The Wife:

Eli Stone

Just a stones through from greatness.

Just a stone's throw from greatness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harper’s Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Husband:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Wife:

While last week’s performance show varied so much in quality from the first week, I think this one brought everyone back up to the level we had expected. With the exception of one dance, nothing was terrible. I don’t know if anything, save for one particular dance, was truly outstanding, but I’ll call it a good week on Dancey Dance when everything is danced capably. I usually don’t comment on the solos at the beginning of the show because, save for poppers like Phillip Chbeeb, those little ten-second intros are generally pretty meaningless, but I had to say that I was very concerned for Caitlin. Why did she choose to dress like a bird girl from the circus for that number? Did Kupono tell her that feathered bolero was a good idea? If he did, he was wrong.

Cat came out dressed appropriately for the Greco-Roman murder mystery party I hosted last weekend, and I now feel like I should have found a way to invite her. (She’d have come, right?) Mary kind of matched her, but in a less-fashionable way. Nigel wore the world’s cheapest-looking leather jacket and pretended like he was really tough. Toni Basil, on the other hand, borrowed Groundskeeper Willie’s mourning tam o’shanter for the evening. That’s the most street tam o’shanter I’ve ever seen, because the fact that it’s black makes it edgy and therefore street. And Toni Basil is street. She’s more street than you’ll ever be. In fact, she’s getting some kind of living legend award for how street she is.

This week’s producer package asked each of the dancers to tell us what their career would be if they weren’t professional dancers:

  • Karla would be a journalist! She went to NYU! It was her minor!
  • Jonathan would be an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil. He can do the flying silks. He just scored major points with me.
  • Auska would make sparkly jewelry and accessories for ballroom dancers. She seems to make a lot of it already, but apparently she doesn’t know about Etsy.
  • Vitolio would be a singer in a band. He would also wear obnoxious wigs.
  • Melissa would teach Pilates, which she already does for money.
  • Ade would be a sound engineer.
  • Jeanette, who is one year away from completing her finance degree, would be a loan processor. She is aware that this is a boring job.
  • Brandon would be a lighting designer.
  • Kayla would be a model because it’s fun to get your hair and makeup done and have people take pictures of you. She already models dancewear on the side, and those photos were fierrrrrrrrrrrce.
  • Kupono would be a costume designer. By this I think he means he wants to be a stylist. And I don’t want him to do that. He’ll make everyone wear neon green fox stoles.
  • Randi would be a special education teacher, something she’s already working toward.
  • Evan would own a custom car shop.
  • Caitlin would be a broadcast journalist, which is what I imagine Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer would be if she weren’t dead.
  • Jason would play collegiate soccer.
  • Chbeeb would be an inventor.
  • Jeanine would be an actress. Good news, Jeanine! You’re really pretty! You can look forward to a long career of dying in horror movies!


And as for the dances . . .

The Excellent

Randi and Evan (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “Koop Island Blues” by Koop feat. Brun

Let’s just start with the fact that this number was a quote-generating machine:


“It’s all about the booty.” — Mia Michaels
“You are staring at that right cheek!” – Mia Michaels
“I’m sort of hypnotized by her booty.” – Evan Kasprzak

Part of me has to wonder if the choreographers are trying to incite some sort of murderous jealousy in Randi’s husband. The first week, Evan seduced her onstage in that gorgeous jazz number. Last week, he grabbed her tush when they were shaking their tailfeathers. This week, Mia creates a piece dedicated to the hypnotic power of Randi’s booty in which Evan not only stares at it, chases after it and grabs it, but actually moves her with it. If Mr. Randi Evans takes anything out of this number, it should be that his wife looked absolutely gorgeous in that little Fay Wray-esque pink slip and silk stockings and that she should steal it from the wardrobe department and take some awesome boudoir photos in it for him. I loved this number, not only for its playfulness, but also for its mixture of movements both sinewy and bony. Because Randi was dressed like Fay Wray and because of the stalking, lurching movements, it reminded me of what King Kong would look like as a conceptual dance piece. But it was also very much a showcase for Evan’s talents. This was the perfect piece for him, and was Gene Kelly-esque in every way. The way Evan bobbed his head, combined with his costuming, reminded me a little of both An American in Paris and the Broadway hoofer segment of Singin’ in the Rain where he meets a green-clad Cyd Charisse in a bar. (Husband Note: That’s called the Broadway Melody.) Something about the choreography was inherently Mia, but also referenced the great jazz work Gene and Cyd used to do when they danced together. Mary said she never saw Evan as a leading man until this piece, which I know is purely because of his height, and I think that’s absurd. I’ve known this kid was a fucking star since last season, and I’m so happy he’s getting a chance to shine this season. This number was so darn hot, it received an Official Mary Murphy Scream and numerous “butt” jokes from Nigel, who thought he was being at least half as clever as Mia’s choreography. I can’t wait to see this on the tour. If it gives you an idea of how much I loved it, let me tell you that I got a little misty. And I’m pretty sure I’ll still be that in awe every time I see it.

Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate, satin-draped frame. As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, because I wanted to be dressed just the same.

Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate, satin-draped frame. As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, because I wanted to be dressed just the same.

Melissa and Ade (Rumba)
Choreography by Tony Meredith
Song: “Emotion” by Destiny’s Child

This was another totally sexy number, and my compliments for outfit of the night go to Melissa for that dress she almost had on. That shiz was hawtt. And that dance was hawtt. I saw a couple of small mistakes in this dance, chiefly when Melissa and Ade lost each other’s hands for a second when they came back together for a closed rumba walk, but the rest of this dance was sublime. It was seductive. It was passionate. It was gorgeous. And they totally sold it to me. Three weeks in a row now Melissa and Ade have been in my top couples, and I think it’s because they never disappoint me in how well they sell their routines. They’re both so into what they’re doing that I’m completely into what they’re doing, and that makes them both true performers. And for as sexy as Melissa was in that barely-there dress, so, too, was Ade’s booty. I think it might even be sexier in those lightweight pants than Joshua’s was last season. And that’s saying a lot. Needless to say, the judges loved it. By my count, it received 1.5 Official Mary Murphy Screams, the .5 of which I think was just for that amazing move where Ade turned Melissa under her own arabesque.

The Good to Very Good

Jeanette and Brandon (Hip-Hop)
Choregraphy by Dave Scott
Song: “What a World” by Common

Dave Scott asked Jeanette and Brandon to perform a routine in which rock n’ roll met with hip-hop and produced some surprising and fun results. I actually really liked this number. I thought Dave Scott’s choreography was clever and witty, that Jeanette and Brandon both danced their respective parts really well and that the whole routine gelled into a great story and a cohesive unit. Most importantly, it was interesting to watch, and that always gets points in my book. I also liked that they brought back the chair from “Two Princes” back in season three. They’ve got some awesome furniture back in the SYTYCD warehouse. (Does Kupono know? He might try to steal them, or at least put neon green foxtails on everything.) I’m not really sure why Jeanette was dressed as Rosario Dawson’s character in Sin City crossed with Cher, because there are a lot of other things that say rock n’ roll to me that don’t look like that, but she carried off the look pretty well. Toni Basil thought that Brandon’s hip-hopping was just street enough to make her believe it, and Mary Murphy even tossed out an Official Scream for the routine.

So what? I'm still a rockstar. I got my rock moves. And I don't need you.

So what? I'm still a rockstar. I got my rock moves. And I don't need you.

Kayla and Kupono (Viennese Waltz)
Choreography by Jean-Marc Genereux
Song: “Sweet Dreams of You” by Jewel

Here’s a dance that the judges and I disagree upon a little bit. I surely thought that Mary was going to critique Kupono for dancing a bit too feminine in the piece. To me, he didn’t keep a strong enough frame, and while he did have the right sort of liquidity, I don’t think he supported or partnered Kayla very well. I think the biggest testament to that is the fact that the choreography didn’t feature a lot of lifts or closed basics, where you would have really noticed Kupono’s weaknesses, rather than marveling at how in sync he was with Kayla during the open basics. I think Jean-Marc’s choreography covered for Kupono adequately, because otherwise this could have been a disaster. Kayla, as always, was incredible, though, and they both looked good enough in those open basics to remain in the “good” category for me. In fact, Kayla alone was good enough to get a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train and her own scream from Mary Murphy. I wonder if I’m carrying some residual hatred for Kupono from last week, when he should have been booted in favor of Max, and that’s why I looked so hard for him to falter this week, something the judges obviously didn’t do. Maybe I am. All I know is that he needs to prove his worth to me, and he’s lucky Kayla can do no wrong. I also really liked the cityscape lighting design for this piece – it reminded me a bit of the “Lonely Town” ballet from On the Town. (It was a very Gene Kelly night for me, overall.)

