Sunday, 20 November 2011

TV Week in Review: 13th-17th November

I had a ridiculously busy, and I didn't watch most of these shows until Friday hence the lateness. So, here goes the weekly TV round-up....

Boardwalk Empire: “Two Boats and a Lifeguard”; Season Two, Episode Eight [B]
You’d think that the episode where Nucky ostensibly gives up on the battle for Atlantic City would be a little more cataclysmic. But, I suspect, because his surrender is so obviously a strategy it loses some of it effect. For me, it’s the weakest episode of the season thus far, offering up credible drama but not with as much weight because nothing much seems to be actually developing. I ended up spending so much of the time appreciating the brilliant art direction, and more time interested in that the machinations of the character at times. I’m becoming more and more worried for Jimmy as he becomes steeped in the dangerous things in the city, and that ending with his violent streak seems the slightest bit out of character. It’s nice that he had that heart-to-heart with Angela, but I get the feeling that it’s all for naught. I anticipated Nucky eventually breaking down at his father’s coffin, and I guess the shortness of life has made him hungry for children. Van Alden has returned to being poorly used, and I hope it’s just for this episode.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Dexter: “Nebraska”; Season Six, Episode Seven [B+]
As a rule of thumb, I read a minimum of television reviews but I couldn’t help but notice a particularly angry response to the last episode of Dexter and I became worried since even though the show is not at its peak, I still think it’s doing well. This episode didn’t reveal itself to be a bad one to me at all. It’s a sort of stand-a-lone episode like last season’s “Teenage Wasteland”, but it’s also one important for development of Dexter’s character and even though it’s position seems particularly arbitrary – I never was that convinced of the strength of Dexter and Sam’s friendship – it’s finely constructed. Sometimes Dexter’s vigilantism comes off as so purposeful we tend to forget that it’s still murder and this episode brings that point to the forefront. Obviously, the writers and Hall relished the concept of Dexter in a different register, but it worked. Back at home, I liked the idea of finding some resolution to the Quinn/Deb drama because I’ve come to like Quinn even though I’m a bit sad that their relationship seems definitively over. Hopefully he can help her improve her work as captain. Elsewhere, the professor and his student are at odds with each other and that’s so obviously going to lead to something terrible. Ultimately, I’m impressed with the episode.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Homeland: “The Weekend”; Season One, Episode Seven [B+]
 
Like I noted above, I don’t usually read reviews especially before I see the episode and this episode was hailed as the game-changer of the series, I even heard it referred to as the finest hour of television this season and I wasn’t as convinced. The thing is, I liked Homeland and I liked the episode, so it’s hardly all bad. I’m the slightest bit doubtful of the beginning and the end of the episode in relation to Carrie. I can’t imagine her leading Brody to her cabin, or making such a slip and eventually confessing all to him and it seems too much of a plot-point for the eventual revelation at the end. The thing, though, is that it gives Lewis and Danes a great chance to play opposite each other which is obviously the episode’s finest treasure. Speaking of fine, I’m still completely happy with the register Saul is being played in and I’m not sure if it’s Patinkin (doubtful) or the way the role is being written. He’s turning in a good performance, but there’s such an overwhelming reticence to it all. Still, his technique of soliciting information was excellent and worked out in the head. Back at Brody’s house, I’m feeling terrible for Jessica who’s clearly having it difficult with that daughter from hell of hers. Maybe, now, though she and Brody can actually move forward.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]


The Good Wife: “Death Row Trip”; Season Three, Episode Eight [B+]
Behold – the return of Saint Alicia. I used to hate how in season one Alicia would tie every case to her maternal instinct, and it used to get just a little bit trying. I understand why she does it here, but it still seems the slightest bit forced. But, I digress. It’s a fine episode, but the race against time for a death row victim’s execution that ends up being a bastard just seems a little bit lacking in innovation. And, with so much emphasis being put on the case it makes the episode just the slightest bit less than perfect. Obviously, my favourite facet of it all was the return of Kalinda in a significant role. The show has gotten so caught up in the large web of characters that she’s become a bit ignored and I’m even more pleased that we’re returning to longstanding issues like her tenuous relationship with Cary. Vulnerable Kalinda is always worrying, and I wonder what that ending will precipitate. The presence of Dana still seems to be something of a red herring, but she’s fun to watch – I shall admit. Eli’s issues seem obviously incidental, but they work in the overall scheme of things.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Once Upon a Time: “The Price of Gold”; Season One, Episode Four [C/C-]
Four episodes in and this show seems to be losing focus instead of gaining it. I am not even remotely a fan of the job that Robert Carlyle does as Rumplestilskin. It comes off as an awkwardly characterised presence which is just jarring to watch, and an episode hinging on his involvement in that Cinderella fiasco was just difficult to sit through. More than usual, everything seems so contrived and in such a ridiculously small town I keep on wondering how it is that Henry expects to evade his mother. And, that revelation that she’s boning the sheriff was not even a legitimate revelation – wasn’t that overwhelmingly obvious? I suspect that the show will employ a one-character-per-week scenario to drag things out but it’s honestly becoming difficult to enjoy. For me, at least.
[Writing: C/C+; Directing: C+]

