Friday, October 30, 2009

FlashForward: “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” Not Scary or Super

Photo from ABC
Last night’s episode of FlashForward titled “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” was neither scary nor super nor creepy. Instead, it was somewhat mundane.

Charlie – er, I mean Simon (Dominic Monaghan) is supposed to be half mad scientist and half James Bond as he tries to pick up a woman while riding the train. His attempts at being sexy and mysterious were laughable as Monaghan is neither. He says he knows what caused the flash forwards, but seems to joke about it. While entangled in bed with this woman (somehow, the sight of it makes me laugh even more) he reveals to her that he choked someone to death in his flash forward. What nice pillow talk.

Meanwhile, Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) is in emergency surgery from her gunshot wound from last week’s episode ”Gimme Some Truth”. Of course, with the many surgeons in Los Angeles, she is coincidentally operated on by her colleague’s wife, Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger). Janis pulls through the first operation – I find myself thinking they spent way too much time on the operation, by the way - and she worries that her flash forward of having a child may not come true. Her boss, Agent Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) remains at her side while he sends the rest of the team off to relax from their own trauma from the previous week. But later, Janis starts to have more problems and she is back in surgery, with Olivia tending to her again, trying to be mindful of Janis’s flash forward of being pregnant. Janis survives this second operation, but she reveals that it may be impossible to have a baby. I can’t remember her exact wording, but I chuckled that it seemed to be phrased that there is a slim chance she could still get pregnant, which means she probably will because after all, the impossible is much easier to occur on television.

Agent Demetri Noh (John Cho) meanwhile, ignores Wedeck’s instructions and decides to work on finding the men who shot Janis. He and Agent Al Gough (Lee Thompson Young ) use information from their flash forwards and from the clues that Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) saw on his board in his office during his flash forward. In the morgue, when Demetri sees an image of a blue hand on one of the men Janis shot, he realizes this is a clue from Benford's flash forward of his board of clues, and he also remembered the word Baltimore next to it. This seems to connect him to a Baltimore Street, where he and Gough find a figure of a blue hand pointing on a stop sign. Some of the fingers are missing and they somehow guess this is the number of streets to follow to the next sign, and so on, until it leads them to a house where the find several dead bodies, with blue hands. I assume these were the men that shot Janis? It all seemed a bit too easy.

Meanwhile, Agent Benford continues to go from scene to scene just exuding his own special angst, which I still think looks more like a bad case of indigestion. He goes trick or treating with his daughter Charlie (Lennon Wynn) and, after seeing a rogue kangaroo go by that he also saw after the flash forward, he sees three men in masks just like he saw in his office during his flash forward. He assumes the worse and yells “FBI!” and chases after them, drawing his gun even though there is no evidence they did anything wrong. When he catches up with one of them and yanks off the mask and sees it is just a young guy who was worried Benford was chasing them for their hand in a Halloween prank, Benford looks annoyed. He gets a call to come home, never apologizing for pulling a gun on someone for no reason at all.

It seems that Dylan (Ryan Wynott ) who is hospitalized but somewhat upset about going home, continues to repeat the phrase that it is his house too. He sneaks out of the hospital and ends up on a bus and wants to go to 25696 Sawyer Court, which we find is the Benford home. Of course, the bus driver just takes him there, his only worry is getting the boy to pay the fare, and does not call the police or anything like that, which would have made more sense. Nicole (Peyton List), wearing a Halloween costume that I wasn't quite sure who she was supposed to be, calls Mark to come home. Dylan also seems to know Charlie and they seem very comfortable with each other. When Dylan’s father Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport) gets called to the house to retrieve Dylan, he walks in and recognizes the house from his flash forward. He now knows who the woman is in his flash forward, and when Olivia walks in, the look on her face confirms it to everyone. Trouble ensues. After Lloyd and Dylan leave, the Benford’s argue about the flash forwards and the truth, Mark finally admitting he was drinking in his flash forward. After chastising his wife for an affair she hasn’t had yet, when she comments about his drinking the future, he says:

Mark: Don't condemn me for something I haven't done yet.
Olivia: Do you even care what you just said?

Yes, it is clear now that Mark thinks he is Mr. Perfect and the world revolves around him and his own flash forward. He doesn’t seem to see that her imagined affair doesn’t correlate to his real past history with drinking. It also seems clear that their flash forward is doomed to come true because, well, the vision of the flash forward likely causes the rift between the two of them. Get it? Yes, it sounds a little confusing, but it is obvious that everyone's vision of the future is having a huge effect on their actions in the present, and possibly had they not had the flash forwards, their lives would not have had those same outcomes.

Later, after Lloyd returns Dylan to the hospital, he gets in his car and Simon is in the back seat. Simon tells him that both he and those that he works for are not too happy that Lloyd disappeared. Lloyd seems to have a problem with the fact that their "experiment" has already killed 20 million people. I think that scene was already shown either in a TV promo or in a “tease” after last week’s episode, so it was no surprise. It seems this show doesn’t want any suspense or drama; sometimes I think they would leave things like this out of their promos.

The only items of interest revealed in this episode are the blue hand, and the fact that Simon and Lloyd conducted some kind of experiment that causes the flash forward. I remain underwhelmed.

Along with mediocre acting, the background music choices that FlashForward uses are questionable. It never seems to fit the mood of the scene. Dominic Monaghan’s introduction was ill-fitting and the whole seduction scene was comical, and I don’t think that was the intent. Has this role been miscast? Only time will tell. But the whole show seems miscast, with Joseph Fiennes being far to stiff and lifeless for a role that seems to be better suited to someone who can actually emote. Either that, or the writers need to give Fiennes better dialog and scenarios which allows him to show his acting ability. Unless the show is able to better deliver characters that are believable, dialog that doesn’t seem forced, and a more suspenseful show, viewer interest may die off over time. I think the premise of the show has possibilities, I hope that somehow they find a way to pump up the drama, and the mystery, before the season ends.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lie to Me “Grievous Bodily Harm” Too Predictable

Photo from Fox

Lie To Me (Fox) is one of those shows I watch that I am not quite sure why I watch it. After seeing last night’s episode “Grievous Bodily Harm” I decided to look in to the reasons why I keep watching this show despite the fact that something is just off about it.

In “Grievous Bodily Harm”, the show opens with Cal being shot, and then we quickly move back about a day earlier in time. An old fried of Dr. Cal Lightman’s (Tim Roth) comes for a visit and needs Cal’s human lie detector abilities in order to help him get out from under a gambling debt. It seems that Terry (Lennie James) got in over his head with a gambling debt and needs Cal to help him win it back in a poker game. But this leads to Cal being forced into helping Terry’s gambling associate to verifying the quality of counterfeit money. It was a little too obvious that when Cal got shot at the beginning of the show that it was either some kind of ruse or that he would survive. There was really no suspense there – a show doesn’t kill off his lead character especially when they still have several more episodes to go in the season. It was also obvious that once Cal got involved with Terry that it wouldn’t end with the poker game. Either the show is too predictable or I am also an expert in reading a person’s body language and behavior, but it was obvious that the security guy was some sort of plant for the Feds, especially when it seemed that Cal’s presence at the illegal poker game was well known to Agent Ben Reynolds (Mekhi Phifer).

While this is going on, the rest of Cal’s team works on a video threat received by a school that threatens a homicide. Dr. Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams) misreads the body signals of one of the students involved and thinks that the student is the one guilty of the homicidal threats, instead, the girl was talking suicide, and she attempts suicide in the Lightman Group restroom. While Torres (Monica Raymond) and Locker (Brendan Hines) continue to work the case with Foster, they collectively figure out that it was one of the instructors who seemed to be fueling the conflict between students and fostering the student’s negative feelings to the girl who had later attempted suicide. In my opinion, it was obvious the minute the teacher became involved in observing the inquiry that he was someone the one who initiated the whole mess. I think I am getting too good at reading body language.

