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From Ohio.com


Wednesday night wars intensify

Thursday 20 November 2003

Posted on Wed, Nov. 19, 2003 Jon Stewart plays Cleveland on April 2. Also, the Wednesday night wars intensify By R.D. Heldenfels

In the ratings battleground of Wednesday nights, the 9 p.m. hour is where the fighting is most intense. And with the November sweeps in progress, it’s more hard-fought than usual.

That time slot tonight includes the first hour of a two-hour finale of The Bachelor (ABC); long-running comedies King of Queens and Becker (CBS); superhero-adventure Jake 2.0 (UPN) and political drama The West Wing (NBC).

But with West Wing just grumpy, the most interesting shows in the slot may be Fox’s The O.C. and The WB’s Angel.

With The West Wing, they form a trio of curiously similar shows: brooding main characters, liberal doses of humor mixed with heavy drama and serialized storytelling that veers without apology into soap opera. And each show carries an air of self-importance — whether about politics, teen angst or vampires having souls.

Anyway, tonight you can see a good example of both The O.C. and Angel, and you don’t have to have watched every previous episode to catch up.

In brief: The O.C. has poor kid Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) moved in with a rich family, which puts him in the middle of his own adjustments and everyone else’s problems.

Tonight’s episode, set at Thanksgiving, is one of the more humorous in the series. (One bit of dialogue: ``The man is a white-collar criminal!’’ ``But a nice one.’’) Well, except for Ryan, who is required to look gloomy (and therefore huggable) for part of each show. Tonight, he is gloomy because his imprisoned brother wants to meet — and Ryan knows there are strings hanging all over the request.

While he’s dealing with that, the grown-ups on the show are sorting out who is with whom, or who might want to be with whom. And Ryan’s friend Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) continues his transformation from geek sidekick to viewer cutie as he tries to enjoy two girls in different rooms.

There are a lot of suggestions here that The O.C. has decided to wink at the audience, that it wasn’t going to keep up the drama with any great plausibility so it might as well get a little silly. But that doesn’t make it a bad show; in fact, Dallas did much the same thing. And more than a couple of people tuned in.

Still, I’m more enthusiastic about Angel, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, even when I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. It’s a show that is drenched in its own past — and in Buffy’s — and loves to show how that past is reflected in the present.

For those of you tuning in late, Angel (David Boreanaz) is a vampire who has a soul and has to atone for his evil past. This season, he has been joined by Spike (James Marsters), another vampire with a soul — but at the moment without solid form.

In tonight’s show, Spike gets solid again, an event which appears to mess up reality by causing a conflict in an ancient prophecy. There are also several flashbacks to Spike’s early days as a vampire in conjunction with the then-evil Angel, and a return appearance by crowd favorite Drusilla (Juliet Landau). It’s immensely entertaining.