How I Met Your Mother: The Burning Beekeeper
This was clearly an episode meant to play with structure and tell a simply story in a structurally complex and interesting way. And in that regard, it succeeded. I'm a sucker for these kinds of episodes, and HIMYM has a history of doing them, and doing them well. The only problem is that this episode wasn't very funny. It elicited a few laughs, but I'm an easy mark. For the most part, any reactions I had to the episode were to the reveals created to the unique structure ("oh, that's why Ted was so eager to fight Martin Short", "that's why Lily stomped the Gouda") instead of to any of the jokes. And while HIMYM has certainly had episodes intentionally light on the laughs before, in most of those cases the laughs were replaced with significant character development; here, we didn't get much of that aside from Lily's realization about being a parent, and even that seemed less important that the structural wackiness. Like I said, I like these kinds of episodes that manipulate the traditional time/space elements within a show, but it only works if that manipulation is done in service of big laughs, good character moments, or both. Here, it did neither, and we're left with nothing more than an episode with a unique structure.
I do not like Chris Elliot on this show, no matter how hard they try to force him on us.
Barney's fake identity of Special Agent Gary Powers was particularly good, and did make me laugh a couple times. I also liked Robin misappropriating Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest with Sun Tzu.
Barney: If I could kiss it I would, and don’t think I haven’t tried
Ted: You called her a whore.
Robin: Who wears that much makeup?
Ted: Old ladies.
Robin: Who trade sex for money!
Alcatraz: Guy Hastings
It wasn't perfect, but this was easily the best episode of the 'Traz yet. After a string of three solid case-of-the-week episodes, this show desperately needed to spend some time on its mythology, and while "Guy Hastings" didn't hand everything over to the bigger, ongoing picture, we still learned more about the ongoing mysteries and, more importantly, the relationship between Hauser and Madsen than ever before (turns out he does specifically need her around, which answers a big lingering question from the pilot). We also got a nice break from the "convict is caught because he does things based on his childhood experiences" routine, due in large part to the fact that this week's case involved a guard. The case-of-the-week structure was still there (we got a pretty ridiculous bit where Soto extrapolates architecture), but it bodes well to see that the show is willing to shake things up even a little bit this early in its run.
The reveal that Rebecca's "uncle" is actually her uncle wasn't all that shocking, but the idea that Hauser had earlier approached Ray and that Ray knew about the 63s was genuinely surprising (as was the fact that he'd been in contact with Tommy in the present), and a nice explanation for why Ray wasn't more surprised to see Hudson. It also allows Rebecca to talk to Ray about her cases, which helps make things less awkward moving forward (and means we'll hopefully see more of Robert Forster).
The fact that Hauser had earlier recruited Ray suggests either that he knew the 63s were coming back, or they've been trickling back for longer than we thought.
This is problematic on most cop/action shows, but Emerson sure made it from Alcatraz to Tommy and Ray's old house awfully fast.
We've yet to see someone from the past "arrive" in the present, but both this episode and the pilot seemed to show us two people just moments after they arrived in the past.
Hudson attacking that ranger at the beginning is more evidence of the suggestion that something about the time travel makes people more angry/homicidal than usual.
Also, the fact that pictures and a gun were stashed in his old house suggests that Hudson knew he was going to be time traveling, but his later dialogue with Ray suggested it was a surprise to him. So did someone else stash that stuff?
Seismic activity, huh? Emerson clearly knows more than he's letting on...
Originally, Blam and I intended to do a joint, standalone review of the Smash pilot, with Joan Crawford offering color commentary along the way. Then both Blam and I watched it, and neither of us felt terribly compelled to write about it (we both expressed the sentiment that we hoped the other had some strong reactions to spark discussion). Which isn't to say this was bad. Rather, it was probably one of the better pilots I've watched this season, tremendously well put together, making very clear who the various characters are, what they want, what obstacles are in their way and what ground the rest of the series is likely to cover. Heck, I could see this episode being taught in film school in a "TV Pilots 101" class.
But "well-constructed" and "interested to see how the show series plays out" doesn't inspire a lot in the way of discussion. My only other real notes consisted of the fact that of the cast, the standouts for me were Debra Messing (I was never a big Will & Grace watcher, but I've liked her more reserved turns in various rom coms I've watched my wife watch) and Jack Davenport (who I know from a variety of things but somehow has gotten unfortunately stuck in my head as "the dad of the autistic kid who inappropriately hit on Penny in Flashforward), but everybody else acquitted themselves well, with only the hired/fired/re-hired assistant grating on me, and that I largely enjoyed the big baseball musical number (though Mrs. Teebore thought it was perhaps a bit oversexed).
