Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Ahoy!

Got the Monday updates ready (just a smidge late), and it was mostly feast, just a little bit of fowl.

***Note: I take full responsibility for the above pun, mostly because it refers to Heroes being crap***

How I Met Your Mother: Slapsgiving 2!!! The reverberations from "Slap Bet" continue to be awesome, as Marshall grants Slap #4 to Ted and Robin on a very special Thanksgiving. The greatness of Chris Elliot shows up as Lily's dad, although I was hoping for a little more from him. The string of failed board game ideas was funny, but other than the running gag of Lily's "Dead To Me" stare, he was mostly just hanging out and annoying people. Just seemed a little too tidy for him to pop in and be forgiven by the end of the episode...although as a sitcom, I suppose it was slappropriate to the situation. Ted and Robin's negotiation over who gets the slap was pretty funny, as was Barney working the clock to try and get out of it. Marshall's grand plan to get everybody back to together was a little thin, although in the context of the Slap Bet and the Power of the Slap, it works. There were a lot of nice little moments in the episode too, which brought the quality up some more. The scene in the deli where Lily makes the widow cry was such a well played piece of comedy. The commercial at the end for "Slap Bet" the board game was ten times funnier than it had any right to be, mainly for the kid-on-kid violence.

Castle: The first half of the episode was treading some Law and Order waters, but it picked up with the industrial espionage angle, then the counterspying, THEN the fraud at the end. The twists in the back half made for more compelling television, but at the expense of the first half. Castle's actions, reaction, and expressions only go so far (although they do go a loooong way, don't get me wrong). The subplot with Alexis volunteering at the NYPD was decent, mainly for the great visual of her in her "Beckett outfit", but the finale of that storyline made up for the slowness at the beginning. Loading up the back half of the show is dangerous territory, especially with Dancing With the Stars about to be over, and Castle losing its big lead-in. Still, I think the audience is built by this point. An "Alexis in law enforcement" storyline would be welcome, I just don't think it plausibly works out with her current age. Alas.

Heroes: This week's episode was a three-way dance for "Worst Thanksgiving Gathering Ever", featuring The Petrellis, The Bennetts, and the Carnies. Let's go to the Tale of the Tape:

The Petrellis: "Nathan", Peter, and the Cryptkeeper. Way ahead on "starkest location", but they lose points for the catered meal. Angela spends a couple scenes flat out lying about Dead Nathan, then just reverses course on it. Wasn't Peter there? Or did he get Parkman'd? Also, didn't Nathan have a wife and kids? I'd go look it up, but if Tim Kring doesn't care enough to mention it, then neither do I. Things pick up late when Sylar comes out to play, but unless he cut open Kobayashi's brain, I'm not interested. Sylar goes to slice open Angela's head (what is this, attempt #3?), but Nathan's mind takes over again and stops him.

The Bennetts: Claire and Noah, then ex-wife Sandra, her new boyfriend (who is undoubtedly fielding several "child molester" auditon requests after this), two annoying yappy dogs, the ghost of Chuck Cunningham...I mean Lyle, and then HRG's amnesiac Saturday Night Thing from the Primatech days. Oh yeah, and then just when the awkwardness level couldn't get any higher, they fire Gretchen at us again. I guess the faces at the table were too symetrical or something. Par for the course for this show, nothing actually happens over the course of these scenes. Claire whines a little more about quitting school, then raises the emo bar by running a steak knife through her forearm. This storyline has tryptophan beat hands down for inducing drowsiness. Oh yeah, and then Claire steals the compass and decides to go on a road trip to find MagnetO'. It'll be just like Crossroads, only without all, it'll be exactly like Crossroads.

The Carnies: Finally we come to something resembling a storyline...comparatively speaking. Lydia talks Hiro into taking her back to eight weeks ago to watch Samuel off know, for the 3 people at home who hadn't figured it out about a million episodes ago. Samuel (who never met an overblown dinner speech he didn't like) realizes that Lydia knows, and decides to accuse Edgar of the murder. Hiro, who sure is using his powers a lot for SOMEONE WITH A BRAIN TUMOR), saves him, then tries to play hardball with the Dirt Devil to get Charlie back. Unfortunately, Hiro gets Jamatian'd. However, since this guy is no Rene, Hiro starts babbling about something and disappears.

