The Wife:

Flash Forward, at its core, is a show about epistemology. When everyone in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, each having their own vision of what they believe to be the future, the show asks its characters and viewers to constantly question the knowledge we’re being given:

  • How do we know these are flashes of the future, and not something else, despite the fact that everyone flashed forward to the same date, April 29, 2010?
  • How do we acquire the knowledge/facts to help us determine what we think we know?
  • What is truth, belief or conjecture?

And from these central questions of epistemics, the show branches out into a Lostian exploration of fate and destiny, asking whether or not they exist, if the future can be changed and how much control we can exert over a predetermined course.

So far, I am into it. It’s slightly more penetrable than Lost, but still contains that show’s crucial elements of action, human drama and mystery to keep up interest in the show. Lost was reinvigorated when it introduced the flash forward structure at the end of season 3, and I like the idea of this show also having a similar endgame. It’s nice to know, as a viewer, that your showrunners have an idea of where they’re going and the experience of finding out if the flash forwards will come to pass is the same for us as it is for the characters on the show.

Because of that, we’re learning things in time with the characters, so all we know at this point regarding what may have caused the blackout is that there is a person of interest called D. Gibbons (who stole the credit card of DiDi Gibbons of DiDelicious Cupcakes) who was working on some major hack in a creepy-ass doll factory, and who made a call 30 seconds into the blackout to the only known person to not fall asleep: a man at a Detroit Tigers game, veiled in black, who walked away nonchalantly as if he knew this would happen. (For my money, I am sure he will be played by Dominic Monaghan, as I know my favorite hobbit has a deal to appear on this show and hasn’t yet done so.)

Lost in time, lost in space . . . and meaning.

Lost in time, lost in space . . . and meaning.

By the end of the second episode, we’ve unveiled almost all of the symbols on the flash of the Mosaic board that Joseph Fiennes’s Mark Benford was putting together in the future: we’ve seen the friendship bracelet his daughter gives him, the name D. Gibbons, the crime scene photo of the burned baby doll, but not yet the blue hand or the man with the star tattoos. John Cho’s Demitri Noh learns that there are other people who saw nothing in the blackout, but not five minutes after meeting one, she dies. He also receives a phone call from someone in Shanghai (I think) (Husband Note: It’s Hong Kong, but I shall correct my wife instead of editing the right answer in because I’m MEAAAAAN!) informing him that she was reading a report of his death in her flash forward, on March 15, 2010. Sonya Walger’s Olivia meets the man with whom she’ll have an affair (Swingtown’s Jack Davenport, using his natural accent), and her daughter Charlie recognizes Davenport’s son from her flash forward.

It’s too early for us to start building Lostian theories about the nature of the “future” or even what we think we know here, but I’m sure we’ll find out next week if Benford burning his daughter’s friendship bracelet has any effect on the future. If this show were to take a banal turn, I’d expect that little Charlie would just keep making them for her daddy, constantly, feeling hurt each time she saw him without it.

Stray thoughts:

  • How good was the opening of the pilot episode? The simplest images stood out: the balloons floating away, the kangaroo on the loose. These were a lovely, almost surrealist expression of the disjointedness of life after a disaster.
  • Speaking of which, has anyone ever seen children playing make-believe versions of disasters on the playground? Watching a bunch of children play “blackout” while “Ring Around the Rosy” sang out was terrifically creepy, as was the repetition of the song in the doll factory. I ask about the validity of this exercise because, while I understand the notion of communal play acting as a method of coping, I don’t remember ever play acting those kind of current events as a child. We play acted the 1994 Lillehammer games, where the worst thing that happened was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee getting bashed in by Tonya Harding.
  • Can Sonya Walger now only play women with children named Charlie?
  • Nice FBI agent cameo, Seth McFarlane! (Husband Note: He’s coming back, which further pisses off everybody who hates his funny shows.)
  • Seeing Joseph Fiennes on TV makes me mourn the unwanted pilot that was Ryan Murphy’s Pretty/Handsome, which was to be an F/X series about a man struggling with a gender identity crisis. The trailer for it was lovely, and I’m sure you can find it on YouTube. But know that when I try to see Fiennes as an FBI agent, I have a really hard time because I think of him surreptitiously fondling silk panties or, of course, unwrapping Gwyneth Paltrow’s bubbies.

