Saturday, 24 September 2011

TV Week in Review: 18th-22nd September

If any week has been proof of my overindulgence in my television viewing – it’s this week. I really don’t know how I manage twelve shows, school work and work/work but there you go. I guess I’m manic. On with the reviews.

Breaking Bad: “Salud” [B+/A-]
For the last two episodes or so, I’ve not completely loved how the show’s been going. It’s going well, but not as well as I wanted and I was glad that this episode improved upon that significantly. We’ve got our three arcs pretty much all existing of their own volition. Remember that well deserved beat-down Walt suffered last week? Well, it has its repercussions this episodes as he misses Walt Jr.’s birthday. Cranston takes all the things that make Walt annoying and uses them to elicit a brilliantly awkward conversation with his son. It’s the arc most lacking in ostensible plot development, but it’s wrought with character development. With only a couple scenes Gunn delivers yet again with Skyler dealing with that potential auditing crises at her old workplace and she’s simply a joy to watch. There are more significant issues afoot, though, as Gus tries to destroy the Cartell’s and pays for it. Jesse taking control is going to be an interesting state of affairs and should make for goodness in these final episodes
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

The Big C: “The Darkest Day” [B]
After a brilliant string of eight great episodes I’m less than thrilled with the overly dramatic direction the show has taken. It’s not that I don’t want dramatic things to happen, but it’s coming off as vaguely hokey and rarely humorous – something the writers managed to avoid during the early parts of the season. Lee’s death is a loss for Cathy, and the show, but it was a profound moment for Linney and Dancy. Kudos to Platt and Sidibe in that scene where Paul tells Andrea what’s up with Mick, and I have to give the writers props for explaining what was up with that arc – event though I’m not too fond of how easy an out it was for them. The Poppy/Adam arc should have felt more profound but, as good as it was, it wasn’t as good as it should have been. Still, it’s not like the episode lacked goodness. The Christmas presents, Cathy’s tirade in the classroom were all classic moments of the show and it’s always sincerely presented.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Web Therapy: “Strange Bedfellows”; Season One, Episode Ten [B]
What a season it’s been for the television incarnation of Web Therapy. the show has endured as a fine vehicle for the special talents of Lisa Kudrow who continues to be an excellent actor and although it’s faltered on occasion with the other characters Fiona has continued to exasperate as much as amuse. Bucatinsky has emerged as the most significant of the supporting players for me, and it was his scene this episode which I found most on point. Everything about that conversation just landed. Still, no badness comes out of Alan Cumming being despicably charming and it’s fun watching Fiona play him…or him her? The final scene – content-wise – was not as resounding as I’d hoped; Kip running for office is interesting but lacked a certain panache. Still, the conversation itself was a delight since it gave Cumming, Garber and Kudrow chances to be hilarious and I am looking forward to see how a second season of this quirky, but generally rewarding show, will fare.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B]

Parenthood: “Hey, If You're Not Using That Baby...”; Season Three, Episode Two [B/B+]
There’s something about Parenthood even amidst all its generally rote simplicity. It’s a show that is so comfortable traversing those well known hooks and crannies that’s so easy to watch and still manages an emotional connection and this episode was a good example of that. The strongest arc was easily Kristina going into mommy mode and dealing with Max being at a regular school. Potter continues to balance the good and bad qualities of characters so well delivering, oftentimes, the show’s most multifaceted performance. There are other good things afoot, most importantly the adorable Lauren Graham and the equally adorable Jason Ritter getting naked and whatnot. I am very interested in seeing how that relationship ends up working. Crosby and Adam buying the studio isn’t shocking but it leads to nice moments between the two, and Adam and his father. And, I’m a bit worried as to how Haddie’s issues will pan out – the same for Julia. I’m glad that the show just bit the bullet and let her ask the latte girl (awkwardly) to adopt her baby, even the small amounts of the great Sam Jaegar do not sit well with me.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

Glee: “The Purple Piano Project”; Season Three, Episode One [B/B+]
I think it was Rob who said, despite his enjoying the premiere, he was tired of Glee beating their metaphors into our heads with their purple pianos and I completely get what he’s getting at. Still, I’m staying positive and it’s a good opening to what I desperately hope is a return to form to the show – although some things are making me wary. First and foremost, Kurt continues to annoy me and it’s not that I don’t like Darren Criss, but making him a regular at McKinley undermines all this promise of focusing on “core characters” this season. And that entire arc of Kurt essentially forcing the dude to switch schools is just ridiculous. And, as burgeoning theatre folk it makes little sense that Kurt and Rachel wouldn’t know that Julliard doesn’t have a performance arts programme, and even less believable that they wouldn’t know that there’s a performance arts’ club in their districts. But, umm, positives… as trifling as Sue’s antics are, Lynch delivers especially in little bits like pairing Santana and Becky together or that fine Sue’s corner. And, sure, they’ve somewhat destroyed what was good about Emma she and Will manage to retain a modicum of their former charm. And, Lauren is out of the club which elicits a yay from me. What will become of Quinn and the Skanks? How will Santana not being the club affect us? How brilliant will Idina Menzel be when she pops up next week? We’ll see, I suppose. Fingers crossed.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

