Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/6/08

Cinco de Mayo means…er, lots of good television to watch (beer goggles not recommended)…

The barracudas start out young on GOSSIP GIRL, and they aren’t afraid to use their teeth. Little J dismissed Eric’s “crush” on her with a callous “that’s cute.” But there was nothing cute about the way he bared his own claws and outed her boyfriend, Asher, as gay. Now, Asher was no nice guy — the way he tormented Nate about what he intended to do to Jenny that night was vicious — but did Eric have the right to out Asher like that?

Rufus was also shattered; the way he stared at the reflection of Lillian in her wedding dress was heartbreaking. It didn’t look like Georgina has a heart to break. Michelle Trachtenberg (ex-Dawn, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) makes for a deliciously cruel and cold blast from Serena’s past. Georgina revels in using her powers for evil. The way she casually outed Eric to his mother while maintaining a mask of bemused innocence at the dinner table marked a real change from the little Dawn we used to know and love. Perhaps casting Trachtenberg was a metareference to BUFFY, since Georgina is “The Key” to Serena’s past, making Miss Sparks the Big Bad. Speaking of the past, did that laptop hold one of the adventures of “Svetlana and Savannah?” Blair wresting her throne from Jenny was another blast from the past. Compared to Queen B, Little J is just a kitten with a whip.

I do not usually make HOUSE calls because the show’s rigid formula tends to bore me, but when I heard this week’s episode involved House diagnosing his favorite soap opera actor, Evan Greer — played by Jason Lewis (ex-Smith, SEX AND THE CITY) — I felt a responsibility to check up on it.

The medical nuts-and-bolts were pretty much just as I remembered them, only this time House seemed to be wrong more than right — culminating in administering the correct treatment for the wrong reason (but the patient lived). However, the episode turned into a meditation on what constitutes happiness. Evan insisted that being a Hollywood lady-killer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; Wilson and Amber struggled to find domestic bliss; and Kutner and 13 wondered if it’s possible to be happy in an unhappy work environment. Of course House himself punctured all the rosy talk about hope with the cutting remark: “Hope is for sissies.” He insisted that people refuse to make concrete changes in their lives in order to hang on to hope. Nice philosophy, but that’s easy for a fictional character to say, right?

Best line of the night: When a pharmacist told House he was ordering enough steroids to jump-start a car, House replied, “Good, because he’s in a ’69 Ford coma.”

Death was waiting in the wings for ONE TREE HILL‘s Dan, and apparently he wasn’t willing to wait for it, judging by the hideous headstone sporting his photo that Dan had installed right next to Keith (talk about making someone turn over in his grave!).

Little Jamie was eager to learn more about his grandfather, but Nathan had no intention of letting Dan anywhere near the kid. A bad editing decision made it look like Nate told Haley about Dan’s diagnosis right in front of Jamie, but a wider angle revealed the parents had moved to the kitchen between shots. Of course, Lucas had no sympathy for the terminal condition of the devil either, telling his father, “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” Then he really got mean, adding, “You’re dead to so many of us already, so what does it matter?” Ice cold. Forget what I said above about that great line from HOUSE — Lucas gets the night’s top honors. Honorable mention in the “dis” department goes to Lindsay for declining Lucas’ invitation to a video chat.

And I will meet you back here for the next Night Shift, provided you don’t decline…

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/5/08

I finally got home early enough on a Friday to watch GHOST WHISPERER. (I absolutely loathe tuning in after a show has begun, and try to avoid ever doing that.) This week’s episode featured LAS VEGAS’ Nikki Cox (also known as ex-Gina, GENERAL HOSPITAL) as Nina, a grifter out to con Rick into thinking he fathered her child. But he hates kids. Hilarity ensued. Not. Was it too coincidental that Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and hubby Jim were also wrestling with the question of having kids?

One thing that was out of the ordinary: Prof. Rick had a collection of Zuni fetishes (as seen in the classic TRILOGY OF TERROR). Of course Hewitt was called upon to cry — and she does that beautifully — and she decided to try for a baby with the words, “Life’s too short — what the hell are we waiting for?”

I’ve been waiting for this week’s episode of DOCTOR WHO for months — ever since I heard it was being filmed on the same Italian sets that HBO used for ROME. Bound for the Eternal City, the Doctor accidentally took Donna to Pompeii in A.D. 79 on the day before Vesuvius erupted. But it was a good thing the TARDIS crew was there, because the alien Pyrovile threatened to change history by stopping the volcano’s eruption.

When the Doctor noted that he’d visited ancient Rome “ages ago,” he was referring to an adventure of his first persona, who visited Rome in A.D. 64 and, despite the current Doctor’s bleating to the contrary, actually (accidentally) inspired Nero to set the Great Fire by absent-mindedly setting Nero’s architectural plans ablaze. The running gag about the TARDIS’ translation circuit converting English to Latin and actual Latin to Celtic was hilarious and harkened back to that First Doctor adventure — “The Romans” was controversial in its day for being the first all-out comedic episode of the series.

I loved Lucius and Evelina battling to prove their sooth-saying bona fides, especially Lucius warning the Doctor that “She is returning” — he must be referring to Rose (okay, maybe Martha…but no, it’s Rose!) — but was creeped out by his telling Donna, “There is something on your back!” (Wait until you see what he means…*shudders*). The bit with the water pistol was priceless. There could not be a more Whovian weapon than a water pistol!

