About Last Night…

April 8, 2010

Last night, the TV gods offered up a vision of a show that I’m not so sure I want and brought me to the end of one I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of. Let’s talk, shall we?

Let's forget this even happened and just go get some dim sum.

On CBS, Criminal Minds presented us with the backdoor pilot for the proposed fall spin-off. For those unfamiliar with backdoor pilots, it’s a device producers use to present a spin-off show through an episode of the show it’s being spun from. Backdoor pilots have a varied track record. On the successful end of the spectrum, there was the introduction of Horatio Cane and his Miami wackiness in an episode of the flagship CSI and the trip Addison Montgomery took to visit L.A. in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. On the unsuccessful end, that episode of Gossip Girl last spring that attempted to peddle an 80’s-Los Angeles set story of Lily’s life, starring Brittany Snow. Don’t remember it? That’s because the CW nixed it after the episode aired.

Anyway, last night we were introduced to Sam Cooper, an FBI agent with ties to both Hotchner and Rossi. As the heavy-handed dialogue told us over and over again, Cooper doesn’t do bureaucracy, doesn’t follow the rules, and always follows his gut. He’s played by Forest Whitaker. I’m not sure if I would have ever liked the character, regardless of the actor playing him, but I really don’t buy Whitaker in his shoes. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my totally shallow inability to look at Whitaker for too long without being creeped out by his face. I know, it’s awful, but that lazy, droopy eye really freaks me out. I’m not sure I’m ready for him to headline a show.

So, CBS, take my advice: Your primetime landscape is already a bounty of riches. I understand the need to hedge costs and end some long-running programs in favor of cheaper, newer series. But, your network is already clogged with franchises. Between the three CSI’s and two NCIS’s, we do not need another franchise. Take a chance on some originality and let this pilot quietly go out the backdoor it came in from.

Best Moment: Blech. None.

Gayest show ever? You say that like it's a bad thing...

What a sweet little hour Ugly Betty was last night. In fact, this entire fourth season has been completely charming. After a bungled third season that saw a massive ratings decline, ABC effectively cut the show off at the knees by moving it from its cushy Thursdays-at-8 timeslot to the coffin known as Fridays-at-9. The show creatively rebounded, finding the heart and charm viewers remembered fondly from the first season, but ratings continued to landslide. A faint glimmer of hope was offered when the network moved the show to Wednesdays to close out it’s burgeoning comedy lineup, but the damage was already done; viewers just did not follow and ABC cut the episode order short and cancelled the show. One has to wonder if ABC isn’t kicking themselves as Betty’s replacement on Thursdays, the much-hyped FlashForward, has halted both creatively and ratings-wise.

But, back to last night, what an episode it was. We saw the return of Christopher Gorham’s adorable Henry Grubstick. We saw Hilda and Bobby finally marry. We saw Mr. Dunn come to New York to offer Betty her dream job, only in London. We saw Marc realize he actually can be a good person. We saw (I think) Daniel realize that (maybe) he’s in love (perhaps) with Betty. But, most importantly, we saw Justin finally come out.

I’m so glad we were given the opportunity to see this story line actualized before the series ended, and with such authenticity and grace. The scene between Betty and Justin at the wedding had me in tears and was, I think, some of young Mark Indelicato’s best work on the series. By the time he was offering Austin his hand to dance, I was sobbing. It was just fantastic. And how about Hilda and Ignacio’s hairbrained Surprise Coming Out Party?! Hysterical.

I expect more tears next week, as Betty finally decides to put herself first and takes up Mr. Dunn on her offer. I’ve enjoyed the walk down memory lane the show’s provided us with visits from Gio, Christina, and Henry. My only regret is that we weren’t granted one last visit from Rebecca Romijn’s Alexis, but there’s always the possibility of the next week’s finale, I suppose.

Best Moment: With more than a handful of heartfelt scenes last night, probably the lightest, most comedic moment came when Wilhelmina and Claire had a total Dynasty-Alexis-and-Krystle-in-the-pool rumble at the photo shoot. Hilarious.

About Last Night…

April 7, 2010

Last night’s TV was a night all about conclusions. Whether it was the true beginning of the end on Lost or an end that was meant to only be a middle on Southland. Uh, let me explain…

Yea, I'm gay, but I can mess you up.

The truncated second season of Southland ended last night on TNT. This handful of episodes that were aired were only the first six of an abbreviated 13-episode order from NBC, before NBC cancelled the show early last fall. This sixth episode was in no way meant to act as any sort of finale, season or otherwise, and it was evident. There was nothing spectacular about the episode; the two cases were rather rote and the attention paid to Sal and his insufferable daughter Kimmy (possibly the worst characters on this show) felt lame. We were provided with a little closure regarding Regina King’s Lydia and Tom Everett Scott’s Russell, luckily. It was rather unsatisfying on the whole, though.

I’m hoping TNT gives this little show another chance and orders at least six more episodes to really wrap things up. Too much of this season’s focus was placed on Shawn Hatosy and Kevin Alejandro’s characters, and the true heart of this show, the triumvirate of Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, and King, fell by the wayside. If the season had been longer, it probably wouldn’t have been as noticeable. But, as it stands, what we got felt rather stilted. On a happier note, though, how awesome is Michael Cudlitz’s Officer Cooper? Probably the best gay character on television, who’s just shown as a real guy and not a caricature. If this is the end of Southland (and I fear it is), he’ll be missed.

Did you miss me?

