Lisa’s Week In Television: 5/2/21 — 5/8/21


Another week, another list of television programming. Here’s a few thoughts on what I watched this week:

9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star (Monday Night, FOX)

I watched both of these shows this week and yet, I don’t remember a damn thing about them. If you don’t remember a show, did it actually air?

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

This week, the latest daring plan to get the British airmen out of France came to naught. The plan was to use a lawn mower motor to power an antique airplane. Rene said it wouldn’t work and, not surprisingly, it didn’t. I will admit that I laughed so hard at the end of this rather frantic episode that I nearly fell off the living room couch.

Baywatch (Weekdays, H&I)

Life on the beach continues!

On the first of Sunday’s two episodes, Kathleen Kinmont played an FBI agent who went undercover as a lifeguard. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she was supposed to be keeping an eye on the girlfriend of an escaped convict, she was also expected to do lifeguard stuff. This led to some conflict with Mitch. For the record, Mitch was right in that it made absolutely no sense for an FBI agent to pretend to be a lifeguard. The second episode of the night featured a phony treasure hunt, one that attracted real crooks and brought chaos to the beach! Jeff Garlin appeared as a radio DJ who fell in love with CJ. Both episodes were thoroughly silly, though the one with the FBI agent was a smidgen less silly because Kathleen Kinmont appeared to be taking her role more seriously than Jeff Garlin took his.

Monday’s first episode was an odd one. Apparently, there was some sort of weird “red dust wind” blowing over the California coast and, as a result, everyone on the beach was a little bit stranger than usual. Geraldo Rivera guest-starred as a man whose fiancé was secretly in love with Mitch. (In order to get her to fall out of love with him, Mitch took her on a date and acted like a dorky jackass. It didn’t work.) Meanwhile, John O’Hurley (of Seinfeld, Family Feud, and Dancing With Stars fame) played desperate father who was searching for his daughter. This was followed by an episode the featured jet ski training and plenty of beach volleyball action. I’ve noticed that every season of Baywatch featured at least one episode that featured someone getting jet ski training.

Tuesday brought us a Christmas-themed two-parter. Santa’s elves took a vacation on the beach. Hobie befriended yet another homeless girl. Mitch tried to help a homesick lifeguard. And Pamela Anderson fell in love with a priest but sadly, his commitment to God came first. “Y’know,” he told her, “we’re in the same business, saving lives.”

On Wednesday, Logan married a rich widow so that he could get his green card and then, during the second episode, Stephanie was held hostage by an environmental terrorist. It’s amazing how often the lifeguards ended up getting held hostage. I would probably be so traumatized after being held hostage just once that I would look for a new job. These lifeguards somehow manage to handle it happening on a twice-a-month basis.

On Thursday, Mitch asked Tracy to marry him, just to discover that she only had two weeks to live. He spent those weeks trying to make her as happy as possible. The second episode dealt with Mitch trying to recover from Tracy’s death. These episodes were surprisingly effective. Baywatch‘s total lack of irony and willingness to embrace the melodrama really paid off.

The first of Friday’s episodes found Mitch coming to terms with having never lived up to the expectations of his dead father. This was followed by an episode in which Logan needed Stephanie’s help to keep him from being deported back to Australia. In the end, it all worked out and everyone had fun. That’s the important thing.

On Saturday, CJ’s blind ex-boyfriend showed up and help Mitch break up yet another crime ring. This time the master criminal was played by Richard Lynch, who appeared to be having fun. Again, that’s the most important thing!

Court Cam (Wednesdays, A&E)

Dan Abrams’s replacement for Live PD continued the A&E reality show tradition of exploiting people’s misery. I had the show on while I was cleaning the house on Wednesday and I still feel awful about it.

Friends (Weekdays, Channel 33 and HBOMax)

During the episode that I watched on Tuesday night, Rachel and Monica got new jobs while Ross, Chandler, and Joey spent a night hitting the clubs and discovered that they weren’t young anymore. If I remember correctly, it seems like this was something that happened rather frequently on Friends. That said, I enjoyed this episode more than the one I watched a few weeks ago because Matthew Perry looked much healthier.

Hill Street Blues (Weekday Mornings, H&I)

Tuesday morning’s episodes of Hill Street Blues started with Public Defender Chapman (played by future 3-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand) getting fired from her job when it was discovered that she was hooked on cocaine. Meanwhile, Gina (played by future Oscar nominee Jennifer Tilly) was gunned down in a restaurant while having dinner with her boyfriend, Lt. Henry Goldblume (Joe Spano). The episode that followed that found Goldblume going a bit off the deep end as he obsessively investigated Gina’s murder. It’s was all very well-acted by Joe Spano, even if you do have to wonder if there anyone who worked on the Hill who did not, at some point during their service, see a friend or a loved one gunned down in front of them. Judging from what I’ve seen of the show, it was apparently a fairly regular occurrence.

Wednesday morning started off with an episode in which massive police corruption was uncovered, Henry finally started to properly grieve for Gina, and Captain Furillo admitted that he had started drinking again. It also featured an appearance from James Cromwell, speaking in an exaggerated Irish accent, in the role of an animal trainer. The second episode, however, had an entirely new credits sequence, one that featured some new faces in the cast, and — even more importantly — no longer featured half of the cast from the previous episode. In other words, a new season had begun! According to Jeff, I’ve now entered season 6 of Hill Street Blues, which is when the show starts to go downhill. So, we’ll see how long I stick with it, I guess. Anyway, the second episode took place at night and featured a now fully recovered Henry getting held hostage by a militant cult leader, who was played by Yaphet Kotto.

Thursday morning saw two episodes dealing with the death of Officer Harry Garibaldi. Played by Ken Olin, Harry was a regular during the pervious season but his disappearance from the opening credits left little doubt that he would not survive being stabbed by a bookie. Of course, the show still milked the question of whether or not Harry would die for all the drama that it could. (The main problem, of course, is that Harry was never a particularly likable character to begin with.) Kiel Martin, who was consistently one of the best actors on the show, had an amazing scene after Harry died, in which his character, recovering alcoholic J.D. LaRue, had a complete meltdown.

When I watched Friday morning’s episodes of Hill Street Blues, I came to understand what Jeff meant about this season being the beginning of the end. The first episode featured the arrest of Harry Garibaldi’s murderer. The suspect, who only confessed because he had suckered Furillo into giving him an immunity deal, was then gunned down by Harry’s father. So, yes, the murderer was dead but unfortunately, Harry’s father was going to prison for life. In previous episodes, this would have led to some serious reflection on the part of the characters. However, this time,, everyone just shrugged off the fate of Harry’s father. The bad guy was dead and nothing else mattered. The second episode featured a mentally ill man who thought he was the movie character Rambo. It was all fun and games until he tragically died at the end of the episode. Again, this is a trick that Hill Street Blues played so often that, from the minute the guy showed up, I knew what was going to eventually happen to him. If you’re quirky during the first half of an episode of Hill Street Blues, you’ll be dead by the end of the second half.

Things continued to go downhill during the first of Saturday’s episodes as a new character, Lt. Norman Buntz (played by Dennis Franz), went on a personal vendetta against a petty thief. Buntz eventually ended up executing the thief during a liquor store robbery. Previously, Hill Street Blues would have held a character like Buntz in contempt but, during this new season, apparently the show’s moral compass was reset. The first episode of the morning also featured Detective Neal Washington getting shot for what seemed to be the 100th time. I have to admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the second episode, beyond noting that Michael Richards (a.k.a. Karmer from Seinfeld) was playing a crook. Otherwise, life on the Hill suddenly felt far less interesting than it did at the start of this week.

Judge Jerry (Weekdays, Syndication)

Jerry Springer is a TV judge now! Nobody in the courtroom fights or yells. In fact, due to COVID, the gallery is empty and all of the cases are “virtual.” Somehow, Jerry comes across as being even more sleazy when he’s being respectable than he did when he was hosting his circus of a talk show.

The Office (All the Time, Comedy Central)

On Tuesday, I watched several episodes from season 4. I started with Dinner Party and I ended with Goodbye Toby. As a result, I had both Hunter’s song and Michael’s rendition Goodbye Toby stuck in my head for several hours. I’ve also spent this week telling random people, in my best Holly Flax voice, “Kevin, I’m really proud of you!”

The Old Guys (Sunday Night, PBS)

This week, Tom’s daughter nearly married Sally’s son. It didn’t work out, naturally. The main theme of this episode seemed to be that old people are clueless about new technology but that young people are just stupid in general. As with the previous episodes that I’ve seen, the jokes weren’t extremely clever but they were very well-delivered by Jane Asher, Clive Swift, and Roger Lloyd-Pack. Apparently, this was also the last episode of The Old Guys and, starting this Sunday night, PBS will be airing a different British sitcom in its place.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

On this week’s episode, Arkwright continued to abuse Granville and Granville continued to hate every moment of his existence. This is one bleak show.

The Rookies (Sunday Morning, H&I)

H&I aired two episodes of this old 70s cop show on Sunday morning. I watched both but I only remember one. It dealt with an older cop being driven crazy by the stress of the job and the feeling of being underappreciated. The Rookies were able to talk him down.

Saved By The Bell (Sunday Morning, MeTV)

I watched two episodes of this classic show on Sunday morning. The first episode featured Zack skipping school because he was apparently too exhausted after the summer to handle class. It was his mother’s idea. On the one hand, I could full sympathize with skipping school but, on the other hand, who asks for permission beforehand? I guess that’s what happens when you’re making a show about high school in which the lead character is expected to be both a rebel and a role model. Anyway, the various members of the Saved By The Bell cast came by to visit Zack and they thought about everything that happened over the summer. Is there anything more creatively bankrupt than a clip show?

The second episode was the one where Zack and Slater get into a physical brawl in the school hallway because they both like the same girl. This episode is a personal favorite of mine. If Belding hadn’t intervened, Slater would have totally kicked Zack’s ass.

Seinfeld (Weeknights, Channel 33 and Hulu)

I watched an episode on Tuesday night. Elaine was confused by her new boyfriend’s love for the song Desperado. George was confused the fact that the local cult was willing to brainwash everyone but him. Jerry destroyed a valuable chest of drawers and Kramer nearly killed some tourists. It made me laugh. That said, at the end of the episode, it was kind of implied that Elaine’s boyfriend died because the ER doctor was distracted by the song Witchy Woman. That was dark!

