Saturday, 26 February 2011

TV Week in Review: 20th – 24th February

So, I went sort of wild with the reviewing this week. I don’t usually review all the shows I watch – laziness, and I still didn’t but twelve paragraphs is a lot for a lazy old me. There were some poor ones, but the good ones were excellent (I'm one week behind on Brothers & Sisters, I know)
Desperate Housewives: “Farewell Letter”
It’s so weird that one of the two pressing issues of the episode gets dovetailed into a sort of silly plot point – Keith is leaving. This is a shame actually, because I did love Brian Austin Green opposite Bree, maybe he’ll turn up again. Who knows? You’d think that they’d make this more important, but alas no. Keith’s child is in Florida, Bree refuses to moves and urges him to do so without her, because you can fall in and out of love with people but never with your children. It’s so weird that Bree, of all people, hasn’t fallen out of love with her children – they used to be absolute demons (and on that note, I miss Shawn Pyfrom). The only genuinely good storyline was Paul Young’s drama. I for one am happy to see Cody Kasch back (one of the reasons for the epic brilliance of season one) – and he looks so old and non-creepy now. The final blowout between Paul and Zack, and then Beth and Paul were both well played which makes me wonder how interesting a show a spinoff about Paul would have been since Cherry keeps reverting to the same old storylines with the actual main characters of the show (robbing them of much significance). You have to wonder where Beth is going to go now. It’ll be sad to see Emily Bergl leave the show (she’s turned into such an asset), but she probably won’t officially leave until the end of the season. I wonder if she’ll team up with her insane mother again...that could be interesting...
Brothers & Sisters: “The One That Got Away”
Balthazar Getty is not my favourite actor on the show, but I didn’t realise how much I missed him until now. True, he doesn’t get the A storyline here, but watching him interact with the cast (especially Griffiths) makes me remember why I used to love this show, way back when. It’s not perfect this episode, but it is interesting. I’m still vaguely annoyed at how redundant a character Justin has turned into, and the presence of Giles Marini continues to exasperate me. It seems like such a colossal waste having Anable’s sole contribution of the episode be ways to help Giles be romantic. Ugh. Still, the A-plot of Sarah’s paternity, though a little too deliberate, does work well – even if I miss Kitty. I wasn’t as sold on the issues of Saul and Jonathan, but it’s not as cringe worthy as you could expect. What’s more, the second half of the episode gets better and makes good on what could have been turgid storylines for the most part.

Big Love: “D.I.V.O.R.C.E”
Let me just say, power to Chloe Sevigny for churning out a brilliant performance this episode. Sure, it was more of a sidelining supporting than a co-lead – but I can’t complain, and the episode was something good, too. With only four episodes to go, I really have no idea where the show is going to go – and I have this awful feeling that somebody’s going to end up dead. Ugh, me and my active imagination. Bill and Barb are drifting further and further apart, and it’s a bit unfortunate because you can understand where both parties are coming from. That final scene with the wives, Bill, Barb’s mom and the "lesbian" (too funny) was something special and a perfect close to the episode (and Jeanne, too, offers up a fine performance this episode). I’ll admit that I don’t like the idea of Cara Lynn falling for her teacher or Ben falling for Rhonda – both of those liaisons just seem weird, in addition to be being all wrong. Nicki was responsible for the best moments, though. Watching her trying to understand Cara Lynn’s math was a beautiful moment and that blow-up with Barb and Bill about the “finances” was well played. There again, you get where Barb is coming from, but it’s difficult not to feel a little badly for Nicki. I don’t want this season (and thus, the show) to end. I’m going to miss these characters.
Glee“Blame it on the Alcohol”
I don’t know what it is, definitively – was I so worried about Glee tackling alcoholism that my low expectations turned the episode into even more of a delight? I’d hate to think so, but either way this is easily the best episode of the back half of Season Two – and for the oddest of reasons. There was a surprising lack of pretentiousness in the way that they decided to let the students go full out drunk which made the inevitable moral at the end a whole lot less preachy than you’d have expected. Brennan doesn’t get enough praise for his writing credits, and it’s impressive how the arcs all coalesce. Sue goading Will into drunkenness isn’t exactly inspired – but Sue publicly humiliating him was priceless. Not because I don’t love Will (sorry, Ryan, I do) but because Jane is the queen of deadpan humour – and Becky Johnson is awesome. Then, there’s Rachel who was all around great in this episode: from the headband, to the bantering with Puck and then the Blaine issue. Each time I think I’ll let up on Kurt he pulls something ridiculous, case in point: this episode where his melodrama is evident twice. Even though the ending was a bit too pat, Blaine’s conversation with him was a smart move in highlighting hypocrisy, though I’m not sure if they get how hypocritical he was being towards his dad – who’s just trying to do what any sane parent would do (avoid their teenager having drunken sex). I’m neither here nor there on the ultimate payoff – it’s a bit too pat having the issue raised turn into a non-entity, which left a vaguely bitter taste in my mouth. Still, who knew “Blame it on the Alcohol” could make for a great group number?

