“Go Big or Go Home”
January 20th, 2011
According to Leslie Knope, the job of the Parks department of Pawnee is to “make this town fun for the people who live here.” Of course, considering that the Pawnee government was shut down at the conclusion of the series’ second season, this is a more difficult job than it used to be – there’s only one program, and the rest of the department is in “maintenance mode.”
Leslie Knope does not do maintenance. She needs a project, somewhere to channel her earnest energy towards the betterment of her town. Leslie needs a pit to fill, a gazebo to save, or a Freddy Spaghetti concert to rescue from a government collapse. She didn’t marry two gay penguins because she wanted to make a statement, she did it because it would be cute, and because it could be something fun. What the second season of Parks and Recreation established so wonderfully was why Leslie Knope does the things she does, and that it all boils down to making Pawnee a great place to live is what makes her so likeable.
Alan Sepinwall has already written about how the storyline introduced in “Go Big or Go Home” served as a metaphor for the season as a whole, with the Parks department on hiatus much like the show itself, so I want to focus more on how this episode is structured to make this show fun for the people who watch it. Even while being “burdened” with the set up for the Harvest Festival arc, and reestablishing the series’ balance following the arrival of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, “Go Big or Go Home” is unabashedly fun in a way that signals a truly great series that continues to swing the hardest.
May 20th, 2010
When I write about the Thursday comedies, I have to write about them after I finish watching them all, as there’s too many other Thursday programs recording on the common DVR which requires I watch them on a recording device-free television set. This is normally fine, but it seemed especially tough tonight, as every other show has to live up to the level of quality that Parks and Recreation has right now.
The best comedy finales are those which find elements of conflict within elements of stability, emphasizing the reasons that we love watching the show week-after-week and the reasons why it remains lively and eventful enough to keep from becoming too familiar. “Freddy Spaghetti” is the epitome of this type of finale, delivering plenty of evidence which captures the heart and soul of this show while introducing other elements that threaten that stability without necessarily overwhelming the positivity inherent to these characters.
It ends up leaving everything in a state of flux, with very little optimism about the future, and yet the show’s characters still seem so positive about their present situation that you feel like they can rise above any potential challenges. It doesn’t actually bring any of the season’s storylines to a wholly positive conclusion, but it complicates things in such an infectious fashion that it loses none of its momentum, and heads into a (sadly too, too long) hiatus with the best season of comic television we saw this year in its back pocket.
And no seven month break is going to change that fact.
March 17th, 2010
This is the third time that I have written a review wherein I believe myself to be writing about the final episode of Scrubs, which is sort of bizarre when you really sit down and think about it. However, this whole season of Scrubs has been bizarre: just months after the show went out with an emotional final episode (the great “My Finale”), it came back in a form that was sort of like Zombie scrubs: it looked familiar in some ways, as certain characters stuck around to provide continuity and the stories were ripped out of the first few seasons when things were still fairly fresh, but other characters were different, and the shift of first-person focus was enough to throw the show off its axis. Zombie Scrubs, or “Scrubs Med School” if we’re being a little less facetious, was met with fairly tepid responses from fans and viewers in general, being written off as a failure even before it went on a lengthy hiatus leading up to last week’s sudden return.
But while I will agree that there were some execution problems early on that rendered Scrubs Med School a bit of a failure, I think that we need to separate expectation from reality. If you expected this show to continue the Scrubs legacy from Season Eight (which I personally found a substantial improvement on the last few NBC seasons), then you would be disappointed; however, if you expected what Bill Lawrence was interested in creating, a new show featuring familiar characters that dealt with med students and the struggles they face, I would actually suggest that “My Thanks” caps off a pretty successful “first season.”
I don’t think that it’s possible to forget what the show was before, and I don’t think that Lawrence made the right decisions along the way, but I want to see more of the show that “My Thanks” represents, regardless of the Scrubs name and the endless finales that the show has endured over the years. That’s not enough to save the show, perhaps, but I need to at least tip my hat to Lawrence for managing to make this Zombified show work at the end of the day.
