Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Late Night Shuffle

On vacation last week, I didn't get around to reporting the news that former "SNL" cast member Jimmy Fallon will be replacing Conan O'Brien on NBC's "Late Night" when O'Brien gets the "Tonight Show" gig next year.

My brother and his friends, who follow the late night talk show circuit a lot more than I do, seem to think this will be a disaster of Titanic proportions because none seem to be fans of Fallon. They aren't the only ones that are worried.

One TV critic, Tim Goodman, wrote a column wondering if would-be movie star Fallon would be able to reduce his own ego in favor of his guest's, something that every talk show host needs to do (though somehow Larry King has managed a career for 40 years without being able to do this). Another critic, Alan Sepinwall, seemed to think the opposite, that Fallon wouldn't have enough of a personality to make a go of things.

My thoughts? Let Fallon actually tape a show or two before passing judgment.

Here's the thing. I remember when O'Brien was first named Letterman's replacement. Here was a guy who hadn't appeared regularly in front of a camera or an audience who was taking over for the most popular host on TV at that point. Needless to say, no one thought much of Conan's chances, but a decade-plus later, he seems to have done well enough for himself.

The late night circuit is something of a crapshoot, anyway. I never thought much of Jimmy Kimmel before, but with his recent brilliant Matt Damon-Ben Affleck-Sarah Silverman love triangle videos, he's riding a huge wave of popularity.

On the other hand, Chevy Chase, who had a very successful movie career, may go down as the worst talk show host in history.

Now people are questioning whether Conan, arguably the top host right now not on a show produced by Comedy Central, can take over "The Tonight Show," which skews to an older audience than his. I'm guessing if you ask an NBC exec, they are counting on Conan's appeal among younger viewers to cut into the Comedy Central juggernaut of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

Meanwhile, people are pointing to Fallon's lackluster movie career and the success of his former SNL partner Tina Fey as to reasons why he will fail. I'll point out that A) few people are as hot as Tina Fey right now, or as funny in general, and B) the six people who watched the movie "Collision Course" probably never imagined that Pat Morita's partner in that flick would be able to successfully replace the legendary Johnny Carson.

Let's see Fallon do his thing, and then pass judgment.

AROUND THE DIAL: It's going to be very difficult for anyone to replace the late Stanley Kamel as a recurring character on "Monk," but the producers have signed the always reliable Hector Elizondo to play Monk's (Tony Shalhoub) new therapist. ... Oscar nominee Amy Ryan will be joining "The Office" as a guest star as Toby's replacement, while Oscar and Emmy nominee Angela Bassett will be joining the cast of "ER" for its final season next year. ...

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Can we please siphon just one of Thursday's great shows over to Wednesday's? Just one? Seriously, it'd free up my TV watching greatly to spread the wealth.

As it is, "American Idol" (Fox, 9 p.m.) dominates the night following new episodes of "Til Death" and "Back To You" on Fox.

"Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) is new, as is "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m., which squares off with a new episode of "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) "Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) follows a two-hour "Deal Or No Deal."

The CW is debuting the new reality show "Farmer Wants a Wife" at 9 p.m. I'd watch, but I'm worried my liver will force its way into my neck, cutting the flow of blood off to my brain. Come to think of it, that may be the only way to watch this show.

Finally, the documentary series "Carrier" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues tonight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

'Shark' Swims Again

Tonight marks the return of the law drama "Shark" (CBS, 9 p.m.), a show fairly derivative of Fox's superior "House."

The main difference between the two shows is that the larger-than-life lead character, Sebastian Stark (James Woods), is a lawyer and has a teenaged daughter while House (Hugh Laurie) is a doctor and completely alone.

But both shows are structured essentially the same. Stark and his minions get a weekly case that seems unwinnable, only to have Stark pull a brilliant legal trick to win in the end. "Shark" isn't a bad show, but is a good example of the sort of formulaic hour-long crime dramas CBS is famous for.

One of main things I wish "Shark" would do more of is develop the supporting cast better. Though the supporting doctors on "House" don't get a whole lot to do, at least we care about them as people. In "Shark," we rarely get that with the lawyers working for Stark.

Tonight's episode, the first new one since the strike, picks up with Stark facing both criminal charges and losing his law license after helping cover up a murder for his client (Jonathan Banks) years earlier. But that character is a small fish, and a tough U.S. Attorney (Paula Marshall) is pushing Stark to help net Banks' sociopathic partner, who ordered the original murder to cover up a bigger crime.

It's a pretty strong episode and something of a roller coaster ride as we see Stark facing up to the worst mistake he's ever made and risking losing everything. Marshall, who is filling in for Jeri Ryan while Ryan is on maternity leave, has some good chemistry with Woods.

The worst moments for "Shark" for me are usually the ones with his daughter (Danielle Panabaker), who is written as so consistently whiny and annoying, it's hard to care about her. She continues that streak tonight.

I'm not sure if "Shark" has been officially renewed yet, so the ratings for the next few episodes in its new timeslot could be critical. A new episode of "NCIS" at 8 p.m. as a lead-in should help.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Another crime drama that is testing a new timeslot and night for a ratings boost is "Women's Murder Club," (ABC, 10 p.m.) back with a new episode and new showrunners. This quirky little crime drama could get a big boost not only from switching away from the Friday night wasteland, but also following "Dancing With The Stars" at 9 p.m.

"Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 10 p.m.) has guest star Robin Williams playing a character who does all sorts of crazy antics. Boy, never seen that before.

Fox's highly rated reality lineup of "American Idol" and "Hell's Kitchen" puts its contestants through the grinder once more.

On cable, "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) is all new.

Finally, the documentary "Carrier" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues tonight. It follows a rerun of "Nova," also about giant naval vessels, this one about the sinking of the Japanese supership the Yamamoto in 1945.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back In The 'House'

OK, back from vacation and back in Macon. (Yes, I did post four times last week while on holiday, making me the coolest TV critic ever, especially since I don't get paid for this).

