sitcoms, one of which, "Knights of Prosperity," had a lot of positive buzz but will likely die a quick death in the 9 p.m. slot. And with "Lost" not returning until Feb. 7, it's going to kill a lot of momentum the show had.

Creatively, "Desperate Housewives" is a mess and largely unwatchable. "Grey's Anatomy" made more headlines with its soap opera off the air than it did with the soap opera on the air. "Brothers and Sisters" has had solid ratings numbers, but they appear to be built on quicksand - it's losing a lot of its "DH" lead-in.

OUTLOOK: Folks, ABC is looking a lot like NBC was about three years ago when it was in first place, and NBC is now a third or fourth place network. Bringing "Lost" back earlier than February would be a start in the right direction. GRADE: C+

MONDAY'S BEST BET: A couple of treats this holiday season.

While I was on the road last week, I wasn't able to plug "Eleventh Hour" on BBC America (9 p.m.) Starring Patrick Stewart as a government scientist and Ashley Jensen ("Ugly Betty") as his assistant/bodyguard, the show follows scientific mysteries in Britain. Last week involved illegal human cloning attempts; this week's installment is about a deadly outbreak. It's a show worth catching if you can.

Also tonight is the first of a three-part miniseries called "The Lost Room" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) It stars Peter Krause as a detective investigating a murder at a pawn shop, where he finds a key to a mysterious hotel room. Julianna Margulies also stars. The series will continue with episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Odds & Ends

Just a quick posting today, because I have a lot of work to do with the job they actually pay me for.

First, a couple of "Heroes"-related items. The ever-popular Masi Oka will appear as himself on an episode of "Studio 60" later this year. Oka has already lined up a part on "Scrubs," reprising his former recurring character on that series, but with a twist - he will have his Hiro power of bending the space/time continuum. No word on whether Oka retains his power for "Studio 60" as well.

In an unrelated item, castmate Thomas Dekker, who plays Claire's platonic friend that is handy with a camcorder, will take on the role of John Conner in the "Sarah Conner Chronicles," set to debut on Spike TV next year. Dekker joins Lena Headey, who takes on the role of Sarah. The series will bridge the gap in the Terminator franchise between "T2" and "T3." Interestingly enough, Headey is only 14 years older than Dekker, yet they will be playing mom and son.

For those who paid attention to the coming attractions after "Smallville" last night, you were able to see glimpses of the future episode "Justice" set to air when the series returns after the winter break. The episode sees the banding together of the young Clark Kent with Green Arrow, Cyborg, Aquaman and the future Flash (and possibly the Martian Manhunter) as the nascent Justice League. Now word is coming out of the Warners lot that "Justice" may not be the only time all of these characters get together. There may be a second outing on "Smallville" and possibly a spinoff in the future after "Smallville" ends its run. Stay tuned.

Finally, Rebecca Romijn joins the cast of "Ugly Betty" as the mysterious woman working with Vanessa Williams' character. Romijn will be playing the former editor of the magazine thought to have died in a car accident. The character has been seen in bandages and shadows only thus far, and is being played by a different actress.

FRIDAY'S BEST BET: Your final chances to catch the remaining episodes of "Justice" are currently being burned off (Fox, 8 p.m.) This was a solid, if by-the-numbers, series starring Victor Garber and is worth a look if you haven't had a chance to see it.

WEEKEND'S BEST BET: The critically acclaimed "Sleeper Cell" (Showtime, Sunday, 9 p.m.) begins its second season this weekend. The series deals with an Islamic terrorist cell working within the U.S. and the FBI agents who are trying to catch them.

Also, you can catch the finale of "The Amazing Race" (CBS, Sun., 8 p.m.). Personally, this has been the worst installment of the race and I hate all three teams. I suppose I'm pulling for the male models, since they are the least reprehensible of the teams remaining.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Midseason report cards for the networks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tale of the Tape

Blog fan Gina, in her kind message on yesterday's post, brings up an interesting subject that I was debating over Thanksgiving.

Way back in the day, my family bought one of the first VCRs on the market. It cost around $1,000, was made of all metal parts, and had a remote control that had to be attached to the unit by a cord. No one was even sure if the VCR would be a wise investment, since the Betamax platform was also popular. In addition, there was only one tiny store in Savannah back in the pre-Blockbuster days that rented videos, and you had to pay a member's club fee to join.

Fast forward to more modern times. VCRs, made with cheaper, plastic parts, cost under $50. Even if it's a VCR/DVD combo, it's still under $100.

Of course, VCRs are becoming more obselete with the rise of DVRs and Tivo. My brother has joined the DVR revolution and often chides me for not joining the 21st century.

But the DVRs aren't the be-all and end-all of recording TV. At least, not yet. My brother has sometimes missed a program because a football game or other show preceding the program may run long, and you can't change the time settings on a DVR; all you can do is tape the program after the one you want to record as well.

On occasion, members of my family have been unable to record programs on their DVRs for a variety of reasons. When they miss a show, they inevitably call me, knowing in all likelihood my old reliable VCR has it on tape. And unlike a DVR, I can drop the video in the mail and send it to them in a couple of days. If I miss something and a family member has it on DVR, I have to wait until the next time I visit in order to see it.

My DVD/VCR combo cost about $80, and the videotapes within the machine are cheap. Things like Tivo are more expensive, and DVRs usually require a monthly fee with your cable company.

I'm certain at some point I'll likely break down and get a DVR, but I won't deep-six my trusty VCR in the process.

