Sunday, October 28, 2012

The West Wing, season 1

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 11
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.5
-Pilot ***
How does any pilot come out of the chute this fully realized? How did Sorkin get the studio to build a set this elaborate, BEFORE they'd even seen said pilot?? If the show hooked you, viewing this one again might lead to giggling, cheering, and clapping, because you know where it's all headed. But but but...it's already there. Except of course for Mandy. But even the oblivion her character is headed for, is somehow comically enjoyable. In the Sorkin/Schlamme commentary, they name the cast twice, and neither time do they mention her. Ouch. I have no doubt that Moira was as capable as many of her castmates...and her lines certainly flowed from the same pen. Yet the elusive magic of chemistry had no love for her. Would the part have worked with another actress? You almost think it could have (Sabrina Lloyd? Dina Meyer? Shannen Doherty?). The writing, by the way, is not as seamless as you might remember. There are moments of all too obvious contrivance - the fact that a room full of religious leaders could misidentify the First Commandment, or Sam's blurting to a stranger that he slept with a prostitute...these things don't hold up to much scrutiny. And there is a liberal bias to the show...but not as much as you might think, and largely only to the extent that progressive views usually represent the expanding of a society's conscience. Did anybody else notice the framed Doonesbury strips in Josh's office? Beautiful.
-"Post Hoc, ergo Propter Hoc" ****
Well, THAT didn't take long. Four stars, after a growth period of, um, one episode. Morris Tolliver (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) is introduced as the President's likable military doctor, and you're ready to enjoy his presence on the show, but he's dead by the time this one wraps. A big hello to Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson - ANIMAL HOUSE), too. Happily, he's not dying. He'll be baring his teeth in all the credibly flawed ways you could want, for many seasons. Sam and his prostitute (Lisa Edelstein - HOUSE M.D.) have crisp, flawless chemistry - her reaction to him when he barges in on her restaurant party is priceless. And Sam's prostitute revelation scenes with Josh, then Toby? I reiterate, priceless.
-A Proportional Response ****
Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is torn by the proposed military response to the libyan downing of an american plane. This plot is almost a direct lift from the Sorkin movie THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. Yet how is it that the movie, a very good one, feels like the lighter "TV" version in comparison? In the history of television, this show's mix of humor and drama has never been achieved so well. New characters? How about Charlie Young (Dule Hill, PSYCH) as the President's new body man, John Amos (GOOD TIMES, THE BEASTMASTER) as Admiral Fitzwallace, and Timothy Busfield (THIRTYSOMETHING, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, STUDIO 60) as reporter Danny Concannon. C.J. confronts Sam about the call girl. Call this one the Pilot, pt. 2.
-Five Votes Down ***
The staff wrangles votes from democratic congressmen, to get a weak gun bill passed. Leo's wife leaves him, and he goes to Hoynes' AA meeting for the first time. One of the funniest scenes in show history, when the President takes too many pain pills and walks in on a staff meeting. A sign of how thoroughly we buy the reality of these characters occurs when Sheen tells Charlie what a great name he has...like most of you just getting it now, it never before occurred to me that the actor speaking had a real-life son of the same name. And for any C.J. fetishists, the dress she wears in the first scene is...beyond description.
-The Crackpots and These Women ***
A big block of cheese!! Josh gets an NSC nuclear attack instruction-card, and is torn by the fact that most of his co-workers don't have one. In a scene with a therapist (effectively played by Guy Boyd, who would effectively be fired to make way for Adam Arkin), we learn about his sister who died when they were children. One of only two significant "oops" moments in show history, when Bartlet plays basketball (a scenario perhaps at odds with his later-revealed multiple sclerosis). Also, a glaringly false moment in the writing of Toby's character, when the writers have him saying "could care less" instead of "couldn't" - it's doubtful that someone of his brilliant snobbery would ever employ such shoddy grammar. And the debut of...Zoey Bartlet!!! Played by Elizabeth Moss (MAD MEN), has there ever been a biped more adorable?
-Mr. Willis of Ohio ****
The first episode to make me cry. A school teacher (Al Fann) has temporarily taken his deceased wife's spot in congress, and is key to a budget vote involving census sampling. Toby manipulates the situation, but in an honest way. Leo tells Jed his wife has left him. The President gets Josh to take Charlie out for a beer, which turns into an outing with Zoey, C.J., Mallory, and Sam. Zoey is harassed, and Charlie defends her. Later, Jed makes her cry when she resists extra secret service protection. Plus a great poker scene in which Bartlet challenges the room to name the fourteen types of punctuation. And there's a Butterfield in the building! The debut of Michael O'Neill as Secret Service agent Ron Butterfield, who would log sixteen splendid episodes over seven seasons.
-The State Dinner ***
At a state dinner for the President of Indonesia, a fund raiser (David Rasche, SLEDGE HAMMER!) shows up with Sam's call girl friend as his date. Sam offers her $10,000 to not go home with him. And the debut of...Abbie Bartlet! Stockard Channing (GREASE, THE STOCKARD CHANNING SHOW) slides right in, and it's perfect. Danny openly flirts with CJ. Priceless. And the first of many quips at New Jersey's expense. Someone on the writing staff (perhaps New Yorker Sorkin himself) will take great delight over the coming seasons, in Garden State roasting.
-Enemies ***
A top-ten Josh entry, as he stews over a retributional rider attached to a banking bill, and finally uses the President's nerd-like love of national parks to find a solution. Throw in some Danny, some Hoynes...and Leo's daughter Mallory (Allison Smith, KATE & ALLIE) asking Sam to the chinese opera. Leo and the President conspire to keep Sam otherwise occupied. What the heck ever happened to that plot line, by the way? Not that Mallory disappeared, but the chemistry between she and Sam was scrumptious, and then...nothing. There's a story there somewhere.
-The Short List ****
A retiring justice (a sharp turn by Mason Adams - LOU GRANT) gives Bartlet an opportunity to nominate a  solidly-credentialed replacement. But his slam dunk (Ken Howard, THE WHITE SHADOW) misfires, when conflicting ideologies on privacy rights emerge. The second choice, Roberto Mendoza (the brilliant Edward James Olmos - BLADE RUNNER, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), turns out to be the right one. I cried. And i laughed, when Danny misunderstands a tip, and gives C.J. a goldfish. The republicans find out about Leo's time in drug rehab.
-In Excelsis Deo ****
A homeless vet wearing a coat donated by Toby, dies. Irked by the indifference of the D.C. authorities, he finds the man's brother and arranges an honor guard funeral, without the authority to do so. In Wyoming, a gay teen is bludgeoned to death by his peers - Bartlet receives the news in the middle of entertaining elementary school students. To fight the coming attack on Leo, Sam and Josh try to get incriminating information out of Sam's prostitute friend. We see the first moment that hints at possible feelings between Josh and Donna. The Pasadena Children's Choir...Arlington Cemetery...my tears flowed.
-Lord John Marbury ****
