Anticipating a rather lengthy spate of reruns thanks to the writers strike, I’m checking out a few shows that are either new to me or which I’ve only seen an episode or two of. The latest one? Geek-turned-spy comedy CHUCK, which I saw the pilot of and liked, but not enough to become a regular viewer. So Monday night, I tuned back in and found that little has changed since the pilot… and I mean that in the best way possible. There’s nothing that can kill a struggling-to-survive show quicker than if newbies wander in and the show has a mind-boggling mythology or complicated backstory making it nearly impenetrable to the uninitiated or casual viewer. While I may not know exactly how Bryce came back from the dead or the circumstances which led to a much-discussed kiss between our hero and fellow operative Sarah, it didn’t much matter. The hour was fast-paced, enjoyable and easy to digest. The laughs weren’t of the belly variety and the plot didn’t require all that much attention be paid, but that’s part of the show’s charm, as is an incredibly appealing cast. The gimmick here — Chuck’s brain dowloaded a whole lot of top-secret intel which comes to him in flashes — is probably the weakest link, but it’s really little more than a way of bringing together people who wouldn’t otherwise have a reason to talk let alone bond and bumping the plot from point a to z without us having to think too hard. All in all, I’d have to say this show is a gee-whiz-that-was-fun winner. If you suddenly find yourself with some empty hours to fill thanks to the strike, you could do a whole lot worse than this charmer.
Finally, a well-written, interesting, debate-filled episode of LAW & ORDER: SVU! I know, I know, after last week’s mess of an offering I vowed to stop watching, but… well, I lied. Sue me. This week, the plot involved polygamy, involuntary female circumcision (ouch), a movement encouraging the snuffing-out of snitches and more… including a fantastic final-act twist. In a throwback to classic L&O, the personal details were scant and yet intriguing; the look on Benson’s face as she realized that Stabler had dated an attractive bit player helping them gather info was subtle and perfect. This is the show I fell in love with. Let’s have more episodes like this and fewer of the sucktacular crap like last week.
Speaking of craptacular, anybody else notice the size of those promos for The Bourne Ultimatum which popped up every 15 minutes or so during SVU? It’s bad enough that the networks allow more and more time to be taken up by ads, or that the insist on pimping whatever show is coming up next, tomorrow or somewhere down the line. But these were ads for a DVD being released on December 11. You want to hawk DVD’s? Do it on your own time. These types of promos are taking over the screen and serve to immediatley take us out of the show we’re trying to watch. Producers need to stand up and demand that the networks put an immediate stop to this kind of nonsense.
When shows like NIP/TUCK and RESCUE ME can come right out and use blue language, it’s amazingly annoying to have the characters on GOSSIP GIRL spout things like “don’t f with an f-er.” Yeah, that’s how rich kids talk. I’m not saying the watered-down version of the teens from the bestselling book should toss around f-bombs on the teen-friendly CW. But let’s no go out of our way to draw attention to the linguistic backbends, okay? Don’t get me wrong… I love GG. How much? Enough that I went on e-Bay and bought a half-dozen of the books. (Seriously, do parents have any idea what their kids are reading? And stop judging me! I needed something with big print to read on the eliptical!) I have to assume that readers-turned-viewers have to be thrilled with little details like swoon-worthy Nate wearing Blair’s heart on his sleeve, directly lifted from the first book. My favorite thing about last night’s episode? Serena’s grandmother, CeCe, whose blood is bluer than those of STAR TREK’s Andorians. Played by Caroline Lagerfelt, CeCe made GILMORE GIRLS’ Emily look positively kittinish! Or maybe seeing player Chuck fall — and hard — for Blair and then self-destructively sabotage himself. Oh, no, it’s watching Jenny slowly morph from goody-two-shoes to witchy wanna-be as her mom asked if she likes “the person you’re becoming.” Or maybe that great song, Secret (by The Pierces) featured during the bit debutante ball. This is the most gluttonous guilty pleasure on TV, and I’m eating it up with a spoon.
I like the idea behind ER’s 300th episode, airing tonight, but every time a primetime show makes a big deal about reaching such a milestone — achieved over the span of a decade — I have to laugh. Start squawking when you’ve done 15,000 episodes, a landmark GUIDING LIGHT (which films 300 episodes in less than two years) hit a while back. Heck, I’ll applaud any primetime show that airs 15 consecutive new episodes without showing a repeat. I’m just sayin’.