The most interesting kind of story is when the Doctor has to make a decision with lives on the line. In this case, he had to balance 20,000 lives in Pompeii vs. letting the Pyrovile take over the planet by harnessing Vesuvius’ power. The Doctor had to face his memories of causing the destruction of his home planet as he pondered throwing the switch to incinerate the city (and ensure that history “happens” the way it was recorded). Of course he did foil the Pyrovile, but Donna — acting in the companion’s role as humanist — prevailed upon him to save one family from the inferno. The Doctor rescued Caecillius’ family, and they repaid the Doctor and Donna by etching their images in stone as their household gods. Which was fitting, after all, since the Time Lord did descended from the heavens to save their lives — making the Doctor quite literally a deus ex machina. But far from any delusions of godhood, his decision actually reflected his humanity. When he told Donna, “You were right; sometimes I need someone,” he meant he needed someone to remind him that he’s half-human. Which is the role of the companion in the TARDIS &mdsah; to bring the last survivor of Gallifrey down to Earth.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA continued the religious theme of the evening, but with a decided twist. Baltar insisted that the gods of Kobol do not exist — then went about his business of letting everyone else treat him like a god. He noted that he joined the fleet as a scientist, but was evolving into a man of faith. Meanwhile, aboardDemetrius, the search for Earth was not going well. Leoben, who had escaped last week’s internecine Cylon slaughter, tried to convince Anders that God does exist by asking, “What is the most basic article of faith? That this is not all that we are.” He said the Cylons are split among lines of those who embrace their nature, and those who fear it. Leoben said his basestar’s Hybrid knows about Earth — but does he know the Hybrids think Starbuck will lead mankind to their doom? Is that why he wants an alliance — to facilitate Kara Thrace’s destruction of mankind?

Aaron Douglas had a good week as Tyrol, even though I don’t like his bald look. I caught my breath as Galen toyed with the gun. Seems like all the Sharons are trouble; perhaps the Eights were designed to be contrarians. In this case, Athena agitated for mutiny aboard Demetrius, and as the episode ended, Agathon and Gaeta refused to follow Kara’s orders. “To be continued…” Ya think?

This blog will be continued in the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/2/08

Thursday is one of the busiest nights (along with Mondays). That means the ol’ remote thumb gets a workout… 

On SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES, the Black Widow Brigade was in full effect, plotting to oust the menfolk, but this season’s curse did most of the work: James‘ finger boo-boo forced him to be medically evacuated, but Alexissomehow managed to soldier on with a bum leg. However, James was still in the game for the always-emotional visit from loved ones (in his case, dad James Sr.). 

The reward challenge was one of those dull “how well do you know your fellow Survivors” quizzes, so I flipped over to SMALLVILLE, where a Kryptonian artifact (and Jor-El) enabled Clark to go all It’s a Wonderful Life and see a version of Earth without him. Basically, Lex becomes president and Jimmy wears a bow tie. Not so bad, eh? Except that Brainiac is urging President Luthor to launch the United State’s nuclear arsenal and destroy the world. On the plus side, Lois is the intrepid crusading journalist we all know, and she gives Clark his classic disguise: blue suit, tie and glasses (which Tom Welling pushed up his nose with a single finger, just like the lateChristopher Reeve in the movies. We got another glimpse of Krypton — but sadly without the iconic theme music from the movie…!?! Welling directed this episode, and handled the effects well. The scenes of nuclear armageddon were chillingly effective (orbital views of silent explosions), and the destruction of Krypton aped the movie depiction fairly closely. 

Lex better get his global destruction in while he can — word is Michael Rosenbaumhas allowed his contract to expire and will not be a regular next season. I have had the pleasure of meeting Rosenbaum a couple of times — he’s very personable — including charity events conducted by the New York Rangers, so he was no doubt just as overjoyed as I was to see the Rangers claim Game 4 from the Pittsburgh Penguins last night! 

Back on SURVIVOR, Amanda was sent to Exile Island to track down yet another hidden immunity idol. She ultimately discovered where it was hidden by digging a trench in the beach with her bare hands — an exertion that left her bikini-clad form gasping and covered in sand in a way that I cannot accurately conjure in an all-ages blog…. Since shaggy Erik won immunity and James was already gone, the Black Widows were forced to eat one of their own, and they selected Amanda (unaware that she would go on to dig up the immunity idol). After the votes were cast, Amanda dropped the bomb that she was playing the idol — bringing paroxysms of joy from the jurors and that sinking feeling from Alexis — who turned out the be the runner-up vote-getter, and so her torch was snuffed. 

As host Jeff Probst pointed out, this season has “perfected the art of the blindside,” making tribal councils completely unpredictable and so much fun to watch. I’m almost ready to declare this the best season ever. (At this point, I think it hinges on whether Amanda or Parvati wins.) 

SUPERNATURAL got back to the serious business of being scary with a truly creepy spin on the hoary “getting phone calls from the dead” plot, but the big news was that the-powers-that-be actually got Jeffrey Dean Morgan (ex-Denny, GREY’S ANATOMY) to reprise his role as Daddy John and make a couple of spectral phone calls to Dean (Jensen Ackles, ex-Eric, DAYS OF OUR LIVES). I would love to know if Morgan actually recorded his vocal cameo over the phone or went into a studio. 

