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Hits and Misses

It continues to be a weird season.

By David Michael Wharton     November 15, 2004

The cast of HOUSE: pictured clockwise from center - Hugh Laurie, Jesse Spencer, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard and Jennifer Morrison.
© Fox

Not only does ABC have not one, but two popularly and critically acclaimed shows (LOST and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), as well as several entirely watchable shows that haven't yet cracked the top of the ratings (BOSTON LEGAL and LIFE AS WE KNOW IT)...

Not only have most of the shows that have earned early deaths pretty much deserved it (I'll shed no tears for HAWAII, CLUBHOUSE, or FATHER OF THE PRIDE)...

Not only is NBC's once-indestructible Thursday night block getting its tail handed to it by CBS and Fox...

But now VERONICA MARS--a clever and well-written show with a ridiculously talented lead, but which nobody was watching early on--has steadily gained in the ratings, enough for UPN to grant it a full season pick-up.

Huzzah, I say, huzzah! And congratulations to Mr. Clines on his newfound job security. (He knows who he is...)

Moving on to other business, allow me to thank everybody who has written in these past few weeks, whether to welcome me to the column or in response to last week's question posed. I know my predecessors here have made interaction with the readers a high priority, and that's a tradition I definitely want to continue.

Along those lines, let's hear from some of those aforementioned readers who took the time to weigh in on the subject of shows with "That Certain Something."

First up, "Jay" tells us what he loves about this season's breakout hit, LOST:

"It's a very different show with its tight timing and the flashbacks. Yes it's had some lame dialogue, especially in this last episode with the drug story. But still, I wouldn't miss a moment. The whole theme of the show, a group of people who have never met before having to learn to live together when they crash on an island with little chance of rescue, it fascinating to me. Especially as we learn that each of these people isn't just lost on the island but was lost in their own lives. So lost they didn't even see it themselves. And the acting is so fabulous. Terry O'Quinn is just the right mix of fatherly guide and 'creepy old git', Matthew Fox is perfect as the hesitant leader, Dominic Monaghan is equally perfect as the troubled young ex rocker and who can forget about Daniel Dae Kim and his wife, whose roles were actually written for them rather than the other way around. Daniel was amusing as Gavin the evil lawyer but he's fantastic as Jin."

And let's not forget Kim's turns as Lt. John Matheson on CRUSADE, Corporal Chang on ENTERPRISE, and Agent Tom Baker on 24, allowing him to rival Terry O'Quinn for genre-show ubiquity.

Next, over to "Tony Whitt," who writes:

"Without question, my response would have to be STRANGE LUCK, one of those quirky one-season wonders from Fox in the mid-90's.  It starred D.B. Sweeney as Chance Harper, a guy who survives a plane crash as a child and ends up having unusual (not necessarily always GOOD) luck the rest of his life.  I adored this show, even though it occasionally went a bit off the deep end--the episode with the brothers fighting over a spud that looks like Elvis Presley was probably the show's lowest point.  Otherwise, it was 17 episodes of sheer bliss, and I miss it terribly."

Ah yes, I remember it well: one of the more entertaining shows to ride the Fox Friday Night Death Carousel. And it established itself as existing in THE X-FILES universe by name-checking Agent Mulder, too, so that should be reason enough for Fox to put out a DVD set, if you ask me...

Say, anybody feel like making a case for EARTH 2? Why, I bet "Samuel B. Everett" does. Play it, Sam:

"I remember EARTH 2 only vaguely because it doesn't seem like one of those that have enough of a following that it may ever get released on DVD.  I remember watching the pilot and a few of the beginning episodes and thinking, 'There's something to this show...I'm not sure what, though.'

"Years afterwards and catching reruns on Sci-Fi channel (which if I remember being as short lived as the original show) I realized what it was.  The show had taken the dramatic aspect to LOST IN SPACE and made them work.  Instead of trying the cheesy (there's a new alien that wants to hurt us, help me robot) they stuck to one alien species and although those beings got a little uninteresting from time to time it was more interesting and realistic instead of trying the new creature of the week.

