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!

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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 msnbc.com 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!


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.


When Good Shows Go Bad

August 11, 2009

Television Without Pity recently published an item on the “worst of the best”, choosing the worst episodes of great shows including Veronica Mars, House m.d., The Sopranos, and The West Wing.  Even the most consistently good shows have their missteps, those episodes that fail to live up to expectations or, Tv gods forbid, ones so bad you wonder how the episodes ever made it past the writers room.  We console ourselves with those truly great hours of television that we can watch over and over again, including such classics as How I Met Your Mother’s “Slap Bet”, or Doctor Who‘s “Blink”, but what about those entirely forgettable, or worse, memorable for all the wrong reasons, episodes?

Television Without Pity’s comprehensive list covers many of the obvious television missteps, from the “Jack’s tats” episode of Lost (titled “Strangers in a Strange Land”) with guest star Bai Ling, to the preachy Veronica Mars episode “Un-American Graffiti” with its messages about bigotry and underage drinking.  I don’t actually think any Dexter episode has been bad enough to land on one of these lists, but I can see the reasoning behind sticking second season finale “The British Invasion” there, and I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the Doctor Who Easter special “Planet of the Dead”.  I do, however, have a few additions to their list.  Here are some of my picks for worst of the best:

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episodes: “The Zeppo” and “Beer Bad”

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

TWoP included Buffy in its list, but chose the poltergeist-inspired sex episode “Where the Wild Things Are” instead.  It’s certainly a worthy choice, as I really can’t remember anything happening in this episode beyond crawling vines, Buffy and Riley having a lot of sex, and a girl hacking off her hair in a closet, but here are a few other possibilities.

“The Zeppo” is, in my opinion, the black mark on my favourite season of the show.  I have some bias here as this is a Xander-centric episode and I’ve never been a fan of the character, but I found the third-season episode, which sees Xander getting a car and spending a harrowing night away from the scoobies, very dull.  This is one of those episodes I rarely re-watch and could wipe from my DVD set without a second thought.

However, the Buffy episode that is truly the worst of the best is the universally loathed “Beer Bad”.  I’d love to know how this was pitched in the writers room and the response it received.  Did it really seem like a good idea on paper?  The episode features Buffy, still hurting from Parker’s rejection after they slept together,  getting drunk with four college boys and waking up the next morning to more than a hangover.  The beer turns them all into Neanderthals and the boys begin a fire that Buffy saves Parker from.  In the episode’s only good moment, Neanderthal Buffy beats him with a club when he apologizes for his actions.

Show: Lost
Episode: The Kate-centric episodes (including “Eggtown” and “Whatever the Case May Be”)

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Since the beginning I’ve had a few issues with Lost.  Plotlines and monsters were introduced only to be forgotten about or never explained and more new characters than should ever be on a supposedly deserted island kept coming out of the woodwork.  The main problem though was consistency and much of this depended on the character who was featured in the episode.  So I came to dread the Kate episodes, preparing for what was bound to be a dreary hour.  As an ex-convict, Kate should really be more interesting than she is.  Instead I find her to be the dullest character on the island, and her episodes about retrieving toy planes, miraculously not being convicted of murder, and being unable to choose between Sawyer and Jack do nothing for me.

Show: How I Met Your Mother
Episode: “The Best Burger in New York”

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Many shows rely on, or become famous for, their stunt-casting.  Some of them genuinely aren’t that funny without that “special guest star”, but How I Met Your Mother is a genuinely funny sitcom with great characters and some wonderful writing.  It really doesn’t need cameos by Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias and, in this episode, Regis Philbin, to be hilarious.  The episode revolves around the quest to find a burger place Marshall ate in eight years earlier that served “the best burger in New York” but it just doesn’t have the same sparkle or the heart of other episodes.  The repeating joke of Robin’s burger being the last to arrive isn’t all that amusing, and descriptions of just how good the various burgers taste are only funny for so long.  That said, this is my no means a terrible half hour of television, it just doesn’t live up to the comedy and heart of other episodes.

Lily: This burger is so good, its like Christmas in my mouth. Meat Christmas.
Ted: Its like an angel from heaven landed in
the kitchen of McClaren’s… where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder.
Barney: I love this burger so much I want to sew my ass shut.

