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Friday, December 16, 2011

Last Week in TV #12

A quick catch up week. Next week we'll take a look at a bunch of different shows' Christmas episodes.

Family Guy: Grumpy Old Man 

Another decent episode, with a fairly weak plot but some good cutaway gags (I say fairly weak not because it was bad, but because it hit pretty much all the expected beats, both plot and comedic, with a workmanlike drive). Carter has never been one of my favorite supporting characters, but this was a decent outing for him (plot-wise, I liked it better than the one where he was caught cheating and hit the singles scene with Peter), and the story wisely kept the focus on him. In terms of cutaways, I enjoyed the phone sax, Slightly Open Robery, and most of all, the pizza place making a salad, which was hilariously spot on in its attention to detail, a "funny cuz its true" gag. So that's about it. Nothing terribly compelling, but a largely amusing Family Guy episode nonetheless.

Glee: I Kissed a Girl 

This episode had its heart in the right place, but didn't quite execute very well. The concern over Santana, the desire to help her through her coming out despite what a colossal bitch she can be, was very well intentioned. I just don't think singing songs at her was the best course of course (yes, I know, it's a show about singing). It just seemed, at times, like the episode was more about how everyone was worried about Santana than about Santana herself.

It was also surprising to see two of this season's plots come to a rapid fire close. Sue lost (Thank God, though I tremble at the thought of what cockamammie storyline the writers cook up for her next) and Burt won (which is pretty damned unbelievable, but at least Sue didn't win, and, you know, its Glee); while in the junior election Brittany won and Kurt lost. It was certainly surprising to see the show go the realistic route and not have Kurt pull out a victory; two unbelievable Hummel victories in one episode might have been too much, awesome though they may be.

Finally, taking Rachel out of the game for Sectionals is a bold move, and a neat way to shake up the routine of the competition episode, but the method with which it was done didn't work for me. Rachel has always seemed too driven, too aware of the consequences of her actions, to risk suspension just to help Kurt win. I know we got the token voiceover explaining how badly she needed Kurt to make it into NYADA with her, but it just wasn't enough to make her actions seem anything more than plot-mandated (especially after she resigned from the race herself only an episode ago).

Other Thoughts
This whole Puck-Shelby-Quinn storyline continues to be dreadful, but the scene between Puck and Quinn where he very quietly layed the smackdown about her behavior and told her to snap out of it, was very good.

So I'm a dude, and thus a bunch of hot women dancing around to "I Kissed A Girl" is something I enjoy, but holy crap, did that completely undermine Santana's story, or what? Her relationship with Brittany and homosexuality in general as always been treated with a certain respect, whereas that song is all about girls titillating guys. Maybe the writers thought they were taking it back or something?

Poor Bieste; she deserves better than being stuck in a love triangle with Sue (though that's probably the least oddball story Sue's found herself in yet). The whole thing also seemed very contrived (I thought Bieste made her feelings for Cooter (still an awesome name btw) pretty clear by the time they attended West Side Story together.

Finally, is Principal Figgins the worst school administrator ever, or what? Seriously, I'd take Principal Skinner over him any day. 

Favorite Song: I'm a sucker for anytime they do a new arrangement of a song with a tempo opposite the original, so I dug Finn's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", even though it was part of the whole "sing Santana's problems away, whether she likes it or not" plot. Puck always rocked the hell out of "I'm the Only One".

Brittany: If elected, I'll have sugary treats available at all times. Helps with concentration. That's what George Washington said.

Puck Look, I was into you a couple years ago because you were hot like a pixie and I thought you were pretty much cooler than every other girl in the school, but it turns out you're kind of nuts. You're higher maintenance than Berry and pretty much the most selfish person I ever met in my life. So, thanks for the offer but I'd rather raw-dog a beehive.

Artie: Where's Rachel? She never misses applause.

