Between Memorial Day and spending a lot of time deep in thought, I didn’t really watch much television this week. That’s probably a good thing! Here’s a few thoughts on what I did watch:
Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)
Rene and almost everyone else managed to escape the POW camp and they made their way back to the cafe, just in time to open up for the day. Unfortunately, Maria got mailed to Switzerland, which is unfortunate since Maria was the character to whom I always related. Oh well, that’s how it goes when you’re watching a British comedy that might be older than you are. Anyway, the important thing is that life goes on! Of course, the British Airmen are still stranded in France, Rene is still just trying to carry on his affair with Yvette without getting caught, and the British spy pretending to be a French policeman still hadn’t figured out how to properly say “Good morning.”
Baywatch (Weekday evenings, H&I)
The first of Sunday’s two episodes featured Cody and CJ breaking up a nude beach while Caroline, Neely, Samantha, and Mitch prevented a terrorist from poisoning Malibu’s water supply …. wait a minute, what? Every episode of Baywatch is like a weird mix of lifeguard humor and melodramatic action. It’s like 24, if Jack Bauer has spent his spare time running around in a speedo and pulling people out of the water. This was followed by an episode in which Caroline was sued by the mother of someone who died during the previous season. On the one hand, it was realistic to have something like that brought back up after a year. On the other hand, it was hard not to feel that this episode was mostly just an excuse for a clip show.
On Monday, the episode started off with the Baywatch lifeguards transporting an injured sea lion to Sea World. This led to an hour-long commercial for Sea World. The Baywatch lifeguards even designed a new water show for Sea World. The second episode took a jump into Baywatch’s future, as it was a Memorial Day episode from a later season. Suddenly, there were new lifeguards and new opening credits and the entire show revolved around Carmen Electra and Kelly Packard, the former bass player for California Dreams. This episode featured the lifeguards finding a drowned veteran and trying to give his spirit the peace that it deserved by retrieving his dog togs from the bottom of the ocean. Of course, it also featured a lot of slo-mo shots of the team running on the beach. As with most episodes of Baywatch, it was an odd mix of sincerity and exploitation.
The first of Tuesday’s episodes featured Neely and Cody looking for a bipolar surfer who was having a manic episode. It was well-intentioned but, from the point of view of this reviewer who happens to be bipolar, also extremely cringey. It promoted the idea that the only thing you have to do is take your meds and suddenly, you’re magically okay and you don’t have a care in the world. That’s really not the case but let’s move on. The next episode was a bit more fun, as it featured CJ getting kidnapped by a disfigured phantom of the beach type. He may have lived under a pier but he really wasn’t that bad of a guy. It was incredibly silly but kind of fun.
Remember how I mentioned that the Memorial Day episode appeared to be broadcasting from the future? Well, the future began on Wednesday with a new season of Baywatch! The opening credits were slightly different. CJ and Caroline were gone! Both of Wednesday’s episodes attempted to generate some suspense over who would make it through rookie school but, since the opening credits already included Kelly Packard and Carmen Electra as being the new lifeguards, there really wasn’t much suspense to be found. Along with rookie school, the first episode featured Electra being kidnapped by her ex while the second featured Manny becoming a lifeguard despite only having 20/40 vision. Mitch accepted a promotion to captain, presumably so David Hasselhoff would have time to make more movies like Gridlock. In the end, everything worked out for the best. Yay!
