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Friday, September 28, 2012

Last Week in TV #2

Well, I didn't get a chance to watch last Thursday's Glee, but here's what I did watch in a vacation-shortened week. 

How I Met Your Mother: Farhampton


As most plot/mythology episodes tend to be, this episode was a little sparse on laughs, focusing instead on advancing both the Ted and the Robin/Barney romances and teasing out more hints of the mother. But for what should be/may be the show's final season premiere, that's all right. As someone who has long since given up on caring all that much about the identity of the mother and how the show's various clues to that end connect, caring instead about just watching these characters interact and make me laugh (making me, I guess, this show's version of the people who bugged me for watching Lost in a similar way), I can't deny feeling a certain excitement about knowing the show has reached its endgame. We don't know who the mother is, but we've seen her and Ted together at the place and time where they will meet, and the show still managed to make that feel like a big deal.

Other Thoughts
The comedic highlights: Marshall's excitement at being asked to be a bridesmaid, and the quick cut to Barney declaring "challenge accepted" after the idea of him seducing someone over the phone is floated

For those that haven't heard, while this season is supposedly the show's last, CBS is in negotiations with Carter and Bays, the show's creators, and the cast to return for a ninth season. In the meantime, Carter and Bays have approached this season as though it's the last, with a plan B in place should the show be renewed for another season. They've also said publicly that the show will only return if the entire cast decides to come back.

The turducken narrative in this episode is hilariously ridiculous: SagatTed is recounting to his kids the time he recalled to an old lady at the train station about reminding Robin about how he had to climb in and out of church windows to help Victoria run away from her wedding. That's just...wow... 

I never really thought of it last season, when it was revealed that Ted meets the mother at Robin and Barney's wedding (or, as this episode suggests, on their wedding day/in the vicinity of their wedding), but that actually does a lot to validate the idea that Ted started his story with the details of how he met Robin. You can draw a (admittedly squiggley and sometimes circular) line from that moment to him meeting the mother as a result of Robin's wedding, and thus, from the show's first episode to this one (and, presumably, it's last).

Barney's 52 second recap of the show thus far was also a nice little "this is our last season" nod.

I will never not enjoy the mining of the German language for laughs (for the record, I have no idea if Thomas Lennon's words for a soul mate and the person who is almost your soul mate are made up or not (I've never encountered them), but their length and hyper-specificity, making literal translations difficult and long-winded, are very much in keeping with the language). 


Revolution: Chained Heat


This episode didn't address all the concerns raised by the pilot, but it did offer a glimpse at how the show could work moving forward, giving the characters smaller objectives to overcome each week, building towards their main goal, while details of the world and larger plots simmer in the background. Charlie continues to be a frustrating character, but her transition in the course of this episode suggests there's hope for her. While going from "don't kill him" to "I'll kill him" could seem abrupt, the distinction between killing someone to make her life easier vs. killing someone to help other helps sell the transition, and is a strong hook on which to hang her character, allowing her to remain involved in the action as something more than an annoyance without turning her into a Miles-esque badass and also allowing her to remain heroically righteous. 

Other Thoughts
I'd like to take credit for the reveal that Elizabeth Mitchell's character is still alive, but it was pretty obvious from the casting.

Giancarlo Esposito was fantastic once more, effortlessly slipping from one emotion to the next.

I was surprised to see Charlie split off from Step Mom Doctor and Google Guy so quickly, but apparently they're going to be our connection to the "Power Medallion" plot.

Putting aside the ongoing issues with scenes of playgrounds covered with overgrowth followed by scenes set in corn fields with nice even rows, there seems to be an almost yellow filter applied to the scenes set outside during the day, making everything seem unnaturally sunny. I'm not sure what that's about, but it's getting somewhat annoying.

Dr. Bitz commented that hauling that helicopter through the woods via chain gang probably wasn't the most effective method of transporting it; I reminded him that the Pharaohs managed to build the pyramids of Egypt with similar methods, so what does he know?

