Matt Roush

Question: It's time to ...

It's time to reconsider your calling Law &#038 Order: Criminal Intent a "weak Columbo clone." Vincent D'Onofrio's Robert Goren is the most interesting detective to ever hit TV since I've been watching (1950s). He makes us think in every episode, and amazingly we get to see him think too. He has formed the most interesting and challenging combination of Holmes, Columbo, Fletcher, Poirot and even Peter Gunn (good-looking). Try the show again and see if all his fans aren't right! — Diane

I promise to check in and see how it's developing, even though that time period is so wildly overcrowded (first priorities: Sopranos and Alias and even Malcolm, which had an off year). CI is doing quite well without my support, though. I guess I just find D'Onofrio's arrogant style rather off-putting, and the structure of most episodes less than intriguing. I find it hard to care. But it's probably not deserving of cheap shots, either.

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Roush Rave

No bad mood goes unpunished in Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, Sundays, 10 pm/ET), a hilariously sour complement to the darkly compelling The Sopranos on Sundays. (What the turgid Mind of the Married Man is doing back as well, at 10:30, is beyond me.) David's unique format of improvisational farce results in excruciatingly funny scenes of social embarrassment. Just try not to laugh when David, once again attempting to make amends, finds himself caught up in a Christian Scientist prayer circle. "I've really got bad karma," he protests. Trust me. The worse it gets, the better Curb becomes. read more

Question: Will Scrubs be the ...

Will Scrubs be the one show that finally succeeds in that coveted post-Friends timeslot? — C. Miller

I certainly hope so. This is easily the best comedy NBC has scheduled at 8:30 pm/ET in human memory. I love this cast and find the writing, direction and overall tone completely satisfying. But analysts are already predicting that this show, like so many before it, will lose a significant amount of Friends's gargantuan audience, especially with the second half of Survivor (the "tribal council") as a draw. Maybe that's just unavoidable. But NBC is doing the right thing with Scrubs. It's a much better fit with Friends than it was with Frasier last season. Even if the numbers don't hold up, the friendly buzz around Scrubs will be considerable — a refreshing change from all the years of the media screaming in horror at what NBC programmed in that half-hour for so many seasons.

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Question: Since you brought ...

Since you brought it up: why do you prefer Dean to Jess on Gilmore Girls? I prefer Jess, but that's just me. — Chrissy

It's not just you. I've argued this with other Gilmore Girls fans in my office who think Dean's a bit of a bore and that Jess is much more of a heartthrob. My feeling is that Jess looks and sounds like he just wandered off of another (and lesser) WB series. To me, Dean is sweet and funny and modest, whereas Jess comes off like a smug, self-impressed Brat Pack wannabe. Truly, though, the producers seem to have lost interest in the Dean character. What happened to the boy who fell asleep with Rory reading Dorothy Parker? They did let him build a chariot for his lady love last season, but since then, you can tell the writers favor Jess as the "bad boy" who appeals to Rory's dark side. I like the idea that Lorelai, who hates Jess as much as I do, finds herself in the same position her mother Emily was in when Lorelai first fell for (and got pregnant ... read more

Question: Hi, Matt. Do you ...

Hi, Matt. Do you miss The X-Files as much as I do? Sob. — H.J.

I miss The X-Files as it was at its peak, with Mulder and Scully and Skinner and Krycek. But I was missing the show even when it was still on the air its last year or two. Without Mulder, the show lost its spark and its purpose (no reflection on the terrific Robert Patrick; it wasn't his fault). Given what the show became, especially after Scully's "miracle baby," I'm glad it's off the air. I still hope for more adventures somewhere down the road, though. Speaking of which...

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Back in Business Best and Worst of Times for Sopranos

Our delight at the return of HBO's The Sopranos (Sundays, 9 pm/ET) is tempered by the fatalism that pervades this long-awaited — and well worth the wait — fourth season.

Creator David Chase insists he's going to hang it up at the end of the show's fifth year, and already there are signs that Tony Soprano (the great James Gandolfini) and the rest of his underworld family can only see the dark at the end of the tunnel. "There's two endings for a guy like me, a high-profile guy: dead or in the can," he mutters to his shrink (Lorraine Bracco).

Meanwhile, Tony's money-mad wife, Carmela (Edie Falco, so tough and brilliant), warns him that "everything comes to an end." Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), facing trial, complains that lawyers are eating him alive. Hotheaded Christopher (Michael Imperioli) shoots heroin into his toes while whining to his fianc&#233e, Adriana (Dre read more

NO EASY ANSWERS Soul-Searching After September 11

"It was hell on Earth," says one witness to the attacks of last September 11, a calamity that will be replayed and reexamined on TV and in other media for years to come.

Many still wonder: How in the name of God could this happen? Faith was shaken, but beliefs were also strengthened.

PBS's Frontline presents one of the first, yet almost certainly one of the most lasting of this month's commemorative specials with the two-hour Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero (September 3, check TV Guide listings). With sensitivity and unflinching honesty, this remarkable report opens with harrowing accounts of grief, in which family survivors either embraced or rejected God in the wake of their personal tragedy.

In chapters titled "The Face of God," "The Face of Evil" and "The Face of Religion," this somber documentary puts a human face on the spiritual and cultural debates that continue to rage. R read more

Roush Rant

E!'s Anna Nicole Show (Sundays, 10 pm/ET) is so horribly awful, so pathetically empty of life or joy or entertainment value, that I'm sure some will watch out of a sense of superiority, thinking it hip or ironic, just another part of the trashy celebrity-circus peep show. Those who do are little better than enablers of this sad, grotesque creature's addiction to the camera. Surrounded by drab retainers (a lawyer, a punk assistant), the has-been Playmate wants to be as "outrageous" as the show's lively cartoon credits promise, but she can barely muster the energy to be vulgar. We should do her and ourselves a favor and just look away. read more

Roush Riff

First Monday is what The West Wing might look like on CBS, which has a way of reducing weekly drama into a homogenous bland pudding-CSI and the Tyne Daly portions of Judging Amy being exceptions. Mediocre in execution though clearly well-intentioned, the too-simplistic Monday (CBS, Fridays at 9 P.M./ET) presents Supreme Court justices and their eager clerks as walking, talking position papers. Still, the show does strive for balance in confront-ing major issues, and it's interesting to watch these jurists struggle with individual conscience amid political pressure. Imagine what an inspired dramatist could do here. read more

Hot Seats Here Watching TV Can Be Pure Torture

In just six months on Beverly Hills, 90210, Noah Hunter has loved and left bad girl Val, taken up with former career virgin Donna, bought the Peach Pit After Dark and been unjustly arrested a far kinder one-on the life of Vincent Young, who plays Noah, the newest hard body on the soap. For starters, he has his own bed now. "I always lived with actors, and we'd rotate each night between the couch, the bed and the floor. Whoever had the most important meeting the next day got the bed," says Young, who these days enjoys a king-size mattress in his own West Hollywood penthouse apartment.

Then there was that mob at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas not long ago. Eager fans swarmed the lobby when word circulated that Young was inside with friends. "Every day people come up no matter where I am," says the actor, who's enjoying his new fame. "They always say, 'I don't watch the show,' then after 10 minutes, they're telling you everything ab read more

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