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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last Week in TV #3

Thoughts on some of what I watched on TV last week.

The Simpsons: Elementary School Musical (season premiere)


Lisa's portion of the episode, in which she attends performing arts class and struggles with the role of art in society, was infinitely better than the story involving Homer and Bart witnessing Krusty's trial at the Hague (though I did enjoy the Dutch clown attacking Krusty for stealing his act). The much-hyped appearance of the three Glee kids amounted to little more than a weak parody of Good Vibrations, but Bret and Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords were great.

Favorite Lines
Lisa: It's time for the noblest Nobel Prize of all: the Peace Prize.
Homer: I would kill for that!

Jemaine: She can't hear us. We're stage whispering.
Lisa: I can hear you.
Jemaine: No you can't!

Bret: In a way I think we learned more from her than she learned from us.
Jermaine: Well obviously. Because we taught her nothing.

Family Guy: And Then There Were Fewer (season premiere)


 Some of Family Guy's high concept episodes work (the Star Wars spoofs) and some don't (the bizarre Brian-and-Stewie-locked-in-a-bank-vault episode last year). This one worked. I love a good locked house mystery (a la Clue or And Then There Were None) and the episode did a good job of parodying the tropes and styles of the genre with the usual Family Guy touches. It managed to be funny without sacrificing the ominous and creepy tones lifted from the source material, which was an accomplishment. And the animation (this was the first HD episode of Family Guy) has never looked better.

Favorite Lines
Peter: Attention everyone, mail call! Meg, Teen People. Chris, Amazing Spider-Man. Lois, Redbook. World War II Army Guy, a letter from your gal. 

Peter: Oh, well then, maybe we just go, and you go to the kennel.
Brian: Oh, not the kennel. Last time you left me there for an hour. Or ten years! I don't know, there's no clock there!

Meg: I fell through a trap door that led to an underground passageway, so I followed it and it led me to a hatch over there in the parlor.
Tom Tucker: The same thing happened to me but with a mustache.


Derek: Hey, what are you doing up here? Wait a minute, what the hell is this? Oh my God! It's you! The man or woman who's been killing everybody!

The Event: To Keep Us Safe


So the detainees are aliens*. Color me surprised that they revealed that so soon, and that the show is apparently establishing itself as a very sci fi show from the outset (something Lost didn't really hint at until the second season and continued to deny until the fifth). Hopefully, the show will be able to do something with this revelation that steers clear of V, as finding out the big plot involves aliens, some of which are hiding amongst us and have a different take on how to interact with humans than the established alien leadership already seems very similar to that show. But it's only the second episode, and there's still (hopefully) plenty of time for The Event to develop it's own identity. I like that they're willing to out themselves as science fiction so early; now we just have to hope the writers know what to do with it.

*Assuming we believe the CIA when it says they're aliens. They're clearly not human/more than human, but the "evolved humans time traveling into the past" theory could still be valid, as their DNA would be different, and they might be letting the government think they're aliens for some reason.

Also, I'm curious if Jason Ritter gets paid by the episode or paid by scenes in which he runs. Because he seemed to run a lot in this episode. 

 No Ordinary Family: Pilot (season premiere)


I enjoyed showrunner Greg Berlanti's last show, Eli Stone, more than most, and Marc Guggenheim is a TV/comic book writer in the Jeph Loeb tradition (but whose comic work doesn't involve ham-fisted plotting and creepy brother/sister romances), so I had high hopes for this show going into its premiere.

But really, the most heartening part of No Ordinary Family is the fact that, unlike Heroes before it, when a character discovers he has super powers, he's excited about it instead of emo. The fact that at least someone on the show's writing staff recognizes that some (most) people would be overjoyed to discover they possess a super human ability rather than angst about it bodes well for the show. That alone will keep me watching for awhile.

