Friday, October 30, 2009

Supernatural -- "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester"

Jensen Ackles Dean Winchester Supernatural The Curious Case of Dean Winchester screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs captures
Supernatural
takes a little Halloween break from the Apocalypse storyline to bring us a little Benjamin Button-esque age play with "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester". The boys and Bobby discover a 900 year old witch who plays poker--not for money, but for years. Win, and you're 25 years younger. Lose, and you're 25 years older. Or more.

Guess what--mostly everyone loses. The witch Patrick (charmingly played by Hal Ozsan) is pretty much immortal from all the years he's got saved up. What this episode is really about, though, is Bobby. On pretense of finding the secret poker game, Bobby actually goes in to play a hand, in an attempt to get his youth and legs back. Unfortunately, he loses.

Jared Padalecki Sam Winchester Supernatural The Curious Case of Dean Winchester screencaps images pictures photos screengrabs capturesWhile Sam's at the hotel wondering where everyone went, Dean sits in on a game to win Bobby's normal age back. He buys back Bobby's years, but loses double himself, putting himself at 80. Sammy nearly shoots him when he sees senior citizen Dean in the hotel room.

Chad Everett does a great job as older Dean, and it's funny to see and hear Dean's youthful expressions and dialogue coming out of an 80 year old. It's a tough gig, but you really do believe it's Dean as the episode progresses, so much so that it's a shock when young Dean reappears at episode's end.

Bobby is a great character, and we got to see just how bad his pain and depression has gotten in this episode. He truly feels he's worthless as a hunter, as a person, and has nothing to live for save an Apocalypse. His suicidal tendencies leave Sam and Dean speechless, and Dean is particularly wounded.

The two had a great scene in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", where Dean tells him he understands how he feels (having now been older himself), but that Bobby still has value to him. That Dean can't do any of this without him. And that he won't hear anymore crap about Bobby ending it all. Bobby is moved, and grateful. And then of course they both have to act manly and macho and gloss over the whole thing.

We also get some interesting dynamic between the witch and his girlfriend. I like that Patrick wasn't really malicious. He'd just sort of lost any concept of the value of life, and even though he didn't set out to kill anyone, he didn't mind if they died. And he had fun toying with everyone, drunk as he was with immortal power. Quick-witted, clever, and with a wicked sense of humor, even Dean had to admire him.

He gets a dose of reality, however, when his girlfriend decides to end it all, and nearly takes him along with her. She's decided living forever isn't all it's cracked up to be, now that she's buried her aged daughter. Her assumption is that she'll see them on the other side, though Supernatural has hinted in the past that this might not actually be what happens.

So, while The Curious Case of Dean Winchester was one of the lighter sort of "one-off" Supernaturals, it still had some serious, darker elements. Which as actor Jim Beaver says in a great interview on TVOvermind, "it wouldn't be Supernatural without some dark stuff."



PHOTOS: Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Supernatural "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester" screencaps, c2009 Warner Bros., CW.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Castle -- "Vampire Weekend"

Castle Nathan Fillion Richard Castle Mal Reynolds Firefly costume space cowboy Captain Tight Pants
Okay, Castle "Vampire Weekend" had three awesome things going for it tonight. This Halloween episode began with the strapping on of a very familiar gun and donning a brown coat and everyone at home is thinking "Ohnotheydidn't!" Well, they did. We got to see Richard Castle donning a Halloween costume he identified as "Space Cowboy"--a hilarious and cheer-worthy nod to Nathan Fillion's former role as Captain "Tight Pants" Reynolds in Firefly.

As an added punch, his daughter asked, "Didn't you wear that like five years ago?" Nice one.

The second nicely done portion of Castle tonight was the plot. The stake-in-the-heart murder of a pretend vampire was a case with plenty of twists and turns and real complexity. It's a big jump in quality from season one Castle, and the balance between humor and drama is getting a lot steadier.



The third truly admirable high scoring element of "Vampire Weekend" was an example of actual responsible parenting. I've always loved Castle's mature and clever daughter, and the nice relationship that they have. In this episode, he gives her permission to attend a senior party with the caveat that she call if anything starts to go a way she doesn't like.

Things go awry with a drunk friend, the daughter calls, and Castle behaves as a parent should--he rushes to her side, and calls the parents of the friend to let them know what's happened. It was refreshing to not see another "rebellious teen" angle that so many shows and films do now, and also no "cool parent" garbage where the kids get away with murder. Castle is still a cool and loving dad, and his daughter learns the benefits and the unfortunate peer struggles of being a responsible kid.

