Saturday, 21 May 2011

TV Week in Review: “15th - 19th” (and leftovers from last week)

It was a week of finales, the on ABC, CBS and NBC I got packed with a slew of finales some were perfect closers to great seasons and others were surprisingly disappointing. But before, I’ve got two overdue reviews from the week before.
Cougar Town: “Damaged By Love”
Watching Ellie deal with Andy’s family – particularly his officious sister-in-law ends up being a left-field arc for a show that’s often so insular but one which is also quite hilarious. Moreover, it ends up leading to a brilliant moment of niceness between Laurie and Ellie. Their relationship is an interesting thing to watch, and it’s great seeing how much they’ve grown over the two seasons. Jules father is always good for a laugh, and his strip club antics were great to watch especially when it led to the softer moment at the end. Grayson’s arc was a bit silly, but in a good way. I have to give props to Josh Hopkins who I often used to think of as the show’s albatross. He’s been bringing the funny recently.
Parks & Recreation: “Road Trip”
I missed the second of this, and it was a great one. Not as enjoyable as “The Fight” but it saw two important things happy. Ben and Leslie’s relationship finally got on track (a whole year after he arrived and I noticed their brilliant chemistry) and it’s fun watching Chris be the ultimate cockblocker, naturally oblivious to everything. The arc of Tom’s gameshow wasn’t as joyfully hilarious as his other ideas, but it’s great how the writers are treating the April/Andy marriage with sincerity and her showing up at Ann’s house was a nice touch.
Desperate Housewives: “And Lots of Security...”
Desperate Housewives: “Come On Over for Dinner”
Well, the seventh season of Desperate Housewives wrapped goes out in a decidedly disappointing double feature. I couldn’t help but wonder why the second episode couldn’t have been tightened up and used as the next season’s premiere. The Felicia and Paul drama came to a whimpering close (not even a return of the great Cody Kasch) and so does Lynette and Tom’s marriage. The divorce plot seems tired but I don’t see it as especially terrible because that entire relationship has become awfully annoying to watch. The Gaby drama is vaguely random but not overly so and the rotating dinner is a nice touch. The latter episode is superior, but something still feels off although I do give props to Vanessa Williams for being the episode’s MVP working hard with the silly storylines she’s given. I keep praying that this show can rein itself in and find some structure. I don’t know, though...

United States of Tara: “Chicken ‘n’ Corn”
Well, things are definitely reaching to a head and it sure is turning into something chilling. Tara’s new alter is distressing, but it was the early scene with Chicken which was more upsetting. It was an episode of things being troubled, though, like the usually calm Max being derailed by that plain right or Kate being similarly ill at ease with Evan’s demon-son or Marshall feeling badly because of Max’s ostensible lack of support. Marshall’s really annoying me this season, go figure. Even Charmain’s attempts at a day out were capsized first by her worrying about Wheels and then her returning home to Hatteras in her house and a palpably upset Tara there.
Nurse Jackie: “The Astonishing”
This episode was filled with some great small bits featuring things that you wouldn’t likely see. O’Hara looking at her bruised chest in the bathroom was deep and then there was that awkward lunch with her, Jackie and Zoey and then a somewhat random but surprisingly effective moment with his toys. Jackie was running on a single pill today and that’s probably why her mood was so sour. I feel badly for Gracie, but she’s such an annoying character that I wasn’t that invested in her saintly plight. Gloria and Thor bonding was a genius move as was the conversation between Kelly and Zoey which led to the latter reminiscing on her days of being jailbait. Wever is such a trooper.

