ROYAL PAINS 2.8: The Hankover

The most interesting aspect of this lark of a ROYAL PAINS episode was that the subject matter – the aftermath of a drunken night of wild partying – was also the plotline of this week’s episode of RESCUE ME. But while the firefighter drama examined the life-and-death consequences of such a bender, RP took a much lighter approach; one a bit more reminiscent of last year’s hit movie, The Hangover.

Not that this episode was a standalone throwaway; we learned some interesting stuff This story opened the morning after Raj’s (Rupak Ginn) bachelor party, with Hank (Mark Feuerstein) sleeping in a hammock entwined with Dr. Emily Peck (Anastasia Griffith), who praised his skill in the hammock the night before! Divya (Reshma Shetty) and Jill (Jill Flint) awoke in a cab at the beach, with driver Aristotle (Bill Bellamy) passed out behind the wheel. Divya had a flower tattoo on her hip, while Jill had a much larger one on her shoulder. Evan woke up in Boris’ courtyard and was stunned to see Raj lying in the driveway below a balcony, presumably dead. Did Evan kill him in a jealous rage over Divya? The story rewound 24 hours to explain the (relatively benign) means by which everyone ended up in the seemingly serious situations.
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BURN NOTICE 4.8: Where There’s Smoke

There was a definite bondage thread running through this week’s episode of BURN NOTICE – but probably not the sort of bondage of which you’re thinking. It was also about key female characters who proved to be more capable, clever and resourceful than suspected.

It started with Maddie (Sharon Gless) getting pinched while helping Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Jesse (Colby Bell) assess the security at a bank. The boys sent her in to trigger the alarm so they could observe the response, but the guards turned out to be overzealous and talked about jail time for Michael’s mom. But quick-thinking Maddie played on the guards’ sympathies and managed to get herself sprung. Clearly, we know where Michael got his talent for prevarication and improvisation.
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RESCUE ME 6.5: Blackout

This week’s wrenching RESCUE ME took a look at the ramifications of being a blackout drunk like Tommy; it’s not all good times, sex and heroic rescues. Sometimes it’s fights and loss of memory and family members.

When last we saw Tommy (Denis Leary) he was embarking on a bender with the top-shelf whiskey that Mickey (Robert John Burke) and Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) had given him. Locked in the back room of the bar, he instantly spiraled out of control in a way we have never seen before. Sure, we’ve seen Tommy desperately try to drown his sorrows in the past, and we’ve seen some pretty crazy hallucinations – up to and including Jesus – but we have never seen him this out of control before. When Jimmy’s shade showed up to chide him for drinking and pissing his life away, Tommy turned on him and actually beat the snot out of him! Tommy claimed that he had carried Jimmy all those years, and the one time he took his eyes off him – 9/11 – Jimmy got himself martyred and became an instant hero, leaving Tommy to feel like the goat. Tommy was interrupted by the specter of his son Connor – and Tommy even lashed out at him! This is when we knew Tommy had totally lost it. No way a sober Tommy roughs up his dead kid.
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MAKE IT OR BREAK IT 2.5: I Won’t Dance, Don’t Ask Me

It’s been a while since I have been able to check in with the elite athletes of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, and this week’s episode reminded me of what I like so much about this series: It focuses on charming, complex characters in stories that manage to be simple yet compelling.

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but comforting to see I haven’t missed much. MIORBI’s “Previously, on…” montage caught me up just fine. The recap segment on serialized drama is very important, and I don’t think enough shows pay enough attention to them. It fits in with the old-fashioned, straight-forward storytelling; don’t look here for fancy camera tricks directorial gloss.
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MAD MEN 4.1: Public Relations

Not without some irony, MAD MEN entered its fourth season focusing on the freshman year of struggling start-up Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the tale of how Don Draper got his groove back.

