TV Times

This was a good weekend for TV. It kicked-off Friday with a fantastic episode of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which has not only become one of the best dramas on the air, it has single-handedly reinvigorated the sci-fi genre on television. It used to be all the sci-fi space dramas took their cues from STAR TREK as if it was sacred text. Not any more.  BSG showrunner Ron Moore has changed everything. He started by telling stories involving genuine characters instead of noble cardboard heroes who only do "the right thing" and never get laid.  He’s subverted every other tired cliche along the way, too (but if you miss them, just tune into STARGATE or STARGATE ATLANTIS).  You don’t have to like scifi shows to get hooked on BSG.

On Sunday, while my Tivo was capturing 24, I watched Tom Selleck in the TV movie JESSE STONE: NIGHT PASSAGE, based on Robert B. Parker’s book. Like last years STONE COLD, Selleck played an ex-LAPD cop who becomes police chief of a small, Massachusetts town. The movie was a welcome change from the plethora of procedural dramas on TV.  It was full of atmosphere and character and punchy dialogue. There were no forensics, cool flashbacks, or autopsies, just a simple crime story well told. The mystery was weak, but the other pleasures more than made up for it.

What I don’t get is why they chose to shoot the last Jesse Stone book, STONE COLD, as the first movie, and then do the first book NIGHT PASSAGE (which begins with Stone’s arrival as police chief) as the second movie. It was especially awkward since a key character in NIGHT PASSAGE is killed in both the book and movie version of STONE COLD and presumably remains alive through the next few TV movies (the next one up is DEATH IN PARADISE, the third Stone book), further confusing things.

There’s a new, fifth STONE novel coming this year from Parker and I’m eager to read it — for some time now, the Stone books have been far better than the Spensers. One of the key differences between the TV movie adaptations and the books is the creative decision to relegate Stone’s ex-wife to just a voice on the phone. I think it was a brilliant idea and adds to Jesse’s isolation.

This weekend was also the premiere of the BBC series HUSTLE on AMC. I didn’t watch it, since I’ve got the series on DVD from England months ago. The show is fine, a nice diversion, but the cons get tiresome and the episodes begin to blur into sameness.   Still, it’s nice to see Robert Vaughn back on TV again.

18 thoughts on “TV Times”

  1. Tom Selleck and Night Passage was indeed well done. An interesting role for Selleck, in that the character is so bleak and sad. The whole episode was sad, actually, which is what I told my wife when I came to bed and she asked how it was. “Sad.” Then I added that he’d had to put the dog down.
    My wife commented at the beginning that Tom needs to work out, he’s looking a little paunchy. May be. I went online to check his age and if my math is correct he turns 61 this month, so he’s a pretty good-looknig 61.
    Faithful to the book, darker than the book, but a welcome addition to TV that’s focusing less on characters and more on the gee-whiz science fiction of TV forensics. I missed the first one, but I see it’s out on DVD, so I’ll have to pick it up.
    Mark Terry

  2. I watched the Tom Selleck movie last night too. My husband (surprisingly) and I really enjoyed the first and look forward to the next one. The thing I had a problem with last night was the euthanasia of the dog. That kinda thing always taps into some place inside regarding my past pets that makes me just bawl my eyes out. I was fighting heaving sobs/gasps for air through the commercial break.

  3. It *was* a great weekend for TV, but I’d also include the return of “Monk” on Friday night! A new “Monk” is always a reason to cheer, and this one was a lot of fun, with a great campy performance by Malcolm McDowell.

  4. Once ‘Doctor Who’ reaches the States in March on Sci-Fi, you’ll see the term “single-handedly” can’t really be used when talking about reinvigorating the SF genre.
    The new version of ‘Doctor Who’, and especially the supporting character of Captain Jack, really shook off that stodgy feel that set in beginning with ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. (I call it “picardization”.)
    But as Dennis Miller would say, that’s my opinion; I could be wrong.

  5. Oddly enough, the Stone movies feel like really good westerns to me even though they are contemporary cop stories. Stone is the laconic and iconic town Marshall and Paradise might as well be Dodge City.

  6. I liked the Stone film, but I too thought the plot was weaker than the first one, and noticed they used the same location; introduced him to the same house he lived before as if he’s never seen it. I sure had. Selleck told Tavis Smiley he had a pile of scripts on his desk, all bad, yet they got through the layers of process didn’t they?

  7. I’ve never liked DR. WHO nor understood it’s popularity overseas (though I have a good friend who LOVES it and has written several popular non-fiction books about the show). I caught the American pilot Fox did a few years back and thought it was pretty awful. I’ll watch the first episode or two of the new DR. WHO but I don’t have very high expectations.

  8. A couple of things. I saw Selleck complain that all he did was read bad scripts. For a second I felt sorry for the “free-lance” actor as he described himself, having to do nothing but read scripts presented to him, rather than being able to go and read decent stories and have them made into projects.
    Secondly, the latest season of Doctor Who (which will finally be shown on the SciFi channel this March – The SciFi Channel originally rejected showing the show) is certainly passable for SciFi fiction. The cheesy rubber suited monsters are only slightly upgraded from their brethren from seasons past. So, if you’re looking for fantastic effects, you’re not going to get it. What has made Doctor Who stand out has been the actors playing the role of the Doctor, the snappy dialogue coming out of the Doctor, and the cliffhangers.
    Doctor Who has never been written for an adult audience like BSG. Comparing them is a waste of effort. There’s a lot of hope for the Doctor Who spinoff featuring “Captain Jack”, as the actor/role simply clicked with everyone instantly. Imagine writing stories featuring a witty omnisexual hero from the future?