Thursday’s episodes were both pretty good. The first one featured Mitch having to pick an new lieutenant. Should he pick JD, an old friend, or should he pick Taylor, who had red hair just like me? The obvious choice was Taylor but JD, who looked almost as good as Cody in a speedo, was given a position with Baywatch as well. The second episode was about a boy named Charlie who was dying of cancer and who spent his last days at Baywatch. It was cheesy but it was also the type of unapologetically sentimental episode that Baywatch usually excelled at. It was the perfect mix of sincerity and schmaltz, made all the more effective by the fact that the episode was inspired by an actual Baywatch fan who passed away shortly before it aired. If you watch the “Charlie” episode and you don’t tear up during the final scenes, regardless of what you may think of Baywatch as a whole, then I would be concerned about your soul,
The first of Friday’s episodes featured the return of Caroline Holden. She came back to Baywatch after spending a few months in New York as a struggling actress. Since she was still listed as a special guest star in the credits, it was easy to guess that she would eventually return to New York, which is what she did at the end of the second episode. Other than Caroline’s return, the first episode also featured some jackass who flew around in a helicopter and shared all the latest gossip about the Baywatch lifeguards. The second episode featured Mitch pressuring Jordan to track down her birth mother. It wasn’t much of a storyline but at least Traci Bingham, who played Jordan, got to deliver more than four lines for once.
On Saturday’s episode, the beach was attacked by yet another sea monster. This time, it was a giant electric eel. Agck! The beach is scary. Manny nearly died but, as always happens on Baywatch, he was brought back to life by a combination of CPR and defibrillators. Yay!
Hell’s Kitchen (Monday Night, FOX)
Chef Ramsay’s back for the 20th season of Hell’s Kitchen! (20th!?) This time, all the chefs are in their very early 20s, which should lead to a lot of emotional meltdowns as Gordon tells them that they’re going to kill someone if they don’t learn how to make a proper risotto. I’m looking forward to it!
Hill Street Blues (Weekday Mornings, H&I)
For me, Hill Street Blues came to an end this week. The final episode of both season 7 and the entire series aired on Friday. Though H&I is now re-showing the entire series from the beginning, I don’t particularly feel the need to go back and re-experience any of it, at least not yet. I will say that, if you want to see a good, retro cop show, Hill Street Blues is available on Hulu, as well as on H&I. The first four seasons are gritty and well-acted and hold up surprisingly well. The final three are increasingly uneven.
Tuesday morning’s episodes were pretty typical of Hill Street Blues in its final season. Neither one of them made much of an impression. For once, neither one of these episodes centered on Norman Buntz. Instead, they increasingly centered on Patrick Flaherty, a patrolman who was added to the cast during the final season and who, in his way, was an even more annoying character than Buntz. Flaherty was always trying to either get laid or getting angry about some minor issue. It didn’t particularly make him an interesting character to watch. Anyway, the first episode also featured Henry Goldblume trying to turn yet another former gang member into an informant. The second episode featured yet another controversial police shooting and it ended with Detective Belker getting shot. I guess that makes sense when you consider that Belker was the only member of the show’s ensemble who, at that point, hadn’t been shot at least once. (Neal Washington, on the other hand, got shot at least three times that I can remember.)
On the first episode of Wednesday morning, there was some fear that Belker might be paralyzed but then it turned out that he wasn’t. The majority of the episode centered on Buntz trying to catch the guy who shot Belker. In other words, one of the show’s longest-running characters got shot and the show made it all about Buntz. The second episode was a silly one about a radio station doing a contest to see who, in the city, could pull off the most outrageous stunt. During the morning roll call, Detective LaRue asked if the police were eligible to win the contest. Patrick Flaherty continued to be the most annoying character on the show by shouting, “Real stunt …. not a sex stunt, DETECTIVE!” Like, seriously, Flaherty, shut the fuck up. Who are you exactly? Why are you taking so much screen time away from the characters that I actually like? Anyway, this was a dumb episode but it did feature brief, before-they-were-stars appearances from Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Don Cheadle.