I guess karma is rewarding me with the first new episode of "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) since the strike. This time, our favorite curmodgeon is stuck with a cheery patient.

It should be interesting to see how "House" fares on its new night after being a staple of Tuesdays. It helps to have the natural pairing of "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) as a lead-in. As I've often written, both shows are natural complements of the other.

SUNDAY NIGHT SHOUT-OUT: After all this time, "The Simpsons" still manages to make me laugh. Thanks to Matt Groening & Co. for working the Bayeux Tapestry into the opening couch sequence. Well played, sir, well played.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: One great thing about being in the sweeps period is that the networks pull out all of the stops. This period is especially important, because the last one in February was seriously affected by the strike. The networks use the ratings generating during sweeps to set ad prices, so it's the most critical time of the year in terms of revenue for the networks.

Maybe that's why "Deal Or No Deal" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is trotting out a "Star Wars" themed episode, which includes the 26 models dressed in the Princess Leia slave bikini from "Return of the Jedi." It's followed by a new "Medium" at 10 p.m.

CBS is all-new with its comedy lineup, plus "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

"Gossip Girl" (CW, 8 p.m.) is new and features "Buffy" alum Michelle Trachtenberg, followed by "One Tree Hill."

Finally, the documentary "Carrier" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues to feature life aboard a US Navy ship.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Wee Bit Of Heartbreak For Me

It was kind of a good news/bad news day for me yesterday, courtesy of the WWW.

As you loyal dozens know, I (try to) knock out screenplays and teleplays in my spare time. Not full-time, mind you, because that would require me selling something and making some money, and I'm not in danger of that any time soon.

Anyway, in this golden age of Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV with the revival of the "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) and "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.) franchises, my ultimate dream was to lead the revival of "Blake's 7" back to TV.

Since I'm sure most of you have never heard of it, let alone seen it, "B7" was a BBC sci-fi series that ran four seasons from 1977-81. Created by Terry Nation (also the creator of the Daleks, BTW) and brilliantly written (albeit with cheesy, 1970s BBC special effects), the series told the tale of Blake, a freedom fighter who battles against the totalitarian Earth empire in a dystopian future.

What I loved about the old series was that Blake and his crew weren't really the good guys, more like anti-heroes. And the bad guys weren't all that evil, just very bureaucratic. The end of the series was one of the most memorable ever. (Let's just say the good guys don't win).

In this post-9/11 world, where shows like "BSG" achieve the pinnacle of good science fiction by providing an allegory to our own world and values, I always thought "B7" would be a perfect candidate. After all, from different perspectives, Blake is either a freedom fighter or a terrorist. In our world where terrorism remains such a prominent problem, what better thing than to look at the issue in a futuristic way?

Well, apparently I'm not the only one to think this way. Sky TV announced yesterday that "B7" would be revived as a TV series. The Hollywood Reporter article can be found here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/international/news/e3if57cb0c541e56ebf5d7d34e9c0e33ed9

The guys shepherding the project do have experience in the "B7" universe - they produced a radio series last year.

It's not that I resent them, but this was always my screenwriting fantasy. I mapped the whole thing out in my head, how it would pay tribute to the original series but be updated with a post-9/11 spin. I even came up with my own killer ending and a dream cast. Of course, one of the first things would-be screenwriters learn is not to write about copyrighted properties they don't own, which is why you will never see my killer "Batman" movie idea, by the way.

Sadly, unless I win the lottery tomorrow and buy out the "B7" rights, all of this will remain in my noggin, another dream to be unfulfilled.

On the bright side, I'm hoping these guys capture some of that "BSG" magic and do justice with the new "Blake's 7" so that it becomes the pop culture phenomenon that Galactica has become.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: As noted above, Sci-Fi is all-new tonight, including the "Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m.

Speaking of fantasy shows, "Moonlight" (CBS, 9 p.m.) returns after a long, strike-induced layoff with a new episode. Though on the bubble, this show has a loyal core of fans, particularly of the female persuasion over star Alex O'Loughlin. It anchors new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m.

On Saturday, BBC America will have a mini-marathon of "Robin Hood" before airing the brand-new (on this side of the pond) second season at 9 p.m.

On Sunday, PBS takes a break from "Masterpiece" with the docu-drama "Carrier" at 9 p.m. about life aboard a US Navy carrier.

Fox's animation lineup, led by "The Simpsons," is all-new.

A new "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" on ABC take on a new "Cold Case" and "Dexter" on CBS, beginning at 9 p.m.

"Wire In The Blood" (BBC America, 8 p.m.) airs a new installment.

Finally, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.), which was just renewed for a third season, continues with a new episode from Season 2.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Too Much TV!

Everything on Thursday is back and it's all new. Get those VCRs and DVRs fired up.

In fact, it's been such a long time that we've seen some of these shows that I can't remember where we left off.

For example, how did we leave things on "Ugly Betty?" (ABC, 8 p.m.) I remember Bradford Meade dying and Betty trying to choose between Gio and Henry, but other than that, it's all a blank. The networks might have done a better job with a few reruns here and there after the strike.

I suspect there will be some fans of "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) in the same boat, especially which couples are still together and which aren't, and who kissed whom most recently. Of course, that's a scorecard that changes seemingly every week on that show, so maybe they aren't as badly off.

Of course, "Lost" (ABC, 10 p.m.) last aired a new episode last month, and had a pretty memorable ending of Ben's surrogate daughter Alex being menaced by a sniper. ABC also showed the rerun last week.

Another favorite of the TV Guy, "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) is back after a long absence and follows a new "Smallville" at 8 p.m.

The CBS lineup - "Survivor," "CSI" and "Without A Trace" - is all-new, as is the NBC comedy lineup and "ER." Note that "Scrubs" and "30 Rock" have flip-flopped on the schedule - the former is now at 8:30 p.m. behind "My Name Is Earl" while the latter follows "The Office" at 9 p.m.

