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Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – April 1, 2005

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In an ongoing effort to serve the television thirsty readership best, I’ve changed the order of shows so that they read by day, instead of by network as had previously been the case.

Once again, I go through the down-and-dirty (and light-and-clean, sometimes, too) on the shows I caught during the week, and I link to some of the other television-related excitement going on at BlogCritics.org as well.

Overall take on the week:

Best show on television: Project Greenlight, Lost (tied)

Rising: Arrested Development

Falling: The Contender

Off the radar: Alias

Will never watch again (probably): Kojak

I’ll also be instituting a Cathode Ray Fray segment in my podcast, Dumpster Bust Radio, more-or-less on a regular basis. Check out Podcast #1 here.

For an entirely different slant on TV happenings, check out Chris Beaumont’s The Week That Was and Scott Pepper’s The Week Ahead.

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Sunday

Arrested Development – Fox
The highlight of this week’s very funny episode was guest star Ben Stiller as magician Tony Wonder. The highlight of his magical mastery, it seems, is screeching in agony and then pulling some kind of bread or bread-related product out of his armpit. Now that’s comedy.

But seriously, part of the genius of this show is the trust that its writers put in the intelligence and observational skills of its audience. A perfect example is the doctor who makes some kind of god awful predicament (“Your son is dying…”), pauses for an insane length of time, and then finishes the sentence (“…to go home, he’s fine”). The joke worked again especially well this week because the audience was forced to remember the back story of the doctor’s bizarre speech patterns as Michael Bluth advises the family to “wait for it.”

I can’t wait for more Arrested.

The Contender – NBC
Before I get into this week’s show: is it just me, or is Sylvester Stallone in amazing shape? He’s about 53-years old, and he looks like he could punch a hole through the chest of the middleweight contenders battling for the $1 million payday.

Overall, the excitement of the show is starting to wear down a little bit for me, which puts me in line with most of the rest of the viewing audience, most of whom never have seemed to find this show in the first place. A sign of a coming reality television meltdown? Don’t bet on it.

Still, the bouts at the end (which determine who goes home and who gets to stay and compete) are nothing short of amazing. The expert editing really does make it better than a live shot fight because you get the best action all the time, and from camera angles that would rarely be used for even the biggest of title fights.

Finally, they showed a nice amount of my adopted city of Pasadena, California throughout this week’s episode. I had suspected that Pasadena was where the “Contender Gym” was located, and now I’ll have to track it down sometime. You know, for kicks.

Monday

24 – Fox
I used to watch this one, but dropped out during the early part of Season Three. I heard it got really good though, which will probably prompt me to watch it on DVD at some point. Check out Scott Pepper’s take on this week here.

American Idol – Fox
Lots of American Idol talk this week, as always. I don’t subscribe to the madness myself, but check out the uber-post here.

Tuesday

Project Greenlight – Bravo
This show keeps getting better every week. It’s a virtual clinic on how it would be nice, in theory, to produce a movie with a strong and unique creative vision in the brutal junglehood of Hollywood, and how things actually get done.

Fascinating character study and newbie big-time director John Gulager stepped up this week and looked semi-director-like. But will his passion to cast his longtime girlfriend, father, and brother in the film (Feast, a B-horror flick in which monsters attack a bar) get his ass fired after an ill fated trip to New York to meet with the head of Dimension, the studio backing the film with bank (if limited bank)?

I know I’m gonna stick around to watch. I could not recommend higher that you do the same.

The show is moving to Thursday from now, so head’s up.

The Shield – FX
A Mackey (Michael Chiklis) quotable tour de force this week, and so I must give him his due. Enjoy.

With regard to a suspect on the loose:

When these assholes get in trouble, there’s only two places they go: the pussy they’re getting into or the pussy they got out of.

During a raid on a porn production company:

Porn guy: Who are you?
b>Mackey: We’re the pussy police.

When Mackey finds a bloody gang banger’s shirt in the laundry:

Never mix your bloody whites with your delicates.

Fun aside, the episode ended on a very nice dramatic moment, when the just appointed Captain, played by the great Glen Close, takes a house bought with drug money away from a mother and two children.

“Take it,” she says, and puts on her badass Captain’s shades.

