Lost: There’s No Place Like Home
May 16, 2008

ABC, Thursdays at 10:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

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

There was this moment while I watched “Greatest Hits” last episode, where I started getting inexplicably excited.  Maybe its not inexplicable.  That episode really started moving stuff into place for the finale.  And Charlie’s life was or wasn’t going to end.  And it was all racing towards the end.  That’s exactly how I feel during hour one of this three hour finale.  

Jack and Sawyer.  Cyclops and Wolverine.  One is the only one who can lead.  The other is the only one you’d ever want in a fight.  Both men reached the helicopter and were one step away from just taking it back and saving the world.  Except one thing: Hurley is with Ben.  Ever since the first episode this season, we’ve been trying to figure out what Hurley meant when he told Jack he was sorry he went with Locke.  Is this it?  Is this the decision that changes everything?

I guarantee that you could not have guessed who it was doubling back on Kate and Sayid’s trail.  And when Nestor Carbonell walked through the leaves, all you thought was “that’s the missing piece; that’s what we need to make sense of this.”  Meanwhile, back on the tanker, we may be setting out for quite possibly the most tragic finale Lost has had yet.

Our flash forward went only a couple days into the future as the Oceanic 6 finally touch down in civilization.  Jack finds himself finally burying his “dad” and giving a very touching eulogy, only to be blindsided moments later with the revelation that he left his half-sister behind and he’s staring at his nephew.  Kate returned to the real world to remember that no one loves her except Claire’s baby, who she’s claimed as her own.  Hurley cannot escape the numbers, no matter how far from the island he gets.  His psychosis is just around the corner.  Sun shows that she has inherited her father’s ruthlessness.  And Sayid finally gets the girl.  I said before that Desmond and Penny are the “under the radar awesome couple”.  Sayid and Nadia are 2nd place for that award.  

I know this is only hour one of what was probably meant to be a three hour, one-shot finale, but I’m facing two realities.  First, I will be miserable waiting one week for the next episode.  Second, I will be beyond words, waiting for 8 to 9 months for the next episode.

Final Grade: A

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The Office: Goodbye, Tobey
May 15, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because Its Oh So True.

Meet the old boss, not at all like the new boss.  With Tobey moving to Costa Rica, Dunder Mifflin Infinity sends a new HR rep to DMIS.  Holly seems like she’s going to be an interesting addition to the crew.  And all it took for Michael to fall head over heels in love with her was her patronizing ribbing of Tobey.  He wanted to make her a mix.  Did anyone else laugh out loud when he told her he wanted to make a mix?  But, I can’t deny that seeing Michael try to impress her was fun.  And her reciprocating was even nicer.  Yoga.  Yoda.  Turns out she’s the best thing to happen to the company since World War II.  Excellent.  But Michael Scott just can’t have everything he wants, can he?  Is there any insult greater than finding out your ex went to a sperm bank WHILE you were together because she wanted to get pregnant but just not by you?  Wow.  And didn’t Michael’s hurt just seem so real?  Michael does “the right thing”, which is bizarre because it isn’t his kid, but is expected, because its Michael Scott.

I have to admit, the bit with Dwight telling Holly that Kevin was slow was pretty hilarious.  How it kept playing out was even more funny.  Kevin is seriously one of the best of the B-cast.  What did made me sad was when Holly decided to sit in on Tobey’s exit interview.  I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to see the “bruisin'” that Tobey was surely “cruisin’ for”.  

Jim Halpert.  Man, when you get a head of steam going, you just keep going with it.  He even left Ryan a voicemail saying that he won’t back down.  Unfortunately, Ryan had bigger problems as his failed website inevitably lead to fraud.  And arrest.  From temp, to executive, to jail.  The classic story.  Speaking of classic stories: Jam.  Pam’s going to school for the summer and Jim decides its time to propose.  And Pam even sees it coming.  The smiles on their faces right before he was going to ask.  Then Andy grabbed the mic.  He asked Angela to marry her, and she said “ok”.  Dwight’s admission that it was his own fault…killer.  This stopped Jim dead in his tracks.  And made Pam think that he was never going to ask.  Dang it!

