Category Archives: Aliens in America

Chuck – “Chuck Versus the Tango” and a sidenote on Aliens in America

“Chuck Versus the Tango”

October 8th, 2007

I don’t have too much to say about Chuck, but I haven’t formally discussed a single episode thus far and felt this was a good time to do so. The series emerged out of its first week with a decent second stanza, but I feel the need to point out that this week’s episode was just plain good: it maintained the energetic pace of the pilot without any of the large-scale action pieces, and after last week’s repetitive fare added some new elements to the mix.

Chuck was the highlight here, as Zachary Levi delivered a great comic performance as the perpetually in danger government secret keeper. The situations in the episode, while technically stretching the show’s premise, were perfect: it put Chuck in conflict with his friends, in awkward and new situations with the tango, and to new points in his relationship with Sarah. It was essentially an episode of Alias but played for comedy. Chuck had to learn new skills and techniques, but instead of doing so to great effect he klutzed his way throught it.

And it was funny: Alias always had its humorous side, and played to full effect it’s allowing Chuck to come into its own. Having never purported to being a plot-driven series, the character-building is great: the villainness was portrayed well, the plot was simple enough to follow, and it felt like the kind of adventure that we actually like watching. I can only hope that tonight’s episode of Reaper can convince me just as well as Chuck did.

A Note on “Aliens of America”

I watched the second episode of The CW’s new comedy last night, and I’m confused. I knew the second episode went for broad comedy (The apparent homosexuality, according to the school, of Raja and Justin), but it still felt a bit off compared to the subtlety of the premiere. Raja was played just a bit too culturally lost for me, and it felt a bit too simple.

However, on the other side of the coin, the episode displayed a bizarre schizophrenic sense of comedy. On top of the broad comedy, the episode contained a Willem Dafoe joke and a reference to “Say Anything.” Normally I’d view these as signs of the series maintaining a sharp perspective, but within the overall tone of the episode it felt off. The people who would find the broad comedy funny, in other words, would be unlikely to have been a fan of early Cameron Crowe or Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man notwithstanding.

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Filed under Aliens in America, Chuck

Cultural Learnings’ Fall 2007 Lineup: Mondays

[Although I’ll be covering some of this week’s early premieres, I thought I’d take a break this week and let readers know what shows I’ll be focusing on this television season. Thanks to writing a thesis and all, admittedly post volume might be lower, but I think it will simply challenge me to say more in less words. And I think we’d all agree that’s in the best interest of everyone. So, each day, I’ll preview the shows I’ll be following in this year’s lineup at Culturall Learnings. This doesn’t exclude other shows, but simply means they won’t be a focus. If you want me to write about anything, always feel free to send me an email at cultural.learnings @ gmail.com!]

Cultural Learnings’ Monday Lineup

Heroes

NBC’s sophomore drama series disappointed with its finale, but I’m more than willing to give this strong ensemble another shot. With Kristen Bell appearing for an extended guest arc, and the Heroes: Origins segments to air at the end of the season, it’s looking like an interesting year for the crew. I’ll start the coverage with a look at the show’s season finale airing September 24th, where at least one of the characters in peril during last year’s finale (Peter, D.L. and Nathan) will perish.

Cultural Learnings’ Heroes Coverage 

Chuck

A comedy of sorts from Josh Schwartz, Chuck follows the exploits of a Nerd Herd employee who finds himself a wealth of government secrets due to an email. The dialogue is sharp, and Schwartz has shown an ability to tap into the humour in more serious situations in the past. The show debuts on September 24th, and you can find my review of the show’s pilot by following this link.

Pilot Preview: “Chuck” – Cultural Learnings 

Weeds

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes…sorry, I got carried away. Weeds’ infectious theme song isn’t the only thing keeping me interested: things heat up tonight with Mary-Kate Olsen’s arrival and further escalation of the U-Turn storyline. I’ll be covering the series until it rides off into the sunset in November. You can find my existing Weeds coverage by following this link.

Cultural Learnings’ Weeds Coverage

How I Met Your Mother

I discovered this show over the summer, and it was well worth my time: it is the best traditional sitcom on television, and is certainly deserving of more attention. The show premieres on September 24th with guest stars Enrique Iglesias and Mandy Moore, as Robin returns from Argentina while Ted has moved on from their breakup. This is one I hope that gains more viewers: if you want some more info, check out our coverage by following this link.

Cultural Learnings’ How I Met Your Mother Coverage

I’ll also be watching Aliens in America, The CW’s freshman sitcom, and may occasionally update on its progress and perhaps pick it up post-Weeds depending on how balancing four shows goes.

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, Aliens in America, Chuck, Cultural Learnings, Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, NBC, Television, Weeds

Pilot Previews: How ‘Cavemen’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Aliens in America’ Confront Stereotypes

[Regardless of what I think about some of the fall pilots, there are three comedies that each deal with prominent cultural stereotypes to very different degrees. Rather than review them individually (I’d be overly mean to some of them if I did), I figure I’d run them down in relation to their ability to deal with these sensitive cultural issues.]

Cavemen (ABC)

Culture in Question: Prehistoric Man (Cavemen)

Yes, Cavemen deals with the stereotyping of a non-existent culture, and there is a distinct problem with this: the writers are not capable of forgetting real cultural stereotypes in the process. The entire series basically boils down to stealing every single African-American sitcom joke and just transferring it to these hairy neanderthals. The Cavemen feel out of place at a country club, they feel that their crime is more reporter than white crime, and they worry about interracial marriage.

Cultural Impact: Setting the clock back decades. By presenting a culture of exclusion to a level not seen since the 70s, it’s basically making North America out to be this cultural dead zone incapable of accepting other cultures. And while racism is still a serious issue, ignoring any of the past three decades of advancement is just insulting to the efforts of the civil rights movement.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Culture in Question: Geek Culture

While certainly not attempting to prescribe a moral to the state of geek culture, The Big Bang Theory does attempt to represent it. In the process, however, the geek turns into a complete sitcom stereotype: they play World of Warcraft, they watch Battlestar Galactica (w/ Commentary) and they don’t know how to talk to girls. This, in the mind of sitcom writers, is a geek in a nutshell.

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, ABC, Aliens in America, Battlestar Galactica, Cavemen, Television, The Big Bang Theory, The CW