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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #3

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIV


The much-ballyhooed opening, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, was easily the best part of the episode. Which isn't to disparage the rest of the episode, which was decent. The middle segment, in which Bart's head is affixed to Lisa's body, was pretty awful though, and displayed none of the usual wit or imagination present in the Treehouse episodes. The first segment was amusing and featured tons of clever word play even while it wasn't tremendously funny, while the third segment, my favorite of the bunch, was a pretty decent Freaks parody and featured some of the episode's strongest gags. Not the funniest episode (Treehouse or otherwise), but the opening and first & third segments were mostly clever, imaginative and fun.


Bob's Burgers: Fort Night
Topping last year's excellent Halloween episode would have been a tall order, but I think this episode managed to pull it off. Great stuff.


Once Upon a Time: The Heart of the Truest Believer/Lost Girl


Focus does this show a world of good. While there is fun in seeing classic stories re-imagined in either their original or a modern setting, placing a core group of characters in one location and limiting the cutaways to other locales or characters within an episode helps keep things from feeling too frenetic, scattershot and underdeveloped.

Other random thoughts from the beginning of the season (I haven't watched the most recent ep, or the premiere of the spin-off, yet):
  • The beneficial side effect of a season (or half season, anyway) arc involving the main characters searching for Henry? It presumably keeps Henry offscreen more than usual (aside from, I assume, one or two "what Henry's up to" check-in episodes), allowing him to go through puberty and not ham things up on his own time. 
  • That said, the moment in the premiere where Henry was like "screw it, we're flying with Pixie dust because I believe enough for both of us" was arguably his greatest moment on the show, since believing in junk is pretty much his whole character, and he at least stuck to that characteristic even when he was personally threatened (even if, ultimately, he wasn't in any actual danger).
  • I could have done without the largely pointless Snow/Charming flashback in the second episode, but like Jack flashbacks on Lost, I have a feeling that's a storytelling device this show will never get rid of entirely. 
  • I like the idea of Peter Pan as the season's Big Bad (Bill Willingham even toyed with doing the same thing originally in Fables) and the guy they have playing him does a nice job of highlighting some of the creepy and sociopathic tendencies that lie just beneath the heart of the character. 
  • I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole "Home Office" stuff from the end of last season being swept aside so cavalierly in the opening moments of the season. On the one hand, I kinda like the idea that Greg and Tamara were being played for chumps (and were, in fact, working for one of the more magical characters out there) and disposed of easily; on the other hand, I generally like "shadowy organizations manipulating things from behind the scenes" plots. Plus, I'm not entirely sure how "the Home Office was Peter Pan" gels with the end of last season, when Greg and Tamara were using technological doodads to go about their business.


It's been a long time since I dug into the quarter boxes at a comic convention and bought in bulk, but one of the dealers at Fallcon last weekend had a whole slew of comics he was selling for twenty-five cents each or five for a dollar, and that was a deal I couldn't ignore (especially since the boxes were relatively well alphabetized). So I ended up filling a grocery bag full of cheap comics, plugging some gaps in my Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk runs, as well as nearly every issue of Daredevil I was missing from the mid 200s up to the end of the first volume.

I also nabbed a handful of trades (including the gorgeous John Buscema Visionaries hardcover), got the last few issues of Rom I needed, and, as I do at every show, picked up a few more Silver Age issues of Avengers and X-Men in decent shape at reasonable prices as part of my ongoing effort to acquire complete runs of both titles.


Agents of SHIELD: 0-8-4/The Assest
Honestly, I think the biggest surprise regarding Samuel L. Jackson's cameo in the second episode was the fact that it was mostly kept secret (I had no idea it was happening until after the episode aired). The actual appearance didn't amount to much, but it does suggest that, at least in its initial goings, the show might be able to pull in bigger guest stars than I was expecting (in other words, if the creators were willing to use a Nick Fury appearance as essentially a gag in the second episode, they're probably confidant they could do something bigger during, say, sweeps).

