Sunday, November 4, 2012

SNL - "Louis CK/fun."

Season 38, Episode 6

Let’s just get this out there: I’m extremely worried for how tonight’s SNL is going to turn out with Louis CK in the host’s chair. By his own admission, CK isn’t a very good actor, and he even admitted that he didn’t feel that confident about his job during rehearsals. Even though he did a pretty good job in the promos for this week (and the promos were well-written to work around him), CK’s acting range is very limited – mostly he just acts exasperated on Louie – and I can’t imagine the show trying to have him do the one thing he’s good at for all of the sketches of the night. But I guess we’ll see. And who knows – maybe we’ll get a short film from CK out of the whole ordeal.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Endings - "Cazsh Dummy Spillionaires"/"Sabado Free-Gante"

Season 3, Episodes 1-2

When I first started writing about Happy Endings, I decried the show’s basic premise, claiming that rom-com histrionics like “man being left at the altar” didn’t fit with it’s fast-paced and emotion-eschewing humor. And when the rom-com heart reared its head halfway through last season, I was skeptical of the show’s ability to tell a tale of something so pure, and was later turned off by its inability to engage with what seemed like a serialized plot. By those standards, the idea of a continuing romance between Alex and Dave (which was introduced in the season finale back in April) would seem like a total misfire for the show. Over the first two episodes of the third season, however, it’s been proven that maybe that’s not such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

SNL - "Daniel Craig/Muse"

Season 38, Episode 3

I’m not even going to pretend to write out an intro paragraph for tonight’s write-up. This is one of the worst SNL episodes in recent memory. Click through to find out why….

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SNL - "Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Mumford & Sons"

Season 38, Episode 2

For me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or JGL, for brevity’s sake) is an actor who just sort of…exists. It’s not that I actively dislike him, but I’ve never seen the appeal that drives so many people to swoon and whatever else it is they do at the mention of his name. (Note: This could all change if I ever get around to seeing Looper.) Will my ambivalence towards him transfer over to the show? Let’s find out.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SNL - "Seth McFarlane/Frank Ocean"

Season 38, Episode 1

Ah, there’s nothing like a new season, fresh with potential, to renew one’s faith in Saturday Night Live. Granted, these days it feels like any small change in the show’s line-up has the audience hoping that it will return the show to the quality of the halcyon days of the 70s/mid 80s/ early 90s (take your pick). But considering that the show has now lost Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and Abby Elliot; has replaced Fred Armisen’s Obama impression with Jay Pharoah’s; and has three new featured players, it feels as if this would be as good of a time as any for the show to mount a mass improvement. And it’s that kind of potential that gives me hope, hope that not even Seth McFarlane’s job as host could possibly crush.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall 2012 Review Schedule

Things are going to be light this semester – or at least for the first half of it – as I am busy working on my thesis and that will take up a lot of my time and energy. Again, this list is tentative, and will change based on my school schedule and interest.

How I Met Your Mother – CBS, September 24th

Happy Endings – ABC, October 23rd

The Hour – BBC America, November

Parks and Recreation – NBC, September 20th

Community – NBC, October 19th
Fringe – FOX, September 29th

Doctor Who – BBC America, Ongoing
Saturday Night Live – NBC, September 15th

*Drop-ins planned for: Glee, The Office, Modern Family, Sons of Anarchy, and The Walking Dead, based on time availability.

NBC's The New Normal

The pilot episode of The New Normal airs tonight at 10/9c, and the show resumes its normal slot Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c.

Over the years, and especially with three hit shows in the past decade (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story), Ryan Murphy and his shows have developed something of a reputation. While they tend to be crowd pleasers, at least for their first few years of life, they also tend to grow into being sloppy, incoherent narrative messes, something that was made abundantly clear with AHS, which often felt like it was the show’s third or fourth go-around, not its first. Watching The New Normal, it’s clear that it’s a Ryan Murphy show, but – at least here at the beginning – it’s not because of the pilot’s narrative abilities. Rather, it’s because it displays that secondary Murphy trait – offensiveness in the face of a supposed strive for progressiveness.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Doctor Who - "Asylum of the Daleks"

Season 7, Episode 1

“Well, this is new.”