Remember to print out those digital pictures, folks!


Saturday Night Live: Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Mumford & Sons


This was an amusing episode, in that it managed to reach a pretty consistent level of "amusing" with its sketches, with nothing really rising too far above or below that line. Joseph Gordon Levitt pretty much picked up right where he left off with his last hosting gig, bringing his manic energy and willingness to do anything to all his performances (and while I didn't particularly love anything he did in this episode, I would like to see if he could harness that energy in a old fashioned screwball comedy of some sort).  So while nothing here was fantastic, nothing was terrible either, and the end result was pleasant enough.

Favorite Sketch: A toss up between the second "Son of the Dos Equis Guy" sketch and the hypnotist sketch, simply because the line "he swam two laps and then puked, like a goat! They had to drain the pool!" and Taran Killam's naked and mating Tyrannosaurus Rex elicited the biggest laughs from me.
Least Favorite Sketch: Either The Finer Things, which had an amusing premise but little else beyond that, or the family singing about Joseph Gordon-Levitt in drag, which wasn't weird enough to work. 

Other Thoughts
Jay Pharoah's stock continues to climb; he was in this episode a lot.

Robert Pattinson brooding? Brilliant. 

The political material in this episode was pretty good, both the "Undecided Voter" ad and the GOP tampons ad.

I was pleased to see how few recurring sketches there were, with the only one in this episode being the "four guys reminisce at a bar", a good-not-great recurring bit. Hopefully, in Kristen Wiig's absence, this is a trend the show will embrace this season. 

Another strong Weekend Update, with Kate McKinnon's Ann Romney being a revelation and good enough to make up for the weak "old friends of the dictator-du-jour whisper things about him" routine, arguably the worst recurring Weekend Update bit now that Garth and Kat are dead. 

Kelly Ripa: One time I shut my eyes for a second and accidentally slept for a year and a half. That’s why I stopped blinking!

Ann Romney: The Democrats get George Clooney; if you’re a Republican you get to shake Jon Voight’s cold lizard hand.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 0/2
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 2/2
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 1/2 

8 comments:

  1. I agree with you that HIMYM has become more about the journey than the destination (and that it makes me a bit of a hypocrite, feeling the same way about Lost as you did), but I still hope all the clues about the mother come together satisfactorily in the end. I just won't be as irriated if they don't as I was with Lost

    "The turducken narrative in this episode is hilariously ridiculous..."

    I had to go back and re-watch the beginning to make sure I wasn't imagining the layers of the story being told here.

    The hypnotist sketch was my favorite on SNL this week. I was cracking up both at Taran Killam and at Joseph Gordon-Levitt's voice.

    That said, I can't figure out why people love Gordon-Levitt so much. He's all right. I don't think he's some revelatory discovery like so many critics seem to believe. I once saw him referred to on Ain't It Cool News as "the finest young actor of this generation." Really?? Every character he plays (except on SNL) is just Tommy Solomon with a different name/occupation/etc.

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  2. "Dr. Bitz commented that hauling that helicopter through the woods via chain gang probably wasn't the most effective method of transporting it; I reminded him that the Pharaohs managed to build the pyramids of Egypt with similar methods, so what does he know?"

    You misinterpreted my comment. I wasn't saying using a chain gang to pull a helicopter through the woods wasn’t the most effective method of transporting it in this world. I was saying that by making the chain gang members pull the helicopter to the point of complete exhaustion and then killing anybody who falls and can’t get up within 30 seconds is not a very effective method.

    If you’re a tyrant using slaves to transport heavy objects there’s no doubt you gotta crack the whip and make people pay for being lazy. But killing them is no good.

    If you make them pull a helicopter until one person literally can’t go on (for a while at least) and then kill that person it only increases the load for other people which increases the likelihood they won’t be able to go on and since you already set the precedent that you kill people who can’t go on you have to kill that next person but now you’re increasing the load again and soon you’re only two thirds of the way there and down to three people impossibly trying to budge a helicopter. That’s no good.

