<p>&nbsp;Carol of 'Project Runway'</p>

 Carol of 'Project Runway'

Credit: Lifetime

Recap: 'Project Runway' - ' The Art of Fashion'

With Bryant Park around the corner, two designers are auf’ed this week

 Oh ma God, two designers are going home on Thursday (Nov. 5) night's "Project Runway"! And then it's Bryant Park! Could you just die? Obviously, this is going to be a Very Stressful Week, so I expect screaming and bitching and Irina just generally being Irina and Christopher just being Christopher, which means lots of crying. So let the games begin!

[Full "Project Runway" recap, with double-spoilers, after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;Russell of 'Survivor: Samoa'</p>

 Russell of 'Survivor: Samoa'

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Samoa' - 'All Hell Breaks Loose'

The merge brings new hope for the Foa Foas, a new plan for Russell and a major blindside
Pre-credit sequence. Like so many episodes before it, Thursday's (Nov. 5) "Survivor: Samoa" begins with Foa Foa returning to camp after losing another castaway. It was Liz they got rid of, right? Who can keep track anymore? The only thing they have to stay upbeat about is the possibility that a merge may be coming. There are only four of them, but they're convinced they have unity, while the Galuvians are segregated. Russell is particularly confident, as Russell tends to be. "I'm too good for this game. I'm too sly," Russell says, vowing to continue to plant his seed.
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<p>&nbsp;Jennifer of 'America's Next Top Model'</p>

 Jennifer of 'America's Next Top Model'

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'America's Next Top Model' - 'Dive Deeper'

Marisa Miller gives swimsuit advice, Laura celebrates a birthday and the models shoot underwater

Welcome to episode No. 9 of Cycle 13 of "America's Next Top Model," in which Erin must get out of the way of her own megableached brooding eyebrows of fate and despair, or else she so goes home! We're down to the final five, Erin, and Nicole is on the rise. She has left behind the fetus personality and, over this season, she's shown the world she can model.

[Full recap of Wednesday (Nov. 4) night's "America's Next Top Model" after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;Bianca Revels of 'So You Think You Can Dance'</p>

 Bianca Revels of 'So You Think You Can Dance'

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'So You Think You Can Dance' - Week 2 - Performances and Eliminations

Once again, 'SYTYCD' races through performances, solos and a pair of evictions
How can I tell this is a two hour episode of "So You Think You Can Dance"? Because the dance intro goes on longer than some sitcoms. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact there are so many damn people still on the show. I'll actually be a little relieved to dump two to get down to the final sixteen, because no way can I keep track of all these dancers. Not that they aren't all wonderful and not that I can even think of two people I'd like to go. As much as I hate the 'this is our best season ever!' hype, this season it may actually be true. So, I take it back. I will hate to see two people go. But, because of the stupid World Series, that's exactly what's going to happen tonight in this double header of "SYTYCD." So let's get on with the show!
 
[Recap of Tuesday (Nov. 3) night's "So You Think You Can Dance" after the break...] 
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<p>Joel Gretsch and Elizabeth Mitchell of 'V'</p>

Joel Gretsch and Elizabeth Mitchell of 'V'

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'V' - 'Pilot'

The aliens land. They say the come in peace. We're skeptical. For good reason.
ABC's new version of "V"  wants to be a lot of things. It would like to become your latest "Lost"-like obsession. It would like to have the hard-hitting social commentary of the "Battlestar Galactica" remake. It would even be fine with the heavy-handed allegory of the original "V." But in the pilot, the show is given to big twists that land so breathlessly that they don't have room to really establish themselves and generic cop drama with an alien veneer. There are quite a few entertaining moments in the "V" pilot. There are also quite a few that fall absolutely flat. Overall, I'm positive on the show's pilot but a lot less so than many of the critics singing its praises. Something about it rubs me the wrong way, and it's taken me this long to figure out what it is: It's trying too hard.
 
Now, granted, a lot of that could just be a case of pilot-itis, wherein a show tries so hard to create something salable to a network as well as appealing to audiences that it crams in too much stuff to really be a good episode in and of itself. And that's OK. It happens. Good-to-great series have resulted from slightly overstuffed pilots (see: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for another genre-friendly one), and trying to get everything from what a normal episode might look like to making sure the audience understands the exact nature of the otherworldly menace of your series into a genre series pilot is a common pitfall. It's just blatantly obvious in the pilot for "V," which opens and closes well but has a very messy middle.
 
