Well, this certainly was an interesting for television. Without Mad Men or that second season of Terriers that should have happened populating the airwaves, dramas felt a bit lacking. Comedy didn't fare much better, with fantastic shows like Community and Cougar Town getting benched for also-rans. And that’s to say nothing of the terrible comedies (Whitney, Free Agents) and dramas (The Playboy Club) that also premiered. And while it would be incorrect to call 2011 a great year for television, it was still very strong, assuming you knew where to look.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Season 6, Episode 14
“No one should be alone on Christmas Eve.”
Perhaps the greatest thing about the Eleventh Doctor era is the fact that Matt Smith’s whimsical performance has freed up the show to be more childish than it has in long time, to engage in more fanciful type of storytelling that is generally rejected by modern science-fiction. The greatest example of this obviously lies with the Christmas specials, wherein Steven Moffat has allowed the show to treat Christmas not just as an event, but as an actual thing, both in the physical sense and (more importantly) in the emotional as well.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Season 5, Episode 7
At this point in the show’s run, I’m often struck with a fairly simple yet confounding question: What makes Chuck work? We all know that Chuck more or less peaked in season two, and there are enough recurring complaints about the show – mostly along the lines of the characters acting irrationally, emotionally, and/or stupidly – that we know what Chuck should avoid, but that isn’t really the same as identifying what makes the show work well. But to that end, I believe that “Chuck Vs. The Santa Suit” reveals that sometimes it’s just best for the show to keep it simple, stupid.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Over the past few weeks, due to a variety of reasons – mostly illness, grad school, and grading – I’ve been unable to keep up with Sons of Anarchy as originally promised. As the weeks wore on, it became harder and harder to catch up. In order to make up for this, and to save myself a whole lot of time that I don’t really have to spare, I present to you a review of the show’s fourth season, albeit two weeks after the fact.
As I’ve said many times since the season premiered back in September, the fourth season of Sons of Anarchy was going to be a pivotal one for the show, a time to see if it could recover from the miscalculation of season three, and more importantly provide a solid way forward so that the show wouldn’t make a misstep like that again. Unfortunately, I found that even as the show did succeed on the latter challenge, it wasn’t as able to accomplish the former.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Though this has always been a blog strictly about television, I would like to break with that trend for just one time, because something so awesome has occurred that I couldn’t possibly not talk about it. And that something is the arrival of the trailer for the first half of Peter’s Jackson film adaptation of The Hobbit.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Last week, there uproar as two awards giving organizations, The Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association rolled out their nominations for their respective awards shows, both of which will air sometime in early January. Though they achieve nowhere near the level of prestige of either the Oscars or the Emmys (though they do seem to rank above the Grammys and AMAs), television critics were nonetheless incensed, as they usually are, over the perceived injustices that awards organizations make when they overlook certain series. And while this critic-organization dialectic will most likely continue until the end of human existence, there is something about the way that these two nominations list compare – at least in terms of television nods - that’s particularly and peculiarly interesting.
Season 1, Episode 12 & 13
If FOX were the sort of network that cared about critical reception or creative quality of its shows, tonight’s finale would be something of a benchmark for the show. Of course the network doesn’t care about these sorts of things, but critics do, and with the show’s fate still up in the air in regards to renewal (apparently it all depends on foreign markers, who tend to eat up this kind of empty blockbuster-type fare, regardless of things like story or characters), for us the finale will serve as retroactive proof for the series renewal/cancellation/reasoning for either of those options. But looking over the two-hour finale, I find that even as there were a number of strong moments here, it (unsurprisingly) was still dragged down by all the episodes that preceded it.
Monday, December 19, 2011
If, like me, you had a lot of time on your hands this summer, you may have noticed that streaming site Hulu rolled out the first two seasons of the British (E4 specifically, if you care about that sort of thing) hit show Misfits, and now, after a few months off, the site is now rolling out the third season, right on the heels of the season finale's airing across the pond. If you haven't seen the series so far, don't worry, because the prior two seasons, as well as the short that links the second and third seasons, are still up on the site. So, since I'm sure you're at a loss of new things to watch for a few weeks, why don't you spend your holiday break catching up on one of the most hilariously dark and gleefully filthy series that's even been produced, well, anywhere.
And for those of you who have seen the first two seasons, don't worry, it totally still works without a certain character. Possibly even better I might argue, though having only season the first episode of the new season, that's probably still up for debate.
And for those of you who have seen the first two seasons, don't worry, it totally still works without a certain character. Possibly even better I might argue, though having only season the first episode of the new season, that's probably still up for debate.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Season 37, Episode 10
Unlike say, Will Ferrell or Dana Carvey, Jimmy Fallon doesn’t exactly have the best track record on the show. More known for his breaking than his recurring characters, Fallon fell into a fairly love-or-hate relationship early into his tenure on the show, and as he became even more exposed thanks to said characters or his co-hosting gig on Weekend Update, that disparity only grew stronger. So now he’s back, and apart from say another “Hamm and Buble” sketch – which of course has nothing to do with Fallon – I can’t say there’s a whole lot of anticipation for tonight’s outing. So let’s see how he did, shall we?
