Tag Archives: Episode 18

The Big Bang Theory – “The Pants Alternative”

“The Pants Alternative”

March 22nd, 2010

I’ve complained a lot in the past that the show often boils down to Sheldon vs. Everyone else, a dynamic which makes Sheldon seem more unlikeable than the audience wants him to be and which makes all of the other characters seem more unpleasant than they need to be. And so when “The Pants Alternative” starts with Sheldon getting an ego-boosting award, I was concerned that the episode would be about how Sheldon’s award would drive a wedge between this group of friends and create some new conflicts.

Instead, the show surprised me, as Sheldon’s friends come together to help him overcome his fear of public speaking. What follows is a set of loosely connected scenes that work pretty well as spotlights for Jim Parsons’ comic talents, proving that he can legitimately have a great scene with every character on this show. However, while those scenes might work, the big conclusion ends up taking the character too far, giving into the broad and meaningless as opposed to building the character’s self-confidence in any way. By turning a potential moment of progress into a moment of humiliation, “The Pants Alternative” undermines some of its early goodwill and emerges an average, rather than exemplary, episode.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Say Cheese”

“Say Cheese”

March 22nd, 2010

I often write in my reviews of the Big Bang Theory that I feel the show needs to spend more time showing me why its central characters are still friends: Sheldon has done enough mean things, and been the recipient of enough poor treatment, that the dynamics of their friendship have more or less been reduced to “because they make a good sitcom cast on good days.”

By comparison, I rarely question the dynamics of the central five characters on How I Met Your Mother, but “Say Cheese” wants me to interrogate why these people are still friends. In the process, the episode takes both Lily and Ted to some unfortunate places, showing sides of their characters which make them seem quite unpleasant.

However, while the Big Bang Theory doesn’t have to resolve its tensions since it will simply ignore the events of one week’s episode in the next, How I Met Your Mother is all about continuity, and by the end of “Say Cheese” they find a way to turn Ted and Lily acting like jerks into a healthy investigation of what it means to be friends. That doesn’t mean it’s a particularly strong or enjoyable episode of the show, but it’s another sign that even some unfortunate premises can be improved when the core values of a show and its cast dynamics are there to keep you watching.

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Community – “Beginner Pottery”

“Beginner Pottery”

March 18th, 2010

My lack of knowledge about the Community College system is something that Community takes advantage of quite often: I don’t know if they’re being accurate, but it’s clear that the show isn’t concerned about it. The show wanted to do an episode about “blowoff” classes, and it wanted one of those stories to be about a sailing class being held in a parking lot, so who are we to stop it?

At this point, the cast is gelling enough that just about any story is going to work so long as it doesn’t force the characters too far into a particular mould. “Beginner Pottery” isn’t one of the show’s best efforts from a conceptual standpoint, but its stories are full of either some fun running gags or some strong one-liners that make this a really enjoyable half-hour of television.

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The Office – “The Delivery”

“The Delivery”

March 4th, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about “The Delivery” on its own, to be honest with you: as I am not one of those who have turned on Jim and Pam, or someone who feels that their relationship has anything to do with the show’s creative downturn this season (after all: they were all but married last season and the Michael Scott Paper Company arc was pure gold), I was charmed by the birth of young Cecilia Marie Halpert, which was heartwarming and emotional and all of those things.

I’m with Alan Sepinwall in that the episode sort of lost all of its momentum in the latter half, and rather than repeat his thoughts (all of which I agree with) I thought I’d consider the scheduling ramifications here. As I was discussing with Jaime Weinman on Twitter, I think the interesting thing here is the “Part 2” is unquestionably the weaker episode, but in what position is it the least weak? The Office is a show with a fairly impatient fanbase, and I think that “Part 2” likely played better as a weak second-half here than it would have next week, a slight blight on an otherwise well-executed storyline rather than another weak episode in an average season.

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Community – “Physical Education”

“Physical Education”

March 4th, 2010

This is going to sound like an insult, but every now and then my reviews of Community might as well be like a focus group response from small children. Every sentence would start with “I like the part where…” or  end up devolving down to “It was funny when the _____ did that thing with the _____,” and that’s probably not all that fun to read.

However, it really does reflect my love for this show: while I might be able to analyze individual plots, I’m rarely that concerned about particular plots, as in I don’t learn what an episode is about ahead of time and fear that things might go off the rails. I have an inordinate amount of confidence in the show’s ability to turn just about anything into comedy, a confidence justified this week as Dan Harmon turned his own personal shame and billiards dress code into top-notch comedy.

And so some part of me truly would be entirely content to respond, in my best impression of a five-year old, that “I liked everything” and grin wildly while shifting awkwardly in my seat. However, since I was probably already long-winded and overly analytical at the age of five, let’s stick with some more detailed thoughts after the break.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Old King Clancy”

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“Old King Clancy”

March 23rd, 2009

As a Canadian, I’m kind of madly in love with the pastiche rendition of Canada that How I Met Your Mother has been propagating, in particular this season: between “Little Minnesota” and “Old King Clancy,” Canada has become something entirely unrealistic but, through the show’s sheer exuberance, a fairly powerful force within the show’s universe. When Barney, towards the end of this week’s episode, curses Canada for ruining what should have been a momentous story by making it as obscure and Canadian as possible, we fundamentally disagree: for us, it only makes it funnier.

