About Last Night: October Road, Dance War and the Return of Stewart & Colbert

This About Last Night columnist was preoccupied last with watching football, and then he spent several hours after that beating his head against a wall and cursing. Nevertheless, life and television have a way of going on even when you wish they didn't. So, on with last night's televised goodness:

Dance War (ABC):

Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba are taking some time off from Dancing With the Stars to put together the ultimate singing/dancing team. There doesn't seem to be an obvious call for this sort of thing, but Drew Lachey said the performers were "future superstars," and who am I to argue with a member of the First Family of Reality TV? We were promised that the Bruno/Carrie Ann friendship would be put to the test. Auditions took place in New York, with the judges attempting to spot dancers with ability in large groups on stage, in order to quickly narrow the field.

The ratio of awful auditions to good was much lower than we see on American Idol. The first performer spotlighted was a girl named Monica, who had to sing and dance solo for an audience. Both judges said they wanted 19 year-old Quandrell, a decent dancer and iffy singer. Ashley was one of the few early auditioners who arrived as more of a singer than a dancer, leading to a discussion of which was more important to begin with. Samuel tore up his feet while dancing in the group setting, but the judges were merciful and didn't make him repeat it in the solo. Several of the dancers/singers were sent on to the Hollywood callbacks.

At the Los Angeles audition, which was interrupted by uncharacteristic rain, the judges dealt with more gag performers. Carrie Ann took a shine to Shari, a full-figured woman who was surprisingly light on her feet, but was a mediocre singer. Zach combined a fair voice with great dancing and boy band looks. But most of the standout performers in L.A. were women. Angela provided the biggest test yet of dancing vs. music, as her singing was a bad Cher impression but her movement was awesome. The last audition was in Nashville, and the judges got in the spirit by wearing cowboy hats. The first auditioner, Kelsey, was likened to a Pussycat Doll (this was meant as a compliment). She and her friend Megan were among those who advanced, but a third friend, Mary Alice, who was not as lucky. Philip was a waiter who sang "Amazing Grace" in honor of his grandmother. The final 30 ended up in Hollywood for a two-day training session; 14 would survive. The finalists dealt with vocal and dance coaches, beginning the process of learning the choreography. The judges, especially Bruno, showed a more stern side than we've seen before. The finalists got to perform for the last time before the cutdown, with all the performers getting a vocal solo in the midst of a dance routine to "Dance to the Music."

Bruno and Carrie Ann then gave the good news to Philip, but cut Angela, whose singing simply didn't improve. A montage of people we had seen before, including Samuel, then got cut, but Kelsey then advanced. Kelsey's friend Megan was cut, and Corina was advanced. Zack was put through easily, but Quandrell was a victim of his difficulty with singing. With a quick zip through the rest of the advancements, we arrived live in Hollywood with the final 14. The group did a live performance seemingly inspired by High School Musical. [Reality Dancing]

October Road (ABC):

Ikey was looking for a job, but found that cheating with Owen's wife had made him an outcast in Knights Ridge. Eddie was looking for contracts for his window sales, and found that the town head of public works was Carter Bump, aka "the Cupcake Kid," the star of Nick's ruthless comics back when they were in high school. Janet wanted her and Eddie to double date with Hannah and Ray, even though the guys don't get along. Owen used his casual friendship with Carter to put in a good word for Nick and Eddie, and the entreaty worked as Owen decided to allow the business to submit a bid. Ray and one of his friends came by Eddie's business, and Eddie responded to an insult against Janet by punching the friend out. Eddie refused to tell Janet what brought it on, and Ray told Hannah the attack was unprovoked. Ikey called a "tribunal" with the guys to clear the air with Owen, but Owen was not ready to forgive, though Nick and Eddie thought he should consider it. Hannah and Janet had their own fight over the men in their lives. Eddie and Nick were told that Ray had won the contract. Nick decided to give Carter all his original "Cupcake Kid" issues in an attempt to make amends. Carter had a good time down at the bar during karaoke night. Ikey finally found a job.

13th Annual Critics' Choice Awards (VH1):

This is not typically one of the high-profile stops on the awards show circuit: note that D.L. Hughley was the host. But without a picket line, there were plenty of stars in attendance, making this one of the few such spectacles (complete with red carpet) we're likely to see this winter. There were plenty of cuts to the heaviest hitters in the audience, including Sean Penn and George Clooney, both of whom had nominated films. Steve Zahn got off the night's best line, when he said that as an actor he wished the writers would come back to work and the critics would go on strike. Eddie Izzard did a bit where he read a bungled first draft, and everyone got a kick out of the "In Memoriam" section, which paid tribute to some of the year's biggest cinematic bombs. Last on the list: the 65th annual Golden Globes. As for who won, well, those aren't TV questions. [For Cinephiles]

Intervention (A&E):

Brooke was running late for her twin sister Brittany's bridal shower, angering her family. Brooke said she needed to take medication for rheumatoid arthritis, and showed off the collection of pills she takes. She said it takes her about two hours just to loosen up enough in the mornings to accomplish anything. Her father and older sister BreeAnn claim Brooke is abusing the meds, but she insists they are necessary. Footage showed Brooke slurring words after taking the pills, and even coming close to passing out. Brooke claimed she didn't receive enough attention growing up compared with her older sister, and became competitive for that reason. At age 18 she was hospitalized with a mysterious illness and got the attention she had always sought. Her pill usage increased in college to the point she had to drop out; Brooke soon got married but was divorced within two years. Brooke got a diagnosis of Lyme disease from another doctor, but chose to believe she still had rheumatoid arthritis in order to keep taking the pills. She was getting a reputation of over-medicating for family gatherings. On the day of BreeAnn's baby shower, the show's crew arrived at Brooke's apartment to find her passed out on the floor amidst broken glass. Her family had tried to have her committed in the past, as well as just trying to just take her pills away.

