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.

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About Last Night…

April 6, 2010

Welcome to 3FING3RS newest TV feature: a daily look back at the previous night’s offerings, or proof that one TV addict really needs to get a life.

Boy, was this week’s Damages a doozy. I must say, I always feel that this show is at

Do you really want to try and fuck with me?

its best when it’s making me totally uncomfortable; and last night was a shining example. With Tessa Marquette’s detention by Ellen’s D.A. boss, everyone was scrambling; like paranoid bees after the nest’s been knocked over. Patty, feeling powerless with the idea that she’s lost her only opportunity to put weight on the Tobin’s, turned first on Ellen and then on Tom, after he confessed that Ellen had covered for him with Patty and it was he who had recklessly approached Tessa in the first place. Meanwhile, the Tobin’s were panicking that Tessa would spill what she knew and Joe was determined to prevent it, at all costs. A shocking reveal came via Leonard this evening. [SPOILER ALERT] As he was pleading with Marilyn to appeal to Joe and ask him to leave Tessa alone, we learned that Tessa was in fact Joe’s daughter, and not his father’s. (I’ve gotta gloat here: I totally called this the minute we learned that Danielle and Joe had a history.) Marilyn later informed Leonard that she’d spoken to Joe and convinced him to call off the goons, but as that final, jarring scene in Antigua proved, she did no such thing. These Tobin’s really are wretched people. I can’t wait for Joe to learn the truth, though.

Still confused on how these two subplots are going to play into the grand scheme of things, but enjoying them, nonetheless: The Frobisher story and Ellen’s botched adoption. It’s always lovely to see Ted Danson anywhere on television, as he’s really enjoying quite a well-deserved career renaissance. And this week, we learned that the dark underbelly of Arthur Frobisher hasn’t gone away. His shadowy almost-confession of murder in the car with Craig Bierko’s Terry was unsettling, to say the least. Like I said, not sure where this is leading or how it pieces in, but I like it.

Now, about the Ellen subplot. We got a little clarification this week, as we learned that Ellen wasn’t adopted by her parents, but almost given away by them, instead. Turns out her mother couldn’t handle kids and an asshole husband and almost gave Ellen away to someone who actually wanted to care for her, but changed her mind at the last second. I don’t even know how to speculate what this means to the season as a whole, but I loved that it provided us with that really nice scene with Rose Byrne and Noah Bean in the snow. Too bad the Damages writers weren’t involved with Grey’s Anatomy when Izzie was dealing with Ghost Denny because this scene with Ellen and Ghost/Memory David is how to do it right.

Only two episodes left (maybe ever!) and there is so much left to learn. Not sure if you’re apprised of the goings-on at FX, but there is talk that a fourth season won’t happen if they have to foot the bill alone. There are reports that the network has reached out to DirecTV to propose something similar to their arrangement with NBC for Friday Night Lights. Here’s hoping something can be worked out, as this show is one of the richest, most engrossing adult dramas in the television landscape currently. It would be a shame to lose it.

Best Moment:  “I see you. You’re a climber, a parasite, and you’re ruthless. I want you out of my apartment. I want you out of my life.” – Patty, to a visibly stunned Ellen.

That boozy confrontation between Ellen and a noticeably drunk Patty, with the latter’s paranoia on full display; wow. This is what viewer’s of this show have come to love: the small, but meaty scenes between Glenn Close and Byrne. Their bizarre relationship (mentor/student/mother/daughter/sister/friend??) is tempestuous and rife with tension and has always kept us clamoring for more.

I'm Jack Bauer, motherfucker!

Meanwhile, a show that we’ve just learned is, for sure, leaving us this season finally stepped up its game tonight. I must admit that I’ve never watched much of 24 before this year, save for a handful of episodes of season two that Jordin made me watch, like, five years ago. So, with that, I feel unqualified to comment on the show’s quality level when compared to prior seasons. The Internet is rife with commentary that the show has been particularly snoozy and/or ridiculous this year, but, I’ve gotta say, as a newbie, I’m loving the ride. Sure, the early scenes dealing with the Dana Walsh subplot were terrible, but I feel like turning her into the mole really turned it around. I know that this is, like, CTU’s eightieth mole, but it was still fun. And it’s continuing to be enjoyable, as I feel like Katee Sackhoff is finally being given some material and direction to work with.

