Maybe all the campaigning by TRU CALLING fans worked out after all. This week Eliza Dushku and Jason Priestly return to the small screen in all their corpse-assisting, day-reliving glory. Then again, maybe not, since it's only back to burn off the remaining episodes in place of gone-to-the-hereafter POINT PLEASANT, whose ratings were far more apocalyptic than its plotlines.
I only hope that TRU makes the most of their brief return, since the show had ratcheted the dramatic stakes to a whole new level at the end of the first season, what with Jason Priestly revealed as an "evil leaper", to borrow from QUANTUM LEAP parlance. Now we'll get to see a bit more of where the writers were headed. Let's hope they stick to the deep waters of moral ambiguity from season's end and don't get blown back onto the "corpse-of-the-week" reef on which they began.
Of course, TRU's good fortune comes at the loss of POINT PLEASANT, but that's not much of a loss since POINT never made the quality-leap that TRU did. Eight episodes in (five remain unaired), the main character was still flat and uninteresting, the assorted subplots were more BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL than BUFFY, and for a show besotted with the supernatural, it had yet to produce even a single scary moment. Well, maybe Elisabeth Harnois' attempts to emote...and I thought Kristen Kreuk lacked range.
I will, however, miss the malevolent duo of Lucas (Grant Show) and Amber (Dina Meyer). They definitely proved the old adage that it's more fun to play bad, and consequently were the liveliest thing about POINT (was it just me or were they the only characters in that town with a sense of humor?). Show especially brought back fond memories of BABYLON 5's Mr. Morden. At least Morden got a properly memorable exit; these poor souls just vanished in a cloud of half-baked horror cliché's.
And Now for a Few More Important Messages
Boy, I stirred up the hornet's nest last week. Thanks to everyone who wrote in to share their thoughts on how 24 has handled the controversy surrounding the terrorist-cell-family plotline. This column generated more response than any before it (which suggests I should give up the TV commentary and just bait people on divisive issues from now on), and now, as promised, I'll share some of your thoughts. These are murky waters, folks, so play nice, no name-calling, and remember to wait 30 minutes after you eat.
Cyclops284 wrote: "Loved the column about 24. This just may turn out to be the show's best season yet. There was one key thing, though, that you failed to mention: In the last two episodes, where Jack is trapped in the blackout and must team up with the Arabian brothers to fight off the marines, the main Bad Guys behind the blackout and the attack are . . . American Businessmen! As the terrorists take a breather and prepare for the next phase, our heroes must deal with the Suits who would rather black out their offices and kill all their employees than go down for maybe kinda sorta helping terrorists."
Joey K. wrote: "The truth of the matter is that in our country right now, we fear Middle-Eastern Terrorists, specifically, Muslim Fundamentalists. I think the writers of 24 have created their best season since the first, and as I am watching I continue to wonder what all the fuss is about. I hardly think the show has portrayed that all Muslims are terrorists. Maybe we should take this show as a lesson of sorts. Sometimes those who seem to be enemies are not and sometimes those who are friends are not really. We cannot boil down the evil/good line to a point because it doesn't work that way. Some Muslims will try to harm people as terrorists, just as many Americans will, and many more Muslims living in America will take pride in their country along with every other American. One thing that 24 has always done well is to blur the line between good and bad. Heck, even Jack himself has shown less than stellar sides (his torture of the Brit was one of the more unsettling moments for me). It's for this reason, among others, that 24 continues to produce great TV."
Karl O. wrote: "I agree whole heartedly. There are villains in the world and we should be allowed [to] portray them. Do we always have to cater to the uneducated who would base their biases on a TV show or movie? It gets silly."
Dan K. wrote: "I have to say as a fan of 24 from season one, this season is by far the best for pace and action keeps us coming back for more. I love the no-weeks-off stuff. But as for your question, I have heard that the 2 Middle Eastern brothers were planed for quite a while. Whether they were or not, in the context of the show, I felt it was cool to see these guys help out Jack in a time of need. I did not look at them as Middle-Easterners at all. Sad thing is so many people freaked out with the Middle-Eastern plot, but Hollywood does it all the time. It's the times we live in now a days."
