The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

The Husband:

I know I’m a week late in my final round-up for Big Brother 11. Honestly, I’ve been staring at spreadsheets for eight hours a day to make a living, so by the time I get to some “me time,” I just want to sit down and watch Veronica Mars. (I know I’m five years late to the table, but goddamn it’s a good show.) But hey, better late than never.

As you all know, Jordan “No Booger” Lloyd beat, with a vote of 5-2, Natalie “Tae Kwon Don’t” Martinez. The seventh vote was, of course, America’s, and it was revealed online (in an interview with producer Allison Grodner) that in each case that Natalie was hypothetically put up against somebody else in the final two, she lost America’s Vote by 90%. I know it would be sensationalist, but I’ve always wanted a post-finale reunion special (about a week later), just for these situations, because my wife and I would both love to see how Natalie reacts to realizing that America absolutely hates her guts. At least during the two-hour finale (keep up the extended finale, btw, from here on out), the audience laughed when she exclaimed that she stuck by her word. And that her friends Jessie and Lydia would have voted for Michele over her had that been the final two. Oh man, how the assumed mighty has fallen.

But how did it get to this place? Well, my mind was racing during the final two eliminations, first when I got pissed at Kevin for kicking Michele out over Jordan (I thought it was a horrible idea, as I thought he had the best chance of winning against her), then when I got pissed at Jordan for winning the final HOH competitions and ousting Kevin, because I thought she had no chance of winning the final vote so she should have at least not given Natalie $50,000. But hey, I’ve been known to be wrong on occasion, and it seemed that the tide had turned against Natalie, culminating in a tsunami that destroyed her entire game. (Hey, remember when I said it was stupid for Natalie to lie about her age? Well, it seemed to be the spark that set everybody against her.)

No booger, no cry.

No booger, no cry.

In the end, Natalie got two votes (one from Russell, one from Kevin) because she apparently played a better game than Jordan. I personally don’t buy that for a second. Jordan may have seemed out of it, but she controlled Jeff whether or not he wants to admit it. She played it low while letting others do the dirty work, a trend that Natalie only figured would work for herself halfway through the competition. That alone makes Jordan a better player, even if she still shouldn’t have won the money if I had my way. (Jeff, Michele and Kevin would have all been better choices, in that order.)

And Jeff, bless his heart, won $25,000 for being America’s Favorite Player, and this, combined with his appearance on The Bonnie Hunt Show where he apologized profusely and convincingly for his homophobic slurs against Russell during the first week, gives him some major all-star cred should another one of those seasons come around.

So let us finish off this season exploring the expulsion order, and why that specific houseguest was sent packing.

Braden: Overreacted to simply being put up, resulting in an offense-laden storm against several players. This would include calling Kevin a beaner, even if Kevin is actually African-American and Chinese. (Good job, Braden.) Also, was Braden high during the finale?

Laura: By “exposing” Ronnie’s game (which was pretty much out in the open from the beginning), she put a target on her back way too early for her to make any headway in the game. She made it personal too quickly, and that’s a major no-no.

Casey: See “Laura.” He just needed to shut his mouth.

Ronnie: I never really understood how he was a “rat” for playing both sides of the game (I’m sure that at least one of your favorite contestants of yore has done the exact same thing), but his disposition grew less and less sunny each week until he had nothing else to do but be defensive. He played a hard game from the beginning, but he didn’t slow his roll, and he paid for it.

Jessie: Yes, we voted Jeff to receive the Coup d’Etat because we liked him, not because we felt sorry for him. But in the most vital transition of the game, he usurped Chima’s nominations and got Jessie out, thus finally ensuring a fair game in the house. But Jessie took it like a man, and for that I am grateful.

Chima: In the most spectacular meltdown on American Big Brother, Chima threw a multi-day hissy fit and accused the show of being rigged, even though the Coup d’Etat had been introduced seasons earlier during the all-star season. Sorest loser of them all, Chima goes down as being one of the most horrible people to ever play the game. Be an adult and accept that you can’t control everything. Expect the unexpected, motherfucker.