So final score...we'll give it to the Carnies. Sylar's pie-eating contest scored some points, but more story happened at the CarnEvil. Besides, they could use a win before Claire shows up and drags them down to Boring Character Hell with her. Claire is the new Parkman, you heard it here first.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top Chef, Comedies, and Cod?

Nope, no cod. But hey, feel free to share this site with your friends. The more, the merrier (and maybe I can Google Ad this bizznatch, ya know?) For now though, let's watch some TV.

Ahh, that was fun. Now let's write about some TV.

Top Chef: Poor Eli...I figured he was doomed, but he definitely didn't seem like the worst chef of the evening. This definitely seemed like a "let's make good television" decision, rather than a "let's advance the best four performers of the night" decision. Very sneaky editing tonight, as they made it look like anyone could have gone home tonight (well, except Kevin...let's not kid ourselves). I wish they hadn't waited until Eli's final episode to mention the Blais connection. Also, how great would it have been to see Blais, Hung, maybe one or two other former contestants, in this elimination challenge? For every "make a dish with this microwave rice" challenge that drives me crazy, they surprise us with such a pure food challenge like this and just make me love them even harder. I really thought we could see a Voltaggio go tonight, but they deigned to pull the trigger, and so Eli's good run comes to an end. Napa Valley final four next week, and after tonight it doesn't look likely that ANYONE will overtake Kevin.

Community: Another strong episode tonight, as Ken Leong moves to the forefront and knocks one out of the park. The mandatory NBC Green Week stuff wasn't too invasive, and the show settled into what it does best; pair them off and go to town. This week's couples: Jeff and Senor Chang, Shirley and Pierce, and the always strong Troy and Abed. Sorry Britta and Annie, you get a week mostly off. The Shirley/Pierce story was fairly lightweight, as was Abed and Troy (although Troy screaming on the table like a little girl was worth the price of admission alone), so Jeff and Senor Chang got the most to do, and they made the most of it. The bit at the end with the Celtic band, Senor Chang's dance of love with his wife, and Abed and Troy's duet on "Somewhere Out There" (and of course they name their rat Fievel) all coming together was very well done.

The Office: The Dunder Mifflin Bankruptcy storyline continues as Michael Scott takes a group up to the stockholders meeting in NYC and Jim stays back in Scranton to try and get some work done. This is actually a great strategy for The Office at this point; splitting the cast up lets some people have screen time that would normally get shafted. In this case, it's Michael putting his foot in his mouth while trying to placate a room full of angry stockholders (and Dwight), while Jim asserts his co-authority (and puts Ryan in his place) back home. I really liked the scene where Michael drags Oscar in with all the D-M honchos and Oscar wilts under the pressure. Otherwise, this wasn't much of an episode, just getting the pieces into place for wherever this story is going.

30 Rock: Oh the delicious irony; a "Studio 60" cast member guest stars on 30 Rock. I'd like to see more of him though, he was entertaining. Liz's storyline was a little inside for those of us who don't live in New York City, but her following advice from Jenna definitely made for some funny. Jack and Tracy is also a pairing that doesn't happen as much, and it led to A) An appearance by Dr. Spaceman and B) A great Cosby Show hallucination. Kenneth's Mandatory Green Week storyline was pretty much a waste, save for the parts about how Frank's disgusting lifestyle is actually the most carbon neutral thing on the show. Decent Al Gore cameo at the end as well. Overall, enjoyable, but could have been better without the Green Week stuff shoehorned in.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pimpin' Ain't Easy/"Mohinder" is Hindu for "Exposition"

Wow, Castle was genius tonight! Kudos to the writers on this one, as they managed to surprise me with this episode. Not in the standard "OMG Twist!" way either, but with a great character moment.

