HITS Daily Double
Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a singular creation, kind of like Columbo crossed with Monk, a pathology genius who is also unalloyed id in that he speaks his mind, and damn the social pieties.


Which Shows Have Achieved Season Pass Status on Your TiVo, and Which Ones Are Threatening to Jump the Shark?
1. House (Fox) / Grey’s Anatomy (ABC):
As TV hospital shows like ER have become gorier and more explicit, my interest in them has waned. In fact, the last medical series I watched consistently was probably Doogie Howser M.D., so you can understand why I’m not a fan of Nip/Tuck or any of the endless variety of CSI-style policier/forensic shows all the rage on the prime-time schedule. Ever since the days of St. Elsewhere, I’ve resisted creator David E. Kelley’s hospital and law shows as they’ve become simultaneously more graphic and less believable, with the possible exception of Ally McBeal, which never pretended to be anything more than a cartoon in the first place. The other members of my family are big fans of Fox’s House, M.D. and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, so I thought I’d give each a chance. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a singular creation, kind of like Columbo crossed with Monk, a pathology genius who is also unalloyed id in that he speaks his mind, and damn the social pieties. Whenever Laurie is strutting his stuff as he limps around the office tossing off casual insults amid his medical insights, his fellow workers following him like a pied piper, the show is lively and the dialogue keen. Whenever it descends into medical mumbo-jumbo, complete with CSI-inspired pictures of bacteria floating around the bloodstream, and increasingly wacky, hard-to-believe case studies, I glaze over like a patient under sedation. As for Grey’s Anatomy, the lead characters, led by the now-grown-up sex symbol Patrick Dempsey (who woulda thunk it?) and the sardonic Sandra Oh, are attractive enough, but I’d be worried if all the doctors were seemingly busier bedding each other than attending to the sick. Wouldn’t you? —Roy Trakin

2. The Doctor Shows—Another View: While my colleague Mr. Trakin makes some valid points about the bizarro illnesses that occupy House and his team, as well as those CSI-derived, gratuitous gross-out FX, he’s missing the point—and the allure—of the show. House is addictive because of the high-revving interaction between the central character, who’s cleverly written and brilliantly brought to life by Laurie, and (A) his team, (B) the hospital administrators and (C) his patients, all played out by the solid cast and well-chosen guest actors with the scenery-chewing absurdist glee that characterized Mash, this series’ closest antecedent. And on those episodes featuring his erstwhile love interest, played by the always captivating Sela Ward, Laurie is at his corrosive best, a welter of arrogance, self-loathing and naked desire. As for Grey’s Anatomy, this is prime-time ensemble melodrama that takes itself seriously enough to give it dramatic plausibility but not so seriously that it becomes stultifying—which is easier said than done. Initially, the series benefited from being slotted after Desperate Housewives, but the action on the Wisteria Lane has come to be the wildly erratic lead-in to the consistently diverting main event that is Grey’s, thanks to a talented ensemble cast, ongoing romantic/sexual heat and characters that are neither heroic nor villainous but recognizably human. Both shows are on my must-see list, along with the simply terrific 24; Lost, which has entered shark-infested waters; and West Wing, which is going out on a high note. —Bud Scoppa

3. Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (Gotham Books): In the wake of Bob Spitz’exhaustive, 1,000-page-plus overview of the Fab Four, you’d think everything that could be written about the Beatles has been, and what more could the band’s longtime engineer Geoff Emerick’s memoir possibly add? The point is, Emerick was there at the very beginning as a “button-pusher” at EMI’s fabled London studios, working his way up to George Martin’s chief engineer, present for every note of the Beatles’ recorded output, from the first strains of “Love Me Do” to the last guitar chords of Abbey Road’s “The End,” the album that gave the historic recording facility the name it still has today. As a youthful enthusiast of opera and rock, which he dutifully recorded from the radio onto his tape machine and edited himself, Emerick joined EMI Studios just in time for the Beatles’ arrival, and his self-effacing account offers a fascinating glimpse into the individual personalities and recording techniques that went into creating the historic oeuvre. He pegs Paul as the band’s musical leader and John as its spiritual one, and features himself as a literal fly on the wall, both contributing to the process and slowly realizing that he was taking part in history. Especially noteworthy: the recording of “She Loves You” as fans overwhelm the band’s two “roadies,” Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, and storm the studio, resulting in what Emerick called the group’s most memorable performance. —RT

