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The Amazing Pudding

Sunday, January 1 1995

Friends

In the end, 'Friends' has become the epitome of 'Must-See TV' -- not because it's in our best interest to watch it, but because without us, these people have no reason to be together.


The Fugitive

What we're left with is a string of TV-caliber action sequences, like Kimble jumping off a building, that only serve to remind us how cool it was when Harrison Ford plummeted off that dam.


Flipped

[Reality television] is truly a dead horse, and MTV is beating it.


First Monday

In 'First Monday', even more than in 'The West Wing', religious belief functions as a dramatic (and heavy-handed) shortcut.


Freakylinks

Right off the bat, 'Freakylinks' annoys.


Frasier

Even if 'Frasier' does continue to fade, many viewers will maintain their emotional and intellectual investment in the show, motivated by nostalgia rather than the hallmarks of the first seven seasons -- originality, wit, and superb ensemble work.


Fear Factor

'Fear Factor' perfectly plays off the voyeurism we've become used to with TV -- looking without being caught.


The Education of Max Bickford

'The Education of Max Bickford' has yet to strike the right balance between outspoken politics and a desire not to offend.


Entourage

Entourage's depiction of the delicate symbiotic relationship between the talent and their support staff is often perceptive and revealing, elevating the series above pure fantasy or self-parody.


Edge of Outside

As much as the lines between 'independent' and 'mainstream' movies seem impossibly blurred, the impulse to mark their difference appears irresistible.


elimiDATE

[On 'elimiDATE',] the fickleness of the wooed always surprises.


Emeril

Doesn't Emeril know that media over-saturation could do to him what too few eggs (because I didn't feel like going to the store) did to my Devil's Food chocolate cake?


The Ellen Show

CBS probably wanted it clear from the start that The Ellen Show, unlike Degeneres' previous series, is not a 'lesbian show,' but a show in which the main character just happens to be a lesbian -- an uneasy and unclear difference to be sure.


Ed

Everyone in Stuckeyville seems to have an anomalous background and perspective on life, so the advice that Ed gets ranges from the practical to the absurd.


ER

Perhaps there should be a redistribution of sorrow here, a socialism of tragedy. Spread the misery around so everyone can have some. Let Elizabeth be pregnant and let 'Dr. Dave' get sued for malpractice and pass the brain tumor on to someone else who can 'use' it.


Enterprise

In 'Enterprise', all of the neato gadgets that have become Star Trek mainstays -- tricorders, phasers, communicators -- are new to the characters.


The Execution of Wanda Jean

The specter of the mechanized legal system is the lasting impression of 'The Execution of Wanda Jean'. Despite questions about her mental state, despite the expressed wishes of her victim's brother and mother, despite Wanda Jean's prayerful optimism, the process of her execution is relentless.


DAG

'DAG' is a sitcom about a top Secret Service agent named Jerome Daggett (David Alan Grier) who was once head of the Presidential Detail's elite A-team.


Dark Angel

Her beigeyness is relevant here as well: Alba is on record as being Spanish-Mexican-French-Danish, but more to the point, [her character] Max Guevera is a non-white-girl starring in a world where the people in power are still overwhelmingly Caucasian.


Dawson’s Creek

Agonising over life decisions whilst looking hot is the hallmark of the teen drama.


The District / C.S.I.

Police Chief Mannion's know-it-allness is grating, no doubt. And like many crusaders before him, he maintains this attitude no matter what happens, blaming everyone else for what goes wrong.


Desperate Housewives

Then something fantastic happened. About two-thirds of the way through Season Two, some dead weight moved out of Wisteria Lane, and in their place came some exciting new plotlines.


Disappearing Acts (2000): Wesley Snipes, Sanaa Lathan, Clark Johnson, CCH Pounder

This plot comes to revolve around the couple's troubles with money -- it becomes an emblem and manifestation of Zora and Franklin's mutual and separate fears.


Deadline

In 'Deadline', Dick Wolf's new show for NBC, no one, least of all the self-satisfied Wallace Benton (played with plumy waspishness by Oliver Platt), seems to care a fig for the story.


Dark Angel

In Dark Angel, Max's apparently tireless pursuit of her weird past... means that she's always trying to define herself as part of something, a race, a community, a politics.


