July 21st, 2009
In choosing to blog about Warehouse 13 of the past few nights’ television lineups, I don’t want you to think I prefer it to any of them: I quite liked the third episode of Hung, preferred the second episode of Entourage’s sixth season to the premiere, thought last night’s Weeds and Nurse Jackie were decent and laughed a whole lot at tonight’s Better Off Ted. However, none of those things were particularly surprising, and Warehouse 13 is a show still trying to find its legs and thus somewhat more unique in terms of analysis.
While I thought “Resonance” was a really winning turn for the series, “Magnetism” starts to show some holes in the show’s premise. It’s clear why they aired episodes out of order in order to be able to go with the dramatic and compelling story of the world’s most powerful pop song as opposed to, say, an episode about a piece of furniture. In the same vein as the show’s pilot, which dragged in its mystery, this week’s episode has them searching for what’s causing some strange behaviour, a trope that is only as interesting as the behaviour itself considering that the object will remain a MacGuffin.
In the end, I thought “Magnetism” was ultimately quite charming, integrating enough humour into the storyline itself to overcome its seriousness. There’s a serious contrast going on with this show, where some rather broad (but entertaining) comedy emerges in storylines that are actually quite serious in their ramifications. The action demonstrated that the show could become tedious in its procedural plotting, especially if they repeat themselves too often, but the comedy and the relationship between characters was really strong, and inspired me to actually kind of like the episode despite some of my concerns over its tone.
It shows that the show continues to win the war, regardless of the battle at hand, which is a pretty good endorsement at this stage in its run.
November 20th, 2008
Of my three favourite comedies on television at the moment (The Office, How I Met Your Mother are the other two), 30 Rock is there primarily based on its quick wit. There is no other show that throws our rapid fire dialogue at this pace, and the show is at its best when that dialogue meets up with well-conceived storylines that interweave with the best parts of these characters. After the early season plot elements were concluded after the very first episode, 30 Rock has (smartly) spent the following episodes delving into both of these elements in earnest.
The issue is that, in combination, they’ve been relying on guest stars as opposed to their usual supporting players. This was problematic last week, when it felt like Jennifer Aniston was unfairly dominating the half hour (even if she gave a great performance), and it had every concern of being an issue this week considering that the character track for Steve Martin’s Gavin Volure was almost identical.
However, there was something different here: maybe it’s that the storyline did a better job of connecting with Liz’s character, or that the Jack and Kenneth side of the story was so strong, or that the episode just felt more cohesive overall, I just liked “Gavin Volure” a lot better. The episode, despite featuring one of comedy’s biggest legends in a guest role, never felt like something other than a really fun episode of 30 Rock, and that’s something that bodes well for the show’s ability to balance stuntcasting in the future.
October 23rd, 2008
In what is quite definitively the weakest entry yet this season, we discover The Office falling into one of its many potential potholes (having Michael do things that are almost too on-the-nose in the obnoxiousness column) even while we get a decent glimpse at the rest of the supporting cast. There’s some funny gags in “Crime Aid,” including that the event itself is a ridiculous acronym, but it feels as if the actual plot is just a thin construct that sees the show in a holding pattern.
It’s not an awful holding pattern, but it feels as if everyone is in a rut except for Michael and Holly, who become less fun as the episode goes on and it focuses less on them and more on their stereotypical roles in the office. The result is an episode that’s going to be largely forgettable in the big scheme of things, even if we got a couple of strong little moments.
Not quite a total loss of momentum by any means, but definitely a bit of a step back from the great start to the season.
October 22nd, 2008
Well, it’s good to be back. I figured that this week’s FNL episode title was as good an excuse as any to get back in the blogging frame of mind. While my week and a half off has taught me that perhaps I’ll have to cut back on some shows I review, it has also taught me that not talking about them is almost as challenging.
And, really, this week’s episode of Friday Night Lights, airing exclusively on DirecTV’s 101, is the perfect example of both why I blog about television shows in general, and why it would be darn near impossible to not blog about Friday Night Lights ahead of its more accessible airings on NBC starting early next year. When a show is this good, and is coming off of a season that wasn’t this good at all, you have an episode that demands to be written about.
“Hello, Goodbye” is an episode about the small things: the small ways people react, the small ways people make mistakes, and the small ways that decisions are thought out and rationalized without becoming overly complicated or convoluted. In short, it’s an episode about all of what Friday Night Lights such a fascinating investigation of marriage, family, and football in Dillon, Texas, and everything that they failed to do in the show’s second season.
“I Am Become Death”
October 6th, 2008
When “Five Years Gone” debuted last Spring, I was amongst those who were a bit lukewarm on the episode. Sure, it was interesting to see this potential future for our Heroes, but at that point the “here and now” drama of the series was actually quite compelling. Every time since that point, though, the future has been getting more and more attractive: with the future comes a promise of getting away from the doldrums of the present, of the slowly changing landscape actually getting around to changing before we all grow old or, worst of all for NBC, impatient to the point of tuning out.