In a side note, Gina, if you don't have a VCR or DVR, you still have some options. First, NBC will undoubtedly re-air episodes of "Heroes" (and other shows) during the holiday break to let new viewers catch up before the show returns with new episodes in January. In addition, most networks now put their episodes online. If you have a high-speed internet connection, you can easily view an episode with pretty good picture quality and limited commercial interruptions.

Also, many networks will re-air their first-run episodes on the weekend or on a sister network. NBC Universal owns the Sci-Fi Channel, and has shown "Heroes" reruns from the previous week on Fridays at 7 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m., so you can catch up with the previous week's episode before watching the new one on Monday.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Thankfully, there are still some first-run episodes being shown before the holiday reruns and specials air.

NBC has an hour-long "My Name is Earl" starting at 8 p.m., followed by new episodes of "Scrubs" (9 p.m.), "30 Rock" (9:30 p.m.) and "ER" (10 p.m.)

CBS counters will all-new episodes of "Survivor" at 8 p.m., followed by "CSI" and "Shark."

Fox airs a first-run episode of "The O.C." at 9 p.m., while The CW gives viewers new episodes of "Smallville" and "Supernatural."

As for reruns, people who have heard about "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) but haven't had a chance to catch this great series can catch the re-airing of the pilot episode tonight.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hey, I'm Back

For all of the devoted TV Guy followers who have missed me for the past few days, the good news for both of you is that I'm back from a mini non-vacation over the weekend.

I would have loved to have posted earlier, especially with absolutely killer episodes of "Heroes" and "Studio 60" to close out their final run of original episodes before breaking for the holiday.

"Heroes" gave us some tantalizing glimpses of the future, plus continued to explore the ambiguous nature of HRG, Claire's dad. "Studio 60" gave us a huge burst in the Danny-Jordan relationship in addition to delivering some great moments of comedy.

Of course, this time of year kind of sucks, since virtually all the original episodes of most network shows are now finished (though "Standoff" and "Friday Night Lights" both advertised their final episodes for next Tuesday). Usually, we get stuck with various Christmas specials and movies.

The most interesting news this week is that ABC continues to shoot itself in the foot and will air "Lost" at 10 p.m. once it returns on Feb. 7. Between the increased popularity of "Criminal Minds" (which earned the coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot in January) and the new "American Idol" returning in January, ABC is virtually conceding a night it owned last year.

Making matters worse, ABC announced it will air "Knights of Prosperity" and "In Case of Emergency" in the 9-10 p.m. hour, two sitcoms of some promise that will get demolished when they hit the air.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Noah's Ark

I once had this idea for a movie script. It was about this archaelogist who was hired to find the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. The twist was that my protagonist was the anti-Indiana Jones. Indy was brave and cool and could get out of any scrap you put him in, no matter how many Nazis came at him. My guy was bumbling and not the sort you wanted to be with when danger lurked around the corner.

I also had this other idea, a fictionalized version of Hitler's quest for the Spear of Destiny, a weapon of mythic and mystical power that the Nazis really did search for during World War II.

Anyway, I didn't pursue either one, because I really couldn't get any of the elements to work. (Instead, I wrote a script about this loony 17th century Frenchwoman that was bloody awful and a waste of a year, so there you go.)

Someone, somewhere figured out how to make a movie of both the nerdy adventurer and the Spear of Destiny, and got Noah Wyle to star in it. The movie, called "The Librarian," came out a couple of years ago.

Sunday marks the return of Wyle's Flynn Carsen in "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines" (TNT, 8 p.m.), along with original cast members Bob Newhart and Jane Curtain. (You haven't lived until you see Bob Newhart battling bad guys with kung fu).

The movie is a fairly enjoyable, if predictable, romp in which Flynn and another archaelogist (Gabrielle Anwar) must search for the hidden treasure of Solomon, including a book of immense power. Of course, assassins tail them every step of the way.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: For those of you who missed Chris Eccleston's run on "Doctor Who" when it was on Sci-Fi, you can catch up with that series on BBC America on Saturday at 9 p.m. Of course, the current David Tennant run is still going, and resumes tonight (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.)

For sports fans, you can check out several key college football conference title games, including the SEC and ACC. Sunday night, Fox is running the BCS selection show at 8 p.m.

The Return of NBC's Comedy Block

After getting constantly beaten by CBS and ABC on the night NBC used to own, the Peacock is going back to its comedy roots tonight with about as good a lineup as its had since "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "Frasier" appeared on the same night in the 90s.

"My Name Is Earl" keeps the 8 p.m. timeslot, followed by the Emmy-winning "The Office" (8:30 p.m.) What makes tonight's office so special is that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, creators of the originals series in England, have written this one which involves Michael finding out that one of his workers has a prison record.

And at 9 p.m., my favorite sitcom, "Scrubs" returns to the air earlier than expected because of the failure of a lot of other NBC shows. "Scrubs" is never going to be a gigantic ratings winner, but is critically acclaimed and has a dedicated following. It may also have the guest star of the year when Masi Oka of "Heroes" fame returns as a recurring character to the show, but complete with his time/space powers from "Heroes." Only "Scrubs" could pull that off. NBC rounds out the night with "30 Rock," a show that hasn't really lived up to the hype, but critics seem to love in part because of the Emmy-worthy performance of Alec Baldwin as a network executive.

Hopefully, this lineup can return NBC to its former glory, especially since "ER" has gotten a ratings revival this season. However, it's going to be a tough fight with ABC's juggernaut "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m.) anchoring a strong lineup that has kept up with CBS' top show, "CSI" (9 p.m.)

NBC will have more changes in the near future. Beginning Jan. 3, the much-loved but ratings-challenged "Friday Night Lights" shifts to Wednesdays at 8 p.m., followed by "Deal or No Deal" and "Medium." Replacing "Lights" will be "Dateline," which begins its Tuesday run on Dec. 26.