The plot starts out well enough; DA gets murdered, suspect list leans strongly towards someone he put away having a grudge, then it takes a twist...the DA was also running a call girl ring. Not bad, standard Law and Order twist, nothing earth-shattering. One of the call girls (Scarlett) worked in the DA's office, and tells Castle and Beckett that Jack Knox (one of the earlier suspects) was the one who killed the DA. Still standard. Then the girl shows up at Castle's place, all smacked around. They have a heartfelt moment, Castle drops her off at the hospital, then shows up back at the police station to surprise Beckett with a solved case and throw off a couple of witty quips. Instead, Castle has f'ed up royally, and Beckett lets him know it. The "outsider with a specific skill set helps the police" setup is all over TV right now, but this is one of the first I've seen that actually plays off the downsides of having an enthusiastic amateur running around with the professionals, and it does it in such a one-two gutpunch of reveals: that Knox checked Scarlett out of the hospital, and then her panicked phone call to Castle. The next scene has Castle decked out in his "WRITER" Kevlar vest, only the visual doesn't seem as funny anymore. Scarlett manages to shoot Knox and everyone lives happily ever after...except that Scarlett played EVERYBODY and is running the call girl ring. Almost one twist too many, as leaving it with Scarlett as the victim and Castle having learned a lesson would have been a pretty ballsy way to end the episode. The extra twist ending was by no means bad though. Great show, great acting all around.

Heroes, on the other hand, was merely adequate at best. After weeks of threatening, Mohinder finally comes back, and we get a tedious set of flashbacks as he uncovers a rare copy of "Exposition: The Motion Picture", and we finally start digging into Samuel's story...or what little there is of it. He was born at Coyote Sands, he has the ability to get more powerful when surrounded by supers, but he doesn't know it until two months ago. We also get to meet his brother Joseph, who has been keeping the secret of Samuel's powers from him all their lives. Nice to finally know it, but way too late to really make me care. Hiro goes back in time, gets the film, saves Mohinder (dammit), and then sticks Mohinder in a psychiatric hospital. If it's that easy, why not stick Samuel in there, then threaten to leave him in there forever if he doesn't tell him where Charlie is? Oh yeah, that would require good writers. Never mind.

Peter and Nathan continue to bore me, Parkman "probably" gets rid of Sylar in his head, Peter says "Screw Hiro" and swaps healing for flying, and Nathan just counts the days until he's written off the show for good.

Oh, and Claire and Tracy have a pointless pajama party. Meh.

How I Met Your Mother had a nice standalone episode (or as standalone as this show can get), as Barney decided to bounce back from his breakup by digging out: The Playbook.

HIMYM's strength lies in how their characters can have all of these complicated rituals, references, and lists; and The Playbook is another in that great tradition. It's a book detailing all of Barney's elaborate ways of lying to score with chicks. Best one: The Ted Mosby (dressing like Ted and telling women he was left at the altar). One most likely to become our Pub Trivia name: The Lorenzo von Matterhorn. Barney finishes with an epic "The Scuba Diver", and has grown absolutely zero as a person by the end of the episode. Robin, on the other hand, is given a wisp of a storyline in which she claims she'll be putting relationships on the back burner to focus on her job, followed by the Greek chorus of Ted and Marshall telling her that that statement is usually the last thing said before someone gets married. And in the final scene of the episode, she meets the hunky new co-anchor. Huzzah! Anyway, great palate cleanser of an episode after all of the Barney/Robin relationshippyness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Animation Devastation

The Sunday cartoons were all terrible tonight. Just terrible. They all made me sad, every last one of them. I'll need some time to recover.

FlashForward is coming eventually.

If you know someone who watched all four FOX animated programs this Sunday, give them a hug: they need it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two By Two, Hands of Blue...

Huzzah, I finally caught up on FlashForward...not counting tonight's episode. But hey, two episodes in one night isn't bad, especially considering the glacial pace this show likes to take. It's like going to the water park; a long long wait, followed by a short burst of excitement.

The Halloween episode was notable for a couple of things, mainly a couple of cryptic appearances by Charlie as...well, as Daniel actually. Only this one choked a guy in in his flash forward. Also, the Binfords all get together in the kitchen with Simco and all the cards get thrown onto the table., including the drinking. The Binfords are becoming the weakest part of this show, to be honest. At least the kids were a little entertaining, although them being friends because they met in their flash forward is a little creepy. Mark chasing the kids in the masks was an obvious red herring, and it took too much screen time to get to the non-reveal.