4. Kris Kristofferson, This Old Road (New West), live at the Troubadour: Produced by Don Was in the stark, solo acoustic style of Rick Rubin’s American series with Johnny Cash, This Old Road puts the spotlight on the veteran singer/songwriter’s parched, scraggly vocals and narrative style, forming the aural equivalent of one of his old pal Sam Peckinpah’s westerns. The new material ranges from the retrospectively wistful “The Old Road” and the autobiographical “Pilgrim’s Progress” to the pointed politics of “In the News” and “The Burden of Freedom,” with the former’s attitude toward Dubya’s current foreign policy coming through unequivocally in lines like “Mortal thunder from the skies / Killing everything they say they’re fighting for.” At the jam-packed Troubadour, one of his old haunts way back when, Kristofferson traded jibes with pal Harry Dean Stanton and reminisced about falling asleep and being late for a show, only to be told by Bob Neuwirth that a hippie chick had painted his guitar red. He played “Me and Bobby McGee,” dedicating it to Janis Joplin, before unearthing old standbys like “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” (“My kid says I blame all the bad things in the song on somebody else when it’s really me”), “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Johnny Lobo” (dedicating it to Native American activist/poet/musician John Trudell). Joined for the second half by Was on stand-up bass and longtime partner Stephen Bruton on guitar, Kristofferson slotted tender songs like “The Heart” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night” seamlessly into new compositions “Thank You for a Life” and the closing “Final Attraction,” dedicated to Willie Nelson and quoting Guy Clark (“Go break a heart”), with shout-outs to the likes of Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, John Lennon, George Harrison, Roger Miller, Jimi Hendrix and Mickey Newbury. A cross between the grizzled outlaw spirit of Nelson and Jennings and the story-telling tradition of Dylan and Cash, Kristofferson is an iconic songwriter/performer who has to be considered up there with all those legends, even if he did nothing more than come up with the line, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”—and he’s obviously done so much more. —RT

5. Van Morrison, Pay the Devil (Lost Highway), live at the Wiltern LG: Although he’d never actually been to Nashville before this album, let alone record there, Van the man’s nickname ain’t the Belfast Cowboy for nothing, as is obvious with this collection, on which he tackles the likes of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart,” Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass,” Chuck Willis’ “What Am I Living For?” and Leon Payne’s “Things Have Gone to Pieces,” associated with George Jones’ cover. It’s astonishing how fluidly Morrison’s characteristic soulful bleat seamlessly assumes a country twang, with plenty of heartache and regret in the catch of the throat and the staccato phrasing. Live, you never know what to expect from the historically skittish performer—whether he’ll retreat or give his all, and this precise, by-the-numbers 100-minute performance with big band had Van in professional mode, hiding underneath his broad-brimmed hat and in the too-long sleeves of his buttoned-up suit as he led the band through its paces, pointing to each individual when he wanted them to solo, often nodding his delight. The large ensemble followed his every move, slipping easily from country to R&B, soul, jazz and big band, depending on the presence of fiddle and steel guitar on Van originals like the new album’s “Playhouse.” Just when you thought there’d be no old material, he slipped on a sax for a soulful, bossa nova “Moondance,” then a spirited “Brown-Eyed Girl” before he was played off the stage like James Brown, disappearing with a ghost-like glide, emoting and then fading from sight, gone before the last strains of music were played. By finding the emotional core of country, as he has for American R&B, rock and soul, Van no longer has to prove he’s the man. All he needs to do is show up. —RT

