The good: after 13 seasons, Fox has decided to pull the plug on King of the Hill. Again. Ratings aren’t down, the show’s writing is as strong as ever; Fox just wants to make room for yet another terrible Seth MacFarlane show. Good decision, Fox! Because American Dad‘s ratings aren’t low enough, they apparently want to see how close one of their Sunday animated shows can get to the bottom of the Nielsens and still survive. But there is actual good news here: ABC has mentioned that, if Fox doesn’t change its mind, they’ll pick the show up, just like they did with Scrubs. ABC doesn’t seem to mind being the dumping ground of other networks’ sitcoms, which is probably for the best. With the exception of 2006’s underrated Sons and Daughters, ABC hasn’t developed a good sitcom since Roseanne.
The confusing and possibly bad news: ABC’s funniest show, Pushing Daisies, is on the chopping block, along with Dirty Sexy Money and their Life on Mars remake. The network hasn’t confirmed any cancellations, but they released a midseason schedule with some noticeable absences. The rumor mill is abuzz with the notion that the three shows will be capped at 13-episode seasons and may return in the fall, introducing a new strategy of two shortened seasons in the fall and winter, rather than one long, rerun-packed season from September to May. Another rumor: this week’s Pushing Daisies is incredibly important, because if it doesn’t show an exponential increase in viewership, ABC will likely cancel it.
Now, I’ve leveled some legitimate criticism at Pushing Daisies before, but this season has shown a marked improvement. The ratings don’t quite match the show’s early success, but they’re steadily climbing. Maybe not as quickly as ABC would like, but it’s not exactly tanking. I’m finally liking this show well enough to make it appointment television, so I feel bad that ABC’s torpedoing it. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned, the shaky quality of the first season drove a lot of viewers away (justifiably), which is something I have to pin on the writers, not the network. It’s not the network’s fault they can’t convince audiences the show is now better than the first few episodes of the first season.
Bones (Fox)—I liked Eugene Byrd’s earlier appearances well enough, but he didn’t make a big impression on me until this week. After the rotating group of Zack replacements, it occurred to me that somebody like Dr. Clark Edison is exactly what the Jeffersonian needs: a bitter straight man who just wants to work, dammit. In the first season, Dr. Goodman had this characteristic, so naturally they’d can him in favor of Dr. Saroyan, who is both a gossip and a woman who has a romantic past with Booth. Bones isn’t nearly as soap operatic as it could be, but it could use a character who is first irritated by their unprofessional behavior, then slowly gets sucked in.
My only minor nitpick—Edison made no complaints about going to Booth’s birthday party. Now, I’ve worked a few jobs where I haven’t gotten along with coworkers and tried my damndest to keep out of the personal drama. The easiest way to do that is to avoid any outside-of-work social functions. I know they’re supposed to build team camaraderie, but you know what? I’m not getting paid, it has nothing to do with the work—I’m not going to go. Edison should feel the same way, so it surprised me that they didn’t even have a throwaway crack about his annoyance.
Brendan Fehr from CSI: Miami and Roswell guested as Booth’s brother. I don’t think we’ve gotten quite so in-depth on Booth’s character since Stephen Fry stopped appearing as his court-appointed shrink, so that was refreshing. It also allowed Booth and Brennan to acknowledge their mutual feelings without actually acknowledging them—this is “will they or won’t they?” at its best, allowing characters to confront their feelings separately, then deny them while they’re together. But, as always, a plea to Bones writers: pick “they won’t.” Please.
Yet another fun guest star: The Cosby Show‘s Joseph C. Phillips, who deserves a better career than what he has. I don’t know, maybe he’s doing a lot of fulfilling theatre work, but he’s a good actor who could have been a major star. I blame Lisa Bonet for his lack of film and television success.
Everybody Hates Chris (The CW)—I love variations on a theme. Everybody Hates Chris‘ writers are great because, more often than not, they take classic sitcom plots (kid sneaks out, sees something he shouldn’t have, is torn between getting in trouble and doing the right thing) and put a unique spin on it. What could have been an obvious plot—Chris confesses what he knows and his parents find out—gets turned upside down because his fear of snitching (not just for the parental repercussions) causes him to pay Jerome to confess for him, which gets Jerome arrested.
The show also went one better than usual by giving everyone else either entertaining subplots or funny character moments—Julius and Rochelle versus Show Dogs (a Cats spoof), Tanya’s bribery and Drew’s absurd quest to get on That’s Incredible! Even Greg, who’s been underused this season, had a couple of great scenes with Chris.