That part of “Old King Clancy,” ostensibly the B-Story, was definitely its strongest, especially when combined with the latest viral website that the show has so wonderfully put together: CanadianSexActs.org. The rest of it wasn’t particularly inspired, but the show used its jokes to good effect, throwing enough of the show’s hallmarks into the equation that it never felt like a simple sitcom story, always maintaining something that makes the show distinct. The show was essentially doing its “economic downturn” storyline with this one, but it always felt like they were doing it in a way that only this show would do, and showing it to us in the most narratively interesting fashion.

Of course, considering that the Halifax Fudge Badger made it into the list of Canadian Sex Acts (I’m from outside of Halifax), I was going to love this episode regardless.

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Battlestar Galactica – “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

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“Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

March 6th, 2009

“You know sometimes I wonder what “home” is. Is it an actual place? Or is it some kind of longing for something, some kind of connection?”

The entirety of Battlestar Galactica has been about a search for a new home. From the end of the miniseries, when Commander William Adama told everyone that they had a map to a new home called Earth, there was always a preoccupation with finding someplace to settle, someplace to rebuild what they had before, somewhere to plant the roots that had been so violently uprooted by the Cylon attack. But from the very first moments of ’33,’ it became very clear that this wasn’t going to be a simple journey, and at every point where they felt like they had found home (In season 2’s visit to Kobol, appropriately titled “Home,” or on New Caprica at the start of Season 3) it was taken away from them by some cruel reality from their past.

But every character on the show has nonetheless remained buoyed by something, some sort of vision or location which connects them to something imaginary yet more real than anything they were experiencing. It’s almost a metaphor for the show itself: even with all of its spaceships and explosions and epic battles, the show has found grounding in human emotions and human relationships in the same way that its characters, faced with the surreality of their years of struggle, return to that which offers the most peace with themselves. We saw our first direct example of this last week, wherein Boomer had actually built a home for her and Tyrol that, when she was sad, she would go to in order to get away from it all.

Moving this into the realm of Cylon projection is reflective in the fact that the search for a home has become even more complicated when you include the Cylon side of this equation – they too had their initial home destroyed by some unknown force, and were forced into a bitter search for purpose. And they too thought they had found the answers, whether it was the Colony revealed in this episode (where the Final Five built the Other Eight Models) or Caprica and Boomer’s plan to settle the Cylons on New Caprica with humanity. But for whatever reason, fate and destiny never led them to the point where either Cylons or humans were able to find a home that was their own, that brought them not just complicated questions or theories but rather something approaching the peace that only the imagination could create.

While the second half of this season has had a number of episodes which serve as a clearing of the air in an effort to make distinct the themes the show is looking to delve into in the two-part finale to come in the weeks ahead, this one is the one that is most broad-reaching: whether it is Adama’s realization that his search for Home never really even started, or how the principles of fatherhood drive both Helo and Tigh into very different perspectives of what makes a place or home, or how Laura Roslin has always held onto her own dream-like projection, or eventually how someone like Kara Thrace acknowledges that she’ll never quite be home until she accepts just who she is. The only thing that ties everything together is that, for all but one of them, none of their conceptions of “home” have anything to do with Caprica and its ruins, Kobol and its gods, or even Earth and its destruction.

They’ve been “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” since the attack began, but the island meant something different to every single one of them; the problem has not been that their actual location or condition have been wrong, but rather that the various different secondary realities have been in conflict. Now, as we move closer to our conclusion, the people aboard Galactica are starting to rise to the occasion, finding in themselves not just their place of peace but also the self-awareness necessary to either let go of their inhibitions or accept that their vision of home might not be what they’ve been searching for all along.

And the result is an emotionally powerful penultimate episode of a series that, having always been about a search for home, has at the very least found itself one in the annals of television history.

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Season Finale: Privileged – “All About a Brand New You!”

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“All About a Brand New You!”

February 24th, 2009

Falling out of love with Privileged was something that I did not do with a light heart. When the season started, the show felt like it had something most pilots didn’t, an X factor of sorts which made it worth spending time with due to its status as a teen show with heart and, more importantly, some intelligence. And the thing is that these two things haven’t fundamentally disappeared, per se, in the time since I last wrote about the show, but something of that initial spark is missing.

“All About a Brand New You!” feels like the show’s attempt at a return to form, and in terms of some of its characters it is a very successful investigation into individualism, placing Rose and Sage as equivalent to Ibsen’s Nora from A Doll’s House. But while the episode uses a large, showy event in order to showcase these changes, and gives both sisters a sense of independence and control over their destinies that serve their characters well, our heroine Megan is more or less hung out to dry with a sadsack relationship that holds no interest and, upon its end in the episode, no real dramatic weight. When the episode ends with a cliffhanger about the state of that relationship, one comes to two conclusions: that the show is awfully presumptive to end with a cliffhanger considering its uncertain future but that, even if it gets that chance to come back (my fingers do remain crossed) I don’t particularly feel like its resolution is going to change my views on the show’s romantic center.

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