Saturday, 11 February 2012

TV Week in Review: 6th-9th February

Premieres, returns, surprises and goodness. TV recaps, ahead. On with the shows...

(three episodes behind on Once Upon a Time, and really listless about it, four episodes behind on Gossip Girl, and honestly just watching because of the routine)

Smash: “Pilot”; Season One, Episode One [B+]
So…Smash. Pilots are often rocky ground because it’s all about creating an environment we’re inclined to revisit without giving too much away and Smash works, even if it’s in the most basic of ways. For one, the original music soars and musical drama or musical comedy a good musical needs good music and this has it. Added to that, it’s got a fine ensemble – even if the roles all seem tried before, it’s a pilot so I’d expect that type of broad stroke emphasis functioning as introductions to our characters. As lovely as both Hilty and McPhee are, though, the episode is at its peak for me in the ostensibly quaint moments where Borle and Messing are bantering or Anjelica Huston is mugging the camera. It shall be interesting how this idea gets turned into a season long series, but it’s a formidable debut.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+/A-

Glee: “The Spanish Teacher; Season Three, Episode Twelve [B-/C+]
Hmm, Glee. I didn’t attempt any television musings last week, but I loathed the Michael Jackson episode (somewhere at the zenith of my appreciation for this show) and coming off the terrible twitter response, I found this episode quite sanguine for the most part. The show is still suffering from the tonal inconsistency and general lack of follow-through which mires its goodness on the best of days, and my heart pains just the slightest bit that Morrison is forced to play Schuester in such a register (and, goodness know he’s trying). The Sue arc is as random as one would expect, but it lands with much more effect than I’d expect and random little things are still a bit exasperating (just what exactly do they want Mark Salling to do with Puck, for example) but I’m hardly angry at the episode. Placid, occasionally plodding, but general fair.
[Writing: C+; Directing: C+]

Parenthood: “Politics”; Season Three, Episode Fifteen [B/B+]
The awkwardness of the Amber/Bob storyline really rang out for me this episode, so that I think it might have been more awkward for me than intended, even as I have to commend both actors for managing to pull it off, somewhat. The truncated season is drawing to a close, and there are so many stakes at the moment. Jasmine and Crosby both seem to be feeling tentative about forward in their romantic ventures and though I love the two together, their respective relationships are working. The distance Zoe is trying to forge from Julia and Joel is best for everyone (and allows Jaegar one excellent scene which shows what a shame it is that he’s being underused). Graham steals the show again, though, and though I worry for what shall become when Sarah and Mark go kaput (devastating it shall be) the relationship is meandering along, just beautifully.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

Modern Family: “Me? Jealous?”; Season Three, Episode Fourteen [B/B-]
Hardly a bad episode, but it’s one where the show’s issues rise to the fore more than I’d want them to. Because, truth be told, the show really has fallen into this repetitive cycle which it’s excused of because it’s a sitcom, and because it’s sweet about it. Still, as humorous as Cam and Gloria are fighting and making up it’s coming across as incredibly rote, which is how the entire episode – cute moments and all – ends up coming across as tried and a bit tired. There are lovely bits to excise. I’ve been generally underwhelmed by Burrell’s work this season, but he’s in almost top form this episode, we also get nice bits from Hayley and Manny and the bit at the end with Gloria and Cam was adorable.
[Writing: B-; Directing: B]

Revenge: “Perception”; Season One, Episode Fourteen [A-]
Surprise is not a necessity for making a fine hour of television, but the surprising way in which things turn out in this episode does contribute to my appreciation. It’s more than that, though. The amalgamation of all the arcs in this episode makes for what is easily my favourite episode of the season. Even as Emily’s character grows more dubious as she, too, becomes scarred as things become more high stakes. This brings me to the excellent work courtesy of Levieva who’s turning Faux-Manda into this brilliantly crafted character. The same goes for Czerny who’s doing such a fine job as Conrad turning him into a conflicted character who’s more than just the bad-guy. Elsewhere the growing friendship between Jack and Nolan and the reveal at the end keep the drama eclectic.
[Writing: B+/A-; Directing: B+/A-]

30 Rock: “Hey Baby, What’s Wrong?”; Season Six, Episode Six/Seven [B+/A-]
This show is really on a good streak, this season. It’s returning firmly and excelling on almost all counts. The only out-and-out clunker is not even completely so, and it’s Kenneth and the female page, and it just doesn’t work for me – for the most part. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing with some glorious gags. First, there’s Mary Steenburgen being absolutely delightful as Avery’s mother and Liz with her own guest star as Marsden continues as her boyfriend Criss. Both overzealously romantic arcs work excellently, as does the arc with Tracy and the writers. It’s Jenna, as she often does, who takes the best-in-show prize with an arc that’s fabulous (name dropping Kristin Chenoweth? Hell, yes!) and so excellently orchestrated. More of this.
[Writing: A-; Directing: B+/A-]

The Office: “Special Project”; Season Eight, Episode Fourteen [B+]
This is a supremely solid episode of the show, and I’ll suggest that it’s perhaps so good because of th singular focus on a single arc throughout (other than the brief, cute, bit with Darryl and Val). Everything lands, from Angela miraculously returning to work, Dwight being overbearing and Andy being indecisive and it’s anchored by random bits with the staff. For example, Erin’s issues are working so excellently because of Kempler’s fine work, and Jim’s dilemma with Robert shall be something interesting and I’m just glad seeing Krasinski with work deserving of his talent. And, then, a slutty temp? What’s not to love?
[Writing: B+; Directing: B+]

Grey’s Anatomy: “All You Need is Love”; Season Eight, Episode [B+]
If you look closely, you might espy the fact that the writers are just the slightest bit nervous about the way to deal with Cristina being inadvertently responsible for Henry’s death. It’s a great episode, though – Valentine’s Day and all. It all works so well, even as Chambers continues to be relegated to a character who’s more character than person. Chandra Wilson, too, is still not being given optimal time although she nails that final nervous bit. Cristina and Owen, though, take the forefront. It’s a nice nod to season 5 and it’s nice seeing Cristina NOT pushing someone away. Good stuff.
[Writing: B+; Directing: B/B+]

Standout Performers
Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock A
Tina Fey in 30 Rock A-
Lauren Graham in Parenthood B+/A-
Margarita Levieva in Revenge B+/A-
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock B+/A-
Gabriel Mann in Revenge B+/A-

Mae Whitman in Parenthood B+
John Krasinski in The Office B+
Christian Borle in Smash B+
Emily VanCamp in Revenge B+
Ty Burrell in Modern Family B+
Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy B+
Dax Shepherd in Parenthood B+
Debra Messing in Smash B+
Madeleine Stowe in Revenge B+

What did you watch this week?

1 comment:

JBT said...

Revenge is the new show I've enjoyed most this year. Sure, it's soapy drama and mind-numbing entertainment, but it's so good at being what it is. Great synopsis of a great episode. I'm intrigued to see how they'll close out this first season.