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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Last Week in TV #3

Our biggest posts of the new season (remember when I pretended these were going to be shorter this season?), as a bunch of returning shows premiere and I continue to catch up from some irregular vacation viewing. Also, I watched the premieres of Modern Family and Elementary, but didn't make the time to write about them, so feel free to sound off on them in the comments if you're so inclined.

The Simpsons: Moonshine River


While the central premise of the episode was interesting (Bart looking up old girlfriends to find out what keeps turning off women from him), I don't think it was taken as far as it could have been, and the much-hullabalooed gamut of actresses returning to voice their various "Bart's girlfriend du jour" characters amounted, with the exception of Zooey Deschanel's Mary, to little more than a word each. It's also one of those plots that would have worked better if the show allowed its characters to age, such that Bart was a few years older when grappling with the issues he confronts in this episode. Meanwhile, the Marge/Lisa "finding cheap culture in New York" subplot contained some great gags (I especially enjoyed their attempts to see a Broadway show and the Baldwin/Sheen-Estevez feud).

Kent Brockman: This is Kent Brockman at the first annual Springfield Grand Prix, which, like all of our showcase town events, is not only poorly planned, it’s horribly executed!

Bart: But you love New York, now that your least favorite buildings have been obliterated...old Penn Station and Shea Stadium!


Bob's Burgers: Ear-sy Rider


The best show on Fox's Animation Domination block returns with a strong premiere. Hilarity always ensues when Louise is taken out of her comfort zone; just the shots of her head being desperately-covered by her hood were worth the price of admission, and there was plenty of other great material to come out of her attempts to win back her ears. The closing scene, in which the confrontation between the Belchers, the neighbors and the motorcycle gang escalates to hilarious levels, is a great snapshot of what makes the show work so well: it's love of misfits and the bizarre.

Teddy: Someone threw a sno-cone at my windshield this morning. I thought I hit a rainbow. It was terrifying.

Tina: You don’t want to mess with my sister. She’ll wear down your self esteem over a period of years.


Family Guy: Into Fat Air


I'm kind of hit or miss when Family Guy decides to go dark, and the idea of the Griffin's eating a kid seemed a little too dark for me. It isn't any worse than other stuff Family Guy has done; heck it isn't even as bad as what American Dad did later in the night, but it just felt dark for dark's sake. There wasn't anything inherently funny about it, and it didn't lead to much hilarity, dark or otherwise. Everything else was okay (the depiction of climbing Mount Everest was, I imagine, patently ridiculous, but it's Family Guy; that doesn't really bother me), with a surprisingly focused plotline throughout (everything spun off from the idea that the Griffins wanted to beat out the snooty family) and some decent gags on the periphery (like Brian wanting to pee on top of Everest, or the extended bit with Peter using salad dressing, then salad, to oil up his pecs, which cracked me the hell up for whatever reason). 

Peter: I’m told James Woods High leads the nation in teacher-to-student thing resting.


American Dad: Love, AD Style


Like Family Guy, this episode went to some dark places, but for whatever reason, it worked better for me here than there. Maybe because all the darkness was centered on Roger, a character who has a history of going incredibly dark and has an inherent "unreality" to him. Or maybe I'm just sick in an oddly specific way. The B story, featuring Stan attempting to sell his car, also escalated to a pretty dark place, but again, it worked, maybe because the idea of a lion attacking a woman leading to a car crash leading to a flaming lion attacking a flaming woman is over-the-top enough to counteract how disturbing that scenario is. At any rate, I laughed at it way more than I should have. Definitely not American Dad at its best, but still pretty solid.

Other Thoughts
The actress who voices Hayley, Rachael MacFarlane (Seth's sister) released a CD of her singing jazz standards a couple weeks ago; I know American Dad runs on a bizarre production schedule because of how Fox constantly pulls the show (this episode was produced back in 2010, I believe, and shelved while it waited its turns), so I wonder if that album was conceived way back then or more recently when the episode air date drew near. 

Stan: Everybody shoots everybody, it’s how we communicate in this family.


Once Upon A Time: Broken


Props to Once Upon a Time for seemingly embracing its fantasy elements: Emma's obstinacy was one of the most irritating parts of the show's inaugural season, as it seemed designed to prevent the show from getting too fantastical. Obviously, with Emma transplanted to Fairy Tale Land, magic alive and well in Storybrooke and everyone referring to themselves by their fairy tale names, that shouldn't be a problem anymore, and the show should be better (and more enjoyable) for it.