Show: Torchwood
Episode: “Cyberwoman”

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Let’s face it, Torchwood didn’t exactly start out as high art.  During the first season the show was campy, tried a little too hard to convince us that it was the darker adult cousin of Doctor Who, and went out of its way to show the fluidity of human sexuality.  It also routinely borrowed and twisted plots from Angel, including having the female lead wake up nine months pregnant by a demon/alien and using an alien/demon who stays alive through sexual intercourse that destroys their partner.

Still, the first season had some good episodes, it’s just that “Cyberwoman” was not one of them.  The first episode focused on mysterious tea boy Ianto Jones revealed that he had been keeping his girlfriend Lisa, partially converted during the Cyberman Invasion (which occurred during the Doctor Who episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”), in the Torchwood Hub basement in hopes of curing her.  Her Cyberman programming soon takes over though and Captain Jack tries to feed her to the resident pterodactyl.  Really the fact that Jack sprays Lisa with special barbeque sauce to help the pterodactyl identify its prey speaks for itself.

Show: Star Trek Voyager
Episode: “Threshold”

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Not even the writers defend this episode of Star Trek Voyager, which co-executive producer Brannon Braga called a “royal, steaming stinker”.  It has even been unofficially erased from canon by fans and the production staff.

In “Threshold”, Tom Paris takes on a mission to break the Warp 10 barrier in a shuttlecraft.  However he begins experiencing symptoms upon his return and rapidly mutates into a new form of life.  Paris escapes his planned treatment, kidnaps Captain Janeway, and steals the shuttlecraft.  Here’s where we get to the bad part because the cast of Voyager track the shuttle only to find two amphibious creatures and their three offspring(!)  Luckily there is enough human DNA remaining for the ships’ Doctor to reverse the mutation and restore them to normal.  Lizard mating?  This is another one that speaks for itself.

Show: Dead Like Me
Episode: Dead Like Me: Life After Death movie

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

I absolutely love Dead Like Me and it is certainly at the top of my “gone but not forgotten” list of shows cancelled before their time.  The show, which followed the unlife of Georgia Lass after she is hit by a flying toilet seat and becomes a grim reaper, was full of colour, thoughtful, and found the humour in death to great success.  Its cancellation after just two seasons, and for no apparent reason, was disappointing but fans found hope in the news that there would be a direct-to-DVD movie.

I’m glad I read the reviews about the film before watching it or I would have been sorely disappointed.  It isn’t that the movie is bad, so much as it just isn’t the Dead Like Me we knew and loved.  The role of Daisy Adair was recast, as Laura Harris was committed to another project, and replacement Sarah Wynter always felt “off” to me.  At that time Mandy Patinkin was starring in Criminal Minds and his lead reaper Rube Sofer was replaced with a new character, played by Lost star Henry Ian Cusick.  I enjoyed the subplot with George’s sister Reggie, which answered the question left open in the show’s series finale about whether or not Reggie had recognized her sister in the graveyard, but the movie just didn’t have the same feel as the series.  The real pity is that Harris’ show Woman’s Murder Club was cancelled that year and Patinkin famously departed Criminal Minds.  If the movie had been delayed, the whole cast could have reunited.

And one for the road…

Although I’ve seen most of Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager, I haven’t seen more than one episode of the original series and don’t have a strong desire to do so.  I haven’t included episodes generally regarded to be poor unless I have seen them myself but this is my one exception to the rule.  “Spock’s Brain” seems to have the same universal loathing in fans of the original series that “Beer Bad” inspires in Buffy fans.  The synopsis seems to be that aliens steal Spock’s brain and that the episode is, according to this site, “the most sexist hour of television that I’ve ever seen.”

But wait – there’s more!  It’s featured on a website called the agony booth under the “Worst of Trek” title, and a website featuring fan created Star Trek motivational posters has one just for the episode which says the following:

Spock’s Brain

Look, not every episode can be “City on the Edge of Forever,” okay?

I’m sure my list will continue to grow as I discover new shows and as my favourites misstep but these are my “worst of the best” so far.  I’d love to hear other ideas though, feel free to let me know some of your “worst of the best” television episodes!


Birthdays in TV land

August 8, 2009

angel buffyMany TV enthusiasts have wanted, at one point in their lives or another, to escape to the fictional worlds inhabited by their favourite television characters.  Who wouldn’t want to share a booth at MacLaren’s with Barney Stinson, research the new “big bad” with the Scoobies, or travel through time and space with The Doctor?  Yet despite the promise of adventure that these fictional worlds offer, there is one occasion on which you are better off in the real world – your birthday.

