Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on The Soup, Man Vs. Wild, and The Walking Dead Mid-Season Finale

Originally, I hadn't planned on writing about "Working With Wild." Discovery should've aired the episode in August; however, when its air date arrived, all traces of Man Vs. Wild disappeared from the television schedule. I thought it odd that the season of Man Vs. Wild would end so abruptly. Suddenly, "Working The Wild' showed up on the TV schedule in the midst of one of the slow periods of the television season as well as the blog (because I write about television). I thought I'd watch the episode, and then decide on whether or not to write a full review-cap of the behind-the-scenes episode. Well, I won't write about the episode in depth because the behind the scenes didn't differ at all from other behind-the-scenes episodes I've already written about. Instead, here are some thoughts about various television shows:

-E!'s The Soup moves to Wednesday nights TOMORROW NIGHT at 10PM. The Soup's been a consistently enjoyable show throughout recent years. Joel McHale's enthusiasm and commitment to the material never wanes. Some weeks he's forced to deliver some truly miserable punchlines or a cheap joke. By gum the man tries to sell each joke as if he's paid by the laugh. The lame jokes fail but McHale gets a laugh anyway by poking fun at the lame joke. Sometimes he's forced to explain a joke to the audience. These jokes aren't too dated, though. Anyway, I don't know why E! decided to move the show from Friday to Wednesday. I assume the show's successful enough not to waste away on a Friday at 10PM. If you enjoy The Soup, do note that the show will air on Wednesdays (with repeats on Fridays at 10PM, as well as various other times throughout the week).

-I'll offer one or two thoughts about the behind-the-scenes episode of Man Vs. Wild. I liked the time spent on Bear's food history. Bear Grylls has eaten some truly horrible things during his time as the host of this action-adventure-how-to-survive-in-places-an-average-person-wouldn't-last-a-day-in. Dan Etheridge, a cameraman, explained why Bear compares his disgusting food to common American dishes or food products. Bear rotates through the same horrible food in the wild, so he can't simply describe a spider's taste as terrible every episode. The reason I opted against writing about this episode when I thought it'd air in August was because I reached a point where I felt each review/recap repeated itself every week. Like Bear and the food, I need to find a way to differentiate my thoughts episode-to-episode. I should have time to figure it out because the new season of Man Vs. Wild is not imminent.

-The Walking Dead concluded its first half of season two on Sunday. Facebook and Twitter were full of thoughts from individuals about the end of the season. I didn't find out about the surprise of the mid-season finale until the following afternoon. At night, as I prepared to slumber, I thought The Walking Dead deserved the acclaim for successfully pulling off that zombie twist. A critic undermined the surprise by stating its obviousness post-reveal, which was cheap and unnecessary. Criticism of The Walking Dead's become trendy; Twitter's used as an avenue by ironic hipsters and critics to one-up one another about the series. The four episodes devoted to discussions of morality and personal responsibility were panned because people just want their zombies tearing flesh and getting shot in the head. The show was described as boring. Kirkman's zombie verse was always about the humans more than the zombies, about human behavior when confronted by the horrific and horrible. The series could use more humor and better characterization, but the tone of the show reflects the world the narrative's set in.

-I don't have any other thoughts about television right now. It is a slow period.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Once Upon A Time "That Still Small Voice" Review

First and foremost, Once Upon a Time needs to quit hiring child actors. If they insist on writing major roles for children, I'd advise the casting director to fly over to the United Kingdom and find child actors there. The real talent is miles and miles across the Atlantic. I open this review of "That Still Small Voice" because the two child actors used in the episode essentially destroyed the episode. I won't write seven paragraphs of criticism about the two actors because that'd be cruel. Instead, just trust me when I write that most children cannot handle loaded and emotional scenes.

Once Upon a Time continued their reinvention and reimaginging of classic fairy tales. Jimminy Cricket was the central character of the events in "That Still Small Voice." The title refers to him--someone who lived his entire life with a voice as faint and small as one of the characters in Honey I Shrunk The Kids when they're yelling at Rick Morani, who looms above them. Cricket admired actual crickets from a young age. For him, the creatures represented everything good and wholesome about humanity and life. His parents, Martin and Myrna, laughed in the face of their son. Myrna believed crickets were noisy and annoying creatures whereas Martin cared so little that he didn't bother commenting on his son's love for them. The elder Crickets believed in one thing--theft. The Cricket family wandered around the fairy tale world as traveling puppeteers. Jimminy stole from the audience as the puppet show thrilled and wowed the assembled audience; however, even as a boy, Jimminy felt wrong about stealing from people. The young boy's conscience always got the best of him; his parents treated his conflicted feelings like they treated their paying audience.

Jimminy's fatal flaw was an inability to reconcile in his conscience with his small voice. In other words, he didn't believe in himself enough to stand up to his parents and carve out a new life for himself. Each time he offered a dissenting opinion, he immediately retreated when met with laughter or disrespect. Unable to muster the strength or will himself, he went to Rumplestiltskin. Of all the people in the world, Jimminy resorted to a guy whose breath (I can only imagine) smells like ten year old spoiled milk, and in certain lighting resembles a rotting corpse. Anyway, Jimminy paid a fee for some of Rumplestiltskin's magic. The magic came in a tiny bottle. Rumplestiltskin explained that the liquid in the bottle would free Jimminy from his miserable life. The plan blew up, though, and Jimminy accidentally caused a husband and wife/father and mother's transformation into dolls. The event horrified him, even more so once he learned that a small boy would be without his mother and father.

The Storybrooke narrative paralleled the fairy tale world. Jimminy lacked the strength and will power to stand up to the queen; Jimminy tried to destroy Henry's illusion about fairy tale world after he was threatened by the mayor; Jimminy needed to hear someone tell him what he needs to do to find happiness, contentment and enlightenment. Jimminy told a fairy (or faery) that he needed to redeem himself because the couple's child needed someone to lead him through life, to help him make good decisions, to make him feel less alone. It just so happened that Henry needed the same things--someone who believed and shared in his belief as much as he did. Jimminy and Henry provided what the other needed while they waited for rescue in a collapsed mine. Henry told his therapist to use his voice; Jimminy told Henry that he DOES believe in Henry's imagination. And then they were rescued and all was well.

