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Friday, April 12, 2013

Last Week in TV #29

Another light week as the reruns keep running, so we'll do some more catch-up. Also, I finally got around to finishing Last Resort, which, all things considered, wrapped up about as satisfyingly as we could have hoped for (the wrap-up was more rushed than I would have liked, and some of the smaller details pertaining to the overall plot got brushed past, but at least it wrapped up).

As a series, it definitely started to pick up towards the middle (right around the time word of the cancellation came out), and where I once wondered how it could possibly last more than thirteen episodes, it started to show potential for being a long running series. I'd have liked to see where it went had it continued (and how drawn out the overarching plot would have been had the show stuck around), but at least the episodes we got (especially after some of the early time-killers) managed to tell a finite, largely compelling and consistently entertaining story.

Anyways, on to shows still on the air!

Revolution: The Song Remains the Same   

It would seem the quests for the remainder of the season have been establish: Rachel and Aaron will attempt to turn the power back on, while Miles and Charlie will attempt to stop Monroe from detonating a nuke. However, the pacing of recent episodes (note the seeming passage of time between last episode and this one: the resistance, or this part of it, has found a new base, Hudson is settled in, Jason is an entrenched member of the resistance) is reason to hope that neither of these quests will be as drawn out as the one which dominated the first half of the season.

Other Thoughts
I know last week I said I wasn't all that pumped to learn more about the blackout since we already seemed to at least know the broad strokes, but I was still somehow bummed that the big "I'm going to tell you everything" episode amounted to a five minute discussion of "it was caused by a robot virus we created, then went out of control for reasons I don't know".

That said, the idea of self-replicating nanobots that absorb electricity is an interesting way to go. It's also another allusion to The Stand, as the apocalypse in that book was similarly brought about by a man-made virus. In fact, I wonder if this is what all the Stand allusions were pointing towards.

No flashback this week; I was expecting one, given the "reveal the cause of the blackout" setup (frankly, I was expecting an episode set almost entirely in the past), but once it became clear that wasn't the focus of the episode, the lack of a flashback helped maintain the intensity of the plot (similarly, resisting the urge to cutaway from Miles' interrogation of Neville was equally effective). 

The scenes of Charlie training are much appreciated; sequences like that make it much easier to enjoy scenes where a previously ordinary character starts displaying martial abilities.

Couple of good post-blackout moments: Neville's enjoyment of being able to listen to music in a car again and Charlie and Jason's ignorance of "boy bands". 

I hoped, but did not expect, that Jason was releasing his father as part of a planned ruse, so bravo, show, for genuinely surprising me.

I get that Neville escaped via that nail, but I'm still unclear what it was he used to kill that guy and how he got it. 

Thirty pounds of diamonds is a ton of diamonds. Er, well, you know what I mean. 

Heh. Neville likes Lionel Richie. Love it. 

Glee: I Do 

Will and Emma's wedding getting called off was hardly surprising; "runaway bride" is one of the soaps' most time-honored plot devices, and this show is nothing if not beholden to soap opera tropes (see also: the end of the episode). Thankfully, this episode was seemingly written with that in mind, as Emma leaving Will wasn't really presented as either the big climax of the episode nor an episode-ending cliffhanger. The rest of the episode was filled with an almost manic level of great characters bit fighting against awful character bits, and some decent musical numbers. So, you know, typical Glee

Other Thoughts
For the record, the good character bits: the handling of Rachel and Finn's reconciliation, the Kurt/Blaine "just friends" business (especially the unspoken but obvious disconnect between them on the matter), the (presumed) end to Tina's insane crush on Blaine and Santana and Quinn's fake IDs.

Bad character bits: the continued idea that Finn is Will's best man, Artie hooking up with that girl because wheelchairs, Brody apparently being a gigolo now, the whole "Rachel's pregnant" cliffhanger. 

The jury is still out as far as Quinn's experimentation. On the one hand, I'd hate for something as relatively innocuous as that to be the subject of a "very special episode" or anything, on the other hand, it seemed kind of random and dangerously close to titillation for the sake of titillation. I guess it'll depend on where, if anywhere, it goes from here.

Seriously, I really enjoyed all the stuff between Rachel and Finn, both Finn's assured confidence during the flower scene and the fact that Finn didn't freak out about the fact that Rachel left without saying goodbye to him.

Jayma Mays also did a really good job with her pre-wedding freakout, both in terms of in terms of how she played it and her performance of the song (though Mrs. Teebore suggested her freakout is a reason you don't pre-stage the bridesmaids at the altar).

