October 2009

IASiP: The Gang Wrestles for the Troops

I don’t quite no what to make of “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops." It was decidedly amusing and viewers should have chuckled aloud a few times, but there was a flimsy quality to the entire thing that made the show seem to drag on. Of course, the final few minutes of the episode were worth any consternation leading up to the final brawl. And seeing as wrestling (!) isn’t too prominently featured in sitcoms – even after the warm reception that The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke received last year – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia could be counted as the vanguard in dumb sitcoms.

Dee is the unwitting, propulsive element in this week’s narrative. Her creepy communication, via the internets, with a soldier is to result in a blind meeting when the guy gets dropped off after returning home from over seas.

The Office: Koi Pond

The crux of The Office's emotional resonance has always been its ability to humanize its characters. This means something a little different for each one. Entire seasons have been devoted to cracking Dwight's creepy Teutonic shell and revealing Michael's good qualities despite his obvious flaws. I feel like this season has been spreading into more ambitious territory, such as exposing the ignoble elements of Jim's character and deconstructing the layers of awkwardness that keep Andy not-so-secretly miserable. "Koi Pond" was a funny episode to be sure, but it was also a surprising study of a few characters we've mostly taken for granted.

Extra: What We're Watching but Not Covering

The coverage schedule on TV World is pretty heavy as it is and it'll probably take on at least a couple more shows in the next few months. That said, November is sweeps month when TV networks push all of their top-rated or most promising shows to viewers and advertisers looking for the biggest response. As a result, a few critically acclaimed but viewer-deficient programs will be warming the bench for the month, among them the quite likely doomed Dollhouse. Still, there are a number of good shows that will be getting a boost from their networks that, while they aren't getting weekly coverage on this blog, are still worth watching. Here are a few shows on the personal docket that haven't quite made the weekly coverage cut.

Mad Men: The Gypsy And The Hobo

While Mad Men carries on in some odd, dramatic trajectory, the historicity with which the show is normally imbued with was put out to graze during this past week’s episode of “The Gypsy And The Hobo.” Despite that fact, there’s been some interweb discussion as to how the show is going to deal with the Kennedy Assassination. In the past, other notable, historical moments like the 1960 election have become a part of the overall narrative with characters sitting around and watching television or even growing a beard in anticipation of the (failed) revolution to come.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: #66

The addition of some of those Seinfeld characters into the Curb Your Enthusiasm mix has always yielded some mixed results.

During the first season of the Larry David vehicle, Julia Louis-Dreyfus made a few appearances as did Jason Alexander. And while watching the one time George character argue about logistics with Larry was just short of brilliant, other scenes with Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus weren’t always as entertaining. That’s obviously not necessarily the fault of the scene’s participants individually, but could be chalked up to the odd inclusion of their one time script writer.

Heroes: Strange Attractors

Here's what I love about Heroes. It will happily spend forty minutes every week being unbelievably terrible, then just to rub some salt in the wound it will do something vaguely approaching awesome in the last two minutes. "Strange Attractors" managed to jam so much awfulness into one episode that it was like watching some kind of epic Olympic injury, then it ended with a glimpse into what Heroes really ought to be. Ya know, just to screw with us.

Californiacation: Slow Happy Boys

This was truly an ill-conceived episode of Californiacation. There can be arguments to mitigate the dreck through which viewers were forced to wade, but that won’t make it all worthwhile.

Despite wrangling a few noteworthy guest spots – the always hilarious, if underemployed Stephen Root makes an appearance as does Kevin Corrigan – this was a pretty atrocious showing. And while that latter actor was more prominently featured, Root’s brief screen time only left a desire for his role to become a reoccurring character. I mean, a wheel chair pervert. Are there better things? Probably not.

Dexter: Dirty Harry

For whatever reason, the crop of Sunday shows from this past weekend seem to have a common ground. It’s probably just me being over analytical and all, but it seemed that a great deal of each narrative (Dexter, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm) had to do with waiting it all out. In each of these shows there was a bit of set up that’s been needed to bring each season to a natural conclusion. It just seems odd that each is ostensibly on the same part of its story arc.

Regardless, this week’s episode of Dexter obviously picks up just after Deb and Lundy are shot and eventually discovered in the parking lot. Of course, the fact that it’s day-light when the show begins whereas last week’s episode concluded in the dark is a bit confusing, but continuity can’t be thought of as part of television’s charm.

Bored To Death: The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer

Well, it took six whole episodes but we finally got the buddy comedy HBO promised us in the promos for Bored To Death. Through circumstances that were just outlandish enough to fit on this show, George and Ray got to tag along on one of Jonathan's cases and the results were actually pretty amusing. "The Case of the Beautiful Blackmailer" was like a smarter version of Cheech and Chong, especially with Ted Danson's performance. George is easily the best character on the show and he really got to shine in this episode.

