Friday, May 20, 2005

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – 5-20-05

The Ray is weak this week, I’m afraid to say. Shows are dropping off the radar left and right as other favorites go to sleep for summer’s hibernation or are perhaps sadly laid to rest forever more (let it not be true, my sweet sweet Project Greenlight).

Therefore, I give you a short and hopefully sweet C Ray Fray this week.

Obey the Ray… just take some time to enjoy the sunshine every now and again, kids.

Overall take on the week:

Best show on television: Lost by a wide margin now that Project Greenlight has sailed off to the Bygone Sea of Television Greatness

Upper-tier shows: The Shield, The Contender

Insulting my pride: The Apprentice (see below for details)

On the air, off the radar: Alias (Wife was apparently too disgruntled to make report this week)



The Contender - NBC
We’re coming near the end of this pugilistic competition, and I feel like I’ve come to know the fighters pretty well and have some kind of emotional stake (good or bad) with each of the final four. That’s a credit to the producers, who have shown us enough about these fighters and their lives to make us care. Of course, the cheese factor is nudged up beyond my liking from time-to-time, but overall I love this show and dearly hope that NBC brings it back despite its disappointing ratings.

This episode managed to produce a rematch between Alfonso Gomez and Peter Manfredo. At stake: winner heads to Las Vegas and a chance to fight for $1 million, loser heads home.

Good stuff.

I’ve come to admire and like each of the two fighters, which made it difficult to pick a guy to root for. However, as the seven-round match began (upping the ante from the five-round bouts from earlier fights) I had to admit to myself that Manfredo was my guy. He’s got an integrity to him and a New England charm (he and his family hail from Rhode Island) that lends him a quiet charisma.

That said, I thought going in that Gomez – a rugged bulldog of a fighter – had a slight edge over the less aggressive Manfredo.

It turned out to be a great fight, with wild swings in momentum that have become a staple of The Contender’s matches. Going into the seventh and final round, it was obvious that the match was tied up three rounds per fighter. Basically, it would come down to who wanted it more in the final three minutes. Manfredo “manned up,” as the saying goes, and proved a great deal to everyone watching, and to himself.

After being defeated by Gomez on the very first week of the show and then getting voted back in after an injury to another fighter, Manfredo completed his resurrection with a gritty, spirited victory. In the finals, he’ll face the winner of the Jesse Brinkley – Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora match.

The fight of the year will be on next Tuesday, a live telecast from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

You know I’ll be watching.

Super-cool Moment:
Gomez sporting a tee-shirt that read “Cut Me Mickey” while training.


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
Things are cranking along on another tightly paced, super-charged episode this week. Vendrell’s finally back in the quasi-good graces of Mackey & Co. after his heartfelt confession and offers of repentance last week. Now the gang can go about taking down Antwon Mitchell before Mitchell blows about half of Los Angeles to pieces. Another antagonist, Aceveda, is now working closely with Rawlings and crew as well after two cops turned up dead, shot execution style.

There’s a nice theme of Police as Family at work, with everyone coming together to take out the big baddies. Meanwhile, Vendrell and Mackey are trying to play Mitchell to make him think they will work for him while the rest of the Strike Team races around town to collect the body of the girl murdered with Vendrell’s gun.

The pieces are in place to have a satisfying end to this more than enjoyable season.

Nice acting job:
The schizophrenic homeless ex-Cal Tech genius guy was a wonderful role compacted into a small part. His demand for a badge so that he could discuss the case “Peace Officer to Peace Officer” was great.


Lost - ABC
Lost is a show of journeys, discovery, mystery, and myth. All of those themes came together wonderfully in yet another taut and well written episode this week.

The pacing is quickening each week and I feel as though I’m coming to the end of a great novel or a spectacular film. The fact that it’s the first season of a television show only increases my enjoyment as I’m confident there will be more to see, more to be revealed over time.

But it also brings the paradox of great dramas and great serialized stories: there’s got to be much more conflict, much more hardship ahead to keep me and the rest of the viewing audience interested.

There was a wonderful coalescing of the back stories as we were shown intermingled accounts of different characters within the same episode for the first time. Characters like Kate, Jack, and Walt are becoming all the more real, which makes seeing their pre-crash personalities wind their way toward the airport and their subsequent fates all the more strange and fascinating.

Meanwhile, events are coming to some kind of major head back on the island. The French woman is back – a little more sane, none the less creepy – with the warning that The Others are coming. Man, aren’t the vague, ominous warnings the scariest by far? The drug smugglers with the machine guns and helicopters are coming is just way less scary (or interesting) than The Others are coming: your three options are run, hide, or die. Throw in some black smoke that looks like the People of the Damned are having an old fashioned cook out, and you’ve basically got me glued to the sofa, eyes on screen.

You had me at The Others.

So while the French lady leads a group to find explosives at the Black Rock, our heroes discover a wrecked ship… at the top of a hill. It looks like some kind of pirate ship, so who knows what them thar adventures lie behind its hull. Or something.