On the other hand (unintentional, I swear), the Blue Hand is our Dharma Collective of the moment, providing a pretty creepy moment in that house, and an even creepier one in the next episode ("The Gift", for those keeping score). At least they've finally shown us the inevitable scenario; that some kind of community would pop up for the "ghosts", post-Blackout. Demitri (and by the way, "Dem" is the worst nickname for someone EVER) finally tells his fiancee about his actual flash forward and all that entails.

Honestly, this felt like a loooooooooot of setup, and then finally a payoff at the end of "The Gift", as Al plays a game of chicken with the future, and takes a long walk off a tall roof and kills himself, negating his own flash forward. What this means for everyone else on the show will hopefully be addressed soon (probably the episode I didn't get to), and provides an interesting contrast with the Ghosts. After all, you've got people who don't know how/when they'll die, only that they definitely will by the end of April, so they don't have to worry about the future. Then there's Al, who knows enough about his future to already feel guilty about it, but not enough to definitely prevent it. Thus, the swan dive. Although really, I doubt Al is the first Blackout victim to off himself to prevent the future he saw, and it's something that should have been addressed sooner.

Also, Janice is okay, Nicole speaks Japanese, Beardy is still sad...and his daughter shows up in the kitchen? Well, now I really have to watch this damn episode.

What did I watch instead? Thursday night comedies, baby!

Community: Keeps getting better, as the show doesn't seem to care about striking a balance between weird and normal, and just embraces a pendulum-like swing back and forth between the two sides. Jeff and Annie's weird coupling continues as Jeff dusts off the lawyer skills to help Annie win a debate tournament. Oh, and they kiss. And Soul Patch Wheelchair guy is great.

Pierce and Britta get a brief B story, which is more of a showcase for Chevy Chase's ability to still take a fall. Abed can tell the future, sorta, and Shirley and Troy don't get much to do. Still, it's a strong ensemble and their turns will come, it's just off-putting to have characters come and go like that. I'm really interested to see what happens with the Jeff and Annie "thing", and as unpredictable as this show seems to be, it could be any number of things. Good work, Community.

The Office: A very very weird episode, but a very telling one when its all said and done. Dunder Mifflin faces possible bankruptcy, so Michael attempts the mother of all distractions, one of those asswhip "Host Your Own Murder" party kits. Just really bizarre all around, but the accents were a good running gag, especially the payoff when it turns out that Oscar can't do accents. Andy and Erin are a sweet couple, even though they aren't a couple yet...kind of like a very naive version of Jim and Pam. Speaking of Jim, his conversion to the Michael Scott way of doing things continues, as he chooses to keep the murder party going, rather than drop the very stark news about Dunder Mifflin. I can only imagine where they're going with this one, to be honest.

30 Rock: The streak of good episodes ticks up to two, as the show goes with it's strong suits: Liz and Jack, with a strong dose of Jenna and Tracy being crazy. It's funny how the Dealbreakers show is starting to mirror Tina Fey's own transition from SNL head writer to creator and star of her own show. Nice sandwich bag bit from Padma Lakshmi, and I'm liking Jack/Danny, the new Canadian cast member. Aren't we about due for an appearance from Dr. Spaceman?

Almost caught up to where I want to be, and then I'm hunting down the rest of Veronica Mars season one as well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Your Mom! (And How I Met Her)

Brought to you by Archi-SEX-ture, coming this Tuesday to DVD and Blu-Ray...

Well, I didn't see the breakup episode coming at this point in the season, so good on the HIMYM team for popping the chute earlier than later. I have a suspicion that Barney and Robin aren't totally finished as a couple though. The pairing is just too good to keep apart, so they have to at least stay Scotch buddies or something. I guess it is time to swing back to Ted for a while. The scene in the Stakeout Wagon was some classic HIMYM, which seems to get funnier the more cramped the setting is. Just Ted's reactions to the pizza guy would have made for a great episode. This was about as single-subject as this show gets, but it did give us the full denouement of the end of the Barbin coupling in one half hour, which was for the best. So many great bits in this episode...Barney in the fat suit, Alan Thicke, Barney and Robin's half assed reaction to the engagement ring, the return of the Kraken...and they gave us a preview of our Christmas present with the promise of more Robin Sparkles shenanigans. It's like a warm TV hug.