Tonight’s two hours sped along, mostly focusing on President Hassan turning himself over to the terrorists and Jack and all of CTU attempting to rescue him. The stuff with President Taylor learing that General Brucker and Rob Weiss had betrayed her was fascinating. (Fun Fact: I once met Chris Diamantopoulus, who plays Weiss, when I was working front desk at the Sheraton Universal. He was really gracious when I complimented him on an episode of Nip/Tuck he’d appeared in. Plus, he’s a total babe.)

[SPOILER ALERT] The climax of the second hour was particularly heartbreaking. To find Hassan dead, and for the satellite feed to have been a recording, was intense and a twist I didn’t really expect. I’m not really sure where we go from here, though I guess the rest of the season will be dedicated to President Taylor grasping to maintain her peace treaty, as we’ve already learned that the Russians won’t play ball now that Hassan is gone. It should be fun to see Gregory Itzin’s Charles Logan, though I can’t imagine that anything would be bad enough for President Taylor to actually turn to him for help.

Best Moment: The final words between President Taylor and Ray Weiss. Just an awesome moment that finally let Cherry Jones bring a little bad-ass to her mostly subdued role. The slap across Weiss’ face led to a cheer in many homes tonight, no doubt; or, at least it did on my couch.

You know, I didn't believe it before, but now that we have video evidence, I can't deny it. Everyone is right, we are totally awful.

This week’s Gossip Girl played out like some game of The Good, The Bad, and The Boring. Let’s tackle The Good, first. The Chuck/Blair storyline was pure vintage G.G., if Indecent Proposal-lite. Jack approached Chuck and told him that he would give him his hotel back, if he allowed him one night with Blair. It seemed like Chuck rebuked the offer, so Jack tried another avenue, appealing to Blair herself. Blair dismissed the truly disgusting proposal at first, but as she continued to see how distraught Chuck was over the loss of his empire, err, The Empire (subtle, Schwartz), she relented. So, she went to Jack, having drafted a contract (!) that stipulated that he could never tell Chuck. After signing and only kissing Blair, Jack announced that he got what he wanted and it wouldn’t go any further. Blair was understandably baffled, so Jack further explained: Chuck knew about it all, and had actually agreed to “hand” Blair over. Blair was repulsed and hearbroken. That final scene between Chuck and Blair was devastating, though, I’ve gotta admit, I’m a little excited to see them apart. I’ve got a feeling Chuck is going to realize he made the colossally wrong choice and try to win Blair back. If so, that cat and mouse game should be a delight.

As for the bad, this whole Serena-Nate-Jenny thing is almost as ridiculous as that “game” they played at Nate’s party. (Seriously, did you believe for a second that any of these UES-ers would willingly participate, sober?) I don’t believe for a second that anyone in their right mind would even consider heinous J over Serena. This story seems like a fast train to nowhere and I want off.

And, the boring. Danessa. Vaniel. Whatever. This is the worst coupling in the history of the universe. And now we get to watch these two pretentious blowhards compete for the same spot at Tisch? Joy. Honestly, if Dan Humphrey were real, I would punch him in the face. Hate.

Best Moment: Eric is back! Though in desperate need of a haircut, our favorite little G.G.G. (that’s Gossip Girl Gay, duh) returned from his heretofore unmentioned trip to Japan (seriously, does anyone else remember ever hearing about this?) and it looks like he’s gonna get a new BF! Bonus points for the new boy being 150% cuter than that mess that was Jonathan. Excited for this. Also, what the hell was Eric up to in Japan? That first scene where he was talking about his Japanese rebound being into group sex and pictures! I want to hear more about this, and fast.

So, in the past couple weeks since I began this column, I’ve ragged pretty heavily on our beloved Gossip Girl. It’s not like I wanted to write a weekly scathing critique, but it just sort of worked out that way. This week, however, I told myself I was going to try to find the good in the episode. Thankfully, the hour was a surprisingly fun one, making my plan a lot easier than I’d expected. Here are some takeaways:

1. This Chuck Bass storyline just got a whole lot more exciting.

When the episode began, we learned that Chuck’s female employees at The Empire were planning to file suit for sexual harassment. Right off the bat, Chuck plans to settle, under advisement from his lawyer. Blair was dismayed, offering up perhaps the best quip of the night: “Settlements are for the guilty: celebrities who run people over, the Catholic Church. It’s not fair.” She asserts that Chuck is really settling so as to avoid Elizabeth finding out and Chuck doesn’t do much to deny this.