Even though the story dealt with a demon tricking grieving loved ones of deceased relatives into killing themselves, the saddest thing I heard was Dean finally admitting to his brother that he’s scared. Dean’s contract is coming due (right around the season finale that starts next week!), and he is finally facing up to the fact that he will soon start serving eternity in hell. Dean had desperately hoped Daddy Winchester really was calling from the afterlife because he dangled the prospect of voiding the demon contract that had damned Dean. But it was not to be. All season long we have been seeing Sam (played by Jared Padalecki, ex-Dean, GILMORE GIRLS) feeling guilty because Dean traded his soul to convince a demon to save Sam’s life; now we see that far from being implacable, too-cool-for-school Dean has been silently crapping his pants about going to the Bad Place. And, for what it’s worth, this being SUPERNATURAL, I’m willing to speculate that Dean will not get his fat pulled out of the (hell)fire at the last moment. 

Speaking of people in need of saving, LOST‘s Jack finally had to admit weakness and let Juliet remove his appendix. Ever the self-flagellating martyr, Jack insisted on trying to talk Juliet through the operation, obliging the audience to watch the operation right along with him. I lasted about as long as Jack did. 

The flash-forward dealt with the dissolution of Jack’s post-island bliss. Hurley’s warning and the reappearance of Christian’s ghost really spooked Jack, but it was his jealousy over Kate that really frayed his mind. He asked her to marry him (Awww…), but when she undertook some kind of secret errand for Sawyer that was it for Jack. It’s easy to see this booze-guzzling, pill-popping version of Jack now on the road to becoming the eye-rolling, island-obsessed lunatic we glimpsed in last season’s mind-blowing finale. Jack is clearly the most frakked-up character on this show. 

Other (potentially) important information we learned:
•Sawyer chose to stay on the island. 
•Morose Hurley thinks they’re all dead.
•Charlotte speaks Korean.
•Claire called Christian “Daddy” (but we already knew that, didn’t we?) and somehow became separated from Aaron. 

And now it’s time for us to separate, at least until the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/29/08

I am not a fan of PICK A NUMBER — er, I mean, DEAL OR NO DEAL, but I happened to be at my brother’s house at 8 o’clock, and my nephew is a big Star Wars fan, so he insisted on watching the stormtroopers hold briefcases (but an early bedtime meant no slave Leias for him). So Howie Mandel can rest assured that he has the under-10 demographic sewed up. 

Luckily, Uncle Joe had set his VCR, so a tape of GREEK was waiting for me when I eventually got home. (Something had to give, so, sadly, I had to delay viewingGOSSIP GIRL; watch this space for my time-shifted thoughts on that show.) 

GREEK put the spotlight on Rusty, Casey’s little brother — the biological kind, not the Greek kind. Roomie Dale got Rusty a date with Emma, a cutie from his lit class. But Emma wanted to bring her roomie, Tina, so Rusty needed a wingman. Unfortunately, Chewbacca was apparently busy with DEAL (see above), so Dale was pressed into service. Since this is a TV show, of course Dale and Tina hit it off big-time, bonding over their mutual hatred of the Greek system. In fact, Tina because so maniacal that she practically stole U-SAG out from under him. 

Casey considered normalizing relations with Omega Chi, but a run-in with Evan prompted her to call it off. Seems Casey couldn’t perform her official duties without dealing with her personal issues. (How soapy!) And what better way to air personal grievances than a social event with alcohol? But Evan and Casey didn’t get drunk; they were charged with checking IDs at the door. But a brawl still erupted. Evan took an opportunity to kiss Frannie, but she shot him down. C’mon, dude, Frannie may be the former president of the sorority, but she’s no Casey. Casey told Evan she’s moving on, then told Frannie that Zeta Beta is moving on — so Frannie can move back in. 

ONE TREE HILL celebrated Jamie’s fifth birthday with a big party and a fun episode. And while the little kid was rightly the focus of much attention, I was particularly interested in the spotlight on Skills, best bud and “uncle” to Jamie. Skills was wracked by guilt over Jamie’s kidnapping, and felt that Nathan and Haley did not trust him around their child anymore. When he finally confronted them and apologized yet again, Nathan and Haley conceded they were having a hard time trusting Jamie with anyone. Reassured, Skills went to Jamie, who was lamenting that that he didn’t get the coolest thing in the world for his birthday. Skills jokingly wondered if he meant “a hot girl who likes to kiss other hot girls?” but knew what Jamie really wanted: a Wii. (I can tell you from personal experience that only cool uncles mount expeditions to track down those rare Wii consoles!) 

Lucas was being somewhat cool himself, reluctant to put Haley in the middle between himself and Lindsey. How rare is that in a soap character? And how portentous was it that Lindsey appeared just as Jamie was about to make his wish? Lucas finally got to talk to Lindsey, over birthday cake. Even though Lucas had told his brother that Lindsey is definitely The One, he couldn’t convince her. She later packed up her stuff and left her key. I confess I cringed when Lucas originally told her to keep the key, because that would only lead to misunderstandings later when she inevitably used it at an awkward moment. 

