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for Wednesday, July 14, 2004

John Stewart

Is there anything good on TV this summer? From where I sit, which is usually in front of my computer and not on the family room couch watching the tube, four shows are making my summer viewing a delightful experience.

Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW continues to be the smartest series on television. Four nights a week, host Jon Stewart and his correspondents put on a "phony news show" that has more meaningful content than the so-called real news shows. There is something of a liberal bias to the program - which I happen to think is a good thing given the extreme right-wing swing of most television news - but Stewart and crew point out foibles from every territory of the political landscape. Conservative guests often appear on the show and are treated in a fair and even-handed manner. How sad and at the same time wonderful that a comedian has so much more integrity than "legitimate" newsmen and commentators.

THE DAILY SHOW is funny and honest and smart. If it could run for office, I'd vote for it in a heartbeat.


Dead Zone - Greg Stillson and Johnny Smith

THE DEAD ZONE is based on the Stephen King novel about Johnny Smith, a man who wakes from six years in a coma to find that he can receive visions of the past and of possible/probable futures merely by touching people or objects. In this series, which airs Sunday nights on the USA Network, and in the novel, the looming threat to Johnny and the world is politician Greg Stillson.

THE DEAD ZONE offers up a nice mix of continuity episodes and stand-alone stories. In the political track, we have seen Stillson get away with extortion, rapes, murders, and stealing the election for the congressional seat he now holds. Johnny's visions tell him that Stillson's rise to power will result in Armageddon, but he has to put together the how and when before he can take any real action against the human monster.

In Johnny's life, we have seen him deal with his fiancee being married to the sheriff (who is one of his closest allies); his son not knowing (until recently) Johnny is his father; and his dawning awareness that he is being betrayed by the minister he trusted with his personal and financial security. He's also in the early stages of a romance with a woman whose sister was murdered by Stillson to protect his theft of the election.

There have been a few clunkers over the three seasons the show has been running, but the writing and acting are usually sharp and compelling. Anthony Michael Hall portrays Smith as a good man, a hero, who fights a daily battle for his sanity in the face of those overwhelming visions. Sean Patrick Flanery plays Stillson with an impressive malevolence. David Ogden Stiers is absolutely brilliant as the flawed and surely doomed Rev. Gene Purdy. Props must also go to Chris Bruno; his Sheriff Walt Bannerman is as good a man as you'll find, always determined to do the right thing, despite his knowing that a part of his wife and his son will always belong to Johnny Smith. I think I just convinced myself to add THE DEAD ZONE first and second season sets to my Amazon Wish List.

The Dead Zone - The Complete First Season     The Dead Zone - The Complete Second Season



Tony Shalhoub keeps winning awards for best actor in a comedy series for his title role in MONK. Certainly, he and the writers mine a great deal of humor, sometimes on the dark side, from their obsessive-compulsive detective. But the memorable moments of this TV series are the dramatic ones:

- the one and only out-of-place piece of furniture in Monk's home, a coffee table kept askew because his late wife would push it away when Monk would rest his head in her lap as they sat on their sofa in the evenings;

- the honest-to-God love Monk's few friends have for him and he for them; and,

- the chilling moment when Monk, confronting the hospitalized and dying man who made and planted the bomb that killed his wife, turns off the man's morphine drip.

"This is me, turning off your morphine..."

An eternal minute passes.

"...and this is Trudy, turning it back on."

The mysteries play fair more often than not. I've even beaten Monk to the solution once or thrice.

MONK airs Friday nights on the USA Network.

Monk - The Complete First Season


NYPD 24/7

The fourth show I'm watching this summer is NYPD 24/7, which airs on ABC on Tuesday evenings. My initial reaction was that it was COPS on a bigger budget and with the superior production values a bigger budget makes possible. However, what really sets it apart from its syndicated counterparts is its focus on the cops and its presenting its stories from a cop's-eye view.

Most compelling were the two appearances of Venton Hollifield, a now-retired Emergency Service Unit lieutenant. The stress of the job and the loss of several of his men on 9/11 has him dangerously on edge. He gives the job everything he has, but also recognizes that he's at the end of his rope. We see him submit his retirement papers in the third hour of the seven-episode series.

NYPD 24/7 is riveting television. I hope ABC puts the entire series on DVD with as many extras as they can fit.

There are two other summer series I'm planning to watch. THE 4400 (on USA) made its debut on Sunday, but I haven't had a chance to watch my tape of it yet.

