Friday, 17 February 2012

TV Week in Review: 5th-9th February

So, TV. This week has seen some particularly disappointing entries from a couple of shows, but there’s been a smattering of fine performances – so, I’ll be content.

(Alas, still WAY behind on Once Upon a Time. Alas, I don’t even seem to care.)

On with the shows.

Smash: “Call-backs”; Season One, Episode Two [B/B+]
There are the usual issues of pacing and tone, but the episode is another good one in the series’ annals. I will say, I’m generally against dream sequences and the one in this episode doesn’t quite work for me even though the payoff of what Karen imagined and what happens is nicely done – even though I’m not particularly fond of the two numbers bookending the episode. The two musical numbers within are nicely handled, though and I think Katherine sings on her number (although I’m curious to know if the nervousness is from her, an indication of Karen’s nervousness or Katherine through Karen projecting Norma Jeane’s nervousness). All extraneous things are still not quite landing as effectively as I’d hope –from Karen’s boyfriend issues to Julia’s child issues and even Julia’s issues with her husband. It’s not gripping me as much as I want to. The centre of it all continues to impress though, and I love – for example I love the scene where Ivy and Karen are waiting outside and everyone flocks to Ivy. I hate the fact that Ivy sleeps with Jack, is it for the job? Is she really attracted to him? I’d prefer if they allow Karen to unfold as a character without the token “underdog” moniker attached. Otherwise, though it’s impressive.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B/B+]

Cougar Town: “Ain’t Love Strange”; Season Three, Episode One
I’m so happy to have Cougar Town back and the kooky gang are up to their usual wine-drinking, lazy, silly, hilarious ways. The episode’s main arc centres on Grayson and Jules relationship moving forward as the two get engaged. In typical Grayson/Jules fashion is wrought with madcap occurrences, Jules freaking out and general sweetness. I’m not in love with Travis’ green screen, and Bobby feels just the slightest bit wasted. But, I’ll always be glad to see the Andy/Bob friendship thriving. Of course, though, it’s Laurie and Ellie and their bonding over Ellie’s evil baby that’s the highlight of the episode. That’ one adorable evil baby. (I’m so happy to get this show back, I had to have more than one image.)
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Glee: “Heart”; Season Three, Episode Thirteen [C-]
Aw, Glee. This is, perhaps, my least favourite episode of the show and I don’t know if it’s the current situation of everything seeming forced that mkes this especially poor or whether this episode is really worse than other ones that haven’t quite been up to par. Like a certain comedy below, what makes so much of this not work is the simple fact that everything comes out feeling forced and it’s the worst thing for a comedy – and it’s moreover the worst thing for a show like Glee which depends specifically on its awareness of its tone, which this episode in particular seems to be devoid. Sure, Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell turn up and they’re both good but their bits are laid on too thick the arc doesn’t work as well as it should, as does generally little about the machinations of the episode in particular. Amidst things that work like Rachel and her dynamic with her fathers, or a select few of the musical numbers there is so much that feels extraneous and uneven making for an episode that’s still not that difficult to watch but just a little all over the place.
Writing: C; Directing: C]

Parenthood: “Tough Love”; Season Three, Episode Sixteen [B+]
The Bob/Amber arc continues to unsettle me. It’s not that it doesn’t work, at least not specifically, the relationship is both cutesy and vaguely disconcerting, and I’d expect Haddie to tell her mother – she’s the type of child to do that. And, I’d expect Kristina to inveigle herself into the affair and be disappointed in both. But, something seems off. Nonetheless, everything else is on point. The Zeek and Crosby storyline IS a bit placid, but it’s nice when Zeek and Camille aren’t being annoyed by their children. Drew dealing with the Sarah/Mark issue is so wonderfully poignant, and Miles turns in a great performance. The Max issue seemed bound to become clichéd, but the payoff turned out to be so honest and moving and kudos to Krause and Potter for making it work so excellently. And, Julia’s urge to helpful works so well, and it’s nice to see Christensen with work to do (even as Jaeger continues to get the shaft, sigh).
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Modern Family: “Aunt Mommy”; Season Three, Episode Fifteen [C]
I’ve commented on the tendency, occasionally, for Modern Family to sink really deep into a caricature like observations of their characters and this is one of those examples. None of the three storylines works particularly well for me. The opening gambit of Claire being proud of her children is a welcome change, but it doesn’t lead to anywhere impressive, for me. The issue that bothers throughout the episode is the way in which all the machinations unfold in this manner which robs the comedy of its effect. So, from Claire’s drunkenness turning into a leeway for her to make a generous, but awkward suggestion. Elsewhere, Phil’s issue with his clients and Gloria and Jay spatting about raising Manny is all so tried that it just ends up being vaguely diverting, but generally limp.
[Writing: C; Directing: C/C+]

