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.