Friday, November 30, 2007

Catching Up

Sorry for no updates over the past week, hopefully you've been able to watch TV without me.

As you can see, I've had my hands full. That's me with Jacob Edward Ramati, for whom I'm already planning a TV schedule to enjoy in the near future.

Some of the highlights of the past week included:

--"Heroes" building up to a terrific finale after a weak early part of the season.

--"Journeyman" and "Chuck" taking their games to a new level. "Chuck" and "Life" also got full season orders, which is very good news.

--Cutthroat Bitch getting the axe on "House." I really thought she and 13 (Olivia Wilde) were going to be locks to stay, because both have been great additions to the cast. Worry not, however, Cutthroat Bitch fans: Actress Anne Dudek will be back for at least one more episode when the show returns in January.

--It looked as though the WGA and the studios might be close to a settlement, but reports today indicate that the two sides aren't any closer to resolving the strike.

I'll be back to a normal blog schedule beginning Monday.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: A modernish, updated, sort of sequel to the classic "Wizard of Oz" airs this weekend with Part 1 of the new mini-series "Tin Man" (Sci-Fi, Sun., 9 p.m.) Zooey Deschanel plays D.G., a descendent of the original Dorothy. My question is, will the new film synch up to any Pink Floyd albums?

Only "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and "Las Vegas" (NBC, 10 p.m.) are new tonight.

"Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) wraps up an excellent first season this weekend. Fear not, fans - Season 2 airs here beginning in January.

On Sunday, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) brings in a tornado, followed by "Brothers & Sisters."

"The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is followed by the TV movie "Pictures of Hollis Woods" at 9 p.m., starring Sissy Spacek and Alfre Woodard.

Finally, cable has some good offerings, with "Dexter" and "Brotherhood" getting close to wrapping up on Showtime, while HBO offers the documentary "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" at 8 p.m.

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Razor' Sharp

Hope everyone have a good turkey day.

If "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" (Sci-Fi, Sat., 9 p.m.) does anything when it debuts this weekend, it will be as a reminder as to how much the regular series is missed. April seems very, very far away.

"Razor" tells three stories - all flashbacks - during the two-hour movie. One centers on Apollo's (Jamie Bamber) first mission as commander of Pegasus, in which he must destroy a Cylon weapon. His executive officer, Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) is the lone surviving command officer since the ship's reign of Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes).

The second flashback is Shaw's first days on Pegasus, which coincided with the Cylon attack that wiped out the 12 colonies. We see through her eyes how Pegasus survived - though didn't thrive - under Cain's command. We also learn the story of the Cylon No. 6 unit (Tricia Helfer) who infiltrated Pegasus.

As Apollo tries to smooth the way between Shaw and Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) in getting ready for the mission, William Adama (Edward James Olmos) remembers his first mission as a pilot during the first Cylon War.

In true BSG style, none of the characters are presented sympathetically. We see what Shaw experienced with Cain and why she turned out as hard as she has become.

Though the ending is a little too neat and predictable, "Razor" provides a tremendous amount of insight into one chapter of the "BSG" saga and gives us tantalizing hints into elements of the final season.

But what it really does it remind us how far away April is, when the new season is supposed to start.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: It used to be Thanksgiving was a time for reruns, but that's not what the networks are giving us.

CBS is all-new Friday with "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs," while ABC airs new episodes of "Men In Trees" at 8 p.m., followed by "Women's Murder Club" at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, it's a double-treat for sci-fi fans between "Razor" and "Torchwood," (BBC American, Sat., 9 p.m.) which airs its penultimate episode.

It's a full night of Sunday TV when "The Simpsons" (Fox, Sun., 8 p.m.) air a mini-"Frasier" reunion. Kelsey Grammer returns as Sideshow Bob, David Hyde-Pierce is his brother, Cyril, and John Mahoney plays their father. It's followed by "King of the Hill," "Family Guy," and "American Dad."

The teams race to Burkina Faso on "The Amazing Race," (CBS, 8 p.m.), followed by new episodes of "Cold Case" and "Shark."

ABC is all-new with "Desperate Housewives" at 9 p.m. and "Brothers & Sisters" at 10 p.m.

Finally, Michael C. Hall was robbed of an Emmy nod last year, but hopefully, last week's performance as "Dexter" will secure him a statuette. We'll see a different side of Dexter (Showtime, 9 p.m.) this week as the FBI closes in on the Bay Harbor Butcher. It's followed by a new "Brotherhood."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Some Thanksgiving This, Some Turkey That

Just a few brief notes as we head into the holiday...

In case you missed it in today's paper, the second Macon-themed episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airs Tuesday at 4 p.m. on WMAZ. ...

NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" has announced its lineup of 14 would-be Donald Trump employees: actor Vincent Pastore, rock star Gene Simmons, actor Stephen Baldwin, Nely Galan (former president of Telemundo), actress Marilu Henner, model Carol Alt, country music star Trace Adkins, Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, Playboy Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon, Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch, heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis, ‘‘America’s Got Talent’’ judge Piers Morgan and Ultimate Fighting Champion Tito Ortiz. Omorosa, the much-hated "Apprentice" star from Season 1, is also on the list. This show is proof that you can beat a dead horse. ...

"Torchwood" will air its second season in the U.S. starting Jan. 26 on BBC America. This season's guest stars include "Ugly Betty's" Alan Dale and "Buffy's" James Marsters. Also, Freeman Agyeman will reprise her character of Martha Jones in a crossover with "Doctor Who." ...

No posting tomorrow, but check back Friday for my review of "Battlestar Galactica: Razor."

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is only a half-dozen episodes old, and already it's bringing in the cool guest stars: Paul Reubens this week and Molly Shannon next week. It's followed by "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money."

CBS is all new with "Kids Nation," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."

With the WGA strike, Fox sitcoms are in early reruns, but "Kitchen Nightmares" (Fox, 9 p.m.) is new. Meanwhile, NBC is going with reality shows, leading off with "Phenomenon" and ending with a two-hour "Deal Or No Deal" beginning at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's O-Day!

