Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – 4-22-05

As always, I take on the shows I watched during the week, and provide you with links to some of the other fine TV work going on at

Overall take on the week:

Best show on television: Project Greenlight… will it ever get knocked off its perch?

Great this week: The Shield, The Contender, The Office, The Apprentice, The Simpsons

Damn you technology! Damn you farmers! Damn my stupidity with regard to technology!: Arrested Development

Wife makes her first Cathode Ray Fray appearance: Alias

Damn you pre-May Sweeps hiatus!: Lost! (again!)

Falling: Making the Band III

Cathode Ray Fray is now a regular segment on my podcast, Dumpster Bust Radio.

Check out the other regular television features going down at BC: Chris Beaumont’s The Week That Was and Matt Paprocki’s Sci-Fi Channel Originals.



Arrested Development - Fox
I have no idea why my DVR didn’t record my beloved show for me, and the season finale at that. I asked it to record the show, I pleased with it, I gave it cookies and warm milk before bedtime the night before to get it well rested and ready.

And yet, still, it refused to heed my wishes.

Once again, again: Damn you technology! Damn you farmers! Damn you me!

The Contender - NBC
Another surprise conclusion to another surprisingly good episode of The Contender this week. What could have easily been a filler show – we’re at the end of the first round at this point, where the original 16 boxers have been chiseled down to eight via one-on-one bouts at the end of each show – turned into an interesting and satisfying match-up between Joey Gilbert, the strapping son of a marine just returned from Afghanistan in time for the fight, and Jimmy Lang, a tough veteran of the ring from Virginia.

Before I go any further, I have some worldwide breaking news to drop on all of you: was it just me, or did Jimmy Lang’s dad look like a dead ringer of Bill Murray circa Kingpin? He had the baldness going up top coupled with a mullet for starters, the kind of rugged features necessary for such a comparison, and to top it all off: a strange gray and white shirt/tie combo that screamed (to me at least) I am the king of this here bowling arena.

The fight, as per usual, was a really good one. These guys really go after each other every week.

Juan de la Rosa getting his quit on was also an interesting development. It was clear that even ringleaders Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone had little stomach for Juan’s “I need to think about my career” kind of talk. His hand and eyebrow were busted up a little, but everyone seemed to know that even in victory the week before, the young “prodigy” was exposed as a flashy young amateur.

The remainder of the episode involved an end of the first round break to Las Vegas and Caesar’s Palace, the site of the final bout, which will result in the winner claiming a $1 million purse. While it was amusing to watch the fighters walking around sunny Vegas in their tricked out pimp daddy hats, you could clearly see the wonderment and hunger in their eyes: this variety of glitter and glam represents the kind of lifestyle they might expect if they were to obtain celebrity-athlete status.

I’m looking forward to the second round. We know all of the personalities, and everyone who made it this far is at least competent – and certainly determined – in the ring.

There’s going to be some good fighting and intrigue ahead for sure.

The Simpsons
I’m just blown away by how good, how funny, how right on, how subversive this little cartoon that could continues to be.

I laughed throughout this episode, in which Bart and Lisa get a glimpse of there future circa the time of their high school graduation via the nerdy scientist dude. In fact, I saw a basis of a whole new Simpsons – a ridiculously futurized version with Bart and Lisa off at college and Homer and Marge living at their new abode, under the sea.

It was that good.


Trippin’ - MTV
Trippin’ involves the (many many) laughs and adventures of Cameron Diaz and some cohorts, which includes gal pal Drew Barrymore and that Farnsworth Bentley dude, the dressed to the old school nines guy who started out as P Diddy’s assistant and is now something of his own media phenomenon (he was great trying to get Da Band’s act together on Making the Band II).

This show got panned right upside its eco-self by Slate, but in the weirdest of ways, I’ll contend, it holds its own goofy charms.

Oh, did I say goofy? This show brings the goof in enormous measure. In fact, who knew that Diaz and Barrymore, two legitimate Hollywood film stars, are as goofy as thirteen-year old girls at a slumber party replete with marshmallows, training bras, and Tiger Beat magazine, basically at all times and all hours.

