Monday, September 29, 2008

Series Premieres And Season Debuts– Week of September 29 – October 5, 2008

I'm working on that Amazing Race recap I wanted to do, but a couple of other things got into my way – okay, distracted me. Priority has to go to the update of Premieres and Debuts though. Fortunately we're mostly over heavy push of that from the networks. There's stuff that will dribble (I nearly typed "drivel" which in some cases isn't far from the truth) in over the next couple of weeks but we're pretty close to done with that right now. We've had our first show given the bum's rush, and I quite honestly can't imagine anyone outside of the cast and crew of Do Not Disturb who thinks that it should have gotten more time to establish an audience. Finally, as a shout out to my friend and blogging buddy Bill Crider, who is down to four over the air channels "thanks" to Hurricane Ike and the fine "Comcastic" folks at Comcast who 17 days after the storm still haven't restored his damned cable (and have Bill thinking of going over to AT&T). I don't know which is the biggest disaster.


NBC has the season debut of Chuck, the tongue in cheek spy dramedy. My brother loves this show so much that he had a marathon on Sunday evening of his DVD set. Volume set high and the only thing drowning it out was his laughter. Annoying as hell when you're trying to watch Mad Men or even Desperate Housewives.

NBC also has the season debut of Life, the Damian Lewis series about a cop who was wrongly convicted of a murder and after he was exonerated went back to the LAPD with a huge settlement check, a desire to find the people who set him up, and a Zen attitude which got him through twelve years in prison. Oh yeah and a near fetish-like appreciation for fresh fruit. The show moves to its permanent Friday time slot later this week. This was the best NBC show last season and beats just about everything that the network is promising for this season. Bill, if you're not watching this one already, check it out.


ABC has the season debut of Pushing Daisies, the extremely quirky series about a guy who can bring people back to life by touching them but if he touches them again they're dead and it's permanent. Naturally the love of his life is someone he touched.

ABC also has the season debut of Private Practice, the Shonda Rimes spin-off of Grey's Anatomy, featuring the beautiful Kate Walsh.

Finally ABC has the season debut of Dirty Sexy Money. The incredibly wealthy Darling family is back with new ways to make their lawyer crazy. A great cast headed by Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, and Billy (the relatively sane one) Baldwin.


All of the networks – well except The CW have that new reality show The Vice Presidential Debate. I hear it might be cancelled after the first episode though.


CBS rolls out Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt and her breasts. Truly an amazing network that can broadcast this and
The Mentalist even if it isn't on the same night. By the way Bill, if you haven't checked out The Mentalist (on Tuesday night) you might like it too.

CBS has the series premiere of The Ex-List which I gather is supposed to be some sort of romantic comedy-drama. Looks and sounds (from the concept only) absolutely dreadful.

Finally CBS has the season debut of Numb3rs. When last we left the Eppes Family and their assorted associates, Charlie had been stripped of his security clearance for emailing information on a project that the Department of Homeland Security initially considered to be helpful to terrorists but later decided wasn't. Net result – for the first episode at least – is that Charlie can't help Don anymore. The only thing on CBS I watch on Fridays.

ABC is returning with the season premiere of Wife Swap. Something else for me not to watch.

ABC also starts the new season of Supernanny. See above.

The CW has the season debut of their hit sitcom ("hit" being a relative term with The CW) Everybody Hates Chris.

The CW also has the season debut of their football comedy The Game. I really have nothing to say about these two shows.


FOX has the season debut of Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy, the show the PTC loves to hate from the man the PTC loves to hate.

FOX has the season debut of Seth MacFarlane's American Dad. The PTC hates this show only slightly less than they hate Family Guy.

FOX has the season debut of The Simpsons and King Of The Hill as well. I think I may have led you to believe that these started last week. I was, like Rick in Casablanca, misinformed.

The CW starts off their night with two episodes of the reality show 4Real. This series was actually created for MTV Canada and then sold to The CW for reasons that aren't at all clear to me. The show takes celebrities to different parts of the world and has them helping with aid projects. The first two episodes feature Cameron Diaz in the Peruvian Andes, and K'naan connecting with a local hero in the slums of Kibera, Kenya.

The CW rolls out their Media Rights Capital series. First we have two episodes of the Reality series In Harm's Way from the creator of Dirtiest Jobs. These episodes deal with Bull Riders and Coast Guard rescue swimmers looks almost interesting.

The CW next has the series debut of Valentine about a family of Olympian gods sent to Earth to help people find true love. No, really, that's what it's about.

Finally The CW gives us Easy Money, about a lovable if dysfunctional family of loan sharks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Amazing Race 13 - Casting

I had an Amazing Race style experience on Friday. Not a big Amazing Race experience, but it kind of gave me a feeling about the sort of frustration that Amazing Race participant sometimes run into. I got on a city bus for a cross town trip at 4:20 Friday afternoon. I didn't get to where I was going until 6:20 p.m. And this is normally a forty minute trip at most. It literally took over an hour to travel less than eight-tenths of a mile. There was an accident on the University Bridge that effectively blocked the west-bound side of the bridge, and the bus driver was blocked into the innermost lane by other traffic so that he couldn't take the detour that the other busses were able to use. Thank goodness for my iPod and podcasts because I would have been bored to tears otherwise. Now admittedly it wasn't 12 hours in the sardine section of a fully loaded flight to some place where they eat deep fried crickets but it was something, and it makes me wonder if I could in fact do "The Race" if such a short time on a bus gave me pain, and a headache and increased my irritability.

Most of you know of course just how huge a fan of The Amazing Race that I am. I used to recap the episodes on one of the Amazing Race newsgroups, and I confess that I'm very close to deciding to do weekly recaps here in the blog, for my amusement if nothing else. But first let's have a look at the new cast. I'm going strictly by the stuff from CBS and the interviews.

There are certain "types" that the casting directors who select people for the show. There's the older couple, the long-distance daters, the couple who are in a troubled relationship and hope that being on a reality show is going to save it (!), the parent-child team, the all-female team (or usually two), the "oddball" team who has some quirk either about their appearance or their manner, and the best buds team of two guys (usually there are two such teams). One thing they seem to be trying to get away from is the dreaded "Alpha Male" team; a team of twenty or early thirty-something males who are physically fit and reasonably intelligent. The problem with the Alpha Male teams is that they had a tendency to win to the exclusion of others. Arguably the last Alpha Male Team was season 10 winners James & Tyler, best friends and models who met in rehab. (Warning: These videos contain ads. They're also in a format that I'm not particularly in love with. Unfortunately not all of the interviews are available from YouTube.)

Aja & Ty: Long-distance daters who want to see if they can live together on a regular basis. The Race is a 24/7 experience of living together which is more than what married couples spend together so it's a bit of a crash course. She (Aja) an actress and make-up artist (probably more make-up artist than actress if such things run to form) from Los Angeles, while he (Ty) is a banker from Detroit. She claims that she's, "energetic, insightful and compassionate," while he's very competitive and hates the thought of losing. He claims that her weakness is that she's easily upset, while she worries about his poor sense of time. She might also want to worry about the fact that he's never travelled much outside of the United States.

Andrew & Dan: A "best buds" team, these two are fraternity brothers from Arizona, one of whom recently entered the "real world" while the other is still in college. They claim that for them six pack refers to beer not abs. Andrew is studying urban planning while Dan graduated in Tourism Management. Andrew hasn't travelled much while Dan has travelled extensively including to the Middle East. They hope to use their travel knowledge to suck some of the other teams into trusting them (particularly the pretty girls who try to use their feminine wiles on them) and maybe eventually being responsible for eliminating them. I think they got the part about feminine wiles right but I think they may be a bit dismissive of the skills of the other teams. Right off the bat I don't like them too much.