I'm typing up this entry at 10 a.m., exactly six hours from when the Macon episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airs today.

And, after a story for tomorrow's print edition of The Telegraph about people watching the show, I should FINALLY be free of Oprah.

Hey, I've got nothing against Oprah, but having written roughly 10,000 words about her over the past week or so, giving up most of my weekend, and getting shoved around by rabid Oprah fans while trying to shoot video, the whole thing is wearing a little thin. That doesn't include the 200 or so ticket requests I received before she came. Hey, if I had Oprah tickets, I'd have scalped them and taken early retirement.

But there's no denying that Oprah's visit has been a great boost to the city in both economics and prestige. Oprah carries the golden touch with whatever she touches, and her visit should be a boost to tourism and industry here for years to come.

CASTING NEWS: The new "Knight Rider" TV-movie, scheduled as a backdoor pilot for a remake of the not-so-classic series, should be adding David Hasselhoff to the cast. In a tweaking to the script, Hasselhoff would reprise his role as Michael Knight and new star Justin Bruening would play his son. Wow, can't wait to see that...

MONDAY RECAP: Kudos to NBC last night for delivering a great block of TV. "Chuck" continues to be one of the season's early gems and "Heroes" has delivered episodes the last three weeks that are on par with most of last season, including the great twist at the end of last night's installment. "Journeyman" has gotten better every week, and I'm pleasantly surprised at the direction the show has taken with the overall story arc of Dan's travels and the affects they have on his family life.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: You know, when ABC ran "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," it drew double the ratings of "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers" in that time slot, even though it's been around for 40 years. So I have to think the network suits are pleased to run "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "He's A Bully, Charlie Brown," tonight and pull two of the lamest sitcoms around. It's followed by "Dancing With the Stars," with guest Avril Lavigne (there's a combo you never thought you'd see) and "The Bachelor."

"Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) will gradually be bringing Bones and Booth closer together, but I don't know if that will be evident tonight. It's followed by a new "House" at 9 p.m.

CBS is all-new with "NCIS," "The Unit" and "Cane."

NBC is showing a two-hour "Biggest Loser," followed by a new "Law & Order: SVU."

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Newest Ramati

Congratulations to my brother, Alex, and my sister-in-law, Becca on the birth of their first child. Jacob Edward Ramati entered the world early Saturday evening, making me an uncle.

I found out from Alex that Becca went into labor around 1 p.m. on Saturday, while I was standing outside with the crowd waiting to get into see the taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at the Macon City Auditorium. Of course, Alex found out during the Georgia-Kentucky game and was reduced to following it via his Blackberry. We're going to have to work on the kid's timing.

For some perplexing reason, Alex rejected some of the baby names I had suggested - Jean-Luc Ramati, after the Captain of the Enterprise, it would have been a name that was wise and diplomatic; Spike Ramati, after the Buffy character, no one would pick a fight with the kid; and Clark Kent Ramati, mild-mannered on the outside, but full of power on the inside. Oh well, maybe the next kid...

WGA STRIKE UPDATE: Rumor is, the writers and the studios are set to resume negotiations Nov. 26. That doesn't mean the strike will end any time soon, but there should be some cautious optimism that perhaps something might get done.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Rachel Bilson continues her guest run as "Chuck's" (NBC, 8 p.m.) new girlfriend, while "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is finally starting to draw all of the various plot points together. Unfortunately, the Wonderless twins appear tonight once more. It's followed by the first part of a two-part "Journeyman" at 10 p.m.

CBS' comedies are all new tonight with the exception of "Big Bang Theory" at 8:30 p.m., which is re-airing the pilot. For some reason unknown to me, this show is a ratings hit, so if you missed out the first time around, now is your time to catch up. The sitcoms are followed by a new "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

Also new among sitcoms is the CW's lineup, beginning with "Everybody Hates Chris," and followed by "Aliens In America," "Girlfriends" and "The Game."

Both "Prison Break" and "K-Ville" are also new on Fox, the latter getting a stay of execution because of the strike, so enjoy while you can.

Finally, "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) continues its run, followed by "Samantha Who?" at 9:30 p.m., while "The Bachelor" is close to wrapping up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TV's Greatest Icons

Though coincidental, it's entirely appropriate for we Middle Georgians that TVLand is airing the two-hour special, "The 50 Greatest TV Icons" tonight at 8 p.m.

After all, one of the arrived in town yesterday when Oprah Winfrey landed at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport. (I know this because Oprah has unwittingly controlled my life all week.)

I haven't seen the entire list yet, but I'm fairly certain that Oprah, the queen of daytime TV, is on there.

Numero Uno on the list is Johnny Carson, a hard choice to dispute, since he was the king of late night TV for so many years. I know fellow late-night hosts David Letterman and Conan O'Brien also made it, but Jay Leno didn't.

What is a TV icon anyway? There's no real surefire definition, but I'd say it's when a name or face is so recognizeable that anyone knows who the icon is, no matter if you watch the show or not.

Someone like Andy Griffith would be an icon as Sheriff Andy Taylor (as would Don Knotts for Barney Fife), but Griffith wouldn't be for Matlock, for example. Andy Taylor is a character that will be remembered well into the next century, even by Gen Y'ers.

Same thing with Lucy, the Fonz and Mr. Spock.

It's probably easy to pick most of the icons from TV's golden era for this list, as well as modern icons like Oprah or Letterman. But which characters from now might make it the next time someone does a list, in 50 years or so?

A 'CSI'-er perhaps? One of the "Heroes," or the "Lost"? "Ugly Betty?"

With the advent of DVDs and the internet, modern characters are much more likely to become part of the American culture than their counterparts from bygone eras.

Who is your favorite TV icon?

THURSDAY RECAP: It was great seeing Mercedes McNab playing a different type of vampire last night on "Supernatural," way different than her character of Harmony on "Buffy" and "Angel."

