Wrapping up Shows


The Wife:

A third season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager has drawn to a close, so I’m cramming my thoughts on the final four episodes of season 3 into one clusterfuck of a post. The short version of events sees Adrian and Amy continuing to hate each other, Jack getting that long and not-so-subtly foreshadowed groin injury, Adrian moving in next door to the Jurgens, Ashley getting a cool room in the garage, the Jurgens family reuniting and the birth of Anne’s baby, who may not be George’s after all.

I’ll provide a lengthy roster of quotes in a moment, but first I need to give major props to Francia Rasia. IMDB informs me that she used to date adorable hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks, so that gives her big ups in my book already, but when her character finally goads Ricky into attending relationship counseling to see if they can have a future together (after swearing to herself that she was only going to have sex with people she thought she could have a future with), she gives an utterly captivating performance explaining why she hasn’t wanted to have meaningful sex until now. (Her first time was with her best friend, who was dying of cancer, and when he moved away for treatment, they decided not to speak anymore, so she pushes her lovers away because she can’t bear to ever be that close to anyone again.) Of all the young actors on this show, Rasia is clearly the best, and I’m glad they’re giving her the more elevated material.

Leading a rather charmed life.

Leading a rather charmed life.

Rumer Willis showed up to guest star as the school’s new pregnant girl, Heather, which finally pulled Amy out of her super-bitch trance and made her decide to be a decent human being for one in this entire season. Other than that, I don’t really see the point of the Rumer Willis subplot at all, as it wasn’t brought up in any subsequent episodes. I guess Heather isn’t going to become part of the SLOTAT gang, even if Amy and Ben are her friends now. At the very least, I can appreciate an alternative view of what Amy’s life could have been and what life is for a lot of pregnant teenagers. Willis’ character was kicked out of her house and forced to live on her own. With no support from her parents of the father of her child, she’s barely scraping by. It’s a good reminder that Amy’s leading a rather charmed life, and I’m glad that it snapped her out of her bitch trance.

And at the end of all of this, Grace and Jack break up (which pleases creepy Madison), Adrian and Ricky finally say their “I love yous,” the Jurgens family welcomes little brother Robbie and Ben strongly considers breaking up with Amy. Part of me hopes he stays with her, because I believe he loves her, but part of me thinks it would serve her right for mistreating poor Ben. Oh, Bologna! The lessons you teach us!

And now! Quotes!

  • Ben: She’s on crack or something. Raging hormones are like crack . . . I understand.
    Amy: If that’s your way of defending me, step aside.
  • I was just one upping the conversation. Everyone knows that if someone calls you a slut, you have to call their mother a slut. — Adrian
  • I’m really sorry that you’re a slut. A slut. And a slut. — Amy
  • I just thought you might be into pregnant girls, and I could use a friend. — Heather, kind of coming on to Ben in the weirdest way ever. Would a 15-year-old boy even know if he had a pregnancy fetish?
  • Griffin called Ashley’s new suitor a nogoodnik. Griffin is now from a 1920s gangster story, or he’s a Russian grandmother.
  • Ricky: Church and sex don’t go together.
    Adrian: That’s church and state! Church and state!
  • Let me start with a little poem I’ve written called, “I’m sorry, Jesus.” — Grace, leading her abstinence group meeting with a poem I really should have written down in its entirety.
  • Sounds like your vagina’s really busy. Maybe I should come back later. — Jack, being very odd about periods.
  • Please, Adrian, do no go to my shrink. You’re going to ruin sex and therapy for me. And those are the two things I care about. — Ricky
  • Grace: It’s still sex.
    Jack: Not if you don’t believe it’s still sex.
    (Way to use Bill Clinton’s oral sex argument there, guys.)

The Husband:

Despite what seems to be the public consensus, I greatly enjoyed season 3 of SLOTAT, especially more than the awkward growing pains that was season 2. While unable to capture the sweetness and reality of season 1, season 3 brought me almost just as much entertainment, even if it slowly moved into the territory of me laughing at the show. But I appreciate Grace’s post-summer maturity (especially about sex with Jack), Ashley’s continuing relationship with gay Griffin and, yes, Adrian coming out of her shell.

Season 4 starts in January, and you’d better believe I’ll be watching, bitches.

The Husband:

While we, the children of Saint Clare, have found the time to write about many of the biggest shows on television (and even some small ones), there is only so much time and energy we can spend on this site. The truth is, we watch a whole lot more than what ends up on the site, and since I watch most of these on my own and yet never find the ability to write about them, their absence is mostly my fault. But no matter. For those that fall through the cracks, I have here a grab bag of the 30+ shows I watch in addition to whatever ends up on the site. These are the ones that slipped through the cracks. And hell, I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (and also not even bothering writing about, which tend to fall under instructional/educational stuff like anything on Discovery), so if you think I’ve forgotten something, please let me know. (And no, I don’t watch any CSI or L&O shows, so don’t even try to get all up in my grill.) Here they are, the missing shows of the 2008-2009 television season, in alphabetical order.

24

I really should have written at least some criticism on this season, but work piled up and I simply didn’t have the time. It started off as the most intelligent season with some of the most compelling political questions being thrown around (welcome to the show finally, “debate on torture”), but by the fourth time Tony twisted his alliance and Jack was infected with the disease, I kind of stopped caring. Great first half of the season, though, and I think Renee is the best new character in a very long time.

Adult Swim (Xavier: Renegade Angel / Superjail! / Squidbillies / The Drinky Crow Show / Metalocalypse / Delocated / Robot Chicken / Etc.)

Thank you, young people of Adult Swim (who I have spent some time with, don’t forget) for freaking my mind week after week, and giving alternative comedy a major boost in America. And for freaking out my wife.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

Better Off Ted

It took me a couple episodes to latch onto the tone, but once I did I simply couldn’t get enough from this latest product of the mad mind of Victor Fresco. Check out some episodes online, then watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe (his previous show), and I guarantee you some of the oddest network comedy in a very long time. I still think Portia DeRossi is trying to hard, though, and should take a page from the book of Fresco mainstay Jonathan Slavin.

Castle

Bring it on, Nathan Fillion. Hypnotize me with your nostrils and your addictive but borderline-stupid mystery writer-cum-detective series. (Although how weird was that Judy Reyes episode? What the hell, Carla Turk?)

The Celebrity Apprentice 2

So sue me, I liked Joan Rivers. And the addition of the phrase “Whore Pit Vipers” to the television lexicon.

Celebrity Rehab (Sober House) with Dr. Drew

So help me, I can’t stop watching. It’s just a disaster. I will say, though, that I like the drama in the rehab far more than the sober house, as the latter seems to exist simply to destroy any progress the celebrities made in rehab. And now having seen all three of his seasons of Taxi, Jeff Conaway’s fall from grace is fishbowl television at its finest.

Dating in the Dark

Really fun, actually. I hope it gets a second season. I also hope that more matches will be made, and that people stop being massive failures.

Dirty Sexy Money

Everything I needed to say about the failure of the second season of this show can be found on this blog, and it ended its truncated run by turning itself inside-out by revealing that the show’s central mystery, who killed Peter Krause’s father, was a bust since he wasn’t dead after all. What the hell, Dirty Sexy Money? Oh well, your cancellation made room in Krause’s schedule for the much anticipated (by me) adaptation of Parenthood coming to NBC mid-season.

