SUNDAY

The 4400
Oh, sure, this is derivative. You can tick off the influences just as easily as I can: Firestarter (Orson Bailey's nosebleed-causing powers); The Dead Zone (Maia's ability to foresee the future); The X-Files (two feds bickering their way into true affection as they get to the bottom of the case). But who cares, as long as it's good? And The 4400 is good.

This is Stephen King before he forgot how to be Stephen King — back when we (and he) cared about his characters and didn't have to slog through scatological story lines to discover we didn't anymore.

I was expecting a run-of-the-mill alien-abduction story. Early on, when I was grabbed by the human element of the tale, I was afraid they'd lose that and take the easy way out by focusing more on the spooky sci-fi elements (&#224 la King's Kingdom Hospital). But it didn't happen, thankfully.

The secret to all good sci-fi, horror or fantasy is that the relationships would hold up even if you took out the otherworldly stuff. For the bad ones, the super powers are all they have. You feel for these people: Lily losing her daughter to her attorney husband, Richard losing the love of his life to the years, Maia alienating people by telling them the truth they don't want to hear, even poor Orson causing mayhem wherever he turns up.

Rest assured, I'll be back for the next installment to learn more about the two biggest mysteries of this show: Is Shawn taking a trip to the dark side? And who do the writers see as being scarier, those with alien-imbued powers, or those with a law degree?

Six Feet Under
This week's thoughts:

Each successive episode this season has gotten on my nerves with increasing intensity. But that reversed this week, possibly because it's creator Alan Ball's first script of the new run. Stronger human interest. Less weirdness for weirdness' sake. This series needs to do more of that. Or Ball needs to write more of them.

Quote of the week, from Ruth: "If he's sending us s--t in the mail, he's a part of your life." True, true.

I was bummed that Nate thought of the dump truck line before I did.

I was glad to see David give up on pushing Keith to come out to his co-workers; I know those guys. Lived with them. Grew up with them. They absolutely would not get it.

Sophia tells Rico she doesn't ever want to be a problem for him. All together now: "Too late!" And we all know it's only going to get worse.

I was going to write about looking forward to the new Claire Fisher getting her comeuppance. But that uncomfortable moment where she revealed her own sexual ignorance and lack of experience was a good start. And I think there's only more where that came from.

I've gotta say: Putting up with Nate coming in when he's tied to the bed? And then enduring dinner with Brenda's mother? Joe wins the good-sport award on this show — and every show I've watched — this week.

And Nate, who managed not to annoy me in this episode, wins my madman award for getting stoned before his run. Why make something long seem all that much longer?

Ultimate Film Fanatic
Notice how all the contestants are sad-looking men (except for the token sad-looking woman, who's the first eliminated)? Funny, that.

Hypocritical as hell for me to take that cheap shot, of course, considering I had too much caffeine the other morning and subjected my co-workers to a soliloquy which started with The Wanderers, made its way to The Warriors, jumped to Xenophon's Anabasis and Billy Jack and only ended with me singing a bit of Coven's "One Tin Soldier" because I had to go to the bathroom.

A Thief of Time
As much as I admire Joe for figuring out where to find Dr. Friedman-Bernal, I admire him more for what he didn't do — mess around with the up-to-no-good — but undeniably cute — Maxie. That takes character.

And going against the usual stereotypes, Tony Hillerman has the hermit Brigham — one of the few white people on the side of the good guys — pull Leaphorn's fat out of the fire with... a bow and arrow. Interesting choice.

SATURDAY

Missing
"I don't actually call myself a psychic," says Jess. "I just have visions."

"There's a difference?" Nick asks.

Well, yeah. If she had all the answers, the episodes would be real short, now, wouldn't they?

FRIDAY

Stargate SG-1
"As admirable as that is, I can't let you do it... I'm sorry. Request denied." — Dr. Elizabeth Weir

Oh, really, Doc. You've gotta know the rules of this genre dictate if you say something like that in the first five minutes, our heroes aren't going to take it for an answer.

And speaking of our heroes, doesn't that eye thing Teal'c wears while flying look like what the dentist uses to X-ray your molars? And it may just be me, but even though Thor's so darned useful, I'm more impressed by the "make mine Marvel," Dr. Don Blake version, with the thees, the thous and the Mjolnir.