The biggest news this week is that after this May, for the first time in nearly twenty years, the airways will be totally free of new STAR TREK episodes. ENTERPRISE is no more. For all the praiseworthy efforts of Manny Coto and company in trying to salvage this sinking ship, in the end it was too little too late to plug the massive holes years of Berman-and-Braga mismanagement hath wrought. Is this the end of TREK? Almost certainly not. It'll be back at some point, in some form...the only question is when and whether it will be under better management.
So it would only make sense that I use this space to speculate idly about what shape that future might take, but to be honest? I don't have much to say about it. It's seemed inevitable for some time, and now that the hammer has finally fallen, it all seems anticlimactic.
Besides, I'd much rather talk about SMALLVILLE.
Which is surprising, because there's usually not much to say about SMALLVILLE. As much as I enjoy the adventures of Clark "Don't Call Me Superboy" Kent when the show's at the top of its game, it has a nasty tendency to fill the spaces between well-written moments of revelation and plot advancement with episode upon episode of wheel spinning. And that's why the past two episodes have been so refreshing.
When Pete learned Clark's secret, that unlocked potential to really shake up the show's status quo. It did for a bit, but eventually the show just settled into a new status quo, and the status quo of Pete knowing the secret became just as stagnant as the status quo of Pete not knowing. And since Pete being Clark's confidant was basically the only reason the writers gave him to exist on a weekly basis, they eventually wrote him out. Clark was back where he started, with no one knowing his secret except his parents.
This season, the show hasn't really known what to do with itself. The writers thankfully let us all off the ever-more-tedious Clark-and-Lana merry-go-round, and sparked things up by introducing the future Mrs. Kent, the delightful Erica Durance as Lois Lane, but as much as we'd come to take it for granted, the show was hurting without Clark having a peer to confide in. Enter teleporting Alicia Baker, fresh from the looney bin, all long legs and puppy-dog eyes for Clark.
For once, Clark's infatuation for someone made sense, as opposed to his obsession with the pretty-but-aggressively-uninteresting Lana Lang. Sure, Clark's crush on Alicia seemed to progress with--if you'll forgive me--superspeed, from wariness and attraction to devotion and maybe even love over the course of only two episodes. But the relationship made sense in the world of raging teen emotions and hormones, and all the more so because she provided Clark with what he most needed: somebody like him. That bond made it even more tragic when she then died to keep his secret. (Although I did smirk a bit as Clark's bellows of despair--intentionally or not--aped Christopher Reeve's infamous scene after the death of Lois. And, all due respect, but Sara Carter is far more worthy of reversing the time-space continuum than Margot Kidder.) Clark's character arc leading up to this point made his relationship with Alicia feel honest, and that was crucial for us to buy into her death being the catalyst that brought him closer than he's ever been to willfully killing another human being (take a look at his final confrontation with Smallville's erstwhile Sandman...if that dude hadn't discorporated, Clark would have squished his head like a melon).
Like good TV should, these episodes not only shifted the status quo, but they raised questions for future episodes to answer. Chloe now knows the truth about Clark, but when will he find out that she knows, and how will this affect their friendship? How will the loss of Alicia affect Clark on his slow road to Metropolis? Hell, Lois' response to Chloe's question about whether she would tell a friend if she knew a secret the friend didn't want her to know raises all sorts of questions about Lois' eventual relationship with Clark. She tells Chloe that she would stay silent, be supportive, and hope that her friend would eventually come to confide on his own terms. We've always wondered how Lois could be so blind as to not put two and two together about Clark and Superman...maybe we haven't given her enough credit...
I dearly hope that the writers won't succumb to latter-day TREK syndrome and let this all fall by the wayside after an episode or two. SMALLVILLE is a show that's capable of moments of greatness, but they've been sadly too few and far between.
The Week Rerun:
THEY SHOULD REALLY CALL PEST CONTROL - They did it again. There's a mole on 24. Again. Please, please, writing staff, I beg you...please be some sort of clever red herring or misdirection. Because if the best you've got up your sleeve these days is to rehash plots that were already growing tiresome in season two, I think your day may have come and gone.
