Saturday, 28 April 2012

TV Week in Review: 22nd - 26th April

Veep: Season 1, Episode 1 – “Fundraiser” [B+]
Just some quick thoughts on the premiere. Like the show below it makes use of a brand of humour that’s tonally awkward, it’s working better here though. Yes, it’s another office drama/comedy with a spin, but those things work because we get different types and this is a fine opening. Not too much exposition, just an immediate thrust into the show. Dreyfuss is typically good, although I shall be incensed if this heads towards an Emmy win over some contenders I’m hoping can pull through for one. The supporting players are charming, funny or hilarious and I’m particularly glad to see Reid Scott (formerly the hot doctor on The Big C) doing excellent work. This should be good. I’m interested.

Girls: Season 1, Episode 2 – “Vagina Panic” [B-]
tone of Girls is one I find quite jarring. I’m certain that it’s deliberately, and of course it must work for some – but for me it does not. I opted not to write on the series’ pilot because of time constraints (for the record the pilot was better than its follow-up). I will say that the onslaught of arguments accusing the series of racism seems to me only evidence of how much race will always be an issue (because, what if there was a black “girl” in the mix would the Hispanics, Asians, &etc be justified in umbrage, too?) The issue with Girls is the show itself. The concept of narcissistic characters can work, it’s been done before. The concept of seemingly privileged but selfish characters can work, too but two episodes and I’m uncertain as to what precisely I’m supposed to appreciate the series for. The laughs it has elicited are more awkward than organic and although it’s fairly well acted it teems with discomfort. This second outing is hardly a bad venture, and it’s even enjoyable to watch in parts but the aftertaste is incredibly sour.  

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 21 – “The Penalty Box” [B+]
The show works so well that when Cary makes the decision to return home I actually stop and think of how this will affect Peter. And, it makes me sad. Cary’s time under Peter has been one of my favourite things of the season and I feel badly about the break-up and wish the show could spend a little bit more time resolving it (I hope it’s amicable). But, YAY, Cary back at Lockhart/Gardner is a win for all and it’s nice to have Diane having her “son” back and seeing how far Alicia and he have come, or see Will get worried or best of all think of the great moments we’ll have with Kalicia and him. And, poor K. Don’t you love how aware of its continuity this show is? Lamond Bishop is back to threaten havoc and leads to that steamy and emotional Kalinda scene. And, I haven’t even touched on the great timing of the main case and holding everyone accountable. And the official return of Kalicia? Yes, there is hope!  

The Big C: Season 3, Episode 3 – “Bundle of Joy” [B+]
 For a show that often gets accused of being a pseudo-comedy this was an episode devoted consistently to the laughs. Susan Sarandon’s guest appearance brought as much joy as I could hope for and it’s such a nice touch that the show allowed her appearance to be something different – and better –than what it was intended to be. What to make of the confession Cathy made from the Joy-vacation? I’m not sure. I’m not enthused at Adam’s religious arc, but it’s being handled well so far and it’s nice seeing Hickey put to such good use. I’m slightly worried that something more than just healthy humour will come of the Sean/Andrea dinner, but for now it’s a nice dose of humour which is always much appreciated.

Nurse Jackie: Season 4, Episode 3 – “The Wall” [B]
Last season seemed consistently, these first three episodes of the fourth season seem consistently dramatic. And in so many ways this episode was a bit too much transition for me. Jackie is out of rehab…but, now what? She’s feeling a bit more emotional than usual; she’s now acclimating to things at home at work…but what else? I expect next week shall be more monumental in terms of work and family dynamics. Of course, there are significant occurrences to consider. The Kelly issue is solved in true Jackie fashion, and I wonder if in keeping with the season’s theme of accountability Jackie will have to face up to her deceit…somehow, I doubt it.