R.I.P. JOE NUXHALL: The Cincinnati Reds broadcaster, who has the distinction of being the youngest player ever to appear in a Major League Baseball game, died Thursday night from cancer. He was 79.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Some "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) fans have complained about the under-use of Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) this season. (Clearly, the producers don't favor the run-oriented offense that the former Panthers coach did). But be happy - recruiting season has begun and the Smash begins to look to his collegiate future. It's followed by a new "Las Vegas" at 10 p.m.

Fans will get their second dose of a new "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 9 p.m.) tonight, following a new "Men In Trees."

CBS is all-new with "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs."

On Saturday, most people will get to see Georgia's critical game with Kentucky (WGXA, 12:30 p.m.) Me, I'll be at the City Auditorium for Oprah's show, and I don't even have a ticket. Why? Because I want to keep my job!

At least I should be able to see some good viewing Saturday night, with an all-new "Torchwood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) as well as the HBO original movie, "PU-239," (HBO, 8 p.m.), a thriller about black market nuclear materials from Russia, produced by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and Peter Berg.

Everything is also new on Sunday, including Fox's animated lineup, CBS' crime-oriented lineup of "Cold Case" and "Shark," and Showtime's one-two punch of "Dexter" and "Brotherhood."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strike-related Stuff

One of the plans the networks had in place in case of a writers' strike was to show more TV news programs, such as "60 Minutes" or "20/20."

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men...

CBS is in the midst of waiting to see if its various radio and TV news reporters will join the WGA on the picket lines. The union covering those workers is expected to vote today and Friday in favor of a strike.

The networks' broadcast news divisions have suffered for years through cutbacks and low ratings, not to mention various controversies and scandals, and a strike certainly wouldn't help matters.

Considering that "60 Minutes" is one of the few news programs on the air that's a consistently strong performer in the Nielsens, and considering all of the money CBS has thrown Katie Couric's way, not having writers and producers to put together news programs could be devastating to the network.

Meanwhile, over on Broadway, theaters are quiet as a walkoff by the stagehands union has shut down 27 productions, perhaps most notably the debut of Aaron Sorkin's new play "The Farnsworth Invention," starring Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons) as Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television. (Sorkin, the creator of "SportsNight" and "The West Wing," has been trying to do some sort of Farnsworth bio for years).

It's perhaps a little ironic that people are criticizing the WGA for putting electricians, key grips and other below-the-line labor out of work in Hollywood; on Broadway, the exact opposite is true. The stagehands union includes the electricians, the sound and lighting guys and so forth, and the actors, writers and producers can't mount their productions without them.

At least on Broadway, the warring parties are set to return to the negotiating table this weekend. No such word on what's happening in Hollywood.

CORRECTION: I posted yesterday that "Star Trek: The Menagerie" was scheduled to run Tuesday and Wednesday, because that's what it said in our "Out & About" section. Well, someone had something wrong, because I skipped poker and drove all the way down to Centerville to find out that it wasn't showing Wednesday, but tonight. So, good news for those who want one more chance to see it, bad news for me. The showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the Galleria Cinemas in Centerville.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: A bunch of comings and goings tonight. Goran Visnijc is set to return to "ER" (NBC, 10 p.m.) tonight, less than an hour after former "ER" star Jorja Fox leaves "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) for good, apparently. Having not watched either show in a few years, I really don't know what this means dramatically, but the networks have been promoting the heck out of them, so I thought I'd pass it along.

Enjoy these new episodes while you can. Preceding "ER" are the NBC comedies, all of which are new this week, but are being yanked next week - for Thanksgiving, not because of the strike.

ABC will be showing a new "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) next week, one of the few bits of first-run programming during the holiday. It's followed tonight by "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m. and a special showing of "Women's Murder Club" at 10 p.m.

Helen Slater reprises her role as Lara on tonight's "Smallville," (CW, 8 p.m.), followed by "Supernatural" at 9 p.m.

Finally, while there has been a marked dropoff in quality all season, I should note that tonight is the season finale for "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" (FX, 10 p.m.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TV's Best New Star

There's an old adage in Hollywood: Never work with children or animals.

Whoever came up with the adage obviously has never seen "Pushing Daisies," (ABC, 8 p.m.) because that person obviously hasn't seen Ned's (Lee Pace) dog Digby in action.

In my opinion, the single best-shot scene on TV this year was the song-and-dance routine between Digby and Broadway veteran Kristin Chenowith, who performed Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted To You" in the series' second episode. And you had the Lassie-inspired sequence a couple of weeks' ago, in which the young Digby pulled the fire alarm en route to tracking down the young Ned at boarding school.

How the producers of "Pushing Daisies" get the facial expressions and perfect timing out of Digby is certainly a question for the ages, but the closest scene-stealing animal to Digby on TV that I can think of is Moose, the Jack Russell Terrier who played Eddie for 11 seasons on "Frasier."

But Digby is even better, and one of the best elements on TV's best new series. Tonight's episode centers around a murdered dog breeder, so I'm hoping that means a big role for Digby.

AROUND THE DIAL: For those interested, Newsday has a very good interview with "30 Rock" star and Maconite Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth the page. You can view it here:,0,1362365.story

Good news this New Year's Eve. Dick Clark is officially back on ABC's "Rockin' Eve," sharing hosting duties with Ryan Secrest. Clark, 77 years young, missed the 2004 edition because of a stroke, and it always seems that he's a year away from hanging up his microphone permanently. ...

Just a week ago, "Damages" was 50-50 as to whether FX would give the show a second season. But the network announced this week that it was not only bringing the Glenn Close series back, it was doing so with both a second and a third season. ...

Finally, a reminder that the Galleria Cinemas in Centerville will show "The Menagerie," a digitally remastered version of the original "Star Trek" episode tonight at 7:30 p.m. It's one of the select few theaters around the country that is doing so. I was going to go last night, but got sidetracked (Thanks, Oprah!)

