Friday, December 30, 2011

Will Anyone Read This: Thoughts on Everwood's "Foreverwood"

I wrote about the near-perfect first season of Everwood from May 2011 until September 2011. Subsequent seasons of Everwood never matched the quality or MAGIC of the first season, which is why I opted against writing a complete series re-watch. There were only so many ways, after all, that I could've criticized the never-ending Anne Heche arc in season three (it is NOT better on re-watch), or the never-ending Madison-Ephram love story in season two, or the nonsense baby arc of latter season three. Everwood wasn't a perfect series. Indeed, there are episodes and arcs that made me wonder why studios don't let television shows end after telling a complete and satisfying story in one season. I understand the television business concerns itself with money first and foremost and that creativity's sacrificed for the almighty $ (George RR Martin left Hollywood because his creativity was limited by budgets and studios). But hey, I suppose I'd make some sacrifices for the opportunity to write for television. Everwood produced enough good-to-great episodes in their run to justify their final three seasons.

It seems fitting that I write about the series finale of Everwood for the last post of 2011. I'll remind thee that I spent parts of spring and all of summer writing about season one (just in case one forgot that fact immediately after reading the first sentence of paragraph #1). Everwood was a show about loss and recovery. How does one go on after suffering a huge tragedy, such as the loss of a spouse or a parent? The show also dealt with themes of friendship, romance, love, abuse, filial bonds, community, discrimination and prejudices, and small-town American. The writers treated these themes with deftness and poignancy. Everwood wore its heart on its sleeve; one should always have a Kleenex box near by because Everwood would make one cry, or at least, feel a bit dusty.

Personally, the themes of loss and recovery resonated with me during this year. I spent portions of my season one reviews relating my own experiences with grief and loss. It was part-cathartic. I identified with Andy, Ephram and Delia. Greg Berlanti's "Pilot" script is incredibly perceptive on what it's like to lose a parent. The series was perceptive about the process of loss--the journey from grief to mourning, and the truth that the pain never entirely disappears, and that any small touch could irritate the wound (to paraphrase a sublime sentence from Tolstoy's War & Peace).

Andy Brown visited his wife's grave in the series finale to say his final goodbye to the woman he literally changed his life for following his death. Andy apologized for waiting too long to become the man she always deserved to be with. Her death fundamentally changed his life. He learned that the only way to sleep well at night is with the knowledge that you're a good parent and father. Andy went through a tremendous transformation during the four seasons. He made mistakes, HUGE mistakes, but he learned and grew from them. Andy and Ephram healed their fractured relationship. The great doctor Brown flew to New York, to talk to his deceased wife at her grave, because he planned on proposing to Nina, and he told her that pain and loss are unavoidable. The monologue included the essential themes and ideas of Everwood; it's poignant, honest, sad, and joyful. It's the most essential scene in the final because it just about completes Andy's arc. Everwood always belonged to Andy Brown.

Now for random and scattered thoughts:

-"Foreverwood" works as a season and series finale. The fourth season wasn't a ratings darling. The first hiatus of the season became a four month long hiatus. The show returned at the end of the March and aired uninterrupted until its June 2006 finale. Presumably, the ending of "Foreverwood" was shot after The CW chose not to bring the series to their network. Originally, the finale ended with the surprise arrival of goddamn Madison in Everwood. Amy's outside, with a Ferris wheel, waiting to declare her never-ending love for Ephram. Ephram listens to a message from Madison inside, and suddenly the growth and progress he made in season four disappeared. Had the show been renewed, I would've stopped watching the series. Madison always sucked. Nina was going to be pregnant but the identity of the father would've been unknown, leading to a soap-opera-ish deal between her, Jake and Andy. Cancellation actually saved the series from executing horrible creative decisions.

-Part of me enjoyed the happy ending for Harold and Rose, but another part of me loathes the convenience of the ending. I disliked Everwood's reliance on plot devices to shake things up and create drama. For instance, Harold lied to adoptive services about Rose's medical history because he didn't want cancer to ruin their chances of adoption; moreso, though, Harold wanted to wipe cancer away and forget it happened to his wife. #419 introduced a couple expecting a baby. The mother-to-be is a schizophrenic; the father has a rare blood cell disease that eventually kills him. The mother's then overwhelmed by her illness and the existence of the baby. Suddenly, we learn she's viewed Dr. Abbott as a father-figure yet we've never seen this woman until now. I liked the completion of Harold and Edna's arc more than the baby stuff, in which Edna agrees to live with her son and daughter-in-law as she tries to figure out how to go on without her Irv. It's sweet and heartfelt.

-The Bright-Hannah relationship was fine until the writers decided to have Bright cheat on her. I don't care about melodrama as long as it's earned in the narrative. One could argue that the series earned that arc because sex had been an issue between Bright and Hannah. The writer's introduced their "rut" followed by the cheating incident. Hannah doesn't speak to Bright again until he falls through a window and nearly dies (which is the most bizarre choice in the fourth season because Bright falls through the window at the end of act II, the doctor explains the head injury's life-threatening, there's surgery, characters assemble in the hospital waiting room, then he's fine and things return to normal, and it's never mentioned again).

-I thought I'd care more about Andy-Nina on a re-watch. I didn't though. Scott Wolf's Jake Hartman becomes a serious problem during the fourth season. The writers introduced Hartman's drug addiction past. First, he was a plastic surgeon, then a homely doctor, then the idea-man behind an AA type place in Everwood. His relationship with Nina lacked passion and conviction. We were constantly told by Nina or Jake that they loved one another, but the love never showed. Nothing was active between the characters. I felt frustrated by the amount of time it took for Andy and Nina to get together.

-It got dusty on the re-watch when Andy finally bought Delia her horse. Now, the horse scene didn't affect me as much as the conversation prior, when Andy told his daughter he's perfectly okay with the knowledge that her teenage self will hate him on more occasions than she loves him.

-The best scene will always be the final one between Amy and Ephram. Amy says the sweetest things to Ephram in front of a Ferris wheel and Ephram says the sweetest things to her. Madison always sucked because Amy and Ephram made so much sense together. Why the hell would Ephram be drawn to goddamn Madison when Amy Abbott's around? The scene's perfect. The panoramic shot of Everwood is an amazing final image of the series.

Happy New Year. See you in 2012 with an all-new HIMYM review.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Midseason Preview: Cable & Premium Shows

2012 MIDSEASON PREVIEW: CABLE & PREMIUM CHANNELS

Lord Polonius, in Shakespeare's Hamlet, says, "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief..." and then proceeds to describe Prince Hamlet as mad, truly mad. Well, friends and well-wishers, there are many shows on cable and premium channels (returning and new) premiering in early 2012. The amount of content is actually overwhelming. The Futon Critic website let me down today. I rely on its efficient database to keep track of the many shows on the various cable and premium channels. I located the premiere dates for returning or new shows (SCRIPTED shows) through Google. I'll honor the words of Polonius more than ever today; I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of every show listed in today's entry; however, the relevant information's included for each show listed.

Ironically enough, this is the longest post of the Midseason Preview.

ABC FAMILY

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS

Created By I. Marlene King

What Season? Second half of Season 2

Premiere Date: Monday, January 2 at 8PM

Thoughts: The four ladies want to kick some A--which is a pun. A represents the word 'ass.' A is also the nefarious character in Pretty Little Liars who's been creating a mess of drama for our pretty little liars. I read a piece in Entertainment Weekly about the series some months ago. ABC Family's successfully adapted several young adult novels. PLL has a devoted fanbase. I also remember TWoP comparing the Aria in PLL with the Arya in ASoIF (Arya would wipe the floor with all of the pretty little liars). What seems important from the ABC Family promo is that the girls are poised to take the game to A (or something).

