July 14, 2010 · 2:08 am
July 13th, 2010
I would posit that it is impossible to truly suffer from White Collar withdrawal – while I will not begrudge those who love the series more than I, I don’t think that the show is substantial enough for its overall package to be considered something to which one could become addicted and suffer from symptoms of televisual withdrawl (I am, however, aware that “Matt Bomer withdrawal” is likely a fairly common condition).
However, “Withdrawal” focuses on the parts of the show which I think have it on the verge of becoming an addictive substance, albeit more for those who have a particular appetite for this sort of procedural fare. The series still struggles to pull together its serialized storylines, as the premiere would have been better off without the tease at episode’s end which throw numerous character relationships into peril, but the central case and the way in which it was solved had enough charm to make the episode feel like a more welcome return than I had imagined.
I may not be jumping for joy that it has returned to my television specifically, but I’m pleased that it has returned in a form which makes for some nice summer escapism which is starting to build enough of a history to become something more.
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Filed under White Collar
Tagged as Analysis, Bank Robber, Elizabeth, Episode 1, FBI, Kate, Marsha Thomason, Matt Bomer, Murder, Music Box, Neal Caffrey, Peter, Premiere, Review, Season 2, Season Premiere, Television, The Architect, Tim DeKay, Tim Matheson, TV, USA Network, Withdrawal
June 7, 2010 · 3:12 am
June 6th, 2010
“You are not a murderer – you’re not, and I’m not. It’s as simple as that.”
If I had been drinking something when Walt said the above line, I’m pretty sure I would have done a spit take.
This reaction comes for two different reasons. The first is the idea that Walt is not a murderer, which seems patently false when you consider the numerous people he’s killed (whether it’s not saving Jane or the two men who he killed as a result of the meth lab explosion in the pilot). However, that’s part of Walt’s character, his ability to convince himself that it doesn’t make you a murderer if you kill them for the right reasons, just as it doesn’t make you a criminal if you’re doing it for your family. And so I can understand that this is part of Walt’s self-delusion, and so my spit take is perhaps unwarranted.
However, even if we accept that Walt believes that his past actions do not define him as a murderer, his argument that it is “as simple as that” is laughable to the point of a solid guffaw. Breaking Bad is many things, but simple is not one of them, and while Walt has his delusions he should know by now that things are never quite that simple. It’s one thing to try to justify your behaviour through rationalization, and it is quite another to try to convince yourself that your world of meth cooking, money laundering, revenge seeking and turf wars is in any way simple, or that anyone is capable of maintaining a simple life when you’re caught up in that world.
And yet, in some ways I think “Half Measures” proved my guffaws to be misguided: while Walt’s first claim may remain laughable, his latter claim may not be so farfetched, his desire for simplicity ultimately futile and yet the only way he can think to respond to the complexity of his current situation. The result is a blunt, even simple, action with enormously complex consequences for Walt, Jesse, and the series’ narrative, the exact kind of bold move which has elevated the show to the upper echelon of television drama.
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Filed under Breaking Bad
Tagged as Aaron Paul, AMC, Analysis, Bryan Cranston, Combo, Episode 12, Gus, Half Measures, Hank, Jesse Pinkman, Jonathan Banks, Marie, Mike, Money Laundering, Murder, Review, Season 3, Skyler, Song, Television, Tomas, TV, Walt, Walt Jr., Walter White, Wendy, Windy
May 23, 2010 · 3:16 pm
Plumbing the Depths of Darkness
May 23rd, 2010
You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.
I am at the point in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s run where I’m starting to see the trends forming: when I hear that it’s Buffy’s birthday, for example, I know that things aren’t going to go so well.
However, I’m still capable of being surprised when I’m supposed to be surprised; when the show wants to pull the rug out from under me, chances are I’m still going trip and fall just like everyone did at the end of the last century. Part of Buffy’s appeal is the ability to zig when you expect them to zag, to turn a story from a playful romp into something much darker. What I’m finding really evocative in the third season is the ways in which the darkness seems darker (see: “Consequences”) even as the lighter stories are perhaps the lightest we’ve ever seen them (see: “The Zeppo,” although in a weird sort of way I’ll get into), two things which few shows rarely attempt to do simultaneously.
I think it ultimately works, both because it’s extremely well-executed and (more importantly) because it’s remarkably ballsy.
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Filed under Cultural Catchup Project
Tagged as Alan Finch, Alyson Hannigan, Analysis, Angel, Bad Girls, Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Consequences, Cordelia, Eliza Dushku, Faith, Giles, Helpless, Mr. Trick, Murder, Nicholas Brendon, Review, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Season 3, Television, The Zeppo, TV, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Xander
April 7, 2010 · 2:49 am
April 6th, 2010
It is possible that I’m running out of ways to discuss the quiet confidence of The Good Wife, which has become one of network television’s most consistently entertaining drama series, but let me run this one by you.
“Doubt” is in many ways a concept episode: it takes us into the jury room to witness the post-trial deliberations of 12 men and women, then weaves its way back through the case in a vaguely chronological order that has us guessing at certain bits and pieces of information before they truly arrive.
