Mandel Maven's Nest TV Remote Patrol:
Hunk-o-Meter-- Televisa Para Planchar
Sometimes tired women just want to have fun with their TVs, especially while ironing.
The bad guys lie to get in your bed and the good guys lie to get into your heart.
---"Brooke" on One Tree Hill
--Ever notice that the guy always has to risk his life and the girl is nearly dead when he finds her? It takes a kiss to wake her up and they ride off together. It's a nice metaphor for death and resurrection. It happens all the time. It's a metaphor. The illusion dies with it so something deeper can take its place. Romance serves a purpose. It's a meditative state. It puts logic to sleep so people can come together. Otherwise you guys probably wouldn't risk it.
--Why did you have to make love so complicated? Couldn't that one thing have been easy?
--Love is big. It's a bright light and a bright light casts a big shadow.
---God as a fairy-tale-reading-girl explains "Romancing the Joan" by executive producer Barbara Hall of Joan of Arcadia
It seems that network casting directors have finally figured out why I really watch TV when I'm tired, according to The Hunk Shortage by Sam Schechner in The Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2006 (fair use excerpt):
"They are looking for 'a commodity for which demand has grown to outpace supply over the last few years: sexy, rugged-looking guys who can act. . The sought after type: 'He's that 30-to-40 charismatic guy with some testosterone that women want to sleep with and men want to drink with,' says Marc Hirschfeld, executive VP of casting for NBC. . .
Although leading men have always been tough to find, several entertainment industry trends are creating the intense demand for these actors. One is the renewed popularity of dramas based on strong characters, with stories that stretch across full seasons. . .That has led to a boom in new pilots that require attractive men who have the skills to play a character who evolves over time. Moreover, some people in the business say there are more drama roles to cast than there were two years ago because the reality-TV craze has cooled."
"Another factor boosting demand for serious but studly actors is that more cable channels, include Sci Fi, TNT and FX, are producing original dramas. And as more movie actors take TV parts, the pool of leading men deemed "bankable" enough to carry a major network show is further shrinking." [Didn't Schechner just contradict himself? Doesn't it mean when a guy like Sean Bean --who I fell in love with on Sharpe's Adventures, before Hollywood kept casting him as a villain --has been cast for a cable series that the pool has expanded?]
He sees the pool having expanded with "adorkable" TV characters [though his example of Jason Lee on My Name Is Earl is quizzical - no mention of "Seth Cohen" on The O.C.]. "A new crop of old-style stubbled guys have broken out of the clutter to anchor some of TV's most-watched shows. . .That has raised demand for more men like them, even as the overall supply is dwindling. 'Leading actors today are more boyish,' says Marcia Shulman, executive VP of casting for Fox Broadcasting. . .'I really want to bring real men to television.'"
"'The bottom line is that not every network can get the man it wants. 'Sometimes you can get somebody who has the look, but they don't have the [acting] chops,' says Debi Manwiller, an independent casting director. . . 'Or somebody has the chops, but you can't sell them to the network. Those people with both-they don't grow on trees.'" [No surprise that they are looking overseas, as in Brotherhood and the new guy on The Shield, as the same thing is happening in the movies viz. Aussie actor/hunks like Russell Crowe.]
I also like to spot stars first on TV. Like Clive Owen who I first I fell for him on Chancer (out on DVD) and Second Sight mystery series, and check out some of the classy series of noir BMW commercials that were really ads for why Clive could have been the James Bond after Pierce Brosnan. Complete info on Clive at the most intelligent fan site. For other hunky Brits from TV check out this fan site, though it's no longer updated. (updated 8/30/2009)
Costumes-that-Come-Off Dramas Current to Gone:
Game of Thrones (on HBO, 5 seasons on DVD) Even Peter Dinklage is a hunk here, all in leather, he's brilliant! When different accents and looks, it took me awhile to pick out some of my favorite TV hunks – there's "Sharpe" (Sean Bean); "Carcetti" from The Wire (Aidan Gillen); Iain Glen of Glasgow Kiss; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from New Amsterdam; ever-the-alien-warrior Jason Momoa of Stargate: Atlantis; Charles Dance from The Jewel in the Crown-- and even a member of my HALL OF DAMES Lena Headey of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as a villain (who does get miserable comeuppance). What with scenes that fans call "sexposition" (explicit nudity amidst plot background discussion) and heroes getting killed off, I was impaled and watched every extra HBO offered online and on demand. But I also needed that to figure out the stories and characters – turns out Dr. Younger was into it too – he lent me his copies of the book as he's speed reading through them, but meanwhile he explained the finer elements of the plot I missed when I was gawking at the goings-on. With the 2nd season, I’m cheering 2 more Stark men getting stark, “Jon Snow” (played by Kit Harrington) and “Robb Stark” (played by Richard Madden), plus the doomed gay “King Renly” (played by Gethin Anthony). Interesting how all the male recappers get so impatient through the romantic scenes with these guys and just want the battles. However, I do not agree with the feminist uproar about the brutality vs. women in the series – I think it well reflects a medieval society. Let alone that by the end of Season 6, the women were so in the ascendancy at all corners of the kingdoms, that this could be re-categorized! (While some actresses were insisting on less nudity.) Similarly, I don’t protest the many assassinations of male characters I was in love with – all were felled tragically from their tragic flaws, no matter how heroic or noble were those flaws. And one heart throb was brought back to life! (updated 6/27/2015)
The Vikings (on History, 3 seasons on DVD) “Shield Maiden Lagertha” (played by Katheryn Winnick) is one tough Scandinavian warrior/wife/mother, but Travis Fimmel is mesmerizing as “Ragnar Lothbrok”, his brother “Rollo” (Clive Standen) is heart-breaking in all his agonies, and, in Season 2, Law and Order Assistant D.A. Linus Roache has transformed into sexy “King Ecbert” as a whole ‘nother SVU. “Ragnar”s son “Bjorn” grew up good, into Alexander Ludwig. But I can’t even keep track of who gets killed off in the dark and blood! Kurt Sutter’s The Bastard Executioner (FX) hasn’t quite matched up, even with prominent women characters, such as Sutter creating for his wife Katey Sagal a witch crone with an odd accent, and not just because Stephen Moyer (of my faves True Blood and NY-LON) plays a twisted scheming chancellor, and Lee Jones is a nicely rugged titular character. (updated 9/25/2015)
The Last Kingdom (on BBC America) Based on a series of Bernard Cornwell “Saxon Stories” I haven’t read, this version of Danes vs. early Anglo-Saxons from the Brit point-of-view shapes up as involving, helped, of course, by Alexander Dreymon as “Uhtred”. (10/12/2015)
Sweaty pirates in the Caribbean: Black Sails (on Starz, 2 seasons on DVD) Way too complicated machinations for power in 1715 West Indies, but much as I should have appreciated that the (bi-sexual) women are full-bodied in charge, I got drawn in by “Captain Flint” (Toby Stephens), “John Silver” (Luke Arnold), and “Captain Charles Vane” (the ever-willing to be full-frontal nude Zach McGowan). Whatta twist in Season 2 with the flashbacks! And Crossbones (on NBC) -- I tuned in to see John Malkovich as “Blackbeard”, but was surprised how sexy curly-haired Richard Coyle was as “Tom Lowe”, when I remember him more as the Welsh fool on the original Coupling. Then I started noticing how appealing Peter Stebbings was as his romantic rival “James Balfour” and David Hoflin as “Charlie Rider”.(updated 11/4/2015)
The Borgias (on Showtime. All seasons on DVD) Who knew popes and cardinals could be so sexy outside of Balzac? I do root for the Borgia brother “Cesare” (played by François Arnaud) over “Juan” (played by David Oakes). Props to doing their own horseback racing and sword fighting. No wonder the daughter fell for “Paolo” the stable boy – he was played by “Freddie” from (Luke Pasqualino) of Skins U.K. 3rd and 4th seasons. In the 2nd season, props to aristocratic cougar “Caterina Sforza” (played by Gina McKee) for seducing “Cesare” . (updated 8/7/2013)
Spartacus (on Starz, the full 3 seasons and the prequel are out on DVD.) The costumes are so skimpy on the men, let alone the half-naked women, that it's hard to even count it as a costume drama. The first season sub-title is more apt: Blood and Sand. I am totally hooked! So many Antipodeans probably has something to do with how it grabs my attention, besides Andy Whitfield (R.I.P.) as the title gladiator, but with New Zealander Manu Bennett as "Crixus" for a powerful love affair with fellow slave "Naevia" (Lesley-Ann Brandt, who was replaced with far less chemistry by Cynthia Addai-Robinson), and curly-topped Jai Courtney as doomed "Varro". And is John Hannah an evil bastard or what! Such a slave driver, literally! The Prequel Gods of the Arena (out on DVD) answered lots of questions as to how they all got there. In the 2nd season Vengeance (out on DVD) , the re-cast actors really didn’t have the same chemistry, so I got much more interested in “Gannicus” (Dustin Clare). Then the final season War of the Damned added a sexy enemy in Julius Caeser (played by Todd Lasance), but they show more sex scenes with the terrific actor Simon Merrells in bed, though, heck, I care less about seeing “Marcus Crassus” with his too loyal slave. (updated 9/1/2013)
The Tudors (originally on Showtime, replaying on BBC America, probably with a lot of cuts. All 4 seasons on DVD.) Heck Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (who I’ve been following since Bend It Like Beckham into Match Point, and even the druggie The Tesseract, is quite entertaining as a young Henry VIII scheming and bedding, and bedding and scheming, and bedding. Nice costumes and horse riding. And there’s even occasional accurate history, but I cannot keep the schemers straight. I do like his entourage of hunky guys, even if I can’t their names straight as he keeps promoting them to different noble titles, despite that tracing the Tudor family tree was actually a 6th grade obsession of mine. But I now find myself mostly looking forward to seeing Henry Cavill, not only when he’s getting it on with the king’s sister, but also when he keeps getting all sweaty horizontally, such as in a preventive technique to keep away “the sweating sickness” as after he derisively tells his partner Tell your husband to lick it off. Erin Daly in TV Guide 4/14/2007 cited him as a “crush”: “With his irresistible appeal and beguiling charm, he’s got us swooning as the amorous Charles Brandon. . . brings smoldering good looks and a real affability to the role of the Duke of Suffolk, King Henry’s Best Chum and the court’s most notorious womanizer. And since it is pay cable, Cavill regularly sheds his clothes (woo-hoo) for sex scenes that leave little to the imagination.” (updated 5/28/2012)
Robin Hood (on BBC America; all 3 seasons on DVD.) Not my favorite TV version, that was the earlier Celtic-myth-intensive one shown originally as Robin of Sherwood with Michael Praed morphing into Jason Connery (shown here on some PBS outlets, full series available in DVD box set). This one throws in lots of contemporary jokes, including the punny episode titles, modern references and political correctness. Bad sign when I’m actually rooting for “Sir Guy of Gisborne” because he’s played by Richard Armitage who I so fell in love with in North and South that I even bought a used copy of the book, which I, um, haven’t read yet, and then the uncut mini-series on DVD. So it was amusing that he was named in 2012 an MTV One to Watch because he’ll be in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. But yeah Jonas Armstrong is cute and appealing enough, and while he finally won over this very stubborn Maid Marion who is really ticked off that he went off to the Holy Land, the romance is more declared than heat-generating, though there were some kisses in the 2nd season. There were some surprising relationship twists by the last season. (updated 1/19/2012)
Sharpe's Adventures (BBC America sometimes repeat the summer marathon, all on DVD, and there's always rumors of new ones) I luxuriated in the Summer of Sharpe of weekly repeats. I had no idea there were 15 some episodes in this action-adventure Napoleonic War romance wherein I was first introduced to a dashing, tousled, up-from-the-ranks Sean Bean before he got stuck in Brit Villain mode in the movies, as we're getting to see many episodes that weren't previously shown here on PBS or the History Channel, that led to a new episode set in India. (I'd been collecting the Bernard Cornwell books at used stores meaning to read them some time, as they are the basis for the series.) Just hearing the opening theme music, let alone the closing ballad thrills me. Albeit we see these cut up to fit into a commercial and promotion-filled 2-hour time period -- one of my all time favorite TV scenes was massacred as the gorgeous Spanish guerrilla leader runs into smoke-filled cannon fire, emerging to slowly strip off first her gun belt then almost everything else as she comes forward to "Sharpe"s arms and tackles him down into the hay - and we find out she's his common-law wife (and mother of his baby, though the series forgets that as he rivals James Bond in bedding an astonishing number of women who happen to show up in war-torn Spain, France, Belgium and India in 1813). Hey, you can cut some of the battle times but leave in the romance! I seem to be the only one in the world that didn't know that Bean married the second wife in real life too - with the usual death-knell for on-screen chemistry, let alone off-screen divorce. (updated 8/30/2009)
Rome (HBO, both seasons out on DVD and repeated frequently and On Demand) The first season was so much history and sadism, but I kept watching for the love lives and loyalties of fictional gladiator friends, played by the immensely appealing Kevin McKidd as “Lucius Vorenus” and Ray Stevenson as “Titus Pullo – and as soon as HBO cancelled the show legions of female casting agents showed up at their phones offering TV pilots. (updated 7/5/2007)
Crime Does Pay: Current to Gone
Spotless (British series on Esquire) Sure “Jean Bastière” (played by Marc-André Grondin) is adorable, but he’s morally reprehensible even before he starts working for a gangster “Nelson Clay” (Brendan Doyle playing the opposite of Downton Abbey), from cheating on his wife and mother of his children with a sexy young mistress and being haunted by a childhood murder. But the Dexter-like twist of a crime-scene cleaner cleaning up psychopathic mob murders is ghoulishly fun. (12/10/2015)
Banshee (On Cinemax. 3 seasons on DVD.) Hmm, violent cop or really violent criminal? Antony Starr pulls off ex-con “Lucas Hood” posing as a sheriff in the titular town, though his torch for his ex (Ivana Milicevic) (and now D.A.’s wife – whoa) that brought him there would be more convincing if he wasn’t bedding way too many too-young, including underage, women as well. But the villains are wowzers: Ben Cross as a Ukrainian-American mobster daddy and Ulrich Thomsen, who I loved in Danish movies since Adam’s Apples (Adams æbler), as apostate Amish gangster (that’s a new angle!) “Kai Procter”. Really sadistic violence, but crazy compelling, complicated characters, including a helpful tranny tekkie (also a new angle) played by Hoon Lee. (updated 1/1/2016)
White Collar (On USA, eventually streams on Hulu. 4 seasons on DVD.) Finally a breezy show with Matthew Bomer where he appears in every episode and doesn't get quickly cancelled! Proof that it is really “filmed” in NYC was the “Shoot the Moon” episode in Season 4 set in the NY Hall of Science nearby in Queens, where My Son the PhD Chemist, was a high-school explainer, before the rest of the season focused on the Empire State Building like a Jack Finney novel. (updated 9/28/2013)
Leverage (On TNT, summers, 5 seasons on DVD) Finally, a series with Christian Kane that I'm neither embarrassed to watch nor quickly disappears (don't ask how many "B" TV movies I've been watching on cable to see him and of course like so many of my favorites he has a rockin' band (nice to see that used with a wink and a nod in "The Studio Job" episode with his iTunes-ready song ""Thinking of You"-- oy will I bother to pay money to see crappy movies like Life Or Something Like It or Just Married just for him? Whew, no! But TV's Crooked E was demonstrated his potential). This one succeeds probably because these con men hustle for the screwed-over little guys in the downturned economy. (updated 9/17/2013) But this series is a lot like cancelled ones I enjoyed:
Hustle (Was on AMC, with a length of 1 hour 15 minutes with commercials but repeated overnight and other times for only one hour length. Some PBS stations rerunning it to fit in 1-hour slots. 4 seasons on DVD. Last shown was 4th season of 6 episodes, all out on DVD,– but minus Adrian Lester as it moved to L.A.) A Brit co-production about Robin Hood-like con men (with them as the poor) that's a throwback to '60's shows like The Avengers but stylishly done by Adrian Lester (who I've also discovered in reruns was in an arc on Girlfriends), Robert Vaughan and that quirky bit of rough Mark Warren who did tragically doomed so well on The Vice. Nice to see the usually such a sweet guy Max Beesly of Bodies as the chick's nefarious ex. (updated 6/9/2011)
NBC's Heist, cancelled so fast that we never saw the final titular event, was a weak imitation but also had a visually entertaining component with Dougray Scott, Steve Harris and the always worth watching Seymour Cassel. FX's Thief cancelled series quickly converted into a mini-series was darker, and earned Andre Braugher an Emmy.