Finally, Fox is airing a two-hour "Fifth Grader" beginning at 8 p.m. (thank goodness I have other choices). More of note is "Great Performances" (PBS, 10 p.m.), featuring Antony Sher's one-man show "Primo," which tells the tale of a survivor of Auschwitz.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Facing The Reaper?

Tonight marks the return of "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) to its regular timeslot with a new episode.

One of the most hyped new shows this season of any of the networks, "Reaper" hasn't really established an audience and is a bubble show for next year.

For me, the show has been inconsistent. On the one hand, it features an Emmy worthy comic performance by Ray Wise as the Devil, but it also features one of the most irritating performances on TV from Tyler Labine as Sock, the best friend of the show's hero Sam (Brett Harrison).

"Reaper" has added two amusing guest stars (Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black) as friendly, gay demons who help Sam out. It remains to be seen over the show's final few episodes if "Reaper" is strong enough creatively and in the ratings to earn a reprieve for next season.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: At the beginning of the season, I noted that "NCIS's" recurring storyline with Armand Assante as an arms dealer was pretty much a letdown with its resolution. Apparently, the producers decided to beat that dead horse once more as the FBI investigates Director Sheppard (Lauren Holly) tonight (CBS, 8 p.m.)

NBC shows a rerun of "The Best of Chris Farley" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) before a new "L&O: SVU" at 10 p.m. "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new.

Finally, feeling the pinch at the gas pump? Check out tonight's "Nova" (PBS, 8 p.m.), in which Car Talk guys Tom and Ray Magliozzi search for a new car and explore all of the alternative fuels out there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Robin Sparkles Again

One of the best things about "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) is that the series will set up a joke during one episode and carry it on as a running joke through the series.

One of the best is the "Robin Sparkles" persona of Robin (Cobie Smulders), when she was a teen mall queen pop star back in Canada. The video of Robin is still around the Web where she sings "Let's Go To The Mall."

Tonight, the subplot is revisited with a plethora of guest stars as Robin meets up with her high school boyfriend (James Van Der Beek), and we also see Alan Thicke and real-life teen mall queen Tiffany. I'm fairly certain we get another cheesy pop video as part of the package.

It's one of the aspects of the show that I love, along with everything from suiting up to slap bets.

If you want an introduction to TV's best sitcom, you could do worse than tonight's installment, part of a whole new night of CBS comedies.

SARAH CONNOR RETURNS: TVGuide.com's Michael Ausiello is reporting that though it isn't official, the cast and crew of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" will be returning for a second season. It's good news, as "SCC" had surprising emotional impact to go along with its action.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is new, but not all-new. Tonight's episode was originally shot last season, but it centers around the death of a college basketball star. Because it was set to air right around the time of the Virginia Tech shootings last year, Fox wisely decided in would be in poor taste to air it, so it is finally hitting the airwaves tonight.

"Gossip Girl" (CW, 8 p.m.) has been deliberately drawing attention to its return tonight with a racy campaign that seems to fit in perfectly with the show itself. It's followed by a new "One Tree Hill."

"Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.) is sandwiched by "Dancing With the Stars" and "The Bachelor," while "Medium" is brand new at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Doctor Is In, Again

Anxious to find out what happened to the Doctor (David Tennant) after the TARDIS crashed into the Titanic at the end of last season's finale of "Doctor Who?"

Wait no more. Season four of the new series of "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 8:30 p.m.) begins tonight with the 90-minute Christmas Special "Voyage Of The Damned." No creepy Father Christmas robots or homicidal Christmas trees this time around, though they are fondly remembered.

As we last left the Doctor, he had just left Earth after Martha Jones stayed behind after their run-in with The Master. Moments later, the Titanic breaks through one of the TARDIS walls. Needless to say, the Doctor needs to investigate how this crash occurred. Turns out, the Titanic he boards isn't remotely the same one dramatized by Kate and Leo. On board, he meets a colorful cast of characters caught up in the same mystery and danger, including a waitress named Astrid (Kylie Minogue).

Though much of the humor and whimsy that is a hallmark of "Doctor Who" is still present, the episode also has a tinge of sadness to it as the Doctor is lonelier than ever.

The Doctor will spend much of the early part of the season with Donna (Catherine Tate), the woman he rescued in the last Christmas special. Donna provides a striking contrast to his normal companions, in that she isn't the typical starry eyed girl overwhelmed by the Doctor's adventures in time and space.

The Christmas special airs after a new "Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m. and precedes a new "Battlestar Galactica" at 10 p.m.

'DOLL HOUSE' NEWS: The cast of the new Joss Whedon series, set for next season and starring Eliza Dushku, continues to get more intriguing as TVGuy fave Amy Acker ("Angel") has joined up. She signs on with a cast that already includes Tahmoh Penikett ("Battlestar Galactica") and Olivia Williams ("Rushmore"). As if there was little doubt, this is the show I'm most looking forward to next season.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The season, and possibly series, finale of "Canterbury's Law" (Fox, 9 p.m.) airs tonight.

On Saturday, the other "Doctor Who" spinoff, "Torchwood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) wraps up its second season in which the team, which barely survived the assassination attempt by Capt. John (James Marsters), has to prepare for another assault.

On Sunday, the fine miniseries "John Adams" (HBO, 9 p.m.) wraps up at the same time "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) continues. Also, "Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) tells the tale of Rudyard Kipling and his son (Daniel Radcliffe), who goes missing in action during World War I.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

'Eli's' Coming, With The Season Finale

ABC has cornered the market this season on whimsy, offering viewers the likes of the delightful "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money."

Right up there has been the ever-improving "Eli Stone" (ABC, 10 p.m.), which wraps up its first season tonight with Eli (Jonny Lee Miller) in a coma after the surgery to remove his aneurysm goes wrong.