Let's start with that nice opening, though. The series quickly establishes all of the main characters we'll be hanging out with in the weeks to come, then almost immediately drops aliens into the midst of them. "V" knows why you're here. You want that sweet, sweet alien action, and it is only too happy to oblige. While the image of alien motherships hovering above major metropolises is not exactly the most original idea in the world, it's an image that still carries a potent kick to it. It still has that great feeling of offering up a reality just similar enough (and plausible enough) when compared to our own that it's disorienting to see that one thing different that makes it science fiction and not "Brothers & Sisters" or something.
 
The arrival of the aliens is a pretty great moment throughout, but it's really sealed by Morena Baccarin's Anna suddenly appearing on the giant screen that makes up the underside of the ship and addressing Earth in a variety of languages. The V's? They're only here to help. They don't want to cause problems. They just want to bring peace, cure all disease, be our best friends and take up permanent residence in our sexual fantasies. Isn't that nice of them? Baccarin is nicely unreadable as Anna, and her performance seems destined to bring her the level of attention she's never quite achieved. She's easily the best part of the show.
 
Another nice thing about these opening moments -- as noted by this site's own Daniel Fienberg --  is how... open they seem. The show's color palette is by no means "Ugly Betty" style Day-Glo oppressive, but it's also not buried in the sorts of dank gloom that undermine way too many genre shows. Occasionally, it seems like every show saw "Blade Runner"  and the "Galactica" remake, pursed its lips together, then said, "Do that," but the genre shows that tend to catch on (with the exception of the stylistically all-over-the-place "X-Files") are ones that have more open and vibrant visuals, like "Star Trek" in all its incarnations and "Lost" back in the first two seasons. It's just nice to look at the swooping, faux-futuristic interiors of the V mothership or the pleasantly lived-in houses that all of the characters live in and not have to sort through several layers of gloom.
 
Sadly, though, after that, the series settles into cop show mode. There's rarely a sense that aliens have just arrived and made everyone on Earth question their priorities beyond some obligatory shots of full churches. While it's admirable to show that people's lives go on in the face of the entire human sense of cosmology being upended, the series badly feels like it's trying to conflate a lot of events, and it just feels silly that a woman would pick a fight with her long-term boyfriend about why he's being so suspicious when an alien spaceship is hovering overhead. Put another way, my family found out my grandfather had brain cancer on Sept. 11 (yes, that one), but we still pretty much kept all eyes on the news. It might be interesting if the show played up the idea that the woman was questioning everything she knew BECAUSE the aliens had arrived, but the series doesn't really bother feinting in this direction either. Even worse is a scene where Elizabeth Mitchell's Erica tries to talk to her son about how his pro-V tagging is not a good idea. It plays poorly, like an over-obvious attempt to capitalize on the way "Battlestar" incorporated major news and political events into its storylines. "What if aliens could use social networking sites and other youth culture signifiers?" the show asks, then turns the question into a banal attempt to humanize two characters through the least interesting methods possible.
 
But while most of the middle section of the episode is given over to Erica slowly figuring out how to tail a terrorist cell that saw a spike in activity when the V's first arrived and Joel Gretsch's Father Jack beginning to realize the V's are as bad as he expected with occasional shots of Erica's son and his friend becoming enmeshed in a program designed to celebrate the V's, the end pulls everything back together. The way the end of the episode plays is almost too breathless, as though the show wants to get everything in place for episode two by not only revealing that the V's are evil but also that there are traitor V's AND that Erica and Jack are going to form a resistance AND that Erica's son (Logan Huffman) is now among the V's. But it's a good kind of breathless for the most part, with at least one good jolt (when the eye of the lizard underneath Alan Tudyk looks up at Erica).
 
I'm not sure that "V" has anything to say about our current life and times on planet Earth. I also suspect that it will – almost entirely unintentionally –  become the favorite show of the entire right wing media establishment almost entirely because of a few lines taken out of context. It'd be one thing if "V" were consistently anti-Obama (as some have alleged), but the show is mostly going out of its way to avoid ANY discussion of politics or race or anything that might be too unpleasant, in favor of big, exciting alien action. Again, this isn't a bad thing, since a show where attractive people kill lizard aliens could be a lot of fun, but every time the show tries to split the difference, it ends up feeling like an uneasy amalgam of other, better series.
 
Some other thoughts:
 
One bit of social commentary that DOES sort of play is the storyline featuring Scott Wolf's compromised reporter trying to figure out the right way to approach the fact that he's essentially now in Anna's pocket. Reporters who are too close to their subjects are a dime a dozen in fiction, but Wolf's capturing the in-over-my-head vapidity of a lot of cable news anchors almost perfectly.
 
