Saturday, 23 April 2011

TV Week in Review: 17th - 21st April

This was a good week of television for me, each show offered up an episode that deserved to be watched and some performers churned out performances that bested their entire work for the season. Good stuff.

Desperate Housewives: “Moments in the Woods”
This episode is just another puzzle in the continuous jumble that this show has turned into. That’s probably a terrible intro, because the episode was quite good. There was progressive movement of plot, character development and strident comedic beats which were accentuated by the dramatic elements. I hate to get retrospective, but why can’t the writers be more consistent with their plot delineations? The arc of Andrew and Carlos being close seems to spring out from nowhere, but even though it’s a revelation seven years overdue the fact that Carlos realised Andrew’s culpability was well placed and his reaction was well presented. True, the Tom/Lynette fiasco is one that should have occurred seasons ago but it makes for a nice scene with Williams and Huffman and it ends up being lucid and without the usual madness. Even Susan’s potentially extraneous plot-point becomes a bit poignant at the end. It’s interesting watching Felicia plot, and her final scene was incredibly creepy. Easily one of the best episodes of the season.

United States of Tara: “Wheels”
With all her crazy antics, I’m so fond of Charmaine that I don’t find her ridiculousness off-putting, but I actually felt that Tara was being treated terribly – and from that comes an excellent episode. I often worry about how attractive the alters come across, and this episode does a fine job of putting that all in perspective. But, the comedic bits still reign. Larson offers up yet another excellent turn (she’s so brilliant this season, thus far) and it’s fun watching her have fun with the epiphany. Marshall’s ruminations on not “getting” babies was a nice touch, but it’s the ending that was most striking. A brilliant closing to a great episode.

Nurse Jackie: “Mitten”
I have to admit that Jackie’s medicinal issues are the slightest draw for me with Nurse Jackie, but this was a great episode. From a well-placed altercation with Jackie and a customer to a bogus race for Chief of the ER this probably amounts to the strongest episode of the season. I will say, that despite his boorish behaviour I’m a fan of Coop, so I feel a bit bad he’s working for no reason but it’s all adding to the quasi-comedy of the show (which I still think is a drama). Things get more heated with Kevin’s sister and Eddie. As usual it’s not that much in the point of actual plot – but it’s entertaining. And next week SwoozieKurtz. Yay!

Cougar Town: “Walls”
Ellie is my favourite of the Cul-de-Sac crew, so I’m happy that the show’s return after a gruelling hiatus had Christa Miller doing such fine work. Bobby is digging up the time capsule he and Jules had created for Travis when he was a babe and that leads into yet another arc with Jules shows her overprotective, meddling nature. This is buttressed by Bobby’s new idea for a career focusing on only the most fun of ridiculous, pointless games – yes, Penny Can. It’s such a well done episode, like the best of the show’s pieces it’s an excellent mix of all the characters with the over-the-top humour being a nice way to present the softer more emotional bits which succeed just as well. Welcome back, Cougar Town.

Glee: “Night of Neglect”
On the upside, Jessalyn Gilsig has returned. I know there is a legion of fans who hate Teri Schuester, but I love Gilsig’s work. The episode was a fairly average one, not spectacular – but essentially solid. The “neglect” theme seemed a little forced at times, but the episode some significant moments of plot development. Even though their romantic relationship is hardly a major part of the show, that scene with Mays and Morrison was well done. I’m so annoyed with the writers for giving Mays so little to work with this season, she’s still great – but her arcs give her no chance to shine as she should. Gwyneth’s (I assume) final appearance added a bit more layers to Will and the burgeoning friendship between Rachel and Mercedes was excellently presented. I find Charice/Sunshine absolutely painful to watch, but she’s off-set by the brilliant Cheyenne Jackson so I’ll deal.

Parenthood: “Hard Times Come Again No More”
I will admit that in recent weeks Parenthood has been less “excellent” and generally just “good” to “very good” – but in typical primetime TV form they always strive for good season finales, and this was no exception. Two main arcs seem to converge – that of Sarah’s and that of Adam’s and Lauren Graham delivers an excellent performance, her best work of the season easily dealing with Amber’s near-death experience and her play. What’s so unfortunate is that they never give her the chance to lead an episode on her own, but this is an ensemble show. Her issues are measured against Adam dealing with everything from Haddie having sex to Max’s tantrums and a pregnancy in the house. The final scene between Krause and Potter was such a nice touch, a sort of encapsulation of all the good things about the show. And, it seems, Jasmine and Crosby may reunite and Julia and Joel plan to adopt. It’s all done in typical Parenthood style – as unobtrusive as possible. It’s going to be a long wait to the next season though. Sigh.

