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Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Week in TV #2

Well, real life intruded on TV much earlier in the season than I was expecting, which is why lots of stuff is missing this week (no Glee, Person of Interest, or Terra Nova yet; next week, hopefully). Anyways, here's what I got.

The Simpsons: Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts
Maybe it's just because I'm a history nerd, but I really liked this episode (Teddy Roosevelt is a pretty cool historical figure). Surprisingly, given the longevity of the show at this point, they've never really done a Superintendent Chalmers episode, and even more surprisingly, it was a relatively down-to-earth story, with Chalmers' old fashioned, boys-will-be-boys, rugged hands on approach reaching the more troublesome kids. Well, down-to-earth until Bart and the bullies overtook the school and held it hostage, but that was more a result of the random last act bizarreness from which the show seems unable to escape since the switch to the four act structure. Still, this late in the game, it's nice to see that The Simpsons is still capable of churning out a solid, thoroughly enjoyable episode now and then.

Other Notes
Teddy Roosevelt received a guest star credit for this episode (because of the audio clip to which Bart was listening, I believe), which is pretty cool.

I also loved Bart and Lisa's argument over which Roosevelt was better, and Lisa's assertion that she already went through her Teddy Roosevelt phase (again, history nerd here).

Homer: They always come up with such catchy ways to make us pay for things we don’t need for kids we didn’t want.

Dolph: The dude really knew how to rock some jodhpurs.

Jimbo: School failed me?  Does school have to go to summer Jimbo?


The Cleveland Show/Family Guy/American Dad: the Hurricane episodes


This is the pseudo crossover amongst the Seth MacFarlane comedies that was supposed to air last spring, the same weekend that a shit ton of tornadoes ravaged the south, so Fox pulled the episodes for a later airing. Which was apparently now. Surprisingly, there was very little actual crossover amongst the three shows (other than the hurricane itself or the very end of American Dad). Which is probably for the best, as each show can, in its own way, be wildly different from the other. Still, I kinda thought maybe we'd see a character blow through the background of each episode or something like that.

Even more surprisingly, with the exception of American Dad, each show largely ignored the hurricane beyond using it as an excuse to do an otherwise self-contained bottle show. Of the three, American Dad was, not surprisingly, the funniest (best moment: the sad head shake the bear gives Stan after he harpoons Francine). Cleveland Show tried to be uncharacteristically deep, and for the most part, it worked, largely because the focus was on Cleveland Jr., the show's strongest character (I loved his cool detachment in the face of the hurricane and his family's attempt to force their faith on him, and that he saved Cleveland using basic engineering skills; the whole time everyone was freaking out about Cleveland being trapped, I was thinking, "don't they have a saw or something in the garage?").
 
Family Guy was light on laughs, as their bottle shows tend to be (I did love the "GI Jose" cutaway though; "now you know enough!"), but it was nice to see Meg lash out and for the show to try and develop an in-continuity explanation for why Meg gets treated like shit (I don't know that it necessarily works, but I appreciate the effort). Though I did wonder, when the TV went out, why Peter didn't just entertain his family with another Star Wars tale. Also, Brian's 'shrooms-induced freak out, while totally tangentially to everything else, was enough to keep me from ever doing drugs.

Stan: Maybe a massage will calm you down. Just start up here.

Stan: See what a good wife Jeff is, Francine?

Steve: Now it's hungry for blood AND knowledge!


Pan Am: Pilot (Series Premiere)


This was probably the best pilot I've seen this year (though I haven't watched Terra Nova yet, and that has dinosaurs) but I don't have a ton to say about it. It's a promising show, and having never watched Mad Men, I'm not burned out on the whole "60s as a reflection of today" schtick. I've read enough to accept that the show is doing its best to be historically accurate (the set is a painstaking recreation of the actual Pan Am clipper from 1963, the creator actually was a Pan Am stewardess in the 60s) so I'm willing to sit back and enjoy the ride. Whether the show has enough narrative thrust to keep things interesting, we'll find out, but for now, I'm on board. 


How I Met Your Mother: The Ducky Tie


This felt very much like a classic How I Met Your Mother episode, with a sappy Ted A-story and a more humorous B story involving the rest of the gang, centered around Barney's antics. I have to say, that while I totally thought Barney was pulling a long con and his intention all along was to get into the alley for a peek at Lily's boobs, I did not see the second twist, that it was a long con AND he actually could do all the tepenyaki stuff, coming. 


Other Notes
They circled back around to the ducky tie surprisingly fast, didn't they?

The highlight of the Barney story was either the editing after he had to avoid looking at Lily's boobs for ten seconds, or Marshall's frantic attempts to keep Ted from seeing what Barney was seeing.

I'm enough of a word nerd to have enjoyed the "Klaus/class/close" bit. 

Victoria's return didn't disappoint, as her and Ted remained very fun to watch together.

