Friday, June 29, 2007

I Am Kirk!!!

So, I was browsing in Barnes & Noble the other day when I happened upon "Who's Your TV Alter Ego?" by Noah Lusky.

The book gives you personality tests related to 52 different TV shows of all eras. You take the test, then you score yourself to find out which character you mostly resemble.

A sample question is, "If you were a cake ingrediant, you'd be..." and you choose among: flour, egg, sugar, vanilla or oil. Depending on your choice, you match your answer to the score at the end of the test and find out which character you are.

The book is very fresh: shows like "Ugly Betty" and "Heroes" are among the tests.

I took a few as a sample. On "Arrested Development," I most closely resemble Gob, barely edging out Buster (thank God). On "Battlestar Galactica" (the new version), I'm an Apollo.

For "Seinfeld," I was almost a perfect match for Jerry.

Of course, I had to see which "Star Trek" profile I fit. It was close, but I ended up resembling James T. Kirk. It's really not hard to understand why.

The Kirk profile reads: "You're the quintessential hero, capable of getting out of the tightest of jams even under the most dire of circumstances. Passionate and expressive, your flair for the dramatic is only bested by your ability to think on your feet and make the hard decisions."

Hey, if that doesn't describe me, I don't know what does...

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Just a quick summing up. Catch one of the last few "Standoffs" (Fox, 9 p.m.) on Friday and a new "Hex" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.)

Also, "Mystery" continues with "Foyle's War" on Sunday (PBS, 10 p.m.) and USA is all-new with "The 4400" and "The Dead Zone" from 9-11.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Notice To Get Burned

Sorry for skipping out yesterday, but it's been a busy week. I hope no one wasn't able to watch TV last night because of it.

Jeffrey Donovan is one of those interesting, if unheard of, actors whose projects I usually enjoy. I was probably one of six people who watched his "Touching Evil" a few years on USA, which I enjoyed before the show was yanked.

Donovan returns to USA tonight in a new series called "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) Though its series usually aren't in the class of FX or HBO, USA does put some decent programming out there with shows like "Monk," "The Dead Zone" and "The 4400," among others, so this one might be worth a look.

Donovan plays former spy Michael Weston, who learns on an assignment that he has been fired from his job. In spy lingo, he has received his burn notice. Now shunned by the rest of the spy world and having all of his accounts frozen, Weston returns to his home of Miami to apply his skills as a private detective.

The tone of the series is a comic-drama, not unlike "Monk" or "Psych." The show also has a good supporting cast, including Gabrielle Anwar as Weston's ex-girlfriend; Sharon Gless as his mom; and the one and only Bruce Campbell as Weston's friend. C'mon, it's worth watching alone just for Bruce Campbell.

TV NEWS: The absolutely frakkin' gorgeous Sophia Myles has been added to the cast of CBS' "Moonlight," the vampire drama that rips off "Angel," further compelling me to give the show a shot. Myles replaces Shannon Lucio, who was cast in the original pilot. Also, Jason Dohring of "Veronica Mars" will replace Rade Serbedzija as Josef, an elder vampire who stirs up the plot. ...

Oxygen is giving aspiring TV producers a shot at creating their own sitcom. Create-A-Series Comedy Competition will run on the network's broadband site, and will be judged by former "Saturday Night Live" star Molly Shannon. Competition opened on Tuesday and runs through August. For more information, visit ...

In a move signalling comedy is truly dead on ABC, the network renewed the previously cancelled "According To Jim" yesterday. Rumor is, it might be because the new Geico caveman-inspired series is SO bad that "According To Jim" is looking like the better choice, which truly boggles the mind. (No offense to the "According To Jim" fans out there; I'm sure both of you are delighted at the news).

TONIGHT'S BEST BETS: "Studio 60" (NBC, 10 p.m.) ends what has been a terrific run since its return last month, wrapping up its various storylines: Will Jordan survive her surgery? Will Tom's brother be rescued? Will Matt and Harriet get back together? (It sounds more like a soap opera than a show about a comedy series). It's a shame too many viewers jumped ship, because the series really found its sea legs over the past four weeks.

Also on at a busy 10 p.m. hour is Bravo's new reality series, "Hey Paula," which centers on "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul. If nothing else, you have to believe Abdul will provide them with a lot of material, much of which will be unintentional.

If you missed "Men In Trees" the first time around, tonight is your chance to catch the pilot (ABC, 10 p.m.) which is being shown once more.

And finally, for the sports nuts, the 2007 NBA Draft (ESPN, 7 p.m.) airs tonight. Unlike the NFL draft, at least this one is just two rounds. And, after Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are picked, there is some mystery as to whom will be taken next.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shaq Attack On Obesity

Normally, we tend to diss on the bulk of reality programming the networks offer here at The TV Guy, but hopefully the genre's newest offering can actually make a bit of a difference.

"Shaq's Big Challenge" (ABC, 9 p.m.) gives us NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal helping a group of obese children both learn the medical dangers facing them and lose their excess weight.

It's not the first reality programming devoted to weight loss - NBC has had "The Biggest Loser" on for a few years now - but rarely are these shows aimed at children. Childhood obesity is one of the fastest growing health problems in the U.S., leading potentially to later issues such as heart problems and diabetes.

Tonight's show hopefully has a decent chance of reaching kids because of the involvement of one of the biggest athletes in the world, in both a figurative and literal sense.

