Saturday, May 31, 2008

Weekend Bonus: 'Sex' Reviewed

Thanks to the Cherry Blogger, Stephanie Hartley, for sending me her thoughts on the weekend premiere of "Sex & The City."

Here's her review:

Is it the perfect ending that all SATC die-hards have been waiting for? Not exactly. Is it worth your time, though? Most definitely. I was glad to see all four of our friends back together again after so long and there were definitely great moments. However, some moments felt a little awkward and some of the character portrayals were a little lacking. One friend said she thought Big was too nice, and I had some doubts about the way Samantha's character was developed. Charlotte and Miranda's characters seemed to be the most similar to what I had expected from their lives. That said, it was still enjoyable and I will probably still buy it when it comes out on DVD.

So, those of you who saw the movie, what are your thoughts?

Coming Monday: Network report cards

Friday, May 30, 2008

'Lost' Rocks! (Warning-Spoilers); New Summer Programming





One thing about those "Lost" finales is that they are never dull. As Michael Emerson alluded to in yesterday's posting, we did get major questions answered and the producers did give us plenty of possible new directions for the show.


I had an inkling that Jeremy Bentham would turn out to be Locke. I mean, how many people in life do you meet that are named after famous British philosophers? (Bentham has always been a personal favorite). It's an interesting choice of names on many levels. The real John Locke gave us a philosophy of everyone starting life with a clean slate, which is what happened to the fictional Locke when he arrived on the island. Bentham espoused utilitarianism, when one tries to do the greatest good for the most people. That seems to be the fictional Locke's philosphy as he tries to protect the survivors in his own way.

The real Bentham also came up with the idea of the Panopticon, a prison in it which it would be possible to keep an eye on all the inmates at all times, but without the inmates knowing they were being watched. Sounds a bit like the stations on a certain island, doesn't it?

Of course, it begs the questions why everyone calls him Bentham after all that time of knowing him as Locke.

I give the producers major props for answering a lot of the questions on the minds of viewers. Why didn't anyone else get off the island? Who was the other man Sun blamed for Jin's death? (Actually, that one's a bit ambiguous, since she seems to finger Widmore while Jack thinks she blames him). How does one move an island?

Of course, even more questions have now popped up? How do Sawyer and Locke get back to the mainland in the future? What's the deal with Christian and Claire? What happened to all of the people on the zodiac? What's going to happen between The Others and the remaining survivors? What did Sawyer whisper to Kate?

It was hard not to get a little misty at the Desmond-Penny reunion, but the cloud of Ben Linus still hang over her head. It was also heart-breaking to see Jin's death, though Sun's transformation into a ruthless badass is cool.

Now the most depressing news to contemplate: We have to wait until January or February before it returns. AARRRGGGHHH!!!


OK, don't look above the asterisks.

'SATC' OPENS: I hated, hated, HATED the series "Sex & The City" the few times I had the misfortune to watch it, but I can't deny the cultural phenomenon it gave us. Since I'd rather drink battery acid than pay $7 to go see the new movie in a theatre, I've asked Stephanie Hartley, the Cherry Blogger at, to post a review this weekend. She's a big fan of the series and knows a lot more than I ever could, so she can tell you if the movie passes muster.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: I had planned on devoting this space to a full review of some of the new summer fare, but it looks like I'll have to cut back a bit.

USA debuts the new summer series "In Plain Sight" Sunday night at 10 p.m. It stars Mary McCormick as a US Marshall who works with the Witness Protection Program. I've seen three episodes, and while it's not quite on par with "Burn Notice," it's well worth your time. McCormick manages to mix the right amount of wit and empathy, and it's an interesting look at how joining the program can completely uproot your life.

On Friday, "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) wraps up its two-part episode as the Sontarans try to implement their plan. (Not good planning on the Sci Fi Channel's part to split up a two-parter with last weekend's holiday). It follows the season finale of the "Sarah Jane Adventures" and a new "Battlestar Galactica" at 10 p.m.

Viewers may also want to check out the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee (ABC, 8 p.m.)

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is brand-new.

On Sunday, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) wraps up its second season. Not to spoil anything, but things aren't looking good for Anne Boleyn.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

'Lost' Time With Michael Emerson

As regular readers of this blog know, the TV Guy is happy to bring you "Lost" information from TV's best villain, Michael Emerson, who plays Ben. He was nominated for an Emmy last season for Best Supporting Actor, losing out to castmate Terry O'Quinn, but is a strong bet to earn another nomination this year.

Emerson is married to Macon actress Carrie Preston, and the pair are about to debut "Ready? OK!" a comedy that Preston also produced. The film will debut in New York in June.

As Emerson has pointed out in previous interviews, the "Lost" cast often doesn't find out about the show's myriad of twists and turns until the audience does. So Emerson has been looking forward to tonight's season finale (ABC, 9 p.m.) ABC will show the episode from two weeks ago at 8 p.m., followed by the two-hour finale, so viewers can refresh their memories.

Considering this season was interrupted and shortened by the strike, Emerson still feels proud of the work the "Lost" cast and crew has done. "There's a fair amount of excitement," he said. "It was such a scattershot season with the strike. ... I haven't had time to stop and think about the big picture. I think we've done a pretty good job. (The finale) is fantastic, dark, violent. You get the sense it's hurtling toward something big."

Emerson promises "Lost" fans will get their share of twists in the finale as well. "There's a great reveal and a mystery is solved - one of the (series') big questions is solved at the end. The stage is set for a quantum change."

Emerson said he had little idea Ben would be such a key figure in the flash-forward sequences that have comprised a huge part of the story-telling in Season 4. "I'm always surprised (by the writers)," he said with a chuckle. "I'm happy for a practical reason - seeing I exist (in the future) bodes well for my longetivity!"

One of the most fascinating aspects to the Ben story arc was seeing him face off with Charles Widmore (Alan Dale), the man who has sent the boat to the island to capture Ben and kill everyone else. As the two men face off, they note that neither can kill the other. Like the viewers, Emerson hopes to unravel the puzzle as to why that is.

"It's exciting to play a character that lives in these different time zones," he said. "I'm as full of questions as most viewers are. ...It's tantalizing, isn't it? It's one of the bigger mysteries. It involves some kind of contest with a set of rules; of course, it'd have to be a hell of a contest. What kind of contest would it be? I don't know."

Some "Lost" fans have speculated that neither Ben nor Widmore can physically be killed because of some of the island's mojo. Emerson has also entertained that speculation.

"Another possibility is a scientific reason," he said. "But when you look at that, you ask yourself, 'Are they real? Are they human? Aliens? Ghosts?' It just opens up more questions. I'm curious to see how it works out."

Much of the drama between the two men revolved around Ben's surrogate daughter Alex (Tania Raymonde), who was murdered by Widmore's men in front of Ben. That has led Ben to his quest for revenge in future episodes, including teaming up with Sayid (Naveen Andrews). Emerson said filming the death scene with Alex was one of the more difficult scenes he did this season.

"Losing Alex was sad on many levels," he said. "It was sad for the Ben character, it was sad because I liked working with Tania Raymonde very much. I guess Alex was a character that I had a lot of screen time with, who became a casualty. It's a turning point for Ben. He traded away his coolness. I was having to play (the scene) with real grief, (because Ben) was in a more vulnerable position than he had been in before."

It wasn't the only challenging scene for Emerson this season. Viewers missed the most difficult: trying to ride a horse in the desert. Ben was required to take out two heavily armed men, then steal one of their horses and ride off. Emerson managed to perform the fight scene, but he had limited experiences with horses, only working with them once, during the filming of "The Legend of Zorro." Those horses were relatively tame, Emerson recalled with a laugh.

"They had the biggest, dumbest horses on the Zorro sequel," he said.