Lydia: For being a drunk and crying over Jessie’s ousting (even though he had nominated her for eviction earlier in the season). What the hell happened to the strong person we saw at the beginning of the season? She lost her mind, that’s what.

Russell: Sick of all of his bullshit (which he unconvincingly says was all an act), Jeff sticks his neck out, changes some plans and gets him out.

Jeff: People say that him evicting Russell did him in, and this is true, but honestly, unless he had won HOH two rounds after he did this, he would have still been gone. Keeping the terrible Russell in would have only kept him around for another week.

Michele: For being too awesome of a player. It all fell apart when Kevin won the veto in a week that saw Natalie come out of nowhere and scoop up the HOH.

Kevin: Jordan knew something we didn’t, and while it meant that Natalie won $50,000, getting Kevin out won her the half-million.

Natalie: For completely fucking up her plan with Kevin to go up against each other in the final third of the HOH competition by sucking at that HOH basketball game, going so far as to forget when she herself was HOH.

Other stray thoughts:

  • Good catch, s3’s Danielle, for pointing out that the only time a woman has won BB was against another woman.
  • Jeff: I don’t need a high-five for bashing somebody. [pause] But was he a tool?
  • Dan is still the best winner in BB history.
  • P.S. If my wife wants to add to any of this, I’m sure she has plenty to say about Natalie
The Wife:

I hate Natalie so much that I wouldn’t be able to articulate my venom towards her without sounding like a truly horrible human being. Sufficient to say, when she lost in the finale, I screamed, “SUCK IT, BITCH!” and punched the air triumphantly.

My problems with Natalie begin with the way she speaks, which honestly in my opinion, sound as though she has some kind of speech disorder that prohibits her from forming sentences in a normal manner. It sounds like she’s always reading off of cue cards and can’t quite get it right. And then there’s the tone of her voice, a gravelly, nasally pitch that sounds so much more shrill and irritating as she stumbles over her words. (Now, Jordan has one of those nasally pitched voices that sounds almost babyish, but the fact that she can form sentences naturally makes her instantly less irritating.)

I also believe Natalie made an egregious amount of stupid decisions. She didn’t make any big plays. She didn’t win jack shit, and simply lucked into winning a crucial HOH because Jordan is bad at numbers. Jordan played like she was  a dumb blonde weakling, but Natalie, with those tacky highlights, actually was what Jordan was pretending to be.

Would I have preferred Natalie get no money at all? Yes. I’d have liked Sugar Bear to get some of that cash so he can marry his boyfriend. But watching her face as she realized all of her friends had turned on her was fucking priceless. Again, I say what I posted as my Facebook status that night:

“Suck it, Natalie! Nobody likes you! Not even your friends like you!”

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:

Some thoughts from the last three weeks of Big Brother.

  • Chima is the worst loser in Big Brother history, or at least as far back as I can remember. (And this is coming from someone who has maybe only missed ten episodes of the show’s 11 seasons.) It’s one thing to “get got” but it’s another to actively force your opinion onto the people who actually run the damn show. I’m sorry that America handed Jeff the Coup D’Etat, but it was not designed by the producers to show you up. It was always going to happen this season, and if you’re a true BB viewer than you should know to expect the unexpected. If you wanted the Coup D’Etat, maybe you shouldn’t have been such a bitch during the run of the show, shouldn’t have called Russell a terrorist and antagonized the entire house. And if you didn’t want it to affect your game, maybe you should have worked out a deal with Jeff ahead of time. Oh, and maybe you should have fought for your right to succeed in this house instead of moping after Jessie’s ousting, turning on the producers and breaking rules left and right. This is their show, not yours, and if things stop going your way, it’s your own damn fault. You have nothing on the show’s producers, and your public statements are bonkers. We’ve had players return to the game, people playing for America, secret connections between contestants preceding the show, and many other surprises. What makes you special? What makes you think your shit don’t stink? Get over yourself, sore loser.
    Queen of the Tards. (Unitards, that is.)

    Queen of the 'Tards. (Unitards, that is.)