In TV land, birthdays are the testing ground for Murphy’s Law, the adage which states “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  At the best of times character birthdays pass unnoticed, or wacky but ultimately harmless hi-jinx ensue.  At the worst, the character is put through the wringer with lasting consequences.   One of these sub-sections of birthdays gone wrong even has its own TV trope , the “Ironic Birthday”.  This occurs when:

“A character has had to make a tough decision or has just lost something of extreme value to him, and upon walking into a room is greeted with a surprise birthday party.  This is not a celebration that makes everything all right; this is about the character having to pretend to enjoy what should be a happy time while secretly suffering.”

The example of this trope that sticks with me is Buffy’s seventeenth birthday, when she comes home to celebrate with her mother after her vampire boyfriend Angel loses his soul, taunts her mercilessly, and tries to burn the humanity out of the population of Sunnydale.  Instead of making a wish, a melancholy Buffy lets the candle on her cupcake burn.

Although other shows have featured the birthday where everything goes wrong, Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes the cake (excuse the pun).  After watching her boyfriend become a monster on her seventeenth birthday, Buffy begins a pattern of birthdays where everything that can go wrong does.  For her eighteenth, Buffy’s trusted watcher Giles drugs her in order to remove her slayer abilities, and an insane vampire kidnaps her mother.  The following year an old foe turns Giles into a demon and an unknowing Buffy almost kills him.  As the slayer enters her twenties, her sister Dawn discovers her origin as a ball of energy put into human form, and narrowly escapes the God searching for her, while season six sees Buffy and her party guests trapped in the Summers residence with a sword wielding demon, after Dawn wishes that people wouldn’t keep leaving her.  Her latest birthday disaster causes Spike to ask Buffy if she had ever thought about “Maybe, not celebrating your birthday? Just try it, I mean.”  Perhaps Buffy took his advice.  The final season of the show didn’t feature a birthday episode for Buffy.

Willow and Tara dance in "Family".

Willow and Tara dance in "Family".

It’s easy to forget that Buffy wasn’t the only character on the show to have a birthday where everything went wrong.  Tara’s birthday involved her family arriving in Sunnydale to convince her that she was a demon who had to leave behind her girlfriend, Willow, and her independence.  In order to prevent the group from seeing the demon she believes she is, Tara casts a spell that makes all demons invisible, which renders the slayer unable to see her opponents.  Fortunately, this birthday ends on a high note as Tara realizes who her real family are and is defended by Buffy and her friends.

Cult favourite Firefly, also created by Joss Whedon, features a TV land birthday as well.  The birthday celebrations for Dr. Simon Tam are cut short when the engine room is engulfed in flames and life support is disabled, leaving them stranded with only a few hours of remaining oxygen.

Similarly, Isabel Evans begins her birthday with a party at the Crashdown Cafe in Roswell, but must abandon her party when she receives visions of fellow alien Tess in danger.  Although Isabel rescues Tess from her kidnapper, she also finds out that in her past life on Antar she betrayed her family for love.

Sitcoms are not immune to the birthday curse.  On his 30th Birthday Ted, upon finding out that Barney and Robin slept together, tells Barney that he no longer wants to be friends with him on the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother. The following year, Ted’s architecture contract is passed over for Swedish rival Sven, and he has an infamous encounter with Missy the goat.

tedYet it is Ted’s former flame Natalie who has a true TV land birthday when she is dumped by Ted through a message on her answering machine during a surprise birthday party.  Three years later, when he decides to re-date her, he breaks up with her on her birthday once more.

I wasn’t looking for adventure, but a year ago I experienced the perils of a birthday fit for TV land.  After an afternoon watching the excellent Queen musical “We Will Rock You”, my birthday quickly descended as our dinner waiter was stoned and we walked through the pouring rain to the movie theatre.  By the end of the walk we were soaked, and upon arriving at the theatre we discovered that the movie had begun ten minutes earlier.  Since there wasn’t another showing, I had to choose between my friends as some disbanded to a movie theatre closer to home while others, who I saw less regularly, had to remain in Toronto.  Although the company was excellent, the night did go as planned and we can still remember the misery of being caught in that downpour.

This year I spent a quiet, but enjoyable, night in with my family.  Sometimes not being a fictional character has its perks.