This is, by Steven Moffat’s own admission, supposed to be a “big” season for Doctor Who, one that plays down the serialization that became so frustrating at the end of last season and instead gives us lots of “blockbuster” type hours instead. And how does one go ahead and kick of such a season? By bringing back the Daleks, of course.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Falling Skies - "The Price of Greatness"

Season 2, Episode 9

I’ve stopped being surprised when Falling Skies reaches for the easy cliché instead of trying to build on the potential-rich archetypes that make up the core of it’s show. It’s disheartening to see the show cycle through every post-apocalyptic plot that you’ve already seen three times before, but that’s just where the level of this particular writer’s room seems to be. So when I saw the promo for this week’s episode promised an episode where “not everything is as it seems” I groaned a little, knowing just what we were in store for. So colored me surprised to find out that “The Price of Greatness” is an hour that worked in a lot of predictable stuff, yes, but used it to solid effect to raise some interesting ideas.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wilfred - "Avoidance"/"Truth"

Season 2, Episodes 7-8

If Wilfred were a more tightly plotted show, I might be more inclined to read into the fact that there existed back to back episodes with the titles “Avoidance” and “Truth”, which would seem to indicate thematic parallels, if not an outright two-parter. That of course wasn’t the case, but it is interesting to note how these two episodes served as a dialectic of the show’s two extremes: raunchy humor and high-minded storytelling.

Futurama - "Free Will Hunting"

Season 7, Episode 9

One of the things that I love about Futurama is that, especially in its original run on FOX, the show wasn’t afraid to tackle big issues or scientific principles and to build whole episodes around them. The show knew that there was a smart audience who would be willing to watch a comedy about high-minded ideas, and the audience in kind seemed to be thankful that there existed a show willing to do such storytelling in the first place. There’s hasn’t been as much of this time of story-telling since the show’s comeback, and it’s something that I missed. But after “Free Will Hunting”, I’m not sure the show should return to intellectual territory ever again.

Breaking Bad - "Madrigal"/"Hazard Pay"/"Fifty-One"

Season 5, Episodes 2-4

“We’re just getting started. Nothing stops this train. Nothing.”

“All Hail the King” goes the ad campaign for this season of Breaking Bad (or at least this first half of this season), and indeed there has existed an obsession in these first few episodes with power, who wields it, who wants to wield it, and how that effects those who don’t. Over the past three episodes, the show has taken a very character-based approach to the idea, roughly devoting one hour each to Mike, Walt, and Skyler, and how they are navigating their lives through the new power-vacuum that exists within the meth trade world.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Falling Skies - "Molon Labe"/"Death March"

Season 2, Episodes 7-8

I’ve written before about how Falling Skies is a show divided against itself – it’s very good at providing the action and sci-fi thrills (and sometimes chills), but doesn’t have quite the same level of skill when it comes to the other elements of the show, mostly the character-building and pathos. It often seems as if the show is begrudgingly doing the latter time as a way to bide time until and save money for the former, and the filler status would probably explain why it never feels as affecting as the action set-pieces. This contrast becomes even more apparent with “Molon Labe” and “Death March”, episodes that tackle only action and character building, respectively, to disorienting effect.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Futurama - "Fun on a Bun"

Season 7, Episode 8


In my review of the season premiere, I brought up one of pet peeves with Futurama, the show’s inability (especially in the sixth season) to maintain a logical throughline to the Fry/Leela relationship. This doesn’t mean that I expected the show to always address the existence of a relationship from episode to episode, but rather to at least have it follow on a consistent line and give tacit acknowledgement when the relationship status changes. Given how many times over the seasons that the show has asked that we care about these two as a couple, it only seems right that the show treats the actual relationships with the same respect and effort that was given to the courtship. If not, then suddenly it seems as if none of it matters.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Futurama - "The Six Million Dollar Mon"

Season 7, Episode 7

There’s an obvious character hierarchy to Futurama, even if the show can at times function ensemble piece. Fry, Leela, and Bender function as the three principal characters, and Amy, Hermes, Zoidberg, and Professor Farnsworth tend to serve in secondary roles. Sure, those four can and have taken the spotlight for certain episodes, but these tend to lead to some mixed results, and there have never been enough of them to feel as if the series is truly egalitarian with all of it’s characters. As such, the secondary four often tend to be more emotionally static that the primary three, which can lead to some unmotivated episodes. However this isn’t always the case, and sometimes this can lead to surprising little episodes that deliver a wallop of insight into previously barely-explored characters, as it did tonight.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking Bad - "Live Free or Die"

Season 5, Episode 1

 “We’re done…when I say we’re done.”