6. 9 Lives: The debut feature film from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia, who has previously helmed episodes of HBO’s Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Carnivale, this series of nine episodes, each spotlighting an individual story, is reminiscent of anthology films like Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia or Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Amores Perros and 21 Grams (Inarritu produced this film). What’s different about 9 Lives is, while there are thematic overlaps about how we can feel trapped, betrayed, humiliated, threatened and yes, comforted, by our relationships, the characters, except in a few cases, do not reappear. Each scene captures an intense encounter that spotlights how we are both drawn to and repelled by those closest to us, often at the same time. The uniformly superb performances are naturalistic, but the Mamet-like dialogue is clipped and stylized, as connections become frayed and short-circuited...or solidified and reinforced, with the camera following the principals as they move to inhabit and explore the physical, and by extension, psychic space, around them. Robin Wright Penn is riveting as a pregnant woman who runs into an old lover in a supermarket, which revives feelings she had tried to suppress. Holly Hunter is a frustrated, childless wife who trades barbs with her husband that cut both to the quick. Deadwood’s incredible Ian McShane is a wheelchair-ridden husband, using his precocious daughter (Amanda Seyfried) as a go-between with his beleaguered wife (Sissy Spacek), who returns to the nest after an unsatisfying affair with Aidan Quinn. Amy Brenneman rekindles the passion with her deaf ex-husband (the amazing William Fichtner) at his wife’s funeral. Like Crash, except without the polemics, the film demonstrates the interconnectedness between us all, living and dead. The final episode intimates that ghosts walk among us, as Glenn Close visits a cemetery, where she carries on a conversation with what we learn is her dead daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, at her graveside, in a chilling evocation of the ties that bind... even into the afterworld. —RT

7. North Country: Whale Rider director Niki Caro takes her pro-feminist perspective to this Norma Rae-like tale of women workers at a northern Minnesota iron mine who fight the brutal sexual harassment they are faced with, thanks to the courageous Charlize Theron, who notched her second Oscar nomination playing the blue-collar Joan of Arc, Josey Aimes. Sometimes bad movies will illuminate the black-and-white issues (see Crash) more clearly than better ones, and this movie, with its cringe-worthy scenes of gargoyle-like miners torturing their female counterparts, piles up the evidence until you can’t help but root for Woody Harrelson as the hockey-player turned defrocked lawyer who returns to plead her case to the court, pitted against the cool female attorney representing the big, bad mining company. Any kind of equanimity is long gone by the time of the climactic scene, with a too-neat resolution that ties up any number of loose ends. Points to Theron for deglamorizing herself and Sean Bean as the sympathetic husband of Charlize’s co-worker, Frances McDormand, who does nice work (and nabbed an Oscar nom) before succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease in one of the movie’s shameless narrative ploys. The soundtrack (available on Sony Music Soundtrax), which features songs by northern Minnesota native Bob Dylan and a score by Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla, gives more emotional resonance than is actually earned, but stay tuned through the end credits to hear Cat Power’s stirring cover of Dylan’s “Paths of Victory.” —RT

8. The Canteen at the back of the Troubadour: Located behind the bar at L.A.’s famed folk-rock venue, this tiny enclave actually has a splendid menu, with an affable Greek gentleman manning the grill and fulfilling orders in between working on crossword puzzles. I first tried the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich, which was tasty enough, if not exactly a bargain at $9.50, but the bacon cheeseburger was vintage at $7.50, piled high with tomato and lettuce on a sesame seed bun, and a major step up from the Mickey D’s and Burger Kings of the world. Next time you wander back there, try it out. If you can find a place to sit and enjoy, you won’t be sorry. —RT

9. Neko Case at Amoeba Records, L.A.: For a gal from Tacoma, who sings with Vancouver band the New Pornographers and is signed to celebrated L.A. indie label Epitaph’s Anti- imprint, Neko Case has been around, but her half-hour free performance at the record emporium cut through the impressive gathering huddled in the bins to hear her sing songs from her just-released album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Her perfectly pitched voice transcends country to become its own pure instrument, as fresh as a cool, clear stream that winds around the instruments, filling in the spaces in between. At once haunting, yet soothing, it’s an original, one that’s bound to expand her audience beyond the cult to the masses. —RT

