Tag Archives: CBS

DVD REVIEW: They’re Finally Here – The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3!

I remember, with great fondness, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Tom and Dick Smothers started out as a comedy/folk duo, playing clubs like the legendary Purple Onion. When CBS offered them their own TV show, they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. The Brothers Smothers started fairly innocuously, but as the series progressed it became a bastion of political satire that caused one U.S. president, LBJ [who clearly had a sense of humor], to send the duo a letter of praise – and another [Johnson’s successor, in fact] to ask CBS to take them off the air [making them the second top ten-rated series to be removed from a network’s schedule because a sitting president didn’t like it – the first being The Wild Wild West].

SMOS-BROS-DVD-BOX-ART

My favorite moment of the series came as the teaser for one episode that found Tom and Dick noting that CBS had been getting a lot flack because of the show, and that henceforth the audience wouldn’t hear “anything you wouldn’t hear in your own home…” followed by the sound of a toilet flushing. The Best of Season 3 has moments that match that hilarious moment [the opening song of the season premiere, We’re Still Here, for example notes that they’ve survived, among other things, the network’s censors]. And presented some of the most memorable musical performances of sixties television – as when Jim Morrison of The Doors blanked on the words for Touch Me, or when Donovan turned the show into a love-in/sing-along for Happiness Runs. And where else would you find George Harrison stopping by just for a couple minutes to urge the brothers to keep on keeping on?  Continue reading DVD REVIEW: They’re Finally Here – The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3!

TELEVISION: The Ex List: Grey’s Anatomy’s Ava Strikes Out On Her Own!

Elizabeth Reaser did such a great job of playing the badly injured Ava/Rebecca on Grey’s Anatomy that it seems only right that she should have asked to front a series of her own. The Ex List [CBS, Fridays, 10/9C] is a bit of a high concept dramedy – Bella Bloom [Reaser] is told by a psychic [Anne Bedian] that she must marry within the year or she never will – but she has already met her soulmate, and he’s someone she’s had a relationship with in the past!

Ex List - Bella & Psychic

Bella’s situation arises from the bachelorette party for her younger sister, Daphne [Rachel Boston], and her own weird thought that visiting a psychic would be the perfect way to cap the evening. When other predictions she made come true in wildly unexpected [and funny] ways, she begins to take the psychic seriously – not least of all when bird poop leads to her discovery that former boyfriend Johnny Diamont [Eric Balfour] is back in town – and has a punk rock band. When she and roommate Vivian [Alexandra Breckenridge] go to his show, his first song shows he remembers her, and not particularly fondly…

The Ex List is based on an Israeli series, but seems to be of a vastly different tone [Diane Ruggerio, who adapted the series for America, left the show over creative differences – and she wanted to maintain the tone of the original]. In the premiere, she has a life – she runs a flower shop and has a core group of friends who share a house with her: the aforementioned Vivian, her best friend; Augie [Adam Rothenberg], Vivian’s boyfriend, and Cyrus [Amir Talai], who is a bit of a cynic and a slacker.

Although Reaser doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting, she is the principal here, and her ability to shift from comedy to drama to melodrama in mid-line [and to look really, really good in a bikini] is the show’s primary plus. The cast has solid chemistry [always important], but the writing isn’t quite right, yet. The balance between humor, drama and melodrama needs to be tweaked [less melodrama, more drama – the humor content is about right]. I enjoyed the pilot, but I hope that the show will find that balance – that sweet spot – that can elevate it to the next level.

Final Grade: B-

TELEVISION: Ghost Whisperer: Departures and Arrivals!

In the season premiere for Ghost Whisperer [CBS, Fridays, 9/8C], Firestarter, Melinda [Jennifer Love Hewitt] has to say farewell to a friend, while helping a sceptical psychologist learn to deal with being able to hear ghosts. It’s an entertaining episode of a series that never quite achieves greatness, but is always entertaining.

