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Second Take: ABC's "FlashForward"

Remember yesterday how I mentioned that second episodes are the true test of a series and how they can be a better gauge of an ongoing series' strengths and weaknesses than than the pilot? I went into last night's episode of FlashForward ("White to Play"), written by David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim and directed by David S. Goyer, really wanting to like the series, despite some reservations I had about the pilot episode (which I reviewed here ) and some of the narrative and casting choices. But I always go into a second episode with an open mind as it offers the writers an opportunity to tweak some issues than may not have worked as well as possible in the series opener. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed. I'm not jumping off the FlashForward train just yet but I continue to have some serious issues with the series and last night's installment did little to quell these feelings. For one, I'm still not engaged at all with Joseph Fiennes&#

Second Take: ABC's "Modern Family"

Second episodes of new series are always tricky. While the pilot gives both the network and viewers an idea of what the series will be encapsulated into a single episode, second installments are often hit-or-miss as they represent the everyday norm of the series: they're produced on smaller budgets with less time to write scripts, rehearse, and shoot. So when they work just as well as the pilot, there's a sense of relief for all parties involved. Last night's episode of ABC's hilarious and heartfelt comedy Modern Family ("The Bicycle Thief"), written by Bill Wrubel and directed by Jason Winer, didn't stray into the pitfalls of the second episode curse, instead delivering an episode that was overflowing with humor and heart and serviced the characters in beautifully touching ways. Given my feverish love for this series, I was curious to see just how the second episode would affect me and I'm happy to report that I am just as completely enamored of M

Walking Through a Sunken Dream: Sam Tries to Figure Out What's Real on "Life on Mars"

Sigh. I was really hoping by now that the writers of ABC's Life on Mars would have stopped cribbing from the original UK series but was sadly disappointed to see that last night's episode ("The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler"), the series' second, once again borrowed way too heavily from the original script. Last night's episode of Life on Mars followed the squad as they attempted to take down the organizer of a series of armed robberies at local check cashing stores, introduced Lee Tergesen as Assistant District Attorney Lee Crocker, and had Gene and Sam coming to blows (yet again) when Sam's plan put one of their own (Heather Matarazzo's June) in harm's way. To me, this series needs to be a hell of a lot more clever by half as much of the action and plotting seems predictable and pedestrian. The fact that Sam would go to the ADA and tell him that he suspects that the robberies are an inside job and implicate members of his own precin

Second Bite: Another Look at HBO's "True Blood"

Back in May, I wrote a pretty negative review of the original pilot for HBO's upcoming Alan Ball vampires-in-the-South drama True Blood , based on the novel series by Charlaine Harris. (You can read my original review here .) Since then, I was contacted by HBO, who asked me to take another look at True Blood 's revised pilot ("Strange Love"), which recast one major character and altered a few scenes, and the series' second episode. Always willing to take another look at something, I agreed, especially when the project in question is the next HBO Sunday night lynchpin and comes from such storied auspices. So did writer/director Alan Ball ( Six Feet Under ) and producers manage to fix some of the problems I had with the original pilot for True Blood ? Let's discuss. For those of you who didn't read my original review of True Blood (and shame on you if you didn't!), here's the quick recap of the plot of True Blood : vampires have "come out o

Second Take: NBC's "30 Rock"

I'd be terribly remiss if I didn't take a second look at the pilot for NBC's new Tina Fey comedy 30 Rock . I reviewed the original pilot (sans Jane Krakowski) here and settled in last night to watch the revised version of the premiere episode last night. (What? Don't look at me like that... I had to get through America's Next Top Model , Lost , and Project Runway on Wednesday night!) I have to say, I liked the revised version of 30 Rock even better than the original, even with Rachel Dratch downgraded from star... to, er, supporting cast member. (Isn't it ironic how a show about a network retooling a show about a sketch comedy star suddenly reduced to being a second banana... gets retooled and the sketch comedy star becomes, well, a second banana with a string of oddball minor parts in every episode?) I do have to say that Krakowski is a little more believable as the star of the fictional Girlie Show and Jenna's attitude and reactions come across as a