5 sentence review of Alcatraz

Season 1, Episode 4: “Cal Sweeney”

5. “Alcatraz” turned up its science fiction aspects in the epilogue to “Cal Sweeney,” a story about a time-jumping inmate who once ran the illegal drug trade at Alcatraz and reappears in 2012 to romance bank clerks in order to rob safety deposit boxes.

4. The prisoners who disappeared in 1963 have possessed or sought out special keys — some of them laser cut which was impossible when the prison was built.

3. The keys baffle even Agent Hauser (Sam Neill) and his team of scientists working under the Rock, but they believe the keys have something to do with how the prisoners jumped nearly 50 years into the future.

2. Hauser seems content to keep Doc (Jorge Garcia) and Madsen (Sarah Jones) in the dark, leaving them to chase down the reappearing weirdos each week, but that’s likely to change with minds as keen as theirs.

1. The episode ends with a promising trip to a secret triple-locked subterranean enclave — opened, of course, by the same keys turning up with the convicts — and suddenly everything feels very time-traveling island, but in a good way.

5 sentence review of House of Lies

Season 1, Episode 4: “Mini-Mogul”

5. The lingerie scene with Kristen Bell promised in the “House of Lies” trailer finally happened in the show’s fourth episode when her character, Jeannie, beds some moody coffeehouse singer with an acoustic guitar because she has “daddy issues.”

4. If you ask me, it’s a dirty trick to get people to watch the show for four episodes, but the promise of it was really all that kept me watching.

3. I’m sure this says something terrible about me as a person, but I’m probably no worse than the ugly corporate parasites depicted here.

2. Marty (Don Cheadle) is forced to bring his gender questioning son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.),  a kid who seems to be the most intellectually stable person on the program, along on their effort to work with some narcissistic Internet billionaire, which forces Doug (Josh Lawson) into the role of babysitter and Marty into the role of drunk dialer to his ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri).

1. Jeannie is engaged but sleeping around and I’m sure there was some other stuff going on, but I lost interest and the only thing I can really say about this show is that it is mercifully only half an hour an episode.

Kristen Bell was nearly naked in the last episode of "House of Lies." It was sexy, but hardly worth watching this show.

5 sentence review of The Big Bang Theory

Season 5, Episode 14: “The Beta Test Initiation”

5. All these years I’ve taken thousands of dollars worth of antidepressants and anxiety control medication when all I really needed was for Chuck Lorre to invent “The Big Bang Theory.”

4. The show has a sweetness to it, even if it is based on the false hope of the nerd getting the girl, and it never fails to cheer me from even my grayest moods.

3. “The Beta Test Initiation” finds Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) working on rekindling their relationship using the language of software development to communicate “bug” in their interactions.

2. The real fun, though, comes as Raj (Kunal Nayyar) falls in love with Siri, the personal assistant software on the iPhone 4S, in a running gag that so perfectly skewers the disciples of Steve Jobs’ branding-as-identity morality and the ludicrousness of our technology dependance to the point of social, intellectual and even sexual impotence.

1. Oh, and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy’s (Mayim Bialik) effort to make a video podcast on vexillology was an amusing distraction, too, but then the actions of Dr. Sheldon Cooper are always worthy of attention and laughs.

Dr. Sheldon Cooper "is one lab accident away from being a supervillian."

5 sentence review of Touch preview

Series previewSeries begins March 19.

5. Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) is a father on the edge: He’s broke, his career as a newspaper reporter over, his wife died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and social worker Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is on the verge of taking custody of his mute son Jake (David Mazouz), who has a penchant for climbing cell phone towers, telling the future with numbers, popcorn and orange soda and a distaste for being touched.

3. Professor Arthur DeWitt (Danny Glover) tells Martin that Jake has a special power to detect the future by recognizing patterns in numbers, and Jake convinces Clea by predicting a phone call from her mother by counting out popcorn kernels before the call comes through.

2. Jake fixates on the number 318 which is tied to the badge number of a firefighter who tried to rescue his mother — the same firefighter then entered a series of numbers based on the incident in the lottery for years, finally won a jackpot and after a confrontation with the Martin forces the firefighter to miss a train, the firefighter saves children on crashed school bus — No. 318 — while a boy in Baghdad trying to steal parts for his family’s broken oven from terrorists only to be forced into being a suicide bomber with a trigger that uses a cell phone lost at a New York airport and the phone has traveled around the world making an Irish call center employee a signing sensation, the same call center employee who prevents the boy from blowing himself up in exchange for getting an oven from a restaurant supply company who originally lost the phone that had photos of his dead daughter.

