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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #10

The Simpsons: The Kid is All Right


A surprisingly-measured look at friendship amongst political differences, this episode wasn't the funniest episode ever (most of the laughs came from the always-reliable over-the-top-ness of the Springfield Republicans and Lisa and Homer's joint dream of not-dead Democrat ghosts) but still managed to tell a good story.

Family Guy: Life of Brian
Well, I was planning on writing up a whole thing about Brian's death, speculating about the motivation behind it and whether or not it was going to stick and commiserating on the end of time travel stories, but since I'm behind on writing about the episode, news has since broke that (spoiler) Brian will indeed be returning in the show's upcoming Christmas episode, so now any discussion of his "death" seems like a moot point (I will say that for whatever reason, be it a lack of surprise on my part, the way it was presented or the fact that it's hard to get too emotionally invested in Family Guy, I wasn't as moved by Brian's death as I would have expected, considering he is a favorite character, and a dog. Also, I kind of like Vinnie. I hope he gets to stick around after Brian comes back).

Sleepy Hollow: Necromancer
In principle, I like the idea of the Horseman being someone whom Crane knows personally, someone with a personal grudge against Crane that can ground their antagonism in something more than the overarching good vs. evil battle. But in execution, this is the rare case of this show's breakneck pace letting it down, as the revelation that the Horseman is (and was) Crane's best friend from whom he inadvertently stole Katrina would have had a lot more weight (and been more shocking) if we'd met that friend prior to the episode in which he's revealed as the Horseman.

I'm curious to know why Moloch needs Crane alive. Every show like this needs a reason for the Big Bad to keep the hero alive even when he has the hero at his mercy, but this show probably has something exceptionally whacky up its sleeve.

Agents of SHIELD: The Well


While I wasn't expecting Thor or Loki or anything like that to appear on the show, I would have liked the Thor 2 tie-in to amount to something more than a few scenes of the team cleaning up after the events of the film, before going off on another tangentially (at best) related mission. Yeah, they were dealing with Asgardian stuff, but nothing directly related to the movie. I mean, that staff was buried in a tree in Norway; it's not like one of the dark elves from the movie left it behind or anything.

That said, I did enjoy Peter MacNicol as an Asgardian, particularly his relationship with Coulson (who's buddy buddy with Thor). I wouldn't mind seeing him again, even on a regular basis (adding an Asgardian to the team would be nifty and bring in some variety).

Frozen

 
The missus and I went to see Frozen last week, and I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting. Olaf, The comic relief snowman sidekick in particular (which was the main element of the film that was dragging down my anticipation to see the film), who was heavily featured in the promos for the film, turned out to be quite funny, in an affably broad kind of way (it helped that he was voiced by Josh Gad, and I was picturing Gad's overeager Skip from 1600 Penn, a show that I believe was only watched by me, Mrs. Teebore, and the families of the people involved, the whole time Olaf was onscreen) that kept the historically-anachronistic jokes to a minimum. Meanwhile, the songs and music were top notch, as were the vocal performances (you expect as much from Idina Menzel, but Kristen Bell's singing voice impressed), and the animation was spectacular, featuring an astonishing level of detail on several fronts.  

More importantly, this was another Disney film (after Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Pixar's Brave) to feature a strong heroine with a diverse set of interests and goals beyond finding and marrying a prince (even while there are still romantic elements to the plots), a trend I'm pleased to see Disney embracing. In the case of this film in particular, I was particularly heartened (spoilers) by the fact that while the climax of the film concerned an act of true love, it was, in the end, an act of sisterly love and not romantic love that saved the day.

Top Chef: Piggin' Out 
While I appreciated the elimination challenge for more or less giving the chefs free reign to do whatever they wanted (once they'd claimed their piece of the pig), it was a bit disappointing that it fell right after last episode's potluck challenge, since it essentially felt like the same thing: make a dish offsite for a bunch of people, the type of challenge that is all-too prevalent in these mid-season episodes. 

Likewise, Louis' elimination continues the mid-season trend of cutting the low level chefs that haven't made their mark. And while the show has gotten better about this, as soon as they ran his interview piece talking about how many friends he's unexpectedly made on the show, I knew he was a goner.

I was really surprised Travis didn't get sent home for using store-bought ramen - that almost always ends up getting someone eliminated. 

Restaurant Wars
Is it just me, or does it seem early in the season for Restaurant Wars? Don't they usually do these when there's eight contestants left? Or maybe it's just that the remaining contestants are still fairly bland and generic, aside from Neurotic Stephanie, Asian Shirley and Unstoppable Nina. Heck, having the two remaining largely identical straight white guys as the executive chefs of each team sometimes had me confused as to which team we were watching at any given time.

All that said, it's been awhile since we've had a Restaurant Wars this lopsided, as no amount of clever editing could disguise the fact that Sarah sucked as a hostess. Though there has been a recent trend in that the team that seems destined to win on paper (for being made up of the most consistent/winning contestants) ends up losing. It's become a thing where we can just assume that whatever team looks like it should win won't.

