Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Andy’s Watching: Survivor

Survivor: Season 21, Episode 7 “What Goes Around, Comes Around” (B)

What the hell??
What the hell??

So in this week's episode, the La Flor tribe lost the Immunity Challenge, and has to vote someone off the tribe. The younger castaways and Jane are in control, and it is painfully obvious that either Jill or Marty are going home. Since Marty has the Immunity Idol and he knows that he is in danger, he would be foolish not to play it, right? Right. So Jill is going home. Done.

But, for some odd reason, Marty just hands it over to Sash. Sash promised that if Marty gave him the idol, then they wouldn't vote out Marty and would return the idol to him right afterward.

Does he really think that Sash is going to return the idol?

I'm also thinking that perhaps Sash is trying to get on Marty's good side, just in case it might help down the road. Maybe he will return the idol and gain not only the trust of Marty but also Dan when the merge happens.

Okay, I don't know who is stupider, Marty for trusting Sash and giving over his idol, or Sash and Co. for not voting Marty out at Tribal Council.

It's really hard to say why they chose to vote out Jill instead of Marty. Maybe they figure she is more of a schemer, and would be harder to vote out post-merge.

If anything, the opposite is true. Back when they were on the old people tribe, Jill would often just tell Marty that she would vote however he wanted. She even figured out the clue for the Hidden Immunity Idol and told Marty where to find it. And that was before they were in an alliance! They only became close because Jill knew Marty’s secret.

There are a few reasons I could think of that would explain the crazy voting.

1) There is a lot of footage that is left on the editing room floor.
2) The entire tribe is full of idiots. When one idiot makes a mistake, the other idiots are too idiotic to capitalize on it.

I'm leaning towards the latter.

What I’m Watching: Undercovers

Undercovers: Season 1, Episode 6 “Xerxes” (B)

And with that, this show pulls its first preposterous twist. I would have been okay with Tessa working for Xerxes because such fickle loyalties and treacherousness has become commonplace in spy dramas. Tessa as Xerxes, however, doesn’t compute. If she really was a legitimate criminal mastermind, she wouldn’t have recited confirmation numbers out loud when there was a chance that the doe-eyed Hoyt could overhear them. On that note, Hoyt’s ability to memorize long string of numbers is impressive, and he should really recognize his own achievements before praising Steven and Samantha’s ability to deduce the meaning of the numbers. Watching Hoyt and Steven ride on the sides of the truck was wonderfully and nostalgically reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and Hoyt seems to be doing just fine in the field, especially when he decides that he wants to be the one to take down his former crush and current criminal mastermind. I enjoyed the casting of Sean Maguire, who I very much enjoyed in a short-lived 2001 WB sitcom called “Off Centre” starring Eddie Kaye Thomas of “American Pie” fame, as the latest guy to come between Steven and Samantha. I’ll admit that I’m a bit perplexed by the mysterious absence of Leo Nash and the usage of another character to fill the same role he’s supposed to play. Overall, the show is still entertaining enough to sustain my interest and be worth my time, especially considering the dearth of television on Wednesday nights as compared with the three nights preceding it.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 7 “Seven Names” (B)

This was one of the messier episodes of this show at the start, and while it did manage to pull itself together by the end, I’m inclined to dock it a few points for feeling rather all over the place for most of its run time. The destination of many of the plotlines is obvious right off the bat, like Julia valuing her time over Joel’s and Haddie developing a crush on her boss at the soup kitchen. Gordon has quickly turned back into an unstable and generally useless character, forcing Adam to do his dirty work and contributing nothing else to the show. I was most interested in this episode in Crosby’s disappointed reaction to the lack of enthusiasm expressed by Jabar when Crosby told him they were getting married. Fortunately, an episode full of worrying and doubt on his part culminated in a joyous celebration and Jabar realizing that he gets to wear a tux at the wedding. For the moment, it seems like everyone is in a holding pattern. Amber and Sarah are back in each other’s good graces, Adam and Kristina aren’t focused on Max, Joel and Julia are trying to develop an understanding, and Crosby and Jasmine are getting married. I’m genuinely not sure where things are headed next for this bunch, and I’m hopeful that this show can surprise and entertain me, because it’s hard to get too excited about it with superb seasons of “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Good Wife” airing in the same time slot.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 5 “VIP Treatment” (A-)

It’s marvelously impressive that this show managed to pull off a high-stakes, relatively sensational, close-to-real-time episode that feeds directly from the final scene of the previous episode and should segue right into next week’s installment. The most commendable part, in my opinion, is that we haven’t yet even seen this Nobel Peace Prize winner, and all of the furor is relegated to hearsay and constantly changing facts. The amount of twists is also sizeable and fantastic, ranging from the discovery that Lara was researching her client before their meeting to her eventual removal of herself from the case that she was responsible for starting. There were so many interesting interactions between all of the partners, between Will and the slimy lawyer (played by Frederick Weller of “In Plain Sight”), between Will’s date Tammy and everyone else at the table, and so many more. I loved that Wendy told Eli that she knew a lot about him when he didn’t have the first clue about who she was, and then the investor Peter was supposed to have lunch with the next day cast him off by alleging that he had forgotten that the appointment was this week. Peter nearly checking the voicemail was maddeningly nerve-racking, and Alicia’s near-affair with Will is not something the Florricks need to deal with right now. Peter proved more impressive and respectable than ever before by rejecting the loaded offer to accept endorsement from the Peace Price winner, and then proved far more intelligent and resourceful by seeing through the blind endorsement after the rejection. I’m very much looking forward to where all this goes in the coming weeks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 3, Episode 8 “Lochan Mor” (B+)

What did I do to deserve a special extended episode of this show? A pleasant surprise indeed, though pleasant isn’t exactly a word I would typically use when describing this show. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that this episode got insanely intense only five minutes in when the police tried to haul away SAMCRO for no reason, and then things really exploded when Gemma ordered her escort, played by Dominic Keating, who played Lieutenant Malcolm Reed on “Enterprise,” to run the police van off the road to break her boys free. Seeing Maureen and Gemma come face to face is pretty scary, and I don’t like how close half-siblings Trinity and Jax are getting, since that’s sure to be an awful revelation for both of them once they realize their close relations. It’s interesting to see the boys from the Charming charter interact with the Belfast natives, and I’m sure that things with Jimmy are going to get ugly sooner rather than later. The continuing delay in Abel being handed over is frustrating, but at least we now know exactly what will be required of Jax for him to have his son back in his arms. I love that it’s just Tig, Kozik, Chuck, and Tara holding down the fort back home. The elder Hale’s attempt to really force SAMCRO out of his town is getting very closer to lawlessness, and the fact that Darby wasn’t dirty enough for him is not a good sign at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What I’m Watching: In Treatment

In Treatment: Season 3, Episodes 3 & 4 “Jesse – Week One” (B) & “Adele – Week One” (B+)

As I described in yesterday’s rundown of the first two new patients Paul will be seeing this season, it’s hard to evaluate each episode of this show since it’s so dialogue-heavy, and I think I may try to take all four sessions together in coming weeks. Like Frances, Jesse is a patient who tries to commandeer the session and refuses to listen to much of anything that Paul says, thinking that he can diagnose himself and that he’s smarter than his therapist. I would posit that Jesse is the least interesting patient of this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s uninteresting; I would just rather focus my attention on the other patients and sessions. Paul’s visit to his new therapist, Adele, was particularly revealing since he let out a vicious, cruel tirade against her supposed inexperience and incompetence. Adele, played well by Amy Ryan, seemed fairly unaffected by it, though I suspect that she’ll let her anger show through eventually if Paul continues to bully and insult her in such an unprovoked, despicable way. Paul’s revelation that he’s been taking Ambien to get to sleep for the past fourteen months, plus an occasional extra half a tablet in the middle of the night, is pretty disturbing, and if he had a hard time dealing with his patients the past two years, this round isn’t going to be a cakewalk. The arrival of his son at his doorstep is an interesting development, though I could have sworn his son used to be played by Max Burkholder, now starring as Max on “Parenthood.” It turns out my suspicion was correct – the actor has now been replaced. Another fun tidbit: his sister Rosie was played by Mae Whitman, who currently portrays his cousin Amber on “Parenthood.”

What I’m Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 5 “No Ordinary Quake” (C)

My biggest problem with this episode is actually something that hadn’t yet troubled me but did in this episode with this new villain. For one thing, she’s not actually a bad guy, just someone who was transformed against her will and is on the run, unwilling and unable to trust anyone. While every good superhero does not a proper origin story, muddling everything too much by having real villains hunting the semi-innocent episodic villains doesn’t work well. My other complaint is more aesthetic: the earthquake-causing baddie just sucks at using her power. Just lifting her hand up unenthusiastically shouldn’t be able to produce the effects it does. Jim’s insistence on constantly showing his face and threatening the livelihood of his family is foolish, and George legitimizing lying to his wife because he’s the one doing it rather than Jim doesn’t track either. Katie’s discovery that JJ’s sample showed that he was pregnant is an example of this show not knowing what it wants to be: it’s a comic moment that then turns into JJ’s sudden best bud at school getting upset about his girlfriend being pregnant. It’s a strange, random storyline that isn’t going to go anywhere and doesn’t contribute much to the overarching plot, save for JJ’s abilities finally being revealed. Daphne’s use of her powers continues to be obnoxious since she really needs to go deeper and try to listen to more than one sentence of someone’s thoughts so that she doesn’t consistently pick up the same wrong information.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” (B-)