Other Thoughts
Emma seriously is a drag; the first thing she does when reunited with her parents is bawl them out for abandoning her. There's just no pleasing her...

That said, there's something seriously surreal about Emma and Snow acknowledging their relationship, given that both actresses have got to be pretty close in age. It was one thing when that relationship was all subtext to their interactions last season, but it's a lot more obvious now that Snow is referring to Emma as her daughter (this is probably how I'd feel if Cyclops and Cable ever ended up in a movie together...).

The show takes another page from Lost's book: no more Fairybacks, as the events of the fairy tale world are now happening contemporaneously to the events in Storybrooke. And color me curious about how this little chunk of Fairy Tale Land survived Regina's curse. 

I have no intelligent idea who the mysterious character who opened the episode is (another Lost callback), but I've seen speculation suggesting it's Rumpelstiltskin's son Baelfire, though mainly because the show is being secretive about his identity and that's the likeliest culprit.

Did Emma's touch reawaken Regina's magic permanently (meaning Regina can now use magic again) or did it just supercharge it for a brief period of time?


How I Met Your Mother: The Pre-Nup


This unfortunately suffered from an overly sitcom-y, by-the-numbers plot, but some of the stuff on the margins drew some big laughs (especially Robin's attraction to seeing herself on-air, complete with winks between past and present Robins). While Barney and Quinn being the one couple of the three (for now) to break up wasn't surprising in and of itself (especially since we knew it was only a matter of time), I was surprised that they were broken up this early in the season, and while their respective trust issues had certainly been established, this seemed like a rushed way to bring them to a head.

Other Thoughts
I was a little bothered by SagetTed's assertion that nothing interesting happened in the Summer of Love; it would have been interesting to see Victoria reunite with the group, at the very least.

If you didn't know, Michael Trucco's Nick (Robin's boyfriend), who made a brief appearance in an earlier season and whom SagetTed promised we'd see again, was intended to fill the Kal Penn role of "guy who keeps Robin and Barney apart" last season, but he became unavailable, which led to the creation of the Kevin character for Kal Penn.

Strange Compatriots, the German sitcom where one character is very neat and the other is very very neat, also cracked me up. “Ludwig has started to polish the doorknobs, but Wilhelm has already completed this task!”

Other funny stuff: Marshall's insistence on the existence of a toast ghost, the phrase "honka-honkas", and Lily actually having a slide whistle to mock Barney's future-impotency.
 

Revolution: No Quarter


While we have yet to hit the first "wow" episode of this series, it's continuing to do a nice job of building its world/premise, this time giving us a glimpse into the formation of the militia. Miles hand in that wasn't terribly surprising, given his friendship with Monroe and some of the spoilers from the "next week" previews, but I appreciated how the show left understated how the militia could begin as a force for good (Miles recognizing the need for some kind of local authority to help people post-blackout) before getting corrupted by personal ambition and the complexity of the situation (ie "who will police the police?").

Other Thoughts
I've said before that Charlie is the Luke to Miles' Han, and while the character is slowly getting more interesting, I realized an important distinction: no matter how much Luke whined, he still had a lightsaber and cool Force powers to counteract the whining. Charlie doesn't have anything like that yet.

I'm finding myself surprisingly enjoying the little interludes with Danny, a character I immediately dismissed as another "annoying male teen" character, the kind that plagued Terra Nova and V. His relative cool in the face of his incarceration is refreshing, and taking down the militia guy who was assaulting him was pretty badass.

I hope Mark Pellegrino sticks around.

For what it's worth, the show has already received a full season pickup from NBC; The Event did as well, two seasons ago, so let's hope this show doesn't go quite as off the rails as that one did.


Last Resort: Captain


Definitely a show that, in its pilot, is heavy on plot and light on character (pretty much everyone is a broad archetype, at best, at this point), but that's always less a problem for me, and like Revolution, the premise is intriguing enough to keep me interested while I wait for the characters to get fleshed out. Also like Revolution, there's plenty of questions surrounding the premise, but that's not really a problem coming out of the show's first episode. Plus, Andre Braugher is awesome and can elevate pretty much anything. 