I didn't like "That Still Small Voice." I thought Jimminy's arc was too thin for an A story. The mine collapse didn't mean a damn thing--just a plot device to force two characters into a space where they were, literally, the only ones who could help the other. The behaviors of certain characters in Storybrooke don't quite track. For instance, Regina and Mr. Gold behave in ways their other selves would, but the curse should've wiped everyone's memory clean. Of course, I think both villains know more than the audience thinks they do. Two smart and evil villains won't enter a new world without some grip on the old one. The ending suggested this much, at least. I'm annoyed the writers force the audience to watch tedious scenes between Regia and Emma or Mr. Gold and anyone else as if we're supposed to buy both villains suffer from curse amnesia.

The ensemble hasn't been handled very well. Snow White and Prince Charming were in their own separate show this week. The destined-to-be-together characters walked the grounds of the hospital, felt attracted to one another, buried the attraction, and were interrupted by actual wife of Charming every now and again.

Regina and Emma weren't involved in anything new. Regina still despises Emma. They were forced to work together to save Henry. Regina continued to despise Emma after Henry's rescue. Emma was involved in an interesting development when separated from Regina--the revelation that things keep changing the more time she spends in Storybrooke. Indeed, Henry correctly predicted that fairy tale world exists at the bottom of the mine. None of the characters saw the other land. In time, the wall will shatter and the series will end. Of course, the series won't end. I won't be surprised if the worlds meet during spring sweeps. I don't know how the series will continue into seasons two and three. It's still early, though.

There were more LOST references tonight (Apollo candy bar, hole in the ground with something important in the ground, mine collapse). I was foolish to state Kitsis and Horowitz weren't making LOST with fairy tale characters because the writing team clearly wants Once Upon a Time to be LOST. The two narratives are essentially a slightly tweaked version of the sideways world. The character study format of each episode is straight out of season 1 of LOST. It's not working. They need to stop referencing their old series because OUAT looks worse in comparison.

Jane Espenson wrote the episode. Espenson's a veteran of the Whedonverse. She wrote great episodes of Buffy which were funny and moving. I felt Espenson's pen throughout every Harry Groener scene. I enjoyed that. LOST veteran Paul Edwards wrote the episode.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Revenge "Suspicion" Review

No one smiles in Revenge. The abundant wealth only makes the characters more miserable and frowny. Characters want to con one another. Identities are freely exchanged for an undisclosed sum. "Suspicion" lacked a cohesive, whole narrative. Mike Kelley's now a victim of sloppy serialized television in which episodes don't bother telling an actual story. Instead, an episode begins where the other left off, a bunch of stuff happens, and then it ends, and then picks up again the following week.

After a one week hiatus for some music award show, Revenge didn't waste time in reminding the viewers where we were. A sultry Russian joined the show as Fake Amanda aka the real Emily Thorne. Fake Emily tried to send her to an apartment in Paris but Fake Amanda chose to stay because she longed for a stable life, instead of constantly running away from something or someone. Emily reacted to this development like any other development that displeases her--a cold, dead stare and barely a recognizable expression of emotion. Tyler continued to worm his way into the hearts of the Grayson family. The murder of Frank the Security Guard somehow leads to a cover-up that implicates Conrad Grayson. Ashley grew more annoyed with her lack of purpose within the Grayson household and conspired with Tyler to 'play the game' (whatever the hell that means).

I won't hesitate to state my preference for a bikini-dressed Fake Amanda in the opening minutes of Revenge. I hoped her second episode would've produced more insight into she and Emily's past, specifically how the girls went from bloody brawls in the prison cafeteria to swapping identities. Unfortunately, the girls had two flashbacks. None revealed anything more about their relationship. I'll stop hoping for more insight because I assume Mike Kelley and the writers provided all they wanted to about their friendship. It is the audience's job to accept what we've been told. The flashbacks revealed basically nothing. Amanda told Emily her life's story. Emily memorized the facts. She repeated the facts to Amanda. Emily left as Amanda, check in hand. It was unnecessary to show a scene in which Amanda tells Emily who she is. The audience isn't stupid. We assumed that happened when identities were swapped.

I understand why we saw the scene. We needed to see the trust Amanda put into Emily, so that Fake Amanda's betrayal would be felt more. The betrayal occurred on the Amanda boat, following a passionate kiss between Faux-Amanda and Jack Porter. As Fake Amanda's mentally unstable, she decided to reveal her fake identity to her boyhood crush. For whatever reason, real Amanda told Real Emily about her decision to give her dog to Jack Porter because they were soulmates in childhood. Of course, fake Amanda was supposed to stay away from the Hamptons, so the detail about the dog and Jack seemed unnecessary. Regardless, that exchange of information occurred and it bit Emily in the ass. Fake Amanda resorted to the confession after Nolan threatened her. He essentially promised death or something fairly horrible if she didn't leave town; after all, Emily's proven she'll rid herself of unwanted company without so much as breaking a sweat. The betrayal was a self-defense move. I know it doesn't work in the long-run.

Meanwhile, Emily wanted Nolan to deal with Tyler. Tyler, of course, continued to set-up his con of the Graysons. For some unknown reason, Conrad pitted his son against his son's best friend. Whichever male signed the most lucrative investor would earn full commission and find himself more esteemed within the company. Tyler went to Nolan for $20 million. In a show with non-sensical soapish elements, the Tyler-Nolan thing eludes me. I haven't seen substantial evidence from Nolan to attract him to Tyler. It feels as if the writers decided on putting the two in a sexual relationship because they didn't have any other ideas. Nolan needed to invest $20 million because Emily needed the speech that revealed the truth about the Graysons' involvement in the money-laundering-terrorist-plot. Remember, Emily wants Revenge--not Tyler revealing all so that he receives a massive paycheck. I'll mention Ashley walked in on Tyler locking lips with Nolan. Tyler then accused her of not doing enough to PLAY THE GAME. Moving on.

Actually, that's about it for my thoughts on "Suspicion." I don't care nearly enough about the love triangle between the Graysons and Lydia to comment extensively on it. In general, I don't care about the series.


