Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Midseason Preview: NBC

NBC continues to stumble down streets like a drunk; NBC's the town drunk of network TV. Community's supposed to air Fridays in the fall. NBC delays it until February. Grimm was scheduled to return in January, and it won't return until January. I'm convinced they don't know what works anymore. How else does one rationalize the choice to order Deception to series? There's NO WAY that show will be remembered in April. Below you'll find previews for new and returning shows on NBC in the coming weeks. Happy New Year!

DECEPTION

Created By Liz Heldens

Premiere Date: Monday, January 7 at 10PM

Premise: (from NBC's press release, October 2012) The new drama "Deception" - starring Meagan Good ("Think Like a Man"), Victor Garber ("Alias"), Tate Donovan ("Damages") and Katherine LaNasa ("Alfie") in a dark family murder mystery.

Thoughts: Is Deception NBC's attempt to have their own Revenge? The premise of Revene was different, but Deception has the trappings of a night time soap opera. Beautiful people do bad things. Someone's dead and no one knows who. Getting to the truth is dangerous. The elements come together to form a generic, dull and bland looking series. NBC has promoted the series heavily, which suggests a powerful executive feels strongly about its drawing potential. We shall see if people will watch. I'm amazed by what I overhear at work when people discuss their favorite shows. The James Van Der Beek medical drama, Trauma, was remembered the other day. So, what the hell do I know? Deception might catch on.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

1600 PENN

Created By Jon Lovett & Josh Gad

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 10 at 9:30PM

Premise: "1600 Penn" stars Bill Pullman ("Independence Day"), Jenna Elfman ("Dharma and Greg") and Josh Gad (Broadway's "The Book of Mormon") - and concerns a typical American family who just happen to live in the White House.

Thoughts: 1600 Penn premiered already. NBC chose to launch it under the 'Sneak Preview' umbrella that worked out for Go On, and not so much for Animal Planet. 1600 Penn is a typical family sitcom set in the White House. I don't know if it works. I didn't watch the "Pilot." It's inspired to set the family sitcom in the White House until one recalls the Sinbad White House comedy and the Will Friedle rom-com about a normal dude who is love with the First Daughter. The comedy ceiling for White House comedy seems low. Secret service hijinks, and what else? I have a Bill Pullman Independence Day action figure. I used to do wrestling shows with my figures weekly, and Pullman was one of the greatest heels no one but me knows about. I missed his 1980s comedy roles; however, Independence Day is basically a comedy. 1600 Penn is worth checking out one week for Bill Pullman.

Chance of Weekly Review: 0%

DO NO HARM

Created By David Schulner

Premiere Date: Thursday, January 31 at 10PM

Premise: (from NBC's press release, November 2012) In "Do No Harm," Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale, "Rescue Me") is a highly respected neurosurgeon who has it all - a lucrative career, confident charm, the gift of compassion. But he also has a deep, dark secret. One morning when he wakes up disoriented in a wrecked hotel room amidst several near-naked women he's never seen before, he knows one thing: it's happening again.

Thoughts: NBC succeeded in bringing Grimm stories to network procedural, so it's trying again with Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde novella. The trailer I watched depicted Jason Cole rushing away from a bar, where he'd been chatting up a pretty woman, to his apartment. He's undergoing a change. TV writers have gotten to do their take on this story over the years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Do No Harm is an intriguing show. I listened to a podcast with one of the writers. I'm always more interested in a show, comic, movie, etc. after I hear someone involved discuss whatever the project is. Cathryn Humphries, a former Ringer writer, nearly convinced me I'd been wrong about the show, because she had glowing compliments for her time. I then remembered her experience versus mine is so different. If I wrote for According to Jim, I'd be defending the show as misunderstood and a rare treasure. So, I need to watch Do No Harm. I read positive stories about the show, heard it, too, so I'm going to check it out.

Chance of Weekly Review: 24%

SMASH

Created By Theresa Reback

What Season? 2

Premiere Date: Tuesday, February 5 at 10PM

Thoughts: Smash changed show runners and dropped characters in hopes the quality improves, that people like it a bit more. I did not watch Smash past its second episode. Season 1 became a talking point because Emily Nussbaum popularized 'hate-watching' it. I listened to a May episode of On The Media, featuring various TV critics discussing the business of TV and the habit of watching TV. I won't get into the existential crisis it drove me into.

COMMUNITY

Created By Dan Harmon

What Season? 4

Premiere Date: Thursday, February 7 at 8PM

Thoughts: This is what I wrote in August: I read an article about what Dan Harmon would've done with season 4; this doesn't help my preview, because NBC fired Dan Harmon. The new show runners will use the 'Jeff meets his dad' storyline because the executives were excited about it. The Community story I'm invested in ended in May. It officially ended when NBC fired Dan Harmon. I'm going to watch the new season to see what's done with my favorite characters. I hope the charm of the show remains, but it'll never be the same as it was when Harmon ran things; if the season sucks, no worries, because the first three seasons are terrific. The cast offered nothing about the new season during comic-con. They sat around and sang for awhile or told inside jokes.

Time has passed. Fan anger lasts about two weeks, or two days, or two hours. The show runner drama will resurface in February. More nonsense happened with Community. Chevy Chase left and won't appear in two episodes. I haven't read any more about the fourth season. I just know there's going to be a Halloween episode on in mid-February.

Tomorrow: ABC & The CW

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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Episodes of 2012 (Part 5 of 5)

It's the fifth and final part of The Best Episodes of 2012. We had fun, didn't we? If you missed any of the previous four parts, you can find them somewhere on the right side of the page. Enjoy Part 5.

GAME OF THRONES--"Blackwater"--Written By George R.R. Martin; Directed By Neil Marshall

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GOT

"Blackwater" depicts the epic battle in A Clash Of Kings. The show didn't jump around to the other characters. The action remained in King's Landing as Stannis attacked and Tyrion led the troops to save the kingdom. "Blackwater" is terrific for a number of reasons. I love what Martin does through the battle, narratively. Joffrey's a piece of shit king who tortures people for fun, and Stannis is a piece of shit would-be king who murders his brother in cold-blood in a power move. So, who does the audience root for? It's like a lose-lose. Meanwhile, Cersei's inside ready to kill herself and Sansa if the battle goes awry. The execution of the Wyldfire and the scope of the battle on a limited budget is one heck of an achievement. Martin's battle in the book spans 80 pages. It all works, though. The characters are amazingly written and so the audience cares about Tyrion and Sansa (well, I care about Sansa). It's awesome that neither of the two sides are good in the sense of how good is depicted in other war depictions. Game Of Thrones is complex and morally grey, and so damn good.

TREME--"Tipitina"--Story By David Simon & Anthony Bourdain/Written By David Simon & Eric Overmyer; Directed By Anthony Hemingway

"Tipitina" closed the third season of Treme. Davis bids farewell to his music career in a song that's by far the most popular thing he's ever created. The characters come together to raise money for LaDonna's recently burned down barn, which features one of the greatest tracking shots in television's history, as we weave through the set and see everyone. Treme isn't about happy endings for the characters, because that'd be crass in a post-Katrina drama. Happy endings exist in fairy tales. LD publishes his expose on the homicide cover-ups in the days after Katria, which is a triumphant moment for the character, but it's rendered meaningless because nothing will be done about it. LD still goes home happy. Toni gets testimony she needs to put away a dirty cop. That testimonial scene, by the way, is among the most moving scenes of TV in 2012. I was really, really deeply moved by the witness' testimony, and Melissa Leo played it really well (I acknowledge the scene might've been in #309). So, yeah, there are scenes of triumph and resolve but there are scenes of sadness and disappointment and rejection. The one image that plays in my head, which seems representative of the show, is Big Chief Albert Lambrioux receiving his chemo. The Big Chief is sick, but he's trying to get better, even if the treatment makes him horribly nauseous. Treme is a terrific show. "Tipitina" is absolutely wonderful.

COMMUNITY--"Introduction To Finality"--Written By Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane; Directed By Tristram Shapeero


Community's third season was up-and-down. "Introduction To Finality" is damn-near perfect. Dan Harmon wrote the episode as his goodbye to the show--it capped the three wonderful madcap seasons of the show in a way that should allow fans to watch the series, with the new show runners, without feeling angry that Harmon couldn't complete his tale. Harmon did complete this tale. Jeff Winger was alternately the hero and anti-hero of Community. Jeff becomes the hero in the finale, makes a killer speech that kills Evil Abed, and injects all sorts of change into the group. I love the three seasons of Dan Harmon's Community. I'm disappointed he got fired. "Introduction To Finality" offers great closure for Harmon's story.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES--"The Departed"--Story By Brett Matthews/Elisabeth R. Finch/Teleplay By Julie Plec; Directed By John Behring

Immediate reaction from Twitter declared "The Departed" a superior finale to LOST's "Through The Looking Glass," which nearly caused me to pass out from shock. Let's not get crazy. TVD's third season finale is great, but "Through The Looking Glass" will never be topped (well, it might be around June...). The Vampire Diaires will never receive the critical adoration it deserves (or deserved, depending on your feelings on the second half of season three and the first half of season four) because it's CW show about vampires, werewolves, and all that stuff that's frowned upon as Fake Art. Hitfix's Dan Fienberg bravely put TVD on his Top Ten list of Best Shows from 2011 list last year, though it missed this year. TVD's not better than BtVS or ANGEL, but it's the best show about vampires since ANGEL's cancellation.