Anita & Arthur: These two fit two categories. They're quite obviously the oldest team this time around, and well they also fill the "oddball" category. They're honest to goodness back to the land tie dye hippy types! Not pseudo hippies who get that label because they wear their hair long like BJ & Tyler from season 10, or TK and Rachel from season 12, Anita and Arthur look like they hung out in Haight Ashbury and lived on a commune. Right now they make and sell honey and run an organic blueberry farm. They're definitely hard workers with a deep sense of family. He describes himself as a problem solver and hopes to gain a better understanding of himself and Anita. Anita regards herself as "optimistic, enthusiastic and compassionate" while saying that her husband has a tendency to overanalyze things. Older teams have frequently gone deep into The Race, and I have a suspicion that these guys have it in them to go far. Right now at least I like them.

Anthony & Stephanie: An established couple that hopes that their time on The Race will bring them closer to marriage. He's a mortgage broker while she's a financial saleswoman (great timing for those careers!). I'm not sure they're meant to be together – they broke up for a year and they admit that they constantly bicker, although they claim it's all in "good fun." He claims to be adventurous and entertaining, while she's outgoing, and funny. They both claim to be athletic which they believe gives them an edge over their competition. There's a certain arrogance in some of his statements.

Kelly & Christy: A pair of young divorcees without much travel experience outside the USA. A female "best buds team" they've been friends since college and at times have worked at the same company. They've supported themselves through their marriages and their divorces. Kelly claims that their team will be quick, resourceful and resilient, while Christy claims that "their sweet, Texas charm will prove to be a very resourceful asset throughout the Race." This sort of attitude is quite common among female teams. Sometimes it works, as with Dustin & Kandice from the All-Star edition of the Race, while at other times teams overestimate their charms, or the reactions to those charms. In this particular case I suspect their self-admitted weaknesses – Kelly's admission that she can be impatient while Christie can be temperamental – will more than balance out what they see as strengths. They'll go probably further than the other all female team but I wouldn't care to wager how much further.

Ken & Tina: A former NFL player and his estranged wife, a corporate CEO who is also on the board of the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa Florida. This is a case where he cheated and they separated to the point of living on different coasts, but they want to try to make it work again. He's obviously athletic and competitive and claims to have good problem solving skills, although judgement is probably not his best quality. On the other hand he thinks her worst quality is her need to control things. She is driven, athletic and claims to be the brains of the operation, while her husband is definitely the brawn. They have travelled extensively and it's mostly been adventure travel. Frankly, to me this looks like an explosion waiting to happen.

Marissa & Brooke: This year's blondes. A pair of self described Southern Belles who claim to be willing to flirt to get what they want. Oh good grief, another one of those teams. One of them (they look so similar that it's impossible to tell them apart) can't wait to try out the Spanish she learned in Spain. Marissa (a broadcast journalism student at USC – the University of South Carolina, not the one in California) claims that "Her extensive dance training has taught her to be focused and determined, skills that could help her to do well on the race" while she claims that Brooke being a graphic designer means that she'll be sure to pay attention to detail. She also claims to be able to read Hebrew and speak a little Swahili. That alone is enough to make me expect an early exit, maybe in the first episode.

Mark & Bill: About as close as this season comes to an Alpha Male team – if a pair of self-confessed comic book geeks in their early 40s can in fact be called Alpha Males. Mark Yturralde is the Chief Financial officer of Comicon, while his pal Bill Kahler is a financial services officer. They're both gamers – they describe The Amazing Race as the "ultimate game on the biggest board you can possibly imagine." Mark is an experienced world traveller with a "love affair with the remote," and among many other things has run with the bulls in Pamplona. Bill on the other hand has done a lot of "safe" travelling, and Mark is looking forward to him stretching his boundaries by doing stuff like bungee jumping. I liked these guys even before I heard their interview tape because like me they're comics and gaming geeks, but listening to Mark talk about things he's done makes me think this could be one of the teams to beat.

Nick & Starr: A brother and sister team of people who would have to be described as extroverts. Nick is a working actor in New York, appearing Off-Broadway in the revival of The Fantasticks, while his sister spent three seasons as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. They worry about getting on each other's nerves since they haven't spent much time together in recent years and they were bitter enemies in high school. Starr is the more spontaneous of the two, although Nick regards her spontaneity as being more akin to recklessness. They claim to have travelled a good deal – for their age group – although by Race standards it's fairly limited. They expect people to help them, but they seem to have a negative attitude to other teams that comes out in their interview, but believe that they give out an aura that will lead people to want to meet them, work with them, and be stabbed in the back by them. This attitude could backfire on them quickly.

Terence & Sarah: Another dating couple trying to determine if they belong together. Yawn. Supposedly this is a case of opposites attracting. She's a graduate of the Wharton School Of Business (Donald Trump's old school) who works on Wall Street. He sells real estate to pay the bills so that he can work at his passion for coaching runners. They're both competitive – he finished the last two New York Marathons in under three hours – as well as being smart, energetic adventurous and fearless. Sarah claims to be lower maintenance than Terence while he describes himself as "witty, sensitive and driven." According to them their biggest weaknesses are a tendency to get too intense and fight amongst themselves, and their dietary restrictions. I get the sense from someone who has seen the episode that this comes up pretty quickly. Not a favourite in my book.

Toni & Dallas: A single mom and her son who has now gone off to college. They're going on the Race as much to see the world and get some quality time together as to win the million dollars. Dallas claims that his mom's big fault is telling long winded stories, but he's persuasive and enjoys getting people to do what he wants them too. She on the other hand claims to be a leader but knows she'll have to dial it down a bit and rely on her son's strengths rather than trying to boss him around. Seem good humoured enough and likely to be a fan favourite for as long as they last. I just don't think they're going to last too long.

The Amazing Race returns for its thirteenth series on Sunday September 28th after 60 Minutes. This week at least CBS doesn't have a late football game so the show should start at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Blood 2008

Well we didn't have to wait long for the first show to be pulled from the line-up. While the Fox Network is claiming that Do Not Disturb has only been pulled for the October 1st episode, various entertainment journalists including Michael Ausiello and E! Online have stated that Do Not Disturb is done like dinner and won't be back. The action came just a few days after the show's producers sent a letter to Variety apologizing "for being the perpetrators of such bad television" even as they begged for viewers to give them a second chance because the show got better, honest. In the letter they wrote, "We here at Do Not Disturb agree that by airing the Work Sex episode — before airing the actual pilot — we created much confusion and we deserve all the criticism, the bad puns (i.e. 'an early checkout from the fall season,' 'Do Not Make in the First Place,' etc.) and, yes, even the accusation that it very well could be the final nail in the multicamera sitcom's coffin."