Parenthood: “Never Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew's Therapist”
Oh, Crosby just stepped in it – did he not? The thing is, I’m not his biggest fan but I feel he’s getting the short end of the stick, especially in relation to Adam who’s even more judgemental than Kristina with the issue. We get that he’s worried about Max, but it’s a bit unfortunate that Crosby will be getting 0 supporting from his older brother. I love everything about Sydney, Julia and Joel (even if I miss them having an actual A plot) so Sydney’s vegetarian stint was fun to watch. More important, though, watching Connie and Zeek bond was just great. Again, I say Bedelia is such a great actor who makes do with her minuscule amount of screen times. I love the Amber and Drew sibling pairing, so their issues were well received and I’m so glad that Sarah actually stepped up in the parenting department. I don’t feel as if Amber should feel badly for laying into Seth, but I guess you have to choose your battles. I don’t know how Max will react to having Asperser’s and I don’t know what will happen with Jasmine and Crosby (hopefully, they don’t breakup) – but it’s a more than solid episode.

Modern Family: “Regrets Only”
I’m not sure if I prefer this episode to last week’s but it easily wins points for being excellently written. We get three converging storylines which actually do justice to each of the main relationships in the show. It’s all fuelled by Claire and Phil’s marital issues which are just hilarious without being contrived. I really do love watching Ty and Julie opposite each other – easily one of TV’s best married couples. This interacts with Gloria and Jay and Cam and Mitchell, both of them having issues with communication. Stonestreet doesn’t exactly wow me (he’s #6 of the six principals) and he doesn’t exactly shine in this episode – but it’s so much fun watching him mug the camera especially in Cam’s interactions with Luke. Gloria shows up for a few moments to be absolutely ridiculous, and what’s more the children are shirked in this episode. Watching the Dunphy girls be silly is always appreciated and we still manage great random moments like Claire getting her massage at the mall or Luke’s stupidity. The second half of season two is looking much better than the first half.
Community: “Into to Political Science”
I wasn’t crazy enough to think that Community was going to offer up another near perfect episode like last week’s instalment – and they didn’t. But, I wouldn’t call it regression. It’s not a brilliant episode, but it’s infinitely better than the first half of the season – though some of the gags don’t soar as well. They’re back to their on-the-nose yarns and Jeff and Annie getting into a political battle is nice to watch, even if wrapping it up with Jeff’s audition for “The Real World” didn’t impress as much as I think it was supposed to. The other significant arc was a dual one: Troy trying to come to grips – somewhat – with Abed’s “faux” life and Abed and the secret agent. The Troy stuff delivers; the other portion? Not so much. Glover and Pudi are great together, but the secret service is just a little too pat – even if the closing gag was a beaut.

The Office: “Todd Packer”
The main arc of Packer’s return fell flat, the suplot of Pam and Andy and Jim and Dwight were both brilliant. We’re preparing for Michael’s departure and this episode felt way too much like a filler episode. Yes, Amy Ryan continues to be one of the shining stars in the show (oh lord, PLEASE let get that Emmy nod). It sucks, in a way, that Jenna Fischer hasn’t gotten much material this season but she’s working with what she has and I especially loved the closing with her and Darryl – she’s so much fun when given the chance. See how little I have to say about the episode? Not bad, but unsubstantial.