Some critics have publicly questioned whether Shaq was the right choice for this program, since he has battled weight issues before. Shaq himself has pointed that he has never had more than 14 percent body fat during his career, but even if that wasn't the case, I think it makes it more relevant, not less, if the athlete himself knows first-hand about battling weight problems.

"Shaq's Big Challenge" isn't the sort of program that's going to draw a wide audience, like other reality programs do, but it could be one that does some lasting good.

PLEASE, ISAIAH, JUST SHUT UP: Embattled ex-"Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington, who seems to have the worst advisors ever, will tell his side of the story on "Larry King Live" on Monday. If you didn't check in last week, Washington is now saying T.R. Knight is the guy who should have been fired.

Yeah, Knight, how dare your sexuality cause someone else to utter a derogatory slur against you! How dare you cause Washington to attack co-star Patrick Dempsey physically, even though you weren't in the same room! Geez, what was ABC thinking?

Please, let's move on to something else.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Like Mondays (and seemingly every other night) Tuesday is full of repeats and reality. The only reality show I'm currently recommending is "On The Lot," which gets down to its final dozen tonight. Some of the choices America have voted for and against are mind-boggling, but so far, most of the people who have deserved to advance have done so. I'm kind of worried about the guy who directed the crappy soap opera film from last week, because he usually has been one of the best, but that so-called horror movie by the girl was so bad that it's almost unthinkable that she will advance. But who'd have thought she would have advanced the previous round after that stupid movie about the light bulb?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Not So Rosie

Whether you loved her or hated her, there was no question that Rosie O'Donnell had a huge impact on the ratings when she joined "The View." Probably in part because people wanted to see what she would say next, ratings spiked significantly once she was on board.

But how much impact did O'Donnell have? Recently released ratings have shown "The View" hasn't lost any ratings since O'Donnell abruptly quit the show last month after an on-air shouting match with co-host Elizabeth Hasselback. In fact, the ratings have remained fairly consistent.

So either Rosie herself wasn't as big a draw as people first thought, or people found something of more interest about the show once she left.

Perhaps the producers of "The Price Is Right" should take note, since O'Donnell has been openly lobbying for Bob Barker's old job over the past couple of weeks.

Frankly, the current version of Rosie would be too much of a personality to serve as a game show host, and one shudders to think how political she could get - much more so than just "having your pets spayed or neutered."

I am assured by a source close to the situation who said rumors of Rosie taking over the show are just that - rumors. But they are unsettling, particularly since the peace and quiet of daytime TV over the past month has been a relief.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: If you've been enjoying "Creature Comforts" on CBS, well, you are out of luck. The network has yanked the show from its schedule, replacing it with reruns of "New Adventures of Old Christine." I found "Creature Comforts" to be a bit uneven - the animation was terrific and hilarious, but the shows themselves seemed bland - but you'd think the network would rather run original programming during the summer.

Other than that, it's pretty much all reality on the networks at this point. Contrast NBC and ABC; the former is running "Age of Love," about 40-somethings vs. 20-somethings fighting over a 30-year-old tennis star, while the latter has shows like "Wife Swap" and "Ex-Wives Club." Perhaps Mark Philipoussis should flip channels and catch a glimpse of his future.

Your best bets are probably on cable. TNT is airing new episodes of "The Closer" at 9 p.m., followed by the new drama "Heartland" at 10 p.m.

"Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) is also new, as is "Big Love" (HBO, 9 p.m.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

More Quick Hits

Sorry loyal dozens, but a bunch of news stuff has me too swamped for much of an update.

So, just some weekend highlights:

--You can catch the remaining few episodes of "Standoff" (Fox, 9 p.m.) each Friday, unless Fox decides to pull a "Tru Calling" on us. (Yeah, Fox, don't think I haven't forgotten!)

--Sci-Fi wraps up a bunch of shows, including the series finale of "Stargate SG-1" at 8 p.m. (don't worry, though, they are making a couple of TV movies to continue on). Also new tonight are "Stargate: Atlantis" and "Painkiller Jane."

--"Hex" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) continues to entertain in its second, and last, season.

--If you are a fan of "Mystery" (PBS, Sun., 9 p.m.), the excellent "Foyle's War" has returned. It's one of my favorites in the "Mystery" anthology.

--Also on Sunday are new episodes of various premium network dramas, including "Entourage" and "John From Cincinnati" on HBO and the new, quirky "Meadowlands" on Showtime.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Keeping One's Mouth Closed

The latest twist in the Isaiah Washington scandal is a real doozy, as reports today that it should have been T.R. Knight who was fired from "Grey's Anatomy," not him.

Say what?

According to the story, posted at with material used from The Houston Chronicle, Washington said that while he did use an epithet against homosexuals, it wasn't directed at Knight specifically when Washington and co-star Patrick Dempsey got physical last fall.

Washington accuses Knight of using the incident to leverage more screentime and pay from the producers.

As idiotic as using a derogatory slur against any group is, Washington's latest statement may be one for the books. I was almost - ALMOST - ready to have the slightest bit of sympathy for him when he was fired a couple of weeks ago, because as he pointed out at the time, he did all the stuff ABC asked of him to try to make the situation right. And ABC hasn't really been the moral beacon in this case, because they chose to fire Washington only when it was convenient for the network - when the current season was over - and not at the time of the incident.

But Washington has not only crossed the line, he's moved two zip codes away from it.

Not even considering his bigotry for a moment in using the slur, Washington forced Knight's private life into the open when it was clear the latter wanted to keep it private, which is his right. There's no telling what impact this incident might have on Knight's career. What if producers don't offer him "straight" roles because they don't think he can be convincing in them, for example?

