Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 10 “I’ll Let You Know When I Get There” (B)

Having successfully stayed away from reading anyone else’s opinion on this episode, I’m fortunate enough this week to share my completely unimpressed-upon thoughts. I think this is probably the strongest episode the show has aired thus far, mostly because it picks up the pace considerably and starts heading in a completely new direction, finally somewhat surer of where it’s headed. Stan turning himself in for the savage beating (but not murder, since everyone’s favorite teacher is still hanging on for dear life at the hospital) of Bennett is an important step since he’s admitting his own guilt and actually allowing the legal system to try to carry out justice. All fingers are now pointing at Belko Royce, who was ignored as a suspect in the past and now appears to be quite suspicious, continually contradicting himself and freaking out while being interrogated by Holder. As any TV watcher knows, a morning run is often quite enlightening, and the discovery that Adela is a ferry is big news, as is the seemingly meaningful shot of a casino across the border. I’m sorry, but how is this different from “Twin Peaks” again? Darren is suddenly looking very good as he has been supporting Bennett all along, and I do hope his manipulative campaign team doesn’t screw him too badly by covering up his handshake with Rosie. The final interaction between Rick and Sarah was strong, and an important underlining of why it is that they’ll never work. On a lighter note, I enjoyed one exchange in particular between Sarah and Holder: “Aren’t you a vegan?” / “Vegetarian, and it’s a donut.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 7 “You Win or You Die”

Well, this is definitely a game-changer. To think that something as minor as a hunting accident could fell King Robert and cause such enormous upheaval is rather alarming, but that’s the nature of the way things work on this show. Cersei put it well when she spoke the line that give this episode its title and mentions the name of the show at the same time – “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” That’s definitely true, as she enforces her cutthroat nature by ripping up Robert’s deathbed declaration appointing Ned to be protector of the realm. Seeing Cersei and her arrogant son give orders to the guards only to have them countermanded by Robert was intense. Ned continues to be the diplomat, proclaiming his desire for there not to be any bloodshed only to have guards stab each other only seconds later. Most unfortunately, of course, it seems that he has trusted the wrong people, as he finds a traitor’s knife at his neck, yielded by Petyr Baelish, as the screen fades to black right in the middle of the action. Worst of all, Ned may have made an enemy he tried not to make by failing to stop the assassination attempt on Daenerys before it was too late. I like how she was so innocent in that setting and then managed to put on a more serious, watchful air when it became clear that the jolly wine seller was actually an assassin. One thing is for sure: the final three episodes of this season are going to be exciting.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Series Finale)

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 4, Episode 8 (B-)

Though this season has been a glorious and unfortunate disappointment, this finale is rather fitting. Belle needs to look back on her choices, her men, and her life, to determine whether she is truly on the right path. Ben has been a constant in her life, but since they actually got together as a couple, things haven’t been nearly as smooth, and they’re just not going to last. It was wholly appropriate, and rather effective, to have Belle meet with a client who recognized her from their days in school together. Seeing Belle, or rather, Hannah, be so open and honest about why she went into this profession and how she enjoys sex, is refreshing, particularly for this character who has been tarnished by the ways in which she’s changed this season. The presence of her cop suitor makes sense given his prominence in this season, but his relevance to her life, and to the entirety of the series, shouldn’t be overestimated or misinterpreted. For a show that has added and taken away cast members each season, leaving only Belle and Ben throughout, it’s primarily a one-woman show, and that’s something that Billie Piper, especially in the first three seasons, has done commendably. While I’d like to pretend that this particular season didn’t exist, it honestly wasn’t nearly as bad as many other shows have been after they’re jumped the shark or transformed their characters. Essentially, it could have been a lot worse, and I think I’ll still think of it favorably in the future.

Season grade: C
Season MVP: Lily James as Poppy
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Billie Piper

Saturday, May 28, 2011

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

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 24 “The One That Got Away” (B+)

After closing last season with an attempt at a family portrait, trying to bring the family all together for their patriarch’s birthday is a fine way to send out the second and equally fantastic year. Of course the patience-challenged Jay would want to spend his birthday out on a boat in the middle of a lake all by himself, and of course it would somehow go wrong. I love the unparalleled nerdiness of Claire and Mitchell that shines through when they try to relive their dorky childhoods, and watching them trapped in their old backyard by a fearsome dog, talking about whether Manny will get part of Jay’s inheritance, was a blast. I love Phil’s excitement at people thinking that Gloria was his wife, and it was a nice twist to have him discover that his nemesis really thought that Claire was the best anyone can do, and his overexerted fawning over her was very amusing. Cameron giving Manny some rather sketchy-sounding advice was perhaps a bit too blatant, but Eric Stonestreet makes it work. I’m happy that Cameron and Mitchell want to have another child – a boy – and I look forward to that plotline next season. Manny saving the day by bringing Jay’s boat into the pool was sweet, and I love that this family prevails through anything obstacle. This has been a stellar season, once again proving to be one of today’s top comedies. I’m eagerly awaiting season three, and, in my opinion, the fall couldn’t come soon enough!

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Do I have to pick?

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: Glee (Season Finale)

Glee: Season 2, Episode 22 “New York” (C+)

On a show like this, it’s required for the season ender to be a spectacle. A trip to New York for Nationals certainly fulfills that, and this hour does take advantage of the wonders of New York City as a performance space. I’m most impressed with the successful emptying of areas such as Washington Square Park to be able to film a scene with all of the players. Logically speaking, the sudden takeover and rampant running around of the members of the glee club isn’t as sound, and I’ve read critiques of Rachel’s failure to know that the musical to which she purchased tickets hadn’t been on Broadway for years, especially since Quinn did know that. The ease with which Will and the duo of Kurt and Rachel were able to sneak into auditoriums to sing their hearts out is also rather suspect. In a lot of ways, however, this was a predictable episode. They made it to New York, but they didn’t place, yet they still bonded as a glee club, ready to take on their next hurdle. Though the kiss itself didn’t do much for me, I did really like the renewed relationship between Finn and Rachel, and it’s good to see that he’s finally wising up and treating his girl right. Blaine’s declaration of love for Kurt seemed easily passed over and almost forgotten, and the coupling of Sam and Mercedes a bit peculiar if not amusing. This second season has definitely been rockier than the first, and just as uneven. I still enjoy it, and I’m hopeful that next year can bring some more clarity and coherence on a regular basis.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Chris Colfer as Kurt

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Chicago Code (Series Finale)

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 13 “Mike Royko’s Revenge” (B+)

Now this is how you end a show. Season one’s arc comes to a fantastic end while the show manages to wrap itself up well enough that it’s appropriately self-contained and won’t forever leave its loyal fans like me hanging. This was an intense episode from the start, with Gibbons taking a preemptive step to announce his call for Theresa’s resignation before she had a chance to start taking him down. The transition from undercover cop to wounded hero for Liam, also known as Chris, was very well-handled, and it’s good to see him get somewhere positive. I was genuinely surprised by the killing of Killian, mostly for the sheer boldness of Gibbons’ secretary being the one to pull the trigger. I like how Wysocki’s brother ultimately proved to be the key to taking him down, and his noble posthumous deed it makes up for him having been corrupt. That final shot of Gibbons in the prison cell was a powerful one, and I won’t soon forget it. I’m glad that Wysocki ultimately got back onto good terms with his fiancée, since it’s a rarity to find him being gentle and comforting with anyone. I’m very pleased with the way all these plotlines have wrapped up, and that final shot of Theresa picking up a random guy at a bar was a perfect way to send out that particular character. This show hasn’t always been perfect, but with only two weak episodes in its first season, it deserved better than just one year.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Jennifer Beals

What I’m Watching: The Event (Series Finale)

The Event: Season 1, Episode 22 “Arrival” (F)

Are we done now? Good. Did we learn anything, or experience anything worthwhile in the twenty-one episodes since that glorious final scene of the pilot? No. Finding out that the title refers to an evolution of the aliens that we’re not even going to see is beyond dull and disappointing. I was going to compare this to the finale of “V” before the last minute or so happened, to say that it really didn’t take any chances, wrapping it all up neatly in a bow by reinstating Martinez, reuniting Leila and Sean, and having Sophia get caught. The final moments don’t help all that much since there’s no future to be seen and would likely have led only to certain stupidity. The entire process of having to put Martinez back in the president’s chair was a waste of time, and there’s no reason that he couldn’t have just accused Jarvis of poisoning him and have had his chief of staff back up his claims rather than be ridiculed as delusional by him. That should have been enough for sure. Cutting out the vote and just showing a victorious Martinez exiting the conference room is the ultimate sign of disrespect to Jarvis, and I can’t think of another character that has been this much of a punching bag since his very first appearance, constantly portrayed as an incompetent patsy. Having Sophia go through security underlined what was wrong with this show, among other things, showing how it chose to emphasize uninteresting moments and frame plotlines in unengaging ways. That’s not the only reason it’s going off the air, but this show really didn’t deserve another season. It wasn’t anywhere near as inventive as “Flash Forward,” and, in fact, it was really quite ordinary form the start, merely disguising itself as clever due to the involvement of aliens. Good riddance.