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE LYING GAME

Created By Charles Stratt, Jr.

What Season? Second half of Season 1

Premiere Date: Monday, January 2 at 9PM

Thoughts: The Lying Game is another young adult adaptation. The series premiered a month before Ringer, which was unfortunate because the shows have identical premises. The promo I watched during Boy Meets World suggests the lying game will continue in the New Year. People might discover the secret of our female lead, who is portraying two different characters. The new season will include makeout sessions on a bed between Alexandra Chando and a generically handsome male actor and expressions of shock and vengeance. I forget what else I watched. Just remember: it's about pretty people and nonsense drama.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

SWITCHED AT BIRTH

Created By Lizzy Weiss

What Season? Second half of Season 1

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 3 at 8PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

JANE BY DESIGN



Created By April Blair

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 3 at 9PM

Premise: (From ABC Family Press Release, November 2011) Jane Quimby is a fresh-faced fashionista juggling life both as a regular high school student and as an assistant to a high-powered fashion executive -- all while trying to keep her true identity a secret.

Thoughts: Every main character in ABC Family is hiding his or her true identity from the people around her. Young adult writers love themes of duality. Why bother hiding your job as an assistant to a high-powered fashion executive? I'm sure Jane Quimby has a homely best friend who'll be most betrayed when he or she learns about Jane's stylish other life. Andie MacDowell (or McDowell) stars as the high-powered fashion executive. My reaction to that fact: WOW. What happened, Andie?

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

AMC

THE WALKING DEAD

Developed By Frank Darenbont

What Season? Second Half of Season 2

Premiere Date: Sunday, February 12 at 9PM

Thoughts: Fans are more interested in the possible difference between the Darabont episodes and the Mezzara episodes than in what happens next. I used 'possible' because the episodes could be exactly the same as they were during the Darabont era. Remember: significant stuff happened in the mid-season finale. Tune in if you want to watch the fallout.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

BET

THE GAME

Created By Mara Brock Akil

What Season? 5

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 10 at 10PM

LET'S STAY TOGETHER

Created By Jacque Edmonds Cofer

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 10 at 10:30PM

COMEDY CENTRAL

SOUTH PARK

Created By Matt Stone & Trey Parker

What Season? 16

Premiere Date: Wednesday, March 14 at 10PM

Thoughts: I should've included two or three episodes in my Best Episodes of 2011 posts. But I didn't. Hopefully I remember their season sixteen episodes in December 2012.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

FX

JUSTIFIED

Created By Graham Yost

What Season? 3

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 17 at 10PM

Thoughts: One day I'd like to watch Justified. Raylan's got a new criminal to deal with in addition to the world of dirty politics.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

ARCHER

Created By Adam Reed

What Season? 3

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 19 at 10PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

UNSUPERVISED

Created By David Hornsby, Rob Rosell & Scott Marder

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 19 at 10:30PM

Premise: (From FX's Press Release, September 2011) Unsupervised is a comedy about optimistic best friends "Gary" and "Joel" navigating the harsh landscape of teenage life and trying to do what's right without any parental guidance whatsoever.

Thoughts: The Always Sunny gang's fingerprints are all over Unsupervised. Kaitlin Olson will lend her voice to the cast. Kristen Bell's one of the many talented people lending their voices as well. Cricket, aka David Hornsby, is a co-creator. One hopes this animated comedy will find the success How to Be Gentlemen didn't.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

HBO

ANGRY BOYS

Created By Chris Lilley

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 1 at 10PM

Premise: (From HBO's Press Release, December 2011) Series creator and writer Lilley, who was also the creator and star of the acclaimed HBO series "Summer Heights High," uses his chameleon-like talents to play multiple roles in a mock-documentary look at the lives of average boys and men, displaying their day-to-day interactions and struggles to fulfill their obligations to family and friends.

Thoughts: The press release stated the show's purpose as an exploration of 21st century masculine identity. It may or may not be set in Australia.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

LUCK

Created By David Milch

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 29 at 9PM

Premise: (From HBO Press Release, July 2011) This new drama series is a provocative look at horse racing - the owners, gamblers, jockeys and diverse gaming industry players.

Thoughts: HBO already aired the first episode, which I didn't watch. I may or may not watch the series when it officially premieres at the end of January. David Milch is a celebrated writer and producer. Deadwood's hailed as one of the great American TV shows in history. I used to love horse racing, but my feelings changed after the Barbaro tragedy. This show would've been for me 4 or 5 years ago.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

GAME OF THRONES



Created By David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: April 2012

Thoughts: Technically, GOT Season 2 is part of the spring schedule, but I'm not going to write a spring preview. Season 2 will be different. The world of Westeros expands. New characters are introduced and more shocking twists loom. I'm quite interested in how Benioff & Weiss adapt certain parts of the book as well.

Chance of Weekly Review: 100%

SHOWTIME

SHAMELESS

Created By Paul Abbott

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 8 at 9PM

Thoughts: I'm considering watching the second season despite not watching the first season. Honestly, I'd like to watch Emmy Rossum on a weekly basis. I wonder if I'll be lost and unable to connect with the narrative by passing over season one. Perhaps William H. Macy's hair will be too much to take and I'll bail at the half-hour mark. No one cares what I think, though. Some folk love Shameless.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

HOUSE OF LIES



Created By Matt Carnahan

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 8 at 10PM

Premise: (from Showtime's Press Release, December 2011) HOUSE OF LIES is the new dark comedy about all the screwed up ways big business is practiced these days.

Thoughts: Kristen Bell's presence in House of Lies completely altered my perception. Whereas I previously felt bored by the premise, I now am interested enough to watch an episode or two. It's about time Kristen Bell moved away from horrible romantic comedies and into the familiar world of television.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

CALIFORNICATION

Created By Tom Kapinos

What Season? 5

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 8 at 10:30PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

STARZ

SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE

Created By Steven S. DeKnight

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Friday, January 27 at 10PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

SYFY

MERLIN

Created By Julian Jones

What Season? 4

Premiere Date: Friday, January 6 at 10PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

BEING HUMAN

Created By Jeremy Carver

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Monday, January 16 at 9PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

LOST GIRL



Premiere Date: Monday, January 16 at 10PM

Premise: (From SyFy's Press Release, December 2011) Anna Silk (The Ghost Whisperer) stars as seductress Bo, a Succubus (a powerful female entity in folklore) who feeds off sexual energy. Raised by human parents, Bo had no reason to believe she was anything other than the girl next door - until she "drained" her first boyfriend to death.

Thoughts: I watched the 86 second trailer. The pretty blonde lead and an attractive brunette electrocuted a demon, and then the pretty blonde quipped, "Smells like fried bitch." She's not Buffy Summers, but LOST GIRL could be fun.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

USA

WHITE COLLAR

Created By Jeff Eastin

What Season? 3

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 17 at 10PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

ROYAL PAINS

Created By Andrew Lenchewski

What Season? 3

Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 18 at 10PM

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

COMMON LAW



Created By Cormac Wibberly

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 26 at 10PM

Premise: (From USA Press Release, November 2011) The new original series COMMON LAW kicks into high gear when two cops discover they have one problem - each other. Despite their differences, they are still the best detectives on the force but when things come to a head on the eve of their "seven-year itch," their captain forces them into couples' therapy to save their "marriage."