A COFFIN BUILT FOR TWO - I know I've said it before, but seriously, MEDIUM has the best openings. The coffin conversation with the dead cop managed not only to be clever and funny, but it even contained two plot points. That's snazzy writing, mister.
YOU GOT A PURTY (SEWN-UP) MOUTH, BOY - The scary eyeless grandma on CARNIVALE was pretty disturbing, I'll grant you, what with her tendency to stitch shut the orifices of those what gave her any backtalk. But I've read Garth Ennis' PREACHER, so you'll have to go quite a ways to produce more disturbing or disturbingly funny hillbillies than the ones that ate Herr Starr's leg.
GOOD NIGHT, JOHNNY - The difference between Leno and Letterman was rarely as apparent as it was during the two comics' tributes to the sorely missed Johnny Carson last week. Leno's tribute was awkward, sappy, and never once felt genuine. Letterman's was understated, honest, and emotional. If there was ever any doubt as to which of the two is Johnny's true successor, it's now officially settled.
So what brought you the televisual joy this week? Drop me a line at email@example.com. Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE (6 PM CST, CMT) Goodness gracious, it's Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis.
DARK BLUE (7 PM CST, Showtime) When done right, James Ellroy's darker-than-dark crime fiction can make for gritty, intense filmmaking. While this one is no L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, Kurt Russell's performance is definitely worth a watch.
24 (8 PM CST, Fox) The president orders evacuations of several cities. Oh, and efforts are made to track down...sigh...the mole.
LAS VEGAS (8 PM CST, NBC) "Can You See What I See?" Ed has staffers switch jobs and Danny notices a suspicious roulette player. Not that he's cheating, just that he's a shifty-eyed guy with a scar, a limp, and a ticking bulge under one arm.
MEDIUM (9 PM CST, NBC) "Coming Soon." Allison's visions strike close to home, as she sees glimpses of her daughters kidnapped. Probably by that roulette player from LAS VEGAS.
CSI: MIAMI (9 PM CST, CBS) "One Night Stand." A guest shoots a bellman to death in a hotel room and a scantily clad woman is found dead in the hotel's elevator. Wasn't this one of the sequences in FOUR ROOMS?
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8
MUMMY AUTOPSY (7 PM CST, Discovery) "Upon review, it is my conclusion that the subject died when his brain was removed via his left nostril."
GILMORE GIRLS (7 PM CST, WB) "Wedding Bell Blues." Richard and Emily's renewal of wedding vows highlights the show's 100th episode, but there's trouble at both the bachelor party and the reception.
NARC (7 PM CST, Showtime) Continuing "Underrated Police-Thiller Theater," check out Ray Liotta's stellar performance as an unstable cop.
NOVA (PBS, Check Local Listings) "The Viking Deception." Examining the authenticity of the "Vinland Map," which purportedly shows that the Vikings discovered America long before Columbus.
DEADLY WOMEN (8 PM CST, Discovery) You know what they say about the deadlier of the species. Tonight, a look at Countess Bathory of Slovakia, who supposedly enjoyed bathing in the blood of girls to stay young. I think I saw an infomercial for that once.
HOUSE (8 PM CST, Fox) "Histories." House deals with a homeless woman who collapses while bickering with police at a rave.
SCRUBS (8 PM CST, NBC) "My Quarantine." Taking a break from playing anthropologists in crappy video-game adaptations, Tara Reid guest stars as J.D.'s "ex-girlfriend from hell." Hopefully the show won't feature her "breast augmentation from hell."
VERONICA MARS (8 PM CST, UPN) "Lord of the Bling." Veronica helps Keith track down the daughter of a hip-hop mogul, who may have been kidnapped. Hey UPN, since ENTERPRISE is dead, cherish this and KEVIN HILL, which are the closest things you have to hits.
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (9 PM CST, NBC) "Game." Crime-scene photos from a brutal murder match scenes from a new video game. I knew THE PUNISHER would be trouble.
NYPD BLUE (9 PM CST, ABC) "Sergeant Sipowicz' Lonely Hearts Club Band." Andy settles into his promotion, but he is missed back at the old precinct. With this show soon retiring, what will become of all the former child/teen actors in search of career makeovers and respectability?