Top Chef gave us a gift too, booting Robin over two dismal dishes from Jen and Eli. Jen just looks lost (ironically, she's starting to resemble Old Lady Robin from this week's HIMYM), and Eli just made a severe miscalculation. Sometimes you just need to cook something good, and then stretch the theme around it to make it fit.

This makes Robin's ouster feel more like a lifetime underachievement award than just a reflection of her dish from the challenge. Don't get me wrong, it looks like it sucked, but tough meat and soup made from circus sweepings looked way worse than that. This may just be the judges trying to assemble the strongest final five, and it worked. Jennifer may go next if she doesn't wake up (or get some sleep, then wake up), but Eli needs to stop making mistakes like this. It still looks like the two of them fighting for 4th though, as Kevin and the Voltaggios are just head and shoulders above the them.

Also, I've started watching Veronica Mars (yes, instead of catching up with FlashForward or V...what can I say, I <3 Kristen Bell), so I'll probably be doing some kind of full write up of Season 1 or something, rather than pick through it one episode at a time. Through the first two episodes though, I'm really wondering why this show would get canceled after only three seasons. I heard that the tone really changed in Season 3 (and after the WB/UPN merger?), so I guess I've got that to look forward to. Anyway, it's good stuff, and I hope to catch up on many many series that I missed the first time they aired. Might have to bite the bullet and get Netflix so I can start getting entire series and watching them marathon-style.

Anyway, FlashForward is next on my plate, I promise.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Almost Live, Definitely Dead, and Heroes Still In Purgatory

Sunday was a big night for Seth MacFarlane: His big comedy special, two new Family Guys, and The Cleveland Show. Hannah Banana was my favorite of the two, providing closure to the long saga of the Evil Monkey That Lives In Chris' Closet. The subplot with Stewie and Brian meeting Hannah Montana was slow, but picked up near the end, and had some great (and uncomfortable) jokes involved. The other episode was the mandatory "Brian enters another relationship with the usual results" storyline that comes around every other season. Technically sound with some good gags, but not all that satisfying.

The Almost Live comedy special, on the other hand, was an interesting departure for network television. Seth and Alex Borstein have a great chemistry together, and Seth's love of classic variety shows was in full effect here, although the "Family Guy: Live in Vegas" CD reamins his crowning achievement in anachronistic entertainment. The gags were hit or miss, but the Marlee Matlin bit is worth the time spent just on its own. Hopefully the ratings were good enough to spur a few more live specials, hopefully with the rest of the FG cast involved.

Now on to Monday...

Castle: A little bit of a ho-hum episode, sadly. Still enjoyable, but there wasn't much to sink my teeth into. I appreciated giving more screen time to Captain Montgomery, but the stuff with Castle's mom just sank like a stone. Nothing against the actress, but the role is just so very one note, it stands out like a sore thumb around the better written characters on the show. "Old person discovers the Internet" isn't interesting anymore, and the lack of any kind of payoff really made it a chore to get through. The twists seemed perfunctory, and the whole hour just felt like a trip to the outlet mall. Not a long trip, but nothing great on the radio and the scenery was just trees and billboards for Indian casinos.

I don't know if I'll win this year's award for Most Tortured Metaphor, but it'll be an honor just to be nominated.

Heroes: I'm not quite sure how I felt about this episode. I'm going to write tonight's review as optimistically as I can, and see what happens.

Hey, Peter has some motivation now! He's using his power at the expense of his own health, showing us the martyr complex that he's developed ever since his mother chose to lavish more attention on Nathan rather than him. That's character development! Good work, Heroes!

