Who’s Your Daddy: Television’s Best Dads

Good fathers are a common trope on television, possibly because there are so few of them in the real world. Which makes it a challenge to narrow them down to just a few of our favorites. What follows is our top twelve, and we salute them, as well as the also-rans like Eric Taylor, Tony Micelli, Michael Bluth, Howard Cunningham, Mike Brady, Stephen Keaton, Henry Spencer, and James Evans. Happy Father’s Day, and thanks for making our real dads seem so inferior!

1. Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), The Cosby Show
Let’s be honest: Bill Cosby was everyone’s dream dad in the ’80s. When he wasn’t making us laugh with his wholesome comedy routines, telling stories of Fat Albert and the gang, or extolling the virtues of pudding pops, he was delighting us all as Heathcliff Huxtable: obstetrician, jazz aficionado, husband, and father of five. Cliff was silly, kind-hearted, competitive, embarrassing, available to help whenever one of his kids had a problem, and usually clad in a fluffy sweater that just begged to be hugged. He was even chosen as America’s top TV dad in a Harris Interactive poll, the favorite among respondents of all races, ages, and political affiliations. Take that, Ward Cleaver.

2. Dan Conner (John Goodman), Roseanne
If Cliff Huxtable was the dream dad of the ’80s, Dan Conner was the reality. This beer-drinking, blue-collar everyman worried about money, fought with his wife, yelled at his kids and suffered through the recession along with the rest of us. But through it all he was the emotional center of a ground-breaking show that wasn’t afraid to give us an imperfect, realistic take on the American family. You never for a second doubted that Dan would do anything for his kids, and his triumphs were all the more meaningful because he had to work so hard for them. It’s possible he even helped us understand and appreciate our own over-worked, imperfect dads a little better.

3. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), Castle
Best-selling novelist Richard Castle is something of a playboy, a bit irresponsible, and frankly kind of self-centered. Except when it comes to his teenage daughter Alexis, whom he’s raised without any help from Alexis’ even-more irresponsible mother. He’s pretty much the ideal dad, to be honest. He has fun hanging out with Alexis (they have laser tag tournaments in their tony Manhattan apartment!), but he’s not afraid to set limits when he needs to. He trusts her, because he’s raised her to be trustworthy. He values her opinions and takes her advice as often as he offers his own fatherly guidance. In fact, the wonderfully heartfelt interactions between this father and daughter are one of the things that sets Castle apart from the other crime procedurals crowding the TV landscape.

4. Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), The West Wing
As we learned in the fifth season episode, “Abu el Banat,” to be a father of daughters is to be a man deserving of sympathy, and Jed Bartlet is the father of three very headstrong women. He may not always know how to relate to them, and he may not always approve of the choices they make or the men they marry, but he makes damn sure they know he’s always in their corner, like when he tells his middle daughter, Ellie: “The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was come home at the end of the day.” *wibble* And on top of that he somehow manages to run the country AND co-parent his loyal inner circle of staffers (with a little help from Leo, of course).

5. Mitchell Pritchett & Cameron Tucker (Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Eric Stonestreet), Modern Family
Like any first time parents, Mitch and Cam have suffered their share of mishaps, like the time they accidentally locked baby Lily in the car (pshaw! Let me tell you about the time my two-year-old locked her babysitter out of the house). But on a show that’s all about the push and pull of family, these two dads are the perfect yin and yang. Between the two of them they’ve got all the bases covered—they’re smart, affectionate, serious, fun-loving, responsible, spontaneous, athletic, and artistic—ensuring that Lily (and any other children they might adopt in the future) will never want for anything.

6. Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), Veronica Mars
While we sometimes wished that Keith had kept a shorter leash on Veronica, you can’t deny that his example is the reason she grew up to be the clever, strong, fiercely independent champion of the underdog that we know and love. And the fact that the touching bond between this father and daughter was able to transcend the skeletons they each kept tucked in their respective closets is nothing short of miraculous. Even when it seems like the rest of the world is against them, Keith and Veronica always have each others’ backs. And dessert for dinner to ease some of the pain.

