10.28.2006

Battlestar Galactica “Collaborators”

Cool: Poor Cylon collaborator Jammer finds himself judged, juried, and executed by an underground star chamber. Method of execution: purge by airlock via a Viper launch tube. While handcuffed. Before the title credits.

Cooler: Roslin pulls a Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter and blanket-pardons everyone who might have collaborated with the Cylons. You know, to begin the healing.

Huh?: Will someone please give Tigh a proper eyepatch? The sloppy square gauze thing is dramatic and all but it really does seem unnecessary at this point.

Best Line: “Your presidency is a farce and it ends right now!” – Adama to Zarek after learning that Zarek actually okayed the Circle.

Rising: Gaeta, who refuses to beg for his life when sentenced to die for his purported crimes against humanity. This kid’s got spunk. Tyrol earns honorable mention for making a big show of eating with Gaeta at episode’s end, doing his part to thaw the freeze between Gaeta and crew.

Falling: Cally, who didn’t think it was worth mentioning to Tyrol that someone on the Cylon secret police, like, let her go. This dim-witted oversight may have cost Jammer his life at the hands of the Circle. If this show were a feature film, Cally would be played by Rachael Leigh Cook or Ashlee Simpson. She's that annoying.

Lost “Every Man for Himself”

Cool: Sawyer’s an ex-con. We knew it. Extra credit for pulling a con on a fellow inmate for the authorities to get himself an early release.

Cooler: It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but somehow Desmond seems to have developed some kind of clairvoyant powers to see the future.

Coolest: The Others fool Sawyer into thinking he’s got a gizmo in his chest that will burst his heart if his pulse rate exceeds a certain level. The cherry on this is watching Sawyer’s heart race dangerously fast when he catches a glimpse of Kate’s naked back.

Best Line: “We’re gonna have to get that guy another button to push.” – Charlie to Claire, in reference to Desmond, who’s been acting oddly ever since the hatch imploded (see Cooler above).

Rising: Kate displays some real moxie here. First she wriggles out of her cage. Then she refuses to flee into the jungle and abandon Sawyer, choosing instead to return to her cage. Oh yeah, and she also professes her love for Sawyer to keep him from getting beaten to a pulp.

Lost "Further Instructions"

Cool: Poor Flashback Locke’s played for a sucker yet again, this time tricked into bringing an undercover cop to a paraside farm commune that’s actually a thriving marijuana farm. Nice moment: Locke tries to kill the cop and preserve his little slice of heaven, but the cop calmly walks away, insisting Locke is a farmer, not a hunter.

Huh?: This is a treading-water episode. The whole thing is a big "huh?" Not much happens. And what does happens is completely bizarre, even for this show. John builds a Native American sweat lodge, has a fever dream vision of Boone who directs him to find Eko, who has – get this – been dragged to a lair by a maniacal polar bear. This is crazy, people. Crazy. It's episodes like this that scare off new viewers.

Battlestar Galactica “Exodus Part 2”

Cool: Galactica FTL jumps into the blue skies above New Caprica, burning as it free-falls through the atmosphere, sticking around just long enough to launch its Vipers before jumping away again. A real showstopper of a visual effect.

Cooler: Tigh unexpectedly puts his money where his mouth is and kills his misguided wife Ellen, punishment for her having helped the Cylons. This guy is becoming a real force of nature. His days of drunken, ineffectual self-loathing seem a thing of the past - his time in the Cylon detention center have honed him to a steely point.

Coolest: The predictable self-sacrifice of the Pegasus, as Apollo defies Adama’s orders and swoops in to save Galactica from certain doom. This sequence, which is capped the empty Pegasus ramming one of the Cylon basestars (which takes out another basestar after the explosion sends big chunks of Pegasus flying everywhere), is one of the most thrilling space battles since
The Wrath of Khan.

Huh?: Gaeta gives Baltar a chance to redeem himself by going to stop the Cylon nuke planted on New Caprica. Okay, but by the time Baltar goes looking for it, the planet looks completely deserted. Everyone’s already evac'd to Galactica, so who cares if a nuclear bomb goes off?