Monday, November 21, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "The Rebound Girl" Review

There's an old cliché about putting your best foot forward. Usually, the cliché is used in business, during courtships, and in creative pursuits. The most common advice an aspiring screenwriter receives follows along with that boring cliché about putting one's best foot forward. Write what you know and make it compelling. I wonder if the old cliché makes the rounds in the television industry. TV shows always take a break following the sweeps period. I would think it'd be in the best interest of the writers and the network to put their best foot forward before a long break. Now, I'm sure HIMYM has, at least, two episodes to air before it leaves the airwaves until mid-to-late January 2012. Still, "The Rebound Girl" sucked alot. I knew some sort of surprise awaited the audience in the final scene of the episode. I just wasn't sure what the surprise would be. A cliff-hanger wasn't enough to save "The Rebound Girl" from a paragraph or two of criticism, though. No, the episode did not put its best foot forward (in case anyone wanted a complete paragraph).

Ted and Barney were feeling mopey and miserable because their respective love lives have been less than successful. Ted's reunion with Victoria lasted long enough for her to tell him that the friendship between he, Barney and Robin won't work in the long-term. The slutty pumpkin didn't meet his expectations. Barney, meanwhile, broke up with Nora to be with Robin; however, that didn't happen. Robin chose Kevin. So, Barney and Ted drank plenty of alcohol together in the bar. They shared in their misery and agreed to find something other than a woman to make them happy. The bros contemplated a homosexual lifestyle until an attractive woman walked past the booth and reminded them of their heterosexuality. Somehow, Barney and Ted mutually agreed to adopt a child and help the other raise said child.

I wouldn't be surprised if Carter Bays and Craig Thomas admitted that story isn't the most important aspect of How I Met Your Mother. Their actors and actresses are incredibly talented people. Radnor and Segal could probably write a better series than their show runners. Neil Patrick Harris could run Broadway if he wanted to. When the writers broke the Barney-Ted story for "The Rebound Girl," I doubt the writers asked themselves why Barney and Ted would want to raise a child together. I know, I know...both men discussed how they thought they'd be married with children by now (I don't buy it from Barney but whatever). Naturally, their thought process led them to adopting a baby. I'll write more about the kid angle in a bit. First, I'll argue that Bays and Thomas wrote this story because they wanted to see NPH and Josh Radnor adopt a different kind of gender role, thought it'd be delightful place the characters in domestic squabbles, etc. Both actors played their roles well. Ted eventually realized the impossibility of their adoption plan. The whole story fizzled out, never to be spoke of again (I hope).

Barney learned that Robin's with child just before the episode faded to black. I ranted in the past about the roundabout way of storytelling in HIMYM. Instead of Barney simply opening up to Ted about what he wants and how he feels, especially after Robin completely burned him, the writers chose the annoying route. The cartoon-like hijinx between Barney and Ted existed to hit the same beats that would've been hit in a heart-to-heart conversation between two friends whose friendship will inevitably change before season's end. Robin acted like a mad woman throughout the episode because she didn't want her friends to move to Long Island. Marshall tried to figure out why, but she wouldn't say. Instead, she complimented the cheese spread, and Marshall asked her if he made a mistake by opting against a career in ghostbusting. Robin saved the truth for the father of the baby-to-be, and they sat in silence. After all of that nonsense, it turns out that Barney will get what he wants after all--a wife and a child. No doubt the path towards that inevitable moment will be annoying, as everything involving Barney and Robin has been.

Lily and Marshall were going to sell the home in Long Island until they realized how nice and spacious the home is. I enjoyed the jokes about Long Island. My family and I almost moved to Long Island when I was 3 or 4 (I can't imagine a life in which I actively root for the Islanders, Mets, Knicks, and Jets). I don't know why I wrote that last sentence. Anyway, Lily and Marshall decided to buy the home. The actual purchase of the house hasn't happened, which suggests the couple won't move into a spacious home. The writers would have to brainstorm different ways to bring the gang together. The geography wouldn't make their jobs easy. The story barely differed from the very same house story we witnessed a couple of episodes ago.

HIMYM seems poised to make significant progress in its narrative. A baby's coming; another baby is coming; a marriage will happen; Ted will meet the mother at the wedding. I'm sure more nonsense will happen between then and now. The series still needs to tell the story of how Ted wound up in a dress at a casino. "The Rebound Girl" did suck, but the future's promising for this veteran sitcom.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grimm "Lonelyhearts" Review

I'll no longer declare that Grimm defied the critics and ratings guru by posting respectable numbers for its premiere. The series experienced increasingly lower ratings in the last two weeks, but NBC ordered an additional three scripts. "Lonelyhearts" had a slight increase in over-night ratings but the numbers aren't anything to be obnoxious about. The producers await news on whether NBC will pick up the entire back order. Until then, I'll content myself with individual episodes of the very enjoyable series.

A staple of genre television is the story of the male predator and vulnerable female. I'm sure the trope has a name; I just don't know it. Of course, this genre staple had its roots within the Grimm fairy tales. I wrote that sentence with confidence because Grimm used this story tonight, and the writers adapt The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. I don't have a tremendous amount of thoughts on the centuries old trope. In Buffy, "Reptile Boy" told this story. In ANGEL, "Expecting" told this story. Good looking and charming males bring pretty females to their apartments for a night of passion. As the sun rises to mark a new day, the woman's always in a worse position than before and the male's long gone--off to victimize another woman. Soon thereafter, the hero or heroine of the story learns about the transgression and marches into the day (or night) to save the day.

"Lonelyhearts" introduces the impossibly charming owner of a bed-and-breakfast. The women adore him, even newlyweds. A newly-wed couple leaves the bed and breakfast one morning but not before the new bridge gives the B&B owner a wet peck on the neck. The owner, Billy, is introduced in the teaser. A woman races across a bridge as various images and sounds flash before her eyes, like she's trippin' badly on a potent drug, and then a truck hits her. The collision doesn't kill her. The driver races to call 911. Billy, shot in shadow, kneels before her. Faith's immediately taken by him and longs for a kiss. Instead, Billy suffocates her. The next morning, Nick and Hank arrive on the scene to begin the investigation.

Of course, Billy isn't just a natural sweet-talker or charmer--he's a Ziegevolk, or Bluebeard. The creatures have the ability put young women under some kind of spell, which allows the men to attract these poor young women to them. Ziegevolk's either breed or herd (if I recall correctly). Good ol' Billy engages in both. He draws his power from ingesting raw frogs. The hypnotic spell he casts on the women he meets resembles the act of spiking a drink. The women don't become drowsy or disoriented--at first--but the Ziegevolk's mojo removes their power, self-will and self-control. The women are unable to fend for themselves, and then, once they're ensnared, Billy locks them in cages, uses gas to disorient them, and breeds with them.

