Saturday, 7 April 2012

TV Week in Review: 1st-5th April

I've opted for longer recaps of certain shows where I found it necessary, and the usual short bits know, because I like writing too excess.

On with the shows...

The Killing: SEASON TWO, PREMIERE “Reflections / My Lucky Day” [B+]
I meant to attack the issue of this show head and on and discuss how the response to its “controversial” season one ending shows all that’s worrying about television audiences. Perhaps in the future. The most overwhelmingly annoying thing about non-fans of the show is the wave of condescension which overrides their discussions of it and if it is the unfulfilling which was the show’s main albatross, it’s odd that the previous 12 episodes are being ignored. Nonetheless, I was pleased with the show’s first year and it returns just as bleak and gripping as it left us. To nitpick, I was a bit displeased with the easiness with which Richmond’s arc was wrapped up – although we still have to see what becomes of the elections now that he’s wheelchair bound. Mitch is still MIA from her family and credit to the rest of the cast for not making the absence of the excellent Michelle Forbes glaring. Sexton and Allman turn in fin performances as they contemplate where the family must go next, especially with Rosie’s killer still – apparently – on the loose.
The fundamental calling card of this show has always been the sometimes tenuous, but always interesting, relationship between Linden and Holder and typically both Enos and Kinnaman are fantastic. It’s unsurprising that Holder’s decision to frame Richmond came from the top, and seemed to be the right thing to him and it shall be interesting to see how the dynamic between the two will develop with the investigation even more fragile now. I must admit that on a literal level I’m not overly anxious to know who killed Rosie Larsen, I’m only interested inasmuch as it shall help the characters to find closure. Because, for me, the literal killing of the title is secondary to the internal death all the characters are going through. What do I want for the rest of the season? I know Sud is worried about losing viewership, but I hope she sticks to her guns and allows the show to continue its organic development. Less red herrings would be appreciated, the continued excellence in character development is a must. The Killing still has me hooked.

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 3 – “Tea Leaves” [B+]
This season is the first time I’m watching the show as it airs, so I’m privy to things like background chatter – case in point: Betty. I must admit, I don’t get the vitriol spewed at Betty, and not just because two separate personality quizzes decided that I was a repressed sixties’ housewife inside (Exhibit A; Exhibit B). Betty’s outward steeliness is such an obvious example of inside uncertainty and January Jones’ natural frailty as a performer is what makes it work so well. Certainly, this is not one of the finest Betty episodes and I’m confused if I’m applauding Jones’ performance as much as the scenario (she has some odd moments), but there are moments like that frantic phone call to Don or – her best scene of the episode – eating ice-cream with Sally that work so overwhelmingly well as important moments for the episodes, and suggestions about her character, that make me pleased.
It’s not an episode of Betty only, though. Just like Betty’s worried about being replaced by Michael Roger towards the end becomes worried about Pete replacing him, and it’s about time. Apparently, I have a tendency to feel for the more unloved characters and I’ve always liked Pete. Roger has “made his own bed” and it will be curious to see how that arc navigates itself through the season as does the introduction of the new Jewish copyrighter played excellently by Ben Feldman. With an already large cast I’m probably hoping for too much, but I’d love to see more of that character although keeping the prophetic tea leaves in mind Peggy mind come to regret her hiring of him. Hamm did a fair good job of direction, but I continue to raise my eyebrows wondering when – if ever – I’ll feel valid interest in Don Draper or Hamm’s performance of him.

Scandal: SERIES PREMIERE – “Sweet Baby” [B+]
I was worried about Scandal. Even with Grey’s Anatomy being a true beacon of drama in the first three years, and continuing to be at the very least good in the remaining years, Shonda Rhimes doesn’t seem to have a good reputation among “real” TV critics. Enter - Scandal. It’s dealing with even higher stakes than doctors, it’s about lawyers and the president, my beloved Kerry Washington is front and centre and Shonda fatigue might be at its highest. And, we get typically Shonda-features – dialogue at a fast pace, a racially dynamic cast, sex mixed with work and someone who’s in way over their head. And…it works…?
I’d love if Kerry would rein it in just the slightest but I can’t deny that she’s amazing in the premiere. For this show to even work a little bit it necessitates that Kerry’s Olivia be someone we believe the other characters would run around trying to please and she sells it and that is half the battle solved. Of course, this is a pilot so things might be set up broadly. Why is Columbus Short's Harrison such a bland character? What sort of skeletons in her closet does Quinn have? Doesn’t anyone else notice how broken up over Stephen Abby is? And, sure given how liberal television is Sully St. James' breakdown about being gay seems over the top (aside: best worst-name ever? He moonlights a porn star, am I right?) but it’s not really that exaggerated if you think it through. It might work for you, and then again it might not, but it’s unjust to accuse this of trying to be The West Wing (not in the least) and its tonal nods seem to indicate that it’s as interested in being a drama as it is in being amusing – which it is. Perhaps, the three acutely negative reviews made me feel in turmoil, because I want this to continue being good.

