Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/28/09

I have to say, the season finale of HEROES felt very slapped together, as if the-powers-that-be decided to cut bait and get out of Volume 4 by any means necessary. Sure, there was a significant death — Nathan — but c’mon, the junior senator from New York has been a constant target throughout the series. Remember when he was apparently assassinated at the end of season two? Or seemingly blown up at the end of the first season? Most importantly, why didn’t Claire simply give him a quick transfusion and bring him back to life? Noah was shot to death back in season two and later revived with an IV of Claire’s blood. So why wouldn’t she save her biological father?

That was just the biggest reason that the finale felt way too rushed and anticlimactic. All the specials who were captured were released, and the government denizens who hunted them had the tables turned, but still. I was left feeling rather … meh.

There were great moments, such as the revelation that Sylar moved the “off switch” from its usual spot in the back of his head. (As I expressed last week, I’m relieved that he’s not immortal — as far as we know.) Parkman is even more powerful than we thought (and for once a painting of the future did not factor in the finale), but can his conditioning of Sylar last? Parkman transferred all of Nathan’s memories into the baddie, but is he “really” Nathan? Peter now has the chameleon power, and Hiro’s power to stop time appears to be killing him. And, in case you were confused, the body burned on the funeral pyre at Coyote Sands belonged to James Martin, the original shape shifter. The Building 26 team was dissolved and replaced by an all-new Company led by Noah. and all was forgiven.

As is customary, the next story began with a brief teaser. Volume 5 is called “Redemption,” and picks up six weeks later, with a water-based character who resembles Tracy drowned a former government agent in his home, calling him “number four.” Meanwhile, in his Senate office, Nathan/Sylar claimed he was not feeling like himself, and was fascinated by a clock. Using his original Sylar power to sense how things work, he realized the clock was running fast and fixed it. Uh-oh… Well, those two teasers are not exactly going to keep me on the edge of my seat until next season…

GOSSIP GIRL took a page out of LAW & ORDER’s playbook by spinning a story out of real-life events. Serena’s new beau, Gabriel, turned out to be a financial swindler, much like Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend was suspected of. Blair thought he was having an affair with Poppy, but no one realized the socialite was actually his partner. Meanwhile, Blair and Nate are a couple again. Nate rented a place in Murray Hill. Chuck scoffed at the neighborhood, but it’s close to the WEEKLY offices, and seems nice enough to me! As if he hasn’t already stirred up enough trouble, Chuck sprung Georgina from juvie. This oughtta be good…

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/27/09

Daytime invaded prime time on Friday, when YOUNG AND RESTLESS’s Thad Luckinbill (J.T) and Amelia Heinle (Victoria) and BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL’s Lesli Kay (Felicia) visited GHOST WHISPERER to play…soap opera stars! Okay, so Heinle played a college professor — but she was having a secret, long-distance affair with a soap character, and that’s very…er, soapy! The storyline saw the fictional daytime drama Hope’s Edge (you can guess the genesis of that name) set up shop in Grandview for a location shoot. Delia was over the moon with excitement, as was Jim — and even Eli was “outed” as a fan (a superfan, in fact). Only Melinda was clueless about the appeal of daytime. (Which sadly mirrors the real world, where too many young women are not watching.) Luckinbill played Grant Harper, the actor who portrayed hotshot surgeon Dr. Troy Holdon on Hope’s Edge. Kay was his co-star Suzanne Zale, better known for playing Celeste Barrington, and Heinle was Brook Dennis, a professor at Rockland University, where Eli teaches. It turned out that the soap had its genesis in a stage play at Rockland, after an actor was killed onstage. The ghost of that thespian, Miles Maitland was played by Johnny Pacar (ex-Jimmy, AMERICAN DREAMS), and he appeared to be haunting Cally, (Kellie Martin, ex-Lucy, ER), who wrote that stage play and went on to create the soap. Of course, the haunting was not what it appeared to be. This is the standard GW modus operandi, but the truth this week seemed particularly lame — the ghost was afraid that his old pal Grant would not be able to get out of his contract and chase his dreams? So that’s why he haunted Cally’s TV? The explanation sounded like an afterthought, rather than the reason for the entire story.