Series grade: F
Series MVP: Hal Holbrook as Dempsey

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 5 “Slip Away” (B+)

Starting the episode out with a funeral was a stark way to open it, and definitely set a melancholy tone for the hour. The musicians holding up their instruments was a strong and potent manner of displaying the sense of community felt in New Orleans, and it’s considerably truer after the effects of Katrina. Antoine showed appropriate devastation when hearing about the fate of one of his students, and it’s all the more meaningful since he’s one of the bubblier and more happy-go-lucky characters on the show. Albert is certainly having a hard time, getting his water turned off because he doesn’t have the proper permits and giving the messenger an earful for it. Ladonna doesn’t seem to be doing too well, but that’s only to be expected given her recent trauma. Ditto Sophia, who’s growing up all too fast, and not even the sight of her mother doing what she does best can snap her out of her funk. The impact of Toni’s lawsuits has never been more felt than when Lieutenant Colson finds himself extremely short-staffed since all of his officers are either in jail for corruption or concerning themselves with one particularly brutal multiple homicide. At least one character is able to progress positively in this episode, and that’s Janette, who finds herself a brand new job with an entirely forgiving and kindly new chef boss, requiring her to start at the bottom but offering her a wholly different and respectable work environment. While I think her path will eventually lead back to New Orleans, it’s good to see her getting some satisfaction now.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 9 “Undertow” (C+)

I made the mistake of reading another review of this episode before writing my own, which unfortunately may have swayed my opinion a bit. It talked about the fact that this episode took a few preposterous turns and also addressed the possibility of a second season renewal, which is reported to be looking quite likely. To the second point first, I’ve always thought that this felt much like a one-season premise, and it is. A second season would need to address a remarkably different case, and I’m not sure if it would be more or less interesting. Addressing the revelation that Bennett and Mohammed were hiding another girl, that’s not much of a surprise, something which I had predicted, although considerably more severe than I had anticipated. As far as that girl having the same exact T-shirt, I’d say that it’s bad enough to have bludgeoned someone to death, that his innocence doesn’t quite matter as much in the long run. The fact remains that Rosie was there the same night, and therefore Bennett is complicit in some way in the run-up to her disappearance and murder. Aside from that, this show seems to be unwisely forgetting its subplots, such as Sarah’s fiancée and Holder’s past as an addict, focusing instead just on their clashes with their superiors in trying to close this case. The one-shot $5 million promise was a bit contrived, as was having the mayor so corruptly order medical records faked. Darren’s storyline isn’t something that should survive to next season, and therefore I’m not sure what else this show has going for it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 6 “A Golden Crown” (B+)

I’m impressed that this show is managing to incorporate some truly shocking and intense developments without them feeling hammed or contrived. Pouring burning gold onto someone’s head when they ask for a crown is certainly one way to make a point, and it’s all the more meaningful coming from someone usually so timid like Daenerys. It’s especially interesting considering it’s an internal matter, and all that Robert is concerned about is the pregnant queen rather than her brother. She’s establishing herself to be quite a force, and her eventual interaction with other regal players is sure to be fascinating. Tyrion proves his worth, both literally and figuratively, once again by talking his way out of certain death and employing an unscrupulous swordsman to save his life and get him set free. He doesn’t seem to hold all that much of a grudge, but he’s the Lannister everyone need least worry about, as Cersei openly dishonors her husband and Jaime is still on the run for his activities in the last episode, prompting some gruesome murders and a call for retribution from the king’s Hand. Things are definitely primed to explode in the coming weeks, as this show ekes past the midpoint of its first season. I’m glad I stuck with this show since it just needed a bit of time to get started. Even if it’s a bit dense sometimes, its characters and especially its universe are quite rich and make up for that occasional impregnability in constant fine form.

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 4, Episode 7 (C)

It’s not often that a character sleeps in a coffin on a show that isn’t “True Blood” or another vampire-related drama. Why ruin that chance for creativity by having said character die during the act? This show used to be unpredictable, and even if some of it was predictable, it was more impressive than this. Such an event just serves to make everything else seem trivial, and the happenstance presence of Belle’s new civil servant suitor is too much. He does seem to be an overly understanding and sympathetic figure who still wants to give Belle a run for her money, yet somehow I’d imagine that, if there were more time, he’d turn into just the latest Alex or Duncan, albeit too cocky and sure of himself from the start. I’m continually baffled by Ben’s stupidity, agreeing to go meet Poppy when he knows that she’s interested in him. Also, a point of contention: when Belle said that she’d never lied to Ben, was that supposed to include only this season? He certainly didn’t know about what she did for a living for a while, and he hasn’t gotten all that much more perceptive. Additionally, she’s not overly honest with him, and for her to say something like that is just preposterous. Next week is this show’s series finale, and eight episodes too late, it’s definitely fine. Here’s hoping to some refreshing closure that will make this season half-worthwhile. I’ll definitely have to go back and watch some of the earlier seasons since this used to be one of my favorite shows.

Monday, May 23, 2011

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

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episodes 15 & 16 “The Bubble” & “Li’l Sebastian” (B+)

While I’d never complain about having two episodes of this show in a single night, every half-hour installment is so awesome and satisfying that two together just isn’t necessary. I’d rather have it stretched out longer so as to more fully enjoy the season, but alas, sixteen episodes is all we’ve been given, and we’re fortunate enough to have the show returning in the fall this time around. I’m so impressed at how the budding relationship between Ben and Leslie is being handled, with them sneaking around but still managing to get things done in an effective and believable manner, particularly when it came to the funeral. Ben meeting Leslie’s mom was also sufficiently understated and didn’t take up too much of the storyline, which was good. Chris’ failed attempt at restructuring was amusing, and the sight of Ron swiveling around in that chair was pitch-perfect. I’m not sure how I feel about Tom leaving the Parks department, but I think that he’ll be back before long since John Ralphio can’t distract him forever. I’m very intrigued by the introduction of a potential political candidacy for Leslie, and I think that would be a terrific avenue for next season (or the one after that, since she was reassured that there’s no rush and she wouldn’t have to leave her job anytime soon). This has been a simply superb and fantastic season, and it’s hard to pick a most valuable player since all the core people – Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza and newcomer Rob Lowe – have all been uniformly tremendous. I really hope that Emmy voters finally tune into this show and shower it with some love.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: See above

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

The Office: Season 7, Episodes 25 & 26 “Search Committee, Parts 1 & 2” (B+)

I might have had some doubts about the deafening amount of stunt casting that was advertised to be included in this episode, but all of my fears were allayed by this solid hour. Each of the celebrity cameos was relegated to just that – a cameo, in which their presence was superbly utilized without dominating any of the episode. Only one among them was given a semi-prominent showcase, and that was James Spader, namely because his character thought quite a bit of himself. The casting was dead-on, with Spader playing a sex-obsessed and terrifyingly intimidating madman, Will Arnett as a man unwilling to reveal his supposed plan for getting the company back on track, Jim Carrey as an applicant desperate to get back to his family vacation, and Ray Romano as a sad sack interviewee who sabotaged his chances in part by eating his lunch during the interview. I’m glad Ricky Gervais wasn’t given too much of a soapbox on which to stand, Skyping in remotely for the call rather than coming into the office. The internal candidates were just as entertaining. Dwight coming in wearing a disguise was definitely the best, though I was more impressed (with the show) for showcasing Darryl’s failure to take his interview seriously, followed by his horribly uncomfortable daughter stunt. The Angela engagement subplot was amusing, as were Pam’s attempts to subvert Creed’s destruction of the company. I like the way this finale worked, and I have some hope that this show can do well next year. This season was highly uneven but ultimately fun, highlighted by two high points, both involving Michael’s departure. Now, can Steve Carell finally win his Emmy this year? Let’s hope so.

Season grade: B-/B
Season MVP: Steve Carell

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 23 “See You Next Fall” (B+)

Despite the title, which represents an event related to the show’s world rather than that of the audience, this isn’t the season finale. It still serves as a proper tribute to all of the characters, fleshing out their insecurities and motivations before coming to a wonderfully sweet and appropriately sentimental conclusion. I’ve really enjoyed the recent emphasis on the relationship between Haley and Alex, which I think is very typical of two teenage sisters, one of whom is the cool one and the other the smart one. While her improvised speech proved not to be all that impressive, it’s nice that Alex took her sister’s feelings and recommendations into consideration. Alex’s transformation and Haley’s simultaneous regression were wonderfully choreographed. I think Phil is at best when he’s trying to orchestrate something involving Claire, and this episode was no exception as he wanted her to break down before his big break to Vegas with his buddies. We haven’t seen Phil in that context for most of this season, so it’s fun to have him back. Jay getting Botox and then trying to play off it going wrong is completely in line with his character, as is his frustration with the garage clicker not working. I enjoyed seeing Cameron get upset after Mitchell laughed at his clumsiness, since he really is quite hilarious even when he doesn’t intend to me. Ultimately, Alex’s speech, coupled with the relevant pans to the family members, was a great way to close out this episode, and how lucky are we that we still have one more episode left this season!

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

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 23 “Closing Arguments” (B+)

An extraordinarily strong season comes to a great close with this exciting finale, which manages to leave many of its plotlines open for interpretation while providing some much-needed satisfaction for a few of its main players. The case of a murdered judge and its presumed innocent accused could be used as a major stunt on other shows, but this series doesn’t let it overtake the story and the plot developments. I like how it does force Kalinda and Alicia to work together as they both express their newfound disdain for each other, creating an icy dynamic that still proves to be quite effective. It was interesting to see more of Kalinda’s relationship with Kelli Giddish’s Sophia, and I really wish that Giddish would stick around on this show rather than be relegated to unconventional but still unimpressive procedurals. Eli being pressured by the party to work with Alicia is one thing, but talking his way into Lockhart Gardner by telling Alicia that this isn’t a call she gets to make is extremely intriguing. I’d love to see him featured more prominently in a professional relationship with Alicia next season, and to see how he perceives things in the office. Alicia and Will finally expressing their feelings – and then some – for each other has been a long time coming, and it was a great note on which to end the episode. This has been a great year, and, while Emmy season is still a wee bit away, I think that Julianna Marguiles and Archie Panjabi should have great shots, and hopefully they’ll be joined by both Alan Cumming and Josh Charles in the supporting actor category. Season three of this show begins in the fall in its new home of Sunday nights at 9pm, and I look forward to seeing it then!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Archie Panjabi as Kalinda

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 21 “Funeral” (C+)

