Monday, May 31, 2010

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 1, Episode 11 “Veterans” (B+)

As if Raylan and Boyd weren’t volatile enough characters, their fathers take it to the extreme. It’s extremely fascinating to see all of the different personalities interact on this show. Art talking to both Boyd and Arlo for the first time is very entertaining, and his parting threat of “we’re taking down the Crowders; you can either go with them or not” was powerful. Helen waiting behind the door with a gun when Bo comes by to see Arlo made that scene fairly disconcerting, and her response of “I should have shot him, or you” after he left was great. Arlo had a good point when he told Bo that the only reason his son comes to Harlan is because of Bo’s son, but I doubt that’s something he’ll soon wish he had said. The notion that Ava might have been involved in running the Crowder protection is quite a twist, but it’s fantastic because it enables Raylan to have to handcuff her to get her to leave with him and then call his ex-wife to take her in for the night and keep her safe. Raylan’s trick of intimidating and then deputizing Dewey Crowe was very creative, and out of everyone Raylan interacts with, Dewey probably provides the most entertainment. Dewey returning to Boyd’s camp, however, was considerably more serious, and shows a side of Boyd that’s truthfully frightening. Raylan pegged it perfectly when he told Art that he’s not sure whether Boyd actually believes what he’s selling, and finding out his true intentions is one of the most intriguing things about this show.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood (Season Finale)

Parenthood: Season 1, Episode 13 “Lost and Found” (B+)

The concluding episode of this first half-season works very well as a finale because it doesn’t feel like things are racing to a halt, and instead everything proceeds along as it should, resulting in a satisfying ending that still allows for new avenues to be explored in future seasons. The most surprising act of courage comes from Crosby, who has matured considerably since the start of the show, as he realizes that he has to be there while Jabar is growing up and move to New York with Jasmine. It was also good to see Crosby get serious and yell at his dad for his lack of action with respect to Camille after they both got drunk together and bonded. Julia chiming in after Zeek refused Timm’s help was another good moment, and I enjoyed catching Joel crack a smile when Zeek started on Timm and his name having too many of a certain letter. Sarah’s efforts to help keep her family together by trying to teach Drew how to play baseball were amusing, and Lauren Graham also managed to achieve dramatic excellence when she yelled at Amber for being selfish and then had to go look for her with Adam. Their search was both powerful and highly enjoyable, especially when Adam went back to close the door on Amber’s ex-boyfriend and his houseguest. Hattie dying her hair black was an interesting move, and I loved the reaction from her parents and from Max – “she looks like a vampire from Twilight!” The reunion and reconciliation between Amber and Hattie with their parents looking on was very moving, and it was great way to leave things. Zeek declaring that he was going to start singing was another high point, as was Crosby’s response to Jabar asking whether they had bagels in New York. It’s been a blast getting to know the Braverman family, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the fall.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Peter Krause & Lauren Graham

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife (Season Finale)

The Good Wife: Season 1, Episode 23 “Running” (B+)

After a lackluster start that didn’t quite entice me, I’m happy to say that this is one show where sticking around and getting to know the characters really made all the difference. For me this season ended on a very high note, ready to launch into a season two where Alicia is once again the good wife standing by her husband as her runs for the office he once held or the bad wife who abandons her husband to let him fend for himself in the election by choosing to have an affair with Will (or at least to contribute to the drama and rumors). That final scene was absolutely terrific, and makes me eagerly await the premiere of season two in the fall. Seeing Will and Alicia laugh and have a ball together was fun, and I liked Alicia’s response to the situation: “I get the romance, show me the plan.” I love all of the other relationships on this show, like Kurt showing Diane the crime scene because he likes her but he’s going to testify for the opposite side, resulting in her butchering him during the deposition. Kalinda’s realization that her cop contact may be corrupt was pretty intense, and I very much enjoyed her flirtation and dynamic with the attorney played by Jill Flint from “Royal Pains.” It was great to see Amy Acker guest-starring, even if she didn’t have much of anything to actually do on screen. Peter’s mother managing to intimidate Eli is quite a feat, and she did a real number on the priest too. I really liked Eli’s statement to Alicia as her phone is ringing: “you’re going to make my life harder.” While I still can’t pinpoint the moment that made me start liking this show, in retrospect it’s been a strong first season and I’m looking forward to season two.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Josh Charles

What I’m Watching: NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 1, Episode 24 “Callen, G” (B+)

As the first season of this show comes to a close, I find myself thinking something that I thought quite a bit toward the beginning of the season: this show is just so exciting. The action scenes are so well done, and having Sam or Callen driving furiously in pursuit of a suspect is never a disappointment. I do love how the whole team directly disobeys Hetty’s order to have Callen taken over the case. Obviously Sam is going to do that, but it’s very enjoyable to see Eric let the phone keep ringing and Nate detail his plan to let Callen observe his information while standing over his shoulder. Callen’s interaction with the woman posing as his sister was certainly a dramatic one, and it’s very interesting to see more of his past, even if not quite every question was answered. The notion that someone was watching Callen all those years is intriguing, and I’m sure that’s something that will endure as a background plotline for seasons to come on this show. This first year of episodes was pretty great, starting out decently with three okay episodes and then staying strong. To me, this is a validation of the procedural, an indicator that even though serialized dramas are very popular today, some shows like this do work where it’s based on a different case every week. What’s needed is a sharp, entertaining cast and a good sense of humor, and this show definitely has that. While I might have considered giving up on this show early on in its run, I’m very happy I stuck with it and I’m looking forward to season two.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Linda Hunt

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 1, Episode 20 “Theatricality” (B+)

I can’t say that I’m a Lady Gaga fan by any stretch of the imagination or even that I’m terribly familiar with her music, but this glee club sure knows how to put on a show. The most commendable success of this episode is making “Poker Face” sound good by leaving it to two actresses with beautiful voices to sing a more melodic version of the song. It’s also nice to give suspected vampire Tina the opportunity to express herself and take on a more prominent role in some of the numbers. More so than any of the previous episodes, the title of this installment really works to fully define everything that happens in the episode, which also provides an impromptu performance by Idina Menzel and a fun scene with Tina threatening Principal Figgins in order to continue to be able to wear her goth getup to school. Finn’s ultimate move to defend Kurt was also a fun gesture that is defined by theatricality. While some may complain that it feels too much like an after-school special explaining why diversity should be accepted, I found that storyline to be more effective than it’s been in the past. Kurt’s dad chewing Finn out for insulting Kurt in his house was a particularly powerful scene, the likes of which haven’t really be seen on this show up until now. I’ve heard from fellow viewers that they were disappointed by the absence of Sue Sylvester in this hour, and while I’d love to see her back next week, I think this one shows that this show is able to go on even without its head cheerleader.

What I’m Watching: NCIS (Season Finale)

NCIS: Season 7, Episode 24 “Rule Fifty-One” (B+)

This season finale once again finds Gibbs in Mexico looking to make contact with his old friend Mike Franks and to come to terms with the murder of his wife and daughter. Fortunately, this is one of his better trips, since he manages to discover that he’s dealing with not one but two children of the man he killed but doesn’t weaken his resolve at all in taunting them to ensure that he has the upper hand. Gibbs’ phone ringing just as Tony and Ziva are tracing a call was quite an intense moment, and the angry yelling between Vance and Gibbs was fantastic (“my life does not revolve around you!”). Vance’s stories about Hollywood Studios, “Casablanca,” and the fateful nod were great, and I like to see the relationship between him and Gibbs, even if it can never be quite as terrific as that between Gibbs and Vance’s predecessor Jenny. The revelation that the impossibly annoying Margaret was the one who stopped the file implicating Gibbs at least does something to validate her as a character, and it was good to see Gibbs refusing to apologize to her because of his preexisting rule. The writing of his 51st rule, “sometimes you’re wrong,” was a poignant way to close out the season. It was also good to see Franks take over for Tony as a tail in Mexico, and to see Ziva receive her citizenship with all of her fellow agents watching. Not so lucky is the elder Gibbs, who will find himself in quite a dangerous position at the start of next season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Sean Murray

What I’m Watching: 24 (Series Finale)

I don’t really know what I was anticipating from the end of this long-running, once-great show. It’s completely lost sight of any sort of legitimacy, and I couldn’t have possibly expected redemption for it in its final hours. What we did get, of course, is two hours that sacrificed a number of lives and body parts for no real reason since the most powerful person in the United States confessed at the last minute anyway. Unlike something like “Lost,” this show doesn’t have hanging mysteries yearning to be answered, and as a result, the finale of just one season can’t wrap up the entire show in the same kind of way. Instead, Jack gets brought back from the edge by those he trusts (despite putting them to sleep via chokehold several moments beforehand) and ends up on the run, with considerably more incriminating and indefensible acts to his name than ever before. That’s hardly new territory for the show, but it might make for a decent premise for a TV movie where Jack gets the chance to be pardoned for all of his crimes. A good TV movie? I doubt that.

This season has pretty much been an inconsolable disaster, starting off at a somewhat okay point with a four-hour opener but immediately deteriorating into a mole-driven, stupidity-fueled exercise in preposterous twists and endless new ways of watching Jack torture people. The most inexcusable of plotlines is that of Dana Walsh, who started out as a pointless distraction comparable to Kim being menaced by a cougar and then somehow became a mole (I’ve written about this too much already, I have nothing more to say on this – go back and read previous episode reviews to remind yourself of why I’m appalled by that twist). Bringing back Logan wasn’t completely necessary, and this again becomes a season where characters that were crucial towards the beginning, like Rob Weiss, have been totally forgotten by season’s end. And don’t even get me started on the worst character ever to (not) appear on this show: the drone.