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9
THAT '70S SHOW (7 PM CST, Fox) "Street Fighting Man." Eric and Red bond at a Packers game, but Jackie and Hyde squabble.
LOST (7 PM CST, ABC) "Homecoming." Claire has escaped Ethan, but now has a big plot hole where her memories used to be, which means poor Charlie will have to start his wooing all over again.
SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Recruit." Clark takes a recruiting trip to Metropolis University, where Lois gets busted for putting the hurt on an M.U. football player who had harassed her.
WILD THINGS (7 PM CST, Cinemax) Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in the swimming pool: good. Kevin Bacon stepping out of the shower: bad.
THE WEST WING (8 PM CST, NBC) "The Wake Up Call." Iran mistakes a British airliner for a U.S. spy plane and shoots it down, prompting a crisis with the British Prime Minister.
ALIAS (8 PM CST, ABC) "Nocturne." Syd gets bit by an operative all hopped up on experimental crazy juice, and Vaughn and Jack have to stop her before she makes with the violence on folks who don't deserve it.
JACK & BOBBY (8 PM CST, WB) "Into the Woods." Iran mistakes Bobby's school bus for an experimental American spy R.V. and keys it, prompting a crisis with Bobby's principal and the head of the school district's motor pool.
LAW & ORDER (9 PM CST, NBC) "Obsession." When a radio-show host is murdered, the coppers suspect his soon-to-be-insanely-wealthy widow.
CSI: NY (9 PM CST, CBS) "Blood, Sweat and Tears." A murdered teen washes up on Coney Island, and suspicion falls on circus performers. Is this a CARNIVALE crossover?
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10
THE O.C. (7 PM CST, Fox) "The Lonely Hearts Club." Seth, Zach, and Summer hit the road for a comic pitch on the show that's like BEVERLY HILLS 90210, except better written and with mad geek cred.
POINT PLEASANT (8 PM CST, Fox) "Last Dance." There's trouble at a fund-raising dance marathon as the entire town of Point Pleasant suddenly finds itself in the plot of a bad 80s Patrick Swayze movie.
CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (8 PM CST, CBS) "UnBearable." A hunter is mauled by a bear; a cache of pic-a-nic baskets is found secreted nearby.
OUTLAW COMIC: THE CENSORING OF BILL HICKS (8 PM CST, Trio) I first discovered the genius that was Hicks via, of all things, Garth Ennis' PREACHER comics. This is an excellent look into Hicks' life, career, and premature death.
BLACK BOOKS (8:30 PM CST, BBC America) "The Blackout." It's funny. Very funny. Just watch.
WITHOUT A TRACE (9 PM CST, CBS) "Neither Rain Nor Sleet." A postal worker vanishes, along with her truck's contents of video games. After a grueling investigation, police discover the thieves were just trying to prevent Uwe Boll from finding anymore source material.
STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION (9:45 PM CST, Starz) Phil Tippet picks up where Paul Verhoeven left off, sans any returning cast or any more resemblance to the novel than the first outing.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11
TREKKIES (6:30 PM CST, Showtime) I try not to be judgmental of the passions or devotions of others that might seems strange to some...but seriously, the lady in here who never takes off her Starfleet uniform and insists her coworkers call her "the Commander"...that's just wiggy.
JOAN OF ARCADIA (7 PM CST, CBS) "Romancing the Joan." Valentine's Day approaches and Haylie Duff guests. If either of the Olsen Twins shows up, I'm out.
STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (7 PM CST, UPN) "The Aenar." Archer and Shran go in search on an offshoot Andorian civilization that might be able to help against the Romulan drone. Such a shame that we're losing this show just when it's finding its footing. Maybe, if we're lucky, Paramount will finally come to their senses and shitcan Berman and Braga.
LORD OF THE FLIES (7 PM CST, WGN) However good or bad this version might be, I won't be able to get past the SIMPSONS flashbacks. "I ate the purple berries. They taste like burning!"
STARGATE SG-1 (7 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Full Alert." The Russians suspect that the American government has been infiltrated by aliens. Wow, that could just as easily be a description of an episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE.
