Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boston Legal / The Shield / ER - Sept. 27, 2008


The long goodbye

A lot of new TV series will fall by the wayside 
this season. But there are three trusty veterans 
that are on their way out, too.

By Eric Kohanik

Call it “the long goodbye.”

The fall season is barely under way. And, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around (either the Canadian or American one), a number of new series will have bitten the dust. It’s just the way TV does business.

But this season will also say goodbye to some trusty veterans. And the TV landscape will be a little less vibrant without them.

Boston Legal will close the law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt for good after the 13 episodes of its fifth season finish up their run. This is a comedy/drama that has always been one of ABC’s most underappreciated shows – by viewers and network bosses – ever since its debut in October 2004.

A spinoff of a much more serious legal drama called The Practice, the saga of lawyers Alan Shore (James Spader), DennyCrane (William Shatner) and the rest of their colourful crew started off on Sunday nights, in the primo slot after Desperate Housewives. The show was elbowed out of the way midseason by ABC, which wanted to introduce viewers to a hot new medical drama: Grey’s Anatomy.

Of course, Grey’s Anatomy caught on and Boston Legal was shelved, returning the next fall on Tuesdays before being shuffled to Wednesdays and then back to Tuesdays.

This season, it airs on Mondays. At least it has Dancing With the Stars as a lead-in.

Maybe ABC brass never got Boston Legal’s offbeat sense of humour. Or maybe the occasional pink-flamingo costume simply hit too close to home. In any case, we’ll miss Denny and Alan’s Scotch-and-cigars ritual at the end of each episode.

Over in the cable world, the transgressions of Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his unorthodox squad of cops have been simply mesmerizing ever since The Shield made its debut in 2002. Finding where they were has often been a difficult task, though.

Although The Shield enjoyed a steady American cable home on FX, it was bounced around on broadcast and cable channels in Canada before landing on Showcase, where it is now serving up its seventh season.

Producers and actors say Mackey will finally get what he deserves when the final 13 episodes wrap up in November. Just what he deserves, though, is still debatable.

When it comes to TV longevity, though, there aren’t many series with the staying power of NBC’s ER. When it began in 1994, few predicted that the action inside Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital would win the head-to-head clash with CBS’s rookie hospital drama, Chicago Hope. Even fewer could ever have foreseen that ER would last for 15 seasons, thanks to ongoing transfusions of new acting blood.

Some of the old blood – like Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) – will be back for ER’s farewell crop of caseloads. Even so, there’s no escaping the fact that “the long goodbye” will finally fill the halls of County General, too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brooke Burke vs. Brooke Burns - Sept. 20, 2008



Babbling Brookes

Some people have had trouble 
telling the difference between 
Brooke Burke and Brooke Burns
It will likely happen again.

By Eric Kohanik

Names can play tricks on you – particularly in the TV world, where they often sound alike.

The case of Brooke Burns and Brooke Burke is a prime example. For some reason, there are people out there who keep confusing them.

For the record, Brooke Burns is a rather hot 30-year-old babe who was once a fashion model and is probably most famous on TV for her years as Jessie Owens on Baywatch.

Burns has done lots of other TV since then. Last spring, she played a bouncy high-school teacher on a short-lived ABC comedy called Miss Guided. A couple of years ago, she co-starred in Pepper Dennis, Rebecca Romijn’s series for the now-defunct WB network.

Before that, Burns was in a Fox series called North Shore. She also hosted a competition show for NBC entitled Dog Eat Dog.

Offscreen, Burns is famous for once being married to Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon. She is also famous for breaking her neck a couple of years ago by hitting her surf board while diving into her swimming pool in the dark.

Brooke Burke is famous for a lot of reasons, too. She is a rather hot, 37-year-old babe who was once a model as well. Her specialties were swimwear, lingerie and notable photo spreads for FHM, Maxim, Playboy and a website called

Burke first gained TV fame as host of an E! travel series called Wild On! Her work there led her to host 2005’s Rock Star: INXS and 2006’s Rock Star: Supernova, two summertime singing competitions on CBS that were notable as much for the assets Burke exhibited in her outfits as they were for the musical talent showcased in each episode.

Offscreen, Burke used to be married to a plastic surgeon. (We’ll skip the jokes there.) A couple of years ago, she got engaged to musician David Charvet – who, it turns out, played Matt Brody on Baywatch.

Coincidence? Sure. But it’s no wonder that people get these two women mixed up.

The last couple of years have been easy. Burke has been out of the picture, playing mom to four kids, two of which were born since her Rock Star: Supernova days.

But now, Burke and Burns are both back on TV again. Burns is co-hosting Fox’s Hole in the Wall, a competition show that began a couple of weeks ago. Burke, meanwhile, is a competitor on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which makes its return this week.

Clearly, this will lead to mix-ups again.

“We do get confused a lot,” Burns conceded when I asked about all of this during a Pepper Dennis press conference in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. “Actually, Brooke and I know each other. So, it’s kind of funny because we figure we’d just get double the publicity. Because every time somebody talks about me, we talk about her, and vice versa.”