It's time to wax rhapsodic - Lord John is coming to town! The incomparable Roger Rees (ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS, CHEERS) debuts one of the highest-juiced characters in show history, as an emergency advisor on a military escalation between India and Pakistan. C.J. is frozen out of the loop regarding the latest military intelligence, over concerns she might leak it to the press. For any STARGATE fanatics out there, we've got two members of that cast, in one show: John Diehl, as a contentious Freedom of Information Act lawyer, and Eric Avari, as the pakistani ambassador. And the first romantic overtures between Charlie and Zoey! Charlie asks Jed for his blessing. One resultant scene, about racial non-issues, belongs on an all-time best Jed/Leo scenes list. About the show's liberal bias...the writers are quickly becoming more adept at even-handedness, as evidenced by occasionally giving a conservative argument to a series regular (or later on to Ainsley and Cliff Calley and Walken and Joe). And moments that feel biased, often aren't. For example, Mandy floats the idea of working for a liberal republican, and Sam snaps at her that it's not her job to end the fight, it's her job to win it. If his outburst came from a conservative republican character, many would boo and hiss...yet with Sam we're much more tolerant. It's up to us to recognize that in ourselves...the screenwriter's only job is to convey truth.
-He Shall, From Time to Time ****
On the eve of the State of the Union address, Bartlet collapses in the Oval. Abbey rushes home. Leo figures out that there's something they're not telling him...and the multiple sclerosis plot line, one of the most compelling in show history, is off to the races. Some strange magic is in the air, as Mallory kisses Sam in appreciation for his President's letter of support for Leo, then C.J. kisses the hell out of Danny. The final scene is one of the best in show history, as Jed tells his secretary of agriculture (Harry Groener, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) what to do in case he has to assume the Presidency.
-Take Out the Trash Day ****
C.J. and Mandy meet the parents of a homosexual teen killed in a hate crime, and discover the father's reticence isn't about homophobia, but shame over the administration's weak position on gay rights. Republican Senator Bruno (James Handy, in the first of two fine appearances) agrees to avoid public hearings over Leo's drug addictions, in exchange for burying a sex ed report. Toby defends Julia Childs. The final scene, between Leo and the junior staffer (Liza Weil, GILMORE GIRLS) who outed him, is exquisite. He tries to understand her reasons, she tries to understand his alcoholism, and he un-fires her.
-Take This Sabbath Day ****
A drug dealer is scheduled for execution, and only a command from the White House can stay his death. Defense lawyers try to get to Toby through his rabbi (David Proval), and to the President through Sam. Jed calls the Pope, and arranges for a visit from his old priest (the wonderful Karl Malden, in the last role of his life). Searing scenes are offset by the comedic arrival of uber-beloved Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin - CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, THE L WORD). One of the things that sets the first season apart from the rest of the run is how they focused many episodes on one particular issue - in this case, capital punishment. In that sense, the show in general (and the first season in particular) was always much more than just drama. It was a primer for all the controversial issues we face as a society.
-Celestial Navigation ***
Josh does an interview show, while Toby and Sam go to Connecticut to get Supreme Court nominee Mendoza out of jail, following a false drunk-driving arrest. Josh's emergency substitution for C.J. in a press conference, because she had a root canal, is an epic disaster. Playing the Wesley police sergeant is Vaughn Armstrong (ENTERPRISE). The jail cell scene between Toby and Mendoza is towering...touching upon the raw wound of racism that still festers in this country. Olmos' rage and humiliation are palpable.
-Twenty Hours in L.A. ***
Air Force One heads to CA, for a banquet hosted by studio chief Ted Marcus (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, BEST IN SHOW). Ted jerks Josh around, and threatens to cancel the party unless Bartlet comes out against an anti-gay bill. Leo asks Hoynes to break a 50-50 senate tie, voting for ethanol subsidies, which he campaigned against. Pollster Al Kiefer (John de Lancie, STAR TREK: TNG-DS9-VOY) offers unsettling numbers on flag-burning...and an unsettling moment for Josh, who discovers him in Joey Lucas' hotel room. Plus the debut of Jorja Fox (MEMENTO, CSI) as secret service agent Gina Toscano, assigned to Zoey's detail. C.J.'s ignorance of the movie business is ridiculous, given her later backstory as a Hollywood publicist. The chemistry between Donna and Josh has become exquisite, and the scene between Balaban and Sheen is towering. Not enough? Okay, you made me say it...Hasselhoff.
-The White House Pro-Am ****
Generally, every four-star episode is led there by one scene that transcends mere excellence. In this case, it's a Danny two-for-one, as he gives dating advice to Charlie before being pathetically grilled about the first lady by Jed in the Oval Office. Elsewhere, her staff is jousting with the President's, endangering an important vote. Abbey and Jed have their first oval office fight, exquisitely written and acted. Charlie is frustrated because death threats cause he and Zoey to cancel plans. The final scene, where he comes to her dorm bearing gifts and apologies, may have you laughing out loud in delight. It took me two episodes to realize that Mandy's been missing in action. Almost, but not quite, gone. Fare ye well, Moira (but yes, the absence of the link that never clicked means that the show might actually become MORE seamless?).
-Six Meetings Before Lunch ***
A reporter startles Zoey into lying to cover for a friend. Mallory grills Sam for his school voucher beliefs written in a paper she doesn't realize is opposition research. A transcendent scene in which the appointee for assistant attorney general (Carl Lumbly - ALIAS, M.A.N.T.I.S., CAGNEY & LACEY) argues with Josh that the government owes black people a trillion dollars in reparations. Possibly the most beautiful kiss in show history, as Zoey pins Charlie against a West Wing wall. And the first over-the-top Bartlet jacket donning!
-Let Bartlet be Bartlet ***
Amidst malaise over their ineffectual record, the staff reacts to a memo Mandy wrote when she was working for Russell, about the administration's weaknesses and how to defeat them in the next election. Danny lays into C.J. for taking her frustrations out on him. Fitz drops in on a gays-in-the-military meeting, and makes more sense than fifty years of debate. Comedian Paul Provenza (NORTHERN EXPOSURE) debuts as Senate majority leader aide Steve Onorato.
-Mandatory Minimums ***
Bartlet throws down the gauntlet by naming two reformers to the Federal Election Commission. The debut of Kathleen York as Andrea, Toby's ex-wife. She's fun and spontaneous, and a perfect foil. Al Keifer and Joey Lucas spend time at the White House, providing numbers on Bartlet's campaign against racist drug laws. The Josh/Joey adorableness at its peak. The wonderful Bruce Weitz (HILL STREET BLUES) growls out a lovely Senate Majority Leader. Leo and Toby have a bang-up scene telling opposition staffers whose bosses have drug records in their families, that hypocrisy won't be tolerated.
-Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics ****
Polling results on favorability are anxiously awaited. On the eve of his prostitute friend's law school graduation, Sam is paparazzi-stalked and photographed giving her a present. Toby sticks up for him. It's Lisa Edelstein's last appearance; is there anyone who didn't hope we'd get more? Leo schmooze-intimidates nervous F.E.C. commissioner Barry Haskell (Austin Pendleton - THE MUPPET MOVIE, MY COUSIN VINNIE). To make room on the F.E.C., Bartlet recalls an ambassador (Lawrence Pressman, DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D.) who is having an illicit affair. His scene while nervously waiting with Charlie, with whom he has a minor history, is classic, as is Jed's "intuitive" repartee with Charlie. An hysterically classic scene rolls by between Jed and a tell-it-like-it-is, redneck senator (David Huddleston - BLAZING SADDLES, SANTA CLAUS, THE BIG LEBOWSKI).
-What Kind of Day has it Been ***
As Bartlet closes out a town hall meeting with college students, the day's events roll by. A stealth fighter has been downed in Iraq, and the space shuttle is having re-entry problems. Josh jogs with Hoynes. Some prime Fitz. Bartlet knows how to say "couldn't care less", but not Toby? As the episode closes, the Presidential party walks out to the motorcade...and a hail of gunfire envelops them. Searing. As for protests that this cliffhanger was contrived, i have the benefit of coming late to the party. When i heard about these criticisms, my reaction was, "What are you even talking about?"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

