Friday, 7 October 2011

TV Week in Review: 2nd - 6th October

It's been a full week of TV and some EXCELLENT episodes and performances, coming your way one great season premiere, two great series premieres and some other greatness...and some not so great stuff...but, ah well....

Boardwalk Empire: “Ourselves Alone”; Season Two, Episode Two [A/A-]
With the indefinite time span available to television series I often wonder which direction they plan to take. It’s surprising how quickly the plot to behead Nucky (figuratively, of course) gets underway. He’s not in jail for long, but the message has been sent and the beginning of battle lines have been drawn as Nucky lists off those who are against him. It’s an episode for Kelly MacDonald to shine in particular as Margaret reacts to the arrest and does her best to aid her man. The relationship she and Nucky have fostered is one of the most excellent facets of the show, managing to retain a grace in their union despite the almost clichéd woman behind the man roots. Two parallel plotlines are Jimmy’s trip to New York, and Chalky’s encounter in jail. Both unearth fine performances from the new gents. We don’t learn anything particularly new about Jimmy, although Pitt just continues getting better and better but [ ] as Chalky was especially mesmerising and it’s interesting watching how every group has their “Nucky” – it’s a nice moment to lend some poignancy to that character. I’m curious to see if the show, or any show for that matter, will match the controlled excellence of this excellent episode.
[Writing: A; Directing: A]

Dexter: “Those Kinds of Things”; Season Six, Episode One [B+/A-]
I often have to stop and remember that people actually don’t love Dexter as much as I do. And, for reasons he’s set up as in contention with Walt Breaking Bad. Something that show lacks which I always love Dexter for superlatively is the humour with which it treats its issues and this season premiere suggests that this season will be especially ironic and after the last two seasons of overwhelming drama and emotion, I don’t mind at all., the case of the season is only set up, but it already reveals itself to be something crazy – and I’m on board. The smaller things in this episode hit just the right. Dexter’s religious dilemma was stirring and that high school reunion had just the right amount of whimsy right down to the final kill. I’ve grown to love Quinn, s him and Deb going strong amuses me and I’m thrilled that LaGuerta has been given the opportunity to play her character in a softer register. And, how adorable was Angel and his sister?
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: A-]

Breaking Bad: “End Times”; Season Four, Episode Twelve [B/B+]
I was reading a metacritic review of Breaking Bad’s first season recently, and this episode was a classic example of what entertained and exasperated me about the show from the beginning all rolled into a single entity. As Walt’s family head to Hank for police he holes up in his apartment. Jesse heads there thinking Walt poisoned the child as some elaborate revenge plot and with a brilliant quasi-monologue from Paul I reach a moment that is classic Breaking Bad. There’s often a stifling need for the show to let some air in, in terms of humour, since the entire crux of the situation is based in incredibly ludicrousness. Those final moments where Walt’s plans to off Gus are once again foiled are just nail bitingly ridiculous, which is not necessarily a slur, simply an indication of the dynamics of the show. It will be something to see where the show decides to end this penultimate season, and how it shall set up stakes for the final one.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Homeland: “Pilot”; Season One, Episode One [B+]
Really, this show wasn’t a blip on my radar. I’m already swamped with work, and school and keeping up with movies and the shows I watch. I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw the name turn up somewhere last week and then I heard Claire Danes was in it, and I went hmmm and then Mandy Patinkin’s name popped up and some rumblings of the strongest new show of the season and I decided I’d tune it. I can understand those rumblings, although I find the show’s machinations to be much too deliberate for me to surrender completely. Still, it’s a good one. Damages recently closed season did so excellently with vignettes of the Iraq situation, so I’m not much excited about that prospect of the show. The missing soldier’s return home is surely interesting, but it’s rote stuff with sullen children, a guilty wife and whatnot. My interest is much more piqued by our leading lady who is just explosive, and even dangerous. Danes and Patinkin only have a few short scenes together, but I’m interested in that liaison. And what’s up with that incredibly quiet guy who was doing the bugging for her? That’s weird. I have a feeling it’ll become even more annoyingly deliberate as the episodes go by with the political issues, but I’m hoping they treat their leading lady well. Cross fingers.
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+/A-]

The Good Wife: “The Death Zone”; Season Three, Episode Two [B+]
This episode feels slightly more low-stakes than the previous one, but I’m all for plot development. Eddie Izzard’s guest appearance feels a little less eclectic than I expect, but each of the three arcs are successful. Eli and Kalinda finally meet each other which makes for entertaining rapport between Panjabi and Cumming who, naturally, hit it off. The case of the week in itself isn’t quite riveting, but Charles and Izzard play off each other well and even though Will continues to be something akin to annoyance at least he’s owning his despicability. I keep trying to like him, but I can’t. the biggest arc, for me, was the state’s attorney’s alleged plan to hire Lockhart/Gardiner as their civil suit firm and when it seems to reveal that Peter just wants to take a look at their books it leads Diane to Alicia’s house. The scene between the two is perfectly played – especially on Baranski’s part. It seems that Diane might finally be wising up to the situations around her. I’m intrigued as to where it shall go.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