So once again Castle succeeds in being a nice fluffy entertainment show that actually has quality and value. Not a bad combination. And Fillion still wears the space cowboy look well.



Watch Castle on ABC, Monday nights at 10/9c.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Give Three Rivers a Chance

Alex O'Loughlin Dr. Doctor Andy Yablonski screencaps images pictures photos Three Rivers video
Wow. Three Rivers, the CBS medical drama starring Alex O'Loughlin and Alfre Woodard was truly excellent tonight. The episode, "Code Green", centered on a bus crash involving high school football players. Three Rivers actually began with an entire scene devoted to the team, the dynamics between a few players and a nerdy assistant "wannabe". I was impressed because the scene wasn't just some quick random sketching of characters. They actually gave the nerdy kid a great sardonic wit, and captured perfectly that stupid high school crap we all went through.

Three Rivers combines the action and suspense of the high pressure environment of the ER and transplant units with the rollercoaster of human emotion and drama. While it's got plenty of realistic surgery shots, it doesn't focus on the gore or just the big life/death situations. In "Code Green" we also see the struggle of deciding whether to keep a permanently damaged leg or replace it with a fake one, and we learn why you should never break protocol and tell the family a heart is on the way before you're certain that it is.

Dr. Doctor Sophia Jordan Alfre Woodard Three Rivers screencaps images photos pictures video
One thing that's happened a lot this TV season is that I see talented actors in a show and wish that they were back in their previous canceled series. I confess that when I saw the pilot of Three Rivers, I thought it was respectable enough, but wished O'Loughlin were back in Moonlight, and Woodard back in My Own Worst Enemy. While I still miss both those programs, after tonight I feel Three Rivers has a lot more going for it than I originally expected.

Daniel Henney Dr. Doctor David Lee Three Rivers screencaps images photos pictures video
O'Loughlin, as Dr. Andy Yablonski, offers a nice center for Three Rivers to revolve around. He's steady, capable, caring, and very human. Woodard's Dr. Sophia Jordan has a little harder edge to her, and there was an excellent scene with her and Dr. Lee (X-Men: Wolverine's Daniel Henney) in "Code Green", where she tells him the cold hard truth about what factors into life and death in the ER:





Three Rivers aims to be realistic, and thoughtful, but it also harkens back to old school doctor shows where you admired the docs and cared about the patients and a lot of times things work out well. With all the bloody horror and bad news on TV (both in TV dramas and on the real life news), it'd be nice to have something that tries to see some good in all the bad.

The main cast and guest stars on Three Rivers have been excellent. I really like Katherine Moennig (The L Word) as Dr. Miranda Foster. I'm sick of all the empty-eyed hair-flipping Barbie doctors on medical shows, and it's refreshing to see a no-nonsense, intelligent, and interesting female instead. Foster is good at her job, but sometimes has difficulty with the social skills required to deal with the tricky emotional situations that occur. What Moennig does so well is show what's inside--that Foster probably cares more than anyone about her patients, even if she doesn't always know the right thing to say.

Recent articles have been somewhat grim on the fate of Three Rivers. The ratings haven't been stellar, which could be due to a number of factors--too many doctor shows, the flawed pilot, or the ridiculously annoying way the shows get backed up due to the preceding football game overrunning its alotted time.

There haven't been any murmurs from CBS about cancellation, luckily, so here's hoping that by the end of the 13 episode initial run, Three Rivers will have found an audience. If tonight's episode "Code Green" was any indication, Three Rivers deserves it.

Watch Three Rivers on CBS, Sunday nights at 9/8c.



PHOTOS: Alex O'Loughlin as Dr. Andy Yablonski, Alfre Woddard as Dr. Sophia Jordan, and Daniel Henney as Dr. David Lee, Three Rivers "Code Green" screencaps, c2009 CBS Television Studios.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday Night Live -- Gerard Butler Photo Bumpers and Videos

Gerard Gerry Butler Saturday Night Live SNL screencaps photo bumpers pictures images screengrabs screencaps video
Ahh, the SNL photo bumpers from last night's Saturday Night Live episode! Hopefully my straight male readers will forgive me while I g-guh over Gerard Butler's pictures. The man is still as strong, hot, sexy, and gorgeous as ever. And goofy, which is just how we like him. If you're here for the funny, scroll down for a couple video sketches from the show, and a link to more. Oh, and P.S., *click* the pics for slightly larger versions!