This episode wasn’t all bad, and the reason that I didn’t like it don’t have all that much to do with the event described in the title. While I do take issue with the fact that Sue suddenly becomes a completely different person when tragedy strikes and immediately considers Will to be one of her closest friends, I also understand that it’s hard to predict the effects of tragic events. The funeral itself was rather well done, and the performance of “Pure Imagination” was quite strong and stirring. Jane Lynch handled the serious moments her character had to dole out well, and overall this was a great episode for the actress, balancing the inconsistencies of her character in a way that she hasn’t been able to do all season. What troubles me much, much more is Jesse St. James. I noted last week that I don’t like when a recurring guest star swoops into town and starts to dominate the storyline, and having him act as a consultant slash reality show judge alongside a speechless Will undermines everything the glee club has stood for since its inception. Having Santana, Kurt, and Mercedes sing their hearts out only to be told that they’re not good enough isn’t what this show is about, and for the blubbering Will not to realize that is lamentable. Terri saving the day by scaring up some first-class tickets to New York is more than a bit odd, but hopefully it should lead to a powerhouse episode to close out this second season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 12 “Greylord & Gambat” (B+)

We’re down to the wire now with the second-to-last episode this show will ever produce. After a slight detour with Wysocki’s wife last episode, we’re back to the Gibbons case front and center with no mention of Wysocki’s personal life, as the secret grand jury meetings begin and Theresa’s star witness, unsurprisingly goes missing. This episode really delves into the complications of undercover work, where Liam is tasked with murdering two innocents (or close to) in cold blood and would most certainly find his cover compromised if he failed to comply. The danger of undercover work is also displayed, as Liam’s identity is revealed and he is nearly summarily executed for his traitorous, law-abiding ways. While it was the only possible option given the absence of her important witness, revealing the existence of an undercover operative seems like too risky a gamble given the immediate danger it put Liam in and the ease with which Gibbons’ lackeys were able to determine who he was based on creative deductive reasoning. The ending of this episode certainly represents a dramatic change in the direction of the storyline, as Gibbons realizes that he is out of all moves but one and decides to approach Wysocki to attempt to buy him off and barter a deal. Next week’s series finale is sure to be intense and hopefully satisfying, giving us a rich end to a strong arc this season that has featured the head-to-head battle between Theresa and Wysocki and their nemesis Alderman Gibbons.

What I’m Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 21 “The Beginning of the End” (F)

Since I last wrote about this show, NBC has wisely and unsurprisingly decided not to bring it back for another season, which means that next week’s season finale will be the last miserable, convoluted episode this show ever produces. This penultimate entry automatically loses points for taking the title of an awesome “Lost” episode (the season four premiere). Everything seems to be finally coming together, and boy is it underwhelming. Our two crack teams – Sean and Vicky and Blake and Simon – are suddenly united as they join with everyone’s least favorite whiny hybrid, prepared to stop an enormous alien invasion that five people most definitely shouldn’t be logically able to prevent. All of Jarvis’ mumbo-jumbo about being the President and insisting on doctor-patient confidentiality being broken in order to ensure a smoother chain of command transition is nauseating, but not as unbelievable as the way with which he’s managed to botch the aftermath of his already botched assassination attempt. Being smacked in the face by the former first lady is one thing, but to have your sins aired out publicly seems a bit ill-conceived as a plan. I’ve also always wondered after so many years of “24” and other TV presidents if, in real life, wounded presidents are left unattended by medical professionals the way they seem to be on the silver screen. I suppose it’s too much for me to expect any sort of coherence at this point, and just to revel in the fact that this show won’t have the opportunity to head into any new illogical territory next season.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck (Season Finale)

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 24 “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger” (B)

There’s something awfully odd and reassuring about coming to the end of a season of this show knowing that there’s more to come. The series was given a thirteen-episode final season order by NBC last week, which is actually perfect, because the show has gone on for a while and can now properly wrap itself up with more than enough notice. This fourth year has marked the show’s longest season to date, after thirteen, twenty-two, and nineteen episodes, respectively. While I might say that this has been the show’s weakest season, that’s not to say that it was remotely bad, just that the second and third were both awesome. This is one of those instances where twenty-four episodes might be a bit too much, and a shorter, more succinct season might have been more beneficial. This season has been about Chuck and Sarah getting closer together, Casey and Morgan building a relationship with Casey’s daughter, and Chuck and Ellie finally getting their mother back and trying to take down Volkoff. I liked seeing some of Hartley in this episode, especially since Volkoff, for all his speeches and shenanigans, wasn’t all that evil, and it’s nice to think that there was a kindly scientist in there all along. While Chuck was inevitably going to save Sarah, it’s still fun to see it play out, complete with tons of Russians to give Casey the creeps. Richard Burgi is a terrific addition to any show, and I’d be intrigued to see if he recurs in some fashion in the next season. The last few minutes are always the most crucial in judging a season finale, and while the revelation of a meticulous conspiracy to have Chuck become the intersect isn’t such a shocker, having Morgan download the intersect is. It’s a bit corny, but it makes sense that Chuck’s furry best friend would put on a random pair of sunglasses to celebrate his good fortune. That last line is amusing, and I’m eager to see how season five starts out, though I do hope that Morgan isn’t the Intersect for long, since that really wouldn’t work all that well. See you on Fridays in the fall!

Season grade: B/B+
Season MVP: Adam Baldwin as Casey

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 4 “Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get the Blues?” (B+)

Here we are with another holiday celebration airing half a year from when the holiday actually occurs, yet the episode still manages to capture the spirit of the festivity, specific to the way it’s celebrated in New Orleans. Things have developed from random tourists coming to see the aftermath of Katrina to trained filmmakers traveling down to document Albert and the creation of his new suit, something which still seems somewhat sensational but at least has some intellectual backing behind it. I noted last week that I love it when characters with which we’re intimately familiar get a chance to meet, and this week showed that once again. For the second week in a row, it’s Janette who gets to meet a member of Albert’s family as they hit it off in the club. Janette totally ruled this episode, garnering the ultimate revenge on the insane chef by netting him a bad review by splashing cognac in the critic’s face. Hopefully Janette can find something productive to do with her time now that she’s out of a job. It’s easy to see how some people flounder in unfortunate careers, like Antoine, currently stuck as an assistant music teacher in a school without instruments or insular roofing. Annie, however, seems to be having a bit of luck, though that interaction with the manger was mighty awkward. Davis’ attempt to build an eclectic and diverse album is rather hilarious, but what else could we expect from him and his crazy aunt Mimi?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 8 “Stonewalled” (B-)

We’re at a point now where things are beginning to fall apart for nearly all of our characters. Ironically, Holder may be the only one actually holding it together, as it’s revealed that he is a recovering addict rather than a still-active degenerate. That certainly changes the dynamic between Sarah and Holder, especially now that she knows about his vice and will be looking at him with a kinder and more forgiving eye. What really proved to be a surprise was the fact that Jack was the one who leaked the pictures, not respecting the boundaries of his mother’s personal (or, in this case, professional) property and seriously and understandably upsetting Rosie’s parents. Even more surprising, but less relevant to this particular series, is the fact that Jack is played by Liam James, the same actor who played the best Young Shawn on “Psych” for most of the past five years. I’m convinced that Bennett’s episode-ending phone call where he’s whispering about passports and the police not knowing about them is a red herring and has to do with something noble like helping out a person’s family in need. It’s certainly interesting, and disturbing, to see how aggressively the FBI is building a case against those at the mosque, so deeply committed to the idea of them being terrorists. Darren’s descent into dirty politics is likely going to come back to haunt him, but he has no chance of winning the election any other way, with his own people threatening to turn on him if he doesn’t make a move soon.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Wolf and the Lion” (B+)

Talk about an intense episode! This is that point that seems to come several episodes in for some of HBO’s shows where things suddenly get real and the show gets seriously good. A few fantastic scenes come to mind, but what’s truly impressive about this episode is the way in which it shifts focus and looks at things from a different perspective. It’s especially interesting to see Daenerys discussed so prominently but not featured onscreen, almost turning her into an entirely different thing than she is, so not threatening but still not afraid to take what she knows she deserves. Having Robert laugh off Ned’s quip about him being too fat for his armor and then having the two butt heads in council to the point of Ned’s resignation as a hand is quite a serious transformation, and an extraordinarily effective one the way it played out. It seems that messing with the Lannister family is unwise, as a vengeful Jaime is willing to kill all of Ned’s men just to send a message. Ned entering into one-on-one swordplay with Jaime came as a bit of a surprise, and it was certainly intense up until that moment when one of Jaime’s guards surely saved his life by felling Ned with a blow to the leg. Lady Stark and Tyrion are encountering just as much turbulence and violence on their journey, as they are ambushed in one of the episode’s best scenes. Stabbing a man through the eye is one way to prove a point, but beating someone to death with a shield isn’t bad either.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episodes 22 & 23 “And Lots of Security…” & “Come on Over for Dinner” (C+)

A co-worker of mine noted that this finale didn’t end on much of a cliffhanger, and it’s definitely true. This episode goes the route traditionally taken by cable shows, where season-long tensions culminate in some major event that then leads to tranquility, rather than the usual format for broadcast network series, which often end off on a huge shocker that necessitates tuning in next year. Those who have grown disillusioned with this show could easily check out after this somewhat bow-wrapped finale, not concerned about being left hanging. That’s not a flaw of the show, necessarily, though this finale had other problems. The sudden appearance of Gaby’s stepfather is peculiar mostly because it’s unrelated to anything that’s happened in the season or the show, and to have him become such an aggressive presence all of a sudden is a jolt. He’s only tangentially connected to one plotline this season, and that’s all too close to the Grace-doll storyline, which was this show’s worst plotline since Tom’s daughter Kayla. The casting of Tony Plana also marks the second waste of an “Ugly Betty” alum in this episode, though at least Vanessa Williams had a decent character to play. The invocation of a two-hour relationship, a storyline which quickly become overdone, is fitting for Renee, a character who never had anything to do because she wasn’t given anything to do. Past new characters like Katharine at least had a crazy ex or a secret about their children, and all Renee did was sleep with Tom, something that has been completely buried and forgotten. In terms of not getting anywhere, Paul’s entire plotline has now come full-circle, essentially negating this entire season featuring his return. He became a better person, but still chose to go atone for his crimes even though Susan had forgiven him and no one was asking him to do that. Also, it appears that unrepentant crazy people get what’s coming to them, as Felicia’s fate suggests. Tom and Lynette’s decision to separate is certainly the dramatic point of the episode, but I won’t soon forget the comic shenanigans that we had to go through to get to this point. I can’t imagine where we’re headed next with them, since seeing them struggle through a divorce wouldn’t be productive, and a newly single Lynette wouldn’t work well either. On a lighter note, I did enjoy the developments related to Bree and Chuck, even if they didn’t quite go with the rest of the episode. I’d like to see more of Chuck next season since I think he’s exactly the right match for Bree. Like this episode, this season has been a rollercoaster ride without much sense of where it’s going, other than back to the beginning. Though I doubt it will be the case, I could easily be swayed by the relatively tied-up conclusion and not return to watch this show in the fall. Seven years is a long time, and I may be done.

