Tuesday, 18 December 2007

This Week in TV: Week 12

As the last few shows air their last written and filed episodes, each week gets emptier and emptier, leaving us free to do other things, such as watch movies (we're going through a lot lately), go back and see the stuff we missed the first time (Gossip Girl, Dexter and Mad Men are on our list), or play more Guitar Hero (which accounts for my knackered wrist). Plus, these posts should get smaller. After all, only four shows that we regularly watch got aired last week; Journeyman, CSI, 30 Rock and Pushing Daisies. However, I just came off a crappy shift at work and some scumbag on my street is sabotaging my bins (it sounds so silly on paper, whereas in real life it unleashes the rage), so I'm as mad as hell, and I probably will take it anymore, though I will not be a happy chappy while I do take it. I'll try to intersperse the rage with stuff I liked.

Most Annoying Cliffhanger of the Week:

If I was going to say, which was the most dramatic cliffhanger, it would be a toss-up between the revelation of Aunt Lily's real relation to Chuck (hint: not aunt) and Warrick's suspension from CSI, but the low-key shocker at the end of Journeyman was the one that caused me the most agita. At the start of the episode, Livia is in her own time in the 40s, and we see that she has a boyfriend. At the end of the episode, she has a fiancee.

Quite dramatic, but the thing that annoys me most is that, of course, NBC has canceled this excellent show just as it begins to attract the attention of the fanboybase and the blogosphere and Herc at AICN, and now we're seeing things that obviously were going to play out over the season but now will be dropped with a thud. How would this have played out? Would she tell Dan? How would that affect him? Is he still in love with Livia? Is Livia's fiancee (Henry) still alive in the present? If not, how would that affect her? Would she try to help him? Or does she already know his fate and is using that knowledge? Does she know her own fate? Is she still in love with Dan? Was she ever?

Bear with me, I'm not quite done yet. Did Livia just get that "instinct" thing that Journeypersons get that tell them what their task is, and it said she should seduce Dan and then disappear, leaving him grieving and ready to begin a relationship with Katie? Or does Livia love Dan? How is she coping with the fact that she probably spent only a few months between seeing Dan for the "last time" before dying and then seeing him on his first time-trip, in which time he had moved on, got married, and had a child? The show throws up millions of character-based questions on top of the overall time-travelling mystery, and how many of them can be answered in the next two episodes? I am so pissed at the cancellation of this show that I cannot express it without using words and sentences that will warp the internet like a mega-dense object warps space/time. Let's just say that NBC are not on my Christmas card list, no matter how much I love 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights. Screw them and their much vaunted Clash of the Choirs. Thanks for ruining Christmas, jerk-asses. (ETA: Christmas isn't actually ruined by this news, but those heartless NBC arse-nodules sure tried anyway!)

Still Funnier Than "Pimp My Trike" Visual Gag of the Week:

30 Rock's The Girlie Show is obviously meant to be pretty dreadful stuff, but seriously, is this worse than Studio 60's dire Crazy Christians sketch?

Everyone loves farting. It's a scientifically proven fact.

Most Despicable Omission of the Week:

The Golden Globes nominations have been announced, and there's a lot there to like (two nominations for Big Love!) and a lot to be pissed about (no nominations for Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny or Ginnifer Goodwin??!?! WTF??!?!), but possibly the most egregious snub is for Pushing Daisies. It got three nominations (yay!), and two of them were for Lee Pace and Anna Friel. Excellent stuff. They started off well and have gotten better as they've grown into their characters. However, where in the name of unholy Cthulhu is Chi McBride's fully deserved nomination for supporting actor?

I get that the Best Actor/Actress nominations are more spread out, with more categories and more possibility to shine, but even though McBride was eligible in the overstuffed category of Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Series, Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television, meaning he had more competition, it's still out of line that he didn't get a mention. Of course, Kristin Chenoweth got snubbed as well, and that makes me angry as well, but I'm taking up cudgels over McBride because as much as I love Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies, her break-up with Aaron Sorkin partially inspired the creation of Studio 60, so I'm still a little mad at her about that.

Leaving aside that bitterness, it baffles me as to how McBride could have been snubbed. Two nominations for Entourage? Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon might be great on that show, but by now Piven's only getting nominations because of his past wins. He's not suddenly turned all crap, so they can't not nominate him, but they feel they should nominate Kevin Dillon as well, so the supporting actors (Pfft. Like anyone considers Thingy Grenier the lead) gets two nominations right off the bat. Any other time I wouldn't care, but it means nothing for Chi, and that shit ain't right. Here's Emerson and Ned to facially describe my mood.

i.e. Not pretty.

