Tag Archives: Episode Ten

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: 30 Rock – “Episode 210”

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“Episode 210”

Season Two, Episode Ten

Airdate: January 10th, 2008

I love 30 Rock: it’s a smart, intelligent and funny show that has emerged as a tremendous showcase for Tina Fey’s talent. And if this were a 2007 list, I could have told you exactly the episode that would make it into this time capsule, as “Rosemary’s Baby” is still perhaps the series high point for me (with “Hard Ball” neck and neck). But there is something about the 2008 episodes that has made this decision inexplicably hard.

This won’t stop me from attempting to explicate it, however – I think my problem is actually quite simple. While the show’s post-strike second season episodes were smart, featuring some great overall work for especially Tina Fey, none of them felt consistent. I thought that Fey had a great backend (wow, what sounded dirty), but Alec Baldwin wasn’t given much to work with. Similarly, the great guest appearance by Dean Winters as Dennis in “Subway Hero” coincided with the pointless but shockingly Emmy-winning glorified cameo from Tim Conway. And the third season is still climbing its way out of some early stuntcasting to shape its own identity – any judgments seem premature.

So, while I appreciate the thematic wonder of “Succession,” and still find Fey’s eating in “Sandwich Day” to be hysterical, I find myself gravitating to an episode that for all intensive purposes should have no business being here: completed while the Writers’ Strike was on, the episode was rushed to production to the point where Fey and Co. never even got to write a proper title.

Strangely, what emerged was shockingly funny, especially Liz’s epic battle against the Co-op board. It was one of those moments where Liz Lemon was let loose in the real world, and the result was a sequences that has made me highly conscious of drinking around telephones and has given me a lifelong goal of someday both running on a treadmill with a glass of wine and buying a Black apartment.

And while the rest of the episode isn’t that much more consistent than some of the other possible selections, something about it just kind of makes me happy: whether it’s the episode ending musical number, the bittersweet conclusion to what was a strong storyline with Jack and his senatorial lover CiCi (an up to task Edie Falco), or the jittery wonder of Kenneth on caffeine, the episode seems less like a rushed attempt at finishing a pre-strike episode than a controlled chaotic release of hilarity.

Yeah, Alan Sepinwall already beat me to this particular drum in his own year end list, but I think the point needs to be made: a darn good half hour of television is to be found here, nameless as it may be.

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[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Season Finale: Skins – “Everyone”

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“Everyone”

Season Two Finale

This summer, I stopped in to review the first two episodes of Skins, a British series which aired this Fall on BBC America. And then, promptly, I completely abandoned the series – it was not out of lack of interest, but there was something about the show that didn’t particularly make it “appointment viewing.” If I had to put a finger on what it was, it was that the show’s artistic side (unique to the genre) only occasionally felt like it was elevating this material to something beyond the teen cliche. The weird interrelationship between a really interesting visual and cinematic aesthetic and somewhat less interesting long-run storylines kept me from writing about Skins week by week, but when I did eventually finish the first season I had to appreciate it; while the overall arcs never really caught fire, individual episodes (organized to focus on a specific character) were quite strong, and going into its second season the show had a lot of questions to answer.

BBC America finishes airing the show’s first two seasons tonight, and I have to admit that the second season was perhaps better than the first. I have some issues with some of the individual characters not quite getting enough attention (Anwar, although Dev Patel may have been busy preparing for a certain likely Oscar nominated film I reviewed yesterday), getting the wrong kind of attention (Michelle, who just never clicked in either season really), or feeling like the attention they’re given doesn’t really offer us a proper sendoff (Cassie and Syd, in particular). Considering that the show is switching out its characters in favour of an Effy-led ensemble for the third season, the second season finale has a lot to handle, at least related to fixing these types of problems.

But what buoys the season is that it also does a lot of things right. In Chris and Maxxie it finds its characters most concerned for the future, both of whom don’t find it in the traditional school system due to either dreaming bigger (the West End for Maxxie) or getting expelled (Chris’ excursion into the world of real estate). Similarly, the show chooses Jal as the emotional center, the character who has always been perhaps the most logical and as a result both legitimizes Chris and eventually offers the finale’s most pivotal grounding force. And although getting hit by a bus seems a horrible fate for Tony, it in fact creates a far less obnoxious and more human Tony once he comes to terms with his memory loss and develops into someone far more comfortable in this world.

The result is a season, and a finale, that feels like the show was better organized to take advantage of its artistic side, embracing its almost dream-like state more often and with greater success. This isn’t to say that the finale is perfect, or that I think we’re ready to say goodbye to these characters, but I think it does indicate that the show and its formula has plenty of life and could work well transitioning into new characters.

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Fringe – “Safe”

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“Safe”

December 2nd, 2008

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago wherein I talked about the gradual serialization that was causing some viewers of one of the season’s successful demo hits; Fringe may be from J.J. Abrams, but it was taking a lot longer to feel like it was capable of rising to the scale of the shows we most often associate with Abrams (Alias, Lost). I argued at the time that this was part of the appeal, that it was designed (as will be Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse) to appeal to two different sectors of viewers.

Well, I’d tend to argue that between last week’s solid “The Dreamscape” and the quite eventful and entertaining “The Safe,” Fringe has officially entered into the next phase of its serialization. Picking up, really, where “The Equation” left off, this episode felt like vintage Alias. It put together pieces that we didn’t know were pieces, brought various recurring characters into one central location, and revealed that our charisma-less heroine is more central to the series’ biggest questions than we realized.