The “This Was Actually Good, But I Still Hate Tyce DiOrio”

Chbeeb and Jeanine (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Moses” from Singin’ in the Rain

I had to make a special category for this number, because it was good. It certainly was some of the better choreography I’ve seen from Tyce DiOrio, who surely must hail from Bitchdouchestan or something because even when he does something I like, I still can’t bring myself not to hate him. For this piece, he used a six-foot-long couch as a prop. When I saw that, I wondered what in the world he could be doing that would involve couch jumps. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it would be cool, and it was pretty cool. However, the minute I saw the song choice, the small amount of faith I’d mustered for Tyce totally went out the window. He did a number on a couch set to “Moses” from Singin’ in the Rain. A movie musical which, as Nigel later pointed out, ALREADY HAS A COUCH DANCE IN IT. There’s a point where I think you can be referential and pay homage to something, and then there’s a point beyond referential that comes across as completely lacking in creativity. And that’s where this number ultimately fell for me. To chose music from a show/movie that has a very famous scene involving a couch and then use that trope with a piece of music during which a couch no longer makes sense (as with “Moses”) reads to me as uncreative, as grasping at straws, as trying too hard to be as good as the thing you tried to reference. My other issue with this piece is that the song choice had nothing to do with the dance, so I guess Tyce just picked it for its frenetic energy. If I forgot about the lyrics, which, by the way, are part of a diction lesson in the film, the beat worked. I’m just certain that there had to have been other songs that would have worked just as well and made more sense. Furthermore, it reminded me a little too much of Tony Award Winner Andy Blankenbeuhler’s On the Town piece for Courtney and Gev last year, which worked a lot better.

We've talked the whole night through. Good mornin', good mornin' to you!

We've talked the whole night through. Good mornin', good mornin' to you!

All of that said, though, I did like the piece. I think it was well-choreographed, despite its literalness and musical incongruity. It was fun. I think Chbeeb and Jeanine had a lot fun doing it and it was interesting to watch. So, props to that. And props to Chbeeb for clearing that couch and splitting his trousers while doing so! However, this piece did show Chbeeb’s weaknesses in the fleet footwork, and it’s clear that while he has great instincts, he has a lot to improve upon. Jeanine, though, was really good, even with those monstrous head-eating Betty bangs. I think she got half a scream for this, so I’m adding .5 to the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count.

The Mediocre

Auska and Vitolio (Jazz)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar

Hey, guys! Did you know Mandy Moore loves the 1980s? Did you? Well, if you didn’t catch that from her other routines set to “Right Here Waiting,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Body Language,” surely you are aware of the fact by now. I think Mandy Moore’s work is best when it’s hard-hitting or very soft. Things that fall in between definitely aren’t her best, and I think this one sort of fell in between. There was a real disconnect here for me between the choreography and the song choice. While the chorus of “Heartbreaker” is pretty banging, a lot of it isn’t quite up to that level of intensity, and I didn’t feel like the choreography always matched up with the song. Auska and Vitolio danced it pretty well, and I hope America gets over its whole “we hate Auska” thing because she freakin’ cried this week because she clearly hates when she isn’t doing her best. Let this be an end to the discussion of her reservedness, because she let go. However, of the two performers in this dance, Auska was the weaker of the two, most notable in the floorwork segments where she didn’t extend fully or hit everything the way it was supposed to be hit. It was well danced, but it doesn’t stand out quite as much as other pieces did this week. In other news, she’s really skinny. And I can’t decide if I loved or hated her lace-print leotard and the studded shorts she was wearing under it. And Toni Basil wants to do Vitolio. And I think Nigel really liked this dance because it reminded him of a piece he choreographed for The Apple: “Coming for You.”

