Thursday is clearly the biggest TV night of the week at this point; no three hours of primetime offers nearly as many worthy programs, and the variety is truly stunning. Starting in February you’ll have a dose of reality (“Survivor”), a pinch of drama (“Grey’s Anatomy”), some procedural seasoning (“CSI”), and a huge helping of comedy (“The Office”, “Scrubs”, “30 Rock”, and “Ugly Betty”). That’s a whole lot of TV, and sometime it’s even a little bit daunting. Despite this task, I want to try to take it on, and will try to highlight three of them every Thursday that features new programming.
The episodes I choose may not be the best ones, but rather the ones worth commenting on. For instance, no matter its quality, I would have commented on last night’s Scrubs Musical episode. Similarly, I will very rarely comment on something like CSI unless I happen to decide to watch it, as it doesn’t do much week-by-week. Therefore, I’ll try to mix things up, and avoid covering the same show every week. Sometimes, however, this might be difficult.
Last night was one of those nights, so let’s run down some honourable mentions first:
– First off, I’m squarely on Team Pam, but I feel bad for Karen on The Office. She clearly didn’t know what she was getting into, following Jim to Scranton, and it’s got to be tough when she’s battling off against a receptionist with little else to do. This week’s episode was a bit too over the top in terms of Andy’s behaviour, I’d say, but it remained humorous throughout, and I wish more Staples employees were like Dwight.
– Well, sorry Mr. O’Malley! I know I said yesterday I wanted your storyline on Grey’s Anatomy to end sometime soon, but I really didn’t mean for you to die on us. Everyone’s laundry has now been washed, hung out to dry and then taken off the line, so Grey’s get a bit of a fresh start at this point in its season. Should be interesting to see where they head from here; according to the previews, some Chief-succession drama. I’m all for naming Burke “Caesar” and Derek “Brutus”, btw…and lets face it, Caesar’s totally a homophobe, he’s gone extremely soon.
– I’ve been a bit disappointed in The OC’s fourth season lately; the entire French husband thing was a stopgap and nothing more, and it’s hard to believe that there is only 5 episodes left for them to wrap things up. The episode was fine, as most have been this season, but it’s missing the carefree attitude I enjoy most about the show, and its own episode-ending creepy character note (I’ll get to the other one in a second) was downright abysmal. Here’s hoping for a quick resolution and then some OC soul searching to lead into a proper finale.
And now, to read onto the big three:
3. “Ugly Betty” – In or Out
I wasn’t going to comment on this, honestly. I was just going to watch it and bask in its sugary glory, as it is never of much consequence on a regular basis. But then, something so astronomically terrible happened that I must make note of it.
I had heard of the casting of Rebecca Romijn as…well, we weren’t told who she was cast as. It was clear that she was going to be the woman behind the white fabric, despite the fact that someone had clearly already been playing her, but that person’s identity was left anonymous. And honestly, I wish it had stayed that way.
I wouldn’t say it’s a jump the shark moment or anything, but I was just thinking very recently that I didn’t miss the earlier soap opera bits one bit. There was more than enough entertaining comedy and drama found squarely within the fashion magazine, without having to head off into crypts and the like.
But yet, it was this episode that just made my head spin. It contained some good moments, some good character developments, but the ending absolutely killed the episode for me. It represented the introduction of a new character that, honestly, could kill the show if not handled properly. I think that they’ve done a good job of humanizing Vanessa L. Williams’ Wilhelmina, but I don’t think that “Alexis” will be able to achieve the same fate. There’s just too much of a soap opera feel to things here, and I worry for it.
I hate it when my guilty pleasures ignore my wishes for them to remain as ambiguous and flexible in order to justify my watching them. For shame, Ugly Betty!
2. 30 Rock – “The Head and the Hair”
So, despite Alec Baldwin’s recent Golden Globes win, I don’t think people really know much about 30 Rock. I was explaining it to Ms. Kipping the other day in class, when she observed that I hand-talked as if I was holding two mugs. She did not quite get why I found this incredibly funny. People just haven’t jumped on the 30 Rock bandwagon.
I think that tonight’s episode was proof that the show is perhaps the most consistent amongst NBC’s comedy block. It has been able to properly balance its characters into supporting and lead roles without any real loss of quality. This episode, focused primarily on Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon, still managed to be funny even with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan’s characters relegated to supporting roles. Despite the two male leads providing a majority of the laughs, the writing is sharp enough within the entire show to make the Liz sections just as sharp. Her relationship with the titular Hair, Greg, seemed real and spoke to her character well. And, similarly, the two sideplots for Tracy and Alec highlighted that makes those characters, as well as Kenneth the Page, important to the show’s ensemble.
The result was a very strong 22 minutes of comedy that remained focused, sharp and developed characters quite well. And really, while it may not have the emotional attachment I share with the Office, I think that it does cohesive episodes like this just as often as its counterpart. And for a freshman comedy, I think that’s an incredible achievement.
1. Scrubs – “My Musical”
I received Scrubs Season One on DVD for Christmas in 2005. While going through the commentaries, creator Bill Lawrence mused about the prospect of a musical episode of the show. He joked (well, based on the episode, observed) that they would do it, but Sarah Chalke (Who plays Eliot) is, well, unable to sing. The show has delved into musical fantasy in the past, mostly with Zach Braff and Donald Faison, and there has been a fairly prominent focus on music for quite some time.
I’m not sure if Chalke got singing lessons (She wasn’t bad, just limited), or what changed, but the episode was finally created. As a result, we have ourselves a musical episode of Scrubs. And, while I think it came a few years too late, it was an enjoyable half hour.
Perhaps the most recent musical episode that greatly entered the pop culture realm is “Once More, with Feeling!”, a fan favourite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Early on Thursday, I decided to visit…well, revisit this musical via the joys of YouTube. I never really got to watch it in full, having not quite jumped on the Buffy bandwagon, but I found the songs to be quite infectious. Perhaps it was the nature of the show’s drama, but there was something involved that made the songs resonate. And, the problem was that the Scrubs clips I had seen before is that they were inconsequential, almost too simple for their own good.
And, in the end, I think that the episode did a better job than those few clips represented, but I almost think that Scrubs has become too complacent with its own formula to really make something of it. As much as these recent seasons have supposedly given them more freedom to be a bit nuts, every episode is starkly similar, and this musical only put things to song and nothing more.
The songs, written by the team behind Broadway’s “Avenue Q,” didn’t quite live up to their puppet-infused, Tony-Winning genius. Some of them came off extremely well, proving that the formula could work; specifically, the rather fantastic number for Dr. Cox and Janitor on hating J.D. was everything it needed to be, and I really enjoyed the reprises/group songs that tie into the plot. Other ones didn’t quite work as well, seeming to be forced and lacking in melody, specifically “We’re Gonna Miss Ya Carla.”
And really, perhaps it’s the show in general, but I just didn’t feel enough emotional connection at some of the songs. I knew exactly how all of the scenarios would end up, despite the musical formula. The construct worked well, the episode did its job, and I think that it was a good episode of Scrubs…but only based on its current standard. For the Scrubs of old, I think that this episode would have been a chance to really start something. For this sixth season, I think it’s just another episode of a competent and funny comedy.
All of this being said, I’ve since watched it all a second time, and it works better in that form. Specifically, the following song (“Everything Comes Down to Poo”) works really well as a set number.