Friday, March 30, 2007

A Week Like No Other

Wow, what a time for me to be taking some time off. Blogging here will be intermittent, if at all, next week during what may be the best TV week of the year.

Think of your birthday and Christmas all wrapped into one. Sports-wise, you've got the season debut of baseball with the Mets-Cardinals at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN, followed by a slew of games on Monday. The Braves kick off their season Monday in Philadelphia (TBS, 1 p.m.) You also have a little thing called the NCAA national men's basketball championship Monday night on CBS, with the Florida-UCLA winner meeting the Georgetown-Ohio State winner.

As the networks gear up for their final stretch runs by airing mostly new episodes the rest of the way, you have the return of TV's best cop show, "The Shield," Tuesday night on FX. The season kicks off with the return of Vic's (Michael Chiklis) nemesis, Lt. John Kavanaugh (Oscar winner, but unfortunately not Emmy winner, Forest Whitaker) as the fallout from the death of Vic's teammate Lem continues.

As if that weren't enough, the week ends with the season premiere of "The Sopranos" (HBO, April 8, 9 p.m.), which will be wrapping up its final season. Yes, the series was a little uneven last year, but even mediocre "Sopranos" is better than nine-tenths of the stuff out there, especially when the cast is led by James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.

So, sit back on your couches and enjoy!

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Sci-Fi is running a mini-"Heroes" marathon tonight beginning at 7 p.m., so this is your chance to catch up with the most-recent several episodes of the season.

The NCAA semifinals will dominate Saturday night beginning at 7 p.m. on CBS. Also, another pitch for the terrific new version of "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.)

I previously dissed "The Amazing Race All-Stars" (CBS, Sunday, 8 p.m.) but the show has gotten a bit better of late, though the obnoxious Charla-Mirna team has somehow manage to win the past two weeks.

Also on Sunday is the debut of the 10-part miniseries, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) with Jonathan Rhys-Myers as Henry VIII. Critics say it echoes HBO's "Rome" in content and production values, so it's probably worth checking out.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Smidgen of This, A Bunch of That



********YOU'VE BEEN WARNED*********

Who knew "Lost" could do comedy?

Last night's episode played up the show's ultra-serious tone with a tongue-in-cheek episode that killed off Nikki and Paolo, two of the most useless characters in the history of TV.

Earlier this week, I said "The Twilight Zone" probably deserved the title of the greatest show in the history of television, thanks in part to its clever use of both drama and humor. The poetic justice element present in "The Twilight Zone" was definitely there in spirit last night, as Nikki and Paolo met their rather ironic fate in their quest for diamonds they stole, then apparently lost, after the crash.

No doubt this was a case of the producers changing horses in midstream, offing two characters whom they never found a way to develop into the show's core, but to do so in such a clever and imaginative way serves as a reminder as to how good "Lost" can be.

By the way, I'm guessing that Hurley's line to Desmond ("Dude, that's like the lamest superpower ever.") was a tip of the cap to "Heroes" after that show made its oblique reference to "Lost" when Nathan Petrelli talked about how he could be trapped on an island as part of a bizarre experiment.

My other favorite Wednesday shows also had their moments, including Stephen Fry's guest run on "Bones," solving everyone's relationship issues in a coffee shop, and that great moment in "Friday Night Lights" in which Landry can't get to his dream date with Tyra because the car won't start. As he curses the heavens and gets out to fix it, it starts pouring rain. Landry's "Why me" moment and look to the heavens was just priceless. (I've had a few of those moments myself.)

BSG WRAP-UP: There have been plenty of stories all over the net about "Battlestar Galactica's" finale this week, but the best one I've read is here, courtesy of the TV Guy's little brother:,,20015932,00.html

LINE OF THE WEEK: Drea De Matteo, speaking at a conference on whacked "Sopranos" characters, talked about her move from one of TV's great dramas to the sitcom "Joey" on NBC:

‘‘They killed me on HBO, and then I went to NBC to commit complete suicide.’’

STANDOFF RETURN?: Fox has announced the drama, which has been on hiatus since the fall, should be back June 8 at 9 p.m.

DANCING VS. SINGING: Live "American Idol" trounced "Dancing With the Stars" highlights in the first head-to-head matchup Tuesday night. "AI" took in 28.18 million viewers, while the "DWTS" recap averaged 9.6 million. "DWTS" improved in the second hour, which was its first results show, going up to 17.9 million for its best-ever results ratings, but still fell second to Fox's "House."

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: No more NCAA basketball on Thursday, but still plenty of reruns by the networks. Go figure. ABC's lone new offering is "October Road" at 10 p.m., considered by most critics to be the worst drama on TV.

CBS gives us a night of new stuff, starting with "Survivor" at 8 p.m. and followed by a new "CSI" and "Shark," but the CW offers only reruns of "Smallville" and "Supernatural."

NBC is running a mini-"Office" marathon, with five previously aired episodes sandwiching a brand-new "Andy Barker, P.I." at 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tabula Rasa

So, how much of 17th century British philosophers were the producers of "Lost" thinking when they named Terry O'Quinn's character John Locke?

As portrayed by O'Quinn, who has given an Emmy-worthy performance every season of the show, Locke has always been one of the more interesting characters on TV. His story arc over the past two episodes have set the water cooler talk about the show ablaze once more.

The real John Locke believed we were born with a tabula rasa - a clean slate - and it was our experiences after birth that re-shaped our lives.

The fictional Locke, after a life of bitter disappointment as a cripple who was conned out of his own kidney by his father, has a clean slate when he lands on the island. He is born again; with his legs working once more, he is free to re-invent himself in his new home.

The island has become Locke's church, at once believing the place to be more than meets the eye but also having his faith tested constantly. The deaths of both Boone and Mr. Eko play into the religious significance Locke puts into the island.

But the island Locke has veered off the belief system of the real one dramatically over the past two weeks. The philosopher Locke believed everyone was entitled to life, liberty and property, and no one - not government nor man - had a right to interfere with that. In addition, he believed that having excesses of property and wasting them was a sin.

Yet the fictional Locke crossed that line the past few episodes. First, he blew up the island's communication center, eliminating the castaways' best chance to communicate with the outside world and receive help. At first, it seemed odd to me that Locke - who is supposed to be among the smartest characters on the island - couldn't have figured out that the sequence of buttons he was supposed to push was an obvious booby trap.

But after Locke blew up the submarine after last week's episode - thus eliminating the last chance for the islanders to leave - it became obvious that he did know about the booby trap and sabotaged everything to ensure that no outside force could interfere with the island, endangering the mystic qualities he's assigned to it.

It's hard to believe that Locke would be so selfish as to ruin the chances of the other islanders, but it raises some interesting points? Is Locke truly mentally unbalanced, or does he actually see the larger picture, especially since everyone on the island is interconnected in ways other than being castaways.

Of course, there is the interesting cliffhanger of Locke's father being a prisoner of The Others that will hopefully be addressed tonight (ABC, 10 p.m.) There is some speculation that the father (Kevin Tighe) might also be the real Sawyer, the man responsible for the death of James Ford's (Josh Holloway) parents all those years ago.

"Lost" is at its best when it challenges the viewers, and the producers seem to have a specific plan in place for these characters, so it will be interesting to see what turn they take next.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of hip Wednesday shows, "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) picks up from last week as Bones and Booth deal with their relationship by speaking with the latter's therapist (the always-great Stephen Fry). It's followed by the "American Idol" results show, featuring Gwen Stefani, and "Til Death" at 9:30 p.m.

"Jericho" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is the lone new episode on The Eye, followed by reruns of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."