Caitlin and Jason (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Jean-Marc Genereux
Song: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana

No Paso Doble will ever be as good as Artem’s Paso Doble from season one in my eyes, even though there have been a few that I really liked. This was not one of them. The intense opera score totally overwhelmed the dancing, as did the absurdly sparkly gypsy costumes. I guess I just like my Paso Dobles a little more traditional and a little more robust, with a clearer interplay between the roles of the matador and the cape. It wasn’t a mess by any means, although Mary noted that Jason lost his posture a couple of times (hence my note about needing clearer delineation between the matador and cape). Caitlin, although I really don’t like her, did get yet another cool-ass move in which she balanced on her chest and kicked her legs over herself, which was probably her most cape-like moment during this piece.

The Problematic

Karla and Jonathan (Smooth Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Dave Scott
Song: “By My Side” by Jadakiss with Ne-Yo

This was not good. Karla and Jonathan got lucky last week to blind everyone with that lovely routine in which I was apparently the only person in America who noticed Karla wasn’t good in it. These two have no chemistry, and they don’t work well together at all. There were numerous moments during this piece where I could tell they both weren’t doing the right things, but I also couldn’t tell which one was ahead or behind or off. Jonathan was just too clean for the whole thing, which Toni Basil summed up as being like his “street” was “store-bought.” Karla, on the other hand, was just kind of never really on beat. The only part of this that worked for me was the moment where Jonathan did a backflip and picked up his hat right as he stuck the landing. That was pretty dope, but the rest of this routine was not very good.

I’m pretty sure that this week’s bottom three couples will be Karla and Jonathan, Auska and Vitolio and Caitlin and Jason – all couples who have made at least one bottom-three appearance. Of those, I think this will be Karla and Jonathan’s last chance. They haven’t given us enough individual moments to really show why either of them should be kept in the competition, and it’s really their time to go. They got a pass last week with that Stacey Tookey contemporary, but they failed at both hip-hop and cha cha now, and I’d prefer they go before they fail at anything else.

Other thoughts:

  • Randi gets a special shout out for the “Unitard Girl” tee she was wearing in rehearsal. That thing was totally cool and I kind of want one. Whoever made that for her is the greatest friend in the world.
  • With all of the various Gene Kelly pieces I was thinking about during the course of this episode, I went to bed last night really wanting to watch Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” number from Singin’ in the Rain. NOT “Be a Clown” from The Pirate, which is the same song, but not funny when Judy Garland and Gene Kelly are dressed like clowns.
  • Speaking of which, you guys should totally watch every sequence I mentioned in this article from An American in Paris, On the Town or Singin’ in the Rain. They’re all great.
  • Also watch Anne Miller’s “Modern Man” tap number in On the Town.
  • Then you should watch some clips from In the Heights, so you can see how totally cool Andy Blankenbeuhler is.
  • “Oh, Toni Basil talks slowly, so I’m going to urinate.” – Me, on how I decide to take bathroom breaks during the show.
  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is 4, bringing the total for the season to 9, with 5 enthusiastic woos for backup.
  • The official number of Hot Tamale Train Tickets is now 3.25.

The Wife:

I have to commend the folks at Reaper for giving us a series finale with some of the most solid plotting the show’s ever produced. The A-plot about Sam’s contest with The Devil deserved and received the most attention, and the C-plot about Sock’s toad-induced drug-trip provided a well-played resolution to the B-plot about Nina’s exorcism. (To sum that up: Ben’s grandma pretends like she wants to make amends, but really she wants to exorcise Nina, which, after Ben walks out on his family, she agrees to, even though it might actually send her back to Hell – a fact Sock discovers in a note she left for Ben to find in case the exorcism worked.) Sure, the intervention of those two plots was perhaps a little too convenient and not unexpected in any way, but it made sense. And Tyler Labine’s comic timing as he yammered on with a swollen tongue was pretty excellent. I’ll be watching Sons of Tucson just for him.

Right now, in college towns across America, people are betting their souls on games of quarters.

Right now, in college towns across America, people are betting their souls on games of quarters.

