Archive for April, 2008

Something Completely Different: New Avengers #40
April 30, 2008

Publisher: Marvel

At the end of a good comic book issue, the reader should have one of three reactions: “Whoa”, “Wow” or “Heh”.  The first two are pretty self explanatory.  “Heh” is a reaction that means either “nice twist” or “I should’ve known”.  The newest issue of New Avengers combined both aspects of “Heh” perfectly.

The issue as a whole is not that riveting.  Bendis takes us back to the final panel from the first issue of his New Avengers: Illuminati series and shows what happened next, more specifically how the Skrull Queen came to power.  The issue focuses on how the invasion plan came about and, more interestingly, how the Skrulls chose those who would be replaced.  It makes a lot of sense, actually, especially in light of who popped out of the Skrull ship at the end of Secret Invasion #1.

But all of that story aside, the final panel was truly a “Heh” moment.  The Skrull Queen decides that she wants to be one of the replacements and asks who could she replace that would do the most damage.  The reveal on the last page is brilliant.  As soon as you see who it is, and then play back everything that has happened since Avengers Disassembled, you realize how truly brilliant it is.  All of a sudden, everything this character, who hadn’t be relevant in years, did becomes a possible betrayal of Earth.  We don’t even know when the switch happened (or if it ever did actually happen) but the possibility really sends your mind spinning.  Its further proof that Bendis has really been planning this for years.

(Side Note: The “Something Completely Different” entries have both been Avenger issues.  This is not by design.  Its just these were the only things that really stuck out to me lately, that didn’t involve television.  Expect future entries to include Music, Movies, and even DC Comics, once Final Crisis revs up.)

Final Grade: B+


Hell’s Kitchen: Day Five
April 29, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: Like Top Chef, But Less About Food, And More About Violent Yelling.

Well, I guess tonight’s challenge was more like Top Chef than usual.  As opposed to the normal “hot to run a kitchen” tests that the chefs have, tonight they were asked to make gourmet pizzas individually and then pick one from each kitchen to represent the team.  Matt continued to just be a complaining disaster.  His pizza was so bad that Ben couldn’t even comment on it.  Bobby and Ben pretty arbitrarily decided that Ben’s pizza would represent the men’s kitchen against stand out Jen’s pizza.  In another photo finish, Jen managed to win it for the girls and get her pizza put on the menu as a special.  So far, she has yet to have a bad moment.  Chef Ramsey commented that Ben’s pizza was good, but his failure to properly wash the mushroom topping was his undoing.  And just like that, the guys kitchen started to really unravel.  All of a sudden, the chefs found themselves on each other’s last nerves.

Vanessa found herself at a disadvantage during dinner service.  The burnt hand she sustained last week was fully bandaged and getting in her way.  Chef Ramsey gave her a choice and Vanessa walked.  That was bizarre.  Again, I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to do the work bandaged, but she didn’t even try the dinner service.  She put the girls down one for no reason at all.  Her comment at the end made it seem like her departure was more about how hard the competition was, as opposed to the burn.

Because the guys lost the challenge, they found themselves forced to deliver Jen’s gourmet pizza door-to-door in a rictshaw looking thing.  The scene of Ben physically pushing the cart backwards because he couldn’t find the reverse was hilarious.  If that was their only problem, it would be fine.  Of course it wasn’t.  Bobby stepped into Matt’s station when he couldn’t fry a decent quail egg.  Louross wasn’t fairing much better.  He couldn’t get a steak ready for his life.  Then Petrozza cheaped his way out.  He sliced a tops of the steaks to make them appear medium when they weren’t in fact.  I couldn’t believe he got away with it.  This was the turning point, as the guys banged out the rest of the dinner service flawlessly.

While Jen was still hitting homeruns, the rest of the ladies were falling apart.  Rosann had a particularly bad night.  Her breakdown made Chef Ramsey break one of his cardinal rules and send out dishes incomplete.  Chef Ramsey asked Jen to step in and fix things up.  The problem with this was that Jen was pulled off of the desert station, which she was supposed to work with Christina.  When Chef Ramsey ordered Corey to help her, Corey did so reluctantly, rather wanting Christina kicked out.

