Friday, May 30, 2008

The Ever-Changing Shape of Lost

Lost.  It finished it's season last night.  It, as per usual, answered some questions and asked others.  It perplexed, complexed, and vexed viewers.  And yet, boy is it fun to watch. 

I can't think of another show on television which, even when they have a bad episode, is as engaging and interesting as Lost.  Now, I do think they got away with a few underhanded things last night.  For instance, not much happened in the first hour at all, and I think had they aired that episode by itself my disappointment would be more marked.  They didn't though.  It was only the first half of a two hour episode. 

In actuality, I'd argue that much of this season was a letdown.  It was fun, it was enjoyable, but it was a letdown from what we've seen in the past.  To me the question of how the Oceanic Six got off the island, which is what the season focused on, wasn't as interesting as some of the past mysteries.  Additionally, I don't think they needed as many episodes to tell that story as they used.  I think it could have been done in half the time to greater effect.  I wonder what would have happened if the writers' strike hadn't happened and they'd had even more episodes to tell the same story.  It may have been quite troublesome.

That being said, we are left in an interesting place.  The present-day story (as opposed to the past and future ones) has gotten the six of the island and we know what happens immediately following that.  There's still a lot to fill in with regards to the Jeremy Bentham stuff and the whole timeline prior to Ben seeing Jack in the funeral home, and there's stuff to tell about what has happened on the island during the same timeframe, but will that be the main focus next season?  Is next season a fill-in-the-gaps season?  That's what this season was and one of the reasons I don't think it worked as well.

What I'm hoping is that next season actually runs the post-funeral home stuff as the "present-day" story and fills in the blanks in the timeline with the flashbacks.  Of course, just because that's the direction I'd go in doesn't mean that's the direction the producers will choose to head.  They'll probably come up with some whole new sort of craziness.

Lost reinvents itself every season, and that's led to good things and bad.  It asks a lot of the audience, this reinvention.  The loyal viewers out there surely have no problem, but the casual viewer, the one that tunes in for a couple of episodes every season might have a more difficult time.  So much has happened from season one till now, and questions that were relevant to the audience a few years ago have been completely dropped, both by the producers and the viewers. 

It says a lot about the show and the producers that they've managed to take the audience so far.  I just wonder how much further we still have to go before we find out what's actually going on.

Is the Answer In Plain Sight?

Not all television series come to our screens as clear winners or clear losers. Most fall somewhere in the middle. They have good bits and bad, and one isn't quite sure watching the first couple of episodes exactly where the series will end up. Such is the case with the latest scripted drama on USA, In Plain Sight.

If pressed, I'd say that this new series starring Mary McCormack as a U.S. Marshal who works for the witness protection program will end up more good TV than bad TV, but the first three episodes leave it all a little up in the air. While she has a wonderful presence, there is just a little too much about the series that is clichéd to make it a clear winner.

McCormack, as Mary Shannon, is a stereotypical tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal who will step over anyone and everyone to do what she feels to be the right thing. She puts up a strong front in order to wall off her more touchy-feely side, clearly terribly afraid of getting hurt.

Every week, Mary finds herself protecting a different witness and trying to manage her dysfunctional home life, which includes her drunk mother, Jinx (Lesley Ann Warren), and her mooching, troubled, freeloader of a sister-with-a-secret, Brandi (Nichole Hiltz). It's not the family everyone would wish for, and certainly Mary sometimes wishes for a different one, but under the semi-snappy one-liners they love each other (mostly).

Mary's co-workers and friends have their own collection of quirks, like her partner, Marshall (Frederick Weller), who is a fifth generation Marshal (though not necessarily a fifth generation Marshall, too). Like Mary, he's got his own set of snappy remarks and quick repartee. Then there's Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor), Mary and Marshall's boss. His job seems to be to manage his underlings as best he can, and look the other way when he can't.

This is where things get tricky. They're all, as far as the first few episodes are concerned, stock characters. They're all easily defined and neatly fit into swell little categories (including Mary's pseudo-boyfriend Raphael, played by Cristián de la Fuente, and homicide detective Bobby D, Todd Williams, who crosses paths frequently with Mary). Their interactions are exactly what one would expect them to be; everyone has seen enough television at this point to know who these characters are after a few minutes of their being on screen. And yet, they're somehow compelling.

Watching Mary enter a men's room, make jokes about the man at the urinal's genitalia, and finally get the information she needs from him proceeds exactly as the audience knows it will from the moment she enters the bathroom. McCormack pulls it off though. She even apologizes at the end of the scene for the small genitals joke, as though she knows that the audience has heard it before.

The other basic problem with the series is that the first few cases and witnesses Mary gets involved with are not that compelling. Like the main characters themselves, the witnesses and cases feel as though they've been pulled from well-worn models. There's the Italian mobster family from New York, there's the boy whose father is a drug dealer and a danger to young ones. It almost feels as though in creating the show the producers sat down, watched a ton of cops and robbers movies, and pulled characters from them.

Again, that's not necessarily wholly negative. The show seems to be asking what happens to these criminals after they decide to become a witness for the state. What if Kay went to the cops rather than just divorcing Michael? What if "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero had gotten away from New Jersey? What would have happened to these people then? It's an interesting question. Unfortunately, however, In Plain Sight doesn't seem to have a very interesting answer yet.

Maybe it will in the future. The third episode sent for review, "Iris Doesn't Live Here Anymore," is markedly more entertaining and engaging than the first two. Hopefully, the episode indicates movement and is not just an anomaly.

Additionally, it should be noted that the series certainly has enough good elements to give it the benefit of the doubt early on.

In Plain Sight premieres on USA June 1 at 10pm.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jen Serves up Incompetence and Attitude in Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen continues to perplex me, truly it does.  I still can't imagine wanting to eat at any of the restaurants that the chefs we've seen would end up running.  I still can't imagine how Jen takes herself seriously.  I still can't imagine what Matt is doing in the contest at all.  It's all so greatly disappointing and mainly that's due to the chefs. 

What I'd like to do today, is dissect last night's cooking challenge, to show just why I'm so very disappointed.

Prior to the challenge, Ramsay explained to the chefs that their timing was horrific, that they never communicated, that they couldn't figure out how to get multiple dishes ready at the exact same time.  So the challenge had the chefs run a relay race of sorts, with each chef being allowed in the kitchen for six minutes and then handing off to another chef.  At the end of 18 minutes the teams each had to have three dishes completed.

