Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Posts Tagged ‘damages’

No Damages Done

Posted by Mr. Feeny on July 20, 2010

Here’s possibly the biggest surprise of the summer. Damages, the critically-acclaimed FX drama, will have a 4th and 5th season. This was highly unexpected. The show is not widely watched and costs a lot to produce (Glenn Close and Rose Byrne as the stars are expensive enough. Then throw in top-of-the-line guest stars like Ted Danson, Martin Short and Lily Tomlin just this past season). But like they did with Friday Night Lights, DirecTV recognizes meaningful and complex dramas and tries to preserve them. The satellite provider will now own the airing rights of the previous 3 seasons as well, with the 10-episode 4th season airing next year. Previous seasons were 13 episodes, but I think 10 will actually be an improvement. Less meandering.

If you’ve never watched Damages, I strongly recommend it. Well, parts of it. The first season is one of the greatest debut seasons in television history. Absolutely sensational. The second season was the complete opposite. A jumbled, convoluted mess. It also seemed to try too hard to hold onto the first season instead of moving on. The third season got back on track (except for needing to tie up Ted Danson’s storyline, which seemed awkward and out of place). But in general, they tightened their scope and focused more on the elements that worked in the first season. One main plot driving the season forward. And a shocking twist here or there. I don’t think you need to watch the second season (except maybe the premiere) to follow along, so I’d advise skipping the other 12 episodes, at least at first.

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Following a long hiatus…some random musings…

Posted by Mr. Feeny on February 1, 2010

Wow, I’ve been gone so long that I’ve been replaced by a mysterious Asian doctor. From the 1970s no less. Wait a minute…have I flashed forward or backward on this blog?

I apologize to all those many (read: three) followers of my posts. I just underwent a major relocation and have been getting used to a new job. Plus, no internet or TV for a span there. As such, I’m woefully behind on several of my second tier shows: House, Brothers & Sisters, Amazing Race (I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to finish that one). But my top tier is still alive and kicking (until my satellite started giving me choppy reception [first week I’ve had it] and forced me to stop watching HIMYM and 24 and turn instead to the blog).

To get back into the flow of things, I just thought I’d put a few thoughts that have been swimming in my head down on paper. A little something for everyone.

  • Easy prediction for this year in television: 24 will have  a poor season. I thought this before the premiere two weeks ago, and nothing has convinced me otherwise. My rationale is purely unscientific. 24‘s even-numbered seasons are always a disappointment. Season 2 was the best of them, but compared to any of the odd-numbered ones, it was cluttered, dull and lacked story. Season 4 was convoluted and required more leaps in logic than normal. Season 6 was a disaster. So clearly Season 8 will be bad. So far, it’s been lackluster. Some good things, but nothing that wows me. I wouldn’t be terribly sad if this were its last year. I feel like 24 has run its course and deserves an ending now. As long as Logan and Tony make a return.
  • Dana Delany deserves an Emmy nomination. She has been fantastic as Katherine on Desperate Housewives. She has perfectly hit every note in her jilted lover/delusional/psychopath/depressed character arc. Her last two episodes were especially sensational, as her lies became public knowledge, and then weeks later, when she opened up to a psychologist. Felicity Huffman is always the Emmy voters’ default Housewife nomination. But her time has past. It’s Delany’s turn to be recognized (though Huffman’s scene in “If…” while dealing with her would-be disabled child in the future was simply astounding. Her best performance yet).
  • Another not-so-bold prediction: NO ONE will be satisfied when LOST ends. There is simply no way. They have opened up too many questions for someone after the finale to say “hmm, now it all makes sense.” Doors will be left hanging open. And all those viewers who aren’t as obsessed with the mythology will still not be happy because of whatever explanation is provided. They’ll find it too preposterous, or a cop-out. The talk the next day will be nothing but “Really!?! That’s it!?!” That’s not to say it won’t be received well. It will have the most split fan reaction since The Sopranos ended. But still, no one will be completely O.K with it.
  • ShamIdol. Only about 5% probably got to the judges.

    American Idol‘s sham production just continues to infuriate me. Yet I still watch. Because I want to see what the next big thing will be. What millions of Americans will be talking about. But I can not express to you in words how infuriated my logical persona gets when Ryan Seacrest and the editors/producers just straight up lie to the “stupid” audience at home. Take the Chicago auditions. They say that 12,000 people tried out. And they show them at the United Center. So tell me, why is it the judges are all in front of a window looking out on Michigan Avenue??? No where near the UC. Do they ever mention that? No. They imply that all 12,000 get to see the judges. When in fact, the producers screen the masses, then pick who they want to go to the actual auditions. If that’s the way they do it, fine. I understand. It’s a huge amount of people. But don’t lie about it.

