Saturday, 10 December 2011

TV Week in Review: 4th-9th December

We get some straight up legendary moments of television this week, and arguably one of my favourite TV moments of the season. On with the shows...

Boardwalk Empire: “Under God's Power She Flourishes”; Season Five, Episode Ten [A/A-]
 This week of Boardwalk Empirewas such a tour-de-force hour of television it calls for much more attention than a mere blurb of a paragraph. But, here goes. There were a number of important developments at work in the present, but the entire episode seemed to be helped hostage by the developments unique to James Darmody. For two seasons Pitt has played this tortured soul with much suggestion of damaged parts beneath and this episode is a turning point not only in allowing Pitt to go deeper than he has before, but significant in revealing the issues that surely must have contributed to Jimmy’s decision making process. The fact that it all culminates in a perverse version of the Oedipus drama only makes it more interesting. In two episodes we’ve lost two significant characters and the Commodore’s departure surely will be more difficult to explain than Angela. I was so sure that the drugged up Jimmy was having hallucinations, but the fact that it’s really has shifted the drama dangerously close to something horrific. Margaret’s desperate clutching to religion exasperates a bit, and it’s a bit sad to watch knowing how typically pragmatic she is. This recent zealousness seems more than a bit misguided and Nucky’s obviously none too pleased about it. And, now with Van Alden’s own demons dug up it seems like think may be looking up for Nucky. Maybe.
[Writing: A; Directing: A]

Homeland: “Representative Brody”; Season One, Episode Ten [B+]
 I was, at first, going to give this episode a lower grade but with about fifteen minutes to go it hit its stride and got injected with a bit more urgency than I was feeling in the previous thirty minutes. After last week’s detour into Brody being a nice guy we’re back to him being the selfish bastard we all know and love, and of course I feel bad for Carrie when he all but runs over her on his way to Congress. Yes, I didn’t feel any investment in their “relationship”, but Carrie’s delusional so it’s not THAT surprising that she thinks it’s something more interesting that it is. And, then there’s Jessica. I am sad that the narrative has abandoned Brody’s home life because Morena Baccarin is giving too little to do. Really, how ridiculous is it that Brody approaches Mile to apologise only so that Jessica can be convinced to let him run for office? We’ve got bigger things to deal with, though, obviously. The revelation at the end that they’re dealing with someone who’s not a novice does add urgency to the plight and it’s great seeing Saul be kick-ass because Mandy Patinkin is great.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Dexter: “Ricochet Rabbit ”; Season Six, Episode Ten [B/B+]
 It’s another fairly good episode of Dexter this week. I have to hand it to the writers for creating some actual tension with the revelation that Professor Gellar is dead and that Travis has been the mastermind behind the whole Doomsday killing. Yes, there is just the slightest suspension of belief to consider that the entire appearance of Gellar for this season has been nothing but a mirage. But, then, I suppose it is not too much of a silly notion if we consider that Dexter has his own Dark Passenger. I don’t know if I’m just enjoying a bit of listlessness this week but as much as I can understand the parallels that they’re trying to draw between Travis and Dexter, I have to admit that it feels a bit forced to some extent as the drama builds and it isn’t any actual tension. Well, it is actual tension; it just doesn’t feel realistic to me. I am particularly thrilled by the development of Deb, though. It only now occurs to me the shit that she’s been through and I’m very anxious to see what shall become of the development of the relationship with her and Dexter. It’s weird that this very important time in the series’ long arc I’m less enthused with the actual mystery and more with the snippets of character development.
[Writing: B/B-; Directing: B/B+]