Season grade: C
Season MVP: Mark Moses as Paul

What I’m Watching: Smallville (Series Finale)

Just shy of ten years ago, on October 16, 2001, I sat down to watch this show’s series premiere. Though I wavered at the start of the sixth season and only caught up during the summer when the show was airing in repeats, this is the oldest show which I watched from the very beginning as it aired live on television. I loved season one and two, and grew very disillusioned with subsequent seasons, and was revitalized briefly at the start of the sixth season, as I state in my first-ever post on this show, from the summer of 2007, by the introduction of Oliver and an upturn in quality. Unfortunately, that didn’t last, and while this show has had its moments over the past eight years, it’s never been able to match the initial quality and innocence that came from the reinvention of this story. Michael Rosenbaum was usually the strongest actor, and I was a fan of Lana and Chloe back in the day, but not the way that they ended up thanks to later seasons. I was never a Lois lover, but the final few episodes have helped improve my opinion of her. This finale, like this season and those before it, was disjointed and had a few strong moments. Overall, however, it felt highly uneven and unfinished, rushing Clark’s story to its end as he becomes Superman. I’ve heard complaints about not seeing Clark in costume, but what annoys me more is the use of the Superman music composed by John Williams from the original 1978 film. Don’t get me wrong – it’s excellent, and definitely enhanced the episode, especially that awesome ending with Clark running to save a handful of people – but its association with this show is artificial. I’m going to remember that awesome moment with Clark running up to the roof thanks to the music, and that’s just not fair, since this show doesn’t deserve that. Bringing back Lex was fun because he is a great actor and it’s good to see him face off with Clark one last time. Tess wiping his memories, however, almost negates the entire show: Lex is back and elected president, and none of his nefarious deeds will ever be brought up again. It’s a bit cheap, and, additionally, the show doesn’t offer much closure other than to say that Chloe has a child, Tess died but no one cared, and apparently Emil wasn’t worthy of an appearance. And those who were annoyed by the existence of another Jimmy at his funeral can be reminded of that by his appearance next to Lois in the final moments. Basically, if all Clark had to do was realize that he should embrace his heritage, and everything was going to turn out according to mythology anyway, couldn’t we have saved some time and just ended this thing back in 2003?

Series finale: C+
Season grade: C-
Season MVP: Cassidy Freeman as Tess (though not by much)
Series grade: C
Series MVP: Michael Rosenbuam & John Glover
Best season: Season 1
Best episode: “Zero” (Season One)

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 4, Episode 6 (C-)

This show has become a caricature of itself. I know that I've been railing on this show every week for this whole season, but somehow each episode of this miserable year manages to outdo itself in terms of putting in too much effort to seem stylized, risque, and appealing. As if the usage of music from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "Kill Bill" to score the face-off between Charlotte and Belle wasn't enough, the insertion of titles proclaiming "the good, the bad, the bartender" really sent it over the top, and wasn't funny to boot! Theoretically, Charlotte as a character and a nemesis for the (formerly) friendly Belle is a good idea, but she doesn't have the subtlety of someone like Stephanie, who was a whole lot of fun in her early and infrequent appearances over the course of the show's first three seasons. Their warring attempts to please their client were such a waste of time, and it's so blatant and on the surface that there isn't much hope for any deeper meaning, an area in which this show used to excel. I'm also displeased with how Poppy has devolved into an uninteresting character, hopping into bed with Ben to get Belle to leave and then not even trying to make up a story about how they slept together to sell it and keep her away. Ah, well, two more episodes to go, and after that I think I'll have to go back and rewatch the first three seasons to remind myself that this show used to be top-notch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episodes 13 & 14 “The Fight” & “Road Trip” (B+)

Double episodes this week and next week! What have we done to deserve this wondrous reward? Leave it to this show to handle a plotline that might otherwise fall flat with grace and really make it work. Tom has been plugging the Snake Hole Lounge since day one (or rather, the moment he acquired an interest in it), and his invitation to everyone to help launch his signature drink, hopefully better than his signature cologne, is completely to be expected. I had seen an animated graphic of each of the characters talking to the camera while consuming Snake Juice, and it was done in brilliant moderation, showcasing just a few moments of insanity on the part of each of them. It was well worth it if only for the parting shot and dialogue of a completely sober Donna driving everyone in her car home with an unseen Tom in the trunk and Jerry on the roof. Ron arriving the following morning with a bag of burgers and fries to help everyone's hangovers was fun, as was the sight of April with pillows taped over her ears. Leslie suggesting Ann for a job in the health department is a smart idea, especially for those who feel that Ann no longer has much of a place on the show. I liked April and Andy's role play at the club, and it was also enjoyable to see them come back together after being driven apart by Tom's Newlywed Game rip-off. I love it when April turns to Ann for help regarding Andy and refuses to be nice to her or listen to her. Leslie trying so hard not to let anything happen with her and Ben was fun, coupled with Ann's rather unenthusiastic ability to support Leslie by putting a romantic track on her dull mix and encouraging her when she said that something almost happened. The fact that Ben just up and kissed her was great, and hopefully Chris, who has proven to be a surprising stickler for rules, will be able to let them get away with being together, though a secret romance might not be bad. He did make Tom sell his shares of the Snake Hole Lounge though, so it appears nothing is sacred.

What I’m Watching: Nikita (Season Finale)

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 22 “Pandora” (C)

Here we have exactly what we would expect from a season finale, especially one on a broadcast network, coming at us from all sides. That is to say, an enormous game-changer with a new shadow group in power as the bad guys coupled with a major alliance-switch or two. To presume that both Birkhoff and Amanda, for different reasons, would just let Michael and Alex go by releasing their handy electric handcuffs is quite a stretch, and it shows just how little character development has actually gone on this season. Their motivations are equally childish: Birkhoff thought Michael was his friend (a paler version of Casey just wanting to be included in Chuck and Sarah’s off-book shenanigans in “Chuck”) and Amanda was sick of not being told about anything important. Birkhoff’s change of heart could fly, but Amanda suddenly becoming a trusted member of the shadow organization that wants to somehow bring Percy down by putting all the blame on Nikita seems like a hardy fast track. A bloodied Percy yelling “kill them both!” into a microphone while watching his teams was the ultimate example of chewing scenery, and a bit much to take seriously. Roan is officially the worst cleaner ever, taking his sweet time meticulously documenting a dead body and then allowing Nikita to escape. Where the show heads from here is questionable, as will whether it’s headed anywhere at all, since its fate won’t be officially determined until Thursday, when the CW announces its fall schedule. It will likely be back, and I can only hope that it will contain some much better writing, since this show didn’t start out so bad.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Xander Berkeley as Percy

What I'm Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 24 "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager" (B+)

While I might have liked to see this office functioning at a high level of functionality, it makes sense that Dwight would be chosen to replace Michael. It was quite funny how it happened, of course, with Jim so casually turning down the offer to manage the place only to have Jo call Dwight immediately afterwards to hand the keys of the place over to him. Seeing Dwight in power is both entertaining and appropriately moderated, believable enough that it can be taken decently seriously instead of just seen as a big joke. Predictably, it doesn't last long, and having him accidentally shoot off a gun as a display of his power makes perfect sense as the explanation of his downfall. Putting Creed in charge based solely on his seniority may be a bit of a stretch, but perhaps it's not that far-fetched: the man has been there the longest, and Jo doesn't keep close enough tabs on any of her employees to know who really gets stuff done and who doesn't. Seeing Creed at the top should be peculiar to say the least, but there are definitely enough distractions planned for the season finale that he shouldn't have all that much to do. Ordinarily the idea of seeing a hilarious character more would be appealing, but it's the sparseness with which we see the character that makes him so appealing. I'm also happy to see the Andy isn't giving up on Erin, even if the rather power-abusive Gabe doesn't want to either.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Drew’s Watching: Bones

Guest blogger Drew catches up on the last few episodes of his beloved series in this mega-post. Enjoy!.

Bones: Season 6, Episode 18 “The Truth in the Myth”

This one starts out hilarious -- the dialogue is to die for. "I'm just a woman, looking for a man." I'm having a problem with Nigel Murray being allowed to continue his internship, considering his sundry addiction program memberships (and apparently drunkenness on the job?!). In fact, I'm getting rather tired of the interns in general. Oh my goodness -- Bones's laugh is one of the most horrible sounds I have ever heard. Has it always been like this? I'm getting bad vibes from this episode in general; it seems rather thrown together, and the dialogue is stilted. Of course, the dialogue was stilted in the introduction, but that's why it was funny. I didn't expect that to bleed into the actual episode. Money line from Angela today: "Of course you're going to belittle astrology. You're a Virgo." (Guess who else is a Virgo!) To sum up, this episode encapsulates everything that's bad about Bones: the humor is juvenile and eye-roll-worthy, and the "sentimental" parts are overdone and hokey. I got the mystery instantly. And the fact that the episode shut down 35 minutes in and forced me to waste a quarter of an hour jump-starting it just to confirm my ironclad prediction? Not helping.