Awkward is a pretty good description of Brooke’s adjustment to baby Angie. It’s good to see a soap at least hint at how much work having a child is. They cry and want to be fed, like, every day! But there was still time for the idealized imagery, including Jamie kissing her on the forehead, and Lucas cuddling with the angelic, sleeping child.

You want idealization? How cool is Mouth’s new roomie Millicent? She’s smart, compassionate, funny, pretty (yet willing to overlook a guy’s physical flaws), enjoys beer and pizza, and lets the boys have waterfights inside the house. How did Mouth get so lucky? 

Dan isn’t very lucky: He needs a heart — and not just the emotional kind. But Nathan (rightly) wants nothing to do with him. Jamie’s grandmother grabbed a little of the spotlight by letting Bucko, the creepy birthday clown, show her his…um, balloon animal. 

And on that disturbing note, I’ll wrap up this edition of Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/28/08

Friday is SF/fantasy night. I just wish I got home in time to see GHOST WHISPERERone of these weeks. Nevertheless, I did see some good stuff.

DOCTOR WHO: Hey, look, it’s Rose! The new season premiere wrapped up with a shout-out to the past, as Billie Piper reprised her fan-favorite role as former companion Rose in a crowd scene. I was ecstatic, but why did Rose look so sad? And why did she disappear into thin air right before our eyes? Well, keeping in mind that Rose works for Torchwood in her alternate reality, I’m theorizing that she may have bridged the gap between dimensions by using alien technology that came through her version of the Rift. We shall see…. The fourth season premiere, “Partners in Crime,” was really about the Doctor’s new companion, Donna Noble (previously seen in “The Runaway Bride”). This time, Donna was noticeably less annoying, even though she is clearly more abrasive than any companion since Tegan (who traveled with the Fourth and Fifth incarnations of the Doctor. I’m not saying annoying — that prize goes to Mel, of course). This softening is welcome, because no one wants another Adric (who coincidentally also traveled with the Fourth and Fifth Doctors). No, in this case, Donna was played for broad comedy — which is probably fitting, since she’s portrayed by comedienne Catherine Tate. When Donna and the Doctor got into that hilarious pantomime exchange, I was ROTFLMAO. There was little funny, however, about Donna’s mother, who is yet another maternal harridan. I’m no doctor, but I wonder if somebody on the writing staff has mommy issues; Rose and Martha also had oil/water relationships with their mothers (at least at first). However, this was somewhat balanced out by Donna’s grandfather (whom sharp-eyed viewers will recall from the London newsstand during last week’s “Voyage of the Damned”).

The story itself was lightweight — pun intended — revolving as it did around a weight-loss pill that secretly implanted alien embryos inside human hosts; the creatures (called Adipose) then become living fat — tiny, blocky creatures that smile and coo. I was a bit disappointed that the story (the Doctor and Donna independently investigating the same operation, too closely resembled season two’s “School Reunion,” and I prefer the Doctor to be more proactive. Also, the plot too closely resembled the pilot of the WHO spin-off THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (in which a creature called Bane tricked people into drinking orange soda laced with alien DNA.)Who else thinks the Doctor will sorely regret tossing Ms. Foster’s sonic pen into a trash bin? It was pointed out to me by a friend that the megacute Adipose are ready-made for mass-marketing, and I have to agree. Who wouldn’t want a plush toy modeled after living fat? Cutest. Monsters. Ever. (I think they edge out STAR TREK‘s Tribbles because Adipose — kinda sorta — have faces.) Next up for the Doctor and Donna: Pompeii in A.D. 79: Volcano day!

Next up for me, however, was BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. This episode opened with a touching memorial for Cally, whom Tory “spaced” last week. While it was interesting to see details of a religious ceremony, I wondered how anyone knew Cally was dead. Since she was blown out of an airlock there obviously was no body, and Tory presumably took care of any security video in order to cover up her own involvement. I decided that a patrol Raptor must have spotted Cally’s corpse — or maybe it collided with another ship in the fleet. (You thought it was messy when a bigmosquito hits your windshield!) Speaking of Raptors, Chief Tyrol frakked up by forgetting to replace a capacitor, almost killing Racetrack and Skulls (who managed to walk away from one helluva Raptor crash). Too often SF shows forget that spacecraft are supposed to be working vehicles that need regular maintenance! Later, Galen melted down over his wife’s death. “I got stuck with the best of limited options,” he railed, by way of explaining his marriage. He lamented that Boomer turned out to be a Cylon. A Cylon that Cally killed. Yes, that was the “Anvil of Irony” dropping on the scene. On the plus side, remembering the chief’s crush on Sharon signals that this show does not forget the myriad minutiae of its history.

Keeping up with the religious theme, Baltar continued slouching toward apotheosis. He is obviously starting to buy into this messiah nonsense, allowing Six to use it to manipulate him. “The time has come to make a stand,” he said, just before bursting in on a religious ceremony to denounce Zeus as “a serial rapist” (well, he is — just ask Leda!). The dark side of zealotry was also seen in The Sons of Ares, a self-righteous militia. Concerned about escalating violence, President Roslin tried to pass laws aimed at Baltar’s sect, but the Quorum balked at religious oppression in the polytheistic fleet. I had to crack up when Baltar advised his followers to “Love yourself.” Is there anyone, anywhere, who loves himself more than Gaius Baltar? “You are perfect, just as you are,” he declared to his flock. Sounds like he’s founding the Church of Billy Joel.