A great idea.  I think it actually tested some skills and general chef-type knowledge (both of which have been crucially lacking this season).  Unfortunately, it was all edited down to the point where we couldn't tell what was happening. 

After the challenge, only one thing remained clear - Jen is not only incompetent, she's delusional too.  She forgot to put sauces on two of the three dishes.  The sauces were ready (though she claims she burnt one), but she didn't put them on before serving the dishes.  She then, pointedly, said that she wouldn't apologize to her team for her mistake.  She also, according to Ramsay, didn't cook the scallops.  Her response?  Quite simply that Ramsay didn't know what he was talking about, that the scallops were fully cooked. 

Now, on the one side, we have Gordon Ramsay.  He is, almost unquestionably, pompous, arrogant, more than a little bit of a windbag, and, a great chef.  He said that the scallops were raw in the middle.

On the other side, we have Jen.  Jen is, almost unquestionably, pompous, arrogant, more than a little bit of a windbag, and, by what we've seen thus far, a mediocre chef.  She said that the scallops were cooked perfectly.  Jen also has working in her favor the fact that the show is more fun if Ramsay chastises the contestants on a regular basis.  She could argue (and it might be true), that he was unfairly harsh in order to maintain the look/feel of the show, which revolves around Ramsay yelling in order to please the audience.

That's a good argument in general, but we're at the point in the season where the chefs are supposed to have turned a corner, where they're supposed to have improved their cooking skills due to Ramsay brilliant tutelage.  Ramsay doesn't need to unnecessarily chastise the contestants anymore, and, as we saw during dinner service, meals are being sent back aplenty, which means that the chefs aren't doing a very good job.  Additionally, Jen, as we saw with forgetting the sauces, can't admit when she's done something wrong. 

There's absolutely no reason to think that she's not also wrong about the scallops.  If we'd seen her, at least once, take responsibility for her incompetence, I could accept that Ramsay was overdoing it.  As it stands though, with Jen undeservedly arrogant on a regular basis, I can't.

Ramsay wins.  Case closed.  Let's get her gone next week and move on.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some Made-For-TV Happiness

You know what I've rediscovered the past two nights? I know, you don't, so I'm going to tell you -- made-for-television movies and mini-series.

No, seriously.

Well, okay, you got me, not all made-for-TV stuff (most of those Sci-Fi Channel ones I could do without), but some of it is quite good. Sunday night, for instance, I watched Recount, HBO's retelling of the 2000 election debacle in Florida. Then last night I watched part one of The Andromeda Strain, A&E's update of the Crichton novel.

Recount, almost unquestionably, is the better one of the two, but as the subject matter is totally different I could see your disagreeing with me. Frankly though, in my mind, Recount is just better made. They're both undeniably fun, but Recount has far more substance to it. The problem with Recount though, and most people would say that it's actually a good thing, is that it makes you care about what happened in 2000 again.

I'm not going to get into a Republican vs. Democrat thing; both sides are made to look pretty poor in the film in my opinion. Republicans would argue that Baker is portrayed as a mean guy, more interested in swindling an election than allowing the people to have their say. Democrats would argue that Warren Christopher isn't the doddering old fool he's made out to be. They're probably both right, but, let's face it, this was only "based on a true story" and not actually a true story, so you have to give the writers and actors some leeway.

Looking beyond the partisan bits and pieces, the whole thing just made me angry. Is our nation really so bad off that we can't even manage a presidential election? How is it that someone can be in charge of certifying election results and help chair the campaign? Isn't that almost the definition of "conflict of interest?" So, give it to Recount for stirring up emotions eight years gone and convincing everyone (as if we didn't know already) that this election is an important one and that we should all go out and vote (if only HBO could make there be candidates we respect and agree with, too, they'd really have something).

As for The Andromeda Strain, well that's just pretty good popcorn TV, isn't it? I've always been a Crichton fan, and his books seem hard to adapt to film because they deal with the most up-to-date high-tech stuff around. If you wait a few years from book to film (in this case a few decades for the update) you end up needing to rewrite the whole thing. Crichton's such a good storyteller that the updates often pale in comparison. My only real quibble with last night's first part of the series is that there was no tension about the decision to drop and then not drop the tactical nuclear weapon. You knew something had to go wrong at the end of the mission because it was just too easy for Benjamin Bratt and company to call it off. There was no fear that they might not reach the pilot in time even though they only had 30 seconds for the stop order to go up, and then back down, the chain of command. Maybe they'll work out such tension-building in tonight's second half; we'll find out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Year, Another Baseball Mogul This Time, It's 2009

In my review last year for the stat-crunching baseball simulator Baseball Mogul 2008, I stated that the game provided a great experience for stat-heads and casual baseball game fan alike. Baseball Mogul 2009, which only sports a few tweaks from the 2008 version, is also a fun experience (as an update of an enjoyable game ought to be). There are some issues here and there, but most can be overlooked.

The myriad of stats that Baseball Mogul 2008 gave its users are still available here in 2009 but with a somewhat cleaner interface. It is easier to find the little bits and pieces true stat lovers want. Additionally, it easier for non-stat lovers to find the elements that interest them as well. Users can manage the overall and day-to-day operations of an incredible array of teams, from classic to modern to fictional. At its heart, the game is stat-based and contains dozens of stats for the players.

While stats are the game's bread and butter, it can't (and doesn't try to) compete with graphically intensive baseball simulators for the computer and console systems. That's why the game includes, as it did last year, the ability to play in-game by clicking various buttons to swing, bunt, pitch, substitute players, etc. None of it is done in real-time (pitches and swings are chosen prior to a play commencing), but it does add to the gameplay.

It is within this in-game experience that 2009 has made one of its more silly additions for this year: the "Base Running" screen. The game asks the user from time to time (not consistently and not always when it should) if the player wishes to try for an extra base. The times it doesn't ask and doesn't advance the runner are hugely frustrating. It is also silly and more than a little frustrating when the game asks the user if they want to try for an extra base when the fielder has the ball 72 feet from the runner's next base while possessing an arm rated at 93 (out of 100). Simply put, save for an error on the throw or catch, there is no way that the runner could ever be safe. To have the game ask the question is virtually equivalent to the game wondering if the user has some crazy desire to have their runner thrown out in order to either shave points or handicap themselves.

There are also just weird things that the AI chooses to do, from not resigning star players (instead letting them go to free agency), to its aforementioned desire to have the user give up outs for no reason. And yet, except for the most serious of stat-heads, most of these AI quirks are minor and easily overlooked.