starTREKgate

Science fiction television's most conspicuous shows - STAR TREK and STARGATE.
Or most prolific, anyway (not counting the curious history of DOCTOR WHO). Eight series between two franchises. Their runs were perhaps more concurrent and lasting than any two sci fi franchises will ever again be. Before STARGATE: UNIVERSE went off the air, at least one TREK or SG series had been on for the past quarter century. Nineteen of those years saw two airing concurrently. Five years saw three available.
I'm not here to wax rhapsodic about two titans, however. TREK is a titan, SG is...well, at its best it was better than you may think, but only one of these franchises will be alive generations from now. SG will be sooner forgotten, and justifiably so. But TREK fans who turn up their noses will miss some sci fi fun...
Plus the chance to see beloved TREK actors doing their sci fi best in another milieu! Perhaps with a different accent (or forehead). Tellingly, the flow of actors only ran in one direction; no SG regulars moved on to any TREK. So let's honor the time that TREK actors logged on SG's watch. Was there any official relation between the two? Of course not. It's even possible they had to look at each other warily, as products vying for the same market. But there was affection...many a time, SG writers slipped TREK references into their scripts. There is a temptation to dismiss TREK actor appearances on SG as, well...slumming. Cashing a paycheck. But if you can accept certain SG limitations going in (a lack of character depth, occasionally obvious writing, and chemistry that sometimes failed to launch), you might find a few gems. So i hereby present you with...
STAR TREK ON STARGATE GUIDE
-armin shimerman
In 1997, during his sixth year as DS9's barkeep, armin pops the SG cherry with a one-off on a middling SG1 episode called "The Nox". He plays a beatifically benign alien with lotsa hair and deceptively advanced power. It was SG1's first season, and the appearance, like the show itself, didn't have much juice. He was even outshone by another hairy alien pacifist...leading to the theory that the SG writers were careful to not give TREK actors too great a role, for fear of seeming like a wet blanket franchise in need of help from mommy. They were willing to use TREK actors to bolster their cred and court crossover fans...but they didn't want these actors outshining their own in the process.
-dwight schulz
In season 2 of SG1, the incandescent actor who lit up two TREK series (and um, THE A-TEAM), does a one-off as the title character of "The Gamekeeper", playing a holographic ringmaster to an alien race in permanent virtual reality stasis. To be fair, the writers gave him free rein to shine...but on an episode as drably derivative as this, that's a mixed blessing.
-rene auberjonois
DS9's odo took a flaccid character on a subpar TREK series and turned in a performance that was always better than it should have been. Here, he dips into the SG world with a one-off in an SG1 season 4 entry entitled "The Other Side". He plays the leader of a warring alien nation which seeks an alliance and trade with Earth...but all is not as it seems. The writers found the balance they'd sought...he doesn't outshine the stars, but his moments are perfect.
-marina sirtis
NEXT GEN's empath drops into an SG1 season 4 entry entitled "Watergate". At first, it seems like the writers maybe wanted to make her look bad, as the episode starts shakily and her russian accent is more bizarre than anything coming through the gate. But eventually she shines a bit, in a fun little undersea adventure.
-john de lancie
The arrogant, insouciant puck of the TREK universe, john boldly goes where no TREK actor has gone before, signing on for a recurring SG1 role as colonel frank simmons, a self-serving officer with ties to an illegal shadow agency. Starting with season 5's "Ascension", he does five episodes over two seasons, in scenarios ranging from blah to forced.
-john billingsley
Ouch. ENTERPRISE's wonderful denobulan doc is tossed into the worst SG1 episode ever, season 6's "The Other Guys". Just...painful.
-jolene blalock
ENTERPRISE's otherworldly first officer signs on for two episodes over two seasons, as a jaffa leader of a tribe of warrior women. The reality isn't as perfect as the premise, but it's fun.
-"Arthur's Mantle"
This season 9 entry from SG1 double-dips into TREKdom, with appearances by worf's brother (tony todd) and wes's father (doug wert). And i'll skip over SG appearances by more obscure TREK actors rick worthy, robert foxworth, robert knepper, wallace shawn, and alan ruck, for all you completists out there.
-colm meaney
The stalwart o'brien (TNG, DS9) takes on the recurring character cowen in STARGATE: ATLANTIS's premiere season. He does three episodes over three seasons, as the leader of a nuclear-age planet planning an ill-conceived attack on the wraith. The first two are middling, but the third one's pretty nice.
-connor trineer
The most singular, successful foray for any TREK actor in the SG world. ENTERPRISE's trip does ten episodes over seasons 2-5 of ATLANTIS, as the tragic wraith/human hybrid michael. Perhaps by the time SGA came around, the writers were less afraid of giving a juicy opportunity to a TREK actor. You feel horrible sympathy for the character, appalled by what he does and by what is done to him. As great as his work on TREK? Nope. But pretty cool.
MICHAEL-A-THON
"Michael"
"No Man's Land"
"Misbegotten"
"Vengeance"
"The Kindred"
"Search and Rescue"
"The Prodigal"
-robert picardo
The only TREK actor to play the same character in multiple SG series, and be a series regular (SGA season 5). As civilian official richard woolsey, he appears in 28 episodes over all three series, starting with SG1's season 7 "Heroes" (which also features saul rubinek, so great in TNG's "The Most Toys"). Woolsey often came off as flat and obligatory, but there were some nice moments when he finally became a regular.
-nicole de boer
DS9's uneasy trill drops in on SGA for a final-season one-off in "Whispers", as part of an all-estrogen SG squad who get stranded on a planet with sheppard and rodney and a bunch of zombie wraith.
-"200"
No TREK actors here...but a stitch-funny SG1 season 10 spoof of TREK (and most other sci fi, really). SG's finest moment?
TREKGATE-A-THON
"The Other Side", SG1
"Watergate", SG1
"Prometheus", SG1
"Birthright", SG1
"Arthur's Mantle", SG1
"Inauguration", SG1
"Coup D'etat", SGA
"Inquisition", SGA
"Whispers", SGA
"200", SG1