I was also largely impressed in the second episode's ability to rehash the status quo of the show without feeling like a complete retread of the pilot, while I appreciated the setup in the third episode for the show's first legitimate super-villain, again, for what it portends for the future if nothing else.
 

Trophy Wife: Cold File
Man, that bit in the second episode with Marcia Gay Harden's character and the spilled salsa was one of the funniest extended gags I've seen on a show this season.


So My29, which is one of those local syndication channels in my area, airs syndicated episodes of The Simpsons every night at 10:30, and I have my DVR setup to record them so I always have a chunk of random episodes I can throw on when I need some background noise or just want to unwind with a classic or something, but lately, it seems like all they've been doing is playing the episodes from last season on a constant loop. And look, I may not be as down on modern day Simpsons as some people, but there still aren't that many episodes from last season I want to watch again and again, especially in this short a period of time, and especially when its the Halloween season, and they should be running nothing but old Treehouse episodes between now and the 31st. So frustrating.


Top Chef: Soiree in the Swamp/Rebuilding New Orleans


Look, I don't care if they don't find out they're going to New Orleans until they're boarding the plane, but I have no sympathy for any of the cheftestants complaining they don't know how to cook alligator or gumbo or whatever. You're going to New Orleans, you have to know there's going to be a challenge involving gumbo, swamp meats, etc. Look up how to cook this stuff beforehand! It's just like the people who have to do a dessert and complain about not being a pastry chef. You're going on Top Chef: be sure to have a dessert or two in your back pocket! You knew what you were signing up for.

Otherwise, not much to say about these first episodes. Early in the goings it's tough to care too much about one contestant or another because the field is so crowded. I guess I kinda like Stephanie, just cuz I remember her from almost making the cut last season, but that's about it, so far. I was a little surprised Jason got the ax already though, mainly because A. he was a pretty boy and B. he was enough of a douche that I could see him evolving into the season's villain. Oh well.


The Big Bang Theory: The Scavenger Vortex
I can't decide if the ending to the scavenger hunt, in which Raj declares everyone the winner, is either ridiculously clever, in that we, the audience, feel exactly what the other characters are feeling (cheated out of a satisfactory conclusion) or just terribly lazy. I'm leaning towards the later.  


Glee: Tina in the Sky with Diamonds 


Granted I'm not the world's biggest Beatles fan, but the two part Beatles premiere ended with something of a whimper. Maybe it's the fact that the whole Tina Prom Queen bit was almost shot-for-shot the same thing that happened when Kurt was awarded Prom Queen, or maybe it's just the looming specter of the emotional Cory Montieth memorial episode, but this seemed like a pretty blah episode, especially for one with a prom (one of those "big deal to teenagers" things this show usually handles well) and whatnot.

Oh, and Sue's comment about how the glee club will eventually just choose their number for Nationals at the last minute was winkingly fourth wall, but now that we know the writers are aware of how poorly they script the competition stuff, will they improve it? Probably not.

Also, we're just not going to feature Joe Jesus Dread Head and Sugar except during competitions now, right? Like, the show's not even going to bother otherwise anymore?

Finally, up until this one, all the other proms on the show were junior and senior specific? That makes no sense, given what we saw.

Favorite Song: Usually I like "Hey Jude" more than "Here Comes the Sun" (though I generally like both), but here, the later had a bit more directorial flair, so I'll go with that. Though Blaine really killed it on those "Jude" nah-nahs at the end.

Things of Note Still on My DVR
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, The Tomorrow People, a good chunk of Revolution, and the latest Glee and Parks and Rec.

Quotable Quotes
The Simpsons
Pilot 1: Kite at two o’clock!
Pilot 2: I don’t know what that means, I have a digital watch!”

Strongman Homer: I’m in the best shape anyone is—in the 1930s!

Strongman Homer
: I get Marge to marry Moe, then I kill Moe, then she gets the ring, then I marry her and the ring is mine! And the brilliance of my plan is its simplicity!