Plot: 2/10
Action: 0/10
Characters: 5/10
Comedy: 3/10
Bones's Makeup: 9/10

Overall Grade: D

Bones: Season 6, Episode 19 “The Finder”

We've got a very "CSI: Miami"-type thing going on here. I wonder if Booth will bust out one of the Caruso quips that I so love. And the footage of the deceased pre-mortem strongly reminds me of Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park. These are two very good ways to ameliorate my tough-crowd-itis from the last episode. Oh man -- I'm getting so many impressions here. These kooks in the bar are calling up Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Trouble (the newer one, with Johnny Knoxville), and The Whole Nine Yards simultaneously. So far, we're in great shape. And next up is Boondock Saints, when the finder employs his peculiar method of finding (also an obvious sequence for the ladies, accompanied by your official MONTAGE WARNING). I can say right now that this episode is utterly ridiculous, and I am profoundly suspicious that a spin-off is in the works. But that's okay; "Bones" has gotten so stale of late that I don't mind the change of pace. This one's like having a day of clear skies after a lot of gloom. In fact, I'm going to forego the ratings system this time because the episode's so far outside the mainstream. I mean, I could try, but something's off. I just...*sunglasses*...can't put my finger on it.


Plot: X/10
Action: X/10
Characters: X/10
Comedy: X/10
Bones's Makeup: X/10

Overall Grade: :-D

Bones: Season 6, Episode 20 “The Pinocchio in the Planter”

Every new wrinkle between Angela and Hodgins seems forced to me. We can't just be happy with their circumstances, so bam! Blind baby. Bam! Hodgins is clingy. Bam! Angela is a lesbian. (Actually that happened a while ago.) That hookworms crawl a foot a day comes off as a poor indicator of time of death, as I'm pretty sure worms can change direction. I take great exception to Wendell taking exception to Hodgins's use of the word "couth," but it is in keeping with Wendell's character, so I can't throw big a fit. This episode veers toward ridiculous once they enter the honesty meeting, but I can forgive it because the belligerent clown is doing such a good job. To Angelodgins' credit, the mush factor is becoming much easier to bear. There are two hilarious give-and-takes around 31:00; make sure you don't miss them. It occurred to me immediately that traces of titanium don't require a solid titanium murder weapon, and here I am, vindicated. Seems like there are a lot of eyebrow-knitters in this one, like all these brilliant scientists discovering for the first time the detrimental effects of scalding honesty. And again! How on earth did the lawyer figure that he could get away with a fake x-ray? So really, this episode doesn't pass the smell-test plot-wise; it seems like the characters had to be uncharacteristically stupid in order to keep the gears turning. But it's a funny episode with some heartwarming moments, so I can't be too hard on it.

Plot: 3/10
Action: 2/10
Characters: 6/10
Comedy: 7/10
Bones's Makeup: 9/10 (Bones's makeup has been a lot better lately!)

Overall Grade: C+

Bones: Season 6, Episode 21 “The Signs in the Silence”

Okay, so we've got a deaf mute here who might have murdered someone with a huge knife -- and they have her unrestrained in the middle of the lab for questioning? Aaaaand there she goes, trying to escape. Looks like we're off to a bad start here. Fortunately there's some plot interest to make up for these scientists' stupid decisions. It only just occurred to me that Cam looks like an alien with that short hair. The concept of dialects in sign language is cool, and it's smart writing to get the girl to cooperate via explaining the infallibility of bones (although I'm not sure exactly how true that is). In spite of its rough start, this is actually a very good episode -- moving in all the right places, with credible performances by all the characters (including Bones, amazingly enough). Even the montage is well-placed and artfully done. (Postscript: Angela's "I'm fat because I'm pregnant" jokes at the end of the episode are fully responsible for the sorely lacking comedy score.)

Plot: 10/10
Action: 6/10
Characters: 9/10
Comedy: 5/10
Bones's Makeup: 9/10

Overall Grade: A-

Bones: Season 6, Episode 22 "The Hole in the Heart"

The good news: any reference to Tyrannosaurus Rex is awesome. The bad news: Bones is a true-blue psycho when she laughs. My face starts contorting in a grotesque mix of shock and disgust every time I hear it. Unless I'm sorely mistaken, Hodgins calls our species (yours, dear reader, and mine) homo sapien, which is unsettling indeed -- especially considering he's reading Bones's and Nigel Murray's abstract. I have to issue an official MONTAGE WARNING complete with a less official weird-sounding lyrics warning (where do they find these people?) early on. It's nice to finally see some concrete action in a Bones episode again, but at what a cost! On the other hand, I really don't like this goofy neophyte FBI agent. She's flat and monotonous, and I'm not really sure why she's being introduced now. Best line today comes from Hodgins on the phone: "You hung up, didn't you? Yeah? Okay." Very natural delivery! Sniper fights ("dueling snipers," as Hodgins calls it) always seem awkward to me -- the last one I saw was between Snake and The End -- but they do a good job of making this one compelling. It's tough to review this episode without spoilers, so I'll do what I can to make a good case to watch it: one of the good guys dies.

Plot: 9/10
Action: 10/10
Characters: 8/10
Comedy: 3/10
Bones's Makeup: 7/10

Overall Grade: A

What I'm Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 22 "Good Cop Bad Dog" (B+)

This episode was clever in the way that it had all three of its main couples reverse their traditional roles, though it wasn't as clear-cut obvious from the start when it came to Jay and Gloria. I realize that it's the basic format of each of the episodes, but it's still exceptional when it works so brilliantly like this. Though subtlety is not always this show's strong suit when it comes to Cameron and Mitchell, I was delighted to see just how effective that one shot of Mitchell being carried from the kitchen by Cameron was, and also how the closing scene with Cameron recognizing Mitchell's telltale lights from the concert was very quickly and hilariously done, just like his handing back of Dylan's shoes to Haley several weeks ago. The dynamic between Gloria and Jay is funny enough to carry most plotlines, and Jay being pitched a horrible idea and ending up with a dog that he couldn't resist was very amusing. Seeing Phil and Claire switch roles, however, took the cake, as both failed miserably in their efforts to exude qualities unbecoming of them. It was entertaining and horrifying to realize that Phil's scare tactics involved not feeding his daughters for the entire day, and Claire pushing junk food on Manny was one of their best interactions to date. I also liked Luke's line about how he's supposed to be 13 on the bumper cars and only 11 when he goes to the movie theatre: now that's smart, productive, and cost-effective parenting.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What I'm Watching: Better With You (Season Finale)

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 22 “Better with a Baby” (B)

In article related to this show's renewal chances, I read that it may not be highly original but ends up being worthwhile due to its strong cast and writing. I agree wholeheartedly with that, and I definitely enjoy watching this show even if it's not quite as terrific as some other comedies on the air. This season finale perfectly wraps this year's arcs and brings them to a sweet, sentimental close, perfectly ending the show if it is cancelled and setting up a fresh new season if a renewal is in the cards. Deciding to get married moments before having a baby is something that's certainly been seen before, but it's touching enough in the way it happens here, complete with distinctive character traits to relaly make it work. Ben whispering to help Casey in the line at the courthouse was funny, as were Joel's quips about what he was doing while Vicky was giving birth. The "oohs" and "ahhs" from the audience laugh track do feel somewhat out of date but are still helpful when it comes to Joel professing his undying affection for Vicky despite their frequent usages of sarcasm, and I was pleased that it didn't seem to be included when Maddie told Ben that she wanted to have a baby. I'd be happy to spend another year with the Putneys as Mia and Casey raise a baby, Maddie and Ben try for their own, and Joel and Vicky do whatever they do. I had originally written that the ABC upfront is this coming Tuesday, so let's hope for good news on this show, but as of Friday afternoon, this show was officially cancelled, as the far less deserving "Happy Endings" was the only ABC show to make it to a second season. Oh, well. I It was fun while it lasted.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Kurt Fuller & Josh Cooke

Friday, May 13, 2011

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 20 “Prom Queen” (B-)

I’ll grant this show that, in light of everything else it casts upon its glee club members and high schoolers, prom is going to be a big deal. I will commend this episode on the way that it managed to draw out mirrored fury and sympathies for three ultimate losers – Quinn, Santana, and Kurt – and weave together their stories in an effective split-screen towards the end of the episode. The coronation of Karofsky and Kurt is an enormous irony, especially following Karofsky’s breakdown and hugely unexpected apology to his victim. Kurt being crowned prom queen makes sense given the show’s depiction of life at McKinley High, and it’s fortunate that Blaine was there to support him and that, after a brief meltdown, he was able to take it in stride. The idea of Sam going with both Mercedes and Rachel on a budget, complete with a three-way $8.99 special at Breadsticks, was charming, and I’m saddened that the presence of Jesse had to ruin that. This show does suffer from several cases of all-too-frequent recurring guest stars, true last week also with Kristin Chenoweth and far truer this week with the infinitely less appealing Jonathan Groff (talking in terms of talent). There’s no reason for Jesse to pop back into town, and Sam could be used just as effectively for the purposes of making Finn jealous. It’s sweet that Artie tried to win Brittany back with a song, and while Sue’s interrogation was more than a bit over-the-top, it’s funny that he didn’t actually spike the punch with anything alcoholic.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 11 “Black Sox” (B+)

