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Monday, November 8, 2010

Last Week In TV #8

Thoughts on what I watched last week. Halloween was last week, and Mrs. Teebore and I saved up a bunch of Halloween episodes to watch that day, so that's why this entry is so Halloween-heavy (and also, because Fox is lame).  


The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXI


Look, let's just get this rant over: it is beyond ridiculous that Fox continues to air these Halloween episodes AFTER Halloween. I understand, they have postseason baseball to air, but there's no reason the annual Treehouse episodes couldn't air before the series starts, or before an individual game AND then on the Sunday after Halloween. Is whatever random, pre-baseball show they're airing getting better ratings than a Simpsons Halloween episode would? Would airing it twice really cut down on its ratings? I doubt it. It rankles even more this year since Halloween was actually ON A SUNDAY. Imagine, a Simpsons Halloween episode on Halloween. Really Fox, you couldn't have just aired this before Game 4 of the World Series?

Okay, rant over. So how was this episode, out of season or not? Meh. The opening was pretty good, especially the "Monster Office" credits. The first sketch had some funny bits, but was largely pointless and not very Halloween-y (I liked Grampa as the diver in the Mouse Trap game and the litany of non-copyright infringing games at the beginning, a bit Family Guy used too, later in the night). The second sketch (a parody of the movie Dead Calm, which I had to look up) was less funny but had a nice creepy tone to it. The third sketch was easily the best, funny and Halloween-y. I particularly enjoyed the litany of vehicles from which Edmund saved Lisa and poor Milhouse as a were-poodle.

Monster: Dunder Mifflin just like monster's workplace.

Bart: It's gotta be good if Satan put his name on it!

Edmund: Let's move between the trees the way a bat does: by jumping.


Family Guy: Halloween on Spooner Street


Hey, remember that time that all of Fox's sunday night animated shows did Halloween episodes, but then they all aired a week after Halloween? Yeah, that was awesome...

The main plot, with Brian and Stewie trying to get back Stewie's candy, worked the best. In much the same way the show strikes a balance between Brian the Sophisticate and Brian the Dog, there is also a balance between Stewie the infant who doesn't quite get the world and Stewie the super-villain. Here, the later was largely downplayed, rocket launcher aside, in order to setup the resolution involving Lois strong arming the kid's mother, and I think it was worth it.

The Peter/Joe/Quagmire plot got pretty odd towards the end (and, if the tradition is that the three guys rotate being "it" each year, shouldn't Quagmire have had to take what he got, and then get Peter and Joe back in their subsequent "it" years? Am I overthinking Family Guy? Yes.) but I laughed my ass off when Quagmire's bedmate rolled over and it was Joe ("yeah, I kinda went off book with that one."). The Meg/Chris "plot" was fairly predictable. Family Guy likes its gross out humor, and as soon as Meg started talking about the anonymity of masks and then her make-out partner was fully costumed, you knew it was going to be Chris (though the show did try to perserve the surprise by never showing us Chris' actual costume beforehand). I did laugh pretty hard when Meg asked Chris who he thought he was making out with: "some bitch, who cares!" he said, in that classic, frantic Chris yell.

Brian: That jerk dog from our patio door somehow got inside a hubcap. 


The Venture Bros.: The Silent Partners



Much as last episode ended somewhat abruptly without showing the climax of Dr. Orpheus' voyage through Rusty's mind, this episode was an example of another somewhat irritating Venture tic: the story that starts so abruptly you're left wondering if you missed an episode.

While both Billy's prowess as a surgeon and the fact that Conjectural Technologies recently received a large investment had been previously established, seeing Billy in the hospital and then running from the creepy (and as far as I know, never seen before) Investors was somewhat jarring, and left me wondering if I was forgetting some past detail. Of course, there's always enough funny stuff (ie Robo-Bo) to make even the most abrupt episodes enjoyable, but it's still jarring. 