This final episode did showcase some impressive acting from the likes of Necar Zadegan as Dalia Hassan and Reed Diamond as Jason Pillar, but in both cases, they’re acting well above the material. And the quality of both performances and how hard they’re working make the futility of their existences even sadder. Dalia has to watch her husband get killed and then take over for him, only to find out that both of her fellow peace treaty signers are duplicitous. Jason has it much worse, since he manages to talk down Jack Bauer from shooting him in the head but still loses his ear and ultimately his life due to the cowardly nature of President Logan, who seems just as hell bent on revenge as Jack himself. The failed suicide of Logan and the impending resignation (or something to that effect) of Taylor is going to have such a negative effect on the country, and it’s a pity that Jack couldn’t see that and felt the need to stir up such a fuss. Interesting political commentary, you say? No. Rather, lazy storytelling and a desperate attempt to keep this show alive after eight seasons on the air.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on this show, I’m of the opinion that the first year of this series is probably the best single season of television I’ve ever seen. To me, it wasn’t all about heart-pounding action and Jack torturing people, but instead about interesting characters and great episode-to-episode suspense. This show lost touch with that long ago as it became increasingly popular, and once Logan was revealed to be behind all of the terrorist acts of season five, the show never bounced back from its nadir. Bringing back Tony Almeida, who suffered an onscreen death that cannot be explained away by science, was another sign of the apocalypse. Seasons two, three, and four were all fun in their own respects but couldn’t possibly top season one. I’m preparing a list of the top 24 “24” moments for next week, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that almost half of them are from season one. I’m not suggesting that this show shouldn’t have continued past its first season, but it’s really a good idea to have a legitimate premise for a new day before investing it in its production. And there really was no need for a President of the United States to be involved as a main character after Palmer was out of office. Much as he believe it, Jack isn’t Superman. The President is more important and more powerful.

The one thing I did like about the finale was the ticking out of the clock from three seconds left to zero. While that doesn’t prevent the inevitable TV movie from ever being created, it does seal off the show and say that, in the format that we know, this show is done. At least that’s a relief, and we can rest easy knowing that Jack Bauer’s story has come to a close, at least temporarily. What have I learned from this show? As reader JK knows, I can take comfort in the fact that if I ever get shot, as long as the bullet doesn’t hit any vital organs, I’ll have the stamina and the energy to bite someone’s ear off two minutes later. Thanks for that, 24. What has this show taught you? And what did you think of the finale? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Series finale grade: F
Season grade: F
Season MVP: Anil Kapoor as Omar Hassan
Series grade: C
Series grade (seasons one through four): A-
Series MVP: Kiefer Sutherland
Best season: Season 1
Best episode: “Day One: Midnight-1AM”

Friday, May 28, 2010

What I’m Watching: Chuck (Season Finale)

Chuck: Season 3, Episodes 18 & 19 “Chuck Versus the Subway” & “Chuck Versus the Ring: Part 2” (B+)

I’d like to say first off that I think this season was just as good as season two and I loved every minute of it. Many believe that Chuck and Sarah getting together was a misstep for the show, but I disagree. They haven’t quite figured out how to make it work as a spy couple yet, but watching them try is a blast. And while I don’t really see how Shaw both progressed from superspy for the CIA to Ring Agent and managed to survive getting shot and falling into a river, the execution of these last two episodes made it all worthwhile. Putting all of the characters on the run with no hope (General Beckman=arrested) makes for an exciting two-hour conclusion to the season, when fans can comfortably rest assured that the show will be back for a fourth season in the fall. The integration of Chuck’s dad into these episodes was interesting, and he’s certainly going to have an interesting post-mortem role to play on this show, as will Chuck’s mother (I wonder who will play her?). Positioning the elder Bartowski as the constant reminder to stay safe and out of the line of duty made for an even more tragic situation when he was the one to take the fall and ultimately lose his life because of Chuck’s job. Chuck’s flashes getting more violent also made things considerably more serious, and it didn’t seem like things would turn out too well for our hero for a while there. Fortunately, all three spies being taken into custody by a duplicitous Shaw left three civilians to come rescue them. That’s one of the best things about this show – it knows how to legitimize its supporting characters. After finding out about Chuck’s identity a la Will on “Alias,” Ellie stepped up to the plate and tailed Chuck and crew. The fact that Awesome and Morgan were the ones to come save Chuck, Sarah, and Casey was simply…awesome. Ellie had a good response to the continued secrecy, screaming “what are you two whispering? No more secrets?” She also raised a good point when she noted that it takes just as long to say “I don’t have time to explain” as it does to actually explain. All of the flashbacks to Ellie and Chuck’s childhood were very effective, and this episode really serves as a turning point for the show, thanks to the game-changing revelation at the end of the second episode and the burning down of the Buy More. Learning that Chuck downloaded information when he was just a kid also contributes to the notion, as espoused often by his dad, that he is special. It turns out that watching Shaw’s intersect stand up against Chuck’s wasn’t quite as exciting as it could have been, but that’s partially because Shaw isn’t a lasting part of this show – Chuck is. It was great to have him and Kristin Kreuk around this year, representing their Superman-starring origins, but the show will live on well after they’re forgotten. It’s been a great year, and I can’t wait for even more of this show and to see where it will go next this fall.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Brandon Routh as Shaw

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 1, Episode 7 “Smoke My Peace Pipe” (B+)

All of this show’s threads are really coming into their own as characters are firmly established and their attitudes towards New Orleans are made even clearer than before. The most powerful of this episode’s arcs is that of Albert, who organizes a group to move into the housing units closed by New Orleans, determined to take a stand. His conversation with the police sergeant sent to talk to him was great, and it was sad to see him get brutally taken into the custody by the police after he refused to leave. The discovery that David Brooks has been dead the whole time was equally devastating, and it was hard to watch Ladonna have to put on a happy face in front of her mother and tell her that she hadn’t found anything out about him yet. Annie having trouble playing while trying to find a new gig is another difficult yet worthwhile storyline that is being explored, adding depth to the otherwise one-note street performer plotline. It’s not all depressing, however, since Antoine seems to be doing well, playing at the airport and helping to provide a dying man with some music in the hospital. Creighton being back in the classroom is a very welcome thing, and it’s entertaining to see him wearing sneakers and having his students love him. Unsurprisingly, his attempts to write his book just deteriorate into snapping at his wife and making another video. Davis’ campaign may be short-lived, but it’s good to have him step in and help Janette bounce back from having to close her restaurant. I really like their relationship, and it’s good to see her getting back on her feet with help from a true friend with or without friends.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 3, Episode 10 “Fly” (B)

This isn’t a bad episode by any means, but it feels like a bit of a wasted hour in the midst of such an excellent and fascinating season. So many intriguing threads are going, and this episode presents more of a metaphor than a plot progression (also an occasional issue on this season of “Lost”). Walt staying up for over twenty-four hours straight trying to kill a fly sure feels like an externalization of the anguish and hardship he’s experienced in his efforts to provide for his family and deal with his disease. Still, his time spent in lockdown trying to extinguish the contaminant does elicit some interesting discussion between him and Jesse. His speech about how there should be a succinct way to explain and rationalize to his family why he did what he did was particularly moving. I got very nervous while he was talking about how he ran into Jane’s father at a bar and then later brought Jane back up while Jesse was on the ladder. Jesse raised a scary possibility when he suggested that Walt’s cancer could be causing him to lose touch with reality, and I was worried that Walt would spill the beans about his role in Jane’s death, especially when Jesse said to him directly “it wasn’t your fault.” It’s fun to see how Walt and Jesse switch roles in the lab, with Walt giving up just as Jesse starts trying and falling asleep by the time Jesse actually kills the fly. The final parking lot interaction where Walt says that he won’t be able to protect Jesse if he’s skimming off the top was capped by an equally intense and serious response from Jesse: “who’s asking you too?”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What I’m Watching: Lost (Series Finale)

There’s so much to say about the series finale of this show, and the main thing is that the last episode ever doesn’t actually provide answers to more than a couple mysteries, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile to have watched the whole entire show. This two-and-a-half-hour closer is nothing much more than a cool super-sized installment for most of its runtime, and it’s only the last fifteen or so minutes that call into question whether this is a valid resolution for the show. Seeing all of the characters suddenly remember all of their experiences from the island was a wonderfully effective device, and bringing back old faces like Charlie and Shannon was definitely welcome.

What I don’t quite buy as much is the explanation of what the whole flash-sideways universe was. I’m also not certain I fully comprehend it, but that’s another story. Giving Jack the chance to ask someone who wouldn’t lie to him exactly what everything means is something that this show could really have used at the end of every episode, and I’m just not terribly impressed with the answer. There are so many things that don’t seem relevant but were given so much emphasis during the show’s run, including the eternal battle between Jacob and the Man in Black. While it was cool to see Jack and Locke launch at each other atop the rocks, the bad guy went down way too easily and everything was suddenly completely okay. Regarding the post-death reunion at the funeral home, it would seem that only a strong romantic connection serves to bring them back together, therefore excusing the absence of characters like Walt, Michael, Ana-Lucia, and the man who was sitting outside but refused to come in, Ben.

While I don’t necessarily approve of the resolution, I’d like to think that the show meant more than this, and that re-watching the whole thing wouldn’t negate the importance of what happened on the island and seeing everyone in their sideways form actually being happy (relatively). There are so many unanswered questions, but in order to preserve the intriguing factor of this show, maybe they couldn’t be resolved and there has to be some permanent mystery that will exist for years to come as people who have never seen the show dive in for the first time. This is one series where going back and re-watching the entire thing won’t shed any more light on anything since it appears that there were just fantastical elements at work on the island, but the events there did actually transpire, and it’s this new universe introduced in season six that exists more as a purgatory, which many suspected the island was supposed to serve as early on in the show’s run.