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Season 5, Episode 6
“Who’s after us, Sarah?”
“It was a bit like old times, wasn’t it?”
Those are two important questions that got raised tonight, aren’t they? So far in this final season, Chuck has been stringing viewers along both in terms of where this season was going, and (perhaps more importantly) whether the show would be able to deliver on that the-end-is-nigh-induced uptick in quality that we’ve come to expect in this day and age of television. And to these two important questions, tonight’s episode gives us the respective answers of “I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out”, and “well…”
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Season 3, Episode 9
“Best. Christmas. Ever.”
Early on in tonight’s episode, some of the students began to talk about how last Christmas was a terrible time for the club, and that they should do everything in their power to make this Christmas a happy on. Regular readers of this blog and/or people with great taste in television will have undoubtedly noticed that this plot almost exactly mirrors a similar plot point in last week’s Community. I’m not usually one to compare shows against each other, as I prefer to judge shows based on their own merits. However, Glee kept comparing itself to other shows so much that I couldn’t ignore this fact, especially when Glee started comparing itself to well, itself.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Season 1, Episode 11
You might be wondering why, after reviewing the pilot and then giving up, and then dropping in on the fifth episode and being similarly disappointed, I would consider dropping in on Terra Nova for a third time. The answer is simple: I don’t have anything else tonight. But really, I’ve been watching the show as it’s been airing, because even as the show a disappointment, it also held potential…okay, it’s really just because I’m a masochist. But embracing mythology helps to boost a show’s quality more often than not, so I will be covering tonight’s episode as well as next week’s 2-hour finale in order to discuss where I think the show went wrong and whether it lived up to any of the potential we saw back in the pilot.
So strap in and put on your snark helmets, boys and girls, because things are about to get….middling.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Season 37, Episode 9
We’ve seen out fair share of weird or ill-fitting guests this season – Charlie Day, Jason Segel, Steve Buscemi – but Katy Perry exists in a different class all together – the “WHY?” class. Much like Miley Cyrus before her – and, to reach back into past seasons, Lebron James and George Steinbrenner – Perry seems to exist as a host because the show needs a famous name to slap on the episode, and nobody else in available. And while Katy Perry proved herself to be some amount of comedic talent in her appearance on How I Met Your Mother last season, and her cameo on this show last season, both of those were roles that didn’t require all that much from her, and I’m not sure if she has to chops to be as front and center as host usually are. (I say should because Cyrus and Buscemi were both relegated to the sidelines in their hosting duties; only one of these made sense.) Well, let’s see how she did….
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Season 5, Episode 5
Really? It’s only been five episodes so far? With three weeks off, it feel like it been a lot longer since Chuck premiered back in October, and that we should be further along in the season. Part of that is of course the show’s quickly approaching end date on January 27th with a 2-hour finale, but I think a larger part of that is that the show packed so much plot into the first four episodes trying to reset the status quo from the season four finale that it initially seemed to be squandering the potential of the season five premiere. However, now that the show is done with the ridiculous “Morgan as the Intersect” arc, it finally seems to be settling into a much more enjoyable groove, and if the rest of the episodes can work like this, well then Chuck just might be able to go out strong after all.
Season 4, Episode 9 & 10
Even though I enjoyed the crap out of last week’s Parks and Recreation, I decided not to write about it because I couldn’t come up with enough to say to justify a review. It, like most of the episodes that the show produces these days, stuck with a specific formula of comedy paired with some last minute pathos, and, while repeated formulas tend to mark the death kneel of a show, this is a formula that is still strong and viable at least for the time being. And instead of repeat myself talking about that formula yet again, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
However, while this week's episode also served that same formula, and in theory should also keep me from writing a review, these two episodes, as well as the one before that, are showing the small variations that the show is doing to this formula to make things even more powerful.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Season 3, Episode 10
“For a while there, I thought we were going to end the semester on a really dark note.”
First, a deep breath……
All right. Writing about the last episode of Community that we will get for the next few months (okay, the last episode before a few months away that’s not a season finale) may be the hardest thing I will ever do for this blog. Of course, a large part of it is that it’s going away for a while, and I have to make sure that I hold back the tears long enough to write this piece. Part of this is the fact that I have to avoid reading too much into the episode, as well as making sure that I don’t place too high of expectations on it. But really the hardest part is going to be finding the words to explain how even though I didn’t like the central conceit at the heart of it, this is one of the best episodes the show has ever done.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Season 2, Episode 9
As I have stated many times in my review for this show, Happy Endings exists in that vein of comedies where all the show really has to do in order to earn high praise is but extremely funny. That may seem like a low bar for comedies to pass, but considering that these comedies also have to slim the story down in order to make way for as many jokes as possible, it’s actually a lot harder than it seems. Unfortunately, this can lead to such shows using narrative shortcuts in order to expedite that process, and as an overreliance in “Grinches Be Crazy” on sitcom clichés shows us, sometimes that can bring everything down just a peg.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season 3, Episode 10
“It won’t be Christmas with it. It’s December 16th.”
