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Parks and Recreation – “Camping”

“Camping”

March 24th, 2011

Let’s get this out of the way, folks – this was an average episode of Parks and Recreation.

This does not mean it was terrible, nor does it mean it did not have its moments. And heck, I would even argue that it was purposefully average, allowing the in-story awkward post-Harvest Festival lull to be reflected by the episode itself in order to transition into the back end of the season.

I like parts of what that transition says, and I very much enjoyed parts of this episode, but I feel we need to be willing to say that this was below the standard that was set this season (even if that doesn’t mean that it was close to being anything beyond a slight disappointment).

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Season Premiere: Glee – “Audition”

“Audition”

September 21st, 2010

I want you to imagine that “Audition” was, in fact, an audition for Glee as a television series: if this were the show’s pilot, what show would you imagine it to be?

The series’ actual pilot, if you remember, tries to capture an emotion: it is about the positivity of Glee club, and the potential for music to unite these social outcasts (and a football player) to achieve something beyond simple anonymity. It was predicated on the idea that one song could pull everything together: Journey was powerful enough to bolster Will’s spirit and calm Finn’s anxieties, and suddenly New Directions was full of hope.

And yet, the Glee club never truly moved up the social ladder, and this sort of romantic ideal of glee club was deconstructed just as quickly as it was constructed. Glee’s first season was spent trying to find new ways to challenge the Glee club, and to be honest they kept returning to the same premise: by placing the club’s finances in peril, the group would need to band together against external threats and thus recreate the final scene of that pilot. Everyone would get together and sing to help Quinn through her pregnancy, or help Will understand what he means to them, or some other holistic function that music could in some fashion solve. Glee was a show about people getting knocked down and immediately getting back up to sing things back to where they were before, a cycle that became dramatically problematic by the time the first part of the season came to an end.

By comparison, “Audition” is not that type of show: the emotion it captures is the discord within the Glee Club family, and it starts with the hopefulness of the ideal before quickly and quite viciously deconstructing any notion that happy days are here again. It is an episode about the impossibility of unity, about how our selfishness keeps the ideal from ever coming to fruition, and is thus an episode that taps into the sadness inherent in Glee’s concept rather than its triumphant musical enlightenment.

In other words, it’s my kind of Glee, which makes it a pretty substantial risk for a second season “Audition.”

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How I Met Your Mother – “The Sexless Innkeeper”

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“The Sexless Innkeeper”

October 12th, 2009

In the season premiere, we essentially got a confirmation that How I Met Your Mother would be dipping into the well of the double date: after struggling for a few seasons to integrate a drama-free Lily and Marshall into the show’s set of couples, they kind of gave up late last season with Hannigan disappearing to have a baby. The result is that, while Barney and Robin are a newer couple and in need of development, it’s perhaps more important that the show use this opportunity to remind us of Lily and Marshall’s value (as a couple, individually isn’t really a question) to the show’s dynamic.

“The Sexless Innkeeper” is simultaneously a justification for why we haven’t seen much of their individual life since they moved into their new apartment and a sign that the show really should have been going out of its way to do so. I don’t think that they should have rushed another couple together, but the addition of a two-couple dynamic lets them play stories that they’ve clearly wanted to dabble in without much of an opportunity. As Ted says at one point, couples need other couples, and Lily and Marshall only needed another couple to bring back what I enjoyed about their characters.

It really only had two jokes, but one was clever and the other was committed to by four really great comic actors and featured a whole lot of HIMYM-style intricacies (like The Best Night Ever.com, another meta-website), so it’s a very enjoyable half-hour of comedy.

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