Stephen W. wrote: "The characters are treated as three-dimensional people with multiple facets and not just stereotypes. I appreciate what you said regarding a writer's need to be honest in his storytelling. As a writer myself, that is what I strive [for], and that is what I hold other stories up to. As for the writers of this particular show, I think they are doing an excellent job of entertaining and keeping us enthralled in their story."
Jeff O. wrote: " I have really enjoyed this season, but it's also caused some 'discussions' between my girlfriend and I regarding the issues you discuss. My contention is that 24 is simply reflecting the real world; the creators of the show, or anyone for that matter, were not looking for a certain ethnicity to pin the title of 'international terrorist' on. That is just the way the world is at this point. Are all Muslims terrorists? Of course not; that like saying all bald, white men (like myself) are George Costanza or Curly. But the fact remains that our country's No. 1 enemy at this time are Muslim extremists such as those portrayed in this season of 24. I think showing Caucasian American's being complicit in their plot would alleviate some of the 'stereotyping' outcries. But I think the gun-shop-owning Muslims was going out of their way a little to show that there are good Muslims living amongst us, and my girlfriend certainly let me know it."
Marc J. wrote: "I don't care whether the show portrays Dina as dedicated to a cause she believes in. So what! Would any of us regard the operator of a gas chamber at Auschwitz as someone to be respected for believing in a cause? Call me foolish, but I think it's perfectly okay to hate someone who's trying to kill me. And as for Dina, she's dedicated herself to helping organize an event that was to kill hundreds of thousands of American children. But hey, her beliefs can take a back seat to the survival of her own child. And let's not forget that she poisoned her son's innocent girlfriend. If the writers keep within the show's internal logic, then that girl has a mother who's going to find out her child was murdered. There's no 'respect your enemy for his beliefs' storyline that can undo that one. I'll go you one further. If Dina doesn't meet an appropriate fate in this show (like ending up dead), I'll not watch next year."
Omar I. wrote: "You know I can understand where you are coming from. It is important to tell as honest of a story as one can. And yes the world is very gray. But on the other hand, it's not easy to sit here on the other end in this post 9-11 world. The world in which my entire faith is considered the source of all terrorism and evil. I mean, you don't understand how tough it is when you are a loyal American and your loyalties are questioned because [they] may look like you or say that he has the same faith as you. It's tough."
Phillip J. wrote: "The writers at 24 slipped with last week's episode. The actors may have just as well stopped acting, turned to the camera and preached a sermon while yelling 'Can I get an 'Allah Akbar' for all the non-terrorist Muslims out there?' The scenes in the sporting goods store felt forced, out-of-place and preachy. It felt as natural as going to your doctor's office for an appointment and finding a room full of lottery winners all suffering from terminal cancer.
[Also], this is the first season of 24 that has portrayed Middle-Eastern people as the 'bad guys'. Let's review the first three seasons:
Season 1 - evil American Caucasians and evil East European Caucasians.
Season 2 - evil American Caucasians and evil Middle-Eastern Muslims. It's worth noting that it was clearly suggested that these Muslims in season 2 were supplied, controlled and manipulated by power-hungry Caucasian Americans for the purpose of driving up oil profits.
Season 3 - evil Latin American drug dealers and evil British Caucasians
We can clearly see the pattern that 24 has established. White guys are evil... EVIL!
Along comes season 4 and Middle-Eastern people are the bad guys, and the Middle-Eastern world is up in arms. A person of normal intelligence and temperament understands that not all Middle-Eastern people are terrorists. Anyone who is inclined to think so it just a moron looking an excuse. I don't think the writers and producers of 24 had anything to apologize about. Unfortunately, they now appear to think that they do."
So, what brought you the televisual joy this week? Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know.
Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...
MONDAY, MARCH 28
24 (8 PM CST, Fox) Oh no! The ads say Jack is expendable! I bet they'll really kill him this time!
