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November 16, 2006 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | November 16, 2006 |

Thursdays are a freakin’ clusterfuck and there’s a ton to go through, so let’s just get to it.

“My Name is Earl” (NBC, 8 p.m.). I was very excited when this show started last year, and I gave it a pretty glowing review. A year-and-a-half later, I still enjoy it, but my enthusiasm has mellowed just a little. I think all the characters are great (especially Crab Man — he rules), they manage to pull in some solid guest stars (Giovanni Ribisi’s recurring role is particularly stellar), and the stories are generally pretty entertaining. As a result, the show pulls at least a few good laughs out of me on any given week.

So. Why aren’t we quite the best friends we once were? Because something about the show’s moralizing rubs me the wrong way — it’s just a little too cheesy. And I get that some moralizing is necessary, as it’s kind of inherent in the whole “karma list” premise of the show. But my complaint isn’t meant to say that I mind some heart getting thrust into my comedies — for example, “Scrubs” has been doing it for years and does it pretty flawlessly. No problem there. But here, it sorta irks me because it feels like they’re trying a tad too hard. And I think it’s that “trying too hard” that gives it the sheen of cheese that irks me so. But in the grand scheme of things, this is still a relatively minor complaint, and “Earl” is a fine way to start off the night.

“The Office” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.). Of course, “Earl” is simply an appetizer for the tasty entree that is “The Office.” With the departure of “Arrested Development,” and the decline of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” this really is the best comedy on TV. Yes, you can make a solid case for “Scrubs,” “Weeds,” and/or “Entourage,” but you’d just be wrong. While this season has been just a teensy bit lighter on the laughs, to me at least, than season two, it’s still been funny as hell. And at least once an episode I have to hit pause because I’m just laughing so hard.

Perhaps most impressive is that tonight will be the 36th episode of the series, almost three times what we got from the U.K. original. And so far, they’ve done a fabulous job at expanding the storyline of the original and keeping things fresh and interesting at the same time. You’d think it would be hard as hell to keep coming up with funny shit when you’re confined, more or less, to a drab office as your main setting. That this hasn’t remotely been an issue is a testament to the writers and the fantastic characters they’ve created. Speaking of which, props for the new characters, too — it ain’t easy to bring new folks into a successful show and get them to smoothly integrate (I’m looking at you “Lost!”), but, again, “The Office” has handled it like champs.

I’m simply hooked on this sucker, and it’s one of the shows I most anticipate on a weekly basis.

“Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m.). I’m really not that interested in this season. The “twists” haven’t been very twisty (and the tribes-of-different-races gimmick was just stupid). The contestants aren’t all that exciting. There hasn’t been any truly entertaining plotting or scheming or backstabbing (one hopes that’ll show up down the road, once it turns to an individual game, but you just never know). But none of that matters. I’ve been hooked on this show from day one back in Summer ‘00, and try though I might, I just can’t manage to write its name down on that little card to get it off my list. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll watch every bloody season for as long as it’s on the air, and that’s just that.

“Ugly Betty” (ABC, 8 p.m.). Salma Hayek, who exec produces this show, started a guest stint two weeks ago, and in her very first scene, she stripped down to her bra.

That one moment alone gives this show enough cred and goodwill for about two seasons in my book. But so far, it doesn’t even need it, because I’m enjoying the hell out of this puppy. It’s campy and cheesy, but all in the name of having fun with itself. And when a show has that kind of sense of humor about itself and doesn’t take itself too seriously, well, it’s easy to join along for the ride.

My only real complaint with it has been the secondary story of the “deceased” former editor-in-chief, and her subversive plan to get back at the magazine’s owner (Caleb from “The O.C.”). I understand the desire for this ultra-cheesy darkly tinted storyline, considering the show’s telenovela origins, but it’s just not working for me as well as the rest. This whole business has actually been toned back over the last couple of weeks, and I’m wondering if that tone-down is permanent. I hope so. Although even if it comes back full swing, it won’t detract me enough to really complain.

Oh yeah, and did I mention, Salma Hayek in her bra.

Oh yeah, and did I mention, Salma Hayek. In her bra (she’s great on this show even when fully clothed, mind you, but I’m just saying).

“The O.C.” (FOX, 9 p.m.). When I reviewed the first episode a couple weeks back, I said things looked to be stepping up from last season’s plummet, and with two more episodes under the belt, I stand by that assessment. It’s not first-season good, but it’s probably better than it’s been in a year and a half, and any complaints I have about it so far are outweighed by the good bits and, more importantly, the fact that it’s showing some real potential. Of course, it needs to live up to that potential at some point, and it feels like it’s trying to get there, so we’ll see. But I’m relatively pleased with things for now, no doubt due, at least in part, to the fact that I came in with rather low expectations.

“Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 9 p.m.). I’ve said it before — this isn’t a great show, but there’s just enough good to make up for all the bad. They could go a long way to making it better, mind you, if they got rid of Meredith Grey and her whiny voiceovers and her selfish love story and all the baggage that goes with her. But I’m not saying anything here that hasn’t been said many times before.

The one other improvement I’d make, and this isn’t something I’ve seen said so much, is that I’d maybe tone down the sap a little and focus a tad more on the funny. I’m not saying it needs to suddenly become a comedy, but I think the balance has fallen a little too far away from the comedy angle.

“30 Rock” (NBC, 9 p.m.). Alec Baldwin. Ever since he was Pete Schweaty on that infamous “SNL” clip back in the day, he’s been gradually building up to the pinnacle he has achieved here. He is a show-stealer through and through. His performance during the poker episode (for those who saw it — I’m specifically thinking of when he was trying to psych out the intern during their first go-round) was simply inspired. The rest of this show is mediocre at best, but as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, I’ll keep watching.

“Scrubs” (NBC, 9:30 p.m.). Sure, I’m not actually watching this on Thursdays yet. But it’s coming in just two weeks, and I can’t turn down another excuse to plug it, especially since there’s a reasonable chance that this could be the last season. And I’m just pleased as punch that the two best comedies will be airing on the same night. Good on you, NBC — you should’ve listened to me six months ago, when I told you to have exactly this schedule.

“Real World/Road Rules Challenge” (MTV, 10 p.m.). Our own Dan Carlson recently discussed this show on his personal blog, and he pretty much covered the wonder and mindless joy that this show is: “Casey used some of her prize money from last season to buy breast implants, which she bragged about in the first episode of this season. Really, how can you not cheer on someone like that?” Exactly. So I’m just gonna’ send you his way.

And with that, my work here is done. Check back tomorrow, as we’ve still got one more day to go, and if you missed any of my earlier discussion, click away:

What I’m watching on Sundays and Mondays.
What I’m watching on Tuesdays.
What I’m watching on Wednesdays.
What I’m watching on Fridays and Saturdays.


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. After typing this whole column with his laptop sitting on his lap, he feels a little like Pete Schweaty, with a big ol’ heaping of the Schweaty Balls.

What I'm Watching on Thursdays

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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