Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows for 2010

Man, does this year lend itself to alliteration.
A lot of people have complained that there was a certain lack of good TV this season, particularly how carved up the network fall season was. But the fact of the matter was that this season featured some truly majestic peaks of for the medium --- they just weren't in the most populated areas of the world.
So, starting from the bottom, here goes:

10. Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
It's official: this season Showtime has become the strongest cable network. Particularly as it has managed to create a new medium: the half-hour comedy-drama. Three of the shows are populated by formidable actresses, but this one is by far the strongest. Edie Falco has reached levels she never achieved on The Sopranos and an able supporting cast from Paul Schulze to Anna Deveare Smith more than ably supports her. Let's hope that the season finale's intervention doesn't do more than slow her down.

9. Damages (FX)
It may not draw the prestige that Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck did, but this was the most fascinating piece on a strong network. From extraordinary turns by Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, and the criminally ignored Campbell Scott, this show kept me guessing week after week. I'm still not sure about everything that happened (Keith Carradine's role was never quite clear) , but it was very satisfying to watch Patty Hewes goes after her biggest fish yet. I'm glad this show has a future, even if right now, it's means I won't be able to watch it.

8. Dexter (Showtime)
Considering how good Season 4 was I didn't think the writers could top themselves this season. They didn't, but they came damn close. We've seen some bloodthirsty killers on this show, but this season painted us a picture of what true evil might looklike. Add to that stunning character roles by Julia Stiles and Johnny Lee Miller --- neither of whom I would've thought would be capable of it before Season 5--- and the continuing growth of Julia Carpenter as Debra, and you've got an absolute stunner. I don't know how much of a future this show has, but this seasons end gave the first real hint that Dexter's future may nto end in blood.

7. Lost (ABC)
First of all, let's admit that no ending for this show would really have satisfied us. But even if the last episode left you feeling a little cold (like me), that doesn't change the fact that this series did some stunning work in its final season. Any show that is capable of creating episodes like 'Dr. Linus' and 'Ab Aeterno (where we finally learned who Richard Alpert was) is worthy of our respect. Maybe the show didn't give us all the closure that we thought we deserved. But if it had, would it have been true to Lost? It'll be missed, but not as much because ...

6. Fringe (FOX)
This show has been providing the goods for the last couple of season, but with the introduction into the alternate universe, Fringe has become spectacular. Anna Torv and John Noble's bifurcated performances over Season 3 have been Emmy-caliber, and watching us getting actual answers to questions that this show asks has made this the most thrilling show on TV. It's just a shame that so few people are watching. Maybe we should start a 'Save Our Show' style campaign in both universes?

5. 30 Rock (NBC)
Maybe it was a bit premature to give Tina Fey the Mark Twain Prize from the Kennedy Center. But it doesn't change the fact that five seasons in, this is still the biggest laugh riot on television. Only this show could use the utter collapse on NBC and turn it into a hysterical joke. Let's hope that they'll move it to a good time slot, and that it will stay there (and wish Tracy Morgan a speedy recovery from his surgery)

4. Parenthood (NBC)
OK, I'll admit that I was slow to climb aboard on this one. But after being stupendously disappointed by Brothers and Sisters, this show with realistic marriages, successful and borderline, realistic children with some really strong actors playing them, and some issues that have some particular relevance in both being a parent and a child, this show is
is that utter rarity--- an adult network drama. Why is it that nobody's watching it? Oh, that's right....

3. The Good Wife (CBS)
Is it a legal drama? A political drama? A family show? A show about relationships when you're in your forties? The fact that this series does all of these things is a marvel. That it does them so spectacularly is incredible. As long as networks continue to turn out programs like The Good Wife, there will be a future for them. And as to that acting--- Alan Cumming, Best Supporting Actor. The race starts here.

2. Mad Men (AMC)
I'm still not convinced that it deserved three Emmys in a row. But that doesn't change the fact that this may be the most searing dramas in TV history. Watch Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price struggle for survival was stunning. Watching Don Draper come to terms with his battle with drinking mesmerizing. Watching Betty confirm that no matter who she marries, she'll never be happy--- that was astounding. And as good as Jon Ham is (The Suitcase was a stunner), this show is really all about the women. I'm convinced that by the end of the series run, Peggy and Christina will be running the agency. But then again, that might be a demotion for them.

1. Glee (Fox)
Most of the shows on this list would be considered dark and depressing. This show has moments of that (it is high school, after all) but for most of the time, it is filled with sheer joy and energy. Featuring one of the most talented ensembles television has ever assembled, this show is funny, heartbreaking, powerful and joyous hours of TV ever created. Chris Coifer and Jane Lynch are two of the best actors currently working in the medium, and the guest cast (who would've thought that Gwyneth Paltrow had such a voice?!) has been next to flawless. Never has their been a show where the title perfectly describes the experience of watching it.

With this, we look ever forward into the new year. Maybe there's more great TV in our future.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Nominees Are...

Well, I know that's it's been a very long time since I made any additions to this blog, and my few but faithful followers may have thought that I've abandoned it all together. My only excuse is that there has been a lot going on in my life, and that while I've been able to spend a fair amount of time watching TV, I have not had enough time to write about it.

But now, the holiday season is upon us, and there are two things that are sure to come with the arrival of December: the supposed 'War on Christmas (which because this is not a political forum, I've not going to take a side on) and the coming of award nominations. A lot of the major critics groups in this country, most of them having to do with films have announced nominations, but a few deal with TV. I've seen more than my fair share of films this year, so I might be able to comment with some degree of wisdom about the films that will be in this years Oscar race. I may even do that a little later on. However, for the moment, I will stay within the borders of TV, which has also been getting recognition.

I will focus on the Golden Globes, which on occasion will right some of the more obscure wrongs that the Emmys often make, and sometimes will demonstrate that the Hollywood Foreign Press can live on Mars.

First the good things. While admit that this has been a piss-poor year for new network TV offerings, the Globes has seen fit to recognize two of the stronger shows: Boardwalk Empire, HBO's best new drama since Big Love, and AMC's The Walking Dead, which has become the most popular series on AMC---- ever. They also recognized Dexter, Good Wife, and Mad Men, three of the best shows currently on TV.

I've got no problem with the Best Actor noiminees. I'm glad to see Bryan Cranston finally getting some love (after three straight Emmys, it would be surreal to be ignored in favor of Simon Baker again). But Piper Perabo for Best Actress? I'm not even sure Covert Affairs was renewed for a second season. Glenn Close caught shunted aside for her?

And Damages being completely shut out after one of its finest years? Martin Short, having given one of the finest performances I've seen on TV last year ignored? There are always problems in the Supporting categories, but come on, Scott Caan for Hawaii Five-0? Alan Cumming or Aaron Paul would make sense, but Scott Caan? I'm pretty sure even his father wouldn't vote for him, given the opportunity.

I'm similarly baffled by Thomas Jane getting a best actor nod for Hung. It didn't make any sense last year, and it makes even less sense this year. The only explanation I can come up with is the shortage of candiates for Best Actor in a comedy, but David Duchovny's work in Californication was superior, and seen by a larger audience. What bizarro world mentality does this fit? Here's hoping there are more candidates with the coming of 2011.

Nurse Jackie deserved to be nominated for Best Comedy, so they got that right. I'm less certain about The Big C. At times, it was very funny, but it's behavior was erratic. Still, Laura Linney deserved her nomination, and now it's becoming clear that Showtime has a lock on comedies centered around fascinating woman with big problems. Without question Showtime is the real winner of the Globes this year, and continues to demonstrate that it is the real powerhouse in the pay cable world.

Nods that just made me feel good: Chris Colfer's for Glee. He is without question one of the best actors of a very strong cast, and watching him is probably the most enjoyment on one of TV's best rides. I was also glad to see Chris Noth and Julia Stiles nominated in the Supporting categories and I hope that when the Emmy judges get around to honoring them (and trust me, they will) they'll remember where they were. And though I still don't watch it loyally, it's good to know that the Foreign Press has finally recognized the superb Big Bang Theory as one of the Best Comedies of the year. I don't pay as much attention to the TV movie side of this, but I was glad to see Idris Elba nominated for his work in Luther, not just because it was just good work, but because I'm glad to see any alumni of The Wire getting recognized for something. (Hint, hint)

One last thing Foreign press, you might want to consider creating a whole new categories for Supporting Actors and Actress in TV movies. Yeah, it might add a few extra minutes to your show, and it was just be another category for HBO to dominate... you know what, forget I mentioned it. Few years, they'll all be gone anyway. Such is the balance of power in the TV industry.

That's enough for the Golden Globes. I'd try and run through the SAG awards as well, but the sad truth is, considering how wide a base they use, and how leads and supportings get shunted into the same category, I've given up getting worked up or excited by them. Besides, how seriously can you take a group that considers Hot in Cleveland one of the Best comedies of the year?

Stay tuned to this spot for my ten best list for 2010. But first, some classic antidotes for the Christmas themed episodes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Man, I'm taking a lot of time between postings

I realize I have been posting so irregularly that it may seem like I'm disappearing off the face of the earth sometimes, but I have a new job that takes a bit out of me, and I have other obligations, like all of us. Still, i should be a little more regiar about what I do. I saw The Social Network this weekend (brilliant movie by the way) You never know where a blog will take you. Reminded me how much I missed Aaron Sorkin's dialogue too. But I guess he's all about the films now. Well, he'll get an Oscar nomination this year for sure.

At the other end of the last decade, January 2001 to be precise, I was watching an episode of ER, a show I never thought was quite as good as everybody thought it was. I don't remember the title of the episode, onyl that Mark Greene, in the midst of his battle with cancer, was having brain surgery in New York to remove a tumor. The more interesting B-story was back in Chicago. A middle-aged man was driving his son to hockey practice (I think) and was in a car crash. The episode followed his process through the ER and through the medical process of Cook County. The character was played by Jim Belushi, and I remember being shocked by how good a straight performance it was. ER always managed to coax fine performances from its guest casts, but this was more than I'd come to expect from Belushi, who always seemed to be coasting through not quite good comedies and the occasional whimsical drama.

