Friday, February 15, 2013
Last Week in TV #21
A full slate this week. Next week may be a bit light, as Mrs. Teebore will be out of town, but I am planning on watching a few things while she's gone, so we'll still have enough for a post.
The Simpsons: Love is a Many Splintered Thing
A largely frustrating episode. If the show wants to bring back Mary Spuckler twice in a season, fine, but do something different with the character then. I know that, being voiced by Zooey Deschanel, it isn't like she's going to hang around as Bart's girlfriend full time, but ending every one of her appearances with Bart heartbroken gets repetitive.
It was also annoying how what started out as a Bart episode turned into another "Homer/Marge relationship" episode, though I suppose there's some mileage to be gotten out of the idea that their relationship is affecting Bart's.
The Woody Allen bookends were amusing. I chuckled pretty hard when Lisa popped up as Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Also, props for playing the actual Robert Caro audio book of Passage of Power.
Lisa: Aside from being lumped together and generalized about, it’s the one thing all women hate.
Bart: I’ll be way more attentive to your needs on the seesaw. I’ll stay down there as long as you want.
Bob's Burgers: My Fuzzy Valentine
Bob's Burgers nails another holiday, continuing a pretty impressive run in that regard. What really makes this episode work is that Bob's desire to find a better Valentines Day gift isn't motivated by a fear that Linda will leave him if he fails, or of angry retribution at her hands. She's perfectly content with the half ass gifts he thinks are sufficient, and it isn't until the kids push him to do better (all as a ploy to get out of school), does he embark on his quest. It's a clever bit of plotting with a touch of heart that is reminiscent of classic Simpsons, and is a welcome break from the sitcom cliche of the angry, put-upon housewife.
Linda, who sometimes comes up short when separated from the rest of the cast, had a great little B-plot in the speed dating stuff. Nice to see the world of the show continue to expand.
Louise: Tell me exactly what was wrong with the car was it a GASKET?
Tina: That goes in the butt-bank.
Family Guy: Valentines Day in Quahog
While the end result was funny enough, this episode as a whole wasn't quite the biting satire of Gary Marshall-produced, holiday-themed, All Star-casted movies with interconnecting plotlines suggested by the opening. Instead, it was more a regular episode of Family Guy done in the style of those films (with shades of The Simpsons "22 Short Films About Springfield" tossed in). Which, again, not bad, but not quite what was promised by the opening.
American Dad: Max Jets
A solid episode, one which uses one of the show's best models in pitting the family against Roger in some capacity, causing their morality to decline in the process. Roger usually works best when he's intricately involved with the rest of the family, rather than off on his own, and it's always fun to see him take a disguise to extreme lengths (such as creating a love triangle with himself as two sides and plotting to kill himself off so as to inherit all his own money). The extended sequence in which the family tries to kill Roger only to be felled themselves by their own attempts, capped off by Stan's hilarious weakness for soup, was easily the highlight.
This one required some pretty serious reinvention to work (the Smiths being hard up for money has never really been an issue before), but it wasn't too distracting a continuity error to inhibit the fun.
I love that Klaus kept pointing out Max was just Roger in disguise.
Francine: I want to be the mother of the first boy to whack it on the moon!
Once Upon a Time: Tiny
This has been a rough stretch for this show in terms of fairybacks. Whereas this one at least told us a new story, instead of filling in largely superfluous details from previous flashbacks, the whole thing felt rather pointless (was it truly necessary to show us all the details of Hurley getting betrayed by James?) and dumb (I find it hard to believe two humans with poison swords could take out all the giants. I mean, just kick them away).
Stupid Regina-being-evil-again aside (which is apparently what they're doing...), the Storybrooke stuff in this episode was pretty fun. Snow and Charming brought the kind of fun adventuring energy to the giant chase that they used to bring to the fairybacks, and I loved the extended, on-the-run discussion of what Charming's name actually is.
Also, while the fairyback was pretty rough, I love the idea of a human-sized Tiny becoming the eighth "dwarf". It's role that suits Jorge Garcia far, far better than that of an angry giant, and I hope he pops up again in Storybrooke.
Meanwhile, "Mr. Gold's adventures with the TSA" was far more enjoyable than it had any right to be, in part because it was fun to see him as such a fish out of water and because it was fun to see Emma in control for once. His anger/desolation towards the end was a bit muddy (he's angry at his loss of power/magic? Worried about finding his son?), but hopefully will be made clear in the next episode.