Gossip Girl: “The Big Sleep No More”; Season Five, Episode Seven [B]
There’s something glorious about seeing Blair draw up a Venn Diagram trying to prove that Chuck hasn’t change even if I must balk at how ridiculous she is in forcing his hand. At last, I can lay down my worries since it seems obvious that she still has feelings for Chuck, which would be the only reason to explain her nervousness. And, an episode free of Louis was a welcome change. We’ve had so many masked balls on the show, but I shall allow them their madness. Diana reveals herself to be more and more dangerous, and I’m waiting for Chuck and Blair to catch up with her evil schemes so that they can take her down. It’s funny how now is when I finally start feeling badly for Charlie, but I do hope her “boyfriend” sticks around. Fireworks are always welcome. Elsewhere, Dan continues his streak of insufferableness. He’s so looking forward to everything he can’t appreciate the little that he’s got. And, even though I don’t like him much, considering how pragmatic he usually is it’s something of a shame.
[Writing: B; Directing: B]

Glee: “Mash Off”; Season Three, Episode Six [B/B+]
For the record, I love Santana and I occasionally loathe Finn. Nonetheless, I don’t get how it’s okay for her to tease Finn mercilessly about his weight and it’s not okay for Finn to call her out (not very cruelly) on her lesbian issue. So, if this blows up in his face to make him look like a homophobic jerk, that’ll be a supremely wrong move on the show. Santana’s something of a bitch, one I adore, but facts are facts. Still, it’s nice seeing her worked up she is about this because more Naya Rivera is always appreciated. What is not appreciated is more Mercedes, who continues to grate on my nerves. Still, with all the vitriol being spewed in the words, the episode felt the slightest bit limp musically. This is probably the first Puck solo that I didn’t care at all for. And, even though I hope the Shelby/Puck drama goes away if only for propriety I’m not completely against it. I just wonder if the show is smart enough to handle it tastefully. Elsewhere, Kurt has returned to the land of whiney, and even if Rachel is a steamroller I resent the fact that she gives up the race for Kurt and the fact that that seemed to be his endgame seems to emphasise how selfish heis. But, whatever, that’s Glee.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Parenthood: “Sore Loser”; Season Three, Episode Nine [B+]
Sam Jaegar lives! He lives! Remember Joel? He’s notoriously the best husband on the show, and when given the chance the best male actor? Well, he gets actual lines this week folks. I find Sidney adorable, and the same goes for J2 (i.e. Julia and Joel) so even with all her bratty ways I loved their arc this week. Everything about it was just so sweet, and even if she learned too easily to play fair I couldn’t help but smile at the outcome – and despite his occasionally wrong-footing it’s nice when Zeek is right about his family. It’s weird, though, I don’t LOVE the other arcs but the episode is still a solid one. I’m worried about that conversation Camille and Sarah have because we’re seeing so little of the lovely Bonnie Bedelia, so I’m not happy having her angry for most of her screen time. Having Sarah learn some parenting tips from her boyfriend, and that lovely scene with Drew at the end was lovely, though. Kristina and her issues with bullying were difficult to navigate through, because that’s school for you but I was impressed with the way she handled it. The awkwardness of that kiss with Adam and his employee was palpable, and I think it’s better forgotten and never spoken of again. If Kristina finds out…yikes.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Modern Family: “After the Fire”; Season Three, Episode Eight [B+/A-]
It’s nice to see the show back with a supremely solid episode full of those requisite great moments. True, I still feel as if Burrell is not getting the right arcs to showcase his talent but everyone else is stepping up. I was worried that they were yet again making Claire out to be a harridan and then half way through she gets her epiphany and it turns into a tender moment between her and Mitchell, and an admittedly astute observation from Gloria. I’d forgotten that the show had the ability to touch on significant family issues, and I was glad to see that they hadn’t forgotten. Manny and Luke teaming up was a nice bit, they’re always fun playing opposite each other. It was just as much fun seeing Cam yet again descending into his worth as a farmhand and his truck driving abilities. His excursion with the girls worked excellently. The Jay/Phil bit was feeling a bit forced up until the very end and that everything about those two final scenes was excellent.
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+/A-]