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: What has become a TV event returns tonight as "Project Runway" (Bravo, 10 p.m.) begins a new season. (Don't worry, Mom and Dad, I've set the VCR). Of course, if the WGA strike lasts a while, it wouldn't be much of a surprise at all if parent company NBC starts re-running the series on the main network, since "Runway" is one of the highest-rated cable series on the air.

Speaking of NBC, I got a preview DVD of tonight's "Life" (NBC, 10 p.m.) and it's one of the cleverest installments of the series as the detectives investigate the death of a Walter Mittyish bigamist while Crews is the prime suspect in the murder of the cop who put him away. We pick up some major clues tonight in the story arc about the conspiracy that sent Crews (Damian Lewis) to prison, but they bring about more questions than answers. It's preceded by a new "Phenomenon" at 8 p.m. and "Bionic Woman" at 9 p.m.

ABC is running new episodes of "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" after "Pushing Daisies."

Enjoy "Back To You" (Fox, 8 p.m.) and "Til Death" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.) while you can. Both series stopped shooting last week because of the strike, so I'm fairly certain this is the last week of new episodes. "Kitchen Nightmares" (Fox, 9 p.m.) should continue for a while, since it's a reality show.

CBS is all new with "Kids Nation," "Criminal Minds," and "CSI:NY," while the CW's "Gossip Girl" is also new at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red Alert, Middle Ga. Trekkers

The Galleria Mall in Centerville is one of the select few movie theaters across the country that will air "The Menagerie," the only two-part episode from the original "Star Trek" series, tonight and Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. This is a digitally remastered version of the episode, complete with updated special effects.

"The Menagerie" incorporates material from the original Trek pilot, "The Cage," which was dismissed by NBC as too cerebral for 1960s TV viewers. Series creator Gene Roddenberry revised his outlook on the series, completely recasting it with the exception of Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the show's resident alien.

Jeffrey Hunter, set to star in the show as Capt. Christopher Pike, quit over a salary dispute and was replaced by William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk. Roddenberry's wife, Majel Barrett, was recast from the ship's first officer to Nurse Chapel.

But Roddenberry didn't want to waste all of the good story and footage of "The Cage," so it was re-incorporated into "The Menagerie." In the new story, Spock kidnaps a gravely injured Capt. Pike, hijacks the Enterprise, and takes the ship to the one forbidden world in the Federation. Since going there means a death sentence, a trial is heard aboard the ship once Kirk gets on board. During the trial, Spock tells of the ship's first mission to the planet, Talos IV, while the ship was under Pike's command 12 years earlier.

It's great fun and a good way for people to catch up with the series in anticipation of JJ Abrams' Trek reboot movie next year.

Speaking of which, more casting to report. Winona Ryder has been cast as Amanda, Spock's mother (in a role originated by Jane Wyatt); Bruce Greenwood will replace Hunter as Pike; and Rachel Nichols ("The Inside") and Jennifer Morrison ("House") have also been added, but their roles are unknown. Speculation is that one of them will play Nurse Chapel, while the other may play Yeoman Rand (originally played by Grace Lee Whitney) or Carol Marcus, the mother of Kirk's son as seen in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

Finally, for the first look of Zachary Quinto as the young Spock in the new movie, click here:

WGA STRIKE UPDATE: It was predicted when the strike hit that late night variety shows would be the first casualty, while soap operas would be the second. The first part has rung true, as shows like "The Tonight Show" and "The Daily Show" have been forced to go to reruns.

But a Los Angeles Times report indicates that non-WGA members may cross the lines to write for soaps. The networks are reporting that all of the soaps on the air have enough episodes to last into January. But if the strike continues into then, non-WGA producers and writers will cross the lines and start writing for shows such as "Days of Our Lives" and "All My Children."

Soaps' ratings have dropped considerably over the years, really ever since the OJ Simpson trial (the murder one, not the soon-to-be armed robbery one) and the networks predict that if soaps go dark during the strike, they will lose those viewers for ever.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Last week, I mis-programmed the VCR and missed "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) and "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) I won't be making that same mistake this week. I finally managed to catch "Bones" on Yahoo after the version on proved to be unwatchable. Last week's "House" won't be posted until tomorrow (please explain the logic in that to me), and I dread to see if it will be downloadable after that.

After a slow start to the season, "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) has returned to form over the last few episodes, while on "The Unit," (CBS, 9 p.m.) the team deals with the death of a unit member. "Cane" is also new at 10 p.m.

I don't want to sound too smug when I write this, but both "Cavemen" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "Carpoolers" (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) drew half the audience of the Charlie Brown Halloween special that ran in its place a couple of weeks ago. They are followed by the "Dancing With the Stars" results and a new "Boston Legal," featuring Capt. Kirk himself.

Finally, "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) and "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 10 p.m.) are also new.

Monday, November 12, 2007

'Amazing' Dilemma

Watching last night's "Amazing Race" reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of the show: the pulling-for-half-the-team dilemma.

To wit, the father-daughter duo of Ronald and Christina. Christina is the perfectly charming daughter who managed to turn out OK despite having an insane, tyrannical father. If she won the $1 million, I wouldn't be too upset. (Though at this stage, I'm pulling for the hot blonds. My rule for "The Amazing Race" is that, until I get to know the teams better, when in doubt, pull for the hot blonds.)

But, after two episodes, Ronald has proven to be perhaps the most irritating single racer in show history. It wasn't just his embarrassing tirade at another team in the airport, nor his arguing becoming so incessant that Christina had to stop and ask him to stop berating her.

By the time he gave his fifth or sixth bit of instruction to her on the pole vault, I was literally yelling at the TV for him to just shut the heck up. I honestly can't picture nine or 10 more weeks with this guy.

How bad is he? I would root for the evil team of Rob and Amber of any team with Ronald. Heck, he makes the whiny, irritating Flo from Season 3 or 4 (I forget which) seem like a lovely ray of sunshine in comparison.

I mean, Ronald called his seemingly nicely proportioned daughter "fat" as they climbed aboard the bicycle for the final homestretch, this after she completed the pole vault relatively quickly.