Beyond that, the pilot was standard pilot stuff, introducing the characters and the feel of the show. The "origin story", such as it is, was mercifully short* and I was pleasantly surprised at the introduction of an overarching plot, as it's revealed the Powell family aren't the only people in the world with super powers, and that Stephanie's boss (played by Star Trek/7th Heaven alum Stephen Collins) is involved in it somehow. So No Ordinary Family exceeded my expectations, and I'll definitely be sticking around for more.

*I'm getting increasingly bored with origin stories across all mediums, preferring instead to get to the part where people use their super powers.

Other random thoughts: 
  • The title card (consisting of a curtain flapping through an open window of a house not unlike a cape in the wind) is clever. 
  • I could do without the "leads talking to the camera" documentary style so many shows use these days, though the revelation at the end that they were talking to a therapist (played by Tom Amandes, who also plays a therapist on Parenthood and was one of the partners on Eli Stone) is...interesting. Not sure if that device will stick, or if it does, if it will work (I was wondering how much of the super powers stuff they were telling him) but we'll see.  
  • I liked the inversion of the mom being the workaholic losing touch with her family while the dad was trying to keep things together while dealing with his own unfulfilled goals and aspirations. 
  • Romany Malco (of 40 Year Old Virgin fame, fo' sho') had some of the funniest lines without devolving into the comedic black sidekick schtick, which also bodes well for the show. 
  • The show used the comic book tradition of giving people powers that reflect their personalities/conflicts (Stephanie is a mom without enough time, so she gets super speed, etc.) but Daphne, the teenage daughter who becomes telepathic, was probably the most forced of these (she wants to know what her boyfriend really thinks about her?) but I suppose the writers need to get some angst from somewhere. 

Glee: Britney/Brittany 


1. Glee works best when the songs in each episode tie in with the story lines, but most of the much-hyped Britney Spears songs in this episode felt shoehorned in (with the exception of Artie's version of Stronger, which at least tied in with his ongoing plotline). And the central conceit of this episode (that the anathesia gave everyone Brittany Spears hallucinations) was a pretty weak hook to hang the songs on, and furthermore, recreations of videos are a lot less fun that seeing Glee's unique take on a song. Occasionally, they work (like Sue's Vogue video in the Madonna episode last spring) but three remakes in one episode? Too much.

2. Brittany's hilariously random bits of dialogue work because we usually only get one or two an episode. When I heard she would get the spotlight in the Britney Spears episode, I worried we'd get overloaded with her one-liners to the point where they lost their humor. There were more than usual in this episode, but as long as they remain carefully doled out in future episode, they shouldn't lose their punch.

3. Will performing with the kids? Lame.

4. Also, remember the first or second episode of Glee, when they performed "Push It" at an assembly and as a result their music selections would have to come from an approved list or something like that? It went nowhere fast (an acceptable fate for a plot early in a new show's run when it was still finding it's footing) but after another risque New Directions assembly performance (on which set off a "sex riot") a callback to that forgotten plot felt appropriate.


5. Uncle Jesse showed up for the first time, and I quite liked him as a surprisingly down-to-earth character.
It was nice to see a plot involving Finn and Rachel's relationship that didn't involve them coming together or breaking up.

Favorite Song: I liked the not-recreating-a-video version of "Toxic", but the constant cutaways to the crowd's reaction made it hard to really enjoy it. So I'll go with Artie's rendition of Stronger, another take on a song that was original and not just a video recreation

Favorite Brittany line: "I don't brush my teeth. I rinse my mouth out with soda after I eat. I was pretty sure Dr Pepper was a dentist."

Favorite Sue line: "That's what one Hubert Humphrey said back in 1968 at the start of the Democratic National Convention. But then hippies put acid in everyone's bourbon and when an updraft revealed Lady Bird Johnson's tramp stamp and tattoos above her ovaries, Mayor Richard J. Daley became so incensed with sexual rage that he punched his own wife in the face and spent the next hour screaming "sex party" in the microphones of all three major networks."
    Saturday Night Live: Bryan Cranston & Kanye West