Revenge: “Chaos”; Season One, Fifteen [B+]
Somewhere around episode five of this show I figured that the reveal at the end of this engagement party would be that Daniel was in fact not dead, I didn’t see THAT death coming though. It’s a solid episode, although I wonder how often Faux-Manda will lead Jack off his path, and do think that having said Faux-Manda turn against Amanda is just the slightest bit obvious as an attempt to add more drama… it works, though. The false bit of Daniel dying gives the actors a nice chance to turn in some nice dramatic work. With Tyler gone and Emily’s mentor there to apparently off Faux-Manda (I sure hope not) where do we go from here? A good episode, indeed, but looking forward I feel as if the show is in a particularly precarious position. We’ll see what happens.
[Writing: B/B+; Directing: B+

30 Rock: “The Tuxedo”; Season Six, Episode Eight [B+]
Can I just say that 30 Rock is doing excellent work this season? Everything through this season has been working so well other than a good but not great season opener everything has just been landing excellently. Jack gets mugged leads to a wonderful arc, and I love the way that it intercedes with Liz’s issues with dealing with New York. It surely does lead to some over-the-top machinations from both parties but it manages to end up working so excellently. What makes it work, too, is the way that Tracey becomes integrated in Jack’s plots. Of course, as par for course, it’s Jenna and her issues which lead to the episodes highlight. The use of Jenna recently has been excellent, it’s as if they’re actively campaigning for her to get that Emmy and she’s delivering on all points. More of this.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Parks and Recreation: “Dave Returns”; Season Four, Episode Fifteen [B+]
The A plot of Louis C.K.’s return and his arc with Ben and Leslie didn’t thrill me as much as it would like. The entire police arc did lead to some lovely moments with Adam Scott, and the awkwardness of that triple date did have some excellent bits, and the dynamic the three have does make for some sweet humour. The two minor arcs of Tom/Ann and Andy and his campaign song are much more entertaining. I’m not a fan of Ann and Tom, but it’s hilarious to watch Tom be even more ingratiating than usual and the lovely Rashida Jones is always a joy to watch. The Ron/April relationship continues to be adorable as she helps him to keep his secret saxophonist identity a secret, and seeing Andy freak out over the campaign song is hilarious and sweet all in one. Also, Chris’ “audition”. Glorious.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

The Office: “Tallahassee”; Season Eight, Episode Fifteen [B-/C+]
The build-up to Tallahassee was great, but the actual episode was only somewhat okay, slightly good. What happened to temp trying to seduce Jim? Speaking of Jim, though, it’s nice having him pull a great prank on Dwight even if Dwight was in his worst form this episode being way too over-the-top for me to enjoy his character for the most part. Tate character, too, is painted just a bit too broadly for me to be thrilled, although she fares better. Andy’s relationship with the receptionist job was a lovely aside, though, with random bits like Kelly and the phone or his new delivering mail system. Although the Kelly/Ryan relationship continues to thrill me I’d love for them to explore that Ryan/Erin dynamic, although I doubt that is would be likely.
[Writing: B; Directing: B/B-]

Grey’s Anatomy: “Have You Seen Me Lately?”; Season Eight, Episode [B-]
This wasn’t a bad episode, on occasion there were some actual moments of…not excitement, but interest. But, so much of it, though generally fine, was too easy to ignore. Cristina and Owen heading to therapy is something that could go either way and though it gives McKidd and Oh a chance to get through some emotional bits, the episode doesn’t seem as focused on them as I think it should and they’ve been skirting around the issues discussed for such a long time that it all feels like a bit anticlimactic now. The same can be said of Alex learning, for the umpteenth, the significance of being nice to people. Bailey’s machinations with Mark and Jackson are interesting to some point, although I didn’t much care for the resolution. The Callie/Meredith dynamic is interesting watch, not just because Ramirez is being somewhat shafted the season, but simply because that’s a duo that seems a bit underused..
[Writing: B-; Directing: B/B-]

Standout Performers
Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock A-
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock B+/A-
Busy Phillipps in Cougar Town B+
Adam Scott in Parks and Recreation B+
Madeleine Stowe in Revenge B+

Rashida Jones in Parks and Recreation B+
Tina Fey in 30 Rock B+
Lauren Graham in Parenthood B+
Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation B+
Emily VanCamp in Revenge B+
Erika Christensen in Parenthood B+
Courtney Cox in Cougar Town B+
What did you watch this week?

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