Smith (quickly cancelled but CBS streamed all the filmed and summarized the rest of the scripts that completed their crimes) was even more imitative but with mucho eye candy of newly toned Simon Baker with long hair, Jonny Lee Miller who got to keep his native accent for the show (whew, we got spared seeing them eliminated but not before we got lots of shirtless scenes), Ray Liotta and Frankie G.
The Kill Point is the first series I’ve ever watched on Spike TV, that some call “Lifetime for Men” and it dupes almost every other violent crime/thief/hostage series/movie ever, but with a heck of a lot of actors I watch even mediocre shows for, like Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo and Frank Grillo, and the dialogue is B-movie cool enough. (updated 7/28/2007)
Crime Doesn't Pay Current to Gone - There are plenty of cop shows that aren't outstanding, but worth watching just for the handsome cast:
Aquarius (10 episodes binged on NBC and Hulu; NC-17 version I haven’t watched on iTunes, that is probably on the DVD) What I thought was going to be a re-make of Helter Skelter about the Charles Manson crime spree, turns out to be a policier set within late 1960’s San Francisco that incorporates Manson (played by Game of Thrones casualty Gethin Anthony), played out amidst sexism, domestic violence, racism, blockbusting, police brutality, the Black Panthers, Viet Nam War, conservative California politics, and a whole lot of hallucinogens. After I couldn’t even look at David Duchovny anymore after Californication, such that I didn’t even bother to watch its final season, he’s cynically good as “Detective Sam Hodiak”. His young undercover partner “Det. Brian Shafe” (played by the Grey Damon), a Viet vet in a bi-racial marriage, is captivating. (updated 9/25/2015)
Longmire (3 seasons on A & E out on DVD, 4th season on Netflix) Got better and better, not only with its rugged middle-aged titular Western lawman (played by Robert Taylor), his unethical deputy “Branch” (played by Bailey Chase, who I quite liked in Saving Grace) who also got more and more complex. Particularly outstanding was the unique diversity of contemporary Native American characters, on and off the reservation in Wyoming, some even played by indigenous actors. I’ll have to read Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire Mysteries series to continue some of the feeling, but with none of the visual landscape. (updated 5/6/2015)
Murdoch Mysteries/The Artful Detective (Canadian series shown in the U.S. on Ovation, but future availability may only be on Acorn’s subscription stream) Set in the Toronto Constabulary at the turn of the 20th century, the gimmick is that this is a time of change in society and technology, for both the stolid, Catholic, “Detective William Murdoch” (played by the handsome Yannick Bossom) in solving new kinds of crimes with new means and motives, challenged by pretty, bold, gorgeously dressed, “Dr. Julia Ogden” (played by Hélène Joy), whose character goes through a lot more changes than his over the seasons. More enjoyable than groundbreaking in any way, the incorporation of historical figures and events is particularly fun. (updated 6/3/2015)
With Ripper Street (3 seasons on DVD), BBC, then, turned around and combined elements of this series and its Ripper-imitator-fascination in Whitechapel, for a period birth-of-detectives/forensics series. But, even better, “Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake” is played Jerome Flynn, who is also “Bron” on Game of Thrones, and introduces, as a medical ex-Pinkerton “Captain Homer Jackson”, Adam Rothenberg. (In the 1st season, I tracked the Jewish woman - "Deborah Goren”) (updated 6/30/2015)
With Luther (on BBC America, unfortunately edited for time, but 3 seasons out on DVD), it was great to watch The Wire’s Idris Elba get his own series to stretch a complex character, let alone in his native accent, as “DCI John Luther”, albeit surrounded by wacko serial killers. An extra bonus was his heartthrob younger deputy “Justin Ripley” (played by Warren Brown). Oh no! (updated 9/28/2013)
Justified (on FX – all 5 seasons on DVD) Pretty much 'nuf said that it's Elmore Leonard characters (though I haven't yet read the story it's based on) plus Timothy Olyphant, the hunky sheriff from Deadwood. Despite the confused chemistry with his blonde girlfriend and ex-wife, the series actually improved through its first season, once ex-The Shield's Walton Groggins' role as the dealer turned evangelist and then back to dealer "Boyd Chowder" expanded. (updated 6/3/2015)
The Glades (4 seasons on A &E, summers, 3 seasons on DVD) Aussie Matt Passmore (now there is a reason I should finally catch up with my McLeod's Daughters tapes and finish on DVD as the U.S. didn't play the whole Aussie series) is a charmer as clever ex-Chicago cop "Jim Longworth" exiled in a very atmospheric south Florida, with a friendly Latino coroner and a palpable longing for a harried Latino nurse/med student who has a kid, a husband in jail and a protective mother-in-law. The writing is better than TNT's Memphis Blue, though that has more eccentric characters and cooler use of local music. While the sexual tension consummated in the season 1 finale, the writers seem a bit confused how to keep it going, first bringing the husband back, then warning the cop away from him as a protected witness, then putting Kiele Sanchez on his work detail as a forensic nurse (huh? A first in cop or medical shows, I think, but she's good.) Plus bringing his ex-girlfriend cop down for unnecessary jealousy. (updated 9/28/2013)
Copper (2 seasons on BBC America and on DVD) Irresistible for me: with my appreciation of producer Tom Fontana and NYC history, with nice tidbits of real facts and situations inserted (such as anti-black riots and wealthy abortionists). I then very quickly became a fan of Tom Weston-Jones, who is given much more meatier to do here than in the medieval mini-series World Without End, as wounded Civil War veteran turned detective “Kevin Corcoran” in the old Five Points neighborhood and palling uptown with his ex-commander “Robert Morehouse” (played by Kyle Schmid, who was a prime reason I watched the vampire show Blood Ties). (updated 1/3/2014)
Low Winter Sun (on AMC) was almost too dark in its one season. Set in Detroit (recalling the dawn-of-the-golden-age-of-TV E Z Streets), with two murderous detectives: Mark Strong (unforgettable in the period gangster mini-series The Long Firm) as “Detective Frank Agnew” and Lennie James (so good as another damaged cop in the British Line of Duty, streaming on Hulu) as “Detective Joe Geddes” that they make the series worth watching as they investigate themselves for the crimes they’ve committed. (9/6/2013)
Southland (from NBC to TNT, all 5 seasons on DVD) Too bad that it's striving for artiness, grit and realism, which it doesn't quite achieve in its direct imitation of Boomtown and High Incident, let alone can't match up to cable with the likes of The Shield, because I mostly watch for Benjamin McKenzie and Kevin Alejandro, but I even stayed when he was gone. ( updated 8/7/2013)
Dark Blue (On TNT, summer Tuesdays at 10 pm) I mostly avoid Jerry Bruckheimer shows, but with less new fiction on in the summer I got to like seeing scruffy, more grown-up Logan Marshall-Green, who previously was only a recurring teen actor on other shows, with the added bonus of Dylan McDermott and Omari Hardwick, despite the not-too-credible plots. I watched A & E's similar one-season The Beast just for Travis Fimmel, but that was even more incomprehensible.
The Cleaner (On A & E summer Tuesdays at 10 pm, repeated, 1st season on DVD) Benjamin Bratt holds together the weekly depressing fight against addiction and makes it surprisingly watchable, with no easy solutions to his character's personal life either. (8/30/2009)
Robbery Homicide Division (cancelled from CBS -- even before the lead was arrested for alleged domestic violence. Unshown episodes were among the repeats on USA) Visually interesting in the Michael Mann style as he comes back to TV post-Miami Vice and Heat, the eye-candy is helped by an underutilized Canadian hunk David Cubitt (for whom I have watched many cancelled shows -- American Embassy, Michael Hayes, an arc of That's Life and he fits in as a cop well here--though yet again with an addicted sibling, and will be in another series next season) and oh yeah the lead Tom Sizemore's interesting too. But this is all flash and no substance, with boring, extravagant Hollywood cases, to be just another cop show. (updated 4/20/2003)
Another form of guilty pleasure, on repeats when there's nothing else new on, is watching gruesome procedurals just for the hunks (even though the spokesperson for the NYC Medical Examiner’s office I spoke to when she called in for a WFUV public radio membership drive said zero of these shows are credible). As Lorne Manly described in “The New Middle Ages: TV’s Silver Age” in The New York Times 5/6/2007: “This approach favored multigenerational casting and, in dramas, surrounding a middle-aged authority figure (often grizzled) with a group of young, attractive acolytes. It appealed to younger viewers without driving away older ones. Take a look at CBS’s prime-time lineup, and you will find nine shows built on this boomer-and-the-cool-kids blueprint,” like the grim CSI: NY (CBS) that I sometimes watch for Carmine Giovinazzo and Gary Sinise (though I resent that it's not filmed in NYC like the L & O's are - the Hollywood set back alleys that don't exist in real NYC are a groaning give away), let alone all those new continuing stories of kidnappings, trials and other violent mayhem. (I never particularly liked CSI: Miami but after an absolutely ridiculously inaccurate episode on eminent domain as a murder motive, I won't even watch for its moderate eye candy.) I even watched CSI temporarily for Liev Schreiber’s arc. I watched L & O: SVU for the not-used-enough Adam Beach arc, and L & O for Jeremy Sisto partnering with Jesse Martin, and Sam Waterston is the Acting D.A. (though my sons prefer the eternal Jerry Orbach repeats). BBC America had an older Hunk Fest in Ultimate Force on Nitro Tuesday, noteworthy amidst its imitation American-style violence is that the hunks have all gone on to more interesting roles. (updated 8/30/2009)
Geek Love Maybe it started with the irresistible “Jim” on the American The Office (episodes and extras streaming online), but a trio of lovable not-so-losers blossomed on hour-longs on network TV in 2007 that managed to be both funny satires and poignant. But only one lasted to a third season:
Chuck (was on NBC, all 5 seasons on DVD, and as complete collection.) I thought producer Josh Schwartz would run out of steam on the premise after a couple of episodes, but Zachary Levi is so adorable as the head of the Nerd Herd at the Buy More electronics store pulled into assisting NSA and CIA spies (Adam Baldwin is hilarious spoofing his Firefly-type roles), that I almost don’t miss “Bryce” (Matthew Bomer of several cancelled shows) when he comes and goes in flashbacks and re-births. And not just because I know a young man who was a Mac Genius at a retail store a lot like this one. I’m not a shipper of “Chuck Bartowski” with “Sarah” as the spy undercover in the mall. (updated 9/7/2010)
Reaper (was on the CW. 2 seasons on DVD.) Yeah, it’s fun having Ray Wise be a Ray Walston-like Devil (again?), and Tyler Labine do his Jack Black thing as best friend “Sock”, but my heart was taken by the Work Bench’s most soul-fully beset employee “Sam” (played by the adorable Bret Harrison) pining for Missy Peregrym’s “Andi” while he traps Evil escaped from hell. I looked forward to him returning the containment vessels every episode at a post office that seems to have the same awful service as my local one. (updated 10/27/2012)
Pushing Daisies (was on ABC, 2 seasons on DVD.) I’m totally charmed by Lee Pace’s Pie Maker Ned, who is doomed not to be able re-touch the Jewish Love of His Life. Chi McBride is hysterical in a very atypical role for him as a sour knitting detective. But combined with Jim Dale’s Harry Potter-like (as in the audio books of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and so on) that emphasizes the magic touches and animated production design, the whole quirky thing is a sheer joy, that I’ve been delighted that one of my favorite producers Bryan Fuller was to sustain in one of his first hits, even if it was finally done in by network scheduling. (updated 8/30/2009)
Mother Magnet Young Heartthrobs: Why teen shows can appeal to a crone: from Reunion on 9/22/05 - "1987" episode by producer Jon Harmon Feldman (who has made a career out of high school angst):
Jenna (Amanda Righetti): Just when you think you're out of high school, you keep getting sucked back in.
Carla (Chyler Leigh): Something tells me that you never really escape high school. It just haunts you for the rest of your life... .
Aaron (Dave Annable): Have you ever felt like you are some place and the whole time you feel like you should be someplace else?
Carla: Yeah, it's called high school.
Unlike TV executives and most TV commentators, Diane Werts of Newsday understands "fantasizing mother magnets" as shows that a woman's inner 14-year-old watches:
Starting with Dawson's Creek (whole series on DVD, repeating on The N) to The CW shows despite the also silly soap opera plots, like the ludicrously unrealistic basketball and fashion careers on One Tree Hill (Monday nights at 9 pm on The CW, 6 seasons on DVD and 3 soundtracks out soundtracks. Watch Chad’s changing hair styles as SoapNet repeats the series from the beginning.) The series got oddly into 7th Heaven mode in promoting early marriage as some sort of solution to teen sex, though amazingly I cared more about “Nathan” and “Haley” working than the yuck factor of Chad avoiding his co-star/ex from their short-lived marriage what with their limited acting skills. By the time in 2008 they jumped four years into the future, I also cared about "Brooke" and "Julian", as they jump another year and half in 2009.
I am one of only a handful of people (all right, women) in the U.S.A. who watched BOTH OTH and Unscripted on HBO (out on DVD) such that I'm the only one who has a soft spot for Bryan Greenberg already though it's confusing because evidently the latter was made before his OTH gig, so that's all the more poignant if that didn't help his career or why he didn't stay as a WB Boy to appear on their other series after his character fled NC. Evidently ABC noticed because they starred him in October Road for two seasons. (2 seasons on DVD, which includes an epilogue that wraps up the series, and now Streaming) which had other easy eye candy as well in Geoffrey Stults, Big Cat and a wasted Tom Berenger. Then the come-and-gone imitators on The N and ABC Family, like Wildfire (3 seasons on DVD) The plots made as much sense as changing characters’ ages, but I liked watching the regular young 'uns (Ryan Sypek and Micah Alberti) and the grown-ups in recurring roles, like Alex Carter, who seems to be on almost all these kinds of shows, the underused Greg Serano as Pablo, and Eric Winter as "R.J. Blake" the killed off rodeo guy. (updated 9/17/2012)
10 Things I Hate About You (summer Tuesdays on ABC Family at 8 pm, with overnight repeats, 1st season on DVD) is a weak imitation of the movie, and it's not as if Ethan Peck as an updated Teen Verona can erase the memory of Heath Ledger, but he's mighty cute with an unnaturally deep voice and has only-pretending-to-be-a-bad-boy chemistry with this "Kat" Lindsay Straw. (updated 1/11/2010)
Make It or Break It is a mediocre girl power show (they are way too large to be gymnasts), but I was mostly watching for when Nico Tortorella showed up as "Razor", even when his character makes very little sense.
Secret Life of the American Teenager (summer Mondays on ABC Family at 8 pm, with overnight repeats. 2 seasons on DVD. ) The first two seasons were insufferably mediocre, in the tradition of creator Brenda Hampton's 7th Heaven But once the baby was born and the school counselor left, the impregnator "Ricky" (Daren Kagasoff) got more interesting as he struggled to mature, step up to be a father and juggle his active sex life. (updated 8/30/2009)
Sci Fi Shows: Now and Into Rerun Infinity-- Much as I'm a sci fi fan, I watch even unsuperior ones for the hunks:
The delightful but not silly new Doctor Who (5 seasons on DVD) with first Christopher Eccleson who then morphs into the Tenth Doctor David Tennant, and I'm even getting to like the next one, goes back and forth between BBC America and SyFy, and its off-shoot Torchwood (BBC America Saturday nights and On Demand, 2 seasons on DVD) with TV’s first bi-sexual sci fi hero. There was also a strong-female, family offshoot, - The Sarah Jane Adventures (3 seasons on DVD) by the same producer, shown for awhile on Sci Fi channel. (updated 1/3/2011)
Eureka (on summer Friday nights at 9 pm, repeated various times, 5 seasons on DVD) is charming, around Colin Ferguson and Niall Matter. (updated 7/13/2012)
Warehouse 13 (on SyFy, 4 seasons on DVD) A charmer that plays on one of my favorite images from a sci fi fantasy, the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, of a large government building where literary and mythic objects really are stored, with Eddie McClintock as a rugged "Secret Service agent" investigating misuse of the artifacts. Nice touch of making “H.G. Wells” both female and immortal. (updated 7/1/2013)
Best of the Ever Popular Alien Invasions that are all children of the classic series V that was remade for ABC.