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


2012 Midseason Preview: NBC

2012 MIDSEASON PREVIEW: NBC

I made a mistake yesterday: NBC would air Awake, not FOX. Anyway, NBC has enough new shows to temporarily fool one into thinking they're launching a fall schedule. Of course, several of their developed series were left off of the mid-season schedule. I included the TBD series' on Monday; however, I'm more inclined to ignoring NBC's TBD shows just like the network did. What's the point of teasing Bent or Betty White's Off Her Rockers if readers will never WATCH the shows? NBC needs their mid-season schedule to perform better than their fall schedule. The fall shows mostly failed (Grimm was the big winner when it scored six-plus million viewers for the premiere). Thus, The Voice premieres its second season immediately following the conclusion of the Super Bowl. The Katharine McPhee-led musical debuts the next night. Might the early part of 2012 be magical for NBC? Also, Community won't return to NBC airwaves until one of their sitcoms fails, but that's been discussed ad-nauseum already.

I might return later in the day with a preview of random midseason shows on cable and premium channels. But read on for individual previews of new and returning NBC shows;

NBC

THE FIRM



Created By Lukas Reiter

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 8 at 8PM (2 hour premiere; The Firm will air regularly on Thursdays at 10PM beginning 1/12)

Premise: (From Wikipedia) THE FIRM is a sequel to the 1991 John Grisham novel of the same name and its 1993 film adaptation. The television adaptation is set ten years after the novel and film.

Thoughts: The trailer promises that the only thing more dangerous than looking for truth is finding it. On January 8, a new chapter begins. John Grisham rose to prominence after the publication of The Firm. The book was adapted into a film in 1993, starring Tom Cruise. Evidently, love for the characters and the world haven't dissipated. The new series doesn't seem special. It'll be part-procedural/part-thriller. Mitch McDeere's finds one case that threatens everything. There are chase scenes, sniper rifles pointed at men in suits, and action scenes set in the pouring rain. I'd be surprised if The Firm's a hit. NBC's recent history in the procedural crime genre's been poor.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?



Created By Dottie Dartland Zicklin & Julie Ann Larson

Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 11 at 8:30PM

Premise: (From Wikipedia) The series follows an outspoken woman, Chelsea Newman (a character based on the real Chelsea Handler and the show's main protagonist) and her circle of working-class twenty-something friends in New Jersey. Through the narration and observations of the fictional Chelsea, most of the situations were inspirations from Handler's book, which is based on her early career in her twenties.

Thoughts: Chelsea Handler portrays the sister of fictional Chelsea Handler. Why? What's the point? Is Chelsea unable to portray Chelsea? Anyway, the trailer's four minutes so I have a decent idea of what to expect: crappy jokes, obnoxious laugh track, stereotypes. Chelsea's neighbor is an awkward cat-lover who bought a joke book. Chelsea's boyfriend is a red-head who she loathes but consents to sleep with regardless of her feelings towards him. Handler vowed to change her life because vodka assisted in her release from prison. She spent a night in prison for driving under the influence. Chelsea likes to say that drinking's not the problem, driving is. Essentially, though, the comedy's about the redemptive journey of Chelsea Handler; how the vodka-loving cocktail waitress turned her life around to become an influential woman in popular culture. The journey probably won't be funny, but it'll be a journey.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

30 ROCK



Created By Tina Fey

What Season? 6

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 12 at 8PM

Thoughts: 30 Rock had a quietly strong season according to reliable and trustworthy critics. The 30 second preview showcases a quirky Liz Lemon. Apparently, she's keeping a secret, which her friends and co-workers are determined to uncover. Kelsey Grammer's going to guest star in the season premiere. I have a feeling that real life will meet fiction, and that Liz Lemon's pregnant, but take my opinions with a grain of salt. I haven't watched more than one episode of 30 Rock since college. I don't know the context of the present narrative of the series. I'm not interested enough to find out either.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

SMASH



Created By Theresa Rebeck

Premiere Date: Monday, February 6 at 10PM

Premise: (From Wikipedia) The show revolves around a group of characters who come together to put on a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. But before that can happen, the people who will try to bring it all together must deal with their own personal acts. The series will feature original music by composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Thoughts: Smash will draw comparisons with Glee because it's a musical television series. Don't be foolish, though. The shows are different. Smash follows the trials and tribulations of producing a Broadway musical whereas Glee tells bubblegum stories every week, except for the weeks from the writer's lecture the audience about an important issue. The conceit of Smash reminds me of Black Swan. There are two females competing for the same role (Marilyn Monroe). Unlike Black Swan, though, McPhee portrays an aspiring Broadway star, a woman with no experience, but who possesses the talent to become a star. McPhee's done well in her other roles. Smash is a huge platform for her. The preview showcased the different sides of Katharine McPhee, the actress--naive and innocent, sexual and seductive, and mind-blowing talent. Any male AND female should be transfixed when McPhee personifies Marilyn Monroe for one of the casting director's. Personally, I think Katharine McPhee is one of the most gorgeous girls on this earth, moreso when her hair color's her natural brunette. I'll watch the series just for her. Will I have many words to write about the series? Probably not; I should have enough thoughts to write about the pilot.

Chance of Weekly Review: 43%

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 Midseason Preview: CBS & FOX

2012 Midseason Preview: CBS & FOX

Jim Nantz proudly announced, during Saturday's Broncos-Bills game, that seventeen of the top twenty shows on television air on CBS with just a hint of smugness in his tone. After all, CBS is The Most Watched Network in the United States of America. Where else could Americans find generic procedurals to watch, or trite sitcoms? The press release for their midseason schedule's predictably smug and self-congratulatory because they're a stable network with consistent hits. Somehow, someway, they found a spot for the sitcom America's been asking for for two decades: the Rob Schneider show. And that's it. Any Rules of Engagement fan will need to wait until the Rob show is cancelled to watch new episodes.

Meanwhile, FOX will debut at least one interesting series. Awake's been permanently delayed because of struggles related to sustaining the concept in an episodic structure, which is a shame because Awake sounds so cool. American Idol will return in January to wash the bad taste of The X Factor out of the mouths of singing-competition fans everywhere. I Hate My Teenage Daughter ISN'T cancelled. Indeed, the series will return with new episodes in the New Year.

Read on for individual previews:

CBS

¡ROB!



Created By Lew Morton & Rob Schneider

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 12 at 8:30PM

Premise: (From CBS Press Release, November 2011) ¡ROB!, a new comedy starring Rob Schneider as a lifelong bachelor who just married into a tight-knit Mexican-American family

Thoughts: I watched the CBS produced preview for Rob Schneider's series. One of the actors told America not to be frightened by a show centered on Mexican-Americans. America won't be frightened by Mexican-Americans. No, they will be frightened that someone greenlit a series co-created by Rob Schneider--an actor who hasn't made anyone but Adam Sandler laugh in 20 years. The few clips shown in the video were terribly unfunny. Expect sight gags like Ro Schneider accidentally knocking over a candle display, then pull his pants down to mime masturbation, followed by his wife's grandmother bursting into the room and reacting in horror, and then Rob and the grandmother wind up in a doggie-style position as the rest of the family watches in shock. Rob also is OCD. The touching and affection of his wife's family is the last thing OCD Rob wants. It's not funny.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

FOX

THE FINDER



Created By Hart Hanson

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 12 at 9PM

Premise: (From FOX Press Release, December 2011) THE FINDER is a one-hour procedural centering on a remarkable man with an extraordinary ability to help people find the unfindable.