The Goode Family

It took a few episodes to find its footing, but by the end of its sped-up summer run, I was a major fan of the latest Mike Judge effort. (R.I.P. King of the Hill.) Vastly misunderstood by viewers who only watched the first episode, it, just like KOTH, found a middle ground between conservative America and liberal America and found the ability to make fun of both without drawing blood, choosing to love instead of hate. Some of the voice cast was misused (why was my beloved Linda Cardellini in the cast?), but as a Berkeley native, I had a blast relishing in mocking the stereotypes of my own people while rediscovering what it is I love so much about them. The bull dykes were also two of the most original characters of the season.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

The Great American Road Trip

Any show that has two contestants debating over which is more correct, “y’all” or “youse,” gets major points in my book. A nice and forgettable summer trifle after a long, way-too-hot day. Silly, yes, but I can’t say it was bad. And it was a definite improvement over the similar family-based season of The Amazing Race. (I’m sure The Soup is really grateful for this show, too.)

Heroes

Oh god, kill me now. Volume 4 was a marked improvement over #3, for sure, but I just don’t care about anybody anymore. And yet I feel that I need to keep watching. It’s too late to give up now. There was one great episode this season, though, and that was the flashback one surrounding Angela Petrelli’s stint at a mutant internment camp. Why can’t they all be this good?

Howie Do It

Yeah, I watched it. Shut the fuck up. About one-third of it was funny, and as I watched it on Hulu at work, it’s not like I wasted any of my own time. Howie Mandel is savvier than you think, but I wish he would return to his wilder roots.

How’s Your News

This Parker-Stone produced MTV show revolving around reporters who are developmentally delayed confused the hell out of me initially, but once I realized there wasn’t a mean bone in its body it became a warm bit of fun. I want a second season, dammit. These are some of the most joyful television subjects I’ve ever seen.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

Better than the first season, but I’m still glad I only watch this online while doing something else.

In the Motherhood

Worst opening credit sequence of the year. Some pretty funny material hidden underneath unfunny slapstick. Horatio Sanz got thin. Megan Mullally couldn’t find a rhythm. I still think Cheryl Hines is oddly hot.

Lie to Me

I unfortunately didn’t start watching this until July, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. While gimmicky to a fault and not nearly as intelligent as it pretends it is, this Tim Roth vehicle about an FBI specialist who studies the subtleties of the face (OF THE FACE) is clever, compelling and well drawn. I’m not sure about the addition of Mekhi Phifer’s character, but we’ll see how it works out next season, especially with Shield creator Shawn Ryan at the helm of season two.

Life

This cancellation reallllly hurts. One of the unsung gems from the 2007-2008 television, this, the smartest network cop show in recent memory, took its great season one energy and hit the second season with all it had and came up with a compelling, hilarious, devilishly clever and gleefully violent run that was only marred by a major cast shift during the final few episodes. (I’m looking at you, Gabrielle Union. Your presence was what I like to call a massive failure.) A Zen-obsessed cop recently released from prison after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, this show had the best cases of them all. It also gave me one of my favorite hours of television of the year in an episode that revolved around a seductive assassin, fertilizer and pigeon aficionados. And at least the major serialized storyline (who framed Damien Lewis and why) got paid off in a major way thanks to the ever-reliable Garret Dillahunt.

lifeshot

My Boys

Putting PJ and Bobby together was a great idea, but your nine-episode seasons are too short to gain any momentum, and the spring training season finale was a bust.

Nitro Circus

Moronic glee.

Numb3rs

Man, did they put Charlie through the ringer. First, he nearly gets his brother killed with a miscalculation on his part, he questions his own validity as a mathematician and then Amita gets kidnapped just as he decides that he wants to marry her. Otherwise, another fine, if somewhat uneventful, of this show that never captured the glory of its über-nerdy first season. Also, thanks for all the great guest star work, but sometimes it gets laid on a little too thick, such as in “Sneakerhead” which brought together Bruno Campos, Patrick Bauchau, Dr. Edison from Bones and Eve. (And points for making the Liz Warner character actually bearable. I fucking hated her in season 4.

Privileged

So apparently the CW thought that their best idea ever was to get rid of this show, the smartest show on the UPN/WB merger since the Buffyverse, one that was technically pulling in bigger numbers than 90210, one that was a delight to watch and deeply addictive, and make room for what is sure to be one of 2009-2010’s worst new offerings, Melrose Place. I gotta tell ya, this cancellation hurts. While I wrote recaps and reviews of the episodes way into its freshman (and only) season, the looming axe, as well as a more heavily serialized structure, turned me off from writing on the final stretch of episodes, and I told myself that I’d only recap them if the show came back. Lo and behold, another Joanna Garcia vehicle has gone down the tubes. I’ll miss you oh so dearly, Ms. Too-Smart-For-The-CW Palm Beach satirical melodrama known as Privileged.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

Rescue Me

I thought it was a great season, and thanks to an extended number of episodes (it didn’t air in 2008 thanks to the writer’s strike), the show was able to focus much of its energy on pages-long dialogue-happy battle-of-wits in nearly episode, which to be is melodrama heaven. Gone is the maudlin tone, returned is all the comic energy, and the stories seem to actually progress instead of just flopping around like a dying fish. Leary and Tolan deserve major praise for bringing the show back up to snuff. And now having seen all of Newsradio, I love any chance I get to watch Maura Tierney, although I’m still not going to watch ER. (I am proud to have only seen three episodes of that show ever, being a Chicago Hope fan.) Special shot-out to the Sean cancer storyline, if only to allow Broadway actor Steven Pasquale (husband of Tony winner Laura Benanti) the opportunity to belt out some songs in a handful of hallucination scenes.

Samantha Who?

One of the biggest upsets of the last two years was the rise and fall of this light-hearted, occasionally gut-busting amnesia sitcom that started off the talk of the town, only to waste away its final episodes after the conclusion of the actual television season. Ending on a shitty cliffhanger (Sam’s parents are getting divorced, so Mom is going to live with you and your formerly-estranged-but-now-love-of-your-life lover), we nevertheless found out who caused the accident that brought about Sam’s amnesia, Jennifer Esposito finally made it with the towel boy, and Melissa McCarthy continued to be one of the brightest stars of the year.

Scrubs

Like Privileged, I hesitated to continue writing due to the threat of its cancellation, but now it’s continuing on into yet another season (albeit with some major changes), so I really have no reason to stop writing about it. But let’s just say that while the hurry-up to conclude its many disparate storylines often felt rushed (those two Bahama episodes felt especially odd), the conclusion to J.D.’s years-in-the-telling tale was a lovely way to conclude the season. (No props for the awful awful Peter Gabriel song that accompanied his final walk down the hallway, as laughably bad as it was when I heard it in the remake of Shall We Dance?)

The Shield

I don’t have to tell you how amazing the final season was. Watch it. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the hardest hitting cop shows of all time. Like The Wire, a Greek tragedy hammered into modern-day policework with some of the most finely drawn characters around. And oh man, did those final three episodes pack a major punch. Ouch, indeed.

Southland

Quite a bit like The Shield, really, had it followed Michael Jace’s beat cop instead of the Strike Team. A little too dour at times for me to really give a crap, and the sprawling ensemble needs to be cut down (which is what I hear it’s doing for the second season), but this L.A.-centered procedural has a lot going for it, not least of which its pitch-perfect direction. (I especially dig the long shots, including my favorite, which involved a cabin and a K9 unit bringing down a perp.)

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Surviving Suburbia

A sitcom in serious need of finding one tone and sticking with it, this sometimes-sweet-sometimes-brutally-cruel suburban comedy worked as well as it did because of Saget as well as G. Hannelius’ performance as the precocious daughter. Still, all the jokes about disabled people, pregnant teenagers and strip clubs really didn’t mesh together with the clichés of the genre.

Survivor: Tocantins

I love Survivor, but this was one of the most boring seasons in its ten-year run. I don’t think I gave a shit about one person, and I simply couldn’t find anything compelling to write about. A waste of a good location.

