Saturday, 19 February 2011

TV Week in Review: “13th – 17th February

It’s been a good week for TV, I’d say – especially for the comedies, a number of which returned to fine form with some great writing.
Big Love: “The Special Relationship”
It’s ironic, this episode of Big Love seemed like an especially important one but it wasn’t one of their better efforts. The “special” relationship of the title was the bond between Barb and Bill and it’s the sort of episode that focuses on a specific actor – this time Tripplehorn. I often find it difficult to love Tripplehorn’s work on Big Love, not because she doesn’t play Barb well but because the latency of her character is often difficult to establish on screen (she works best when she’s not given the bulk of the episode to ground). Still, Barb’s issue with the status quo in her marriage (and by extension the Mormon faith) is an interesting arc and the objectivity with which it’s been treated is impressive. Despite a vague quiescence to the episode, it features two brilliant. The first is Nicki’s and Barb’s conversation in the café, which is handled beautifully – you rarely see Sevigny and Tripplehorn opposite each other. Then there’s the table conversation with the wives, which is important because despite her frostiness there’s more to Nicki than her harshness. The episode is important because it sets up so many things – Cara Lynn’s isolation, Barb and Bill’s (in name only) divorce, the attempted murder of Don and the motives of Alby; a necessary episode but not a perfect one.
Glee: “Comeback”
“Comeback” is far from the best Glee episodes, but it sort of highlights one of the things I like most about the show. Even if they’re excessively wont to lose sight of character traits, they’re always willing to turn around and address the issue (albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner): case in point Rachel. Regardless of your thoughts on Rachel, or Lea Michele the character’s an integral part of the club and the show. Rachel’s officiousness is part of what keeps the club going and this season has been sorely lacking in giving Michele material. The ending makes me a bit worried they’re going to revert to her Achilles’ heel (i.e. Finn) all too soon, but I’ll wait and see. I didn’t particularly care for the Beiber subplot, but in true Glee fashion they manage to pay a compliment and deliver an insult in tandem – that takes skill. I still can’t completely surrender to Lauren and Puck (for obvious reasons) but it’s a hilarious addition. And of course, the secret weapon (no, not Jayma’s return –w hich I was happy for) – the rapport between Sue and Will; it’s always a winning addition and it works this episode. Things are looking up on Glee.

Parenthood: “Amazing Andy And His Wonderful World of Bugs”
It’s a shame that the strongest portion of the episode seemed a bit curtailed. It’s an arc that’s been done on other shows, but that moment where Drew almost angrily casts off his mother’s opinion on his fighter works beautifully – and a great deal of that has to do with how much Lauren Graham is doing with the role. The main arc was actually Max’s bug show where we watched Adam and Kristina struggle with the organiser of the show who, like Max, has Aspersers’. Then there’s the even tenser subplot of the potentially deteriorating relationship of Crosby and Jasmine – which isn’t helped by the fact that the episode ends with Crosby cheating on her. It’s a bit trite having Joel and Julia show up just as an aside on their sexual libido, but Christensen and Jaegar are so great together and even though you know that they’re going to get caught it’s part of Parenthood and its charm that it becomes a nonissue. It’s all about see

Modern Family: “Princess Party”
FINALLY we get a subplot worthy of the awesomeness that is Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Watching him trying to dissuade Cam from the horrible clown act was actually funny, even though it’s a generally sanguine plot-point; it’s one of those things that work about the show’s ensemble. The main arc is the return of Mrs. Pritchett and it works so well. It’s so good seeing Bowen get the material she deserves (obviously, she’s submitting this episode for her Emmy). In theory I don’t love Mrs. Pritchett, but it does work and Matt Dillon’s guest appearance is great. It’s the little things that make it even better, though – like Jay and Gloria’s answering machine message (beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep) or Cam as the Court’s “Jester” all leading up to that hilarious party with the princess, and a very out-of-it Gloria. Good stuff.

Community: “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”
How great was this episode? I kept waiting in trepidation that something would happen to make me balk, but nothing came and I was ecstatic because I want to like Community, but recently (other than that EPIC “Dungeons and Dragons” episodes) I haven’t. It’s not back to the beautiful dissonance of season one, but it’s my favourite episode all season. I cringe, slightly, at the theatrics of Pierce. He’s my least favourite character and I’m not especially fond of Chevy Chase, although he’s nowhere near as annoying as Senor Chang – who was, thankfully, absent this episode. The “bequeathments” were well integrated into Abed’s documentary and made for satisfying 20 minutes. And, goddamn James Glover was brilliant, no?

The Office: “Threat Level Midnight”
Trust B. J. Novak to come up with the idea for this episode. On the most obvious levels it’s a giant excuse for the office or The Office to hangout and reminisce, but it’s actually blended with actual character developments, and those flashbacks were funny. Some shows do “filler” episodes that are so maddeningly superfluous it’s difficult to put any stock in them, but we end up learning so much about Michael here. He and Holly are not overbearingly cute anymore, but they’re still a delight to watch. It’s so easy to forget the range of Amy’s talents when she plays kooky so well from week to week. She’s sort of the straight (wo)man this week and she nails the vague confusion as to the way things run in the office, and the ending actually comes naturally without making the joke flop. And it made me so nostalgic for all those former recurring stars of the show.

