Dance: Another fine hip hopper is gone

Luck and life can change quickly on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Two or three weeks ago, Chris Koehl and Ashley Rich had the week's greatest dance number -- maybe the season's greatest. He was in jail, she was visiting and the bars became the ultimate dance prop.

And this week? They were voted to the bottom three by viewers, then ousted by judges. A few comments:

1) Voters have been unkind to alternatives this year, dispatching them to the bottom three. Before tonight, that included the only ballroom dancer, only tap dancer and half of the four hip-hoppers. Tonight, they did the rest, sending both surviving hip-hoppers (Koehl abd Tadd Gadduag) to the bottom.

2) That shouldn't be a problem, because hip-hoppers shine in solos. Judges, however, have seemed to simply ignore the solos. Koehl was great (as was Guaddag), but was ousted; on the female side, Jordan Casanova was merely OK, but was spared.

3) Maybe I should quit griping. There will only be one more week like this one, trimming the field from 12 to 10. Then the finalists get paired with "all-stars" and things get interesting.

4) I thought the opening number and the guest ballet number were so-so. However, the music act (Florence and the Machine) was great.

5) Now we know that Dance Day will be July 30, with three routines -- hard, medium and easy -- to choose from. Nigel Lythgoe feels that means there will be something for everyone. Alas, there really should be four -- hard, medium, easy and Mike.



Sci Fi fans: It's sort of a miracle

This really isn't what we expect in mid-summer.

We expect the TV doldrums -- reruns and reality and throw-away shows. Instead, we get a rich burst of science fiction.

The best news is "Torchwood: Miracle Day," a miracle of show. The first three episodes indicate that this comes close to the quality of "Torchwood: Children of the Earth," the best show of 2009. I'll put my preview story here in a minute.

There's much more sci-fi, all on cable:

-- Fridays: "Torchwood" debuts at 10 p.m. this week, with its compelling, 10-week story.

-- Saturdays: The new "Outcasts" (a pretty good, dead-serious drama) is 9 p.m. on BBC America, following reruns of the wonderful "Battlestar Galactica" series.

-- Mondays: On July 11, Syfy starts a three-show package. "Eureka" and "Warehouse 13" -- each bouncing between light human touches and stern sci-fi -- have season-openers at 8 and 9 p.m., followed by the debut of a sleek and sinewy show called "Alphas" at 10.

-- Also: On July 15, "Haven" starts its season. That's 10 p.m. Fridays ... which, is when we'll be watching the superb second episode of "Torchwood: Miracle Day." Here's the story I sent to papers:



At first, the plan seemed to violate
actor-ly logic.

Actors want to do more, not less; two
years ago, however, John Barrowman learned that his “Torchwood”
series would shrink. “We had gone from 13 episodes (a season) down
to five,” he said.

Could that possibly be a good thing?
Yes, actually; it propelled “Torchwood” to the top.

Now it's back with a new story, 10
episodes and epic expectations. And now this British series is set in
the U.S. “We admire the size and scale of stuff” here, said
Russell Davies, the “Torchwood” creator.

“Torchwood: Miracle Day” starts big
– “one day on Earth, no one dies,” Davies said – and then
grows. He promises a “massive, shattering climax.”

And yes, that's far from the show's
first years.

Davies revived and re-invented the
classic “Doctor Who” series in 2003, then used it to spin off
“Torchwood.” Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman), unflappable and
immortal, probed odd events.

This was, Davies said,
“monster-of-the-week …. It was always slightly in “Doctor
Who”'s shadow.”

There were two such “Torchwood”
seasons on BBC Three, followed by the five-episode mini-series.

“Torchwood: Children of the Earth”
was complex and ambitious, with aliens demanding our offspring. It
won the BAFTA (British) award for best drama series, the Saturn
(sci-fi) award for best TV show, a Television Critics Association
nomination for best movie or miniseries and much praise. TV Guide's
Matt Roush called it “thrilling, chilling and unnerving.”

Now “Torchwood” is back, again
with a single, self-contained story. In a series, said actor Bill
Pullman, “you are kind of shooting the same bullet a lot …. But
this story is incredibly evolving.”

First we meet his character, who is “a
convicted murderer and a pedophile,” Pullman said. “I'm put
through lethal injections … and I live. That's the beginning.”

It's a crisis, Davies said. “The
Earth relies on people dying. That's how the whole system works.”

With conspirators inside the
government, Captain Jack needs a rogue unit. He has two British
colleagues – Gwen and her husband; they link with a computer whiz,
a doctor and a CIA agent – “very dedicated, very focused and …
kind of a cocky, arrogant guy,” said Mekhi Phifer, who plays him.

This was filmed in the U.S., giving Eve
Myles (who plays Gwen) her first chance to live here. “I had a
little meeting with a coyote,” she said. Her solution? “I threw
an orange at it.”

For the star, however, this is nothing
new. Barrowman is a Scottish native and a British TV star, but his
accent and background are mid-American.

He was 8 when his family moved to
Joliet, Ill., where his dad was vice-president of Caterpillar. There
was no culture shock, Barrowman insists. “It was more of an easy
adventure for me.”

The same happened in reverse, when he
left to study theater at a British school. It was supposed to be a
six-month course, but he promptly became a musical-comedy star – on
tour and on London's West End. Today, Barrowman and his partner
(architect Scott Gill) have homes in London, Los Angele and Cardiff,
Wales, where “Torchwood” used to be set. “It's beautiful here,”
he said, by phone from Cardiff.