Also easily overlooked, but not easily listened to, are the game's new sound effects, particularly the crowd noises, which sound a little like glorified static. While the cracks of the bat and audience noise are cute at first, they become old very quickly. Everything sounds almost identical and, as a stat-based game, there is little purpose in it unless the question is how many people in the crowd applauded the home run.

The biggest problem with the game is that if one has last year's version there is very little reason to upgrade to this year's version. The look is somewhat nicer, but that's about it.

One of my complaints last year was that the photos of players delivered with the game were ancient (Jason Giambi not wearing a Yankee uniform was my example). For a new version of the game, it is distressing that the same thing remains true. One can go to the forums and download pictures, but it's a cumbersome manual process and the pictures seem to be only semi-official. There simply is no reason why, if this year's version is only slightly updated from last year's, that such a fundamental element shouldn't have been changed.

For all its foibles, Baseball Mogul 2009 is still an enjoyable experience. It shows just why baseball is such a game for stat-lovers and makes those stats accessible to everyone. There are numerous different ways to play the game, with the computer having the ability to handle any aspect that the user feels either too mundane or too complex. Allowing the computer to take over some of the operations will never allow a team to reach the dizzying heights (or abysmal lows) that it could with the user in control, but it does make the game more accessible.

Baseball Mogul 2009 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB

3 stars out of 5

Friday, May 23, 2008

Is A New DVD Release a Second Life for First Knight?

The Arthurian legend, the story of Camelot, is one of the tales that has remained in our culture over the course of centuries.  It has been adapted to virtually every medium and in  varying degrees of success.

One of the more recent, high-profile adaptations is First Knight, directed by Jerry Zucker (Ghost) and originally released in 1995, the film has finally made its way to DVD in a "Special Edition." 

Rather than focusing on Arthur's rise to power and completely eliminating the magical element (no mention of Merlin is made), the film instead refashions the love triangle between Arthur (Sean Connery), Guinevere (Julia Ormond), and Lancelot (Richard Gere).

The movie opens with Camelot and the neighboring kingdoms being threatened by Malagant (Ben Cross), a former knight of Arthur's Round Table.  Guinevere, as the ruler of a land bordering Camelot's, is engaged to Arthur.  She is truly in love with him, but the marriage will also help protect her countrymen from Malagant's attacks.  Guinevere encounters Lancelot on her way to Camelot (he saves her from Malagant's men), and the romance soon blooms. 

The rest of the movie features Lancelot coming into his own as a knight, Guinevere struggling with her love for both men, and Arthur trying to protect his bride from the forces of evil.

The film contains enough battles, sword-fighting, and peril to keep the audience relatively amused, but the more drama-based aspects of the feature fall flat.  The love between Arthur and Guinevere feels very forced, and despite the movie's trying to explain how the young lady fell for the older man, it never quite seems believable.  Her love for Lancelot is more plausible, but Gere is never looks comfortable as Lancelot, which throws the love story off-kilter once more.  He seems terribly middle-aged to be such a wonderful, and yet unknown, swordsman at the start of the movie and does little to convince the audience that he is worthy of either Arthur's trust and friendship or Guinevere's love.

With Ormond as a wonderful Guinevere and Connery as a good older version of Arthur, the film is not entirely miscast.  Ormond's portrayal of a woman who is struggling to do right not only for herself but for her people, is one that many can relate too.  The fact that she repeatedly becomes little more than a damsel in distress is something that many may find objectionable.

For his part, Connery, as a former action star, looks and feels exactly right as a battle-weary leader.  He is sometimes less convincing as a man who is losing the love of his life, but his stately, somber, presence more than makes up for the shortcomings.

That being said, as a whole, First Knight seems uncomfortable in its own skin.  It never fully succeeds as a love story and while the fight scenes are enjoyable, there aren't enough of them to call it an action-adventure movie. 

The new "Special Edition" release of the film contains several behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary with Jerry Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry, as well as deleted/extended scenes.  While nominally interesting, there is nothing overly dramatic in any of the features, and the sound in some of the featurettes is horribly muffled.

In the final summation, First Knight has so many of the elements necessary to make a great movie - it has wonderful actors, a great story to tell, romance, and action.  However, much like the "green screen" scenes in the movie itself, it just feels fake and overdone.  The inauthentic look of the green screen work, like the dramatic scenes in the film, only serve to remove the audience from the piece rather than draw them in.  First Knight is certainly watchable, but those looking for an Arthur story can find far better.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Law & Order and Boston Legal End the Season on Good Notes

I really enjoy Boston Legal.  Last night, their season finale (and, just like with HIMYM, the show hadn't been renewed for next year when the episode was filmed) was just one of those episodes that shows you just how good the show is.

Denny went head to head with Alan in court over the request of Concord, Massachusetts to secede from the Union.  It was an emotional idea for Denny, and something that could have nearly ruined the two men's wonderful friendship 

Sure, the notion of the case was a little silly, so many of Boston Legal's cases are, but the Denny-Alan relationship is the show's heart and soul. The possibility of its loss, however unlikely, was distressing for both men. 

Of course, Concord didn't secede from the Union and Denny and Alan remained the best of friends, but the show's balancing act between foolish cases and people and very serious matters of life was handled perfectly.  The writers of the show seem more often than not to hit on the exact right mix of somberness and levity.  Plus, the final scene last night, with Alan and Denny going fishing and the offices at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt dark and empty was the perfect note to end the season or series on.  They'll be back next fall for 13 final episodes, but had they gone out forever with those final shots it would have been very appropriate.

The other show (that I watch) that ended its season last night also did it in fine fashion.  Jack McCoy is slowly getting drawn into the politics of his new position and it's happening so slowly, it's creeping into his character in such a wonderful way that it makes the show fantastic to watch.

Jack McCoy is one of those great television characters.  Law & Order, a show which doesn't focus on its characters as much as its stories, has managed to, over a very large number of years (he's been on the show since 1994) give us huge insight into who Jack McCoy is, both in private and public.

Out of all the characters that have come and gone on the series, losing Sam Waterston's McCoy would change things dramatically.  No, he wasn't there in the beginning, but I imagine he'll be there at the end (whenever that may be).   

It's really interesting to see how the series has altered its standard formula now that McCoy is the D.A. and not just an A.D.A.  The D.A. position used to just be a few minutes every episode, something short and sweet.  With McCoy in that job now, the role has been expanded, and it's been expanded without the feeling that the show has sacrificed anything to do it. 