  9. You know, when I was wondering if I was going to watch the Golden Globes tonight (answer: probably not) I realized that I was a lot more excited about the TV catagories than I was about the movies.

  10. “STONE COLD, Selleck played an ex-LAPD cop who becomes police chief of a small, Massachusetts town…”
    Is this a staple plot now? Robert Crais’s HOSTAGE features an… LAPD COP who becomes the Chief of Police in a sleepy small town.
    Mind you, he is played by old Die Hard himself in the movie.
    Jeez, you’re a hood, you leave the city for a life of leisurely crime in the burbs, but wherever you go you run into a burned-out ex-LAPD cop.
    This could be a sub-genre all on its own.

  11. The new DR. WHO is lots of fun. The old show was never more than a guilty pleasure, but the new one has charismatic leads, smart dialog and solid stories. I don’t know how the new Doctor will do in the second season.
    As for JESSE STONE: NIGHT PASSAGE, it had a lot going for it, but a lot wrong with it, too. Selleck was great. Age has given him a gravity that he didn’t have when he was younger and he’s always had a ton of charisma.
    Then again, the villains acted like idiots, the protagonist was such a grump they had to give him an old hound dog to make him sympathetic. Oh, and he had to turn down casual sex with a hot, hot young woman, too. Guess he’s too deep for a one-nighter. But they needed something to carry us far enough into the story to see a Baldwin take one in the nuts.
    Then you have the classic “silencer-on-a-revolver” move. Come on.
    I’d watch it again, just to see Selleck, but it would have to hold together much better next time.

  12. On another subject entirely, I see that the IMBA just posted their December best seller list (
    but it doesn’t match that one which someone sent you a couple of weeks ago.
    I’d love to know where that list you had came from… A) Because obviously I wish you well, and B) Because my husband Peter May, and his book The Firemaker was creeping right in there at Number Ten.
    Now there’s a mystery for you… what kind of person would go to the trouble of making up a bestseller list, and more to the point… why?
    I know you looked into it a little bit, but if you ever investigate further, be sure to keep us up to date with developments!

  13. Definitely looking forward to Doctor Who. I hear the writers give a lot of insight on the boards as to their story decisions, but I haven’t wanted to read until I could see the episodes.
    BSG is wonderful, sometimes I forget to breathe during the scenes. They jumped into the Resurrection attack too quickly though, felt like they were rushing towards the assassination attempts and didn’t have/want to spend the time on the battle.
    24 was a mild disappointment; felt like obvious behavior was not allowed to happen because it would have interfered with the crisis build-up.
    Or am I too cranky to live?

  14. Selleck has found a perfect fit with this role. I enjoyed the first one, and this one was a flashback to his arrival in Paradise. I’d like to see this turn into a regular series. Say once every couple months?

  15. Agreed, the Jesse Stone movie was great. I watched the one last year (“Stone Cold”) because I’m a smart young woman who recognizes that Tom Selleck is still hot, and I watched it again when it re-ran a few months ago because when I’d watched it the first time, I had a really weird feeling about the girl that plays the teen rape victim.
    I just knew I’d seen her before. I kept having snapshot memories of her. In between the two viewings I saw a “Law & Order” rerun with the same actress, but i still wasn’t convinced that that is where I had recognized her from (I’ve seen nearly every “L&O,” and though I’m GREAT at recognizing actors, I’m also good at remembering where I’ve seen them before).
    So, one night I was home and nothing was on but “Stone Cold;” even though I’d seen it before, I watched it again and that’s when it hit me: the actress who I recognized had taken one class in playwriting with me at NYU’s Tisch. Being only 90% certain, I did some IMDB-ing the next day..but I’m still only 95% sure. Oh well.

  16. I didn’t watch that Tom Selleck movie thing. I think I’ll wait for it to appear on DVD like the other did though I haven’t seen that one either. I’m saving it for one of those days when there’s absolutely nothing else to rent. Don’t get me wrong. I do love Tom Selleck, but I like him as Magnum more.
    I did watch MONK this weekend though. I was so happy to see a new episode that I even watched it twice because there was absolutely nothing else on. I absolutely loved the preview for next weeks episode. It looks like it’ll be really funny. I think I’ll even re-read the book this weekend while I’m getting my hair done. I then had such hankering to watch Tony Shalhoub in something else that I stuck in my Galaxy Quest DVD and watched that. He’s such an understated actor. I will so have to buy MONK on DVD. It deserves to be preserved for ages.
    I haven’t gotten into BSG because I’m not a big sci-fi fan. I used to watch SG-1, but then Richard Dean Anderson left and all these new people came. It bugged the heck out of me so I stopped watching. Sometimes I’ll watch an old rerun.
    I do make a plan to watch SNL every Saturday night. Scarlett actually did a decent job hosting, but she’s still not on the list of actors I make an effort to watch.
    So this past weekend’s television was alright, but I had more of a chance to work on some stories I’ve been writing and searching for the textbooks I needed for class. Some of which I still don’t have though I’m in no rush I always seem to buy a book I don’t need and suddenly can’t return.


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