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What's Alan Watching?

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Buy my book! 'The Revolution Was Televised' is on sale now in a revised edition!

Fri, 09 Nov 2012 17:25:00 +0000

(image) 12/1/15 UPDATE: As you can tell from the snazzy new red cover on display, my book, "The Revolution Was Televised," has been released in a new updated edition, which deals with the ends of "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" and shifts to other stories since I first published it back in 2012. (For many more details on the changes, check out this HitFix blog post.)

For those of you who don't know the book, it looks back at the last 15-odd years of TV drama through the prism of some of the best and/or most influential dramas in television history: "The Sopranos," "Oz," "The Wire," "Deadwood," "The Shield," "Lost," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "24," "Battlestar Galactica," "Friday Night Lights," "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." It's part critical analysis, part history, featuring tons of new interviews with people like David Chase, David Milch, David Simon, Vince Gilligan, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and more.

The new edition shares an ISBN number with the old one, which means all the retail links should work to the version in paperback at Amazon, through Amazon's Kindle store, for iBooks, for Barnes & Noble's Nook and for Kobo. There's also an eBook single featuring just the revised "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" chapters, available for Kindle and other digital formats. You can find much more information about the book at

I hope you like it. It's a book born out of the writing that started on this blog, so I couldn't have done it without you. If you have any additional questions, you can write to me at

Where you can find my "The Wire" season 5 reviews

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 13:30:00 +0000

As most of you know, I covered the five seasons of "The Wire" out of order online. I didn't start doing episode-by-episode blogs until the fourth season, so I covered that and season 5 as they aired. Then I looped back around to do season 1 and season 2 on this blog, and when I moved to HitFix, I spent the first summer there covering season 3. Everything is covered, everything is easily linked to, etc., and yet a glitch I've never understood in the Blogspot software means that a few times a month, I have to explain to people where the season 5 reviews are.

For whatever reason, when you click on the link for season 5, it takes you to a page featuring only my series finale review and my post-finale interview with David Simon. Some people know to click on the "Older Posts" link below the Simon interview, and some don't, so to save me some time in the future, I'm making this the first post you'll see when you click on the season 5 link, and I'm including links to all the reviews right here. In order:

* Episode 1, "More with Less"
* Episode 2, "Unconfirmed Reports"
* Episode 3, "Not For Attribution"
* Episode 4, "Transitions"
* Episode 5, "React Quotes"
* Episode 6, "The Dickensian Aspect"
* Episode 7, "Took"
* Episode 8, "Clarifications"
* Episode 9, "Late Editions"
* Episode 10, "-30-"
* David Simon post-finale interview

There. Much better.

"The Wire" is one of the subjects of Alan Sepinwall's new book, "The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever." It includes fresh material, including new interviews with David Simon and the executives at HBO who greenlit the show. For more information and purchasing links, go to

You can find me at HitFix

Sat, 05 Jun 2010 11:00:00 +0000

As mentioned here and here, I've accepted a new job at, and will be covering TV there for the forseeable future. The new blog URL is:

See you there.

Where you can go to find my Wire season 3 reviews

Fri, 04 Jun 2010 13:00:00 +0000

Updating an old post for completeness' sake. For a variety of reasons too dull to repeat again, season 3 of "The Wire" is the only year of that show I never covered on this blog, but I'm covering it in my new home at Hitfix. So each week I'll come into this post to add links to find both versions of each reviews, so you'll still be able to find links to every one of my "Wire" reviews in one place. (You can find all the previous reviews along this blog's siderail.) Links coming up after the jump...• Episode 1, "Time After Time": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 2, "All Due Respect": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 3, "Dead Soldiers": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 4, "Hamsterdam": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 5, "Straight and True": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 6, "Homecoming": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 7, "Back Burners": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 8, "Moral Midgetry": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 9, "Slapstick": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 10, "Reformation": Newbie version & Veteran version• Episode 11, "Middle Ground": Newbie version & Veteran version & George Pelecanos interview• Episode 12, "Mission Accomplished": Newbie version & Veteran version"The Wire" is one of the subjects of Alan Sepinwall's new book, "The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever." It includes fresh material, including new interviews with David Simon and the executives at HBO who greenlit the show. For more information and purchasing links, go to[...]

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Role Models": Lady or the tiger?

Tue, 04 May 2010 01:00:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I loosely translate your nickname from Bantu... "Dear God, it's us 30 years ago." -Turner"Sarah, that's us in 30 years!" -ChuckIn recent years, cable dramas like "The Shield" and "Breaking Bad" have suggested that the 13-episode model of a cable season makes better creative sense than the traditional 22-episode broadcast model. When you have only 13 hours to play with, the argument goes, everything is plotted more tightly, there's no filler, and the cast and crew don't burn themselves out two-thirds of the way through each season. The odd construction of this season of "Chuck," though, is suggesting that tighter isn't always better. Going into the year, Schwartz, Fedak and company thought they only had 13 episodes to work with, and nearly all of that was devoted to telling the story of Chuck becoming a real spy, the arrival of Shaw and the war with The Ring. There simply wasn't room for goofy, largely standalone episodes like last season's "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer" or "Chuck vs. the Best Friend." So if you were on board with the Shaw/Ring story, you were okay, but if you weren't, it was largely that week after week. Now, I liked the Shaw stuff a lot more than some of you, but I was worried about the lack of one-offs even before the season began, and there absence was noticeable as the original 13 went along. With this bonus mini-season, we're sort of getting those little palate cleansers we otherwise might have gotten earlier in a regularly-planned season, just at the end. Until Ellie's friendly Doctors Without Borders pal was revealed to be a Ring operative in the episode's closing moments, this was the second "Chuck" in a row whose only ongoing elements were largely internal (Chuck and Sarah's relationship, Morgan's assimilation into Team Bartowski). That's been a nice change of pace, as has the lighter tone of these two, and I suspect the creative team recognized how much better the show is when there's more balance between silly and serious, and between arcs and episodics. And if the show comes back next season, for however many installments, I would hope we see more of that give and take, because I have been having a lot of fun watching these last two. As I had suspected, Sarah and Chuck as a couple have so far provided plenty of story fodder, as well as plenty of humor. I had long ago accepted that Yvonne Strahovski brought so much else to the table that it didn't matter that Sarah rarely seemed to be funny, but for the second week in a row, Strahovski was bringing the laughs. Sometimes, it was more about the characters around Sarah (Morgan and Sarah living under the same roof already is and should continue to be splendid), but other moments like her withering delivery of "You're not asking me to move in with you again, are you?" were all her. Beyond Sarah being funny - and in a less blissful situation than we got last week on the train - the episode also gave us a tiger (which Chuck refused to kill because "They are endangered, and majestic!"), plus Casey reluctantly teaching spycraft to Morgan, plus Fred Willard(*) and Swoosie Kurtz as the bickering Turners. (*) I watched a screener of this episode back-to-back with last week's "Modern Family," also guest-starring Fred Willard. The man is everywhere, and his ubiquity gives me an excuse to once again link to "Wha happen?" Sometimes, "Chuck" casts guest stars for the iconography of them. Sometimes, with John Larroquette last season and Willard and Kurtz here, it casts them because they're funny. I don't know that I look at those two and automatically think Levi+Strahovski+(30 years x 2), but the two old pros played off each other, and off our regulars, quite nicely. And whether writer Phil Klemmer intended it or not, I like how the Turners' staged bickering tied into the fear some had that Chuck and Sarah together would eventually become a bickering couple with no obvious chemistry. Assuming "Chuck" is s[...]

