Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Week in TV #4

Thoughts on what I what I watched last week (we'll discuss the season premiere of The Walking Dead next week; we can't watch it night of or else Mrs. Teebore has nightmares). 

How I Met Your Mother: Field Trip

 
So is Robin dating her therapist creepy? Yeah, kinda, though probably not as much as Ted and Barney seemed to think. It's certainly the kind of thing I wouldn't give a second thought to if the chemistry between the characters was good. Here it's...okay, but we'll give it time.

Marshall's youthful zeal resurrecting his boss' passion for saving the environment is a good idea, but I'm concerned about just how literally we're supposed to take Martin Short's belief that the world is ending and SagetTed's assertion that he and Marshall saved it. Like, "saved the world" by winning lots of big cases, fine, but "saved the world" in a superheroic sense threatens to damaged the credibility of the show.

The stories where Ted is reminded that the rest of the world doesn't always share his passions are always good for a few laughs, so the whole "field trip becomes a focus group" story worked for me, though I did think it was pretty stupid of Ted to not call ahead to the job site, and I thought some of Ted and Barney's disagreements (especially the Edward/Jacob James Olmos one) should be non-existent in this world of smart phones. 

Other Thoughts
I have my own issues with the whole "don't let my unborn baby hear you say naughty words" issue, but I did like the line, "It was like watching The Breakfast Club on TBS."

Barney's Ewok Line, as these things tend to be, was pretty spot on, in my experience (having first seen Jedi as a kid, any issues I have with the Ewoks nowadays were taught to me by the internet). I also love that the thought that Nora just hadn't seen the movies until she was an adult never entered his mind. 
 

Terra Nova: Instinct


As in the pilot, dinosaur action continues to trump character interactions (particularly when those interactions involve a hamfisted jealously subplot involving an old boyfriend). To the show's credit, as with the "rebellious son" plot in the pilot, the whole, "wife runs into old boyfriend, husband is jealous" rigamarole could have been a lot worse. But it's still disappointing to see it here at all. I know it's only the second episode, but I have the sicking suspicion Terra Nova is going to be a show that gets by on its setting and a thin slice of mythology, in which the bulk of each episode is going to focus on boring, frustrating or stupid plots, more FlashForward than Lost (not even Lost-as-it-was, as opposed to Lost-as-it-could-have-been). The hope was this would be a cool show with dinousaurs, not just a show we'd otherwise pass on if it didn't have dinosaurs. I'm not giving up on it (heck, it would have to get really bad for me to bail on the first season entirely) and I know it has plenty of time to build, but I'm already feeling like this isn't going to be the show I want it to be.

Other Thoughts
Indications we're on a TV budget: the two big action pieces of the story (capturing pterasaur specimens, deploying the pheromone) occurred off screen.

The main thrust of the plot, in which a murderous flock of pterasaurs is returning to the breeding ground on which Terra Nova was unknowingly built, is the kind of thing I'd like too see more of; as opposed to stories involving Jim getting jealous or being unable to cook dinner, as it's the kind of story only this show can tell. I wouldn't mind the family drama/character building stuff if it what was more intertwined with life on Terra Nova. We know there's money in Terra Nova - are Jim and Elisabeth drawing a paycheck? How are they acquiring food until they do? Where does the money come from? I'm not saying I need all these kinds of details spelled out up front, but if you want do a whacky bit where Jim can't cook dinner, fine, but then use it as an excuse to build the world of the show by showing us the kind of food available to these people, or something. It would help deepen the setting and make these "could be happening on any show" plots more tolerable. 

Intriguing bits of mythology: there's a mole in camp, and no one knows where the Sixers base is. That's about it. 

Was anyone else surprised that apparently the only defense Terra Nova has against dinosaurs and an extremist terrorist group is a really big fence? Not even an electrified one? There's no central meeting area or bunker where everyone could hide from the flock of pterasaurs?

