I’ve been vaguely remiss about TV this week, case in point: I didn’t see all t he shows I review, I didn’t even see all the shows I watch and don’t review. The upside is, I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on my somewhat ridiculous schedule. So I’m back to annoying you regularly...I know you can't wait...
On to the TV
Desperate Housewives: “Let Me Entertain You”
In some ways this episode was a bit regressive, not plot-wise but tonally. The first thirty five minutes reminded me of the generally bland fifth season, and the little I watched of the sixth season. Still, there were moments of niceties that impressed. The concept of Rene and Gabrielle as friends works, though Vanessa Williams and Eva Longoria don’t seem as evenly matched as Williams and Marcia Cross were last week. The end result of Rene staying on the street was not unexpected, but it was a nice moment even if the nose job plot line seems ridiculous. Marcia Cross manages to be fairly amusing though her craziness with Keith’s libido was kind of silly. Of course with all the other plotlines turning really heavy we needed something light. Felicity Huffman does her best work of the season so far, her arc is an interesting one since her arguments against Tom’s mother are valid even if she’s doing something similar in her marriage. Sidling Tom’s mother with what looks like Alzheimer’s seems less than inspired, though. I called the Paul / Susan arc three minutes before it happened, and the denouement was the best moment of the episode – Teri Hatcher in particular sold it. That moment alone made up for a generally trite episode, I’m going to enjoy seeing where that goes.
Dexter: “First Blood”
This is probably the weakest effort from Dexter this season. Structurally the episode was well done, but the execution was a bit too generic for the generally atypical way in which Dexter goes. Batista’s dilemma gets even more interesting, though it was embarrassing the way he completely misread everything about his wife. It was a bit of an obvious end to the arc, though I’m not convinced that the situation is over. Quinn and Deb really do manage to work, despite Quinn’s general boorishness. It’s going to be intense seeing how his plans to trace Dexter turn out. Deb’s work on the beheadings was probably the best handled storyline of the night, though there were some striking undertones of something amiss with the mother of the attempted-murder victim. Dexter had to focus on Harrison’s potential violent tendencies and the semi-deterioration of Lumen. Hall puts in good work, especially in that scene where he realises that he was about to kill the wrong man but Lumen’s arc didn’t work as well as before. The fact that I’m still unsure as to where they’re planning on taking the character probably makes me uncertain about her continued presence, even if I like seeing Julia Stiles turn in good work. The fact that the episode goes for some obvious moments, unlike Dexter usually shifts it more to a lower grade. But, overall, it’s a strong episode – all things considered – just not as a riveting as what we usually get from Dexter.
Glee: “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”
When “Time Warp” ended and the credits began to roll the first thing that I thought was, “Thank God Puck’s coming back next week”, even though it wasn’t the absence of Mark Salling that prevented the episode from soaring. Rocky Horror aside there was a kind of paradigm shift in tonight’s episode that didn’t work. Glee is at its best when it manages to balance the adults-acting-as-children storylines with their children-acting-as-adults storylines. The Will/Emma/Carl triangle could work, but being the A-plot against the generally bland body issues of Sam/Finn just doesn’t resonate. And after all the character development in “Duets” it just seemed sort of weird. I’m not the biggest fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show so I really could care less about the theme (or is it I couldn’t care less?) Shankman doesn’t do anything fascinating with the direction, the pacing seems sedate for an episode that’s supposed to be all about the freakish – well, in theory. Still, Jayma Mays continues to be brilliant even if it’s kind of ridiculous that she went that wild with “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me”. Ah well. On that note though, how brilliant was Rachel’s fake acting? Lea Michele’s kind of brilliant. And damn, Amber Reilly killed “Sweet Transvestite”! And the return of Sue’s Corner? That’s my favourite Sue related event, even more than the diary diatribes – so the episode wasn’t without good tidbits.