Once the NFL season ends on NBC in January, the network brings in the reality series "Grease: You're the One that I Want" beginning Jan. 7, followed by the season debut of "The Apprentice." The procedural "Crossing Jordan" returns at 10 p.m. beginning Jan. 21.

HOT FOR PREACHER: HBO announced this week it will film a TV series version of the DC/Vertigo comic book "Preacher." Creators Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon will serve as co-executive producers of the series, and Mark Steven Johnson ("Daredevil," "Ghost Rider") will write the pilot.

"Preacher" follows a disillusioned priest who merges with the supernatural being Genesis on a mission to find God.

HBO has produced some of the best drama on TV, and is a good outlet for the more adult nature of "Preacher." "Preacher" is one of those comic book projects that has seemed to languish around for years, much like "Watchmen." But the success of shows like "Heroes" and the CW's "Smallville" has helped make these projects more viable.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ABC's Folly

Tonight marks a special edition of "20/20" (ABC, 10 p.m.), made necessary because ABC managed to screw itself but good on Wednesday nights.

Once owning the night with "Lost," the network continues to shoot itself in the foot with the airing of "Day Break" (9 p.m.). The ratings for that show have been so bad, it took a chunk out of the already-struggling "The Nine," one of the network's most highly anticipated dramas heading into this season. ABC promises "The Nine" will air its remaining episodes at some point, but don't bet the farm on it. ABC has been notorious in the past for making that claim for shows it has pulled, then forgetting about them.

Meanwhile, CBS continues to make huge waves on Wednesdays. Tonight marks the fall finale of the new series "Jericho" (CBS, 8 p.m.), followed by "Criminal Minds," which has surpassed "Lost" in the ratings when the two went head-to-head.

WGA STRIKE?: Variety is reporting that the Writer's Guild of America may be planning for a strike when its current contract ends in Oct. 2007. One of the points of contention between the union and the studios is residual payments on new TV platforms, such as episodes that are downloaded off iTunes, for example.

A strike would prove much more devastating to the TV industry than to films. In fact, for those of us who write screenplays on the side, a strike is a good thing, because Hollywood goes into a buying frenzy by stocking up on scripts in case of a strike.

In TV, however, the writers are also a show's producers, so every series is forced to halt production once a strike hits. Given the timing of next year's possible strike, most series would only have four or five episodes in the can when it hit.

Stay tuned for this one.

MY BOYS: I watched five episodes from my press kit last night of TBS' new sitcom "My Boys," starring Jordana Spiro as a Chicago sportswriter in a "Sex & The City"-type setting, only with a bunch of guys as her friends.

The series isn't bad, though the supporting cast is underused (especially the always-reliable Jim Gaffigan). Also, Spiro's PJ has more free time than any sportswriter that I've ever met, and for a Cubs beat writer, does very little traveling.

Still, the series has appeal to both men and women, and Spiro does a good job with her tomboyish role.

CHANNEL SURFING: "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan was arrested this week for drunk driving; he was already on probation for a previous drunk driving charge, so it remains to be seen if that will affect his time on the show. ... Fans of "Ugly Betty" get an added treat this week. is running six mini-episodes of the fictional soap "Vidas de Fuego" ("Lives of Fire"), which Betty's dad Ignacio constantly watches.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: Besides the season finale of "Jericho and new offerings from "Bones," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY," it's a fairly quiet night.

Fans of NBC's smash hit "Heroes," and those who have heard about it and want to catch up, can watch the entire first half of the season with a marathon on Sci-Fi, beginning at 6 p.m. with the pilot. In other "Heroes" news, it was announced this week that former "Doctor Who" star Christopher Eccleston will be appearing in several episodes, joining "Star Trek's" George Takei, who will play Hiro's (Masi Oka) father.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Guy's Dream Girl?

I was never a fan of "Sex & The City." The few times I bothered to watch it over the years seemed to be nothing but bashing men, and most of the 2-dimensional men who appeared on the show seemed to be bash-worthy.

Admittedly, my sample size of "SATC" is pretty minute, so feel free to disagree with me entirely.

I bring this up only because tonight marks the debut of "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.), a sitcom centered around a female sports writer (Jordana Spiro) and her guy friends. Spiro, who plays P.J., would rather watch sports, drink beer and play poker than do the traditional "girl" things, and navigates the ins and outs of relationships with her guy friends.

"My Boys" has gotten a lot of positive buzz as a sort of inverted "SATC," but I'm going to give it a shot anyway, if for no other reason than to see how why none of P.J.'s guy friends aren't hitting on a good-looking blond who likes sports and cards. Well, that and how the noble profession of sports writing is depicted (we're the profession of Grantland Rice and Ring Lardner Sr., for those who would snicker).

"My Boys" is the first original comedy produced by TBS, and in an age where the sitcom seems to be a dying art form, it will be interesting to see how it fares. It doesn't bother me that it appears on TBS, formerly the home to reruns and Atlanta Braves games, since TBS' sister network, TNT, has had a decent track record in producing original drama with the critically acclaimed and highly rated "The Closer."

HEROES REVISITED: OK, so my cool idea on who Sylar really is was way off. It was still a cool idea.

(For those that didn't bother to e-mail me, I thought Sylar might be a future version of Peter, who met up with Niki while she was in Jessica mode. In the future, Peter might be able to retain the power of the others after he had met them, and evil Peter would use Hiro's space-time power to travel back.)