This last season was a blast, even if it had a few weak episodes. It certainly wasn’t as good as season one or season five, but watching it each week was a thrill. I’m not sure excitement translates to quality here, but that’s no matter. Finding out about the mythology of the island was interesting, and I think this is where the secret of “Lost” comes in – knowing too much makes it less intriguing. When there’s still some mystery, it’s infinitely more engaging, and while it may be endlessly frustrating, that’s what this show has always been about since its very beginning. Sure, things became considerably more complex as time went on, but I loved the experience of watching season four, five, and six even if some of the episodes proved to be disappointing. “Lost” is the ultimate serialized show, and like any great series, it’s bound not to live up to its potential some of the time.

In summation, I’m not really sure what to make of the finale, but as I go over it in my mind again and again, I think that the last few minutes aren’t so important, and the key takeaway should be what Christian said, that the time spent with these people was the most significant of all of their lives. Technically speaking, I’ve spent more time with these characters than they did with each other, since my entanglement with “Lost” dates back to December 2005, and less time than that (give or take) has actually transpired in the show’s universe. I’m happy to have made that commitment even if the resolution doesn’t leave me satisfied, and I suspect a number of fans are as well. Please share your thoughts on the finale in the comments, and browse through my individual episode reviews of this and past seasons. It’s been a pleasure watching and reviewing this show. Stay tuned for some sort of retrospective on “Lost” coming next week.

Series finale grade (minus last ten minutes): B+
Series finale grade (plus last ten minutes): B-
Season grade: B/B+
Season MVP: Terry O’Quinn
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Michael Emerson
Best season: Season 5
Best episode: “Through the Looking Glass

What I’m Watching: Gravity

Gravity: Season 1, Episode 5 “Love At First Suicide” (B+)

I’m really starting to get into this show. The main thing that’s hooking me is that the characters who hadn’t done much for me to this point are now being given more to do and are really coming into their own as compelling personalities. Seeing a bit more of background group members like Adam and Shawna is one example, but I’m mostly speaking about Robert and his newfound ability to show emotion. Miller calling him up and telling him much too personal information led to Robert commenting on his openness and his suspicion that Miller would tell him these things even if he were the janitor. Robert getting amped up and excitedly boxing in the air when he met Lilly on the street was the most fun, especially given Lilly’s annoyed reaction. Father Anthony having no patience for Robert’s confession was no surprise, but they did share a true moment of comfort when Robert said that he sinned by trying to commit suicide, though it was of course short-lived because the gambling addict had to run to get a ride to the World Series of Poker. Lilly coming clean with Robert and saying that he wished he knew her back then was a really wonderful moment, and I’m loving their relationship, even if one Detective Miller isn’t too pleased. The romance between Adam and Shawna, despite their age difference and the awkwardness with which it began, is actually working quite well, and it was great to see Shawna stick up for Adam when his father referred to his suicide attempt as a “situation.” Their exchange of “be my life coach” / “be my twitician” was truly touching, and I’m looking forward to seeing their romance develop further. While it wasn’t explored in depth here, I enjoyed the quick video of Dogg taunting the guy he beat in the wheelchair race from last episode.

What I’m Watching: Party Down

Party Down: Season 2, Episode 5 “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday” (B+)

Throwing a bash for Steve Guttenberg’s birthday might seem like a recipe for a dull night, especially when the once-popular actor forgot all about the party and didn’t invite any friends. But instead, we get a chance to sit down and get intimate with the Party Down crew when they’re not working (well, with the exception of Ron). It turns out they’re quite an entertaining bunch, mostly behaving as we’d expect, though seeing Henry with his guard down and not being as serious as he’s been lately is a treat. I’ll also posit that Casey in a good mood is just as spectacular as when she’s making fun of Henry or angry about something else. Her efforts to sneak a peek at Henry’s thespian experience were both amusing and heartfelt, and it was simply spectacular to see Henry and Casey actually trying to act. Henry kissing her during their scene and then making out with her again in the hot tub may just have been fleeting moments, but I love where it’s headed. Casey’s delivery of the line “you must miss doing something you’re actually good at” was great, as was Henry’s “you did kind of break my heart.” If this show had any chance at an Emmy nomination (which it doesn’t), I’d highly recommend that both Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott keep this episode in mind. Ron still working the party even though it’s not actually happening was typically peculiar, and his calling his sponsor, played by Brad William Henke (recently seen on “Lost”), for a plumbing problem rather than drinking one was as ridiculous as ever. I’m thrilled to see that Christopher Mintz-Plasse is able to pull off a role just far enough off from his immortal portrayal of McLovin in “Superbad” as Roman’s cocky screenwriter friend Kent, who spouts expressions like “in one ear, out one ear.” Guttenberg’s performance as himself turned out to be a lot of fun, finally enabling the crew to actually put on a performance of the script. I liked seeing Roman and Kent both get scared and nervous when he suggested that and cast the roles, and Kent nodding along to all of the lines as they were stated was funny. Guttenberg quoting himself was also a riot, mostly because a sardonic Casey called it. Lydia still doesn’t have much to do, much like her predecessor Constance, besides spout lines like “I love nautical stories” and display her inability to take social cues, evidenced by her lone friend who doesn’t seem to particularly care for her. Hopefully she’ll have something fun to do soon, but the rest of the cast is doing just fine as is.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock (Season Finale)

30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 22 “I Do Do” (B+)

This somewhat scatterbrained episode ultimately ends up coming together by the end, and I’m heading into the summer with positive feelings towards this show, despite a fairly rocky season. The somewhat random guest appearance by Matt Damon is made worth it by the fact that he loves TGS and the three fabulous lines he delivers: “I’m a doorman…to the sky,” “I’m going to depart…on time,” and “if you walk briskly in a pilot’s uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere.” I can’t imagine that things will work for Liz mostly because Matt Damon likely isn’t joining the cast, but Julianne Moore sure did spend a good amount of time on this show. Avery’s pregnancy marks the second time that Elizabeth Banks has gotten knocked up by the main character of an NBC comedy, and I’m curious to see what kind of role Jack will have in the baby’s birth and future. Jack talking to Paul about loving two women was a good way to make Jenna’s weirdness relevant for once to the story, and it’s a good thing that pilot Carol is such a fan of Jenna’s and wasn’t put off by meeting “one and a half Jenna Moroneys.” Even if Carol doesn’t work out, this may be the last we see of Wesley Snipes (not the only one), who got to add a few good lines of his one before he left, including “why is your face like that” after trying to kiss Liz and comparing her behavior as a fiancée to American tea. Kenneth’s efforts to remain in New York are more distracting than anything, but it is fun to see him try hard to deliver an angry tirade and just compliment everyone he’s mad at instead. As a finale, this is a decent episode but it doesn’t exactly make clear what it’s in store for the characters next season or leave any major cliffhangers open. Still, it’s a funny episode, and caps off an alright season.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Tina Fey

What I’m Watching: The Office (Season Finale)

The Office: Season 6, Episode 26 “Whistleblower” (B+)

This somewhat uneven season of this show is capped by a fun finale which gives most of the supporting characters at least one memorable scene or line and emphasizes what’s best about this show – the characters. This season has been a lot about the storylines and more about Michael than all of the other cubicle dwellers. Its strongest points were the ones that fully utilized the ensemble, like two-parters “The Delivery” and “Niagara.” This season ender saw Michael ultimately come through and protect all of his employees after he found out that Darryl, Pam, and Kelly were all responsible for the printer leak. In the search for the culprit, it was fun to discover Toby’s novel and Ryan’s social networking startup Woof. Andy suggesting that Jim might have done it immediately Jim tries to stick up for him was very funny. Michael looked so scared as he was driving away in the passenger seat of Jo’s car, and I loved her evil laugh when Michael asked if she was going to kill him. It’s good that they are able to connect and help the company out in the long run. It would be great if Holly returned, though I doubt that could really last. The IT guy’s departure was a bit random, but it provided some entertaining revelations akin to Jordan’s tell-all speech at the end of the second season of “Scrubs.” Dwight buying the building seems tangential at best, but maybe that will lead to something next season. We’ll always have the budding romance between Andy and Erin, who sticks up for her man when everyone else interrupts him in the middle of his speech to the camera about being a hero. I also love the little moments, like the expression on Pam’s face when Jo stamps the article right in the middle of her drawing. This season of the show hasn’t really been as bad as it’s been made out to be, especially in its latter half, and I’m hoping that next year can get off to a strong, fresh start.

Season grade: B/B+
Season MVP: Ellie Kemper

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (Season Finale)

Parks and Recreation: Season 2, Episode 24 “Freddy Spaghetti” (B+)

This episode serves as a wonderful way of closing off a spectacular season and paving the way for a new way of doing things next year, presumably continuing to trim the budget and then reestablishing the way the department functions, with both Chris and Ben likely sticking around to see their new plan effectuated. This finale is full of fantastic moments between all of the characters, and I loved them all. Ron defending Leslie’s position when Ben starts talking about firing her was touching, followed by his hilarious fall after he runs to warn Leslie about the auditors coming to break up their concert. Ben paying Freddy Spaghetti more to come back and play at the concert was unexpected and nice, and it was great that Leslie told him to just enjoy providing a service instead of thinking about the next budget cut. Leslie’s attempt to stall was amusing, and I enjoyed the fact that Chris was the only one who clapped his hands when Leslie sang the lyrics. Chris continues to be a great fit for this show, detailing his plan to run to the moon and declaring his intent to ask Ann Perkins (full name every time) out again. I was so excited to see the first admission of chemistry between Andy and April, and then to see April rush to Andy’s side after he ended up in the hospital. It’s a shame that the clueless Andy (“the show must go wrong”) messed it all up by making out with Ann. The most wonderful part of the episode is the bonding between Leslie and Mark, taking us right back to where we were at this time last year. Mark Brandanoquits may be leaving, but at least he and Leslie can still share something. He’s had a good run here, and I think he’s leaving the show in very good hands.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Aubrey Plaza

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I’m Watching: Flash Forward (The Penultimate Episode)