On Thursday morning, things got started with an episode in which a star football player was arrested for soliciting a prostitute but was then left off the hook because he was a celebrity. Meanwhile, Buntz nearly won the department’s marksmanship contest but, in a rare example of the show admitting that Buntz had flaws, he ended up losing by two points. Meanwhile, newly reinstated Lt. Howard Hunter ended up trapped in a collapsed room and Capt. Furillo made peace with his brother by helping him get a loan. It wasn’t really a terrible episode, though it wasn’t particularly memorable either. The morning’s second episode was a uneven mix of the good and the bad. On the good side, Howard Hunter was rescued after being buried alive for 11 days (he later admitted to honoring a pact that he had made with a friend that the first one of them to die would be eaten by the other), J.D. LaRue survived a near-death experience, and Henry Goldblume finally published a short story. All of these storylines gave underappreciated cast members James B. Sikking, Kiel Martin, and Joe Spano a chance to shine. Unfortunately, they all had to compete for screen time with yet another storyline about Bunt being framed and also the return of the incredibly annoying Grace Gardner. The top it all off, Jesus Martinez returned to the show for his sister’s wedding. The end result was an overstuffed episode that had some good moments but which never quite came together.
On Friday morning, we finally reached the final episode of Hill Street Blues. On the one hand, it felt strange that — after hundreds of episodes — the final episode began and ended with Norman Buntz, a character who wasn’t even on the show when it first started. The storyline of Buntz attempting to prove that he wasn’t a dirty cop was nothing special, largely because every Buntz storyline seemed to involve him having to prove he wasn’t a dirty cop. That said, the finale did get one thing right. By including scenes of LaRue pulling another stupid prank, Bobby and Renko dealing with another fighting family, and Belker finally going through his mother’s belongings, the finale showed that, even though the show was over, life on Hill Street would go on. Crimes would be committed. Life would continue to be a struggle. But, at the same time, there would still be moments of grace and times when people came together to do the right thing. Life goes on, the finale said, even though the faces may change. It was a decent ending for the show, one that did it justice despite the uneven quality of the last two seasons.
Lost In Space (Netflix)
At Case’s suggestion, I finally watched the first episode of this Netflix show. (Only three years late!) The Robinson family was pretty annoying but I liked the robot and I cheered a little when Parker Posey showed up. I imagine I’ll check out the rest of the series eventually.
Moone Boy (Sunday Night, PBS)
Martin’s uncle comes home with stories about being a traveling musician in Europe and working as a roadie for U2. (“Edge would see a really heavy piece of equipment and he’d say, ‘Let Bono get that.'”) Eventually, it turns out that Martin’s uncle has actually been working part-time at a factory for the last few years but Martin’s Dad allows Martin to believe that his uncle had to leave town because U2 was going on tour again. It was a sweet episode.
NASCAR Cup Series (Sunday Night, Fox)
I’m enough of a Southern girl that I can enjoy watching NASCAR. My family loves it and you better believe that we watched the race on Sunday night. One of the drivers was even named Bowman!
Open All Hours (Sunday night, PBS)
I didn’t really pay much attention to Sunday’s episode, as I watched it later during the week off the DVR and the show was having to compete with the cat for my attention. I did notice that Granville looked pretty miserable.
Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)
The evil Robert Greene tricked Shakespeare into writing Titus Adronicus when his client wanted a comedy! Fortunately, Kate and Marlowe fell briefly in love and inspired Shakespeare to write The Two Gentlemen of Verona instead. Yay! Kate did tell Shakespeare that she doubted the play would be remembered as one of his better plays. “Nonsense!” Shakespeare responded.
Yes, Minister (Monday morning, PBS)
When the Prime Minister shocks everyone by announcing his retirement, everyone scrambles to find a replacement who is free of scandal and who, most importantly, won’t actually do anything once he’s in office. Hello, Jim Hacker! Yay! This charming one-hour episode was apparently the last episode of Yes, Minister before the show became Yes, Prime Minister. I don’t know if PBS is going to show Yes, Prime Minister or not. It’s not currently scheduled but that could just be because the big pledge drive is coming up. Still, regardless of what PBS does, this was a perfect episode and honestly, I got a bit teary-eyed at the end when Sir Humphrey announced that the Party had selected Hacker to be their leader. It was a great moment.