What we got, finally, is an episode that felt meaningful: where the science was being used not to terrorize but to disrupt, and where both our characters and the conspiracy took on new roles that will lead to a better series once the show returns in January.

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Gossip Girl – “Bonfire of the Vanity”

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“Bonfire of the Vanity”

November 10th, 2009

Gossip Girl is not one for subtlety, nor one for taking their time to get into storylines. Last week, Serena was just discovering that Aaron could be a potential mate of sorts: this week, he’s leading her on romantic trips around the city and making her his muse. Just at the beginning of the season, Jenny Humphrey was a naive young girl looking for her big break, and now she’s an angst-ridden, eyeshadow wearing and hoodie sporting punk.

It feels like these two characters, in particular, are jumping around from story point to story point: Serena has gone from post-Dan sadness to new Dan closeness to post-Dan sadness to anti-Blair bitchiness to suddenly friendly towards Blair to now hunting after Aaron. Jenny, meanwhile, went from unhappy intern to unhappy student to home-schooled young assistant to unappreciated designer to unappreciative rebel to guerilla runaway fashionista to homeless, dressless child (And in between she made out with Nate – Ew.)

And we’re not too far into this the show’s second season, and there’s a long way to go: right now, what Gossip Girl is doing right is those storylines that feel natural, and don’t count those two girls amongst them. In fact, only really Chuck and Blair have maintained something approximating consistency, and the result is the episode’s only positive development. And while I’m glad the show is finding its footing in the ratings, there are points where the guilty pleasure needs to show a bit more pleasure.

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Mad Men – “The Inheritance”

“The Inheritance”

October 5th, 2008

Pete Campbell has inherited a lot of things from his parents, but one of them might well be his fundamental lack of humanity. As he greets his mother before a short meeting, they embrace by touching each other’s faces: not with any sort of kissing motion, but this awkward greeting that’s not a hug but rather just a proximity that seems to indicate that they are happy to see one another. But it is this coldness, that his mother seems to share, which makes Pete so incapable of handling the financial crisis she is in, and the own family drama that plagues his home life.

Betty Draper inherited from her mother her looks but also her fragile nature. She has many of her mother tendencies, and even has a housekeeper who appears to have raised her much as Carla is raising Sally and Bobby for most of the episode. It is these qualities, then, which make her so unable to deal with the reality of her father’s ailing health, and why her family didn’t even tell her about his failing in order to help continue her shield from the cold reality around her.

Whereas Don Draper has spent decades resolving his relationship with his father (although last week indicated he still sees that side of him), the inability to handle what they’ve inherited from a generation past is what holds Pete and Betty back, what keeps them from becoming fully realized members of society. What “The Inheritance” becomes is less a mediation on any pivotal moment in either of their development, but a demonstration over a number of days of their reactions to these ideas being tested, of their innocence or coldness rising in opposition to something that needs to be said or done.

The result is an episode that doesn’t quite hit as hard as the past few episodes on an emotional level, and feels like it doesn’t really add things to our story; that being said, it also feels distinctly like Matthew Weiner and Co. moving pieces around in preparation for something larger.

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Project Runway Season Five – “Episode Ten”

“Welcome to the Real World”

September 17th, 2008

There’s something very scary about the transition between university and the real world – and while I am perhaps not convinced that a total fashion makeover will really alter this difficult period, it’s a start for these young, independent women. Although, considering that their mothers are still dictating what they should look like, I’ll perhaps challenge the “independent” element of that classification.

What we end up with is designers who need to learn some serious lessons about a lot of things, primarily dealing with the question of where to take this challenge: are you making them over for their career? Giving them a high fashion version of their existing style? Or trying to convince them that they REALLY want what you are looking for?

The end result is the usual things which happen when parents and clients who have opinions get involved: some people please their clients and the judges, but most please the clients and leave the judges questioning what, precisely, they were thinking. Of course, the one person who manages to do neither is the one who finds themselves heading home.

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Season Finale: The Mole – “The Mole is Revealed”

“The Mole is Revealed”

August 11th, 2008

While I was without internet for most of yesterday, a frustrating scenario that messed up a lot of things, I was perhaps most upset that I had to miss out on blogging my initial reaction to last night’s Mole finale. I’d call it a cross between entertained and saddened, enjoying the reveal while remaining quite sad that there will likely never be another one like it.

The Mole hit this summer with very little buzz and, for the most part, ratings failure. And yet, for fans of the series, it was right in line: no, Jon Kelley was no Anderson Cooper, and I do kind of miss the old music, but for the most part as a “game” The Mole was right where we wanted it to be. The personalities may have gotten a bit out of hand, but chalk that up to the newfound prevalence of the “Be a Jerk” strategy in reality television as a whole, something that didn’t exist to the same degree in earlier seasons.

And, right in line with those expectations, we have a finale that fits: we have the Mole we suspected, the winner we wanted, and the reunion that feels like these people loved playing the game and loved even more to watch it back on a television and see all of the ridiculous things they said about people. There’s plenty of close calls, plenty of foot-in-mouth behaviour, and little enough drama for this to feel like the celebration it should be.

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