But, on to the the main event of Tuesday night, Lost. Wow, what an episode. With only six episodes left including the two-hour season finale, I feel like last night was the night that truly set everything into motion. For weeks now, we’ve been wondering how these Sideways stories came into play. Are they examples of what could have been? Is it an alternate universe? Is there some connection to the Island story? Hell, is there any connection to the Island story?

Well, as it seems from last night’s Desmond-centric hour, they are very connected. Without pretending I really understand (because I don’t), it appears that the two storylines are running parallel to each other, with the possibility of crossing back and forth. With Sideways Desmond now on a mission to find all the Sideways Castaways and help awaken them, as it were, it begs the question: Is the endgame of Lost going to be all about each character choosing which reality to live in, with Desmond as their shepherd? And, if so, how the hell do Jacob and Smokey figure into all that?

I get the feeling, though, that however Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have chosen to end Lost, some people aren’t going to be happy. A lot of comments I’ve read out in the Interweb seem to indicate a demand for more answers. While that’s always been the case with Lost, I think loyal viewers will be doing themselves a great disservice if they cry foul over unanswered questions. For me, Lost has always just been about the ride. Speculating on what it all means is a blast, but if I don’t get answers to everything, I won’t let it color my unending love for this show. I trust the creators to steer us in the direction they see fit. So, my advice to fans: let go and enjoy. Accept the answers you’re given and cherish the opportunity to spend years re-watching DVDs, arguing with friend over answers to questions you didn’t receive.

Best Moment: Not really a moment, but just getting to spend some time with all of my favorite peripheral characters last night was such a treat: Charlie, Daniel Faraday, Eloise Hawking, and Penny. The love story between Desmond and Penny has always been a favorite of mine and the opportunity to see Faraday again literally made me squeal. I don’t think I’ve ever loved Jeremy Davies more than I have in this role. And any chance to see Eloise, with that glint in her eye that says she probably knows more about what’s going on than anyone else on Earth, is a real fun. The re-appearance of all these fan favorites is a real gift from the writers to the dedicated fans.

After a week off, Modern Family was back with a new episode tonight. And what a good time it was. What I’ve come to love about this charming little show is the nimble way it balances slapstick, wit, and heart. On a lot of other shows, any attempt to fuse these elements together often comes across muddled or stilted. One aspect always rings untrue. Thankfully, this isn’t so with Modern Family. I don’t know if it’s owed to the writing, the direction, or the performances (or, even more likely, all three), but this show never feels false or forced.

At the Dunphy’s, Phil and Claire were butting heads over which parenting technique ruled supreme: Claire’s tendency to hover or Phil’s insistence to just let the kids be. Phil was tasked with monitoring Luke’s work on a Van Gogh project and Claire was helping Haley make some cupcakes, while Alex insisted that Luke had ADHD. Some of my favorite bits came from this story line tonight, between Alex reading the indicators of ADHD between cross-cut clips of Phil in the garage exhibiting them all, Claire and Phil fumbling over that one faulty stair, and the family reacting to Haley’s finished cupcakes.

Meanwhile, Mitchell was impatiently awaiting the arrival of his father so the two could embark on their yearly meteor shower watch. When Jay arrived with Manny, Mitch was a little put-out, which was only made worse by Manny’s constant ribbing of his step-brother. Mitch gets skunked and winds up having to wear Gloria’s dress, a gag I saw coming, but enjoyed nonetheless. Back at home, without Mitch, Cameron decided to take Gloria out to dinner. Cam was determined to repair their relationship after a series of faux pas (the scene of which was the single funniest thing all night), so he readily agrees to Gloria’s suggestion of dinner in her old neighborhood and insists on eating the same Carnitas Diablas as her. As they were walking to the car after the disastrous meal, Gloria is telling Cam that the neighborhood is poor, but the people are nice. They arrive at the car and she is instantly proven wrong, as the car is on blocks.

Funny, funny stuff all round, but let’s get to the good part, the best lines of the night:

You never hear of anybody being sfathered to death. – Phil, to Claire, while explaining that smothering is in a mother’s nature.

It’s where the planet Geek passes through the Nerdy Way. – Cam, about Mitchell and Jay’s meteor shower

Every year, Mitchell and his father go out and enjoy one of these showers together. – Cam, not quite explaining it properly.

I mean, look at us: one spicy, curvy diva– Cam                                                                          …and Gloria. – Mitchell

Honestly, I wish that tart would go back to Columbia and take her little Brown friend with her. – Cam, about Mitchell’s snobby friends, unknowingly in front of Gloria and Manny

Hey Dad, it kinda looks like Uncle Mitchell. If Uncle Mitchell were insane. – Luke, holding up a picture of Van Gogh.

Oh, were you there Mitchell? Cuz I think I would have recognized the only other white or gay person. – Cam, when Mitchell accuses him of over-exaggerating the mess of the restaurant Gloria took him to.

I’m just saying, if you were that type of a gay, you’d probably do alright for yourself. – Jay, failing miserably at making Mitchell feel better in Gloria’s dress.

Why did he paint A Starry Night? Maybe because the sky is beautiful and everybody likes looking at it. And it reminds us that something’s up there watching over all of us. Aliens who could be here in a second to liquify us and use us as fuel, so, wake up people, we’re next. – Luke, practicing his Van Gogh presentation with a horrified Alex.

My mouth is asleep, like at the dentist. – Luke, after eating one of Haley’s cupcakes.

Well, there you have it. Any lines you loved that I missed? Sound off below!