Billy's a creepy character and the story's darker than the usual episodes of genre TV. "Lonelyhearts" made no sweeping declarations about crappy males preying on women because Billy, when caught, uses his mojo to ensnare the woman who's treating his wounds. The episode seemed more interested in the villain. By that, I mean Greenwalt, Kouf, Shankar, and the other writers, wanted to present a dark, twisted creature from the Grimm stories. Once Upon a Time's more whimsical and fanciful than Grimm. Grimm's about the nitty-gritty of fairy tale darkness. The original stories weren't full of Disney endings. I liked how the episode ended. It's not like Billy succeeded in keeping the women captive but Nick couldn't stop him.

Despite seeing this story told in different ways throughout the years, I enjoyed "Lonelyhearts." Eddie Monroe's the most enjoyable character in the series. Grimm becomes more entertaining whenever Nick brings Monroe in to assist him with a Grimm case. The writers give Monroe the best lines. My favorite line of "Lonelyhearts" was Monroe stating that Billy's Ziegevolk-ness was too strong; that he nearly bought the man a drink. The police aspect of the show's decent enough. Russell Hornsby and David Guantioli have decent chemistry. I'm still most interested in how Nick's police work interferes with his Grimm work.

I'd be remiss if I ignored the new character in town. This new character wants to know who murdered one of Aunt Marie's attackers. The police chief, who leads a double-life, sliced the dude's ear off because he wants him GONE from Portland. Last week's Bee Jawns warned Nick that "He's coming." I suppose the Frenchman is the "He."

Grimm will return in two weeks with a new episode titled "Danse Macabre." I'm looking forward to it.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoughts on Community's "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"

I'm not in the habit of commenting on news or paraphrasing the latest news in the television industry. The mid-season Community news broke on Monday or Tuesday. Twitter blew up. Entertainment sites and television blogs devoted many words to NBC's decision to leave Dan Harmon's terrific comedy off of the mid-season schedule. The fact that Whitney will remain on the schedule at all was pouring salt on the wound. I initially planned on including a note at the top of a review to comment on the Community news and then I didn't. I commented to my friend that worse things happen in life than a mid-season snub for Community.

And then "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" aired last night. Upon completion of the episode, I told my mom that I'd really miss Community during the spring. I remember my dad saying, in January of this year when he was quite sick and always in need of a pick-me-up, that we (himself, my family, the human race) need things we enjoy. I remembered his words as I thought about writing this post because Community's probably the most enjoyable series on television. I won't ever say I need a television series on the air--such a statement's ridiculous. The end of a TV series isn't really bad in the grand scheme of humanity and life. I really like stories though. I enjoy a good story. Stories help me feel better. Game of Thrones premiered on HBO at the right moment in my life. The world of Westeros, its characters, drama and humanity connected with me. I read about different coping mechanism; one such mechanism involved reading. I came across a NYT Book Review article about one writer who just read stories after the death of a loved one. Like the writer, I buried myself in the Song of Ice and Fire books. I digress.

I devote so many words a day to an episode of television from some series. I write about different components of the episode in assessing it, so much so that I sometimes confuse myself about my opinion ("did I actually like this or not?" The truth is, an episode of television, a novel, a short story, a movie, a song just needs to make me feel something. I want to use the word inspire but I'm not sure if it's apt. I suppose inspire works because the best stories I read or watch usually motivates me to create. I want a story to provoke genuine emotion as well. Community's a series that always provokes an emotion or genuine reaction like laughter. Their episodes inspire me as well. When I re-watch the chicken fingers episode, I want create something as good. Ditto for any number of Community episodes. I respond to Community because Dan Harmon and his writers actively take chances in every episode. I always say television can be the greatest medium in the world, which it can be, but television’s a business and its executive (more often than not) choose the more boring path when developing comedies and dramas. Luckily, NBC's a complete mess, so Community's been given opportunity after opportunity. Harmon and his writers chose to tell so many different kinds of stories and chose to experiment with so many different kind of styles. It'll be a damn shame if NBC decides not to renew the series for the fall because Community's the most creative series on TV. Creativity is too rare in the present television landscape.

I'll refrain from listing what I liked about last night's episode (Jeff-as-Pelton, Troy/Britta, Insane Dean Pelton, the entire second act was brilliant, the denouement of the third act was insane, Luis Guzman's appearance, crazy Annie) and instead embed the episode for all to watch. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Revenge "Treachery" Review

Rich people are boring and predictable in Revenge. Emily planned on sending Amanda to her Paris apartment. I groaned, shocked and dismayed Mike Kelley and his writers chose such a predictable place for a rich woman to own an apartment. Why couldn't Emily own a condo in western Suriname or property in Mary, Turkmenistan? Okay, I'll admit that a wealthy person probably wouldn't own an apartment in either western Suriname or the capital of Turkmenistan; however, I feel strongly that Emily's apartment should've been in scenic Moscow or a shack in rural Novosibirsk. Maybe fake Amanda Clarke would've been more inclined to flee the country had she been promised an isolated shack in the woods of rural Novosibirsk, where the temperatures fall to -6 degrees Fahrenheit and the reindeer roam. Perhaps a villa in Madrid or Barcelona would've been a more interesting place for a foreign residence. The wayward youth could've spent her afternoons, evenings, or mature evenings, in the Bernabeau or Camp Nou watching two of the greatest soccer teams in history. And let's not rule out balmy Daugavpils in southeast Latvia.

Regardless of the foreign apartment we'll never see a single scene set in, fake Amanda never left the country. Emily needed to pour water on two fires in "Treachery." She succeeded in doctoring the incriminating photo of Lydia's but she failed to send away the girl who could lay waste to all of her carefully thought out revenge schemes. I'd like to use a couple of sentences to write about the Emily and Amanda relationship. I haven't quite figured out how to refer to the characters without confusing my readership, so I'll refer to them by the aforementioned names. Anyway, they were blatant lesbian overtones between the former cell mates. Fake Amanda sensually brushed the back of Emily's hair as well as the upper part of her neck. Each glance was loaded with an affection that went beyond mere friendship. There were several times when I thought the two women were about to kiss until Emily wrapped her arms around Fake Amanda for a long and meaningful embrace. The physical acting between the actresses was too deliberate to be coincidence or the product of a male's wild imagination.