"The Departed" sort of saved the latter half of season three. The Originals never went away, the triangle stuff kept going in circles, etc; however, Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, and the other writers really brought it for the season-finale. There's flashbacks to the last day before Elena's life changed forever to juxtapose the present day when her life would change for ever again. Significant Elena character stuff happens while a badass (temporary) conclusion to Klaus happens and a bunch of little stuff is hinted at for the fourth season. Elena's story is the most special in "The Departed," though. It's beautiful, cathartic, wrenching, and a goodbye, but it's also a great beginning to a new chapter in the show that's been quite interesting to watch. I'll stand by my boast that TVD is a terrific show.

ARROW--"Pilot"--Story By Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim/Written By Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisburg; Directed By David Nutter

Arrow's among the most solid network dramas on television currently. The series started strong with the "Pilot" and never dipped in quality; but it never elevated its quality either. Berlanti, Kreisburg, and Guggenheim know the identity of Arrow; that's why its "Pilot" was confident and why the rest of the series has been. The "Pilot" is incredibly efficient. Pilots are among my least favorite episodes of televisions because the writer(s) has to accomplish and establish a great deal, and they mostly leave me empty. I know the second and third episode will yield more than the first. Arrow's different. It's impressively consistent, tonally and narratively. Arrow owes its tone to Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy. Oliver Queen's a rugged dude after five years trapped on an island, just like Bruce Wayne leaves the League of Shadows ready to fight the crime the city doesn't.

Oliver's fight is a noble one. The "Pilot" establishes his motivations, the history of the city and the Queen's role in its denigration. Aside from the world-building and all-around narrative, David Nutter establishes an insane quality for the fight sequences. Arrow has the best fight scenes on television. I was stunned watching the first fight scene in Arrow. Heck, I was amazed by Oliver's movements when acting as the vigilante of Starling City. He looked like a character in a video game; like, it did not seem possible for an actual person to move the way Amell (probably his stunt double actually) did. So, yeah, Arrow makes the list because it hasn't produced a bad episode yet, and I felt really happy after the first episode because it didn't suck the way Guggenheim and Berlanti's last superhero show sucked.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Episodes of 2012 (Part 4 of 5)

Welcome to Part Four. If you missed the first three, just look to your right and there they are.

THE RIVER--"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"--Story By Zack Estrin, Written By Aron Eli Coeite & Michael Green; Directed By Gary Fiedler

The River aired for seven weeks in early 2012. Not many people watched the series. I wrote about each episode. It was the most fun I had writing reviews this series, not counting my night with Brenda Hampton's Secret Life show. The River represents something I'd like network and cable to do more: just make entertaining shows that don't obsess in grounding their narrative to avoid the audience leaving because they don't want to suspend disbelief. The River was ridiculous, silly, and fun to watch AND write about. I dug the visual style, and the various stories they told. The series finale set the story up for a cool second season that I speculated would resemble The Twilight Zone. I didn't expect the series to get renewed, though.

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" isn't really a favorite episode of mine. I wanted to mention the whole series and chose its finale randomly. "The Experiment," which the penultimate episode of the series, is cooler and features the crazy girl from the Paranormal Activity movies. I noticed an abundance of high intensity dramas on Top Ten lists; you know, the shows that make one look good when announcing one watches a Mad Men or Breaking Bad, like a person will think, "He likes a show I like and therefore must be a good person." I stand by including this nonsense show in the best episodes series.

BEN AND KATE--"Pilot"--Written By Dana Fox; Directed By Jake Kasadan



Ben And Kate is a funny show. I loved the "Pilot" because it reminded me of my own writing. That's probably the worst reason to include a show on this list. I wrote about this episode and episode #2 before deciding to continue with Go On for the rest of the TV season. Unlike most shows I write about and then stop writing about, I still watch Ben And Kate. Nat Faxon cracks me up. It's a sweet show. The comedy's up my alley.

SHERLOCK--"The Reichenbach Fall"--Written By Steve Thompson; Directed By Toby Haynes

I'm double-dipping with Sherlock. Yesterday, I celebrated "The Hounds of Baskerville." "The Reichenbach Fall" is an amazing episode of television. I won't write much about it lest anyone reading hasn't watched Sherlock and wants to. Moriarty returns and creates chaos throughout London. Sherlock's relationship with Moriarty is fascinating. I began reading D.T. Max's DFW biography. Max includes DFW explaining the 'click' of things, like when he realized the power of literature or a difficult school subject. Sherlock series one concluded with a Moriarty episode but I didn't hear the click. I heard the click in "The Reichenbach Fall." Watch this series just for this episode.

GRIMM--"Woman In Black"--Written By Jim Kouf & David Greenwalt; Directed By Norberto Barba

Grimm's season one finale captures the best parts of Grimm. Its exciting, enlightening, surprising, and serialized. Hank's near madness from seeing Wesen turn in broad daylight. Nick fights Adalind and removes the hexenbiest from her, but she takes someone from his life--his Juliette, who treats a cat and winds up losing her memory of Nick. The scene of the episode is Nick telling Juliette about his other life in the pouring rain. Grimm got increasingly better throughout the first season, with gems few and far between. "Woman In Black" propelled the show into an explosive open to season two.

BUNHEADS--"Pilot"--Written & Directed By Amy Sherman-Palladino

Bunheads proved to be a bit much for a guy like me after the second episode. I really dug the "Pilot." Amy Sherman-Palladino's stories have charm. I was disarmed. I smiled along to the bunhead teenagers learning to dance. I watched the episode on a summer night. I considered writing about it, but "For Fanny" lost my interest. The quirky way the characters grieved perplexed me. I'm familiar with the language and voice of other notable show-runners, but Amy Sherman's Gilmore Girls didn't engage me. I just didn't relate to the show's sense of grief. The initial episode is quality television, as I'm sure the rest of the series is.

Part 5 posts tomorrow!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best Episodes of 2012 (Part 3 of 5)

It’s the third day of the best episodes list, and I worry I’ll fail to get to 25 episodes for the second year in a row. One would think I’d include more shows I write reviews for every week, but most of those shows aren’t good, and I don’t like their episodes. So, let’s hope I get to 25, which I may if I double dip enough. Double-dipping is the worst with communal dip and it’s just as bad with TV in my opinion. Anyway, if you missed the first two parts, click here and here. Please enjoy Part 3!

SOUTH PARK--"Cash For Gold"--Written & Directed By Trey Parker


"Cash For Gold" may be a controversial pick for one of the best episodes of 2012 since it may or may not behind other episodes in the latest South Park season. South Park's going strong after sixteen seasons. Last year's "You're Getting Old" inspired folk to sound the death knell for the creative energy of Trey and Matt. Trey and Matt responded by saying that wasn't the case. "Cash For Gold" is the second episode of season sixteen. It takes aim at home shopping networks for robbing the elderly. In South Park tradition, the cash for gold scheme that home shopping networks is revealed through a terrific montage. Trey's voice for the home shopping network is the reason I love "Cash For Gold." Trey's various voices are always hilarious, but the way he inflected words, like when he got any purchase from an elderly person, absolutely delighted me. Stan's disapproval of the host and his job responsibilities was another highlight.

GRIMM--"The Hour of Death"--Written By Sean Calder; Directed By Peter Werner

Hey, look, it's an episode of a show I write about regularly! Grimm's glaring weakness isn't really a weakness. NBC wants a procedural show with genre elements, and that's what David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf write. "The Hour of Death" is one of the best procedural episodes of the series because it's grounded in the premise of the series. What happens when a Bad Grimm shows up and starts killing all of the nice, innocent Wesen? The question leads to other questions about Nick's purpose as Grimm; but it highlights the change he's enacted, and it shows the necessity of progress. "The Hour of Death" is also a bad ass episode with a tight story that digs into the history of Grimm and that makes Nick more heroic.

