Supernatural parodies competitors for Sweeps

November 5, 2009

sam n deanAs a TV enthusiast, I love sweeps months. For those unaware, “sweeps” refers to the Nielsen system of measuring television ratings in the United States. The company uses electronic metering technology to capture what channel is being watched as well as gathering information about who is watching. For the months of November, February, and May, Nielsen also processes paper diaries, which are mailed to households in order to keep track of what is watched on each television set and by whom. The data gathered at the end of these months influences both program scheduling and advertising.

As ratings are more closely monitored during these months, networks and programs do their best to impress, and it’s often during sweeps months that television rolls out the big guns. Annoyingly, for those of us using our DVRs, episodes may run an extra one or two minutes longer than usual. Other stunts in the name of ratings include lesbian kisses, characters leaving, crossovers between two shows, ex’s returning to cause trouble for your favourite couple, and big name guest stars checking into the hospital or appearing in the case of the week. However, in this TV enthusiast’s opinion, the best thing about sweeps months (besides four weeks of all new episodes) is experimentation with format.

Often shows that aren’t strictly considered procedurals can get stuck in one format. Initially series like Smallville are interesting, but the viewer soon comes to realize that episodes are becoming familiar, with each installment featuring a new kryptonite-fueled ‘Freak of the Week’ causing problems for our hero and heroine. This is when sweeps month can be a blessing. Fueled by a desire to increase ratings and please their existing audience, shows dare to step outside of their comfort zone and, when done successfully, memorable television is the result.

I count the Buffy musical episode “Once More With Feeling” among the best hours of television I’ve ever seen and a successful experiment in changing the status quo. Now that we’re a week into November sweeps, I’m looking forward to seeing what new experiments the month has in store for us.

There’s certainly plenty for audiences to look forward to, including an upcoming Gossip Girl threesome or the arrival of Dr. Owen Hunt’s ex on Grey’s Anatomy, but instead I’m eagerly anticipating tonight’s all new Supernatural, in which the Winchester boys go where every TV enthusiast wants to boldy go… into TV land! I’m a new Supernatural fan who discovered the show over the summer and now can’t help singing its praises. Unlike many television shows, Supernatural has actually gotten better with age, and I am confident that the fifth season will continue this pattern.

Tonight’s episode “Changing Channels” features the return of The Trickster, who appeared previously in “Tall Tales” and “Mystery Spot”, who casts the brothers into different television genres. Although I’m not only of those lucky TV critics who has already seen the episode, I’ve read two extremely positive reviews and I do love a good TV parody. In tonight’s episode, the Winchesters not only see what life would be like in a Japanese game show and a sitcom, but the Supernatural writers have also cleverly included parodies of Thursday timeslot competitors Grey’s Anatomy and CSI. Personally I’m looking forward to any reference to last year’s terrible “Dead Denny” plot, especially since Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who played Denny on Grey’s) also appeared as Sam and Dean’s father on Supernatural. Along with the known Grey’s, CSI, and sitcom references, critics who received an early look at the episode have revealed that there are an additional two parodies that they aren’t willing to spoil.

I hope my fellow TV enthusiasts enjoy tonight’s parody packed Supernatural. I know I will.

Supernatural airs tonight at 9 PM on the CW, or Sun TV if you’re in Canada.

Terrifying Television: Halloween Episodes

October 31, 2009

With Saturday the 31st upon us, this TV enthusiast will be gathering a collection of her favourite Halloween episodes and settling in to celebrate with some beloved fictional characters. If you’re planning a marathon of your own, or simply looking to kill an hour or two before trick or treating or a Halloween party, here are some of my favourite episodes of Halloween television for your consideration.

How I Met Your Mother, “The Slutty Pumpkin”

how i metBarney: Flight-suit up!

An instant classic from the first season, this episode sees Lily and Marshall attempting to win a costume contest at the bar and Robin having trouble “putting on the girlfriend costume” to please her date. However, the episode revolves around Ted’s annual tradition of attending the Halloween roof party at his building in hopes of meeting “the slutty pumpkin”, the one who got away four years earlier. This has all the heart and all the laughs you’d expect from How I Met Your Mother, and Barney is his usual awesome self. You’ll come away with a few fun new variations on “suit up!” as well as a fun mixed drink recipe!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Fear Itself”

gilesGiles: It’s a sombrero.
Buffy: And it’s on your head.
Giles: It seemed festive.

Buffy has a grand total of three Halloween episodes, but this one is my favourite. “Fear Itself” is full of memorable moments, from Anya’s choice for a scary costume to the now unemployed Giles getting into the Halloween spirit. As Willow, Oz, Xander, and Buffy attend a Halloween party in a frat house, the house comes alive and plays upon the fears of its inhabitants. What really makes the episode are the last five minutes though and the appearance of the fear demon itself.

Dexter, “Let’s Give the Boy a Hand”

dexter hallDexter: “I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think its fun to pretend you’re a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I’m not.”

I believe that Dexter is one of the most consistently good series on television, which means that it has few weak episodes and this is not one of them. A fan of the holiday because he’s no longer the only one hiding, Dexter celebrates Halloween with Rita and her kids, while also deciphering disturbing recreations of his past left by his fellow serial killer, who has been leaving severed body parts in the locations of childhood memories. The theme of masks and hiding is continued throughout the episode, as is the question of what makes a monster.

Supernatural, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”/”Pilot”

super hallSam: “For us, every day is Halloween.”

I can’t decide which Halloween episode of Supernatural I enjoy more. The pilot has the distinction of being the episode that started it all and as far as pilots go it’s a great one. Twenty-two years after the mysterious death of his mother, college student Sam Winchester has a girlfriend, an interview to get into law school, and no desire to join the family business. Then brother Dean shows up, revealing that their father went missing while hunting demons and Sam rejoins Dean for a one-time deal and a show was born. The pilot manages to hook you in and sets up a season long hunt for John Winchester (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Fourth season episode “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” is worth watching for entirely different reasons. In it, the angels tell Dean that he must find a witch and stop the raising of the demon Samhain or they will smite the town and all of its 1200 inhabitants. The opening of the episode uses the urban legend of razor blades in Halloween candy, but it’s the end, where the audience begins to see the humanity in the angel Castiel that makes this one a Halloween must for me.