Defiance (SyFy. 3 seasons on DVD.) (updated 1/1/2016)
Falling Skies (TNT. 3 seasons on DVD.) (updated 6/2/2014)
Re-running on SyFy Channel are one-season shows that it took me several months to keep straight: Surface (DVD has deleted scenes) I liked the brother who was channeling Richard Dreyfuss's character in Close Encounters and I cried when Nimrod got shot. Invasion (on DVD with deleted scenes) I way liked William Fichtner's sheriff even if I would have liked to have the cute high schooler's watery obsession with his wife get to continue with more implications. This I remembered as "the one with Eddie Cibrian and his dimples of Third Watch" vs. "The one with the single mother". At least they each lasted one full season, unlike the prematurely cancelled Threshold (on DVD with deleted scenes - TV Guide ran a summation from the creator on how he would have ended the series.
Brian Lowry in Canceled net serials leave viewers hanging in Variety 5/29/2006 asked: . . .[W]here's the wrap-up episode?. . . The hard-to-answer question, though, is whether those viewers . . whether, once hooked on a program, they would be willing to help finance a legitimate finale instead of stranding their curiosity in limbo. This debate also circles back to complicated issues facing the industry regarding what viewers will actually buy. Would 250,000 fans of . . .the aforementioned trio pony up $10 for a DVD to achieve closure? Barring that, would they settle for a graphic novel, or even a detailed blog, where the producers outline where the series ultimately would have gone? Hey, if you've ever been to San Diego's annual Comic-Con, it's not such a far-fetched idea. Jonas Pate, who co-created Surface with his brother Josh, says they did have a 'master plan' for the show that theoretically could have been truncated into a two-hour finale, which, at the least, might have bumped up potential DVD sales. . . This much is clear: As old models break down, the traditional TV habit of building equity in a concept and then blithely throwing it away seems inefficient at best. And while CBS chairman Leslie Moonves was right when he said, 'A bad show doesn't get any better on a 2-inch screen,' one of the allures of new media is that they don't require network TV's critical mass, offering the means to wring mileage (and maybe a modest profit) out of lesser properties. Until someone cracks that code, however, viewers can only speculate about TV's latest wave of serialized invaders, who were thwarted by the Nielsens before their fictional heroes could do the job. Because while a good cliffhanger can be tantalizing, nobody likes being left dangling forever, even by a bad one." Meanwhile the Summer TV Television Critics Association press interviews were all down on such shows because the inevitable cancellation was going to frustrate everyone -- how negative!
Roswell (repeats on the SyFy Channel. Soundtrack and all episodes out on DVD - but warning about the music on the DVD according to John Lippman in "Vintage TV Faces the Music" in The Wall Street Journal May 5, 2006: "same. . .tack was taken by Fox for the DVD version of Roswell about alien teenagers stuck on Earth. Songs by hit artists such as Hole, Beck and Counting Crows have been replaced with songs by virtual unknowns Eleventeen, Goldo, and Glen Phillips, respectively, among many others.") It started out as a metaphor for those high school years as alien territory (and the older looking cast barely attended by the time of their graduation), it ended up as a good-looking sci fi adventure. What's this TV epidemic of barely high school graduates getting married? It's bad enough on Seventh Heaven, where at least marriage is an allusion to sex. And didn't the third season renewal of the romance contradict the warning from the Max From the Future that Liz and Max together would doom his planet? Definitive fan websites: Crashdown and Roswell oracle. (updated 10/31/2015)
Ever Popular Apocalypse Coming, from nuclear war to "global violence"
Jericho (Cancelled after a 2nd season miraculous revival from the dead by CBS in response to fan protests. Both seasons on DVD. The CW and SyFy Channel rerunning.) I wouldn't mind the world ending with a bang instead of a whimper if the last hunk I looked at was Skeet Ulrich (yeah, I even watched the quickly cancelled Miracles just for him, let alone the Hallmark Hall of Fame-type romance movie The Magic of Ordinary Days and Into the West mini-series)- and the romantic quadrangle with the brunette science teacher and his blonde old high school sweetheart with her lost and found fiancé is appealing. So glad that city sophisticate IRS agent Alicia Coppola’s “Mimi” and adorable farmer "Stanley" (Brad Beyer) got together – with him teasingly calling their “tabloid name” “Steamy” – but heck then the writers sent him away, boo, and once he came back the chemistry was too conventional. The web extras weren't all that illuminating, though I didn't checked the producers' commentary. (updated 8/30/2009)
But the fans were quite upset over the cancellation and the documentation of the campaign and resurrection were unusual: in The New York Times, 5/30/2007: End-of-Days Fidelity for Jericho by Virgina Hefferman (fair use excerpt): "The problem with the proposition that television is an art is that art is meant to be deathless, while television shows are always being canceled. . . Then there are hour long shows. Even the plainest network drama in these days of The Wire and Nip/Tuck sets up mortal stakes — with plane crashes, tanks, spinal-cord injuries, point-blank executions — as well as tormented characters invented to seize the brain. . .These shows ask more than the comedies do: they don’t demand friendship as much as fealty. In an unsuccessful drama this ambition seems laughable. In a successful one it just works. You fall in thrall. You accept the series as your master. . . .Those Jericho people are way, way, way in the denial phase of grief. As you can imagine, fans of a postapocalyptic survivalist show — especially those who have not quite faced that Rover’s with the angels in heaven now, right, Mommy? — have a tendency to be somewhat defensive. Vehement. Sensitive. Jericho lovers write fan fiction, original stories based on the show’s characters. They argue over fine points. They make knowing, intimate references. They pull off stunts and skits that pick up on the attitude and logic of the show. They haze outsiders. They embark on campaigns. Lately, too, they buy nuts: more than 26,000 pounds so far, nearly all of them roasted peanuts from an online retailer called NutsOnline.com. That’s 13 tons. These nuts are shipped in boxes to CBS executives, who fans persist in believing might bring the low-rated Jericho back to prime time.
Just as other battles — for Everwood, Arrested Development, Veronica Mars— have taken on the particular character of the show being fought for, so the one for Jericho has been put in terms you might expect from people who have been watching an embattled community in Kansas fight to survive after the nuclear destruction of major American cities. For some the war seems more than a little holy: it pits an endangered home-and-hearth drama set on the Plains against American Idol, a chintzy Hollywood reality competition that is invariably called a “juggernaut.” . . . Arguably, though, Jericho fans are just television fans at their most fannish, meaning (still, and after all these years) most Trekkie-like. Fans of Star Trek continue to represent the gold standard for American fandom. . .In videos, on message boards and in e-mail messages came the rallying cry: Nuts. The idea crystallized quickly: “Say nuts to CBS.” The quaint use of nuts to mean both “that’s rubbish” and “go jump in a lake” came to fans from the final episode of the series, called “Why We Fight,” after the award-winning propaganda films by Frank Capra. . . . No wonder some of the first fans to protest the cancellation recut the final episode with Jake and the boys fighting CBS. They uploaded their efforts to YouTube, and began the supremely popular “Nuts to CBS” campaign. How CBS thought it could peddle heady patriotic stuff like this — not to mention run a series with episodes titled “Semper Fidelis,” “One if by Land” and “Coalition of the Willing,” if that gives a stronger sense of the soul of the series — and not expect a citizen-army to form in the show’s defense is folly. It’s almost like creating Vulcans, the Enterprise and Starfleet and not anticipating that some children of the ’60s and ’70s, who didn’t feel altogether embraced by life on Earth, might see themselves in the mirror of that new universe and devote hours, days and years of their young lives to ensure its survival."
Another apocalypse was sweetly done in Three Moons Over Milford (one season on ABC Family) which is a bit goofy but Rob Boltin is mighty appealing, especially once the high school girlfriend split. (updated 12/10/2007)
Ever Popular Conspiracies:
Fringe (on Fox, Thursdays at 9 pm. 4 seasons on DVD) is virtually a re-make of The X Files, but I like watching Joshua Jackson and NYC-filmed scenes pretending to be Boston and other sites. (updated 9/11/2012)
Dollhouse (was on Fox. Both seasons on DVD.) I first watched because this is a Joss Whedon show, then because one of my fave hunks from Battlestar Galactica Tahmoh Penikett was on, and by the end of the first season he was on more and more, just as the story lines were heating up, until it ended in mass confusion. (updated 10/11/2010)
John Doe (cancelled from Fox, repeats sometimes on SyFy Channel, complete season on DVD) It took me awhile to accept the show past its hokey premise of the mystery genius with amnesia, and then it got all mystery complicated about his origins. But it also took me awhile to get into The Pretender which it imitates a lot. But gosh tall, dark and handsome Dominic Purcell is appealing (pre-Prison Break), and then I found out he's Australian. And then they added Jayne Brook for some sparring and then I was on board, though TPTB brought in another actress for romantic interest for awhile. But then they keep throwing in his confusing relationship with his teenage girl assistant which can be creepy rather than fraternal. I preferred the mystery-solving to the conspiracy stuff. (updated 9/14/2010)
Veritas: The Quest (disappeared from ABC -- there are doubtless some unshown episodes that could yet turn up somewhere like the SyFy Channel) is absolutely third-rate Indiana Jones done by the same people who did Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- but heck they're the people who figured out that Daniel Craig was a hunk. And they put square-jawed Canadian Alex Carter on a regular network series, a fave of mine from the second season of Traders, and who now appears occasionally on CSI as a cop, though they nastily eliminated Nicholas Lea's, from X Files promising relationship with "Catherine." And there's the goateed devilish Eric Balfour from the first seasons of Six Feet Under and 24. And even Ryan Merriman, the child flashback of Jared on The Pretender, has grown into an almost Mrs. Robinson-worthy teen. Even spooky Arnold Vosloo is fun to watch. Though the romance potential didn't look too promising as the women were pretty boring - they're not going to have the graduate student tutor as jealousy bait between father and son are they? (updated 8/31/2009)
More Than the Ever Popular Pigs in Space:
Stargate: SG1 (in syndication on odd times on the weekends on broadcast channels, rerun irregularly on SyFy Channel (online deleted scenes and other extras, 10 seasons worth on DVD) It does help to keep up as the mythology is mind-boggling, literally, to follow; direct to DVD movies tied up the cliffhanger conclusion of the final season and were later on SyFy. The series closed out the last few season with a lively Welcome Back! for Farscape's Ben Browder and Claudia Black
Stargate: Atlantis (all 5 seasons on DVD) Ironically added cast member Jason Momoa was more effective here as an alien than he has been in soaps set in his native Hawaii. Stargate: Universe (1.5 seasons on DVD) spun off much darker and very confusing, but at least there was occasional sex and romance. I pretty much kept watching for Brian J. Smith as “Lt. Mathew Scott”, though he later didn’t to seem as sexy in today’s fictional universe of Gossip Girl. (updated 11/28/2011)
the dark, extremely cool-looking new Battlestar Galactica (all seasons on DVD) where religious wars with fanatic occupying "toasters" led to suicide bombing resisters. Season 3 featured several episodes for Us Girls in line with a mainstream move to Sunday night. For example, “The Woman King” as directed by Michael Rymer had several gratuitous scenes of more than half-naked Tahmoh Penikett as “Helo” contemplating serious issues of racism. Hey, I wasn't just watching this for Jamie Bamber’s half-naked scenes. (updated 8/30/2009)
Firefly (Sci Fi Channel reruns the series at different times, including three episodes never aired on Fox that are also on the DVD. Movie version is Serenity.) This has none of the intellectual earmarks of its creators, Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Tim Minear who was also associated with The X Files. It started as just a run-of-the-mill could be on weekend-syndication sci fi show with no shortage of clichés and steals from other sci fi shows. But oh heck the male eye candy (like Sean Maher, who I'm supposed to believe is a doctor and no longer a rookie cop or Wall Street broker like on his last failed Fox shows, and the captain played by Nathan Fillion, who is a prime reason I watched Fox’s Drive) and the jokes are worth the ride. I like the sexual tension hanging in the air between the dense doctor and the girl mechanic, as well as with the captain and the call girl, er Companion. (updated 8/30/2009)
Ever Popular Special People Among Us:
Arrow (on CW from Fall 2012 and streaming free a week later on Hulu) So the Green Arrow is more vigilante with super-skills than super-hero, and I still prefer Justin Hartley's "Oliver Queen" on Smallville, who was oddly reduced to a nerd-in-a-romantic-triangle this season instead on Emily Owens, M.D., and I’m having trouble following the complicated DC Comic conspiracies, but deadpan Stephen Amell is worth watching, especially when he’s with “The Huntress”. I’m also monitoring Felicity Smoak as a Jewish woman character in the first season. (updated 3/18/2015)
Grimm (on NBC and streaming, 4 seasons on DVD) Such dark versions of the fairy tales, but, David Giuntoli is such a cutie as the “Grimm” who can see the supernatural beasts among us. I was on tenterhooks in the 2nd season to see if “Juliet” would get her bewitched memory back to re-pair with him – loved the scene where his image was casually everywhere in their house like ghosts of good times past, minus much sex though. I am having a bit of trouble following the royal, and what-not, mythology, which made the episode with a golem even more special. (updated 9/25/2015)
Haven (on SyFy. 4 seasons on DVD, eventually streaming on Hulu) has a strong woman lead, but heck I’m really watching for Lucas Bryant as the Gary Cooper-ish sheriff and Eric Balfour as a rogue on a boat. (updated 9/25/2015)
Alphas (on SyFy, both seasons on DVD) What raises this above a completely typical story line about the genetically enhanced hunting down their dangerous brethren is David Strathairn, slumming from his usually classy movies as the boss with the ethically conflicting role of also being his special-abilities employees’ shrink, and Warren Christie, who with a military buzz cut it took me awhile to recognize from other shows I’ve watched mostly for him, so thank goodness he grew his hair out for the 2nd season, is so irresistible with his honing-in special ability that even the mind-controller lovely is tempted into more sexual spice than usual for this genre – hopefully their relationship won’t be quashed. Ryan Cartwright makes an adorable autistic geek. Azita Ghanizada also adds an unusual Persian ethnic mix. (updated 7/28/2013)
Misfits (all 5 seasons streaming on Hulu only for 18+, so is probably censored when on on Logo, let alone the planned American re-make. 3 seasons on DVD.) Who knew that sci fi could have nudity and profanity? Evidently on British TV, even if they’re not particularly hunky. (updated 11/27/2013)
Heroes (was on NBC all 4 seasons on DVD, rerunning on G4; returning as a web series and mini-series Heroes: Reborn to NBC in 2015) The accompanying online graphic novel is a must read for back story (and NBC has improved the connection to watch them in animated form, though I am way, way behind on reading the new ones each week). I enjoyed the repeats on G4, with geeky fun “Post Show” discussion for fans with creative staff and stars, but I'm not sure that's continuing. – I even bought the DVDs for the extras, like the unaired pilot. These are very attractive "special" people, especially Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia from many TV series, Santiago Cabrera and Sendhil Ramamurthy in a non-stereotyped Indian role, but even more so because the work of writers Tim Kring and David Semel, etc. is always creative. It has one of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman's coolest musical scores with what is identified only as "the voice of Shenkar", presumably regardless of spelling is probably the polymath world musician Lakshminarayana Shankar who crosses classical, pop and electronica boundaries with his music. The theme: "Save the cheerleader! Save the world!" had wonderful layers, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer's resonance of graphic novel satire, transgressiveness by turning male fantasies into women's empowerment and just plain funny. The 2007 theme was "Are you on the list?" Despite creator Kring’s mea culpa apology to fans, I liked the romance between Flying Boy and the Cheerleader and “Hiro”s 2nd season sojourn as a samurai (as someone who watches IFC’s Samurai Saturdays). Recommended fan site.