Storage Wars (Tuesday Night, A&E)

To be honest, the only reason I watched the two latest episodes was to see if there was any new Brandi/Jarrod developments. There were not. In fact, Jarrod was not in any either of the episodes and Brandi was only in one. Unfortunately, neither of the episodes were that interesting. With the exception of Ivy, I’ve never cared much for any of the replacement buyers who have shown up on the show over the years. I like the old crew — Barry, Hester, Darryl, and Bradi & Jarrod. Oh well. The past is the past.

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

On Wednesday, Case, Leonard, and I watched an episode about a group of people from the same Massachusetts town who all say that they were abducted by aliens in 1969. As a passionate skeptic when it come to all things paranormal, my theory is that hippies spiked the town’s drinking water with LSD.

Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)

While traveling back to Stratford, Shakespeare and his friends run into three witches who provide him with three cryptic prophecies. Later, Shakespeare fears that he may have accidentally killed his neighbor, a Scotsman named MacBuff. Haunted by guilt and what he mistakenly believes is a ghost, Shakespeare is relieved to eventually to discover that MacBuff did not die. Shakespeare resolves to write a comedy about the whole thing. This was another brilliantly funny episode.

The Voice (Monday Night, NBC)

On Monday night, the show took a look back at the “road to lives.” I didn’t pay that much attention but still, I wish everyone the best of luck. (Come to think of it, I also didn’t pay much attention to 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star when I watched them on Monday. What was going on at the start of the week that had me so distracted? Hopefully, whatever it was, I resolved it.)

Yes, Minister (Monday Morning, PBS)

This week’s episode was brilliant. After finding out that a defense contract had been rewarded as a result of bribery, Jim was determined to reveal the truth regardless of the consequences. Then, he discovered that his wife had accepted a very expensive present from the same contractor and he quickly changed his mind. Last week featured Jim getting the better of Humphrey. This week, things got back to normal as Humphrey and Bernard got the better of Jim (even though it was kind of Bernard’s fault that Jim’s wife received the potentially problematic present in the first place). Paul Eddington’s performance in this week’s episode, alternating between self-righteous pomposity and desperate sputtering, was a work of comedic genius. Despite the fact that this show is older than I am, Yes, Minister is definitely my favorite of the shows that I currently watch on a regular basis.

Lisa’s Week In Television: 4/25/21 — 5/1/21


And what a week it was! This week was dominated by both the Oscars and the subsequently fallout. For myself, I’ll just say that I’ve never been so bored mentally and emotionally exhausted in my life. As I so often do while trying to process a fiasco, I distracted myself a bit with television. Here’s some thoughts on what I watched this week:

9-1-1 (Monday Night, FOX)

Why exactly I watch 9-1-1, I’m not sure. It’s a bit of a generic show. That said, I also get the feeling that it might secretly be a parody of the genre. Add to that, Jennifer Love Hewitt is in it and she will always be the ghost whisperer to me. Anyway, the show’s back. This week’s episode featured someone impaled to a house. Fortunately, they survived.

9-1-1: Lone Star (Monday Night, FOX)

Unlike it’s companion show, there’s no secret about whether or not 9-1-1: Lone Star is meant to be a parody. It definitely is. It was also apparently made by people who have never spent more than a few hours in Texas. That said, I’ll watch the show just in case another volcano erupts in Austin. This week, some dumbass blew up his apartment.

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

The search for the painting continued as everyone tried to get it out of the general’s chateau before he accidentally ate it. No, it didn’t make much sense but, as I’ve said before, that’s kind of the charm of this show.

Baywatch (Weeknights, H&I)

On Sunday, I watched two episodes as I prepared for the Oscars. It was a two-parter, which was certainly convenient. That said, with my mind obsessed with the upcoming Academy Awards, I didn’t really pay that much attention to them. I think half of the lifeguards were at Sea World and Pamela Anderson was trying to communicate with a dolphin. Meanwhile, back on the beach, Mitch was trying to teach an old friend about responsibility. Meanwhile, Summer and Matt investigated a haunting or something like that. A lot was going on but I’d be lying if I said any of it made much of an impression.

On Monday, the first episode featured special guest star Carrie-Anne Moss as a woman with dissociative identity disorder who ended up drugging Mitch and holding him hostage. Not initially realizing that the woman he was dealing with had two personalities, Mitch originally assumed that she just had a twin sister. Mitch wasn’t that smart this episode. While Mitch was dealing with all of that, Matt was dealing with shark-related nightmares. Summer thought that the nightmares was indicative of larger concerns but personally, I think it makes sense that a lifeguard would be scared of sharks. The second episode featured Mitch falling for a woman who turned out to be a poisoner. Again, it was hard not to feel that Mitch might not be very smart.

On Tuesday, the first episode was a weird meta episode where a sleazy TV producer tried to make a show based on the lives of the Baywatch lifeguards. Of course, the show was turned down because the network execs didn’t think anyone would ever want to watch a show about lifeguards. They used the same joke in the No Hope With Dope episode of Saved By The Bell. The second episode featured a lot of country music so I didn’t really pay much attention to it.

On Wednesday, the first episode featured the lifeguards standing up to a bunch of bureaucrats who wanted to cut Baywatch’s budget! Needless to say, it was time for everyone to have a meeting on the beach and offer up testimonials about all the lives they had saved. This led to that most dreaded of all episodes …. a clip show! After several flashbacks to previous episodes, the bureaucrats decided not to cute funding so no one lost their job. In the second episode, Stephanie had to put a cocky members of the Coast Guard in his place.

On Thursday, this first episode of the night featured yet another Baywatch hostage situation, though this time it was Matt who was stupid enough to fall for a con artist while Mitch was the one who got to save the day and pretend like the exact same thing hadn’t happened to him just four episodes ago. The 2nd episode was apparently the start of a new season for Baywatch because Alexandra Paul chopped her hair, Nicole Eggert and Kelly Slater were suddenly no longer on the show, and Yasmine Bleeth and Jaason Simmons were the newest members of the Baywatch team. This episode featured Mitch nearly getting back together with his ex-wife. This is something that seemed to happen every few episodes or so. Needless to say, things did not work out.

Friday brought us two episodes that didn’t add up too much, even by Baywatch standards. First off, one of the old Baywatch lifeguards came back and …. well, that’s pretty much it. He hung out and he talked to Mitch and he apparently let CJ know that it was okay to date Matt. It was a weird episode. The second episode of the night featured Mitch and Stephanie talking about their relationship. It featured flashbacks to the previous episode where they discussed their relationship.

Finally, on Saturday, it was time for yet another rookie class to graduate. Conceited Logan was assigned to work at Baywatch, despite the fact that he broke Caroline’s heart. Caroline was so upset that she nearly let a little girl drown. Fortunately, since Caroline is Stephanie’s younger sister, there were no consequences. I guess the message here is that it’s always good to be related to the boss.

Flight of the Conchords (HBOMax)

Both seasons of Flight of the Conchords are available on HBOMax! (I’ve also got both of them on DVD, thanks to a friend who sent them to me as a gift a few years ago.) On Wednesday, I watched three episodes, two before the Biden talk-a-thon and then one after. From Season 1, I watched the touring episode, the new fans episode, and — my personal favorite — the actor episode. Though it’s been a good 12 years since Flight of the Conchords aired its final episode, the show’s humor holds up brilliantly. How can you not love Bret, Jermaine, and Murray? Mel, girl, I know exactly what you were going through.

The Floor is Lava (Netflix)

I watched a few more episodes. The floor never actually became lava.

Gangs of London (Sunday Nights, AMC)

I watched episodes 3 and 4 of Gangs of London on Wednesday night. I still have no idea what’s exactly going on, beyond the fact that the series follows a bunch of gangs in London who always seem to be shooting at each other. That said, this show is so stylish that you really don’t have to understand everything that’s happening for it to hold your attention. I know one character is an undercover cop. I know that the gangs are in turmoil because someone murdered the longtime head of the British mob and his sociopathic son has taken over his operations. And I know that everyone is basically trying to kill everyone else. It’s brutal and disturbing but, at the same time, compulsively watchable.

Hill Street Blues (Weekday Morning, H&I)

I missed ten episodes while I was up at the lake. I rejoined the series this week and I discovered that it didn’t really matter. There’s a few new detectives. There’s a new roll call sergeant. But otherwise, life on Hill Street never changes. Gangs, crimes, and dark humor abound.

The first of Tuesday’s episodes featured an uptick in a gang activity. Somewhat hilariously, the Hill is home to a gang of Irish hooligans who call themselves The Shamrocks and, even though gangs was obviously a serious problem in the 80s and it’s still a serious one today, it’s just hard not to laugh when you hear sentences like, “The Shamrocks aren’t going to stand for that.” There was also a subplot about one of the new detectives trying to help a young prostitute and veteran Detective Belker taking his anger over his relationship troubles out on an informant. The second episode featured a rapist who pretended that he couldn’t speak English. At the end of the episode, Detective Patsy Mayo went undercover, got him to speak in English, and the shot him in the dick when he tried to run away. That was cool and well-deserved.

Wednesday’s first episode featured an interesting story about a police officer who rescued several people from a burning apartment building. Only after he had been lionized by the press and the police chief was it discovered that he was actually the one responsible for setting the fire! This episode also featured the show’s public defender accepting a job with the D.A.’s office. During Wednesday’s second episode we met her replacement …. FRANCES MCDORMAND! That’s right, future three-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand had an early role on this show. The episode in which she first appeared aired on January 24th of 1985, which was about a week after Blood Simple opened in theaters. (Because of the whims of the independent film world, Blood Simple was filmed in 1982 but it didn’t actually get a theatrical release until two and a half years later.)

McDormand wasn’t the only future Oscar nominee to appear this week in reruns of Hill Street Blues. The first of Thursday’s two episodes featured a brief appearance from Jennifer Tilly as a mob widow-turned-singer named Gina. The majority of the first episode dealt with former public defender Joyce Davenport struggling to adjust to working in the DA’s office and discovering that her job is now to ruthlessly prosecute the poor as opposed to defending them. It was a theme that was handled well overall, even if Joyce’s shock at being expected to do her job did seem bizarrely naïve. The second of Thursday’s episodes dealt with the sleazy chief of police sexually harassing Detective Patsy Mayo. Mayo is a new character, one who I assume was introduced while I was on vacation. I can’t help but notice that nearly every storyline that’s involved her this week has dealt with her being sexually harassed and ended with her graciously accepting what seems like a rather weak apology from her harasser. Of course, these episodes originally aired in 1985.