So, we return to the dilemma: Do I pull for Christina, who deserves a hell of a lot more than $1 million for putting up with this guy, knowing that Ronald gets half? Or do I pull against her, knowing that means she has to go through this horrible experience and not get any reward out of it.

Meanwhile, it's hard to pick a favorite out of the rest of the field. The cute sisters whine a bit too much; the kid-grandfather team is pretty hopeless (what were they thinking letting the old man try the pole vault); and all of the good-looking boy-girl teams have kind of melded together so far. The Goths, however, are hilarious. I'm hoping they stick around for a while (along with the hot blonds, of course).

Which teams are you pulling for and pulling against?

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Oh, to be "Chuck." (NBC, 8 p.m.) Tonight, he seemingly has to choose between his pretend, secret agent girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski) and guest star Rachel Bilson. Why don't I ever have to be faced with these choices? It's followed by a new "Heroes," coming off its best episode of the season, and a new "Journeyman."

"Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) has so far been more affected by the WGA strike than any other show (not because of good writing; that disappeared about two-thirds of the way into Season 1) because it will return after a short break in January instead of April, which was the original plan. It's followed by a new "K-Ville," which is benefitting from the strike by virtue of the fact it hasn't been cancelled.

If you want a taste of what you may be in for over the next few months if the strike continues, check out ABC, with "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "The Bachelor" (ABC, 10 p.m.) They sandwich "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.), one of the few decent sitcoms ABC has turned out in the last decade or so.

CBS is all-new with its comedy lineup, followed by "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m. Sister network The CW also brings you all-new stuff.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Yet Even More About The Strike

OK, if people feel compelled to rant about the WGA strike that is affecting your favorite movies and TV programs, then they should have at least some idea of what it's about.

A woman named Donna sent this as part of a rant to's Matt Roush: "Has anyone thought about the fans of these shows? When I say anyone, I mean both sides of the strike. It seems that no one gives a rat's butt about those of us who actually like to relax in front of our weekly favorite shows. Fine, if the writers say they need more, then a compromise can be made, but they also need to keep in mind they are part of the few in this world who love their jobs. Most of us get up and go to work because we need to pay the bills, not because we love our jobs. They actually have the best of both worlds. If you ask me, both sides could learn a thing or two. Rant complete."

Yes, because all the writers and studios want to do is screw the fans out of their TV viewing habits.

The writers also need to pay bills, and most of the 40,000 members of the WGA are more often unemployed than employed, so alternative forms of revenuve, such as residual payments and portions of DVD sales and internet downloads are essential for their survival. This isn't a case of the rich getting richer. Writers more often that not have a good income, but aren't driving around in limos and going to mansions. For every David E. Kelley, there are hundreds of writers who may go for a year without work. And if a writer goes too long between jobs, he or she loses their WGA benefits.

Consider that there are only a finite amount of TV jobs out there. Each show may have a staff of 10-12 writers, but many of those shows aren't picked up for even a full season. So the writers lucky enough to get jobs on those shows (as opposed to the writers who aren't able to land a job during TV staffing season) find themselves quickly unemployed, and likely won't be getting any residual money from a show that only aired a few times.

Yes, the strike is hurting the below-the-line talent - the grips, the best boys, the truck drivers, et. al. - but most of these guys work much more consistently than the writers, and there are still plenty of movies and TV shows being shot in Hollywood even now.

People who complain because they may have to wait for new installments of "Grey's Anatomy" or whatever ought to remember that the writers want to bring them to you, but pay taxes and have families to support like everyone else.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Continue to enjoy new episodes of your favorite shows while you can. CBS is all-new with "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs," as is ABC with "Men In Trees" and "Women's Murder Club."

Of course, you should be watching "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.), but you aren't, meaning that by the end of the year you're going to make sure one of TV's best writing staffs in unemployed.

"Flash Gordon" fans, take note: The show has moved up to 8 p.m., followed by a new "Stargate: Atlantis" on Sci-Fi.

Check out a new "Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) This show continues to get better every week.

With the World Series over, everything is all-new on Sunday. As always, the pick is "Dexter" (Showtime, Sun., 9 p.m.) and the new edition of "The Amazing Race" (CBS, Sun., 8 p.m.) People may be upset at the fact that reality shows will be replacing dramatic programming during the strike, but remember, "The Amazing Race" replaced "Viva Laughlin" on the schedule, so the viewers came out ahead in that swap, at least.

Also Sunday is the season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," (HBO, 10 p.m.), which has been brilliant its last two or three episodes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Which Blair Project

Almost lost in Helen Mirren's Oscar performance in "The Queen" last year was the remarkable performance by actor Michael Sheen as then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Not only bearing a striking resemblance to Blair, but Sheen also captured his voice, his mannerisms, everything.

If you liked "The Queen," then you should be in for a treat as the made-for-cable movie "The Deal" (HBO, 9 p.m.) debuts tonight.

Made in 2003 by "Queen" writer Peter Morgan and director Stephen Frears, "The Deal" is kind of an unofficial prequel to "The Queen," detailing the early political career of Blair, who has seemed to draw more attention in the U.S. than any Prime Minister since Winston Churchill, perhaps because he brings a Bill Clinton-like familiarity.

"The Deal" details the relationship between Blair and and now-current P.M. Gordon Brown (David Morrissey), who was Blair's mentor and the head of the Labour Party before Blair was elected.

And if you loved "The Queen" and like "The Deal," there is some extra good news. Morgan is supposed to write a third film for Sheen, detailing Blair's final years and his relationships with Clinton and George W. Bush.

FOX FLIPS THINGS AROUND: The writers haven't even been on strike for a week, and the Fox programming chiefs have been driven a bit crazy, changing the winter schedule around entirely.

The big news is that "24," one of Fox's top-rated dramas, has been yanked from the schedule until the strike is over, because the chiefs want to show the entire season without interruptions (as they have done every year). It's a sound strategy, since the rabid "24" fans will pretty much tune in whenever it gets shown. But it's already been a difficult year on that sound stage, given production problems centered around the California fires and Kiefer Sutherland's DUI arrest.