As of the “Kindness of Strangers” episode in Season 2, our Cousin Alan Blumenfeld is “Maury Parkman”, the Company-conspiratorial first generation father of mind-reading “Matt” (played by Greg Grunberg), nicknamed in the show’s lingo as “Nightmare Man” for what he can do to his victims (a step up from his usual casting as sleazy accountants, lawyers, salesmen, etc.). I monitored the Jewish woman hero "Hana Gitelman” (updated 2/23/2014)
Kyle XY (all 3 seasons from ABC Family on DVD, surely the 3 seasons will be rerun somewhere) Sure, it was a teen rip-off of John Doe (rerunning on SyFy Channel), but Matt Dallas as the titular mystery is surprisingly charming (and to see where he was before this, I searched the Web for the James Blunt video of "Goodbye My Lover" to see him make out with Mischa Barton, though he's barely, hunkily visible in glimpses), plus we got Nicolas Lea pretty much rerunning his The X Files role. Yeah we've seen before aliens or androids or whatever "Kyle" is discover sex, let alone the subtleties of human interactions, but "Diving In" by Julie Plec was the first as I recall in the context of a teen-age boy getting a hard-on amidst public adolescent dating rituals. Very amusing and sweet take on emotions as he learns that something's missing when it's just a physical reaction. Nice climax at his first day of school when he insists on being in classes with other kids, not in private tutoring (take that No Child Left Behind rules!) and learns male bonding by challenging the basketball coach. But I was disappointed in the 2nd season that they are explaining his nice-ness not because he’s been adopted into a nice human family for guidance, but because of his genes, unlike his erratic XX counterpart. The 2nd season “Grey Matters” by Eric Tuchman was a both charming and thoughtful “Kyle-Learns-Ethical-Choices” episode. Oh, and yeah Chris Olivero as “Declan” keeps growing on me as a Mother Magnet, even if he is the same age as My Younger and married. The overarching story was losing me by the end of the series. (updated 12/22/2009)
The 4400 (cancelled from USA summers, all 4 seasons on DVD), had several eye candy abductees, including young Patrick Flueger as Evil's Boy Toy, with Billy Campbell and Chad Faust. Too bad Brennan Elliott didn’t stick around as the NTAC Agent's love interest -- I almost didn't recognize him from other TV shows I pretty much just watched for him, even the many evil guest starring roles. Neat Here Comes Mr. Jordan twist to suddenly introduce a new girlfriend! (updated 8/30/2009)
Ever Popular Time Traveling:
Sleepy Hollow (on Fox, 1st season on DVD) – “Ichabod Crane” out-of-time is most of the fun to watch, as personified by the crush-worthy Brit Tom Mison (yet another reason I’m sorry to have missed HBO’s Parade’s End mini-series so I’ll watch the DVD). I detest the ridiculous 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations oh-no-not-again plot from way too many TV shows. But I hope his ghostly witch-wife keeps haunting him. Not that the rest of my History Reading Group would be interested, but I get a kick out of the Revolutionary War era tidbits he throws in. (updated 9/9/2014)
Forever (cancelled from ABC after 1 season) – In the immortals-among-us division is the ever appealing Brit Ioan Gruffudd (who has been a serious actor, such as in Amazing Grace, though I never got around to finish watching all of his Horatio Hornblower series), playing “Dr. Henry Morgan”, who has learned enough over the centuries to be an excellent crime-solving forensic coroner. I get a kick out of the flashbacks in his life, even they don’t make a lot of sense, including his Jewish adopted son. (updated 8/14/2015)
Journeyman (cancelled from NBC) Way too similar to so many past shows , shades of ABC’s cancelled Day Break with hunky Taye Diggs (the final episodes streamed online), Early Edition (2 seasons on DVD) with young Kyle Chandler way before Friday Night Lights, New Amsterdam with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who caught my attention as the villain in the otherwise forgettable Firewall), etc. I was only watching for Kevin McKidd of Rome. Tensions in relationships between women in different time zones were eased out too easily. And one purpose of a travel was to save a newspaper? That’s real wishful thinking. The similarly cancelled from NBC Do No Harm failed with a similar, though biological both-in-one-body gimmick, but Steven Pasquale was worth watching. It even concluded with James Cromwell playing a similar evil doctor as his Nazi in American Horror Story. (updated 9/28/2013)
Charlie Jade (streaming on Hulu) was an intriguing looking, written and attractively acted South African series that started out in prime time, but quickly got dumped into overnights. Though I missed an episode or two until I re-found it, I think I followed its multiple realities to really get caught up in the story and the people, and appreciated the satisfying twist in the multi-uni-verse romances. (updated 8/20/2011)
Ever Popular Vampires, Werewolves and Other Demons:
Bitten (on SyFy, which now makes it difficult for TWC subscribers to stream episodes, so I missed a few) is just about the worst supernatural Canadian import show I’ve seen yet, but Greyston Holt as the werewolf “Clayton Danvers” is the reason to watch, with the advantage of him frequently stripping. So I have little patience for the main werewolf “Elena Michael” (played by the vapid Laura Vandervoort) preferring her normal lover. (updated 6/2/2014)
Dracula (2014 mini-series on NBC) I tuned in initially for Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but in getting confused as to when he was a British Dracula or American entrepreneur “Alexander Grayson” and his loves and enemies, let alone other plot complications I gave up following, I got more caught up with Oliver Jackson-Cohen (the name says it all!) as “Jonathan Harker”, with the extra bonus of German actor Thomas Kretschmann as yet another version of “Abraham Van Helsing”. (1/25/2014)
Lost Girl (Canadian series shown in the U.S. on SyFy, which now makes it difficult for TWC subscribers to stream episodes, so I missed a few, 3 seasons out on DVD, with extras) I should care about the female empowerment in the lead succubus character “Bo” (played by the impossibly gorgeous Anna Silk) who can get it on in 3-ways with Furies and have a quirky BFF “Kenzi” (played by Ksenia Solo). But, come on, I’m really watching for the werewolf cop with benefits “Dyson” (played by the scrumptious Kris Holden-Ried, who for all his classical theater training is probably glad for the steady income.) By the fifth episode “Dead Lucky”, written by Emily Andras, I was answering “Yes!” to his offer to the BFF, even if it was a Twilight joke as I was also on the werewolf Team Jacob: Back on Team Dyson? C’mon, we’re getting T-shirts! Aw shucks, the 2nd season found a way to split them up (albeit through self-sacrificing magic) - put them back together in bed! I de-friended the series on FaceBook when even after the end of the 2nd season they weren’t able to get back the love that was torn from him by a dark fae (or some such). At least in the 3rd season’s “Fae-de To Black”, written by Alexandra Zarowny, “Dyson” earnestly found a way to challenge her fidelity to her human lesbian lover, when he sees her internal bleeding as an unfed succubus. What an offer: It’s either me or an ambulance. No feelings. (updated 6/2/2014)
The Vampire Diaries (on The CW, Thursdays at 8 pm. 6 seasons on DVD.) After only two episodes I was hooked – not so much on Paul Wesley who I've followed to many shows (such as Wolf Lake) and is too Twilight-inspired insipid in a fast crush on a bland girl who looks just like his 19th century girlfriend. But Ian Somerhalder (who is also red-eyeing it from the Atlanta set to Hawaii to pop up in the last season of Lost) as his villainous "brother" "Damon" is stealing the show as much as Alexander Skarsgård stole the second season of True Blood. By the 5th season “Graduation” finale they were together – just in time for me to find out that the actors in real life had broken up. The second season really heated up with the werewolves of the "Lockwood" family, including "Uncle Mason" (Taylor Kinney, who was a primary reason I bothered to watch Trauma and then on to Chicago Fire (1st season on DVD) along with House, M.D. alum Jesse Spencer), but other hunks showed up when he got killed off to avenge him for me. While I kept watching mostly for the adorable vampire cheerleader “Caroline”/werewolf/joke “Tyler” getting together/apart (and haven’t been buying the chemistry with their subsequent lustful and/or romantic partners), I was getting more intrigued by the even more complicated characters who then got spun-off into The Originals with its intriguing and more diverse N’Orlins storylines, that made no sense at all by the 2nd season (out on DVD). (updated 9/25/2015)
Teen Wolf (on MTV and streams online free for one week, 4 seasons out on DVD) I never watched any of the original sources and I find the mythology almost impossible to follow, which is par for the course with these shows, where the writers seem to make it up as they go along, as they decide which actors they want to, or contractually can, keep alive the longest. Lots of shirtless time! But in the very complicated 2nd season, as the sizzling teen couple “Scott McCall” (Tyler Posey) and “Allison Argent” (Crystal Reed) got separated by so many new villainous characters, I got more intrigued by her hunter father “Mr. Agent” (played by JR Bourne). Through the 2nd season, I had to stream each episode twice to try and follow the plots, after first just watching for the guys, especially Tyler Hoechlin as “Derek Hale”. And the twins from Desperate Housewives much more grown-up. Everyman “Stiles” (Dylan O’Brien) is adorable, even when he’s possessed by a demon. But the 3rd season got considerably more intriguing, to like more the coupling of The Wolf and The Fox, i.e. “Kira” (played by Arden Cho) that tied in the treatment of Japanese-Americans in internment camps to supernatural revenge from Japanese mythology, comparable to how American Jewish writers built on the tradition of The Golem to create super-hero comic heroes. (And how ridiculous was it that Sleepy Hollow, on Fox, in the 1st season de-Judaicized “The Golem”, in a teleplay by Mark Goffman and Jose Molina, with a story by Alex Kurtzman, as something the black Baptist girl would have learned about in her Sunday School!) Too bad the after-show Wolf Watch dumbs down to the audience, compared to the Talks after the AMC dramas The Walking Dead and the late Breaking Bad. But these after and after shows did help deal with the shock of them actually killing off “Allison” my fave female hunter -- whatever “Scott/Allison” Shippers are called, I was one.) Will she come back to help the sales of Hasbro’s Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Exclusive Golden Edge Bows? She did, once the series began to make absolutely no sense to understand what was going on. I continued to watch to the end of the series – but could less and less follow the story lines! (updated 12/27/2016)
Supernatural (on CW, 10 seasons on DVD: 1st season on DVD that has: "Commentary on "Pilot" by creator Eric Kripke, director David Nutter, and producer Peter Johnson; Commentary on "Phantom Traveler" by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles; "Supernatural: Tales from the Edge of Darkness" - 15 minute making of documentary; "Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen" - featurette focusing on Jared and Jensen on the set; Gag reel; Unaired scenes; Still gallery; DVD-ROM capabilities with link to exclusive website content, original pilot script, access to Dean's computer and much more". 2nd season DVD has audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, gag reel) Yeah, it's just the Hardy Boys version of The X Files with only a trace of mythology (with a funny reference to that in the second season's "The Usual Suspects" by Cathryn Humphris as each claims to be "Mulder" but "Dean" insists: No, I’m Mulder. You’re a red-headed woman.) and a lot of Stephen King, but, oh heck, I'd follow Jensen Ackles (of Dark Angel and Smallville) and Jared Padalecki (of Gilmore Girls) anywhere while I'm folding laundry.
The gimmick of using Urban Legends is cute, but the scripts the first season were woefully lacking Joss Whedon panache dialog (interesting that the promos kept replaying the one cute line they have over and over in the promos). The second season sprinkled in more movie references. I got a kick out of "Sam" defeating the Woman in White by protesting he'd been faithful to his girlfriend. I love when the series has him haunted by guilt that he won't even reveal to his brother over her macabre death -- "Bloody Mary" (by Terri Hughes Burton and Ron Milbauer) was both spooky and moving. I chuckled at an informant commenting that they were cute and "Dean"s suggestive raised eyebrow to a grateful Wendigo-freed woman if there was anything she could do in return.
I'm enjoying the older brother's collection of '80's metal and hair band tapes on the soundtrack (with a Blue Oyster Cult album cover even figuring into a plot point), but I would think that would turn off the CW's target audience, which, they foolishly think isn't me. Instead, in the second season they blast a different track of even older music as opening themes, with the first episode, "In My Time of Dying," extensively featuring Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" and in the second episode of the season "Everybody Loves A Clown", the Chamber Brothers' "Time Has Come Today" as the take-off point. Nice flirtation around REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight this Feeling" in "Simon Said" when "Jo" defends picking it on the jukebox in the road house: Damn right, REO. Kevin Cronin sings it from the heart. With Dean's dry riposte: He sings it from the hair--there's a difference -- but "Dean" keeps singing it in the car while complaining it's stuck in his head, hmm, the song or the girl? Neat incorporation of the Robert Johnson legend, hellhound imagery and songs, in "Crossroad Blues". I’ve only been barely aware of Styx etc. as existing in a parallel universe, but the spine-tinglingly cool use of "Renegade" as the very fitting closing for "Nightshifter" has me going for a greatest hits collection, among other bands.
The "Asylum" episode, that channeled the film Session 9, by co-executive producer Richard Hatem was filled with examples of how improving quippy dialog about horror movies can make this a fun show, even as the family issues are actually touching: "Dean": So Sam, who do you think is the hottest psychic -- Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Love Hewitt, or you?. . .Let me know if you see any dead people Haley Joel. . . See that attitude? That's why I always got the extra cookie. "Sam"s explanation for his spirit hunting job: I had a crappy guidance counselor. Toward the end of the 2nd season, the satirical in-jokes about TV and horror movies were more breezily incorporated, especially in the Hollywood Babylon episode by Ben Edlund, though “Dean”s trailer-rocking quickie with the starlet was a bit much.
Amazingly, while they waited until halfway through the first season to finally get "Dean"s shirt off, "Route 666" wasn't even a Sweeps Weeks episode in showing us the love of his life (We'll be trying to working it out until we're in our '90's.) as the reason he hadn't been in bed sooner. That passionate reunion, as directed by Paul Shapiro (a pro at noir TV episodes), was one of the best lovemaking scenes I've ever seen on network TV series, from the satisfying thwack when he lands on the bed and him aching with desire in responding to her first moves to the all muscles in dark shadows amidst knees up, and then him keeping them equal in the thrusting - whew! Yeah, it sounds like a romance novel, but it's up there now as one of my all time hottest horizontal tangos on TV (ranking with Under Suspicion and La Femme Nikita), all to the grinding riffs and plaintive wail of Bad Company's "She Brings Me Love" (which somehow is missing on a Greatest Hits album of theirs I have so I got it on Desolation Angels). Too bad the writers seem to have forgotten her.
While Jeffrey Dean Morgan as their dad was also busy drawing out his dying on Grey's Anatomy), "Hell House" by Trey Callaway had "Sam"s nice summary of their hunt: Makes you wonder of all the things we've hunted, how many existed only because people believed in them. It also finally stuck in the inevitable reference to a golem. And "Sam"s shirt finally got off. Soon after, in "Provenance" (by David Ehrman), "Sam": You know, I don't get it. What do you care if I hook up? the flirtatious bar hopping "Dean" wryly points out: Because then maybe you wouldn't be so cranky all the time. "Sam" finally got into a passionate kissing closing clincher with "Sarah" (played by Taylor Cole)--a Mazel tov-spouting antiques dealer, to "Dean"s That's my boy? observation. But I would have liked more references to them at least remembering these lovers.
The second season improved the continuing story of the brothers' relationship around each demon destruction, as well as throwing in more funny references to TV shows and movies. Where the first season was about "Sam" dealing with his girlfriend's death (and his mother's), "Dean" is literally haunted by his father's. I didn't get at first why in "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" by Raelle Tucker he kept, with increasing passion, repeating What's dead should stay dead! as a leit motif, until he revealed he was referring to himself and his realization that his father exchanged their lives with The Demon. Surprisingly moving and the continuing thread of the significance of "Sam"s psychic abilities and "Dean"s guilt keeps this from being just a spooky procedural.