So yeah. I'm enough of a musical theater nut, as well as a fan of the dying workplace drama sub-genre and shows about the creation of other shows (and I did enjoy the pilot enough) to stick around and check out the series. Plus, there's the fact that the success of this show has been both positioned and carefully not-positioned as being instrumental to NBC's ongoing viability as a legitimate broadcast network, and it'll be interesting to watch from that perspective (in fact, The Voice, which is reportedly doing quite well for itself, ratings-wise, so far early in its second season, is more firmly in that position). But chances are I won't write about it regularly, as it doesn't seem like the kind of show that will inspire much reaction from me or talking points for us. But we'll see. If I do end up with something to say about it as we go along, I'll be sure to share it.
(Okay, one more random note: for some reason, I can't help but see Katherine McPhee's supportive boyfriend as Maulik Pancholy, late of 30 Rock before leaving for the horrid Whitney, for some reason).
Glee: The Spanish Teacher
Much like "Yes/No", knowing this would be another episode that heavily featured Will, I went into this fearing the worst. But like "Yes/No", this turned out to be not awful, mainly because the focus on Will was pretty much about what a dick he is. Don't get me wrong: this episode had some issues. Aside from a couple scenes, it did little to advance the ongoing plots nor tie in with the ongoing themes, it featured greater leaps of logic than usual, and the musical numbers felt a little low energy to me. But this was a solidly constructed episode, with a clear A plot and a manageable number of subplots. More importantly, for the first time, we got an episode that seemed to view Will the way most of us have viewed him for at least a season-and-a-half: aside from doing an admirable job of inspiring the glee club, he's not a very good teacher, and kind of a self-centered dick.
What most impressed me about this episode was Santana's discussion with Will following his awful Matador routine. Everything she said was on point, and it was impressive that the show allowed, not only for Will not to use his authority to shout her down, but for Santana to win the argument. I never would have expected the show to let that happen last season. Here's something else that impressed me: Will walking in on Emma and Bieste's conversation, responding to "it's unbelievable" with "What? My set list for Regionals?" In past episodes, that kind of thing would have been played straight, with everyone at home rolling their eyes at his obnoxiousness. But here, it was clear that show intended for that remark to be obnoxious, that it was making a point about Will's self-centeredness. Even though the sappy ending suggests this might be a one-time examination of Will's failings, the fact the show even took the time to do it once is still remarkable.
Some of those leaps of logic: So Will really lasted this long teaching Spanish without knowing/teaching it? How did he even get the job in the first place? Or the history job, for that matter? Also, tenure is suddenly a thing, suggesting that McKinley actually is overseen by some kind of school board, whereas past episodes suggested teachers' jobs existed at the whim of Figgins and/or whatever nutjob/rich parent was in a tizzy in any given week. And I'm no expert, but I'm not sure Emma, who is a guidance counselor, not a teacher, as far as we know, should have been eligible. For that matter, isn't Sue just a coach? Does she actually teach a class during school hours? In which case, how is she eligible for tenure? And if Sue is only at the school to coach the Cheerios, why can't Will just be the glee club coach? I can't that teaching Spanish also means a certain degree of teaching the culture, and it's good that Will stepped aside so that someone who actually knows the language can teach it, but as a history buff, I'm none too excited about the prospect of Will taking his "don't know it, don't care about it" teaching style to history. But apparently, no one at that school is as impassioned about history as Santana is about Spanish to call him out on it.
Let's just get this out of the way: the whole "Sue wants a baby" plot line is ridiculous, but it's the kind of ridiculousness you get with this show, and it's better than Supervillain Sue. Ridiculousness aside, I liked the way Sue was handled this episode, once again with a nice mix of Crazy Sue and actual human Sue.
In that same vein, I appreciate any Sue storyline that doesn't involve her inexplicably running for Congress or plotting to take over Metropolis, but this whole conflict with the synchronized swim coach is pretty lame (though I do love how the swim coach is constantly bragging about her bronze medal, which is exactly how I envision all Olympians to act).