Monday, October 22, 2012

blood in yonkers

I have no reason for writing this. No social or entertainment justification...a minor historical one at best. Yet write i do - for no other reason than that i gave my card to a human named Annie today, and i want the top entry on this blog to be something that might make her want to know me. I don't know whether my dreams and declarations would make her smile or frown. I barely know what would make her smile at all. Yet i dream of being one of those things.
And blood is flowing in Yonkers.
Yesterday, as i was on my street returning home by bike, i passed two young humans in an argument that had escalated past rationality. One of them was coming out the door of the house across from where i live; the other was in the walkway leading to the door. They moved back and forth in aggressive shouting. One of them was bleeding from a wound he'd just received. One of them had his penis out, and some of the threats involved penises. There was some sort of paternity issue being argued (not from whence they sprang, but of that which issued from them). The smaller male walked away, while the larger went back in. I went inside. A few minutes later, i looked back out and four police cars had arrived. The smaller male was nowhere in sight. The larger one was lying on the lawn, facedown, not moving. Crime scene tape was being put up. A housemate told me they were brothers who had grown up in that house.
Today, blood flowed from my own face. I was bitten by a dog i take care of. He and his owner moved in a few weeks ago, and she spends long hours at work. She warns everyone to be extremely careful around him, as he's attacked many people, because he was abused by his previous owners. This dog and i have bonded very much. He loves contact. We've cuddled. He's twelve. He's perhaps the most quirky canine i've ever met. He poops into bushes or onto constructions, rather than open ground. Everyone who meets him assumes he's a puppy. He is profoundly frolicsome, and loves to roughhouse, mock-biting your hands as you gently try to land touches on him. Today i learned that i have to let him initiate the play. He was resting on my bed, and i jumped on, slapping my hands down and resting my head on him. Then, blood. My mustache absorbed some of the chomp.
That's why there was a wound on my face, Annie. Perhaps you're as nervous around me as i am around you, and didn't fully notice it, obscured as it is by my mustache.
I dream of holding you.
I dream of loving you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"BAD LOVE"

1999
-by Randy Newman
A friend of mine once argued that no historically great album was ever made by anyone past their twenties. I took exception. Having just heard BAD LOVE by Randy Newman, the product of a man in his fourth decade as a writer/singer, i take even stronger exception. I haven't heard the Newman catalogue, but if his early work is as good, i'm a little frightened. Bitingly sharp, flabbergastingly honest, melodically distinct, with styles ranging from piano ballad, to country, to full-bore rocker. This one instantly rates consideration for any "all-time greatest albums" list.
"My Country"
A sardonically sentimental reminisce about growing up american. With Newman, it's sometimes hard to peg exactly where the satire ends and the sincere begins...where he's taking on the voice of an everyman, or where he's just throwing himself out there...but that's all part of the point, i think. He sings of how intertwined television has become with being american. Regretfully? Embracingly? Both? Randy sings sweetly of visits from his grown children, yet finishes with the thought "I'm always kind of glad when they go away". Sounds about right to me.
"Shame"
Towering. An old, rich man sings a love/hate note to a young woman who gives him attention only for his money. He goes into fits of homicidal jealousy, as the backup singers shame him. For some, Randy's greatest claim to fame is the song "Short People", which ranks as one the five funniest pop songs ever. Audaciously, impossibly, he may now have two songs on that list. You'll be giggling and chuckling at random moments for years to come, as lines ("But I will say this") pop into your head.
"I'm Dead (but I don't know it)"
A burner where Randy makes fun of grey-haired rockers still trying to do what they did thirty years before (himself?). The satire is perfect, yet when he sings of pathetically losing a step or five, you may feel a stab of confusion, because you're bouncing and smiling as much as you would for any great goddamned song.
"Every Time It Rains"
A sweet, perhaps forgettable tune of love lost.
"The Great Nations of Europe"
Newman the satirist at his sharpest, as he fetes Europe's bloody conquest of the world over the past five centuries. Who can make genocide fun? Randy can!
"The One You Love"
Randy turns his caustic eye where it's needed - romance. The inconsistencies, the ruined lives, the blind stupidities that no one learns from...
"The World Isn't Fair"
Newman sings a tune to old Karl Marx, about how he'd be rolling around in his grave if he could see the world today. As he so often does, he makes it hysterically personal, singing about his new wife and family, and meeting a flock of similarly outrageously young and beautiful mothers with froglike, old husbands at a school conference. Perfect.
"Big Hat, No Cattle"
A swinging cowboy tune about how the writer is, and always has been, a pathetic pretender. Fun.
"Better Off Dead"
A lament about how many love affairs are painfully imbalanced, and loving someone who ultimately don't care so much about you. Classic.
"I Miss You"
If you or anyone you know ever want an example of how Randy may be the most honest songwriter who ever lived, go to this little tune. It's a naked tear-jerker, without a touch of maudlinity...a tune to his ex-wife, with whom he spent many years (with as many bad as good). Years after they split, he writes this song out of sincerity...but also because "I'd sell my soul and your souls for a song". Such a heartless line might make make many uncomfortable, but there's always a plea for humanistic understanding in the cynical things he writes.
"Going Home"
A lovely snippet.
"I Want Everyone to Like Me"
A swingy shuffler that taps into everyone's obsessive need to be, well, liked. Er, well-liked. Is it modest? Immodest? Brilliant? Yes, yes, and yes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stargate SG1-A-U