And so both kitchens finally completed a dinner service on their own.  Looking at the parts, rather than the whole, Chef Ramsey declared it a tie, so that one from each team had to go.  The women correctly chose Rosann.  But then reality TV minds stepped in and decided it was Christina’s time to go.  And let the claims of “If I come back, I’m gonna get you” begin.  Louross stepped up and threw himself in, knowing that he had an awful night.  

The best thing about this show is the fact that Chef Ramsey knows stupid when he sees it.  He was well aware that Christina was not the worst chef in the women’s kitchen and called the women stupid for maneuvering her towards elimination.  Turns out he didn’t eliminate anyone tonight, claiming that Vanessa leaving grants them a reprieve.  My guess is that the shows run is based on an elimination per episode, and a double elimination would throw that off.  Either way, prepare for the girls team to implode.

Final Grade: B

The Hills: A Date With The Past
April 28, 2008

MTV, Mondays at 10:00PM

Genre: Reality-ish

Conceit: Watch What Happens When MTV Stops Being Real And Starts Letting Producers Manipulate

This episode set the tone really early.  The fact that Audrina has her own “house” in the back of the girls’ house kind of gives you an idea where everyone stands.  Sure, this could be about the girls being older and needing privacy, but methinks this is a bad sign. (We’re not going to talk about how I think the girls can’t afford the house.)  Also, LC and Lo talked about how LC couldn’t go shopping with Audrina but now her and Lo could hang out all the time.  If you didn’t think the days of LC and Audrina weren’t numbered before…

If memory serves me right, Lo was the one who began the Justin-Bobby mockery when he first arrived.  Audrina didn’t like it then.  Why did Lo think that Audrina like it now?  I would say that Lo is just insensitive, but I prefer to think she’s smart enough to know what she has to do to stay on the show.  A cleaner cut Justin-Bobby arrived at the A-L-L House Warming party and sat down with Audrina, who let her feelings about everyone else’s feelings about her and Justin be known…to Justin.  

Dear Heidi, stop saying “you’re kidding” everytime that Stephanie brings up hanging out with LC.  If she wasn’t kidding the first time, she’s not kidding any other time after that.  And yet you managed to guilt Steph into skipping in favor of sitting and watching a movie with Heidi.  Score one for Team Heidi.  I guess.  The fact that this “story” hasn’t moved forward in a couple episodes is rather…well…annoying.  Stephanie has begun filling Whitney’s old role as exposition girl.  She’s now the girl who says “really?  what happened?”.  

Stephen Colletti.  Apparently he took enough time off from guest starring on One Tree Hill to pop back in for his requisite appearance.  Isn’t he dating someone famous?  I also don’t know this for sure, but was LC wearing one of her own designs to the dinner?  Turns out the least front and center people are the most insightful.  Last week it was Justin-Bobby.  This week it was Stephen who pretty much told LC if she wants to be in Audrina’s life, do it.  Well anyways, as expected, Stephen crushed LC’s too high expectations that they’d get back together.  It was pretty close to desperate that LC had to keep reaching back to high school to make Stephen care.  Didn’t this exact same thing happen with Jason last season?  LC at least had enough dignity lie to Lo and make it seem like she didn’t want Stephen.  

Spencer complains about loyalty blah blah still has no job blah blah sits around blah blah.

Man, nothing happened in this episode at all.

Final Grade: C-

House: No More Mr. Nice Guy
April 28, 2008

FOX, Mondays at 9:00PM

Genre: Drama

Conceit: Who Needs Bedside Manners?

Huh.  Well that was something, eh?  Before we get into the nitty gritty of the episode, lets talk about the strong dynamic shift in this show.  For a solid 3.5 seasons, House was above everyone.  He never needed anyone.  Never tried to.  It was only in brief moments that he showed even the slightest bit of vulnerability.  And even then, it was only to one person per episode.  But tonight, House played with everyone on an even playing field.  He went bowling with Chase…by choice.  They actually talked and House was struck by something Chase said.  In what was a rather hilarious, House and Amber set up visitation times with Wilson, who played the neutral “child” to a “T”.  Cudday even got to play Solomon to House and Amber’s dispute, and House respected it (though not without a particularly funny insult).  