Unlike Jerry Orbach or Jesse L. Martin or any of the other long term characters (and I did miss them all after their departures), losing Sam Waterston might be a blow that the series would not be able to recover from.  Hopefully, McCoy never puts out that "gone fishing" sign.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Looking to Cure the Summertime (TV) Blues

As the song goes, I'm blue da-ba-dee-da-ba-die. The May Sweep is pretty much over and done with, the traditional television season has come to an end, and outside of Lost, which ends next week, tonight marks the last night of traditional scripted programming for me for quite a while. It's all very distressing. Oh sure, I have tons of DVDs I can watch, and the shows I only watch when the full season is available on DVD will be available soon, but it's just not the same.

I have here, sitting on my desk, a screener of the Inspector Lewis series from Masterpiece Mystery! And I'm told that series five of Foyle's War is going to air this summer. This is what it's come to -- Mystery! on PBS and, eventually, some cable scripted fare. Now, I know that I love the cable scripted fare, and I know that Mystery! is pretty swell usually, but it's not quite normal television viewing and it distresses me.

Oh, there are good reasons for the end of scripted programming over the summer, mainly the lower HUT (houses using televisions) levels and the higher cost of scripted versus non-scripted programming, but that doesn't satiate my desire to watch television.

And, do you want to know what's worse than all of the above? I just ran out of old episodes of Top Gear. I've been TiVo-ing older episodes, letting them stack up, and last night I watched the last one that was sitting there waiting for me. Now I have to wait for next week for another dose of my favorite show.

Are you sick of hearing about Top Gear? If the answer is "yes," that's only because you haven't actually bothered to watch an episode of it.

But, I'm not going to focus on Top Gear today; sure, it's wonderful, fantastic, and a great deal of fun, but I'm still reeling from NBC not picking up the pilot for a US version. How is that possible? This is the network that butchered Coupling, one of the funniest comedies in a long time; they couldn't be bothered to give Top Gear a few episodes?

No. I'm not focusing on that series, it only deepens my funk. Instead, I will focus on the happy: new scripted stuff on USA, HBO's upcoming Recount, the new Andromeda Strain mini-series. I've seen none of these yet (though I do have In Plain Sight sitting next to Inspector Lewis), so I'm not advocating them, I'm just stating that they will be watched by me and eventually we will talk about them.

There is TV in the summer, and I will be watching it (and telling you all about it), but it's just not the same.

On the upside, we're only about three and a half months away from the start of the new television season. It'll be here before we know it, and what with the political conventions this summer, there will be some scripted drama on the networks between now and then.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Filming a HIMYM Series Finale Versus a Season Finale

Yearly, I am perplexed by the way the television industry works.  I don't know how to change it, but it doesn't seem right that many shows film their last episode of the season not knowing if it will be the season, or series, finale.  It seems like a bad way to operate.


Look at last night's How I Met Your Mother.  At the end of the episode, and yes, this is a spoiler, so if you haven't watched the episode you may want to stop reading, Ted asked Stella to marry him.  It was an ill-conceived, ill-advised, marriage proposal.  The man's been dating her 3 months and yet he knows that he wants to spend his life with her?  I don't think so.  He'd just had a near death experience and was regretting dumping her, so he proposed marriage.

 

Now, the series is all about how Ted meets the mother of his future children, and the show was "on the bubble" for next season when this episode was filmed.  The episode was meant to serve, if necessary, as a series finale, not just a season finale.  If it was a series finale, I think we are to understand that Stella is the mother of Ted's kids.  As a season finale… who knows.  She may be, she may not be. 

 

Doesn't that change things just a tad?  Doesn't that alter not just our perception of the show but the actuality of the show as well?  So, I just don't know.

 

Don't get me wrong, I still like the series, I think it's one of the best comedies on television, I just don't know how they're headed to their conclusion, and it most definitely is a show that needs a satisfying conclusion.  The entire premise of it is telling this story, and stories need good endings, there's nothing worse than sitting around for hours while some schmo tells a story and having it end poorly.  It's going to need a sense of closure, a sense of having been worthwhile, and I just don't know how they get there.  Great humor along the way, and the show has had great humor, isn't the same as a satisfying conclusion.    It just isn't.

 

Now, a show like American Gladiators can pretty much just end and have it make no difference.  Yes, it would be nice to know who wins this second tournament, but if NBC decided to pull the plug this week (and with the ratings who could blame them, it was #4 in its time period both in total viewers and adults 18-49), I don't think there would be a hue and cry that it didn't end well.

 

Don't get me wrong, I'd miss it, but there would be no hue and cry.  Okay, I might issue a small hue and cry about the fact that Crush wouldn't appear on my TV on a weekly basis, but that would be about it.  Ah, Crush.  Everyone's favorite gladiator, and mine more so. 

 

I hope she knows that Erin Medley and I have this internet radio show and she has a standing invitation to appear.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nova Gets up Close and Personal with the "Lord of the Ants"

For a reason that this writer has yet to deduce, Nova seems to have gotten hyper-specific this season.  Broad issues, while present in some episodes, have taken a backseat to vaguely interesting minutiae.  Even when there is a broad issue to be discussed, the series has opted to focus on the smaller bits and not tackle the larger, quite possibly more interesting, story.

Such, sadly, is again the case with their latest episode, "Lord of the Ants."  The episode tells the story of E.O. Wilson, who has spent the vast majority of his life studying ants.  Wilson, we are told, knows more about ants than anyone else on the entire planet.  He seems like a good humored man, and takes an interest in his work with enthusiasm rarely seen in a 78 year-old. 

Early in the episode, for semi-comic effect, Wilson allows himself to get stung by fire ants just to prove that he knew what was going to happen.  It's a moment that's quite telling in the episode.  Watching Wilson get stung by the ants, and do so with as much of a smile as anyone getting stung can muster, one can't help but feel some enthusiasm for the wonder that are ants.  Yet, for all that, it's just an older gentlemen destroying the top of an ant colony and then placing his hand on it for little reason.  They are, after all, just ants.

"Lord of the Ants" is quick to point out that Wilson has spent a large portion of his life trying to draw larger conclusions from his study of ants.  He is, we are informed by the likes of David Attenborough, a naturalist who has always had the incredible ability to not just focus on the small bits and pieces, but to look at the world as a whole as well. 