As i made my way through the STARGATE oeuvre, i never imagined i'd write any type of endquest, "best-of" piece. Heck, i'd even given up on getting through the flagship franchise at one point, it was so mind-numbingly non-excellent. But i'm unqualifiedly glad i resumed my chapa'ai journey. SG1 improved, and each successive series was better than the last. Is the SG canon ultimately second-rate? Absolutely. But that's no great shame, as the sci fi televerse is littered with third-rate fare (and even some that flirts with fourth-rate...i'm lookin' at you, B5). In the face of all the challenges that producers must traverse to get a show from idea to product, "good" ain't easy by a long shot. So here's to SG - it was often good, and sometimes even better.
STARGATE: SG1
1997-2007
Ultimate SG1-a-thon (season)
-STARGATE
-Children of the Gods (1)
-Brief Candle (1)
-Singularity (1)
-Spirits (2)
-1969 (2)
-A Hundred Days (3)
-Crystal Skull (3)
-Wormhole X-Treme! (5)
-Frozen (6)
-Abyss (6)
-Paradise Lost (6)
-Revisions (7)
-Evolution (7)
-Heroes (7)
-Affinity (8)
-Threads (8)
-Ripple Effect (9)
-200 (10)
-Unending (10)
-Stargate: Continuum
STARGATE: ATLANTIS
2004-2009
Ultimate SGA-a-thon (season)
-The Defiant One (1)
-Michael (2)
-Sunday (3)
-Quarantine (4)
-The Shrine (5)
-First Contact (5)
-The Lost Tribe (5)
-The Daedalus Variations (5)
-Brain Storm (5)
-The Last Man (4)
STARGATE: UNIVERSE
2009-2011
Ultimate SGU-a-thon (season)
-Air (1)
-Light (1)
-Faith (1)
-Pain (1)
-Trial and Error (2)
-Twin Destinies (2)
-Gauntlet (2)
CROSSOVER-A-THON
-Grace Under Pressure, SGA
-The Pegasus Project, SG1
-The Return, SGA
-Midway, SGA
-Subversion, SGU
-Seizure, SGU

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stargate: Universe, season 2

FOUR STAR - none
NOTEWORTHY
-Awakening ***
A return to sharp storytelling, after the end of season 1 and start of season 2 got a bit muddled. They've been working a Lucian Alliance plot line that doesn't help the show's unique voice (i mean, come on...they're galaxies away, and the Lucian Alliance was flaccid even in this one). They're also trying be too much like GALACTICA, with spiritual subplots that don't quite soar. In this one, Destiny comes out of FTL near a ship which turns out to be a path-clearing seed ship of the ancients. They dock, and try to transfer enough power to gate home, but hidden aliens reverse the flow. Wonderful visuals.
-Trial and Error ***
In the midst of a season that is struggling to re-gain its footing, an extended confrontation between Young and Scott crystallizes all the potential of this series. Young is falling apart, after a divorce request and mercy killing of a crew member. On top of that, the ship itself is testing him, putting no-win scenario visions in his head. Powerful.
-Resurgence ***
We haven't returned to the peaks of season 1, but we're solidly in good territory again. This one has Destiny drawn to the site of an enormous space battle. Half of the ships aren't adrift though, they're powered-down drones. With an away team on one of the relics, the drones awaken and attack. An ancient seed ship drops out of FTL, to save them. Telford is aboard, offering an alliance with the aliens who lost the battle to the drones. Fun.
-Twin Destinies ***
If you incline more toward action than character, saddle up. Two Destinys, two Rushes, a race to salvage parts of a ship that's falling into a star...
-Alliances **
French (3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN, STARGATE) Stewart!
-Hope ***
A bit "lite" compared to the potential of the show, but you'll laugh and be drawn in. Through a glitch in the communication stones, it's discovered that the consciousnesses of both Ginn and Amanda survived their deaths. A plan is hatched to upload them into the ship's computer. Dr. Volker's kidneys fail, requiring an emergency donor. Alaina Huffman continues to shine as a medic in over her head. It's funny, to feel the resonances of other sci fi and ponder why SGU lost their way a bit. Season 1 was a bit GALACTICA '03 meets VOYAGER + SG (i'd also invoke LOST IN SPACE, but this show never moved the cheese-meter). Then the balance shifted closer to SG, until they finally found an entertaining (albeit recycled and less character-driven) groove. Still, this'ns a fun ride.
-Seizure ***
Rush has strapped himself into the interface chair to visit Amanda virtually, but can't return. On Earth, negotiations with the langarans to use their planet to dial the ninth chevron come to a standstill. A covert mission based on incomplete intelligence is launched, damaging diplomatic relations and failing to connect. Woolsey (Robert Picardo - VOYAGER, ATLANTIS) and Rodney McKay (ATLANTIS) are part of the insertion team, and everything clicks wonderfully...off-balance, but intentionally so.
-Blockade ***
The penultimate SG episode doesn't disappoint. The first three SG series exactly equaled the number of aggregate seasons of the first three TREK series, for those who care about such things (yes, i counted). The action burns, as the alien drones are now waiting for them whenever they drop out of FTL. They only have enough fuel left for one stop, and decide to refuel inside a blue giant, a plan so dangerous no drone would anticipate it (hopefully). They must drop the crew off on a planet first...which turns out to be drone-occupied. It's nice to see Dr. Park (Jennifer Spence) get more screen time.
-Gauntlet ***
Bring it home, SG, bring it home. Emotionally gripping, and intentionally less happy and resolved than the similarly-abortive ending of ATLANTIS...yet more satisfying. With new information revealing the drones to be waiting at every possible re-supply gate in their current galaxy, Eli hatches a scheme to put everybody into stasis while riding out a three-year jump to the next galaxy. Somehow (ahem), they have exactly as many functioning pods as they do crew members, leading to drama when one of the pods malfunctions (doh!). Rush, Young, and Eli are the only ones left, and one of them must stay behind. They all volunteer, for different reasons. Eli steps up, embracing the responsibility incumbent upon his intelligence and character. The last scene of the whole cast together, the final shots of Eli alone...it all works, in a way that harks back to the superior character explorations of the first season. I'm feeling almost sentimental enough to wish this crew, and this franchise...godspeed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