The first of Friday’s episode found public defender Frances McDormand manipulating the system in order to allow an abusive boyfriend back out on the streets. Meanwhile, Jennifer Tilly helped the detectives take out a mobster and she started a romantic relationship with Lt. Henry Goldblume, much to the irritation of Detective Harry Garibaldi. The second episode discovered Henry totally in love while Harry continued to throw a fit and bitch to anyone who would listen about how Jennifer Tilly should have been calling him up for afternoon hotel sex. The second episode featured an interesting subplot in which the sleazy chief of police and his precinct captains attended a group therapy session to work on their working relationship. Needless to say, things did not go well. Meanwhile, Lt. Howard Hunter dealt with a hostage situation and patrolmen Andy Renko and Bobby Hill attempted to go about their duties despite accidentally getting stoned beforehand. The second episode was directed by Mark Frost, who later went on to collaborate with David Lynch on Twin Peaks.

Finally, on Saturday morning, we had two episodes, both of which were jam-packed with guest stars. Along with Frances McDormand and Jennifer Tilly, the first of Saturday’s episodes featured Brent Spiner as a porno director and the great character actor Nicholas Pryor as an anti-abortion activist. Both of Saturday’s episodes centered around the character played by Frances McDormand being lousy at her job. McDormand did a great job in the role, offering up little clues that her character’s issues had more to do with cocaine than just incompetence.

And that’s life on the Hill!

House Hunters (Tuesday Night, HGTV)

She really, really wanted to live in the city. He really, really wanted to live in the suburbs. In the end they went with …. the house that cost the least. For all the drama of “I want a big back yard” and “I want to be able to walk downtown,” everyone ultimately goes for the house that costs the least.

House Hunters International (Tuesday Night, HGTV)

It was the exact same situation as in House Hunters except, this time, they were looking for a house in Mexico. They found a nice one, which was good.

The Office (All The Time, Comedy Central)

On Tuesday night, Comedy Central was showing post-Steve Carell episodes of The Office. The episode I watched was a weird one where Pam framed Meredith for having head lice and where Darryl went from being his usual confident self to being someone who couldn’t even handle being in the same room with Val, the new warehouse manager. Like most of the episodes from the post-Carell era, It was odd and weird and felt not at all right.

The Old Guys (Sunday Night, PBS)

This week, Sally went to the hospital to get knee surgery and the old guys competed to see who could be the best visitor. Of course, neither was a very good visitor though they did end up befriending an old man named Norris. Norris asked them to take him to a friend’s funeral. Of course, they ended up at the wrong funeral, which is something they discovered after propping up the corpse in the casket so that the wheelchair-bound Norris could get one last look at his “friend.” (“That’s not Mack!”) It was funny but kind of sad. Watching this episode, I realized that I’ll probably have to get surgery on my ankle in another 40 years or so.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

On this week’s episode, Granville continued to try to suppress his crippling depression while Arkwright continued to cheat his customers. I honestly thought this might be the episode in which Granville snapped and went on a killing spree but, fortunately, he managed to hold it together.

The Oscars (Sunday Night, ABC)

I reviewed The Oscar ceremony here.

The Presidential Address (Wednesday Night, Fox)

I watched it but there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to review it.

Storage Wars (Tuesday Night, A&E)

Being on vacation last week, I totally missed the 13th season premiere of Storage Wars. So, you can imagine my shock when I watched the first of this week’s new episodes and I discovered that Brandi and Jarrod had split up! Well, actually, I don’t know if I would say I was really shocked. To be honest, it always seemed like there was a lot of passive aggressive anger in that relationship. So, Brandi has a new friends to shop for storage lockers with and I guess Jarrod will return in a few episodes as a special guest villain. Who knows? I also noticed that Dave Hester is apparently no longer with the show. I’ll miss the sound of “Yuuuuuuup!”

I wrote the paragraph above while watching the 1st episode of the night. In the second episode of the night, Jarrod showed up but Brandi did not. Of the two of them, Brandi works better as a solo act than Jarrod does.

Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)

This week, Will wrote and published his final sonnets, just to discover that his wife did not appreciate him writing poetry about the dark lady and that the local authorities considered his words about the fair youth to be illegal and blasphemous. Fortunately, Kit Marlowe was able to get Shakespeare off the hook (or, at the very least, off the rack) by pointing out that it was probable that no one would ever voluntarily read any of Will’s poetry.

The Voice (Monday Night, NBC)

As I watched the show this week, I found myself thinking about how funny it would be if one of the singers got possessed by the demon from The Exorcist. “How do you like my voice now!?”

Yes, Minister (Sunday Night, PBS)

A typical episode of Yes, Minister ends with Sir Humphrey getting the better of Jim so it’s always fun to see an episode in which the opposite happens and Jim actually gets the better of Sir Humphrey. Last night’s episode started with Humphrey browbeating Jim over condemning a constituency that, though well-run, had failed to fill out all of the required paperwork at the right time and it ended with Sir Humphrey sheepishly admitting that, as a junior civil servant, he was responsible for a mistake the subsequently cost the government 30 million pounds. As usual, it was all wonderfully performed by Nigel Hawthorne, Paul Eddington, and Derek Fowlds. Though the show is older than me, it’s still the perfect antidote for today’s big government era.

A Few Late Thoughts On Last Night’s Oscars


Footage of viewers doing what they had to do to make it through last night’s Oscar ceremony

This morning, I woke up and I thought about the cult of Steven Soderbergh.

Soderbergh is a filmmaker who is fervently adored by some film and cultural critics. They eagerly devour his every thought. They examine his annual list of the things that he watched during the year with the intensity of theological scholars studying an ancient-but-just-discovered religious text. The Cult of Soderbergh reacts with excitement whenever it’s announced that Soderbergh has secretly filmed an improvised comedy on his phone and that he’ll be releasing it on HBOMax. The fact that the movie itself will probably turn out to be a self-indulgent mess never really seems to concern them.

Don’t get me wrong. Steven Soderbergh has directed some very good movies. There are quite a few Soderbergh films — Out of the Past, The Girlfriend Experience, The Informant!, Logan Lucky, Magic Mike — that I really, really like. However, Soderbergh has directed and otherwise been involved with some truly mediocre films as well, films that would probably be totally forgotten if not for the fact of his involvement. Even his worst films tend to get good initial reviews, if just because people tend to assume that anything Soderbergh directs has to be good even when it’s not. But, in retrospect, many of his films are stylish and ultimately empty. Haywire is a mess. The Laundromat was self-indulgent and pretentious. Let Them All Talk was so dull that it felt as if it was specifically made to troll the type of people who proudly proclaim that they will watch Meryl Streep in anything. Contagion may have predicted a pandemic but that doesn’t make it any less of a drag to sit through. When Steven Soderbergh is good, he’s very good. When he’s bad, he’s incredibly bad. He’s one of the most frustratingly inconsistent filmmakers around. That’s something that many film fans and critics have yet to come to terms with.

It’s also why I kind of groaned a little when, last month, I read that Steven Soderbergh would be producing the Oscars this year. Everyone knows that the Oscars are struggling to stay relevant and that the ceremony needed to be jazzed up a little and, if nothing else, that seemed to be something that Soderbergh could deliver. But, even while the Cult of Soderbergh was celebrating, I was thinking about how the Oscars seemed like just the type of event that would draw out Soderbergh’s worst tendencies.

Now, at this point, I should make clear that Soderbergh did not direct last night’s ceremony. He was strictly the producer and, in fact, he was just one of three producers. That said, from the opening scene of Regina King walking through Union Station to the decision to allow the winners to ramble on for as long as they wanted (almost as if they were Meryl Streep and Candice Bergen shooting an improvised film during an ocean cruise), this definitely felt like a Steven Soderbergh production. Even more importantly, it felt like a bad Soderbergh production. This wasn’t Traffic or even Ocean’s 11. This was Solaris. This was Full Frontal. This was one of those terrible movies that he agreed to executive producer as a favor to George Clooney. This was the type of train wreck that could only have been put together by a genius who no one was willing to double guess.

We all knew that last night’s Oscars were going to be a bit different, of course. And I guess we should be glad that they didn’t make the same mistakes that the Golden Globes made. That said, the ceremony was an endurance test. Last night’s ceremony did away with a lot of the things that have been criticized about previous ceremonies but, in doing so, it only made us realize that an awards show actually does need a host. It does need a cheesy montage. It needs spectacle. It needs live performances of the nominated songs. It needs humor, even bad humor. (Glenn Close twerking after her record-setting eighth Oscar loss does not count.) And, perhaps most importantly, it needs a band that’s willing to start playing the exit music whenever a winner goes on for too long. Who didn’t want a full orchestra to drown out the Documentary Feature winners? Do we really need a filibuster from someone who probably had sex with an octopus? That’s what the Senate’s for.

As I watched the ceremony, I thought about something one of my creative writing teachers once told me. Seriously, this is one of the most important lessons that I’ve ever learned and anyone who knows how much I hate learning anything will understand that’s high praise coming for me. If you want your reader to truly feel as if they know your characters, show. Don’t tell. Show. If you want your readers to understand that someone is good at their job, don’t just say, “She was good at her job.” Instead, write a scene that shows she’s good at her job. For the most part, last night’s ceremony eschewed showing clips of the nominated films and instead, we were provided with trivia factoids about the nominees, the type of stuff that you typically find on the imdb or Wikipedia. But hearing that someone worked in a movie theater when they were a teenager doesn’t tell us anything about why they were nominated. Last night, the lack of clips made it seem as if the Academy ashamed of the films they had nominated. They kept telling us the nominees were good but, at the same time, they refused to show us.

At least they avoided this….

Finally, there was the weird choice to move around some of the categories. It’s obvious what the show’s producers — and I won’t lay the blame squarely on Soderbergh because there were two other credited producers on the show — were trying to do. They assumed Chadwick Boseman would win best actor. They assumed it would be a huge emotional moment, the 21st century’s equivalent of Judy Garland introducing herself as “Mrs. Norman Maine” in the 1954 version of A Star is Born. And so, they moved the categories around.

Chloe Zhao, only the second woman in 93 years to win Best Director

As a result, Chloe Zhao won Best Director in the middle of the show. Zhao is only the second woman to win best director and the first woman of color. It should have been a great Oscar moment but instead, it was just randomly tossed in there, with no build-up or anything else. Best Picture, which is traditionally the joyous end of the ceremony, was moved so that the final award could go to Chadwick Boseman. Of course, that didn’t happen. The final award went to Anthony Hopkins for The Father. When presenting the award, Joaquin Phoenix read the name of the winner so quickly that it actually took a few minutes for me to realize that Hopkins had won. Phoenix read the name and the end credits rolled so quickly that you got the feeling someone in the control room panicked. It was an odd moment. Obviously, Hopkins couldn’t come to L.A. for the ceremony but he was also apparently so convinced that Boseman was going to win that he didn’t even bother to stay up for the ceremony. (According to People Magazine, he was asleep when his name was called. Actually, that was true for a lot of people in America as well.)

