As always, I take on the shows I watched during the week, and provide you with links to some of the other fine TV work going on at BlogCritics.
Overall take on the week:
Best show on television: Project Greenlight and The Office… ascends to the top spot for the first time! (tie)
Get back up in here: Lost
Upper-tier shows: The Office, The Shield, The Contender, The Apprentice
Falling… perhaps off the radar: Trippin’, Making the Band III (MTV needs to step up to the Fray), Alias
Cathode Ray Fray is now a regular segment on my podcast, Dumpster Bust Radio.
Check out the other regular television features going down at BC: Chris Beaumont’s The Week That Was .
The Contender – NBC
Overall, I like the format of this show and think it’s an improvement over The Apprentice. As we enter the second round, I’m liking the format even more: the winner of each physical challenge dictates the elimination bout. Lots of interesting strategy to think about.
Key Moment #1
The remaining fighters voted back in Ahmed the “Baby Face” after Juan de la Rosa pulled himself out. This seemed crazy at the time, but Ahmed did seem to control himself, aside from his normal squeaky bluster. The strategy behind the vote – to piss off and rattle Ishe – was both stupid and funny in that sophomoric high school way (of which I am often accused, I must admit).
The physical challenge was actually fun and cool to watch this week: the fighters had to run while carrying three medicine balls through multiple layers of elimination, ending with the prospect of making baskets with the heavy balls (all the while wearing boxing gloves!) followed by smashing a sculpture of a fighter’s face. Jesse won: you have to admit that the little dude is quick, agile, and will likely be around until very late in the competition.
There were two shows back-to-back this week. First up was Ishe v. Sergio Mora. I’ve said before that Mora is a likeable, charismatic guy. He reads fairly widely and didn’t vibe with the voting Ahmed back into the competition thing, which means he’s likely sane.
Key Moment #2
The Ishe v. Sergio “Latin Snake” Mora bout was unbelievable – among the best boxing matches I’ve ever seen. Mora worked the Sugar Ray-inspired psych out approach to perfection, frustrating and finally defeating the heavy hitting Ishe. Mora put on a mental clinic – I was skeptical of the kid’s tactics (make him beat himself, etc.) at first, but he proved me dead wrong. Count me on the Mora Bandwagon from now on.
The Contender comes across as great reality TV because in the end it’s real: it comes down to professional athletes battling it out with every inch of their bodies and every ounce of mental fire.
In the second fight, Gomez soundly defeated Ahmed. It wasn’t as exciting a fight, during which the thing that surprised me the most was how much I rooted for Ahmed to make it a good match. He came on late, but his overall conditioning was no match for Gomez’s dogged, bashing style.
Was there ever a reality show contestant that had more hot air and less to back it up with than the trash-aholic Ahmed?
Key Moment #3
During the physical challenge (pulling harness carts filled with family or loved ones around the horse track at Santa Anita) Joey let Peter Manfredo win, ceding him control of the subsequent bout as well as control of a new truck. This caused a big stink in the house – lots of power play and psychological tactics talk. I thought it was a little overblown as the remaining contestants got a little too into the “mental aspects” of the competition.
But, you know, whatever works.
Six fighters are now left… the fights are getting really good. Very hard to say who will win.
I dig The Contender. Good stuff, good TV.
Locusts – CBS
Matt Paprocki gets to the bottom of some kind of locust investigation-swarm-thing going down.
Trippin’ – MTV
This week, the Goofy Factor lessens by a factor of 50% without Drew Barrymore. However, host Cameron Diaz accounts for other 50%.
Key Question #1
Has anyone told Diaz how unbelievably crazy her laugh is?
Key Question #2
How close is Diaz to her character in There’s Something About Mary?
We were treated to Kid Rock (sporting cornrows), some professional surfer dude, and Chris Chelios the NHL hockey dude as the guests this Trip, this time to beautiful Honduras and its fragile coral reef.
The scenes where everyone swam with the dolphins were pretty spectacular. I also learned that I could save 2000 gallons of water a year by turning off the sink whilst brushing my teeth. We were also told some pretty cool facts about the coral reef.
Weird show. Don’t know if I’m going to continue to hang with it. We’ll see.
Medium – NBC
swingingpuss gets into the middle of what makes Medium tick.
American Idol – Fox
There is a mega-ton of American Idol talk this week, as always. I don’t subscribe to the madness myself, but check out the uber-post here.
The Shield – FX
Things started to get really interesting during the scene when Mackey (and the audience) learns that drug dealer supremo Antwon Mitchell has ordered Det. Shane Vendrell to kill him (Michael Chiklis) in exchange for the body of the young girl murdered (killed by Mitchell with Vendrell’s gun) a few episodes back.
“A body for a body.”
Chiklis is at his best when he allows the stress and frustration and brewing explosion play across his bulldog’s features.
Aceveda’s gunning for him, Rawling (Glenn Close) is selling him out to protect her precious seizures program, and Vendrell may be out to kill him.
Man, this is getting good.
The Office – NBC
This comedy is reaching that point where it is safe to say, “The Office – The American-version Office – is a great show, a great comedy… you should definitely watch it.”