Washington's career, meanwhile, may have gotten the final nail in its coffin. His negative incidents on the set and perceived bias against homosexuals not withstanding, now trying to turn the victim of the situation into the villain might be the final straw for any producers in the future who might have considered hiring him. At this point, whomever is managing Washington's career needs to put a gag on him.

Had another "Grey's" actor used a racial epithet against Washington on the set, no doubt the actor would have demanded that person be fired, and would have had justification to do so. Washington needs to realize it's a two-way street.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: You know, if "Studio 60" had been as consistent as it has the past three weeks, the show would likely be on the air next season. The show (NBC, 10 p.m.) has really kicked it up a notch with the concurrent storylines of Jordan's pregnancy and Tom's kidnapped brother. I'm going to miss this show more than I thought.

The rest of the new stuff is pretty much all reality. You may want to catch up on "The Office" marathon, with three supersized episodes on NBC from 8-10 p.m.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Some More Of This & That

A bunch of casting news out there that may be of interest, garnered from various sources, mostly

--"Prison Break" is adding four new cast members, including Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as a member of the mysterious group behind the whole situation and a potential love interest for Lincoln; Robert Wisdom ("The Wire") will play a drug lord incarcerated at the group's new South American prison.

--"Heroes" has given a plethora of actors new employment. David Anders (Sark on "Alias") is Takezo Kensai, the legendary warrior Hiro worships. (Some thought this role would also have been played by George Takei). Eriko Tamura, an Asian pop star, will play a Japanese princess. Also joining the show are Barry Shabaka Henley as a NYC cop; Holt McCallany as the leader of an Irish gang (hopefully not the Black Donnellys); Lyndsy Fonseca ("How I Met Your Mother") and Dianna Agron as cheerleaders; and Nick D'Agosto as Claire's new boyfriend. No word on what powers any of these people might have.

--"House" is casting four new actors to be House's new staff, but House's previous staff will still return next season.

--Keith Carradine ("Deadwood") will play an FBI agent investigate a string of murders on "Dexter."

--The lovely Laurie Holden ("The X-Files") will play a cop on the final season of "The Shield."

--And Pascale Hutton (Clark's Phantom Zone friend on "Smallville") is joining "The 4400."

RATINGS: Boy, when people said they were going to cancel their subscriptions to HBO in response to "The Sopranos" finale, they weren't joking.

"Entourage" debuted to just 2.2 million last weekend, while new show "John From Cincinnati" continued to hemorrage viewers, drawing just 1.2 million. "Big Love" isn't much better off, getting just 1.5 million.

The viewers aren't jumping to Showtime, however. New series "Meadowlands" picked up just 184,000. It should be noted with all of these shows, however, that they are shown multiple times during the week, so viewers that missed a Sunday airing may simply be catching it on a Wednesday, for example. And that doesn't even include the DVR/VCR crowd.

Not all of the news is bad for cable shows, however. New show "Heartland" on TNT picked up 4.3 million, making it one of the highest-rated cable shows this year.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Jonathan Heeter of's "Bringing The Heet" blog would like to remind everyone that the "AFI's Top 100 Movies, 10th Anniversary Edition" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is on tonight. I'm not a huge fan of lists, and I tend to disagree with some of the choices made on this particular list, but it's a good thing to debate if you love movies. Heeter saves all these AFI shows on tape for posterity, by the way.

NBC offers two episodes of "Last Comic Standing" from 8-10 p.m., while ABC offers two hours of its own reality during that same time before airing a new episode of "Traveler" (ABC, 10 p.m.) Fox foists two hours of "So You Think You Can Dance?" on us at 8 p.m.

As always, the pick of the night is "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Munson Done?

Occasionally here at The TV Guy, we venture into radio when it's important.

In this state, it doesn't get much more important than the possible retirement of Larry Munson, the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Telegraph's Josh Kendall is reporting that Munson may have already switched off his microphone for good because of poor health. Munson describes the odds of his returning for another season of Georgia football as "50-50."

As a UGA alum, this is terrible news. It's really almost incomprehensible to think of listening to a Dogs game without Munson handling the play-by-play. Sure, the guy is an unapologetic homer for UGA, but that's almost why it's so fun to listen to him.

A couple of years ago against (I believe) Auburn, the Tigers were just manhandling the Dogs up front. Munson's heartfelt "They're just killing us on the line!" really conveyed the angst of Georgia fans, even if it wasn't fair and balanced journalism.

Munson has had health problems in the past; when I was in school there, he missed a game for health reasons and then-coach Ray Goff said somewhat kiddingly "It's tough when you lose your play-by-play guy." In the Bulldogs' case, it is tough because of the emotional resonance he brings to the broadcast.

Everyone has their favorite Munson stories; I have a few of my own. When I used to cover UGA basketball for the Associated Press as a stringer, Munson saw my name at the press table with the "AP" beside it and kept asking me over and over if then-junior quarterback Eric Zeier was going to declare for the NFL draft.

"Have you heard anything about Zeier yet?" he asked several times through the game in his famed gravelly voice, not realizing how far down on the pecking order I really was.