Judging from the way I’ve babbled on about them here, that’s bound to continue.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy - Sept. 13, 2008



Mummy dearest

After 40 years of digging for dinosaurs,
Dr. Robert Bakker thought he had seen
everything. Then, he got to meat Leonardo.

By Eric Kohanik

As far as scientific discoveries go, Leonardo was pretty well a paleontologist’s dream come true.

In fact, he was the ultimate dream come true.

Leonardo is a 77-million-year-old dinosaur that was discovered in Montana about eight years ago. What made him so different, though, was that this dinosaur was almost fully intact. In fact, 90 per cent of his mummified body was still covered by skin.

Leonardo was a young Brachylophosaurus – a four-legged, plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur who was only about three or four years old when he died. But his discovery has led to completely new hypotheses o fhow dinosaurs lived.

Leonardo gave paleontologists the chance to come up with the first reconstruction of a giant dinosaur that was absolutely accurate, both on the outside and on the inside. All of which has made him the most important dinosaur discovery in history.

After about 40 years of digging for dinosaurs, Dr. Robert Bakker thought he had pretty well seen everything. Of course, that was before Bakker – known as “the high priest of paleontology” – met Leonardo.

That story is part of what lies at the core of Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy, a new Discovery Channel special that Bakker likes to describe as “sort of ER meets CSI meets Jurassic Park – but funny.”

Almost as intriguing as the story of Leonardo’s discovery is the story of what made the discovery possible – “the CSI part,” as Bakker refers to it.
“The CSI part, to me, is the most puzzling,” he explained to reporters in Los Angeles back in July. “I look at Leonardo and want to understand how it died. And how was it buried? And how was the corpse preserved? How was it protected from all the scavengers that like to burrow in and eat it?” Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy uses dramatic re-creations and computer animation to answer many of those questions and to retrace much of Leonardo’s story – everything from what killed him to even what he ate just before he died.

“This is really the specimen that’s going to change paleontology,” proclaims Michael Jorgensen, the producer who wrote and directed the hour-long high-definition TV special. “It’s a new dividing line in the sand. I really believe, after this, it will be sort of ‘pre-‘ and ‘post-Leonardo’ because now we have not just the bones. Now, we have an entire body."

In the end, though, Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy only scratches the surface of the forensic investigation of Leonardo. As one of the program’s experts points out, the story of Leonardo is far from over.

In fact, if Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy proves anything, it’s that this is a story that is only just beginning.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fall Preview 2008 - Sept. 6, 2008



Channel hopping

The writers' strike derailed TV networks last season. This fall is all about getting things back on track and viewers back on board.

By Eric Kohanik

Last season’s writers’ strike really did knock the stuffing out of the TV industry, in a lot of ways.

That is about to become obvious as a new TV season gets rolling.

For some networks, the 2008 fall season will be a lot about relaunching shows that actually premiered in the 2007 fall season. Chief among them are series that never did return with new episodes after the strike.

So, count on big relaunches for series like Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Dirty Sexy Money (all returning Oct. 1; ABC, A).

Then, there were the midseason shows that arrived during or after the writers’ strike. Although many of those were marginal ratings performers, network executives figured some were worth hanging onto. So, there will be lots of drum beating going on to stir up renewed interest in shows like Lipstick Jungle (returning Sept. 24; NBC, Citytv) and Eli Stone (returning Oct. 14; ABC, A).

For some TV series, meanwhile, the new fall season will be all about saying goodbye. So, look for the launch of the farewell seasons of such TV veterans as The Shield (returning Sept. 9; Showcase), Boston Legal (returning Sept. 22; ABC, E!), ER (returning Sept. 25; NBC, CTV) and, yes, even Royal Canadian Air Farce (returning Oct. 3; CBC).

But what about any fantastic new shows?

Uh, don’t count on a bumper crop of those this fall. Maybe networks are just waiting to harvest their best new stuff midseason.

That may work out in the end, since viewers often complain that they don’t really have time to add many new shows to their stable of favourites in the fall.

If you do have room for only one new drama in your fall TV viewing planner, try Simon Baker’s stint as The Mentalist (premiering Sept. 22; A and Sept. 23; CBS). It’s a good show that casts Baker as a former TV psychic who helps police solve crimes.

If you’re craving a clever new comedy, try Kyle Bornheimer‘s travails in Worst Week (premiering Sept. 22; CBS, E!). You just can’t help but like a show where the main character keeps having worse luck than you do.

And if you are simply missing the competitive juices of So You Think You Can Dance, there’s a whole gaggle of Canadians hot to (fox) trot on the new So You Think You Can Dance Canada (starting Sept. 11; CTV).

Of course, if you subscribe to pay TV, you’re really in luck. As well as great returning shows, pay TV is where the good stuff is really showing up this fall.

Vampire fans will adore HBO’s True Blood (premiering Sept. 7; The Movie Network, Movie Central). And, when it comes to sketch comedy, there’s nothing funnier than oddballs Matt Lucas and David Walliams re-inventing their wacky material for the new Little Britain USA (premiering Sept. 29; The Movie Network, Movie Central).

So, there you have it – the bottom line on the new season. Happy channel hopping!