Tag Archive: In Plain Sight


Review by C.J. Bunce

We scuffled.  He had a gun.  So did I.  I’m alive.  He’s dead.

Twenty years before Jessica Jones, there was Ms. Tree, writer Max Allan Collins and artist Terry Beatty′s 1980s private eye with the clever homonym name.  Her husband a cop, killed by the head of a crime family, she sought her revenge and went to jail for it.  Now she’s back and the killer’s sister is looking to get her own revenge.  A private detective running her own agency, she finds her son has fallen in love with the niece of his father’s killer, the daughter of the woman who is now reaching out to her.  That’s where readers meet Ms. Tree in the first chapter of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother, a new collection of classic stories that will bring readers unfamiliar with Ms. Tree’s exploits current as she’s embroiled in her never-ending conflict with the Muerta crime family.  The 268 pages play out like a crime TV series, like Magnum, p.i. or Simon & Simon, maybe with some Rockford Files thrown in thanks to Collins’ ever-present noir style.

Ms. Tree is her own character.  She doesn’t have the quirks and antics of progenitors like Erle Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Cool or the meticulous process of a Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher.  But she does have the edginess we’d later see with Veronica Mars and Jessica Jones.  She’s a bit older, and because of Terry Beatty’s classic artistic style (reminiscent of Crime Does Not Pay and Dick Tracy), you may just wonder if she’s going to duck behind the curtains and emerge with a Miss Fury catsuit at some point.  Drawn by Beatty like a V.I. Warshawski era Kathleen Turner, she’s also not Jackie Brown–this woman plays by the rules, but the aura of her agency has that feel of Max Cherry’s agency in Elmore Leonard’s story.

With a style (in both writing and artwork) like Mike Grell’s Green Arrow, Collins populates his story with a variety of supporting characters like you’d find in the world of his Quarry series.  Characters like her friend on the police force Rafe Valer, and her colleague Dan Green, who has a hook for a hand in a call-out to J.J. Armes, the famous real-life detective in the 1970s (who had two hooks for hands).  The first book in this series, Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother, includes reprints of the stories Gift of Death, Drop Dead Handsome, The Family Way, Maternity Leave, and One Mean Mother, with an appendix featuring Collins discussing why Ms. Tree hasn’t made it to the small or big screen, and a related tie-in short story with a more modern take on the character (and without the pictures), Inconvenience Store.  Ms. Tree was featured in an earlier Hard Case Crime novel by Collins, Deadly Beloved.  In this volume Ms. Tree reads like it must have been the inspiration for Marge Gunderson’s storyline in Fargo, and the final seasons of In Plain Sight’s Mary Shannon.

Take a look at Beatty’s use of color, 1980s style, in these excerpts from the book:

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How I Married Your Mother finale

It always pays to be wary of grandiose statements and definitive pronouncements.  When I first watched Forrest Gump in the theater, one-third of the way through the movie it occurred to me I might be watching the greatest production of all time, and walking out of the theater I carried that thought with me.  But time changes things.  Now I see it as a fun film, but it’s not at the top of any of my “best of” lists.  Professor Schofield advised that you can’t really objectively analyze something, an art movement, a political figure, a fad–anything worth analyzing–unless several years had transpired and you could have the value of time and distance, contemplation and reflection, to look back with.

So it is with a bit of reservation that I am asserting that the series finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired Monday night should top any list of great finales.  The writers, producers, and actors simply got it just right.  Exactly right.  Airing the first episode of season one just before the finale aired really showcased how this ending was exactly what viewers deserved after nine seasons of sticking with the show.  Consider all the series finales that were promoted over the years, and despite the biggest of viewing audiences, you might find that most last hoorahs miss the mark, try too hard, or just do something that didn’t reflect the best of the series.

Trek TNG All Good Things

The granddaddy of all finales was the 1983 M*A*S*H extended episode “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”  Although some elements were right, like a bounty of typical and appropriate sad goodbyes, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, (one of the best characters of all time) after more than a decade of using laughter to beat the odds and help his unit survive the Korean War, cracks at the very end.  NBC’s comedy spy series Chuck made a similar mistake, wiping the memory of Chuck’s hard-earned love interest Sarah after we cheered him on all those years, requiring the story to basically start over from scratch in some far off place after the series wrapped.  Another less than satisfying but at least appropriate-to-the-series finale was the end of the monumental 20th year of the original Law & Order.  We basically got to see a fairly typical episode of the series, which certainly fit the seriousness of the show’s drama.  But we also got a goodbye scene and were left on a positive note with “Lieut’s” good news about her hard-fought illness.