It was an anti-climatic end to the ceremony but, putting aside the question of who should have won best actor, it was hard not to feel some schadenfreude. The show’s producers basically messed up the show’s entire momentum for a big moment that they assumed was going to happen and then it didn’t. They got a bit too clever for their own good. As more than one person pointed out on twitter, last night was proof that the producers do not know, ahead of time, who is going to win. I know some would say that it’s easy to be critical in hindsight but that if Boseman had won last night, we would be talking about what a moving moment it was. Yes, we would but it would been just as moving if Boseman had won at the end of the ceremony or at the beginning of it or in the middle. Instead, the producers took a risk that only succeeded in making Boseman’s loss the defining moment of the 93rd Academy Awards.

(Incidentally, I watched The Father on Sunday, before the ceremony. Hopkins is amazing in the film and I feel he deserved the award. At the same time, I’m also very aware that Boseman was very good in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and that this was literally the Academy’s last chance to honor both his performance and his legacy. So, when I say that it’s unfortunate Boseman loss, that should not be taken as criticism of Hopkins. Nor should my praise of Hopkins be viewed as criticism of Chadwick Boseman.)

Many of the changes last night felt less like they were the result of seriously considering what would improve the ceremony and more like change for the sake of change. It felt like the people in charge basically said, “This is our show and we have to do something to show that we know better than everyone who has come before us.” There was a lot of hubris involved in last night’s ceremony. There was a definite lack of understanding of why people watch the Oscars in the first place. Watching the ceremony, I was reminded of the experiencing of listening to countless Steven Soderbergh commentary tracks where he got so caught up in discussing dry technical details that he didn’t actually bother to comment much on what it was like to actually make the film and work with the actors. (One gets the feeling that Soderbergh is more comfortable talking about lenses than about human emotions.)

I’m not going to get into an argument about what the Oscars are “supposed” to be. Obviously, there’s no set rule that says the Oscars have to take place in a giant theater or that there has to be a host or a live musical performance. But I will say that, for me, the most memorable Oscar ceremonies have been entertaining to watch, even if they did inspire a bit of snarkiness on the part of many viewers. (The snarkiness, let’s be honest, is a part of what we all look forward to.) The show’s producers were so busy patting themselves on the back for not being tacky that they failed to consider that shameless tackiness is actually one of the things that makes the Oscars the Oscars. Last night’s show was boring. And beyond everything else, that was the main problem. People want to have fun. They want to escape for a few hours. They want a little spectacle. If the Academy and Hollywood at large can’t remember how to deliver that, I don’t know how much longer this yearly tradition of watching the Oscars will continue.

Lisa’s Week In Television: 4/18 — 4/24


Jeff and I finally got to go to the lake this week! This was something we had been planning on doing since Valentine’s Day. Our plans were originally put on hold by the big winter storm and then after that, we decided to wait until Spring Break was over so that we could have some peace and quiet.

We went up to the lake on Monday and, though we have a TV up here, we decided to watch it as little as possible. As a result, there’s not a lot listed below but that’s okay. Sometimes you need a break from all of that!

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

Bit of a disjointed episode this Sunday but Allo Allo appears to have been a show that was at its best when everyone was scrambling around for various reasons. Herr Flick was looking for the painting. The Resistance stole a lawnmower engine. Rene just tried to keep things calm at the café. It was a funny episode, even if I did find it next to impossible to follow what was actually going on.

Baywatch (Weeknight, H&I)

Because I was on vacation, I only watched Sunday’s episodes of Baywatch this week and I have to admit that I was busy packing at the time so I didn’t really pay much attention. The first episode featured David Hasselhoff being stalked by a psychotic Australian lifeguard. Oddly enough, the first season of Baywatch also featured a self-centered Australian lifeguard, who Hasselhoff was constantly reprimanding. You have to kind of wonder what Baywatch had against Australian lifeguards.

The second episode featured Mitch’s son falling in love with a terminally ill girl. That was sad but, then again, that also seems like something that happened fairly frequently on Baywatch. There was one episode, if I remember correctly, where Mitch’s son fell in love with a homeless girl and then another where he was in love with a babysitter who was being stalked by a gangster or something like that.

The drama never ends on the beach.

The Floor Is Lava (Netflix)

I watched three episodes of this silly Escape Room-style game show on Netflix. Then I realized that the contestants weren’t actually falling in real lava and I lost interest.

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox, Thursday Night)

Even though we had a general no network TV rule in effect for most of the week, Jeff and I did watch the finale of Hell’s Kitchen on Thursday. Unfortunately, the supercool Mary Lou lost to the superbland Kori. I’m guessing Kori won because she’s older and has more experience than Mary Lou but it was still an extremely disappointing way for an otherwise good season to end.

The Old Guys (Sunday Night, PBS)

On Sunday’s episode, the old guys were extremely excited when Sally had to temporarily move in with them while some work was being done at her house. They even bribed the man who had been hired to do the work to drag things out so that Sally would have to stay with them for more than a week. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out as Sally found the old guys to be too formal and the old guys were upset by Sally’s habit of blurting out the news after reading it online, therefore spoiling the 10 O’clock News. Finally, the old guys tried to finish the work on Sally’s house themselves and things got screwed up even further. As usual, the performances of Jane Asher, Roger Lloyd-Pack, and Clive Swift did a lot to make up for a generally predictable storyline.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

Another episode, another 30 minutes of waiting for Granville to snap and kill Arkwright. This time, Arkwright deliberately misspelled the word “special” to encourage people to come into the shop. Granville looked like he was on the verge of snapping but he stopped himself at the last minute.

The Rookies (Sunday Morning, H&I)

This week’s episodes were a bit boring. The first one dealt with four cops going undercover at a singles complex to catch a serial killer. Unfortunately, the identity of the killer was revealed during the first minute of the show so there wasn’t much suspense. The second episode featured Andy Robinson (he played the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry, which came out a year before The Rookies started to air) as a criminal trying to harass the wife of one of the police officers. One of the things that I’ve noticed about The Rookies is that each episode is self-contained. There’s no continuing storylines, like we’ve come to expect from television shows today. Instead, every episode is some new, huge drama that will last an hour and will never be mentioned again. The main characters are continually getting shot at, kidnapped, and threatened but apparently, it has absolutely no effect on their psychological well-being. It’s good to be them, I guess.

Saved By The Bell (Sunday morning, MeTV)

A girl named Christy wanted to join the wrestling team! GASP! Zack helped to get her a spot on the team but then got embarrassed when she beat up two Valley High bullies who were giving him a hard time. Jessie went from supporting Christy to condemning her when she thought Christy was trying to seal away Slater. Fortunately, by the end o the episode, everyone had learned a valuable lesson and had become a better person. Christy was never seen again.

South Park (Sunday Morning, Comedy Central)

The gang went to the rain forest and discovered that it totally sucked! I know people who actually find this episode to be incredibly offensive. Personally, I think it’s hilarious because being trapped in the rain forest probably does suck.

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

On Wednesday, me, Case, and Leonard live tweeted an episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries. It was about whether or not people in Japan were being haunted by ghosts following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. It started out a bit depressing but, by the end of it, it was actually rather touching and life-affirming. Personally, though, I don’t believe in ghosts.

Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)

William Shakespeare was nearly humiliated by his rival, Robert Greene, and Kit Marlowe stole another play. All in all, it was just another day in Elizabethan London.

Yes, Minster (Monday Morning, PBS)

Poor Jim Hacker! On this week’s episode, Jim again tried to cut back on government waste and Sir Humphrey again conspired to keep him from doing that. This time, Sir Humphrey’s scheme was to distract Hacker by telling him about the sorry state of the UK’s nuclear fallout structures. Jim went on another crusade, one that was going well until he accidentally insulted the Prime Minister during a television interview. The thing that makes Yes, Minster such an interesting show is that you’re natural inclination is to be on Jim Hacker’s side (he means well) but, at the same time, there’s something delightfully entertaining about watching Sir Humphrey thwart all of those good intentions.

Here’s The Trailer for Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.


Marvel’s continuing conquest of all forms of entertainment continue with the trailer for Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. This is an animated series that is going to air on Hulu. It’s about a super villain struggling with a mid-life crisis after his evil organization goes bankrupt and ends up getting sold to another evil organization. As much as I want to call him Gru, his name is apparently M.O.D.O.K.

Apparently, this series is not officially a part of the MCU but instead it takes place in some sort of parallel universe where everyone is animated and super villains sound like Patton Oswalt.

Anyway, the series drops on May 21st and here’s the trailer:

Lisa’s Week In Television: 4/11/21 — 4/17/21


“Girl, you watch too much television.” Someone said that to me once right before they cut me out of their lives and, I hate to admit it, but they may have been right. I probably do watch too much television. This upcoming week, my goal is to watch a bit less.

Anyway, now that I’ve acknowledged my television addiction, here’s what I watched this week:

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

“That stupid Englishman who thinks he can speak French is here!”

“Good moaning. I was pissing by and I have a massage from the Resistance.”

Allo Allo is a British sitcom from the 80s, which I just recently started watching on PBS. It takes place during World War II, in occupied France and, despite being made by the same people who did Are You Being Served?, it’s actually very funny. Essentially, it’s about Rene who owns a cafe and who keep getting dragged into the plans of the Resistance, the Germans, and the British airmen who are always hiding somewhere in the building. There’s also a running joke about the search for a valuable painting and the various forgeries of it that are floating around town. Last Sunday’s episode featured the Resistance holding a forgery of the painting for ransom. The humor was frequently crude and pretty much dependent upon the viewer knowing all of the pre-existing jokes but it was performed by a lively cast and it was hard not to laugh at the “stupid Englishman who thinks he can speak French.”

American Idol (ABC, Sunday and Monday Night)

As I said the last time that I wrote about this show, I’m not really that much into American Idol anymore. I do watch it on occasion but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I really pay that much attention. The whole show is rather bland and the refusal of the judges to risk their popularity by actually being brutally honest with the singers is a bit of drawback. I often just have the show on a background noise, barely aware of what’s actually happening while it’s on.