I might have been helped if I knew about Jessica and we had seen Sylar's face before, but regardless, last night's "Heroes" was one of the cooler hours of TV this season, expertly interweaving the flashbacks with the current storylines.

Once again, a reminder to those who want to catch up, Sci-Fi is re-running the first 10 episodes of the series on Wednesday, a good way to get in on the action before Monday's final first-run episode before the Christmas break.

WEEDS RENEWED: Showtime has picked up the critically acclaimed "Weeds" for a third season. The network will air 15 episodes in the spring of 2007.

TUESDAY'S BEST BET: In addition to "My Boys," Tuesday also marks the debut of the sitcom "Big Day" (ABC, 9 p.m.) "Big Day" borrows the structure of "24," in which all of the episodes take place within a single day, during which an engaged couple begins the final preparations for their wedding.

One wonders how the show will be in Season 4 should it survive so long; will it still be the wedding day, or will the couple have moved on to marriage?

"Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) returns after a week's hiatus. Tonight's episode is fairly key, as Jason confronts Tim and Smash seeks a way to pay for steroids.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Leftovers

Actually, it was a fairly mild holiday weekend, in terms of TV watching. For a change, the networks decided to broadcast new episodes of some of their key series ("Ugly Betty," "CSI," "Shark") rather than run repeats, so that was nice.

The big news comes from ABC, which is shelving "The Nine" on Wednesdays in favor of "Prime Time Live" news programs. I was a big fan of the concept of "The Nine" and thought the pilot was terrific, but the writers showed too little of events inside the bank in subsequent weeks, and the characters' lives after the standoff were too soap opera-y to be interesting.

ABC promises it will air the remaining episodes at some point, but this being ABC and all, who knows?

"The Amazing Race," once TV's best reality show, continues to annoy. Please explain to me how it would have been OK for the Alabama moms to yield the beauty queens -- cause them a 30-minute time delay at a certain point in the race -- but then moan and complain incessantly when the beauty queens yielded them instead. I've pretty much hated the moms from the beginning, with their snide comments about handicapped contestant Sarah, so if they actually end up winning the $1 million, it will make the show unwatchable for me.

Well, that or the All-Star edition of "The Amazing Race" that began filming last week. CBS has yet to announce the teams officially, but reports say reality icons Rob and Amber extend their 15 minutes of fame, as well as former champs Uchenna and Joyce and Team Kentucky from the current version. I loathe the All-Star versions of these CBS reality shows, so this may be the first version of the race I don't tune into.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: Loads of good TV tonight, as "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) ends its fall run with most of the characters facing various sorts of crises. The good news is that "PB" returns at the end of January, two months earlier than expected.

Fans of "The Bachelor" (ABC, 9 p.m.) get a chance to see who the prince chooses in the season finale. Why anyone cares is beyond me.

Wayne Brady guest stars on "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 8 p.m.)

In what could be the key episode of the season, "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) jumps back in time six months as we see how everyone gets their powers. In addition, Hiro is in a key position to save the waitress he's grown so fond of. Judging by last week's previews, we may also learn the identity of the villain Sylar, and see how close my theory came. This might be a good time for anyone who has heard about the show but missed it to jump in, since Sci-Fi is running a mini-marathon of "Heroes" on Wednesday.

"Comic Relief" returns to the airwaves for the first time in a long time (HBO, 8 p.m.) as original hosts Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal return.

For fans of last year's much-loved, but little-seen "Threshold," two unaired episodes are running tonight (Sci-Fi, 11 p.m.) after a couple of reruns.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hello, Columbus

Just a quick note during the holiday festivities to welcome readers from Columbus to the blog.

Columbus readers can now click on the link at the Ledger-Enquirer Web site to get The TV Guy and Reel Fanatic blogs from Macon. Click on as often as you like and tell your friends.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The True American Idol

The most perfect woman I have ever met was a grad assistant at UGA back when I was in grad school. Brains, beauty, a real sense of panache, she had it all.

She was a big Tony Bennett fan. Back in the early 90s, Bennett was being introduced to the MTV generation thanks to a series of concerts and collaberations with modern music stars. In fact, MTV aired a live TV special with Bennett and others.

Me being me, I dutifully taped the special and gave it to the woman unbidden in hopes she might like me more.

Nothing ever developed between she and I, but I did expand my musical tastes from 1960s and 70s British rock bands to include Tony Bennett, thanks to her.

I bring this up because tonight is "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" (NBC, 8 p.m.) in which the icon performs both solos and duets with some of the music industry's biggest stars, including Barbra Streisand, k.d. lang, and Diana Krall, among others.

This is the sort of reality TV I can get behind, and it's a perfect holiday gift for anyone who appreciates good music.

NEW 'BREAK': Fox has seen the folly of ABC and "Lost" and will bring its own hit, "Prison Break," back earlier than expected. "PB" returns Jan. 22 with a one-hour special that recaps the first 13 episodes of this season. The back nine debuts a week later, Jan. 29. Last year, "PB" fans had to wait until March to watch the remaining episodes, and it looked to be the case this season.

BSG ON THE MOVE: Speaking of shows in January, Sci-Fi will switch "Battlestar Galactica" from Fridays to Sundays when 2007 begins. On the one hand, I'm used to it having its own slot on Fridays, but hopefully, this move will help - not hurt - the ratings for TV's best-written show.

'KIDNAPPED' PLOT UNCOVERED: Thanks to one reader of the blog, viewers who want to catch the webisodes of "Kidnapped" on the impossible-to-navigate may be able to do so.

Sharp-eyed Savannah Dorman e-mailed me these links to the episodes online.


I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but hopefully other fans and I will be able to catch up and get some closure on the series.