1. The previous sentence is easily the longest in the history of General Tso’s Revenge, and if it left you breathless and your head spinning a little bit, that’s pretty much what it was like to watch the “Touch” preview except that unlike the preceding paragraph, “Touch” leaves you wanting more.

5 sentence review of Alcatraz

Season 1, Episode 3: “Kit Nelson”

5. All hail Jorge Garcia, the patron saint of big-and-tall cherubic heroes and the highlight of the new Fox series “Alcatraz.”

4. Garcia plays Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto with an earnestness that has echos of Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, his breakthrough role on “Lost”, one of 9,472 TV shows and movies produced by J.J. Abrams.

3. This isn’t to say Garcia is Michael Cera, who seemingly plays the same guy in every role, but it is to say that Garcia has a knack for playing everyman types with a childlike sensitivity mixed with a strong, honorable moral core even if his “Alcatraz” everyman has doctorates in criminal justice and Civil War history, has written a book on the history of Alcatraz, writes and draws comic books and owns his own comic shop.

2. In “Kit Nelson,” the reappearing inmate is a child killer (Michael Eklund) and Garcia’s Doc takes the effort to rescue a kidnapped boy personally and it’s eventually revealed Doc survived a similar harrowing experience at age 11.

1. FBI Agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), the tough, hard ass in charge of rounding up the inmates that disappeared in 1963, offers surprisingly tender moment when he shows empathy for Doc’s childhood peril but demanding Doc embrace his adult expertise to remain on the team.

The women's studies majors say General Tso's Revenge is sexist and only shows cheesecake photos of women. In a settlement reached with the Professional Fun Haters of America, we present our first male cheesecake photo, Jorge Garcia from "Alcatraz."

5 sentence review of Justified

Season 3, Episode 1 : “The Gunfighter”

5. With season two largely eliminating the Bennett family by season end, new villains were needed and the season 3 premier delivered.

4. The maneuverings felt like those of another Elmore Leonard offering, Jackie Brown, as Dexter’s Desmond Harrington plays a psycho killer worthy of Anton Chigurh until his cockiness catches up with him as Raylan Givens outsmarts him.

3. A less chilling but smarter villain Quarles (Neal McDonough from FX’s short-lived but great “Terriers”) manipulates a Dixie Mafia underlings’ secretary into revealing a “meeting” that the Federal Marshals take down, removing said underling’s bodyguard from the actual meeting, where Quarles kills the underling AND the secretary, a convolution Elmore Leonard would be proud of.

2. Boyd Crowder is incarcerated after a fistfight with Raylan, leaving girl friend Ava to run things: first by offering delicious fried chicken to the crew and when that fails ruling with an iron…skillet, to the noggin of a recalcitrant underling.

1. Boyd (played well by toothy Walton Goggins of FX’s The Shield) did not merely punch Raylan for failing to deliver him the last remaining Bennett, Dickie, but as a way to be placed in the same prison as Dickie Bennett and personally serve up justice for Dickie having shot Ava.

Natalie Zea plays Raylan's ex-wife Winona Hawkins, who is always stunning in business attire

5 sentence review of Downton Abbey

Season 2, Episode 3

5. This week’s episode felt truncated (even though PBS’s re-airings are more standard), an affect that made the plot points that were explored feel more powerful, less cluttered.

4. Squabbles between Cora and Isobel sent Isobel off-stage (to France) and their was no romance for middle daughter Edith and the concept of the convalescent home felt settled this week.

3.  Footman William and heir Matthew Crawley go AWOL on a patrol that would not make the West Point textbooks.

2. Cook Beryl and maid Daisy secretly help with a ‘soup kitchen’ set-up for returning troops and when Lady Grantham’s evil maid Sarah narcs on them, Sarah and Cora join in the effort.

1. Valet Bates is brought back to Downton personally by Robert, Earl of Grantham, in time for a concert for the men and surprisingly so too do William and Matthew show up, to the delight of eldest daughter Mary and maid Daisy, as well as dismissed housemaid Jane, who reveals to housekeeper Elsie she is pregnant by one of the officers staying in the house.

The Fabulous Crawley Sisters of Downton Abbey

5 sentence review of Pan Am

Season 1, Episode 12: “New Frontiers”

5. One day, today’s kids will grow up and bemoan the umpteenth dramatic depiction of how people felt about Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and I actually look forward to that because it means TV will be all with crummy John F. Kennedy assignation rehashes like the “New Frontier” episode of the doomed period drama “Pan Am,” a show I liked until the last two weeks, which felt very jump the shark even though the show is likely cancelled.