Whatever, it was a pleasant change to see soaps portrayed relatively normally and accurately. Sure, Jim and Eli’s devotion opened them up to some teasing, but it was more the good-natured, loving kind of ribbing. No fan was portrayed as a psychotic who has lost touch with reality, and there was NO overblown, melodramatic “soap opera” acting (although the line about Troy awaiting Celeste in hell was a bit over-the-top). Instead, the fans were shown to be interested and plugged in to what was happening on their favorite show. One contributor to that: a doppleganger of Weekly appeared: a tabloid magazine called “Soap Opera Daily,” the logo of which resembled Soap Opera Digest very closely. And once Melinda was introduced to the show, she quickly became (tearfully) addicted. I’m sure Jennifer Love Hewitt’s tenure on the prime-time tear-jerker PARTY OF FIVE informed her performance.

Oh, and Melinda found out she’s pregnant with Jim’s baby. Now that’s classic soap opera.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/24/09

I have to hand it to SUPERNATURAL for being such a crafty show. (Is it witchcraft?) Producers used the pathetic cliché of the surprise son to deepen Sam and Dean’s understanding of their late father, John. In an episode cleverly titled “Jump the Shark,” the boys learn that their father had a child in Minnesota that he never told them about. The justification for the sudden reveal was that John wanted to shield young Adam from his dangerous life as a Hunter. While Dean took an instant dislike to the newcomer (because John always remembered Adam’s birthdays and took him to baseball games), Sam immediately took Adam under his wing, explaining the occult world of the Hunters and teaching his new little bro’ how to handle firearms. Sam also parroted the harsh lessons that he himself resented hearing from John just a few years earlier: A hunter can never allow himself to have personal relationships, because they make Hunters weak, and endanger others. Witnessing Sam’s lecture, Dean suddenly realized how like John Sam has become. Dean, the older brother, had to admit that no matter how much he idolized John — dressing like him, copying his habits — Sammy was truly behaving like their father. That was a tough thing for the tightly wound Dean to admit — and for Sam to acknowledge. Sam spent most the first season rebelling from John’s tutelage, but there he was, passing along the same lessons. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki handled the scenes well. The actors are particularly good at expressing the sibling rivalry without ever making it look like the boys truly hate each other. The sense of family always comes through. And hey, it’s always great to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John again — even if it’s only in brief flashbacks. It’s ironic that Morgan has a deceased character on both SUPERNATURAL and GREY’S ANATOMY, yet it’s Denny who comes back from the grave for a major storyline! Gag of the night: The boys visited a diner called “Cousin Oliver’s,” clearly named after the archetypical jump-the-shark character from THE BRADY BUNCH!

BEING ERICA is all about dredging up the past, dealing as it does with time-traveler Erica Strange. I’m sometimes confused about what Erica is trying to accomplish on any particular journey into her past, and last night was one of those times. She wanted to go back to another social-disaster incident, which meant more 1980s music and dancing. (I’m beginning to think Erica’s real past mistake was being such a social butterfly; most of her problems stem from parties!) It also seems that Erica isn’t grasping the idea that she cannot change her past. Oh, sure, she can rearrange some of the details, but that just makes events go off the rails in a slightly different direction. Then she returns to the present and realizes that she has to look at her past failures in a different light. Presumably, that makes her think her forays into the past are successful. The mission I’d like to see her undertake is going back to the day that Dr. Tom decided to speak almost exclusively in quotations — and brain him! Here’s one of my own:

“I never have found the perfect quote. At best, I have been able to find a string of quotations which merely circle the ineffable idea I seek to express.”
— Caldwell O’Keefe

