Friday, May 06, 2005

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – 5-06-05

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

Lots of shows going into hibernation for the summer these days… will I latch onto new shows soon, or spend some time in the great outdoors?

Leave the Fray? Are you kidding?

Always obey the Ray, my children…

Overall take on the week:

Best show on television: Lost (grabs the top spot in its return!)

Upper-tier shows: Project Greenlight, The Shield, The Contender

Good, not great The Apprentice

Falling… just about off the radar: Trippin’, Alias



The Contender - NBC
Joey Gilbert ended up not being the Machiavellian threat he thought himself to be, losing to the tough but beatable Peter Manfredo, Jr. in the closing moments of a five-round bout. Unfortunately, the fight was stopped not due to a punch but rather an accidental head-butt that made Joey’s eye look as though it had just come face-to-face with a cross-town bus.

So Peter got the car thanks to Joey last week, and the win over Joey this week thanks to the fortuitous location of his forehead.

Such is the uncertainty of the boxer’s life.

Now let’s take a quick look at the remaining Contenders:

Jesse Brinkley and Anthony Bonsante are set to fight next week to finish up the second round and bring the competition down to its final four. Let’s look at them first.

Jesse Brinkley
He’s bald, he’s little, he’s quick and agile, and he’s kind of conniving and annoying.

And he just might have the qualities needed to pull off the whole shooting match. He certainly has the ego and the mental angle on his side, which he displayed to perfection this week in the house by psyching out a bewildered-looking Joey with “It’s just a game, fighting is” kind of talk.

Anthony Bonsante
He wears a #1 Daddy hat most of the time, and likes to talk about his kids, what it means to be a dad, the importance of being a parent to children, and the kind of dad (or father) a parent should be, particularly when one is a boxer and one is the father and/or parent of said children.

And so on.

The winner of the epic Kids v. God contest several weeks back, Bonsante has been hampered under a bad hammy which may make him an easy target next week in the ring against Jesse.

There’s something about Bonsante, though. Something kind of crazy. But not the good crazy, he’s gonna go nuts on him crazy kind of crazy.

More like the he’s looking at me through the television kind of weird and he’s talking about his kids way too much variety. So we’ll see.

Alfonso Gomez and Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora have already fought their way into the Final Four. Both are good and tough Latin fighters. While Mora employs classical philosophy, psychological warfare, and a flair for the dramatic reminiscent of the great Sugar Ray Leonard himself, Gomez is a dogged, rugged, and determined fighter with a strong punch and determined heart.

A Gomez and Mora finale would be a fine finale to watch, featuring two of the best fighters and decent souls in the competition. The clash of styles could produce a great ending to a fine first season for this reality series that is actually really real (for once).

Grey’s Anatomy - ABC
Erin McMaster waxes about tumors and Parkinson’s and Dr. Grey and such.


Trippin’ - MTV
I’m losing most of the faith that I had that this could turn into a quirky, fun little eco-adventure show that could help dull the pain of those Monday Night Blues.

This week involved hanging out in the beautiful Costa Rican jungle. Some rad surfing was done, and it was fun to watch Kid Rock rappel down a waterfall whilst gnawing on a cigar.

But that was about it.

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.

24 - Fox
Jeff Kouba expounds on 24 and Dr. Spock and mind-melds.

I know I’m intrigued.


The Shield - FX
I find that I look forward to watching this cop drama more each week, and each week I’m rewarded for doing so. While there’s a certain degree of one-off cases that are dealt with down at The Farm, the great thing is that they usually help overall character development (Dutch and Wyms – played by the great pairing of Jay Karnes and CCH Pounder) beginning to heal old wounds during the capture of the Coffee Bandit) or the overall story arc (Antwon Mitchell and his various drug dealings and thug-ocity).

Even old Aceveda, who is, to paraphrase Ben Stiller in Dodge Ball, getting “freaky naughty” with his high-priced call girl, is fueling his anger and anxiety into blowing down the shaky foundation of Captain Rawling’s (Glen Close) property seizures program. Rawling, for her part, has moved to the hood to “make a difference,” to which Mackey (who has much bigger things on his mind) replies, “they won’t give a shit.”