Most Entertainingly Exasperated Person of the Week:

Last year, Sir Gerry Robinson tried to fix a poorly running hospital in the quizzically titled Can Gerry Robinson Fix The NHS? (Answer: apparently not, though not through lack of trying.) We managed to get through it despite the knee surgeries (they involved hammers) and eye surgeries (I won't describe those, because I might hwoark), mostly because Sir Ger was a hugely entertaining host. Usually TV presenters are required to be dispassionate (unless they're appearing on Who Do You Think You Are, You Son-Of-A-Bitch, in which case they must cry), which is why he was so mesmerising. With every obfuscation and vacillation, he got more and more frustrated, rubbing his hands over his reddening face, gasping in amazement like a dying fish, and talking directly to the camera with rising agony. His sentences were along the lines of, "I asked the manager if he was able to hire new nurses, and his response... his response was... well, it was... ::sigh:: it was just. Un. Believable!"

This week he went back to see what had happened one year later, and everything was going swimmingly, with metal knees banged into place and eyes fiddled with. ::retch:: At least, he had managed to inspire the staff of Rotherham Hospital to change their working habits and strive for efficiency, which was great. However, to Sir G's immense face-rubbing horror, the government's "See, we do care about the NHS by spending wads of cash on it" initiatives were making a mockery of their progress, accidentally punishing them by creating a new walk-in centre nearby that would leach off money and easy-to-treat patients. On paper more private trusts sounded great (which is all that matters to a short-sighted politician), but it served no purpose other than to doom the established and improving hospital.

Sir Gezza got to talk to some oily suit-wearing Mr. Smith style creep whose explanations of why the drop-in centre would work out were cyclical, incoherent, and unconvincing. This triggered yet more face-rubbing and sighing from Sir Gerry, but this time we were following his example. Please BBC, send a copy of this to Michael Moore. As much as Moore was right to go after privatised medicine, he needs to see this too. Centralised control isn't working either, much as I hate to say it. The show was a real eye-opener (much as the first was) and, thanks to the unusual and likeable onscreen presence of Serge Erry, accidentally entertaining too. If unutterably depressing and frustrating.

Bittersweet Show of the Week:

Much has been made of the cutesy tone of Pushing Daisies, with its Jim Dale voiceover, overdesigned sets, and twee murder plots (dandelion-powered cars, taffy drownings, mortal beatings with a baseball bat that has the word "kindness" etched into it, etc.), and there is something to that. However, while the production design is filled with details that will either annoy you or make you smile (such as Olive's pajamas and quilt covers matching her bedroom wallpaper), the showrunners have stealthily removed the most cloying detail, namely the sickmaking lovey-dovey relationship between Chuck and Ned, as well as making Chuck subtly smell of death. No one notices it except for olfactory genius Oscar Vibenius, played by Paul Reubens, but still, it's a peculiar and morbid touch.

Ned and Chuck are still together, of course, but over the past couple of episodes the miserable reality of their situation has stripped them of their giddy joy. Not only are they unable to touch each other but Ned's power killed Chuck's father and has forced Chuck into hiding from her family. Horrible for them, great for the show. Any worry that their chirpy romance would make the show hard to stomach has been allayed. Instead there's the bittersweet sense that the romance might actually be doomed despite the starcrossed nature of their love. The scene with Ned finding a heartbroken Chuck was unexpected and affecting, unlike any scene between them to this point.

Add to that Emerson's relentless pissiness, the increasingly dark humour (they really make the resurrection scenes as dark as possible) and the easily forgotten fact that the show is a weekly murder mystery (often with an alarmingly high body count), and it's hard to keep levelling the cutesiness criticism at it. This week saw some frozen-corpse jokes involving dogs pissing on snowmen used to hide dead bodies, ice-picks chipping ice away to expose decaying flesh, and a head block stuck to the back of one guy's head, in what was possibly my other favourite sight gag of the week.

This week was the Christmas episode, and only the ultra-cynical 30 Rock matched it for anti-Yuletide sentiment. How many Christmas specials can you remember that end with two lovers debating whether to temporarily resurrect a decaying loved one just so one of them can get one minute of hasty closure?

That's some brass cohones they've got on that show.

Easter Egg of the Week:

Didn't notice this when I first saw it, so thanks to those who alerted me to it. (Click on it to get the full detail)

Thanks also for spotting, "It's not a Lemon party without Old Dick."

Cheapest Shot of the Week:

I know Pushing Daisies is prohibitively expensive, and I get that they have to save money somehow, but come on guys, when looking for a snowy street to slot in as the view from a window, don't just steal a shot from a movie everyone's seen before.

A cookie for the first person to name the film it's stolen from.

Performance of the Week:

Until this point, Katie, played by Gretchen Egolf, has been somewhat overshadowed by gruff Journeyman Kevin McKidd and internet sensation Moon Bloodgood, having been stuck with the role of frustrated wife/mother. It could have been worse. If the show hadn't been so gratifyingly bold, she would have been kept in the dark about Dan's time-travelling leading to multiple iterations of wifely paranoia and threats of divorce. Though frustrated wife is still not the best role, it's been written well, and Egolf has done a great job with it.

