February 2011

Lights. Camera. Asshole.: Californiacation

Somehow this week’s shambolic night life, as maintained by Hank Moody, actually seemed suppressed for the most part. Instead, the writer had most of his problems during the daylight hours and even somehow managed to not have some surreal showdown with his baby’s mother.

That being said, Moody engaged a different pair of mother and daughter to terrorize. He’s already been duking the on again off again star of his adapted book. And while that appears to be a carefree fuck opportunity to all involved, emotions come into play this week, understandably so.

Doctor Who: "The Web of Fear"

Introducing Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart

Earlier this week, longtime British actor Nicholas Courtney passed away at the age of 81. His performances as the bullish and quintessentially English Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who, from his first appearance in 1968 to his final reprisal of the character in 2008, endeared him to generations of fans, and he's one of the few actors to have become synonymous with the program over its many changes. In tribute and in honor of Nicholas Courtney, I've decided to review every episode that featured him as the stalwart, and indomitable, Brigadier.



The Office: Todd Packer

David Koechner's Todd Packer character has been a strangely important figure in the US adaptation of The Office. Though the show's world is full of strange, socially maladjusted people, Packer is designed to be the worst person among them. He has no redeeming qualities and for us viewers there's a question of whether or not we're even supposed to find him funny in any way. His sense of humor is so mean-spirited and his inability to take anything seriously is so off-putting that he may just be a character with no real jokes in him. There's a sense in tonight's episode that this is the last we'll be seeing of Todd. He's exclusively linked to Michael, so when Steve Carell leaves the show there'll be nothing to anchor Packer to the series. Essentially, he's a loose end that needed to be tied up as soon as possible. If nothing else, Packer's eponymous episode uses him as yet another example of how Michael Scott has changed now that Holly, the Moses to his Israelites, is a permanent part of his life.

Doctor Who: "The Enemy of the World"

The Doctor encounters an enemy unlike any he's ever faced before


A trip to the beach turns very nasty for the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, as the three of them are shot at and pursued. When they are rescued, the Doctor learns that he looks exactly like a power-mad dictator, who has manipulated and influenced his way to assuming control of Earth. The only way to stop him - and to save Jamie and Victoria, who are captured - is for the Doctor to become The Enemy of the World.






Lights Out

Lights Out is creator Warren Leight's drama examining the ins and outs of professional boxing, the criminal underworld of the East Coast and the widespread impact of the global economic crisis on people from all demographics. It follows Patrick "Lights" Leary in his attempts to save his family from financial ruin and address the unsatisfying conclusion to his own career as a heavyweight champion. He runs a gym with his hard-nosed father and his philandering gambler of a brother while trying to maintain a crumbling but still lavish lifestyle at home with his wife and three daughters. Things get especially complicated for Lights when he falls in with a duplicitous gangster who is equal parts mentor and menace.



Lights Out: Crossroads

"Crossroads" does something really interesting with the traditional sport story arc. It spends the majority of the episode running through the usual paces of struggle, doubt, drama and determination that marks any fight story, then in its final ten minutes crams a mix of typical victory elation into an anticlimactic fortune cookie of quiet despair. But for one scene, the sadness inherent to Patrick's inevitable victory over Morales is fairly subtle. Fail to pay attention and it could be really easy to miss.

Doctor Who: "The Girl in the Fireplace"

Reinette Poisson's life changed the night she looked into her fireplace

An abandoned, derelict spaceship in the 51st century has channeled massive amounts of energy to punch a hole, through time itself, into 18th century France. Clockwork men, armed with whirring blades and garish faces, stalk the halls of Versailles, looking for one woman. Before time runs out, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey - and a horse named Arthur - must solve the mystery of "The Girl in the Fireplace".



Glee is a musical comedy created by Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk. It revolves around the daily dramas and star aspirations of a high school show choir in Lima, Ohio composed of a mix of talented misfits and cool kids. The club has to compete with the hurtful misconceptions of their peers, the cruel designs of a megalomaniacal cheerleading coach and their own teen angst to put on a singing, dancing, joke-cracking performance with a score that runs of gamut of pop music.




Glee: Blame It On The Alcohol

In the ancient TV history of Spring 2009, Fox premiered a scrappy musical show called Glee that, among other things, trafficked in the easily subverted cliches of the After School Special and other teen-centered media of morality. Somewhere along the way that show transformed into a unique but woefully uneven pop culture sensation with no consistent voice and a tendency to lean on guest stars more than writing. It's true that Season 2 of Glee has wildly fluctuated in tone and quality, likely the result of the show becoming super-popular since its Season 1 finale. I really don't think Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan expected Glee to become a big deal. Hell, in the beginning it looked like it might not even survive its first season. So, for a little while the core of what made those early episodes so good was misplaced. For the past few weeks, especially in tonight's and last week's episodes, Glee has been as sharp and entertaining as its best moments from Season 1. "Blame It On The Alcohol" returns the show to its "very special episode" roots, smuggling some ironically worthwhile lessons in with a lot of singing, dancing and wry humor.