So here's me being a bit of a Bulldog homer myself and saying get well soon, Larry. We certainly miss you.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you caught "On the Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) last week for the first time at my suggestion, let me just say that those five filmmakers didn't approach the best of the week before. But the good news is that some of the best filmmakers of the competition, including my personal favorite Zach, are showing their films tonight, so give the show another chance. Wes Craven sits in as the guest judge this week. I'm not sure what kind of judge he'll make, but anyone is better than friggin' Michael Bay.

Other than that, it's a quiet night for TV, unless you need a David Hasselhoff fix with the erroneously named "America's Got Talent." (NBC, 8 p.m.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bringing Out 'The Closer'

Chances are I don't even need to tell you "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.) is returning with new episodes beginning tonight.

The crime drama, starring Kyra Sedgwick as deputy police chief Brenda Johnson, has been the highest-rated original cable drama during its run, and Sedgwick usually garners Emmy attention in the role.

For me, I watched the first season of the series, but wasn't blown away by it. Having seen the much-superior "Prime Suspect" on PBS — a series "The Closer" is often compared to because they both feature women in authority roles who often butt heads with their male colleagues in the police — the American series doesn't really stack up, at least for me. Judging by the ratings, I'm in the minority.

"The Closer" gets a new companion series in the medical drama "Heartland" (TNT, 10 p.m.), which stars Treat Williams as a midwestern transplant surgeon. Also in the cast are Kari Matchett ("24," "Invasion") and Morena Baccarin ("Firefly").

If dramas aren't your thing, PBS has a terrific alternative in "Simon Schama's The Power Of Art," with two episodes running from 9-11 p.m.

Schama is the English historian who created the fantastic series "The History of Britain" for The History Channel a few years ago; on a personal note, it was the series that launched my screenwriting hobby.

What makes Schama's stuff so good is that he takes these erudite topics and makes them accessible to the average person. You don't need six degrees from Cambridge to understand what's going on. If you want to learn anything about art, this is a good chance to jump in.

DON'T STOP BELIEVING: Many people might have hated "The Sopranos" finale, but you can expect the band Journey isn't among them. The group's song "Don't Stop Believin'," which was featured so prominently in the final scene as Tony played it on the jukebox, has gotten new life since the episode aired. Sales for the song jumped an astonishing 482 percent (that's not a typo) on iTunes, according to an Atlanta radio station.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Assuming you don't go with the above choices, there are a few other new things tonight. "Creature Comforts" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is all-new, as is "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox, 9 p.m.)

So I don't incur the wrath of Zod, "Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) airs a brand-new installment tonight.

In one of the freakier new reality series, tennis star Mark Philippoussis seeks a new girlfriend from a group of women selected by network producers on "Age of Love" (NBC, 9 p.m.) The twist? You've got a group of hot 40 year olds squaring off against hot 20 year olds for the affections of the 30-year-old tennis star.

Finally, I rarely highlight repeats, but tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 9:30 p.m.) is the brilliant "Price Is Right" parody as Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is led to believe Bob Barker is his biological father.

Friday, June 15, 2007

End Of An Era

Bob Barker has been the host for "The Price Is Right" for 35 years, the same number of years I've been alive, so I literally cannot remember a time that he hasn't been on the air.

In doing a series on Middle Georgians who have appeared on the show over the years, the one thing they all said in common was how down-to-Earth Barker is, and how he is exactly as you would imagine him.

"The Price Is Right" is more than a TV show; it's really a weekday morning institution, the last holdout for a time when game shows used to rule the timeslots. In a Hollywood that often jettisons its stars once they reach a certain age, Barker has aged gracefully onscreen. He's 83, but with the energy of someone a decade or so younger.

Hopefully, you will be able to catch his final performance today either at the show's regularly scheduled time (CBS, 11 a.m.) or in a special 8 p.m. re-airing tonight. You can read the recollections of Middle Georgians who appeared on "The Price Is Right" in today's edition of The Telegraph or at

IN THE NEWS: "Smallville" is adding a new character next season, putting out a casting call for a young, blond actress to appear as Supergirl, Clark Kent's cousin Kara Zor-El. Judging from the description of the character in the CW's press release, this version of Supergirl will most closely reflect the current comics character, not the other versions of Supergirl that have appeared over the decades. Hopefully, Helen Slater won't be reprising the role....

Speaking of female superheroes, "Heroes" is likely getting a new character next season in Miss Universe, Riyo Mori. She's been to a casting audition and is likely to be cast as a love interest for one of the characters. ...

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: After watching Bob Barker's final appearance tonight on "The Price Is Right," you can watch him probably pick up his final Emmy on "The 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards" (CBS, 9 p.m.).

You can also catch a new episode of a series I hoped would make it, but didn't, with "Standoff" (Fox, 9 p.m.) as the network burns off the remaining episodes.

Speaking of burning off episodes, Fox burns off a couple more of "The Loop" this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Also Sunday, "The 4400" (USA, 9 p.m.) returns for a new season, with Billy Campbell joining the cast full-time. I'll probably watch though this is a series I've never really gotten into. With "Heroes" now on the air, "4400" really doesn't measure up.

The night's best bet, though, may be on the Cartoon Network, as the guys from "Robot Chicken" are running a full parody of "Star Wars" featuring the voice of creator George Lucas. It runs at 10 p.m. and reruns throughout the night, along with the best of other editions of "Robot Chicken."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rescuing Us From Summer Doldrums

When you think about it, it's been a depressing month for TV, what with the likes of "Lost," "Heroes," "The Shield" and "The Sopranos" wrapping up, only to be replaced by "America's Got Talent" (trust me, it doesn't) and "So You Think You Can Dance."

