This week's two best lines

My two favorite lines in TV shows this week are both said by the same person. Well, sort of.

One is from Sheldon Cooper, the best character on the best comedy ("Big Bang Theory," 8 p.m. Thursdays, CBS) on TV. The other is by Sherlock Holmes, who is starting a series of three modern-day mystery movies ("Masterpiece Mystery," 9 p.m. Sundays, PBS).

Still, these characters are almost identical -- tall, thin geniuses who observe and understand everything ... except the normal, social functioning of average humans. The lines:

-- "Big Bang" (via the CBS promo): Leonard has the audacity to ask if Sheldon has actually expressed his feelings for Amy Farrah Fowler. Sheldon's response: "No! I'm a physicist, not a hippie."

-- "Sherlock Holmes" (via an advance screener of the terrific opening movie): Someone calls Sherlock a psychopath. His response: "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research."

"30 Rock" was maxi-fun

Turning on tonight's live "30 Rock," I expected the ordinary. Writers would create something neat and tidy, something that could be done on a couple sets, sort of like a play.

Then came the surprise. This would be a typical "30 Rock," complete with flashbacks, faux commercials, a song, guest stars and lots of sets. It would zip around wildly; the fun would be seeing it done live.

For the flashbacks, Julia Louis-Dreyfus played Tina Fey's character. "Why do you look better in flashbacks?" Jack (Alec Baldwin asked). Fey's reply: "It's the Seinfeld money."

Jane Krakowski sang the song. Rachel Dratch -- who originally was supposed to co-star in "30 Rock," before Krakowski got the job -- showed up as a custodian.

Past guests -- Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Chris Parnell -- showed up. Everything was quick and odd and usually very funny.

That's better, "SNL"

Maybe Jane Lynch should be on "Saturday Night Live" every time. After last week's disappointing episode, she hosted a strong comeback tonight.

Sure, the show sagged after "Weekend Update." It often does; that's the portion that asks why you aren't asleep yet.

Until then, however, "SNL" was sharp, from Lynch's fake theme song to a pretend game show. Even Gilly couldn't ruin the "Glee" sketch, which is saying something.

The last few sketches sputtered, but Lynch stood tall, literally. At 6-foot, she towered above the others; little Bruno Mars, the music guest, was jumping to get his face near hers during the final scene. That was kind of like when Justin Beiber (5-foot-4) opened for Taylor Swift (5-10); it's been a good year for Amazons. 

"SNL": The winning streak ends

OK, this season's "Saturday Night Live" streak has stopped at one.

Last week's season-opener was good, as I mentioned a few blogs ago. This week's went flat.

Sure, there was a funny opening bit (mocking Obama's departing chief of staff), a surprisingly good closing one (a sort of "white noise" machines which offers "black noise") and, as usual, a great "Weekend Update." There were also two huge Kanye West numbers, which I really should have paid attention to.

In between, however, was a procession of one-gag skits. In some cases, even the one gag wasn't that funny. It would be great to satirize Miley Cyrus as an airhead and a terrible actress  ... except that she actually seems quite bright and her performance in her first non-Hannah movie was subtle and fairly good. The sketch's one joke was empty, inserting a big thud early in the show.




The best show on Sunday(s)

For two straight Sundays, it will be easy to name the best show on TV. These are in the "Wallander" series -- richly crafted movies starring Kenneth Branagh as a Swedish detective.

Those run Oct. 3 and 10 in most areas, Oct. 10 and 17 in Lansing. Here's a story I sent to papers:



Imagine you're Kenneth Branagh and
you've conquered almost everything.

You've had four Oscar nominations, four
Emmy nominations and more. Onscreen, you've been a king, a prince, a
president, two colonels amd a major general, plus D.H. Lawrence and
Victor Frankenstein.

Is there anything left that overwhelms

“I was directing Tony Hopkins for the
first time,” Branagh said, catching himself. “Listen to me –
'Tony Hopkins.' Sir Anthony Hopkins. And I didn't really sleep the
night before …. I was intimidated.”

That was for “Thor,” with Branagh
as director. Now “Wallander,” on PBS' “Masterpiece Mystery,”
has him as an actor and producer. The two are exact opposites –
except that both are terribly Scandinavian.

“There's something about coming from
those Northern lands,” said Branagh, 49, who grew up as a
carpenter's son in Ireland. “It's a big country, small population.
The seasons and the weather are extreme and the possibility for the
interior life is great.”

That's the life the fictional Kurt
Wallander inhabits. A homicide cop, he feels everything deeply. “You
will see Ken in all his colors as an actor,” said “Masterpiece”
producer Revecca Eaton.

That starts with Wallander's
self-doubts. “He is vulnerable every time,” Branagh said. “He
is compelled by this painful necessity to ask why people perform acts
of cruelty and murder and violence.”

In this season's second film (Oct. 10),
Wallander condemns himself for a shooting; in the first (Oct. 3), he
worries about sub-conscious racism.

“He's not a fully formed individual,”
Branagh said. “He regards the idea of him being any form of racist
as … morally reprehensible. And yet, he's forced to understand
certain knee-jerk reactions.”

He is, in short, a complex character,
for a complex actor.

– “Masterpiece Mystery,” 9 p.m.
Sundays on most PBS stations (check local listings)

– “Wallander” films are Oct. 3
and 10. in the Lansing, Mich., area, however, WKAR (Channel 23) is still catching up from the pledge drive; the first "Wallander" film airs at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 10, the secon on Oct. 17.