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Friday, June 14, 2013

Last Week in TV #38

While the 2012-2013 network TV season has been finished for a few weeks now, we finally reach the end of our coverage of it here, as I wrap up discussion of the final episodes of Glee and Community for the season. There's plenty of great TV to watch this summer (including Wilfred, Falling Skies, the end of Futurama, and The Newsroom, not to mention all the stuff I'm still behind on, like Revenge), but I won't be back writing about it until the fall, when this column will return in a likely-altered form, as I continue to search for a way to engage critically and write about TV in a manner that doesn't also leave me burnt out on those two things by Christmas.

Glee: Wonder-ful

This is certainly a show that tends to be "up" more than "down", and for the most part, that's fine. At times, the characters seem to exist in a world that's almost as much a fantasy as the world of Game of Thrones, but man, this episode really pushed the "wonderful" theme. Rachel's one of the finalists for Funny Girl! Kurt's dad is cancer free! Mercedes producer is a sleaze, but it's okay, she's going to make it on her own terms! And most egregious of all, Rachel's Bond-villain of a teacher actually liked her all along, and was just being a bitch to get the most out of her! Taken on their own, any one of those developments wouldn't seem too bad (well, except that last one), but cramming them all into one episode like this had my eyes rolling so hard they almost hit the floor. I'm surprised everyone didn't start riding to school on rainbow-spewing unicorns or something by the end.

Other Thoughts
Cassandra July really is an awful teacher. When she was first freaking Rachel out with her whole "I'm moving your midterm up, and also making it this super difficult dance", I was thinking "I'm pretty sure teaching doesn't work this way. Isn't there some kind of standard curriculum she needs to follow, or some authority to which Rachel could report her?" Then, when it turns out she was just being a hardass for the sake of being a hardass, and Rachel's midterm actually turned out to be nothing more than a fun jam session with her classmates, I thought, "this is almost as bad. How is this teaching her anything and/or evaluating what she has learned?"

What is it with this show and teen marriage? Blaine, I echo Burt's sentiment: did you learn nothing from that Finn/Rachel fiasco? 

That the writers had Kitty come right out and say she intentionally alternates between being nice and being bitchy is either one of the most ridiculous things this show has ever done, or one of the greatest.

It's probably accidental, but Mercedes whole "I've been out of high school for months but I know exactly what you need to do to win" spiel is pretty spot-on for a recent graduate returning to their Alma mater. I'll definitely cop to having had similar sentiments when I returned to my high school during college.

Favorite Song: Maybe this is blasphemous, but Stevie Wonder is one of those artists whose work never gets me too worked up: I like it, but I don't love it. So while all these songs were familiar to me and enjoyable in their own ways none of them wowed me. So I'll go with "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", since Kurt's relationship with his dad is such a great part of the show, and it's always good to hear Kurt sing.

All or Nothing (Season Finale) 

Well, that was a weird finale. The whole Regionals stuff felt very downplayed, (considering we're not going to see this team go to Nationals, at least not in any realistic/conventional sense, it kinda was) and while Brittany received a lengthy (and admittedly moving) sendoff, none of the other presumably-departing seniors got as much as a shoutout for the fact that this was their last competition/the end of their year/their final glee club meeting/etc. Granted, the show has always marginalized characters like Artie and Tina in favor of showier characters, but Sam? Blaine? Obviously, Darren Criss isn't going anywhere, and I wouldn't be surprised if he and many of the other current seniors continue to be a presence on the show next season in full or in part, haunting the proceedings like Finn, Mike, Mercedes, etc. But it still seems weird that no one besides Brittany got any kind of graduation acknowledgement or goodbye scene. In fact, this episode felt very much like there should have been two or three after it, at least an episode dealing with Nationals and another handling the departing characters. I can understand the desire to not repeat, beat for beat, the end of the previous season, but this just felt abrupt.

Other Thoughts
Where was Finn? Isn't he supposed to be helping coach the team for college credit now?

Appreciated that the Rachel audition was handled early in the episode, then left behind, to focus on things at the school.

Ryder's catfisher is revealed to be Unique, the second most obvious person it could have been (and I didn't buy for a second that it was Marley; that cut to Unique when she confessed was too telling), and while I'm glad that phase of this subplot is over, the whole thing felt like something that could have been handled in one of those mythical extra episodes I mentioned, away from the business with Regionals. 

Sue was back. Maybe Jane Lynch isn't entirely gone?

Seriously, what is it with this show and teen marriages? But, as much as this whole "Blaine is going to propose to Kurt" business is dumb and a complete retread of a storyline this show has already done, seeing Patty Duke and Meredith Baxter pop up was fantastic.

