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Friday, December 21, 2012

Last Week in TV #14

My airing of this week's Simpsons was pre-empted for the President's speech in Newtown, so I'll write that up next week after I watch the re-airing this Sunday (which is also when the new episodes of Family Guy and American Dad originally slated for this week will air). In the meantime, here's some thoughts on what aired in the run-up to Christmas. 

Bob's Burgers: God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins

After finally being given an opportunity to air in the fall, Bob's Burgers has so far this season given us stellar Halloween and Thanksgiving episodes. This episode completes the holiday trinity with a superlative Christmas episode in which the show puts its skewed spin on the biggest holiday of them all. The end result is a fantastic episode that hits just the right amounts of sweetness, absurdity, and laugh-out-loud funny. I can already imagine myself returning to watch this episode every Christmas.

Other Thoughts
While Chet obviously isn't really a mannequin turned to life, I love that the episode never completely confirmed or denied that fact, leaving it a quasi open question (in as much as it can be), not unlike the kind of unexplained phenomenon that often pop up in Christmas episodes (only with this show's usual weirdness, since we're talking about whether or not a mannequin came to life).

Linda and Bob alternately yelling at the kids to leave the room and to stay in the room rivaled the bedroom yelling scene from two episodes ago for sheer hilarity.

Chet: I'm Chet. Short for "Chester". Long for "Ch". 

Chet: One day Nadine came in. She didn’t have nipples and let me tell you, she didn’t need them.

Tina: I get it. One day all of a sudden you’re anatomically correct… I just went through that.

Linda: Don’t. Bother. Bringing. The. Mistletoe. To. Bed! But. Do. Bring. Me. A. Snack! Chocolate!

How I Met Your Mother: The Final Page Part 1 & 2

As tired as I am of the Robin/Barney romantic merry-go-round (and as much as I agree with Robin's initial assertion that the details of Barney's long con should make a woman run screaming for the hills) I can't deny that I'm enough of a sap to be charmed by that rooftop sequence. It also helps that, in the end, what we believed was just more wheel spinning action in earlier episodes this season all turned out to actually be building to this specific moment.  

Other Thoughts
Not sure if this was intentional or not, but Barney and Robin embracing on the rooftop as (bad CGI) snow started to fall reminded me of Ted and Robin finally hooking up, on a rooftop in the rain, at the end of the first season.

I am very glad Patrice was aware of Barney's plan and was playing along knowingly and willingly; it would have been reprehensible if he was pretending to date Patrice and she wasn't in on it.

Even though the big moment from this two-parter is obviously Robin and Barney getting engaged, much of the second half centered on Ted and Robin's relationship, one of the central relationships on the show, and that was very much appreciated. Ted's speech about the importance of making an ass out of yourself was a great way to give the show's main character some agency in a major storyline that doesn't directly involve him, and made a fitting connection to Ted's past behavior. For the first time in a long time, this felt like an episode centered around Ted, where Ted was more than just humorously-douchey, even though it was about Barney and Robin getting engaged and didn't feature any "revelations" about the Mother.

Similarly, the thing I found most touching about "The Robin" was the fact that Barney worked in a step that would tell him whether or not he had Ted's approval to propose to Robin, the implication being that if he didn't, the proposal wouldn't have happened. 

Donna Bowman's review for the Onion A.V. Club has a great bit of analysis about how this iteration of Barney/Robin will be able to overcome the pitfalls that befell their first relationship. 

I loved the reveal that Barney knew everyone was in his apartment last episode.

This two-parter afforded the completion of Ted's GNB building the kind of attention it deserved, so I retract my earlier complaint regarding its offhand mention in an earlier episode. That said, we know it's not possible, but it would have been nice if Robin was right and Ted did meet the mother at the opening of his building.

Between Seth Green and (the admittedly recurring and easy to get a hold of) Alexis Denisof, they were just packing the Buffy alums into this episode.  

Speaking of Seth Green's character, while a 100K isn't quite "so rich you've got it made for life" money, Marshall and Lily failing to get that check comes dangerously close to one of Dr. Bitz's most hated sitcom cliches, when the main characters botch an opportunity to become filthy rich.

Nice touch making Frank Viola Marshall's Minnesota Twins hero; my Twins heroes are drawn more from the '91 series, but Marshall is a few years older than me, so it makes sense he'd connect with one of the '87 stars. 

Marshall: Could we do this in the living room, or anywhere less gimp-storage-y?

Patrice: What a pretty basket!

Ted: ...legendary, challenge accepted, he winked at me, wait for it
Marshall: That does sound like Barney...