As for the A-plot, Sam gets Angel Steve to help him translate the demon text, but and Steve tells him that he needs to reflect The Devil, and so buys him a replica of The Devil’s suit to wear during the challenge. And as for that challenge, Sam decides on quarters, pretty much the only thing he’s really good at, which is why he’s always the designated driver when he and the boys go out drinking. But when Sam summons The Devil, it turns out that he’s just as good at quarters as Sam is and the contest ends in a draw. No harm, no foul and, most importantly, no rematch, unless Sam can find something to sweeten the deal. Andi seeks out Gladys, whom I’ve missed dearly, and asks her to give Sam some advice on beating The Devil. She points out that Steve mistranslated the passage. Rather than reflecting The Devil’s image, Sam should have brought a mirror with him, as The Devil’s vanity is his biggest weakness. Even with this knowledge, though, Sam has nothing to put up against The Devil for a rematch . . . until Andi offers to give up her soul so that Sam can have a second chance at getting out of his contract.

At their second contest, Sam unveils a mirrored table, and The Devil is so distracted by his pretty face that he is only able to sink one shot. Showing shots of The Devil’s reflection in the mirrored table were probably the most artistic Reaper‘s gotten in its two-year run. They were very Twin Peaks-y. In anger, The Devil breaks the shotglass, so Sam heads in to obtain another one from the housewares section of The Work Bench. Once there, though, Steve greets him and breaks his right hand, acting on orders from up above. Sam tries to shoot left-handed, but is unable to sink a single shot, and Andi loses her soul.

Strangely, though, Andi is happy about being damned. When Steve tries to explain to them that he broke Sam’s hand on orders from God, he justifies the fact that this was meant to happen because Sam and Andi are now happy together that they’re both damned. And that’s where the show totally stopped making sense to me. Look, I don’t care that the show ended ambiguously, with Sam and Andi standing in the parking lot as Steve ascends and lights up the sky with angelic goodness, but I do care that, suddenly, for no reason, the show’s entire quest has been negated by Sam and Andi’s happiness in their eternal damnation. The whole “divine plan” aspect of it is so deus ex machina, a too-convenient way to pretend that everything is going to be okay. I wish the show had been okay with ending itself in the bleakness of damnation, just as Angel ended with the idea that the battle against evil rages on, our heroes brandishing their swords to fight in the streets of Los Angeles, but Reaper decided to turn back to the idea that God has a plan, which, really, is just kind of bad writing.

Too bad, Reaper. You deserved a better ending than you got.

Good things:

  • The whole Mary Pat character was so weird that she ended up being rather delightful, until her abrupt departure from the storyline when Steve, her “fairies,” entered.
  • Steve. I’ll take more Michael Ian Black anytime.
  • “Sam, I need my Jimbo fix. I want you to dance like a monkey.” – The Devil
  • “Aw, man. Don’t be like that. Do you know how much of a downer Hell is? I’ve got to be wrecked to face that again.” – Frog-licking soul
  • Frog-licking soul’s frog tongue was pretty neat.
  • I’m glad King Charlie made some froggie friends.
  • I’m glad Sam is the kind of guy who won’t have sex with a drunk girl even if she says she wants to. He’s a good dude.
  • “Still doesn’t explain the suit. You look like Justin Timberlake took a dump.” – Gladys
  • Sock’s frog-induced drug trip where he mowed down visions of Lupe Ontiveros was very Lost Highway, making this Reaper‘s most David Lynch-y episode yet.
  • “I tasted music, and it tasted like garbage.” – Sock, perhaps why Mitch Hedberg suggests that hearing really is the only way to take it in.

The Husband:

I usually try to be pragmatic and treat series finales as if they were actual series finales, no matter what the fan uprising against its cancellation thinks. It just seems like the feasible thing to do, so as not to get anybody’s hopes up, which in turns renders people incapable of enjoying and discussing a series finale as is.

But with Reaper, I really don’t know how to proceed. The news looks better day-by-day that it could find some home in syndication, and since the budget is already so goddamned low, it’d be foolish for it not to be picked up.

