Our biggest posts of the new season (remember when I pretended these were going to be shorter this season?), as a bunch of returning shows premiere and I continue to catch up from some irregular vacation viewing. Also, I watched the premieres of Modern Family and Elementary, but didn't make the time to write about them, so feel free to sound off on them in the comments if you're so inclined.
The Simpsons: Moonshine River
While the central premise of the episode was interesting (Bart looking up old girlfriends to find out what keeps turning off women from him), I don't think it was taken as far as it could have been, and the much-hullabalooed gamut of actresses returning to voice their various "Bart's girlfriend du jour" characters amounted, with the exception of Zooey Deschanel's Mary, to little more than a word each. It's also one of those plots that would have worked better if the show allowed its characters to age, such that Bart was a few years older when grappling with the issues he confronts in this episode. Meanwhile, the Marge/Lisa "finding cheap culture in New York" subplot contained some great gags (I especially enjoyed their attempts to see a Broadway show and the Baldwin/Sheen-Estevez feud).
Kent Brockman: This is Kent Brockman at the first annual Springfield Grand Prix, which,
like all of our showcase town events, is not only poorly planned, it’s horribly executed!
Bart: But you love New York, now that your least favorite buildings have been
Station and Shea Stadium!
Bob's Burgers: Ear-sy Rider
The best show on Fox's Animation Domination block returns with a strong premiere. Hilarity always ensues when Louise is taken out of her comfort zone; just the shots of her head being desperately-covered by her hood were worth the price of admission, and there was plenty of other great material to come out of her attempts to win back her ears. The closing scene, in which the confrontation between the Belchers, the neighbors and the motorcycle gang escalates to hilarious levels, is a great snapshot of what makes the show work so well: it's love of misfits and the bizarre.
Teddy: Someone threw a sno-cone at my windshield this morning. I thought I hit a rainbow. It was terrifying.
Tina: You don’t want to mess with my sister. She’ll wear down your self esteem over a period of years.
Family Guy: Into Fat Air
I'm kind of hit or miss when Family Guy decides to go dark, and the idea of the Griffin's eating a kid seemed a little too dark for me. It isn't any worse than other stuff Family Guy has done; heck it isn't even as bad as what American Dad did later in the night, but it just felt dark for dark's sake. There wasn't anything inherently funny about it, and it didn't lead to much hilarity, dark or otherwise. Everything else was okay (the depiction of climbing Mount Everest was, I imagine, patently ridiculous, but it's Family Guy; that doesn't really bother me), with a surprisingly focused plotline throughout (everything spun off from the idea that the Griffins wanted to beat out the snooty family) and some decent gags on the periphery (like Brian wanting to pee on top of Everest, or the extended bit with Peter using salad dressing, then salad, to oil up his pecs, which cracked me the hell up for whatever reason).
Peter: I’m told James Woods High leads the nation in teacher-to-student thing resting.
American Dad: Love, AD Style
Like Family Guy, this episode went to some dark places, but for whatever reason, it worked better for me here than there. Maybe because all the darkness was centered on Roger, a character who has a history of going incredibly dark and has an inherent "unreality" to him. Or maybe I'm just sick in an oddly specific way. The B story, featuring Stan attempting to sell his car, also escalated to a pretty dark place, but again, it worked, maybe because the idea of a lion attacking a woman leading to a car crash leading to a flaming lion attacking a flaming woman is over-the-top enough to counteract how disturbing that scenario is. At any rate, I laughed at it way more than I should have. Definitely not American Dad at its best, but still pretty solid.
The actress who voices Hayley, Rachael MacFarlane (Seth's sister) released a CD of her singing jazz standards a couple weeks ago; I know American Dad runs on a bizarre production schedule because of how Fox constantly pulls the show (this episode was produced back in 2010, I believe, and shelved while it waited its turns), so I wonder if that album was conceived way back then or more recently when the episode air date drew near.
Stan: Everybody shoots everybody, it’s how we communicate in this family.
Once Upon A Time: Broken
Props to Once Upon a Time for seemingly embracing its fantasy elements: Emma's obstinacy was one of the most irritating parts of the show's inaugural season, as it seemed designed to prevent the show from getting too fantastical. Obviously, with Emma transplanted to Fairy Tale Land, magic alive and well in Storybrooke and everyone referring to themselves by their fairy tale names, that shouldn't be a problem anymore, and the show should be better (and more enjoyable) for it.