Flash Forward: Season 1, Episode 21 “Countdown” (C+)

For the second-to-last episode of a season, this really isn’t much to write home about. Even if the writers didn’t know that the show wouldn’t live to see a second season, this is really just a waste of an episode. To defend it, it’s much like the recent “Lost” episode “Across the Sea” which spent its entire time underlining one point rather than progressing the story forward. In this case, it’s the notion that the future is inevitable, and it’s the character’s knowledge of what’s to come that makes it so. After Hellinger ominously announce that he’s seen this day more times than he can remember, he tells Mark that he’s going to lose his cool and beat him up, and that’s when things are going to fall apart for Mark. Since Mark thinks he’s going to be able to beat him, he becomes so angry when he’s not able to that he’s blinded by his rage and disappointment that he goes nuts on Hellinger anyway. By the time he’s given the flask by the man who says he saw himself quitting drinking in his flash forward, he’s succumbed to the fact that he can’t possibly do anything to avoid his fate. Sure, some characters aren’t in the right place, like Lloyd, but the general idea is on track. This episode didn’t offer anything new or startling, however, and the only reason to tune in next week is to see how it all plays out. Demetri’s confession to Zoe about sleeping with Janis isn’t terribly interesting since I’ve never found Zoe to be a compelling part of the story, and presumably Demetri still has time to get shot by the time that Zoe is strolling down that beach without him. Let’s hope that next week provides some closure, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family (Season Finale)

Modern Family: Season 1, Episode 24 “Family Portrait” (A-)

What a spectacular season this has been. Though, when asked, I often cite this as my second favorite comedy (behind “Parks and Recreation”), I haven’t given any episode from this show’s debut season a grade lower than a B+. Every episode has been completely on, and I’ve laughed many times throughout each installment. This is a great show that I’m sure will be continue to be great in the future, and its first season sendoff was among the best episodes it’s produced yet. Claire’s desire to put together a perfect family portrait is a fun way to frame it all, and I enjoyed that she tried to fix everything while Haley was the only child of hers nearby. Phil has enough of his own obliviousness to contribute to his follies without having done multiple things wrong, but it’s still entertaining to see him squirm when the Kiss Cam constantly stops on him and Gloria. It’s fun how modernity and technology is incorporated, with all of the Dunphy kids texting each other to inform Phil about exactly what kind of trouble he’s in. Mitchell freaking out about the pigeon was very funny, and Jay yelling at both of his children to tell them exactly why they’re uptight ultimately made for a nice family moment. Luke’s lack of interest in Jay’s stories about his time spent in the 1960s resulted in Jay delighting in making up tall tales, and his wrapping up the whole story by saying that he’s happy about ending up with this sorry bunch was a heartfelt moment, even if Luke didn’t quite appreciate it. This is a wonderful show, and I can’t wait for season two this fall.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Ty Burrell

Pilot Review: The Good Guys

The Good Guys (FOX)
Premiered May 19 at 8pm

The first series of the 2010-2011 season to premiere (even though the season doesn’t officially start for a few weeks) is hardly a hopeful sign of what’s to come. This is a show that, as predicted by the previews, seems like it’s trying to be bad, and trying hard. There are infinite jokes to be made about the show not living up to its title, but I’ll forgo them all in favor of pointing out why the pilot episode was such a miserable experience. There’s an attempt to make the show stylized by accompanying every identifying title card that comes up on screen with the annoying sound of a gunshot, and the story is told out of sequence with multiple flashbacks to “18 hours earlier” in the first episode to clarify some misconception on a given character’s part. Bradley Whitford’s Dan doesn’t like computers and yearns to return to the good old days of the 1980s. That concept feels more than a bit outdated, and Dan incessantly regales his tormented partner with long stories of his adventures with his former partner and tired metaphors about what cops are like. One thing that the series achieves majestically is establishing empathy for Colin Hanks’ Jack, enabling to feel Jack’s pain and want to punch Dan in the face every time he speaks just as much as his partner does. Dan’s occasional accent doesn’t help matters much. The cops shooting with two guns instead of one doesn’t make much sense, and having the two top assassins in the world featured in the first episode begs the question, what’s in store for the rest of this show? There is one good line – “have you ever heard of good cop, sick cop?” – but otherwise this show is chock full of absurdly cartoonish villains and devastatingly bad plotting. The random “special appearance” by Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame is peculiar at best. The lone positive takeaway from the pilot is Jenny Wade (“Reaper,” “The Strip”) as the Assistant D.A. and former girlfriend of Jack. It’s great to have her around, though I’d love to leave her accent behind. Regarding its two protagonists, this show even seems to get a little bored of them by the end of the pilot, when they head off and leave the assassins to shoot themselves, as if the “good guys” don’t even matter anymore. That certainly doesn’t recommend much about these protagonists.

How will it work as a series? There can be many cases, sure, but they’re likely to be just as stupid as this one. Keeping the team relegated to minor crimes should ensure that they’re constantly trying to break free from the boundaries set upon them by their supervising lieutenant, and that shtick will get old pretty quickly. There’s a small enough cast on this show that there isn’t much room for them to move around too much, which might make this feel like far too small a world.
How long will it last? It’s difficult to predict how the summer will treat this show, especially since ABC is premiering a slew of shows to air this summer while only cable networks usually produce new episodes. FOX hasn’t had any trouble letting low-rated shows persist through the summer, like “The Inside” a couple of years ago, but I can’t see this show making it all the way to Friday at 9pm timeslot on FOX’s fall schedule.

Pilot grade: F

Monday, May 24, 2010

What I’m Watching: V (Season Finale)

V: Season 1, Episode 12 “Red Sky” (B+)

Things really do happen quickly on this show. Within the first ten minutes, Ryan is aboard the mother ship and talking face-to-face with Anna, and Erica has a date to head up there herself only hours later. That does aid its pacing considerably, and that’s definitely something positive. To me, the most exciting part of it all is that Anna has no idea that Erica is her worst enemy. Seeing Anna freak out and show human emotion is frightening, and her quick turn to revenge on the human race by destroying the sky was an intense move. Joshua getting caught so easily thank to the idiotic Chad is a real shame, though I’m glad that his plotline isn’t yet finished and we can learn exactly why Marcus brought him back to life and what role Anna’s right-hand man plays in all of this. Kyle’s motives are still unclear, but now it seems that he is a good person and he’s only dealing with the Vs because they have someone close to him. While Chad certainly was wandering around the ship awfully unsupervised, hopefully he can now be a more helpful part of the Fifth Column. Father Jack leaving his pulpit isn’t a problem since he should now be free to preach whatever he likes and amass more followers. That’s what I’m looking forward to in season two: the fortification of the resistance as Anna’s invasion intensifies. If Ryan really has switched sides, however, that’s going to make things even more volatile but hopefully more exciting as well, and with Lisa now on the side of the humans, I can’t wait to see what she does next. Unfortunately this show won’t be back until later in the 2010-2011 season rather than the fall, but when it does, it should be a welcome return. This is one series that started off shaky but ultimately pulled itself together for a strong first season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Laura Vandervoort

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Hammer” (B+)

This show does an excellent job of maintaining its greater storyline regarding Raylan’s career, his romance with Ava, and the tumultuous personality that is Boyd Crowder while still exploring a different, less important case each episode. In this case, Stephen Root’s guest appearance as a despicable judge who isn’t corrupt (as ends up being the case in similar storylines on shows like “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Good Wife”) but rather just eccentric and desperate to cause a ruckus. The judge’s conversations with Raylan were very intriguing and enlightening. The judge telling the waitress that “he’ll have what I’m having or he won’t have anything at all” followed by Raylan’s addition of “and water” was fun. The judge’s explanation that he picked Raylan because he thought he would shoot the man trying to kill him on sight was interesting as well. Seeing a lot more of Boyd is a great thing, and I love the relationship he and Raylan have. That was quite a sermon that Raylan gave at the start of the episode telling Boyd’s flock to turn him in with any evidence that would send him back to jail. Boyd really is a tricky fellow to figure out, spouting lines like “the truth always sounds like lies to a sinner” but still blowing up people just like he used to before he went to prison. His accidental murder of a man will likely plague his conscience, but Raylan will definitely be doing his fair share of bothering Boyd in the meantime. After tackling the preacher played by Doug E. Doug, Raylan became rather frightening when he whispered “you think you’re scared of him – you got no idea what you can expect from me.” His closing assertion that “I’m not that guy” solidifies the idea that he is a good man trying to do the right thing, not just shoot as many people as possible.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 1, Episode 12 “Team Braverman” (B+)

The opening scene showcases quite an eruption of anger between the Braverman cousins, the likes of which we haven’t yet seen on this show. The passion and fury with which Amber and Hattie scream at each other and the mass chaos that ensues between their warring mothers is quite intense and dramatic, and exquisitely played by all parties involved. It’s especially interesting to see how Adam handles all of it, and amusing that Crosby’s first thought is to determine who might be the victor if Kristina and Sarah came to blows. This is an intimate and affecting family drama, and it succeeds marvelously in showcasing these kinds of scenarios. Adam’s efforts to unite Team Braverman are also particularly impressive, and Sarah’s admission of defeat is just as moving. The story arc of the walk for autism that the family is doing even though Max isn’t aware that he’s autistic is very intriguing and well-done. It’s not often we get to see Kristina break down and go talk to the doctor for counsel on how, when, and if to break the news to him. It’s also nice to see Julia make a human connection with another parent, after a receipt ends up in the soup she gave to the woman who got a boob job, ultimately resulting in their legitimate bonding over the breakup of a marriage. Zeek’s reaction to the news that his wife has slept with another man is heart-wrenching, as is Camille’s decisive reply to Julia that she doesn’t anticipate that Zeek will soon move back home. Next week is the season finale of this show, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 1, Episode 22 “Hybristophilia” (A-)