I'm pulling for both Eli Stone the character and "Eli Stone" the series to survive next season. It's one of those bubble shows that hasn't gotten a full commitment from ABC for next year.

(For a list of other shows and their chances, check out TVGuide.com's Michael Ausiello's list here: http://community.tvguide.com/blog-entry/TVGuide-Editors-Blog/Ausiello-Report/Ausiello-Scoop-Favorite/800037719)

It's been an interesting ride with Eli as he tries to cope with his visions, which include a plethora of George Michael songs, and his cases. The writers do a good job of making us care each week whether Eli and his law partners win such cases as the rights of prisoners or even two gay chimps who want to live together.

The supporting cast is also first-rate, especially the always-terrrific Victor Garber as Eli's boss and father figure. (Note to producers: include more musical numbers for Garber next season.)

And credit the producers for moving the story along. They could have dragged out Eli's secret being revealed or his relationship with his ex (Natasha Henstridge), and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge (through CGI) last week was particularly inspired, because it let the viewers know anything can happen. As a viewer, you don't expect to see something like that, so it proved to be a delightful surprise to me.

I always pull for shows that have a true sense of originality, and they don't come more original than "Eli Stone." Here's hoping we get a lot more George Michael numbers in the future.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: It's like a conspiracy that all of the networks get together and decide to put their best stuff on Thursdays. In the end, it's a victory for we, the viewers (and helps make up for crappy Wednesdays.)

In case you need a refresher for the return of "Lost" next week (at its new 10 p.m. time slot), ABC is running the last two episodes from a few weeks ago from 8-10 p.m. The first deals with Sun's pregnancy, making for one of the most poignant moments of the season, while the second one tells us what happened to Michael after leaving the island.

NBC's comedy lineup is all new, beginning with "My Name Is Earl." (NBC, 8 p.m.) Please let Earl get out of the coma, already. Jack tries to recruit Tracy to join the Republican Party on "30 Rock," while "The Office" gang fights for their parking spots, finishing with an all-new "Scrubs" before an all-new "ER" at 10 p.m.

Someone is definitely supposed to die soon on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) No spoilers here, but if I were a betting man, I'm guessing Lionel Luthor. It's followed by a rerun of "Supernatural," but it's the best episode of the season - Dean is killed over and over and over in the show's tribute to "Groundhog Day." If you have never seen this series before - and it's one of the most underrated shows on TV - this is the episode to catch, folks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Political Coverage Should Be

Tonight marks the very important Democratic Presidential Debate (ABC, 8 p.m.) in Pennsylvania.

Notice I only list it on one of the major networks. That's because it's only on one of the major networks.

The rest are showing original programming. So if a viewer could care less about the debates, he or she has other viewing options tonight. And if a viewer does care about the debates, he or she can watch them comfortably on one network.

I've never understood why every channel needs to air the same political speeches and debates when one will suffice. Is it important to air things like the State of the Union and the national conventions? Of course. Voters need to be informed on the issues, much more so than they probably are.

But why not rotate these events around the dial? ABC airs a debate tonight, NBC has the next one, CBS, and so on. Personally, I'm a little sick of the political process at this stage, and I don't think either candidate tonight - no matter which one you support - is going to say anything earth-shattering. It's more of a chance for a candidate to blurt out something wrong that will alienate voters rather than draw them in.

Just remember this posting when the conventions roll around for four days apiece during the summer on every network.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: So, if you don't want to watch tonight's debate, here are your choices.

CBS has new episodes of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" after "Big Brother" at 8 p.m. (Come to think of it, watching the debate sounds better already.)

Fox returns with original episodes of the sitcoms "Til Death" and "Back To You" at 8 p.m., followed by the results show of "American Idol" at 9 p.m.

PBS has a pair of specials, "The Truth About Cancer" at 8 p.m. and "King Corn" at 10 p.m.

Finally, "Men In Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.) airs a new episode after the debate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Bit More 'Lost' And 'Grey's'

If the bloggings seem light over the next couple of days, it's because I have a tremendous amount of stuff due in the paying side of my job, so apologies in advance.

Just a quick note today to deliver some good news. ABC announced that both "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" will have an extra hour apiece added to their post-strike orders.

The tricky bit is that "Lost" needed an extra hour to tell the season finale the way Team Darlton wanted to, but because of the way the schedule worked out ("Lost's" finale is essentially a three-hour long episode), ABC needed an extra hour filled, so it ordered another "Grey's."

The one bad thing, though, is that the first part of the "Lost" finale will air May 15, but we then get a two-week break before the final two hours air May 29, because Team Darlton felt it better not to break up those final two hours. So ABC will air the "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's" finales during that May 22 run, while the May 15 "Lost" will re-air in the 8 p.m. time slot May 29, making it an all-"Lost" night.

Ironically, none of this will help ABC much ratings-wise, because sweeps end May 21, meaning all of ABC's heavy hitters will be airing their finales after that key ratings period.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Abby tries to prove a dog's innnocence on "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) That's one of the reasons I love this particular procedural - it's exactly the sort of thing Abby would do. Top that, CSI!

ABC airs a new "Boston Legal" at 10 p.m. following the "Dancing With The Stars" results show. Fox is all-reality with "American Idol" and "Hell's Kitchen," while NBC delivers a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m. after the finale of "The Biggest Loser."

Finally, a new "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) airs.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Them 'Bones,' Them 'Bones,' Them Dry 'Bones'

One of my favorite procedurals, "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns tonight with a brand-new episode.

I bring this up because it's hard to think of a drama that has had the success that "Bones" has had considering how much the network yanks it around the schedule. But as star David Boreanaz pointed out in a phone interview Friday, the "Bones" audience is particularly loyal.

"We've proven that whatever day we're on, the fans will follow," he said.