    It’s simple math people.

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  3. @Matt: I still hope all the clues about the mother come together satisfactorily in the end. I just won't be as irriated if they don't as I was with Lost.

    Agreed on both counts. In the end, I hope all the clues do add up, but at the moment, I care far less about making sure they do/will than I do about just being entertained by the show.

    Which of course, makes me a Lost hypocrite. :)

    He's all right. I don't think he's some revelatory discovery like so many critics seem to believe.

    Yeah, I tend to enjoy most of what he does (including both his turns hosting SNL, but at the same time, he's not at a level yet where I rush out to a movie just because he's in it. And as much as I enjoyed his roles in stuff like Inception and TDKR, it isn't like he was breaking new acting ground with them.

    I do have a friend who thinks he's all sorts of dreamy, so that might be part of the appeal, though certainly not on a critical level.

    @Dr. Bitz: It’s simple math people.

    Touche. I was also thinking of the pharaohs, and how they had a seemingly limitless supply of slaves, so they could work them to death and then just slot a new one in without having to worry about increasing the workload on the remaining slaves, whereas in the case of this helicopter, there was a finite slave pool to draw from.

    That said, you're clearly better suited for being a tyrannical dictator than me, though that shouldn't surprise anyone...

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  4. How I Met Your Mother: Farhampton

    Teebore: We don't know who the mother is, but we've seen her and Ted together at the place and time where they will meet, and the show still managed to make that feel like a big deal.

    I agree with all that you said about this, basically.

    After they panned up to the yellow umbrella obscuring Mom-to-Be's face, I actually said, out loud, "Niiiiiiice." I was alone, which you may chicken-and-egg all you like.

    Teebore: but that actually does a lot to validate the idea that Ted started his story with the details of how he met Robin

    Yes! I'm pretty sure that I mentioned here last season that it was strange that, if (and we've been told it's for sure) Robin isn't the mother, Ted began his story with meeting her rather than meeting Barney or Marshall & Lily.

    Teebore: I will never not enjoy the mining of the German language for laughs

    Most of my German is from comic books, but I became aware of what you say in college when my girlfriend studied German. It's not just that there are extant words for ridiculously specific things; you can build words for ridiculously specific things. You can basically come up with one word for the majority of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly".

    Still, I must admit that my tolerance for the kind of broad shtick that involved Klaus is in short supply, even as I also admit that I loved the humor of him actually using "kindergarten" as a German word.

    Revolution: Chained Heat

    Teebore: I'd like to take credit for the reveal that Elizabeth Mitchell's character is still alive, but it was pretty obvious from the casting.

    It's basically the series-length version of "the most recognizable guest star to pop up in a crime procedural did it (or at least was intimately involved in the crime)".

    Teebore: Giancarlo Esposito was fantastic once more, effortlessly slipping from one emotion to the next.

    Do you watch Breaking Bad? I forget. He's so good in that; Once Upon a Time really failed him, in my estimation, moreso as the Genie than as the newspaper editor in Storybrooke, although whether that was the fault of the script or his fault in opting to camp it up a bit too much I have no idea.

    My big problem with the revelation of the woman in the house with the magic doohickey is that hers just happened to be the house that Charlie's brother — I already forget everyone else's name — stumbled upon in the pilot. Monroe's people might've been taking a path that veered near there for some particular reason, but it's still too much of a coincidence.

    Saturday Night Live: Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Mumford and Sons

    Teebore: I would like to see if he could harness that energy in a old fashioned screwball comedy of some sort

    Have you seen 500 Days of Summer? I didn't enjoy the uneven tone, even though it was part of the point of the movie, but there was a lot to like.

