Tag Archives: Terminator

Community – “Modern Warfare”

“Modern Warfare”

May 6th, 2010

This episode is a triumph, so let me first make a note regarding its tremendous (or, if you prefer for me to actually complete the reference completely, huge) success – the various action movie parodies which run throughout “Modern Warfare” are expertly designed, tremendously directed by Justin Lin, and result in a really funny and successful episode.

However, I am sort of at a loss about what to really say about it, if only because I haven’t seen a lot of the action movies that the show parodied, and the brekaway narrative used by the episode (and most action movies) meant that the number of characters onscreen diminished as the episode went on. While the episode embodied the show’s propensity for pop culture references and for its meta-subversion of sitcom stereotypes, it also disrupted (as we saw in “Contempoary American Poultry”) the show’s traditional character dynamics. With only twenty minutes, the show rushed head first into the central dynamic between Jeff and Britta while largely “writing off” the other characters, which helped get to the various cliches the episode wanted to address but which kept me (who, as with the Goodfellas parody, was sort of left on the outside here) at arm’s length.

It still really freaking cool from my vantage point, but it wasn’t so much a high water mark for the show so much as it was an important test for the series’ future that it passed with flying colours.

Which were, you know, paint balls.

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How I Met Your Mother – “The Stinsons”

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“The Stinsons”

March 2nd, 2009

Listen to any fan of How I Met Your Mother talk about why they think other people should watch the show and, chances are, they are likely going to eventually say something along the lines of “this is not a traditional sitcom.” This is something that causes some people some doubts: the show has a multi-camera format and utilizes a laugh track, looking and sounding like any traditional sitcom they’ve ever seen.

Astute fans, though, will point out the show often evolves beyond its sitcom qualities through the use of things like the manipulation of time, copious amounts of flashbacks, and even the general conceit of this all being one big memory told by Future Ted. The show has a lot of tricks up its sleeve that, often, leave it looking nothing like a sitcom at all. There are other times, though, where these elements aren’t as present, and where anyone spotchecking the series for the first time might leave thinking that this is a funny, but not particularly original, sitcom.

“The Stinsons” is an episode that, if I had to put it into one of these categories based on its basic concept, would be in the latter classification. This is the very definition of a situational comedy: after Barney leaves the bar suspiciously, the rest of the gang follow him to the suburbs where they discover a secret about his life that could forever change the course of their lives…or, more accurately, the course of the following twenty minutes.

But what this extremely odd, but extremely entertaining, half hour does is prove that HIMYM isn’t just capable of fundamentally altering the sitcom DNA to make itself standout: in the development of Barney Stinson as a character, and through Bays/Thomas’ great grasp of the sitcom conventions, they are subversive just in delivering this scenario in the most dysfunctional but hilarious fashion. That the episode actually ends up boiling things down, even in its lunacy, to an important point of character realization is testament to the show’s strength: being awesome.

And that’s the Stinson family motto, after all.

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “What He Beheld”

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“What He Beheld”

Season One, Episode Nine

Airdate: March 3rd, 2008

In the show’s second season, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles emerged as something quite surprising: a competent science fiction drama with a sense of character and a growing identity. So picking an episode to include in the Time Capsule to reflect this feels like it should come from the second half of the year.

But I kept going back to “What He Beheld,” the first season finale that convinced me the show was going to be capable of being something more than just an attempt to capture the franchise’s storylines in a serial dramatic setting.

The series has since gone on to delve into deep psychological issues, both of the humans within the story and the Terminators who coexist with them. But the sequence, set to Johnny Cash, of the various police officers being thrown aside by Cromartie was the one that showed me the show was aiming higher: what could have felt like an attempt at shocking the audience with violence was played entirely artistically. There was no sense that the show was exploiting their deaths, but capturing them in the most artful of ways: we see the pool’s stillness just as a body tears it apart. The apartment building setting isn’t designed for eye candy but the sharp contrast of the mundane living arrangement meeting with the trauma of the action involved.

The show’s second season has built on this development: it was one scene to begin with, but each subsequent episode has built on it. Yes, the show still has its down periods, and every now and then I think that its vague storyline could use some clarity, but Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles is everything Heroes wants to be:  a smart, sophisticated piece of science fiction that might not be Battlestar Galactica but certainly feels like the kind of show that, given time, could prove a worthwhile journey.