Thoughts: BONES actually aired "The Finder" pilot during its sixth season. I used quotations around the title because that's the episode title. Geoff Stults stars as the remarkable man who can find the unfindable. This remarkable man has its eccentricities. For example, he plays with toys; however, he's a man who'll find anything. I suppose the toys assist him in the process of finding the unfindable. The cast seems fun. The week-to-week stories should be fun. I'm sure there'll be dramatic elements introduced. It seems like a fun and adventurous show. Fans of BONES should like this.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE



Created By Jered Hess, Joshua Hess & Mike Scully

Premiere Date: Sunday, January 15 at 8:30PM

Premise: (From FOX Press Release, December 2011) Featuring the voices of the original cast, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE follows the continuing adventures of America's most awesomely awkward teenager and his quirky family and friends, as they navigate small-town life in rural Idaho.

Thoughts: Napoleon Dynamite returns in animated fashion to our hearts and minds. Honestly, I never longed for a continuation of the Napoleon Dynamite narrative. I enjoyed the movie. I disliked the movie in subsequent re-watches. The previews for the series promises the exact same scenes and jokes we saw in the movie. Now, though, the characters never age, so Napoleon will deal with the same problems season after season, and he'll regurgitate the same beloved quotes that got old four months after the release of the movie because people wouldn't stop quoting them. The half-hour, weekly format allows the writers to showcase the characters I never cared about in the movie even more, like the grandmom and the uncle and the brother's marriage.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

ALCATRAZ



Created By Steven Wynbrandt, Elizabeth Sarnoff & Steven Lilien

Premiere Date: Monday, January 16 at 8PM (Regular Timeslot will be Mondays at 9PM)

Premise: (From FOX Press Release, December 2011) The mysterious drama stars Sarah Jones ("Sons of Anarchy"), Jorge Garcia ("Lost") and Sam Neill ("Jurassic Park") as a unique team investigating the shocking reappearance of Alcatraz's most notorious prisoners, 50 years after they vanished.

Thoughts: YouTube has several 30 second Alcatraz promos designed to intrigue the viewer into watching. This is a JJ Abrams production, which means secrecy is very important. Of course, I have little insight into the show. I know time-travel's involved. I'm excited about the show. I trust in Sarnoff to not literally ripoff LOST like Kitsis and Horowitz are on Once Upon a Time.

Chance of Weekly Review: 88%

TOUCH



Created By Tim Kring

Special Preview: Wednesday, January 25 at 9PM

Premise: (From FOX Press Release, December 2011) The uplifting drama, which makes its series premiere Monday, March 19 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), features Sutherland as a widower and single father haunted by an inability to connect to his mute 11-year-old son. But everything changes when he discovers that his son possesses the gift of staggering genius - the ability to see things that no one else can and the patterns that connect seemingly unrelated events.

Thoughts: Tim Kring returns to television for the first time since HEROES ended. Dare I trust another Tim Kring series when the last one sucked so much? I hope Kring runs his writers’ room differently for Touch. The narrative's built on mathematics, a pattern, connections, consistency. Heroes didn't have a pattern; the connections were half-assed; consistency disappeared mid-way through season one. I'm genuinely intrigued though. FOX conveniently left the bulk of the narrative vague. For instance, what kind of path is Sutherland following? What is the purpose of the kid and Glover? Well, I'll need to watch on January 25. If I like the series, I'll need to watch once more on March 19. So, I'll give the show a shot. I might even write about it.

Chance of Weekly Review: 50%

BREAKING IN

Created By Adam F. Goldberg

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Tuesday, March 6 at 8:30PM

Thoughts: This WAS cancelled, and then it wasn't.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Midseason Preview: ABC & The CW

2012 MIDSEASON PREVIEW: ABC & The CW

The internet's essentially shut down this week, which makes sense because it is the holiday season. I'm not shutting down the blog this week. Instead, I'm delivering a 2012 Midseason Preview. New programming returns en masse next week. Over the next four months (beginning with January of course), the random new series will debut with decent, or barely any, fanfare. Some of the shows I'll preview today, and the following two days, don't have premiere dates. Google search is your friend in times like these. I won't include any returning fall shows in the previews because that makes no sense.

From a distance, ABC and The CW seemingly have very little in common; however, both networks share a massive disinterest in attracting a male audience. Once ABC lost Monday Night Football, they essentially threw their hands in the air and ordered every crappy nighttime soap possible. The CW's never hidden its plan to attract pre-teen and teenage girls. The midseason schedule for both networks is definitely for the ladies. ABC's premiering another show about emasculated men in an increasing female-dominated America. The only new series on The CW's midseason schedule is Remodeled, a reality series that I will ignore in this post.

I'm combining new and returning shows this week because I've little interest in dragging this preview out. Yes, there are returning shows this midseason like Cougar Town and One Tree Hill. So relax and enjoy.

ABC

WORK IT!



Created By Andrew Reich & Ted Cohen

Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 3 at 8:30PM

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) This high-concept comedy centers on two unrepentant guy's guys who, unable to find work, dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps. Not only do they pull it off, but they might just learn to be better men in the process.

Thoughts: Work It! should be atrocious from the first frame on until its inevitable cancellation a week later (or at May Upfronts). There is no way the show lasts beyond May. Does America really want to see two men dressed in drag for 13 episodes? ABC executives fell in love with the 'It's the 21st century and men are emasculated and without roles' pitch. The main characters refer to their current hardships as a 'mancession' just in case the viewer wasn't aware that these men have been emasculated by a shrinking job market and boom in influential and powerful women. The male actors don't look feminine at all in drag nor do they attempt to speak in a pepperpot tone. What's worse is the intelligent female co-workers don't notice their two new female co-workers are built like construction workers. The men join the ladies on a girls-night-out. The premise promises a lesson in how to be a better man, which I'm sure, will be communicated each week at the end of the episode. This series will suck so much. Just thinking of the possible storylines and Lessons Learned makes me cringe.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE RIVER



Created By Michael Green

Premiere Date: Tuesday, February 7 at 9PM

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) "The River" follows the story of wildlife expert and TV personality Emmet Cole. Emmet set course around the world with his wife, Tess, and son, Lincoln, while filming what would become one of the most popular shows in television. After he goes missing deep in the Amazon, his family, friends and crew set out on a mysterious and deadly journey to find him.

Thoughts: I heard Michael Green, the series creator, talk briefly about the show on a Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, and his comments interested me. I also read positive early reviews of the pilot. The trailer is essentially the above premise visualized. The search-and-rescue for Emmet Cole becomes an insane task as mysterious things attack the boat. The river is home to some kind of magic, which makes sense, because the word 'magic' is repeated several times. The magic, of course, is brutal and unfriendly. ABC hasn't had any success with thrillers post-LOST, or DURING LOST. The River seems like a show that'd interest me enough to write about on a weekly basis.

Chance of Weekly Review: 82%

MISSING



Created By Greg Poirier

Premiere Date: Thursday, March 15 at 8PM

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) learns that her son, Michael, disappears while studying abroad and it's a race against time when she travels to Europe to track him down. A surprising turn of events reveals just how far one mother will go to protect her family.