This leaves a big hole in the Monday schedule, and it's had a domino effect for the rest of the week.

"The Sarah Conner Chronicles" will still debut in January, like it was supposed to, but will be joined by "Prison Break" instead. "PB" was going to show a fall finale and then get yanked until April, but now will run January and February before being replaced by a reality show called "When Women Rule The World."

Fox's saviour, "American Idol," kicks off Tuesdays in mid-January, where it will be joined by "House" before "House" is replaced April 1 by "Hell's Kitchen."

More "AI" on Wednesday, followed by a new game show, "Moment of Truth," a show in which people are hooked to lie detectors that's so bad it was yanked in some South American country after it was revealed a contestant tried to bump off her mother-in-law.

Thursdays will be all reality, including "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and "Don't Forget The Lyrics."

"Bones" and "House" will kick off an evolving Fridays, which will eventually include "New Amsterdam" and "The Return of Jezebel James." "New Amsterdam" will then give way to the Julianna Margulies vehicle, "Canterbury's Law."

Sundays, which are animated shows and therefore unaffected by the strike, will remain the same, with the exception of "American Dad," which will give way to "Unhitched" for a few weeks.

Stay tuned here for more scheduling changes.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Ah, the crossover, that time-honored TV tradition in which characters on one show appear on another show, and vice versa. I remember growing up when "Magnum, PI" had crossovers with "Simon & Simon" and "Murder, She Wrote." Or when various "Star Trek" characters appeared on each other's series. Or the great Richard Belzer, who has portrayed Det. John Munch on "Homicide," all of the "Law & Orders" and "The X-Files."

The tradition continues tonight as the plots of "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Without A Trace" (CBS, 10 p.m.) are intertwined into one big mystery for both shows.

"Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) gets away from the Betty-Henry stuff for a bit, which is good because it has become annoying, in favor of Wilhelmina's (Vanessa Williams) wedding to Bradford (Alan Dale), which will include maid of honor Victoria Beckham. It's followed by a new "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) that is scheduled to run long, so program your VCRs and DVRs accordingly. The good thing about that is that it means less of "Big Shots."

Lana gets Clark's power on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) Great, just what we want to see, more Lana. It's followed by a new "Supernatural," one of the very few shows on TV right now that started off very good and has never had a dip in quality.

NBC continues its green theme this week with an all-new lineup, highlighted by a "30 Rock" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) that includes guest stars David Schwimmer and Al Gore. It's preceded by a new "Earl" and followed by "The Office," "Scrubs" and "ER." Incidentally, I should mention that the fallout of the strike will include a shortened season of "Scrubs," including possibly not having a proper series finale.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Venting A Little Bit

This post is dedicated to the woman who called me this morning about getting Oprah tickets.

Check that. This post is dedicated to the idiotic, illiterate woman who called me AT HOME this morning about getting Oprah tickets.

Here's why I wish people who read the paper would actually take the time to READ the paper:

The Telegraph does NOT have Oprah tickets. (If we did, we'd probably scalp them.) We have no information about getting tickets. All of the tickets are GONE. So quit asking!

The little blurb we ran in the paper about me and Oprah fans asks one question: Why are you the biggest Oprah fan? That's all I want to know. There is an e-mail address provided. You only have to e-mail me once, not six times like one woman did yesterday. And no, she isn't getting tickets, either.

I said, very specifically, DO NOT CALL ME. If I don't want to speak to you at my office, in what possible Bizarro universe do you possibly think I would want to speak to you at my home?

Since apparently what I am typing must come out in Urdu on your home computers, I will type this again very slowly.


And, I have caller ID at home. So, if anyone else has the bright idea of calling me about Oprah tickets, be warned that I am not a nice person, nor particularly amiable.

MORE VENTING: Since I had to cover the election last night, I set the VCR to record two of my favorite shows, "Bones" and "House." I get home and find out I've set the wrong channel.

No biggy, I thought. I'll just go over to and watch the episodes online.

So, I click on "House," and the little screen tells me that Tuesday's episode won't be posted FOR EIGHT DAYS. Are you frakkin' kidding me? I have to wait until next week's episode has aired before I get a shot at watching this week's?

Every other network, the latest installment of every series is usually posted within 24 hours of the initial airing. Apparently, that's not the deal with Fox.

Bloody brilliant.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, so I'm in a bit of a bad mood, and it's not helped by the fact that two of my favorite new shows, "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money," have been yanked for the CMA Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.) The 800 music award shows that seem to air every year are far and away some of the most annoying things on TV.

At least, CBS is all new with "Kid Nation," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI:NY." Sadly, I watch none of those shows, so I really don't care.

Enjoy Fox sitcoms "Back To You" and "Til Death" while you can. If my math is correct, these should be the last first-run episodes while the WGA strike is going on. Filming on both shows stopped this week, and because sitcoms tape within a week of their airing, those shows will run out of new episodes either this week or next. But hey, if you miss them tonight, you can always catch them eight days later online. They are followed by "Kitchen Nightmares" (Fox, 9 p.m.)

Finally, "Bionic Woman" (NBC, 9 p.m.) returns after a week off, as "Phenomenon" is limiting itself to an hour these days. "Life" (NBC, 10 p.m.) is also new.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm Your Oprah Man

Sorry for the late and short posting, but election night gets a little crazy.

With Oprah Winfrey's visit to Macon Nov. 17, I'm looking for the biggest Oprah fan in Middle Georgia. (When I say biggest, I mean most fervent, not necessarily someone who is very tall).

You can e-mail me at and tell me why you are her No. 1 fan. Please don't be a crazed, obsessive stalker (at least, don't stalk me; I'm sure Oprah has much better security).

DO NOT CALL ME. If you don't have e-mail, find someone who does.

Finally, I DO NOT HAVE TICKETS, nor do I know of anyone who does who is giving them away, so please stop asking me. If you submitted your name to her producers for tickets and haven't heard or received them by now, odds are you weren't picked, because all of the tickets have been distributed.

