“That Girl is Like a Virus”
February 25th, 2010
Well, that’s more pleasant, at least.
Yes, tonight’s episode of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains featured another brutal physical challenge, and there were certainly some ugly moments on both sides of the competition. However, while last week’s episode was dominated by James’ bullying on Stephenie, this week returned the season to where it was in the beginning: even if the game itself isn’t that interested, our pre-existing relationships with the people playing it make challenges more interesting, make humorous facial expressions more recognizable, and turn a potential mediocre game into something that feels more special than it actually is.
Strategically, the game is as predictable as it was for the past few weeks, but there was enough spontaneity on the fringe to keep things fun, which is frankly what All-Star seasons need to do in the earlygoing.
“The One with the Cast of ‘Night Court'”
November 13th, 2008
In a rapid-fire first act, “The One with the Cast of ‘Night Court'” went by an alternate title of “The One with the Hilarious Quips.” Whether it was Tracy noting that Kenneth’s sadness was “like an owl without a graduation cap – heartbreaking,” or Liz’s description of Claire (guest star Jennifer Aniston) as “staunchly in favour of Cocoa Puffs,” the witty vernacular of 30 Rock was in full swing.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t an episode to build around it – while Anniston was game to play a woman who became Jack’s drug, it was a one-dimensional metaphor and character that never went anywhere. While there was some potential in Kenneth’s wacky Night Court reunion, as someone who never watched the show (I’m young, forgive me) it never really clicked as itself an interesting storyline. Plus, they totally wasted an opportunity to make a Werewolf Bahmitzvah joke when they revealed that Jenna had played a shark-jumping werewolf lawyer on the show – that’s just not cool.
So even with all of the myriad of guest stars totally committed to the material, often creating some humour, as an actual episode it fell quite short of the mark.
“Did You Push My Sports Bra Off the Ledge?”
October 12th, 2008
A Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers (I’m with Robin Cherbotsky, Canadian Thanksgiving is totally the “real” thanksgiving), but television does not rest (not that my holiday has been that restful considering my major presentation on Tuesday, but I digress), and The Amazing Race certainly doesn’t rest.
And on its third leg, the thirteenth edition of The Amazing Race has finally hits its first apex of interpersonal conflict, what will henceforth be known as “SportsBraGate” (Props to Daniel Fienberg, of Zap2it, for the phrase). There comes a time in every race where we start to come across events which make us ask questions about the circumstances: is it that these racers are just so justifiably insane that they would do these types of things normally, or is it the Race bringing out the worst in them?
For a few teams this week, this becomes quite a challenge, but for the most part it’s an entertaining one: with an extremely entertaining Roadblock, the dreaded appearance of the clue reading penalty, and the drama of SportsBraGate, it’s clear that The Amazing Race is cycling back around to where we start to identify with the racers, for better or for worse.
“One of Us, One of Them”
September 29th, 2008
Is it wrong that, at the end of the day, I’m so satisfied by an episode of Heroes that doesn’t suck, acting as if it’s as much a triumph as an episode that is extremely good? My standards have certainly fallen for Heroes in the past two seasons, but that doesn’t mean that “One of Us, One of Them” isn’t still a good indicator for the strength of the coming season. There are some elements, including a smart return to the dynamic of the Company’s two-man teams and Hiro and Ando’s comic escapades, which feel like a return to a Heroes that knew what it was doing.
But let’s be frank: the strength of this episode is based on what is missing as opposed to what is really here. It’s an episode that focuses on the most interesting characters (HRG and Sylar), the most well-tested ideas (such as our new Isaac that Parkman met in Africa), and those storylines that could actually improve the show in the future (Claire training to become a hero in her own right). On those fronts, the show is smart: it’s what viewers like, what offers hope for the future, and what doesn’t outright suck.
Really, though, the reason the episode works is that the parts completely dragging the show down (Maya and Mohinder, in particular) are wonderfully absent in this third episode; when the show returns to their characters, something tells me that I won’t be willing to give them a free pass on some of the weaker execution seen in parts of the episode.