Related Posts at Cultural Learnings

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “Self-Made Man”

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“Self-Made Man”

December 1st, 2008

After catching up with last week’s episode of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, I posted on twitter that anyone who was actually interested in science fiction television should be watching this show instead of Heroes (Five episodes behind and feelin’ fine). There are a lot of reasons for this, from the show’s willingness to engage with the human implications of its events to its simultaneous interest in building its characters individually as opposed to en masse as part of broader story arcs. While at times one wishes the show would be less vague in terms of the grand scheme of things, it manages to take that vague setting and find a foundation in the characters and their plight.

At its core, “Self-Made Man” is a procedural mystery: spotting a Terminator model in a photograph from New Year’s Eve 1920, Cameron goes on a journey through the archives in search of a clue to why a Terminator would be sent back to that particular date. But what the Josh Friedman and his staff have been demonstrating all season is that they have a command of this series: even those elements which feel quite simple (in this case, largely inconsequential and without detailed reasoning beyond an episodic context) are executed with such a precise sense of both character and theme that it doesn’t matter when we don’t get the “Why?”

While other shows spend so much time focused on building suspense for that particular question and forget to build characters, Terminator is carving out a niche for itself as the kind of show that uses its characters for more than acting out plots – while it’s still not to the level of some of Lost or BSG, it is nonetheless quality science fiction television at this stage of the game.

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Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today”

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“Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today”

November 10th, 2008

At the end of “Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today,” Sarah Connor says that nothing ever changes: that it is the same thing that drives her every day, and that all of her decisions will continue to revolve around that concern. While I don’t doubt this mother’s dedication to her son’s safety, I feel like this statement paints a picture of this show as something repetitive, something that boils down to an action-packed joy ride of destruction at its best and an elaborate holding pattern at its most languid.

And there have been moments when Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles has felt like both of those things, especially in the early parts of its first season. However, like the first season finale before it, this week’s episode (the eighth of the show’s twenty-two episode season) is an example of the ways in which the show has resisted becoming a pure action series, and how those potentially slow-moving sections have given the show a chance to build characters who believe in things, who have complex emotions, and who can fire off some guns while remaining grounded in some kind of reality.

As this week’s episode weaves in and out of everyone’s stories, there was never once where I questioned whether that character had something to contribute to this story (even if the device seemed unnecessary, gimmicky), and each of them reached an apex of sorts in this episode as it relates to their characters. For a season that has spent considerable time tracing the origins of Skynet through the introduction of Shirley Manson’s Terminator model, it is telling that the most action-packed episode so far is all about people (as sucky as they might be, Riley) – it’s also the best episode of the season so far.

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Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “The Mousetrap”

“The Mousetrap”

September 22nd, 2008

It is clear that my Monday evenings are officially going to become way too busy – here it is Wednesday, and I’m just getting to the week’s episode of Sarah Connor. This is only going to get worse when Chuck returns next week (Although I already downloaded that premiere [available on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon] and will have a review ready ahead of time), so I don’t know if I’ll be blogging Sarah Connor except maybe to drop in some thoughts later in the week about a particularly solid episode.

Which, really, brings me to “The Mousetrap,” an episode that feels (much more than last week’s) like something closer to where the show was at towards the end of last season. This is both good and bad: on the one hand, the show can’t constantly be this action-driven, placing characters in mortal danger and having Garrett Delahunt ever so close to finally killing John Connor, but on the other it results in an episode that moves along at a strong pace. Yes, I still have some issues with Shirley Manson’s inability to act, and I think that they do need to get a bit more natural pace going along, but there’s enough positives here that I have no intentions of stopping watching the show altogether as we dig deeper into the fall season.

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Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “Automatic for the People”

“Automatic for the People”

September 15th, 2008

“That was dangerous. It could upset people.”

This is what Cameron tells John the morning after their season premiere ordeal, a statement that he thinks is about the people he placed into danger directly (Derek and his mother). Cameron corrects him, though, noting that the issue is in the future rather than the present: in other words, John’s future reliance on or relationship with Cameron is clearly a concern for the future.

And this is an episode all about the future, about turning back to a show that is your standard mission-driven action series that uses the various qualities of your main characters. While this is good, as there’s some decent setup for the season ahead here (including a wonderfully contrived plot device), it does seem like a bit of a let down after last week.

When it looked like John was finally going to grow a pair, somehow I didn’t expect him to go all out and…invite a girl over to his house and refuse to make her leave. Oooh, what a badass. In all seriousness, though, it’s a bit of a momentum killer, even if the show still has a good trajectory.

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