I'm not a huge fan of "exes can't be friends" storylines in any medium, but it's even more concerning here, as we know SagetTed has referred to Robin and Barney as aunt and uncle to his kids, so we know at that point at least, they're still enough a part of Ted's life to be close to his kids, so it kinda feels like a wheel-spinning exercise (and we already had the Ted-Robin-Barney blowout a few seasons ago). That said, I can't really criticize a storyline that hasn't happened yet, so we'll see where it's going before passing judgment.

Ted: You make it sound like I dated a series of Stieg Larsson novels.

Ted: Do you believe in fate?
Victoria: I believe you're about to give a big speech on fate.


2 Broke Girls: And the Break-up Scene
A definite step down after the first episode, with too much of this episode written like the much broader first half of the pilot. The finale of the pilot seemed to suggest a new understanding between Max and Caroline, but we basically saw them go through the same journey again this episode. I once read somewhere (I forget where) that it's an industry convention that the first six episodes of any new show have to function as mini pilots in and of themselves, repeating the setup of the show and the characters' relationships for any new viewers tuning in late (the idea being that after six episodes, a show as found whatever audience its going to find, and can expand from there) and to remind returning viewers of the premise (because networks think we're too dumb to remember it week to week). There's enough appeal to the relationship between the main characters here (when they aren't rerunning the same arguments...) to keep me around, but man, these next four episodes are going to be tough to get through if they're as derivative of the pilot as this one.

Also, keeping a horse in the backyard stretches even my ability to suspend my disbelief, despite the interactions with the horse being some of the best parts of this episode.


Saturday Night Live: Alec Baldwin & Radiohead (Season Premiere)


Kind of a lackluster premiere, despite the presence of Baldwin, a solid SNL host. The show was very front loaded, with the best material coming from the cold open, the monologue, and the post-monologue commercial. After that, everything was pretty meh, "Weekend Update" excepted (which featured Baldwin's Tony Bennet in a bit that was funny but a bit long).

The Top Gun casting sessions had some moments, but I always enjoy impressions for impressions sake (and am happy for any excuse to see Hader's Alan Alda). There were a few good lines in the "Who's on Top?" sketch ( Timon and Pumba: Even. “It’s a circle of life.”) and the last "tell my wife I love her" sketch ("Tell my son that a cripple isn’t a full human being."), but no real breakout sketch or anything that was funny top to bottom. 

Favorite Sketch: Honestly, it was probably the cold open.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 1/1
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 0/1 (hooray!)

Rick Perry: In closing: Fences. Jesus. Papilloma. Eyeballs.

Steve Martin: I was just passing by the studio in full makeup.

15 comments:

  1. you're killing me here! I was super hoping for some chat time on all those shows you havn't watched yet. Le sigh.
    Yeah, American Dad was crazy, but awesome and FG was no big deal. Though i was super freaked out when Brian cut off his ear.
    And the bear shaking his head was awesome, as was the whole shark thing in general

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  2. @Sarah: you're killing me here!

    I'm none too pleased either.

    Though i was super freaked out when Brian cut off his ear.

    Yeah, that was pretty disturbing.

    And the bear shaking his head was awesome, as was the whole shark thing in general

    I loved just about everything with the shark.

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  3. My favorite line was: "Now they're working in tandem! They're brothers in arms!"

    Yeah, Family Guy is a perfect example of why I'll probably never do hallucinogens. Heck, when I got my wisdom teeth out I was nervous about being "put under" for fear of being caught in a nightmare I couldn't awake from. (Little did I know that I would not dream at all.)

    Anyway, enough about my phobias.

    Despite it being outlandish, I kind of like the idea that there's a horse in 2 Broke Girls. It gives the show a unique quality that isn't the focus of the show's premise. "It's a show about two girls trying to earn money to start a business....and they have a horse in their backyard."

    Also, is it just me or does American Dad have no idea what to do with Klaus? They probably should write him off the show? It's like they started writing this show and created all these characters but now realize there's too many.

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  4. @Dr. Bitz: I kind of like the idea that there's a horse in 2 Broke Girls.

    Oh, I like the idea too (my favorite line of that last episode was "Don't let him see me; he doesn't know I'm a waitress"). It's just every time he shows up, there's a little voice in my head saying "a horse couldn't live in the backyard like that, and there's no way they could afford it, either."

    Maybe I've just watched "Lisa's Pony" too many times. But lord knows I'm good at suspending my disbelief. It's not a deal breaker or anything.

    Also, is it just me or does American Dad have no idea what to do with Klaus?

    It's not just you.

    I think it's fine if they toss him a random line here and there, and that the show just exists in a world where they have a talking German fish, but anytime they try to do anything with Klaus beyond a line or two, it fails miserably.

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  5. I haven't seen anything on this list. I'm behind on sitcoms as I now have to wait to watch them with The Man when he's available.

    I want some Terra Nova feedback!!! HURRY HURRY HURRY!!!

