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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Blue Bloods: In All Things Obduration

In Recaps on February 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) in “Age of Innocence,” Friday night’s “Blue Bloods” episode. (Screen cap)

The humanization of Frank Reagan continued on Friday night’s episode of Blue Bloods, as the CBS drama offered a few small-but-important reminders that Tom Selleck’s character isn’t always so damn perfect.

Since Blue Bloods debuted in September, one of my gripes with the show has been its tendency to elevate Frank, the New York City police commissioner, to superhuman status.

Frank rarely loses his temper, he seems to have the right words for every occasion and like all good New Yorkers, he always remembers the neediest – whether it’s helping to exonerate his office cleaning lady’s wrongly arrested son or reading ancient Arabian poetry at the bedside of an ailing Pakistani American cop.

But in Age of Innocence, Friday night’s Blue Bloods installment, Frank actually treated someone not-so-nicely!

Twice! Read the rest of this entry »

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Oscar Night’s Starring Lineup

In Roundups on February 25, 2011 at 6:00 am

James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host the Oscars on February 27. (Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

Franco and Hathaway do the Academy Awards. I have high hopes for these two, the first Oscar hosting combo comprised of one man and one woman since 1957, when Jerry Lewis and Celeste Holm presided over the ceremony. And in case you’re wondering, my best pic picks: Black Swan (should win) and The King’s Speech (will win).

Joe and Mika do Law & Order: SVU. Here’s a case for Stabler and Benson: Who’s slowly killing NBC News’s credibility by continually allowing its journalists to moonlight on the network’s entertainment shows?

Rumsfeld does The Daily Show. Oddly, regrettably anticlimactic.

Kim Cattrall on Any Human Heart. A nice reminder that the veteran actress – yeah, I said it – is more than just a Sex pot.

Blaine clears up all the confusion over his sexuality. Whew! Thank goodness Glee limited his questioning to a single episode.

M*A*S*H: Wartime Blues, in Black and White

In Flashbacks on February 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) discusses war in the “M*A*S*H” episode “The Interview” (Screen cap)

On February 24, 1976, CBS aired The Interview, the M*A*S*H episode that is presented as a black-and-white 1950s documentary about life in the 4077th.

During the show, Clete Roberts, a real-life Korean War correspondent, interviewed the M*A*S*H actors, who improvised their answers while staying in character.

The Interview, like all classics, is resonant.

When buffoonish Frank Burns (Larry Linville) declares, “Korea will become a shining policy of benign military intervention,” you hear the echo of Dick Cheney’s prediction that Iraqis would greet the United States as liberators.

Although The Interview won no awards, it’s remembered fondly; TV Guide ranked it 80th on its 1997 list of television’s greatest episodes.

The Interview also served as a precursor to Modern Family and other contemporary shows that employ the mockumentary format each week.

See for yourself: The Interview is included in the M*A*S*H Season 4 and M*A*S*H: Martinis and Medicine DVD collections.

Masterpiece’s Any Human Heart: Prisoner of Love

In Recaps on February 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Middle-aged Logan Mountstuart (Matthew Macfadyen) was imprisoned in “Any Human Heart.” (Screen cap)

TV Columnist is recapping Any Human Heart, the three-week Masterpiece miniseries now airing on PBS, using the on-air journal entries of its fictional hero, Logan Mountstuart.

As Episode 2 got underway, Tess Scabius (Holliday Grainger) visited Logan (Matthew Macfadyen) and pleaded with him to help save her marriage to Peter (Samuel West), who was seeing another woman.

Logan tried to talk to Peter, but Peter was adamant that his marriage was over; later, he was overcome with guilt when Tess committed suicide.

Logan’s domestic life with wife Freya (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Stella was happy – unlike his relationship with his son from his first marriage, as he described in his journal:

What can I do about Lionel? I hardly know him. Yet he’s my son; therefore, I must love him. But be honest, Logan, is flesh and blood enough? Will he always be a stranger to me?

As World War II began, Logan’s friend Ian Fleming (Tobias Menzies) got him a job in the Naval Intelligence Division.

I have a secure 9-to-5 job for the first time in my life…. Read the rest of this entry »

Blue Bloods: The Best of Enemies

In Recaps on February 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) visited dying gangster Whitey Brennan (Mark Margolis) in “Dedication,” Friday night’s “Blue Bloods” episode. (Screen cap)

Sometimes appreciating a television series requires tolerating its clichés.

You know the red-shirted Enterprise crewman is doomed as soon as he steps behind the Styrofoam rock, or that Chloe’s computer wizardry will bail Jack out of his latest jam, or that the reality show villain will justify their betrayal by declaring they aren’t “here to make friends.”

But you’re willing to overlook these too-predictable moments because, well, this is television, and sometimes clichés are just the price of admission.

So it is with Blue Bloods.

The CBS crime/family drama debuted a mere six months ago, but already the show has found a plot device it can’t seem to resist: The Return of the Old Enemy from the Reagan Family’s Past.

So far this season, CBS has aired fifteen Blue Bloods episodes, and at least four of them have focused on the re-emergence of some mobster/thug/lowlife who tangled with one of the Reagans long ago.

