Is Chris Lilley the next Ricky Gervais? Or is he the next Tracey Ullman? Would you settle for both?
In HBO's addictive import Summer Heights High (Sundays at 10:30 pm/ET), a funny/sad Office-style mockumentary depicting a year in the life of an Australian public high school, this wildly talented writer-star loves making you squirm (à la Gervais) while submerging himself inside the skin of characters so diverse (à la Ullman) you can hardly believe it's the same guy.
No child is left behind, or teacher spared, in Lilley's outrageously crass classroom ...
Tina Fey and Megan Mullally
As this year's Emmy champs pass like ships in the night — AMC's best-drama winner, Mad Men, wrapping its brilliant second season October 26, less than a week before NBC's best comedy, 30 Rock, launched its wacky third year I can't help reflecting that while more awards surely lie in their future, neither show is likely to win a popularity contest.
Mad Men, which filters its '60s nostalgia through a glass (of scotch) darkly, is seen by many as too subtly ambiguous, too grim: the disturbing rape of sex-bomb secretary Joan by her fiancé one of many examples. It's a show that feels more high art (Don's surreal lost weekend in Palm Springs) than mass-market. Whereas 30 Rock revels in such a twisted world of zany absurdism, it will never be to everyone's taste. Too bad for those unwilling to embrace these shows' strange and wondrous ways.
More on the Mad Men finale and 30 Rock premiere after the jump.
Katie Holmes and Jonny Lee Miller, Eli Stone
Eli Stone (Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET)
Risk factor: Moderate.This fanciful charmer about a modern-day prophet (the adorable Jonny Lee Miller) in corporate lawyer's guise was a bit of a surprise renewal.
Worth the risk? As leaps of faith go, yes. And faith — in visions both magical and musical — has everything to do with Eli Stone's divine appeal. Everyone whose life Eli touches, he inspires, including scene-stealing colleagues like Victor Garber and Loretta Devine, and the same goes for the lucky viewer. Guest stars Sigourney Weaver (as a spectral shrink) and Katie Holmes (as a klutzy fellow do-gooder) have boosted Eli's visibility. Let's hope it sticks.
My grade (on an A-B-C scale): A-
See Roush's take on Pushing Daisies, Housewives and more after the jump.
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?
Tristan Rogers and Finola Hughes
I nearly bailed on General Hospital: Night Shift because its season premiere back in July was just so awful. But then the show got good. Really good. And now it's indisputably superior to the mob-infested soap that spawned it.
Read and discuss the rest of Logan's rave after the jump.
Brian Tee and Arlene Tur, Crash
Seems every movie channel wants its own Mad Men–style prestige project. Which could explain why pay-cable upstart Starz has raided the Oscar vault to turn the 2006 best-picture winner, Crash, into an ambitious, if not immediately convincing, weekly series.
With all new characters, so this isn't exactly a sequel, TV's Crash resembles the movie in being less about car wrecks than about disparate cultures colliding within the ethnic melting pot of Los Angeles. Still, there is one fateful smashup in the opening hour, and pivotal moments often occur on wheels — in a limo, an ambulance, a patrol car.
Read the full review after the jump.
Christian Slater, My Own Worst Enemy
The question, and it's a fair one, nags at many of this season's new series: How long can they keep it going? It applies mostly to shows adapted from limited-run overseas hits (Life on Mars, Worst Week, The Ex List, Eleventh Hour, Kath & Kim), but is especially pertinent to NBC's nonsensical spy thriller My Own Worst Enemy.
Reminiscent at times of The Bourne Identity or Face/Off, to name a few movie influences it does not improve upon, the beyond-high-concept Enemy asks us to believe Christian Slater as a cold-blooded assassin named Edward who doubles, when a switch in his brain is flipped, as a milquetoast family man named Henry.
More on Worst Enemy and a look at Harry Connick Jr.'s Lifetime movie Living Proof after the jump`
Zachary Quinto, Heroes
p>TV Guide's Senior Critic Matt Roush takes your TV questions. Have a rant, rave or burning question about your favorite show you'd like addressed? E-mail him here.
Question: What shall we do with Heroes? NBC must be asking itself the same question. Its first season, the show was a breakthrough hit, and then its season finale disappointed many. The abbreviated second season disappointed many more. Its producer publicly apologized for mistakes in that season. Then it comes back, supposedly rejuvenated and better than ever. NBC promotes the hell out of it and, almost unbelievably, viewership is down. The episodes that have aired so far have certainly been pretty good and even promising. I have to wonder if NBC made a blunder by airing the premiere against the Dancing with the Stars premiere. Maybe they should have come back a week earlier. Regardless, we need some explanation as to why the show can't get back on track to where it was in its best first season moments. My conclusion is that there was one colossal blunder made by the show's producers that has caused most of the problems, and that decision was to keep Sylar around after the first season. — Kelly H.
See Matt's response and questions on The Mentalist, Crash, Flashpoint and more after the jump.
Chris Parnell 30 Rocked SNL's debate.
Cheers to Lorne Michaels for bringing back a beloved Saturday Night Live vet for this year's Thursday-night presidential-election sketches. No, not Tina Fey — I'm talking about Chris Parnell.
Read and vote on the rest of this Cheer after the jump.
Sam and Dean worked on an actual case that took them to Carthage, Missouri, where they dealt with a man who was turning into a flesh-eating monster. His situation paralleled Sam's in that they both had this darkness inside them they couldn't deny or completely control. Plus, Dean finally found out some of the secrets Sam has been keeping since he came back from hell.
While the case Sam and Dean worked on was interesting and thankfully brought up some issues for Sam, I have to say the whole Dean-Sam confrontational aspect of this episode took front and center for me. Dean witnessed Sam use his mind mojo to exorcise a demon. When Dean walked out and revealed himself to his brother and Ruby, I was kind of afraid for Sammy. And then Dean finally learned a couple truths the rest of us have known since the fourth season premiere:
• While he was in hell, Sam tapped into his powers. Repeatedly.
• His partner in crime happened to be Ruby.
Read my full recap of "Metamorphosis" after the jump.