I keep wondering if this show would have been better if it had started at roughly where the second season will begin (I assume), with the V's having turned humans into their happy slaves and Erica and Jack running their resistance from the woods, "Red Dawn" style. I get that the series wants to do callbacks to the original show and the best way to do that is to start with the aliens arriving, but TV storytelling has evolved since the ‘80s, and it might have been way more exciting to start with the resistance already in place and struggling.
 
 
Your question for discussion: When will Morena Baccarin devour a small mammal? It's only a matter of time, after all.
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<p>&nbsp;Robert Knepper and Masi Oka of 'Heroes'</p>

 Robert Knepper and Masi Oka of 'Heroes'

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Heroes' - 'Once Upon a Time in Texas'

With Hiro back in time to save Charlie, Samuel makes a desperate play to bring the time traveler into his fold

 

When "Heroes" deals with ordinary people dealing with extraordinary abilities, the results are hit and miss. But when it deals with the intricacies of time travel, it almost always rushes headfirst into a brick wall of fail. Tonight's episode, "Once Upon a Time in Texas," shows another version of the fateful day before Peter Petrelli saved the cheerleader and (temporarily) saved the world in Season 1. What transpired tonight was unfortunately little more than another example in the ever-expanding saga of "Hiro Never, Ever Learns."

[Full recap of Monday (Nov. 2) night's "Heroes" after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;Jon Hamm and January Jones of 'Mad Men'</p>

 Jon Hamm and January Jones of 'Mad Men'

Credit: AMC

Recap: 'Mad Men' -- 'The Grown Ups'

As Don deals with the fallout of Betty's revelations, Pete worries about his future with Sterling Cooper

 

Episodes like tonight are why yours truly avoids spoilers. Not knowing what's about to happen makes episodes like this all the more surprisingly, shocking, and enjoyable to behold. We thought we all knew where this season of "Mad Men" was headed: the assassination of JFK. Clearly, that was going to encompass the season finale, right? Right. So what does Matthew Weiner do? Drop it into the first third of the season's penultimate episode, allowing it to sneak up on us in much the same way as it snuck up on the world on November 22, 1963. Told over the four days from Kennedy's death to the national day of mourning the following Monday, "The Grown Ups" managed to tie the season's various loose threads into a singular, almost choking noose. 

[Recap of Sunday's (Nov. 1) "Mad Men" after the break... With spoilers...]

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<p>&nbsp;Ericka and Brian of 'The Amazing Race'</p>

 Ericka and Brian of 'The Amazing Race'

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' -- 'This Is Not My Finest Hour'

The teams head to Amsterdam, where Dutch golf and dancing cause problems
I may need to take this up with Bertram Van Munster next time we're at a TCA press tour party,  but Sunday (Nov. 2) night's "The Amazing Race" just didn't seem fair.
 
Someday, an all-female team is going to win "The Amazing Race." It's not like women haven't come close in recent years. I'm still sad for Dustin and Kandice. But it remains one of those currently insurmountable reality TV obstacles (except for in Asia, where I hear an all-woman team won an early "Amazing Race" season). And on Sunday night, we got to see at least one reason why.
 
[Full recap of Sunday night's "The Amazing Race," with spoilers, after the break...]
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<p>&nbsp;Kayla Ewell of 'The Vampire Diaries'</p>

 Kayla Ewell of 'The Vampire Diaries'

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'The Vampire Diaries' - 'Haunted

Shocking events strike Mystic Falls as Vicki gets out of control on Halloween.

After a week off and a spectacular last episode, I was really looking forward to the Halloween-themed “Haunting,” which promised to unveil Vampire Vicki finally unleashing her newfound bloodlust during Mystic Falls’ Halloween bash! What we got instead was an inspired episode in which the word “haunted” took on an unexpected meaning, a slow-burning shocker that left everyone involved emotionally drained -- including us.  

[Full recap of Thursday (Oct. 29) night's "The Vampire Diaries" after the break...] 

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<p>Gordana of 'Project Runway'&nbsp;</p>

Gordana of 'Project Runway' 

Credit: Lifetime

Recap: 'Project Runway' - 'The Best of the Best'

A challenge to create a companion piece leads to tension between Althea and Irina
Oh boy, there are only six designers left, and just two of them are boys. Girl power! Irina is thrilled about this, because it's about time women had a little bit of a say in the male-dominated fashion industry. And though it pains me to say it, I am so down with Irina on this. If I have to try on another pair of pants that only fit girls who have not gone through puberty or have the misfortune of being built like Chazz Bono, I will take out the first snippy salesgirl I see. I'm just saying.
 
Anyway, it's "Runway" time! Whee!
 
[Full recap of Thursday's (Oct. 29) "Project Runway" after the break...]
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