The Downer Channel

'The Downer Channel' is the type of stuff high school videos are made of.


Dog Bites Man

It tickles, but rarely provokes the full-on belly laugh you'd expect from such talented performers.


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

PULL.


The Dudesons

For the Dudesons, it's all about the commotion, the more extreme, the better. For them, pain is a reward. For us, it's more frightening than funny.


Citizen Baines

'Citizen Baines' symbolizes the lack of imagination driving so much of prime-time.


Crossing Over with John Edward

it is certainly the first talk show to have as its guests, members of the dearly departed.


Charmed

As Charmed's Paige, Rose McGowan seems stifled and reticent, perhaps as if she's not quite sure what she's supposed to be doing -- and so, in her performances so far, she's just laid low, and made no waves or sudden movements.


Crossing Jordan / Philly

Here are two shows that lift their premises, plotlines, and even their personality quirks from tv past and present, fritter away the skills of good actors, and lock skilled writers and producers into tired formulae.


Charmed

In a nation where the man who will be president is afraid to say the word 'gay' on national television, it might come as a surprise that one of its biggest television stars is playing a gay man on television.


City of Angels

For all the primetime-melodramatic cliches at work in the men's conflicts -- the moral and political posturing, not to mention the dick-swinging -- it is significant that these battles are waged by black men, pitted against one another as they wrangle over the scant resources allotted them by a larger governing system.


Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David as Larry David seems very real, very whiny, very self-absorbed, and in the end, not someone who's much fun to hang out with.


Courage the Cowardly Dog

The fact is that all cartoons, from the surreal output of the Max Fleisher studios ('Betty Boop') and Disney's elitist morality fables ('Snow White and the Seven Dwarves') to Hanna-Barbera's execrable attempts at hipness ('Groovy Ghoulies'? 'Funky Phantom'?) and today's post-'Ren & Stimpy' moment of unrelenting gross-out humor ('Cow and Chicken', 'South Park'), are worthy of appraisal, if only because the medium itself is inherently subversive.


X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

The character development contains about as much depth as a Playboy centerfold's bio sheet.


The Warriors

Rockstar Toronto didn't just remake a cult favorite to reap the commercial benefits; they expanded an interesting story into something that could only work in this medium.


Worms 4: Mayhem

Mayhem feels like a series of errata and revisions but, really, you've got to sweat the small stuff for a game so miniature.


We Love Katamari

If the shocking oddity of the objectives weren't enough to warrant further play, the never satisfied attitude of the King will.


Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble

Surely a system that is simple to play and a game series that is essentially a no-fuss beat 'em-up would be a perfect match, right?


Urban Reign

Sadly, you are not required to rescue George W. Bush from angry Louisiana officials or disgruntled military moms in Namco's new Urban Reign.


Ultimate Spider-Man

These are comic book panels come to life.


Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict

For a game whose real meat is supposed to be multiplayer madness, it's gratifying to see that the developers took the time to give us an entertaining single-player campaign.


1213

A properly executed solitary walk will frighten players more than a zombie jumping through a window.


Tokobot

Undeniably cute and relatively smart, Tokobot provides a title the PSP desperately needed: a game with at least some mildly innovative gameplay, as well as casual appeal.


Trauma Center: Under the Knife

Obviously, Trauma Center does not a doctor make. But the game does suggest something interesting about the way we work at any job or activity.


Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

It's hard not to be struck by the apparent concession that the only people playing the game are going to be male.


Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 3: Night of the Quinkan

Ty 3 has no desire to reinvent the wheel.


True Crime: New York City

The game continues to remind you that being a good cop in such a rough and violent occupation is less than easy.


Tomb Raider: Legend

She was voluptuous. She was British. And she was fun to watch.


Tomb Raider: Legend

Few games match the quality of Legend's atmosphere.


SBK: Snowboard Kids DS

What SBK gets very right is the feeling of speed.


Soulcalibur III

Soulcalibur is about flamboyant overkill, and this title embraces its shallowness with exuberant panache.


Sid Meier’s Pirates!

By focusing on graphics instead of the script, Pirates! was crippled.


Sigma Star Saga

The content-to-die enemy AI drifts by like kamikaze flotsam.


Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

Sly 3 seems to be changing the least out of Sony's three-headed platformer beast, but even these slight alterations might have been too much.


Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Sith feels more like a Star Wars knockoff rather than an official movie tie-in.


Still Life

In some way the developers of Still Life have a great deal in common with the ivory masked ripper that is the game's villain.


Shadow of the Colossus

The Colossi confrontations are suitably epic.


Super Monkey Ball Adventure

This is about breathing new life into a series via an expanded, developed one-player experience.


Suikoden IV

The story of one hero triumphing against all odds is becoming as boring and unbelievable as the American Dream.


Stubbs the Zombie in “Rebel Without a Pulse”

The first hour of play feels frustratingly formless.


The Suffering: Ties That Bind

This series is more interested in exploring the mind of the killer before it places a skull-crushing crowbar or innards-spewing grenade launcher in your hands.


GBAV - Shrek / Shark Tale Dual Pack

In a clear case of technology mimicking a movie's worth, both of these now-dated diversions look pretty lousy on the handheld device.


Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked

Unfortunately, so much time was spent perfecting the style that gameplay got the shaft.


Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2

Playing DDS2 without having endured the first one is a bit like watching Kill Bill: Vol. 2 without having seen Vol. 1.


Ratchet: Deadlocked

With its immensely rich background full of unforgettable characters and indefinable humor, you'd expect nothing less but more of the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case.


Rise of the Kasai

Rise of the Kasai is more Kill Bill than Aladdin.


Rumble Roses XX

The tired gameplay certainly seems a secondary concern to the developers.


Quake 4

We might have to consider the possibility that the first-person shooter has already scaled its greatest heights.


Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

Playing as the Prince is somewhat akin to controlling a fully rendered Jackie Chan.


187 Ride or Die

Ride or Die is no more harmful than a commercial featuring Snoop Dogg and Lee Iacocca.


NBA 2K6

NBA 2K6 remains unaffected by the rolling red-state tide.


Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Don't worry if the police are slow and boring for the first day. It's not them, it's you.


New Super Mario Bros.

Playing New Super Mario Bros. is a lot like shagging an ex: it's satisfying in the moment, but afterwards you realize your effort could have been spent better elsewhere.


Nintendogs

Like most sim games, Nintendogs is not about control, but care.


µcade

I'd consider this a masterpiece, but it lacks the instant gratification that the best shooters have.


Meteos

Something I find utterly pointless is the constant comparisons between the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.


The Movies

I expect innovation when I hear Molyneux's name attached to a project.


Mario Superstar Baseball

Mario Superstar Baseball embraces the universal desire to see any given pitch turn into something truly astounding.


Metroid Prime: Hunters

Technically Metroid Prime: Hunters is the DS's greatest achievement.


Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome

Expectations being what they are, Makai Kingdom just plain isn't enough.


Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Partners in Time is by no means an epic at 25 hours, but it knows its platform; it is a portable title meant for quick bursts of gaming.


Mario Kart DS

I can't think of another Nintendo franchise that's so readily adaptable to online play.


Metal Gear Acid

If the gameplay inspires some slight meditation on fate and manipulation, the story is obsessed with it.


The Matrix: Path of Neo

Just take the blue pill.


Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

You spend the bulk of the game locating spots the designers want you to deface only to color in between the lines.


The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II

The sights, the sounds, the strategy: everything comes together and makes you say, 'This is Middle-earth.'


Legend of Kay

If Kay sounds like your typical action/platformer, it is. But that doesn't mean it isn't well done.


Kingdom Hearts II

The first Kingdom Hearts and its current sequel are both masterfully managed marriages of two narrative universes with similar goals.


Kim Possible 3: Team Possible

As with the previous installments, Kim Possible 3 is not meant to innovate or revolutionize gameplay, merely attract tween-and-younger consumers to the lucrative video game market.


Kingdom Hearts II

The PlayStation 2 has introduced far fewer landmark masterpieces, especially in the role-playing genre.


Kong: King of Atlantis

Let's not fool ourselves; a cheap knockoff is a cheap knockoff.


Indigo Prophecy

The plot and story, in many ways the game's major trump card, can often expose its weaknesses.


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