Saturday, December 31, 2011

The 2011 Television Year In Review

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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Doctor Who - "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe"

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

Chuck - "Chuck Vs. The Santa Suit"

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

Sons of Anarchy, Season Four

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

The Trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Arrives

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

The 2011 SAG & Golden Globe Awards, In Comparison

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.

Terra Nova - "Occupation"/"Resistance"

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

Misfits Season Three Now on Hulu

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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SNL - "Jimmy Fallon/Michael Buble"

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

Chuck - "Chuck Vs. the Curse"

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

Glee - "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"

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

Terra Nova - "Within"

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

SNL - "Katy Perry/Robyn"

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

Chuck - "Chuck Vs. the Hack-Off"

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.

Parks and Recreation - "The Trial of Leslie Knope"/"Citizen Knope"

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

Community - "Regional Holiday Music"

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

Hey, This Cool Thing Happened

Or at least I enjoyed it...

Happy Endings - "Grinches Be Crazy"

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

Modern Family - "Express Christmas"

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.

Glee - "Hold on to Sixteen"

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

How I Met Your Mother - "Symphony of Illumination"

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

SNL - "Steve Buscemi/The Black Keys"

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

Community - "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism"

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.