Tag Archives: Return

A Plea for Pawnee: The Return of NBC’s Parks and Recreation

A Plea for Pawnee: The Return of Parks and Recreation

January 20th, 2011

Parks and Recreation was my favorite show on television last year.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know this. Despite the series’ absence from NBC’s fall schedule, the series has loomed large in both year-end lists and in week-to-week discussion of every other comedy on television. History will remember Outsourced as the show which bumped Parks and Recreation from the 2010 Fall schedule, if it remembers it at all. Even as Community has put together a string of winning episode  and Cougar Town has gained a certain cult following, Parks and Recreation was hanging around like the ghost of DJ Roomba, replacing the endless loop of the Black Eyed Peas with instantaneous access to the sterling second season on Netflix.

However, let’s get real for a moment. You might not be a regular reader of this blog, and you might not have any idea what a “DJ Roomba” even is. You might be one of those people who watched some of the series’ inconsistent episodes early in its short first season and decided that it wasn’t worth your time. It’s also possible that you just never found the show, limiting your NBC Thursday viewing to The Office and whatever happens to air after The Office. And, who knows, you might have no idea what any of this means, and just got here by randomly searching “Black Eyes Peas instantaneous access.”

Whatever category you fall into, however, you really need to watch Parks and Recreation. It is returning to television as part of an extended NBC comedy block, allowing for a certain degree of promotional attention, and it is finally nestled comfortably behind The Office where it should have been all along. And, as if that weren’t enough, the first six episodes of the third season are enormously confident, delivering big laughs while seamlessly transitioning into a new ongoing story arc. There has never been a better time to watch this show, and that’s saying something considering that there is never a bad time to watch this show.

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Spring Premiere: Glee – “Hell-O”

“Hell-O”

April 13th, 2010

I considering myself an appreciator of Glee, one of the few “deconstruction-focused” critics who has been writing about the show in a dedicated fashion (some weeks, it’s just Todd and I), but I don’t like that being a “fan” has become an all-or-nothing proposal. I can like the show while admitting that it has some pretty considerable flaws, but it seems like FOX’s promotional blitz has very clearly divided those who are chugging the kool-aid and those who are sipping it politely and discussing the sugar to water ratio, and as someone who falls in the latter category I can already sense that this is becoming one of those shows where any sort of indepth, negative review is going to be attacked for “missing the point of the show” and the like from some – but not, of course, all – viewers of the show.

This is unfortunate because I think how Glee tries to accomplish its goals is actually far more interesting than the goals themselves, as the balance between music and dialogue, or comedy and drama, or fantasy and reality all create some very intriguing problems that Ryan Murphy and Co. have to deal with on a weekly basis. That the show isn’t always successful shouldn’t be a surprise considering the volatile elements it chooses to take on each week, and the idea that its can-do spirit or its exuberance can account for its occasional missteps is the sort of romantic notion that only works in the show’s universe, not in ours.

“Hell-O” is a strong season premiere not because of the hype, or because of the musical numbers that the show chooses, but because those musical numbers are very well focused, the introduction of new characters is well-handled, and the thematic parallels are useful enough that the contrivances necessary to create them are forgivable. After a closure-heavy conclusion that wrapped things up too neatly, the show manages to complicate things quite effectively as it prepares for what appears to be a lengthy run – forgive me if I don’t let the show run around the hurdles every week.

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Moving into a Higher Genre Bracket: Consistency and Balance in FOX’s Fringe

Moving into a Higher Genre Bracket

April 1st, 2010

There are some shows that I can honestly say I’ve given up on: I stopped watching shows like Desperate Housewives because it was clearly not going in an interesting direction, and it had long gone past the point where the strength of the performances could carry my attention. However, there are other shows that I stop watching where there isn’t that moment of decision, where I don’t consciously make some sort of decree about it. I didn’t give up on The Mentalist or Grey’s Anatomy so much as I gave up on finding the time to watch them, which is a completely different situation and one that is particularly common on Thursday nights.

