Friday, March 25, 2005

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV

I’ve changed the name of my weekly television column from The Week That Was, which was a little boring, to Cathode Ray Fray.

Please note some other changes as well: I’m still talking about all of the shows that I’ve watched during the week (peculiar predilections that they are) but I’ll also be linking to many of the other television-related columns and features going on in the wacky wide world of

Please feed my thinly skinned ego and tell me what you think, and for this I thank you.


Lost - ABC
About the sixth repeat in a row, but only one more week until the action starts up again! This week’s episode, however, was a particularly good one (though they’ve all been pretty great) with the strange (and oh so loving) relationship of step-bro and sis Boone and Shannon getting unraveled. Lots of great scenes involving Locke also, who is one of my Top 5 favorite characters on television right now. For anyone who caught the promo for next week's episode: it looks as though Locke’s mystical "gift" and subsequent ascension to top-dog survivor on the island may be in serious trouble… exciting stuff.

Project Greenlight - Bravo
My, how the plot is thickening on this already brilliant look into an attempt to turn first-time screenwriters and director John Gulager into a commercial Hollywood film industry profit-pumping machine. While seeing the dynamic horror-geek screenwriters flip out on Hollywood excess twelve minutes into their professional careers was interesting, all eyes all over were squarely on the red headed awkward-auteur mug of newbie director John Gulager.

Gulager’s a highly talented low budget film (read=no budget) director who is being forced to contend with the much rougher waters of big-time Hollywood players, egos, attitudes, staffs, conflicts, headaches, and money money (ride that pony, Mr. Idol). So far, Gulager is proving to have a peculiar combination of stoic willfulness and little ability to communicate his vision. That he can produce a film with a vision is beyond dispute, but the producers, casting director, and the Dimension honcho-types (read=the money people) are in the midst of freaking out and making early threats because they're not sure that Gulager can make the film they want to make, under budget and within a reasonable quick-buck Friday night date movie timeframe.

It’s shaping up to be a classic clash-of-wills battle, and it’s no sure bet that Gulager won’t quit or be replaced before long. Meanwhile, a mini-battle royale is shaping up over Gulager’s grim against-all-odds insistence that his entire family be cast in most of the major roles in the film (which is called Feast, a movie with tons of explosions and action and lots of monsters attacking a pub, except scarier and better than Sean of the Dead, but that’s not important right now…).


Spring Break: Shark Attack - CBS
I don’t know much about this, because I honestly am not big on the shark thing (though the original Jaws is of course classic). But Matt Paprocki has the scoop here.

Arrested Development - Fox
A good episode. Not one of the best, but still far and away the best comedy on television (detractors be damned, says I!). Big laughs from brother George Oscar “Gob” Bluth (Will Arnett), and it was good to see him with more screen time this week. The videotape promoting George Michael for class president was the highlight of the show. But the pinnacle of hilarity must go to son George-Michael (played by Michael Cera, who is rapidly improving as a comic actor) and his head-geared light saber dance party in the garage. Special mention, as always, goes to Tony Hale’s Buster Bluth, who is getting bold in his old age, getting with the Latino help… and the odd disc-shaped robotic cleaning device. And, finally, how can we forget Tobias Funke (David Cross) and his enormously obvious reenactment of Mrs. Doubtfire. Well, we could forget, as it was one of the weaker plot lines of the night, but Cross has a consistent knack for growing on you.

American Idol - Fox
Lots of American Idol talk this week, as always. I don’t subscribe to the madness myself, but check out the master post here.

The Shield - FX
I caught up on the season’s first two episodes this week, and surprise surprise, police house politics and gritty crime drama is afoot in “The Farm” precinct in Los Angeles. The same grainy, shaky handheld production value also remains, which does lend this generally well written and produced show a level of street cred. It’s a good and consistently watchable show (though rarely great), which by itself places it within the upper five percent of television programming.

Michael Chiklis leads a fine cast and it will be interesting to see if the show can evolve and prosper in its fourth season. New addition Glenn Close will likely have a lot to do with that, and already you can feel the quality level raise a tick when she’s on screen. I already like seeing Close and Chiklis in scenes together, which is a good sign for the show’s future.

