Maybe it’s just the rough times I’m going through life-wise, but writing this kind of stuff is oddly comforting. So- here’s a roundup of this week’s viewing pleasure from the world of American TV. Anyone not wanting spoilers should look away…
Jericho S1-E06: “9.02”
The missiles have flown, the electricity is out- and then, Jericho pulls another fast one by leaping two weeks ahead. So far the series had been moving forward a day at a time, but now people are more used to the situation, and things are getting a little edgier. Unfortunately, while this means more action, overblown music and a spot of horse-rustling, it also means that the show’s foot has come off the accelerator as far as the overarching story is concerned. We’ve got a group of survivalists who have now been introduced, living in a compound outside Jericho and obviously set up as the major villains for at least the next few episodes (one’s even got a personal connection with the hero- hooray for grudges!) but it looks like we’re heading for a Wild West-style confrontation, and the whole apocalyptic storyline may have to wait. Plus, there’s more sentimentality to wade through, and the traditional soft-rock track to close the episode. Let’s just hope there aren’t too many of these to survive, and that it’s back to post-apocalyptic grit next week…
Heroes S1-E06: “Better Halves”
I guess four outstandingly enjoyable episodes in a row was too much to top, as Heroes slows down a little here. It’s mainly thanks to the focus mainly being on Ali Larter’s stripper-with-a-mirror-image-alter-ego, who’s arguably one of the weaker links in the show so far. She did get some good material here, though, especially as we find out exactly how far her ‘dark half’ is prepared to go, but it was hard not to get a little impatient for a return to some of the more engaging plotlines. Hiro continues to be a crowdpleaser (Especially his awestruck “I had a sword!”), and the plotline involving Claire the cheerleader is bubbling away nicely, with her suspicious father faking a meeting with her birth parents (presumably meaning that when she does find out the truth, it ain’t going to be good), and also learning second-hand about Future Hiro’s message about ‘saving the cheerleader’. The way he learned about it was effective- I was expecting attractive next-door-neighbour Eden to turn out to have a hidden agenda, I just wasn’t expecting her to be working with Claire’s Dad. The climax of the episode didn’t actually feature the kind of ‘oh my god, I’ve just GOT to see what happens next!’ cliffhanger they’ve specialised in until now, but with Nikki incapacitated by her husband in a very Judge Death-style move, I’m still looking forward to seeing what happens next, especially when Hiro finally makes it to New York.
Ugly Betty S1-E04,E05: “Fey’s Sleigh Ride” and “The Lyin, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”
Okay- time for a confession. I think this candy-coloured, fast-aced souffle of a show has won me over. The one problem I could see from the first three episodes was that it seemed to be getting trapped in a formula already, with the characters having set reactions and Betty having to reach the point of despair only to rally around and win the day. Well, while they’re not exactly rewriting the rulebook, the next two episodes have managed to strengthen some of the supporting characters and give a little depth, as well as forcing exact opposites together which is always a good thing to do. In “Fey’s Sleigh Ride”, a leak to a rival magazine ends up with Betty having to cover up the truth along with flagrantly gay assistant Marc and uber-bitch Amanda, while the fifth episode- the traditional Halloween outing- actually manages to give Amanda a little soul. It’s all frothy fun, and each episode seems to prove more exactly how fantastic America Ferrera is in the lead role, while the background story of the mystery behind Fey Summers’ “murder” is getting more convoluted and outrageous by the minute. Fun stuff, and I hope it stays that way.
Boston Legal S3-07: “Trick or Treat”
Yes, another excuse for the regular cast to dress up in Halloween costumes. This legal drama continues to be effervescent fun, even when dealing with a ghoulish subplot involving a character’s dead fiancee, his body ending up on the black market, and a severed head. There’s fallout from last week’s verdict on the big “Judge-killing-psychologically-diturbed-incest-homicide” as weirdo Lincoln Meyer gets more chances to be deeply peculiar, and the script actually succeeds in drumming up sympathy for him- shortly before he smashes a Judge’s head in with a spade. There’s another loopy twist in Shatner’s romance with a dwarf lawyer (you had to be there…) and the sight of both Spader and Shatner in drag. It’s one of those shows that, essentially, offers kind of the same experience every week (even to the extent that I don’t think James Spader has actually lost a case so far), but it’s so entertaining that you don’t really mind.
Lost S3-E05: “The Cost of Living”
After mulling over how things were grinding to a halt last week, events do manage to move a little faster this episode. We now know that Fake Henry/Ben is the one with a tumor on his spine, and this apparently sees him giving up his previous plans at manipulation and appealing to Jack’s better nature. There’s also an exceptionally bizarre funeral involving very South Pacific-style open-necked white shirts, further increasing the possibility that the Others are some kind of cult- and if they are, they’re a cult with rebellion brewing in the ranks, as shown by Juliet’s fun homage to Bob Dylan’s “Dont Look Back”. (Of course, it’s always possible this is an attempt to manipulate Jack, and I doubt we’re seeing the end of Ben/Fake Henry quite so soon). Elsewhere, it’s lovely to see Locke back to his pro-active Season One self, and the feeling that not everybody is just going to be sitting around eating fruit salad on the beach this season is good to see- it’s hard to work out what’s going on yet with new characters Nikki and Paulo, but they may have potential. There’s also the intriguing sight of a possible new Dharma Station (unconnected to the Others?) and a sinister bloke with an eyepatch- although how Locke and the gang are planning to find this new station is anybody’s guess. Unfortunately, after a gap of only one episode, we’re back to a character seeing a vision and going on a random quest into the jungle- AGAIN! At the least, this did lead to some powerful moments in Eko’s flashback episode, and I did suspect that we were heading for yet another one of Lost’s episodes revolving around Catholic guilt- so the fact that it ended with Eko refusing to apologise for his sins is an interesting one, even if it did result in him becoming the first regular character to be killed by the mysterious Smoke Monster. It’s also the first time that we’ve got strong proof that the visions that people are seeing are actually being projected by something- that the survivors are being tested, and that they’ll be killed if they don’t have the required reaction, or ask for forgiveness? It opens up more questions, and if it means more threat to the bucolic Island life, it can only be a good thing. Ironic that virtually all the Tailies are now dead (Bernard must be seriously worried at this point), and while this episode improved the sense of running around in circles, there’s going to have to be something seriously big next week- the show is already losing viewers, and while the three month break is a problem, I think viewer apathy is a bigger one. We don’t necessarily need answers to everything- but we’re going to need some answers soon, otherwise Lost’s future might look seriously shaky…