Hold On To Sixteen

Glee usually does its competition shows well, and this one was...pretty good. Not the best, but certainly an improvement on last episode. But man oh man, did they cram in a lot and resolve a ton of plotlines. Thank God one of them was the stereotypical disapproving Asian dad story Mike's been stuck in all season. We all knew his dad was going to come around eventually, and the fact that all it took was watching his son perform was pretty eye rolling, but this is TV and Glee likes to play up the power of music and all that, so whatever. But man, am I glad that's over.

In other closed out plots, I'm surprised the Finn/Blaine tension got resolved so easily. While some of these plots I wouldn't have minded seeing simmer longer, this was one whose quick resolution probably made sense. Once Blaine called him on it, Finn realized he was being a jerk and is enough of a team player to apologize, and Blaine's a decent enough guy for that to be enough. It may not be crazy over the top drama, but it works.

So I'm curious if the producers got rid of Sam at the beginning of the season just to bring him back now, or if, after he was gone, they decided to bring him back. Either way, it's good to have him back (the idea of him being a stripper was ridiculous, as was the ease with which he transferred back to McKinley, but it's Glee. Also, it's always nice to see Pa Kent), and now maybe Mercedes can get involved in a storyline that doesn't piss me off.

Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure that was Santana doing some of the singing during the Trouble Tones number; I believe Mercedes joined that group specifically because she didn't want to share the spotlight?

A stern talking to from Rachel being all it took to snap Quinn out of her funk was a bit eye-rolling, but if it truly puts an end to the "get my baby back" story and results in the mellowed out Quinn sticking around, I can live with it. While the Trouble Tones merging back into New Directions was a given, it was handled in probably the best way possible, with Mercedes still allowed to be a diva once a competition, and Quinn serving as the peacemaker by building off of one of the season's big themes (growing up).

I love how they just crammed random people into the background of both groups numbers just to meet the membership requirement, then all those randoms just disappeared once the two groups got back together. Way to half ass it Glee.

Also, I know trying to suss out the logic behind how these competitions work leads to madness, but are we to assume all three groups performed three songs, but we only got to hear all of New Directions'?  That said, this was the first competition where I felt like I could understand why New Directions won: maybe it's just because we got to hear all three of their songs, but they really gave multiple people a chance to shine, whereas the other groups tended to just back up one or two strong singers.

I really hope someone bitch slaps Gay McSleazy before the end of the season; the scene between him and Kurt was awesome, but man, that guy is sleazy...

Favorite Song: "Man in the Mirror" is one of those Michael Jackson songs I shouldn't love, but I do. I'm pretty sure I've never heard that final song, but it was pretty good too.

Blaine: I also started the Dalton branch of the fight club. Which I obviously can't talk about.

Santana: It would be rude if I followed you around and every time you took a step I played a note on a tuba.

Top Chef: Higher Stakes

So remember last week when I mentioned Mrs. Teebore and I had been completely ignorant of Whitney's presence until that episode? Turns out there was a reason for that...

For whatever reason, this was one of the less obnoxious "we're in Texas" challenges. Maybe it was because the Dallas references were fleeting, or because "steak" is a pretty basic Texas staple without a whole lot of "this is how we do it in Texas, baby!" BS surrounding it. Bottom line, this was the kind of region-based challenge that's easier to stomach (see what I did there?). The editors tried to drum up some drama with Heather ragging on Beverly (more on that in a bit) and then the whole "Stupid Lyndsay fires the steaks too early" fiasco, though nothing much came of it. Sure, it was upstanding and professional of Ty-Lor, Master of the Universe to take stand by the steaks, but I think the judges needed to know their were factors outside his control contributing to his downfall. Anyway, it didn't matter in the end since Non Factor Whitney was sent home.

Other Thoughts 
Okay, so Beverly is annoying as hell, but what was Heather's deal? I'm not sure why she cared so much that Beverly was slow in preparing her shrimp. That was her component, and if it's all she had to do, why not take her sweet time? It isn't even like it was a component of Heather's dish; she was in an entirely different course. So if Beverly takes too long and screws something up and gets sent home, isn't that a good thing as far as Heather is concerned? Back off lady.