The Office – NBC
Really stepped up the laugh-factor in its second week. Great spontaneous feel during a bid at “Diversity Day.” I laughed out loud, and hard, as boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) tried to “get real” with employees by goading them into launching racial insults during a mock-bizarre exercise poised at encouraging diversity. The drop dead deadpan looks at camera from the minor characters continue to be priceless.

For more, check out my preview of the first two episodes here.

Wednesday

Lost – ABC
Mystery man John Locke was the focus of the first new episode in around six weeks. And you know what? It was just about worth the wait. As the story unfolds, a deeper, richer, stranger, and freakier web is being woven. It’s a myth that’s being built with stones, laying on top of one another until an alien gorgeous pagan monument will one day stand and we’ll all just kind of back up a step and say, “Wow… just look at the sight of it. I’d a sure wished I’d had brought the disposable.”

The island is calling… but is anyone besides John listening? And the light in the hatch at the end. Wow. Excellent stuff, simply great.

This show has the potential to be one of the truly great ones.

Alias – ABC
I loved watching the first three seasons of this upbeat action-spy show on DVD. But for some reason, the fourth season just doesn’t interest me at all. I just feel like we’ve been through it all before at this point, and the show just can’t seem to evolve (JJ Abrams too wrapped up with Lost? Who could blame him?). I flipped it on this week, saw Jennifer in yet another spy getup, this time in Havana, trying to do something undercover-y. I seen it the first ten times, I’m afraid to say.

Thursday

The Apprentice – NBC
Stephanie gets the boot on an average but nonetheless interesting episode. If Chris (the tobacco swilling, get-out-of-my-face cussin’ one… but don’t confuse him with just-fired “smart mouth” Erin) isn’t fired within the next two weeks, I’ll be really surprised.

The incessant Trump-infomercial-cross-promotional aspect of the show is starting to get to me. I like this show… but this aspect could really put me over the edge: Domino’s pizza commercial tie-ins, badly staged “how you doin’” “spontaneous” meetings with underlings, bragging about how much money it took to get his gaudy table installed in his multi-million dollar gaudy god forsaken penthouse apartment, and on and on.

Check out Scott Pepper’s detailed rundown here and The Apprentice uber-post here.

Making the Band III – MTV
Not a very memorable episode, but I was tired and doing bills at the time of my viewing, so I’ll cut it some slack this week. Lots of Jason vs. the girls, and people yelling at the girls for not wanting it bad enough… again.

Let’s see some cuts already and get on wit it, Diddy!

PoweR Girls – MTV
This is without a doubt my guilty pleasure of the week, and I’m not even sure why. It’s about kissing celebrity ass, catty backstabbing, pure New York narcissism (D Trump would be proud), and pure octane media uber-culture.

Okay, maybe that’s why. And it’s fun, too, with a great intro song by Fatboy Slim.

This week: more partying in the Hamptons with, among others, the Gotti Boys… I’m not really sure who they are, but they seemed far more like bored frat lads than the ultra-hip celebrity hunk bad boys they were billed as. Does anyone know what they actually do? White rapper dudes? John Gotti’s sons (In the tradition of… Paris Hilton!)?

I’m at a loss.

Friday

Kojak – USA
I only got through about ten minutes of this remake of a classic, and I’ll likely not be back. I really tried to give it chance as I’ve liked Ving Rhames ever since his career-making role in Pulp Fiction (I mean, the guy redefined the word medieval… now that’s pretty cool) but this dog just wuh’nt gonna hunt, I’m afraid.

There were the standard cliché lines and situations and so forth, fine. But does every instant have to be shot like the climactic moment of a bad 70s B-movie crime drama, replete with annoying sax? Then there was the scene set-up to show how cool/badass the new bald, lolly-licking Greek (and black) lieutenant really is: he breaks a wily perp by playing Russian roulette… but he kept the extra bullet in his hand, see? So the perp didn’t know he wasn’t really going to kill him.

Riveting.

But not really. I’ll take Monk or especially the great The Dead Zone on USA any day.

Sunday

Grey’s Anatomy – ABC
Check out Mark Runyon’s analysis here. Hint: the light is green…

For more on this and every other topic under the sun, check out:

Dumpster Bust: Manufacturing Miracles from Mind Trash, Since 2003

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  • http://scottpepper.blogspot.com Scott Pepper

    Eric, you missed a great episode of Alias, probably the best so far this season. Syd’s mission went awry and she ended up buried alive in a German cemetary. At the same time, a biological attack had the rest of APO in lockdown, leaving only Marshall (who was late to work after his kid puked on him) to save Syd on his own. And that was just the first 30 minutes.