The idea of perfection is one Tory can definitely get behind. “We were made to be perfect,” she exulted. As Tory revels in her new identity, actress Rekha Sharma has been vamped up (not that that took much work). Tory tried to show Baltar how pain can become pleasure (but he wasn’t really buying). Meanwhile, Col. Tigh wondered if Six could turn off her emotions, so she beat the frak out of him to teach him how to turn off pain. (He called her a “frakkin’ freak machine.” LOL).

As far as I was concerned, however, the big revelation came when Six was picking up Baltar during the sequence when the soldier was beating him: He looked like a marionette hanging from tangled strings, suggesting he was being physically lifted by an invisible force. This must mean that the Six he sees in his head is much more than just a vision — she can affect the physical world. (So, all those times when Baltar had sex with Six in his mind, was his body also…um, having sex with Six?)

See you on the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/25/08

Thursday nights present a veritable embarrassment of programming riches — so much so that it’s hard to settle on one show.

I started out with SMALLVILLE, which itself began with a high-tech robbery by a ninja, who turned out to be…Jimmy Olsen? What the frak? It was part of an overly elaborate plan by the Department of Domestic Security, which wanted Jimmy to turn in Chloe, because the DDS assumed Chloe was hacking secure files and redirecting satellites for terrorist-related purposes. Silly DDS — Chloe was just looking for Brainiac! The Chloe who hijacks satellites related to terror plots works for CTU on 24!

Hmmm…wheelchair humor on MY NAME IS EARL. Good to see they’re casting a wide net for their jokes.

There’s still time for a quick check of tribal council over at SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES to see James out Pavarti for scheming to oust Ozzy last week…and Ozzy reacting like he’d just sat on a red-hot railroad spike. Hmmm, maybe after witnessing last week’s mugging, Jason should use the immunity idol…. No? Too bad. Of course he was voted out. From now on, finding that hidden immunity idol should be regarded as a plague similar to that cursed tiki statuette from THE BRADY BUNCH, or the Zuni fetish doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR.

The new episode of SUPERNATURAL (finally!) tackled so-called “reality” shows with a spoof called GHOSTFACERS (because they face ghosts instead of running away). Real ghost hunters Sam and Dean find the poseur posse investigating a house that really is haunted, and by a particularly nasty spirit. One of the wannabes ends up dead but still saves the day (this is SUPERNATURAL), and the Winchesters make sure video footage of real spirits never sees the light of day by frying the Ghostfacers’ electronics with an electromagnetic bomb. I chuckled at the scientific solution to a “spiritual” problem. Sam and Dean have rarely appeared to be more in control, and the witty script soundly skewered the melodramatic conventions of “unscripted” shows. The whole episode was probably some kind of meta statement on “reality” series continuing to shamble along, zombie-like, even though their pop-culture bubble has burst, but the still-increasing popularity of AMERICAN IDOL and DANCING WITH THE STARS seems to contradict that. Of course, The CW’s own impending FARMER WANTS A WIFE seems to argue that the genre really is dead.

Oh, looks like THE OFFICE was funny — I forgot to switch channels during the commercials enough….

Which brings me to LOST. If you watch, you know it’s nigh-impossible to boil this show down to a capsule, but suffice to say the episode featured a Ben flash-forward detailing what happens when he gets off the island, which amounts to going after Charles Widmore’s daughter (poor Penny!) and recruiting Sayid to his cause by serving up the man who killed Sayid’s wife, Nadia. Back on the island, Ben’s daughter Alex was callously murdered, along with a host of other islanders we’d never seen before, by the mercenaries from the freighter. The new mystery: Why did the body of the freighter’s doctor wash ashore with its throat cut when the people on the boat claimed the doc was alive and well? My favorite bits: Ben being all Phantom of the Opera at the piano, then hopping up and pulling a shotgun out of the bench when he heard “Code 14J” was activated. Ben somehow summoned the Smoke Monster to punish the mercs for killing his daughter. (Great touch: Ben emerged from his secret chamber with his arms stained black by something: He literally got his hands dirty!) Hugo makes a great babysitter, doesn’t he? And, I know they say doctors make the worst patients, but even I have seen enough medical series to diagnose Jack as suffering from appendicitis, so why can’t he?

I guess we’ll learn in next week’s Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/24/08

Wednesday night’s 8 o’clock wasteland — BIG BROTHER 9DEAL OR NO DEAL,‘TIL DEATH and WIFE SWAPreally? — means I can stop to pick up dry-cleaning and Snapple on the way home from the train without missing anything even remotely resembling entertainment. (The N.Y. Rangers don’t kick off the next round of the NHL playoffs until tomorrow night.)