Glee: “Funeral”
I’ve stopped reading reviews of Glee because I end up almost always liking the hated episodes or hating the liked episodes and what not. “Funeral” was a lot more placid than you’d expect, and maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling a bit downer for the entire week (what with the rapture, and what not) but with its attention to the softer side of the show it ended up being less cloying to me and surprisingly moving. The arc of Sue’s sister dying on its own doesn’t move me as much but Lynch turns in a fine performance, and I did love the season’s opener when she and Will were “friends” so I’d love to see that return and it ties in nicely with Terri’s exit which saddens me. I’m a fan of Jessalyn, she’s had sinfully little do this season but she’s Morrison’s best acting partner and I will miss her when (if?) she leaves. The smaller relationship drama was a bit eclipsed, but Jonathan Groff brings the funny (without singing) and as harsh as his comments were every single one of them made sense if you put serious thought into it. Don’t care for the Finn/Quinn drama, I keep hoping Rachel and Finn don’t hook up and destroy the show – but it seems inevitable (them hooking up, not the show’s destruction. Ha.)
The Good Wife: “Closing Arguments”
I've come to love The Good Wife, I think my general antipathy towards Julianna Margulies (don't ask) made it difficult for me to initially love the show in its premiere season. Still, I've grown to love it and I was highly anxious to see the season's closer. The set-up is excellent. Fresh of their "break-up" Alicia and Kalinda must work together on judge murder which their client is charged for. Just as closing arguments for the case are given new evidence (in the form of a bloodied glove) ends up on Alicia's desk leading the team into a fresh new investigation. It sounds good, but the episode is something of a let-down, a fine episode - certainly, but it sort of fizzles in contrast to last week's episode. For me, The Good Wife is always at its best when it touches on the concepts of friendship - Kalinda/Alicia, Diane/Will, Eli/Peter or general politics and as a viewer the Will/Alicia dynamic is decidedly secondary for me. So, even though we get some suggestions of brilliance like Cary and Diane's cutesy banter or Eli and Alicia's pseudo face-off or Cary noticing Kalinda's coldness the fact that the end-all of all that could be is a lip-lock between Will and Alicia

Modern Family: “See You Next Fall”
It’s a solidly fair episode and it’s great when the entire comes together – this time for Alex’s graduation. Hyland was great this episode helping Alex to see how terrible her original graduation speech would have been. The Claire/Phil arc wasn’t as precise as I’d hope but Bowen and Burrell (the MVPs on the show, for me right now) really can make anything work. Jay’s Botox seems a bit out of left-field but I love Mitchell’s reaction. The Cam/Mitchell arc was a bit silly, but Ferguson is hilarious when he comes as vaguely insensitive and the best part of the episode was him trying to convince everyone how Cam’s fall could have been funny.

Cougar Town: Free Fallin'
This was an episode of classic greatness and even the potentially freaky arc of Grayson, Ellie, Tom and the chalk children didn’t end up hindering. On one hand Jules and Travis have concurrent bonding and sparring when he decides to drop out of college. This leads to a hilarious gag where Grayson pretends to be Travis and he and Jules end up making up. It is as weird as it sounds, even Ellie agrees. Then, Penny Can went national as Lou Diamond Philips became the face of the new and improved Penny Can and though in theory it’s Bobby’s arc it leads to a string of hilarious Laurie moments. It will be interesting see Bobby in an apartment now, and Travis on the boat.

The Office: “Search Committee”
Krasinski, I always maintain, is a brilliant actor because he knows how to react to the madness around him and having him on the search committee responding to a host of madness and giving the camera his wan expressions was just great. This one hour didn’t top the Christmas episode – nothing this season did. But, in its placidity it was a fine close to the season. One of the surprising arcs which hit home was the potential for Phyllis and Erin to be mother and daughter. I’ve never been a fan of Phyllis but the arc ends up being funny and moving. Little things were excellently done, like Pam having to be the one to save the office from Creed or every bit character have their moment from Kelly and Ryan (I will always love those two) to Oscar and Darryl. It was perfectly orchestrated which serves as fine proof that as brilliant an addition Michael was the office is filled with a host of brilliant members. They can handle another season...but who will lead them? I hope it’s James Spader. He was brilliant!