The Hour: “Six”; Season Two, Episode Six [B/B+]
The final hour… I’ve said it before that my favourite tenets of the show were the personal battles which never seemed to really be at the crux of the show’s basic plot. When the final plot revelation came I was not quite surprised – it was something I’d previously considered, and then discarded, and with all the madness going on in the newsroom previously it felt a slight bit limp. It was the episode which depended most on its direction and – as such – the mood felt slightly forced at times. But, it didn’t prevent the arcs wrapping up – sort of – in a fashionable way. And, when that final shot of Bel and Freddie panned out as they left the studios I wondered if, perhaps, the show was really about the personal all along.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Revenge: “Pilot”; Season One, Episode One [B/B+]
So, at the behest of Ryan and Mark I checked out this – my lone new drama of the season, thus far, and it was a good entry. I’m curious, of course, as to how this revenge plot can last for multiple seasons and few series are able to use the flashback techniques with as much alacrity as Damages, but for all its literal deliberateness the show’s a success. Its soap-like tendencies are not a detractor, think of the goodness of Gossip Girl’s first season, and it’s well acted. Emily Van Camp’s is the least insufferable I’ve seen her, and older gals Madeleine Stowe and Amber Valette are serving up fine performances. Speaking of Gossip Girl, how brilliant is it seeing Connor Paolo (a.k.a. Serena’s gay brother) being all cool and worldly? I’m most interested in Gabriel Mann’s Nolan who gave my favourite performance of the pilot as someone who knows our protagonist’s secrets. It’s only a pilot, and there’s no telling how things well fall apart – but I’ll be back.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Modern Family: “Dude Ranch”; Season Three, Episode One [B/B+]
Just imagine how psyched I was to see Reid Ewing (an Emmy nominee for guest actor in my mind) show up in the season premiere. And, just imagine how less psyched I was when he decided to stay at the ranch. Hopefully he’ll pop up soonish. But, there’s more to discuss – of course. Cam and Mitchell are adopting a boy, and it’s nice how Mitchell is worried about doing those “manly” things with him. The simplicity of jokes like him wielding a gun, or getting ridiculously excited over blowing up a birdhouse were effective and it’s nice seeing the two – especially Jesse – involved in a great arc. I’m not too thrilled about Alex’s first kiss because her character continues to a bit annoying in how broadly drawn she is – or maybe it’s Winter. I don’t know.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Modern Family: “When Kids Go Bad”; Season Three Episode Two [B+/A-]
How, HOW, could an episode starting off with Ty rapping in a supermarket about how pastrami and Swiss being his only vices NOT be great? I’ve got to address the slight elephant in the room in terms of Claire being an annoying character. I was having an argument with a friend who found her insufferable, which I don’t. This episode is a perfect example of classic Claire – determined to a fault, and it’s that same determinedness which makes her so appealing to me. As she says, she’d like to be wrong sometimes – she just lives with the wrong people for that. There’s goodness in all the arcs, though. Cameron and Mitchell dealing with Lilly’s selfishness was a nice touch especially when it gives Jesse Tyler Ferguson to be absolutely awesome. And, Gloria/Manny and Phil/Manny bonding is when I love that family the best and everything on that end hit on all cylinders. Sure, the ending was just the slightest bit precise, but it brought the funny – and, what more could I ask for?
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+/A-

Community: “Biology 101”; Season Three, Episode One [B/B+]
The show embraced its silly antics to start off the season in fine form. Hopefully they’ll make me forgot, what for me, was a rocky first half of season two. Pierce’s reappearance doesn’t thrill me, because I’m not much a fan of his but it was funny – in part – seeing Jeff go to the “other side” of the table after being kicked out of biology. As a professed Cougar Town fan, though, it was obviously those moments directed at the show which made me laugh loudest. Cougar Town Abbey was just a bit of deliciousness. Goodman’s appearance, too, was well played. After his diabolical brilliance on Damages (an Emmy nod in the making, I should hope) he turns in a diabolically funny one here and the Dean, as is rare, is actually fun to watch this episode. It still doesn’t rank at the top tier shows on my care-o-meter but I’m game for continuing with the season if it keeps up the goodness.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