The Good Wife: “Parenting Made Easy”; Season Three, Episode Ten [B+]
And, so the Will/Alicia relationship ends and I don’t know if it’s because I was never truly invested in it but Alicia walking down the corridors crying just a felt a little over-the-top but if there’s anything we’ve learned of Alicia Florrick in these years it’s that the woman is a major drama queen even if she thinks her actions are in earnest. Grace continues her single-minded assault to become THE most annoying child on television but I can’t be all mad at her disappearance because it leads to two of my favourite things about the episode. People, Alicia and Peter will always be the endgame for me when it comes to this show because I just can’t imagine a world where Alicia is not a Florrick so that ad hoc reunion of theirs in search of their child was great for me. In addition, speaking of reunions, how great was Kalinda finding Grace and being all superhero-like and keeping it a secret. Grace is a talker, so I expect that it’ll come to light soon enough. Meanwhile, with Andrew Wylie on the case I think Will’s goose is buttered and I love Wendy Scott-Carr but that woman needs to back the hell off. I don’t care what happens to Will, but this is Diane’s livelihood we’re messing with here. That’s not allowable.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Once Upon a Time: “The Shepherd”; Season One, Episode Six [C+]
I have to hand it to the producers of the show. They truly struck gold when they cast Josh Dallas as Prince Charming, because he really is impossibly charming and I do wonder if it’s just the fact that he’s the focus of this episode means that it’s not as bland as its predecessor. The show still isn’t quite soaring because all of its machinations and all of its tension seem to be completely fabricated. And, I don’t doubt that a significant portion of this has to do with the fact that Regina continues to be painted as this one-note evil bitch that has absolutely no depth. Because, really, what’s the point of this being a “drama” if the dramatic tension is so scant? I can’t really become completely invested in its drama if the things that keep it taut are things like the will-they won’t-they issues of Charming and Snow White or the fact that Emma obviously wants to sex the Sherriff and is annoyed that he’s sleeping with Regina. But, whatever, you know.
[Writing: B/B-; Directing: B/B-]

Gossip Girl: “Riding in Town Cars with Boys”; Season Five, Episode Ten [B-]
I do hope that we’ve seen the very last of Ivy because I have had it to here with this girl and her ridiculousness. What is with Gossip Girl bringingin seemingly nice poor people only to turn them into moneygrubbing bastards, but that’s the way it goes on Upper East Side, I suppose. And, it sort of makes no sense, but I feel badly for Max uprooting his life – for Ivy of all people. But that’s love or stupidity for you. Take your pick. Elsewhere, Blair is undergoing her usual ordeal of uncertainty and naturally her bits with Dorota are the highlight of the episode. Really, though, for an episode where Blair and Chuck FINALLY get it together (again) it was sort of limp. I have to admit that Dan redeems himself by getting them together, and I suppose that the way Serene has been behaving even more goat-like than usual means that she shall soon be pining for Dan. And, though, it’s a yay for Nate finally growing some balls I really don’t care for digging into his family issues. Chace Crawford is wooden on the show. He was wooden in season one, he is wooden now. But, Elizabeth Hurley back will be fun. And, of course they can’t kill Chuck (the folly), but I’m calling amnesia and a regression to badboy Chuck when the mid-season premiere happens next year.
[Writing: B-; Directing: B-]

The Closer: “You Have the Right to Remain Jolly”; Season Seven, Episode Twelve [C+]
This episode is not terrible but it’s a terrible disappointment that the one hundredth episode of this typically fine show is overflowing with so much of the bland. It’s not that Brenda’s case isn’t developing well, but it is becoming something of a chore when things seem to be progressing so slowly and it’s not as if the case is given full precedence in this particular episode. Instead, the focus is one Buzz trying to convince his sister of the goodness of Santa. And, I know that Buzz is a bit of a dope – adorably at times, but it’s more than a bit silly and the focus on the case which despite the appearance of Lauren Bowles (awesome on True Blood) doesn’t quite make it as brilliant as I would have hoped. Thus, the episode ends up being something a bit like a stalemate. It’s okay, and really it’s not terrible but in the journey to its final season I think we can be doing better.
[Writing: B-; Directing: B-]

Glee: “Hold On to Sixteen”; Season Three, Episode Eight [C+]

