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Monday, May 2, 2011

Last Week in TV #32

The Simpsons: The Real Housewives of Fat Tony


Originally, all of the Fox animated shows were going to be new last night, with American Dad, Family Guy and The Cleveland Show crossing over with each other. But since the impetus of that crossover was a hurricane whose effects would be felt on each show, Fox decided to pull those episodes in light of the historic tornadoes earlier in the week (presumably, the episodes will air at a later date). So instead we got just one new episode of The Simpsons.

And it was a fairly mediocre one at that. Nothing to get worked up about, neither great nor terrible, etc. The A plot featured Selma getting married again, a recurring joke that, surprisingly, the episode didn't call much attention to, this time to Fat Tony, and while I was expecting mob shenanigans to ensue, the marriage ended when it turned out Selma was Fat Tony's mistress, not his wife. Toss in some easy parodies of The Real Housewives and The Jersey Shore, and you've got an episode, I guess.

The B plot, featuring Bart and Lisa hunting for truffles thanks to Bart's heretofore unknown and somewhat bizarre ability to smell them out, was fairly inconsequential, though Bart's fantasy about launching the school into space was probably the bit that made me laugh the hardest in the episode. And I did like that, in the end, Lisa was just eating the truffles herself in order to jazz up her vegetarian food (incidentally, I first learned about truffles and how pigs are used to find them via an episode of Disney's Talespin back in the day. That's your Teebore Fun Fact for the day).


Glee: Born This Way


Generally speaking, I prefer the quieter, less zany episodes that try to be about something without being ham-fisted or overly sweet about. This was one of those episodes, one which makes you feel like character development DOES matter, that each of these episodes IS part of a greater whole and not just a random collection of zany stuff that happens, and the show needs episodes like this to make the whacky all-that-matters-is-what's-happening-now episodes easier to swallow.

Glee has always walked this fine line between character development that is complex and so over-the-top it's unbelievable, and it's episodes like this that show, when a little restraint is exercised, Glee is capable of delivering strong character work. Take Santana. Sometimes, her wild fluctuations from bitch to softy seem totally random and at the whim, not just of a given episode, but of a given act within an episode; here, her struggle with being the bitch who keeps it real and being well-liked seems a genuine outgrowth of her character. 

Her admission to Karofsky about her own sexual orientation doesn't seem like a random moment scripted for the needs of this episode's plot, but rather a logical next step in her development over the season. Her sexual orientation has been played for laughs before and likely will again, when the show cycles back around to "whacky stuff" mode, but the shot at the end of this episode, wearing her "Lebanese" shirt but unable to join in with the group, is the kind of thing that helps gloss over those whackier episodes that toss meaning and theme and character development out the window in favor of a one-off joke or a ham-fisted lesson or the plot du jour.

Other Thoughts:
I'm not sure why Glee decided to do a 90 minute episode, but it's clear the writers weren't quite sure how to structure it, as the whole "Kurt's back!" storyline felt like a random mini episode wedged into the middle of another episode about accepting those things you don't like about yourself. It was a well done mini episode, but made for an oddly-structured whole. 

Despite being the most consistently-written character on the show, Kurt's motivation for returning to McKinley remains vague (he missed everyone, I guess?), making the true reason he's back (the needs of the plot) all the more transparent. I did like that he immediately saw through Karofsky's BS (and that his dad did too), and that he returned to the school on even footing with Karofsky and Santana, knowing full well what they're up to.

Like most of this season's better episodes, Sue was conspicuously absent from this one. It seems the writers have realized that on the occasions like this when they want to take things more seriously, they need to keep Sue, the most cartoonish and over-the-top character of all, squarely on the bench.

Will's biggest problem with himself is his butt chin? Sometimes needs to spend some more time in front of the self-introspection mirror.

Will tormenting Emma aside, another strength of this episode was that it took Emma's OCD seriously, instead of just treating it like a joke or a romantic comedy foil. 

Interesting (and confusing, and maybe wrong?) that according to his shirt, the thing that Kurt doesn't like about himself is that he likes boys. But I loved Puck's shirt.

Was that the last we'll see of the Warblers-who-aren't-Blaine?