I’m not sure how to take this into account, but this is one of those episodes where not being familiar with and not having a connection to material being used really makes the experience infinitely less enjoyable. As someone who’s never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” I didn’t really get into the songs in this episode, with one or two exceptions. And because there’s no supporting plot aside from Will’s duel with Carl, it’s hard to enjoy and appreciate the episode as a whole. My main point of contention is similar to that of the glee club members – there’s no reason the adults should be taking on roles that should be played by students. In that same vein, Will and Carl don’t need to play the roles when the glee club is designed for high schoolers. That doesn’t mean I don’t love seeing Jayma Mays start singing and dancing; it just means that I’d prefer it didn’t come about in such a contrived way. I’ve never been a fan of Sue’s talk show, and relegating her to one fantastic glare accompanied by furious finger-snapping in Will’s direction is hardly a reward for her well-deserved season one Emmy win. Unfortunately, she’s barely had any material with which to follow it up, and the way the show is going, I’m not sure she will. That’s what really worries me – it’s not the stunt episodes that are the problem, but rather what the show is left with when those are stripped away.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 1, Episode 10 “Divine Intervention” (B+)

This episode felt different than the others because Cathy’s main focus is on someone other than herself. That’s not to suggest that she’s usually selfish, but rather that she’s been trying to experience everything she has missed out on doing in her own life instead of actively trying to touch others. Seeking out Andrea and investigating her home life revealed some similar to when Ron visited April’s house on “Parks and Recreation,” where it turns out that both young girls speak highly of their mentors and aren’t nearly as badass or rebellious as they like to pretend. Cathy going to church was also a hoot, and the congregation’s reaction to her swearing (twice!) was hilarious. Phyllis smacking Cathy out of the blue was also somewhat amusing, if not disconcerting. Sean complaining about being sexually cut off by Rebecca was funny, and I wish we had seen more of him teaching the class. I’m very much enjoying the dynamic between Andrea and Adam, helped of course by Cathy’s meddling, and his semi-willingness to lick the locker was decently heartfelt and wholly disgusting. The most monumental development of this episode was the ending scene, where Paul throws his indiscretion in Cathy’s face and tells her that she deserves what he’s done to her and she chooses that moment to come clean with him about what’s been going on in her life. I’m very eager to see the next episode (only three left this season) and to see where Cathy and Paul go from here.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 6, Episode 10 “Dearborn-Again” (B+)

Nancy may be returning home, but her home isn’t the home of this show, which is probably a good thing, considering a trip back to Agrestic might warrant far too much unwanted attention, in addition to having to pull some former cast members who have now moved on to other shows (such as Romany Malco, now starring on “No Ordinary Family”). The casting of Richard Dreyfuss as Nancy’s former teacher and very creepy potential ex-lover is brilliant, and I especially loved how Silas, Andy, and Doug all turned around in disgust at the same time while he was speaking and let slip some unwanted information. Andy’s trip to the mosque to try and seek out passports was funny, as was Silas and Shane’s visit to Silas’ prospective father, which ended in yet another peculiar Shane moment, where he emerged with a hair brush, determined to test his DNA. The final scene with all of the photos on the bed was a fabulous fake-out since it seemed like Andy might have finally found his passport man, and I’m excited about this new twist. I think that casting Eric Lange, also known as 1970s Dharma anger-prone island-dweller Stuart Radzinsky on "Lost," as the mystery man posing as Nancy’s classmate is smart, since he appears dweebish and somewhat nuts, but clearly possesses a deeper and much more frightening psyche as well. It’s not yet clear whether he’s an FBI agent, one of Esteban’s people (probably not), or just a bounty hunter for hire, and no matter what he turns out to be, I’m looking forward to find out, especially since we only have three episodes left this season.

What I’m Watching: In Treatment (Season Premiere)

In Treatment: Season 3, Episodes 1 & 2 “Sunil – Week One” & “Frances – Week One” (B+)

A few words of introduction before I get to the actual content of these episodes: this is the first time that I will be reviewing episodes of this series as they air, after despising the first year’s premiere installments on my initial viewing and then getting into the show while studying in Italy and racing through seasons one and two. It’s quite an ambitious effort to keep up with a show that airs four fresh installments each week, and I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to review each week’s episodes. This time around, I’ll address each night’s episodes separately, and I’ll also have to figure out whether I want to grade the episodes since it’s very hard to assess them in the same way that I would grade other series. On to this season and these patients. Regarding the actors, I’m quite impressed with both Irrfan Khan and Debra Winger. Khan may be familiar to audiences from supporting roles in “The Namesake” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” though the best role I’ve seen him in was as the captain in “A Mighty Heart.” Winger made a number of high-profile films in the 1980s and recently appeared as Anne Hathaway’s mother in “Rachel Getting Married.” As a hermit grandfather and an aging actress, they’re both extraordinarily compelling and give Paul plenty of work to do regarding analysis. I loved how Sunil barely spoke until the end of his session and Frances talked nonstop throughout hers. The casting of Sonya Walger from “Lost” and “Flash Forward” as Sunil’s daughter-in-law is also interesting she was a star of another HBO show having to do with therapy and couples that started just before this one, “Tell Me You Love Me,” before being mysteriously cancelled after having been renewed for a second season. Anyway, welcome back, Paul, and I’m looking forward to getting to know these new patients.

What I’m Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 6 “Loyalty” (C-)

When Sean was running around combing the globe for Leila, he was pretty annoying. Now that he’s found her, she’s taken up the mantle and decided to act in an extremely boneheaded manner that is sure to get her killed (though they’ll probably keep her around for a long, long time to do more stupid things). You’d think it would be one of the bad guys who would pose a threat to her, but it turns out that a crazy journalist armed with a gun may be much more dangerous. Who do you call when you need someone to play a nut job these days? The answer is Paula Malcomson, also off her rocker in her role on “Caprica.” Saying “I’m not crazy” over and over isn’t exactly convincing. On the Agent Collier end, I’m completely perplexed when it comes to Carter and his incessant demands for medical care. He is both a murderer and a hostage, and therefore he has no rights, so his arrogant whining doesn’t make much sense. On a more positive note, seeing Simon’s history back in 1944 does help to make at least one (and possibly only one) character on this show sympathetic, even if he’s not long for this world considering the devastation of his carefully-constructed cover being blown wide open by an obnoxious do-gooder. The demolition of the building at the end of the episode is a major event that should serve as a game-changer considering the horrified looks on the faces of the president and his advisors as they watched it happen, and it shows that the bad guys mean business and can make some serious stuff happen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 6 “Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror” (B+)

This is the kind of episode that would be considered a true diving point where the tension and mystery that has been building for the entire season comes to a head. It seemed almost too easy and smooth for Chuck to finally come face to face with my mom, even if there were guns pointed in all directions, attributable to both his mother and his girlfriend. I like the way the episode’s events unfolded, first painting her as a villain, then as an ally, then as a villain again, though not in Chuck’s eyes, as he saw her hauled away right in front of him by the woman he loves (Sarah). After everything, I just feel bad for Ellie, who has to be given hope by the thought of reuniting with her mother and then ultimately let down for reasons more complicated than anyone (including this viewer) can understand. Jeff and Lester proved oddly crucial again, as their deranged fright exhibit ended up turning the bad guy insane while the juiced-up Chuck managed to stay sane despite inhaling the terror toxin. I’m very much enjoying Casey’s newfound affection for Morgan, which features far more pleasant conversations between the two yet still maintains the same spy-idiot dynamic it had before. Morgan realizing the definition of the term “magnet” was quite entertaining, and I hope to see them on more missions together in the future. And kudos to the show for smartly reincorporating Big Mike into life at the Buy More as Morgan’s spiritual advisor.

What I'm Watching: Eastbound & Down

Eastbound & Down: Season 2, Episode 5 “Chapter 11” (B+)

He was gone almost as quickly as he appeared, but it was fun (and enlightening) to see the man who helped to create Kenny. Starting with the classic western standoff score was an amusing way to position the two remarkably similar men, and Kenny almost doesn't seem as ridiculous or objectionable with his pop around. In fact, Kenny almost seems happy with his dad, making him into a generally more likeable person, despite the fact that he still takes out all of his anger on poor Stevie. Kenny trying to start a feud with his brother was terribly entertaining as well, as was his defense for doing so (“if you find someone you don't like in your family, it is perfectly okay to fuck them over”). I also love the way Kenny talks to Stevie, if I haven't mentioned that already. And of course, Stevie does have his best interest at heart, reminding him that he belongs on a baseball field. The revelation that April isn't actually married to Cutler is a godsend, because it may be able to help Season Dos get the hell out of Mexico and back to the U.S. Kenny's dad turning him into the police for the reward money and his stepmother hitting on him are funny developments, but I'd pick April over them anyway. It's good just to hear her voice on her answering machine, and Kenny's short and simple message of “I'm coming for you” is just the battle cry this show needs.

What I'm Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 2, Episode 5 “Forty-Town Down!” (B+)

What brilliant writing there is on this show. I was particularly impressed with the editing in this episode, which made the already rhythmic dialogue and pacing work even better than usual. George hanging up the wrong phone when he got a call while he was talking to Jonathan was great, as was Ray spilling coffee on a baby. I love that Jonathan was so taken by the fact that his client's husband was a limo driver and a poet, and it was just as funny when she said that she didn't care, cutting right away to Jonathan following the bald guy. I'm intrigued by the appearance of Zoe Kazan, who I interviewed last year when her film “The Exploding Girl” was released, as Jonathan's student, Nina. Hopefully George's demoralizing speech about print being dead won't ruin the chances of a love affair between them happening. Ray's breakup couldn't have gone much worse, thanks to his mixed-up expression of “it's not me, it's you” and his quoting of Bob Dylan, resulting in Jennifer taking a beer bottle to his crotch. Kevin Bacon portraying a bizarro version of himself was entertaining, and it wasn't too distracting to the rest of the episode ,which was good. George explaining the reasons that he'd prefer to stand during the holdup was hilarious, and I like how both he and Jonathan talked the limo driver out of his holdup before accidentally shooting off the gun. And, marvelously, it all worked out! The poet limo driver can be George's chauffeur. Isn't that wonderful?

