Friday, September 28, 2007

More Season Premieres

Thursdays are tough. I've got an NBC favorite (My Name is Earl) directly competing with an ABC favorite (Ugly Betty). What I tend to do is watch one and flip the channel during commercials hoping to catch the full episode during rerun season down the road. I really need to get TiVo. Last night I had hour long episodes of My Name is Earl and The Office--as well as the season opener for Ugly Betty. I checked into Grey's Anatomy briefly. Mainly to see if it was still as obnoxious as last season. It was.

By far, the best show of the night was My Name is Earl. Earl began his two year prison sentence--he confessed to a crime he didn't commit to save his ex-wife Joy from going to jail. The episode opened with a very clever homage to The Shawshank Redemption when Earl wakes up in his prison bunk to find his cellmate had escaped by digging a hole in the wall and hiding it underneath a Dolly Parton poster. The show focused on Earl's attempts to survive behind bars, Randy dealing with life without his big brother and Joy feeling guilty about Earl taking the fall for her.

Both Catalina and Joy had different approaches to helping Randy deal with being alone on the "outside." Catalina created an Earl sock puppet but Joy used tough love--snapping Randy with a rubber band every time he was indecisive or stupid. The show is so sweet--Joy (a terrific Emmy-winning Jaime Pressly) adds the tang and spice to keep it from being too saccharine. Anyway, the hour long premiere hit all the right notes--very well-written and a joy (no pun intended!) to watch.

The Office was a bit uneven. It started off with a bang--or perhaps more accurately, a thump--as Michael accidentally ran Meredith over in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Of course that plot quickly devolved into the usual Office insanity. The subplot where Angela suspects Dwight of euthanizing her beloved cat, Sprinkles, was hysterical. Ryan's off at corporate and Karen has disappeared--without explanation or so it seemed from last night's episode (perhaps I missed it while flipping to catch Ugly Betty). Jim and Pam are now together--which of course we all have been rooting for but which now leaves the writers with an interesting dilemma. What do you do with these characters now that their love is not unrequited? Do they live happily ever after? Do they fight and bicker? Do they break up? Unfortunately zero conflict equals BORING.

Ugly Betty had its hands full catching up with all the various plot lines left in the cliffhanging season finale. Ignacio is still in Mexico, Henry is still with Charlie, Daniel is still in the hospital, Alexis is still in a coma, Wilhelmina still has her claws deep into Bradford, Claire is on the lam, Amanda is fat and Justin is still fey--and a fashion elf. The only real interesting subplot was Hilda and Santo. At first I thought (as I was supposed to) that the writers had copped out (ala Matt Parkman of Heroes surviving 3-4 bullets in the chest) and let Santo live. But it turns out that it was all the figment of a deeply grieving Hilda's imagination (almost taking a page from the film Truly, Madly, Deeply starring Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and written and directed by Anthony Minghella. If you haven't seen it, put it on your Netflix list!). That thread was full of poignancy and pathos in an episode that was otherwise confusing and frenetic. Although I'm sure my channel flipping didn't help...

The opening of Grey's Anatomy was humorous with the interns now residents and taking a page from Bailey's book as they become "Nazis" for interns of their own. One of those interns is George--repeating his internship under Meredith's direction and another is Meredith's half-sister Lexi, who is the new "girl from the bar." It looks like she might be replacing Meredith as Dr. McDreamy's love interest. Maybe she'll replace her as focal point of the show. We can always hope. Her voiceover has got to be better than Ellen Pompeo's whiny, flat, nasal delivery. That's about as much of the show as I could muster--although I did see the tearful reunion of Izzie and George. Bleeech!

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