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Season Finale: How I Met Your Mother – “Challenge Accepted”

“Challenge Accepted”

May 16th, 2011

Considering that this entire season of How I Met Your Mother has been built around an absolutely terrible metaphor, I think it’s only fair that we try to consider what exact challenge this season of the series was accepting, precisely.

If it was to create the most overdone metaphor possible and threaten the series’ narrative integrity in the process, then they have certainly met the challenge: the longer the Arcadian story was dragged out, the more it became clear that it was one of those circumstances where the idea of using the building as a central tenet of the season was introduced with no conception of its limitations. Did it make sense on some level? Absolutely – the idea of allowing Ted an opportunity to design a building, and for that to conflict with a budding relationship, is solid. There was just never anything else: no other point of chemistry, no other narrative momentum, and no way of tapping into something more profound than just another stopgap relationship on the way to the Mother. It was a story about how a building was like a relationship, and how a season was about a building, and how a series has become boiled down to a single question more than ever before.

“Challenge Accepted” attempts to own this on some level, playing with how random events can lead Ted to make serious relationship decisions, but to say it doesn’t live up to the challenge would be an understatement. While there are parts of this episode which could work, there is nothing to build up to them: everything is predicated on a building and a relationship that never properly developed, and it reinforces that the problem with Zoey was never Jennifer Morrison but rather the context in which she was introduced. It is a simple creative failure, a season marred by an ill-advised plotline that they drag out until the bitter end and attempt to turn into something meaningful through temporal trickery, some shoe-horned nostalgia, and an emotionally meaningful yet utterly contrived B-Story.

And that’s no way to suggest that you’re up to the challenge of paying it all off in the seasons to come.

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Human Target – “Embassy Row”

“Embassy Row”

January 25th, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week’s new episode of Human Target, which aired in its normal Monday timeslot on CTV and which airs Tuesday at 9pm (due to the State of the Union on Wednesday) on FOX: it’s another fun episode that continues to care very little about believability, but because each hour is its own self-contained 40-minute action film it isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t have any sort of fancy or complex thematic introduction to my thoughts on the show, so I’ll just suggest that people enjoying the show so far should tune in.

However, I do want to say a few things about where the show sits at the moment, and whether the episodes we’re seeing out of order are adding up to a distinct impression of Christopher Chance and his universe of sorts, so I shall nonetheless analyze the episode after the jump.

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Human Target – “Rewind”

“Rewind”

January 20th, 2010

Airing out of order, “Rewind” is either trying to complete the trains, planes and automobiles trifecta for Christopher Chance’s various missions or trying to simply put the show’s best foot forward in its second episode out of the gate behind American Idol. I’d be worried if it was the former as the show can only go so far when Chance is trapped on a moving mode of transportation with no chance of escape, but I think the latter is their primary goal here.

And it works really well, because the hour is certainly an improvement over the already solid pilot. Not only does “Rewind” feature one of the most extensive uses of in media res storytelling I’ve seen in television for a while, but it also taps into both the potential comedy and the potential mythology present in the series. It is a ludicrous hour of television from a physic perspective, but in terms of delivering action and suspense while maintaining a light-hearted sense of humour and revealing some deeper shades of Christopher Chance and the work he does the episode is quite successful.

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Series Premiere: Human Target – “Pilot”

“Pilot”

January 14th, 2010

Airing two nights before its American premiere (Sunday at 8pm ET) may seem like a big deal for Canadian viewers of FOX’s new series Human Target, but it’s not as if the show’s pilot has been an unknown quantity. The pilot was basically presented in a condensed form as the show’s trailer back when it debuted at last Spring’s upfronts, and since the show was held for midseason it’s been “out there” for long enough that every beat of the show’s first episode was predictable.

Of course, part of the show’s charm is that every part of it is predictable: even if you had never seen or heard of the show before, chances are you knew that the inaugural voyage of a futuristic bullet train was not going to go smoothly. It is a show that has no intention of being surprising, nor upending expectations based on its genre: this is a lightweight action thriller of a television show that creates weight through intense action sequences and strong production values as opposed to subtle character development. By building that show around three very likeable and talented actors, and by crafting a relationship between them that has just the right balance of mistrust and respect, the show creates the kind of “setup” that promises to be exactly what you expect it to be.

There’s something comforting about that, something that has proved to be an admirable quality with other series that I’ve grown to be quite a fan of – I’m hopeful the same happens here.

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Series Finale: Pushing Daisies – “Kerplunk”

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“Kerplunk”

Series Finale – June 13th, 2009

I should have known this day would come.

