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Hunka Hunka TV Viewing: "Survivor," "30 Rock," "The Office," "Grey's"/"Practice"

By admin Published: February 13, 2009
Jeff Probst, Jerry Sims, Sierra Reed, Candace Smith, Sandy Burgin, James Thomas "JT" Jr., Joe Dowdle, Brendan Synnott, Sydney Wheeler, and Debra "Debbie" Beebe during the first episode of SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS- THE BRAZILIAN HIGHLANDS. The eighteenth installment of the Emmy Award-winning reality series premieres Thursday, Feb. 12 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2009 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved Brazil

I was glad to have "Survivor" back (and look forward even more to the return of "The Amazing Race") even though it added to the big steaming pile of viewing that is my Thursday night. That said, the season premiere did not offer much in the way of surprises, and I already fear that there's an excess of strategery in the offing. ...

My concerns are particularly focused on Coach, who sounds like one of those guys who thinks he has the game all figured out and will soon enough prove to be a complete idiot. But the dynamics generally seemed to be leaning toward the unpleasant -- lots of throat-cutting, even if it came with a written "sorry." Of course, the show tried to go for immediate conflict, starting with the vote-out of one member of each tribe before people had barely spoken, followed by the twist of giving the voted-out an easy ride to camp and a chance to either make amends or make for the hidden immunity idol. Lots of reasons there to hate someone. But the one thing that indicated that we're not yet seeing a gang of idiots was the way the first tribal council hinged not on old prejudices but on the idea of let's keep around people who actually seemed useful in the challenges. And, naturally, who aren't annoying. Which leaves me mildly intrigued about what lies down the road.

"The Office" wasn't that funny -- although the kitty cam gave me the giggles -- but deliberately so. As I've said before, this is a show that is so confident in its ability to tell stories and present multidimensional characters that it can set aside a week for heartache. There was Michael's discovery that Holly had a boyfriend, and all that led to. Butalmost as painful was the storyline about the office celebrating Kelly's birthday (and Kelly -- Mindy Kaling -- wrote the episode) where it was actually possible to feel sorry for Kelly when she reamed out the guys for their sub-standard birthday prep. After all, as Phyllis observed, Jim in particular tried to get away with a half-hearted approach -- and he should have done better. Nor did the wincing end there: Pam's attempt to finish Michael's presentation was agonizing. Some good layers with Pam this week. When she offered to read Holly's e-mail to Michael, I was suspicious of her good intentions, and it was good of the show to reveal that she wasn't just being nice. Still, I wonder what the e-mail really said -- can't be sure if Pam was honest or just sparing Michael's feelings.

"30 Rock" had so many funny things, it was easy at first to overlook that it was trying to do too much at once. The Kenneth plot in particular was overkill, giving the show three different couples to deal with (also counting Jack/Elisa and Liz/Drew). Just the stuff with Tracy pretending to be Kenneth could have made a strong primary or secondary story in another episode, where here it was shoehorned with Liz/Drew (which seemed so rich as to be underserved in the crowded episode) and Jack/Elisa, which would have worked nicely in a two-story show but felt overcrowded here. Still, much to laugh about, and at last an explanation of why Elisa hasn't been that funny -- she's a very, very serious person (and loved the line about Catholics who only go to church on Sunday). Jack's cell-phone prayer was excellent, the Grizz/Dotcom business amusing -- and I will never think of stew quite the same again.

Only let's be real: A McFlurry has nothing on a Blizzard.

As for the CROSSOVER EVENT on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice," as I already said, it seems to be dragged out worse than an "American Idol" Hollywood round. And it is making painfully clear that "Private Practice" not only isn't as good as "Grey's" (when "Grey's" is good, but that Addison just fits better in the "Grey's" ensemble than she does on "Practice." And all that helps explain why this was more of a two-hour "Grey's" with some people from "PP" included, rather than a true crossover, especially in the second hour. Sure, they set scenes in "Private Practice," but they remained largely secondary to the spillover from "Grey's."

And, for the most part, "Grey's" wasn't as irritating as it has been. All right, the Izzie stuff was awful and they have to put an end to this storyline soon. Please, soon. But I liked the way they wrote out Melissa George as a doctor who didn't really know anything; shades of Jack Morrison (and Mary Beth, you of all people should get that reference). Kevin McKidd got to do some decent work, as did most of the ensemble. Sandra Oh doesn't have to have lines to be good, George was on the sidelines but still given some business, Chandra Wilson played well with Taye Diggs ... as tired as I was when watching it, it kept me from either falling asleep or shrieking in dismay.

By the way, since Sepinwall and I chatted about this a bit before either of us posted, his take is here.

And on to other programming. I hope to see "CSI" sometime in the next couple of days, and to post about "Dollhouse" here in a bit.

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