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 5 “Let Me Entertain You” (B)

More so than probably any other series I've seen, this show invests a hell of a lot in its temporary characters. In this case, it's the otherwise irrelevant neighbor who simply serves as the background noise for the exposition of some brawling between Renee and Gaby. It makes sense that Renee and Gaby would become friends and then bitter enemies not too long after, though I could have lived without the joke about being married to a sports star (as Eva Longoria is). I've never been too impressed with the writing for Tom and Lynette, since Tom more than often just seems too oblivious and clueless to function. The dramatic resolution of the conflict between Lynette and her mother-in-law worked pretty well, and I'm not sure why Tom's mother having Alzheimer's is necessary since the Scavo family doesn't really need any more heartache. Bree's relationship was a good light plotline for the episode, and I enjoyed the way that it got resolved as well, with Keith's unsurprising confession that he often felt intellectually inadequate when spending time with Bree. I was thinking throughout the episode that this Susan plotline really does need to be resolved, very quickly. Fortunately, there's been a major development, in the form of Paul, who wants to buy everyone's house to exact some complicated revenge scheme. Paul definitely succeeds at being super creepy by continuing to talk in a menacing tone even when Susan's computer is closed. At least her side job can come to an end, and Paul can now return to a more prominent role on the show.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 5, Episode 5 “First Blood” (B+)

I really like how the episodes from this and last season are framed by Dexter's relationship with his newborn child. His concern about Harrison scratching other kids and already being a pro at covering his tracks at such a young age was amusing, and I like how his dramatic defense of Harrison - “there's nothing wrong with my son” - was followed by Harrison scratching him, resulting in a hilarious yelp from Dexter. While Dexter struggles with the idea of having brought another murderer into the world, we're getting the chance to see some of the much-touted guest stars announced a while back as appearing in this season. I was delighted to see Katherine Moennig, who portrayed the iconic Shane on “The L Word,” as the tattoo artist with the hots for Deb, especially since she was so miserably wasted on CBS' short-lived medical drama “Three Rivers” last year. Unfortunately, I was disappointed that she only appeared in one fleeting scene, and I hope she'll be back for another round once Quinn's true intentions are revealed (he and Dexter really hate each other, so that's about to explode for sure). The other new guest was Peter Weller as the corrupt cup taken down by Laguerta and vowing revenge in his collusion with Quinn, which should prove intriguing at the very least. I'm losing interest rapidly in all of Laguerta and Batista's marriage problems, and I'd much rather see what Lumen is going to do now that she's decided to stay in Miami.

What I'm Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 1, Episode 6 “Family Limitation” (B+)

The way this show executes its scenes is often just as flawless and well-blocked as the executions on this show. It's easy to get drawn in and captivated when watching these immensely intriguing characters, and their stories are incredibly fascinating. The intricacies of the relationships are also explored in full form in this episode, as Nucky yells at his butler to knock like a man and Jimmy and Al try to one-up each other with mocking stories about their experiences during the war. Jimmy's visit to Al's home for a family dinner was very informative, and watching Jimmy snap his fingers in front of his son's face was a particularly dramatic moment. Those two do make for a volatile team, yet there isn't much debating their effectiveness in carrying out their display of power, which of course ends with a whole bunch of dead bodies. Margaret's experiences in this episode go the full spectrum of glorious to miserable, as she finds herself surprisingly and positively encouraged when she goes for advice about what to do about Nucky and then completely disappointed and abandoned when Nucky tossed her aside to grease a political ally. That final shot of the phone sitting motionless behind a sad-looking Margaret was especially powerful. Seeing Van Alden's surprise field office review made it clear just how much of an untethered lone wolf he is, and watching him get into character with the aid of a belt was fairly disturbing. It may not be pleasant, but it's still damn good television.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 5 “Isis” (C-)

While I'm very pleased with the ending of the episode, its occurrence makes the entire length of this episode before it wholly unnecessary. I was going to say, “it's about damn time,” but Lois' “what took you so long” works too. From here on out, perhaps they can function well since they're both aware of each other's activities and knowledge, so I'm slightly hopeful for the future. Regarding this episode, yet another person being possessed by some ancient deity works about as poorly as it has the last four dozen times this show has gone that route. I was especially annoyed by the abrupt shift in voice that Lois put on when she was possessed by Isis. Kat's investigation makes her little more than a distracting pipsqueak, and I'm unsure of what her function will be in the coming episodes. Her meeting with Tess did have the unfortunate effect of Tess cackling, contributing to an overall bizarrely steely and haughty attitude taken on by Tess in this episode, culminating in some unexpected and, honestly, uninteresting crying. I'm continually perplexed by why Little Lex is becoming a recurring character since there's no chance that Big Lex, a.k.a. Michael Rosenbaum, will be returning to the show. This series was doing okay part of the time without addressing the Luthors, and their re-invocation is questionable at best. One more bone to pick – attributing weird happenings to the fact that “this is Metropolis.” Wait a minute, I thought this was Smallville?

What I'm Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 6 “Resistance” (C)

I'm increasingly less impressed with the operating procedures of Division as Percy and Michael continue to chew students (and each other) out in front of the rest of the group, paying no mind to keeping their strategies secret. While observing Alex's interrogation, Michael couldn't be any trumore obvious about his liberal leanings and his objections to the way that Division operates. How Percy could be so blind to his blatant expressions of compassion and conscience is appalling to me. That staged interrogation was ridiculous enough itself, and having the bigwigs watch it was simply silly. Melinda Clarke and Xander Berkeley specialize in chewing scenery, which is all good and fine, but sometimes it's way too much to bear (and an unfortunate reminder that this show hasn't yet been able to outperform its expectations based on the network on which it airs). Percy's saying “Shhh... I want to watch this” was one of the episode's more preposterous moments. I also did not comprehend Nikita's obsession with veggie shakes in this episode. The first time, the metaphor worked well when she was noting that she didn't have a piece of meat to throw at her captive, but from there, it just went downhill and quickly became incredibly annoying. Speaking of Nikita's potential ally (and I'd rather they didn't speak, since the dialogue is truly horrendous), this additional complication of him being the cleaner who killed her beloved is an unnecessary twist, especially since they're now both working for the same thing without aiding each other, which should prove frustrating, if nothing else.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 5 “The Sting” (B+)

At first, I didn't even recognize Timothy Olyphant, superb star of FX's “Justified,” as the rival salesman who so intimidated Jim and Dwight that they had to call Michael to ask for his help. This show has never been showy about its guest stars, mostly because it hasn't had many of note, with the exception of Kathy Bates, Idris Elba, Amy Ryan, and Amy Adams (am I missing anyone?). I consider that a good thing, and Olyphant seems like just the right fit for this character, even though he hasn't really been used to his full potential yet. Michael hiring him is clearly going to pan out very, very poorly since he just remembered that his good buddy Todd is already a traveling salesman, but it should make for some fun scrambling on Michael's part in the coming week or weeks. I loved how Pam was incorporated into the plotline as a clearly jealous Jim interrogated her about it, prompting her to ask him if he's forgotten that they're married, and then having Dwight rise to her defense, even though he was mistakenly certain that she didn't wear makeup. Jim choosing Meredith based solely on her being free for lunch was clearly a mistake, and Ryan's desire to pose as the head of Google, before being relegated to a Spanish-speaking janitor, was quite amusing. My favorite part of the entire episode was Darryl's response to Andy offering to pay him to be in his band, negotiating his salary down from $60 to $40 after deeming his original offer ridiculous. I am a huge fan of their dynamic.

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 5 “Reaganing” (B-)

Sometimes, this show gets a little bit too caught up in being ridiculous and tries to outdo itself in one episode, leading to an unnecessary level of chaos and insanity. Titling the episode with a verb made up by the deeply Republican Jack Donaghy is the perfect way to start such a silly episode. My biggest problem with this generally amusing half-hour is that it compromises most of the other storylines since Jack is supposed to be the focal point. For instance, Liz does little more than get sidelined and ignored by Jack, and it takes her an entire episode to piece together the admittedly entertaining reason for her impotence. This is one of those instances where Tracy seems almost too preposterous to exist and be taken anywhere near seriously, and I was paying much more attention to the impressive complexity of the commercial and the highly skilled kids performing it, time after time. As Jack was the focus of the episode, of course it makes sense that his solution would be both brilliant and hilarious. Jenna manipulating Kenneth, on the other hand, isn't something that usually excites me, and this episode was no different. Kenneth's initial ignorance was fun, but then it got to a point where Jenna is just a terrible person and there's no coming back from that. The random appearance of Kelsey Grammer as Jenna's very willing accomplice and the allusions to a Frasier reunion special were just peculiar – anyone care to explain? I was just plain puzzled.

What I'm Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 5 “Unplugged” (B+)

Ah, the family dynamic. While she's hardly as up-to-date with the most modern technology, Claire certainly is astute at recognizing the current trend of people being completely wired to and inseparable from their electronic devices. The ensuing challenge proved quite entertaining, and Haley's sly plan was hilarious. The fact that she asked her family outright for a bar of soap and a marker in order to craft her decoy device was very funny, and her description of the lengths to which she went to win the contest – talking to a bar of soap for two days – was simply terrific. While somewhat painful, Claire and Phil trying to back out of their deal proved extremely entertaining. Cameron and Mitchell's desperate search for the perfect preschool yielded expected results (supremely enjoyable ones, of course) as Mitchell's eyes got bigger than his stomach, just like way back when at Costco. Mitchell's gradually worsening attempt to appear diverse during the interview was fantastic, and I loved the way their jaws dropped when they recognized their competition, the wheelchair-bound ethnic lesbian couple. Any reference to Gloria's past in Colombia is going to go over quite well on this show, and all the talk about her murderous tendencies was great. My favorite part was Jay's reaction to her explanations about the neighbor dog's whereabouts and how each of them was exactly what people say when they have a dog put down. Sometimes, Jay really seems like even more of a child than his stepson, and it's fun to watch him tiptoe around trying to stay on Gloria's good side.