Before that, you might have seen the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite or other classic rerun network if you weren’t old enough to catch it in its initial run.  The TV network that was the subject of the series fires everyone including Mary at the end, except Ted Knight’s character Ted Baxter.  The annoying guy that we loved for being annoying gets to stay.  A funny series with a funny end, as well as the requisite bittersweet goodbye scene.  A similarly funny sitcom, Psych, wrapped its eighth and final season last month, tying up all its remaining loose ends.  Psych took a different path, taking its angst-inducing character, Detective-then-Chief Lassiter, and with a redemption of sorts, switched up his role in the last two seasons to become a guy viewers could cheer on.

Newhart finale

Another comedy, Newhart, gave us a completely bizarre ending for an otherwise enjoyable comedy series.  Yet it was saved literally in the last two minutes by a brilliantly concocted stunt–bring back Bob’s wife from his original series, The Bob Newhart Show, the lovely Suzanne Pleshette, revealing the whole series was just a dream.  It’s a gimmick that didn’t work for a series like the original Dallas (recall Bobby Ewing died then came back to life with a “poof”), but for a comedy wrap-up, it couldn’t have been better timed.

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Following cast

Last Monday, January 21, 2013, The Following premiered on the Fox network. It’s a dark, bloody crime drama from Kevin Williamson, creator of the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries.  It’s the Scream franchise that might come to mind if you check out the premiere on Free Per View before tonight’s episode “Chapter Two” airs.  Expect some horror movie jumps and startling revelations as well as a little more than you might see as far as crime scenes from other series (although not a lot more than what you might have found on something like TV’s Medium when it still was on the air).

The big draw for The Following is the series star, Kevin Bacon.  You might also have checked out the pilot if you were a fan of Maggie Grace, star of the Taken film series, The Fog remake, and Lost, the TV series.  If you’ve missed the original Law and Order, you might be happy to see the return of Annie Parisse in an ongoing role beginning with tonight’s episode.  And if that weren’t enough, you might think you’re watching Warehouse 13, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Lost Girl and In Plain Sight’s Aaron Ashmore as Agent Michael Weston–but you’d be wrong.  Turns out Aaron has a clone, twin brother Shawn Ashmore.  (And hey, don’t TV writers watch TV?  That’s at least the third Michael Weston on TV right now).

Spoilers ahead.

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They are three very different series, one an 11 season megahit, one a five season struggling hit, and the other a one-season series that missed its audience and hardly had a chance at all.  Fox’s House, M.D. finished its eleventh season Monday with a Hugh Laurie retrospective (where actors Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard end by trashing the production set) and a textbook finale episode.  USA Network’s In Plain Sight pulled itself together in the final two seasons and ended with a satisfying conclusion earlier this month–the best finale of the three series reviewed here.  NBC’s one season series Awake, a series inexplicably cut short when NBC continues other much weaker, tired programming, provided a rare opportunity to wrap a cancelled series, bookending a stunningly well written series with a clean finish in Thursday night’s finale.

If you haven’t seen these finales you’d do yourself a favor to stop, watch them online or elsewhere, and come back, as there be spoilers ahead here.

House, M.D. had some powerhouse seasons and a superb cast that was ever-changing.  That change took the series to a new level.  With Doctors Chase (Jesse Spencer), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and Foreman (Omar Epps) one-upping each other over the first seasons, and an ongoing “will they or won’t they” storyline between Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Greg House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), it took the break-up of the team and a room full of candidates for House’s team to really show the series’ potential.  Enter Doctors Taub (Peter Jacobson), Kutner (Kal Penn), and the Doctors we knew as Cutthroat Bitch (Anne Dudek) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) in competition for House’s praise and a place on staff.  Only when the writers finally gave in and put House and Cuddy together did the show fall apart, but then a minor character named Martha Masters played by Amber Tamblyn turned the show around and it sailed in for a strong finish this season as we got to see House with his ideal wife, Dominika, played by Karolina Wydra.