Thoughts: Missing is what happens when the plot of Taken meets an ABC nighttime soap writer. Greg Poirier changed the hero to a heroine. The missing child is male, not female. The woman's son isn't lost in Eastern Europe; he's MISSING in Italy. Becca Winstone, our protagonist, used to be in the CIA but she turned on that life to devote herself to motherhood, and now she'll confront the enemies of her past. Ashley Judd, in the preview, said that God could not help those who stood in the way of her mission to locate, and rescue, her missing son. While I love Taken, Missing doesn't appeal to me because it's a watered down, ABC-ized version of the Liam Neeson classic.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

DON'T TRUST THE BITCH IN APT. 23


Created By Nahnatchka Khan

Premiere Date: TBD

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) After a naive Midwestern girl's big city dreams are dashed her first week in New York, she finds herself living with her worst nightmare in this hilarious, contemporary comedy about a female odd couple who are surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters.

Thoughts: I'm not optimistic for this show's longevity. The title's changed two or three times. Van Der Beek's playing himself. ABC didn't set a premiere date. It's already been relegated to a mid-season launch. Van Der Beek's playing himself. The girl from Starz' Gravity is the lead of Apt. 23, which means the show's already doomed.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

GCB


Created By Robert Harling

Premiere Date: Sunday, March 4 at 10PM

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), once the ultimate high school "mean girl," is forced to return home in disgrace after her marriage ends in scandal. Amanda is nothing like the girl she was 20 years ago, but as her old classmates reacquaint themselves with the new Amanda, will her home town welcome her with open arms or seek revenge? No one in this town is a saint, but that doesn't mean they can't have a heart. As Amanda and her teenage kids try to adjust to their new lives, the ladies from her past alternate between sympathy and scheming.

Thoughts: Every series, no matter its quality, has one fan. There's a sizable audience for GCB, namely the target demographic of ABC. GCB follows Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights in March. Desperate Housewives is in its final season; ABC wants GCB to replace it. The series has the ingredients to succeed like DH did. Amanda's a disgraced divorcee who used to be a mean, mean girl in high school. The town possesses a long memory, so they might just seek revenge. GCB's sort of like a reverse Revenge--the leading lady is the villain and the entire town might turn against her. I have no interest in GCB.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

SCANDAL


Created By Shonda Rhimes

Premiere Date: TBD

Premise: (From ABC Press Release, May 2011) (from ABC's press release, May 2011) From the creator and executive producers of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" comes a drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff.

Thoughts: Scandal doesn't have a premiere date. The premise seems no different from Grey's Anatomy or Private Practice. Aren't both medical dramas about dysfunctional staffs and the drama that stems from such dysfunction? ABC told Shonda to make a new show earlier in the year, so she created a medical drama SET in a tropical paradise. The only thing that changed was the setting. Doesn't Shonda get bored telling variations of the same drama?

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

COUGAR TOWN

Created By Bill Lawrence

What Season? 3

Premiere Date: TBD

Thoughts: ABC initially left Cougar Town off its mid-season schedule, much to chagrin of fans and critics. I gave the series a chance after hearing so much praise for it. I didn't like it. The series reminded me of Scrubs. Though I liked Scrubs, the cartoony and zany style of Cougar Town annoyed me. I never watched another episode.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE CW

ONE TREE HILL

Created By Mark Schwann

What Season? The ninth and FINAL season

Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 11 at 8PM

Thoughts: One Tree Hill is ending so soon? Oh wait, it's been on for nine seasons. Truthfully, I don't know which actors left the show and which didn't. Is Mark Schwann still running the show? According to The CW press release, Nathan's an agent and Haley struggles raising two children alone as a result. There are too many romantic entanglements. One such entanglement involves a wedding; another involves a simple yet infuriating and tiresome question 'will these two be romantic?'

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best Episodes of 2011 (Part 5 of 5)

THE BEST EPISODES OF 2011 (Part 5 of 5)

I fell one episode short of 25 this year. Half-hour comedies seemingly dominated this week. I'm surprised because I like hour-long shows more. So, yes, here at the end of the week, I'm surprised by my own list. Maybe I should watch better hour-long shows. Regardless, I did not watch enough quality hour-long shows, so the comedies reign supreme. Of course, three of today's four episodes are from hour-long shows. I'd like to think that I saved the best for last; however, I never thought much about which episode went where. I more or less wrote about the episodes I liked and thought about on the day I wrote about them. For what it's worth, I consider three of the four episodes today to be the best hours of television I watched in 2011.

COMMUNITY's "Remedial Chaos Theory"--Written By Chris McKenna; Directed By Jeff Melman

Unfortunately, "Remedial Chaos Theory" isn't among the very best half-hours I watched in 2011. There were better Community episodes, but this one's still terrific. Each season of Community surprises me several times. Season 3 began with three or four 'normal' episodes, which I enjoyed but I missed the daring creativity and originality of their concept episodes. I loved how the group's dynamic was explored through alternate timelines--a device that allowed the viewers to see how a certain character affects the group with and without his or her presence. There were sweet moments, insane moments, and hilarious moments. The darkest timeline will always delight me; it reminded me of Monty Python or South Park in its gratuity of the misery created by a temple of doom miniature.

TREME's "Carnival Time"--Written By David Simon & Eric Overmyer; Directed By Brad Anderson

"Carnival Time" could be my absolute favorite television episode of the calendar year. I was captivated throughout, momentarily transported to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Simon and Overmyer didn't bother creating a plot for their second Mardi Gras episode; instead, the episode followed our characters around New Orleans as they danced, sang, played music, ate good food, and enjoyed good company. Well, "Carnival Time" DID address several story threads. For example, Davis came to Sofia's rescue in a bar of all places. Albert proudly wore his Indian dress again. Nelson had the greatest day of all-time. Annie experienced a new way to celebrate New Orleans with Harley in rural Louisiana (I think). I just really loved "Carnival Time"--it transformed me into a dedicated and devoted fan of Treme after 1.5 seasons.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES' "The Reckoning"--Written By Michael Narducci; Directed By John Behring

I think "The Reckoning" is the best episode TVD's produced. From the moment the episode begins it feels special, which is odd because the teaser begins with the Mystic Falls students preparing for Senior Prank Night. Klaus soon crashes the party and a whole mess of chaos is unleashed. Klaus compelled Stefan to kill Elena when the scoreboard hit zero. Matt killed himself so he could communicate with Vicki to learn how to stop Klaus. The various threads of the season came together in a magnificent 41 minutes. I'd be remiss if I ignored how #305 is, indeed, the fifth episode of the season. The momentum of the show didn't stop after "The Reckoning." Plot keeps moving like a 757 jet, which gives the impression season three could be an all-time great TV season. Dan Fienberg publicly praised the series on his best of TV 2011 list. Fienberg argued the show's fans don't need to refer to TVD as a guilty pleasure--just embrace how legitimately good this little CW show is, and if no one believes you, then oh well.