4. The Kennedy assignation tack on at the end of this episode is almost as tedious as the is-she-or-isn’t-she lesbian subplot involving Ted’s (Michael Mosley) fiance Amanda (Ashley Greene) and the unnecessary soap opera wedge between Colette (Karine Vanasse) and Dean (Mike Vogel) or the positively embarrassing gender-reversed “Roman Holiday” insert when Colette romances Omar (Piter Marek), a prince pretending to be a rich vagabond.

3. More interesting is Maggie’s (Christina Ricci) temptation to become a smuggler under the guidance of George “Sky God” Broyles (Darren Pettie), an unethical captain, and if a show is going to dabble in historical fiction, an appearence by Andy Warhol, who wants to buy nude photos of Laura (Margot Robbie) — hey, who wouldn’t?

2. “Pan Am” still has its charms, most notably four spectacularly beautiful and skilled actresses, and I admire both the staging and lighting of the program as well as its admirable if somewhat cliched effort to depict the trials of women in a more masochistic era.

1. It’s a conundrum: I can’t stand “Pan Am” when its here but I’m already missing it and it’s not even gone.

Three of the four reasons why the General loves "Pan Am" without shame: Margot Robbie, Christina Ricci and Kelli Garner.

5 sentence review of House of Lies

Season 1, Episode 3: “Microphallus”

5. “House of Lies” is trying to be offensive with its ribald attitude, but all it accomplishes is documenting the immaturity of its writers and creators.

4. The third episode finds the parasites of Galweather & Stearn consulting for a beverage company with lots of “Saved By the Bell” freeze-frame action for Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan as he explains the evil he is about to do with a creepy mixture of boredom and delight.

3. Kaan and his Gal Friday Jeannie Van Der Hooven (Kristen Bell) end up playing kinky sex games with a couple related to the beverage company — because, apparently, every consulting job requires some graphic sex — while tech geeks Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson) debate whether Doug’s hookup with a transvestite counts toward “full hookup points.”

2. Writers try to give the characters heart by reminding us Kaan’s mother committed suicide and he and his retired psychiatrist father (Glynn Turman), the only character with a shred of humanity, still struggle.

1. But the rare peaks behind the veil of macho bravado feel forced and formulaic (I’m an ass because my mommy didn’t love me enough not to kill herself) and inspires no curiosity about future character development except to wonder when Kristen Bell is going to deliver the seduction scene promised in the trailer.

The General wishes he were a better person than to continually include scantily-clad women, such as the lovely Kristen Bell from "House of Lies," as the artwork in his blog. Alas, he is not. He should be ashamed. Women's studies professors told him so. And he still is not. There is probably no hope for hope for him.


5 sentence review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

5. Everything is in place for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” to be a terrific movie.

4. The cast is top-notch, with Gary Oldman leading the way as spymaster George Smiley and terrific supporting efforts from Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch.

3. The setting is beautifully authentic with the sort of heavy-woolen, double-knit early roughness of the 1970s present in every scene pushed by Alberto Iglesias’s eerie score that recalls the tense beats of David Shire’s work on “All the President’s Men.”

2. The problem is, and this may be because my skull is too thick to absorb the subtitles of British plot, I rarely understood what was going on who was who doing what.

1. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” would probably be a better read, it’s based on a book series by author John le Carré, because if a detail is missed, one need only skim back a few lines but in the passing frames of the movie a missed detail is simply gone to the mist as is comprehension of the dense plot.

Time: 2 hours, 7 minues

Rated R‎‎

Genre: Suspense, Thriller‎

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Graham

The General’s Grade: B+

5 sentence review of Grimm

Season 1, Episode 9: Of Mouse and Man

5. Just when “Grimm” teetered on tedious, along comes “Of Mouse and Man” to push the NBC-TV fantasy back toward the one of the more interesting hours on screen.

4. A mousey guy (Fred Koehler), who is actually a mouse, is haunted by his withering father’s disapproval, goes on a killing spree (including a lawyer who transforms into a snake monster via the best special effects of the season) and tries to lay claim to the domestic abuse survivor in his apartment building (Amanda Walsh), but Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) track him down before he can do any more damage.

3. The truth is, the case of the week wasn’t nearly as interesting as a serious beating laid upon everybody’s favorite wolfman, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), who was summoned by some creatures who don’t like him aiding Nick.

2. Monroe braves the savagery and recommits to helping Nick boldly declaring he “was never much of a status quo guy.”

1. Let’s hope “Grimm” creators, too, aren’t satisfied with the status quo and try to move this show out of “Once Upon A Law & Order” into something truly different, and fun, that seems to lurk beneath the program’s surface but seldom blossoms in the final product.

Amanda Walsh played the love interest of a mouse-man on the latest episode of "Grimm."

