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"Amazing Race" and Other Notes: "Taken," "30 Rock," "The Office," "CSI"

By admin Published: March 8, 2009
(l-r); Amanda Blackledge, a 22-year old Student & Kris Klicka (dating), a 24-year old Sales Representative, both of San Diego, CA compete in THE AMAZING RACE 14, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS �2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I feel as if I have been unsuccessfully stacking wood all weekend, taking care of various chores, thinking about blogging but never quite getting around to it. I've got a backlog of Thursday shows in my head, went to the movie "Taken" last night, watched a fair amount of Akron-Kent State basketball on TV and, of course, caught "Amazing Race" tonight. So let's go to the jump. ...

It seems that on "Amazing Race," a basic sense of contestant decency has kept U-turns from being used much, with the lack of anonymity for those assigning the turns making the use even less likely. But tonight we saw the anonymous U-turn, and we saw it used in a way that basically proved unnecessary.

Amanda and Kris, above, were going to be in a tight race to avoid elimination anyway, since they had trouble with the wood-stacking as well as the shutters, so their getting the U-turn didn't really save the team, Jaime and Cara, it was mean to protect; it just nailed down Amanda and Kris' elimination. Beyond that, the show was somewhat dramatic, although I have to wonder if Luke's struggles with the Chekhov task would have seemed so affecting if he weren't deaf -- if it was just someone who didn't know Russian playwrights and was almost randomly guessing at letter combinations. Still, the good thing right now is that we appear to have a bunch of teams who are evenly matched -- there's no runaway favorite at the moment, and a lot of lead changes. I have some I like better than others -- Mike and Mel (and I warmed up for the "Race" by watching the end of Mike's "School of Rock" on TBS), Tammy and Victor -- but I don't hate anyone just now. Although, again, Margie and Luke using the U-turn, even if it was to help Jaime and Kara, was a break from good form.

As I said, I went with the bride to see "Taken" last night. Regular readers know I am a fan of big dumb action movies, and this certainly fit the basics of the genre. Lots of fights where Liam Neeson seemed able to take out any and all thugs (and, in one case, to flinch as if shot without actually showing any bullet holes), to drive down unknown paths without any problems and to generally cause mayhem. But even within big dumb action there is, oh, upper-tier big dumb action like "Die Hard" or "The Rock" or "Con Air," and lower tier, including anything starring John Cena. (Since I had to sit through a "12 Rounds" trailer before "Taken.") "Taken" is closer to low-tier BDA, since not even the action sequences could make you forget things like -- is the internationally connected stepfather doing nothing once he has provided a private jet? Or, why do the Albanian criminals have no obvious issue with a French law enforcement officer speaking to them in English?

Moving back to Thursday, "CSI" made a big push by having Taylor Swift as a guest star -- and murder victim -- and it was a smart move on the part of the show and of Swift. The part was modest in terms of screen time and acting demands on Swift, but central to the plot and so made Swift memorable. But the episode's effectiveness came from other things -- the interlocking plots, and the way Nick -- who, as I have said, is showing more and more aspects of Grissom -- was given a level of suffering akin to what Grissom felt before leaving the show.

"30 Rock" was not a success overall. The Tracy/Jenna plot didn't work, while the stuff with Jack and Frank mostly did -- except for the Patti LuPone payoff, which seemed a tepid way of getting out of the corner painted by Frank's deciding to be a lawyer. Liz and the baby had its moments -- like Liz tracking slang on her computer -- but not enough to inspire. But I still got one laugh-at-loud moment, when Jack offered an alternative answer to the seven most important words in law.

"The Office," I don't know. This was one of those wistful episodes, in Michael's loneliness, and in the way the others rallied round him about romance. (Kelly didn't surprise me, but Meredith was actually warm-hearted, too.) The lunch with Jim, Pam, Phyllis and Bob was another case of awkwardness as entertainment, leaning more on how the characters interact than on anything specifically funny; and the audience had to be away ahead of Jim and Pam about what was taking Phyllis and Bob so long in the bathroom. I did like Phyllis's two-handed drinking when she got back to the table, though. But the episode works mainly as fabric for the larger show, not as a stand-alone piece.

Anyone want to argue?

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