The continued tension between Charming and Snow over whether or not to return to Fairy Tale Land is also appreciated. I also can't help but appreciate any show that uses the term "magic beans" as often and as earnestly as this one does.
Snow is pretty off the mark as far as Regina having no claim to Henry, because legally speaking, she absolutely does. That said, it makes a lot of sense for Emma to pull Henry out of Storybrooke with Cora running around.
So now Amnesiac Belle is teaming up with Ethan Embry to, I dunno, expose magic to the world? I'm not sure where this is heading, but the idea of exposing Storybrooke to the world is an intriguing one.
Little touches I appreciated: Ruby visiting Belle with a basket, Hook trying to summon Cora with a Queen of Hearts card.
More Lost references: Emma, Gold and Henry are flying Ajira airlines, the airline which brought the Oceanic Six back to the island in season five.
Wow, is the "big surprise" they're hyping for the next episode the most obvious thing ever, or what?
How I Met Your Mother: Bad Crazy
This was a relatively lackluster episode, another one too broad and sitcom-y to be truly effective. There were certainly some bits I enjoyed (and like Ted, I can't not appreciate Abby Elliot in lingerie and cowboy boots), but both plot lines felt largely disconnected from the characters, no matter how hard SagetTed tried to sell us on Jeanette being some kind of turning point for Ted. I can usually wave away most of the relationship nonsense if the material surrounding it is funny enough, but this material wasn't.
Future Robin repeatedly revealing more details of what happened with Marvin wasn't quite as funny as it needed to be for the time it was given, but I did appreciate how Future Robin and Lily started to speed up their repeated opening lines as time progressed, and the payoff that the little old lady was actually Mike Tyson was pretty good.
That said, how long was Lily chasing down that bus?
Jeanette is the last girl Ted dates before meeting the Mother. As I said, I don't quite buy the idea that she somehow triggered his desire to settle down (that's pretty much been his schtick since the first episode), but that's still an interesting notation nonetheless. At the very least, it meets that whatever else the next season holds, it probably can't feature a ton of new girlfriends for Ted (unless after this he just has a repeated series of one night stands before meeting the Mother).
Barney: So you rented a Marilyn Monroe movie?
Ted: No, we had a seance.
Barney: Oh, screw loose, that’s the problem!
Barney: We went to get subs. We got you one, though! … We didn’t get you one.
Top Chef: Glacial Gourmand
You almost have to feel bad for the producers: after the whole Kristen debacle and Josie's subsequent departure, things have been pretty smooth sailing. No antagonistic personalities, the remaining contestants pretty much all get along, each one is being eliminated more or less in the expected order. While this doesn't always make for the most engaging TV, it is kind of nice to be able to watch the ramp up to the end without all the BS on which reality show producers thrive.
That said, it sounds like there might be some teeth gnashing on the part of the audience when the Last Chance Kitchen winner is revealed. Then again, that could have just been clever editing.
They are really dragging this thing out - remember when "final three" meant "we're picking the winner"? Now we're down to two, but not really, because LCK is coming back, and we're going to LA, which means this whole Alaskan trip was essentially some kind of pre-finale finale detour. Which, whatever, but it seems odd.
Those shots of Alaska were, indeed, pretty gorgeous.
Brooke is just a goddamned cooking machine at this point, isn't she (though she's apparently scared of darn near everything)? I really want to see her vs. Kristen for the title.
On the one hand, it must suck that Josh missed his child's birth for a losing effort. Wah-Wah. On the other hand, I'm not sad to see him go (and at least he gets to go see his kid now).
All things considered, this was a pretty decent "message" episode for this show, the Ohio scenes undercut with a fair amount of self-deprecation, while the New York scenes were livened up with plenty of jabs at the pretentious and mock-worthy student film. Granted, the issue of body image was still handled ham-fistedly and incompletely, but for Glee, the fact that it wasn't outright offensive is a plus.
As we all suspected, New New Directions is back in the competition game. While expected (and inevitable), it's still disappointing.
Finn getting the better of Sue was actually kind of clever. Good for him.
A couple surprising nods to continuity in this episode as well: Finn's seemingly inconsistent coffee drinking habits were addressed, and the fact that the last time Quinn and Santana saw each other a slapfest broke out wasn't forgotten (even if it was swept under the rug; how are things going with Quinn and her married professor?).
Only in the world of Glee: would the disqualification of a winning team lead to another disqualified team advancing, even then though there was a third team at the competition which was never disqualified.