The level to which the older daughter acts as Basil Exposition is darn near laughable; do the writers not realize what they're doing, or do they just not care?

I figured the character I'd like the least would be the Rebellious Son, but even though his mooning over the girl he left behind has my eyes rolling out of my head, so far the most annoying character is Zoey, who seemingly exists only to be cute or scared.

The private with the hots for Little Miss Exposition cracks me up. Especially when he got knocked out as soon as the dinosaurs attacked. What a gomer...


Glee: Asian F


Friends of the blog and frequent commenters Sarah and Anne came dangerously close to over-hyping this episode in the comments of last week's post, but I'll be damned if this wasn't a pretty good episode after all (which puts the show on a pleasant little run of success here at the start of the third season). Not surprisingly (as is usually the case with the best Glee episodes) there was very little Sue (aside from quick moment in which she rocked along approvingly at Brittany's flash mob/political rally). Surprisingly, this episode featured a significant Will/Emma story and still didn't suck! In fact, I kind of enjoyed it, especially, like his outburst at Quinn last episode, Will snapping at Emma's parents (maybe I only like Will when he's being righteously indignant?).

This episode also featured a surprising level of subtlety; take the moment where Rachel insists to Kurt that she was moved by Brittany's call for girl power and that's why she running for class president (putting aside the fact that student political offices really don't do anything); we all know she's just running because she needs something to spruce up her college admission now that she thinks she won't be Maria, but the show shows remarkable restraint in not spelling that out for us. The scene in which Mike dances away from and with phantoms of his dad and Tina was subdued and quiet; it's the scene where Mike decides once and for all to follow his dreams, but the show doesn't feel the need to point that out to us immediately.

The one storyline I didn't like in this episode was the umpteenth iteration of the "Mercedes doesn't like being a second fiddle" story. It seems like the writers don't really know what to do with her, so they just dust off this old chestnut once or twice a season (this is, what, the third or fourth "diva off" between Mercedes and Rachel?). While this time around the storyline was handled with more seriousness and emotion (like Mercedes' quiet reaction to the "special Olympics" decision) than it was last time (remember when Lauren was acting as her manager and speaking for her?), I've long grown weary of it. When Mercedes walked in and pledged her allegiance to Shelby's new glee club (in the episode's least shocking moment), I rolled my eyes and said, "so, you gonna quit this one too the minute someone gets a solo instead of you?"

The other problem with Mercedes vs. Rachel plots is that it asks the audience to side against the show's ostensible lead. I don't know enough about singing to say that Rachel is qualitatively "better" than Mercedes, but I do know that Rachel has been setup as the show's leading lady since episode one, and for all her irritants (intentional and otherwise) I generally root for her like I would the main character of any TV show. For all its sprawling ensemble cast, Glee still has a core of lead characters (Rachel, Finn, Kurt, Will, Sue) that it encourages the audience to subconsciously root for or against (depending on whether they be hero or villain). The show has consistently told us that Rachel is the best member of the glee club; short of turning her into a villain, having Mercedes question that and then quit in a fit of pique just makes her seem petty, like she's somehow missing everything the show's been telling us. If we're supposed to feel sorry for her constantly getting passed over for Rachel, it isn't working, because the show is built to make us root for Rachel. 

Other Thoughts
Issues with the Mercedes-plot aside, this was a really strong episode thematically, dealing with the issue of reality vs. expections, from the obvious "Rachel expects to be Maria" bits to Mike not wanting to meet his dad's expectations right down to the class president business (and the idea of a girl president vs. a gay president). 

Glee is still Glee: Santana has returned after a one-episode absence via an offhand line.

Coach Bieste continues to crack me the hell up. I'm pretty sure she's the only adult character on this show to never annoy me. 

For as much as I didn't mind the Will/Emma plot this week, the whole "let's pray/Will sings a song about how he's going to fix her" ending was irritating as hell, on multiple levels (production-wise and what it means for the characters).

That said, the non-Will parts of that song, showing the kids reaction to the posting of the cast list, was brilliant.