So it really is something of a rescue as we welcome back "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p..m.) back to the airwaves tonight.

Conceived by series star Denis Leary and Peter Tolan, "Rescue Me" focuses on a group of dysfunctional New York City firefighters still trying to cope with their losses after 9/11. The series is both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

Leary's Tommy Gavin is still chased by the ghosts (literally) of his fallen loved ones and fire victims he failed to save. When we last left Tommy, he was trapped in a burning house after being drugged by his crazy ex-girlfriend Sheila (Callie Thorne), who was trying to rape him in order to conceive his love child. Yes, you read that right.

Tommy's home life is a mess. His family is still reeling after the death of his son at the hands of a drunk driver, and his ex-wife (Andrea Roth) is pregnant with either his or his late brother's baby.

Most of Tommy's unit isn't much better off. Jerry (Jack McGee) is trying to recover from a near-fatal heart attack; Kenny (John Scurti) is dating a soon-to-be-ex nun; Sean (Steven Pasquale) is trying to cope with marrying Tommy's off-the-wall nuts sister (Tatum O'Neal); Franco (Daniel Sunjata) is working at a relationship with a woman and her autistic brother, who may be more clever than people give him credit for; and the probie (Michael Lombardi) is struggling both with his sexuality and his terminally ill mother.

Tommy also gets a new love interest in Nona (Jennifer Esposito), the firefighter who saves his life in the house fire. Tommy's luck being terrible and all, he faces insurance fraud charges in the opener as investigators believe he was responsible.

"Rescue Me" is one of TV's best hours, boasting an Emmy-level performance from Leary and one of TV's best supporting casts. If you're only going to catch one show this summer, this is the one to see.

'SOPRANOS' RATINGS: Whether you liked or hated the ending, people definitely tuned in to watch "The Sopranos" Sunday night. Nielsen called it at 11.9 million, the highest rated episode for the series in three years.

But it was a good news/bad news deal for HBO. Whether it was the subject matter or anger over "The Sopranos" finale, new series "John From Cincinnati" brought in just 3.4 million viewers - lower than "Rome" (3.8 million) and "Big Love" (4.6 million), according to The Los Angeles Times.

Even with time-shifting and multiple airings on HBO, those are pretty bad numbers, though maybe they will pick up in Week 2 once "Sopranos" fever has ended.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: One show I never had a chance to review was "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," which has gotten mixed reviews from critics. But Perry is an extremely popular writer/director/actor, so his show (TBS, 9 p.m.) may be worth a look if you are a fan of his work.

"Hidden Palms" (CW, 8 p.m.) continues with new episodes this summer, while "One Tree Hill" wraps up with its season finale. Somehow, this was the show the CW managed to pick ahead of "Veronica Mars." Go figure.

"Traveler" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new tonight, as is a bunch of reality stuff.

VCR alert: "Rescue Me," as with other FX shows, tends to run long, so set the VCR to go that extra five minutes or so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Writing For TV: That 'Dear-God-Why-Must-I-Suck-At-Everything-I-Do' Feeling

My life being the continual string of disappointments that it is, I had little hopes that a teleplay I wrote and submitted to the producers of the CBS show "Numb3rs" would do anything noteworthy.

As usual, my low expectations were met with yet another rejection letter, so I can't really claim surprise or disappointment.

In addition to (or despite) whatever marginal skills I have as a writer, trying to break into the TV business is just plain hard, and has only gotten more difficult over the years.

First off, TV shows don't accept freelance scripts, especially from unknown newbies. Virtually all of the scripts written for any season are staff-generated, and the one or two that aren't are written by veterans whom the producers know or guys with really good agents.

This wasn't always the case. Before the last Writer's Guild contract, it was a little easier for freelancers to submit ideas to shows. In fact, the first three "Star Trek" spinoffs - "Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" - all allowed pretty much anyone to submit a script, and a lot of writers broke into the business this way.

But that's no longer the case. Most TV producers are so worried about being sued they won't accept ideas because they are worried that someone who sent something in might sue down the line even if the producers came up with a similar idea independently. Usually, even if you are allowed to submit an idea, you have to sign a release stating you won't sue.

Here's another weird tidbit about TV: Usually when you submit work for consideration for some sort of job with a particular show, you never write an episode of that actual series. So, if you wanted to write for "The Office," for example, you might submit a sample work of "30 Rock" because the people who write "The Office" (or any show for that matter) feel very protective of their work and don't think a freelancer can do it as well as they can.

Anyway, there are plenty of books out there about writing for TV, so back to me, because I did none of the above with "Numb3rs."

When I was at the Austin Film Festival last year, everyone was talking about an article that appeared in "The New Yorker" about a computer program that critiques screenplays and tells the writer what elements to change to make it more successful. When I read the article, I immediately thought "this could be worked into a script for 'Numb3rs.'" (And the idea wasn't half-bad. Aaron Sorkin referenced the same idea two weeks ago on "Studio 60.")

So I did just that. The other OTHER way to submit ideas to TV series is to know someone who works on the show, or someone who knows someone who works on the show. About three years ago, I was able to submit a script to "Smallville" because I knew someone on the Warners' lot. This time around, I knew someone at Scott Free, which produces "Numb3rs."

I've never enjoyed writing for TV, because the structure is so rigid. For a one-hour drama, you have a teaser and four acts (the things broken up by commercials). The average TV script runs 45-55 pages. And, of course, your writing style must mesh with the style of the show.