No, I don’t mean that I was actually in denial that, after the show struggled to regain its ratings foothold towards the end of Season One and bombed out the gate during season two, the show was short for this world, and that its final episode would be tossed aside in a ridiculous Saturday timeslot by ABC. Rather, I should have known when I first watched and fell in love with this pilot, but struggled to convince people I talked to that the show was worth watching, that it would never get the ending I knew it deserved.

When I reviewed that pilot (oh, sorry – “Pie-Lette”), I said the following:

…Pushing Daisies is as much a fairy tale romance as it is a dramatic television series. Unrequited love is one of those concepts that you see a lot of in television, but never has it been so whimsically (and maturely) portrayed. The entire pilot is about love and loss, and how mending those fences can be more difficult than you realize.

We, of course, don’t have Ned’s power to bring things back to life, but if we did I think all of us who watched until the end would, in an instant, touch this show and rescue it from the television graveyard as Ned did with Chuck. However, we can’t do that (although, presuming Lost would be protected, I’d be totally willing to let fate choose which ABC show has to die as a result of keeping it alive), and we’re left with a finale that we know shouldn’t be the end, that promises more than it concludes and that captures in its aquacades and elaborate disguises the whimsy that has set the show on a well-deserved pedestal that ABC chose to knock down late last year.

But I will give ABC credit for inadvertantly assisting in my ability to mend the fences of love and loss, delaying the airing of this episode until the show’s cancellation was no longer fresh. It may still hurt, certainly, but it’s given me a less angry and more celebratory perspective. While not everything you want a finale to be, and ending on a cliffhanger that seemed poised to breathe new life into the series, this finale finds the show joyously entertaining in a scenario and an environment that could only exist in the world of Papen County, the mind of Bryan Fuller, and, as fate has decided, the fond memories of viewers.

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Upfronts Analysis: Fox 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

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Fox 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

May 18th, 2009

FOX has always performed well in the Spring, but this year they managed to do something they hadn’t in the past: they were smart with their scheduling in the Fall, used House as a lead-in as opposed to a lead-out, and managed to put together two shows (fall debut Fringe and midseason Lie to Me) that were stable enough to earn a spot on their 2009-2010 schedule. They did it with the help of both House and American Idol as lead-ins, of course, but they were intelligent in the way they used those spots, and their Fall Schedule feels more stable as a result.

The question now, of course, is whether they can maintain that momentum, which they will try to do with a highly aggressive schedule that demonstrates that FOX is willing to compete in the Fall…at the risk of running one of its franchises into the ground, throwing one of its new shows out into the wild on its own, and holding its new offerings until midseason.

So even when you think they’ve got the hang of things, FOX has to go and shake things up to prove that, no matter how consistent they may seem at times, they’re always going to pull out a new trick or two.

The full schedule, with my analysis, after the jump – if you’re looking for all the official images and press releases plus plenty of analysis, I suggest you head over to Televisionary where Jace has it all covered.

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Pushing Daisies – “The Norwegians”

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“The Norwegians”

December 17th, 2008

If there is a word that best describes Pushing Daisies, it is potential – it is the kind of show where you can imagine where they can take these characters, what kind of fantastical scenarios they can place them in. A world in which there is a crack team of Norwegian investigators who have too few murders to investigate and migrate to Papin county in order to take advantage of its high murder rate is the kind of creativity that the show thrives on, and it feels at this point that it is in an almost endless supply.

So as the show marches towards the halfway point in its generously offered second season, what we get is an episode where they’re starting to dig into some of the show’s bigger questions and more complicated relationships in a way that almost feels like the show is ramping up to some sort of a conclusion. But since that can’t possibly be…what’s that? Wait, are you serious? Really? Canceled, you say? How dare they!

In all seriousness, with this lame attempt at kidding aside, this episode is that Catch-22 of the canceled drama that pretty well knew it was going to be canceled when it entered into this stretch of episodes. Fuller has smartly designed his conclusion to serve two purposes: bringing to the surface underlying tensions and events of import for our characters and, more importantly, reminding us how broad and wonderful this universe is. The trick was to make episodes like “The Norwegians,” a tightly constructed episode featuring murder without mystery, a father with a surprise identity, and a healthy combination of both dramatic gravitas of the moment and comic timing that feels like it will never go away.

Unfortunately, ABC saw through both of those particular facts – perhaps someone staged a fake Pushing Daisies to throw them off the scent of sweet televised success.

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