But the writers always returned to what really gave the series heart–House’s friend Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard)–and creator David Shore all but admitted the inspiration for House in the finale’s retrospective.  As we’d always expected the House/Holmes (pronounce it “Homes” if you need to) and Wilson/Watson was intentional, including the House/Holmes brilliant analytical mind and antisocial nature, and to highlight it further the season finale mirrored the famous Sherlock Holmes case, “The Reichenbach Fall.”   Ultimately House, M.D. was a weekly buddy series, and the creators gave us the last scene we all needed.  A big plus for the finale was the return of past cast members, except the glaringly missing Cuddy, with even Kal Penn’s Kutner returning from the dead for an appearance.  And we knew that Doctor Chase would ultimately come out on top in the battle to replace House.  Taking the chair of House’s desk leaves us with the thought that the “show will go on” if not on TV then, by analogy, in real life.

In Plain Sight started almost unsure of what it wanted to be with star Mary McCormack playing an ever-irritable witness relocation program U.S. Marshal who was the bad end of a relationship with cool and (almost) decent boyfriend Raph (Cristian de la Fuente).  Then we began to understand her more as we met her disaster of a family, mom Jinx (Leslie Ann Warren) and sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz).  Jinx and Brandi got so bad at points you felt bad for the actresses having to play these roles.  But Mary had the best support team you could wish on a person: partner Marshal Marshall Mann (played by Frederick Weller) (a strange character name that worked anyway) who was smart and full of brainy curiosities, and boss Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor), a gruff but perfect-for-Mary leader of the Albuquerque federal office.  Creative differences almost lost the audience at the end of season two, but a re-focus on Mary prompted the series to pick itself up in time for actress Mary McCormack’s real-life pregnancy that the producers smartly just adapted for her character in season four, one of the best seasons of writing an acting for any actress on any television series.

As for the finale, the “will they or won’t they” angst we saw botched by allowing House and Cuddy get together, kept us guessing until almost the last scene for Mary Shannon and Marshall Mann.  When Marshall finally professes his love for Mary in the finale you could hear a collective sigh of relief across the viewing audience.  But it wasn’t what the passing viewer might think–it was true to both characters and simply a perfect climax to the relationship between these two partners, resulting in Marshall taking over the Albuquerque office where he could finally take care of Mary and still marry his fiancée Detective Chaffee (Rachel Boston), while Mary ends up with a new beau and boss Stan gets promoted to the Washington, DC office with new girlfriend Lia (Tia Carrere in the final season’s most refreshing new role).   As satisfying endings go, In Plain Sight simply was a winner.

As standalone episodes, the Awake finale packed a rollercoaster of action, twists, and emotion, with all the important plot threads nicely tied up.  The only problem with Awake likely was that it aired in a primetime slot on a major network.  On any other network–Fox, CW, USA, AMC–Awake would have found its audience and been a smash hit.  But NBC’s typical viewer does not like the clever supernatural drama as NBC has proven with prior cancellations year after year.  Awake was exciting, and included a cast of brilliant actors headlined by British actor Jason Isaacs, who, like fellow Brit Hugh Laurie, offered up a pitch perfect American accent.  Preparing for the worst, the creators readied a season finale that could stand strong as a series finale should the show get cancelled, and low viewership resulted in just that end.  Isaacs’ character Detective Britten never got any rest in season one–every time he awakened he was in a different reality–and it seemed as if Isaacs himself had a heavy burden playing this challenging character in an Emmy-worthy performance.  In fact, if Emmys nominees were being considered right now, you could bet Laurie, McCormack, and Isaacs would be strong contenders.

Awake’s finale allowed the supporting cast to shine–Detective Freeman (Steve Harris), Detective Vega (Wilmer Valderrama), and Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones) and Dr. Lee (BD Wong) only scratched the surface of what future seasons could have revealed.  Missed opportunities, such as what was to happen between Detective Britten and Tara (Michaela McManus), will never be known. Although we will never learn the “why” of the series, the unravelling of the car crash that got Britten into the entire mess gave viewers what we wanted in the end–a way for Britten to undo the past, or at least move forward as if the crash never ruined his life.