Only the beginning

Mon, 03 May 2010 11:00:00 +0000

Today's the last day at these old digs. Tomorrow, I move to HitFix, and with that comes one final blog logo featuring the four shows that largely defined my time here with the Blogger site. I kept trying to find a way to squeeze in Tony reading The Star-Ledger, but since "The Sopranos" was in its final days when the blog began, I decided to give him the big picture here and go with "The Wire," "Chuck," "Lost" and "Mad Men" for the last logo. Still a full day to go here, including whatever news happened, plus tonight's "Chuck" as the final review of this iteration of the blog. Then we move in the morning to HitFix. But before I go, I wanted to look back over the last 4 and a half years at the blog, as well as looking ahead a bit to the new place...As I've said before, I started out writing about TV online with the "NYPD Blue" website, and nearly a decade into my time at The Star-Ledger, I missed the immediacy of that interaction, as well as the ability to write about shows after they'd aired (when I could discuss all the juicy stuff) rather than before (when I'd have to be wary of spoiling anything). was still experiencing a lot of growing pains at the time, and I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to the idea long-term, so on October 7, 2005, so I started the site here on Blogger as an experiment. I figured I'd try it out, see if I liked the process, and also see if anyone but the friends I'd e-mailed the link to might ever find me and care to keep reading. If you go back and look at those early posts from 2005, the blog then bore little resemblance to what it became. No pictures, no spoiler protection after the jump (and therefore no "just as soon as"), nearly everything done in a grab-bag format where I talked about multiple shows at once, and very few comments - and all of those from my friends. The outside world began to discover the place on a fluke: while looking over NBC's schedule for the January 2006 TCA press tour, I noticed Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme were listed as panelists for the "West Wing" farewell session, and I threw up a quick post noting this. It turned out to be an error - someone told me later that no one at NBC had even asked Sorkin or Schlamme about it at that point - but somehow, that story got picked up, the link spread around, and suddenly the blog had a small but growing - and smart - audience. As you guys began to find me, I in turn began to find my way in blogging, and the site slowly but surely evolved into what you see today. People complained about being spoiled on the main page, and I figured out how to hide the bulk of each post on the jump. I noticed that posts dealing with one show at a time tended to get far more comments than the grab bags, and so I began doing more and more of those. And beyond that, I saw that the deeper I went into discussing episodes - moving past the simple "I liked this"/"I didn't like this" of the blog's early days into discussing not only why I liked things, but what I thought they meant - the deeper in turn your comments got, and I started trying to apply the depth and breadth of my "Sopranos" Rewind columns to lots of other shows. When I got bored with summer TV one year and suggested that instead we all watch and discuss "Freaks and Geeks" on DVD, a lot of you went along with me, paving the way for later summer DVD projects, including the early seasons of "The Wire" (with Season 3 coming up in June on HitFix). Along the way there have been some great highs (the David Chase interview, Ben Silverman telling me I saved "Chuck") and some weird lows (the "Chuck"pocalypse, overwrought discussion of "SNL" in the fall of 2008 leading to the No Politics rule), but the good has vastly outweighed the bad. This blog rekindled my interest in a job I'd been doing for a very long time, and it taught me how to do it in a new way. And I thank all of you for helping me figure that out. As I said last week, the goal is for as littl[...]