Hey, HRG was pretty bad ass tonight! And he brought the Haitian with him! And those two sorority girls from last week totally got Haitian'd! That's a word now! In all seriousness, the shot of him coming into Claire's room, gun drawn, was pretty cool. Nothing came of it, but it was a cool visual in a show that used to specialize in them. It's also a much needed plotline for HRG; the sins of his past coming to revisit him after he's resolved to turn over a new leaf. And Claire...was there. And her roommate left early in the episode! That's two wins!

Parkman was actually pretty good in this episode too, messing around with Sylar, then attempting to sacrifice himself in order to keep Sylar's memories from linking up with Sylar's body (which for some reason thinks that he's Nathan again). With the news/rumor that Adrian Pasdar is leaving the show, it's fairly obvious how that storyline will end...OR IS IT???

(Spoiler alert: Of course it is, this is still Heroes. It's either obvious, disappointing, or obvappointing)


Coming soon: Will I have to review triple FlashForward? Will I ever watch V? Will the cool kids start calling it Five?

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm a dirty liar...

No FlashForward yet, had to go with my comedies.

Community is really hitting its stride, as tonight's episode didn't have much in the way of dead spots, and every character had something to do. Jeff finds himself as the one needing help, as he is living out of his car, then moves into the dorms with Abed. As a four year dorm resident myself, I can relate to the allure of TV and cereal (and community bathrooms). The Annie/Troy pairing is infinitely more interesting than Jeff/Britta with, thanks to an assist from Shirley (and Patton Oswalt!). Pierce joining Vaughn's band was a great little storyline for him, beginning with Vaughn's diss song to Britta, Pierce inadvertently sticking up for Britta, then the "Pierce is a B" remix at the end. Pierce's revenge track against Vaughn at the end was the cherry on top. This is turning into a really strong ensemble with some great jokes and some strong work from the guest stars and series irregulars.

The Office concluded the Michael/Pam's mom storyline (pay attention 30 Rock!) in the most awkward way possible; Michael breaking up with her at her own birthday lunch, then getting bitch slapped by Pam in the parking lot. Dwight stepped up his efforts to dethrone Jim, a storyline that should be gaining some more steam now that Pam's mom is out of the picture. Andy and Dwight competing in a "favor off" made for some good gags, although it was relatively weak compared to some of Dwight's other shenanigans of the past.

Finally, 30 Rock grinds the "new cast member" storyline to a halt with the funniest episode of the season. The show finally got back to the basics: that everything that happens at TGS is insane, and all that insanity makes for great TV. The scene with Liz calling Jaden's references (and her meatball sub) was good, the audition stuff was gold. Brian Williams, you can be on my sketch comedy show any time. Also, Kathy Geiss! Let's just hope that the robot speaks English. It'll be interesting to see where the show goes from here, now that the excruciating new cast member storyline is finally (mostly, I hope) over.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Very quick hits

Heroes: Well, that was a waste. An hour of convoluted time travel nonsense, just so Magneto can give Peter's Irish Barmaid a roommate? Throw a non-plot in with HRG non having an affair with a co-worker, just so we can get the awesome verb "Haitianed"? Meh meh meh.

Castle: Way better, as the scenes with Alexis continue to be good. Her assisting with exposition at the beginning of the episode was not only helpful to the police, but now Beckett sees the "Adult" side of Castle. Good scene, and set up fairly naturally with the characterizations we've already had working. Them's some good writing.

Story itself was okay, the usual parade of suspects and false leads. Figuring out the murderer from her final song was a little of a stretch, but Alexis reaction to the "cross her threshold" line sold it at the end. Good all around.

How I Met Your Mother: Ted (or, T-Mos) has been waaaay in the background the last couple of weeks as Ro-Ro and the Barnstormer are attempting to challenge Lilypad and Marshmallow for the title of Best Couple. Barney and Robin's methods for avoiding fights are great (Barney leaves, Robin strips), as was the situation in which neither method can be used (stuck on a ski lift). Marshall's speech to Barney about how he's forgotten more about being a good boyfriend than Barney will ever know was greatness, and it's great to see more Marshall after he was barely in some of the early episodes. The "bagpipes" gag was funny once or twice, but it's no "eating a sandwich". Upswing for the season, but still kind of treading water, plot-wise.

Coming next: Double shot of FlashForward, and eventually, V.