"The struggles on the show were internal.  The characters had difficulty dealing with each other, and sometimes they really just didn't like each other.  There were few cop-out 'Well I like you now for no damn reason but I do!'  And it continued with that.  This was a series that was about people under extreme circumstances and what they do when confronted by it.  The late addition of Tim Curry as a human with his own agenda didn't help the ratings but added a good wrench into the community.  After a while people would bond together to make everything work. The villains of the show weren't the aliens, they were human...they made sense.  The aliens being representative of a tribe of spiritual beings (Native Americans primarily) was also a wonderful idea.

"Unfortunately when the show didn't work, it really didn't work.  Characters that didn't change soon enough or changed too soon.  Although the addition of Curry's character was a good idea, many times it made it too contrived (what evil thing was he going to do this time and yet still stay with the group?).  There were some really poorly written episodes that just caused the same conflict with the aliens to be repeated over and over again.

"Yet, despite the flaws it had from time to time it really impressed me that they were trying something interesting without dropping itself into the non-linear new episode, new alien STAR TREK theme.  I was impressed and genuinely interested in the development of the characters and the story.  The acting was never the greatest but actually quite decent for the budget.  It saddens me that it may never make it to DVD (It may considering what is released these days) because I have a wonderful love for this short-lived show that could and sometimes was really great.

"EARTH 2 was one of those that maybe was wisely canceled before it possibly really went downhill, but I will never know."

Well put, Sam. Although I must admit, my primary lingering impression of EARTH 2 is, "At least it's not SEAQUEST."

Alright, big props to Jay, Tony, and Samuel for making my job that much easier this week. Let's hit the picks!

Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...



FEAR FACTOR (7 PM CST, NBC) It's an "all-model" edition." Now, if they crossed over with AMERICA'S TOP MODEL and had Tyra Banks chugging a squid-eye smoothie, then I might be intrigued.

COMMANDO (7 PM CST, FX) The governor of California tries to rescue that hot girl from CHARMED from the evil clutches of Dan Hedaya.

HISTORY'S MYSTERIES (7 PM CST, History Channel) "Crop Circle Controversy." Sure, those British farmers took credit for the crop circle phenomenon, but they were just covering for the Fair Folk.

COP ROCK (7 PM CST, Trio) One of my favorite networks brings you the Great Bochco Folly of 1990.

THE SCORPION KING (8 PM CST, USA) I actually occasionally like the Rock (THE RUNDOWN was surprisingly fun), but he sure didn't earn any goodwill with this steamer. Still, there is the Scantily Clad Kelly Hu argument, which is difficult to counter.

LAS VEGAS (8 PM CST, NBC) "Degas Away With It." Alec Baldwin and Ed McMahon make appearances, and somebody steals some art.

$25 MILLION DOLLAR HOAX (9 PM CST, NBC) Somebody should really point out to NBC that when you stick the dollar sign in front of the "25," you don't actually have to include the word "dollar." But in the meantime, this episode of $25 MILLION DOLLAR DOLLAR HOAX features N'Sync-er Lance Bass, otherwise known as the only member of that band that I can name that didn't date Britney Spears.

CSI: MIAMI (9 PM CST, CBS) "Speed Kills." The title refers to craze-of-the-moment speed dating, not to the drug or the Keanu Reeves movie. Although, SPEED 2 actually does kill.



RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING (6:30 CST, Flix) Every time someone watches this, co-star Heather Locklear's acid reflux acts up.

REBEL BILLIONAIRE: BRANSON'S QUEST FOR THE BEST (7 PM CST, Fox) Richard Branson tosses contestants over a waterfall or drops them into a thresher or something like that.

THE BIGGEST LOSER (7 PM CST, NBC) So who is the Biggest Loser? I'll give you a hint: if you're watching this, it's you.

GILMORE GIRLS (7 PM CST, WB) "Emily Says 'Hello'." And Frankie say "Relax."

NCIS (7 PM CST, CBS) "Terminal Leave." A Navy aviator is killed in a car explosion, and signs point to terrorism. I notice that this season they finally dropped the redundant "Navy" from the title. They should give NBC a call about that $25 MILLION DOLLAR HOAX thing.

WILD WEST TECH (7 PM CST, History Channel) An entire hour devoted to the tools of the vigilante, from nooses to cannons. Probably no Jonah Hex references, though.