Unfortunately, the episode itself spends far too little time on this world view.  It was, we are told, Wilson who first put forth the idea of "biological determinism" in human beings.  That is, the notion that our genetic code helps make us who we are in ways outside of our physical appearance.  The notion is terribly scary to some as it has, at times, been used to fuel the eugenics movement, but has since gained more traction.  It is, essentially, at least in part, the "nature vs. nurture" debate. 

It's a fascinating question, and one that certainly is applicable to everyone in the world.  However, the episode doesn't mention it until nearly the midpoint and even then spends too little time on it, instead choosing to talk about termites and a natural equilibrium in number and size of animal groupings.  It is possible that Wilson has spent more time studying these latter things which is why the episode spends more time on them, but it just isn't as gripping.

One of the best elements of this episode is the voiceover narrative, which is provided by none other than Harrison Ford.  The words may be nothing terribly special, but the way he does have a wonderful way of speaking them that helps draw the viewer in to an otherwise bland episode.  Additionally, the timing of the premiere of this episode makes one wonder if it was purposely schedule to coincide with Mr. Ford's huge theatrical film release later this week.

Nova - "Lord of the Ants" airs Tuesday, May 20 at 8pm ET/PT, but check your listings anyway because, heck, you can.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fox Again Delivers More than one Schedule for Next Season

Okay, get this -- FOX has decided that there are just too many commercials on television. Or, so they sort of, almost, kind of say. At their Upfront presentation they announced that they would launch two series this year with half the number of network commercials. Half. They also said that these shows would not just have more promo time. And, while they didn't say it, I don't think that they meant that they'd just be giving the local affiliates the commercial time. I'm totally getting ahead of myself though, let's talk about their actual schedule - or schedules, fall and spring.

In the fall:

SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
7:00The OT
7:30
8:00The SimpsonsTerminator:
The Sarah
Connor Chronicles
HouseBonesThe Moment
of Truth
Are You
Smarter Than
a 5th Grader?
Cops
8:30King of the HillCops
9:00Family GuyPrison BreakFringe'Til DeathKitchen
Nightmares
Don't Forget
The Lyrics
America's Most
Wanted
9:30American DadDo Not Disturb


And, in the spring:

SunMonTuesWedThuFriSat
7:00Comedy
Repeats
7:30
8:00The
Simpsons
DollhouseAmerican
Idol
HouseHell's
Kitchen
BonesCops
8:30Sit Down,
Shut Up
Cops
9:00Family
Guy
24FringeIdol ResultsSecret
Millionaire
'Til DeathAmerica's Most
Wanted
9:30The Cleveland
Show
TBADo Not
Disturb


So, the new stuff. Well, in the fall there's not much. There's the new J.J. Abrams series, Fringe, which, from the preview, looks kind of like an update of The X-Files. And there's Do Not Disturb, a terribly unfunny looking (from the preview FOX showed during their presentation) comedy starring Jerry O'Connell. I like O'Connell; I have since before I knew who he was when I first saw Stand By Me, but the clip we saw was unamusing.

In the spring there's more new on the schedule, including two new animated series, The Cleveland Show, which is a spinoff of Family Guy; and Sit Down, Shut Up which reunites a bunch of folks from Arrested Development, teams them with a few other people, and has them play dysfunctional teachers. The series has live action backgrounds with animated characters on top, and looks like it could be amusing enough.

The spring also brings Dollhouse from creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku. The premise is that there are a bunch of youngish folks who have opted (allegedly) to have their memories wiped. They're then programmed to do different things like assassinate folks or serve as call girls. Of course, there are nefarious doings lurking below the surface.

Finally, sort of, there's Secret Millionaire. This seems to be a reality series version of the unfunny Mel Brooks' film, Life Stinks. It features wealthy people pretending to be poor, and finding someone to donate a tiny portion of their money too (unless of course the show gives them the money to donate in which case they're not spending a dime of their own).

You'll also notice that FOX has a hole in their schedule following the Idol results show. They promise that they're not going to expand that to an hour-long thing that much, and they actually have two different comedies they're thinking of slotting in that spot. But, as with everything they say, including the schedule itself, I'll believe it when I see it. It's all really more of a loose guideline than a hard and fast decree.

And that, as they say, is that.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CBS Delivers Its 2008 Fall Schedule

CBS is one of those networks whose moves I always find interesting. They've got a pretty strong lineup these days (even if I watch very little of it), and seem to "tweak" things every season, moving a few shows around, and doing their best to position new shows. Perhaps it's interesting because it seems kind of old school.

Got a new comedy? Put it after your strongest one. Got another comedy that has performed well behind your strongest comedy? Use it to launch a different night of programming and another comedy. Position new dramas between strong performers. It's all very simple and explainable. I like that.

Anyway, here's how the fall schedule looks:


Sun MonTueWedThuFriSat
7:0060
Minutes
7:30
8:00The
Amazing
Race
The Big
Bang Theory
NCISThe New Adventures
of Old Christine
SurvivorGhost
Whisperer
Drama
Repeats
8:30How I Met
Your Mother
Project Gary
9:00Cold
Case
Two and a
Half Men
The
Mentalist
Criminal
Minds
CSIThe Ex
List
9:30Worst
Week
10:00The
Unit
CSI: MiamiWithout
a Trace
CSI: NYEleventh
Hour
Numb3rs48 Hours:
Mystery
10:30

So, there are going to be five new shows on the fall schedule, two comedies and three dramas. No new reality shows? Wow, who would have thought such a thing would occur in this day and age? Go, CBS. I hope the strategy works.

The first new comedy is Worst Week, which has a poor fellow played by Kyle Bornheimer trying to impress his in-laws. Sadly, whenever he's at their house, there's always some sort of problem. I think we've all been there. I think we all know what that's about. Plus, it airs between Two and a Half Men and CSI: Miami.

The other new comedy is Project Gary and has Jay Mohr as the lead. Gary (Mohr) is a divorced guy with two kids, a new girlfriend, and an ex-wife. His life is complicated. And funny… one hopes. It doesn't sound like a terribly different idea, but sometimes the old ideas are the best.

Drama-wise, CBS is launching The Mentalist with Simon Baker, Eleventh Hour with Rufus Sewell (based on the British miniseries, that one), and The Ex List with Elizabeth Reaser.

The Mentalist is a detective show where Baker has a wonderful sense of observation (sounds kind of like Monk, but probably without the phobias). Now, Eleventh Hour I'd say sounded more new and different and off the beaten path, what with Sewell's character investigating scientific anomalies and debunking fakes, but it's based on a British miniseries and every other drama launched in the past few years has been sci-fi/paranormal/fantasy weirdness.