True Beauty

The right person won, the losers got (mostly) schooled in this trick show designed to expose the douchery involved in modeling, Ashton Kutcher made another heroin-like show, and I concern myself for months with how they can pull the trick off a second time in the next season.

The Unusuals

When grading a cop show, I tend to focus on three things — the tone, the characters and the cases. A bizarre, pessimistic yet comedic take on all those wacky cops we’ve seen throughout the years all thrown together (one is deathly afraid of…death, one has a brain tumor, one talks in the third person, one is a closeted socialite, etc.) pushed into some remarkably dark territory, The Unusuals had tone and characters down pat, but suffered at the hands of some DOA storylines. But oh man, did the tone ever make up for most of the show’s shortcomings. Great ensemble cast, too, although I would have recast Eddie Alvarez.

Rather unusual.

Rather unusual.

Worst Week

A breezy and often hilarious slapstick comedy based off of a British hit, it could never regain its momentum after moving away from the initial “week” of the title. Kyle Bornheimer is a true find and made the more unbearable misunderstandings and embarrassing moments of the show (of which there were many) all the more palatable. I’m not the biggest fan of comedy based around humiliations, but this show found a likeable ability to have its characters not completely despise each other at every moment. This was, to say the least, very refreshing. Big points for giving me the biggest network TV laugh of the year (when Bornheimer wakes up his brother-in-law only to be thought a murderer) but major negative points for pushing back a major character-based episode into a weekend spot months after the show had already ended its run.

The Husband:

Well, here it is – the final part of the batshit crazy story that was Fox’s Prison Break. This is it. There will be no comic book continuation. There will be no more episodes. There will be no more TV movies. It’s over. And I’ve finally been able to get my hands on a legal copy of this straight-to-DVD movie. I emphasize the legality of it because, while this 90-minute feature has already aired in other countries such as Israel and the UK (during our honeymoon in Spain, my wife and I were baffled to experience the enormous popularity of this show in Europe, and were amazed to find that people completely unrelated to the show’s production were even making highly popular music videos as an homage to the program), it never aired in the United States. Why? Because much like the unaired Dollhouse finale (which sounds more and more insane the more I hear about this), the money was put up to make this episode, but Fox never had it in their contract that they had to give up two hours of their summer schedule to air a wrap-up of what had become a low-rated show. But the American DVD comes out tomorrow, so consider this a legal review for a legal product. I’m particular about these kinds of things.

I will say this – this was not the movie I was expecting. And that’s fine. I like to be surprised. Last we checked in on the Fox River gang five years in the future, where all the good guys were having good lives, and all the bad guys were either dead, in prison or in the electric chair. But there was a catch – while Sara gave birth to Michael Scofield’s son, the final episode ends on Michael’s grave, sitting near a Costa Rican beach. What the hell happened?

I assumed in my last review the following:

There’s a final straight-to-DVD Prison Break film coming out this summer, so it’s pretty clear that Michael isn’t actually dead but is thought to be for some ridiculous reason or another. Maybe he’s hiding from everyone he affected during his stint in and after Fox River, a plan that backfired so many times and involved so many others that Michael and Lincoln have basically directly or indirectly caused the death of hundreds of people. That’d be a pretty big weight on my conscience.

So, clearly, I expected the movie to take place post-coda, where Michael’s presumed faked suicide would play out and we’d get one final middle finger to the system and the dreaded Company.

So color me surprised when the movie picked the story up mere weeks after the dissolution of the Company and the exoneration of all the main characters. Just as Michael and a pregnant Sara are getting married, the Feds come in with an arrest warrant. But this time, it’s for one Sara Tancredi. Why? Remember when she fatally shot Michael and Lincoln’s mother (Kathleen Quinlan), who was one of the leaders of the Company? Yeah, that’s being seen as murder, considering it’s hard to prove that the Company exists. And so her and her pregnant belly are thrown into the women’s side of a maximum security prison in Florida, and Michael makes it his mission to do one final prison break to save the woman he loves.

Man, why do I feel this compulsive need to escape from stuff?

Man, why do I feel this compulsive need to escape from stuff?

But things are, of course, more complicated than that. In the men’s section of the prison, General Krantz, now horribly scarred from that nasty acid burn during the final bit of season four, wants nothing more than to see Sara dead, and so he puts a bounty on her head. And who’s in there with Krantz but the deliciously evil T-Bag himself. When it becomes quite clear to Sara that she is as good as dead (her food is poisoned within the first couple days), she decides that she needs protection (even the guards want to beat the shit out of her for her participation in the Fox River breakout), and the only way to do that is to join the prison gang known as the Family, led by Daddy (Tank Girl’s Lori Petty, who has made a career out of highly bizarre, very mush-mouthed and oddly brilliant performances). But oh no! It’s even more complicated than that, because who’s in the women’s prison also? Susan B. Anthony/Gretchen Morgan, who has done her share of fucking everything up for the Fox River gang starting with all that season 3 nonsense. But is it finally her time to make up for all her misdeeds? And will T-Bag ever really change, or is his unpredictability becoming entirely predictable? And will Mahone, desperate to return to working at the FBI, turn on his foes-turned-friends?

Yes, it’s a little cheap that they would decide to end the show with yet another prison break, but it’s also somewhat warm and familiar. It’s great to bring the show back to its bare essentials, and only this time the tables are turned, with Michael, Linc and the gang on the outside and Sara on the inside. And revisiting prison politics (Daddy is without question the film’s best character, echoing the menace of Peter Stormare’s Abruzzi from s1 and s2 but giving it an eerie kind ness) brings to focus some of s1’s best qualities. (The knife fight in the shower room has one of the most shocking moments I can remember on Prison Break.) And while the breakout itself does leave a little to be desired from a technical standpoint – even from the beginning, the show was always extremely clever about how far they were willing to go to get its audience to suspend their disbelief – its emotional content is only matched by the Fox River breakout process.

And while I do not want to spoil anything, we do get a definite answer of what led to Michael Scofield’s tombstone just a few years down the line. But I’ll leave you Prison Break fans to discover what happened, because while it may not completely shock anybody, it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.

So check it out starting tomorrow from Netflix or whatever service you use, and I hope you enjoy what closure it’s able to bring to those such as myself who already miss that crazy show.

The Wife:

Eli Stone

Just a stones through from greatness.

Just a stone's throw from greatness.

I’ve written previously in my two (count ’em!) posts on Eli Stone this season about how I think the show lost some of its spark during the second season, but the most underwhelming parts of season two were, evidently, saved for last, to slowly peter out during this three-episode burn-off. To be honest with you, I’d forgotten a lot of this season simply because of the break between when I last watched and these remnants. Thus, nothing really stood out to me about them and they only served to reinforce my early assessments of what went wrong with the show. And keeping Maggie and Eli away from each other, while it did allow Maggie to come into her own (looking especially confident and sexy in the last episode) it lost a little bit of the spark from one of the most interesting relationships on the show, only to half-assedly rekindle it in the final episode’s desperate attempt for closure.

I actually found the whole central vision-mystery from the last episode to be extremely frustrating for two reasons, one complaint for each part of it:

1. The parents of the braindead girl who didn’t want to give up her heart to that dying woman are selfish idiots. I am not a religious or spiritual person, but I was raised Catholic and I can tell you that there are several flaws in their argument about “not wanting their daughter’s heart to burn in hell because it’s inside an atheist.” First of all, denying someone the chance to live is possibly the least Christ-like thing a so-called Christian could ever do. Second of all, Christianity believes in the soul, not the body. So if their daughter dies, she goes to God, not her body and not her organs. Certainly, if she signed up to be an organ donor, she is aware of that fact, and so are her parents who are executors to her will. This whole case was insanely stupid, and I’m glad Eli proved their idiocy by basically pointing out my first complaint that denying someone the chance to live because they have different beliefs than you do isn’t only discriminatory, but COMPLETELY ANTITHETICAL TO YOUR SUPPOSED FAITH.