GAMES OF THRONES' "Baelor"--Written By David Benioff & D.B. Weiss; Directed By Alan Taylor

I'd never spoil "Baelor" for anyone who’s interested in reading the book or watching the series. I sort of undersold the ending of "Baelor" in my review. The ending's the most shocking scene of the year. I sat on my couch with my jaw wide open for sixty seconds after watching it. The internet exploded minutes after the conclusion and into the following day. The other shows that left me stunned and speechless are LOST, Buffy, ANGEL, Firefly and Dollhouse. I decided to read A Song of Ice and Fire after "Baelor," convinced of GRRM's quality as a storyteller. Indeed, the following four books vary between good, very good, great, and excellent. LOST and those other shows used to stun and shock with twists. I'll confidently write that there are twists-to-come in GOT that surpass what happened in "Baelor." Game of Thrones is a series you need to watch, friends and well-wishers.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Best Episodes of 2011 (Part 4 of 5)

THE BEST EPISODES OF 2011 (Part 4 of 5)

COMMUNITY's "Paradigms of Human Memory"--Written By Chris McKenna; Directed By Tristram Shapeero

Community's the most creative series on network television. "Paradigms of Human Memory" is another example of such creativity. Years ago, clip shows were staples of sitcoms, and then they weren't. The show tackled the bottle episode in an earlier season two episode. The clip show's a bunch of clips, yes, but the material's entirely new and takes us to places we've never been with the study group. The episode's sort of a response to the question viewers always have about their favorite shows: "what do these characters do when we're not watching them?" For the study group, they go to ghost towns and mental institutions. They replace the suddenly deceased glee club and win the competition. And, in the funniest bit of the episode, Jeff gives an inspiring speech wherever he goes; the speech in this episode is a collection of the many speeches he's given which creates one whole and coherent speech. Lovely episode, which is highlighted by Jeff's theory that anything can be romantic when put to music in a montage, and Pierce and Abed are the experiment with that.

LOUIE's "Come On, God"--Written & Directed By Louie C.K.

Ideally, two people with opposing ideologies and beliefs would engage in a discussion and debate about an issue as peacefully as Louie and the Christian abstinence woman do. The issue is masturbation. Louie couldn't be more supportive of an act whereas the Christian woman, a beautiful 20something year old, believes all kinds of sex should be saved for sacredness of marriage between two loving individuals. Louie doesn't persuade the woman to embrace masturbation nor does the woman persuade Louie to quit masturbating (in fact, Louie masturbates at the end of the episode). Louie C.K. wrote a character, in the Christian woman, who 100% believes in her values and beliefs. It's sort of intoxicating to watch her explain her feelings on sex--her passion is attractive, which is what Louie communicates through her dialogue and his direction.

COMMUNITY's "Critical Film Studies"--Written By Sona Panos; Directed By Richard Ayoade

People expected a Pulp Fiction homage. Dan Harmon and his writers delivered a My Dinner With Andre. I think Dan Harmon understands Abed more than his other characters. Abed's the central character of any episode that delves deep into what it means to be human. Abed's an extremely meta, but he's also the only sane member of the group. Abed's all about his connection with Jeff Winger during the dinner scene. In fact, he's making a documentary. Jeff's realization of what's actually happening hurts him because he feels manipulated and used. As always, though, Jeff and Abed understand one another.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM's "Mister Softee"--Story By Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer

"Mister Softee" is the Bill Buckner episode everyone anticipated, and it delivers the laughs. I liked how Buckner and Mookie Wilson were signing autographs in the same hall. I liked Buckner's 'aw shucks' act whenever people fled from his presence because of bad luck. My favorite scene's when Larry throws the signed Mookie Wilson baseball at Buckner and Buckner completely misses it. What an episode.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES' "The House Guest"--Written By Caroline Dries; Directed By Michael Katleman

This is an insane episode. Characters are set on fire. Isobel's back in town to cause chaos. The episode ruminates on love and its power. The power to love is stronger than any kind of magic.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Best Episodes of 2011 (Part 3 of 5)

THE BEST EPISODES OF 2011 (Part 3 of 5)

I've reached the point of the best episodes of 2011 when readers will wonder if I watch anything else besides shows that I consistently list day after day in the Best Episodes of 2011. Truthfully, I doubt the readers will have any reaction whatsoever to the television shows listed, but I'd like to remind everyone that I wrote about many, many episodes of TV that weren't Louie, Always Sunny, Community, and Friday Night Lights. In fact, I never wrote about Louie or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I barely wrote about Community, and I wrote about FNL's final season during a two week span. I don't think highly of the shows I write about on a consistent basis. The likes of Revenge, No Ordinary Family and The Secret Circle aren't exactly blowing minds (in the case of NOF--DIDN'T) with their storytelling. How I Met Your Mother's been essentially atrocious since the end of season four. I recall just now that the new shows I wrote about in 2010-2011 weren't renewed for a second season.

Ideally, I'd write about the majority of great TV, but I don't. While I have admiration and love for the television business, I lack the interest in watching everything worthwhile. I'm a sports fan too. I love watching the Flyers when they play. I'm a fan of Sixer basketball. I'll watch college hoops. I watch football. I'm a humble, independent blogger without access to screeners. And I read, as I detailed on Monday. While I'd like to celebrate the very best of television, with full knowledge of every scripted programming to air in 2011, I do what I can with what I have.

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA's "Sweet Dee Gets Audited"--Written By Rob McElhenny, Glenn Howerton & Charlie Day; Directed By Matt Shakman

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia produced several dark and offensive episodes in their history. Dennis remarks that what the gang did in this episode is definitely the darkest yet. Sweet Dee's audited by the IRS, so she invents a fake baby that's killed off for tax purposes. As the IRS closes in on Dee, the gang stages a fake funeral complete with advertisements from Frank and Dennis for Wolf Cola. I watched the episode on a Friday, with my mother, and I hadn't laughed so much in a long time. I laughed because the story went to such insane extremes. I also laughed whenever my mom reacted in horror to the fake funeral and the subsequent reveal of what was contained inside the coffin. I loved "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games." Several other episodes were good or very good. "Sweet Dee Gets Audited" is on the level of "The Nightman Cometh." It is an all-time classic. The funeral itself wasn't a bucket of laughs. I was more or less stunned by the ballsy decision to 'go there.' What sent me over the edge was the shilling for Wolf Cola. Frank's the best whenever he sacrifices morals and integrity for a money opportunity. The season was terrific and highlighted with this hilarious and offensive episode.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS' "Don't Go"--Written By Bridget Carpenter; Directed By Michael Waxman

Personally, "Don't Go" was the pinnacle of the final season of Friday Night Lights. I already wrote about "Always" but series finales usually disappoint me. "Always" is great but its awareness of being a series finale hindered the episode a bit. "Don't Go" is completely natural in its moments and not one scene feels manipulated or contrived or forced. The town and the team want Coach Taylor to stick around in Dillon despite recruitment from a D-IA college. Eric Taylor decides to stay. The town rejoices. I'm simplifying the story. "Don't Go" is a moving episode--the title's taken from the episode itself when Vince says to his coach, "don't go." Vince gets the team back in this episode. Coach gets his star player back. Also, Tim Riggins is released from prison, and he emerges from the experience more broken and dispirited than ever. Riggins will make peace with his brother and his life before the final frame of the series, though.


LOUIE'S "Subway/Pamela"--Written & Directed by Louis C.K.

The second half of the episode, "Pamela," contains one of the most heartbreaking moments in TV history. At a flea market, Louie opens up to Pamela about his love for her. The monologue's over 90 seconds, and it's sweet, honest and innocent. Pamela rejects him and promises that she'll always reject him, but she's sweet about her rejection. Louie's not Dawson Leery. The series isn't focused on melodrama or hysterics. His confession doesn't stop the two from getting dinner or going to the apartment. Indeed, Pamela wanted to take a bath with him, in a moment influenced by temporary affection, but Louie blew his chance because he was so bummed about what she said at the flea market and missed the sexual overture. "Subway" is great, too, though less beloved by the fans. It's a silent picture of Louie's experience on the NYC subway. As someone who's ridden his fair share of NYC subways, I related to what Louie witnesses.