The Husband:

The mystery is there, but the characters aren’t. The show has picked up some bizarre backlash in only its second week (with major complaints about Courtney B. Vance’s comic relief bathroom blackout story), but I think that’s just a gut reaction to having yet another deep mystery show on primetime, and this time people have their guard up. The themes and general questions being thrown about are, without question, fascinating, but I can understand some people being frustrated by some very one-dimensional character work. Right now, I’m only feeling Sonya Walger as far as emotions are concerned, because it’s tough for the rest of the show to work its procedural angle without losing some major character time, something from which most procedurals that aren’t named Bones tend to suffer. (But hey, at least Demitri Noh is an awesome name.)

But I’m not hating on the series so much as being distracted by my complete lack of connection, and after the first sequence of “holy shit,” things have settled into a procedural groove a tad too quickly.

The showrunners and writers must have a lot of information up their sleeves, because right now they’re racing through this mofo. Give me a reason to care other than the central conceit itself. Because I’m there, but I don’t know if others will stick around.

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The Husband:

And now my weekly recap of ABC’s blatantly female-focused melodramas, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters:

How is it that a show known for its huge sweeps episodes and mystery-exploding finales can come up with a season premiere that doesn’t really feel like anything? With Desperate Housewives, it’s pretty much that aside from a well managed but mostly unnecessary flashback structure (pretty much designed to let you know immediately who Mike chose to marry) and a very brief start of a new neighborhood mystery, it was pretty much just picking up where we left off last season. And aside from the wedding (which starts and ends the episode), no time has actually passed, progressing only through some quick leaps throughout the eight weeks between last season’s finale and the Mike/Susan wedding.

Oh…yeah…Mike picked Susan over Katherine. And this is the absolute best choice from a purely storytelling standpoint. Admit it — we were all done with Susan’s love problems and her will-they-or-won’t-they with Mike, and Katherine’s story was completely static. This way, Susan can try out a new type of story and see how it fits, and Katherine, raging against Mike and Susan for their betrayal, finally gets a storyline that can bring out the fire she was completely lacking last season. Instead of a pushover just hoping that her new fiancé won’t fall back in love with his ex-wife, this new Katherine fights back, intercepting Susan’s wedding dress and threatening to stain it with pasta sauce, playing mind games with their respective friends, and ultimately blackmailing Susan into apologizing during the damned wedding ceremony. But all is not forgiven, and Katherine’s final moment, when she whispers to Susan that the apology didn’t really help, is the best Dana Delaney has been since the climax of her season 4 mystery.

But the rest of it, as is up to par with the majority of DH‘s episodes, is full of stories of wildly varying quality. I find no pleasure in any bit of Bree’s story with her affair with Karl, and I can honestly say that at this point I find anything Orson does far more interesting and sympathetic than any Bree story. I just can’t bring myself to care, and the affair is clearly not meant to last. Let’s see if Marc Cherry and the writers can, perhaps, give Orson another mystery revolving around those three years in prison we never really saw.

Lynette’s story is considerably dark for the Scavo family — and yes, I’m aware that their story last year involved a nightclub fire that resulted in a major death — as she deals with the twins that are on their way, her fifth and sixth child. After tearing into the happiness of a new mother at the doctor’s office, she admits to her husband that she is just really not feeling right about what is currently happening, as with these twins she doesn’t feel like she loves them as she did with all of her previous (and all unplanned) pregnancies. We’ve already seen the woman find a balance between her family life and her desire to reestablish her career over the last couple seasons, but this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Will we finally deal with a major abortion storyline on this show? Probably not, considering how gigantic the show is all across the board, as well as the fact that this isn’t Maude.

And as I expressed interest at the end of last season in Gaby’s new storyline that has the Solis family taking care of a free-spirited and nasty teenage niece, that plot is pretty much progressing as I expected. Some of it is fascinating in the way that Gaby sees a great deal of her younger self in her niece and therefore wants to help her to avoid years of suffering and unhappiness, but some of it is also embarrassingly melodramatic and pointlessly cruel — the nightclub scene where Gaby gets on the mic and embarrasses her niece for sneaking out of the house went absolutely nowhere. But Gaby works best when she has a worthy opponent, so I’m not going to be too picky for a few more weeks.

Drea De Matteo: here to fuck up your shit.

Drea De Matteo: here to fuck up your shit.