Where the hell have Joe and Sugar been the last few episodes? They literally just popped up out of nowhere for this episode, since it was a competition episode (and the only rule about competition this show seems to follow consistently is the one about the size of the club). I guess practice really isn't all that important.

Will and Emma got married. 'Tevs, as the kids say (and certainly appropriate for the show, if not any semblance of reality, that they did so in front of the glee kids and not, you know, any members of their families).

Only in the world of Glee: the inconsistency with which all the competitions is handled is well documented (teams dropping out! Last minute venue changes! Schu finalizing the set list days, if not less, before the competition so it's hard to believe anyone had time to practice those numbers!), but I was struck this time out by just how little of what was setup in earlier episodes paid off. After all that talk of Marley bringing a bigger, more confidant voice, and Jake stepping up to be a leader, neither did much in the actual competition (I was expecting them to have some kind of duet, a la Rachel/Finn or Sam/Quinn), while Unique (last year's Nationals MVP for Vocal Adrenaline) and Blaine, who's supposed to be New Directions powerhouse voice, did little to showcase their talents.

Also, Will really let just let Ryder go to town when he freaked out about being catfished, didn't he? Way to be an authority figure.

Finally, I've never auditioned for a Broadway musical (let alone made third callbacks), but at the point Rachel is at, wouldn't her audition be more than just singing a song? Haven't they heard that twice already? They obviously know she can sing at this point. Wouldn't she be running lines or singing a specific scene/song from the show, possibly with other potential actors, to get a feel for chemistry or how she sounds in the specific part? 

Favorite Song: New Directions non-original songs were more or less unknown to me (which means they're probably very modern), so I'll go with Rachel's killer rendition of "To Love You More", a Celine Dion song I actually have enjoyed in the past.

Brittany: Lord Tubbington is a stickler for continuity in editorial.

Brittany: Do you want to have kids or just continue having weirdly intimate relationships with high school students?

Community: Heroic Origins 

According to the internet, I'm one of the worst kinds of geek, someone who doesn't automatically hate prequels and enjoys learning details about characters from prior to when we first met them. I'm also someone who enjoys stories that reveal an unknown interconnectedness between a group of characters. All of which is to say that while I totally understand people reacting negatively to this episode, I generally enjoyed it, but I also acknowledge I have a favorable predisposition to this sort of thing. I also didn't feel like anything here specifically overwrote the events of the pilot, which helps with my enjoyment of it: the randomness of these seven people coming together because Jeff wanted to hit on Britta, and then forming a community amongst themselves, still exists. Showing that they all (unknowingly) had crossed paths prior to the events of the pilot doesn't change that, nor does the knowledge of how they got turned on to Greendale specifically.

Other Thoughts
Honestly, if this is the end of the Chang subplot, it is probably the best way that story could have ended. A little treacly and something of a letdown (if you were invested in that subplot and were hoping it would build to something big; I was not), sure, but I'll take that over another protracted "Chang vs. Greendale" plot, and having him won over by a bit of kindness certainly fits the show's aesthetic.

I think this was another episode without Chevy Chase, as I'm fairly certain that was double getting yogurt dumped on him as prerecorded Chevy Chase sounds played.

I'm not sure why exactly, but somehow Past Geeky Annie was even hotter than present day Annie. Probably the curly hair.   

Advanced Introduction To Finality (Season Finale)

I'm glad Community is coming back for a fifth season, if for no other reason than so this won't stand as the show's final word. To be fair, I didn't hate this episode as much as I've gathered many other fans/critics did. The middle segment, with all the darkest timeline/paintball stuff certainly did feel pandering ("you liked all this stuff before, here's some more of it!") and "it's all a dream!" is pretty lazy storytelling, but at the same time, I *did* like all that stuff before, and enjoyed seeing it again, a little, even watered down. But Jeff graduating from Greendale is a pretty big deal, and while all the non-darkest timeline stuff handled it pretty well, it still got short shrift, and I'd be bummed if this was the last word on the subject (and from the characters) we'd have gotten.

Other Thoughts
Thankfully, the show did get picked up for another season, and thanks to the lack of timeliness in these posts, we also know now that Dan Harmon will be back at the helm, which should be interesting, if nothing else.

Chevy Chase was written out by having Pierce graduate (this episode was filmed before the actor left the show), which is one of the more "that's so simple it might just work" methods of getting rid of him.

As much as "it's all a dream" is a cheat, I'm glad it was all a dream, as actual interdimensional paintball with dark alternate reality counterparts would have taken things too far, even for this show.  

Troy having forgotten the soda for Jeff's party, and his subsequent efforts to downplay it, was probably my favorite comedic bit of the episode. 