RIP ROBERT ALTMAN: I'm not the biggest Altman fan, but the director did produce greatness with "M*A*S*H" and "The Player," maybe the best film ever made about the inside workings of Hollywood.

TONIGHT'S BEST BET: One of the odder guest-star roles of the season occurs tonight when Patty Hearst appears on "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) as a member of the family that founded Veronica's fictional Hearst College. "VM" has had some interesting guest stars over the years, from the superbly-cast Charisma Carpenter to the what-were-they-thinking Paris Hilton, so it kind of remains to be seen how tonight's episode turns out.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS: I'll probably be pretty spotty the rest of the week updating the blog. Enjoy your turkey, enjoy football and go out and get some fresh air.

For all those that e-mailed me about my Sylar theory on "Heroes," I suppose we will find out a lot more this coming Monday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Patience, People

Sometimes, I really don't get the rest of the TV watching public.

I mean, I've already accepted that most of them don't have as good taste as myself, but what irks me is when they watch shows to change simply because they don't conform to some pre-conceived notion they had of the show in the first place.

To wit, most of the criticisms I've heard about "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is that they aren't tying the main characters together quickly enough. Folks, it's only Episode Nine tonight, for crying out loud! Let the producers do their job. If you are a fan of the show, and most people are, then you are already appreciating what they are doing onscreen.

So why not let the show unfold at its own pace? For all the complainers, know that tonight's episode brings several key characters together, and you learn a great deal about HRG and Eden. The best thing about "Heroes" has been the twists it incorporates into each episode that compel the viewer to check in week after week, and tonight's installment is more the same.

"Heroes" isn't the only new show drawing that criticism. This week's TV Guide talks about new shows like "Studio 60" (NBC, 10 p.m.) and "The Class" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) and how to "fix" them. Why not give them enough time to get broken first?

No one said when "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) debuted last year that the gang should break out of prison by Episode 3. People waited for the show to unfold as the writers intended. And it works, at least ratings-wise. (Drama-wise with plot holes and the suspension of disbelief is another story.)

So sit back and have a little faith.

CONGRATS: Macon actor Jack McBrayer, ably profiled by The Telegraph's own Maggie Large a few weeks ago, was listed in TV Guide's "Cheers & Jeers" section for his ability to steal scenes in NBC's "30 Rock." McBrayer's been one of the best elements of the show this season.

NO O.J.: Fox announced it was cancelling both the O.J. Simpson book and TV special. I'd say kudos to the network for finally doing the right thing, but really, it shouldn't have been involved with Simpson in the first place.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Poetic Justice

I got a press release from Fox today informing me that "Vanished" had been pulled from tonight's schedule and the final four episodes will be aired on the network's Web site.

Fox is following the playbook of NBC, which pulled the similarly-themed-but-way-superior "Kidnapped" from the broadcast network and having it finish online instead.

I have to admit a little schadenfreude at Fox's decision. "Vanished" was a pretty awful show that killed the audience for "Kidnapped" by debuting first. It's a common strategy over at Fox, which has ripped off other shows over the years and then rushed them to the air first, hoping to undermine the other network's show.

NBC has so exasperated me by not even putting up all of the episodes of "Kidnapped" online (and making the ones they do have up next-to-impossible to find) that I am unlikely to finish out the series, even though I enjoyed what had aired so far.

"Vanished" was a show that took place in Georgia written by people who had evidently never stepped foot here. The upside of Fox's decision is that "Justice," which just got yanked off Monday's schedule, will get a final shot on Friday's beginning Dec. 1.

I don't have a lot of high hopes that the Victor Garber series will survive much longer, but it's good that Fox is at least giving those who are watching the series the chance to see the final episodes on network TV rather than the Internet.

In other Fox news, the network has ordered six additional episodes each for "Standoff" and "Til Death," an encouraging sign for fans of those shows since both were on life support ratings-wise.

As for the other networks, the CW will begin airing new episodes of the comedy "Reba," (Sunday, 7 p.m.) formerly of the late WB network. However, the CW has yet to announce it will pick up the back nine for dramas "Veronica Mars" and "One Tree Hill," something it was contractually supposed to do this week. With the season-long arcs "VM" creator Rob Thomas uses for his show, it's getting into crunch time because if the back nine isn't ordered, the current arc would have to be re-written for a 13-episode run, making it very difficult to tie up a lot of plot lines.

*****EDIT****: My brother sent me a link to a blog that says "VM" will receive a back order, but only seven instead of nine. Since this hasn't been posted anywhere officially, it still remains to be seen, but if it's true, then it's pretty good news, though I would have preferred the full nine episodes.

FANS GETTING A BREAK?: TV Guide reports that "Prison Break" may return in January instead of March, citing the show's strong ratings and a lack of other quality shows on Fox. Are you paying attention, ABC?

FRIDAY'S BEST BETS: "Monk" fans who are in withdrawal until the new season begins in January get a holiday treat tonight, with a special new episode (USA, 10 p.m.). Monk (Tony Shalhoub) finally gets together with his long-lost dad (guest star Dan Hedaya), who is in need of the defective detective's help.

Sci-Fi fans have plenty of options tonight as well. TV Land is airing the "Star Trek" episode "Space Seed," which introduced Ricardo Montalban as Khan at 9 p.m., followed by the movie "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" at 10 p.m.

"Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) begins the first part of a two-parter called "The Impossible Planet," in which the Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) land near a black hole. That's followed by "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.), an Adama (Edward James Olmos)-centric episode featuring key flashbacks.

