Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seven Short Reviews

One of the benefits of being almost done with classes for the semester, is that now I have time to jot down some thoughts on some of the comedies that I've been neglecting. I still watch, but they haven't been as pressing as the Losts and Doctor Whos of the schedule. I'm just going to mow through these:

The Office: Honestly, the Thursday comedy block has turned into "Community, 30 minutes of dead air, and then an hour or perfunctory viewing". Don't get me wrong, I still watch The Office and 30 Rock regularly, but it just doesn't seem like appointment television anymore. However, this was a good night for it. The shakeups around Dunder Mifflin (now folded into Sabre) led to some plot-driven episodes, and this isn't really a show that responds well to having to keep track of too much. The better episodes have the fluffiest of plots based around the most oddly mundane of activities. This week, we had the continuation of the Michael/hot Dave and Buster's manager saga. Pam does some digging and thinks that D&D manager is cheating on Michael. Michael sends Dwight out to investigate, which Dwight takes to mean "seduce her, bring her to orgasm, then report back to Michael". Getting back to basics is what this show needs, and this was basics. Dwight gets a little rope to go a little crazy, Pam meddles, Michael awkwardly interacts with humans, and then we get a great reveal at the end: Michael is the mistress. Additionally, the move of Daryl to the office area allows him to finally get back at Andy for an incident from two seasons ago (or one, they run together), although pranks tend to backfire at D-M/Sabre. That office will poison you, Daryl!

30 Rock: NBC shows do a great job with holidays, allowing them to let the festivities and traditions of the day do the heavy lifting on the main plot, then hitch the jokes to it and watch them roll. That might be the worst metaphor ever. Anyway, Mother's Day means we get to see Liz's mom, Jack's mom, and Jan Hooks back as Jenna's mom (aka, the one Jack paid off to be nice to Jenna). Mother's Day is her last payday, and with the money, she can finally get her other boob fixed. Just as horrifying as it sounds. Tracy doesn't know where his mother is, so they pull one out of central casting; specifically one from a late night Pajama/overalls infomercial. Fairly sedate as far as actual plot developments go, other than Jack's mom attempting to sabotage his relationship with Avery. Fun episode though, lot of good jokes born out of the friction that the guest stars bring in.

Saturday Night Live: I wasn't quite sure what to think going into this week's Betty White hosted episode. Yes, the internet got together and accomplished something, but when I heard they were bringing back a half dozen female SNL alumni, I was worried that they were going to keep Betty to a few sketches and let the other ladies do the heavy lifting. Instead, it turned into a "Best female recurring characters" night, with Betty White in every scene. The episode is up on Hulu, and some of the skits were nearly classics. An updated version of the "Census taker" skit had me rolling, and brought back fond memories of the Christopher Walken/Tim Meadows version from 2000 (written by Tina Fey, who was the census taker in this version...and likely the writer too). "Gingey" was a great period piece, featuring a really funny character by Amy Poehler and Betty White as a one-woman Greek chorus, getting all the good lines. A few sketches cut from dress rehearsal are up online too, and worth checking out as well. I'd like to see Betty White come back when she's 90 to take another run at it, assuming she has time between the gigs that she is almost certain to be getting offered after this performance.

Simpsons: Last week's Kedollarsignha intro had me ready to set the studio on fire, and the episode that followed it was just a mishmash of boring. However, then they do something like tonight's episode, and it wins me back. Using Moe as an omniscient narrator; Homer, Apu, and Reverend Lovejoy are told that one of their wives will be leaving them for Moe by the time they get back from their daytrip to Weasel Island (note: yes, there are weasels). Featuring an Itchy and Scratchy homage to "Going My Way" (don't feel bad, I had to Google the reference too), and one strong "A" story without the need for a tacked on "B" story, this may be the best written Simpsons episode in years. Amazing what happens when you stop trying to make awkward takes on dated pop culture references and stick to well-written stories that feature your vast cast of supporting characters.

The Cleveland Show: Well, it's a Black History Month episode in May, so take that as you will. This was a good showcase for Rollo though, who is becoming a really well-written character. Now if only Seth could write for any of the three teenage daughter characters he has on his Sunday night slate. Lot of great visual gags, and two solid stories that kept intertwining through the course of the show. This show is finding its voice, and I expect season two to really shine.

Family Guy: This was the most hit-or-miss episode of the night, squeezing as many jokes as possible out of Quagmire's gay-not-gay-now-a-woman father. After that well was dry, they have shim hook up with Brian, leading to a set of amazing reveals. Honestly, this was take it or leave it for most people, and I'll understand if you didn't dig it. I got some laughs out of it though, and the last scene with Quagmire and his dad/mom was actually a well done character moment. Quagmire is the last of the one-note characters left, and the writers are doing a fine job of giving him some dimension.

American Dad: From the episode title, I should have been expecting the "Incident on Owl Creek Bridge" ending, but it was still a nice surprise. Stan's fear of embarassment turns into a cross country fleeing, followed by an overly elaborate plan to get Obama to poop in a swimming pool. American Dad continues to just be a solidly done show, with ample gags.

Coming up next, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, and Castle.

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