  1. We don't watch glee anymore, but lord tubbing ton was on an episode of my cat from hell last week (his sister cat was the hell one)

  2. @Anne: lord tubbing ton was on an episode of my cat from hell last week (his sister cat was the hell one)

    That's hilarious! He's a crossover star!


  3. Glee: Wonder-ful

    I found most of the lead vocals underwhelming — not bad, just kind-of tame — which is a real shame.

    Ditto what you said re Blaine, Mercedes, Kitty, and Cassandra.

    Glee: All or Nothing

    You were confusing me until I realized that you assumed this was the end of the school year (or that the end would come before next season began) whereas my assumption was that, surprise, the season ended before the school year did and we'll pick up from where we left off. At first, yeah, I actually thought ND might lose since it was the season finale and they were only at Regionals, but apparently for whatever reason we're just hitting pause now. What that bodes for the timeline over the next year, I don't know.

    The other stuff? Agreed. I can't even remember any of the songs performed; if I don't write it down at the time and what you say doesn't jog my memory then it's gone. I guess I'm kind-of burnt out as well; it doesn't help either that so much time has passed — not that I begrudge you that, as I'm still catching up on some shows from the season myself.

    I took down one of those Brittany lines too. Man, I'm gonna miss her if she's really gone.

    Community: Heroic Origins

    I'm not a blanket prequel-hater, either, and this episode didn't bother me. Of course, I was still happy to hear that Dan Harmon's coming back for next season.

    The less Chang, the better for me, as I've said before. And his fake amnesia/ingratiating persona was possibly even worse than his usual obnoxious one, so good riddance to that plotline in, like you said, the best way under the circumstances.

    Abed: "Midichlorians. Midichlorians."

    Community: Advanced Introduction to Finality

    I thought for sure Jeff wouldn't graduate somehow, even if he sabotaged himself.

    Although I've been aware of some general dismissiveness towards this non-Harmon season, I haven't really read any of the specific episode-by-episode criticism. I do get the sense that I too didn't hate the finale or the preceding season as much as lots of other fans.

  4. @Blam: You were confusing me until I realized that you assumed this was the end of the school year (or that the end would come before next season began) whereas my assumption was that, surprise, the season ended before the school year did and we'll pick up from where we left off.

    Yeah, I was assuming the school year would end with the season, as it had in every previous season. In hindsight, it seems clear that they intend to stretch this year into the next season, but I wanted to write the post from my perspective as I watched it.

    And it seems odd that they decided now to split a school year into two season. Why not do that last season, to keep Rachel, Finn, Kurt et al around McKinley longer?

    Man, I'm gonna miss her if she's really gone.

    Yeah, me too. I assume she'll be back in some capacity, just like every other glee alum, but Mrs. Teebore felt the time spent on her goodbye suggested her departure may be more permanent than that of Rachel or Finn, or even Mercedes and Mike.

    I do get the sense that I too didn't hate the finale or the preceding season as much as lots of other fans.

    I'm with you. I have read some criticisms of it, and man, a lot of the die hard hated it.

    The best (reasonable) expectation I came across for that was from Todd Van Werff, one of the show's biggest advocates, at the Onion AV Club. He suggested that if you watched the show simply to laugh and hang out with the characters, you probably enjoyed this season fine, but if you watched it (as he did) because you enjoyed the way the show explored and manipulated and played with the themes/formats/ideas of traditional sitcoms, then this season left you somewhere between cold and angry, since so much of the work it did in that arena was either derivative or bad.

    As much as I enjoy metatextual examinations in sitcoms (and elsewhere), I can't deny that when it comes to comedies, I really am principally concerned with being amused and, four seasons in, just enjoying the company of these characters I like, far moreso than I am having my mind blown by some structural revelation. So for me at least, I suppose his argument holds and explains why I didn't loathe this season as much as many others.

    All that said, I am very glad that Dan Harmon is returning.


  5. @Teebore: And it seems odd that they decided now to split a school year into two season. Why not do that last season, to keep Rachel, Finn, Kurt et al around McKinley longer?

    I know you're asking rhetorically, but I've been wondering the same thing. Heck, I was surprised that Season 1 gave us a complete school year, since the problem of the stars graduating was evident pretty much from the start if the show was at all a success (and it was, in fact, a mild phenomenon). I'm not the biggest fan of 30-year-olds playing high-school students, mind you, but Cory Monteith is a lot more believable than Luke Perry in his 3rd junior year or whatever.

  6. @Blam: 'm not the biggest fan of 30-year-olds playing high-school students, mind you, but Cory Monteith is a lot more believable than Luke Perry in his 3rd junior year or whatever.

    Heh. Indeed. :)


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