Besides it being almost to easy to figure out the outcome of each story arc, I realized that Tim Roth bounces and sways a lot when he walks and it seems too comical. I am not sure if that is how Roth walks or if that is how Cal Lightman walks, but either way, it is somewhat distracting, as his body movements seem to monopolize the whole scene when he is on screen. He also seems to quickly move to get into people’s spaces, which I think is probably a method that Lightman uses to get people off guard so he can read them better. Another problem is Roth’s accent when speaking, which at times makes it hard to understand what he is saying. I think as I watch more of the show I become more accustomed to it, but in last night’s episode with Cal’s accent and Terry’s accent, I was having a spot of trouble understanding them.

The other issue is the chemistry with the cast. There is something just not right and I can’t quite figure out what – or who – it is. Tim Roth seems fine as Lightman, but the rest of the cast seems flat. In the first season of “Lie to Me” I was initially intrigued by Dr. Foster, but after watching the series for a while, she seems to be rather one dimensional and I don’t think the writers have done as good of a job in developing her character as they have with Lightman. Likewise Loker and Torres are becoming too repetitive in their behaviors and there doesn’t seem to be anything compelling going on with either of them. Making matters worse, while the main characters still remain underdeveloped, they’ve added the new character of Agent Reynolds who seems to be the stereotypical FBI agent who mistrusts everyone and just gets in everyone’s way.

I still watch “Lie to Me” because I have hopes that someday everything will begin to click, but I won’t wait forever. Right now the show is fortunate to run on Monday night right after “House”, but if the show moves to another day and time without the strong lead in, I am not sure if the show has enough going for it in order to survive for very long. I am afraid that without more character development, and without some more compelling cases for the Lightman Group, this may be the series last season. And that’s no lie.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

NBC’s “Trauma”: So Bad it Will Traumatize You

On Saturday night the AL Championship baseball game was rained out, and as my DVR was empty of any recorded programs, so I decided to give the new NBC series ”Trauma” a try. A previously aired episode titled “Stuck” was airing, and after 15 minutes of watching it, I too felt stuck – in TV hell. I watched for 5 more minutes before turning to my husband and asking, “Is this show awful or is it me?” I was relieved to know that it wasn’t just me. We quickly changed the channel, so my review will be brief.

This episode of “Trauma” contained a series of events where it seemed the writers wanted to outdo themselves on what kind of awful or gross scenario they can create for viewers. One guy had his arm severed. A rescue paramedics threw up in a helicopter as they were transposing a person who fell while biking on a hilly dirt trail. Another person was beat up after complaining that someone cut in line in front of him, and apparently had lost part of his tongue in the process. An insensitive EMS person goes looking for the guy’s tongue and was rambling off some stupid comments about it while he was searching. After being assaulted with horrible dialog delivered with the acting skill of the cast of a high school play, I realized that this show was doomed to fail. The scenes were so disjointed that the show seemed like a series of random activities, not tied together by anything except there was some sort of situation that required medical help. I had no reason to have any interest in these characters and there was nothing that made me want to spend any more time trying to find a reason to watch any longer.

Needless to say, I won’t watch Trauma again, and if you haven’t started watching it, don’t bother. This also begs the question – Why did NBC cancel ”Southland” which was 100 times better than “Trauma”? After watching 20 minutes of Trauma, I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever is making these programming choices at NBC need to be fired, stat.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

FlashForward “Gimme Some Truth”: Truth Is, It’s Awful

Photo from ABC

They asked for some truth, and they will certainly get it from me. ABC’s FlashForward is s good story being told very badly. “Gimme Some Truth” was probably the worst episode so far, filled with stereotypical characters and scenery-chewing actors, not to mention a lifeless storyline. Joseph Fiennes is horribly miscast as Agent Mark Benford, who most times looks like he is suffering from a bad case of indigestion. It also seems that he is going for the world record to best David Caruso for the longest amount of time he could keep his hands on his hips for one scene. The biggest failing of the show is that despite a story that could be filled with drama and suspense, I find that the dialog, the scenarios, the one dimensional and stereotypical characters, and the acting literally suck the life out of the story.

The episode opened with Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), Agent Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance), Agent Demetri Noh (John Cho) and Agent Vreede (Barry Shabaka Henley) in Washington DC. They quickly find their car being hit by a black SUV, and their car explodes. This was the episodes own flash forward, as we are immediately taken back 39 hours before all this took place.

It seems that the agents are in DC going through polygraph tests to verify their real flash forward experiences. After Benford goes through his test, he calls Mark and when Benford tells him he is feeling the pressure, Mark suggests he check a local AA meeting. Benford’s wife Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger) overhears the conversation and later confronts Mark about the matter, Mark blowing it off as nothing to worry about.

Wedeck, meanwhile, is feeling the heat as he tries to get more funding for Mosaic. He has a friendly one-on-one basketball game with an old friend Dave Segovia (Peter Coyote) and asks for his support. Dave tells him to tread carefully, and Wedeck finds out that the person in charge of the Senate committee on funding is none other than an old nemesis, Senator Clemente. We later find that Dave is the President of the United States. No shock there.

Overlaying all this activity is Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) and her relationship with female restaurateur Maya (Navi Rawat). (I laugh, as I wonder what Charlie Epps (from CBS’s Numb3rs would think of this!) They discuss their flash forwards over dinner and Janis is evasive. After the gratuitous lesbian kissing scene the next morning in Janis’ place – you know if there are lesbians on the show they just have to kiss, it is a TV rule – Janis leaves Maya there when she has to head off to work, telling Maya she can go through her stuff. Later, on another date, Maya tells Janis that she checked into her flash forward on the Mosaic site, and knows Janis’ vision was that she was pregnant. Janis seems to feel violated – yes violated! – that Maya did this. Keep in mind she told Maya to go through her stuff earlier in the day, but I guess she didn’t mean public information that she herself put on the Internet for the whole world except Maya to see. I found Janis’ upset over the matter laughable.

Janis is also working on checking into the 1990 die off of crows in Somalia as it seems to relate to the present time flash forward, and is shown a satellite image of what looks like tall towers or pylons being constructed in the area before the 1990 incident.

Meanwhile, President Dave has a press conference and tells the media that they are coordinating their efforts to properly fund the correct agencies that have the best shot at providing leads to the cause of the blackout. He adds that like other world leaders, he will not reveal his own flash forward, although we later see it involves a Secret Service agent waking him to tell him something has happened. I am underwhelmed.

After the press conference, Wedeck meets with President Dave in the Oval Office and Dave reminds Wedeck that he alienated the wrong people years ago which forced the President to banish him out west. But Dave wants to bring Wedeck back into his fold, and offers him a cabinet position as Director of Homeland Security. Wedeck looks underwhelmed.

Cut to the hearing, where Senator Clemente (Barbara Williams) is the stereotypical bitchy female senator who puts the screws to Wedeck. Later, outside the hearing, she gets in his face, accusing him of ruining her shot for the presidency. She tells him she saw herself as president in her flash forward, so she’s feeling powerful. It’s a foregone conclusion that she wants to make him pay but grilling him on his work with Mosaic and likely has no intention of giving him any funding at all. Later, Clemente orders Benford to take the stand and testify about his work and his own flash forward. Benford takes the classic Horatio Caine “hands on the hips” stance, thinking that this will likely scare Clemente; of course, it does not work. Benford’s account of his experiences – including the crow die off, the attack on his FBI office, his board filled with pictures and details – makes him come across sounding like a crazy to Clemente. The way this scene was written, he sounded nutty to me too. Since we all know he had been drinking in his flash forward, he can’t explain to Clemente why he can’t recall every single detail clearly like other people. When Clemente implies Benford’s office is trying to pull a fast one, Wedeck gets disgusted at Clemente and storms out, leaving Benford to flap in the wind. After the hearing, even Demetri says Benford sounded nuts. They need more evidence, and the towers and the crow incident seems to be the thing that may help them.

But Wedeck has other ideas, and decides to play hardball with the President. He brings out an old photo of a woman named Renee (Mieko Hillman) with whom the President had an affair and also a son. It seems that Wedeck made the payoff to the woman in the past for Dave before he was president, and now uses that as leverage to get his funding. When he plays his trump card with the President, the President says, “You know why I liked having you around so much, Stan? You weren't just comfortable in the mud. You enjoyed being there.” Of course, Wedeck gets his funding.