And it wasn’t even Sweeps Week when “Sam” finally got some lovin’, in the quite touching “Heart” by Sera Gamble, and directed by one of my long-time faves Kim Manners. “Sam”- finally- beats “Dean” to protect a chick, “Madison”, played by the quite appealing Emmanuelle Vaugier, then the camera circles as he nervously flirts while watching fold her laundry underwear and then together a soap opera – but poor guy – he finds out she’s an unrestrainable werewolf, not that had stopped Angel, but, hey, he was a vampire and he had the means to keep his werewolf paramour securely locked up each month. Desperate to prove her not culpable and relating to his own inner demons, he argues: But there was something in her eyes. . .But if she has no control over it. . .I’m not going to put a bullet through some girl’s chest who has no idea what’s happening to her. . . Maybe I understand her. . .We can save this girl. and he insists on a complex cure while she’s tied up. In tears, she begs to be set free, and he is so sweetly earnest: I’m doing this because I want to help you. If this goes the way I pray it does, I’ll untie you and I’ll walk out that door and I’ll never come back. You’ll live the rest of your life and this will just be a bad memory. Yeah, as if she really doesn’t want to see him again, but she does turn into a werewolf and attacks him, with the scratch evidence all over the walls to convince her the next morning, as well as on his face. So did the cure work? She offers: If we’re going to wait it out, we might as well do it together. All that you did, it was to help me. They stare into each other’s eyes most of the night, to his brother’s amusement as only “Sam” get a thank you hug and “Dean” finally leaves them together the next morning – with a raised fist salute. She laughs at his mumbled exit: That was smooth. . .He means he thinks you’re going to get laid. “Sam” demurs: I know I scared the crap out of you, all right. And I tied you to a chair. She makes equal excuse: That’s right up there with me scratching up your face. He: There’s just no way. You can go back to, y’know, before it happened. She agrees: Just no way . . And then they’re kissing lotsa hard open-mouthed, in each other’s arms, pressing up against the wall, clothes getting off, he’s on top, she’s on top, hands scratching all over backs, he’s behind her, love bites on necks to emphasize how human sex and werewolf behavior have a lot in common, they’re vertical in the bed, they’re horizontal,– and when did skinny Jared get so muscle-bound that the camera is focusing on all that bursting skin? Whew -- until they fall asleep naked with her nestled in those muscled arms – very appropriately to “Look At You” by Screaming Trees: “Her ghost hides/In my mind/In the night/In a way she's haunting me/I'm wanting her still/Through rose colored skies/Or blue, blue moonlight/There's miracles on high/She's walking by/When I look at you/I've got a second chance/Really need to have you now/One by one they fall it always breaks me down”. But when the full moon rises she’s off as a werewolf until the next morning, when “Dean” insists there’s no cure. She cries and takes up “Dean”s gun as “Sam” keeps interrupting to protest over and over that he’ll find a way to save her: Sam I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I don’t want to hurt you. I can’t do it myself. I need you to help me. I’m a monster. You tried. I know you tried. This is all there is left. Help me Sam! I want you to do it. I want it to be you. I don’t want to die. I don’t. But I can’t live like this. This is the way you can save me. Please. I’m asking you to save me. “Sam” shakes his head and turns away as “Dean” offers to do it, but “Sam”, with tears dripping down his face: No, you’re right, she’s right. She asked me to. Yes I do. Please. Just wait here.. The camera is close-up on “Dean” as we hear a loud shot -- and I was crying too throughout the scene as Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” played: “Hush now don't you cry/Wipe away the tear drops from your eye/You're lying safe in bed/It was all a bad dream/Spinning thru your head/Your mind tricked you to feel the pain/Of someone close to you leaving the game/Of life/So here it is, another chance/Wide awake, you face the day/Your dream is over./Or has it just begun?/There's a place I like to hide/A door way that I run thru in the night/Relax child, you were there/But only didn't realize, and you were scared. . .“
As the season finale approached, “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Raelle Tucker was a surprisingly touching genie-induced dream, as “Dean” imagined the temptingly non-dangerous future they could have had, crying at Dad’s grave: Why do we have to sacrifice everything? And the two-part finale, “All Hell Breaks Loose” by Michael T. Moore and Eric Kripke, was also surprisingly touching as they couldn’t prevent opening up a pathway to hell, briefly reuniting them with their father, allowing for some closure for guilt-ridden “Dean” before setting up a whole lot of demon chasing for next season.
The fourth season was surprisingly intriguing, not only with “Dean” sent back from hell by an Angel from God, and more clues about “Sam”s specialness, but also the discovery that it was their mom who came from a family of hunters, and it was only her gruesome death that turned their dad into one. Producer Kripke also keeps coming up with more ways to satirize the horror genre and its fans, even as he stays faithful to it.
The series found ways to still be entertaining in the 6th season, even within the necessity of ever more complicated mythology. The Sweeps Weeks "The French Mistake", by Ben Edlund, was a Valentine to long-time fans for all the inside references about cast and crew on and off-screen. Especially fun was seeing the return of Genevieve Cortese, billed as Genevieve Padalecki because she is in fact co-star Jared Padalecki's wife, playing his wife in the show-within-the-show, confusing "Jensen" because she had played "Ruby". I actually was disappointed there wasn't more than a surprised peck between her and the character "Jared", when they had been so much chemistry between them when she was "Ruby". I guess that was one of many jokes for fans, including the constant "surprise" that the two actors playing the "Winchester" brothers were speaking to each other off-set.
By the 10th season, I couldn’t even tell when I had missed an episode as the through story-line wasn’t make any sense at all, with all the dying/coming alive/re-demonifications and New Testament obsessed angels. Best are the humorous satirical touches and shout-outs to the fans.
I comment on the series’ use of the LILITH legend. But as the series got more and more into New Testament angels and apocalypses, I got less interested and missed some episodes. (updated 9/25/2015)
Being Human (on BBC America, Saturday nights and On Demand for the longer "director's cut". 3 seasons on DVD, per BBC six episode-seasons.) Just when I thought surely there can't be room for yet another dark, brooding vampire, along comes the Irish Aidan Turner as "Mitchell", just trying to be a good friend to the geeky Jewish werewolf "George" (the excellent Russell Tovey) and adorable ghost "Annie" (Lenora Crichlow). He is so sweet to his now elderly former lovers. Second season was as poignant as it was bloody. SyFy has Americanized it. (3 seasons on DVD) (updated 1/3/2014)
Angel (Repeats on TNT, 5 seasons on DVD.) Quickly became much more interesting than just a hunky vampire solving crimes. Starting from his redemptive interaction with "Faith," the rogue slayer, to his clashes with the cute lawyer (Christian Kane whose Prodigal Lawyer returned for the conclusion!)) who made a pact with the Devil firm to the woman who first converted him to immortality, there's been much more literal soul-searching about choices -- especially that now he's a dad, albeit a dad being punished for his wicked ways. It was even more worth watching for Angel's tortured teen son (Vincent Kartheiser -- and I seem to be the only one who enjoyed his Oedipal relationship with Cordelia. And that he learned to talk in complete sentences - though he went off to live happily ever after normally at the end of the season. So nice to see him grow up to make Dandelion and Mad Men), but also to watch Wesley (in real life Alexis Denisof is the fiancé of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Willow" who squeezes in guest appearances) explore his sexy dark side, especially with Wolfram & Hart's seductive senior evil-doer, who now is immortal (hey, when you sell your soul, it's for forever). And Spike joined the battle as well, setting up some mano a mano competition, as creator Joss Whedon got to focus his magnificent mythological talents all here with no Buffy outlet anymore. Recommended episode guide and more up through Season 4. (updated 8/30/2009)
Moonlight (cancelled from CBS, on DVD, rerunning on SyFy then on CW in Viacom's mea culpa on its cancellation, despite a way too similar Vampire in the City story-line, from Angel to Lifetime’s Blood Ties and many more, I was only watching for Aussie Alex O'Loughlin who I fell for first in Oyster Farmer, then briefly seen in The Shield. I actually found it kind of icky that he’d been watching over the little girl he saved from his wife as she’s grown up. I’d prefer some more ambiguity in their relationship, as she had a handsome D.A. boyfriend, but then the vampire-human interrelationship rules kept changing inconsistently. It was also nice to see Jason Doerhing from Veronica Mars, but his potential as a financial vampire was wasted in too small a part. (updated 6/28/2010)
Ok so not exactly vampires: Wolf Lake (went from CBS to UPN, which reran some episodes over the summer, and reruns on SyFy Channel – complete series out on DVD). The back story got changed so much in pre-production that it stopped making a lot of sense. I was a fan of co-creator John Leekley's previous hunky fright fest Kindred: The Embraced, but he got quickly canned from the series, then I figured Lou Diamond Phillips was worth the ride. Paul Wesley was in his first of a since long line of Sexy High School Bad Boy roles on TV series, such as on NBC's gooey American Dream and similarly on The O.C.. But then along came Scott Bairstow a few episodes in literally tearing up the furniture as a sexy villain; oy, no shortage of cancelled TV series and "B" cable movies I've watched just for him. (updated 11/1/2012)
Older shows with appealing hunks show up mostly on the SyFy Channel, at odd times during the day and overnights are repeats such as: The Dresden Files (one and only season out on DVD) featured Paul Blackthorne as a wizard P.I. but unfortunately without his Brit accent, who finds an object of intense flirtation each week – but we”ll never know if he would have gotten together with the tough cop. I may have to read the dozen or something books in the series this was based on to find out.
Brimstone, Dark Skies (complete "declassified" series on DVD), Prey, Earth2 (complete series out in out-of-order DVD), Space: Above and Beyond, Strange World, The Outer Limits (new and old, though I still can't find the episode I remember seeing as a kid about time travelers who come back and try to prevent the parents of a genocidal dictator from meeting, to no avail), First Wave (the hunk from this was another lecherous professor on Dawson's Creek one season), Invisible Man, Strange World, Brimstone (with my favorite ever line about coming back from the dead: What's inter-league play?), Now and Again (with a nice older woman/younger hunk thing going on), and Earth: Final Conflict (5 seasons on DVD) which after a coupla seasons realized that the second male lead looked hunkier in black leather and frosted tips, before the women leads got a last chance; Jake 2.0 (with Christopher Gorham); John Leekley 's Kindred, the Embraced (I got this one on DVD for the late Mark Frankel who I had thing for on Sisters); Special Unit 2 (I used to have a paragraph here for that due to Michael Landes who was seen on BBC America in Love Soup of which I missed the culminating episode); and a couple I didn't bother with on first-run, including Haunted with Matthew Fox (in between Party of 5 and Lost), Roar with a charmingly young Heath Ledger, and the ponderous Jeremiah (2 seasons out on DVD) with Luke Perry as a very neatly trimmed post-pandemic wanderer originated by the creator of Babylon 5 (all 5 seasons available in out-of-order DVD, all the seasons' soundtracks are available as the series' composer used to be with Tangerine Dream) - -- watch for episodes with "Marcus the Ranger". (updated 1/17/2011)
Hell on Wheels (On AMC, 3 seasons available on DVD.) Oh hell, I watched it because I’m partial to Westerns and to Anson Mount, who I fell for in Tully and have been following in many shows regardless that they didn’t really utilize him well. He even looks good in the dark cinematography that reflects the racial, ethnic, and business brutality of the historical context, as shown in PBS’s American Experience on the Transcontinental Railroad. What an ironic, post-modern Western, Neil LaBute-directed Season 3 finale such that people wouldn’t find out about their ancestors in Who Do You Think You Are? research of family history: the former slave owner becomes a slave; the capitalist turns ex-slaves into wage slaves; the psychopathic murderer rules as a Mormon bishop; and there’s surprising deaths at the paws of nature, fratricide; women are trapped in compromised situations, and on.
”Mei Mei”, S5, Ep2, was an astounding cinematographic feat – combining stunning scenery, mouth-dropping stunt and prop work, with stirring tribute to Chinese workers on the building of the railroad. (updated 7/31/2015)
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: WATCH FOR REPEATS ON CABLE OR DVD/VIDEO/STREAMING
Dirt (2 seasons on DVD.) Not nearly as good as the other FX gritty dramas and comedies, but I was going to watch anyway just for Josh Stewart, of the last season of Third Watch, here as tortured Sean Penn-Lite actor "Holt McLaren". But Ian Hart as a just barely functioning schizophrenic paparazzi "Don Konkey" stole the show. (updated 5/5/2010)
Due South (all 4 seasons out on DVD/video. 2 soundtracks released.) "I first came to Chicago to track down the killer of my father. . ." was a repeating line by Paul Gross's Mounty for one of the best fish-out-of-water/reverse Northern Exposure series. Made in Canada and proud of it, it particularly spotlighted Canadian music.(updated 8/30/2009)
Entourage (on HBO whole series on DVD.) A half-hour of executive producer Mark Wahlberg good-naturedly making a bit of fun of himself, transposing his own rougher South Boston crew to a Queens group (and they really are local boyz who do sound like Queens high school grads) attached to the irresistibly angelic-looking bad boy Adrian Grenier as a Hollywood himbo (and amusingly he played a similar character cameo in Woody Allen's Celebrity). In "Three's Company" in the 3rd season by Lisa Alden, "Vince" defies the head of Warner's: Don't fuck with the boy from P.S. 154!
"E" (Kevin Connolly - despite his real life relationship with a pseudo-celebrity) is adorable as he tries to swim while being completely over his head in relationships and the movie business (we did find out in the second season that he used to manage a Sbarro's in Kew Gardens). Their efforts to make Queens Boulevard (I bought a promotional cap from the "movie")--parallel to Wahlberg making the movie Southie were very funny, from birth to Sundance and on, including the director, a stoned, arty wunderkind who grew up in Scarsdale but whose "dad owned a Key Food in Kew Gardens." The third season's "I Wanna Be Sedated" by Alden and executive producer Doug Ellin climaxed in a wonderful Queens irony. "Vince" has been unemployed since denouncing the studio that had cut up the indie film he considered true to his roots; we kept seeing the titular closing scene, in the rain of course, as he says to the camera I am Queens Boulevard.). His manager "Eric "E" has been manipulated into spending a Sunset Boulevard-day with an ancient movie producer legend who is living in the past of his former Hollywood glory. But "E" sees an old photo of the guy with Joey Ramone - You're from Queens? "E" enthralls that Those guys are from the same street as us! (My Scion went to their same junior high school) and the Ramones are "Vince"s favorite band. The old guy digs up a biopic script, and all three strut into the agent's office announcing their next project. I am way looking forward to this fictional project!
Jeremy Piven is always good but he's really found his alter ego in "Ari" the Agent. This is one time it is fun to watch boys be boys.
There's even sharp women, like Debi Mazar as the publicist, who are ballast (I'm tracking the Jewish women - "Ari”s wife and "Ari”s daughter “Sarah” into the fourth season, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7, and the final season) to the silly groupies plus E's putative girlfriends. So in the 2nd season since "E" failed with Samaire Armstrong's "Emily" and there was an episode or two there where it looked like he was going to just take the gorgeous groupie left-overs like the other guys which would make the show lose its heart, he's found a boss's daughter who refuses to date actors. "Emily" was back for a New York minute as Aquaman's director's assistant - and aren't we all glad they got the part?
The idea of "Vince" having a secret love of the one that got away and is now his co-star is terrific - but Mandy Moore is a big nothing in the part and there is no chemistry between her and Grenier. Mazar's publicist has several times referred to Russell Crowe's personal life as a warning to The Boys and the linking of this Aqua-folks relationship with Proof of Life in breaking up her "engagement" was funny.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised in the third season that "Vince" had a detailed procedure and philosophy for handling 3-ways with advice on how to be protective of the woman you want to have a relationship with even within a male sexual fantasy situation. In Season 3B the Boys had an incisive literary analysis of the Ethan Frome script he’s offered. They certainly do have a point about stories where the guy waits years to have sex.
The HBO Web site lists all the locations and music used.
Entourage – The Move (updated 6/1/2015)
Felicity (repeats of complete series on cable channel WE various times. 4 seasons on video/DVD - but not with the original songs, as they couldn't get the rights. Soundtrack available.) I gave up on it the second season as too melodramatic and there was just too much else on at the same time, but didn't I get hooked again on the cute and appealing guys on this show, which has about the same relation to college life as Sex and the City does -- and the same story of single women not using protection, getting pregnant and keeping their babies. I do think that Scott Foley was sexiest with the woman who became his wife then ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, so I guess that makes him not such a great actor -- like who cares?
Tom Fontana's WB Bedford Diaries seemed like a sexier (and censored) college retread, with attention-keeping guys. Nice to again see WB Boyz Milo Ventimiglia and Penn Badgley (pre Gossip Girl).(updated 3/24/2006)
The Guardian (full series out on DVD) A bit too earnest, so I tended to doze, but the corporate lawyer (a la Traders-type negotiations) balancing required community service as a child's advocate (a la Judging Amy) is one Ozzie hunk, Simon Baker (though he started out trying to do a Canadian accent for some reason in a show that's supposed to be in Pittsburgh). But why have Such A Hunk and have few realistic romantic possibilities the first season? Off-screen sex with a 29-year-old posing as a 16-year-old doesn't count! Though a sudden sleazy affair with an annoying married attorney in his new firm was intriguing and different, or telling a tempted and tempting colleague that he has "certain tendencies" that he has to keep in check, even while she resists their mutual attraction and goes off and marries a jerk.