Dead Like Me, “Haunted”

dead like me hallGeorge: “It’s not so bad, being dead like me.”

My favourite Halloween episode to date has to be the brilliant series finale of Dead Like Me. The grim reapers prepare for Halloween and George Lass, dead one year in her home town, learns about a reaper legend that says all reapers can be seen as themselves on Halloween. As Mason goes on a candy gathering mission, with George along for the ride, a serial killer is on the loose. Meanwhile George’s family gather in the graveyard to pay their respects on the Day of the Dead. There are few cancellations more upsetting than this one, which was never really explained and caught the writers and producers of the show off guard, meaning some loose ends were never tied up, but the show did go out on a high as George begins to accept her life as a reaper at last.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Terrifying Television (non-Halloween episodes)

October 31, 2009

If you’ve already exhausted your collection of Halloween episodes, or plan to take advantage of the holiday falling on a Saturday to pack in more television, there are a number of options. A marathon of any genre-themed show, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, or Supernatural, could make for a spooky Saturday, but if you’re looking for a variety of choices, here are a few of my favourite non-Halloween-themed hours of terrifying television.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush

hushSince it originally aired, I’ve included this fourth season episode in my annual Halloween marathon. The largely dialogue-free hour features the creepy gentlemen, who glide above the ground in tuxedos and politely applaud each other’s efforts to remove human hearts. The episode combines humour with drama and danger, and as fans of the show are aware, “Hush” is also the first appearance of Wiccan Tara, who would become a recurring character. It’s one of the best episodes of an above average show and also one of the scariest… perfect for Halloween!

Supernatural, “Monster Movie”

monster movieAlthough it isn’t the actual Halloween set episode of the season, this ode to monster movies is filmed entirely in black & white and provides a lighter hour perfect for any Halloween marathon. In a more comedic turn, the Winchesters take on an odd case involving the classic silver screen monsters, including the one and only Dracula. The humour comes from the juxtaposition of details from the 1940’s movies and the contemporary, which results in a memorable moment where Dracula flees on a moped.


jekyllI’m cheating a little here because Jekyll is not one hour of television, but a six hour BBC miniseries. However, I couldn’t write about monsters without mentioning this delightful take on the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde set in the present day. I’m often skeptical of anything updating a period piece, but the creators have described this as a sequel, rather than an adaptation of the novella by Stevenson. This version of the story utilizes modern technology to cleverly continue Stevenson’s tale, and James Nesbitt is wonderful as Dr. Tom Jackman and his alter-ego. Jekyll was also written and executive produced by the brilliant Doctor Who scribe Stephen Moffat. I can’t wait to see what Moffat will do with his contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, which he is adapting with Mark Gatiss.

Doctor Who, “Blink”

sally sparrowSpeaking of Stephen Moffat, there’s my favourite episode of Doctor Who, “Blink”. It’s extremely well-written, and even though the episode is “Doctor-lite” (referring to episodes where the Doctor and his companion have very little screen time to allow two episodes to be filmed simultaneously), it has a likable protagonist in Sally Sparrow. The episode is truly terrifying, especially if, like this TV enthusiast, you watched it with a group of friends at 3:00AM in an otherwise empty house. Trust me when I say that you will never look at a statue the same way ever again!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations With Dead People”

conversationsIn my second Buffy pick, four completely separate stories are told, all of them occurring on one night. While on patrol, Buffy encounters an old classmate who has been turned into a vampire, while Dawn spends the night home alone, believing that her mother is trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, Willow receives a message in the library, and Spike picks up a woman in a bar. The episode has its spooky moments but also some great humour and is one of the best from Buffy‘s final season. The dead and undead theme makes it a great choice for Halloween night.

Supernatural, “Bloody Mary”

bloody maryAlthough I was close to sticking the one with the clowns on this list, purely because clowns are truly terrifying, this early episode is a great choice for Halloween. What Supernatural does so well is make urban legends real and few legends are more well known than ‘Bloody Mary’. If “Blink” makes you think twice about statues, then “Bloody Mary” will make you wary of mirrors!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Buffy vs. Dracula”

buffy vs“Buffy vs. Dracula” is a new edition to my annual Buffy marathon. The slayer was bound to face off against the greatest vampire of all time at some point and although this isn’t one of my favourite episodes of the show, it doesn’t disappoint. In it Xander becomes Dracula’s manservant, while even Buffy seems to fall under The Dark Prince’s thrall. What could be more ideal for Halloween than our favourite slayer meeting Count Dracula? I really can’t think of a thing.


Happy Halloween Everyone!

Terrifying Television: This Year’s Halloween Episodes

October 26, 2009

buffy hallAs I mentioned in a previous entry on my favourite Thanksgiving episodes, I like to celebrate the holidays in true TV enthusiast style… by watching a marathon of themed episodes. Predictably my marathon includes episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me, but each fall, new Halloween episodes air, some of which will become instant classics and be added to my annual marathon in years to come. This year, with supernaturally-themed new shows like The Vampire Diaries and Eastwick, the amount of Halloween content seems to have increased. Here’s a look at the Halloween-themed episodes airing this week.


Teen hit Gossip Girl has Lily and Rufus celebrating Halloween in “How to Succeed in Bassness” tonight on The CW, while ABC drama Castle has a nice surprise for any Browncoats out there in the new episode “Vampire Weekend”. The episode features Castle and Beckett investigating the murder of a vampire fetishist, whose body is found with fake fangs and a stake through his heart.


With a show about witches and the devil, it would have been crazy not to have a Halloween episode of Eastwick. In “Bonfire and Betrayal”, Roxie envisions an ill fate for her loved-ones and tries to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile Kat attempts to reunite Will and Joanna, who continues to encounter misfortunes after having trouble with her career and love life. The ABC drama hasn’t received a full season pick-up and it’s ratings have not been promising, but maybe a little Halloween magic can turn that around.


NBC has a full night of Halloween comedy lined up beginning with a Day of the Dead party on Community, a Halloween party on Parks and Recreation, and finally a themed episode of The Office, in which the office plans a haunted house for kids in the community. Meanwhile, the pairing of the CW’s best performing show The Vampire Diaries and genre hit Supernatural is a no-brainer for Halloween. Although the later doesn’t specifically have a Halloween episode this season, it’s demon-fighting theme and tendency to tackle urban legends make most episodes holiday appropriate. Lead-in The Vampire Diaries will air the new episode “Haunted”, which includes a visit to a haunted house. Freshman drama FlashForward is also getting into the spirit with an episode titled “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”, and CBS has a new episode of The Mentalist titled “Red Scare”. On The Mentalist, witnesses claim that a wealthy man was killed by a ghost haunting his mansion.


