“Woman of the Year”
March 4th, 2010
In “Woman of the Year,” we learn that Leslie Knope was a member of the Indiana Order of Women at the age of nine.
This is, just to be clear, not a surprising fact: we’ve always known that Leslie was a strong believer in organizations like the IOW, so the idea that she had been this way since an early age (especially considering her mother’s commitment to civil service). What this establishes, however, is that this is something which means something to Leslie, something which she values at a level which someone like Ron Swanson is not completely able to understand.
However, what has Parks and Recreation in such a good place right now is that it is unwilling to sacrifice things important to these characters just for the sake of comedy: stories like those in “Woman of the Year” are driven by people who care rather than people who don’t understand, and while there is quite a lot of humour in the episode it all comes from a place of good-natured ribbing more than spite or something similarly unpleasant.
November 30th, 2009
You might be wondering why I stopped reviewing House after the season premiere. And, well, the answer is quite simple: I stopped watching House after the season premiere.
It wasn’t an intentional decision: a few episodes piled up on the DVR, which proceeded to crash and lose all of its files, and then more episodes piled up alongside some frustrated critics who were growing tired of the show’s ignorance of the rather great premiere, “Broken.” And so my desire to catch up with House was limited, and until tonight I was kind of convinced that I may never return to the show again.
However, on the advice of those same critics, I returned to “Wilson” and discovered what role House will play in my television criticism future. It is a show where the only episodes that truly engage me, truly suck me in, are those which feel uniquely possible within the show’s universe. Alan Sepinwall quite rightly observes in his review of the episode that the focus on Wilson in the episode would never work if not for the inherent juxtaposition of his methods to House’s methods.
It’s an episode that puts someone else in the driver’s seat, and rather than feeling like an overly complicated, soap operatic version of the show’s basic premise (which, based on what I’ve read of the season so far and parts of last season, is effectively what the show has boiled down to) the episode felt like a rumination on character, themes, and the inherent humanity or lack thereof at the show’s core.
The result was a very compelling hour of television, one which is uniquely housed (I made a funny!) within this particular series but will do little to change its overall downward trajectory.
November 19th, 2009
This is “Green Week” on NBC, which means that every show has some sort of environmental sustainability storyline in it. And while the shows did similar episodes a few seasons ago (The Office did its “Survivorman” parody and 30 Rock did the great “Greenzo”), it’s a well that has quite a bit of content in it, depending on how the shows wants to go about it.
While The Office (which I won’t be reviewing tonight, although I’ll probably throw some thoughts onto the end of the page) simply used it as a theme for the cold open (as it did with Halloween), 30 Rock takes a more continuous and as a result scattered approach. Giving Kenneth the task of “greening” 30 Rock felt forced, and while the episode wanted to try to make it seem subversive and clever the show has done too many similar things before.
However, continuing last week’s improvement on the season as a whole, this week had a cohesive point of view if we ignore the environmental side of things, presenting two stories that allowed for both some brilliant absurdity and actions which are driven by character rather than plot. And, just when you think that the environmental story is entirely worthless, the show spins off a few random parts of other scenes into the storyline and helps bring everything full circle in a sequence that actually is as clever as it wants it to be.
Plus, Teddy Ruxpin was a frakkin’ lawyer.
October 25th, 2009
When “Dirty Harry” begins, the problems start before the episode even does. After the exciting finale to “Dex Takes a Holiday,” which was a strong episode which really connected with the qualities that make the show work and which ended on that cliffhanger of Deb and Lundy bleeding on the pavement, things seemed exciting in a way that the show was struggling with early on.
However, the lengthy “Previously on Dexter” sequence reminded us that the things that made that episode great were an exclusion (of Rita and the kids) and a shock (that won’t be recreated in the next episode), which means that “Dirty Harry” is immediately handicapped. And while there are some stories that seem legitimately compelling, those seem to be at a standstill while the “drama” comes from conflicts that are either entirely uninteresting or which feel like the sort of simple “Dexter meets Suburbia” type stories the show has been dealing with this season.
It proves once and for all that Dexter is a series best watched in extended bursts on DVD, because the hype is going to create expectations that this season isn’t able to live up to.