Gerard Gerry Butler Saturday Night Live SNL screencaps photo bumpers pictures images screengrabs screencaps video
Looking for my review of the episode? Click here for the Saturday Night Live -- Gerard Butler October 17, 2009 post.

Gerard Gerry Butler Saturday Night Live SNL screencaps photo bumpers pictures images screengrabs screencaps video
You couldn't have a Saturday Night Live with Gerry Butler without doing a spoof on 300, complete with near-nekkid outfits and plenty of man love:




Gerard shows his beastly side, and who knew a clock and candelabra could be so naughty...




This link is as much about Gerard's hilarious performance as it is about Jason Sudeikis' dancing, Kenan Thompson's singing, and James Franco wondering WTF he was thinking when he agreed to sit in on an SNL sketch...lol...




You can enjoy more SNL vids over at the NBC site, and see more of the photo bumpers as well, though they've deprived us of the bare-legged kilt shots. Damn.




PHOTOS: Gerard Butler photo bumpers, Saturday Night Live, c2009 NBC.

Saturday Night Live -- Gerard Butler, October 17 2009

Gerard Butler Will Forte Saturday Night Live SNL screencaps images photos pictures promo October 17 2009Gerard Butler and Will Forte in a promo for tonight's SNL.

Wow. That hasn't happened in awhile. I actually laughed--a lot--at tonight's Saturday Night Live. With freewheeling, just-happy-as-#$%^!-to-be-here host Gerard Butler and the cast doing barely controlled insanity, it's the most conistently funny SNL I've seen in way too long.

Click here for Gerard Butler SNL photo bumpers and sketch videos!

The night started strong with a political opener that was spot on--President Obama getting so angry at his Republican rivals over health care that he hulks out--into The Rock Obama. Yes, that's right, we got to see Fred Armisen transform into The Rock, who was pretty funny as he combined smooth Obama calmness with angry Hulk arm-detaching.

Gerard Butler then did the monologue, talking about how he generally did two types of films: shirt off (action), and shirt on (sensitive role). To show his range, he sang "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera--then fended off groups of warriors, ninjas, and Kristin Wiig--who threatened him at knife point to take off his shirt. Sadly, he disarmed her and his shirt stayed on.


Gerard Butler monologue from Lilián López Camberos on Vimeo.



Next up, Kenan Thompson did a hilarious commercial spoofing rap star cliches, selling extra bubbly wine made for pouring over women's behinds--it's one of those things that can't be explained in print. It was just satirical and crazy and just plain funny--a sketch Eddie Murphy would have been proud of in his SNL days.

Other highlights included the two gay guys from Jersey talking about Obama's proposed repealing of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military, and then a 300 sketch about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the Spartan army. Playing on gay themes in 300 isn't all that original, but seeing all the guys in leather panties and chestplates was funny enough, and all the silly puns worked. They also took a playful jab at Butler, with Leonidas' men saying no one was convinced he was even born in Greece--frustrated, Leonidas presented them with a stone tablet birth certificate. (Butler is a great actor, but he definitely is known for his dodgy accents.)

Weekend Update's Seth Meyers tried to ignore the boy in the balloon story since "it wasn't news", until the balloon itself showed up. That's SNL at its ridiculous best, when a helium balloon floats into frame and says "Hi, Seth," in a forlorn voice.

One of the latest sketches had Kenan Thompson giving it his all as a singing talk show host who ignores his guests--one of whom happened to be James Franco--as he continually bursts into song. This was a riot because of everything going on in the background, for each time he launched into a new song, more people would come onto stage--backup singers, dancers, and Gerard Butler pimped out in white suit and big white sunglasses and a cane. And you haven't lived until you've seen Jason Sudeikis in a red track suit and gold chain doing the running man. Sudeikis was doing some serious moves back there, all in perfect white boy hilarious style.

And then there was the Beauty and the Beast sketch, with Wiig and Butler--where the Beast confessed he thought she was the beast. Once again you kind of have to see it to believe it, with trash talk by the clock and the beast, and you don't even want to know what's been going on with the tea pot. Then there's Lumiere, who's only attracted to candelabras--though once in college he dated a menorah.