It doesn’t much matter, as the next time we see Chuck and Elizabeth together, they’re bombarded by press, looking for comments on the scandal, which has obviously been leaked. And just as Elizabeth agreed to attend the Historical Society’s dedication of a gallery in Bart’s name. She doesn’t look bothered much by this, much to Chuck’s relief.

Just then, he received a phone call from a newly-goateed and always-devilish Uncle Jack, who’s back in town and, we’re lead to believe, is the one behind the story leak. Jack later visits Chuck and explains that he didn’t leak the story (which I don’t believe for a second) and is back only after having heard about Elizabeth. He plants doubt in Chuck’s head regarding Elizabeth’s true identity and leaves, not before being totally creepy to Blair. (Did we ever find out what, exactly, happened between them? Or is that something that we think is yet to be revealed?)

Later, Elizabeth presents Chuck with a purple bowtie to wear to the dedication, saying she remembered it as Bart’s favorite color. Chuck, beginning to believe Jack’s BS, tells her the only reason he ever wore purple was because Bart loathed it. Elizabeth looks uncomfortable at this, quickly attempts at a cover, and we’re lead to wonder if Jack is telling the truth.

Further complicating things, Elizabeth bails on the event after hearing Jack is in town, telling Chuck she has an ugly history with him and isn’t sure if she can handle meeting everyone else and having to deal with him at the same time. Chuck, clearly with a plan, obliges and asks her to stay for a drink.

We next see Chuck as Blair walks in on him placing Elizabeth’s glass in a plastic bag, leading us to Blair’s second-best quip of the night: “Are you kidding me? A DNA sample? You’ve been watching too much CBS.” As Chuck begins to explain his misgivings towards Elizabeth, she overhears. She claims she was coming to tell Chuck she had changed her mind and actually wanted to attend the dedication, but instead calls him his father’s son and storms out. Blair looks pretty repulsed and follows suit.

Things get worse at the dedication, as Chuck’s lawyer informs him that they’re now being attacked by Christian conservatives, prompting Chuck’s best line of the night: “We have those in Manhattan?” Yes, apparently, the Family Travel Council is issuing a boycott and they’ve got some major pull. The lawyer thinks it would be in Chuck’s best interest to hand over control of the hotel, at least temporarily. Perhaps to a family member? Conveniently, Jack walks right in, and offers his services. Chuck tells him, in no uncertain terms, that this will never happen. Before leaving, Jack restates that he didn’t cause this fiasco, but that he certainly plans to reap the benefits from it.

Just then, the results of the fastest DNA test ever are sent to Chuck. It appears Elizabeth is who she says she is and Chuck has another option to save his hotel. He goes to see her at her hotel, as she’s packing, and apologizes, asking if she’d allow him to sign control over to her. She appears concerned, but eventually acquiesces.

Chuck goes home to Blair, relieved. But we know that can’t be all. This is Gossip Girl, after all. Elizabeth has another knock on her door. She opens to find Jack and Chuck’s lawyer there. Jack asks “Do we have ourselves a hotel?” And so, it’s made abundantly clear that, even though she is Chuck’s mom, she’s a rotten she-devil working with Jack to take Chuck down. I’ve got to admit, I was genuinely surprised by this, and by the fact the the lawyer was in on it too! Poor Chuck.

2. I didn’t totally hate the Dan/Vanessa (Danessa? Van?) storyline tonight.

I thought the bit with Vanessa showing up at the dedication in that smoking dress to piss Dan off, after he’d declared his loft, Lily’s house, and the entire Upper East Side “friends-only” zones, was actually fun. Vanessa looked great, for the first time in a while, and I finally bought these two as something more than just friends. Of course, the playfulness was quickly resolved by episode’s end, nearly guaranteeing more boredom from these two. But, it was a nice respite this evening.