TV's best family drama, "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) continues to follow Dillon High School's playoff run, but folks, really, this show isn't about football. It's about small-town life and family, and please, please watch it. It's followed by new episodes of "Crossing Jordan" and "Medium," which you can feel free to ignore if you wish.

Finally, the documentary "The Boomer Century" (PBS, 9 p.m.), which deals with the past, present and future of Baby Boomers, has gotten a lot of praise and may be worth two hours of your time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two Riders Were Approaching...

So, that was quite the finale to "Battlestar Galactica" last week.




Season 3 of "BSG" was pretty uneven when you compare it with the rest of the series, but Sunday's finale more than made up for any shortcomings.

First off, you get Apollo's (Jamie Bamber) great speech during the trial of Baltar (James Callis) about the unforgiveable things everyone has done since the destruction of Earth, yet only Baltar goes on trial.

Then you get the indifference of Apollo and Baltar's lawyer after the trial is over and Baltar is set free, but with nowhere to go and his life still at risk every moment of every day.

Plus, you have the identities of four more Cylon models revealed - Anders, Tigh, the Chief and Tori - all because they seem to hear Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" at the same time. Yet even with this knowledge, they seem eager to reclaim their humanity.

Finally, you get the re-appearance of Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) telling Apollo she has found Earth.

What "BSG" has done so well is leave the viewers with a monumental cliffhanger that leaves the viewer clamoring for answers. Unfortunately, we have to wait until 2008 to get them. (A special TV movie focusing on the Pegasus will appear later this year on Sci-Fi, but it won't address any of the issues from the finale).

Who is the fifth Cylon? Is that really Starbuck, and has she found the way to Earth? Will the fleet survive the massive Cylon attack at the end of the episode? Now that there are two apparante Cylon-human hybrid babies, what does that mean for the future? What is Baltar's place in the fleet as a pariah?

The next nine months or so are going to seem like an eternity.

As if "BSG's" finale wasn't enough, "Rome" wrapped up its series on the same night. The producers really hit their stride during the second half of this season and finished on a high note, from the first shot of Antony being rowed away from his burning fleet to Atia reclaiming her place in her family's hierarchy to Vorenus reconciling with his children to Pullo being the only member of the cast to come out truly ahead when all is said and done.

It's kind of a shame that the series was so expensive to produce that it wasn't economically feasible for it to continue past this year, because the producers were forced to cram a lot of plotlines into the final season to wrap things up, but they did a pretty good job of it.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Two ratings giants collide tonight, when ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" battles Fox's "American Idol" tonight at 8 p.m. Expect "AI" to win this matchup, especially with the appearance of Gwen Stefani tonight. VCR alert - the episode is running several minutes long, which means "House" is scheduled to start at roughly 9:07 p.m.

CBS and the CW are wisely staying out of the way of this matchup, airing reruns of its dramas (CW's "Pussycat Dolls" is new at 9 p.m.) NBC is airing new episodes of its "Law & Orders" beginning at 9 p.m.

Finally, the first season of "Dirt" (FX, 10 p.m.) wraps up tonight as Jennifer Aniston guest stars as a rival editor to Courtney Cox. People are making a big deal about the kiss the two characters share, but supposedly it's just a peck. "Dirt," which I stopped watching after the pilot, is probably 50-50 as to whether it will return.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Greatest, Part II

So I got some good responses to Friday's post over the criteria I'd use to evaluate the best show of all time. Please feel free to continue to post on this subject.

I also said I would throw in my suggestion, which I will in a little bit. First, though, let's look at some of the contributions of you the viewer.

Let's first start with the show that started this argument - "The Sopranos." It fulfills a lot of my criteria listed and has certainly provided many great hours of TV. But in my view, "The Sopranos" lacked a lot of consistency needed for the truly great show. There were many seasons that were all over the place in terms of quality, and the 18 months or so off between seasons certainly don't help the viewer stay close with the characters.

Frequent contributor Zodin2008 went into detail using my criteria for his pick of "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer." In fact, he was so detailed, I really don't need to re-iterate what he said.

Do I love "Buffy?" Of course. Do I think it's a great show? Undoubtedly. Would I bestow the best-ever upon it? No. Here's why: For a show to be the best-ever, it has to have some sort of mainstream appeal. Those who watched "Buffy" remained huge fans of the show and the critics loved it, but I think too few people watched it overall to give it the best-ever title.

Many contributors went with cop shows as their top picks. Frequent contributor Jonathan mentioned "Hill Street Blues," Hotspur went with "NYPD Blue" and fellow blogger Reel Fanatic chose "Homicide."

Of the three, I'd go with "Homicide" as my pick for the best, in that it carried what "Hill Street Blues" did to the next level and inspired a lot of what was done on "NYPD Blue," "The Shield" and "The Wire," among others. But like "Buffy," "Homicide" lacked a large viewership during its time.

Hotspur also mentioned "Seinfeld" among comedies. That might be closer to the mark as the greatest, because it meets all the criteria. Sitcoms are always a tough call, because humor is so subjective.

I thought about going with "M*A*S*H" as my pick for top all-time show. It meets all of the criteria, it's held up well over the years and its finale is the highest-rated program of all time. Why I didn't go with it in the end was that "M*A*S*H" got a bit too preachy over its final few years; it's OK for a show to have something to say, but there were several episodes where I didn't like how it was said. Still, "M*A*S*H" ranks high on the list.

The show I picked is one that I actually haven't seen every single episode of. It wouldn't be on my Top 10 list of personal favorites, but that isn't the category we're exploring.

This show is recognized as a classic by both the critics and the general viewership; it spawned many other versions of itself, including sequels, a movie, books, comics and so forth; it has many classic performances and collected some of the best writers in the history of TV; it was unquestionably innovative, years ahead of its time, but still holds up well today. And its effect on pop culture is undeniable.

My choice is:


"The Twilight Zone."

Rod Serling's classic anthology series led to other similar shows such as "Outer Limits" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." It's influence can even be felt in such modern shows as "The X-Files" and "Supernatural." There hasn't been a show before or since in the Sci-Fi genre that has been as popular among both fans and critics.

Each "Zone" episode has a mix of comedy, horror and great drama, and was written with a tremendous amount of intelligence. That we still speak of "The Twilight Zone" with such respect nearly 50 years after its debut speaks volumes to its quality.

Anyway, that's my argument. Feel free to tell me how right or wrong I am.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The penultimate "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) airs tonight, and something tells me it won't be included in the greatest-ever TV show argument 50 years from now. It's followed by a new "24," in which a CTU traitor has been discovered. What an exciting, original concept for "24!"

ABC continues its quest for "American Idol" ratings with a two-hour "Dancing With The Stars" at 8 p.m., followed by a new "What About Brian?" at 10 p.m.

NBC counters with "Deal or No Deal" at 8 p.m., followed by rerun of "Heroes" at 9 p.m. Yes, "Heroes" is a rerun, but it's also the best episode of the season, the one that examines HRG's past. It's followed by a new "Black Donnellys," which has done NBC a great service, by showing how good a show "Studio 60" really was in that same timeslot.

Finally, TV's most irritating show (for me) is "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) Each scene with Eddie Izzard has been nothing short of brilliant. Each scene without him has been nothing short of excruciating. Do they employ two sets of writers on the show, one for Izzard and one for everyone else? I'm giving the show one more chance to get back on course.

It's preceded by the movie version of "Friday Night Lights" at 7:30 p.m., made by the same people who make the series, but a lot closer to the book in its tone and scenes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Greatest Show In The History Of Television?

Currently on news stands is the latest issue of Vanity Fair, which features "The Sopranos" on the cover. The story, by excellent Hollywood writer Peter Biskind, is titled "How the Greatest Show in the History of Television Got Made."