King of the Hill (Fox)—This is classic King of the Hill, a full-on satirical assault of the flawed and failed “No Child Left Behind” program. Forget The Wire‘s gritty, dyspeptic realism—nothing slices through the heart of an issue like sardonic mockery. In this episode, Bobby (among other Tom Landry notables) is stuck in a “special-needs” class so the school can raise their test scores and get more funding.
Over the past few years, they’ve developed Principal Moss as a character who both shies away from conflict and has a misguided devious streak (but only when it has to do with his school’s bottom line). Both of these aspects drove this week’s story, which focuses on the Hills but really tells the story of Moss’s downfall. In typical King of the Hill fashion, Moss is never portrayed as a truly bad guy. He’s just doing what he has to within a broken system, and he’s punished for it, seen selling “J-Bone” steaks at the end of the episode. I also love that, when he finally embraces Hank’s plan to just make the “special” kids work hard and study, the school’s average scores still go down. Ironies like that separate King of the Hill from the average sitcom.
Supernatural (The CW)—Here’s my problem: I liked Katie Cassidy. She could handle the comedy-to-drama-to-horror tightrope as well as Ackles or Padalecki, without quite being as good as either of them. She fit the show, she fit the part of Ruby (or, at least, made it her own) and for her trouble, the writers killed off the actress but not the character. The character has returned in the form of Genevieve Cortese, and no amount of pouty stares and full-backal nudity will convince me that she’s any good. I don’t want to sound harsh, and maybe Cortese would be fine (or, at least, unremarkable) in another role. However, Cassidy and Cortese playing the same role—it’s a night and day difference.
I wasn’t exactly sold on Cortese in earlier Ruby appearances, but I let it slide since she was barely in the episodes. This week, however, concentrated pretty fully on What Happened to Sam, which means explaining What Happened to Ruby. The Cortese incarnation of the character actually has a rather interesting backstory, but she’s still just…not very impressive. Maybe she’ll improve, but in my mind, it’s like betting against a sure-thing because maybe the underdog will win this time.
As for the content of the episode itself—well, aside from Cortese dragging it down, it was pretty good. They’ve broken away from the light, funny mold of the past few weeks, which isn’t a bad thing. True to the show’s format, this week takes on the urban myth of the prophet-like folks who claim they can eavesdrop on angels. Sam and Dean end up seeking out a girl who knows all about them—because, since the day Dean was released from hell, she’s heard endless angel conversations about the upcoming war. Some demons may or may not be in pursuit, trying to use “Radio Girl” to find out what the angels have planned… Or maybe the demons are just Castiel and Uriel, who rush in just before the “To Be Continued…” and announce their intention to kill her.
I know I praised Robert Wisdom during his first appearance, but it’s time to lavish praise on Misha Collins. His performance kind of snuck up on me, but last week I started noticing how good he is—and this week, even though he was hardly in the episode, the pure scary bad-assiness of his performance made me realize this guy is great. He’s been around the block, but I’ve never really committed his name to memory. Now, he’s on my radar. I hope Supernatural doesn’t make the same mistakes they made with Katie Cassidy.
I’ve read so many people, from professional bloggers to actual journalists to fans on message boards bitching about how lame Cromartie’s death is. He’s a goddamn terminator, and last time I checked, we did not see him get doused in phosphate or lured into a tarpit. The obvious speculation is that naïve/goofy Ellison will inadvertently lead Catherine Weaver to the body, not realizing this is a Bad Thing.
I liked this episode a lot—the “[Character Name’s Story]” structuring was nifty, they’ve finally gone back to making John feel like a real (if bratty and troubled) teenager, John’s finally brought Riley in on the secrets (sort of), each of the characters had some nice moments to shine. I even liked the heavy-handed Christ imagery with Cromartie at the end. (And hey, that’s likely a not-so-subtle implication of Cromartie’s imminent resurrection.) Because I’ve continued to like this show—in fact, I’ll argue it’s improved steadily from day one, aside from a few shaky elements (notably Shirley Manson, whose awkward performance has grown on me)—I feel like I’m becoming defensive after reading others’ reactions. Although I’m a fan of dissenting opinion, I don’t want to come across like a whiner every week, so hey, I’ll just stop trolling the message boards.
(Also, I have to note that it was a little jarring to see that they filmed this episode in the same generic backlot Mexican town so memorably utilized on Arrested Development. Way to plant, Ann!)