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When Jim [David Gordon] is called to a fire at the university, Melinda tags along fearing that her colleague, Rick Payne [Jay Mohr] might be a victim. Rick, it turns out, is fine – but Melinda sees a mysterious black woman who disappears, and the spirit of a victim leave his body while Jim works on him – and then return after being hit with the defibrillator.

The man is Dr. Eli James [Jamie Kennedy] and when Melinda sees him and a ghost chatting in his hospital room later, she decides to help him with his new “gift.” Unlike her, though, he can only hear ghosts – not see them. And he seems to prefer thinking that he’s gone crazy over being able to talk with ghosts – especially this ghost, Fiona [Alona Tal], who was his patient.

Like the best eps of the series, Firestarter is more than adequately written; directed with a deft touch and features the best performance that Jamie Kennedy has ever given. There are scenes that are simultaneously comic and dramatic – as when Eli is surrounded by a half-dozen ghosts, all imploring him to help them, in a bar that’s otherwise empty but for the bartender and a guy playing pool – and there are scenes that are heartbreaking – as when we learn why Fiona’s ghost hasn’t crossed over. I’ll let you discover who’s leaving…

Fans of the series will love this ep, while those who haven’t tried it before will find it to be a solid hour’s entertainment. No more, no less.

Final Grade: B-

TELEVISION: The Unit: The Unit Has No Women!

As The Unit [CBS, Sundays, 10/9C] wraps up its latest mission overseas – with the help of an undercover female soldier [pictured below] – their wives are told to drop every connection they have to their everyday lives, send their kids off to distant relatives and repair to an unknown location.

The Unit, S4

The fourth season of The Unit, Sacrifice, finds the team attempting to thwart a terrorist attempt to assassinate the President-Elect Benjamin Castillo [Benito Martinez] – a task made more difficult because the men attempting the assassination are dressed in proper military garb and know the codes of the day.

Written by the show’s Co-Executive Producer, Frank Military, and directed by the show’s creator, David Mamet, Sacrifice is the show’s best season premiere since the first one. Military’s script is smart and manages to create an arc that allows The Unit and their families to become – in an unexpected way – connected, story-wise. With the seeming uprooting of the families, and a terrorist organization that has the funding and training to attack the United States President, Vice-President, President-Elect and Vice-President-Elect, this first part of a two-parter pretty much cooks from beginning to end.

And that unofficial rule that “The Unit has no women?” It appears that the knowledge of that rule may have given the team an unexpected advantage as they track down the group behind the assassination attempts. Between that twist and the upheaval in the lives of The Unit’s families, the show’s creative team is showing that they have no plans to let the series get stale.

I just wish my screener had both eps. I hate cliffhangers! Seriously!

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: Cold Case: Solid Procedural Enters Sixth Season

It’s hard to believe, but Cold Case [CBS, Sundays, 9/8C] has been setting the ghosts of the past to rest for over five years. The sixth season premiere, Glory Days, follows the familiar pattern – after we see the final moments of Michael “Bad Moon” McShane [Aaron Hill] in 1973, a piece of evidence is discovered in the present that suggests he was killed much later than was previously thought. Enter Lilly Rush [Kathryn Morris]  and her team of cold case investigators.

Cold Case, S6

“Bad Moon” was a football star who disappeared the night before the championship game. The investigation puts together a picture of how his last few days were spent by questioning various of his friends, coaches, tutors and such. There’s his teammate, Tom “The Breeze” Bernard [B.J. Britt/Clifton Powell], who lost his scholarship because McShane reported his ill health; Steve Pratt [Sean O’Bryan/James Karen], the alumnus who recruited McShane [and treated him to dinner once a week – and gave him extra spending money for books]; Assistant Coach Walters [Tom Griffin/M.C. Gainey], who was aware that the team’s unofficial, off-campus doctor was giving them steroids, R. Boretski [Justice Leak/James Read], McShane’s tutor, who, McShane threatened to reveal was cheating on class work for members of the football team.