Gossip Girl: “Beauty and the Feast”; Season Five, Episode Two [B]
Before I get to the actual episode let me point to the way to this great write-up which essentially sums up everything that’s bothered me about the show for a while. Still, this episode a fairly good one. Blair’s prince and his sister and their machinations are not the least bit interesting, and only remotely more interesting is Charlie and Serene and whatever blandness those goats are up to. All of a sudden Nate isn’t the show’s most tepid character, and perhaps the rest have gotten worse or maybe it’s Elizabeth Hurley but it’s nice seeing Crawford with the least bit of enthusiasm. I still think that Blair/Chuck are the endgame (how could they not be?) so even though he actually has a problem I’m hoping Blair does come to the rescue because the concept of Blair’s “dreams come true” being that insipid prince is scary.
[Writing: B/B-; Directing: B-]
Glee: “Asian F”; Season Three, Episode Three [B+]
Solidity, honestly it’s the first word that came to mind when this week’s episode of Glee finished, and it’s an odd word to use to describe a TV episode but I think it works. On a scale of recently good but not solid episodes I’d be inclined to rank it higher, but I’ll be honest it’s more of a “Showmance” than a “Wheels”…very good, but not quite excellent. And, I’m quite all right with that. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable episode mixing the brash and comedic with the soft and dramatic even if all the arcs don’t thrill. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Mercedes, but I find her issues interesting to watch especially since these were the same issues brewing since season one. It raises an issue that’s always amused me about the show – I don’t think Rachel can be faulted for thinking she deserves the spotlight when she’s the one constantly working hardest to attain it. Michele does well in showing the dilemma in running for council against her new BFF Kurt and it’ll be interesting to see where that, along with Brittany’s run, goes. Mike and Mr. Schue’s arcs are less comedic and more emotional and Shum delivers even if I’m still waiting for a good Puckerman arc since…umm…season one? And Emma’s parents offer chances for silly humour and an especially tender closing scene. More of this, Glee.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Parenthood: “Clear Skies from Here On Out”; Season Three, Episode Four [B/B+]
Towards the end of the episode when Adam finds out that Crosby told Jabar about Max’s problem and everyone just started piling it on Crosby I wanted to slap both Adam and Jasmine. Neither of the two is looking too good recently getting more and more overbearing, and at least Adam has that final moment of goodness. Hopefully they don’t stay annoying for the rest of the season. I’m still unimpressed with the lack of Sam Jaegar four episodes in...but I didn’t have time to worry about that. Haddie and Alex break up, and I even though I’ve quipped about how annoying a couple they can be Ramos delivers in this episode and really shows that it wasn’t just teenage infatuation. Jordan too has a lovely scene with Potter, and I’m sort of hoping that he returns. The Max and Jabar issues was very awkward as were the oldsters romance as well as Drew’s. The latter two were awkward in an adorable way, which is essentially a good description for the show this season, thus far, awkwardly adorable.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Modern Family: “Door to Door”; Season Three, Episode Four [B/B-]
This episode sort of acts as a paradigm for all the things I don’t like about sitcoms, and even though it’s a good episode it’s not a VERY good one either. There’s a sense of been there/done that on all but one of the main arcs. Julie Bowen is still a treat, but they’re still being overly ridiculous with Claire and you sort of wonder how many times she’ll push her family to the brink until they realise just how much they love her – it’s becoming sort of awkward. The Manny and Jay storyline designed to warm the hearts of many is fine, but hardly as poignant and moving as it thinks it is and not nearly as warm as I wanted it to be. True, Gloria and Cam getting together is amusing and it’s nice seeing the dynamics in the Mitchell/Cam relationship change but ultimately it’s not as great as you know it could be even if I’m certainly content with how vaguely good it is. [Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Revenge: “Betrayal”; Season One, Episode Three [B+]
And, voila, the best of the three episodes yet from this great new drama. Two great things happened in this episode, three if you squint a little. The dynamics on both Amanda and Victoria change. Finally the former seems to be a little more sympathetic as she seems to garner some feelings for Daniel, and Victoria’s apparent love for Mr. Clarke makes her a much more interesting character and gives Stowe a chance to give a fine performance. True, Mann is still my favourite aspect of the show and his scene with Declan make him an even more interesting, if somewhat conflicted in a clichéd way, rich boy. I’m really interested to see just where the show decides to take that character. The revenge this week was particularly interesting, and even if it reveals Amanda to be taking even those on the sidelines down – it was beautifully orchestrated.
[Writing: B/B+ ; Directing: B/B+]

American Horror Story: “Pilot”; Season One, Episode One [B+]
In true Murphy style this is an especially volatile premiere and in true style of volatility it sometimes comes off as strange and disjointed but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable premiere and you have to wonder if the oddness isn’t deliberate. I’ve never loved Britton’s work on Friday Night Lights (sue me) but her specific type of acting seems better suited to the overall tone of this project, and McDermott is surprisingly and impressively moving. The teen arc has much more drive than I’d expect, and I’m duly impressed and O’Hare popping up for a scare is appreciated. Still, it’s all about those two brilliant older girls. Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy are first and foremost my reasons for watching and both of them are outstanding making me more than curious for a second look at this one. It’s a fresh show, will it wane? Perhaps, but I’ve enjoyed this first hour.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+]