Bob's Burgers
Linda: Mort, Teddy, what are you doing right now?
Mort: Adjusting myself without anyone noticing.
Teddy: Watching Mort adjust himself.

Family Guy
Sorry! The board game that teaches you how to be a dick.

American Dad
Roger: I’ve performed this very operation far drunker and on real people.

Stan: Are we really gonna do this?
Steve: Do you have a medium character?

Once Upon a Time
Snow: So if you would just let us share our wisdom…
Emma: I appreciate your trying to be parents, but we’re the same age. We have the same amount of wisdom.

Trophy Wife
Warren: Maybe she talks about salsa all the time, and we’re just noticing it now.

Bert: Turns out I didn’t hurt my uterus at all.
Pete: That’s because you don’t have a uterus, buddy. Girls have uteruses.
Bert: So, what’s... in my butt?
Pete: Butt stuff.

The Big Bang Theory 
Amy: As my mom used to say, ‘When you’re doing a puzzle, it’s like having a thousand friends.’ She was full of fun lies like that.

Parks and Recreation
Ingrid: I have a PhD from the Sorbonne.
Leslie: For what, wearing Chanel suits?
Ingrid: There was a fashion component, yes.

Ron: I suppose you wouldn’t consider moving. I hear the school system in the tunnels underneath Yucca Mountain is adequate.
Diane: I love you, but your solution to everything is to live inside a mountain.

7 comments:

  1. While I pretty much agree with your Simpsons analysis I think it's worth noting that my favorite line actually came from the middle segment. I couldn't find it online so I'll probably get it wrong but I did laugh at Bart yelling "How could this have possibly gone wrong!?"

    Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing enough to keep me watching but I am hoping for an increase in pace and an "upping of the ante" sometime this season.

    Also, I believe your Big Bang Theory quote should be attributed to Amy rather than Sheldon.

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  2. @Dr. Bitz: I couldn't find it online so I'll probably get it wrong but I did laugh at Bart yelling "How could this have possibly gone wrong!?"

    There was another line from that segment I enjoyed as well, something about how putting Bart's head on Lisa was the only way they could extend Bart's life by a year while decreasing Lisa's life by thirty.

    Definitely some good lines in that bit, just the premise as a whole that was kinda lame.

    Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing enough to keep me watching but I am hoping for an increase in pace and an "upping of the ante" sometime this season.

    Definitely. I figure it probably has at least four or five "basic" episodes it needs to get out of the way before it can really cut loose, just cuz its a drama on a major network, and heavily crowd-sourced one at that.

    Also, kudos to typing in the dots in "SHIELD". Accurate it may be, I refuse to do so because I am lazy.

    Also, I believe your Big Bang Theory quote should be attributed to Amy rather than Sheldon.

    Yeah, you're right. I even had it in my notes correctly, then mucked it up when I added it to the post. I'll correct it.

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  3. Love Bob's Burgers, as usual. Their fort was totally awesome, but it was also stressful when they were almost crushed. Also, missing trick-or-treating is a horrible, horrible thing.

    We're right with you on Top Chef. Like, come on! But we're rooting for whatsherface from Minneapolis. Represent!

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  4. @Sarah: Their fort was totally awesome, but it was also stressful when they were almost crushed. Also, missing trick-or-treating is a horrible, horrible thing.

    Yeah, I should have mentioned this in the post, but I thought the episode did a great job of making the setup to their predicament strong, and then finding just right the balance in the stakes to keep the tension and suspense at the perfect level.

    Every time I thought of a possible way for them to get out (like Bob and Linda wondering where the kids are and then finding them) the episode found a reasonable way to address that possible "out" and still keep everyone trapped, and while the stakes were relatively low (they'd get out eventually), the prospect of missing out on Halloween was made a big enough deal that it still felt suspenseful.

    Just really strong writing, even beyond the jokes.

    But we're rooting for whatsherface from Minneapolis. Represent!