Glad to see a lack of drama from Kurt regarding Blaine getting the Tony part.

I'm curious if we'll ever see snippets of the performance of West Side Story, considering that, in the course of the auditions, we've already heard several of the songs. 

Thanks to the baseball postseason, I'm now fully caught up on Glee!

Favorite Song: I know it's not hip to like Coldplay, and the Will part of it really bugged me, but I'll be damned if I didn't still enjoy "Fix You". But Mike Chang's "Cool" was pretty awesome too.

Artie: The kid is never late. He runs like an expensive Swiss watch reproduced cheaply in China.


Community: Competitive Ecology


It seems like once or twice a year, the Community writers feel compelled to do an episode where something threatens to tear the group apart only to have their friendship restored by the end of the episode. By the time last season's fake clip show episode rolled around, which effectively lampooned that tendency, it was already a plot device that had worn out its welcome, and I hoped that episode was the writers' way of putting a pin it. Unfortunately, three episodes into the third season, it's back.

This time pairing up for a biology project is the threat (along with the inclusion of an outsider, Todd), as no one ends up liking their original partners but then the entire group struggles to find a way to fairly select new partners. While plenty of stuff on the margins was funny (the ranking system, the various asides throughout the prolonged scene in the study room, Todd himself) and the B story involving Chang's going film noir mad was hilarious in its way (I'm a sucker for film noir parodies; see also: Venture Bros. "Everybody Comes to Hank's"), this episode felt like it was walking "been there, done that, thought we passed it" territory. Funny stuff, but I'm getting tired of this kind of story.

Other Thoughts
What did happen to Legos?

Loved how the dean and Chang ended up with dueling voice overs at the end there.

Jeff: Abed, you're a computer...

Shirley: If a community college entry-level biology class can answer for 2,000 years of miracles...


Parks and Recreation: Born and Raised


Following on the heels of last week's phenomenal episode, this is another excellent episode, one which manages to be hilarious while skewering the birther "movement", Oprah's book club and NPR while still cutting to the core of Leslie's character (plus, it's also an extended promo for Leslie's book about Pawnee, in stores now!). I know I've said this before about Parks and Rec, but it really does feel like classic Simpsons, striking the right balance between hilarity, heart and wacky characters.

Other Thoughts
It was nice to see Tom back in the thick of things, and his interactions with Ben are always great.  

I love the Ron/April relationship, and thought the little smirk he gave when she adopted his method of keeping people at a distance and called him "Lester" was delightfully sweet.

Jerry: Okay, mine just says, ‘Get well soon.’
Leslie: Aren’t you sick?
Jerry: No!
Leslie: Something's off.

Tom: At the risk of bragging, one of the things I’m best at is riding coattails.  Behind every successful man is me, smiling and taking partial credit.

Andy: When Leslie’s in trouble, there is only one man for the job: Bert Macklin, FBI. You though I was dead. So did the President...’s enemies.

Joan: I'm off to powder my nose...amongst other things.
Ben: Is she gonna powder her vagina?!?


Person of Interest: Mission Creep


So this would be the episode where Batman goes undercover as Matches Malone...

That aside, this was a pretty unexciting episode. So far, Finch's backstory is much more interesting than Reese's, so livening things up with Reese flashbacks doesn't do much. Particularly when those flashbacks amount to a few minutes of "Reese once loved a woman, but didn't tell her to wait for him when he shipped out."

The case of the week was only mildly interesting in that it used the whole "is the person of interest perpetrator or victim" premise to present someone who was both, in a way. Though I do wonder, if the Machine presumably tagged Joey's number because he was going to get offed by the old captain from Castle, why didn't it also spit out the numbers of the other guys in his armed robbery squad, or the leader himself? That aside, the other takeaway from this episode was the implication that we might be getting a recurring foe in the form of the mysterious Elias M., who had a police file retrieved then killed the people who acquired it for him. Every superhero needs a villain, and interjecting a recurring villain is another good way to punch up a given episode's otherwise-routine story. So I'm curious (and optimistic) about where that is going.