To add to the fun, sponsor Budweiser was the only one who had commercials tonight--and as a trade for this monopoly of air time, they gave us behind the scenes clips of dress rehearsals of previous SNL sketches. There was Darrell Hammond getting extra friendly with a burro, and Jimmy Fallon and Sean Hayes cracking up even more than they did on the air at Will Ferrell and his mini-cellphone-using character. Even better was Harvey Keitel giggling uncontrollably during a Native American casino sketch, no doubt because it was impossible not to laugh at Rob Schneider wearing long raven hair in double braids--which Keitel was also sporting.

All in all, one of the more entertaining Saturday Night Live episodes I've seen. It was just pure bedlam and that's when it's the best. Since I knew Gerard Butler was ridiculously good-natured and goofy in real life, I was hoping it would transfer over to the show and it did. Here's hoping they bring him back again--he may not be quite as crazy as Alec Baldwin, but he's pretty game for general insanity.

Watch Saturday Night Live on NBC, Saturday nights at 11:30/10:30c.



PHOTO: SNL promo screencap, c2009 NBC.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kings on DVD

Kings Sebastian Stan Prince Jack King Silas Ian McShane screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capturesKing Silas (Ian McShane) lashes out at his son, Prince Jack (Sebastian Stan) in Kings.

Thanks to Clarissa over at TVOvermind for giving us the heads-up that the too-soon canceled drama Kings is out on DVD. It may seem crazy to put a half-season of a canceled drama into a formal DVD release, but Kings is that good. I heartily recommend it for the story (a retelling of David and Goliath), the eloquent dialogue, the beautiful cinematography, and for just pure entertainment value. It's a mix of drama, spirituality and mysticism, action, romance, and morality tale woven into a rich tapestry of juicy scenery-chewing goodness.

The performances of the ensemble cast are stellar. Ian McShane as the King and Susanna Thompson as his wife Queen Rose put in fantastic performances, playing up the melodrama to the hilt--but to me, Sebastian Stan was a revelation. With each episode, he added another layer to his ambitious, damaged, repressed, vengeful, vulnerable and lustful Prince Jack. I'm glad Stan still has work on the delightful Gossip Girl, though it's still a pale shadow of the delicious role he had on Kings.

Christopher Egan as David was so ethereally pretty it was hard to believe he was real at first, but he developed his character more and more with each episode. Marlyne Afflack hovered at the King's right hand as Thomasina, and wowed us with the emotional depth she gave her gutsy character. I truly lament the "what-could-have-beens" of this excellent series.

Check out my reviews and recaps of Kings, and get Clarissa's take on the Kings DVD at TVOvermind.



PHOTO: Kings screencap, c2009 UMS, NBC.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Southland Canceled Before Second Season

Southland canceled murder crime board screencaps images photos series
Wow. Here's a perfect example of the irritating nature of modern network TV. After shoving awesome series Kings out of its intended primo Thursday night TV spot to the no-man's land of Sunday (then Saturday, then summer burn-off purgatory) to make way for their new golden child Southland, NBC up and cancels Southland before its second season even debuts.

HitFix reports that NBC's decision was partially due to Southland's dark nature but mostly due to money. NBC must be in serious financial woes if they decided it was good to can a show that had already shot 6 episodes, and had won modest ratings the spring before. What's the point, after all, of creating quality dramas and then bailing on them before they have a chance to do you any good?

Southland gun screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs canceledI'll admit, they were right about their assessment of the show's dark nature scaring off some viewers. I never watched Southland, because I just wasn't in the mood for another depressingly realistic show about the worst elements of mankind. I was also feeling loyal to Kings, a lovely show that got royally screwed, if you'll forgive the pun. So NBC for sure wasn't going to have me as a viewer for the show.

Despite that, I do feel sorry for the talented actors in the Southland series who are now unexpectedly out of work. This is especially rough for them since it's happened at the start of the season, when most decisions on pilots are already made, including the mid-season fill-ins.

For Southland fans, NBC promises to try and air the 6 episodes that were made at some point, but I'm not sure how invested folks will want to be in a series that will just drop off in the middle of the action. Once again the fans get burned by network cancellations. But hey, there's always Jay Leno on 5 nights a week if you're looking for edgy drama--oh wait, never mind.

ETA: TV Series Finale reports that Southland is being shopped around to other networks and cable stations, so there's always a possibility you'll see more of the show on another channel.