So after spending the first half of the season refusing to share the spotlight and forming her own splinter glee club, now Mercedes is suddenly buddy-buddy enough with Rachel to have a slumber party? I suppose you could chalk it up to teenagers being whacky and inconsistent, but as with most things Mercedes, it rang false.
The ongoing Rachel/Finn engagement plot got touched on, as well as the whole "graduation" theme, in the episode's best scene, between Kurt and Finn. The two of them need to get more scenes together (and I really liked Kurt's observation that while Finn made not be Broadway bound, he could do very well for himself in a theater program because he's a traditional leading man type who can sing and kind of dance. Also, ha!).
So Emma makes all her pamphlets herself. That's awesome, and kinda helps explain some of the logic holes surrounding some of them.
I loved the subtitles that made clear Will's awful Spanish.
Blaine is still recuperating from his eye injury, presumably because Darren Criss is busy replacing Harry Potter on Broadway.
When was the last time an episode didn't end with a musical number of some kind?
Favorite Song: Either "La Isla Bonita" because, well, Santana, or "Little Less Conversation", because it was terrible, but for once, it was supposed to be.
Finn: Mr. Schu, what's with the shiny coat? I thought you were Kurt.
Top Chef: Mentors
Once again, the least complicated challenge (cook something) results in the better food, and the best glimpse into the chef's various styles and personalities. In general, this season has featured a crop of rather uninteresting chefs, but we also got surprisingly few challenges like this, and that might be why, going into the finals, even the final four seem largely ciphers.
While the elimination challenges have been ridiculously gimmicky this season, the Quickfires (which is where the goofy gimmick stuff belongs) have continued to impress with some fun new ideas, and the Quickfire in this episode was another clever new idea, making the chefs stumble around blindfolded, choosing their ingredients (much to Tom's apparent delight). The wrinkle of choosing a car or a guaranteed spot in the finals was also inspired, even if Sarah should have chosen the car (always take the guaranteed money), though the fact that Sarah landed in the finals off so gimmicky a challenge is unfortunate (maybe save that offer for a more straightforward Quickfire next time).
Integrating the chefs' mentors into a challenge isn't anything new, whether its pairing them up in the finals or cooking for them, and while it was kinda nice to see the chefs get all emotional (and to hear some of their stories), we've spent so much time listening to Lindsay have a lady-chubby for Michelle Bernstein this season that my eyes started rolling as soon as it became clear the mentors were coming out. But we've got our final four now, and we're heading to British Columbia (sure, why not?) and hopefully the chefs will be given more opportunities to just cook.
Bummed to see Ed go, mainly because Lindsay and Sarah bug me, and I appreciated his laid back demeanor. He was also one of the few contestants this season with some semblance of personality.
I'll miss Grayson, but I'm glad Beverly came back to freak out Lindsay and Sarah. I've gone a weird roller coaster ride with her: first she bugged the crap out of me, then I felt bad for her, then she bugged me again, and now I'm glad she's back.
Nice of Paul to win the car. Now he has something to carry all his money home in. Seriously, let's just skip the finals and give him the title already.
Parks and Recreation: Operation Ann
I'll say this: pairing up Ann and Tom is certainly an idea I didn't see coming, but I probably should have. The show desperately needs to find a place for Ann now that her relationship with Chris is over and she's sharing time as Leslie's voice of reason with Ben, and Tom, in the wake of Entertainment 720's demise, is in a similar position (though he's been rudderless less longer than Ann). Their pairing makes a certain amount of sense within the context of the show as well. Ann, from the beginning, as shown a certain patience with man-children like Tom, while the right woman tends to dial down the sleeze inherent to Tom's charms, making it believable that Ann could be attracted to him. Parks and Rec has yet to lead me to astray, so I'm curious to see where this going.
This was a particularly strong episode all around (I don't think any show does Valentines Day as well as this one), but the clear highlight was Ron's uncharacteristic glee at helping Ben solve Leslie's laborious and byzantine sequence of scavenger hunt clues, in what was probably the best Ron Swanson story since the Tammys episode earlier in the season. This little reveals of Ron liking things everything about him suggests he shouldn't are part of what makes his character so great, and the show does a nice job of trotting them out sparingly.
Another nice "April is human after all moment", as she helps pair Ann (the person she loathes the most) with Tom.
Loved the look Ben shot the camera which made it clear he still had no idea why Leslie is so infatuated with Lil' Sebastian. No one does those camera looks better than Adam Scott.