Here’s a question that I’ve never thought I would have to ask: Is Modern Family the sort of show that lives and dies by it’s jokes? I’ve spent so much of my writing about how the show squanders the potential or relies on clichés that I’ve never really concern myself with how particularly funny any given episode is. (Well, apart from those times when a cliché’s predictability erases any chance of surprise, and that stops an episode from being funny. I totally lay into the show for that.) Part of it is that humor is subjective, but it’s mostly because I believe that when a show has strong characters and can afford to real stories – which MF does, along with How I Met Your Mother – it can offer up something to make up for the lack of comedy. But what happens when the humor isn’t enough? Well, we get “Express Christmas”, that’s what.
Season 3, Episode 8
I would like to start off with an apology for not reviewing last week’s episode. I know that I tweeted like three different times that I was going to have the review ready by such-and-such time, but it never materialized. The episode was so terrible, that even when I finally found a hook for the piece (and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself), I just couldn’t pull myself through the episode’s muck once again, and every time I started trying to write out just why the episode was so horrible, my brain shut down. Now, Glee’s done terrible episodes in the past, and even if that was perhaps the worse one it’s made, I still in theory should have been able to get that review done.
But I think what was so devastating about last week’s episode was that up until that point, I was actually sense a gradual uptick in overall quality in the show. Even though the season had its share of bad episodes, I still felt like the good outweighed the bad. “I Kissed a Girl” destroyed that illusion, and I was forced to accept that Glee had given up on its promise to put story first. This disillusionment only grew with news about Ricky Martin’sguest star turn and the Michael Jackson episode, both of which will happen early next year, and it was solidified with the return of CHORD OVERSTREET tonight. (By the laws of the internet, I am obligated to type his name in all caps.) Tonight’s episode may have been slightly better dramatically, but in the sense that it only seemed to cement the chaos of last week, it actually became even worse.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Season 7, Episode 12
Last week’s episode ended with a cliffhanger, one that left me very skeptical of the show’s next step, convinced as I was that this was a twist done out of desperation, and not organic storytelling. I conceded that the perhaps the show could actually make said twist successful, but in the light of “Symphony of Illumination”, I guess it doesn’t really matter. And that pisses me off so much that it becomes hard to focus on the good of the episode.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Season 37, Episode 8
Much like Charlie Day and Jason Segel before him, Steve Buscemi seems like an odd choice for the hosting gig on SNL. However, whereas the first two were a weird fit because they tend to work with a different comedy vibe than the show, Steve Buscemi is just….Steve Buscemi. If we can be totally honest, I don’t find Buscemi be that versatile of an actor; he pretty much stick to his limited range, and even though that can have great payoff – as in Reservoir Dogs – it also stops me from thinking of him as a great actor, and I have doubts about his ability to be comedic enough for this show. That, coupled with the fact that Boardwalk Empire hasn’t had enough cultural impact to make me believe that some good comedy can be mined from that, should make for an interesting show tonight.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Season 3, Episode 9
“You don’t know me.”