And the Nominees are:

July 16, 2009

It’s ten to nine this Thursday morning, which means that the nominations for this year’s Primetime Emmys have just been announced live.  Fortunately, I’m on the east coast so I didn’t have to worry about dragging myself out of bed at five-thirty a.m like presenters Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory). The list of nominations offered many of the same programs that have been recognized before but there were a few surprises as well.  Overall I’m extremely happy with the nominations and hope that the ceremony will prove as interesting. Here are my thoughts on the nomination ceremony and a complete list of the nominees:

Drama Series

Big Love
Breaking Bad
Damages
Dexter
House m.d.
Lost
Mad Men

The only surprise in this category is perhaps the inclusion of Big Love.  House m.d. and Lost are the only network dramas in the bunch.

Actress, Drama Series

Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace

Another predictable category where the only surprise might be Elizabeth Moss over her Mad Men co-star January Jones.

Actors, Drama Series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Simon Baker, The Mentalist

The big surprise here is, of course, a nomination for Simon Baker. Some have also noticed the absence of Kiefer Sutherland, who has been nominated every year that he has been eligible for his work in 24.

Supporting Actress, Drama Series

Rose Byrne, Damages
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy
Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Hope Davis, In Treatment
Cherry Jones, 24

I’m certainly pleased to see both Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh here for Grey’s instead of the expected Katherine Heigl. It was especially nice to see a spokesperson for CBS tell Wilson that she had received a nomination in this category as well as the one announced live for her work in a miniseries. I don’t think anyone had even considered Cherry Jones in 24 so this nomination is certainly a surprise. I’m just sorry there isn’t a nomination for the fabulous Elizabeth Mitchell’s work as Juliet in Lost.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series

William Shatner, Boston Legal
Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
William Hurt, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
John Slattery, Mad Men

Although reporters did think that the departing Boston Legal would probably snag a few nominations, I think they expected Best Drama Series or Actor for James Spader. I’m a little disappointed to see Shatner here, but I have to admit that I’m glad Christian Clemenson gets a nomination. He was nominated for Guest Actor in 2007 but has never been recognized in the Supporting category. I’m also glad to see two-time nominee Michael Emerson here again.

Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Sharon Lawrence, Grey’s Anatomy
Ellen Burstyn, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Brenda Blethyn, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Carol Burnett, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
CCH Pounder, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Edward Asner, CSI: NY
Ted Danson, Damages
Jimmy Smits, Dexter
Ernest Borgnine, ER
Michael J. Fox, Rescue Me

Comedy Series

Entourage
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
The Office
30 Rock
Weeds

This is the big news category with four of the seven nominees new to the category. Family Guy‘s nomination makes it the first animated series to be nominated since The Flinestones in 1961! Weeds, Flight of the Conchords, and How I Met Your Mother are also first-time nominees. I’m just happy How I Met Your Mother received some much deserved attention. Unfortunately there just wasn’t room forThe Big Bang Theory among those newcomers. Still, no nomination for Two and a Half Men and that’s something.

Actress, Comedy Series

Julia Louis Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Mary Louise Parker, Weeds

Actor, Comedy Series

Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Steve Carell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

While returning nominees Charlie Sheen and Tony Shalhoub surprise no one, a nomination for Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement is less predictable. The best news of this category is a well-deserved nomination for Jim Parsons though. As Chandra read the nominations for this category aloud, Parsons was visibly surprised, saying “that wasn’t there”, presumably because another name had been substituted in order to surprise him when the presenters received the list ahead of time.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds

I’m extremely happy to see Kristin Chenoweth included in this category, especially since the cancellation of Pushing Daisies means that she won’t be eligible next year for playing Olive Snook.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Rainn Wilson, The Office
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men

With How I Met Your Mother breaking into the comedy category this year and a deserved nomination for Neil Patrick Harris could it be his year?  A snub for Entourage actor Jeremy Piven, who Harris even thanked for not being nominated during his acceptance speech for ‘A-List Actor’ in Bravo’s A-List Awards, clears the way.

Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Christine Baranski, The Big Bang Theory
Gena Rowlands, Monk
Betty White, My Name Is Earl
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Jennifer Aniston, 30 Rock
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Beau Bridges, Desperate Housewives
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Steve Martin, 30 Rock
Jon Hamm, 30 Rock
Alan Alda, 30 Rock

Variety, Music, or Comedy Special

The Colbert Report
The Daily Show
The Late Show with David Letterman
Real Time with Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Best Reality Competition

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Best Reality Show Host

Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Jeff Probst, Survivor
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, Top Chef

After last’s disastrous Emmys, hosted by the five nominees from this category, it’s perhaps surprising that four of the five are nominated again. The only snub is Howie Mandel, who has been replaced by the far more deserving ‘Amazing Phil’ Keoghan, and Padma and Tom of Top Chef. I’m sorry to see that sweetheart Cat Deeley isn’t here but maybe next year, with So You Think You Can Dance currently having its strongest season to date, both the show and the host will be recognized.

Best Miniseries

Generation Kill
Little Dorritt

Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Chandra Wilson, Accidental Friendship
Shirley MacLaine, Coco Chanel
Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
Sigourney Weaver, Prayers For Bobby

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Kevin Kline, Cyrano de Bergerac
Brendan Gleeson, Into The Storm
Sir Ian McKellen, King Lear
Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
Kiefer Sutherland, 24: Redemption
Kenneth Branagh, Wallander: One Step Behind

I’m not going to go through all the behind the scenes categories but here are a few more nominations that interested me and that I hope might interest fellow TV enthusiasts:

Outstanding Choreography

81st Annual Academy Awards – “Musicals Are Back” – by Rob Ashford
Dancing With the Stars – “Jive/Great Balls of Fire” – by Derek and Julianne Hough
So You Think You Can Dance – “Bleeding Love” – by Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo
So You Think You Can Dance – “Mercy” by Mia Michaels
So You Think You Can Dance – “Adam and Eve” by Tyce Diorio
So You Think You Can Dance – “A Los Amigos” by Dmitry Chaplin

Outstanding Special Class – Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Programs

Battlestar Galactica: The Face Of The Enemy
The Daily Show: The Daily Show Correspondents On Jon Stewart
Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl Halftime Show
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
30 Rock’s Kenneth the Web Page

I just had to include that one because I’m so excited that Dr. Horrible is up for an Emmy!

For a complete list of all the nominations click here

The 61st Annual Emmy Awards airs September 20th on CBS.


Emmys Wishful Thinking

July 8, 2009

The nominations ceremony for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards will take place next Thursday morning (July 16th) at 8:35 EST, beginning two months of speculation about who should, and who actually will, win each award. Three-time nominee Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory will join the Television Academy chair for the live ceremony. However, before the big announcement, fellow TV enthusiasts and journalists are creating their own lists of nominees, ranging from which actors and actresses they believe will actually receive an Emmy nod to the underdogs they would like to see recognized.

Everyone makes predictions, not an impossible task because the Emmys often follow the old saying and stick to what they know while shutting out deserving newcomers, but what I find more interesting are the underdog lists of those actors and actresses who probably don’t stand a chance. Here is one more TV enthusiast’s list, comprised of both deserving underdogs and favourites who might just get that shot at a golden trophy.

Before I begin my list, I have a confession to make. I don’t get cable. No doubt this contributes to my enjoyment of the Emmy awards, which have recently chosen to honour shows originating on Showtime, HBO, and AMC. The trend towards cable keeps me somewhat out of the loop for although I had the opportunity to watch the first season of True Blood over the summer, and I’ve seen the first two seasons of Dexter, I haven’t seen so many of the critically acclaimed shows often nominated, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Damages.

For anyone eager to create their own list or take a look at the potential nominees, a list of all the possible actors and actresses who submitted their names for consideration can be found here.

Oustanding Drama Seriesdrama

The Possibles: House M.D. may have fallen off the rails this year with the decision to put Thirteen front and center, but I loved the controversial season finale, hallucinations and all, and I believe it’s still one of the best dramas on television. Due to my lack of cable I haven’t seen this season of Dexter, so I’m cheating a little bit here by sticking it on my list anyway. The first two seasons were some of the best written I’ve ever seen and I can’t imagine that three would be poor enough to take it out of the running. Although I haven’t always been a big Lost supporter, I have to admit that this season really stepped up the quality of the show and I think it deserves a place here.

The Longshots: With both my picks already cancelled I’m sure Hell would have to freeze over before either of these two were nominated but I fell in love with the shortlived Kings and found its politically manipulative drama fascinating. Although I found the first season of Eli Stone to be stronger overall, I love this sentimental show and wish that it would get some deserved recognition as well.