I guess the point is to make him Job-ian, sigh. (Like Jakob Dylan sings in the new title song, "Empire of My Mind," he has light and dark sides, and like with Jakob parent/child issues are paramount themes throughout the series for all the characters). Ah, at least the second season had him in bed with a cop with a jealous ex-husband, whew he does look nice in T-shirt and boxers, while he was pining for his unhappily married co-worker, whew, who finally got divorced. So they're hooking up now -- but he certainly does seem to have some kind of "intimacy issues" preferring sudden lust attacks (as she says, "when you get that look in your eyes") to a romantic relationship with her, let alone if she's off to CA. But it's nice to see that gorgeous smile more! We'll see what happens now that he's beginning to get the idea that he's a bit emotionally repressed, whether anger or love.
And at the start of the third season, he can still get Lulu into bed, but not express his feelings to tell her he loves her and not to go to California, sigh. Ah, they found a way to give her a promotion to stay in Pittsburgh -- and add more tension to their relationship as now she's his boss! Oh my, now they're living together! Now she's pregnant -- and he's willing to get married, she's not, she wants to buy a new house, but he's insisting on paying the whole mortgage. And on top of everything, he's finding ways to screw it up, losing his dad's clients and dallying and drinking with a pretty social worker -- who gets that lovely smile out of him that Lulu can't. His solution? Swimming laps -- rich in metaphor, that. (Oh, and opportunities for us to see even more of Simon Baker.) Yup, he literally blew everything on drugs again and 12-step amends can't fix everything, ah, such tortured eyes. Oh no, now Job'll have a Down's Syndrome kid -- as if we believed for a nanosecond that a main character on a network show would have an abortion! So he smiles more is why Lulu takes him back -- house and all? Oy, and now he's even been fired, just when he's completed his community service requirement. Just as well the series was cancelled, the season finale wasn't setting up enough of the conflicts that had kept the show off-kilter interesting: "Nick" now a FT public interest lawyer (uh - doesn't he need board approval to take over?), a still unforgiving girlfriend who refuses to give his baby his last name and has decided to only work PT to spend more time with their special needs kid, and a restless retired father.
He's the only reason to watch his 2008 on hit CBS show The Mentalist. I'm not bothering to list it here, what with its similarity to Psych, the silly serial killer back story, and its pedestrian procedural stories, even though I do watch it. (updated 2/7/2011)
Hannibal (3 seasons on NBC, on DVD) I’m posting here as a confessional: I know this should be considered Quality Television, but I watched this violence-as-fetish series mostly to see Mads Mikkelson (who I’ve adored even before I reviewed him in the black comedy Adam’s Apples (Adams æbler), the romantic drama After The Wedding (Efter Brylluppet) and the atavistic Valhalla Rising) as “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” and Hugh Dancy (who I reviewed in the serious drama Beyond the Gates and the rom com The Jane Austen Book Club) as damaged criminal profiler “Will Graham”. It was so violent, especially for a network show, that I couldn’t bear to give it my full attention, and only streamed it online (and even got behind on the final season, so I had to combine last-minute bingeing while-they-were-free-on-demand episodes with paying for several.) Not having read any of the books by Thomas Harris that inspired the series and the only other cinematic adaptation The Silence of the Lambs, I was more fascinated by the cinematography and weird aesthetics, than the crazy psychology of the bromance between the two men, and couldn’t quite figure out how the several strong but mesmerized women characters fit in between them. A bonus in the last season was “Hannibal”s literally tortured acolyte “Francis Dolarhyde” played by Richard Armitage, one of my fave TV Brits before he made the leap to Hollywood movies. (updated 11/21/2015)
The Hunger (some Showtime channels probably repeat this intriguing '80's series overnights) Soft-core porn met The X Files in this exotic-looking anthology series of tales of sex with vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ninjas, shape shifters, etc. Strong scripts based on short stories, even by recognizable and occasionally classic writers like Gautier, with visiting, talented but usually clad hunks like Giancarlo Esposito, Phil Casnoff, Daniel Craig, Chad Lowe, etc. filmed in beautiful Montreal. However, the women are all nude, vapid, Continental-looking French-Canadian models with zero acting talent who drag down the series for women viewers. Terence Stamp was the usual, campy host, though David Bowie did an occasional turn. (updated 4/20/2003)
Men in Trees (cancelled from ABC) Yeah, it was no Northern Exposure in this silly view of Alaska, I saw Anne Heche act way better on Broadway in Proof, and that it has writers from Sex and the City just shows they're tired, let alone forgot about friends with benefits, but darn if the guys aren't appealing and adorable as guilty pleasure eye and talk candy, especially James Tupper, Nicholas Lea (if that’s in fact his real life GF than they are atypical for having onscreen chemistry as well), Snow Plow Guy, and the various older barflies. Aw, shucks, him cutting her hair, in "The Buddy System" by Chris Dingess, was a cute demonstration of trust in friendship. Welcome the half-naked Scott Elrod as “Cash” the carpenter! Fairly good music selections – such as nice use of Josh Ritter’s "Wolves” (from The Animal Years which was on my Best of 2006) when real wolves showed up. But the last season just dragged in nonsense. (updated 5/20/2008)
Mr. Sterling (not sure if NBC showed all episodes before they cancelled it) Just when I had finally successfully resisted re-watching for a very young Josh Brolin as Wild Bill Hickok in the constant reruns of one of my guilty pleasure favorites The Young Riders on various cable channels (his character did have a thing for an older woman), lasting way longer than the Pony Express did and sometimes running on Hallmark Channel Saturdays as part of their Western marathon --and don't ask how many "B" TV movies I've been watching since to see him (so terrific to see him develop as a fine movie actor, let alone married to Diane Lane)-- here he was now as an accidental Senator talking West Wing-producer snappy dialogue. There's errors here and there (whoops! He wouldn't have grown up in L.A.! As the governor's son he would have grown up in Sacramento), but gosh it's charming, even his hair is irresistible, and the other senators and political handlers are entertainingly well-cast, modeled on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Hmm, would he have gotten this role if he didn't have the extra irony of being Barbra Streisand's stepson? So where's his West Coast girlfriend already?(updated 8/30/2009)
The Nine (Cancelled from ABC, not sure if all the episodes were streamed online and if I saw all of them. Direct TV will run them all.) I didn't want to get involved in yet another quality serial drama with a great cast and workmanlike pedigree (with brother and sister producers Hank Steinberg of Without A Trace, which I now only watch on reruns, and K.J. Steinberg of Judging Amy which always kept my interest for strong women characters) because I figured it's sure to get cancelled. But maybe I can open up my heart, despite the usual evil conspiracy, and almost identical dialog and relationships as, believe it or not, One Tree Hill (viz. compare 's serious "What's Your Emergency" episode the same night as OTH's laughable "Can't Stop This Thing We've Started" - seems no woman on TV can have an un-tragic, un-permanently emotionally scarring abortion in her past).
But it's the hunks who get my attention, particularly Tim Daly who I've developed a thing for since The Outsider turned me into a real fan and hey they didn't need to get rid of his real gray hair to appeal to me (but who is not good on the mediocre Private Practice on ABC), Scott Wolf, who yeah I've followed around lots of shows since Party of 5, and several others. But in fairness for the distaff side, I'm also a Kim Raver fan since Third Watch, before she was on 24.
Lesser fare the same season also failed despite attractive guys to watch, like Fox's Vanished (which killed off Gale Harold for goodness sake!) and NBC's Kidnapped (even though it was filmed in NYC) were similarly shunted aside by the nets, and this is much better than ABC's Six Degrees despite the NYC setting and very attractive cast (sorry, the wonderful Campbell Scott in bed with young Shiri Appleby jumped my shark, much as I like Hope Davis) and the way too soap opera-ish Brothers and Sisters. At least I was able to watch unaired episodes of these cancelled series streaming online for free, with limited ads. (updated 8/30/2009)
Nip/Tuck (was on FX. All 6 seasons on DVD, with extended and deleted scenes.) Whew creator Ryan Murphy (of the daggers-out exaggeration of high school Popular - 2 seasons out on DVD) has been able to maintain the crazy serious-swinging-to-satirical tone beyond the first episodes. I would have watched anyway as there's hunks Aussie ex-pat Julian MacMahon (the primary reason I was watching Profiler and Charmed) and Dylan Walsh (from Brooklyn South and a recurring role on Everwood), both of whom usually get stuck with secondary, one-note roles and are now absolutely relishing being complicated leads as they explore their explicit ethical, sexual, and business challenges while reconciling their past dreams and nightmares with their 40-year-old selves. When not flashing his glutes, Julian's "Christian" gets to say the sharpest retort ever to a lover's claim of lack of orgasm: "What was that muscle contraction I felt? 3 times? You were just doing your Kegel exercises?" Through him we've gotten the most charming and brutal look at the why and how to's of a damaged sexaholic beyond even Six Feet Under that ties into current news on child abuse. Cute, (formerly) shaggy John Hensley of Witchblade gets to be a teenage son with the kinds of problems as the progeny in HBO series. Yeah, I turn away from the gruesome surgical scenes, but, heck I even do that on E.R.. Too bad they still balked at something even Everwood dared -- a sympathetic woman having an abortion. How silly that advertisers except hard liquor steered away from the show. Whew -- the 2nd season is even more frank, in language and situations. Of all the outrageousness in the series, Murphy had real guts in the religiously-themed "Agnes Ripp" episode by writing the lesbian anesthesiologist to have a legal abortion of a fetus with a possible birth defect, because she honestly felt she could not handle a special needs child on her own, even one whose sperm was from pretty "Christian Troy".
Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson get the award for the best real mother-daughter actresses playing the fiercest mother-daughter relationship on the screen. But the step from border-line pedophilia to incest was over the top -- though the season finale twist brought it all macabrely back to the main issues around plastic surgery. The third season gleefully pushed the envelope -- where else could you see Vanessa Redgrave smoking a bong with her daughter and waxing nostalgic over her anti-Viet Nam war protests? Writer/producers Lynnie Greene and Richard Levine in "Kiki" gave us the line from a biologist on mate selection: In evolutionary terms, all men are bastards. Was that an inside joke that new producer Sean Jablonski, formerly of Homicide, wrote his first episode and there was a murder investigation and an interrogation? Those were songs by The Submarines in the 4th season music-video-like closing panorama that was surprisingly effective. The 5th season’s satire is fun, as they make fun of other doctor and reality shows, but it’s trying a bit too hard to be even more outrageous.
Jewish women have been featured in almost every season in surprising ways. (updated 6/12/2010)
The O.C. (SoapNet re-playing the series from the beginning. All seasons on DVD, even in a special box set. 6 soundtrack "mixes" out. And a grown-up fan reference book to convince you to watch.) I hadn't realized I missed Dawson's Creek until I tuned into this CA soap (as in "Orange County") with more twenty-somethings pretending to be high-schoolers in what is a delicious LOL satire of the genre. Not only do we get the adorable Adam Brody (formerly of Gilmore Girls) and Peter Gallagher (playing father-son Cohens, though the mom --of course, as usual -- isn't Jewish (for my take on the Jewish woman angle) but also Benjamin McKenzie as "Ryan," who gosh-darned it, really does live up to the hype as looking like a young Russell Crowe, as I've seen his early movies and he really does, though no way does he match the intensity, let alone acting chops. (Which led to a cute joke about Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in "The Countdown" episode by producer Josh Schwartz -- "Ryan"'s girlfriend complains about being dragged to see "a 3-hour movie about ships" and says of Crowe: People say he's good looking but he just doesn't do it for me. "Ryan" with a straight face
says, I've never thought about it. and offers that for New Year's Eve they could stay home and rent a bunch of Russell Crowe movies.) The fourth season first episode "The Avengers" repeated the joke, as "Seth" prepares a graphic novel version of the importance of "Ryan" to the "Cohens": One day The Litigator brought his work home with him - only this time his work looked strangely like a Young Russell Crowe., with a comic book version of McKenzie in a tight undershirt.
The touch of Popular meets Oz was hysterical in the visiting-the-bro-in-prison episode and the fist fight quota per episode (melodramatically satirized in the 4th season opener with a Fight Club-like sequence. but each episode is a send-up of another TV-as-usual or movie set-up. The mothers dress as provocatively as their daughters, even to work -- and are tempted by the cute boys on the show and vice versa. Too bad the girls are no way as interesting as Creek's "Joey", let alone even "Jen" to justify the guys’ longing -- why does the schicksa bitch "Summer" have to have a heart of gold? And par for the course on network TV - did anyone really think there was any suspense that a sympathetic young woman was going to get an abortion - even when "Mrs. Cohen" hints at a regret of such in the past, similar to how even Sex and the City danced around a controversial topic. The second season was full of funny in-jokes -- like the half-naked construction workers turning the house into "a man hole." The third season is just melodramatic soap opera.
The music is trendy (like Rufus Wainwright, Ron Sexsmith and Alexei Murdoch's "Orange Sky" which was first introduced to the general public on the Creek.) And turns out the featured band Rooney is really an up-and-coming band. Go to Features then weekly music listings (Schwartz was quoted in the 11/4/04 Entertainment Weekly: "We're all obsessed with finding that perfect song. We're such music geeks." The music supervisor is Alexandra Patsavas: "We dig deeper to find good music that fits the mood of the show." and in Billboard about the cool music selections.
While I thought the clunky third season went too Legally Blonde in making former Mean Girl "Summer" sharp competition for "Seth" to get into Brown with her 2300 SAT score, The O.C. fan who leaves my Harvard summa cum laude/Law Review Scion in her dust on a daily basis says: "the new SAT was implemented about one or two years ago. They added what used to be the SAT II (Subject Test) in Writing as a third set of sections. They also adjusted the verbal section a bit to be less redundant with the Writing section. So now, the max score is 2400. That means that 'Summer' did *amazingly* - it's definitively even better than getting a 1500 because it's like getting a 1500 on the verbal + math and then getting an 800 on writing. . . But I think it's cool to see it. People seem to expect that smart girls behave in more serious ways, but it tends to be the case that smart girls are more well-rounded than smart boys. (For example, I think (not positive on this) that controlling for math SAT score, women score higher on verbal than men - that is, that if a woman and a man have an equivalent math SAT score like 680, let's say, then the woman is more likely to have a high verbal score - and I think the reverse is true too. I think there's just a higher correlation between math and verbal scoring for women than there is for men." At least in the fourth season when "Summer" went back to "normal" after grieving for her best friend, she didn't get stupid again, but built on the Legally Blonde-thing of still being an environmental activist but with fashionable clothes and smelling nice while now carrying about someone besides herself.
The Extreme Bad Boys continue to sure be appealing on this show (especially when they suddenly do chick-appealing things like rent Sound of Music), but how come the sexy climax of The Undertow episode (with three teen-age hook-ups: one inspired by the Kama Sutra, one vertical bad-boy and one horizontal bad girl, as directed by Star Trek's Robert Duncan MacNeil) could get on the air while the pilot "I'm Gonna Love College" of Tom Fontana's WB Bedford Diaries that I watched whole online I couldn't even figure out what the censors wanted cut? I seem to be the only one who is not charmed by the "Ryan"/"Taylor" romance or that the producers turned the plot into pretzels to keep these kids out of college and still in Newport, though it was fun to see the appealing Bosnian Muslim terrorist from Sleeper Cell reappear here as a French intellectual ex-husband. (updated 12/10/2007)
Playmakers (women had to first find ESPN or ESPN2 to watch it. Out on DVD. Brit cable TV had the sense to pick it up.) The first show my Sports Fan Nephew and I shared as favorites! I didn't follow any of the discussion of football plays or strategies or positions or game shots, but we get to see a lot of bulked up guys in various stages of undress, even if some of them, particularly cute Christopher Wiehl, would be dwarfed by real life football players (my mother was once in a hotel elevator with NFL'ers and felt she was penned in by giants). And not just the younger guys were worth watching for - it was a treat to see Anthony Denison from one of my very favorite guilty pleasure TV movies, Sex, Love and Cold Hard Cash, pre-The Closer.