Other Thoughts
When I heard the premise of this show, I assumed the sub crew would be taking over a deserted island, leaving episodes to balance between stories of survival on the island and the overall political mystery. It makes sense, dramatically, that they'd land on an island with people, but I was still surprised when it happened.

One of the issues I have with mutiny stories is that so much of military action is built on the idea of following orders; doing something arguably horrific without question because that's how you've been trained and it's what everyone does. But once someone at the top starts questioning orders, it becomes harder to not wonder why people lower on the totem pole aren't also questioning orders (for example, when Andre Baugher orders the missile to be fired at Washington, it happens without argument, but if I'd just watched my captain disobey a similar order, I'd find it a lot harder to obey his orders instantaneously, without question). Hopefully, this is something the show will address.

I have very little idea how the day-to-day operation of sub works, but based simply on the naval-based movies and TV shows I've seen, it struck me as odd that everyone referred to Scott Speedman's character as "XO" (his position) rather than by his rank ("Commander" or "Lt. Commander").

This show had a cast filled with "hey, it's that guy!" actors, from the T-1000 to Karen from Falling Skies to Karofsky from Glee

I would totally watch an hour long show every week that was just Autumn Reeser talking about military technology in her underwear. I'm just saying...


Glee: Makeover


Due to the circumstances of my vacation, I ended up watching this episode and skipping over the previous one. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I figured I may as well write up this episode nonetheless.

So I have no idea how the second episode of the season played out, but this one continued the surprising focus of the premiere, giving us just a pair of stories in each location while advancing some subplots. I again find myself admiring Glee's (relative) restraint, even while continuing to roll my eyes at its inherent Glee-ness, like Sarah Jessica Parker's Magic Pixie Dreamboss or Finn's sudden appearance at the most dramatic of moments (when there was a knock on Rachel's door, Mrs. Teebore asked, "do you think it's Finn?" And I said, "this is Glee. Of course it's Finn."). That said, the plot turns of this episode felt almost as by-the-numbers as Mr. Schuester's lackluster theme ideas. I think a little restraint and focus can do this show a world of good, but I wouldn't want it to lose its manic energy, either.

Other Thoughts
So the whole student election think went down a hell of lot faster this season than last. Not that I'm complaining, mind you...

Lots of great little in-jokes about the show's ability to discard/ignore it's own continuity.

Needless to say, I did not appreciate the "Cyclops is gay" joke. 

I love Stoner Brett. "Separation of powers!"

I also love that Brittany still calls Blaine "Blaine Warbler". 

Favorite Song: Another lackluster round of songs for me, with Blaine's episode-opening "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" easily winning the night.

Artie: So I can be Cheney to your Bush?
Brittany: I’d rather be landing strip.

Sam: Stop giving tests. They’re hard and there’s way too many of them.


30 Rock: The Beginning of the End


A surprisingly plot-heavy premiere for 30 Rock, though I suppose it needs to setup the plots for the show's final season. I could have done without the Kenneth/Hazel business (Kenneth has always done very little for me, and pairing him with "crazier more psychotic female Kenneth" does even less, even in the hands of Kristen Schaal) but everything else was pretty funny, especially all the various NBC shows, most of which landed squarely in the "funny because they could very easily be true" zone (I mean God Cop? I can't believe that hasn't actually shown up somewhere already).

Other Thoughts
Despite my issues with the Kenneth/Hazel plot, I did enjoy the whackadoo dinner party, especially the fact that Tracy took all the bizarre stuff, like pills as appetizers, at face value. Also, Dharma ice cream.

I love that Jack has a literal green light he uses for green-lighting shows.  

Tracy's descriptions of French: the language spoken by Nazi Germany's most enthusiastic collaborators. That made me chuckle, as did Jack referring to Bane as his "good friend". Also, the running gag about Paas egg dying kits was fantastic.

I'd totally watch Homonyms

Jack: Good peacock to you.


Parks and Recreation: Soda Tax


This was very much a classic episode of P&R, featuring Leslie struggling to decide on the proper course of action when presented with two alternatives, each with its own pros and cons, helped along in her decision-making process via sage advice from Ron. It even featured that old staple of P&R, Leslie taking the issue to a town hall meeting featuring the whacky denizens of Pawnee. While such an approach could have come off as derivative, given all the changes the characters have gone through, it was instead refreshing to see that the show could still tell these kinds of stories, and despite, say, Leslie being a City Councilwoman now, these stories can be just as funny and well-executed.