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  6. @Dr.Bitz - Heck, when I got my wisdom teeth out I was nervous about being "put under" for fear of being caught in a nightmare I couldn't awake from.

    Me too! I apparently kept waking up during the operation and demanding my teeth so they couldn't "steal my DNA". Yeah... I was joking about it with my dad in the car on the way over but when I was doped up, I took it much more seriously :/

    All I can say is thank the Sweet Baby Jesus they didn't have cell phone cameras when I was a teenager.

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  7. @Hannah:

    Yeah, scheduling TV time for two is even harder than for one...

    I want some Terra Nova feedback!!! HURRY HURRY HURRY!!!

    Soon. Soon.

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  8. yeah i want that too. Hannah and I have differing opinions on it, so i'm interested to see which way you fall.

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  9. I feel better after the 2nd one. I just think the premiere was a little rough and uninteresting. Now, I'm partially invested...not fully. It's no American Horror Story premiere.

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  10. @Hannah: It's no American Horror Story premiere.

    Was that good? I had heard it was awful.

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  11. our effing DVR didn't tape Horror Story and it's not on demand. Sigh. But we'll start watching it next week and hopefully the pilot will repeat.
    Yeah, i mean, i don't think Terra Nova's fantastic, i was just pleasantly surprised that the things i thought for sure i'd have issues with were nicely handled.
    This is why Austin needs to catch up on TV. I want to talk about this week's Glee as well.

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  12. @Sarah: But we'll start watching it next week and hopefully the pilot will repeat.

    FX is usually pretty good about repeating stuff several times throughout the week prior to a new episode (we recorded a bunch of Wilfreds after the fact).

    This is why Austin needs to catch up on TV. I want to talk about this week's Glee as well.

    Done. Well, not the caught up part, but at least another episode.

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  13. The hurricane thing with Fox's Sunday animation block reminds me of the mid-'90s "non-crossover" among NBC's Thursday-night sitcoms where each dealt with a blackout in New York. It was memorable for me because
    * it occurred during the brief time my sister and I lived together (after college);
    * Chandler got stuck in an ATM vestibule on Friends; and
    * my sister and I love the word "vestibule".

    Pan Am is definitely something that I want to check out. The good reviews for it surprised me, frankly. I expected it to go right in to the "pass" category, figuring that it would be superficial, guilty-pleasure stuff at best, but critics that I respect liked it enough for me to keep it on my list of pilots to check out; in retrospect, I shouldn't have wasted my time with Ringer, because now I need to act fast on this and Terra Nova before they cycle out of online availability.

    I enjoyed your writeups on the other stuff, too, but I'm trying to be judicious in my responses as I catch up. Although it is strange to comment solely on things that I haven't seen, instead of the stuff that we watch in common (HIMYM, 2BG, SNL)...

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  14. [Later:]

    The horse in 2BG has really paid some dividends.

    I'm a sucker for impressions, too, and never mind pieces hung around an excuse to throw a bunch our way — although I tend to prefer a completely bald-faced excuse like the DVD extras than a flimsy skit concept like Mort Mort Feingold that wastes precious time on the premise (unless it's enjoyable on its own terms, like the lost Vincent Price TV specials).

    American Horror Story has potential, but you do have to be in the narrow swath of viewers to whom such creepy, pretentious, psychosexual material even might appeal. I'm right on the fringe of the swath, I guess; that kind of stuff isn't really for me unless it's superbly crafted and can be an occasional alternative dessert in my television diet. After watching the pilot, I'm not totally out, but I'm not planning on watching any more unless/until the verdict is in from trusted sources that it's worth pursuing and I can catch up during the broadcast networks' post-sweeps rerun period.

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  15. @Blam: The hurricane thing with Fox's Sunday animation block reminds me of the mid-'90s "non-crossover" among NBC's Thursday-night sitcoms where each dealt with a blackout in New York.

    Ah, yeah, I had forgotten about that, but you're right, it is very similar.

    Also, "vestibule" is a pretty awesome word.

    I shouldn't have wasted my time with Ringer, because now I need to act fast on this and Terra Nova before they cycle out of online availability.

    Ugh, Ringer, yeah. I've half watched a couple eps now (my wife is still watching it, so I'll follow along whilst doing something else) and it's just not getting very good. I have my reservations about Terra Nova, but it's still better than that.

    I've only caught one more episode of Pan Am since this post, but I enjoyed it almost as much as the pilot, even if I was surprised at how much of the stuff the pilot left dangling it closed off.

    although I tend to prefer a completely bald-faced excuse like the DVD extras than a flimsy skit concept like Mort Mort Feingold that wastes precious time on the premise (unless it's enjoyable on its own terms, like the lost Vincent Price TV specials)

    Ditto on all counts. I love those Vincent Price specials, and was bummed they didn't do one during the recent Halloween episode.

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