And the raft has finally set sale with the fearless crew of Michael, Walt, Sawyer, and Jin. Among the touching moments: the rapprochement between Jin and Sun, and little Walt leaving Vincent the dog with a for once non-evil Shannon.

What will happen with the raft? What’s the deal with the hatch? Will The Others’ offensive be repelled?

Two-hour season finale next week, kids.

Get the dog walked, break out the TV survival kit, dampen the Noises of Madness from within, kick back and enjoy.


The Apprentice - NBC
Kendra won. She’s the Apprentice.

Which is nice – I’m happy for her. She deserved it.

But the rest of the finale was simply awful and not a little bit insulting as well. The first part of the hour was yet another grueling recap of the entire season, something we’ve seen several times before to varying extents. We then entered the live set with the band and the crowd and all, which was fine. Trump then goaded the two finalists into attacking each other and defending themselves, which was also all well and good.

The ending of the show (and the season) was a travesty. Kendra was announced as the winner with the already classic cliché of “You’re hired.” Was she asked what she thought about winning this 16-week competition and going on to refurbish a mansion in Florida for Trump (a project that is strikingly below the caliber of the projects that past winners Bill and Kelley took on)? No. There is a cut to music while Kendra is literally shoved out the door so that she can get into her new Pontiac… in time for the Pontiac commercial.

Are you serious? I watched this show for months, wrote about it for months, talked about it on my podcast for months… so that I can watch a woman driving a car?

I’m insulted. I may not be on board for the next edition of The Apprentice.

I’ll be looking for my pride in the meantime. Maybe it’s in my car.

Check out The Apprentice uber-post here.


Anonymous said...

You are so correct - the Apprentice finale was enough to make me also think twice about next season. Horribly put together, awful transitions, and Donald's terrible speech patterns. I think the commercial ending make have been the shark jumping point for this series. Survivor it is not.

Eric Berlin said...

I was just looking at the TV schedule for the Fall (yeah, I'm a geek, I get it) and saw The Apprentice 4 listed. I'm really iffy at wanting to check it out.

The difficult part is that I enjoyed this season for the most part. I could live with the onslaught of commercial tie-ins and poorly staged skits by The Donald because the human interaction was interesting, as was the strategy and competition in general.

Even though I sometimes didn't agree with the decision-making, watching a boardroom scene is always fun. It's a show built on negative impulses: defend yourself by casting blame on others without looking as though you're doing it... but I enjoyed it.

But I'm not sure anymore. I'm going to need to hear some chatter about how the show will be changing (in a good way) to get me amped up for the next go round.

By the way -- I've never watched Survivor. I've seen bits of it. Not sure why it never quite took hold.

Joel Caris said...

I have been so impressed with Lost this first season. This week's episode was just great and I found myself actually caring about the characters--really caring about what would happen to them. There aren't too many shows that actually enable me to become invested in what happens to the characters--Whedon's shows, Wonderfalls, and The Shield is real close.

Anyway, I'm hoping the season finale--which is airing right now--doesn't disappoint. And I really hope the show doesn't go the X-Files route of stringing along viewers and not ever leading to conclusions or making sense of its mythology. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case, but we'll see what happens with the season finale.

Eric Berlin said...

Man, the wife and I just watched the finale -- great stuff, super cliffhanger stuff... but a great ending to the season overall. I think the raft and hatch plotlines ended very well, opening up pathways that will be explored next season.

They brough a random, very new character along (Arzt) only to be blow'd up... but he was kind of annoying, wasn't he?

Joel Caris said...

Oh man yes, he was annoying. I was kind of waiting for him to die, so I wasn't particularly heartbroken over it.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the Hatch reveal, but I figure we'll get lots more next season. I loved the stuff with the raft and Walt--that was fantastic. Also really enjoyed the encounter with the monster--sure sounds mechanical, doesn't it?

I wouldn't call it a perfect season finale, but very impressive nonetheless. I do hope to see some good information on the hatch for the season two premiere.

They definitely seem to be setting up a split of the survivors between Locke and Jack, don't they? And they do a great job of keeping you guessing on Locke. Every time I feel confident he's a good guy, they go and throw me a creepy speech like that one in the finale. He sounded pretty fanatical when he was talking to Jack--dangerously so.

By any chance did you happen to watch Alias? I'm assuming not. But I'll tell you--that was one hell of a cliffhanger ending. The season in general was hugely disappointing, but I'm now quite intrigued for next season.

Eric Berlin said...

Joel -- Great comments regarding Lost, I almost entirely agree. You're right: the raft was a lot more satisfying on a storytelling level than the hatch. I think there's a lot in store with the hatch... and remember: the hatch freaked Walt out. Locke has had several opportunities to not go ahead (Boone's death, Walt's warning, Hurley freaking out about the numbers) but he's yet to be deterred. In fact, his faith grows all the more.

Jack v. Locke may be a central storyline to Season Two.

What a great first season overall... your comments are making think I need to do a full-on post ruminating about the first season.