What makes "Bones" so enjoyable for me, and I think for other fans of the series, is the appeal of the characters. Much like "NCIS" on CBS, we've come to care more about the characters than we do about the forensic mystery each week, in large part because the chemistry of the cast is so good. And, much like "NCIS," both shows know how to lighten things up.

Of course, the big question on "Bones" is whether the two leads, Boreanaz's FBI agent Booth and Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) will get together romantically. Boreanaz had an interesting response to that.

"I think they already are," he said. "The two characters drive the plotlines, which brings them closer together or pulls them apart."

Boreanaz pointed to the now-famous kiss between the two during the show's Christmas episode this season. Much like everyting else on "Bones," it was unconventional: they kiss because they are essentially dared to.

But that doesn't mean the two characters will jump into bed any time soon.

"We're not at a place where we're going to go the whole nine (yards)," he said. "We're going to keep teasing."

Boreanaz said the serial killer plot thread the show has revolved around most of the season will be resolved. It had to be altered slightly because of the strike. Initially, when it looked as if the season would be cut short, it was going to be a two-part cliffhanger, but with additional episodes added on after the strike, the producers altered their plans slightly.

Also, expect more of the young shrink Sweets to be in the mix -- and don't expect Booth to stop teasing him any time soon about his age, Boreanaz said.

"Sweets fits in perfectly," he said. "It's a great idea to see (Bones and Booth) going through therapy."

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Following "Bones" is the season finale of "New Amsterdam" (Fox, 9 p.m.), a series that has become pretty enjoyable and I hope gets renewed.

CBS is all-new with its comedy lineup, followed by a new "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

"Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.) is all-new, in the plum timeslot between "Dancing With The Stars" and "The Bachelor."

Friday, April 11, 2008

'Sarah Jane' Good For The Kids

It wouldn't be hard to argue among us old-school "Doctor Who" fans that Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) is the most popular of the Doctor's long list of companions.

Sarah Jane, an investigative reporter who travelled with the Doctor through parts of his Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker incarnations in the 1970s, and was the companion they chose to base the spinoff "K-9 & Co." in 1983. She was also brought back for the 20th anniversary special, "The Five Doctors" that same year.

When producer Russell T. Davies revived "Doctor Who," Sarah Jane was the lone human character brought back from the original series to the new one in the episode "School Days."

Now Sarah Jane is back with "The Sarah Jane Adventures" (Sci-Fi, 7:30 p.m.) the newest spinoff to the "Who" franchise. Unlike the other spinoff, the adult-oriented "Torchwood," "SJA" is aimed squarely at the kids' audience. That's not to say adults won't find the show enjoyable in a whimsical sort of way, but "SJA" falls into the "family" category.

Sarah Jane, fresh off her adventure with the Doctor, has taken up investigative reporting again full-time. But the Doctor has left her with a bunch of gadgets that allow her to combat alien menaces when she uncovers them.

A teenage girl named Maria (Yasmin Page) moves into the house next-door to Sarah Jane, and one night catches her neighbor having a conversation with an alien. Needless to say, she's intrigued. Maria will become the companion as Sarah Jane takes on the Doctor-like hero's role as they investigate a soda pop factory.

Sladen, looking fantastic at 60 (all those years in the TARDIS must really do stop the aging process) steps back into her character with ease and confidence, and seems to be having fun. She's also the den mother to Maria and other kids who pop up in the first two episodes.

For parents looking to introduce their kids to science fiction without worrying about scaring them, "SJA" is a good start. And it's a good warm-up for the return of all-new episodes of "Doctor Who" beginning next week.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Sci-Fi fans are in for a treat. Not only is there the 90-minute debut of "SJA," but it's followed by two new episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.)

CBS returns with new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m.

The documentary "Meeting David Wilson" (MSNBC, 9 p.m.) has gotten a lot of buzz as a commentary about race relations in this country. It follows a young black man named David Wilson, who travels to North Carolina in search of his roots, including meeting the great-grandson of the slave-owner who is also a distant relative of Wilson's.

Enjoy "Canterbury's Law" (Fox, 9 p.m.) while you can: it almost certainly won't be renewed.

The Miss USA Pageant airs tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC.

On Saturday, "Torchwood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), the "Doctor Who" spinoff you probably don't want your kids watching, airs its penultimate episode for this season.

Sunday marks the return of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.), followed by a new episode of "Eli Stone" (ABC, 10 p.m.) on a special night, as well as the return of Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D'Angelo) on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.)

"Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) begins a remake of E.M. Forster's "Room With A View." And speaking of costumed historical dramas, there are new episodes of "John Adams" (HBO, 9 p.m.) and "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.)

New episodes of "Cold Case" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Dexter" (well, new for CBS at least) also air.

Finally, the documentary "The Human Footprint" airs at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Save Your Favorite Shows

The fans of the CBS vampire drama "Moonlight" are ripping off the campaign "Angel" fans came up with a few years ago to save their show. Fans are in the process of organizing a massive blood drive on a certain day as a means of stirring publicity in order to save the series.

While it's a good idea (and a worthy cause, no matter the outcome) it didn't save "Angel" a few years ago, and CBS, which is still picking up peanut shells from the "Jericho" campaign, may not be in the mood to rescue another low-rated cult favorite series after "Jericho" returned to lower ratings.

Regardless, Rick Kushman of our sister paper, The Sacramento Bee, has helpfully listed what are the presumed bubble shows for next season and who to send your letters to. In NBC's case, they have already announced next year's schedule, which includes picking up "Friday Night Lights."

As for the rest of the networks, here are some shows that can use some support. These are the bubble shows, and in no way am I endorsing their renewal or cancellation, which is why I'm listing "Boston Legal," for example, which I personally would love to be rid of:

ABC: "Eli Stone," "Men in Trees," "Boston Legal," "Cashmere Mafia," "October Road," "Women’s Murder Club."
—Contact: Stephen McPherson, president of entertainment, 2300 Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91521.