I remember that performance because Beliushi very soon after would starting 'According to Jim', a series known not just for extraordinary mediocrity, but for ABC's keeping it on the air season after season while other brilliant shows got cast by the wayside. The need for the show made sense when they depending on Drew Carey and Regis Philbin for their survival; after they had 'Lost' and 'Desperate Housewives', there really was no excuse. It still sticks in my craw that Invasion and Line of Fire got cast aside for that. His acting seemed to be an aberration.

But then in September, 'the Defenders' premiered on CBS. Now the courtroom drama has been on life support for awhile, but CBS does seem to be interested inr resusciating. It's nowhere near the level of 'The Good Wife' (which continues to get better with every succeeding episode) but it's definitely a lot better than some of the pale imitations we get these days. Belushi and Jerry O'Connell have a good rapport, the cases are interesting, and the writings good. But this show wouldn't work without Belushi's solid work. Pete Morelli has layers in the way that a lot of characters on TV don't (Not Patty Hewes' or Alan Shore's level, but few shows did) and even though there is a certain amount of sleaze, he demonstrates charm, something I really haven't associated with his work in film or TV. Add to this the fact that this was supposed to be a reality show, and I'm really starting to get in it's corners.

The Defenders has challenges ahead (it's up agains the latest incarnation of the Law and Order franchise) but the future is good. And maybe if Belushi continues to do solid work, he can atone for all those years we had to suffer his pale excuse for a sitcom.

The next Post will come sooner. I promise

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Better Late than Never

I know that I promised to post earlier, but life, sad to say, gets in way sometimes.. Here are some of my random thoughts on TV over the past week.

While I thought season 4 of Mad Men was generally superb, I thought the season finale was a disappointment. Usually, there is some optimism to rise among the pessimism, but I thought that Don's proposal to his secretary seemed a false note, and came almsot completely out of left field. Had he had the relationship with the doctor there, I'd have thought it would be more realistic, but it seems labored and a mistake in a show where the writers don't make that many. Rather it was the woman who stood tall. Peggy may have single-handedly saved SterlinG-Cooper (by 1970 she'll be the running the place, I tell you) Joan got promoted and revealed that she didn't get the abortion we thought she did, and Betty demonstrated what we've known for a long time--- she'll never be happy no matter who she's with or where she lives. It is January Jones who takes a character whose behavior in the long run would be loathsome and turns her into a human being--- I hope this year she gets the Emmy she's been owed the last two seasons.

In regards my earlier posts on Boardwalk Empire, I must recant a bit. The more episodes that I see of it, the better it gets. I'm still not sure who all the players are in this particular drama, and I'm not entirely convinced Buscemi will be a solid lead, but the surrounding cast, particularly Michael Pitt and Gretchen Mol (who's finally got a role worth of her talents) are giving fine performances. This show may come from Sopranos stock, but its Deadwood that it reminds me of, not just because of the somewhat archaic cursing. Boardwalk Empire demonstrates that there is a very fine line between law and crime, and these authorities keep pushing it back further.

However, the real most valuable player on TV today is Parenthood, a show that I had early misgivings about has become one of the best performed shows on TV today. After being so gravely disappointed by Brothers and SIsters, it's nice to know that there is the possibility of a functional family, with parents who love and support each other, who aren't always stepping on each others toes, and marriages that need work but have people willing to fix each other. I am also glad to see that some of the actors who didn't have as mcuh to do like Sam Jaeger, Mae Whitman, and Bonnie Bedeila are finally getting some screen time. It's a shame that, like almost everythign else on NBC, no one seems to want to watch it. Maybe the Golden Globes will show it some much needed love.

That's enough for now. Next time, my thoughts on some of the new crop of shows, including why I'm finally on Jim Belushi's side.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What we talk about when we talk about sex

This week there's been a big fuss about the racy photo shoot of the cast of Glee in this months issue of GQ. I don't see what the sound and fury is about; every time there's a popular franchise with young women involved, there are often photo spreads like this. And hey these aren't the kids in Larry Clark films; these are young adults in their twenties. But apparently because Glee is considered by some circles as a 'family show', this leads the woman of The View to cluck at how these woman are acting.

First of all, have you been watching this show? Glee has made it clear almost since the first episode that sex is a big part of it. It's part of any teenagers life, and is part of what they think. That doesn't mean that children and teenagers shouldn't watch it with their parents; on the contrary, compared to some of the reality shows that emphasize it, this is the kind of show that encourages discussion about these kinds of issues in a mature and--- yeah, I'll say it--- adult manner. You know all those brainless tween and teen shows. This one has a brain.

As for the photo shoot--- grow up. Since the beginning of Hollywood, we've been told that sex sells. I've seen some of the things that get posted on the web; by comparison the photos in GQ look practically Victorian. Over and over this is the message that we keep sending Hollywood. We can't blame them for doing what we all know works.

Perhaps I am not unprejudiced about this because I love the show, but I really hope this kind of bias doesn't stop peoplr from watching Glee. This is an adult, mature reasonable show that discusses sex and hormones. Married couples don't sleep in twin beds any more, and Mayberry was a fantasy. Let's not pretend our sensibilities are more offended by this than what shows on Cinemax at 11.

Okay. I've vented. The next post will come in a shorter interval. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lost Post Number 1

Hi, my name is David, and I'm a Lost-a-holic. I followed the show for five years.

How do I explain my feelings towards Lost as a series? I'll use another TV show metaphor. In the second season of The West Wing, Leo, the chief of staff, is trying to persuade the President to sign off on a missile defnse system, even though the latest test failed. He tries to persuade him by saying, "We succeeded on 9 out of 10 parameters," he tells him. "What was the tenth?" asks the President, with a sense of mischief. "We missed the target."

That is very close to how I feel about Lost, only in this series case, it was worse. This was a show that succeeded 95% of the time. In the final analysis, so many of the questions that it asked were answered in the shows final season. And the avoided the mistakes that The X-Files made during it's final seasons that I kept defending it to, well, non-fans, that I really thought the show would tie everything together at the end. And then 'The End' came... and it just didn't. I intend to watch the series again, and see if I missed anything, particularly in Season 6, but right now, my feeling is still, one of being cheated.

Now I fear for Lost's legacy. Though critics still consider it one of the greatest series ever created, I have already seen articles written online, advising shows like The Event how to avoid turning into Lost. I feel that the show may be consigned to the ashbin of the internet, as yet another mythology series that crashed and burned, like the X-Files. Worse, actually--- at least the X-Files has a possibility as a film franchise. No such luck for Lost.

The serialized drama is a risky thing. Throughout the shows runs, there were at least two dozen shows that tried to jump on Lost's particular bandwagon. Invasion, Flashforward, Life on Mars (American version), Dollhouse ... all of them interesting shows that never got quite the chance that Lost did, and I got suckered in on most of them, hoping for the next big thing. Hasn't come yet.

Few shows have inspired more joy in me, or appeal to the better angels of my nature. I loved Buffy and Battlestar Galactica but I've never felt the urge to buy a bunch of their action figures or bobbleheads. (Speaking of which, Nik, have you ever been inspired by any series in such a way, I've always been a little curious about this as well.) I was genuinely sad when the series was over, not just because I felt slightly cheated, but also because I was pretty damn sure I'd never see another series like this again. Fringe is a criminally underrated series, and it does have the same cult following, but Walter Bishop is still not John Locke.(Though maybe now the Emmy judges will think so) I've followed a lot of series that might have had that kind of pull, but they all got abruptly cancelled. Each year, I kept watching series, hoping I'd find the next Lost. Each year, I came back to the original. I don't have that option any more.

Basically, this group--- the group of fans who have gathered at this site--- is Lost's legacy. This is a series that deserves to be remembered, not because it's grasp exceeded its reach, but because it did so many things right so much of the time. Lost may not have been a complete success, at least not the way we wanted it to be, but it was not a failure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Miss Me?

Hello, ye few but faithful, and those of you who watch but don't sign in. aiat's David, and he's had a busy three weeks. I got a new job, I started expanding my social graces, and I attended my best friend's wedding (something that, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure would happen til it happened). All of these are earth shattering, life-changing events, but I don't want to talk about them here. I am building myself a place where I will begin writing about all this, but I intend to keep this place all about my thoughts on TV. That's what I said this blog would be about, and damn it, that's what I'm going to keep it about.

Fortunately, about a week ago, the new fall season began. Now normally this is a busy time for me, but nature intervened to stop my involvement--- a blackout hit my area after a storm powerful enough to be classified a tornado, and I had no TV from last Thursday to the following Tuesday. Considering how involved I was with Mad Men, Glee, and House, I nearly hd a small breakdown. I'm one of those people who still believes iin watching TV on TV, so it took a lot out of me. But I'm back and ready to rumble.

Normally, I like to give series a couple of episodes before I decide whether or not I like them. Also, the networks are generally so quick on the trigger, I don't know if a series will get killed. (OH, I wish I'd been prewarned about this for The Nine, Invasion, and Flashforward, but that's a story for a different blog.) So rather than talk about some of the network series, I'm going to go to cable and discuss a couple of the bigger deals.

Last Week saw the premiere of Boardwalk Empire. If you live in New York, you couldn't get away from how HBO was promoting it. Billboards,TV ads, Subway ads, and with Terence Winter and Martin Scorcese attached, it certainly has the pedigree for great promotion, especially if you call it 'the next Sopranos'. But as someone who watched, and who has expressed elsewhere that particular show wasn't as great everyone thought it was, I was inclined to take it with a grain of salt. But the cast of actors is so well known, and HBO has a pretty good history with period series, so I decided what the hell.

The material of Boardwalk Empire has the potential for greatness, I will not deny. Steve Buscemi is one of our finest actors, and we all know he's played gangsters before. The good news is that the writing is much stronger, and we do seem to be getting a lot of familiar faces, especially for those of us who know a bit about the Roaring 20's . The mood is set appropriately with music, films and stage acts from the era (I think I heard Al Jolson and Enrico Caruso on a couple of victrollas) so it seems authentic, and seeing the rough atmosphere, and meeting Al Capone, Lucky Lucianoet al, before they were the legens, that's a little unsettling.

