Friday, May 10, 2013
Last Week in TV #33
We are now well into May sweeps, and shows are starting to wind down. To that end, I held off on some Glee, Parks and Rec and Community coverage (three shows that have already bowed but which I'm behind on) from this post in order to maximize my time and not fall behind on others, so expect some multi-episode coverage of those shows in the remaining last few weeks of the season.
The Simpsons: Whiskey Business
I probably would have enjoyed this episode more if Moe's misanthropy and self-loathing hadn't, through the years, become quite so broad. Before he was a complete and utter sad sack whose suicide attempts were so commonplace they went uncommented on by other characters, there was something interesting and occasionally funny about a constantly-down-on-his-luck Moe. But that character trait has been so beaten into the ground over the years that it's lost all meaning and impact (I mean, how many times now has Moe almost achieved success only to have it snatched away because of his ugliness, be it physical or emotional?), thus undercutting some of the more interesting things in this episode.
It's not too often that you see an episode with a C plot (not that Lisa getting outraged at holographic representations of dead celebrities is much of a plot).
Bob's Burgers: Carpe Museum
This is a show that is clearly channeling Golden Age Simpsons as it continues to be the gem in the Fox animated lineup. But one of the things classic Simpsons had going for it, in addition to being consitently and ridiculously funny, was a healthy dose of heartwarming moments, and as much as this show continues to genuinely champion the weird and different (both inside and outside the immediate Belcher family), it hasn't always had a lot of touching moments. But the scene in which Louise let it slip that she can see herself running the family business someday, much to Bob's amazement, was pretty dang sweet. Both Gene and Tina have expressed some interests that suggest they'd eventually leave home, but Louise (mainly because she's always been a rolling ball of id) never really has, so having her express an interest in keeping up the family business makes sense, while Bob's reaction to that information served as one of the show's more touching moments (with the way Bob's line, "Oh my God, am I your hero?!", was delivered keeping it from being too saccharine; there just the right amount of amused mocking in the delivery).
Another plot point cribbed from classic Simpsons (I say with all due respect): a field trip to the same location every year. At least a museum is better than a box factory.
I loved Any and Ollie freaking out when they weren't buddied up.
Gene: I’ve never heard of anyone having a boob fetish.
Family Guy: Save the Clam
This was a solid episode, with a decent central premise, a Meg-centric subplot where she wasn't the butt of all jokes, and several strong cutaway gags. But let's be honest: I was sold on this episode the moment they started the extended “big high school party that will change everything" bit. Everything beyond that (like the "no stretching" rule, Brian locked in the car or the guys attempting to write a screenplay) was just gravy.
American Dad: Lost in Space
If you'd ever said to me that one day there would be a Jeff-centric episode of this show that took place entirely on a ship run by Roger's species, I'd have called you a boldfaced liar. Especially if you also added that the episode would be pretty good. And feature Sinbad. But here we are, living in a world where American Dad managed to pull off a remarkably focused episode (no other regular characters aside from brief Hayley and Roger cameos, no cutaways or subplots) about Jeff that managed to be clever, touching and funny. And featured Sinbad. Bravo, American Dad. Bravo.
That Roger was the one who spurned the Emperor was not at all shocking, but it didn't really need to be (and you knew Roger had to factor into things somehow).
The extended sequence of Sinbad getting increasingly injured while telling Jeff to leave him behind was pretty great.
Jeff: So this is where you’ve been for the last 15 years!
Sinbad: What? I just got here two months ago!
Once Upon a Time: Second Star to the Right
I say it pretty much every time a season or mid-season premiere or finale looms, but this show always gets better when it has to focus on the plot (Regina's constant flip-flopping all season becomes less problematic when there's specific plot points to advance). This episode was also helped by a better-than-average fairyback, once again returning to the show's tried and true method of tweaking and/or reinventing a classic story, rather than filling in the details of a relatively mundane story point. Many of the twists and turns that were taken (particularly with Regina) to get there were annoying, but I'm excited for the finale.
