Monday, February 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: Lights Out

Lights Out: Season 1, Episode 7 “Crossroads” (B+)

This episode’s title is entirely fitting, since it represents the first real upswing that our hero has seen yet, and his first chance at actually achieving the comeback he’s been trying so desperately to pull off in order to get out of his situation. Of course, this positive success, mostly in the form of Theresa coming out to support him (“I’ve missed you”), comes at the same time as Lights recognizes that he’s losing an alarming amount of weight and fakes an eye test in order to get approved to fight by memorizing a line of letters and using his charm to get out of doing much more than that. This is a slippery slope that he’s on since it’s clearly going to come back to haunt him, though seeing him knock out his opponent and start really fighting back was absolutely exciting and enthralling. This episode was chock full of great lines, including Lights saying how many times he’s knocked out other people rather than been knocked out and uttering “hell” twice in a row in front of the nun and then apologizing. Robert had his own great line, said to Barry: “I’ll give you $50 right now if you go to hell.” It’s interesting to see everyone taking Robert to task for training Lights too hard, though I’m not sure how much good it will do. He’s up one at the moment, but he still has his diminishing health and a daughter acting out to distract him as he prepares for his big fight.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 17 “Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist” (B+)

Here we have another intense episode, thanks to such drama-sparking characters as Seth and Gaby. I do wish that the excellent Mae Whitman was featured more prominently, and therefore any chance to see her scream someone’s head off, and surprisingly even experience some less heated and more sentimental emotion, is welcome. Drew got pretty angry too, yelling at both Amber and Sarah, and it’s a shame that Seth proved just as predictable as always, though it’s good that Amber didn’t let him get away with it just as he had in the past. Crosby’s attempt to be distant from Jasmine didn’t work out so well, and it’s too bad that there likely isn’t any way for him to go back to what he had with either Jasmine or Jabar. Jasmine had a pretty scathing line, “You don’t deserve anything good in your life. I’ll never forgive you for this,” complemented nicely by an equally angry but far more humorous quip from Adam: “it’s going to solve my desire to punch my brother in the face.” It was hard to watch Kristina’s face when Gaby told her about what happened with Crosby, and that last moment was a bit of shock. Hopefully explaining Asperger’s to Max shouldn’t prove too problematic in the coming weeks. Sydney’s stubborn vegetarianism was a lighter plotline that worked very well, especially in terms of Zeek’s rather aggressive reaction to it. The sex scene between Zeek and Camille was a bit startling, but it’s good to see that all generations can have their moments.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 15 “Silver Bullet” (B+)

In addition to great drama, this episode is stacked with plenty of great guest stars! The return of Gary Cole as the Republican (or, rather, Tea Party) ballistics expert was fun, and he really managed to throw Diane off her game. It’s a good thing that Diane is staying, since Bond seems prepared to put things to a vote and try to oust Diane from the partnership. I instantly recognized the fantastic Sarah Steele from “Please Give” as Eli’s daughter, and it’s a blast to see her go point-for-point with her father and argue vehemently that she should be allowed to go to Israel and live on a kibbutz (quite a hilarious conversation, especially on Eli’s end). I’m thrilled to see America Ferrera as the new object of Eli’s affection, and she did a marvelous job skewering Eli for lying to her. His daughter does get the award for the most fabulously-delivered dialogue, tossed off when she interrupts her father’s date and reminds him to use a condom. Alicia is also proving herself to be quite competent in not letting Eli talk down to her, and she’s quite entertaining and effective in dealing with her rather troublesome and inquisitive daughter. It was fun to see Cary and Alicia not playing nice with each other during the investigation of the evidence and Kalinda having to be the one to play mediator. I’m so intrigued by the way Kalinda is handling those threatening phone calls, and I think this episode wisely kept things nice and mysterious.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 14 “Payback” (B+)

After seeing Neal running around with a bunch of guns just recently, here we have a case of Peter being put in legitimate danger as he is abducted and held for ransom. It’s easy to see how impressive Neal is, but what about Peter? He was able to keep his cool in captivity, smugly revealing that he had paid attention and knew exactly where he was being held, not to mention picking the lock on the handcuffs and knocking out his captor. It was fun to see Adam Goldberg, most memorable in his multi-episode appearance in the second season of “Friends” as Chandler’s replacement roommate Eddie, in a guest spot practically written for him, playing an artist of some sort a bit off his rocker. I enjoyed how Mozzie bugged the headset and insulted the agents by telling them that it clearly wasn’t Russian military. The best part of the episodes hands down, was Peter telling Neal that he needed to talk him through a jailbreak in order to get out of his cell. On both sides, it was just fantastic, as Peter knew he didn’t have any other option and Neal was only happy to help. I enjoyed how all the agents at the FBI office were more than willing to assist and help Neal recreate the cell in order to best recommend to Peter how to break out. Neal’s angered reaction to Peter’s abduction was rather touching. It’s clear that the two of them really have become close friends.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: V

V: Season 2, Episode 7 “Birth Pangs” (B+)

I definitely like where this show is headed after last week’s rather invigorating episode. The notion that Erica fiercely wants to be seen and perceived as the official leader of the Fifth Column is pretty awesome. There’s plenty of videoconferencing going on between all the members of the Fifth Column, which is sort of hilarious just as far as images go, and it’s a terrific indicator of their strength and just how much of an impact they can have. Having the V queen’s daughter in your corner certainly helps with that fight, though I’m unsure where the allegiances of her two alien allies, Diana and Joshua, actually lie. It seems two characters who were once important are being considerably less so, and that’s not much of a problem. While I have no problem with Ryan, he doesn’t necessarily need to be around, especially because Erica and Jack, the two most forgiving people on the planet, don’t trust him anymore. I’ve never liked Tyler or felt that he was useful for any purpose, and therefore having him alienate Lisa is a proper step. I would love to see Marcus spring back into action since I like him far more than his replacement, and I’m curious also about what’s going to be done with that leverage that he had over Kyle, especially given the fact that his bomb detonation didn’t actually do anything or get noticed by any members of the Fifth Column. There’s sure to be more action ahead, and I, for one, cannot wait.

What I’m Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 16 “No Ordinary Proposal” (C+)

I’m happy to report that this episode is considerably better than many of those that came before it, because we finally have a few serious moments and some real stakes! The specific storyline in this episode isn’t entirely terrific, but I’m much more pleased with its resolution. This family unit became more believable than ever before as Jim raced to the defense of his daughter and nearly killed Joshua. Katie got the more intense line, however, as she told him to leave the hurting of Joshua to her. It makes sense that Katie’s relationship with this former murderer and villain was never going to work, though it’s a shame because Joshua is a good guy now and could really be an asset to the Powell family. They definitely could use some help, especially considering the fact that they have multiple threats facing them, including JJ’s teacher, who has proven himself to be even dumber than he initially seemed by serving as a hapless pawn for Dr. King. It’s nice that Daphne helped out her boyfriend just like JJ did with his semi-girlfriend last week, and giving her some reliable happiness is fine. The revelation that Jim’s ricocheted bullet actually saved someone’s life rather than ruining it is pretty corny and sentimental, but given that this show has always been lighter than other shows with this kind of theme, it’s not a problem. In fact, I’ll admit that this episode actually did a good job of balancing the comedy, the light drama, and the actual serious drama involving Jim protecting his family.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 14 “Blame It on the Alcohol” (C+)

It seems clear that each episode of this show needs to have a starkly defined theme, and while that’s not a problem, sometimes it feels more obvious than it has to be. Keeping that in mind, it’s still quite amusing to see nearly the entire cast get drunk out of their minds and badly suffering from a hangover. I’m rather unimpressed, as tends to be the case, with the acting abilities of Matthew Morrison, whose drunken phone call scene was rather embarrassing, and not for the reasons it should have been. I also don’t like the idea of Sue aggressively trying to get Will into rehab and broadcasting his drunken phone call to her over the loudspeaker system at the school. What did work considerably better was the sight of each of the students and Will in sunglasses and the brief appearance by Principal Figgins as he overenthusiastically greeted Will the morning after his big night. The duet between Blaine and Rachel was fun, and it’s also good to see the father-son dynamic between Burt and Kurt explored, even if some of the Kurt stuff is just as frustrating as it’s always been. This latest twist is an interesting and creative way of keeping Blaine germane to the story, though Kurt got it spot-on when he told Rachel how things are going to turn out for her in the end. Even if it was terribly out of character, Finn’s assessment of the girls and their drunken behavior was rather entertaining.