MAD MEN--"Far Away Places"--Written By Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner; Directed By Scott Hornbacher

Mad Men returned in March after a near two year hiatus due to negotiation troubles between AMC and Matthew Weiner. The fifth season was beloved by critics. Mad Men tops the list of nearly every critics' top ten. Mad Men's a great show, but I don't share the same love for the series as many people do. Hitfix's Dan Fienberg remarked that Mad Men topping end-of-year Best Of lists might cause people to roll their eyes because Mad Men always receives critical praise and awards, but it's because Mad Men's that good every year. Is there a better series on television? It depends on your tastes and interests. I prefer Game of Thrones to Mad Men; however, there's no TV show on quite like Mad Men, structurally. "Far Away Places" is an example of Mad Men's unique structure and style.

Matt Weiner said the structure of the episode was inspired by French films that told three short stories in one film. "Far Away Places" consists of three short stories thematically connected by the desire to escape. For Peggy, she wants to escape from the stress of work, specifically the failure of a pitch, and so she goes to the movies, smokes pot, and performs a sex act on a stranger. She returns to the office and then hears a story from Ginsberg in which he calls himself a Martian. Roger and Jane attend a party and drop LSD, and then engage in a conversation long overdue about their marriage and the truth that it doesn't work. Don and Megan go away for the weekend to experience a Howard Johnsons. They get into a fight. Megan disappears. Don freaks. Don's unsettling violent side comes out. Roger's the only happy person at episode's end. It's the kind of episode that sticks with you, like a terrific short story.

TREME--"Promised Land"--Story By David Simon & Chris Rose/Teleplay By Chris Rose & Micah Kibodeux; Directed By Tim Robbins



Fans of The Wire never flocked to David Simon's series about post-Katrina New Orleans. The common reason is that Treme's boring, slow, lacks plot, and is basically a chore to get through. Many, many fans of The Wire watched The Wire after HBO ended the series because of poor ratings. Treme's ending even earlier than The Wire. After its five episode fourth season, the story of Treme will be complete. Of course, it's not the worst thing, because David Simon planned to tell the story in four seasons. Still, it's disappointing Treme's brushed off because of its style and how it's so not The Wire. Leo Tolstoy was never going to write a story as epic, amazing, and stunning as War & Peace, but Resurrection is very good, and Anna Karenina is great. The Wire happened, it will never happen again, but Treme is a great show that found its footing in the second season and then soared in the third.

"Carnival Time" in season two is my favorite episode of Treme. "Promised Land" comes close to matching the second season's Mardi Gras episode. The traditional Mardi Gras episode takes a break in plot and turns attention towards experiential postcards, though "Promised Land" has more plot in it. We still follow all the characters through the many aspects of Mardi Gras. Annie attends a memorial for Harley just like Toni attended one for Creighton. I love the details of Treme, e.g. the shot of Sofia watching Harley's memorial in the distance because she missed her father's last year in act of teenage rebellion. The still photo of Delmond, Chief, and family sitting around a TV watching a documentary on Katrina while knitting for Mardi Gras gives me chills, so you can figure how powerful the scene is. "Promised Land" builds on the past and the knowledge fans have of the characters. Also, it really makes me want to head to New Orleans to experience a Mardi Gras.

SHERLOCK--"The Hounds of Baskerville"--Written By Mark Gatiss; Directed By Paul McGuigan




"The Hounds of Baskerville" is one of the best adaptations of a story I've seen. Mark Gatiss modernizes Sir Arthur Conan's old story in a hauntingly chaotic way. The opening 30-35 minutes remind me of how Christopher Nolan shot and edited The Scarecrow's attacks of fear in Batman Begins. The storytelling of Sherlock is sometimes confusing. Gatiss' script doesn't hold the viewers hand; it runs with the speed of gazelle and expects the viewer to be as fast. "The Hounds of Baskerville" isn't even the best of the three episode second series. To use Future Ted's favorite phrase on HIMYM, I'll get to that.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Best Episodes of 2012 (Part 2 of 5)

Merry Christmas, friends and well-wishers. Welcome to Part 2 of The 25 Best Episodes of 2012. If you missed part one, just click this. Otherwise, let's just dive right into the next batch of my favorite episodes from the calendar year.

PARENTHOOD--"What to My Wandering Eyes"--Written By Jason Katims; Directed By Hanelle Culpepper

I don't watch Parenthood regularly. The series premiered four years ago. Three seasons passed without much interest from me. I loved Friday Night Lights, though. Jason Katims brought in many of the FNL writers to work on Parenthood. Why wasn't I watching nor even interested? I don't know. A strange thing happened this fall, which is to say it wasn't strange at all but just a common expression to use, when I'd finish writing my latest riveting review of Matthew Perry's Go On. Parenthood would be on NBC, and I watched more intently each week as I put the finishing touches on Go On and posted it. It just so happened Parenthood was telling a story about a sick parent/wife and I have a personal history with a sick parent. So, I became, as it were, engrossed with Parenthood's cancer story.

Go On didn't air the night "What to My Wandering Eyes" did. I watched the episode without the distraction of the bog post. Monica Potter's Kristina goes into septic shock the week of Christmas and hits a critical point on Christmas Eve. The Bravermans join together to pray and hope for a happy outcome. The episode's no more melodramatic than any episode of Everwood from Everwood's excellently told cancer arc from the end of the third season. Peter Krause and Craig T. Nelson are part of one of the best scenes of the episode, but the scene of the episode features Kristina's Jen-from-the-Dawson's-Creek series finale moment in which she talks to her kids about what she loves about them and imparting words she might never get to if cancer takes her from them. "What to My Wandering Eyes" stuck with me after watching it, which is why I included it. I watch many, many episodes of TV in a calendar year (and even write about most of what I watch), but not many stick with me like this episode did. That means something.

LAST RESORT--"Captain"--Written By Karl Gajdusek & Shawn Ryan; Directed By Martin Campbell


I wanted to write reviews of Last Resort episodes, but its timeslot, plus other stuff, made it quite difficult to watch the show, let alone write about it. "Captain" is a kick ass beginning to the series. Its intense, energetic, and reminded me of Leo Tolstoy's musings on the idea of history and the people responsible for history versus historians who can't always be trusted (it's a good thing). Andre Braugher was terrific as the captain who refuses to obey orders. Scott Speedman portrayed the good old fashioned All American boy that follows his captain without a second thought. This episode's about the consequences of rejecting an order given by the government. The government bombs its own submarine. The crew takes shelter on an island and threatens to launch their nuclear missiles if the government attacks them. At the end of a two minute monologue to end the episode, Braugher menacingly utters, "You've been warned." It felt like a condensed summer popcorn flick but one that wasn't made by Brett Ratner or Michael Bay, because Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek are smart and talented writers who know the value of writing over expensive CGI.

THE SIMPSONS--"A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again"--Written By Matt Warburton; Directed By Chris Clements

The majority of Simpsons fans stopped watching the series a decade ago. I'm one of them. The terrible stretch in the early to middle aughts lost me. The Simpsons I loved disappeared. The movie in 2007 was the best Simpsons thing I'd seen since maybe 2001-02. I watch the random repeat on FOX from a season two or three years ago, and I'm more accepting of what the show is now and aware it won't return to the quality of its first decade run.

"A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again" tells the story of Bart Simpson's boredom and subsequent desire to take a week-long cruise. There's a montage early on of Bart sitting on his couch, watching television, and looking like boredom personified. The screen breaks into five strips, depicting the same thing for Bart. He's in a rut and bummed out by the drudgery of everyday life and wants to have fun. An ad for a cruise ship inspires him to sell all of his possessions to afford the cruise, but his possessions don't sell for the price of the vacation. Marge and Homer sell a valuable item of theirs to make the trip happen. The cruise is everything Bart expected. Near its end, he falsely reports a pandemic so the cruise never docks and he never has to return to the drudgery of everyday existence. The highlight of the pandemic subplot is Treat Williams' cameo as the star of the film. Treat doesn't recognize himself in the movie because he's in so damn many.

Bart's problem is a very adult one. The title pays tribute to the late David Foster Wallace and his essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," (or "Shipping Out") which a 100+ page account of his seven days on a cruise ship. Wallace's non-fiction and fiction dealt the drudgery and tedium of adulthood and how to overcome it. The answer's not simple nor easy nor clear, and it takes a tremendous amount of will-power and mental determination to see beyond the trees in the forest. Bart's sad about coming home because he thinks he'll never get away from the tedium and that he'll never have fun again. Lisa helps her brother feel better by telling him what it takes to have fun in the midst of the drudgery and tedium of everyday life--appreciate the good moments. The coda of the episode is of Bart in an elderly home, smiling back on the memory of all the fun he had over the years. Bart imagined an unhappy and unsatisfying adult life where he's either a stripper, an overweight man who washes himself with a stick, or a wash-out as seen in "Lisa's Wedding." But, here, Bart's at peace and content, and happy most of all.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES--"Bringing Out the Dead"--Written Turi Meyer & Al Septien; Directed By Jeffrey Hunt

For a hyper-insane and intense show about vampires, Julie Plec and staff really nail the human drama aspect of the show, like when Caroline's going to lose her father because he'd rather die than become a vampire. It's not often I'm actually bummed about a review not catching the eye of the interweb, but I was bummed when my "Bringing Out the Dead" didn't catch the eye of the interweb. Meyer and Septien's script depicted approaching death in a quiet and measured way. There were no stirring speeches nor histrionics. Bill was going to die, and Caroline just needed to brace for it. This episode aired two weeks after the wonderful "Our Town," which is another Caroline centric story that's moving.