Still, he can only be there part of the
year. The world needs to be saved again.

– “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” Starz

– 10 p.m. Fridays for 10 episodes,
starting July 8

– Reruns include 11 p.m. Fridays, 10
p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays


Just worrying

Comedy Central has just announced it will tape a comedy roast of Charlie Sheen. That's OK, I guess; I'm just worried that they won't find anything to make fun of him about.

Viewing America from fresh eyes on July 4

Like many people, I've had my gripes about the U.S. government. Hey, I was a Wisconsin kid in the McCarthy era, an Army guy in Vietnam; I've seen what happens when fools are in high places.

Still, it's fascinating to catch the flip side, seeing this country from the fresh eyes of an immigrant. Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy's daughter) has done that beautifully, with "Citizen U.S.A." -- both a book and an HBO film that debuts (appropriately) on July 4. Here's the story I sent to papers. The Pelosi quotes are from a phone interview; the other quotes are from the film and the book:


Quick now, what's the best thing about
living in the U.S.?

Alexandra Pelosi asked a lot of new
Americans, getting some of the expected answers. “Someone coming
from Iran would go, 'Wow, there's free speech here,'” she said.

But as she created “Citizen U.S.A.”
(as an HBO film and a book), others surprised her. “People would
say 'indoor plumbing' or '9-1-1.' Who knew that the best thing was
having to stop for school buses?”

Pelosi, 40, didn't even know that most
states require stopping. “We don't have a lot of school buses in
Manhattan,” she said. It turned out that many naturalized citizens
say they like such rules.

We may grumble, but newcomers praised
American traffic, taxes and more. “In (Jordan), the post office is
not great,” Rawan Barghout said in North Carolina. “Sometimes it
takes a month to get a letter.”

Maria Hayes, from the Phillipines,
raved about 9-1-1. “You just dial it and they come right away,”
she said in Wyoming. Ruby and Robin Yang, twins in South Dakota, said
there's “no teen-age life” back home in China. “They don't let
you go on Facebook or Google or YouTube.”

Then there was Martin Aspin of England,
spotting the ideal for teens and others: “Being able to refill your
soda (for free) is a dream for people all over the world,” he said
in Georgia.

Others praised the basics – automatic
doors, cup-holders in cars, drive-through anything. They talked of
malls, air-conditioning, electricity and food. “I grew up my entire
life (in Albania) with just eating cornbread, nothing else,” Hile
Corri said in Florida. “Here is just like paradise.”

Roy Correia grew up in a Portuguese
village, where the water system was basic: “You take a jar and walk
a half-mile to the river.” Now he runs the water system in Ashland,

Often, the locations were as surprising
as the answers. “We knew that immigrants were in New York and Los
Angeles,” Pelosi said. “I didn't know there were so many in Des
Moines and Butte, Mont.”

Her own interest began when her first
documentary was in a film festival in Holland. Michiel Vos, a Dutch
journalist-lawyer, interviewed her, then gave filmmakers a tour of

Now they're been married for six years,
with two young sons. “He held up a mirror and made me realize how
much is here,” Pelosi said.

So they began their 50-state tour,
catching naturalized citizens in every state. They heard some gripes
and a lot of praise, especially for the American freedom to be

Rita Miller, a dwarf, said she could
never drive a car in Indonesia. Andrew and Elena Grinberg said they
tried to hide their deafness in Russia. Hossein Allzadeh said as a
gay man, he could never return to Iran; in Louisiana, he sees “people
from different races, backgrounds, walking together without fear.”

And without shyness. Some people
criticized public affection, but it was praised by Helen Henderson of
Malaysia. “You can kiss and hug someone next to you,” she said in
New Hampshire. “It's a great feeling. I can hold someone's hand and
kiss him in public.”

Often, women were surprised by any
privileges. “I was told in my country (Slovenia) that I can't do
much with my life,” Dusanka Wells said in Idaho.

Women were startled by freedom here,
Pelosi said. “Some were surprised I came in a car by myself.”

They're in a country where women have
been secretary of state, governor and presidential candidates. It's
where Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the house and her daughter makes
HBO documentaries.

– “Citizen U.S.A.: A 50 State Road

– 9 p.m. Monday, July 4, HBO;
repeats at 7 a.m. July 6, 5 p.m. July 9, noon July 11

– Also a book, New American Library,
2011, $28





Solos soared tonight on "Dance"

Most weeks, the "So You Think You Can Dance" solos leave me
squirming. Given an absurd time limit (30 seconds), some people seem
desperate; a few have looked like pole dancers.

Tonight, however,
was a splendid exception. The best was Mitchell Kelly, a gifted
contemporary dancer. Tonight, he reminded me of Danny Tidwell, the 2007
runner-up and maybe the show's best dancer ever.

The other two
guys -- Chris Koehl and Robert Taylor -- are hip-hoppers, which means
they were ideally suited for solos. All three women -- Ashley Rich,
Miranda Maleski and Caitlynn Lawson -- are contemporary dancers who had
fine solos.

The result? Judges ousted Miranda and Robert. We'll
miss him for his delightful Urkel-type nerd routines; we'll miss her
because she looked quite fine tonight in her pink bikini.

two had teamed Wednesday for a dynamic number to the Duke Ellington
classic, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got the Swing)"; it was a
great piece, but not a music style that lures young voters.

and Chris had survived a "Beetlejuice" piece that was too coldly
distant for viewers. Caitlynn and Mitchell had done a high-octane fox
trot; that dumped them in the bottom, where Mitchell could show his
splendid solo.