Get your fill of this show while you can – it was unceremoniously cancelled, along with “Human Target” and three less worthy FOX shows, on Tuesday night. The remaining two episodes should still air, but that’s all we’ll get of this series. Without purporting to know everything about showrunning and network scheduling, I do think it’s a shame that this highly buzzed-about show got held from the fall and instead berthed into a midseason slot, which clearly doesn’t cut it for FOX, since all five of the shows cancelled this week premiered in the spring, be it this year, the year before, or the year before that. It’s really too bad, since this show has been displaying its showing power from week to week and even managing to sideline its major season arc in favor of establishing some long-term potential for its main characters. Let’s hope that we get back to Liam and all the drama related to Gibbons and not just his appointments next week so that we can resolve that in the remaining two installments. As far as this episode goes, it was definitely an intense one, and we’re now seeing Caleb taking on a lot of the interrogating and mood-related tics of his partner. To think that Vonda’s relationship with Isaac would be barely addressed by Jareck is a surprise, yet it makes complete sense as his brother’s mistress is revealed and his case takes a personal toll on him. Camille Guaty, of “Prison Break” and “Cupid” fame, gets points for this episode for a powerful sendoff for a character we barely knew, the young fiancée Elena.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 21 “Getting Off” (B+)

After that whopper of a beginning with Alicia finally confronting Kalinda head-on about sleeping with her husband, I want to commend this show for doing something right that many other shows (I’m talking to you, “No Ordinary Family”) do not: changing its opening credits music to fit better with the action immediately preceding it. Cutting from Kalinda bursting into tears and sobbing is a powerful transition, and this show handled it with grace. Julianna Marguiles and Archie Panjabi need to look no further than this episode for Emmy consideration. Alicia did a magnificent job of taking a stand in all areas of her life, chewing out Kalinda, researching her options with David, and screaming at Jackie for trying to poison her kids’ minds. This was a fascinating episode for Kalinda as well, as she promptly decided that she needed to leave the firm and approached Sophia, played by Kelli Giddish of “Chase” and “Past Life” history, who is infinitely more interesting and dynamic on this show than either of those duds. She would be a great long-term addition to the cast, though it seems that Kalinda, after laughing out loud when the ultimate irony presented itself in her potential career switch to working directly for Peter, will be starting at Lockhart Gardner. I’m eager to see a new relationship develop between Alicia and Will now that they’re both in different places in their lives. This episode’s Sarah Silverman-centric case was a bit lewder than usual, but, in typical form, the guest stars on this show, no matter how famous or loud they may be, don’t steal it, which is truly impressive and enviable.

What I’m Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 20 “One Will Live, One Will Die” (F)

The amount of testing, preparation, and betrayal that goes into this repopulation is rather staggering and tiresome, I have to say. It’s almost as if these alien bad guys are trying to get caught. I do appreciate that this is the best use of Leila the series has presented, as a guinea pig designed to spread the virus thanks to her very unique human-alien DNA. The whole scene at the mall was rather embarrassing, and to think that Sean Walker of all people can essentially take down aliens who have been alive for hundreds (or thousands, who knows?) of years is more than a bit of a stretch. As Jarvis continues to receive direct calls from Sofia on his personal cell phone and command military executions that rival Martinez’s acts in stupidity and senselessness, it’s hard to decide which of this show’s plotlines is more lamentable. To have Jarvis bomb a compound which, according to him, houses traitors that he personally has decided are worthy of assassination, against the advice and express wishes of his staff, is a good contender for the least credible award, but I think the prize goes to the First Lady, who, once upon a time when this show was going in a different direction, was actually a secret alien! Her collusion with Blake and Simon is completely inconsistent with that entire storyline, which seems to have been all but forgotten. There’s nothing I hate more than a pointless flashback which serves to provide no new information and only inspire gasps of “gotcha.” And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this show, it’s that it’s very easy to encrypt cell phone calls and almost as easy, if not a bit more time-consuming, to decrypt them.

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 23 “Chuck Versus the Last Details” (B+)

Even if the sudden infusion of the recently relatively absent Mary into a mission just before the big wedding feels a bit random, it’s good to keep everyone on their toes at this point, especially considering the level of activity the last time a Bartowski got married. It’s also fun, if a bit light, to have Chuck tested in terms of his manliness and devotion to his bride-to-be by having to beat Casey up in front of an enemy guard. Sarah seems almost indifferent to the situation, but she does think that her guy is sweet for trying, which is nice. I’m most pleased by the spotlighting of Chuck’s abilities as an unconventional spy, someone who is able and ready to point out to Vivian Volkoff that she’s not this person and that she doesn’t have to be evil. It’s hard to resist when you have Ray Wise whispering devilish thoughts in your ear, though, and now that Vivian has decided that she wants to take Sarah away from Chuck, there’s no turning back. I too thought that it might be a minor character like Mary who, like her husband, could easily be killed off and leave a dent in the show without truly transforming it. Sarah, on the other hand, would be a significant loss, and I’m curious what Chuck and his crew are going to do since he’s never quite been in a situation of having to save her from certain death. Next week marks the season finale, and on that same day we’ll learn for sure whether or not the show will be back next year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 3 “On Your Way Down” (B+)

After experiencing a shooting in a club earlier this season, the gravity of the lawless situation down in New Orleans is made infinitely clearer in this episode as Ladonna is attacked in a very terrifying scene that captures her fright and sense of danger as one of her attackers tries to talk his way into her store. That’s easily the most memorable, powerful plotline of this particular episode, but the less grave elements are equally effective. Janette proves herself to be quite the smooth talker when it comes to her impossible boss, somehow getting permission to fly back down to New Orleans to sort out her mess of a life with her burglarized home. Seeing Janette and Albert sitting next to each other waiting for their money and their meetings represents one of my favorite things about this strong ensemble drama, the fact that most of its characters only tangentially know each other, yet their stories are so deeply intertwined nonetheless. Cutting between Albert’s surprise success in his meeting and Janette’s failure to garner sympathy in hers was a brilliant editing movie, contrasting the relief and gratitude Albert felt with the frustration and stress Janette felt. Toni continues to be a hard-hitting investigative lawyer, and it’s no surprise, therefore, that a police commander might be unwilling to help her because, without doubt, she’s sued him. The incorporation of this latest case is smooth and doesn’t feel unnatural to the flow of the show, and it’s both interesting and disturbing to discover just how wrong all of the information that has been passed along has been.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 7 “Vengeance” (B-)

Without being totally hooked on or impressed by this show, I’ll admit that I’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to the format of the show, ending each episode with a montage that turns everything on its head in the subtlest of ways, or in this case with a massive FBI raid on two local detectives. This episode was considerably intense, of course, thanks to the sense of urgency that came with ensuring that Bennett wasn’t murdered in a fit of vengeful rage by Stan, complete with pounding on the door by Sarah and some rather impolite badgering of the Larsen family by Holder. Bennett is proving to be bad news all around for everyone, lawyering up and continuing to sabotage Darren’s campaign without having any control over that. Darren’s persistence has gone from inspirational to downright counterproductive. His attempt to take a stand has resulted in a major public defeat, and it’s clear that no one, not even his own people, are behind him anymore. Holder errs his own prejudiced feelings while they’re searching the mosque, demonstrating that the Seattle of this show may not be the most forward-thinking community. Jack telling a harried Sarah that he owed her fifty million dollars was rather harsh but decently deserved, and fortunately Sarah seemed to be able to win back some favor from him by being a cool mom for once and helping him out with his paintball strategy. It’s not going to be as easy to get back on her fiancé’s good side, meaning that she may well be stuck in Seattle for some time to come.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 4 “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (B)

It’s so interesting to see all of these plotlines playing out separately while a few of them come together and others are alluded to by those who have yet to interact. Among the episode’s most moving moments are two scenes involving Lord Snow. The first displays an unsurprising but still stirring sensitivity regarding his attitude towards prostitutes and fathering a child, determined not to subject his offspring to the same challenges he endured growing up as a “bastard of the north.” Just moments later, he is interrupted by his trainer, who comes in to chastise him and Tarly and tell them of the horror that he has experienced after being subjected to the harsh, six-month-long winter years earlier. This universe is being well-established with all these tales of such things. As with last episode, Arya Stark proves to be one of the best characters, telling her father that she does not wish to marry rich and instead wants to forge her own life for herself. The continued bickering between Viserys and Daenerys is reaching a boiling point, and it looks like Daenerys may well have won the latest round as she threatens to have her brother’s hands cut off if he ever lays a hand on her again. It’s clear that people play for keeps in this world, as evidenced by Lady Stark’s rather impression efforts to elude apprehension by Tyrion and instead turn the tables on her pursuer, leaving Tyrion with a considerable number of blades at his neck as we fade to black.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 21 “Then I Really Got Scored” (C)

After watching this show for seven years, it makes sense to me that this would be the last episode before a two-hour season finale, since certain characters are suddenly reaching major peaks of development, random new villains and plotlines are being introduced last minute to feed into next season or peter out next week, and Bree is being romanced by a new mystery man who’s probably both shady and a killer. Susan rushing back to her school with everyone knowing about her work as a webcam maid and winning everyone over with an emergency batch of cookies is just the kind of logic that this show has coasted on for several years now, and she couldn’t have handled her big cookie reveal any worse. Paul coming in with the police and literally pointing a finger at her was a bit too blatant for my tastes, and for her to end up in prison after everything this season would be preposterous. Lynette and Tom’s bickering is reaching uncomfortable levels, turning what has generally been an unserious plot into something horrifically grave, and I wouldn’t want to see either of them single since that would really drag down the show. The appearance of a man wearing a top hat just as Gaby happens to camp outside and try to show her daughter there’s nothing to be afraid of is just so random, and I am just a bit curious about who it might be. As far as Bree’s new man goes, they’re certainly a pair made for each other, and I’m hopeful that they can work it out as long as there’s nothing wrong with him, since he seems like an intriguing character that can keep Bree on her toes rather than drag her down.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 20 “Prophecy” (C-)

The series finale of this show better be pretty incredible. There’s no excuse for having such poor, unfocused, uninteresting episodes just before the big finish. Why Toyman of all villains needs to be brought back for the penultimate episode is beyond me, and it was rather obnoxious to have Clark and Lois stumble for half the hour before putting two and two together and realizing who the owner of Marionette Ventures might be. Jor-El’s test of Lois was particularly ill-timed, and I object when a trigger of love is used so blatantly to break a spell that, in the past, has not been able to be broken by such fateful declarations. Couldn’t we just have a normal episode where no one is possessed by anything? That would be an intriguing and frustrating project, one which I’d never have time or patience for, to determine how few episodes in this series’ run actually contain no traces of hypnotism or anyone acting in any way other than as themselves. I remember a great season one plotline, perhaps the only one without a “freak of the week,” with Roger Nixon trying to out Clark as a superhero, and I wish this show could have delivered more of those over the past ten years. While it’s nice to see Kara again, treasure hunting with Oliver in the bottom of a cave is hardly the best use of her time, and Oliver is now going to be positioned as a major foe for Clark in the finale. I really do hope that the two-hour mega-finale makes the past eight years of watching this show since its decline in quality somewhat worth it.