Keeping with the pseudo-paranormal stuff, The Ex List has its main character, a woman in her 30s, learn from a psychic that a man she has already dated is her soul mate. Naturally she goes through the list of exes (or, the ex list, if you prefer) to find the lucky guy.

So, Cane is gone, Moonlight is gone, and a couple of other shows, too. The most important thing to remember, though, is that How I Met Your Mother is coming back. Go HIMYM!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The CW Delivers Its Fall 2008 Lineup

Oh The CW, whatever are we going to do with you. Your teen identity seems not to attract terribly many viewers (though I'm sure there's some way to rejigger the numbers to prove me wrong) and you've been unable to fully program six nights of the week despite using Friday Night Smackdown to cover a whole evening. And now? Now, you've lost the Smackdown.

Your solution? You're selling Sunday nights to Media Rights Capital who will do everything that night from making shows to selling the time. Pretty much you're going back to a much older methodology of programming in primetime, which is actually still what some networks do on Saturday mornings these days. I guess it makes things better for you as you can include the Sunday nights in your ratings if their good and ignore them if their not.

As for the other five nights, they look something like this:



MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
8:00Gossip Girl90210America's Next
Top Model
SmallvilleEverybody Hates Chris
8:30The Game
9:00One Tree HillSurviving the Filthy RichStylistaSupernaturalAmerica's Next
Top Model (Encore)
9:30


I actually like notion of this new Tuesday night at 8 show. Or, is it an old Tuesday night at 8 show? It's got 90210 in the name and Jennie Garth in the cast. It's like the '90s all over again. Actually, that's exactly what it is, an update of Beverly Hills 90210, with Jennie Garth's Kelly Taylor returning to her old school as a guidance counselor (quite possibly the one she lacked back in the day). It also stars Lori Loughlin, and who doesn't like Lori. Now, I didn't watch the original, but I don't think that matters greatly as much of your audience wasn't even alive when the show was on (god I feel old).

As for the other new things on your schedule, there's Surviving the Filthy Rich, that has a very nice, very small Yale-educated woman become the live-in tutor for the twin granddaughters of a cosmetic company founder. Until The CW came around I had no idea that there were so many ways to do petulant, rich, obnoxious teenager shows. My eyes have been opened.

The last new show for the fall is Stylista, a reality show where the contestants are fighting for an editorial position at Elle. The Creative Director of the magazine, Joe Zee, and their Fashion News Director, Anne Slowey, eliminate one contestant every week until only the winner remains. To me, that sounds like The Apprentice, except the winner goes to work for a fashion mag. instead of Trump.

For the three of you out there who still watch, Reaper will return as a midseason replacement. Or, at the very least, a bunch of episodes have been ordered.

Above I joked around about The CW's selling off Sunday night as a whole. I don't think they're doing it from a position of strength, but it still could work out really well for them. They get a full night of programming and are guaranteed money no matter the ratings. It'll be very interesting to see if the plan works.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ABC Is Upfront About the 2008 Schedule

There's an old adage that states "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." ABC's programming honchos have certainly taken that notion to heart in debuting their brand-spanking new schedule, which, while new as a whole, has very few new programs in it. Seriously, very, very few.

While I appreciate that ABC made my job really easy today in redoing the schedule, I might have been slightly more aggressive. They're only throwing two new shows onto the fall schedule with two and a half more waiting in the wings.

Here, check out the fall schedule:


SunMonTuesWedThursFriSat
7:00America's Funniest
Home Videos
7:30
8:00Extreme Makeover:
Home Edition
Dancing with
the Stars
Opportunity
Knocks
Pushing
Daisies
Ugly BettyWife SwapCollege
Football
8:30
9:00Desperate
Housewives
DWTS:
Results Show
Private
Practice
Grey's
Anatomy
Super-
nanny
9:30Samantha Who?
10:00Brothers &
Sisters
Boston LegalEli StoneDirty Sexy MoneyLife on Mars20/20
10:30

As you can see (it's bolded), the new stuff in the fall is Opportunity Knocks and Life on Mars. Opportunity Knocks is a reality show wherein the show comes to the contestants rather than vice versa. Apparently in the show, a semi-truck pulls up to people's houses, the host pops out, knocks on the door, and the homeowner (or renter) gets to compete for fabulous prizes. The press release states that the host, J.D. Roth, asks questions to the family based on their lives and the articles found in their house.

As for Life on Mars, that's being executive produced by David E. Kelley and is based on the British show of the same name. In the series a cop from the present day is transported back to the 1970s. Is he crazy? Is he in a coma? He does his whole cop thing in 1973 and, I assume, is good at it. It stars Jason O'Mara and, if it's as good as the British version could be a nice addition to the schedule.

Mid-season replacements for ABC include a comedy Life is Goode which revolves around a family that does good things; it's animated and from Mike Judge. There's also an untitled reality show from Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher which is some sort of beauty pageant, and… wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… Scrubs.

Yes, you knew it and I knew it, NBC knew it (and that's why they aired the "finale" out of order), and ABC announced it. They're bringing Scrubs over to their network. I still don't quite understand, but I'm happy to have a show I enjoy regularly air for another season.

And that, as they say, is that. ABC has made changes on four nights and most of those involve time/day changes rather than new shows. Will their ratings go up? Only time (and Nielsen) will tell.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nova Takes "A Walk to Beautiful"

It is a sad, unfortunate, truth that just because a documentary deals with an important topic it doesn't mean the documentary is particularly well constructed or presented in a terribly interesting way. A good example of this is the newest Nova episode, "A Walk to Beautiful."

The episode is actually a shortened version of an award-winning, feature length documentary. Yet, without even knowing that this is approximately 30 minutes shorter than the full-length version of the documentary, one can sense that there are bits and pieces missing.

"A Walk to Beautiful" eschews the standard Nova-style narration, and while not all documentaries need a "voice of god" narrator, this one certainly could use some more direction than it has. The documentary begins by plopping the viewer down in a village in Ethiopia, miles from the nearest road, where a woman, Ayehu, explains that she has ended up with a medical problem after giving birth to a stillborn child. As she explains, liquid now runs out of her uncontrollably. She has been ostracized by her husband, family, and village due to the problem. She's even been forced to live in a straw hut of her own creation attached to the back of her family's home.

