Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Catching up on TV: Week in Review

Long takes on Smash and The Good Wife shorter takes on last week’s offerings…
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about The Good Wife is the way that it’s recurring characters exist as real creations, realistic in their individuality in if they don’t turn up often and with Will on that six month sabbatical of sorts the other equity partners are getting queasy and as Julius tells Eli, “This office needs two people at the top.” It’s a salient point. True, Diane sits with Kalinda as characters who can do little wrong for me, but an office like Lochart (Gardner?) needs two at the top indeed. But, there aren’t any viable contenders are they?

Michael Boatman turns in his typically good performance as Julius in that first pitch, even though Julius generally makes me uneasy. Conversely, I love David Lee – duplicity and all – if only because his misanthropic sarcasm reminds me of me, and for all its underplaying he does offer the only salient pitch to Diane in terms of the longrun of the firm. Curiously, as I enjoy Cumming’s performance as Eli more and more I like his character less and less and I come to realise (for the umpteenth time) that The Good Wife really is something different for network dramas. All the characters are so conflicted and layered, we’re not being forced to love any of them.

Speaking of which, I worry for Peter who (for all his prostitution peddling) is my favourite male character. The conundrum of running a “clean” office whilst conversely alienating his “friends” is an unfortunate one and one which makes me even more certain that Peter will not become governor. It’s not as much as I think the writers are fumbling with what to do with him, but oftentimes I wonder if they keep him on to ensure the “wife” aspect is complete on the show, but then they have an episode that so astutely gets the character.

(Episode Grade: B+/A-)

Smash, though, troubles me. I feel as if I like the show less and less the more I think of it, but alas. Such it goes. Look, I still like the show – and it’s five episodes in, so why on earth would I stop watching? It’s just that, and I wonder if it’s an issue with dramas on the whole, they focus their dramatic thrust on the inherent logic in their story and then can’t seem to keep up simple logistical clues. It’s not played for irreverence as strongly as something, for example, Desperate Housewives or even Grey’s Anatomy (early days) so its apparent interest in playing it straight is something of a conundrum. More on that below…

One thing that keeps rearing its head, but is not bothering me as much in this episode is the narrative’s vaguely zealous love for Karen. I think both women are fine performers (and different enough for comparison to be difficult in a straightforward way) but the occasional insistence on fawning over Karen robs McPhee the chance to explore some darker side of her characters and conversely prevents Hilty from coming off as something more than shrill. I wonder, though is it really the show? This episode in particular seems interested in showing just how conflicted Ivy was (long shots of her alone, teary eyed and whatnot) but I can’t tell if its Hilty’s natural cadence or her choices for the characters but it all comes off as unnecessarily harsh….which is jarring.
But, that’s not half of the issues….we’ve got silliness like Julia’s affair, and her whole life really. Messing is trying to hard (and is on fire opposite Borle who is so easily the MVP, for me) but her arcs are bordering on silly. The adoption issue feels forced, and felt even more so when her son seemed legitimately broken up about its non-starter state a few episodes and now is smoking pot and seems jealous of the maybe/baby on the way. All that mixed with the infinite silliness of her kiss under her son’s window just smacks of legitimate lack of common sense. I would buy into it being humorous, but it all is played so straight...I am confused. The musical numbers continue to thrill, though.

“The Cost of Art”: B/B-
“Let’s Be Bad: -B

Parenthood (Season Finale): Season 3, Episode 18; “My Brother’s Wedding” [B+/A-]
A beautiful close, loose ends are tired up interesting ones surface. Understated, elegant, classy and sweet.

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 17; “Leap Day” [C-/D+]
Comes off as terribly inanimate for me forcing the actors to play in such shrill registers. And, worst of all, unfunny.

Cougar Town: Season 3, Episode 3; “Lover’s Touch” [B+]
Sometimes unnecessarily sweet with Jules/Travis but as per normal an excellent use of the ensemble and a funny but kooky follow through on arcs.

Revenge: Season One, Episode 16; “Scandal” [B+]
Teeters dangerously close to full out soapish silliness, but ultimately satisfying raising so many questions and being so deliciously nasty.

Parks and Recreation: Season 4, Episode 17; “Campaign Shakeup” [B+]
Development in the office and development on the campaign mixed with fine guest work and character building. Also, hilarity ensues!

The Office: Season 8, Episode 17; “Test the Store” [B/B-]
Seems to go on for just a bit too long and the Scranton issue doesn’t quite land but some stellar moments and the cast delivers.

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 10; “Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky” [B+]
Feels like a definite throwback episode but succeeds even if Kenneth annoys it’s an all-round romp and important in moving issues ahead.
Thought on The Good Wife and Smash? What did you watch last week?

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