What I’m Watching: Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 4, Episode 5 (C)

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but this show continues to play into exactly the kind of problematic and disappointing things I’ve been writing about all season. It’s perhaps most disheartening because, unlike “Heroes” or “Prison Break,” this is a show that I would never have imagined could reach a nadir of quality where I had little to no interest in tuning in each week, only bothering to watch to see what will become of my formerly favorable characters. I was most outraged and saddened by just how awkward and uncomfortable it was watching Belle feel awkward and uncomfortable watching the director and his muse act our their version of a scene from her book. This show was never a caricature of itself, even and especially when it came to people with strange desires. Turning this into a horrible parody of itself is going to echo another Showtime series in its final season, “The L Word,” another show which went downhill only to never look back to its former quality. It’s hard to believe, however, that this director and actress could really be so dumb and completely unaware of how their behavior appears (that’s better saved for yet another Showtime series, this one still in its prime, “Episodes”). Belle is nonetheless so horribly judgmental, and it’s painful to see. Ben kissing Poppy is probably one of the stupidest things he’s ever done, and let’s hope that Belle doesn’t find out, because she is going to be furious. At least Charlotte did something productive in this episode and helped open up Poppy a bit.

Monday, May 9, 2011

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

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 23 “Respawn” (B-)

If this season has been about anything in particular, it’s been the show enduring many obstacles and the unlikelihood of making it through it all with Tracy’s zaniness. To have Liz plagued by the omnipresence of Tracy is the ultimate irony, and I’m not sure I’m amused or impressed. Like the star of its show-within-a-show, this season has been highly schizophrenic and only intermittently reliable. Last season ended with an important choice between Julianne Moore’s Nancy and Elizabeth Banks’ Avery, and while Jack’s decision was certainly kinder on our eardrums, it’s still difficult to have a main character not be a series regular and therefore only pop in and out when her availability dictates it. That’s not to assign any blame to Banks, but rather to say that this show hasn’t made very good use of Jack’s first year of parenthood, or Jack himself, for that matter. He’s much less of a main character than he used to be, and far less deserving of the accolades he continues to win. Speaking of this episode in particular, having Kenneth pose as Avery isn’t a very good use of his time, and I didn’t find much in that plotline. The return of Paul and a guest appearance by Victor Garber was more on-target, even if it had some bizarre sitting stuff included, and finally a strong usage of Jenna. This episode was definitely not as strong as previous finales, and that’s true of the season as well. After five years, I could really go for a bit more consistency.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episode 12 “Eagleton” (B+)

How impressive is it when a show utilizes a plotline similar to one that’s been done before and it manages to come off as entirely fresh? Quite. The town of Pawnee was mocked and insulted relentlessly by the visitors from their sister city in Venezuela, and it’s even more entertaining to see and hear how the residents of the infinitely nicer neighboring town of Eagleton like to put down those that reside in Pawnee. Parker Posey is a fun choice to play Leslie’s number one nemesis, and rivaled Marcia Langman when it came to her ability to talk down to Leslie. It’s an added bonus having Ben around to experience all of this stuff for the first time, so appalled by the sheer differences between the two towns and not already familiar with it, unlike Tom, who travels there every eight days to get his choice cosmetic products. Ron’s birthday made for a stellar subplot, which included a thoroughly amusing and rare interaction between Ron and Anne, where Anne didn’t have a chance to say much. I especially enjoyed April’s dedication to tricking Ron into thinking that Leslie was planning a major surprise party for him by pretending to order inflatable saxophones and then arguing strongly that she would never make a work call at work. Ultimately, we learn what we already know – when Leslie cares about someone, she really knows how to take care of her friends, giving Ron the manliest of gifts in his private steak and movie dinner.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 21 “Betrayals” (C-)

As we’re hurtling towards the end of the season with only one episode left after this one, there’s certainly no shortage of major game-changing plot developments. The trouble with it is that this episode turns everything on its head, not necessarily negating anything we knew previously but presupposing enough dramatic pieces of knowledge that no one on the show was privy to before that, including Percy knowing Michael was working against him, Alex having a kill chip inside her head, and Nikita having been the one who killed Alex’s father. It’s a good showcase for actor Xander Berkeley, who hasn’t had all that much to do this episode, to chew scenery. Why Michael decided to pull a gun on Percy rather than spirit Alex to safety out of there is beyond me, though I have to admit that it was a cool trick on Percy’s part to have the gun shock him. Percy’s whole plan doesn’t make too much sense to me, but it really doesn’t matter if Alex has in fact killed Nikita – which of course couldn’t happen because the show is named after her. Nikita being revealed as the murderer of Alex’s father is almost too convenient, and we already experienced this with Owen and Daniel. On top of that, I’m not impressed with the composure of, as far as we know, the two most senior Division agents aside from Percy, Amanda and Michael, both of whom behave like children when it comes to Operation Sparrow. This week’s season finale could be the series’ last episode, though I’m hopeful we have a few surprises in store that might warrant a second, more solid year.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 23 “The Inner Circle” (B)

This first post-Michael episode isn’t superb, but it’s entirely entertaining and engaging. It’s startling to see Steve Carell cropped from the credits, and the show definitely won’t be the same without him. What’s importantly and effectively done in this episode, however, is to flesh out the rest of the characters by drawing on what makes them unique and what that means for their interactions with the new boss. It was especially fun and equally ridiculous to see Ryan having Kelly pretend that she was his subordinate so that it would actually seem like he served some purpose at Dunder-Mifflin. Deangelo’s reaction to that situation and others, of course, proves his incompetence and underlines how he wouldn’t work in a lasting role on the show. Jim, as always, is the most astutely observant one, refusing to believe his mimed juggling routine and forcing him to prove himself, only to have him collapse a basketball hoop on top of himself and get sent to the hospital. The male-female inequality prior to Deangelo being knocked out of commission wasn’t all that original, and the brain trust was an equal if not somewhat paler version of Michael’s female advisory committee. Dwight was too much of an outright jerk to him, and he works better when he’s sucking up than being publicly insubordinate. I’m hopeful that whoever comes in after Deangelo will be a bit of a different character, though Will Ferrell hasn’t been bad. I do feel that the way this episode’s ratings have been reported is very misleading, citing a big drop from last week’s installment when that episode garnered a particularly high amount of viewers, unusually high for the show at this point.

What I’m Watching: Justified (Season Finale)

Justified: Season 2, Episode 13 “Bloody Harlan” (B+)

After such a strong season, ending on just as strong a note is especially tough. Yet this episode pulled it off with flying colors, most notably in the demise of two of the surviving Bennett family members. Things had already reached a point of no return in terms of the conflict in between Boyd and the Bennetts, and the resolution of it all had to turn out violently. At the start of this episode, Raylan was only tangentially involved, though he was considerably more front and center once Dickie knocked him out and hung him upside down, ready to beat him to death with a bat. It’s interesting to see how much the relationship with Boyd and Raylan has developed, to the point where Boyd comes in to save Raylan’s life and then essentially gets permission from the lawman to kill Dickie. As it turns out, it’s not Dickie who takes the fall but Doyle, who goes out with quite a bang with a bullet straight through the forehead. That’s no match for Mags, however, who’s still a live and well sixty seconds before the end of the episode but makes the ultimate departure by poisoning herself the same way she took care of Loretta’s father. I thought for a moment that it was Raylan’s glass that was spiked, and her demise really caught me by surprise and brought a terrific character arc to an end. Ava did the most she did all season by getting shot, and we didn’t see much of Winona in this hour. I can’t wait to have these characters back, and this whole season and its guest cast has been excellent.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Margo Martindale as Mags

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 21 “Mother’s Day” (B+)

We’re back after a week off with a superb episode that has terrific plotlines in store for every one of its characters. It’s nice to see that Claire and Gloria can find something in common, their love for nature and hikes. Having the four children – Haley, Alex, Luke, and Manny – bond over their shared hatred of their mothers’ chosen activity was amusing, and I like how Luke and Manny are constantly at odds with each other and unable to comprehend one another. Claire encouraging Gloria to express her frustrations with Manny was amusing, and I like how Gloria came clean with everything before apologizing profusely to her son and garnering appalled, highly judgmental facial expression and commentary from Claire for the health of their relationship. Phil’s mix of horror and excitement at Jay shedding a tear for his mother was a perfect use of both characters, and different enough from their previous interactions, like when Jay hit Phil in the face with his miniature airplane. Cameron’s dismay at being thought of as a wife was hilarious and completely understandable, and Mitchell did a brilliant job of playing into it and freaking him out even more. His acceptance of the flowers and taunting of the person who asked him if he could throw the ball, followed by his accidental knocking off of an elderly man from a bicycle, was very fun, and I imagine this would be just the episode for Eric Stonestreet to submit as he competes for another Emmy this year.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I’m Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 21 “Better with a Bargain” (B+)