There were several flashbacks of the girls during the episode. They began their time in the juvenile center as enemies, fighting during lunch and such. The next flashback was between the warden and Emily (real Amanda...this is confusing), in which the warden advised Emily to work with the real Emily rather than bust her nose. The final flashback happened when real Amanda pitched her idea to swap identities with real Emily. Their relationship throughout the years in the cell weren't part of tonight's story. Fake Amanda has tremendous loyalty that goes beyond friendship in my opinion. Of course the rampant ambiguity of sexual orientation in soaps might be confusing me. I want to know more about the girls' past with each other, especially how they went from blood sport to BFFs/sexual lovers.

It's madness to think so much about Revenge, though, as the majority of the narrative's fluff stuffed with weak characters portrayed by blandly attractive actors and actresses, with the exception being Emily Vancamp and Margarita Levieva. Emily ruminated on the cliché "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it" (that's a poor paraphrase). The narration didn't relate at all to the title of the episode. I tune out now whenever Emily Thorne quotes popular proverbs or cliches. The narration does nothing for the series.

The story threads throughout "Treachery" were disjointed. The main reason for the disjointed structure was that the writers needed to tie up some loose ends. The words 'damage control' sums up what the characters were doing this week. Lydia's awakening from the coma forced Conrad and Victoria to work together. Emily went into damage control mode after her old cell mate murdered Frank. Tyler continued to cause damage rather than control it. Declan had to help Charlotte following the surprise that her parents would divorce.

Victoria managed to ostracize herself from her dear family. She and Conrad worked poorly together as a team. Initially they were in agreement about sharing the same story once Lydia came out of the coma to protect their asses. Soon thereafter husband and wife threw insults at one another. I'd describe their scenes in detail but no one wants that (especially not me). Instead, I'll write about Daniel's confrontation with his mother after he learned about her and Frank's investigation of Emily. The confrontation only interested me because it caused me to remember the inciting incident of the family--the David Clarke trial. Normally, I'd insult a show for using a character to vomit already known information; however, your humble blogger forgot alot about Revenge during its one week hiatus. I appreciated Daniel wondering what happened in his mother's life to transform her into such a loathsome creature because I completely forgot about her torment as result of the trial.

Meanwhile, more fires have been lit in the Hamptons. Emily will need a fairly large hose. Frank's final words echo in Victoria's head. Lydia's returned memories increase Victoria's suspicion of her next door neighbor. Victoria shredded Lydia's speech, which included plenty of information about the David Clarke nonsense. Tyler took the time to piece the document together. I imagine the document will lead him further to the truth about Emily Thorne. The FBI paid Emily a visit to interview her about the possible reasons Frank would've investigated her. Emily managed to avoid giving her identity away. Regardless, the walls continue to close in.

The addition of Margarita Levieva as Fake Amanda Clarke/Real Emily Thorne saved the series for me. The character itself seems like a Faith rip-off. I don't care though when the character receives multiple pool scenes. The actress caught me eye from the very first frame she appeared in two weeks ago, and more so tonight. During my after episode research, I discovered Margarita Levieva was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. My fondness for Russian women's well-documented and I wasn't surprised that she's a Russian woman. Indeed, if the opportunity presented itself, I'd court her. I digress. Fake Amanda and Jack Porter had a connection. Jack Porter's a wise man to pursue this girl. Sure the character's a potential sociopath who feels completely okay after murdering someone but she is a damn fine looking woman.

I missed who received the writing credit for the episode. The very talented Bobby Roth directed it.


Monday, November 14, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "Tick, Tick, Tick" Review

Clocks were thematically important in tonight's episode. Future Ted agreed with Einstein's theory of time in the theory--how it doesn't move at the same speed at all times (or something). The issue of time was important to the gang in "Tick, Tick, Tick" because time isn't going to stop for any of them. The older they get, the less time they have with one another. Marshall and Lily will be parents soon. Ted won't have his best friend to hang out with when he wants to. Barney and Robin have only so much time to decide whether or not they want to spend the rest of their lives together. For Barney, he's absolutely committed to a life with Robin. Robin, however, continues to hide behind wasteful relationships.

"Tick, Tick, Tick" successfully balanced the comedy and the drama. I enjoyed the entirety of Ted and Marshall's adventures in the stadium as they pursued nachos for Lily. The ever-aging males were anxious for one night when they could return to their younger, college selves who attended a great many paloozas, smoked marijuana, and rocked out all day without a care in a world. The palooza the best friends attend has more significance because Ted and Marshall feel it is their last palooza before everything changes (which it is). I don't have a novella of thoughts on the subplot because its meaning was as clear as the stars on a St. Petersburg night. I'm at least a decade younger than the characters, so I didn't relate to their sense of momentous change because of marriage and a baby. I found their reaction to the marijuana curious, though. The drug had an alcohol type effect on the gentlemen. Sure they were paranoid, and stupid, but they were awfully sappy and emotional. I'm the last individual to comment on the difference between marijuana and alcohol because I've experienced the effects of neither. Take my thoughts on the matter with a grain of salt.

The best part of the odyssey in the stadium, which wasn't actually an odyssey, was the security camera footage of the two friends acting like idiots for two minutes. Jason Segal's always good when tasked with the duties of a funny-man, but Josh Radnor's someone who always surprises me when he succeeds in intentionally funny scenes. 'Twas great physical comedy from both actors. I also liked how the friends thought time moved so fast when high because their sober selves fear the very same thing. Lily relayed the good news that they're paranoid drug trip only lasted two minutes. Elated, Ted and Marshall resolved to cherish the time they had until their night ended. Instead of staying for the concert, though, they went to McClaren's, where the rest of their friends were.

Barney and Robin's makeout session in the back of a taxi cab concluded with intercourse in Barney's apartment. The impulsive intercourse session led to a surprising amount of honest between the characters. Both admitted their feelings for one another; that the night meant alot; that their relationships need to end so that they don't waste any more time apart. Normally, I'd rant about the writers' decision to keep Robin in her relationship with Kevin. However, I enjoy the Kevin character no matter how lame his speech to Robin about relationships and truth was. I understand television enough to know that November sweeps is too early to reunite Barney and Robin. As I predicted last week, the destined lovers will reunite during May sweeps.