A mere three episodes of the series aired which had ratings which would be anemic even for The CW let alone FOX. The first episode – which was not the official Pilot for the series – drew 4.65 million viewers and a 1.9/5 rating among the 18-49 demographic. The ratings went down each week with the third – and presumably final – episode drew a mere 3.53 million viewers and a 1.4/3 rating in the 18-49 demographic. The show will be replaced at least on October 1st, with a second episode of 'Til Death which hasn't exactly been drawing stellar ratings this season itself.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Knight Rider – Disorganized Thoughts

This is not a review of the not-really-new NBC series Knight Rider. I don't know when – if ever – I will get around to writing a real review of this show but this isn't it. What it is, really, is a bunch of disorganized thoughts about a show that I missed the start of and really only half watched when I did turn it on. I believe I dozed off either before the show started or after it ended and trust me, I enjoyed the nap more than I did what I saw of the show. But hopefully this helps to explain why my thoughts on this matter are disorganized than they would be if I had been attentive and taking notes.

I did a full review of the made for TV movie revival of Knight Rider
back when it came out last February. Back then I heaped a ton of scorn on the show for basically being a dopey revival of a dopey show with a ton and a half of dopey plot holes and some characters intended to make it seem modern and well, hip. As I think you can tell I didn't like it, regarding it as a failed attempt to do a "next generation" remake of a well beloved but not particularly good show from the 1980s. The movie was intended to serve as a backdoor pilot for a revival of the show, and despite being pretty bad (as far as I was concerned) it was picked up by NBC's new president of entertainment Ben Silverman. Given some of the revelations about Silverman that are currently making the rounds, one wonders what he was using when he approved this. Say what you want about Kevin Reilly, he gave us Life, Friday Night Lights, and Studio 60, and not crap like this. Anyone who saw that movie knew it was bad no matter what the ratings said. But, as the saying goes, the worst was yet to come.

The original Knight Rider series was once described by its creator Glenn Larson as "The Lone Ranger with a car. Kind of a sci-fi thing, with the soul of a western." And at its very heart it was as much that as it was Brandon Tartikoff's joking idea "The Man With Six Words." Although Michael Knight operated within a cloak of authority in the form of the Foundation for Law And Government (FLAG – a very powerful acronym in Reagan's America) he was essentially a lone vigilante operating with the equivalent his transportation (Silver) and partner (Tonto) rolled into one in the form of the original KITT. To be sure there were supporting characters in the form of Devon and Bonnie, but in a very real sense he was alone. The same was largely true in the TV movie. It was Mike Traceur in place of his father (Michael Knight), Charles Graiman as his version of Devin, Charles's daughter Sarah as the analog of Bonnie, with the addition of an FBI agent named Carrie Revai and Michael's friend and mechanic Dylan Fass. Even though the movies team was larger than the team in the original series it was still a compact and secret operation with Michael usually been sent off on his own to right whatever wrong the revived FLAG had chosen for him.

In the series that has all changed. Now Michael has a support system that seems to rival Mission Control in Houston in terms of personnel and infrastructure. In fact there's even a secret base of operations, cleverly hidden beneath an aircraft hanger that reminds me of the old airship hangar at Moffat Field in San Francisco. The whole thing has been dubbed "the KITTcave" by producers. Also included in the "KITTcave" is what appears to be some sort of government oversight in the form of a bureaucrat who seems to be ordering everyone around – including Charles Graiman who "reactivated" the Foundation and was therefore presumably the boss of things. He's the typical "get it done and get it done now," "failure is not an option," I want to know everything even though wanting it makes me look like a total ass" stereotype of a government type. Obviously he's disliked by most of the group and treated with resigned disdain by Charles.

Ah, but there are more changes. Mike has been given a "secret past". It's so secret in fact that even he doesn't know what it is. He has no memory of a chunk of his life during which he was apparently romancing some woman in Lebanon even as he had proposed marriage to Sarah. What's more his records are so restricted that even KITT can't get to them. Whatever Mike was doing it made him a lot of enemies. In the mission that started the episode the bad guys are targeting Mike as much if not more than they're targeting the thing that Mike and Sarah are trying to recover. In fact they even have a missile that seems capable of tracking Mike himself. That missile is also capable of setting KITT on fire for an extended period of time. This allows for an extended period of seeing Deanna Russo (who plays Sarah) in her underwear (for the guys...and some women) and Jason Bruening with his shirt off (for the ladies...and some men). It's also so big that at the end of the episode Carrie Revai "kills" Mike in order to protect the project – Mike Traceur has become a liability and so is required to become the "new" Michael Knight.

Of course the car plays a big role in this series, as a source of product placement revenue if nothing else. The producers spare no effort to remind us that this is a Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang, by making sure that we see the Cobra logo as often as possible. In fact when KITT goes from street mode to "attack mode" (sprouting a couple of spoilers and a heavy duty air intake gadget, or maybe it's a hood mounted missile launcher) the Cobra logo becomes bigger and shinier. And when the car flies (yes, the car now has the ability to leave the ground under its own power) there's even a Cobra logo on the underbody of the car! However we don't see all that much of the car in actual action. Both of the extensive car chase sequences in the first episode feature a lot of projection shots from inside the car, and only limited scenes of the Cobra, or the Ford F-150 truck it transforms into (yes, it transforms, with moving panels and everything – Transformers was a success after all) driving on the roads. It may be my hazy memory but I think we saw a lot more of the old KITT from the original series from the outside.

As I have said, this is not intended as a review of the revived Knight Rider, but the result of the retooling of the original concept and even the TV movie is a mess. The show is pathetically weak on characterization of any sort let alone realistic characters. It's mainly about car chases and attractive people and why an actor of the quality of Bruce Davidson is mixed up with it is beyond me. But the roots of the problem go even deeper than the writing and the characterization to the mangling of core concept of the original series. Far from holding to Larson's original concept of "the Lone Ranger with a car" this version is closer to The Bionic Woman with a car. Michael and KITT are no longer free agents or part of a compact organization helping ordinary people, they are an extension of some government agency carrying out espionage missions and dealing with higher ups who demand results. They've gone away from the original soul of the show. I suppose that what they're trying to do is create something "relevant" to today's world but I think that if that's the intention they're taking the wrong approach even though I'm not sure there is a right approach. NBC-Universal seems to be engaged in an effort to replicate the success that they had with the revival of Battlestar Galactica by remaking or updating old shows which, not surprisingly, they have an interest. They failed – deservedly – last season with Bionic Woman, and if the made for TV movie and this first episode of Knight Rider are any indication they're going to fail – deservedly – with this. The root of this is a failure to understand why the revival of Battlestar Galactica works. It works because David Eick and Ronald Moore took the elements from the original 1978 and threw most of them out leaving just the bare bones on to which they grafted their vision. The original Battlestar Galactica never had the sense of fear and desperation that current series has. In the old series everyone seemed comfortable, and the enemy repeatedly proved easy to beat. Within the context of the science fiction setting, the revived Galactica has an almost realistic feel to it in the post 9-11 world. The problem is perhaps that Battlestar Galactica was a unique opportunity, as show with a great basic concept that never truly reached its full potential I suppose because Glenn Larson posited a utopian rather than a dystopian society to arise the destruction of humanity. Larson's humans were on the whole perfect rather than flawed creations. I'm not sure that you could make the same sort of magic happen with a show like Knight Rider. Perhaps an approach where Mike Traceur really was "the Lone Ranger with a car" could work; Mike and KITT alone, devoid of all outside aid except for access to Michael Knight's fortune to pay for gas and repairs (well after all, the Lone Ranger had his silver mine) working to live up to his father's and the now long gone FLAG organization's ideals by trying to help people in trouble. Would it work? Who knows? What I do know is that the current version of the series works even less well than the TV movie and that didn't work at all for me. Then again, I liked Studio 60.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Medium Here