Giggling, laughing, guffawing, chortling. Is Trippin’ referring to sheets to acid here, is the air in remote regions of Chile (Note: I actually learned that Chile holds some of the last remaining bastions of temperate rain forest in the world from this program) goof-ified with oxygen, or can two grown women be that damned goofy au natural?

That said, there were some nice and actually redeeming elements to the show. It’s concerned with conserving our resources and environment before it all gets washed away into the dirty hell-mouth of rampant consumerism.

Will this odd combination eco-challenge travel show and celebrity knee-slapper fest hold up under the weight of its own goof-ocity?

Only time will tell.

American Idol - Fox
There is a mega-ton of American Idol talk this week, as always. I don’t subscribe to the madness myself, but check out the uber-post here.


The Shield - FX
The more this gritty cop drama focuses on its season story arc and less on episodic caseload one-offers, the better it gets. The changed dynamic between Antwon Mitchell (drug lord turned People’s Representative turned drug lord) and Vendrell has been fascinating: because Mitchell has a dead body filled Vendrell’s bullets stashed away, he’s treating the dirty but inhuman cop as his plaything. Things are getting tense, and Mackey’s for sure going to end but being in the room when the final match gets lit.

“Shit rolls down hill,” goes the saying, and Captain Rawling (Glen Close, who gets better every week) pushing the thumb down on Mackey (Michael Chiklis) will be fun to watch indeed.

‘Cause Mackey don’t take to thumbing very well.

The Office - NBC
A fine, loopy time of it our pals down at the Scranton paper merchant made it this week. The name of the game was basketball this time round, and of course boss man Michael Scott (Steve Carell, who owns the part more each week) had to make a gloriously bad, wonderfully painful mess of it all.

Key moment #1:
The tall, chubby black gentleman in the office who gets offended when Scott openly assumes he’ll be playing on the team… only to showcase his awesomely awful dribbling skills (was his off-hand over the back of his shoulder? How do you do that?) circa game time.

Key moment #2:
Dwight (Rainn Wilson) can actually hoop it really really well. In fact, Scott’s entire team can ball… except Scott.

Key moment #3:
Scott’s weird groin maneuver celebration dance.

The B Story line continues to be the most interesting: the Jim (John Krasinski), Pam (Jenna Fischer) and theoretical hubby-to-be Roy storyline.

I say this every week, but: Fischer is an astoundingly good physical comedienne. She says volumes and leagues with her facial expressions, which fits in perfectly in this mockumentary-style show where “realistic” reactions are vital for extending disbelief.


Lost - ABC
Yet another blasted repeat… but a really really good one, perhaps my favorite of the an amazing debut season. This is the kind of episode that makes you wish you could have a show about just the one character: in this case the rough, mysterious Sawyer. What makes him an intriguing, even fascinating character is his vulnerability, which was fleshed out remarkably well by his back story.

The early trauma, the vow and hunt for vengeance, the scamming and conning years, the piercing agony of new blood shed and sweet vengeance still unfulfilled. And then there was the magnificent conversation in the bar with Jack’s father: the stuff of greatness that seemingly random meet-up was.

But on Lost, nothing is random, seemingly or otherwise.

And then there’s the island. What does the island know?

We’ve got to wait until blasted May sweeps to find out, apparently.

Alias - ABC
I haven’t had the time or energy to get back into this show this season, even after exhortations from several sources. Finally, Wife took it upon her own beauteous shoulders to tell the tale herself:

Temptation’s a bitch.

It’s the kind of bitch goddess that compels me to ignore the aggravation of repeating plotlines week after week, sucking me into the heart of this genre mixed spy-romance-suspense show yet again.

What brings me back? The shiny red apple of Rambaldi, is what.

This week finds the gang facing not one Arvin Sloan (Ron Rifkin), but two. Is Arvin really “reformed,” or do Arvin #2’s activities reveal his true heart? And what the hell is the Seduction of Rambaldi, for that matter?