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/22/09

This is definitely one of those seasons on AMERICAN IDOL where just about everyone sitting at home claiming, “I could sing better than that,” is most likely right. I’ll bet even you rabid IDOL fans would admit to yourselves, in secret, that there is no Kelly Clarkson or David Cook in the competition this year. This is just like that season when what’s-his-name won. Yeah, that season. My jaw hit the floor when I heard Randy wax poetic about the top-to-bottom quality of the group of seven. Does he really have such a low opinion of all the previous seasons? The proof was in the karaoke: Take screechy Adam, who followed the old rule “If you can’t be good, be loud.” It was sad to watch Randy trying to convince his “dawg” that he would step right to the top of the charts. At least voice-of-reason Simon was on hand to slap down Anoop and co.

FRINGE actually took advantage of its New York City production location this week. Instead of trying to make the Big Apple look like Boston, the creepy series got to use Grand Central Terminal as Grand Central for a story set there. The story was written and directed by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), and it got off to a bit of a rough start. Olivia was remotely viewing murders in her dreams, and when she told her boss, Broyles actually growled, “You know how this sounds?” Dude! What has your office been doing all season? Why does your entire section exist? To investigate stuff that sounds really frakkin’ weird, like the Pattern! Why did you recruit Liv? To look into strange phenomena! In Goldsman’s defense, effective sci-fi writing is an art — but I had hoped he worked out the kinks after his horrible screenplay for the 1998 theatrical version of Lost in Space. Turned out Goldsman just needed a little time to build up momentum. In short order, we got scenes in which Peter gained a little insight into his father’s experience with madness. We also got another piece of the puzzle that is Olivia’s background, when it was revealed that this week’s killer, Nick Jane, was part of the Cortexiphan drug experiments on children in Liv’s hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. In fact, Nick was partnered with little “Olive” for the experiments, so his mind was calling out to her as an adult, allowing her to view his crimes in he dreams. Nick lost control of his abilities to make others feel his emotions — abilities honed by the recruitment training connected to the ZFT Manifesto. Which Walter wrote! See how it’s all coming together? The final rooftop sequence was harrowing, with Nick’s mind-controlled slaves perched limply at the edge, waiting for Nick to mentally push them to their deaths (which he did to one woman!). I like that Olivia actually shot Nick in order to stop him instead of trying to wrestle him into submission. The episode ended with Walter digging out an old videotape of one of the Cortexiphan experiments, in which a frightened young Olive can be seen sitting in the corner of what appears to be a burned-out room. Interestingly, the voice of the legendary Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, can clearly be heard as William Bell! Nimoy is rumored to appear onscreen in the very last scene of the season finale on May 12. But what I really want to know is, did the Cortexiphan treatments give Liv a power?

RESCUE ME presented another side of Tommy this week. Of course he would have no problem with his daughter sleeping with another member of his fire crew — but Tommy flipped out at the idea that the couple is putting off sex until they get married! Turned out Tommy didn’t want his daughter getting hitched at a young age like her mother, so Tommy was in the unusual position of trying to talk his daughter into having premarital sex in hopes of souring the relationship and forestalling the nuptials. Also controversial: Franco continued to spout his 9/11 conspiracy theories; however, Mike got in his face and told him to stop because his suspicions cast the fallen heroes of 9/11 as dupes. Mike revealed that he became a fireman because he wanted to fight the bad guys and become a real-life superhero, and if Franco is right, Mike’s decision was based on lies. That’s a lot to think about. On a much lighter note, Garrity and Franco went to female doctors to receive hilariously “unorthodox” treatments for back pain that I can’t even hint at in this blog. And Lou mentioned his post-9/11 poetry to Genevieve, the French writer. That was a nice callback to season one.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/21/09

So let me get this straight: HEROES’ big bad, Sylar, can do just about anything (or steal the ability to do it)…and now he’s immortal? Sylar ironically stated, “Dead is dead,” shortly before he proved just the opposite. Which is funny, because the same thing happened on LOST, when Ben referred to Locke. It didn’t take then, either.