What “I Am Become Death” does is follow in this same tradition, as Heroes plagiarizes itself in an effort to keep people interested. I would love to report that it doesn’t work at all, but the episode throws enough “Isn’t the future wacky and crazy?!” at the viewer to give them some (likely irrational) hope that the series is heading in some exciting directions. The entire thing plays out as, in combination, Future Peter ushering Present Peter into this new world, and Matt Parkman witnessing the thing while in a hallucinatory state in Africa, and while there are some interesting broad divisions being drawn as related to the key theme it feels like a lot for the future to live up to.
And Heroes isn’t good at living up to its promise.
September 30th, 2008
I was busy finishing off an assignment for Wednesday on Tuesday evening, and as a result delayed the watching of my (ridiculous number) of Tuesday night shows. So while I’ll be covering the rest in a bit of Cultural Catchup likely spread out over the weekend, I believe it is in the best interest of everyone who’s been following Fringe to get their two cents in on the first episode of the series that seems to actually be unquestionably interesting.
Now, I say interesting instead of good because the jury is still out on the latter: the show received its full season order after good stability airing behind House, but the actual trajectory of the series was fairly unclear. But “The Arrival” marks, well, the arrival of some very interesting things that deserve our attention, and I believe the attention of most viewers. Co-written by J.J. Abrams and Jeff Pinkner, Alias alum both, the episode introduced the first signs of a serialized narrative that isn’t entirely related to Massive Dynamic, ended on the show’s most successful cliffhanger yet, and made great strides in making both the series’ male and female leads more interesting characters in terms of their relationship with The Pattern.
In other words, it has taken the series from “Curiousity” to “Compelling” in one fell swoop…for me, at least.
September 28th, 2008
Let’s go through the laundry list of usual complaints labeled at Entourage: episodes are too short, not enough happens in the span of an episode, the show is dangerously cyclical in nature, and its major plot developments can be seen from about a mile away.
Now, as someone who was highly negative about the show’s fourth season for at least some of these reasons, forgive me for not being nearly as negative about the fifth season exhibiting some of the same traits. The difference between “Fire Sale” and some of the episodes I had trouble with last season is that the repetition and cycles were, then, about pointless antics of glorified children prancing around with their petty little lives. Here, meanwhile, the plot is circling around characters without glory, where the feeling of running in place is not just writers’ laziness but an actual reflection of the characters themselves.
Yes, not much happens in the span of the show’s twenty minute run time, but what does happen feels like the show continuing to tread carefully to the series’ grounding in an actor searching for his place in Hollywood. While I might be tiring, as many are, with the writers’ inability to find Drama something interesting to do, watching as E and Vince chart the group’s next path can circle around as long as it wants as long as it keeps Entourage this focused.
September 22nd, 2008
My, what a difference an episode or three can make: at the beginning of the month, I spent an entire blog post drawing comparisons between Gossip Girl and The O.C. as they each handled their seasons easons, but here I am saying that Josh Schwartz finally has two leading ladies capable of dramatic range and, thus, has a far more compelling turn of events to offer viewers.
What “The Ex-Files” does is successfully turn the entire show on its ear: without losing a step, we see the re-emergence of Queen Serena, the return to a damaged Blair Waldorf, and the ever-present evil that is Chuck Bass pulling every string imaginable. Combine with a healthy dose of harsh reality for the Humphrey siblings, and inoffensive plot machinations for Nate and Vanessa, and you have an episode that feels like what Gossip Girl is supposed to be: a decidedly fanged investigation of complex social behaviours within a high school setting.
Or, if you prefer, one big season-long bitch fight.
August 17th, 2008
When Father Gil (Guest star Colin Hanks) stops by to the Olsen household for a dinner party, he is asked to say grace. He gives a short little moment of reflection on the meal in front of them, and Peggy’s Mother commends him on the fine words and asks if he’s going to say grace now. He quickly breaks into the traditional verse.
Roger’s daughter, meanwhile, is engaged. Her mother wants a wedding, a big gala where all of their friends can come and enjoy, but she isn’t on the same page: the young Ms. Sterling does want to feel like she needs to prove her love to anyone in some grand ceremony after only two months of engagement. Eventually, it seems settled: like it or not, a big wedding is simply unavoidable.
We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this: as my brother (who just finished the first season) noted, the 60s is a decade of change and Mad Men is a show about people of an older era. While this is not yet the time when there is an active war between these two generations, the battlegrounds are being drawn: as Don himself says, “We have a lot of bricks, but we don’t know what the building looks like.”
But, slowly but surely, the bricks are falling into place; and over these “Three Sundays,” a lot happens to lay a foundation.
“Summer Olympics Wear”
August 6th, 2008
So…didja hear that the Olympics are coming up? Because I dare say that NBC wants us to know that the Olympics are coming up.
In a grasp at corporate synergy, something they won’t be able to do once the show jumps to Lifetime in the fall, it’s Olympic fever at Project Runway. While this may be thematically strong, it’s a bit of a challenge to take people used to high glamour or cocktail dresses and tasking them with creating something more akin to athletics.
And this group is no different than many others who have failed to grasp tasks that ask them to meld fashion with other interests – when Daniel has never even seen an opening ceremony in his life, is it any surprise that his garment has no relation to it?
In the end, a few designers are up to the challenge, but seeing these people so fully fail at things isn’t quite as entertaining as sometimes the show thinks it is.