Few shows can raise the sort of pre-air anticipation like Breaking Bad can. The show, which at its heights delivers some of the most visceral and adrenaline pumping moments ever to be aired on the small-screen, has a public perception that’s based around those highs. Yet the show’s season premieres, while still awesome, tend to work on a lower key than the heights that the show is capable of, and as such tend to be slower and more taxing than what we as viewers are used to. (The first third of season four, anyone?) Even as tonight’s season premiere had those same premiere issues in setting up the next batch of episodes (be it the first 8 of the season, or the whole 16, we’ve yet to know), it also gave us perhaps the most fun hour the show has ever produced.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Falling Skies - "Love and Other Acts of Courage"/"Homecoming"

Season 2, Episodes 5-6

“You can join us and survive, or fight alone and die.”

Let’s just get this out in the open: Falling Skies is far from an original show. Part of that comes from the fact that it works in an archetypal framework; alien invasion stories have a long history, and at this point coming up with new stories to tell within the genre has got to be difficult. But I also get the feeling that the writers and producers aren’t really aiming to take their show to new heights, and that they’re happy to tell those familiar comfortable stories. (And TNT and the audience are happy to receive them, so it’s not like they have any incentive to change things up.) But even by that low clearance bar, there are two marks that the show should be able clear, yet over the past couple of weeks has failed to do so: unpredictability and the ability to generate new story lines.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wilfred - "Letting Go"/"Dignity"

Season 2, Episodes 2-3

It now becomes pretty clear why the episode of Wilfred that aired two weeks ago was hidden, promoted only as a “special preview episode”, while last week’s episode was labeled as the season premiere. (At least that’s what my cable box guide referred to it as.) Even though the show originally premiered to some of FX’s highest numbers, it quickly lost a large portion of its audience, perhaps the result of being too weird. “Progress” was too weird to bring back any viewers who had left the show in season one, and it certainly wouldn’t appeal to any first-timers. Yet while it might be tempting to see the show as selling out or chasing the broader audience (especially in light of the audience boost theshow got last week thanks to the premiere of Anger Management), it’s important to note the subtle changes that exist in the second and third episodes of the season, and how they point a way forward for the show.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Futurama - "The Thief of Baghead"

Season 7, Episode 4

One of the biggest, knottiest question that I try to tackle with these reviews is just what makes for a “good” episode of Futurama. Obviously the ones that are big on the moments of pathos are winners, and I know I’ve put a lot of words down about what makes for a bad episode. But there always seems to be a je ne sais quoi to the proceedings, an X-factor that pulls everything together and makes it all work as a whole. Or at least that’s my new theory, as I’m having a hard time figuring out how tonight’s episode, which had a lot of things that I like, somehow left me feeling as if something was missing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Falling Skies - "Young Bloods"

Season 2, Episode 4

Perhaps my biggest problem with Falling Skies first season was its tendency toward the maudlin, to fill up on those sappy moments that are supposed to move us simply because. My go-to mental reference point to this is that episode that ended with the whole of the 2nd Mass. sitting down to have a meal together, but there were many others along the way, and it’s probably for the best that I’ve forgotten about them. Such the curse of a show that seeks to have a family angle to it, that it feels it must use those relationships and feelings to fuel its stories, regardless if it’s really warranted or not. (Some say that this is more likely due to Spielberg’s producer role, but it’s hard to know exactly how much say he has over scripts and the like.) So it was that this week’s episode turned to one of the most predictably and manipulative family element: the children.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Futurama - "Decision 3012"

Season 7, Episode 3

“Wow, it really doesn’t matter who you vote for.”