That said, I was as shocked as anyone when it was announced, on Monday, that Wyatt Pike had left the show. Why did Wyatt Pike leave? No one knows. In typical American Idol fashion, a vague statement was released that revealed next to nothing. It’s at times like this that I miss Vote For The Worst because that message board would have been on fire with speculation as to why Pike had left the competition. Of course, a lot of the speculation would have been a bit mean-spirited but that’s the internet for ya.

(I was devoted reader of Vote For The Worst but I never commented on the site because I knew, deep down, I was probably too nice to be a part of the community. I always agreed with the site when they trashed production for forcing the singers to sing out-of-date songs and for trying to manipulate the viewers by getting the judges to only praise production’s favorites. But I was also one of those “Can’t we all be happy for the singers?” types and I knew no one wanted to hear that. Still, as biting as some of the comments on the message boards could be, the site was always a valuable reminder not to take American Idol or any “reality” show too seriously.)

Anyway, I’d like to say that Wyatt Pike left because he didn’t want to have to sing whatever song Kara DioGuardi wrote for the finale but then I remembered that it’s been like 12 years since Kara was involved with American Idol and that tells you just how closely I follow the show.

America’s Most Wanted (Monday Night, FOX)

This week was the first season finale of the America’s Most Wanted reboot. It almost might be the finale of the show itself as it has apparently been struggling in the ratings. To be honest, the show’s mix of modern technology (like the CGI versions of the fugitives) and old school recreations of the crimes that the most wanted are accused of having committed has always felt a bit awkward.

Anyway, last night’s episode featured a murderous rapper named Maurice Nesbitt and an environmental terrorist, among others. As I watched the show, I was mostly hoping to hear that Raymond McLeod, the grotesque body builder who was profiled last week, has been captured. No such luck.

Baywatch (Weeknights, H&I)

Baywatch was consistently silly this week. Sunday featured an episode in which Mitch fell in love with a literal princess and it pretty much just got sillier from there. I guess these episodes are from the third season of the show and it appears that it was during this season that Baywatch went from being semi-serious to being so unserious that it occasionally bordered on the surreal. It’s hard not to feel that David Lynch could have worked wonders with Baywatch.

On Monday, things got even stranger as Mitch put on a fake mustache and Stephanie wore a blonde wig so that they could go undercover to capture a master criminal played by John O’Hurley of Seinfeld, Dancing With The Stars, and Family Feud fame. This was followed by an episode that opened with a murder but which was mostly made up of footage of David Hasselhoff playing basketball and Pamela Anderson being stalked by a nerdy newlywed.

Tuesday’s episodes, I didn’t pay much attention to. I was busy cleaning the house so they were mostly on as background noise. The first episode was something about criminals wanting to blow up a pier. Under normal circumstances, blowing up a pier would be a bad idea but these criminals wanted to blow up the pier while the governor was standing on it! The second episode was about Mitch’s father wanting him to take over the architectural firm. Apparently, Mitch’s parents thought that he was wasting his life on the beach. Of course, Mitch is in his early 40s and lives in a pretty big house so it’s kind of hard not to feel that maybe his parents should have had this conversation with him two decades earlier.

On Wednesday, the first episode featured Mitch hiring a sexy housekeeper named Elke. Hijinks ensued! The second episode featured Mitch having to deal with hundreds of UFO enthusiasts flooding the beach. During this episode, Mitch insisted that he didn’t believe in aliens or anything supernatural so I can only imagine that this was before Baywatch Nights. It’s always struck me as a bit odd that Mitch would battle vampires and demons at night and then, during the day, go back to being a laid back lifeguard. But I guess you do what you have to do. Maybe it’s a California thing.

Thursday’s episodes produced a good deal of tonal whiplash. The first episode was a rather grim story about two lifeguard being held hostage in their tower by a sociopathic criminal. I’ve noticed, on Baywatch, that the beaches were always attracting sociopaths and the lifeguards often seemed to end up getting held hostage. I guess it goes with the job but still, I would probably get freaked out after the third time it happened. I would probably look for another job, one that didn’t involve trying to enforce the law while wearing a tight bathing suit. The second episode of the night featured a non-lifeguard pretending to be a lifeguard in order to impress his mother and it was absolutely nothing like the first episode. The two episodes were so different that it was hard to believe that they both took place in the same television universe. Again, it’s hard not to feel that the show missed an opportunity by not asking David Lynch to direct an episode or two.

Friday’s episodes saw Mitch getting paralyzed during a rescue but he didn’t let that stop him from thwarting a hitman. By the end of the second episode, Mitch could walk again and the mafia had been defeated so yay!

Finally, Saturday’s episode featured a surprising amount of kickboxing, which apparently all of the lifeguards were totally into despite no one having mentioned anything about it in any of the previous episodes. There was also this plot about a sleazy French photographer trying to take Pamela Anderson away from the beach. He would have succeeded if not for a fact that a child conveniently had to be rescued from drowning. Having been reminded of why being a lifeguard is so important, Pamela was able to say, “Au revoir, creep.”

Couples Court With The Cutlers (Weekday mornings, Channel 33)

If you think you’re significant other is cheating on you, you can take them to Couples Court where Judges Keith and Dana Cutler will determine whether or not it’s true while a national audience watches and makes fun of you. This show is actually more enjoyable than most other court shows, just because the Cutlers are generally likable and their advice usually makes a little bit of sense. Still, it’s hard not to laugh whenever their grim-faced lie detector guy announces the results of the test as if he’s just returned from interrogating the Boston Strangler or something. In the past, the Cutlers have also used “voice analysis” to determine whether or not someone’s lying. I guess that’s what you do when you can’t afford to hire the polygraph guy for the entire week. “Voice analysis revealed that …. SHE IS NOT CHEATING!” Everyone can be happy with that.

Friends (Weeknights, Channel 33 and many other stations, not to mention HBOMAX)

On Thursday night, I watched the episode where Chandler was dating Rachel’s boss and, even though he couldn’t stand her, Chandler still couldn’t bring himself to break up with her because he was Chandler and he had issues with that sort of thing. It was a funny-enough episode but I guess it was filmed at a time when Matthew Perry was still doing drug because he looked distressingly thin and I actually found myself getting a little freaked out over how sickly he looked. I’m glad that he apparently got all of that worked out. As for the rest of the episode, I actually preferred the subplot, which featured Monica and Phoebe competing over who had the best dollhouse. Phoebe’s dollhouse was the most popular but it was also the most dangerous because it ended up bursting into flames towards the end of the episode.

Gangs of London (Sunday Night, AMC)

Gangs of London is a show that originally aired in the UK in 2020 and which is now airing here in the States on AMC. On Friday, I finally got to watch the first two episodes and it’s really not bad. In fact, it’s actually pretty good. It’s stylish and it’s violent and it does, at times, test how much patience one has for scenes of men glaring at each other but it’s also very well-acted and it makes great use of its gritty London locations. So far, the show has dealt with the aftereffects of the assassination of the man (played by the great Colm Meany) who, for 20 years, ruled over London’s underground. Now, his family is trying to maintain their power while everyone else is looking to move in on their territory. One of the most interesting themes of the show is that the majority of London’s crime families are international in nature. Just as the world has changed, so has the nature of organized crime. These aren’t just a bunch of London hoodlums fighting over an alley or a block. Instead, these are mobsters from all over the world, all fighting for control of a major city. It’s a complicated but definitely compelling show. I will continue to set the DVR for it.

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)

On Thursday night, the final two chefs were revealed. Next week, Mary Lou will be going up against Kori in the finale. Mary Lou better win, especially since Declan deserved Kori’s spot. Go, Mary Lou, go!

Hill Street Blues (Weekday Mornings, H&I)

Jeff introduced me to this show last year and I’ve been setting the DVR for it ever since. Hill Street Blues originally aired in the early 80s. It was the first of the big ensemble dramas, following a bunch of cops and detectives as they patrol a really depressing and unnamed city. It’s very much a show of its time but it’s mix of humor and tragedy is surprisingly effective even if it is sometimes dated and the show was really well-written. The characters are especially interesting. Alcoholic detective JD La Rue is my favorite! This week, I noticed that the story editor was Mark Frost, who later collaborated with David Lynch on Twin Peaks. As odd as it may seem, it’s easy to see how the gritty toughness of Hill Street Blues led to the surreal and dream-like drama of Twin Peaks. They’re both ensemble show that require viewers to actually pay attention and think for themselves.

Kung Fu (Wednesday Night, The CW)

I kind of watched the second episode of Kung Fu. I have to admit that I occasionally found myself struggling to remain interested in it. It’s just such a CW show and, as a result, it’s a bit predictable at times. That said, Olivia Liang is doing a great job in the role of the lead character and it still feels like the show has the potential to become something special. Personally, I find the family drama to be way more interested than all of the mystery surrounding the death of Nicky’s shifu. I especially like the relationship between Nicky and her sister. It feels real. Olivia Liang and Shannon Dang are basically the two main reason to give Kung Fu a chance.

The Last Drive In (Friday Night, Shudder)

Joe Bob and Darcy and the iguana are back! The third season of The Last Drive-In started on Friday. The first film that they showed was Mother’s Day and I missed it because I was busy hosting the Friday Night Flix live tweet. However, I did catch the second film that they showed, Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery. Needless to say, I had a great time watching one of Fulci’s best films. Joe Bob was as likable as ever. His special guest was Eli Roth. On the one hand, I felt the Eli tended to ramble a bit too much (I wanted to get back to the movie!) but, at the same time, his love of the horror genre always came through. It was fun, that was the important thing. I have to say thank you to my friend Jason for correctly guessing and letting me know that Joe Bob was about to show a Fulci film.

Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court (Weekday mornings, Channel 33)

No one can needlessly drag out the reading of paternity results quite like Lauren Lake. It’s almost like a very sadistic style of performance art, the way she tortures the people in her court by getting them at their most vulnerable and then slowly opening the envelope and very precisely and slowly reading every single word of the results. “These results were prepared by DNA Diagnostics, a subsidy of the Rand Company of New Haven, Connecticut, a division of Petrolli Incorporated of Newark, New Jersey and they read as follows. In the case of….” GET ON WITH IT, JUDGE!

The Masked Singer (Wednesday, FOX)

On the one hand, The Masked Singer is an entertainingly strange show and it’s usually fun to try to guess who the celebs under the masks are. On the other hand, it’s hosted by an anti-Semite and one of the judges is an anti-Vaxxer. As I watched the show on Wednesday, I found myself wondering how Jenny McCarthy has managed to more or less get a free pass despite the undoubtedly large role she played in popularizing the anti-vaccine movement. And then you’ve got Nick Cannon, who was ranting about the Rothschilds just a few months ago, serving as the show’s host. My advice would be to replace Jenny McCarthy with …. well, someone who doesn’t have a history of putting people’s lives at risk. And then replace Nick Cannon with Joel McHale and Robin Thicke with Mark McGrath. (Ken Leong, of course, is more than welcome to stay.) Seriously, this is an entertaining show so it would be nice to be able to watch it without feeling guilty about it later.