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

It’s more than Rambaldi that brought me to the party, however. I was addicted to Alias during its first three seasons on the air. You just never knew where it was going. But prior to the last few episodes, I had to seriously wonder if creator J.J. Abram’s energies were being sunk into Lost while Alias’s plotline got, well, lost.

Things got seriously tedious this year: Arvin’s back at the reins of the super-secret spy group… band’s back together! Yet another character, this time round the loveable Marshall (Kevin Weisman), can’t stand lying to his family. Then we have the next chapter in the Jack’s good, Jack’s bad, Jack’s a lying bastard epic (Jack = the great Victor Garber). Meanwhile, Weiss (Greg Grunberg) finally pulls a girlfriend and it’s just not very exciting, I’m afraid. There was nothing to piece together, not much left to really care about.

But at least I’m finding my way back to temptation. Is Vaughn’s (Michael Vartan) father really dead? Will Jack, Sydney’s (Jennifer Garner) own pop, die?

What other long held secrets will be revealed? I am finally jonesing to know and will certainly tune in next week to get my fix.


Project Greenlight - Bravo
We’re getting into the minutiae, the grunt work, the haul-and-heave of day-in, day-out film production. People are getting tired, people are getting cranky, people aren’t getting along… and I don’t like it.

I love it!

An interesting new angle opened up as the second week of filming Feast, the low budget horror flick helmed by first-time director John Gulager, wore on: we got to see the crew and producers scurrying around trying to keep their director on the straight and narrow any damned way they could. Everything became about the film “making its day,” meaning that the scenes scheduled to get shot that day got shot.

Key Moment #1:
The script supervisor, a friend of Gulager’s, getting fired by a consortium of the Assistant Director and the producers.

Key Line On the Firing That Showcases Hollywood In Full – Producer to Gulager:
I don’t need to hear you say you agree; I just wanted to let you know that it’s going to go down (see more on getting stabbed in the heart with a spoon below).

Key Moment #2:
A bottle of water resting in what looked like a vat of maggots on set.

Key Moment #3:
Clu Gulager, the bartender in Feast and John’s 70-ish dad, going apeshit about the director and actor needing the time/space to collaborate on set. It’s like, get a Clu, you know. Sorry, Clu’s right there (Clu’s got a clue?) – make a bloody film, not a piece of tripe, if there’s any way you can help it.

And Finally:
Why aren’t we seeing more of Henry Rollins, pray tell? There should at least be twenty minutes of each episode devoted to He of the Mighty Spoken Word Wisdom and Rock and Other Stuff Too.

The Apprentice - NBC
There should be a motto that goes underneath The Apprentice logo and Donald Trump and his hair cap, and it should go something like this:

After you carve your “best friend’s” heart out with a spoon in the boardroom, hug him and say, “I love you, bro.”

Now onto show recap.

Just this week on my podcast, Dumpster Bust Radio, I announced dear Bren as the People’s Candidate, an actually nice and competent guy in a sea of heartless sharks.

Well, you know what they say about nice guys, and buh bye Bren.

I won’t feel too badly about it as Bren elaborated in the cab ride end-of-show segment that he was exhausted and didn’t really feel cut out for the cutthroat entrepreneurial environment of Trump World. I actually believe him too, based on what I’ve seen of him and the fact that he pretty much refused to defend himself in the boardroom v. Alex, “best friend” turned attack dog turned greed-fiend.

You know what, I just thought of something: Alex reminded me of Gollum looking upon the ring, the One Ring, on the long trek to Mordor… something about the eyes. Maybe it’s just me.

And now there are four. Watch those spoons folks, as they’ll likely find flesh soon enough.

Check out The Apprentice uber-post here.

Making the Band III - MTV
P Diddy finally makes a serious opinion! We finally got some girlie cuts on! But only two? Come on Didds, those of us left hanging in there want to see some serious girl band cutting already. And we lost two of the only really hanging story lines up left remaining to the solitary cuts: Levantae and her atti-snap!-tude, and Patty and her sad tale of Mom at home with worsening cancer.

Next week looks like it will bring a lot more of the cuts. That’s what I’m trying to say.

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