A quick review of tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I bring you my dead bulbs...
SAMCRO has beef with their Tucson charter
Jess gets a new roommate and has to confront her ex-boyfriend
Alex Gibney's stirring defense of Cubs fan Steve Bartman
ESPN's 30th anniversary was more than two years ago, and it's been almost a year since the "30 for 30" documentary series - designed to both celebrate the anniversary and show off ESPN's reach and creativity - concluded. (You can read my reviews of most of the "30 for 30" docs here and here.) But having discovered that there's an appetite for off-beat, deeply personal films about sports stories big and small, ESPN has wisely kept the concept going - if not the name(*) - and the now-rechristened "ESPN Films Presents" series has a very strong unofficial kick-off with the 8 p.m. debut tonight of Alex Gibney's "Catching Hell."
(*) Personally, I'd have kept it as "30 for 30 Presents." They spent more than a year building up brand equity, and it just sounds cooler than "ESPN Films Presents," frankly.
"Catching Hell" - the story of infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman, who was the scapegoat when the Cubs failed to reach the World Series in 2003 - was originally supposed to be part of "30 for 30," but Gibney's schedule, film festival eligibility and other issues pushed it back to now. It was worth the wait.
The bad trends from the pilot continue in the second episode
Ted and Victoria have a heart-to-heart in a vintage episode
High school anthropology in the vein of 'Mean Girls,' 'Clueless,' et al
There's a rich tradition on the big and small screen of the high school girl as amateur anthropologist: Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles," Winona Ryder in "Heathers," Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless," Lindsay Lohan in "Mean Girls," Claire Danes in "My So-Called Life," and on and on and on. (Long before she was dissecting the Manhattan singles scene, Sarah Jessica Parker was trying to bring a peaceful accord between the jocks, the popular girls, the nerds and the New Wave kids on "Square Pegs," after all.) If high school is life in miniature, then it needs some kind of wry, clever observer to figure it all out, whether she's an insider (Silverstone), an outsider (Ringwald) or an outsider pretending to be an insider (Lohan).
To that reliably funny tradition we can add Jane Levy as Tessa Altman, the smart, sarcastic heroine of ABC's winning new comedy "Suburgatory," which debuts tomorrow night at 8:30.
What did everybody think of the FOX time travel drama?
I posted my review of FOX's "Terra Nova" this morning. Now it's your turn. Obviously, you folks haven't seen the earlier, better version I have, but what did you make of what was on the screen? Did you find the Shannon family more compelling than I did? Are you ready to have the teenage son eaten by a T-Rex already? Were Stephen Lang and the special effects good enough to compensate for the rest? Do you buy the attempt to sidestep around the butterfly effect (and, possibly, the meteor heading their way in 20 million years)?
Have at it.
Unless there's significant improvement, I doubt I'll be writing about this show regularly, but Ryan McGee is signed up to do weekly recaps at our Monkeys as Critics blog, and his first should be up even as we speak, for those who want a more detailed blow-by-blow account of the pilot.
What did everybody think of the new CW drama?
I posted my review of "Hart of Dixie" earlier today. Now it's your turn. Was Rachel Bilson likable enough to compensate for the "Doc Hollywood" story, cliched Southern backdrop, etc? Are you disappointed that Nancy Travis won't be around full-time? Glad to have Scott Porter using a Southern accent again? Wishing that Jaime King would go back to "James"? And, most importantly, will you keep watching?
Have at it.
Dan and Alan also review 'Hart of Dixie,' 'Catching Hell,' 'Suburgatory' and 'How to Be a Gentleman,' and break down last night's 'Breaking Bad'
Stereotypes abound, but 'The O.C.' alum is charming in new medical drama
The CW's new "Hart of Dixie" (it debuts tonight at 9) is several familiar kinds of shows in one. Most obviously, it's a fish-out-of-water story of a big-city doctor - in this case, Rachel Bilson from "The O.C." as young New York heart surgeon Zoey Hart - trapped in a small town with an unfamiliar culture. (Think "Northern Exposure" or "Doc Hollywood.")
It's also what Fienberg likes to call a Vocational Irony Narrative, in which a character's strengths in his or her professional life turn out to be a huge weakness personally. Here, this theme is voiced by an older surgeon who explains that Zoey is too cold and remote to qualify for a prestigious fellowship, telling her, "If you want to be a heart surgeon, then you've got to work on your own."
And in her search for her own heart - which eventually takes her to the fictional town of Bluebell, Alabama, where she inherits half of the local medical practice from the kindly country doctor who ran it - Zoey is also becoming the latest heroine to try to help the CW find the heart it left behind when the network was created out of transplanted body parts from the WB and UPN.