Also, isn't that "Torn" song Rachel sang to herself about a woman being raped? I could be wrong (I'm pretty awful at interpreting songs, but I'm pretty sure I heard that somewhere), and even if I'm right, it wouldn't be the first time Glee misappropriate a song, but that's what I was thinking during that performance.
Favorite Song: The "Centerfold/Hot in Herre" mashup, the kind of over-the-top goofy fun Glee does so well. Though I did really enjoy the three graduate gals' rendition of "Love Song".
This was one of the rare episodes where the New York stuff was more enjoyable than events back in Ohio. Kurt's attempts to reign in Rachel's amped up diva-ness was surprisingly in character for both of them, recalling their past rivalry while not losing sight of their current friendship. While all that "midnight madness" stuff was typical Glee "here's a thing thats always happened with tons of tradition but you're just hearing about it now because its convienent to the plot but you'll never hear of it again" business, the beats of the story followed normal, "our world" logic, with Kurt perhaps losing sight of his goal and going a bit too far in challenging Rachel, but understandably so. And arguably, Rachel needed that loss to hear what Kurt was saying about her behavior. Even Rachel moping about after losing and requiring a pep talk from the guy who wanted her to curb her arrogance in the first place, while maddening, was realistically consistent with her character. Consistent characterization, minimal histrionics, realistic reactions: more please.
Events at McKinley, meanwhile, were batshit crazy, even by Glee standards. I still can't believe this whole "Tina is crushing on Blaine" bit was ever a thing, let alone a recurring plot line. It'd be one thing if it was just a burden Tina had to bear, having feelings for someone she knew can't return them. But to try and confess her love to Blaine, to get angry at him for not figuring out how she felt is just ridiculous. Can we be done with this?
(All that said, and I firmly believe this is a terrible plotline, Jenna Ushkowitz is really killing it. I just wish she was given better material).
And then there's Finn kissing Emma, which is just so patently ridiculous and obviously forced for the sake of drama that I can't even muster up enough energy to care. It's just a shame, because I thought their dynamic leading up to that was a lot of fun and could have been interesting to watch moving forward. But hey, it did get her to stop freaking out.
If the writers just want to make Sue's role that of someone who pops up simply to make metatextual cracks about the way reality works on this show, I'd be a-okay with that.
Even though she hasn't really ever gone away (as Tina hilariously noted in the one part of her plotline this episode I enjoyed), I'm both glad that Santana will be appearing more often and that she'll be doing it in New York instead of Ohio.
The "Bring Him Home" diva-off didn't quite match the level of their earlier "Defying Gravity" faceoff, but both performances were plenty enjoyable. I did like the callback to the fact that Kurt intentionally tanked that contest, and how much that freaked out Rachel.
Even though they clearly are being made up by the writers on the fly, I kinda like the moments when Finn muses on what it takes to win at the various levels of show choir competition. It creates the impression that there actually is some strategy to winning and that someone is actually making decisions with that strategy in mind, as opposed to Will's approach, which always seemed to involve doing nothing of consequence then randomly selecting some songs the day before a competition.
That said, what are the odds that Tina, winner of the Diva-off intended to find the person in New New Directions who could arrogantly own the stage at Regionals, will actually be front and center come competition time?
Only in the world of Glee: would Finn need to look for a diva when Unique, who single-handedly stole the show at Nationals and won MVP even though Vocal Adrenaline lost, is on his team. Now she can't even get more than a group number in an episode specifically geared toward finding a diva.
Favorite Song: Santana really nailed "Girl on Fire", and the show used it very well, echoing Rachel's own transition to New York last season.
Emma: I myself have been called a diva at many local restaurants because I know what I want and I will send a dish back
Community: History 101
Community is back! And while I read a lot from various critics (all of whom are smarter, more well-watched and trained than I, all of whom I largely respect and whose work I enjoy) complaining that something just wasn't right with the show, post-Dan Harmon, I thought the show seamlessly returned to form (at least in this episode). There's an argument to be made for the whole "show within Abed's head" thing being a case of the new showrunners trying to hard to say "look, we can be meta and self-aware too!" but hey, that sequence was pretty funny (Fred Willard as Pierce? Brilliant.) so I don't really care. Maybe I'm just a rube, too in love with the show to criticize it. Maybe I lack the critical faculties to see what the critics are seeing. Maybe this whole thing will go off the rails in the weeks ahead. But for now, I'm just happy Community is back.