  • HOWEVER, American Idol, there are tons of great singers in that line. And only a limited number of people can see the judges in two days. So, since you saw everyone, why waste half of the audition slots with people who don’t stand a chance? That’s not fair. It’s just not fair!! For a few weeks of entertainment, you trot out these jokes, instead of giving great singers a chance. You pick the best and the worst and let the judges see them. But what if the second-best would have been well-received by the judges. Kris Allen might not have made the cut. How many Kris Allens and Jordin Sparks are out in that crowd that you turn away because you have to give William Hung his 15 minutes?
  • GRRRRRRR
  • Rant over.
  • Survivor‘s twentieth season is going to be fantastic. Heroes vs. Villains from past seasons. Going all the way back to Colby and Jerri from Season 2: Outback. Don’t miss it!
  • Better Off Ted has quickly risen to be one of my favorite comedies on the air right now. So witty and casual with jokes, that you might almost miss them. Love it. Watch it on Hulu.
  • I had a great insightful column that I half-wrote about the Conan-Leno debate. But…..it’s kind of old news now. So no need. The general point: I love Conan, but he was wrong to refuse a slightly later timeslot. He’ll never be as big as he could have been in the Tonight Show chair for decades. But NBC is the one to blame for everything.
  • I finished Season 1 of The Wire. My friends were right. Fantastic show. Not ready to call it one of the best ever, but it was incredibly entertaining after a mercilessly slow beginning. Moltisanti is correct: the character investment is superb. Not in terms of where people came from, but what they’re about. We don’t know their history, but we know their emotions.
  • I’m hoping Damages has a good rebound season. I’ll do a review on it after a few more episodes. But Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Len Cariou (of Broadway fame)…all fantastic supporting characters this season. And I’m very intrigued by this year’s flash forward scenario……..SPOILER………..death becomes Tom Shays.
  • I just want to mention how good a year I had in reality predictions. My Dancing with the Stars selection won it. My Top Chef pick finished in the Top 3. My Survivor pick finished in the Top 4. And my three picks to be the last three standing in The Amazing Race finished 1, 2, and 4. Not too shabby.

That should tide you over for now…I wonder if my satellite’s back. I could watch Damages

By the way, thanks to CJ for keeping this thing going. It would have died had it not been for her. I’d compare her to a TV character or actor who did that with a show…but I can’t think of one. Suggestions?

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Feeny’s Best Actors of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 29, 2009

I hate going last. My list is now just a hodge podge of theirs. But believe me…mine’s the definitive list. If I used emoticons, this is where I’d type 😉 In seriousness, though, I think my cohorts forgot one major actor on the list…just like they did for characters.

1) Martin Sheen (The West Wing) – Just further proof that the Emmys don’t know what they’re doing (disregard this argument for Tony Shalhoub). In seven fantastic years as President Bartlet, Sheen never once came away the winner. His costars did. Even Alan Alda did for his end-of-the-series run. But never Sheen. And that’s ridiculous. He was the best actor on the entire show. He mixed pomposity with compassion, resolve with confusion. You saw everything the most powerful man in the world must go through on a daily basis…and still thought of Bartlet almost as a friend or father. I waited on bated breath for every time he would respond to a crisis or lesser dilemma. And that was because of Sheen, not Sorkin.

2) Keifer Sutherland (24) – I’d just like to once again thank Keifer for sponsoring this blog. We couldn’t do it without him. (He is the only person on all three of our character and actor lists…we are clearly on the take…thus nothing else needs to be said).

3) Tony Shalhoub (Monk) – My comparison of Monk to mashed potatoes is becoming more and more accurate. Not only did both my colleagues leave him off their best characters list, neither gave credit to Tony Shalhoub, the man behind the OCD. I guess his three Emmy awards didn’t catch their eye. I’m not saying that needs to be a qualification for being on this list….but it’s THREE! And a yearly nomination to boot. That’s not the Emmy voters just being their usual repetitive self. Shalhoub deserved it. His lovable and sypmathetic character seemed incredibly natural. Almost as if you were watching a reality show about this obsessive detective.

