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Republic of Doyle – “The Duchess of George”

“The Duchess of George”

January 20th, 2010

Shows like Republic of Doyle may present themselves as fairly straightforward, but in reality there is a lot of nuance to how they portray their characters and their stories. The exact same story could be told in very different ways, and the same characters could interact with that story in completely different ways. The characters could remain detached from the story, largely observing the behaviour of others, or they could become wrapped up in the story to the point of being placed in harm’s way.

There is no “right” way to make a show like Republic of Doyle, but “The Duchess of George” has the show the closest it has come so far. The show still has some problems in terms of its characterization, but there is a sense of clarity and direction this week that was lacking in weeks previous. It may not initially seem to be a different show, but the show has replaced narrative burdens with character burdens, simplifying its storytelling while complicating its characters to counterbalance.

The show still has some room to grow, but I think it actually delivered something of substance in its third week out, which is at least one step in the right direction.

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The Good Wife – “Unprepared”

“Unprepared”

November 17th, 2009

The Good Wife has earned the rather ominous title of being the most unexpected critical “success” of the new season, maintaining the positive response to its pilot and growing into a confident, sophisticated mix of procedural law constructs and some intriguing serialized character dynamics. The show isn’t extraordinary, but in a year where the biggest new drama series (like ABC’s FlashForward and V) are still searching for an identity the simple elegance of The Good Wife is legitimately refreshing.

However, the show’s consistency has been its undoing in one area, as the show’s persistence in crafting connections between Alicia and the cases she tries has begun to wear thin. Last week’s episode was actually really compelling, smartly introducing a new character for Alicia to interact with (the non-lawyer) and introducing a case that had both ramifications in the law firm (being the partner’s daughter) and that involved the unique questions of orthodoxy. However, the show used the marital strife which resulted from the case in order to make Alicia an ideal lawyer not because she is particularly skilled, but rather because she knows what her clients are going through.

There’s nothing wrong with this, and perhaps some could argue it actually helps solidify her character, but as long as she is defined by her past the show feels as if it has less forward momentum than it should. An episode like “Unprepared” works because of how legitimately central Peter Florrick’s trial is to the events in the episode, but in his absence the show relies heavily on those aspects of her life. At some point, Peter Florrick is going to come home, or be sent away for a long time: at that point, what does The Good Wife become?

It’s a question that’s been bugging me, even while I’ve found The Good Wife to be consistently enjoyable.

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30 Rock – “The Funcooker”

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“The Funcooker”

March 12th, 2009

It’s kind of funny that, after an episode of The Office where Michael struggled with the idea of responsibility and blame, that 30 Rock would be so occupied with exactly the same ideas. The episode is all about authority figures who are trying to maintain something approaching order, and their subordinates who are at the same time doing everything they can to subvert all principles of authority.

It’s almost a bit too clean in the end, as all of the storylines come together to a clearly choreographed conclusion, but at the same time each storyline plays to the characters’ strengths. Just as Tracy taking over the financial crisis was funny, so too was Tracy taking over the entire airwaves. Just as Jenna’s last trip to Dr. Spaceman was a comic goldmine, this one at least got us something other than coal if not quite gold. And while Liz and Jack were both a little bit out of their elements (Liz stuck on jury duty and Jack stuck, well, working with subordinates directly), thus not quite giving the episode its potential comic punch, I still think the episode set out a simple and 30 Rock-esque storyline and succeeded in showing its potential.

And while I still want the show to shoot for something better, this is a good piece of complacency in my book.

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