Speaking of Mark McGrath, he was eliminated this week. He was the Orca.

The Office (All The Time, Comedy Central)

Monday evening, I watched Basketball and Hot Girl from Season 1 and The Dundies from season 2. I rarely drink but when I do, I’m a lot like Pam at the Dundies.

The Old Guys (Sunday Night, PBS)

On Sunday’s episode, one of the old guys finally moved out and got his own flat. Unfortunately, it turned out that he was miserable living without his best friend and housemate so, eventually, he moved back in and everything got back to normal. It was a bit predictable but it was still a cute episode. The flat had an alarm system that was so sensitive that anyone who visited basically had to crawl across the floor to prevent it from going off. That was fun to watch.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

Arkwright and Granville made it through another episode without killing each other, though both clearly wanted to. It’s a bit of a depressing show but I guess we should be happy no one died.

Protection Court (Weekday mornings, Channel 33)

Protection Court is a reality court show where we watch as people request that the judge grant a restraining order against abusers and stalkers. It’s a disturbing show. Speaking as someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to be stalked, watching this show on Monday morning brought back all of that fear and dread. I’m not really sure why I was watching in the first place.

Rebel (Thursday nights, ABC)

Rebel is a show about a paralegal who gets results not through any real knowledge of the law but instead by yelling at people until they give her whatever she wants just so she’ll go away. We’re supposed to like her but the show is so heavy-handed and the character is such a scold that you actually end up feeling sorry for the heartless corporations. You’re like, “Really? You polluted that river? Well, at least you’re not yelling at me right now.” The main problem with the show is that the main character is actually nicknamed “Rebel,” which …. I mean, yeah whatever. What a waste of Katey Sagal’s talents.

The Rookies (Sunday Morning, H&I)

This Sunday, the first episode of The Rookies featured Michael Ontkean shooting and killing a suspect who he thought was shooting at him. It later turned out that the suspect was unarmed and was instead carrying a camera that apparently sounded like a gun. I don’t know, it was weird. On the one hand, the episode did a good job of showing how a tragedy like this could happen and Michael Ontkean gave a good performance as someone haunted by a terrible mistake. On the other hand, this episode was from 1972 and was so firmly on the side of the cops that it’s hard to watch it today without cringing a little. It’s not so much that the episode justified the shooting as much as it didn’t even seem to entertain the thought that any rational person could possibly believe that Ontkean had been too quick to fire his weapon.

The second episode was incredibly silly, largely because it featured Roddy McDowall as a professional hitman trying to take out an informant in the most unnecessarily complicated way possible. If you were trying to assassinate someone before they went into the witness protection agency, would you kidnap a cop, hold him hostage at a public airport, and demand that the informant be turned over to you so that you can kill him? That’s what McDowall does! Like seriously, this guy is supposedly the best assassin in the world and that’s the best plan that he can come up with! Needless to say, it doesn’t work out for the bad guys but still, anything from the 70s that features Roddy McDowall as a villain is going to be entertaining.

Seinfeld (Weeknights, Channel 33 and a host of other channels, as well was Hulu)

The episodes that I watched on Thursday was a Christmas episode. Elaine was dating a creepy communist named Ned. Kramer was working as a department store Santa, or at least he was until he got too political. “Hey,” a little kid yelled, “This guy’s a commie! Commie! Commie! Traitor to our country!” That made me laugh. Finally, Jerry raced an old acquaintance from middle school and he beat him by cheating. That made me laugh too.

The Serpent (Netflix)

I reviewed The Serpent here.

Tough as Nails (Wednesday Night, CBS)

The second season of Tough as Nails, the bizarre reality show about blue collar people competing to see who can be the first to complete various blue collar tasks, came to an end this week. I guess Scott won and good for him. He got $200,000 and a truck.

Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)

Upstart Crow is a British sitcom, one that imagines the life of William Shakespeare, his friends, his family, and his co-workers. Shakespeare is a pompous social climber with a neurotic side. His co-workers are constantly trying to take advantage of him. His family can’t understand why he won’t ever just write normal and simple dialogue. His friends are, for the most part, idiots. His wife doesn’t respect him and his landlady’s daughter, Kate, is determined to use him to become an actress despite the fact that women are not allowed to appear on stage. Each week, Shakespeare struggles with a new play (or, occasionally a sonnet) and his struggles are usually used as a way to satirically comment on modern events.

PBS just started airing Upstart Crow at the start of this month. Right now, they’re on the first series, which originally aired in 2016. Personally, I’m growing to really like it. It’s a fun show, one that’s rewarding for students of Shakespeare and for those who love a mix of high satire and lowbrow comedy. Like a good Shakespeare play, it appeals to both the nobility and the plebeians. I especially enjoy the performances of David Mitchell as Shakespeare and Gemma Whelan as Kate.

My favorite joke so far has been the portrayal of Christopher Marlowe as a vapid self-promoter who frequently steals Shakespeare’s plays and tries to pass them off as his own. Take that, Marlovians!

The Voice (Monday Night, NBC)

I’m always a little bit surprised by the fact that I always set the DVR for this show because it’s not like a really pay that much attention to it while I’m watching. I think I just like the fact that it’s so ludicrously overcomplicated, what with the battles and the judges stealing people and the judges saving people and it’s always kind of fun to see how silly the judges get when its time to play up all the drama.

Add to that, I like Blake Shelton. I like Nick Jonas. It’s nice that Carson Daly has a job.

Yes Minister (Monday Morning, PBS)

I got a bit of a scare last week when it appeared that PBS was going to stop showing Yes, Minister and instead start showing — ugh — Are You Being Served in its place. Fortunately, it turned out that it was just an error in the guide and Yes, Minister did indeed air Monday at midnight.

(Actually, it started about six minutes late, due to ‘Allo ‘Allo and Open All Hours running late.)

This week’s episode was …. well, it was okay. It was about Jim Hacker’s attempts to bring more women into the civil service and Sir Humphrey’s old school panic regarding the prospect. On the one hand, the episode did a good job of showing the extent that an “old boys club” will go to keep women from advancing. There was a great scene in which all of the heads of the various departments said that they fully supported equal opportunities for all people before then giving increasingly flimsy excuses for why they personally wouldn’t be promoting any women. But then the show itself ended with a woman turning down a promotion because she didn’t want to be viewed as just being a diversity hire and that felt a bit like a cop out. Still, the episode had many funny lines and three great performances from Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, and Derek Fowlds.

I’ve recently discovered that Yes, Minister eventually became Yes, Prime Minister and I’m certainly hoping that PBS will show those episodes as well. It would certainly be preferable to Are You Being Served.

The Things You Find on Netflix: The Serpent (dir by Tom Shankland and Hans Herbots)


Some shows require a bit of patience on the part of the viewer and that’s certainly the case with The Serpent, an uneven but ultimately rewarding 8-episode British miniseries that can currently be viewed on Netflix.

The Serpent tells the true story of Charles Sobhraj (played by Tahar Rahim), a career criminal who spent the 70s smuggling diamonds and killing hippies. Living in Bangkok, Sobhraj and his two associates — his French-Canadian lover, Marie-Andree LeClerc (Jenna Coleman) and his henchman, Ajay (Amesh Edireweera) — preyed on travelers who had come to Asia in search of adventure and sometimes enlightenment. Using the name Alain, Sobhraj would befriend his victims and then drug them. When they were violently ill, he would nurse them back to health. He would also steal their money, use their passports, and he ultimately killed a huge number of them. Sobhraj was a serial killer but, unlike other serial killers, he didn’t kill for pleasure as much as he just killed because it was a part of his business. Sobhraj was also frequently described as being charming and witty, a sort of real-life Bond villain. When he was captured, he would inevitably find a way to escape. When he had finished serving his sentences, he would go to the media and give self-promoting interviews. Indeed, his need for notoriety would ultimately be his downfall.

It’s an interesting tale but it’s also not an easy one to break down into a collection of easy story beats. Sobhraj committed so many crimes and victimized so many different people in so many different countries that it’s hard to know where to ever start with him. The Serpent focuses on the time Sobhraj spent in Bangkok and the efforts of a Dutch diplomat named Herman (Billy Howle) and his wife, Angela (Ellie Bamber), to prove Sobhraj’s guilt and to bring some justice to his countless victims. Working with Herman and Angela are a cynical Belgian named Paul Seimons (Tim McInnerny) and, ultimately, Sorbhaj’s French neighbors, Nadine (Mathilde Warnier) and Remi (Grégoire Isvarine). Throughout the film, we get to know not only Sobhraj’s gang and the people investigating him but also Sobhraj’s victims, the majority of whom were just happy to see a seemingly helpful and friendly face in an unknown land.

As I said, The Serpent requires some patience. The show makes heavy use of flashbacks, continually going back and forth from Sobhraj first meeting his associates and his victims and Herman and Angela investigating his crimes months later. Especially during the first two episodes, it’s difficult to keep track of what’s happening in the past and what’s happening in the show’s present. As the series progresses it becomes easier to follow the plot and the show’s flashback structure actually starts to pay off. You find yourself watching the same scene a second or a third (or even a fourth time) but this time, you have new information and what once seemed odd or obscure suddenly makes terrifying sense. The show’s third episode — which deals with a French tourist (Fabien Frankel, giving a harrowing performance) who finds himself practically a prisoner of Sobhraj and his associates — is especially powerful and suspenseful. It’s the type of thing that will make you wonder about every time a stranger has ever offered to help you out. At its best, The Serpent is a hell of a paranoia generator.

The show divides it’s attention between Sobhraj and Herman. That Herman becomes obsessed with capturing Sobhraj and understanding his crimes is not surprising. That often happens to amateur sleuths. (Michelle McNamara’s self-destructive obsession with the Golden State Killer comes to mind.) Unfortunately, as played by Billy Howle, Herman comes across as being slightly unhinged before he even starts investigating the murders and, as such, we’re kind of left wondering whether it’s his obsession that’s destroying his career or just his own self-righteous personality. As for Tahar Rahim, it took me a few episodes to really appreciate his performance. At first, Rahim’s performance seemed almost too restrained for a character who was charismatic enough to fool an untold number of victims into trusting him. But, as the series progressed, I came to see that Rahim was essentially playing Sobhraj as being an empty but attractive vessel, someone upon whom his eventual victims could project their desires. For those who wanted a lover, Sobhraj projected charm and sensuality. For those who wanted a friend, Sobhraj projected compassion. But, ultimately, it was all projection because there was nothing going on underneath the surface. Sobhraj knew how to manipulate humans but he didn’t know to actually be one.