AMAZING RACE (8 PM CST, CBS) Season premiere. The new season kicks off in Chicago and then heads to Iceland.

HOUSE (8 PM CST, Fox) Series premiere. BLACKADDER's Hugh Laurie stars as a brilliant doctor with a less-than-brilliant bedside manner in this new drama from exec producer Bryan Singer. I promise not to stoop to any "in the HOUSE" puns if you won't.

SCRUBS (8:30 PM CST, NBC) "My Female Trouble." J.D.'s got a crush on the malpractice attorney who's suing Turk. It doesn't hurt that she's played by guest star Julianna Margulies.



MYTHBUSTERS (7 PM CST, Discovery) Amongst other things, the guys try to discover if too many roach foggers can blow up a house.

THAT '70S SHOW (7 PM CST, Fox) "Angie." Eric's darkest obsession is revealed: roller disco. And not the good "Heather Graham as Rollergirl" kind of roller disco.

LOST (7 PM CST, ABC) "Solitary." We get a peek at Sayid's backstory, even as he discovers that the castaways are not alone on the island. Guest-starring Delenn herself, Mira Furlan.

SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Bound." The show continues to play Six Degrees of Christopher Reeve as SOMEWHERE IN TIME co-star Jane Seymour begins a guest stint as the mother of Lana's boy toy.

BLAZING SADDLES (7 PM CST, AMC) Not as good as YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, but loads better than MEN IN TIGHTS.

JACK & BOBBY (8 PM CST, WB) "Lost Boys." Grace throws a Thanksgiving potluck and Jack's friend Matt commits suicide. Presumably the two events are unrelated. Or maybe he just hated cranberry sauce.

THE WEST WING (8 PM CST, NBC) "The Hubbert Peak." Josh crashes an SUV into a hybrid car, resulting in an uncontrolled explosion of clumsily wrought metaphors.

GHOST HUNTERS (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) The guys travel to an armory to investigate the claims of a TV soundman who purportedly attacked by an invisible entity.

CSI: NY (9 PM CST, CBS) "Rain." They've seen fire and they've seen rain after a botched robbery results in an explosion that leaves the crooks burned beyond recognition and a storm washes away evidence.

STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (9 PM CST, Spike) Kirk's a bigot, Klingons quote Shakespeare, and Kim Cattrall sports a really bad haircut.

SOUTH PARK (9 PM CST, Comedy Central) "Preschool." A kid who took the fall for Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman, and Butters back in preschool is released from juvie and comes looking for revenge.

PROOF POSITIVE: EVIDENCE OF THE PARANORMAL (9 PM CST, Sci-Fi) We get to meet a guy who claims to own part of the Roswell UFO. Unfortunately, it's nothing but an extraterrestrial air freshener. Pine scented, though, so that's nice.

FILMFAKERS (9 PM CST, AMC) The show goes the fake Western route, with unwitting actors cast in "The Committed."

NAKED SCIENCE (9 PM CST, National Geographic Channel) Hey, whatever it takes to get the kids to pay attention during school.

DRAWN TOGETHER (9:30 PM CST, Comedy Central) The housemates have to fight for their food. Which seems like a good set-up for a Pac Man joke, but they used him last week.



THE O.C. (7 PM CST, Fox) "The New Kids on the Block." I can only hope this episode in no way involves any surviving members of the late-80s boy band.

TOP GUN (7 PM CST, WGN) Tom Cruise writes checks his body can't cash.

THE APPRENTICE (8 PM CST, NBC) Blah blah blah, you're fired, blah blah blah.

CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (8 PM CST, CBS) "Ch-ch-changes." The series hits 100 episodes as Grissom's case takes him into the world of transgenders.

ER (9 PM CST, NBC) "White Guy, Dark Hair." Sick people, angst-y docs.

WITHOUT A TRACE (9 PM CST, CBS) "Doppelganger II." A man who is the identical twin of a suspect arrested five months earlier for murdering women may be involved in the disappearance of a woman from a shelter.

BELOW (9 PM CST, Encore) All the classic haunted house tropes relocated to an embattled WWII submarine. A tense, moody flick that few have seen, but which I'm happy to evangelize.