Sadly, we likely will never see the one-season Awake characters again other than on DVD, but House, M.D. and In Plain Sight will likely visit us again and again forever in syndication.  The good news is that these great actors are now freed up to give us something else.  What will Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Mary McCormack, Peter Jacobson, Jesse Spencer and Jason Isaacs do next?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By the borg.com Writing Staff

As the spring TV season winds down, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect back on this season’s viewing, looking at what ultimately made our “must watch” list, and what didn’t.  Look back to see our reviews, then check out our weekly lineup!

Let’s start with what didn’t make it for us:

  • The Firm.  Although we enjoyed the performances, and the overall series mystery seemed intriguing, the focus on courtroom melodrama bogged this one down.  The fatal moment, though, was an episode in which the Rules of Criminal Procedure were so wildly distorted as to kill any suspension of disbelief.  Note to courtroom drama writers: We’ve all watched twenty years of Law & Order.  You need to step up the writing if you want to succeed.
  • Terra Nova.  This series just lost us.  The pilot was serviceable and showed us the great potential the ideas behind this series had, but episodes quickly devolved into a weak combination of weekly world-destroying strawman threats (yawn) that just felt more and more incredibly contrived, and a confusing (and, IMO, un-needed) effort to create a dark, mysterious, earth-shattering plot with shadowy characters and alignments similar to the epic Lost.  The last two episodes we watched (in January) were literally painful to watch, mainly due to the largely wasted potential that a time-traveling colony in the Cretaceous era. WeI’ve heard that the last few episodes in this season showed promise, but we won’t be tuning in unless we hear some positive buzz on the show once it starts again in the fall.
  • The Killing.  This is the only show that Jason can remember where he actively rooted against it succeeding.  The first season treated viewers with such contempt for their intelligence, after a promising pilot and first couple of episodes, and that means any resolutions for the plot or characters are unimportant.

Hanging on by a Thread:

  • Once Upon a Time.  This one is still nabbed weekly by our DVR, but we missed a couple of episodes during the holidays and never bothered to get caught up again.  There was nothing really wrong with it; we were enjoying it–but other series (see below) bumped it from the tight nightly schedule.
  • Ringer.  See OUAT, above.  The ongoing soap opera gained momentum after the midseason, but ultimately fell victim to things that held our attention a little bit more.  Escalating outrageousness and cringe-inducing (in a good way!) plot twists raised the stakes for the series, so this one deserves a marathon to get caught up.
  • Falling Skies.  Our review of this summer series here at borg.com remains unchanged; we saw great potential, and though the series had its issues, it also had its positive aspects, and we’ll be tuning in this summer when episodes resume on TNT on June 17th at 9pm Eastern Time.  Hopefully the second season comes out with a bang and delivers on this series’ massive potential.  And you can catch a promising glimpse of the season opener here.
  • 30 Rock.  One of the favorites of past years, it isn’t at the top of viewing lists anymore, though if the episode focus is on Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, it can still be magic.  Because it only streams on his computer, it is tough for Jason to watch now.

So, what are the big winners this season at borg.com?

Lost Girl.  We are loving this lighthearted adult urban fantasy!  Satisfying world building based in European fairy lore combines with strong performances by the supporting cast to make this a weekly guilty pleasure.  It’s like Buffy for grownups–what Angel was trying to be, only done right.

Awake.  Launched in the same Thursday night time slot as The Firm, (which also hosted another fine debut series, Prime Suspect), this paranormal crime drama only gets better.  Jason Isaacs makes a compelling lead, and the series writers have wisely increased the genre stakes for the series, giving it extra pull.  They’re teasing the paranormal plot out very slowly, but when the moments hit, they pack a wallop.  We’re looking forward to seeing the mystery build.

Grimm.  Elizabeth’s personal favorite this season!  After a compelling pilot, this series has taken a while to get going.  But, as with Awake, they’re finally starting to really build the ongoing genre plot, adding complications to the established “monster murder of the week” formula.  New characters and a stronger focus on the otherworldly underbelly have given Grimm a much-needed boost, and we were happy to see that it’s been picked up for another season!  Friday nights just haven’t been the same without Chuck.  One thing we’d like to see more of, please: strong women characters.