Not so with "Lost," in which Ben was required to ride the horse down a gravel slope with Emerson - not a stuntman - in the saddle.

"I never dreamed I'd be an action-adventure star!" he joked. "Running, shooting, riding horses. There were days of crazy, daring work that didn't make it in the episode. ... When I was riding on the loose gravel, I made a Devil's bargain - let's get this in one take and hope I survive it. I hope the cameras worked! They need me in scenes in little, dark rooms more than they need me swashbuckling."

Despite getting the take, it didn't make it into the final cut of the episode. Oh well, maybe it will be on the DVD.

One of Emerson's favorite scenes was the trek in the woods with Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and Locke (Terry O'Quinn).

"I was real happy when they left the scene in where Hurley and Ben shared the candy bar," he said. "It was so sweet. What an unlikely trio! They were bickering like college roommates. It was nice to be in lighter circumstances, with the camaraderie and a bit of silliness. It was a good day; Jorge, Terry and I had a lot of fun."

Emerson said the cast also had fun trying to figure out who would eventually comprise the "Oceanic Six" and the fates of those who weren't part of the group.

"We were asking, 'Does Aaron count?' Technically, he wasn't on the plane's manifest. When we found out Aaron did, it meant other people who are leads are not included (among the six.) What happens to everyone else? What is there fate?"

As for what is upcoming next season, Emerson said he hasn't a clue. He said events are set in motion in the season finale that will no doubt play out next season. He also pointed out that the producers have gradually been pulling back from the island, filming more scenes off the island every year.

"Each season, they jerk the lens back," Emerson said. "The island is a smaller and smaller part of a much larger picture. It may be that less of the island is involved. It's a trend that will continue, probably."

Emerson said he is taking a break during the summer before returning to film Season 5 in August. Currently, he is in New York, but he and Preston will commute back and forth between the coasts while she is working this summer on the HBO vampire series "True Blood," created by Alan Ball.

"We are together little enough already, so I won't be doing any theatre this summer," he said. "I'll be shuttling back and forth between the coasts before going back."

COMING FRIDAY: Reviews of two new summer series.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Seriously, it's the frakkin' three-hour finale of "Lost," people! What else would you possibly be watching?

If you tune into the two episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox, 8 p.m.), please get your TV information from another blog from now on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Emmy Memo II: Drama

On Tuesday, I put out a list of who I would like to see on an Emmy ballot for comedy. Obviously, there are always going to be differences of opinion, but I think it's a pretty good list.

Today, I'm tackling drama. It's a little bit more difficult, because with so many more dramas on the air than comedies (and that includes counting hour-long shows like "Ugly Betty" as comedies rather than dramas) it makes for a much more crowded field.

Plus, I don't watch every single show out there, so I know at least one reader ahead of time will be ticked off that I won't be listing anyone from "The Wire" below. It's not because I don't think it is; it's because I've never seen it.

Part of the problem with the Emmy process is that the people who vote on the awards don't see every show out there, either. Most of them are actively working in the TV industry and don't have time to watch every show out there. So when they get their list of nominees, they are exposed to a certain show for that one episode. When you have a show as complex as "Lost," for example, that makes it very tough to judge a show without having context.

That said, there's still no reason for Emmy voters to keep picking "Boston Legal" every year.

Anyway, here's the list:

Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
Glenn Close (Damages)
Natalie Dormer (The Tudors)
Evageline Lilly (Lost)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Comments: One of the toughest things about putting a list together is how to classify certain actors and actresses. When you have ensemble shows like "Lost" or "BSG," it's hard to pick someone for a lead category. But I feel OK with these picks. Close is the only one above who is a shoo-in for a nomination, but I'm hoping (praying, actually) that this is the year for Britton or McDonnell.

Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Hugh Laurie (House)
Comments: Man, oh man, having to limit yourself to five slots is tough. I didn't list Michael Chiklis from "The Shield" only because it's been so long since the show has been on, I'm not sure it's in the qualifying time period. There are so many other actors I'd have love to have listed here as well - Edward James Olmos, Matthew Fox, Jonny Lee Miller and others - but I have to limit myself, just like the Emmys. Of the above list, Cranston was so sensational that he may deserve a category by himself.

Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors)
Yunjin Kim (Lost)
Katee Sackoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Comments: I tried not to list two actors from the same show in the same category, but it's really impossible to choose between Helfer and Sackoff. Kim's done some of her best work on "Lost" this season, and Hendricks' star is definitely on the rise. Kennedy was brilliant and tragic as Katherine of Aragon.

James Callis (Battlestar Galactica)
Ted Danson (Damages)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Victor Garber (Eli Stone)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Comments: Callis is just fun to watch as the sniveling Baltar, and Danson more than held his own with Glenn Close. Emerson is, quite simply, TV's best villain. Like I noted yesterday with Kristen Chenoweth, Garber ought to be required to do a musical number once an episode, and Slattery turned in a career-best performance (I still can't stop laughing at him having climb all those stairs after eating all those oysters).

Battlestar Galactica
Friday Night Lights
Mad Men
Comments: Since this is my list, I don't mind throwing a couple of Hail Marys. "FNL," "Lost," and "Mad Men" are virtual locks for nominations. BSG is on a lot of people's wish lists, but since the Emmys virtually ignore sci-fi and have ignored the show in the past, this is just more wishful thinking, sadly. I'm sure a lot of people are surprised by including "Supernatural" here, but few shows hit so consistently on a week-to-week basis, effectively mixing horror and humor. I know this show has zero chance at a nomination, which is why this is a wish list.

Again, feel free to list any omissions I might have made in the comments section.

COMING TOMORROW: Actor Michael Emerson talks about the "Lost" season finale.

PRODUCERS, UNION SETTLE: Hollywood studios and the AFTRA, the second largest actors' union, settled on a contract Wednesday morning. Though the studios still have to work out a deal with SAG, the largest union, it will greatly reduce the chances of another work stoppage, especially now with three union contracts in place to provide a framework for the remaining labor negotiations. So, good news indeed.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Men In Trees," (ABC, 10 p.m.) which has a bit of a cult following, didn't have enough viewers to get renewed. So ABC is burning off the last few remaining episodes now, including tonight's new one.

Hockey gets a rare spotlight in primetime, as NBC airs Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Pittsburgh and Detroit beginning at 8 p.m.

Finally, a bit of a treat as R.E.M. is the featured band on "Austin City Limits" (PBS, 9 p.m.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Emmy Memo I: Comedy

Hope you kids had a good holiday weekend.

Today and tomorrow I am doing my memo to the Academy, listing who I hope will be considered for Emmy statuettes, even though the Emmy process is probably the most frustrating of all the major awards.

This list is by no means complete -- after all, I can't watch every single show out there, though I do try -- but I think I've got some good lists going. You, gentle reader, are more than welcome to agree with me or provide some of your own suggestions.

Here we go:

America Ferrera (Ugly Betty)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures of Old Christine)
Amy Pietz (Aliens In America)
Comments: Ferrera, Fey and Louis-Dreyfuss are sort of no-brainers for this category. The winsome Friel was truly the girl next door, albeit the dead girl next door, and Pietz stole practically every scene that she was in for the under-appreciated "Aliens."

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Zachary Levi (Chuck)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies)
Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother)
Comments: The first two are practically shoo-ins for nominations. Levi displayed a goofy charm as a reluctant spy, Pace was wonderful with his deadpan as the hapless piemaker with the unfortunate power of raising the dead, and Radnor does a good job often playing the straight man to his castmates' loony adventures.

Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)
Jenna Fischer (The Office)
Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)
Jaime Pressley (My Name Is Earl)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)
Comments: I tried to limit myself to one actor per show, because I think the Academy should just pick one. But as I argued last year, it's really a tough call between Williams' evil Wilhelmina, who drives a lot of the plot, and the scene-stealing Newton, who didn't get as much screen time as she should have. Fischer continues to be a rising star (although castmate Angela Kinsey also deserves strong consideration). Chenoweth is always fantastic (and should be required to do one musical number per episode). Pressley won last year, and will earn another nomination.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)
Chi McBride (Pushing Daises)
Michael Urie (Ugly Betty)
Ray Wise (Reaper)
Comments: I'm really hoping that Harris wins his long-deserved Emmy, creating one of TV's great characters in Barney Stinson. McBrayer and Urie steal pretty much every scene they are in. McBride was a revelation in his ability to do comedy after a large body of dramatic work (though I'd also love to get a nomination here for Digby the dog). Wise was inspired casting as the Devil, and will hopefully get more screen time next season.

30 Rock
How I Met Your Mother
The Office
Pushing Daisies
Ugly Betty
Comments: "30 Rock" and "The Office" have traditionally gotten a lot of buzz since their debut, and "How I Met Your Mother" is, for my money, the consistently best traditional sitcom on the air. "Pushing Daisies" was, hands down, the best new show on TV this season. "Ugly Betty" wasn't quite up to its first season's standards, but is certain to grab a slot. Honorable mention to "Chuck," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Aliens In America."

Coming tomorrow: The dramas

R.I.P. SYDNEY POLLACK: The Oscar-winning director, producer and actor was 73 when he died from cancer Monday. I was lucky enough to meet Pollack very briefly two years ago at the Austin Film Festival, and he was doing great work right up to his death, most recently with "Michael Clayton" as George Clooney's boss.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Nowt. Nada. Nothing. I simply can't bring myself to list new episodes of "According to Jim" (ABC, 8 p.m.) as "best" anything. In addition, the truly rancid "Moment of Truth" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns.

If you do want something to watch, try to catch "Recount" on HBO, which will probably run another 15 times or so this week on one of the network's channels. It's a truly clever retelling of the 2000 election fiasco, and Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson and Laura Dern are virtual locks for Emmy nominations in the TV-movie acting categories.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

Unfortunately, what few shows that haven't wrapped up their seasons yet - such as Sci-Fi's Friday lineup - won't be showing new episodes during the holiday weekend.

Still, there are a few things out there of interest for those of you not out on a boat or in a movie theatre this holiday weekend.

The most interesting event is HBO's original movie, "Recount," (HBO, Sun., 9 p.m.), a highly praised retelling of the 2000 Presidential election fiasco in Florida. Directed by Jay Roach ("Austin Powers") and written by first-time screenwriter Danny Strong (Jonathan from "Buffy"), the movie features an all-star cast including Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Laura Dern, who apparently steals the movie as Fla. Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

On Monday night, A&E, which seemingly abandoned quality years ago, gives it another go with the first part of a new adaptation of "The Andromeda Strain" (A&E, Mon., 9 p.m.). Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, it's another all-star cast that battles a killer virus that threatens all of humanity.

As for the regular fare, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) is new, as is "The Tudors" (Showtime, Sun., 9 p.m.)

No blog update Monday, as the people's critic is taking the holiday off, but we'll be back Tuesday. Have a safe holiday!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Love You, Marion Ravenwood

Just like millions of people around the world, I'm pretty stoked about the debut of the latest Indiana Jones installment.

Nineteen years is a long time to wait, but I'm hoping absence makes the heart grow fonder - especially with the return of Indy's original girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), whom we haven't seen since the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

I'm not sure if it's a guy thing, or a movie buff thing, but it seems like a lot of men pick their idealized women through movie characters. For me, as a 10-year-old kid back then, it was Marion.

With those big blue eyes and winning smile, she could stand up to Indy (and slug him). She could drink men under the table. Yes, she tended to get captured by Nazis, but she wasn't a damsel in distress - rather, she was a giant pain in the ass to the German army.

One of the reasons why the "Indy" sequels never quite worked for me was that there was no female lead to get me excited. Kate Capshaw (Mrs. Steven Spielberg) mostly whined her way through the second picture. I mean, we get it, it's scary with these crazy cultists, but Marion would have given them lip, not screamed "Help me, Indy!" every five seconds.

And while Alison Doody's classical good looks weren't an unwelcome addition to "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," she loses a lot of points for being, you know, a Nazi. (And not much of an archaelogist, either. No wonder the Nazis had to trick the Jones boys to find the Holy Grail).

Marion broke the mold of making it possible for a woman to be an action star, yet still retain her feminine side. Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from "Alien" was the other strong woman archetype from the early 1980s, but I don't think she would be as fun a date as Marion would be.

Allen, now in her 50s, still looks terrific in the few clips and stills I've seen from the new movie, still with the twinkle in her eye. Hopefully, she also still has that right cross.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) wraps up its second season with a bit of stunt casting, as Lindsay Lohan makes the first of what could be several appearances on the show. No doubt the producers are hoping LiLo gives "Betty" the same shot in the arm in the ratings that Britney Spears gave "How I Met Your Mother." The difference here is that Lohan (when sober) is actually a pretty decent actress. The "HIMYM" producers should have stopped with Spears after the one time; but Lohan could be a decent addition if she stays committed to the acting, especially in the faux tabloid world of "Betty."

"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) wraps up the year wtih a two-hour finale, in which creator Shonda Rimes promises a lot of kissing, including one kiss that's supposed to be so huge that viewers will go nuts. That's what is being reported, anyway. Supposedly, the viewers will also get some resolution to the Mer-Der on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again (you get the idea) relationship. They had better, because it pushed back the finale of "Lost" for an extra week.

The reality series "Last Comic Standing" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) also returns to the network with a 90-minute debut tonight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rule Brittania

I officially became a British citizen yesterday.

Don't worry, I haven't lost my love for the good ole US of A. I still love baseball, mom and apple pie. (OK, not so much with the apple pie; I prefer cherry pie, but still...)

As some of you loyal dozens of readers know, I've mentioned in the past that I'm half-English on my dad's side, so I qualify as a dual-citizen. So why go through all the time and expense (seven frakkin' months and $439!!!) to get my UK passport?

As a UK citizen, if I sell one of my screenplays to a UK producer, any movie we shoot qualifies for certain tax breaks; even more so if we were to shoot in Britain or in the Commonwealth, like Canada or Australia. Both of the scripts I optioned were to UK producers (evidently, their standards are A LOT lower than US producers!), so the tax credit thing was actually a factor in my favor.

Plus, I get the thrill of being like my new fellow countryman, James Bond, carrying the multiple passports and all.

Also, the UK passport allows me to work anywhere in Europe without a visa, because of the whole EU thing. When I optioned my first script a few years ago, that producer was extremely inept with a lot of things (he sent me a list of potential directors which included John Frankenheimer, who was a great director WHEN HE WAS ALIVE) but one thing he did know was about all the financing that goes on with other countries these days.

That's one of the big ways films and TV shows are made, filming in locales outside of LA because of production costs. Almost every state in the union now tax credits for filming there, and the state of Georgia recently increased the benefits to filmmakers who shoot here and use Georgia crews. (They even get a little bit extra if they somehow mention Georgia, I think.) When I visited the Austin Film Festival last year, members of the Texas Film Commission were there lobbying filmmakers to shoot in the state and not go to neighboring Louisiana, which was offering even bigger financial incentives at the time.

That's why you see so many TV shows shoot in Vancouver or other parts of Canada; it's all about the incentives. Generally, most shows shoot where they get the maximum amount in incentives, then shoot exterior shots in the actual city where the show is set. That's why there have been US-produced TV made as far away as Australia; believe it or not, it's cheaper.