Treme, "At the Foot of Canal Street": The out-of-towners

Mon, 03 May 2010 03:05:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "Treme" coming up just as soon as my coffee drink is comped on behalf of my overwhelming righteousness... "But New Orleans is still my home!" -AntoineOn "The Wire," David Simon was fond of illustrating a thematic point by having characters in very different social circles experience the same kind of event: McNulty and D'Angelo getting chewed out by middle management in the series pilot, or Namond and Clay Davis espousing the same philosophy about free money. With "At the Foot of Canal Street," Simon and company - here with "Wire" alum George Pelecanos scripting a story he wrote with Eric Overmyer - are doing parallel play again, as we see Antoine, Sonny and Delmond all traveling out of town for different reasons.Antoine is a son of New Orleans, through and through. Born there, raised there, with no interest in going anywhere else (though perhaps he'd feel differently had his musical career gone differently), he has to be goaded repeatedly by Ladonna just to take the bus to Baton Rouge to see their sons, and even then he mainly goes for the promise of free dentistry from Larry.Delmond is a son of the city, too, but a prodigal one. Never invested in his father's Indian traditions, or the city's music, he got out as quick as he could, and as he tells his manager, while he's from New Orleans, he doesn't play New Orleans. He has a girlfriend in New York (one of several, it would appear), and would be happy to never go back were it not for family or professional obligations.Sonny's no son of New Orleans, but he wishes he was. He tells everyone, including Annie, that he dreamed his whole life of living there and playing that music. But a year and a half into living his dream, he's still basically on the outside looking in: a street musician always playing in the shadow of his more talented partner. So he journeys to Houston, hoping to be more accepted in the world of New Orleans expatriates than he's been in the city itself.Ultimately, each man's trip away from New Orleans is only so satisfying. Antoine's time in Baton Rouge prepares him for a permanent solution to his embouchure problem, but the bridge he builds with his sons is only temporary at best; even he can recognize how guarded they are around him after so many years of disappointment. Sonny's fantasy of acceptance only lasts as long as it takes the band leader to spot another, more accomplished keyboard player in the crowd. And while Delmond has access to the finest in New York culture, he finds that professionally, he has to tie himself back to his home city to succeed.Antoine happily returns to New Orleans. Sonny's trip back is more mixed - Houston didn't quite work out, and he returns to see Annie thriving without him - but at least he takes pleasure in bringing the Houston bouncer along with him, and introducing another outsider to the city he loves. And Delmond isn't going back yet, nor does he seem particularly eager to go.In the wake of the storm, many natives had to leave the city, and many of them never returned. "Treme" is focusing on either the ones who never left or the ones who found a way back, but "At the Foot of Canal Street" provides a brief glimpse of three worlds that many New Orleanians found themselves in after Katrina.Speaking of leaving town, Delmond's scenes in New York had to be filmed out of production order, which means I got this episode very late in the process. In the interest of getting the review done in time for posting after it airs, let's deal with everything else bullet point-style:• I'm sure Baton Rouge has many fine independent restaurants, but of course Antoine's kids would have fallen in love with Friday's and The Olive Garden, wouldn't they?• Ladonna does Antoine a good turn, largely for the sake of those boys, but you see in the trip back to the jail to confront her brother's impersonator that she is not to be messed with. Khandi Alexander [...]

Breaking Bad, "One Minute": The magic bullet

Mon, 03 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000

A review of tonight's insanely great "Breaking Bad" (aka The Best Show on TV Right Now) coming up just as soon as I look like a TV weatherman..."I'm just not the man I thought I was." Sorry, just need another minute to pick my jaw up off the floor after that.What an incredible, bananas finish to the strongest episode yet of this third season. As written by "Breaking Bad" newcomer Thomas Schnauz (another of many "X-Files" vets Vince Gilligan has brought in) and directed by Michelle MacLaren (who joined the staff full-time after last season's gorgeous "4 Days Out"), the parking lot climax was a perfect model of suspense filmmaking. We'd already been primed all episode to fear that the Cousins could hit Hank at any moment (every time the elevator doors opened, I know I gripped my armrest), but then to have someone(*) warn Hank ahead of time kicked things up several levels. Suddenly, we and Hank were in the same mindset, looking around every corner, jumping at shadows (and/or men with squeegees), waiting for the two men to come and wondering if an unarmed Hank possibly had a chance against those two unrelenting figures of death.(*) So, is there anyone it could have been other than Gus? Gus clearly wanted the Cousins the hell out of his territory, and I can see him warning Hank in the hopes that he might be lucky enough to take them out - or, at least, to bloody them enough that they'd have to re-cross the border in a hurry rather than hanging around in the hopes of also killing Walt. Other than Mike making the call on Gus's behalf, there doesn't seem to be a character in a position to know or do anything about the planned hit. For that matter, I'm not sure how even Gus would have known that Hank had roughly a minute to act, but I'll accept that he could for the sake of what that call added to the scene.In many ways, the parking lot shootout evoked the failed hit on Tony Soprano from the end of "Sopranos" season one, down to the use of an SUV as a weapon. But I'd argue this scene one-upped that. Violence on "The Sopranos" always had something of a black comic tinge to it (the lead-up to the hit is Tony wandering around in a depressed stupor, and the hitmen were introduced in a scene played for laughs because of Uncle Junior hiding in the back of a car), and these guys didn't have the kind of mythical build-up the Cousins got. And on top of that, Tony Soprano was the star of the show, and it wouldn't work with him dead, whereas "Breaking Bad" would miss Hank but could easily continue without him. So the danger was far more real even without the Cousin factor.In the end, though Hank is tough and resourceful, he won the only way anyone could against these two: through luck. He was warned in advance and was still in his car. Leonel's(**) gun also happened to fall right where Hank could reach it, and Marco conveniently had an extra, special bullet in his jacket pocket courtesy of the friendly gun dealer, and the duo's flair for the dramatic gave Hank just enough time to find the bullet on the ground and load it and shoot out the back of Marco's skull before the shiny ax could finish its backswing. (**) Nice of the show to finally give the Cousins names - and a backstory - right before Hank killed one and either crippled or killed the other. The flashback with a middle-aged Tio at the height of his powers was chilling in its portrait of the culture those two grew up in. With Don Salamanca as the dominant male in their lives, and giving them "lessons" like that one, is there any wonder how they grew up to be these two unflappable killing machines? Note also that Leonel, the one who as a boy cries over Marco's destruction of his toy, is the one who's now hardcore enough to tell the other to finish the job rather than staying to help him. Tio made him that way.But here's the thing: even without those crazy final minutes, [...]