Chiklis also has a knack for delivering clichéd lines with such timing and attitude that it feels fresh, and often funny. For example, after a truly grisly scene in which he forces a young drug dealer to vomit up his package in the back of a convenience store, Chiklis (as Mackey) looks up at the pissed off proprietor and says, “Clean up, aisle four.” But it works.

There are several plotlines hanging out there, which will all likely center around the character of Antoine Mitchell, a “former” and possibly current drug lord who emerged from jail preaching the gospel of respect (respect!) and self-discipline.

The second episode also saw a delving into the creepy: forced fellatio, self-titillation (by outgoing Captain Acevedo!) while watching a brutal rape on a security camera tape, and leagues of corruption (aka “we play things old school vice around here”) to dig through.

Let’s see if it remains good times to revel in the dirt.

And in closing, a clip from episode one, between Detective Wyms (CCH Pounder, who I simply love to watch on this show) and a female witness to a shooting:

Detective: You call for help?

Witness: No.

Detective: Why not?

Witness: I had dick in my mouth at the time.

Detective: Lovely.

Making the Band III - MTV
Welcome to the party, Jason. Jason, the African American, 300-pound, gay “den mother” for the girls that is, while P Didds and crew were down in Atlanta auditioning new talent to shake things up. But Jason definitely stole the show this week with his cries of, “Divas! Divas! Time to make you famous!”

Key line from preview for next week’s episode, which ends in freeze-frame:

I’m sorry… but I’m not gonna stop being Jason!

PoweR Girls - MTV
Ah, to be young and pretty in New York… and Miami, and the MTV Video Awards, and so on. This was Rachel’s turn to be under the gun and take the catty calls of the other young PoweR PR Girls under Lizzie Grubman’s tight tutelage. Rachel ain’t eating, she ain’t sleeping, she’s losing clients, what’s a girl to do? Get rushed to the hospital, is what, and then make it to Planet Hollywood in time for some pre-pre-pre teen group called The Gemz to perform.

The Contender - NBC
Well, it had to happen one of these weeks. Najai Turpin, the boxer and contestant who committed suicide last month, was featured throughout the episode and was, in the end, defeated by Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora. Turpin – an obviously decent but deeply troubled young man – was shown in numerous scenes with his wife and toddler-aged daughter. He obviously took comfort from them in his loss and, indeed, they clearly were the whole world for him. However, it’s hard not to think that his sound defeat on national television helped to bring him to his tragic fate.

Mora, on the other hand, is a likeable figure and instantly rises from the pack in that he has a personality to match his bravery in the ring. Quoting freely from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Sun Tzu, and Thoreau (and not looking silly at that), he’s an energetic, intelligent presence that should be a factor into the deep rounds.

I give The Contender credit for not shying away from Turpin’s pain and emotions after his loss, and for setting up a trust fund for his daughter. However, it was not cool that they neglected to mention the suicide, choosing again to speak of the “tragic passing.” This is reality TV, folks: don’t pussyfoot and self-censor with the most gruesome – and the realest of real – details.

The Apprentice - NBC
Really entertaining episode this week, as the teams went power saw-a-power saw in a Home Depot do-it-yourself showcase face-off. Craig, enigmatic and power shirking for weeks, turned potential disaster into triumph as PM by making an early decision and staying the course (a microcosm for the Bush administration?).

But it was satisfying down to the core to see self-proclaimed “powerhouse” attorney Erin get canned… for being a “smart guy” in the board room!

Dial back 10 minutes when Miss Smart Gal says:

I’m smart because I’m poignant and articulate.

Okay, buh-bye, Erin.

For more, check out this great wrap-up of this week’s show, by Scott Pepper.

And for much more on the Apprentice past and present, stop by here.

The Office - NBC
Really auspicious debut episode for a television landscape woefully devoid of decent comedy, Arrested Development aside of course.

And the next episode is even more promising. Click here for a preview.

Saturday Night Live - NBC
David Spade’s up to Owen Wilson related phallic nose antics. Check it here from the great Eric Olsen.

Riverworld - Sci Fi Channel
Strange and wonderful machinations afoot, and DrPat brings reason to the madness here.

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