A quick, but sincere acknowledgement: I've swiped this section title from Harlan Ellison's 1970 book of TV criticism, The Glass Teat. Anyone interested in TV from the late 60s anad early 70s is strongly encouraged to pick up that book, as well as its companion, The Other Glass Teat (1975). Anyone wanting more information on Harlan Ellison (Good for you!) should check out The Islets of Langerhans.
I had originally intended this page to be more or less reviews--I figured that being on the road all the time I'd be watching a lot of TV. Well, I sure watched a lot of TV, but I just didn't have the time to really do anything with it. In fact, I had intended to scrap the section altogether. However, I really like the way the title graphic turned out, so I decided to stick with it.
Instead of formal reviews, though, my comments will be more along the lines of off-the-wall ramblings.
'Twas the end of the Season, and all through the land...
I've Got Your Emmy Right Here, Buddy!!
The end of the past TV season saw a number of HIGH profile finales. Fortunately, most of them (well, OK, the ones I saw), were pretty good.
But first, a quick comment on the 2000 Emmy nominations, which were announced July 20. Overall, the nominations seem a bit more respectable than in recent years. Let's face it, it's hard to find fault with the nominations heaped upon The West Wing and The Sopranos--both shows showcase top-notch writing with first-rate acting. And I was delighted that Will & Grace finally got some recognition--Sean Hayes should have won the supporting award hands-down last year, but didn't even get nominated.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer finally cropped up on the Emmy radar, with two nominations for Joss Whedon: for writing and directing "Hush." He might even stand a chance in the writing category, as he's up against two scripts for The Sopranos and two for The West Wing. If both shows split their support, Whedon could sneak in an cop a well-deserved honor. Buffy also got a nod for Hair Styling, and Angel got a nod for Makeup.
The one area where I was a bit disappointed was in some of the acting awards. Both Laura Innes and Noah Wyle have turned in stellar work this year, but got passed over. And I'd have liked to have seen at least one person from Buffy make the cut--my nod would have to go to Allyson Hannigan, who has shown a tremendous amount of range recently. But at least the show got some recognition, and it's something that they can build on.
On to some thoughts (albeit late) on some season finales.
Now *this* is what I call a season finale.
A number of critics have used Frasier's string of Emmys as evidence that the awards need overhauling. And while the process certainly does need tweaking--just look at Helen Hunt's last award for Mad About You, as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer's notable absence--Frasier racking up awards is hardly evidence that the awards are messed up. Quite the opposite, in fact, for when Frasier is on, it's hands down the funniest show on TV. Just thinking about the Valentine's Day episode when Niles sets fire to Frasier's apartment starts me laughing--it was a brilliant piece, and David Hyde Pierce was magnificent (all the more impressive when you realize that, apart from a few words at the very beginning of the sequence, there's no dialogue at all). And if a performance like that isn't what the Emmys are all about, then they might as well scrap them altogether.
And the season finale ranks right up there. An emotional roller coaster from beginning to end, this episode gave us the most satisfying consummation to a running would-be romance since David Addison and Maddie Hayes finally got horizontal in Moonlighting. They kept yanking us back and forth as to how things would turn out, they used the sub-plot of the bottle of wine to convince us at the end that it's for the best that Daphne marry the lawyer, then they snatch one last rabbit from their hat. Next season has a lot of potential, if for no other reason that now we have the two most neurotic people on the show hooked up. And they are neurotic in such different ways.
And I'll admit it--I got a little choked up when, at the end, Daphne finally called Niles by his first name.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Well, to be honest, I haven't see the finale yet; the power went off and my VCR didn't tape it, damnit. And with the WB's scattershot approach to their re-run schedule, God only knows when it'll be on again. But I did just want to say a word about the season as a whole. The penultimate episode, "Primeval," ended the Adam/Initiative storyline that ran throughout the season. On one level, the show was somewhat anti-climactic; once the spell kicked in, Adam was dispatched in pretty short order. But two things really stood out in my mind:
The season also leaves a number of very intriguing storylines to be developed next season. The relationship of Willow and Tara, obviously, will garner most of the attention, but two other threads are equally compelling: Giles ongoing search for a life--there just aren't that many ex-Watcher support groups out there--and the continuing saga of Xander and Anya. I'm hardly the first person to say it, but something has to give in terms of Anya's people skills.