While Abed's emotional development has largely been well-handled throughout the series, it would be nice to have some milestones occur without triggering a crisis of identity for the poor guy.
Seriously, if this show somehow pulls off a miracle and comes back for a fifth season, just hire Fred Willard to play Pierce.
Last season, I really warmed to the idea of Troy and Britta being together, but the end result on display here was lacking some of the chemistry they'd displayed before (the fountain fight was pretty great, though). Hopefully they'll get that back in future episodes.
Annie got a couple great moments in this episode: her plan to move everything but the Dean's stapler, and then her ability to deduce the location of his seemingly randomly placed keys.
Parks and Recreation: Ann's Decision
After just pointing out her lack of time in the spotlight, it was nice to get an Ann-centric episode, though while her decision to date herself was cute and funny, her decision to impregnate herself felt a bit forced and sitcom-y. Meanwhile, the men coming down with food poisoning, while not as transcendent as the episode from early last season in which everyone got the flu, was still a pretty hilarious bit of physical comedy, especially the extended sequence involving the phone.
Tom being a "foodie", though never eating the food and only taking pictures of it and talking about it in ridiculous metaphors, was hilarious. Also, of course that's what he does.
Another highlight: Ben's obliviousness regarding his love of the mini-calzone.
Watching April try to be Leslie, than just doing Leslie's job in her own brilliant, scathing April way, was another highlight, and it's always nice to see more of Pawnee's whack-a-doo citizens.
Dr. Bitz and I recently started watching FX's The League, so now Nick Kroll's The Douche stands out to me more.
Ron: 12 eggs and part of a dead animal. Dealer’s choice, please and thank you.
Sewage Joe: If you're looking to buy some weed, I'm looking as well.
Tom: Granted, he is currently standing trial for counterfeiting Euros. But the trial’s going to be over soon, he’s definitely guilty.
Ron: I have voided more than Tom’s body weight in the last 12 hours alone. He might have just disappeared off the face of the earth.
April: As Eleanor Roosevelt once said to Betty Ford, Hillary Clinton is great.
Saturday Night Live: Justin Bieber
I went into this episode with pretty low expectations, dreading an episode filled with Bieber, but the end result was a pleasantly average, with only one really awful sketch (guess what that was), one really good sketch, and plenty that were, if not fully formed, at least entertaining on some level. Of course, Bieber himself had little to do with most of that, despite a pretty significant presence in the sketches. He more or less just played himself, usually in a smugly self-deprecating way, or else a slightly more awkward version of himself. I do think with a little seasoning and a little less hair gel, he could come back down the road and be a pretty decent host, but for now I just appreciate that he wasn't outright terrible.
Was that a song in the monologue? He sang, obviously, but it wasn't a full song nor the focus of the monologue (which was more about Black History Month). I think I'll give it a pass.
The Bieber impersonator sketch was amusing, thanks mainly to Kate McKinnon's Ellen and Sudeikis' character's random love of Sadam Hussein.
The montage of crappy Bravo shows is a case of picking at some ridiculously low hanging fruit, but a lot of the individual bits were hilarious (We’re from Austria.” “And we love to sex!” “And our penises are SO SMALL!"), and the whole thing was made funnier by the fact that NBC owns Bravo.
I've been a big fan of The Miley Cyrus Show in the past, and I always appreciate Vanessa Bayer given a chance to do something of substance, but this one was let down by a pretty weak guest in Bieber's character.
Taran Killiam yelling at Bieber about the use of the word "glice" to the extent that everyone was pretty much breaking was defined more by Killiam's manic energy than for being funny, but I did think there was something almost Will Ferrel-esque in Killiam's performance. It was really close to being a great, hilariously weird sketch.
Favorite Sketch: This doesn't happen often, but without a doubt, it was the cold open, SNL's requisite take on the Super Bowl blackout. From the relentless promotion of 2 Broke Girls to "Ray Lewis knows who killed those people, because it was him" to the absolutely hilarious "Back to you!/No, back to you!" sequence, this was the highlight of the night.
Least Favorite Sketch: The Californians, to absolutely no one's surprise. Though I will say, the extended bit where they cut back and forth from different angles on Bill Hader was a nice bit of endurance humor, and probably the most I've ever laughed at that sketch.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 1/13
Episodes Featuring TWO Game Shows: 1/13
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 10/13
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 8/13