Without question, this is the strongest episode of this show that I’ve seen yet. I didn’t love it from the start but got to like it as it went on, and as the season is close to culmination next week, it’s getting even better. Starting off with a bonding session between Kalinda and an intoxicated Alicia and then moving to major developments in two different cases made for an entirely enthralling installment. Kalinda insisting that Alicia was coming out drinking with her was a fun start, and things got really interesting when Alicia pointedly asked Kalinda if she’s gay. I enjoyed both Kalinda’s defense of her silence and Alicia’s persistence in forcing her to answer the question. That scene was quickly swept aside when Alicia received a serious phone call (and not a booty call) from Will and had to sober up to deal with a case. The return of Dylan Baker as Colin Sweeney was fantastic, and beginning with him handcuffed to a dead body with blood all over him was an intense start. He was still just as good this time as in his first appearance, but this was considerably more serious, and his casual admission to Alicia that he did in fact kill his wife was chilling. Cary bitterly returning to admonish Alicia for pretending to be a nice person and not even being allowed to stay to take his laptop was a fairly powerful scene, but it was nothing compared to the readiness and eagerness with which he accepted Childs’ job offer and opportunity to take Alicia down. I’m thrilled about the addition of Carrie Preston (“True Blood”) as the new, computer-challenged member of the legal team for Peter. She’s immediately memorable for her hilarity in court and just how unfiltered she is, but what I enjoyed most were her interactions with Alan Cumming’s Eli. He was initially annoyed with her, but later her smiles when he realizes how good she is, and they’re both so fun when they get excited together. The big revelation that Kozko is still alive is a huge one, and that’s quite an evil grin on Peter’s face when he hears the news. Ending the episode on Alicia’s handshake with the new clients Peter introduced her to is a great way to send off this episode and get ready for next week’s season finale.

What I’m Watching: NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 1, Episode 23 “Burned” (B+)

I haven’t been paying attention too closely but, with the exception of when Dom got abducted, this may be the first time that an NCIS agent is seen before the opening credits as part of the episode’s crucial case. Learning more about Callen is a welcome thing, even if the notion of finding out what the G stands for is a bit on the hokey side. I much prefer the line “if you ever wanted to find out the truth about yourself, now’s your chance.” It’s nice to see the close and dependable relationship between Callen and Sam, and also a pleasure to see that Hetty is conscious of it and understands it. Sam’s quote – “you once told me that we ain’t working hard enough if no one’s trying to kill us – was a good summary of why this show differs from its predecessor in terms of pacing and excitement (both are good shows, just to be clear). Hetty’s stern command to “turn them off” was a powerful moment, followed by Eric’s ominous announcement: “we are officially offline.” Next week’s first season finale should prove to be both very enlightening and exciting, enabling viewers like us the same chance to get to know Callen as he’ll get to know himself. I’m also hopeful that they’ll be more entertaining banter mixed in, like the back-and-forth between Sam and Kensi about her being picked up in a bar that lasted for a good part of the episode and was fantastically referenced by Callen at the end.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 1, Episode 19 “Dream On” (B+)

An episode directed by Joss Whedon and featuring guest star Neil Patrick Harris is a dream for this show, and fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint. The reunion between the creative minds between “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along” makes for a lot of fun, and Harris’ role as Bryan Ryan proved to be very entertaining. His duet with Matthew Morrison singing “Dream On” was highly enjoyable. This episode also provided a show-stopping performance by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele singing a song together on stage. The theatricality of it all is fantastic, and Artie getting up out of his chair and dancing with the flash mob was great. I’m not sure what kind of impact Rachel finding her mother will have for the show since Jonathan Groff and Idina Menzel can’t stick around forever. What’s more shocking to me is the fact that, according to her birthday, Rachel is supposed to be fifteen years old. Michele is actually twenty-three, and she definitely doesn’t seem like she’s that young. It’s forgivable, however, since she and the entire cast are spectacular and put on enough of a show to make up for their misrepresented ages. It’s ironic that Bryan tells all of the members of the glee club that they’ll never appear on Broadway because most of these actors will very likely make it to Broadway and go on to do great things (some, like Michele, have already starred in Broadway shows). The excitement of seeing “Wicked” star Menzel and Michele perform together is also pretty grand.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What I’m Watching: Lost (The Penultimate Episode)

Lost: Season 6, Episode 16 “What They Died For” (B+)

This is certainly a marked improvement over last week’s tangential episode, but it’s still not nearly as excellent or exciting as it should be. Locke telling Widmore to whisper something to him is an example of killing time that the show doesn’t have – now is when all of the questions need to be answered explicitly and not put off until later. Jacob making himself visible to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer is the opposite of that delayed anticipation, and it’s nice to finally have some things cleared up. I liked Jacob telling Kate that names on the wall of the cave didn’t mean anything and the job was hers if she wanted it. Jack has obviously been Jacob’s successor for a while now, but to have him officially accept it without fully understanding what exactly he’s doing lends itself to the notion that Jacob never quite had a full grasp on what he was supposed to be doing as protector of the island. Widmore being so quickly killed underlines the futility of some of the show’s plotlines and how easily characters can be disposed of without ever having any purpose at all (see: Zoe). Ben’s sharp relapse to cold-blooded killer comes a bit of a shock considering how much he’s seemingly changed this season. It does set up the sideways universe as the opposite of the timeline we’re more familiar with, where everyone is happy instead of alone and in search of something like the candidates, as described by Jacob. I’m loving the way things are going in the sideways universe, with Desmond being completely on his game and Hurley seeming to be aware of what’s going on as well. The cameos by Rousseau and Ana-Lucia were welcome, and it’s nice to see some friendly faces, even if for just a second. I’m still hoping next week is going to be exciting and fulfilling, since there are so many puzzles left unsolved at this point and two and a half hours can’t possibly explain it all. In any case, I’ll certainly be tuning in tomorrow night and I hope you will be too. Check back for a review of the finale later this week and share your thoughts!

What I’m Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 7, Episode 23 “Patriot Down” (B+)

The first and last episodes of each season of this show tend to be the most exciting, and a two-parter is definitely something that heightens it considerably. Gibbs being stranded in Mexico first with a gun pointed at him and then knocked out and in some unknown villain’s custody makes things quite serious, and it’s certainly going to inspire his team to come and rescue him next episode just like they did in the most recent season premiere for Ziva. Before his exodus to Mexico, Gibbs was definitely showing signs of losing his cool, refusing to talk to Abby about his past and flashing back to memories of his murdered family, and then going so far as to smash someone against the glass in the middle of an interrogation. Hopefully he’ll be able to find some closure once he discovers exactly what’s being done to him. Vance interrogating Margaret was especially satisfying considering how bitterly annoying she is. This episode boasted two fun guest stars – Courtney Ford (“Dexter”) in a very subdued role as this episode’s token victim and Richard Burgi (“24,” “Desperate Housewives”) as the cranky, entitled father. I enjoyed the competition between Ziva and Tony regarding their American identity, and Gibbs testing Tony on the eighth letter of the alphabet (which he failed) was great. The most enjoyable and insightful comment in an otherwise starkly serious episode was Ziva’s observation to Tony that Jews and Italians are similar and both cultures turn to eating when they’re in mourning.

What I’m Watching: 24 (The Penultimate Episode)

24: Season 8, Episode 22 “1:00PM-2:00PM” (F)

Well, Jack Bauer has officially gone off his rocker. Watching this episode, it was hard to distinguish exactly how many people he actually killed versus those he merely wounded or gassed, but there definitely isn’t a happy ending in store for him. He has officially murdered government officials in cold blood and a shoot on sight order has been put out on him. Even if Chloe and Cole can work their magic, this man is going to prison for life if he doesn’t get killed first. You do have to give the guy some credit though, since he was able to put together a mission to singlehandedly kidnap a former President of the United States in under twenty minutes. Sadly, his skills won’t help his case in court. Moving on to less violent but infinitely more stupid characters, I really have to hope that Meredith Reed didn’t carry the evidence in her purse and was able to hide it somewhere else. That woman failed so incredibly at achieving her mission, and Jack would have been much better off giving it Jim and having him disseminate it virally, a la “Antitrust.” In the latest preposterous twist, why does the Russian President have to be directly involved in the conspiracy? Worse still, does he really have to admit it on an unsecured line? Don’t these big shots realize that cell phones can be tapped and tracked? Obama wasn’t even allowed to keep his Blackberry, so what are all these heads of state doing carrying around their own cell phones? Well, after next week this will all be over for good. Tune in Monday night from 8pm to 10pm for the final two hours of “24” ever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 3, Episode 17 “Chuck Versus the Living Dead” (B+)

It’s really great that this show can have its guest stars come back so frequently, whether it’s Scott Bakula as the elder Bartowski or Brandon Routh as Shaw, although he likely wasn’t called in for this one since we never saw his face and he’ll probably have to be seen on screen next week. Steve Bartowski is back this time with a vengeance, throwing a knife at Chuck’s face to get him to reveal that he’s still the Intersect and still managing to be much tougher and prepared for things than he appears. I liked his question to Chuck regarding Sarah: “does she have the Intersect too?” The “no, not you, the other Mr. Bartwoski” wasn’t quite a direct reference to “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” it still made me think of it. While it would have been nice to see more of Sarah and Morgan interacting, Sarah giving Chuck her living will and prompting him to start writing her own was pretty fantastic all by itself. Sarah’s comeback of “well, I am a spy” to Chuck was also a lot of fun. The bizarre subplot involving Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike’s secret musician past as Rain wasn’t too much of a distraction, though I much prefer the whole Ellie situation. Awesome talking to Morgan about how amazing he is with Ellie was enjoyable, and Ellie’s delight at being a spy was fun to see. The revelation that Shaw is alive and about to become the Intersect too should make for quite a thrilling season finale next week.