Other Thoughts
I didn't get a chance to write down all the great quotes, but the entire sequence in Leslie's meeting with the restaurant representative in which she detailed the various sizes ("Well, it's roughly the size of a 2-year-old child, if the child were liquified"), and then later explained how Water Zero actually contains a fair amount of calories was fantastic. So was Andy stripping down and collapsing after running two miles (exercise prompts a similar reaction in me) and Ben and April "negotiating" over April giving 12% instead of 15%. 

Also, Andy resorting to wearing a bandana as underwear? Classic. 

4 comments:


  1. You ever watch the Alcatraz finale?

    The Simpsons: Moonshine River

    It's also one of those plots that would have worked better if the show allowed its characters to age

    Haven't they had a flash-forward in time on occasion, at least as a dream or "imaginary story"? I wonder if it wouldn't suit the show to keep a future timeline (or timelines — say one with Bart as an older teenager and one with him as a grown man) in its back pocket to revisit sparingly.

    Once Upon a Time: Broken

    That was a really tiny postcard that Maybe Grown Baelfire got. I haven't bought a new postcard in probably a decade, so perhaps the standard dimensions actually got smaller to meet a new weight limit for postage on a postcard or something, although I expect that I would have read about that. All I could think when looking at that scene with the postcard after the opening, however, was how frickin' strangely tiny that postcard was.

    Props to Once Upon a Time for seemingly embracing its fantasy elements

    Yes! I must say that having Fairy-Tale Land still exist in a scorched-Earth way after the curse and, especially, stranding Emma there is a brilliant move.

    How I Met Your Mother: Pre-Nup

    Now why would you pick that screencap? 8^)

    I agree with your shout-out to some of the funny bits in the ep, but agree even more about how eye-rolling "sitcom" much of it was. Klaus is a little (okay, a lot) too broad for the show in an extended capacity — and plot-wise it was dumb to bring him back, regardless. That scene with Barney and his boss was likewise over the top, although I did laugh at the "That's her ringtone!" reveal in much the same way that Lily actually had the slide whistle.

    Also true is that it would've been nice to see Victoria re-meet the group, although there was almost something more comforting about seeing her just hanging out as part of the gang matter-of-fact. Like I said at the end of last season, Ted and Victoria need to have one hell of a heartbreaking, believable breakup to justify her placeholder status this season given how so many of us viewers find her such a great fit; the episode where they met and re-met is still a romantic standout of the series.

    Last Resort: Captain

    When I heard the premise of this show, I assumed the sub crew would be taking over a deserted island

    The fact that they didn't, or more specifically the fact that they landed on what's mostly a little tropical retreat, is what had me resisting this show. Just based on the groaner of a title, I'd written it off, but the strong reviews got me to check it out.

    One of the issues I have with mutiny stories is that so much of military action is built on the idea of following orders

    I feel the same way, although I think that the struggle of the characters within the show and (something that I admit shouldn't have to be taken into account) comments that I read in a feature article about officers actually being trained to question orders that come through unexpected channels helped me through this.

    it struck me as odd that everyone referred to Scott Speedman's character as "XO" (his position) rather than by his rank ("Commander" or "Lt. Commander")

    From what I gather, he should be referred to by rank directly ("You have the conn, Commander") but described by his position ("The XO has the conn").

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  2. Glee: Makeover

    I have no idea how the second episode of the season played out

    For my money it had a couple of the show's funniest lines ever, and is also worth watching just for a Cheerios dance number in which each of them appears to be holding a bat'leth.

    This episode was decent enough, kind-of meh on the songs as you mention and with the reappearance of Finn executed in thuddingly obvious standard TV fashion (of course he didn't call ahead, and of course he shows up just when Rachel's gonna get romantic with another fella), but still juggling everything in precariously interesting fashion. More Brittany is always welcome, since for the most part the greater exposure has to my surprise failed to ruin what's so blessedly awesome about her.

    30 Rock: The Beginning of the End

    I'll just ditto everything that you said about this. As much as the show's clever throwaway gags sort-of seem to wallow in their cleverness, they are clever and they rarely overstay their moment.

    Tracy's line about French was hilarious in how it started off sounding completely ass-backwards then looped around to become an intelligent zinger; him realizing that he had the most stable home life of the bunch was funny too. I've been dreading the focus on Jenna's wedding, since a little of her and Will Forte as her boyfriend go a very long way. Liz deserves to settle down as contentedly as possible, but I haven't quite warmed up to Criss and I wish that they hadn't broken up her relationship with Matt Damon's pitch-perfect character for, I assume, the sole reason that he couldn't be around much.