The title is certainly and provocative. On the one hand, of course, there is no way to quantify the greatest show, the greatest movie, book, album, etc. It's a matter of choice.

But how would one quantify the greatness of a show? Ratings? Longetivity? Content? How does one compare a comedy like "Seinfeld" to a drama like "The Sopranos?"

Here are the factors I would use to make such a determination:

--Longetivity: Did the show in question last for a significant amount of time? Did it stay on the air too long, or leave before a big dropoff in quality? As Jerry Seinfeld said when he ended his sitcom, "Always leave them wanting more."

--Critical/commercial success: We know quality when we see it. Sometimes, the media goes overboard in its praise of a show or doesn't get a show and therefore is critical of it. And ratings need not be a huge factor - "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" are pretty much the top-rated dramas on TV and I wouldn't say either show is one for the ages. But popularity while the show is on the air, as well as years later, should be a factor.

--Innovation: Did the show change the way we view television? Shows like "Seinfeld," "NYPD Blue," "M*A*S*H" and others changed the TV landscape in some way. "Blue," for example, showed how far writers could push the limits of broadcast standards to maintain a level of realism; without "Blue," there is probably no "Shield," for example. "M*A*S*H" showed how to incorporate drama into a sitcom; without it, there is probably no "Scrubs."

--Pop culture effect: Certain shows have transcended TV and become a part of American society. When one hears a character being imitated or a catch-phrase being used, even after the show is off the air, you know it has permeated the national consciousness.

--Variations of the show: Did the original series lead to spinoffs, sequels and movie adaptations? Most of the time, the spinoffs water down the memory of the original (e.g. "Joey" to "Friends"), but in some cases, they enhance the original instead ("Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Frasier").

--Defining the actors/producers of a show: Certainly, Joss Whedon's reputation has been enhanced by "Buffy" and "Angel," while Aaron Sorkin will be remembered for "West Wing" and "SportsNight."

Actors, like "Sopranos" stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco have defined their careers by their roles as Tony and Carmela. Kelsey Grammer will always be remembered first and foremost as Dr. Frasier Crane on two hit shows.

What other factors should be considered to measure a show's greatness? What shows make up your all-time lists? If you had to pick one show as the all-time greatest, what would it be?

My choice is coming Monday.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: A pretty quiet Friday, thanks to the NCAA basketball tournament, though ABC has a new "Six Degrees" at 9 p..m., which will square off against Fox's "The Wedding Bells." If basketball isn't your brand of competition, you may try the Miss USA pageant (NBC, 9 p.m.)

Also of note, if you haven't caught "The Dresden Files," Sci-Fi is running a marathon of the first six episodes beginning at 5 p.m., while a new episode hits the air Sunday at 9 p.m.

Basketball will continue throughout the weekend as the NCAA pares down to the Final Four on Sunday.

A couple of finales mark Sunday night. "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.) wraps up its season as the trial of Baltar continues. "Rome" (HBO, 9 p.m.) wraps up the entire series as the armies of Octavian and Marc Antony square off.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Love Triangles

Continuing a subject that you loyal dozens responded to yesterday, I was a little disapppointed with "Bones" last night.

The producers had written themselves into a corner with Bones (Emily Deschanel) and her beau, Sully (Eddie McClintock), who asked her to run away with him on a sailboat for a year. There was really no good reason for her not to. All of her friends - even would-be Sully rival Booth (David Boreanaz) - thought it was a good idea. But when she informs Sully she won't be going, she doesn't give a good reason.

It's disappointing because the producers had done a great job up to that point with the whole love triangle aspect. Obviously, we are rooting for the Bones-Booth coupling, but Sully was a good guy who was similar to Booth in a lot of ways, but different enough because he wasn't married to his FBI job like Booth is. And Booth was particularly well-written, because he obviously doesn't want Bones to go off with another man, but knows Sully is a good guy for her and encouraged the relationship.

The triangle was done a lot better than earlier this season, bringing in Cam (Tamara Taylor) as a rival of Bones for Booth's affections. The problem with Cam was that she was exactly like Bones - beautiful, intelligent, driven, with horrible people skills. Because the producers did little to distinguish Cam from Bones (and making them antagonistic at first, because Cam is Bones' boss), it was hard for viewers to warm up to a Booth-Cam relationship. Since they broke up, Cam has been relegated to being a background player.

I mentioned a few other shows that have had some good love triangles lately. It used to be a show would introduce a third character simply to get in the way of a couple we were rooting for (pretty much the case for Ross and Rachel through the entire run of "Friends"). The new character was unlikeable enough that we knew our couple would overcome his/her interference and eventually end up together.

But TV writers have gotten smarter over the last few years, introducing love interest guest stars who are likeable enough that it makes the choices the regular characters make more difficult and realistic.

Look at "The Office." Karen (Rashida Jones) is a smart, pretty woman who has a terrific sense of humor. Jim (John Krashinski) got along very well with her when they were in the Stamford branch office, and since it seemed he had no future with Pam (Jenna Fischer), the Jim-Karen thing made sense even though we the viewers are rooting for Jim-Pam. What makes things even more interesting is that Karen had no idea about the Jim-Pam thing for a long time, and that she and Pam were genuinely friends with each other once the characters returned to Scranton. Credit "The Office" writers for not taking the easy way out on this.

I pointed this out as well with "Ugly Betty." While that show seemed to go a little more of the traditional route by making the third wheel in the Betty-Henry relationship more of a roadblock, the producers again brought in a genuinely pretty, funny, likeable girlfriend for Henry (Christopher Gorham). It made for some great moments when Betty (America Ferrera), acting on some evil advice from her tormenter Amanda (Becki Newton), has a subconscious moment and abandons her rival Charlie (Jayma Mays) on a New York subway, even though Betty genuinely likes her.

Back to "Bones," credit the producers for not just abandoning the Sully issue. Next week, Bones and Booth visit the latter's shrink (Stephen Fry) to examine their relationship more deeply.

What are your favorite TV love triangles?

GALACTICA ORDER UPPED: Sci-Fi announced that it will shoot a full 22 episodes for Season 4 of "Battlestar Galactica" instead of the 13 originally announced. It's kind of a good-news, bad-news deal, however, since some are predicting that next year will be the last season of "BSG."

RENEWALS: ABC announced it was renewing 14 shows on Wednesday: ‘‘Brothers & Sisters,’’ ‘‘Men in Trees,’’ ‘‘Ugly Betty,’’ ‘‘Boston Legal,’’ ‘‘Desperate Housewives,’’ ‘‘Grey’s Anatomy,’’ ‘‘Lost,’’ ‘‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’’ ‘‘The Bachelor,’’ ‘‘Dancing With the Stars,’’ ‘‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’’ ‘‘Supernanny,’’ ‘‘Wife Swap’’ and ‘‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’’

The other networks are a little more up in the air with what they are bringing back so far:

NBC - ‘‘Heroes,’’ ‘‘My Name Is Earl,’’ ‘‘The Office,’’ ‘‘Law & Order: SVU’’ and ‘‘Las Vegas.’’
Fox - ‘‘Prison Break,’’ ‘‘House’’ and ‘‘Bones.’’
CW - ‘‘Everybody Hates Chris.’’

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: The aforementioned "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) returns with a new episodes tonight, followed by "Grey's Anatomy" and the new series "October Road."

Clark goes undercover to investigate a super-powered fight club on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) I'd talk about it more, but the first rule about fight club is you do not talk about fight club. It's followed by a new "Supernatural."