TVD's amazing when the action never ceases and the writers cover four episodes of plot in four acts. The break-neck pace of any episode helps makes scenes like everyone remembering who they lost in "Memorial" more special; or, in this case, Elena and Caroline's conversation on a porch as her father slowly passes away inside. The writing, acting, and direction was incredibly moving. I haven't been more moved by a scene in 2012 than Caroline's scene with Elena. It hit close to home.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: NO RESERVATIONS--"Mozambique"


Anthony Bourdain announced his move from Travel to CNN shortly after No Reservations opened its season with "Mozambique." Bourdain's time in Mozambique is one of my favorite episodes of No Reservation. Mozambique's a post-colonial country in Africa, which just fascinates me since I studied post-colonial literature in college. Bourdain explores the history of the country and showcases its culture. Let's hope Bourdain's pieces for CNN will resemble the "Mozambique" episode.
We've reached the end of Part 2, but Part 3 will be post sometime tomorrow.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Episodes of 2012 (Part 1 of 5)

I still haven't an idea about the prominence of Best Of lists at year's end, but I presume it involves a desire to catalogue, collect, and make sense of the year, like, this is what happened this year. These lists are taken very seriously by TV, Film, and Book critics. The Foot does not take the Best 25 episodes of 2012 seriously. I don't numerically rank the episodes in descending order, and I don't try to cover the entire landscape of scripted television shows. It's impossible; I have a difficult time keeping up with the shows I do watch and/or write about.

Television critics described 2012 as a particularly good year for scripted dramas and comedies. I must've missed all of the good shows. TV in 2012, in my estimation, was average; however, I watch way too many network dramas and miss out on the better shows on cable, which is my fault; so, don't expect any episodes from Breaking Bad, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Parks & Recs, Archer, 30 Rock, etc. Still, it's not like I don't watch any quality shows. There are so many great episodes of television throughout a calendar year; even on the networks there are shows that show what TV's able to do versus movies.

So, without further ado, let's begin the celebration of my twenty five favorite episodes of TV:

THE WALKING DEAD--"Killer Within"--Written By Sang Yu Kim; Directed By Guy Ferland



The Walking Dead's second season was a well-documented disaster. Long stretches of narrative nothingness rendered the show a laughing-stock. Carl became the walking punch-line of the show. The audience didn't care about the characters. Glen Mazarra, the now former show runner of The Walking Dead, took over the reins around the mid-point of season two. The back-end of season two is very strong; the last two episodes are the highlights. The narrative momentum carried into the third season, which didn't stop to take a breath until its hiatus hit in mid-December. Truthfully, I felt confident in Mazarra's abilities to transform the show. His interviews with Ben Blacker showed a man who clearly knew what the problems were, and who clearly knew he and his staff crafted a kick-ass third season.

The highlight of the first half of season three is the fourth episode, "Killer Within." Rick and the gang cleared out portions of the prison for safe shelter in the previous episodes. Out of nowhere, in "Killer Within," a siren blares and a zombie outbreak happens, which was caused by one of the  prisoners Rick left to die earlier in the season. Zombies are everywhere, characters are in peril, and Lori goes into labor. Lori's story elevates this episode from what was already a great episode into an unforgettable one. The human drama of The Walking Dead intrigued me the most when I read the press release for the show prior to the series pilot, as well as the tidbits I heard about Robert Kirkman's comic book series--that this is a show about human beings in impossible circumstances and how they react. Lori's son, Carl, is put into the most impossible of situations when his mother states what she wants to happen to get her baby into the world. Guy Ferland's direction combined with Kim's script and the magnificent acting from Sarah Wayne Collies and Chandler Riggs achieves a rare instance of perfection for The Walking Dead. I sat on the edge of my seat as the moment approached for Carl, and when it happened I was completely affected and moved. Andrew Lincoln's crippling sobs to end the episode were a very fitting close.

LOUIE--"New Year's Eve"--Written & Directed By Louie C.K.



Louie's second season is among my favorite seasons of television, which joins LOST's first season, Community's second season, Everwood's first season, Buffy's third season, ANGEL's second season, etc. Louie's third season took more chances and opened the narrative. It's a more ambitious season than the previous two. Louie spent three episodes trying to become Letterman's replacement in a bizarre homage to the Rocky Films, and no one will forget Parker Posey's two episode arc, especially part two which decapitated the hearts and minds of critics, fans and bloggers.

"New Year's Eve" closed the third season; it followed the three part Late Night episodes. Louie told Bill Simmons during a podcast that he spent three days shooting in China. I constantly wondered which episode would bring Louie to China and how. "New Year's Eve" takes him to China because he wants to see the Yangtze River. He reads to Lily a story about ducklings going to the Yangtze River earlier in the episode. This episode packs in the essence of Louie--it's bizarre, surreal, heartfelt, deeply lonely, and almost out of nowhere breathtakingly hopeful. There's a terrific extended sequence of Louie fixing a doll he purchased for his daughter. Amy Poehler stops by as one of Louie's sisters to invite him on vacation with her family because she hates the idea of him spending the holidays alone. Louie runs into Liz, Parker Posey's character, and meets her face to face only to watch fall sick and die hours later in a hospital room (which many theorized was a dream sequence). So, Louie decides to travel to China to look at the Yangtze River. When he arrives, it's barely a river and more of a brook; so, he then wanders around lost until he runs into villagers and they invite him for lunch. What follows is a tremendous scene of people from two different cultures connecting despite the language barrier. It is a wonderful image to close on.

WILFRED--"Letting Go"--Written By Reed Agnew & Eli Jorné

Wifred's my favorite FX series now. Its second season was better than Louie's third season, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia had an inconsistent ten episode eighth season. Wilfred's very funny. Jason Gann and Elijah Wood are spectacular as a duo. Aside from the comedy, I dig the mythology of the show. Who is Wilfred? What's really going in Ryan's head? The show explores these issues in gripping ways, like the episode when Ryan blows off a date because he chose to spend 12 hours in a basement playing nonsense games with a crazy man and a dog. Ryan, afterwards, asks himself, "What's wrong with me?" Loneliness is a theme the show tackles excellently. Among the most heartbreaking scenes of season two involves a terribly sad Ryan who finally admits that his problem isn't Wilfred, but himself, because he's lonely. Wilfred rests his paw on Ryan's hand to comfort him.

"Letting Go" isn't about Ryan's psyche or his loneliness; it's about Wilfred's desire to win a dog competition, and it is awesome and funny. Jason Gann's amazing in each scene Wilfred challenges different dogs he sees as well as when we learn about his rivalry with other dogs. Wilfred starts taking steroids to gain a competitive advantage. Ryan helps him break from the steroids. Also, Wilfred's trying to get attention from Drew, Jenna's alpha male boyfriend portrayed by the great Chris Klein. Drew's the reason Wilfred's competing and roidin' up. It's one of the funniest episodes of 2012, and it's the first episode that came to mind as I thought about which shows I watched and which episode I liked best.

AWAKE--"Pilot"--Written By Kyle Killen; Directed By David Slade

Awake had the best Pilot of 2012. I stopped watching the series after Laura Innes showed up, though. Kyle Killen's "Pilot" told a moving story about pain, loss, and the difficulty of moving on after a tragedy. The show's hero exists in two worlds after a tragic car crash killed his wife and son; however, his wife exists in one world whereas his son exists in the other. I like to think TV's best episodes can stand-alone, like short stories and short-films. I've repeated my wish to match the quality of a great LOST episode. I don't want to be Spielberg or Peter Jackson or James Cameron. If I could match the emotional quality of Awake's story, and its cinematic look, I'd be content. I watched a good amount of Pilots in the last year and even wrote about most of them. Awake's the only Pilot that stuck with me. I remember scenes like I watched it a few minutes ago instead of a few months ago.

ALPHAS--"Gaslight"--Written By Terri Hughes & Rob Bilmauer; Directed By Leslie Libman



"Gaslight" is one of the coolest ghost stories I've watched or read. Alphas is a little known series on SyFy about a group of people with extraordinary powers and who work together to help others and stop other Alphas using their abilities to do bad stuff. Trust me: it's infinitely better than Tim Kring's HEROES. Seasons one and two of Alphas were great. Season 2 took the characters to darker places, even to the edge if the story dictated it. "Gaslight" isn't one of those really dark or edgy episodes, but it's creative and incredibly cool.