CBS: "Moonlight," "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Rules of Engagement," "Shark," The Unit."
—Contact: Nina Tassler, president of entertainment, 4024 Radford Ave., Studio City, CA 91604.

CW: "Aliens In America," "Reaper."
—Contact: Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment, 3300 W. Olive Ave., third floor, Burbank, CA 91505.

Fox: "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Back to You," "New Amsterdam," "Til Death," "Unhitched."
—Contact: Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment, P.O. Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213.

You may actually also want to contact ABC for "Old Christine" and "Scrubs." As I reported earlier, the network is considering both shows if they are not renewed by their previous networks. Thanks to Rick Kushman for putting the list together.

R.I.P. STANLEY KAMEL: The veteran character actor, perhaps best known as the long-suffering shrink on "Monk," died yesterday at age 65 from an apparent heart attack. The Dr. Kroger episodes tended to be my favorite ones on "Monk," and Kamel was a quality actor in whatever he appeared.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Tonight, we discover the winner of a much talked-about reality series. I speak of course of "MILF Island," the show within a show that has become the cornerstone of "30 Rock" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) this season. There's some clever counterpoint in the writing tonight as Liz (Tina Fey) faces a dilemma in dealing with Jack as the fictional reality show draws to a close. It anchors an all-new night of comedy, starting with "My Name Is Earl" at 8 p.m. and followed by new episodes of "The Office" and "Scrubs," plus a new "ER" at 10 p.m.

I neglected to mention last Sunday's return of "Desperate Housewives." In case you missed it, ABC is rerunning it at 9 p.m., followed by a new "Eli Stone" at 10 p.m.

New episodes of "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Without a Trace" (CBS, 10 p.m.) hit the air as well, and "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) boots another contestant in a less-sexy way than MILF Island does.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

'Idol' Gives Back, Again

No matter whether you are a fan of "American Idol" or not, it's undeniable the show's impact in terms of viewers reached.

Last year, the producers started "Idol Gives Back," in which they took a week out of the competition to raise money for charity. Throwing in major stars into the mix, "AI" raised more than $76 million last year for various charities.

Tonight, the producers hope to surpass that total when the special airs at an early time (Fox, 7:30 p.m.) In addition to the "AI" contestants, participants include Bono, Mariah Carey, Billy Crystal, Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Fergie, John Legend, Annie Lennox, Maroon 5, Brad Pitt, Snoop Dogg and Reese Witherspoon. Former "AI" stars Chris Daughtry, Fantasia, Elliott Yamin and Carrie Underwood will also perform, and all three Presidential candidates will take part as well.

Though I'm not an "AI" fan by any stretch, it is nice when TV can have a positive impact on society, and the idea of using TV's highest-rated show for charity is a pretty sound one. Here's hoping they reach last year's total and beyond.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Against the "AI" juggernaut, the other networks seem to be holding back, which is probably a smart move. Only CBS has new dramatic offerings with new episodes of "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m. and "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Have No Secret Talent

Some might say I have no overt talent, either, but I sure don't have any secret ones.

I suppose if that bothered me, I could live vicariously through celebrities, who will be competing tonight (CBS, 10 p.m.) in the latest so-called reality offering.

Kicking things off is country singer's Clint Black's attempt at standup comedy; contortionism from Olympic skater Sasha Cohen; and tap dancing from Mya. I guess my personal favorite, though, is "Star Trek's" George Takei, who will be performing country music. (I could totally see him doing Johnny Cash).

From the old-school "Battle of the Network Stars" to "Celebrity Apprentice," we seem to love our celebrities competing for something, so this should be fitting right in with the American viewing public.

'RUNWAY' ON THE MOVE?: NBC/Bravo is in litigation with The Weinstein Co. over the mega-reality hit "Project Runway." The show, one of the mainstays for the Bravo network, signed a new five-year deal with Lifetime that is set to begin in the fall, but NBC (which owns Bravo) is suing to block the move over contractual issues. Considering how huge a property "Runway" is, this is a suit that won't be going away quietly.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) returns with its first new post-strike episode. TVGuide.com's Michael Ausiello is reporting one member of the cast is leaving at the end of the season in a plot twist, but doesn't say who. Well, I know it's not Gibbs (Mark Harmon), and the show would suck if they lost Tony, Ziva, Abby or McGee or even Ducky, so I'm hoping it means Jenny.

"Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) also returns with its first post-strike new episode.

On cable, "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) is brand-new, while HBO is showing the documentary "The Greatest Silence: Rape In The Congo" at 10 p.m.

Monday, April 07, 2008

ABC's New Strategy

It's been no secret that ABC hasn't developed a truly great sitcom in recent memory.

While it's had a couple of decent ones this year - the just-finished "Miss Guided" and "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.), which returns tonight - this is the same network that also brought us "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers."

So somebody had the bright idea of poaching some good sitcoms off other networks. ABC has already made it all-but-official that it will be picking up the final season of "Scrubs" now that NBC has dropped the show.

Now, according to the trades, the network is looking at CBS' "New Adventures of Old Christine," a wickedly funny bubble show that may or may not be renewed by The Eye.

If ABC picks up both shows, it would give the network two solidly, critically praised sitcoms, something it hasn't had, I think, in my lifetime.

It's a wonder that ABC can create some of the most innovative, clever dramas ("Lost," "Pushing Daisies," "Eli Stone" et. al.) but can't do the same with its 30-minute shows. Here's hoping they've picked up on a new idea and let the other networks do the heavy lifting before grabbing some good sitcoms up.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Meanwhile, ABC will have to be content with the boffo ratings it gets from its reality offerings, "Dancing With The Stars" at 8 p.m. and "The Bachelor" at 10 p.m.

CBS is picking its best-rated but worst comedies to precede tonight's NCAA Basketball Championship (CBS, 9 p.m.) with "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men," beginning at 8 p.m.