Top Chef: Even the Famous Come Home

This episode featured two Top Chef staples: the "can't use a knife" challenge, and the catering challenge. The former wasn't as exciting as it could have been because everyone seemed to share, much, I'm sure, to the producers chagrin, though I did enjoy seeing stuff like the meat slicer being used to cut herbs. The most surprising thing about the elimination challenge was simply that the producers hadn't trotted out a catering challenge sooner, as it's a favorite early-season way of thinning the herd. And sure enough, as opposed to last episode's judges' table, this one felt pretty routine, Eliza having always felt like someone who wasn't going to stick around long, making her elimination feel like another "culling the wheat from the chafe" style departure.

Other Thoughts
Usually celebrity judges bring a lot of dietary restrictions, but Chris Pratt and Anna Faris were the opposite, requesting anything so long as there was lots of it (which also made for a nice (likely unintentional) contrast with the eye-rolling product placement of Truvia in the Quickfire). 

Josh didn't like Stefan in season six because he was an asshole and douchey, but now he likes him. Not surprising, since Josh himself is something of an asshole and douchey, but lacks the charm that keeps Stefan entertaining to watch. 

Micah's reaction to the Quickfire judge referring to his tamale as a taco makes me think that next season, the twist should be that all the guest judges are amateur chefs/critics, forcing the contestants to listen to criticism like "[insert high end or non-traditional food item] is gross!" and "what's wrong with a simple spaghetti and meatballs?" all season long. 

So Danyele has emerged as this season's token "I'm going to figuratively take myself out of the competition because I don't have the confidence to proceed" figure. Quit whining or get gone.  

Saturday Night Live: Martin Short & Paul McCartney

Christmas episodes tend to crowd out the regular cast, as a calvacade of guest stars, in addition to the host, usually show up, and this episode's list of cameo appearances is one of the largest I can remember. Toss in a host who wasn't afraid to appear in sketches (not surprisingly, considering Short is a former, albeit short-lived, cast member) and a musical guest who is a big enough name that he gets three segments, and members of the regular cast didn't appear for large swaths of time. The end result was, overall, enjoyable enough - really only one dud of a sketch on the night. Martin Short pretty much played the same character, and the schtick wore thin fast (and wasn't that funny to begin with) but there was enough decent material on the edges that he didn't ruin the episode or anything. Plus, it's hard to get too down on the Christmas episode.

Other Thoughts
Jeez, even Martin Short is singing in his monologue now, though I suppose the "sing a song and tour the studio and interact with famous actors making cameos" bit has become something of a modern staple for the Christmas show now (Fallon did it last year).

The cold open was clearly not what was originally planned, and served as a suitable acknowledgement of the events in Connecticut without being too cloying or exploitative. The "live from New York" announcement was odd, but there was probably no good way to do that seemlessly.

"You're a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown" was pretty much the regular casts' big opportunity to get some work in, and the impressions were pretty spot on (if a bit random, as these kind of impression sketches usually are). As a fan of the original property, I greatly enjoyed this bit.

As for the Weekend Update guests, Vanessa Bayer's bar mitzvah boy didn't really work for me but wasn't horrible or anything, while I greatly enjoyed the latest iteration of the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party, a character that, like Stefon or Drunk Uncle, trots out the same schtick every time but is able to change up the details enough to keep it fresh ("Why can’t Secret Santa just be openly gay? Like, hello, it’s 2010.")    

Favorite Sketch: The royal gynecologist sketch was easily the funniest of the night, simply for the list of acceptable names for the Duchess' vagina ("Her Downton Abbey"), but I'll give the honor to the return of "What's Up with That?", because it's my inexplicably favorite recurring sketch, it made a surprise return after allegedly being retired by Keenan, and because Samuel L. Jackson dropped an F bomb that didn't get bleeped out.

Least Favorite Sketch: That Pottery Barn bit. Just random nonsense.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 1/10
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 7/10
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 8/10 


  1. How I Met Your Mother: The Final Page Part 1 & 2

    I guess they heard us complaining about the seeming afterthought/downplay re Ted's building.

    Yeah, I kind-of wish that Robin hadn't put so fine a point on it about how she couldn't trust Barney and (especially) how psycho that final "play" was. 'Cause, y'know, it was true. I figured out what was up in the limo — right before it became obvious with Ted mentioning the WWN roof and Robin saying that it was her favorite place — and so the way Barney lured her there, counting on Ted's spilling the beans, seemed not only romantic but very in the character of the entire show, yet it was also crazy manipulative.

    And yeah, I wish Ted could've met the Mother at that party. We do know that he doesn't — or didn't; ah, flashback tenses — but I still half-expected, nonsensically really, to see a yellow umbrella twirling during the crane shot as Ted walked across the room to suggest that she was there, too, in addition to other close calls. Even though Ted meets her at that train station I think I remember right that he earlier glimpsed her ankles at the apartment of Rachel Bilson's character and she was in one of his lectures.

