US TV

Season finales: Scrubs and House

In the penultimate of my series of finale guides this week, I’m having a look at two medical dramas: House and Scrubs (no, I won’t be covering Grey’s Anatomy: it’s pants).

House's finale

House

With no real story arcs to clear up, House could have just ended with business as usual. Instead, the season has a cracking and indeed shocking conclusion. There’s enough misdirection in it to make it hard for all but the most jaded to spot what’s going on. There’s also no pat resolution, making it a tense summer for the House fan. Although we can guess that the regular character in jeopardy will survive through to the next season, there’s a possibility that things won’t return to the status quo: indeed, the episode went through most of the possible changes that could occur, so you’ll be able to spend the wait working out which is the most likely.

Tension factor: 8/10

Scrubsfinale

Scrubs

This season’s been a bit rubbish, so it’s no surprise that the finale should be rubbish. Resorting to one pregnancy: that’s a bit tired, but reasonably acceptable. Resorting to two pregnancies: that’s starting to suggest desperation. But three pregnancies? Just how few ideas do you have to have left to try that? No real tension here, given that we’ve had no build up to these bolts from the blue, so don’t fret too much.

Tension factor: 2/10

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TV reviews

The US season finales are upon us: Smallville, Supernatural, Prison Break, The West Wing

A good finale to a TV series can keep you watching even the biggest rubbish imaginable. They can be exciting, tense and a whole load of other things.

Stress, of course, is a major health hazard. Therefore, so that UK viewers can brace themselves to an appropriate degree, I’ll be giving near-spoiler free guides to just how tense and exciting each of the major US TV shows’ finales were, starting today. US TV shows don’t end all at once: they’re spread over a period of three weeks or so, so there’ll be another couple of updates to come after this over the next week or so.

Chlark

Smallville

Pretty tense, but not quite as tense as previous seasons’. Some good moments, some irritating moments and one excellent moment. Yes, Chloe and Clark finally get to smooch. Ha, Lana! I’m expecting a typical Smallville memory-wipe next season, though, so the tension will be only temporary at best.

Tension factor: 7/10

Supernatural

Supernatural

The finale was a couple of weeks ago and was actually quite good. Bleak, nasty and with almost no hope for the “sexy supernatural ghosthunters”. Since it’s part of an ongoing plot, I’ve no idea how quickly things will revert to X-Files “monster of the week” or whether there’ll be a format change coming with the move of the show to The CW.

Tension factor: 8/10

They made the break

Prison Break

It’ll be no surprise for anyone to hear that the motley band of inmates manages to escape in the last episode. Or that it all goes a bit pear-shaped. But there are a good collection of other surprises and the ending is actually my one solitary recurring nightmare. Obviously, with them out of prison, there’s going to be a complete change of format in season two, so it’ll be worth tuning in to see what season two will be like “After the Prison Break”.

Tension factor: 9/10

The West Wing's finale

The West Wing

Since the show’s been cancelled, no tension at all here. The finale was written by John Wells, who’s been responsible for most of the worst episodes of the show of late. It had a couple of okay moments and a few resolutions of ongoing plot lines, but not many. A flat ending to a former favourite.

Disappointment factor: 8/10

In the coming guides: CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, House, Numb3rs, 24, Scrubs, Lost, The Unit (assuming it has a finale soon – they’re showing two episodes every Tuesday now)

Incidentally, in compiling this guide, I watched CSI: New York for the first time in ages because the episode on last week looked like it should have been the finale. But it wasn’t. Anyway, the show’s still dull, it turns out, but I’ll bite the bullet, take one for the team, and watch this week’s episode, too.

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US TV

Review: The Unit 1×1 – How cool is Dennis Haysbert?

Dennis Haybert: the coolest man alive

Dennis Haysbert: you know him right? He’s been around for ages. I first saw him in Suture, in which he played the absolutely identical twin brother of a white guy – a white guy who didn’t have an eye-patch like him. But he was also the getaway driver in Heat, was the government guy in Now and Again, and is best known as ex-President Palmer in 24 – Palmer being the only man in the world Jack “Harder than Chuck Norris” Bauer respects. He’s a cool guy, basically. But how cool?

I’ll tell you how cool he is. He now has his own show, one specially written for him by David Mamet.

Yes. David Mamet, the manliest of modern American playwrights. If David Mamet had one tenth the testosterone level of his scripts combined, he’d be able to knock out a charging bull with his bare hands. He’s that manly.

But The Unit, as Haysbert’s new show is called, is even manlier than David Mamet channelling the spirit of Ernest Hemingway in a Living TV seance. For starters, it’s based on Inside Delta Force, a book written by the founder of America’s answer to the SAS, Eric Haney. For no doubt a whole host of legal reasons, The Unit isn’t actually about Delta Force, but a thinly veiled version of Delta Force that goes undercover in Afghanistan one day and then on their day off foil hijackings of commercial jets. If ‘The Unit’ could talk, it would have to kill you afterwards.

The show is both good and awful. When dealing with the aforementioned hijacking, it’s very tense and impressive. Blink too many times and the spell that makes you think Scott Foley (Elliott’s ex-boyfriend in Scrubs) is capable of speaking Arabic and knifing people in the throat will wear off, but as tales of daring-do go it’s a lot closer to reality, I suspect, that the fabulous wonderland that is 24. It certainly makes Ross Kemp and Ultimate Force look like a bunch of Nancies.

It also manages to deal with the personal lives of the soldiers in a reasonably uninsulting way, while simultaneously recycling every cliché in the book. We get to meet all the Unit’s wives, who are a mix of the long-suffering, the cheating and the Independent Woman Who Wants Her Husband To Be More Emotionally Involved In the Family And Won’t Be Treated As A Second-Class Citizen By The Army. You know the type.

But there’s simply so much manliness going around, there’s a surplus that can be ladelled out to the wives as well. You could talk about The Unit if you wanted to, but then one of the wives would have to kill you.

Where it falls down quite drastically is when dealing with non-US affairs. Have a look at this picture of Haysbert and one of his comrades undercover in Afghanistan:

Undercover in Afghanistan. Really

Now if you were Afghanistani and you saw these guys in your local pub, would you, even for one second, think they weren’t Americans? No, neither would I. It’s not a fatal flaw – show me one TV series that properly manages to pull off International (don’t even think of saying Alias) – but it’s still more laughable than The West Wing‘s attempts (although not as insulting as Commander in Chief‘s).

If The Unit can confine itself to domestic US operations and maintain the same level of quality as Mamet’s opening episode, it’s going to be worth watching. However, I foresee a certain amount of jingoism in the near future that it’ll find hard to avoid. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for it.

But there’ll be one thing The Unit proves: you shouldn’t mess with Haysbert.