However, what I didn't sense in the Pilot was a great deal of subtlety. Now, Matthew Weiner wrote for them, and Mad Men is nothing But an exercise in subtlety. (I'll be getting to that in another post) so it leads me to wonder if Winter was the one responsible for all the bloodshed. And while every adds up to quality, it also all seemed to spell out--- This is Emmy Bait in almost every scene. Don't ask me to explain what about it, but this show does what Damages and The Wire never did--- show you it's brilliant, and not tell you. Perhaps I'll feel different after I see a couple of more episodes, so I'll try not to judge yet. But this is a series about gangsters in Jersey, so you'll understand why I'm a little trepidatious.

The show that I've been looking forward to seeing for the past--- hell with it--- ten months, finally premiered tonight. Season 5 of Dexter. Ever since he discover Rita's corpses in the bathtub--- Trinity's last victim--- I've been waiting to see how he'd deal. And the answer is: same way he appears to deal with everything else. Looking like you're sleepwalking is Dexter Morgan's stock in trade, but what do you when the one real human element in your life is gone. Equally jarring were the flashback scenes where we saw the very first date between Rita and Dexter and learn, just like everything else in his life, it was based on a lie--- he only went on the date to track a killer.

With Kiefer Sutherland and Matthew Fox gone, Hall continues to demonstrate why he is still the best working actor in TV . (Take that, Bryan Cranston). He seemed like a shell of himself, and considering that the image he projects to the world is a shell, that's a lot harder than it looks. And because of this, Quinn, who was suspicious of Dexter before Rita died, is finally suspicious of him. The irony is rampant--- all the horrible things we've seen Dexter do on this series, and the death of the one person he'd never hurt that might finally lead to his undoing. Which does lead to problems considering that Quinn banged Debra (in self-defense, really) and that particular relationship is going to be a factor for most of this season.

As for Mad Men---- Don Draper's false identity has always hurt him in the past, and now it seems that his secret is going to come back to bite Sterling-Cooper-Draper et al in the ass. Don's come close to exposure, but this time he seemed on the verge of collapse in a scene that makes you wonder why Jon Hamm is also Emmy-less.

But then the whole firm, never stable, may be on the verge of complete collapse. With Lucky STrike finally about to jump ship, we finally found out what it took for Roger STerling to lose his cool--- and get censored even on basic cable. Add to this, the mess that's going on with Joan (there's another child she'll never have) and Roger's probably going to break down by the time the season ends--- which is just three weeks away.

But by far the most shocking thing involved the stiff upper lip of Lane. We knew his relationship with his father was tense, but watching him beat the crap out of him--- well, I was floored. I hope he makes the right choice cause this firm can't take much more.

So ends this nights epistle. Stay tuned for further updates, including whether Glee still has what it takes for sophomore season, the return of Good Wife, Fringe, and Parenthood, and whether or J.J. Abrams still has the magic touch. Good night

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Should Know Better By Now

Every year I say I'm not going to be frustrated when they announce the winners for the Emmys and every year I practically have conniption fits on Emmy Night. Why, why, why do I get my hopes up that they'll acknowledge the shows I like when they seem to fall into old habits.

Okay, that's not fair. Especially when it came to the Best Comedy awards. All of the winners there pretty much deserved to win. Maybe I'm being a little cross because I don't pay as much attention to Modern Family as I did to Glee and Nurse Jackie. And Jim Parsons' victory was pleasant because it was another triumph of geekdom over quirkiness. Who am I kidding? I just love Sheldon. And technically speaking, Glee and Nurse Jackie are not as traditionaly comedy in the same way Modern Family is, but I have a feeling that both shows will be in the arena for quite awhile to come. Huzzah Jane Lynch!

No, it's the dramas that kind of wear me dow. Now, don't get me wrong, Mad Men is a brilliant show--- arguably the best show to come up anywhere in the last decade. But I can't help but feel--- particularly this year--- that they seem to be honoring it more out of habit then anything else. I saw all the nominated shows this year--- and, honestly, I really think that Dexter and The Good Wife were at least as good, and Lost was even better if possible.

And seriously, even Bryan Cranston doesn't really believe that he's the best Actor in TV. I know that everybody with the exception of Fox will probably get another bite at the apple but come on! Who do Michael C. Hall have to kill to get some Emmy love? Why can't Jon Hamm sell anything else? As for best Actress--- it's not that Kyra Sedgwick hasn't deserved to win at least once in the last three years, I just thought that her moment had passed and that Juliana Marguiles had arrived.

Oh well. Here are some random thoughts I had about the show itself.

They need to decide an order of presenting the awards and fracking stick with it. I myself didn't have a problem with the way they used to do it before--- at least then you had a reason to pay attention all three hours. Come on, after the first ninety minutes were over, I didn't have any reason to keep watching. And it is kind of ridiculous to put all those movies in one place. We all know HBO's gonna sweep, so it's kind of hard to care.

Give John Hodgman a permament job. I 've been watching this guy on the Daily show for six seasons, so I know he's brilliant, but he he has just the right tenor to deflate all of the pompousity of those walkup to the awards shows. And you might want to consider giving Ricky Gervais a chance to host. The last three years he's generating more laughter in his presentations than the hosts ever have. And considering how good Harris and Fallon are generally, that's saying something.

HBO is bordering on irrelevance. It'll self promote saying they won more Emmys than any other network, but all of their wins for TV movies. In the meantime, Showtime and AMC each picked up six awards and are clearly a better representation of where the real talent is gathering. To mae an appropriate pun, Boardwalk Empire better come in like gangbusters, cause they're barely hanging in there. God Knows there never going to recognize David Simon's work.

Well, the new fall season is fast approaching which means the networks will be turning out their "best and brightest" But soon Glee and Dexter will be beginning their new seasons, and that's enough to bring joy into this bloggers clogged heart. Keep watching this spot.

Friday, August 27, 2010

This Years Emmy's

I know it's a silly thing to get excited about, but there's something about award shows that make my heart pound faster. Maybe it's just because after all the political circuses, turmoil abroad and at home, and concerns about this country's future, the ability to focus on something as demi-serious as the Emmy's is always an entertaining distraction.

Of course, I have huge problems with the Emmys in general. I've never felt they fully honor some of the true greats in TV. (For my first witness, I call Joss Whedon, followed by David Simon and Bill Lawrence). And they have the annoying habit of just recognizing the same shows over and over, and recognizing new blood in nods, while honoring the same old faces. This has been true particularly the last couple years, where the nominees and winners in Best Drama and Best Comedy were duplicates. But they've made some big improvements in the last six or seven years--- they've fine tuned some of their rules, and I think there nominations for 2009-2010 were generally the best they've been in nearly a decade. Still, there are concerns. The Creative Arts Emmys held a last Sunday seemed to show the old habits are dying hard. I'm glad that John Lithgow and Neil Patrick Harris got recoginzed, but seriously Ann-Margaret for Law and Order SVU?! She wasn't even the best guest actress on the show this season. Lily Tomlin and Elizabeth Mitchell got robbed again. And really, showing them just seems to honor the same people over. Why do the Tudors, CSI, and this years Oscars always have to have this special time? And shifting the writing for Vairety series to this show is a robbery. The Writers Guild is going to be royally pissed.

okay. Enough bitching. Let's get to why I'm here. Here are my picks for this years Emmy-- what I think should win, and what I think will win. I'm focusing my energy on fictional programming--- reality TV is just something that I don't cotton to.

Outstanding Drama Series
Should Win--- Lost. Regardless of what you thought about the last episode (God knows I've got issues with it) it can't be denied that it did a much better job of wrapping up then any other mythology series ever has. And the last sixteen episodes featured some truly great writing, acting and directing. Add to this the fact that the Emmys have a habuit of occasionally recognizing great series in their final seasons (think The Sopranos, Everybody Loves Raymond) and I think it might pull off a sentimental vote.

Will Win--- Mad Men. I'll admit that Season 3 did drag a bit, but it's last three episodes were among the greatest I've ever seen on television. Plus it has won the Golden Globe and SAG awards, so it may be habit will be enough to carry today.

Best Actor, Drama
Should Win: Matthew Fox, Lost. This is more a sentimental favorite than a genuine preference. I think all six nominees are superb choices. But Fox has been the most underrated actor on that show even though he was the obstensible lead. Add to that, he probably won't be coming back to TV in any series, and he's a dark horse.

Will win: Michael C. Hall, Dexter. Everyone's sure Bryan Cranston's got this locked up, but no actor has repeated three years ina row in the drama category in nearly half a century. Plus Hall's work as America's favorite serial killer was even better than usual. He's won the Globe and the SAG award, and Lithgow triumphed in guest actor earlier,s o he's fresh in the academy's mind. I think he's going to upset the field here.

Best Actress, Drama
Should Win, WIll Win: Juliana Marguiles, The Good Wife. It's not just that she won the globe and the SAG awards or that her show has completely revitalized the legal drama. But she took what could have been a gimmick and helped turn out the best show on CBS in over a decade. January Jones had some great moments this season, but Marguiles owned the stage this year.

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Should Win: Terry O'Quinn, Lost. Ever try to play what may be the epitome of evil while maintaining the face of a character who was beloved by fans for five seasons? I've always loved O'Quinn's work, and though I missed John Locke this season, both the characters he ended up playing were nearly as fascinating. One of our best actors working today. I await his next project with bated breath

Will Win: Martin Short, Damages. To be perfectly honest, I want Short to win. He did some stupendous work on one of the best acted shows on TV, and we later saw that it was actually a dual performance, so he deserves more creit. My one debit is that we probably won't be able to see him accept due to tragic circumstances involving his wife. But if he wins, he earned it. Big time.

Best Supporting ACtress, Drama
Should Win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men. Peggy Olson is probably the most fascinating character at Sterling Cooper Draper Price--- its small wonder Don begged her to join. I'm only surprised she took the demotion to this category from best actress last years. But wherever you put her, she deserves to get it.

Will Win: Christine Baranski, The Good Wife. Honestly, I'm less sure about this category than any of the others. We've had more surprise wins in it then all the others. Baranski just seems likely because, like Short, she's a brilliant comic actress, and she did a compelte 180 in this show. The academy likes versatility--- some times.