As part of a seeming hangover from last season’s sometimes-turgid storytelling, Don (Jon Hamm) began the story by laboring through an interview with a reporter from Advertising Age. Don’s trademark smugness and reticence to talk about himself (despite his rampant narcissism) led the writer to pen what the partners at SCDP considered to be a hatchet job – and sent clients running for cover. Not that SCDP had a lot of clients to begin with. And the bikini maker SCDP was courting wanted to come up with a campaign that made “two-piece bathing suits” more appealing to family audiences without “playing in the gutter.” SCDP was nestled in snug little offices without a conference table (chairs, yes; table, no). Pete (Vincent Kartheizer) cheered, “We’re the scrappy upstart.” Yeah, but, dude, your office doesn’t have a conference table! And SCDP will have to be plenty scrappy, since Lucky Strike cigarettes was their single major client. And, of course, Don was responsible for their one hit campaign, a commercial for floor wax that appeared to be almost indistinguishable from entertainment programming. (Hmmm, getting a little ahead of 1964, aren’t you, MAD MEN creator Matt Weiner?)
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DOCTOR WHO 5.13 (31.13): The Big Bang

In “The Big Bang,” Steven Moffat did his best to deliver the most bang for a DOCTOR WHO fan’s buck with a massive finale, and he mostly succeed by delivering an epic tale of love and loss and regeneration (but not Regeneration); a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey tale of the Girl Who Didn’t Make Sense, and the Boy Who Waited.

Let’s face it, this was a pretty great story, but one marred by a key flaw. Moffat loves to manipulate the timestream in his stories, and usually he is very clever about it. (Or, in the case of the spoof “The Curse of the Fatal Death,” downright hilarious.) But this time he messed up. Oh, the story gets by in the heat of the moment because all the sound and running hither and yon masks the mistake; it almost works. Almost. Which is a shame, because “The Big Bang” is otherwise very entertaining, and rivals “Doomsday” as the best of the grand gesture season finales, but it falls short because the mistake kept nagging at me. And I’m not even talking about the Pandorica itself being used as the ultimate deus ex machina… or should that be machina ex machina?
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BURN NOTICE 4.7: Past & Future Tense

michael and paulThere can be no doubt that having Burt Reynolds (Smokey himself) on BURN NOTICE looked good on paper, and probably looked even better in previews. But in practice? Well, not so much…

This episode was one of those rare installments of BN that I really just didn’t care for. It’s not that the episode was bad, but rather it could have been so much more. I wanted to like it more than I did.
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DOCTOR WHO 5.12 (31.12): The Pandorica Opens

“The Pandorica Opens” was the…er, opening salvo in the two-part finale of DOCTOR WHO, marking the culmination of Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor, and the story served as a brassy, boastful shot-across-the-bow to viewers, warning them that this story was going to pull out all the stops.

After previous show-runner Russell T Davies completed his tenure by successively having Davros threaten to destroy all of reality and a combination of the Master and the Time Lords bring about the end of Time itself, it probably seemed like there was no way to escalate the threat behind a new season. And, in a way, that view was correct; but while the threat could not be ratcheted up any more, new show-runner Steven Moffat chose to, in effect, move sideways and boost the jeopardy. In this story, the suspense comes from the Doctor being threatened in a very personal way while the Universe was cracking and Time itself was being rewritten. The Pandorica was opening, and almost all the alien species ever featured in the series were coming to the party, from Autons to Zygons: “Everything that ever hated you is coming here tonight,” River Song warned him. “You can’t win this; you can’t even fight it.”
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BURN NOTICE 4.6: Entry Point

Oh, BURN NOTICE, how I missed you. Please don’t take another sabbatical so soon after coming back, okay?

Now, we all love BURN NOTICE for the fun and informative tricks o’ the trade Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) shares about being a spy. Well, this week he found a more productive use for his insider knowledge: getting a job. Specifically, getting a job as a fake security consultant by sharing his SpyTips with one Mr. Bocklage (played by Alan Dale – you remember him; dude last seen on LOST. The man with the best agent in showbiz, since he lands on all the best shows, up to and including TORCHWOOD). Michael showed Bocklage how a thief used infrared paint to map out an escape route for a robbery planned for that night. And Michael didn’t show this one to Bocklage, but how cool was that little trick of tying off the hydraulic arm on the door to create an instant lock? Brilliant!
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COVERT AFFAIRS 1.1: Not-so-secret agent

COVERT AFFAIRS is another entry in USA’s highly successful action/adventure lineup, and while it shares the spy-thriller niche with BURN NOTICE, it does not have nearly as much fun with the concept as the South Beach sizzler does. In fact, CA may take its CIA missions as seriously as the real covert-ops agency.

Piper Perabo plays Annie Walker, a CIA trainee plucked out of classes a few weeks early for a vital Agency mission. Annie’s unique qualifications for the operation were two-fold: She could speak Russian, and she could pass for a hooker. Her qualifications to be the central character of a new series: She’s inexperienced, cute and spunky, with a strong sense of initiative.
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