With lots of suspects, there are lots of stories – some of them touching, some funny, and some false. The procedures through which the team solves the case may be familiar but the variations provided each new set of circumstances and suspects allow for enough variety to keep the series feeling fresh – especially when each ep is anchored by music of the period [here it’s by BTO and Steely Dan].

Another ep furnished by CBS, Wednesday’s Women, the third ep of the new season, deals with a group of women who drove from Philadelphia to Mississippi to help run Freedom schools under the cover selling Tupperware®. In it, what was thought to be a hit and run turns out to have far greater implications. The ep’s guest cast includes Olympia Dukakis and Carl Lumbly, among others.

The Cold Case ensemble [Morris, John Finn, Thom Barry, Jeremy Ratchford, Danny Pino and Tracie Thoms] is reliably together and between the regular cast, the guest stars and the consistent writing, the show remains one of the more watchable procedurals around.

Final Grade: B

TELEVISION: Criminal Minds: As Promised Someone Dies!

There are many reasons that I gave up on Criminal Minds [CBS, Wednesdays, 9/8C] – among them, a seemingly deliberate bad treatment of women and unctuous and predictable writing. Both are present in this season’s premiere, subtly entitled Mayhem. It’s the resolution of the terrorist investigation/car bombing cliffhanger that ended the show’s third season.

Criminal Minds, S4

You may remember the scene: members of the team moved to their various SUVs and one exploded. Turns out that in the case of the one that exploded, its passengers hadn’t quite gotten into it [can you say cheat?] and were blown back by the explosion, not instantly killed. Not only that, but a passer-by calls 911 – of course no one is allowed to approach them because it was established that the bombers were actually looking to follow up the initial bomb with one to take out the initial response team[s].

So, we’ve got a badly injured woman. How she survived being scraped along the street for twenty yards, leaving a trail of skin and blood, is beyond me [when we get a glance at it, her back is so much hamburger]. Meanwhile the male agent is blown into the air and comes down across the street and is only shaken up and cut from the SUV’s windows – or so it seems. Actually, it’s later shown to be bad enough to have both agents requiring emergency treatment.

In the meantime, we get a bunch of fairly predictable events – the injured agent driving the ambulance to a hospital that has been barricaded, another agent discovering the second bomb and appearing to die saving everyone… the usual – and the only member of the team that comes off well is, once again, Garcia [Kristen Vangsness].

Sadly, all of the episode’s major reveals were obvious to me well before we reached them [before the teaser was over, actually]. And the promised death once again put a woman through all kinds of agony – a Criminal Minds staple. Not that Mayhem was totally ridiculous – it was beautifully filmed [though the hamburger shot could have been briefer] and Vangsness’ performance was excellent. On the other hand, Joe Mantegna’s David Rossi was reduced to the role of bystander and Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss was little more than window dressing.

Overall, then, Mayhem reminded me why I seldom watch Criminal Minds. It was overblown fooferaw and pretty much a waste of my time. Don’t let it waste yours.

Final Grade: D

Television: The Mentalist: Simon Baker Sees Stuff You Don’t!

Have you ever wondered what the series Psych would be like if it had been played as a drama? It might well have looked like The Mentalist [CBS, Tuesdays, 9/8C], a series about Patrick Jane, a former fraud television psychic who makes a major career change after a performance on a talk show takes a nasty turn.

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The premiere finds Jane, who is now working for the California Bureau of Investigation, solving a murder in the opening minutes by simply, as he puts it, “paying attention.” His methods, being somewhat unorthodox, his boss, Teresa Lisbon [Robin Tunney], suspends him – but a new set of murders appears to strike home to him and he goes over her head to get back on the case.

Judging by the premiere, The Mentalist is one of those shows that seem like it’s going to go one way and then, BAM! It’s snuck up on you and grabbed you by the throat! Unlike Psych, which places the humor upfront, The Mentalist seems like it’s going to be deadly earnest – and mostly, it is – but at key moments, shrewdly placed bits of gallows humor serve to both emphasize the drama and relieve the carefully built up tension.

