Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Goodbye Finals, Hello Reruns...

Finals are over, Winter break has begun. Unfortunately, so have reruns. The good news is, this gives me time to catch up on a few shows. I'm still woozy just thinking about FlashForward, so I'm going to attempt to catch up on Dollhouse, now that Fox is burning off the series in double scoops. Also, Scrubs and Better Off Ted are continuing to run over the holiday...not that it seems to be a good thing at this point. Damn you, ABC.

Better Off Ted was a little on the lame side this week, unfortunately, so I'm giving it an incomplete, mainly due to my inability to stay attuned to it. Scrubs, on the other hand, was a little better, so it gets a review.

The one question I had going into this "bonus" season was how they could keep the stories fresh while resetting the skill level of the doctors. To be honest, it's actually still going well. They've mostly removed the nurses from the equation, focusing on the teachers (Turk, JD, Cox), the students (whoever their names are...the blonde one, the other blonde one, Green Goblin's little brother, and the old one), and then Denise, who acts as a tweener for the two groups. Since the original seasons had a very tight Turk/JD relationship, this season is able to squeeze out some storylines by emphasizing that these new students are strangers flung together into a highly difficult situation. The teamwork theme of tonight's episode was well done for the most part. The JD/Turk stuff is getting reaaaaaally over the top though; it looks like they're just trying to milk the Zack Braff cow for every last drop before he bails for good. Ted's last hurrah was...I don't even know, to be honest. Just seems out of place for another good-bye when so many other characters have just been written off without having to have left Sacred Heart. At this point, I'm ready for JD and Kelso to go, keep Turk and Cox around as faculty, and then focus on the newbies for the rest of the season. It's very awkward right now, and it gets in the way of what is still some fairly sharp writing.

I've also been catching up on Veronica Mars, and I'm really digging the series. I'm almost halfway through Season 1, and I'm really regretting that it only lasted the three seasons now.

Russell got hosed. There, I said it.

Web Soup may be the best half-hour of humor on TV right now.

We'll see how much Dollhouse I can get through in the next week or so, let's have some Whedony goodness!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday! Sunday! Monday!

Studying for finals, was thinking about skipping the writeups for the last couple days, but the shows were just too good Sunday to skip.

Simpsons: Even after every terrible episode about a fad that happened three years ago, The Simpsons can still pull out an excellent story like this week's, an out of nowhere tale about Bart missing the bond that comes with having a brother. After a few "trick Homer and Marge into conceiving" gags that felt lifted from Family Guy (ironic in an episode with a direct South Park gag), bart goes to an orphanage to try and score a little brother, then winds up with one that followed him home. The shenanigans were fairly tame (no "the little brother is worse than Bart/they have to trick him into leaving" schtick that a lesser episode might have tried to pull), and the ending was bittersweet, with the kid having to leave, then getting adopted...by a family with six girls. I dug the little brother character though, and it wasn't a "hey look, here's a celebrity!" voice, which makes me wish they'd fold him into the library of minor characters. Speaking of celebrities, we got three Mannings and two Smothers in a great dream sequence (reminiscent of "Bart Sells His Soul"). Overall, possible the best episode they've done in a long time, and one that I'll think back on the next time I read the inevitable "The Simpsons needs to hang it up" article.

The Cleveland Show had their traditional Christmas episode this week (thankfully, not sponsored by Cascade), and they seem to be finding a groove with the storyline. Cleveland/Rallo is turning into the show's money pairing, as they provide the most (and best) conflict. The bit about Rawanda freeing the reindeer didn't pay off for her, although it did provide a funny runner through the rest of the episode, culminating in a nice mildly dark ending. The jokes are hitting, but how long can they milk the "two families becoming one" tension? Time will tell.

Family Guy: Not the most cohesive episode, pretty much a "something something Peter takes over Pewterschmidt Industries" plot, but there were some decent gags in there. Hugh Laurie as House was worth some giggles, and a good payoff in the end. An extended Scooby Doo homage was also very appreciated. An average episode, but on a night where everything else was above average to great.

American Dad: And speaking of great...wow. I almost don't want to talk about this too much, since everything was handled so flawlessly. Just...just watch it. It's on Hulu, it'll take you 25 minutes, and you'll thank me later. Watch it, and we can discuss it in the comments or something (yes, there's a place for comments...hint hint)

How I Met Your Mother: I don't smoke, so I'm sure I missed some hilarious subtleties about smoking and falling off the wagon and cold turkeys and whatnot. Robin's new co-anchor was funny (especially the lack of production elements on the set of her morning show), Lily's smoker voice was funny (the first couple times), the kids reactions to finding out their dad/dad's friends smoked (yes, the kids speak!), and especially Marshall repeatedly beating up his 13-year old self. Bob Odenkirk was a little wasted here, although here's hoping it pays off down the line. They may just be saving all the comedy juice up for the 100th episode (with musical numbers!), so HIMYM gets a pass this time.

