Anthony Herrera remembered

Anthony Herrera, the actor who played the villainous (and nearly impervious) James Stenbeck on AS THE WORLD TURNS off and on since 1980, passed away on June 21 in Buenos Aires, according to Soap Opera Digest. He was 67 years old, and had been fighting lymphoma since being diagnosed in 1997.

Herrera wrote a book about his fight against his particular cancer, a rare form called Mantle Cell Lymphoma, but his tome, The Cancer War, was not mere celebrity self-aggrandizement. He worked hard to promote research to help all cancer patients, and even testified on Capitol Hill in support of stem-cell research in 2005. Two operations employing stem cells helped extend his life.
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COVERT AFFAIRS 2.4: All the Right Friends

Another week of COVERT AFFAIRS, another babysitting episode with yet another crybaby asset who wants nothing to do with Annie or the CIA. It’s a wonder the agency considers these people assets. Well, in this case, Italian reporter Carlo held some value as trade bait, so it didn’t really matter if he had any specific knowledge that would have to be extracted from his unwilling head. But would it kill the writers to have somebody want to cooperate?

The twist on the formula this week was that Annie’s mission on foreign soil was kept off formal government channels, so she was not “officially” on a mission for the CIA – meaning she had no protection if she were involved in any altercation and captured. You can see where this story is going, can’t you? Of course you can…
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SUITS 1.1: Pilot

Television needs another law show like the real world needs more lawyers – which is to say, not at all. Into this overcrowded landscape we get USA’s new summer series SUITS, the latest “wacky” attorney drama, and it is about as welcome as getting a papercut from a frivolous lawsuit.

SUITS has a marginally interesting premise: Mike (Patrick J. Adams) has a photographic memory that allows him to quote law books exactly – meaning he can pass the bar, but he’s not a lawyer. He’s an aimless pothead whose dealer buddy bullies him into working as a courier — and accidentally sets him up to be arrested. While ducking the police with a briefcase full of pot, Mike stumbles into a recruitment drive by the city’s top law firm. Harvey (Gabriel Macht), the firm’s self-obsessed ace, learns that Mike is not only not a lawyer but a stoner, yet he hires the kid anyway. Testy senior partner Jessica (Gina Torres) assigns Harvey a pro bono sexual-harassment case that he promptly pawns off on Mike, and together they find a brilliant way to win it. And then Mike decides he doesn’t need pot or his dealer pal anymore, and dumps him to make a go of it as an attorney.
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BURN NOTICE 5.1: Company Man

The premise of BURN NOTICE when it began read like this: Burned spy Michael Weston wants to find out who got him tossed out of the CIA, and then get back in with the agency. Over the course of four seasons, the show has threatened to reinvent itself on a regular basis by dangling the identity of the burner or appearing to offer Michael a new job. However, every time it looks like the status quo has changed, it just turns out that Michael is even more burned than last time. So, when season five opened with the suggestion that Michael could finally be back with the CIA, I was hopeful – but wary of getting burned again.

The new season picks up six months after last season’s finale, which saw Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) seemingly welcomed back into the CIA by Raines (Dylan Baker), but we learn that Michael is still being treated as an intelligence asset – not an agent – while he hunts down every name on that secret list that was the central McGuffin of last season. Now there’s just one name left – the boss, John Kessler – between Michael and his twin goals: learning why he was burned, and getting his credentials back. Michael has been teamed with the CIA’s top field operative, Max (Grant Show), but in order to take down Kessler, Michael insists on using his regular team of Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). And when everything goes pear-shaped for the G-men, Michael has to rely on his improvisational skills to track the baddie. But before Michael can get his hands on Kessler, the mastermind kills himself, leaving Michael with no answers.
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COVERT AFFAIRS 2.3: Bang and Blame

One thing I really liked this week’s episode of COVERT AFFAIRS is that Annie’s mission was relatively low-key. While the issue of CIA losing top recruits because their identities were exposed is a big deal to the agency and the hopefuls who saw their dreams crushed, the fate of the entire world was not trusted to Annie, who, let’s face it, needs a little more seasoning to really deserve the high-profile missions she’s been getting, such as last week’s Paris trip.

And, in this case, Annie (Piper Perabo) really was uniquely suited for the mission: She actually needed to complete her firearms training after being plucked from the academy prematurely, so she was sent to Camp Peary, the CIA training facility known as the Farm, to discover who was burning new recruits by posting their identities online. Suspicion centered on grizzled instructor Roy Gaskin (Tim Guinee) because he was acting…well, very suspiciously. Meanwhile, Arthur (Peter Gallagher) was having trouble with nosy Senator Godfrey (Greg Ellwand), and Arthur’s ex-wife, Gina (Rena Sofer), tried to act as intermediary – when she wasn’t simultaneously needling his current wife, Joan (Kari Matchett). Annie was able to avoid being burned herself long enough to figure out that fellow trainee Corey (Sebastian Pigott) was exposing his rivals in a bid graduate at the top of his class. Annie also made another key discovery when she ran into handsome emergency room doc Scott Weiss (Ben Lawson): He likes cute, flighty aunts who bring nieces to the ER.
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Teasing John Carter (possibly of) Mars