David Nutter, a true king of the pilots [Millennium, Roswell, Dark Angel, Smallville, and Without a Trace, among them], really has a handle on Bruno Heller’s [Touching Evil, Rome] excellent script. Some of the key moments are [deliberately] predictable in order to set up the ones that aren’t – and he draws series defining performances from an ensemble that also includes Owain Yeoman [Kitchen Confidential, The Nine], Amanda Righetti [The O.C., Reunion] and Tim Kang [Third Watch, Rambo].

The Mentalist may be the series that gives Simon Baker the hit his talent and charisma deserve – and with its NCIS lead-in, it’s positioned well. The fact that it’s a police show – if not exactly a procedural – means that it takes a different tone than NCIS, but its quality should hold that show’s audience.

TELEVISION: And So It Begins… Again

This evening the new fall season of television programming begins with two returning series on The CW [Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill], one on TNT [Steven Bochco’s inept Raising the Bar] and one on Fox [Prison Break]. Overall, the new season looks a lot like the last one. Thanks to the writers’ strike, a number of series that might have been cancelled are reappearing, series like Life, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to name a few. Add to them the few buzzworthy new shows [Fringe, The Mentalist, and Eleventh Hour] and it still doesn’t add up to the anticipation for Fox’s Joss Whedon-created Dollhouse. Which is not to say that there aren’t points of interest on the fall schedule.

Mark Ben Holzberg/FOX

Continue reading TELEVISION: And So It Begins… Again

TELEVISION: Flashpoint: A Cop Show With a Real Difference!

Flashpoint [CBS, Fridays, 10/9C] looks like a lot like an updating of SWAT – for most of the first two acts. The members of Toronto’s Strategic Response Unit [based on the real Emergency Task Force], Team One, are called in to deal with a hostage situation – which is resolved, uncharacteristically, before the end of the second act.

The teaser introduces SRU Team Leader Ed Lane [Hugh Dillon] and sets up the team’s shift preparation and a hostage situation. When the call comes in, assignments are made and the team rolls. Onsite, Jules [Amy Jo Johnson] and Ed take up sniper positions [Ed winds up being lead when her location isn’t as good as his] and Sergeant Gregory Parker [Enrico Colantoni] tries to talk the gunman into putting down his gun.

The SRU

To this point, Flashpoint is a smoothly executed cop show as it cuts back and forth between the events leading up to the hostage taking and the team’s shift preparations. The difference comes in the second act, when the situation is resolved and we follow Ed through the regulation follow-up investigation. Now we’re into something different – the way the day’s work affects Ed – leading up to the ep’s compelling final scene.

At first Flashpoint seems like just another cop/SWAT series, but then it takes a turn that changes the game for the characters and the audience. As skilfully as the first two-thirds of the episode are produced, the flashpoint pilot doesn’t quite fully engage us until after the resolution of the hostage situation, when Dillon takes Ed through some strange and affecting moments. When Parker tells him that he’ll one day have to do the math on the “I’m fines,” Flashpoint goes from being about cops to being about people – people working a job that has incredible ramifications. From that point on, it’s appointment TV.

Final Grade: B

Dexter: Darkly Dreaming Dexter Hits The Mainstream!

Dexter [Edited] Review EclipseMagazine.com Television 

Showtime’s Dexter – one of the five or ten best series on television comes to CBS [Sundays, 10/9C] in a somewhat different, but equally effective form. The series, which features a serial killer who only targets other serial killers – and lives by a code instilled in him by his late adoptive father – does not glorify the character but, rather, seeks to understand what kind of circumstances can lead to the creation of a psychopathic personality, while tackling a truly bizarre myster!.

Continue reading Dexter: Darkly Dreaming Dexter Hits The Mainstream!