With CBS’ double feature of Ghost Whisperer and Medium, Friday is already a night for the supernatural, so it’s fitting that both shows will air Halloween episodes this year. Melinda encounters the headless horseman in a themed Ghost Whisperer episode called “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and Alison dreams she has been cast in the zombie film Night of the Living Dead in a Medium episode titled “Bite Me”. The night wraps upon Numb3ers, where the body of a dead woman  turns up at a decommissioned air base where paranormal activity has been happening.

There’s plenty of spooky new television to be had, but if you’re ready for more Halloween content there’s always the numerous specials and horror movies airing all this week. A more complete list can be found here.

Whedon to direct ‘Glee’

October 19, 2009

joss whedonAlthough my last post was also about Glee, I just couldn’t resist the chance to comment on the latest Glee news. Last week I mentioned my wishlist for future guest stars now that the series has been given a full season pick-up, but I never thought to consider the behind-the-scenes talent. EW columnist Ausiello reported today that Buffy creator Joss Whedon has agreed to direct one of the ‘back nine’ (as the 9 episodes that constitute a full season pick-up are called) episodes of Glee.

Whedon wrote and directed a musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled “Once More With Feeling” in 2001. The episode ranked fourteenth on TV Guide’s list of  “TV’s Top 100 Episodes of All Time” and was nominated for a Hugo award, which recognizes excellence in science fiction and fantasy. During the writers’ strike of 2008, Whedon created an Internet musical called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which has gone on to win a People’s Choice Award for “Favourite Online Sensation”, the 2009 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and an Emmy Award in the Short-format Live-Action category.

Glee Creator Ryan Murphy called Whedon, “a great, if unexpected, fit.” adding that he was “thrilled he’ll be loaning us his fantastic groundbreaking talent.” Glee and Whedon’s current project Dollhouse are both aired on FOX. Although the news might have caused Dollhouse fans some concern, particularly after the lackluster ratings the series has received thus far, Ausiello reassured readers that the job wouldn’t affect Dollhouse and would likely take place after the show completed its thirteen episode order.

FOX had previously announced that they would air all thirteen episodes of Dollhouse’s second season, stating, “We’re not saying we’re happy with those numbers, or accept them, but we don’t have to overreact. During [November] sweeps we might have to jack up the numbers a little [with other programming], but we plan on completing the order for this show.” This was due in part to the impressive DVR numbers the premiere of Dollhouse posted.

Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman also referenced the Whedon’s passionate fanbase, saying that the show’s fate was something of a no-win situation: “If you cancel it, you’re an asshole; if you renew it and then don’t put it back on, you’re an asshole. I’m still paying for ‘Terminator.’ ‘Dollhouse’ has a small rabid fan base that in the world of social media seems bigger than it is. We gave them another season knowing full well we were going to burn in hell if we pulled it.”

Whedon just posted his (humourous as usual) thoughts on directing an episode here. Concluding with, “I’m going to do my best, and more importantly, I’m going to do my best not to gush like a fanboy for eight straight days on set.”

Personally, I can’t think of a better fit for the snarky musical comedy than Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, he isn’t writing the episode as well, but hopefully if his episode goes well it could happen in a second season. Although none of my wishlist of guest stars have been announced yet, those hoping that Glee star Lea Michele (Rachel Barry) would soon have a male singer able to match her considerable vocal abilities are in luck. Her “Spring Awakening” co-star Jonathan Groff has signed on to appear in five or six episodes of the show as the male lead singer of competiting Glee club Vocal Adrenaline. He will also serve as a potential love interest for Michele’s character.

Guest stars who would fill me with “Glee”.

October 14, 2009

gleetopA month ago I wrote about the return of Glee and my fear that too much hype might hurt the show. Fortunately we’re now six episodes into the series, with a seventh airing tonight on Fox, and I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Glee became the first new series to get a full season order, premiering with a 3.5 rating among the 18-49 demographic and improving upon its So You Think You Can Dance lead-in.

The show’s music has been a hit as well, with ten Glee numbers among the iTunes Top 200 and 1.1 million Glee songs downloaded through iTunes so far. An album compiling these songs, titled Glee: The Music, Volume 1, hits stores November 3rd and a Glee music tour is reportedly in the early planning stages. Fox Broadcasting president Kevin Reilly hinted at the development, telling EW “We’ve had a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from our music partners. Certainly if these kids become stars in their own right, who knows? Live appearances. Albums. There’s lots of things that could happen.”

One thing that won’t happen is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  Fourth place network NBC pulled the cast of Glee from this year’s Parade over “concerns that putting the show’s cast on one of the biggest events of the year would amount to outright promotion.” This caused an outcry among fans, known as “gleeks” who pointed out that floats had previously been painted for American Idol and High School Musical, similar competing franchises. Creator Ryan Murphy didn’t seem to mind but did get in a jab at the Jay Leno controversy, saying, “I completely understand NBC’s position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float.”

Although Glee won’t be a part of this year’s parade, they have plenty to be thankful for, including brilliant guest appearances by Josh Groban (as himself), Victor Garber, Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, and soon singer Eve. Kristin Chenoweth in particular made an impression as Will’s new Glee club recruit April Rhodes, who dueted on “Alone” and belted “Maybe This Time” from “Caberet”. With Glee receiving a full season order, I couldn’t help but consider who else I would like to see guest star in future episodes. Here’s some possible guest stars who would fill me with ‘Glee’.

Hugh Jackman

hugh jackmanAlthough he’s best known for his role in the X-men movies as Wolverine, Jackman has actually been on American television before. “Really?” you may be saying to yourself, “how did I miss it?” Well Jackman served as star and executive producer of the short-lived and critically panned series Viva Laughlin. After two episodes it became the first cancellation of the season. Despite this, Jackman is a true triple threat who has hosted the Oscars and the Tony awards with great charm, and he certainly has the singing chops for a role in Glee.