  • Lydia, you shouldn’t have lost your goddamn marbles with Jessie’s ousting either. Don’t forget that he wanted you out of the house earlier, and just because you’ve been giving him the occasional “oral compliment” doesn’t mean it’s true love. The tide of the house turned, you handled it poorly, you called Jordan a “ho-puppet” and then…well…you “got got.” Rule #1 of the BB house — if you want to stick around, don’t lose your goddamn mind.
  • While we’re at it, thank God Russell is out of the house. Did anyone actually believe him when he got out of the house, and the next moment was telling us that his douchery was all a façade? I don’t think so, man. I just think you’re trying to save face. I’ve been saying it this whole time — nobody likes a bully, and threatening to make people’s lives hell just because you’re not winning doesn’t make you an uber-villain, it just makes you a jerk. Let’s all do CBS a huge service and just collectively forget that he exists, and when we’re listing the pantheon of notable BB villains, we leave this child off of that list.
  • I am very sorry to see Jeff go, and even if it was a bizarre mixture of heartbreaking and silly to see he and Jordan slowly come apart at the seams, I still wanted to see those kids succeed. Jeff played a very quiet game for a very long time and nearly controlled every aspect of the house without anyone noticing for several weeks, and all that pretty much shifted when he threw the hole-in-one competition. During his Early Show interview, he was remarkably self-aware and knew that his eviction was the result of getting a bit too cocky and flying too high. See? That’s how one goes out like an adult, admitting one’s mistakes and giving credit to those putting him out. Kevin was right, unfortunately for us Jeff lovers, to go against his pact and put he and Michele up, therefore nearly ensuring Jeff’s ousting. (There was little chance Jordan would win the Veto competition and save both herself and her beau, so good show, Kevin.)
  • But goddamn it, thanks to a last-minute HOH win, we have at least two more rounds of Natalie, who is continuing to be the most worthless and myopic BB contestant in a long time. As my wife would say, “just die already.” You contribute nothing to the show, you can’t even create trouble in an interesting way, and your outcry that you were going to get revenge for Chima is stupid, short-sighted and completely missing the point. Do you know what show you’re on? God, I hate misguided ire. And yes, you have broken your word, but just not as openly as others. So shut the fuck up, asshole. Let’s see one of her quotes in the house, shall we? “You don’t accept losing good.” Oh great, and she’s spreading illiteracy. Great job.
  • I am hereby rooting for Michele, who has done an admirable job being really competitive, really smart and, yes, not being an absolute loon. She has made the right decisions at the right time, made herself useful but not too useful and has done it with more dignity than most other people in the house. (Let’s ignore her crying jags, because at this point one can’t help getting a little emotional in the house.) And most importantly, she has shared her game with us, the American viewer, and nobody can accuse her of simply floating. (Truly, the only real floaters have been Natalie and Kevin, and Kevin finally made a good move.)
  • If CBS wants bigger ratings, they should definitely show Jordan taking one of her bubble baths.
  • Julie Chen has done a good job with her Popwatch blog writing down some of the best quotes (many of which we CBS viewers don’t even hear), but my favorite from the last three weeks is definitely the following, said by Jeff: “Holy macaroni. We’re playing for Nilla wafers!”

    And, well, “I’m not a ho-puppet.” But that one’s a given.

The Husband:

Things we learned from the previous week of Big Brother:


  • Kevin is a better player than most of us thought. I always had an inkling, and would have loved to see him receive the power of Coup d’Etat, but he revealed a very shrewd side of his gameplay by not using his hard-earned Power of Veto (the egg competition looked nigh impossible) to save his bestie-best Lydia from the block. His explanation, which makes perfect sense in a strategic fashion but not as far as friendship is concerned, was that he didn’t want to make any enemies. Good call, Kevin, even though it took me by quite a bit of surprise.
  • As a result, Lydia thinks Kevin is a “poopy bear.”
  • Chima was raped by a serial killer. My wife and I disagree over whether or not two murders counts as making one a serial killer, but he was definitely a serial rapist.
  • Jordan seems to baffle Jeff on a constant basis, and after a lengthy discussion on how spiders “do it,” gives him the best line of the week: “Jordan, what do you think about all day?”
  • Jeremy Piven is a bit of a media whore, but at least he brought the house a bit of levity. Still, CBS doesn’t usually allow such majorly R-rated films to be advertised right on their very show, so The Goods seemed like an extremely odd fit. Imagine all the blue-haired ladies who watch this show going to the movie theatre based on BB‘s advertising, only to be aghast at the number of times the word “pussy” is uttered during the film’s running length.
    Ohmigod, Jeremy Piven, I cannot believe you just said pussy in your moooooovie!