    I thought that JGL was a bit better suited to his character in Inception than in Dark Knight Returns. To me, as much as I appreciate how game he is on SNL, he actually has an extremely limited, stagey, rather anachronistic range that basically consists of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.

    Anyway, I too found the episode okay, maybe a little more underwhelming than you did overall. "Undecided Voters" was great. Weekend Update was much better than the previous Thursday's, as was the next Thursday's; it's a shame that they kicked off the limited-engagement return to primetime with generally weak material. I liked the "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" skit having such a (different kind of) random ending, dancing off into the studio, and indeed I wish that the show would end skits randomly / abruptly / Pythonically more often.

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  5. PS: I could maybe see JGL playing a sort of even-more-ridiculous version of NPH's Barney on HIMYM, actually, perhaps scaring Barney straight once and for all, leading to him settling down with Robin.

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  6. @Blam: It's basically the series-length version of "the most recognizable guest star to pop up in a crime procedural did it (or at least was intimately involved in the crime)"

    Ha! Yes indeed.

    Do you watch Breaking Bad? I forget.

    I do not, though I've heard universally good things about Esposito there. I watched the first, oh, five episodes or so of Breaking Bad back in the pre-DVR days, but ultimately walked away because it was so, so unrelenting dark. Like, Walking Dead has nothing on it. Even then, I thought those episodes were fantastic, but I couldn't bring myself to keep watching, and it was getting hard to keep up with via live viewing/VCR recordings anyway.

    Have you seen 500 Days of Summer?

    Yes. I enjoyed it, though like you, had some reservations.

    he actually has an extremely limited, stagey, rather anachronistic range that basically consists of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.

    Not only do I agree with that assessment, I now want to see him as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in a Guys and Dolls remake.

    it's a shame that they kicked off the limited-engagement return to primetime with generally weak material.

    Yeah, with all the election material they had to work with, I would liked to have seen stronger work from those Thursday segments.

    I could maybe see JGL playing a sort of even-more-ridiculous version of NPH's Barney on HIMYM, actually, perhaps scaring Barney straight once and for all, leading to him settling down with Robin.

    That would be pretty awesome. I could see his energy, in limited doses, fitting in well on that show.

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  7. @Teebore: I watched the first, oh, five episodes or so of Breaking Bad back in the pre-DVR days, but ultimately walked away because it was so, so unrelenting dark.

    Yeah, I hear you. The script and acting and cinematography are all first-rate, really some of the best TV has to offer, but I still can't say that I always enjoy the show. And that leads to me falling behind too often, on nights when I just don't want to see something that dark, which only makes things worse because marathonning it is out of the question; I have to watch something light afterwards. I haven't seen The Wire for the same reason, to be honest, but I will; I will.

    @Teebore: Not only do I agree with that assessment, I now want to see him as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in a Guys and Dolls remake.

    Right? My other go-to was gonna be Jimmy Olsen in a 1940s take on Superman, but it'd have to be 1940s take on Superman where he's allowed to crack himself up all the time. This is why I was at least half-convinced that he'd be playing The Riddler in Dark Knight Rises when the casting news hit; maybe the tone wouldn't be right for Nolan's Batman, but Levitt would be perfect for Eddie Nigma. You couldn't wipe that smirk off his face with frickin' chloroform.

    Although I did see Looper the other night, and he was good in that. The general consensus among folks I know who've seen it, me included, is that it's a surprisingly strong film.

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  8. @Blam: This is why I was at least half-convinced that he'd be playing The Riddler in Dark Knight Rises when the casting news hit; maybe the tone wouldn't be right for Nolan's Batman, but Levitt would be perfect for Eddie Nigma.

    Huh. Now that you mention it, he would have made a damn fine Riddler (and I think Nolan could have made the Riddler fit into his universe).

    The general consensus among folks I know who've seen it, me included, is that it's a surprisingly strong film.

    That's the general consensus I've heard as well. I want to check it out at some point; I'm a sucker for stories involving time travel.

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