Take Three: The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 3 “Gillis, Chase & Babyface” (B+)

I’m thrilled to report that this episode is a considerable improvement over last week’s second installment, and a return to the kind of quality that was indicated by the pilot. This was a fast-paced, twist-filled episode that worked on pretty much all levels. Since this is a weekly series, it’s easily possible that this multi-layered corruption investigation could have been stalled in order to allow the show to go on for a long time, yet it doesn’t seem like anything’s being held back. A good drama should be able to live on long after Alderman Gibbons is taken down or whatever ends up happening, and it seems like this show isn’t afraid of getting to that point sooner than later. This episode contained not one but two extremely intense scenes featuring Alderman Gibbons exerting his influence, and his preemptive takedown of his criminal ally was rather shocking, one-upped only moments later by his recording of Theresa’s new chief of staff bribing him and then his subsequently skewering of her on television. It’s clear that the alderman is getting to Theresa, evidenced by her momentary breakdown in her office. I’m very intrigued by Brad William Henke’s character, and I also like the fact that Wysocki’s niece is a main player on the show and has to consider her loyalties. When he offered him a true apology for not backing him up, I expected Wysocki to accept it, but him going nuts indicates that this isn’t your ordinary cop show, and I’m definitely going to stick around for a bit in the hopes that it maintains this level of quality.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Cape

The Cape: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Lich, Part 2” (F)

I do wonder why it is that I keep watching this show, but then I remember that, like the shows that formerly held this timeslot, “The Event” and “Heroes,” it’s the kind of series that I should technically like. It’s not much of a surprise that an episode which features the best character (or at least the best actress) paralyzed and about to be married to a murderous psychopath the whole time isn’t going to be the best showcase of quality. Still, did it have to be this bad? The device of hallucinated people appearing to be trustworthy in dreams has been done before and far better in the past, including an unimpressive example in last week’s installment of “Smallville.” The preposterous image that I’m the having the most trouble getting out of my head is the shot of Vince holding and talking on a cell phone as the Cape as “The Cape Calling” comes up on Orwell’s cell phone screen. I’d ordinarily be celebrating an episode that, aside from a hallucination by Orwell, Peter Fleming doesn’t appear in, but the Lich is a fairly uninteresting villain. Vince’s newfound contact as the Cape with both his wife and his wife’s boss is entirely cartoonish, as is the highly unbelievable language (“that’s so rad”) uttered by his obnoxious son. Marty continuing to work with the Cape also doesn’t make sense, akin to Nikita’s parternships every episode with her sworn enemies. Admittedly, it’s hard to put logic and magic together, so clearly this show has chosen just one of those routes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 16 “Chuck Versus the Masquerade” (B+)

I don’t think I’ve properly praised the musical score on this show in at least a few weeks, and therefore it’s certainly worthwhile to take a moment to acknowledge just how awesome it is and how much it amplifies and enhances the enjoyment of the show. There was plenty of musical accompaniment all the time back when Chuck, Sarah, and Casey were fighting against the Ring last season, so it’s nice to see a good return of the anthems that make the missions considerably more exciting. I liked the Valentine’s Day plans that both Chuck and Morgan had, even if they didn’t quite pan out as expected. The sprouting of Sarah’s wings was a perfectly executed moment, and it was amusing, in addition to being particularly ineffective, that she tried to befriend Morgan in order to try to get him not to move out of the apartment. I loved seeing Casey’s reaction, and hearing his follow-up questions, to the sight of his daughter and Morgan both blindfolded and engaging in some true bonding weirdness to deepen the intensity of their relationship. The presence of Volkoff’s daughter provided an interesting backdrop for some of the major action, which the show managed to pull off very well aesthetically with the horse stables and the rather creepy field where Sarah’s horse was ambushed. In many ways, this actually felt like a nice throwback to something like “Alias” where the characters didn’t mind getting dressed up – in both masquerade and equestrian styles – and having a blast while trying to complete a mission.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 1, Episode 7 “Frank Gallagher: Loving Husband, Devoted Father” (B+)

What an episode this was! There isn’t much the Gallagher family won’t do to protect one of their own, even if the family member in question is hardly a devoted father and is actually rather rude, insensitive, and excessively irresponsible. I, like most of the other family members, was fairly worried that Frank wouldn’t be able to play dead long enough to fool the guys who wanted to bash his head in, but fortunately he did alright and managed to only ruin the TV in Kev’s bar. This show does a magnificent job of visualizing Sheila’s debilitating condition, and having Liam stranded outside presented the perfect opportunity for her to have to confront the outside world, at least in a limited capacity. We got some surprising revelations involving the characters that interact with Ian, involving Mickey’s homosexuality and the rather angry discover by Kash’s wife of his extracurricular activities. I love Marguerite Moreau, and her delivery of a line I wouldn’t dare type here was absolutely hilarious. I’m glad that she didn’t fire Ian and that Kash won’t have to stop sleeping with him since Linda doesn’t want to have to be a white Muslim woman without a husband, and this means we’ll hopefully get to see more of both Kash and Linda. Steve is proving himself to be a truly sentimental guy, and it’s great that he was able to succeed in executing his highly romantic date night at the hotel with Fiona. She did have quite a unique reaction to his admission of “I love you.”

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Finale)

Episodes: Season 1, Episode 7 “Episode Seven” (B+)

It’s hard to believe that this show’s first season has already come to an end, but this is a season finale if I’ve ever seen one. Not only does it bring the show-within-a-show plotline to a major turning point, it also addresses the relationship between Beverly and Sean which has taken a shocking turn of its own. While it didn’t take a detective, as Matt purported, to figure out that Matt and Beverly had slept together, it was still rather fascinating to see the usually oblivious and often outright dumb Sean deduce that they had “shagged.” I did enjoy how Matt chose to deflect the accusation by mocking his British terminology, and their fight was quite entertaining as well. The relationships between Matt and Sean and between Matt and Beverly have been truly terrific this season, and I look forward to see more of them working together in the future. The show’s title makes it virtually impossible to comb the Web for articles about the possibility of a second season, though I’m hopeful that it will be seen as a success and return for a second year. I’d love to see more of some of the more minor characters like the wonderfully hilarious Carol, and Morning, and I think there’s plenty more to do with this bunch. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than “Pucks,” and if the network picked up that show, then let’s hope Showtime has the good sense to renew this one for many more episodes to come.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Recused” (B+)

What’s most intriguing to me about this episode is that Abby is revealing herself to be very similar to Karen when it comes to her opinion on Hank. Her desire to recuse herself from his legal case so that she can pursue a romantic (or at least sexual) relationship with him signals that she’s desperately searching for a loophole through which her infatuation with Hank can be legitimized. It’s good that Abby is so into Hank, even if she’s ultimately going to keep a lid on it so that can act as his lawyer, because Karen is clearly starting to move on, as evidenced by her hand-holding with Ben at the end of the episode. Hank’s run-in with Ben in the morning was rather amusing, and I like how Michael Ealy and David Duchovny play off of each other. I’d like to acknowledge that, barring anything I’m forgetting, this is the lowest-ranking role that Alan Dale has ever played, portraying a simple lawyer rather than the high-powered director or overseer of the entire firm. I am very much enjoying Stephen Tobolowsky’s part as Stu, especially in relation to his free thinking regarding Charlie’s inclusion in his sexual relationship with Marcy. I’m so ecstatic that Charlie finally did something right and managed to salvage the meeting, potentially even winning Marcy over once again! That guy does not deserve all the bad stuff that happens to him, and it’s nice to see him shine by coming through in a professional sense for the woman he loves.

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 15 “Farewell Letters” (C)

I’ll start by saying that there were a few positive developments in this episode, though they’ve been a bit too long in the making. Bree telling Keith to leave to go spend time with his son makes sense, and it’s good that they won’t be attempting any sort of long-distance relationship. It is interesting, of course, that the end of their romance came about not as a result of their differences but as a result of something completely out of their control. Gaby’s hometown return could have been an unfortunate misstep, but having her both react positively to her status as a celebrity and angrily confront the nun who didn’t believe her accusations of sexual abuse made for two of the strongest moments her character has had in a long time, and certainly the most worthwhile developments since she got all messed up thinking about Grace. Paul throwing Beth out was sad, and it’s clear that he’s not pleased at all with the betrayal coming at him from all sides. While it’s not out of character, I didn’t buy Susan’s desire to take advantage of things thanks to her being on dialysis, and, rather surprisingly, it didn’t even seem to come to some sort of moral conclusion. Lynette forcing her kids to move out makes sense, but having them go right across the street and then blame her for not letting them become their own people was less than compelling. This show tries to have it all with the comedic mid-episode happenings and more dramatic endings, and it doesn’t always pull it off all the time.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 14 “Masquerade” (F)

I am not impressed. Just a few weeks ago, we had an episode where friendly faces appeared and were actually duplicitous recreations of the people, where people were actually still dreaming when they thought they were awake. I’m not overly familiar with all of the Superman mythology, but I do know that, even if this darkness stuff is rooted in comic book history, it still sounds impossible silly every time something about The Darkness is uttered by any of these characters. Oliver and Chloe stole their plotline right out of “Date Night,” and it works even worse here than it did in that disappointing film. Don’t they know that they’re main characters and they can’t be harmed so easily? That’s why they’re perfectly okay having a casual conversation about anniversaries while they’re hanging out in a trunk. Clark’s transformation into the bumbling, bespectacled, mild-mannered reporter as he prepares to step out of the darkness and become Superman would be far more compelling if it had occurred ten years earlier and if he was actually anything other than a bumbling, mild-mannered guy. All he needs to do is put on glasses; he’s got the rest down already, and he certainly did when he was back in high school and this show had a clearer sense of where it was going. At least there’s something to look forward to, as Clark gets ready to put on the suit (metaphorically and literally, to a lesser extent) and step into the role for which he is destined.