I enjoy the confidence with which the men on this show boast about and head into their often inane plans for accomplishing things. Joel’s bargain hunting is the ultimate example of that, and it’s fun to see just how excited Vicky gets about it since she usually doesn’t like all that much about her husband. It’s great to give Joel a foe that is completely impervious to his charms and demands, and as a result, it’s a treat to see the whole gang – minus a maddened Maddie – band together to help pull off a small con to get Joel the stroller, and everything else in the store, for free. Casey’s Mark Twain accent was particularly amusing, and I loved his line about being in a twelve-man show. It’s nice to see them all unified and trying to pull off something together rather than having internal arguments. Silly as Maddie’s plotline may have been, departing her suit-eager firm and interviewing back for a better job at her old firm, it’s truly nice to see her praising Ben for the energy with which he talks about his job. Sure, his glory may be short-lived, and Casey may tell him to his face that his stories are terrible, but he definitely has a passion for the hotel industry that few people share. It’s fun to have a serious positive element of a character who is usually the brunt of a joke. Mia’s horror at discovering the meaning of being given five dollars and told to go buy some candy was funny.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 21 “In Sickness” (B+)

It’s always good when episodes following cliffhangers continue right from the middle of the action and move it right along by extending the scene. Now that Alicia knows about Kalinda and Peter, it’s only a matter of time before things explode between them. Alicia melting down was a tough sight, as well as her crying in front of her kids while telling them about the separation. Moving Peter out in the middle of the night was a bold, strong move, and Alicia seems prepared to look out for herself now that she knows she’s been lied to by her husband more grievously than ever before. Him not even denying it after she called him out on sleeping with her best friend was rather appalling, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen such an angry Peter, cruelly insulting Alicia for having an affair with Will. Alicia’s encounter with Kalinda was intense, and she’s definitely going to get her revenge at some point soon. It’s interesting to see how clearly defined the relationships between Jackie, Eli, and Alicia have become and who is on whose side when it comes to loyalty to each other and to Peter. In other happenings at the office, John Glover of “Smallville” and other fame was a great guest star, managing almost to overshadow Martha Plimpton’s returning manipulative mother lawyer. I was also intrigued to see Aubrey Dollar from “Women’s Murder Club” show up as Kalinda’s latest love interest, and we’ll have to see where that goes.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 19 “Rumours” (C+)

I find it hard to negotiate the intersection of such silly plotlines as Brittany’s rather hilarious show and Sue’s muckraker newspaper with Sam’s entire family suddenly living in a hotel. This show doesn’t do much better, suddenly shifting in tone by having Rachel and Finn pay Sam a surprise visit reminiscent of their trip to the hospital designed to educate Rachel that she’s not the only person in the world, which borders on being overly preachy. The return of April Rhodes was completely random and uncalled for, and I’ve never been less excited to see Kristin Chenoweth. She was a special guest star, and to have her flaunted back in without much of a purpose is a huge waste of her talents and a detriment to the overarching story. Will’s Broadway dreams haven’t been brought up in so long, and to have them invoked anew so randomly is clumsy. I found Brittany’s dismay at being called stupid by the one person who had never called her that decently dramatic, but I’m still not so sure what to make of her relationship with Santana. Rachel and Finn going on stakeouts together is a continued dragging out of their would-be romance that should really be put to a merciful end. I would say that this isn’t the worst use of Sue we’ve seen in a while, and it’s amusing to hear the reasons that everything on her legion committee wanted to take down Will, particularly the nutty Terri who needs to move back into her apartment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 10 “Bathhouse & Hinky Dink” (B+)

Talk about kicking a show into gear. It’s bittersweet, of course, since the fate of this show remains uncertain and won’t be known for at least another week, though at least this season’s arc could come to a magnificent end with the latest developments playing out over the final three episodes of the year. I’m most impressed with this episode for providing a showcase for Liam, a character who has never amazed me as much as he should. Having him narrate a bit of it and reveal details about his large family and his desire to share a meal with them was a good window into his thought process and motivations. It’s also clear now that he’s supposed to be playing the highly motivated screw-up type, sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan in “The Departed,” and he fills that role well. His shedding of his recording device was shrewd and productive. Patrick St. Esprit was a good choice to play Hugh Killian, though it’s a bit disorienting to see him as a bad guy following his role as SAMCRO friend Elliott on “Sons of Anarchy.” Theresa’s excitement at the end of the episode when she was expressing her request to start an investigation into Gibbons was palpable and a bit over-the-top, but I’ll admit that I was excited too. This show has been building towards this all season, and this development sort of snuck up, dropped in Liam’s lap and suddenly convenient. It should be a thrilling rest of the season, provided Wysocki doesn’t get arrested for murdering Isaac.

What I’m Watching: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 19 “Us or Them” (F)

Ah, this misguided show. It’s so concerned with presenting us semantics that aren’t interesting at all that it’s nearly completely lost sight of its larger picture. My main complaint with this episode is something I’ve felt very strongly about since season two of “24.” Presidents should not be main characters on shows unless the show is strictly about the Oval Office. Giving Jarvis a cell phone and having him be so involved with Sophia is embarrassing and lazy, and doesn’t appear to be meant to be taken seriously. Having him call off the military escort for the plane is just the latest preposterous, all-too-obvious action taken by the impossibly dumb man who’s going to seriously screw the American people to help logic and intelligence prevail. Blake, by playing his hand in the middle of the night, is all but powerless at this point. Vicky’s sudden affection for Sean is so completely inconvenient and ill-timed, and was somehow more unwatchable than their last-minute international flight (again, where does this budget come from?), complete with drug dealers and people using their real names for no apparent reason despite deceptive genders. The final development of the episode is absolutely pointless, since Michael never did all that much except screw up and snap people’s necks as a character, and now we’re expected to believe that Leila’s newfound hatred of Sophia could somehow help her take the alien queen down as Simon singlehandedly saves the human race. Frequent neck-snapper Michael could have avoided such quick pursuit by continuing his trend and killing Carlos rather than leaving him alive.

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 22 “Chuck Versus Agent X” (B+)

Just because I saw the end of this episode coming from the start doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a lot of fun. Several seasons ago, I correctly predicted that Jill was an agent of Fulcrum, and now, the situation is completely opposite. I like the fact that Volkoff, an already complicated character, has this secret past, and that this scientist and Chuck’s father were good friends. I very much enjoyed the presence of Hartley’s mother, who instantly bonded with Casey after she told him that he’d be feeding her rounds for a gun to fend off enemy attackers. The bachelor party confusion with Las Vecas and later Renaux was decently amusing, and even if it was only one joke, it’s still fun to see everyone paired up, be it Morgan and Casey, Chuck and Awesome, or, most entertainingly, Lester and Big Mike. The use of Kesha music to score some of the scenes was fun, and I’m proud to report that I couldn’t actually identify the artist since I had only heard mockeries of her name and didn’t actually know which tracks to attribute to her. Seeing Sarah squirm at the idea of having to relax at Ellie’s boring bachelorette party was funny. Speaking of Ellie, it seemed strange to me that she still didn’t know and Chuck was making such a big deal of it, but I have to say that I was wildly impressed with the reveal of his abilities to her, which really made him seem truly formidable and, well, awesome.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 2 “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky” (B+)

It always feels pretty weird to have a Thanksgiving episode in the middle of May, and there’s not much getting around that. Still, this was a strong episode that firmly established where its characters are in their lives at the moment, with particularly effective shots of each individual or family unit eating Thanksgiving dinner. Seeing Lieutenant Colson eating takeout and Sophia refusing to sit next to her mother at a fancy restaurant dinner was especially affecting. Sophia is definitely headed down a dark road, and the image of her so casually grabbing beers and ignoring her mom’s phone calls were rather disturbing, since she was always an astute, extremely mature girl who will now fall prey to the experience of becoming an adult too early. I got worried when Annie seemed offended about not being invited to Davis’ family’s home for Thanksgiving because I remembered what they were like, but she did quite well, and it was hilarious to see Davis go clubbing with his rather excitable and flirtatious aunt. Davis getting fired from his job is hardly a surprise since he’s been openly flaunting his insubordination. Janette is having a pretty wild boss experience herself, and it’s crazy to see that meticulously-prepared salmon go to waste because the customers just wouldn’t wait. Janette getting robbed was an unfortunate kick in the pants. I’m increasingly curious about Nelson’s activities in New Orleans and his continued positivity and energy that makes him such an irresistible smooth-talker for all his new business partners.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 6 “What You Have Left” (B-)

We’re at a point now where, while more and more is being revealed in terms of the investigation and the circumstances surrounding Rosie’s death, the plot is also moving forward in terms of action and developments in the present. The major thing, which is quite intense, is that Stan now knows that Bennett had something to do with Rosie’s death. The funeral aftermath was well-handled, and it’s a good thing that not too much of it was shown besides the sight of Sarah leaving and telling Darren that the family didn’t want any outsiders there. Stan can be pretty intimidating as it is, and Bennett isn’t exactly the toughest guy in the universe. It was particularly interesting to see Holder’s reaction to Sarah’s instruction to warn Bennett since he clearly feels like the teacher deserves whatever comes to him. This was quite a tense way to end the episode, and while it seems clear that Bennett was involved somehow, it’s unlikely that he was the one who actually committed the crime, and that he cared deeply for Rosie. Given Sarah’s unsuccessful trip to his home to see his wife, it seems much more likely that she was the one responsible. Darren’s chances are looking grimmer and grimmer, mostly due to the cringe-inducing placement of Bennett front-and-center in his newest campaign ad. Even Gwen’s father couldn’t convince him to back down, and now it’s going to be an uphill battle. It is decently appalling, however, that everyone except for Darren seems intent on crucifying a suspect before his guilt has been proven.