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Digging Through the Viewing Pile -- With a Late Wednesday Addition

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 22, 2006

I actually managed to get a little bit ahead on my work today, finishing a mailbag column and a Tom Amandes story reasonably early. That let me spend the day catching up on new DVDs (the Monty Python ''Personal Best'' series, a ''Drew Carey Show'' sampler, ''Bleak House,'' some other things) for my Friday DVD column, and looking at some of the upcoming shows, including ''The Unit'' and ''Free Ride.''

I especially liked ''The Unit,'' which was created by David Mamet and more than a little resembles his movie ''Spartan.'' Mamet has a very specific writing rhythm, one that it's always impressive to see people master. (Among the masters: William H. Macy and Joe Mantegna.) The cast here, which includes Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor, Scott Foley and Robert Patrick, all handle the dialogue ably. The story, about a top military unit dealing with various crises, gets some interesting spins in Mamet's hands, although he can also drop an obvious plot in your lap. (The revelation of a pregnancy isn't even close to revelatory.) CBS sent out three episodes and after watching the first, I was ready for the second. Unfortunately, there was at least one unseen episode between the two I watched, and this isn't a show I want to play catch-up with. But that second episode, not written by Mamet, still felt entertainingly different.

''Free Ride'' I'm still thinking about. I actually found it more than a little funny in spots, even as I recognized the influences -- it's a younger variation on ''Ed'' with a lot of ''Arrested Development'' tossed in. I don't know if I would watch it every week, though. (And would still rather have ''Kitchen Confidential'' back, snff snff.) The underlying story in two episodes made available for preview is kind of bleak, the situations pretty painful for the main character.

Tonight, meanwhile, I have ANOTHER evening meeting. Fortunately -- for me, anyway -- ''Lost'' and ''Veronica Mars'' are both reruns. I hope to be home in time for most of ''American Idol,'' and will have the DVR running for it regardless. So I hope to talk ''Idol'' some here later.

Well, I expected to, anyway. That meeting went two hours, and by the time I got home 10 of the contestants had sung, and my day was winding down. So I'll have to wait until later to post.

Still, for those of you in Northeast Ohio, don't forget that George Thomas and I will be talking TV, movies and trash on March 1 at the Beacon Journal. As I said before, likely topics will include the February sweeps, the Olympics, the Oscars (which will take place a few days after this event) and, of course, ''Brokeback Mountain.'' But we're open to just about anything.

We will start talking at 7:30 p.m. Tours of the Beacon Journal will also be available before our chat, from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Reservations are not required. Come on down.

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