    • I was surprised there was no Breaking Bad parody. In fact, Bryan Cranston had surprisingly little to do.
    • Maybe it's just because I'm getting tired of Kristen Wiig, but her "sexy vamp who does disgusting things the guys fawn over" character does little for me, mainly because the whole time I'm thinking "but she's not that hot...".
    • The Pepto-Bismol Ice commercial was pretty funny, as was the first "What's Up With That?" installment of the season, a recurring sketch that is absolutely terrible yet delights the hell out of me and my wife (mainly, it's Jason Sudekis dancing in an Adidas track suit). This go-round was helped by the presence of "93-year-old sex machine" Ernest Borgnine.
    • Favorite Sketch: Without a doubt, the Miley Cyrus Show, with newcomer Vanessa Bayer's spot-on impression of the singer/actress along with Bryan Cranston's hilarious on target impression of her dad. This was a sketch I'd like to see become a regular feature.

    13 comments:

    1. Family Guy- we can't believe how many characters they got rid of. Who's going to do the news now?
      Also, fave line- when Peter was using the Jew Tracker Ap "Oh, they got him"

      No Ordinary Family- i wanted to watch this show but sarah pretty much forbid it. Now i'm bummed that it sounds good

      Glee- i really like Brittney, so i was glad to see an ep about her (and suprised by how much she looks like Brittany). Also she's a great dancer. I found the sex riot hilarious. Also, we were happy to see Marc (from So You Think You can Dance) in the Brittney/Santana song (he was on the couch on the right, AND was the one of the punk dancers- the one with the white fro-hair).
      Watching Rachel's Hit me Baby was disappointing- it was the song i was most looking forward to, but the octave change didn't do it for me and made me just want to watch the original version.
      Finally- i really hate Will. He's my least favorite character on the show. He needs to 1) grow up and 2) not be a douche bag

      ReplyDelete
    2. @Anne: we can't believe how many characters they got rid of.

      That assumes they actually keep those characters dead. Family Guy is usually pretty good about that kind of stuff, but you never know (it is Family Guy, after all).

      i wanted to watch this show but sarah pretty much forbid it.

      Yeah, she's got some weird hangup about it. You should totally watch it behind her back.

      And don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it's the awesomest show ever, or anything. It's still got time to screw it all up (Heroes certainly did). It's just starting from a position of strength, is all.

      i really like Brittney, so i was glad to see an ep about her

      I like her too, but was worried that like was predicated on getting small doses of her, so I appreciated that they didn't overdo her too much in this episode.

      i really hate Will. He's my least favorite character on the show. He needs to 1) grow up and 2) not be a douche bag

      Agreed on both points. The thing with Will is, I want to like him. We share the same old man tastes in music and enjoy wearing vests. And I think he's fine when dealing with the kids (as long as he's not performing with them) but whenever he has to deal with adults in the real world, he just ends up flailing around in an unfunny way.

      I mean, Terri was a bitch, but he let that whole fake pregnancy storyline go on WAY too long.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Did you watch Venture Bros. last week? I watched it when it aired and was kind of nodding off so the whole Zeus plotline confused the hell out of me. A second watching cleared it up though. Also, this week's episode was an absolute classic but we can talk about that next week.

      I thought the Glee kids on The Simpsons were terrible. The song wasn't funny and it felt like the show was just trying to emulate Glee, not satirize or comment on it at all. The Conchords were wonderful, of course. My fiancee and I caught them live at The Greek last year and it was one of the best concerts I've been to.

      I went into Family Guy not knowing much about the episode and when I saw the premise I was hoping they would include James Woods somehow, so I was delighted when he showed up. I loved the exchange you quoted with the "It's the man or woman who is killing everybody!"

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    4. Oh, and I watched SNL for Cranston and was really disappointed they did not give him anything to do! He clearly would have been a really good host, and looked game for a lot, but I guess they wanted to feature the cast members more instead. Very disappointing.

      And Kristin Wiig is Anti-Funny. She needs to get the boot.

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    5. yeah i just mostly wish Will was no longer on the show of Glee. I don't enjoy it when he sings and i really can't stand his character so he brings nothing to the show.