Again, I find myself with barely any thoughts about the dynamic beyond the paragraph I've just finished. Neil Patrick Harris acted the heck out of the scene in McClaren's, when Robin enters the bar with Kevin behind her. Barney grew more in a single episode than he has in the previous six seasons, and they didn't even need John Lithgow. I have very little to write about "Tick, Tick, Tick" as a whole. It was another episode I enjoyed in a surprisingly enjoyable season of the series.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Once Upon A Time "The Price of Gold" Review

"The Price of Gold" is a potentially series-killing episode for me. The twists were evident from the opening of each individual act. The beats were obvious and lazy. The storytelling really, really sucked. I asked a friend, as I watched the episode, about the degree of lameness whenever Disney adapts a fairy tale. One might argue that Once Upon a Time isn't Disney, and I'll accuse that person of being drunk on dreamwine because ABC is a Disney company, and Kitsis and Horowitz's adaptation of Cinderella was atrocious. If David H. Goodman, the credited screenwriter, deserves the blame then I'll be glad to direct blame his way. Until then, the creators and EPs earn the criticism. The great David Solomon directed the episode and, sadly, managed to salvage it from dreadful storytelling mistakes.

I'm prepared to declare "The Price of Gold" the worst episode of television in the young 2011-2012 season. I'm not sure where it wrong. Perhaps I reacted badly to the sudden introduction of Cinderella/Ashley, her needlessly stupid back story with Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, as well as Emma's investment in the story because she once made all of the bad decisions Ella/Ashley's about to make. Additionally, Henry kept pestering his biological mother about the importance of knowing one another's code names. Henry didn't actually care about code names, though; the boy just wanted to call his biological mother by the name 'mom' because he loves her. My heart's not made of stone because I thought Henry's nickname insistence was sweet and natural; however, I thought the character development of Emma was forced and unnecessary, the motivations of Mr. Gold cartoonish and nonsensical, the back story of Cinderlla poorly plotted and developed.

I imagine the writers viewed the episode as a Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin episode than a Cinderella one because "The Price of Gold" is clearly about the man who never met a deal he didn't like or make. The story follows the basic structure of the original. Rumplestiltskin makes a deal, wants the newborn of a princess, and reacts badly when he learns the princess won't honor her end of the deal. Of course, the series weaved the story of Cinderella into Rumplestiltskin for some reason. Well, the reason's clear enough. In an episode about one's ability to change him or herself without the assistance of someone else, Cinderella's the best character to use because her circumstances were changed overnight by her fairy godmother. In Once's fairy tale world, though, Rumplestiltskin murdered Cinderella's fairy godmother just as she was about to transform her into a gorgeous princess-to-be. The only catch would've been the midnight nonsense. Rumplestiltskin saw an opportunity and took it.

Cinderella overcame the death of her fairy godmother quickly and wheeled and dealed with the man whose face was awash in glitter. Now, I'd think someone wouldn't be so trusting of a man who just murdered an innocent fairy godmother before his or her own very eyes. Cinderella's more eager to change her life, regardless of the quality of person who's offering a sudden transformation along with an embarrassment of riches. Rumple tricks her into thinking her debt will involve gold or jewels, unaware that he plans on taking her first child. Ella and her husband, along with Charming and Snow White, conspire to send Rumple to prison in hopes that Ella's debt is never repaid. Rumplestiltskin deals in magic, though, so every deal has a price. When he's arrested, he vows never to allow Ella a visitation with her husband until her new born babe's in his possession.

Mr. Gold loves deals as much as his fairy tale self. Ashley signed a contract to give her baby up once she had it because she's 19 and unable to raise the child herself. Of course, Rumplestiltskin made threats in fairy tale world to take her baby in whatever world or life Ella found herself in. Whether or not Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold is aware of the two worlds, Once's own Desmond Hume as it were, is unknown. However, his desire for Ashley's child isn't coincidence. Emma agrees to help find the missing girl when she flees town. Along the journey, she imparts valuable wisdom she herself never heard or learned when she was with child and all alone. Emma's experiences help Ashley so much so that she refuses to allow Mr. Gold to gain custody of the child. Mr. Gold, though, is difficult to negotiate with. Emma agrees to a deal with Mr. Gold so that he forgets and destroys the deal he made with Ashley. The deal between Mr. Gold and Emma's only a simple favor, and how harmful could that be?

I don't think many characters have a strong voice yet. The only characters with a clear, strong voice are Emma, Regina and Henry. I suppose Mr. Gold's voice is strong and identifiable. An ensemble series is always a daring endeavor because of the number of characters. I'll argue LOST knew their characters' voices early in the series. Joss Whedon's Firefly pilot is a masterpiece because of the life each character is given in the 88 minutes. Kitsis, Horowitz and the room have the benefit of using characters known throughout the ages yet the majority of the characterization is lacking. Characters have already been ignored in episodes and we haven't reached the fifth one yet. The narrative seems scattered and fractured. Nothing unites the characters except the small town. Even then, characters barely see or interact with each other.

I'm tired of writing about "The Price of Gold." It was a miserable episode, full of unoriginal act breaks and tropes, and the promise that the series might not get any better. Uh-oh. The next new episode will air on November 27.

David H. Goodman wrote the episode. David Solomon directed it.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Grimm "Beeware" Review

I have a bad habit of reading too many reviews for a pilot episode, as well as for subsequent episodes. Perhaps I have a bad habit of writing about every episode for certain series in the blog. I'm fully aware that what I'm about to write borders on the hypocritical. Anyway, the initial Grimm reviews painted horrible pictures of the series. Reviews for the second episode weren't any kinder. Pretentious blowhards mused on whether the ratings had any chance of being sustained because Grimm's such a low-brow show, designed for people with bad taste in television. The same pretentious blowhards like to opine about a character's motivations and profession as if they're in the writers’ room day after day and perfectly attuned to the show's tone, bible, and the make-up of the characters. For example, one such pretentious blogger wondered why Greenwalt and Kouf made Nick a police detective. Well, my friends and well-wishers, patience is a valuable thing to have in this increasingly impatient world. One's patience would payoff by watching "Beeware," an episode that dealt with Nick's conflicted feelings between his professional duties and his ancestral duties.