Later. with the agents in s bar doing some awful Karaoke, Benford hasn’t been drinking, but I am considering it, seeing that the singing – and the acting – is so bad. Wedeck comes in to talk to Benford. Benford is angry that Wedeck abandoned him, but Wedeck has a cow when Benford admits he can’t recall all the details because he was hammered at the time. Wedeck is angry that he put his career on the line for Benford’s flash forward that was compromised by intoxication. While they keep this a secret between themselves, someone else knows, because they anonymously texted the information to Benford’s wife, Olivia.

As they go to the parking garage, they find that Dave selected Senator Clemente for the VP slot to replace Vice-President Pratt, who was killed in the blackout. This is of some concern to Wedeck, who knows that Clemente saw herself in the flash forward as president. Benford is on the phone with Janis who is walking home with the stereotypical paper bag brimming with groceries, and while they talk, the black SVU rams into their car, cutting off the car. The agents exit the car before it explodes, and a gunfight erupts, with the most ridiculous background music of “Like A Rolling Stone". I have no idea why they chose this song or what it was supposed to mean, but it seemed silly considering this was a shoot out. While this is going on, Janis is also facing two attackers with guns, one of which shoots her. As she drops to the ground, she remembers in her flash forward that she will have a girl. This was the only question of any interest in the episode – does she die, therefore showing the future can be changed? Or does she live and the scene means nothing? I suspect that I will be watching FlashForward not for the mystery, but to see just how bad this show can get. And that’s the truth.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

House “Brave Heart” Is All In the Head

Photo from Fox

Last night’s episode of House “Brave Heart” was delayed by a MLB playoff game going into overtime. For those people who DVR the show, I hope they were able to change their programming in time so as not to miss a good chunk of the episode. I wish that DVRs could automatically adjust their recording times when shows run over and mess up the schedule.

This episode of House brought the team a patient that really shouldn’t have been a special patient. Donny (Jon Seda), who works law enforcement, got into the hospital because he fell 30 feet while chasing a suspect. But when he tells Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) that he thinks he will die soon because he is reaching 40 and his father and grandfather died at that age, she decides to get the diagnostic team involved. I found myself not even caring about the patient, as I saw that his condition didn’t warrant the time and related expense from such a high-powered team. The case only gets interesting when House (Hugh Laurie) uses candy/sugar pills to treat the patient, thinking the problem is all in his head. The patient dies shortly thereafter. When Foreman and House want to autopsy the body, the patient comes alive, screaming, as Foreman begins to slice into his chest to look at his heart. Based on the previews for the show this was really no surprise, but it was amusing. Later, when House is talking with Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), he has his usual epiphany and realizes the problem is not with Donny’s heart, it’s in his head. The team fixes Donny’s head problem, and also fixes the same problem in Donny’s son - a son that he just discovered that he had. It seems House wasn't completely wrong when he thought Donny's problem was in his head.

Dr. Chase is still struggling with his murder of Dibala, and continues to keep his secret from Cameron. She knows something is wrong, and she begins to pull away from him as he pulls his problem further inside himself. He has a problem going into the ICU as this is where he killed Dibala, and Foreman knows that Chase has to come to grips with the issue fast. When Chase seeks the confessional for absolution and the priest tells Chase he has to turn himself into the police, Chase does not see that as an option. Chase believes he did the right thing and did the world a favor by killing Dibala. The problem with Chase is that he wants to have his cake and eat it too – he wants to be forgiven and absolved without having to pay the price. I suspect that either he will eventually tell Cameron and she will leave him, or he will keep his secret from her and that will create a further rift between them and she’ll leave him. No matter what Chase does at this point, I suspect his marriage will pay the price in some shape or form.

House, meanwhile, is still living with Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), and he is sleeping on the couch. When Wilson decides to turn a part study/part shrine to Amber into a bedroom for House, House takes him up on the offer of a real bedroom. But House begins to hear voices at night. He can’t tell where the voices are coming from, but he initially looks for rational reasons, like having his hearing tested. He does seem to hear the voices at the hospital once, so he may suspect that he is having mental problems again. But when his hearing tests fine, he decides to examine the bedroom more carefully when he hears the voices, and finds that the voice he is hearing is Wilson in the next room, talking out loud to his memory of Amber. He goes back to sleeping on the couch, and when Wilson is startled to see him there, he tells Wilson he may have to go back into the mental hospital as he is hearing voices in the bedroom at night. When Wilson seems too agreeable to this, House gets angry with him and Wilson admits he knows House knows about his talking to Amber. Wilson convinces House to try the same method and talk to his dead father as he lay in bed. House tries it but then yells out to Wilson that it isn’t working, much to Wilson’s glee.

This was a decent episode but a little flawed. The patient should not have been given such special attention by the team when he was first admitted. I am not saying that his problem wasn’t worth investigating, it’s just that I don’t see why he couldn’t have been handled as an outpatient. I can’t imagine real hospital taking on a patient like this with such a high-powered diagnostic team while the person stayed in the hospital. I suppose that while he was recovering from his injury it was probably OK for them to check out his other issue at that same time, but House shouldn’t have had to play the old “sugar pill” game with him to get him discharged.

Since the news has been out for some time that Jennifer Morrison is leaving the show, I suspect that somehow Chase’s murder of Dibala may come into play, possibly causing a rift in their marriage. I can’t imagine Chase ever openly confessing to the killing. Besides, I think Chase truly believes he did the right thing and isn’t likely to admit to the killing and have to pay the price.

The issue with House hearing the voices has one problem – he seemed to hear the voices at the hospital when he was in his conference area. House may still be having some problems and I wonder if all those voices he heard in the bedroom really did belong to Wilson? Is the Wilson talking to Amber explanation House's own version of a sugar pill? As with his patients, House’s first diagnosis is often not the correct one, so it’s highly possible that his explanation that it was Wilson’s voice every time may not be the right explanation either. It could also be nothing – his mind may have been in overdrive just thinking that he could be relapsing into mental illness, which cause him to hear those voices in the hospital. As in most cases with House – only time will tell.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Mad Men “The Color Blue” Has Betty Seeing Red

Photo from AMC

There are only three more episodes left of “Mad Men” this season, and the episode “The Color Blue” seems to be setting up viewers for a rocky finish. The events in the episode follow many of the previous episodes: Don sleeps with another woman, people drink and smoke a lot, Roger is jealous of Don, Betty seems conflicted, and business continues to go on at Sterling Cooper. But the events of this episode hint at big trouble for the Drapers and more changes down the road at Sterling Cooper.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) continues his affair with teacher Suzanne Farrell (Abigail Spencer). While in bed, Suzanne tells Don about a student who asked how she knows the color blue looks the same as it does to him. She told the student she didn't know, but was glad he made her think about it again. Don said if he had to respond to that question, his job was to boil communication down to absolutes. There was an idea of blue that at least 45 percent of the population agreed was blue. He said that people don't see things differently because they want to. A very clinical response, to say the least. Don also meets her brother Danny (Marshall Allman) when he drops in unannounced. He has epilepsy and as a result, has a hard time keeping a job. Suzanne finds him another job, and Don helps out by driving Danny there. When Danny wants to get out of the car and take off before getting to his destination, Don gives him some advice, some money, and a business card before Danny exits. While Don gave Danny his business card for him to call him if he needs any help in the future, I suspect that his business card will trace back to Don in a way that maybe Don will not want.

Suzanne Farrell is also giving off the “crazy clingy mistress” vibe, when she surprises Don by getting on his train going in to work. Something about her strikes me as being a little too needy, and while she denies calling Don’s home and hanging up, she strikes me as the type that would do exactly that. Don seems to care about her, but if she were to endanger his “real” life, I suspect he would cut her lose in a New York minute.