Outstanding Comedy Seriescomedy

The Possibles: I don’t watch many comedies, but there are two exceptions. Although this was probably its weakest season to date, How I Met Your Mother remains one of my favourite shows and episodes like “Intervention” and “Three Days of Snow” demonstrated its ability to combine heart and hilarity. But if I had my way, the show taking home the trophy this year would be The Big Bang Theory. The cast is fantastic and the writing is laugh out loud funny. It’s often hard to believe it was created by the man behind Two and a Half Men.

Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Drama Seriesactor-actress-drama

The Possibles: It never fails to amaze me that Michael C. Hall hasn’t won an Emmy for his role as Dexter Morgan. I haven’t seen the third season so I don’t know if this is his year but the man is certainly deserving. Given what Hugh Laurie’s Doctor House went through this year I think it’s a safe bet that the best non-American doing an American accent on television will be nominated. Those last five minutes of the season finale where he realised everything was a hallucination is more than enough to convince me.

The Longshots: I would love to see Ian McShane nominated for his work in Kings. He’s a huge part of what makes the show so engaging. Although other lists have Simon Baker (The Mentalist) listed as possible, I find it hard to believe that a procedural actor will be nominated against the giants of cable. All the same, I’m rooting for the Australian underdog to get a nomination. The Mentalist wouldn’t have worked without him.

By now you’ve probably realised that I don’t have any picks for Oustanding Lead Actress. To be honest I just do not have a preference. I’m much more interested in this year’s Supporting Actress category.

Supporting Actor in a Dramasupporting actor

The Possibles: Michael Emerson is consistently creepy as Ben on Lost and he absolutely deserves to be nominated again. I would also love to see Josh Holloway (Lost) get a much needed Emmy nod for his fantastic work this season as Sawyer.

The Longshots: As Lafayette, Nelsan Ellis steals every scene he’s in on True Blood so I’m hoping he’s more of a possible than an unlikely choice. Meanwhile, from the “not unless Hell freezes over” group are Sebastian Stan (Kings) whose closeted Prince has become a far more engaging character than Chris Egan’s David, and Glenn Fitzgerald (Dirty Sexy Money). His conflicted Brian Darling is what I’ll miss most about the show.

Supporting Actress in a Dramasupporting actress

The Possibles: Chandra Wilson’s Bailey is one of the bright spots of Grey’s Anatomy and I’d much rather see her take home the prize than the more likely option of Katherine Heigl for her tumor/hallucination storyline, but in a perfect world the Emmy would go Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost).

The Longshots: I think Julie Benz’s Rita’s (Dexter) growth has been one of the more interesting subplots on television and I would love to see her recognised for it. Lisa Edelstein (House) was given a lot more to do this season and made the most of it, while Rutina Wesley played Sookie’s troubled best friend Tara to perfection in True Blood

Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress in a Comedyactor comedy

The Possible: If Jim Parsons isn’t nominated for his fantastic work in The Big Bang Theory I might just give up on television altogether. With my other favourite comedic talent in the supporting category the door is open for Jim Parsons to walk away with the gold.

The Longshots: I would love to see Billie Piper nominated for Secret Diary of a Call Girl, although I don’t see it happening. Although Jim Parsons should win the award, co-star Johnny Galecki deserves a nod as well. I just don’t think there’s room for both of The Big Bang Theory leads in this category.

Supporting Actor/Actress in a Comedyactress comedy

The Possibles: If I had my way Neil Patrick Harris would be nominated in this category every year that How I Met Your Mother is on the air. Barney Stinson is a character that could so easily be unlikeable. That he is so beloved is a testament to Harris’ skill.

The Longshots: Although Pushing Daisies is often a little too sweet for my tastes, Kristin Chenoweth is adorable as Olive Snook and deserves a nomination for Supporting Actress, although I don’t know that she will actually receive one. Again from the “when Hell freezes over” category are Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory), who is wonderful as Raj, and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as Robin.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that most of my picks for this year don’t stand a chance at being nominated but I’ll be content if Jim Parsons, Michael C. Hall, and Neil Patrick Harris receive nominations.  I’d love to hear any other opinions on longshots or possible nominees you’d like to see recognized this September, and I’ll be back next Thursday with my thoughts on the nominations.

The nominations ceremony takes place July 16th at 8:35 a.m. EST
The 61st Annual Emmy Awards airs September 20th on CBS.