Through three episodes, I quite like Grimm. The procedural format isn't a chore to watch. The mythological elements are interesting enough. The dialogue's great. The characters interactions with one another feel natural and life-like. The case-of-the-week reminded me of early Buffy and ANGEL, which I liked. Several of early Buffy and ANGEL episodes had cheesy monster-of-the-week episodes. Demons haunted computers. A doctor could literally fall to pieces to prey on his victims. The stuff with the bees had a great level of cheese. The totality of Grimm made the episode solid, though. I don't mind vague references to an age old battle between good and evil when the very same episode includes great scenes between Nick and Eddie trekking through Portland whilst investigating fairy tale creatures.

I really enjoy the show's adaptation of classic fairy tales. I'm unfamiliar with the source material for "Beeware" but I enjoyed the modernity of the adaptation. Bees are expert communicators. The bee creatures (their name begins with the letter M) use communication to relay information to their queen bee. Nick discovers their existence when a woman mysteriously dies during a flash mob dance on public Portland transportation. The main tool of the murderers is social media. After all, social media was created for the purpose of people easily communicating with one another. Nick figures the social media angle out after the cell phone turns up zero texts or phone calls between the man and his queen bee.

Publicly, the group of three murdered the young professional because she was responsible for the end of centuries old paper mill business. The group targeted three lawyers and murdered two; however, the bees aren't sent to kill the ladies because their lawyers--they're actually hex beasts. The bee jawns are clarions (I hope that's the right term--the internet yields very little information about this episode so I'm relying on my memory, which should work out because the episode aired an hour ago but it's not). The queen bee informs the last living Grimm that her creatures protect Grimm from the hex-beasts along with other evil creatures. Adaline Shade, the woman who tried to kill Aunt Marie in the pilot, and who works with Nick's police chief, is one of the lawyers/hex beasts. Nick's disinterested in helping the woman because of her attempted murder of his aunt. Adaline reminds him of his duties, though, and that's what I loved about the episode.

Nick, certainly, was screwed when confronted with a choice between who to choose. His Aunt's words echoed in his head, remembering that Grimms protect the world from evil creatures. The bee jawns' Queen Bee told Nick that he needed to let her kill Adaline. Earlier, Adaline reminded him about his duties as cop. His ancestry might consider him a hero for killing the last of the hex beasts, but his society, colleagues and superiors would view him as a man who willingly let an innocent girl die, and he couldn't rebound from that. Nick's professional life would've been over along with his chance to defend people from the beasts who walk the earth disguised as humans. So, he shot the queen bee and let Adaline go. The decision bothered him. A solitary bee stung him to close the episode--a nice cap to the events of "Beeware."

Ideally, I'd like to see Nick work with Eddie more than Hank each week. Hank's a decent character, but the gold's between Eddie and Nick. Their scenes together poked fun at genre and procedural tropes. Eddie warned Nick not to use dog terms as commands. Nick had a good line about how he figured out the identity of the paper mill's CEO and president after Eddie wondered if Nick performed some kind of Grimm psychic trick. Perhaps the few scenes are a good thing. There's a reason the old adage "too much of a good thing" remains relevant.

Good episode. Good show.


The Secret Circle "Balcoin" Review

Balcoin's not a made up word. The name was used by Jon Blackwell before he and his family changed their names to Blackwell. The word balcoin was synonymous with dark magic, so the family needed to distance themselves for their own safety. I don't know why I chose to write about the back story of Balcoin in the beginning but there's no going back now. "Balcoin" was very much an episode devoted to moving chess pieces into places for the next run of episodes. In between the moving parts were some genuine emotional beats for Cassie as she struggled to deal with the non-relationship she had with her father; however, those beats were told in one scene, which made that development seem like an after-thought.

Through nine episodes, The Secret Circle remains a series with growing pains. Some episodes have worked well while others have not. Now, the previous sentence won't blow the minds of anyone reading. Every TV show produces some great episodes and not so great episodes. The Secret Circle's biggest struggles could derail the series in the long-run. The biggest issue with the show is characterization and dialogue. The scripts lack the wit and humor every genre show needs. The teenagers rarely get together to hang out or simply talk. Of course, one wouldn't be entertained to watch teenagers actually act like teenagers because that'd be boring. I mean, the characters never have fun conversations with each other. Lines are delivered like the fate of the world's in the balance and their inflection's the key to saving the world. They're brought together by life-or-death situations involving demon possession or witch-hunters or pissed-off people with an axe to grind because of the boat fire incident.

Cassie's the only developed character in the entire story. Faye, Melissa, Diana, and Adam's development have been sacrificed for Cassie's development, which is bad. I watched Adam swoop in as a hero to rescue Cassie from the head witch hunter's boat and realized that I know nothing about the character. As much as I enjoy Phoebe Tonkin's portrayal of Faye, the character itself doesn't have much to do on a weekly basis. The energy Tonkin brings isn't matched by her fellow actors. None of the other characters are written well enough to bounce off Faye. The relationship dynamics suck on this show.

In fact, characters are only defined through their affections for other characters. For example, Jake's feelings for Cassie trumped his desire for revenge. The truth that he feels quite deeply for the girl seemed to suggest that the audience should not hate him so much because he helped Faye and Adam save Cassie from captivity. Likewise, Melissa's cousin came to Chance Harbor to assist the family with some type of party (Between TVD, Revenge, and TSC, parties have worn out their welcome in The Foot). Melissa tearfully told him about how her boyfriend died when explaining the reason for her depression. Her cousin reacted like she was tearful over the last cookie being eaten. Matters became worse when Diana saw him, looked lustful and like a woman who saw 'rebound guy' over his head, but Melissa banned her friend from using her cousin as a rebound guy. Their entire story was devoted to a tertiary character who probably won't hang around for much longer.

Faye and Dawn were involved in the beginning of what should be a terrific arc, if indeed Andrew Miller, Kevin Williamson and the rest of the writers commit to the arc. Faye confronted her mother about her disdain for Henry. Dawn tried to deny her disdain for Faye's grandfather but her daughter wouldn't buy her feeble excuses. It might take months for the series to bring the teenagers to awareness about Dawn and Charles. At least the arc's begun, though. Speaking of Dawn, she's fond of throwing Charles under the proverbial Chance Harbor boats. I haven't figured out if my annoyance with Dawn stems from the writing or Natasha Henstridge's performance. Anyway, Jane revealed an interesting fact about Dawn. Namely, that she was obsessed with Jon Blackwell and the dark magic. Charles wanted more information but Dawn wouldn't indulge his interests.