Parks & Recreation: “Indianapolis”
Dear Parks & Recreation Department: why are you so continually brilliant? In some ways this episode shouldn’t turn out so great because the set-up seems decidedly mundane even for the Parks&Rec crew, but it ends up being so delightfully sanguine and irresistible only reaffirming the notion that this is the best comedy on television at the moment. I love how subtle the entire arc about Ben finding friends in the department was delivered, all the while underscored by Tom and his ridiculous ambitions. I’m really not that invested in Andy and April, but their “first date” was excellent – going around trying to get free stuff. And the fact that it ended with them giving all the money away was just perfect. Then, there’s Ron and his beloved steak – a plotpoint that Nick Offerman sold time and time again, and of course Ann and her breakup with Chris (which I hope is temporary). And then it wraps up with a montage of Leslie giving us some of the worse ways to get dumped which mirrors Poehler’s brilliant comedic timing from “The Hunting Trip” last season. Why, oh why, is this show so great?
30 Rock: “TGS Hates Women”
This episode is a trick one, it’s coming off a couple of top-notch episodes and there’s a moment at the end with the big reveal with the new writer on TGS that’s ridiculous – and not in the usual good way, but then there are some great things too. The issues with TGS hating women are far from riveting, but to an extent it works, especially when you remember how brilliant Krakowski and Fey are opposite each other – when given the chance. Moretz and Baldwin seemed to be a tad too trite, until that showdown at the end which we sort of should have seen coming – and it sets itself up for something good. It’s sort of uneven in the way it delivers on the jokes – but it’s a fair episode, and I’ll take it.

Grey’s Anatomy: “Not Responsible”
There’s plot development, but the episode feels far from earnest. I surely don’t mind having Loretta Devine back, and Meredith dealing with her eyesight is interesting – if vaguely silly. The fact that I have to think so heavily for an episode I saw so recently probably means that it didn’t have that much to offer. It was an episode of moments, though. Watching Mark, Owen and Derek playing golf on the rooftop was brilliant. Seeing Bailey getting through to the Chief about his wife? Perfect. Everything involving Alex, Cristina and Meredith (together and separate) was so evocative of early seasons. I’m not sure I care for April and Dr. Stark, and though I hate that Arizona and Callie keep having these roadblocks that’s an arc worth looking into. Jackson and Lexie? I don’t care for them. But eh, it’s fine.

Private Practice: “Two Steps Back”
It’s so weird having episodes of the show without Addison, but it’s a generally solid effort all round. Liza Weil (of Gilmore Girls’ fame) appears as a patient who may or may not have dissociative disorder. It’s an interesting arc in itself, even if the payoff seems a bit obvious from a mile away it actually manages to work. This arc develops against three others – Sam and Naomi working with a mother who’s teenager daughter with Downs’ may or may not be pregnant, Cooper and Charlotte in therapy and Violet’s (apparently slanderous) novel-to-be. I’m all for any arc with Audra, and though it’s not exactly a piece-de-resistance, it’s an interesting dilemma and one that’s handled with more realism than you’d expect. Cooper and Charlotte have problems that seem rote, but actually end up interestingly and even if Violet’s dilemma is silly it does lead to some nice moments with the entire group (sans Addison) playing off each other – which are always some of the best parts of the show.
Interesting Things
  • Honestly, why are Lynette’s children so retarded (excuse the political incorrectness)? It’s borderline ridiculous, and not even in a funny way. Absolutely weird.
  • Why does Alby have to be so creepy? Is it the hair? And that kiss between he and Verlan – good lord, that was sort of disturbing – no?
  • I swear, every time Gloria and Phil have scenes together I die inside. Vergara and Burrell are so fun together.
  • Who didn’t the reveal with Chris and the pink razor coming a mile away? I loved Lowe’s line-reading of “I’m human. I have blemishes.”
  • More than ever, this week I really felt like Audra and Taye were going to break into song on the balcony. Oy.
  • Don’t Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham show their emotion (with reference to physicality) in the same way? They’re such a good mother/daughter pair.
Standout Writing
Modern Family: A/A-
Parks & Recreation: A-
Big Love: A-
Glee: B+
Standout Performances
Julie Bowen in Modern Family: A
Chloe Sevigny in Big Love: A-
Nick Offerman in Parks & Recreation: A-
Lea Michele in Glee: B+/A-
Adam Scott in Parks & Recreation B+/A-
Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock: B+
Amy Poehler in Parks & Recreation: B+
Jeanne Tripplehorn in Big Love: B+

What stood out this past week in TV for you?

1 comment:

Robert said...

Interestingly enough this was one of my less favorite episodes of Modern Family though I thought Julie Bowen was particularly brilliant! I don't know why I didn't like it as much though...I just don't think any episode has been able to match how much I loved the "TAAAASTE MY CUPCAKES" one. :P