Best Comedy Series
Should Win, Will Win: Glee. Some critics would argue that given the opportunity, the voters will vote for the more traditional brilliant comedy, Modern Family. No insult to the ABC shows, but are they nuts? Glee has been running against it in every major preaward show this year and beaten it. Modern Family is a great show and will probably win in the future, but Glee is a phonemenon. It's also the most original show to come up on TV in decades. This is a lock.

bEST Actor, Comedy
Should Win: Matthew Morrison, Glee. The fulcrum of what is a brilliant cast, he's made Will positively enduring. Add to this, everything his character went through this season, and he went on the greatest journey.

Will Win: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock. Sigh. It's not that his work isn't genius, that he's not comedic dynamite, and that he's still wondrous to watch four years in. But really, hasn't he gotten enough awards already. Isn't it time to let someone new, or at least recognize the fine work of Jim parsons or Steve Carell, into the winners circle.

Best Actress, Comedy
Should Win, Will Win: Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie. No other actress could make drug addiction or falling apart this much fun. Showtime has created a new genre-- the half hour dramedy, and Jackie is one of the most delightful portrayers of it. Another couple seasons, and I'll be able to forgive her for The Sopranos

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy

Should Win: Chris Colfer, Glee. The show's secret weapon, and one of the most real performers of the entire cast. He took what could have been a cliche, and turned him into the most fascinating characters in TV.

Will Win: Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother. Am not sure whether the two Emmys he's already won this year mean it's going to be his time to shine or whether the Academy will think it's finally his time to shine. This is probably Modern Family's best chance to win to upset, so watch this category carefully

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Should Win, Will Win: Jane Lynch, Glee. What can I say about Sue Sylvester that she wouldn't already say funnier? She's had a lock on this award since the series debuted. All I can say is I can't wait to see how she'll see this.

Am not sure about any of the other categories. Except for Varietyb Series--- I want to see Bill Maher win at least one award in my lifetime. And if Conan O'Brian pulls off an upset--- this could have the most drama of the night.

Well, i've written myself out. See you Sunday night.

Monday, August 23, 2010

nOT quite an A for the Big C

Well, I promised that I would take a look at Showtime's latest entry into the dramedy field, and now after two episodes, I think I'm ready to make an assessment.

First of all, there are very few actress capable of hitting notes of subtlety that Laura Linney. In both salary and talent, she hasn't gotten her fair due in awhile. And I can see why the idea of the character of Cathy Jameson would appeal to her so much. And she manages to make the show come alive whenever she's on the screen. Some of the funniest moments in the first couple of episodes come to life when we see Linney just hang lose. The problem is we've never gotten a picture of why she was so uptight or what exactly has begun to free her so much. The family life was very confused, but considering the condition that her brother seems to be in (we'll get to that in a moment) they can't have been happy.

Then there's the problem of making the surrounding characters accessible. This is not something that most of the Showtime half-hour shows, with the exception of Nurse Jackie, have managed to do very well. Oliver Platt is one of the most buoyant personalities in any medium, and his manboy of Cathy's husband is very entertaining at tiems, but we've got no idea what happened to make their mariage fall apart, and when it comes to figuring otu what's going wrong, he seems pathetically clueless. Cathy's brother is apparently living the ultimate green lifestyle by being homeless, and while John Benjamin Hickey's h occasionally entertaining, I can't help but be reminding of Steve Buscemi's 'God' on Nurse Jackie, who in a much smaller part managed to seem much more real. And I loved Gabourey Sibide in Precious and I know that she's a real talent, so why the hell would she want to play a character who barely seems more recgnizable than half a dozen other black teenagers on any television show? These characters might be multidimensional, but the script rarely lets them loose or see them outside the parameters of how they relate to Cathy. This is the kind of thing that will sink a new program if it isn't rectified fast.

The writingis, so far, hit or miss, mainly because the writers while they've been able to make Cathy and her surronding characters amusing, still haven't realized a way to make cancer funny. I know that dying is easy, while comedy is hard, but the overall purpose of this show is to entertain, not lecture Right now, Cathy's interactions with her doctor are by far the most real thing about the show, but they're only funny in the darkest sense of the term. We know he's going to be seeing her as the disease progresses, but how is it going to work as television.

I'm not going to give up on The Big C. I like the actors too much not to give up on the show, but it doesn't solve the problem--- if the show survives, how will they justify Cathy's being alive? I hate to put things in such dark terms, but that would be giving the show more gravitas than it currently has.

My score on a scale of 1 to 10: 6.5

Stay tuned this week for my predictions of this years Emmys.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How other TV Characters have dealt with the Big C

tommorrow, Showtime premiers yet another darkly humorous show around a very dire subject anchored by a resonant female lead. But this one has even more difficult job than making MPD and drug addiction -- the subject is a woman with cancer.

Now having a show based around a central character developing cancer is nothing new. Bryan Cranston has already won two Emmys for playing cancer-ridden meth dealer Walter White on Breaking Bad. And other shows have had central characters deal have battles with cancer. Lynn Scavo went through a bout with it on Desperate Housewives, but the highest degree of her suffering seemed to be that she wore several handkerchiefs around her head symbolizing weeks of chemo. Dana Scully went through a bout of cancer as a result of her experience on the X-Files, but that seemed even harder to measure as the most symptomatic she ever got was the occasional bloody nose. Also she miraculously went into remission while on death's door, but considering they never explained how that happened either, I think the writers lost a lot of fans in that particular story arc.

In his last two seasons on ER, Mark Greene suffered from a brain tumor. He underwent radical surgery for it, and he seemed to be in remission. Then little more than a year later, he suffered from recurrence, and succumbed a few months later. That one really did hurt because Anthony Edwards was the pillar of that show, and without him, there always seemed to be a gap at Cook County that was never refilled.

The most pertinent case of cancer appeared to be that of Dr. Daniel Auschlander on St Elsewhere. 73 years old when he was diagnosed with liver cancer in the show's Pilot, one would have expected him to succumb within the first season, at the very latest.. But he battled with it nobly for the entire six season run of the show, dealing with bouts of chemo, struggling with the battles with old age. One could make the argument that he was the symbol of St. Eligius--- as long as he was still alive, the hospital could survive. And he did outlive quite a few younger cast members, which is probably symbolic as well. Of course, he might just have been Tommy Westphall's imagination, but I don't buy into that particular theory.

What will separate Cathy from the characters that have come for her is trying to keep this show funny while staying true to the source. Nurse Jackie is still amazing two seasons in, while Weeds has become so dark and so far from where it started that it should be put out of his misery. Laura Linney is one of the most subtle actresses that I have ever seen and God knows she has the capable to make comedy emerge from death. (Watch her Oscar-nominated role in The Savages and you'll see why) And arguably, her bio is more varied than Toni Collette's or Edie Falco's. Seeing her interviewed on Wednesday's The Daily Show demonstrated that she has an understanding of how to make death and comedy merge. Can she do it for real?

Tomorrow at 10:30, she starts proving it. Stay tuned to this spot for more updates, because this is one show I want to get behind.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Forgot I was here...

I'll admit that it's been awhile since my last post, but I've been trying to explore new avenues for the last few weeks, and am now ready to resume posting. They will come more frequently from now on, I promise.

As I watch the new season of Mad Men unfold, several thoughts cross my mind every time I watch an episode.

First off, I know why HBO decided to pass on it, probably to their detrment. There's not enough action for the network of The Sopranos, Deadwood and True Blood. Even on shows which were more character based--- Six Feet Under, The Wire, etc. There was always a certain amount of action. Mad Men flows a lot slower, at a pace that no doubt struck some of the other networks as near glacial. I'm not criticizing. It is in the smaller things that Mad Men has it's finest moments. When we see Betty Draper unnecessarily scold one of her children, or watch Roger Sterling subtly watch a secretary, we see the minor cracks in the picture perfect establishment.
And given the fact that the shows rating have been slowly going up for each succeeding season, it's good to see that more and more people have been willing to go on this particular journey.

Another thing that becomes more and more obvious with each season. The people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are celebrated for being retro. They're the establishment. What none of the characters realize is that they're quickly becoming old-fashioned. In a memorable moment, disguised as a throwaway, Bert Cooper discussed with another fellow Republican how Medicare and Civil Rights were going to bring down the end of civilization. And right now, the woman that they regard as little more than eye candy are on the verge of a revolution of their own. The series just entered 1965, which means that they're about to become--- to millions of young people--- the enemy. We saw hints of it in this week's show; I've got a feeling it's going to get a lot less subtle in succeeding episodes.

The Draper's marriage was based on a lie. We saw it implode last season when that lie was discovered. It's also clear that they're no happier apart then they were together. I love watching January Jones struggle with the desperation of Betty. She seemed imprisoned by her life the first season of the show. She tried to rebel against it in Season 2, but was brought back to earth when she became pregnant with their third child. She tried to find happiness both with and without Don, and finally seemed to break in the last few episodes. But as has become obvious, she's no happier without him than with him. If anything, her children seem to have become even more unhappy, and it's more clear she was never meant to be a mother. Don is little better off on his own. He's splitting his energy between half-hearted dates with friends of friends, and now he seems to be openly seeing prostitutes. This episode, he saw Anna, and he seemed happier with her than we've seen with any other woman. But now she is dying of cancer, and he dealt with this by going straight in the arms of a $25 hooker. Is happiness even possible for these people? Will the series end with them coming back together somehow? Cause these people can't fit in the world's they've built for themselves.

It's always like pulling teeth to get information about what will happen next week, but I would remind the people at Sterling Cooper, et al. the times they are in changing, and I can't wait to see how Roger Sterling reacts when he learns his daughter listens to Dylan.

Stay tuned for more news.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Emmy Time! The Votes Are In

For me this is the most wonderful time of the year. Awards seasons always get my blood pumping, partly because of the hope that some of the greatest television around will be recognized for their skill. Furthermore, the predictions that I made were about the same results. They did nominate the old standbys, but their was for the first time in awhile, a much needed infusion of new blood. Let's go over some of the things that made me feel warm inside.