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 1, Episode 6 “Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me” (B+)

It’s interesting to see the intersection of polarized comedic and dramatic plotlines together on one show, and how the show still manages to work quite well. Davis running for City Council is that plot point that should stick out like a sore thumb but manages to work very interestingly here. His campaign strategies definitely make it seem like he doesn’t really know what he’s doing and he’s not taking it seriously, but as he points out, he registered and he’s officially running for office. Creighton represents the voice of reason, angry about how New Orleans shouldn’t be taken as a joke. Creighton as the one level-headed person is quite a thought, but it frames things in a very intriguing way. His annoyance at his book needing to include references to modern New Orleans instead of just the 1927 flood is indicative of how people suddenly care about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when no one seemed to beforehand. The Burnette family dressing up as sperm was a nice light moment akin to Davis’ campaign. Meeting Davis’ family was also an experience. They’re just as crazy as he is, but in a different sense. Toni’s excitement at what she finds in the squad car is a nice moment of victory especially considering all of the effort that she’s put thus far into trying to find David. The dissolution of the relationship between the street performers and the restaurant needing to close temporarily because the employees can’t be paid does serve, however, as a constant reminder that not everything is okay yet in New Orleans.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 3, Episode 9 “Kafkaesque” (B+)

To me, there’s little more fascinating than the opening sequences for this show. This one was considerably less intense than usual, and the montage set to music to explain how the whole operation works proved to be very interesting. It’s not as if this was a light episode, however, since all of the hospital scenes were uber-serious. Walt’s face when Hank said that someone called to warn him said so much, and it was amazing how the camera just stayed zoomed in on his face the whole time Hank was talking. Walt going to Gus was a bold move and made for an incredible scene. It’s very noticeable that Gus always sits at a table so far away from the person he’s talking to, which gives him a sense of power from being so removed. Walt succinctly summed up Gus’ whole operation so brilliantly, and it was only at the end that Walt explicitly stated that he knew that Gus was the man to whom he was referring. It’s scenes like this that win Bryan Cranston Emmys, and I’m counting on him to repeat again this year unless Michael C. Hall can snatch it away. Walt accelerating and trying to get into an accident was a truly breathless scene. Skyler also had some great moments in this episode, asking Walt if they’re safe and then following up to ask him if Walt is safe. Her stepping in to back Marie up when she was yelling at the insurance representative while talking to the doctor was an intriguing scene, but nothing was more powerful than her speech about Walt’s gambling and the way that she told him that she wouldn’t forget that Hank’s condition was likely Walt’s fault. Jesse’s line of “what’s more important than money” was also memorable, as was Saul’s presentation to Jesse about the importance of money laundering, complete with props.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Pacific (Miniseries Finale)

The Pacific: Season 1, Episode 10 “Home” (B+)

The conclusion of this ten-part trip back in time to World War II proves fitting as a sendoff for and final tribute to these characters. Having surrender announced abruptly and skipping directly to all of the marines heading home makes for great drama and an insightful immersion into their lives back home. Leckie’s initial return seems like itw on’t work out too well since he’s told that he should have called first and there’s barely a place for him to sleep. His initiative, however, ends up helping him considerably and he’s able to go back and demand his job as a sports reporter at the newspaper back. Asking Vera out in front of her date was another bold move that paid off as well and enabled him to score a dinner date with her that very night (and a life spent together, as it turns out). It’s also very interesting to learn that Leckie never sent any of his letters because he wasn’t sure he’d make it back. Basilone’s widow coming to visit his family was a particularly moving scene. Her desire to simply give his family a piece of him rather than ask for money was also quite touching. Sledge’s conversation regarding his employment was powerful: “isn’t there anything the Marine Corps taught you?” / “they taught me how to kill Japs – I got pretty damn good at it.” The portrait of the ensuing times of Sledge’s life was an intriguing way to see how he broke down, but I think the way the episode ended was a wise move. Bringing these characters to life by finishing their stories make it an even more intimate experience. Expect this one to collect a bunch of Emmys at the end of August.

Miniseries grade: A-

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives (Season Finale)

Desperate Housewives: Season 6, Episode 23 “I Guess This is Goodbye” (C+)

As has been the case on this show the past few seasons, the finale tends to sweep all of the season-long arcs under the rug and conclude them as if they’d never even happened. In that sense, I’m speaking about Eddie and Angie, who will likely never be seen again. Other resolutions should have occurred long ago, and now invalidate all of the events that happened between when they should have taken place and now. Orson leaving Bree completely negates Karl’s death and all of their struggles, and recalling Juanita Solis is a pretty random reference. Additionally, Bree failed big time in two senses in this episode, firstly, being unable to keep her company and only leaving Sam with the scathing parting line, “please be a dear and close the door on your way out of my life and secondly, Bree not picking up or even being able to see the parallel between Andrew and Orson going to jail. Eddie having to deliver Lynette’s baby was so insanely stupid, and Lynette really isn’t thinking too clearly if she’s giving her newborn baby to a psychopath while she calls the police to turn him in. Susan and Mike bartering for the toy was an unnecessary subplot, and Gaby offering a $12 bribe and then pretending to be Angie was an amusing start to a storyline that got dumb very quickly. Nick falling asleep in the car really blurs the lines between comedy and drama in a bad way. Patrick putting the bomb in the Bolen house was a cool twist, and while it was clever on Angie’s part to put the bomb in the detonator, why does Patrick have no knowledge of how to check a bomb? I’m glad Danny’s gone since he’s one of the dumbest characters this show has ever seen. New character Teresa Pruitt seems like she’s coming from out of nowhere, but I suppose it’s a gimmick to ensure that viewers stay tuned for next season. I don’t see this show recovering too well at this point, but bringing Paul back should hopefully lead to a return to the good old days. Best news ever for next season: fresh off her fantastic role on ABC's canceled "Ugly Betty," Vanessa Williams is joining the cast.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Drea de Matteo

What I’m Watching: Gravity

Gravity: Season 1, Episode 4 “Old People Creep Me Out” (B+)

I’m starting to enjoy this show much more than I had initially thought I would. Its quirkiness is really its best asset, but keeping that peculiarity subdued helps it continue to work. A character whose prominence on the show initially gave me pause has turned out to be one of its most fantastic assets, and that’s Detective Miller. His eagerness to go track down Lilly with Robert (in Robert’s car) and break into his apartment is fun, but what really makes him invaluable to the show is his rather aggressive attempts to deal with evading his tax collection which go from giving the guy a hard time over the phone to threatening him by placing child pornography on his computer. His motives for stalking Lilly still aren’t quite clear, but I’m definitely very intrigued to see what happens next with him. Lilly rolling her eyes when he repeats his line from last episode asking her whether she wants the truth or the lie was great. Lilly and Robert talking really closely but not actually making out further explores their very interesting relationship. It’s also nice to see other members of the group bonding during an impromptu “Harold and Maude” reenactment as well. Carla making a pot brownie pie with the pot that she got from “the nice blacks in Harlem” was great, and I absolutely loved the look on Lilly’s face when she smelled it. I also enjoyed the goth paparazzi mocking Robert after his mother left crying and the sardonic Dogg agreeing to race one of the old people.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What I’m Watching: Party Down

Party Down: Season 2, Episode 4 “James Ellison Funeral” (B+)

Taking a very serious affair like a funeral and turning it upside down by having the crew cater it is a fun idea and it works very well here. I like how all of the team members interacted with people in their own different way. Lydia’s fear of dead bodies sparked an entertaining chain of events, and the best part of it was the attendees’ reactions. The daughter was fantastically angry and on edge, but the widow was even better. Her blasé assumption that the mistress would be an Asian lady was funny, and I love how it was followed by an Asian woman showing up with another illegitimate kid right after that. The first mistress was funny enough, and having a second was even more hilarious. Kyle trying to understand the blues experience by listening to everything the dentist told him was great. Roman arguing with the guests about the semantics of jungle fever and then attributing a quote by Jesus to Martin Luther King was very funny, and his subsequent effort to convince people that Jesus was black was amusing. The widow’s comparison of a positive partnership to a crock-pot was an entertaining scene which enabled much mockery of Henry from Casey. While it’s still fun to see angry, annoyed Casey vent about how much she hates everyone and everything, it’s even more of a treat to see her delight in making Henry feel as uncomfortable as possible by constantly giving him a hard time and refusing to give him a break.

What I’m Watching: Smallville (Season Finale)

Smallville: Season 9, Episode 21 “Salvation” (F)

What a miserable excuse for a finale this is. This season didn’t start out so badly, so how did it get awful so quickly? At the beginning of the season, there was a vision of a future where the Kandorians had enslaved the human races. Now, in the finale, we get an introduction of the way things are supposed to be in traditional Superman folklore, where Lois is a hotshot reporter at the Daily Planet and a still-alive Lex Luthor is running for President, thanks to a Dr. Fate-inspired vision. It feels a lot like cheating since this show has taken such a different path and screwed things up so royally, and it’s now beyond repair. With the news that Lois might be leaving and Zod gone through the portal, who will be the major foil for Clark next season? Seeing the Superman logo reflected in Clark’s eye is a tease, since that’s not likely to happen on this show, especially not anytime soon. The wealth of young superheroes featured in the Watchtower teleconference didn’t create any exciting battle scenes with the Kandorians, and instead just served up the usual terrible dialogue that’s now expected on this show. The denouement of the Kandorian plotline was quite a letdown, since pretty much nothing happens except that the characters use their ears. The “to be continued” ending seems cheap also. I’m not completely well-versed in my Superman mythology, but unless this is the time where Clark gets splintered into multiple personalities like Superman Red and Superman Blue, he’ll be fine when he lands on the ground. Why, oh why, does there have to be a tenth season? There were a few good moments this season, but overall, yikes. At least the news today is that the tenth season will be the last, and then we'll finally be done with the young Clark Kent.