And yes, that new mystery — Drea De Matteo (of The Sopranos), her husband (Jeffrey Nordling from last season of 24) and their son have moved onto Wisteria Lane, they had to move because of something the son did, Drea has a major burn/scar on the majority of her back, and somebody strangled young Julie at the end of the episode. But it wasn’t much establishment for how much I think we are meant to care.

As usual, the world of Brothers & Sisters fits more into the real world and, you know, generally believable situations. (It helps that it doesn’t pretend it’s a comedy like DH does.) And unlike DH, this felt like a real season premiere. Big emotions, big secrets, big starts and even potentially terminal illnesses abound in our return to the Walker Clan.

As Holly and Nora prepare for Justin and Rebecca’s engagement party, the two (as usual) clash, which comes to a boil when the soiree must be moved to Chez Walker after an influx of termites. There, Holly oversteps her boundaries during the party-planning while Nora has to deal with her and Saul’s aggressively insulting mother (Marion Ross from Happy Days), and it all comes to a head when Holly breaks the rules and buys the happy couple a new car, leading Nora to oust Holly as “that disease-ridden tramp” that her late husband was banging for decades (and, you know, the mother of Justin’s fiancée who was once thought to be the Missing Walker). It’s another Walker Clusterfuck, but come on…Holly had it coming.

Justin, meanwhile, is losing his mind to stress thanks to a one-two punch. First, he is called into the Dean’s office and told that if he wants to stay in the med program, he needs to seriously up his grades all across the board. Second, he finds out that he was admitted to the school not because of his grades (which weren’t great), but because his Senator brother-in-law made a few phone calls. But by the end, Justin and Rebecca have stopped bickering, he has vowed to stop being a quitter, and then they almost get into a car accident. (Whatever.)

Kevin and Scotty get a big plot boost in their mission to adopt a child, focusing on the emotions involved far more than the details of the adoption itself. (Really, how many times have we seen a TV show delve into that story and think it’s being informative by letting us know all of the steps we already know because we watch so much television?) The heart of the story lies in Scotty’s hesitation in expanding the family, a character twist instead of a plot twist, and I am grateful for that. Kevin and Scotty are still probably the most realistic gay couple on television (seriously, I’m hard-pressed to find another, although Modern Family may prove its ability to join this distinction) and I’m glad that they can talk like adults about adult issues. Besides, the story gave me the only two quotes I wrote down the entire night.

“Which one of you gets to sleep with the egg lady?” — Grandma Marion Ross, completely missing the point of surrogacy

“How’s Assembling a Child by Tolstoy?” — Kevin to Scotty regarding the gigantic manual they received from their adoption counselor

But all this interest had to take a backseat to the big sad center. While Kitty and Senator Robert go to couples therapy to deal with that douche from Eli Stone making Kitty all weak in the knees, she finds that there is something wrong with her lymph nodes, and that the news isn’t good. The episode ended without declaring what the potentially terminal disease was, but we have to go with cancer, right? My wife, just based on me describing the episode, says lymphoma, especially because it allows her to suffer but gives her the possibility of not dying, and I’m pretty sure that Nate Stone didn’t spread any HIV to her. But still, boo.

So there you have it. B&S sucked me right back in, while DH was more of the same (although a vast improvement over last season’s first handful of episodes).

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 Wife:

Once again SLOTAT teetered into total ridiculata, as evidenced by the whole “musical houses” plot, the second joke about dreamcatchers to make it into this drama and all of the following exchanges:

David: A night in the garage does not a lifetime make.
George: What is that? Iambic pentameter or Pig Latin?
. . . or it’s neither of those things . . .

Ricky: How do you even know [Ben] had sex?
Amy: Because he’s acting all grown up and reasonable!
. . . because that’s exactly how every other character on this show who’s had sex acts . . .

Anne: I like that building block weenie!

Adrian: Cribbage? Wait – what is that?
Ricky: Adrian, you don’t care and I don’t care.
. . . he’s right; nobody cares about cribbage . . .

Jack: It’s nothing. We just had a few meetings of the Dead Parent’s Club.
. . . a weak defense for spending the summer with Renee Olstead . . .

Jack: Wait a minute – you, Dr. Grace Bowman, are jealous? I kind of like that. It makes you less doctor. And more woman.
. . . because being a doctor absolutely removes your gender identity . . .