I'm glad a "thing" wasn't made of it, but I do think it's pretty ballsy that Heather has made the same cake using Edward's recipe twice now, and then won a car with it.

Speaking of cake, I know it's early in the season, but it seems like they've had to do a lot more dessert courses than usual already. And not like in the usual "do four courses but no one has the balls to make a dessert" way, but in that the contestants are specifically told they have to include dessert. Gail's influence, maybe?

How hilarious was that crappy knock off of the Dallas theme song that played when they entered Southfork Ranch? Like, it was just close enough to get what they were trying to do, but far enough away from the actual tune to be absolutely safe from having to pay for the rights to the actual song. 

Game On

It's kind of a bummer that we had a chance to get rid of this season's two most annoying contestants in one fell swoop and lost out on it. While Beverly's weepiness and general fraility remains slightly annoying, Heather managed to take up the mantle of full blown villain this episode, tossing people under rampant buses willy nilly, shouting down anyone who tried to disagree with her, and insisting on going on about a problem that was a problem to no one but her. The entire elimination challenge seemed specifically crafted to reveal Heather as a colossal bitch (how lucky were the producers that she just happened to be standing next to Beverly at the end of the Quickfire?), but even taking that all that out, it was still a pretty clever challenge. Making the chefs work on one dish and face elimination together completely upended the usual "every man for himself" paradigm in a way regular team challenges can't, and making them designate the losers was cruelly entertaining. This many seasons in, it's nice to see the show can still come up with some clever twists.

Other Thoughts
Chris from Moto seems to have problems executing his vision, and then cutting his vision loss when it becomes clear he can't execute it. It seems like he's got talent, but if he keeps that up, he can't last much longer, right?

Also, I loved how Grayson shut him up when he started rambling on about his intentions. She's clearly watched this show before.

Once again, the "winning" portion of Judges' Table seemed curiously rushed/downplayed, a trend this season. Maybe there's just too much good "losing" portion stuff?

Off the six chefs up for elimination, the two that went home seemed the least likely of the six to make it very far anyway, making the whole thing anti-climatic and adding to the disappointment that Heather and Beverly didn't get the boot.

Saturday Night Live: Katy Perry & Robyn
This week, the show started slow but ended up tossing out a handful of good sketches, and ended on a strong note. Katy Perry did alright as a host; she wasn't asked to do a whole lot and acquited herself well, though there were a few sketches where they needed to lower the cue cards to make her glances at them less obvious. Let's go a sketch at a time again:

Cold Open: This was dreadful. While it was nice to see Darrel Hammond back, his Trump does little for me, and this was basically just him being Trump for a few minutes.

Opening Monologue: Eh, it was okay. I generally don't like it when SNLers are asked to play characters in the opening monologues (why can't the hosts just, you know, monologue?) but the idea behind this bit was decent enough to provide a few amusing moments. Though given SNL's penchant for singing monologues and Katy Perry being, you know, a singer, I was surprised we didn't get a song.

J Pop America Fun Time Now: As much as I love this sketch, I was surprised to see it brought back so early, and to get placed so early in the show. Nevertheless, I loved it as much a second time around (though, when it comes back again, I hope they change up the bit slightly to keep it from being repetitive, this was, Katy Perry notwithstanding, pretty much the exact same sketch as the first time it aired).

The Apocalypse Trailer: A clever way to parody both New Years Eve and showcase a random collection of impressions (plus some silly laughs like Kris "Ludacris" Kristofferson or Sir Judi Dench tossed in at the end) It's a device I'd like to see used alongside the "DVD outtakes" approach they've used in the past.

Random Swedish Talk Show: The odd Kristen Wiig character I didn't immediately dislike (though I thought it was odd they had two talk show sketches so close together), I particularly enjoyed her ability to have clips of the future. I'd say I wouldn't mind seeing this character again, but then they'll beat her into the ground and I'll have regretted every saying that, so I'm staying quiet.