Fox has what I believe is the penultimate "New Amsterdam" for this season at 9 p.m., while NBC airs a new "Medium" at 10 p.m.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Peabodys Recognize Colbert Nation

The prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards were announced earlier this week, and once again, judges showed an eclectic taste among the entertainment winners.

Among the honorees were "Mad Men," one of TV's best new dramas of 2007; "Project Runway," arguably the most popular reality series on cable; and "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert's send-up of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Comedy Central.

I find the last one to be particularly funny and ironic, because several years ago O'Reilly had claimed to be a Peabody winner. When it was shown that he wasn't, he claims to have gotten the award mixed up with another. That's a bit like me claiming to have won a Pulitzer when in fact I won something from the Georgia Sports Writers Association a few years back.

Colbert celebrated in typical fashion last night, coming up with stickers that say "Peabody Winner" that he's going to put on everything.

The Peabodys have been around for 67 years and are awarded by the University of Georgia. Eons ago, when I attended the Harvard of the South, I was a student judge for the Peabodys. It's an interesting process, because the committee - me and two faculty/staff members - made our recommendations to the final judges in the Education Category. Pretty much nothing we recommended ended up winning, while things we didn't recommend got honored.

For example, we reviewed a CBS special called "Words Up," starring Kadeem Hardison in a comic tale that taught the value of adult literacy. CBS' description didn't do the special justice. When we read the blurb, all of us were like "Let's watch five minutes of this." But in the end, it was the best thing we saw, by far, and the one special we all agreed absolutely deserved to win. It didn't.

But a documentary about a guy sailing around the world, which didn't have a lot of educational value and wasn't recommended by my committee, did win one. So your guess is as good as mine as to how these things are actually picked.

But this year's list has some fine choices.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: It's less than 12 hours to the season premiere of "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), but the network will upload the video to scifi.com at noon. I'm going to make a recommendation here: Don't watch it online. Here's why: The effects at the beginning of the episode are so good, you'll want to watch them on the biggest TV you can find. A 15-inch computer monitor won't do it justice. Plus, Sci Fi is airing the final two episodes of last season from 8-10 p.m., so you can refresh what is happening in your mind. I know it's difficult, but you've waited many months for this, why not wait another 10 hours and watch it as it should be seen?

CBS returns with new episodes of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m.

"Canterbury's Law" (Fox, 9 p.m.) is new for right now, but sent to the death grounds of Friday nights isn't a good sign.

The hit ABC game show "Duel" (ABC, 9 p.m.) returns for a new season. This show wasn't bad the first time around, but the strategy is fairly simple - save a couple of chips early on if you can, and force your opponent to use all of his or hers.

Spike is showing the Star Wars trilogy - Episodes 1 through 3 - all weekend long beginning tonight with "The Phantom Menace" at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, "Torchwood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is all new. Also, the NCAA Tournament's Final Four begins with UCLA versus Memphis (CBS, 6 p.m.) followed by North Carolina versus Kansas at 8:30 p.m.

On Sunday, the mystery series "Wire In The Blood" (BBC American, 8 p.m.) airs a two-hour TV movie, while the miniseries "John Adams" (HBO, 9 p.m.) and "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) continue. "Cold Case" (CBS, 9 p.m.) is brand-new followed by "Dexter," which is new if you didn't catch the series on Showtime.

Speaking of which, NBC will beginning airing episodes of "Monk" and "Psych" beginning at 8 p.m. These are reruns that ran on NBC's sister network, USA.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Official: FNL Is Back!

NBC delivered the good news Wednesday. One of TV's best dramas, "Friday Night Lights," will be back for a third season next fall.

The network worked out a deal with DirecTV, which will show the episodes on its channel, "The 101," beginning Oct. 1. NBC will then broadcast the series beginning after the Super Bowl in its regular Friday night timeslot.

Of course, for those of us who don't have DirecTV, that means we have to wait until February, and NBC is only making 13 episodes. But for those of us rabid fans of the series, it's well worth the wait, and 13 episodes is certainly a lot better than zero, which seemed to be "FNL's" fate a few months ago.

There's been no official word as to when the series will pick up, but rumors abound that it will be the start of the next football season (senior year for Matt, Landry and Riggins) when it does resume. No word on which cast members are returning, or if new ones will be added.

This new partnership may be the future of TV, since it has become more expensive to produce dramatic programming, and in the age of DVRs, commercial programming is about to undergo a major paradigm overhaul. But if the changing face of TV means keeping the "Lights" on, I'm all for it.

Other returning NBC shows announced Wednesday include: Lipstick Jungle, Medium, Law & Order, L&O: SVU and the 15th and final season of ER.

New shows on the slate include: The Office spinoff, My Own Worst Enemy, Kath & Kim, Knight Rider, Robinson Crusoe, Kings, The Philanthropist, The Listener, Shark Taggers, America's Toughest Jobs and Chopping Block, plus the miniseries The Last Templar and XIII.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Jeff Zucker has often been the object of criticism on this blog, but his guest appearance at the beginning of "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is the highlight of the hour-long episode. While in a coma, Earl imagines his life to be 60s-style sitcom. Paris Hilton also guest-stars in the episode. It's followed by four reruns of "The Office."

"Miss Guided" (ABC, 8 p.m.) wraps up its brief run tonight, and after a "Lost" rerun, "Eli Stone" is new at 10 p.m.

Finally, "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "Without A Trace" (CBS, 10 p.m.) return with their first new, post-strike episodes.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Absolutely Frak-Tastic!

I could fill five blog posts as to why "Battlestar Galactica" is the best show on TV right now, and still barely scratch the surface.

Layers upon layers of depth in the writing, great casting and great storytelling make this show an absolute compulsion to watch.

The Lords of Cobol smiled upon me yesterday with an advanced copy of this week's season premiere (Sci-Fi, Fri., 10 p.m.) and for those BSG fans complaining about the length of time they've had to wait for it, all I can say is: it's well worth the wait.