Hunter: If they're just regular and they're pointing a super laser at your daughter, that's when you call S.P.H.I.N.X.

Brock: I once jerked off 12 times in one day, just to see if I could.

Billy: I don't want to be bitten. Can you just do the sucking part and not the biting part?


Walking Dead: Days Gone By


I don't consider myself a zombie aficionado; there's plenty of classic zombie movies I haven't seen, and I don't rush out to see the latest, but I do enjoy a good zombie story, especially an apocalyptic one. I also haven't read the comics upon which this show is based (though I'll probably check them out at some point).


Still, my enjoyment of zombies and my predilection for giving anything based on a comic book a chance (and the fact that it debuted on Halloween) led me to check out the first episode of Walking Dead, and I quite liked it. It had shades of Stephen Kings The Stand, one of my favorite books, and the two things I like most about any apocalypse story are details about the events leading up to the apocalypse, and seeing how society continues to function afterwords, and it seems like this show will spend some time on the later. I also hope we see more of Lennie James and was impressed by the hospital stairwell scene, which was intense and suspenseful despite nothing actually happening. A ballsy, and rewarding, move by the creators. 


The Event: Loyalty 
The stuff with Simon was pretty good. The flashbacks were pretty predictable, straight forward stuff, but the Ian Anthony Dale sold the hell out his reunion with the aged Victoria, both initially, when he had to pretend he didn't know her but clearly wanted to assure her he was who she thought he was, and later, when she quietly admonished that "it was up to you."

The Sean/Leila stuff, meanwhile, was pretty maddening. Why, exactly, did they leave Agent Collier (who I hope we see more of)? Isn't having an FBI Agent, who, remember, is the only one who believes you didn't commit murder, by your side, worth trying to convince to go along with your "save Leila's sister" plan? And considering what Sean's been up to the last few days, and all the times he's tried to convince people to believe a crazy story (including, earlier in the episode, Leila herself, in an equally lame moment), I don't think he should be throwing the "you're crazy, lady" looks at the admittedly-cray-sounding journalist.

More confirmation from said journalist that Sofia's people are aliens, though Simon's comment about there not being water where he comes from could mean "alien planet", or it could mean "future Earth wracked by environmental ruin."
 

Glee: Rocky Horror Glee Show


Well, it's a Ryan Murphy episode, so things like logic and consistency don't really matter, which explains why the school apparently has enough money now to put on a production of Rocky Horror, complete with authentic costumes when last year the club couldn't even raise enough money to get a bus with a lift so Artie could ride to Sectionals with everyone else.

He also seems to like the idea of Will performing with the kids, as was suggested here again after Will did Toxic in the Britteny episode. Seriously, let it go: Will should be be performing with the kids. He's living vicariously through them, not as them (also in the "pretty sure that wouldn't happen" category, I'm pretty sure a local dentist wouldn't actually perform in a high school musical, no matter who he was dating. My high school did summer community shows that featured adults alongside students, but all of the actual high school plays during the school year were just for students).

Other than that, there isn't much to say. The running theme of male objectification was an interesting one (and one you don't see too often), and is something I wouldn't mind the show exploring again in the future and Sue's subplot was random and half-formed. I'm not the biggest Rocky Horror fan around (I saw it once, neither loved nor hated it, then moved on), so I have very little personal attachment to the music. Mrs. Teebore is a huge fan though, and she predictably was less than enthusiastic about this episode, as she is most adaptations of things she loves (honestly, I think I liked the Mama Mia movie more than she did, simply because she likes the stage show so much and the movie was too different from it for her to enjoy).

Favorite Song: I dunno, Time Warp? It's the song I know best from Rocky Horror.


Favorite Sue Line: Halloween is fast approaching: The day when parents encourage little boys to dress like little girls and little girls to dress like whores.

(I also loved Brittany's line about being a peanut allergy for Halloween). 