The show started off on a rather odd note.  For some reason, the camera kept switching from 3rd person to House’s 1st person.  I had this fear that the show was going to be completely done in 1st person, but three minutes in, it stopped.  Which made me wonder why they did it in the first place.  The patient of the week, a generally nice guy who may be nice because he’s sick, really wasn’t the star of the episode.  In fact, it was the possibility that House had syphilis and that the disease was what accounted for his less than pleasant demeanor.  Moreover was the deeper question: if the clap causes his demeanor, but the demeanor makes him the doctor he is, do we cure the disease?  The debate was cut short when House revealed to Wilson (who revealed to Amber who revealed to Kutner) that he did the old bait and switch.  This was rather predicable.  In fact, this was done before, when House was trying to cure a patient and made it seem like he was sick.  But while that served a higher purpose, this didn’t.  That normally wouldn’t matter, except there didn’t seem to be ANY purpose for this at all.  For all the back and forth, it didn’t do anything.  And that just took the air completely out of the episode.  It kept building and building, and that payoff was just too much of a let down.

One of the highlights were extended scenes with Cameron, Chase, and Foreman.  Since Christmas found old meeting knew, I’ve been hoping that we’d see more of the original group.  I was glad to see just that.  The allusion that House slept with Cameron was a bit unsettling though.  It was also good to see Foreman put in his place by the new trio, only to have House remind him that he’s still on his side (kinda).  But the problem with putting the old trio next to the new trio is the latter fails in the presence of the former.  Taub just did nothing the entire episode.  13 (31 cause she works both ways) is the exact character as Cameron.  The only person who had a good episode was Kutner.  To the surprise of all.

Final Grade: B

How I Met Your Mother: The Goat
April 28, 2008

CBS, Mondays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: 20-something.

They brought the Barney.  There were many reasons that I didn’t like last week’s episode.  One of them, probably the most resonating, was that Barney’s characterization seemed like it happened just for the sake of the episode.  This week, the good Mr. Stinson returned.  And he brought the Bro Code with him.  Barney was freaking out in the wake of sleeping with Robin because he knew that he betrayed Ted.  He hired Marshall to comb over the the Bro Code (which his ancestor, who was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington D.C., wrote) to find a loop hole to alleviate his guilt over violating the “You Never Do Your Bro’s Ex” article of the code.  When he couldn’t Barney tried to butter Ted up by taking him to Vegas for his 30th birthday before dropping the bomb.  Unfortunately, Robin beat him to the punch.  In classic Ted style, he told Robin that it was no big deal.  We expected this.  Ted’s always been able to rise above.  Unfortunately for Barney, he couldn’t forgive this Bro Code infringement.  Ted actually reacted very honestly, and within character.  He cut Barney out of his life.  But the real winner of this ep was Barney.  He really showed his devotion to Ted in his desperation for forgiveness.  Moreover, when Ted wouldn’t do it, Barney really seemed like the teflon man finally got scratched.

On a side note, there was the running gag with a goat which was going to do something absolutely “shocking”.  I kind of figured that the buildup was all schlock and that either the goat doesn’t do anything, or we wouldn’t see it.  I was right with the latter, as future Ted told us that the goat wasn’t at his place for his 30th, but instead his 31st.  While this could easily just be a gag, it was an easter egg.  At some point in the next year, Robin moves into Ted’s apartment.

Final Grade: A-

Keeping Up With The Kardashians: Kardashian Civil War
April 28, 2008

E!, Sundays at 10:00PM

Genre: Reality-ish

Conceit: Vapidness Sells.

I know I am going to regret writing this review for 2 reasons.  First, I promised I wouldn’t review this show.  Though it hits my TiVo, the more I watch it, the more I hate it.  I end up watching it out of compulsion and hating it more and more.  Second, I liked this episode.

The reason this show is usually awful is both in its setup and its execution.  The former is flawed because there is nothing that makes this family famous in today’s world, outside of Kim’s unfortunate mini-dv moment.  We shouldn’t even want to watch them.  The latter is flawed because the show is SO producer-interfered with that it makes The Hills look true-to-life.  None of the premises even seem believable.  “Oh no, we had a quasi-disturbance at the store!  Lets go to the gun range and learn to shoot an AK-47.”