Idina Menzel

idinaIdina Menzel is something of a no-brainer. Best known for originating the role of Elphaba in the musical “Wicked”, for which she won a Tony, she has also appeared in the movies Rent and Enchanted. “Wicked” appeals to a younger demographic in the same way that Glee does, and with “Wicked” co-star Kristin Chenoweth already appearing on the show to great success, perhaps Menzel will be next! Additionally, she bears a certain resemblance to series star Lea Michele that could make for a familial reveal that would delight broadway fans.

Mandy Patinkin

mandyMandy Patinkin is no stranger to television, having starred in Chicago Hope, Dead Like Me, and Criminal Minds. As a fan still mourning the premature cancellation of Dead Like Me,  I would love to see Patinkin back on television… and I’m not alone. CBS has announced that he’ll be guest starring in an episode of their organ transplant drama Three Rivers, and commenters on this article have also concluded that he would fit right in on Glee. The writers on his previous shows have found ways to write songs into the story, and his work on Dead Like Me indicates that Patinkin is no stranger to quirky.

Neil Patrick Harris

neil pThis one is a long shot, as he likely has a contract with CBS that prohibits guest spots on competing networks, but I’d love to see this man on Glee. Last year he hosted the Tonys then the Emmys to great reviews, and he’s appeared on Broadway in Assassins. More recently, Harris took a break from How I Met Your Mother to play Dr. Horrible in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical and was “A Very Smart Fellow” in Prop 8: The Musical.

Naturi Naughton

naturiThe 2009 version of Fame was fun while it lasted but I don’t remember a lot of these kids’ names. The one exception is the fantastic Naturi Naughton, who stole the movie for me. With her acting ability and huge voice I’d love to see her on Glee, perhaps as a member of a rival glee club, battling it out with Amber Riley’s Mercedes.

Patti LuPone

pattiLuPone won her second Tony last year, twenty-nine years after her first one for “Evita”, and she’s even appeared on television before, in a recurring role in the final season of Oz. In the world of musical theatre she’s nothing short of a legend and she’d make a great guest star on Glee.

Patrick Wilson

patrickAlthough primarily a film actor, he’s appeared on Broadway in “Oklahoma” and starred as Raoul in the film adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera”. Despite his film star good looks, he’s often a character actor who takes on unusual roles and would fit right in on Glee.

Lin Manuel-Miranda

lin manuelIn the two-hour premiere of House Lin Manuel-Miranda made an impression as House’s roommate Alvie and I’d love to see him put in an appearance on Glee. Miranda wrote and stared in the Broadway musical “In the Heights”, which recently won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album so he certainly has the talent. Episodes of Glee to date have included all genres of music from country to rap and Broadway, and Miranda’s free-styling would be a great fit.

Adam Lambert

adamA guest appearance by Lambert would not only fit right in with the Glee high school mantra of being yourself, but would also make business sense for Fox, the network behind both shows. Imagine what a crossover could do when Amercan Idol returns in the new year?! Lambert not only has a fantastic voice, but also has the broadway cred, having appeared in the touring cast of Wicked, and with his CD soon to hit stores, an appearance could be a valuable bit of promotion for both parties.

Who would you like to see appear on Glee in the future?

Thanksgiving in TV land

October 12, 2009

slapsgivingAlthough American Thanksgiving isn’t for another month, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year, and as a dedicated TV enthusiast, I choose to celebrate the holidays by watching some of my favourite television characters attend multiple turkey dinners, fight Native American vengeance spirits, and pardon turkeys. Unfortunately the difference in dates between Canadian and American Thanksgiving means that any themed episodes for this television season will air well after “real Thanksgiving”, as Robin Scherbatsky dubs the Canadian holiday. Yet this lack of new Thanksgiving-themed entertainment shouldn’t discourage the Canadian TV enthusiast because there are plenty of classic ‘Turkey Day’ episodes worth re-watching. Below are a few of my favourites.

Gilmore Girls, “A deep-fried Korean Thanksgiving”

gilmoregirlsRory: How do you feel?
Lorelai: I ate tofurkey! How do you think I feel?
Rory: Tofurkier?

This third season episode saw Lorelai and Rory Gilmore committing to four separate Thanksgiving dinners, a feat which tests even their spectacular appetites. The vastly different dinners include tofurky at the Kims’, a deep-fried turkey with Sookie and Jackson, dinner at Luke’s Diner, and Thanksgiving with Rory’s grandparents, where she reveals that she has applied to Yale, much to Lorelai’s horror. Meanwhile, Kirk gets a cat, and Jess and Rory navigate their new relationship.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs”

buffy pangsAnya: Well, I think that’s a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.
Buffy: It’s not really a one of those.
Anya: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.

This fourth season episode featured Buffy deciding to have her first Thanksgiving away from home, but her attempts to have the perfect Thanksgiving are foiled when a Native American spirit begins killing authority figures. While Willow sympathizes with the Native Americans and tries to find a non-violent solution, Xander, who has contracted various diseases experienced by the Natives, has a different idea. Spike, who is no longer able to harm humans, approaches Buffy for help, offering information about the mysterious organization who took him, and Angel returns to Sunnydale to keep an eye on Buffy after his friend has a vision of her in danger.

The West Wing, “Shibboleth”

west wingCJ: They sent me two turkeys. The most photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children’s zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.
Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I’d watch.

This second season episode is a reminder of what was so great about The West Wing. In it press secretary C.J. has to decide which of two turkeys will be pardoned, and Charlie goes on a quest to find the perfect carving knife for the President. Meanwhile, President Bartlett has his hands full dealing with a ship of illegal immigrants from China who are seeking asylum as persecuted Christians.

Friends, “The One Where Ross Got High”

friendsChandler: Ross sure is a great guy. You know, I’ve always felt that how a young man turns out is a reflection on his father.
Mr. Geller: I always thought that too. Tell, me, what does your father do?
Chandler: He’s a head-liner of a gay burlesque show.

In this sixth season episode, the Gellars come for Thanksgiving, unaware that Chandler and Monica are dating. Chandler attempts to charm his girlfriend’s parents into liking him so he can tell them the truth, but doesn’t realize that the reason the Gellars dislike him is that Ross smoked pot in college and blamed the smell on Chandler when they walked in. Additionally, Rachel inadvertently prepares a disgusting dessert by fusing the recipes for Shepherd’s Pie and English Trifle.