Yesterday, I was concerned that I would make a lousy AMERICAN IDOL fan because I didn’t gush over the same shoddy performances that the “professional” judges did. Well, perhaps I was too harsh in my judgment — of myself. Turns out America agreed with my diagnosis that Carly was just a screamer who relied on her backup singers to carry “Jesus Christ, Superstar” while she wailed (a tactic seen more commonly among child singers to make them appear to have “big” voices) and strutted. Yes, despite Simon‘s out-of-left-field endorsement, Carly was sent packing. Of course, judging by the way Simon, Randy and (especially) Paula fawned over her on the way out, anyone who tuned in late could be forgiven for assuming Carly had won. (Given the relative success of past “losers” vs. “winners,” perhaps she did.) Next week the hopefuls tackle the Neil Diamond songbook. Wouldn’t you love to see the behind-the-scenes knife fight over who gets to belt out “America”?

This week’s LAW & ORDER marked Jesse L. Martin‘s last case as Det. Ed Green, and the-powers-that-be gave his character a storyline-dictated exit. The veteran detective was brought up on charges for whacking a bookie. I’m sure everyone was just as shocked as I to learn that Green had a gambling problem. Considering that he managed to hide it not only from his co-workers but home viewers, how much of aproblem could it have been? Detective Green refused to defend himself, which any experienced TV viewer (ahem) instantly recognized as a signal that he was protecting someone — probably a woman. Bingo! Despite the story’s collapse into cliché, Martin got the chance to do some actual acting. Instead of trying to fill the late Jerry Orbach‘s (ex-Lennie) quippy shoes, Martin (who also played Tom in Rent) was allowed to emote all over the place. Apparently he’s been saving his tears all these years, because Green looked absolutely stricken as his lady friend April confessed her role in the shooting. In the same episode, Anthony Anderson (ex-Marlin, K-VILLE; ex-Antwon, THE SHIELD) debuted as Det. Kevin Bernard, an investigator from Internal Affairs who talked a tough game, but was very sloppy/lazy with the details. He’ll get the chance to shape up starting next week, when Bernard becomes the new partner of Jeremy Sisto‘s Det. Lupo.

And that means Anderson will be working my beat…the Night Shift.

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/23/08

Here’s why it’s a good thing that I’m not a fan/regular viewer of AMERICAN IDOL. The only performance I liked from last night’s Andrew Lloyd Webber fest wasSyesha‘s. Her version of “One Rock and Roll Too Many” proved the IDOL aphorism about the importance of song selection: Hers was perfect for her. Everyone else’s — not so much. The less said about Brooke‘s false start, the better. I know the crowd (and judges) went wild for Carly‘s “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” but I thought she was just yelling into the microphone while the backup singers carried the tune. But the biggest raves were reserved for David Cook, who performed “Music of the Night” — to my mind — as if he’d just heard it for the first time. He cheated on the finale and broke off the last note. I just wasn’t feeling it. My bottom three: Brooke, Carly and Jason. Bye, Brooke.

As I’ve noted before, I love origin stories, so this week’s episode of GREEK, “Freshman Daze,” was bound to be a winner for delving into the roots of the Cappie/Casey/Evan strife and explaining how our pals ended up at Zeta Beta and Kappa Tau (or not).

The impending All-Greek Ball gives everyone an opportunity to flash back two years. Evan first broached the idea of frats to summer camp bud/roomie Cappie as a way to get girls and beer. Cappie took to Greek life like a fish to water (or, more accurately, a frat boy to an ice slide). He also moved in on Casey, whom Evan first met at the rush party. Frannie eventually became Casey’s caring Big Sis. Really! In fact, Frannie cared so much that she tracked down a drunken Cappie the night of the first All-Greek Ball to remind him he was supposed to escort Casey. But by then Evan had gallantly stepped in to save Casey from being stood up. When Cappie finally arrived and saw his roomie and girlfriend dancing, he started a brawl.

So all the pieces click into place, and we learn that not everything is as it appeared (Cappie was the problem, not Casey!) Any show that can squeeze references to Of Mice and Men (that Lennie line) and An Officer and a Gentleman (“I got nowhere else to go!”) into the same scene is okay in my book. This show continues to be eminently watchable and entertaining. Spencer Grammer (ex-Lucy, AS THE WORLD TURNS) seems to have really found her niche.

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/22/08

New shows! This is the week when programming produced after the writers’ strike really hits it stride. Thus, the strike is now officially over…. 

GOSSIP GIRL: Spotted: a viewer who’s definitely not in the teenager demographic, perched on his couch, eagerly devouring the newest episode of GG. Okay, so it’s hard to quantify the appeal of this show to me; there’s just something deliciously decadent about it. Borderline depraved, in fact. And, yes, it could be because GG has the best-looking cast on TV. Last night was Jenny’s episode — she was engaged in open warfare with former “Queen B” Blair. “Little J” made some big mistakes (like stealing a designer dress out of the closet of a “friend”), but she showed conniving skills way beyond her years, thinking through her tears and exploit Penelope’s weakness (in this case, for Nate) to wriggle out of real jail time. Little J is becoming quite the silver-tongued little devil (emphasis on devil). Chuck came dangerously close to becoming annoying again, but his self-loathing is fun to watch. I would still like to see some rich characters who are nicer people, but hey, when they are this entertaining, who cares? Michelle Trachtenberg (ex-Dawn, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) comes aboard next week as Serena’s frenemy Georgina. Should be a catfighting blast. XOXO 