    Ohmigod, Jeremy Piven, I cannot believe you just said "pussy" in your moooooovie!

  • Somehow everybody decided to become eight years old again, as evidenced by the agreed-upon name for the hidden power: the Wizard Power. I was amazed nobody mentioned anything about dragons or princesses. (Well, Chima’s family did describe her as a princess, but completely unrelated to anything wizard-based.) (Wife’s Note: But Jessie was, in fact, pretty sure a unicorn would somehow oust him from the house. So, there’s that.)
  • Chima is a sore loser, and her outcry after Jeff used the Coup d’Etat to overthrow her nominations that she needed to “have a talk with the producers” as well as bitching about them not being able to go back into the house after the HOH competition (I assume that they’re getting Jessie’s belongings, as he didn’t have time to pack) just further cements her as one of the most spiteful contestants Big Brother has ever seen.
  • Russell apparently has “ugly-ass cauliflower ears.”
  • Russell is overly sensitive about race to the point that he misunderstands insults, such as “terrorist.”
  • We, apparently, are victims of major CBS editing (what’s new?), as my previous statement could be disproven as it has been mentioned that Chima has actually said some terribly racist things to Russell and that when she said “terrorist,” she may have actually meant what he thought she meant. But we wouldn’t know, since we don’t have live feeds, and I couldn’t find out anything on YouTube yesterday.
  • I’m a fickle bitch, because I actually didn’t want to see Jessie go. I was actually really starting to like him, but I have to consider whether or not I’m just simply comparing him to last year and having a knee-jerk reaction. But he somewhere along the line became noble, or at least the only person who would stand up to Russell and call him out on his bullshit without resorting to Chima-like histrionics.
  • My wife and I disagree greatly on Jeff using the Coup d’Etat. I just really wanted to see Russell go home, but my wife was more interested in having a very entertaining game, and she was basically chanting for him to use it. I think it puts Jeff out in the open too much, even if he has the numbers to back him up. It will bite him in the ass later on, and I still doubt he’ll make it to top 3 as a result because the house will soon see he and Jordan as the house’s biggest threat and split them up the first chance they get. But my wife has said that as long as Chima and Natalie get evicted from the house, she doesn’t entirely care who wins. Nobody has stood out as a major show hero this year, I agree, but I still have my preferences.
  • Michele is owning everybody’s asses.

The Wife:

I was indeed extremely excited for Jeff to use his Coup d’Etat power because I knew it was the only way to break up the Jessie-Natalie-Chima alliance. Natalie is nothing without Jessie to follow around and, while I agree that he became a much better person this season, he still fell back on some of his old gameplay from last year. He knew he was going home, and rather than fight for it, he just gave up, sleeping away half his days, as Julie pointed out in his exit interview. This is exactly what he did last year, as well. The minute he knew there was a change in the wind, he just gave up.

Do I think Russell is a d-bag? Absolutely. However, when he doesn’t allow himself to get overcome by emotions and foiled by the intricacies English semantics, he actually has shown me some smart gameplay. Case in point: his appeal to Jessie at the pool table in which he told the bodybuilder that the ladies of the house would most certainly oust him sooner rather than later because they know they can’t win physical competitions against him. That’s the moment in which I think Jessie knew he was doomed.

I really believe that the biggest d-bag in the house is Chima, though. I feel sympathetic regarding her rape, and I admire her dedication in being a “survivor” and not a “victim.” However, she’s still a terrible person. She’s a diva, an instigator and not as smart as she thinks she is by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing has made me feel better about my opinion of Chima than hearing the package in which her grandmother commented on her beloved Chima’s actions in the house . . . and seeing the elderly woman’s complete and total disappointment in Miss Chima’s lack of civility and downright stank-ass attitude about everything. That is not how she raised that girl to be! I hope Chima watches that package one day and weeps openly for disappointing her meemaw, that sweet old lady who raised her while her mamma was overseas. WE DO NOT TREAT OUR MEEMAWS LIKE THAT!