And so when I stopped watching Fringe, it wasn’t some sort of judgment on the show’s standalone episodes, or any sort of disappointment with its serialized development. Rather, Thursdays are busy, and the NBC comedy block having become four-strong this year (at least in theory) has made Thursdays busier than ever. Sure, it says something that Fringe was the first show I dropped, but I don’t want to make that out to be some sort of judgment when it wasn’t one.

I’ve spend the past few days catching up on Fringe’s second season, which I dropped after the second episode, and it’s been quite an illuminating experience. When you step away from a show like Fringe for so long, and end up watching it in this sort of condensed fashion, you see a lot of things that you might not have seen before: your perception, in other words, becomes more important (or at least more noteworthy) than reality, fitting considering the role that played in the episodes I had a chance to watch this week.

While some may argue that Fringe is “inconsistent,” I would argue that it is our perception which varies as opposed to the show itself: depending on where we place our expectations, Fringe is either a compelling procedural with a (relatively) complex serialized mythology or a blasé procedural with intermittent signs of serialized intrigue. I don’t think either of these perspectives are wrong, or unfair to the show, but I would argue that it has been pretty consistent in its ambitions in its second season.

And while I don’t necessarily perceive the show as one of television’s finest, I had a lot of “fun” catching up on the show…in fact, I had more fun than I had expected.

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Spring Premiere: V – “Welcome to the War”

“Welcome to the War”

March 30th, 2010

I was tweeting earlier this week, in response to some questions from Chris Becker about why we start or stop watching shows, as it relates to what I’d call “Replacement Theory.” For ABC, they are desperately searching for a show to replace their hit Lost, which is still pulling top notch demo numbers that any network would kill for. And so next year, when Lost will be over and ABC won’t have that viewership, they’re looking for a replacement show, something that will pick up those viewers and keep the momentum going.

However, with FlashForward having bottomed out on Thursday nights, V is the last great hope and ABC knows it: they’re airing it after Lost, they heavily promoted its return (including during nearly every second of tonight’s episode of Lost), and they’re doing everything in their power to sell this show as the future of science fiction at ABC. But, for every advantage there is a disadvantage: no show has ever done well after Lost, that heavy promotion pissed off many Lost viewers angry that it was obscuring the screen, and the network has failed to launch a single science fiction series other than Lost successfully, proving that perhaps science fiction doesn’t actually have a place at the network.

Or perhaps the problem is just that “Replacement Theory” requires a certain degree of separation: V might pale in comparison to Lost now, but perhaps judged on its own merits the show could prove a refuge to fans in the post-Lost era. “Welcome to the War” is unable to live down the problems which plagued the series in its opening four episodes, but Scott Rosenbaum does an admirable job of reminding us that this premise is actually compelling and that there is the potential for its characters to become more interesting as time goes on.

We’re just not quite there yet.

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A True Test of Summer Nostalgia: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (2009)

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A True Test of Summer Nostalgia

August 9th, 2009

The face of the primetime game show in North America was changed forever in the wake of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s premiere in 1999, when Regis Philbin came into people’s homes to give away millions of dollars and celebrate the simplicity of trivia challenges. The show became the very definition of appointment television, as it thrives on the sense that at any moment a contestant could break through that threshold and challenge for the million dollar grand prize. It’s a game of knowledge and strategy, and the sheer tension that it could bring forward is an example of television as its finest…in small doses.

When ABC decided they wanted more of a good thing, the show died: I don’t think that it was an issue of the show become stale so much as it was the overwhelming number of contestants and experiences that couldn’t help but feel repetitive. It was no longer an event, and therefore it was no longer an appointment, and the show’s move into syndication was admitting defeat, acknowledging that the show’s transferrence of traditional daytime game show (Jeopardy, for example) into the primetime sphere had come to an end. And since that point, further efforts to this effect have proven unsuccessful: Deal or No Deal stumbled its way into syndication after the once wildly successful primetime version tumbled aggressively, and FOX’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Don’t Forget the Lyrics have become Friday night fodder rather than Thursday night counterprogramming.

