Friday, September 07, 2007

Another TV Roundup ("Mad Men," "Damages," "Tell Me You Love Me," Etc.)

Fall can't get here soon enough. I want to see second episodes of "Pushing Daisies" and "Chuck" and "Reaper." I want to meet House's new condos. I want to meet the new top models. I want to continue the process of waiting for Ted to meet the mother of his children.

I'm tired of summer TV, for the most part. This week's "Big Brother" double-elimination left a house of unappealing jerks and while this week's "Top Chef" finally saw Howie get a well-deserved boot, I'm not sure if I'm really rooting for anybody.

Well, at least I'm rooting for the Red Sox. If the AL MVP race is over and A-Rod has won, can I at least lobby to get Mike Lowell into the Top five in the voting? I go back and forth as to whether the AL Rookie of the Year should go Dice-K, Pedroia, Okajima or Pedroia, Okajima, Dice-K. And is anybody noticing the statistics Papelbon has suddenly out up? 77 Ks in only 51 innings. A .135 opponents BA. An ERA of 1.58? That's Cy Young stuff.

Anyway, click through the bump for some quick thoughts on the shows I'm using to fill the time until the real season begins... The good ("Mad Men"), the bad (Sorry "Damages") and the done ("Entourage"... Whew).

Click through...

"Entourage" -- I don't remember the last time "Entourage" made me laugh out loud. That's not good for a show the TV Academy thinks is one of the year's five best comedies. But I won't go into that. I have just one question: Was having "Medellin" be unbearably awful an interesting creative decision? It was definitely the most predictable choice. After all, E has been the unheralded prophet for years now and if he kept saying that Billy made a bad film, everybody was supposed to listen. It will ultimately allow the show to bring Maury Chaykin's Harvey back next season and that's good. I just don't know how this sets up an interesting upcoming season. Fun in the editing room? And... Um... Pre-Production halts on "Silo"? At least if the movie had been good, "Entourage" could have done the a season about Vince's quest for an Oscar, the award show circuit, the Oscar hype machine, etc. For that to work, Vincent would have needed a good publicist, a publicist like Debi Mazar's Shauna.

"Damages" -- I hate the expression "Jump the shark," but if I were to ever feel inclined to use it, a relevant time might have come with this week's episode of "Damages." The revelation that Lila, the dead fiance's woman-on-the-side, wasn't just a man-stealing tart, she's a lying, pathologically jealous, single-white-female-style stalker went one step too far. I was never interested in the dead fiance in the first place and I've been increasingly disheartened by how obsessed the show's writers seemed to be with that revelation (at the expense of telling us *anything* about the Frobisher case), but barring some sort of extra link that ties Lila to either Glenn Close's Patty or directly to Frobisher, I have to call shenanigans. "Damages" was supposed to be the story of an innocent young attorney whose life gets hijacked by a brilliant legal shark, but it's been four or five episodes since Patty did anything brilliant, much less anything legally viable. My buddy Josh is also disappointed with this direction, but he tries rationalizing the Lila red herring, going so far as to link her "Fatal Attraction"-esque arc to Close's famous bunny boiling role. I'm not even vaguely convinced. In fact, I've given up any hope of being invested in either the discovery of who killed the fiance or what Patty has to do to crush Frobisher. I'm just killing time til "Damages" ends.

"Mad Men" -- "Mad Men," on the other hand, continues to be a show that I find myself strangely invested in, so much so that the amorphous lack of narrative has ceased to even be an issue. Do I still want to know why Betty's (January Jones) hands were shaking and how her therapy is going? Yeah. Would I like more excuses to see Joan's (Christina Hendricks) canoodling with Roger (John Slattery)? Absolutely. Do I prefer the episodes that feature Maggie Siff's Rachel? Sure. But I actually rewound Don's smackdown of the lipstick mogul three or four times, loving Jon Hamm's delivery of the line "Listen, I'm not here to tell you about Jesus. Either he lives in your heart or he doesn't..." Killer stuff. I liked the Don back-story with the hobo, with the one quibble that it was so obvious that the Hobo's entire ethos had spurred Don's personal reinvention that I was minorly astounded that we didn't get a big reveal in which the hobo said his real name was "Draper." Also on the Don front, I continue to love his interactions with the comic bohemian caricatures, especially the last kiss-off where the proto-hippy warns him that he can't leave their pot-filled apartment with cops standing outside and Don merely straightens his suit and spits out "*You* can't" and leaves.

Also, while other people remain unsure about the relationship between Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), I was amazed by how well the two actors played the scene at Peggy's celebration party, where Pete, unable to celebrate anything himself, tells her he doesn't like seeing her this way -- happy? out-going? just drunk? -- and leaves her dancing along, increasingly crushed. I'll just direct you to Alan's far sager comments on this week's storyline for Salvatore, which Bryan Batt used to turn the character from a cheap joke into a the show's most human character in one scene.

"Tell Me You Love Me" -- I have nothing to say on this one, except that it embarrasses me how many of my critical colleagues treated the show like it's porn and giggled nervously about all of the sex scenes and how graphic they were and whether or not they were simulated and other such nonsense. First, those critics should all spend a few minutes watching some actual porn, even late-night Cinemax stuff, just for a clarification. Second, the show isn't even vaguely sexy. Stars Ally Walker, Sonya Walger and particularly Michelle Borth certainly are plenty sexy, but whining middle class white emotional dysfunction is like saltpeter to me.


  1. It'll never happen in a million years but Lowell is the league's MVP. A-Rod's stats are sexier but he's essentially matching his career averages across the board on a juiced NY lineup whereas Lowell's not only having a career offensive year (currently batting 45 points above his career BA!) but has also picked up the slack for Manny and Ortiz which would have been an unfathomable notion 6 months ago. Red Sox w/out Lowell don't even make the playoffs, let alone win their division.

    Pabelbon's been nasty for sure but he's arguably not even the best closer in the league (J.J. Putz has a better ERA and more saves on an imploding Seattle team). Cy Young is a horse race between Beckett and Wang, with whoever gets to 20 wins first probably coming out on top.

    And Rookie of the Year is an easy choice: Pedroia.

    God, what a homer I am.

  2. Don't forget that with the exception of that weird-ass week in April where he made a half-dozen errors, Lowell's defense has been, well, Lowell-esque.

    Unfortunately, A-Rod's piled up statistics become increasingly impossible to ignore (if that were possible).

    Papelbon's season has actually been the best argument for Okajima's ROY candidacy. Last year, the guy broke down at the beginning of September and that was that. This year, thanks to Okajima mostly locking down the 8th inning, Papelbon has been able to remain fresh. He's been getting better and better for the past month, which is remarkable for a closer at this point in the season. At this exactly minute, I'd say Pedroia-Okajima-Dice-K is the correct ROY order.

    Go Sox!


  3. Anonymous6:46 PM

    I am SO glad someone else thinks Damages is as medicore as I do. What an overhyped overpraised piece of crap.

  4. I also agree with you on Damages. Every week I read blogs online where people praise it to high heaven and marvel over the new "twists." The problem with the twists is that they exist simply to say "hey, look what a shocking! twisty! show we have!" and not to better serve the story the writers are trying to tell. Everything feels completely manufactured. At this point, it's impossible to determine what story the writers are trying to tell because the show is so weighed down by its narrative structure. Yet, like you, I'm in it until the end of the season just to see how they try to wrap up this train wreck.