NBC is delivering a new "Scrubs" at 9 p.m., followed by the very funny new series, "Andy Barker, P.I." at 9:30. Tonight's installment is written by former "Buffy" uber-scribe Jane Espenson, for the record. A new "Raines" airs at 10 p.m. before switching to its regular Friday timeslot next week.

Hopefully, your brackets aren't too busted by now as the NCAA Tournament (CBS, 7:30 p.m.) resumes tonight with the Sweet 16.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quick Hits

I had a long, well-thought post for today, then got sent out of town on assignment early in the morning, so look forward to tomorrow's post, assuming I'm in Macon for the whole day.

Just a few bits:

--I ended up not catching most of "AI" last night, though I did see that guy everyone says sucks mangle the Kinks. After his rendition, I get why that girl in the audience was crying; I wanted to as well. Still, it wasn't as bad as the mangling Van Halen did on "You Really Got Me" years ago.

--"Prison Break" officially got renewed Wednesday, proof that Fox will continue to play out an idea long past its expiration date. I'm probably giving up on PB after this season.

--"Battlestar Galactica" Cylon babe Tricia Helfer has signed on to the new Sci-Fi Channel series "Them," about alien sleeper agents on Earth. (Wasn't that her role as a Cylon on BSG?) Anyway, I don't really know what that means for her BSG work, though it's almost unfathomable she'd be leaving BSG. (Quick poll: Favorite blond cybernetically enhanced being - Number Six or Seven of Nine from "Star Trek: Voyager? Discuss).

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Brennan gets a serious offer from Sully tonight on "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) I'm really liking this trend on TV these days, with romantic triangles in which you aren't rooting against the third wheel. Of course we want Bones and Booth together in the end, but you can't help but like Eddie McClintock's Sully. "The Office" did something similar by introducing Rashida Jones' Karen into the Pam-Jim dynamic. "Ugly Betty" has also done it with Betty's would-be beau Henry and his girlfriend. It makes for a refreshing change to the love triangles where the third wheel is thrown in there just to be an impediment.

The first of the final four all-new episodes of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) airs tonight, and you are commanded to watch as TV's best-acted family may be heading out of Dillon. It's followed by a new "Crossing Jordan."

"Survivor: Fiji" (CBS, 8 p.m.) makes a rare Wednesday appearance, followed by new episodes of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI:NY."

Locke finally comes face-to-face once more with Ben, aka Henry Gale, on "Lost" (ABC, 10 p.m.) as we find out whether or not Jack has changed teams.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One If By Land, Two If By Sea

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd type: I may try to catch "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) tonight.

No, I haven't suffered a head injury. (Well, maybe I have; with me, who can tell?) Tonight's competition involves the British Invasion. Guests hosts Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Lulu join the fun as the remaining contestants tackle, for my money, the world's greatest music.

Still, not being familiar with "AI," I wonder what kind of rules they will have in place. For example, does it have to songs limited to the early-to-mid 1960s range, or can the performers do songs from British Invasion bands from later in their careers? In other words, would you be limited to early stuff from The Who or could you perform anything in their catalog?

A lot of the pop hits from the early British Invasion years won't allow the contestants to really demonstrate a lot of range. How much can you really do with something from The Dave Clark Five, after all?

Here's what I am curious to see: How much of a spin the contestants actually put on the songs they cover. The Beatles have obviously been covered a lot over the years, but it's the artists that re-interpret the songs that seem to do the best job of the covers.

So, here are a few recommendations from someone who doesn't know a lot about "AI" but does know a decent bit about the British Invasion:

--Avoid the obvious stuff from the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, unless you plan on doing something really different with it.

--Don't do "To Sir, With Love." I mean, Lulu is sitting right there, so the judges probably won't be kind if you don't nail it.

--I'd love to see a contestant show some real guts and try to tackle someone like Dusty Springfield. True, if you don't clear the bar, you fall flat on your face and are likely out of the competition; if you do clear it, you are a virtual lock to advance.

--Some song choices: "Behind Blue Eyes" and "I Can't Explain" by The Who (please not "My Generation); "Come Dancing" by The Kinks if the judges allow post-1960s stuff or "Girl, I Want To Be With You" if they don't; "Yesterday" by The Beatles (a little obvious, yes, I know); anything by Cream that isn't "White Room." There are plenty of others I could list, but these would make for a few highlights.

For more about "AI," including post-game analysis, check out Maggie Large's music blog, Amped.

IS VERONICA BACK?: Contrary to the rumors I posted last week, "Veronica Mars" may not be dead as a doornail. Creator Rob Thomas has said he hasn't heard about the show's fate one way or the other, and none of the principal cast has had their contracts ended. So, at this point, VM may either: 1) Be cancelled. 2) Looking forward to her sophomore year of college. 3) Flash forward four years with Veronica as an FBI agent or trainee, depending on the rumor.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: With "House" and "VM" still on hiatus, I can look forward to going out without having to fill up a videocassette.

NBC is pretty much reruns, and ABC only has a new "Boston Legal" at 10 p.m. CBS is really the only thing looking to compete with "AI," with new episodes of "NCIS" and "The Unit" beginning at 8 p.m.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Emmy Looks To Get It Right?

You almost can't use the word "Emmy" without the word "debacle" in the same sentence.

But for the first time ever, the Emmy people are actually introducing a few rules that may - possibly - help out a few of the more deserving shows that get overlooked.

Last year, Emmy went to a so-called "blue-ribbon" committee that was supposedly a group of experts that were going to revolutionize the voting process and open things up. In a way, they did: These were the geniuses that gave Ellen Burstyn an Emmy for a 14-second appearance in a movie.

The new strategy is to let the entire academy vote, and the top 10 vote getters in each category are then submitted to the committee, which will watch every submission (something that hasn't been done in the past) and then vote. One wonders how nobody could figure out this system in the previous decades.

Also among the changes is the "Burstyn rule" - a performer must appear in at least 5 percent of the submitted movie or TV show to be considered. Hooray for common sense.

Finally, producers and the performers will be able to submit a 250-word essay to explain the context of their submission and why it is Emmy worthy. It's designed to help out the more complexly plotted shows like "Lost" or "Battlestar Galactica," where a voter is likely to be lost if he hasn't watched other installments of the series.

Does this mean that "Battlestar Galactica" and other fringe shows that don't have a lot of mainstream audiences will have a better shot at Emmy glory? In theory. Will it mean actual Emmys for those shows in categories other than technical ones? Probably not.

But at least the Emmy people realize that their system is fundamentally flawed, and hopefully it means that the same old shows don't keep getting nominated over and over and over.

BUFFY SEASON 8: The new Joss Whedon-scripted comic book, which he describes as what would have been Season 8 of "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer," hit the shelves last week.

I read a copy over the weekend, and if you are a Buffy fan, you should get one.

The series picks up in Scotland, where Buffy, Xander and Dawn have their base of operations with their own team of slayers. As usual, Buffy and Dawn are arguing, this time over Dawn's attempts to learn magic without supervision, with hilarious side effects.

Willow is completely absent (the team is searching for her), and Giles and Andrew are mentioned only in passing. The Scoobys, as well as the U.S. military, are investigating a cult of demons that are apparently being recruited into a common cause.

The writing is classic Whedon, with great humor mixed in with the action. The artwork is very solid as well. There's enough there, especially with the return of a popular recurring character from the TV series on the final page, to keep visiting this title, especially since Whedon and most of the other writers from the show are contributing to the comic book.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: ABC's answer to "American Idol" - "Dancing With the Stars" - marks its return tonight with a two-hour premiere at 8 p.m. Bookies have been taking action - I'm not making this up - as to whether Heather Mills' prosthetic leg flies off during a dance routine. It's followed by a new "What About Brian?"