The Pacific, "Part Eight": Jarhead in love

Mon, 03 May 2010 02:00:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "The Pacific" coming up just as soon as I make a table appear out of thin air... After three harrowing episodes focusing on Sledge's time on Peleliu, "The Pacific" takes a sharp right turn, leaving Sledge and Snafu behind for a bit (other than a brief cameo at the top of the episode) to spend the hour on John Basilone, who hasn't been a major part of the miniseries for a month. I can see how that would be jarring to some. "The Pacific" has been a more sprawling, less tightly-focused miniseries than "Band of Brothers" was, but that's been by design, as the creative team has tried to show a broader picture of the Pacific theater than they did of the Atlantic. So that means not only bouncing from character to character as we cover different island conflicts - here with Basilone being killed during the early hours of the Iwo Jima invasion - but also showing how different kinds of characters were affected by the war. Where Sledge was a naive kid emotionally unprepared for what he saw on Peleliu, and where Leckie was a cynic and iconoclast, Basilone was a career military man (first in the Army, then the Marines) who knew what he was getting into when he went to war, and had no regrets about the fighting, the command structure, or any other part of being in the Corps. Given the man that we saw in the early episodes, and the brief, frustrated glimpses we got of him on his war bond tour, it's not a surprise that Basilone would have declined promotion, a cushy detail or an outright discharge in favor of going back into action. But it was still moving to watch his journey, from bored and out-of-shape celebrity to misunderstood drill sergeant to inspiring leader of men, and to see that even though he didn't survive Iwo Jima, he was every bit as brave and resourceful there as he was on Guadalcanal. But this hour is as much the story of Lena Riggi as it is of Basilone. Unlike Stella, Leckie's Australian girlfriend Stella from the third episode, Riggi was entirely real: the woman Basilone fell for, courted and married before shipping back out to the Pacific. So where Stella ultimately was more symbol than character, Riggi gets to be both a stand-in for the many women who lost loved ones in the war as well as her own person, well-played by Annie Parisse in a nice romantic duet with Jon Seda. While the story hit some familiar war movie beats (Basilone and Riggi even huddle up on a wave-swept beach in a scene evoking the iconic kiss in "From Here to Eternity"), the idea of them as kindred spirits - fellow non-coms who feel most at home in the military, and who fully understand the dangers and responsibilities that come with the uniform and the stripes - made it feel unique to them, and compelling. Now, by the time Basilone pushed his superiors to let him be a regular Marine again, a lot of time had passed since Guadalcanal. Other famous heroes of the war had emerged, and while Basilone still didn't have to buy himself a drink anywhere he went, it's understandable that one of the two young men who form the foundation of Basilone's new squad wouldn't have heard of him, and that both might at first think the hero of Guadalcanal was overdoing it in training them. But as we see when everyone lands on Iwo Jima (in another Hell-on-earth sequence to rival the airfield crossing on Peleliu), Basilone knew what he was doing, both in terms of training the men and in terms of what he'd need to do to survive. That he died doesn't mean he was wrong - as he told JP back in the second episode, life and death in battle is often a matter of luck and inches - and even in the moments leading to his death, he was still thinking clearly, helping others and not blinking in the face of an unbelievable onslaught. And for all his heroism and celebrity, the final shot of the Iwo Jima sequence - with the camera pulling up to show [...]

Doctor Who, "Victory of the Daleks": Cookie, monster

Sun, 02 May 2010 02:30:00 +0000

(image) A quick review of tonight's "Doctor Who" coming up just as soon as I enjoy a nice biscuit...

Perhaps because I came to the series with the Russell Davies reboot, I've never much cared for the Daleks, and in particular have grown frustrated in how frequently the series appears to kill the entire race off, only to bring them back almost immediately. So I was especially disappointed that Steven Moffat felt compelled to do this again, only three episodes into his tenure.

There were some fun things on the side of "Victory of the Daleks" - The Doctor's friendship with Winston Churchill, British Spitfires turned into space ships(*), The Doctor and Amy helping Bracewell embrace his programmed humanity - but the only portion of the episode tied directly to the Daleks that I found myself interested in was Amy not remembering the events of "The Stolen Earth." I'm assuming that will be part of the season-long arc with the cracks in the universe (which once again appeared as the TARDIS was leaving, making me wonder if The Doctor is somehow causing the cracks).

(*) Last week, there was some discussion of Moffat starting to incorporate a lot of specifically American references into this most British of shows, and here I saw a couple more of those: the Spitfire assault on the Dalek ship looked very much like the climax of "Independence Day," and of course the Union Jack gets raised like the American flag at Iwo Jima. Hmmm... On the other hand, Moffat's understandable Scottish pride continues, not just with Karen Gillan's awesome pronunciation of "Dalek," but the casting of Bracewell as a Scotsman.

Hopefully, the stupid pepperpots - now in their United Colors of Benetton look - will go away for quite a while so Moffat can focus on other things.

Keeping in mind that we are NOT going to discuss episodes that have yet to air here in America, what did everybody else think?

Party Down, "Precious Lights Pre-School Auction": Rumpled Stiltskin

Sat, 01 May 2010 02:30:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "Party Down" coming up just as soon as you know the difference between you and James Van Der Beek's parrot... "You'll never work in this town again!" -Leonard Stiltskin"I know." -HenryRob Thomas(*) has told the story many times of how he, John Enbom, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd pitched "Party Down" to HBO, only for the HBO execs at the time to decide that they had conflicting visions of what a Hollywood comedy should be. And so HBO ultimately gave us "Entourage" (about Hollywood insiders who get everything handed to them on a silver platter) and Thomas and company eventually found a home for "Party Down" (about Hollywood outsiders who struggle for everything and fail far more often than they succeed) at Starz. And an episode like "Precious Lights Pre-School Auction" - which namechecks "Entourage"(**) while featuring the return of JK Simmons as foul-mouthed movie mogul Leonard Stiltskin - is a reminder of why the outsiders' perspective is so much more fun. (*) Rob, by the way, spent a year at the start of his career writing for "Dawson's Creek" and has taken opportunities in the past to have fun at the expense of The Beek, here with the phrase "James Van Der Beek's parrot." (**) Love that Roman is a phony who will say "F--k 'Entourage'" while at the same time knowing and caring about the show enough to be indignant at Kyle's suggestion that Roman would be Turtle, when Roman clearly knows, "I'd be E, and you'd be Turtle." So here we have the members of Party Down once again attending a function they'd never be allowed into as guests in a million years, though Casey comes closest by running into a comedian-turned-mom who's basically Casey a few years down the road. (***) Stiltskin and his wife are there to taunt them about how far all the characters haven't progressed in the last year: Henry never got to play Young Abe Lincoln, Kyle is still nowhere (and, unsurprisingly, Mrs. Stiltskin has chosen to forget their time together), Roman is at best proprietor of a a prestigious blog, etc. (***) And in a meta touch, the character was played by Andrea Savage, who played Casey in the original homemade pilot shot in Thomas's backyard. Savage couldn't do the series because, appropriately enough for this character, she got pregnant. Kyle's still trying, and still believes in himself enough as an actor to enjoy gaming Roman, while Henry is slipping so deeply into his new manager job - with the Taco Bell view that accompanies it - that he tears into Ron with the kind of speech he'd have laughed at a year earlier. (He tries to play it off as acting, but you can see the self-loathing on his face afterward.) But they're all running in place, and Ron, with his disgusting 'pit stains and loss of his barely-legal girlfriend, is actually going backwards. But for once we get a small victory, as Casey nails her audition for a small role in a Judd Apatow movie(****), dissuading her from following Savage's path for at least a little while. (****) Between Lizzy Caplan's early role on "Freaks and Geeks" and the amount of crossover between the Thomas and Apatow repertory companies, what other director could it be?Structurally, "Precious Lights" didn't have the comic build that the best "Party Down" episodes do, but it still had plenty of great one-liners, whether it was Stiltskin explaining that he once drank ape sperm to get a game with Tiger Woods, or Roman's line about The Beek's parrot, or Casey lamenting all her bad auditions, including the time she was told she was "'too Jew-y'... and I was reading for 'The Diary of Anne Frank.'" And the tip jar gag was a nice role reversal from the episode last year where team leader Ron insisted on putting out the tip jar over everyone's objections, only for the partygoers to cheap out on them. What did everybody el[...]