TREME's "Do Whatcha Wanna"--Teleplay by David Simon; Story By David Simon & Anthony Bourdain; Directed By Ernest R. Dickerson

Treme's second season struck a chord with me. I didn't feel much about the first season. Somewhere along the line, though, I became invested in each of the characters' journeys. "Do Whatcha Wanna" is the second season finale. Characters repair fractured relationships, or realize what one's calling truly is, or has an epiphany about the importance of a city on one's mental psyche. The show's about struggle and recovery, and the finale's a microcosm of the show. The characters struggle but they'll recover. I recommend people give Treme a shot sometime.

COMMUNITY'S "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"--Written By Andrew Guest; Directed By Joe Russo

The study group, and Fat Neil, play Dungeons and Dragons for the entire episode. What possibly sounds dull and boring in a sentence is nothing like that on the screen. The game itself is tense. The episode's about the group dynamic, specifically Pierce's role as villain and Jeff's role as the anti-Pierce (who somehow becomes Pierce-ish in season three). It's a funny, entertaining and tense 22 minutes of TV. I don't know what else to write about it. Like many Community episodes, it's better if you just watch the episode.

WILFRED's "Identity"--Written David Zuckerman; Directed By Randall Einhorn

Wilfred's mostly hit-or-miss. I include the season finale because I was genuinely intrigued by the questions raised about Ryan's identity and, subsequently, Wilfred's. It was a moment that briefly caused me to re-consider what I watched in the previous 12 episodes. Now, I didn't re-watch episodes nor will I ever, but that kind of reaction is all too rare in storytelling these days. It's due time that I compliment Fiona Gubelmann on her phenomenal looks as well.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Episodes of 2011 (Part 2 of 5)

THE BEST EPISODES OF 2011 (Part 2 of 5)

I wonder if show runners, studio executives, actors, actresses, directors, editors, etc. actually pay attention to Best Of lists. Certainly, no one pays attentions to the musings in The Foot. I mean, in general, how much pride do the people involved in a Top 10 show actually feel when they're told that such and such show was honored by random popular culture website? I know I'm asking a question to which I'll never receive an answer to. I suppose the process of lists is catered to web traffic moreso than the powerful people behind the shows being included on a list (of course I went into this yesterday).

Yesterday, I celebrated four episodes from the comedy genre and one episode from the drama genre. Will that trend continue today? Did I laugh more than I did not in 2011? I laughed. I cried more though (not over TV). I don't have a multi-paragraph screed prepared on the nonsense of television reviews today. Instead, I just have five episodes to write about. So, read on and enjoy.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS' "Always"--Written By Jason Katims; Directed By Michael Waxman

Jason Katims won the award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series at the 2011 Emmys for "Always." The episode's the series finale of FNL, which ran for five seasons, garnered tremendous praise and love for its portrayal of small town life, marriage, and family. Football was really the least important part of the show. The action in the series finale revolved around the state championship game between the Lions and some random school in Texas. Besides a beautifully directed sequence, edited without music, the football action's limited. The defining play of the state title game is interrupted by a smash cut into present day for all of our characters. The Taylors left Dillon for Philadelphia. The East Dillion Lions merged with the West Dillon Panthers to become a superteam (they also won the state title). "Always" is about how a group of losers became winners; the importance of sacrifice in a relationship whether it's a wife, a girlfriend, or a sibling. One of the best scenes in the episodes occurs near the end. Riggins and his brother are just sitting on Tim's piece of land, drinking some beers, enjoying their healed relationship. The scene represents what FNL was about: taking hits, getting back up, possessing the ability to enjoy a sun-drenched day on a beautiful piece of land.

COMMUNITY'S "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"--Written By Megan Ganz; Directed By Joe Russo

I wrote about this episode two or so weeks ago. I felt obligated to write something about Community given NBC's decision to leave it off the mid-season schedule until one of their comedies fail and the network has no other choice but to air new episodes. "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" is a special episode--high praise because Community's produced more great episodes in a 2.5 year span than many sitcoms past and present. I could include 10 episodes of Community in the Best Episodes of 2011, but that'd be unfair to the other shows (who won't even know I've honored them). Anyway, this episode is all about how special Greendale is; it's a character study of Dean Pelton, as well as homage to the documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now. The episode wouldn't appeal to people who aren't fans of the series, which is Community's curse unfortunately. For anyone who loves Greendale and the characters, the episode is fantastic.

LOUIE's "Joan"--Written & Directed by Louie C.K.

The story is simple: Louie went on the road to Atlantic City, played to a miserable crowd, got annoyed, told the casino/hotel manager that he wanted to cancel the rest of his performances, watched a Joan Rivers set, went to Joan's room to talk about stand-up comedy and paying one's due, Joan kicked Louie in the ass, Louie kissed her on the mouth. The highlight of the episode is what Joan tells Louie. I'm familiar with Joan solely because of her annoying fashion show that somehow winds up on my weekly recordings of The Soup. I was blown away to learn she's an accomplished stand-up comedian and well-respected within the industry. I forgave her instantly for her annoying fashion show when her voice broke and she told Louie that what they do, stand-up comedy, is a calling:

THE CHICAGO CODE's "Pilot"--Written By Shawn Ryan; Directed By Charles McDougall

I never became invested in The Chicago Code. The procedural element bored me. The Lindo stuff didn't work consistently. The terribly uninteresting undercover cop Liam took too much screen time. TCC would've worked better as six episode mini-series rather than an actual series. However, the "Pilot" was great. The characters were well drawn and written in the pilot. I identified with their individual personal arcs. I immediately rooted for the downfall of Lindo. The pilot concluded with a surprising death. I thought the episode looked great. The actors were tremendous. The writing was exciting and moving. That's really all I ask from an episode of TV.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES' "The Sun Also Rises"--Written By Caroline Dries & Mike Daniels; Directed By Paul M. Sommers

An episode so good I mistakenly though it for a season finale. I learned "The Sun Also Rises" was the penultimate episode when I watched the previews for the season finale, which aired (naturally) after the episode's conclusion. One might wonder, "What happened?" No, my friends and well-wishers, the question is, "What DIDN'T happen?" Things get crazy. There are deaths, sacrifices, and mortal wounds. A vampire becomes the most powerful supernatural person on the planet; a brother is betrayed. I compared "The Sun Also Rises" with the Hemingway book that the episode took its title from. Amidst all the craziness was the idea that the characters aren't irrevocably damaged--that their wounds will heal.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best Episodes of 2011 (Part 1 of 5)

THE BEST EPISODES OF 2011 (Part 1 of 5)

Well, it's that time of year again when pop culture websites around the interweb publish article after article of lists. The lists could be about which soda defined 2011 most, or which Lady Gaga outfit said the most about American culture in the calendar year. Usually, though, the lists count down the best in television, film, books and video games in numerically descending lists (people ADORE numerically descending lists). Naturally, I'm going to abstain from using numerically descending lists for the second year in a row. The reasons aren't multifold or complicated. I feel ranking an episode by number only (to denote its quality) is as arbitrary an undertaking as letter grades for individual episodes (again, to denote its quality). Just imagine: you're a professional TV writer who spends a laborious amount of time breaking stories, pitching ideas, writing outlines, drafting scripts until the production draft's locked and ready for action. During the 8 day production process, there are various re-writer and changes to accommodate the logistics of production. Once principal photography's finished, the episode enters post-production, which is a multi-week process. Sometimes, an episode isn't finished until the day its supposed to air; other times an episode is completed several days prior to its broadcast date or even a week in advance (usually the first batch of episodes when production has two month head start). So, the insane amount of work done in a condensed period of time is finished, the episode airs, hordes of people write about the episode, another horde of people comment on the episode, and the most noticeable part of any review is the damn letter grade ('Hm. Such and such thought this was a B. Hardly--more like a C-minus). Commenters will spend more time debating the merits of the awarded grade moreso than the episode itself (the look, the writing, the characterization, the brilliance of a scene v. the non-brilliance of another scene, the excellence of the A story v. the forgettable and 'what-was-the-point-of-THAT?' B or C story). I'd mention the belief that writers must feel annoyed by the instant reaction to their series on a weekly basis, but many writers understand the reasons why people write so quickly about an episode of their series (except for David Simon, who scoffs at weekly episodic reviews). Ben Blacker, a writer for Supernatural and host of the Nerdist Writers Panel, understands his role as a craftsman. Like a craftsman, he and his partner are responsible for the construction of an episode that will be consumed, appreciated, but inevitably forgotten and discarded as time passes. Writers don't seem to feel bothered or annoyed when someone such as me writes 1200 words about an episode that took 6 weeks to produce in 90 minutes.