Also hilarious: Andy about to shatter the case holding the stuffed raccoon, only to realize the back is open, only to end up shattering it anyway. Comedy gold, right there.
Leslie: Oh Ann, you beautiful spinster. I will find you a man.
30 Rock: Today You Are A Man
By all accounts, the long-rumored departure of Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock following this season has been scuttled, with Baldwin agreeing to return to the show for an additional two seasons. It's a good thing, because the idea that this show could exist without him at this point is unbelievable. All of which is my long-winded way of saying that once again, the Jack/Liz story carried this episode, as Liz attempted to negotiate a new contract with Jack using his own negotiating tactics, leading Jack to represent both Liz and himself in the ongoing negotiations. It allowed Baldwin to play Jack at his most Alpha Male, which is always a recipe for success.
Tracy and Jenna ended up in their usual funny-but-slight plot, forced to entertain a surly teen at a Bar Mitzvah in a story that suggested personal growth for the characters, but given both the show and the characters seems unlikely. Kenneth's unexpected resignation from the page program, however, seems like a legitimate, albeit likely short term, change, as I believe Kristen Schaal is slated to hang around for a few more episodes. And as much as I like Kristen Schaal and am happy to have her around, the Kenneth story fell the flattest for me. For one, Kenneth has never done much for me, for another, only last week Kenneth argued vehemently for the existence of the page program, and now he's walking away from it. His motivations for doing so are sound, but would have rung less contrived had this episode not aired so close to "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell".
Jack: Jack Donaghy: playing with himself. It’s a Jack-off!
Tracy: How Jewish is everyone here? Because I may need to change my act.
Tracy's Accountant: How Jewish is everyone here? Because I may need to change my act.
Saturday Night Live: Channing Tatum & Bon Iver
Well, that was pretty rough. Again, Channing Tatum seemed game for anything (and was deployed quite a bit) but unfortunately it seems like all he was asked to do was dance a lot. I get that he used to be a stripper, but still. Meanwhile, everyone else seemed to be phoning it in, with only a couple of memorable sketches and moments.
Cold Open: One of the better cold opens recently, I loved the mash-up of Gingrich's proposed space policies and the style of those crappy old sci-fi B movies to create a world where there would be open marriages for all. And Hader's Reaganbot was pretty awesome.
Monologue: Another annoying "pretend the cast members in the audience are different people" bit.
"The Cee-Lo Green Show": I wasn't a huge fan of this the first time around, and wasn't exactly thrilled to see it back so soon. But Tatum's Mathew McConaughey was pretty good, and Nasim Pedrad and Vanessa Bayer were quite fetching in their black dresses. Still, if we're going to have Keenan hosting a talk show while barely doing an impression, I'd rather have "What's Up With That?" back instead.
Spike TV's Downton Abbey: I haven't even watched the show, and this was probably the best sketch of the night. Samberg's narration really nailed it.
NFL Promo: The sketch with the most promise that was the least realized, as those annoying pop up promos are rife for mocking, but we pretty much just got "goofy, goofy, goofy, look up at the camera" a few times before the truly funny "everyone is drunk now" pop up at the very end.
Secret Word: And this again. Oy. Any episode featuring "Secret Word" is going to have to work that much harder to win me back, and this episode didn't.
Weekend Update: Per usual, a bright spot in the episode. The Lana Del Rey bit was actually really well written for how it both made of fun of her and made fun of people who make fun of her, as though being bad on SNL or wanting a singing career makes her history's greatest monster. And a solid impression by Wiig. Also, while I can easily kill a random half hour with an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri bugs the piss out of me, so I always appreciate it when Moynihan shows up to mock him.
Bat Mitzvah Dance: One of the few standout sketches of the night, mainly for the cutaways to Abby Elliot, though again, "hey, it's Channing Tatum, let's make him dance".
Tom Brady: And now we're in the dregs. A sketch predicated on the notion that Bobby Moynihan as a crass older woman being attractive to Tom Brady is funny.
Go-Techs Flex: I get what they were going for here, but it just didn't work for me.
Bongo's Clown Room: I remember liking this sketch the last time they did it, but this time out, I was just bored, and wondering what happened to this episode.
Favorite Sketch: Either Lana Del Rey's appearance, or the Downton Abbey (aka Fancy Entourage) commercial.
Gingrich: Not all of America is as forward-thinking as South Carolina!
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 4/13
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 5/13