For me, the series was pretty much stolen by Jenna Coleman, Ellie Bamber, and Mathilde Warnier. Coleman, especially, does a good job of playing Marie-Andree. It’s easy to just say that Marie-Andree was brainwashed by Sobhraj but Coleman suggests that Marie-Andree knew exactly who and what Sobhraj was but chose to pretend otherwise because the glamorous fantasy of their life was preferable to the drab reality of her life back in Quebec. Mathilde Warnier is the story’s often unacknowledged hero, as she repeatedly puts her life in danger to find and photograph evidence of Sobhraj’s crimes. She’s at the center of the majority of The Serpent‘s most suspenseful moments. Ellie Bamber, meanwhile, brings Angela to likable life despite the fact that the script often seems to be trying to sabotage her by giving her some of the show’s worst lines. (In real life, Angela played as active a role in investigating Sobhraj as her husband. In the show, though, Angela is often just portrayed as being wearily supportive even as she worries about Herman’s growing obsession.)

That said, the heart of the show is with Sobhraj’s victims, all of whom are portrayed with more compassion and respect than one typically expects from a true crime series. All of them, from the American girl looking for one night of fun before becoming a nun to the Danish tourists who make the mistake of trusting Sobhraj and Marie-Andree, are portrayed with compassion. Your heart breaks for them and also for what their deaths represent. All of them are too trusting. All of them are, in the beginning, too naïve. All of them are looking for something more than what they had in the boring safety of their old lives. In the end, their murders represent the death of innocence.

As I said, The Serpent requires some patience but it’s ultimately more than worth watching.

Here’s The Trailer For Loki!


Like many people, I was broken-hearted when it appeared that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was killed during Avengers: Infinity War. Then I was happy to see that he came back (in a fashion) in Avengers: Endgame! As for the upcoming Disney+ series featuring Loki …. well, let’s just watch the trailer and patiently wait for June 11th, shall we?

It looks good to me but, of course, you knew I was going to say that. I’m among those who feels that Tom Hiddleston can do no wrong so I’m going to be happy to see him in just about everything. Does this series make Loki the first Marvel villain to get his own MCU vehicle? Good for him. Who doesn’t love Loki?

Lisa’s Week In Television: 3/28/21 — 4/3/21


Twonky

Welcome to the first ever edition of Lisa’s Week In Television!  Because of the holiday weekend, there’s a lot of streaming shows that I haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet.  And I will also admit that I watched a lot of old TV shows over the previous few days.  Then again, I always end up watching a lot of old shows, if just because I always enjoy seeing how people dressed and spoke in the past.

American Idol

American Idol (Sunday and Monday Night, ABC)

I was recently trying to remember when the last time was that I was emotionally invested in American Idol and I think it was way back in 2007.  That would be the sixth season.  I thought Blake Lewis was totally adorable and I was actually really upset when he lost to Jordin Sparks.  That’s nothing against Jordin.  At the time, I just had a weakness for beat boxers.

Ever since then, American Idol has mostly been background noise to me.  It’s one of those things that I watch out of habit and it’s rare that I ever pay that much attention to it while it’s on.  When the show started, it was always interesting to see how brutally frank Simon Cowell could be but, after Simon left, no one was willing to play the villain and the show’s gotten rather bland as a result.

Anyway, on Sunday and Monday’s episodes, the judges announced the top 24 singers.  I have no idea who any of these people are.  I just know that none of them will ever win my heart quite like Blake Lewis performing Time of the Season.

Baywatch

Baywatch (Weekday Evenings, H&I)

Yes, the show about lifeguards is now airing on H&I.  Hopefully, Baywatch Nights will eventually follow.  There’s always been a lot of debate about whether or not David Hasselhoff is self-aware in the style of William Shatner or if he actually took Baywatch seriously.  Having watched a few episodes of the show, I still have no idea.  On the one hand, Hasselhoff certainly seemed to be taking thing very seriously.  On the other hand, how could anyone actually take a show like Baywatch seriously?  I mean, you would have to have somewhat of a satricial spirit to just be involved with the show, wouldn’t you?

Speaking of taking Baywatch seriously, Tuesday’s episode featured Danny Trejo as the father of a gang member.  Trejo wanted his son to stay in the gang and was upset when Billy Warlock tried to recruit him into a lifeguard program instead.  However, when Trejo subsequently fell in the ocean just to be saved by his own son, everyone learned an important lesson.

City Confidential

City Confidential (Sunday Afternoon, CI)

This show, which originally aired on A&E 20 years ago, is actually two shows in one.  The first half of every episode always deals with the history and culture of an American city.  The 2nd half always deals with some crime that happened in that city and which, we’re told, changed that city forever.  Each episode was narrated by actor Paul Winfield, who always sounded somewhat amused no matter how heinous a crime he was describing.

I watched two episodes, one about Milwaukee and one about Carlsbad, New Mexico.  My family briefly lived in Carlsbad when I was growing up so I found that episode to be interesting.  What can I say?  I have a weakness for true crime shows hosted by sardonic narrators.

Distirct

The District (Weekday Mornings, H&I)

The District is a fairly predictable cop show that aired for four seasons at the start of the century.  I had totally forgotten about it until I stumbled across it on H&I during a bout of insomnia.  It’s about Jack Mannion (Craig T. Nelson), the hyperactive police commissioner for Washington D.C.  Pretty much the only interesting thing about the show was Craig T. Nelson’s frequently bizarre lead performance.  Nelson’s not exactly a low-key actor to begin with and The District cast him as a frequently married, show tune loving cop who enjoyed yelling at people.  The show’s producers basically gave Nelson a license to overact and he took full advantage of it.  With each episode, you think that Nelson can’t possibly go more over-the-top and, with each episode, he proves you wrong.

Tuesday’s episode featured him crashing a meeting of the Washington D.C, city council and, when he felt they weren’t paying attention to him, climbing up on a desk so that he could better yell at them.  Later, when Mannion had to interrogate a young child who had witnessed a crime, he got her to answer his question by having a tea party with her.  That’s Jack Mannion for ya!

Hell's Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday night, FOX)

Even though I’m not really a huge fan of yelling at or insulting people, I’ve always liked Hell’s Kitchen.  Some of it is because of those moments (which usually happens towards the end of the season) when Gordon Ramsey reveals that he’s not quite as fearsome as he pretends to be.  (He actually does seem to get emotionally invested once there’s only 6 or 5 chefs left.)  Plus, since I can’t cook, I guess I find it interesting to watch people who actually can.  This latest season, which is drawing to a close, has been one of the better seasons.  Myself, I’m totally cheering on Mary Lou!  Go, Mary Lou!  You got this!

King of the HIll

King of the Hill (Hulu)

This is still the best and most authentic TV show ever made about Texas.  Watching it today, it’s also a nice alternative to the more mean-spirited programming of Seth MacFarlane.  Let it never be forgotten the Fox cancelled King of the Hill to make room for The Cleveland Show, of all thing.  Fortunately, King of the Hill can currently be watched at any time on Hulu.

Saturday morning, my sisters and I watched three episodes while we were preparing for the day — the episodes where Hank goes down Aisle 8A, where Hank goes to New Orleans, and where Dale thinks he’s rabid.  We agreed that Boomhauer is one of the greatest characters of all time.

law & Order

Law & Order: Organized Crime (Thursday Night, NBC)

I reviewed the first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime here.

Law & Order: SVU (Thursday Night, NBC)

I used to watch SVU religiously when I was in high school and college.  However, as I got older, I kind of lost interest. That said, I did watch it this week because Elliott Stabler (played by Chris Meloni) was making his first appearance on the show since leaving 8 seasons ago.  Thursday’s episode also served as a backdoor pilot, of sorts, for Law & Order: Organized Crime.

The episode was …. okay.  The mob stuff was predictable but it was nice to see that Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay still had their old chemistry.  That said, Stabler seemed to be even more tightly wound than he did during his time as a regular on SVU and that’s really saying something as Stabler always seemed like the cop mostly likely to beat a suspect to death during interrogation.  (Of course, Stabler’s wife was injured by a car bomb and later died during the episode so Stabler had good reason for being wound up.)

A lot of people on twitter freaked out over the fact that no one on the show was wearing a mask.  Calm down, people, it’s a TV show.

Love Boat

The Love Boat (Weekday Evenings, Decades TV)

Ah, The Love Boat.  If there’s any show from the 70s and 80s that deserves a revival, it’s probably this one.  Movie and television veterans play the passengers of a weekly cruise, falling in love and taking part in other hi-jinks.  Every episode that I’ve ever seen of The Love Boat has been charmingly silly and, quite frankly, I think that’s what we need more of in the world.  Add to that, the cruise ship industry took a hit with the pandemic.  A Love Boat revival might help revive it.

Monday’s episode featured Zsa Zsa Gabor and a bunch of people who I didn’t recognize but who all appeared to be having a great time on the boat.  Zsa Zsa was determined to win back her ex, even though he was planning on marrying someone else.  The other stories dealt with a kleptomaniac who kept accidentally stealing stuff and a TV actor who feared that he would never be able to live up to his heroic image.  In the end, for all the passengers and crew, love won.

Wednesday’s episode was a Christmas episode from 1980.  Dorothy Lamour was one of the passengers.  Father and son entertainers ran into each on the boat after having not spoken to each other for years.  A stowaway pretended to be the child of a wannabe womanizer.  In the end, for all the passengers and crew, love won.

My Evil Sister

My Evil Sister (Sunday Afternnon, CI)

I watched this on Crime and Investigation on Sunday morning.  As the youngest of four sisters, it’s hard for me not to be intrigued by the fact that there’s so many evil sisters out there that they could actually produce an entire TV series about them.  The episode I saw featured two stories, one about a sister who killed her lazy sister and then tried to frame local drug dealers and the other about a girl who shot her adopted sister because she felt her sister was keeping her from being popular in high school.  Scary stuff!  I’m glad my family likes me!  (I say this as I nervously glance over my shoulder.)