What I’m Watching: Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Two Richards” (C-)

I’m struggling to understand this show, and trying a bit too hard, I think, to give it the benefit of the doubt. On other USA shows, characters like Michael Westen or Hank Lawson live and breathe their given trades, constantly jumping into action to help save people, via spy work or medicine. Here, Kate finds herself serving as a mediator nearly every second, and it’s exhausting, if nothing else, for me as a viewer to see conflicts that are so starkly divided thrown at me all the time. Adding complexity, like the problem of Richard being transformed into a new person and therefore not fully comprehending why his wife was getting so upset, feels to me like forcing it and trying to sensationalize everything more so than making it dramatic and compelling. I particularly don’t buy the character of Leo, who seems fearless to resist, defy, and openly mock both of his bosses. Lauren is an unstable character as well, and it seems like the two Reeds are just wasting so much time bickering that they could be spending actually doing something productive like mediating cases and using the money that was definitely left to them for some good. This show is certainly establishing its tone as more comic than anything as evidenced by Justin’s naked man showdown with his neighbor across the way. Especially when she locked him out while he was naked, Kate demonstrates consistently that, above anything else, she’s in all this to amuse herself, and I, for one, am not amused.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 15 “It’s Never Too Late For Now” (C+)

After a strong installment last week, we’re back to some of the off-kilter ridiculousness that this show often features. Liz in a relationship is much more stable, and it seems that the same is true of this show. Her going out on a date dressed in a sweatshirt and similarly casual clothes was enough of a reality stretch, and to have her meet the guy of her dreams, essentially crafted by all of her co-workers, was pretty far-out. The reason that I’m especially disappointed is that this show, even just last week, demonstrated that it’s capable of more sedated, on-target humor, and seeing it regress to this is a real shame. I wasn’t terribly impressed by any of the other storylines this week either. It’s weird not to see Avery the week after she gives birth to her baby and to have her stood in for by an unenthusiastic nanny. That’s the trouble with having a main character who’s not actually a credited regular cast member – she’s likely not to be able to appear in every single episode. Jack’s funny, as always, but he can be doing much more than just get intimidated by his nanny and not be able to get away with pretending he doesn’t care about his child. The new band put together by Pete and Frank doesn’t interest me much at all, and sometimes I wish this show would stick a bit more closely to the television world and not get so easily sidetracked by temporary distractions.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episode 5 “Media Blitz” (B+)

I’m glad that each of the new cast members is getting more than a proper share of screen time and plenty of opportunity to get acclimated with the city of Pawnee. Even if Ben’s on-air flubs aren’t entirely hilarious, what makes it entirely worthwhile are the reactions from Leslie and Tom, coupled with the fact that he, like Leslie, ultimately achieves redemption by proving that he does have a plan even if he can’t talk on television for his life. It’s also nice to see elements of old episodes, such as Ben’s eighteen-year-old mayorship, brought back in a new, far more public context. The closing moments of the episode provided a terrific summary of Ben’s greatest hits, looked at through a wonderfully mockery-oriented lens. April’s certainly had her fun playing with Andy, and, amusing as it was, I’m glad that’s finally come to an end with one of the rarer romantic moments on this show, wowing Andy as much as it did me and, presumably, other viewers. Andy’s willingness to do anything that April told him was fun, and I like how Donna was adding stuff to that in order to get foot massages. Ron’s eagerness to step in and help keep April in town was great, and I love both the Ron-April dynamic and the Ron-Andy dynamic. I couldn’t imagine April actually moving to Indianapolis, but the future of Chris and Ann seeming ever less clear as Chris refuses to initiate any conversation and Ann continues to freak out about what’s going to happen to them.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 15 “Alexandra” (D+)

It wouldn’t be an episode of this show without Nikita having a run-in with one of her sworn enemies and then teaming up with him for the duration of the episode for no discernable reason. I’m at a loss as to why Michael, one of whose main responsibilities at Division is hunting down and bringing in Nikita, feels the need to partner with her and help her out without remotely thinking of trying to arrest or double-cross her. Additionally, Nikita keeps running these extraordinarily risky operations where she comes face-to-face with Alex and nearly gets both of their covers blown. I cannot understand why this show, which already proceeds at a terribly plodding pace, chooses to focus on such an uninteresting, tangential story such as that of Alex’s past. The fact that she’s essentially Anastasia is entirely ungermane to the show, and it’s far more relevant that she was a sex slave. Nikita is supposed to be the one who stirs fear in all those who think or know her name, sort of like Voldemort, and Alex has already proven that she’s far more fragile and susceptible to other influences, and making her into a lost princess isn’t going to change any of that. It’s also rather convenient that the club she happens to go to on a mission for Division happens to be owned and run in part by Vlad, and that her carefully constructed cover gets blown in a matter of seconds as she stops to have a conscience and help out a girl in trouble in the bathroom. This whole tracker modification thing also really does not make any sense.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 17 “Fight or Flight” (B+)

After a number of episodes highlighting the high life in the Hamptons, it’s refreshing to be able to get back to the city. It’s also a nice treat to have an episodic guest star as talented as Julianne Nicholson, who manages to dominate her thread as the overworked businesswoman trying to make a straight break to a more relaxing retirement. The fact that she happened to be a pilot was a productive subplot, and it was fun to see both Divya and Hank get a chance to get into the air and face their fears. Plenty of larger story arcs were addressed and pushed forward this week as we’re hurtling towards the end of the season next week. I’ve always found Divya’s relationship with Raj to be far more three-dimensional than it could be, and having them discuss their priorities, enabling Divya to take a stand for what she believes in, was certainly interesting. Evan getting Paige to sleep over and then trying to help her with her snoring without seeming like a jerk was a nice development, and I’m glad that this surprising relationship seems to be working out pretty well. With Emily fully gone and Jill present far less than usual, it’s good to have a woman around and being a good influence on at least one of the Lawsons. After all of their problems with Eddie, it’s ironic that their ultimate downfall, at least apparently given the end of this episode, is something completely out of his and their control and due only to Boris needing a new home for his pregnant girlfriend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 17 “Threat Level Midnight” (B)

For me, this wasn’t an excellent episode, though it certainly was enjoyable. While some people really love the Agent Michael Scarn and "Threat Level Midnight" stuff, I've never been particularly into it. That said, it's pretty nutty and entertaining. There's a remarkable amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to get through this episode, though that's generally always the case on this show. Any kind of logical discrepancies are well worth it because of the hilarity that ensues here, especially having Jim star as the villain. I like the hold this show seems to have over some of its former cast members, such as Melora Hardin as Jan, which was predictable, and somewhat more surprisingly, Rashida Jones as Karen, uttering one of the episode’s best lines and then defending it when interviewed by the cameras. While I might often get on the case of a show like “Glee” for tossing out diegetic coherence for the sake of creating some sort of spectacle, I’m actually rather content about it because it just makes this episode so much more enjoyable. I don’t know how much it factors into the overall trajectory of the season, though it’s considerably better than a clip show, and I say that particularly in relation to the clip show that aired around this time last year and was quite negatively received. It’s interesting to see the culmination of Michael’s work through the eyes of a newbie like Holly or Erin who hasn’t been there for everything, and this episode definitely included some great throwbacks. Nothing besides Andy’s accent sticks out too much in my memory – any favorite moments?

Pilot Review: Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (CBS)
Premiered February 16 at 10pm

I’ve never quite understood the recent enthusiasm for spinoffs of crime procedurals, especially when there aren’t even any characters from the original series being transplanted to the new show. That said, one of my favorite procedurals, one which I’ve since stopped watching, “NCIS,” was itself technically a spinoff of the same sort. Even if that’s true, however, this pilot doesn’t even come close to matching the quality or energy of that show. This is as run-of-the-mill as they get, and there isn’t one thing to me that makes it stand out from the sea of shows featuring crime task forces of some kind. It’s especially disappointing given the fact that Forest Whitaker is at the helm of this team. Whitaker has demonstrated that he’s capable of playing a complex cop before in “The Shield,” though there is this unfortunate trend of actors on cable shows, such as Michael Chiklis and Alex O’Loughlin on that very same FX series, whose turns on broadcast network shows are considerably less impressive. Whitaker is generally one-note, and the same is true of the usually entertaining and sarcastic Janeane Garofalo, whose role seems to have been stripped of all personality. This plays just like a “Law & Order” entry, with an intro similar to its “SVU” opening, signaling that there’s some sort of link between this and its lead-in show. Functionally, it reminds me of “The Forgotten,” which isn’t exactly a winning recommendation. This pilot falls prey several times to being overly self-congratulatory and trying to endow its characters with an insight that it presumes the viewer doesn’t have. It’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, and it’s hardly engaging. I don’t have any desire to check back in to this show.

How will it work as a series? Procedurals can go on forever. There are an infinite number of cases to be explored, and this “suspect behavior” focus should enable just as many possible plotlines. Having one of the squad’s members as a pedophile murderer is intriguing, though it’s slightly disconcerting that he came face-to-face with a child abductor in the first episode, meaning that that card has already been played. There’s still a whole team of people left, so the wealth can be shared.
How long will it last? Possibly forever. Seriously, though, the original “Criminal Minds” is already in its sixth season, and this series premiere was watched by more people than that show. This seems to be a very popular genre, and therefore I have no doubt that this show, however unappealing it is to me, will live a long and (disturbing only in content) happy life, earning a renewal pretty soon.

Pilot grade: C-

What I'm Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 2, Episode 2 "The Life Inside" (B+)

Two things seem very clear to me about the universe of this show as its second season continues: there are some evil people in the world and no one could possibly be as cool as Raylan. Even though they're not the focus of the episode, we do get a brief, rather disconcerting glimpse at the actions of Mags and her right-hand men Dickie and Coover. Margo Martindale was perfectly chilling in her conversation with Loretta, and the rather dark small talk between Dickie and Coover during the burial was rather disturbing as well. The episode-specific storyline was also rather fascinating, as it was clear from the start that something was going to go awry with the pregnant prisoner. Raylan definitely noticed that something was up while they were in the waiting room, yet he’s so smooth that he barely even reacts and then lets the bad guys get away because he knows that’s the best way to play out the situation. I suspected that Jamie wasn’t actually pregnant and then was rather horrified when I realized that she was and the twist was instead that the people who broke her out of prison actually wanted to cut the baby out of her. All of Raylan’s conversations with Winona, and with Gary, for that matter, are quite fascinating and fun. I was thrilled to see Ava, if only for a moment, and her treating a wounded Boyd was a great way to bring her back. I hope to see much more of her soon.

