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Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – 5-13-05

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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.

But where are my children going? What am I to do? Many of the best shows on TV are closing up shop for the year.

I humbly await marching orders from the Ray.

Always Obey the Ray!

Overall take on the week:

Best Show on Television: Project Greenlight and Lost – magnificent both

Upper-tier Shows: The Contender – simply great this week

Rocking It Steady: The Apprentice

Falling… just about outside the range of the Ray: Trippin’, Alias

<<<<<>>>>>

Sunday

The Contender – NBC
The fights keep getting better each week. Maybe it’s because we’ve come to know the contenders fairly well by now, as this week wrapped up the end of the second round. Perhaps it’s because the level of competition continues to rise.

All I know is that the climactic fight between Jesse Brinkley and Anthony “The Bullet” Bonsante was one of the most exciting sporting events (heavily and cleverly edited though it was) I have ever seen.

All the signs were there from the outset. Brinkley had been resting on his laurels since his early first round victory, taking care to mess with other fighter’s heads and form alliances during his time off. Couple that with a hamstring tweak during a recent physical challenge and the need to lose eight pounds to make weight in one day (by the way: where do I get me one of those sweat suits?) and Brinkley looked like he might be in trouble.

Bonsante, on the other hand, has been a one-man daddy-a-thon since the outset (see: his victory during the epic Kids vs. God match-up in Round One). Every third or fourth word out of his mouth is “kids” or “daddy” or “father.” His physical ministrations include adjusting his “#1 Daddy” hat and wiping tears from his eyes. That said, he translates this emotion into some kind of psychotic stampede in the ring that is downright frightening.

Brinkley observed that Bonsante doesn’t box, he fights.

Brinkley did not mention that Bonsante is the guy that you would discreetly make for the nearest exit for if you happened to catch him staring at you in a public place.

Many of the five-round fights up until now have been a seesaw battle: one guy looks like he’s winning, then tires as the other fighter stages a comeback. Almost every week, the fifth and final round has ascended to an all-out war between men with great hearts and mighty fists.

This week’s fight was that exactly that, and more. Bonsante, scrapping any semblance of discipline, landed dozens of bruising blows on the smaller, shaky-looking Brinkley well into the fourth round. It looked as though Brinkley would have to turn things around with an unlikely knockout in the fifth round to advance.

And he did.

A timely uppercut to the charging Bonsante’s chin laid him out on the canvas, a devastating and classic blow that turned around the entire fight. Bonsante was done at that point, though it took another 30 or so seconds for the fight to be called.

In the end, the Kids could only go so far.

Now we’re left with Brinkley, Peter Manfredo, Mora (The Latin Snake), and Gomez. All worthy fighters going after the $1 million prize in Las Vegas.

This is getting really really good.

Monday

Trippin’ – MTV
Cameron Diaz and DMX and some people went camping at Yellowstone in Wyoming. I got bored and cut out.

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.

Tuesday

The Shield – FX
On hiatus this week. Not even a repeat to shore up the fan base.

What up, Mackey?

Wednesday

Lost – ABC
Questions, questions, questions.

“Questions that need answering,” Gandalf tells us grimly near the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring.

And, indeed, Lost is doling out its own number to put it at least in the same ballpark as Frodo and the G-man and their epic quest.

The back story takes us back to Kate once again this week, and we find out just how dark the path of our heroine-come-fugitive has been. We also see another connection form between Kate and Sawyer: the spilling of innocent blood is on both of their hands.

Why did Kate’s mom, hospital-ridden and apparently dying, cry out for help! help! when her daughter risked life and freedom to visit her? Was it because she was sickened and frightened at the site of her bank robbing offspring, or is there something more sinister at play?

Speaking of sinister, our cute little Walt continues to creep me out with his innocent asides of evil! evil! don’t touch! on the island. The two things to watch at present are the raft and the hatch. And evil seems to linger around the fringes of each.

Ah, the hatch. What’s going on down there, and why is Walt seriously scared witless by it?

By the way, there’s simply dynamite chemistry every time the brilliant Terry O’Quinn (John Locke) is on screen with our little Walt, played by Malcolm David Kelley.

It was a fascinating moment when Walt confessed to his father that he had been the one responsible for sabotaging the first raft. Now though, we’re told, he’s convinced it’s time to get the hell off the island.

And just what the hell is under that hatch? What the hell awaits the raft at sea (if it ever reaches water)? And why might the island or some other mystical force want (need?) everyone to stay put?

Next week looks to be an action-packed episode, what with hints of the return of the French woman and allusions to the “others.”

You know I’m gonna be up on it.

Alias – ABC
The Ray contacted Wife and told Her to Report on Alias this week:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, shame on this entire season.

What do you say about being fooled for nearly an entire season! Hard core idiot me, that’s what. A flutter of hope emerged from my chest as the interesting possibility of Arvin Clone being the real Arvin Sloan dangled before me. Unfortunately, as I reeled in the line, only a toilet seat emerged.

