We Should Organize a Staff Field Trip to Shenandoah: Ken Burns Take on National Parks on PBS

I’m under double deadline here and am therefore forbidden from saying one word about television. Not one word. Not a word about there being Harlem Globetrotters on The Amazing Race or about how Community and Bored to Death are essentially the same (good) show or wondering how Trauma could open with not one but two helicopters crashing and yet not have Paul McCrane involved.

But I do hope you’re all enjoying Ken Burns’ latest opus, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, as much as I am. I’m soaking in national parks around here, and as such I forget sometimes what a miracle that is. Burns doesn’t–like the best historians, he tells a story, and this story is one of democracy. Thinking about the way the world operated until just recently, it’s astonishing that Yellowstone Park isn’t an aristocrat’s gated summer backyard. Thinking about the way the world operates these days, it’s astonishing that Bryce Canyon National Park wasn’t hoarded away by someone as rich as Mitt Romney. But they weren’t–they belong to us. The national parks are the places where this land really was made for you and me. Burns saw that slender thread and has woven it into his typical gorgeous tapestry, full of wonder, nobility, surprises, and good humor (oh, John Muir–you really were something). Someday we’ll be watching a five-part documentary on PBS entitled Ken Burns: America’s Best Storyteller. Going on right now on PBS, often with multiple showings a day and, in at least some locales, starting over from the beginning next week. You really do have to check your local listings on this one, but don’t miss it.

Advertisements

Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s…look, I just want to point out how excruciatingly fair this squee makes me. It’s Jamie Bamber on the season premiere of Dollhouse tonight! You may recall that the Baconeers had…issues with Dollhouse when it premiered last year. People I trust keep telling me it got better, and I really, really want to love Joss Whedon, so I’m willing to give it another chance. And it may be clear that I had some Lee Adama issues in the Battlestar Galactica odyssey, but I chalk that up to the fact that the writers couldn’t figure out what to do with the character. Bamber was wonderful in the Horatio Horblower movies–he even held the screen against a really yummy Ioan Gruffudd–and was perfectly lovely in fare such as Cold Case and Band of Brothers. He’s even acquitted himself well as the British version of a district attorney in the new Law & Order: Picadilly Circus spin-off. Did you see what I did there? With the acquitted and the lawyer thing, and…never mind.

Come join me on my squee-filled journey of forgiveness. Dollhouse airs on Fox tonight at 9pm Eastern and Pacific.

Crimestoppers versus Lawyers: The State of Modern Television Folds Inward Yet Again Tonight

Three major premieres tonight, and all three reflect the current TV tendency to solve crime. Whether this is because we like the comfort of watching square-jawed heroes catch bad guys before we shuffle off to bed or because we like to unwind puzzles or because there’s something in the SAG contract guaranteeing the opportunity to play both a cop and a criminal to each and every union member, a large percentage of shows on every night focus on crime solving. Tuesday’s new offerings don’t offer much new–although they will claim they do–but they do offer some intriguing actors.

“You could watch Kelly Osborne do a bad salsa on Dancing with the Stars, or you could watch a star the likes of Linda Hunt–she alone makes NCIS: Boba Milk worth checking out.”

NCIS offers a cleverly named spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, which shall shortly be the recipient of a rude, fast food-based nickname. The NCIS franchise is a police procedural, but they’re Navy cops in some fashion, so that’s different. The cast is intriguing, however, anchored by unfortunate Robin Chris O’Donnell (less interesting) and LL Cool J (more interesting–as Mama told him to knock you out, I assume he’ll be delivering Mark Harmon-approved head slaps) and flavored by Oscar winner Linda Hunt (perhaps better known on TV for The Practice and Carnivale). You could watch Kelly Osborne do a bad salsa on Dancing with the Stars, or you could watch a star the likes of Linda Hunt–she alone makes NCIS: Boba Milk worth checking out.

ABC hands the DwtS lead in audience to the forgotten (yes, they’re avoiding capital letters), a show from the Bruckheimer stable in which a team of dedicated crimesolvers follows up on cold cases where “the forgotten” are unidentified murder victims who will be buried in a potter’s field unless they are identified. What makes the forgotten different from other, similar shows focusing on cold cases, like, I don’t know, Cold Case? The crimesolvers are civilians. Sure, that’ll make all the difference (and will likely make it so much easier to get information and evidence! In TV Land, that is). Said civilians are led into combat by Christian Slater, who, after his split-personality spy show My Own Worst Enemy failed, may have found he liked TV work. I’m not sure I want him on my TV every week, but I’m willing to be persuaded.

