Saturday, 13 August 2011

TV Week in Review: 7th-11th August (and Damages from last week)

I’ve got to say that the television shows I watch were on a roll this weeks, whether it was episode quality, advancement of plots, great performances (or all three) they were on point.
          
Damages: “The Next One’s On Me, Blondie”; Season Four, Episode Four [B+]
So, it turns out that the cliff-hanger was a bit of a lie, but it did make for a solid episode of the show. I’ve been saying that I’ve finding Messina to be the strongest of the three male additions this season, but both Goodman and Baker step up as Chris is being tortured overseas. Goodman in particular grounds the episode being the sort of big bad who’s not completely bad. It makes for the blurring of the lines between good and bad which has always made this series such a great one. In other news, it’s unsurprising that Ellen is lusting after Chris; it explains her attraction to the case. Judd Hirsch is having a lot of fun playing unhinged, so it’s going to be interesting see where – if anywhere – his information ends up taking Ellen and Patty.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+/A-]

Breaking Bad: “Bullet Points”; Season Four, Episode Four [B+/A-]
Following up on last week’s excellent episode, the show turns in one that’s even better. One of the things I don’t love about Breaking Bad is the fact that because of the way the series is constructed we never get to see the ensemble battle out (for example: we’ll probably never get a power scene with Brandt, Paul, Gunn and Cranston). Still, the way the episode establishes its issues works excellently. I ended up being most moved by the most seemingly benign one – Walt and Skylar. Gunn is doing such good work, and her entire scene for those first fifteen minutes was excellent. Walt and Hank’s tête-à-tête is the least interesting arc but it’s still more than just good. And, just when I started to bemoan a lack of Jesse this episode he turns up spiralling even further out of control. Where is this season headed to? Who knows, but I’m along for the ride.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

True Blood: “In the Cold Grey Light of Dawn”; Season Four, Episode Seven [B+]
Because Bon Temps will never be Bon Tempts without the superfluous I’m forced to endure Alcide and Debbie having sex and existing. In other news, though, Marnie – now possessed as Antonio – decides to resurrect the 400 year old plot to bring al vampires to the sun. I can’t recall an episode that was so serious. MaryAnn remains as the most diabolical villain – just her presence was scary. But, Antonio doesn’t scare as much as she imposes gravity making us realise just how grave the situation. Thus, in the wake of these issues I’m less than interested in seeing Eric and Sookie have a “moment” – Anna Paquin is being ridiculously underused this season. I’m not too sold on the Jesus/Lafayette situation either, because learning that Lafayette is a medium doesn’t seem like something which required a trip around the world (although his meeting with Evil Baby’s “muse” was great). After last week’s goodness it sucks that Sam/Tommy are back to the same old refrain. With the season into its second half I want everyone to be involved in the main plot, but thus far it’s great seeing the witches/vampires faceoff. And even though a Jessica death is impossible (how could they kill off the best vampire?) that ending was beautiful.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Entourage: “One Last Shot”; Season Eight, Episode Three [B/B+]
This episode was curiously non-comedic, and not in the way that dissenters say that Entourage has zero humour. It was all about the serious issues like Turtle being let go from his vodka company, Vince trying to help out an addict, Ari coming to grips with the idea of being single and Drama dealing with his co-star’s issues. The episode ends up resting on the performances – the main one being Piven who gets a chance to play Ari in a register other than the usual snarky one. I think Piven is great, so it’s nice seeing Ari sweat a little. Entourage ultimately works for me because of the rapport between the actors so when pairings like Drama and Eric or Turtle and Vince happen, I’m pleased it reminds me of the old days.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

The Closer: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”; Season Seven, Episode Five [B+]
Remember when Kate Burton used to be all kinds of awesome on Grey’s Anatomy as Meredith’s mother? Well, she turns up this week on The Closer as a preacher’s wife, whose husband turned up dead in a motel in women’s lingerie. The case itself is a bit of a backseat (even though Kate is fabulous) for a major portion of the episode because the department a number of other issues going – particularly the subpoenas being served to every member of the squad – except for Garbiel, in relation to the Tyrell Baylor murder. It’s nice that even though the some of the squad is suspicious about the lack of a subpoena for David that they don’t go all cutthroat. Brenda is finally grasping the enormity of the situation, which seems goaded on by a brilliant confession from the victim’s son.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

The Big C: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”; Season Two, Episode Seven [B+/A-]
When did Hugh Dancy become so charming? Although it’s a bit silly that now that Lee has confessed his gayness he and Cathy are allowed to be all touchy-feely this episode is another in a string of great things on The Big C which is just a roll of perfection. Adding Paul to the duo just makes for more fun as they visit the gay-bear which never comes off as ridiculous as you’d expect. Oliver Platt keeps on being the greatest actor on TV that no one cares about, and as Paul says it’s great that Cathy has a “cancer” friend. Andrea going out on her date was cute, and not in an annoying way – it’s nice how the show’s opening up its world. The opening with Sean and Cathy is perfectly played, because John Benjamin Hickey is THE best when it comes to pithy dialogue. Also, yay for Adam being less jerk-like and bonding with Sean. We’ll see how that goes.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Web Therapy: “Public Relations”’; Season One, Episode Four [B+]
I mentioned on twitter that Jane Lynch shows up on Web Therapy to play Sue Sylvester, but that doesn’t make her appearance any less hilarious. Last week Fiona met her better in the form of her mother, and this week she meets a worthy opponent in the form of Claire. Watching Lynch and Kudrow go back and forth makes for the highlight of the episode. They’re two very different comediennes, so it makes the conclusion to their ridiculous conversations that much more satisfying. We only get Garber for a small scene, but it’s a step-up from last week when we didn’t even see him
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+ ]

Damages: “We'll Just Have to Find Another Way to Cut the Balls Off of This Thing”; Season Four, Episode Five [B+]
More than any episode this season, this episode shows us how much Patty Hewes has grown over the years. As the case against High Star gets more complicated Patty must deal with the deteriorating health of her granddaughter. On the downside, the episode is curiously devoid of Chris Messina, but the on the upside we’re given more than enough other developments to distract form that. The entire plan with the homemade bomb is brilliantly constructed and those last ten minutes are wonderfully taut. Damages continues to be an intuitively written series that doesn’t talk down to the audience, but doesn’t pander either. Getting to the emotional core of Patty is a nice change, and in a scene with no dialogue as Patty tries to find the chances of being 1 in 36, Glenn absolutely nails it.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Wilfred: “Anger” Season One, Episode Eight [B-]
There was something off about this episode. I like Kristin, so it’s nice seeing her being all anal with Ryan but Wilfred – the character – is moving from vaguely annoying into completely ridiculous. True, the actual concept of Ryan carrying the guilt of killing his childhood dog is ridiculous in and off itself, but it’s even sillier that it ends up having such a vast effect on the narrative. Still, there are still some nice to things to find – Elijah Wood continues to be excellent and he and Gann have managed to create a great chemistry and the entire concept of Kristin’s party is wonderfully absurd.
[Writing: B-; Directing: B-]


Standout Performers
Jane Lynch in Web Therapy B+
Laura Linney in The Big C B+
Oliver Platt in The Big C B+
Glenn Close in Damages B+
       
Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad B+
Lisa Kudrow in Web Therapy B+
Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad B+
Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad B+
Hugh Dancy in The Big C B+
Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer B+
John Goodman in Damages B+
Jeremy Piven in Entourage B+
           
What did you watch this week?

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