CBS has this knack. They put on these shows that are unlike series that the other networks would put on. They're shows that feature detective who have a quirky manner in solving crimes either because of who they are or how they go about solving crimes. And yet these people are not so quirky that their quirks become the story. In short they're not producing shows like Monk or Psych. But think of it; they took a show about Navy lawyers who solve crimes that was cast off after one season by NBC and made it such a success that it ran for a total of ten years. That was JAG. Then they put together a show about Navy investigators originally called Navy NCIS (which was of course redundant since the "N" in NCIS stands for "Naval"). Then there was that show about a math professor who solves crime for his FBI agent brother – Numb3rs. Arguably you can add the CSI franchise shows to this list. What do these shows have in common? Charming characters, well defined relationships, and solid but not spectacular writing. These shows are never going to win an Emmy and they're never going to get a lot of love – or indeed hate – from the critics. In fact I've seen people who do criticism online say that they don't know anyone who watches NCIS. And yet NCIS is in the top 20 in ratings, the CSI franchise are among the best rated shows on TV, and Numb3rs is absolutely solid on Friday nights. So obviously CBS is on to something. CBS's latest addition to this sort of show is The Mentalist starring Simon Baker. It's not genius, but all things considered it's pretty solid TV.

The lead character in The Mentalist is Patrick Jane. For years he pretended to be a psychic, able to use his supposed abilities to contact the dead and to work with the police. He was very successful at this, being a favourite on the TV talk show circuit. That was five years ago though, and things have changed for Patrick – a lot. What exactly that was is a major plot point that I want to reveal at the appropriate point, and indeed it might not be the full story. Jane is now working with the California Bureau of Investigations (which I was surprised to learn is a real organization). We first meet Patrick and the team that he works with as they arrive at a mansion. Posters showing a teenage girl are being pulled down and a teenage boy is being taken away in handcuffs. It's obvious that the girl was missing and her dead body has been found. The local police don't think that the CBI team needed to come out for this one. While the girl's parents – her father really – are giving a press conference thanking the police, Patrick goes into the kitchen of the house, making a sandwich for himself and making tea. The girl's mother comes in and Patrick sympathises with her, telling her that he knows what she's feeling. She says he can't possibly know but he rapidly gains her confidence by telling her things about herself that supposedly no one could possibly know. In fact it's all a matter of observing things in the kitchen. He also figures out that she has doubts about the arrest of the neighbour's kid for the murder. When the husband comes in Patrick accuses him of killing his daughter. He observed a strip of pictures in the kitchen of the father and the daughter that indicated to him that the father had been altogether too close – in a sexual way – to his daughter. The wife leaves the room and comes back with a gun and shoots her husband.

This is all in the first ten minutes or so, and I want to say something about this sequence. I found it interesting that clips from this sequence were used extensively in the advertising for the series, all of which might suggest that the story of this couple was the major storyline for the episode. This is a feeling that is intensified by the actors chosen for the roles of the husband and wife – Stephen Culp and Gail O'Grady. You wouldn't hire actors of this calibre for a brief role after all. Well remember what Hitchcock did with Janet Leigh in Psycho? Hire a big name actress and then kill her character early in the movie to set up the rest of the thing? That's exactly what the producers did with Culp and O'Grady. They set up the rest of the episode with the events that culminated with the mother killing the father. And in this case they gave us some insight about Patrick Jane including a hint about his experience that we're meant to dismiss until information about his past is revealed. It's a neat trick.

The actual case begins a few weeks later. In Palm Springs a professional golfer and his brother arrive home to find the bodies of a man, bludgeoned to death with a golf club and the golfer's wife killed in their bed. On the wall of the room is a smiley face drawn in blood. The team, minus Patrick but with a new young female member are called in. They're met at the crime scene by Patrick. He's had himself reinstated. In the house a local CBI agent explains how this killing is the work of a notorious serial killer named Red John. The young agent is positively gleeful about the prospect of seeing the work of Red John. Patrick immediately explains that this isn't the real work of Red John but of a copycat who doesn't know all the details that the police know. He's been working on the Red John case for five years, since before he revealed that he was not a psychic. The immediate thought is that the wife is having an affair with the man (a Doctor) who was killed but after a quick examination of the corpse Patrick declares that the man was Gay (the man's toe nails had been done with a clear lacquer). Sure enough the man's medical partner, Doctor Wagner, confirms that he was Gay. While the other investigators look at the golfer and his brother, Patrick and his boss visit the Wagner, who's a psychiatrist. The office is full of African art – the partners in the practice run a charity helping African kids. During this interview the Doctor reveals that his partner had given the woman a year's supply of birth control pills without prescription – her husband had a vasectomy – indicating that she was having an affair. There's some physical evidence found at the scene that points to the brother as the killer. He admits only to having an affair with his sister-in-law. The assumption is that the wife was the killer's primary target and the doctor was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

That night, after the team has had dinner, a letter is slipped under Patrick's door. It's allegedly from Red John, but Patrick knows this is not the killer's style. Patrick arranges to meet Wagner at his office supposedly to get a supply of sleeping pills. Patrick claims he doesn't sleep well. When asked by about the roots of his insomnia, we again flashback five years to an appearance that Patrick had made on a talk show. During that show he made a comment about Red John. When he returned to his expensive, lavishly decorated home where he lives with his wife and daughter he enters his bed room and sees... a smiley face drawn in blood. Of course Patrick doesn't tell the psychiatrist the truth about his family being killed by Red John. Instead he makes up a story about a brother who was killed in an accident as a child doing Patrick's chores. During this visit, Patrick plants the seed of an idea in the psychiatrist's mind, that his partner kept a diary and that it was hidden in the office. Once Patrick has gone the psychiatrist searches the office for the diary and finds nothing. However Patrick comes back to get his cell phone – he claims the door was unlocked but in fact he picked the Doctor's pocket to get his key card – and "finds" the partner's diary. To get it the Doctor pulls a gun. He killed his partner and the golfer's wife because his partner had found out that Wagner was embezzling money from their charity. His partner was the primary target while the golfer's wife was to distract attention. After bluffing Wagner into believing that he had taken the bullets from the gun, Patrick manages to get away and runs into one of the other CBI investigators as he is arriving at the office, who arrests Wagner. At the end of the episode, after Jane and the rest of the team wrap up their activities in Palm Springs, we see Patrick returning to the same home where he lived before. The building is now empty except for a mattress lying on the floor of one bedroom...under the smiley face drawn in blood.

The writing on this show is solid if not spectacular. The preliminary story (with Culp and O'Grady) is nicely set up to tell us what we need to know about Patrick Jane – he's observant and intelligent but at the same time has a charming arrogance about him. He can be compassionate to those who are deserving of compassion but can also be brusque to those who aren't deserving of it. His scene with the wife, in which he understands what she is going through becomes even more important when we learn about the tragedy in his own life; he really does understand what she is going through. In his scene with Culp's character, who I think he initially suspected when he saw the body language of the husband and wife at the press conference and which was confirmed in his mind by the photos in the kitchen, he comes right out and asks if he killed his daughter and then badgers right back when the man gets mad that very idea that's being suggested. The main story suffers a bit from doing stuff that most of us have seen before. Anyone who has watched enough TV mysteries would have been able to tell you that when two people are murdered in a way where one looks like the main target and the other seems like someone at the wrong place at the wrong time, you should always look to the enemies of the innocent bystander. And of course when the first suspect is arrested, he's never guilty. But of course this needs to happen at least in this episode because it is far less about the actual mystery than it is about establishing the character and at least part of the story of Patrick Jane.