I have a relatively new passion: the Mars novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is most famous for creating Tarzan. Burroughs wrote 11 books in the Mars series dealing with American Civil War veteran Capt. John Carter, who finds himself mysteriously transported to the planet Mars, where he becomes embroiled in a number of armed conflicts and a sweeping romance that takes him (literally) from pole to pole of the red planet its denizens call “Barsoom.” I recently devoured the first three books in the series (A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars) and am now reading the fourth, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.
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COVERT AFFAIRS 2.2: Good Advices

This week’s installment of COVERT AFFAIRS felt even fluffier and more ephemeral than usual. And not in a good way. The episode felt incomplete; like viewers weren’t filled in on everything. Who, exactly, was Annie trying to get information about, and why did he matter? If viewers were informed and I missed it, then that’s not very effective storytelling. On the other hand, if viewers were not told, then that’s even worse storytelling.

Apparently the story that the-powers-that-be wanted to tell involved getting Annie and Eyal Lavin together in Paris and letting the sparks fly. Sadly, the episode was so rushed that the undercovers were barely given time to glare at each other, let alone smolder or strike sparks.
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DOCTOR WHO 6.7 (32.7): A Good Man Goes to War

For the midseason finale of DOCTOR WHO, show-runner Steven Moffat returned to the idea of the Doctor as larger-than-life symbol; an icon known throughout the universe – for better or worse. In Moffat’s mind, the Time Lord is more than just a Gallifreyan who goes around meddling in the business of others; he stands for Something. To fans of the show here on Earth, the Doctor is the ultimate hero, but out there, in the universe at large, he is force of nature open to interpretation. The Daleks call him “Ka Faraq Gatri,” the Draconians refer to him as “Karshtakavaar,” and many other races know him simply as “the Oncoming Storm.” This is one of those stories that could tip balance of his memory.

In last season’s big two-part finale, “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang,” we saw the Doctor branded a goblin and trickster by his enemies – everyone from the Daleks to the Cybermen to the Sontarans and Zygons. Moffat hits that theme again in this story, as Col. Manton’s speech echoes the talk of the Time Lord as a malevolent figure. Meanwhile, the mysterious River Song is concerned with the Doctor’s legacy as a Force for Good. She suggests that the concept of a “doctor” as a wise man and a healer comes from the Time Lord; but “doctor” also means “great warrior” to some cultures. She was concerned that his legend has the potential to go either way – and he is right now at the crossroads, the tipping point where his legacy will be determined. He is already a hobgoblin to the would-be conquerors of the universe – the question is, can he still be a savior to the downtrodden masses, or will he be seduced by his own power and influence?
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DOCTOR WHO renewed!

With DOCTOR WHO wrapping up the first part of its sixth series tonight in the USA (on BBC America), we Whovians can console ourselves with the terrific news this week that the BBC has commissioned 14 more episodes starring Matt Smith! Those will take the form of a 2011 Christmas Special and a 13-installment seventh series (or, more properly, a 33rd season) in 2012. No word about Karen Gillan (Amy) and Arthur Darvill (Rory), but still, what’s not to love?

Well, the tabloid press never met any good news it couldn’t twist to manufacture controversy and sell papers, so the lack of a firm premiere date (which is not the least bit unusual nearly a year ahead of time) has provided an excuse to speculate about delaying the series somehow – either pushing it all the way back to a fall 2012 premiere or repeating the split-season format we’re experiencing this year. Plus, more fear-mongering about ratings in the U.K.
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COVERT AFFAIRS 2.1: Begin the Begin

Last summer’s guiltiest pleasure for me was USA’s COVERT AFFAIRS, a sort of ALIAS-lite that featured likeable tyro CIA agent Annie Walker, played by Piper Perabo (of Coyote Ugly and Lost and Delirious fame). Your appreciation for COVERT AFFAIRS pretty much depended on your appreciation of Annie/Piper as she undertook the mission of the week, bungled it, and then saved the day through desperation, pluck and charm. Annie did not rely on sex appeal to the same degree as Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow on ALIAS, but Piper can rock a bikini with the best of them when she must. My tolerance for Perabo is pretty high; your mileage may vary. (Don’t judge me; WHITE COLLAR coasts on fans hypnotized by Matt Bomer.) So I am happy this frothy series is back.

Annie had a mysterious love interest, one Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey, of Band of Brothers), who just happened to be a former CIA operative. Or maybe he still was on the payroll; nobody could really tell. And it sort of didn’t matter, because Annie was also drawn into the orbit of the charismatic Auggie (Christopher Gorham), a fast-talking/quicker-thinking CIA agent who just happened to be blind.
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