ONE TREE HILL: I enjoyed the way the show opened by depicting the first thoughts of each character upon awakening in the morning. None of them was surprising — least of all Brooke, whose first thought was “Brooke.” Although apparently now she is obsessed with babies — a mania that came completely out of the blue. How can she be surprised that Owen the bartender was a little freaked out? It’s not like she broached the subject casually and then built toward it. But I guess that is symptomatic of the “new” OTH. It has been a different (much better) program since it was relaunched with a jump four years forward in time. It is now one of the soapiest shows on TV. I used to complain because the scripts were always so “on the nose,” but the unsubtle writing seems fitting now. When Peyton and Lucas were arguing about their non-marriage, it helped to move things along when the characters were saying exactly what they are thinking instead of playing games. Last night, Nathan sure didn’t bring his “A” game to his “comeback” bid against Quentin. His weak attempt at free-throw shooting and lame one-on-one were perfectly pathetic — the younger dude should have mopped up the floor with him. And Nathan’s quick surrender seemed like an appropriate response from such a hard-luck character. How much do you want to bet Nathan returns to the practice court, say, just about the time Q’s cast comes off? An even better question is, how exactly did Haley word her “Nanny Wanted” ad to ensure that only hot 20-year-olds responded? (She could retire if she gave courses to men in writing such ads!) Again, subtlety is not a strength of this show. 

And you won’t find a subtle show anywhere within a continent’s reach on THE BACHELOR: LONDON CALLING. It was time for Matt to visit the families of the final four bachelorettes, so I decided to pay my first visit to the show in several seasons. Yep, it’s still pretty much what I expected. However, allow me to vent about the promos for this episode, which teased the series finale in such a way as to mislead me into thinking it was last night. Congratulations, ABC, your bait-and-switch worked — once. I won’t fall for the ol’ finale fakeout again. Anyway, last night Shayne, the actress, brought English bachelor Matt to Los Angeles to visit her “broken” family, including famous father Lorenzo, her mother and sisters. My impression: Shayne was too mannered; she appeared to be “performing” the whole time.
Next up: hyper-emotional Chelsea, who claimed, “I don’t speak British.” But she discussed her feelings with her father — whose advice was, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” When it was time to go, Matt explained, “The goodbye was great with Chelsea,” while the clip showed the two of them sucking face. 
Then he visited Noelle, who felt so simpatico with Matt that she suggested, “Together, we make one brain.” Her family seemed the most levelheaded and engaged. Her dad, Larry, wondered what kind of man goes on a TV show looking for love. And her mother and sister dragged the Englishman out onto the porch to give him the third degree.BR> Incredibly, Amanda R. hired actors to pretend to be her family, and when the over-the-top performance was over, Matt said, “I was speechless for a few seconds.” Turned out he’s really into practical jokes.
In the end, Matt let Noelle go — which means he kept the Joker. What a mistake. Noelle was “genuine and modest”; she was the least like a TV character, so naturally she wasn’t a good fit for the kind of showboater who thinks people want to watch him go on dates.
Noelle, it may be hard to accept right now, but you really dodged a bullet.

But there’s no reason for you to dodge the next Night Shift…coming soon. 

EDIT: Okay, I’m typing this from under my desk because my life was just threatened. My colleague Mala warns she’s going to wring my neck for not blogging about GREEK and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. I explained the whole GREEK/GOSSIP GIRL/HIMYM conflict and that I don’t really watch HIMYM, but she is unimpressed. (Even though she herself blew off GG!) Mala is furious that I missed the “best” HIMYM ever! So I will let her four-star recommendation stand for that sitcom, and promise to watch my tape ASAP and write about GREEK tomorrow.

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/21/08

What a great weekend this was for fans of the fantasy genre…

DOCTOR WHO: In the 90-minute Christmas special “Voyage of the Damned,” the Doctor’s TARDIS collided with the Titanic — a space-faring alien tour bus designed to resemble “the most famous ship from Earth.” But when the tour was sabotaged by the company’s unscrupulous boss, the Doctor had lead the survivors to safety in what amounted to The Poseidon Adventure in SpaceDavid Tennant turned in the most restrained performance of his tenure as the Doctor’s 10th persona. He seemed thoroughly haunted by the death of the Master and Martha’s walking out on him. Still, when waitress Astrid (guest star/pop star Kylie Minogue) confessed a desire to travel among the stars, it was like a light flicked on in the Doctor’s eyes; he waxed poetic about breathing alien air under foreign suns. Minogue turned in a spirited performance that reminded me of the spunky companions of the series’ halcyon days — especially the way she gritted her teeth and used the EM pulse against the Host and sacrificed herself to help the Doctor. In fact, she reminded me of another waitress the Doctor took under his wing, a lass by the name of Ace. I thought it was brilliant the way London was deserted on Christmas because the citizens vacated the town following the alien invasions of the previous two Christmases. But aside from fun touches like that (such as the Queen in a bathrobe with her hair in curlers), the story itself was actually remarkably action-oriented and bloodthirsty; the Doctor usually manages to save more innocents. Also the imagery of the Time Lord being lifted from the fiery bowels of the ship to the bridge high above by the angelic Hostwas a little heavy on the symbolism. The loss of Astrid genuinely bothered the Doctor. He tried to reassure her as he scattered her stardust to the winds: “You’re not falling, Astrid; you’re flying.”