But tonight’s episode worked because they took the setup and executed it realistically…for the most part.  The show started pretty standard: Khloe, Kourtney, and Kim were on their way to pick up Kim’s newly tricked out Bentley.  I was so tempted to turn off the TV at this point.  But then things started getting interesting as Kim had to say Bentley every three words and Khloe and Kourtney were obviously annoyed.  Things got worse when they arrived at the mechanics to find the car wasn’t ready.  Kourtney and Khloe intervened to show their displeasure at this, and Kim wasn’t pleased with their displeasure at all.  When the girls reconvened back at their younger brothers place, things escalated with Khloe trying to close the door in Kim’s face, Kim punching Khloe in the arm, and her leaving, vowing that she was done.  An attempt to reconcile over coffee spiraled out pretty quickly, leaving Khloe crying in the car.  What worked about all this was that it was 100% believable.  Ok, maybe 90% believable.  There has to be underlying emotions with these girls who, until Kim’s tape came out, were merely partners in their stores.  now Kim is this celebrity (kind of) who does this and that, and the other two are…well…her sisters who have a reality show with her.  Kim’s indignation that her sisters would embarrass her during a business deal was believable.  Khloe and Kourtney’s hurt that Kim would put business before family was believable.  The cliffhanger solution that the family should fly to Colorado to settle things over skiing…not so believable.

Oh, and Kris had a girls night out with her best friend (who just happens to co-host a radio show with this show’s producer, Ryan Seacrest) in which she gets drunk and gets a tattoo.  I knew the show couldn’t go all the way through without falling into its manipulated ways.

Can’t lie though: I absolutely will watch the second part next week.  I hate myself for that.

Final Grade: B+ (I Hate Myself For This Grade As Well.)

Lost: The Shape Of Things To Come
April 25, 2008

ABC, Thursdays at 10:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

Conceit: The Thinking Man’s “Gilligan’s Island”.

Man, never ever ask Lost to bring the action, if you’re not prepared.  Because last night, they brought with both barrels.  And what a ride it was.  It turns out that it was indeed the ship’s crew who killed The French Woman and Carl last week before they kidnapped Alex.  And sure enough, they made a bee-line straight to Ben’s front door with an ultimatum: surrender himself or she days.  Simple enough.  Ben, thinking he knows all at all times, calls their bluff.  And they shot Alex.  Man.  Its not as shocking that they shot Alex, as the fact that Ben was wrong.  Since his introduction in season 2, Ben has thrived on the fact that he just knows more.  He seemingly knew everything.  And he knew they wouldn’t shoot Alex.  But he was wrong.  “He changed the game.”

Flash forward and we find Ben face down in the desert.  We learn that he is in Tunisia, and we see a news story of Sayid burying his wife in Iraq.  Soon enough, we find Ben in Iraq, monitoring a man who is in fact monitoring Sayid.  Sayid catches up with Ben, who reveals that it was Charles Whidmore who caused Nadia’s death.  This is how Sayid and Ben start working together.  And it clarifies a big point: Ben is still on the island with the Oceanic-6 get off the island.

What was even more exhilarating than all the gun play and chases was the final show down between Charles Whidmore and Ben.  First of all, Ben can’t kill Whidmore.  Why?  Second, Whidmore claims that the island was always his and everything that Ben has he took from him.  How?  This show absolutely knows how to give answers with one hand and give questions with the other.

Sawyer really proved that he is a hero.  Maybe a conflicted hero, but a hero through and through.  Even though his roll in this episode was minor, he really used it well.  Also, in Hurley’s flash forward, when he tell’s Jack he’s sorry he went with Locke, did he mean going to Locke’s camp, or going with Locke and Ben to find Jacob?  Oh, and Ben entered what looks like a temple thing and moments later the smoke monster comes roaring back with a ferocity we have yet to see.  Awesome.

Final Grade: A+

Grey’s Anatomy: Where The Wild Things Are
April 25, 2008

ABC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Drama

Conceit: A Day to Day In Seattle’s Metaphor Hospital.

I think I’ve finally been able to put my finger on why this show has been floundering for the last, oh, 2.5 seasons.  Its half an hour too long.  Grey’s first have, the set up as it were, is always solid.  And then they manage to really foul it up in the second half.  The set ups this episode were simple: 1.  There’s a surgery competition going on.  2.  George and Lexie are living in a comically bad apartment.  3.  Derek is sleeping with someone who isn’t Meredith (ok, this one isn’t that great of a set up, but anyway…).