So it is in the midst of a tough time for Primetime game shows that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire makes its return, triumphant or not, to ABC as part of a 10th Anniversary celebration. I went into tonight’s premiere actually kind of intrigued about how I’d respond to this bit of nostalgia from my own childhood (I was, after all, only 13 when the show first premiered stateside). While I haven’t really given the show much thought since it disappeared only a few years after its arrival, I’ve never thought the format was really at fault: if there’s anything Slumdog Millionaire taught me, it’s that the simple human quality that drives the series is compatible with highly dramatic and therefore highly engaging scenarios. So, as someone who appreciates the formula, I was curious to see how changes to the structure of the game and some added celebrity enhancement would combine with a sense of nostalgia and perhaps capture me in its spell yet again.

The verdict? The magic’s gone, but the quickened pace is a step in the right direction.

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The Final 3 Pushing Daisies – “Window Dressed to Kill”

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“Window Dressed to Kill”

Season 2, Episode 11

“The more you face your trauma the more power it has over you.”

I had meant to make a note of the return of Pushing Daisies to readers ahead of time, considering that ABC certainly isn’t promoting their 10pm Saturdays burn-off of the remaining three episodes of the show’s second season, but part of me wasn’t quite looking at this as a real event. I haven’t seen an episode of Pushing Daisies in over five months, and while some got to view the episodes online (their aired in the U.K.), and others got to see them screened during PaleyFest (I was unfortunately at Coachella that day), I’ve been entirely free of the exploits of a certain Pie Maker, the Alive Again Avenger, my favourite private dick and the subject of tonight’s episode, Olive Snook.

I don’t think I realized how much I missed them until I faced that fact tonight, watching a fantastic hour of comic/dramatic television knowing that there are only two hours left to go, and that after that these characters will fundamentally cease to exist outside of a comic book or whatever other form Fuller keeps the series alive in. These characters deserve more than what they received from ABC: the show, canceled in favour of ABC’s plentiful number of midseason replacements (all but one of which failed), was certainly struggling, and wasn’t destined for stardom, but in all of our commotion over Chuck’s fate I think part of me will miss Pushing Daisies’ unique blend of whimsy and mystery more than I would have missed that show.

“Window Dressed to Kill” wasn’t a particularly noteworthy Pushing Daisies episodes outside of its position as one of the “Final 3,” but it so embodied what the show does best that it’s hard not to be overpowered by this desire to write letters, buy pies, and just about anything else you could imagine, even when you know it’s all for nothing. This review, similarly, is positioned as such that it is only a celebration of the episode, knowing that whatever character development I speak of will have only two more episodes to continue, and that whatever stories I think have potential will likely prove unable to reach that stage in their development.

But damnit, I’m going to talk about them anyway.

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Project Runway Canada Season 2 – “Episode Nine”

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“Gimme Shelter”

March 24th, 2009

When three people left in the first episode of the season, this was an inevitability: it was almost required that there would be some kind of twist where people could gain the chance to come back into the season. It was even something they did last season: finalist Marie-Genvieve was eliminated after a particularly erroneous garment, but then returned to end up clearly better than most of her competition.

However, the difference in Season 2 is that, to be entirely frank, there wasn’t anyone who felt like they particularly needed to come back, people who went home for reasons that weren’t quite true. While an argument could be made foy Baylor, that isn’t who the producers brought back as the designers head into this week’s challenge, and it’s really hard to get excited about Jason and Genevieve coming back into the game when the designs they were eliminated on were, well, deserving of elimination.

So while the show is perhaps justified in using this as a big “A-ha” moment, it’s all backwards: rather than people we missed returning to create some sort of karma, it feels like we’re being punked. And, I don’t like being punked, and neither do the designers who get sent home in the wrong fashion.

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