Tony Shalhoub by Evans Vestal Ward/USA Network Photo
TV has really put the "labor" in Labor Day week. It's only the third day of September, and what is many years a sleepy week has already seen the premiere of six major series (network and cable), with roughly four more (if you count Bravo's
) on tap for tonight. I dealt with several of these shows already in my
Sons of Anarchy
Raising the Bar
- but here are some more thoughts on a week so busy it's hard to fathom that the official network premiere week is nearly three weeks away.
Gossip Girl Rocks.
Some of the most fun I've had in front of the TV in the last week or so (when I'm not absorbed in U.S. Open tennis play) was zipping through the first three episodes of
's hilariously sizzling second season. On Monday night, we learned that mopey Serena was getting through her summer-without-Dan by watching
. (Me too! Great, isn't it?) Blair's advice: "A hot lifeguard is like Kleenex. Use once and throw away. You couldn't ask for a better rebound." Even if he's driving a Camaro? And who's dressing Chuck Bass, some Patricia Field wannabe on crank? From his lime green suit to his high-argyle croquetwear, he's a constant fashion risk. Loving Madchen Amick as Nate's cougar, BTW. And next Monday, perhaps my fave line of dialogue yet, as Nate observes Chuck scheming against Blair's new British lord: "You know it's love when you start talking like an assassin." That and Serena's observation of Blair potentially rubbing shoulders with world leaders at lord Marcus's side: "If you can't find common ground with a dictator, I don't know who can." Such comically twisted fun.
By comparison with the overheated
, the new
is hopelessly square (opening sex act in the parking lot aside). But somehow that feels right, that having a principal/dad in the house lives up (or down) to the Aaron Spelling tradition of serving up corny moralizing amidst the swoony junk-food teen romance. The two-hour pilot (too much of a mediocre, though harmless, thing) moved at breakneck speed, introducing a new generation of skeletal sirens and overhyped hunks who should be fun to follow, at least for a while. Maybe it says something about the average age in my office, but most of the early buzz around the TV Guide watercooler was over Mr. Matthews (Ryan Eggold), the cool teach who dissed the Zuckerman offspring with a casual "What is that girl, like 30?" And what is Naomi, come to think of it? 45? I know it says something about my own personal demographic when I found myself looking most forward to the next appearance by
's Jessica Walter as the bawdy scene-stealing Auntie/Granny Mame, the ingenues' boozy granny Tabitha, who in between swilling Long Island ice teas is busy spilling Hollywood stories about Ricardo Montalban cracking eggs off her backside back in the day. (Fun nod to soap lore by having Linda Gray, of the legendary
., drop by as her best friend- and misunderstood stud Ethan's grandma). All in all, not a bad start.
Top Model Breaks New Ground.
Keeping with the CW theme for now, tonight's two-hour opener of
America's Next Top Model
forces the fan to sit through some tiresomely campy sci-fi mugging by the two Jays and a TyraBot ("Beam us up, fiercely") before getting down to the nitty-gritty. And it doesn't get much more gritty than the introduction of Isis (glimpsed in a photo shoot last season), the show's first transgender contestant. "Born in the wrong body," she says. "This is how I've always been." Since this contest is all about illusion anyway, why not go there? Naturally, some of the other model-ettes look askance at having a pre-op transsexual in their midst, partly out of prejudice and/or ignorance but also (if they've ever seen the show) out of a realization that the more exotic you are, the more likely you are to make it far in this game. Whatever the cause, Isis makes this season instantly compelling.
Bones in Britain.
Early September is a busy time for Fox as well. The
premiere is less than a week away,
is already well into its next caper, and tonight it's
turn to launch a new season with a two-hour opener, this one set in London. It's a jolly good romp, as Bones and Booth meet a mirror-image British duo with switched genders: the tough cop is a woman, while the droll scientist is a man- who at one point, observing his U.S. counterparts, quips, "I love the mix of the personal and the professional you people seem to manage." The separate mysteries in both hours are enjoyable, and it's fun watching cowboy Booth work in a more genteel society ("Without a gun, I'm practically naked") while comically struggling with a new way of battling city traffic ("I'm glad we had a revolution"). Back at the Jeffersonian, Angela and Hodgins have more relationship issues, and with Zach gone- the less said about that storyline, the better- it looks like we're in for a long-running joke of new lab assistants who have trouble fitting in with this eccentric ensemble.
Monk Turns 100.
This week ends with a charming milestone: the 100th episode of USA Network's brand-defining comedy-mystery
, which plays out like a career/life retrospective of the famously withdrawn and phobic sleuth, a role that has already earned Tony Shalhoub three Emmys. When a tabloid TV show (hosted by a wonderfully smarmy Eric McCormack) turns the spotlight on a reluctant Monk in a show re-enacting his 100th case, we're treated to cameos from notable former guest stars: John Turturro as his brother, Sarah Silverman as his stalker fan, Brooke Adams (Shalhoub's wife) as a former flight attendant, and Andy Richter, Howie Mandel,
's Angela Kinsey and a few other recognizable faces as criminals who've crossed Monk's path. The fun begins when Monk begins to second-guess his work on his landmark case as the show-within-a-show unfolds. I've been watching this show for a long time (although not faithfully for a while), and I'm glad to say the character can still crack me up- in this episode, when he's frantically giving his assistant Natalie directions on using the DVR remote: "Picture freezer! Picture go back! Picture go fast!" Now that's obsessive behavior I can relate to.