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Monday, Feb 1, 2010
After a spectacular first season and disappointing second season, what will we see in the third season of FX’s Damages?

I queued up the third-season premiere of FX’s Damages earlier this evening with a good bit of uncertainty. Part of this uncertainty was because, despite my appreciation of its taut first season, the second left me completely cold. Even after watching the enjoyable and promising start to the new season, I still cannot remember the events that unfolded in the final episodes of season two. Seriously, where did Timothy Olyphant’s character go? And how did Ellen end up in the DA’s office? And what happened to all those characters we spent season two learning about? William Hurt, are you in prison? These are all questions that I once learned the answers to (and that, yes, I know, I could look up online in ten seconds), but it feels like a major problem that nothing has yet jogged my memory.


Fortunately, I think this only says profoundly negative things about last season and leaves me still jazzed about the apparent resurgence onscreen here at the start of the new season. The fresh start brings with it a new cast of characters (and, more importantly, a new group of actors). On paper, I find Lily Tomlin and Campbell Scott less appealing than Olyphant and Hurt from last season, but, if the premiere is any indication, the new crop of actors has been given a better storyline to function within (and Martin Short’s character echoes Zeljko Ivanek’s Emmy-winning performance from season one). Glenn Close remains arresting as Patty Hewes, and Rose Byrne plays Ellen with a newly found confidence which suits her better than the furtive glances and double-crosses of the ill-conceived undercover storyline of season two (if I wanted to watch Alias, I have the DVDs).


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Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010
My thoughts as a new season of 24 begins on Fox.

I realize that by the time this blog is posted, most people reading this (including myself) will probably be four hours into the eighth season of 24. I am sure that there will be some dire situation involving the President and members of his/her family/staff, a real/fictional foreign country (depending on how poorly the writers plan on portraying its government), and a crisis of epic proportions. All of this will obviously cause Jack Bauer to return reluctantly to serve his country. Along the way, my guess is that he will deal with the difficult issues of whether national security justifies torture and whether it is possible to have a personal and professional life simultaneously.


I typically am excited about a new season of 24 and enjoy how it ushers in the Spring TV season. Over the past few seasons as the DVR has become a bigger factor in governing my relationship with TV series, I find myself often falling a few hours behind; however, once I start watching, there is always enough going on to propel me forward. In short, 24 has never gotten to the point where it felt like a chore to watch (except for the season that I skipped… Jack has a brother?).


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Saturday, Jan 9, 2010
Thoughts on Big Love as its fourth season kicks off on HBO.

The fourth season of Big Love began on Sunday, January 10, and, as I sat down to watch the season premiere, I realized, unexpectedly, that I was very excited.  Perhaps it is because of the brutally cold weather outside, or because nothing “real” has aired since mid-December, but I was really, really excited.  The surprise I felt was due to my ambivalence toward the first two seasons of the show; however, after a strike-lengthened hiatus, last year’s third season was easily the best.


From the first episode, Big Love’s cast immediately stands out as a major reason to give it a chance.  Bill Paxton gives a career-best performance as Bill Henrickson, and his wives – played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin – are even more compelling actors.  I found the plotting of the first two seasons often ponderous, and I really doubted the ability of showrunners Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer to tell a coherent story.  The third season, though, found the show cohering in a way that it never had before and upping the stakes considerably, tackling topics such as abortion, ex-communication, divorce, and murder in ways that had noticeable consequences on the characters.  By finally allowing things to happen – rather than showing how all the characters remained the same despite the turmoil surrounding them – the show took important steps forward and, significantly, allowed its characters to start to grow and change in realistic ways.


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Monday, Jan 4, 2010
Today I am going to look ahead, and make my wish list for what I am hoping to see on television in 2010.

10. Continued improvement of this year’s new shows: FlashForward, Modern Family, Community, and V are solid new additions to my TV lineup, and I look forward to their continued growth. Some of them need a little work, particularly FlashForward and V, but four new shows in a season is something to be thankful for.


9. Double seasons of reality stalwarts: Shows like Top Chef, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, and Survivorare the biggest reality-series that we get double-doses of most years. American Idol and all those horrible dancing shows get usually one season per year, but these stalwarts typically get a Spring and then a Fall run, and I am thrilled at having them around all year long.


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Monday, Nov 30, 2009
The Hills finale airs Tuesday, December 1 at 10PM on MTV. The question, at this point, is whether anyone will be watching it. This intrepid blogger braved the inanity of the most recent season to let you know what has been happening.

Previously on The Hills: Heidi and Spencer got married; at the last minute, Lauren decided to attend the wedding, before leaving the show to pursue life in the real world; Kristin returned to town to shake things up, causing a completely unrealistic wave of whispering and gossip among the other weddings guests; and we all stopped caring and forgot that this show existed.


Yes, the sudden reappearance of Kristin Cavallari, whose presence can only be considered a return for those of us who started watching all of these awful people on Laguna Beach, was the jump-the-shark moment for many viewers. Ratings for the show have plummeted this season, down more than 33 percent from the previous season. As Lauren Conrad went off to try to define herself apart from the show (how is that working out for her?), the obvious engineering of Kristin’s return veered the show even closer to WWF-levels of unreality. In addition, the scenes of Heidi and Spencer had become so obviously scripted, and they failed so utterly to sound like actual humans, that viewers were unable to suspend disbelief any longer. 


I too vowed that the show had crossed that line for me, and so I am proud to say that I survived the past two months without watching a single second of the new season. Then, a funny thing happened. My wife was in the shower, I was flipping through the channel listings, and I saw MTV’s afternoon lineup of “The Hills / The Hills / The Hills / The Hills….”  Like many people (right?), I have never been able to resist a Hills marathon. Even when I watched the show religiously, I regularly spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons lazing on the couch re-watching the same characters engaging in the same conversations about the same things. Had I seen this episode already? Did it really matter? The irony, of course, is that every episode of The Hills is basically the same. Characters hook up, text each other about it, go to a party/opening/concert/fashion show where they fight about it, and then engage in the most sublimely incoherent conversations about everything that has gone on. Each episode ends as we fade out on an appropriately sad/angry/happy song by Kelly Clarkson/Britney Spears/some-crappy-band-the-show-is-obviously-promoting.


So, when I saw those hours of unseen Hills episodes staring me in the face, I could not help but feeling overcome with curiosity for what I had been missing.  And what has been going on, you might ask?


Exactly what you might expect. Kristin is desperately trying to graft herself onto the scene by screaming at every female on the show and hooking up with every male on the show, Speidi continue their rapid descent into obscurity (shown here renting a house, bickering about marriage, and contemplating – seriously – bringing a child into the world), and the ancillary characters continue to orbit the cameras and the leads, keeping the plastic surgeons of Los Angeles afloat as they try to make themselves good looking enough to have their own storylines. Stephanie Pratt is, at this point, approaching Michael Jackson territory. 


I will not lie and pretend that I did not fully enjoy watching this marathon. There were plenty of shouting matches, scenes of obvious acting, and WTF moments to keep me thoroughly entertained. And, as always, there were several sublime moments where I could not help but giving thanks for living in America in 2009. For example, after standing Kristin up for the second time, Justin-Bobby texted the phrase “Sorry boo, strike two.” That actually happened (or, well, you know, it kind of actually happened).


Overall, there is a lot to watch for in The Hills finale on Tuesday night. Will Kristin choose Brody or Justin-Bobby? Will Heidi succeed in her secret plan to get pregnant? Will anyone show up to the “live after-party” that MTV kept promoting during the marathon?


Who knows. I guess the rest is still unwritten.


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