The Office

The Office (Comedy Central)

I watched a few episodes of The Office on Thursday and Friday.  I always feel like I’m taking a risk whenever I watch The Office on Comedy Central because there’s always a chance that they’ll be showing episodes from Seasons 8 or 9.  Fortunately, on Thursday and Friday, they were showing episodes from Season 5.  Jim and Pam hadn’t gotten unbearably smug yet.  Andy and Angela weren’t quite as cartoonish as they would later become.  Best of all, Michael was still on the show so I got to watch him once again fall in love with Holly Flax.  Though The Office was pretty uneven after the third season, the few episodes of season 5 were all gems.

parking_wars

Parking Wars (Monday Morning on A&E)

I wrote about this annoyingly addictive show a few years ago.  I watched two episodes of the show on Monday morning, as I was getting ready for my day.  Even though I mostly had it on for background noise, I still couldn’t help but think about how this show, which aired its last original episode nearly ten years ago, feels like the perfect show for the current era.  A bunch of self-righteous bureaucrats make life difficult for their fellow citizens and, whenever they’re challenged on it, they respond with a bunch of “If you had followed the rules” bullshit.  Watching this show always makes me want to park in front of an expired meter and then rip up the ticket.

The Rookies

The Rookies (Sunday Morning, H&I)

The Rookies is a cop show that aired from 1972 to 1976.  H&I just recently started showing the show.  It airs on Sunday morning at 2 in the morning.  I decided to set the DVR to record the show, just because it was a show that I’d never heard of.  I’m like a cat when it comes to being curious about stuff.

Anyway, The Rookies is about three cops who are …. can you guess it? …. rookies!  One is black.  Two are white.  One has a wife, the other two single.  Whenever they drive their car around the city, 70s wah wah music plays in the background.  From what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty much a standard cop show.  One of the cops is played by Michael Ontkean, so it’s possible to view the show as being a prequel to Twin Peaks, if you’re so inclined.

I watched Sunday’s episode off of the DVR.  The first episode featured a criminal turning into an informant and putting his life at risk.  In the 2nd episode, Ontkean was shot in the back and had to undergo an experimental surgery to regain the ability to walk.  The stories were, in no way, surprising but it was a chance to experience how people talked and dressed in 1972.

Rome Chariot

Rome’s Chariot Superstar (Monday Morning, Smithsonian Channel)

This docuseries took a look at the ancient Roman chariot races.  It was actually pretty entertaining.  I enjoyed the descriptions of life in ancient Rome and, even better, they showed how to build and steer a chariot!  As I’ve said many times on the site, I’m a history nerd.  I love stuff like this.

sbtb

Saved By The Bell (Sunday Morning, MeTV)

Ah, Saved By The Bell, the oddly popular and incredibly dated high school sitcom from the early 90s.  Don’t ask me to explain why Saved By The Bell remains so watchable, despite being terrible in almost every way.  It’s just a part of the culture and, perhaps more importantly, there’s never been an extended period of time when it hasn’t been on TV somewhere.  One of the many places where it can currently be found is as a part of MeTV’s Sunday morning lineup.  I always seem to end up watching it, even though the show makes me cringe in so many ways.

For instance, on Sunday morning, I watched three separate episodes.  First off, I watched the infamous Running Zack.  This is the incredibly problematic episode where the blonde, blue-eyed, and very pale Zack Morris discovers that he’s a direct descendant of the Native American Chief Joseph and he responds to this news by putting on an elaborate headdress and then giving a speech to his class.  It’s really …. not good.  Zack, however, does subsequently win the big track meet.  If I remember correct, his Native American heritage was never again mentioned on the show.

Running Zack was followed by a far more entertaining episode, Jessie’s Song.  This is the “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared” episode, in which Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills.  Everyone always laughs about the scene where Jessie freaks out but I think the extremely 80s music video is even more memorably weird.

Jessie’s Song was followed by The Fabulous Belding Boys, in which Mr. Belding’s supercool brother, Rod, showed up as a new substitute teacher at Bayside.  After getting all of his students excited about going rafting for the senior class trip, Rod ditched them all for two stewardesses.  Fortunately, Mr. Belding stepped up and took Rod’s place, showing Zack what being a hero is all about.  This is actually one of the few episodes of Saved By The Bell that actually works as something more than camp, with the normally underappreciated Dennis Haskins getting a chance to show what he could actually do with some halfway decent dialogue.

YesMinister

Yes, Minister (Monday Morning on PBS)

This is a BBC series, which originally aired back in the 80s.  It’s about a government minister named Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) and two civil servants, Sir Humphrey (Nigel Hawthorne) and Bernard (Derek Fowlds), and their efforts to help Hacker run his department while also making sure that Hacker doesn’t actually accomplish anything.  It’s a hilarious show, one that Jeff recently introduced me to.  Even though the show is very British and 40+ years old, it’s still easy to see parallels between the show’s portrayal of the British government and the realities of Washington, D.C.  I guess bureaucracy is universal.

This show airs on Monday, usually at midnight.  I always set the DVR for it, though I’ve lately been staying up to watch it just because PBS is so inconsistent about keeping to their posted start and stop times.  Back in February, when Texas got hit by that winter storm, an episode of Yes, Minister was the last thing that I watched before the rolling blackouts began.

This week’s episode found Jim Hacker going to a farm for a photo op and essentially screwing everything up.  The show is at its best when it pokes fun at Hacker’s self-righteousness by revealing him to be just another clueless politician and this episode did just that.  (In all fairness, though, Hacker also consistently means well and, occasional pompousness aside, actually is the type of person you would want in office.)  Though the show may be an old one, it’s kind of what we need right now in the Age of Big Government.

Watched But Not Reviewed:

  1. ‘Allo ‘Allo (Sunday Night on PBS)
  2. America’s Most Wanted (Monday Night on Fox)
  3. Fear Thy Neighbor (Saturday Afternoon on ID)
  4. Hill Street Blues (Weekend Morning on H&I)
  5. The Killer Beside Me (Saturday afternoon on ID)
  6. The Masked Singer (Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox)
  7. Open All Hours (Sunday Night on PBS)
  8. Temptation Island (Tuesday Night on USA)
  9. Tough as Nails (Wednesday Night on CBS)
  10. The Voice (Monday Night on NBC)
  11. Your Worst Nightmare (Saturday afternoon on ID)

TV Mini-Review: Law & Order: Organized Crime 1.1 “What Happens In Puglia”


I used to watch Law & Order: SVU religiously. I thought Benson and Stabler were obviously in love, though I also knew that there was no way that Stabler would ever cheat on his wife. I enjoyed listening to Munch’s conspiracy theories and his weird little trivia factoids. I loved Finn’s way with a quip and even boring old Captain Cragen didn’t bother me too much. I enjoyed the show, even if I did occasionally call it Law & Order: SUV by accident. Eventually, though, the show’s relentlessly grim atmosphere and subject matter started to get to me and, a few years ago, I stopped regularly watching.

However, I did make it a point to watch this week’s episode of SVU because Elliott Stabler (Chris Meloni) was returning for the first time since both the character and the actor left the show at the end of its 12th season. Stabler returned in order to investigate who was responsible for the explosion that killed his wife. He not only reunited with Benson (and it was nice to see that Meloni and Mariska Hargitay still had their old chemistry) but he also attempted to redeem himself and his reputation. Stabler previously left the NYPD under a cloud of suspicion. Having committed six shootings in the line of duty, he could either submit himself to a full psychological analysis and take an anger management class or he could quit. He chose to quit. Anyone who thinks that it’s extreme to quit your job rather than learn to control your anger obviously never saw Elliott Stabler in action. Stabler was basically fueled by nonstop anger.

When Stabler was on Law & Order: SVU, he was the epitome of the cop who took every case personally. On the one hand, you liked him because Meloni gave a good performance and you could tell that he was trying to control his demons. On the other hand, you always knew that there was a decent chance that he was going to end up beating a suspect to death during an interrogation. It sometimes made him a bit frightening. At times, Stabler’s eyes would narrow and he would get that look on his face and you knew that anyone who cut him off in traffic was probably going to get intentionally rear-ended. He was a road rage incident waiting to happen. Tonight, when Stabler returned to SVU, it quickly became apparent that years of retirement hadn’t done much to calm him down. Admittedly, he had every reason to take this particular case personally but you still got the feeling that, even if his wife hadn’t been murdered, Stabler would still have been looking for an excuse to shoot someone.

I imagine he’ll probably get that excuse soon enough because Thursday’s episode of SVU served as a crossover with the first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime. Organized Crime is the sixth entry in the Law & Order franchise (the seventh if you count that strange True Crime show) and it’s the first new one since Law and Order: Los Angeles came and went in 2010. This latest entry follows Stabler, who is now once again a detective with the NYPD and who is working with the Organized Crime task force. The first episode found Stabler launching an investigation into Richard Wheatley, a mob heir-turned-businessman who was played by Dylan McDermott. Since McDermott was listed in the opening credits, I assume the entire first season is going to be about Stabler investigating him and trying to take him down.

The first episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime was flawed but watchable. The scenes with Stabler, whether he was comforting his children or investigating a crime or trying to convince his boss that he wasn’t a loose cannon, were all strong. From the minute Meloni showed up, I was reminded of how compelling he was on SVU. Meloni brings a tough authenticity to even the most clichéd of dialogue and, even though he’s obviously quite a bit older now than he was a regular on SVU, Meloni hasn’t lost a step when it comes to portraying Elliott Stabler. The show acknowledged that Stabler, with his “I am the law” attitude, is a bit out-of-place in today’s culture. Stabler, like the Law & Order franchise itself, is going to have to figure out how to adjust to the times.

I was a bit less enthusiastic about both the character of Richard Wheatley and Dylan McDermott’s performance in the role. If Wheatley’s going to be a season-long villain, he’s going to need to develop a few more quirks and nuances beyond loving his children and killing his father. McDermott seemed almost bored with the role, suggesting none of the charisma that one would expect from someone who can convince that world that he’s a legitimate businessman while, at the same time, controlling the New York drug trade. Whealtey seemed like just a generic bad guy and he’s going to have to be more than that if he’s going to be a truly worthy opponent for Elliott Stabler. Hopefully, Wheatley will become more interesting as the show progresses.

That said, the first episode worked well-enough. It was well-directed by Fred Berner and it had more visual flair than I was expecting from a Law & Order spin-off. The scene where Stabler goes to a deserted amusement park to meet with an informant was especially well-done and atmospheric, with the lights of the boardwalk providing a perfectly spooky compliment to what Stabler discovered.

I’ll set the DVR. The first episode wasn’t perfect but I’m still intrigued enough by Meloni’s return to see where this 6-episode series goes.