And then there was the ending.  Could’ve never called that.

This show had a home run fourth season.  And I’m thoroughly excited to see the fifth season.  Exactly what a season finale should be.

Final Grade: A

Hell’s Kitchen: Day Seven
May 13, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

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

So, in case you didn’t know from last episode, Matt is mad and he wanted you to know about it.  Ominous way to start the episode, huh?  Every season, Chef Ramsey challenges the pallets of the potential chefs.  This time, he prefaced it by having both kitchens taste 3 meat dishes to see if they realize there was no actual meat in it.  Of course they didn’t.  The actual taste test was as amusing as ever.  Chef Ramsey adds a dramatic flair when Matt and Ben have to go head to head in the deciding round of the challenge.  Both men were sufficiently impressive, but the girls lead made Matt’s victory a foregone conclusion.  This also set up what was going to be a thoroughly important dinner service.  

In the Red kitchen, the pressure was on Rosann, who’s been hanging on by the skin of her teeth for the last couple of weeks.  She actually rose to the occasion and hit homeruns with the appetizers.  That was short lived as the meats became the bane of her existence.  Meanwhile, the teflon all-star, Jen, inexplicably imploded.  After getting yelled at by Chef Ramsey, Jen kept to herself and the unravelling began.  Then she started talking back to Ramsey.  And with Jen went the kitchen.  The entire Red kitchen became quiet and defeated.  The only one who really had it together was Christina.  And Matt.  Bizarre.  He did make a bit much of it, though.

Ben renewed his place as Chef Ramsey’s punching bag.  And he pokes the bear by telling Chef Ramsey he’s not used to working in a divided kitchen.  I’m not sure what he expected to be the result of this, but it went exactly the way everyone else expected.  The men’s kitchen seemed to take three steps back as they struggled to get entrees out.  Ben’s meat station was falling apart and he couldn’t find a drop of water in the ocean.  And when it rains, it pours.  Ramsey benched Ben.  

Once the men were chosen as the losing team, the end was inevitable.  My early pick to win it all, Ben, was out the door.  But not before he tried to weasel his way out.  Go out with dignity, man.

Final Grade: B

The Hills: The Next Move Is Yours
May 13, 2008

MTV, Mondays at 10:00PM 

Genre: Reality-ish

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

So here we are, at the end of the “season” and Spencer is still a douche.  I mean he always was but man, this guy moved exponentially throughout this season.  When Stephanie prefaced telling Spencer where Heidi was by saying “don’t do anything crazy”, what did she expect?  And man, did he go nuclear.  I mean racing from his car into the club?  There’s a thin line between devoted and obsessive.  And Spencer passed that line about a season and a half ago.  Obviously Brent Botlhouse wasn’t happy with the display (or was asked to act annoyed for the sake of the scene).  Either way, Heidi made the ridiculous choice of choosing Spencer over her job.  And she did it in wreckless fashion by not even showing up for her morning meeting.  She does remember that Spencer doesn’t have a job either, right?  My guess, SBE decided they wanted to end their relationship with “The Hills” ala Teen Vogue, and so they wrote them out like that.  Remember, this is only a reality-ish show after all.

Whitney’s back.  Its been a while.  She was back to her typical “really?  what happened?  tell me about it?” ways, but honestly, she’s a breath of fresh air compared to the stale wind that comes out of the normal cast.  She also tends to be the only reasonable one anymore.  She advised LC to talk to Audrina about this distance that LC’s been feeling; a distance which got a physical manifestation when Audrina walked by the kitchen, skipping out on dinner with the girls.  So at Lo’s urging, LC finally went to talk to Audrina in her house behind their house.  Audrina confesses what I’ve always believed: Lo is what’s pushing them apart.  And push comes to shove, LC picks Lo.  At least Audrina was actually assertive.  Which was completely different for her.  And so that’s another friendship in the trash for LC.  Well done.  Oddly enough, Audrina is the one who comes out looking like the winner.