I seriously burst out laughing when Will said he was helping Emma by taking care of the entertainment for the reception. Both because that's, like, one task in a hundred and because it's the easiest task of all because everyone knows he's just going to make his students do it. No wonder she left, Schuester.

I probably shouldn't have, but I got a kick out of all the Sue gags in this episode. Small doses go a long way when they're playing her strictly for laughs. 

I love that Mercedes came back and again was given nothing significant to do. 

Only in the world of Glee: would a wedding reception continue sans wedding. Because hey, these kids need a place to sing and party. 

Favorite Song: I thought Kurt and Blaine killed "Just Can't Get Enough", but I have to go with "We've Got Tonight" because it's long been a favorite and I really liked the arrangement of the song and the overall direction of the number, with everyone pairing off and disappearing into their rooms.

Emma: All of you glee kids have dated so incestuously I can’t even remember who can tolerate who any more.

Community: Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations

Jeff finally meeting his dad feels like it should be a big deal, but this episode worked in part because it didn't make that big a deal out of it. Maybe it's just because I watched it a couple weeks after it originally aired (or because it's a Thanksgiving episode airing in March) but I enjoyed how this big moment in the life of (arguably) the show's central character, a moment the show had been quietly building towards across three seasons, was relatively downplayed. It was the centerpiece of this episode, but it wasn't the only thing going on, Britta was the only other main character involved in Jeff's story, and there wasn't a whole lot of build-up to it in the previous episodes (the closing moments of the Halloween episode aside, which really felt more like a reminder of Jeff's relationship with this dad more than anything). To be clear, Joel McHale made the most of the material, especially the way he seamlessly slipped into the heartbreaking story about faking surgery to get "get well" cards and then slipped right back into usual sardonic disinterest, but by making what was a big moment in the characters' life a relatively low-key moment for the show made it all the more effective.

Other Thoughts
Great stuff from Britta throughout as well. 

The one thing that didn't quite work in Jeff's storyline was his half brother. I get the idea, but the presentation didn't quite gel. The problem, I think, is that they took the character too far away from "soft and un-Jeff life" to "weird for the sake of weird".

Jeff's dad faking a heart attack was a nice callback to all the times Pierce has done the same.

Also, Jeff has apparently been faking all those texts he's always sending, which makes sense, given that we never really see or hear about any other friends. 

The Shawshank, then Prison Break homages were also nicely restrained, and didn't dominate the episode the way they could have.

Loved Troy's frustration at having to be the third one to speak about the garbage dip.

Parks and Recreation: Partridge

When I first heard this episode would be about Ben going back to his hometown, I anticipated a lot of easy Minnesota jokes, but I shouldn't have worried, because this show is better than that, and their depiction of the fictional Partridge wasn't all that removed from its depiction of Pawnee (the sled mascot was the only outwardly "Minnesotan" thing, and frankly, I could see one of our towns having a mascot like that). It's always fun to see Leslie get righteously indignant, and always a pleasure to see JK Simmons, but it's a shame Ben wasn't more involved in the plot featuring his hometown. 

Other Thoughts
That said, Ben hopped up on pain killers is almost as funny as Chris wracked with the flu.

Loved Leslie grilling Ben's sister about his high school girlfriends and to what base she thinks he reached with each of them. 

The Ron plot, per usual, had some great material. I don't know that the show needed to follow up on Ron's punching Jamm, but there's certainly nothing wrong with doing so. Plenty of good bits there, like Ron not knowing how much money he has but knowing how much it weighs, and his belief that skim milk is just "water that's lying about being milk", a belief Ron and I share. 

Saturday Night Live: Melissa McCarthy/Phoenix

Melissa MacCarthy dominated this episode in a way few hosts, even Justin Timberlake, do. Pretty much every sketch was centered around letting McCarthy play one weirdo after another while letting the rest of the cast get out of her way. And, for the most part, it worked, largely thanks to the sheer amount of energy she brought to each role. I wouldn't want to see every episode handed over so thoroughly to a host, even one capable of carrying the episode, but an occasional outing like this can be a breath of fresh air, and I'm glad the show carried the energy from the Timberlake episode through the break and opened strong. 

Other Thoughts
The cold open, one of those with a translator that relies almost entirely on whatever is being said for laughs, was probably the weakest part of the episode.

The monologue, however, was a tour de force, featuring a spectacular bit of physical comedy from McCarthy with some energetic and wonderfully-timed support from Taran Killam. I especially appreciated that she launched right into the bit from the start, and dispensed with all the usual "so happy to be here, my next movie comes out soon" business (for the record, I won't count this as a monologue with a song, since the song wasn't really the point).