Round Two: Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine: Season 1, Episode 2 “Employee of the Year” (F)

Wow, this show is horrendous. I can’t even call it a dismal drop from episode one to episode two since the first one was pretty disappointing in itself. By the first minute of this installment, Matthew Perry’s Ben had proven himself to be a whiny, self-congratulatory guy obsessed with being recognized. All of the scenes where he thought he was going to be commended were embarrassing, but mostly because they were so unlikely. Watching any of his scenes with Allison Janney’s nutjob Crystal is rather unbearable, and I can’t speak well of any of the other characters. Andrea Anders is just doing a pale imitation of the role she played on “Better Off Ted,” and this is what breakout actress Portia Doubleday, an AFT Award nominee for Best Breakthrough Performance, chose as her follow-up part to “Youth in Revolt”? Nate Torrence’s Roman has to be one of the worst and stupidest characters on television at the moment, and if I wasn’t already cringing at all the other personalities on this show, I would emphasize the fact that I cringe whenever I see him. The writing here is abysmal. I don’t understand the point of having a Jonas brother guest star in your second episode ever unless it’s to demonstrate just how little there is to the show. His fascination with “Brothers & Sisters” and that stupid quote later repeated by Ben really got on my nerves. I can’t stand this show, and I don’t understand what the point of it really is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 15 “Princess Party” (B+)

This show has always been one of the rare series that doesn’t let its stunt casting go to its head (as opposed to another show that beat this one for the Golden Globe last month). This show has featured guest stars such as Edward Norton, Benjamin Bratt, and Minnie Driver, and has never resorted to showboating and creating preposterous plotlines around them, even if it means none of them have been particularly funny. Matt Dillon doesn’t do much here, and his storyline is more about making Claire lose it. It’s not even about the usually more emotive Phil, who is relegated to the rather hilarious and chivalrous role of having his hand crushed to death as the unfortunate victim of Claire’s rage. Julie Bowen was the undisputed star of this episode, and it’s fun to see her play a role somewhat more energetic than that of just the straight woman. I like how Mitchell figured into the situation as well, expressing that he had always put him into a headlock and then getting concerned about Lily seeing him in the a headlock. This show is all about family, and therefore it’s entirely appropriate to have Jay be the one to come in and defend the honor of the women in his family and intimidate Robbie into leaving the party. The near-return of Fizbo was amusing, and I like how Jay tried to use Gloria’s discomfort to get out of having to go to something else, and saw that backfire completely.

What I’m Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 14 “Better with a Leather Jacket” (B-)

Let’s file this under episodes that never quite got off the ground. I understand that idea of a certain jacket being particularly unlucky, but it felt like everyone was trying way too hard to find something bad for it to do to Casey. I’ll admit that there was one hilarious, if highly improbable line (though what isn’t when it involves Casey?), when the woman who interviewed him makes the brilliant realization that they were looking for someone who needed to play an animal. I did like the inclusion of the trivia night stuff, since both Maddie and Ben are frighteningly intense and likely not much fun to play well whether they win or lose. I enjoyed Joel’s quick proficiency and Vicky’s less certain declaration of sports expertise, nonetheless fueling excitement from each member of the younger couple. The old introductory segment is now almost entirely gone, and instead we’re treated to plenty of flashbacks throughout the episode. I was most amused by Vicky’s attempts to tell her story that began with the “nine years later” title card but weren’t allowed to go any further than that. It’s a rare thing that we get to see most of the family spending time together throughout the entirety of the episode, as is the case here where generational and immediate family lines are disregarded so that Mia, Maddie, Ben, Vicky, and Joel can warn the newest addition of the family to take that damn jacket off before some bad luck hits him, even if it’s their own fault.

What I’m Watching: Lights Out

Lights Out: Season 1, Episode 6 “Combinations” (B+)

Lights just can’t catch a break, can he? Now he’s actually starting to experience double vision both in and out of the ring, and he had to have a prostitute in his car when he accidentally when off the road and hit a tree. Car accidents containing inopportune passengers been problematic for many powerful men, including Tony Soprano, and unfortunately Lights doesn’t have a mafia of support behind him to help him get out of something, just a brother willing to take a bullet for him. I like having Ben Shenkman’s Mike Fumosa as a recurring character on this show, and the relationship between him and Lights is perhaps one of the show’s most fascinating dynamics. Lights is trying so hard to do right by his family, and it’s a shame to see him get so brutally turned away by Theresa when he kisses her on the cheek and then have to bail when she finally decides to invite him in because he’s already prepared to train. It’s a shame that Lights seems so woefully out of control of his own life, with so many distinctly separate parties holding some stake in his success or failure, from Mike to Robert to Johnny to Theresa to Barry to the unseen Hal Brennan. Usually when a figure has to struggle to keep things out of the press, they are a public persona with a whole troop of people around them to watch their backs. Lights is about all he has, and so it’s an even tougher and more meaningful struggle for him than for most.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 16 “Amazing Andy and His Wonderful World of Bugs” (B+)

Here’s to a very entertaining, well-rounded installment of this show. After plenty of episodes involving Adam and Kristina being concerned about their daughter, now it’s back to their son as the bug guy they hire for his party just happened to have Asperger’s, which is pretty cool. I’m so pleased with Michael Emerson’s follow-up role to his very creepy part on “Lost,” and one of my favorite parts of this episode was hearing Max detail all of the information that Andy was saying a moment before Andy himself announced it all, prompting him to rather ineffectively attempt to ban comments from the audience. It was absolutely hilarious to see Julia and Joel put their romance on hold and then lose control of themselves and get to it in the linen closet. I especially love how Kristina told Adam that she had seen them rather than keeping the secret to herself. It was interesting to see Zeek try to extend a hand of semi-friendship to Seth and see it just not work out at all. Crosby, who had been doing so much better lately as a parent to Jabar and a boyfriend slash fiancĂ©e to Jasmine, and to see him crash and burn by doing exactly what he shouldn’t be doing is rather tragic and very similar to watching a car wreck happen and not being able to look away. Let’s hope he finds some way out of it and doesn’t royally screw up something that would at this point be totally his fault.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 14 “Net Worth” (B+)

I have to object slightly to the use of such a ripped-from-the-headlines story as Facebook, especially because, in this universe, it’s just a copycat case where “The Social Network” was actually made, though I’m willing to let it slide because Will and Diane seem to have so much scoring a victory over their rather obnoxious opponents. It was fun to see Alicia on the road failing to adequately relax and being tormented by her brother, who rightly pointed out the discrepancy between what he would want her to do and what she would do. Another twosome with intense chemistry of a mischievous sort finally came face-to-face, and while you’d have expected Blake to walk out of there victorious given the way he was talking down to Kalinda and telling her what he’d uncovered, she wasn’t prepared to let him go without fiercely wounding him physically. For a show on a broadcast network, this episode definitely pushed the boundaries, as Kalinda managed to effortlessly seduce not one but two associates, and that’s not even counting Cary, who has her back even if he’s not prepared to talk about it out in the open. It’s always a treat to see Jill Flint back as Lana Delaney, and it really is such a different role than the one she currently plays on “Royal Pains.” The best in show award for this episode, of course, goes to last year’s Emmy winner Archie Panjabi, who has much more screen time than usual and does a magnificent job in all of her scenes.

Round Two: Traffic Light

Traffic Light: Season 1, Episode 2 “En Fuego” (C-)

I have just about zero interest in this show. It’s hardly engaging in the slightest sense, and none of the cast members truly come alive. These are actors who have been far better used previously in other roles, and these aren’t the right parts for them, with the possible exception of Nelson Franklin, whose role is a bit too broadly written, though he makes the most of it and goes for big. David Denman was never the funny guy on “The Office” and was always the more serious element in the comic situations, and therefore having him here cracking jokes and obsessing over rules doesn’t play so well. Liza Lapira is also better shining in those token supporting roles, though she is considerably more charming than the male cast members. Mostly, this feels like a guy’s show, like “Terriers” or “The League,” two shows which do not excite me in any way, but at least those have a slight edge to them. This show just seems rather tame, and if the worst we’re going to get is three thirtysomethings being told that they look like they’re one hundred years old, this show just isn’t going to cut it. I certainly won’t be tuning in again, mostly because it’s hard to devote energy to such a dull half-hour program when there are a staggering seven hourlong dramas currently airing on Tuesday nights. I watched this episode immediately following “Modern Family,” and while that’s hardly a fair comparison, it just made it feel infinitely less funny.

What I’m Watching: V

V: Season 2, Episode 6 “Siege” (B)

I must say, this is one of the better installments this show has produced in a long time. The ante has really been upped, and the action in this episode was pretty intense. I’ll admit that Erica was rather untraditionally resourceful in finding a way to get herself out of the situation with Eli by pretending to be a hostage, and I certainly appreciated her no-nonsense attitude as expressed to Joe when it came to his story about her good friend and FBI coworker conveniently showing him how to get into the building. It’s impressive that Eli had a whole plan in place to have ready-to-go bombers outside his apartment in the case of an emergency, and he definitely went out in a blaze of glory, providing one of the show’s more powerful moments to date. It’s a pity that Joe had to get killed, although it should have been obvious that he could never survive given the type of character he is and the positive influence he could have on his son, not to mention Erica. I loved Erica’s defiant, warmongering attitude at the end, and I’m excited for the show’s final four episodes, presuming of course that we won’t see a third season. Now it’s especially interesting that Tyler has allied himself with Anna while his V girlfriend is actually positioning herself, along with Diana, to stage a coup or at least secretly help the Fifth Column. Now wouldn’t that be a terrific cliffhanger ending to this series?