Other Thoughts
Do TV writers really think we're that dumb, or is the average viewer actually that dumb? Every single time Joey's unit in Afghanistan was mentioned, either Finch or Reese reminded us that it was Joey's unit. It happened at least three times in the course of forty-odd minute episode. Are people truly incapable of remembering that?


Saturday Night Live: Ben Stiller & Foster the People


A really strong, solid episode. I'm not a huge Ben Stiller fan, but I enjoyed most of what he did in this episode (though he wasn't asked to do a whole lot). The cold open was a reliable political sketch, and Jason Sudeikis' Mitt Romney is growing on me, even if he is the least whacky GOP candidate. The "Fox and Friends" sketch is always good for some laughs, and my buddy Blam has a full list of the hilarious corrections here. I wasn't a huge fan of "The Best of Both Worlds" sketch when it first aired, for some reason, but I really liked it this time. Maybe it was just having Hugh Jackman show up and question the increasing effeminate side of SambergJackman.

The Digital Short was better than last week's, with a number of the increasingly whacky V neck shirts hilarious (I liked the "negative V"). And that brings us to Weekend Update, and arguably the show's strongest recurring character at this point, Stefan. I remain impressed that he continues to appear sparingly as the show does it best to not overexpose him. Most of the recurring characters/sketches repeat the same joke again and again, and if its funny enough, we continue to laugh, but while Stefan does that, what he's saying in the course of repeating the joke is also funny, and I think that's why he succeeds where so many other recurring bits don't (this is also true of the "Under-Underground Records" commercials).


 
Other Thoughts
I have a great deal of affection for Zoolander, so I was pleased to see the character again, and thought pairing him with Stefan was a nice tough. Especially funny: "The Derek Zoolander Foundation for Fat Kids Who are Fat but not in a cute way like that fat kid on Modern Family."

The only sketch I didn't really like was the one where Kristen Wiig plays the allegedly hot woman who ends up doing gross things that weird out all the guys but one. But I always have issues with that sketch because it asks the cast's least physically attractive woman (Kristen Wiig) to play a hot sexpot while the cast's most attractive woman, Abby Elliot, looks on. 

Taran Killiam did a really good Brad Pitt impersonation in that Moneyball parody sketch (and 'roid rage is always hilarious). 

Among my favorites from the "Fox and Friends" corrections list:

President Obama did not pardon Carmen San Diego.

Christopher Columbus sailed to what is now the modern day United States in an effort to find a trade route to the West Indies. Not to flee the dragons.

Flo from the Progressive Insurance ads is a living human being, not the ghost of a Civil War widow.

Nicholas Cage did not sign the Declaration of Independence.

Favorite Sketch: A strong night makes this a tough call. Probably "Best of Both Worlds" or "Fox and Friends", unless we can count Stefan's appearance as a sketch.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 1/3
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 2/3

Andy Samberg:  I'm the Jewish Willy Wonka!
Ben Stiller: So, you’re Gene Wilder?
Andy Samberg: Yeah, basically.

SambergJackman: Interesting fact about me, I was born as a woman! The doctor turned my kangaroo pouch into a didgeridoo!

DJ SuperSoaker: These bands will give Queen Isabella polyps!

8 comments:

  1. i'm glad we didn't overhype Glee for you, cuz that was not the intent. It was just the first episode in...probably a full season, where i came away feeling like i really enjoyed the show again, as opposed to being just angry about things. Of course, it's easy to like the episode that features a lot of Mike, because he's a really likeable character.
    I, too, am so over Mercedes. I mean, i'm looking forward to the inevitable Glee-off between the two clubs, but, damn, i really don't give a crap about Mercedes's whining. Get over yourself. Especially with the dancing. Everyone else is working hard, so suck it up.