Favorite Song: "Somewhere Only We Know", which was that great kind of Glee song that presents its own spin on the material while staying true to the original and presenting a clear emotional point of view. Probably one of my favorite Glee numbers, period.

But this was a strong episode for musical numbers all around, and I especially appreciated the use of a couple of Broadway tunes, something the show has been lacking of late. 

Santana: I hear Rachel's got a bit of a schnoz. I wouldn't know since, like Medusa, I try to avoid eye contact with her.

Puck: If you wanted to breath better why not get Karl Malden's nose?

Rachel: Is she here?!
Kurt: No. This is a mall in Ohio. (The humor was all in his delivery).


Community: Paradigms of Human Memory 


An absolutely brilliant episode. The clip show is a staple of TV, and there was a time where damn near every show inevitably trotted out one, if not more, in the course of its run. Community, always willing to play with genre conventions, decides to do their own clip show: one comprised entirely of never before seen clips presented as though we have seen them before, that still managed to tell a complete story, develop characters and be ridiculously funny (the only other show I can think of, offhand, which did anything this original with the clip show format was the shortl ived and hilarious Clerks animated series, in which the second episode was a clip show looking back on the first episode, and at times, the earlier events of the second episode).

Being Community, the show used these new clips to comment on itself and the darker stories this season: all the times the group has almost been broken up, only to be saved by one of Jeff's speeches featuring random metaphors (many of which were presented in a montage), an acknowledgment of how stuff always seems to happen around holidays (including flashing back to the brilliant Christmas and Halloween episodes) and how you can 'ship just about any character pairings. We also got an extended montage of the Dean's over-the-top costumes and a parody of the ghost town episode of The Brady Bunch.

Also, we got to see Annie's Boobs again, and that's always a good thing.

Chang: I know these vents like the back of my Chang.

Troy: That dude was hardcore racist. Like 1800s Disney style.

Dean Pelton: It's time to Tina Turner the clocks ahead.

Britta: Feast your ear tongues on these memory pops!

Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts


Just some random thoughts on this one:
Though he's been on the edges of several stories this year, this was the first episode where Chang felt like part of the group, and it was nice to see him make it through at least one episode with his dignity intact.

Britta's reaction as she attempt to take charge of the delivery and checked the status of the baby was one of the funniest bits of physical comedy I've ever seen.

Loved the call back to Abed's delivering-a-baby-in-the-background plot from earlier in the season, and the suggestion that the foreground events of that episode were in the background for him. 

Shirley: I don't want the baby's first memory to be Star Burns.

Troy: That's like a million bucks in dog dollars

Abed: Don't tell any doctors I said this, but at this point, the bus pretty much drives itself.


Parks and Recreation: Fancy Party
The "will they/won't they" storyline has been a sitcom staple for decades, to the point where it's almost become an ingrained element of the form: you have actors, and jokes, and at least one or two "will they/won't they" subplots.

Leave it to Parks and Rec, then, to do something completely unexpected with the convention; only weeks (for both the characters and the audience) after April and Andy (arguably the shows biggest such couple) finally get together, they get married.

Which, as Leslie points out at the beginning, is patently ridiculous for a wide variety of reasons but is also, as Leslie realizes by the end of the episode, terribly sweet and heartwarming (even while the episode managed to be tremendously funny). And to the show's credit, every indication is that this marriage isn't temporary, or a joke; it seems to be a legitimate step forward for the characters, and a unique ending to one of TV's most basic devices. 

Other Thoughts:
Even while one "will they/won't they" story comes to a close, another is introduced, as it's made clear that Leslie and Ben have feelings for one another (something that's been simmering in the background most of this season). 

Ron knows Julia Roberts as, "that toothy girl from 'Mystic Pizza'." If only we all lived in a world where her fame never grew larger than that...

Parks and Recreation: Soulmates


I'm having a hard time deciding which of this episode's two stories I like more: Leslie dealing with the horror (and Tom, the glee) of getting matched up with Tom by a dating website (and Tom's long and hilarious lists of his names for things, like fork=food rake), or Chris and Ron's turkey burger vs. hamburger showdown and their respective trips to Grain 'N Simple and Food and Stuff. Both were incredibly funny, and could have easily stood on their own. Together, they made for a great episode of a show that continues to fire on all cylinders.  