Betty Draper (January Jones) is going through her normal daily routine. By the way, we find out the Drapers are not frequent churchgoers. Betty also wonders about the phone call that was a hang up and calls Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) to ask if it was him. He thinks she made this up as an excuse to call him, and while she didn’t make up the hang up call, I am sure in the back of her mind she felt it was a good excuse to call him. But Don’s secrets may be in real danger when he puts the money from his signing bonus into his locked desk drawer, and he accidentally leaves the key in his bathrobe. Betty finds it while doing the laundry when she hears it clanging around in the clothes dryer. Temptation taking over, she opens Don’s Pandora’s box, which includes the shoebox of photos and papers he has in that desk drawer, along with a bunch of money. The photos are one thing, but the deed and divorce papers to an Ann Draper are quite another issue. When Carla (Deborah Lacey) and the kids arrive home, she drops the box of photos on the floor, and tells Carla to take the kids out somewhere and not bring them back until dinner. Later, Betty stews while she waits for Don to come home, the box with her. When he doesn’t come home, she puts the box back in the drawer, puts the key back into his bathrobe, and goes to bed, alone.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis) are working on ad campaigns for Aqua Net and Western Union. When Paul thinks Peggy stole his thunder with the idea for Aqua Net, he vows to show her up. But while Peggy works on her ideas for Western Union with a clear head, Paul works in his office, using lots of alcohol, music, and maybe even a little bit of “pleasuring himself” in order to come up with the idea. When he runs into the janitor who is named Achilles, he gets what he thinks is the best idea of his life. Rather than write it down, however, he has more to drink and then passes out on the couch. Lois wakes him at 9:00 AM – why is Lois still working there after she ran over Guy’s foot with the lawnmower in the office in the episode ”Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” ? When Paul can’t find his great idea from the night before, he realizes his big one got away. When Peggy hears this she seems sympathetic, and when confronted with Don’s displeasure that they have no good ideas, she gets Paul to admit he had a great idea but forgot to write it down. Even Don seems sympathetic, indicating it happens. But Peggy builds on a comment that Paul made earlier, and comes up with a great idea. Paul seems dejected but at the same time, may be now understands Peggy’s methods and how she can come up with ideas on the spot.

Also at Sterling Cooper, they are readying for a 40th anniversary party for the firm. Don is to receive a special honor, much to Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) annoyance. Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) doesn’t want to attend at all. Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) finds out that Sterling Cooper is doing so well it is up for sale, something that clearly makes him unhappy but which brings joy to his homesick wife Rebecca (Embeth Davidtz). Lane manages to use Bert’s vanity to get him to attend. When Don calls Betty to tell her when he will be coming home to get her for the party, she doesn’t want to go, saying she feels sick. But Don blows it off, telling her to get into bed for a while and adds that he wants to show her off. Of course, she looks stunning, but at the same time, cold and stiff. After Roger gives a very flattering introduction for Don at the dinner – I am sure he was choking on every word – Don rises to the thunderous applause, and Betty looks as if she could care less.

As there are only 3 more episodes left, one has to think that Don’s past, and his cheating ways, will catch up with him. How much damage will be done to Betty in the process we can only guess, as she seems on the edge herself. As Betty assumes that Don himself was divorced – not Dick Whitman, to whom she is really married – will she just use that as her excuse to take the initiative with Henry Francis? Does she have any inkling that the problem isn’t the just divorce papers in that shoebox but the people in the photos? Will Suzanne Farrell get a little too clingy for Don and start showing up in other places like his work? Somehow I see a “fatal attraction” thing coming, it’s just that Suzanne seems way to needy for someone like Don. Regardless, with 3 episodes left, the stage is set for some big trouble.

AMC’s Video Recap “The Color Blue”

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Fringe “Dream Logic”: What Dreams May Come to Peter?

Photo from Fox

Fringe (Fox) “Dream Logic” was about those often-illogical dreams and nightmares that we’ve all had, but this time someone is out there who is feeding off of them. It seems that people who were involved in a sleep study begin to suddenly have their nightmares while awake, and in the process these people kill. Adding to the mystery: afterwards they almost immediately age, their hair turning white, as they themselves die of what is believed to be exhaustion. It was an excellent episode which provided an intriguing stand alone story of its own, plus deepening the mystery surrounding the effects on Peter of being pulled from another timeline without his knowledge.

Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is also still trying to cope with the death of her work partner, Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo). She is getting help from Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), who has apparently told her to get business cards of people she meets in the course of her work that are wearing red.

When Olivia and Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter Bishop (John Noble) are called to Seattle to investigate the death of person at the hands of the first crazed killer, Walter seems very uncomfortable and won’t go in the room with the patient while he comes out of his deep sleep. When the man ages in a matter of seconds and dies, Walter enters the room. He wants to take the body back to his lab, because he thinks Seattle feels and smells like his time in the mental institution. (I find myself thankful that they didn't place the episode in Cleveland. Te city gets too much unfair press as it is.) Peter gets FBI Agent Kashner to escort Walter home.

While Olivia and Peter investigate more similar deaths in Seattle, Walter finds that some sort of chip has been implanted in the thalamus of the first victim, who had been under treatment at the Nayak clinic. Dr. Nayak (Ravi Kapoor) agrees to help Olivia and Peter, but when they get to his office, they find all his critical computer equipment that he used to monitor the implants has been stolen. Later, an unsuspecting Agent Kashner (Travis Schuldt) is victim to one of Walter’s tests, and as a result, Walter finds out that someone is using the chips to steal people’s dreams. Since they aren’t really getting the benefit of dream sleep, he believes this is what causes the quick onset of exhaustion.

While Olivia and Peter find ways to track down the other patients who had these implants inserted by Dr. Nayak, Peter tells Olivia he used to have terrible nightmares himself. He said Walter helped him get through it by reciting a mantra before he went to bed, saying, “please don’t dream tonight.” Peter also says that from the age of 8 to 19, he had no dreams at all. Since we have the benefit of knowing that this Peter Bishop was taken from another timeline, it could explain why Walter was so intent on not wanting Peter to remember his dreams.

Meanwhile, Sam has called Olivia and asks her if she got the business cards, and she tells him she has eight. He asks her if everyone she saw was wearing red, and she confirms it. He then tells her to circle a letter in each name, first and last then write each letter down, and solve the jumble. When she seems perplexed at these instructions, he says she will be looking for whatever she needs to hear, and she will figure it out.

When one of Nayak’s workers doesn’t show up for work, Peter and Olivia head to his house and find him dead. Dr. Nayak finds a threatening letter in his office telling him to quit talking to the FBI, but he turns it over to Olivia and Peter anyway. After they leave, Nayak calls someone and tells them he gave them the letter so the person should just stop. But after hearing that Walter says someone is stealing dreams, Olivia and Peter believe the threatening letter to be written by Nayak himself, and that it’s Dr. Nayak who is stealing the dreams. They believe he has an addiction to feeding off the dreams of his patients. They catch Nayak in the act back at his home, and Olivia must shoot at the computer server in order to stop him from feeding off his latest subject. Nayak dies in the process.

Back in Boston, after Olivia has visited Charlie’s grave, she takes out the jumble of letters from the business cards which says: OAUGENYIRENBEFON. After writing out a few suggestions, she comes up with “YOURE GONNA BE FINE.”

But Peter may not be fine, as after he and Walter moved in to their new home, Peter has had a bad dream. He dreams that he sees his father in his boyhood bedroom, seeing him in a reflection in the mirror. Suddenly he dreams he is ripped out of bed. When he wakes up, he sees Walter standing there, looking slightly concerned, saying that Peter was talking in his sleep. Peter can only remember bits of his dream, but nothing more.

I am sure that Olivia will be fine. But clearly Walter has concerns that Peter is starting to recall some things that are best kept buried. Are Peter’s nightmares leftovers from his life in the alternate timeline from which Walter had taken him? I find it interesting that Peter saw his father in his dream as a reflection of him in a mirror. Maybe Peter’s subconscious knows that he was taken “through the looking glass” himself, and his dreams may be the clue to him recalling from where he came. If Peter ever does remember, Walter will be in more trouble than he himself can dream.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NCIS Los Angeles: More Of The Same

Photo CBS

The spin off of CBS’s late bloomer, "NCIS", the new NCIS Los Angeles seems to be a big hit, reportedly the top new show on television this season. I wonder - does it have enough to keep its great ratings as the season progresses?