PHOTOS: Soutland screencaps, c2009 John Wells Productions, Warner Bros. Television.

Friday, October 2, 2009

FlashForward

Joseph Fiennes Mark Benford FlashForward pilot screencaps images pictures photos screengrabs captures car crash
Okay, I admit it. I'm already hooked on FlashForward. This mystery/action/drama is startling, intriguing, and chock full of great actors. I didn't watch many previews for FlashForward, so although I knew the basic premise--that all the world passes out for 2 minutes, 17 seconds and while they're out they have visions of the future--but it never occurred to me the consequences of people all falling asleep at the same time.

When our hero Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) falls asleep, he's in the middle of a high speed chase with his partner Demetri Noh (John Cho) at his side. When Benford wakes up, he's upside down in his car on the freeway. Climbing out of the broken glass, Benford gets up to see utter devastation. Imagine the LA freeways, choked with traffic doing 60 miles and hour, and suddenly everyone blacks out.

The implications are terrifying. Plane pilots knocked out as planes are taking off or landing. People falling asleep in the bathtub. Patients dying in the middle of surgery with the doctors passed out on the floor next to them.

Joseph Fiennes Mark Benford FlashForward pilot screencaps images pictures photos screengrabs captures car crash close-up
As the smoke clears, Benford and the FBI office try to make sense of what's happened all over the world. They try to piece together facts, and then they start discussing their visions. They discover that some of them overlap, with matching facts, and that they all took place 6 months in the future on the same date and time.

This is where both the mystery and the drama begins. Benford sees himself returning to his former alcoholism, and his doctor wife Olivia (Lost's Sonya Walger) sees herself with another man. Benford's partner Noh sees nothing at all, which he comes to realize may very well mean he's dead in the future.

Tonight our cast of characters find themselves on paths leading to the futures they saw. Benford, who saw flashes of a bulletin board with all their work on the FlashForward case, finds the leads he saw in his vision panning out. Olivia meets the man in her vision at the hospital, Lloyd (Jack Davenport), the father of one of her young patients. And it turns out that Mark and Olivia's daughter recognizes the son from her vision.

After being convinced by fellow agent Janis Hawk to add his non-vision to the FBI's "Mosaic" website, where everyone in the world is trying to match up their visions to make sense of them, Noh gets a phone call from a mysterious woman. She tells him she saw his post on the Mosaic board, and that she has unsettling news--in her vision she saw an agency document that said Noh had been murdered a month previously.

To keep us on a further unsettling vibe, Benford finally gets his daughter to open up about her scary vision. And she mentions the name of the dangerous man he and Noh had almost apprehended the day before--a man who appears to have been awake during the FlashForward.

I always consider it a good sign for a series when it grabs me right away. It's rare for a series to hit the ground running, but when you've got Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger, John Cho, Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: CI, ER), Lynn Whitfield (The Women, Without a Trace), BrĂ­an F. O’Byrne (The International, Brotherhood), and luscious Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Coupling), it makes it easier.

While there are a few awkward or duh moments here and there, I'm willing to overlook them for now because of all the great suspense and drama. I really had been skeptical that Shakesperean actor Fiennes could play tough FBI agent, but that classical training apparently means you can do anything. He's physically strong, emotionally conflicted, clever, capable, and sexy. The perfect flawed hero for the FlashForward story.



Watch FlashForward on ABC, Thursday nights at 8/7c.

The Mentalist Season 2 Episode Recaps

Simon Baker Patrick Jane The Mentalist The Scarlet Letter leather couch thinking Elvis screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs captures
Just wanted to let you all know that I'll be doing The Mentalist recaps all season for TVOvermind. I'll keep links for "The Mentalist Recaps" in both sidebars, and you can always bookmark this post for up-to-date direct links for each episode.

The Mentalist is a fantastic show about a California Bureau of Investigations (CBI) team and their eccentric but effective consultant, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). A former charlatan psychic, Jane nonetheless possesses extraordinary skills of perception and intuition that help him notice and interpret small details others might miss. His years of pulling the wool over people's eyes has also given him insight into the many ways to read and manipulate both witnesses and suspects into giving up what they know.

Jane is a complex character, goofy and irreverant on the surface, but vulnerable, angry, and tortured on the inside. In his former life, he made the mistake of taunting the serial killer Red John, which got his wife and child murdered. Jane bides his time helping the CBI with murder investigations, all the while working to bring Red John to justice.