brigette

WOMEN 69
We met on the subway. She came onto the car, and sat next to me. We suddenly shared the longest unbroken eye contact i’d ever had with a stranger. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, and couldn’t look away. After a few stops and few (or no?) words, she got up. She wrote down her number, gave it to me, and hurried out the closing door. We met a few days later, at a lovely vegetarian restaurant. I wasn't the old-fashioned type who felt that the man should buy everything…not at all…but when the check came and she didn't move, i was happy to pay. We wandered the wet streets for hours, eventually stopping for a 2AM snack. I had to go to an ATM, as i rightly guessed i’d be paying again. She talked a lot about a profound love relationship that had recently ended. She had some ideas that didn’t jibe with me; for instance, when i told her about Amanda, and how i had been so in love, she was very put off and felt that i needed to go back to Florida. She felt that everybody has only one person they’ll ever fall in love with. Though i protested that i couldn’t be more happy for Amanda and Eric, she just didn’t understand. Finally at 3 or 4, we hugged and went our separate ways. Despite my misgivings, my attraction to her was profound. She was a stripper, which i found sexy. I mean, i knew it was an almost inherently unsexy profession…but i wanted very much to watch her at work. I think i might have only been able to sit there slack-jawed. For the next few months, she danced around the periphery of my life. I so much wanted to be with her. She talked of just needing someone reliable and honest to help her get over her lovesickness, and i was 99.9% willing to offer myself. But she disappeared. A year later, she re-surfaced. On the phone, i actually agreed to meet her without even remembering who she was (something told me i must). My brother John figured out who she was. We spent an afternoon and evening together. She kept on complimenting me on how great i looked. She insisted she was a little thin and tired-looking (which she was), but i truthfully told her she was still beautiful. Again i paid the bills…this time she may have wanted to pay, but she was broke. Again she talked about a relationship that was breaking up, her “rebound” from the last guy. We sat in parks and had a sweet time. Our incompatibilities were mirrored by compatibilities. She believed in living simply, and lamented the lack of honesty in the world. Around midnight i got tired, and said i’d be heading home. She said she didn’t want to be alone. I told her she could come with me, or i'd go home with her if i could sleep on her couch. She looked pensive, then invited me home. When we got there, she had me wait outside for a few minutes. She had the tiniest apartment! And i’m NO STRANGER to tiny apartments, believe me. Turns out she didn’t have a couch; the bed was the only thing one could recline on. So we lay on opposite ends and talked for another hour or two. She was battling a headache, so i rubbed her. She said she was surprised she felt comfortable having me there. As i was starting to fall asleep she began nudging me, smiling. It was pretty obvious what she wanted, and i faced a…well, “moment of truth” seems overmuch, but…i already had figured out that even if we did continue to see each other (and i couldn’t take that as a given, i still sensed much instability in her), our compatibility wasn’t enough to sustain a romance, at least not at this point in her life. So do i give her the moment of affirmation and sexual healing she wanted? I did, mostly because i felt one of the more profound physical attractions of my life. I kissed, caressed, and undressed her. I’m pretty sure i then touched the first fake breasts of my life (to say i wasn't a fan of plastic surgery would be an understatement). They were likable enough, with very adorable nipples, and i began to think that over time i'd actually get used to them. We didn’t exchange any fluids, i just covered her in kisses and caresses. It wasn’t the most magical moment of my life…but i was very happy. Right around the time i got naked, she lost sexual steam. So i put my head down to sleep, but never quite did. An hour or so later, she seemed jangly and restless, like she needed a fix. She asked me to leave, and i did. There were other clues that could have meant something or nothing…the time she needed before letting me in, perhaps hiding something, as she didn’t like it when i stuck my nose in her closet. She refused to take her socks off, and suddenly i was imagining track marks…anyway, i called her the next day, and she called back to ask whether i could come loan her $10 for shoes for work. I was glad that she was unself-conscious enough to ask, but i was busy/tired/uncertain enough that i said no, not that night. The relationship ended a short time later, during a phone call. I told her i thought it was anti-feminist for a man to pay all the bills. She understood that i meant it, and told me (in so many words) that she needed a man who was going to pay for her.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nobody Loves a Dragon

THEATER 65
-winter 2002
Jenn asked me to do another performance with the Pirate Players, again as the sole adult among all the little ones. SCROOGE had been so perfect, and i was thrilled. This one was a musical about a kingdom wherein the king can never wear the crown until the last monster is removed from the land. I played Sir Slipshod, venerable but tired dragon-slayer. Well into my dotage, i want nothing more than to retire and smell flowers. But i trudge sweetly on, for king and country. In the countryside, i lose my glasses and befriend a young two-headed dragon, not realizing the nature of the beast. We return to the kingdom, where insanity erupts. Auditions were comically under-attended, but fortune was with us, and we ended up with a brilliant cast (or at least the chemistry more than made up for any talent deficit). Jared returned, to take the role of the long-suffering King Pillowpuff. His acting was still raw but his energy was wonderful, and we continued in our chummy way. Playing the dragon was Kacie, who shifted from urchin to lead smoothly. She was bright and energetic, with a great laugh, and we got on wonderfully. Her dragon partner (and occupant of the same personal space for six weeks) was newcomer Kayla, at 13 a year or so older.  She was a great kid, and did a fine job. The two of them eventually wore on each other's nerves, bickering over stepped-on toes and bad breath (not unlike a three-headed knight in a certain arthurian film). Kayla confided in me that Kacie didn't always respect her talent. Newcomer Matt, 13, played the sinister and dim Sir Cad. We connected well. At one point in the play, he assumes my identity to fight the dragon, and he looked hysterical with glasses, fake beard, and huge tunic - belt around his knees. We each had squires, played by little Aaron and Josh. Josh had originally been cast as Prince Robin, but the part was too much for him. He was the gentler one, and i was glad he was mine. He even happily got to "arrest" his brother at the end of the play. Their mother was a sexy woman, and she and i made eyes at each other. Cad's scheming partner was the evil sorceress Lady Sorrowell, played by sarah, back for her second show. She showed that she was as wonderful a singer and dancer as she was an actor...which was fortunate, because in her songs with Matt, she sometimes needed enough talent for two. At twelve, she even did a dandy english accent. She and i shared a wonderful scene, wherein she wakes me only to drug me (Jenn inserted a waking line for me - "No, Mommy, I don't want to go to school!"). In another scene, i've lost my glasses, and turn in sarah's direction as she's bending over. I "mount" her, thinking she's my horse. She screams, "Sir Slipshod, I don't look like a horse!" I look her over, and tell her that that's a matter of opinion. Todd and Brandon, our designers/running crew, smilingly said the "mounting" was very-nearly indecent...but i was just doing as my director had blocked. Memory fails me, but i might have also been blocked to slap her "rump" prior to mounting her; i'm laughing hysterically as i write this, for that can't be true. But the mounting got the most laughter of any bit in the show. Sarah's crush on me continued, as did her fondness for physical contact. She rubbed my shoulders once or twice. She organized a cast backrub circle, and quickly sat in front of me. Her mom would admonish her that she shouldn't be touchy. Sarah would obey...until mom left. I didn't have the heart to be too discouraging, particularly as i was so huggy with the other kids. And in my own way, i had as big a crush on her as she did on me...in my spirit crush, i wanted to nurture her and protect her from all the horrible darkness and alienation of this world. But even if society were to allow me to show her the affection and openness she needed, it was already too late. She was already a product of this dehumanizing machine we call a culture. Society demanded that i ignore her humanity...a rule i dared not break. Playing Prince Robin was 14 year-old newcomer Caitlin. Her energy was light and fresh, and her performance as the dragon's best friend, was charming. Whitney was back as the court page, in whom there were echoes of her "Ebenezer, Ebenezer!", for she said several lines in pairs ("Your majesty, your majesty!", "Sir Slipshod, Sir Slipshod!"). Her beaming smile made you want to laugh with happiness. Rounding out the cast were Madison and Emily, who played court ladies, jesters, and an hysterical flower trio with Whitney. The flowers are the only onstage witnesses to my solo song "I Don't Want to Be a Knight". I do a little soft shoe, using my sword as a cane. A sweet number. At its end, i gesture for the flowers to follow me off. Madison and Emily skip away, but Whitney remains planted, pointing to her roots as if to say, "I don't know how to uproot yet". I gently pick her up and carry her out. I'm still without glasses, so i had the idea for a crash box to be dropped backstage, as though i'd walked into a tree. I shout out "Oops...are you okay, my dear?" Whitney shouts out "Yes!" So adorable. The three of them did a hilarious jester dance before the duel, done to the tune of the WWF anthem "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" (one of Jenn's updated flourishes). Our accompanist was Mary Ann Van Poelvoorde, who was a classy delight from start to finish. At the end of the show, i dodder on in my long johns, arriving just in time to prevent the dragon being slain. It's then revealed that Sir Cad is the "monster" of the curse, and all ends well. I had dyed my hair black for ASHER'S, so i shaved it all off before DRAGON opened. The kids got an incredible hoot out of my bald head. I wore a curly gray wig, and whitened my beard. Young audiences loved the comedic touches of my character. After years away from musicals, i'd had a few solo lines in CHARLOTTE’S, and now a whole song to myself. It felt great. I knew my voice was better than it had been in my youth; there was even a slight vibrato now. One thing i wasn't enamored of was Jenn's traditional pre-show cast prayer. I smiled without lowering my head, and went along with it. Audiences loved us, our cast had sweet chemistry. We even did one show on the road, at Sanibel elementary - a fun, crazy day. Jenn gave me a tiny statue of a knight, with a little crystal, as an end-of-show gift.