The Office: “The List”; Season Eight, Episode One [B/B+]
I don’t read much TV reviews, but I heard vague inklings about how awful the opener was and I feel a bit badly for the show because even though Carell’s keenness is absent, the opening was quite good. Spader isn’t overused in the cast, so I’m curious as to how significant a role he’ll play in the season but the list was an interesting idea. The best moment from it no doubt being Jim, Pam and Erin at the desk wondering what to do with it and then Phyllis ruse to distract everyone. I’m not overly fond of Pam being pregnant again, but if it leads to more tender Jim/Pam moments I’m all for that (as on the nose as Pam’s final monologue was, it was sweet). I can’t believe with Michael gone I still have to be whining about minimum screen-time for Ryan. I’ve found, though, that Novak writes himself out of a number of the episodes he’s in – so hopefully we’ll get more of him ahead. My interest is piqued as to what’s to come.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

Parks and Recreation: “I'm Leslie Knope”; Season Four, Episode One [A-]
And, yet another more than solid entry from those folks over at the Parks and Recreation department. The opener where Ron finds out that Tammy I is on her way and his ensuing departure was a brilliant start because lord knows we all can’t wait to see the Tammy’s showdown next week. But, this week has its own hurdles. Leslie and Ben are kaput because of her political aspirations and it’s great how the show manages to take such a simple concept and make it as funny and light, yet oddly stirring as it was. It’s buttressed by Tom and his new job, Andy trying to realise his dreams and a picture of a man’s schlong being sent to all the women in the city council – and Jerry, apparently. I continue to love those Ann/Leslie moments (probably a highlight in a very good episode) but it was a treat seeing her try to ward off added penises coming her way for “diagnosis”. Moreover, it’s great that Leslie’s epiphany comes in the form of Ron fucking Swanson.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]

Grey’s Anatomy: “Free Falling; She’s Gone”; Season Eight, Episode One and Two [B/B+] 
The two hour opening of Grey’s Anatomy was a solid opening for the show. As the show has evolved over the years it’s been at its best when it focuses on those core characters and even though there are three of the original interns left that pivotal scene with Alex, Meredith and Cristina was a nice touch. Of course, it really wasn’t smooth sailing throughout. The giant sinkhole felt over-exaggerated a bit, as far as season premieres (remember how moving the one with Bernadette Peters was?) but its point was felt and it’s good seeing how things are developing from last week. Derek’s general poor sportsmanship is expected, but it’s more surprising seeing Bailey’s frustration with Meredith and Chief Webber taking the fall is a surprising twist (even though it’ll be sad to see less of Pickens). Mark continues to be insufferable, and though I don’t love Teddy or Jackson they both served their purposes. I’m impressed that the show allowed Cristina to have her pregnancy and Meredith’s moment with Owen was especially profound. And that closing with her and Alex after Zola leaves was a nice close to the episodes. Hopefully more emotional resonance follows in the season.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Random Thoughts

  • “Ann Perkins, you know your testes.” Enough said.
  • So, The Hour is getting a season which makes me very happy.
  • Overly random, but does anyone remember how good Jason Ritter was on Joan of Arcadia?
  • Boardwalk Empire AND The Good Wife back next week folks. I AM SO EXCITED.
  • Who else wants Dylan back from that Dude Ranch?
  • Was I the only one who found it insane when the two opposing lists started attacking each other?

Standout Performers
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation A-
Ben Whishaw in The Hour B+
Julie Bowen in Modern Family B+
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family B+
Eric Stonestreet in Modern Family B+

Lisa Kudrow in Web Therapy B/B+
Sofia Vergara in Modern Family B/B+
Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad B/B+
Monica Potter in Parenthood B/B+
Joel McHale in Community B/B+
Gabriel  in Revenge B/B+
Oliver Platt in The Big C B/B+
Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad B/B+
What did you watch this week?


Joanna said...

I am so glad that you appreciate Reid Ewing as much as I do. I love that kid and I hope the writers find a way to bring Dylan back.

Jose said...

Leslie: "Yay"
Ann: "Yay"
Leslie: "YAY"
Ann: "YAAAY"

'nuff said. God I missed the Knope.

Luke said...

Busy bee! I suppose with the fall premieres happening, we'll all be devoting at least the coming couple months to television. And I'm thrilled. First, Parks and Rec can never do any wrong, so I'm so pleased that my cybercolleagues appreciate it so much! Patty C. is destined for greatness next week, so Season 4 is only going to get better. Oh, and I agree with a lot of your sentiments on The Big C, particularly the way the whole Andrea/Mick thing wrapped up so succinctly with not much fanfare. Didn't quite feel the closure on that one.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

joana love, love dylan. he's hilarious, and i especially loved his moments with claire this week.

jose me too. i knew i missed her, but i didn't know how much until she came back.

luke it makes me sort of sad because the first half and a bit of the big c was just perfection, and now it's following some less than original arcs and being a whole lot less engaging than it was. hopefully the season wraps up well.

Simon said...

Community's back, and all is well.

Except I couldn't figure out if Glee was making fun of Quinn's whole rebel-because-I-have-pink-hair shit or playing it straight. Either way, it was ridiculous.