“The Ghost Network”
September 23rd, 2008
After last week’s review of Fringe was viewed as quite harsh, I want to clarify one thing: I don’t dislike Fringe. I think that the series is struggling to find its own identity, dealing with a struggle to both represent a procedural drama regarding paranormal activity outside of the norm and some type of mythologically-driven science fiction epic on the scale of Lost.
The biggest problem with the series is that the second half of that is impossible (it will never be that type of show), whereas the first part is what the entire series hinges on. The show can pile up on Massive Dynamic or The Pattern all it darn well pleases, but if its characters and its storylines don’t operate weekly in a way that feels like something different from every other crime procedural on television. Last week’s episode felt like Criminal Minds with crazy science, which isn’t something I want to watch every week.
But this week represents a marked improvement: sure, there was still some rather silly exposition, and it was often handled by too smart by half Peter (Joshua Jackson), and the mystery so cleanly bringing things back to Walter’s research is going to get old quickly, but this is a sharper hour: the “Ghost Network” has broad implications for the Pattern, the show is starting to ask the right questions about Massive Dynamic, and Peter’s slow build into something resembling a character half as interesting as his father is something that the show will need to accomplish to remain strong.
And yet, the real reason that “The Ghost Network” is perhaps Fringe’s best episode yet is simple: it is an episode that feels fun, that is willing to balance out melodrama with levity, and that feels like a show I could actually enjoy without having to accept a thesis that presumes that nobody ever smiles except for the crazy scientist who doesn’t know any better.
“The Dark Night”
September 15th, 2008
If Josh Schwartz lives up to his word, at least according to Maureen Ryan’s twitter from yesterday after her interview with the producer, this may be the last time that Dan and Serena make up and break up. And, if this is true, I am going to be one happy viewer.
I’m not one of those crazy internet posters on the show who has an emotional connection to these characters and their relationship, which is really the problem. Watching The O.C. recently helped point out that the show’s problem in the third season was its inability to separate its slavish attention to the central “fated love” of Ryan and Marissa from the audience’s total disinterest: long before the show itself seemed to realize that nobody thought they should be together, the show was shoving them down our throats and hinging the story’s central drama on their future.
But, Dan and Serena (And Gossip Girl) can’t listen to the crazy fans who treat this series like the girls in the episode treated Gossip Girl: these are supposed to be real people, and they can’t possibly always fall back into the same patterns and cliches. It might seem weird that Blair is the only one making sense about relationships, considering her trajectory in the episode, but if Dan and Serena don’t actually deal with their problems there are serious issues here. Ryan and Marissa went through exactly the same thing at the start of The O.C.’s second season, but it should have ended there: if Dan and Serena can do the same, Josh Schwartz might be able to hold a teen drama together by the end of its second season.
“Let’s Make a Deal”
September 9th, 2008
As last season wound down, I was spending a fair amount of time blogging about ABC Family’s Greek. The show is of a surprising quality considering the network, and at the time the schedule was light on shows and as a result I felt Greek deserved some more coverage. At the same time, though, this is not a show that requires much deep analysis: it may be smarter than your average teen-driven dramedy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t filled to the brim with every cliche you could imagine.
But, I am still really enjoying the show’s second season, especially this week’s episode. The first two segments were as predictable as they come: the drama from Franny and Evan’s new relationship, the further meltdown of Rebecca’s family life, the continued drama surrounding everything Casey touches, etc. This part of the show isn’t bad, but it’s better when there’s elements that are more interesting. Last week, we saw the beginning of this as Rusty’s first individually driven storyline in a while brought the introduction of his RA, Max, and a new chapter for the series.
“Let’s Make a Deal” is really about that chapter, actually expanding on where these characters are going this season versus just paying off their storylines from the finale. Cappie, Evan and Casey represent the three pillars of the series’ drama, and here we get some sense of their individual arcs (even if two of them lean a bit too closely to the other member of the triangle). And there is something interesting to be found in each, something that continues to remind viewers why Greek has an identity that sets it apart from similar series.