A medically trained person will be well aware that what the woman has is a fistula. A person familiar with Ethiopian culture would know that these sorts of fistulas are apparently prevalent in Ethiopia due to the lack of food and the fact that women marry and then bear children young. They might also know that the straw hut we see is attached to a slightly larger hut that appears to be made of clay and wood (at least from the oblique angles we see of it). Plus, they might be able to identify where one hut ends and the other begins without a nice establishing shot.

However, anyone watching the documentary who doesn't know these things beforehand will be playing catch-up for the next 15 or 20 minutes. And that is problematic.

The episode goes on to show how Ayehu and many like her make their way to Addis Ababa to be treated at a hospital that specializes in fistula repair. The full-length documentary goes into the lives of five different women at the hospital, but the shortened Nova version only discusses three. The point, however, is made. The people at the hospital do good things for a terribly underserved segment of the population. They can't treat enough people, but they do their best to help the women, not just with their medical problems, but with the social ones they face as well.

The documentary does not discuss whether anything is being done to stop the problem before it starts, or whether an effort to educate people as to the cause of the fistulas and thereby prevent the ostracization of victims is taking place. It's an important and relevant question and while not directly asked by the documentary is certainly raised by what is discussed.

Nova's "A Walk to Beautiful" is a piece that opens one's eyes to a serious issue. It is at times distressing and at others heartwarming. However, nearly a third of the piece passes by before the issue becomes clear enough. Not all documentaries need a narrator or an introduction before they truly get going. This one, however, does.

Nova – "A Walk to Beautiful" airs Tuesday, May 13 at 8pm, but check your local listings anyway.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Classic Caballeros Come to DVD

At times education cloaked in entertainment and at other moments entertainment cloaked in education, the recently released double feature of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros in a single collection entitled The Classic Caballeros Collection are wonderfully fun films. Both are a mixture of live action and animation and explore, at least superficially, some Central and South American cultures.

Originally released in 1942, Saludos Amigos is the older, shorter, and less traditional piece. It follows, in live action, a group of Disney animators as they visit Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. In each locale the animators see bits and pieces of local culture, produce drawings of what they've seen, and then a short animated piece follows which builds upon the drawings and cultural elements. Both Donald and Goofy make appearances in the piece as well as a little plane named Pedro and it marks the first appearance of José Carioca.

While young ones who find Cinderella and more conventional Disney tales amusing may become bored by Saludos Amigos, for a slightly older crowd it is a fascinating look at part of the animation process. The actual moments in the film that are animated will certainly entertain younger audiences, but not enough of the piece is animated to keep them entertained. As a bonus feature, the DVD even includes a more complete documentary look at Disney and his animators' trip to South America.

For its part, The Three Caballeros was a follow-up to Saludos Amigos and released into theatres two years following that feature. Caballeros is more entertainment-based than it's predecessor and consequently more kid-friendly as well. The piece is made up of numerous different animated segments which start with Donald being sent a movie about the South Pole and South America. Throughout Caballeros, Donald learns different things about South America, both true and less than true.

José Carioca makes another appearance in the film, as does Panchito Pistoles. Carioca, Panchito, and Donald make up the titular caballeros, and it is Panchito who shows Carioca and Donald around Mexico when the film ventures that far north. Donald, Carioca, and Panchito spend a little more time observing live-action women in the film than they probably would in a present-day animated feature, but nothing is overly salacious. Other tales in the film include one of a penguin who wishes to venture to warmer climes and a little gaucho who finds a winged burro.

Outside of the aforementioned documentary, other special features on the DVD release include two short animated features, "Don Donald" and "Contrary Condor," as well as excerpts from a CBC interview with Walt Disney. They are all interesting, but certainly geared towards different audiences.

The two films that make up The Classic Caballeros Collection are both, in their own way, hugely entertaining, but the animation and storytelling never quite reach the heights that some of the more canonical classic Disney works obtain. However, as they are somewhat different in their execution from those pieces, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros may prove more interesting.

Friday, May 09, 2008

NBC and Scrubs Show how not to air a Finale

As happy as I was yesterday, with television, today I am disappointed (and so it usually goes). Last night I watched the Scrubs finale, and not only did either my cable company (Comcast) or NBC affiliate (KNTV, which is owned and operated by NBC Universal) screw up and cut the audio for the final 15 minutes of the show (go closed captioning!), but it was clearly aired out of order. Seriously.

I guess they thought they were going out with the best episode that they were going to get following the writers' strike, but it chronologically had to come before last week's episode and the one that aired the week before that. Last night, after retiring two weeks ago, Kelso was back in charge of the hospital. No explanation was given, he was just there and in charge. I can't imagine that Bill Lawrence and the rest of the producers decided that they would just reinstall the retired man for the finale, I have to believe instead that this episode was supposed to appear at some other point (maybe there is an unaired one where Kelso returns to the hospital, but I doubt that).

Great. Way to go NBC. I completely understand your reasons for deciding not to give the show a huge promotional effort if it's just going to flip to another network. That makes sense to me and is, I think, a smart, shrewd business decision. I do not understand, nor approve of, your desire to air this episode as a finale when, quite clearly, it wasn't supposed to air when it did. It either had to air earlier than it did or later (after a triumphant return to Chief of Medicine by Kelso).

I know that television is a numbers game and that therefore you guys must have decided that to finish with a Princess Bride-like fantasy episode during the May Sweep would generate a good return, but I don't approve. Shouldn't you have shown at least a little bit of respect for the audience that watched the show for seven seasons? You weren't giving the show a big send-off anyway, so it's not like you could have been, logically speaking, expecting a huge tune-in; you were really only going to get the devoted fanbase and a few lookie-loos. I know that the devoted fanbase has shrunk over the years, but why go and alienate and upset them? Is that really the logical choice? Are the numbers you're getting as a network so fantastically outrageous that you can afford to upset people that tuned in week after week, year after year, to your network? No… that can't be it, aren't your numbers down year-to-year?

So, I just don't get it. NBC didn't promo the show heavily, so they couldn't have been expecting huge viewership levels, but they aired as the season finale what they must have perceived as a stronger episode out of order, upsetting the only people watching the show. What sense does that make?

I'm not heavily invested enough in the show's continuity to have been distressed by the out of order airing, I just don't understand the logic behind it. And that I find supremely frustrating.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Watching More TV Than you can Shake a Stick at

I have often told you that I love television. It's a fact. I do. And I love you, my dear readers.

