Gilmore Girls
Most of Lorelai's snappy cultural references are of the reach-for-the-low-fat-chips-and-you-missed-it variety. But when a cheesy TV-movie comes up twice in one ep, you pay close attention. So I did some basic research on Riding the Bus with My Sister. Turns out that the

Rosie O'Donnell pic (directed by Anjelica Huston, no less) was based on a memoir about a woman who takes the bus every day with her mentally challenged sister. Ooookay, not exactly seeing the similarities. But after reading several reviews, I think I've got it: In order to reconnect with her sister and mend their damaged relationship, the author literally has to go along for the ride. And along the way, she discovers that her sister is a strong, stubborn, independent woman with very specific ideas about how to live her life. (Hmmm, now that sounds familiar.) By the end of the book, the author has new appreciation and respect for her sister. So if symbolism plays a hand here (and we Gilmore fans know it always does), will Lorelai will eventually let Rory back in? And will Rory choose to share her new life with mom? Right now things aren't looking so good. The two Gilmores could not have been frostier at the baptism. And the cell-phone argument in the middle of the ceremony was way harsh. Then again, Rory did wave a truce-flag of sorts when she offered up her new number. So why didn't Lorelai take it? Would she rather be all alone with her Red Vine licorice (don't ask me to explain the meaning behind that one) on bad-movie night?  The look on her face and the heavy sigh at the end of this ep both say no. So here's a solution, Lorelai: Be the bigger person, the parent, and give in!   Robin Honig

My Name Is Earl
How lovable are these characters? Especially Randy, who once sacrificed his one shot at a touchdown in high school for his brother's bet, and his only real regret is that he never got lifted up by people. Darnell's so sweet, the old lady he tries to mug offers him a candy bar. Kenny, who's now out and proud thanks to Earl, is going out of his way to help them offering to be the Trojan Horse to infiltrate an impound lot, only instead of an army of Greeks in a big wooden horse it's a "Le Car stuffed with one tiny gay." Even Rosie the pawnshop owner/bookie has only Randy's best interests in mind. And of course there's Earl, who keeps adding as many former victims to his list as he's been subtracting. But tonight belongs to Joy, as far as we can tell the one character who has no redeeming qualities. Utterances like her deadpan "What, do you think cigarettes grow on trees?" are part of why my husband and I unconsciously start speaking in Southern accents every time we watch the show (well, that and the Skynyrd). Under that porn-star glamour she's a perfect cartoon villain, the way she keeps thinking she's one step ahead of everyone and yet keeps getting caught in dumb mistakes: having Earl's car towed but not knowing the money was in it; trying to get a legitimate loan but not realizing that her rented 1972 trailer doesn't work as collateral; stealing the guard rails to trade in as scrap metal, then driving into the ditch 'cause the guard rails were missing. She's like a bottle-blonde Yosemite Sam with acrylic nails. Anyway, I hope Earl finally listens to Catalina's astute remark   "Where I come from, they have banks" so we can get on with the show.   Sabrina Rojas Weiss

Commander in Chief
We survived the pilot episode, and now I have to admit, I've been totally suckered in. LadyPrez attends her predecessor's funeral. LadyPrez stares resolutely ahead. LadyPrez is stoic. All despite the best efforts of that no-good, down-and-dirty speaker of the House. Donald Sutherland is truly reaching new heights of skin-crawly creepiness with this role. I know it's just a prime-time drama, but seriously it's phrases like "You tell the girl" coming from white-haired men in black suits that just make me want to spit every time I think about the government.... Oh, great, I just put myself on some sort of government watch-list, didn't I?

Sadly, I lost count of the times we heard the all-important titular phrase "commander in chief" during President Allen's first day and a half in office. Wouldn't it be awesome if every show used its own title this often? "Jack, help! Kate's somewhere in the hatch's ventilation ducts she's Lost!" or, "Dr. Troy, I think what this patient needs is a little Nip/Tuck." I'm sensing a trend here, people.

Fun C-story: The first daughter's diary, apparently titled "Why Mom Sucks," is missing. At least when Rory and Lorelai Gilmore aren't getting along, it's not a threat to national security. (Although it is a threat to my tear ducts.) Granted, Codename Velour's super-sparkly hearts-and-rainbows memoir shows up in the hands of her snooptastic little sis, and the first tabloid crisis of the administration is averted. It's a shame, too, 'cause something tells me there's some good dirt on big brother Horace in there stay tuned.

Oh, and the guest stars! Hey, Bosco! Hey, Species! Hey, Hallie Lowenthal! It's like my fantasy version of national politics populated entirely by familiar faces from the Hollywood circuit. Shut up; Ah-nuld doesn't count.    CS

Close to Home
Being a mom is hard. Being a lawyer is really hard. But apparently being a mom and a lawyer is like, the most monumentally difficult task ever attempted by a mere mortal. Annabeth Chase's first day back on the job after 12 weeks of maternity leave pits her against a mee-yow-worthy new boss (Diary of a Mad Black Woman's Kimberly Elise), a tabloid-making case of domestic abuse and the always-unfortunate need to pump breast milk at the office. And frankly, all three of those conundrums seemed to be tied up a little too easily by the end of the series premiere that last one with a shiny red bow, no less. But I did find myself pleasantly surprised by Jennifer Finnigan's grit as a no-nonsense prosecutor; I didn't expect her to wield that much gravity after last season's cutesy comedy Committed, or even after living through the barrage of Close to Home promos all summer long during my thrice-weekly Big Brother fix, when I usually found it necessary to mock the legal ramifications of sporting ultrashiny strawberry lip-smacker during an emotional deposition. Bottom line is, Lawyer Mom got the job done: Big Bad Dad's in jail, Cooing Baby's sleeping through the night and Snarky Boss just moved you up a rung on the respect ladder. Not bad for an hour's work.

And, by the by, we've got ourselves an Angel alum alert! Check out the hubba-hubba hubby keeping things together on Annabeth's home front. It's good to see you again, Christian Kane we all knew Lindsay McDonald wasn't down for the count.   CS