TV Watch: 22 Highlights from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2010
American Idol recap: Twelve for the Road!
As auditions come to a close, the show puts the emphasis on (le gasp!) talented singers — showing 12 successful auditions in an hour!
Indeed, I'd have fallen for Didi's unique instrument — reminiscent of season 8's Megan Joy, only with added poise and better phrasing — even/especially if she'd never mentioned her personal tragedy. After all, three of last year's top four contestants — Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, and Allison Iraheta — revealed relatively little about themselves personally during the course of their Idol runs, but that absence of pre-roll didn't make fans any less passionate about 'em, right? Likewise, wouldn't Didi's deep well of feeling have been better conveyed through her vocals, and in those post-performance tears, than by having it spelled out in big, block letters? It's like that old adage about good fiction writing: ''Show, don't tell.'' And while I'd have preferred Didi not take the bait and spill the beans and all those other clichés that left me wondering if it's ever appropriate to bring up the death of a friend or relative the first time you step in front of one of Idol's cameras, I'm still rooting for her to make Simon choke on the ''very small yes'' he gave her. Yep, Didi appears to be that good. —Michael Slezak
Modern Family recap: The Low Two
Between Haley's hilarious break-up and make-up with Dylan (and his moronic accidental tribute to Say Anything with an iPhone), to Claire's jealousy of an ex-coworker (guest-star Minnie Driver who was pretty witty in her own right with her bragging about her many lovers and exclamation that she was head of Europe), to Luke's shirtless ''booze binge'' (and don't even get me started on Phil's faux mustache or getting trapped in a Porta-Potty), the Dunphys certainly did put the capital D in dysfunction, and I mean that in the best possible way. Speaking of ''Phil the Thrill,'' every week we seem to learn something new and fantastic about him that makes me love him even more. Last episode we found out he was a male cheerleader (of course!), and this week, we discovered he had his own radio show in college titled ''Daybreak with Dunphy.'' Priceless. —Lesley Savage
Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks' Grammys duet: Out of sight, or out of tune?
The last thing I want to do is ruin another awards ceremony for Taylor Swift. But there?s no doubt that someone was badly off-key during the version of Fleetwood Mac's ''Rhiannon'' that the country superstar just performed with Stevie Nicks at the Grammy Awards. And I'm afraid my money's on Taylor. Moreover, I'm not the only person at the Music Mix who cringed at the sight of Stevie acting as Taylor's backing singer on ''You Belong To Me.'' As one of my colleagues just emailed me: ''Stevie Nicks is the 'Gold Dust Woman,' goddammit!'' —Clark Collis
Lost recap: What's Your Worldview?
The season 6 premiere addresses both reboot enthusiasts and opponents, and even has a few answers
The two-hour season premiere of Lost, with its dual tracks of parallel world yarns, was a twin-patty, double-pounder factory burger of story, slathered with saucy ideas, drippy with messy emotions, and chewy with mystery meat. It was a delicious meal for this ravenous eight months-starved Lost fan, and while it wasn't easy to digest (check that: I'm still digesting it), I felt properly served. Where to start? .... Maybe I should curb the geek stuff and dote on the rich emotional content and the plethora of poignant character moments — Sawyer's grief and rage over Juliet's death, Locke's shame and pain about his wheelchair, Rose and Bernard's gooey canoodling. (If it wasn't for a certain hobbity rocker hogging the airplane craphole with his dope-swallowing suicide attempt, I think the Mile High Club would have two new members today.) Then again, how could I not start by shouting HOLY FREAKING MOLY! over the revelation/confirmation that Fake John Locke = Man In Black = The Smoke Monster?!? ''I'm sorry you had to see me like that'' = greatest Lost line ever? And good lord, how satanically scary was Terry O'Quinn with those furious eyes and disquietingly ironic grins? Finally, I can relate with dastardly Benjamin Linus: I was totally bug-eyed terrified by that man/thing/demon/whatever. But let's not resort to name-calling.... —Jeff Jensen
Friday Night Lights recap: 'Laboring' to reach the end of a great season
Michael B. Jordan really took command of the hour, playing out Vince's agony over his friend's death and his divided loyalties to the code of the streets where he lives (pressure to help kill Calvin's murderer), his team, and his rehabbing mother. Jordan is very subtle. Vince usually maintains a blank mask, as is frequently the case for a young person subjected to the kind of emotional abuse Vince has endured on any number of levels. Yet Jordan allows us to see behind the mask at crucial moments, conveying all the pain, anger, and intelligence that's knocking around inside Vince. I like the way the writers continue to bring Jess back into Vince's life during his moments of greatest need without feeling that their shared past has to be spelled out to us. —Ken Tucker
American Idol recap: Skin Show!