Male firefighters sub for the hot models on a two-hour "Deal or No Deal" (NBC, 8 p.m.), getting rid of the 26 reasons I had to watch this show in the first place, as Howie Mandel & Co. put on Ladies Night.

It precedes a new episode of "The Black Donnellys," which I gave up on last week. Judging by the ratings, so have many others.

"Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns after a week off, no doubt to give the writers a shot at coming up with more preposterous plot points, followed by "24," in which former Pres. Logan tries to hang on for dear life after being stabbed in the shoulder by his ex-wife.

CBS gives us a full night of new episodes with its comedy lineup, beginning with the always-entertaining "How I Met Your Mother" at 8 p.m. A new "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.) follows.

Finally, a new episode of "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) returns after boffo ratings with its debut last week. I found the pilot to be very uneven, and FX seems to be loving the whacked-out characters on its shows a little too much these days. But there are enough elements (especially Eddie Izzard in the lead role) to make me watch one more time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

R.I.P. Veronica Mars?

It's entirely possible that we will see the last of the lovely and talented Ms. Mars this May when the CW broadcasts the final five episodes of the season.

E!'s Kristin Veitch, who is normally a pretty reliable source about such things, is reporting the network won't renew the critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged show for a fourth season.

You can read Kristin's blog here.

The irony is that "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas just said what his plans were for a possible season four: He was going to skip ahead four years and have Veronica in her rookie year at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. You can read that story in The Hollywood Reporter.

"VM" has been one of those shows that has a small, but loyal, cult following. It's been considered the heir apparent to "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" in that it shows a teen girl as the heroine of the piece.

Though I never enjoyed "VM" quite as much as "Buffy" - I felt the supporting cast was never developed enough, and the season-long mysteries that defined the show were either too easy or too dense - those are quibbles with what is always an entertaining series.

With "Gilmore Girls" possibly in its last season (several of the stars' contracts are up at the end of the year, and the ratings have gone down since the show moved from the WB to the CW), the network faces a real programming dilemma for that night.

Or maybe it doesn't. With solidly rated dramas ("House," "Law & Order," "NCIS," et. al.) occupying those 8-10 p.m. timeslots on other networks, perhaps the CW feels it can't compete in the ratings. They may look at shows like "Pussycat Dolls" as more cost-effective solutions - good for the CW, bad for the rest of us.

If the CW is looking to morph its brand yet again by ending two of its better dramas, it could have a trickle-down effect on other shows. For example, "Supernatural" has been a very solid cult show on Thursdays, despite having competition from two of TV's ratings behemoths in "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI." Nothing the CW will put in that timeslot will ever get big ratings, but "Supernatural" has been a good companion piece for "Smallville" the last two years.

Earlier this month, reports were coming out that the CW was 60-40 in favor of renewing "Supernatural," but if they are going to kill off "VM," nothing is safe.

Nothing is set in stone, however. If you are a fan of these shows, I encourage you to write the network or go to its Web site and e-mail them. If enough people show their support, it's possible to save some of these shows.

FRIDAY'S BEST BETS: A pretty quiet night unless you are a college basketball fan. (Wasn't it great to see Duke lose last night?) The NCAA tournament continues all day today, including prime-time action tonight beginning at 7 p.m. on CBS.

Fox has the lone new episode of a drama tonight, with "The Wedding Bells" at 9 p.m.

Everything else is reruns except for NBC's game shows, "1 vs. 100" and "Identity" beginning at 8 p.m.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: A couple of great series are winding down Sunday night. The penultimate episode of "Rome" (HBO, 9 p.m.) hits the air, in what has been a solid season (but could have been better if they hadn't tried to shove so much stuff into it.)

"Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.) continues with the trial of Baltar.

Also, "The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.) just got a lot more interesting with the shocking elimination of reality uber-stars Rob and Amber.

Plus, March Madness continues all through the weekend.

Finally, for Macon-area viewers, Georgia Public Television will air the Cherry Blossom Festival parade live on Sunday, beginning at 3 p.m. In addition, ABC is sending a crew down here to film stuff on the festival for an upcoming edition of "Good Morning America."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Andy's Dandy; Raines' Pains

Sometimes, TV can be ahead of its time.

When "Andy Richter Controls The Universe" came out a few years ago, it was one of the cleverist, funniest sitcoms on the air.

Nobody watched.

So, it's both with joy and nervousness that I point out the debut of "Andy Barker, P.I." (NBC, 9:30 p.m.), which will be in "30 Rock's" timeslot for the next six weeks. Starring former Conan O'Brien sidekick Andy Richter, it's a tongue-in-cheek send-up of detective shows as the mild-mannered CPA Barker (Richter) gets mistaken for the private detective (Harve Presnell) who used to occupy the same office space and is hired to find a missing Russian.

Tony Hale ("Arrested Development") plays the manager of a video store in the same strip mall who becomes a sidekick.

In the hands of a lesser comic, "Barker" might have fallen flat, but Richter makes his character so darned likeable that you can't help but root for him, especially as he solves a client's IRA issues during a car chase.

The pilot heavily borrows from the classic movie "Chinatown," and is a pretty good homage to it.

Speaking of "Chinatown," the L.A. noir style is revisited in the new drama "Raines" (NBC, 10 p.m.), starring Jeff Goldblum as a detective who talks to dead people. Not necessarily in the "Sixth Sense" way, however. It's more like they're there for him to bounce ideas off.

"Raines" was pretty uneven as a pilot; the title hero is neurotic (the annoying kind of neurosis, not the funny kind) and the plot is fairly predictable. "Raines" will spend two weeks in "ER's" Thursday slot, then move over to the "Las Vegas" timeslot on Fridays.

Both shows - the "Raines" pilot and all six "Barkers" are available on, which has gotten slightly better in its presentation of late, though watching online was very choppy, even with high-speed wireless.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: It used to be the other networks would just give up during the weeks of March Madness, but not this year. If you aren't into basketball or not in an NCAA pool (though not for money, because that would be wrong), you have other options besides the NCAA Tournament (CBS, noon through the rest of the evening).

In addition to its new pilots listed above, NBC also has a new "Scrubs" at 9 p.m. Even though they are reruns, the two episodes of "The Office" at 8 p.m. have been re-cut with previously deleted material re-integrated into the show.

Lana Lang and Lex Luthor may or may not get married in tonight's "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.), while "Battlestar Galactica" Cylon babe Tricia Helfer guest stars on tonight's "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.)

Fox is relatively quiet, airing a new installment of surprise hit "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" at 8 p.m., making me very sad for the American public in general.

NBC isn't the only one debuting new pilots; ABC will air "October Road" at 10 p.m. The new drama, written by Scott Rosenberg ("Beautiful Girls"), involves a successful novelist (Bryan Greenberg) who returns home after a decade when he develops writer's block. The trouble is, he trashed his hometown in his novel and he is none-too-popular.

"October Road" has been ripped by the critics thus far, though not by me, what with ABC not including me on its screener's list, so I can't tell you if it's deserving of all its scorn. It also stars Laura Prepon and Tom Berenger. ABC also has new episodes of "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy," thus ensuring that "October Road" should get huge ratings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not MyTube - Don't Sue Me!

For those of you who don't read newspapers often enough, the news came out Tuesday that Viacom (the parent company of Paramount, CBS, MTV, et. al.) is suing YouTube and Google for a whopping $1 billion for copyright infringement. That's billion with a "B," folks.

It's actually a case that has a lot of interesting facets and could affect how we use online media for years to come. Viacom is ticked off that clips from many of its programs and music videos are posted on YouTube for free, where anyone can access them. This, of course, means that Viacom isn't making any money off its own material, while YouTube is getting millions of hits.