With so many serialized shows on the air these days, it's even harder to come up with ideas, because the shows film so far ahead of the airdates, the writers have plotted way ahead of what you actually see. It'd be impossible to try to write an episode of "Lost," for example, because who the heck knows what's coming next? By the time your idea found its way to the producers, half the cast may have been killed off.

So, to wrap up this self-obsessively long blog, the producers didn't go for my idea. Or my writing. For whatever reason. Please don't mistake this for bitterness, because frankly, I'm just thrilled to have been read, which is better than about 97 percent of the people out there.

But this is why I'm probably better off just sticking to watching TV.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of writers having their dreams crushed, another episode of "On The Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) airs tonight. Unlike most reality series, this one is not only a lot of fun, but you can still start watching it and pick it right up. Some of the filmmakers competing are terrific, and will hopefully get their shot no matter what they do in the competition.

Other than that, a pretty light night of TV, what with "The Shield" being done. Sports fans can check out Game 3 of the NBA finals (ABC, 9 p.m.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

End of 'The Sopranos'



****STILL HERE?****


So I'm pretty certain that when you're TV screen went blank, just like mine did, your reaction was along the lines of "What the fudge?!?!"

I mean, eight seasons of buildup, including the last five minutes, and Tony Soprano's fate is ...?

But then I thought about it from creator David Chase's perspective and I realized that there was no good way to end the series. People want closure and surprise from the finales of their favorite series, and there wasn't really a way for Chase to deliver either.

So he didn't even try, instead providing a "Gotcha!" moment and no doubt enjoying a laugh knowing that he could lead audiences around by a chain until the very end.

Everyone thought Tony would die. Or Tony would live and a loved one would die. Or Tony would be sent to prison. Or Tony would turn snitch and join the witness protection program. Or....

By the time Chase had started to write the finale, pretty much every theory had been discussed and overanalyzed in the blogosphere. Chase had a scene that teased every one of those theories, only to shoot them down. What was there left to do in ending the series that would still grab people by the shirt collar?

Nothing. So maybe that was the point of Sunday's finale, building up the tension in the diner with Meadow trying unsuccessfully to parallel park and the restaurant patron seemingly not try to stare at the Sopranos as he gets up to go to the bathroom, shot in similar fashion to Bobby's assassination the week before.

Perhaps the scene in which Tony forgives Junior is the most telling, seeing the old man completely alone and senile, visited only by Janice, who is there to steal his money. Tony has to remind Junior that he and Tony's father Johnny once ran Jersey. Now Junior is left to rot away his remaining years. Is Chase telling us that such a fate awaits Tony down the line?

Tony is left trapped in his own mob lifestyle. His would-be heirs to the empire are either dead, like Christopher, too old, like Paulie, or just not cut out for it, like A.J. Paulie, who would like nothing better than to retire, is forced by Tony to take on yet another crew.

Of course, Chase has left the door open to a "Sopranos" movie or some other sequel by keeping most of the key members of the cast alive. Phil Leotardo may have met a rather ignominious fate, but Tony will always have someone nipping at his heels.

Odds are, most fans of the "The Sopranos" won't remember the ending with fondness. People wanted a "Newhart" style of stunner, or at least a "MASH" sense of closure.

Instead, Chase played the only card that was left to him: He turned the camera off, and that was it.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: The Tony Soprano of chefs, Gordon Ramsay, has returned to Fox for his American TV series "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox, 8 p.m.).

Over on HBO, you can torture yourself by watching the re-airing of "The Sopranos" finale at 8 p.m., followed by the season premiere of "Big Love" at 9 p.m.

I didn't get a chance last week to review "Creature Comforts" (CBS, 8 p.m.) The animation is brilliant and clever, though for me the running gag of series got a bit old and repetitive after a while.

But my pick of the night is a rerun of the funniest sitcom moment this year, the Robin Sparkles/slap bet episode of "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 9:30 p.m.) When I put out my Emmy picks last week, I should have mentioned this one for best writing.

Friday, June 08, 2007

For Your Consideration

Rather than try to do one of those "dream Emmy ballots" that other publications put out, I decided to write about one or two choices in each category about actors who have done good work but have gone unnoticed by the Academy in the past or are on new shows. Thus, I won't be mentioning the big names like James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos" here, since he's pretty much a shoo-in.

The Academy is putting together the official ballot this weekend.

It's actually pretty difficult to limit myself to one or two choices in each, but here goes:


Best Actor: Hugh Laurie, House. Now it may seem to be a waste of pick to submit Laurie's name - after all, he's won two Golden Globes for this role - but Emmy voters didn't even him nominate him last year, which to me is unfathomable.

Also on the list is fellow UGA grad Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights." Believe me, I've probably met more high school football coaches than any TV critic in America, and Chandler is spot on in his performance.

Best Actress: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights: Any time I pick this category and I'm NOT picking Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" and Mary McDonell of "Battlestar Galactica," it's a safe bet that this is a special choice. Britton, who has been a solid actress on shows like "Spin City" and "24" absolutely blew me away this year as "Mrs. Coach" (as one of the players calls her). Britton's frank talk about teen sex with TV daughter Aimee Teegarden was the single best-filmed scene on TV this year.