4) James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) – Tony Soprano would not have been the character of the decade without the superb acting of Gandolfini. He’s what made you root for the bad guy. You’d kind of like to hang out with T. That’s because Gandolfini pulled off the always difficult task of making a gangster seem human. You understood all of Tony’s motivations, from the big kills to the minor gripes. And every glance was extremely telling. Probably the best actor on my list in terms of subtlety.

5) Nathan Fillion (Castle, Desperate Housewives, Firefly) – If only Fillion were better known, or his shows lasted longer. Then you might have to call Fillion the actor of the decade. His work is always superb (and underrated, because of his goofy smile). And, he played a large part in a ton of shows. I was hesitant to include him in my Top 5, actually, until I started watching the final arc in Buffy the Vampire Slayer today. He made his appearance as Caleb and was just astoundingly great. Every word he utters is commanding…you want to and have to listen. If Buffy‘s not your cup of tea (idiots), try his season on Desperate Housewives, or the short-lived and much-adored Firefly, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, or in his current hit Castle (boy does he deserve one). Oh, and if that’s still not enough proof he belongs on this list, how about the fact that he was in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, which had two seasons in this decade. We can’t ignore our blog namesake.

Honorable Mentions

-) Michael C. Hall (Dexter) – I’ll go even further than mention Hall. Even as the show has declined, and Dexter’s character has gotten dull and repetitive, Hall’s acting has not. He’s just as believable as the normal guy forcing his way through interactions as he is as the serial killer slicing up victims. You see the true spirit of his dark passenger constantly.

-) Hugh Laurie (House) – What Laurie does so well (besides his American accent) is let you see the inner workings of House’s mind. You know how he arrives at every conclusion. Even those in his personal life. And as a testament to his work, he’s a likeable curmudgeon, unlike so many grumpy doctors on TV.

Guest Star of the Decade

Zeljko Ivanek (24, Damages, Heroes) – I had to make a special spot for this guy. I love him. One of the finest actors of the decade, without a doubt, but his lack of being a series regular kept him off the main list. I anxiously await the credits on my favorite dramas, hoping to see his name. Of course, at this point, he’s pretty much been on all of them. He was Andrei Drazen in 24‘s first season. He was a regular during Heroes’ third season. And he won an Emmy for his supporting role in Damages. But look at his lesser credits. He was Juliet’s husband (the guy killed by a bus) in LOST. He held House hostage in one of last season’s best episodes. He was even the bad guy in the series premiere of The Mentalist, the #1 show last year. Add in a role in the miniseries John Adams, some guest starring spots on programs like ER and True Blood, and reoccuring turns on The West Wing, The Practice, and Homicide/Law & Order. I’m not sure if anyone worked as much as Ivanek in television these past ten years. And he did so with such conviction. Always a pleasure. Sadly, I haven’t seen him in anything this season.

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Moltisanti will surely note the absence of Hamm. He’s probably next on my list. But I never saw the layers of Don Draper that others see. To me, he’s stiff and rather dull. I don’t see much variety in his character. Moltisanti also may wonder why Soprano is #1 on my character list with Bartlet at #3, and yet Sheen is #1 and Gandolfini #4. Tony Soprano meant more to television as a character than Bartlet did. He’s much more lasting and impactful. And I thought they were both fantastic actors. But Sheen’s portrayal of the somewhat flawed and belabored president, especially in the middle seasons, really stood otu for me.

As for the others on their lists: Will Arnett’s probably the best actor on Arrested Development, but it’s too much of an ensemble show for me to select  just one. And while I think Kyle Chandler’s acting is fantastic in Friday Night Lights, it doesn’t quite match up to the others on this list.

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Moltisanti’s Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 26, 2009

1) Edie Falco – The Sopranos

I’ve already detailed why Carmela Soprano is one of the best characters of this decade. One of the main reasons she made that list is because of Edie Falco, who is equally understated and show-stopping throughout the six seasons of The Sopranos. Most will point to her duel with Tony in season four’s “Whitecaps” as her best performance, but it’s the smaller, quieter moments, when you see her wrestling with the disappointment in her husband (and, at times, her children), her struggle with her own limitations, and her maternal sense of responsibility where Falco shines the most.