But even with all that craziness, I have to say that this episode was actually one of the best in terms of dramatic tension and performance level in a long, long time. Although I find Adrian’s quest to move in to George’s house kind of silly, the resolution of the Anne-George-David love triangle and Adrian’s confrontation with Ricky about living next door to his baby mama actually gave Francia Rasia some levels to play. By the time Anne has broken up with David, but also chosen not to go running back to her ex-husband/baby daddy, Adrian has decided it’s not worth spying on Ricky anymore and has a wonderful, if unnaturally pop psychology-sounding, conversation with her mother about the nature of her relationship with Ricky. This leads Adrian to go talk to Ricky during his night with John in which she earnestly asks him if they could ever stop cheating on one another and just be together, or if being mistrustful cheaters is all they’ll ever be. Nothing really got resolved out of that conversation, but I enjoyed Rasia’s performance in that scene and I think that we can take the following moments of her interacting with John as an indicator of Ricky’s trust in her (he previously wouldn’t let her near his son). The show isn’t known for subtlety, but I’m going to pretend that scene was intended to include some.

Dont worry; no ones going to start calling her mama Adrian.

Don't worry; no one's going to start calling her mama Adrian.

I thought there was a similar level of adult awareness in Ben’s scene with Amy on their date night during their frank discussion of Ben’s jealousy about Ricky’s presence in Amy’s life, whether or not either of them has cheated, etc. Unfortunately, this launched into a screed from Amy about how much she hates Ricky and, consequently, Adrian, which prompts her to demand that date night end and she pick up her son from Ricky’s house. Upon seeing her son in Adrian’s arms, she turns into Psycho Amy once again and starts lashing out at the woman who once drove her to an abortion clinic as Ben and Ricky try to act like civilized people, apologizing for interrupting one another’s evenings while the girls hiss catspit insults at one another and Amy demands that the “slut” not be allowed anywhere near her son. I mean, I get that sometimes we don’t want other people to hold our babies and whatnot, but let’s not forget that the “slut” was the one who tried to give you the option to not have said baby. She’s only trying to help you, Amy! God!

All of that stuff? That stuff is good crazy. It’s soapy as hell, but at least it felt well crafted and somewhat real – which is to say that I believe people do and say insane things when they’re jealous. I am down for this Amy-Ben-Ricky-Adrian hate trapezoid. Give me more of this. It makes way more sense than Grace’s reaction to Jack hanging out with Madison all summer, which is jealousy for no good reason, as Madison, though pretty, is so annoying that no one can even stand being around her for an extended period of time.

In other news, I somehow missed in the last episode that new kid Griffin was teh ghey. I guess I was too busy laughing at his “Are you planning to get pregnant this year, too?” line to notice he announced his sexuality for no apparent reason. I do, however, adore him. I would watch an entire show about his relationship with Ashley, because sometimes they come off like a Beckett play. It’s as though they should both be wearing bowlers, he should be crawling around like a dog and both will get into lengthy discussions about the insanity of the world around them and the proper way to put on boots.

As for his gayness, it so far seems pretty incidental to his character, and I do sometimes find it refreshing that a character can just be gay without having to make a big deal about it or force their existence within a work to be strictly issue-based. (A great example of gay characters who simply are: two of Nick’s friends in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.) In some ways, I think you can argue that not making an issue out of someone’s difference is the best way to demonstrate acceptance, and that’s an attitude that’s always been displayed in Secret Life land, a place where the only missing minority has been the LBGT community . . . until now.

The Husband:

The restaurant scene between Ben and Amy was the first this season to get me to put down my iPhone (and my intense Flickchart.com clicking), and for a show that I watch from a distance to achieve the maximum amount of amusement, that’s 100% a compliment. It was almost smarter than this show has deserved in recent weeks, and adult enough to completely renew my interest in the Amy-Ben dynamic, which had completely fallen apart this season.

And yes, we will go with Hate Trapezoid over Hate Square as a term from now on. Spread the word. It’s both unnecessarily bizarre and confusing enough for dumb people.

