The continued towing of the line between that new thing and the old continues on this week’s Mad Men. The show’s obviously beholden to the place and period that it’s based, but unlike other shows of its ilk, Mad Men has an uncanny facility for explicating social ills through the sometimes ostentatious actions of the show’s characters. Yeah, an old man marries a woman who could be his daughter – that should make the wedding night kinda gross. But since parties and social gatherings that occur within the frame of the show generally end badly, Marriage of Figaro isn’t any different.
At this point in the series, Farscape starts to move away from purely stand-alone episodes in favor a deeper devotion to plot arc and character development, as do many shows with a couple seasons under their belts. This is particularly true of shows that attempt at a complex mythology. It just wouldn't work if characters who have spent so much time together didn't develop some kind of shorthand for their shared experiences. For a series like Farscape, it's really better to take this approach anyway, given that long-time fans are what sustains it rather than newcomers. This week's episodes are only stand-alone in that they don't overtly pursue the series-long plot, but they're still full of references that casual viewers couldn't hope to understand.
Legend of the Seeker, at least Season 1, is based on Terry Goodkind's first book in the Sword of Truth series, "Wizard's First Rule". After watching the season in its entirety, I can honestly say that the secret subtitle of the show has to be "TV Writer's First Rule". What's the rule? Simple. If a character is expendable, then get on with the expending.
There aren’t a lot of folks who have too many negative things to say about AMC’s Mad Men. For good reason, of course, but while the show has functioned over the din that surrounds it by concocting a variety of plots that could be seen to be lascivious at best, its also worked to comment upon the time during which the show’s supposed to take place. There was an episode about urban sprawl – well, a white guy moved to Brooklyn – an episode touching on the taboos associated with the work place and pretty consistently has navigated in and around the role of women during the ‘60s.
The best of creative endeavors sticks with the receptacle. Yes, human beings here have been reduced to things by which to hold information over for a week or so as the writers, actors and everyone else scurries to complete another installment of whatever show is at the time most entertaining to them. But if as one of those writers or producers, you begin to create a product that isn’t really able to stick with viewers for a time, there might be a problem. And I kinda feel like Weeds has gotten to that point. It’s unfortunate, as I’ve said elsewhere, but nonetheless true. The show seems to be headed down some path into the wilderness without a way to get back.
For a show that is infamous for ending way too early, Arrested Development sure has a way with tying up loose ends. Each season finale brings a respectable amount of closure to the longer story threads and even minor characters don't get short-changed when the curtain closes. Ultimately, it's this attention to detail that made Arrested Development a very entertaining show as well as a master class in how to construct a television comedy.
CBS is something of a mixed bag these days. On the one hand it has the usual slew of reality shows and third-tier procedurals like the many-headed beast that is CSI. On the other hand it has fair-to-good comedies like How I Met Your Mother and inventive, woefully underrated programs like Numb3rs. With a full docket of laughers, CBS has decided to pile on the drama this Fall (with one exception). Here's what's new.
Someone forgot to tell the writing staff of Nurse Jackie that there's a big difference between a finale cliffhanger and ending a season one episode early. This last half hour of Season 1 is nothing if not a string of stories that really need to be tied up, or at least condensed. I can understand wanting to retain some tension for the second season (production begins in a month), but at least something needs to be resolved.
Between last week's epic three-parter and this week's thoroughly enjoyable stand-alone episodes, we basically get to see everything that's good about Farscape. Season 2, Episodes 13, 14 and 15 are exercises in well-calibrated, mildly postmodern science fiction. More reliable than predictable, better staged than most works of experimental TV and always in sync with the show's larger goals, these episodes do it all right.
I like my heroes flawed. The only thing worse than a mustache-twirling villain who's evil purely for the sake of evil is a Dudley Do-Rightesque hero who lives only to pursue a vague form of justice. Heck, even Superman saw his responsibilities as an alienating burden. By that token, my favorite episodes of Legend of the Seeker so far have been those that deconstruct the very nature of heroism and make our protagonists think twice about saving every shrew in the forest. "Revenant" goes a long way to humbling our heroes, or at least proving that there's a dark side to being a mystical warrior designed to kill things with a magical sword fueled by rage.
One thing that has always puzzled me about Arrested Development is why Ron Howard's narration goes uncredited. I suppose it could be one series-long running joke, opening up opportunities for as many Happy Days gags as Hurwitz and company could ever want, but even that has its limits. AD's narrator is unique in that he's essentially another character, or at the very least an additional joke dispenser. Normally I can't stand voiceover narration, if only because it's entirely unnecessary and usually just spoon-feeds the plot to viewers. Howard's narration comes to be an indispensable part of this show's aesthetic.
There was a time when NBC was an unbeatable juggernaut of TV excellence. These days, the network is falling behind and making a habit of killing off the best shows on its roster. Still, it has the Thursday night comedy powerhouse that is The Office and 30 Rock, two shows that could probably carry the entire network if they had to. Here's what the peacock has slated to premiere in the 2009/2010 season.
It seems to me that watching Nurse Jackie is an exercise is miscalculation. Sometimes the show miscalculates how effective a certain plot elements or line delivery is going to be. I've been quick to point these moments out. But tonight, I feel like I've been miscalculating Nurse Jackie myself. Things I never thought would work managed to be interesting in this episode and while I'm not ready to eat crow on a lot of my complaints, I am willing the entertain the idea that this show's lemons can be dehydrated, pulverized and turned into Country Time by next Summer.
Ah, the multi-part episode. If any series knew how to do these right, it was Farscape. On this show, "to be continued" was pretty much a guarantee of sustained awesomeness. This three-part episode, "Look At The Princess", introduces us to one of the main antagonists of the series and significantly raises the stakes for our heroes, especially Crichton.