Dollhouse: Belonging

Before Season 1 of Dollhouse premiered, it was essentially being promoted as The Eliza Dushku Show. While Dushku has certainly proved herself a capable actress and a worthy icon of the series, the hidden strength of Dollhouse is in the stunning ensemble cast surrounding its lead. Just like "Belle Chose" was a showcase for the talents of Enver Gjokaj, this week's episode finally gave the spotlight to Dichen Lachman and the sickening tragedy of Sierra.

IASiP: The World Series Defense

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia isn’t known for its nuanced plots. That probably won’t change in the future, but what this week’s episode gave viewers in the form of “The World Series Defense” was a show set-up with a narrative frame looking back at past events.

The literary device, most commonly referenced in film by Citizen Kane, occasionally services television shows well. Pretty frequently, these frames lead up to a series of flashbacks and wind up working as a sort of clip show. “The World Series Defense” does at points seem scattered, but it’s unquestionably all new and (almost) all hilarious.

The Office: The Lover

As if to prove my point from last week, this week's episode of The Office was really good, thanks in large part to the parceling out of the absurd material and relying more heavily on the collision of Michael Scott's disastrous take on reality and the more down-to-earth perspective of folks like Jim and Pam. "The Lover" was definitely one of the more pathos-filled moments of the series, but it also brought the laughs like the best episodes.

Glee: Mash-Up

Some critics categorically disapprove of love stories on TV. I'm not one of them. Sure, I definitely think a number of shows would be better without their forced romance plots, but if it makes sense for the rest of the story, I say bring it on. Tonight's episode of Glee focused heavily on the many troubled affections of its characters while adding at least a couple more to the mix. Also, I can now cross "listened to 'The Thong Song' within ten minutes of 'Sweet Caroline'" off my list of things I never thought would ever happen to me.

Catching Up: Legend of the Seeker- Reckoning

Here we are, the final episode of Season 1 of Legend of the Seeker. By the end of this article, TV World will be fully caught up on the series and prepared for the Season 2 premiere in just a few weeks. I have to say, "Reckoning" was a lot better than I expected for Seeker. Though this show falls roundly into the "guilty pleasure" category, I'm happy to defend its occasional foray into intellectualism and even artistic cinematography. This finale did a lot of unexpected things and actually answered some of the big questions lurking underneath the standard swords and sorcery action of the series.

Dexter: Dex Takes a Holiday

The frame for this week's episode grants Dexter the leeway to do pretty much anything that he wants. Of course, given the fact that he hasn't been able to indulge himself in all of those nasty habits, viewers should be able to guess at what's to come.

There're a few (obnoxious) heart warming scenes that seem wooden at best. But, to be fair, each is a necessity to not only further develop Dexter's character, but the relationship that he has with his wife and children. Upon the family heading out of town to visit some relatives, the good-bye levied on his van ensconced cohort doesn't find Michael C. Hall in the best of actorly pursuits. It's utilitarian and it gets done.

Californiacation: Zoso

One of the repellent things about Showtime’s Californiacation are the blatant attempts at coolness that the show makes. Hank Moody, while a drunken writerly type, dons a ring on his index finger. Who knows if David Duchovny actually engages in that kinda of nonsense, but his character surely does. And while that’s a pretty minor point to latch on to, the jewelry fails in what its supposed to do.

House: Brave Heart

Was it just my imagination, or was tonight's episode of House a Halloween special? Sure, the ghosts weren't actually ghosts and the zombie was just a misdiagnosed patient, but that doesn't mean that "Brave Heart" wasn't designed for chills and creepy things. At the very least, this episode brought a bunch of old plots back from the dead, and not all of them were welcome. This season has been all about the core cast of characters confronting their issues and, grinding against the central ethos of the show, changing in the process. Some of this feels more manufactured than the rest.

Heroes: Tabula Rasa

Ya know what Heroes needs? More characters and years-old plot points. While this week's episode wasn't even near the pile of unadulterated suck that last week's episode managed to be, it was still the kind of bad that only Heroes can achieve. The difference is that "Tabula Rasa" was a funny kind of bad, a truly astounding display of I-can't-believe-they're-doing-it awfulness that I've come to expect and even look forward to with this show.

Mad Men: The Color Blue

Last week’s episode  - Wee Small Things – found Draper firing one of his employees, Sal. The scenes where the break is detailed didn’t leave the art man looking too foolish, although, what led up to it all was less than auspicious. But for some reason, Sal actually just disappeared. I fully expected for his character to still appear in some sort of ploy for his job. Maybe in the future.

This week in The Color Blue Draper gets some action, Betty gets confused – as does her would-be lover – and the office party is almost in disarray.