Last week, I note my distaste for Futurama episodes that transplants topical tumor from our time to the show’s fictional future, and ended with some skepticism about how tonight’s episode would play out. That was based of the one clip that Comedy Central was using to promo the episode, which made it appear that “Decision 3012” was going to tackle the 99%/1% divide. It turns out that the episode would be based on another singular topical issue, but that wasn’t even the episode’s main problem.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Falling Skies - "Compass"

Season 2, Episode 3

I love possibilities. Give me a show with a strong start, and I will follow it for a long time, long past the point where I should have given up on it. (I’m looking at you, Smash.) Simply knowing that a show could be good, seeing that it has the basic elements to make a quality program, is enough to entrance me, if only for a short time. That’s what got me interested in Falling Skies in the first place, and what made me like the apparent retooling of last week’s premiere. However, it now appears that the path won’t be as smooth as it first appeared, and that the show has some more growing pains to get through.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wilfred - "Progress"

Season 2, Episode 1

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
                                                                        - Thomas Edison

For reasons unknown, FX decided to release tonight’s season premiere of Wilfred, an episode that deals with the fallout to last season’s excellent finale, a week early on the internet, and label it has a “special preview episode”, which would imply that it would be much less serialized than it actually is. And even though they went through the motions of making sure it aired, they also did it with very little promotion, airing it a week before the much higher-profiled Louie is set to premiere, and even placing it in a slightly later timeslot. It would seem as if FX is trying to kill the show, and given how tonight’s premiere seems to have shifted it from a stoner comedy to something much weirder – but much better – I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.

Futurama - "The Bots and the Bees"/"A Farewell to Arms"

Season 7, Episodes 1-2

Once again, Comedy Central decided to go with an hour-long premiere for the latest summer run of Futurama. While it was something that made sense two years ago when the first half of season six premiered – it had been a few years since their had been new Futurama material, and those first two episodes were at least tangentially related – it didn’t makes sense last year, and it certainly didn’t makes sense this year either. In fact, the contrast of tonight’s two episodes only helped to highlight the ways that Futurama can deploy pathos, and how it can succeed and fail.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Falling Skies - "Worlds Apart"/"Shall We Gather at the River"

Season 2, Episodes 1-2

“Our history has yet to be written.”

When Falling Skies premiered last summer, it came with an almost-guarantee that a second season would follow. This allowed the show to sort of dick around with it’s plot – remember how long everybody stayed at that fucking school? – and also gave it permission to have a cliffhanger ending. While something like Tom boarding the alien ship would have been a bold, we-dare-you-to-cancel-us move from shows without a guaranteed renewal, in Falling Skies’ case…okay, it wasn’t all that much better. Just because the show could afford a cliffhanger doesn’t mean it necessarily knew where it was going. Even if the writers did (and that’s a pretty big “if”), that still leaves the season two premiere with the unenviable task of playing off that cliffhanger in a meaningful way, and hopefully reorienting the show along with it.

Summer 2012 Review Schedule

After a much needed month or so off (grad school really burned me out this semester), I’m ready to get back into the TV criticism game. So here it is, my review schedule for Summer 2012.

Falling Skies – June 17th
Breaking Bad – July 15th

Futurama – June 20th

Wilfred – June 21st
Louie – June 28th

I’m going to be taking things a little lighter this summer, as I’ll also be juggling an internship and research for my thesis. So we’ll see how this goes, and I might add/drop shows based on time and interest. But also be on the lookout for returning entries in The Failed Pilot Project, as well as possibly a new feature or two.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SNL - "Mick Jagger"

Season 37, Episode 22

I don’t want to make it seem like I have something against host who pull double duty by also serving as the musical act. I mean, do you remember when Justin Timberlake did that – you know, before he began only serving as host? That was always pretty enjoyable. However, do you remember when Taylor Swift did the same? And what about Elton John? That was certainly a weird one, wasn’t it? These are the fears that are bouncing around my head as I prepare for Mick Jagger to host SNL tonight – that he’ll be awkward, and that the sketches will have to try really hard to cover up his lack of acting ability.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Community - "Curriculum Unavailable"

Season 3, Episode 20

Hey, do remember when Community decided to do a second (well, technically two more) paintball episode at the end of the second season, no doubt because the first one had been so well received? And remember how nervous everybody was about the show chasing past success? Most importantly, do you remember how that two-parter was good, but maybe not as good as the original, that it lacked some of the general surprising first-timeness of “Modern Warfare”? It had seemed as if the writers had learned their lesson with that episode, since it was let known fairly early on that the show wouldn’t be going for a third paintball episode. And even though the show would return to some of the themes that it had also explore in its third season, the show at least avoided any superficial similarities between its concept episodes (well, except it’s Glee and Law & Order spoofs), and that kept things feeling fresh.