"Gaslight" isn't actually a ghost story--it just appears to be one. In fact, it uses the concept of gaslighting, combines it with the mythos of the story and the main narrative arc of the season, to produce a visually gripping and substantial episode in which the characters need to figure out what the hell is going on in this hospital. Gary gets the best lines, as always, and even dons a suit (for Anna's memorial, which is a rich source of texture and substance this episode). Alphas is a great show because of the terrific writing for the characters. People care about this show because people care about the characters. The characters have been strongly written since the "Pilot." The bonus for Alphas is that it doesn't rest its laurels on the characters--the writers think up really interesting and engaging stories.

So that's it for Part 1. Part 2 posts tomorrow with five more episodes.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thoughts on Hawaii Five-O's Third Season So Far

I promised to write about Hawaii Five-O three times during season three. No one remembers but me. I really disliked the second season of the show. The third season opened with the same nonsense, but three months have passed. Season 3 has been a mix of the adventurous fun of the first season and the serialized nonsense of the second. Terry O'Quinn left, only to be replaced by Christine Lahti. Both actors share an experience with a character rarely seen and horribly written, with backstories that could put a hyena to sleep within 30 seconds. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the third season thus far:

-Christine Lahti's addition as Steve's mother has been underwhelming. The Joe White story took me out of the show completely last season. My eyes gloss over whenever Lahti shows up. The 22 episode beast of network television dictates the rhythm of the storytelling, so Lahti disappears for stretches. One week she's with friends off the main land, the next week she's elsewhere (because Lahti's an expensive talent). Her arc is fragmented, and Steve will fight crime and kick ass for six or more weeks without talking about his mother; however, she'll return and so will the Steve's emotions, and Wo-Fat will be back to reveal family treachery. Steve will become a cop living on the edge, and Scott Caan will yell at him to think about what he's doing. I hope Lenkov dropped the story and that the second half of the season will involve Kanekoma's courting of Christine Lahti, with all of the dates on the helicopter, and with a buffet of shrimp.

-The Halloween episode was the worst of the season. Basically, it made no sense. Imagine the worst kind of torture porn plot mixed with Friday the 13th and a CW TV Movie of the Week, and that was Hawaii Five-O's Halloween episode. It involved ritualistic murders, a murderous grandmother pulling the strings, and a moment that made the HoYay fans of Steve/Danny excite. The message boards for the show were crazy about the halloween episode. Subsequently, Danny's flashback episode, in which we learned 9/11 saved his life, put me to sleep, and it was met with great praise. The stand-alone adventures are hit-or-miss in general. Procedural show runners usually possess a huge ego. One show runner commented that he or she had an endless amount of stories to tell in the procedural format. The problem is that an endless amount of stories is going to have many horrible episodes. Procedurals aren't difficult to write. They populate the network TV landscape. Of course, many of the procedurals are forgotten about the second the end credits arrive. Hawaii Five-O needs to tell gripping stand-alone case stories for the bulk of their seasons, which means it's difficult to make all of them worth the viewer's time. The halloween episode didn't bother with resolution. The 9/11 story happened, and Danny didn't feel any complex emotions about America's most tragic day being responsible for his life. Now, in the third season, its relying on lazy tropes for action sequences, especially chase scenes. Red herrings will run for their life, only to reveal their innocence and then prove it. It's definitely frustrating to watch a procedural every week. It takes me weeks to catch up because of the transportation to a boring and rote story week after week.

-The best episodes of the show are about the team, e.g. the Tom Arnold episode where he threatens Grace's Aloha Girls group with a gun, takes Steve and a little girl hostage, and moves everyone into action to save Steve. Tom Arnold's episode is basically an adventure procedural's take on the classic film, Carpool. Tom Arnold's just carrying a real gun instead of a fancy lighter. Of course, episodes about the team can suck. Any time Kono finds herself in trouble is always a bad episode. Chin-Ho's grief over his murdered wife didn't get an episode. A potentially touching story was reduced to a few beats. I forget what the case of the week was, but Chin-Ho's emotional beats were sacrificed for stupid case of the week stuff. The season premiere established arcs for the characters, but their arcs disappeared. There's no through-line for the characters, besides Steve this season. The increased emphasis on Steve and Danny's bromance leaves Chin and Kno out. Chin's wife has been forgotten; Kono's boyfriend is back, with a brother who's trouble, but neither man appeared in last night's episode. Character development happens in the beginning and end of an episode, with basically zero during the middle. Masi Oka's Max is a brilliant coroner who gets to tell Steve about a victim's cause of death and then eat shrimp at episode's end. Two weeks ago, Max got a date with a bank teller. Naturally, she's absent from the next two episodes. Minor characters related to secondary characters don't carry over; there's a lack of history in this show. When's the last time Danny mentioned the custody battle for Grace (maybe it was resolved)?

-Last night's highlight was recognizing the prisoner from The Walking Dead who hit on Carol as the bad guy. He had wore the same hair style but had even more facial hair. The actual episode was about Steve helping a 13 year old who reminded him of himself as a 13 year old, right down to the same parental situation. I loved Kanekoma buying a helicopter without a license. The rest of the episode was dull and full of unnecessary 'turns.' The parallels between Steve and the kid were weak. Steve and the kid didn't share enough scenes. Catherine stood in for Steve and resembled a mother figure, something which I might write about in May if Catherine doesn't disappear.

-Season 3 hasn't told much of a story, so it's difficult to write about. The stories are small, self-contained case-of-the-weeks. The new year should get back to what Hawaii Five-O does worst: serialized storytelling.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "The Final Page, Part One And Two" Review

How I Met Your Mother two-part episodes aren't cohesive. I wanted to approach "The Final Page" the way I approach hour-long drama episodes, but HIMYM makes it impossible. The only tie between the two episodes is the title. Marshall and Lily's arc in part two is completely different from their arc in part one; Barney disappears in part two; Ted needs validation from a professor who thought he wouldn't become an architect in part one in preparation of his building's grand opening and entrance into the New York skyline, but he's all about Robin in part two. Robin's slightly connected to Barney in part one through her desire to fire Patrice for dating him, but Barney's jinxed into silence for part one and can only speak when he needs to divulge a wildly unnecessary plan to finally win back Robin's heart. So, where to begin?

Barney proposed to Robin on top of the Worldwide News building, bringing to conclusion the nonsense weeks of set-up to their inevitable re-coupling. Patrice-Barney was a waste of a time, but it wasn't a waste of time in regards to how I, and others, thought it'd be a waste of time. HIMYM's as comfortable wasting time as a living being is drinking water, but they had a plan for wasting time with Barney and Patrice. I'm frustrated by watching network television for many reasons, but chief among them is the sense of time-wasting by the writers, like a soccer team in the lead in stoppage time. HIMYM, though, can't tell a story without needlessly stringing along the audience, wasting time, and leaving one with feeling that the preceding storytelling wasn't worth it. Future Ted's arduous tale of meeting his wife won't be worth the eight or nine seasons it took to tell the story. I guarantee that. Barney's journey to the rooftop with Robin was a microcosm of the show.

The last act of the two-part episode is a multi-minute montage of The Robin, the final page and play in the playbook. Barney traces the play's beginning to its end, sixteen steps in all, from the display in the yogurt shop to their meeting on the rooftop in the moment. The play has elements of HIMYM-specific humor like the jarring revelation that Barney's installed secret cameras in the apartments of his friends, and the confident smirk that crosses his face whenever another step in the play works. The play itself stretches credulity, but HIMYM exists in the bizarre sitcom universe where a college friend of Lily and Marshall's spent sixteen years waiting to reunite with them to hand them a check for $100,000, so the nonsensical incredulity of the play isn't worth picking nits with. Through one lens, Barney's play is incredibly romantic. Anyone who swears by the late 90s rom-com Drive Me Crazy probably thought Barney was the most romantic fictional character ever created as he gazed meaningfully at the woman, as she absorbed the significance of the final play.

Barney's plan touched on Ted's feelings for the woman. The A story of part two focused on Ted's feelings for the woman. The time for the two characters passed. Ted's longing for Robin should've passed. Ted and Marshall talk about Ted's role in Barney's impending engagement. Marshall, like he did last season, insists he go for Robin. Barney swore Ted to secrecy about the proposal of marriage to Patrice because he needed to know that Ted let go of her. Ted tells Robin everything and sends her up to stop the engagement and win the love of her life back from her nemesis Patrice. The gesture connotes Ted's lasting love for the girl, which means that he loves her enough to give her away, grant his blessing to a friend who loves her more than he. Ted looks like Ben Affleck after Alyssa flips out at him for declaring his love to her in the rain knowing she's a lesbian (all that Radnor lacked was the goatee). Their story finished last season. Victoria left Ted for the reasons she wouldn't get back with him early in season seven: Robin. Last season, Victoria's reservations felt genuine; it was a genuinely intriguing story for the show to tell because Robin was The Girl for Ted in the early seasons. Now, the wedding/Farhampton/the girl seems a reward for Ted's selflessness rather than a cosmic fated event. Ted and his wife will always be connected to Ted's ever-lasting feelings for Aunt Robin.