2. I guess Eli was busy using all his smarts and logic on that because he seemed COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of using it to interpret the plane crash part of his vision. He knew from the beginning it was a KeyStar air flight. He made a correct step in getting employee flight records after seeing the Weathersby Stone travel bags, but for some reason never made the connection between the name of the airline and what employees might be flying on that airline. Instead, he totally wasted Jordan, Taylor and Matt’s time by asking them not to board their flights. (Now, I suppose in the world of Eli Stone, KeyStar might be the ONLY airline, but I find that highly doubtful, as that would be an air travel monopoly and, surely, some client of WPK would have already sued them and broken up said air travel monopoly long before Eli turned over a new leaf.) Then, once he got the time and date of the crash in his next vision, he didn’t take any further steps toward, say, looking up KeyStar flights departing from SFO that day and figuring out, based on listed travel times, which ones would potentially be the ones that would crash. I realize he’d still look like a crazy person/terrorist if he called the TSA and gave them a list of specific flights to check, but it would also stand to reason that he might be able to better prevent the crash if he actually took the time to narrow down the field of possibilities.

Instead, we got a little deus ex machina with Maggie’s fateful voicemail announcing her receipt of the Weathersby Stone travel bag and her intended us of it during her flight to Italy, departing that day. I suppose I should be happy that it got him there in time to drop seemingly-dead, only to have him reunite with Maggie, who just happened to demand to be let off the plane before it took off due to her own hunch, which then caused a flight delay for another safety check, allowing the airport staff to find a safety problem with the plane, preventing it from blowing up and saving the lives of all of its passengers. I should also be happy that Eli’s burst aneurism didn’t kill him, although I guess he’s still got that second one in there, waiting to destroy him.

Then there’s also that who odd and problematic talk with God/his father, in which its revealed (yet more telling instead of showing) that the atheist he fought so hard to get a heart for ended up dying during her transplant, which miraculously and conveniently ended up giving that braindead girl’s heart to none other than Eli’s soul mate, Grace. Are they still soul mates now that Eli’s still got a deadly aneurism and Grace has a new heart that will allow her to live a normal life? And how does Grace figure in to last season’s vision of Maggie with a baby that is presumably Eli’s? I know this God-snowglobe ending was meant to tie up loose ends, but I feel like it mostly made a mess of things.

Harper’s Island

The next murder Im hosting will definitely be held in my new murder basement, by the way.

The next murder I'm hosting will definitely be held in my new murder basement, by the way.

I never got the chance to write about Harper’s Island prior to this, but I did watch the limited-run series in its entirety and enjoyed the show’s commitment to campy fun good times. You see, I like murder mysteries. In fact, every year, I host a murder mystery party at my house in which I invite some friends over for dinner and a 4-hour immersive role playing game with lots of improvised craziness and clue-solving. Watching Harper’s Island was exactly like playing one of my murder mystery dinners, only with a significant increase in the number of potential suspects and an ever-growing body count. (At my dinners, only one person dies. And they stay dead, unlike John Wakefield.) Clearly, I am inclined to like such a thing.

In the beginning, I thought the show wasn’t going to be as cool as it ended up being, and part of my problem was with the casting and the writing. Too many of the actresses looked the same, and didn’t seem to have distinct enough personalities. In fact, up until the near-end, I would sometimes confuse Bride Trish’s sister with her step-mother, and I’m glad Bridesmaid Lucy died so early on because otherwise, I’m not sure I’d have been able to tell her apart from Chloe (unless Chloe were in every scene with Cal, like he has was cute her British accessory, or something). But once certain unnecessary bodies were dispensed of, the key players really started to flesh themselves out and the show got good. I’d say this is when the cast was probably at a total of 10, just after Mr. Wellington’s encounter with that headspade that awakened everyone to the possibility that there was something other than a wedding going on on Harper’s Island. (Here I must insert that my murder dinners are meant for eight, which is a perfect number because these things are filled with a plethora of information to keep straight, and maintaining tidbits from any more than eight sources while drinking bottle after bottle of wine is exceptionally difficult.) Once we got down to a manageable number of characters, we started to explore Abby’s past with the island, the history of the Wakefield murders, her mother’s diaries, her father’s obsession and the possibility that she – or someone else – could have been John Wakefield’s love child.

I also became somewhat invested in the growing relationship between Chloe and Cal, and, subsequently, in the changes in their characters during this whole ordeal. At the beginning of the show, Chloe was an effervescent party girl who was nothing if not gorgeous, which is perhaps why I couldn’t tell her apart from Lucy. Cal, on the other hand, was a fish-out-of-water Englishman, a man a bit too posh and uptight for seafaring life in the Pacific Northwest, constantly picked on by other party guests and locals because of his difference and because a girl like Chloe had no business being with a man like that. But as they found themselves in the midst of danger, Cal and Chloe stuck together. She got a lot tougher and a lot smarter, and he likewise proved his mettle by employing his medical knowledge (from working as a mortician, I believe), to help the survivors figure out facts relating to bodily injuries and their causes, as well as patching up certain wounds and instructing others how to patch up his own. Nothing cemented their growth more for me, though, than Cal’s death at the hands of John Wakefield and Chloe’s defiant swan dive to join her would-be fiancé in the river below, growling, “You can’t have me,” just before she takes the plunge. Beginning-of-the-series Chloe wouldn’t have done that for Cal, but end-of-the-series Chloe did.

Now, about that John Wakefield love child. As it turns out, that love child ended up being Wakefield’s accomplice, and it isn’t Abby, but her childhood best friend, Groom Henry, who reveals to her (after kidnapping her and murdering his father and anyone else still alive except for hostage Jimmy) that he set up this whole thing (including his fake relationship and fake wedding to Trish . . . ouch!) to lure Abby back to the island so they could be together . . . even though they’re technically siblings . . . which is really creepy, but doesn’t seem to bother Henry at all. I don’t understand why he kept Jimmy alive to allegedly pin the title of “Wakefield’s accomplice” on, especially after going through all the trouble to stage the burning deaths of Trish, Abby, Jimmy, Wakefield and himself. Even with “Wakefield’s accomplice” alive somewhere, it’s doubtful that the Washington State police would dig further into people “proven dead” or go digging about on an even more remote part of the island to look for said accomplice. So to take someone hostage and force them to write a false confession? This strikes me as very bad planning on Henry’s part, especially since his only post-massacre plan was to hole up in a really sweet house with Abby for the rest of their days, living out a warped little domestic fantasy and hoping she developed Stockholm Syndrome. Clearly, keeping Jimmy as a hostage is just a handy plot device so freaked-out Abby can find him, thus making her even more freaked-out and so Jimmy can find a reason to break free from his restraints and launch himself at Henry, thus taking him out with a very large boat knife and allowing Jimmy and Abby to ride off on a state police boat into the Puget Sound sunset.

But all in all, I had a lot of fun watching this show, delighting in the ever-growing body count, the inventive, nautical deaths and the various murder mystery tropes and red herrings dropped along the way. I wish the series had been more of a success, though, because I like the idea of these limited-run series. As my friend Drew wrote, they definitely solve the problem of Twin Peaks Season 2, and other series with a central mystery that outlived the story they’d planned to tell. (Joss Whedon was always very good at keeping each Big Bad around for only one season, and any subsequent seasons would deal with a new and different evil.) Plus, it was kind of like having a murder mystery at my house, only without all that cooking and planning. I’d have been interested to see other incarnations, especially because Creepy Little Madison was already poised as a natural successor to Abby as a Wakefield survivor for the next edition of murders in and around the Pacific Northwest.