Apparently Sylar really did absorb immortality from Claire in the episode “The Second Coming” last fall. What’s interesting about a villain with no weaknesses at all? The “sweet spot” in the back of the head was the classic Achilles’ heel; the kryptonite of the specials. For all Sylar’s abilities, he had to guard the back of his head. I always had the hope that HRG might get the chance to squeeze off a lucky shot and cap the killer from behind. Now that’s no longer a possibility. Perhaps HRG could cut off Sylar’s head, or remove his brain — could he regenerate from that? Perhaps Sylar could live on as a decapitated head, but how much could he accomplish in that state? Sure, the powerful baddie makes things look grim for the good guys, but where is the hope? Are we supposed to be entertained by watching the heroes nobly step up, one after the other to face Sylar and be destroyed (and thus contribute their powers to his ever-growing arsenal)? That would be boring.

The show tried to depict Sylar struggling not only to control his powers but to come to terms with who he is. The classic mother/son push/pull could have been entertaining, but it was reduced to farce by having Sylar physically morph back and forth between personifying himself and Virginia Grey (again played by Ellen Greene, late of PUSHING DAISIES). Even Psycho’s Norman Bates didn’t have mommy issues like this! Sylar apparently needed his mother to forgive him for murdering her, but since he was roleplaying her, did “she” really bestow absolution? And if that detail doesn’t matter, then what was the point of the episode? There was an interesting (though possibly unintentional) parallel with Ando and Hiro. As Ando grows more comfortable in his heroic role as the “Crimson Arc” (presumably that moniker sounds cooler in Japanese!), Hiro grows more jealous. Personally, I liked Ando much better as a “mere” human. He kept his buddy Hiro grounded by reminding him what it meant to be a real person. But Ando also showed bravery by following Hiro on adventures without powers. I’ve always maintained that HRG is my favorite character, but the old Ando was right up there, too. Now, he’s much less interesting as a special with a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps he will remember the man he used to be. Which brings us back to the erstwhile Gabriel Gray. I suppose HEROES is building to Sylar eventually defeating himself by going mad or simply overloading his own brain, but if that doesn’t happen, where does a show with an omnipotent villain go? Will Sylar simply battle Claire and Peter ceaselessly until the sun goes nova? Enemies who cannot vanquish each other, no matter how hard they try, just as in the pointless The Matrix Revolutions?

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/16/09

I liked this week’s installment of LOST, but I expected … more. Miles was not one of my favorite new(ish) characters, and he has felt like dead weight lately. (Yes, pun intended.) I like him more now that I know him a little better, but I cannot believe that the-powers-that-be could not come up with a more interesting backstory for a guy who can sense the final thoughts of the dead! It started off strongly, with young Miles terrorized by a corpse, but then the story jumped too far ahead. While there’s room to better explain his childhood, with the series wrapping up next season, is there time? I wanted to see more of his career contacting the dead for cash. (Did you recognize Dean Norris, BREAKING BAD’s Hank, as the grieving Howard Gray?) So Miles’ father is Dr. Pierre Chang, a.k.a. “Marvin Candle”? It seemed a little too convenient that Miles was recruited by Naomi to go the very place where his mysterious father was sequestered — until you consider that Charles Widmore was financing the Kahana expedition, and was assembling former Island inhabitants (like Charlotte) to go. I loved the rather unique role Naomi wanted him to play: to ask the people that Ben killed to help find him. No wonder his audition was to interrogate a corpse! As is tradition, the lives of all the Island personnel turn out to be interlaced, and Miles is no different, but how big a surprise was it to see Ilana’s sidekick, Bram, kidnap Miles and try to talk him out of working for Widmore? Since Bram opposes Widmore, is it safe to assume he works for Ben? Did Ben arrange for Bram to be aboard Ajira Airways Flight 316? If he did, that makes Bram an important secret ally among the 316 survivors. And the question came up once again, “What lies in the shadow of the statue?”