10.18.2006

NBC 2, CBS 0

Friday Night Lights (NBC) may be this season’s Little Show That Couldn’t. Critics love it but it’s not finding an audience, perhaps the victim of “tweenism.” It may seem too teen for adults and too adult for teens, so neither demographic watches it. The competition – Gilmore Girls and the inexplicable 1970s throwback Dancing with the Stars (you want to see real dancing talent, tune in to So You Think You Can Dance next summer – seriously) – certainly doesn’t help, leeching off women viewers who might actually like the more soapy qualities of this saga of a small town's obsession with its top-ranked high school football team. The execution also isn't very familiar - the camerawork is shaky, the performances rather raw, the dialogue often light on helpful exposition. The show can play like a verite PBS documentary. It's not the comfort food of ER or Law & Order. You have to pay attention. It’s the best new show of the season, but you probably didn’t know that because you’re not watching. Watch it now before it gets cancelled.

Heroes (NBC) certainly didn’t look too good coming out of the gate, seeming like a poor man’s X-Men what with the overt comic book influence and the copycat serialized structure that’s been so in vogue since the success of Lost. But this show is worthy of your attention. The individual character subplots, which are of course becoming more and more interlocked and overlapped as we go along, are more richly realized than most network dramas’ entire seasons. There’s something very Stephen King circa 1985 about the way the supernatural here invades the very ordinary. It all rings pretty much true. Here’s hoping the show concludes its New York City apocalypse storyline at the end of the first season and then – ala 24 – sets up a new crisis for season 2. This is a very durable premise with lots of story potential. You don’t need to watch it now because it’s shaping up to be the season’s first breakout hit. It’ll be around for a while.

Studio 60 (NBS, er, NBC) is the pretty girl you put up on the pedestal. But then you actually talk to her and you realize how wrong you were. You desperately want to like this show. Aaron Sorkin’s last two shows – The West Wing and SportsNight – were instant classics of complex character and smart dialogue. Sorkin's something of a genius. The problem seems to be that he agrees. As good as Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry may be, they can’t make you care about what happens during the course of producing a Saturday Night Live style sketch show. The stakes just aren’t that high. Perry's writer’s block isn’t the same as Martin Sheen's international hostage crisis. Plus there’s just a nagging feeling that Sorkin and his crew are very much in love with his snappy banter that leaves everyone sounding exactly the same (and smug in a way that suggests you're stupid if you don't think it's all so veddy veddy brilliant). Don’t bother.

Jericho (CBS) stars Skeet Ulrich, which is really all you need to know about this show. The premise is certainly somber, perhaps the most blatant post-9/11 allegory we’ve seen yet: small town faces the possibility that most of America has been wiped out in a nuclear war. Jeez. Pass the popcorn. Given the right execution, there’s certainly a lot of drama and conflict to be mined from such a grim situation. Think what the writers of 24 could do with this (or, come to think of it, have done with this). Hope amid death, the triumph of humanity amid violence, the living dealing with the guilt of survival, etc. But the show is too clumsy for those kinds of themes. It’s like a high school drama good vs. evil production devoid of subtlety or nuance.

Lost "The Glass Ballerina"

Cool: Sawyer defies the Others’ explicit instructions and kisses Kate on the road gang work detail. It’s soon clear this was not about romance, but about luring the Others into attacking him so he could gauge their combat skill. Clever boy. But he loses points for later explaining his motivation to Kate in a voice loud enough to be picked by Ben’s microphones. How can the castaways at this point not be so paranoid as to speak in whispers? Don’t they watch the show?

Huh?: Sayid the master military tactician foolishly puts Sun in jeopardy by allowing Sun to make tea (!) in the docked sailboat while he and Jin stake out the jungle awaiting to ambush the Others. How can Sayid so underestimate the enemy?

Best Line: “I'm guessing most of these boys have never seen any real action. But that blond who had a gun pointed at you? She would have shot you, no problem.” – Sawyer assessing the Others to Kate. The blond he’s referring to is The Cheese Fry’s new It Girl, the Other named Juliet.

Rising: Sun, who’s turning out to be quite a dangerous character. First the flashbacks reveal her capacity for deception. As a little girl, she allows an innocent maid to be fired rather than admit her own misdeed. As a woman, she cheats on her husband and possibly allows herself to be impregnated as a result. But wait, that’s not all. Then, Sun gut shoots point-blank one of the Others, just moments after the Other claimed Sun would never do such a thing. Oops.