OFFICE SPACE (7 PM CST, Bravo) Watch out for your cornhole, brother.
STARGATE ATLANTIS (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Sanctuary." The team discovers a utopia that might provide shelter from the Wraith, but things are, of course, not that easy. Okay, I'm not watching this show, so is this Wraith thing the same as that Charlie Sheen haunted-car movie from 1986? 'cause if so, I've been vastly underestimating this franchise.
TREKKIES 2 (8 PM CST, Showtime) Denise Crosby hosts for another descent into territory often touching, frequently funny, and occasionally disturbing. Because it's not like Denise Crosby has anything better to do.
MEDICAL INVESTIGATION (9 PM CST, NBC) "Survivor." The team suspects a 9/11 link in a series of paralysis cases.
NUMBERS (9 PM CST, CBS) "Structural Corruption." An apparent suicide by an L.A. engineering student may be tied to problems with one of the city's newest skyscrapers. And it's not that the building's A.I. has gone homicidal like in that X-FILES episode.
MONK (9 PM CST, USA) "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic." Fortunately, OnStar is there to talk him down.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (9 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Litmus." The jig is up as Adama is forced to reveal to the fleet that they have been infiltrated by Cylon agents.
THE MAKING OF 'CONSTANTINE' (9:45 PM CST, HBO) I won't see this until Tuesday, but I'm hoping against hope that this won't have to be renamed in retrospect "The Complete Fouling Up of CONSTANTINE."
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12
CHARLIE BROWN VALENTINE (7 PM CST, ABC) I haven't ever seen this one, but I'm betting Charlie Brown doesn't find true love and live happily ever after.
DIE HARD 2 (7 PM CST, FX) What are the odds of the same thing happening to the same guy twice? Uh...ask Jack Bauer.
SUPERMAN (7 PM CST, TCM) Watch and appreciate just how monumental a task Bryan Singer and new-Supes Brandon Routh have ahead of them.
TEEN TITANS (7 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Cyborg the Barbarian." Cyborg gets tossed 5,000 years into the past, which causes problems when he needs to recharge.
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "The Ties That Bind." The spotlight's on Mister Miracle (voiced by soon-to-be Mister Fantastic, Ioan Gruffudd) and Flash, who's been AWOL seemingly forever (Michael Rosenbaum must have finally had a break in his SMALLVILLE shooting schedule).
SLIPSTREAM (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Ex-hobbit Sean Astin stars as a scientist whose time machine gets burgled by a bank robber.
SESSION 9 (8:30 PM CST, IFC) Plenty of films can make you jump in your seat, but it takes a special one to build a sense of lingering dread that follows you around for weeks after you watch it. This is one such film.
LOVE ACTUALLY (9 PM CST, Cinemax) As far as "chick flicks" go, this one features Keira Knightley and Elisha Cuthbert, so it's okay in my book.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (6:30 PM CST, Fox) "Billboard." The boys attempt to vandalize a sexy billboard and inadvertently wind up as women's rights champions.
THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "Pranksta Rap." Bart fakes his kidnapping to attend a rap concert, and both Dave Chappelle and 50 Cent join the lofty ranks of SIMPSONS guest stars.
CHARMED (7 PM CST, WB) "Carpe Demon." Billy Zane guests as a reformed demon trying to land a teaching job at the Magic School (not affiliated with Hogwort's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry).
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Ready, Aim, Marry Me." Martin Short guests as an aging fitness guru Lindsay pursues for his money.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (8 PM CST, NBC) "Stress Position." Ex-Mr. Big Chris Noth returns to his L&O roots as Detective Mike Logan, this time investigating the death of a prison guard.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (8 PM CST, ABC) "Love Is in the Air." Gabrielle is forced to take a gig modeling mattresses. Presumably she lies on them, rather than wearing them.
CARNIVALE (8 PM CST, HBO) "The Road to Damascus." The troupe runs across another carnival and Brother Justin struggles with a tricky sermon.
BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "'Til We Meet Again." A steak-house owner sues his Massachusetts city when it plans to ban red meat. SUPER SIZE ME strikes again. This concludes our broadcast.