Parks & Recreation: “Media Blitz”
When it comes to integration Parks & Recreation can be a bit peerless at times and I love the way that they’re assimilating Rob and Adam into the craziness of the department. Scott is such a great comedic actor – he has so much more to offer than being a straight-man – so I’m glad they’re allowing him to go a bit crazy. It’s an arc that has so much to offer and in true Parks & Rec fashion they’re not rushing it, I just love watching him opposite Poehler, though. The cold opening with Ron and his infernal typewriter works greatly, and of course it’s fun watching him help Andy try to win back April. Naturally he denies that he has any interest in either of the two, or their relationship, but it’s all part of the giant enigma that is Ron Swanson. No comedy right now remains as consistent in its humour and its characters.

30 Rock: “It's Never Too Late For Now”
Can I ask, how weird is it that Jack’s Trinidadian nanny has a Jamaican accent? I’m actually a Caribbean person so I can discern these things, but I’m wondering if it’s an actual joke on Fey’s part or just a mistake. I find it hilarious either way, just like this entire episode which is ridiculous and brilliant at the same time. From the moment Jack tells Liz that there’s a movie for Murder on the Orient Express (which, of course, she doesn’t know) I had a feeling we were on to something good. And when Tracy Jordan failed to appear – hallelujah – I knew it was a reality. Liz’s romantic troubles are always fun to watch. I’ll admit, I still want Michael Sheen’s Wesley back because I thought he was perfect for Liz, that aside, the brilliant (i.e. ridiculous) concoction of a scheme to save Liz from spinsterhood is the type of madness you’d expect from 30 Rock and it turns out to be a great episode, though I didn’t much care for the song. Sorry.

Grey’s Anatomy: “The Golden Hour”
There seems to be a general rule on Grey’s Anatomy, the less time the actual episode covers the better it seems to be. This week the episode which is more-or-less in real time manages to be gripping, funny, dramatic and still aid in some much needed character development. It’s Ellen’s episode (though, it’s not the best material they’ve given her) and as a Meredith fan it’s nice to see her taking control. Pompeo is a good scene partner, and Meredith manages to work opposite whichever character she’s placed. The conversations with her and Cristina are a much needed impetus for developing Meredith’s character and that final conversation was well placed. There’s one primary issue with insular shows like Grey’s Anatomy which take place in a single environment. They need to make everyone hook-up. I’m not thrilled by the concept of Alex and the new maternity doctor – or whatever she is – but it’s cool (I’m over Izzie-worship, I swear) and any screen time for Chambers is fine with me. And, yay, welcome back Adele Webber; I’m all for more Loretta Devine so I’m glad to see her back and I sure am interested of what to come of that arc.
Random Thoughts
  • That moment where Jack takes on the nanny’s sensibilities (and accent) in the board meeting was priceless. “So what you want do?”
  • So, how brilliant was “Take Me Or Leave Me”? As great as Amber Riley is on her own she makes for a killer duet partner (see “Lady & the Tramp”, “River Deep, Mountain High”)
  • How cute was it seeing Dr. Bailey making out with her nurse boy-toy? I love this youthful Dr. Bailey.
  • Danny Glover singing “Reading Rainbow” in the bathroom (between tears) was something brilliant.
  • Didn’t the princess from Lily’s birthday party seem like a Kristin Chenoweth knockoff? Now I want to see Kristin on Modern Family...
  • Did anyone notice Randy from Monk on Grey’s Anatomy?
  • Isn’t it weird how authentic Andy was in that ridiculous movie of Michael’s?
  • In an episode of great random moments I have to give props to Sue’s line reading of “Sweet Porcelain” when Kurt’s name was mentioned. Best nickname ever.

Standout Writing
Modern Family: A/A-
Community: A-
30 Rock: A-
Parks & Recreation: A-
Glee: B+/A-
Grey’s Anatomy: B+
Standout Performances
Julie Bowen in Modern Family: A-
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock: B+/A-
Adam Scott in Parks & Recreation: B +/A-
Lea Michele in Glee: B+
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family: B+/A-
Jeanne Tripplehorn in Big Love: B+
Danny Glover in Community: B+
How was your TV viewing this past week?


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Very happy Glee is back! I like that Finn is becoming Season One Puck, that Puck is a nice guy, that Lauren exists, and that Quinn is being given stuff to do...although even the writers clearly value her as just the pretty girl. When will they give her a subplot where she doesn't have to choose between men? That diva-off going from bitchy to bestie was AMAZING.

Jose said...

God yes, I didn't miss Tracy either lol.
Give us more Jenna I say! After all TGS was hers' before TJ came in.
I gave up on Glee but will you please let me know when Gwyn returns and Annie appears?