    I agree that season 4 has not been up to the brillance of the first two seasons, but IMHO it is a big improvement over last season.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I was a victim of my own obsession with both 24 and Alias, Scott. Both heavy on the plot shows that I ate up on DVD, that is. Then, when I finally started watching them week-to-week, I lost interest. Therefore, I’ll have to catch up again on DVD one day!

    I just feel like I’ve seen the trapped in the grave thing a few too many times… maybe that comes from years of watching Buffy and Angel though.

    Marshall’s always great, though. I’m glad that they give him a lot more screen time now.

  • Eric Olsen

    very nice EB, thanks! 24 is really great this year

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks EO!

    I meant to say above that I fell victim to my obsessions with Netflix.

    What hour is 24 on right now, and is it possible to jump in and not feel completely lost? I imagine that there’s lots of running and chasing and shooting and the world about to end stuff afoot (ha ha)?

    Ah man… I don’t know if I can handle another show on the weekly docket… well, maybe I can squeeze in one more.

  • Eric Olsen

    actually, I think they have a recap of every episode on the 24 site, so you could read that, then jump in quite easily. I think there are maybe 10 or so left?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks — it’s nice that shows do that now. It definitely helped me when I had missed a few crucial eps of Lost.

    I actually tend toward shows where the story and character arcs build over a season. 24 has really been a clinic on how to keep a taut plotline rolling through 24 hours of TV.

  • Eric Olsen

    I think they pretty much have to help out those who can’t make every single episode for a half a year!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Exactly right.

    In fact, there’s no way I could write this column every week if it wasn’t for the beautiful DVR that my beautiful wife got me for my birthday in early March.

    That DVR has made me so much happier than I could have ever imagined: I get to watch my shows the second that I want to.

    I’m not even sure how I feel about the fact that a DVR has changed my life for the better… I should probably just accept facts and happily move on.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Lost is definitely a weekly habit with me, and I’ve been shaking with anticipation for new episodes to come around again. Thanks for the reminder!

    BitTorrent, baby…

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    No offence, Eric, but this list is woefully incomplete without the shows from HBO, Showtime, etc. – shows like Deadwood, etc. are way better than some of the network stuff, IMHO

  • Eric Olsen

    perhaps it should be called “broadcast TV” then

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Aaman, no offense taken — I don’t get the fancy cable channels so I can’t talk about them on a week-to-week basis. If you’d like to write about them, send me the links or your thoughts and I’ll be happy to work them in. I’ve been publishing pretty regularly on Friday mornings and hope to keep that pace. Therefore, I kind of go Friday-to-Friday as my “TV week.”

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Phillip: I hope you didn’t miss the new episode of Lost this week!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    By the way, Aaman: I can only handle about 8% of what’s on network TV myself. My aim is to write about the best shows (or the ones I can handle, anyway) reflecting the best of what’s out there on broadcast and basic cable.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    great stuff as ever Eric. I am truly aniticipating the arrival of Project Greenlight on UK TV, or indeed, BT TV. Ahem.

    One thing, though. You say about how DVR etc has changed your viewing habits, and i can see exactly how that would work… But surely it ain’t that big a revoloution? I mean, folks have had VCR’s for twenty years. Whats the difference, in your opinion? Apart from having to annoyingly fast forward and rewind for twenty minutes before finding the damn thing.

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Far easier to program than VCRs

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    It’s the ease, I suppose, but that’s kind of not quite covering it. You plug in a program once, state how long it will be held for, and whether you want every episode ever made of it recorded or just the new ones. Then you never think of it again, just watch it the second you’re ready for it.

    For example, when I get home from work, I’ll play the first 15 seconds of Hardball with Chris Matthews (a political show for all you non-US folk). If I don’t like the topic(s), boom, it’s erased.

    Then, with the meaty stuff, the shows I care about, I get to line up a time slot to bang out three to five shows for viewing.