MONDAY RECAP: "Heroes" turned in its best effort of the season thus far, since it actually decided to move the plots along. Of course, the producers went the opposite route they have done all season and packed too much into the episode rather than too little, but it should set up the final four episodes very nicely before the mini-finale Dec. 5.

WGA UPDATE: Nothing new on the Writers Guild of America strike, in terms of a settlement, at least. But production on three sitcoms — CBS' "Rules Of Engagement" and Fox's "Til Death" and "Back To You" — have ceased production because they are filmed before live studio audiences, often within a week of broadcast, because the writers are fine-tuning the jokes to the last minute.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Everything is pretty much new tonight, so take your pick. Be warned, Middle Georgia viewers, some of the shows may have annoying breaks or crawls because of the election.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's A Strike, And They Are Out!

There's an ancient curse that says: "May you live in interesting times."

Unfortunately in Hollywood, things just became more interesting.

To the surprise of perhaps no one, the Writers Guild of America made good on its strike threat, hitting the picket lines this morning.

As a viewer, you should start seeing the effects almost immediately, as late-night talk shows such as "The Tonight Show" or "The Late Show With David Letterman" will be forced to switch into rerun mode. This will actually affect the studios in two ways: Not only will they have to air reruns of these shows, but they won't be able to use the shows to promote the various movies coming out this holiday season.

Almost as immediate will be daytime TV, with things like soap operas only having a week or two of new episodes, at the most.

As for prime-time TV, the effects are a little more hazy. Most of the network shows have enough episodes to make it through January. So, will networks try to stretch those episodes out by sprinkling in some reruns, or will they continue to burn them off, hoping for a quick resolution to the strike?

And what about shows on the ratings bubble, such as "Journeyman," (NBC, 10 p.m.) for example? The strike may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise for fans of ratings-challenged series, because NBC is more likely to burn off the remaining new episodes in the can than yank the show because of its poor ratings.

Several shows that were planned as midseason replacements already have several episodes in the can, so they can also be used to fill air time for a while, but some shows, like "24" or "Lost," that have complicated, season-long story arcs probably won't get launched in the winter as planned, because the networks won't want to start those seasons, then suddenly yank the show when the episodes run out.

Of the shows currently on the air, "Heroes" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is among the most affected: Not only has NBC postponed plans for the "Heroes: Origins" spinoff (a series of six, one-shot episodes featuring a character unrelated to the show's main story arc, written and directed by some big-time Hollywood names like Kevin Smith), but the producers also announced that if the writers went on strike, the Dec. 5 episode would have an alternate ending that would wrap up the current storyline (if that means getting rid of the Wonder-less twins, then strike writers, strike!)

But what it will mean most of all is more reality-style TV. Not just shows like "Survivor" or "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.), but prime-time game shows, news programs, sports and music specials.

People hoping for a quick resolution to the strike are in for a disappointment. Both sides are sticking to their guns, not for greed, but for necessity. (Check out last week's blog for the issues they are striking over).

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Enjoy the fresh episodes while you can. "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.) leads things off, followed by "Heroes" and "Journeyman."

You may want to watch ABC to get a preview of life during a writers' strike. After an extended "Dancing With the Stars," "Samantha Who?" kicks off at 9:45 p.m., followed by "The Bachelor" at 10:15, so be aware those of you with VCRs and DVRs.

I'm hoping the strike will give struggling shows like "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.) a chance to catch on.

Sadly, it won't affect "Prison Break," (Fox, 8 p.m.), which airs a two-hour episode tonight. "PB" is scheduled to go off in January, to replaced by "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" on Mondays, then return in April. Yes, of all the dramas out there, "PB" is probably the most safe of any show during the strike. That's just wrong.

Finally, enjoy the lineup of CBS sitcoms, followed by "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.) Considering how often "CSI" reruns are shown anyway, will people notice if the network starts airing repeats regularly?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Irony, Thy Name Is Dog The Bounty Hunter

Sometimes, you can't help but laugh at the stupidity of people.

Of course, there's nothing funny about racism, but the way that Dog The Bounty Hunter has torpedoed his career certainly ranks among the bizarre.

For those not in the loop, Dog was upset about his son dating a black woman. One of the things that upset him was that he apparently is pretty liberal about using the n-word around his house, and the girlfriend might cramp his style. A tape of him yelling at his son during a phone call made it to the National Enquirer, in which he uses the word several times talking about his fear of being caught using the word and having it hurt his career.

That's kind of the definition of irony, because that's exactly what happened, and the girlfriend wasn't even directly involved. Dog is claiming his words were taken out of context, although I cannot for the life of me fathom what possible context he could have been using them in.

Now Dog's highly-rated reality show for A&E has been yanked by the network, and his career as a TV personality at least is in limbo even while he has spent the past few days backtracking and telling the world how much he loves black people.

Um, yeah.

Dog obviously missed last week's brilliant installment of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in which Larry David DOES use the epithet in a way that was completely out of context and suffers the consequences.

The timing is pretty bad for both Dog and A&E in another way. With the Hollywood writers probably striking as early as Monday, reality TV is going to become a hot commodity, especially a popular, established show like Dog's. Now both the star and the network may lose millions.

I'm not too broken up about this; karma-wise, bigots get what they deserve and A&E ceased being a quality network years ago.

But it's just shocking to me how stupid people can be, especially mere months after the Michael Richards and Don Imus incidents.

AROUND THE DIAL: Perhaps the writers need to strike. It's been announced that Justin Bruening of "All My Children" will take over the David Hasselhoff role in the "Knight Rider" TV movie remake that has been planned. Is this all we have to look forward to? I have no problems with remakes - look at "Battlestar Galactica" - but "Knight Rider?" ...

