Friday, 10 December 2010

TV Week in Review: 5th-9th December

So this week we get four Christmas specials of the seven shows. I'm not a big fan of the idea of Christmas specials, but I will say that they will end up surprising. True the best show of week was not Christmas-like in the least, but the week did give me a whole heap load of great performances....on to the reviews...

Desperate Housewives: “Pleasant Little Kingdom”

This episode was fair, it wasn’t riveting but it was far from drivel. The thing about Desperate Housewives recently is that they have the makings for a good episode but they keep undermining their own potential when they get silly. Case in point: Renee’s confession that Tom was the love of her life. It’s a complete waste of Vanessa Williams’ talent, and really there’s little chance of that working out so having that turn into a significant arc is ridiculous. Then there’s Gabrielle and her family drama. Longoria turns in a good performance, and it had its moments but there was just something a bit too on-the-nose about the entire thing, a bit like Keith’s father’s obvious attraction to Bree. Still, that storyline wasn’t a complete bust because Marcia Cross and Brian Austin Green really are (weirdly) fun together and the disaster of an engagement dinner was fun. An engaging right now seems obviously rushed – how many times is Bree going to get married (or near to it)? Though I’m not usually fond of her or the arcs they give her Lynnette’s arc was great. For the past seven seasons Lynnette has been a constant nagger and the way that it’s finally addressed actually impressed me. I wonder if that means they’ll stop hitting us over the head with it...probably not, but it makes sense that Lynnette is insecure about Tom’s perfection. And then, of course, Paul’s plan to build a half-way house on the lane. That final scene wasn’t exactly chilling, but it was striking and watching Huffman’s face as Lynnette took it all in was a nice bit of direction. Imperfect, but still interesting.
[B-]

Dexter: “Hop A Freighter”
 
I feel I might sound a bit repetitive when week after week I keep praising the brilliance of Dexter, but it’s not my fault it’s the best show on TV. I was a bit iffy about the strengthening of the liaison between Lumen and Dexter but it really is nice watching Julia Stiles and Michael C. Hall get comfortable with each other, and seeing facets of Dexter’s personality that we’re not usually privy to is always a treat. Things are coming to a boiling point and with Jordan as the only one left alive, everyone’s hunting him down. Liddy gets killed off, and I suppose it may seem anticlimactic because obviously that was a long time coming – but it was still handled brilliantly. I’m really starting to feel bad for Quinn, and with the way things are shaping up he may be dying next. Jennifer Carpenter turns in more good work as Deb and I especially liked that scene between her and Maria towards the end, I’m always happy to see Lauren Veleez turn in good work. Of course it was that ending that stood out the most. We all know Jordan was reprehensible, but apparently Emily Birch didn’t – which is why she ended up dead. I actually cringed when Jordan turned on her, that was some scary shit. I’m starting to think Johnny Lee Miller needs to a get some Emmy consideration, he’s turning in brilliant work. So next week Dexter comes to a close...I can’t wait, and yet, I don’t want it to. Sigh.
[A/A+]

Glee: “A Very Glee Christmas”

Truth be told, as soon as I heard Glee was doing a Christmas episode I cringed. Glee’s already so bipolar (which I like, admittedly) and zany it sort of was like the craziness of Christmas already...and yet, despite some chronic weirdness this episode turned out being quite a treat. True, I found it weird that Puck and Rachel's Jewishness wasn't addressed directly...oh well. Glee is ridiculous, most times I love it, sometimes I only like it and at times it gets annoying. One thing that they’re not too consistent about but which I like is Mr. Schuester’s influence on the children, and it was nice how his presence was sort of the recitative that kept the episode going even if it wasn’t really the A plot. There was Brittney and her belief in Santa which should have been annoying but turns out so great because Heather Morris is such a trooper and so is Dot Marie Jones. I’m always appreciative of Kevin McHale’s presence and despite its schmaltziness there was just something brilliant about that scene with Artie “walking”. I could do with less of the Finn/Rachel drama. I’m still a fan of Rachel and I’ve grown to not hate Finn but I wish they’d just call it quits and move on, they’ve met an impasse. Sue and her Grinch self was madness, but still completely funny. If course the one thing about Christmas that never fails it’s the music and true to the form the numbers were great (especially the first and last group numbers). It’s weird, though, I like Christmas music – but it makes me really depressed. And when the episode ended, it was sweet and everything but I still felt a little sad – go figure.

[A-]

Modern Family: “Dance, Dance Revolution”
 
Finally, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet get the best storyline. Although it’s not really about them – it’s about Lily biting everyone near. It’s difficult to explain how, but they manage to turn that into a significant arc and watching and Cam and Mitchell deal with it in their usual crazy way is fun to watch. Phil questioning his masculinity was a bit evocative of Tom on Desperate Housewives, although Phil was getting it from his father-in-law. I like Jay, and it is interesting watching him and Phil – we don’t usually see them together. However, I was more diverted by Manny and Luke preparing for school dances. Manny still is hilarious to watch and Luke is growing on me. And then Claire and Gloria chaperoning the dance, was the final storyline. There was something off about Julie Bowen this episode. She always manages to prevent Claire from being annoying, but she just seemed a little too ridiculous – even if that bathroom confession with her and Gloria was handled nicely, it was just a bit too much. Still, what worked best about this episode was how each of plots wrapped up into one interconnecting, enjoyable bit – even if I miss Sarah Hyland.
[B+/A-]