Community: “ Competitive Ecology”; Season Three, Episode Three [B/B+]
This was easily the strongest of the first three episodes this season and it’s getting back into the easy lilt of season one which I used to love. The only thing keeping this episode from being better graded is the fact that the entire arc of Chang just needs to go. It’s obvious the writers don’t know what to do with him, so he keeps getting tossed into these arcs that only work if you enjoy the character and since I find him ingratiating it just isn’t working. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing. And even though I wonder just how often the gang are going to have these moments where they doubt the group only to realise at the end how much they love each other. Still, Todd is a lovely addition and even though I was hoping that it’d last longer it was still diverting. AND how great is it seeing Chalky White (of Boardwalk Empire) in Greendale? The answer: VERY.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

The Office: “Lottery”; Season Eight, Episode Three [B]
I have to appreciate the plot development which abounds in this episode, but sometime around six months ago Daryl and Andy becoming annoying separelty so putting them together makes them even more annoying even as I’m glad to see some authentic development of both their characters. The initial mumblings about the lotto were fun as we saw what the group would do, and even if Pam and Jim’s moments of cuteness aren’t as cute, they’re still nice to watch. The warehouse madness was just that, madness, but I appreciated little oddities like Erin being ridiculous or Jim and Dwight bonding. And, upstairs, little things like Ryan and Pam’s great conversation or Kelly’s dreams only serve to keep me happy even if I’m not completely pleased.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Parks and Recreation: “Born And Raised”; Season Four, Episode Three [A-]
I have to admit, for about seven minutes this episode seemed to be just okay and all of a sudden it blew up into a legitimate string of quotable quotes and mad happenings. Each of the three arcs land beautifully and I’m especially amused by the trio of Ann/ Ron / April which offered some beautiful moments for all three actors. Integrating Ann into the office is making me SO happy and Rashida Jones is so very adorable. Leslie and her identity crisis was a bit silly, yes, but this IS Leslie Knope so it makes sense and having Andy be her bodyguard led to smoe stellar moments. That single scene where he jumps over the counter has to be one of the episode’s best random moments which absolutely thrilled me. And, how great is that friendship between Tom and Ben? Really, this show just knows to deliver on beautiful character moments and that ending with Jerry is just made of win...even if I feel bad for him. Sort of.
[Writing: A/A-; Directing: A-]

Grey’s Anatomy: “What Is It About Men?”; Season Eight, Episode Four [C+]
What a very odd episode. It’s not a TERRIBLE episode, but it’s on and I’m completely un-invested in all the machinations. For me it’s an obvious throwback to the season three episode “Where the Boys Are” which focused on the men alone, but still had time for the female characters. But, it’s not the absence of women which does the episode in – the men have become painfully boring. And it’s difficult to pinpoint why, precisely, there’s just a strong feeling of everything being forced and even though Pickens and Chambers in particularly seem to be legitimately trying something is off. I’m not open to change, so I WANT this show to get back to being good so that it can go on forever. But, this episode isn’t the way to doing that.
Writing: B-/C+; Directing: B-/C+]

Standout Performers (and there were many)
Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire A
Michael C. Hall in Dexter A-
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation B+
Claire Danes in Homeland B+/A-
Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad B+/A-
Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire B+
Michael Kenneth Williams in Boardwalk Empire B+

Madeleine Stowe in Revenge B+
Gabriel Mann in Revenge B+
Aziz Ansari in Parks and Recreation B+
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation B+
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire B+
Christine Baranski in The Good Wife B+
Jessica Lange in American Horror Story B+
Damian Lewis in Homeland B+
Alan Cumming in The Good Wife B+
Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad B+
Josh Charles in The Good Wife B+
Were you as impressed with all these good performances this week as I? 


Colleen said...

Well, you watch a lot more than I do. I too checked out American Horror Story. It left a really creepy feeling in me. I'll be back next week. I didn't watch Community yet, and yes, Parks and Rec was hysterical! That show delivers week after week. I agree too that Glee was solid, but previews kept saying how emotional it was going to be, but I didn't shed a tear. I do have to say though that Mercedes delivered a better vocal on "Out Here On My Own" than Rachael. It did make me long for Irene Cara though.

Alex in Movieland said...

wow, you do watch too much. :)

I have yet to see the Grey's episode, but I tried American Horror blah-blah, which of course I didn't like. the screenplay lacked many things and the direction needed to create an atmosphere, which it didn't have. not going back next week.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

colleen i think it was mark salling (puck) who quipped that comparing lea and amber's voice is like comparing a harpsichord and a piano. i prefer lea's voice (and generally) but they both do well on that excellent song.

alex clearly, you have no love for ryan murphy. i'm curious, though, did you ever watch or like nip/tuck?