7. Howard “Bunny” Colvin (Robert Wisdom), The Wire
On a show with nary a good parent to be found (even the so-called good guys weren’t exactly model parents), Maj. Colvin stands out, not only as a father-figure to the officers who served under him and the neighborhood he wanted to protect with his Hamsterdam experiment, but to the corner kids he tried to help after he was pushed off the force. Even when his middle-school program was terminated, he did the one thing he could do—he pulled Namond out the thug life his mother was pushing him towards by convincing the incarcerated Wee-Bey to let the Colvins take in Namond and raise him away from the streets of West Baltimore. Namond’s out there somewhere right now, getting ready to go off to college thanks to his foster-father, Bunny Colvin.

8. Charles “Pa” Ingalls (Michael Landon), Little House on the Prairie
Charles Ingalls did all the things you’d expect of a frontier-based SuperDad–protecting his offspring from wolves and rogues, carrying them across frozen rivers, keeping the fires stoked during bouts of fever and ague. He even welcomed prairie orphans into the family and put his own dreams of farm life on hold to work in the city during drought so no one would starve to death. But what makes Charles most memorable is his ability to put the 1800s behind him and rock the 1970s sensitive man fathering. Whether gently chastising his Half-Pint to set aside her selfishness or mourning the loss of his son, Charles Ingalls’ mix of stoicism, emotion, and gentleness makes him a pioneer in masculinity as well as the wide prairie.

9. Julius (Terry Crews), Everybody Hates Chris
Julius might be best remembered for his penny-pinching–heaven help you if you try to use an eletrical appliance–but he comes by it honestly. He works himself to the bone at multiple jobs to try to provide for his family in the big city. Julius is a lovable combination of big softy and unwilling disciplinarian (with a belt for every crime) who is a good example of making the best out of the little he has. He labors to make Thanksgiving and Christmas memorable for his kids, but his idea of the perfect Father’s Day is spending the day alone (or having the kids paying the bills). And as one of the hardest working dads on our list, he’s earned it.

10. Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy the Vampire Slayer
No, technically Giles wasn’t a father. But Joss Whedon’s shows are all about constructed families and there’s no denying that Giles was a father to not only Buffy (filling the gap left by her deadbeat dad), but also to the rest of the Scoobies, most of whom didn’t fare very well in the parental lottery. Teaching Buffy to kill vampires was the easy part–it was teaching her to survive the rest of the world that turned out to be hard. Without the benefit of biology or the even the advantage of similar temperaments, Giles forged a bond with his Slayer that was far stronger than most “real” dads ever manage to achieve, and was the glue that held the rest of Buffy’s “family” together to boot.

11. Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), Glee
As soon as you see that Burt’s only reaction to his son’s football-by-way-of-Beyonce exploits is to worry that Kurt is too little for the game, you know the truth: this baseball cap-wearing, Deadliest Catch-watching dad adores his kid, regardless of his sexuality or skin care routines. It’s pretty clear that Burt often doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what’s going on in Kurt’s head, but that doesn’t stop him from being by turns insistent on better behavior, a safe place to land during scary times, and fiercely protective (bullies beware: we hear he’s got a flamethrower). Contrary to his reputation, Burt’s not perfect–he’s a man of his generation and is still more likely to wish his kid would tone it down than demand that the world deal with Kurt dialed to 11–but this widower works hard at parenting and has good results to show for it, both with Kurt and with his new stepson Finn. Even with some gender fail, Burt’s version of The Sex Talk will likely be a great model for real-life parents for years to come.