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 5 – “Ghosts of the Past [B] 
So the bombshell ending the episode put so many things into perspective. Does Stan know about Rosie’s paternity? Whether he does or doesn’t it does add significant baggage to his sometimes frenetic quest to solve her mother. The family’s self-destructing ways have become painful to watch and Mitch’s absence becomes more and more unfortunate especially since she seems nowhere nearing to healing latching on to a Rosie lookalike. It’s nice to see the Alexi turn didn’t take up more than an episode and it’s nice to see the little things that work so excellent on the show like Holder and Linden’s excellent rapport. Linden’s ex showing up? Not so enjoyable.

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 6 – “Far Away Places” [B] 
This was a good episode that on occasion tended to grate on me with an air of something close to pretentiousness. The three divergent storylines was a nice concept, although I wonder if Weiner has a specific reason for not examining them concurrently. Having lost valid interest in Roger and Slattery’s performance somewhere in the middle of season 3 his arc thrilled me most (although his performance was on point) and although the Peggy arc should have thrilled me more the development itself seemed woefully stunted. Which left me with Megan / Don, the former who I’m just getting to know, the latter who I don’t care for much. Jessica Paré turned in a fine performance and although the arc itself ran along the expected trails (the lead up to the argument, him leaving her, the disappearance) it worked.

Smash: Season 1, Episode 12 – Publicity” [D]
Oh, dear. This isn’t very good. Things tend to go wrong everyone now and then, sometimes often, on the show lately but it feels as if almost everything goes wrong this episode. In fact, I struggle to remember something which made me explicitly happy (not even the music). Rebecca hoping to relaunch her career by using Karen as a would-be lover reeks of silliness (of course, m’dear, this is the aughts. Being bi is in), and how would the team not know if Rebecca’s star is on the downward spiral? Ivy’s plan with Ellis is so poorly thought out for someone who should be an adult, or at the very least a savvy quasi-veteran of Broadway. And, of course, everything concerning Leo was a bust. Sigh.

Cougar Town: Season 3, Episode 9 – “Money Becomes King” [B+]
Is there some saying about not over thinking comedy? Probably. For example, the grade for this episode was a grade higher a few days ago, but some of the arcs dovetail into each other a bit too easily – most significantly Laurie leaving her job to run her cake-company, an arc introduced only one week ago. It’s humorous, and it’s appreciated but it’s not as organic as I’d like but generally funniness abounds. I am enjoying Nicole Sullivan as Jules’ subtly demented psychiatrist and the funniness lands. Sure, Jules narcissism is a bit too fully on view this episode and sure Bobby being easily tricked and then happy to be tricked is a bit too obvious. But, you can’t control what makes you laugh.

Revenge: Season 1, Episode 18 – “Justice” [B] 
The season’s soapy drama continues to develop well, even though the last three episodes have failed to as pack as much of a punch as they should. Victoria’s detour with her artist seems to have come to fruition from nowhere and its presence bogged down the main storyline. Daniel’s suspicion of Emily, too, seems to have developed a bit too jerkily to succeed completely and the same goes for Emily realising that her father’s death might have been no accident. Of course, that should take over the main thrust of the final few episodes and is sure to lead to some cataclysmic developments in the Hamptons. Meanwhile, I continue to pine for Fauxmanda. Sigh.

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 19 – “Live from Studio 6H” [B/B+]
As with the previous live instalment this is less of an actual canon-episode and more of an excuse for the cast to have fun and the audience to enjoy some hilarious gags and some great guestage. The cast was typically all-in for the episode and all turned in good work. It’s interesting to note finer things like the fact that McBrayer is usually adept at performing live, or the fact that Jane Krakowksi – as far as I discerned – was the only main cast member to have not a single issue with line-deliver/memory. Sure, the “ads” and throwbacks came at the expense of plot development but with so many legitimately hilarious gags how could I be mad?  