"Numb3rs" (CBS, 10 p.m.) features guest stars Kathy Najimy and Josh Malina.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Michigan and Ohio State square off (ABC, Sat., 3:30 p.m.) in a game the BCS will ultimately render meaningless if it puts them in a re-match in January.

Helen Mirren takes her final bow as Jane Tennison in "Prime Suspect 7" (PBS, Sun., 9 p.m.). The TV landscape will be the poorer for it once the series ends.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Day After

Well, ABC rolled the dice on "Daybreak," and it's looking like they crapped out.

Based on the overnight ratings, the debut for the show that replaced "Lost" on Wednesdays performed badly.

ABC had a huge night in the 8 p.m. hour with the "Dancing with the Stars" finale that landed a 17.5 rating and 27 share, easily the most-watched show of the night. But despite that lead-in, "Daybreak's" audience dropped by more than half, mustering just an 8 rating and a 12 share.

That "Daybreak" did badly is bad enough for ABC, but the fact that "Lost" has been in a ratings battle with "Criminal Minds" may damage ABC in the time slot when "Lost" returns in February. "Minds" pulled in a solid 10.4/16 last night.

I know networks are loathe to put on repeats these days, but pulling one of your three top-rated shows after just six episodes to introduce a new so-so show is just mind-boggling to say the least.

One might point out that this was the game plan Fox used with "Prison Break" last season, going with a long hiatus between fall and spring. The difference is, A) Fox aired half a season of "Prison Break," not six episodes, and B) Fox was pairing "PB" with the similarly paced and themed "24" when the shows came back for the winter.

No doubt, ABC was hoping for similar success from this same experiment they pulled two years ago, when a decently rated show in "Boston Legal" was pulled in favor of "Grey's Anatomy," which became a phenomenal success for the network. No such luck here.

If "Day Break" doesn't pick up the slack (and considering the confusing, serialized nature of the show, it probably won't), here's hoping ABC gets its act together and brings back "Lost" earlier than announced.

HIRO WORSHIP: "Heroes" breakout star Masi Oka will return to "Scrubs" for a guest appearance some time this year. Oka got one of his key acting breaks as a semi-recurring character on the NBC sitcom.

The twist, and only "Scrubs" could pull this off, is that even though Oka is reprising his "Scrubs" role, he will have Hiro's time-altering powers. God, I've missed "Scrubs."

Speaking of "Heroes," I've come up with a wild theory on who Syler is. I don't check other fan sites, so I don't know if anyone else has come up with this, but I think it's cool and plausible. I don't want to post it if it turns out to be a spoiler, but if you want it, feel free to e-mail me at

THURSDAY'S BEST BET: If you read the book "Desperate Networks" like I told you last week, you'll learn how NBC came up with the supersize strategy as a band-aid to combat the popularity of "Survivor" rather than developing quality new shows.

The network returns to the strategy tonight for one week with supersized "My Name is Earl" (8 p.m.), followed by "The Office" and "30 Rock." I've only seen "The Office" so far, but it's a good episode with the two branches of Dunder-Mifflin merging.

Steve Carell's Michael Scott continues to be painfully funny tonight as the Stamford employees meet their new boss.

Also, for comic book fans, there's a rumor that the Martian Manhunter, aka J'onn J'onzz, makes a guest appearance on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) tonight.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lucky Break?

Tonight marks the debut of the new thriller "Daybreak" (ABC, 9 p.m.) with its two-hour pilot running in the timeslot normally reserved for "Lost."

The show's opening ratings will probably be pretty good, since ABC has given it such a good slot and promoted the heck out of it, but the key will be whether the new show can sustain it.

Already, ABC has been giving up ground at 9 p.m., since "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) has actually been outperforming "Lost" in the ratings the past couple of weeks. So holding "Lost" until February for an unproven show has to be one of the biggest risks for any network in recent memory.

"Daybreak" focuses on a cop (Taye Diggs) who is framed for the murder of a district attorney. A' la "Groundhog Day" he relives the same events over and over again, but with variations each time he changes things.

"Groundhog Day" worked because there was a definite end to it. Since "Daybreak" is a TV series which presumably wants to have a long run, how much can keep going over the same day again and again? How sustainable is the concept? So far, the reviews of "Daybreak" have been lukewarm, at best. Star Taye Diggs' lone network series, the much touted "Kevin Hill" on UPN, died after a half-season.

One might compare "Daybreak" to the BBC's superior "Life on Mars," in which the hero believes he has been transported back from current times to 1973. But "Life on Mars" explores the vastly different world of cops in two different eras, and the hero doesn't know if he has gone back in time, is in a coma or is simply going mad. The viewer can enjoy the roller coaster ride alongside him.

"Daybreak" is the same ride over and over. No one wants to keep riding Space Mountain again and again.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: ABC is maximizing its bet for Wednesday's by airing the season finale of the very popular "Dancing With Stars" as a lead-in.

Meanwhile, "Medium" (NBC, 9 p.m.) returns to the air earlier than expected with a two-hour season premiere. "Medium" is one of those shows that seems to get decent enough ratings, but you never meet anyone who is actually a fan of the show. When the Emmys gave the best actress award to star Patricia Arquette over the vastly superior Glenn Close for her turn in "The Shield" two years ago, it showed how bogus those awards had become.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


People talk about the lack of originality in Hollywood all the time, and when you see some of the offerings on movie and TV, they are not wrong. When Hollywood producers hear of an idea that has worked elsewhere, they immediately try to see how they can rip it off.

CBS must really love "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.), and considering it's one of the best shows with one of the best actors on TV, it's not hard to blame them.