So at the end of another “season” we have winners and losers.  Of course, Spencer is a synonym for loser.  So we won’t even address that.  But Heidi, who was a loser by the distributive property of Spencer,  became her own loser with that idiot SBE move.  Lo gets a loser award for trying so desperately hard to be on this show.  But the most surprising loser is LC.  This girl simply has not grown.  Period.  She’s the exact same girl 3 seasons later.  The winners are the two girls who seemingly get no screen time.  Whitney is finally moving forward in her life.  She is actually making smart decisions (albeit with MTV’s help) about her career.  The other winner is Audrina, who finally has started standing up on her own two feet.

PS, season 4 looks like the terribly lame old stuff its has been.

Final Grade: B-

House: House’s Head
May 12, 2008

FOX, Mondays at 9:00PM

Genre: Drama

Conceit: Who Needs Bedside Manners?

Every season, an episode begins with House, as oppose to a hapless individual who’s one ridiculous moment away from being House’s patient.  Those tend to be the best episodes in the season.  One such episode, the season two finale, was one of the best in the series.  Tonight’s episode started with House and ends with a bang.

House finds himself at a strip club, with no idea how he got there or how long he’s been there.  After realizing he has a concussion (based on his open head wound), he stumbles into the street to find that he had initially stumbled away from a bad car crash.  And try as he might he can’t piece together what happened.  More importantly to House, he can’t piece together what he’s sure was the medical problem that caused the crash.

House lets Chase put him under hypnosis to see if he can reach into his brain and remember what happens.  I’m not sure how medically accurate real this is, but I’m willing to bite.  And yes, that was Fred Durst playing the bartender.  The hypnosis ends up taking a back seat to increase Vicodin usage, which allows House to hallucinate back to the bus.  When that wears off, he drops himself into a sensory deprivation tank.  Lisa Edelstein, way to keep in shape.  They have such great chemistry.  Part of me wishes the show would get it over with and put them together.  The other part of me knows that the second they’re together, the chemistry is diminished.  Anyways, lesson learned: sensory deprivation may be good for the soul, but its not good for the body.  Though House gets it done, as he always does, not everything is as it seems.  A mystery woman keeps popping up into his visions.  A woman who wasn’t in the crash.  But a woman who keeps pointing to something bigger that he’s missing.  And so the entire cast…er, staff…finds themselves sitting on a bus as house drugs his brain into overdrive.  And when he realizes who the woman is, things go crazy.

Final Grade: A+

How I Met Your Mother: Everything Must Go
May 12, 2008

CBS, Mondays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: 20-something.

Britney Spears returned as Abby the receptionist tonight.  Initially infuriated by Barney sleeping with her and never calling again, Abby and Barney bonded over the fact that both have been jilted by Ted.  (The one thing I couldn’t figure out was whether Spears was playing a part or just playing herself.  I expected the latter, but, was it just me or did her voice sound different?)  Barney decided to show Ted what he looks like by proposing to Abby, who doesn’t realize its part of the game.  Barney resolved this by tell her that Ted truly loved her, further increasing her stalker behavior.  Thought Spears didn’t bring much to the ep, I wouldn’t mind seeing her again.

Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily are desperate for money so they can have their apartment floors fixed.  Marshall decides that Lily needs to sell her expensive clothes to make it happen.  As a guy, I have to admit that I would have gone the same route.  Lily, appalled by the idea, suggests that she instead sells her paintings.  At that point, Marshall’s mouth outmoves his mind as he blurts out that her paintings aren’t “real paintings” and thus won’t make any real money.  And the bet was on.  After several misses, Lily sells her painting to GCWOKs (Gay Couple Without Kids).  This didn’t really work out, but in classic HIMYM style, one thing led to another before Lily finally found her target audience.  Whenever you have some free time: http://www.lilyandmarshallselltheirstuff.com

Final Grade: B

Keeping Up With The Kardashians: Kim’s Calendar For Reggie
May 12, 2008

E!, Sundays at 10:00PM

Genre: Reality-ish

Conceit: Vapidness Sells

Well, that didn’t last long.  The Kardashians were back to pointless form after two solid episodes.  Kim is trying to figure out what to do for her and Reggie Bush’s one year anniversary.  After shooting down Khloe’s idea of a live leopard (which probably would’ve made for better TV…guess Seacrest was asleep at the switch), Kim decided to make a calendar for her NFLove.  The only thing I was wondering during this whole discussion was whether or not the Kardashian home actually has a Hollywood-style makeup room in their house, because thats where it looked like the girls were sitting.