The other stories weren't anything special. Marshall and Lily, in part one, try to avoid Seth Green's Daryl, an old college friend, who loved the one time he played hacky sack with them. (Hacky sack was a popular thing in the mid-to-late 90s and early 00s.) They fear he'll murder them because they're judgmental so-and-so's and lose out on $100,000 for fearing him. Daryl learns he never needed the validation of two people who never cared for him. Seth Green and Alyson Hanigan were reunited on-screen. Unfortunately, they worked with much worse writing. Alexis Denisof also returned as Sandy, and I felt joy seeing three Whedon alums on screen. In the second part, Marshall and Lily try to enjoy an evening alone but separation anxiety ruins their night out.

Ted, meanwhile, enjoys the opening of his New York skyscraper. He sought validation from an old professor who didn't believe in him, which is a common theme for any creator where he or she is a writer, painter, architect, musician, etc. Kevin Williamson's first script was about a teacher who thought he'd never write; of course, Williamson's first produced credit was the genre-busting Scream that ushered in a new era for horror film in the mid-90s and on.

HIMYM two-part episodes indirectly reveals its hollowness. There aren't carry-overs from the previous episode into "The Final Page, Part Two." Things happen in HIMYM. Specific emotions come back when it's convenient, but Bays and Thomas and the other writers would rather throw characterization out to make a stupid gimmick work. Basically, stuff happens in these two episodes. Some of it matters, and some of it doesn't. I don't care about any of it.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "O Come, All Ye Faithful" Review

Klaus' little monologue about loneliness seemed out of nowhere when it happened. The monologue touched on TVD's more unsettling themes, which Stefan picked up on in the Salvatore family room when he thought out loud about the guilt he felt for trying to put Klaus to sleep for a long time. Hayley walks away from Klaus as Stefan approaches. Klaus wondered why he was being distracted, listened to Stefan's half-truth, and then launched into a monologue about loneliness' relationship with violence for the vampire. It's a bizarre monologue to listen to. Joseph Morgan delivered it with tremendous feeling, which added a touch of poetry to a bizarre utterance. Klaus uttered it knowing he'd murder the twelve hybrids that betrayed him.

Meanwhile, Stefan's pondering why any of them, including him, assume moral superiority over anyone else because they've all done bad things. TVD basically posed this question: what's redeemable about any of the characters? What does separate the good from the bad? Is the show more interested in portraying humans as not good or bad but as complicated and flawed? Is TVD now a show that ponders the Dostoevsky quote about the difficulty of understanding the criminal?

The worst character of the first season became the revolutionary figure in tonight's episode. Tyler Lockwood existed as a scumbag in season one, continued as a scumbag, became a werewolf, struggled during full moons, and eventually found himself as a protector of the other Hybrids and as a devoted son and boyfriend. Tyler reacted with horror when he found his hybrid friend sacrificed for the sake of a tattoo. He raised a good point by asking what gave Stefan, Caroline and Jeremy the agency to choose whose worth saving and whose worth killing for whatever they need to get. Tyler's plan for Klaus was to put him asleep, go to the ground for a couple months with Klaus in his body, while the hybrids escaped into a free life. Stefan and Caroline wanted to stop the plan because of Klaus' sword that will decipher the hunter's map. Tyler says no and reaffirms the plan. Stefan and Caroline won't decide who gets to live and who gets to die. The 'For Elena' response doesn't work.

Tyler's plan is doomed, though. Caroline and Stefan couldn't decide who lives and who dies, but Hayley worked behind the scenes to ensure the deaths of the people she helped over a span of weeks, all to meet her parents who aren't alive anymore. Klaus murdered the hybrids in the Mystic Falls woods, a place that bore resemblance to Klaus' post-modern painting of snowfall in a forest (Stefan described it as post-modern, not me). The themes of the episode boiled down to Trust. Tyler trusted the wrong person and paid for it dearly; his friends, and his mother, were murdered by Klaus. Caroline felt like she needed to tell Stefan the truth about Damon and Elena. He trusted her, and she wasn't honest with him. Elena took Jeremy to the Gilbert lake house to re-program his brain so he wouldn't try to kill her each time he saw her. She trusted she'd reach through the hunter and touch the little brother who grew up with her and stood by her while everyone they cared about got hurt or died.

Jeremy's re-programming is an after-thought in the Lake House story. The episodes more concerned about Elena and Damon's relationship and with Shane's exposition about finding the cure. Jeremy's a source of emotional manipulation. He's healed by romantic feelings for Bonnie, his detour from murder, i.e. a constant like Penny for Desmond in LOST. Elena trusts Shane because he's a college professor, articulates well, and shows off rocks during stories about ancient Silas and witch. Damon wants to kill him with an ax. Shane's a different villain for the gang because of his articulation, lack of menace, and genuine effort to help them (even if it's a load of crap). Shane explains the Silas again and offers more specifics about the getting the cure, but he's the untrustworthy antagonist who got Hayley to sacrifice twelve hybrids for him, who's involved in Pastor Young's sacrifice of the council (another group of twelve); so, yes, something's rotten in the town of Mystic Falls. It's good, though--better than the never-ending Original story of season 3. Oh wait, the Original nonsense CONTINUES.

Klaus was strangely neutered until the episode, except for the cruel dagger to Rebekah's chest. I saw comparisons of Klaus to Buffy's Spike. Klaus' brutal massacre un-neutered him (he was never close to Spike in characterization). I'm disappointed pissed off Big Bad Klaus is back because that well is dry. Rebekah's going to be undaggered by April and want her revenge. The Original narrative goes round and round and round. Stefan's moment of consideration for Klaus suggests he'll be crucial to stopping Shane's plan.

In a show full of characters who commit reprehensible acts, atonement's just an active choice away for any of the characters. The characters realize they've brought about the tragedy they experienced, so I wonder will the show choose to tell a story about recovery and atonement in season five or six; but, probably, the body count will continue to rise, the characters will make darker choices, and it'll be a harder show to love.

Other Thoughts:

-Damon freed Elena from the sire bond. She insists she feels different to what she's doing when she says that, which is leave the Gilbert Lake House because he told her to. Damon will stay with Jeremy to complete the map sans possibility of sibling murder. Stefan reacted badly to news of Damon and Elena's copulation.

-Steven R. McQueen chopped wood for no reason other than TVD is a CW show watched primarily by females 18-34.

-Candace Accola looked pretty in her all-white wardrobe. Caroline's neck was broken by Hayley. April found her dead on the floor. Caroline's compulsion fails on her because April wears a vervain bracelet. I feel like April's arc is going to have a worthwhile pay-off.

-TVD abuses contemporary pop and alt-pop songs. Every scene in the final act had terrible music playing over it to intensify the beats or whatever. Let the scenes breathe, TVD.

-Michael J. Cinquemani & Julie Plec wrote the episode. Pascal Verschooris directed it.

-New episodes return on January 17, 2013.
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Arrow "Year's End" Review

Arrow was pre-empted by the CW Philly affiliate because of the 121212 Sandy Benefit concert. "Year's End" will officially air on Saturday night. I watched the episode OnDemand because I'm a dedicated blogger. So, here are some thoughts about last night's Arrow:

-Andrew Kreisburg hyped the appearance of The Dark Archer in a tweet last night. Deathstroke showed up, too. I'm honestly clueless about the Arrow mythos. The Dark Archer's anticipated appearance meant nothing to me. I expected Deathstroke to act as both villains, his first identity and then The Dark Archer. Duality's not a rare thing in comic books. I'm not an avid comic book reader, but I know of comics that pitted the Good hero versus the Bad hero. Superman can be pitted against himself whenever he's exposed to the bad kind of kryptonite. The Dark Archer is an intriguing villain because he's the opposite of the Green Arrow. Arrow's Dark Archer is a hulking beast of a figure with a mask that resembles the ninjas working for Snyder in the 3 Ninjas, and a voice that's deep and menacing. Oliver scares the citizens of Starling City with archery; The Dark Archer kills them with it.

