Viva Laughlin Thursday, Oct. 18 (CBS)
Series Debut: Now that ABC’s Pushing Daisies has run away with the title of Weirdest New Show 2007, where does that leave flashy singin’ casino drama Viva Laughlin? After tonight’s debut, stuck on Sundays following … 60 Minutes. Between those viewers’ fond remembrance of ’40s musicals and the handful of Americans who’ve actually heard of Britain’s Viva Blackpool (on which Laughlin is based) … yeah. Goes like this: A convenience-store owner (Lloyd Owen) plans to step up and open a megaresort in Laughlin, Nev., but has to turn to a sleazy casino rival (executive producer Hugh Jackman) for money when his business partner mysteriously gets a case of the deads. There’s also some Family Drama at home, and Broadway-ized classic rock tunes can break out at any moment! Sure, it’s ridiculous—but ridiculousness on this grand of a scale should be rewarded … with a Tony.
Mad Men Thursday, Oct. 18 (AMC)
Season Finale: This series is going to kill on DVD. After months of slow-burn buzz on a cable network previously known only for its bizarro film mix (The Birds and Catwoman are both American Movie Classics? Uh, OK), Mad Men has become one of those shows that most have heard about but few have actually followed—kinda like the first season of The Sopranos, to which Mad Men is frequently compared. Both are full of morally-ambiguous-but-still-sympathetic characters (Mad Men’s mysterious, chiseled Don Draper is the new It antihero), but Mad Men gets away with figurative murder because it’s set in the advertising world of 1960 Madison Avenue: Everybody smokes and drinks, no one wears a seat belt, women are disposable playthings, and behavior (good, bad or worse) is never justified or explained for easy consumption. Sounds more like Deadwood than The Sopranos; jumping in now could be hazardous to your TV health.
Damages Tuesday, Oct. 23 (FX)
Season Finale: Same with this, but for different reasons. In another year, Damages might have stood out as another excellent cable series; Glenn Close’s dark legal drama is as near a female answer to The Shield as you’re going to get. But, in a summer/fall loaded with Weeds, The Closer, Saving Grace, Army Wives, The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman et al, there was just too much good work being done by too many broads (sorry, Mad Men residue). Still, there’s a Damages marathon Sunday, Oct. 20—catch up if you can.
Phenomenon Wednesday, Oct. 24 (NBC)
Series Debut: Uri Geller and Criss Angel search for “the next great mentalist” and … oh, wait, questions in the back? See, kids, Uri Geller was a celebrity psychic back in the ’70s, famous for bending spoons sometimes while failing to bend spoons at other times—which totally proved it wasn’t a trick! Anyway, now he’s back and teamed with illusionist Criss Angel (who, unlike Geller, only pretends to be a goth, not a “paranormalist”) for Last Magician Standing. Wanna see a real magic trick? How about Geller raising an eyebrow through all that botox? Ha!
Dirty Sexy Money, Life Wednesdays (ABC, NBC)
Take note—The Only TV Column That Matters™ is about to admit a mistake: Previously, I wrote off two new Wednesday night shows as not being worth your time. Wrong-o. ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money is droll, engaging fun; so much so that I’m willing to forgive star Peter Krause’s involvement in Seasons 3-5 of Six Feet Under. As for Life, it’s more than just another cop-partner show—not much more, but Damian Lewis effectively channels Dr. House, and Sarah Shahi is simply The Hottest Detective in TV History. Choose wisely: DSM and Life are on at the same time.
Richard Gere as Clifford Irving, the writer who faked Howard Hughes’ autobiography and screwed the publishing industry. So, a hero? Miramax.com
Motocross Zombies From Hell
The hottest motocross team in the land is made up of zombies! Whether they’re actually from hell or not, pretty much irrelevant here. WestlakeEnt.com
The first (and way better) half of the Rodriguez/Tarantino epic Grindhouse, but minus the kick-ass “previews.” Dude. WeinsteinCo.com
Squidbillies: Season 1
The wacky misadventures of redneck squids who live in the mountains of Georgia. You would think it sucks ass. And you’d be right. AdultSwim.com
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip:The Complete Series
If you watch the episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s flop in reverse order, it’s a pedantic political rant that becomes a fine comedy. Try it. WarnerBros.com
Giant robots blow shit up for two hours while Shia LaBeouf and his hot girlfriend scramble to save the world, or at least find the plot. Paramount.com
More New DVD Releases (Oct. 16)
Girl 27, The Kings of South Beach, Medium: Season 3, Return to House on Haunted Hill, Roseanne: Season 9, That ‘70s Show: Season 7
X96 Big Ass Show
Missed X96’s Big Ass Show a couple of weeks ago? Local filmmakers David Adler and Alisha Garcia have captured all the essentials in a 36-minute mini-documentary about the 2007 BASh, available online now. Lessons learned: The youth can rock even when the show’s moved inside to an overlit convention showroom, Schoolyard Heroes live up to their hype live, Sum 41 are well past their relevance, and Todd Nuke’Em’s a funny mofo. Enjoy. X96.com
Listen to Bill Mondays at 8 a.m. on X96’s Radio From Hell. Robot ‘sploding blogging at BillFrost.tv.