Oy, again. I don’t know, is the show really getting worse or am I getting overly critical (really this week has been pressing), but alas. Here we are, it’s another year and it’s another Sectionals’ and good lord, it’s a bit of a…hmm, a bit of a mess would be overemphasising. A bit of a more would be more apt. What happened within the last three episodes that just sent the show on a downward spiral? I have nothing against the very supporting characters of the show, but I really I don’t care about Mike Chang and his issues that much when we only just recently got wind of them. It’s tough to put my finger on what’s bugging me. I will say that Sam’s return is ridiculous anyway you put it. But, there’s got to be more, right? Is the lack of dealing with severe issues yet to be addressed like Matt Morrison having nothing to do this season or why Shelby seems to have not a single a friend? Or is it just a bit too trifling for me to be fully invested? I don’t know, Blaine and Finn’s confrontation I stare blandly true. The “drama” of Shelby being exposed? Stared blandly through that too. The episode passes too easily for me to accuse of being terrible, but it passes too easily for me to really care that much either, even if that final number was ace.
[Writing: C+ ; Directing: B-]

Revenge: “Loyalty”; One, Episode Ten [B/B+]

And, so, ties are severed. Nolan is such an enigma I never imagined that he actually had a legitimate interest in Tyler and it seems like a bit of a red herring how he suddenly seems to have some sort of interest in him. It’s one of the few instances where the show seems to set up an incident only as a plot propellant and this doesn’t feel as organic as I’d hope. Still, things are getting interesting as Tyler gets more unhinged, and Conrad files for divorce. I’m a bit surprised at Emily in this episode, though. For all her duplicity, it feels very callous of her to use Nolan’s tape without his knowledge in a way that could hurt him and it only makes his observations at the end of the episode more significant. It does make for more interesting Revenge, though, when this episode turns so many occurrences on their heads and we have to wonder what shall become of so many people when the season picks up next year.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

American Horror Story: “Smoldering Children”; Season One, Episode Ten [B/B+]
It seems that Murphy and company were being sincere when they said that the end of the season will point to the end of the Harmon’s as the main occupants of the house and the development that Violet has died will surely precipitate some interesting ramifications in the two episodes to come. I feel bad, though, that Tate has turned into something of an unredeemable character since I feel like Peters is turning in such a fine performance (or trying to at the very least). If he really is just completely evil it robs the performance of its skill, and the narrative of its intricacies. Of course, though, when the lovely Constance and gets centre stage there really is nothing else to take interest in and Lange is as great as usual dealing with the fallout of her Boy Dahlia an arc that is as ridiculous as can be expected. But, in the fabric of this show can we expect anything less or anything more?
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Modern Family: “Express Christmas”; Season Three, Episode Ten [B+/A-]

Those who follow me on twitter might have noticed me retweet an article which touched on the lack of innovation that has come to be realised in Modern Family. It’s a finely written article that raises some significant issues with the show and in a number of the weaker entries this season you might have noticed how apt it is and even in this good episode the same criticisms apply. What makes this episode work, though, is that its sincerity rings through and it’s difficult to not have a perpetual smile on your face even as the Pritchett/Dunphy clan deal with their usual issues. A show like this eventually comes to depend not on the writing (which on its best days is admittedly good) but on the way which the cast interacts with each other and the pairings of Phil/Cameron or Alex/Jay are ones which we don’t usually see but which sure make for some nice moments. And, even as I will admit that we’ve seen Gloria’s issues with pronunciation before and we’ve seen Cam being overenthusiastic and Jay being reticent before I can’t deny the entire thing is quite pleasing.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]
         
Community: “Regional Holiday Music”; Season Three, Episode Ten [C+]