2) Glenn Close – Damages

As Patty Hughes, Close is chilling and brutal. However, as I noted in the best characters list, this could easily have been a one-dimensional villain. Close, however, complements Hughes’ villainous side with hints of vulnerabilities and emotion. Her ability to command a scene is unparalleled.

3) Allison Janney – The West Wing

I’m not a huge West Wing fan, but during my years of watching the show, Allison Janney always stood out.  Unfazed and in

command, she, as Mr. Feeny noted, was the perfect actress for the high-paced Aaron Sorkin-penned Bartlett White House.

4) Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

I wasn’t a regular viewer of this show, but every time I did watch it, I was mildly entertained by the plot and wildly entertained by Kyra Sedgwick’s turn as a spunky, tough detective. It’s possible that I was just brainwashed by all the promos I saw during the NBA playoffs, but, for now, I’m confident saying Sedgwick was one of the best of the decade.

5) January Jones – Mad Men

Betty Draper may be a slightly adapted version of a character we’ve seen before: the stifled 1950s housewife struggling to cope with suburban ennui. But, credit the show’s writers and January Jones for making sure she doesn’t turn into a cardboard cutout of a character. Betty has developed over the course of the show into a slightly more assertive woman and certainly a less naive one. Still, however, she’s held back by her own delusional childlike nature, her unhealthy relationship with her now dead parents and the social confines of an age where divorce was far from commonplace. Jones never overacts and often captures Betty’s unhappiness, fear and anger with just a look. In my opinion, Jones has delivered one of the most underrated performances of the decade.

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Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 17, 2009

Continuing our list of Decade Bests…and to show I don’t hate women after I kept them out of my Best Characters list…here are the five actresses who shined above all others from 2000-2009. Technically, I guess if someone was on a mostly 90s show but had an amazing season this decade, that could count. But I don’t think we’ll run into that. Unlike my character list, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the performances that defined the decade. Just the ones that really stood out.

I see the actor/actress lists more like a sports dynasty. Were the Yankees the best team of the decade? They won the first and last World Series and performed well almost every year in between. The Patriots? The Lakers? Every year’s a little different,  but a dynasty is created. That’s the case with this list. Great actresses boost their significance to the decade by being spread across multiple shows and platforms. Which is exactly what THE Actress of the Decade did.

1) Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) — There is no doubt in my mind that Tina Fey was the biggest actress of the 2000s. Let’s look at it chronologically. First off, she had nothing on her TV resume before the end of the 90s and now she’s one of the most famous actresses in the country. She ascended to the top of Saturday Night Live’s pecking order early this century, quickly becoming a fan favorite. She transitioned that success into the incredibly popular movie Mean Girls (which she wrote…as she did most skits on SNL). And after leaving Saturday Night Live, what did Fey do to keep up? Created and wrote 30 Rock, a hilarious comedy that has won the Emmy every year since it’s creation, and given Fey two individual nods. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Fey became even more popular with her spot-on impression of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election…also earning her an Emmy. She might be the funniest actress since Mary Tyler Moore…and is definitely the best female writer. It’s Tina Fey’s world and we’re just watching it.

2) Edie Falco (The Sopranos) — How do you play the devoted wife of a killer and not seem like a naive sap? The way Falco did. Carmella always knew what was going on. She saw through Tony’s BS and chose to stay with him, because she herself had problems. But Falco fought to make her character strong, not just a victim of circumstances. Every decision Carmella made, be it small (getting her kid’s form signed) or large (having or not having an affair), Falco showed the power inside her character. Scenes with Gandolfini were always riveting, and unlike some other acclaimed dramas, I never screamed for the lead female character to get off the screen (ahem, Mad Men). The whole range of human emotion could be seen in Falco at any given moment. A flicker of her eyes could tell you what she was thinking. Fantastic dramatic actress.

3) Allison Janney (The West Wing) — The actual West Wing — and all of DC for that matter — is a boy’s world. And fast paced scripts from Aaron Sorkin seemed almost intended for those good old boys. But CJ Cregg was just as much a part of the decision making and fast talking as anyone else in that White House. And that’s thanks to Janney. She managed to find in Cregg the difficult balance of professionalism and compassion, often finding pet concerns or uncovering painful realities that she, as a political outsider, struggled with. When she disagreed with a decision, she let it be known before going about her job. I still don’t like the writers’ decision to promote her to Chief of Staff, but even in that role Janney evolved and gave CJ a new outlook. She almost became Leo. If you need proof that Janney belongs on this list, watch “The Long Goodbye.” The only episode of the series where one character goes off and has an entire episode just to her or himself. The acting in that episode alone is one of the best performances of the decade.