Season grade: D-
Season MVP: Callum Blue as Zod

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 21 “Emmanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land” (B+)

Liz going back through the men she’s dated in her life is always a wonderful launching point for this show, and I’m completely delighted that this show has a bunch of great actors so easily on call for them to appear in multiple episodes a season. The chance to see Jon Hamm and Dean Winters again is always welcome, and I like the developments that have occurred since we’ve last seen them. Drew now has hooks instead of hands because he was waving to the black version of his softball coach in Zimbabwe, but he’s on track to get a hand transplant from a strangler who’s about to be executed. Dennis is in a program that places troubled adults with child mentors. I sometimes wonder where the writers on this show get their ideas. The fact that Liz runs into Wesley is fantastic, and he’s so perfectly annoying. His defense to her that the only thing wrong with him is that she hates him is hilarious. I also liked Liz asking if she could still have two meals even though she doesn’t have a date. Kenneth yelling “it’s your fault” to what he thought was DotCom but ended up being himself reflected in the mirror was great. The “to be continued” ending is a bit peculiar, especially since it just allows Liz’s random and ill-fated attempts to stall to trail off and sound even more ridiculous. I did love the ending sequence of Tracy’s hysterics about all the terrible things he’s seen, which concluded a somewhat unnecessary plotline but proved to be very funny at the end.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 6, Episode 25 “The Chump” (B+)

The good news in an uneven season of this once constantly great show is that some themes, no matter how many times they’re used in some form or another, are still funny. That’s the case with Michael’s stubborn delusions, in this instance thinking that it’s a good idea to both keep dating a married woman and go stake out the husband to see I he’s a good person. Andy coming along with Michael to meet the baseball coach is much like when Jim encountered Andy’s high school girlfriend with him during a business visit. The difference is that Andy really isn’t terribly bright and certainly not as sensible as Jim. While the main thread is fun, the supporting plotlines are much more enjoyable in this installment. The mediation process between Dwight and Angela regarding their baby was hilarious, and I laughed out loud when I heard the provision about the world actually being the Matrix. Dwight’s attempt to diminish his sperm count after agreeing to conjugal visits with her was terrific. Jim and Pam’s fatigue was entertaining, and it’s so great that Darryl is always there just when people need him. Him sending Jim and Pam to the place where all of the warehouse people sleep was cool, but the best part of it was the fact that it’s the same place that Dwight and Angela go to have sex. Two other great moments from this episode: Erin telling Pam that she probably shouldn’t keep a baby up that late and Ryan asking Erin to have a threesome with him and Kelly but immediately thinking better of it.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 2, Episode 23 “The Master Plan” (B+)

I’m very happy to see the addition of both Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to the cast, and I see it as a positive new direction for the already strong show, a la “Chuck” in its season two finale, rather than an attempt to save an ailing show. From only this first installment of the two performers, it seems clear that Rob Lowe has the perfect energy for this show, exemplified by his belief that he is the first human being who will live 150 years, and he’ll be a great person for Leslie to interact with in coming episodes. His tryst with a drunken Ann should also lead to interesting places. Adam Scott is fun as “Ben the jerk,” very different from his character on “Party Down,” and him asking Leslie to get a drink at 10:30am was entertaining. Leslie and Ann getting drunk together was great, and I truly love their relationship. A drunken Ann thinking that she should possibly get back together with Andy was enjoyable, but not quite as much as the fact that she couldn’t remember her phone number so she gave Chris her phone. Andy trying to figure out how old April has to be for him to date her and realizing that if Tom says it’s okay, that probably means he’s not, was fun, but it’s a shame that April isn’t aware of his reasoning for not making a move. His end credits song with the word November instead of April was hilarious. Tom bonding with Lucy the bartender at the end of the episode was great, and the best part was the shocked and excited look on his face when she gives him her phone number. My favorite moment, however, was Ron struggling to comfort April and then sort of punching her on the arm, eliciting a smile from her.

What I’m Watching: Flash Forward

Flash Forward: Season 1, Episode 20 “The Negotiation” (B+)

Starting off with Gedeck repeating the opening narration at first seemed very much like the same thing over again, even though it’s more effective the tenth time around than it should be, but there was a fun twist: tomorrow is D-Day, the day seen by people in their flash forwards. Getting to this moment is a great thing, and Aaron’s excitement at the sun coming back and him being close to his daughter exemplified the sense of anticipation that has developed after twenty episodes of preparing for the future. There’s still some unfortunate happenings, like Janis’ boss telling her “questions get you killed, sweetie” in order to just further delay any answers, and stupid, purely unnecessary flashbacks just like on “V” last week. Fortunately, this show does do action scenes very well, and this episode was full of them. Having Mark pose as Gabriel was a great plan, and hopefully that should help the FBI prevent another blackout. Gabriel’s repeated proclamation of “can’t touch this” does manage to get serious so quickly, and it’s intense how much he freaks out when Demetri comes into the room because he’s supposed to be dead. The award for the best guest spot of this episode, however, goes not to James Callis, but instead to the lovely Annabeth Gish, who I had thought had been tossed away after just one episode but instead is back as Lita to handle Simon. Turning to Janis for help is definitely a good move for Simon, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

Don’t get too attached, though, since ABC has elected not to renew “Flash Forward” for a second season. Two more episodes and that’s it. How do you feel about that news?

Monday, May 17, 2010

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 1, Episode 23 “Hawaii” (B+)

A family vacation is just what this bunch needs, and the fact that it’s able to fit into one half-hour installment and not feel at all incomplete says a lot about this show. Taking a trip isn’t a cheap trick employed to create a celebratory episode of this show, and it works well as just another above-average entry in the first season’s catalog of terrific episodes. From Manny’s proclamation of “I’m home” to Phil throwing Haley’s cell phone into the water to Cameron and Mitchell traipsing around the jungle trying to find their missing daughter decked out in camouflage, this was one humorous episode. Jay’s desire to work out and stay in shape following the frightening conversation with his brother about being the same age his father was when he died was entertaining, and Gloria confessing that she had thought that marrying an old man would mean she would be able to relax was hilarious. Luke and Manny not getting along as roommates was fun, and so was Haley getting drunk and Claire having to deal with that. Phil constantly trying to make it seem like their honeymoon was great, and it’s wonderful that it actually worked out in the end and turned into a very romantic wedding ceremony. Mitchell’s desire to go see all of the boring things and Cameron’s refusal to stand for it anymore turned out to be very funny, and one of the most entertaining moments was Phil trying to get the kids out of his hands but refusing to even try to sell them on Mitchell’s latest pitch.

What I’m Watching: V

V: Season 1, Episode 11 “Fruition” (B+)

The penultimate installment of the first season of this show provides some much-anticipated confrontations and other unexpected ones. It’s especially interesting to see Anna faking emotion in front of Erica and interpreting all of the double meaning in their discussion about being mothers and protecting their children. It really does seem like Anna is unaware of Erica’s role as a crucial member of the Fifth Column while Erica even appears to be putting together Agent Malik’s identity, and having Erica be the one in control rather than Anna is very cool. Erica’s declaration of “if she’s going to use my son, I’m sure as hell going to use her daughter” was terrific, and the lineup scene was very tense, with Anna on one side and Erica on the other, both exerting tremendous pressure on Lisa. Erica telling Anna that she’s not going anywhere was matched in intensity by Anna responding, “as of this evening, neither am I.” Positioning Lisa as a new ally of Joshua’s, immune to Anna’s light and influence, is awesome, and I’m so excited to see where that leads. Joshua and Erica meeting outside the hospital was also a great moment. Anna alienating Chad is something that she’s going to regret, and even her top advisor Marcus doesn’t seem to understand why. The biggest revelation is that Hobbes knows and is talking to Marcus, apparently blackmailing him though hopefully actually helping out the Fifth Column. The good news is that more mysteries should lead to something, since the latest reports suggest that “V” will be back for a second season! Are you excited about that news?

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 1, Episode 9 “Hatless” (B+)

There are so many great lines on this show that I had to stop keeping track at a certain point. Most of them are uttered by the one and only Raylan, but all of the supporting a d guest cast members always does a great job of uttering their fare share of terrific lines. Starting off with “I didn’t order assholes with my whiskey,” this episode was a great snapshot of Raylan when he wasn’t even trying to operate with the law on his side. He still acts the same, giving people ultimatums and seemingly trying to force his enemies to make him shoot them. Raylan leaving his hat at the bar also made him seem a bit off his game, but he still did a great job. Winona asking him “you’re a little too old to be fighting, aren’t you?” elicited a perfect response from Raylan: “certainly too old to be losing.” Raylan’s surveying of the situation as something that would take him only a day or two to figure the whole thing out was impressive, and his threat to upend the villains’ entire existence if they went anywhere near Winona or Gary was priceless. The guest turns here from Malik Yoba, David Eigenberg (recurring at this point, it would seem) and particularly Jere Burns as the slimy Wynn Duffy were completely excellent and added a lot to the episode. Raylan talking down both a bad guy (“just because you can’t box and you’re stupid doesn’t mean you need to end up dead”) and a suicidal Gary (“pitch it to me before one of us kills you”) was great. The most satisfying part of the whole episode, of course, was Wynn getting undermined by his boss and then everyone shooting but not quite killing each other.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 1, Episode 11 “Solace” (B+)