    I pretty much agree with everything you said about Terra Nova. i'm still hoping it might become a super awesome show, i'm just not holding my breath. It'll probably just end up being a mediocre show with dinosaurs. But we'll see. There was a bit at the end of the next episode i found intriguing.

    I don't really have much to say about POI. *shrugs*. I still like it and probably will continue to do so unless it Effs up majorly and i don't think it will. I'm crossing my fingers that it will become another Fringe and just blow my mind with how much i love it.

    And no worries on The Walking Dead. We haven't watched it yet.

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  2. i 2nd what Sarah said

    I too and just tired of Mercedes. I mean- i never really liked her anyway, and continuing to give her obnoxious storylines is not helping her case. Also- Rachel is a senior- they typically get the best parts because it's their last chance to do so. Mercedes can be the star after Rachel graduates. Pay your dues like everyone else does.
    Also- i loled when they showed Sue rocking out in the audience. Brittany's gril power song was great- and made us realize that they've really cut back on the group song/dance numbers that we appreciate.
    Reality problems i had- since when do school play audtions take place over multple days? did they really have that many auditions? REALLY? also- according to the cast list West Side Story only has like 8 cast members. it doesn't even have a chorus. And doesn't their school have a group of theater kids that are different from the Glee kids? that seems unrealistic.

    I'm still enjoying Terra Nova. Is it the best show on tv. not by a long shot. but do i still find it enjoyable? yes. I'm intrigued enough to see where they're going.
    I also was suprised they have no apparent defense against any flying dinosaurs (since so many of them seem to be predators. except the Skybax which is awesome and lets you ride them in Dinotopia).

    POI- i never thought about the fact of why the machine didn't toss out numbers for the rest of the guys that were killed in the episode. huh. good point

    SNL- i caught tidbits of this ep for some reason. Did you hear that Eddie Murphy was apparently a no show for the ep- he was supposed to show up for a skit or a cameo or sumthin

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  3. @Sarah: Everyone else is working hard, so suck it up.

    I know! Part of me wondered if they were setting up some kind of eating disorder/pregnancy story with that. Maybe they still are. But as it stands, it seems odd that one of the things which pissed off Mercedes was Will asking her to work hard at getting better.

    It'll probably just end up being a mediocre show with dinosaurs.

    Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of.

    I'm crossing my fingers that it will become another Fringe and just blow my mind with how much i love it.

    Like Terra Nova I'm worried PoI will always be too generic for me to have more than a passing interest in it. I'm still watching it, but I'm not, like, EXCITED to watch it. So far, it just does what it does and that's not bad, but not mind blowing either.

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  4. @Anne: Rachel is a senior- they typically get the best parts because it's their last chance to do so. Mercedes can be the star after Rachel graduates.

    Oh, yeah, I'd totally forgotten that (what with the whole "people are suddenly in different grades" thing being new this season), but yeah, that probably should have been the tie breaker right there, instead of the special Olympics decision.

    since when do school play audtions take place over multple days? did they really have that many auditions?

    I was only ever tangentially involved in the auditions of my high school plays (sometimes helping with light/sound) but I seem to recall our auditions stretched out over a week (or at least several days), including callbacks and whatnot (we always had callbacks) so that didn't seem that odd to me.

    according to the cast list West Side Story only has like 8 cast members. it doesn't even have a chorus.

    Yeah, that was odd. We did West Side in high school and our cast was HUGE. I mean, there's roughly eight leads or so (depending on how you want to define "lead"), but we also had a dozen or so Jets and Sharks apiece, plus characters like Officer Krupke and some other random extras.

    And doesn't their school have a group of theater kids that are different from the Glee kids?

    I've often wondered about that. I mean, at my school, which was large but fairly clique-y, pretty much anyone who was in the musicals was also in choir (at least in terms of the leads), but we didn't have a show choir like the Glee kids, and our choirs were pretty big (we had like three or four). Plus, we had all the dancers, most of whom also acted or sang in some capacity, and all the band people (4 concert bands worth, plus 2 extracurricular jazz bands). And all of us who did tech, some of whom were also in band/choir/dance and occasionally performed.