One of the things that I never really understood was how during the beginning of season two, which was perhaps the strongest stretch of Community so far, there was a small but vocal sector of the show’s small but vocal audience who were expressing displeasure with the dearth of homage/spoof episodes, and were clamoring for those that they deemed “normal” (as if there is such a thing when it comes to this show). While I agreed that perhaps the show was over-loading its slate with too much of one type of episode, it wasn't something that truly bothered me given the fact that most of the episodes were just fantastic, and I found it hard to believe that people could be upset when the results were this good. So here we are in season three, with more “normal” episodes than not, and given how last night’s episode played out, I have to wonder if some of those detractors aren’t rethinking their original positions just a bit.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Season 2, Episode 6 & 7
“The world out there isn’t what you see on TV”
The “mid-season finale” is a recent construct, one that has popped up over the past five years or so as cable networks sought for a way to split up their 16-ish episode seasons instead of airing them all at once. (Okay, so this statement mostly applies to the USA network, but given how instrumental that it’s been in the rise of basic cable original programming, at this point it’s an idea that doesn’t feel exclusive to the network.) It’s something that exists more as an construct than an actual element of television, because even as there are plenty of show that make sure to include big developments in the episodes leading into the hiatus, to the point that even networks shows like The Vampire Diaries have adopted the model, there are still other shows, like say Leverage, that don’t. But the idea of this being so is still strong enough that I expected something big to come of tonight’s Walking Dead, and it's to that end that I would like to start this review with the following thought:
Even given the fact that “Pretty Much Dead Already” didn’t have any sort of big twist, and at times was underwhelming in much the same way as the season one finale was, and flies in the face of how we expect mid-season finales to work, it was still a pretty great episode, the kind that I have been hoping the show would eventually produce.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Season 7, Episode 11
Look, not everybody liked last week’s episode. I find it kind of hard to believe, since I found it to be one of the strongest episodes that the show has produced in quite a while, but it’s true. A large reason for that appears to be that some people didn’t like the ending, whether because they saw it as a stall tactic or because they felt it represented the show putting up just one more unnecessary road block. Tonight’s episode had a similar twist ending, and considering that fan reaction will be just as divided (if not more negative) as it was last week, it seems like a bold move for the show to pull. But it also got me thinking about how the show does a lot of things in pairs, and how maybe that’s worth taking under consideration.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Season 37, Episode 7
Much like Charlie Day before him, Jason Segel is the kind of actor who just seems a bit too for SNL school, the kind of actor whose talent I fear will get subsumed to some mediocre sketches. Luckily, Segel’s got too things going for him: One, he’s far more mainstream than Day ever was. And two, given that he’s here to promote The Muppets, odds are they be able to prop up at least one sketch. Well, let’s see how he did…
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Season 3, Episode 4
I’m beginning to wonder if Chuck’s biggest problem, at least for this season, isn’t the fact that it isn’t telling the best stories – although, yes, that still is a significant issue – but that it hasn’t found out just how to break those stories into sizeable chunks. Two weeks ago, I railed against the show for introducing evil Morgan far too quickly, and I equally criticized last week’s episode for walking him back at roughly the same pace. But it goes beyond pacing; the show has also had problems connecting the episodes to one another. “Chuck Versus The Bearded Bandit” seemed to end with Morgan working for Verbanski, only for it to take half of the next episode to get to that point. Likewise, tonight’s episode opened with Morgan’s brain still fried (something that I thought was already fixed), and, in a weird bit of continuity, with Jeff still sober. But, if you could manage to look past the fought spots that it took to get here, “Chuck Versus The Business Trip” was actually pretty solid, and the best episode of the season so far.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Season 4, Episode 7
“You know, I’ve been investigating fringe events for three years. I never thought I’d become one.”
As you might have noticed from these reviews, I never been a fan of discussing the standalone cases of the week, unless perhaps they have some sort of emotional connection or impact, and even then I rarely discuss the actual plot itself. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against standalone plots – I can recognize when one is well executed, though that seems to be a bit of rarity these days – but rather I think the serialized elements of any show make for better discussion. Standalone plots are meant to be disposable, and discussing them always seems like an exercise in futility, and they kind of make reviewing a show week to week a bit pointless. So what is one to do when an episode is almost entirely a standalone plot, and not much else, and to top it all off, the standalone plot is even that good? Shake your head mostly, and then just scrounge for whatever discussion points you can.
Season 4, Episode 8
“I just decided what I wanted, and I got upset when you didn’t want the same thing.”
One of the strongest things that has been at play in this current season is that it has gotten very good at playing out the more emotional, serialized elements of it stories to great effect. This isn’t to say that the show has been bad about serialization in the past – in fact it’s been quite good – but that it feel much stronger now, that it has more of a presence. And despite all the sniping from some corners that Parks and Recreation isn’t as good as it used to be, I think it’s important to note that while the episode formula hasn’t changed, the overall storytelling has, and when that makes the show capable of such episodes as strong as “Smallest Park”, I think the detractors need to start rethinking their assessment of the show.
Season 3, Episode 8
“This is it. This is how I get to put Greendale on the map.”
I must fight it. I must fight the urge to talk about tonight’s episode in light of the recent dustup over NBC’s decision to bench the show for a few months. Much like I discussed with “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”, it’s key with any episode of Community to keep authorial intent in mind, especially when it comes to a show as meta as this one. As self-referential as the show can be, not every connection between the show and the real world is intentional. That being said, it’s hard not to at least mention how dense “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” was as an episode, and how off-putting that most likely was to any new viewers who happened to tune in to the episode in the wake of the general internet outcry over the show’s fate, and somehow think that they were watching another knock-off of The Office or something. But unlike The Office, “Redux” was an episode that intentionally injected unreal situations in a genre that strives for authenticity, perhaps to the episode’s detriment.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Season 2, Episode 7
For the first time this season – and quite possibly the first time in the show’s run – Happy Endings crafted an episode that didn’t spin some of the characters out into the edges, but instead separated the group into two smaller groups. However, considering one of these groupings was just Brad and Jane, that left Alex, Dave, Max and Penny in another group, and I think it’s because of this that the episode faltered just a bit. With the show trying to have four characters have laughs from one story, and the lack of any crazy side gags, the show just wasn’t able to deliver the top notch tomfoolery that it normally does. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable all the same.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Season 3, Episode 8
Well here it is, come down upon us as if from the television gods above: an episode of Modern Family that was both free from outrageous clichés and manages to mix up the titular family from beyond their nuclear households. It may have not been the best episode, but it was most certainly the strongest episode so far this season.