10.14.2006

Battlestar Galactica “Exodus Part 1”

Cool: The New Caprica resistance has somehow constructed a huge subterranean bunker a la Hogan’s Heroes (you get to it by opening a trap door hidden under a rug) right under the Cylons’ noses.

Cooler: Tigh’s months in Cylon captivity have turned him into a cold-blooded bad ass, all military tactics and merciless determination. The eye patch doesn't hurt, either. Will Adama even recognize this guy? Which leads us to...

Coolest: Check out the look of one-eyed anguish on Tigh’s face when Ellen confesses that she did indeed give the resistance map to the Cylons to save his life.

Huh?: The Cheese Fry is reserving judgment on the Starbuck-is-a-mommy subplot. Do we really want Starbuck’s edge softened by maternal instincts? Maybe, maybe not.

Best Line (tie): “Don’t make me cry on my own hangar deck.” – Adama to Apollo as they say their awkward testosterone goodbyes. “Adama wouldn’t lie to me.” – Caprica-Boomer to D’Anna, who claims Adama and Roslin faked baby Hera’s death. This betrayal will surely test Caprica-Boomer’s new allegiance to the Colonials just in time for November sweeps.

Falling: Cally, who just doesn’t seem worthy of Tyrol’s affections. She’s a bit, well, dim and always has been, more cute puppy than anything else. Here she is, fleeing the Cylon execution site and rather than stay low and hug the ground, she runs upright in plain site of the Centurions below. Which means Tyrol has to risk the whole operation to pull Cally out of the way. Blech.

Battlestar Galactica “The Occupation” and “Precipice”

Cool: Adama and Caprica-Boomer are now confidantes. There’s something very interesting developing here in the triangle between Adama, Caprica-Boomer, and Apollo. One could argue that Adama sees in tough-minded Caprica-Boomer something he’s never completely seen in Apollo, even moreso now that Apollo's gained 50 pounds or so since the occupation of New Caprica began.

Cooler: There are obvious parallels between New Caprica and 1940s Vichy France what with the puppet government and the underground rebel resistance. That’s the easy way to go. But this is a show that wants to make things complicated. And so here we hear our Tyrol-Tigh-Anders resistance referred to as “insurgents,” assigning the good guys the loaded name we associate with the bad guys in Iraq.

Best Line: “You work with the Cylons, you’re a target.” – Colonel Tigh’s icy rationale for recruiting a suicide bomber to attack the graduation ceremony of Cylon’s new human secret police force.

Rising: Ellen Tigh, who seems geuinely selfless here, having sex with Brother Cavil not for her own gratification but to win Tigh’s release. Even better, she defines “wrong thing for the right reason” when she steals a key resistance map to ensure Tigh’s safety.

Falling: Baltar, although it’s unclear just how much farther this guy can fall. He is kind of fascinating on one hand in his narccisistic misery. Then again, he is only enormously annoying in his weak-willed cowardice. Rather than take a noble bullet and maybe do the right thing, he signs a death warrant for the leaders in the Colonial community.

10.11.2006

Lost "A Tale of Two Cities"

Cool: Evangeline Lily was definitely the cast “It Girl” back in season one in 2004, but she’s lost a little something. Maybe it's her continued inexplicable romance with co-star Dominic Monaghan. Anyway, just in time comes the arrival of Elizabeth Mitchell’s silky "Other" Juliet, who could no doubt kick Kate’s ass or beat her at chess, either one. The torch may have just been passed.

Cooler: The Others live like J. Crew suburbanites in Fantasy Island-style bungalows on the far other side of the island. This is not what the Cheese Fry was expecting. And yet it makes sense somehow. The twists just keep on coming.


Coolest: Seeing the frightening crash of Oceanic 815 from the ground in a shaky long shot, showing how the plane broke up in midair without any clear reason for doing so (reinforcing the idea that it was the island’s big magnetic pulse the did it).

"Previously on Battlestar Galactica..."