CBS volleys the Christian Slater serve with The Good Wife, a show that is much, much different than our previous two entries because it solves crime from the law side of the ledger rather than the order side. In addition, its lead character (played by Julianna Marguiles of ER fame), is not just a lawyer, she’s a politician’s wife. A dirty politician’s wife. Oh, and a district attorney, which means she may as well just wave across the aisle at Sam Waterston [edited: my bad; I read bad intell–she’s defending people pro bono! Maybe George Michael will start singing soon.]. Presumably this means we’ll be getting more detail about the intrepid crimefighers’ personal lives here, but do we want that detail in our tidy procedurals?  The Good Wife may not be blazing new ground, but it’s bringing a lot of firepower with a cast that is, at first glance, at least, more intriguing than the forgotten‘s : in addition to Marguiles, we’ll be treated to Josh Charles (Sports Night–yay!). Christine Baranski (Cybill, Welcome to New York), Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights), Chris Noth (Law & Order, Sex and the City), and by far my favorite, Christine Willes. Yes, Dead Like Me‘s Delores Herbig (“her big brown eyes”) and Reaper‘s DMV demon Gladys is likely to bring more pep to these proceedings than the entire case docket. I’d tune in just for her. NCIS: West Coast Style on CBS at 9pm Eastern followed by The Good Wife at 10; the forgotten (still missing its caps) airs on ABC at 10pm Eastern.

Cherry Jones Front-Runner for 2012 Presidential Election: Emmys 2009

I’d folded this into the Andre-Braugher-Is-Fabulous-And-Will-Be-On-House post, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I think I’ve figured out my problem with the Emmys–it’s that they have neither rhyme nor reason. (Perhaps that is why they used John Hodgman as an announcer, which was genius.) If we could always say, “Well, the Academy skews old, so of course they’ll take the wonderful Little Dorrit over the equally wonderful but very different Generation Kill,” we could make sense of their world. Or if it were, “Well, they’ll always take a star in another medium over someone who mostly does TV, hence Glenn Close, Toni Collette, and Cherry Jones,” we could impose some order. But when you see Kristin Chenoweth honored–HOORAY–90 seconds before Jon Cryer is also victorious–er, what?–it’s dizzying.

Much, much, much worse, however, were the omissions from the In Memorium segment. I’m sure I’m overlooking important people, too, but I can’t help but be a little miffed that they couldn’t be bothered to include Andy Hallett and Kim Manners. Particulary given that Manners was an Emmy nominee. Four different times.

Equally classy was the use of Bear McCreary’s astounding Battlestar Galactica score over the clip package on how wonderful television dramas were this year. Very few people love the BSG score more than I do, but it stings more than a little bit that this music was good enough for their broadcast but not good enough to win an Emmy. Or, you know, be nominated. I mean, it’s not like the score was written by manatees or anything, so I guess I can see why it wouldn’t be good enough to be considered for an award. 

And yet…Chenoweth. Michael Emerson was a deserving winner. Bryan Cranston’s delight will never get old (although I’m starting to feel uncomfortable for Hugh Laurie). Perhaps the most fun all night (with the exception of Hodgman) was the original song winners noting dryly that the producers probably expected a little more Justin Timberlake for their money, which makes me want them to win every year. Why can’t the Emmys make any sense?

Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s Andre Braugher on the two-hour season premiere of House tonight. If you’re mourning the overlooking of Generation Kill a bit today, you’re probably already familiar with Braugher’s Emmy-winning role in David Simon’s previous work (with Paul Attanasio and Tom Fontana, of course), Homicide: Life on the Street. If you’re not familiar with said work, get thee to the DVD-rental service of your choice immediately, because Braugher’s Frank Pembleton is one of the greatest TV performances of all time. You may also have seen Braugher in the recent miniseries Thief, the short-lived Practice spinoff Gideon’s Crossing, doscudramas like The Tuskegee Airmen, Soldier’s Girl, and 10,000 Black Men Named George, and shows like Hack and, of course, Law and Order. You could watch Tom DeLay on Dancing with the Stars; or the season premieres of Heroes, Castle, the CBS comedy block, or CSI: Honey Barbecue; or the kickoff of Accidentally On Purpose (unintended pregnancy–always hilarious!)–but why would you when Andre Braugher will be on your screen? While I’ve been a leetle less enchanted with House lately, Braugher is an irresistable force–putting him up against immovable object House (and to-date still-Emmyless Hugh Laurie)? Can’t. Wait. House, longer than usual and hopefully with less Thirteen, tonight on Fox at 8pm Eastern.

Is There An Awards Show Tonight? 2009 Emmy Awards Allegedly Given

We’ve been trying to think of something to say about the Emmy awards–we supposely think about TV a lot around here–and we’ve got nothing. Susannah’s a lot better at accepting this than I am, but we’re just not well aligned with the Academy. We realized last year that we agreed with about 25% of the official nominees, and…that was apparently a good year. This year is no different: the lead actress in a drama category, for example, is just embarrassing, and expanding some of the major categories hasn’t expanded my affection for the possible winners (Simon Baker? Really? Really.). I’ve heard people say that the people who make TV don’t have time to watch it, and I’ve wondered if those busy voters just float toward the general zeitgeist. In the end, however, it may just be a difference of taste, and the Emmys don’t reflect mine.

Then again, Mariska Hargitay could win an Emmy tonight. Another one. So I guess the jury is out on that taste thing.

I just can’t get worked up about the Emmys, then, not even with the wondrous Neil Patrick Harris hosting (I’d call it a boycott, but I can’t care enough to work up that kind of umbrage). I hope Harris wins his category, and I hope he kills as host, but as soon as Kristin Chenoweth wins for supporting actress in a comedy–AND SHE HAD BETTER–well, the Giants and Cowboys are on NBC tonight. Who would you have preferred to see nominated?