How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving”

marshallMarshall: See what I got going on here, they’re turkeys but they’re also hands. Because later we’re going to eat turkey, and then I’m going to slap you in your face.

When it comes to How I Met Your Mother, the Slap Bet introduced in the second season episode of the same name is perhaps the best thing to happen to the show. I consider all three episodes involving a slap to be classics and this third season episode is no exception. As Marshall and Lily prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving as a married couple for the first time, Marshall creates a new holiday called Slapsgiving, described as “the one day we set aside each year to gather together and give slaps.” As Marshall psychs out Barney over the impending third slap, Ted and Robin realize how hard it is to be friends with your ex, and wonder if they can make it work. If you only have time for one Thanksgiving episode make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.

More Thanksgiving Choices:

This is by no means a complete list. How I Met Your Mother also has the first season episode “Belly Full of Turkey”, where Robin and Ted volunteer at a homeless shelter for the holiday and Lily visits her future in-laws in Minnesota, while The West Wing also has “Indians in the Lobby”, in which the President is disgruntled that he must spend the holiday at Camp David instead of his home, and C.J. deals with two Native Americans camped out in the lobby. The O.C. , known for its Chrismukkah episode, has a Thanksgiving episode in which Summer balks at coming home for the holidays and Ryan seeks revenge on Volchok for the death of Marissa. “Turkeys Away”, an episode of WKRP in Cincinati won an poll for favourite Thanksgiving episode. Certainly the King of Thanksgiving episodes though is Friends, which also featured a memorable episode in which Brad Pitt (married at the time to Jennifer Aniston) guest starred as President of the “I Hate Rachel Green” Club.

Whether you choose to watch or re-watch some of these Thanksgiving-themed episodes, or decide to digest a turkey dinner with the many choices available in new Monday night TV, I wish all my fellow Canadian TV enthusiasts a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thoughts on Epitaph One

September 25, 2009

dollhouseWith Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse returning to television tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss the unaired thirteenth episode “Epitaph One”. Staring Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling), Dollhouse is about a secret company that possesses the technology to temporarily imprint human “volunteers” with new skills, memories, and personalities. These imprinted humans, known as “actives” or “dolls”, are hired by the rich for engagements ranging from hostage negotiator to dominatrix. After each engagement the actives are wiped of all memories and remain in a state of innocence until their next assignment. Dushku plays Echo, a doll who begins to become self-aware, while Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica) plays Paul Ballard, a former federal agent who becomes obsessed with finding the company’s base of operations, known as the “dollhouse”, and Echo.

For those who don’t know the story behind “Epitaph One”, Whedon wrote a pilot episode titled “Echo” for the new series but pushed it back to become the second episode due to “a few clarity issues for some viewers” and “also some slight issues with tone”.  Although it is included as a special feature on the DVD set, it never aired and was “cannibalized for parts”.  Whedon used “Ghost”, the second episode written and shot, as the series premiere instead.

Fox television’s original deal had been for thirteen episodes of the show, but they included the unaired pilot while production company 20th Century Fox needed a thirteenth episode for international DVD releases.  The result was “Epitaph One”, a low budget standalone episode set ten years in the future starring entirely new characters.  Although the episode never aired on North American television, it premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, has been released on the first season DVD set of Dollhouse, and can be purchased individually on itunes.  The episode, nicknamed the “lost episode” of Dollhouse has received a great deal of press and is credited with being part of the reason behind the second-season pick up because it demonstrated what Whedon could do with a reduced budget.

I was not impressed enough by Dollhouse to buy the first season on DVD, but I did download the episode to my iPod last month as entertainment for a nine hour car ride. When Dollhouse was mentioned on vacation my mom said, referring to both Whedon and the show, “I know you love the man but it was bad”. I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s projects and when the news first broke that Whedon was developing another television series I was all ready to shower it with praise, but when Dollhouse premiered I found it to be completely mediocre. In all honesty, if the show had been helmed by any other man I probably wouldn’t have watched the entire season.

However, I disagree with my mom.  I don’t think the show was bad; I enjoyed Alan Tudyk as Alpha in the season finale, and was shocked, but not displeased, when Dollhouse was picked up for a second season. Yet I feel no great urge to re-watch episodes, like I do most of Whedon’s works, and it was more than a month after its release before I finally sat down and watched “Epitaph One”

The fact that I watched the episode more than once during my vacation, and enjoyed it, says a great deal. It’s easily the best episode of the show and there are a lot of great elements to it.  Despite positive critical reviews of the second season premiere “Vows”, which airs tonight at 9:00 PM EST, I’m not so sure that the series will continue at this level.  Personally, I believe that there is one glaring problem at the core of the show that can’t be resolved, but “Epitaph One” is a large step in the right direction and here’s why.  Huge spoilers for the episode are below so stop reading now if you plan on watching “Epitaph One” in the future.

The Plot

whiskey“Epitaph One” opens in 2019  where the technology behind imprinting actives has gone wireless and, in the words of one character, “punk-kicked the ass of mankind”.  Body stealing is rampant and the technology has resulted in the destruction of civilization.  In the midst of the chaos a small band of survivors that have not been imprinted, calling themselves “actuals”, stumble across the abandoned Los Angeles dollhouse.  Glimpses of the events that occurred to shape this future are revealed through flashbacks.

Ethics in the Dollhouse

Despite the occasionally more noble motives for hiring an active, the dollhouse has very often been used as a way for millionaires to play out their romantic or sexual fantasies.  Yet throughout the first season, those running the dollhouse continue to insist that their work helps people, and that they are giving clients what they need.  The actives volunteered for this after all, or so we’re told, and at the end of their five-year contracts their original personalities will be restored.  There are only two characters who are uncomfortable with the idea of imprinting people, Agent Paul Ballard of the F.B.I., whose search for the Dollhouse, and for Echo’s original personality Caroline, becomes an obsession, and Echo’s handler Boyd Langton.

The immorality of using technology to wipe human personalities, and the use of imprinted bodies for sexual encounters, has always been present in the background of Dollhouse, and has certainly been visible to the viewer, but in “Epitaph One” it is in the foreground.