A Blue Bloods fan could allow the over reliance on this narrative crutch to annoy them – or they could recognize that these often turn out to be some of Blue Bloods’ better episodes and just go along for the ride. Read the rest of this entry »

Masterpiece’s Any Human Heart: The Writer Has Three Faces

In Recaps on February 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Young Logan Mountstuart (Sam Claflin) wrote in his journal in “Any Human Heart.” (Screen cap)

Any Human Heart, the three-week Masterpiece miniseries that PBS began airing February 13, tells the fictional tale of Logan Mountstuart, a British writer whose life spans the 20th century and includes Forrest Gump-style brushes with real-life historical figures.

TV Columnist is recapping the show using Logan’s own words – his inner thoughts and on-air journal entries.

Episode one opened with elderly Logan (Jim Broadbent) in a reflective mood:

I have this image in my head. It’s a kind of recurring dream that I can’t explain – a boat on a river in Uruguay, with a little boy fishing. Am I the boy in the boat, or am I the observers on the riverbank? Is this a vision of an individual life, traveling through time? Which life is truly mine? I’m all these different people. All these different people are me.

Logan flashes back to 1926, when as an Oxford student (played by Sam Claflin) he took to his journal and “solemnly declared” he would lose his virginity.

Logan and his friend Peter Scabius (Freddie Fox) bet each other to see who could seduce Tess (Holliday Grainger), a slightly older woman in town.

Logan lost the wager – and shared his disappointment in his journal: Read the rest of this entry »

Funding Elmo: Yes, We Can Afford PBS

In Roundups on February 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

It costs every American just $1.35 a year to have “Sesame Street” and the other PBS and NPR shows. (Screen cap)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

The House GOP’s plan to zero out PBS and NPR funding. Yes, the nation has big financial problems – but public broadcasting isn’t one of them. The budget fight is about priorities. Example: It will cost every American $560 this year to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and $1.35 for public broadcasting.

Lara Logan. Too many viewers treat television news as another form of entertainment. It isn’t. The CBS News reporter’s brutal sexual assault in Cairo is a tragic reminder that journalism – no matter what medium it takes – is often dangerous stuff.

President of the World. I can hardly wait for MSNBC’s Presidents’ Day “documentary” on Bill Clinton’s post-White House life – but only because I am so tired of seeing promos for it.

The New York Times reveals several ESPN hosts have secret shoe deals. I’d give each one the boot.

Be It Resolved: Updating My 2011 Watch List

In Tidbits on February 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Louie (Louis C.K.) in “Louie’s” “Poker/Divorce” episode. (Screen cap)

I resolved to watch more television this year, beginning with The Good Wife, Justified and Louie – three series I’d read about but never seen.

I’ve now watched each show’s first six episodes.

My take on each:

The Good Wife. Better than I expected but not great. Sorry Wife; I know everyone loves you – and I gave your show a try – but I’m just not that into you.

Justified. Initially, I was mesmerized by Timothy Olyphant’s performance as heroic federal marshal Raylan Givens. But as the season progressed, I found it increasingly hard to believe a smart guy like Raylan would continually get tangled up with that unappealing Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter).

Louie. My favorite among these three and the only one I plan to keep watching. A spiritual descendent of Curb Your Enthusiasm and just as absurd, yet somehow real, too. Give Louie a try – if you haven’t already.

No Need to Know Need to Know

In Commentaries on February 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham, the humorless hosts of “Need to Know.” (Photographer unknown; courtesy PBS)

Last September 10, Jon Meacham appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and offered a personal plea as he began a live interview with Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who was threatening to burn Qurans on 9/11.

“I would appeal to you as a fellow Christian that the course you’ve suggested is going to be incredibly dangerous and would ask you to desist in the name of New Testament theology,” Meacham told Jones.

The interview ended there; Jones was never given a chance to respond, and for the next day or so, critics debated whether Meacham was taking a principled stand against using media to elevate an obscure bigot or just showboating.

Regardless of his intent – I suspect Meacham’s heart was in the right place – I wondered: Why doesn’t he bring this kind of verve to Need to Know, the weekly PBS show he co-hosts with Alison Stewart?

Don’t know Need to Know?

Don’t worry: You haven’t missed much. Read the rest of this entry »

Thirtysomething’s Kill Switch

In Flashbacks on February 12, 2011 at 12:00 am

Gary Shepard (Peter Horton) takes one last spin on his bike in “Second Look.” (Screen cap)

On February 12, 1991, ABC aired Second Look, the thirtysomething episode in which Nancy (Patricia Wettig) underwent surgery to see if she had beaten cancer.

Before the broadcast, rumors flew the critically adored show was planning to kill off a main character, so fans who tuned in were prepared for the worst.

But in a cruel twist of plot, Nancy was given a clean bill of health – right before shaggy-haired Gary (Peter Horton) died in a car wreck.

“If it seems like a sleight of hand, it’s because people often are looking at the wrong things in life,” producer Edward Zwick said the next day.

Second Look is often named thirtysomething fans’ favorite episode; it also ranked 34th on TV Guide’s 2009 list of television’s top episodes.

See for yourself: Second Look, part of the thirtysomething: The Complete Fourth and Final Season DVD collection, can be streamed at Netflix.