12. Walter Bishop (John Noble), Fringe
While it seems unlikely that Walter’s own son, Peter, would nominate him for this list, our affection for this shattered genius is such that we can’t help including him. Okay, yeah, he’s got all of the ego and bad temper you’d expect from a mad savant, his childlike (and childish) mentality is often a trial for poor Peter, and, okay, he did sort of conduct unethical experiments on children and steal Peter from his real dad. But STILL. His love for his son was strong enough to literally tear a hole in the universe. And his intentions in doing so were unselfish and pure, even if he might have inadvertently destroyed two worlds in the process. And can you really blame Walter for loving his wife too much to watch her lose Peter twice? I know I can’t, and neither could Peter, even if he’s the one who has to go on all the two a.m. strawberry milkshake runs.

You Just Keep Me Hanging On: Repeat Emmy Winners among Lead Acting Nominees

All hopped up on the excitement of Emmy ballots coming out on Monday, we posed the question yesterday of whether Emmy voters’ love affairs with certain shows might be blocking other deserving winners. 30 Rock and Mad Men are great, but does rewarding them over and over “cheat” other great shows out of the prize? It’s a tricky question–maybe these shows (or their submissions) really are the best, or really do best match voters’ tastes. While voting panels change from year to year, it’s not like there are sweeping changes to the overall Academy membership across short periods of time.

Still, the numbers suggest that there’s a pretty good case to be made that logjams among series winners are creating a few victors and a block of losers. We wondered, however, whether the pattern of repeat winners would be the same for performers. There are obviously many more actors to choose from than series, and since actors submit a single episode to be judged, an especially striking performance or storyline might propel a seeming underdog to victory. At the same time, everyone can think of anecdotal evidence suggesting that some lauded actors just aren’t able to break through. Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell, for example, have both done seven seasons of their signature roles, they’ve both been nominated for performance Emmys five times for those roles…and they’ve both won exactly zero times. Could repeat wins for other actors be the explanation? Today we look at 20 years of actors in lead categories.

Lead Actor in a Drama: 25% repeat winners, 60% multiple winners

Dennis Franz, who was terrific on NYPD Blue, won four times; during those years George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Jimmy Smits, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, and David Duchovny were nominated multiple times and never attained the prize. (You thought Jimmy Smits won one of those years, didn’t you? Me too. Like Laurie and Carell, he was nominated five times without a win.) James Gandolfini’s three wins kept Orbach, Peter Krause, and–hold me closer, tiny dancers–Martin Sheen off the podium, while James Spader’s and Bryan Cranston’s three wins apiece have pretty effectively blocked Laurie, Michael C. Hall, Gabriel Byrne, Denis Leary, and Jon Hamm.

Lead Actress in a Drama: 15% repeats, 65% multiple winners

To be fair, the annual nominations of the usual suspects in this category probably reveals a dearth of quality roles for women. But from year to year, this tends to be the same small number of women trading off the trophy. With a historic lack of good leading roles for women, is rewarding the same good stuff over and over a problem? As much as I like Angela Lansbury, for example, I can’t get that worked up over Kathy Baker’s three victories keeping Murder, She Wrote out of the winner’s circle. Still, The Edie Falco and Allison Janney Hootenanny Variety Hour (I would totally watch that) that soaked up five Emmys effectively blocked Jennifer Garner and Frances Conroy from winning for notable performances, and a second win for Glenn Close for a lesser season of Damages could have gone to someone like Holly Hunter.

Lead Actor in a Comedy: 20% repeats, a staggering 70% multiple winners

The six-year Kelsey Grammar/John Lithgow stranglehold shut out John Goodman, Gary Shandling, and even Michael J. Fox’s Spin City performance until he was forced to leave his show. (It also shut out Paul Reiser while Helen Hunt won four Emmys in a row for the same show and Jerry Seinfeld while his show was the biggest phenomenon on TV, but, like Sue Sylvester, I don’t care so much about that.) While Tony Shaloub’s Monk was certainly a great performance, his three wins came at the expense of  Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac, and Steve Carell, who I note again has never won for playing Michael Scott. (Alec Baldwin’s repeat win in 2009 helped with that little blockade.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 50% multiple winners

While the 50% multiples number is a lot, there hasn’t been a repeat winner in almost a decade. The Candice Bergen/Helen Hunt (four in a row)/Patricia Heaton era, during which five women won in 12 years, meant no awards for Betty White, Delta Burke, Marion Ross, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen DeGeneres, Calista Flockhart, and Jane Kaczmarek. Since Heaton’s repeat win in 2001, however, nine different women have taken home the Emmy in this category. A sign of a sea change?