The Husband:

As usual, my wife catches me with this article just when I’m getting extremely busy at work, so I can’t contribute very much, but I will agree with pretty much everything she said about both shows.

In a little way, I think I enjoyed the final four episodes of Eli Stone more than my wife simply because of some of the nice character development, but was left scrambling to reach for my iPhone and look up character names as they were mentioned, because a several months-long break between episodes kind of destroys any concept of who is named what. (This doesn’t happen to quality shows like Mad Men or anything on HBO, but that’s because they’re sweet programs that dare you to forget their characters.)

As for Harper’s Island (which I almost accidentally typed as Herpes Island, which is the inevitable porn spin-off), this was the perfect show to watch out of the corner of one’s eye while playing Peggle and Unblock Me on my nifty little Apple phone. (I plug! You give me money!) I had an even harder time telling the characters apart, but basically because I never bothered to learn their names in the first place. Except for Abby. (Yes, I forgot Henry’s name, even though the actor played a very memorable Harry on Ugly Betty over the last three years.)

More importantly, I don’t think there was one point in the entire series where either my wife or I ever bothered to venture a guess as to who was going to be the killer. No clues followed. No online community message board chats. I just watched until the next kill or the next shot of a scantily clad Chloe. (By the way, this Alvin & the Chipmunks actress, Cameron Richardson, has done her share of tasteful nude photography, so go forth and view.) Once during the final three episodes I jokingly guessed that it would be Madison, which, to be fair, wouldn’t have been the worst idea in the world. Just implausible.

More limited series, I ask, and networks could take a lesson from CBS sticking to this show, even if it was shifted from Thursday at 10 to Saturday at 10. To think, would Taye Diggs’ Day Break have developed more of a cult following had ABC allowed it to finish out its run? The world will never know.

The Wife:

While I don’t recall ever watching the original run of Rob Thomas’ Cupid back in 1998 with Paula Marshall and Jeremy Piven, I admit that I am the kind of person who would be drawn to such a premise. I love Greco-Roman mythology and I enjoy seeing modern adaptations and spins on it, and offering my “I’m friends with a Classics professor so I totally know what I’m talking about” judgments on whether or not those adaptations succeed. (Although the CW’s Valentine, about Greek gods living in L.A., just didn’t seem to pique any level of interest in me at all. Nor in anyone else, apparently.) So being that I don’t recall ever watching Cupid in the 90s – which I realize now was probably because it was airing on Saturday nights, which just means ABC wanted it dead from the beginning and that I was also probably too busy going to sleepovers, being dared to call boys I liked and read them bedtime stories, to tune in – I figured I would give the reboot a chance.

And you know what? That show totally doesn’t suck.

The generosity accorded to Rob Thomas to reboot his formerly failed series by ABC, however, was not as generous in its feelings toward this show as I am. The original run of the series produced 15 episodes, and aired 14. This run was only 7 episodes, intended as a try-out for fall, because that’s how television producers work these days. ABC killed a few great things this year, one of which might rhyme with “Smushing Lazies,” and I think that left viewers a little mistrustful of anything new ABC had planned to debut in the spring. In the Motherhood, while admittedly not great, was interesting simply for the fact that it was a female-led show about an issue that nearly every woman on the planet can relate to (if she isn’t currently a mommy, she certainly had one once), and had a lot of potential to grow and further explore the current parenting climate (which in the last ten years has switched to the kind of stay-at-home-and-do-everything-right-and-organic-and-be-totally-involved-and-honest-with-your-kids idea embraced by Jessica St. Claire’s character) in relationship to other models (the working mom, the cool mom who raised her kids counter to any advice and everything turned out just fine). But it never quite found its footing and so failed its try-out. Better Off Ted is lucky its quirky mcquirkfest survived. Cupid should have.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Why am I so gung-ho about this show? For one, I think Thomas found the right lead in Bobby Cannavale and was smart to move the show from Chicago to New York. Cannavale is good-looking in an Italian Mama’s Boy sort of way, and incredibly affable. It makes perfect sense that he would be the kind of person strangers would invite into their lives if he offered to help them, and it makes perfect sense that he’s the kind of person clever enough to manipulate social situations to facilitate his matchmaking. In short, if Bobby Cannavale asked me to fly to NYC from New Orleans to cater a party as his Trevor Pierce (renamed from the original Trevor Hale) did in one episode where he reunited a Cajun caterer with her high school Iraqi war vet sweetheart, I probably would. As for the move from Chicago to NYC, NYC is often a space that invites fantasy in many popular stories. I’ll name only one example here that should serve as the paramount one: Miracle on 54th Street. It’s a city with its own mythology and a long history of being a dreammaking place: for immigrants, for actors, dancers and musicians, for artists and also for writers. It’s also a city in which people move and mingle with others numerous times a day, but promotes the isolation of modernity in that while its denizens inhabit mutual spaces, they don’t often connect with each other. I buy it as a place a god would try to turn into matchmaking central, especially because his therapist’s single’s groups prove to be an integral part of how the show’s main and peripheral characters, and how they are all trying to break away from the isolation of modernity and connect with others. There was talk in the production process that Cupid would relocate to Los Angeles, and while Francesca Lia Block has convinced me that L.A. can be a space of magical realism, I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well as New York did.

Furthermore, I like the idea of a show that believes in the concept of true love. We live in an age where the CW exploits people’s relationship issues on national television with Hitched or Ditched, where we look at the tabloids every day to see if John & Kate are going to fall the fuck apart (uh . . . yeah, that’s probably going to happen since the couple has a very special “announcement” pending; and I hate that I don’t watch that show and know about this), and where hookups have somehow replaced dating.  We all know that the divorce rate is high, and we all know that my home state has leveraged a terrible and oppressive measure against its non-heterosexual residents that bar them from even daring to challenge that statistic with their same-sex relationships. When I look at the divorce rate and the disappearance of date culture, it seems like a good number of us have given up even trying to sustain a partnership; that we prefer to be alone, save for a brief interaction every now and again that we don’t have to put any further energy into. While I wouldn’t say that having a life partner is right for everyone, I certainly like having someone to watch TV with every day. It makes me feel like this big, giant world is less lonely. That isolation of modernity thing I was talking about? Having someone to go through life with certainly makes me feel less isolated.

So when I see so much negativity toward relationships in the reality television world and in the real actual human world, I can’t help but be smitten by a scripted show that tries to remind us of the good parts of being in a relationship with someone, and how fun it can be to take that plunge. Cupid may only be a string of meet-cutes, but it’s also about love overcoming obstacles. None of the matches Cannavale’s Cupid makes in the 7-episode run are easily procured, and, somehow, through his crazy/divine providence, he is able to unite these couples in the promise of everlasting love. I’ve already mentioned the Cajun caterer and the Iraq veteran, which came to a bittersweet ending as the vet announces that he’s getting stop-lossed and sent back for a third tour of duty, something he planned to avoid by running away to Canada and never coming back – only to change his mind and do his tour of duty, knowing that if he lived, his Cajun caterer would be worth coming home to in order to live out their days under the willow trees in their hometown in Louisiana.