Izzy is annoying.  I mean so so so annoying.  And her character has not grown AT ALL since the beginning of the series, other than in the annoying department.  I really had hope for her this episode where she had a HILARIOUS prat fall in the opening teaser.  But things go downhill very fast.  Per usual, she gets the loser patient, over treats for the sake of winning the contest, she doesn’t come close to winning, and the Chief gives her a pep talk at the end.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this: I actually liked Lexie this episode.  The reoccurring gag of her stealing from the hospital was actually really well done.  She has some great comedic timing.  The writers should use it more.  However, all the love I gained for her fell apart at the end.  Why does this show ALWAYS insist on monologuing.  I mean really.  It sucks the life out of the show.  Stop it.

Derek and the nurse.  I actually like her tons.  Which is why I’m annoyed that this isn’t going to last.  Even if I didn’t know that the producers are putting Derek and Meredith back together again, I would know this isn’t going to last.  The show is about Derek and Meredith.  So that’s that.  So this is just filler.  Which is a shame because, as I stated, I like the nurse.  The one good point in this story was a rather comic moment with McSteamy.

Meredith had potential for rising above all of this background garbage.  And then she gleefully screamed out the word “tumor” in probably the worst acted moment ever.  I have to believe they did 15 takes on that, and then gave up.  It was awful.

George is the only one who came out well in this episode.  And that’s because he’s an intern and thus not subject to all this stupid pettiness.  Which makes me think, this show was so much better in the first season when they were just starting out as interns.  But here we are, a long 3 seasons later.

Final Grade: C

30 Rock: Succession
April 25, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL

Hmm…so NBC puts it faith in this show, bumps Scrubs back to 8:30, and drops this show at 9:30 with The Office as a lead-in.  And they deliver this episode?  Mind you, it wasn’t a “bad” episode, per se.  But it was a plot episode.  It was about moving the story forward.  But…eh…it wasn’t that great, was it?

This Don Geiss story, while a good story throughout the last two seasons, has really been stalled for sometime.  Unless Tina Fey has a theory I haven’t thought of yet, Jack can’t become chairman of NBC without losing the Jack/Liz interactions that power the show.  So no one really expects it to happen.  So why does the show keep belaboring the point with these “almost, but wait, there’s a twist” episodes.  The only highlight would have to be Will Arnett, and the hope of more Will Arnett to come.

Tracey’s quest to impress his children by making a great pornographic videogame (you have to give the show credit not loving its ridiculousness) was a decent side story.  The best part of this “Amadeus” spoof had to be the slow motion running of a caped Dr. Leo Spaceman (back from his stint on the criminally underrated “Miss Guided”) through the halls.  Also, Frank got some great moments in during what was a ho-hum episode overall.

Final Grade: C+ 

The Office: Night Out
April 25, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because Its Oh So True.

This episode could’ve been called The Bizarro Office.  Up was Down; Left was Right; Dwight was Jim.

Because the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website was glitchy (and apparently allowed sexual predators to operate), the Scranton staff would have to come in on a Saturday to enter phone orders into the website.  Jim came up with the wise plan to stay an extra four hours on Friday night and bang it out, so they don’t have to come in Saturday.  Everyone loves him.  Jim forgets to tell the building security, who locks the parking lot closed with everyone in there.  Pam locks the office door behind her, locking everyone out of the officer.  Everyone hates Jim and Pam.  Pam also throws a football in Meredith’s face.  Everyone hates Pam (but I laughed out loud).

Meanwhile, a desperately lonely Michael heads to NYC with Dwight in tow to party it up with Ryan.  And Ryan was thrilled to see them.  And terribly nice.  Like I said, up was down.  We’d find out soon enough that Ryan has been, ahem, powdering his nose way too much.  His life isn’t as awesome as he makes it out to be.  And yet Dwight was actually fighting off a gorgeous blonde.  Left was right.

The only constant this night was Michael Scott.  This guy.  He couldn’t find a thing to eat in a grocery store.  Yet his naiveté was pretty strong tonight.  He can’t even tell when two different girls are not interested.  And when Ryan is crying out for help.  Ahh well.  Scott is as Scott does.

Final Grade: A