Robin Tunney stars alongside Baker as Jane's boss Teresa Lisbon. She's one of the few believable female law enforcers on TV, and her push and pull working relationship with Jane is fun to watch. There's also just a whisper of occasional flirting, enough to keep it interesting without being a sappy romantic distraction. The rest of the cast is also strong, with characters that bring smarts and humor to The Mentalist.

Watch the show on CBS, Thursday nights at 10/9c. And check out my recaps each week at TVOvermind:

Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.01 "Redemption"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.01 "Redemption"

Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.02 "The Scarlet Letter"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.03 "Red Badge"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.04 "Red Menace"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.05 "Red Scare"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.06 "Black Gold and Red Blood"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.07 "Red Bulls"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.08 "His Red Right Hand"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.09 "A Price Above Rubies"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.10 "Throwing Fire"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.11 "Rose Colored Glasses"
Mini Recap -- The Mentalist 2.12 "Bleeding Heart"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.13 "Redline"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.14 "Blood In, Blood Out"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.15 "Red Herring"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.18 "Aingavite Baa"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.19 "Blood Money"
Full Recap -- The Mentalist 2.23 "Red Sky in the Morning"



PHOTO: Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, on his "thinking couch", The Mentalist, "The Scarlet Letter" screencap, c2009 Primrose Hill Productions, Warner Bros. Television, CBS.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hank and The Middle Pilot Reviews

Kelsey Grammar Hank Pryor Melinda McGraw Tilly Pryor Hank pilot screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capturesMelinda McGraw and Kelsey Grammar in Hank.

Oh dear. Last night we had two sitcom premieres on ABC for Kelsey Grammar's Hank and Patricia Heaton's The Middle. My overriding thought is that I wish we had both these stars back on the air in the unfortunately short-lived series Back to You (that was unfairly killed by the writers' strike).

Hank is pretty awful. Grammar stars as Hank Pryor, a ridiculously wealthy entrepreneur that for unspecified reasons loses everything. He and his attractive wife and two children are forced to downsize and move back to wife Tilly's (Melinda McGraw) hometown. The whole sitcom is just creaky from the start, looking like a community theater stage play as Hank and Tilly stand outside their former residence and have an awkward conversation about moving on to better things.

I've never liked humor for the sake of humor, whether it fits the characters or not. Hank, who had up to this point been a powerful CEO, apparently moves to a house he's never seen. I doubt that when Hank opened up his first business, he bought a building without looking at it first. But of course this allows us the "funny" moments of the family seeing the dump of a home for the first time.

The show has a few funny moments, and tries to have its heart in the right place by having Hank learn how to bond with his kids again. But thus far it's just too stilted and forced, and Grammar looks like he's forcing himself to go through the motions. Critical reviews seem to be harsh, and I don't think this series will last.



As for The Middle, this one has more promise, but I've never been a fan of sitcoms that celebrate the art of bad parenting. I appreciate that the Indiana family in The Middle is more real and identifiable than the family in Hank, and there are some funny moments--as when Frankie (Patricia Heaton) tells her complaining, slacker, boxer-short-clad teenage son "I can't hear you when you don't have pants on."

Heaton plays the frazzled Erma Bombeck-esque imperfect working mom well, and I do like that while hubby Mike (Scrubs' awesome Neil Flynn) are exhausted by their three nutty children, they still love and care about them. I also like that the children, even the teenage son, listen to their parents and don't think that they're losers. I really despise shows where the kids are smarter and more obnoxious than their parents, and thus far that doesn't seem to be happening here.

It's the little things that I found funny in The Middle, like the board behind Mike's desk at work that says "Days on the job without an accident: 1". After an explosion in the quarry, that goes down to zero. I found the big, spectacular failure moments less amusing, especially when they trampled on a redeeming moment for awkward daughter Sue (Eden Sher).

If The Middle learns to tone down the "quirkiness" and doesn't beat the Charlie Brown repeat loser syndrome to death, I could keep tuning in. And I'd also like to see the show stay on the air just to keep SNL alum Chris Kattan on TV, though I hope they give him a little more to do as Frankie's pal at work.

Watch Hank and The Middle on ABC, Wednesday nights at 8/7c.



PHOTO: Hank pilot screencap, c2009, ABC Studios.

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