    Yeah, I'm torn, because it's *such* a Minnesota thing to be like, "yeah, we're rooting for someone just because they come from the place we are!", but at the same time, I'm like, "hey, she comes from the place I am, I want her to do well!"

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  5. I caught the "Treehouse of Horror" opening online just 'cause it seemed like it'd be fun — and I'm a GDT fan, if less so after the mess that was Pacific Rim on top of some of the more questionable aspects of the Hellboy films. Of course it was pretty dang cool. I keep meaning to watch it again, maybe after finding one of the keys to all the bits online.

    Once Upon a Time is working way better for me in Neverland than it did during Emma & Snow's time in the Enchanted Forest last season, although that could be because here there's no split focus.

    // since believing in junk is pretty much his whole character //

    Yeah, I liked that for just the reason you say. Although it only reminds me that they don't do enough with whatever Emma's own ill-defined magic is, something to do with truth, which could be really fascinating given that it seems to be aligned with the very qualities that make her skeptical and so capable professionally if not personally back in the mundane world. The dichotomy of her being the same age as her folks is interesting but I wouldn't mind more focus on the nature/nurture hybrid that should make her so useful in realms of magic.

    // I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole "Home Office" stuff from the end of last season being swept aside so cavalierly in the opening moments of the season. //

    I'm perhaps a little surer than you are. For me it was a really frustrating WTF. Like you say, Pan turning out to be the mastermind behind the magic-hating patsies was a nice little comeuppance but I really don't think it gibes.

    I could've sworn that the kid playing Peter Pan was Bran's fellow Warg in that brother-and-sister pair on Game of Thrones, by the way, but he ain't.

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  6. Quarter bins rock — especially at conventions, where dealers are getting rid of stuff on the last day just so they don't have to go to the trouble and/or expense of getting it home.

    Agents of SHIELD continues, in my opinion, to be neither as bad (or mediocre, anyway) nor as good (or more properly, as worthy of a pass just because it's a fricking TV show about SHIELD in the same continuity as a series of pretty awesome big-budget Marvel Universe movies) as most of my friends, online especially, insist. Why it's so divisive instead of simply being accepted as both cool and occasionally disappointing, I don't know. I'll say more about it in a newer post where conversation is more likely if I ever get caught up.

    Glee really confused me with that prom-queen Tina plot, less because it was a retread actually than because it really basically rewarded her for being so entitled and it upheld high-school popularity as something even the outcasts should in fact aspire towards. I'm well aware that the show traffics in mixed messages frequently, but this was a real head-scratcher.

    As far as Sue's comment, which isn't the first self-aware if not outright meta remark of its kind, I loved it for a brief shining moment before the disappointment set in over how it will not actually inform the writing of the show. How I Met Your Mother did a video for San Diego in which the actors playing Future Ted's kids, Lyndsy Fonseca and whoever, have aged in real time, which is the joke that everyone has made and everyone can make except for the producers of the show itself because it just completely bursts the bubble.

    Demi Lovato really surprised me on "Here Comes the Sun" with Naya Rivera and her acting chops too. I know intellectually that she's been in the business for years, but that doesn't necessarily reflect talent so much as it does luck, a cute face, and work ethic as you go along.

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  7. @Blam: The dichotomy of her being the same age as her folks is interesting but I wouldn't mind more focus on the nature/nurture hybrid that should make her so useful in realms of magic.

    Agreed.

    I could've sworn that the kid playing Peter Pan was Bran's fellow Warg in that brother-and-sister pair on Game of Thrones, by the way, but he ain't.

    That's okay. I always get the kid who plays Jojen on GoT mixed up with the kid who played the boy who was the inspiration for Peter Pan to Johnny Depp's J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland (when JoJen is actually played by the guy who was the kid in Love Actually).

    less because it was a retread actually than because it really basically rewarded her for being so entitled and it upheld high-school popularity as something even the outcasts should in fact aspire towards.

    Well said. Just all kinds of things wrong with that plot.

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