Oliver's a beaming vigilante in the beginning of the episode. During a workout with Diggle, he remarks on how the city's most corrupt give up before he has to get nasty. Real change is happening throughout Starling City. The plan's running smoothly. Oliver's so goddamn confident; he turns his attention to bringing Christmas back to the Queen mansion. Meanwhile, The Dark Archer's building bombs, killing folk, and luring Oliver out to where he can figure out the identity of The Hood. The Dark Archer works for people who'd like to know who's in possession of The List and taking vigilante action to bring those in The List to justice. Oliver gets his ass kicked when he battles his new enemy and lands in the hospital (after saving hostages but they were just used to get Oliver into the same space). The Dark Archer is Mr. Merlyn himself, The Barrowman, and he's actively pushing forward a plan to make Starling City what it always should've been. The gleam in his eye suggests a sort of utopian place for rich folk. The showdown showed Oliver's weakness, which isn't strength but a lack of knowledge about what's really going on.

The flashbacks to the island involved Oliver's mentor being taken by Deathstroke. Oliver watched. The leader of the group explained the island as a prison. I can't remember the specifics of the first part of the flashback, because I watched it after 7AM and didn't finish the episode until a half-hour ago. It's inevitable the two worlds will collide; the flashbacks also depicted Oliver's maturation into the badass archer. At the hospital, Oliver ponders the idea that a web of evil exists in Starling City. His mistake is in separating The Dark Archer from the Evil. They're one in the same, a family friend, and Oliver's journey's going to be more engaging the more personal it becomes.

-The Christmas party is a way to bring together familial tensions in one swift act. Tommy and Laurel make an appearance for the expected 'Laurel tells Oliver she wants him, but Oliver can't act on it because his best friend will be even sadder without Laurel.' Tommy's already a sad dude WITH her. Thea's continually written in horrible storyline. "Year's End" introduced a son of a bitch teenage male who tries to get his jawn on with her, and Oliver nearly goes Dawson Leery when he finds Thea in a state of undress during the Christmas party. The writers need to think about Thea for more than two seconds. Don't throw Thea into horrible stories about sex and drugs and how it's all because she's mad Oliver came home with a beard and secrets. The writers used portions of nine episodes to show brother and sister are fundamentally different people now and that they must accept the new version of each other.

-Walter got kidnapped by a Merlyn man. The problem with the Company, or whatever the hell they're called, is in the vague writing. Besides frantic declarations from Robert Queen, Oliver's basically operating on a book filled with names written in invisible ink. I don't really know what their plan is, why Robert had to die, and why Robert wanted to expose them. The best is yet to come in Arrow. "Year's End" was sort of bland, with the fight between the two archers as the lone highlight of the episode. The writers have established/introduced conflicts, tensions, mythos, etc., but 2013 is when all of the good stuff will pay off.

-Willa Holland’s Christmas party dress was smashing. I’ve never been so jealous of a fictional character in my life, I.e. the so-and-so who tried to get his jawn on with her. That’s the most pathetic sentence I’ve written in my blog. Oh well.

-The show will return with new episodes on January 16. Friends and well-wishers, I wish you the happiest of holidays. Bookmark the blog for I will continue writing new posts even during the holiday hiatuses for shows I write about.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "The Over-Correction" Review

There was a lot to dislike in "The Over-Correction." Robin, Ted and Lily were involved in the worst kind of sitcom plot; Marshall learned his mother had sex with Lily's father. Robin, Ted, Lily, and Marshall were stuck in closets, either trapped, traumatized, or both. Is the closet a metaphor for the writers and their feelings of being trapped by a story that's been unnaturally extended for nearly four seasons? Once upon a time, How I Met Your Mother was a smart and original comedy that I contemplated buying the DVD sets of; now, my decision not to purchase the DVDs couldn't have been smarter. Bays and Thomas have never said what the critics wanted them to stay--they've stuck to their guns about the story they want to tell, which is fine, but please try once in awhile. "The Over-Correction" was lazy.

The title comes from the characters definition of someone over-correcting after something doesn't go their way, like a job opportunity or school election or a relationship. The disappointed person over-corrects, or over-compensates, to make up for the mistake. Following Ted's break-up with Victoria, we got a quick flash-cut to Ted dating an imprisoned woman who demands he hang up first lest he show his 'bitch' essence. The theory of the gang is that Barney's over-correcting for the Robin situation not working out by dating her complete opposite, and office nemesis, Patrice. The idea exists that Robin's insane behavior is evidence of her over-correcting for Barney rejecting her while she wore nothing but a coat and sexy lingerie. Robin acts stupidly throughout the episode while Barney seems happy and closer to the peace he's been after.

Barney's relationship with Patrice came out of nowhere last week, and it's sort of grounded through Barney's active behavior; however, it doesn't get any more than five, maybe six, beats. Barney's unaware of his three friends who're hiding in his apartment as he entertains Patrice for the evening and decorates the Christmas tree. Robin's idea about their relationship is supposed to be the audience's idea, too; that Barney's miserable and connected with the first nice soul he found on a sad night, but that he doesn't really love her and that he's 'over-correcting.' Barney's wonderfully underwritten. Neil Patrick Harris isn't straining to make a dumbass joke or gimmick work. He's watched, so the story never gets inside of his head. Robin wants Patrice to see The Playbook, the book containing Barney's tricks for getting women to sleep with him, so that she'll feel repulsed and leave him.

The process of Robin finding The Playbook is bad, as is her attempts to get Ted to help her. Ted's motivated by the desire to get his stuff back. Ted's friends borrowed Ted's stuff and never returned them, like a shirt from a school election, a cooler, red cowboy boots, a label maker, and a trash can. Meanwhile, Lily's also in Barney's apartment because she'd rather travel to pump breast milk than go into a room and lock a door. The expected gags ensue. Barney leaves; Robin tries to find the book, finds it, but must return to the closet because Barney's returning. This goes on and on, with Ted added, and then Lily. Ted's horrified whenever he locates another of his item, whether the items are ornaments or trash cans. Robin threatens Ted into helping with a photo of an army knife prepared to slice the cowboy boots.

Lily wants to talk sense into Robin. Robin ignores her and leaves The Playbook where Patrice will see it. Barney doesn't lie to her when confronted. Patrice is disgusted, repulsed, etc. Barney shows his commitment to a new life by throwing the book in Ted's trash can and lighting a match, burning not only the book but damaging Ted's trash can. Later, Robin urges her friends to help her intervene for Barney's sake. There's no way he's happy with Patrice, it can't be possible--that's what Robin thinks, and she's probably right. For now, though, Barney is happy. Robin's the one receives an intervention.

The title may be a reference to the writers' efforts to correct their initial mistakes with Robin and Barney. If so, they're totally over-correcting, and the produced episodes have been horrible. The characters are well-paid professionals in New York City. The amount of free time they have is stunning. Now, before anyone asks me if I'd like to watch a show that followed any of them at their jobs, I'd say yes, because I really dug David Foster Wallace's last (unfinished) novel, The Pale King which depicted life working for the I.R.S.

The horrible B story in the episode involves Marshall's mother getting back into the 'game' just short of two years after Marvin died. Predictably, she sleeps with Lily's father. Jason Segal's sort of amusing hiding in the closet, traumatized by what happened. Alyson Hanigan's less amusing as she's clearly stopped trying on this show long ago. The point of the sexual union between them is to surprise the audience and let Chris Elliot deliver nonsense lines. Elliot is the most delightful actor in the episode, and his scenes made me half-smile.

So, to the point, HIMYM can't produce enjoyable filler episodes any more. Any attempt at filler involves stretching the characterization of the main characters to the point they become caricatures. The A story was another low point for the series, and the B story was so goddamn lazy it ashamed the sloths.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "We'll Always Have Bourbon Street" Review

Flashbacks on The Vampire Diaries aren't a favorite of mine. They're fun for the production crew, but TVD had a habit of getting boggled down in the flashbacks and losing focus with the present story. The flashbacks always involve understanding what's happening in the present. The flashbacks to the Originals were always a bore and they rarely added to my understanding of the character. It's worthwhile for the writers to send the Salvatore brothers back in time because they're main characters, and there's literally years of untapped history between them. Damon's personality changes every week. The character he was in season one is completely different from his season four character. It's fun to see Lexi again and to see how the writers try to retcon their mistake of killing her. "We'll Always Have Bourbon Street" is appropriately titled because it marks the moment in time Stefan and Damon were at peace.

The sire bond brings the Salvatore brothers to New Orleans. Damon left a vampire he sired counting every brick of every building in New Orleans until he returned. The vampire sire bond's an urban legend in the TVD universe. Vampires don’t believe it exists. The thought of it existing between two vampires is jarring and met with a "No, but wait...it can't be, are you sure?" Damon's stunned by his power to sire. The sex from the previous night doesn't seem so good to Damon, who can't be sure if Elena loves him or is just acting out of being his sire. He's on board with the plan to travel to New Orleans in hopes of breaking the bond. Stefan's unaware of what happened the night before; he's acting out of concern for Elena's absolute free-will.