Parenthood: “Seven Names”
Each time I watch Parenthood I’m acutely aware that it probably never will become a big hit. Parenthood is created on such a small scale it’s easy to find it meandering and bland, but it just works for me. This episode is a key example, with five arcs to examine the issues faced by each of the characters were nothing new – generic even, but the writing and the acting turn it into television worth watching. Last week I admitted I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of them ending the episode before Jasmine replied to Crosby’s proposal, but I should have known that this is not the kind of show that leaves you with a cliff-hanger like that only to renege on the idea. I’m still not altogether enthused about Dax Shephard as an actor, but he’s fine here and Joy Bryant seems like so much fun. I’m looking forward to their couple dynamic. Sarah and her daughter faced a typical issue, the divide between mother and daughter. The tearful confrontation between the two doesn’t hit home as precisely as it should. I don’t love Mae Whitman in this register, but it works and Lauren Graham is back to turning in good work. Adam’s dilemma with the laying offs was another standard, but Krause steps up and turns in a good performance nonetheless. One thing Parenthood should get credit for is its casting. I’m constantly amazed by how on point they are with that, in some ways Sarah Ramos is like a mini-version of Monica Potter and she does a nice job in this episode. She’s probably my favourite of the teens on the show. Of course Joel and Julia take the best-arc honours, even though their struggle of job/family is not a new one. The confrontation between Jaegar and Christensen was the strongest moment of the show and everything including the unoriginal “Why are you and daddy fighting?” from their daighter works. Parenthood works brilliantly, even when it seems as if it shouldn’t.
Modern Family: “Halloween”
This episode of Modern Family works brilliantly, but not for the reasons you’d think. If you pay attention you’d notice that the Halloween theatrics are just a smokescreen for all the idiosyncrasies of our characters and like any ensemble show (like Glee or The Office) things are brightest when we get all our characters together, and better yet see characters who don’t usually interact having conversations. The three arcs work well on their own: there’s the language barrier with Gloria and Jay, Cameron’s embarrassing Spiderman incident and the Dunphy’s and their marriage. Like Parenthood the issues being presented are not riveting on their own, but it’s their delivery that turns the show into something to admire. Of the single storylines Jesse Tyler Ferguson completely delivers on the craziness of being Spiderman, but when the episode comes down to the final ten minutes it all shifts – everyone’s great but Ty Burrell and Sofia Vergara in particular shine. I’m a fan of Sarah Hyland, so I missed her inane wit but the episode was altogether a success and proof that Jose’s right, it's a good show. Damn him and his astute judgement.
Grey’s Anatomy: “These Arms of Mine”
Most of you might know that I have an unwavering bond with Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t love it as much, but after six years I’ve become really invested. I still don’t know if it’ll ever return to the brilliance of Season Three but this episode worked in ways that episodes (other than the last season finale) hasn’t for some time. It’s ironic that it works so well, because it’s so different from the norm. Two weeks ago 30 Rock took a brave step with their live episode, I wasn’t a fan – but it was brave. This week Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t go live, but they go for the illusion of real time and works excellently. The major arc is a man getting arm transplants, as journalists examine Seattle Grace Hospital three months after the killings. I’ll always say that Grey’s Anatomy thrives for having standout performances (especially from Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson, perennial Emmy nominees) but this episode works where no one takes control of the episode, but everyone contributes to a decisively ensemble natured episode. I did learn that Eric Danes really has little talent, but he didn’t spoil the episode. Chandra Wilson and Justin Chambers do particularly good work with their arcs, and Mandy Moore returns for a well timed guest spot. It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen with Cristina and her continued aversion to surgery, but it’s handled better this episode than before. I’m worried about the idea of Jessica Capshaw and (especially) Sara Ramirez leaving the hospital....but we’ll see where that goes.
I missed The Office and Community this week, although seeing as how I’ve lost interest in the latter – I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Were they any good?
Things that had me going hmmmm
- Is it just me or was Cory Monteith at his best in “Damn It, Janet” – almost as if playing someone other than Finn Hudson makes him more tolerable. Weird...
- The Dunphy’s Corpse Bride and groom costumes? How brilliant was that?
- Doesn’t that Baldwin on Parenthood exude an air of scumbag entitlement...in short, doesn’t he seem like a douche? I’m not sure if it’s the character or him...
- Would a six year old boy care if his unmarried parents decide to get hitched? I’m not sure but Jabar’s lack of reaction to the wedding was hilarious.
- Justin Chambers singing for that patient? That was kind of nice, even though his singing sucks.
Ty Burrell in Modern Family A- his subtle humour may be easy to ignore, but he does outstanding work this episode
Sam Jaegar in Parenthood B+ for managing to turn the mundane into great character moments
Michael C. Hall in Dexter B+ mostly for selling that breakdown, but really he grounds the episode with his uncertainty
Sofa Vergara in Modern Family B+ easily the strongest work I’ve seen her turn in since I started watching, pure delight
Chandra Wilson in Grey’s Anatomy B/B+ the episode is so contructed she doesnt get much time on screen, but boy does she sell those final 60 seconds...
Jayma Mays in Glee B/B+ for pulling of “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me” even when the staging didn’t make any sense
What impressed you on TV this past week?