    Then you had all the speech kids, many of whom also acted/sang/played an instrument/did tech/etc.

    Point being, for all the clique-yness of high school, there was a lot of cross pollination at our school amongst the various different arts activities, and between theater, choir, dance, speech, theater tech, visual arts, A/V, etc. there were hundreds (if not more) kids involved just in extracurricular arts activities, not even counting regular classes in those fields.

    Whereas on Glee it seems like the dozen or so Glee kids are complete and utter social pariahs to the point where even the people who magically pop up to play instruments with them are ignored, and it consistently seems like they are the only dozen or so students who have ANY interests in ANY arts program at all, be it singing, dancing, acting, etc.

    I mean, Sue can go on her anti-Arts congressional crusade as a way to stick it to the glee club all she wants, but in reality, arts funding would touch a whole lot more than just those dozen kids she doesn't like.

    Some of that, of course, is a result of TV reality versus real reality, and even moreso, Glee reality (which can be even more unreal than regular TV reality) versus real reality.

    Did you hear that Eddie Murphy was apparently a no show for the ep- he was supposed to show up for a skit or a cameo or sumthin

    I don't know how official his "no show" was; I had heard rumors he might show up, simply because he's co-starring in the movie Ben Stiller was ostensibly on to hype, and because he might want to increase his profile before his gig hosting the Oscars. But as I far as I know, they were only ever just rumors.

    I, for one, didn't mind his absence...

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  5. Not sure if you caught it, but for me the best part of last week's How I Met Your Mother was that at Marshall's firm's party, they were playing the Ewoks' "Yub Yub" song from the (original) end scene of Return of the Jedi

    "...the cast's most attractive woman, Abby Elliot..."

    You must coincidentally have your eyes closed every time Nasim Pedrad is onscreen...

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  6. @Matt: they were playing the Ewoks' "Yub Yub" song from the (original) end scene of Return of the Jedi

    Aw, I meant to mention that! Though my wife noticed it before I did. Star Wars Nerd Fail.

    You must coincidentally have your eyes closed every time Nasim Pedrad is onscreen...

    Oh, I don't mind her at all either, and I'd be just as bothered by the sketch if she were the other woman in it.

    The important thing is that we both agree that Kristen Wiig is NOT the most attractive member of the cast, no matter how much that sketch tries to convince us otherwise. :)

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  7. My problem with this Community ep was that it acknowledged, explicity, in-story that the study group is a totally crazy, dysfunctional, incestuous gang that doesn't play well with others — to a degree that they're really no longer sympathetic. I think that last season Pierce's evil, spiteful attitude was pushed irredeemably far, and the first episode back this season flirted dangerously with what this episode nailed down. While I never cared for Seinfeld, even I knew that having the quartet put on trial and called on their crap in the finale was stupid, breaking the membrane-thin "protagonist" protection that presumably kept all the self-centered stuff they pulled over the course of the series from just being unquestionably psychotic. We're supposed to root for, laugh with (and maybe sometimes at, but lovingly), and possibly even relate to these people, so I'm not down with having my suspension of disbelief broken by noting — within the universe of the show, which in sitcoms in general but Community in particular is clearly a slightly askew version of reality — that these folks are indeed creeps.

    The whole Legos thing was spot-on, though.

    And more on the rest later...!

    VW: ashible — Made of such substance as will be reduced to powder by burning.

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  8. @Blam: I'm not down with having my suspension of disbelief broken by noting — within the universe of the show, which in sitcoms in general but Community in particular is clearly a slightly askew version of reality — that these folks are indeed creeps.

    You said it much, much better than me, but I feel the exact same way. Even the following episode (which I'll cover in the next post), which was absolutely brilliant for the most part, raised some uncomfortable questions similar to (but not quite on the same level as) these.

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