Hurley writing the The Empire Strikes Back is a hilarious conceit that actually made my brother laugh out loud, so kudos there, LOST. And Hugo mentioned adding “improvements”? How does one improve on ESB? Given his avowed hatred of Ewoks, Hurley probably inserted a scene in which Endor is destroyed, preempting Return of the Jedi’s setting. BTW, did you notice the name tag “Hurley” on his jumpsuit? I thought Hugo was not overly fond of that nickname.

The next all-new episode airs on April 29, and will focus on Daniel Faraday — who actually is my favorite new(ish) character.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/15/09

“Monsters aren’t real, right?”
— Ella, FRINGE

Tuesday night means horror on a nearly unprecedented scale. And then, after AMERICAN IDOL is over, I can relax with a nice, comforting monster on FRINGE. This old-fashioned “bug hunt” was one of the more overt X-FILES homages, with our friendly feds called in to investigate a “monster of the week” that turns out to be…a monster. The creature (freed by animal-rights activists from a research lab) was described as having the body of a lion, claws of an eagle, fangs of a viper, skin of a rhinoceros and tail of a rattlesnake, but of course, budget constraints meant the monster was only revealed at the very end. Mostly we just saw the menacing tail rattle. And while the reveal proved to be even briefer than I’d hoped, it looked pretty good. For a dead griffin. Once again, Walter suspected that his old research was the springboard for this threat, but I enjoyed seeing his newly matured reactions. Earlier in the season he was so divorced from society (and reality) that he paid no mind to the repercussions of his research. However, this week he was shown to have some recognizably human emotions and appropriate responses. Not everything he said was about food and using the facilities (although those themes continued — and will you ever look at an omelet the same way again?); he seemed genuinely anguished. Before he could bring himself to confess his guilt, he warned Olivia to be careful. Walter learned a lesson about consequences: He’s never thought of them before, and while he doesn’t think he can start now, at least he knows that about himself. I like seeing that growth in the character. It makes the mad scientist more relatable. Then again, he also drank a bottle of poison to kill the monster just in case he got eaten in one-on-one combat. Speaking of which, what’s up with “Walter, the action hero”?! The scientist with the blazing 50-caliber incendiary rounds! Walter was motivated to self-sacrifice when the creature attacked Charlie, but this gave us the opportunity for a glimpse at Charlie’s personal life. Turns out he has a wife, and when he lay dying, he called her and told her he loves her (giving Kirk Acevedo a chance to do some subtle acting). Olivia could barely hide being non-plussed when Peter called her place looking for Rachel, who in turn got all flirty on the phone. Liv definitely is feeling some rivalry with her sister. In the end, Olivia was bothered by the howling wind (which sounds a little like the monster), so she slept with the light on. Because monsters really do exist.

RESCUE ME was capped by a great special-effects moment, when a propane bottle exploded under a car, shattering plate-glass windows and throwing Tommy for a loop. Just seconds earlier the off-duty fireman dragged the driver from the out-of-control car that ran over the tank. That heroism was the capper on an episode that saw Tommy continue to lash out at those closest to him. He visited ex-wife Janet again, and awkwardly discovered that Dwight uses a wheelchair — but that didn’t slow down Tommy. He laced into Dwight with a very un-PC rant. Then he went to the new bar Sean, Mike and Franco were opening, and laid into the boys searing personalized insults. The firehouse crew met Genevieve (Karina Lombard), the French journalist writing a book on 9/11, and the show didn’t back away from controversy when Franco told her that he believes 9/11 was an “inside job” pulled off by neoconservatives. Lou told an emotional story about how even fragments of body parts retrieved from Ground Zero were treated with honor. He tearfully confessed about using up all his emotions in those days, leaving him nothing left to feel. Tommy was cynical about Genevieve’s motives for doing a “comprehensive” book — how can it help those left behind? Fans of this series know how deeply the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 has affected these characters, so expect the horror to be revisited for the rest of the season.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/14/09