Anyway, I don't know how effective a Brit I will make, so maybe it's a good thing I'm staying here for the foreseeable future. When I told my dad yesterday about getting my passport, he asked me if I knew the lyrics to "God Save The Queen."

"Does the Sex Pistols version count?" I said.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Fellow Brit Simon Cowell went nuts apparently in his praise of David Archuleta over David Simon in last night's "American Idol." But it's the voters who decide, and we will find out the results tonight (Fox, 8 p.m.) in the two-hour finale. Not to criticize my fellow Americans, but these are the same voters who picked Taylor Hicks over Katharine McPhee, so there's no accounting for taste.

CBS wraps up the seasons of "Criminal Minds" at 9 p.m. and "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m., while "Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) also draws to a close for the season.

Finally, "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) celebrates American justice with a case where the partners square off about a town that tries to secede from the union. Seriously, town, just go for dual citizenship.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Slight Mea Culpa


I erred slightly yesterday when I posted that someone on "Bones" would die. I had read online about a funeral in the season finale, and had assumed there was a dead body in the coffin.

The ads for "Bones" indeed just listed a traitor and not a death. I must have gotten mixed up with the promos for "Lost," "Smallville," "NCIS," et. al. this season, all of which have teased deaths to a key character.

But my original point still stands, that all of the dramatic tension of a series is sucked out, not enhanced, by promoting that "someone will die" or that "someone is a traitor." Last night's "Bones" might have been a better episode if we didn't already know someone was a traitor. Certainly, the "Bones" scribes didn't do much of a job in telling us why Zack went over to the dark side or give us much insight to the killer. I found the whole notion, "He was a nobody who just wanted attention" to be a letdown since the serial killer theme has framed most of the season.

On yesterday's blog, an anonymous poster said one of the reasons he/she likes "The Wire" is the fact that the characters are killed off in such a fashion that it adds to the shock value. I had the same feeling when I watched "The Sopranos." There were times during that series when I was stunned that a character WASN'T killed off. How much would it have lessened the impact if we had an idea ahead of time that characters like Christopher or Bobby, etc., would be killed in the manner they were? Answer: Lots.


On the flip side, the fact there was no "big announcement" promo for "How I Met Your Mother" truly enhanced the ending. I have to admit I was surprised, not because of the way the stories have been written leaning toward the direction of finding out who Ted's future wife might be, but because of "Scrubs" renewal on ABC, I didn't think Sarah Chalke would be available to continue to play Stella on a regular basis. Of course, we don't know if she will say yes to the proposal, but I sure as heck hope so. And the continuing of the Barney-Robin storyline was also a bit of a surprise in how they played it.


Because that's the end of today's posting.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, perhaps one more: Someone named David is going to win "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.). That's because the two finalists are both Davids, so not much of a spoiler. It's followed by "Hell's Kitchen," in which someone will almost certainly get yelled at by Gordon Ramsay.

The long-awaited death on "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) occurs tonight, as teased by countless promos for the two-hour season finale. It's followed by the series finale of "Shark" (CBS, 10 p.m.), a decent show in which the producers tried to copy the formula for "House," but didn't quite get it.

"Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) takes up the whole night on the network, while "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) concludes its first season.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Someone Is Going To Die

When "M*A*S*H" killed off Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) in the 1970s, you know when the cast and crew found out? Second before they filmed the scene in which the actual characters found out. So the director of the show was able to film the characters/actors reacting in shock to the news, which of course, stunned the viewers as well.

If "M*A*S*H" came out today, we'd have a rumor mill started by TV Guide that would say, "One of these characters is going to die. Take our poll to see which one it is." Then the promos on CBS would run, calling this the episode no one can miss.

I bring this up because it used to be, back in the old days, producers liked the shock value when they killed someone off suddenly. It's one thing if the character is already dying, such as Mark Greene on "ER" a few years ago, to promote the episode in which he dies. That's expected (and was beautifully shot; the show never reached as high a point since).

But these days, the "someone is going to die" promos have almost become cliche, and half the time the person getting killed off isn't one of the stars, but one of the recurring characters.

I don't know when the trend started (I think it might have been "Beverly Hills 90210" when they killed off that recurring friend of Brian Austin Green's) but I do know that the trend has been incessant.

Someone is scheduled to die on "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) tonight, and we know it won't be Booth (David Boreanaz), who was shot last week. And since we know it won't be Bones (Emily Deschanel), it becomes a sort of Russian Roulette guessing game as to whom it will be.

And tomorrow night, someone will die on "NCIS," which ironically managed to keep a pretty good lid on things when they killed off Kate (Sasha Alexander) a few seasons ago. No one saw that coming. In last week's blog, I listed whom I didn't want to die, but it's a virtual guarantee one of those characters is gone because they've been throwing so many hints that it's going to be Jenny (Lauren Holly) that it almost can't possibly be her.

The point is, death in real life is supposed to be a shock most of the time, and especially in shows about crime, so why not go back to making it a shock by NOT PROMOTING IT OVER AND OVER? The quick answer: the producers are trying to lure lapsed viewers back to the show by promoting the big, stunning item and keeping viewers guessing with their own death pools.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Following "Bones," which has been something of a disappointment since its post-strike return, "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) has to risk his life to save Amber, aka Cutthroat Bitch. I hope it's not a spoiler to say House won't die, what with the show being named after him and all.

CBS wraps up its comedy season with the final new episodes of "Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," "2 1/2 Men" and "Rules of Engagement," beginning at 8 p.m. Since the network hasn't run a promo of a death, I'm guessing all of those sitcom characters are pretty safe. I'm not so sure about "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

If they let the contestants fight to the death on "American Gladiators," (NBC, 8 p.m.) it might make the show more interesting and jack up the ratings, which were abysmal last week.

ABC is all reality tonight with "Dancing With The Stars" winding down its season while "The Bachelorette 4" kicks off.

Finally, I think it might just be people dying socially on "Gossip Girl" (CW, 9 p.m.) and "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.), but really, is there anything worse?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fox Howls At Commercials

A few interesting things from the Fox upfronts this week, not the least of which is Fox execs say they will cut down the number of commercials for new announced series "Fringe" and "Dollhouse" when they debut next season.

The idea is to "re-invigorate" the action adventure genre, the execs said.

It's an interesting idea. With the continued penetration of DVRs into the general market, commericals are becoming a thing of the past anyway, not to mention people who watch their favorite shows online. In fact, the whole paradigm of TV is shifting because commercials are becoming less and less viewed on the tube, and that's what pays for the shows. With the ratings system also becoming antiquated because of time-shifted shows, a whole new model on how to pay for TV and measure viewership needs to be devised.

One thing Fox president Peter Liguori didn't mention was how Fox would make up for the lost revenue of not airing as many commercials.

Both "Fringe," from "Lost" producer JJ Abrams, and "Dollhouse," from "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon, are among the only new dramas announced by the network for the next season. "Fringe" will air Tuesdays in the fall following "House," giving it a strong lead-in.

Meanwhile, "Dollhouse," Whedon's sci-fi thriller project with actress Eliza Dushku, won't air until January. Some are worried that this means it could be another short run for a Whedon show on the network (witness the shoddy treatment of "Firefly" a few years ago), but that may not be the case. Because of the baseball postseason and the NFL, Fox often delays some of its bigger shows until the winter, a' la "24" and "American Idol," where they debut to a little more fanfare and run straight through without pre-emptions. With the less commercials, that could mean a greater freedom in ratings, giving the Whedon project a much better chance than "Firefly" had.

Fox may also introduce a spinoff for "House," but the catch is, it won't be a medical drama. Fox plans on introducing a detective (Michael Weston) on a couple of episodes of "House" next season, which will serve as a potential backdoor pilot if the character takes off.