The Wife:

Hey, remember how, at the end of last week’s episode, everyone was about to embark on their summer fun? Well, apparently, we don’t get to witness even one episode worth of seeing these characters grow, change and have personal discoveries apart from the insular gossip mill in which they live. I guess that would have taken too much thought and would have required writing above the caliber this show is capable of because, instead, we returned this week to find that three whole months had passed and that everyone’s ready to return to school. Here’s about where they all stand on that:

  • Amy is still a fucking bitch and summer school was, apparently, entirely uneventful.
  • Ricky and Adrian, despite having asked one another to be in a committed hate-sex relationship with one another, both are fucking other people and lying to each other about it. What happened to the Ricky I thought was turning over a new leaf?
  • Ben is back from Italy and he’s not sure what to do about his relationship with Amy because, well, she’s a fucking bitch.
  • Grace is back from Doctor Camp with a head full of knowledge and it seems that neither her boyfriend nor her brother really like her all that much now that she knows things about things. I get that the extra-touchy “confidence inspiring” practice is a little odd, but what’s so wrong with her being a smart girl? Is it the blazer they don’t like? I like the blazer. It reads “Ivy League.” Frankly, if I were them, I’d be more concerned about the seeds of an inevitable eating disorder. You all saw the way she chastised Tom about his 2,000 calorie sundae and then surreptitiously took a bite out of the container when he wasn’t looking.
  • Lauren’s brother broke up with Madison. Yet more casualties of Doctor Camp.
  • Ashley is all ready to start her first day of high school . . . in pajamas. (Don’t worry. The pajamas eventually are shed for a way-too-sexy Gothic Lolita dress that, for some reason, no one has a problem with her wearing.)
  • Henry and Alice have discovered both oral sex and sexting. I’m impressed that they can multitask and he can answer texts while he’s going down on her. That man is a keeper.
This touching thing confuses and infuriates me.

This touching thing confuses and infuriates me.


Is it just me or is it indeed extremely odd that summer just didn’t happen here in the SLOTAT universe? And what’s weirdest is that summer just didn’t happen IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. It’s not uncommon for television shows to operate on their own time scale, but I make a general assumption with shows set in high school that they indeed follow the timeline of high school. When we go back to school in the real world, so, too, do the students of Constance and St. Jude’s, of WestBev, of Neptune High and of Sunnydale High. There are a couple of very simple reasons for this: the traditional September through May television season is the exact length of a school year and because that structure, that 9 month structure, is a reasonable timeframe in which to tell a story about high school students. This is because their lives revolve around going to school. It’s the place of action in a high school-based series, so it only makes sense that the story should be told in accordance with the structure of that setting. So we never see summertime on these series (and the summer-based episodes like the GG forays into the Hamptons kind of suck), and we accept that, because we’ve been off enjoying our summers along with Blair, Chuck, Annie, Naomi, Veronica, Logan, Buffy, Willow and Xander. We reconvene in the fall to go back to school along with them.

I recognize that SLOTAT started in July of 2008, yet we still had to pretend it was September on the show and their summer had just ended. The first season aired in summer 2008, with the second airing in spring 2009 (or the second half of the first season, however you want to look at it) and the third season airing now, in summer 2009. If the show had paced itself better, this season would have started not at the end of the last school year, but at the beginning of this one, this avoiding this whole summer situation. But it didn’t. And since this show hasn’t followed the traditional structure of a high school show in any way, I kind of expected to see at least an episode or two of summer, to see who these characters are away from each other. It was an opportunity both for great writing and great acting, but this show . . . is just not for those things.

I can’t even explain most of what went on in this episode because the conversations were just so bizarre, but two of them did make sense and actually contributed to the masterplot of the show.

1. After not talking to Amy for weeks, Ben accidentally gets them both detention by speaking his thoughts out loud in class (everyone else was wondering about sex, especially Alice, who loves oral). As they sit alone copying chapters in their notebooks, they talk about their relationship and how even though things are bad right now, they still love each other. Ben suggests they find things they can do that include John, as a family. All I can say is that I hope this makes Amy happier, because if I were Ben and I’d just done a lot of learning, thinking and growing in Italy for a summer, I’d return by saying, “Amy, I love you, but you need to stop taking out your bullshit on me. I am nothing but nice to you, and I need you to treat me like a person. In fact, just be a person. Stop being what you are and just be a person.”

2. George tells Anne that he’s probably her baby daddy, and she’s like, “I know. And so does David. But I’m probably going to marry him anyway.” They have lots of adult things to work out here, but their plot always gets shoved into the last five minutes of the episode like some frantic after thought.

As for the rest of the show, well, let me give you a sampling of the kind of ridiculousness that abounded:

David: ‘Morning, Amy.
Amy: It’s not a good morning.
. . . um! that’s not even what he said! . . .