I came away from this week’s HEROES shaking my head in confusion because the way I saw it, the-powers-that-be completely retconned Chandra Suresh. And not for the better. In Chapter One, “Genesis,” Chandra was already dead, killed in a taxi crash. He was referred to as Mohinder’s father, the author of Activating Evolution, a controversial book that tried to explain why people were “suddenly” manifesting super powers. As Mohinder looked into his father’s work, he discovered that Chandra identified Sylar as “Patient Zero,” the original source of powered humans! Yet, now we learn that Chandra Suresh was involved with Project: Icarus at Coyote Sands in 1961 — in which he experimented on humans with super abilities. So why would he write that book some 40 years later? He knew humans had been evolving for decades, not “suddenly,” and he knew Sylar had nothing to do with it. So the question becomes, Why did Chandra want to reopen the issue of superhumans years later? Surely he must have been ashamed of his role in the concentration camp and the mass deaths? If he was not ashamed, then that makes his character a monster! (Ironic how Mohinder quickly noted that he had become his father by experimenting on human guinea pigs.) But leave all that aside: Why publish a book about “theories” of evolution? Perhaps he was trying to disguise his knowledge; instead of building on what he knew and could prove, he was trying to make his research look like conjecture in order to stimulate debate. But, again, to what end? It is somewhat believable that the government would want to seal all records of the Coyote Sands camp and the massacre. (Hmmm, didn’t we see a mass grave following a “purge” on LOST?), and I suppose the documents could be buried so deep that they could be forgotten. And it would help if the Company was doggedly stamping out all mention of evolved humans. In contrast to all the muddying of the waters of the past, when Angela told Alice how she obsesses over socks, she actually cleared up a little mystery from Angela’s very first appearance, waaaaay back in the premiere episode, when she was arrested for shoplifting socks. (However, even more ludicrous was the idea that Alice spent 45 years at the abandoned camp because her older sister told her it would be a safe place.)

In 1961, the young Angela met a trio of men who would help create the Company: telepath Charles Deveaux, who would eventually be Simone’s father and the old man Peter was caring for at the beginning of the series, was played by Edwin Hodge (ex-Brett, INVASION) in 1961, and Richard Roundtree in the future; Bob Bishop (who turned objects into gold) would grow up to be electrical Elle’s father, and be portrayed by Stephen Tobolowski); Casey Kringlen, who played the young healer Linderman, actually resembled his character’s future incarnation, Malcolm McDowell. The young Chandra was essayed by Ravi Kapoor, best-known as “Bug” from CROSSING JORDAN. Coyote Sands served as the springboard for the Company. In May 1961, Angela dreamed about founding the Company to protect people like them; an organization willing to do whatever was necessary to keep the secret of metahumans safe. “A necessary evil,” she called it. In the present, Mohinder believed a new Company could be done right. Peter hit upon the idea of organizing it around the extended Petrelli family, because families can forgive each other. But everyone agreed the organization must once again be kept a secret. It remains to be seen whether those good intentions will once again become corrupted.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/10/09

LOST’s Benjamin Linus is, quite simply, one of the absolute best characters on TV. He is so fascinatingly complex and complicated that it almost does him a disservice to call him a villain, although he clearly fills the antagonist role. He is dangerously intelligent and surprisingly resourceful; that capacity to think on his feet enables him to spin any event to his advantage. And if there is one constant, it is Ben’s capacity to act in his own self-interest. And Michael Emerson is jaw-droppingly good at playing the slimy devil. The only character who comes close to Ben is BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Gaius Baltar. Both are wickedly crafty, and even when they appear to be doing something noble, there’s always a huge upside for them. Going to the Frozen Donkey Wheel to move the Island was actually about him (Jacob/Christian had ordered John to move the Island), and got Ben off the Island. So what is his interest in going back to the Island? As Ben told Locke, whoever moves the Island cannot return, and Widmore doubted the Island would even allow it.