Running Wilde: The Party
After the relatively good episode last week, this was definitely a step backwards, which isn't surprisingly, since it clearly is the second episode written for the series (Emmy and Puddle have just moved into the treehouse, and Steve is bringing them a lavish "first morning" breakfast when the episode begins). So that was oft-putting, and the rest wasn't very good.

Though I'll admit that every time Fa'ad went "ah-ha!" and was attacked by his hawk, I laughed my ass off. Surprisingly, he's become my favorite character on the show.

Jury's still out on the show's future, though. It was preempted two weeks ago then didn't air last week because of the election. Not sure if it's on the schedule for tomorrow night or not.


No Ordinary Family: No Ordinary Quake

Things I liked: The deepening of the shows mythology with the appearance of another super-powered individual and the insinuation that GlobalTech and Evil Stephen Collins are keeping such people somewhere; the Jim/Quake Girl showdown made the most of what was essentially just Michael Chiklis standing around looking pained, and the evil telekinetic guy remains impressive in the ease with which he uses his powers; JJ's secret finally coming out, as it was one of those plot points that seemed to grow more ridiculous with every episode.

Things I didn't like: Daphne got saddled with another "my power isn't as helpful as it should be" plot in which she half-ass reads someone;s mind and runs with what she learns without probing deeper. Seriously, telepaths are the last type of characters that should find themselves in "that misunderstanding was comical and/or dramatic" plots.

Also, the in-laws show up in the next episode, which tells me it'll be an episode that is more "sitcom" than "comic book".


Modern Family: Chirp


A funny episode highlighted by Save-zilla, Luke in an astronaut helmet, and the relatively-quiet moment when Jay casually refers to Manny as his son. Though I wish they hadn't done the talking-head where Haley makes it clear she thinks her mom is talking about Claire and Phil; it was pretty obvious Haley was thinking along those lines, and I don' think it needed spelling out.

Cam: How was it a big day for Biscuit? How?”

Mitch: You did one production of Godspell in a barn. You’re barn folk!

Phil: You’re worried about germs?  I’ve seen you kiss a pigeon on the mouth.


Community: Epidermis


Brilliant.

Easily on the same level as "Modern Warfare", "Epidermis" manages to cram an entire zombie movie, set to a soundtrack of Abba (and the Dean's to-do list), into 22 minutes while still providing significant character moments (I love that Troy, who falls somewhere near the bottom of the list of main characters you'd expect to be the hero of this story, takes center stage and saves the day), commentary on zombie/horror movie tropes (love the gag with the cat, "What is up with that CAT?" "Is someone throwing it?") and numerous laughs ("I don't need to know WHICH dracula I am to be a dracula. Nerd."). I really can't ask anything more from Community, or really, any show.   


Community: Aerodynamics of Gender
As I've been reading other reviews of Community lately, I came across something that likely explains just why I like this show so much, even above other sitcoms I thoroughly enjoy (like Modern Family or 30 Rock): Community, in many ways, is like a live action Golden Age Simpsons, able to tell humorous, often over-the-top stories as well as pop culture parodies while still doing strong character work and providing moments of genuine heart.

This episode was a great example of that, as the A-story featuring the girls and Abed using Abed's powers of observation to overthrow the school bitches and set themselves up as the alpha females was funny and broad, and parodied Mean Girls and Robocop (amongst other things; there were even Simpsons-esque parodies of the Robocop view screen that showed Abed analyzing everyone, which, like on The Simpsons, were packed with great little details). Meanwhile, in the goofy and Simpsons-esque B-story, Jeff and Troy discover a trampoline-inspired paradise inside a garden straight out of Secret Garden that is ruined by Pierce. Both stories also featured a great quiet moment, when Abed allows himself to be destroyed by the mean girls in order to restore the natural order via biting self-commentary he provided them, and when Troy and Jeff realize that "  

It really does feel like it could have been an episode of classic Simpsons. 

Abed: It's Wednesday. Sometimes I eat in Jeff's car. Don't tell him.