Each episode continues to be a neat little package of good-for-nothing, crap plot. Unless something amazing happens, I won’t play the idiot for another season.

Thursday

The Apprentice – NBC
The show opened with a continuation of the final task: Tana and the Bring the Olympics to New York event and Kendra and the videogame championships at Webster Hall.

While in past seasons, the final event ended at a relative draw, it was obvious from the outset that Kendra – who may be the Came From Nowhere Kid this year – was outgunning and outshining her opponent in teamwork, coordination, and most importantly, style.

Tana, clearly harassed at the complexity of her assignment and not a little bit high on her relative power (short lived though it may be) took clear pleasure in dissing on her (admittedly not top-notch) team members Chris, Kristen, and Brian. The big mistake was to do so to Carolyn and in front of clients. Big no nos.

A series of moderate mess-ups then almost sunk the event: Kristen’s brochure managed to include insider notes on the professional athletes attending (X swimmer is camera shy, etc.) while Gov. George “Wacky Like” Pataki of New York was first left waiting outside the event while his aide fumed and then was not granted his request to carry the American flag out to the stage… because one couldn’t be found in the Flags of the World box.

Not good, Tana. D Trump left not pleased.

Key Tana Line #1…
To Bruce Jenner: I think you’re looking at the next Apprentice.

…Equals Red Flag/Major Kiss of Death Warning #1

Key Tana Line #2…
I’m a shark in a goldfish outfit. I’m a killer.

…Equals… Okay, then. I guess. Ahem.

Kendra’s team and event, on the other hand, turned around marvelously thanks to a cohesive team and adept client relations all around. Even George seemed to be in a good mood… and there’s just something about that that gives me a warm glow.

But I digress.

There could not have been a bigger difference in a way the final task ended. While Tana imperiously dismissed her dumbkopf common flock, real emotions were expressed between Kendra and her team.

The comparative strength of Kendra’s team (and her relatively easier task of managing a video game championship) may pull her to a win, but it’s her attitude that should really be what puts her over the top. I wasn’t enthusiastic about Kendra early on, but she’s proven to me and all of the naysayers week after week that she has the guts and intelligence and balance to take on the rough waters of Trump Land. Tana’s performance was borderline sickening, and I think even Daddy Trump himself can smell out an ego that’s puffing out the seams of an ordinary performer.

The end of the show threw a major curveball to normal Apprentice operations, as team members from the final task filed into the boardroom as the closing credits rolled. Tana, who had already taken some major body blows in the boardroom from Trump and Carolyn, looked dazed (some might say bedazzled, but not me) and confused.

Now, it’s onward to the live finale next week.

And I’ve got to say to Kendra, “Win it, baby!”

‘Cause you know you won’t see no kind of you go girl! from this here writer.

Check out The Apprentice uber-post here.

Project Greenlight – Bravo
The final show of the season was a bittersweet experience for me, as I had developed strange cathode-induced attachments to many of the main players involved in the creation of the B horror film, Feast.

I felt proud of first-time director John Gulager for pulling off a film that everyone – at least the producers and the studio – seem to really like. When Gulager had lunch in New York with Matt Damon to discuss the film and the process and what was next, I felt like I (and the audience) were there as well, getting a glimpse at how Hollywood really operates.

Although I’ve talked a lot about the pitfalls and embedded barriers in the studio system in making a quality and worthy film, viewing the process close-up has been nothing less than illuminating. I can now appreciate the difficulty in producing quality films and will therefore temper my impulses to simply deride the Crappola of the Week that rolls through the local multiplex.

Well, I’ll still deride… but maybe not so harshly.

We were treated to the manic side of post-production this week, leading up to the first test screening with a run-of-the-mill, no preconceived notions audience. Watching the layers of the film come together – sound editing, color quality, voiceovers, additional shots, extra budget levied, and on and on – I saw how passionate, how dedicated, how far you have to go to not just create a film, but to create anything worth creating.

In other words, to put form to a dream you have work your ass off like it’s never been worked before. But if you can pull it off, the rewards will almost surely be worth the effort, psychically and spiritually, if not tangibly.

The fate of Feast was still not completely known by the end of the show (and the series) because of the divorce between Miramax and Disney and the no man’s land status that placed Dimension (Feast’s studio backer) in. Fortunately, Feast looks as though it will make it to the uplands of wide distribution as the Weinstein brothers, we were told, had selected the film as one of the projects that will help to kick off their new production company.

After living through the process of the making of this film every week on Bravo, I’d like to see Feast when it comes out this winter. Will I be able to see the struggle, the in-fighting, the sweat and the fear that went into the making of this half-horror, half-comedy about pelt-shrouded monsters attacking a bar in the desert?

I don’t know, but I’ll be looking for something. Maybe a dream taking form.

Or maybe just scantily-clad actresses getting sprayed with gore.

Who knows?