Creator John Eisendradth could barely keep up with the bad news in the press about athletes, so this isn't rawer then Real Life, but it is as frank as basic cable can get comparable to Oz in showing an all-male environment - including legal and illegal and quasi-legal drugs - the steroid angle has been done literally to death on TV, but not much have we seen the impact of anti-depressives and kidney damage from painkillers. (And the big bald lug suffering from depression and father and best-friend issues has really gotten to me as a sweetie.) Too bad the women were either loyal wives or greedy or naive groupies, and were not as fully realized as the players, who get to voice-over their inner thoughts. But HBO nixed the planned series on baseball wives, so we'll have to settle. The domestic violence story-line went in an odd nice guy angle, maybe that's why they stopped running the PSA's urging women to report rape, but ESPN couldn't get their usual sexist beer advertisers. The gay angle almost caught up to the play Take Me Out, culminating in the terrific and fiercely honest "The Outing" episode by Craig Sweeney, Peter Egan and Stephen Hootstein (gee, I learned Viagra is the drug of choice of closeted gays with female beards), but, of course, they lost their nerve on an abortion.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL was furious at the show and ESPN had to pull promos from running during NFL games. The Philly Eagles owner taunted the Disney-owned network if they'd like it if "Minnie Mouse were portrayed as Pablo Escobar and the Magic Kingdom as a drug cartel." Such fuming from the folks who hired MTV to do the Super Bowl half-time show! ESPN caved in to pressure from the teams and did not renew the show for a second season. Even FX was too chicken to pick it up, maybe because the NFL could probably pressure Fox through its football coverage. In the meantime, we can watch occasional episodes of the soapier Footballer's Wives on BBC America from Britain.(updated 8/30/2009)
Queer as Folk (Showtime will doubtless repeat the series and keep it On Demand. Repeating on the Logo Channel, but probably at least somewhat bowdlerized as that's basic cable. All seasons on DVD/video. 4 soundtracks available.) Forget the integrationist gays of Dawson's Creek, Will and Grace or The Sum of Us. These are guys who only heard half of James Brown's chorus "It's A Man's World." According to an interview in New York Times "Ron Cowen, who, along with Daniel Lipman, adapted Queer as Folk from the original British series, said, 'I write out of a lot of anger.' Mr. Cowen added that the show reflects his day-to-day experience as a gay man. 'In almost everything we do, we have to deal with issues of discrimination and all of the ways in which we're deprived of first-class citizenship,' he said." So now we see that Lipman and Cowen, who created one of my fave estrogen-fests Sisters and Richard Kramer, a fine writer for Once and Again, were then really pulling a Tennessee Williams by projecting gay sensibilities onto women characters.
Showtime thinks this American adaptation of a British show will appeal to women as a bodice-ripping hunkfest of mostly naked men, true, but also for relationships. Relationships? Rooms full of strangers down on each other? We know from Madonna's Truth or Dare and Sex and the City that women don't really like anal and oral sex, let alone doing it every hour around the clock with only one partner satisfied, so these guys have a solution: do it to male strangers. Relationships are denigrated as hetero behavior and heteros are uniformly denigrated as homophobic breeders and worse (gee, even the charming chiropractor who wanted to have a relationship, with him always on top, used to be married to a woman so is therefore used to that kind of partnering). The queen sees his choices only as being between club-hopping quickies and conversion to heterosexuality. In the second season, in the first episode written by a woman, such critics were attacked head on with even more nasty satire against monogamous gay couples, this time attacking such male duos as if they are hypocritical women. Similarly, the lesbian couple could have more easily won support of their parents by appealing to irresistible grandparenthood instead of nastiness and flaunting sexuality in their faces.
The central amoral character of "Brian" is envied and lusted after even by every friend that brands him "a heartless shit," so there's no attitudinal balance like there is in Sex and the City. But he's like Amanda in Melrose Place: the gorgeous villain. This U.S. version upped his teenage lover from 15 years old to 17, but I'm not sure that excuses his seductive manipulation of a minor (3 cheers to the Mom who threw a pile of the kid's clothes at him, saying You seduced him. You fucked him. Now you make sure he has clean underwear, takes his allergy medicine and gets to school on time! Gee, what a surprise that "Justin"'s turning into the same heartless seducer as his initiator into sexual behavior.) And I'm supposed to be more sympathetic about them taking turns at making each other jealous once he turned 18? I didn't consider it romantic when they passionately kissed in the club back room while standing side-by-side each screwing strangers down on all fours in front of them and bringing home strangers together. Three cheers for when the romantic fellow student violinist was his boyfriend! Healthier relationship all around, for them and us. Boo to returning to Brian! Brian's problems supposedly stem from his learning that his mother and father "had" to get married. For goodness' sakes! But I think he really believes in Original Sin -- he can't stand that he's born from a man fucking a woman. Which explains his intense loyalty to his son conceived through artificial insemination with a lesbian, the only female with whom he's able to maintain a long-term civil relationship.
The women are demanding harridans or ineffectual maternal forgivers or the usual homophobes. But then all of "Brian's" "do the right thing" epiphanies are at the expense of a woman's feelings. Just because his mom is a religious condemner of gays doesn't make her scorn of his irresponsibility wrong. However, the out and out misogyny of the first season has been eased a bit, probably as Showtime discovered that a lot of straight women are watching (evidently something like 40% of the audience), so the nice girl from the K-Mart store who "Michael" was so mean to was brought back for a nicer closure and the P-FLAG Mom has been given some (confusing) humanity, and there's some effort at putting a priority on relationships over hourly shallow sex. The series is consistent with Showtime's soft-core porn of more full-frontal female nudity than male, just better written and with better looking, talented actors and the occasional come thither tearing open of condoms. Other aspects of the show are noted in my review in the Fall '01 issue of LILITH Magazine.
The second season also moved beyond the Brit scripts, to more of an ensemble piece. The third season continued the odd tendency that the few scripts either written or directed by women are even more virulently anti-heterosexual/all heterosexuals-are-homophobes (especially mothers) and filled with heterosexual stereotypes than the male-oriented episodes. Why should I suddenly believe the habitually lying runaway that it was his abusive mother who led him on his dangerous course? Did the accountant suddenly realize the depths of his drug depravity when he was a victim or did he realize the sexual shallowness of all his compatriots regardless of who was the victim?
And of course at the start of the 4th season the mother turns out to be an hysterical homophobe. At least the characters showed some different sides, so the actors got to break out a bit as the characters become more human and less blithely hedonistic (especially "Emmett" - though gosh, now he's back to being a less interesting party animal after re-discovering his "inner fairy" - though his break-up with his closeted football player lover was a dignified defense that he'd never hidden who he was and wasn't about to start though his lover's comment that he also loved the fiancée he was lying to "and I want a wife and children just like everybody else" was moving, despite a cop out compared to how Playmakers dealt with the same issue, and then echoed as another couple in the group unconventionally acted on such goals) -- it makes for better TV, but what motivated them to suddenly care about something beyond an anonymous blow job a minute? Even when "Brian's" got a conscience, it's annoying he keeps coming out the hero (he claims he only brought down the corrupt homophobic politician "to keep open the back room at Babylon. Otherwise we'd have to fuck like breeders.") as he nobly participates in a charity ride. And while some characters do finally start to challenge him that constant, anonymous sex is a vital part of being queer, his too-young lover insists that the comic book hero he modeled on him isn't really arrogant, just defending queer culture. Will "Justin" finally get to be on top in sex with him now that he's an empowered vigilante? I've seen interviews online with the actors and producers on how the series changed over the years, but with no mention of its misogyny or heterophobia, though even "Justin" now accuses "Brian" of being a heterophobe. But it does almost feel like a completely different series as the characters and the plots gained notable and more interesting depth -- perhaps due to some new writers and producers -- as by the end of the season some of the heteros were just afraid of AIDS not full of hateful bile. Even the music was much more diverse this season, not just dance club electronica. Their issues became now the more mainstream agenda of adoption, anti-gay-bashing, testicular cancer, legalized gay marriage, heck, even the tricks are in stable relationships at home! Ironically, more complex characterizations mean less naked hunks for hetero women to watch, even with glimpses of dancers at the Babylon dance club, some even full frontal. I guess I'm supposed to be satisfied with the long lingering kisses between the now monogamous male couples.(updated 1/13/2005)
For the 5th and final season, I'm tracking "Melanie Marcus", but how nice we're getting to see Gale Harold in most of his glory again, which must be why other straight women are watching as well--amusing that he clearly demurs from being photographed full frontal regardless of what bacchanalia his character is doing-- as "Brian"'s open relationship allows for lots of explicit coupling, even as he hurls bile at the "Stepford queers" settling down with kids and houses. And he was also sexy stretched out playing with his biological son "Gus" - how did they find a toddler who looks so much like Gale? How touching that he really missed "Justin" who was off in La La Land being equally promiscuous such that they could have full on reunions in various, open combinations - but he's still a dozen years older than him. At least the show is starting to deal with issues of gay obsessions with youth and beauty that relate to these kind of relationships. To bad the new straight male and female characters continue to be harridans and homophobes.
In an episode by producer Shawn Postoff, even "Justin" is getting tired of "Brian"'s Peter Pan approach to gay rights, with babysitting and "Brian"'s case of the clap helping raise his consciousness towards what "Brian" derides as "imitation heterosexuals" living as monogamous married couples. "Brian" poses a philosophical Are you surrendering to what the straight world thinks it means to be a man? which "Justin" translates to his graphic novel super hero alter ego "Rage" as answering the plea When will you stop fucking everything that moves? with a defiant NEVER! Though in the next episode by producer Del Shores, "Rage" gets married. "Brian" does score his own points in criticizing another friend's "Queer Eye"-type role on a TV news show for repeating the asexual stereotype of laughable, lovable clowns. Do you still think they'd love you if they knew you took it up the ass and loved it?
"Justin" bemoans "Brian's" "anti-family values" but I wonder just how realistic his longing for family is as the series does seem to be so nasty towards most gay couples, though he did have a close relationship with his mother that "Brian" never had. We got a glimmer of "Michael"'s working class approach to parenting vs. his professor husband's when their foster ex-hustler teen walked out -- I was surprised how little they did to stop him, no wonder the husband is haunted by guilt in the next episode.
Postoff in that episode sets up an unusual philosophical debate between "Mikey" and "Brian", whose best friendship has been the core relationship in the series, after "Justin" moves out of "Brian"'s swank digs--that his mom is even concerned about him going out on his own-- as "Mikey" lashes out: Nothing's more pathetic . . .than an over the hill club boy.
"Brian":You infected him. With your petit bourgeois, mediocre, conformist, assimilationist life. Thanks to you he's got visions, Babies. Weddings. White picket fences dancing in his blond little head.
"Mikey": You think I put them in there?
"Brian":Before you and your husband tied the house around your necks, he was perfectly happy. Now he's a defector just like the rest of you.
"Mikey": He was never perfectly happy. Waiting for years for you to say 'I love you.' 'You're the one.' 'You're the one I want.'
"Brian": That's not who I am!
"Mikey": Don't we all know!
"Brian": Now he's here in your home. . . (sarcastic)
"Mikey": It is a home.
"Brian": It's a farce. It's a freak show.
"Mikey": Call it what you want. But he didn't leave because I infected him. He left because of you. Who wouldn't?
Urged on by "Michael"s mom, "Brian" attempts an unusual reconciliation in the next episode, in a teleplay by executive story editor Brad Fraser: If it makes you happy being a Stepford fag, go for it. Be the biggest Stepford fag in the world. Surprisingly, both personally and for the series, "Mikey" stands up to "Brian" for the first time in his life - We no longer have anything in common. So let's just admit that the Brian-Mikey Show is over and get on with our lives. Will this series really tame "Brian" and his alternative lifestyle?
Meanwhile, the producers have thrown a bone to the straight women watching by having "Justin"'s divorced mom have a relationship with the hunkiest, motorcycle riding, 25-year-old (I did go to college.) 8th grade science teacher on the planet, and their arguments about young/old dating with the hypocritical kid are hilarious. If the stud boyfriend really turns out to be gay or a bastard, I'll be really disappointed in this series! Even the music selections were atypical in this episode as a Celtic dirge plays in "Brian"s mind over the usual superficial dance pop at Babylon. It then took even more anti-gay violence than they've faced in previous seasons to get "Brian" to utter "I love you" to Justin and ask him to marry.
What a surprise the flakey mom turns out to be wise, in advising the flaming queen that his newly out jock boyfriend needs to get through his sexual adolescence before settling down. Not only is "Brian" headed unexpectedly to the altar (like taming a horse his old gal pal "Lindsay" wryly comments), but he asks for another chance to be involved in his son "Gus"s life. What a sweet interchange with her as he asks her not to decamp to Canada after he had first protested That's not the kind of lesson I want you to teach him, to run away from bullies, to be afraid to stand up for a fight. . . I don't want you to go Wendy. She hugs him and responds: I have to go Peter. Gosh, that's twice in one episode that women to male communication was shown positively.
The finale by Lipman and Cowan was surprisingly sweet as the characters showed mature self-understanding and I presume "Michael"s speech on human rights was their philosophy: I am just like you -- I have a loving partner, two kids, a small business, a home. In a lot of ways I am just like you. I want to be happy, I want some security, a little extra money in my pocket. But in many ways my life is nothing like yours. Why should it be? Do we all have to have the same lives to have the same rights? I thought diversity was what this country is all about. In the gay community we have drag queens and leather daddies and couples with children, every color of the rainbow. My mother. . .once told me people are like snowflakes, special and unique and in the morning you have to shovel them off the driveway. While "Brian" finally realizes that "Justin" was too self-sacrificing and has to have a life of his own to live, he did get off one final riposte to a client in favor of sex. The last dance to Heather Small's "Proud" with the chorus: "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" capped the best year for music on the series. (updated 1/22/2007)
Resurrection Boulevard (re-run on various Showtime channels various times since it was cancelled after 3 seasons. 1st season available on DVD.) is a Latino melodrama with mighty good looking boxers and their family and associates and occasionally good salsa and other Latin music. Brian Austin Green was killed off after one season; I was watching quite a bit for him, but the Latino fans vociferously objected to an Anglo in the ensemble. I don't mind if they focus on "Alex" and his potential romance more (the gorgeous hunk re-surfaced on seriously on American Family and stereotypically on The O.C.). I'm delighted that the creepy romance between the father and the girl his daughter's age got dropped. The Lou Gosset story-line was B-O-R-I-N-G! A bit icky that actors who play brother and sister are in fact now husband and wife; luckily they don't have too many scenes together.(updated 10/15/2004)
Saved (cancelled from TNT after one season) I've liked Tom Everett Scott on various arcs and cancelled shows, but I especially like him wild-eyed and woolly here. Though the story of the slightly crazed EMT was already portrayed by Nicholas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead, let alone better in Third Watch with a dash of Rescue Me. The flashbacks of how the patient got to that point in their lives manages to avoid CSI gimmickiness and could even be longer. But the tension between his med-school drop-out/rebellion from Dr. Dad and his ex gf the ER doctor (Elizabeth Reaser so deserves her Indie Spirit for being irresistibly luminous in Sweet Land, and good too as "Annie Reed" in the "Heroine" episode of Standoff) is a bonus to the eye-candy -- so I don't like it when she's getting along with her older surgeon boyfriend and his teen daughter. So they're going to destroy the sexual tension because her Mom reveals that she was preggers and hadn't told him and he was angry because he thought she was going to have an abortion, but it turned out she'd TV-typical miscarried? Huh? At least we got to see flashbacks to their former romance -- hey bring it back! (updated 12/15/2006)
Smallville (Originally on the CW. 2 soundtracks out. Complete series available on DVD.) This young Superman is too old to be believable as a high school student (so his Metropolis and outer space rebellions actually made sense), his longing for little Miss Perfect Lana Lang is just plain boring (I enjoyed her interim relationship with "Jason", the hunk from Dark Angel) so it was nice to get a young Lois Lane under his burr, and his understanding of his super-powers is a bit confusing, but heck, he's sure easy on the eyes, which the directors, thankfully, frequently use him for his visuals.
Aw shucks, it turns out that Superman does good with his powers because Clark Kent was raised by nice parents in a functional family. In a February 2006 TV Guide executive producer Al Gough says Clark "got his values and moral compass from his father, but he gets his strength and compassion from his mother."
So more intellectually interesting was a bald Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in his '20's dealing with charismatically evil dad John Glover and the growing bad seed within that will eventually lead him to be Superman's nemesis. Props to the "Chloe" character, even as she keeps pining for Clark.