    My ongoing concern about the reveal of the Mother is that if the show really ends up concluding with how Ted literally met her, period, then it's all the weirder that his story — even if you look it at it with the rationalization that we're being told much more than his kids are — includes so much quality time and hijinks with previous girlfriends since he met Robin. I almost want the show to not get picked up for another, final season until after they have to pull the trigger and have Ted meet the Mother so that we can spend some time with her as part of the group, the series then ending with a proposal.

    That's a good point and well said about how central Ted was to the episode even though the A plot was actually Barney/Robin and the B plot was Marshall/Lily(/Marvin).

    Lily: "In three minutes we're supposed to be doing hand stuff in the cab."

    Saturday Night Live: Martin Short and Paul McCartney

    I agree that the "Live from New York..." was a bit, if necessarily, awkward, but that was a lovely opening with the children's choir. Having them on hand at the end for McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" was a nice bookend. I might have had something in my eye.

    For what it's worth, Short always has a fake-surprise musical number prepared when he appears on The Late Show with David Letterman, often written by Marc Shaiman (the go-to guy for Special Musical Material like Billy Crystal's Oscar songs). So that partly explains both Short's musical monologue as well as Paul Shaffer's appearance in it.

    I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party. I'm a sucker for malaprop and non-sequitur humor, to the point that even Drunk Uncle is usually good for a couple of chuckles, and I like this character better; her appearance this time actually had me laughing out loud more than once.

    Honestly, I would have laid odds that you'd amend "Favorite Sketch" to a special award for gratitude that Kristin Wiig didn't show up after her monologue cameo. 8^)

    That's a couple of weeks in a row with almost no Secret Weapon Kate McKinnon.

  2. I'm behind on everything. Bah!

  3. As discussed, the POTUS's speech interrupted Bob's Burgers for us, so we only saw like the first 5 minutes. BOO!

    I know i watched that episode of Top Chef, but i really don't remember anything about it. Just that i hope Micah goes soon. The dude irritates me

  4. "...Samuel L. Jackson dropped an F bomb that didn't get bleeped out."

    Aww, lucky! It was censored for the West Coast broadcast.

  5. @Matt: It was censored for the West Coast broadcast.

    He actually didn't say the F-word, albeit barely. You could hear him say "What the fuhhh..." and it was pretty obvious that he was waiting to be cut off but was left hanging (not that, apparently unlike Mr. Jackson, I necessarily blame Keenan Thompson; I'm just playing the home game).

    He then followed it up with a clearly audible "That's bullshit." So.

  6. @Blam: I kind-of wish that Robin hadn't put so fine a point on it about how she couldn't trust Barney and (especially) how psycho that final "play" was.

    Agreed. It's one thing if we, the audience, make that observation. But once Robin makes it, we know she sees it too, which makes her ultimate acceptance of his proposal despite her knowledge of how manipulative it was that much more questionable.

    I still half-expected, nonsensically really, to see a yellow umbrella twirling during the crane shot as Ted walked across the room to suggest that she was there, too

    Ha! I thought the exact same thing.

    I almost want the show to not get picked up for another, final season until after they have to pull the trigger and have Ted meet the Mother so that we can spend some time with her as part of the group, the series then ending with a proposal.

    Ditto again. I've long been frustrated by the creators seeming insistence that the show had to end literally, with Ted meeting the mother in the final moments, rather than allowing him to meet her and then spend some time with her, allowing us to get to know her.

    Yet it's become pretty clear that they favor the literal ending, which is disappointing. And the show has been picked up for another season (reportedly, Jason Segal was the last hold out, and ultimately agreed to one more year so as not to scuttle things for his castmates, all of whom are apparently pretty close friends in reality), so those two things means we're getting at least one more season, if not a season-and-a-half, of frustrating wheel spinning and narrative trickery as Carter and Bays try to stretch things out.

    Which, sadly, just makes me all the most disinterested in the show's mythology so to speak, and just has me hoping that some funny stuff happens in the course of the wheel spinning.

    Short always has a fake-surprise musical number prepared when he appears on The Late Show with David Letterman, often written by Marc Shaiman

    I did not know that, either about Short's musical numbers nor the involvement of Shaiman, a composer whose work I generally enjoy (he's scored a lot of Aaron Sorkin projects, so I tend to think of him as Sorkin's go-to guy).

    That's a couple of weeks in a row with almost no Secret Weapon Kate McKinnon.

    Yeah, she's really disappeared since the election, not that Ann Romney was by any means her only character or way onto the show. Curious.

    He actually didn't say the F-word, albeit barely.

    I dunno. I know that's his official line, and it probably has to be, but I swear I heard the whole thing. Then again, maybe I just subconsciously filled it in, the way you can see the beginning of a word on a page and finish it even if the word cuts off.


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