March 1st, 2010
“In this story, I’m just a jerk.”
Future Ted, as voiced by Bob Saget, pretty much has his kids on the hook. You see, they’ve been sitting on that couch for what seems like years, patiently waiting to hear the story of how he met his mother, but it seems as if there are times when Future Ted has no interest in that story. Instead, he tells other stories, stories where the character switches from a romantic idealist to an unfortunate jerk. Those are the episodes where people turn on Ted as a character, where some viewers (and potentially his children) find him to be unlikeable to a degree that seems strange considering how enjoyable he is when he is in that romantic mode.
In some ways, what I liked so much about “Hooked” is that his kids (or, in other words, the audience) off the hook right off the bat: Future Ted informs us that in this story, he is a total jerk, which prepares us for an episode where Ted’s romanticism (and, frankly, romanticism in general) is completely absent. And so we’re able to laugh at Carrie Underwood’s Tiffany without wondering if she’s the Mother, and not feel as if the show (or Future Ted) is unaware that Ted is being a little bit douchey throughout the half-hour.
In some other ways, however, what I liked so much about “Hooked” is that the audience is just as hooked on the show (and Ted as a character) by episode’s end, even when that ending has all of the characters acting like jerks.
February 11th, 2010
I wrote about Valentine’s Day episodes on Wednesday night, and in the process I argued that I prefer shows which use the holiday to service their existing universe rather than forcing their universe to conform to the holiday. Accordingly, I was legitimately excited about how Parks was going to handle the holiday, because the show has a lot of characters in love, falling in love, or in a position where love is possible but perhaps not materializing as they might have wanted.
“Galentine’s Day” manages to handle those relationships with a subtlety beyond most shows in their second season, building the episode around a romantic story which loses its romance once it enters reality, in the process shedding light on the state of the show’s various relationships. And since, as noted, I’m more invested in these relationships than I had realized, it made for a great episode for a lot of different characters.
February 11th, 2010
There’s a scene early in “Communication Studies” where Jeff is asking Michelle about her Valentine’s Day expectations. What he wants to know is whether he has to change anything to make the day more special, whether there is something he can do (flowers, chocolates, etc.) to better fit her expectations. However, she says she wants things to remain the same, even though we later learn that she would like some small changes (like Jeff being willing to pick up ice cream before Law & Order nights).
In this metaphor, Jeff is the show’s writers, Michelle is the audience, and their relationship is Community. Like Michelle, as an audience member, I don’t want the show to change in any major way to improve upon itself, as I quite like the show it has become, and it certainly doesn’t have to go out of its way to be quite clever with its attention to Valentine’s Day (the Cupid Being was more than enough). However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, even if “Communication Studies” ended up pretty satisfying.
March 26th, 2009
When Robert Carlock confronted “Apollo, Apollo,” it was if he were taking all of the elements which have made his past episodes (“Jack-Tor,” “Subway Hero,” “Sandwich Day,”) so fantastic and pulling them all together into one rather stunning half-hour. Moving from joke to joke at a breakneck pace, with barely any time for breathing yet alone for truly appreciating the genius on display, the episode achieves the right balance of total absurdity, stunning wit, marvelous delusions and genuine heart in pretty well every single storyline, although to the differing degrees required.
It’s almost unfair to other comedies that 30 Rock can combine all of these things and still feel as if it was cohesive: we have brand new show-specific terminology, one of the show’s best recurring guest stars (Dean Winters), muppets, Adam West, a wonderful viral video, and along the way so many small moments that the episode was without a dead zone.
And after all of that, anyone who isn’t Lizzing or Jacking needs to get themselves checked out by a doctor/trainer…or should that be the opposite? Hmmm.
“Chuck vs. The Lethal Weapon”
March 9th, 2009
Well, the second time’s the charm.
See, immediately upon watching last night’s episode of Chuck, I found myself preoccupied with just how similar it was to last week’s episode: it involves the same guest character (MI-6 agent Cole Barker), and the ways in which that character interacted with the group were more or less along the same lines. However, I soon realized that the sense of deja vu I was getting wasn’t making me think less of “Chuck vs. The Lethal Weapon,” which came together as a rather great episode by the end of the day, but rather I was kind of even more frustrated with “Chuck vs. the Beefcake,” last week’s tepid and repetitive story.