Here is Fox's fall lineup:

8 p.m. — ‘‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Prison Break’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘House’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Fringe’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘Bones’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘’Til Death’’
9:30 p.m. — ‘‘Do Not Disturb’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘The Moment of Truth’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Kitchen Nightmares’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Don’t Forget the Lyrics!’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘COPS’’
8:30 p.m. — ‘‘COPS’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back’’
7 p.m. — ‘‘The OT’’ (NFL Post-Game)
8 p.m. — ‘‘The Simpsons’’
8:30 p.m. — ‘‘King of the Hill’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Family Guy’’
9:30 p.m. — ‘‘American Dad’’

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) will get a giant shot of nostalgia. Not only does Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) return to the show, but she also works in the Doctor's old job as the scientific advisor for UNIT. Who are the villains this week? The Sontarans. Actually, they visit next week as well, since it's a two-parter. It follows new "Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m. And Kara brings the Cylons back to the fleet on "Battlestar Galactica" at 10 p.m.

CBS wraps up Friday nights with the season finales of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, a number of female TV viewers will curse the network when the series finale of "Moonlight" airs at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is brand-new, while "America's Most Wanted" (Fox, 9 p.m.) celebrates its 1,000 capture.

On Sunday, "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) wraps up its 19th season, while, unfortunately, "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.) wraps up for good after the season finale of "Everybody Hates Chris."

"Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) finishes up the season with a two-hour episode.

Getting ready for that Indiana Jones movie, but you don't know what a crystal skull is? Sci-Fi attempts to tell you with the documentary (I use the word in the loosest sense) "Mystery of the Crystal Skull," (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) I made it through the first hour learning little more about the skulls than I already knew (which is next to nothing), but too many conspiracy theories about aliens, Atlantis and the end of the world on the Mayan calendar caused me to skip the second hour.

Finally, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) is brand-new.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Finale Thursday

OK,so ABC isn't wrapping up tonight, but a bunch of other shows are.

The CW airs the season finales of "Smallville" and "Supernatural" beginning at 8 p.m. A bit of good news on the "Smallville" front - Allison Mack will be returning next season as Chloe. I'm assuming Jensen Ackles will also be back as Dean Winchester even though his soul is ticketed to go to Hell tonight.

Earl has to choose between continuing his list of good karma and Alyssa Milano on the hour-long finale of "My Name Is Earl." Tough choice. I'm still thinking...

It's followed by the hour-long finale of "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) which promises a few shockers as well as the departure of Toby in favor of Oscar nominee Amy Ryan as the new HR person.

More isn't necessarily merrier, though. The supersized versions of the NBC sitcoms that ran this year haven't been among the best of either series by any means.

Speaking of NBC follies, check out this interview with "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence, courtesty of TVGuide:

No wonder NBC is a fourth-place network these days. Meanwhile, Steve Buscemi guest stars on the season finale of "ER" at 10 p.m.

CBS wraps up "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) by paving the way for the departure of legally-challenged Gary Dourdan, whose character is legally challenged as well. It's followed by the season finale of "Without a Trace."

Speaking of weird programming, ABC isn't wrapping up tonight, but rather setting up its finales over the next two weeks. "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost" are all new tonight. "Lost" is essentially a three-part finale, but the final two episodes won't air for two weeks.

Meanwhile, "Betty" and "Grey's wrap up next week, with the latter having a two-hour finale, which is why "Lost is being broken up. Fear not, though. "Lost" will re-air tonight's episode in two weeks at the 8 p.m. slot.

Incidentally, some more good news. The "Lost" producers confirmed that the two episodes that got nixed this year because of the strike will be made up over the show's final two seasons. So we'll get two 17-hour seasons rather than 16 as originally planned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cool Web Site

Every so often I throw my screenwriting experiences onto this blog.

For those of you who ever thought of penning your own TV script, have I got a Web site for you:

On that site are actual sample scripts and some show bibles to dozens upon dozens of TV shows, some still in production, some defunct. Most of the scripts are saved in .pdf formats and are easily accessible.

For the average TV fan, it's an interesting way of looking at how your favorite show is filmed by putting the shooting script out there to be compared to the final episode that hit the airwaves. For the budding writer, it's a good way in hearing "the voice" that producers of the show use to create their product.

Even if your favorite show or writer isn't listed, who couldn't learn something from reading the likes of Aaron Sorkin or David Milch?

MONDAY RATINGS: Maybe reality/game shows aren't the instant moneymakers people thought they were. While "Dancing With the Stars" easily won its time Monday night with 18.27 million viewers, the return of "American Gladiators" got dunked into a water tank, pulling in only 4.9 million - a 37 percent dip from what "Deal or No Deal" drew in the same timeslot.

"How I Met Your Mother" got another Britney Spears bump, pulling in 9.02 million, surpassing lead-in "Big Bang Theory" (7.88 million) and almost equalling "Bones" (9.4 million). Meanwhile, "The Bachelor" finale (9.18 million) edged "Medium" for second place at the 10 p.m. hour, behing some 13 million for "CSI: Miami."

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Of course, a dip in the ratings doesn't mean the networks will stop putting reality/game shows into primetime. The aforementioned "Deal or No Deal" (NBC, 8 p.m.) occupies two hours tonight before a new "Law & Order" at 10 p.m.

"American Idol" (Fox, 9 p.m.) cuts from three finalists down to two, following new episodes of "Til Death" and "Back To You."

"Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) and "CSI: NY" (CBS, 10 p.m.) are both new, as is "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Pickups

ABC guaranteed itself at least 90 minutes of my viewership per week next season by renewing "Eli Stone" and picking up "Scrubs" from NBC.

Though "Eli's" ratings were middling, it's one of those rare shows that struck an emotional chord, and really picked up week after week. (Between "Eli" and "Pushing Daisies," has any network had a better year creatively with its new shows than ABC?) This is a star-making turn for lead Jonny Lee Miller, and the supporting cast is terrific. (I am, however, demanding at least one Victor Garber musical number every other episode, ABC).

"Scrubs" star Zach Braff announced the show's long-rumored switch to ABC on his MySpace page yesterday. "Scrubs" has long been one of my favorite sitcoms, and it deserved to go out on its own terms, not with a strike-truncated season. Now creator Bill Lawrence can write the finale he wanted to for next year.

"Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) also will return. After its outstanding pilot, the show struggled creatively, but has shown signs of life over recent episodes by examining the Hell hierarchy. And Ray Wise has been Emmy worthy as the Devil.

CBS' "The Unit" somehow defied the odds and bought another season. As TVGuide's Michael Ausiello noted yesterday, the show is slated to run on Fridays at 9 p.m. next season, leaving the fate of cult favorite "Moonlight" up in the air. My gut feeling is that "Moonlight" will survive somehow, even as a midseason replacement. "How I Met Your Mother" should be getting its official renewal soon (so enough with the Britney Spears appearances, guys), but "New Adventures of Old Christine" is still in limbo. However, indicators remain strong that it will join "Scrubs" and switch to ABC if CBS doesn't pick it up.

Among the not-so-lucky were ABC's "October Road" and "Women's Murder Club." The former was savaged by critics, but I thought the latter had some potential which never quite panned out.

There have also been a bunch of new projects announced, including ABC's "Bad Mother's Handbook," starring Alicia Silverstone and Megan Mullally; a Ryan Seacrest reality show for NBC called "Momma's Boy;" and a Fox reality show called "Secret Millionaire," in which real-life millionaires go undercover to live in bad neighborhoods, where they meet poor people, to whom they will give money in the final episode. Who said TV is running out of good ideas?!?