The Office, "Body Language": Kiss me, stupid

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 14:53:00 +0000

A review of last night's "The Office" - and this week's bit of potentially huge "Office" news - coming up just as soon as I reanimate a bull... The internet briefly freaked out earlier this week when a radio clip turned up of Steve Carell saying he intends to leave "The Office" when his contract ends. Everyone calmed down quickly once they realized two things: Carell's contract runs through next season, so we still have a while to go; and chances are high that over the next year, NBC will find a way to keep Carell around, whether that requires more money, a more flexible schedule that would have Michael largely absent from some episodes, or what have you. Now, I think most of us are in agreement that this hasn't been a particularly strong season for "The Office," and that's led many of you to declare that the show needs to end soon. Even with the Carell situation, that ain't happening. "The Office" is one of NBC's few success stories, and its only real comedy hit (the other three Thursday sitcoms are largely being buoyed by its wake), and while a network's fortunes can change in a year, I have to believe the show is too valuable to let go. And I do think, as I've said before, that whatever problems there have been this year, the show can rebound, because I've seen it happen to great sitcoms that have had off years. And in watching an underwhelming, Michael Scott-centric episode like "Body Language," I almost wonder if an arrangement where Carell isn't around as much might be beneficial. Look, I love Steve Carell. Funny man, talented man, kind man, and the show would not exist without him. He's been at the center of most of the funniest moments and episodes of this show's history, as you'd expect from the leading man. But despite being at the center of the show, Michael has always been the character the writers have had the most trouble getting a handle on. Some weeks, he's the 8-year-old who never grew up. Some, he's got Asperger's. Some, he's just a normal guy who isn't as funny as he thinks he is. The inconsistency, and the writers' tendency to fall into the trap of highlighting Michael's worst qualities (writers on "The Simpsons" fall prey to the same thing with Homer), can make me really dread Michael-centric episodes sometimes. "Body Language" wasn't nearly as bad as this season's "Mafia" - nor was Michael as idiotic in this one as he was there - but it was still a fairly uncomfortable, airless outing, one where nearly all the laughs could be found in the Dwight/Daryl/Kelly subplot. Given the choice between more episodes like this or occasional episodes where Michael's on the road and Dunder-Mifflin has to get by without him, I think I might take the latter. That way, perhaps the Michael-heavy episodes might be more focused. I know there can be a danger in trying to elevate supporting characters above the lead, but "The Office" has always been structured in an odd way, where Michael is the main character in terms of screen time and his importance to the plot, but where he's otherwise written like a supporting character while Jim and/or Pam are written as more traditional leads. So I think an "Office" with Carell's reduced participation might actually work, and perhaps work better than what we've gotten this season. But again, that's a year away, at a minimum, and hopefully the series can rediscover some of its juice before then. What did everybody else think?[...]

Parks and Recreation, "94 Meetings": But a rich ain't one

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 14:21:00 +0000

(image) A review of "Parks and Recreation" coming up just as soon as I alter a gazebo...

Ron Effing Swanson hates meetings. I know that. You know that. April Ludgate certainly knows that. But you can only put off the thing you hate for so long, and "94 Meetings" had a lot of fun with the idea of Ron trapped in a hellish day of meetings (and dragging April, Andy and Ann along with him), while at the same time doing some nice character work on both the budding April/Andy romance and the sweet, paternal relationship developing between Ron and April.

The meetings were a nice mix of the absolutely ridiculous (the purple bikini man, the guy who yells at 5-year-olds for lack of talent), eminently reasonable ones made absurd (Andy being unable to say yes to the woman) and unlikely left turns (Ann spending her day diagnosing moles). And perhaps the funniest part of all was Ron describing the situation as "a blood-saked, nightmarish hellscape. However, to Leslie Knope...," followed by the abrupt cut to a giddy Leslie declaring, "Oh, how fun!"

Leslie's own plot, however, didn't quite click for me, in part because they didn't tie the gazebo situation strongly enough to Leslie's fear of Mark and Ann getting married, in part because the show has been a little vague about where Leslie stands on that relationship, anyway. We've mostly moved past the idea that Leslie is crushing on Mark, but when she claimed to feel nauseous over news of a possible engagement, I began to wonder if she still had feelings for the guy that she's suppressed all this time for the sake of her friendship with Ann. Instead, it turned into a commentary on Leslie's fear of being a single person in a world of couples, but the idea was introduced too late in the episode, I think, for it to have worked.

On the other hand, Leslie chained to the swinging gate? Oh, how fun!

And any episode that can give us both Ron whittling a duck and an introduction to April's parents (who couldn't be less like her) and sister (who couldn't be more like her) is an overall winner.

What did everybody else think?

Community, "The Art of Discourse": See if you can guess what I am now

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 14:04:00 +0000

(image) A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I meet Sting at a Cracker Barrel...
"Ridiculous situation descending into heavy-handed drama for the illusion of story... check." -Abed
After last week's all-out "Goodfellas" parody, "The Art of Discourse" confines most of the meta/pop culture humor to the Abed and Troy subplot, while going more straightforward in showing Jeff and Britta, and also Pierce and Shirley, dealing with being the old men (and women) out on campus.