All of this is only mentioning the repeat nominees who were blocked–second, third, and fourth wins also beat out solo nominations for the likes of Ian McShane, Dylan McDermott, Matthew Fox, Kyle Chandler, Amber Tamblyn, Minnie Driver, Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Bonnie Hunt, Marcia Cross, and Connie Britton (although we’re still hoping Chandler and Britton will become two-time nominees this year). And of course, repeats mean leaving out a laundry list of never-nominated actors too long to list here. As was true of serial series nominations and wins, there is little representation for genre stories (where is Mary McDonnell’s Emmy? Where is Nathan Fillion’s? Where is Kristen Bell’s? Where is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s?)–would requiring a winner to sit out, even a year, open up the field for unexpected nominees and maybe even winners? Would instituting such a rule have solved your favorite example of a great performance that missed out on a nomination or win?

Saturday: Ensemble shows probably make up the bulk of TV–quality and otherwise–today, and we tend to find the supporting categories the toughest to winnow down as we try to pick nominees. With so many actors to choose from, is the winners carousel even more problematic in supporting categories?

Repeat Offenders: Consequences of Emmy Love Affairs

Ah, spring–when a TV watcher’s heart turns to Emmy consideration. Ballots come out on Monday, and since there’s nothing the Baconeers love so much as a good list (you may have noticed), said ballots whet our appetite. As much as we are sometimes frustrated with the Emmys–and oh, how frustrated we get–last year’s had some surprisingly great moments. Remember the murderous comfort food cookoff judge from the greatest Pushing Daisies episode ever? Eric Stonestreet has an Emmy now. How neat is that?  While we might gripe about who was excluded from nominations–wherefore art thou, Community and Friday Night Lights?–Modern Family and Mad Men were deserving winners. Huh. Maybe that adorable Jimmy Fallon-Glee opening just put everything in a more flattering light.

Bryan Cranston gives me pause, though. I love Cranston–I thought he was robbed of an Emmy for his Hal on Malcolm in the Middle, and his performance on Breaking Bad is a genuine tour de force. It’s certainly hard, then, to argue that he shouldn’t have won. At the same time, this was Cranston’s third win in a row, while nominees like Hugh Laurie–who, believe it or not, has never won for House–continue to languish unrewarded. While I’m not ready to ask Cranston to remove himself from contention this year (Breaking Bad‘s broadcast schedule takes care of that), it got me to wondering about how often the Emmys get “stuck” on one winner, and what repercussions that might have beyond the winner.

We looked back at the last 20 years, examining in particular three things: first, the percentage of repeat winners (winning in consecutive years for the same role or show), such as the Cranston example above. Second, we looked at the percentage of multiple winners (winning in non-consecutive years for the same role/show)–two lauded performances trading off wins across several years might block notable others from winning just as much as one repeat victor might. Third, we looked at who the other nominees were during years with repeat or multiple winners. Who is potentially being blocked from an Emmy when the Academy becomes obsessed with a single winner? If, for example, Frasier‘s multiple wins came at the expense of The Nanny, maybe that’s not a problem–maybe it’s justice.

Drama Series: 40% repeat winners; a whopping 75% multiple winners

While Mad Men has won the last three trophies, the most notable repeat winner in this category in the past 20 years was The West Wing. The show usually cited as a close second-place–or robbed, depending on your perspective–was The Sopranos…which won the Best Drama Emmy twice, so maybe things turned out just fine. In the past 13 years, however, only 6 series have won (The Practice, The West Wing, The Sopranos, Lost, 24, and Mad Men). Notable nominees during that time who never won? Six Feet Under, Deadwood, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Legal, Damages, Breaking Bad, and Dexter. While I like some of those shows very much, and while I would have preferred to see some of them win in their nominated year(s) (hi, Deadwood), the repeat winners do look pretty strong.