Glee --- Is there ever a more accurate description? Few shows have deserved so much joy, and they'll probably win a good deal of those 19 nominations. I was perhaps happiest to see that Chris Colfer earned a nomintion for his work as Kurt, the member of New Directions who is responsible for some of the most superb moments. I was also gratified to see Mike O'Malley get honored for his work as Kurt's father. This guys come a long way from Yes, Dear. I don't know if Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele will win, but they deserve a chance at the big prize.

Mad Women--- Yes, the men at Sterling Cooper are ultra cool, but the woman of this show are even more appealing. January Jones work as Betty Draper has been ignobly ignored for the past two seasons, so I was glad to see that she got recognized. Elisabeth Moss continues to wow as Peggy, who I'm convinced by the end of the series will be running an agency of her own. And Christina Hendricks is the epitome of svelte on this show as Joan Holloway, especially when she left her husbands side to join the new agency Sterling is founding. Let's hope they recognize her talent as welll as her figure.

The REAL Showtime powers---- Last Season of Weeds was probably it's most unfunny, so I'm glad the voters didn't just cut and paste it's nominations from last year, and instead recognized Edie Falco and Nurse Jackie. And it's also good that Dexter, which had it's best season, racked up eight nominations (Still, John Lithgow, best Guest Actor, not Supporting? Really? I know they did it for Jimmy Smits last year, but I kind of think that was misplaced as well? Oh well...

Lighting up Fridays --- I'm not a big fan of the show, but I can't help but feel impressed that Emmy Voters finally got their heads out of the sand, and recognized real talent in an unwatched you, when they nominated Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for their work on Friday Night Lights. Show aside, I've been a big fan of these actors work for over a decade in countless solid performers, and they might be able to run an upset to pull off a victory.

Damages Done? ---- F/X still won't say whether the brilliant legal drama has a future, even though it is, for the third year running, the networks most recognized show. I do think they could've recognized Campbell Scott and Lily Tomlin's work really belonged in the Supporting Actress category, and it deserved a Best Drama nod, certainly more than True Blood. Here's hoping this earns them one last bite at the apple

Guest Actors --- Traditionally, Guest ACtor and Guest Actress are given away in an earlier ceremony, but considering some of the nominees this year, the Academy might want to rethink that stratagem.

Consider: In Best Guest Actor in a Drama, we have Dylan Baker and Alan Cumming for the Good Wife, Robert Morse for Mad Men, Ted Danson for Damages, John Lithgow for Dexter, and Gregory Itzin for 24, and Beau Bridges for a swell one-shot on the Closer. Best Guest ACtress isn't as flashy, but we still have Sissy Spacek, the one good thing about Big Love this season, Elizabeth Mitchell for Lost, Lily Tomlin for Damages, and Ann Margaret for Law and Order:SVU. I'd pay to see who comes out on top in either of those matchups. . Comedy isn't as flashy, but with Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenowith, Christine Baranski, Jane Lynch, Jon Hamm all double dipping, they'd have some reason to watch. I know it ain't gonna happen, but the show could be so much more fun.

Out of their grooves---- And with this influx of new blood, the Emmys seem to have shaken some habits that I have been wishing they'd break for years. Finally, Grey's Anatomy, House, and Entourage are out of the Emmy Gods systems after years of diminishign returns. Maybe we can have some proof that the awards aren't stuck in a five years ago. And in the ultimate screw you, Conan O'Brian got nominated for the Tonight Show, and Jay Leno didn't. Conan if you win anything August 29, just say something like: "I would like to thank NBC for all the faith they had in us." Though personally I'll be routing for Bill Maher or Stephen Colbert.

That's it for recognition. Next post, I'll discuss some of the biggest snubs. (Treme, anyone?)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Final Five. I thought quite a bit over these

It's taken me nearly six months, but I've finally reached the end of this list. Glad that I did it, but I really want to hear is how horribly you disagree with me, or which ones I left out. For several of these shows, I could have picked multiple episodes, but I tried to find the one that may have had the greatest impact. You've got any better ideas, let me have it

24--- Day 5: 6:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M.
This one probably presented the greatest challenge of all the shows: how do you pick the best from what is essentially eight different shows? And how do you choose an episode from one where every piece is integral to overall effect? You choose the one that has the moment that probably resonated more in the middle of what the series greatest day. We see the Vice President arrive on the scene raised to appear to be the probable villain. You put Jack Bauer in the same room with the daughter he betrayed when he faked his own death nearly eighteen months earlier. You make one of the most insidious attacks on the most daring group of terrorist--- CTU's been attacked from within and without, but never quite like this. And then you kill everyone with nerve gas --- including one particular CTU tech. Considering how many regulars the creators had axed so far this season (people we'd known for longer and were more invested in) it's surprising that chubby Edgar Stiles who we hardly know really meant so much to us. Perhaps it's just the way he dies--- his running on to the scene with no way of escape, his slow little cough as he doubles over, and the horrified expression on Chloe O'Brian's face as this man she feuded with dies right in front of her eyes. Her look made that scene. We didn't need the ticking clock to go silent; her look was so devestating that it really said it all.

Lost --- There's No Place Like Home, Part 2 and 3
Say what you will about the last episode--- the finales that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof designed for this jigsaw of a show were positively brilliant, and this one shined brighter than most. We thought that rescue had come for some of the Oceanic survivors, instead all it seemed to bring was death, but there were so many set pieces Sawyer's swan dive of the helicopter to allow his fellow passengers to be rescued, Ben's act of revenge against the mercenary who killed his daughter, the helicopter flying off the freighter just in time for Sun to (apparently) see her husband get blown to smithereens--- all of this shock, balanced by the awe when Desmond was reunited with his beloved Penelope after nearly eight years, the apparent moving of the island (still not sure where it actually went) and, oh yeah, the revelation that in the future John Locke was the man in the coffin. All of this seems byzantine when I describe it (and believe me, even when you know what's happening , it's still confusing) but this demonstrated better than any other how remarkable an accomplishment Lost truly was. Even knowing the ultimate fate of all the characters that were involved, it's still a hell of a shock and watching it blows my mind and brings a tear to the eye. Episodes like this are why we watch series like Lost in the first place.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer --- Hush
There are at least six or seven episodes of this series that register as some of the most landmark in television, so choosing this one--- the only one of this series to even earn an Emmy nomination --- may seem a bit obvious. But it's not just that Joss Whedon elected to due an episode of his series without dialogue for nearly forty minutes. It's that he elected to do this series--- where the rapid fire repartee was ninety percent of thefun--- without dialogue. Amazingly, none of the series trademark humor got sacrificed--- there are at least a dozen brilliant sight gags locating throughout the episode. It also happened to have one of the scariest standalone monsters--- the Gentlemen, with faces that looked like they were right out of German horror films. This also celebrates the introduction of Tara, the shy little woman who would become Willow's greatest love, and finally reveal the exsistence of the Initiative, which has been stalking Buffy since the beginning of Season 4. And considering how much of the brilliance of this show centers around the general kick-ass nature of the heroines, it's rather ironic that the key to stopping what was the most dangerous threat was a woman's scream. This was a landmark episode, and demonstrated why Joss and Sarah Michelle Gellar should have been wracking up an Emmy a year. Another blog.

The Wire --- Middle Ground
This is an even harder pick than 24. How do you separate a show that tells so many intricate interlocking stories with so many characters, and then try to pick out one that is the most amazing. That may have been one of the reasons this show got even less Emmy love than Buffy. Watching Major Colvin try to justify the establishment of a drug free zone than led to a major reduction of crime is hard enough because even though it worked, the city councilman he's selling it to will deliver enough information to bury it and him. The case to try and bring down Stringer Bell--- an investigation that essentially had to have the Major Case Squad sell pre-tapped cell phones to a bunch of drug dealers is creative marketing, to the say the least. But what makes this episode last in the mind is Stringer Bell's fate. For years, he's been trying to negotiate a middle path to sell drugs with less death. He believes every solution can be solved with money. Which is why there's something tragic about his eventually dying by being in a situation with the bloodthirsty Omar Little that he just can't negotiate out of. The best laid plans of mice and Baltimore detectives are not able to get him in jail in time to stop him from meeting his fate at the end of two shotguns. And the fact that so many fans of the show were horrified that this murderous, cold-blooded drug dealer met his end just goes to show how brilliant David Simon is as a writer. There is no good and evil in the world of The Wire, and the fact that Simon thinks both Bell and Colvin's approaches might have merit in this world, only guarantees that they will be ground into dirt by the system they are both locked into.

Homicide --- Crosetti
Another flashpoint for debate--- this police drama was the best television of the nineties. And even though it should so many episodes demonstrating the effect of murder, none-- not even their billiant 'Subway' episode in 1997, matched the power of this earleir episode. Detective Crosetti hasn't come back from a supposed vacation in Atlantic City. Which is why it comes as a huge shock that a bloated, waterlogged corpse dragged out of the harbor belongs to the detective. Everyone in Homicide knows what has happened, but Meldrick Lewis can not accept that his partner has killed himself. He spends most of the episode trying to convince all of Crosetti's associates that he was all right, while Stan Bolander tries to convince him otherwise. The moment when the autopsy's results are revealed finally break him, and leads to a wrenching moment of agony for everybody. The rest of the episode is dealt with what seems to be part of the mundane, Lieutenant Giardello trying to get an honor guard for his fallen detective, and ultimately failing, Munch trying to get a coffin from his undertaker brother, Pembleton and Bayliss trying to buy cookies for the wake. All of this is balanced by Frank Pembeleton (the peerless Andre Braugher) appearing to act like a self-righteous jerk for almost the entire episode, refusing to go to church because of his own personal antagonism towards God. Which makes the last two minutes of this episode so moving. As the funeral procession walks by the Homicide Unit, standing there is Pembleton in full uniform, performing a one-man honor guard. No matter how many times I watch this episode, I can't see the last couple of scenes without crying. I've seen a lot of beloved characters deis on TV (many of them mentioned in these posting, but this one, more than any of the others hits the hardest. It's been over sixteen years since I first saw it, but it's still arguably the most wrenching moment I've ever seen.