And on a final note, Miss Julie, I really liked your polka dot dress . . . until I saw that it had both a bubble hem AND some sort of dust ruffle. You were classy from the boobs up, and a mess from the baby bump down. But we’re getting there! Anything’s better than the yellow jogging suit!

The Husband:

Ronnie took a risk, and now, finally, the risk came around to bite him in the ass. He did not, in fact, take the advice of either myself or my wife to simply slow his roll, at least not to the point that it would have taken the target off of his back. But even if he had completely sat back and let the house evolve organically into different situations, he had caused so many problems during his one week as HOH that I’m not sure if he ever could have recovered.

Although, if Russell had continued to be his hidden ally (which we found out about last week in a bizarre surprise) and not simply reverted back to complete douchery, we might have had something. But since he became the fourth HOH of the house, somebody turned his paranoia volume to 11, and pretty much anybody who was talking in a room where he was not became his enemy. So say goodbye to his alliance with Ronnie and hello to getting in a completely mind-bogglingly pointless screaming match with Chima.

Meanwhile, Lydia just had to lay back and let everybody scream at Ronnie, and she was set. I usually don’t appreciate floating on most reality shows, but I think she and Kevin (especially Kevin) have the right idea in this season of noticing that all the strategy this season seems to have been injected with steroids and methamphetamines, and have reacted by simply stepping the fuck out of the way. Lydia’s only mistakes in the house so far have been letting her temper take over or letting her libido take over.

And while all this nonsense has been occurring, I was aghast to find myself, during the Tuesday episode, turning to my wife and saying, “When did Jessie become a good person?” This was the moment where he and Natalie peeked into the pool room and very nicely and calmly spoke with Ronnie, without even a hint of strategy or pent-up frustration, telling him that they did everything they could to save him and that there is just too much momentum against him. Seriously, when did he stop being a buffoon and start becoming a real human being? My wife says it’s because he lost last year to somebody who was one of the nicest players in the game (and certainly the nicest winner), and that, presumably, he had to rethink his douchery. Believe me, Russell have enough douchery to lap around the entire house for the next three years.

I really wanted to continue posting silly photos of Jessie, but youll have to settle for the face Ronnie is now permanently making having lost the game to someone much better at poker than he is.

I really wanted to continue posting silly photos of Jessie, but you'll have to settle for the face Ronnie is now permanently making having lost the game to someone much better at poker than he is.

But despite all my Ronnie defense, man, it was time to go. I also clearly have missed something, because the back-and-forth between Ronnie and Michele during Thursday’s episode seems to come almost completely out of nowhere. I know that they are not allies, but I have no clue why Michele felt the need to insult him during the Veto competition, why he felt the need to declare that she was the worst human being he has ever met, and why she gave him a final bit of shit during her taped farewell. They have both played each other in interesting ways, and I would have hoped that they would have at least respected each other’s games. Ronnie, you got played and I hope you can deal with that, so no need to stomp your feet like a child when you get caught. But Michele, you are a neuroscientist, so you are by definition a dork, so no need to throw crap around, no need to insult and no need to lie. What in God’s name happened?

And Chima is still worthless. But she’s the new HOH, so it’s going to be at least two more weeks of her worthlessness.

The Wife:

Because I care about what people are wearing, I feel the need to talk to the Chenbot for a second. Miss Julie, you usually dress rather nice for live eviction nights, sometimes wearing a cocktail dress and sometimes looking like a news anchor. That’s all lovely. And Julie, I know you’re pregnant and there’s a part of you that’s intentionally trying to hide your bump by holding your notecards at just-such-an-angle. However, you’re going to need to explain what the fuck was up with your bright yellow capris-and-athletic-shirt look from last night. That was neither up to your usual standards of professionalism, nor did it go with your perfectly coiffed hair. I realize you’re carrying a tiny hooman and that you might not feel like looking really gorgeous every day. I get that you want to be comfortable, but that outfit was a disaster. I could MAYBE have let you get away with the yellow capris with a different top –maybe just a simple white peasant blouse– but altogether it was too much. It looked like you were wearing workout clothes, and that just doesn’t make any damn sense when your hair and makeup look that good. No more workout apparell, okay, Miss Julie? Next week, I expect you to do better.