But really, tonight the network airs its second attempt to rip off the "House" formula with the debut of "3 LBs" (CBS, 10 p.m.), about a cranky but brilliant doctor (the always excellent Stanley Tucci) who specializes in brain surgery. (The title refers to the weight of the average human brain).

The first attempt to copy the "House" formula is the network's new hit "Shark," a legal drama starring James Woods that moves the setting from a hospital to a court room, but really, that's about the only difference. That, and the writers gave Woods a daughter to deal with for his home life. But otherwise, it's pretty much the same show: A brilliant, but snarky, guy who butts heads with a female boss and who has an entourage of proteges.

I've yet to see the pilot for "3 LBs" but most reviewers have indicated that it's basically "House"-lite. Tucci butts heads with his younger, caring protege (Mark Feuerstein) about various ailments affecting the brain. I'm not sure the producers are doing the show a favor by limiting Tucci's medicine to one particular area, but of course, if they made him a general physician, then the show really would be "House."

CBS is hoping for the added bonus of having "House" air in the timeslot before "3 LBs" to give the show a lead-in even with a different network. NBC has a similar effect, with "ER" drawing an audience from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursdays. It's not a bad strategy, But there is the worry that the show doing the ripping off will hurt the original.

It's not so bad in the Grey's/ER case, since the latter preceded the former by a decade, but I'd hate to see "House's" ratings suffer. They likely won't, since the newer show always has a tougher time of proving itself worthy of keeping the audience of the original.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: I'm trying to keep the Best Bets section limited to either new shows airing, or certain big episodes with key guest stars, lest I continue to write about the same shows each week. That's why there was no Best Bets for Monday.

I am throwing a shout out to "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) just because the network announced that it would be picked up for a full season, again showing why being near last place is not always a bad thing.

As for new shows, you may want to check out "Show Me the Money" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.), which follows the penultimate "Dancing with the Stars." I know nothing about "Money," a new game show except that it stars William Shatner at his most Shatner-ness, which is always a delight. Check out the Comedy Central Roast from September if you don't believe me.

Also of note is the documentary "Thin" (HBO, 9 p.m.) about four women who suffer from eating disorders.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Web Rewind Blues

Episodes of TV found at the network's Web sites could have been the greatest idea since sliced bread, if these things worked half the time.

But have the wrong Internet platform, the wrong type of computer, etc. and trying to download these episodes are more trouble than its worth.

This weekend I tried downloading from ABC, NBC and Fox, each with varying degrees of success.

Only with ABC was I able to use my office Mac with its high speed connection. NBC and Fox won't even work. However, with either the Mac or Windows platform, my viewing of last week's installment of "Ugly Betty" was choppy most of the time, with long gaps where the download would just freeze. It really made watching it unenjoyable.

With NBC, their "two-minute recap" of various episodes works fine with the Mac platform. But try downloading the full episode and nothing seems to work. Eventually, I was able to watch last week's "Friday Night Lights" on my PC. But my brother tried to find previous installments of "Kidnapped" on NBC's site, and could only find the most recent. So for the rest of us who missed a couple of installments while NBC yanked it off Saturday nights, we're pretty much screwed in trying to catch up.

Thanks again, NBC. There's no excuse not to put all of the previous episodes online.

Fox refused to download at all on my Mac when I tried to catch up with last week's "Bones." Eventually, after jumping through a lot of hoops downloading various extras, I was able to get it to run on my PC. It actually ran the most smoothly of the three networks.

At some point I'll try CBS and CW down the line to see what they offer. But if networks are trying to increase their Web traffic by making previously run episodes online, they need to make sure the episodes download correctly on all platforms, and keep all of the episodes on the Web.

FAREWELL TO "JUSTICE?": Fox's "Justice" is listed in your print editions of The Telegraph, but a quick check online with TV Guide shows that it's being pulled for a "House" rerun (Fox, 9 p.m.) from last season. The "House" rerun is arguably the cleverest one from last season, in which House tries to diagnose a case while playing in a poker tournament.

"Justice" is a decent show, though it has spent most of the year long on procedural and short on character development. It hasn't found an audience on two different timeslots, a shame because the rest of Fox's development slate for this year has been pretty awful thus far among the new shows.

WHAT ABOUT GOOD SHOWS?: "What About Brian" (ABC, 10 p.m.) has been given a full-season pickup despite so-so ratings. I'll admit, I've yet to watch a single minute of this show, but it's a little frustrating to see since ABC likely won't be picking up "The Nine."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Prime Viewing

There's only one adjective that springs to mind when talking about actress Helen Mirren.


When "Prime Suspect" first hit the airwaves in the early 90s, it was groundbreaking TV. It wasn't that we hadn't seen good cop dramas before, or even cop dramas that had female leads. But Mirren's character of Jane Tennison took it to the next level. The various "Prime Suspects" that hit the air over the years tackled such subjects of sexism, racism, child abuse et. al. with a complexity not really seen before.

Sure, there are other British cop dramas that hold a special place for me - "Cracker," "Second Sight," the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series, to name a few - but "Prime Suspect" will always have a place near the top of the list.

Mirren takes her last bow as Tennison Sunday night in "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" (PBS, 9 p.m.), a two-parter that concludes next Sunday. Tennison has to confront such things as alcoholism, imminent retirement and her dying father (Frank Finlay) while trying to solve one final case, the death of a little girl.

As I posted earlier this week, American TV keeps mining British series for new ideas, and there have been a few attempts to clone "Prime Suspect." The most notable has been "The Closer" with Kyra Sedgwick, an OK series that doesn't come close to "Prime Suspect's" heights.

Tennison is smart but fallible. She doesn't always make the right call as she battles bureacracy and office politics as well as general prejudices.