But perhaps my favorite of these divine matches came in the final episode, featuring adorable Broadway ingénue Kerry Butler as a working-class masseuse from South Boston in love with a man above her station (whom she broke up with because he never let her meet his family because of her wicked pissah of an accent). Cupid’s therapist, Claire, tries to find out his origin by hiring a linguist (one of her patients, as well) to listen to him speak and determine his origins. The “using linguistics to discover Trevor’s origins” plot was recycled from the show’s first incarnation, but the My Fair Lady angle was entirely new to this version of the series. But Cupid performs a bait-and-switch, setting up Kerry Butler with illocution lessons in exchange for massages, during which she forms a friendship with the linguist over several delightful My Fair Lady-esque diction lessons. Butler’s character is almost ready to give up, and declares that it doesn’t feel right to her to hide herself just to impress a guy, at which point her linguistics tutor reveals that he, himself, has been lying for most of his life. He, too, is from South Boston, but wasn’t taken seriously on his first day at Princeton because of his accent and worked very hard to eliminate all traces of his working-class roots from his speech. After sending Kerry off to meet with her ex at a fancy, uptown party, Trevor realizes in talking to the linguist that, perhaps, he’s been guiding Miss Butler toward the wrong beau and disguises the linguist as a waiter to crash the party and tell Kerry how he feels. After making a scene in which Butler’s intended’s parents reprimand “the help” for being so clumsy, Kerry throws off the upper-class accent she’s worked so hard for and embraces who she really is, as well as the Henry Higgins who reminded her of that.

If I had one complaint about Cupid, it would be that Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Claire McCrae never quite felt real enough – and not for Paulson’s lack of trying. She’s a great actress, with a lot of range, and if you want to see how great she can be, please watch her arc as a Pinkerton on Deadwood and her completely stunning comic performance in Peyton Reed’s 1960s screwball romance send up, Down with Love, in which you will also be treated to Ewan McGregor’s delightfully Ewan McGregor-y Southern accent. Paulson never got to break through her material here, and always seemed too stiff to fit into this world, which is only justifiable in the fact that her awkwardness in the role highlighted the irony that she, single and totally uncomfortable with people, should be in charge of teaching people how to find love through commonality. I think, if the show had gotten more of a chance, Claire would have eventually felt more real as her own walls started to break down and we learned as much about her as she does about Trevor Pierce.

I’ll miss this show, and I’m sad that we live in a world that’s unaccepting of its existence. But I’ll cherish that “My Fair Massuese” episode, if only because linguists are awesome and the following line is one of the best things I’ve heard on television recently:

“Nothing says ‘Thank You’ like the phonetic alphabet on cupcakes!” – Kerry Butler


The Husband:

A few points of interest:

1.) I adore Sarah Paulson, but between this and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, she’s gaining quite a few detractors. She’s not to the point of being an absolute show-killer just yet, but her dedication to her craft, which allows her to make very interesting decisions with very intense and sometimes unlikable characters, tends to give her a bad wrap, at least on television. But I can assure you that she’s one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, including her deeply strange performance that I saw in 2005’ Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, also starring Jessica Lange, Christian Slater and Josh Lucas.

2.) I started noticing this right around the time that Kidnapped, Six Degrees, The Black Donnellys and 3 lbs. were all canceled in the same television season, in that unless a show was a Law & Order or a CSI, any show that filmed in New York was about 90% guaranteed to be canceled. And this year, that trend came back in a big way. With no exception this year, no show that premiered in the 2008-2009 television season and was shot (not just set) in New York was renewed for another season. (And Castle doesn’t count, because it’s shot in L.A.) This would include Life on Mars, The Unusuals and now Cupid. (And last year’s Lipstick Jungle, which moved on into this year, couldn’t survive either. But hell, at least it got a second season unlike the majorly similar Cashmere Mafia.) A part of me wants to say it’s the distancing location that seems to turn many non-New York viewers off, as if these shows take place in a world far too unlike the viewers’ that it simply doesn’t pique their interest. But, more than anything, it’s the fact that it’s so goddamned expensive to shoot in NYC, so even when ratings are doing okay, the networks use the expenses as an excuse to shut down production. I’m amazed Gossip Girl got renewed for a third season, since the ratings are so abysmal, but it’s definitely a pop cultural flagship for the network, so canceling it would just make the CW lose more viewers.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the Left of the Dial episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffields Love Is a Mix Tape.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the "Left of the Dial" episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape.

3.) While I loved almost every episode of this show, my favorite, simply from a dramatic perspective, was “Left of the Dial,” in which a down-on-his-luck radio deejay tracks down his favorite caller and starts a relationship with her and her two children. It was the sweetest, least negative and most realistic episode of Cupid’s altogether too short season, and it’s a shame that not enough people stuck around to even watch the episode.

The Husband:

First, a little history:

I watched the first series of Life on Mars (i.e. the British term for “season”), which amounts to eight episodes. When the second series rolled around on BBC America just over a year ago, I DVRed the entire thing, but ran into a problem – when I hit play on the first episode, all I got was a blank screen. Believing that somehow my subscription to BBC America was accidentally canceled which would result in me recording the channel but getting no actual image or sound, I deleted all the episodes. But when I hit play on an entirely different show (let’s say a G4 rerun of Cops), that was blank too, and I realized, all too late, that something was wrong with my box’s playback, and that I had deleted something that would probably never air again in this country.

Point is, my knowledge of the UK Life on Mars is limited to its first series. And let me tell you, it was brilliant. Sam Tyler, a modern-day Manchester police detective, is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973, in his same home town, just around the time he was a young boy. Taking a job at his own police precinct, he has to both figure out a way to exist in the 1970s while also trying as hard as he can to find a way back to the present.

When Life on Mars finally came to the U.S. – after David E. Kelley took an ill-advised shot at a pilot, then set in Los Angeles, then gave it over to showrunners who set it in the more-applicable Lower East Side of Manhattan – I was all set for a great show. It’s a terrific concept, and the possibilities were endless. The UK version played extremely well with old-fashioned detective work and its relation to modern-day police procedures, and came out somewhere in the middle, both parodying and paying homage to the television procedurals of yore. Sometimes a cop just had to rough up a suspect, but this barbarism was often nothing compared to some good profiling and psychological warfare.

The U.S. version, however, took a somewhat different route. While the U.S. pilot is almost beat-for-beat the UK one, it merely took that as a jumping-off point in the later episodes and became, for all intents and purposes, basically just another cop show with the time-travel twist. Unique to the American show were countless 70s jokes, ranging from Nixon humor to cracks about Soylent Green to Sam’s many aliases (Luke Skywalker, Tom Cruise, etc.), which were often met, by me, with a raised eyebrow. Humor is fine, but eliminating some of the original’s best elements in favor of some homegrown winks may not have been the best idea.

Yes, let's all question that fucking ending, shall we?

Yes, let's all question that fucking ending, shall we?

I think, if anything, I would describe the American LoM as a low-rent Scorsese knockoff (thanks, especially, to the presence of Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli) with the occasional moment of sheer greatness, but not enough to have made me want a second season. It took the easy way out far too often, leaving us viewers with completely average weekly detective mysteries that weren’t original 30 years ago. Other than the more serialized stories, I can only think of case off the top of my head that I found truly compelling, involving the race war that erupted after an African-American girl fell to her death off a building. That, specifically, was a damn good way of bringing modern politically correct sensibilities and common sense into a more heated, confusing time. Less effective was the early episode revolving around gay-bashing in the slums. There’s clever, and then there’s preachy.

Luckily, LoM dropped the preachy after it ended its fall season, but unfortunately some of its spirit went out the window as well. When the spring season rolled around, they had an extended episode order past the original 13, but were also warned, pretty early, that this first season would also be its last. So Sam, having finally figured out the deal with his douchebag father (which was, by the way, the final episode of the UK’s first series, and what the original Sam considered his entire purpose in “traveling through time”), Sam Tyler, and the show, moved away from the show’s sci-fi angle and focused more on policework, resulting in an enjoyable but choppy affair. This, thankfully, led to some great ensemble work, not just from the guys but from the ever-on-the-verge-of-fame Gretchen Mol, whom I’ve loved since Rounders and the vastly underrated sci-fi VR tale The Thirteenth Floor. While I love Rachelle Lefevre, I’m not sure if the role was right for her and I’m glad Gretchen replaced her in the role of No-Nuts Norris. (In fact, everybody but star Jason O’Mara was replaced after Kelley’s version.)