Parks & Recreation: “The Bubble”
Parks and Recreation: “’Lil Sebastian”
A double episode closing for the greatest comedy on television at the moment seems about right. Ben meeting Leslie’s mother was all sorts of great. Scott is doing such great work on the show, I keep praying at least one cast members get Emmy love but damn they’re all worthy. That’s why the concept of them working like crazy on the funeral of ‘Lil Sebastian is both silly and fantastic. The cliff-hangers are striking but not exasperating because they’re so realistic. Leslie running for office is an excellent idea, which could be a problem with the Ben liaison. Tom leaving the office is logical, although I wonder how successful he would be. And then we get added pieces of greatness like Ron’s moustache burning off along with the return of Megan Mullally and Tammy I (whoever that is) and Chris mourning the loss of his youth which is too funny. Here’s an even better season four, but before that here’s praying for some Emmy love. Fingers crossed.

Grey’s Anatomy: “Unaccompanied Minor”
I swear I’ve been crazy emotional this week, it’s like all my aloofness has worn off over time and it’s all gone and that scene with the room waiting for that solitary minor made me really, really, really sad. It’s been a while since a one hour season finale and this one seemed especially un-seismic but still excellently solid. It’s a sensitive closing to a season that’s seen the show trying to find its way and by ending on softer note it works excellently. I’m worried about Alex, and I wish he and Meredith could have had it out. Hopefully next season doesn’t see him get crazy because I’d hate it if April got chief resident over me. But there’s bigger fish to fry, like Meredith’s suspension, Derek’s leaving and the baby’s arrival. All things handled sensitively and with great skill. But this week it’s Sandra Oh who delivers home. Her conflict makes sense to me, but I can see Owen’s point and it’s just all complicated for her – just as Meredith keeps stressing about her issues. It’s not black-and-white, it’s a murky deluge and I can’t wait to see what they do with the next season. I feel as if, finally, they’re back on track.

Private Practice: “To Change the Things I Can”
Naomi’s departure wasn’t as big a thing as I’d hoped; I suppose having Audra leave quietly is the best thing for the show and Addison already has her issues of semi-depression. The practice’s move to a change is interesting, although I wonder if that’s going to be as big a change as they’re making it out to be. It’s weird, I don’t have much to say about the episode but it’s a good one. Violet and Pete’s drama is an interesting problem and Charlotte and Coop’s troubles at works makes for an interesting arc. The thing about this show, though, is that it’s so dedicated to being calm that sometimes it can come off seemed anaesthetised. This episode avoids that, hopefully season 5 continues on that.
Outstanding Writing
Grey’s Anatomy: A/A-
Parks & Recreation: A/A- (“The Bubble)
Cougar Town: B+/A-
Glee: B+/A-
The Office: B+/A-
Outstanding Performances
Amy Poehler in Parks & Recreation B+/A-
Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy B+
Adam Scott in Parks & Recreation B+
Eve Best in Nurse Jackie B+ 
Jane Lynch in Glee B+
John Krasinski in The Office B+
John Corbett in United States of Tara B+
Nick Offerman in Parks & Recreation B+
Ty Burrell in Modern Family B+
Kate Walsh in Private Practice B+
Courtney Cox in Cougar Town B+
Toni Collette in United States of Tara B+
Busy Philipps in Cougar Town B+
Vanessa Williams in Desperate Housewives B+
Dan Byrd in Cougar Town B+
Christa Miller in Cougar Town B+
Rosemarie DeWitt in United States of Tara B+
What did you think of all these finales? Any stood out?


Luke said...

Wow, you know I'm behind in my TV when I watch almost all of these shows and yet have seen hardly any of these episodes yet. But I can comment on the Parks and Rec and Office finales! The Office was a little scattered for me, but I agree whole heartedly with the Krasinski praise. My pick would have to be Catherine Tate if it is in fact going to be one of the interviewees. I still wish it would be Kelly though. :) And I'm right there with you on Parks! How is it not raking in the Comedy Emmy nods?? I'm very pleased with the cliffhanger. A run for office is a genius trajectory for the show's fourth season.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Gah, Tate was hilarious too. You know how I love the Brits so she just knocked me out. Either her or Spade would be great.

Fitz said...

I'm hoping Spader gets the position as well. That slight air of eccentricity could be just what the new season needs.

Greg said...

"Parks and Rec" is just firing on all cylinders right now. Great end to a brilliant season. "The Office" was pretty excellent too.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fitz yeah, spader would be great. what with those penetrating stares.

greg i agree on both counts.