However, maybe it’s just me, but it didn’t feel like a concept episode. This is not a show defined by its bells and whistles, neither within its premise (which focuses solely on character) or in its general approach to legal proceedings (where each case is handled separately). The show doesn’t do anything to call attention to an “extra-special episode,” but rather drops us into the jury room just as they dropped us into the clerks creating an impromptu court room a few episodes ago.
By balancing the novelty of this shift in format with an episode that relies just as much on serialized character development as it does on the narrative structure, “Doubt” continues a fairly lengthy streak of episodes that demonstrate the sheer potential in this series and its cast.
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Filed under The Good Wife
Tagged as 12 Angry Men, Alicia Florrick, Ballistics, Bianca, Carey, CBS, Christine Baranski, Diane, Doubt, Episode 18, Gary Cole, Josh Charles, Julianna Margulies, Jury, Kalinda, Marlboro Man, Matt Czuchry, Murder, Reasonable Doubt, Season 1, Television, TV, Will
November 13, 2009 · 12:44 am
November 12th, 2009
The best thing about The Office is that its silliest episodes can sometimes be its most effective. An episode like “Cafe Disco” last season was the perfect way to break through the tension of the Michael Scott Paper Company period, devolving into a dance party that helped to bring everyone back together albeit through a less than serious structure. While the show can go off the rails if things become too silly, there is something very honest about situations where the silliness is the result of a human response to a crisis, or to a period of tension. Michael Scott is not the only person in the world who doesn’t like tense situations, although he may be the only one who decides to turn his office into a dance party or, as we see in “Murder,” the scene of a vicious murder.
What makes the episode work is that it continues a couple of ongoing character trends (Jim slowly turning into Michael, Andy’s interest in Erin) in an episode that otherwise devolves into the office’s crazier characters overacting their way through a murder mystery in a box while the rest of the characters contemplate some major financial restructuring. It’s a good introduction to what seems like the next major arc for the series, and I think it’s an effective piece of television comedy in the process.
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Filed under The Office
Tagged as Andy Bernard, Bankruptcy, Dunder Mifflin, Dwight, Ed Helms, Ellie Kemper, Entertainment, Episode 10, Erin, Georgia, Insolvency, Jim, Michael Scott, Murder, Murder Mystery, Pam, Rainn Wilson, Season 6, Steve Carell, Television, TV
October 19, 2009 · 12:43 am
“Dex Takes a Holiday”
October 18th, 2009
After missing one episode while I was in New York, and having another one delayed by a DVR failure, I’ve finally caught up with Dexter’s fourth season. Ultimately, both episodes were an improvement over the premiere, although they suffered from similar problems. The show’s decision to place Dexter into the suburbs and into a family life has made for an odd shift in tone. In some ways, it’s a return to first season storylines, with Harry Morgan recurring to remind Dexter that he’s deranged and that he can’t truly have a family. However, the show spent two seasons largely ignoring that story, and something about the way the show played them in a comic light early on has robbed the show of some of its teeth. Just as we see a legitimately intriguing new serial killer who creeps us out, Dexter’s storylines have felt like bad thrillers (the vandal scenario) by comparison.
What “Dex Takes a Holiday” does better is to marry Dexter’s predicament with less of an awkward identity crisis and more of a profound identity crisis – whereas consequences before have been a teenage girl thinking Dexter is being lame, and for Dexter’s suburban dream to suddenly turn into something less than Cleaver-esque, this week posed a far more extreme question in a direct fashion which lacked in subtlety but connected thematically. The episode had its problems, but by literally shipping off Rita and letting Dexter act burdened by inner emotions and not halogen flood lights it really brings into stark contrast the potential of this character.
The problem is that it required sending the family away, a luxury that not every episode will have, and a factor which even an intriguing twist at episode’s end can’t exactly overcome.
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Filed under Dexter
Tagged as Batista, Christina Cox, Deb, Dex Takes a Holiday, Dexter Morgan, Entertainment, Episode 4, Frank Lundy, John Lithgow, Keith Carradine, LaGuerta, Michael C. Hall, Murder, Rita, Season 4, Shooting, Showtime, Television, Trinity Killer, TV, Vacation Killings, Zoey Kruger
September 1, 2009 · 10:58 am
“All About My Mom”
August 31st, 2009
“Something happens today, something else will happen tomorrow.”
That’s really the motto of this show, isn’t it? Shane, in his numbed and disconnected state, is the poster child for the series, accepting of the idea that if something goes bad today, you might as well just shrug it off and move onto tomorrow, when something similarly terrible is going to happen. Shane got shot, a shot meant for Nancy, but rather than send him into some sort of depressive state it seems like he sees this world (if not reality, which we know has little to no connection to this sensationalist fable of sorts) clearer than he’s ever seen it before.