The Doctor is flying to Sci Fi this Friday at 9 p.m. to meet up with new/old traveling companion Donna Noble; she first met the Doctor in the 2006 Christmas special, but she will be sticking around for this season. (Look for a surprise connection to “Voyage” when a familiar face returns.)

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: As a result of the Sixes boosting the Centurions to sentience, the Cylons are split by civil war. Similarly, the Tyrols’ marriage was fraying because the chief wasn’t spending time at home. His wife, Cally, feared he was having an affair because she caught him with Tory, but the pair were actually just struggling with their recently revealed status as Cylon “skin jobs.” Another marriage was also in trouble: Aboard the scow Demetrius, Kara led a meandering search for the true path to Earth with her hubby Anders (as well as Mr. and Mrs. Agathon, Helo and Athena). In the midst of a marital spat, we learned Kara married Anders on New Caprica because it was “safe and easy.” Then they engaged in a hot bout of hate sex, and it became obvious how compatible they are. But forget two peas in a pod…how about two Apollos in a government? It was fun to see Richard Hatch, the Apollo in the 1978 BATTLESTAR series, return as Tom Zerek, who is sponsoring/manipulating the political career of the current Apollo, played by Jamie Bamber.

In the Cylon fleet, after Cavil downloaded into a new body, he took a different tack with Six — he agreed to stop lobotimizing the Raiders and to revive the Threes (D’Anna). But all he was really doing was laying a trap. Cavil led the ships commanded by the alliance of Twos, Sixes and Eights away from the resurrection ship and then attacked them. If they are killed in isolation, the Leobens, Sharons and Sixes won’t be reborn!

Speaking of new lives, Cally tracked her hubby to Weapons Locker 1701D (Surely it was more than a coincidence that the chamber’s designation was the same as theEnterprise‘s registration number on STAR TREK!). There she learned that Galen was really a Cylon sleeper. The best sequence of the episode came when Galen returned home. Director Michael Nankin kept Galen in the background, his image a blur, his voice distorted and barely understandable. In this way, the audience felt what Cally was feeling: We barely recognized Galen. Why didn’t Cally inform Adama (or somebody) about the skin jobs? This series is so unpredictable that I feared Cally might actually “space” herself and baby Nicky. Of course she didn’t — so Tory did it for her. While it made for great drama, sadly, we won’t see actress Nicki Clyneagain. Unless she’s the yet-unidentified Cylon Model 12….

TORCHWOOD: The second season finale was called “Exit Wounds” for a good reason: The exits of Owen and Tosh hurt. Bad. Owen was killed several episodes ago (shot by Dr. Aaron Copley, played by THE O.C.’s Alan Dale), but he refused to lie down until this one (or did he? More on my theories later!). While Owen’s exit seemed a foregone conclusion, I did not see Tosh’s death coming. What kind of a show kills twocharacters in a season finale? The episode also came up with a truly horrible way to torture the immortal Captain Jack: Buried alive for centuries of suffocation/resurrection. Jack just laid there and took it — okay, he didn’t have much choice — as “penance” for letting brother Gray slip from his grasp. (Bonus points for the cameo by Torchwood agent Alice Guppy, also seen last episode). Torchwood was obviously very progressive, employing women and at least one black man in positions of power in 1901!

In retrospect, the stories of Tosh and Owen had pretty much wrapped up between last episode, “Fragments,” which told how the pair came to join the Torchwood Institute, and this one. I began to feel uneasy when the final nagging continuity glitch — Tosh appeared in the DOCTOR WHO episode “Aliens of London” as Dr. Sato — was cleared up by explaining that Tosh was covering for a hungover Owen. No loose ends? Uh-oh. Owen’s end was no clean send-off for a hero. He was angry and scared when he realized he was doomed. It was upsetting to watch, knowing that Own hated his previous stint on the Other Side. “I died once,” he screamed. “I’m not doing it again!” He insisted that there was “nothing” after death — no afterlife, no heaven, no hell; just nothing. “I’m going to rage my way to oblivion,” he railed. No, the nobility was saved for Tosh, who had to listen to the man she loved die over the comm link. She didn’t tell him that she was slowly bleeding to death because she didn’t want to burden him; she loved him that much. As they shared their final moments in regret that he didn’t notice she’d fallen for him until it was too late, I admit I got a little choked up. A friend pointed out that Tosh and Owen’s final scene was soap opera of the highest order, and I have to agree. It was all about emotion, devotion, love and self-sacrifice.

I had barely registered Owen’s death when Jack followed the blood trail to Tosh. He swept her into his arms, but the dashing hero couldn’t save the girl this time. She died staring into his eyes. Later, as Ianto literally closed the files on Harper and Sato, Tosh’s videotaped final goodbye was triggered. In her message, she thanked Jack for bringing her to Torchwood, and confessed her love for Owen — whom she ironically assumed would be watching her final message. Very sad.

However…Is Owen really dead? That whiteout effect sure didn’t look like superheated coolant washing into the control room. It looked like a rift opening to me. Is it possible Owen was spirited away before his body could be melted? It’s possible. But for now, I prefer to mourn the late Dr. Harper. If Owen was rescued, I hope he doesn’t emerge from the rift for many years, if at all. It was fitting that Tosh and Owen departed at the same time. Their portrayers, Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman, respectively, will be missed.

And don’t miss another Night Shift…coming soon.

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com