    More later — got company…

  • gonzo marx

    oh my stars and garters…

    you folks watch network tv??

    my whole mental image just went *POP*

    only television i can stand anymore is Deadwood and Carnivale…looking forward to the upcoming Rome this fall on HBO

    other than that, movies, or news…and the occasional guilty pleasure of Iron Chef….why bother?

    but thas just me

    your mileage may vary..

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Eric, I think you may have missed the real highlights of this week’s Arrested Development: all the many barbed digs at Fox. The biggest was the argument Michael had on the phone at the beginning of the episode where he is upset hearing that a housing contract wants to reduce their order from 22 to 18 houses, to which he says that they’ve already developed all the blueprints (at which point the narrator jumps in with “No, they didn’t.”) There were far too many to note, actually, and some I didn’t even pick up on until quite a bit later, including the possibility of a hint that the show may be moving to FX from Fox (the whole “moved down a story [in the building] to cut costs” storyline.) An absolutely brilliant episode . . . one of many.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Several more awesome aspects of the mighty mighty DVR:

    – It lets you pause live TV
    – There’s an instant replay button
    – You can record more than one show at a time (at least on mine)
    – You can record up to 40, 80, whatever hours at once

    So, Duke, it’s way way better than the VCR that I had for 8 years and never once was able to properly program.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Gonzo – If you read through the post, you’ll see why I’m excited about the shows that I watch. If they don’t float your boat… then you can be content with your premiere channels then. I like to think that there’s 90% crap on network TV, 4% that’s just okay, perhaps watchable, and that the other 6% or so is brilliant.

    And as I stated above, I don’t get premiere channels so I can’t talk about them on a week-to-week basis. I’m currently watching The Wire: Season Two on DVD, and it’s just one of the best things I’ve ever watched, period.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Tom – What voodoo crystal ball did you visitate to get the obscure shots at Fox references from Arrested Development this week? I’m not disputing them; I’m simply standing in wonderment.

    Does the “22 to 18″ remark mean that Fox cut AD’s season from 22 to 18?

    I had also not heard about a possible move to FX. I wouldn’t mind seeing it move over there actually as it has perhaps the best original programming of the basic cable up-and-comers. Rescue Me is incredible, a must-see and The Shield is quite good. Never got into Nip / Tuck, but people and critics seem to like it.

  • gonzo marx

    fair enuff Eric..i was not attempting to disparage your taste or choices..

    my Apologies if i came off that way..

    merely my own sense of drivel and disgust at the Networks…a fued that has been going on for quite the time…

    as for the two shows i have mentined, like the soprano’s…i’m fairly certain ya can find them on dvd

    check it out when ya can..i think ya will find em tasty

    and no commercials!

    Excelsior!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Gonzo – No offense taken, I hope you didn’t take any yourself. I largely agree with you about television, which is all the reason more to shout loudest about the shows that are worthy… there can be no better example than Arrested Development, of course.

    And I love the HBO shows with all my heart. The Sopranos might just be my favorite piece of visual media of all time. It’s just nearly beyond desription of how good, how truthful (in terms of fictional storytelling), how dark, how brutal, how engaging, hand perhaps more than anything: how strange and funny and great it is… usually at the same time.

    My second fave just might be Band of Brothers, the 10-part miniseries from HBO. So I’m definitely down with the Home Box Office.

    The Wire has the potential to enter the exalted circle… we’ll see.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Eric, I meant to get back to this but forgot: Fox did cut the AD season from 22 to 18 episodes. The news was quite shocking and saddening to fans a couple months ago – as you know I’m sure, shortening a season is not a good indication of renewal for the next. However, Fox’s Gail Berman has defended and supported this show all along and had said that the move was a show-saving maneuver designed to remove it from the sweeps pressure and hopefully shield it from looking too pathetic in the ratings against the onslaught of ridiculously overhyped crap on other networks (not her words!) Anyway, I wish I’d kept the episode on our DVR (best TV technology in years!) to go back and reference, but you may want to check out the script at the amazingly complex fan-site, the OP. Anything pertaining to the Bluth company, especially their prominent location, is a dig at Fox. It’s pretty bold stuff for a show that could be in trouble. The line the character “Ted” speaks is what got people talking about the possibility of a move to FX: “You know, a lot of our overhead is tied up in the fact that we are on the top floor of a very expensive building. If we move just one floor lower…”

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks for the update, Tom. Interesting stuff — I’ll check out the OP.