The Husband:

– I’m sorry, but Casey the Bitter Banana absolutely deserved that eviction. Thinking himself a noble being and a formidable player, he decided to do two things I very much don’t advise: 1.) expose your entire plan, and 2.) act like a total jackass. Oh, poor you, Casey. Things didn’t go exactly as you planned, so you stomped your feet and cried like one of your Floridian fifth graders. I’m sorry, but your ill-advised ego got a hold of your game and never let go, and you simply pissed off enough people to warrant an ousting. There are few things I hate more on this show than the woe-is-my-betrayed-hide guff I get from you and, during last week, Russell. It’s a strategy game, and if you end up on the outside of the house during the first half of the game, you personally did something wrong, and this very much includes your margarita-party-over-more-points bullshit during the challenge. (In the home stretch, it becomes less about your external mistakes and more about your internal ones, but that’s a discussion for another day.) And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with wearing a banana suit, especially one as non-embarrassing as that one. I had to wear a full banana suit my first day at Jamba Juice back when I was in college, and I relished the opportunity to traipse around the Powell Street Plaza in Emeryville jumping like a freak and handing out coupons. It was actually my favorite day at that summer job. So suck it.

-I still simply do not understand the hate for Ronnie from most of the house and the online community. He hasn’t acted a buffoon, he hasn’t acted like a sore winner/loser, and he most certainly hasn’t actually stepped on too many toes. He’s the victim of a terrible smear campaign, when he is doing what everybody should be doing – playing the godforsaken game. He’s using his smarts, he’s keeping his boasts to the diary room and he has 100% succeeded in moving his target onto Jessie’s back. Ronnie isn’t Jessie’s bitch, Jordan – Jessie is Ronnie’s bitch. Is it that Ronnie isn’t as good-looking as Dr. Will, who played a similarly risky game? Are your insults solely aimed at Ronnie’s nerdy looks? Can you look past your preconceived notions about “brains” and realize that he had bounced back admirably from nearly burying himself during his HOH run? It seems not.

This reaaaaaaallllllllly has to stop.

This reaaaaaaallllllllly has to stop.

– Lydia lusting after Jessie = gross. I thought you were better than that, Lydia, but I can understand your brain getting a little scrambled having lived in L.A. for so long. (That’s right. I said it. I lived there for five years, so I can say that.)

– Ohhhhh, Jordan, I understand that, judging from the live feeds reports, you are not nearly as stupid as you are made out to be on CBS. I can understand that. You have a very dark underside, and each episode I come closer to realizing how street-smart you are. But man, what happened during your childhood that would make you appear so completely vapid in regards to any actual education? I’m trying not to chalk it up solely to your extreme prettiness, but it’s hard to find another explanation.

Here are my favorite Jordan quotations from the week:

“I may not be the smartest crayon in the box.”

Jeff: What was that?

Jordan: That was a fart. On your face.

And her best ironic statement of the week:

Casey: They sent Laura home because she wasn’t a sheep. Same with me. I’m not a sheep.

Jordan: I’m right behind you.


– Did anyone see that Russell/Ronnie twist coming? As evidenced from my tirade against Russell last week, I certainly didn’t. After nearly destroying Ronnie’s soul last week, Russell is now in a secret alliance with Ronnie. (Which, of course, became not-so-secret when everybody noticed how chummy they were being. Good job, Aggie.) Oh well. The douche-manchu is gone, and Russell is back to being an unknowing buffer between the jocks and the rest of the house, as evidenced by the best dialogue of the last three episodes:

Casey: On that team, you’re number four.

Russell: [pause] I’m number two.

– I most certainly hope that the gigantic foam diploma (which looks more like a bow-tied crèpe to me) makes it onto The Soup tonight, because that’s certainly the funniest thing that has happened so far this season.