Brooke apologized for missing the baby shower and again claimed she was only taking what was prescribed, but BreeAnn didn't believe her, and barred her from being around when her baby was born. The latest incident provoked Brittany to remove her from the wedding party, news Brooke took with anguished tears. She wasn't informed when the baby was born, as had been promised to her. Brooke's dad chewed out Brittany for cutting her out of the wedding, but she was firm that she wouldn't let Brooke ruin her big day. The day after the wedding, which Brooke got through with no issues, Brooke's family heard from the interventionist, who told them that the addictive behavior was different with Brooke because she really did have a chronic pain issue.

Brooke arrived for the intervention, which was disguised as the last interview for the documentary. Her instinct was to run as she immediately figured out what was going on, but her father talked her into staying. Brooke's sisters and mother, who hadn't come off very well to this point, were in tears themselves as they begged her to allow them to help her. Brooke balked at the idea of going into rehab when it was first mentioned, but the doctor from the center told her that they could come up with a better method of pain management. Brooke agreed to go to rehab, but still looked terrified. At the end, we were told Brooke was still in treatment and making progress, though there was still no diagnosis for the underlying pain.

Medium (NBC):

The season premiere opened with a cute gimmick: fans of the show talking about last season's developments intercut with show footage, a handy way of catching people up. We saw that both Allison and Joe were still without jobs, and money problems were beginning to bite, to the point that Joe was asking his mother for a loan. Elsewhere in the DuBois family, Ariel was seeking a role in The Sound of Music, but felt bad when she won it after her friend psyched out her competition by saying Ariel's mom had already foreseen she would fail.

Allison was having dreams about a boy named Ben who went missing from a toy store. However, she no longer had an eager ear in the DA's office. Allison called Scanlon as a last resort, and even though he was on the outs, he agreed to pass along what she knew. Allison then saw a flyer from a private organization that investigates missing persons cases and gives rewards. Someone from the group called her back and asked to meet. Scanlon decided to begin investigating at the toy store despite his better judgment, and found the body of Ben stuffed in a doll box in an upper floor. Van Dyke was surprised to see Scanlon at the toy store, and he tried to take Scanlon into his confidence. Scanlon made a pointed reference to his new duties of talking to schools, and got what he wanted: a restoration to the field.

Allison met Cynthia (Anjelica Huston), the woman from the investigation agency who believed Allison was playing games when she couldn't answer questions about the toy store; Allison tried to get her to realize what it is she does, and that she believed the boy was now dead. An autopsy on Ben, whose death still had not been publicly announced, revealed he had been poisoned. Scanlon told Van Dyke that Allison had a notion the suspect had a green denim jacket, because Allison had said so. Cynthia had heard the announcement of the boy's death and proceeded to the toy store.

Scanlon told Allison her presence wasn't needed at the store, but the eventual murderer, who was an exterminator at the toy store, showed up flashing all the clues Allison had sensed. Scanlon shot and killed him when he pulled a gun. Scanlon said he would talk to Van Dyke about getting her back to work on some level, and Cynthia showed up to give Allison a check for $2,500 from her personal account. She told Allison they would be more where that came from if she would help her out with future cases.

The Daily Show (Comedy Central):

Jon Stewart was back for the first time since November, sporting what he called a sympathy unibrow. He told a few jokes, but most of the episode was about riffing on the strike; Stewart said, facetiously, that writers shouldn't get any share of the $1.99 cost of a downloaded episode, because that's a "shipping and handling charge." The night's guest was Ron Seeber, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University. Seeber said some had told him he shouldn't come on the show in order to stay on the right side of the strike. The serious part of the interview put across some real information on the relevant issues, such as explaining why the existence of the AMPTP doesn't violate antitrust laws. Stewart, who publicly asked the WGA to grant him the same deal it gave Worldwide Pants, asked Seeber some insinuating questions about whether the WGA should be trying to grant more waivers: "Are they...perhaps denying some shows that would willingly do it?" The "Moment of Zen" featured picketing writers. All in all, it was a get-your-sea-legs-back kind of show.

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central):

When Jon Stewart threw it to Colbert, our hero was wearing a strike beard that made him look like the member of a ZZ Top tribute band, and he was shredding something that he insisted was not a script. He was confused about why there was nothing in his teleprompter, and gloated over the recent success of Mike Huckabee, who was a guest on the show back when he was hurting for attention. Colbert reminded his viewers of his long history of hating unions. Andrew Sullivan, who looks weirder every time I see him, appeared as the guest and talked up Barack Obama. Guest Richard Freeman, the author of a book on unions, was the straight man as Colbert showed he just might be able to weather the strike storm pretty well, considering how totally he inhabits his character at this point. [David Kronke]