Previously announced new shows on CBS include "The Ex-List," based upon a popular Israeli series about a woman destined to be with a guy she previously broke up with; problem is, she doesn't know which of her ex-boyfriends it is; "Eleventh Hour," Jerry Bruckheimer's adaptation of a BBC thriller (the original starred Patrick Stewart and Ashley Jensen); and "The Mentalist," starring Simon Baker. There's also a Jay Mohr sitcom on the slate. CBS is also mining the wedding market with "Harper's Island," a murder-mystery set on an island during a wedding, and the sitcom "Worst Week of My Life," seemingly similar to ABC's failed sitcom "Big Day."

Finally, PBS announced a new version of the children's classic education show, "The Electric Company." Unlike the version I grew up with, I'm guessing this one won't have Morgan Freeman or Spider-Man appearing regularly. I hope at least they bring back "Letter-Man."

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Someone is supposed to get killed on "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.), and I'm starting to get worried that it will be someone I like rather than Director Shepherd, whom I don't care too much about and who seems to be gettiing written out anyway. I mean, they can't kill off Gibbs (Mark Harmon), but it would truly suck if they killed off Tony, Ziva, Ducky or McGee. (It'd also suck if they killed off Abby, but I don't think the producers would ever do that. I hope.) Of all the above, I worry the most about Ziva. Even though Don Bellisario is no longer associated with the show, he has a history of constantly replacing the female leads. "JAG," the show that spun off "NCIS," went through three other female leads in its first season before they settled on Catherine Bell. Ziva (Cote De Pablo) herself was brought in after a couple of other women to replace Kate, who was killed off, who was the replacement for another actress who appeared in the backdoor pilot from "JAG." Plus, they focused on the germ-phobic agent a couple of weeks ago. I know the episode has already been shot, but guys, please don't kill off Ziva. It's followed by a new "Shark."

Catch "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 10 p.m.) while you can; if follows the "Dancing With The Stars" results show at 9 p.m.

"Reaper's" penultimate episode follows the finale of "Beauty and The Geek" (CW, 8 p.m.)

"American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is down to its final three and is followed by a new "Hell's Kitchen." "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 10 p.m.) is also new.

Finally, "Frontline" (PBS, 9 p.m.) is doing a documentary on climbers who were trapped on Mt. Everest during a blizzard.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bubbles Burst On Some Shows

The fates of a few shows were decided over the weekend, as Fox announced it won't be bringing back "New Amsterdam" or "Back To You," while The CW is dropping the sublime "Aliens In America." Meanwhile, ABC has inexplicably picked up "Boston Legal" for a fifth season.

I'm not sure which is more painful, seeing "Boston Legal" back for another year or "Aliens In America" go away. The former is a ridiculous show that vacillates between comedy and drama (not in a good way) and ends up stealing Emmy votes from more worthy competitors. During its long hiatus this year, no one seemed to miss it.

The latter was the best new sitcom on TV, albeit one of the most ratings-challenged. It's style and sharp writing was reminiscent of "Malcolm In The Middle" at its height, and the show had a lot of charm to go with it. And its central theme of a Muslim student transplanted to Midwestern America offered sharp insight without ever becoming preachy.

As for the Fox shows, "New Amsterdam" never seemed to find any momentum after getting retooled from its original pilot and airing during the strike. There was enough of interest there where I would have liked to have seen a few more episodes, but I won't be losing any sleep over its departure, either.

"Back To You," which included a stellar cast of Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Fred Willard and others, and a stellar crew, didn't live up to the hype. It's premise of a TV news crew seemed tired when compared to the TV classics "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Murphy Brown." With all of the talent attached to this project, maybe my expectations were too high, but the laughs just weren't there.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: She's back! Tabloid diva Britney Spears reprises her role as a dim receptionist on "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.), along with the sublime Sarah Chalke as Ted's (Josh Radnor) love interest. Spears was perfectly adequate last time, but did bring in much-needed ratings with her appearance, so let's hope it's more of the same. It's part of an all-new lineup that includes "Big Bang Theory," "2 1/2 Men" and "Rules of Engagement," all followed by a new "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

"Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) gives a shameless plug for "American Idol" tonight, while "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) begins a two-part season finale.

"The Bachelor" (ABC, 10 p.m.) makes his final choice tonight. I'm sure the relationship will be long-lasting and produce lots of grandchildren in the future.

"American Gladiators" (NBC, 8 p.m.) returns to the air tonight with a two-hour premiere. Let's hope they cut down on the boring interviews and up the action this time around. It's followed by a new "Medium" at 10 p.m.

Finally, "Gossip Girl" (CW, 8 p.m.) and "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) present new installments.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Tip Of The Cap To TV Moms

Every Mother's Day, the media always polls TV fans as to who was the best TV mom. It generally is divided among the usual suspects - June Cleaver of "Leave It To Beaver," Carol Brady of "The Brady Bunch," Claire Huxtable of "The Cosby Show," Harriet Nelson of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," and so forth.

Me? No disrespect to those ladies, but I like my TV moms with something of an edge to them. Besides, no mom is as perfect as the ones listed above (except my Mom, who is. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!)

So, in no particular order, a few of my favorite TV moms:

--Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" - Listen, any mom who teaches you how to strip down an assault rifle and make bombs while you are still in your early teens has a certain amount of cool to her. On the other hand, it's probably a good thing John Connor is humanity's savior, because I certainly wouldn't want to be disciplined by a mother who could kill man six different ways while unarmed.

--Lois (Jane Kaczmarek), "Malcolm In The Middle" - Though often scary to her kids - and with those kids, she had to be - Lois was a brilliant creation as the mom from hell who did everything she did out of love. Together with Bryan Cranston as Hal, one of my favorite TV couples.

--Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal), "Married: With Children" - Arguably one of the worst, most self-involved mothers on TV, Peg was hilarious in her devotion to bon-bons and driving Al to an early grave.

--Marge Simpson (voiced by Julie Kavner), "The Simpsons" - Marge is forced to put up with quite a lot dealing with Homer and the kids, so it's no small wonder that Homer is always scared she will leave with someone else, from the French bowling instructor in Season 1 to a trophy husband after she became mega-rich by opening a gym this season.

--Bree Van Der Kamp (Marcia Cross), "Desperate Housewives" - I stopped watching "DH" a while ago, but it wasn't because of the magnificent Cross, who stole every scene she was in as the anal-retentive, Martha Stewart clone. Since Susan (Teri Hatcher) is always a disaster and Lynnette's (Felicity Huffman) holier-than-thou act wore thin long ago, Bree is the most interesting of the women who are actually moms.

--Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" - It took a while for Joyce to deal with the fact that her daughter was The Chosen One, that lone girl destined to fight the forces of darkness. But once she did, things really picked up for Joyce, especially the time in Season 3 she comforted a heartbroken Spike. And of course, when Joyce died in Season 5, it was one of the best-written, most memorable episodes of the series, a testament to loss and how much it means having a great mom in your life.

Who are some of your favorite TV moms?

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Though she has no children, it's hard to argue that Pres. Laura Roslin (Mary McDonell) isn't a maternal figure to the remaining 40,000 or so humans left. Roslin is going to be a pretty critical figure over the next few episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), even moreso than usual. It follows new episodes of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m. and "Doctor Who" at 9 p.m.

We learn Mick has a son, a pretty neat trick for a vampire on "Moonlight" (CBS, 9 p.m.) Hopefully, Mick's kid isn't kidnapped by his mortal enemy and taken to a Hell dimension, something that is wont to happen to the offspring of vampires. It follows a new "Ghost Whisperer" and is followed by a new "Numb3rs."

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is all new as the Sheriff is set to deploy a new secret weapon against the Merry Men.

On Sunday, speaking of Marge Simpson, Homer's fugitive mom (Glenn Close) returns to Springfield once more on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.)

One of my favorite new TV moms has to be Franny (Amy Pietz) on "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.) Pietz steals every scene she's in on this overlooked sitcom, and should be an Emmy nominee. It follows a new "Everybody Hates Chris."

"Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues with part 2 of "Cranford" with an all-star cast. Also new among period costume dramas is "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) as Henry meets Jane Seymour for the first time.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

'Scrubs' Finale - Perhaps

Tonight marks the possible series finale of one of my favorite sitcoms, "Scrubs" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) I say possible, because there have been reports that ABC, which produces the show, will pick it up for one more season since NBC has officially dropped it.

I hope ABC does. Tonight's finale is a tribute to both "The Princess Bride" and "Monty Python" as Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) tells his son Jack a bed-time story involving members of the cast. It's something completely different, but for the "Scrubs" cast and crew, different is pretty normal.

What tonight's episode isn't is the series finale that creator Bill Lawrence had dreamed up before the strike. Because of the shortened season and production time, Lawrence wasn't able to put into effect what he wanted to do. So a move over to ABC would allow the series to wrap up on its own terms.

"Scrubs" has never been ratings gold, in part because it's never been a traditional sitcom. More accurately, the show could be described as a dramedy in the vein of "M*A*S*H," mixing comedy with drama. It's developed a rich and talented cast that perfectly complements each other.

If tonight is indeed the finale of "Scrubs," there is a silver lining. Sarah Chalke, who plays Elliott on the show, would be free to expand her work on "How I Met Your Mother," in which her character of Stella would almost certainly be revealed as the unknown mother in the title. In the ideal world, the scheduling would work out where Chalke could do both shows, helping "Scrubs" wrap up on ABC while integrating herself with the terrific "HIMYM" cast.

GOOD NEWS FOR "BAD": AMC made it official by renewing its other breakout hit "Breaking Bad," giving the network one of the best one-two punches in original drama along with "Mad Men." "Bad" revolves around a dying high school chemistry teacher (an Emmy worthy Bryan Cranston) who turns to making crystal meth in order to provide for his family after his death. This could be my favorite new show of the season, and one I strongly urge you to catch when AMC starts reruns.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Scrubs" isn't the only sitcom wrapping up tonight; "30 Rock" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) also ends its second season with the return of Edie Falco. "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) and "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) are both new, but both will be on for at least another week. They are followed by a new "ER" at 10 p.m.

Clark (Tom Welling) must find out who carved Kryptonian symbols into Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.), while the Winchester boys must split up to tackle two cases on the criminally underrated "Supernatural." (CW, 9 p.m.)

Tonight's "Lost" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is Locke-centric, giving Emmy winner Terry O'Quinn yet another chance to shine as we finally meet the mysterious Jacob. Perhaps. It follows new installments of "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy."

On CBS, there's one guy and four women left on "Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) Hmm, I like those odds. Meanwhile, the writers of "2 1/2 Men" get to return the favor to "CSI" by penning tonight's episode, in which a sitcom star (Katey Sagal) is murdered and everyone is a suspect. It's followed by "Without A Trace" at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More Hollywood Labor Fun

Remember the strike that crippled the movie and TV industry for several months? It's hard not to; we are still feeling the effects of the truncated TV season.

Well, the possibility exists that labor troubles may not be over.

It just moved across the wires this morning that the studios have broken off talks with the Screen Actors Guild, claiming their demands are "too high."

Does this mean we are looking at another potential work stoppage during the summer, when the actors' contract expires?

I'm guessing not. The last strike, between the studios and the writers guild (the actors joined the strike in sympathy), lasted months and centered around issues that included residuals for new media and DVD sales. At the end of the strike, both sides took a hit in the public opinion and cost the movie industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

I doubt the public would be willing to endure another work stoppage, nor can many people in the industry afford to be out of work again. Also, now that the writers guild and directors guild contracts are in place, there is a framework for the actors and the studios to work with in crunching the numbers.

Part of the problem here is that the studios are dealing with two unions this time around - SAG and the smaller AFTRA. Though many actors are members of both, there is a lot of animosity between the two unions, which are negotiating separately. With that wedge, it puts more power into the hands of the studios, which broke off contract talks after 18 days of negotiations.

But the studios should remember that their attempt to break the writers' solidarity failed and not count on breaking the actors' unions.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Part of the fallout from the labor issues was the increase in non-scripted shows on the air, and it's no more apparent than tonight.

Only CBS has more scripted fare tonight than so-called reality, but even The Eye kicks things off with "The Price Is Right" before going into new episodes of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."

Fox has new episodes of "Til Death" and "Back To You," beginning at 8 p.m. before the "American Idol" results show at 9 p.m.

A new "Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) airs after a two-hour "Deal Or No Deal."

Finally, both ABC and The CW are completely unscripted. The former airs a lineup of "Wife Swap," "Supernanny" and the Barbara Walters hour-long special about her new autobiography, "Audition." The latter gives us the likes of "America's Next Top Model" and "Farmer Wants A Wife."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Barbara On 'Oprah'

Two titans of the talk show world meet up today when Barbara Walters of "The View" goes on "Oprah" (WMAZ, 4 p.m.) to promote her new autobiography that also hits bookstores today.

I've never really been a huge Barbara Walters fan -- I don't like "The View" and I always skip the "Barbara Walters Specials" on ABC -- but she is something of a TV pioneer as the first femae co-anchor of the evening news in 1976.

The book has already drawn a certain amount of notoriety because it details Walters' affair with U.S. Senator Richard Brooke, the first African-American elected to the Senate. Though I'm not a fan of adultery by any means, I actually have more of an issue of a journalist sleeping with a public figure she's supposed to be covering. Compromising objectivity downgrades the whole profession.

Walters, however, can't complain about the advance publicity for her book. In addition to the "Oprah" appearance, she is also getting a one-hour special on ABC Wednesday night at 10 p.m. called "Audition: The Barbara Walters Journey."

ELECTION COVERAGE: A few weeks ago, I said the networks should limit themselves to one network covering key political events, and that it should rotate around.

Interestingly, since we're in the sweeps period, none of the networks are covering the Indiana and North Carolina primaries live, instead opting for original programming. (Although I'm certain they will be interrupting the shows with news breaks and a crawl giving constant updates). So you'll have to tune into one of the cable news networks for the running totals in these key primaries.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you are fine with limiting your political knowledge to the news crawl and limited news breaks, there's plenty of new stuff around the dial.

It's hard to believe, but "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) has already reached 100 episodes, and will be running back-to-back episodes tonight, followed by a new "Women's Murder Club" at 10 p.m.

That "other" music reality show, "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.), is down to its final four contestants and is followed by "Hell's Kitchen."

CBS has new episodes of "NCIS" and "Shark" beginning at 8 p.m., while NBC has a new "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m. "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) is also new.

Finally, a couple of documentaries of note. "American Experience" (PBS, 9 p.m.) examines the presidency of the first President Bush, while "Bud Greenspan: At The Heart Of The Games" (ESPN2, 9 p.m.) details the life and experiences of the great Olympics filmmaker.

Monday, May 05, 2008

2 1/2 CSIs

In the past, I've blogged about how much I love crossover episodes of two different TV series. Detectives from "Homicide: Life On The Street" would appear on "Law & Order" and so forth.

But tonight begins one of the weirdest TV crossovers ever. Tonight's episode of the hit sitcom "2 1/2 Men" (CBS, 9 p.m.) was written by a writing team from "CSI" and includes a guest starring appearance by "CSI" star George Eads as a crime scene investigator.

On Thursday, the "Men" writers return the favor by scripting this week's "CSI," about the murder of a difficult sitcom star (Katey Sagal). That episode is supposed to be full of in-jokes, since it was written by "Men" creator Chuck Lorre, who had a notoriously stormy relationship with Cybill Shepherd when he created her sitcom "Cybill" in the mid-90s.