Maybe the problem is in the nomination process: notable shows that couldn’t break the repeat stranglehold because they were never nominated include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Veronica Mars, and Friday Night Lights, among others. If repeat winners had to skip a year or took themselves out of contention, would genre spoilers sneak into contention?

Comedy Series: 30% repeats and 60% multiple winners

Two non-consecutive wins each for Murphy Brown and Everybody Loves Raymond (Except Me), but four consecutive wins for 30 Rock and five for Frasier (Modern Family‘s win certainly raises the question of whether Christopher Lloyd has the submission process dialed in). Frankly, I personally have more trouble with some poorly chosen one-time winners than these repeaters (Ally McBeal? Really?), but notable nominees who lost to repeaters include Scrubs and The Larry Sanders Show. On the other hand, I can’t feel that bad about Two and a Half Men.

Still, perhaps the problem is–again–in the nominating process, since Frasier and 30 Rock tended to beat the same competition over and over: Pushing Daisies, Gilmore Girls, and, perhaps most notably, The Simpsons were boxed out entirely during these repeat winner years.

Are repeat winners a problem, or just rewards for a job well done? Should the Academy attempt to spread the wealth more? What series do you think were most unfairly denied the gold by repeat winners?

Friday: But you were talking about Bryan Cranston and Hugh Laurie. Does the tendency toward repeat winners hurt individual actors more than series?

Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s Michael Hogan tonight on Warehouse 13. Yes, Battlestar Galactica‘s own Cylon McOneEye…I’m sorry, Col. Saul Tigh moves from the SciFi Network to SyFy. Hogan and his wife, Susan  (a ship captain/judge on BSG), who are big, big deals in the Vancouver theater community, guest as Myka’s parents. Given Myka’s uncomfortable phone calls with her father, Hogan’s gruffness is such a good match that it makes me giggle. It will be strange to see him with two eyes again, but I imagine we’ll muddle through. You’ve seen Mr. Hogan before on fare as varied as The L Word, Monk, Millennium, Road to Avonlea…is it filmed in Vancouver? He might have been in it. His lovely partner in crime has appeared in Men in Trees, Dark Angel, Millennium…did we mention the Vancouver thing? The Warehouse 13 ep is a nice reunion with creator Jane Espenson, who also wrote for BSG. Bonus squee–Roger Rees is in the episode, too! Come on–Lord John Marbury and Saul Tigh? There wouldn’t have been any alcohol left on that battlestar. Warehouse 13 is genial fun anyway, if a little too harmless, and guests like this will go a long way toward making it top shelf fun. On SyFy (really? SyFy?) at 9pm Eastern.

THE PHILANTHROPIST: When Naivete Meets Arrogance

I’m a tiny blue dot in the midst of the reddest county in one of the reddest states in the US of A (thanks for overtaking us, Oklahoma!). I’m also a TV lover who is crazy about much of the oeuvres of both Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson (oh, how I miss Homicide: Life on the Street, for example). So I’m pretty much smack on the nose the target audience for The Philanthropist, a combination of action-adventure stories set in exotic climes and the tale of naive rich people (lead character Teddy [Rome‘s James Purefoy] and his friends/co-workers) coming to realize they could use their power and money for good. As Sam Seaborn once said in that great liberal wish-fulfillment show The West Wing, “Let’s forget the fact that you’re coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all.”

