Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 1/13/09

Another day, another apocalypse. Same as it ever was for 24’s Jack Bauer. Kicking off with the usual two-night, four-hour block, Day 7 began with all the action and excitement of a Senate hearing. Well, we’ve never seen Jack like this before. We also get to see Tony Almeida as a bad guy — for a while at least. His holding a grudge against the government for the death of his wife Michelle under President Logan made for a convincing cover story. In contrast to the pusillanimous Logan, President Allison Taylor is all grit and steel, and seemed totally determined to take the country to war even before taking office. Her husband Roger’s quest to investigate their son’s death was merely a tension-sapping distraction for the first three hours, and that it ultimately tied in to a traitor in the White House was both way too convenient and way too familiar. Another mole in the White House? And leaks in the FBI? Who vets these people? Strangely, the FBI has that same culture of paranoia we saw at CTU: the same sidelong glances, suspicion, backbiting, whining, jealousy, etc. Of course Tony ultimately turned out to not be evil, but rather working undercover for Bill with Chloe’s help. Bill and Chloe appear to be working without government sanction, but who’s funding their operation? “We like to think of it as CTU,” Bill quipped. He’s still a tough guy, making the tough choice to let Sengala Prime Minister Matobo be kidnapped, tortured and maybe even killed in order to get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

As great as it was to see Bill and Chloe again, my favorite new character by far is Annie Wersching’s (ex-Amelia, GENERAL HOSPITAL) Renee Walker, who quickly learns that black-and-white is not always so black-and-white. And she’s smart: Unlike so many other characters, she quickly realizes she should listen to Jack and trust him. The corruption of Walker is interesting to watch — especially since the tone of the show is to slap Jack’s wrist for his excesses. We see how it’s a slippery slope, and she sees herself slipping. Walker literally put the squeeze on the hospitalized Tanner and delays his legal team. Of course only maverick agents can get the job done, and even though there are “thousands of lives on the line,” she practically cries after bending her own rules. If Walker survives the day, she could take over the 24 franchise should Keifer ever want to step away. My second favorite new character is Janeane Garafalo’s Janice. Apparently really…um, colorful… people go into IT (well, Chloe is one of the more vivid characters on the show). I liked the way Janice got all farklempt at the thought of what Tony might do with the CIP device to control the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Speaking of Tony’s plot, I found his infiltration of the infrastructure system short on tension because the government knew what Tony is doing, and practically followed along as got into the air-traffic system. Wouldn’t it have been better for viewers to worry when/if the government would discover what he was up to? Still, the CIP something new — it is a technological threat, but not another nuclear bomb or germ warfare. And it’s totally believable in today’s Internet age.

Kiefer Sutherland has repeatedly said he wanted to do more “acting” and add depth to Jack. Well, this story shows us a Jack who realizes what he’s become — basically a useful monster — and further that there’s no turning back. His confrontation with old friend Tony, whom he thought died in his arms, was quite fraught, and the interrogation was intense, invoking show history by mentioning Terri, Audrey and Kim. Jack also shows human vulnerability when he moans, “This is gonna hurt,” before crashing a car through a wall in one of his trademark daring escapes. It may be the end of the world as we know it (again), but with Jack on the case, I feel fine.

Ah, the time-honored dramatic device of reading a nasty-tempered old rich guy’s will. Hilarity always ensues, and GOSSIP GIRL did not disappoint. Bart Bass left bad seed Chuck a controlling interest in Bass Industries, which Chuck naturally did not want — and Uncle Jack did covet. Still, Blair talked Chuck into giving the boardroom a shot, and P.O.’d Uncle Jack declared war, luring Chuck away from B. with cocktails and coquettes in a setup that was so obvious it could be seen from space. Still, Jack wasn’t satisfied to expose Chuck before Blair — he also arranged for board members to catch Chuck…being Chuck. Chuck, being Chuck, suspected B. had set it all up, and blasted her for “trying to play the wife.” Chuck soon realized Uncle Jack was behind it all, and he was out due to a morality clause that Bart inserted in the inheritance. So now that Chuck was totally out in the cold, I figured he’d go nuts. Unfortunately, he went soft. He went to Blair flowers and an apology. Where was the candy and teddy bear, you lovesick drone? That was not the Chuck that I know and admire. Stung by the way Chuck made “wife” sound like the ugliest word in the world, Blair hurled the flowers back at him and spat, “I’m done.”Hopefully that will send Chuck over the edge and we’ll see some decadence worthy of ancient Rome!

Meanwhile, the Serena/Dan debacle came to a head when Penelope and the Mean Girls decided that overheard half-truths were good enough to post (or “blast”) on the Gossip Girl site. And before you can say “Nelly is a spiteful little witch,” the secret of the shared sibling was out. SPOILER-ISH ASIDE TO THOSE WHO KNOW THE IDENTITY OF “GOSSIP GIRL” FROM THE BOOKS: If the show is going to use the same person, why would that person post the Dan/Serena info, and then react the way they reacted? Doesn’t this seem to indicate the show has a different person in mind as the secret GG? Getting even more soapy, Rufus and Lily totally reconnected in Boston, and then learned the adopted son they were searching for drowned in a boating accident. But I said “soapy,” so it turned out the boy didn’t die after all — will Rufus/Lily ever find out?

I don’t plan to waste much time with THE BACHELOR this season, since I…heck, we all know how it’s going to end: Jason will pick somebody, propose, swear it’s love, and then be broken up a week after the final press conference. It’s what happens almost every time. I swear the only reason Trista and Ryan are still married is because they fear being torn to shreds by hordes of fans desperate to cling to the hope they represent. That being said, I have to admit that, as usual, there are a couple of real hotties (Natalie and Kerry, I’m looking at you) vying for Jason’s attention.When Lisa left to be with her sick mother, the other girls practically threw a party to celebrate cutting the trimming the competition. Erica was called out by Megan, as the claws really came out. Sharon has stalkerish knowledge of Jason. Still, he let her stick around, preferring to boot Raquel, the aggressive Brazilian, and Sharon, who said she quit her job as a teacher to be on the show.

Hmm, ABC promos indicate that both GREY’S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE will have storylines involving children in peril on the same night. How stupid is that?

I heard that MOMMA’s BOYS might be setting some new standard in trashiness for major network TV. The idea is simplicity itself: Send mom out to vet the gals for the bachelor. Surprisingly, there sure seemed to be a lot more kissing here than on THE BACHELOR. I wonder what the selection process was like here, as Michael’s harem of dates included included Meghan Allen, a Playboy model (in fact, she was Cyber Girl of the Month for January), and Erica Ellison, 2008 Penthouse Pet of the Year. His mom, Lorraine, scolded Meghan in front of several other girls, claiming the human body is not made to be “exploited.” (Note to Lorraine: It would appear the sum total of art in human history contradicts you.) Ironically, Lorraine thinks Erica is a “nice girl,” whom she called a perfect match for her son and herself. (Wait until she finds out what Erica does for a living!) Still, Michael decided to take mom’s advice and sent Meghan packing. JoJo’s mom Khalood didn’t think Julie or Mindy was right for him, but he admitted, “I’ve fallen for Mindy.” Esther couched all her comments in euphemisms about “culture” and heritage to avoid explicitly saying she wants Rob to marry a Jewish girl, and dismissed African-American Camilla as “too tall.” She praised Lauren as fitting in with her “culture and history,” but Rob still chose to keep Camilla around, leaving Esther in tears. And I think I might have been bleeding from the eyes after watching the entire hour…

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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