Please by all means tell me how wrong I am. Tomorrow I will be ranting (or cheering) at this year Emmy nominations. Stay tuned to this site for more diatribes

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Top ten of the Past 20

Well, it's taken me nearly three months to get here, but I finally made it ---- the top ten TV episodes that, in my mind, are the high points of television in the past twenty years.. I don't know if I'll take the same kind of heat that TV Guide does (unlikely, even I'm not egocentric enough to think I've that big) I am just a humble scribe who has watched a LOT of TV in his life. I welcome any other opinions, or really justa response or too.

OK. I've stalled long enough. Here goes.

Mad Men ---- The Grown Ups
The minute I learned that Season 3 was going to take place in 1963 (and that Roger Sterling's daughter was going to get married in November) I knew they were going to interesect with the Kennedy assassination. It's one thing to know it; it's another to see it. Watching these characters (most of whom are rock ribbed Republicans) deal with perhaps the seminal event of the 20th Century was stunning. Seeing them crowd around the TV's, watching Sterling's wedding going on with only half the usual attendance--- it was mesmerizing. One of the key moments came when Pete's wife said: "I don't care what you're politics are --- you don't kill the President"--- we know how people can say something like this, because tragedy causes us to say things we know sound idiotic. This was a realism I hadn't expected, even from this show. And watching the Draper's marriage (which had been hanging by a thread all season) finally implode gave us a chance to see Jon Hamm and the criminally undervalued January Jones do some of their finest work in a year which had already demonstrated Emmy caliber work. Other episodes have gotten more publicity, but this one shown t he brightest

The Simpsons --- 22 Short Films About Springfield
It's been on the air at least five or six years too long, but it has produced some of the most endearing image in TV comedy. And no other episode demonstrate the true depth of the shows depth then this little gem. Taken as a riff on all of the background characters that the Simpsons has, they try to do a lot of little vignettes on how Springfield really operates. From Apu's five minute party to Mr. Burns 'helping' Smithers practically kill himself, Moe finally collecting some of Barney's 14 billion dollar bar tab only to immediately be robbed by Snake, the Tarentino like bit in the Krusty Burgers, Wiggums ineptitude even in getting runover by a hoodlum--- this demonstrates how versatile the Simpsons cast really is, even with the first family getting little more than walkons. There may have been other Simpsos that had more hysterical moments, but this one better than anything else demonstrates the quintessential Simpsons

The X-Files --- One Breath
Darin Morgan's episodes were landmarks in TV history, and rightfully so, but some of the best scripts in the shows early years were written by his brother Glen and collaborator James Wong. Few demonstrated better how clearly the X-Files would work, which is odd, because there really isn't much supenatural that's in it. Rather, it's a character piece as Scully, missing for three months is finally returned to a DC hospital, just clinging to life. The episode focuses on Mulder's desperate efforts to find out who did this, and spends almost the entire episode considering giving into his dark side. Most of the quasi-regulars on this show--- the Lone Gunmen, the Cigarette Smoking Man, Skinner, X (my favorite of all of Mulder's informants) and Maggie Scully give some of their finest performances in this episode. In the end, Mulder is left with a choice between dark and light--- he can kill the men who abducted Scully, or he can spend what might be her last night by her bed. He chooses the latter. We never know what helped Scully come back from the jaws of death, and for once, we don't need to know. And for those people who believed David Duchovny's face is unexpressionless, his look of pure joy when he hears Scully is alive speaks volumes. In that moment, I knew--- all evidence to the contrary--- Mulder was in love with Scully. Why'd it take them six more years to realize it? THat's another blog

The West Wing --- In Excelsius Deo
The Thanksgiving episodes are required viewing at my house, but the Christmas episodes of this series would lead to some of the finest moments in TV history. The majority of them would focus on the relationship between chief of staff Leo and his deputy Josh. Knowing a scandal is coming involving Leo, Josh tries to run a counterstrike by going to a friend of Sam's who's is also a call girl. Leo tells him not to, Sam tells him not to, Josh does it anyway, the girl chews him out royally, and later Leo does the same. But when Josh asks if this was supposed to mean something, Leo said: "It did." These are two people who will go to the ends of the earth for each other. Of course the meat of this episode occurs when Toby gets a call from the DC polcie and learns a homeless man has died wearing a coat he gave to Goodwill. The normally stoic Toby goes into this, learns he was a Korean war vet, and uses his power to give him a military burial. The final sequence, intercutting that funeral with Little Drummer Boy, may have been the finest the show ever did, and still raises a lump in my throat every time I watch it. Plus CJ learns her Secret Service names is Flamingo, Donna tries to get Josh to go Christmas shopping for her, and the President visits a rare book store. Really you couldn't ask for more from this series, and Aaron Sorkin did his damnedest to give it to us.

Frasier ---- An Affair to Forget
I'll probaby get derided by this til the day I die, but I've always held that this show--- not Seinfeld, not Friends, not Everybody Loves Raymond--- was the funniest show of the 90s. It hat a slightly higher intellectual tone that other shows didn't, while constantly putting its characters through situations that could only be described as pure farce. No episode demonstrated this better than this one where Frasier comes to believe that Niles' never-to-be-seen wife Maris is having an affair with a Bavarian fencing instructor. Frasier goes to extremes to keep this from Niles, but their maids trouble with pronouns and a sensory deprivation tank leads to the truth coming out. Urged on by Martin, Niles tries to engage in a fight with him--- only to learn he speaks no English. This leaders to the maid translating the instructors German into Spanish, which Frasier ends up translating into English. The two engage in a duel after Niles insults him to the following brilliant exchange--- Niles: En garde! Frasier: Oh yes, that's all we needed: a fourth language! There have been brilliant comic moments on almost every season of this spinoff, but none matched the pure comedy gold of this episode. David Hyde-Pierce, please come back to TV

Tomorrow, the final five. ALmost there now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Said I'd Finish it And I will

Many moons ago I started this site with an intent to name the 50 greatest episodes on TV in the last 20 years. Truth is, the closer you get to greatness the harder it is to measure up, and I've been trying to pick and choose. After several weeks and some analysis, I think I've finally narrowed it down.

So here, in no particular order, are the next five:

Quantum Leap --- Lee Harvey Oswald
Perhaps naturally enough, because it was the seminal event of an entire generation, the events surrounding JFK's assassination are at the heart of two of them. I've always had a soft spot for this show, and I've always considered this episode, it's finest hour. For the first time, Sam leaps into a 'famous' person, and there's a good chance that he's not alone this time We see Oswald in the midst of his long path, and watching Sam become more intermeshed is one of the most frightening events the series did. We see that Sam come this close to committing the ultimate horror, only to fail in the last minute. This takes the more frightening, and (at least in the shows creators mind) more plausible scenario that Oswald was the sole orchestrator of the events of November 22, 1963, and it is by far the most realistic look (from an erstwhile scifi show!).

Once and Again ---- Let's Spend the Night Together
Never mind all the sex and lust that pervade cable about having a relationship. This unjustly ratings deprived so by TV geniuses Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz depicted romance in one of the most realistic ways I've ever seen on any medium. Watching Sela Ward and Billy Campbell as two forty-something divorced parents trying to give love a second chance led to some fairly genius work, and this episode demonstrated how great it could be. Watching them wind their way to their first sexual encounter was good enough, but the last ten minutes are among the most realistically sexual--- and romantic--- moments of TV relationships I've ever seen. It had a good run, considering its ratings, but shows like this don't come around as often as this.

Picket Fences --- The Dancing Bandit
I'd have a special place in my heart for this series even if it wasn't for, a bright shining moment, one of the truly great series of all times. I was fourteen when this episode aired, and found the stories and the character of Marlee Matlin's 'Dancing Bandit' bank robber so engaging, that I started watching this series regularly the following week--- this is the wellspring of my fascination with great television. But even seperate my feelings, this was a great show as David E. Kelley would for the first time demonstrate the true power of his genius. If nothing else this show demonstrated what a brilliant actress Matlin is --- it's hard to imagine some shows without her. This was a great moment in a fine series, and hopefeully, it'll make it to DVD someday

30 Rock --- Rosemary's Baby
Pretty much any episode from Tina Fey's laugh a second series is a masterpiece, but this diamond shown more brightly than most. I'm not sure which plotline is more side-splitting--- Liz getting in an argument with Jack, and leaving the show to write with her favorite idol--- only to realize in the past twenty years, she's gone completely round the bend, or Tracy's decision to take up dogfighting that leads to his therapy session, which leads to Alec Baldwin's hilarious reenactment of the Jordan household in the wildest group therapy session you'll ever see. And we know watching Carrie Fisher that she was going to send up Star Wars somehow, but the waY she does it--- that's comedy genius.

L.A. Law --- God Rest Ye Little Gentlemen
Technically, I shouldn't be counting this because I only watched it in syndication, but that doesn't change the fact that it was one of the formative shows of TV history, and this episode has a good measure of why it was. Of particular interest is Victor's case involving a doctor suffering with Elephant Man's disease. He's on the wrong side for once, and it's interesting to watch the show from that perspective. Or you can just watch Jon Glover's Emmy-nominated performance,; same difference. From watching the death of Roxanne's father (a good one, as he was spared the tortures of Alzheimers) to the annual Christamas party, this episode is one of the few that shows genuinely at peace with eac other. Which is good, because Rosalind Shays is about to reenter their lives, and once they do, disorder and chaso will shake the firm to it's foundation.

Stay tuned for the last ten episodes. Some real greats among them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Emmy Posts --- Part 2

Sorry for the delay--- Here is my second round of Emmy Picks, the comedies this time

Best Comedy
30 Rock --- Four years in, and it still sparkles like a diamond. What do they need to get viewers, have all musical episodes?

Glee --- Take away the fact that it's a phonemon, and you'd still have one of the best shows on TV. Never has being a loser been so much delightful.

How I Met Your Mother --- I wish that Ted would hurry up and meet her, but the byplay between the basic five characters is so brilliant, I could still wait forever.