JOAN OF ARCADIA (7 PM CST, CBS) "No Future." Joan is burned at the stake by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Not really, but it seems inevitable, doesn't it?

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (7 PM CST, UPN) "The Forge." The bombing of the Earth embassy on Vulcan may be the work of a sect devoted to Surak, the father of Vulcan philosophy. What about that whole "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations" idea, guys?

THE WIZARD OF OZ (7 PM CST, TBS) Sure, this one's a classic, but RETURN TO OZ has Fairuza Balk and those creepy Wheelers, so advantage RETURN TO OZ.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (7 PM CST, AMC) You made a crappy movie, is what you did.

DREAMCATCHER (7 PM CST, HBO) Marvel at how so much collective talent could go so horribly, horribly wrong. Or just stare at Morgan Freeman's eyebrows.

MEDICAL INVESTIGATION (9 PM CST, NBC) "Price of Pleasure." Deadly bacteria infects an adult film star, an overweight housewife, and a bodybuilder. And that sounds like a recipe for a best-selling adult video in and of itself.

HITLER AND THE OCCULT (9 PM CST, Biography) I wonder if they'll include interviews with Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.



JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS (6 PM CST, Sci-Fi) So let me get this straight: in this sequel we've lost James Woods and an unclothed Sheryl Lee, but we've gained Jon Bon Jovi? I don't believe that's a trade I care to endorse.

TEEN TITANS (7 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Spellbound." Raven discovers a young magician inside one of her books.

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Initiation." In case you missed it, here's the first episode of the current season, introducing the animated versions of Green Arrow and Captain Atom.

QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Watch this and mutter prayers of thanksgiving that Stuart Townsend dropped out of the role of Aragorn in LORD OF THE RINGS, clearing the way for god-amongst-men Viggo Mortensen.

PSYCHO (8 PM CST, Trio) Not the good version, unfortunately.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (7 PM CST, HBO) This final installment in Robert Rodriguez's trilogy didn't do anything for me, but I'm all for a sequel focusing on Johnny Depp's blind CIA agent.

THE RING (7 PM CST, Cinemax). Seven days...

ANTZ (9:15 PM CST, TBS) The lesser CGI bug movie.

BULLITT (9:15 PM CST, Turner Classic Movies) Still one of the coolest car chases ever.

THIS IS SPINAL TAP (10 PM CST, Independent Film Channel) This movie goes to eleven.



THE 13TH WARRIOR (6 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Antonio Banderas makes a less-than-convincing Arab, but man those Norsemen are cool. Especially the guy who played Buliwyf, who was like twelve feet tall and should really die his hair and play Conan.

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (6:30 PM CST, Fox) "Standee." Hal matches wits with a garbage collector, while Lois butts heads with Lucky Aide over a racially insensitive display.

THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "Sleeping with the Enemy." Marge adopts Nelson (the bully, not Mandela).

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Amigos!" Everyone's in Mexico, as Michael goes looking for George, Sr., and Buster tries to avoid being all he can be (which, admittedly, isn't much) in the Army.

CHARMED (7 PM CST, WB) "There's Something About Leo." Does this show really have that large a viewership? Really? I swear, this thing is unkillable.

AIRPLANE! (7 PM CST, Spike) Looks like I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

BATTLEGROUND--THE ART OF WAR: ALEXANDER (8 PM CST, Discovery Channel) Recalling Alexander the Great's defeat of Persian King Darius III in 332 B.C.

MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS BOSS (8 PM CST, Fox) Fake boss Todd creeps out the female contestants when he invites them aboard his yacht; then everyone is challenged to create mascots for a polluting chemical company.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (8 PM CST, ABC) "Anything You Can Do." Mike's unexpected houseguest irks Susan and Lynette gets seriously hooked on the twins' ADD meds. A moment of silence for poor Dean Cain, whose CLUBHOUSE just got canned, while Teri Hatcher's comeback vehicle continues to flourish.

BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "Questionable Characters." Alan Shore comes to Denny's rescue when the Once and Future Shatner gets collared for solicitation.


This concludes our broadcast day. See you next week!



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