If you need refreshing on what's been happening through the course of the series, Sci-Fi is airing reruns from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. every day this week, but here's a quick refresher from last season's finale:

--Baltar was found not guilty of betraying humanity and spirited off by a group of women.
--Roslin has informed the fleet that her cancer has returned.
--The fleet is under attack by a massive Cylon force.
--Starbuck appears in the final few seconds, back apparently from the dead, telling Apollo that she's been to Earth and will lead humanity there.
--And, oh yeah, four key characters - Anders, Tigh, Tyrol and Tori - all hear Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" and discover they are four of the five unknown Cylon units.

There's some serious stuff going on.

Sci-Fi asked critics not to give away spoilers for the premiere, which I would never do anyway, so all of you will have plenty of opportunities to scream "What the frak!?" at your TV?

You will be doing that A LOT.

This is what I can say about the premiere:

--Baltar has more luck than anyone in the fleet; the lovely women who rescued him after the trial are essentially Baltar groupies.
--The action picks up this season literally about three seconds after last season's finale.
--Starbuck offers a partial explanation as to what she thinks happened to her; not many people are willing to believe her.
--Apollo makes a decision about his future in the fleet.
--The identity of the final 12th Cylon model isn't revealed.

This last item is especially important, because based on the opening credits, that will seemingly be a looming question for both the humans and the Cylons for much of the final season.

Just from my own speculation - and this comes from watching the entire series, not just the season premiere - the three likeliest candidates for the No. 12 unit are:

--Starbuck. It doesn't spoil anything to say that when a character presumed dead returns, an awful lot of people are going to speculate that she's a Cylon. And for some of the things the premiere answers about her disappearance, even more questions are raised.
--Baltar. Why does he continue to get so lucky, and is it luck? Why do he and Six continue to see visions of each other? Baltar himself has questioned whether he is a Cylon, and has never gotten a satisfactory answer.
--Roslin. True, having cancer would seem to indicate she is human, but the vision she had in last season's finale that she shared with both Boomer and Six may indicate a closer connection to the Cylons than she thinks.
--None of the above. Most of the Cylon models that have appeared in the fleet have been seeming background characters, so it may not be one of the stars of the show.

When it's on its game (about 99.9 percent of the time), "BSG" is what science fiction should be: a terrific commentary on modern society, and an examination of the human condition in other-than-normal circumstances.

For me, the best episodes have centered around how humanity must conduct itself to survive. Roslin has to outlaw abortion not because of religious beliefs, but because there are only 40,000 humans left in existence and they need to make babies in order to survive as a species.

Or, as Tyrol points out, humans are training their children to take over their jobs because they are essential to the survival of the human race. But by working on a fuel ship, that's all those children can ever be. Humanity, through its effort to survive, is essentially creating a class of slaves.

I even feel it when a Viper pilot is killed, because that's one less Viper now at Adama's disposal, and one less trained person to defend the fleet. There are no replacements coming.

My final comment on the "BSG" premiere is to watch it on the biggest screen possible. The effects sequence during the opening of the episode is major motion picture quality, and the better the TV, the more enjoyable it will be.

And you will enjoy it, trust me.

AROUND THE DIAL: I neglected to lavish praise upon "How I Met Your Mother," which may have had its best episode of the season on Monday. Fans should check out TedMosbyIsAJerk.com for more fun. From the NCAA brackets to the "Doogie Howser" tribute, HIMYM showed once more why it's TV's best sitcom. Also, expect an appearance from James Van Der Beek later this season.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: CBS, which has been quicker out of the post-strike gates with new episodes than any other broadcaster, returns two more of its crime dramas tonight with "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m. and "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m.

"Men In Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is new tonight as well. Enjoy it while you can, because this doesn't look good for renewal.

Finally, the PBS special, "Caring For Your Parents" has gotten some critical praise, and may be worth checking out. It's on at 9 p.m.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Those Mean English

Last week, Piers Morgan won "Celebrity Apprentice" even though producers essentially cast him as "the bad guy" compared to All-American cowboy Trace Adkins.

One of the keys to Morgan's victory was calling in help from "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, routinely cast as the villain on that show.

Tonight, perhaps the "meanest" of all is back with chef Gordon Ramsey, who brings back a new season of "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox, 9 p.m.) Fox promotes the show by showing clips of Ramsey berating the various chefs on the show.

Being half-English myself, I have to wonder why the English are so often cast as the villains on these reality shows. Are there hard feelings left over from the Boston Tea Party?

The interesting thing is, if you actually watch the shows, most of these guys aren't particularly villainous. Morgan was smug when Omarosa lost again and again, and his tactics may have been underhanded, but as he pointed out, the goal was to win each week. Donald Trump himself has kicked people off "The Apprentice" for NOT using certain tactics to win. And Morgan showed a lot of class both in talking about Adkins and in representing his charity, to aid wounded American soldiers.

Cowell has been the king of the bad guys, but in the bits of "AI" I've seen over the years, the only time he gets really nasty with his comments are for the people trying out and who are clearly there to play for the camera - not the serious contestants who are actually trying. The times I've watched, I've actually seen Randy Jackson be more mean than Cowell. And when Cowell does give praise to a contestant, it seems to mean a lot more, because you know he doesn't give out that much of it.

I haven't watched "Hell's Kitchen," but I know Ramsay does do a lot of charity work, so I'm wondering how much of it is him being sincerely mean and how much of it is editing and playing to the camera.

So let's stop stereotyping the English guys as the bad guys next time a new reality show comes along.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Barbara Walters explores the idea of living to be 150 (ABC, 10 p.m.) Me? I'm taking it one day at a time.

"CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.) concludes a two-parter from last night. I'm guessing David Caruso will make a dramatic gesture with his sunglasses at some point.

And finally, you can catch that mean Simon Cowell on "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.)