The Voice sketch was probably the most typical SNL fare of the night, and while the various impersonations of the hosts were pretty one-note (but effective), McCarthy elevated this one just by playing a character who didn't buy into the show's hype.

Even Weekend Update, which is always reliable, was especially strong. Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy is pretty hit-or-miss for me, but I loved the "David Ben-Purion" joke, I always enjoy Keenan's Charles Barkley, and I enjoy Drunk Uncle more and more with each appearance. Plus, Peter Drunklage!  

Favorite Sketch: McCarthy as an intense NCAA basketball coach. Seriously, from throwing the toaster to the golf cart to threatening Jay Pharoah through the window, that one had me in stitches.

Least Favorite Sketch: the weak cold open.

Blake Shelton: I knew there was a little country in you. Where do you live, darling?
Casey: I live in a basement except there is no roof.
Shelton: Uh-huh. Okay. You’re talking about a hole.

Charles Barkley: Wichita State? I didn’t even know Wichita was a state!

Peter Drunklage: You know what’s in my Tumblr? Regret.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 4/17
Episodes Featuring TWO Game Shows: 1/17
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 12/17
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 9/17  


  1. I'm glad you liked the rest of Last Resort. The show could be nuts at times, but mostly in a good way, and I was happy I stuck with it. While I didn't jot down much if anything about the episodes as I watched once it became clear that you maybe weren't going to cover it again at all, I do have a note for the episode of the same title that reads "Cinderella Liberty: Tactical operation or stripper name?"

    Glee: I Do

    So the previous episode ends on Santana arriving in New York, declaring that she's moved in with Rachel and Kurt, yet in this one they're all just back in Lima for the wedding. Glee!

    Yeah, I know that this wasn't necessarily the most eye-rolling thing in the episode — you have a whole category devoted to that stuff — but it apparently made a mark on me at the time as the only note I took. I did like the episode overall, the "only in the world of Glee" shenanigans notwithstanding (which are sometimes just broader "only on a TV show" shenanigans, although I want a show that's always had the potential that Glee has had to be better than that); the relative maturity of the hookups, if that makes any sense, was refreshing for a show filled with hand-wringing in its relationships (not that we shouldn't take sexual intimacy seriously, kids).

    Community: Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations

    I kinda felt like this episode should've been stronger. Part of that is probably less about the specific plot, dialogue, and character work itself than how precarious the house of cards is for me whenever the group travels off-campus and/or the group or a subset of it is called on its self-absorbed behavior either by outside forces or other members of the group.

    Abed: "Maybe the hardest prisons to break out of are the ones without locks. [pause] Wait... That doesn't make any sense."

    Parks and Recreation: Partridge

    I'm right there with you on everything you say here, up to and including that skim-milk line of Ron's (which I was gonna quote if you didn't).

    Saturday Night Live: Melissa McCarthy and Phoenix

    Like you, I thought that for the most part it worked; hell, it was probably my favorite episode of the season. I think that while McCarthy could blend in easily with the cast (as she did at times during her first hosting gig) the tendency is to, whether because of her size or just her gameness, focus on her as someone who disrupts the proceedings or messes with our expectations. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, just the best I can articulate what felt different — the monologue, the pig-farmer sketch, and The Voice all took that tack this time around, winningly; however you classify that basketball-coach sketch, though, I agree that it was the standout.

    The Voice sketch was hilarious overall just for how deadpan McCarthy was, and the impressions of the coaches up to Blake Shelton were, although fairly one-note like you say, at least valid in distilling the schtick of their targets. It's like Jason Sudeikis just said, "Oh, Blake Shelton; okay, right, country, southern accent," and that was it, which was disappointing considering that he's actually one of the slyest, funniest parts of the actual show.

    Drunk Uncle always surprises me with the detail and sharpness of the script given that on paper it should be an unbearable recurring character. And, yeah, "Peter Drunklage"!

  2. @Blam: The show could be nuts at times, but mostly in a good way, and I was happy I stuck with it.

    Agreed all around.

    "Cinderella Liberty: Tactical operation or stripper name?"


    which are sometimes just broader "only on a TV show" shenanigans, although I want a show that's always had the potential that Glee has had to be better than that

    Agreed all around once more. Glee certainly isn't the first show to use many of the TV tropes/story beats/leaps of logic that it does, but it's arguably the first show to use them so frequently, unabashedly and unironically right alongside some otherwise original and/or strong material, which is one of the great/maddening things about the show.

    the relative maturity of the hookups, if that makes any sense, was refreshing for a show filled with hand-wringing in its relationships

    It does make sense, and I too found it very refreshing.


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