But all of that pales in comparison to the tension building around the Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and Shane Vendrell (Walt Goggins) storyline. In other words: was Vendrell willing to kill Mackey to save his own ass with the vengeful, brutal Mitchell?

Key Moment:
One of the great dark/hilarious scenes in Pulp Fiction was played out when Vendrell’s anxious partner accidentally shoots one of Mitchell’s informants, which immediately brought a few of the great lines in cinema to my mind:

“Man, I don’t even have an opinion.”
“You just shot Martin in the face!”

Goggins has been outstanding this entire season, morphing from an addled crime lord with a badge to a vulnerable, scared family man scrambling to keep it together… and keep it alive. The transition is like that of a former unabashed junkie trying to get clean while the pushers are pushing in all about with needles at the ready.

The episode on a super tense note, with Mackey weighing whether or not to shoot his old friend, who seemed to genuinely come clean in begging old Vic for assistance and forgiveness.

As other shows are hitting their season finales soon, I hope The Shield keeps bringing it well into the summer.


Lost - ABC
After the long break, Lost was back with a vengeance this week, vengeance being the key word here.

In the aftermath of Boone’s tragic, poignant death, the key players on the Island of Fate are left distraught, bleary-eyed, and looking for a scapegoat.

Enter Locke (Terry O’Quinn), who took off during Boone’s final hours to have an as yet revealed rendezvous with the mysterious hatch.

Meanwhile, we’re sent into the past and Sayid’s (Naveen Andrews) final hours before boarding the doomed plane that would send him to his new home. We soon find out that he has been dealt a hard bargain by the CIA: deliver his friend (who has terrorist connections) or never see the love of his life again, a woman he has been seeking for many years.

The plot thickens (as it often does on Lost) as Sayid is forced to convince his fairly dim-witted friend to go through with being a suicide bomber. This must be done in order to deliver the explosives to the CIA before detonation and to, in theory, save his would-be murderer-friend’s life.

Andrews-as-Sayid really shines in this episode, as does almost every character given significant screen time on this well acted, brilliantly scripted show. He plays the role with just the right balance of sensibility and steel, really bringing to life what could have been a one-dimensional former Iraqi intelligence officer.

When Sayid’s friend kills himself after finding out that he had been played, you know that Sayid had done the right thing, yet paid some incalculable price for it. This plotline dove-tailed beautifully to the island present, which found Jack (Matthew Fox) and more importantly Shannon (Maggie Grace… related to Topher Grace, perhaps?) after Locke’s blood.

The nail-biter ending deals Sayid a very similar quandary: do the right thing (stop Shannon from killing Locke) and pay a terrible price for it (the loss of Shannon’s feelings).

The ultimate reward for Sayid, of course, is that Shannon is Bad News with the tallest capital B and T one can construct. But it remains to be seen whether Shannon’s thirst for vengeance has been satisfied, and who (or what) the next target might be.

But there are bigger questions to consider:

Is it possible the island is the most vengeful entity of all?

Alias - ABC
From the Gorgeous mind of Wife:

I'm searching and searching for something interesting to say about this week’s episode, and all I can come up with is that next week will bring us Jennifer Garner's directorial debut.

I keep watching and holding my breath for things to get better, but I'm getting blue in the face and... is that a tunnel I see?

Stay away from the light!


Project Greenlight - Bravo
As Feast enter post-production, we’re once again presented with evidence of how many obstacles exist in making a decent movie and getting it out to a decent audience. This week, the name of the game was hiding the largely unedited film from the studio execs at Dimension who were clamoring for it.

It all boiled down to this: if the money people get a bad first impression, the film could end up DOA because all marketing money and distribution could shut down straight away. The impossible paradox is that the studio execs seem to not realize that a film takes more than a week or two to get through post-production. In fact, it was mentioned that the “normal time” for coming up with a first cut (which is far from a finished film) normally takes about six weeks.

As Reel Big Fish says, “We can do it in editing.”