David: I loved school.
Amy: I used to love school, and then I got pregnant at 15, had a baby and now it’s not as fun as it used to be.
. . . but it will be much more fun when her soon-to-be-stepdad bribes her with an SUV, that safest of cars . . .

Adrian: I’m not having sex with Ben!
Ricky: You’re talking to Ben!
Adrian: So?!
Ricky: Talking leads to sex!
Adrian: Everyone talks!
Ricky: Everyone has sex!
. . . truly, the logic here is airtight . . .

“This is the year we get boyfriends.” – Lauren, who asserts that her brother was just a practice boyfriend for Madison

Coach: Future medical students? How many of those students do you think actually make it to medical school?
Jack: I don’t know . . .
Coach: Me neither, but what I do know is that every year I lose a player to fear!
. . . that’s quite a transition . . .

No girls allowed!

No girls allowed!

“Oh, jeez. The old pistil and stamen. Could we just get to the nitty gritty? Or could you point me in the direction of a niiiiiice pistil?” – Lauren’s thoughts, being way more forward than I am comfortable with her being

Griffin: Nice attitude. Griffin.
Ashley: Ashley. The teen mother’s sister. Well, I know that’s why everyone’s staring at me. ‘Cause of my sister.
Griffin: I-I’m new here. I don’t know anything about that.
Ashley: Well, uh, my sister’s in the 10th grade and she had a baby last year.
Griffin: Uh . . . wow. Well, you know, stuff happens.
Ashley: Yeah.
Griffin: Well, uh, maybe you can point her out to me.
Ashley: Well, she’s pretty easy to spot. She’s the really pretty one with the French horn who’s unusually tired.
Griffin: Is she tired from dragging around the horn, or the baby?
Ashley: The baby. And just from being . . . Amy.
Griffin: So, are you planning to get pregnant your first year here?
. . . basically the best conversation ever uttered on this show, which includes absolutely the best icebreaker I’ve ever heard . . .

Coach: I don’t want you to see or talk to Jack Pappas for the rest of the football season. It’s not good for the team. It’s not good for Jack.
Grace: But . . . why?
Coach: I don’t want him distracted.
Grace: The other players have girlfriends.
Coach: Not girlfriends who wanna be doctors. I don’t like those kind of girlfriends.
. . . clearly, they’re smarter than women should be, candidly talking about groin injuries and the like . . .

That’s only a sample of the ridiculata. Truly, I think I laughed more that this episode than most other episodes of this show I’ve ever seen. What the fuck was happening? And why were so many ridiculous things being said in rapid succession? I like this new Griffin guy, by the way. It’s going to be interesting watching him adjust to this world. He’s already said my favorite line ever uttered in this history of this show, so I’m sure he’ll start to fit right in very soon.

The Husband:

This is without a doubt the best episode of SLOTAT this season and probably the best in a very long time. Unlike the past few episodes whose major flaw was focusing entire episodes on only one or two subjects and then hammering it into the ground like a stake, this was a massive overflow of information, with ridiculous conversations colliding in the hallways with other ridiculous conversations, until it almost seemed like Abbott & Costello mixed with one of those Monty Python sketches where everybody but one person in the skit is absolutely out of their minds. (That one pseudo-normal person? Ashley, as usual.) I am often flabbergasted by how open and bizarre these characters are, and it was in full force this week.

As for the sudden shift in time, it threw me off just as much as it did my wife, but I think I’m more forgiving. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a problem with the writers so much as the budget that they didn’t feel the need to open up the show to any new locations, because as we can all very clearly tell, nothing in a long time has taken place outside of a soundstage or the studio’s backlot, with verrrrry few exceptions. Hell, it probably wasn’t even in the budget to give us a montage at the end of last week’s episode showing all of our little teenagers off doing their own thing, even for mere seconds, which I think would have done away with that initial shock at the beginning of this episode (e.g. Grace in a full classroom of soon-to-be-pre-med students, Ricky caring for John, Ben walking past the check-in desk at an airport, stopping and turning around to see that only his father and Betty came to see him off).

Oh, and by the way, nobody in the world knows where the hell Brenda Hampton got that information about Bologna and its infamy in regards to oral sex. We are all baffled. I think someone told her that as a joke, and she took that one little bit of perhaps-false information and just ran with it, much like the weird confidence-building arm-touching doctor trick Grace and Lauren’s brother used all episode.