Season 3, Episodes 5 & 6
You know, it’s funny. Given the dust up that the PTC made last week concerning the perceived immorality of “The First Time”, I’m surprised that there wasn’t similar controversy over tonight’s episode, given that it upped the age-inappropriate relationship angle in a big way. Now, there are most certainly reasons for this – PTC probably wasn’t made aware of the plot, and, as the episode took pains to remind us, Puck is 18 – but it’s still ironic that this episode that was much more sexually suggestive that last week’s. In fact, it would be a good Idea to compare “The First Time” and “Mash-Off”, not just because I didn’t post a review last week, but also because the two are of opposing levels of quality, and that says a lot about where the show is now.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Season 7, Episode 10
“What if it’s actually the story of how we got back together?”
Last night’s How I Met Your Mother proved to be a very divisive one, with critics either upsetthat the show threw up yet another roadblock, or instead enjoying the emotional journey that the show is taking us to get to the point of Robin and Barney’s reunion. Me, I fall into the latter camp, and it appears that I have one more to add to the list of shows that I love. Sure, I may be more critical of HIMYM than the other shows on that list, but when the show is firing on all emotional cylinders, all of my rational criticisms seem to just melt away.
Monday, November 14, 2011
By now, you’ve no doubt heard: in the Great NBC Schedule Change-Up of 2011, there have been a few casualties, including the apparent but unofficial cancellation of Prime Suspect, and far more importantly – for the purposes of this blog and this post – the network’s decision to remove Community from its airwaves from January, February, and into March. And although this probably a pointless exercise – not only are the chances of NBC executives or even a general internet audience reading this, but by the time I’m able to finish/post this, there will no doubt be many other posts about this move competing for your attention (as with so many complications in my life, I blame grad school for this – but I need to write this piece. NBC’s move left me angry. I don’t mean miffed; I was outraged, fist-shakingly, couldn’t-concentrate-on-the-paper-that-was-due-in-an-hour-and-a-half angry.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Season 2, Episode 5
“You got this knack, you spread us thinner and thinner.”
The cold open to tonight’s episode involved shots of helicopters flying overhead, soon followed by some bad CGI of a city (Atlanta, I assume) getting blown up real good. Even though it was a flashback, I worried that it was the shape of things to come – that the episode would make the show once again making the bad choice of placing the characters in circumstances way over their head, a la the season one finale. Luckily my fears were assuaged, and the show actually doubled down on telling its personal stories, much to my delight.
Season 37, Episode 6
It’s hard to believe, but Emma Stone was on SNL just a little over a year ago, and it was one of the stronger episodes of the season, though the extent to which that quality belonged to her and not the sketches is hard to gauge. So this will be an interesting experiment tonight, seeing if Stone can recapture the magic of her first appearance.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Season 4, Episode 6
“Too many variables, not enough constants.”
There was a awesome scene about a third of the way through tonight’s episode, where Peter began to start skipping in time, first jumping from Walter’s lab to the site of the latest fringe event, and then from the car back to the event site so that he could gain a vital clue to figuring out was causing all the temporal displacements. It was delightfully weird and disorienting without being too confusing, and it perfectly captured for the audience the feeling of being unstuck in time. I thought that this was going to be how the rest of the episode would work, and it would grow continuously more complicated with its time skipping, to a level of gleeful bat shit inanity. However, most of the episode was fairly standard, as it often seemed to skirt the more interesting idea for the sake of a more straightforward narrative.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Season 5, Episode 3
Over the past couple of years, I have grown to hate episodic previews. It’s not that I dislike show’s trying to tease us about what’s coming up, and I appreciate knowing when there will and won’t be an episode next week, or if the show is taking a break. But somewhere along the way, networks leaned a little too much into this concept, as they began revealing too much about the next week’s hook, or, even worse (and in the case of this week’s episode) they destroy what was supposed to be a cliffhanger. Usually, I try to avoid these previews (except for FX and AMC, where it usually doesn’t matter), but NBC likes to tack them on right to the end of the episode, and I was ruined about the truth behind Morgan’s attitude shift.
Season 4, Episodes 6 & 7
“Yeah, sure. I’ll just tread water until you’re ready.”
Of the reviews that I’ve kept going this season (sorry, Terra Nova), Parks and Recreation has been the show that I’ve fallen through on the most. This shouldn’t be an indictment of the season, as I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit, unlike other critics you have been worried that the show is headed for a downhill slide in quality. But I think that there’s something to the concerns that P&R is using the same formula, and that it’s getting old. Now, I still think the show is delivering hilarious results, so I’m not too worried about the formula being used out just yet, but I do think makes it difficult for me to write about the show week to week, even if it remains my favorite comedies. So I might be changing up the reviews some as I see fit, starting today as I review both last week’s “End of the World” and this week’s “The Treaty”.
