Friday, December 07, 2007

Holiday Specials

One of the good things about cable programming is that new episodes of various series seem to pop up all the time when you least expect it.

Of course, from a ratings standpoint, it may not be the best thing for networks to suddenly unleash a Christmas episode when the show in question has been off for a few months and isn't scheduled to return for a few months hence.

So consider yourselves alerted to two all-new, Christmas-themed episodes of "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) And coming next week are a holiday-themed special from "The Closer" and four new episodes of the summer hit "Saving Grace," both on TNT.

On "Monk," a department store Santa is murdered. (By the way, that must be the worst job in the world considering how many TV series have Christmas-themed episodes about investigating the murder of a department store Santa), while on "Psych," a visit to Gus' (Dule Hill) parents leads to his dad (Ernie Hudson) being the prime suspect in a murder.

Meanwhile, TV viewers starved for new episodes may be getting some good news as recent talks between the Writers Guild and the studios have led to some progress. If a settlement is reached soon, most production schedules wouldn't be too terribly affected, so we could see new episodes of returning series by mid- to late-January. (That's assuming a contract does get signed. Positive talks and a signed deal are two very different things).

The networks themselves are in decent shape for new dramatic stuff, ironically because networks these days are so impatient with new shows finding footing that they keep a lot of shows on the shelf on standby when they yank the new show. So, CBS has things like "New Adventures of Old Christine" and NBC has "Medium" and so forth all ready to go. In addition, the networks have also delayed a lot of new series for winter launches anyway, so a lot of series will make their debuts over the next month or so, regardless of the strike.

And the strike is good news for quality shows that are still trying to find an audience, like NBC's "Life" and "Chuck," for example, both of which were renewed for full season orders despite middling ratings. Not only will those shows stick around for this year, but have a good chance for renewal because production orders for new pilots have been delayed by the strike. So it's easier for the networks to renew a show that already has a cast, crew and sets in place.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Landry confesses his crime to the cops on "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) Frankly, I'm not sure how the writers will keep Landry out of jail, which is a shame, because I like Jesse Plemons' character and would rather seem him in high school than in prison. It's followed by a new "Las Vegas" at 10 p.m.

"Men In Trees" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 9 p.m.) are also new.

The negative aspect to the strike is the addition of more reality shows to the schedule, including TV specials like tonight's "Movies Rock," (CBS, 9 p.m.), where top musicians perform famous movie songs. God, I hope this came about as filler material because of the strike and wasn't meant as an original special, because that would mean the networks really are running out of good ideas.

If you missed "Torchwood" the first time around, you can catch the rerunning of the series on Saturday at 8 p.m on BBC America.

If you missed the miniseries "Tin Man" the first time around, Sci-Fi is running all three parts in a marathon beginning Sunday at 9 p.m.

Also new on Sunday is CBS' lineup of "The Amazing Race," "Cold Case" and "Shark."

Oprah Winfrey and Mitch Albom present a TV-movie version of Albom's book, "One More Day" (ABC, Sun., 9 p.m.), about a suicidal ex-ballplayer (Michael Imperioli) who looks back at his life with the ghost of his late mother (Ellen Burstyn).

Finally, "Dexter" (Showtime, Sun., 9 p.m.) airs its penultimate second-season episode.


zodin2008 said...

These Christmas themed episodes generally don't do much for me and I am over seeing Department store Santas being murdered - I didn't love that recent "Bones" episode.

Still, bravo to "Psych" for casting more 80's icons in Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters") and Phylicia Rashad ("The Cosby Show").

Along with the extremely enjoyable performance every week fo Corbin Bernsen ("L.A. Law" and "Major League") as Sean's dad, "Psych" has also brought in people like Dan Lauria ("The Wonder Years") in the same episode that was directed by Joanna Kerns ("Growing Pains").

As someone who is 32 years old, all these actors were part of my childhood in their various TV shows and films so it's fun tos ee them given work on a little show like "Psych".

(James Roday, who plays Sean and is about the same age as me, has said in interviews how cool it is to work with people he also watched growing up in San Antonio).

I am extremely pleased that there has been 2-3 days of consecutive good talks between the writers and producers. I have hope now and mid to late January would be a tremendous relief to have my shows back.

One of the shows I love that I am very interested in what is going to happen if the strike is indeed settled in the next few weeks is of course "24".

Besides the fact that FOX wants to run all 24 episodes consecutively, they halted production after filming about 6-7 episodes 9from what I understand) and Kiefer Sutherland as of this week started his 6 week jail term for violating his parole on the drunken driving charge which means he won't be available (I assume) for any filming until about Mid January.

What it probably means is that 2nd half starters like "24" and possibly even "Lost" will be running new episodes into June and maybe (for "24") July? Interesting.

Jonathan said...

I'm curious about "24" and "Lost" as well. Would they actually give them a run in the Summer months where less people watch T.V., or just wait till the Fall season where they could run both shows in the Fall and then start the new seasons that following Spring?

And while I'm annoyed to have to wait longer for two of my favorite shows to start back up (I still have faith in the "24" machine even if last season was a little less than stellar), I would much rather wait than have the seasons broken up in chunks.

As for one of my other favorite shows, "Friday Night Lights," I agree, Phil that there is no logical way for Landry to stay out of jail which is annoying. They have written themselves into a corner with a storyline that never should have been concocted in the first place. Either he goes to jail which is a waste for a great character, or he doesn't due to some ridiculous plot twist. Either way, it was a bad story idea from the get-go, and I can't understand how the writers will make me feel differently. I guess we'll see.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, 24 and Lost are the two big mysteries of the winter season in terms of how they will be affected by the strike. Lost may be affected a tiny bit less, because if I remember right, it's only supposed to have a 16-episode run for each of its final few seasons, while 24 runs 24 episodes, which is two more than the standard order of most shows.

However, the TV landscape has changed somewhat over the years, and networks can no longer afford to write off the summer months, since cable presents so much quality fare. TV has become a year-round business, which is why networks show fewer reruns during the summer in favor of original (albeit mostly reality) programming.

Normally, networks try to wrap up season finales to coincide with May sweeps, delivering the best ratings at the most important time of the year, but all of that will be skewed by the strike, regardless of the show.

24 has had a number of production issues besides the strike, including the Calif. wildfires and Kiefer Sutherland's jail time, so it's very difficult to tell how much production has been affected. I know Lost has a few episodes in the can and has been plotted out well in advance, so it may have an easier time bouncing back whenever production resumes.