What I’m Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 15 “No Ordinary Powell” (D-)

I just don’t understand this show. It seems to me more complicated to have the stakes be so incredibly low all the time, and it definitely doesn’t help the show get anywhere interesting. Victoria has been a horrendously disappointing character, and it’s not Rebecca Mader’s fault. Even Joshua, now a bona fide good guy, had no problem pulling the trigger on Jim’s cop buddy, yet Rebecca has to resort to duplicitous phone calls and simple laziness? In terms of shapeshifting science, a subject about which I purport myself to be just as much an expert as anyone else, it doesn’t make sense that she would have the same level of strength as Jim, and even more so, that she wouldn’t have powers only because Jim doesn’t have powers. Jim wins the award for the dumbest character in this episode because he confesses his greatest weakness to a woman who pulls out the most random proof of her identity and then doesn’t even notice that George is legitimately trying to shoot him. Also, why does he leave his doppelganger’s corpse out for his wife to find, and why does she only shift back to her natural form after Stephanie’s had a panic attack set to melodramatic music? When it comes to the kids, if Daphne is going to be so obvious about her newfound abilities, she could at least try to use them to persuade JJ (who, for the record, could sense what she was doing but still not be able to resist her) to walk out of that room with her when she made up the story about the phone call. JJ’s cry of “What did you do to her?” was fairly pathetic – they didn’t do anything, they just knocked her out. Nothing more would ever happen on this show.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 2, Episode 13 “Comeback” (C)

After a bit of anachronistic brilliance last week, we’re back to the same old questionable quality and wildly unbelievable plotlines. This show seems to have a desire to recognize all of the big and popular musicians of yesteryear as well as today, which is why the flavor of the week is suddenly Justin Bieber. While the surprising interest displayed by an awestruck Artie, Mike, and Puck was amusing, the plotline was entirely devoid of substance otherwise. The girls being entirely swayed and entranced by it also felt just a bit over-the-top (maybe it’s because I’m not currently in high school and can’t appreciate the fact that it’s all the rage). It’s being drilled into our heads that just about everyone at the school is as dumb as can be, particularly any of the men interested in Quinn. More troubling, however, are the continued liberties taken with Sue’s character. I didn’t like the “Sue-icide” joke, and I think that having Sue come to glee club rehearsal is just plain stupid. Time and time again, she’s proven herself to be a traitorous saboteur, and a pleasant trip to the children’s cancer ward at a hospital with Will is clearly not going to change any of that. As Rachel tried to steal back the spotlight, I got even more annoyed with her and started to appreciate the fact that she’s been largely ignored and certainly demoted from her former lead status this season. The Brittany trendsetter storyline was also less than impressive, and an indication that sometimes they take even that character too far.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pilot Review: Mad Love

Mad Love (CBS)
Premiered February 14 at 9:30pm

Well this premiere certainly isn’t too impressive. I sort of wish that I hadn’t read beforehand that many were pegging it as a “How I Met Your Mother” clone, though I guess I probably would have figured that out on my own. Despite knowing plenty of diehard fans, I’m not actually a full-fledged HIMYM proponent, but I can appreciate the appeal of that show, particularly when it comes to the endearing cast. Sadly, that’s not the case here, and it’s even more of a shame because I really like three of the players. Sarah Chalke was marvelous in her role on “Scrubs,” at least in the first few seasons, and it’s only reasonable that she wouldn’t be able to find a role nearly as classic and terrific as that. She’s peppy enough here, but the role is generally vapid. Tyler Labine can be good in limited doses, and “Reaper” was a great showcase for him. I don’t comprehend why he’s the narrator – this doesn’t seem like his story at all. I’m continually saddened for the lovely Judy Greer, whose last show, “Miss/Guided,” others liked but I didn’t. She needs a good role, and TV just isn’t giving it to her at this point. I don’t have anything too kind to say about Jason Biggs since he doesn’t contribute much to the show. All of the events in this premiere seem very forced and most of the humor falls flat. It’s a shame, because TV could use some good traditional laugh-track sitcoms, and CBS used to be good at providing them. As compared with something rather lowbrow like “Two and a Half Men,” this is tame. As compared with something of actual semi-quality like HIMYM, this is significantly less funny and less interesting.

How will it work as a series? This show’s premise seems to depend heavily upon the idea of fate and people being destined for each other, but that all about seems wrapped up by episode’s end. Presumably they won’t stay a couple forever but will instead be best friends, but then the show’s lost much of its appeal. And I’m still confused about why Labine is the one narrating…
How long will it last? Even if it didn’t perform as well as the rest of CBS’ Monday night comedy block, it did do better than one show I often cite as an example of inexplicable repeat renewals, “Rules of Engagement,” which used to occupy the same time slot. CBS has burned off plenty of ineffective sitcom ideas over the past few years, and I don’t see this show being one of the few that actually makes it.

Pilot grade: D-

Round Two: The Chicago Code

The Chicago Code: Season 1, Episode 2 “Hog Butcher” (C+)

I don’t want this to be one of those cases where the pilot is really strong and then the successive episodes aren’t anywhere near that quality, to the point that the show is no longer worth watching. I’m not quite ready to give up on this show just yet, especially since Monday nights are infinitely less crowded than, say, Tuesday or Thursday nights, and I’m still watching shows like “No Ordinary Family” and “Nikita” on those nights, so I should at least give this one a fair shot for a little while longer. I can’t comprehend, however, why Jarek seems to go out of his way to ensure that everyone hates him. It’s one thing to be a jerk who commands the respect of his peers and common criminals, but there’s a better and more compelling way to do it. He can’t even get along with his one supposed ally, the superintendent! It’s interesting to see the family of Teresa’s slain guardian be denied his pension and benefits because he gave her his vest and saved her life, but it seems awfully manipulative that the only person who could possibly help in that situation would be the alderman. There’s a reason I don’t tend to watch cop shows, with a few cable-based exceptions, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that a few key characters can often be portrayed as the entirety of a small universe, which just hardly seems believable and doesn’t cut it for me.

What I’m Watching: The Cape

The Cape: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Lich, Part 1” (F)

What exactly is the mysterious Lich, you ask? I can’t say I care. This show has become completely uninteresting, and that’s pretty hard to do when you have the fabulously creepy Tom Noonan, villain of such films as “Manhunter” and “House of the Devil,” on tap as the bad guy. Unfortunately, that bad guy is actually just a dust whisperer, and it turns out it’s actually Glenn Fitzgerald, an equally compelling actor who was truly superb in his role as Brian Darling on the short-lived “Dirty Sexy Money.” Poorly using two strong character actors like that is the kind of mistake that’s only been made recently by another show that once did and will soon again occupy this time slot, “The Event” (hello, Hal Holbrook!). Having Summer Glau jump into action was supposed to be much more exciting than just taking a puff of poisonous dust to the face. I also have a humongous problem with the suspension of disbelief required to buy the fact that Marty doesn’t recognize the voice of his longtime best friend when they’re less than five feet apart from each other in a car. Also, doesn’t any good law enforcement official, corrupt or straight arrow alike, know that the first thing you do upon apprehending a masked vigilante is take off the mask? This is a case of inexplicable alliances, where characters seem to join forces if for no other reason than there’s nowhere else for the plot to go. Will Orwell be saved? Of course. So why the cliffhanger?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 15 “Chuck Versus the Cat Squad” (B)

I’m not sure why it is, but as this show continues to bring back past guest stars week after week, I have a harder time recalling when and what they did the last time they were on the show. As a result, Carina didn’t ring any bells and I only had all of Morgan’s references to go on to help me recall just who she was. The Cat Squad, fairly reminiscent of Charlie’s Angels, was decently entertaining, but it wasn’t among the show’s better plotlines recently. Lou Diamond Phillips was a fun guest star, as were the other members of the Cat Squad, including Mircea Monroe, who plays Morning on “Episodes,” as the seemingly nice but highly duplicitous Amy. I’m glad that her threat to Sarah about knowing where her loved ones live – extending all the way to Ellie and Awesome’s newborn baby – didn’t pan out, since we’ve had the extended Bartowski clan put in harm’s way more than enough lately. Morgan didn’t try too hard to dissuade the irresistible Carina from nearly sabotaging his relationship, and it’s only in his final moment that he proved himself worthy when he confessed his love to her. I enjoyed seeing Casey and Chuck bond in the van since all we seem to see Chuck doing these days is freaking out over how little he knows Sarah. Always the voice of reason, Ellie made a good point when she told Chuck that she might well not have the same expectations, hopes, and dreams that he does.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 1, Episode 6 “Killer Carl” (B+)

What a superb episode with some truly diverse focuses and spotlights on some of our less seen characters! One of them gets his name in the title, and that’s Carl, who goes from microwaving action figures to demonstrating himself to be the baddest school bully there is, hurting just about anything he can gets his hands on and almost getting expelled for it. Seeing Frank come and be there for the girl who wasn’t even his daughter when his actual children really needed him was rather heartbreaking, especially when expressed on the faces of Fiona and Lip. Steve once again wins the prize for being extraordinarily impressive, managing to talk the principal out of expelling Carl by setting him up with a teacher discount on drugs. Lip’s situation was especially precarious, but he did a good job of saving himself there too, even if it did result in the cancellation of a number of test scores and his near death by dangulation out of a window. This show manages to bring all of its storylines together marvelously though, and therefore Carl’s family-saving action was the perfect ending. I loved seeing the entire family celebrate their most violent member’s initiative and accomplishment. Other striking moments in the episode included Sheila’s simulated shopping meltdown and Ian’s scarily accurate target practice success. I was surprised to see Robert Knepper, best known as T-Bag on “Prison Break,” as one of the goons chasing Frank, always sporting a different accent in every role he plays.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 1, Episode 6 “Episode Six” (B+)