3. Rufus and Lily just can’t get it together.

Well, at least we learned that Rufus, though he wanted to exact some revenge on Lily, didn’t do anything with that other woman. It was nice to see them begin to mend fences. That is, until Cici called and told Lily that six months had passed and it was time for another visit with her ex, the whole reason this problem started in the first place. Of course, Lily says she’ll leave right away and, when telling Rufus, leaves out any mention of William. They make an agreement to a clean slate when she returns. But Lily knows, as well as we do, that that ain’t happening anytime soon.

4. Jenny lies about sexy time and I don’t get why.

I mostly enjoyed tonight’s Little J antics. They brought everyone together, like some well-coifed Super Friends, with a singular mission to save Jenny from the evil clutches of Damian, the Virginity Thief. Despite their best efforts, Jenny still winds up in bed with him, but she surprisingly comes to her senses and calls it off. What I didn’t understand was why, when she got home and Serena went in to talk to her, Jenny lied and told S that she did it anyway and that it wasn’t a big deal.

All in all, it was an enjoyable episode. What did you think? Are you looking forward to William’s imminent, surely dramatic arrival? Do you think we’ve seen the last of Damian? Were you shocked by the discovery of the evil triumvirate: Jack, Elizabeth, and nameless lawyer? And are you as excited as I am for the inevitable showdown between the evil adults and the ingenious team of Chuck and Blair?

Sound off below!

Anyone else miss Nellie Yuki?

When I started watching tonight’s new episode of Gossip Girl, I took notes intending to just write a standard recap. But, this episode stirred something in me and I felt that a look at this season, on the whole, was necessary. It’s not that the episode was terrific, or terrifically terrible, for that matter. It had its moments, as every episode this season has (generally, the smaller moments with Chuck and Blair). However, those moments seem to be becoming fewer and further between, especially when compared to prior seasons.

When the show first premiered, it was a sensation. It was frothy, soapy fun with a gorgeous and moderately talented cast. It was as if Josh Schwartz studied all the elements that worked on his prior creation, The O.C., and injected them into a story he borrowed, rather than created. The show wisely focused the majority of its action in this insane world of elite New York private high schools. The show, from the get-go, was arch and salacious and sexy; everything you could hope for in a teen drama. It was over the top, but we as viewers forgave that.

And then season two ended with a majority of the characters graduating from high school. This single event brought the writers to a crossroads where the show could become many things, if they so chose; but it seems like no one was able to make that choice. The show, I feel, is trying to be too many things at once. By deciding to keep a focus on Jenny in high school, while following everyone else into college, the writers are shoving their feet into two different puddles, but both are getting muddy.

They’re trying to age the college-set much too fast, thrusting them into bizarre situations that are completely beyond any realm of believability (I mean, come on, Chuck building a hotel empire? Serena working in politics?!) And after taking the viewer into these adult situations, the writers then quickly try to pull back into Jenny’s world at Constance Billard, making for some nasty whiplash.

I don’t write this to say that I don’t like the show anymore because that’s hardly the case. I write this because I don’t know where the show should go from here, and neither, is seems, do the writers. As a fan, I’m worried. This show that was the flagship of The CW, the show that most clearly emphasized the netlet’s identity, now seems baffled by its own DNA. And if you don’t know yourself, how can you expect anyone else to truly know you?

Well, Upper East Siders, the bitch is back. That’s right, Gossip Girl made it’s long-awaited return to the airwaves last night after a seemingly endless hiatus. I mean, how long was this show away, anyway? I feel like Bush was still president the last time we saw a new episode. (I kid, and shudder at the remembrance. It’s only been since November, I believe.) And while the return was much anticipated, I have to say it was a bit of a snoozy episode. Luckily, we’re in for a stream of original episodes, right through the season finale. Here’s hoping next week pushes the story along.

But, before we write this episode off as a catch-up episode playing like an original, let’s take a look at the things I learned tonight:

1. The episode recap is generally unnecessary.

This week’s “Previously On” spent a lot of time showing a bunch of crap that had no bearing on tonight’s episode. Seriously, did we need to be reminded of both the Tripp and Olivia debacles? No. Looking at my notes for this, I wrote: “Serena’s nails are gross. Chuck sees some lady at the grave. Jenny’s in love with a dealer, or something.” The show uses so much exposition retelling its story every week, anyway, that we don’t need this pointless reminder, too.