A bigger problem than what I suppose you'd describe as the triteness of the initial mystery is the development of the other characters in the episode. With one exception we don't even know their names – at least not unless we don't check the show's IMDB page. No, instead you've got the female boss who is tough on Patrick but knows enough to give him his head, played by Robin Tunney (character name: Teresa Lisbon), the smart but unimpressed Asian guy played by Tim Yang (character: Kimball Cho), and the big, solid though sometimes easily befuddled white guy played by Owain Yeoman (character: Wayne Grigsby). He's the one who comes to Patrick's aid at the medical office. The one supporting character who isn't a cipher is the new young agent Grace Van Pelt. That's the character's name; she's played by Amanda Righetti. Grace is a "true believer" who at one point asks Patrick what the reaction of real psychics was to him before he came out as a fraud. He tells her that there are no real psychics, there is no afterlife just the here and now. She disagrees – she firmly believes that her sister is at least a little psychic, and more importantly she is a firm believer in "the Kingdom of God." This is of course an effort to flesh out our understanding of Patrick – that he's an atheist, probably as a result of his time pretending to be a psychic – but it is useful in giving us someone who is both more of an idealist and who holds an alternate, religious view, from Patrick's. Patrick Jane is much more of a profiler, in the style of the characters on Criminal Minds than he is Allison Dubois (from Medium), but then he quite clearly not claiming any mystical powers like Dubois does; quite the opposite in fact. This is very much Simon Baker's show. The man is eminently likable – almost charismatic – and is capable of holding our attention without the histrionic sort of performances that an actor like James Woods from last season's Shark has to resort to. He's very much the focus here, although for this series to work up to its potential I am convinced that they are going to have to build up the characterization of the supporting cast. They're never going to be the focus of the show but we need a stronger sense of who they are.

When this series was initially announced my first impression – and the first impression of a lot of people – was that this some sort of serious version of the USA network show Psych. It's not of course and not just because Patrick Jane isn't using powers of observation to pretend to be a psychic. He's "out" and I wouldn't be surprised if, in his off hours, he doesn't take on the sort of role that James Randi has adopted in exposing claims of psychic powers. I tend to see this show as sort of the "anti" Medium. I find Patrick Jane far more believable than either the real or the TV version of Allison Dubois. Jane rejects the notion of psychic abilities, ascribing what others saw as his "powers" to his abilities as an observer. This far more rationalistic approach more appealing, at least it is for me. As a character, Patrick Jane has a considerable amount of charm and charisma, a quality which is common in the lead characters of shows like JAG, NCIS and Numb3rs. And of course those shows took a while for the supporting characters to come into their own. As it stands the show depends on the charm of its leading character and the actor who plays him for much of its attraction to an audience. I think they need to beef up the mysteries a bit more and (as I keep on harping about) make the supporting characters stand out as something more than just foils for Simon Baker. If they can do that, give us better than ordinary stories and develop more the team while at the same time this is a show that should go on for a long time and be a strong component in a CBS Tuesday night that is suddenly looking quite strong. A nice quiet performer with – as other critics have said – considerable charm.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Series Premieres And Season Debuts– Week of September 22-29, 2008

To thoroughly disgrace both Mister Smith my 10th Grade History teacher and local TV celebrity back in the days of Reach For The Top and my favourite French teacher Mrs. Hall (who undoubtedly knew we sometimes called her Madame Couloir – the almost literal French translation for Mrs. Hall), "Apres les Emmys, le deluge." This week the networks that aren't The CW and FOX (and don't need to jumpstart their seasons) will debut and premier nearly everything in their inventory. It's going to be a great/terrible week with five new series starting their march towards eventual cancellation (in a few days or a few years). I don't think I'll give summaries of much beyond the new stuff.


CBS has the season debuts of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two And A Half Men, and CSI: Miami.

CBS also has the series premiere of Worst Week. I'm not huge on sitcoms (as I keep telling you) and this one doesn't look that great to me, as a guy meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time and everything goes wrong. And that's even before they tell them that they're engaged and pregnant. People who have seen it seem to like it. I've only seen what CBS has put on YouTube.

NBC has a Heroes clip show, followed by the two-hour season debut of Heroes. Hopefully better than what people who get the chance to watch Heroes tell me last season was.

ABC has the season premiere of Dancing With The Stars – a show my brother loathes to the point of calling it "Dancing With The Morons" (and that's when he's feeling charitable about it) so of course I'll be watching, but not in HD.

ABC also has the premiere of the fifth and final season of Boston Legal.


CBS has the season premieres of NCIS – the most popular show that no one will admit to watching – and Without A Trace in its new time slot in the third hour of Tuesday night.

Sandwiched between those two CBS also has the series debut of The Mentalist with Simon Baker. This is another of those quirky mysteries that CBS does so well (Numb3rs is another) about a man who used to claim to be a psychic but was really just using his keen powers of observation. Now he uses those powers of observation while working with the police.

NBC has the season premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, starring Mariska Hargitay (who didn't win an Emmy last night!).

ABC has the series debut of Opportunity Knocks, their new game show where the game show – and its set - comes to your home rather than you going to it. Looks awful from the clips and even the description of the concept.


CBS starts their new Wednesday comedy block with the debut of the relocated New Adventures Of Old Christine.

CBS follows that with the series debut of Gary Unmarried, with Jay Mohr as a man who has to deal with getting back into the dating scene while also dealing with his teenaged kids and his snarky ex-wife and her new fiancĂ© – their former shrink. People who have seen it aren't impressed.

CBS rounds up the night with the debuts of Criminal Minds and CSI: New York.

NBC has the series premiere of the revived Knight Rider with the "new and improved" KITT, the son of Michael Knight (who wasn't really Michael Knight because...; let's just say David Hasselhoff's character and be done with it) and the KITTcave. Can you say Bionic Woman? I knew you could.

NBC also has the season return of Lipstick Jungle a show that (I admit because I am secure in my masculinity) I sort of like.


CBS has the two hour season debut of Survivor: Gabon. In HD yet!

NBC has two new half hour episodes of My Name Is Earl for that show's season debut. That's followed by a one hour season debut episode of The Office, and the final season debut of ER. I think I would have traded a half-hour of My Name Is Earl for a half hour of my quadruple Emmy winner while people still remember the fact, but hey I'm not Ben Silverman.

ABC has the one-hour season premiere of Ugly Betty followed by the two-hour season premiere of Gray's Anatomy.


Everyone is showing this hot new show called Presidential Debate. Well except for the CW which is showing their last Friday Night Smackdown. Hmmm – maybe they're not so different after all.


The Columbia Broadcasting System (I got tired of typing CBS, NBC and ABC) will have the season debut of the six time Emmy winning Reality-Competition Series The Amazing Race (hurrah!). This will be followed by the season debut of Cold Case and the debut of The Unit in its new time slot.

The American Broadcasting Company has the season debut of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, followed by the season debut of Desperate Housewives (five years later than last season because the producers got a little impatient), and the season debut of Brother and Sisters.

The Fox Broadcasting Company has the season debuts of The Simpsons, King Of The Hill, Family Guy, and American Dad. The PTC will be outraged shortly thereafter.