And I’ve tried to be their audience–I’ve been trying for over a month now, because a show with that pedigree and that subject matter that also features Jesse L. Martin (best known for Law and Order: Original Flavor, but also much loved for being a baseball-playing alien on The X-Files) and Michael K. Williams (the great Omar Little on The Wire) should be pretty much my favorite thing in the world. Instead, watching The Philanthropist is like having someone read hectoring op-ed pieces at you. Since the show inexplicably uses a voiceover narration framework to explain the story as it unfolds, it is like having someone literally read hectoring op-ed pieces at you.

And these op-ed pieces are the worst flavor of the genre, as they combine the indignance of someone who, as an educated adult, ought to have known better discovering a social problem and screaming at everyone around them about it with the arrogance of someone who thinks their recent discovery of a social problem makes them superior to everyone else. A recent episode’s in-show commercial for sponsor Bing had Williams’ problem-solver Dax make the following astonishing statment when asked about troubles in Burma:

“Hellish. I’ll tell you, that place needs more help than what Teddy and I can give.”

Really. A rich guy and his muscle can’t waltz in and set straight in a week a country with a history of warring kingdoms, of being a British colony, and of being ruled by a military junta for nearly fifty years? Really? I’m shocked and disappointed at this failure–surely men of your poise and talents could have expected to unroll centuries of complicated political machinations. Why didn’t you just stay another week? The characters reflect the show–it certainly means well, but its own high opinion of itself is undercut by its slapdash approach. If this is what my neighbors think liberals are like, no wonder they dislike the whole crew. If only we could introduce them to Sam Seaborn instead.

WEST WING Reunions Abound on IN PLAIN SIGHT

inplainsight64

We’ve just gotten back from frying up a little Bacon on the beach (if a national outbreak of fishberculosis pops up, I can pretty much guarantee that Susannah was Patient Zero), where we missed a lot of season finale TV while gazing at a calm blue ocean (we love our TiVos). While there, we were exposed not only to fishberculosis, but to a lot more NCIS than we’d ever seen before, which got us to thinking about Mark Harmon and how charming his CJ-smitten Secret Service agent was on The West Wing. Does this mean he’ll soon show up on witness protection drama In Plain Sight? They’ve featured reunions between West Wing alums Mary McCormack (star of the show), Joshua Malina, and Richard Schiff in the past two weeks. Both guests were in roles that should be straight out of central casting (Malina as an AA sponsor, Schiff as a heavily-accented rebbe), and in both cases Malina and Schiff brought an underlying warmth and complexity to the characters that made them sing. We’re hoping to see more of both of them–since Malina took Mary’s sister on a date, he’ll likely pop up; Schiff offered to find Mary’s father, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed–but why stop there? Bring on Mark Harmon! Saddle up Anna Deavere Smith! Unleash Bradley Whitford! I think Kristin Chenoweth is free…

While we’d be beside ourselves if they really started recycling West Wing cast members, In Plain Sight is a fun ride on its own merits. Federal marshal Mary Shannon’s middle name must be Sue, as she is the best at everything a marshal might need to do (a couple of weeks ago, she was even putting in IVs while dodging falling rubble. Really). But somehow it all works, buoyed by McCormack’s salty performance, surprisingly moving moments that creep into the quietest corners of the show, and the interesting characters surrounding the lead. We’d likely tune in just to see more of Mary’s partner, Marshal Marshall (Fred Weller) of the deadpan wit and patient support. (We’d be even happier seeing the unflappable Marshal Marshall run up againt the ball of fire that is Kristin Chenoweth, though. Bring it on!)

THE UNUSUALS “One Man Band”: For Want of a Waterfall of Milk

unusuals-premiere

The UnusualsM*A*S*H-laden DNA gets even more obvious this week, as they rip off the Sheldon Keller-penned classic “For Want of a Boot”. The 4077th nuttiness goes something like this: Hawkeye badly needs a new pair of boots. The boot provider will trade the footwear for a finagled dentist appointment; the dentist will squeeze in the boot provider for a pass to Tokyo; Henry will only give the Tokyo pass if someone will get Margaret to leave him alone; Houlihan will only lay off if Hawkeye will get a cake for Frank’s birthday; Radar will only cough up a cake for a date with a nurse; the nurse will only step out for a hair dryer; and Klinger, who has a hair dryer…well, if you watched M*A*S*H, you know what Klinger was wearing those high heels to get. Guess who doesn’t get any boots.