Other minor misgivings: I’m just going off of my knowledge of the UK’s first series, but I don’t recall Sam relying so heavily on his flash visions to solve crimes, such as in the US LoM when he realized that a man they were investigating would go on, years down the line, to murder more people, and thus Sam used this knowledge to get him before he committed the majority of his crimes. On the UK one, it was more that Sam was just a better detective with more training than his coworkers, and his skills, still unheard of in 1973, were unorthodox but extremely effective, and if you matched those skills up with Gene Hunt’s unstoppable brute force, they were a dynamite team. No Dead Zone flashes to be found, at least not to the extent of the new version.

And, of course, we have to address the completely out-of-left-field ending. While having no viewing experience with the second series of the UK LoM (or the lost-in-the-80s spin-off Ashes to Ashes, which I hear is compulsively watchable), I know that the entire show ended with Sam waking up from his coma in modern-day Manchester, but realizing he had no life there anymore, decided to kill himself, which in turn transported him back to the 1970s where he could have a great life as a renowned detective.

And why couldn’t the U.S. one have done that? Too grisly? I don’t think so. It’s a great idea, and a perfect denouement, respectful to the show’s thrust and its concept of trying to figure out where we belong and why. But nope. The U.S. version decided to lose its mind for the final five minutes, and for a great deal of people (including my wife), it dragged down the entire show, all 17 episodes of it. Turns out that it’s the year 2035, and Sam, along with all of his precinct buddies, were astronauts on a journey to Mars, and they were all in a very long cryogenic sleep. Sam had requested that his sleep program be him as a cop in 2008, except there was a glitch in the program, which would explain the time travel. In this future, in addition, Gretchen Mol is his girlfriend and Harvey Keitel is his father.

What?!

Oy. Way to shoot yourself in the foot. When I caught wind of this new ending, completely by accident as I hate spoilers, I thought somebody was fucking with me. But nope. As my wife and I finished the final episode Monday night after putting off the spring season until only two weeks ago, I knew what was coming, and it still sucked. It’s a letdown, both logically and thematically, and I wag my fingers at whoever lobbed that idea into the writers room in the first place.

But I’m also willing to let it go and recognize the quality that was the rest of the first and only season of Life on Mars: American Style. It was fun, it ended, and I had a good time watching it. I’m glad such a quirky show (at least, quirky for a while) was allowed to live its life in relative peace and not dropped after four episodes, and perhaps it could serve as a model that some American television should be designed to be a one-season affair. Then again, that’s what the awesome Taye Diggs show Day Break was supposed to be, and that was canceled before it could finish its run.

Oh well.

The Wife:

Whomever came up with that ending should identify themselves so that I may punch them in the face.

Plenty of single episodes of television shows have ended in an “it was all a dream” scenario — famously, the final episode of one of Dallas‘ later seasons features one of these revelations (which kind of undoes the entire final season of the show), as does a later episode of Rosanne — and I believe that can be used effectively for a single episode to show us an alternate version of events involving dreams, hallucinations, visions, coma-universes, parallel universes, etc. (Although, as I mentioned, I am still up in the air about its use on Bones in the season finale.) But for an entire series to be a programming glitch in an astronaut’s neurostimulation program when it could have been, oh, I don’t know, ANY OF THE MYRIAD THINGS SAM TYLER HYPOTHESIZED HE WAS EXPERIENCING is complete and total bee ess.

I’ve read that St. Elsewhere allegedly reveals itself in the series finale to have taken place entirely in the mind of an autistic child, but haven’t seen the series so I don’t really know if it would bother me as much as the ending of Life on Mars: American Style did. For one, I really don’t like knowing that the world I’ve been entertained and amused by and the conceit that brought me to the show in the first place was a mistake that’s very easily shrugged off by all of the characters after its revelation. Even the writers know that this ending is stupid because they give Michael Imperioli the following line: “Why would you choose to be a cop in 2008 for your neurostim?” Indeed. Why the fuck would someone do that? It doesn’t make sense. Being zapped back to 1973 within a computer program was nothing more than a confusing, 17-episode mistake. Way to have faith in yourself, series, because this ending completely nullifies anything interesting about the previous 16 episodes for me. The characters in the show believe it was a mistake, which seems to indicate to me some belief on the part of the writers and creators that the show’s existence at all was a mistake.

Secondly, ending the show on Mars is pretty much the most literal thing that could have happened to this series, and that’s just dumping a mound of salt and red dirt into the gaping hole left in the series’ purpose and credibility after the revelation.

That ending really did ruin the whole show for me. But if I had to pick one thing I actually liked about the ending, it would be that Sam’s clearly imaginary hippie-chick neighbor Windy who calls him “2B” (because it’s his apartment number) is the voice of the spaceship, and that the pod Sam’s been having his stupid-ass neurostim trip in is also numbered 2B.

The Wife:

It’s very difficult to write about the final episode of Pushing Daisies, as we were all told by our humble narrator not to treat it as an ending, but as a beginning. It’s unfortunate that ABC’s axe deprived us of a fully-told story, leaving Ned’s father and Zombie Charles Charles roaming about somewhere in the town of Couer d’Couers in Papen County (or possibly in America or Europe) without any explanation or raison d’etre. But those are stories, I’m sure, will be told in the much-talked-about comic book, whenever it debuts. I think Daisies can go on to live a good life in comic/graphic novel form, and now has myriad cheaper ways to engineer its signature quirk in full-color panels. Buffy and Angel have gone on to live long, fulfilling lives in this format, and I hope Daisies does, too. So with that promise of new beginnings and format changes, I can’t talk about the series finale as though it is, in fact, a finale. It didn’t try to be one because it knew it wasn’t one. I will, however, pretend it was a season finale, in which case I have to say that it adequately tied up another long-standing storyline, as last week’s “Water & Power” did for Emerson Cod. And that’s basically what we expect a season finale to do: to tie up some things, while leaving others to be dealt with at a later date. So while we may not know why Ned’s father returned or where Charles Charles is, we do know that Emerson is reunited with his Lil’ Gumshoe and that Chuck finally faces her aunts as an alive-again dead girl.

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

The Children of St. Clare wish all the best for the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies. We loved you guys, and we hope you all get to do some great, inspired work in the future!

It was great to see an episode that focused primarily on the Aunts – and especially on the antiquated ridiculata that is professional synchronized swimming. I love both Ellen Green and Swoosie Kurtz, but I could tell that, as a season finale, this plot was meant to bring both of their character’s closure and allow them to exist in a world outside of Couer d’Couers. Taking them out of the main cast would allow for some new characters to enter into the Daisies universe, with Lily and Vivian returning as guest spots. I’d miss them dearly, but a change in the main cast would have undoubtedly been healthy growth for the show. So here the aunts decide to honor the half birthday of their dead niece/daughter by attending the Aquacade, the very aquatic circus in which they once performed before they retired from synchronized swimming and the world at large. Ned, for some reason, decides it would be a good idea to give Chuck a great half-birthday gift by also taking her to the very same show (and Emerson and Olive – but not their respective significant others, both of whom are ill for the purposes of this episode, and so Olive could say the phrase, “Out with the gout,” which is funny to anyone who doesn’t have gout). Naturally, there are some silly avoidance tactics in place so that dead-Chuck is not seen by the aunts who do not know she’s alive again; chief among these non-sighting sight gags include the gang hiding behind various balloons shaped like aquatic denizens. I was particularly fond of Emerson’s crab balloon and his insistence on talking through its many legs.