Emma seriously is a drag; the first thing she does when reunited with her parents is bawl them out for abandoning her. There's just no pleasing her...
That said, there's something seriously surreal about Emma and Snow acknowledging their relationship, given that both actresses have got to be pretty close in age. It was one thing when that relationship was all subtext to their interactions last season, but it's a lot more obvious now that Snow is referring to Emma as her daughter (this is probably how I'd feel if Cyclops and Cable ever ended up in a movie together...).
The show takes another page from Lost's book: no more Fairybacks, as the events of the fairy tale world are now happening contemporaneously to the events in Storybrooke. And color me curious about how this little chunk of Fairy Tale Land survived Regina's curse.
I have no intelligent idea who the mysterious character who opened the episode is (another Lost callback), but I've seen speculation suggesting it's Rumpelstiltskin's son Baelfire, though mainly because the show is being secretive about his identity and that's the likeliest culprit.
Did Emma's touch reawaken Regina's magic permanently (meaning Regina can now use magic again) or did it just supercharge it for a brief period of time?
How I Met Your Mother: The Pre-Nup
This unfortunately suffered from an overly sitcom-y, by-the-numbers plot, but some of the stuff on the margins drew some big laughs (especially Robin's attraction to seeing herself on-air, complete with winks between past and present Robins). While Barney and Quinn being the one couple of the three (for now) to break up wasn't surprising in and of itself (especially since we knew it was only a matter of time), I was surprised that they were broken up this early in the season, and while their respective trust issues had certainly been established, this seemed like a rushed way to bring them to a head.
I was a little bothered by SagetTed's assertion that nothing interesting happened in the Summer of Love; it would have been interesting to see Victoria reunite with the group, at the very least.
If you didn't know, Michael Trucco's Nick (Robin's boyfriend), who made a brief appearance in an earlier season and whom SagetTed promised we'd see again, was intended to fill the Kal Penn role of "guy who keeps Robin and Barney apart" last season, but he became unavailable, which led to the creation of the Kevin character for Kal Penn.
Strange Compatriots, the German sitcom where one character is very neat and the other is very very neat, also cracked me up. “Ludwig has started to polish the doorknobs, but Wilhelm has already completed this task!”
Other funny stuff: Marshall's insistence on the existence of a toast ghost, the phrase "honka-honkas", and Lily actually having a slide whistle to mock Barney's future-impotency.
Revolution: No Quarter
While we have yet to hit the first "wow" episode of this series, it's continuing to do a nice job of building its world/premise, this time giving us a glimpse into the formation of the militia. Miles hand in that wasn't terribly surprising, given his friendship with Monroe and some of the spoilers from the "next week" previews, but I appreciated how the show left understated how the militia could begin as a force for good (Miles recognizing the need for some kind of local authority to help people post-blackout) before getting corrupted by personal ambition and the complexity of the situation (ie "who will police the police?").
I've said before that Charlie is the Luke to Miles' Han, and while the character is slowly getting more interesting, I realized an important distinction: no matter how much Luke whined, he still had a lightsaber and cool Force powers to counteract the whining. Charlie doesn't have anything like that yet.
I'm finding myself surprisingly enjoying the little interludes with Danny, a character I immediately dismissed as another "annoying male teen" character, the kind that plagued Terra Nova and V. His relative cool in the face of his incarceration is refreshing, and taking down the militia guy who was assaulting him was pretty badass.
I hope Mark Pellegrino sticks around.
For what it's worth, the show has already received a full season pickup from NBC; The Event did as well, two seasons ago, so let's hope this show doesn't go quite as off the rails as that one did.
Last Resort: Captain
Definitely a show that, in its pilot, is heavy on plot and light on character (pretty much everyone is a broad archetype, at best, at this point), but that's always less a problem for me, and like Revolution, the premise is intriguing enough to keep me interested while I wait for the characters to get fleshed out. Also like Revolution, there's plenty of questions surrounding the premise, but that's not really a problem coming out of the show's first episode. Plus, Andre Braugher is awesome and can elevate pretty much anything.
When I heard the premise of this show, I assumed the sub crew would be taking over a deserted island, leaving episodes to balance between stories of survival on the island and the overall political mystery. It makes sense, dramatically, that they'd land on an island with people, but I was still surprised when it happened.