YouTube yanks most of the copyrighted stuff off its sight when it is informed of the infringment, but because of the nature of these sites, anyone can post most anything at any time, so it's very difficult to keep up with it all.

The BBC got around this problem by signing a deal with YouTube to broadcast BBC material online, but a similar deal between Viacom and YouTube fell through.

With the future of media heading more toward the Internet, this case could influence the TV/Internet synergy for years to come, especially with networks hosting their own Web sites and with making shows available for sale on platforms such as iTunes.

With commercial TV changing in its very nature with the advent of things like DVRs - which are making commercials obselete - the way we watch TV and how networks make their money is going to change over the next few years.

What is worrisome is that this could really end up biting the average consumer in the hindquarters. Look at the music industry, for example.

The RIAA, which oversees the industry, is not only shutting down and suing Web sites left and right for illegal downloads, they are also going after consumers who download the songs. Some people are paying hundreds, even thousands of dollars for songs they have downloaded from these sites over the years.

Is TV heading for the same thing? If you download your favorite show from something other than a network site or iTunes, could you face legal trouble?

This is a case to keep your eye on.

THURSDAY SWITCHEROO: According to, "30 Rock" will not be pulled for the entire six weeks in lieu of "Andy Barker, P.I." "Barker," which debuts tomorrow night on NBC, will replace "30 Rock" for a couple of weeks.

But "30 Rock" will return sooner than expected, with super-sized episodes beginning April 5. It then moves into the 9 p.m. slot on April 12, replacing "Scrubs," which will be pushed back to 9:30 p.m. "Scrubs," in turn, will air back-to-back episodes from 9-10 p.m. beginning May 3.

Got all that?

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: We've missed you, Dr. Brennan. "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns from a three-week hiatus with a new episode tonight, in which one of Brennan's books is the template for a murder. It's followed by the always-popular "American Idol" and the sitcom "Til Death."

ABC is running new episodes of sitcom mediocrity from 8-10 p.m., followed by a new "Lost."

"Jericho," (CBS, 8 p.m.) and "Crossing Jordan" (NBC, 9 p.m.) are also new.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

For Those With Varying Musical Tastes

The world, at least the TV one, seems to stop in the wake of "American Idol."

The two-hour block of "AI" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is just about the only new thing on the tube tonight, unless you want to count the newest installment of "Pussycat Dolls" (CW, 9 p.m.) - but really, who does?

Other network executives refer to "AI" as the Death Star, since it generally destroys other TV shows in its path and gets away with charging four times the average ad rate during its broadcast time. Fox has managed to spread the show across three nights a week, and would probably try even more than that if it could figure out how.

If you want some different alternatives in terms of music from "AI," you're best bet may be PBS, which is showing "Elvis Lives" (GPTV, 8 p.m.), a 25th anniversary concert dedicated to the King, and "Roy Orbison & Friends" at 9:30 p.m., a PBS staple during pledge season that still holds up extremely well after all these years.

ANNA NICOLE IS DEAD, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: You knew this one was coming.

The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes is reporting producer Dick Wolf is adapting the death of (how should we describe her? Former model? Media personality?) Anna Nicole Smith for an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" that could air in May.

De Moraes reports that Kristy Swanson is in talks to play the Anna Nicole character, while Jon Lovitz - seriously - may play the Howard K. Stern role of the drama.

Also on deck for "L&O" - the astronaut kidnapping story. No details on who would be cast for this one.

There are a plethora of jokes itching to come out of me right now, but in the interest of politeness and just because it's too easy, I choose to refrain from typing them up.

TRU FAITH: The return of Eliza Dushku ("Buffy," "Tru Calling") is usually a good thing, though her upcoming series on Fox may put that to the test.

According to, Dushku will be the lead in a new series called "Nurses," a medical soap opera about a young woman just out of med school working at a hospital. (Didn't something like this come out a couple of years ago? Wasn't it called "Grey's Anatomy?" How did that show do?)

Dushku replaces Katheryn Winnick in the lead role. Who said TV is running out of good ideas? It may join a lineup next fall that includes a time traveller who leaps around in time to help people that isn't called "Quantum Leap" and a show about a vampire detective that isn't called "Angel."

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you aren't an "AI" fan, you are pretty much screwed. If you are an "AI" fan, the world is your oyster.

Sports fans get a break with the official start of the NCAA tournament, the much vaunted play-in game between Florida A&M and Niagra (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.), sure to be a bracket-buster for someone.

The Braves play the Astros (SportsSouth, 7 p.m.) in spring training. With Opening Day in just three weeks, life will be worth living once more.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Buffy

My brother sent me this link over the weekend, which does a pretty good job of measuring the impact that "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" has had on television over the past decade.

For my money, there isn't a better TV writer than Joss Whedon. Every one of his TV series - "Buffy," "Angel," and "Firefly" - always managed to find the perfect blend of humor, action and self-reflection. Whedon also had a knack for finding the best writing talent around; when "Angel" was ending, I remember seeing a Web posting of all of the writing staff's next projects. That's something you don't see discussed very often.

"Buffy" set the standard for a strong, female lead character who didn't always make the right decision even when her heart was in the right place. It tackled a lot of issues facing teens, but not in an afterschool special kind of way. And it made for some of the most fun hours on TV.

As the link above points out, shows like "Alias" and "Veronica Mars" really owe their existence to "Buffy." I never watched the former, and the latter hasn't measured up to "Buffy's" standards for me in part because it has never developed its supporting cast the way "Buffy" did.

I would post my top 10 favorite "Buffy" moments or episodes, but honestly, it's hard to pare down such a list to just 10.

TV hasn't been the same for me since Whedon has left its landscape.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Maconite Hugh Neisler continues his run on "Deal Or No Deal" (NBC, 8 p.m.), which airs in a two-hour block tonight with "Heroes" on hiatus.

Fox airs a "House" rerun instead of "Prison Break" this week, followed by a new "24" (Fox, 9 p.m.)

"The New Adventures of Old Christine" (CBS, 8 p.m.) returns from hiatus with two new episodes tonight, followed by a "Two and a Half Men" rerun and a new "Rules of Engagement."

Probably the most interesting offering of the night is "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.), which stars Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as a couple of con artists who assume the identity of a dead couple and move their family into the deceased's upscale neighborhood. The series is a dark comedy and something of a social satire.

Though FX is often hit-or-miss with its offerings, when it does hit ("The Shield," "Rescue Me"), it's some of the best TV on the tube. Whether "The Riches" falls into that category or that of "Dirt" remains to be seen, but it's probably worth checking out the pilot at least.

Friday, March 09, 2007

More This, A Little Bit Of That

Here are a few notes to tide you over for the weekend.

--Maconite Hugh Neisler will compete on "Deal or No Deal" beginning Sunday night at 9 p.m. and will continue Monday at 8 p.m. For a complete story about Hugh, you can check out my story in The Telegraph or read it at beginning Saturday.

--For years, we have known "The Simpsons" to be set in Springfield, but we don't know which Springfield it is. With the movie coming out this summer, we may find out.

Fox is inviting city officials from Springfields all over the U.S. to compete for the right to screen the movie this July. Some 16 Springfields are competing for the honor across the country, including Oregon's, which is the home state of "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening.

--NBC announced it will run an "Office" marathon on March 29, hosted by Paul Lieberstein (one of the shows writer/actors, he plays Toby, the human resources guy). Five episodes will run to accompany new sitcom "Andy Barker, PI." By the way, you can catch all six episodes of "Andy Barker," the new series starring comic Andy Richter, online at, assuming you can find it and get it to work on what is TV's most inefficient Web site.