I'm also looking forward to the next Spike-Angel confrontation--especially if Spike hasn't been de-chipped, there's some great comic potential there, before they start beating the crap out of each other. The word is out that Drusilla may make an appearance, and that Brittany Spears may guest star (having left adolescence far behind, I just can't get all that excited about it). But we'll also have a new character, Buffy's younger sister. Since there has been NO mention of her to this point, it'll make things interesting in terms of how this will all come about. One can only assume that she had been staying with Buffy's father up until now. All I really know is that she has some sort of mystical demon tracking/detecting ability, and she's got a crush on Xander--which could make for some interesting times with Anya, the ex-vengeance demon.
The West Wing
God, I love this show, if for no other reason that it is so cathartic to hear someone tell a senator to shove his legislative agenda up his ass.
On the one hand, simply in terms of narrative technique it was incredibly effective in terms of dramatic tension. On a more basic level, though, Having seen first hand how the Secret Service screens various venues, I can say with some confidence that there's no way the Secret Service would allow the gunmen access to that office.
But all in all it's a relatively minor quibble, compared to the rest of the season. It's a shame that NBC didn't decide to pick up Sports Night (ABC must be brain-dead to have not done more to promote that show) as lead-in for The West Wing--that could have resulted in a truly stunning 90-minute block of programming.
The West Wing racked up the Emmy nominations, tying The Sopranos with 18. And even though The Sopranos is the critical darling, the simple fact is that the Emmy award process heavily favors The West Wing, especially in a presidential election year.
I really didn't feel one way or another over Carol Hathaway's departure; between the hype and the plot-bat foreshadowing, I just couldn't get worked up. What was riveting was Carter's struggle with addiction, and the other residents attempts to help him. Noah Wyle has been showcased this season, and should pick up a deserved Emmy nomination. Just as affecting though, was Eriq La Salle's reaction to Carter's crises. When Carter was attacked, when Benton pushed everything but his need to save Carter to one side, even to the detriment of other patients. It was a great reminder that even though the two characters don't interact that much anymore, there remains an intense bond of respect and trust between the two. That bond carried through to the season finale, when Benton brutally forces Carter to admit his addiction. The sight of Benton on the plant, accompanying Carter to rehab, was a touching, tender coda to a harrowing plot line.
I can't really talk about ER's season without commenting on Laura Innes. Like many viewers, I really didn't like Kerry Weaver when she first appeared. I kept muttering things like "Great, it's the medical equivalent of Rosalyn Shays." Over time, though, Weaver started to grow on me; even though in many respects the character was initially developed as a nemesis of sorts to Doug Ross, the character quickly grew beyond those bounds, and this season gave Innes a chance to shine. In "All in the Family," the episode in which Carter's and Lucy's lives hang in the balance, we see all the full package--Weaver the take-charge person who keeps things moving, but also Kerry, who, unable to handle it any longer, rushes outside to puke. In the final episode, after listening to Carter's vehement denials, she just sighs, "Mark, he's lying." While her work this season hasn't been as flashy as the other characters, her work is as deserving of Emmy consideration as Wyle's.
ER is at a major crossroads as the next season starts to loom. The show has been on a gradual slide for a few years now. Last season in particular was terribly uneven, from the utter delight of any scene with Alan Alda, to the abject nadir of any appearance of Cleo Finch. The departure of Juliana Margulies is going to leave a big hole to fill, and the writers and producers will need to think long and hard on how to re-focus the show.
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