What I'm Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 5 “Better with Little Buddy” (B+)

This show certainly does a comprehensive job of exploring the many complications of relationships, whether it's two people in love with each other or children desperately seeking to break free of their parents' influence. What was particularly fun about this episode, and which set it apart from previous installments, was the focus on Vicky, usually sidelined as a character and relegated to making angry quips about her husband (much like her former television spouse, Kurtwood Smith, used to do on “That '70s Show”). Now, she gets a chance to get enthused about something, and something which makes sense for her character – sending adorable and helpful links out via alarmingly frequent e-mail. This in turn helps to make Ben feel once again like he's the only sane person in the universe, and his efforts to get off her list only to find himself in even deeper over his head were amusing as always. I did enjoy also how Maddie tried to manipulate her father into thinking that he didn't want to do her taxes and then ended up forcibly convince him to take over again to rectify an even worse situation. And wouldn't you know it, Ben has a stealthy plan in place to ensure that Maddie's taxes get done correctly at the last minute, so everyone really cares about each other and they all win in the end. This show definitely has a sweet spot, and Mia developing her own connection to her “little buddy” is superb evidence of that.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Andy's Watching: Survivor

Guest blogger Andy offers his critique of the last two episodes of this season of "Survivor."

Survivor: Season 21, Episode 5 & 6 “Turf Wars” & “Worst Case Scenario” (B-)

This season kind of bores me a bit. Maybe because the past two seasons had Russell on them and he was ridiculously entertaining to watch, whether you liked him or hated him. He would do crazy shenanigans like surprising everyone at tribal council that he has the Hidden Immunity Idol, wearing it around his neck, and then not playing it. He was amazing at reading people and calling their bluffs.

For this season, I think the strongest player in the game is Brenda. She reminds me a bit of Parvati from previous seasons. She's a bit of a flirt, doesn't seem outwardly dangerous, but still is conniving.

In Episode 5, the tribes are mixed up a bit, leaving Marty's plans to dominate his tribe afoul. Finally, finally, finally we have an episode with separate reward and immunity challenges. Why don't they always have that? Thankfully, no more Medallion of Power, which was just a stupid gimmick. With the new tribes, it doesn't seem like one team is overpowered over the other one (however, whichever tribe has Dan is at a disadvantage, and should vote him out ASAP. Spoiler alert: They won't).

Now on to Episode 6...

Wowzers, a double elimination episode, definitely didn't see that coming. According to Jeff Probst's blog, the reason for a double elimination episode is simple. It really sucks when a person quits in the middle of the season because that screws everything up. Originally, they started with 16 contestants, and if someone quit, it really screws with the flow of the game. If they raise it to 18 players, then there
will be an uneven about of males and females on the two tribes. So that leaves 20 players at the start of the season, but there is a problem with having so many people because its harder for the audience to be familiar with everyone, and also because there is a bunch of extra players. Thus, the need for a double elimination comes into play.

In my opinion, don't have a season with two people named Jimmy and two people named Kelly. That should be a no brainer if you don't want to confuse the audience.

On to Tribal Council.... Very odd decision by La Flor not to get rid of Marty.

It was smart to split the votes between him and Kelly in order to flush out the idol. If Marty uses the idol, then Kelly gets voted out. If Marty doesn't use the idol, then it's a tie and a revote is done. In that situation, it is clear that Marty should be voted out. But he wasn't because the tribe was more scared that Kelly's fake leg will get sympathy votes in the end. It probably would, but at the current moment, Marty is much more of a threat.

Back at Espada, its really surprising that Dan still manages to stay in the game. He outwardly says that he won't be able to compete in all the challenges. He's sat out many of them, it's hard to keep track. And yet, they still keep him in because he is not a threat. Smart in a way, but I'm still waiting for the day when he really costs them a challenge. Still, he might not get voted out.

Isn't there a rule in past seasons that you can't sit out two challenges in a row? Didn't Dan sit out a hundred challenges or something? So of course, at Tribal Council Yve, is voted out because she is a competitor. The weak survive while the strongest ones get picked off.

What I'm Watching: Undercovers

Undercovers: Season 1, Episode 5 “Not Without My Daughter” (B+)

In an episode that's entirely Leo Nash-free, it's good that there's still some couple-based drama to keep the Blooms going. While we didn't get to see all that much of the French spies (though I'm pretty sure I recognized Alex Nesic of “Sleeper Cell” as the guy and have found no hard evidence online to back that up), it was enjoyable to see how they functioned and how Steven and Samantha were so flabbergasted that there was another married couple on the case. In the absence of the guest characters being given an extensive spotlight, some of the other supporting players do get a bit of a chance to shine. In a rare turn of events, Hoyt actually gets to accompany Steven as he charges forward, gun held out in front of him, to take down the enemy. I wouldn't say that he performed better or worse than expected, rather that it's fun enough and also fine to have him just stay in the car to take care of tactical support. I do love seeing the little snippets we are privy to of Shaw and his moodiness, which seems to be curable by ordering room service and not by seeing the Blooms. Their willingness to hop on over to North Korea makes sense as something that would case him a great deal of stress, and therefore his “good job” to them at episode's end is all the more meaningful. Regarding Samantha's sister, I'm only a little curious about what big secret Lizzy is keeping, and I do hope it's something interesting and surprising.

What I'm Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 6 “Orange Alert” (B+)

While it may seem a bit early to have a Halloween episode, it's clearly an important holiday for the Bravermans, so it's worthwhile to celebrate twelve days before the actual date of the festivity. In the same way that Haddie has in the past accused her parents of focusing only on Max, this show sometimes does that as well, but it manages to also incorporate the rest of the family and give them something to do as Max prepares to go trick-or-treating for the first time. My favorite costumes of the episode were definitely Joel as Abraham Lincoln and Amber as a banana, and it was very fun to see the whole family dressed up and participating in the holiday together. Julia dressing up as Amelia Earhart after giving her daughter a speech about empowered women was less than subtle but effective, and Crosby proposing with the candy ring to Jasmine was something that could only have happened on Halloween (and isn't a huge deal for the show but should still serve as a positive step forward for the couple, no matter what she says). Gordon started out in this episode as completely irritating and gradually became less annoying, especially as he helped Sarah out and Amber admitted that she liked them. It saddens me to think of what became of scorned Mike, but perhaps Sarah can have a decent few episodes with her boss as her boyfriend. It's great that Max was able to survive trick-or-treating at that house, because I definitely would have been terrified.

What I'm Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 4 “Cleaning House” (B+)

It's sometimes hard to pick which element of this show is the most interesting, the lawyers or the cases, and that's a good problem. Watching Cary delight in catching Alicia off guard during the interview is one thing, and seeing Will come back and threaten Cary outright to defend her was entirely fantastic. The sudden emergence of a third candidate in the race previously occupied just by Childs and Peter is an interesting twist, and the fact that it's Anika Noni Rose's Wendy Scott-Carr is even more intriguing. Eli's panicked phone call as the credits came up at the end of the episode was perfect, showing his flustered nature and indicating just how monumental and unexpected a development this is. I enjoyed seeing Alicia failing to have patience for Mamie Gummer's wacky Nancy Crozier, and the smile on Alicia's face when she got that witness through without her knowing was brilliant. Lawyers pulling tricks in real life may not be quite so terrific, but on this show, it's definitely a good thing. Alicia pointing out to Kalinda that Blake was trying to make a point by calling her Lila sure brought out some rage in Kalinda, who had a very good time trashing Blake's car and making her own point loud and clear. Seating Will and his date at the same table as Peter and Alicia made for some enlightening conversation. For any “Grey's Anatomy” fans out there, this episode contained the two guest actresses who received Emmy nominations for appearing on that show in 2007: Kate Burton as Victoria Adler and Elizabeth Reaser as Will's date.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I'm Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 3, Episode 7 “Widening Gyre” (B+)

I'm continually impressed by how this show manages to incorporate characters like Tara's boss, Margaret, into its continuing storyline, giving them personalities of their own when they could easily exist without much character at all. In this episode, she comes to Gemma to ask for help with getting Tara to stay and then chooses to help Tara in covering up Gemma's escape, fitting in a revenge punch straight to Tara's face in the process. It's unlikely that Gemma's flight will be looked upon kindly, especially considering the trouble that Stahl went through to try to help get her off. Everyone's protecting everyone, since the only reason Gemma is breaking out, presumably, is so that Jax doesn't have to become a rat for Stahl to get her freed. That's something absolutely thrilling and fantastic about watching Tig lead the cops on a wild goose chase while Gemma is headed in the other direction, about to board a plane to Belfast. Things are going to get ugly in Belfast, considering Jimmy knows much more than the club thinks and that he's going to be waiting for them upon their arrival. Back on the home front, it was good to see Lyla standing up for Tara by admonishing Jax's one-night stand, and the conversation between Jax and Opie about how much Donna knew was quite intriguing. As has been the case recently, every time Unser comes face to face with SAMCRO, the solidity of their relationship visibly becomes ever more unstable, and Gemma's flight is sure not to sit well with him in the long run.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What I'm Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 4 “No Ordinary Vigilante” (C+)

So now the things that I had initially excused about this show have begun to overwhelm the main elements of the story and put the show in a lopsided position of starting to contain more bad than good. I could have sworn that I saw J.J. on Television Without Pity's Fall TV 2010 Most Annoying Characters list, but it seems that he was mysteriously left off. His desire to have his parents be proud of him for his achievements is completely undercut by the fact that he's lying to them. Something tells me that they would be very impressed with the way he's using his newfound abilities to improve his academic and sports-related performance, yet his endlessly manipulative modus operandi negates all of that, making him an utterly dumb, detestable character. Daphne isn't that much better, and while I initially praised this show for focusing on the entire family, reading minds to get into parties and steal beer is hardly worthy of a quarter of an episode. I understand that Autumn Reeser on any show is almost entirely for comic relief, but having her and Stephanie fail to come up with anything better than “we're talking about our periods” as an excuse when cheesy villain Chiles walks in on them isn't terribly impressive. I'm also not enjoying the silliness of Jim actually faking allergies and covering up his face to avoid having the witnesses identify him as the vigilante. Guillermo Diaz, of “Weeds” and even “Mercy” fame, you do not belong behind a mustache as a cop on this show. There's much work to be done on this formerly promising show.

