EW's editor-at-large marvels at how good season 4 got after he tuned out. Plus: the returns of ''Gilmore Girls'' (already?), ''Studio 60,'' Tom Selleck, and ''Virgin''
Catching up with ”The O.C.”
1. Better Than I Thought: The O.C. Season 4
(Warner Bros. DVD)
I admit it — I tuned away from the final season early on, right after Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) entered that wussily staged cage match. Now I see what I missed: the rise of Autumn Reeser’s Taylor as a fine, funny love interest for Ryan, lots of good jokes from a clearly-too-old-yet-still-game Seth (Adam Brody), and a succession of terrific subplots and scenes for his underrated parents (Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan). I publicly apologize to creator Josh Schwartz, whose final-episode commentary is a model of revelation and good-naturedness.
2. Gilmore Girls live!…on ABC Family
(5 p.m. daily)
Perfect timing: ABC Family is in the midst of running the series’ first season so we can wallow in sorrow and pleasure — at the show’s demise, and in the glory of these Amy Sherman-Palladino-helmed episodes. I just caught one where Lauren Graham’s Lorelai is watching Double Indemnity with her mother (the peerless Kelly Bishop). Lorelai tells her nettlesome mom that she has a throaty voice like Barbara Stanwyck, and pays her a Lorelai-style compliment: ”You could have gotten Fred MacMurray to off Dad.” Mom looks faintly shocked. Ah, good times…
3. A better Tom Selleck detective series than Magnum, P.I.? Try Jesse Stone: Sea Change
(CBS, May 22, 9 p.m.)
Hey, I like the old show that brought Tom Selleck fame as much as the next nostalgist. But I’m really liking these TV-movie adaptations of Robert B. Parker’s mystery novels, starring Selleck — goateed, a little thicker around the middle, but who among us isn’t? — as small-town Massachusetts sheriff Jesse Stone. In this fourth outing, Stone is still drinking too much, still too lonely, but he’s got Kathy Baker in fine, astringent form, helping him solve a cold case of murder. Guest stars Rebecca Pidgeon, William Devane, and an affably daffy Sean Young (why doesn’t she work more often?) provide solid support, but it’s Selleck as Stone — moody, wily, quietly sarcastic — that holds the story together. Two earlier Stone mysteries are just out on DVD and I recommend them all.
4. Dirty is funny on The 40 Year-Old Virgin Unrated
At this urgent time in our nation’s pop culture, when we seem to have lost all sense of what’s ”right,” what’s ”wrong,” what’s ”funny,” and what’s ”offensive,” I feel compelled to give a ringing endorsement to the assiduously foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, hilarious 40-Year-Old Virgin, now released as a two-disc DVD that offers such fine extras as Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen improvising for a full five minutes about, um, sexual preference. Then there’s ”My Dinner with Stormy,” a brief interlude between Rogen and a porn star that leaves even Rogen looking abashed. Plus, remember: the actual movie — all praise to Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, and director Judd Apatow — is very good.
5. The not-really-triumphant return of the still-weirdly-fascinating Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
(NBC, May 24, 10 p.m.)
Like so many of its few viewers, I have watched every episode of this now-cancelled series, which returns after a three-month ratings-induced yanking. As whiny, self-congratulatory, and predictable as nearly every storyline has been, it’s a unique experience to witness such a good writer (Aaron Sorkin) and such likable actors (Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, and we’ll agree to disagree on Sarah Paulson) execute a deeply flawed concept with such vigor, discipline, and warmth. No kidding: tune in.