This week's must list: 'Harold & Kumar', 'Hell on Wheels', Metallica
TUESDAY, NOV. 1:
Lou Reed & Metallica, "Lulu" [Warner Bros. Records]
Must Factor: Yes, I understand that "Lulu" has been streaming in full for a week-and-a-half now, and yes, I know the critics haven't been kind (our own Katie Hasty described hearing 30 seconds of one song off the album as "like your drunk uncle talking about sex over a blasting radio and then everyone improvising a refrain when it looks like he's lost your interest"), and yes, I know the 2-disc 20th anniversary Deluxe Edition of U2's "Achtung Baby" also comes out on Tuesday, but, but...it's Lou Reed and Metallica, together, on one album! Isn't that something we should support even if it kinda sucks, if only for the pure creative audacity of it all? Isn't a grating and bizarre album better than a boring and predictable one? No? You'll be spending your hard-earned money on the new Susan Boyle record? Alright fine, have it your way.
Listen to "The View":
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 2:
"Modern Family" [ABC, 9 PM]
Must Factor: Just in time for November sweeps, Chazz Palminteri returns this week for his second "MF" outing as Shorty, Jay's (Ed O'Neill) not-gay buddy who this time brings around his new girlfriend Darlene, played by the always-interesting and voluptuous Jennifer Tilly (who I'm sure the new Lily must have taken an immediate liking to). Meanwhile, Cameron makes a bet with Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Crispin (Craig Zimmerman) that he can get the number of a hot girl at a bar - who just so happens to be played by Leslie Mann! - but ends up taking the whole thing a little too far. Meanwhile, Phil (Ty Burrell) builds a treehouse for Luke (Nolan Gould) and ends up making a new friend - who just so happens to be played by current "It" comedian/VMA host Kevin Hart! - in the process. How will they manage to organically fit all of these guest stars into a single 22-minute episode? I guess you'll just have to watch to find out.
THURSDAY, NOV. 3:
"Burn Notice" [USA, 10 PM]
Must Factor: Season 5 picks up where it left off after a brief hiatus, with Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) being forced to work for Management again under threat of the shady organization framing Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) for the murder of two innocent security guards - not to mention exposing her very real involvement in the murder of "Dead" Larry (Tim Matheson) using a block of T4. As pointed out by our own Alan Sepinwall, this marks something of an end (at least temporarily) to the lighter tone dominant earlier in the season, which could be viewed a good or a bad thing depending on who you talk to. With the show having already been renewed for a sixth season despite suffering a bit of a slide in the ratings lately, USA had better hope viewers come away satisfied with the change in direction. In any case, it should at least be interesting to see how the rest of the season develops.
FRIDAY, NOV. 4:
"A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" [Warner Bros.]
Must Factor: The stoner buddies are back in this third installment of the cult comedy franchise, which opens six years after their escape from Guantanamo Bay. Though the two friends have drifted apart since their days spent in the custody of the U.S. government, another legendary misadventure nevertheless lies in store after Kumar (Kal Penn, back in the game after spending some time in the political sphere) accidentally burns down the prize Christmas tree of Harold's (John Cho) father-in-law, played by Danny "Machete" Trejo. This is perhaps the first film in the series that truly feels like an event - it's even in 3-D, for god's sake - with an aggressive marketing campaign, a plum holiday-season release date, and a heightened emphasis on co-star Neil Patrick Harris, whose fame has continued on a steady trajectory upward since his appearance in the first movie. If "Christmas" can manage to significantly outgross "Guantanamo Bay" - which itself nearly doubled the theatrical box-office take of "White Castle" - "Harold & Kumar" could rightly be pegged as the "Resident Evil" of comedy franchises.
"Tower Heist" [Universal]
Must Factor: Having been forced to suffer through an interminable string of second-or-third-rate Eddie Murphy comedy vehicles since the mid-1990s, it's nice to see the once-legendary stand-up (and 2012 Oscar host) back in an ostensibly adult film like "Tower Heist" (which you will no longer, in case you hadn't heard, be given the opportunity of watching from the comfort of your own home during its theatrical run, as previously announced). He's also got the benefit of a solid ensemble cast (Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, et al.), all of which are thankfully over the age of 9. While some will no doubt be turned off Brett Ratner's involvement, the much-derided director has done well with these sorts of studio comedies before (the first two "Rush Hour" films, specifically), and the trailer is actually pretty good, as these things go, with Murphy looking looser than he has in a long time. Not to mention, the film's timely premise can't help but boost its appeal somewhat in these tough economic times. On that note, do you know a single person right now who would be willing or able to plop down $59.99 for this sucker just to avoid having to drive to the nearest theater?
SUNDAY, NOV. 6:
"Hell on Wheels" [AMC, 10 PM]
Must Factor: It's been awhile since "Deadwood" ended after three mostly-excellent seasons on HBO, and while that series has certainly raised the bar for gritty Westerns on television, AMC has pulled off the genre quite well before, specifically with the Emmy-winning 2006 miniseries "Broken Trail" starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church. "Wheels" takes place in the mid-1860s during the early U.S. Reconstruction period, following Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former Confederate soldier who goes on the hunt for the Union soldiers that murdered his wife. While creators Joe and Tony Gayton don't exactly have the distinguished track record of "Deadwood"'s David Milch, the series nevertheless hinges on an intriguing revenge premise and has been shepherded by a network that boasts a record of excellence in their original programming.