Season One, Episode Two
There will be no deep thoughts here, as this episode was very much a transition episode as opposed to anything particularly revealing about characters or “plot,” but I’ve got some time to kill at the end of this shift and figure I’ll drop a few thoughts off – spoilers after the jump.
“Your Target is your Partner’s Face”
February 22nd, 2009
When this, the second episode of The Amazing Race’s fourteenth season, begins, there’s a sequence where the teams all start talking about how much they are inspired by Margie and Luke, the latter of whom is the race’s first deaf contestant. To be honest, I was frustrated with this: not because they’re not inspirational, but that we are capable of discerning for ourselves how impressive his work is: in this episode alone, we see Luke making friends with Jamie and Cara (without his mother being present), and even offering his own individual interviews wherein he questioned his mother’s decision making and gave a glimpse into their team dynamic.
This is how you inspire us with Luke: not by shoving down our throats that he’s overcoming diversity, but showing how he is just another contestant in the end, how despite not being able to take part in tasks that require verbal clues he is an active participant in this race. He’s a heck of a lot more observant than some of the other teams in this leg, as massive errors continue to define the bottom section of the racers, and at this point it’s clear that there isn’t another Nick & Starr in the race: no team looks like it will be devoid of mistakes and drama both, and this could lead to some teams’ undoing.
“Claim to Fame”
February 3rd, 2009
Early in the season’s second episode, Jessica observes that something is beginning to change around these parts: after the first week where everyone was concerned about staying, they enter into one of two modes. They either, like Jessica and a few others, switch from survival mode to awesome mode, or they switch into a mode where all they have is personality-driven drivel. It’s a sad existence for those few, and it is not very surprising that they are amongst those who are almost out the door by episode’s end.
They might be designing a dress for Elisha Cuthbert, but considering that her requests are for a dress for a “night on the town” it’s not like this makes her very special. Instead, it’s a test of the designers’ ability to design a simple dress in a way that isn’t too ugly, and that isn’t too much for them to handle. It isn’t surprising, really, that it is the people who spend more time feuding and ranting during the conception phase are those who can’t put together a dress to save their lives in the end.
But in the end Jessica is right: we don’t get much of a sense of any major design emergences here, instead focusing more on personalities. And considering that they’re dressing a celebrity, I guess it makes sense to focus on some of the people only concerned about trying to become one through the world of reality television.
“Believe in the Stars”
November 6th, 2008
One Word: Oprah.
Okay, two words: Octuples Tennis.
Okay, fine, two more words: Monster Claw.
I could really go on and on with this, folks – what tonight’s 30 Rock lacked in plot development or quiet moments of reflection it gained in sheer insanity, ranging from enormous numbers of social experiments of varying morality to the idea that anyone could watch Boston Legal nine times (I kid, fans of Boston Legal – people should be able to reach ten).
It was an episode that was chock full of the types of witty retorts, slightly askew proverbs, and drug-induced sleep crimes that the show is confident enough to indulge in as it starts its third season. While the aforementioned Oprah Winfrey guest appearance was indeed a central point of the episode, the real standout here was the ability for the show to work around that: the entire episode felt enough that, when Oprah turned out to be not everything she was cracked up to be, it didn’t feel like the show had lost its big ending. Instead, it felt like we were getting something that distinctly belonged to these entirely unhinged characters.
And by showing such unwavering commitment to those principles, it’s hard not to love 30 Rock right now.
October 9th, 2008
Any show in a fifth season needs to be able to do two things: to best utilize its long-standing character relationships, and to integrate new elements into the storyline. What we have in “Business Ethics” is fantastic examples of these two principles, using both our (and Jim’s) extensive knowledge of Dwight’s personality gives us a great opportunity to indulge in one of the show’s best dynamics, and Holly continues to serve as a fantastic introduction to this “family”…or, workplace if you will.
It’s an episode that is all about the small little moments, the pieces of scenes as opposed to any broad setups. What these half-hour episodes do that the hour-longs which started last season didn’t was to really focus on a single event and its impact on the Office. We get a lot of the Office standards (including a seminar in the conference room), but it feels like the right combination of events following the episode’s ethical dilemma – and its a combination of events that make for an extremely memorable episode.
October 8th, 2008
In the prologue to the second episode of Pushing Daisies’ second season, Ned learns a lesson that may be all too self-prophetic for Bryan Fuller’s charming show: that “new beginnings only lead to painful ends.” Considering last week’s alarmingly low ratings numbers, joining Chuck and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles on the lists of shows bouncing back creatively if not in terms of viewership after the writers’ strike cut their seasons short, Pushing Daisies might well be headed for an end that will certainly be painful considering how much I love this show.