That is, until this latest episode.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

SNL - "Will Ferrell/Usher"

Season 37, Episode 21

Will Ferrell is hosting tonight, which makes for his third time hosting the show, and the third time that a SNL alum has hosted this season. Those numbers don’t really mean anything, other than the fact that I don’t have much to say about Ferrell’s hosting ability going into tonight’s episode. He’s obviously familiar with the show, and as with most hosts, it generally means that the show will bring it’s A-game and/or some of Ferrell’s previously recurring characters. Let’s see which one(s) it is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sherlock - "A Scandal in Belgravia"

Season 2, Episode 1

“And you believe in a higher power. In this case, it’s yourself.”

About 2/3 of Sherlock’s first season was good. The first episode had a strong emphasis on getting Sherlock and Watson together, and generally introducing this version of the Holmes world. The third episode has Sherlock going up again Moriarty, in a brilliant plotted game of cat-and-mouse that was just as much about the dueling personalities as it was about the mystery at the center of it all. The second episode meanwhile, was a boring and borderline racist affair, a straightforward case that failed to do anything beyond tell a mystery tale, which it told quite poorly. I would hate to lay down such a blanket generalization as “serialization trumps standalone”, because that doesn’t always have to be the case, but it does appear as if this is going to be the case for Sherlock. Take witness tonight’s episode, which put the case itself behind everything else, and was all the better for it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

SNL - "Eli Manning/Rihanna"

Season 37, Episode 20

Let’s face it: The only real reason that Eli Manning is coming on SNL tonight, is because Payton Manning hosted an episode, and that one was fairly well-received. The only reason that Payton Manning appeared on the show was because SNL likes to trot out star athletes every once in a while. And SNL likes to have athlete hosts because…hell, I don’t know why. So can Eli Manning clear the incredibly low bar that’s set out before him? Let’s find out.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Parks and Recreation - "Bus Tour"

Season 4, Episode 21

There’s always been a disconnect between the politics of Parks and Recreation and that of the real world. Since this show is a comedy, and comedy tends to thrive on comedic exaggeration, this isn’t exactly a problem, and it becomes easy to just sort of roll with whatever the show decides to do. It also helps that the show is so strong and consistent in the characterization department (I don’t care what others say) that the show is able to take on an air of realism even when it’s doing something that are patently ridiculous.

Community - "Course Listing Unavailable"

Season 3, Episode 18

Have I mentioned how much I love callbacks in comedy? Or, to rephrase the question, you know that I love Arrested Development, right? For the longest time, I though that callbacks were the Old Faithful of comedy, one of the true ever-reliant sources of humor. They combined my two favorite things in television shows, well-told jokes and a sense of continuity, and I loved them for that. “Course Listing Unavailable” had these things in spades, and on that account this should have been one of my favorite Community episodes of the season. Yet somehow it all ended up falling a bit flat.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mad Men - "At the Codfish Ball"

Season 5, Episode 7

“It’s not the end, it’s the beginning.”

As I’ve said many times already, this season of Mad Men is all about watching how these once formerly powerful characters react to the changing decade around them. Okay, these show has always been about that to some extent, but as the show begins to depict more and more stereotypical events of the 1960s, those that deal with change and upheaval. Taking that theme one step further, “At the Codfish Ball” asks the all-important question: won’t somebody think of the children?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fringe - "Letters of Transit"/"Worlds Apart"

Season 4, Episodes 19-20

“I find it’s best just to go with it.”