The National Broadcasting Company has Football. It's not a season debut but I just thought I'd mention it to maintain the theme. The CW is just The CW.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Emmy Liveblogging

About five minutes before the big show starts. I haven't been watching the "pre-game" show on KTLA. You'd think they'd do a better job, what with all the experience they've had. The big question for me - besides, you know who's going to win and all - is how are they going to handle the "five host" concept. Mandel likely the best and Bergeron should be good. Probst won't be bad and Heidi Klum is pretty so that makes up for the accent and everyhting else. But what's Ryan Seacrest's excuse. We know how bad he was last year.
More as things get going.
Well that went well. Oprah came out and introduced the show...seriously. Then she introduced the actual hosts and things started going downhill. The "Fab Five" came out all in tuxes (but no tie for Probst) and Probst, Seacrest, and Mandel did all the talking about how they had nothing to talk about while Bergeron and Klum looked ncreasingly annoyed. When the talkers left Bergeron and Klum started talking about them, ending the bit with Bergeron and William Shatner pulling LKlum`s tux of to reveal a better outfit. Oprah was funnier.
First award presented by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who were funnier than the hosts) Supporting Actor in a Comedy to Jeremy Piven. Again.
Bergeron and Seacrest introduce Julia Louis Dreyfus from a set like the diner in Seinfeld which serves to introduce a clip from the masturbation episode (never watched Seinfeld). She was funnier than the hosts in her intro. Presented Supporting Actress in a Comedy to Jean Smart from Samantha Who? Well at least I though she had a shot at it.
Tom Bergeron and Heidi Klum talk about women on TV which leads to a clip from Desperate Housewives and the cast showing up in a mock-up of part of the set. They give the Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Comedy to Zeljko Ivanek from Damages. Good but surprising choice; have to see that some time. Next there's a very funny bit with Ricky Gervaise about how to give an awards speech followed by an even funnier bit with Gervaise trying to get his Emmy from last year back from Steve Carell. The award for Director Variety, Music or Comedy is a bit of a comedown after that. It goes to Oscars (and Emmy's) Director Louis J. Horvitz.
Conan O"Brien came out to present the award for Supporting Actress in a Drama to Dianne Weist...who wasn't there (thus saving time). This was followed by Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hayden Pannetierre (who weren't as funny as the hosts but they weren't trying to be funny) to give the award for Writing in Variety, Music or Comedy to the writers for the Colbert Report. Were is the memory among Hollywood writers? Dave's writers list (with Dr. Phil) was the funniest though. then Howie Mandel and Jeff Probst introduced...the accountants. They were trying to be funny - Mandel and Probst not the accountants - they failed. Steve Martin was funny in introducing Tommy Smothers who was awarded an honorary Emmy for writing the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Just saw the medley by what's his name (no really, what is his name - I missed his introduction). It was an achievement but I was less than impressed. Alec Baldwin came out without the benefit of any of the "Fab Five" to present the award for Actress in a Movie or Miniseries. It went ot Laura Linney for John Adams (as if there were any doubt) who thanked the "community organizers" who helped create the United States. Was that political?  ;-)
So we're about an hour and a half in and they're starting to cut the funny. Some of the surviving cast of Laugh-In were brought out to introduce the nominees for Variety, Music or Comedy series in the old "laugh wall." Boy did Alan Sues look out of it. Gary Owens on the other hand hasn't changed a bit. Award went to the Daily Show by the way. Next David Boreanaz and someone who I guess I'm supposed to know but don't came out to introduce the winners for Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy to do the Comedy Director Award, but Tim Conway couldn't be there so Kathryn Joosten had to do it herself. She commented on how they cut her bit. Barry Sonnenfeld won for Pushing Daisies. Then David Boreanaz and whoever she was gave the award for Comedy Writing to Tina Fey for 30 Rock.
The introduction of Academy president John Schaffner by Martin Sheen from a mock-up of the set of the Oval Office from The West Wing slows things up a bit...a lot. He said something but who remembers these things. Christian Slater and Christina Applegate (who promises to crush him in the ratings) to introduce the Outstanding TV Movie don't pick things up much. The Emmy goes to Recount. Not really caring as much as I would have if I'd had a chance to see any of the nominees.
They're really pushing them out now. After a brief introdcutionf by Jeff Probst on the "set" of Dragnet, William Petersen and Laurence Fishburne from CSI com on to introduce the Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries winner, Tom Wilkinson from John Adams. He's not there. Next John Stewart and Stephen Colbert come out to give the awards for Directing in a Movie or Miniseries to Jay Rouch of Recount (a surprise to me) and for Writing in a Movie or Miniseries to Kirk Ellis of John Adams. Ellis's acceptance speech gets cut off without music by a bumper for  the commercial.
They keep promoting the Reality TV Host category like mad but don't give it out and move on to important stuff. Chrisitina Oh and Ptrick Dempsey introduced the award for Aupporting Actress, Movie or Miniseries which goes to Dame Eileen Atkins from Cranford - another Briti who isn't there. Then Kathy Griffith and Don Rickles come on and you just know that anything Rickles has to say is better than has been written for him, and you'd be right. What's amazing is that Griffin has to prompt people to give him a standing ovation! The give out the Reality-Competition award to the only show that has ever won it - The Amaizing Race Then Sally Field come on to give the Outstanding Miniseries award to her son Tom Hanks for John Adams. Oops, gotta get back.
Glad I did get back becasue the Emmy of rOutstanding Individual Performance Variety or Musical went to Don Rickles who was funnier in an off the cuff acceptance speech than any of the now nearly absent hosts have been. Oh yeah, Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chinoweth introduced the award. Then Kate Walsh and Wayne Brady introduced the winners in the Guest Actor and Actress in a Drama Series, Glynn Turman and Cynthia Nixon, who gave the award for Director in a Drama to Greg Yataine of House. Walsh and Brady gave the award for Writing in a Drama to Matthew Weiner of Mad Men. Still no Reality Host category.
They're really pushing them out now. No hosts, no jokesbarely time to introduce the presenters. Winners were: 
  • Paul Giamatti for Lead Actor in a Movie or Miniseries - John Adams
  • Alec Baldwin Lead Actor Comedy - 30 Rock
  • Glenn Close Lead Actress Drama - Damages
That was brusque but so were they because they had to get to the all important Memoriam Reel. No real applause for anyone mentioned on that, as if they were told not to for fear of wasting time.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Kiefer sutherland says they're running out of time and quickly announces that Brian Cranston won the award for Lead Actor in a Drama for Breaking Bad. Then Craig Ferguson and Brooke Shields get to do one joke before giving the Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy to Tina Fey for 30 Rock. But then out comes Jimmy Kimmel, and takes more time than the others combined to not give the Reality Host award out - the winner will be announced after the next commercial...
...The winner - after another bit of time wasting by Kimmel et al was Jeff Probst from Survivor.
Then it was back to pumping out the last two awards like sausages. There was a brief clip of the Marty Tyler Moore Show to introduce Mary Tyler Moore who then introduced Betty White who has been in TV as long sa the Television Academy. They presented the Outstanding Comedy Series award to 30 Rock. Tina Fey was truly humbled to accept her third Emmy tonight from Mary and Betty. Then it was Tom Selleck's turn In less time than it took Jimmy Kimmel to give Probst his award, Tom told us thta he was giving out the Outstanding Drama Award, named the nominees and the winner. Which was Mad Men. Matthew Weiner accepted and the band even played during his speech. All that was left was for Jeff Probst (who by winning got to host the rest of the show) to say good night.
First there is a formatting change I have to make in this just a minute...
Okay, there you go. This happens every year. They start off with lots of introductory bits and jokes for the hosts and then somewhere about half-way through someone in the control truck looks at the clock and decides that they absolutely positively cannot run one minute over (or what - the locals will cut off the show?) and suddenly jokes get cut and introductions get docked. But somehow there is always some lame bit of business that manages to stay in to the bitter end. Does no one in charge of this thing own a stop watch and use it?
At least the hosting this year wasn't as bad as last year. Of course that was primarily because for about half the show the only person really hosting was the unseen announcer who told us who was coming out to present an award and then who had won the award. Maybe they should just let him or her host the show next year and save actors/comedians/reality hosts the humiliation of being bad and being cut.
As for what we actually saw, even if you don't go with the announcer as host, five people trying to do schtick (and failing) is too many. One person is all you need if it's the right person. Ricky Gervaise was great. Rickles was too old but funny. Stewart and Colbert were terrific. Kimmel was ... well okay there are some duds out there. Using mock-up of sets was a great concept; too bad it was for the most part one of the first things cut for time. But really, what would be wrong with cutting a lot of the bits in rehearsal and then giving us the pithiest material - you know, the stuff that works. In return the network could give the show a rubber clock allowing for a little overrun. Because let me tell you, there are times when three hours seems like an eternity and other times when three and a half hours fly by too fast. This year's Emmys were the former rather than the latter.