Ben claimed he returned because he wanted the Monster to judge him for “breaking the rules,” but copped to actually feeling guilty for allowing “his” daughter, Alex, to be killed. He conveniently failed to mention trying to murder Penny Widmore, but then again, he did stop himself before Desmond emphatically stopped him. (Is that why Ben told Sun to apologize to Des for him?) And Ben considered blowing away Caesar to be his way of apologizing for killing Locke. Continuing their rivalry, Ben failed to summon the monster in his usual manner (by draining a secret pool of muddy water), so Locke led them to the creature’s lair; Ben did not know it was based at the Temple. (After all those years on the Island, he must have been lying about that!) The interior of the Temple turned out to feature even more Egyptian hieroglyphs, including a large one depicting jackal-headed Anubis (the god of the afterlife) interacting with the Monster. The black smoke emerged from a rock grate under an altar, and surrounded Ben. It showed him relevant clips (LOL) of Alex’s life and death. Ben appeared to be truly remorseful of Alex’s death. I originally thought Ben had disavowed her as part of a gambit to get the mercenary Keamy to release her, but in light of the flashback to Widmore’s warning that one day Ben would have to choose between his daughter and the Island, perhaps Ben was upset at his enemy’s prophecy coming true. Still, the monster appeared to take Ben’s anguish into account — and perhaps his statement that he did everything for the greater good of the Island — and did not kill him. But that’s not to say he wasn’t punished. The Monster assumed Alex’s form to deliver its final message: Follow John Locke and obey his every command — or be killed. For the proud Ben, being forced to submit to John in any way, let alone accepting him as the rightful leader, has got to be a type of hell. Baltar experienced a redemption of sorts in the mind-blowing BSG finale; can Ben atone for “breaking the rules” before LOST wraps up next season?

•The most nagging question this story left is, Why didn’t Ben remember the Losties being in the DHARMA Initiative in 1977?
•Ben’s dialogue included the episode title, “Dead is Dead.” So, is Caesar, the man Ben shot, dead?
•Oh, let’s not forget Ilana’s question: What does lie in the shadow of the statue?

I’m betting it’s not a Starbucks…

The problem with naming your show THE UNUSUALS is that it better be pretty darn… not usual. And the problem with this show is that it’s pretty darn ordinary. It’s just another cop show. Yeah, the details are a little different – the cops interviewed one potential suspect who uses a wheelchair, and another was of Asian descent – but overall it’s just another procedural. The new character who serves as the audience’s stand-in: boring. The secretly rich scion who doesn’t want the family inheritance: boring. And worst of all, The story begins with vice cop Casey Shraeger being reassigned to homicide to look into the murder of a cop named Kowalski. This leads to that cliché of clichés, the crooked cop. Boring! Amber Tamblyn (ex-Emily, GENERAL HOSPITAL) is vulnerable and engaging enough, but she looks 14 years old, and leaves me thinking she would have been a better choice to headline a relaunch of 21 JUMP STREET. I think me watching THE UNUSUALS in the future would be…unusual.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/8/09

I haven’t seen a full episode of RESCUE ME since the fourth season concluded in September 2007. The nine mini-episodes broadcast last summer were fun, but only served to remind me what I was missing: an acid-tongued series packed with witty dialogue, outrageous storylines and thrilling fire sequences. Well, my friends, our wait is over. RESCUE ME has returned for a full-fledged fifth season, and star/co-creator Denis Leary was in top form as fractured firefighter Tommy Gavin. What makes Tommy such an intriguing character is the depths of his emotions. He loves and hates (but especially hates) with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. His burning rage is barely contained at the best of times — and Tommy rarely has good times. It seems like each episode of RESCUE ME brings him a fresh hell (complete with literal flames). What Tommy hates most is himself, but he expresses it as hatred for everything and everyone else. What other TV character could have a fantasy about attacking his own father’s casket with an ax and then setting it afire at the funeral? Not even THE SHIELD’s Vic Mackey could get away with that. But this series has always had a particularly vicious dark side. I was not surprised to see Franco and Sean talk Mikey out of donating his $150,000 inheritance to the cancer society so the boys can open a bar instead. (Franco’s rationalization the the cancer society would only use the dough for postage to beg other people for more cash almost made it sound like a public service! Almost.) As usual, the boys at the 62 were thinking only of themselves. Yet, the search for redemption is a constant theme: Tommy’s love/hate relationship with Alcoholics Anonymous clashes with his romance with booze on a daily basis. Take last night: Tommy has been sober for almost a solid year, but his AA sponsor, cousin Mickey, went on a bender! And not just any bender — he rampaged into a church and told a family that instead of baptizing their baby, they would be better off taking the kid home and drowning it! And he drank booze out of the communion chalice!