Speaking of Imus, and perhaps giving Dog The Bounty Hunter a glimmer of hope, the former shock jock returns to the air Dec. 3 for New York-based radio station WABC-AM. I've never been an Imus fan, but I think his remarks were more stupid than bigoted in their use and he's apologized enough where I believe it's time for everyone to move on. Hopefully, he and others have learned their lesson.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Coach Taylor is back in Dillon, so hopefully all will be right in the world for "Friday Night Lights." (NBC, 9 p.m.) Of course, if all was right in the world, this show would get better ratings. It's followed by a new "Las Vegas."

ABC has managed to put together a nice little working formula for itself with "Men In Trees" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 9 p.m.), while the same could be said for CBS with its lineup of "Ghost Whisperer," "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs."

Finally, the real Super Bowl will take place Sunday as the NFL's two best teams, New England and Indianapolis, square off a 4 p.m. on CBS.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's Quiet Out There...Too Quiet

They say that no news is good news, but in the case of the Hollywood labor talks between the writers and the studios, no news is simply no news.

Today marks the end of the contract between the studios and the Writers Guild of America, and the writers voted 90 percent in favor of a strike. But so far, there have been no picket lines and Friday will likely be the earliest the writers will strike.

Of course, when there is any labor stoppage that interrupts a service that Americans have come to expect, people look to blame one side or the other. But this is a case of both sides sincerely trying to look out for their own long-term interests in the changing climate of the entertainment industry.

From the studios' perspective, movies and TV shows have become so expensive to make that the only way they turn a profit is through alternative forms of media, such as DVD sales and downloading onto platforms such as iPods or cell phones. When you are talking about multi-millions of dollars, it's a lot of money that studios don't want to give away, especially since any concessions they make to the writers now they would likely have to do again in June when the actors' and directors' contracts are up.

From the writers' perspective, writers have always gotten the short-shrift in Hollywood, be it money or influence on their projects. Because the current technology wasn't much of a factor the last time the WGA negotiated a deal, there weren't many provisions covering things like DVD sales, meaning the writers are getting a pittance off a billion dollar industry, and get virtually nothing from downloads. The new contract the WGA wants not only would give the organization a greater piece of the pie, but would also cover any other new technology that is created to be a media platform. Who knows, in five years someone might create a platform that beams a movie directly into a person's brain.

A strike, or at least the threat of one, is the only weapon the writers have in terms of leverage. No strike would mean that the studios could dictate whatever monetary numbers they want for the new contract.

It's a critical issue for writers. Though you often read that a writer might sell a script for $1 million, you have to remember that the bulk of the WGA is unemployed most of the time. It takes years to sell a single script for a movie (trust me on this) and TV shows get cancelled all the time, putting writers out of work. Each year, during the TV staffing season, you get literally tens of thousands of writers competing for only a few hundred jobs.

This is a complex negotiation that won't be settled any time soon, strike or no strike. There are a few movies in the pipeline, so it will be a few months before studios suffer in that department, but most TV shows at best have only filmed about half their episodes. Without scripts, producers - even though most of them are the writers themselves - can't get any work done.

A strike will affect late-night variety shows the earliest, everything from "Saturday Night Live" to "The Daily Show" to "The Late Show With David Letterman." Those shows rely on topical jokes and are written within the same week of broadcast.

Dramatic TV, from sitcoms to one-hour shows, will be next. Those shows currently airing have enough scripts to make it likely January or even February, but nothing after that. For shows that have season-long arcs and storylines, like "Heroes" or "Desperate Housewives," for example, the long break between new episodes could be especially jarring for viewers. And networks will have a decision to make on shows like "24" and "Lost," which debut in the winter. Those shows are ones that the networks want to show without any breaks in the season, something they won't be able to do without completed episodes in the can. Do the networks want to potentially air only 10 episodes of "24," for example, and then pull it because there's nothing left to broadcast?

As a viewer, a strike will mean more reality shows, more game shows and more animated shows, since the writers on those types of shows aren't covered under this WGA contract. (At least we will get new "Simpsons" and "Family Guy.") TV news shows like "60 Minutes" also won't be affected.

Some of the networks are already adjusting their scheduling in anticipation of the strike. NBC has yanked production of the spinoff "Heroes: Origins," issuing a statement that the labor uncertainty has impacted the decision, and other projects like that will likely follow.

I'll post updates here about the labor talks as often as possible.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, on to happier news. Any time Joss Whedon returns to TV, it's extremely happy. Tonight, the master returns as director of "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.), following Jason Reitman's great turn last week. Whedon directed last year's installment about the bat trapped in the Dunder-Mifflin office. In other Joss Whedon news, he's signed on to be the showrunner for Eliza Dushku's new series on Fox, "Dollhouse." (Why Dushku or Whedon would want to work with Fox again after the shoddy treatment both have gotten at the hands of the network over the years is beyond me, but that's the subject for another blog.) "The Office" follows a double-helping of "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) and is followed by an all-new "Scrubs" and "ER."

I love how "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) always keeps things in the Superman family, what with Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terrence Stamp, Annette O'Toole and Dean Cain (two weeks ago) - all with past Superman connections in other films and TV shows - appearing on this one. That tradition continues tonight when Helen Slater, the original "Supergirl" from the terrible 1980s movie, guest-starring tonight as Lara, Clark's (Tom Welling) birth mother. In other "Smallville" news, another classic DC Comics character will make an appearance when Black Canary, played by Alaina Huffman, debuts on the Jan. 10 episode. Naturally, Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) and fishnet stockings will both be making an appearance as well. A new "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) follows.

Betty (America Ferrera) has a date with Broadway on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.), followed by a new "Grey's Anatomy" and "Big Shots."

CBS is all-new with "Survivor" at 8 p.m., "CSI" at 9 p.m. and "Without A Trace" at 10 p.m. Next week, "CSI" and "Trace" will have a crossover plot between both shows.

Finally, if you missed the wonderful "Mad Men" the first time around, AMC is re-airing the pilot tonight at 10 p.m. I strongly urge you to catch one of the best shows this year, with a star-making turn by Jon Hamm as Don Draper, an advertising executive in 1960 Manhattan.