Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TV: The Tuesday Review for Fall 2009

Ever have that day where you feel like kicking the dog. That's been my day today. I love dogs and I love my job ... but every now and then, stupid people and stupid software get to me. So, here's me taking a break to continue my series of Fall TV mini-reviews. For the full preamble, check back to the Saturday review.

Okay, Tuesday is actually a good day to take your dog for a walk. If it wasn't for CBS and their NCIS-heavy sked, you might not turn on TV OR recorder at all!

NCIS, the original (actually a spin-off for you late joiners), continues to be rather above-average, It was the best hour on TV two seasons ago and wasn't bad last year. The puzzles this year have been good and the show will contend for a top-ten spot again. It IS actually, the most watched hour on TV now, I believe. At least until American Idol gets really going, not that I watch those early humiliation episodes of that show.

The spin-off's spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, isn't really following in the footsteps of its forebearer all that well. Linda Hunt's reasonably entertaining as the West coast Gibbs allegory. She's in full Billy Kwan/Yoda mode that's become her character part for the ages. She gives good, if rare, grin, as they say. Chris O'Donnell has the Tony equivalent part as the one-named Callan. Just doesn't quite have the same entertainment value. And neither does the usually good LL Cool J. And nobody else has enough quirk in their characters to make them memorable. Think of the NCIS cast and you get a group that is nothing BUT quirk. It's enough to make you think NCIS: LA might have been adopted. I record it because I watch NCIS and the night finale, The Good Wife.

I was quite prepared to not like The Good Wife. Julianna Margulies has always struck me as ... harsh. She's undeniably beautiful, but her face seems permanently frozen in frown-mode. She smiles occasionally, but that smile seems so rarely reaching the eyes, that you never believe it. At least in her TV characters. This show's no different. But there seems to be a reason for the stern facade. She's fighting upstream against a tide trying to take her down to the levels of her dirty pol husband, played with usual greatness by Chris Noth (and yes, I know I originally typed Mike Noth. One of these days I will get that one-time scourge of the sports reporting scene out of my memory bank). The kids are good and the hectoring mother-in-law (Mary Beth Peil) is outstanding. Which brings me to the workplace characters. I like pretty well all of them, especially investigator Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi as one tough broad. Christine Baranski's an even tougher head of the firm. Interesting group of power women. Josh Charles and smarmy (as usual) Matt Czuchry try to hold the testosterone fort and succeed to a degree. So, while I rarely come down on the side of a Margulies show, this is the happy exception.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has been a Tuesday staple, but I think it's being shipped off to Wednesdays here in Canada. I like that Christopher Meloni is playing less crazed this year. It's still a show to record, because some episodes are about subject matter that I find too distasteful to watch, no matter how tasteful they make it. In losing SVU for the night, at least the evening is getting White Collar from Friday nights (to be discussed in the review series finale). Good trade. NBC's night concludes with Leno, as do the rest of the weeknights. That was discussed in the Monday review and no need to repeat it here.

ABC's night-capper is a surprise. Not appoint TV or anything, bu the forgotten works most weeks. Christian Slater hasn't had much luck on TV and the fact that the audience hasn't found this show is yet another indicator he'll be available again come pilot season, but he does good work here. The guest star is always dead, but the crowd trying to give the corpse an identity and some dignity all seem earnest and individualistic. All the shows come awfully close to being one-and-done's, so jumping in at any point is doable. But there have been slowly-evolving back-stories for the regulars that make the whole season worthwhile watching.

Speaking of back-story, the season's over for such stalwarts as CBC's Being Erica and the cable show Sons of Anarchy. I rather like biker drama Sons of Anarchy better this year than the angsty and frothy Being Erica. I KNEW a second season of Being Erica was going to be really, really difficult to maintain at the levels of the first season. But the producers seemed to think creating a romantical triangle and minimizing the screen time for Michael Riley's Dr. Tom was a good idea. They were wrong. I just never warmed to Sebastian Pigott's Kai at all. Ah well.

Science Fiction had good and average coverage of Tuesday's. BBC's Paradox was brilliant, if short, at five episodes. Looking forward to a second series. On the other hand, ABC's V seemed long and plodding at four episodes. Still, Morena Baccarin makes up for a LOT of not-good when it comes to doling out watching time. It'll be back in March to finish off the mini-series. The last pre-break episode gave me hope that investing a further four hours will be worthwhile.

Lastly, I normally download TWiT (This Week in Technology) on Tuesday's. This is the current platform to watch Leo LaPorte, who's been Mr. Computer to a lot of people for a looooooong time. The 90-minute (or so) show usually has entertaining guests. Wish the video feed didn't take so long to appear for downloading, but I'm used to the schedule now.

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