It looks like my prediction in my last Fringe review was right – we have entered the next leg of storytelling for the season/show, one which has mostly dropped the frustrating “Peter was erased from the universe” storyline in favor of something more straightforward and easier to connect to. I only have to wonder if this was the sort of move that was planned out all along – you know show runners, always saying that they “have a plan”, a statement which is only true about a third of the time – or if this is a reaction to all of the criticism that was lobbed against the season late last year. Me, I have to think it’s the latter, but I’m not really sure how I feel about the show turning so fully away from the angle they were working it. In contrast, suddenly dropping what had originally been the main theme is quite jarring to watch, and I’m not sure that the show’s new bit of serialization is going to do it any favors either.

Monday, April 30, 2012

30 Rock Live Show II: Electric Boogaloo - "Live From Studio 6H"

Season 6, Episode 19

When I first heard that 30 Rock was planning on doing another live show as part of this season, my first response was an incredulous “why?” Last year’s live episode of was a grand experiment, sure – with an emphasis being placed on “experiment”. While I recall enjoying that episode quite heartily, my enjoyment was mostly existent on the same reason that the show tried it in the first place. It was formal experiment that was a marvel to watch the show pull off, but I was still aware of the shortcoming of the episode. And as the weeks passed, I think remembered the stepped-on lines, slower pace, and relative lack of gags more than I did the joy of laughing along with a live audience. In short, “Live Show” may have made for a great episode of television, but it made of for a terrible episode of 30 Rock. With that in mind, “Live From Studio 6H” would have to prove it’s worth, because the thrill formal experimentation alone wasn’t going to cut it. To my surprise, the episode did prove it’s worth and this live episode ended up being better than the first.

Parks and Recreation - "Live Ammo"/"The Debate"

Season 4, Episodes 19-20

“Holy shit Leslie, that was awesome.”

Here’s a thing about consistency in a comedy series: while it can help shows avoid major drops in quality, and can keep up an awesome string of episodes (as is happening with Parks and Recreation and it’s awesome sense of comedy), it can also seem like just about every episode of the show is reigned in too much, and there’s not enough sense of surprise. Sure, there have been a few real standout episodes this season, ad I don’t want it to seem as if I think that Parks and Rec is on some sort of downhill slide (unlike some others have indicated). However, it does seem to rob the show of some the greatest highs that it’s capable – highs that we finally saw again this week.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Community - "Virtual Systems Analysis"/"Basic Lupine Urology"

Season 3, Episodes 16-17

Given how varied episodes of Community can be from one another, it’s rare that any two back-to-back episodes will share a whole lot in common. (There is of course an exception for two-parters.) And given the ensemble nature of the cast, and the show’s fairly democratic use of them, it’s only slightly less rare that two straight episodes will have focus on the same characters. Yet looking over “Virtual Systems Analysis” and “Basic Lupine Urology,” it’s clear that such similarities do exist in both of these areas, at least to some extent.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cougar Town - "You Can Still Change Your Mind"/"Ways to Be Wicked"/"Money Becomes King"

Season 3, Episode 7-9

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is the most serialized seasons of Cougar Town so far in the show’s run. Granted, for a show that’s so purposefully low-key and relaxed, that probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. However, he were are halfway through the season (remember, there’s only 15 episodes total, thanks to ABC short-ordering) and it’s clear that everything we see relates to Jules and Grayson’s wedding, which will serve as the season finale. Using a wedding as the way to cap off a season is far from the most original idea in t world, as just about every mainstream comedy manages to do it, provided they live long enough. However, Cougar Town is using the tight-knit nature of the Cul De Sac Crew to make the build-up to the wedding mean something to more than just Jules and Grayson.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mad Men - "Far Away Places"

Season 5, Episode 6

“Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit.”

It’s official – Mad Men has entered its experimental stage. Obviously the show isn’t breaking the form every week they way other shows do, nor with anything close to the same frequency, but what else would you call this season, which seems to be breaking down – and in some cases outright rejecting – the mold that has served it so well for four straight seasons. Why the show is doing this is still up for interpretation – though I posited one theory last week – though at times it appears that Matthew Weiner is just bored and/or trying to alienate his audience. “Far Away Places” was certainly one of those episodes, and as much as I like experimental hours of television, I’m not sure that this is one that worked all that well, at least not as a whole.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 - "Daddy's Girl"

Season 1, Episode 2

Since most of my thoughts about Don’t Trust the B----...that I posted last week were based on the pilot and this week’s episode, I don’t have a whole lot of thoughts that differ from what I already said, but I’ve got a few specific details to discuss, after the jump.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mad Men - "Signal 30"

Season 5, Episode 5

“I have nothing.”