How insane was it that the Green Team was buying plates and still hadn't even discussed the food? I mean, what? How does anyone let it go that long? Just insane. They deserved to lose just for that.

Travis hasn't done much for me this season, but at least as presented, I have to admit he seemed like the best front-of-house person the show's ever had. 

As much as I kinda liked Sarah, there was no doubt she was going home, and she totally earned it. I mean, not describing the dishes to the judges? That's Top Chef 101. I'm just sad to see the Twin Cities representative go down in so many flames.

She was right about that coffeemaker though. And "being positive" wasn't going to solve the problem. 

Glee: The Quarterback


This is a particularly difficult episode to review (I have nothing but sympathy for the legitimate TV critics who had to write about it, and couldn't just skirt around the edges of it like I can), in that it's part of the show, yet so heavily influenced by a tragedy outside of its control. The only thing I feel inclined to comment on is how the show handled the details of Finn's in-universe death, because I'm torn.

On the one hand, I appreciate Kurt's hand-waving comment about not wanting to dwell on how Finn died because it refrained from establishing that he died of a drug overdose in-universe (which, while accurate to real life, would have seemed out of character for Finn), while at the same time, avoided writing in some other kind of tragedy that could potentially the belittle the reality behind Cory Monteith's passing.

But on the other hand, I worry that the show didn't do justice to the reality of that passing by ignoring (in-universe) the details of it. Yes, revealing Finn died of a drug addiction no one knew he had would have seemed out of character, but it also would have spoken to that disease's ability to affect people without even their closest friends or family being aware of it.

Like I said, I'm torn. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and I don't want to ding the show for choosing one route over the other. It's just a tough situation.

Also, where were Brittany and Quinn? Their absences (especially Quinn's) stood out to me. And was that the last time we'll see Puck? His final scene had a very "series wrap" feel to it. I could easily see him disappear, having entered the army, and only be mentioned (by Jake, presumably) on occasion from here on out. 

One final thing: while everyone's grief was palpable (for obvious reasons), to the point where it was, at times, difficult to watch simply for the rawness of emotion on screen, the scene with Finn's mom was the most devastating of all. 

Parks and Recreation: The Fillibuster
The most remarkable thing about this episode is just how many complete, fully formed stories it managed to tell in 22 minutes. And while the Donna/Ron stuff was mainly played for laughs, every other story managed to be both funny and say something significant about the characters involved. Impressive stuff.

I hope Tatiana Maslany as Nadia returns at some point.

The Recall


While Leslie getting voted out of office is completely realistic, it's also frustrating simply because it is realistic: a politician of Leslie's idealism and do-gooder-ness, in this day and age in small town America most certainly would get booted out office for trying, with the best of intentions, to make her constituents' lives better, especially when the effort to remove her from office has massive corporate funding (heck, it's fairly unrealistic she was elected in the first place). But that realism is exactly what makes it so frustrating: we can see this happen in real life. In fiction, it's nice when the idealistic underdog comes out on top, simply because it happens so infrequently in reality.

That said, I can totally see why the writers went this way: there's a lot of storytelling potential in Leslie's last 30 days in office, and in what she sets out to do after leaving office. Still, it's a bummer.    

Around the Internet
I was made aware of a fantastic website this week, Texts From Superheroes. It's exactly what it sounds like, and it's hilarious.

Also, there's this video which has been making the rounds lately. I still crack up every time I watch it. Plus, it's funny and festive!



Quotable Quotes
The Simpsons
Homer: You used to be fun.
Bill Clinton: Kevin Costner used to be a movie star—get used to it.

Bob's Burgers
Gene: You love that turkey more than you love us!
Bob: I do! I love turkey!

The Big Bang Theory
Penny: For some reason I always pictured her as Indian.
Bernadette: I think that reason’s called racism.

Howard: You had to be taught not to play with cobras?
Raj: You had to be taught not to burn down the forest?

Raj: How come the key is always confidence? How come it’s never love handles and flop sweat?

Parks and Recreation
Ron: I’m not a sore loser. It’s just that I prefer to win, and when I don’t, I get furious

Ben: It’s loosely based on the Klingon greeting salute.
Ann: I just learned that, and if I had known, I would not have agreed to it.

6 comments:

Michael said...

Where were Brittany and Quinn? Their absences (especially Quinn's) stood out to me. Also, was that the last time we'll see Puck? He's final scene had a very "series wrap" feel to it. I could very easily see him disappear, having entered the army, and only be mentioned (by Jake, presumably) on occasion from here on out.

There've been rumors for some time about Diana Argon and Ryan Murphy not getting along. (Notice how Quinn was the only graduate to not appear in the Season 4 promotional materials.)

Regardless of the reason, it's a real shame that Quinn's not around more. I could watch an entire episode of Quinn singing 60s pop songs. (Or of Blaine singing 80s pop songs, for that matter.)

As for Puck, he's supposedly returning for the 100th episode.