Best Supporting Actor: These are the names I'm NOT throwing out there: Zach Gilford of "Friday Night Lights"; Masi Oka, "Heroes"; and Walton Goggins, "The Shield." It's not because they aren't worthy; each could walk away with an Emmy and I'd be thrilled. I just wanted to show how deep this category really is. There are about 20 actors I could legitimately put here. (The only reason I'm leaving Goggins off is because if the Emmy voters have snubbed the likes of Glenn Close and Forest Whittaker in past years from "The Shield," then they are likely going to screw over Goggins as well, which is a shame.)

So, limiting myself to two choices, I've got:

Michael Emerson, Lost: In addition to being a nice guy off the set, he's flat-out one of TV's best villains. What makes the character of Ben Linus so intriguing is that he thinks he's the good guy. As my co-worker Linda Morris says, "He really creeps me out!"

Jack Coleman, Heroes: Like Emerson, Coleman was originally a guest star who became so popular with the fans, they made him a regular. Though Oka's popularity and enthusiasm might net him a deserved nomination from the show, Coleman's character of HRG was a true study in shades of gray and revitalized the actor's career.

Best Supporting Actress: Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost: I love Elizabeth Mitchell. I really do. I mean, I'd want to marry her if she weren't already married. So when I heard she was joining "Lost," I had high hopes for what she would bring to the show. And she still cleared the high bar I had set, taking her game to a whole other level. It's annoying to know that Mitchell will probably lose to a "Grey's Anatomy" doctor, but she was the single best addition to an established cast this year.


Best Actor: Ricky Gervais, Extras: Gervais is more likely to get a writing nomination for his brilliant, but little-seen "Extras," but as he usually is, Gervais was brilliant.

Best Actress: America Ferrera, Ugly Betty: Actually, this is almost a wasted pick. Not because Ferrera isn't deserving, but because I think she's so deserving that she's a near lock to win this year. If you want to put your money down on one choice in an Emmy pool, make it this one.

Best Supporting Actor: Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother: Harris' scene-stealing Barney could have been one of those annoying TV characters (like Kramer on "Seinfeld") that chews up the scenery, but Harris found the perfect note of obnoxiousness and humor. Barney's savant-like "Price Is Right" ability, as well as the slap bet, made for some of the funniest sitcom moments this year.

Best Supporting Actress: What is a supporting player? Here's my dilemma. Look at "Ugly Betty." On the one hand, you have Vanessa Williams, who has been nearly perfect as the bitchy Wilhelmina Slater. But that character, while technically supporting, is almost a lead in that she drives much of the drama and is essential to the show.

On the other hand, you have Becki Newton, whose Amanda is much less essential to the overall plot, but steals virtually every scene she's in. So how do you choose? I can't; so either of these lovely ladies is a worthy choice.

So, what are your picks? Who did I leave off, or who did I choose that was right or wrong in your eyes? Write in, and tell your friends.

WASHINGTON DONE: Embattled "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington is done, is reporting. The actor, who made derogatory anti-gay remarks to co-star T.R. Knight this year, won't have his contract renewed. It's probably a good thing, since Washington's offscreen drama had detracted from the onscreen one, but Washington's character Burke had also reached a crossroads, walking out of his own wedding in the show's season finale.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Fans of the short-lived drama "Standoff" (Fox, Fri., 9 p.m.) can catch the remaining few episodes as Fox burns them off. This was a decent little show with great chemistry between the leads, but failed to measure up in the ratings.

The "Gil Mayo Mysteries" are airing tonight with two episodes on BBC America. I haven't seen this one before, but BBC mysteries are usually worth your time.

"Hex" is brand-new (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) I'd love to be able to tell you how the season premiere was, but alas I didn't watch it before my ceiling caved in and haven't had a place to set my VCR up since. I'll have to miss this week's as well, since my hotel doesn't get BBC America.

Is there anything on Sunday? Let's see, the Tony Awards (CBS, Sun., 8 p.m.); a new episode of "The Loop" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.) Anything else of note?

Oh yeah, something called "The Sopranos" (HBO, 9 p.m.) is airing its final episode, probably one of the most anticipated finales in the history of television. My advice is to catch it live and not tape it, since someone will likely blurt out something you don't want spoiled.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Well, I'm back (though still homeless for another week), and so is "Jericho."

Yes, you wacky, passionate, determined Jericho-ites, you did it!

CBS announced that the impassioned campaign, which included several Web sites/blogs and a gigantic amount of nuts being sent to CBS HQ, was successful enough to make "Jericho" a midseason replacement for next season with seven episodes (so far) lined up.

Here is the open letter from CBS president Nina Tassler, as posted on

To the Fans of Jericho:


Over the past few weeks you have put forth an impressive and probably unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime-time television series. You got our attention; your e-mails and collective voice have been heard.

As a result, CBS has ordered seven episodes of Jericho for mid-season next year. In success, there is the potential for more. But for there to be more Jericho we will need more viewers.

A loyal and passionate community has clearly formed around the show. But that community needs to grow. It needs to grow on the CBS television network, as well as on the many digital platforms where we make the show available.

We will count on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grassroots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks.

At this time, I cannot tell you the specific date or time period that Jericho will return to our schedule. However, in the interim we are working on several initiatives to help introduce the show to new audiences. This includes rebroadcasting Jericho on CBS this summer, streaming episodes and clips from these episodes across the CBS Audience Network (online), releasing the first season DVD on Sept. 25, and continuing the story of Jericho in the digital world until the new episodes return. We will let you know specifics when we have them so you can pass them on.

On behalf of everyone at CBS, thank you for expressing your support of Jericho in such an extraordinary manner. Your protest was creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone. You made a difference.