Cleaning out the attic as a way of providing Camille with a new workspace is a great excuse for the middle generation of the Braverman family to get together and try and accomplish something. I really liked the light moment provided by them trying to get the piano down the stairs. Crosby yelling at Joel for making a joke for the firs time in his life while they were holding a piano was very funny, as was his subsequent request to Joel to keep a little distance from Jasmine while dancing with her. Camille’s own self-exploration was fun for the suitor it produced, played by Joaquim de Almeida ("24"), and the reactions it elicited from Sarah. Her attempt to have dinner with her mother – “I saw people eating pizza on TV and it looked so good” – and her conversation with a random guy at the art show where they started talking about “Sex and the City 2” before scaring him away were very funny. The more serious effects of the separation of the Braverman patriarchs were just as good, positioning Zeke to clash with his son and his family. Zeke watching from the door as Adam calmed down Max was a particularly moving scene. It was nice to see Joel stand up for himself, making fun of the two Ms in Timm’s name. It was amusing that Crosby’s first concern related to reuniting his parents was to be able to do laundry again, and I liked his assertion that change being healthy is an urban legend. The subplot between Hattie and Amber and their man was very well-done, and both Sarah Ramos and Mae Whitman are extraordinarily talented young actresses.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 1, Episode 21 “Unplugged” (B+)

Having things take a turn for the more serious in terms of the economic state of the firm is a good way of stepping up the pace on this show. It’s especially true in terms of the season-long competition between Alicia and Cary for the long-term position of junior associate. The difference in their attitudes towards campaigning from their longevity becomes ever clearer here as they both discover what’s in store for them regarding the partners’ impending decision. Alicia’s reluctance to go too far is interesting and shows her humanity, compared to Cary’s hardcore efforts to make friends all around the office. Having Alan Cumming’s Eli Gold be the saving grace for both Alicia and the firm was excellent, and I’ll be very happy to have more of him around. That final scene with Cary looking so cocky and then giving Alicia a death glare was intense and very well done. The progression of Kalinda’s own personal life as intertwined with her professional one is quite interesting, and she’s really a very intriguing character to watch. The case this episode related to the two spouses trying to control the status of their husband was engaging, and the judge’s emphasis that no one seemed to be looking out for his own goodwill made for a very good point. My favorite part was the judge having to remind both defense and prosecution that there’s no jury, and that their spirited speeches were over-the-top. Having the true criminal be the manager worked well in order to underline the two women’s feelings for the man they both love.

What I’m Watching: NCIS: Los Angeles

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 1, Episode 22 “Hunted” (B+)

It’s a good thing that Dom’s death hasn’t been too quickly forgotten and that it’s really affecting the whole team. The effect is especially intriguing when it comes to Hetty since she hasn’t really had much of a chance to show too much emotion over the course of the show’s first season. Her spirited defense of her position to Leon in front of the rest of the team was quite a feat, and the way she says “you’re not going to change my mind” so determinedly is terrific. Hetty handing in her letter of resignation to Vance was an unexpected development, and while it was unlikely from the start that it would be lasting, it still seemed like a big deal. The closing conversation between Callen and Hetty was a magnificent one, and I truly love their relationship. Hetty definitely isn’t going anywhere, thought it’s possible that a new agent will be added to the team come the beginning of season two, unless Adam Jamal Craig, who played Dom, was let go for budgetary reasons. In terms of the people we do have around and the specific case of this episode, I love Sam’s passive-aggressiveness and the anger with which he responds to new people he meets and doesn’t really love. His trouble deciding who he dislikes more is very funny. While it’s nothing new to have an agent of the law be the one complicit in the terrorist-related activity, it still works well here as a good and effective twist.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 1, Episode 18 “Laryngitis” (B+)

As has tended to be the case recently, the supporting characters are usually more interesting and entertaining than the leads. For once, Will takes a backseat, and even Rachel isn’t as front-and-center as she has been in the past few episodes. Instead we once again have a surprising infatuation on the part of Puck, who decides to try and get with the “black girl whose name he can’t remember” in order to regain his lost popularity following the shaving of his mohawk. His attempt to seduce her by talking about how blacks and Jews have historically worked together well was a lot of fun. Santana starting to like Puck just when Mercedes realized she might to was great, and their phone call song was very enjoyable. Another magnificent and unexpected interaction was that between Sue and Kurt, and I loved her subsequent conclusion that she would no longer stop to talk to students after their conversation. Kurt’s attempt to prove that he’s “not like a box – there are more than four sides to me” was interesting, and it was cool how Brittany became attracted to him as a result of his uncharacteristic song performance. Kurt’s dad saying “I’m good either way” to him was nice, and having Kurt put on this whole deception turned out to be a terrific ride. Finn telling Rachel that he likes her more than Jesse does was a wonderful moment, and it’s great that he helped give her some relief regarding her laryngitis. I especially liked the closing montage and thought that it worked extremely well.

What I’m Watching: Lost

Lost: Season 6, Episode 15 “Across the Sea” (C)

The main reason that I have a major problem with this kind of episode is that, while it provides some important background on the greater mythology of the island, it doesn’t follow the characters we’ve come to love and takes place completely in the long-ago past. The Richard flashback episode from a few weeks ago did a similar thing, and I wasn’t wholly impressed by that either. In this case, it’s interesting to learn how Jacob and the Man in Black grew up, but the actual process is grating and dull. Allison Janney’s guest spot was a bit peculiar, and her declaration of “any question you ask me will only be answered by another question” just perpetuates the aggravating notion that any resolved mysteries on this show will just lead to more mysteries. The random Spaniard woman’s inability to come up with a second name for Jacob’s brother serves as a moment of humor, but it’s more than a little hokey. Watching the two brothers grow up was hardly engaging, and that cheesy bright light in the cave was silly. As folklore, this episode works okay, but otherwise, it really doesn’t. The fact that we saw Jack via a flashback for a moment was cool, but all it really serves to do is to suggest that the writers knew what they were doing all along, positioning Jack as Jacob’s successor and Locke as his nemesis. With only three and a half hours left, only seeing our beloved characters for thirty seconds really isn’t fair.

What I’m Watching: NCIS

NCIS: Season 7, Episode 22 “Borderland” (B+)

In this episode, we have it all. An international field trip, the reopening of old wounds, Chat Roulette, and some wonderful interactions between all of the characters. Having Abby be invited to teach a forensics course was fun, and I enjoyed her panic trying to figure out why Vance wanted to see her. Bringing McGee along as her escort, especially after she detailed why she didn’t want him to come, was great. It’s been a long time before their not-quite-flirtation has been addressed, and watching McGee get jealous of her and her getting back at him by making him nervous about the health conditions was a whole lot of fun. Things did of course turn much more serious when Abby discovered who was involved in the shooting and pieced together the fact that it was Gibbs who killed the drug dealer. Fortunately, this show is one that is very adept at switching speedily between comedy and drama, and it handles the transition exceptionally well. That certainly worked well with Ziva and Tony making jokes about limbs after discovering the dismembered feet, and mostly, it was terrific in terms of solidifying the relationship between Gibbs and Abby. The fact that the two cases were connected was cool, and that final conversation between the two, along with Gibbs’ face when he realized Abby knew, was fantastic. A nice humorous side revelation at the end of the episode was McGee’s spontaneous confession to Tony that he had programmed his Chat Roulette (or whatever it was called here) to auto-next after ten seconds every time, and I thought that was simply terrific.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What I’m Watching: 24

24: Season 8, Episode 21 “12:00PM-1:00PM” (F)

I’m very much looking forward to all of this nonsense being done with once this show is over. It’s really at such an irreparable and irrecoverable point where there’s no hope of it achieving any quality for the rest of its run. I’m not addressing anything specifically but rather the show as a whole. Bringing Meredith Reed, a character who had some duplicitous, weird, unexplained connection to President Hassan, back into the plot of the show at this point feels a bit strange, but I suppose there needs to be something going on to keep Jack hungry for blood. Now that he’s spouting lines like “see you in hell,” he clearly has no regard for the life he’s living and he’ll on go on killing people until he’s done what he thinks he needs to do in order to exert justice. Cutting the SIM card out of the guy’s stomach after violently murdering him was even more extreme than most of the things he’s done before, and I have a strong feeling that it won’t be the craziest thing he does before the show goes off the air in less than two weeks. Regarding the revelation of the identity of the person who called the Russian Jack killed, haven’t we been here before, with Logan being behind everything? Is this a twist or just what we’ve known all along ever since Logan showed up? I can’t even sort it all out, and I really don’t think I want to. Another quick note to newbie Cole – it’s not a good idea to say to someone, “so you’re involved in the cover-up.” That usually leads to death. Watch your back, Cole.

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 3, Episode 16 “Chuck Versus the Tooth” (B+)

I am absolutely loving the relationship between Chuck and Sarah and the direction it’s taking. While this episode is less amusing and showcases less bickering between them, it does show a softer side to the couple, and demonstrates that they really both have fallen hard for each other. Chuck telling Sarah that he loves her at the beginning of the episode was sort of swept under the rug since it led right into the first of his crazy hallucinations, but it was revisited later when Sarah told Chuck that she loved him too, which, coupled with Chuck’s reaction to the news, was wonderful. This was a great episode for people to declare their affection for Chuck, even if he got sent briefly to a mental institution. General Beckman admitted that she cared a lot about him, and it was great when the CIA psychiatrist, played by Christopher Lloyd, opened the door to reveal that Casey was already there trying to convince him to make a case for Chuck even before Sarah arrived. The crazy people also tried to defend Chuck before they were shot by tranquilizer darts, and that was a lot of fun. Chuck flashing and doing his karate movies on thin air rather than people because he’d been drugged was great, and the fact that he took the wrong tooth was just an unfortunate mishap. Casey had a few great lines, asking for permission to slap Chuck and telling Ellie that he’s had malaria four of five times. Morgan’s face when Casey sat down next to him was priceless, and his ensuing threat and Morgan getting tranquilized by Casey was hilarious. Having Anna back was an unexpected pleasure, and both she and Morgan had magnificent entrances. Morgan turning Anna down was a good moment for him, and it was nice to see her for a little bit. Ellie agreeing to contact her father for the man who is definitely not CIA is an intriguing twist, and that’s certainly not going to turn out well for anyone.

Amazing news: It sounds like "Chuck" is coming back for season four! NBC officially announces their schedule next week.