One final thing: while everyone's grief was palpable (for obvious reasons), to the point where it was, at times, difficult to watch simply for the rawness of emotion on screen, the scene with Finn's mom was the most devastating of all.

I can honestly say that the scene with Finn's mother was one of the most powerful things that I've ever seen on screen, big or small.

I am not someone who is often moved emotionally by films or television, but I had to take a break after this scene. It made me uncomfortable in my own house, watching this on the couch and it made me feel empathy for this character, for these actors, and for everyone involved.

Even if she does nothing else this season, Rosy Rosemont deserves an award for these few minutes.

As for "Parks and Rec," I agree with everything you wrote, though I am somewhat relieved that we'll (hopefully) being seeing less of Jamm with Leslie's absence from the city council. The character works better with less frequent appearances.

Sarah Ahiers said...

what the what? How have we missed an episode of Top Chef? dammit!

Otherwise yeah i agree with pretty much everything you said. I'm bummed about Leslie getting recalled, but excited to see where it goes from there. And i've heard a lot of good things about Frozen, though i'm sure we won't get around to seeing it in theaters

Are you going to give Almost Human a shot?

Teebore said...

@Michael: There've been rumors for some time about Diana Argon and Ryan Murphy not getting along. (Notice how Quinn was the only graduate to not appear in the Season 4 promotional materials.)

Ah, I hadn't heard that. That at least explains her absence (though she did show up for a few episodes post-graduation, so presumably their falling out must have occurred after those episodes were filmed).

I could watch an entire episode of Quinn singing 60s pop songs. (Or of Blaine singing 80s pop songs, for that matter.)

Ditto.

As for Puck, he's supposedly returning for the 100th episode.

Not a series wrap then. Fair enough; I like him, so I won't mind seeing him again.

I can honestly say that the scene with Finn's mother was one of the most powerful things that I've ever seen on screen, big or small.

Ditto again. You don't even need much context to be moved by it. Just raw, visceral emotion. Powerful stuff.

though I am somewhat relieved that we'll (hopefully) being seeing less of Jamm with Leslie's absence from the city council. The character works better with less frequent appearances.

Agreed. A little Jamm goes a long way.

@Sarah: what the what? How have we missed an episode of Top Chef? dammit!

I don't know. Coast Guard? They took the week of Thanksgiving off, but were back last week. Thankfully they get rerun like a hundred times so you'll have plenty of chances to get it recorded.

Are you going to give Almost Human a shot?

Yeah, I've got it recording. I've been waiting to start it until I get caught up on some other stuff. We'll probably get around to it sometime during the winter break.

Have you been watching it? Any good?

Matt said...

The whole "death of Brian" thing confused me. I would never have thought, knowing Family Guy's weird M.O., that it was anything more than a single epsiode deal. I would've expected him back the following week as if nothing had ever happened.

Then the internet went nuts and new outlets started reporting the story, and I started believing I was too jaded.

But now it turns out I was just jaded enough. My take-away from this is to never, ever second guess myself over anything. Ever.

Also, the TNG "Make it So" video is breathtaking. I watched it a bunch of times last week, and you just got me to watch it again.

Teebore said...

@Matt: I would've expected him back the following week as if nothing had ever happened.

The only reason I had any expectation going in that the story would be somehow different than usual was the fact that the show had been hyping a "totally for real death of one of the Griffins" since Comic Con. Not that I still wouldn't have put it past the show to kill that character, then restore him or her with no explanation in the next episode.

Blam said...


I liked Frozen a lot. The focus on the sisters was nice. Olaf was not only funny but to my surprise not some complete from-left-field anachronistic, contextually problematic goof; framing him as a magically persistent concept lingering from the girls' childhood totally worked. Kristen Bell's voice surprised me too — not so much that it was good, but that it was that kind of good, soaring and full of vibrato in the Disney manner, able to keep up with Idina Menzel's. I wasn't so keen on the songs, though, which I felt were uneven and often shoehorned into the narrative just have songs. The women's faces bothered me, too, their severe ski-slope noses not transferring well from flat animation to the rounded computer modeling and reminding me of The Dark Crystal's Gelflings. Otherwise, however, Frozen was visually stunning, working the limited palette of the icebound landscape to its fullest.

Glee: "The Quarterback" is just about impossible to criticize given the loss suffered by those making it, but here goes: I didn't mind at all the episode not specifying Finn's manner of death; I did, however, find its reference to that lack of information unnecessarily odd. Why did we need Kurt asking why people needed to know how he died? The action was set after his death and funeral, so it could easily have been a nonissue. That being said, of course, Chris Colfer and Romy Rosemont were just devastating in their raw emotion. That being said, unfortunately, something was very wrong with Dot-Marie Jones and Mark Salling in their own would-be-cathartic scene, which had the feel of being cobbled together in the moment without a script and suffering greatly for it.

I hope that Tatiana Maslany returns to Parks and Rec too. Orphan Black is still waiting to be watched by me, but I only hear impressive things about her in it, and Nadia's outsider's perspective puts Tom's quirks — as well as those of Pawnee's in general — in a fun light.