Other thoughts:
The name of the dating website Leslie used? Hoosiermate.com. Awesome.

Loved Tom's wishes, especially, "they remake 'Point Break.' I play both roles!"

When Leslie was first matched up with Tom, I guessed that he probably just had a ton of profiles designed to attract everyone. Turns out the truth (that he has twenty-six, each with a different letter of the alphabet for his middle initial) was even better. I loved his incredulity at Leslie getting matched to Tom N. Haverford, his nerd profile ("His favorite movie is books!"). 

Parks and Recreation: Jerry's Painting


The whole "no dating co-workers" rule of Chris is a fairly arbritary plot device, the kind "will they/won't they" stories thrive on in order to delay the inevitable answering of that question, but the show put it to good use in this episode, as a frustrated Leslie grew empowered by a painting of herself as a naked Centaur (it makes sense in the context of the episode...).

Parks and Rec always does media frenzy stories well, and this episode was no exception as we got a return of "Ya Heard? With Perd" and the show's token whackjob conservative Marcia, who both delights an enrages me every time she appears. Running parallel to all that was Ben trying to teach newly wed April and Andy how to live like adults, a story that gave Ben some great moments (I continue to be impressed at how well his character fits into this world, no matter who he's interacting with) and made clear that getting married hasn't changed April and Andy (and Andy's marshmallow gun speech was classically funny and touching).

Ben, after sending April and Andy to Bed, Bath and Beyond for basic household goods: "There's, like, a 30 percent chance they'll both die."
Brandi Maxxx, porn star, on her definition of porn: "For me it’s when the penis goes in."


30 Rock: 100


I only started watching 30 Rock last year, at the beginning of the show's fourth season (I bet on Studio 60 back in the day, a show for which I still have a great deal of affection despite its many, many flaws) and as a result, I came to the show's 100th episode with significantly less history than those who have watched the show from the beginning (in fact, I was never sure if the various flashbacks were original material or actual clips from old episodes). Which isn't to say I didn't still enjoy the episode, just that I probably didn't appreciate as fully as some.

My favorite bit was the various Jacks forcing our Jack to question the last five years of his life and his mentoring of Liz, culminating in the metatextual audience wink that was Alec Baldwin's character paraphrasing Alec Baldwin's career, a conversation which then setup the hilarious scene with Tom Hanks (humming the Bosom Buddies theme) on the red actor phone ("Clooney? Hanks. Actor emergency!").

Other thoughts:
This episode probably would have been better served airing on a night separate from the Community clip show episode, and like Glee, felt a bit over long. 

I generally like Michael Keaton, but his guest star here felt like a joke missing a punchline. Maybe it's just me...

5 comments:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i laughed so hard at Puck's shirt. And yeah, Kurt's shirt didn't make much sense. Or at least, he's never mentioned before that he wished he wasn't gay.
I totally forgot it was 90 minutes. I guess i just didn't notice while we were watching it

Anne said...

i read discussion that Mercedes' shirt was also confusing (No Weave)- but everyone chalked it up to the fact that the show is written by white men.
Actually, i think a lot of their shirts didn't really embrace the 'what i don't like about myself' idea, more like 'what people don't like about me'. Such as Lauren's 'Bad Attitude' and Kurt's shirt and Santana's shirt...
And didn't they already do an exercise about accepting themselves just the way they are? Tina sang 'True Colors' on that ep.
I heard they made the ep 90 minutes just so Kurt could sing the one song in it's entirety (which we fast-forwarded through)

Anonymous said...

Can I post now? Last two times I tried I was kicked off...

Full disclosure: I don't watch series tv all that much any more. The tv is my dvd's display screen nowadays, if you know what I mean. However I do have a gay roommate, so I've been forced to watch Glee and found I do enjoy it. Not so much the performances of the pop/broadway stuff (would it kill them to do a White Stripes tribute episode?) but I do enjoy the characters when they're consistent, and flat out love Sue's crazy antics, strangely, the wackier and less believable the better.

This episode flew by. Never noticed it was 90 minutes. I actually thought for once they gave the stories enough room to breathe and come to realistic conclusions rather than have plot points dropped in in between the tunes. And yeah, it was disappointing that more of the kids' shirts didn't come closer to what they really disliked about themselves.