Strong characters, generally strong performers and interesting arcs? I don’t ask for much – and I’ve got enough to come back, certainly. But….why am I worried?

Notes on other things I watched this week….

Shameless: Season 2, Episode 12 – “Fiona Interrupted” [B+]
I’m annoyed that season saw so little of Ian, and a general waste of Monaghan’s talents – but I can’t keep on being annoyed at Shameless because I love it so much (my thoughts on the first two season HERE). It’s a nice, sweet closer. Estefania’s return being played for laughs is a nice bit, Frank ending up on the lawns – even better. It’s nice to see Lip back, as it is to see Sheila make a decision for the baby, even at Karen’s expense. It’s been a great ride, I shall miss this show over the rest of the year.

Smash: Season 1, Episode 9 – “Hell on Earth [C+]
By now it’s not news that oddness in pacing a lack of certainty as to whose story we’re being told and just generally weirdness is making this show as effective as it should – and probably could – be. And, Ivy continues to denigrate as a character becoming more and more specious as the episodes go by, it’s bizarre that this “strong” woman would start popping pills over losing a role, and there’s such a silliness and unprofessionalism surrounding the entire scenario it’s difficult for me to feel sympathy. Credit goes to Messing who makes me feel badly for Julia in the confrontation with Brian d’Arcy (get thee to another show – or back to Broadway, Brian – your character is incidental) even as Julia’s own selfish fickleness is responsible for her position. Next week we see Uma – maybe she’ll inject some goodness.

GCB: Season 1, Episode 5 – “Forbidden Fruit” [D-]
Perhaps, the less said about this show the better…it’s one thing for a few plot-points to falter but when every development in this episode lands with a resounding thud it makes for a particularly uncomfortable viewing experience. Even with an amusing song number at the beginning (alas, without Chenoweth) and said Chenoweth’s to squeeze humour from stone, and an admittedly good attempt at charm from Eric Winters what we end up with is turgidity. And, that’s something I can’t endorse.

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 16 – “Nothing Left to Lose [B+/A-]
There really isn’t much to say in endorsing this episode other than it was a joke after joke (after joke) escapade with excellent work from the entire cast. For example, it’s the best use of Tracy all season and also the best use of the writers. And, with all the excellent things Krakowski has done this season it still falls in her top 5. Jack and Pete and Liz and Tracy both make for great bits and this show continues on a streak of goodness in its sixth season that I can only be appreciative of.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 8, Episode 18 – “The Lion Sleeps Tonight [B/B+]
I’m so happy that the show continues, in its eight season, to deliver with an easiness that’s admittedly not top-notch but still above average in every way. The appearance of the elderly couple was a particularly nice touch and led to a moving moment towards the end. It’s all about transition for the lead players – Cristina’s outburst at the end was hilarious, necessary and worrying and watching Alex trying to navigate the personal against the professional makes me still a bit sad that he’s not being used as much as he should. But, still. I don’t much care for Lexie and Mark’s silliness – but it’s hardly objectionable.

Community: Season 3, Episode 14 – “Pillows and Blankets[B+]
I can understand perfectly why this became a divisive episode. Like Troy and Abed when they descend into their escapes the creators of the show are so caught up in pulling off their ruse here they don’t allow for a paucity of the show’s actual comedy to sliver through, so in a way I understand the complaints of the twitter person who said they forgot to be funny. I thought it worked, though, it – perhaps – was not as hilarious as better episodes, but it worked for me, both as an experiment and as a chapter in the group’s lives. The quickness with which the Troy/Abed issue dissipates does mean that I take it a little less seriously – especially with all the hurtful things said, but I’ll go easy on them because of great gags like Britta’s camera, Shirley’s awesomeness and Jeff and Annie’s conversations or the Dean’s “Jeffrey, find me!” I’m amused.

Random Moment of the Week:
Abby screaming “Paige is a whore” was the most bizarre moments of the premiere – in a good way. I’m so interested in seeing more of Dabney. I never met a redhead I didn’t like (other than Mariska Hargitay and Ginny Weasley).

Standout Performers
Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock A-
Miereille Enos in The Killing B+/A-
Kerry Washington in Scandal B+/A-
Joan Cusack in Shameless B+/A-

Joel Kinnaman in The Killing B+
Tina Fey in 30 Rock B+
January Jones in Mad Men B+
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock B+
Donald Glover in Community B+
Elizabeth Moss in Mad Men B+
Brian Sexton in The Killing B+

Who's ready for some Jewish awesomeness on Mad Men? Did you return for The Killing? Did you tune in for Scandal? Did you buy Community's gag? Will you miss Shameless? What did YOU watch this week?


Nick Prigge said...

So seriously, is Jane Krakowski gonna win an Emmy or what?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

nick jose and i were only just commiserating on twitter that if jane doesn't win we'll be at a loss to what to do. is it just us, or does it feel like she's moved from being constantly excellent to being constantly stratospheric? (also, again: join twitter.)