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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  • Bennett

    Like an Eloi hearing the sirens that promise a tasty dinner, this is my second week of being drawn to the Ray.

    Good stuff Eric, what time is Contender on? (and how have I not seen this program?) I guess my Survivor habit is way too lowbrow for your weekly Ray? ;-]

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

    Eric, have you been watching Veronica Mars? I’m very surprised if you haven’t – this has been one of the highlights of the season for me, making Tuesday nights a very complex routine of running from room to room as our DVR attempts to capture everything we need to see (Gilmore Girls, The Amazing Race, Scrubs, The Office, and Veronica Mars all intersect in one way or another (GG overflowing into the 8 o’clock hour, annoyingly!) And if you haven’t, please do catch up when it’s eventually released on DVD. The season finale Tuesday was a stunningly intense occasion – only Lost has managed to outdo this show’s twists and turns. It only wants to be a teen-oriented drama, but it’s far too smart and complicated for most hormone-addled kids, apparently, because I only hear of adults watching it. And this show certainly deserves a much bigger audience.

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

    Bennett — Eloi drawn to the Ray… I love it! I’ll have to try to work that in for next week. Contender is on at 8 or 9 on Sunday nights. There’s only four boxers left right now, but you are absolutely guaranteed great matches leading up to the $1 million title fight.

    Once upon a time, I did consider myself too high-brow for reality television, but as you can see, that was in the deep dark past (probably 2002 or so). So no, not too high-brow to watch Survivor. I’ve just never gotten into it, but I’ve also never likely given it a proper chance to grow on me.

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

    Tom — I chatted with Chris B. recently about Veronica Mars. Sadly, I just missed out on it this year. At any rate, up until a few weeks ago, I was covering 10 shows, which was just about the max for what I can handle. I will try and pick up on it next season, however.

    I’ve never seen GG, though I’ve heard good things about it from time to time.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    You only watch 10 shows a week?
    I do that in 2 days! plus I go to the movies and watch DVD’s.

    It’s true I have no life! The RAY IS ALL!

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

    You are truly a ray-a-holic Chris… *but* we have different styles. I’ll write 500+ words if I really dig a show, which takes a wee bit of a hit on my overall quantity. Plus… have to admit I’m a bit of a TV snob, so the idea here is to promote the best shows on TV that I receive, that I watch, that I end up writing about.

    Skewed and biased? Oh for sure!

    Seriously: I’m looking to up the ante on the shows I watch by a degree, and tone down the writing quantity. The C Ray Fray is pushing 2,500 words a week, which leaves precious little time to get to my other writing duties, I’m afraid.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Mine is going to be late, if you couldn’t tell. I was helping a friend move today and that took all day, It will probably be up tomorrow evening.

    Yeah, you do write more than me on it. I only started it to give a quick overview of my viewing habits. But different is good, don’t want to have 2 essentially the same columns now! :)

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

    Yeah, absolutely. I noted a while back that the two columns are very complimentary — quick overview of many shows vs. my in depth on a smaller number.

    So you can tell me (as you have) what I’ve been missing out on!

  • Bennett

    Contender…. Yes! Recorded it last night and just found time to zoom through it. Ouch, those punches! All you had to say, to get me to the Ray, was Rocky and Sugar Ray Leonard.

    Leonard was a big part of our teen years, no?

    You wrote (‘nuther thread)

    “Bennett – Grew up in Alameda, eh? I spent five years in and about the East Bay: Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond. One of my wife’s best friends lives on the water in Alameda with her husband, two kids, and a whole host of dogs, cats, ducks, hamsters, and so forth. A cute little dog (name of Janet Reno) would usually stop by as well. Rumor had it one of the guys who played with the Allman Brothers for a bunch of years lived next door. Great area, great views of the Bay.”

    Yeah! We lived one street over from Balena Bay Yaught (sp?) Harbor, before anything was built up. Paradise for us, always fishing, busting into the Navy Base, getting caught. (MPs have NO sense of humor), delivering newspapers to Lamonica and Stabler… True!

    Grand parents lived two houses from the beach on Grand Ave. Many great memories from my childhood.

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

    Stabler? Very very cool.

    I have a lot of good memories of the East Bay but in general am very glad to be out of there now.

    Contender was great last night once again with an amazing fight at the end. Loved finally being able to see these guys go seven rounds. It was actually tough because I wasn’t rooting for either one, but I wound up being really happy for Manfredo. You can’t not like and admire that guy.

  • Bennett

    The crush of humanity became too much and I moved to Seattle for a few years, then to Vermont. I don’t see moving again. Alameda was a nice place to grow up in, but 40 acres in Vermont is where you want to go through middle age.

    Since I didn’t know either of the fighters, I wasn’t really rooting for either. The openning of the show had the knockout from the previous show… That’ll give you brain damage!

    Looking forward to Sunday, then Tuesday for the final fight.

    Thanks for the heads up, to Obey The Ray.