Key Moment #1:
Director John Gulager working with his editor to cut actress Navi Rawat out of the film as much as possible. This is the same Navi that the Casting Director schemed and connived to get into the film. When a producer tells Casting Director that no one wanted Navi in the movie and, indeed, she wasn’t very good in the film, Casting Director gets pissy and says, “It should be water under the bridge.”

Not so much.

Key Moment #2:
Director John Gulager working with his editor... and then falling asleep and slamming over backwards to terra firma in his office chair. Funny stuff.

Key Moment #3:
Executive Producer Chris Moore – who normally appears to be super amiable and likeable – blowing up on various Administrative Assistants for inviting Ben Affleck to a screening of the film but cutting him out of the loop.

“You don’t get to tell me that I’m not invited.”

Yes! Hollywood ego-life blood being spilled on camera.

This week left off on a cliffhanger leading up to next week’s season finale: what did Bob Weinstein think, the man who could end the entire project with one half-hearted shrug?

We’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t we?

The Apprentice - NBC
Lots going on in this fast-moving penultimate episode of The Apprentice. The upshot is that we have ourselves a finals on, and as I predicted several weeks ago it’s an all-female showdown of Tana vs. Kendra.

Craig was the clear trailer going into this round, and he did himself no favors by interviewing badly before four top CEOs, who conducted executive-level interviews on behalf of Donald Trump. Kendra, in my opinion, stepped up by appearing bright, confident (too confident?), and tough while the always well-spoken and upbeat (too upbeat? Okay, for me she is, but I don’t own a multi-billion dollar company, now do I?) Tana had no trouble breezing through this stage.

I’m curious why Trump had the CEO of companies like Burger King and Domino’s Pizza conduct these interviews, as the apprentice-to-be will be building buildings and golf courses, not selling Big Macs and pizzas, But again: what do I know? (Hint: I smell big sponsorship dollars…)

Craig got the early canning and made a rather abrupt and mysterious departure from the show, which really symbolized his entire Apprentice experience, really.

The two ladies luxuriated in their status as finalists, and spent an entirely too cheesy scene going through pictures of the fired candidates and remarking on who photographed well and on who is cute. (Wife, by the by, stormed out of the room at this point in disgust.)

As has been customary during past seasons, the finalists were granted three team members each that had already been fired. The producers must have had a ball with this one as this season has been chock full of the nutty, explosive, and incompetent. Original members of Book Smarts (Magna) and Street Smarts (Net Worth) were chosen for Kendra and Tana, respectively.

Key Line, by Brian to camera, said in gruff, Joe Piscopo in Johnny Dangerously-esque intonation:
“We’re gonna be late for the meeting. I don’t like being late.”

The final task, as always, centers on organizing a big, complicated, and high-profile event. Kendra was tasked with running a video game showcase at Webster Hall (where the underage used to go to party when I lived in New York) while Tana was asked to run an event designed to promote New York City as an Olympic site in 2012.

As the episode ended, Tana looked to be in trouble already with the sponsor of her event. Overall, Tana’s team looks as though it’s functioning together reasonably well (and with Brian and Kristen aboard, that’s saying a lot).

Who will be the next Apprentice?

I’m sticking with my prediction: Tana in a close call.

Oh: And I still miss Bren (sniff).

Check out The Apprentice uber-post here.

Making the Band III - MTV
The hour-long season finale answered some questions while leaving a bunch of others open.

The biggest thing we learned is why we got week-after-week of auditions and no real band as with past editions of Making the Band. The reason: because Diddy was never really happy with the crop of ladies in the first place. After a final grueling round of dancing and singing on the set of MTV’s TRL (I believe), Diddy dropped the hammer, eliminating four of the final seven ladies. The remaining three aren’t hired… but neither are they hired. It looks as though they might get pushed on forward to the next season.

Oh: before the final cuts, P Diddy had sent everyone home for four months to “see how they would react.”

Damn the show business is one cold business, ain’t it?

That’s why it’s much safer to watch from home, kids.

At any rate, this season just didn’t hold up to the fun and antics of Season Two, which was just a fun-as-hell ride following the machinations of Da Band.

I hope Diddy goes back to hip hop and stays away from the cheesy pop group thing. Don’t we have enough of that crap already?

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