Community: Season 3, Episode 17 – “Basic Lupine Urology” [B+/A-] 
I said, via twitter, that in some ways I feel like my love for this episode goes against all the criticisms I’ve made of the show’s sometimes unbridled use of spoofs. So, why does this work? Perhaps a spade is simply a spade and this episode rises above spoofs that don’t work as well but I think of two potential reasons. On one hand – and correct me if I’m wrong – I don’t think that there’s anyone watching this episode who has not seen an episode of Law and Order and on the second and more important hand – this episode’s spoof jokes are excellent but take out the Law and Order spin and they’d still work as straight jokes, the fact that it has a legal spin only makes it that much better. Michael Kenneth Williams’ appearance is always something well appreciated and one thing I will say for the spoof episodes – whether good or bad – they always present a great chance for Alison Brie and Donald Glover, especially, to nail it.  

The Office: Season 8, Episode 22 – “Fundraiser” [B/B-] 
Much of the first half the episode despite the few laughs here and there but the it was the second half with the denouements – Darryl and Nellie and the taco, Dwight and the bidding, Andy and the dogs that managed to make the humour legitimately funny. Back in Scranton there are still some major issues in tone which makes some episode suffer, and the cold opening despite the presence of Ryan is probably the series’ most awkward, unfunny opening. But, amidst that Catherine Tate is managing to find new warmer bits of Nellie to play up, John Krasinski continues to deliver on every level with his humour and the use of Wilson – as has been of late – is generally good, and not too much. Approved.  
Parks and Recreation: Season 4, Episode 20 – “The Debate” [B+/A-] 
Another great outing in the annals of the show. The ups and downs of the debate and the monopoly that Newport has on the town is interesting to watch and it’s all buttressed by the great use of guest work from Hahn and Rudd and the adorable relation between Ben and Leslie. Then, there’s the potent emergence of the Tom/Ann/Chris triangle which ends up making both guys come of excellently and gives Jones a platform to be her delightful self. Then, the arc of the “party” for Leslie ends up being so hilarious even as it’s a bust and leads to the episode’s finest moment Offerman singing in a tree which is just a fine example of how excellent this show can be.

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 8, Episode 21 – “Moment of Truth” [B] 
There are those moments where the show remembers the most enduring aspects of its tenure and zeroes in on it – case in point: the Cristina/Meredith conversation through the door. It might be Grey’s Anatomy but the ties of friendship, especially between those two, has always been THE most enduring thing about the show and as we wonder what their future will bring (and the future of the show itself) it’s successful moment of quiet. It’s to the show’s credit that the episode doesn’t feel overly filler-ish since it’s all pointing to next week to see how things go and I’ll allow things like Richard’s dalliance with Catherine, and cheer on someone addressing the Teddy issue. I’m less pleased about Alex jeopardising his boards and the Jackson/April arc and vehemently impugn everything Mark/Lexie. Just no.  

Scandal: Season 1, Episode 4 – “Enemy of the State” [B-] 
Not a poor outing, but easily my least favourite of the four the show has turned out. There’s this moment when Cyrus goes into the President’s office and he has what I think is supposed to be a “moment” for Perry but comes off as more awkward than seismic. It seems in some ways to be a spoof something out of Grey’s Anatomy which is even odd because Robbins has never written for that show. Another bugbear was the way Olivia got her way with the dictator. It’s important for her not to get her way always, and it seemed like a poor decision to suggest that the mother should have custody of the children, just because, taking me out of the episode and annoying more than it should. Cyrus, and now the president, turning on Olivia is a nice turn and although I wish it’d be more organic the journey into the crew’s past is much appreciated. We’ll see what happens….

Standout Performers (I know, way too many) 
John Benjamin Hickey in The Big C B+/A-
Laura Linney in The Big C B+/A-
Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation B+/A-
Alison Brie in Community B+/A-
Julia Louis-Deyfuss in Veep B+
Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife B+
Ian Gomez in Cougar Town B+

Busy Philipps in Cougar Town B+
Jessica Paré in Mad Men B+
Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie B+
Anna Chlumsky in Veep B+
Oliver Platt in The Big C B+
Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock B+
Reid Scott in Veep B+
John Slattery in Mad Men B+
Courteney Cox in Cougar Town B+
Elizabeth Moss in Mad Men B+
John Krasinski in The Office B+
Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation B+
What did you watch this week? 

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