But, more than anything, it would justify the choppy and abrupt ending, which I was fine with last night, but after having slept on it and thought about it, like less and less. The twist is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. But there’s a scene missing, one where the characters wrap up the season in some fashion, more than that simply okay one preceding Steve’s final appearance where all the character’s discussed their weeks. The showrunners and writers always knew that this was the final episode of their second season, so why not work a little harder to make it feel like a better ending? Last season’s finale did a better job, what with an explosive finale, Steve’s revelation as an angel and Mr. Oliver’s death-and-rebirth. I’ve complained before about the problem with ending on-the-bubble shows with cliffhangers (i.e. DON’T DO IT!), and while this does have an ending, they could have worked it out much better.

As for this season, very little of it lives up to s1 post-strike, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss it. s2 worked just fine, don’t get me wrong, but it lacked a great deal of forward momentum, and if Jenny Wade hadn’t shown up, it might have all-but-completely lost its big beating heart.

So yes, pray to whatever god or deity or television producer that you worship and get this picked up in some form or another next season. Because they can do better than that. And yes, Bret Harrison needs a damn star vehicle.

The Wife:

We don’t usually do news here, but since I’m trying to decide what shows I can and can’t watch next year (thus, can and can’t cover) because of grad school, I figured I’d help you all out by sharing my handy-dandy season schedules for the major networks here at Children of St. Clare.

I’ve listed everything by hour, as most networks are running hour-long shows these days, so two half-hour shows are listed in the same box with the time the latter show starts in between them. If a show runs longer than one hour, I’ve indicated the length and listed it in the hour in which it starts. Asterisks (*) indicate new shows, and I’ll have some snap judgments on those shows following these graphics:

falllineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend schedule for the fall, which, as you can see, is largely blank:

FallineupSS

In January, the networks will change to their midseason schedules:

midseasonlineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend midseason schedule

midseasonlineupSS

Now, on the midseason schedule, you may notice some funny little symbols after the network names. Here are those footnotes:

  • # ABC has not yet announced its midseason lineup. The have, however, three new shows on deck: V, Happy Town and The Deep End, as well as returning shows Lost, Wife Swap, True Beauty, The Bachelor, Better Off Ted and Scrubs. Timeslots all to be determined.
  • + CBS has not yet announced its midseason lineup, but has the following shows for midseason replacements: Miami Trauma*, The Bridge*, Undercover Boss*, Arranged Marriage*, Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint
  • = CW’s midseason debut is Parental Discretion Advised, timeslot to be determined.
  • Additionally, Fox has Hell’s Kitchen scheduled for Summer 2010, and has Kitchen Nightmares on deck to fill holes in the schedule.

Now, for my snap judgments . . .

NBC: While we all know by now how I feel about Jay Leno, I can honestly tell you that the only one of their new shows I will definitely watch is Joel McHale’s comedy pilot Community, joining the NBC Thursday comedy block in 30 Rock‘s spot until it returns at midseason. Community has a good premise (McHale finds his college degree is invalid and must go back to community college to make up the credits), and has both McHale and Chevy Chase, who turned in a good performance as the villain at the end of Chuck season 2. I am overjoyed that Chuck is returning at midseason, as I think a 13-episode run will give us only the most super-concentrated awesomeness Chuck has to offer. I do not need another medical show in my life, so I’m declining Trauma and Michelle Trachtenberg’s nursing show, Mercy. 100 Questions looks so much like Friends that it is entirely out of the question for me. But then there’s Day One, which has a nice pedigree of coming from the people who work on Lost, Heroes and Fringe. It could be awesome, or it could be hokey, but I think it’s the only other promising thing NBC has to offer us.