      I love Toxic, though, and that rendition was awesome.

      I didn't forbid Anne to watch No Ordinary Family, i just thought it probably wouldn't be very good and therefore had no interest in letting it take up some of my limited time

      I can't wait for you to catch up on Venture Brothers. The two episodes you're behind on are excellent

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    6. @Jeff: I did watch Venture Bros. from two weeks ago (the Zeus one) but just last night, so I'll probably write about in the next post (along with the most recent ep, which I'll hopefully watch soon).

      I didn't nod off during it, but I still think a second viewing will help clear some stuff up. I got it, eventually, but like a lot of Venture eps, it wasn't clear what was happening until nearly the end.

      I thought the Glee kids on The Simpsons were terrible.

      Yeah, they really were. For all the hype their appearance got, it was almost nothing, and FOTC stole the show. I've seen them in concert twice and they were excellent both times.

      I loved the exchange you quoted with the "It's the man or woman who is killing everybody!"

      It's such a great parody of that genre's tropes in just one line. I love it.

      I watched SNL for Cranston and was really disappointed they did not give him anything to do!

      He totally disappeared, and it was really disappointing. Especially since we know he has comedy chops and probably would have done quite well.

      And Kristin Wiig is Anti-Funny. She needs to get the boot.

      I like some of her stuff (like the Target Lady, who reminds me of a woman with whom I work) but she gets asked to do WAY too much, especially now that they have some other females, and is quickly wearing thin for me.

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    7. @Falen: I don't enjoy it when he sings and i really can't stand his character so he brings nothing to the show.

      I do like when he sings (I like his voice and he seems less autotuned than the kids) but not when he raps.

      i just thought it probably wouldn't be very good and therefore had no interest in letting it take up some of my limited time

      Come on, it's super powers! Give it a shot.

      I can't wait for you to catch up on Venture Brothers. The two episodes you're behind on are excellent

      I thoroughly enjoyed the Zeus one, and given my enjoyment of Hank and fondness for film noir, I imagine I'll enjoy the next one too.

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    8. I agree with you on all points for No Ordinary Family. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually got excited a little at one point. yay, superheroes!

      Yes, Bret and Jemaine were the highlight of the Simpsons. Why were they pushing the Glee characters?? They were in it for like 2.5 minutes.

      Jemaine: She can't hear us. We're stage whispering.
      Lisa: I can hear you.
      Jemaine: No you can't!

      LOL!! Love it.

      Family Guy was hilarious! I almost choked on nothing after this bit:

      Peter: Oh, well then, maybe we just go, and you go to the kennel.
      Brian: Oh, not the kennel. Last time you left me there for an hour. Or ten years! I don't know, there's no clock there!

      LMAO! Anytime Brian does something dog-like I love it. Like when they're hiding out in the back of that truck and he's all stumbling around. Or when he eats Stewie's diaper out of the garbage because he thought there was Indian food in it! OMG!

      This was a much, MUCH better premiere than last year.

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    9. @Hannah: Why were they pushing the Glee characters?? They were in it for like 2.5 minutes.

      Because Glee is a hit and they were trying to get Glee fans to tune in for Simpsons. Which, if anyone did tune in just because of the Glee kids, they were sorely disappointed.

      But that's what they get for falling for marketing.

      Anytime Brian does something dog-like I love it.

      Me too, I'm a total sucker for that stuff.

      Like in the most recent episode, when he says he's going to stare at the bag which he thinks has food in it.

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    10. Haven't watched The Simpsons in a while, but Family Guy is awesome!

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    11. omg i LOVE it when Brian does dog stuff - like when Lois fake throws the ball

      "I'm sorry. I thought you threw the ball but i can clearly see i was mistaken"

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    12. @Alex: Haven't watched The Simpsons in a while, but Family Guy is awesome!

      Yeah, Family Guy is always good for some laughs.

      @Falen: "I'm sorry. I thought you threw the ball but i can clearly see i was mistaken"

      Haha! I love that one too.

      Or when she chases him with the vacuum.

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