Jeff and Britta's conflict with the high school kids was played entirely for laughs, as we once again see that those two are more entertaining when they join forces for some ridiculous goal than when we're supposed to care about the simmering sexual tension between them. This was a really strong episode for Gillian Jacobs as Britta let herself get sucked into trying to pwn the three Schmitty kids, whether pathetically trying to defend her life choices (invoking Winona Ryder and wearing a Discman) or going pure evil in that moment when she had the brainstorm to send Jeff to have sex with Lisa Rinna.

The Pierce and Shirley plot, meanwhile, did a nice job of balancing laughs (Pierce being oblivious to his racism, the gang all turning on each other in the search for New Pierce) and some more genuine character moments about Shirley and Pierce's feelings about each other and their respective places in the group. Unlike the scenario Abed described in the quote above, this felt like actual story, and like something the show's been building to for a while. If the series wants us to care about this community and its characters beyond their role as avatars of pop culture gags - and it clearly does - then sooner or later Pierce's treatment of Shirley in particular and the group in general had to be addressed, and in a mostly heartfelt, sincere manner. Some very nice work by Chevy Chase and Yvette Nicole Brown in this one, and ultimately their moment of bonding climaxed with a nice callback to the pantsing joke that started the whole mess - and by the time we got to the food fight and the extended riff on the end of "Animal House," it felt okay to go whole-hog on the parody, and I look forward to seeing Troy and Abed in "College Cut-Ups 2: Panty Raid Academy."

What did everybody else think?

Cougar Town, "Letting You Go": Sail away

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 17:43:00 +0000

(image) A quick review of last night's "Cougar Town" (which, if I haven't said it enough lately, has been vastly improved since the start of the season) coming up just as soon as I use my mouth vacuum...

I haven't written much about "Cougar Town" lately, but it hasn't been for lack of watching/enjoying. It's just that between vacation time and the crunch of Wednesday programming, something's had to give, and this show has settled into a nice, strange groove that doesn't always leave me a ton to say by the time I have time to say it.

But "Letting You Go" was a very strong episode on several levels. It kept up the goofy enthusiasm of Jules and her cul de sac crew to find ways to fight boredom by trying to start new rituals, first with morning drinking, then with the late night Enya parties. The entire cast is really game for this stuff, and here I want to single out Josh Hopkins, who came across as a total stiff in nearly everything I've seen him do in the past, and is completely loose and fun and fearless here as Grayson.

The episode also did a good job of pushing the Jules/Travis relationship back to the forefront, after letting it slip away at various points this season. Jules is, on many levels, a sad character (again: morning drinking), and I like that the writers have found ways to acknowledge that quality, and the clinginess of her relationship with Travis, without undermining the humor of it all. And it also makes sense that Travis's impending departure (from her home, if not the show) would finally send Jules towards Grayson.

One question: is the mention of Winston University (home of the med school affiliated with Sacred Heart on "Scrubs") the first sign that "Cougar Town" and "Scrubs" are part of the same fictional universe, even with Christa Miller playing different roles in each? Or was there an earlier one I've forgotten?

(And second question: funnier Bill Lawrence show dog? Rowdy or Dog Travis?)

What did everybody else think?

Modern Family, "Travels with Scout": I am not left-handed, either

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 12:51:00 +0000

(image) A review of last night's "Modern Family" coming up just as soon as I lose the deposit on that fog machine...

I often have less to say about the episodes of "Modern Family" that work than the ones that don't, and since two and a half out of the three main stories this week were very funny, I'm going to be brief.

Cameron's brief drumming career was a nice example of the writers striking gold with an unexpected character crossover, with Dylan and his bandmates briefly being awed by Cam's stick skills, and Mitchell and Hayley bonding over their totally rockin' boyfriends. Jay's fiasco with the slasher film was a good story where good intentions (and a mental image of Mitchell's friend as a sweet kid who would never star in such a movie) led to increasingly bad consequences (and which gave Rico Rodriguez his usual chances to shine as Manny), and in the main plot, I enjoyed both Claire's growing affection for Scout and Luke unintentionally acting like a dog.

But as to the main part of the main plot, I think I find Fred Willard a little too perfect in his casting as Phil's dad, if that makes sense. If you wanted to cast someone who'd be Phil plus a few decades, you go get Willard, who's made a career out of playing men who think they're much funnier than they actually are. But the idea that Phil is the way he is because his dad is exactly like him, while logical, was maybe too on-the-nose to click for me, and I spent a lot of the Willard scenes waiting for the episode to swing around to someone else's story.

Still, very funny overall ("What's up with 21 Jump Street?"). What did everybody else think?

American Idol: Top 6 results

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 02:13:00 +0000

(image) Quick spoilers for tonight's "American Idol" elimination show coming up after I laugh about how the show actually ran short tonight, forcing Seacrest to vamp...

So, bottom three of Big Mike, Siobhan and Casey. Big Mike sent to safety, commercial break, then Siobhan goes home.

Early in the finals, Siobhan was the only contestant I cared about other than Crystal. But as I said last night, I grew tired of Siobhan's one not-so-great trick, and also of her endless babbling whenever the judges criticized her (she was at least 40 percent responsible for a lot of the overruns). I'm more bored with Aaron, but she was one of two who most deserved to go home.

Question: when is the last time someone in the finals went home after getting the pimp spot? I know Melinda Doolittle did in season 6 (but in the Top 3 show, which doesn't quite count), and I know Lilly went home despite being pimped in the semis this year, but has it happened in the finals in recent years before this week?

Firewall & Iceberg podcast, episode 14: Happy Town, Breaking Bad, and more

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 20:19:00 +0000

(image) Wednesday brings with it another episode of the Firewall & Iceberg podcast, this time with Dan and I (with no new "Lost" episode to dissect) trying to muster some enthusiasm to talk about "Idol," teaming up to slam "Happy Town," discussing our divergent paths with this season of "Survivor," checking in on the awesomeness of "Breaking Bad" this season, and more.

Fienberg has all the relevant links and times up at his blog, and if you subscribe via iTunes or RSS, it should be all ready to download.

30 for 30, "Run Ricky Run": The spliff myth?

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 16:14:00 +0000

(image) A quick review of "Run Ricky Run," the latest "30 for 30" film, coming up just as soon as I put on a wedding dress...