It took years for the original NCIS (the show was a spin off of another CBS series, “Jag) to build viewership, possibly because it ran against other strong shows – like American Idol – at times. But over time, the cast with quirky and sometimes immature characters seemed to lure in viewers who were looking for crime shows with a lighter twist. It helped that it had Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly, who seem very popular with female viewers. It also had old favorite David McCallum in a role as the medical examiner, Dr. “Ducky” Mallard, and Pauley Perrette as the over-caffeinated, Goth tech whiz, Abby. All made for a cast with great chemistry and fit perfectly for a show about crime mixed with humor.

But for me, NCIS Los Angeles, which airs immediately after the original recipe NCIS, just doesn’t seem to have that same kind of cast or the same kind of magic. Chris O’Donnell, who plays the agent with an initial for a first name, “G. Callen” is just fine, but the rest of the cast seems devoid of personality and interest, and LL Cool J simply cannot act. Worse, because it airs right after NCIS, I find that two hours in a row of the same formula becomes boring. Ennui sets in for me at about 20 minutes in to the show. An article in the recent Ad Age says:

Taking the cookie-cutter route will only get them so far, executives said. Over time, said Ms. Tassler, the characters will grow and develop, allowing for some degree of originality and creative choice-making. The original show features actor Mark Harmon driving a group of investigators, while the new version is more of a "buddy" show, said Mr. Brennan, with LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell as leads. He likens the concept to the interaction between "Miami Vice's" Crockett and Tubbs or the leads in "Starsky & Hutch." Even so, both programs feature broad teams that include a veteran actor -- David McCallum for "NCIS" and Linda Hunt for "NCIS: LA" -- who offers advice and counsel.

"You can't introduce a new show with new characters and have the audience hold them up in comparison to the characters on 'NCIS,'" said Mr. Brennan, who suggested he wouldn't stand against the development of a third "NCIS" program if there were demand for it. "The trick is to make sure if there is a third one that it has strong characters and once again shines a light on [the concept] that doesn't repeat what [viewers] have already seen on 'NCIS' and 'NCIS: LA'."

Is it possible that the current success of NCIS Los Angeles is due to the fact that there aren’t any scripted dramas running against it at this time? Will the show tail off one American Idol starts up? Since American Idol has been off my viewing list for a while, and seems to be dropping in viewership with every subsequent season, NCIS Los Angeles may have plenty of time to work out the kinks and develop the characters before AI starts back up and threatens to suck away viewers from NCIS LA. For me, I am willing to give the show more time, but won’t give it forever.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

House “Instant Karma” Comes Back to Bite Them

Photo from Fox
“Instant Karma” felt very comfortable, like the earlier episodes of House(Fox). The original team is back working together and House (Hugh Laurie) is back with them, although he can’t technically practice medicine. The patient of the week is the son of Roy (Lee Tergesen), a ultra wealthy man who can seemingly buy anything he wants except a cure for his ill son. Drs. Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Foreman (Omar Epps) have trouble looming when Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) tells them that the death of Dibala (from the previous episode ”The Tyrant”) will be discussed at the next Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) meeting. Since Chase killed Dibala and Foreman covered it up, one can understand their concern.

As always, the patient of the week is a backdrop to the personal drama between the doctors. They run the usual battery of tests on the young patient, they try a few failed treatments, and House has an epiphany, which later gives him the correct diagnosis. Too bad it was after he already told Roy that his son was going to die. Roy thinks he is a victim of bad karma, and he is getting payback for having enormous wealth and his son’s illness is balancing things out. He has a team of lawyers in the hospital to sign papers, which will essentially destroy his business and bankrupt himself. I don’t understand how one can do that so quickly with one swipe of a pen. His son is cured and Roy is broke. Too bad that Roy completely misunderstood karma – it isn’t a balancing out like he explained, it means if you do something bad in life, bad will come back to you, and vice versa. It doesn’t mean that if you are wealthy, that your family will have nothing but pain and suffering. If he would have realized this, maybe he wouldn’t have given away all his money, especially now that House’s correct diagnosis means his son will live. Now how will he pay all those hospital bills?

Meanwhile, Chase and Foreman are trying to figure out what to do at the M&M to prevent Chase’s actions with Dibala - the fact that he murdered him - from coming out. Chase seems to think that it’s up to Foreman to fix it, which I thought was a little nasty of Chase. Sure, Foreman did cover things up and he has a lot to lose, but Chase is the guy why actually killed Dibala. Things get complicated when the blood Chase used to test for Dibala has abnormal cholesterol levels, something of which Chase was not aware. He enlists Foreman to tell more lies to cover that up, and instead, Foreman tries to get out of doing the M&M. No luck; Cuddy tells him he must do it, but wonders what is going on. Even Cameron noticed Chase’s weird behavior and calls him on it, and he explains it away. Chase gets dangerously close to confessing to Cuddy but is interrupted and never gets the words out. Lucky for Chase and Foreman that House appears to have figured out what happened and secretly leaves a file for Chase that indicates one of Dibala's previous doctors had been prescribing drugs for high cholesterol. This gives them an explanation for the cholesterol readings and gets them off the hook for the M&M. When Chase finds out it wasn’t Foreman who left the file, he goes straight to House, who then tells Chase "better murder than a misdiagnosis."

Intermingled with these stories is Thirteen, who tells House she is planning to travel and head to Thailand. On her way to the airport, she finds that her reservation was somehow canceled. She blames House but he denies it. Cuddy tells House that Thirteen also talked to her about it, and she also asks House if he really wants Foreman running the team. He seems to be comfortable with his role of advisor without actually having the power to lord over people. Thirteen later tells Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) that she found her computer was hacked and the email to cancel her flight came from his computer. He gives her the appearance that he did it, telling her that she is good for House and he doesn’t want her to throw her career away over a bad break up. Wilson tells House that he confessed to doing it and of course House admits that he knows he didn’t do it, because House did. No matter, Thirteen gets on a plane, and I can only hope she never returns.

At the end, as the penniless Roy now has his healthy son, and Thirteen gets on her plane, Foreman is at the head of the conference room for the M&M. It looks like crisis has been averted.

It was a satisfying episode, with it familiar formula: several misdiagnoses with a cure at the end, conflict with the doctors, Cuddy in tight clothes and cleavage, Wilson and his attempt at fixing things that he didn’t break. The only difference is a more tempered House, but make no mistake, the edge is not gone. Hopefully House’s painful rehab was his “bad karma” coming back at him, and he can start fresh. But for Chase and Foreman, while they managed to get through the M&M, bad karma may still be forthcoming.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Mad Men “Wee Small Hours” Real Big Trouble

Photos from AMC

In the “Wee Small Hours” episode of Mad Men, a lot of trouble can happen. Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) tries to keep his cover of being gay, and in doing so, threatens one of Sterling Cooper’s largest accounts. Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross) and his annoying habit of waking Don up, coupled with his demanding and narrow attitude is giving Don Draper (Jon Hamm) grief. Don uses Conrad as cover to start a fling with Sally’s former teacher, Suzanne Farrell (Abigail Spencer). Betty Draper (January Jones) seems to be leading on Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley ) from the governor’s office, but then seems to get cold feet. This is all over a backdrop of civil rights and segregation commentary. Mad Men remains the best drama on television, as it weaves personal drama in with the culture and the events of the day to create a rich tapestry of life in the early 1960s.