That’s not fair to “Chuck vs. the Lethal Weapon,” where everything from last week is that much better due to a decision to pair Chuck’s efforts to get Sarah Walker out of his head with his equally strong desire to get the intersect out of there as well. It means that Chuck isn’t just lovelorn or sad about his current existence, but rather that he is striving for a future, hoping for a chance to be normal. It’s something the show felt like it put on the backburner recently, and returning to it in earnest (and, at episode’s end, with a pretty substantial reveal) makes yet another trip to the relationship well completely justified.
March 5th, 2009
I don’t know if the Super Bowl plans or just some weird scheduling resulted in the situation we find ourselves in here, but it’s Valentine’s Day in the world of The Office, which means that the single people are sad, and the couples are feeling particularly smug about their happy futures. And on that note, “Blood Drive” investigates the state of romance in the Office through a very subtle, perhaps too subtle, lens.
With Michael Scott leading the charge for the single people, organizing amongst other things a singles mixer and a support group for bad relationships, and with Phyllis inviting Jim and Pam along on a one-joke lunch double date, there was something about the entire episode that felt really lightweight, which it shouldn’t considering that we left Michael buoyed by hope regarding Holly in the last episode. And yet there’s not even a mention of her letter, and for him to go back to “Woe is me because Holly left” like this doesn’t feel right.
It’s not that I wanted the series to deliver a highly dramatic episode, but this was the first time they’ve confronted a couple of relationship issues (in particular the season’s central love triangle) and it felt like the episode’s subtle approach at times was more of a tease than a real parallel or comparison. I think I liked the episode, especially as it relates to some of the more subtle things, but there was so many notes the show tried to deal with here that you couldn’t help but feel it was missing that one moment of either really effective comedy or emotional resonance, and it never came for me.
Oh, there was lots of innuendo too, by the way.
Yes, I’m Still Watching…House
February 24th, 2009
I don’t particularly know if I can put my finger on why I care so little about House’s fifth season, considering that I was actually quite a big fan of the fourth one. Although oft criticized for eschewing the show’s regular sidekicks for a new batch, the fourth season felt like things were being shaken up: that the producers realized that the show was in danger of becoming too formulaic, and that some changes were necessary. I like that level of self-awareness in my showrunners, personally, and it was healthy to see it here.
Unfortunately, House has fallen off the wagon for me this season, and I’ll admit right now to having very little desire to even watch last night’s episode, which is waiting for me on the DVR as soon as I get around to it. [I watched it – check for my thoughts in parenthesis throughout the post added after I sat down to watch the episode]. There just isn’t anything about the show that I find engaging, which is because of two fundamental problems: one is the show focus on what is ultimately an uninteresting and worthless character, and the other is that the show’s other drama must derive entirely from relationships, all of which are misguided and doomed to failure if only for the sake of the show’s normal points of tension.
It all adds up to a show that I honestly don’t care about anymore – and there will come a point where I might stop watching altogether in the very near future.
February 20th, 2009
“Imagine, instead of 50,000 survivors, there are only five.”
The above are the words of the fifth and final Cylon, words that are in fact quite resonant: considering what we have learned of the Cylon back story in the last few episodes, the Final Five are survivors of a sort, the last of a dead race that have worked to create their own legacy. The Cylons are actually a weird race, in that there is this battle between control and destiny that defines them: if they hadn’t started to rely on pro-creation, taking the future of the race into their own hands and out of their more natural resurrection, maybe the holocaust wouldn’t have hit Earth. And if the Final Five hadn’t agreed to work with the Centurions in order to create the other 8 models, perhaps the attack on the twelve colonies wouldn’t have happened, and there could have been something approaching peace. These are just some of the points wherein questions of blame and responsibility tickle up and down the Cylon timeline, creating the backbone of what we thought would be at least half of the series’ trajectory moving into its final episodes.
What fascinated me about “Deadlock” is that instead of focusing on these types of questions, it removes us from the show itself and places us into the minds of the writers, as they move the characters around like they’re playing checkers on a chess board (Yes, that was a “The Wire” burn). While it was understandable early in the show’s run to have blatant transition episodes like this one, where people start taking on new roles and where old trajectories are shifted into new directions, both this episode and “No Exit” are so blatantly the result of setup that one can’t fully engross themselves in this world. We are coming to the point in the show’s run where the audience is more engrossed in the fate of these characters than ever, and I find myself consistently being drawn out of that element of the series in favour of pondering just how blithely they are willing to state the obvious, linger on that which needs not lingering, and delve into the absolute wrong kind of opera at this late stage of the game.
And if they seriously couldn’t plan out even half a season well enough to avoid episodes that read like this, then forgive me if I don’t join those who are concerned about how this is all coming to come together in a month’s time.