Minor Housekeeping: FlashForward and Dollhouse I will be trying to get to next week when finals are over. I'm looking to catch up on Modern Family, as I've gotten a slew of recommendations for it. Better Off Ted and Scrubs will be new for a while, and I'm going to try and watch the first season of Veronica Mars and of Dexter over the holiday rerun period. We'll see how successful I am. Still, a fellow's got to have goals.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday!

Let's get right into it, as I have a couple other subjects I want to tackle too, and studying for finals. IT NEVER ENDS!!!

Community: Continues to impress me, as tonight's Shirley-centric episode managed to cast a wide net over religion, holidays, and still find room for Anthony Michael Hall as the best community college bully EVER. Shirley dismissing all other religions was some great comedy, as you can say pretty much anything you want as long as it comes out of a matronly black lady. "Hashbrowns and applesauce, how nice". Pierce's vague cult/religion made me laugh, everybody booing Jeff for being an agnostic made me laugh, the capoeira throwdown at the end of the episode was possibly a top ten moment for the year in comedy. This show does big comedy well, and little comedy (The "its December 10th" running gag, "winterdoodles", Britta's constant gay jokes referring to the bully and the fight) even better. I'm really looking forward to the spring semester for this show.

The Office: This was so close to being the biggest Christmas downer in sitcom history, with Michael's jealousy of Santa Phyllis threatening the entire holiday party. Even worse, Michael (in classic Michael Scott fashion) misinterprets news from David Wallace (who probably deserves to be fired for continuing to trust Michael with sensitive information) as the entire office being laid off. Instead, it's a minor Christmas miracle, as Dunder-Mifflin appears to be getting a new corporate overlord in the new year. Michael heckling the party as Jesus was one of the funnier gags in a while, even as unrealistic as it is (but hey, who still thinks it's a documentary at this point?". His moment where he apologized to Phyllis at the end was also a nice sweet moment before the holiday hiatus. I would also be remiss in not mentioning Andy's ill-fated attempt to give Erin the "Twelve Days of Christmas" as her Secret Santa. Just the visual of her at the work with those scratches on her face was just the right amount of over the top. Even better, he managed to swoop in and salvage the bit after the credits with his Twelve Drummers Drumming finale. The Office is truly a master at hitting humanity's highs and lows in the course of an episode.

30 Rock rounds us out for tonight, and it was helped greatly by a genius performance by Julianne Moore. If there was a remotely plausible way for her and her Boston accent to become a regular on the show, I would be the happiest boy alive. Romantic Jack has usually been good for the show, although I read earlier that Elizabeth Banks is supposed to be doing an arc as another love interest for Jack, so who knows where this will lead. I know one thing though, I can't get enough of Boston accents/references/slang. Elsewhere, Liz tries to find Jack the perfect Christmas present (aka, bomb threat phoned into the train station to keep Julianne Moore there another day), and the writers invent a religious holiday in order to avoid Kenneth's Secret Santa exchange (combining the two worst things about the holidays: giving and rules). All around fun episode where we get to see the new guy sing, Lutz get tased, and Liz gets a to ride on Larry Wilcox's motorcycle. No muss, no fuss, and nice to have a (mostly) one and done episode after the slow "new cast member" storyline.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More catching up!!!

Top Chef: Poor poor Kevin, doing so well and then getting saddled with Preeti as a sous chef for the prep day. Was this the "let's not have a Voltaggio have to get saddled with Robin" decision, or a "we haven't had enough twists this season" decision? Either way, Kevin got hosed, not that it probably would have made a difference. He who lives by the pig, dies by the pig, and had his pork belly been properly cooked, he'd have had a better chance of making it through. Well, that and not serving a massive slab of mushroom-that-he-didn't-know-how-to-cook in his mystery box dish. Kevin and Richard Blais can go get drunk together and think about what might have been...

Meanwhile, Michael wins "Battle Voltaggio" and the title of Top Chef. Having the brothers finish 1-2 was pretty impressive, although the least suspenseful season ever, what with most people having predicted the final 4 somewhere around September. It's the blessing and curse of the increased talent of the contestant pool. The crap chefs are exposed very early (save for Robin), a fact that was glaringly obvious when you looked at someone like Preeti as opposed to Eli or Robin acting as a sous chef. I'm going to silently rage about that some more, actually. Way to go, Magical Elves. Okay, and I'm better now. Great season though, even with Robin's presence much longer than she deserved. Can't wait for the next one.