FRIDAY'S BEST BETS: Tonight's your last chance to catch original CBS shows like "Close To Home" or "Numb3rs" for the next couple of weeks, since they will be pre-empted by the NCAA basketball tournament.

A new comedy by Jennifer Saunders ("AbFab") called "Clatterford" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) airs tonight, starring regular Saunders co-horts Joanna Lumley and Dawn French, among others.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The state high school basketball championships will be running all day on Georgia Public Television, so check the listings to see if your team is playing.

I urge you once again to check out "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.), a highly entertaining remake of the familiar tale.

Sunday has a lot of new stuff, including a new night of comedy on Fox beginning with "The Simpsons" at 8 p.m. On CBS, series star Anthony LaPaglia wrote this week's new episode of "Without A Trace" (CBS, 10 p.m.), which follows new installments of "The Amazing Race" and "Cold Case."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Living In A Cave

So I got a forwarded e-mail this morning from a friend about an article from The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes. In it, she tells of ABC's plan to develop a sitcom around the cavemen from the Geico commercials.

Who says TV is running out of ideas?

I suppose there is something of a tradition of cavemen on TV. "The Flintstones," of course, was one of the most popular animated TV shows of all time and even launched a couple of live-action movies. There was also the more obscure animated "Captain Caveman," a rather obscure superhero who ran around with three hot chicks saving the world or somesuch.

The late, great Phil Hartman used to have a sketch on "Saturday Night Live" entitled "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer." He was a caveman with all the modern problems but would always win his cases or get out of trouble by a sarcastic "Your machines frighten me!"

Of course, that was a two-minute skit and had the brilliant Hartman in it. While I find the Geico commercials generally amusing, I don't see how anyone could possibly mine 30 minutes of material on a weekly basis from it. Supposedly, the series will be set in Atlanta, de Moraes reports, which just leads to all sorts of jokes I won't go into here.

I realize that so much of TV is recycled hash, so when someone thinks they have a clever idea based on a current hot trend, I can almost see why they choose to run with it. But if network executives sat down and processed information for five minutes, they might see why a sitcom based around modern-day caveman probably won't have a lot of steam to it.

To paraphrase the commercial, even a caveman could figure it out. It just makes you wonder how cavemen stack up to network TV executives on the evolutionary scale. Judging by the way ABC programmed Wednesday nights this year, my money is on the cavemen.

R.I.P. CAPTAIN AMERICA: The superhero, who took a bullet outside a courthouse in the just released comic book "Captain America #25," was in his 80s, though a lot of the time was spent frozen in an iceberg. Cap routinely helped save the world from everything from the Nazis to the Skrulls, so he will be missed. Still, he'll likely be back in a later issue.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Repeats, repeats everywhere, at least in the scripted show world. The notable exceptions are new episodes of "Scrubs" and "30 Rock" on NBC tonight beginning at 9 p.m.

Reality TV offers new installments, including a new "Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) and a new "American Idol," (Fox, 8 p.m.) in which a couple of more contestants are voted off, and Idol alum Carrie Underwood performs her new hit single, "Wasted." Also airing a new episode is the reality phenomenon "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?" (Fox, 9 p.m.), surprisingly not produced by people who want to give cavemen their own sitcom.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I Hate David E. Kelley

Let me preface this posting by saying I've never actually met David E. Kelley. For all I know, he's a wonderful guy and caring human being.

But he's a sucky TV producer.

Yeah, I know he's gotten tons of TV shows on the air that for some reason TV critics always seem to love, but for me, the rare moments I've caught an episode or two of one of his shows, I feel my intelligence has been insulted.

Look, I'm the guy who rails about "24" and "Prison Break" because they rarely meet my "willing suspension of disbelief" test, but those storylines are practically Shakespearian compared to the various offerings from Kelley over the years.

My first brush with a Kelley show was catching an episode of "Picket Fences" at a friend's house in grad school. In the episode, the mayor of the town has shot someone to death. He tells this to his lawyer, who then argues to the court that he can't represent his client because he knows the client to be guilty.

Huh? But before this little flaw in 200 years of American jurisprudence is resolved, the mayor spontaneously combusts. (I'm really not making this up). Needless to say, I didn't catch any more "Picket Fences" after that.

There was this two-part episode of "The Practice" I unfortunately had to watch because it was running on the TV in the office. In it, the lawyers are defending a guy who supposedly murdered his lover. At one point, the lawyers keep getting rulings against them by the judge, so they get out of their chairs and threaten to leave en masse as a sign of protest. Seriously. The case is eventually resolved when the lawyer gets a witness on the stand to read something, and the witness pulls out her eyeglasses. The lawyer realizes that because of this, the witness is the killer. (Don't ask me, I didn't get it either.)

Over at another friend's house once, "Chicago Hope" was playing in the background. During those few minutes, a group of medical students snuck a horse into the hospital as a prank (and the horse got away from them) and two doctors were engaged in dirty talk with each other - while they were treating an accident victim in the ER. (Didn't make that up, either).

All of this is a long-winded way of pointing out that Kelley's latest opus, "Wedding Bells" (Fox, 9 p.m.) makes its debut tonight. Teri Polo is one of three sisters who run a wedding-planner business. Hilarity often ensues with their various clients. (Perhaps someone will even spontaneously combust, who knows?)

I plan on not watching "Wedding Bells," not because I couldn't care less about the wedding planning business - I don't care about haute couture and I still love "Ugly Betty" - but because it's a Kelley show.

Don't even get me started on the fact that Kelley is adapting one of my favorites, "Life on Mars," to American TV even as it still airs on the BBC in its true, proper form. Most British shows (with the exception of "The Office") suffer when they make the leap to U.S. TV, and one can only wonder how bad "Life on Mars" will suck in Kelley's hands.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: NBC has yanked "Friday Night Lights" this week, which is usually one of my reasons for living on Wednesays. The rest of the night, however, is new with original episodes of "Crossing Jordan" and "Medium" - neither of which has ever given me a reason to live.

With the female contestants squaring off on "American Idol," (Fox, 8 p.m.), "Wedding Bells" should do well in the ratings having that strong lead-in.

"Jericho" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is new, but the rest of the night - "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" - aren't.

ABC is continuing to run original "Lost" episodes for the rest of the season at 10 p.m., but tortures us with two hours of sitcom mediocrity beforehand.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Don't I Wish My Girlfriend Was Just Like Them? Uh, Not So Much

I've long ago accepted the fact that my favorite TV shows can't run 52 weeks a year. (Though if I ruled the universe, they damn sure would).

But if a network is going to pull a show for a period of time to introduce something new, at least make it something worthwhile. That's all I ask.

ABC yanks "Lost" for nearly three months, and all it gives us is "Daybreak," which bombed and actually hurt "Lost's" ratings when it returned.

"Veronica Mars" is already 50-50 to return for a fourth season next year, but what is the CW giving us in its place? Season 2 of "The Pussycat Dolls," (CW, 9 p.m.) Sadly, I've no doubt that a bunch of hot, scantily clad, no-talent group of young women will probably do better for the network than "VM" did in the ratings.

It's not that I don't like hot, scantily clad women. I like them as much as the next guy. But prime-time real estate is a valuable commodity (even on the CW) and some shows can't afford to be yanked, particularly a complexly plotted show like "VM." Meanwhile, the networks continue to dumb down the TV landscape with shows like "Pussycat Dolls" and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," which earned Fox better numbers last week than any show not named "American Idol."

What's frustrating is that the networks have been edging toward smarter TV (in spite of themselves) thanks to the strong programming on cable. But for every two steps forward, they seem to leap one back.