New Girl.  C.J.’s favorite comedy of the past ten years and favorite series of the year.  He still cannot believe each episode is only a half an hour, since the writers crammed so much into each show.  Zooey Deschanel’s Jess is as put-upon as any classic female comedy lead in the Mary Richards variety, and is as brilliantly funny, smart and zany.  The supporting cast only got better throughout the first season, but the funny stories didn’t really explode with humor until they finally linked-up Max Greenfield’s Schmidt with Hannah Simone’s Cece.

Psych.  Still occupying the top spot in our must-watch lineup, the second half of the Psych season really delivered.  From beginning (the great season re-opener guest starring Cary Elwes) to end (that CLIFFHANGER!), with very few missteps in between (not sure what to make of “Let’s Do-Wop It Again,” with Shawn in the hospital and minus Keenan Thompson), all around, the show’s still got it.

The Walking Dead.  The second season of this series just got better and better, with deeper storylines, clever surprises, and a real aura of uncertainty around favorite characters survivability.  And the season finale was one of the best of the year (Michone!!!).  It’s the one series I simply cannot wait to resume in the fall.

Community.  This is Jason’s only show he will watch in real time.  The characters keep developing and adding depth and when the writers create a personality quirk, it is in service of character and not the story of the week.  He would visit the Greendale campus (and did as a background extra) to see all the characters, but attending Greendale would be the worst decision of his or anyone’s life except for those that want to learn to make a diorama.

House, M.D.  After Dr. Greg House (Hugh Laurie) drove his car into Dr. Cuddy’s home we thought this series was pretty much done for.  We still had doubts that we’d need another season after House’s prison stint.  Then BAM!  This last season is on par with the best of its eight season run, especially because the writers have let Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) be Wilson, Chase (Jesse Spencer) be Chase, and Russian bride-in-name-only Dominika (Karolina Wydra) almost make it as House’s single perfect mate.  Although Charlene Yi and Odette Annable are fine as Drs. Park and Adams, the show still struggles with the one note Cameron/Thirteen replacement role.  We wish we had Amber Tamblyn back.  Although Omar Epps’s Dr. Foreman pretty much vanished, Peter Jacobson’s Dr. Taub continues to amuse to the bitter (?) end.

Fairly Legal.  Although we’ve fallen behind thanks to new diversions like Awake and Lost Girl, the sophomore season of this unusual, lighthearted legal drama continues to entertain. Star Sarah Shahi is cute and engaging (although we liked her better as a cynical cop in Life and as Gus’s adrenaline junkie girlfriend in a guest spot on Psych), even if her harried approach to life gets a little exhausting.  We’re hoping for a bigger role for Gerald McRaney this season.

In Plain Sight.  We’ve let the final season of this solid crime drama get backed up on our DVR, but from what we’ve seen so far, they’re going to round the series out nicely, with the same sharp dialogue and complex relationships that have given this series staying power despite a history of scheduling mishaps.  It’s nice to see Tangie Ambrose (Agent Parmalee) get a stronger role, Tia Carrere is always fun, and all things considered, I think everyone prefers baby Norah to Jinx and Brandi.

Parks and Recreation.  April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer and Ron Swanson continue to be three of the best characters on television.

A few other shows we’re thinking about, but haven’t mentioned here before:

  • Surburgatory. Jason has no clue what makes this interesting.  He laughs and that’s a big part.  The supporting cast (Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell (SNL) and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is just so, goofy and fun. Mostly, it is earnest father and daughter relationship of the two leads, Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy.
  • Modern Family.  The second season of this award-winning series was side-splitting.  Better than the great comedic actors and fantastic use of the “mockumentary” format is the terrific writing of the scribes behind the show, particularly Jeffery Richman  & creator Steven Levitan. The stories of the three households making up the dysfunctional Modern Family intertwine effortlessly to create the funniest half-hour on network television.
  • CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).  After a dozen seasons in the bag and numerous cast changes, CSI could easily be slipping off of most people’s radar, especially with the mid-season exit of long-time favorite Marg Helgenberger.  And though it will never likely recover the viewership it enjoyed when William Peterson was on the cast, the new additions of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue has been a breath of creative fresh air.  After missteps with recently departed cast, especially the badly conceived Dr. Ray Langston character portrayed by the excellent Lawrence Fishburne, the series seems to be back on an even keel and cranking out the crafty, clever alternative plotlines to the rote procedurals currently on the air everywhere else. Amen.
  • Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.  Only four episodes in, but having James Van Der Beek play a cartoon version of himself, keeps paying funny dividends.  If that lasts, this will be a keeper.
  • Mad Men.  Jason got rid of his cable and finding this show in a legal manner can be tough, but he knows it is worth it.
  • Archer.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy spy situations or give me death!”
  • Bob’s Burgers.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy burger joint situations or give me death!”