To quote from the network website:
Over the last century, thousands of people have gone missing. Suddenly and inexplicably, 4400 missing people are returned all at once, as they were on the day they vanished. Unclear what this world altering-event means, the government investigates the 4400 to piece together where they've been and why they've been returned. It quickly becomes apparent that their presence will change the human race in ways no one could have ever foreseen.
Look for my comments on THE 4400 after I've watched a couple episodes of the mini-series.

The other show is Denis Leary's RESCUE ME, which premieres on Wednesday, July 21, on FX. The new drama with dark humor overtones is set in a post-9/11 New York City firehouse. Leary's respect for firefighters is well-known - he created a charity to honor a cousin who died while on the job - and I'm have hope hopes for the series. As with THE 4400, expect a RESCUE ME review after I've watched two or three episodes.

Is there anything good on TV this summer? I think so and it's a trend - airing original programming throughout the year - I want to see become the norm for American television.



We're still catching up on TONY POLLS results from early June. TOT readers were asked to "grade" several TV series on their just-completed seasons. Here's how you voted...


I didn't vote on this series. I stopped watching 24 at the end of its first season because I was pissed off at the unnecessary murder of the hero's wife in the last episode. It was an extremely cheap and manipulative development at the end of a season full of dumb developments for the sake of stretching the thin plot a couple weeks further. Fooled me once; that's all they get.


I didn't vote on this one either. I watched about half of the premiere episode and it didn't hold my interest. With so many other TV shows to chose from, I decided not to give ALIAS another chance. I watch too much TV as it is.


From star David Caruso through the rest of the cast, this show's repetitive bits and mannerisms drive me crazy on occasion. But the emotion is higher than on CSI - which I still think is the better show - and the ongoing subplot of Caruso's Horatio Caine character being torn between protecting the memory of his murdered brother and finding romance with his widowed sister-in-law is meaty stuff. I like the stories, which are as dark or darker as the ones on CSI, and I like Caine's steamroller attitude of dealing with any authorities that get between him and the successful conclusion of his cases. I gave this show a "B".


I stopped watching this series about six weeks before the end of the season, which is an automatic "D" with me. I don't like any of the characters, I didn't like the tedious progress of this season's main story, and the cute Vulcan didn't get naked anywhere near enough to keep me watching. I think they should end the show with a scene of an autistic Klingon child looking at the Enterprise in a snow globe.


I'm with the majority on this show. The season started off slowly for me - Do we really need even one more story of Darkseid and the New Gods? - but, after that, every episode was, at least, a good one, and many were outstanding. Particular favorites were "A Better World," "The Terror Beyond," "Comfort and Joy," and the simply amazing "Starcrossed."

The new JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED premieres on Cartoon Network on Saturday, July 31, with an episode featuring Captain Atom, Green Arrow, and Supergirl. Don't miss it!


Don't get me started. Even with the constraints of being a Saturday morning show, STATIC SHOCK was consistently as good as JUSTICE LEAGUE and TEEN TITANS...and often better. It won its time slot. It was the second highest-rated show on Saturday mornings, trailing only YU-GI-OH! Its reward?

No comic book. No toys. No renewal now that they have enough episodes for continuous syndication.

Something's happening here and it's been happening for a very long time. What will it take to set things right?

I gave STATIC SHOCK an "A" for courage, excellence, and good old-fashioned heart. I wish I could do more.

Beppo the freaking Super-Monkey has a toy.

Shame on you, DC Comics.


My son Eddie thinks THE SIMPSONS is the greatest television show of all time. I don't agree, but I do enjoy watching episodes with him and the rest of the family.

I gave the series a "B" for its latest season. I enjoyed most of the episodes, but only five were memorable:

"The President Wore Pearls"

"Marge Vs. Singles"

"I (annoyed grunt)-Bot"

"My Big Fat Geek Wedding"

"Fraudcast News"

Your mileage may and probably does vary. Even non-memorable SIMPSONS episodes are fun, though, so I'll keep watching as long as they keep making them.

The current TONY POLLS questions will remain active until next Monday, July 19. You can vote on them at:



I'm closing in on finishing the next installment of MY FIRST MARVELS. The tie-up was figuring out why I bought or acquired so many DC Comics issues dated January, 1964, at a time when my comics interest had waned and my new-found interest in Marvel comics was in its earliest stages. I dragged something out of my memory and, lo and behold, it made sense. At present, I'm expecting to bring you that next installment on Friday.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/13/2004 | 07/14/2004 | 07/15/2004 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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