Whereas Nancy Botwin, she has never seen this world clearly. She is impulsive and in over her head at every turn, making decisions that she knows she will eventually regret but struggling to stop herself, to really right herself on this particular journey. At the end of this, the show’s fifth season, Nancy finds herself surrounded by people who are suddenly seeing the world in a different light. Andy has grown up, purchased a minivan and proposed to Audra. Celia has decided she’s set on doing what Nancy did, and looks to regain power of her drug dealing future. And Shane, young and formerly naive Shane, decides to take matters into his own hands when it matters most.
What separates this finale from every other is that it seems as if the show has accepted its identity: it, like Shane, accepts that something happens today and something else happens tomorrow, and that this season’s cliffhanger will not be the last for the show. While this season has had its quirks, and has been perhaps the most different of any season, where it succeeds is in its clarity: the actions undertaken in the finale are cleaner, more precise, than they’ve ever been before, but with an opportunity for consequences as complicated as the show has ever dealt with.
Which, if not quite what drew me into the show into the first place, at least feels like a consistent and effective dramatic purpose for the aging series.
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Filed under Weeds
Tagged as Adelita, Alanis Morissette, All About My Mom, Andy, Andy Botwin, Audra, Celia Hoades, Cesar, Cliffhanger, Croquet, Dean, Doug, Entertainment, Episode 12, Esteban, Finale, Guillermo, Ignacio, Isabel, Marijuana, Marriage, Murder, Nancy Botwin, Pilar, Sanjay, Season 5, Season Finale, Shane, Shane Botwin, Silas, Swimming Pool, Television, Weeds
June 27, 2009 · 1:24 am
June 26th, 2009
After watching the two-hour event that is the Virtuality pilot, I think I can understand why FOX was resistent to picking the show up to series.
It isn’t that FOX is allergic to science fiction: it goes into next season with the genre’s two biggest television properties, Fringe and Dollhouse, in its lineup. Rather, there’s a particular way that it likes its science fiction, a preference that both Dollhouse and Fringe fit into comfortable. Both shows, although expanding heavily on their serialized elements and genre transmorgifications later in their freshman seasons, started out as genrified takes on the procedural mystery model, combining a high concept with what is arguably a more accesible and thus lower form of weekly episodic television. For FOX executives worried about selling the show to advertisers and viewers alike, it was the ace up their sleeve, the caveat that allowed them to both give the appearance of openness to genre programming and satisfy their desire to eat away at CBS’ dominance in the field.
The reason Virtuality wasn’t ordered to series is because it is one giant, enormous middle finger to such ludicrous practices of watering down science fiction upon its arrival so as to pretend as if the people who don’t like science fiction are going to stick around once things get weird. What makes good science fiction is the balls out willingness to question reality, and to break away from any and all conventions, all qualities that both Fringe and Dollhouse are capable of and yet never got to reach until FOX was satisfied that the show was really just CSI with insane science or The Unit with personality implants. Virtuality, however, wastes no time in crafting a world where nothing where we question everything, and is thus a world that any science fiction fan in their right mind wants to explore further.
All but dead in the water despite the strange lead-up to this airing, Virtuality is a fascinating pilot, a god awful standalone television movie considering how it ends, and, should it truly find itself on the wrong end of FOX’s idiocy, another sign that high science fiction may be a thing of the past on network television.
But, for now, excuse me if I spend a bit of time talking about how awesome it was.
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Filed under Virtuality
Tagged as Adultery, Alice, Battlestar Galactica, Billie, Canceled, Civil War, Clea Duvall, DirecTV, Dr. Meyer, Edge of Never, Entertainment, Eridani, FOX, Frank Pike, Gay, Global Warming, Go or No Go, Headset, James D'arcy, Jimmy, Julius, Kenji, Manny, Mission Control, Module, Murder, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Phaeton, Pickup, Pilot, Premiere, Rape, Reality TV, Review, Rika, Roger, Ronald D. Moore, Sci-Fi, Science Fiction, Series Premiere, Sue, Sunshine, Television, Val, Virtual Reality
May 12, 2008 · 11:10 pm
“Woman on the Verge”
May 12th, 2008
Last week, Serena van der Woodsen revealed something that had the potential to cripple the entire series. “I killed someone” isn’t something that a show can just ignore, or gloss over – or, at least, not quite so quickly that this episode should approach anything close to normalcy. For her to interact with any characters in this situation would drag everything down. Luckily, at this point in the story, only Blair knows the truth, so everyone else can presume that it is only a downward spiral in her usual vein.
It’s a certain tragic note that fits the series well enough, although on occasion Serena’s complicity in continuing the lie of why she fell off the rails, and destroying her relationship with Dan, feels too melodramatic by half. I’m never a fan of characters who, after admitting what happened to one person, ignores the logical course of setting things straight and instead chooses to hide things – it’s a teen soap cliche that just doesn’t work for me.
There’s a lot of chiches at play here, almost too many – whether its Lily’s past with Rufus giving her cold feet, or Dan falling right into Georgina’s arms after the breakup, things are at such a low difficulty level that the execution needs to be excellent for the episode to really click. Even after the truth of the incident comes out, and it is expectedly exonerative of Serena to the point of contrivance, it just feels like the show isn’t willing to pull punches when it counts.
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