Stargate: Universe, season 1

FOUR STAR
-Faith
Depending upon the life experience you bring to this, you might be tempted to call it the most exquisitely-rendered character drama in the history of science fiction. And you might be right. From the moment you realize that you're watching the show's breakthrough episode, your eyes may widen in your determination to not miss a single breath. You may laugh. Your chest may tighten. Destiny is brought out of FTL by a star and planet that shouldn't be there. For the month that it will take to leave its gravity well, they send a crew to the surface. The discovery of an obelisk leads to the conclusion that this solar system was created by aliens. Eleven people decide that staying on the planet is preferable to returning to Destiny. Young and Rush know that losing so many might cripple their chance to survive. The debate they share with Camille is powerful, and stunningly unforced. All the human conflicts in this episode feel real in ways that few products of any genre do. The element of faith is brought in, as pertains to both god and a higher meaning; this too is perhaps the first time such issues have felt so rawly, unpatronizingly real in the sci fi universe. Choices will surprise you, and your ability to project how it will end is negated. At the heart of the episode is Alaina Huffman, as the ship's medic. She is pregnant, and the thought of raising a child on a sterile, possibly-doomed starship is unacceptable. Young's solution is unexpected, and as perfect as every other thread in this tapestry.
NOTEWORTHY
-Air ***
This pilot episode is better than its SG predecessors on so many levels. It's gritty, raw, unpredictable, and the characters feel real. It all starts with the writing, of course...it's the usual suspects, so maybe they got a visit from some glengarry-glen-ross-sci-fi-Alec-Baldwin type. ATLANTIS was an improvement over SG1, because of better chemistry. This is something else, though. It very nearly reaches the level of the most brilliant sci fi pilots ever. An accident, perhaps coupled with the ego of Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle - THE FULL MONTY, TRAINSPOTTING) sends an ill-prepared crew onto an ancient starship traveling from galaxy to galaxy on auto-pilot. The Destiny is falling apart, and the demands of supporting a live crew give them only a couple days to live...nor can they go back whence they came, as the unique origin gate was destroyed. The only annoying aspect is the religiosity, particularly with the second-in-command, an otherwise thoroughly likable performer (Brian J. Smith). Louis Ferreira lends crusty, humanistic gravitas as Col. Young, whom you're sure is dead in the first ten minutes. David Blue is great as Eli, a slacker recruited by the Air Force because he was the only person in the world able to solve an equation embedded into an online game. Jamil Walker Smith is Master Sergeant Ronald Greer...in the real world, in military prison. Among this small band fighting for survival, he becomes a captivating presence. Throw in a little Lou Diamond Phillips (LA BAMBA, SUPERNOVA), some Ming-Na (THE JOY LUCK CLUB, MULAN), send-off appearances by Richard Dean Anderson and Amanda Tapping, and the potential is...well, the universe is the limit. Is it fair to say that all TV sci fi of the previous three decades had very obviously walked in the long shadow of STAR TREK, and that SGU is the first SG series to be born post-BATTLESTAR GALACTICA? Yup. Yet it doesn't feel derivative.
-Light ***
The Destiny is out of power, drifting toward a star. A lottery is held, to send seventeen people on the shuttle to a planet that may be habitable. Before Matt leaves, he and Chloe make love, to Eli's dismay. A tense, four-star effort that glides back to three with an ending that doesn't quite ring true, as Young openly throws unsubstantiated suspicions upon Dr. Rush.
-Water ***
Mysteriously-disappearing water reserves cause tension, and require a dangerous away mission to an ice planet. On the ship, a coalescing alien particle cloud that seems friendly, becomes deadly when aggravated. What sets this series apart from virtually all sci fi that's come before is ambiguous dissonance. Most TV sci fi characters fit neatly into the ol' "good" and "bad" files, but here...one moment, you're rooting for Eli as a youthful voice of humanistic idealism, the next you're angry at him for losing his composure. One minute you're thinking Dr. Rush is an egomaniacal sociopath, the next you're lauding his clear thinking. A more honest portrayal of life? Another effort that pushes up against four-star greatness...
-Earth ***
The parade of excellence rolls on. This episode explores one of the more interesting scientific notions of the show, the idea that this stranded ship can stay in communication with Earth through communication stones left by the ancients, which allow two people to switch bodies, no matter the distance. Body-snatching is hardly a new concept, but here for the first time we're allowed to experience it as friendly technology. Earth orders Young to try a risky procedure. When he balks, Col. Telford (Philips) exchanges bodies with him, and takes over. Rush sabotages the attempt, certain it will kill them all. The most fascinating part has Eli, Chloe, and Young interacting with their loved ones on Earth, in different bodies. They all handle it in different ways. Eli pretends to be a friend of his, knowing his mom would never understand. Young has sex with his wife, but Telford accidentally returns to his own body in the middle of it. Throw in a little Richard Dean Anderson, and away you go.
-Time ***
Okay, we're entering a patch of episodes where things unravel a bit. Much unevenness. This one starts out great, as the crew discover a kino recording of events that haven't happened yet. An away team is attacked by deadly speed-slugs, while lethal sickness breaks out onboard. The ending loses focus.
-Life **
A gay lead character on a sci fi series! With actual gay scenes! You go, Ming-Na-used-to-be-Wen!
-Justice **
Young is framed for murder, and the resolution on an alien planet between he and Rush is more bloody and permanent than you'll expect. The writing could have used a defter touch, but the other elements almost obscure that fact.
-Space ***
One of the most satisfying reappearances of a character left for dead, in sci fi history. Amidst unrest and suspicions about Rush's demise, aliens attack. Chloe is abducted. Able to board their ship by communication stone, because Rush pocketed one and was then picked up by the aliens, Young frees him.
-Divided ***
A gripping, can't-turn-it-off ride. The back-again Rush leads a civilian mutiny, and the tensions over choosing sides are explosive. Then the aliens attack again. Major plot holes, but great fun...and pardon my being an undersexed male, but lt. James (Julia Benson) must officially be given fair consideration for the most conspicuous breasts in sci fi history.
-Sabotage ***
The exploration of our own humanity through the communication stones continues. With Destiny stranded between galaxies, they need to bring in Earth's top expert on the engines of the ancients. She turns out to be a quadraplegic...so for several days, Camille finds herself paralyzed on Earth, while a woman who hasn't been able to feed herself since she was a child, is inhabiting a perfectly healthy body. She returns to the closeness she once shared with Rush. A subtle powerhouse of emotions is explored...and scientifically, who's to say that some form of reality like this won't someday exist, even in our own lifetimes? On a lighter note, if you have sex while temporarily inhabiting someone else's body and contract an STD...does Hallmark have an apology card which covers that?
-Pain ***
Claustrophobic, raw exploration of humanity is this show's bread and butter, but almost as if to show that they can kick it old school, you're treated to an episode of traditional sci fi. Ticks. Alien ticks. Not impressed? Okay, how about HALLUCINATORY ALIEN TICKS!!! It doesn't fall into silliness either. The character work still resounds, but let's just breathe and have fun for one episode.
-Subversion ***
The most satisfyingly cheeky of the handful of SGU episodes Richard Dean Anderson has done. Plus a little Michael Shanks, if you fancy that sort of thing. Plus a lil' Rhona Mitra (HOLLOW MAN). We learn that Lou Diamond's sliminess thus far has been the result of Lucian Alliance brainwashing. WHY has it taken me this long to figure out that the reason they didn't name the show STARGATE: DESTINY (which would be consistent with the pattern of the previous shows) is because they didn't want the fan shorthand to forever be...STD?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