A 'stripper,' a bikini-clad dude, and a dermatological revelation prove that naked ambition is alive and well in Denver
My favorite of the bunch — despite the fact that she's clearly a contender for the Von Smith Shouty McShouterson Memorial Trophy — was karaoke hostess Danelle Hayes, she of the giant crescent earrings, the jazzy silver necklace, and surprisingly chic headkerchief-and-gray-tank ensemble. There may not have been anything subtle about her take on ''I'm the Only One'' — then again, Melissa Etheridge's original isn't exactly a study in restraint — but there was the kind of bruised and broke-down passion to Danelle's full-throttle performance that had Kara correctly calling it the day's ''most moving audition.'' Better still, Danelle's gruff, muscular instrument sounded like a mashup between two highly underrated divas, Toni Childs and Anastacia.—Michael Slezak
Cougar Town recap: You even pick up balls sexy
My absolute favorite moment of the tennis situation was when Jules ripped off her track pants in slow motion as if she were an NBA (No Boys Allowed) star, but the orgasmic sound effects accompanying her tennis swings were a close second. ''Did you really just say ?Oh, God'? asked Ellie before exiting in a huff, Jon Hamm-in-30 Rock-style. Should Jules have backed off Ellie's fake boyfriend? —Annie Barrett
The Biggest Loser recap: There's a Time for Everything
Four contestants get a chance to make it back to the ranch and another has an attitude about-face
Our host informed the contestants that they have been on the ranch for exactly one month. This, of course, meant: (1) Daris' hair has officially become more reminiscent of Sideshow Bob than Sideshow Cecil, and (2) The blue and yellow teams would be returning to the ranch to find out whether or not their at-home weight loss qualifies them to remain in the competition.
And boy, did both the teams look good! I honestly had no idea which team had the upper hand, since Vicky and O'Neal looked visibly smaller since we last saw them on the ranch. Plus, they would get the opportunity to shrink themselves even further: Vicky, Cherita, Sunshine, and O'Neal were surprised to discover that they would participate in a last-chance workout before their weigh-ins. And Jillian and Bob wanted to make sure they knew exactly what they were up to; our two trainers yelled ''Last-chance workout!'' about as many times as Flavor Flav shouts his own name in the course of one day. Have these two copyrighted the phrase? Do they get five cents every time it's uttered on national television? Really, Jill and Bob should start to think about replacing the phrase with repetitions of the Quadratic Formula or something. That way, our contestants get smaller and smarter. —Kate Ward
The Michael Vick Project recap: Do you feel bad for him yet?
The first 30 minutes of the ten-part (!!) series laid a foundation of sympathy so thick it was hard to resist getting pulled in to the story of Vick's rough childhood in Newport News, Va. and his subsequent rise to football fame. But when it came time for the former Falcon to discuss the organization and operation of the dog fighting ring that landed him in jail for almost two years, he actually did little talking. Too little for my liking. —Sandra Gonzalez
The Bachelor recap: The Virgin Suicide
Corrie gets a ride in the Reject Limo after she makes the mistake of telling Jake she's saving herself for marriage. Meanwhile, the Ali vs. Vienna battle rages on.