5 sentence review of Person of Interest

Season 1, Episode 12: “Legacy”

5. Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch (Michael Emerson) bring Det. Carter (Taraji P. Henson) into the fold, but she squawks about breaking the law to save lives.

4. Finch tends to the son (Michael Stahl-David) of his dead partner Nathan Ingram (Brett Cullen) — the guy he created the trouble-predicting machine with — and Reese grows suspicious of Finch’s secrets.

3. An attorney (April L. Hernandez) is the target of an assignation plot from perpetrators of a welfare fraud and parolee shakedown so convoluted it makes the plot of the original “Mission: Impossible” look like an elegant brochure of pure clarity.

2. Reese has Fusco (Kevin Chapman) follow Finch to learn more about Finch’s secrets in a sign of a potential fracture in the dynamic duo’s partnership.

1. “Legacy” felt like an in-between episode for “Person of Interest,” setting up future plot points rather than being interesting as an individual offering.

April Hernandez played an attorney on the latest episode of "Person of Interest."

5 sentence review of House of Lies

Season 1, Episode 2: “Amsterdam”

5. Not since “Glengarry Glen Ross” has there been a collection of such loathsome people on screen as the Galweather & Stearn crew in Showtime’s “House of Lies.”

4. The soulless Reagan-era real estate con men of “Glengarry Glen Ross” collected a cabal of men willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck off the unsuspecting consumer while the Galweather-Stern crew skims millions off the top of billionaires like mosquitoes, except the really dangerous ones with malaria that end up costing ordinary people their jobs while they fly first class and have kinky sex in bathrooms.

3. Also like “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which boasted the likes of Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin on the playbill, “House of Lies” has a charming cast led by Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell.

2. However, “Glengarry Glen Ross” had the benefit of David Mamet at the keyboard, who was making a statement about manhood, money and morality in the 1980s.

1. “House of Lies” writers just seem to like to write mean-spirited monologues interspersed with rapid-fire lewd locker room banter among people you wouldn’t want as friends or coworkers and vague hints at humanity under layers of awfulness so foul as to drive a viewer to turn them off for ever.

Everything about Kristen Bell is awesome even if her new show, "House of Lies," is mediocre.

5 sentence review of Sons of Guns

Season 3, Episodes 6 and 7:

“Mortars and Mayhem” and “Wedlock and Load”

5. “Sons of Guns” is surpassed only by its Discovery Channel brother “MythBusters” in mirth and explosions per hour, but it took a trend toward soap opera in the two-part third season finale.

4. “Mortars and Mayhem” is mostly in the traditional “Sons of Guns” mold as the Red Jacket team rebuilds a Soviet mortar system, but tensions linger in the background as chief gunsmith Vince looses temper with the fast rise of former apprentice Kris, who is romancing Stephanie, the daughter of boss and company owner Will.

3. In “Wedlock and Load,” the tensions between Vince and Will boil over just as Will and crew are presenting a customized AR-15 to a Nevada security team guarding nuclear facilities, a move that could net Red Jacket major government contracts.

2. Vince apparently leaves the company but Will gives his blessing to Kris and Stephanie’s marriage at a Las Vegas chapel.

1. I could do without all the drama, but the Red Jacket crew knows how to show a viewer a good time, dropping a mortar on a wooden tank and blowing up a Winnebago with their custom desert rifle, so I can forgive some mush in my favorite unscripted television show.

Stephanie Hayden throws lead on "Sons of Guns."

5 sentence review of Pan Am

Season 1, Episode 11: “Diplomatic Relations”

5. “Pan Am” posed in an interesting question in its 11th episode: Can a show already doomed to cancellation also jump the shark?

4. The Cancellation Bear over at TV By The Numbers has “Pan Am” marinating in a nice wine sauce waiting for the show to air its final three episodes and be exiled the jaws of death.

3. But the bear might want to worry about indigestion after “Diplomatic Relations,” when increasingly irritating Maggie (Christina Ricci) gets a girl-girl smooch from Amanda (Ashley Greene), who happens to be Ted’s (Michael Mosley) fiance to the chagrin of Laura (Margot Robbie), who can’t make up her damn mind.

2. Normally, seeing Ricci and Greene kiss would be pure titillation for the General, but the twist of a minor character being in the closet been revisited to the point of cliche — hell, “The Playboy Club” managed to get it done the three episodes it aired before cancellation.

1. The remaining “Pan Am” episodes are already filmed and that’s a real shame, because it almost certainly means they’re not going to do anything fun or interesting before the end, but maybe that was the problem all along.

After seeing this photograph of "Pan Am" guest star Ashley Greene, the General truly regrets not talking his art teacher's advice and learning to paint.