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Bollywood Homicide”: It Could Be Bunnies

psych

I’m not entirely sure what to make of “Bollywood Homicide”. I can usually stomach Shawn’s less graceful moments, but some of his, er, cultural insensitivity was a bit much here (I’ll decline to repeat the worst joke at the Holi Festival, thanks). On the other hand, some of the cultural jokes were delightful, including the remade opening credits, and it may mean I’m a delicate blossom just as insensitive as Shawn since I found his and Gus’ inability to handle their Indian food hilarious. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with Gus too much–our mutual desire to watch bunnies fall asleep in the palms of our hands may leave us too, too soft for this world.

Since I’m so indecisive about this one, it makes sense that I’m indecisive about the pineapple, as well. Was that what Lassie was eating as he and Juliet were reviewing the dance performance tapes? Or was that generic fruit, perhaps an homage to the late, lamented Life? There’s a lamp behind Raj’s grandmother that has the requisite green leaves, but there’s little pineapple-y crosshatching on the rest. the Anyone more eagle-eyed have a better guess?

Masters of Karate and Friendship for Everyone: IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA Season Premiere Tonight

always-sunny-philadelphia8

Well, maybe not for everyone. Susannah correctly points out that a lot of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that very particular brand of comedy improv that has people talking over each other, trying to one-up the last outrageous statement. If that kind of thing annoys you, this Philly crew might not be for you. If you like more realistic fare, you may not be suited to be a Philly fan–watching these guys screw up, well, everything is like watching live-action cartoons. If feigned animal cruelty (I assume no animals were actually harmed in the making of the following clip)–or child cruelty or geriatric cruelty or jokes in bad taste of any kind–gets you hot under the collar, you might want to avoid this burg.

If, however, you relish biting wit at the expense of dunderheads so hopeless you know you don’t have to fear their showing up in your neighborhood, come sit next to me. The season premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is tonight, and I plan to be there with bells on. Liberty Bells, perhaps. Tonight at 10pm Eastern on FX, with reruns to follow.

To Be Competent Or Not To Be Competent: NBC’s Loveable Comedy Losers Take On Fox’s Intrepid Investigators

office_s5x01-02

It’s the first huge night of the new fall season, with season premieres of several returning shows and the bow of a notable newbie. Hope you’ve got a quad-tuner DVR, because there’s a lot to see tonight. All times listed below are Eastern and Pacific, so if you’re like me and don’t actually trip the light fantastic in LA or NYC, count on your TiVo to help you add or subtract an hour. The TiVo is smarter than we are anyway.

You could tune in to the loveable losers on NBC’s strongest night, where even the characters who manage to do something right usually spiral gently downwards. Uneven Amy Poehler vehicle Parks and Recreation, where the failures occur regularly and have yet to be terribly funny, returns at 8:30. It’s followed at 9pm by its much more successful sibling, The Office, which promises an episode in which Michael causes an awkward situation that is resolved by Pam saving the day. Isn’t that essentially every episode of The Office? Doesn’t matter–with characters so engaging and writing so dry, we’re willing to go along for the same ride a few times. The Office is followed immediately by the debut of Community, a comedy in a similar single-camera, vertias vein, starring the delightfully snarky Joel McHale (The Soup) as an attorney whose license is pulled until he gets a real college degree. In addition to being in the middle of a promising set-up, McHale is supported by luminaries ranging from The Daily Show‘s John Oliver to Ken Jeong (Party Down, Role Models) and the legendary Chevy Chase. Here’s hoping the earn an A+.

fringe_apple

If the cavalcade of failure gets you down, you might prefer the return of the ultra-competent investigators on Fox. Many Bones fans (8pm) seem to be hoping that the show actually returns to competently solving mysteries after an odd detour into tumor-induced hallucinations. While the creators have promised more of the budding Booth-Brennan romance (pushed along by guest star Cyndi Lauper!), if you want to get your geek on this show has one of the highest science-to-silliness ratios on TV. Things get more serious with the return of the rejuvenated Fringe at 9pm. We weren’t terribly convinced by early Fringe episodes, but the show hit a groove later in the season and had fun, juicy cliffhangers. It might be difficult to keep the various timelines untangled, but both Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv have improved, making acceptable foils for John Noble‘s inspired wackiness.

If FBI agents aren’t your thing, you might check out a new season of Survivor (8pm on CBS), which moves to Samoa. I personally don’t think of Samoa as “off-road” enough for Survivor’s needs, but I suppose they could find a mile of isolated beach somewhere and limit their adventures to that. And the castaways tend to be neatly divided between loserdom and competence, so you can get it all in one classic reality show. Finally, you could always check out the Brothers Winchester on a new Supernatural. They’re pretty darned competent, considering their job is dispatching demons and other things that go bump in the night, but they do tend to suffer a bit from the Peter Principle. Snuff a demon, release Lucifer into the world–who knew that could happen? You can catch Supernatural on the CW at 9pm, putting it right up against The Office, Community, and Fringe. Be kind to your fine feathered DVR–you’re gonna need it.

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.