This week, she got to push the envelope even further, as she deals with the shooting of Agent Richard Garrity in her kitchen (man, Mark "Ryan Chappelle from 24" Schultze, who played Garrity, really gets no luck), not to mention being terrorised by the loathsome Aeden Bennett. Instead of brushing the incident under the carpet, we see Katie organising a large Christmas event for the family, doing her best to keep herself busy. Just to make things awkward she becomes haunted by the apron she had been forced to wear by her tormenter.

Each time she comes across it her reaction is more extreme, leading to a mini-breakdown in front of her mother-in-law. Of course, in keeping with the tone of the show, her reactions are low-key and believable, as is her fractious relationship with Dan's mother. It's a terrific, subtle performance, and it made me sit up and take proper notice of her for the first time. I feel a bit bad for not giving her a chance earlier. According to her IMDb page she's not done too much work, but I have seen (and adored) Anthony Minghella's version of The Talented Mr. Ripley, though I don't remember her in it. Interesting fact, if it is indeed a fact: according to IMDb (which is authoritative, n'est-ce pas?) The Talented Mr. Ripley had two working titles; The Mysterious Yearning Secretive Sad Lonely Troubled Confused Loving Musical Gifted Intelligent Beautiful Tender Sensitive Haunted Passionate Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Strange Mr. Ripley. I mean, come on. The Strange Mr. Ripley? That's a really moronic title.

Back in the world of Journeyman, Dan's mother helps Katie deal with Dan's disappearances, having dealt with her own husband's absences, by telling her she doesn't need Dan, and can survive on her own. Oddly enough, that does the trick. Dang, at this rate, he's gonna end up divorced. How will the show cope with that incredible possibility? Oh, that's right. It won't. Because NBC canceled it. The corporate scumwads.

Casting Choice I'm Never Going To Be Able To Get My Head Around of the Week:

Though I was amazed to have lived long enough to see the downright peculiar sight of Michelle Ryan onscreen with Miguel Ferrer, nothing beats the discombobulation I get when I see Anna Friel acting alongside Paul Reubens.

That's daddy-murdering Beth Jordache talking to Pee-Wee Herman! Wow, the 21st century truly is an age of wonders.

Sneakiest Introduction of a Plot Thread of the Week:

While Journeyman has so far focussed on the romantic quadrangle of Dan, Livia, Katie and Jack, a fifth element was introduced a few weeks in; a love interest for Jack, Dr. Teresa Sanchez, played by Lisa Sheridan. Her introduction was kinda sketchy, with a meet-cute date getting disrupted by Dan, and it seemed like she was just there to give Jack someone to hang out with and make Katie jealous. As the weeks wore on, she continued to pop up, and we thought little of it. She didn't seem to trust Dan, but that's fair enough, neither did Jack. Then, as Jack comes into the time-travel fold, she is left out and her suspicions increase. Was she in league with poor dead Mark Schulze? Or Elliott Langley, the mysterious quantum physicist? Nope, she's a doctor, and thinks like a doctor. Dan is acting like a bi-polar depressive, and she recognises the signs.

Jack catches her snooping around looking for anti-depressants and is furious that she would sniff around his brother like that (amusing considering that's exactly what he had been doing just a little while ago), but Teresa drops a bombshell; depression is hereditary, and she's worried her new child, fathered by Jack, will end up the same way. There had been no inkling that news of the pregnancy was coming, and instantly Teresa becomes important and part of the tangled web of relationships on the show. What will happen to her child? Will she get rid of it, as was hinted strongly? Even if she keeps it, will she stay together with Jack? Or will Katie leave Dan and unintentionally tempt Jack away from Teresa? Oh, that's right. The show has been cancelled, so we'll never know. I almost forgot about NBC's cowardice and lack of foresight. Silly me. I should write it down on the back of my hand so I don't forget!

Not Quite, But Almost, Grin of the Week:

As there was no new Reaper this week we should retire the Grin of the Week award, but it's necessary to reward this near-miss from the recently un-nominated Chi McBride, who apparently recovers from carbon monoxide poisoning as if from a fruity dream.

Most Upsetting Show of the Week:

CSI is one of the grisliest shows ever made, not afraid to show autopsies and murders and crime scenes and all sorts of unpleasantness. This week, however, saw a different kind of nastiness; dogfighting. Tracy Jordan might have dabbled with the "sport" and wrung some laughs out of it earlier this year, but with our criminalist heroes stumbling across a dogfighting ring, the laughs dried up faster than a turkey slice in a pub Sunday roast. They even managed to show some of a fight, which made us both very unhappy.