What I'm Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Ecstasy and the Agony” (B+)

It's hard to feel sympathetic for Paul when he manages to react so poorly to unfortunate situations that could elicit a reasonably upset response. Catching his wife cheating on him with a man he met and liked can't be easy, but melting down in front of his boss and newly promoted partner is just inappropriate and stupid. Picking up his son while drunk and having him drive home then blaming it on Cathy is even more despicable. I thought that the good doctor was going to spill the beans about Cathy's cancer to Paul, but instead, he manages to make things worse by demanding a divorce rather than talking to her. It's partially her fault since she didn't tell him about her condition, but I have a feeling he wouldn't have reacted well even if she had been upfront and honest with her at the start. At least Cathy did have the chance to let loose and enjoy her ecstasy-filled evening with Lenny before having to deal with these family issues. On a lighter note, I loved seeing Sean, who has to be my favorite character on the show, interact with Marlene, who's quite a hoot herself. Why he attended the date he set her up on is a mystery, but it was so well worth it to see him appalled by the shocking forwardness of the 80-year-old guy. Marlene telling Sean to stop cock-blocking her was priceless, and I'm so glad that those two characters get as much screen time as they do.

What I'm Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 6, Episode 9 “To Moscow, and Quickly” (B+)

Whereas last week provided us an opportunity to see a normal mother-son relationship between Nancy and Shane, this episode gives us a chance to see a not-so-normal but still fascinating dynamic between two brothers. Shane has seemed like the more grown-up and put-together Botwin boy, and seeing Silas mess with him for a few hours just for fun is entertaining. Having Nancy's face pop up on the news with a “missing person” caption was somewhat unexpected, and a reminder that, wherever they go, the Newmans can't leave their old identities behind. The shot of the FBI agent on Nancy's tail also indicates that the show isn't done with that plotline, and it will certainly be back front and center before the season ends in a few weeks. All this discussion of going to Copenhagen reminded me of the season two finale where Shane kept quoting facts about Pittsburgh when he was having imaginary conversations with Judah. It's all just a fantasy, and as much as they can run freely around the country and fill out medical forms however they choose, they're never going to make a clean break. Nancy saying that she wants to make one last batch of weed and then get out is just as delusional an idea, as evidenced by the fact that she's been at this in one form or another for six years now, and every time she thinks she's out (like when she was working at the maternity store), she's just involved in a different way. You can't take the drug dealer out of this woman.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What I'm Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 5 “Casualties of War” (C)

This episode is markedly better than those that came before it for one reason above any other: the first eight minutes don't feature Sean or Leila and instead focus on what's actually interesting. Though his threat doesn't seem credible, it's good to see President Martinez taking a stand and refusing to be manipulated by his advisers, his wife, and Thomas. I would certainly hope that Thomas doesn't kill Sophia, because the alien populace wouldn't be quite as intriguing without a fearless leader such as herself (or a power-hungry loose cannon like Thomas). Simon making direct contact with Thomas feels very risky, but it does help make things more exciting because we get to learn more about them through those clandestine meetings. Seeing the passengers as they're suffering and about to die isn't nearly as compelling, and getting a chance to talk to them about what they're experiencing might prove more effective. Now back to Sean and Leila, this episode did offer a twist that I did not see coming, mostly because I wasn't paying close enough attention since I didn't find the appearance of Vicky's son a few episodes ago to be terribly relevant. Now, it makes some sense, but really, who kills a baby? And who expects someone to kill a baby without a second thought? Having Vicky as a semi-ally due to the secret Sean knows she has could come in very handy, and Sean and Leila are definitely going to need some help as they try to outrun everyone who's after them. Someday soon, all the threads on this show may actually come together!

One exciting thing: I was watching this on the metro in D.C. not two stops on the red line away from Farragut North when Thomas demanded Sophia be put on the train!

What I'm Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 5 “Chuck Versus the Couch Lock” (B+)

For a show that features spy missions almost every week, it's still exciting to find one that truly feels like a caper. Chuck's brilliant idea to have Casey pose as dead so that his former partners will reveal themselves was a whole lot of fun, and it was enjoyable to see Casey getting so into it. The incorporation of Morgan into all of it was also incredibly smart, and I loved how he ultimately decided to tell Casey about his relationship with Alex in order to get Casey to snap out of his couch lock. In another commendable move, Jeff and Lester are used in a fantastic supporting way, enabling them to intersect with the primary plot of the episode but not to be overly distracting. Chuck does seem like a real spy now, carrying his gun out in front of him and leading the way for Sarah as they head towards danger headfirst. I was worried that Morgan having to push Alex away for her own safety was going to follow in the unfortunate pattern of people with secret lives having to abandon their loved ones in order to protect them, but fortunately, Casey did a nice thing for Morgan by helping his daughter to regain his trust. Casey's uber-serious threat to Morgan at the end of the episode shows that he's still the same old Casey and hasn't undergone a silly, unexplained character transformation. As always, the conversation between Chuck and Sarah in the most serious of moments is extraordinarily entertaining.

What I'm Watching: Eastbound & Down

Eastbound & Down: Season 2, Episode 4 “Chapter 10” (B+)

When he's acting normal, Kenny Powers is already a pretty unhinged, boundary-free guy. Watching him actually lose it, therefore, is predictably frightening. Truth be told, catching his girlfriend in the midst of cheating on him with the guy who's helping to produce her record is a legitimate reason to get angry; it's just a shame that his fury gets the best of him and manages to overflow into his already tempestuous baseball career as he makes a fool of himself and gets into trouble with the authorities by taking out his rage on the field. After leaving the bulk of the cast behind in the first season, it seems that may be happening again now as Kenny likely won't want to talk to either Sebastian and Vida, and Roger has definitely had enough of Kenny's antics. The revelation that the mysterious Eduardo Sanchez is actually Kenny's father puts an interesting spin on things, since Kenny has never really shown admiration for anyone, and while he likely has a unique relationship with his father, he probably looks up to him for some reason or another. I'm sad to see Stevie's passionate, language barrier-defying relationship with Maria end so speedily, and if Stevie wasn't such a sad sap, he might one day realize that Kenny really has ruined his life (not that he doesn't ask for it). It's a good thing that Kenny is moving on to the next stage in his life since he was starting to really become just a terrible human being rather than simply a fantastically horrible main character. But knowing Kenny Powers, I'm sure another comeback isn't too far away.

What I'm Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 2, Episode 4 “I've Been Living Like a Demented God!” (B+)

I love the way the characters on this show interact, and I don't think any other show can quite match the wacky fluidity of their relationships and the reliably irreverent nature of the bizarre personalities that are Jonathan, George, and Ray. Seeing Louis again and having him follow Jonathan on his case was a fun twist that hadn't before been explored on this show, and I enjoy the fact that Louis still doesn't like Jonathan and that the first thing he said to him upon having his life saved by Jonathan in his most manliest of maneuvers was that he would not have been a good professor at Midwood College. I laugh every time Jonathan tries to explain his dual career as private detective and writer, and the professor's less-than-impressed reaction to his chosen fields was very funny. Ray's surprising lucky streak based on the success of his comic book was entertaining, and Kristin Wiig was the perfect choice to play the peculiar woman who slept with him and then felt utterly out of place and disgusted with herself the following morning. Ray's run-in with Leah was about on par in terms of awkwardness with any of Jonathan's attempts to get Suzanne back last season (I would definitely love to see her again). George's storyline in this episode is brilliant, and it's Ted Danson's way of reacting to everything that really makes it work, evidenced by the quick shift from his delighted realization that having cancer excused his smoking pot to his horrified realization that he does in fact have cancer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I'm Watching: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 13 “Tomorrowland” (B+)

Consider me just as shocked as everyone at Sterling (Cooper) Draper Pryce. Don just can't bear the thought of being alone, and as a result, he takes the ring given to him by the real Mrs. Draper and offers it to a woman with whom he shares no real connection, and certainly not one built on anything substantial. Their engagement seems almost like a dream, a haphazard decision that couldn't possibly still be true the next morning yet somehow is. That final scene with Don and Betty was fantastic, and it's interesting to see them in such different places in their lives now as compared with this same time last year, albeit both still so miserably unhappy. What's truly fascinating is the way that Peggy reacts to the news of the engagement, both subtly with Don and then later when venting to the icy Joan. The untold news of Joan's pregnancy is a nice surprise for the otherwise malcontent housewife, and we're sure to see a whole new side of her as she becomes a mother next season (presumably, she'll already be one, given the show's history of jumping ahead in time between seasons). Ken and Peggy's triumph is impressive, and should likely give them a deserved boost in credibility as the firm tries to recover from its loss of Lucky Strike. Credit is due once again to Kiernan Shipka for acting much older than her age as Sally says goodbye to her neighborhood friend before he is cruelly thrown out by her mother, costing Carla her job in the process. While this finale may not be anywhere near as monumental as last year's season ender, this is still a strong episode of television that's much better than most other shows on the air. I'm anxiously awaiting season five and a return to the 1960s.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Jon Hamm & Elisabeth Moss

What I'm Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 4 “The Thing That Counts is What's Inside” (B)

I was impressed with how this season started off, but at this point I'm beginning to lament a few stalled plotlines that seem to be headed in extremely expected directions. I'm speaking mostly about Lynette and Susan, and a bit about Gaby as well. For possibly the first time in the show's history, Penny actually has lines, in the absence of her more big-mouthed brothers. Unfortunately, nothing she has to say is too interesting, and I would posit that Lynette has more than enough problems already without having to live through the embarrassment of having to go pick up her youngest child when the next oldest one takes her to school on the bus because she's out jogging. Susan's plotline is certainly more exciting, but having Mike (or whatever mystery man that was) discover her posters and rip them down just makes all of her hard work seems like it's all for nothing, and they'll eventually have to move back to Wisteria Lane anyway, otherwise their ties to the other housewives and families will wear and at some point before severed forever. Gaby's daughter being exactly like her is amusing, but I don't love the idea of her promising the young girl that she'll get all the expensive stuff she likes and deserves, because it inappropriately turns a comedic plotline into an unnecessarily dramatic one. Anything involving Paul and his skittish second wife already is serious enough, and the show's doing okay with just that as its dramatic backbone. Bree and Renee burying the hatchet is a nice turn of events, and hopefully Bree can find some happiness, if only briefly, with her new beau.