4) Glenn Close (The Shield, Damages) — I love Glenn Close’s masterful performance in Damages but was hesitant to include her after just two seasons. Then I remembered she was in The Shield, which I heard fantastic things about…plus it earned her an Emmy (as did Damages). A pair of Emmys is a good place to start for being one of the best TV Actresses of the Decade. I can’t speak on her Shield performance, but as Patty Hewes, Close dominates every scene she’s in. You can’t take your eyes off her. You never know what she’ll say next or, more importantly, how she’ll say it. The most common phrase can become a biting judgment. Her eyes will turn you to ice, her smile make you squirm. It’s actually very similar to her role as Cruella de Vil…only much more dramatic.

5) Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) — After three seasons, it’s criminal that Britton hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy. Especially in an awards association that relies so heavily on critics over viewers. As Tami Taylor, Britton exhibits every single quality that makes the others on this list award-winners. She has the resolve of Close, the complexity of Falco, the compassion of Janney. Even some humor…though not on Fey’s level. Plus, she improvises a large part of her scenes with Kyle Chandler, showing her natural acting chops. She makes her role as a small town coach’s wife and school principal seem about as realistic as a show can get. And as anyone who acts knows, “not acting” is one of the toughest skills there is.

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Best Characters of the 2000s

Posted by Christopher Moltisanti on December 13, 2009

It’s that time. The end of the decade, which calls for lists, lists and more lists. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you our take on the best TV characters, actors, actresses and shows of the 2000s. A few ground rules before we begin, however. Obviously, some TV shows started in the 90s and ended in the 2000s, so we’re only going to count the shows who’s most notable years were in this decade. For instance, shows like “Frasier,” “The X Files” and “The Practice” are 90s shows even though they ended in this decade. “West Wing,” on the other hand, which started in 1999, is a 2000s show. It’s not a science, but between the three of us you should get a pretty good sense of the best of the best for this decade.

Without further ado, here we go. First up: characters.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

1)    Tony Soprano – The Sopranos

With Tony Soprano, David Chase has done what the world’s best realist authors did time and time again: place a well-known character type into a world of complexity (aka the real world). Prince Andrei in War and Peace was a heroic warrior on a quest for personal glory who struggled to cope with the smallness of everyday responsibilities. Similarly, Tony is the classic mafioso thrust into the confusing, humorous and unpredictable world of modern American family life. The result is a powerful, albeit painfully insecure man, who struggles to live up to the expectations of his character type.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

2)    Don Draper – Mad Men

Don Draper is one of the richest, most multilayered characters I’ve ever seen on television or in film. In a vacuum, he’s compelling as a suave ad man living as anonymously as he possibly can with a wife and two kids. But, as a stand-in for an America with a fragile identity coping with wracking societal changes, he’s one of the best and most fascinating characters of the decade.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer

3)    Jack Bauer – 24

Say what you want about 24, but it’s undeniably compelling entertainment. At the center is a character who in less capable hands could have turned into a paper-thin Steven Seagal-like action hero. Instead, Jack, who most definitely is an action hero, is one grappling with not only physical pain, but also intense emotional anguish. Kiefer Sutherland is riveting in this role, and the character is a perfect adaptation of the noble hero to the messy times we live in. Instead of being a white knight, Jack is forced to get his hands dirty, skirting moral lines and making impossible choices. But he always answers the call and accepts the consequences. He’s a character everyone wants on their side, even if it’s not PC to admit it.

Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano

4)    Carmela Soprano – The Sopranos

It came down to her and Moltisonti for the last Sopranos spot, and as much as I wanted to give my namesake his due, Carmela is the more complete character. Like Tony, she has ideas about how things should be, but struggles to make things fit tidily in a world filled with arrest warrants, cheating husbands and troublesome kids. She’s a good mother with ambition, but she’s held back by social expectations and her own personal limitations. Still, she attempts to break out of her confines in various ways throughout the series. Her development over six seasons is subtle, but fascinating.

Glenn Close as Patty Hughes

5)    Patty Hughes – Damages

Give Glenn Close credit for this one. This is a character that could easily have become a caricature. But, Close, by subtly revealing Patty’s human and even vulnerable sides, gives us a well-rounded portrayal of the most chilling character of the decade.

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