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.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mad Men - "Tea Leaves"

Season 5, Episode 3 

“None of you want us to have a good time because you never did.” 

I don't want to sound like a broken record with the show, but given the way these first three hours have broken down, it's not like I have much of a choice. There's always been a richness of subject matter to Mad Men, one that allows the show to tackle a lot of different themes week to week and keep things interesting. This was not one of those times, though that may be the point. The show turning into the tumultuous 60s and the fractured and disconnected relationships that it uses to display that may take more than just one night for the show to cover. So while I appreciate that the show would take the time to make sure it had a full grasp on the topic – especially by widening the focus to see how it affects all the characters – it also made for an episode that was a little tepid.