2. Random international soirees are constantly happening in NYC.

Look, I’ve never been to the Big Apple before. But, if I were to use GG as my Bible for all things accurate about NY (and sweet lord, I truly hope no one actually does), I would believe that dignitaries from the world over are constantly in the city for a meal. This week we were treated to some French Ambassador’s Dinner, which was the convergence of nearly all the episode’s storylines. My favorite was the shot of the African couple arriving in full Swahili regalia. Of course.

3. Blair Waldorf continually has the best one-liners.

Nearly every week, Leighton Meester’s Blair is the saving grace of the hour, providing often the only comic relief from everyone else’s dour, morose existences. Sometimes the writer’s try to inject some sarcastic wit into Dan, too, but that generally fails, as Dan Humphrey is the worst character in the history of characters. (More on that later) Some of my favorite Blair lines tonight:

“Abandoning me in a fur hat is one thing…” after Chuck rebuffed her Anna Karenina roleplay romp.

“Chastity belts go very well with formal wear,” while lecturing Serena on taking it slow with Nate.

And the top of the night,

“The clog? An ugly wooden shoe that tried to make a statement, then disappeared, just like your resolve to take things slow with Nate.”

4. Chuck Bass is equal parts awesome and ridiculous.

He’s the finest dandy ever to grace the silver screen, IMHO, so I give him points for that. But, I often feel as if he’s been transplanted from the Great Gatsby, with stuffy dialogue like “Obviously I spoke to early in that regard.” Isn’t this character supposed to be 19? I understand we are meant to suspend a lot of our disbelief when watching GG, and that’s often part of the fun, but sometimes I would love for Chuck to show a glimmer of the teenager that he’s supposed to be.

5. Dan is so milquetoast and I’m over it.

Since breaking him up with Serena, Schwartz and Co. don’t seem to have any idea how to write for this character in any interesting way and, unfortunately, it’s shining a light on the fact that the role has always been a dud to begin with. What with that insipid relationship with Olivia earlier in the season, to the lamest threeway EVER, to now pining for Vanessa (WHY?!), this has been a waste. Let’s shake it up. I want to see Dan go wild. Either that, or move away. But please, no more of the same. And while we’re at it, no more Dan and Nate scenes. Nothing on this show feels more forced than when we’re asked to believe that Nate actually likes Dan. Nothing.

6. Rufus and Lily are never meant to be happy together.

Nothing was really advanced this week on the grown-up front, except for our learning, along with Rufus, that Lily only kissed her ex-husband and she only looked him up because she feared her mother was dying and he’s a doctor. So Rufus gets all holier-than-thou, per usual, and runs off, apparently into the arms of Convenient Dog-Walking Lady of the 24th Floor. (Seriously, did Rufus meet her at the First Wives Club meeting in the building? Remember that weird subplot from five months ago? I hardly can.) This, plus the announced impending arrival of Billy Baldwin as William Van Der Woodsen, spells continued drama for these two.

7. Kevin Zeger needs a better agent.

Seriously, this drug dealing plotline is so lame. This Damian character is so lame. Damian running into Serena on the street and coincidentally having gone to boarding school with her is so lame. A box of pills and pastry, and the subsequent pill coat, are, well, actually kinda great. Look, I get the plot function of Serena knowing Damian and being involved, albeit unknowingly, in the pill coat switcheroo is all to bring Jenny’s involvement in this mess to light of everyone around her. But it’s all a little too ridic for me.

8. Make out/sex scenes to The XX in giant coatrooms are totally hot and should be a weekly event on every show in existence.

‘Nuff said.

9. Chuck’s parental issues deepen.

This Elizabeth-whoever woman that Chuck spotted at his father’s grave, carrying his mother’s favorite flowers and a half of a locket with a picture of Bart Bass in it may, in fact, BE CHUCK’S MOTHER. Quelle surprise! Except not really. I loved watching Blair fight for her man near the end, though. Elizabeth/Eleanor/ whoever better check herself.

What did you think of tonight’s return? Do you think Elizabeth is actually Eleanor? Do you think Rufus will exact some sort of revenge with Convenient Dog-Walking Lady of the 24th Floor or come to his senses and just complain to her about Lily? (My money’s on the latter) And, most importantly, do you wish Dan would just die, as I do?