NOT SO PROSPEROUS: ABC has yanked freshman sitcom "Knights of Prosperity," thanks to low ratings. Whoever programs for ABC on Wednesday nights ought to be dragged out and shot, because this is just the latest foul-up for the network on that night. "Knights," a show that had a lot of buzz (though I thought it inferior to the similarly themed "My Name Is Earl") never had a chance as ABC put it on against "American Idol."

LOST-HEROES CONNECTIONS: This pretty clever article from the Boston Globe was e-mailed to me courtesy of my brother.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Rock star Dave Matthews guest stars as an autistic piano prodigy on "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.), one of the few original episodes of any series airing tonight. It follows the male finalists squaring off on "American Idol."

ABC, CBS and NBC are all reruns with their dramatic series tonight. Before inflicting the "Pussycat Dolls" upon us, the CW gives us a new "Gilmore Girls" at 8 p.m.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Action Is His Reward

Fans of the popular "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) will get to see a familiar hero tonight.

The network will run a one-minute new preview of "Spider-Man 3" during the episode. After the episode is over, viewers will be able to log onto and check out a six-minute clip of the movie, assuming the average viewer can actually find the right spot on, no easy feat.

For the average "Heroes" viewer, this is just the cherry on top since the series is coming off its best episode in what has been an outstanding freshman season. Tonight, the plot leaps forward as we meet the mysterious mob boss Linderman (Malcolm McDowell), who seems to have a hand in everyone's life.

The only downside is that tonight marks the end of new "Heroes" episodes for about six weeks, after which NBC will wrap up the first season with five original episodes beginning in May.

Some upcoming hints for "Heroes" - one episode, centered around Hiro and Ando, takes place five years into the future. In addition, series creator Tim Kring said in an interview last week that Season 2 will take place with a different storyline, and while most of the heroes and villains introduced this season may be back, some won't be and will be replaced by other super-powered people.

ONE LONG DAY: For the half-dozen people upset at the early demise of the series "Daybreak," you're in luck. has posted all 13 episodes of the series online, which will feature some sort of resolution to what was one of the oddest and most confusing plotlines this season. ABC's Web site is much better than NBC's, so you should have an easier time watching these episodes if you are so inclined.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The final episode of the freshman comedy "The Class" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) airs tonight. Hopefully, it's just the last one of the season and not the last one ever. This series began with a huge bidding war among all the networks for the rights to the show, then was rather uneven during its first year. But there were enough good things at the end that I hope the show gets a second chance. It will be replaced by "The New Adventures of Old Christine" next week. The other CBS sitcoms are also new tonight.

Pres. Reynolds (Patricia Wettig) makes her return tonight on "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.), followed by more ex-Pres. Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) on "24" at 9 p.m. Perhaps we could get a Reynolds-Logan showdown as to which President has a more convuluted conspiracy going.

Tonight also marks the second episode of the new mob series "The Black Donnellys" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Plenty of TV This Weekend

It will be another fairly brief update today, what with the storms that came through the area.

I hope everyone has electricity to feed their cable/satellite systems for the weekend, because there should be some pretty good stuff on.

Tonight marks the season finales for both "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.), followed by "Psych."

On Saturday at 9 p.m., the latest incarnation of "Robin Hood" hits the airwaves, with BBC America showing a new version of the classic character. Like most stuff on BBC America, it's usually better than the standard TV fare.

The new Fox series "The Winner," starring Rob Corddry ("The Daily Show") has been getting raves from all of the TV critics I have read. Set as a flashback in 1994, it centers around a 32-year-old unemployed man who still lives with his parents and is trying to reconnect with the lone girlfriend he had. Fox is showing two episodes of "The Winner," one at 8:30 p.m. and the other at 9:30 p.m.

Director James Cameron has produced a documentary claiming to have found the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. The two-hour special airs Sunday night at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

Most of the weekend's usual programs are reruns, but Sci-Fi has an original night of stuff on Sunday, beginning with "The Dresden Files" at 9 p.m. and "Battlestar Galactica" at 10 p.m., which will feature what producers have been describing as a pivotal moment in the series.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Book Review: Hello, Lied the Agent

When I was visiting my parents in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, an insider's look at the TV industry caught my eye.

It turned out to be one of the best book purchases I've made in recent memory.

"Hello, Lied the Agent" is a memoir from veteran TV writer Ian Gurvitz ("Becker," "Wings"). It's a laugh-out-loud account of his efforts to pitch potential pilots to the various networks. One was a vehicle for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss co-produced by the creators of "Cheers" and "Frasier." Another was a project written specifically for Daryl "Chill" Mitchell ("Ed," "Veronica's Closet"). A third was a deal involving comic Lewis Black ("The Daily Show").

Anyone who has ever wondered how some of the dreck that is currently on the tube gets there should pick up a copy, as Gurvitz goes through the year-long-plus process of trying to develop sitcoms with clueless network executives. You'd think pitching a pilot for a TV star as big as Julia Louis-Dreyfus from a veteran TV writer working with the guys who created two of the biggest sitcoms of all time would be a slam dunk.

Not so much.

At one point, Gurvitz gives details of all the network's offerings in 2004, and it's a fascinating list since even a TV junkie like myself couldn't even remember half of the shows listed there. For every hit that came out that season ("Desperate Housewives," "Lost") there are about five shows that seemed like good ideas but never found an audience and another 10 where the reader wonders what the networks were thinking.

Gurvitz shows how potentially good ideas are so dumbed down by studio executives that they aren't even worth doing. For the Mitchell project, the pilot centered around the actor as a smart-aleck judge forced to solve people's problems, which would have played to the wise-cracking Mitchell's strengths. After the development people got a hold of it, Gurvitz was forced to re-write the script over and over to make Mitchell more sympathetic and saintly, because the actor was handicapped in a motorcycle accident. After Gurvitz grudgingly put all the development notes into the script, the networks backed off because the show wasn't "edgy" enough.

Gurvitz gets his shots in at studio executives, agents and TV critics, and paints the role of Hollywood writer as so frustrating that you wonder why anyone would do it in the first place (I've been wondering that for the past five years myself).

The book is a highly amusing, quick read, and one that offers a great look inside the nuts and bolts of the TV industry.

AROUND THE DIAL: David Boreanaz ("Bones," "Angel") will provide the voice of Green Lantern in the WB's straight-to-video of "New Frontier," an animated version of Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel, arguably the best comic book written in the past five years. I know 98 percent of you won't care, but I think it's cool news, and this is my blog. ....

The CW is running a promotion where aspiring filmmakers can enter their own promos for "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) Visit beginning today for more details. ...

Actor Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos") has already dropped out of the next edition of "Dancing With The Stars," according to TV Guide. Shockingly, Pastore feels he is not up to the physical demands of the show. A replacement has yet to be named. ...

Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," will debut on Showtime on March 11. ...

Fox's new reality show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," which airs another episode tonight at 9 p.m., pulled in 26.5 million viewers with its Tuesday debut, news that will make both me and Ian Gurvitz pretty depressed.

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: Not a whole lot. With sweeps over, the networks have pulled most of their originial episodes, but if you are into reality TV, you're in luck.

"American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) votes off four more would-be singers tonight (for more "AI" discussion, check out Amped, the Telegraph's music blog), which will be followed by what "Fifth Grader," which will no doubt be billed as America's newest sensation by the Fox promo people.

"Survivor" (CBS, 8 p..m.) is also new, as are "Scrubs" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and "30 Rock" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) Everything else is a re-run. If you missed "The Black Donnellys" pilot on Monday, NBC is re-running it tonight at 10 p.m. in place of "ER."