Revenge: “Trachery”; Season One, Episode Eight [B+]
Reveeeeeeeeeeeeenge. Yup, that’ll be my opening hook for every episode. It’s Vancaamp’s strongest episode yet, as the appearance of her alter ego brings up some old wounds. Clearly, the presence of the real Emily Thorne is a worrying presence, but I’ve never been as interested in Jack before – so clearly, her presence is not all bad. And, even though it’s not the least bit sexual I love her chemistry with Nolan. Speaking of which, despite his few scenes Nolan was a roll this episode. Now, isn’t it obvious that Lydia is faking amnesia? And the fact that she probably is only makes the drama more exciting. Now that Ashley and Tyler are in cahoots to take down the rich, the show has just managed to grow to even more dastardly level and I’m all for it. It’s a shame for Emily, though. She’s obviously getting closer to Daniel and with his imminent death, I wonder how that’s going to play out for all parties involved.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

American Horror Story: “Open House”; Season One, Episode Seven [B/B-]
Oh, Tami Taylor you wanton woman. Okay, maybe not, but that was on bizarre sex dream with a brief return of Rubber Man. We knew that the house would not be sold or torn down, so the open house felt just the slightest bit like a red herring. And, though, in theory it’s nice seeing how much Constance is tied to the house, and it’s great seeing O’Hare doing something significant like interacting with Lange it doesn’t seem as fluid as I’d hope. The dichotomy of the old maid and the young maid will never not be freakish, and with all the sex this episode it sure was peculiar. Tate and Violet’s issues seem a bit confusing this episode, and it seems like something of a waste having him play opposite his mother for only those few moment which seem to accomplish nothing at all.
[Writing: B; Directing: B/B+]

Community; “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”; Season Three, Episode Eight [B]
The original Documentary episode last season was one of my favourite Community episode. Thus, I suppose that this one would not have been able to live up to it. It is a good episode, just not a great. The Dean is hardly my favourite character on the show so having the episode focus on him doesn’t particularly thrill me. It’s works out okay for the most part, because with the absence of the show from NBC’s midseason schedule something schmaltzy like this is what the most steadfast of fans might need to remind them why Greendale is so “good”. And, the episode does have some lovely moments like Britta and Troy and their issues, and Shirley being fun for one. Otherwise, it’s a somewhat filler-like episode. Fun to watch and jokes immersed but nothing particularly excellent.
[Writing: B; Directing: B]

The Office: “Gettysburg”; Season Eight, Episode Eight [C/C-]
This episode doesn’t work well. There is that fine opening with Pam going into pretend-labour, but almost everything else falls flat. We get it, Andy is overly devoted to his job and wants to be brilliant, and we get it that everyone else is just trying to get through the day, and we get it that Robert California makes everyone nervous and they all want to impress him – but the same old trends can only last for so long. The most significant contribution of the episode was Jim explaining to Andy how everyone feels about him but otherwise the episode just ends up feeling like a particularly painful entry in the annals of the show.
[Writing: C/C-; Directing: C/C-]

Parks and Recreation: “Smallest Park”; Season Four, Episode Eight [B+]
The best part of the episode, for me, wasn’t Ben and Leslie deciding to go for it but two great scenes. The first was Ron “waxing sentimental” about how much he likes Andy and then Ann explaining the situation of steamroller-Leslie to Ben. The show, like so many excellent sitcoms, is great because of the friendship of the main characters. Andy enrolling to college with the help of April and Ron was great, and even though his entrance into Women’s Studies seems like a forced idea it ends up being a nice addition because Andy is such a genuinely nice guy. Having Jerry in inadvertently helping Tom launch into a workable project was a nice touch and ultimately the Ben/Leslie romance will only be an asset to the show. I’m anxious to see how it works out.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]
            

Standout Performers
Michael C. Hall in Dexter B+/A-
Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife B+
Damian Lewis in Homeland B+
Claire Danes in Homeland B+
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family B+
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation B+
Sam Jaegar in Parenthood B+
Emily Vancamp in Revenge B+

Naya Rivera in Glee B+
Julie Bowen in Modern Family B+
Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife B+
Gabriel Mann in Revenge B+
Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation B+
Jessica Lange in American Horror Story B+
Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire B+
Mandy Patinkin in Homeland B+
Eric Stonestreet in Modern Family B+
Jim Rash in Community B+
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire B+
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation B+
Rashida Jones in Parks and Recreation B+
      
What did you watch this week?

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