Doctor Who



Doctor Who
is the longest-running and most successful science fiction program in history. Debuting in 1963, the BBC series ran for an unprecedented 26 years, only to come back for a new generation in 2005. The story concerns the Doctor, a Time Lord who travels through space and time, using a machine called the TARDIS to explore strange worlds, learn about the universe and do some good along the way. Due to the unusually long run of Doctor Who, the role of the Doctor has been played by eleven different actors, each one representing a "regeneration" through which the Doctor acquires a new body and even a few new personality quirks.


The Chris Rock Show and Why Some Folks Don't have Talk Shows

In 1999, there had already been a concession to what was perceived as a key demographic in entertainment viewership: black folks. Arsenio had run into a brick wall and was busy busking, but certainly not on television, unless it was to be a guest on some cheeky show. But Chris Rock was supposed to be different. He was purposefully confrontational at times and certainly discussed topics that most white HBO viewers didn’t find cropping up in casual conversation. He was and remains a tremendously funny dude.

The Cape: The Lich, Part Two

As a TV critic, I have no higher ambition than to have a line from one of my reviews used out of context in a show's promotional material. So, here goes... ahem, "The Cape is the most laugh-out-loud funny show on Monday nights."

Hmm. I don't think I did that right. Oh, well. Maybe next time. Still, it's true, at least for this week. "The Lich, Part Two" is exactly what I wish most of The Cape would be. Instead of being boring, slow, flat and just plain stupid, I want this series to be reliably insane, the kind of show that will run with a terrible idea until it reaches some kind of higher plane of ludicrousness. I think it achieved that tonight and so it was more entertaining than the show has been since it premiered. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that the insanity of the episode resulted less from a period of reckless abandon in the writers' room than a gloriously botched attempt at being deep and trippy.

The Cape

The Cape is a super hero drama created by Tom Wheeler as a midseason replacement for NBC. It follows the adventures of Vince Faraday, a disgraced police officer in the fictional Palm City who survived an attempt to frame and murder him as the notorious villain Chess. With the help of a circus performer named Max Malini and his Carnival of Crime, Vince becomes a real-life version of his son's favorite comic book hero, The Cape. Vince uses his new skills and the tech-savvy expertise of a mysterious investigator calling herself Orwell to take down Peter Fleming, the dubious industrialist who is the real man behind the Chess persona.




Being Human

The North American adaptation of the hit BBC program of the same name, Being Human is the story of three supernatural creatures who share a house in the city of Boston as each attempts to maintain some semblance of normalcy despite their unusual conditions.




Sam Witwer plays Aidan, a morally conflicted vampire who has been walking among the living since he was turned during The American Revolutionary War. He's smart and cultured, but he also struggles with his terrifying addiction to human blood, sometimes relapsing from his regimen of plasma bags lifted from the hospital where he works as an orderly.


Bob's Burgers: Hamburger Dinner Theater

Bad community theater has become something of a cliche in modern TV, so the sheer frequency of its appearance takes the wind out of whatever humor it's supposed to have. I suppose it's such a favorite topic of sitcoms because a lot of people both behind and in front of the camera have had their fair share of community theater experiences. They dip into the inherently depressing aspects of no-budget entertainment while leaning heavily on the disproportionate amounts of enthusiasm and dedication it brings out of at least a few of the performers. The problem, of course, is that any episode of any show involving amateur theater forces the viewer to sit through large portions of an intentionally terrible performance. Most of the time, the result isn't exactly Noises Off. A show like Bob's Burgers ought to be able to plug into the more compelling aspects of community theater because the series is already about a drab, not-that-great business run by untalented but enthusiastic people, but it doesn't really do so well with "Hamburger Dinner Theater".

Three Great Travel Episodes

In a lot of TV shows, the main set is like a member of the cast. It's an essential character that conveys something fundamental about the series, such that changing or spending time away from it can be a jarring experience for viewers. Every once in a while, a show will spend an episode somewhere far away from the regular set. Sometimes it's just for a change of scenery, but the best travel episodes use the unfamiliar surroundings to say something profound about a character's state of mind.

The Office: Threat Level Midnight

I really think that Steve Carell's decision to leave The Office has made the show's writers reflective, even nostalgic, for the bygone days of the show's early seasons. Ever since Holly's return, the show has wandered into some oddly sentimental space, none more enjoyable and strangely intense as "Threat Level Midnight". The entire episode revolves around the screening of the movie Michael has been making for the past eleven years (which means it predates the Dunder-Mifflin documentary). In an acceptable bit of retroactive continuity, just about everyone from Michael's past and present have been involved in the production of Threat Level Midnight at some point, though we never saw any of those ludicrous moments until now. The end product is exactly as awful, insane and bizarre as one would expect a movie made by Michael Scott would be. Knowing this, everyone in the office (except Gabe, who is absent for some reason) is chomping at the bit to see it.