Doggie Duty: Another sketch designed to showcase impressions, this one didn't work as well for me. Though Katy Perry's Woman From Florence and the Machine impression was spot on, everything else seemed kinda dated (Meatloaf? No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani?). And I'm not a huge fan of the "let's pretend these are new songs when they're really just parodies of existing songs" device.

Digital Short: Another strong digital short. The escalation of craziness really worked to its advantage.

Weekend Update: Whatever that was Kristen Wiig was doing was fine (I at least didn't reach for the remote) but I won't mind never seeing that character again. Alec Baldwin's appearance dealt with the whole American Airlines kerfuffle nicely (I liked his line about how the whole "turn off electronic devices" thing is a ruse; if people really could bring down a plane using their mobile phones, no one would fly). And Stefon is always a pleasure, and this appearance was no different. I particularly liked "an overweight game show host named Fat Sajak".

The Royals: The usual schtick here, though Katy Perry as an equally-vulgar Pippa was a nice deviation from the norm.

Al Sharpton: Obviously, they were riffing on Al Sharpton being a terrible host, but I'm not familiar with the specific circumstances they were parodying. Some of the wrong camera/wrong name stuff was funny, but nothing truly memorable.

Katy Perry Falls Down an Elevator: A suitably oddball final sketch, one which gave Katy Perry arguably the most to do. Pretty amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny.

Favorite Sketch: the Digital Short, again, probably my favorite of the year so far.

Prof. Mark Kaufman: You're all white people! If there is such a thing as a loving version of racism, you have found it.

Stefon: I never knew you had a family. I just thought you were built by gay scientists.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 3/9
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 4/9


  1. FG - i liked the bingo bit. otherwise, i can't really remember anything that happened in this episode.

    Glee kissed - i liked the songs in this epsidose, especially the girls just wanna have fun, though i think you're spot on about the kissed the girl aspect.

    Glee 16 - i have a hard time believing that mercedes will be in a plot line i like, becuase i feel it's actually mercedes i don't like, and am bummed she's not a senior like some of the others and leaving after this season. Also, i don't know what the deal is with trouty mouth. I know anne read an article before this season where it stated they didn't renew his contract, but now suddenly here he is. I'm also wondering how many episodes we have left this season, because the other winner of Glee Project (named Sam) also won a 7 episode arc like Damien (irish kid) and yet he hasn't shown up yet. Tevs.
    I'm still struck by how i dislike a large chunk of the characters, but the writing and the song choice has been a lot better this season, which keeps me hanging on.

    Top Chef - we haven't watched the newest top chef yet because Pat was in chicago, so i can't comment on that yet.
    I'm pissed no one called out lindsay for firing those steaks. I mean, good on Ty-lor, but how hard would it have been for him to say she fired them early, but that it was also his responsibility? You know, throw her under the bus in a less douchey way.
    Also, i'm not a huge fan of Beverly, but i can't stand how much she gets picked on. I mean, really?
    I liked how what's her name...dakota? The dark haired chick with the tats and junk, pointed out that heather is clealy just a bully in real life. That seemed like a spot on dscription of her.

  2. SNL - I find Kristen Wiig's characters to be mostly misses (with a few hits). But I absolutely lost it when the Swedish Talk Show host was forced to show a clip of her drinking tea with her cats. Just the total look of abject despondency on Kristen's face before airing the clip was perfect. I actually think that there are a lot of miles left on this device as long as the writers exercise some creativity... which is a stretch, I know. My second favorite of the night was J Pop America Fun Time Now. I have to agree with all your points. I want to see it reprised and really hope that they evolve the bit so that it stays funny.

    Family Guy - I agree that they kept the same beats, but I loved that they mocked themselves when the camera panned to Peter in the chauffeur outfit and Carter (or maybe it was Lois) immediately shoots him down.