Pitching the dollhouse to a potential client, Adelle DeWitt says, “You are a man who can have everything he wants.  This isn’t just about what you want, this is about what you need.  An active doesn’t judge, doesn’t pretend.  This will be the purest, most genuine human encounter of your life, and hers.”  She is comfortable with renting out actives, but draws a line when Mr. Ambrose announces that the dollhouse will begin offering “anatomy upgrades”, effectively selling the bodies of its actives for a large sum.  At this point it is no longer an experience that is being sold but a person, and even DeWitt, who had defended what the dollhouse had to offer, says “This is wrong.  You can’t do that.” Her decision to disobey indicates for the first time that the dollhouse staff  have a moral line that they will not cross.  Similarly Topher, whose genius made wireless wiping possible, realizes what he has done and suffers a mental breakdown.  In other flashbacks it is revealed that he no longer goes into the imprinting room. For the first time Topher, who previously called the actives “a little bit bison” and shrugs off responsibility by justifying that they volunteered for this, sees them as people.

The sexual use of actives is also mentioned, with Zone, one of the actuals in 2019, unable to believe that the technology which destroyed civilization was “designed to create more believable hookers”.  For much of the first season the ethics of the dollhouse were like the elephant in the room.  Everyone is aware of and uncomfortable with the idea of wiping people’s personalities and renting them out for sex, but it hadn’t been discussed and brought to the forefront yet.  “Epitaph One” has this discussion, and Caroline sums it up best when, at the end of the episode, she tells the surviving actuals that the creators of the dollhouse were “playing with matches and they burned the house down.”

Making Mankind Better

The actives strive to be their best, sometimes asking their handler “Was I my best?”  Whedon plays with the theme of using technology or other means to alter mankind.  Although those in charge may have good intentions, this does not mean that the technology will be used as intended.  Topher’s improvements to the imprinting process were not meant to result in body stealing but his technology creates a war with two sides.

Topher: It was just one phone call, one robo call to a city, that’s all it takes.  An entire army in a single instant, in the hands of any government.  And boom. We went boom.  Millions programmed to kill anyone who’s not programmed to kill anyone.  And then the war has two sides.  Those who answered the phone, and those who didn’t.

Topher and Echo in Dollhouse.

Topher and Echo in Dollhouse.

It’s a theme Whedon has used before.  In Serenity it’s revealed that the reason cannibalistic Reavers exist is due to the Alliance administering a chemical substance designed to suppress aggression and create a planet without violence.  This attempt to make mankind better instead results in a populace who stop eating, working, and caring about anything until they waste away, while the remaining ten percent of the population have the opposite reaction to the drug and become extremely aggressive.

The theme of making mankind better is often used in science-fiction, whether it is through technology or genetics, and the increasing speed of technological innovation makes the fears played upon in genre films and shows very real. “Epitaph One” makes the viewer think about the issues technology raises. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.

In “Epitaph One” we see the result of attempts to better mankind.  Mr. Ambrose sees “anatomy upgrades” as a way to live on and create an impact on history, saying, “Imagine what one man can achieve if he has no fear, and will live forever.”  Indicating the difference between intent and reality, Adelle tells him “This is not what we set out to do,” but the damage is done.

Raising the Stakes

One of the problems with Dollhouse is that there were no stakes involved, and I don’t mean the sharp and pointy kind. It too often fell into the “case of the week” format where Echo would receive an engagement and Paul Ballard would continue searching for the dollhouse. It’s an easy trap to fall into and many dramas have begun following this format and then successfully branched out to incorporate a larger mythology. “Epitaph One” has given Dollhouse meaning, showing that all that occurs in the present has far-reaching consequences. Now the viewer is aware not only of what the imprinting technology will do, but also of Echo’s importance. Her ability to retain memories after being wiped is critical to the survival of civilization, and that purpose makes her worth watching.

Creating Sympathy

Another early problem with Dollhouse was a lack of empathy.  The actives are all blank slates, and therefore the audience can’t really connect with them on an emotional level.  In the first few episodes the closest I got to sympathising with a character was reluctant handler Boyd Langton.  Topher, who refers to the actives as “a little bit bison” and is the man behind the technology is not immediately likable, nor is Dollhouse defender Adelle DeWitt.  As the show continued the viewers had moments where they sympathised with characters, seeing the real personalities of Sierra, November, Echo, and Victor shine through for an episode, and watching the lonely Topher imprint Sierra as a friend for his birthday.  Still these characters were not thieves with hearts of gold like Mal, or even affably evil like Spike in the early seasons of Buffy.

Felicia Day in "Epitaph One".

Felicia Day in "Epitaph One".

“Epitaph One” remedies some of this, particularly in the 2019 parts of the episode where the audience is clearly supposed to identify with Felicia Day’s Mag.  Mag keeps the rougher Zone in line, feels the loss of a friend when a member of her party is printed, and even cries.  Yet “Epitaph One” takes steps towards making us feel more for the other characters as well.  As Adelle takes a stand against selling the bodies of her actives she demonstrates her humanity.  Similarly, Topher has a mental breakdown, likely when he realises what his technological innovations have done, which makes him a sympathetic character.  Dr. Claire Saunders, who was revealed to be aware of her status as the active “Whiskey” in the previous episode, is also a sympathic character.  As Dr. Saunders she bids Boyd a teary goodbye; As Whiskey she mutters in reply to Mag’s statement that there is no Safe Haven, “Not for everyone”.

With Echo beginning to remember who she is after being wiped, and the promise that Felicia Day’s character will appear again, hopefully the show is on track to having characters the viewer can identify and empathise with.

Emphasis on the Whole Cast

One of the best things about “Epitaph One” is that it not only brings in a new set of characters but also manages to fit in nearly every recurring character from the series.  The surviving band in 2019 include Lynn, Griff, Mag, Zone, and Iris, but flashbacks make use of the whole cast including Mr. Dominic, Victor, Sierra, Paul, Caroline/Echo, and Dr. Saunders/Whiskey.  Mellie/November and Alpha are mentioned but not seen.

Although the connection between Paul and Caroline is to be expected, and Victor and Sierra have been paired before, the episode also very quickly made us feel for the new romantic pairing of Boyd and Dr. Saunders, who I hope we see more of despite Amy Acker being limited to three episodes this season. If the show focuses more on the cast as a whole and less on Echo and Ballard I believe it will be more effective.