We’re finally caught up to the events previously seen in the first episode, and they’re far more complicated than it initially seemed. I’m loving the interactions between characters we haven’t seen together before, such as Matt and Morning. The latter actress of an unknown age is particularly entertaining, making Matt call her crazy and Sean bumble and stumble all over himself even more than usual. Sean’s efforts to apologize to Beverly certainly didn’t go well, but they were rather amusing. I like how Beverly turned to Carol for comfort since they have this sort of semi-friendship, even if Carol hilariously enough can’t talk about anything but herself. It was fun to see Merk again as well, and it’s startling to see the disconnect between what Sean knows and thinks about Merk’s opinions and what they actually are. I was most excited by the opportunity to see Matt and Beverly together, as he chastised her for being a lunatic driver and was then dumbstruck to learn that she didn’t think the show was any good. The two of them getting together wasn’t something I had expected, though Tamsin Greig does a truly terrific job of playing off of Matt’s sarcasm, particularly in reference to the semi-pleasure he was experiencing as she refused to stop kicking him. The celebrity tour bus going by them while they were sorting out the accident was also a surprisingly poignant moment, as Matt had to deal with constantly being recognized and pegged for just one role.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 4, Episode 6 “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” (B)

This episode was weird. That’s about it. Furiously compelling at times, sure, but definitely weird. Most of that is due to the bizarre guest appearance by Rob Lowe as an actor even nuttier than the last person who wanted to finance the film and ended up hanging himself. It’s a trip to see Lowe all whacked out here while he plays the complete opposite of this character on “Parks and Recreation” as the impossibly polite and health-obsessed Chris. Lowe is entertaining here for the reactions he elicits from everyone except Hank, since our hero seems rather sedated compared to all of the other people on whom Eddie Nero rubs off. Becca’s response, and that whole showdown at the tattoo parlor, was particularly interesting, and having Hank work with Eddie is definitely going to be a wild ride. Marcy’s interaction with Stu was entertaining, especially with the forced wax included. My favorite part of the episode, and certainly the most unexpected, was Karen going to talk to Abby and saying that Abby should give him a second chance because Karen had given him far too many and it was someone else’s turn. It’s hard to find a dynamic quite as fascinating as that between Karen and Hank, evidenced perfectly by Hank’s exclamation of “it’s the law!” after she showed up at his front door. Though he’s hanging out with one of the craziest guys in town, Hank may actually be on his way to turning himself around, but that can’t last long.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 11 “Flashback” (C-)

This episode annoyed me more than most because it jumped back into everything after a month off the air and still felt entirely predictable, as if I could have called nearly every event that occurred. The only decently surprising development was the return of Keith’s baby mama, though her continued presence of course means that Keith is going to bolt once he realizes what Bree was done, something we’re sure to see next week. Dave Foley seemed an odd choice to play Susan’s donor slash stalker, and I never find Facebook references to be terribly organic, even if a good portion of adults do use the site in real life. That was just one plotline waiting to be put down, and I feel the same way about both Gaby and Lynette. It’s no surprise that Gaby trades therapy for time to indulge herself and go shopping, and the abuse plotline seems to come from out of nowhere. I have no interest in seeing any more of Lynette’s newest father-in-law, and it seems obvious to me that her mother isn’t actually going to inherit the money after spending a whole lot of cash she doesn’t have trying to blackmail her daughter into spending time with her. Zach’s sudden descent into drug addiction feels random, and I suspect he wouldn’t so cleverly be able to pull off such an elaborate disguise as he did if he really was that messed up. It’s weird to see Mike spending so much time with Paul, especially when he really should be defending his wife’s honor as another man tries to exhort a relationship out of her for an organ.

What I’m Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 13 “Beacon” (F)

It’s as if this show functions only based on when former cast members are conveniently available for a return appearance. Lionel popping in to Tess’ office at the start of the episode feels pretty horribly timed given the fact that he escaped from a parallel dimension more than a couple of weeks ago. Tess’ exclamation of “I didn’t approve any of these stories!” was one of the most forced moments of the episodes, though there are plenty of poorly reasoned-out pieces of knowledge and inconsistencies regarding Lionel’s existence in this world and the way in which he reclaimed his glory and status. Clark’s unwillingness to kill any of his nemeses is at this point becoming beyond frustrating, because he’s simply leaving the door open for them to return and wreak havoc on his life and the lives of those he loves. Also unexplained is why Clark didn’t run like lightning to save his mother, since Alexander’s entire theory was that Clark would run in front of the bullet and be pierced by deathly Kryptonite! Alexander is another character who seems to only pop up when it’s convenient, and Tess’ latest action should theoretically take him out of the picture for good. Scrambled episodes like this don’t give me much confidence that this show can perform well in its last two months on air, as we’re now plummeting towards the end of this series with only eight episodes to go. An awesome finale, which is very possible, isn’t going to make up for something close to eight poor seasons.

What I’m Watching: Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal: Season 1, Episode 4 “Bo Me Once” (C-)

I’ve come to the sad realization that this show just isn’t good. I’m remembering that I was so completely disappointed by “In Plain Sight,” even though I had previously liked star Mary McCormack, but I guess I’m desperate to hold on to this one in the hopes that it will eventually transform into a very quality program. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as this episode can’t even use guest actors like Eddie McClintock (“Warehouse 13”) and Ryan Cutrona (Grandpa Gene from “Mad Men”). I’m continually disheartened by the inconsistency of Lauren Reed, who dishonors her name (also the moniker of a certain character played by Melissa George in the third season of “Alias”) by calling her stepdaughter while drunk and hardly living up to her reputation as the Wicked Witch of the West. Besides the excitement factor of a “Battlestar Galactica” reunion of sorts, Esai Morales, who had a role on Syfy’s short-lived prequel “Caprica,” has no place being on this show, as he’s way too much of a cartoonish, purposefully evil character on a show already overstuffed with loud, immutable personalities. Michael Trucco is also hardly worthy of comparison to his previous character, as has become clear to me watching season four episodes of BSG on Netflix Instant Streaming this past weekend. To that point, Sarah Shahi certainly tries her hardest and puts her all into her character, but this show just isn’t worthy of her, and I can’t imagine it’s going to get any better as time goes on at this point.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 14 “Double-Edged Sword” (B+)

This has to be the funniest and all-around best episode of this show in a long time. I fully enjoyed pretty much all of the plotlines, even Tracy’s! But of course most of the credit goes to the extremely even and entirely hilarious experiences of Liz and Jack and their respective partners. This episode proves that airplane humor is not dead, as evidenced by all of Carol’s antics and Jack’s confession of how he doesn’t sleep on planes because he doesn’t want to get incepted. I absolutely loved every one of Carol’s flight references, including all the bizarre product placement for the Oscar-eligible animated feature film “The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” a film I chose to skip, and wisely so given how much it was mocked in this installment. I thought that Liz’s rebellion was perfectly staged, and I liked how her touting of “my boyfriend is the pilot” came back to haunt her only a few short half-hours later. All of the NBC references were quite funny, including Lindsay Price starring on a new show and the joke about the timeliness of “Austin Powers on Crossfire.” Jack and Avery being devastated about their daughter being born in Canada served as a terrific comic plotline, and the best line was delivered by Jack: “Avery and I want our daughter to be born in America so she can one day become president and declare war on Germany like back when we were awesome.” It’s always fun to see John Cho, especially in an admittedly random guest spot like this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episode 4 “Ron & Tammy: Part Two” (B+)

I’ll start by saying that I liked this interaction considerably more than the last time Tammy appeared on this show, in an episode that I apparently neglected to review when it aired last year. Megan Mullally is quite hilarious in her efforts to be as indignant and obnoxious as possible as Tammy, and I like Ron’s attempts to ignore her advances. Ron’s laughing reaction to Wendy’s suggestion that she move to Canada was great, and I also loved how he picked up Tom at the end and carried him home after he had been beaten senseless with a library book by Tammy. Ben getting called Calzone Boy and revealing his fear of authority figures was pretty funny, and he’s proving to be an excellent character. I liked his reaction to the news that Leslie gets as many favors as she needs, and that he seemed to be relatively flabbergasted by and jealous of Dave’s relationship with Leslie. The chief did have it right though, that Leslie uses favors to help other people. Leslie’s angered anti-calzone response to Ben’s joke was very funny, and I’m really enjoying their interactions. I was delighted to find April working as a secretary for Chris, and I liked Andy’s FBI letter designed to get her out of it. Her ploy to get fired was not quite as brilliant as Ann’s revenge plot, and I was amused by Ann’s response to Chris asking April to come to Indianapolis with him, proving herself to be quite the serial monogamist.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Next Seduction” (C+)

Formulaically, the idea of Nikita teaming up with enemies of her enemies while working with true friends is appealing, but it never seems to play out quite as well as it should, apart from the first and third episodes of this show, of course. I’m not minding all of the Ryan Fletcher stuff as much as I thought I would, but it seems silly that he would be kept alive when all he’s going to do is stir up trouble, and he’s now already achieved such prominence that it will be impossible to pretend that he isn’t a viable threat. I tend to get confused when there are all these complicated alliances, and it reminds me of “Alias” and how it was never quite clear how exactly all of these people were bad guys without actually knowing it. Michael’s visit to Alex’s apartment felt hopelessly forced, and he’s demonstrated in the past that he’s not a hard-hearted character, so to have him do something that would be more fitting for a character like Percy doesn’t make too much sense. This episode was overstuffed with romantic intentions, and I see no reason why every show that airs on television – especially espionage thrillers – needs to have some sort of Valentine’s Day theme. It’s as if the timeline stops moving and it’s suddenly February 14th, which definitely detracts from whatever else the show is in the middle of doing, even if this show hasn’t really had its head screwed on straight in quite a while.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 16 “Astraphobia” (B+)