Season 3, Episode 7
“Why am I always the one who has to adapt?”
I am always interested in the ways in which single-camera comedies use the inherent creative freedom of the form to break away, subvert, or otherwise diverge from the formula set by years of their multiple-camera counterparts. And I don’t just mean the obvious things, like the varied looks they are able to adopt or the different comedic rhythms. As readers of my Modern Family reviews no doubt know, I often expect to single-camera comedies to use the form to avoid telling the tired tropes that we all got sick of in the 90s. But there are some elements – especially the warmth of comedies from the 80s – that single-cams should adopt, and tonight’s episode of Community did that beautifully.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Season 7, Episode 9
What is it about tragedy that affects us so, that makes us want to tell our story to those who weren’t there to witness it first hand? More specifically, what is it with comedy writers who are making such a big deal out of Hurricane Irene? Okay, so it was a big deal, but it’s pretty impossible not to notice that where as Hurricane Katrina gave us Treme and When the Levees Broke, but Irene inspired episodes of both How I Met Your Mother and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But, when you place put aside the fact that a comedy is making light of a situation that most people turn into serious drama, “Disaster Averted” is actually a pretty great episode.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Though I may haunt the fringes of the internet as an amateur television critic, my first and foremost concern is with my grad school work. (Trust me, I wish that it was the other way around too.) As such, I present to you Pixelated History, my attempt to write reviews/posts that seek to discuss historical practice and television in equal measure, mostly in preparation for my master’s thesis, but also just because I think it will be fun. Pixelated History isn’t about nitpicking the details of historical dramas; it’s about analyzing how television depicts and influences our understanding of our past.
This is not a straightforward review of the show; for that I can send you to any number of reviews, all of which say more or less the same thing about Hell on Wheels. That it feels like a rip-off of Deadwood. That it’s lazy. That it’s just not that interesting. All of these things are true, and if it’s wasn't for a more compelling reason, I would probably stop watching that show right now.
That reason? My interest in history. As a grad student in the subject, I have been subjected to a whole lot of courses, both about historical events, and the practice of history itself, and as I come closer and closer to obtaining my master’s (read: writing my thesis), I’ve begun to home on my topic, and I now seek to combine two things I love the most: history and television.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Season 2, Episode 4
“Good thing we didn’t do anything stupid, like shoot it.”
Apparently I was wrong about last week’s episode – or, to put it in more objective terms, I was completely out of step with the critical consensus. I actually don’t think I was wrong about the episode – the episode didn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know, and (mostly because of that), it was boring – but it times like these, when I see to be on the fringes that I begin to question what exactly it is I look for in a television show. It’s not that I believe that I have to fall in line with every other critic – in fact, a variety of opinions is what makes criticism interesting – but I often do have similar taste to those critics that like last week’s episode, and it felt weird for me not to agree them. And thus I’m thankful for episodes like “Cherokee Rose”, which affords me another opportunity to dissect what I do and do not like about a show.
Season 37, Episode 5
“You gotta put out for these people.”
I like Charlie Day; I really do. Not only is he my favorite cast member from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but he has more charisma than many other, more mainstream comedians today, and I like that he’s finally gotten more lead roles in the past few months in productions that he doesn’t produce. Still, it feels weird for Day to be appearing on SNL, for obvious reasons. Day’s humor isn’t exactly in line with SNL’s more mainstream sensibilities, and it’s hard to be cynical that the show is going to water down his manic energy instead of playing up to it. (Also supporting this theory: tonight’s musical guest is Maroon 5, the lowest common denominator of bands.) So how did Day and SNL do? Click through to find out….
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Season 4, Episode 5
“Some things are not ours to tamper with.”
- William Bell
It shouldn’t come as a shock when I say that in its fourth season, Fringe has more or less become a rebooted version of its old self, as Peter’s exit and reentry into existence essentially meant that a good deal of things changed in EWOP, and the show had to take the time to highlight exactly what those changes are. In essence, watching the fourth season of Fringe became akin to watching an entirely brand new show; sure, we technically already knew these people, and there some things to be gleaned from the not all that subtle hints at Peter’s disappearance, but I think a newcomer could have started watching with “Neither Here Nor There”, and, apart from being blow away by the show’s blatant approach to its sci-fi elements, have with few problems understanding what was going one. “Novation” seems like yet another reboot of the show, and I think that’s what kept the episode from really cracking.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Season 5, Episode 2
Last week, I posited that it was strange that Chuck would give us a premiere that held off on giving us a look the new Intersect that is Morgan. I appreciated the move to focus instead on the show’s lead, even though he’s no longer the character the gives the show it’s hook; it was a moment of subtlety, of paring down the pace from a show that usually doesn’t do such things, and I thought that was admirable. And yet considering that this is show that usually runs right through the plot elements that it does have on it slate was what made Morgan’s relegation to the sidelines stand out so much. So tonight’s episode saw a much greater focus placed on Morgan, all though now I’m wishing that wasn’t the case.