It's certainly not a crossover that would have ever occurred to me. It's not like I watch either series, but I can't say the thought has ever popped up during a drama that said "Boy, this show would be much better if it was written by sitcom guys."

On the other hand, the switch could be a positive one for a couple of reasons. For one, shows that have been on the air for a while, even if they are hits, could use a shake-up from time to time, and bringing in different writers with a fresh perspective is one way to do that.

Another positive is that the writers themselves get to stretch their creative muscles for a bit by writing something completely different, including a different format.

My guess is that the "CSI" episode will work a little better, because comedy is one of the most difficult genres to write, and Lorre is bringing a lot of his own background into the "CSI" episode.

I'm wondering if both episodes do well, will CBS continue to switch around more writing staffs, and will other networks jump on the bandwagon? Perhaps the writers of "Numb3rs" could do an episode of "How I Met Your Mother," in which Barney uses complex mathematical algorithms to optimize picking up women, while the "Numb3rs" team from 30 years in the future recalls a case from 2008.

The possibilities are endless.

"MEN IN TREES" AXED: ABC won't be renewing "Men In Trees" for next season, is reporting. The Anne Heche series jumped around the schedule a lot, making it difficult pick up an audience.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: By the way, there are plenty of drama writers who can do comedy just fine, so I'm not dissing the "CSI" writers with tonight's "2 1/2 Men," which anchors new episodes of "Big Bang Theory" and "HIMYM," and is followed by "Rules of Engagement." Although I have to point out, "CSI" isn't as unintentionally funny as "CSI: Miami." (CBS, 10 p.m.)

For example, some of the best comedy writing of the season was done last week on "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.), as House and Cutthroat Bitch battled for custody of Wilson, who just hung around in the background helpless against the schemes of his best friend and his girlfriend. This week, House (Hugh Laurie) kidnaps his favorite soap star when he diagnoses him while watching an episode. It follows a new "Bones."

ABC sandwiches "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.) with "Dancing With The Stars" and "The Bachelor."

"Gossip Girl" (CW, 8 p.m.) has a character outed out of the closet. It's followed by "One Tree Hill" at 9 p.m.

Friday, May 02, 2008

LiLo's Big Comeback?

TVGuide's Michael Ausiello is reporting that ABC's "Ugly Betty" is in talks to not only bring tabloid queen Lindsay Lohan aboard for the season finale, but for a good chunk of episodes next season. You can read about it here:

When I saw the headline, I immediately thought about the impact Britney Spears had on "How I Met Your Mother" - her appearance, though brief, drew the highest ratings to what turned out to be one of the best episodes of the season (not because of Brit, who was perfectly adequate for her small role, but for guest star Sarah Chalke, who turned in an Emmy-worthy guest performance).

"HIMYM" is returning with a second episode for both Spears and Chalke that will no doubt get a lot of buzz.

Clearly, "Ugly Betty" is hoping for a similar style ratings bump if it can land Lohan, who has become more infamous for her disastrous tabloid life than her acting. The difference, though, is that back in her pre-partying days, Lohan was actually a pretty decent actress, and with the right role (and her head on straight) could be so again. And with the paparazzi-inspired world of "Ugly Betty," she could be an inspired choice.

THURSDAY RECAP: When you have as much good TV as there is on Thursdays, staying up until 2 a.m. to watch it all is certainly worth the lack of sleep.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe how great "Lost" continues to be. I did have one thought about last night's episode that did worry me, so if you haven't seen it yet, be forewarned of spoilers.



****STILL HERE?****

OK. So one of the things my dad keeps asking me about this show is "Are they supposed to be dead?" I never presumed they were before, but after last night's episode, that possibility now looms.

Witness the conversation between Hurley and Jack in the future, where Hurley states he believes as much. When Jack disputes the argument, Hurley points out that Jack is living in what would be a heaven-like scenario for him - with Kate and Aaron, back to his old job as a top surgeon.

The part that worried me was the smoke detector scene, in which Jack hears the beeping of the smoke detector in the hallway - it sounded like the beeping of a heart monitor. Is Jack really in some sort of coma, and the smoke detector was some sort of subconscious effort to deal with the beeping? Perhaps Jack never woke up after Bernard gave him the ether.

As much as I love the series, I'd hate for there to be a big reveal where it was all someone's dream. We'll see.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The other unmissable series on TV for me right now continues to be "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.), which sees the return of the Cylon Leoben, who joins up with Starbuck's crew on the garbage scowl searching for Earth. And Tyrol continues his downward spiral, though the writers are going to be hard-pressed to come up with anything that matched the scene last week between him and Adama in the bar. It follows new episodes of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m. and "Doctor Who" at 9 p.m.

CBS has an all-new night of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m., followed by "Moonlight" and "Numb3rs."

A new "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) premieres Saturday.

On Sunday, "Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) kicks off the three-part "Cranford," about life in an English village. The all-star cast is led by Oscar winner Judi Dench and is based upon the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

"Cold Case" (CBS, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season, followed by two episodes of "Dexter" beginning at 9 p.m.

"The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) kicks off Fox's animation lineup by having the family go to the Sundance Film Festival. The CW is also new, including "Everybody Hates Chris" at 8 p.m. and "Aliens In America" at 8:30 p.m.

"The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) is also brand new.

Finally, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) and "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 10 p.m.) continue to wind down their seasons.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


DC Comics used to have special issues called "Elseworlds," in which various characters would find themselves in different circumstances than what we were used to seeing them in. The idea was that these stories never happened in the continuity of their various titles, but rather, what if something different happened.

What if Batman was a 16th century pirate? What if Superman's rocket had landed in communist Russia during the 1940s? Etc.

When I wrote my spec script for "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) a couple of years ago, it was entitled "Elseworlds." Through a bit of technology, Clark (Tom Welling) was able to see what life would have been like had he been adopted by Lionel Luthor rather than the Kents. Let's just say I brought the idea of sibling rivalry to a whole new level between Clark and Lex (Michael Rosenbaum).

Clearly, that script was never bought, because I'm still here doing this blog for you guys, but "Smallville" does finally visit an Elseworlds scenario for tonight's 150th episode, directed by Welling. As Brainiac (James Marsters) flies back to Krypton of the past to assassinate the young Kal-El, Clark wonders if the world might not be better off without him. The spirit of his father gives him a slice of what that might be like.

Lex is President, with Brainiac as his chief of staff and Kara (Lauren Vandernoot) as his enforcer. Lois (Erica Durance) is a Pulitzer Prize winner investigating Lex's sinister plans.

As a comics enthusiast, I've always enjoyed the Elseworlds ideas that the writers have come up with over the years (Marvel Comics has a similarly themed series called "What If?") While "Smallville" is hardly the first series to tackle the "It's a Wonderful Life" dilemma, at least it can fall back upon the DC Comics tradition of Elseworlds to justify it.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Smallville" isn't the only CW series to play with an alternate reality; Dean Winchester experienced his own version last season on "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) Tonight, Dean gets a visit from a spirit claiming to be that of his father.

Addison (Kate Walsh) makes a one-night return to "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 9 p.m.) from her spinoff "Private Practice," no doubt sending "Grey's" fans into a frenzy. It follows a new "Ugly Betty" at 8 p.m. and precedes a new "Lost" at 10 p.m. as Jack falls gravely ill, and Kate and Juliet rush to save him. Ah, to be nursed back to health by Kate and Juliet...

"CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) must be investigating Vulcans, because several victims turn up with green blood, followed by a new "Without A Trace," which presumably has no Vulcans.

Earl is finally awake on "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.), which kicks off the network's terrific comedy lineup of "Scrubs," "The Office" and "30 Rock," followed by a new "ER" at 10 p.m.

Finally, the documentary "Carrier" (PBS, 9 p.m.) wraps up tonight.