Of course there are huge problems in the interpersonal relationships. Tommy met ex-wife Janet’s newest beau, a former “extreme sports” guy portrayed by Michael J. Fox. Ultimate nice guy Fox plays brilliantly against type as the smug Dwight; just wait until Tommy discovers why Dwight didn’t stand up to shake hands with him! As if that wasn’t bad enough, Tommy’s daughter Colleen is sleeping with (but not having sex with) blackSean; wait until Tommy finds out about that! Leary capped the episode with Tommy’s absolutely hilarious rant about how dead people (like his father) are reclassified as saints just because they died — even if they were a—holes in life (like his father).

The first thing I noticed about the first new episode of FRINGE since February was that it wasn’t on! Instead, I had to sit through the end of an extended episode of AMERICAN IDOL. Worse, I heard Adam Lambert mangle “Mad World.” He was attempting to riff on Gary Jules’ version of the Tears for Fears tune recorded for the soundtrack of Donnie Darko, a film I adore. (If you’ve never seen it, rent it!) Simon gave the squealer a standing ovation, which could only mean Simon didn’t like the movie. The phone number montage indicated that every performance last night was wretched. My hatred of “KARAOKE IDOL” now knows no bounds because the runover caused me to miss the end of FRINGE, because my recording stopped when it was supposed to. Is this hate irrational? Sure. But is this my blog? Yup. The second thing I noticed about the return of FRINGE was that the new promos trumpeted “six new episodes in a row.” Sounds good — unless you remember that back in February, Fox promised us seven episodes in a row.

Anyway, FRINGE was eventually allowed on the air, and concerned the case of a mysterious boy discovered alone in a locked underground chamber. Only he might not be a “young” boy. For one thing, he seemed to be an empath of low-level telepath, which allowed him to plug into Olivia’s mind and help her with a serial killer case. And for another, he looked like the Observer’s Mini-Me: pale and hairless. (How funny was it that they dressed the boy in a “Northwestern” sweatshirt and took him to the Harvard campus?) Erik Palladino (late of the late ER) was introduced as Elliot Michaels, who claimed to be from the Department of Social Services, but was really from the Department of Creepiness. After seeing the boy, made a mysterious call and told someone, “We may have found another one.” Is there some organization out there monitoring/collecting Observers?

•Line of the week honors go to Walter: “Unless you have an IQ higher than mine, I’m not interested in what you think.”

HEROES is still managing to hold my interest, thanks to giving HRG stuff to do. I like that the-powers-that-be continue to write him as intelligent. He was the only one who was skeptical that Danko really bagged Sylar, and even used the shapeshifter’s powers against him by pretending to be Sylar pretending to be him. Of course Sylar really is alive, and has set out to destroy Noah’s life. The baddie morphed into the likeness of Sandra and served Noah with divorce papers, then pretended to be a field commander and let HRG “kill” him to make Noah a fugitive. I know I just complained about Fox’s promos, but NBC did something even more unsavory: After a week of teasing/promising to reveal the origins of the Petrelli family, HEROES waited until literally the last minutes to set the stage for big revelations about something called Project: Icarus at a place called Coyote Sands. Next week. D’oh!

CASTLE was another agreeable story, but nothing extraordinary. And nothing really set it apart from last week’s chapter, either, which actually is not a good thing. Is it settling into a rut already?