This show doesn’t tend to do event episodes, necessarily, and therefore it was very interesting to have something like a massive storm as the driving force behind an episode. It’s also refreshing that it works pretty well and doesn’t feel forced at all. Having a storm chaser in town with a mysterious ailment is a great setup, and pairing her story with that of a park ranger is a smart plan. This was certainly a better part for Jamie Ray Newman than as a series regular on ABC’s horrible and mercifully short-lived “Eastwick,” and it’s also fun to see Jim Gaffigan. I like the fact that the two of them were somewhat into each other, mostly due to their affinity for weather conditions and lightning strike statistics. Evan was pretty hilarious as he fretted and panicked about the impending storm, and I enjoyed seeing the unenthusiastic reactions his frenzied behavior elicited from the likes of Hank and Divya, starting at the very beginning of the episode when he gave them their disaster packages. Having Hank and Jill end up literally stuck in the mud in the middle of the storm could have seemed like a plot crutch, but the tone of this show makes it somewhat more permissible. I liked how Hank’s main concern in the midst of everything was that Evan could never know about them having had to use one of the disaster packages. And it was just as perfect for Evan to have placed a tracking device on the Hank Med vehicle they were driving.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 16 “PDA” (B)

This episode wasn’t terrific, but it was still relatively fun. There are two major logical inconsistencies in the structure of the episode, having to do with Holly and Gabe. As an HR person, it doesn’t make too much sense that Holly wouldn’t be anywhere near as concerned with a PDA policy in the office as Gabe was. I’m also having trouble believing that Gabe and Erin are a couple, and I agree with a piece I read somewhere that their relationship doesn’t add up because Gabe is so much more intelligent and would have gotten over Erin’s cuteness by now. That may be breaking it down too bluntly, but Gabe is seeming just as oblivious lately as Erin usually is to anything. That said, Erin and Andy do have some good fun together during the treasure hunt. Michael and Holly moving in together is a great step, and I’m hopeful that will be a positive development. I loved seeing Jim and Pam drunk in the office, and Jim’s facial expressions, mostly in reaction to Dwight, were just as priceless as ever. It was also hilarious that they came in at just the right moment that was terribly unsubtle. I enjoyed hearing about all of the people who had had sex in the office, and it truly was a super list. The ending scene with all of the imagined perfect Valentine’s Day experiences was fun, and I especially like hearing snippets of the difference in perceived perfection from Ryan and Kelly.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What I’m Watching: Justified (Season Premiere)

Justified: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Moonshine War” (B+)

Man, it’s good to have this show back. Raylan is such a terrific lead character, and it almost doesn’t matter what situation he’s in and who he’s surrounded by. Unfortunately, the emphasis on some fascinating new characters means that our familiar faces are relatively absent in this premiere, but I’m certain they’ll be back soon. It’s great to see a few top-notch actors, including Margo Martindale, Jeremy Davies, and Brad William Henke, taking on roles that are most certainly three-dimensional and seem to have the potential to become recurring players this season. I love how Raylan has had contact with all of these shady characters in Kentucky and how he maintains a friendship of sorts with the most despicable people in town. Martindale’s Mags seems like a whole new brand of villain given the kindness she doles out in public and the harsh punishment she dishes out in private. I’m glad that we do still get to see Boyd for a little bit, and that final shot of him calling out his now-classic “Fire in the hole!” is simply superb. It’s nice that we got to see Winona for a minute, but where is Ava? She is without a doubt my favorite character on the show, and it would be good to have her back front and center straightaway. What’s particularly nice about this season premiere is that Rachel gets a chance to shine in a humorous car ride with Raylan. I’m very excited for coming episodes, and so happy to be back in the saddle with this show.

Pilot Review: Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine (ABC)
Premiered February 9 at 9:30pm

Maybe it’s not fair to all of the actors from “Friends” to have their new shows judged in relation to their previous show’s success and their cohesive failure to follow up on it with any real luck. Courtney Cox is currently winning the contest as her show, which has vacated its time slot to make way for this new series, has already been renewed for a third season. Cox did have her own cancelled show before that lasted just over as season, as did Matt LeBlanc (currently doing well playing himself on Showtime’s “Episodes”), Lisa Kudrow, and Perry himself. You can find Jennifer Aniston in plenty of bad movies and David Schwimmer sometimes behind the camera but mostly nowhere. Back to the show at hand, the “Friends” reference is important because Perry is essentially playing Chandler, transplanted from his job as a trasponster to a TV executive job. What’s especially disappointing about this is that Perry has demonstrated that he’s capable of more challenging dramatic acting in the past. It may be that Aaron Sorkin has the magic touch, as he was responsible for penning Perry’s twice-Emmy-nominated guest spot on “The West Wing” (at least the teleplay of the first episode, according to IMDB) and his follow-up show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” I would have loved to see Matt Albie reappear on his own show, but taking Chandler out of context is like (though nowhere near as horrific as) “Joey.” On top of Perry’s uncreative portrayal, there isn’t much to this show. I don’t really understand what the pilot is supposed to be, since I believe it’s supposed to be showcasing a major event in Perry’s life, and I just don’t quite get it. There isn’t a strong character to be found anywhere on this show either, which is a shame. Allison Janney is given free reign to play the wackiest character she can, and that’s too bad because she’s extraordinarily talented and should have a much better part. Andrea Anders is replicating her role from “Better Off Ted,” but again, the writing is nowhere near the same quality. I’m curious whether Jorge Garcia, better known as Hurley from “Lost,” will become a regular player much the same way that Neil Flynn’s Janitor on “Scrubs” went from a one-episode bit part to a full series star. If I hear have to hear one more joke about a literal elephant in the room, however, I’m going to lose it.

How will it work as a series? No clue. I don’t understand what this show is about besides a dysfunctional network. It’s not a laugh-out-loud comedy, more of a subtler, uncertain, unfunny series that tries to imply whatever it wants to say without wanting to press it much more than physically demonstrating it. There are many places to go with this kind of show, but if they’ve already gone as big as elephants in just the first episode, we’re in serious trouble.
How long will it last? I guess having Chandler in your show makes people want to watch it. The ratings were better for this pilot than they were for “Cougar Town.” I suspect, however, that the ratings will drop drastically in the coming weeks giving the poor reviews for the show, and the important thing that sustains ABC’s Wednesday night comedy block is that people actually like the shows. I don’t think that will be the case here, so I’d figure that this one goes out at the end of its first season.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 14 “Bixby’s Back” (B)

This officially marks the first time an installment of this show has earned a grade lower than a B+ from me. Fear not – there’s nothing wrong with this episode; it’s just not quite as funny or clever as all those that have come before it. One plotline does stand out, and it’s actually the biggest gamble taken in this half-hour. Only two seasons in, it might be a bit risky to essentially repeat a plot that has already been done. Yet it’s what this show has always been about – slightly larger-than-life characters doing fairly believable things to which ordinary viewers like us can relate. It makes sense that Claire and Phil would want to try their Valentine’s Day magic that almost worked last year, and it also tracks that they wouldn’t make the same mistake again but would manage to fail in some other way. Phil taking the wrong key by accident is hardly a surprise for the bumbling husband, and it was still entertaining to see them end up in different rooms even though it was very obvious from the moment he took that key, despite being shot as if to indicate that they were in the same room. Jay’s attempt to give Gloria the ultimate surprise backfired humorously, proving that it’s never a good idea to pretend to have forgotten something or to not get something in order to reveal a superb gift. Manny’s crush on Haley isn’t a great plotline, but it’s just so hilarious to hear him talking to her that it’s not a terrible route to travel.

What I’m Watching: Human Target (Season Finale)

Human Target: Season 2, Episode 13 “Marshall Pucci” (B+)

Is there any show as cool as this? That rooftop scene has to be one of my favorites from this year so far, as Ames excitedly comments on the radio that she was in Geneva and knows what that means, but that jumping off a 17-story building only works if there’s a body of water underneath to break your fall. Still, Chance and Ilsa ran right off that roof and leapt anyway, which is one of the elements that makes this show absolutely superb. Guerrero would definitely qualify as another one of those elements, not even hesitating when his son’s safety was threatened and immediately starting to prepare a revenge plan. That corrupt FBI agent, who I correctly recognized as Jake Weber, former husband on “Medium,” got what was coming to him, even though he looked pretty battered and bruised even before he blew himself up by turning the ignition in his car. As far as the new characters go, Ilsa and Ames really proved themselves worthwhile in this tragically short season, and especially in this episode. Ilsa was resourceful and rather awesome all by herself with her smart move in the subway, and Ames is continually hilarious with her desire not to take an overly active role in the planning of everything. I particularly loved the look that she gave when Guerrero said that they weren’t one hundred percent sure of Ilsa’s husband’s infidelity. I haven’t been keeping track of the ratings for this show in its time slot-hopping past few weeks, but apparently they’ve been quite decent. In an interview, showrunner Matt Miller says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a third season, and I’m so hopeful that they decide to make it. This year was too short but oh so much fun.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jackie Earle Haley

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What I’m Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 13 “Better with Valentine’s Day” (B)

This one might be over-the-top, sure, but it’s still a whole lot of fun. We haven’t quite had a stark gender division yet on this show, at least not for an entire episode, which is what makes this one, set around a very gender-specific holiday, all the more entertaining. I especially like seeing just how subservient to Joel Ben is, and just how excited he gets at the idea of defying him. This is one case where there isn’t much of a difference in how the girls get treated by the guys, at least in terms of how long they’ve been together, and it has much more to, evidently, with a fear of establishing a precedent that will just require the same or more effort in successive years. What Joel chose to get was certainly quite extravagant, and what’s most telling here is how productively and positively the three male actors perform together. Of course, the women aren’t bad either, and it’s fun to see Mia actually in her element at work. I’m always thrilled at the chance to see Jonathan Slavin, back here as Maddie’s smitten assistant. It’s also nice to have Debra Jo Rupp take on a prominent role in the content of the episode, firing Hunter after he called her Mia’s grandmother and lamenting on the good old days where despicable office behavior was acceptable. This show may not be entirely superb, but it’s hard to argue that there isn’t an extraordinary entertainment value in its episodes, due mostly due to the impressive work and interaction of the cast members.