The WB's warnings against teen pregnancy are a lame balk against the effects of the red kryptonite within us all (particularly as the high schoolers are portrayed here by studs and chicks in their mid-20's). And we were actually supposed to believe that Clark and Lana hadn't been with any of those partners before one-time-only consummating their love in the 2nd episode of the 4th season. No wonder their previous paramours moved on to other WB shows! But his back and forth with his super powers. . .
And yeah I do watch for the music - this fan site IDs the songs within its episode guides by scene, but not what album the songs are from. Heck I even buy CDs based on what I hear here. Like nice use of one of Johnny Cash's last songs, Peter Gabriel's "I Grieve" (which is on the one CD of his I don't have), and in the 6th season in "Wither" of closing with James Carrington's not-yet-released sure to be the James Blunt sound-alike hit of the year "Ache" (despite the promotion of the All American Rejects throughout the episode), in what was a wonderfully romantic episode of couples matching up while super Clark is left alone. Lovely closing use of Josh Kelley's "Cain and Able" from Just Say the Word in "Rage" - trivia: he's engaged to a graduate of the not dissimilar Roswell, Katherine Heigl, though she's now better known for Grey's Anatomy.
Shades of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith -- we found out in "Lexmas" that what turned "Lex Luthor" to the dark side was love! Just like "Anakin," he wants power and money to protect those he loves, i.e. "Lana". Aw shucks. This season is definitely more interesting now that they're out of high school. In "Fantastic" on 1/12/06, confidante "Chloe" stops "Clark Kent" from describing too many details of his sexual issues with "Lana": This conversation cements our relationship as I'm your krypto-hag. Looks like he may have finally broken "Lana"s heart enough times to set up his relationship with the sassy "Lois" even as she's tempted by the Green Arrow - and I was watching as much for Justin Hartley's "Oliver Queen" (even though I haven't downloaded his thwarted Aquaman pilot) and am very disappointed that he chose to go off to save the world instead of her heart, even if his purpose was to give her a superhero jones for the future destiny, sigh. The teasing repartee has definitely improved in Season 6. And the new editor she was flirting with was a cutey from The O.C., until he was exposed as some clone.
What a surprise that even as the whole Superman-in-high-school and then college drop-out is long gone, that the 8th season was so entertaining, as it gets closer and closer to the traditional Clark-Kent-copy-boy and Lois-Lane-star-reporter traditional story line, with Justin Hartley's "Oliver Queen" back to make a complicated triangle (he also literally pops up in the NBC webisode series Gemini Division quite credibly as a robot).
So it was even more surprising how much fun the 9th season is! I was sure that once the prequel raison d'etre of the series caught up with the usual story line, this version would lose its oomph. Partly because "Ollie" is now a regular, and regularly takes his shirt off, and "Clark Kent" and his "Lois Lane" have developed a surprising spark. But now I really have to pay attention to the expanded mythology with a delicious Brit villain "Zod" as played by Callum Blue, who I was fond of in Dead Like Me and as a completely different good guy in the 2nd season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Vis a vis 9/11
Street Time (still being repeated on various Showtime channels) Scott Cohen and Rob Morrow were a complex tandem, plus at least a couple of the characters are non-stereotypical Jews (including Morrow's pot-smoking wife "Rachel Goldstein" who is not incognizant of her family's continual role in drug-dealing -- including her ex-hippy/art dealing dad, played incongruously by a Native Canadian), much more believably than I'd expected. The show was weakened at first by wives who it took ten episodes to go from bland to active and make the romance (and, um, the sex) more interesting, plus the director not yelling "Cut!" when Canadian actors betray the Toronto shooting with an "oot" instead of an "out." The traverse of the story line is intriguingly ironic, unpredictable, and twisty, as the two leads' lives have reverse parallels, though I had trouble following the criminal machinations. The sexual tension has ramped up in surprising ways as well between them, as the women have grown backbones and taken control of their lives while their husbands are floundering. The format settled down into guest star parolees, who can be interesting, such as finally getting to see Gale Harold of Queer As Folk in a hetero role, around the continuing story of the ironically teamed up central characters. But, yuck, to the second season romantic finale that made zero sense and had even less sexual magnetism so I didn't care that will be no third season.(updated 1/16/2004)
Strike Back (on Cinemax, all 4 U.S. seasons out on DVD, plus 1 Brit “prequel”) In the kind of action I don’t bother to see at the movies, the special forces fighters “Michael Stonebridge” (Philip Winchester—an American playing a Brit) and “Damien Scott” (Sullivan Stapleton – an Aussie playing an American) embed many women, including their tough female colleagues, willing to have casual anal sex when they’re not killing terrorists and arms dealers, but who get shot or blown up. (When will TV and movie directors catch on that since Brokeback Mountain straight women interpret such aggressive rear end simulated sex as repressed homosexuality? Especially since more and more gay love scenes these days show the physical gymnastics of face-to-face, boy-tops-boy sex.) But the dialogue and stunts in exotic locales are so much fun! So glad Cinemax let us the 1st season as a “pre-quel”, with Andrew Lincoln and Richard Armitage, just before they became bigger action stars. While the last season went out with a ridiculous bang of bad guys who couldn’t shoot straight, at least we get to continue to see the two actors in almost identical mode as here, both with outlandish storylines on NBC, Stapleton on Blindspot and Winchester on The Player
My other excuse to watch is the occasional woman Mossad agent Rebecca Levy, still my fave match-up with Scott. Stonebridge was more monogamous, until his wife went the way of all the females on this show. (updated 3/4/2016)
Tilt (miniseries on ESPN - out on DVD) I was attracted because Eddie Cibrian and his dimples of Third Watch co-star, along with Chris Bauer (also of the second season of The Wire) and the always interesting Michael Madsden. I'm tired of shows with Las Vegas as a background which is usually just an excuse to show nearly naked women, but there's surprisingly less skin than usual here -- even with a threesome thrown in. The characters' back stories are at least a bit different than the usual. I still know zilch about poker so the game tension is lost on me, even after seeing Rounders that the same creative team produced. But I do like the seedy darkness of it all. Will ESPN get pressured by casinos to shut this down due to the card sharks, cheating and rigged games at the heart of each episode like they caved to the NFL with Playmakers? This certainly makes gambling seem like more an addiction than appealing. But this must be at least the fourth series that has the venerable Robert Forster playing a returning prodigal father. (4/10/2005)
Undressed (MTV reruns it sometimes on overnights) Despite all the criticism of this as too racy for MTV's audience, it is in fact sensitive sex education: an anthology series that features three simultaneous story arcs --one set in high school, one in a college dorm and one by working 20somethings-- played out over several episodes, it puts (very attractive) young people (with broad Canadian accents) in outrageous yet believable sexual confrontations that result in every character growing through a better appreciation of gender roles, intimacy, communication, and mutual respect (nommed for a GLAAD award -- though that seems to have gone to the producers head -- this season is repetitively dealing with coming out issues). Each co-written by men and women (though less women in its final year) to deal with both viewpoints of discovering sex in every combination possible for teens to 20somethings--race, orientation, post-sex break-up etiquette, virginity, masturbation, STDs, premature ejaculation, breast fetishism, orgasms, techniques, fidelity, honesty, 3somes, size, turn-on's, cross-dressing, romance vs. sex, body parts size sensitivities, etc. etc. The "new-faces" actors' arms must get tired in rehearsals from taking their shirts on and off. The frankest non-premium cable dialogue and camera shots on TV. And unexpected not-necessarily-happy-ever-afters as characters who go off into the bedroom reappear weeks later. There is a moral here about being true to yourself and being sensitive to other people's feelings. So this is what co-ed dorm living is like--taking showers 24 hours a day in uni-sex bathrooms, among other goings-on. Oy, not sure I wanted to know this much, but I'm surprised how much the anti-MTV censors don't get the Lessons in Each Episode.
This series became a font for discovering new young actors and actresses to have gone on to bigger things. It also stretched limits of what can be done in teen shows. As the USA Today Pop Candy bloggerWhitney Matheson noted on 4/9/2007 with incomplete info: “Why should you care? A few Undressed cast members have gone on to bigger things since the series' run. Folks you may recognize include Superman Returns’s Brandon Routh, Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff, One Tree Hill's Chad Michael Murray, The O.C.’s Adam Brody and Autumn Reeser and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Marc Blucas.
The Whistler (summers on The N, bumped around, but not clear if they'll run the 2nd season from Canadian TV, which fans will doubtless post on YouTube as they did when The N kept moving it beyond findability) gives us Nicholas Lea in his 2nd TV series of 2006 after a too long absence in an atypically less dangerously sexy mode as a Dad than his sci fi mode on The X Files and Kyle XY, a precursor to his lovin’ preacher on Men in Trees. And I'm sure rooting for "Uncle Ryan" not to be a bad guy as he's winning over the girl who got away in high school. (updated 12/2/2007)
The Mountain (cancelled from the WB after 13 episodes) was surely filmed on the same location, as well as having had the same plots. Soap opera plots but heck, absolutely irresistible were Oliver Hudson and Anson Mount -- though the producers seem to have stupidly thought we would care about the wooden blond model who is in promotion posters and annoyingly stays around. Mount has a much too short haircut and little room to show the dramatic range he demonstrated in Line of Fire as the character is foolishly considered less central than Hudson's returned prodigal brother. I think the producers hadn't fleshed out his character if he was to be sympathetic or not, but I'm very protective of him vis a vis his sexy relationship with the bro's ex, to no avail -- as soon as he left the series nosedived anyway. I thought we were going to get skimpy Speedos in the pool scene, but wearing a woman's 2-piece was funny. Too bad the women they are sucking face with are interchangeable generic model-actress types. I never watched Dynasty so any of those comparisons go right by me, but I have gotten sucked into the competing brothers and families and scheming spurned employees' revenges -- as long as there's romance in each episode. (1/11/2005)
Without A Trace (on CBS Tuesday nights at 10 pm. Repeats of earlier seasons frequently on TNT so might as well catch them then. 2 seasons out on DVD.) Welcome back to TV Aussie-born, Brooklyn-living Anthony LaPaglia (so good in movies like Lantana and past quality show Murder One) and Eric Close (for whom I have watched any number of cancelled shows, like Now and Again and even Magnificent Seven (sometimes rerun on the Hallmark Channel) after he was on Sisters) -- and I enjoy that he's put down as a pretty boy being eyed by gay men. And Enrique Murciano as "Danny" is really growing on me, probably because he's one of the few characters who get to reveal something about his past and they gave him something of a relationship with a colleague. Each episode is mostly stand-alone like CSI with just a hint of continuing story lines about the personal lives of these FBI agents in NYC (though I doubt it's filmed here, boo), that I haven’t bothered to keep up with on first-run.
I seem to keep missing the repeat of the episode that revealed LaPaglia's character's past affair, but, nice, I caught up with Eric Close's "Martin"'s emotional roller coaster (which has been accented with a painkiller problem post-shooting). Nice joke of calling him and his work/romantic partner "Samantha" the real Scully and Mulder of The X Files. The episode "Malone v. Malone" written and directed by executive producer Hank Steinberg gave us more insight on "Sam's" relationships with the two hunks: so her affair with "Jack" was all cuddles and crossword puzzles, which wasn't real convincing to his ex-wife when she tried to apologize, while she grimly admits it to "Marty" and insists I'm really, really happy with you. Whew, three cheers for he being fed up with her games -- how unusual a GUY who wants a commitment! Terrific episode of "Malone"s nightmare with LaPaglia playing his older self. At least thanks to the TNT repeats I got to see the key first season episode that revealed the original affair and "Marty's" issues with his Dad high up in the FBI. What next with a recuperating "Marty" and "Sam"?
They obviously have no NYC fact checker on staff to even make a feeble attempt to keep the pretense of filming in New York! A victim's parents were reported to be "flying out from Connecticut." What - by helicopter to Manhattan? A victim's husband "worked for the Public Defender's Office." Gee, was that Legal Aid? Or one of their many competitors? Or Legal Services.
But the Season 4 "Check Your Head" episode by Diego Gutierrez amusingly hit home with inaccuracies, as the missing person was traced to my home town of Cedar Grove. While when I was growing up there, it did have a very large Italian-American neighborhood, mostly folks who worked in the "Industrial Village" of light manufacturing in the center of town, it didn't and doesn't have anything like the olive oil exporter type. It's a small town amidst the suburbs, not the urban NJ environment of Union County, or Jersey City that's right across the Hudson River. It's a good hour's drive from "the city". The Mafiosi were known not to live in my town, but to live in the fancy suburbs further out, like Livingston that's about a 10 minute drive away where one of my best friends lived, as is realistically portrayed in The Sopranos. But as it happens, the plot turn was somewhat realistic: one of the funniest things at the dreadful 25th or some thing high school reunion I went to was that one of the meanest Italian girls who made my life in high school physically miserable as she never forgave me for standing up to the Italian math teacher who was picking on a shy girl was that she almost apologized - she told me that she's now an out lesbian working as an AIDS counselor. (updated 5/24/2008)
BRING 'EM BACK THEY WAY THEY WAS AND NEVER WERE: A PLEA FOR RE-RUNS/COMPLETE FIRST RUNS
The Beat - UPN briefly thought it would get into quality TV in 2000 with Tom Fontana (of Oz and Homicide), but barely gave the show more than a few weeks try-out. Mark Ruffalo's listing on the IMDB doesn't even include it but the series may get unearthed now that In The Cut is giving him movie star buzz. It was uneven, especially the odd women's roles, but an interesting, visually different and original take on the young cop buddies TV series. Aren't there a few episodes we never even got to see? (updated 11/12/2003)
Boomtown (foolishly cancelled from NBC. TNT and Bravo ran it for awhile. Subscription channel HDNet is rerunning some episodes. 1st season out on DVD) Started with an overly flashy style that the network made them tone down and salacious cases but I appreciate again seeing the little they show of Jason Gedrick (no shortage of what I've watched really for him -- from quality shows like Class of '96 and EZ Streets to pretentious ones like Falcone to strictly B-level mini-series and cable movies, and notable guest spots like the car wash guy on Ally McBeal and it only took three weeks before they got his shirt off for a scene -- how about more time for him?) and Donnie Wahlberg (of one of my indie faves Diamond Men) and other actors from cancelled series on Showtime etc. The interplay between pretentious personal and professional lives doesn't always work out -- but then The Wire has raised the bar on cop shows that no broadcast series may ever climb over. Did we really need "Fearless" playing Rambo to get across how the Gulf War haunts him? It's taken half the season for them to make the adulterous D.A. less annoying and more human, but I cheered when his wife left him finally. The second half of the season they settled down into figuring out how to link the personal and professional and link the ensemble more clearly. I finally figured out why I've screwed up taping every episode: the mid-point commercials go on past the pause limit on my VCR! so I have to press record not just pause to re-start. Aw, no more trying to edit the commercials out as I miss too much. Creator Graham Yost says the series title was inspired by the title of a David and David LP. But the first episode of the second season was just a conventional cop show; big deal that we saw first the cops then the criminals' viewpoint. Even Law and Order: Criminal Intent does that. (updated 7/16/2006)
Dream Street - Killed by the beatified Brandon Tartikoff, NBC ran the six episodes in 1989 with a terrific cast of future TV mainstays -- Peter Frechette, Dale Midkiff, Cecil Hoffman, Thomas Calabro, Jo Andersen -- in a Springsteen-inspired New Jersey Tunnel of Love setting. Ahead of its time in looking at a group of 20-something friends. It was produced by NBC, so why don't they just sell the rights to some cable channel or bring it out on DVD? (updated 7/11/2006)
Eyes (cancelled on ABC but Direct TV will carry the unshown episodes) I was just kind of aware of Tim Daly all these years -- until The Outsider turned me into a real fan and I've been playing catch up with his TV shows, mini-series and movies, whether the commercial dreck, more daring bad guys, and the charming little romantic indies. While this show comes from the creator of the bold Profit, it's still a bit too breezy as it skims between serious and superficial Robin Hood to rise up to Quality Television, so I'm happy settling for feasting my eyes on Daly and Eric Mabius (post The L Word but pre Ugly Betty). We never got to see much in the way of some romantic sparks for our time invested, though at least they were not stooping to a romance a week with a client or client's wife. (updated 8/30/2009)
Comments, corrections, additions, questions welcome! Contact Nora Lee Mandel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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