Fast forward 35 years to The Unusuals‘ 2nd Squad, where Shraeger is getting pressure from society friends to spring a kid who made the mistake of engaging in public and drunken urination…on a cop’s shoes. The dampened cop doesn’t want to drop the charges…but he will if Shraeger can get him out of a Friday shift. His commanding officer is willing to do Shraeger a favor…as long as she can get her new partner to cough up a trophy Walsh “stole” back in the day (the dispute behind the trophy lies in how long someone must keep a gallon of milk down his gullet before it counts as having been legitimately drunk in one sitting). Walsh extracts a variety of favors before relinquishing the trophy. Unlike Hawkeye, Shraeger gets her objective–only to find she’s just sprung an iron-clad suspect in an unrelated hit and run case–and that the person pulling the strings was her father.

I’m enjoying several things about The Unusuals–Banks and Delahoy’s murder store plot managed to be both amusing and sad–but this recycling of plots done better in the original sources, such as the pilot’s borrowing of the copy machine/lie detector gag from Homicide: Life on the Streets, is worrisome. All shows–procedurals, sci fi, soaps, you name it–are recycling plots at this late date in human storytelling history, but these are such memorable plots that they draw attention backwards instead of forwards. On the other hand, the devil is in the details–ripping off a M*A*S*H storytelling device never stopped Aaron Sorkin from giving good letter in Sports Night‘s “Dear Louise” or The West Wing‘s “The Stackhouse Filibuster”. Given the ratings, I’m not sure The Unusuals will get a chance to show how well they can make those details their own.

Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s Audrey Wasilewski tonight on Bones! In addition to having seen Wasilewski on fare as wide-ranging as Big Love, Mad Men, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies (make a wish!), Gilmore Girls, Wonderfalls, Friends, and The Bernie Mac Show (wow), you’ve almost certainly heard her, as she’s an accomplished voice actor who’s done work on animation and video games alike. Come on–she was even Rosie O’Donnell in Queer Duck. Not to mention that she was Janice Trumbull, the White House staffer unlucky enough to love Star Trek in Josh Lyman’s general vicinity in That West Wing Episode Where Aaron Sorkin Really Ticked Us Off (you don’t even want to know about the Title IX ep. Seriously). Catch the adorable Audrey Wasilewski on FOX tonight at 8 Eastern/Pacific, 7 Central and Mountain.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”: No One Elected Leo McGarry

bsg0414

Well–Hot Dog’s got it going on. Who woulda thunk it?

One little fact like that isn’t a lot to cling to in a particularly confusing episode. Some of that confusion is the bad kind–the last shot we saw in last week’s episode was Tigh figuring out that his dead wife was the Fifth of the Final Five Cylons, yet we open this week seeing him holding hands with a Six as they gaze at the sonogram of their alleged Cylon-Cylon baby. Is he using his newfound Cylon projection skills to project Ellen onto Six? Or does he only obsess with Ellen when the plot requires it?

