If the TV variety format weren't already dead, the ghastly ego trip of NBC's Thanksgiving-eve turkey Rosie Live would surely have killed it. Like the pie Alec Baldwin predictably pushed into Conan O'Brien's face that fell to the floor without sticking, the entire hour landed with a sickening, sad, ill-conceived thud. It felt like an off night at America's Got Talent, bookended by wobbly appearances from Liza Minnelli and Gloria Estefan, each forced to perform with the caterwauling host, Rosie O'Donnell.
The low point? There were so many ...
Katherine Heigl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Grey's Anatomy
Ghosts are big business on TV these days, I get it — wait till you see what CBS's Friday hit Ghost Whisperer has in store for Melinda and her newly deceased hubby Jim over the next few weeks. But where Grey's Anatomy is concerned, Izzie shouldn't have sent Alex to burn Denny's sweater to rid her of her dead lover's ghost — a J. Crew exorcism? She should have sent him out to burn the script ...
That scream you just heard? It came from the already nerve-wracked realm of Joss Whedon obsessives, who just learned of Fox's latest whiplash-inducing scheduling changes, as the annual American Idol-induced midseason shakeup spells bad (though not entirely bad) news for genre fans.
Top of the list is the announcement that the long-awaited (and initially troubled) production of Whedon's ambitious new Dollhouse will not air, as previously announced, on Mondays as a 24 companion, but will instead be exiled to the treacherous wasteland of Friday night TV, at 9 pm/ET. (Premiere date: Feb. 13. That's right. Friday the 13th!) Its lead-in: the ratings-challenged Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Will a fantasy/sci-fi/action block work on Fridays, the same night that once claimed Whedon's last short-lived Fox project, Firefly? Skeptics, burned year after year since The X-Files left the night what seems a generation ago, will despair. The main upside here is that expectations on that night could hardly be lower, so maybe Fox will give both of these shows a relatively long leash. But initial response: Ouch.
On the plus side, Fox ...
Brooke Smith, Grey's Anatomy
My two cents on the unexpected news that Brooke Smith is being written out with undue haste from Grey's Anatomy: No one comes out of this looking good. What is it with this show's inability to let characters exit Seattle Grace with dignity? (And yes, that's a not-so-subtle reference to Isaiah Washington's Dr. Burke.)
If network or studio execs are the cause of this sudden retreat ...
Zachary Levi, Chuck
Finally, NBC has made a smart move in its woebegone fall season: A week from Wednesday, NBC will restore the original (and, in last season's tweaking, again the best) Law & Order from its inexplicable hiatus to its rightful Wednesday spot at 10 pm/ET. Furthermore, NBC is rescuing the compelling crime drama Life from its death slot on Fridays (banishing the dying Lipstick Jungle there instead) and moving it to Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, where Life might be seen as a sunnier, quirkier alternative to the grim slaughterhouse of CBS hit Criminal Minds.
Now that the Wednesday problem has been seen to — I'll pass making the requisite slap at the night's kick-off show Knight Rider, whose full-season renewal symbolizes NBC's current creative state — maybe NBC can now turn its attention to Mondays, where the overstuffed Heroes is fading, flanked by two outlandish spy spoofs, one of which is actually trying to be funny ...
Walton Goggins, The Shield
As FX's groundbreaking The Shield enters its final stretch, this week's episode is the taut turning point that hurtles the series into its deadly final act. With Shane finally taking action against his former strike team buddies Vic and Ronnie (on whom he put out a hit at the end of last week's episode), the murderous tensions between these former cohorts in crime reaches a melodramatic boil that will change everything in their lives and at the Barn forever. There are huge twists ahead, leading to a finale (which FX screened for select reporter/critics last week) that is richly satisfying. No ambiguous cut to black for The Shield. This is a show that will grab you by the throat for as long as it's allowed to spin out its crazily suspenseful story of corruption, retribution and dishonorable honor among thieves. If you've strayed during this convoluted final season, now's the time to return.
Sarah Chalke and Josh Radnor
On TV, it's all about living up to expectations.
Sarah Palin and Saturday Night Live certainly achieved that in this weekend's instant-classic and rabidly anticipated guest appearance by the controversial Republican vice-presidential candidate on the resurgent (though still woefully uneven) late-night comedy show. Watching Tina Fey impersonate her from a backstage monitor, palling around with Alec Baldwin (in GOP terms, the next best thing to a celebrity terrorist), throwing the "Live from New York" opener after crossing paths all-too-briefly with Tina, bopping to Amy Poehler's rap groove at the Weekend Update desk, the good-sport Alaska governor no doubt did wonders for her own approval ratings (or at least her TV "Q" ratings) while boosting those of SNL.
So what else is living up to the buzz?
Katie Holmes and Jonny Lee Miller
My two recommendations for this Tuesday couldn't be more different: an engrossing biographical portrait of the two presidential candidates on PBS's peerless Frontline newsmagazine; and for those seeking a bit more whimsy in their diet — and these days, who could blame them? — the return of one of TV's most charming sleepers, ABC's fabulously fanciful Eli Stone.
Get more on both of these shows after the jump.