YouTube girl

I cried. Now you.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1x1UBKlCU&feature=em-share_video_user

Stargate: SG1, season 8

FOUR STAR - none
NOTEWORTHY
-New Order ***
Wait a minute...THAT'S not Dr. Weir! After only two episodes, Jessica Steen is replace by Torri Higginson (who would go on to a starring role in the spin-off, ATLANTIS). We love Torri, and maybe just maybe she does bring a little more gravitas, but we liked Jessica (EARTH 2) too.
-Icon ***
Really well-made. Jackson is stranded on an alien planet that has been plunged into holy civil war by the appearance of SG1. The ending is a bit too cowboyed-up, and it's questionable whether Earth would interfere to this extent...but it's tight and well-written, with a fine guest turn by Matthew Bennett (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).
-Avatar ***
Every so often SG1 trots out a cliched, overused plot line, but just as you're rolling your eyes, they take it to a place that feels new. Teal'c gets stuck in a virtual military training simulation which feeds off his own personality. Because he would never give up, but ultimately believes the war against the goa'uld is unwinnable, he is unable to win or free himself from the game. Nicely done.
-Affinity ***
Hold on to your hats. Is this the first time in eight seasons that a romance on SG1 displays...what's that word - oh yes, chemistry? Okay, that season 4 thing with O'Neill and Vanessa Angel thing had some sizzle. But these are banner times for Christopher Judge. He's gotten as much character development in two episodes as he had in the previous seven seasons combined. He moves into an apartment in the "real world", much to the concern of the pencil-pushers. After playing "good samaritan" neighbor a little too Charles-Bronsonly, The Trust frames him for murder, in order to get ancient translations from Jackson. His neighbor (Erica Durance - SMALLVILLE) has an abusive boyfriend. Teal'c teaches her martial arts, and they fall for each other. Sexy, believable, and long overdue.
-Sacrifices ***
The second and final turn for Jolene Blalock (ENTERPRISE). A bit better-written (again, by Mr. Judge), but a bit more scattered too - with annoying gobbledygook about marriage. Christopher gives Jolene a slightly-contrived (but nice) vulcan moment with one of her lines about how someone shouldn't be "so emotional".
-Prometheus Unbound **
General Hammond returns, to lead the Prometheus' first mission to Atlantis. Diverted by a distress signal, they find a drifting ship. Its inhabitant manages to kidnap them onto her vessel (except for Jackson), then steal theirs. Daniel, Meet Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black - PITCH BLACK, FARSCAPE), in her debut before joining the cast in season 9. Fun, but a bit "high school drama club".
-It's Good to be King **
Why do white people like Wayne Brady? And wouldn't it be cool if the SG1 episode to employ the otherworldly talents of Mr. Brady weren't a bit cheesy? Wouldn't that be so cool?
-Citizen Joe ***
This one burbles along, but its humor and heart ultimately win you. A barber (Dan Castelleneta - THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, THE SIMPSONS) accidentally gets a goa'uld artifact that creates a mental link between he and Jack. For seven years, he has visions of SG1's adventures. The visions take over his life, once he becomes convinced they're real.
-Threads ***
Episodes like this make you think of all SG1 could have been. They were very nearly great, when they really tried. Jack and Sam resonate with character depth and development, in a way that is both understated and large - no mean feat. Have their walls finally dropped away? It sure feels like it, and it's nice. Add to that a Daniel plot line that couldn't be any better, as he waits in a celestial way-station, facing re-ascension or mortal death. If he ascends, he'll be prevented from interfering in Anubis' plan to eliminate all life in the galaxy. A three-way NO EXIT ensues, with Mel Harris (THIRTYSOMETHING) as the guilt-ridden being who helped him ascend the first time, and the sublime George Dzundza (BASIC INSTINCT, CRIMSON TIDE) as the hidden, half-ascended Anubis. Reunited, the SG1 team end the episode with a subtle, gratifying tip of the hat to the final episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.
-Moebius ***
A love note to the fans who've supported the show for eight years, and a fitting send-off to the Dean Anderson years. Let's be accepting of his departure - doing one season of a TV series is enough to burn out more than a few, and he did eight. Few shows go the distance...and what sci fi goes more than seven seasons, he probably figured. All those STAR TREKs? Seven. MACGUYVER? Seven. So let's give him a big hug, as he takes a well-deserved break (and relax, it's not like he won't be back in numerous guest spots and a couple movies). Here, the team goes back in time to get a ZPM, and end up stranded 5000 years ago in Egypt. A video they make is recovered in a present timeline where SG1 doesn't exist. The team is rounded up, and try to make things right. Throw in series stalwarts Jay Acovone, Peter Williams, and David Hewlett, plus ANOTHER death for Daniel, plus Jack and Sam sucking face righteously...it's all a bit obvious, but for once, that's not a bad thing.