Things are tough for Sal when working on a commercial for Lucky Strike, Lee Garner Jr., (Darren Pettie) the son of the cigarette magnate, makes a flagrant pass at Sal while in the editing room. Sal rejects Garner’s advances, using the excuse that he is married. But Garner, who previously addressed Sal as “Sally”, knows very well that Sal is hiding behind his marriage. Garner contacts Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) and demands that Sal be fired, and Harry, picking up on the fact that Garner seems drunk, decides that since it’s not really his call to fire Sal, and since Garner told him not to tell anybody, he decides to do nothing. This blows up in his face when Garner comes in to a meeting at Sterling Cooper and sees Sal there, and storms out. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) fires Sal on the spot, and then tells Harry to have Don fix the mess. When Harry and Sal come to Don, Don is clearly not pleased, and when alone with Sal, says that the loss of Lucky Strike could turn out the lights at Sterling Cooper. He tells Sal that it just has to be, and tells Sal he will find something. At some later day and time, Sal calls his wife from a phone book in what looks like the park, faking that he had to work late. Clearly he hasn’t told her he was fired.

I felt horrible for Sal, especially when Don, who knows Sal is gay, chastises him and says, “You people.” Don appears unable to see that he is no different than Sal in keeping secrets. Considering Don’s philandering has created problems with accounts before, he has a lot of nerve implying that because Sal is gay, that Sal’s issues are different than Don’s. It is almost as if Don looked down on Sal in the same way that he has looked down on Peggy in past episodes – that because Peggy is a woman or because Sal is gay, that their issues don’t have the same importance as Don’s, a heterosexual male. I wonder what Don would have done if Garner would have made a pass at him? Don’s attitude is reflective of the opinions people had of gays in that era, and sadly, these days, gays can still be unfairly stereotyped.

Meanwhile, Betty starts writing letter to Henry Francis in the governors office, and he responds. Henry then drives to the Draper home to see Betty, and when Carla (Deborah Lacey) comes back home, Henry makes up that he came there about using Betty’s home for a fundraiser. Betty seems to think that Carla is ignorant to what is really going on, but Carla is no dummy and reads accurately that Henry was not there for a fundraiser. When Betty decides to go through with it – maybe she came to the conclusion that she had to keep up the cover story so there would be no issue with Carla, Betty is crushed when Henry doesn’t attend and instead sends one of his staff to speak in his behalf. When she brings the money from the fundraiser to Henry’s office, she throws the cash box at him, angry that he humiliated her and she waited for him to come. Henry said that she had to come to him because she is married. When he locks the door and kisses her, Betty pulls away, saying that meeting there or even in a hotel is “tawdry.” Henry is confused by her behavior and doesn’t know what she wants. Frankly, I am not sure what Betty wants either, but it seems that she wants to be the one that is desired, and not be the one that desires someone else.

Don, on the other hand, seems to have no concerns about anything being tawdry. When he gets a call from Hilton in the wee hours and can’t fall back to sleep, he decides to head into work. On the way there, he sees Suzanne Farrell out for an early morning run. He offers to drive her to her place, and when they get there, he asks her to join him for a cup of coffee. She knows it’s not coffee he wants, and she blows him off. Later, at work, he finds that Hilton has summoned him again. He meets him at Hilton’s place and, over some prohibition alcohol, Hilton gives Don the chance at his international business, saying the he even wants to have a Hilton on the moon. Hilton wants Don’s ad campaign to reflect that. Hilton also calls Don "my angel" adding that Don feels like "more than a son" to him because he didn't have the advantages Hilton’s Connie's own boys had.

Back in the office, Don is unhappy with what Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and her team have come up with, even though they are based on Draper’s own ideas. At a later date, Don presents the campaign to Connie: How do you say "Ice Water" in Italian or "Hamburger" in Japanese? Hilton. When Hilton wants to speak to Don alone about the campaign, he’s angry, saying the campaign is good but Don had nothing about Hilton on the moon, and "When I say I want the moon, "I expect the moon." He storms out. Afterwards, Roger enters Don’s office, and says that two huge clients stormed out of their office this week, adding, "You've got your face so deep in Hilton's lap, you're ignoring everything else. You're in over your head."

But Don’s answer to his predicament is to get even further in over his head, when he fakes that Hilton called him in the wee hours again, and tells a sleepy Betty that he has to go in to work. He doesn’t head to work, though, he heads to Suzanne Farrell’s place, and she tells Don she knows exactly where things are headed. He could care less, and forges on with a starting the affair anyway, and he spends the rest of the night in her bed.

Sal, the only person who was cautious about having an affair is the one who suffered the most punishment, having lost his job because he rejected the advances of a client. His situation was no different than sexual harassment that women also faced in that area when they refused the advances of a boss or client, but for Sal, it seems even worse because there was zero tolerance for gays during that time. Betty is no more than a tease, and she is playing dangerous game with Henry, whether she realizes it or not. I don’t blame him for being confused as to what she wants. But if Betty only knew what Don was up to, she wouldn’t have any doubts about making an overt move for Henry. Don is becoming more of a cad each week. He’s riding high with his ego in getting the Hilton account, and is acting as if he is untouchable. His fling with Suzanne Farrell – who leaves nearby and can see Betty or the kids in the normal course of a day – is literally too close to home. Don’s behavior seems to get riskier with each passing day. The question is, at what point will his luck run out, and will he take one risk too many which will blow it all for him? Since we know that Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) knows who Don really is, and Roger seem to be out to take Don down a few notches, it may only be a matter of time before Don’s risk taking works against him.

Video Recap “Mad Men: Wee Small Hours”

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Friday, October 9, 2009

It’s Criminal – NBC Cancels Southland

It’s criminal, I tell you. Finally, a new show emerged last season on NBC that had a great cast, it was edgy, it was different. Now it’s canceled. Despite earlier reports that the new Los Angeles police drama “Southland” would have their season premiere delayed until late October, now it won’t happen at all.

The “Jay Leno Effect” has already hit the network in a bad way. Law & Order SVU’s ratings have dropped significantly since moving to its new day and time (Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET). Spotty reports are surfacing from some local NBC affiliate stations across the country that their 11:00 PM newscasts are losing viewers at a steady clip because of the poor lead in from Leno.

Southland was a ray of hope in scripted dramas. It offered story lines and characters that were real. The camera work also made it look and feel real, as if viewers were riding along with the police as events unfolded. I wasn’t sure if I liked the show the first time I watched – the constant “bleeping” of profanities was overdone. But the show grew on me, and by the time the season ended – with a literal “bang” – I wanted more. I was also looking forward to seeing the show paired with Law & Order on Friday night. Now, I have concerns that the absence of Southland will bring even less attention to Law & Order, now in its 20th season but still producing compelling episodes.

The New York Times reported that Southland “was largely distinguished by gritty police work and sometimes dark, troubled characters — not unlike previous NBC hits like “Hill Street Blues.” That apparently became an issue for NBC: several network executives have said that they do not believe darker shows can be successful on network television right now. Oddly, NBC’s production studio, Universal Television, produces one of television’s biggest hits, the drama “House,” for the Fox network, and it has explored some of the darkest themes on television in recent years, including drug addiction and mental illness. Last year, one of the show’s main characters committed suicide. Ratings have been up for the show this season. "

NBC’s move away from scripted drama at 10:00 PM to lighter far such as Jay Leno is having a ripple effect. Despite the claim that scripted dramas are more expensive to produce than Leno’s show, in the long run, Leno may be costing the network far more in lost revenues from fewer viewers and lower ratings, which translates to less advertising dollars. The network is penny wise, but pound foolish, as the old axiom goes.

In my opinion, rather than add that extra hour of The Today Show – a show that will
eventually run all day, I suspect – they should have created an 11:00 AM show with Jay Leno to compete with The View. While I won’t watch Jay at 10 PM, I would be more than happy to watch him at 11:00 AM. I think he would be great competition for The View and could draw in more viewers than that horrific extra hour of The Today Show, which I will only watch if someone ties me to a chair and forces me to watch. (Note to NBC – don’t get any ideas.)

It’s a crime what NBC has done to Southland and to scripted programming. Hopefully, Southland will find a home on a cable network. If it does, I will be watching.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

House “The Tyrant”: Murder By Doctor

Photo from Fox

The show I love seems to be back, as it seemed like old times in last night’s episode of House, “The Tyrant.” House (Hugh Laurie) is back at Princeton Plainsboro, but he can’t officially practice yet. With Taub and Thirteen gone, Foreman (Omar Epps) is still in charge of diagnostics, and he brings in Drs. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) and Chase (Jesse Spencer) to help him out with an usual case. House is still creating problems for Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) when House’s antics make life difficult for another tenant, and as a result, for Wilson as well. But things are not quite as normal as they seem, as the case ends with a shocking murder, one that appears will come back to haunt the team.

