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The Big Bang Theory – “The Wheaton Recurrence”

“The Wheaton Recurrence”

April 12th, 2010

There are two things that the Big Bang Theory isn’t particularly good at, and they include handling serious dramatic situations within its comic tone and the integration of guest stars beyond their initial appearance. The show has always shied away from any sort of realistic emotional tensions in favour of a cheap joke, and characters like Christine Baranski’s Dr. Hofstadter were novel upon their first appearance and felt like a big ol’ sitcom cliche in their next.

“The Wheaton Recurrence” does little to change either of these facts, even if one could argue that there was positive momentum on the emotions front. There’s a difference, ultimately, between actually dealing with emotions and featuring emotions in a major storyline: while this episode forces Penny and Leonard to consider the state of their relationship, it’s something the show should have done a long time ago, and something that we should have seen some evidence of in earlier episodes. Nothing about their revelations feels particularly natural, and the lack of either a rising action or a proper denouement makes any sort of “event” in the episode seems like a wasted opportunity.

Which, I guess, is preferable to a waste of time.

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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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FlashForward – “White to Play”

FlashForwardTitle“White to Play”

October 1st, 2009

At the opening of “White to Play,” we open on a shot of children lying on the playground out cold. We have reason to believe, of course, that this is a flashback to the blackout, until we see Charlie, Mark and Olivia’s daughter, standing. The show wants us to believe that Olivia is unique, or that perhaps she had some other sort of vision, but it turns out that it was the kids playing a game. They were playing “Blackout,” where everyone pretends they were out cold and then wakes up and tells everyone what they saw.

While the initial feeling is that this is a particularly ominous opening, there’s a problem: instead of appearing dichotomous to the show itself, it seems a fitting metaphor. In its second episode, FlashForward largely treats the viewers like children, repeating themes over and over again and actually managing to flash back to a flashback of a flashforward in the process. The investigative process feels like random happenstance, sprinkled with odd comic tangents and explosions in place of plot development, and the show struggles to recapture anything even approaching the tone that made its pilot stand out from the crowd.

There are a lot of interesting questions at play with this premise, and on occasion the show quite intriguingly interacts with some of them, but when it’s not thinking big its conversations turn into microcosms of overall themes, never allowing characters to act human in the process.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Old King Clancy”

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“Old King Clancy”

March 23rd, 2009

As a Canadian, I’m kind of madly in love with the pastiche rendition of Canada that How I Met Your Mother has been propagating, in particular this season: between “Little Minnesota” and “Old King Clancy,” Canada has become something entirely unrealistic but, through the show’s sheer exuberance, a fairly powerful force within the show’s universe. When Barney, towards the end of this week’s episode, curses Canada for ruining what should have been a momentous story by making it as obscure and Canadian as possible, we fundamentally disagree: for us, it only makes it funnier.

That part of “Old King Clancy,” ostensibly the B-Story, was definitely its strongest, especially when combined with the latest viral website that the show has so wonderfully put together: CanadianSexActs.org. The rest of it wasn’t particularly inspired, but the show used its jokes to good effect, throwing enough of the show’s hallmarks into the equation that it never felt like a simple sitcom story, always maintaining something that makes the show distinct. The show was essentially doing its “economic downturn” storyline with this one, but it always felt like they were doing it in a way that only this show would do, and showing it to us in the most narratively interesting fashion.

Of course, considering that the Halifax Fudge Badger made it into the list of Canadian Sex Acts (I’m from outside of Halifax), I was going to love this episode regardless.

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