So, as you may know, last week I was away, I was out of town, I was … without television. Yes, sad, but true nonetheless.

Now, despite the fact that for various and sundry reasons the amount of television I watch has been cut, I was way, way behind when I returned from my trip. Well, yesterday I made up for it. In an effort to be up to date, in an effort to be more informed, in an effort to be better able to address you, the reader, I watched a ton of television yesterday, and I don't use that term lightly.

What, you so eloquently ask, did I watch? Well, I'll tell you. I watched: Boston Legal, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, The Simpsons, My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and two episodes each of: The Sarah Jane Adventures, Law & Order, and Last Restaurant Standing. It was a solid afternoon (and some of the evening) of television viewing. Frankly, it was practically an ideal day.

Okay, I can admit that The Sarah Jane Adventures isn't quite as much fun as I'd like, that Last Restaurant Standing ventured a little into Kitchen Nightmares territory this week, and that I think Doctor Who is a tad too jokey this season, but it was still a good day.

The preceding observations are the exact sort of things I complain about if I watch just a little television over the course of a day. But, when I watch more than "just a little" TV, like I did yesterday, something grander appears. When I sit down and watch a good 10 or 11 hours of television over the course of a day (before you take out time for commercials), I see things in a whole new light.

When I watch that much television in the course of a day, the little quibbles become insignificant, I have the knowledge that there's always a next show, that there's always a little bit more out there to be watched, that if one episode of Law & Order didn't quite have the twist I wanted, the next one might. It's easier to forgive bad episodes of a show when you know that there's another new episode right behind the one you're watching.

I guess what I'm saying is that when I watch as much television as I did yesterday, I take solace in the fact that there are always more stories out there to be told.

For all the complaining I do about TV on a regular basis, there is something wonderful to the medium. Its ability to send us into a multitude of worlds with the push of a button, and to do so one right after the other, is something no other medium can match with the same rapidity of television. It is too bad if some of the worlds we visit are only half as well thought ought as we'd like them to be, but, when I watch enough TV I see the world that is half thought out instead of the half that's missing.

If only I could suck down that much TV on a daily basis.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Corey, Nuke LaLoosh, and Hell's Kitchen

There are times when I watch a television show and after it ends I just sit there in amazement and wonder. And not in a good way.

Look at last night's Hell's Kitchen. I understand, and have said before (and I'm sure will say again), that reality shows are highly edited. They are. It's the truth. Things can be cut in any number of ways. Good people can be made to look bad and bad people good. Incompetent people can appear like geniuses and vice versa. That's the power of editing. That being said, it appears as though Hell's Kitchen this year is saddled with a bunch of incompetent chefs. We're almost halfway through the season and only Ben and Bobby (Rock Jr., as I like to think of him) seem as though they might be pseudo-acceptable winners. But, even if they win I wouldn't want to eat in their restaurant.

On the women's side, some of them have this odd strategy of trying to seduce the guys in order to make them easy targets. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that and I just can't understand what the logic behind it is. Last night, Corey tried to seduce Louross. Louross clearly found Corey attractive, but wasn't ready to jump in the hot tub in his skivvies with her. Corey then balked in her one-on-one with the camera, saying that nothing would have happened, she has a boyfriend.

But, let us suppose for a minute that something might have happened, that there's a world in which Corey's self-proclaimed attempt at seducing Louross resulted in hanky-panky. Why would, following the hanky-panky, Louross, who is on a different team than Corey, be more ripe for elimination? Was Corey's notion that Louross would torpedo his team because Corey batted her eyelashes? Does Corey believe in the Nuke LaLoosh theory of cooking, which would state that Louross would lose his winning ways (not that his team has won many services) if he and Corey hooked up?

Not only is using your body a despicable, though well-used, tactic on reality television, here it wouldn't even help. I can't imagine that Louross contemplating what Corey looks like without clothes on would affect his work. I can't imagine Louross's semi-desire to have a fling with her would make him think it worth losing a restaurant. It just doesn't make sense.

Or, does it? Is Corey way more intelligent than I'm giving her credit for being? Is Corey smart enough to know that stripping down into her underwear and attempting to seduce Louross, whether successful or not, is a sure way to guarantee more screen time? Is Corey using her body in an attempt to get on camera more? That makes sense. You see, that works, there's no way the producers of Hell's Kitchen can pass on an attempted hook up and Corey instigating it gets her more face time. Corey could be that smart. She definitely could be. It doesn't make me want to eat in a restaurant that has her as the head chef more, but she could be that smart.

Who knows, maybe after the season ends Playboy will come calling.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sarah Chalke, HIMYM, and Scrubs

Last night Sarah Chalke guest starred again on How I Met Your Mother, and it got me thinking, what if Scrubs wasn't going to be picked up by ABC for the fall?

As this season began, Scrubs was, for all intents and purposes, headed into its final year.  Then, the writers' strike happened and the number of episodes produced of the show for this year got cut drastically.  Apparently, the producers may have felt that they needed the full amount of episodes in order to end correctly though and the show is produced by an arm of ABC.  In a fit of serendipity and vertically integrated corporateness, the show is all but assured of a slot on ABC next fall.  Will this new season now be the last season?  Who knows, what I'm more concerned with today is what that means for How I Met Your Mother.

You see, Sarah Chalke, a star of Scrubs, had been cast in a multi-episode arc as the new girlfriend of Ted (the main character on HIMYM).  The entire premise of HIMYM is that Ted is telling the story to his kids of how he met their mother (hence the title).  This season of the show followed up on the ending of Ted's relationship with Robin, who is not Ted's kids' mother.    So, ostensibly, the show was on the right track to actually inform us about how Ted met the future mother of his children this season. 

Now, Ted has a new, possibly long-term girlfriend, Stella (Sarah Chalke) and, at the time this was all in the planning stages, people may have thought that Chalke's schedule would be more open for next season than it now appears to be.  So, that leads me to wonder - was Stella at one time the intended mother of Ted's children?  If she was, now that Chalke seems to be busy next year, has that changed? 

Of course, this is all purely theoretical as HIMYM hasn't yet been renewed for next season (seriously, CBS, we need to talk about this, you don't have a funnier show on your schedule and while the ratings aren't stellar, they're not bad).  But, just because it's theoretical doesn't mean that it isn't something that has been bothering me for a goodly long time. 

These are the questions that keep me up at night, these are the questions I feel compelled to ask, these are the questions I never really get answers for. 

I guess we can't have everything.