The case facing the doctors involves a foreign head of state, Dibala (James Earl Jones) who appears to be vomiting blood. Cameron has issues with treating Dibala because he is being accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. Based on some of the things Dibala says, it’s clear that the accusations are true. Cameron would rather have him dead than treat him. Chase, meanwhile, wants to do his duty as a doctor.

Foreman, meanwhile, is trying to patch things up with Thirteen, after firing her in the previous episode ”Epic Fail”, using the excuse that he did it to save their relationship. She’s not buying it, though. After she agrees to meet him for dinner, and after she questions why Foreman didn’t decide to step down rather than fire her, she comes to the conclusion that Foreman was going to put his needs and wants first, and she walks out on him.

House can’t get directly involved with the patient, but he is able to give the staff advice on how to treat Dibala. In a scene perfect for the acting talents of Hugh Laurie, House communicates to his staff using facial expressions and hand signals. It was the first time in a long time that I genuinely laughed during an episode of House.

House is also stirring the pot at Wilson’s apartment by getting into it with Wilson’s downstairs neighbor, a Vietnam War vet missing his hand/arm. The tenant is a cranky as House for the same reasons – he feels unending pain. In the case of the tenant, it is a phantom limb. The tenant is sick and tired of hearing the constant noise from House’s cane as he walks in the apartment above, and is also sick and tired of the cooking smells, and he wants House out. House thinks that he can intimidate the tenant to back off. The plan backfires horribly when House’s attempts to expose the man as a fake Vietnam vet is foiled by the fact that he really is a vet - a Canadian vet who had been sent to Vietnam to uphold the peace. The man is in horrible agony from pain in his hand/arm that he no longer has. Despite the fact that House still has his own leg but suffers from pain, he seems to develop sympathy for this man.

Meanwhile, treatment continues on Dibala’s mystery illness. Chase is approached by a man, Ruwe (Garikayi Mutambirwa), who wants Chase to forgo curing Dibala because of his killings of their people and explains how Dibala’s government is guilty of rape and torture of his own wife. Later, when Chase sees Ruwe approach Dibala’s room disguised as an orderly, Chase warns the guards and an assassination attempt is foiled and Ruwe is beaten. When Chase chastises him for his actions, he tells Chase he lied about having a wife who was attacked; rather he was made to torture women by Dibala's soldiers. He impresses on Chase that worse things will happen to the people of his country at the hands of Dibala, and a massacre is coming.

Cameron isn’t thrilled that Chase warned the guards that Ruwe was coming. Later, she uses an opportunity where Dibala seems to be confused in the head and she tries to implant an idea with his chief advisor that he may never know when Dibala will be able to give commands with a sound mind. It’s clear that Dibala was later made aware of this, when he confronts Cameron as she was about to inject him with a drug to treat him, saying all she needs to do is inject an air bubble and he will be killed. He knows she wants him dead but he tells her if that’s the case she should do it herself. Of course, she doesn’t, but something in Chase’s mind has already clicked over to the “dark side.”

During their assessment of Dibala, House thinks he has Scleroderma, but Foreman thinks it is Blastomycosis, and he tells Chase and Cameron to treat Dibala as such. Later, Cameron asks for a blood test that seems to confirm House’s diagnosis of Scleroderma, and she convinces Foreman into changing his mind and treating Dibala with steroids.

Meanwhile, House manages to knock out the neighbor by injecting him with some drug, and then restraining him with duct tape, covering his mouth as well. When the neighbor comes to, he is terrified, and one can only wonder if House has gone off the deep end. But there is a method to House’s madness. He has the neighbor place both arms into a box with a mirror, giving the illusion that he has two arms. (Mirror therapy is used often to reduce phantom limb pain.) After getting the neighbor to squeeze and release a fist, House relieves the man's phantom pain for the first time in decades. The man is grateful to House. Later, Wilson is suspicious when the neighbor has no further problems with House and as an added bonus, approved a request for an upgrade of the facilities’ garden.

Back at the hospital, problems ensue when Dibala begins to bleed through his lungs and dies. Foreman is dejected over the event, and he wonders if House’s diagnosis was correct. House tells him to go to the morgue and find out. When Foreman can’t get access to the body, now under guard, he finds that Chase had signed in to the morgue earlier in the day and questions Chase about it. He knows that Chase was there to draw blood from another patient who had Scleroderma, and gets Chase to admit that he drew that blood to be tested to provide a false diagnosis for Dibala. Foreman is horrified that Chase essentially has killed Dibala, and he thinks Chase will have to answer for it. Chase just asks that Foreman give him some notice before he gets the police involved.

Later, as Dibala’s son grieves over his father’s body, we see Foreman burning the paper which is the evidence that Chase has been in the morgue earlier that day.

Despite the ending, this episode was comfortable, like the episodes of previous seasons where the old team was together. House seemed more relaxed, though, yet he still kept his slightly darker side with his rather unusual treatment of an unwilling patient, Wilson’s neighbor. But is House correct in his assessment that Foreman and he are alike? There are some aspects where they are – they both seem to enjoy being in positions of power and authority. They are different in the fact that House would probably not dump the woman he loved in order to advance his own career. Foreman wouldn’t tie someone up with duct tape to cure him or her. Would they both cover up a murder at the hands of one of their own doctors? Hard to say. Clearly, Foreman is motivated to do so not because he feels for Chase, I believe he is doing it to cover a murder that happened under his watch. Foreman is insecure and likely thinks that the discovery of Chase’s actions would reflect badly on him and his future. House, on the other hand, doesn’t have to worry about his standing in a leadership role as he’s gone through drug addiction and rehab and the hospital still wants him back. I also think House would have probably found his own way to kill Dibala if he felt it was the right thing to do – and without living an obvious trail.

All in all, this was a fantastic episode which brought the team back, but only to create a sticky problem that, according to the previews, will come back to bite them. While the title of this episode was called “The Tyrant” we saw more than one of them – Dibala, Foreman, Wilson’s neighbor. Two of them were changed during the course of the show – Dibala is dead, Wilson’s neighbor is cured. Foreman doesn’t seem to have changed at all, and I don’t suspect he will, any time soon.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Fringe “ Fracture” A Fractured Fairy Tale

Photo from Fox

Things were certainly explosive on last night’s Fringe (Fox) episode titled “Fracture.” It seems that someone can make human bombs without the traditional explosives. The Evildoer Of The Week has found a way to crystallize a person’s body and then cause it to explode – the human shrapnel killing anyone nearby. The first victim is an Officer Gillespie, who blows up in a train station in Philadelphia. The Fringe team is called in, but they don’t know that’s the source of the explosive until Walter Bishop (John Noble) finds a crystallized ear. There is a problem, though; something interfered with the recording of the event on the security tapes so they can't see the event.

Walter Bishop decided that he is going to get as many pieces as he can to attempt to reassemble the body. (By the way, I think that Walter Bishop is one of the most enjoyable characters on television today – he seems to be going through life as part genius scientist and part child. It’s that childlike side of Walter that is so much fun to watch and John Noble is perfect for the role.) I admit that I was a little worried when Walter asked his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) if he recalls putting puzzles together as a child, because we don’t know if who we believe to be an “alternate universe” Peter will have the same memories than Walter thinks. Peter does eventually remember putting puzzled together with Walter when he realizes it was a puzzle of a Playboy centerfold. Walter must have been one wacky dad.

Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is still trying to recover her memories of what happened that led up to her car accident. She knows she was somewhere else and was supposed to come back and do something important, but it’s just not coming to her. Nina Sharp referred her to Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), who starts off helping by having her remember how to do mundane tasks like tie her shoes and keeping bowling scores for a kids bowling league, the latter to teach her some patience. She is getting very frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be directly helping her with her memories. He asks her if the headaches have started, and while they haven’t he knows they will. Illness strikes Olivia while she and Peter are questioning Office Gillespie’s wife, and Olivia’s hands shake and she rushes to the bathroom to throw up. It must be fate, because when she picks her head up from the toilet, she sees a tile that appears to be loosened, and finds what looks like kits for injection of some chemicals. Gillespie’s wife has no idea what they are, so they take the kits to Walter.

Walter has already noticed many needle marks on the part of Gillespie’s foot that he’s reassembled, and determines that this chemical appears to be part of a regimen which turns the person into a bomb. Astrid (Jasika Nicole) finds Gillespie's military record and finds a mention of a chemical weapon that his whole unit was exposed to, and it should have killed them. The classified project was called Tin Man. The also have discovered that whatever interfered with the security cameras may have actually been the trigger.

Meanwhile, there is a woman who seems to have the same kit and is also injecting herself. It looks like it’s another human bomb in the making, and a man approaches her later and tells her she’s moving to active status, telling her that the "Tin Man parameters are in effect."

While Walter experiments on a watermelon and finds the frequency to make it explode,
Olivia and Peter head to Iraq, where Gillespie had done two tours. Peter has a connection that he thinks can help. The connection arranges them to meet a doctor, now working in a kitchen, and he tells them they developed a treatment that is injected daily to counteract the chemical weapon. Only four people in the program survived, and one of them was Diane Burgess – this is the woman who is currently injecting herself. He also says that an unintentional byproduct of the serum was that it turned people into bombs. He tips them off about a Colonel Raymond Gordon (Stephen McHattie) who wanted to continue the program, and Gordon is one nasty guy.

Lucky for the team, they are able to track down Diane Burgess in Washington DC and catch Gordon in the act by triangulating his signal and then jamming it just in the nick of time. He tries to flee, but Peter knocks him to the ground.

Afterwards, back at the lab, Walter brings Peter a newspaper ad for another apartment, as at the beginning of the show, Peter was having a hard time getting Walter to move into sharing a two bedroom apartment. Astrid had later helped Walter to realize that he can’t find new things unless he learns to widen his scope. Finally, it seems, Peter may hav a chance ro get a good night’s sleep.

Olivia is back at the bowling alley, and Weiss measures her hand, telling her he wants to find her the perfect bowling ball, and tells her to go home. But her patience runs out and we see her pointing a gun right at his head. But he’s happy to see this, because she is standing on her own two feet without the use of a cane, and she seems to be back as Agent Olivia Dunham. He tells her he’ll see her tomorrow.

Elsewhere, though, Gordon tells Agent Broyles (Lance Reddick) that the end is coming and they had to take matters into their own hands. He adds "they" are here, collecting data, making observations. That's what's in the briefcase that was being passed to the people that were exploding. While he is talking to Broyles, we see the man Burgess tried to stop at the train station bringing his briefcase to someone at a diner of sorts, who dumps tons of pepper on his food. Gordon tells Broyles whatever is in the briefcase is going to destroy us all. But as the camera pulls back, we see the man who now has the briefcase eating all that peppered food is the “Observer” (Michael Cerveris) and he is leafing through many pictures of Walter that had been in the briefcase.

One flaw with Fringe is that they seem to move about the country and the globe with lightning speed. It is almost as if they blinked and they went to Iraq and back. But you can’t just beat the humor. The scene where Peter eats a hamburger in the lab and the cow moos in objection – on cue no less – and seeing Peter’s reaction - was hilarious.

The questions we are left with are: Is what Gordon says true and are we being led to believe that Walter – whose pictures are in the briefcase – will destroy us all? Are the Observers here to help us or to hurt us? Since Walter was able to successfully bring an “alternate” Peter over from the other universe or time line, will this action later prove to cause larger problems for the time in which Peter currently exists? What is it that Olivia was sent back to this time to do – and is this really the same Olivia that left? Her memories seem the same, but so do many of Peter’s from his own alternate childhood. One thing is for certain, the Observer may have taken on a new meaning for viewers, since now we are led to believe that they are here to do more than just observe – they are here to possibly affect an outcome. Maybe the child like side of Walter is just lulling viewers into a false sense of security, and it’s Walter’s genius that spells trouble?

The preview for next week featured Leonard Nimoy, so you know it will be good. It sounds too good to miss!

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

CSI: NY - A Deadly “Blacklist”

Mac Taylor - Computer airbrushed, or spackled? (Photo CBS)

A hacker who uses his skills to murder is the theme behind CSI: NY “Blacklist.” His murderous intentions include a personal ‘cat and mouse” game with Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise). One thing is for certain, one can always count on the CSI franchise's incredible manner and speed in which they solve crimes. Before I chop the episode apart, I want to state that despite its flaws, I found it to be an enjoyable hour of television.

The murders start when a man finds himself in a bad area of town because he put all his faith in his GPS, which lead him to the Bronx instead of mid town Manhattan. For me, whenever I travel someplace new, I always look at an on-line map first just to be sure I know where I am headed. But not this guy. Not only had someone hijacked his GPS, but his emergency calls, and the operation of his car. When the hacker turns on the car alarm that caused the horn to blare and the lights to flash, he becomes a sitting duck for robbery and murder - because we know that everyone in a "bad neighborhood" will rob and murder at the slightest chance.

The second murder involved the hacker managing to access a restaurant ordering system so he could make sure that his targeted diner would be eating something that included peanut, which drove the diner into an allergic shock. The hacker was also able to hack into the 911 call and have it diverted to his own phone.

Meanwhile, the CSI lab uses all the electronics at its disposal in order to not only use facial recognition to pick out the identities of suspects from grainy security video, but also to attempt tot track the location of the hacker. It all looks so easy, that for a minute I think I am watching an episode of CSI Miami.

But things get personal – you know, criminals out there always want to make it personal – when the hacker – who was called the Grave Digger, decides to taunt Mac. During this process, we are given a diatribe on all the ills of the health care system these days. I don’t mind when shows insert some political commentary in their themes, but I think I like them to be a little less obvious or flagrant. We also see flashbacks of Mac when his own father was dying of lung cancer, and I found myself laughing at what was either a computer enhanced face, or makeup done by a mortician, on Mac Taylor to make him appear younger. His face looked either electrically airbrushed, or filled with spackle - you decide. It was both funny and creepy to say the least. So while Mac is recalling coming back from the service to be with his dying dad, I was distracted by that weird looking face they gave him.

By the way, it seems that Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) is back to work, but still in his wheelchair, Lindsay (Anna Belknap) is back to work but the baby (I think) spit up on her clothes, and Flack (Eddie Cahill) is still trying to work through Angell’s death. But all three of these stories take a back seat to Mac in this episode, seeing that criminals always seem to want to target the boss.

While they make the connections to the first two murder victims, they realize who will be the next target: Lisa Kim, who worked at the medical facility where Grave Digger had been turned away for health care after his insurance ran out. Despite the fact that she is described as extremely claustrophobic, she gets into an elevator, and freaks out quickly when she realizes that she is trapped. If she was that claustrophobic, I can’t see her even stepping in to an elevator in the first place. She began to panic quickly and seemingly neared death from her own fright within seconds. It was hard to believe. But of course, the CSI NY team had managed to track her down and Mac got there with Hawkes (Hill Harper) to save her before she died of fright.

Eventually they catch up to the Grave Digger and get him to the hospital before he dies on them. Mac has saved the day again.

While this episode kept me entertained for an hour, I wouldn’t say it was one of their best. I don’t understand why crime shows have to create criminal characters that always want to target someone on the law enforcement team and make it personal. CSI NY is not the only show that does this, which is why it seems like such an overused theme. Another overused theme is flashbacks, especially when they try to make the person who is flashing back look a lot younger. It’s distracting, and a younger Mac Taylor looked a little creepy. Otherwise, it’s nice to know that the CSY NY, like all the others in the CSI franchise, can solve crimes with lightning speed. Maybe we should let Mac Taylor and his CSIs loose on the health care system?

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