The Eliza Problem

elizaI enjoyed “Epitaph One” but one of the reasons I did so was because of the lack of Eliza Dushku.  I watched and enjoyed Tru Calling, and I love the Faith episodes of Buffy, but she doesn’t have a different level.  Although it could be argued that her inability to change characters when she is given different imprints is Caroline coming through, I can’t help but see Faith.

This is not just a matter of reusing actors. I completely believe Amy Acker as Whiskey/Claire, and I loved watching Alan Tudyk as Stephen Kepler/Alpha. In my opinion Eliza just doesn’t have the necessary acting chops to pull off this role and it brings down the show.  This is emphasized by the remainder of the cast, who are all excellent.  Adelle (Olivia Wilde) can be a cold-hearted bitch, but she can also be affectionate and even funny, and watching Topher (Fran Kranz) in “Epitaph One” is heartbreaking.  The true standouts for me are fellow actives Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman).  Enver and Dichen have the range to play a variety of roles, from fangirl to bounty hunter, and from mobster informant to horse breeder.

Eliza’s Caroline isn’t my only problem with Dollhouse though.  To be honest, I find Paul Ballard dull at best.  As a possible couple they fall into Lost territory where, like Jack and Kate, the romantic leads are the two least interesting characters on the show.  I would much rather see more of Victor and Sierra, or for that matter Boyd and Claire, than Paul and Echo.

Season Two

Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku in "Vows".

Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku in "Vows".

Despite all the elements I loved about “Epitaph One”, I’m just not convinced that season two will continue in this vein. I’m certainly hoping Dollhouse will prove me wrong though. Tonight’s premiere, titled “Vows” guest stars Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica) and sees Amy Acker’s Dr. Saunders struggling with being an Active.

Dollhouse airs tonight at 9:00 PM EST on Fox.

The Heavy Hitters Return, FlashForward premieres

September 24, 2009
Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Monday may be my personal night of television, but Thursday is the night when the most competitive shows go head to head in a battle for ratings. Hoping to reel viewers in before the juggernauts of television return, new Thursday addition Fringe premiered last week, while CW shows The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural began two weeks ago. The Thursday night ratings thus far have generally been good. Although The Vampire Diaries slipped in its second week, the numbers are still encouraging and the CW has ordered an additional nine scripts for the series, “which is the closest step executives can take without committing to a full pickup.”  With both CBS procedural CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy returning tonight at nine though, the question is how much will these popular shows cut into the ratings of the other Thursday night competitors?

Eight o’clock is a slightly less competitive, but still significant, timeslot with the aforementioned Vampire Diaries up against Fox’s popular procedural Bones, Survivor: Samoa, NBC sitcoms SNL Weekend Update and Amy Poehler’s Parks and Rec, and the series premiere of FlashForward.

Easily the most talked about new drama, Flashforward has been compared to Lost, and with the sci-fi drama entering its final season in January, FlashForward might be just the replacement ABC is looking for. ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said, ”The intention was not to imitate Lost, but we’ve certainly been looking for that next hit, and I don’t think we’ve had as special an idea as this since then.” It doesn’t hurt that the cast even includes a couple of Lost alums in the form of Dominic Monaghan, who played fan favourite Charlie Pace, and Sonya Walger, who had a recurring role as Desmond’s love interest Penny. Monaghan’s character Simon will not appear until episode 5 or 6, but in an interview with SFX magazine, he said, “There’s certainly a [Lost] influence on FlashForward in terms of the model of the show, in the same way that Lost has a large international cast”.  The large cast of FlashForward includes a number of familiar faces, such as Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), John Cho (the Star Trek reboot), and Jack Davenport (Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).

Based on a science fiction novel by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward focuses on the aftermath of a mysterious global event in which everyone on the planet loses consciousness for two minutes, seventeen seconds. During that time, everyone in the world experiences their life six months into the future. FBI agent Mark Benford (Fiennes) creates a database of people’s flash forwards from around the world called the Mosaic Collective in order to determine what exactly happened and why. Naturally, there is already a tie-in website that features accounts of people’s flash forwards which you can find here. Perhaps the best news for potential viewers is that although based on a science-fiction novel, those involved are shying away from the label, with executive producer David S. Goyer promising that ”the only leap you have to make is the existence of the flash-forward”. Additionally, story arcs have already been worked out for five full seasons, which shows an awareness of the difficulties shows with intricate mythologies often face (including Heroes and Lost). This TV enthusiast will certainly be tuning in.

The real competition begins at nine though, with the tenth season of CSI and the two-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Both shows are extremely popular but have something to prove this year. The departure of William Petersen’s Gil Grissom impacted the procedural’s ratings and although I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne’s replacement, Dr. Raymond Langston, in the few episodes I caught, Grissom is a hard man to replace. CSI cast members and producers admitted that the show stumbled during its ninth season but that this year the show has ‘found its rhythm’ again. Tonight’s premiere, titled “Family Affair”  begins with the team investigating the death of an actress killed in a suspicious car accident and features the return of Jorja Fox’s Sara Sidle.

izzieSimilarly, Grey’s Anatomy had a rough year with the universally despised “ghost sex” plotline that dragged on for far too long and actually managed to make me wish the amicable Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who played Denny on the series) would just go away already. The “cliffhanger” last season left the lives of George (T.R. Knight) and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) hanging in the balance, but even non-spoiler addicts know who survives, so tonight’s episodes are not likely to have anyone on the edge of their seat. The two-hour premiere sees the staff of Sacred Heart dealing with George’s death and Cristina and Owen finding it difficult to abstain from sex, as instructed by Dr. Wyatt.

New to Thursdays is Fox’s supernatural drama Fringe, starring John Noble and Joshua Jackson. The show was heavily promoted by Fox during its first season and was picked up for a second year, but moving the show to the most competitive slot in primetime is a risky move.  After a game changing season finale, in which viewers learned that Peter (Jackson) was from a parallel universe, Fringe premiered last week to almost 8 million viewers and a 2.9 in the 18-49 demographic. The numbers were only a slight drop from its season finale, but there’s no indication of how Fringe will do against Grey’s and CSI. Even the most fanatic of TV enthusiasts only have so much room on our DVRs.  Creator J.J. Abrams is not pleased with the move either saying,“There are many places I’d rather be than there, but I’d rather be picked up for a second season than not.” Tonight’s episode sees Walter trying to recreate travel between realities using frogs while the Fringe division investigates the disappearance of a  highway construction worker in Pennsylvania.