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 5, Episode 4 “Beauty and the Beast” (B+)

I'm not sure how much I've mentioned about the episodes titles on this show before, but I should make note of this particular installment's titular brilliance. It's fantastically indicative of Dexter's own perception of himself as the brutish beast and Lumen as the mysterious beauty with whom he now has a unique bond. Dexter is being infinitely more truthful than he ever has before, telling the babysitter a shocking amount of real information and then trusting Lumen with the facts about his wife and the way he operates. After an episode of dangerously close escape attempts, she finally trusts him too, and telling him that others have brutalized her the same way Boyd did too should help fill the next few episodes with some intense hunting and revenge-seeking on the part of Dexter. It's not only America's favorite serial killer who is coming in contact with some despicable people. Deb encountered a horrifying amount of violence in this episode as she had to watch a guy have his throat slit right in front of her, something which the show hasn't really done, even if its first and third seasons when the main villains were murdering people in fairly brutal ways and leaving them to be found by the police. Deb's declaration of “I don't need a good guy” to Quinn does emphasize her need to de-stress after everything she's been through, and spending time with someone who's not as angelic-seeming as Rudy, Lundy, or Antoine may be good for her. Quinn, though, is headed down a treacherous path disturbingly similar to that of Doakes back in season two, and it should be fascinating to see how that one turns out.

What I'm Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 1, Episode 5 “Nights in Ballygran” (A-)

This show is really making up for a few slow episodes at the start with back-to-back awesome episodes that really dig deep to reveal these truly interesting characters. The most impressive personality in this installment has to be Margaret, whose grand effort to bake Nucky some soda bread resulted in her being spurned and blown off by him in favor of more important matters. Apparently she's done taking things lying down, testing his honesty by asking him if he enjoyed the bread that she trashed right after he ignored her. Coming to Nucky was one thing, but going to the FBI after being ignored once again by him was an entirely new step in their relationship, which of course gets infinitely more complicated by their new romance at the end of the episode. Her reaction to his calling her by her first name really made it clear how much their personal boundaries were coming down, even if they were separated by so much on a professional level. Van Alden really seemed to relish busting the St. Patrick's Day dinner, and the raiding scene was one of the best the show has presented yet. I imagine that the relationship between Nucky and Eli will only deteriorate from here, and Eli won't soon forget being maligned and overshadowed by his brother. Jimmy caring for his battered girl was an intriguing side plotline that came to a quick and shocking end with her sudden suicide. Put in the memorable Arnold Rothstein haircut scene, and this show really knows how to handle multiple threads and do a marvelous job with all of them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What I'm Watching: Smallville (200th Episode)

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 4 “Homecoming” (C+)

This milestone installment is about as monumental and revolutionary as this show has ever been capable of being, and I don't really mean that as a compliment. This show has always relied on imagined realities and time travel as handicaps to actually moving the plot forward, which is the reason that Clark told Lana, Chloe, and Lois about his secret an infinite number of times and it never amounted to anything because they were always under the influence of some type of mind-altering parasite or got their memory erased due to a correction of the time continuum. Now, characters from past seasons arrive for one long metaphor rather than a celebratory two-hundredth episode that actually changes things in a major way. The return of James Marsters shouldn't be seen as a bad thing, but can't anything happen in the present without some assistance from the future? Clark being able to see what it would be like to be a public hero is fun, but isn't it about time that he's able to do that in the present? Enough going to the future – it's time to be there already! After ten seasons, Clark needs to become Superman. Watching him save that plane was incredibly exciting, and it would be nice if Clark did that on a regular basis. I was hoping the episode would end with him bursting through the roof of his barn and giving Lois the ride of her life. Instead, all we get is a romantic moment of them hovering just above the ground mid-dance. Oh well, maybe by the finale this show can finally realize its potential.

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 4 “Sex Ed” (B+)

Leave it to a herpes scare to have Michael get back in touch with all of his ex-lovers, as he likes to call them. It's usually entertaining to see Michael make a fool of himself with women, and the amount of time spent on each of his past romances is very appropriate. Because of her limited impact so late (not to mention recent) in the show's run, the zany Donna is relegated to a faceless phone call. Carol gets a visit, and most memorably, Jan gets another chance to sound even crazier and more clueless than Michael. And then there's Holly. Michael's voicemail at the end of the episode is a great, very rare instance of him standing up for himself when he's actually in the right, reminiscent of when he yelled at David Wallace for transferring her in the first place. Since Michael has such a limited time left, it's about time that Holly came back for a bit. The love triangle currently in existence at the office isn't doing terribly well, as the oblivious and obvious Andy continues to bumble about as he tries to woo back his former girlfriend (not the blond Christian one). His very frank conversation with Gabe is amusingly indicative of the kind of person Andy is, desperate to be liked so much so that he'll say anything, especially something weird like the quote Gabe repeated back to him. One of the best moments of the episode: Darryl giving Andy advice that works for any situation.

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 4 “Live Show” (B-)

I've never been a big fan of the idea of a live show, and the most recent major effort I saw, the Santos-Vinick debate episode of “The West Wing,” didn't impress me too much since I think it would have worked much better as a pre-filmed, dramatized episode. My main problem with this show doing a live episode is that it leads to two things: mimicking “Saturday Night Live” since a good portion of the cast members have appeared on that show at some point, and utilizing a laugh track. The trouble is, this is a show that was built on not having a laugh track and letting the jokes speak for themselves, and therefore reminds of the time “Scrubs” re-imagined itself for an episode (with the help of Clay Aiken) as a laugh-track comedy, and it just didn't work. Fortunately, most of the jokes are funny enough and it's still a decent, if weak, episode. Everyone forgetting Liz's birthday is hardly a surprise, and beyond that, the show doesn't really have any other threads (I'm not sure Jack quitting drinking counts). The guest appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Flashback Liz was clever, and that's a fun way in which this show took advantage of the live format. The commercial segments with Chris Parnell and Jon Hamm were amusing, and that's not something this typically tends to do. This live show is a peek into an alternate reality where this show would have focused much, much more on the sketches, like the short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” did at first, and I think it's a format that only works somewhat well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What Drew's Watching: Bones

Bones: Season 6, Episode 4 "The Body and the Bounty"

"If Al Gore really cared about the environment, he'd live out of dumpsters." Thus does this episode cement my favorite line before even the opening credits. Anyway, we're doing just fine on our trajectory here, but we've taken a few backward steps on auxiliary characters. Although the bounty hunter employer is quite compelling, his underlings are lame stereotypes of the highest order. I can't pick apart The Wolf too much because he's...well...dead, which allows that maybe his personality was utterly out of sync with a gruff bounty hunter. (Maybe he rode unicorns and picked daisies in his spare time.) But the hot bounty hunter chick? I mean, come on. I know fiction gets to go down roads that real life could never set foot on, but this is so far outside the realm of credibility that even my male brain is protesting (even if it may crave hot bounty hunter chicks in less serious programming). The mystery is cool (I got it pretty fast), but a few anomalies stick out: wouldn't the fake ribs need to be replaced after each murder weapon test? And if Booth can half-open the double-doors in the hospital, why can't he slide the crutch out to finish the job? Oh well. The action in this one is two-sided: the first chase scene is great, but the second one is poorly directed and clumsily shot. David Allen Grier is fun as the Science Dude if you can get over your desire to see the role played by Bill Nye instead. Honestly, though, out of everything, my biggest problem with this episode is Bones's ridiculous getup at the end. I can swallow her decision vis-à-vis Grier (mind-blowing spoiler: she agrees to do the show), but the Temperance Brennan I know and (sometimes) love would never, ever wear that. All in all, this is a solid episode that kept me interested without any trouble. (P.S. I laughed out loud at Angela's expertly delivered one-liner regarding baby names...and if a show can make me laugh out loud, it's an automatic ten for comedy.)

Plot: 8/10
Action: 8/10
Characters: 6/10
Comedy: 10/10
Bones's Makeup: 9/10

Overall Grade: A

What I'm Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 4 “Strangers on a Treadmill” (B+)

There's nothing I love more than mixing up characters who don't traditionally interact and seeing what happens. This show has done that fairly regularly from the start, but the pairings we get in this episode are actually rather fresh (three of them, in fact). I think that the way the plan was hatched by siblings Mitchell and Claire was hilarious – described by Mitchell as the perfect crime, with movie allusion and everything. Anyone talking to Cameron about his bike shorts is going to be funny, and I very much enjoyed his reaction both to Claire's criticism and his overheard quip by Mitchell about her failure to achieve success. Mitchell really didn't do very well with Phil, of course, though it was entertaining to see Phil start to attack him for not laughing. Claire hiding Phil's notes could have been disastrous, but fortunately it worked out for the best and earned Claire a nice big smooch from her husband back at home. Jay's stupidity was entertaining, though hardly the strongest arc of the night. The best part of the episode, in an unusual twist, was the dynamic between Haley and Alex as Haley tried to turn her younger sister into a version of herself. Watching the phone conversations unfold was fantastic, especially when a teary Haley lost it when Alex accidentally said she had homework to do and reverted back to her apologetic, slave-like self. This show really does have something for the whole entire family, and excels in every department.