ABC: I am delighted that ABC has given a permanent slot to Castle, allowing Nathan Fillion to prove he is charming, rakish and shouldn’t be a showkiller! He and Adam Baldwin have broken their own curse! Other than that, though, I am extremely concerned at how unimpressive the new shows debuting for fall seem, compared to the stuff ABC has on deck for midseason. Not a single one of the Wednesday night comedy block shows looks palatable. Hank looks downright abysmal, The Middle looks, well, middling, Modern Family falls flat and Cougar Town is trying way too hard. I might DVR Eastwick because I like Rebecca Romjin and Lindsay Price, but I have no emotional ties to either the previous film or the novel upon which it’s based to grab my immediate attention. I watched a clip from The Forgotten and I can tell you right now that I think it’s going to be the most dour procedural on television, and I certainly don’t need that in my life. I am, however, intrigued by Flash Forward because I like both time travel and Joseph Fiennes. But what sounds really interesting are the midseason shows. The Deep End is about law students and, out of all the ABC clips I watched, it certainly has the most character, pizzazz and joy. It also has Tina Majorino, looking the prettiest she’s ever looked. I will give that a shot when it premeires. I will also give hardcore sci-fi reboot V a shot, as we certainly don’t have any shows on network TV currently dealing with alien invasion, and I’m really jazzed on the trailer for Happy Town, which seems like its going to be a slightly more normal Twin Peaks (in that its a small town mystery), only this time, with Amy Acker!

FOX: I’m wary of a fall edition of SYTYCD, but I do see the benefit of it giving FOX a consistent schedule so that things don’t get shitfucked when Idol rolls around at midseason. Perhaps, if this is a success, going forward we’ll have to find a new totally awesome summer reality competition . . . maybe one for actors? OR MAYBE WE CAN MAKE A TRIPLE THREAT SHOW BECAUSE I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THAT????? (Please, FOX?!!!!) Fox is actually my favorite of the networks so far, actually. I’m happy to see they’ve renewed Dollhouse and paired Bones with Fringe, which makes for a really rockin’ Thursday. Also excited to see Sons of Tucson with Tyler Labine as it looks pretty funny from the promo.  Human Target looks pretty fun, too. And you best fucking bet I will be watching Glee. The only thing I think I’d really pass on, here, is Past Life, and that’s just because I’m not really interested in seeing a show that solves crimes using past life regression (although one of my favorite X-Files episodes has exactly that conceit). So, rock on, FOX. You are my winner for next season.

CBS: I will be skipping pretty much every new show on CBS this year as they continue to build their police procedural empire. However, I will give a try to the new Monday comedy Accidentally on Purpose, even though it’s based on the memoirs of a film critic I don’t like very much, the Contra Costa Times‘ Mary F. Pols, who can’t seem to see the good in anything at all. The show is set in San Francisco, though Pols lives somewhere in the Walnut Creek area in reality, I assume, and Jenna Elfman plays the fictional version of Pols’ film critic who accidentally gets pregnant by a younger, one-night stand and decides to keep the baby, and it’s daddy. I generally like Jenna Elfman and, of course, adore Grant Show, who will be playing her boss. I will also give Three Rivers a shot, because it stars Moonlight‘s Alex O’Laughlin and its about organ donation, so there’s a chance I could see him repeat at least part of his horrifying performance in Feed, a film in which he kidnaps obese women and feeds them their own fat until they die. (How he would repeat part of that performance, I don’t know, but I’d like to see CBS try.)

CW: Will I watch a show produced by Ashton Kutcher about teenage models called The Beautiful Life? Yes, I will. Will I watch a show about teenage vampires called The Vampire Diaries? Indeed, I would probably watch something like that, as long as it sucked in a good way and not a bad way. Melrose Place? I have even less of a connection to that show than to 90210, so I’m not inclined to watch the reboot — especially since Ashlee Simpson’s on it. But, hey, I might need some mind-numbing crap to counterbalance all my grad school reading, so perhaps. I’ll give Melrose Place a perhaps, a perhaps perhaps, even, if I choose to continue watching 90210, making my Tuesday nights just like 1992. I am, however, surprised that CW axed the Gossip Girl spin-off, as even though I didn’t like the backdoor pilot, I did think the show had potential. I’m also surprised they axed Jason Dohring and Minka Kelly’s legal show, Body Politic, if only because I was hoping both former Moonlight vampires would have jobs come fall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for Josef Kostan nee Logan Echolls.

So, as the curtain on this TV season falls, you can look forward to me actually writing about Mad Men this summer, as well as many, many articles on SYTYCD. After that, I’m going to have to see what my fall schedule is like and compare it to the above fall schedules to see what I can really watch and what I can, in turn, cover.

I’ll make you guys a chart of all that later.

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