Pre-Emmy Predictions

What I'm doing here is putting together the results of the polls that I've been running this summer, and my own opinions. There are also going to be some categories that we haven't covered in the polls because I didn't have time. Finally, while I haven't seen any of the "long-form" material (Made For TV Movies and Mini-Series) because those forms are virtually dead on broadcast TV and usually on the premium services that I choose not to pay for up here in the Great White North, I do have a couple of thoughts on what "should" win.

Let's start with the comedies:

Outstanding Comedy Series

Survey says 30 Rock. I happen to agree. In my view, the only show on the list that even comes close is The Office. And this is coming from someone whose dislike of the sitcom form quite strong. Although, as I have confessed before, I haven't watched any of the shows on the nomination list so I am hardly the best judge. Still, what sets this show – and all but one of the other nominees – apart is that they break thoroughly with the traditional sitcom mould. Or perhaps I should say the traditional sitcom mould as in the stuff that makes houses unlivable.

Actor in a Comedy

You said Alec Baldwin. I said Alec Baldwin. The Emmy voters are likely to say Alec Baldwin, if only because last year's winner Ricky Gervais isn't nominated this year. His biggest competition, and the only actor I really think is likely to have a shot at winning this is Steve Carell of The Office. My reasoning is that Shaloub has been around and has won for a long time, and the Academy has far less respect for Charlie Sheen than it did for his father, and absolutely no respect for his show. As for Lee Pace, he and his show Pushing Daisies are new and innovative, while Baldwin and Carell are proven quantities. His turn may well come but not this time around.

Actress in a Comedy

You gave your votes – both of them – to Tina Fey, and for the most part I'll agree with that because I think that the lady is absolutely brilliant. However someone I have a lot of respect for – that would be Dianne Kristine of the TV, Eh? and Unified Theory Of Nothing Much blogs – prefers Christina Applegate for her work on Samantha Who? and someone else I respect a lot – Alan Sepinwall in his Emmy column – thinks she's a dark horse candidate who make rack up some sympathy votes because of her recent bout with cancer. The poll I can't trust (2 votes?!) so I'll stick with my gut and say Tina Fey.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

I won't go through the nominees in this one. It probably comes down to two – well maybe three. My personal favourite is Kristin Chenoweth I love and adore this pocket dynamo who sings, dances, does comedy and as she proved on The West Wing, ain't half bad as a dramatic actress either. And if Aaron Sorkin does her bad again, I'd like her to know I'm available. Still there's a bit of me that worries that Amy Poehler, who I think is one of the first nominees from Saturday Night Live to be nominated individually in a comedy category in a long time (if ever) and because of that might have something close to a lock on the category. And Jean Smart in Samantha Who? probably has a shot, just because she's Jean Smart. But I'll say that the Emmy will go to Kristin and hope I'm not proven wrong.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy

In my view it comes down to Neil Patrick Harris or Rainn Wilson. I think it should be Harris because, well let's face it the character of Barney is legen – wait for it – dary, but there are aguments in favour of Wilson for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute and I think the Emmy voters are more in love with The Office than they are with any of the comedies on CBS. My heart says Harris but it will probably be Wilson

Outstanding Drama Series

Survey couldn't make up its damned mind and said either House or Mad Men. I love both shows but give my personal nod to Mad Men because it was more consistently good than House was by just a little bit.

Actor in a Drama

The category with the most votes, eighteen. You guys gave the nod to Gabriel Byrne for In Treatment with Hugh Laurie and Michael C. Hall a close second and no votes for John Hamm. Which is funny because I think John Hamm is going to win for his portrayal of the conflicted advertising executive with a very deep very dark secret, "Don Draper" (except the real Don Draper was blown to bits on a Korean hillside). Byrne is a tremendous actor and some day the Emmy voters are going to wake up and give Hugh Laurie the award he's deserved since House started but this time around it's going to be Hamm.

Actress in a Drama

You guys gave it to Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order: SVU. Again I think you're wrong (one does not insult one's audience by calling them nuts). You ignored two Oscar winners and a multiple Oscar nominee and the woman with the world's greatest Kevin Bacon number. This one is going to go to Glenn Close if for no other reason than she is Glenn Close and even though Hunter and Field each have more Oscars by some oversight, Glenn Close is the best actress of the lot.

Supporting Actor in a Drama

A great category that's wide open. Any one of them can win and with one exception I wouldn't be unhappy (I'm talking about you Shatner). As much as I liked John Slattery's performance as the silver fox with a king size libido and a heart condition to match Roger Sterling, I think it comes down to Michael Emerson as the duplicitous Ben in Lost and Ted Danson as the duplicitous Arthur Frobisher in Damages. I think I'll go with Danson mainly because this role represents such a huge switch from the roles that Emmy voters are used to seeing him in.

Supporting Actress in a Drama

Another great, wide open category with impressive performances from everybody who is nominated. I can't even dismiss Boston Legal because I've had the hots for Candice Bergen since The Wind And The Lion and even before. I think it comes down to Rachel Griffiths and Dianne Weist and while I love Griffiths, I think Weist is probably the bigger name and eventual winner.

Reality-Competition Series

You said American Idol and I said "Ha!", "Piffle", and "Don't make me laugh." I say it is going to be The Amazing Race because the Emmys have shown no love for American Idol in the past and I don't think they're going to show any this time either. If any show is going to knock The Amazing Race off its pedestal this year, it could be Dancing With The Stars (rather than Alan Sepinwall's pick of Project Runway) because most of the people in the room would secretly like to be on it.

Reality or Reality-Competition Host

The winner should be Phil Keoghan but he wasn't nominated. Of those nominated, Jeff Probst is probably the most deserving if only because he defined the role of host in one of these shows. But as Alan Sepinwall points out, Ryan Seacrest, who isn't even the most important permanent member of his own show – Simon Cowell is and even Paula and Randy are more important than him – inexplicably has a lot of friends in the room. I still say Probst.

Variety Music or Comedy Series

The Late Show With David Letterman for no other reason than he was with the writers during the strike when others weren't.