It got worse than that screencap suggests. A couple of minutes later and a gunfight breaks out between the scummy dregs of humanity and the police, a rarity on the flagship CSI (but nothing special on the Miami variant). Some of the dogfighters get blasted to evil shreds, and I say HA! because yuk, youse guys is scum. Even worse than the NBC execs who cancelled Journeyman. Far far worse, in fact. That's some serious evil.

Still, it gave us some quality Nick Stokes time, which is always a good thing. George Eads is a big dog-lover in real life (at least according to Canyon, who is similarly a fan, of both dogs and George Eads), and it's the perfect episode. After Warrick's raging bullshit from the previous episode, it's good to see the opposite approach. Nick is obviously sickened by the dogfighting and eager to take down the bad guys, but he at least attempts to be dispassionate, opting instead for some quality gloating when he gets his man.

Classy guy.

Most Suspended Idiot of the Week:

Warrick, on the other hand, goes off at a suspect at the end of the episode and gets suspended by a horrified Gil. Way to go, douchenheimer. What did you think was going to happen?

This is the sort of thing that happens in CSI: Miami every couple of weeks. They're always getting framed or involved in murders (or shot by nailguns or caught buying drugs for their terminally ill sister etc. etc. etc). Guess Gil's more of a man than H, seeing as how he stands up to Warrick and gets him canned for a couple of weeks. H would swear to clear the presumed-guilty CSI with his most earnestest orange expression on his face. On a good week he'd get to shoot a perp and either kill or wound him badly, though leaving him conscious so he can threaten to kill him. I can't see Gil ever doing that.

Best Guest Stars of the Week:

Nothing can top the mighty 30 Rock for quality guest stars, happily following in the footsteps of Arrested Development by hiring excellent actors and giving them juicy parts to play. This week featured the first appearance of the Lemon clan, played by Anita Gillette, Andy Richter, and veteran funnyman Buck Henry.

Even better, the return of scheming mother Elaine Stritch, making Jack's life a living hell. Not only was she great, but she brought out the best in Alec Baldwin (yes, he managed to be even more incredible than usual). His hissing delivery of the line, “Really? Life is too short? Because your life seems endless,” just about finished me off.

It's fair to say he's got next year's Emmy in the bag as well. Perhaps the Golden Globe as well! That's if he got nominated, that is. For all I know the voters nominated Zach Braff over him this year, for his work in re-popularising the gurn as a valid comedic move.

That feels so much better. Next week, the final journey for the Journeyman, and pretty much nothing else. Unless I'm lazy and wait until after the Kylied-Up Doctor Who Christmas Special airs. Without Martha in it I might not be able to muster the energy, though. ::still bitter after all these years::


sjwoo said...

Ken Levine at his blog had this to say about the Globes:

"How can you take the Golden Globes seriously when not one Judd Apatow movie (KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD, WALK HARD) was nominated for “Best Comedy”? Nor was ENCHANTED."

Spot on. Lots of misses this year by the Foreign Press. Whoever the hell they are.

Masticator said...

Groundhog Day!! Right? Cookie for me?

Perhaps they can claim it was a knowing joke. You know, everyone's seen it dozens of times, and gets to relive it again here... No?

Admiral Neck said...

Next time I see, you, cookie-time! Sadly, I'm not sure the knowing joke defence works. Groundhog Day had nothing to do with the episode (other than the wintry setting, I guess). It wasn't bad that it was used, just jarring.

sjwoo, there were a million things wrong with the Golden Globe list, and perhaps other choices I thought were wrong (mostly in the best director list, as well as Hairspray getting a best comedy nod but John Travolta getting a best DRAMATIC actor nom?), but the unfairness of giving nominations to two of the cast members but not the one getting most of the praise and attention seemed silly. Oh well, it's only an award thing, right? I should leave it alone.

Except that I can't!!!!!

johnilf said...

yep, im not happy about journeyman either... what can we do though it's the only thing i look forward too now that i know they might only be showing 8 episodes of Lost next year and delaying 24 until 2009!!! Still plodding through the first season of 30 Rock, love it love it love it. The Meat machine episode where tracey asks Baldwin if he likes Phil Collins and he replys 'i got two ears and a heart dont i' nearly choked on my sugar puffs.

Masticator said...

I didn't mean to suggest that the episode had anything to do wiuth Groundhog Day. Just that if you're going to use a shot that everyone's seen loads of times, there's surely no better film to take it from. Groundhog Day, you see! Ha ha ha! Geddit?! No?

Never mind.

Admiral Neck said...

::rescinds cookie decision::

I apologise for not responding to your theory earlier, but having just spent two days looking at the talkbacks on the AV Club Best/Worst films list, I am now unable to treat my fellow humans with any courtesy. So I figured some time off would allow me to comment with some kindness, instead of the kneejerk nastiness present there. Hope that's okay. You enormous douchebag.


Merry Winterval!