  3. We watched the newest Top Chef last night so i'll comment on that since Sarah said pretty much everything i needed to say.

    w...t...f...could Heather BE more of a bitch? It really felt to us (probably b/c of the editing) that Nyeshia and Dakota were actually safe- because the judges kept commenting on how delicious their dish was and the only thing wrong was the underdone Venison. I mean- i understand tha it was a game challenge, but that has NEVER stopped the judges before- like when 2 or 3 seasons ago some group got assigned a protein and they just decided to not do it and didn't get kicked off. Or when whatshisname on Desserts made Beef Wellington because it's clearly French.
    I call Shenanigans on that.
    Also- we were suprised to see that Whitney beat Chuy on Redemption Island

  4. @Sarah: i have a hard time believing that mercedes will be in a plot line i like, becuase i feel it's actually mercedes i don't like

    Yeah, me too. I had totally forgotten she's not a senior, which makes her bitching all the more frustrating. She can have all the solos next year, when Rachel's gone.

    'm also wondering how many episodes we have left this season, because the other winner of Glee Project (named Sam) also won a 7 episode arc like Damien (irish kid) and yet he hasn't shown up yet.

    The Christmas episode was the ninth of the season. Assuming Glee has the usual 22 episode order (and it might have more), that means we have at least thirteen more episodes this season. Hopefully this other winner's character will be given more to do than the Irish kid...

    I'm still struck by how i dislike a large chunk of the characters, but the writing and the song choice has been a lot better this season, which keeps me hanging on.

    Ditto. The writing still has its issue, but on the whole, it's much, much better than the manic plotting and whackadoo characterization of last season, and the issues its has are closer to more general "writing on TV" issues than something intrinsic to the show.

    That seemed like a spot on dscription of her.

    Which ended up being totally validated in the next episode.

    @Mr. Shadadoo: But I absolutely lost it when the Swedish Talk Show host was forced to show a clip of her drinking tea with her cats.

    Me too. That was definitely the highlight of the sketch; I should have mentioned it in the write-up.

    I want to see it reprised and really hope that they evolve the bit so that it stays funny.

    Agreed. The key to this (and the Swedish talk show, and really any recurring sketch) is having a repetitive framework that still allows for new material.

    I mean, Stefon is basically the same thing every time, but it's damned hilarious every time, because the format allows for variety. You know he's going to talk about crazy ass clubs with goofy names and human objects involved, but the details change every time, so those names or objects continue to be funny each time out.

    I loved that they mocked themselves when the camera panned to Peter in the chauffeur outfit and Carter (or maybe it was Lois) immediately shoots him down.

    I definitely appreciate that Family Guy has a sense of humor about itself.

    @Anne: but that has NEVER stopped the judges before

    Yeah, trying to apply logic to the judges, let alone trying to apply past logic to the current situation, is fruitless. Some of it, I know, is the editing, such that we never get the full story. But a lot of it is just that the judges seem truly committed to this asinine "we judge each challenge on its own merits" approach, such that an offense which warranted removal in the past may not warrant removal this time, depending on the circumstances of the current challenge.

    So even though undercooked meat got someone booted in the past, it doesn't automatically mean undercooked meat will always get you booted, which is kinda lame.

    Also- we were suprised to see that Whitney beat Chuy on Redemption Island

    We also. Very surprised.

  5. Family Guy just reminded me that I'm scared to grow old.

  6. @Dr. Bitz: Family Guy just reminded me that I'm scared to grow old.

    True dat.

    Though I definitely would much rather live out my days in a retirement home than work until I drop dead.

  7. I watched FG again since it was on adult swim and one line I forgot that I found really funny is when they're getting ready to take Carter back home and Peter draws a mustache and eyebrows on him to turn him into groucho marx and Babb's says:


    Also, Joe singing Fiona Apple I enjoyed. Though that might be just based on my love of that song

  8. @Sarah: Also, Joe singing Fiona Apple I enjoyed.

    Me too, though less because of any affectation for the song and more for just the juxtaposition of Joe with Fiona Apple.


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