Troy: If we say nobody, are you going to stab us with your bush scissors?


The Big Bang Theory: The Apology Insufficiency


Okay, so here is why this episode didn't work (and thanks to Dr. Bitz for pointing this out). The whole episode is built around Sheldon doing something that makes him feel the puzzling emotion hu-mans call "guilt" and then figuring out to deal with it.

So, when an FBI Agent played by Eliza Dushku comes around asking the guys about Howard in order to grant him security clearance for a big space laser project, Sheldon proceeds to tell her all about how Howard is irresponsible: he changed Sheldon's World of Warcraft name! He moderately damaged Sheldon's Lord of the Rings Blu Ray case! Isn't it funny how Sheldon finds these minor things to be a big deal, worthy of denying Howard his security clearance? Oh, and Howard also wrecked the Mars rover on a date once. Whoops, shouldn't have said that.

Except, why not? Wasn't Sheldon TRYING to prove how irresponsible Howard was? Isn't the Mars Rover the perfect example of that? Why does Sheldon, after learing Howard was not granted his needed clearance and lost the job, then proceed to feel guilty about bringing forth the very outcome he was, apparently, trying to bring about by telling the FBI agent about all of Howard's irresponsibilities? 

Or, as Mrs. Teebore pointed out, Howard did wreck the Mars Rover on a date. Maybe it's for the best he's not working on a space laser.

Then there's the matter of Sheldon giving up his spot to Howard as an act of reconciliation. Before the scene ended, I was thinking "betcha in the next episode, Sheldon will be in regular spot on the couch without comment." I was proven wrong by the end tag, in which after a 'hilarious' 94 seconds, Sheldon has already asked for his spot back. Except, shouldn't Howard go back to being mad at Sheldon, now that his object of contrition has been redacted? I'm not sure which is better: returning to status quo without comment, or returning to it in such a way that completely undermines the episode? Dr. Bitz suggested that a less traditional sitcom might have gone two or three episodes in which Howard quietly occupied Sheldon's spot before bringing it up again, but not Big Bang: status quo must be restored! 

Here's another problem with the episode, which is somewhat emblematic of the problem the show has with playing it safe and expected. So Leonard demonstrates his new technique for picking up chicks, and while it's not terribly amusing in and of itself, it is worth a chuckle when we see how it worked on Raj. Now, anyone who's every watched more than one episode of any sitcom, ever, knows this newly unveiled wooing technique is going to show up again in this episode. The writers, knowing the audience will be expecting it, could choose to do something clever and extra funny with that expectation, subverting it or manipulating it somehow for maximum comedic effect. So what do they do? Not five minutes later it comes back in the most expected and unfunny way: Leonard tries it out on the FBI agent and it fails spectacularly. Also, she's married. Ha...ha?

Look, there isn't an episode of Big Bang at which I don't laugh heartily at least once or twice, and I'm an easy mark in that regard. And I cannot deny that Jim Parsons is one hell of a comedic actor, and even if the show is turning into The Big Bang Theory starring Sheldon, I still enjoy most of the material he's given. But one of the reasons why Big Bang will never rise to the level of other sitcoms for me is because, more often than not, it seems like the writers are content to always go for the simple, easy laugh.

Raj: 'My country tis of thee. Da da da ... LIBERTY. It's really great.'

Sheldon: I don't like the Olive Garden. They treat me like family.

Sheldon: Fortunately, thanks to computer-savvy alcoholics, there's an app for that.


Saturday Night Live: Jon Hamm & Rihanna 


Jon Hamm always does a great job hosting, and while, at first, I thought this third turn as a host was a bit weak, the more I think about it, the more I like it.

At least they finally got a good cold open this season, as I thoroughly enjoy Jason Sudekis' turns as a layabout Biden ("The guy's a robot. True story -- I've never seen him sleep.").