The Various Movie/Mini-Series Categories

I'm no expert on these categories so I'll just say this – expect to hear the words John Adams a lot. Certainly there'll be Emmys for the mini-series, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.

I'll be live-blogging when the ceremonies start. This means, watching the show, taking notes, shovelling down a few bites of dinner down my gullet while I'm doing it, running to the computer to edit the awards entry while hopefully avoiding running over the dog during the commercials, and getting back to my reviewing position before the commercial ends. If nothing else I'll get some exercise.


Here's the tally of how the poll did and how I did versus reality.

Poll: 3.5/7 - You got the Comedy categories right and the Drama and Reality-Competition category wrong except for a half point for Mad Men (because you had it tied).

Me: 8/13 - I picked more categories but even in the categories where I polled I got more right. I added Drama, Dramatic Actress and Supporting Actress as well as Reality-Competition and Reality Host. I missed the Comedy supporting categories and dramatic Supporting Actor. Only one person who voted one got the Dramatic Actor right.

Poll Results -What Show Do You Think Should Win The Emmy For Outstanding Drama Series?

I totally blew it when it came to my efforts to get a couple of shows reviewed and a new "PTC" article out. I fell ill Monday night and really didn't feel up to much until Thursday, then had a couple of other things crop up unexpectedly on Friday and Saturday. Almost a whole work week shot. Next week had better be better.

I wanted to leave this one to as close to Sunday as I could. For one thing I didn't give it as much lead time as I should have, which is another way of saying that I miscalculated the dates that all 

of the category polls should have run. For another thing I was hoping that we'd get one final vote. Yeah, you got it, we had a tie. At least it's the right tie.

Down to the results. Ten votes were cast, which was better than in most of the other categories. In a tie for fifth place with no votes are Boston Legal and Damages. In a tie for third place with one vote (10%) each are Lost and Dexter. In a tie for first place with four votes each (40%) are House and Mad Men.

For all that this isn't a scientific poll – the sample is too small and the people who have taken the poll are self-selected rather than reflecting an accurate picture of the viewing audience – I think that the result is a strong one. There are some parts of the result that I quibble with. For one thing, though I haven't seen it I think that Damages was probably a far better drama during the previous season than Boston Legal was. I'm rather unsure about Lost and Dexter too. I gave up on Lost and didn't go back, and the second season of Dexter isn't yet available on a cable channel that I have access to. There are however some things that I do know. I know that, unlike most of the other categories, the Outstanding Drama Series category (like the Outstanding Comedy award) is based on the overall performance of a series rather than a single superlative episode. I also know that in Mad Men and House the Academy has selected nominated two series that have rarely have put a foot wrong in terms of producing a string of outstanding episodes. I know that these two series get me involved in the stories they're telling. If I had voted, I think my vote would have gone to Mad Men, not simply because the show is newer than House but because I was a little more interested in the conflicts and secrets of the world of Don Draper and the people at Striling-Cooper than I was in the initial part of this season's House. The pseudo-reality show aspects of House finding his new associates (like any true reality show) didn't really become involving until the group was whittled down to a handful of likely candidates. Once he had them (and Wilson had Amber/"Cut Throat Bitch" who served as a far more entertaining antagonist for House than either Vogler or Tritter) things really picked up leading to a finale that was two of the best hours of TV of the season. The thing is though that while House had a few weak episodes, I would be hard pressed to find a point where Mad Men took a wrong step. But even for me it was close, so this tie in the poll isn't disappointing in the least.

Later today I'll have a summary of the poll results and my own opinions on a few other categories we didn't get into. Then I will – yet again – attempt to "liveblog" the Emmys. I think I've got my technique down now.

Monday, September 15, 2008


It's been a while since I've edited the Blogroll, and I think it's time I did. There are a few inactive or dead blogs to be dumped and a few of new ones to be added. One of these days I'll have to switch over to the version of Blogger that lists the newly updated blogs.

New (to you) Blogs

Shorpy: The 100 Year-Old Photo Blog: A favourite of mine for quite a while. Not all of the photos are a hundred years old, but they certainly give a sense of the way things were in the past. A real image of the past.

South Dakota Dark: A group blog focusing on Television and popular culture. Slowed down a little over the past couple of months, but then haven't we all?

Talk Show: Occasional ramblings from Dick Cavett. I will admit that he isn't my favourite past talk show host (those would be Tom Snyder and of course Johnny Carson) but whenever I've had a chance to see one of Cavett's several shows I've enjoyed it for the same reason that I enjoyed Tom Snyder – he gives good conversation.

I Am A TV Junkie: Pretty much self-explained by the title. He watches a lot of TV (like me) and writes about it (like me), although he doesn't just review stuff that's on broadcast TV (unlike me – mostly) and he gets swag from producers (unlike me...but I'm not bitter). A good read.

The Medium Is Not Enough TV Blog: A British blog about TV. A mix of show reviews and links to news stories concerning TV on both sides of the Atlantic. A fair amount of Doctor Who-Torchwood-Sarah Jane Adventures stuff in the mix.

She Blogged By Night: A blog focussed with laser like precision on old movies. Produced by Stacia (who Stephen Cooke, Tom Sutpen, Ivan Shreve and I once knew as "The Avocado Avenger" back in the days when we were heavily into Usenet newsgroups) it is a blog in the hands of someone who knows a ton of stuff about old movies and isn't afraid to express her opinion.

Cartophilia: My old friend and fellow Diplomacy zine publisher Jamie McQuinn dropped me an email to remind me that while he does have his occasional rant blog at Tralfaz (Blech!) his main blog – the one he lavishes daily attention on – is Cartophilia, which deals with his fascination with maps. I have corrected the omission (but Tralfaz (Blech!) is still on the list), because I enjoy a good map from time to time too and it's the least I can do for a guy who sent me a puzzle piece of Cameroon from a magnetic globe.

So for now that's the housekeeping on the old bloglisting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Series Premieres And Season Debuts – Week of September 15-21, 2008

It's going to be a pretty light week coming up as far as season debuts is concerned. There are no series premiers this week – a definite lull before the storm – but there are a few series getting ready to show up. That will probably give me a chance to take a run at the PTC – it's getting to be their busy season as well and they're being their usual outraged selves – and hopefully get my reviews for Privileged and hopefully 90210 done (I still haven't watched last week's episodes of either series yet). But, all in all a light week.


FOX has the start of the new season of House MD. House tries to patch up his relationship with Wilson in the aftermath of the death of Amber (aka Cut-Throat Bitch). Oh, yeah, and there's a patient who is dying for Foreman and House's "Cottages" (Traub, Kutner and "13") to try to interest the boss in.

NBC is debuting the latest season of Biggest Loser. This time it's the Family Edition. And we all know just how well that worked out for The Amazing Race.


The CW is starting the eighth (and possibly last) season of Smallville. Michael Rosenbaum has regrown his hair because Lex Luthor will apparently only be doing an occasional guest appearance. Kristin Kreuk is gone too, but will be back for five episodes. That leaves us with Clark, Chloe and Lana as the major characters, with Cassidy Freeman coming in as the new head of LuthorCorp, personally selected by Lex.

The CW also has the fourth season debut of Supernatural. It will feature the return of Dean Winchester after four months in the grave or Hell... or both.

CBS originally planned to debut Survivor: Gabon on September 18th but has decided to push it back to September 25th and do a two-hour season premiere.