Nina Tassler
President, CBS Entertainment

Personally, I'm stunned by the success of the campaign. I thought "Jericho" might net a TV movie, perhaps even a miniseries, but to get a partial season out of it is a true testament to the series' fans. Now, if those fans can please get on the "Veronica Mars" bandwagon over at the CW. (Mars bars, perhaps?)

REVIEWS: In other TV news, I'm playing a lot of catch-up because of my ceiling caving in. So, here are the bulletpoints:

--"The Sopranos:" Um, wow. I won't put any spoilers by naming names for people who haven't seen the penultimate episode yet (my own version of omerta, I guess) but the first assassination was one of the most beautifully filmed sequences of the entire series. The second (apparent) assassination was also genius, especially with the sequence in traffic and the crowd from the bing. Sunday's finale can't come quickly enough.

--"On The Lot:" Dear Michael Bay,
Shut the fudge up, you hack. As someone who has sat through too many of your crappy movies, you have no business criticizing any other director, ever.

How can he possibly criticize what were clearly the two best films of the entire series thus far, the man vs. the toilet and the musical set in a bakery, yet goes out of his way to praise the girl who shot a pointless three-minute documentary about a gay comic? (Though the film about the Finkelsteins was much worse and actually offensive, at least that director stayed within the assignment).

There is some real filmmaking talent on this show, so I urge anyone who hasn't watched "On The Lot" yet to climb aboard.

--"The Shield:" This series not only never has a bad season, it almost never has even a bad episode, and Tuesday's finale didn't disappoint. It cleverly sets up next year's final season (I'm already in mourning) and gave Vic a way out of his predicament during this one. Too many great moments to list here, though the alliance between Vic and Aceveda, and Claudette realizing she can't run the precinct without Vic were two of the best.

Coming tomorrow: Emmy suggestions (assuming the ceiling doesn't fall in).

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: If you watched "Pirate Master" (CBS, 8 p.m.) last week at my suggestion, I apologize profusely. Just remember, my ceiling caved in destroying a chunk of my stuff, so fate has decided to punish me.

The NBA finals kick off tonight as the league's best team (the Spurs) face the league's best player (LeBron James) beginning at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Everything else is reruns except for Fox, which has new episodes of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?" at 8 p.m., followed by "So You Think You Can Dance?" at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

'Shield' Finale Tonight

Just a quick update. Thanks for the kind words to those who posted yesterday; my life is (very) slowly returning to normal.

Tonight's TV highlights include the season finale tonight of "The Shield," (FX, 10 p.m.), in which things come to a head between Vic and Shane. VCR alert: Tonight's episode is running long, something like 93 minutes, so set your VCR/DVR to run long just in case.

Also on is "On the Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.), which has been cut back to once a week.

You may also want to check out "Nova" (PBS, 8 p.m.), which focuses on the real story of one of my favorite movies, "The Great Escape."

Finally, I've praised "MI-5" (BBC America, 8 p.m.) as the best spy series on TV. BBC America is running two episodes a week from the very beginning, starting tonight. Now is a good chance to catch up.

I'll have a brief update for tomorrow, then hopefully get back to full-time blogging on Thursday.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Apres Moi, Le Deluge

In this case, quite literally.

Just a quick update to tell you that I won't have updates for the next couple of days, thanks to my apartment getting flooding after the ceiling collapsed. Beware upstairs neighbors and waterbeds.

Keep checking in, loyal dozens, and we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Giving 'Hex' Another Shot

Right about the time I started this blog, BBC America started to show "Hex," about a girl at an English boarding school who discovers she's a witch with a destiny.

At the time, the series was being billed as a British "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." In hindsight, that comparison was a bit of an over-reach. "Hex" never really built up its mythos the way "Buffy" did, spending far too much time focusing on the Willow-inspired clone, the Cordelia-inspired clone, etc.

Then, a funny thing happened. Right when I was about to give up on "Hex," they killed off the lead character (and she stayed dead). The new lead gave the show much more edge and increased the action considerably.

This weekend, you can decide for yourself. BBC America is rerunning most of Season 1 all-day on Saturday, followed by the season premiere of Season 2 at 9 p.m. "Hex" will never be in "Buffy's" class (but honestly, how many shows are?) but it might be worth an hour of your time nonetheless.

OH, FRAK!: In a good news, bad news sort of thing, TV Guide's Michael Ausiello is reporting that "Battlestar Galactica" will end its run after its 22-episode fourth season. On the one hand, it's good news in the sense that the producers have a definite end date in mind and can plot the season out accordingly.

But man, oh man, this is what I consider to be one of TV's top five shows (at the very least) and the thought of it ending is depressing to no end. More on this as it develops.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: If you're feeling nostalgic over the 30th anniversary of "Star Wars" this week, HBO is running the entire series all weekend. So this is your chance to catch up with Jar-Jar Binks (oh yeah, and Darth Vader).

Speaking of HBO, Sunday is full of interest. At 9 p.m. is the penultimate episode of "The Sopranos," which has kicked into high gear over the past few weeks. It's followed by a new "Entourage" at 10 p.m. At 10:30, the network is running a documentary done by "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier about the search for his biological father, called "Shot In The Dark."

As I promised some of the faithful, I'd let you know when BBC America started to rerun "Robin Hood." They are doing so Sunday night with the pilot, beginning at 7 p.m.

The new drama, "Army Wives," starring the likes of Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell, makes its debut Sunday night (Lifetime, 10 p.m.)