After a summer of beating us over the head with its promos, this Friends spin-off centered on Matt LeBlanc's character is finally here. And it's... cute. But like the "cute" girl with the "gorgeous" friend, it's trying just a bit too hard to show us how cute it is. Joey is still a doofus, getting himself in all sorts of silly predicaments, only now he's on the West Coast, hanging out with his sister and nephew. And although it's great to see Drea de Matteo doing comedy after her recent harrowing season on The Sopranos, does anybody really buy that she and LeBlanc are siblings? Could there be any less family resemblance? And even though it could (and does) happen in real life, I don't buy that de Matteo's character, Gina, is 36 with a 20-year-old son (Paulo Costanzo, who seems to be simultaneously channeling Jon Cryer and Adam Brody). Maybe it's because Gina is only five years older than I am and I can barely take care of a cat, but I digress. Last-minute recast Andrea Anders is fine as Joey's attractive — and married! — corporate-lawyer neighbor, but all the usually hilarious Jennifer Coolidge does is chew scenery and remind me of that scary real-life "Lion Lady" who prowls the streets in NYC. But all that said, don't get me wrong: I laughed a lot during this first episode (yes, even after the "I'm name" bit) and Joey is as endearing as ever. But I fear that, just like the aforementioned cute girl, cute may just not be enough.
Big Brother 5
So we're down to the final four: Diane, Cowboy, Nakomis and third-time HOH Drew. And it's an interesting quartet, considering we have two half-siblings and a pair of erstwhile lovebirds left to root for. If I were a betting woman, my quarter would be on Nakomis, who has played this game the best, talking the least smack while trying to honor her alliances and avenge her fallen compadres.
Because nothing screams football like Elton John, the Pops and a children's choir. Except maybe Jessica "I've lost my ability to pronounce consonants" Simpson.
The Donald's back for a second installment, and along with Carolyn, George and Robin the receptionist, the usual suspects are also here: bow tie-sporting wing nut Raj is this season's Sam; brash Bradford is our new Nick; straight arrow John is Bill; so-perky-you-want-to-pop-her Maria is Amy; doe-eyed dinner guest Jennifer C. is Ereka; Sandy is Katrina; and, given her ridiculous "anti-Stacie" meltdown, dramarama queen Stacie J. is the new Omatrocious, er, Omarosa. Or Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. (Yes, I realize that there are many others I left out, but these six seemed to be the focus of the opener.)
And the reappearance of these stock characters is the obvious by-product of doing subsequent seasons of reality shows. By the time the casting call goes out for additional installments, prospective contestants have already figured out how to play the game and what kinds of personalities get the most camera time. The more seasons a show does, the less realistic and more stereotypical the participants appear to be.
Anyway, the 18 were again divided by gender, with one member of each team to permanently switch to the other. Apex and Mosaic Corps. were sent to Mattel to develop a marketable toy, and Apex won easily with its prototype for the "Metamorpher," a remote-controlled car with interchangeable parts. But seriously, what wouldn't beat a line of toys called "Crustacean Nation"? And lame name aside, Pamela sunk Mosaic's battleship when she made fun of one of the kids brought in to test the toys, saying he had a "Dumb and Dumber" haircut — right in front of Carolyn! Luckily for Pammy (who has some weird eye thing going on and reminds me of Susan from Seinfeld), Rob got the ax for not being enough of a go-getter and waiting to be delegated a task instead of asserting himself. I think it's really because he mouthed off to Carolyn in the boardroom. As it's said in at least two John Hughes movies, you mess with the bull, you get the horns.
Graham Norton Effect
I think that the cheeky chatter may have finally met his match in guest Marilyn Manson, who, apparently, is still out there. And I mean out there. Most of their banter was too explicit to mention here, but suffice it to say that Manson held his own....
Or, given the plot of the series debut, CSI: ICU. Whatever you want to call it, it's just another hourlong procedural drama with an attractive cast, spiffy special effects and outrageous story lines. Give it a chance, you say? Sure, when NBC does and gives the mesmerizing Neal McDonough a better time slot than the graveyard known as Friday night before MI goes MIA.
Quote of the Night
Who called the coin toss, Ryan Seacrest? — The Tonight Show's Jay Leno, echoing my bewilderment at the NFL Kickoff's entertainment roster.