Mirren is a remarkable actress who will likely end up with both an Emmy nomination of "Prime Suspect" and an Oscar bid for "The Queen." No one could be more deserving.

STUDIO 60 NEWS: Despite falling ratings, NBC gave the go-ahead for a full order of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" on Thursday.

No show came into the fall with more anticipation because of both creators Aaron Sorkin and Tom Schlamme and a stellar cast.

The show has declined ratings-wise over the last few weeks for a couple of reasons. One, because it takes place on a fictional comedy series, people thought it was a comedy itself, so there is disappointment that the show is "not funny." Two, the show and the dialogue are a lot smarter than anything else on TV.

The silver lining to the black cloud that is NBC's Nielsen reality is that the network can afford to give struggling quality shows such as "Studio 60" and "Friday Night Lights" a bit longer than normal to find their audience because NBC doesn't have a whole lot of options. That might be NBC's loss, but it's our gain.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


As TV and the Internet synergize more and more, network executives are finding all new sorts of ways to cross-promote the two platforms.

Tonight is a perfect example. NBC will show a brand-new episode of "The Office" at 8:30 p.m., and then put a "producers' cut" version of the episode online immediately after, full of bits that were cut for time or other reasons of the regular broadcast.

Frankly, though I understand the reason for doing this -- every industry seems to be obsessed more about the Web than its regular products -- frankly, it seems like too much work. TV should be about flipping on a channel, or at worst a recording device, and watching and enjoying the episode.

Viewers shouldn't have to hunt after hidden scenes or producer's cut or anything of that ilk to enjoy that week's offering.

And if NBC is going to offer any Web content, it needs to make its site more user-friendly. Still trying to find those "Kidnapped" episodes, guys.

Of course, if there is one series worth hunting down, it's TV's best comedy, "The Office," which faces a major plot landmark tonight with the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin closing. How the plotlines should unfold the rest of the season based on this should make for interesting viewing.

Speaking of "The Office," I read a story yesterday about a host of British shows that are coming across the pond to be adapted into American shows.

I think in general that's a horrible concept that fails ("Coupling" "Cracker") both dramatically and ratings-wise more often than not ("The Office" being the exception that proves the rule.)

I already knew that David E. Kelley was going to destroy my beloved "Life on Mars" for ABC. (Anyone who watches the U.S. version of this instead of the BBC America version is no longer allowed to log onto this site.)

Now I see versions of "Footballers Wives," "Little Britain" and "Viva Blackpool" are also in pre-poduction, despite their quintessential Britishness. I mean, c'mon, "Little Britain?" Seriously?

Of course, these days, TV execs are looking for ideas anywhere. After all, "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is based on a telenovela and has been re-imagined in other countries around the world.

SPEAKING OF WEBS: Tonight marks the debut of a two-minute trailer for "Spider-Man 3," which will air between the end of "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Shark" (CBS, 10 p.m.) It also appears on other CBS/Viacom properties around the dial, such as MTV.

ANOTHER SPLIT: Last night's "Lost" isn't the only show about to take a long break. Newcomer "Jericho" will end its fall run on Nov. 29 and not return until Feb. 14, 2007. (Nothing celebrates Valentine's Day like shows about the aftermath of a nuclear war.)

Honestly, I don't know what programming genius came up with the idea of shelving hit shows for more than three months, but they belong in the same circle of Hell with the guy that invented automated telemarketers.

Fox started this to moderate success with "Prison Break" last year, delaying the second half of its season to coincide with a similarly paced show, "24," which runs without a break in the winter. Fox was able to get away with it because "PB" proved compelling enough for viewers to stick with it, despite its absurd plots (making it a perfect companion of "24").

"Lost" is at a critical juncture, losing viewers while its main competitor, "Criminal Minds" has made big gains. Once again, I say ABC had better have hit the size of, well, "Lost," in its new show "Daybreak" or this is going to go down as the dumbest idea in TV history.

I'm not a fan of "Jericho," but CBS seems to have a solid freshman hit on its hands. So, why kill the momentum?

EDIT ADD-ON: By the way, I should have mentioned already at this point how good the "Lost" fall finale was, which makes it even more frustrating that we have to wait three months.




Eko's death a week earlier makes a bit more sense dramatically now, for a simple reason.

One of the problems with TV shows in any genre is that the characters seem immortal. We know Capt. Kirk will survive for next week's show, which is why the guys in the red shirts always got killed.

When a character is being killed off, it's usually well-known. It's announced on the Web or in the press that an actor is leaving a show, which means the possibility of his or her character being killed a possibility. The viewer has time to steel himself.

When Eko was killed last week, it came out of the blue and therefore was a jolt to "Lost" viewers. Also, since he was among the show's most popular characters, it meant that anyone could die on the island at any time.

So there was very real dramatic tension Wednesday night when Sawyer faced imminent death. There was a decent possibility that the guy could pull the trigger, because "Lost" has established no one is safe. A decade earlier, a viewer watching "Lost" would say to himself, "Oh, they aren't going to kill Sawyer!" and be correct. Bravo, "Lost!"


THURSDAY'S BEST BET: "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) has shown more consistency than any other new series, and while it has advanced its storylines at a reasonable pace, it's still not too late for new viewers to jump in tonight and catch up.

Green Arrow continues to get a big spotlight on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) while its companion show, "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) is having one of the best sophomore seasons on TV right now. As much as I was upset to see the Winchester boys' dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) get killed off, I'm enjoying newcomers Ellen (Samantha Ferris) and Jo (Alona Tal). Horror queen Linda Blair guest stars in tonight's episode as a cop.