The cast of Community.

The cast of Community.

Also in competition are NBC comedies The Office and Community. Last week The Office had its lowest rated premiere in four years, yet was also the highest-rated show of the night, while the series premiere of Community held onto most of its lead-in for impressive numbers. Community, about a group of misfits who attend Greendale Community College, was well reviewed by critics.

Finally there’s a new episode of Supernatural on the CW (or Sun TV in Canada) titled “Free to be You and Me”. After the Winchester brothers parted ways at the end of last week’s episode, Dean teams up with Castiel to find the Archangel Raphael, who may know where God is, and decides to make Castiel’s last night on Earth memorable. Meanwhile, Sam tries to give up hunting but receives an unexpected visit from an old flame.

Once again being Canadian means more choices in your television schedule. CTV is showing The Vampire Diaries at 7:00PM in order to accommodate both CSI and the 2-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy so you don’t have to choose between the procedural and the medical drama.

Happy television watching!

The Monday Night Dilemma

September 21, 2009

houseEach new TV season there is one of those nights; A night where the three hours that make up Primetime manage to include the vast majority of your favourite shows. The actual night in question is subjective, and depends on the TV enthusiast’s personal tastes, but Monday and Thursday are popular choices. These are the nights when the TV enthusiast may call to their spouse or parent “I’m not home!” if the phone dares to interrupt one hour of this sacred night, and when they refuse to leave the house because there is more to watch than their DVR is able to record. For this TV enthusiast that night is Monday, particularly this Monday when a pair of dramas return with competing two-hour premieres.

The dramas in question are Fox’s medical mystery House m.d. and NBC’s ailing Heroes. The former is entering its sixth season after a season finale that polarized fans. To recap, Dr. Gregory House, played by the four times a nominee never an Emmy winner Hugh Laurie, believed that he had detoxed from Vicodin and slept with his boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy, only to realize that he had hallucinated the whole experience and needed help. As Wilson took House to a mental hospital, ducklings Cameron and Chase finally got a storyline tied the knot in an outdoor ceremony. Although some criticized the reveal that the “Huddy”, as the fans have dubbed the relationship between House and Cuddy, sex never actually occurred, I thought it was fantastic. The quick detox and the relationship developed too quickly to have been real and I thought the episode was extremely clever. Tonight’s two-hour premiere, titled “Broken”, opens with House in the asylum making friends with his roommate Alvie (Lin Manuel-Miranda), after he is blackmailed into staying at the institution longer than he had originally planned. House m.d. airs 8:00-10:00 PM EST on Fox.

I’m less optimistic about the fourth season premiere of Heroes. In the confusing season finale the heroes saved the President, but were unable to save Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) from Sylar (Zachary Quinto).  Angela (Cristine Rose), Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), and Bennet (Jack Coleman), used Parkman’s power on the unconscious body of Sylar, mentally altering the killer’s mind and physically changing his appearance to look like and believe that he is Nathan. It’s one way to kill off a character without eliminating an actor, something the Heroes writers don’t seem to be capable of doing. Tonight’s episodes are titled “Orientation” and ” Jump, Push, Fall” and see Claire (Hayden Panettiere) adjusting to college life while Angela fears that Sylar will discover his true identity. Heroes airs 8:00-10:00 PM EST on NBC.

Barney and Robin on How I Met Your Mother.

Barney and Robin on How I Met Your Mother.

But dramas aren’t the only option tonight. CBS is calling its new line-up, which features three returning comedies and a new one, “Monday to the Max”. It all starts at 8:00 with How I Met Your Mother. In the season finale Ted (Josh Radnor) accepted a teaching job at a University and viewers were one step closer to finding out who the mother is as Saget!Ted revealed that the mother was in the classroom, and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) confessed to having feelings for one another. Tonight’s episode “Definitions”  features Robin and Barney avoiding “the talk” about their relationship while Ted begins his new job and releases his “inner douche”.

Accidentally on Purpose, starring Jenna Elfman as Billie, premieres at 8:30. The premise revolves around a film critic who sleeps with a young slacker named Zack and ends up pregnant. She begins living platonically with Zack but must also deal with her boss, who she recently broke up with. At 9:00 it’s the return of the popular Charlie Sheen vehicle Two and  Half Men then at 9:30 the night ends with the premiere of The Big Bang Theory, titled The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation“, in which our four favourite geeks return from the North Pole and Sheldon (Jim Parsons)  flies back to Texas, threatening Leonard’s (Johnny Galecki) hopes for a romantic encounter with Penny (Kaley Cuoco).

For the reality inclined there’s the beginning of an advertised “three night premiere” of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, featuring an all new group of sixteen celebrities including Donny Osmond, Mya, Kelly Osbourne, and Macy Gray, at 8:00 PM. While the CW has the newest episodes of dramas One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl at 8:00 and 9:00 PM, respectively.

The charming Nathan Fillion stars in Castle.

The charming Nathan Fillion stars in Castle.

The 10:00 PM slot is less competitive. You have the choice of a charming, good looking, author who has witty banter with his daughter, mother, and police detective partner, or a detective I’ve dubbed “creepy” who seems to be very attached to his sunglasses. Personally I’m choosing Nathan Fillion in ABC drama Castle, the first season of which arrives on DVD tomorrow. In tonight’s season premiere “Deep in Death”, Castle attempts to fix his relationship with Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) after he looked into her mother’s death against her wishes in the season finale. If you’re really into CSI or sunglasses though, the Miami spin-off premieres tonight on CBS with an episode that reveals how the team was put together and, yes, how David Caruso’s Horatio got one of the most iconic pair of shades on television.

I’m obviously putting in a vote for Castle, but what will I be watching in the packed 8:00-10:00 PM hours? Well there are many wonderful reasons to be Canadian, among them universal healthcare and our reputation as peacekeepers, but a more shallow reason is Canadian broadcasting channels. With Canadian channels picking up nearly every American series, including those that compete against one another in the U.S., and also broadcasting Canadian content, not everything can be simulcast. As a result Global, which owns both Heroes and House, will be airing House from 8:00-10:00 PM and Heroes from 10:00-12:00 PM, leaving my DVR free for How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. Whichever solution you choose to the Monday Night Dilemma, I wish you an interruption free night of great television.