LAS VEGAS (8 PM CST, NBC) "Hit Me!" The parade of faded celebrities continues as Tony Orlando and Don Knotts swing through the casino.
THE LADYKILLERS (8 PM CST, Starz) It's Tom Hanks with buck teeth and J. Jonah Jameson with irritable bowel syndrome. How could you go wrong?
MEDIUM (9 PM CST, NBC) "A Priest, A Doctor, and a Medium Walk into an Execution Chamber." Allison witnesses a drug lord's execution, which makes it doubly puzzling when the witness of a murder swears that the killer was the executed man...or his ghost.
TUESDAY, MARCH 29
THE MUMMY RETURNS (6 PM CST, USA) If only he hadn't.
DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY (7 PM CST, TCM) And not in the guise of Brad Pitt, thankfully.
HOUSE (8 PM CST, Fox) "Heavy." So who's House firing? It will be decided on the Sands of Blood!
SCRUBS (8 PM CST, NBC) "My Boss's Free Haircut." Kelso butts heads with a feisty patient, and J.D. moves back in with Turk. How the haircut factors in, only time will tell.
VERONICA MARS (8 PM CST, UPN) "Betty and Veronica." Veronica is called in to investigate the disappearance of the school mascot, a parrot. Presumably Encyclopedia Brown was otherwise occupied.
INVASION IOWA (8 PM CST, Spike) A reality spoof where a fake film crew descends on a small Iowa town, conning the residents into believing they're filming a low-budget sci-fi flick starring...guess who...William Shatner! (Part one airs tonight, with the remaining parts airing each following night in this same time-slot thru Friday's two-hour finale.)
THE OFFICE (8:30 PM CST, NBC) "Diversity Day." Michael heads a diversity seminar, even though his actions were what necessitated the seminar in the first place.
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (9 PM CST, NBC) "Intoxicated." The coppers investigate claims of a 21-year-old raping his 15-year-old girlfriend.
BLIND JUSTICE (9 PM CST, ABC) "Up on the Roof." There is a fiddler. But seriously, in a case of karma, the ex-partner whose hesitation resulted in Dunbar getting shot is himself shot. No word if he gains superhuman powers as a result.
THE SHIELD (9 PM CST, FX) "Bang." A gang member is killed in retaliation for a drive-by. Mackey responds by sheathing himself in a skin of orange rock and yelling, "It's clobberin' time!"
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30
LOST (7 PM CST, ABC) "Deus Ex Machina." After many weeks of reruns, we're back on the island! Now could Locke get the bloody hatch open already?
MYTHBUSTERS (8 PM CST, Discovery) "Son of a Gun." Did a "magic bullet" really impregnate a woman during the Civil War? Watch and find out.
THE WEST WING (8 PM CST, NBC) "Things Fall Apart." White House destroyed by aliens who don't properly protect their computers with antivirus software; Will Smith reported cocky.
ALIAS (8 PM CST, ABC) "Tuesday." Sloane and company wind up quarantined, and Marshall is Syd's only hope. Also, if the ads are any evidence, somebody on the writing staff is a fan of KILL BILL, VOL. 2.
LAW & ORDER (9 PM CST, NBC) "Sects." A woman's murder leads to a cult that sexually abuses children. Boy, LAW & ORDER...always an uplifting 44 minutes, ain't it?
EYES (9 PM CST, ABC) "Pilot Episode." Tim Daly has been a fugitive from network television for a while, but now he wings his way back as Harlan Judd, the head of a PI-firm specializing in risky assignments. Who'd have thunk back during WINGS that Thomas Haden Church would be the one to wind up with a big movie career?
THURSDAY, MARCH 31
TRU CALLING (7 PM CST, Fox) "Perfect Storm/Grace." Well, sure, it's nice to finally see the remainder of this show's episodes (two back-to-back tonight). But I was really looking forward to that "demonic hot rod" episode of POINT PLEASANT.