Wow.  It’s not every actress that puts her pregnancy in plain sight.  Mary McCormack did just that this season on the USA series In Plain Sight, the show about two federal witness protection program marshalls officed in Albuquerque.  From the first episode of the summer season to the last we figured out Mary McCormack’s character Marshall Mary Shannon was pregnant even before she did and got to watch her reaction and choices as her character begrudgingly grew.  And over the course of the season both Marys got bigger, with no hiding behind office desks, no oversized concealing clothing, no disappearing from episodes with action sequences.  Mary McCormack was openly and unabashedly pregnant and her character was, too.

To be sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional approach.  Even in the past few TV seasons we saw both the female leads of White Collar and Leverage carry on with their characters unaffected by the actresses’ real life pregancies.  But this was so much more fun.

Mary Shannon is about as cynical as they come.  In the opening episodes of season one it was difficult to fathom how this series could move forward with such a harshly snarky, pretty-much-always-unlikeable character.  Yet she grew on us and we went back for more each week, despite her failed relationship with her sister’s ex-boyfriend Raph, her poor decison-making sister, her cringeworthy mother, and Mary’s non-stop cranky hatred of everyone and everything.  As characters go, she’s pretty awesome.

So some proof that she is a great actress?  This is actress Mary’s third child.  With all the ranting by character Mary about stinky kids and her genuine dislike for humanity, how could the actress be so convincing?  At Emmy time someone should stand up and take notice.

And who would have thought weekly conversations about the increasing size of Mary Shannon’s breasts would be so funny, so real?  And this year, more than past seasons, the writers have created a universal aura that constantly hovers over us–partner Marshal Marshall Mann played by Fred Weller is somehow cosmicly linked to Mary Shannon.  More than partners, more than BFFs, they are soulmates of sorts–Marshall knew it early on, especially when Mary was dying at the end of the first season, but since then he moved on to a live-in girlfriend who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Marshall.  But their bond never goes away, as highlighted at the end of the season finale this week.  Finally, the bitter, grumbly Mary opens up for two sentences in the midst of all the chaos of her life, an Assault on Precinct 13-influenced shoot-out, the denial of how she feels about how she looks, and darned near missing her sister’s wedding when she is the maid of honor.  All for something unsaid to finally be said–to fall apart as a season cliffhanger.  The alliteration is not lost on us, two sides of the same coin, Mary and Marshall, would be horrible as a couple.  But their bond, however unexplainable, is believable, and makes us care about people we might not normally care about.

What can we expect for next season?  The father of the baby sticking around?  The fallout of her sister’s actions on her wedding day, after a full year of upward momentum, growth and positivity?  Mary hauling a baby around town like her failed attention to the dog she eventually pawned off on Marshall?  It is hard to imagine the writers concocting a better season of stories but for Mary McCormack’s real-life pregnancy.  And going with it, instead of denying it, now sets up even more opportunities for both Marys next season.  When other characters’ failed relationships served as Mary Shannon’s foil for past seasons, unimaginably Shannon’s baby played the foil all season long.  For pure drama fans this meant dealing with all the traditional questions every mother must face with an impending due date.  But with a no-holds-barred character on modern cable, this seems like the first time we got to live alongside a lead character of a television series sharing all the unstated negatives of carrying a kid around for the bulk of a year.  The truth of the cravings, body out of control, unwanted reactions of her peers, uninvited advice, suffocating family pressures, and the sweat could hardly have been dramatized in a funnier way, by a better actress.  Up against the likes of actresses like Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer playing equally off the wall characters, it says a lot that McCormack stormed ahead of the pack (actually slightly waddled ahead of the pack) this year.  Poking fun at real life pressures, common angst-inducing circumstances and life’s surprises proved to make a great season of a good series.

Watch for an iconic scene toward the end of this season’s finale: like Sigourney Weaver marching away from a pile of dead creatures in Aliens, or Linda Hamilton walking away from a squashed Terminator, our heroine in flak jacket forges ahead, emerging victorious, on to her next battle.