“Our Dear Leaders”
January 26th, 2010
J.D. and Turk are not entirely dissimilar characters: they’re best friends, after all, and both have their quirks which make them quite enjoyable to watch in a “look at how immature he can be” sort of way. However, what I always found interesting was how Turk was always capable of better balancing the two: while the show struggled at the start of this season to position J.D. as both a mentor and a source of comedy, Turk has always been taken somewhat more seriously, which meant that he could be a bit more over the top without losing our respect or the respect of his new Med Students.
Ultimately, though, I think “Our Dear Leaders” didn’t entirely work because there is a point the Chief of Surgery needs to have moved beyond these types of stories. While it may be thematically helpful to have all of the stories play into a sense of leadership, to lump Turk in with the med students is problematic in terms of the necessity to exaggerate his character’s response to particular actions. It’s not that Donald Faison is no longer funny, or that there isn’t a story to be told about the fact that he’s too old to be acting like a Med Student, but the story never really gave him much material to work with, and it never quite connected the dots in terms of making this a story about Dr. Turk needing to come to terms with his maturity (instead suggesting he suck it up so the source of his jealousy would keep donating money to the hospital).
It wasn’t a terrible episode, but it seems as if the show still struggles when it tries to straddle these two worlds as opposed to capturing the points at which they interact.
“Our True Lies”
“Lust in Translation”
January 19th, 2010
There really isn’t a whole lot substantial to say about Scrubs and Better Off Ted right now. The two shows are effectively dead in the water, and while this is an unfortunate circumstance it isn’t going to change any time soon. However, the best possible compliment I can pay the shows right now is that when I watch them, I’m not sitting there stewing with rage over their impending doom, and instead I just sit back and enjoy shows that make me laugh.
And so, after the break, don’t expect much in terms of critical commentary: it may not quite be a list of lines I found funny, but that probably wouldn’t be a terrible way to approach the shows (especially Better Off Ted) at this point.
“Our Stuff Gets Real”
January 12th, 2010
I think we might owe Zach Braff an apology, or a qualified one at least.
A lot of us placed the blame of Scrubs’ struggles on the return of obnoxious J.D. in the earlygoing, leading some of us to suggest the show would have been far better off without him, but what we learn in “Our Stuff Gets Real” is that the problem was not so much the presence of J.D. and more the absence of Elliot. The writers’ mistake was not so much having J.D. return but rather taking away the element which grounded him to reality (his pregnant wife): in the context of that relationship, both J.D. and Elliot are able to remain helplessly neurotic without becoming insufferable, and there’s something there which is both poignant and meaningful (if, of course, not nearly as poignant or meaningful as what they left on in Season 8).
The rest of the episode is similarly on point, delivering another strong installment not only based on the return of the most original cast members yet but also by demonstrating some keen awareness of its new characters and their place within both the original cast and the show’s new dynamics. It wasn’t perfect, but the problems seemed dialed down and the positive seemed dialed in, and that’s the right place for the show to be.
December 22nd, 2009
As Scrubs continues into its ninth season, one can’t help but feel as if the greatest mystery is why said season needs to exist.
It’s not that “Our Mysteries” or any other episode of the season thus far is terrible, but rather that what we’re seeing lacks any sort of emotional punch beyond a desperate play at some sort of nostalgia. And unfortunately, that was already the focus of the show’s creative resurgence in its eighth season, which I found myself absent-mindedly revisiting over the weekend. There, the show used a new crop of interns in order to raise questions of maturity and “moving on” in the characters we knew and loved, which was a good strategy for transitioning a character like J.D. from buffoon to father/husband.
However, the problem with the ninth season thus far is that it seems to want to go beyond that, to actually build these med students into characters, and yet the only parts of their stories which are really connected on an emotional level (Scrubs’ strong suit) have more to do with the returning characters than Lucy, Cole, or Drew.
And what that is, precisely, is still a mystery to me.