I’ve never been particularly fond of the Community episodes which focus on extended spoofing of a particular thing which was why I spent a significant portion of season two being a bit disappointed in the show. Then, there’s a thin line between a good-natured spoof and one which seems bitter at the core. And, I could understand why the Community aficionados would be annoyed with Glee, both in their third seasons and one under the alleged threat of cancellation. Yet, Glee spoofs have been done before and not just by Community. Last year, one of the better episodes of The Office centred on a “Viewing Party” of episodes of Glee which was just a spoof without any unnecessary acrimony and it’s not like the issues raised in this episode really add much to the fabric of the show anyhow. It’s possible that it’s just because of my own Scrooge-like inclinations, but if the entire point was to show how friends are important at Christmas the episode was a bit of a disappointment, and if that wasn’t the point I don’t see the point of the spoof. Which leaves us with an unriveting episode from where I sit.
[Writing: B-; Directing: B-]

The Office: “Christmas Wishes”; Season Eight, Episode Ten [B]
It’s a going thing that Christmas as Dunder Mifflin always give away to some glorious moments, just think of the awesomeness of last year when Amy Ryan turned up and collectively answered all our Christmas wishes. So, obviously, this first Christmas without Michael had a lot to live up to and it’s fairly enjoyable and all, but it’s a bit too easy to look away from it. I don’t mind that the Christmas-ness of the episode isn’t high, but soon it will become annoying having the same things happen episode after episode. For example, Jim and Dwight’s pranking is turning into something of a stalemate even John Krasinski continues as MVP of the show. Still, Erin’s interactions with everyone this episode were golden and even though it’s troubling to imagine what would happen if Robert starts a relationship with her, I’m curious.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B]

Parks and Recreation: “Citizen Knope”; Season Four, Episode Ten [A-]
It’s entirely possible that the reason the Pawnee group manage to take the monopoly on Christmas machinations is because they focus less on the Christmas of it all, and more on the general characters’ issues. Leslie is continuously being brilliant to everyone, so of course they’ll want to reward her and of course it’ll be spearheaded by Ann and Ron and of course Leslie will not be happy being away from work. And, the fact that it happens amidst Christmas seems to just be incidental. I’m very curious to see what will become of Ben’s time on the show now that he doesn’t work with the government. Few of you might remember the awesomeness of Paul Schneider in the first two seasons of the show, and his awesomeness was always a little bit difficult to establish when the show used to have a few problems tying him to the narrative. I’m hopeful for Ben, though, because he and Leslie actually are in a real relationship and he’s living with April and Andy. It’s a nice midseason finale to the show, shifting Leslie’s campaign in a whole new direction but ultimately making all those bonds stronger. And, really, though Leslie is awesomeness at giving out gifts.
[Writing: A-; Directing: A-]
         
3 Random Observations

  • Okay, really random, but how ridiculous is it that in that grand tussle between Tate and Dr. Harmon his towel doesn’t fall off? Now, THAT'S the most unbelievable thing that's happened on the show.
  • Oh, wasn’t it the sweetest thing when Ron had tears in his not once but twice once at Leslie’s gift and second at April’s marshmallow figure of him?
  • Seriously, Gretchen Mol does the same quality of work that Christina Hendricks (the other cable redhead) does with less screen time and no one fĂȘtes her.


Standout Performers
Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire A-
Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation B+/A-
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation B+/A-
Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife B+/A-
Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire B+
Gretchen Mol in Boardwalk Empire B+
       
Claire Danes in Homeland B+
Gabriel Mann in Revenge B+
Sofia Vergara in Modern Family B+
Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire B+
Rashida Jones in Parks and Recreation B+
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Modern Family B+
Mandy Patinkin in Homeland B+
Jessica Lange in American Horror Story B+
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation B+
             
What did you watch this week?

2 comments:

Jose said...

Revenge: the preview! OMG I want it NOW! Emily is finally growing on me, I see what a limited actress she is but I enjoy her sincerity. Hopefully when the show returns Madeleine Stowe will have a Golden Globe to go with her delicious wicked turn.

AHS: no comment. I just ravel in its lunacy and you're right about the towel, of course you know I was rooting for that to happen, right?

Parks and Rec: sigh. Perfection.

You watch SO many shows btw lol

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jose you can say it with me, "andrew needs to get out more". waaaaaaaaaaay too much tv.