"Lay Down Your Burdens" (Parts 1 and 2)
Cool: For the first time, we see what it looks like to do an FTL jump from inside a ship.
Cooler: Roslin, typically a paragon of morality, comes very close to stuffing the ballot box and stealing the election from Baltar. Even better, the episode initially suggests this coup is being carried out by Tigh and Duella without her knowledge. And then comes the bombshell when Roslin admits to Adama she personally okayed it. That’s gold.

Great ending: This may be one of television’s best season enders ever, right up there with J.R. getting shot. After Baltar wins the election, the action flash forwards an entire year to show the characters in completely new situations and relationships on New Caprica. Apollo’s gotten fat and wants nothing to do with Starbuck. Tyrol and Cally are a couple. Starbuck’s mended fences with Tigh. Baltar’s president lounges around Colonial One like Ceasar. And Adama’s got a 1970 porn star mustache. Oh yeah, and then they Cylons return. This is one ballsy story decision from which there is no going back.
Huh?: We get another healthy dose of Cylon religion mumbo-jumbo with an extended subplot involving Tyrol’s psychoanalysis-slash-religious-counciling by annoying Brother Cavil. More troubling, Cavil’s later revealed to be a Cylon which means we’ll have to see more of him.
Best Line: “I’m going to wipe the floor with you, Gaius.” – Roslin, all bad ass steely eyes and clenched jaw, to Baltar after he makes his surprise presidential candidacy announcement.

10.06.2006

"Previously on Lost..."

“The Whole Truth”
Cool:
Sawyer’s reading a copy of Judy Blume’s
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.
Cooler: If Jin’s sterlie, who’s the father of Sun’s baby? Is it going to some weird supernatural virgin birth? Or has the island healed Jin’s malfunctioning sperm the same way it healed Locke’s legs?
Huh?: Sun and Hurley cross paths in the middle of the jungle as if they were passing each other in the hallway outside the copy room. Even if the castaways have devised trails, this seems very coincidental.

Best Line: “Jack and Locke are a little too busy worrying about Locke and Jack” – Ana-Lucia to Sayid when he asks if she’s run her Henry Gale interrogation plan past the two de facto island leaders.
Rising: Henry Gale – He’s been a rather ambiguous character for the most part. Is he telling the truth? Is he an Other? The show’s been playing it both ways. But all doubt seems eliminated with his creepy suggestion here that sending Sayid, Charlie, and Ana-Lucia to look for his balloon could be the perfect way to ambush them in the middle of nowhere.
“Lockdown”
Cool:
A giant pallet of supplies is airdropped onto the island, proving that someone somewhere is still helping keep the hatch stocked with food. Even better, the somone somewhere may still think the hatch is being manned by Desmond.

Cooler: Henry Gale isn’t the bug-eyed white guy locked in the armory. He’s a smiling black guy, as proven by the driver’s license Sayid, Charlie, and Ana-Lucia bring back.
Coolest: That weirdo
blacklight map that Locke finds on the back of the blast door. Examined like the Rosetta Stone thanks to the power of freeze framing, the map is manna to the Lost geeks of the internet.
Best Line: “Should I go get a ruler?” – Kate, to Jack and Sawyer as they engage in one of their usual clenched-jaw stare downs.
Rising: Jack, who unexpectedly beats Sawyer at poker and wins all of the medicine Sawyer’s been hoarding. Bonus points to Sawyer for calling Jack “Amarillo Slim.”
“Dave”
Cool:
Hurley tackles Sawyer after one too many wise-ass fat jokes. Even better, Jin thinks it’s pretty funny until Sun makes him go break it up.

Cooler: In one of that textbook Lost twists (that’s - let's face it - becoming less surprising), we learn Libby was a patient in the mental hospital with Hurley.
Coolest: There is no Dave, people. He’s a figment of Hurley’s imagination. This is one trippy Mobius-strip of an episode, using a Fight Club-style twist to cleverly externalize Hurley’s suicidal urges (it’s not Hurley who wants to die exactly, it’s Dave trying to trick Hurley into dying by suggesting the island’s all in his head), which are wrapped up in his food addiction and lingering guilt over killing some people when a deck collapsed under his weight.