The highlight of the episode was easily the Back to the Future casting call footage, which is obviously just an excuse for the cast to do impressions, but I'll be damned if many of them weren't funny, especially Bill Hader's spot-on Alan Alda voice ("I want in; who do I fuck?") and Hamm's Robin Williams (I'm a sucker for Robin Williams' impressions - he bugs me SO MUCH!).

Favorite Sketch: Another great "Vincent Price's Halloween Special". Hader and Armisen's Vincent Price and Liberace crack me up every time, Wiig put her "aging Hollywood star" routine to good use as Judy Garland and Hamm was great as a shameless Presidential-candidate JFK. 

7 comments:

  1. Glad to see you liked The Walking Dead. I will be curious to see what somebody who hasn't read the series thinks of it as the series progresses. If they stay reasonably close to the comics, which I hear they are, you are in for a WILD ride!!

    Also you will be happy to know that the majority of the comic series is about how people survive in a world gone crazy. How it changes them and the decisions they are forced to make. It's more about that than the zombies really. Don't be surprised down the road if there are episodes that don't even have zombies in them.

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  2. WTF - why didn't we see the FG episode? mother effing DVR! I didn't even know we had missed anything!

    For me, Glee was an episode which ended up shoving in my face how much i can't stand Will as a character. At all. I've reached the point where i'd rather just not have him on the show

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  3. @Phantomas: If they stay reasonably close to the comics, which I hear they are, you are in for a WILD ride!!

    I've read they'll be deviating from the comics somewhat, as there will be some characters who haven't appeared in the comics on the show.

    So I'll be curious to see how it stacks up for someone who has read the series.

    Also you will be happy to know that the majority of the comic series is about how people survive in a world gone crazy.

    Very cool. I definitely want to read the comics now, though I'll probably wait to get started until at least after the first season of the show finishes.

    @Falen: mother effing DVR

    I'm a total nerd about our DVR, and check it a couple three times a week to make sure everything I expect to be recording is. And then if I see something missing, I have to investigate (like why is there no Modern Family set to record this week - oh, stupid Country Music awards are on).

    For me, Glee was an episode which ended up shoving in my face how much i can't stand Will as a character.

    I'm almost there with Will. I like him fine when he's in he background or, you know, coaching/teaching the students, using his experience to help them out. And I don't mind him singing, as long it's not rapping or actually performing with the kids.

    I just don't like episodes where his issues take center stage, like this one.

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  4. What Sarah said

    Also, i LOVED that ep of venture brothers because we love Shore Leave and he had a bunch of awesomeness in it. And the list they all rattled off to prove that they don't keep any secrets was histerical
    And i like that Billy is a world class surgeon

    Walking Dead was Full of Win. of course, our crap cable is crapping out so we couldn't watch it on our DVR OR on demand so we had to find it on line and watch it through sarah's laptop. We're missing a lot of good shows recently because of our cable- really need to get that fixed...

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  5. @Anne: we love Shore Leave and he had a bunch of awesomeness in it.

    I enjoyed his constant echoing of "S.P.H.I.N.X" throughout the episode, even when it was just implied.

    we're missing a lot of good shows recently because of our cable- really need to get that fixed...

    I feel your pain. I haven't had internet at home since 10/9.

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  6. 3-4 times a week? Pshaa, that's baby talk. I check our DVR 3-4 times A DAY!

    Which, as it turns out, is kind of ironic since we actually did have the FG episode, i just overlooked it.

    Anyway, i LOVED how much Chris and Meg freaked out in the closet. I would like to see them doing the voice overs for that scene

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  7. @Falen: Which, as it turns out, is kind of ironic since we actually did have the FG episode, i just overlooked it.

    Ah, blame the tech when it's really operator error. ;)

    Anyway, i LOVED how much Chris and Meg freaked out in the closet. I would like to see them doing the voice overs for that scene

    Agreed. It's definitely one of those scenes where the situation isn't that funny, and is just gross the more you think about it, but the actors' performances really sell it and make it funny.

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