Modern Family --- Any other year, this would have been the breakout show. It still features one of the best group of comic actors I've ever seen

Nurse Jackie --- This is the Showtime dramedy that deserves to be recognized because it is funny and as addictive as, well, a snort full of Percocet. Don't ever change, Jackie

The Office ---- Still funny after all these years. What else do I need to say?

Best Actor, Comedy

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock --- Does everything on this show but sing and dance, and I'm pretty convinced he could do that, too.

Steve Carell, The Office --- Considering that next year may be the sitcoms final taste, we might want to consider honoring him for six years of awkward genius.

Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm--- I liked the Seinfeld storyline too, but this guys quirks still make this show shine after nearly a decade.

Matthew Morrison, Glee --- I've loved watching him thrill all season, and he can do anything to make us laugh.

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory --- This is the Jim Lorre performer who should be recognized for his skill. Let's hope the focus is off Charlie Sheen.

Tony Shalhoub, Monk --- Never much cared for it, but I have to admit his work in the final two episodes was a good mix of comedy and drama as it promised all those years ago

Best Actress

Toni Colette, United States of Tara --- Showtime is where all of the abrasive, complex woman hang out, and watching Tara deal with all her crisis --- and two more personalities is always fun.

Courtney Cox, Cougar Town -- Forget the icky title, and revel in her glory. Besides, we owe her for ignoring her decade of work at Friends

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie --- A character with bigger issues that Carmela Soprano? Only she could have played Jackie Peyton, even though she'll have to buy a new trophy case for the prizes she'll win here.

Tina Fey, 30 Rock --- Oh, Liz Lemon, will you ever find love? Or relative normality? She hasn't changed in four season, to which I can only say huzzah

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, The New Adventures of Old Christine --- This was a good show that deserved a better fate. Let's hope she's around for one last bow.

Lea Michelle, Glee --- Rachel can fill up a room just by being there, and watching her perform is astounding. She deserves to be recognized.

Best Supporting Actor

Chris Coifer, Glee --- The show's secret weapon. He's a great performer and comic, but the most marvelous moments of this series have come between Kurt and his fathers relationship, any one of which was Emmy worthy

Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother --- This guy can sing and dance. And host award shows. And made one of the most indelible characters on the TV landscape. Will the fourth time be the charm?

Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock --- It's not easy to play things as daffy as he can. This guy deserves as much credit for this shows working as Baldwin and Fey. How else is he going to complete his GOTE?

Kevin McHale, Glee--- Doesn't take center stage often enough, but when we watch Artie, the heart melts. He's a lot more than the guy in the wheelchair

Ed O'Neill, Modern Family--- Any member of this cast is brilliant, but I've been in this guys corner since Married With Children. This is another perfect marriage between show and actor.

Rainn Wilson, The Office --- You can never have too much Dwight Schrute.

Best Supporting Actress

Diana Agron, Glee --- If you watch the show from Pilot to Season end, Quinn took the greatest journey of any character this year. This is a woman with a lot of range.

Eve Best, Nurse Jackie --- It's not easy to steal scenes from Edie Falco and Anna Deveare Smith, but this doctor can do it. She's a diamond in the rough, this one.

Julie Bowen, Modern Family --- Again this is a personal preference--- the whole cast is brilliant, but I've been a fan of hers through four different TV shows. She deserves to be recognized for her work sometime

Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock --- Has been at the top of her game for four years, and her romance was one of the most screamingly funny highlights of the show.

Jane Lynch, Glee --- The most stunning character of a great cast. She's deserved this nod from the first time we saw here. That's not just how Sue sees it.

Amber Riley, Glee --- No shrinking violet, Mercedes has owned the stage every time she steps on it. There are going to be a lot of awards in this woman's future.

Tune in to this blog soon, when I will discuss a couple of more shows to disappear prematurely from the screen this season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Emmy Posts--- Supporting ACtors

Best Supporting Actor, Drama

Nestor Carbonell, Lost --- I didn't think he had a brilliant performance in him, but seeing the epic story of the islands ageless wonder was probably the highlight of a strong season. There's a reason I'll miss Lost

John Goodman, Treme--- There's a lot of talent on this show, but so far, watching this embattled New Orleans writers struggle with his book while ranting about New Orleans n YouTube are among the high points of this series.

John Lithgow, Dexter --- He's played psychos before, but rarely one quite like Arthur Richmond, aka Trinity. And the episode where he walked into Miami Metro, saw the photos of his victims, and just... smiled. Most chilling scene of the season. It's been six months and I still can't get it out of my head

Chris Noth, The Good Wife--- The 'bad husband', its been fascinating watching Noth play a character with a little sleaze in him for once. Sometimes I care more about his election than Alicia's casework, and I'm not alone.

John Noble, Fringe --- Long shot, I know, but his stunning performance in the episode where Walter lost his son, and the finale where we finally met the Walternate probably the most brilliant work of an already strong series.

Martin Short, Damages --- He can do a serious role, and because the character he played was putting on a performance of his own, that gives us another reason to revel in this evil lawyers schemes.

Best Supporting Actress

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife--- Took what could have been a cliched part and has really made it her own. Deserves to have credit for this next to all the nominations she's gotten for playing comedy.

Rose Byrne, Damages --- This season Ellen dealt with some pretty big demons of her own, on top of her dance with Patty. If this is the series last hurrah, let's give her the love she deserves

Cherry Jones, 24--- Not as good as the last year; watching the final eight episodes and her moral collapse was mesmerizing. Just another example of when bad things happen to good presidents

Melissa Leo, Treme--- Don't get me wrong; Khandi Alexander and Kim Dickens are brilliant too, but watching Leo's lawyer try to get through the morass of the New Orleans justic system is one hell of a windmill to tilt at it. Besides, I've been a fan of hers since Homicide; she deserves a nomination for something.

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men --- Always fascinating to watch, at the rate she's going, Peggy will be the head of her own agency by the end of the 60's. She can do just about anything

Lily Tomlin, Damages --- Watching the Tobin matriarch preside over a crumbling family situation while trying to hold on to her money and dignity was quite memorable, particularly when it became clear thats she couldn't. And she's never won for any major show. Sensing a theme?

Tomorrow, I take up the comedies.

The Season is Over-- Emmy Time begins

It's been another good year for TV--- Jay Leno wars at NBC non-withstanding. And now we've reached the time of year that often fills me with the most anticipation--- the period where the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gives its picks for this years Emmy nominations.

Now I know that while this organization is supposed to celebrate the best and the brightest, it has a nasty habit of ignoring quiet great shows for flashier, birghter show, and the better shows are usually ignored. (For my first witness, I call Joss Whedon) But they've shown better sense the last few years with gives me hope that might be refocused. And this season will give them a chance to make up for some past slights.

So here are the shows and actors that I think should be nominated this year, along with my logic. Because this is a big project I'll do it in two posts

First, the Dramas

Damages --- I still don't know if this show has a future, but it doesn't change the fact that this may have been its finest season. This show has redefined what a legal drama can do.

Dexter--- This show gets better with every year. And this season dealing with the Trinity Killer may have presented us with Dexter Morgan's most worthy adversary. Plus the finale still has me reeling.

The Good Wife -- Just when you thought there were no good courtroom dramas anymore, this show comes back to redefine both legal and political drama. This has a formidable future ahead of it

Lost --- Even if you had a problem with the final episode, it doesn't change the fact that this magical mystery tour ended stronger than any other series before it. And it deserves to be honor for its superb six years on the air

Mad Men--- I don't know what there is that's left to say about this show that hasn't been said before, save that watching the Drapers marriage implode while simultaneously dealing with JFK's assassination was a landmark episode even for a series which sets the bar high each year. And that wasn't even their finest hour this year.

Treme--- All right, it's not as good as The Wire, but David Simon's latest series demonstrates that he truly is one of the most important writers of any generation. And honoring him for this would make up for ignoring him twice before.

Best Actor, Drama

Matthew Fox, Lost--- His work on this series was always excellent, but he surpassed it this year. Considering he will probably never do another show, we should honor one of the most undervalued actors in one of TV's finest shows

Michael C. Hall, Dexter --- I thought that there wasn't anything that Dexter could do that could surprise me. But watching Dexter's confrontation with Trinity and it's immediate aftermath was devestating. I still get shakes thinking about i

Jon Hamm, Mad Men --- The real man in the grey flannel suit, he dealt with the loss of his liberty, the revelation of his true identity, the death of his marriage, and started a new Sterling Cooper. What the hell does he have to do to get an Emmy?

Peter Krause, Parenthood --- This generation's Henry Fonda, his dignified work on this rapidly improving series is special. Three brilliant series, no Emmy love: come on

Hugh Laurie, House -- Turns out House off Vicodin is just as fascinating on Vicodin. He alone makes this fading series engaging six years later

Kiefer Sutherland, 24 --- This is a sentimental favorite, but come on, watching Jack Bauer on a vengeance kick showed us why we followed him for the last nine years.

Best Actress, Drama
Glenn Close Damages -- What can I say about her that hasn't been said the last three years?

Lauren Graham, Parenthood--- Her work on this series isn't quite as good as it was on Gilmore Girls, but give her time. She may not have been the first choice for the role, but it's hard to believe it now

Holly Hunter, Saving Grace --- Why are they killing this show after just three seasons? This may be the last chance we get to honor the most gutty policewoman on TV.

January Jones, Mad Men-- Frankly, she should have gotten a nomination the last two years, and her work was not significantly better than it was this year. That's how high she sets the bar. Betty Draper may never find happiness, but we do just watching her.

Julianna Marguilies, The Good Wife --- It's hard to believe, but Alicia Florrick makes all those years being the heart of ER seem like she was being underutilized. The heavy favoritr.

Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer--- I actually feel sorry for some of the murderers that Brenda Leigh Johnson interrogates. And I feel for someone who is so fixed in her routines she can't bear to witness her cat be put down. These are the reasons I love her.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Finding a way to fill the gap

As I posted on my blog last week between 9PM last Sunday and 11 PM last Monday, we lsot three of the most signifcant shows in Television history--- Lost, 24 , and Law & Order. I feel it's now in my interest to recite a little eulogy.

