Inside the Actors Studio (Monday, 7/6c, Bravo)
Even in those moments when it succumbs to fawning self-parody, there's something about James Lipton's craft/career-focused Q&A's that I find irresistibly endearing. (May have something to do with my nostalgia for what Bravo was like before all of those heinous Real Housewives took over the network.) This week, this marginalized show — notice how it airs outside prime-time parameters — welcomes its first-ever graduate from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. Said successful alum being Bradley Cooper, beloved by TV fans for his work on Alias but now busy with a film career including The Hangover, Wedding Crashers and the new Limitless opposite Robert De Niro.
While we try to process those terrible images from the Japan earthquake/tsunami, a few thoughts on some of the highs and lows of the week in TV. (And when we speak of highs and lows, of course the subject is Charlie Sheen.)
REMEMBERING CHARLIE HARPER: Malibu is mourning the loss of one of its more colorful residents: jingle writer/children's music composer-performer Charlie Harper (aka "Charlie Waffles"). His passing was confirmed this week in the wake of the career suicide of his notorious alter ego, a self-described Hollywood "warlock" whose overexposed online rants (following a spate of reckless TV and radio interviews) have quickly degraded from the category of morbidly fascinating train wreck to the realm of sick, sad, no-longer-funny joke.
Battle of Los Angeles
Fringe (Friday, 9/8c, Fox)
Hard to imagine the show topping its most recent episode — the haunting "Subject 13" flashback into Olivia and Peter's childhood — but any story that puts Walter Bishop center stage is worth watching, and this week the mournful mad scientist is busy trying to delay the damage he's done to the wall between universes. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, the Fringe Team is on the case of thieves who defy gravity. Now let's see Fringe defy the gravity of those Friday night ratings.
Battle of Los Angeles (Saturday, 9/8c, Syfy)
Gotta give Syfy bonus points for cheekiness. On the same weekend the big-budget alien-invasion adventure Battle: LA hits the big screen, Syfy's knowingly cheesy...
Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein
House (Monday, 8/7c, Fox)
To escape from a very unpleasant reality — the episode is titled "Bombshells" — Cuddy retreats into a dream world, with elaborate fantasy sequences teaming Cuddy and House in a musical number choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance fave Mia Michaels, as well as homages to the Western and classic sitcoms. It's no laughing matter, though, as Cuddy wonders if House will be...
The Defenders (Friday, 8/7c, CBS)
One week before she begins a limited run on Broadway — and let's hope HBO or somebody records THAT show! — the irrepressible Kathy Griffin goes to Las Vegas in a guest shot on this struggling courtroom drama. She is cast to type as a brash insult comic sued for offending one of her audience victims (What, Joan Rivers was busy?) In the subplot, the son of a hotel owner turns to buddy lawyers Nick and Pete for help after he wakes up to find a casino host strangled in a hot tub. What are the odds he's guilty? ...
So how did everyone like 127 Hours: The Oscar Show?
Past experience has lowered our Oscar night expectations, but the enormity of this year's train wreck was hammered home when the starry audience stood and cheered as Billy Crystal took the stage midway through — as if to say: "Come back, Billy! Do something! Please save this show!"
Want more Matt Roush? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
The 8-time former host teased, "We're running a little long, so here are the nominees for best picture." Bad boy. Funny boy. Boy oh boy, could the show have used a little more of Crystal's comic polish...
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter!
Question: I watch Two and a Half Men for some light, escapist entertainment. I enjoy the laughs and the double entendres. But really, that all stems from the writing. In fact, the Alan-centric episodes are some of the best ones. I wouldn't mind seeing more Berta, either. The Jake character is now of an age where he's picking up more of the storylines. If Charlie moved to London with Rose and his doppelganger cousin came to live in the house, they could keep a ladies man/lush character (if they feel that the show absolutely needs one). In a way, I'm disappointed that they've decided to end the season with no new episodes. Maybe they would have shown that the show could still be popular without the Sheen character. Nonetheless, I am glad that the powers that be saw how far off the reservation Sheen really is and said enough is enough. What's your take on the future of the show? Is it DOA without Charlie Sheen? — Karen
Matt Roush: First off, thanks for reminding us why this matters. In the wake of the latest meltdown and shutdown, there's a lot of "the show sucks anyway/who cares/who watches this crap" cynicism...
Matt Lauria, Jason Clarke
The Chicago Code (Monday, 9/8c, Fox)
As often happens in the best crime dramas, the bad guy often gets some of the meatiest material. And Ronin Gibbons, the Chicago Alderman played so deliciously by Delroy Lindo, is no ordinary adversary. We get a better sense of what makes him tick in this episode, when the powerful politician is confronted by an armed teenage robber, causing Gibbons to look back on his own upbringing, back before he became so cynical about the city's corrupt ways. In another storyline, a bomber blows up a city building and promises more mayhem, putting a ticking clock on Jarek and Caleb's efforts to track down the culprit. This situation is not unlike the dilemma on ABC's Castle an hour later (10/9c), in the conclusion of a tense two-parter that finds Beckett and Castle teaming up with a fed (Adrian Pasdar) to avert a terrorist calamity....
As someone who spends a healthy (if that's the word) chunk of most weekends catching up on Friday night TV, here are some very strong arguments for even the most cabin-feverish among us to stay in this Friday night. It's also a classic DVR dilemma. Which to watch live, which to record?
Want more Matt Roush? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
My vote is on having a real-time Fringe experience — which in this case means flashing back in time to another pivotal moment in the worlds-collide mythology. This terrifically imaginative series, hitting its peak in its third season in every way but ratings, needs every fan's support. I do think Fox believes in the show and is rooting for it to succeed, but the move to Fridays is proving to be as challenging as trying to tell the two Walter Bishops apart back in 1985. (I had to play back one scene twice because I temporarily lost track of which world we were in.)
Fringe reminds me of Lost in the way that over time it has abandoned almost any pretext of reeling in the casual viewer. You're either into ...
Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki
Supernatural (Friday, 9/8c, The CW)
It's a mad, mad, meta world when the Winchester brothers are transported to a parallel universe where Sam and Dean become their actual alter egos: Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of a TV show called Supernatural. Even weirder, Castiel turns out to be a Twitter fiend whose real name is Misha Collins, and so on. Sounds like a fun change of pace from the recent grim tidings. Meanwhile, in the same...