Thanks to all variety of technological wonders, between 5 p.m. PST and 11:15 p.m. PST time on Sunday (May 14) night, I was able to watch an impressive seven hours of television, an achievement that would be impossible without DVRs and Slingboxes and other magic. That is, I should emphasize, entirely too much TV. But here are some thoughts, along with the schedule I kept.
"Survivor: Exile Island Finale" (5-7:05 p.m.) -- So Captain America can run, jump throw, swim and think. What he can't do, apparently, is balance. After a dominating season from start to finish, Terry was done in by the Final Three challenge, a balancing act which -- if we're being completely honest, probably could only have been won by a woman. The combination of weight plus center of gravity had to have made that challenge impossible for Terry and nearly impossible for Aras, whose rock spill later in the episode became my favorite part of the entire season. Danielle made the right choice in taking Aras to the Final Two, at least from a strategic stand-point. She didn't do enough to win this season. Neither did Aras, really. Terry was the physical champ and Cirie was the strategic champ. A thought: Has there ever been a "Survivor" contestant as attractive as Danielle who wasn't objectified by the "Survivor" directors and producers with some kind of saucy bathing montage or tribute to her physique in a bikini? Was that just because her accent made her seem a bit cockeyed? Frankly, I found her Sox hat wicked hot.
"Veronica Mars" (Season finale)(7:05-7:50 p.m.)-- I'm a bit late on this one and my editor had already spoiled the semi-big surprise before I got to watching it. This was a good way to conclude a so-so season, particularly following last week's Worst. Episode. Ever. I'm still not sure that I buy The Beav, even if Rob Thomas and crew say they always figured him for a psycho. First off, I still don't get why the bus crash seemed like the best and most efficient way to solve his particular problem. Second off, the decision to tie everything back to Veronica's date rape was narratively interesting, but a bit more tossed off that I would have liked, particularly as it related to Veronica's sexually transmitted disease, a subplot that never seemed worthwhile to me. I guess I'd remembered that Beaver had factored into several episodes last season, but he hadn't made much of an impression. Plus, doing that made it seem like they were just desperate to convince us that Beaver was a bad, bad man to cover up and sweet and innocent they'd made him look in every episode up to that point. Were we supposed to make something of the cliffhanger? Something interesting, I mean? Because I was fast-forwarding through too many commercials and shows to pick up on it.
"The West Wing" (Pilot) (7:50-8:35 p.m.) -- Oh Aaron Sorkin, how we miss you. Sigh. Oh and I hadn't really remembered that Dr. Cuddy was the hooker with Sam Seaborne in the first episode. OK. I guess I'd vaguely remembered it, but now I remember even better. I'm glad that the bratty "West Wing" cast members demanded too much money for an hour-long clip show, because this was a far better way to pay tribute to one of television's better shows.
"The West Wing" (Series Finale) (8:40-9:25) -- All that talk about how time slot shifting brought about the end of "The West Wing" was really just bunk. This was exactly the way that this series should have ended and no other. How would they have continued? The first years of the Santos Administration? I could never warm up to Santos nor to Teri Polo as his wife and the inevitability of having to watch Josh and Donna bicker and break up and get back together and all those silly things that TV couples do would have been sad. No. This was the right thing to do. The episode was touching, but -- and I know this is pointless to say -- it needed more Sorkin involvement than a fleeting cameo at the inauguration. The emotion never built exactly right, considering that the only time I got a lump in my throat was when Bartlet gave Charlie (always the series' best relationship) his copy of the Constitution, a moment that came before the half-way point. Given the show's eternal political optimism, I'd have liked for somebody to have taken a couple minutes to list the achievements of the Bartlet Administration, an insight into the policies that Wells and Sorkin might have liked to see themselves. Also, as Alan has already pointed out, the absence of Toby in the finale is nearly inexcusable. How does that happen? Richard Schiff was the grumpy soul of the series and it wasn't his fault the writers penned him into a corner with the leak subplot.
"The Sopranos" (9:30-10:25 p.m.) -- I'm a very patient man with this show, but did they seriously have an edit where they cut from Vito and Johnny Cakes getting ready to have sex to a shot of a miniature train exiting a tunnel? Oh come on!
"Grey's Anatomy" (10:30-11:15 p.m.) -- So you know that your heroine is having trouble connecting with audience members because viewers think she's unhinged and unstable. Solution? Clearly the solution is raise the instability level of several additional key characters to compensate. Izzy was so wildly over-the-top for the entire hour that I found myself appreciating Meredith's sanity. Even by the standards of a show where characters make stupid personal and professional decisions on a weekly basis, Izzy's plan to stop Denny's heart is a whopper. And George's inability to even try to stop her was out of character for a guy who's always previously been able to grow a backbone in moments of extreme pressure. McDreamy, She-Sheppard, Yang... They were all variably off their rockers as well. Suddenly, Meredith isn't such a pill and she's as likely as any other character to get redemption tonight. I just don't know if I care.
OK. That's a lot.
Complimentary thoughts, comments or concerns?