Best Line: “Don’t tell me you made me up. It’s insulting” – Libby to Hurley when he suggests maybe she’s imagarinary, too.
“S.O.S.”
Cool:
One of the background castaways is called not by his name, but simply as the “frogurt guy.” That’s funny.

Cooler: It’s a little unsettling to see a flashback in which Locke is stuck back in his wheelchair.
Coolest: Rose’s terminal cancer is somehow miraculously in remission on the island. Which means she can’t leave (the reason why she was trying to talk Bernard out of his SOS signal). Poignant extra credit for Bernard telling her if she can’t leave, neither will he.
Great Ending: When Jack and Kate venture into the jungle to try and trade Henry for Walt, who comes staggering out of the bushes but Michael. Cut to black. Classic.

Best Line: “They’ll never give you Walt.” – Henry Gale’s ominous promise to Jack when he learns of Jack’s prisoner swap idea.
Falling: The Jack-Sawyer bickering is really starting to get old.
“Two for the Road”
Cool:
Check out Henry Gale talking about “him” – the Others’ leader: “He’s a great man, but not a forgiving man.” The kind of thing the Old Testament says about, you know, God.

Huh?: It’s around this time that you may start to wonder what happened to all of the scary monsters that seems to inhabit the island at the start of the first season. Characters now regularly wander off by themselves without a moment’s hesitation. Runner up: the Libby-Hurley romance. We all want to believe it’s possible, sure, but do you believe it?
Great Ending: Topping the previous episode, here Michael shoots Ana-Lucia dead on purpose, accidentally plugs Libby, frees Henry Gale, then shoots himself in the arm. Cut to black. That sucking sound you hear is millions of Americans dropping their jaws in shock.
Best Line: “Don’t you want my phone number?” – Sawyer to Ana-Lucia after sex, which was coldly instigated by her to get the gun to kill Henry.

“?”
Cool:
Libby’s on screen death may be one of the more scary and painful demises you’ll see on network TV. It’s not noble or heroic in any way. Even worse, she tries with her dying breath to implicate Michael, but Jack and the others think she’s just trying to make sure he’s okay. Yeah, it’s a cliché, but it works.

Cooler: Locke and Mr. Eko find the “Pearl station” – another hatch – and realize it’s a monitoring station for the Swan hatch. The whole thing, including the button and the 108-minute countdown, seems like a big experiment. The Pearl watches the Swan to see how the inhabitants respond. And Locke sees his entire button-centric value system crumble.
Best Line: “I’m sorry I forgot the blankets.” – Hurley to Libby as she’s dying from a gunshot wound that wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t have to go back to the hatch for blankets and stumble onto Michael’s murder of Ana-Lucia.

“Three Minutes”
Cool:
Though Michael’s eyes, we finally see the Others’ camp. But is it all real? We already know they wear disguises. So how much of this rustic,
Gilligan’s Island-style village is authentic?
Cooler: Sayid demonstrates his mastery of the Bad Ass Arts by realizing Michael has been “compromised” by the Others, which sounds all the more important when spoken in actor Naveen Andrews’ silky British accent.
Coolest: Miss Klugh gives Michael a list with four names of the people they want: Hurley, Jack, Sawyer, Kate. Creepy. How do they know who they are? And why do they want them?
Best Line: “Well at least now we get to kill somebody” – Sawyer to Jack, getting his groove on as they prepare to attack the Others and free Walt.

Rising: Charlie, showing some real backbone at long last by tossing those annoying Virgin Mary drug statues into the surf. Locke is of course on hand to bear silent witness.
“Live Together, Die Alone” (Parts 1 and 2)
Cool:
Kelvin, who captured Sayid in Iraq, is the one on the island who rescues Desmond in the sailboat, trains him in the ways of the island, and later tries to ditch Desmond.

Cooler: Sayid finds the Others’ camp, but it’s abandoned, looking very much like stripped-down stage set.
Coolest: When the countdown gets down to zero, Desmond twists the failsafe key and the whole island is enveloped in some kind of weird white pulse.
Great ending: Some grubby guys in an Arctic research station notice the Desmond-failsafe pulse on their electronic gizmos and calls Desmond’s girlfriend Penelope, who’s been looking for Desmond. Weird.

Best Line: “I think I crashed your plane” – Desmond to Locke when he pieces together the timeline.