WESTWORLD (7 PM CST, WGN) If the movies have taught us anything, it's to stop building futuristic theme parks. Sure, it starts with "Genetically engineered dolphins have more stamina and require less food, thus saving Sea World thousands of dollars," but the next thing you know, Flipper's decapitating a row of second-graders.
CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (8 PM CST, CBS) "Spark of Life." All you need to know is that tonight's episode description includes the words "rolling fireball."
FALLEN (8 PM CST, Starz) Denzel Washington fights against a body-hopping demon that may or may not be Mick Jagger.
FRIDAY, APRIL 1
JOAN OF ARCADIA (7 PM CST, CBS) "Trial and Error." Joan gets to play prosecutor in a mock trial based on "Jack and the Beanstalk." Fee, fi, fo, fum, do we have a jury quorum?
FUTUREWORLD (7 PM CST, WGN) Crazy robots band together to kill all humans.
MAXIM'S HOT 100 (7 PM CST, VH1) Hey, I'm perfectly justified in including this. They interview Jerry O'Connell, and he was on SLIDERS.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (9 PM CST, NBC) "Pattern of Conduct." A married basketball player goes on trial for murdering his girlfriend. See, nothing but sweetness and light in this franchise. Bring on the dancing leprechauns.
NUMBERS (9 PM CST, CBS) "Identity Crisis." Don wonders if he put an innocent man in jail when a new murder is eerily similar to the case he thought was solved. Maybe it was that undead drug dealer from MEDIUM.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (9:00 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part Two." Starbuck's off on her quest to retrieve the "Arrow of Apollo," and I'm betting Adama isn't going to find the humor in it. (Season finale)
SATURDAY, APRIL 2
SPY KIDS 2: ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS (8 PM CST, ABC) It takes a special kind of talent to bounce from the eye-popping kids' fantasy of this series to the monochromatic grime and grit of SIN CITY. And it takes an even better kind of talent to cast Carla Gugino in the SIN CITY role she occupies, if you know what I'm saying. (nudgenudgewinkwinksaynomore)
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (7 PM CST, FX) If only I could have escaped from ESCAPE FROM L.A.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (7 PM CST, TCM) When was the last time they made a thriller this good?
THE BATMAN (7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "The Bat in the Belfry." It's nowhere near the noir brilliance of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, but this take on the Dark Knight's early years is certainly...different. This debut ep, for instance, gives us a decidedly non-traditional take on the Joker. (I'll stick with Mark Hamill, thank you kindly.)
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (8 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "This Little Piggy." Batman sings. And he ain't bad! (Repeat)
SUNDAY, APRIL 3
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (6:30 PM CST, Fox) "No Motorcycles." Francis takes a motorcycle trip with Hal, which means that someone is almost certainly going to comedically jump something before the episode's over.
THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "The 7 Beer Snitch." Springfield gets a new concert hall, but when it fails to draw a crowd, Mr. Burns takes it over.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Meet the Veals." FIREFLY alert! Alan "Wash" Tudyk guests tonight! And if he's half as funny as Ben Stiller's magician from last week, truly it shall be wondrous.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (8 PM CST, NBC) "The Good Child." A couple in witness-protection obviously isn't properly protected, since they wind up dead. Damn you, LAW & ORDER...I'm so depressed now.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (8 PM CST, ABC) "There Won't Be Trumpets." Lynette befriends a deaf woman (guest-star Marlee Matlin) at her kids' recital, which invites any number of "tone-deaf kids" jokes that I simply won't stoop to.
KOJAK (8 PM CST, USA) "All That Glitters." Is not Marcellus Wallace's soul. Wait, what was I saying?
DEADWOOD (8 PM CST, HBO) "Complications." After watching the past few episodes, I've made a new resolution: if I ever time-travel to the Old West, I will make sure not to require medical treatment of any kind.
ROBOT CHICKEN (10:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "A Piece of the Action." Did you see the "Great Pumpkin" spoof last week? Did you? Someone give Seth Green a Nobel Peace Prize. Or at least a No-Prize, something.