Scrubs: I've been cautiously optimistic about the return of Scrubs, especially after a great series finale. However, Bill Lawrence has said that this is simply a way for everybody on the show to keep their jobs for at least another year, which I can't argue with (seeing as how that's the industry I'm attempting to work in). Even better, the new concept works, making for some good television so far. The new concept is that Central Heart has been relocated next to a medical school, and the Sacred Heart staff are now among the teaching staff. Cox, Turk, and JD are the only main characters that are really back full time (Elliot showed up all preggers in the premiere and Carla is mentioned but not actually shown), but they were the stronger characters on the show, so it all works out. The new med students are interesting enough to carry their end, as we get a girl version of JD (which sounds redundant...and probably is), a cocky legacy kid (Dave Franco, the little brother of Spider-Man's friend), and an older former med school burnout. The trick is to present the standard "new doctor" stories in a way that doesn't feel too much like rehashed Scrubs Season 1, and they've been doing well so far. The fantasy sequences are still there, as are just plain bizarre elements (like JD keeping office hours on a tree branch). It just doesn't feel right without The Janitor, but I really like the new take on the JD/Cox relationship; giving them moments where they really are equals, although JD still craves the approval of Cox. It's an interesting enough spin on the original concept, so we'll see how long it can go.

Better Off Ted is also back, coupled with Scrubs on Tuesdays, and I'm really hoping that the show finds an audience. It's by the creator of Andy Richter Controls the Universe, which was criminally underrated and cancel much too soon. That same mix of eclectic behavior in a structured workplace environment is present in Better Off Ted, although with a slightly more accessible lead. Ted is generally the center of normalcy within the storm of quirks, and it keeps the show grounded in the midst of hijinks. Portia de Rossi steals any scene she's in, and the rest of the supporting cast holds their own. This is the only show I know of to successfully pull off a "separate drinking fountains" joke, so let that serve as my highest recommendation. Old episodes should be available on Hulu or ABC.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My poor neglected blog...

Ironic, that writing about TV for school has been preventing me from writing about TV for leisure. I'll be trying to catch up on the last couple of weeks of shows, plus finally catch up on FlashForward (even if it kills me). Also, there's new Scrubs, the return of Better Off Ted, and I "acquired" the first three seasons of Dexter, so I'm looking forward to digging into that. I'm also working on a post-mortem for Monk, which aired its series finale last week. For now though, let's knock out a few reviews and go from there.

House: The last two episodes have been pretty good, especially last week's "Wilson", which gave us more of our favorite oncologist than we've had in a while. Especially appreciated were the tiny glimpses of what House's weekly antics must look like from the outside; doing tests in the shower, tricking their way ahead of others to get into the OR, ill mariachi singers, etc. It's also always nice to see Aaron Sorkin All-Star Josh Molina again. It's also funny to see how House is starting to rub off on Wilson...even in a very tiny way. The Lucas/Cuddy storyline is innocuous enough, providing a little wrinkle in the House/Cuddy story, and giving House something to do. The Thanksgiving episode was really well done in that regard, so long as they don't backslide on it. "Wilson" was the better episode though, giving us character development and a nice departure from the Patient of the Week format.

Speaking of Wilson, Castle this week had an appearance from Cutthroat Bitch (Anne Dudek) as the ex-wife of an amnesiac murder suspect. I was digging the episode, as they didn't go the "his memory magically snaps back at the end" route, and left the reconciliation angle wide open. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing him come back later in the series, it was an interesting take on things. The mystery was well done as well, although the reveal was a little out of nowhere. Still, that screen time was well spent. The storyline with Mom Castle wasn't really doing it for me, but at least they've started making the character more than "Mona from Who's The Boss 2.0". Speaking of Who's The Boss, I also hear that Alyssa Milano will be making an appearance on the show coming up soon.

How I Met Your Mother has swing back around to Ted's love life, the central conceit of the show. The idea of "The Window" was amusing, and I have a friend (also a redhead) who has a similar dating pattern (although her window is slightly larger), so I was enjoying the episode on a few levels there. Barney in overalls, rattail Marshall, Robin trying to seduce that guy (spilling the wine was a great bizarre Robin moment), and Vanilla Thunder's inability to dunk. The time travel thing at the end really blew my mind though. Really. Like, LOST levels of mind-blowing.

Next time: Scrubs 2.0, Better Off Ted, and I give Heroes a tiny shred of praise.