What I’m Watching: Lights Out

Lights Out: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Comeback” (B+)

So much for Lights at least having his marriage in his life to keep him going. It’s really a shame that Theresa feels compelled to have him leave now that he’s decided to go back to fighting, and with his daughter terribly concerned about him taking more blows to the head (despite that reassuringly resounding sound his hand made when he tapped his own temple), he’s in danger of losing all of the people he’s trying to provide for as he steps back into the ring. The immediate dismemberment of Lights’ friendly opponent was pretty jarring, and it seems that there are almost infinite obstacles to Lights getting back the glory he once had and making some money for his family. The revelation that Barry and Hal are working together to some extent is a disturbing one, since it indicates that Lights has little to no control over anything he does, and he’s just a pawn in their grander chess game. I knew I recognized Hal Brennan but I couldn’t place him, and a quick bit of research reveals that he’s Bill Irwin, a great actor who delivered a knockout (and AFT Award-nominated) performance in “Rachel Getting Married” and who I also saw perform in a Broadway rendering of “Waiting for Godot.” This show does nothing better than showcase tough emotion on the faces of its characters, and commendation is in order once again for Holt McCallany for knocking it out of the park in both the restaurant and the ending scenes.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 15 “Just Go Home” (B+)

I was struck in this episode by the sheer amount of stark and truly angry yelling that went on behind multiple subdivisions of the Braverman clan. The return of Seth proved to be quite difficult and dividing for Sarah’s immediate family, and I’d like to commend Mae Whitman and Lauren Graham particularly for being terrific in their extremely heated scenes. In a sense, John Corbett is the perfect person to play Seth since he doesn’t actually need to contribute much to the show besides just being there (apologies to any diehard fans of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”). There was also plenty of fury to be found at the home of two impending newlyweds, and it’s a real shame that their relationship is coming crashing down due to an ill-advised choice of words made by Crosby after a dishwasher-related incident. At least one part of the big family is happy, and that’s Haddie, who has finally returned home as her parents decide that they’re okay with letting her continue to date Alex. It’s a shame that Adam seems so bothered by the fact that Max thinks Alex is a better basketball teacher than him, but I think he’ll soon get over that. On the lighter side of things, it was entertaining to see, in their only appearance of the episode, Julia and Joel wince in pain at the thought of having to go to the couples counseling that Crosby had been signed up for, though it’s not quite as funny knowing the outcome of that unfortunate meeting.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 13 “Real Deal” (B+)

My, my, the deception that is going on in this week’s episode has reached a ridiculously high level! It’s executed and revealed in an absolutely terrific manner, of course, since the show has recently become expert in dealing with such matters and playing them out to the fullest of their potential. I like how a few of the core members of the cast – namely Diane, Will, Alicia, and Kalinda – have become the de facto “good guys” team, meeting together in secret to make their plans for how to survive on their own as the leaders of the new firm. The discovery that Alicia’s computer was being spied on was intense enough, and the most powerful moment of the episode was the look on Will’s face when Bond repeated verbatim for him the content of Diane’s e-mail. It was great to see Michael J. Fox’s exploitative lawyer again, and to hear Kalinda as the voice of reason and Alicia as the one unwilling to accept the possibility of him actually being honest. I do love it, just as the lawyers do, when they find loopholes around which to trap their forced co-counsel, which Alicia did back with Mamie Gummer a while ago and now pulled off seamlessly with Canning. Even when he’s not ripping anyone’s spine out, Denis O’Hare is quite entertaining as he is here as the affable Judge Abernathy, and I enjoyed seeing the opposing counsel object rather clumsily at Canning’s indication. It was fun to see both Eli and Peter handle their latest problems in the most optimistic and productive manner yet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 13 “Countermeasures” (B+)

It seems that Neal goes undercover nearly every episode, yet it never gets old. This does mark the first time, unless I’m forgetting something, that Neal has actually been an accomplice to an armed robbery, and that just makes it all the more entertaining. Neal just seems to delight so much in anything that he does, and it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t do a magnificent job of doing pretty much everything. June isn’t featured all that much anymore on this show, and therefore it’s fun to have her be somewhat front and center and have her good friends Neal and Mozzie able to rise to her defense when they realize she’s being conned. It’s nice to see Lando Calrissian, a.k.a. Billy Dee Williams, over thirty years after “The Empire Strikes Back,” as June’s less-than-trustworthy old friend. I enjoyed Elizabeth’s involvement in this episode, and how, after being categorically turned down by Peter, Neal immediately called her and asked her to be a part of his scheme. Elizabeth’s willingness to play along, combined with her barely flinching at the news, was also quite entertaining, and I like how she’s really become one of the team, even if she’s only called in occasionally. Speaking of being part of the team, I was thrilled to hear that Hilarie Burton, onetime “One Tree Hill” resident and current infrequent portrayer of Sara Ellis, is going to be joining the cast full-time next season. In my mind, that’s a fantastic addition, and I’m excited to see her interact with Neal and everyone else some more on a more regular basis.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pilot Review: Traffic Light

Traffic Light (FOX)
Premiered February 8 at 9:30pm

It’s somewhat of a rarity to have a new comedy series with five leads where four of them are decently recognizable form other TV work. I’m not familiar with Aya Cash, who plays Callie and didn’t stand out to me all that much in the pilot. Arguably the most well-known is David Denman, who played Roy on “The Office,” and we also have another cast mate of his (who was on the show at a different time), and that would be Nelson Franklin, who gave a farewell speech after playing the IT guy despite not really doing anything while he was actually on the show. We also have Liza Lapira, who had second-fiddle roles in “NCIS,” “Dollhouse,” and “Dexter.” One more actor not from television is Kris Marshall, who played the America-bound Brit eager to have plenty of sex in “Love Actually.” Now that we’ve run through all the familiar faces, let’s get to the show itself. There’s nothing inherently interesting or appealing about this show as compared to any other, but it should be separated from the likes of “Perfect Couples” or “Romantically Challenged” because it’s not entirely off-putting. There just isn’t anything particularly funny about it. Denman’s Mike is a straight man, as is Franklin’s Adam, and none of the characters, even Marshall’s wild Ethan, are too out of control or big. Unfortunately, ensuring that they are tempered doesn’t automatically make them endearing or compelling. The storylines in the plotline were fairly by-the-book and uninventive, but some of the gimmicks, such as the police officer pulling Adam over while he had both Mike and Ethan on the phone, do work decently well, to their credit.

How will it work as a series? I’m not sure yet whether there’s enough to work with here to craft an entire show. While Ethan is a serial single man, it does concern me a bit that there are only five regular players as opposed to four or six. It’s always best to have even numbers to be able to pair people up with one another, though maybe this show will be able to break free from the confines of traditional sitcomhood and use its five cast members to the best of their abilities.
How long will it last? The traffic light jokes are far more plentiful than viewers were, as it turns out, since the pilot airing performed considerably less well that lead-ins “Glee” (obviously) and “Raising Hope.” I don’t see this one going the distance, but there’s no reason for FOX to cancel it before it’s had the chance to complete its thirteen-episode run.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: V

V: Season 2, Episode 5 “Concordia” (C-)

With so many allegiances to be betrayed, I’m finding it hard to keep track of who’s really on whose side, and I think the show has also lost track of that to an extent. I can understand the logic behind trying to assassinate Anna’s right-hand man if they can’t get to her, but it does totally defeat the purpose. This brilliant, if entirely unlikely, plan was supposed to make it so that Lisa would be queen and the manipulative, evil Anna would be dead and unable to harm humanity anymore. The shooting of Marcus will only increase Anna’s fury, and that’s not going to be good for anyone in the Fifth Column. Chad’s fake defense of Anna can only be so effective as an undercover position if he’s not going to directly refute everything negative that someone else says about Anna, and Father Jack losing his status as a man of the cloth and essentially outing himself as a full-blown rebel seems ill-advised. Erica does seem magnificently unconcerned with getting caught doing the treacherous deeds she’s been doing, and it’s a wonder they only saw her cavorting with Jack and not literally holding the door for the would-be assassins. To her credit, Anna’s gift to Tyler is rather smart, and it’s good that Erica was able to secure one important ally to help convince him that he shouldn’t go through with it, and it’s always a pleasure to see Nicholas Lea back in a repeat guest spot as Tyler’s father.

What I’m Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 14 “No Ordinary Double Standard” (C+)

I was all set to like this episode until it stalled about halfway through, but I’d like to at least commend it for trying something new and succeeding with it at least a little bit. The idea of competition between Jim and Stephanie to determine whose powers are better as well as who can best utilize them to help solve crimes is an entertaining one, though I’m not sure how well it was executed. It’s that lack of a serious tone that often presents a problem for this show, particularly when characters die or boyfriends erase their girlfriends’ memories, presenting severe events that clash with other lighter developments. I will say that I enjoyed Katie’s efforts to seduce George and his subsequent fury over having been used by her. The children dating seniors was an iffy plotline, and while I enjoyed Jim’s snap judgment that congratulated his son on dating an older woman but forbid his daughter from dating an older guy, it didn’t strike me as entirely realistic parenting. Daphne’s newly-discovered skills make her seem an awful lot like the Watcher, who is now using his abilities to help maintain his relationship with Katie, which can’t be a good thing for the future of their romance. Daphne’s use of her powers on her dad was a bit shocking, though on this show it’s not likely to have any consequences. If this were a much more intense drama on some cable network, which I fully understand it’s not, Daphne’s highly manipulative actions would lead to some pretty awesome moral confrontations and developments in future episodes.