The Wife:

It’s the last day of school over on SLOTAT and everyone’s deciding what to do with their respective summers. Ben is headed off to Bologna, and Amy has finally made peace with the fact that he’s going because she’s got three incompletes to make up in summer school. Amy treats this like it’s basically the worst and most unexpected thing ever, but just because you got pregnant and had a baby doesn’t mean you can be late to class all the time and not do your homework.

I have no sympathy for her plight here, and that’s probably because I’m one of the kids who loved summer school. I never had to make up a class in the summer, but I voluntarily took summer classes every year through a program at UC Berkeley. I mean, really, what would you choose: spending a summer hanging out on a college campus when you’re a teenager, or spending your summer stuck in a small town, bored off your ass because there’s nothing to do? It’s pretty clear to me. Like, going to Bologna when someone offers you an all-expenses-paid trip. Or, say, attending a summer medical program when your dead father had the foresight to apply for you. I’m actually most happy about that turn of events for Grace, as it seems that this medical program is the only thing able to take her mind off her grief, despite Jack, Ben and Madison’s best attempts to give her a circle of peers by forming some kind of Dead Parents Club.

My absolute hatred of Amy this season has lead to my sudden and surprising love for Ricky. When Amy spends every moment of this episode complaining about summer school, having a baby, not being able to go on trips, having to work to support her child and, on top of that, being immortalized in the yearbook as “The Pregnant Girl,” Ricky reminds her that even though life is fucking tough all over, it could be a lot worse for her. She could have dropped out of high school. She could have been kicked out by her parents. All in all, Amy’s got it pretty fucking good and she needs to start being grateful for that.

Besides, Amy should be proud of that yearbook photo. Even without it, everyone would remember her as the pregnant girl anyway, so she may as well have a nice portrait to commemorate it. And yes, it is kind of funny that John got in the yearbook. It will horrify him years later, but then he’ll be cool with it and you’ll all have a good larf.

So Amy shows her gratitude toward Ricky for this reminder by allowing him to spend his first night at his new apartment with their son. (Which kind of pisses off Adrian, but ultimately reunites her with her mother and father who are desperately trying to form some semblance of a family unit with their headstrong daughter.) But even with that permission, Ricky ends up spending the night at Amy’s house because he doesn’t want to wake John, which provides a nice dramatic backdrop for Ben when he decides to give Amy the proper goodbye he’s been trying to give her all episode. She finally softens to Ben, only to have him be spooked by the fact that her baby daddy spent the night. It’s getting like a VH1 show up in that hizzouse!

Boom! You just got served!

Boom! You just got served!

Meanwhile, Anne serves George with divorce papers, having finally made up her mind to marry David after he ambushes her with a meeting with his parents. (Anne must have some seriously bad pregnancy brain, because she’s really, really slow to catch on to obvious situations like, say, someone building a house for you or someone’s parents not being clients, for instance.) Both Ashley and Adrian try to force George to tell Anne that the baby she’s carrying is probably his, but when she demands he sign the divorce papers, he can’t bring himself to do it. I’ve actually been enjoying this George-Anne storyline this season, as George’s actions reveal a hint of kindness we didn’t really know he had for the first two seasons. There’s a part of him that knows that Anne will be well cared for with David, and that means that the baby, as well as Amy and Ashley, will also be well cared for. Should he tell Anne? Absolutely, but I find there’s a real sweetness in the reasons he doesn’t want to.

Also, Betty is indeed an escort, and the Sausage King doesn’t care. Boy, I’m glad we spent so much time on that storyline, because it clearly had a worthwhile dramatic payoff. And Mr. Molina came back for this episode, only to announce that he wouldn’t be back next school year so he could care for his wife and child. Awesome. Can you say plot device? Because I can. And I just did.

Stray thoughts and quotes:

  • I am really curious as to the kind of sentiments Ricky would write in people’s yearbooks. “Call me if you want to bone!” I just imagine all of it would be really dirty.
  • “I thought we decided Betty was just a well-built, worldly woman with questionable fashion sense.” – Alice, with one of the show’s best lines ever.
  • Mr. Molina: “I still have both my parents.”
    Grace [snidely]: “Then I guess you can’t be in our Dead Parents Club.”
  • This local commercial played during SLOTAT last night, and I want you all to help me get it on WebSoup. I truly, truly enjoy it:

W E T P E T S! W E T P E T S!