Five episodes in, and I can already tells that this is going to be Mad Men’s most divisive season ever. Given that one could have easily said the same thing about last season, and that show’s tend to decline in quality as they age, this perhaps isn’t the most surprising or even insightful comment I could make. However, I can’t help but notice that the show has been a lot more obvious with it’s themes and symbolism so far this season, and that it’s really starting to irritate some people. Given how much control Matthew Weiner has over the show, it’s hard to know if he’s just lost it, if it’s the other writers and directors who are messing things up, or if this is all deliberate. To that end, I can't determine if Mad Men's sudden lack of subtext is either a sign of declining quality or a piece of thematic brilliance.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

SNL - "Josh Brolin/Gotye"

Season 37, Episode 19

Ah, Josh Brolin. He’s hosted SNL once before, and though I only saw one sketch from that episode, I get the impression that he’s not the best host for a comedy show. Though I like him as a dramatic actor, he’s never struck me as all that funny. So this should be an interesting show, right?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fringe - "The Consultant"

Season 4, Episode 18

“Keep an eye on this universe, my dear. I’ve grown quite fond of it.”

This must be what it’s like getting used to the new normal. After spending so many episodes this season on an overarching story that was so frustrating and seemingly pointless, in the past couple weeks Fringe has just sort of dropped that original conceit in favor of something less complex and a lot more fun. I’m not sure that I believe the show’s producers when they say that all the hoops we’ve seen the show jump through has been part of a larger plan, or that I even for a second believe that any of this was worth it. But I am enjoying where the show is at right now, and I can only hope that it’s gets the chance to stay here for a good while before the next universe-upending event happens.

Community - "Origins of Vampire Mythology"

Season 3, Episode 15

“We don’t have to go to anyone.”

After a heavy two-parter, as well as a way-too-weird episode, in many ways it feels comforting to have Community return to doing a “normal” episode, to get away from the gimmicks and focus on the characters. While I realize that saying that makes me sound like so many season two naysayers, but given the strong character focus that’s been a significant part of season three’s makeup, it feels like maybe these past few episodes have been lacking for losing that focus. (Except “Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts”, that one was awesome.) On that level, “Origins of Vampire Mythology” works, and works well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 - "Pilot"

Season 1, Episode 1

I posted a full review of Don’t Trust the B----…yesterday morning, and I have a few more specific thoughts about tonight’s premiere after the jump.

Justified - "Slaughterhouse"

Season 3, Episode 13

“He just saw a man in a hat.”

Last night’s Justified was the show as it’s best, delivering a top-notch hour filled with tension, intrigue, and most importantly pathos, the main ingredient that seems to have been lacking this season. But instead of waxing on once again about Raylan has been so marginalized in such a busy season filled with perhaps one too many antagonists, let’s instead just celebrate the finale for returning the show’s focus to its ostensible main character, and through doing so providing the show a clear foot forward.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: ABC's Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

“It's quirky, it's New York-y.”

To say that “bitch” is a controversial word would be an understatement. Though is it often referred to as “a woman’s second least favorite word”, and it is indeed a terrible one to just throw about, it’s also one that seems to be quite adaptable in its usage. In the 1997 song “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, it became something of a not-all-that-well-though-out rallying cry for women everywhere. Joss Whedon shows were often judicious with the use of the word, allowing it to be said about the malevolent female characters while also acknowledging negative power with which men could sling it. It’s become a word that women use amongst each other as sign of friendship, and that men use in order to rob women of their personhood.

It’s perhaps no wonder then that the ABC changed the title of its latest sitcom from Don’t Trust the Bitch In Apartment 23 to Apartment 23 and then backtracked a bit to Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.  It was a title that creator Nahnatchka Khan fought in to keep in order to protect and project what she believed to be a defining characteristic of the show’s attitude. In terms of the word “bitch” – which yes, does make it’s way into the show’s dialogue – DTTBIA23 seems to follow the Meredith Brooks route, acknowledging it as a term of empowerment, while also using it as a description of the general morality of the titular character, and it makes the show all the better for it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How I Met Your Mother - "Trilogy Time"

Season 7, Episode 20

There are sometimes when I don’t really have a lot to say about How I Met Your Mother, times which are usually brought on by frustration with whatever the show decided to do on a particular week. This is one of those times.

