The O.C.
Wow, I guess prison really does change a guy, because the Trey who just got out of jail sure ain't the same Trey from the pilot. Or from Ryan and Marissa's Thanksgiving trip to Chino last year, for that matter. Nope, this is a whole new actor with all new facial hair. Thankfully, Ryan sees past the DNA alteration to realize that big bro is still the same old trouble. Which begs the question as to why Sandy would ignore the signs and invite yet another incarcerated Atwood into Casa Cohen. Then again, we are talking about someone who's totally missing the fact that wifey has developed a Teen People crush on Carter and that button nose of his. Anyway, it's nice to have a scrappy bad boy around, if just to force Marissa and Ryan into shopping situations and bar fights where her flats and his lats get a good workout, you know? Maybe after Julie's lived down the debut of her Ramen-fueled porn flick, she can get back to throwing leg to dudes young enough to be her daughter's boyfriend. Or in this case, purse snatcher. As for the return of Zach, big deal. Aside from Coop and Summer's hilariously forced "Ooohhh" over his lame Bon giornio! greeting, water-polo pal's basically the tool needed to give us our fix of the increasingly sweet Seth-Summer squabbles. Which can only mean one of two things: either her dad is coming back with a fatal illness and a dying wish to break them up or his big mouth is gonna send her into a rage-blackout one-nighter with too-tall. Is it too much to hope for both? And maybe a bonus disc of The Porn Identity within the Season 2 DVD set? Just so my buddy Graham can complete his collection of Fox-inspired smokers The Nympho Life: Interns, Talcum in the Middle, America's Most Wanted Cheerleaders and The Ho.C., that's all. — Damian J. Holbrook

The Apprentice
Craig's teammates complained that he couldn't speak clearly, but in space could anyone hear him scream? Just wondering. The first-time project manager boxed Magna Corp. with his bland idea, and the looks that his team gave him seemed to suggest that they were contemplating stuffing him inside one of his trunks. But they won anyway, thanks to good execution and complete incompetence on the Net Worth side, especially prissy beauty-queen Erin, who treated the entire Home Depot project as if it were beneath her. With her fashionable wardrobe and tough-talking attitude, she might fit in better with the crowd over on Top Model, I hear they've got some fabulous prizes. Either way, I was glad to see Carolyn and George stick up for Angie. I know I shouldn't play faves, but I'm rooting for the den mom to go to the final two with that goofy Bren.

The most annoying thing about this show is the endless boardroom bickering. On-the-job performance should count for more than how loudly you can argue or twist facts in front of The Donald. (At least I think that's how it works in the real world... lemme check with my boss on that one.) The second-most-annoying thing is that ever since the Omarosa "Oh, my head" incident, the contestants have to wear hard hats on construction sites while Mr. Hyperbole wanders around without anything that would muss up that big tuft of whatever he's sporting. — Angel Cohn

American Idol
Well, it's taken longer than it should have, but Mikalah has finally left the building. Too bad she's so shy. That kid could really go places if she just showed a little personality. Hopefully, Jessica and Carrie can go see a doctor soon, 'cause their near-meltdowns over Miss Gordon's ouster sort of scream "Mood stabilizers needed here," you know? And even if there wasn't a snowball's chance that her fellow bottom three-ers Nadia and Anthony were gonna get the ax, it's still hot to see that a bad night for even the good ones can sway the fickle text-messaging fingers of you viewers. Unless, of course, those fingers are busy plugging our ears from those cheesoid sing-alongs. Seriously, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"? What's next week, a tribute to DeBarge? — DJH

Life on a Stick
I had to watch this show twice to decide if I really hated it, or just found it mildly irritating. I'm leaning toward hating, but might give it one more ep to sway my opinion — only because I have a soft spot for fast food and have always wondered what it would be like to deep-fry things that really shouldn't be deep-fried. That and I like Molly. Though, if you are going to cast an awkward angry teen with self-image issues, it would be better to hire someone who was actually not pretty. I mean, they clearly had no problem picking a kid to play Gus who looks nothing like anyone else in the family.

The cast is trying hard for that edgy Scrubs-style delivery, but while there are occasionally funny one-liners, it mostly just comes across as forced and uncomfortable. The laugh track makes it so much worse; instead of taking the corny series and adding some ketchup and mustard giggles to make it palatable, it feels like it's been doused with a heavy-handed helping of horseradish that ends up leaving a bitter aftertaste. — AC

The Office
OK, might as well admit that this show's in a distinctly unenviable position, presenting a U.S. version of the BBC show that was already a thing of hilarious, cringeworthy beauty. And all involved give it a respectable shot.

Only how do I forget the original when watching this? The producers here understandably try to stick with the elements that worked so well on the Beeb, but all that really serves to do is remind me how much better Wernham Hogg's David (Ricky Gervais), Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), Tim (Martin Freeman) and Dawn (Lucy Davis) were than the American crew — Michael (Steve Carell), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) — presented here. Carell makes the mistake of trying to mimic some of Gervais' mannerisms, but doesn't manage to make his Michael as pitiable as David Brent was. And Jim sports the same bad haircut as Tim but, again, I see no there there.

It's a shame, too, since I'd have welcomed the innovative format had I not seen it done better the first time around. And while I'm no director, there are some things that pull me out, technically speaking. Somehow they don't manage to convince me I'm watching a documentary, and when there's a cutaway to a reaction shot, for instance, they lose me altogether.

A "jelly" on the BBC is somehow funnier than Jell-O on NBC. "Territorial Army" makes me laugh when "deputy" doesn't. And the Gervais crew never seemed like they were trying, while the Carell bunch often tries too hard. Nice try, though. — Michael Peck

ER
Finally a new episode! Nice to see Sharif Atkins back as Gallant. Boy's got time on his hands these days since NBC canceled Hawaii (sorry, Sharif — didn't quite see it). Gallant and Neela make quite the romantic couple and it's great that Neela's less serious lately. She even "got some" tonight. I love how the two of them were about to get pizza and then one thing led to another and boom — Gallant's coppin' a feela with Neela! And more. I was like "What about the pizza?"

I laughed when Carter said to Susan: "Things with Wendall (Madchen Amick) didn't work out." Of course not — she was on Joey earlier tonight and Jake in Progress two Sundays ago. Girl gets around. Speaking of which, how many of you Deadwood fans noticed who's now playing Steve, ex-husband of Samantha? Garret Dillahunt has replaced Cole Hauser in the role (just last Sunday, Garret showed up on Deadwood as a completely different character than the one he played before that). Talk about an identity crisis.

Other recognizable guest stars: China Jesusita Shavers, who was formerly Brooke on Boston Public and who looks a bit like Nadia on American Idol, appeared as Olivia. Also, Marc John Jefferies, the lead little boy on The Tracy Morgan Show, was the kid who shot himself and former '80s teen star Raphael Sbarge played the guy in the superhero outfit.

Loved the song at the very end when Neela watched Gallant leave — totally fit the mood. For those of you wondering, it was "I'll Find a Way" by Rachael Yamagata. You're welcome. — Dave Anderson

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