What I'm Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 4 “Better With Fighting” (B+)

There's something about this show, especially in the way the episodes are titled, that to me defines what the sitcom used to be all about, especially in the 1990s. Growing up with shows like “Friends” and “Will & Grace,” this show is a familiar, likeable series about relationships and families. I'm not a huge fan of the other laugh track-laden options like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” so this series is a welcome reminder that traditional situation comedies can still work. While it may not be entirely brilliant or revolutionary in its storytelling or writing, I still find each episode highly enjoyable (I begin these reviews like this mostly because I've read some very undeserved negative things about this show and much prefer it to more highly-praised, written-about shows like “Raising Hope” and “Outsourced”). It's amusing to see how differently these three couples fight and how unwillingly they take their own bad advice and put it into practice. I'm speaking mostly about Maddie's decision to strip naked at a restaurant to get Ben to stop yelling at her, and Joel and Vicky's decision to try fighting naked only to discover it isn't nearly as fun or fulfilling. As always, I find the interactions between Casey and Ben to be the funniest parts of the show, and Ben's continued fluster-ability works so well opposite Casey's laidback, often unintelligent attitude. I'm beginning to find all six of these characters truly endearing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I’m Watching: Undercovers

Undercovers: Season 1, Episode 4 “Jailbreak” (B+)

I’m continually impressed by this show, which manages to provide excitement, entertainment, and coherent storylines at the same time! I’d also like to commend this show on the fact that everyone speaks in this episode with an Irish accent, which is due both to superb casting and great writing. I remember when Jack Bauer posed a Serbian assassin in the first season of “24” (a fantastic season; don’t get me wrong) and didn’t even bother trying to disguise his voice. This show will have none of that, and all four players are ready to put on a Gaelic dialect in the service of executing their mission. Though it seemed like the continually obnoxious (in a good way, at this point) Leo kept beating Samantha and Steven to the punch, credit is due to Steven for being awesome in this episode. He really knows what he’s doing, setting up that briefcase to explode and warning Leo with the appropriate code phrase. The scene itself was magnificently done, and I do enjoy being able to experience so much action, especially on Wednesday nights, an evening currently populated only by half-hour comedies that I watch. The fabulous foursome is managing to work very well together as a team, and with more practice, they’ll be able to carry out all their missions without a hitch (though too much perfection wouldn’t be quite as fun). At this point, it’s been one standalone mission each episode, and while I’m loving it, I’m eager to see some recurring characters and themes introduced.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Booth Job” (B+)

I was very worried when I saw Gordon in the “previously on” segment before the show since I was much happier having Mike take his place. Fortunately, his appearance went over infinitely better than the last few times he was on the show, though I would caution Sarah about making out with multiple people in public, especially when they both work at the same office and one of them is the boss. It’s good to see Sarah shine since she really needs that, and hopefully this successful adventure can lead to further positive occurrences for her. I loved watching her and Amber, who with their glasses looked strikingly alike, and I’m so glad that Amber has come back in the spotlight. This show seems to following a rotating policy, where one Braverman child gets the big showcase while another two or three have small parts, and the rest don’t even appear at all (hello, Jabar!). I very much enjoyed the way Julia and Joel sorted out their problems, and the same is true of the resolution of Adam’s feelings about group help. Zeek’s dancing obliviousness was incredibly painful to watch, and fortunately it didn’t dominate the episode. It’s wonderful that Jasmine is starting to realize just how great Crosby is, and he really did do a terrific job nailing that interview by offering up his enthusiastic help with their musical production. I’d have to imagine, however, that their little fib about their marriage may come back to haunt them later on, but for now they should remain happy.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 3 “Breaking Fast” (B+)

Is there anyone as entertaining as Alan Cumming? His choking episode when he was watching the YouTube clip and fluster-prone nature whenever someone laughed it off is absolutely hilarious, and I’m so glad that his presence works perfectly with the semi-serious tone of this show. I was also very pleased to see Dallas Roberts, currently starring on AMC’s “Rubicon,” as Alicia’s brother Owen. After playing the only straight person in the middle seasons of “The L Word,” Roberts is back to playing a gay man, which he did marvelously (though very differently) in a little-seen earlier work of his, “A Home at the End of the World,” opposite Colin Farrell. Roberts’ flamboyant presence is great fuel for other events to transpire, most notably the break-fast organized by Eli to smooth things over with both the gay and Jewish communities. It was interesting to hear Grace’s take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to hear response from other people at the table, and of course Jackie’s attempts at understanding keeping kosher were humorous. Childs questioning Alicia’s immersion in the case was interesting, and I liked how she was kept on in a minimal capacity. It’s also good that Bond isn’t opposed to keeping her involved since you’d think he might be. Kalinda did a spectacular job as always, and I’m loving the feud between her and Blake (who insists on calling her Lila every time he sees her!). I found Alicia’s comment to Blake not to get her involved very, very amusing, and I’m so glad that we, the audience, are so involved.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 3, Episode 6 “The Push” (B+)

The characters on this show are beginning to tread on very dangerous territory, as Agent Stahl not only gets SAMCRO’s bail hearing postponed but also feeds lines to Gemma in order to get her charges dropped. Pointing to her partner as the guilty party is a strategy presumably designed to nullify her deal and ultimately exonerate completely her due to lack of evidence, but it’s definitely a risky gamble. Gemma as a dangerous force should also not be underestimated. Jax’s stern conversation with Gemma where he said that she’s not his mother, just a member’s old lady, is the first step in disconnecting them, where Gemma might (though probably won’t) choose to punish Jax for turning informant, even though it gets her out of jail. We’ll have to see where that goes, but we are on fantastic, frightening ground right now. It’s good that Clay has handled the feud with the Mayans, though offing the rat could have gone a whole lot smoother. Watching Tig and Kozik pummel each other in front of all the prospects was a light moment, but their feud will likely have further negative repercussions for the club in the future. The return of the seedy Darby is just bad timing, and hopefully the club can point the finger at him before Tara and Jax’s relationship is ruined forever (that last scene won’t help, of course). Unser’s affiliation with the club is truly taxing and likely to explode soon, and watching Elliott reluctantly agree to help the club out is a perfect representation of what it’s like for a man to have lost his life to the mob, unable to get out, no matter how hard he’s tried or how much he’s given.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Take Three: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 3 “No Ordinary Ring” (B)

At this point, I’m really not sure this can ever become a great show. It seems a bit too grounded in the simplistic sensibilities I made excuses for last week, and while it’s entertaining enough, I feel that it could be capable of much more. Part of the problem is the consistently sluggish attitude that Jim has because his plans don’t seem to work. Stephanie executed a terrific operation with Katie’s help (though it appears Dr. King is on to them), so why do all of Jim’s attempts at heroism need to end in failure? Even his successes don’t pan out perfectly, and it would be nice to see him win one for a change. I do love the use of both Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser as the confidantes for the parents and, in this episode, their kids. I enjoyed having Daphne try to read Katie’s mind and discover that she is thinking about food, while George is scrambling to try and hide his thoughts from the mind reader. What absolutely did not work in this episode was the J.J.-crush plotline. Daphne telling him that she only dates Jewish girls and then having him research Judaism and wear a giant Star of David around his neck was almost unbearable to watch. It started out okay – J.J. looking at and absorbing the Hebrew alphabet – but it was taken way too far. This show needs to grow up a little and try to cater to the whole family; not just the kids watching.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 4 “Duets” (B+)

Something that I’m all for, both in principle and in practice, is pairing characters up with unexpected partners and watching how that plays out (see this week’s “Modern Family” for a similar, less musical situation). The introduction of Chord Overstreet as Sam was smooth, and he should be a useful character to create plenty of drama involving Kurt, Quinn, Finn, and the whole glee club. Finn was actually good for something intelligent in this episode, trying to explain to Kurt that he has no problem with him being gay but rather with the fact that he can’t take no for an answer. Kurt and Burt also had a meaningful conversation that helps in the long run to define Kurt as a character. Kurt’s “Victor/Victoria” number was clever, but what really moved me was his final duet with the similarly selfish and equally talented Rachel. That’s one pairing I definitely wouldn’t have expected, so kudos to this show for surprising me. In terms of wonderful surprises, my favorite song and dance number (because both aspects were equally important) in this episode was the duet performed by Tina and Mike, where the latter got to show off his abilities and even got the chance to say a few lines for one of the first times ever. It’s a pity we didn’t get to see Artie and Brittany before something, because Santana and Mercedes did a great job. Overall, this episode was extremely entertaining, and I like the idea of something like this far more than I’ve enjoyed some of the show’s previous gimmicks. Also, a piece of random trivia: this episode was directed by Eric Stoltz, currently the star and also director of last’s week episode of “Caprica.”