Jake, because he is truly terrible at dividing his attention between more than one person at a time (he must throw the world's worst dinner parties), almost literally turns his back on Gia to listen to Vienna's sob story. ''I'm trying to spread my attention between both girls,'' he insists to the camera later. ''It was very, very awkward.'' Finally, he cuts Vienna off and tells her he's going to spend some alone time with Gia. ''You can eat my salmon,'' Ms. Third Wheel tells Vienna with a triumphant smirk. Hmmm...I think ''You can eat my salmon'' could rival ''I drink your milkshake'' for best food-based taunt, don't you?—Kristen Baldwin
Desperate Housewives recap: Getting In Sync
The guest stars come out as Susan takes on a charity case, Bree tries to give Orson a reason to live, and Tom and Lynette turn on their therapist
But let's back up to the episode's real emotional heart. I have to say, I was concerned about how they would handle Orson's decision to take his own life. It is DH after all, so they'd have to make with the funny. (''It's really more of a suicide rough draft,'' — Orson when Bree found his note on the computer./''Being bored to death wasn't how I was planning to go but... we can try it your way,'' — Orson when Bree forbid him to kill himself and threatened to stay with him 24/7.) But as much of a whiney pain in the butt that Orson's been, his depression over his paralysis and his desire to kill himself did need a bit of a soft touch. Leave it to Marcia Cross to strike the right balance between being the control freak with guilt issues that Bree is, and the woman who remembers that she once loved Orson and wants to share that love with him again. —Abby West
RuPaul's Drag Race premiere recap: Should Mystique Summers Madison have sashayed away instead?
'''I'm back!'' screeched RuPaul at the top of the 9 o'clock hour last night, announcing that, yes ladies, another season of RuPaul's Drag Race — Logo's ridiculously addictive search for America's Next Drag Superstar — had begun. And back it certainly was, fiercer than ever. More contestants, a brighter (although is that a good thing in a drag situation?) workroom, and crazier challenges! Or as Ru put it during her first She Mail delivery: This season is set to have ''more twists and turns than Kim Kardashian trying to wiggle out of a pair of Spanx.''—Tanner Stransky
24 recap: Don't do him, Renee! Wait... you already did?
I remain hugely conflicted about this character's journey, especially since my cynical side had me thinking that Fox once saw her as the future of the 24 franchise. Call her a veritable Jackie Bauer! But since there's no replacing the Kief, she's now devolved into a caricature of an anti-hero that I don't like nor am I particularly eager to root for. We know now that Jack was wise to worry about sending Renee back to Vlad, who's not only still a rapist but who's decided to take advantage of her life-is-so-not-worth-living attitude and bring her back into his lair. Clearly, her skin crawls at the very sight of this man and yet? she stays! To save Hassan and his people! Even with Jack yelling in her ear that he can find another way! Her decision to acquiesce to this goon really irritated me, to say nothing of how it robbed her character of some power that we were led to believe she (still) had. —Lynette Rice
Big Bang Theory recap: Sheldon gets stuck trying to...er, he gets stuck...I just had it...
This was yet another Sheldon Cooper Show. Bumfuzzled as Sheldon was by his efforts ''to figure out why electrons behave as if they have no mass when traveling through a graphene sheet,'' all the other characters still remained in his increasingly powerful orbit, and it pains me to say that I'm concerned the whole gravitational balance of the show is beginning to fall seriously out of whack. Jim Parsons is a gifted actor and damn hilarious physical comedian, and I think I'll always chuckle at the sight of him popping out of a colored plastic ball pit exclaiming ''Bazinga!'' But did we really need the scene between Sheldon and Yeardley Smith (a.k.a. the voice of Lisa Simpson) in the employment office as he looked for a menial job to help goad his brain into decoding his problem?—Adam B. Vary
Heroes recap: Stop. Hammer Time.
In this new origin story, we learned that Noah Bennet was once a charmingly befuddled car salesman who sent nice-looking couples to the cheaper car dealership down the street. Noah had a pretty wife. She believed in him. She wanted to him to write plays. (Who writes plays in Los Angeles?) She was pregnant! But then a telekinetic impersonated a delivery boy and accidentally killed his wife in the most graphic way imaginable. Bennet seeks vengeance!