After last week's unsurprisingly polarizing "Silly Little Game" (which I liked even with the wacky re-creations of events), "30 for 30" is back on firmer documentary ground with "Run Ricky Run," Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni's extremely personal portrait of Ricky Williams. Though Pamphilon's perspective was more inside than, say, Steve James's on Allen Iverson, I appreciated that this wasn't a one-hour apology for Ricky. It looked at his failings, but also at the potential causes of those failings (being molested by his father, anxiety disorders) that go far deeper than the easy media "He just likes smoking pot too much" narrative.

(On the one hand, I found it a nice touch that they kept showing "PTI" clips to see how Tony and Wilbon's take on the guy changed over the years. On the other hand, I'm angry that I was forced to watch even a few seconds of Skip Bayless, after going out of my way to avoid him for several years now.)

I watched this only a few days after a Tribeca Film Festival screening of Ice Cube's "Straight Outta L.A." (it airs May 11), and it's hard for this more low-key story to live up to seeing Al Davis's terrifying face in HD on a giant movie screen. But "Run Ricky Run" did its job in showing me a side of a story I only thought I understood.

What did everybody else think?

American Idol: Can't anyone here produce a TV show?

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 13:55:00 +0000

Okay, this is just getting stupid now. After everyone got so angry last week about "American Idol" running five minutes long (despite only having seven performances to stretch out over an hour) and cutting off people's DVR recordings of "Glee" (and after people were torqued that the "Idol" Gives Back results show ran 17 hours long and prevented part of America from enjoying Tim Urban's elimination), the show somehow ran long again last night. It was only by a minute or two, but once again people watching "Glee" on a DVR delay lost part of the final musical number. After the jump, I look at who's potentially to blame, and what can be done to fix things... Okay, so our candidates for blame, in no particular order: Bruce Gowers: He's the director of the show (Emmy-winning director, no less, even though they can't bring it in on time and the cameras are never where they should be), so on one level the buck stops with him. By now, he should have realized they're having trouble with time and ordered some things cut, whether it's judge talk, or Ryan Seacrest chatting up Shania Twain to fill time that ultimately didn't need to be filled, or what have you. Keep the show lean and mean for the first 2/3rds, and if it looks like there will be time, you can do a little padding around the last few performances. In a live telecast, the director is calling the shots, and Gower has failed miserably in this area. Ryan Seacrest: Keeping the trains running on time has always been one of Seacrest's specialties, but he's been flaky in a lot of ways this season, including this one. If Gowers isn't telling him to cut the judges off when they start to bicker, or to go straight to the phone numbers once Simon's done talking, then Seacrest needs to take that initiative on his own and get things moving. Again, save the contestant-judge dialogue for late in the show if it's abundantly clear you have time to spare. Four judges: It still boggles my mind that it occurred to no one on the show last year that bringing in a fourth judge would consume air time, and that something else would have to give. What's given, for the most part, is the number of songs - we're only going to get 5 next week, when in the pre-Kara days, we would have gotten 10 (two from each contestant) - even though that's the whole point of the show. But even when stretching 12 songs over 2 hours, or 6 songs over 1, the judges still consume way too much air and airtime. And it isn't just that there's an extra judge, but that Kara and Ellen are both chattier than Paula was (Paula, for all her insanity, seemed aware that she should stop talking after a while). So by the time we get to Simon (the other major reason for watching), the other three have gone on so much that the show is running long, and Simon gets cut off abruptly more often than not. They all need to be given earpieces so that Gowers (or, hopefully, someone more competent) can tell them to wrap it up and hand things off to the next judge. That, or they need to be given shock collars that go off if they run over their allotted time. The producers: Again, four judges is too many. They either needed to not replace Paula when she left (and I was saying that even before Ellen turned out to be a complete waste of time), or they needed to be willing to sacrifice some other part of the show. I don't care if that's the mentor clips, or the Seacresterviews (which, admittedly, Coke sponsors), the introduction, or what have you, but something had to give, and nothing has. And as the bosses of the judges, Seacrest and Gowers,[...]

Parenthood, "Perchance to Dream": It's tricky

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 11:29:00 +0000

(image) A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I unleash the fever...

Parenthood (whether the concept or the TV show) isn't a competition, but I couldn't help noticing that the parent doing the best job in "Perchance to Dream" is Crosby (and Jasmine, too). Adam freaks out over Haddie's sexuality, Sarah again tries to project all of her regrets onto Amber, and Julia took the broken mug issue way too far to overcompensate for the old lawyer=liar saw. Crosby, meanwhile, had no problem interrupting his date with Jasmine to help Jabbar through his fear of pooping in strange places, and he and Jasmine both recognized that they don't want to send the wrong message to the kid if their attempt to go from co-parents to couple doesn't work out.

Now, I'm not complaining about any of the others this week. Some of the most interesting stories on this show involve parents screwing up, as we saw with the scene where Haddie called Adam on his double-standard treatment of her. But just as no one would have expected Dax Shepard to give one of the best performances among this cast, who would have thought after the first few episodes that we might get a night where Crosby was so much more on his game than his siblings?

I don't want to give short shrift to Kristina's decision, by the way. The whole work/kids dilemma is a familiar one, in life and on TV, and Kristina has the added complication of a special needs kid. As much as she enjoyed her time back in grown-up world, I can understand her reluctance to go back full-time not long after finding out about Max's Asperger's (and not long before Haddie goes to college). And it was interesting to watch Adam throughout that scene, because you could tell he was trying to do right by his wife even as he very clearly didn't want her to go work for Sundra from "Survivor: Cook Islands."

"Perchance to Dream" was one of the show's more thematically and tonally consistent episodes. It was also a fairly light one, not only with Adam's goofy dancing, but Sarah and Amber listening in horror to Mike O'Malley's poems about Sarah's va-jay-jay, everyone else's reaction to Julia's cordoned-off area, and Drew's reaction to Haddie taking off her bra in the kitchen. Plus, Run-DMC! (Which gives me an excuse to link to the original video, with Penn & Teller.)

What did everybody else think?

'Happy Town' review: Sepinwall on TV

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 11:00:00 +0000

(image) In today's column, I review "Happy Town," which premieres tonight on ABC. Not a fan, and it won't be part of the blog rotation as I move over to HitFix (nor would it have been were I staying here). Feel free to discuss the premiere here if you watch it tonight.