Community: “Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas”
This week on Community we search for the true meaning of Christmas. That theme does sound a bit ridiculous, but it’s the sort of thing you’d expect the gang of misfits on Community to do. And through the mind of Abed we’re transferred into some weird, trippy, stop motion Christmas episode. It’s weird, you would expect something like this to be maddeningly gimmicky, and in a way it was – but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s weird having a stop-motion episode of any live-action and I did miss the “acting”. Really, though, it only makes you more aware of how important the actors’ voicing is to any show. It wasn’t that the episode was poorly developed – it was quite good but what felt gimmicky (but ironically, unforced) was the message that Christmas is a time for happiness. Okay, that makes me sound a bit like a Scrooge but I was actually feeling more moved by the Dean’s admittedly trite storyline, it seemed a bit unjust that the message is “everyone must enjoy Christmas” – or else, which left a decidedly bitter taste in my mouth. But, messages aside I did enjoy the episode. It was missing Senor Chang and it was brilliantly paced, which is something I’d found sorely lacking in the episodes earlier in the season. Glad to see Community’s coming back to life for me.
[B/B+]


30 Rock: “Christmas Attack Zone”

I’ve always liked 30 Rock even if this season (thus far) has felt like less than essential TV viewing. It’s annoying that themed episodes get the chance to be that more special but 30 Rock’s Christmas madness was brilliantly done. It’s weird, the episode flows smoothly even though we get three guest stars – Alan Alda, Elaine Stritch and Elizabeth Banks. The main storyline is Jack and his parents and Avery’s pregnancy. The onset of finding out that Colleen didn’t know about the pregnancy was brilliantly handled (sometimes I just love how great Tina Fey is with random humour). I’m not the biggest fan of Elizabeth Banks, and truth be told I’ve grown a little tired of Stritch but Alan Alda is always a pleasant inclusion. Kevin and Tracy team up this week as he struggles with being a “serious” actor. It’s really quite tongue-in-cheek but it’s one of those moments where Tracy actually works and his rapport with Kevin, though weird, is always appreciated. I was lamenting last week about Jenna’s boyfriend leaving, so it was nice to see him return. They really are perfect for each other. The episode ends up working so well because even though the message to be appreciative of the season is there it’s not laid on too thick. I have to admit that final moment where Liz mouths “Merry Christmas” to Jack worked perfectly, just perfect.
[A-]

The Office: “Classy Christmas”

I didn’t even realise I was getting an entire hour of The Office this week. Yay. No one will ever make me laugh as much with their cold openings and seeing the entire staff out bickering about something as silly as jumping in the air in tandem for a Christmas photo is just sweet in its silly way. The first half of the episode was flawless, and there was so much going on. First off, Holly’s back. How happy were you about that? I have loved Amy Ryan on The Office since the first day she showed up with her joviality and I am very happy to see her back. The dynamic between Holly and Michael will never get old. Speaking of old dynamics that never wear out, Jim and Dwight were at it again. Jim comes off as a bit of a douches sometimes, but that’s precisely why he’s my favourite character behind the dynamic duo of Kelly and Ryan (power couple of The Office). I don’t really like Dwight, but he’s still fun to watch and both he and Jim are ridiculous with their childishness, but so fun to watch. Then there’s Darryl and his daughter, which is a nice way to utilise him. For fifteen minutes of the second half there was a lull, everything just got a bit too tense – Michael’s jealousy, Dwight’s freakiness, but then it picks right back up with a nice closer. I always feel bad for Toby, but not so bad that I don’t love it when he’s the but of the jokes. True, Michael’s breakdown to Pam in the parking lot was just brilliantly played, but incidentally the moment that moved me the most was the exchange of gifts between Pam and Jim. Really, I don’t know it just warmed my heart of coal. What can I say? (And it was written by Mindy Kaling, brilliant.)
[A-/A]

Things to Note:
So Sue gave Will a gift to get rid of his unjustifiably curled hair, think he'll use it?
Jenna and her boyfriend’s, two black swans. That was disturbing, amazing and hilarious all mixed into one.
Why did the stop-motion Abed look...white? Or was it just me?
Okay, so I’m starting the campaign again. Amy Ryan for Emmy? Anyone?
I really wish that Britta didn't join into the singing....
And it's nice in a way seeing the usually peppy Erin not like Holly, but she's dating Gabe for God's sakes, can she really criticise someone's love interest?
Please, PLEASE no more Rachel/Finn. Just no.

Standouts
Michael C. Hall in Dexter A
Steve Carrell in The Office A/A-
Eric Stonestreet in Modern Family A-
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock A-
Jon Krasinski in The Office B+
Matthew Morrison Glee B+
Felicity Huffman in Desperate Housewives B+
Tina Fey in 30 Rock B+ 
Heather Morris in Glee B+

1 comment:

Simon said...

Community made me sad this week. Just because they took Christmas and reminded us that our families probably won't spend it with us.

I. Still liked it.