Modern Family: “Someone to Watch Over Lilly”
Although I'm not in love with the actual premise of the episode, which seems forced, it has enough interesting comedy hooks and character tete-a-tetes for me to enjoy it. Cam and Mitchell are contemplating who will be listed as Lilly's guardian and the episode watches the Dunphy's and the Pritchett's deal with their worth as parents. I've always loved the Jay/Manny chemistry so that portion was great for me. It was nice seeing Hayley and Alex bond (reminding me of how much fun they were in "Strangers on a Treadmill") and watching Claire worry about what Luke will become was an interesting arc. The funniest bits, though, had to be Gloria's antics with Lilly. Ridiculous, over-the-top and hilarious.

Cougar Town: “Baby's a Rock N' Roller”
Sure, it's not as great as the Monday episode - but that was one for the ages. The main arc concerns Grayson and Jules babysitting Stan which is not quite as hilarious as I'd hope, although in typical fashion the offspring of Ellie and Andy is weird. We've also got Laurie taking the forefront and bemoaning the loss of her promiscuous life. It is, as you can imagine, filled with silly things like Laurie does it. I usually love the bonding between Travis and Bobby, but this one didn't hit it off as well for me. Still, Cougar Town is back and I'm rejoicing.

Community: “Paradigms of Human Memory”
This week’s episode functions as a recap-episode, of sorts, tracing the year the group has had, and it’s a good one. I’ll admit, my love of Community wavered for a significant portion of the first half of the season but it’s gotten back to its idiosyncratic roots and this was a great celebration of that. From the random montages backed by incredibly corny music, to seeing all of those character hooks coming out from clip after clip it worked much better than you’d expect it in theory. I will miss it when it goes on hiatus, but I hope they come back even stronger in the new season.

The Office: “Michael's Last Dundees”
Well, I’m a big Mindy Kaling fan so I was so glad to see her write and direct one episode – and it was a winner. Sure, Holly was missing (Amy Ryan, I miss you) but the Dundee’s are of the finest traditions of this show, and even though it was less about the actual Dundee’s and more about Michael’s departure it was well handled along with other subplots like the conclusion of that awful relationship formerly known as the Gabe/Erin debacle, the return of Toby from being a jury for the Scranton Strangler and just incidental silliness like Meredith’s house or Ryan NOT getting hottest in the office.

Parks & Recreation: “Soulmates”
I had been thinking how long it'd been since we had a good Tom episode (we used to have so many in Season Two) and then this comes around and I have nothing to fault this excellent show for. The humour remains consistent and the unholy alliance of Tom and Leslie is excellent to watch. There are so many positives here, like watching the Ben and Leslie romance move at a snail's pace which is so unusual for television but is so excellent here or watching Andy and April have nice married moments. And then, there are the other things like having Ann be put to good use. Rashida is such a fine actress, and she's best when dealing with Leslie's crazy and of course the subplot of Chris and Ron cooking was excellent. What a great show.

30 Rock: “The 100th Episode”
I didn’t love this episode as much as I wish I did – but it’s a solid one hour featuring some good bits. Tracy returns, trying to eschew his recent rise to fame, Jenna is using pregnancy as a back-up plan and Jack and Liz are dealing with the usual madness that comes with TGS. There’s this weird part where the episode feels both overstuffed and underdeveloped, but overall it comes to a fairly good closing. I’ve noticed that I don’t appreciate Tina’s writing as much as I used to. True, this is much more on point than the “Live Episode” at the beginning of the season – but her writing here sometimes has the tendencies to turn into a caricature of the original show, which is already caricature....

Standout Writing
The Office A-
United States of Tara A-
Cougar Town (Walls) A-
Nurse Jackie A-
Parenthood A-
Standout Performers
Toni Collette in United States of Tara: A/A-
Lauren Graham in Parenthood: A/A-
Christa Miller in Cougar Town: A-
Amy Poehler in Parks & Recreation: B+/A-
Aziz Ansara in Parks & Recreation: B+/A-
 Peter Krause in Parenthood: B+/A-
Brie Larson in United States of Tara: B+/A-
Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie: B+/A-

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family: B+
Busy Phillipps in Cougar Town: B+
Steve Carell in The Office: B+
Peter Fachinelli in Nurse Jackie: B+
Eve Best in Nurse Jackie: B+
What did you watch this week? Were you as impressed as I was?


Simon said...

I love how, in Community, Donald Glover's screaming fit was like the kick in Inception. And also everything else about that episode. And Donald Glover. And Community. Yay.

Robert said...

Brie Larson is killing it this season! Modern Family was great as was Parks and Recreation - Tom was perfect.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

simon donald glover is amazing.

robert so right on brie. i don't know about the emmy's, but she's in serious contention for a nod from MY year-end TV awards. and we all know which is more prestigious. ;)