But as the episode progresses, what is demonstrates is that new beginnings aren’t nearly as hard as Ned’s initial lesson made it out to be: that striking out on your own, or suddenly being on your own, or hoping for a new period in your life to begin, can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time without having to fall into either category. While it may seem like a show shouldn’t be able to create a common thread for a pie maker who can bring back the dead, an alive again childhood sweetheart, a picture-book making detective, two eccentric Aunts, and an employee who’s at a nunnery, all while also managing to construct an entertaining circus-based murder mystery, Pushing Daisies has proven its mettle.
“Chuck Versus The Seduction”
October 6th, 2008
As mentioned last week for the show’s second season premiere, Chuck is just “on” right now. If there is anything that gave the show some problems in the first season, it was managing to handle all of the different elements of the series: the numerous settings (Buy More, Home, Missions), the various supporting characters, and worse of all the weekly storylines and the recurring plots, both romantic and unromantic.
With “Chuck Versus the Seduction” it becomes clear that the premiere was no fluke: flawlessly introducing a case that dredges up Chuck and Sarah’s relationship as well as the continued growth of Chuck as an actual agent as opposed to just an asset. Even though the show goes so far as to throw around the L-word as it relates to our central relationship, it still feels like a show that is letting things move organically. When a show can trot out John Larroquette and Melinda Clarke in the same episode and still not feel like it’s trying to hard, you have a show that is playing with the right themes at the right time.
In other words, the show is more or less seducing the audience in the same nature as the four-prong attack: as long as it doesn’t become a bastard, the show is on a very strong trajectory.
“Do You Like American Candy?”
October 5th, 2008
The second episode of The Amazing Race is always one of the most awkward: there isn’t yet any really compelling stories yet between teams, within teams, or within the race itself. And yet, unlike the first episode, there isn’t the need for a lot of exposition, so the producers have to hope that in the distance between one spot and another in close proximity the racers fall into every possible cliche.
Well, the producers lucked out: while some of it disheartened me to see, as personal favourites took a turn for the race, everything from airline drama to clue misreading turned up for a leg that, even without anything close to a suspenseful ending, told us a lot of things about these teams, defined some new relationships between them, and even gave us a couple of lessons about Karma. In the end, it’s an entertaining second leg that bodes well for the season ahead, if not quite blowing us away with anything particularly mindblowing.
“The Best Burger in New York”
September 29th, 2008
Flashbacks? Check. HIMYM-specific terminology? Check. Self-created Lore? Check. If you’re looking for an episode of How I Met Your Mother that represents the show’s charms in a single half hour, this is perhaps one of the most pure examples. While it sidelines Barney, perhaps the show’s best character, the show remains an ensemble and Marshall (who gets the most focus) was in dire need of a wakeup call in more ways than one.
The search for the best burger in New York sends Marshall back into his past, but the episode follows just a single night in the lives of our five lead characters. With Regis Philbin weaving in and out of the narrative to mild success, and some really charming cyclical storylines, it feels like (more than last week’s premiere) an episode that fits into the show’s canon with ease, if not with pure triumph.
September 23rd, 2008
The bodies are piling up for Gregory House, but he’s not really worried about whether or not Felicia Day survives through the episode: instead, he’s busy speed dating for a new Wilson. When he lost his three fellows at the end of the third season, it took him a good few episodes before he’s start even a protracted search potential replacement. In this episode, replacing Wilson is more important than life, death, or whatever might come after death.
So, needless to say, House is not in the best position to be figure out what is causing multiple transplant recipients from the same donor to either die or nearly die through a strangely diverse selection of illnesses. Some lungs fail, there’s a heart condition, and the aforementioned internet sensation (and star of Dr. Horrible) Felicia Day as the one who is not displaying quite the same level of symptoms. With such a wide workload, and with his attention elsewhere, House makes a bold move: he hires a private investigator, someone actually trained to break into people’s home and do all of the non-medical thing House usually has his fellows handle.
And while it is decidedly problematic for them to be introducing yet another new character when the show can’t handle Chase and Cameron as it is, Michael Weston’s P.I. is a charming enough character who feeds House’s paranoia while offering enough of an investigation into his relationship with Wilson. Yeah, he’s a bit precocious, but as far as guest characters who might be sticking around a while, I’ll prefer a sarcastic one to one who pops up in midseason as a contrived roadblock for our genius doctor.