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What I Watched Last Night

I could have spent Wednesday night tuning into the Save Humanity Edition of American Idol, but as far as I'm concerned, no celebrity has ever been able parlay heartstrings into purse strings like actress Sally Struthers. These days, Sally is involved in more profitable, actual acting work on the CBS sitcom Still Standing - one of the funniest shows still standing today - so I wasn't in the mood for amateurs no matter how noble the cause.

So I went instead with Steve Guttenberg as a hack movie director on NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent trying to convince the entire New York City police force to track down whatever criminal mastermind was responsible for his facelift gone terribly wrong, and the huge tuft of hair growing under his lower lip like a giant black caterpillar in search of something green and leafy.

It turned out to be one of those "CI" episodes featuring Chris Noth instead of Vincent D'Onofrio, who I like to call Sideways Guy because of the way he freaks out skels and other social misfits into spilling the beans by cornering them in the interview room and using that halting, unsettling vocal cadence of his while invading their personal space bent sideways at the waist. As much as I like D'Onofrio's Detective Bobby Goren to Noth's Detective Mike Logan better, the reworked theme song for last night's "CI" is dramatic enough to scare you into a major heart attack if you're sitting too close to your TV set and not paying attention when it begins.

If those responsible for "CI" had any sense, they would find a way to have temporary Noth partner-replacement Alicia Witt (formerly daughter Zoe on the 1995 Cybill Shepherd sitcom Cybill) stick around once Julianne Nicholson gets done with maternity leave. Not only is she great eye candy, but she's one of the few actresses since Angie Dickinson starred in Police Woman able to give us the impression that you can be a serious cop and relate well to men off-duty without eating them whole just on general principle. Witt is as sexy as "CI"'s Kathryn Erbe is haggard-looking, less distant than "CI"'s Nicholson, and as cop-pushy as "Special Victims Unit"'s Mariska Hargitay without all that man-eater ball-busting.

Come to think of it, the law enforcement community might consider adding "say 'Mariska Hargitay' five times fast" to its arsenal of field sobriety tests.

Wednesday's "CI" involved far too many people for me to keep track of while doing other things at the same time, but the storyline revolved around the therapist wife of a supreme court judge getting professionally gunned down through the window of her kitchen and creating a substantial biohazard mess in front of the sink. The judge hears divorce cases involving people he's acquainted with, but the plot thickens through the involvement of a hooker, a shady private detective whose office is outfitted with an aquarium that has no fish and a gun room hidden behind a secret revolving bookcase, and a shrew of a wife who managed to frame Steve Guttenberg into an orange jumpsuit at Rikers after screwing the PI and the judge and offing the judge's wife.

Fortunately, the wife's incredibly complex scheme of deception was exposed soon enough after she double-crossed everyone watching American Idol into forking over $200 to various international charities to buy massive amounts of nourishing, life-sustaining food which will ultimately be hijacked by regional warlords in keeping with long-established local custom.

I'm not sure how everyone managed to piece the whole thing together. I was too busy being distracted by Alicia Witt.

* * *

If last week's episode of Fox's Hell's Kitchen was predictable, Tuesday night's show was so uneventful that if biblical Hell is equally uneventful, we might as well all be off robbing banks and pillaging convents. Even though I don't watch ABC's Dancing with the Stars, I'm convinced my TV time would have been better spent seeing how Adam Corolla managed to look like Zorro and get booted off the show after doing part of his dance number on a unicycle. A unicycle of all things. The judges' eyeballs are probably still trying to un-sear their retinas from that spectacle, but that's just the sort of spectacle you just don't see anymore. Christ, we haven't seen that sort of effort and showmanship since the 1960s, when some guy would show up on The Ed Sullivan Show every few months and keep a whole line of dinner plates spinning perfectly balanced atop tall poles for a good five minutes.

Tuesday night's Hell was so unremarkable I can't manage to keep my attention on it long enough to share anything beyond a few highlights and observations:

*

Blondie cheftestant Corey managed to cook risotto to Chef Ramsay's impeccable standards. As we all know by now, cooking up the perfect risotto seems to be as difficult as cooking up the perfect crime. The miracle was not that Corey managed to give good risotto so early in a Hell season, but that she was able to say, "I was honestly, like, super-impressed with myself" without the microphone picking up the the sound of the breeze whistling in one ear and out the other.

*

Ramsay chooses cheftestants Craig and Rosann to mingle with the dining room guests they will soon be starving by learning the assistant maitre'd ropes. The experiment doesn't go swimmingly for either one of them. Craig updates the scene in Airplane where the stewardess walks down the aisle conking passengers in the back of the head with a guitar by whacking a female diner in the back of the head with a table chair he's carrying through the crowded dining room. This causes restaurant mother hen Jean-Phillippe to react like one of the guests just took a giant shit in the middle of the place. Meanwhile, Rosann spends two hours devising a brilliant system for delivering orders to the kitchen by not delivering them to the kitchen at all because she didn't want the night to get too busy for the Red Team.

For the first time in Hell history, Ramsay is so dumbstruck by Rosann's logic that all he can muster is a high, squeaky "What?!" instead of the characteristic stream of profanity and kicking of whatever's handy.

Meanwhile at the same moment, in an unprecedented display of Chef Ramsay solidarity, the owner of every gyro stand in Chicago picks up Ramsay's slack by verbally abusing the kitchen help more than usual.

*

I don't have a dictionary handy right now. What's the proper pronunciation of the word "fillet": Our own "fil-LAY" or Ramsay's "FILL-it"? I know we on the South Side like to mangle perfectly good sentences into unrecognizable forms, but I'm pretty confident that if Ramsay showed up at the counter of a McDonald's anywhere in the country, he'd be asked the same question: "Dude, what the hell is a filidafish sandwich?"

*

Cheftestant Jason emerges as the show's Head Douchebag because, well, the misogynistic crowd on Mad Men have been away for a long time and damn, we really miss assholes like that. "They need a man to lead them," Jason comments in all earnestness during his interview. "A room full of girls; I mean, that's useless, unless what are they having, a Tupperware party over there?"

I can see it now: Hell's Kitchen winner Jason - the only guy in Los Angeles raking in $250,000 a year who even crackhouse whores wouldn't want to date.

*

Notable Cheftestant Quotable, during a halibut-filleting challenge: "Make love to that fish, man!"

Notable Ramsay Quotable: "You're not really a chef, are you? You're just a showgirl with a big feather coming out your ass."

Up next week: Fat cheftestants from both teams in a would-be hot tub lust romp showing far more skin than anyone really needs to see, fat guy cheftestants getting all fashionable in farmer overalls with the bib hanging open, and Chef Ramsay standing around for a long time banging his head against a countertop.

-

See the whole wide wonderful world of What I Watched Last Night




Posted on April 10, 2008


MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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