I also have gotten back in the habit of watching Community, Office, & Parks & Rec. I was confused about whether 30 Rock was a clip show as well, I think some of those things were clips and some weren't. But either way, Community's version was so much better that 30 Rock should've bowed out and ran a repeat.

As a former vegetarian, I have to say, Burgers win every time. "This is so bad for me, I have to jog while I eat it." The notion of the council rolling over and allowing them to destroy the painting actually enraged me slightly. Not displaying it sure, but destroying it? Couldn't they just paint a bra over the offending woman-area?

Now to see if I can post this, and maybe rewrite my comments about Firelord...

-- mortsleam

Joan Crawford said...

Community continues to surprise me with how fantastic it is. I am an old miser about anything new, (especially on the goddamn "idiot box", hmph.) and so I avoid pretty much everything that isn't in its 3rd season. Community though, has changed my ways. I love to death the D&D episode where Chang shows up in blue paint and says "I am "Soandso" (in a sinister voice) - the magician!(in a happy voice with magic-hands)"
I feel like I have told you that before. I apologize; it's part of being an old man (stops abruptly and walks to the window and yell at a squirrel). I wish I could find the clip on Youtube... I can't view any major broadcast company's clips on-line from Canada, for whatever reason. The internet knows no bounds, Corporate Machine!

@mortsleam - Yeah, for whatever reason, Teebore's blog has a higher rate of "unable to complete your request" messages than most others... I think it is because maybe we all leave lengthy responses. "Pay attention to meeeee, Teebore and friends!" is pretty much what I could chop all mine down to.
I always copy my replies now before I hit post as it makes me furious to lose them.


Ha! It just did it to me! But I done outwitted you, Series of Tubes!

Teebore said...

@Sarah: Or at least, he's never mentioned before that he wished he wasn't gay.

Exactly.

i think a lot of their shirts didn't really embrace the 'what i don't like about myself' idea, more like 'what people don't like about me'. Such as Lauren's 'Bad Attitude' and Kurt's shirt and Santana's shirt...

Yeah, the shirts presented a mixed message at best. It got muddied, I think, by having it be about accepting who you are for some people and accepting what your "thing" is (like Emma).

So Santana's shirt kinda worked (she's a lesbian, but has a hard time admitting it). Mercedes' was just confusing...

I heard they made the ep 90 minutes just so Kurt could sing the one song in it's entirety (which we fast-forwarded through

I've since read that apparently when the producers finished filming the episode, they "just had" to extend the episode because it was all so good. And I'm sure it was that simple...

How come you fast forwarded through the song? Not an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan? It's a pretty good song, and he sang the hell out of it.

@Mortsleam: I actually thought for once they gave the stories enough room to breathe and come to realistic conclusions rather than have plot points dropped in in between the tunes.

I agree, the episode definitely felt like it had room to breathe, which was nice. I didn't mind having a longer episode, I just felt like it was structured oddly.

The notion of the council rolling over and allowing them to destroy the painting actually enraged me slightly. Not displaying it sure, but destroying it?

Yeah, I was surprised they wouldn't even let Leslie take it home. I mean, you can argue it doesn't belong in a government building, but what right do they have to order it destroyed if Leslie just wants to keep it at her house (or at Jerry's house, you know, the guy who painted it)?

Sorry about all the hassle you (and Joan) have been having with blogger. Its been particularly buggy for me lately too (it ate last week's TV post at one point, and my rage was Hulk like). I'd complain if I thought it would do a damn bit of difference...

@Joan: I love to death the D&D episode where Chang shows up in blue paint and says "I am "Soandso" (in a sinister voice) - the magician!(in a happy voice with magic-hands)"
I feel like I have told you that before. I apologize


I don't think you have. And even if you did, you can always keep telling me stuff. I LOVE that episode. It's probably my favorite of the season, and there have been some really good ones this year.

I can't view any major broadcast company's clips on-line from Canada, for whatever reason.

Well, it's cuz you're in Canada. ;)

"Pay attention to meeeee, Teebore and friends!" is pretty much what I could chop all mine down to.

How could we not? And congrats on besting the machine! :)