To keep this interesting, we got to see Kim get the cellulite massaged or sucked off her thighs by some weird machine.  Not nearly as compelling as the producers must have thought.  Kim’s photo sitting was…well…something.  I’m curious to know how much the hair they added to her head cost.  Reggie ends up showing up to the shoot, unaware that it was for his personal use.  Obviously, Bush wasn’t comfortable with his girlfriend taking such risque shots.  Wow.  A decent guy on this show.  Unfortunately, Kris gets ahold of the calendar before Kim does and assumes that it was meant for mass production.   Kim awkwardly finds out when her younger brother finds the calendar on a newsstand.  She immediately knows Kris is responsible and is angry.  And she unleashes on Kris.  Kim then runs off to buy back all the calendars.  So here’s my thing: this has GOT to be Seacrest’ed.  I honestly believe that this calendar wasn’t sent out publicly.  I’m pretty sure these calendars were placed where they were placed just for the sake of this episode.  And Kim’s payback was even less believable.  It just seems highly unlikely that these calendars get mass produced and sent out withoutKim knowing.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

Bruce continued to be on camera for a change when the girls insinuated that he doesn’t work for a living.  At his daring, the girls go to watch Bruce speak at an event.  Beforehand, they go to a cocktail part for the event.  Pretty much, Bruce ends up schmoozing random guys while Khloe and Kourtney get drunk and ultimately embarrass him.  The actual event was not too bad.  It was pretty much exactly what you expect from a motivational speaker event.  The girls give him a little more credit than he deserves, but I guess that comes from them not expecting anything from him.  Apparently he actually succeeded in motivating the girls.

Final Grade: B-

30 Rock: Cooter
May 12, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

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

What does it mean when a show’s regular cast is regularly outdone by their reoccurring characters?  The abbreviated second season of 30 Rock came to an end in an episode which was a metaphor for the season as a whole: hit or miss.  

The hits were obvious.  Dean Winters was barely in this episode, but absolutely owned every scene he was in.  When Dennis found out that Liz may be pregnant with his child, he returned into her life and was hilarious with the few lines he was given.  I really like Floyd because he just has great chemistry with Lemon, but Dennis is the funniest person on this show.  Make him regular cast.

Picking up from a joke earlier in the season (as 30 Rock does so well), Paul Scheer returned as Donny, Head of the Pages and Kenneth’s sworn enemy.  Both were vying to be the NBC page sent to China for the olympics.  Again, Scheer wasn’t given many lines to work with, but went miles with the ones he did.  The Kenneth/Donny rivalry is one of the better inside jokes this series has found.  Scheer should team up with Winters to get a nod as regular cast.

Sadly, when you start with the B and C story characters, it says something about the A stories.  As mentioned, Liz had a pregnancy scare.  Turns out the chips she insists on eating from the Spanish deli use bull semen, which tripped the tests.  Meanwhile, Jack was adjusting to a life in politics.  Or more accurately, trying to find his way out.  Matthew Broderick played Cooter, an aide that would have been his rival, if not for the fact that he was just as desperate to get out.  Unforunately, Cooter just wasn’t a funny character, nor was the storyline as a whole.  The only plus: we got to see C.C. again.  Ok, Dean Winters, Paul Scheer, and Edie Falco: make them all regular cast.

Final Grade: B-

Lost: Cabin Fever
May 9, 2008

ABC, Thursdays at 10:00PM

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama

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

Penultimate episodes generally go one way or another.  Either they do such an incredible job preparing you for the finale that you just can’t wait 7 more days or they end up being a lead balloon and you take comfort in the fact that the finale will be that much better.  Cabin Fever was the latter.  