The idea of casting Peter Pan as the villain of the story (and, presumably, Hook as the hero) is interesting (and was something Bill Willingham had once considered for Fables). In terms of this show, assuming they are going the "Hook is the hero" route, it adds some interesting layers of complexity to what has become a very one-note character ("Grr, Hook smash Rumpelstiltskin!").
I'm not sure what was more hardcore: Regina unblinkingly declaring that she killed and buried Greg's father, or the fact that she was telling the truth, and had.
In fact, as much as Regina really annoyed me in the last episode, I really liked her here. Despite being captured, tortured and rescued, she handled it all with a steely resolve that I appreciated.
So Neil gets transported through a portal to another land yet again, and it happens right after he and Emma admit their feelings for one another. None of that was particularly shocking, nor do I believe for a second that Neal is dead and we'll never see him again. Instead, I'm simply wondering what heretofore unseen land he'll end up in next season.
Despite my better judgment, I'm intrigued by the prospect of the Home Office and the people behind Greg and Tamara (I have a soft spot for shadowy organizations with veiled motivations). I'm particularly intrigued by their ability to not only counter magic, but recognizes/analyze/understand it.
The comments that Storybrooke isn't the first time magic intruded on the real world were also intriguing. I'm curious to know more about those incidents, and am wondering if they might somehow account for some of the time discrepancies between the real world stories that are based on the adventures of the Fairy Tale Land characters, and the timing of those adventures as presented to us in the fairybacks.
I really, really hope we don't get a fairyback next season showing us how Rumpelstiltskin acquired that tear from Regina.
How I Met Your Mother: Something Old
Ugh. Words can't describe how sick I am of the Ted/Robin merry-go-round. Even if we hadn't known that Ted/Robin was a non-starter from literally the first episode of the show, even if this wasn't all ground that had been covered to death in previous episodes, and even if this season hadn't kept trying to have its cake and eat it too by convincing us Robin and Barney belong together (despite some evidence to the contrary) even while it continues to flog the Ted/Robin pairing to death, this still would have bugged me, because we know, despite their doubts, that Barney and Robin at least end up at a church together at some point in the future prepared to marry one another, which just adds a whole 'nother layer of pointlessness to going down this road again. This episode is, like, the fourth or fifth doll in a Russian Nesting Doll of a pointless story. Enough already.
The whole "pack for Italy" plotline was at least classic HIMYM, at least in structure and exectution (almost a little too much so), but I'm still not sold on this whole "Lily and Marshall moving to Italy" plot.
Ted: Let’s Go Italy? Triangle. Triangle? Let’s go Italy.
Lily: Every time he lands, that chair farts out 10-year-old Doritos dust.
Marshall: Yeah… it’s the chair.
Revolution: The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia/Home/The Love Boat
Thanks to the difficulties I had in watching "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia", I ended up watching these more or less back to back, so I'm just going to write about them as a group. This is a show that would suffer any comparisons between it and Game of Thrones, but one thing it has going for it, at least in this second half of the season, is its narrative pacing. While plotlines advance on Game of Thrones at near-glacial speed, we don't mind, because of the sheer variety of the stories and the world on display, and because of the depth of characterization and the quality of the actors. Revolution, which, to be clear, is a show I quite like, doesn't have the same scope nor quality of characterization, which means it falters when the narrative slows down (as it did often in the first half of the season).
But things are just humming along in these three episodes: the "stop Monroe from nuking Georgia" plot could have been stretched out to half a season (a la the "rescue Danny" plot); instead, it's over and done in one episode. It ends with Miles being tasked with opening a second front with Monroe using Georgian resources; by the time "Home" opens, that's already happened, battles have been fought, the front established. "The Love Boat" brings Neville back to the fore (and I love the way the show keeps coming up with ways for Miles to personally piss off Neville), and the ebbs and flows of his partnership with Miles in that episode could easily have been stretched across multiple episodes.
In the long run, having the show burn through this much plot this fast may come back to bite it, but for now, I really appreciate how briskly things are moving along.
The idea of using flashlights to locate the pendant attached to the nuke was pretty clever (speaking of that pendant, where is it? Did Miles keep it, or give it to the Georgian president?)