Gripe of the Week: I realize the tickets to Van Morrison’s show at the Wiltern last Saturday night said, “7:30 SHARP!” and I took the advice seriously when I left the Valley at around 6:30 for the show, but what I didn’t count on was the hopelessly clogged 101 freeway, which turned what is ordinarily a 45-minute drive into a 90-minute crawl that had me in my seat at around 8:05 p.m., where I discovered, much to my chagrin, that Van had already been on a half-hour, with no opening act. By 9:10, Morrison left the stage, not to return, so, by my estimate, it took me an hour and a half to get there for about 65 minutes of Van. Of course, the sometimes petulant Morrison seemed in a pretty good mood throughout, leaning into some of his patented scat-singing all crouched over like on the cover of the It’s Too Late to Stop Now album. But for this tardy arrival, it was literally too late. —RT

Friday, Mar 10th
Grand Slam XIV: The Sci-Fi Summit: Whether you're an early adopter or an apologetic latecomer, you're going to be blinded by the sheer power of this mega-convention built to last for Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Lost and all other sundry genre fanatics. The festival goes throughout the weekend. Geeks of the world unite!! And we mean geek in the most sincere of ways. Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Conference Center; $25 a day.

Clippers @. Bulls (Channel 5):
After a stellar performance against the defending champs, the Clips hit the road for two games looking to build on that impressive win against the Spurs.

The Rocket Summer @ The Masqurade, Atlanta

30 Seconds to Mars @ The Engine Room, Houston

The Academy Is... w/ Acceptance @ Showbox, Seattle

Russell Crowe and the Ordinary Fear of God @ House of Blues on Sunset

Stoney Curtis Band @ Sand Dollar Lounge, Las Vegas

Saturday, Mar 11th
Grand Slam XIV: The Sci-Fi Summit @ Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Conference Center. Geek weekend continues.

Clippers @. Bucks (Channel 5): Back-to-back road games are very tough, and this will be no exception, especially considering the Clips beat these guys handily at Staples at the beginning of the year, I expect the young Bucks to come out primed and ready to go.

Matisyahu @ Stubb's Barbecue, Austin

69 Eyes w/ Damone @ Bogarts, Cincinnati
(all ages)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/ Elefant @ House of Blues, San Diego

Hepcat w/ Big Sound, DJ David Orlando @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

Rocking Scoundrels @ Paladinos, Tarzana

Sunday, Mar 12th
Grand Slam XIV: The Sci-Fi Summit @ Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Conference Center. Geek weekend concludes.

Joe Bonamassa w/ Cindy Alexander @ Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

Allman Bros. Band @ Beacon Theatre, NYC

Family Guy (Fox): New episode!

The Hills Have Eyes
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Vinessa Shaw and Emilie de Ravin
Synopsis: In this remake of the original The Hills Have Eyes, a family travels to the desert to investigate a silver mine they've inherited, only to discover that the surrounding area is inhabited by a clan of lunatics.
Thoughts: This movie looks really creepy, so I’m not sure if I want to see it or not. I know the fiancé is definitely not interested.

Failure to Launch
Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Justin Bartha, Kathy Bates and Zooey Deschanel
Synopsis: A man in his 30s is lured into finally leaving home when his parents fool him into meeting the perfect woman
Thoughts: Ah, a total chick flick. I guess I will be dragged to this one, but those are the sacrifices you have to make when you’re in love.

Now Playing:
Ask the Dust
: Based on the book and starring an amazing cast that includes Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland, Val Kilmer and Idina Menzel

The Libertine:
Starring Johnny Depp, but the word is it isn’t very good; too bad.

The Shaggy Dog: A remake of the classic, this one stars Tim Allen and looks absolutely horrendous!

Madea’s Family Reunion: This film is going into its third week, and for the last two it has dominated the box office. It also has a soundtrack that is selling as well. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s definitely recommended, Tyler Perry is very funny.