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 1, Episode 8 “Happy Birthday, Cancer” (A-)

We now officially have the best episode yet of this show, where Cathy is surprised by a whole legion of friends and actually manages to have a good time with some people she used to know. It’s always struck me as a bit strange that in order to truly surprise someone for their birthday, it’s necessary to make it seem as if everyone’s forgotten and no one cares. That sort of sums up the way Cathy was likely feeling, when only Lenny remembered and Marlene was the only one with whom she could enjoy some wedding cake. Yet the surprise party planned by the well-meaning Paul caught Cathy, and me as a viewer, well, by surprise. Cathy has isolated herself from the normalcy of her own life that it’s felt as if she doesn’t have any friends, and Marlene and Lenny are her only real outlets. Having them at the party, each knowing something no one else does, was especially interesting. Cynthia Nixon’s guest appearance as Rebecca was fun, and she was the one who really helped shake Cathy loose. I enjoyed the fact that her banter with Sean led to them sharing a rather intimate moment that prevented Cathy from doing laundry. Of course, the most intriguing part of the episode was having Lenny finally meet Paul and then decide that it wasn’t right for Cathy to come away with him. Then again, Cathy’s proclamation that she hasn’t been happy in years just pushed Paul away once more, so Cathy’s episode-ending phone call should hopefully result in a much-needed, relaxing getaway with less devastating implications than Michael Scott’s trip to Jamaica.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 6, Episode 8 “Gentle Puppies” (B+)

Is there anyone worthy of as much commendation as Justin Kirk? Possibly, yes, but not for the purposes of this review. He showed up halfway through this show’s first season with his “Chris died for your sins” shirts and has invigorated the show ever since with his sarcastic outlook on life, and now he’s the one holding the family together. His impressive transformation into an outlandish preacher was quite fascinating, and having Shane as his bookie didn’t hurt. But it’s Kirk’s willingness, usually matching the dedication contributed by Mary-Louise Parker, to go all out and do anything demanded of his character (think back to his days in rabbinical school, for instance) that makes this show such a blast. It doesn’t necessarily keep it grounded, however, though that’s not the case in this episode. The Newmans would be better served to cast off their uncle Ted for fear of the stupidity-prone Doug messing up their chances at each new locale they visit. I suppose that this show does want to maintain some sort of non-familial tie to its origins since so many characters – Heylia, Conrad, Celia, and others – have been left behind after Nancy and her family have fled to another state. This season has already been quite hectic, and there are no signs that it will be letting up anytime soon, considering the fact that both Esteban and the authorities are presumably still on their trail. Andy’s brief leadership of his flock did prove very amusing, and I hope to see his next wild idea in action.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What I’m Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 4 “A Matter of Life and Death” (D+)

I won’t waste much time decrying the fact that, once again, Sean and Leila are the focal points of the episode when it’s the visitors up north who really should be. Agent Collier officially ranks as my most hated character of the TV season so far (I might have to reevaluate that), but her sheer stupidity and inability to be the least bit helpful is pissing me off. Sean would be better off without his FBI escort dragging him down. The lengths to which this show is going to demonstrate just how manipulative, far-reaching, and corrupt everyone is are becoming repetitive. Leila didn’t need to spend an entire episode tugging at the ropes around her hands to break free and help set Vicky’s latest plan in motion. The use of unnecessary flashbacks irked me as always, and the show seems to be pandering to a much dumber crowd that I imagine is watching it. Once I saw the police officer talking to Carter, I understood exactly what was going on and didn’t need to waste another few minutes having it all spelled out for me. I would have preferred much more time spent on the interrogation clips which showed us the reactions of a few of the passengers from the plane. This would be a far more compelling show if the focus was on what was actually interesting. I don’t care how someone slipped a phone into the president’s son’s backpack. Let’s get a trace on that phone call and finally find out exactly what’s going on!

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 4 “Chuck Versus the Coup D’Etat” (B+)

Though it often takes me a moment to recall just exactly which character is which, it’s always nice to have a recurring villain brought back for a second or third appearance. In this case, having Armand Assante’s Generalissimo return also means that we get to see Casey reliving his Angel de la Muerte days, talking about how he lived in the walls of his home base for months. Casey not out in the field might have at first seemed dull, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his dry commentary. It’s also great to see the Generalissimo turn to Casey as the one man he trusts because he realizes just how much he hates him. On the subject of Casey, or at least his offspring, it’s a lot of fun to see Morgan squirm around as he’s debating whether or not to make a move on Alex for fear of being murdered by her father. Having Big Mike help him in his quest is also delightful, and I’m hopeful that this relationship can create much entertainment in the near future. Another relationship is functioning much better than expected, and that’s the union between Chuck and Sarah, who use their own issues to help resolve a potential international crisis. How touching, and quite inventive for the show itself! I would have thought that I would dread these relationship conversations Chuck tries to have with Sarah, but that final shot of Sarah talking to a sleeping Chuck was just wonderful, and I’m all for them as a couple more than ever.

What I’m Watching: Eastbound and Down

Eastbound and Down: Season 2, Episode 3 “Chapter 9” (B+)

What a strange show this is. If I thought it was the type of series that had some ultimate achievement as its goal, I might suggest that it had lost sight of it, but I think Kenny Powers is just doing what he’s doing because he doesn’t know what else to do. His former henchmen’s search has proved fruitful, so now Kenny can try to get his life back together, since signing autographs while dressed ridiculously and seated next to far more famous soccer players just isn’t cutting it. I enjoyed the confusion that arose an all ends from Kenny’s former henchmen looking for Steve since Kenny had given them that name, and I think universal confusion is one of the things this show does best. It also does a spectacular job of giving the most despicable things to say, and his allusion to the conflict between the Jews and the Muslims was particularly hilarious. His relationship with Vida is quite interesting, and I doubt Michael Pena’s Mr. Cisneros is the only one surprised by Kenny’s good fortune, especially considering the way he treats her. This show is managing to round out its cast for the second season at this point, which is a good thing, led by Pena and Ana de la Reguera. I’m still hoping that we’ll see some familiar faces from back home, like April, but I’m not holding my breath, since Kenny’s search for himself will likely take him deeper into Mexico rather than away from it.

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 2, Episode 3 “The Gowanas Canal Has Gonorrhea!” (B+)

Jonathan always does get himself in sticky situations. This week’s mess, of course, is a leftover problem from two week’s ago when Jonathan escaped from the dungeon. This show has a marvelous sardonic tone that really works well, and all of its characters, especially the guest ones in this episode, conform to it excellently. It’s no surprise that Jonathan’s kidnappers don’t have their business together, and that Jonathan doesn’t exactly take them seriously, evidenced by how he responds to all of their questions and demands. I like the fact that George and Ray come to his rescue, and that George was so stoned that he didn’t realize that his surprise assault should take place at a time the kidnappers didn’t expect. His notes taken in the air were also quite impressive, and I like that he’s bonding with Ray, even if the bearded guy isn’t terribly receptive to his friendship. George shooting Ray in the head probably won’t help them, but I do love that it didn’t even really faze Ray, at least physically. George’s discovery of his cancer is a sad turn of events, though I’m sure this show will manage to turn in into a wacky emotional journey even more peculiar than that of Cathy on “The Big C.” Jonathan now once again finds himself single, and his breakup wasn’t all that pleasant this time around either. It might be some comfort to him, however, that in this case, it really wasn’t him or his love for wine - it was someone else.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 12 “Blowing Smoke” (A-)

Wow. It hasn’t been long since the fantastic formation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and now they have to conduct cost-cutting measures so severe that it takes all of the fun out of their mutiny at the end of last season. The departure of Cooper, someone who has always been on the sidelines as compared with the other partners, is quite a surprise, and it’s likely that they’ll suffer in his absence because of his many years in the business and considerably influence as a figure in the industry. As is stressed in this episode, Don is really the reason that people know the firm, and his unapproved public diatribe against smoking comes as a real shock. It’s a brilliant move, and credit is actually due, as is not uncommon, to Peggy for providing him with the proper provocation. For a show with so much smoking, thinking about the agency as anti-smoking is unbelievable. The call that was supposedly from Bobby Kennedy was an additional blow that Don didn't need. The sheer amount of people fired is striking, and seeing the head honchos at the firm line up to depart for yet another meeting that doesn’t end up happening is heartbreaking. Don paying for Pete’s share of the personal contribution to keeping the firm afloat was incredibly interesting, and it’s fascinating to see how their relationship is developing, summed up perfectly in their final silent salute to each other. Betty deciding to move seems like an especially harsh punishment for Sally, which is surely going to drive even more of a wedge between them. It’s hard to tell how things are going to end up for all of the characters on this show, and I’m sure next week’s finale will provide some compelling answers.

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 3 “Truly Content” (B+)

Though I’m inclined to say that I don’t approve of some of the arcs in this episode, the show did manage to surprise and ultimately entertain me. Lynette manipulating Tom into thinking he was smoking pot when he was really just getting high on oregano seemed like a poor idea, but it seems to have found him happiness in the end, and avoiding too much time spent on silly shots of him acting stoned earns points with me. Susan’s seductive cleaning could also have gone down the drain as a storyline but for the introduction of Rebecca Creskoff’s Stacy Strauss. I love the “Hung” actress, even though her accent here was less than consistent. Susan actually is one of the fiercest housewives, whose clumsiness is her fiercest weapon (see: Edie’s burnt down house). Speaking of fierce women and feuds, pitting Bree and Renee against each other is a marvelous idea, and planting the newly single Keith smack in the middle of their tug-of-war is great. Bree has been saddled with unhappiness and Orson for a while, so it’s good to see her try to reclaim some of the fun in her life. The dramatic acting from Eva Longoria in the mediation scene didn’t impress me as much as it has in the past, but the follow-up with her clandestine meeting with Bob and Carlos’ furious response to her betrayal was better. I’m intrigued, as always, by Paul’s evil plotting, and it’s interesting to see that subtly proceed forward while the housewives go about their own lives.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 1, Episode 4 “Anastasia” (A-)

I’m glad I stuck around. My patience was wearing thin considering the plodding pace of the first three installments of this show, but like most of HBO’s recent fare, it just took a little time to break in this new series. Thanks to Jack Moore of Ology for giving me encouragement – you were right (check out his list of ten awesome things about this episode). There are many things that I really liked about this episode, and I’m even approaching more clarity about who all of the supporting characters are and how they’re connected (I don’t think I’ve been paying close enough attention). Firstly, I love the episode’s title and how it serves as a subtle undercurrent of the episode’s events, starting out as a story on the radio and ending up as a disappointing headline on the newsstands. The influx of newly featured characters in this episode is spectacular, and I’m pleased with everyone. Starting out with the seedy, we have Geoff Pierson, a former President from “24,” and Chris Mulkey, of “Sleeper Cell,” “Twin Peaks,” and much more, as the two politicians with whom Nucky cavorts. Emily Meade and Gretchen Mol gave spectacular performances as Pearl and Gillian, respectively, making the women on this show even more memorable than the men. And that’s not even mentioning Kelly Macdonald, whose Margaret Schroeder manages to knock Senator Edge down a peg and capture Nucky’s glance as his less intelligent girlfriend bursts out of the cake. Also of note is the fantastic Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky, whose storytelling skills are almost as impressive as his amputation abilities. I’m very excited that this show is picking up and getting really, really good.