    Parks and Recreation: Soda Tax

    Short of regurgitating a bunch of quotes, which this season I'm trying to keep from constantly pausing the show to type up, I don't have anything to add, so, yeah, I see your dilemma in covering this.

    Revolution: No Quarter

    I skipped over your writeup of this since I haven't seen the episode yet, although I haven't quite given up on sticking with the series for now.

    Having got ahold of a screener for the Elementary pilot, I did watch that, and I liked it well enough. I'm not sure how long it'll stay in my schedule of attempted viewing first-run, but it was compelling enough on its own merits that it being a riff on Sherlock Holmes is just enough icing on the cake — although, winky as it might have been, I actually wanted the other characters to not be able to believe that his parents named him Sherlock Holmes, rather than it just being his name and him being "the" Sherlock Holmes of this reality where Sherlock Holmes apparently doesn't exist as a literary character.

    I also tried to get into Vegas, despite not planning on watching it, after having seen some solid reviews recommend it, but halfway through the pilot realized that I had too much other stuff piling up and that the sooner I bailed on it I would care that much less that I wasn't watching it.

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  3. I don't have much time for commenting, but you'd better believe we laughed at the cyclops is gay joke because we knew it would get under your skin

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  4. @Blam: You ever watch the Alcatraz finale?

    I did (I think I wrote about it too, briefly...aha, I did!). I remember being largely frustrated by the sudden potential the show presented in its final episode.

    Haven't they had a flash-forward in time on occasion, at least as a dream or "imaginary story"?

    They have, several times, actually, and in the more recent cases, most of those "future stories" actually built on the events of previous ones, as you suggest, creating a sort of "future continuity" for the show.

    But of course, Simpsons has no problem tossing out continuity as it sees fit, and it usually reserves those future stories for a bigger gimmick (ie "Lisa becomes President") than the story in this episode.

    Now why would you pick that screencap?

    I have no idea what you're talking about... ;)

    Ted and Victoria need to have one hell of a heartbreaking, believable breakup to justify her placeholder status this season

    And, sadly, given the way the Barney/Quinn relationship ended, I'm more worried than ever that we won't get that (not that I was a huge fan of Barney and Quinn, but their relationship was a big deal for awhile there, or was supposed to be at least, and it was shut down in a pretty hand-waving manner).

    The fact that they didn't, or more specifically the fact that they landed on what's mostly a little tropical retreat, is what had me resisting this show.

    I might have been more resistant to the show had I known beforehand the island was populated. I was totally picturing a more direct Lost homage, at least in terms of setting.

    From what I gather, he should be referred to by rank directly ("You have the conn, Commander") but described by his position ("The XO has the conn").

    Ah, that makes sense, thanks. I'll have to watch with that in mind.

    ...and is also worth watching just for a Cheerios dance number in which each of them appears to be holding a bat'leth.

    Now I'm really looking forward to watching it. :)

    I've been dreading the focus on Jenna's wedding, since a little of her and Will Forte as her boyfriend go a very long way.

    Agreed on both. I also really like Matt Damon's character and wish he'd stuck around, though I've mostly enjoyed Cyclops so far.

    I'm not sure how long it'll stay in my schedule of attempted viewing first-run, but it was compelling enough on its own merits that it being a riff on Sherlock Holmes is just enough icing on the cake

    Yeah, I can foresee it quickly slipping from my "watch it ASAP" roster, as most of the procedurals I watch (like Castle or The Closer) I tend to put off until I've watched other, more serialized things, no matter how much I may enjoy them, simply because they're easier to dip in and out of.

    I also tried to get into Vegas, despite not planning on watching it, ... but halfway through the pilot realized that I had too much other stuff piling up and that the sooner I bailed on it I would care that much less that I wasn't watching it.

    You got further than I did; I was mildly intrigued by the premise and the players involved, but decided I had enough to watch already (especially since I'm still behind on Revenge) and didn't even bother trying it.

    @Sarah:
    I don't have much time for commenting, but you'd better believe we laughed at the cyclops is gay joke because we knew it would get under your skin


    I'm pretty sure I could hear your laughter. And I was in Kansas at the time.

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