News

Amid strike, good shows still remain

Rick Kushman
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

30 Rock

It's strikesville in Hollywood, and besides the instant disappearance of fresh late-night shows, there are two other things happening immediately.

First, viewers already don't want to hear about it. Strike-analysis fatigue comes quickly. To most people, it sounds like, as "30 Rock" creator and star Tina Fey put it, some pretty lucky people are arguing with some very lucky people.

The second thing is that otherwise lucky people such as Fey, who's a writer, a producer and an actor on her show, are landing in some awkward positions.

Fey's not only a writer, she plays one on TV. She was in the picket line in New York on Monday, the first day of the Writers Guild of America strike. (Of course, that was partly to attract coverage, too, because she is a celebrity, and, yes, it did work, didn't it?)

But Fey's been writing a long time and told reporters she was there first because she supports the cause.

Fey, however, couldn't stay all day. She had go back to work on her show, because as an actor, and as a manager, her contract with NBC requires her to show up, though she can't do any writing while she's there. So if Fey has a lousy line - maybe one she wrote - she can't rework it.

So far this year, in episodes unaffected by the strike, "30 Rock" has been pumping out terrific comedy this season. As with most scripted network shows, "30 Rock" has about two months of finished episodes or scripts in the bank, and another good one airs Thursday (at 8:30 p.m. EST) with David Schwimmer as a guest star.

Schwimmer, who was the most irritating Friend, has his moments, and this is one of them as he plays a dweeby, environmentally aware mascot named Greenzio. Greenzio is insufferable, and very funny. Al Gore also guest stars, but Schwimmer is better.

Thursday overall is a good night of television, which means it is indeed the middle of sweeps. "Ugly Betty's" got a wedding (at 8 on ABC), because what are sweeps without a wedding, and this one has Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams) saying "I do" to a massive media empire and, while she's at it, its owner, Bradford (Alan Dale.)

Even better is the crossover - what are sweeps, also, without a crossover? - between "CSI" and "Without a Trace" (at 8 and 9 on CBS) involving two of the best cops, and best actors, on TV.

The story is based on a real serial killer who rode trains to find his victims, and it starts in Las Vegas, where "Trace's" Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) is chasing a lead and connects with Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and his "CSI" crew. In the second hour, Grissom and Malone follow the trail back to New York.

Petersen and LaPaglia are both addictively watchable - they manage to be at once understated and powerful - and, just like in sports, when two great actors get together, they both raise their game.

___

Can't let this one get by unscathed. Court TV, which not so long ago aired real trials, has gone the reality and true-crime route and announced recently that its new name starting next year will be TruTV.

Fine. Whatever. But last week, Court/TruTV also announced its new tagline: "Not Reality. Actuality." Seriously, they're trying to push "Actuality." Why not skip the in-between step and just call it "Stupidity"?

___

This week's edition of What'd They Do to My Show? is going to be an odd one - different from the usual kind of odd you find around here - because the strike is punctuating everything with a question mark.

FX renewed "Rescue Me" for another season, and ordered 22 episodes that will be shown in two blocks. But when the series will return, and how it will be divided, depends on the strike. Could be spring or summer, could be later. But it is coming back.

Saying this one more time: Yes, NBC's "Medium" will be back midseason. When? Pick a day - it'll be as good a guess as mine, given the strike. Probably January or February.

Another repeat advisory: Yes, CBS' "Jericho" is coming back, too. The seven episodes CBS ordered in a stay of execution after a fan campaign have all been shot. When? See "Medium" above.

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