Memories of the brothers last stay in New Orleans are triggered by their return. In 1942, Stefan stopped in the city before he left for war in Europe to make penance for the murders he committed as the Ripper. He had Lexi and self-control. The brothers hadn't seen each other since Stefan became the Ripper in 1912. Their grudge falls away and a night of drinking commences. Lexi watches Damon carefully. Damon's plan to go to war with his brother is rejected by Lexi, who feels Damon's influence will hurt Stefan. The sire problem in 1942 has a name: Charlotte. She snaps a guy's neck because Damon told her to protect his drink at all costs and an innocent sailor spilled it. A witch named Val, whose expository lines should be remembered for when Bonnie taps into her dark side, offers Damon a way out, but he needs to sacrifice 12 human souls to break the bond. Val screws him; Damon sacrifices 12 people. Lexi forbids him for joining Stefan in Europe. Stefan thought his brother abandoned him that afternoon in New Orleans, but Damon acted out of heartfelt concern for him.

Brotherly concern's the chief motivator for Damon hiding the truth about him and Elena from Stefan. The brothers fight over Elena, blood, history, etc, but they're brothers. The Vampire Diaries tells multiple love stories, from teenage romance, to epic ones, and, of course, familial ones. I'm reminded of Dawson vs. Pacey during Damon-Stefan scenes. Dawson and Pacey reconciled in the penultimate episode of Dawson's Creek. Pacey said, "All we wanted was her. So much so that we destroyed our friendship... and in the end, all she ever wanted was for us to be friends again." I still think the perfect resolution to the triangle is Elena leaving the brothers to be Brothers again. Stefan doesn't learn about the night before when Damon and Elena had sex. Once Damon learns breaking the bond is impossible, he needs to choose to let her go again. Stefan doesn't care who Elena's with as long as he knows it's her choice. Damon's maturity is refreshing; he doesn't pout about it until he acts like an ass because Elena fights his choice to let her go and choose. Damon will unfortunately always be an ass when it counts.

The trip to New Orleans yields vital information about the dark arts. Witches don't refer to black magic as the dark arts or even black magic--it's known as expression. It's not practiced anymore, which means Bonnie will practice it whenever Shane tells her to. The girls hang out in the Salvatore mansion, drinking champagne, dancing to pop music, and enjoying a drama free night. Tensions rise whenever Caroline makes an insulting remark about Damon. In an act of defiance, Elena admits she slept with Damon. Their party, and fight, is interrupted by rebel hybrids challenging Tyler's role as Alpha Hybrid in the group. Caroline's taken and sort of tortured. Tyler saves the day by taking the pack back and earning Alpha status. Caroline and Elena's friendship is healed, though Elena's feelings for Damon haven't changed despite the sire bond. Tyler explained the bond as changing the way you act but not the way you feel which Elena takes as confirmation that her feelings are real. It still doesn't stop Damon from telling her to move on, reminding her that he sucks, and that she shouldn't be tethered to him. Elena feels love for him, though. The scene's not an emotional tour-de-force, because this is clearly not the end. Julie Plec goes for the gut when she can. I know many, many fans probably hated what happened. I'm indifferent.

I liked the small scale of The Vampire Diaries. It's refreshing to watch an episode that isn't so intense, albeit the Caroline kidnapping had intensity what with the Tyler threatening to a rip a woman's heart out. Jeremy didn't try to kill Elena and Shane didn't try to have sex with a minor, which are good things. The flashbacks were fun story-wise. TVD's New Orleans wasn't impressive, but I've watched Treme for three seasons; so, I'm spoiled. The emotional beats were simple with Damon, Stefan, and Elena. Next week's going to bring the insanity again.

Other Thoughts:

-There was a scene in the high school. The prom and graduation episodes will be so shoe-horned in. The writers couldn't give a bleep about the high school.

-I'm apathetic towards Shane's plan with the hybrids, and even more apathetic about the mystery of Haley's parents.

-The actress who portrayed Charlotte was vaguely familiar. Could anyone enlighten me as to what she acted in prior to this episode?

-Elena brought up Caroline's thing with Damon. The writers conveniently forgot to remind the audience that Damon compelled Caroline after a certain amount of time. She went for the wrong guy and when she realized her mistake he didn't let her go.

-Charlie Charbonneau & Jose Molina wrote the episode. I cannot remember the name of the director.

-Next week is the last episode until 2013.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Arrow "Vendetta" Review

People date for awhile and then stop when one realizes the other likes to watch soccer ten hours on a Saturday. Any number of things could stop a potential relationship. Oliver and Helena have a mountain to climb if they wish to date for the long-term. Oliver doesn't try to persuade her into watching soccer for ten hours on a Saturday. Helena's idea of justice involves death, whereas Oliver perceives justice as separate from vengeance. The difference in ideology was present last week during their dinner and, later, their impromptu tag-team against Salvani and his crew. Oliver was willing to overlook Helena's flaws because of his need to open up. Thea urged her brother to open up to someone if it'd make him less sad. Helena represented the human connection he craved, and he thought he'd change her with instruction and encouragement.

"Vendetta" follows the Oliver and Helena's teamwork. Diggle expresses distaste for Oliver's taste in women. Helena's a killer and has no regard for the people in her life; she's numb since the death of her fiancé. Oliver understands why Diggle's concerned, but he's lonely, desperate for connection, and stupid. Helena learns how to shoot a bow-and-arrow. Oliver instructs her how to bring down a drug cartel without violence. Helena watches but wishes not to perform justice; she's into revenge. Diggle reminds Oliver of the high possibility their relationship, Oliver's and Helena's that is, will end unhappily. Oliver won't believe Diggle.

The execution of Oliver's thing with Helena is sort of a mess. The teaser and first act set up their romantic story as a potentially lasting heartache for Oliver. Its set-up reminded me of a tightly written short film about two people who love each other but won't by the short films end. The action of Arrow shifts the focus from the meditation on two people who, despite their loneliness, can't be with each other into stopping the bad guy, amazing fight scenes, and the promise for more Huntress in later episodes. It's inevitable Helena will break from Oliver, it's just a matter of when and how. Oliver's past causes the break. In Act I, Oliver opened up about the man he'd been before the crash and the man he became on the island. The story served two purposes: to define Oliver as relatable and a chance for Helena to change her thinking about her father; and, it connected with Helena who, as Oliver sees it, exists on an island, too, that leaves her isolated and slightly mad. Helena falls for him and allows him to take her dinner, which is where the relationship breaks.

The love triangle between Oliver, Laurel, and Tommy, is very similar to Peter Parker, Mary Jane, and Harry Osborne in Spiderman. Love triangles are usually the least interesting aspect of a TV drama, whether it's family or genre or procedural. Arrow's love triangle is significantly dull. Old feelings re-surface during dinner. Oliver and Tommy act like Dawson and Pacey if they were in their late 20s (let's forget Jackson and The Beek WERE in their mid-to-late 20s during the dramatic final chapter of the third season). Helena notices the tension, learns about Oliver's past with Lauren, and feels betrayed, like Oliver told her about his past to manipulate her into behaving differently. Helena leaves the restaurant, dresses in her vigilante outfit, and kills four members of the Triad, which is her father's enemies, and it launches a full-scale war between her father and them.

Oliver saves Helena's life, and her father's, while taking out the Triad threats. Helena's ungrateful, still pissed about Oliver's involvement in her life, and at herself for feeling that way towards him after vowing not to feel after her fiancé’s death. She leaves town while Oliver heals his wounds in the Starling City diner. Diggle tells him love shouldn't be about change; that it's about meeting the person who immediately fits into his life. Oliver's bummed because he pushes everyone away that he cares about. He acts like he doesn't care about Laurel's relationship with Tommy, but he cares too much. Oliver can't be with Helena, because she's dangerous. The woman would've killed her father if not for Oliver's perfect accuracy with a bow-and-arrow. The bad thing for Oliver is he's made another enemy--that list continues to grow.

The A story isn't the strongest of the season. Much of it felt like a retread of last week. The C story involving Walter and Felicity simply filled Walter in on the goings-on at Tempest LLC. The big finding is the small notepad written in with invisible ink. Meanwhile, Tommy asks Oliver for a job in light of his father, The Barrowman, cutting him off. Laurel and Tommy got together. Every Laurel/Tommy scene is a retread of the previous scene.

So, my hopes for "Vendetta" were high, but the best material was written for last week's episode. I really dug the ideas about Oliver's dependency and emotional needs versus the cold independence of his vigilante lifestyle. Helena was just as sad this week, but her sadness resonated deeper last week than this week. I was disappointed.

Other Thoughts:

-Give Willa Holland a goddamn storyline, Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisburg. You know what Thea gets to do in "Vendetta"? She asks Walter for a ride.

-Beth Schwartz and Andrew Kreisburg wrote the episode. Ken Fink directed it.

-Next week's episode is the last one until 2013.

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.