Mad Men - "Mystery Date"

Season 5, Episode 4

It was a dark and stormy night on last night’s Mad Men, if only in the metaphorical sense, a cacophony of failed attempts to sleep and long, dark reflections into the self. If this sounds like a bit of cheesiness on Mad Men’s part, yeah, that’s true. But it’s also a cheesiness that mostly works, as it was a break of sort for the show, one that stopped worrying about any sort of ongoing plots (admittedly something that’s not a primary focus of the show on any given week) and instead took one final look at the characters before the late 1960s sends them teetering over the edge of bad decisions.

Fringe - "Everything in Its Right Place"

Season 4, Episode 17

“I guess I just became the man I wanted to be.”

Fringe has been turned upside down this season. Whereas the show was praised in its second and third seasons for sliding into the mythology curve and giving us deeper and more complex storylines, and the standalones became even more reviled by contrast, the opposite seems to be true this season. True, there have still be a share of stinker standalones this season as well, but’s it’s interesting to note that arguably two of the greatest episodes this season haven’t really been about the mast plot. Now, that’s an argument that might depend on how you have taken to the direction this season (as you know by now, I haven’t been a fan), but I think we can all be in agreement that the show has stepped up it’s standalone game. We can add “Everything in Its Right Place” to that pantheon, sure, but the fact that it’s so good outside of the mythology points to larger problems.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Community - "Pillow and Blankets"

Season 3, Episode 14

 “Some conflicts are so pointless, you just have to let themselves play out.”

After last week’s cliffhanger left so many things unsure – which is notably different from “unanswered” – I was perhaps a bit skeptical of how tonight’s resolution to the two-parter would play out, and not with out precedent. Yet while my concerns proved to be unfounded on a narrative level, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing from “Pillows and Blankets”, a je ne sais quoi that would have pushed this entire storyline into overall greatness, and have made up for all of the doubts I felt last week.

SNL - "Sofia Vergara/One Direction"

Season 37, Episode 18

Has there been a larger cognitive dissonance in SNL history between guest host and musical guest than between Sofia Vergara and One Direction? One appeals to older men, the other to young girls, and I can only imagine the audience confusion that’s going to take place tonight. I would say that I would make for a fun show, but that’s “fun” as in “televised train wreck.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Endings - “Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral)”

Season 2, Episode 21

Here we are at the end of Happy Endings’ second season, one that has proven the show’s comedic worth as well as the fact that is deserves renewal, at least where fans are concerned. With that in mind, it’s hard to not feel a little bittersweet about the show, which has been bandied around by the network, which burned off the season while the rest of ABC’s Wednesday comedy block was in repeats, and is still on the bubble in terms of renewal (though the cast and crew seem pretty optimistic, and it’s worth noting that ABC studios co-producers the show). Thus, there was a lot of pressure on Wednesday’s finale to perform, to prove to ABC and the audience that it’s worth bringing back. In order to do that, the finale played things a little straighter than usual, eschewing some of the show’s weirder tendencies, while still managing to produce a pretty great episode.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Justified - "Coalition"

Season 3, Episode 12

 “They make for some strange bedfellows, don’t you think?”

Last week, I went on and on about how “Measures" was fascinated with the darker side of Raylan, and it was a piece that essentially saw me reveling in the cynical, darker side of Justified. But what I perhaps forgot – and what tonight’s episode certainly reminded me – was that among the various offerings on FX, Justified is perhaps the lightest drama show on the network. The show isn’t afraid to be funny when it wants to be, or to have antagonists that are mostly pathetic, and all the more enjoyable for it. In fact, the more I think about, the more it occurs to me that last week’s episode may have been an aberration from the norm (albeit an enjoyable one) while tonight saw a return to that lighter normalcy, just in time for the seasons to close out a mostly enjoyable season.