Justified, "Blind Spot": Don't make me a target

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 03:05:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as you think we're going to banter here... "You think there's never going to be any consequences for this?" -ArtRaylan Givens began this series as a man in control - of his emotions, of predicting the actions of his opponents, and of winning any and every fight. As we enter the second half of this first season, his return to Kentucky, and the various headaches from his past that have come with it, now has him as a man in control of very little, save for his usual good aim and skill in a fight. He can keep it together when dealing with the amateurs and low-level thieves and killers he's faced in recent episodes, but put him in a room with Boyd Crowder as Boyd goes on about the Good Book, and all of Raylan's cool, all of his training, goes out the window, and he becomes every bit a 21st century Seth Bullock. His relationship with Ava has opened up all kinds of blind spots - to how he's risking his career, and to the dangers still posed from the Miami mob over his shooting of Tommy Bucks - and all of a sudden, Raylan looks less a superman than a mortal, fallible one. After last week's episode tried to split its focus between a routine Raylan case and all the ongoing storylines, "Blind Spot" was devoted entirely to the various messes Raylan finds himself in, with Art, with the Crowders, and with Miami. And while I've quite enjoyed a bunch of the self-contained stories the show has done, there's no question that it's more intense, and more fun, when we're dealing with stories and characters continuing from week to week. Walton Goggins was tremendous tonight (as was Timothy Olyphant at showing Raylan losing his cool). Goggins can go pretty broad at times, as he did in the series pilot, but ever since Boyd had his jailhouse conversion, he's been doing some really small, interesting work with the character. As Goggins plays him, you're never quite clear how much of the born-again thing is real and how much is Boyd just playing an angle. After all, Raylan told us in the pilot that Boyd was too smart to buy into the white supremacy nonsense, and was just doing it as a way to get over. It's entirely possible that's what he's doing here - that he knows it gets under Raylan's skin, and even that he knows he can survive whatever the other prisoners throw at him - but there's also a weird conviction to it. If it's all an act, would he really let things in the prison laundry go that far, not knowing his father was nearby and ready to save him? And speaking of big, bad Bo Crowder, give a big welcome to Mr. M.C. Gainey, boys and girls. When I said a few weeks ago that the producers had to get a really imposing actor to play Bo after the off-screen build-up, Gainey (aka Tom Friendly from "Lost," among many, many bad-ass roles) was the kind of guy I had in mind. We're very clearly pushing towards some kind of ultimate confrontation between Raylan, the Crowders and Miami in the second half, and I'm looking forward to every minute of it. Some other thoughts: • Better late than never, but I was glad to see Ava finally acknowledge that it's kind of a big deal, emotionally, that she killed her husband. Up until now, Ava's been temptress first, character second, and between the early scene in her bedroom and then her initiative in stopping the bad guys at the end, she seems both more like a real person and more like a good match for Raylan. • And speaking of which, note Winona trying to mark[...]

American Idol, Top 6: Shania Twain Night

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 01:39:00 +0000

A review of tonight's "American Idol" performances coming up just as soon as I lament professional comedian Ellen DeGeneres' need to do two different "Shania Twain-as-train" jokes in one episode...First of all, Shania Twain's Canadian-ness is one of those things I tend to forget (in spite of my own half-Canadian ancestry) for years at a time because I only hear her sing, and the accent only comes out in her speaking voice. Very unsettling to be reminded she could have played the love interest in a Bob & Doug McKenzie movie if the timing had been a bit different. As to the show itself? Well, let's just say I find Shania's speaking voice more interest than a lot of what's in her songbook - and particularly the parts of her songbook that were performed this evening. (If only Big Mike or Aaron had come out and did "Man, I Feel Like a Woman"...)Lee Dewyze, "You're Still the One": Every week, the judges completely ignore the number of outright horrible notes he lets into his performances. Until this week, those at least were the exception each week and not the rule, but tonight Lee sounded more off-key then on, while at the same time looking like he had just been up all night trying to recreate the "ADRIAN!!!!" scene from the end of the first "Rocky." I don't dislike Lee in general, but this was probably the worst he's been so far. Michael Lynche, "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing": This is Big Mike doing his young Luther thing. Mostly sounded good - though the falsetto was oddly weak in spots - and passionate (the "wet" quality Simon was complaining about), but didn't do a lot for me. Casey James, "Don't": Some other contestants this season have been ruined by inconsistent comments from the judges. Fortunately for Casey, the judges have all been telling him the same thing for weeks, and he finally listened. No pointless guitar mini-solos, no fixed half-smile; just his usual Bob Seger voice married to some genuine emotion. More vibrato than I would have liked, but overall his best since "Jealous Guy," and one of his strongest performances overall.Crystal Bowersox, "No One Needs to Know": After last week's powerhouse, tear-inducing "People Get Ready," Crystal takes it down several notches with a quirky alt-country performance that sounded very much like the sort of thing she might play at a concert five years from now in between two of her better-known hits. I liked the vibe of it, and the way Crystal sounded a bit like Neko Case when she went into the falsetto. The judges were clearly irked (though only Simon came out and admitted it) she didn't swing for the fences again after last week, but I'm fine with a Mama Sox double now and then. Aaron Kelly, "You Got a Way": Aaron's voice has been pretty brutal the last month or so, but on a country-themed night he finally managed to grab hold of the notes and not sound like he was straining to reach them. But if he sounded better technically, he still put me to sleep, though I believe I woke up just in time to hear Kara accuse him of being a virgin. Is that about right? Siobhan Magnus, "Any Man of Mine": Okay, I think I'm done with her. All the usual Siobhan tics - dull, pitchy low notes at the beginning, building to a wail and an endless power note - and here we got the added bonus of her having major breath control issues as she tried to walk and sing at the same time, and then as she tried to deal with some particularly wordy verses. The judges were impressed by t[...]

Lost: You (still) want answers?

Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:02:00 +0000

(image) Tonight's "Lost" is the only repeat of the season ("Ab Aeterno," the Richard episode), so I figured I'd use the opportunity to re-ask a question from the start of the season: which mysteries will you be most disappointed if they aren't answered by season's end?

And to that I'd now add this: based on how this season has gone, and how some mysteries like the whispers have been explained, have your expectations for the final episodes changed?