First off: stop with the flashbacks.  Unless its really going to add something huge to the story, don’t do it anymore.  This is the second flashback this season (not counting Desmond’s travels) and it was just as good as the first one, by which I mean it was not good at all.  John Locke is special.  Fine.  We know that.  Its been beaten into our heads. Apparently the island’s original inhabitants have been interested in his since he was born.  Amazing.  Apparently Richard Alpert never gets older.  Ok, well that is kind of interesting (and gets added onto the list of really sci-fi things about this show).  But still, this episode was truly a throw away.  Locke, Hurley, and Ben wander around the jungle, looking for the cabin, each thinking the other is going to lead them there.  Eventually Locke has a dream and finds the cabin.  That’s pretty much it.

There were two bright spots of this episode.  The first was Ben.  Michael Emerson continues to make a great argument for deserving an Oscar.  His transition from evil-ish mastermind who’s always one step ahead of the curve to helpless participant who’s accepted he’s not special anymore is brilliant.  Its filled with nuance and one of the most compelling roles on television.

The other bright spot happened at the very end.  I was right when I thought I saw Christian in Jacob’s Cabin during the season premiere.  But what was interesting was that Locke saw him too.  And he even identified himself as Christian.  For the first time, a character who “shouldn’t be on the island” has been seen by someone who doesn’t have a personal tie to them.  Is Christian actually alive?  And that shot of Claire just sitting there was brilliantly creepy.  How could she leave her baby, be with her estranged father, and be so at peace?  Brilliant.

And then they ruined it.  I let out a rather deep “ugh” when Christian told Locke what he had to do.  I’m sure it wasn’t to be taken literally, but still, lame.  Oh, and all heck is breaking lose on the tanker and people are coming to kill the island.

Lets hope that this three hour finale spread over the next three weeks (1 hour next week and then 2 hours in a row in 2 weeks) makes up for it.

PS: If this whole series ends up taking place in Locke’s mind while he’s on his walkabout in Australia, with each character representing another aspect of his persona, I will flip my lid.

FInal Grade: C

The Office: Job Fair
May 8, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because its Oh So True.

Ah, Michael Scott.  Man, I don’t know about you sometimes.  Tonight’s episode found Michael, Pam, Oscar, and Daryl heading to Pam’s old high school for a job fair.  Apparently Dunder Mifflin Infinity Scranton (hereby known as DMIS) needs a summer intern.  And Michael was looking for the best.  Not someone who’s meant to be a cashier or whatever other things Michael listed.  Besides Oscar’s great “Why wouldn’t you say that to her face” line while Michael was telling a kid what he really thought of Pam, this aspect of the episode was slightly a letdown.  Anytime Michael is out of the office, he really steps his embarrassment game up a notch.  “The Convention” was a perfect example of this.  However, this episode was just kind of gag after gag, none of which really landed.  Even Michael’s microphone moment, though it made me squirm, not in the funny way that I’m sure it was intended.

What saved this episode was the golf course.  In the wake of Ryan’s warning last week, Jim took the greens to stir up  new business.  And he brought Kevin and Andy with him.  This was just good stuff.  The Office rarely does physical gags.  But when they do use them, they use them well.  Andy’s golf cart crash actually made me laugh out loud.

But this was truly and Jam episode.  The only reason Jim was on this golf course was because he needs to succeed before he can actually give Pam that ring he has.  After his first overture with their golf partner was shot down, Jim had pretty much accepted it for what it was.  But then Pam called.  And Jim redoubled his efforts.  And weren’t you proud of him when he pulled through.  Last week I said that you can’t deny that Jim’s a slacker.  But you also can’t deny that you want to see him win.

We also saw Pam back in her old art room, looking disappointed when her old work was gone.  But more important was what happened right before the credits.  Pam was going to apply for a graphic design job before she found out she was very underqualified.  The only places she could get qualified are Philadelphia and New York.  And there, ladies and gentlemen, we have the conflict for the season finale and to fight over for the summer.  Pam wants to move forward with her life.  But if that means moving, can Jim afford to do it.  Or are we going to reverse season 3, where Pam is away while Jim is in the office alone?

Final Grade: A-