Of course, since Claire didn't actually care that her father had a boring past, the only real lesson we learned from this subplot was this: having your pregnant wife murdered will make you a much better car salesman. —Darren Franich
Brothers & Sisters recap: The Pasadena Primary
It was Kevin who'd voted no. He knew Kitty would ask him to be her campaign manager, and that he would say yes, and he's ready to get out of politics. She took this incredibly well, just like she did when she found out that Kevin and the brother of her opponent for senior class president rigged the election in high school. She knew Kevin did it just because he was so desperate to fit in and have a friend. That ''friend,'' Brent, fell off the wagon and blurted the prank out to Kitty, Kevin's date at his 20th reunion, and told Kevin not to be such a fag after he apologized to Kitty. ''You ever again call my brother a fag? I will have you killed,'' Kitty said at the end of a heated retort. Hooray for protective older sisters!—Mandi Bierly
House recap: Oh, brother
Wilson walked into his bathroom, only to discover House soaking in the bathtub — he says because his leg hurts, though that hardly explains why he wouldn't lock or at least close the door. Wilson acted grumpy about it, so when he found an angry possum in the tub later, he assumed House had initiated some kind of prank war. Oh, it was on! (Except not really.)—Margaret Lyons
Grey's Anatomy: Taking Charge
Derek's first day as the chief is a challenging one, while Cristina reminds Owen (and herself) who she is
I found the quivering, monologuing melodrama of the actress playing Leslie the Tumor Patient Who Woke Up On the Table (who survived just fine, and tumor-free as a bonus) ultimately far less compelling than Bailey's budding relationship with Cute Anesthesiologist. You see, Bailey initially blamed him for the unfortunate event — and delivered a hell of a speech in which she referred to him as the ''Gas Man'' repeatedly (oh, how I love it when Chandra goes on a tear and runs out of breath before the end of the sentence!) — only to discover Leslie the T.P.W.W.U.O.t.T. metabolized anesthetics, like, hella fast, and it wasn't Cute Anesthesiologist's fault. Seeing as how Bailey later apologized to the C.A., I'm assuming he'll be sticking around for at least one hot hookup, possibly as soon as next week. Yes, please! I only ask that we do not follow ''McDreamy'' and ''McSteamy'' with ''McGassy.'' Thank you. —Whitney Pastorek
Project Runway recap: Go Red (Light)?
It's a question of taste for one designer in a challenge geared to promote heart health
Last week's winner, Mila, once again found herself in the top, alongside Maya and Amy. (Yay for the ladies!) Guest judge Georgina Chapman and Nina both applauded the playfulness of her starry-starry-night gown. The silhouette was lovely, but I agree with Emilio that the celestial bodies on the bodice and skirt screamed Old Glory. Also: the conundrum of this blasted branding! I was glad Mila didn't slap a literal logo on her dress, but if you didn't know that Campbell's had a hand in this challenge, would you even think of the soup meisters when gazing at those stars? I sure wouldn't. I'd be thinking of Betsy Ross. —Missy Schwartz
Fringe winter finale recap: 'Jacksonville' glimmers
In a lesser series, the threat of cataclysm would be a familiar sci-fi convention. But for Fringe, the danger is rendered on a most personal level. True to the countercultural era that inspired Walter and ''Belly'' to conduct their freewheeling research, the personal is political, as we used to say. I was a bit worried that by bringing Olivia together with her little-girl, alt-universe self, adult-Olivia would be infantilized, rendered weak, and in need of saving by Walter and Peter. Instead, as Walter said, the very fear that little-Olivia experienced has resulted in adult-Olivia's empowering anger and bravery. —Ken Tucker
The Vampire Diaries recap: Diggin' up bones
Like Elena, I do believe that Damon believes he loves Katherine, and now I understand why. His father was disappointed in him because he was a deserter, and he felt Stefan would always side with his dad. He was just as lonely then as he is now. I think Damon actually enjoyed ''Family Night'' at the Gilberts, cooking dinner while getting Aunt Jenna drunk, playing video games with Jeremy while smirking when he overheard Jenna call him ''ridiculously hot'' and rolling his eyes when Elena referred to him as ''an ass,'' and repeatedly asking Elena if he could trust Stefan. He knew he couldn't compel her to tell the truth — he just trusted her to. He wanted to believe her so badly, you could see it in his face. She lied, and he bought it. But he did issue a warning: She knows he'll do anything for Katherine, which means she knows what he'll do to anyone who gets in his way? —Mandi Bierly
The Real Housewives of Orange County recap: Who Here Gives a Rat's A--?
Tamra wanted to prove her eternal devotion to Simon so she got his name tattooed on her ring finger. ''I just hope it's not the kiss of death,'' she giggled to the camera. (Cut to next season when she's walking around with a jagged ''NeedS Money'' on said finger.) Simon got all misty when she debuted her new ink — after a mean-spirited build-up where she led Simon and his bike-riding friends to believe that she about to announce news of an affair — and thanked his wife by telling her it was the first unselfish thing she?d done in ages. He probably should've just gone with a hug.—Karen Valby