As a postscript, 100 years ago this week Lucille Ball was born.  Those who watched I Love Lucy when it first aired or in re-runs on Nick at Nite as I did, may recall that Lucy was the first actress to be openly pregnant in an ongoing series.  Although censors wouldn’t let the show say the word “pregnant”–Lucy was “expecting”–it was a first for the growing medium of television.  Since then networks have shied away from a pregnant woman playing a pregnant woman, or even a non-pregnant woman playing a leading role as a pregnant woman in an ongoing series or feature film.  Only Frances McDormand’s performance as a pregnant police officer in Fargo comes to mind.   McCormack did something ordinary this season, but in a venue and way both unusual and interesting.  We can hope for even more fun next season.  Who says there is nothing good on TV to watch?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the hiatus between Season 2 and last night’s Season 3 opener of Warehouse 13, only one question was pecking at viewers’ minds.  Why would Agent Myka Bering, played by Joanne Kelly, co-star and female lead of the show, leave after only two seasons?  Luckily for fans we don’t have to wait all season to find out.

Warehouse 13–the SyFy Channel series that expands upon the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the thoughtless government lackeys carted off the Ark in the final scene.  Okay, not that exact warehouse, but something bigger and better–think the nation’s attic meets the X-Files or the short-lived series The Lost Room.  Except with the X-Files you had monsters of the week, and here, like Friday the 13th (the Canadian TV series) or Ray Bradbury Theater, you have an artifact of the week–some seemingly mundane throwaway item that we learn in fact carries some otherworldly power, often causing or created by the famous event or person the artifact is tied to. 

Last night’s episode “The New Guy” started with all the regulars back in their stride (minus the missing Myka), with Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) working a textbook case of the out-of-control, would-be artifact-of-the-week with Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti).  This time the artifact is one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars (hey, didn’t I see that in the NYC Hard Rock Cafe?), wreaking electric havok, only to be tamed by Claudia’s cool guitar skills, and a little extra playing after she gives it the purple glove treatment–despite being scolded by Warehouse leader Artie Nielsen, played by the top-notch character actor Saul Rubinek (who played my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation villain Kivas Fajo).  A team of Pete and Claudia!  Great idea!  Even better, Claudia is now the promoted Agent Claudia, long removed from her character’s weaker slacker introduction in Season 1, she now is confident, large-and-in-charge of all Warehouse tech.

But then a rescued hottie flirts with our hero Pete, and he–ignores it.  What?  From there we are spun into uncertainty–like Pete and company, we need Myka back.  Pete is not the same.  The guy who Myka referred to as “Artie, it’s Pete, it’s a win when he doesn’t lick anything” is just not his normal hilarious self.  And as a viewer you start to wonder how grim the show will be without our reliable straight arrow Myka. 

Enter Steve Jinks, played by Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Veronica Mars, In Plain Sight), an ATF agent who witnesses the strange Hendrix guitar antics, and Pete and Claudia’s resolution, but he can’t believe it.  Steve, who has a perceptive skill to know the difference between someone lying and telling the truth, is pushed away at the ATF and Artie taps him as Myka’s replacement.  Friendly enough, he still is no Myka, and worse yet, he doesn’t get Pete’s jokes.  And Pete drops some great one-liners in this episode.  Steve is now the new guy–a full team member and Pete begrudgingly brings him along to pursue the actual artifact of the week, a certain folio (“it’s not a book, it’s a folio”) of letters with popular lines of antiquity that are killing the people who read them–only these are not actual lines uttered by historical people, more like lines from a play.  Shakespeare?  Wait, Pete knows someone who can help, someone who knows all this “Walter” Shakespeare, the “Bird” of Avon gobbledygook.  Myka?

Everything finally comes together by the end, sort of, and we’re off to another season of sleuthing, with a surprise visit by H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray), who will soon be the star of her own ScyFy Channel spin-off, according to Warehouse actors.  Another interesting idea.  After two seasons Warehouse 13 is picking up steam–the cast is familiar now and play off each other well and with some new guest stars expected this season, including a Star Trek line-up of Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan, and our favorite Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner as the Warehouse doctor, we have some good TV to look forward to.