More serious, perhaps, and more fun is the confusion over the shift in power from Adama and Roslin, who are responding to despondency and mutiny in the fleet with jogging and boot-knocking, to Tom Zarek and Gaeta. Oh, Gaeta–he was always the brain of the Galactica, while Dee was the heart. With the heart ripped out last week, the brain isn’t doing so well, and a mutinous alliance is born. While we’re supposed to have faith in Adama and Roslin–they’ve gotten the Fleet this far–their curious combination of caring more about feeling good while trying to impose military will on the people without the consent of their elected representatives is creepy at best. Roslin threatens to put her resignation on Adama’s desk? How about handing it in to the Quorum, which was elected to govern? Adama says he won’t hand over the presidency to Tom Zarek? Since when was it his to hand over? It brings to mind Toby Ziegler’s furious reaction upon finding out President Bartlet had MS on The West Wing, wondering who was in charge and pointing out that the staffers who took power when the President had been shot weren’t elected by the people. It’s the same uncomfortable mix here–we know we should trust Adama and Roslin, and maybe their overall plan (such as it is–besides the sex, I mean) might even be the one we prefer. It’s certainly less racist. But the way they’re going about it is troubling, and even if we’re not sure Zarek and Gaeta would be right in the end, they’re not wrong about the threat of imposed military power. It’s upsetting and confusing–who’s right? Who’s wrong?–but in the best possible way. I do worry about Gaeta, though–much as Dee finally had so much stripped away from her that she couldn’t find a scrap of hope to hold onto, it’s painful to see the character who refused to see an election stolen driven so far that he’s willing to lead a coup. The Adamaites are doing the right thing in all the wrong ways, while the Zarekites go down the wrong road but for potentially right reasons. It’s hard to imagine this ending well (which is half the fun, of course), and that makes disquiet follow my soul.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Return Tonight

bsg411

Dear NBC/Universal,

See, this is why The Peacock is a fourth-place network and why you will be purchased by the Sheinhardt Wig Company someday. Two of the most acclaimed shows in what passes for your stable these days (since you own the Sci Fi Network, too), Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica, return with new seasons tonight. You also have new episodes of successful shows on another of your cable arms, the USA Network. So what do you do to profit from all of this corporate synergy? You make it impossible for viewers to sample all of your products in a timely fashion by scheduling things in such a way that all of your shiny new toys overlap.

People who live on the East or West Coasts have it best, since they can watch Friday Night Lights at 9 and then switch over to catch the first showing of Battlestar at 10. Of course, this means they can’t catch new episodes of Monk or Psych until midnight and 1am, respectively. And since people on the coasts are apparently all young and hip and beautiful, don’t you think they’ll be out at fancy nightclubs by then? You may have a fair question as to whether people who go to fancy nightclubs watch Monk, I’ll give you that. However, with everyone who ever loved The West Wing wanting to tune in to see Bradley Whitford get his bicycle stolen, you get some additional complications. But some of don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, and as a result apparently don’t exist. For us, the initial showings of Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica are at exactly the same time. We could watch Battlestar at 10, but that overlaps with the new Psych. So we could watch Psych‘s initial showing and see Battlestar Galactica at 7 Saturday morning. Monk? Guess we’ll catch that Saturday night, nearly 24 hours late for a Brad Whitford sighting.

fnl107

Contrary to the Panthers’ pictured glee, that does not make us feel triumphant. I’m not sure if television has a new car smell, but some of the charm of TV is the way it is a shared experience, and if a chunk of viewers has to wait to watch until the new episode smell wears off, that removes them from the discussion and dulls the experience for them. I guess the schedule means we’ll eventually get to see everything, and we appreciate repeat showings that let us do that, we really do. And we appreciate additional platforms that let us catch episodes if we do miss them on TV, we really do. And I really appreciate the TiVo that helps keep track of all this and keeps things moving. But I WANT TO GIVE YOU MY MONEY, and you make it hard for me to hand it to you. Friend O’ Bacon Brayden joins the chorus of DirectTV viewers claiming the new FNL epsiodes are wonderful, and I’m dying to see the end of the Battlestar saga, so I’m willing to work pretty hard to hand you my money. But it seems very strange that you want to make consumers work to hand you their money. the fact that you don’t seem to want to take my money might explain why you’re in a position where you can’t afford to put scripted fare on NBC in either the first or third hour of programming and have handed the keys over to Howie Mandel and Jay Leno.

So enjoy your wigs–I guess I’ll be frying up some bacon for the Bacon at 6:45 tomorrow morning, because I’ll bet Battlestar is going to be great. Good luck tuning in, everyone!