One of the issues I have with mutiny stories is that so much of military action is built on the idea of following orders; doing something arguably horrific without question because that's how you've been trained and it's what everyone does. But once someone at the top starts questioning orders, it becomes harder to not wonder why people lower on the totem pole aren't also questioning orders (for example, when Andre Baugher orders the missile to be fired at Washington, it happens without argument, but if I'd just watched my captain disobey a similar order, I'd find it a lot harder to obey his orders instantaneously, without question). Hopefully, this is something the show will address.
I have very little idea how the day-to-day operation of sub works, but based simply on the naval-based movies and TV shows I've seen, it struck me as odd that everyone referred to Scott Speedman's character as "XO" (his position) rather than by his rank ("Commander" or "Lt. Commander").
This show had a cast filled with "hey, it's that guy!" actors, from the T-1000 to Karen from Falling Skies to Karofsky from Glee.
I would totally watch an hour long show every week that was just Autumn Reeser talking about military technology in her underwear. I'm just saying...
Due to the circumstances of my vacation, I ended up watching this episode and skipping over the previous one. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I figured I may as well write up this episode nonetheless.
So I have no idea how the second episode of the season played out, but this one continued the surprising focus of the premiere, giving us just a pair of stories in each location while advancing some subplots. I again find myself admiring Glee's (relative) restraint, even while continuing to roll my eyes at its inherent Glee-ness, like Sarah Jessica Parker's Magic Pixie Dreamboss or Finn's sudden appearance at the most dramatic of moments (when there was a knock on Rachel's door, Mrs. Teebore asked, "do you think it's Finn?" And I said, "this is Glee. Of course it's Finn."). That said, the plot turns of this episode felt almost as by-the-numbers as Mr. Schuester's lackluster theme ideas. I think a little restraint and focus can do this show a world of good, but I wouldn't want it to lose its manic energy, either.
So the whole student election think went down a hell of lot faster this season than last. Not that I'm complaining, mind you...
Lots of great little in-jokes about the show's ability to discard/ignore it's own continuity.
Needless to say, I did not appreciate the "Cyclops is gay" joke.
I love Stoner Brett. "Separation of powers!"
I also love that Brittany still calls Blaine "Blaine Warbler".
Favorite Song: Another lackluster round of songs for me, with Blaine's episode-opening "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" easily winning the night.
Artie: So I can be Cheney to your Bush?
Brittany: I’d rather be landing strip.
Sam: Stop giving tests. They’re hard and there’s way too many of them.
30 Rock: The Beginning of the End
A surprisingly plot-heavy premiere for 30 Rock, though I suppose it needs to setup the plots for the show's final season. I could have done without the Kenneth/Hazel business (Kenneth has always done very little for me, and pairing him with "crazier more psychotic female Kenneth" does even less, even in the hands of Kristen Schaal) but everything else was pretty funny, especially all the various NBC shows, most of which landed squarely in the "funny because they could very easily be true" zone (I mean God Cop? I can't believe that hasn't actually shown up somewhere already).
Despite my issues with the Kenneth/Hazel plot, I did enjoy the whackadoo dinner party, especially the fact that Tracy took all the bizarre stuff, like pills as appetizers, at face value. Also, Dharma ice cream.
I love that Jack has a literal green light he uses for green-lighting shows.
Tracy's descriptions of French: the language spoken by Nazi Germany's most enthusiastic collaborators. That made me chuckle, as did Jack referring to Bane as his "good friend". Also, the running gag about Paas egg dying kits was fantastic.
I'd totally watch Homonyms.
Jack: Good peacock to you.
Parks and Recreation: Soda Tax
This was very much a classic episode of P&R, featuring Leslie struggling to decide on the proper course of action when presented with two alternatives, each with its own pros and cons, helped along in her decision-making process via sage advice from Ron. It even featured that old staple of P&R, Leslie taking the issue to a town hall meeting featuring the whacky denizens of Pawnee. While such an approach could have come off as derivative, given all the changes the characters have gone through, it was instead refreshing to see that the show could still tell these kinds of stories, and despite, say, Leslie being a City Councilwoman now, these stories can be just as funny and well-executed.
I didn't get a chance to write down all the great quotes, but the entire sequence in Leslie's meeting with the restaurant representative in which she detailed the various sizes ("Well, it's roughly the size of a 2-year-old child, if the child were liquified"), and then later explained how Water Zero actually contains a fair amount of calories was fantastic. So was Andy stripping down and collapsing after running two miles (exercise prompts a similar reaction in me) and Ben and April "negotiating" over April giving 12% instead of 15%.
Also, Andy resorting to wearing a bandana as underwear? Classic.