The Aquacade itself might be the quirkiest, weirdest thing this show has ever shown us. It includes an announcer (Joey Slotnick, forever known to me as Merril Bobolit, dog-hair transplanter and inventer of Bobotox on Nip/Tuck) riding in Neptune’s chariot with a triton-shaped microphone (which I need, by the way . . . my half-birthday’s next month!), a shark-cowboying act featuring Mad TV‘s Michael McDonald as Bubba the Shark’s wrangler, a very homosexual Wilson Cruz as Sid Tango the Aquadancer and skinny bitches Nora Dunn and Wendy Malick as the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ biggest synch-swim rivals, the Aquadolls. Oh, yeah, and Dr. Swingtown from Private Practice/Swingtown (Josh Hopkins) plays their himbo manager/Blanche’s husband/Coral’s lover. But amid all that finery, something awful happens: somehow, Bubba the Shark escapes his tank and finds his way into the pool where the Aquadolls are performing one of their many star-spangled routines, where he proceeds to gobble up Nora Dunn’s Blanche mid-backwards summersault. Because someone rubbed lard in her hair gel. Awesome. Gross. Hilarious.

With the Aquadolls officially defunct, Jimmy Neptune’s traveling Aquacade clearly needs a new headliner, so he invites the Darling Mermaid Darlings to come out of retirement and get back into the pool. Seriously, Jimmy Neptune had the best aquatic puns ever in his pitch to Lily and Vivian: “I wanted from the water wings.” “The audience soaked it up.” I imagine the writer’s room bursting into giggles while working on this episode. “These are so bad!” someone would exclaim. “But they’re also so good!” someone else would say. Daisies writers, I hope someone gives you guys jobs, because you people were awesome. My praise of the writers and their terribly awesome puns aside, Chuck sees the Aunts’ decision to return to the biz they call show as an opportunity for the rest of the gang to infiltrate the Aquacade and find out who murdered Blanche. Emerson poses as the Aunts’ coach, with Olive running hair and makeup and Ned, in a totally gorgeous 1960’s-style suit and a pair of sunglasses that made Lee Pace look the fucking hottest he has ever looked on this show EVER, as their manager. (If I take nothing else from this episode, I take away the shot of the first time Ned turns around in that suit and how it made my heart skip a beat. And I am very much not exaggerating here.)

As they investigate, they find a variety of incriminating things attached to Sid Tango: he’s taken over Blanche’s dressing room, where her lard-laced hair-gel is kept, and, apparently, keeps a remote trigger to open the shark cage on his very phallic belt. But Sid is innocent, and suggests that Olive and Emerson turn their investigation toward Blanche’s sister, Coral. In addition to being bitter rivals, you see, the Aquadolls and the Darling Mermaid Darlings had more in common than their mutual interest in synchronized swimming. Like Lily, it seems that Coral was also guilty of sleeping with her sister’s lover. Coral assures everyone that while she may have been sleeping with Himbo Dr. Swingtown, she would have never killed her sister. Vivian, having been born with a hole in her heart, takes pity on Coral and invites her to swim in the Darling Mermaid Darlings’ act. But being around Coral makes Lily feel all the more guilty for what she’s done to her own sister, and the two adulteresses share some harsh words. Coral knows Lily’s secret, and threatens to expose it to Vivian unless she gets to stay in the act, but Olive quickly thwarts her plan by revealing to Lily and Vivian that Coral had another costume under her senorita garb and had planned to steal the show from her fresh-out-of-retirement rivals.

Meanwhile, Ned negotiates the Aunt’s contract and finds out that Jimmy Neptune wants to take the Aquacade on a European tour, which Lily and Vivian both agree to. Chuck, however, is not pleased with this information. She feels like being near her aunts, even though she can’t actually visit them, gives her some purpose to being alive again, like she’s meant to be their earthly guardian angel, slipping homeopathic curatives in the scads of free pies they never seem to question receiving. She tells Ned that she isn’t sure she could be happy with her aunts on the road, and that she might have to uproot and go with them somehow. Clearly, this would make Ned very, very sad. Before the big show, Emerson catches Chuck, disguised as a handyman, trying to sabotage the Darling Mermaid Darlings performance with an unauthorized music change, and catches Ned waiting in the shadows to sabotage her sabotage. Despite their confusion, from their vantage point in the control booth, they can all see that a more pressing situation is about to take place in the pool below when a giant lobster man karate chops Jimmy Neptune and steals the triton mike. With the lobster-head removed, Himbo Dr. Swingtown announces his intent behind Blanche’s murder and the imminent electrocution of the Darling Mermaid Darlings: everything he did was to give his lover, Coral, her own show. Fortunately, the underwater speakers drown out anything he has to say so that the Aunts never know of his plot to kill them and Chuck and Ned manage to capture both the Himbo and the microphone before any harm can befall Lily and Vivian.

Nonetheless, harm is about to befall them, as Lily wakes one day to find that Coral has dropped by her house and informed Vivian of everything. But just as Lily is about to kick her sister out of the house, Chuck and Ned arrive to announce the thing that would free and resolve the sisters: their daughter/niece is alive. And for Chuck to have them know that allows her to stay with Ned while they go out into the world on tour, just knowing she’s still around to take care of them. As for the others, Emerson’s Lil’ Gumshoe finds her way to him, and, randomly, Olive and Randy decide to open up a mac and cheese joint called The Intrepid Cow. I would say that these endings felt hurried, by, at least as far as Emerson and Penny and Chuck and her aunts are concerned, the swiftness of these resolutions carries with it some of the magic with which Daisies has always been imbued.

However, the moment I caught sight of Oscar Verbinius as the camera swept through the sewers and took us around the world as narrator Jim Dale assured us that endings should always be thought of as beginnings, I couldn’t help but wish he’d had something to do with the revelation that Chuck is alive-again. His arc in season one was truly incredible, and while I’m happy to see him again, I wish he’d figured into Chuck’s reveal to her aunts in a bigger way. Perhaps he’ll turn up at a later date – for even though the Aunts know she’s alive-again, there are still others who do not. Or perhaps he could be useful in sniffing out the location of Zombie Charles Charles. I guess I’ll take comfort in the fact that he’s still there, in the sewers, lurking. Just as I’ll take comfort in the fact that the beating heart of Coeur d’Coeurs will continue, panel to panel on the page.

On a final costuming note, I think the most fabulous thing in this episode, other than Ned’s suit, was Chuck’s orange-and-brown blossom skirt. I’ll miss the fabulous costumes on this show most of all – that just won’t be the same in the comic book.

The Husband:

I can’t talk long, because my bosses are hovering over me here at my work, but rushed or not, I absolutely loved the final 90 seconds of this episode, which swept through Couer d’Coeurs and flew by at least a dozen locations previously seen on this show, from the convent to French Davis’ bee empire to the graveyard where Stephen Root met his maker to the sewers, finally finishing on Digby in the field that opened the series, and am glad that the effects house was able to deliver it even after the show’s cancellation, thanks to some quick Bryan Fuller thinking and a great big hug of CGI charity.

Another good show dies young, because people apparently don’t want to see anything too original, too quirky or too fantastic in their everyday television viewing schedule. Let the CSIs and Law & Orders reign proud, because they’ve hypnotized their audience into watching the same damn show time and time again. Don’t blame the network. Blame the viewers. They gave up after the high-rated pilot, and that’s their fault.

Well, now I can give DC Comics some of my hard-earned money, and hope that Lee Pace finds a more welcoming home either on our television or in our movie houses.

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