Turns out the nanobots are also eating cancer as well as electricity, which was a pretty clever way of connecting the non-military work the Mathesons were doing with what the nanobots ultimately got used for.
With Teri, Jack Bauer's dead wife, playing the Georgian President, Audrey, his long suffering girlfriend playing Neville's wife and Renee, his dead lover from the final season playing Emma, it's a regular 24/Jack Bauer paramour reunion on this show (Randall is played by another 24 alum, the First Husband from the later seasons).
For the record, "Home" was easily the weakest of these three episodes. I still can't believe what a crappy shot that Georgian guy who killed Emma (when aiming for Monroe) was. She wasn't even that close to Monroe at that point (I absolutely loved that Miles actually did shoot the guy like he said he would though, and that the show resisted the temptation to make Charlie the shooter).
One of the things I liked about "The Love Boat" was the way it discussed the notion of Miles becoming just as bad as Monroe in his attempts to stop him, even while the characters are lethally dispatching their foes without comment. They're in a war, and it makes sense that they'd shoot to kill (and I certainly don't need Charlie angsting over every death), while at the same time, I appreciate someone pointing out that it's not a good idea to become a monster, even to destroy one.
Not sure how I feel about the revelation that Aaron was somehow (secretly) involved with the blackout (it feels a little too Flashforward-y), but anything that makes that character more relevant can't be all bad.
Similarly, I'm not sure what to make of the episode-ending cliffhanger involving apparent (smart) monsters in the Tower.
Saturday Night Live: Zach Galifianakis & Of Monsters And Men
Like the Melissa McCarthy episode, this one pretty much just handed itself over to Zach Galifianakis and let him play his own brand of the over-the-top weirdo. The biggest difference is that where McCarthy went for high-energy, Galifianakis is so low-energy you sometimes wonder if he's asleep. Thankfully, that low energy (nor some flubbed lines) didn't bring down the show, and the end result was a pretty solid and consistently entertaining episode. It was about as different from the McCarthy episode as possible, yet just as good.
The cold open was arguably the weakest segment of the show, even though it wasn't terrible, as Fox & Friends is always a reliable source of laughs.
I enjoyed the Jennifer Aniston look-a-like contest sketch far more than I probably should have (to continue the comparison, it reminded me a lot of the McCarthy ham sketch); something about the various Aniston impersonations and looks cracked me up. Plus, I'm a sucker for Helen Keller jokes (and yes, I'll be going to hell for that...).
Similarly, I laughed my ass off at the Martha Stewart Match.com commercial. Like, tears rolling down my face laughing. The New Balance ad (the other pre-filmed segment of the night) was pretty good as well, even if it did hit a little close to home (I don't own any New Balance shoes, but otherwise...).
Weekend Update was strong (always a treat to see Hader's James Carville), with a pretty funny (albeit obvious) take on the Google Glasses and the return of the always-welcome Girl at a Party etc., etc.
Then there was a Darrell's House, an absolutely brilliant set of paired sketches (kind of like the Z shirts bit from earlier in the season). The first sketch was decent (I really liked Kenan's cluelessness), elevated by Galifianakis' low-key, manic energy, but actually showing the finished, edited version of the show in a second sketch was a masterstroke, and made the whole endeavor worthwhile.
Least Favorite Sketch: The Michael Jordan wedding was probably the weakest bit of the night, mainly for being pretty scattershot, though it still had its moments.
Favorite Sketch: I have to give this to A Game of Game of Thrones, not only for the source material, but for the sheer glee Bill Hader's host took in tormenting his guests, and the fact that there was more to the sketch than just making fun of nerds. But at the same time, Darrell's House was pretty great, and a really close runner-up.
Bloomberg: If there’s one person America’s gun owners will listen to, it’s a Northeastern Jewish billionaire
OJ Sampson: And yes, it’s been a long, hard life
Girl: Pick a number between 1 and 10
Girl: Wrong. The answer is genocide.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 5/19
Episodes Featuring TWO Game Shows: 1/19
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 12/19
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 9/19