For one hundred and seventeen episodes (I may be counting wrong; I'd appreciate it if someone checked my math) Lost was one oft he most brilliantly written, superbly acted, and masterfully composed series in television history. The final two hours will probably stand as the most polarizing moment in the history of any medium, probably for decades. The very fact that so many people are disappointed or up in arms over it (and I'm one of them, let me be clear) just goes to show what a niche in our world that this show has left us with.

Let's be honest. No matter what Damon and Carlton wrote for the final episode, somebody was going to be upset. I am reminded of the dismay that millions no doubt felt with Stephen King completed the final book of his Dark Tower series. In a sense Damon and Carlton were telling us the truth when they said that the answers were never going to be fully satisfying. Cause it always is about the journey and not the destination. I'm upset, not because of what we finally learned about the sideways world, or that the island's secrets never were truly revealed (though I am) but also because I'm never going to see John Locke or Desmond or Hurley or any of the two dozen memorable characters that were created. These people had a place in our lives for six years, and we're going to miss them no matter what we saw of their fates. I watched the final episodes with tears in my eyes before the ending, and even though I did feeled a little cheated, the tears were genuine regardless.

I don't know what Nikki's opinion of 24 was (probably not high enough if it wasn't posting on her site) but in many ways, I thought that it's departure was ironically a little more satisfying. Were the final few hours as preposterously unbelievable as just about everything else that happened during the eight days we watched CTU and Jack Bauer? Of course they were. They gave up plausibility years ago. And considering the political implications of the series (which I found silly, I'm on the complete opposite of the political spectrum than many fans, and I found it appointment television for eight years) I imagine it's appeal has certain limitations. But it was always fascinating to watch the byzantine plots unfold, the tension held within the corridors of powers, and the always spot on work of Kiefer Sutherland, who now may be considered the Clint Eastwood of this generation. Didn't matter how horrible the threat, you could count on him to come through for the good guys. Lost may have had things done in a gray area more then any other series, but 24 got there first, and in many ways, did it better.

And now that they're gone, I suspect we will no longer any attempts to duplicate the idea of serialized mysteries. Which in it's own way is a pity. I may not have liked everything about Invasion or Flashforward or The Nine, but at least these were stories that seemed determine to twist the limits of imagination. I'd rather have that then a dozen more spinoffs of CSI. But all of these series failed. ANd not that the inspirations are gone, I seriously doubt will ever see another series like them. And that's a real blow to TV no matter what you thought of them. We need more series that task the mind.

I may have mocked Law & Order to just about everybody, I may have thought that their last seven or eight seasons were basically examples of cutting and pasting headlines into a formula, and I may not be happy that we keep getting spinoffs that greatly dilute from the original, but that doesn'[t change the fact that for nearly a decade it was one of the most brilliant shows on TV. There may have been so many cast changes that the actors may have seemed irrelevant, but I'll always remember certain aspects of the permormers--- Chris Noth tormented Mike Logan's calm approach to talking to criminals, Jerry Orbach's bitter sarcasm, the way that the cool Michael Moriarity cross examined suspects using 'sir' to show his complete disdain for them, Steven Hill's quiet dignity as he tried to negotiate justice and politics watching his ADA's run rampant. This show was about underplaying, a skill that one now finds mainly on cable Telvision these days, and the cast were masters of it from top to bottom. Should it have been on as long as it was? Probably not. Did it deserve a much better treatment from NBC than it ended up getting? Definitely.

This a great era for television. There are at least a dozen series on TV that feature some writign and acting that is among the best it's ever been. I wouldn't call it a golden age, but silver--- definitely. But these shows were among the benchmarks for what could be achieved when you had all that talent in the right places, when things fired on all cylinders The voids these series left will no doubt be filled with time. In the meantime, we should give a moment of appreciation for these series and what they did for all of us.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reeling After Lost--- Nikki, try and read this

I feel so... so...

I'm going to be going through my own form of withdrawal, so maybe I'm not in the best frame of mind to write this. But Nikki isn't going to be posting on this site until tomorrow at the earliest, and by then, I'll be going through more withdrawal because 24 will be going through it's final episodes, and then I have to get ready for Saving Grace, which begins it's final episodes this Monday. I don't know if Damages has a future, and Law & Order will be finished, though given its rerun quantities, we'll never see the last of that. We're losing a lot of good shows this year.

I watched the last 2 hours and thirty minutes of Lost in a semi-daze, my Lost action figures around me. Now I'm the kind of person who mists up over the smallest things on TV --- there are moments on Scrubs that make me weepy, so I may not be the best person to judge. But I spent half of the first two hours in tears. Part of it was seeing all the characters, most of whom I'd grown very fond of, for the last time.

But part of it was because, Nikki, you were right--- this show DID come down to love. All through the night, we watched character after character finally find their balance as they reunited with the piece in their life that made them whole--- Sun and Jin, their child, Kate and Claire, Aaron, Sayid and Shannon, Sawyer and Juliet, Locke seeing his foot move. All of these moments made me weak at the knees because if all the characters had pieces missing (as Jacob implies in the previous episode) they were all finding it. And I thought maybe that's what the sideways world was for

And the parts of the episode on the island seemed to work well, also. Ben's backhandedness being the element that saved the castaways,, Richard and Frank being found alive (I knew it in Frank's case) the final arrival of the volcano (cause nothing else makes it shake like that) Kate finally choosing between Jack and Sawyer--- and then having that choice thrown back in her face. Jack's final confrontation with Desmond, seeing Bernard and Rose one last time. My own highlight was seeing Desmond confront Mrs. Hawking and give her the verbal smackdown she's deserved sinces 'FLashes Before Her Eyes'.

For two hours the show was working nearly perfectly. It was even running smoothly when Locke got out of his wheelchair after one final conversation where he and Ben finally made peace. And then came those last ten minutes--- Jack coming out of the water on the island, and finally confronting his father, finally getting the peace that he deserved.

So what was my problem? They never explained to the best of my satisfaction what that world was. Was it somehow Jack's perception of what the world was? Was it some kind of heaven? Somehow that doesn't work because it didn't explain why the last few people who flew off the island were. Was this some kind of reward for finally passing the islands test? Did that mean he survived? And was it really that easy to kill the Man in Black? Why did a bullet work where before it failed?

What dissastisfied me was that so many other parts of the character's fates worked so well. Kate convincing Claire to get off the island, Hurley finally choosing Ben to help him make his number two. Bernard and Rose, still alive after all these years, and we know that there is still a way to reunite Des with his Penny. The show was running all sevens for the last couple hours, and then they seemed to fumble on the goal line And while the final shot was symmetrical (and it did make sense that Vincent was there) I don't know if it really satsified.

Does this episode mean that the journey was a waste of time? Of course not. The acting to the end remained flawless, and it was so wonderful to see all our old friends listed on the credits one last time. Damon and Carlton have done such a superb job this season, and they managed to succeed so much better than where other shows like X-Files had failed. It's just that I feel the show worked so brilliantly, and all we needed to make it perfect was maybe one more line of dialogue, and I'd have been able to say: they did it. They managed to meet our wildest expectations. Maybe then I'd have been able to get something I had hoped for--- closure. But then again, considering the nature of Lost, maybe we'd never get that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Found ---- The Best Episodes of Lost

Not long ago, I posed the question to people on this website: what do you consider the greatest episodes of Lost? Depending on how the show wraps up tomorrow, I may have some radically different answers. For now, her are my choice for the favorite episode of every season. These aren't necessarily the best episodes ever --- they're just the ones that made me realize how great a series this was.

Season 1: Walkabout
Yes, the Pilot was awe-inspiring, brilliant and budget-breaking, but despite all the things that happened, when it was over, I was still somewhat uncommitted to the series. When I saw 'Walkabout'--- especially the last two minutes--- I said to myself "I'm in. As long as the writers produce like this, I'm in." The first of a long series of brilliant performances by Terry O'Quinn, he introduced us to the quite fascinating John Locke, and made him a character we cared about. The final minutes of this episodes are one of the greatest twist endings of all time. Both O'Quinn and the episode should've won Emmys.

Season 2 --- The 23rd Psalm
Eko was one of favorite characters on this show, and I was devastated when he was killed. Not only did this episode almost tell a complete story from beginning to end, and link it to something that we had seen before, it also gave us our first real look at the monster. When Eko stared it in the face, it retreated, which leads me to believe that he might really have been a candidate had he survived. The acting and writing is stunning, and it reached a level that Lost hit far less often in season 2

Season 3 --- The Man Behind the Curtain
Nothing against 'Flashes Before Your Eyes' and 'Through the Looking Glass', but Ben Linus has always been one of the most brilliant villains in television history. This episode was the first really to suggest that he wasn't always that way. We also get our first real look at the Dharma Initiative, as well as the Purge. And then there's Ben, Locke and the cabin (even though it wasn't what we thought it was) I only wish we'd resolved who Annie was, but that's one mystery I wouldn't mind being left unsolved

Season 4 --- The Constant
All right, it 's a cliche, but this was probably the most mind-bending episodes this series ever did. The first to suggest that time travel was going to play a role in the series, it established a link between those eccentrics Desmond and Daniel. But we all know that the real reason we love this episode is the last couple of minutes when Desmond and his beloved Penny finally talk to each other for the first time in four years. Their love story is one in a million, and I really hope that the writers allow it a happy ending.

Season 5 --- The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham
The backstory between Locke and his trip back to try and convince the Oceanic 6 the return to the island. It demonstrates once again how often he fails when his faith deserts him. It shows him getting stuck between Widmore and Ben, until the last minutes when he ends up become the latest casualty in their decades long war. What's sad is that this may have been the last time we ever really saw John Locke. I really hope that this isn't the case for the finale.

Season 6 --- Ab Aeterno
They've almost all been winners in the final season, but this last real flashback episode answered so many of the questions we've had for years--- what happened to the statue, how the Black Rock ended up in the jungle, and how the ageless wonder Richard Alpert ended up the way he is. Nestor Carbonell was magnificent in this episode, which also featured another look at Jacob and his nemesis. I really think that Richard is still alive, and that he has a much bigger part to play in the finale.