It’s consistently funny. It’s painful and awkwardly funny like its Brit predecessor, but it also manages to bang out the laughs in small places in which the UK preferred to keep it more real and documentary-like. The A story line (boss Michael Scott — Steve Carell — making an ass of himself) meshed well with the far more interesting and ongoing B story of the flirtation between engaged Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) due to the arrival of a redheaded purse saleswoman. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) continues to shine in his role of office bizarro-loser… and actually adds a depth and humanity to the role that the hilarious but ultimately soulless Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) always lacked.
Pam continues to shine as one of the best actresses on television. Her subtle and realistic gestures are in turns hilarious and powerfully engaging. This week: her reaction to hearing that Jim had a date was priceless.
Lost – ABC
Re-cap episode this week with some kind of vaguely creepy voice over dude saying lots of things like “What would you do…” followed by scenes of planes exploding and so forth. That said, I enjoyed it as it kind of put the season together without going much into the character development and sort of got everyone ready for the end of the season.
I really really hope they don’t kill off Locke, which is what the promos seem to keep trying to tell us.
Alias – ABC
From the gorgeous mind of Wife:
”The secrets you’ve been keeping aren’t yours to keep.”
Are the secrets that Alias gives us no longer worth keeping? I can’t escape feeling as though too much is let out of the bag. Wouldn’t it be more fun to wonder who is after Nadia than wonder if Sophie, the orphanage matron, is under the control of Elena (yet another Derevko sister)?
In previous seasons, the viewer would have been left wondering what the pill was that Jack extracted out of his hand. There are questions yet to be answered but a spy show is supposed to be about intrigue, and so for this season is still lacking.
Project Greenlight – Bravo
We were treated to the final week of shooting on Feast this week – a week that wouldn’t have existed had it not been for timely funding by the Maloof brothers – and I must admit I grew a bit sad.
I’ve been hyping Project Greenlight for weeks and still believe it’s the best show on television: a brilliant melding of reality television, documentary film making, and the aspiration to inject some new blood and creativity into the Hollywood film beast. Most of all it’s a clinic on how hard it is to make a good movie, an interesting movie, a movie that is willing to risk and take chances.
The obstacles, we’re learning each week, are enormous.
Because there was less conflict and less drama this week (save for Miss Thang Krista Allen… see more below) this was not the most compelling episode yet aired. Still, it was nice to see first-time director and contest winner John Gulager pull his production over the finish line through the force of his sheepish yet hefty personality.
Key Moment #1
Blood-smeared Krista Allen sneaking off set in her SUV after she had “wrapped” herself, twirling her hair. Basically, Allen decided it was time to go home, so she went.
Key Moment #2
The monster/effects dude getting mightily pissed off whilst trying to stick his 40 lb. pelt-shrouded monster head through a tiny hole while everyone else joked around and ate sushi.
Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Key Moment #3
The producers and director cutting their hair in short-bus prisoner a la 1925 style so that reticent actor Balthazar Getty would consent to cutting his hair for continuity.
Come on, Steve Spielberg can wait for that lid to grow out… who’s with me?
Key Moment #4
Smooth-as-a-robot Dimension money-man Andrew Rona saying “I like it” over the phone after viewing an “assembly” of scenes from Feast.
To quote Beck on his latest and brilliant Guero:
The Apprentice – NBC
Last week, Alex taught us the meaning of true friendship, Apprentice-style: first hug, then tear hearts out of chests Indiana Jones Temple of Doom style, then hug.
Caring means sharing.
This week, we learned about “bedazzlers” and rhinestone-usage in tee-shirt design.
Oh yeah, and Alex lost again and finally, thankfully got his slickster college-boy paper tiger ass streamlined.
Key Moment #1
Alex picking Tana to join him on Net Worth, leaving the dysfunctional married couple of Kendra and Craig to duke it out.
And the latter pair won. Wasn’t that kind of extraordinary? Big points go to Kendra for coming up with the marketing idea that likely won the task: e-mailing 3,000 art fans who would go for the “collector’s item” tee-shirt commemorating 50 years of tee-shirt culture.
Kendra’s been stealthily sneaking her way to the top for weeks now and now only has the bright-but-limited Craig and the now nicked up Tana to go through in order to land the Trump-land job.
Key Moment #2
Alex invoking Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Note to Alex: This ain’t The Contender, bro. Now back to those books with you.
Key Moment #3
Alex came close to pulling off yet another boardroom miracle but thankfully Trump’s loser-ometer kicked in. Tana lucked out in getting rescued from her worst performance thus far.
Now, all together: can we forget the damned beads already?
Will the final two episodes of The Apprentice bedazzle? I’m guessing not, but I’ll be tuning in nonetheless.
Check out The Apprentice uber-post here.
Making the Band III – MTV
We finally got our cuts on! But now we’re told that next week is the season finale? Are we actually going to see the band get made at some point, or was this entire season an exercise in watching girls get yelled at on the dance floor while being instructed, “This is not a game, okay?”
Well, you know what: I ain’t playing. Where the band at?
For more on this and every other topic under the sun, check out:
Dumpster Bust: Manufacturing Miracles from Mind Trash, Since 2003