Season 3, Episode 6
As I expressed last week, I had some trepidation about going into an episode of Community that was entitled “Advanced Gay”. It’s not that I thought that this was going to be some terribly offensive episode for the show – it’s far too progressive for that to ever be the case – but it was readily apparent that it was going to focus Pierce, and not only would including too much of his behavior risk crossing some sort of line, but after last season, it’s hard for me to take him seriously as a member of the group at times, and I feared that his worst qualities were going to rear up and cause my Pierce-hate to start all over again. Luckily, the show stayed on the right side of the line on both accounts, and produced another highly enjoyable episode in the process.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Season 3, Episode 7
Comedies don’t have to be substantial in order to be good. Sometimes – okay, most of the time – it is acceptable for them to just be funny in a way that’s true to the characters and doesn’t rely on tired or lazy situations. Now, as I’ve said before, being a family sitcom puts Modern Family in a tenuous position, as in this genre, perhaps more than any other that’s not science fiction, it becomes really had to determine the line between archetype and cliché. And while it “Treehouse” wasn’t a perfect episode, but it mostly stayed on the right side of those lines, and it was better for it.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Season 3, Episode 4
Can Glee realistically handle a political subplot? Actually, let’s back that line of thinking up just a bit? Can Glee handle any storyline that’s supposed to reflect the current situations of its real world? Now, television as whole requires a healthy suspension of belief, as all shows work in their own little worlds that function differently than real life, to varying degrees. (Well, expect The Wire, but that’s just the exception that proves the rule.) Glee has embraced this element to the extreme, and while it can stretch the limits of believability, it tends to work as long as it stays within its magical la-la land where emotions swing like clock pendulum and there’s always a backup band to score your random musical number. The problem then comes when the show shatters this illusionary world by bringing in real-life problems, and it’s a problem that “Pot O’ Gold” highlights in a big way.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Season 7, Episode 8
The thing about expectations is that they almost always lead to disappointing outcomes. As much as the idea of a second episode that features The Slutty Pumpkin sounds cool, the truth is that it’s probably not going to live up to the original episode – especially when the Pumpkin in question is played by Katie Holmes.
Monday, October 31, 2011
When I was in middle school, I used to spend my Friday night watching 20/20 – both because I liked how it made me feel more mature than my peers, and because I didn’t have a social life. (Frankly, the latter was the bigger influence on my decision to watch the show.) I’m not going to say that it was great journalism, and I now recognize that it could at times focus on stories that were sensationalist and/or overly frivolous, but it was never as crass as I remember say, Dateline, being, as it was a fairly slick and classy way for me to get some extra news into my television diet.
Season 1, Episode 5
Dropping in on the show, as continues its middling path
I must admit that I feel sort of bad for not following through on my promise to write about Terra Nova on a weekly basis. I mean, it’s a pretty bad show – worse in fact than I would have thought based on the pilot – and I don’t really have the energy to write about another subpar show every week – that’s what Modern Family is for. (Sadly, a few months ago that slot used to belong to Glee, but the latter show has picked up this season.) But because I heard that the show is planning on picking up its serialized elements – and because I don’t have class tonight, as lack of time was another reason I quit my coverage of this show – I’m offering up this review for those three whole people who were disappointed that I haven’t followed through on my initial commitment.
I just wish that this was a better episode; I don’t know when exactly it was that we’re supposed to enter serialized territory, but it certainly wasn’t tonight.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday at 8/7c.
When I was in my pre-teen and early teenage years, my family and I would gather around the television set in the early hours of Sunday evening to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, the latest incarnation of the long-running anthology program and the third version of such to air on ABC. Though it was mostly a way for Disney to deliver cheap made-for-TV movies, repackage those that films failed to make theatrical release, and (very rarely) air actual theatrical hits (the last leg of the show coincided with Disney’s purchase of ABC) it was a way for my family to watch television together when they still had a person living in the house who was not mature enough for most primetime programming (that is, me). And given that WWOD has been off the air for three years now, it’s impossible for not to look at ABC’s new series Once Upon a Time as a way to recapture that audience. Unfortunately, playing towards that audience perhaps isn’t the best thing for the show, as a good idea gets diluted down into something more palatable for the “family” senses, and suffers because of it.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
“Together, we’re at the dawn of
a new civilization. No pressure.”
I’m not going to pretend that I went into Terra Nova with the highest of hopes. As a sci-fi series on FOX that’s produced by Steven Spielberg, I knew more or less what I was getting into, and it wasn’t going to be The Next Great Sci-Fi Series, for sure. Then why did I jump in to a series that I knew might not be that good, as well as commit myself to writing about the thirteen-episode first season?