I suppose lists AREN'T designed to critically think, argue, and discuss an episode, or series, that aired during a calendar year. Lists are designed to recognize greatness, consistent greatness, in a calendar year. Editors-in-Chiefs want their loyal readers to easily consume and digest posts. Lists are easy to debate, which means the comment section will explode, which means the site's traffic will be very good indeed (traffic should remain the same for this site, though). I also suppose blogs and popular culture websites AREN'T designed to critically think and argue about episodes of television. Barely read academic journals exist for that purpose; academic journals that exist to bolster the ego of any professor working in an English department. Perhaps, then, the letter grades are just fine to use on a website or blog. As arbitrary as letter grades are, the internet's full of arbitrary things (like tumblr). Regardless, I don't want to compile a list of the Top 25 episodes of 2011. Last year, I wrote about the 25 best episodes of the TV season, with no numbers attached to a list episode. The same will happen for this year's best episodes week-long celebration.

2011's been an up-and-down year for television. Homeland single-handedly saved critics and snobby TV fans who think Sunday nights are made for quality television from spending their nights drinking too much Wild Turkey and yelling about how The Wire is the greatest series of all-time. Some critics would've struggled mightily to find enough to TV shows for a 'Top 10 New Shows of 2011' list because the bulk of new TV shows sucked. Naturally, I never watched an episode of Homeland. I was drawn back into the world of literature this fall, which meant I spent less time watching TV than last year (so no Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, SOA, Breaking Bad, or GLEE, on this year's Best Of). Instead, I read all five books of A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as Infinite Jest, The Postmortal, and The Stranger. I still watched plenty of TV, so much so that I forget what I actually watched this year, which meant I went into the archives to figure it ALL out. I still forget what I watched. For example, just now, I am reminded of Parks & Recs Flu episode. I digress. 2011 was another year in which we're all reminded that cable TV produces the quality TV and networks produce the trash, except for a small group of shows.

Let's launch into the first batch of the best episodes of 2011.

GAME OF THRONES' "The Wolf and the Lion"--Written By David Benioff & D.B. Weiss; Directed By Brian Kirk

The fifth episode of GOT's first season kicks off the best episodes of 2011 in style. "The Wolf and the Lion" blew me away when I watched it. I already liked the series enough to write verbose musings about the previous four episodes. I felt somewhat detached from the show, though. The episodes were too busy. Benioff and Weiss needed to service too many characters, introduce a ton of plots and subplots, and develop a formula and identity for a show. #105 is the episode when the parts of GOT meshed together to create a coherent whole. There's a difference between the book and the show. The inability to use the POV device of the novels is unfortunate. The POVs alone can be sprawling. "The Wolf and the Lion" provided the most coherent picture of Westeros and its characters. It's also the turning point of season one. Ned and Jamie fight. Arya heard two shadowy figures plotting the death of her father. Ned and Robert nearly came to blows during a council meeting in which Ned advised the king against assassinating Daenaerys Targaryen. Cersei and Robert share one of the greatest scenes of 2011--a scene about their marriage and their responsibilities as king and queen of the Seven Kingdoms. On first viewing, it's a tense and emotional hour. On second viewing, it's worse because you want to yell at certain characters for how they're acting and advise them to get the hell out of King's Landing.

PARKS & RECREATIONS' "The Flu"--Written By Norm Hiscock; Directed By Wendy Stanzler

"The Flu" aired way back on January 27, 2011. The comedy series was already celebrated. Season 2 was the one that motivated critics to declare the sitcom the very best on network television. I've since stopped watching Park&Recs because the mockumentary style didn't appeal to me at all. However, "The Flu" is a terrifically funny hour of TV. Rob Lowe's outstanding. My favorite scene closes the episode out, when a flu-ridden Leslie Knope delivers an outstanding speech that helps her department get funding for the upcoming festival.

LOUIE'S "Duckling"--Written & Directed By Louie C.K.

"Ducking" was a super-sized episode of Louie (I don't think NBC uses the term 'super size' anymore for its comedy lineup). FX gave Louie 45 minutes to tell a story about a USO trip to Afghanistan to entertain the troops. Early on, Louie discovers a duckling in his suitcase, put there by his daughter who wanted him to take the duckling with him for his own safety (a good luck duckling). Louie travels to several camp bases and performs his stand-up. In between sets, he talks to the other entertainers about their previous experiences in the Middle East. One day, in the air towards another camp, the helicopter suddenly lands because of complications. A group of native Afghans run into the military group. Guns are drawn. Both sides shout at the other, unable to communicate because of the language differences. Suddenly, the ducking emerges from Louie's bag, Louie goes after it, falls, and breaks the tension instantly. Both sides come together, shake hands, laugh, relax, and a potential disastrous situation transforms into a moment of beauty. This won't be the lone Louie episode included in the Best Of.

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA's "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games"--Written By Charlie Day & Rob McElhenny; Directed By Matt Shakman

The television business has produced so many bottle episodes that I couldn't tell you just how many bottle episodes exist. Bottle episodes aren't always enjoyable (as any viewer of Dawson's Creek could attest to). "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games" is an example of a creative, original, funny, and entertaining bottle episode. The gang's bored. Their hopeful Mac's arrival will end the boredom. Eyebrows rise in excitement and anticipation when Mac dances through the door, spinning around, soaking up the cheers of his friends, and then he reveals he's got nothing idea-wise to end the collective boredom in Paddy's. The gang decides to play Chardee MacDennis again, though Charlie and Mac hate the game because they always lose. Frank's intrigued, though, so the game of games is played, and it's spectacular. It's one of those episodes a person needs to watch in order to appreciate. I won't bother describing it. Just trust me: it's one of the best episodes of 2011.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM's "Palestinian Chicken"--Story By Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer; Directed By Robert B. Weide

This episode has one of the funniest sex scenes ever filmed. A whole mess of drama's created when a Palestinian Chicken place opens in town. Funkhauser, a suddenly devout Jewish man, takes umbrage with the business. Funkhauser hopes Larry will join his side because he, too, is a Jewish man; however, the chicken's so exquisite that Larry's willing to sacrifice his upbringing and belief system. Larry eventually meets, dates, and has intercourse, with a woman who runs the Palestinian Chicken places. The Palestinian woman hates Jews and takes out her rage during angry sex with Larry as he EATS the chicken (because he wants to combine the experiences for the Ultimate experience).

And thus concludes part one of the Best Episodes of 2011 list. So far, the comedies are represented well. Will it continue? Come back to The Foot tomorrow afternoon for Part 2.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.