A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Even though this first aired 30 years ago and, thus, isn't going to change, every darn time I watch I hope Lucy won't pull that football away. And every darn time, she does. But if you think Chuck's a loser, you have it all wrong: At least he keeps trying. Next year, I say he oughta pull a little to the side and aim for the head. Then again, I'm an angrier guy than most, so consider the source.
And am I the only one that sees Danny Partridge whenever Peppermint Patty's on screen? And where did they get all those toasters, anyway?
The wiseacre in me sees plenty of openings for smartass, inappropriate remarks. A rich guy tattoos two people with his car, then runs off into the snow in a Santa suit. The hypothermia incident. The impossibly well-timed cell phone call. But it's Christmas in small-town Maine, where a high-powered lawyer falls in love while reconnecting with his childhood, doing good deeds and reconsidering his priorities. And it's Gary Sinise, who can pry a genuine moment from any cornball script. Heck, there's even a little blind kid, a dog, ice skating, a carousel and a sled. So I keep my cracks to myself and sit back to bathe in the warm, sappy glow.
"They don't appreciate him. It's his glasses. They make him look like a lizard," Lucille tells Michael of women and how they view brother Buster. "Plus he's self-conscious." Losing the specs, Buster promptly gets propositioned by guest-star Liza Minelli, who may be all thumbs at marriage but still has a deft comedic touch. In the meantime, sister Lindsay's up a tree with activist Johnny Bark (guest-star Clint Howard, series executive producer Ron's brother) before getting down to sleep in her comfy bed and telling the poor sap she thinks he's gross, of course and Gob bonds with Dad in prison before getting shanked by White Power Bill. Fox execs, please stand by this show. Please?
A panicked, unbalanced man with a handful of cops on his tail runs into the office, asks for a lawyer and begs James Spader to hold his bloody knife for him. Say what you will about the plausibility of David E. Kelley shows, but give him this: He knows how to draw you into a story. The payoff where Spader ditches the knife at the end? Predictable, I admit. But I sat through the entire hour, fully entertained by the exploits of Spader's ethically challenged anti-hero, Alan Shore. "I don't get it," Jimmy says to Ellenor at the end of the episode. "I see nothing redeeming about that man." He's not paying attention, then. Spader's saved the show and it's tough to argue with bringing him on. Unless, I suppose, you're Dylan McDermott. Or Lara Flynn Boyle. Or Lisa Gay Hamilton. Or...
Great Performances: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!
Great performances indeed. I can't help but admire the solid one Hugh Jackman turns in. I also can't help but chortle at how his name is just this side of a naughty crank call. And I keep waiting for him to call Judd "bub" before popping his claws and opening him up like a fresh-caught flounder.
Saturday Night Live
All right, so it's a rerun. But Maya Rudolph's Vanessa Bryant busting a bottle over the head of Finesse Mitchell's Kobe is still worth a laugh. As is her Donatella Versace ("Geeet Ouuuut!") and Halle Berry's Naomi-Campbell-going-through-a-wall gag. Berry's even funnier in Gothika, though.
Joan of Arcadia
"It doesn't mean she was crazy just because she talked to God," Joan says of the last Joan to have her job when her history teacher describes Jeanne D'Arc as "paranoid schizophenic with a messianic complex." She inspires a revolution of her own when she's unfairly accused of cheating, and she and her dad each catch a little martyr heat of their own. Could've been clunky, but I'm buying it. (Well, truth be told, I thought God really wanted her to keep fighting when he told her to back down. So I was a little disappointed that he actually did intend for her to roll over, and that poor Luke was repeatedly ignored in family therapy, and that the theistic model here seems to be God-as-a-dictatorial-puppeteer. But whatever.)
"Y'know, a lot of people don't like you," Joan says to God as he prunes a tree. Maybe so, but they sure like this show. And since this hour manages to promote the importance of reading, history and good teaching and it ain't a bad family series besides I think I'm among them.
Kate plays matchmaker for a domineering mom who wants her lesbian daughter to find the right gal. So what's stopping me from congratulating this show for its enlightenment? Well, there's the Yiddish the mother tosses around. And the fact that she calls Ryan O'Neal a "goy." Were the writers afraid we wouldn't buy her as a world-class meddler if she weren't Jewish? As if that's not enough, the father of the woman Kate finds for the daughter says he'll buy a painting if he gets a good price on it. And his name's Morty. Oh, I get it: code. He must be Jewish, too. Capping it off, said dad wins the mom over to his side by letting her in on his shoe-store employee discount.
I don't think I'm being too touchy here.