Because dinosaurs are fucking awesome. The only problem is that the show knows it all too well, and it feels like that’s the reason the show doesn’t work as well as it should.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Season 3, Episode 1-2
And the Emmy for least improved comedy goes to….
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Season 7, Episodes 1 & 2
Clearly we’re just padding out time here
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
It’s that time once again boys and girls, time to turn on the television only to realize that most people don’t actually watch television. That’s right…it’s the Emmy Awards! Like just about every Emmy awards past, it was an opportunity for the people in Hollywood to feel good about themselves, and for telephiles on their couch to just scratch their head whilst simultaneously beating it against the wall. Click through to see my breakdown of the winners, and click here to look at my Emmy predictions. Cross compare for even more fun!
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Season 7, Episode 1
Introducing Mac’s funny, funny fat
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
With tonight’s season premiere of Sons of Anarchy, the traditional television season officially kicks off, and even though it will be a few more weeks become the networks catch up, now seems like a good time to lay out some of my predictions for the upcoming fall session of television. Looking over the television landscape of both new and returning shows, it is hard not to notice trends among the shows, trends that will invariably be part of the conversation on this blog and quite possibly attain notice from other critics as well. Though there is always room for surprises, the following predications are based on a mixture of historical evidence and intuition, and it seems likely that they will be some of the biggest issues critics deal with over the next several months.
Posted by Corbin Stephenson at 7:50 PM
Monday, September 5, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Some people use their time before a big break to evolve their craft. Not Seth McFarlane.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Rob Thomas’ last ditch effort to save his show amounted to nothing. It was probably for the best.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
When a pilot gets reordered, the entire series gets thrown off kilter
Monday, July 25, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Mitchell Hurwitz decided to make an extended cut of the pilot after the series got picked up. Why, exactly?
Monday, July 18, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Another year, another slew of disappointments. That’s usually how it goes, right? While this year is not as egregious as some of the errors of years past, but as Myles McNutt points out, there’s always some disappointment to go along. Among the positive aspects, FX finally picked up some nods for a show other than Damages, with 2 nods for Louie and 3 nods for Justified. (Sadly, there’s nothing for Sons of Anarchy.) As for what got snubbed…well’s that a much bigger pile. (Seriously, you’re going to get sick of me talking about how much Community and Terriers got snubbed this year.)
For each category, I will offer my suggestions for who I think should have been nominated instead (as well as who they should replace), as well as who I think should and will win from the list of nominees. As need, I will also throw in a little analysis of the nominee list as a whole.
Please note that since I have not seen enough of them, I am forgoing the various Movie+Miniseries categories, and because I’m not a fan, I’m similarly skipping all talk of reality/competition/non-fiction categories. You can find a full list here.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
When a failed pilot becomes famous, do we lose the ability to evaluate seriously?
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Or why cancelling Men of a Certain Age is harmful to television as a whole
Yesterday during my daily stroll through my the usual websites, I came across two open letters – one from Alan Sepinwall, the other from Mo Ryan – both extolling the virtues of Men of a Certain Age and reasoning/pleading with TNT to give the show a third season, and another chance to gain a substantial audience. As a fan of the show, my heart leapt while reading these two well-formed, intellectual, and heart-felt pleas for a fantastic show that for various reasons has never had a chance to connect with people. Though I finished these letters filled with a sense of elation, soon cold logic began to set in. I have seen this tactic used with shows in the past – most notably Terriers last fall – and never to my recollection have open letters saved a show. (Subway sandwiches and bags of peanuts are another story.)
This is not to say that the critics stumping for the shows are doing anything wrong, or that they are wasting their time trying to rope in new viewers through something other than advertising. As a fellow TV lover, I understand the compulsion to do whatever it takes to save a flailing show, and I respect these critics for taking these steps for a show that deserves it. This, then, is not a piece meant to decry those critics for their work. Rather, it is the failure of these open letters to make an impact, and the nature of the shows that tend to have such letters written, that reveal important trends in the viewing habits of the Average Viewer, the understanding of which is key to Men’s renewal.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
How a TV love letter gained prominence on the internet
Friday, July 1, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Season 2, Episode 11
The penultimate episode finds the show returning to its own path
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Apparently deaf to the to the increasing negative reviews from critics - and all of the audience members who have declared that they were dropping the show once we figure out who killed Rosie Larsen - AMC has decided to renew The Killing for a second season. Now, given that the show had the second highest premiere beyond the Walking Dead, and has maintained a viewership of around 2 million - higher than Breaking Bad's numbers ever were, and better than Mad Men's first three seasons - it makes sense from a entirely fiscal sense why AMC would choose to renew this show. But looking at this from a artistic decision, it makes far less sense.