The dark magic business was the most important part of the episode. Its existence drove the A story, after all. I'd comment more, but the writers preferred to keep the dark magic exposition away in "Balcoin." Jane's memory wipe had complications that resulted in the Dawn-Jon Blackwell connection becoming known. The witch hunters might fear dark magic but their council might desire dark magic. Dark magic is sought after because of its immense power. Jake swore to the head witch hunter that Cassie could control the dark magic. Head witch hunter shook his head in disgust and promised Jake that the dark magic would destroy the circle instead of saving it. You see, there's another one with Balcoin magic within the circle. Who? No idea. The most obvious one is Faye, so it won't be her. Also, the most interesting part of the hour happened during the previews for the show's January 5 return--Cassie, after using her dark magic, sat in a daze and remarked that the power felt really good. I'm on board for a few episodes of Crazy Cassie.

Through nine episodes, I don't particularly care about any of the characters. I'm not invested in any of the relationships. Maybe 15 year old Chris would be rooting for Cassie and Adam but 24 year old Chris doesn't give a damn. I just want strong characters, strong storytelling, good dialogue, etc. Essentially, I want a polished genre show. The Secret Circle's far from a polished series. Great genre shows, besides LOST, didn't become great until their second season, so TSC has time to improve the weak dialogue and characterization. I'll watch and write about the show when it returns in 2012, though. Until then...

Andrew Miller & Andrea Newman wrote "Balcoin." Brad Turner directed it.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "Homecoming" Review

The homecoming dance is a staple of the high school experience. Alumni return to the campus ground for a weekend of nostalgia. The current students dress in their best evening wear, take a date, and dance their hearts out to the music of whatever's trendy on the radio. Homecoming's slightly different in Mystic Falls. The dance itself never happens because a mysterious someone lit the gymnasium on fire. Luckily, Tyler Lockwood invited people over for a different kind of homecoming celebration. Actually, the word luck is a poor choice because the party at Lockwood manor brought together father and his bastard son. Indeed, Mikael and Klaus were reunited under the stars of Georgia as My Morning Jacket rocked out and a band of hybrids prepared a massacre. Damon and Elena plotted to kill the original vampire, but even the best laid plans are unreliable.

"Homecoming" was an exciting hour of television, a fine way to conclude the first 1/3 of the third season. The twists were plentiful, the stakes were high, and I actually believed the series would kill Klaus off. The episode kept me on the edge of my seat for most of the hour, except for the end, when the final twist was a bit underwhelming. Every major character, except for Alaric and Jeremy, were able to play a part in the dramatic reunion between father and bastard son. Relationships were significantly altered and storylines shifted. A job well done by the writers, especially when the episode's more of a transitional episode than a mid-season finale (but perhaps the terms mean the same thing).

The most important event in the episode happened as Damon attempted to drive a stake through Klaus' dead heart. Damon planned and planned and planned for the moment when he'd confront Klaus with a stake in hand. He anticipated Mikael's treachery and the group of hybrids ready to kill at Klaus' command; however, the vampire didn't anticipate Stefan jumping in to save Klaus' life. Stefan's act separated Damon and the dagger, which allowed Klaus to use the dagger on the father who turned him into a monster. Damon fled to the Salvatore mansion where he began drinking and brooding. Elena waited there and felt confused upon witnessing Damon's vexation. Damon explained that Stefan saved Klaus' life and he doesn't understand why. Elena told Damon that they'd let Stefan go now because there's no point in holding onto someone who won't return. Of course, both were unaware of the deal Stefan made with Klaus. The delivery of Mikael would restore Stefan's humanity as well as remove Klaus' compulsion. Ultimately, we learned that Katherine intervened because Klaus promised Damon's death regardless if he himself lived or died--a hybrid's duty extends beyond the death of their master. Katherine demanded Stefan to find some part of himself that cared again. From what we saw, compulsion Stefan's able to act boldly if he witnesses something or personally feels for it, so the request for his compulsion to be lifted came from his desire to save his brother's life.

Damon doesn't know about what happened. The vamp literally has no idea that two people risked their lives because of their love for him. I'm not sure how long the brothers will be separated but I dread their reunion because Damon's not one to forget a slight, and fictional characters have issues with communication. I'm more interested in exploring Katherine's sliver of humanity she let dominate when she made the decision to save Damon's love. Once upon a time, she loved both Salvatore brothers (and still does, if I recall correctly). Unfortunately, Katherine's on her way out of Mystic Falls because she needs to put as much distance between she and Klaus as physically possible--her derring-do hasn't reduced her fear of original vampires. I imagine Damon and Elena's decision to let Stefan go will lead to a romance of sorts, which will complicate matters when Stefan returns to them a hero.

Oh yeah, Stefan took his compulsion free life to the caskets of Klaus' other siblings. We learned last week that Klaus dealt with his siblings by stake when they disappointed him, so Stefan decided to wake them up because the taste of revenge trumps the taste of freedom. Stefan resembled another brooding vampire in his final scenes--one Angel from Buffy and ANGEL. He donned leather on his car ride with Katherine and explained that he can't remember his humanity until he atones for the sins he committed whilst controlled by Niklaus. Stefan won't help the hopeless or the helpless. He's more season 2 Angel, if one cares enough to compare the two. It will be cool to see Stefan spread his wings without Elena being at the forefront of his mind, and without Klaus hovering over him.

The direction of Klaus is also interesting. The furious exchange with his father before he murdered him was loaded with resentment and insults. Mikael accused Klaus of compelling people to be around him. Klaus resented that statement, though it reeked of truth. Will Klaus quit using his mind to build an army or won't he care about what his father thought? His hybrids are tethered to him, so much so that Tyler damaged his relationship with Caroline. Klaus is supposed to be one of the most important characters in the series. His power doesn't translate into a compelling character to watch each week, though. Hopefully the writers have a new direction for him in January.

The Katherine twist didn't fool me. I liked it. I'm not criticizing the series because I wasn't fooled. Nina Dobrev embraces the sexy whenever she's Katherine though. The hair and the dress were entirely Katherine. I even remarked aloud that Nina Dobrev looks good in everything she wears. I thought the constant cutting as twists were reveal was distracting and unnecessary. TVD's done that before and will do so again. Consider it a staple of the series. Overall, though, I thought "Homecoming" was exciting and a great deal of fun.

The Vampire Diaries won't return until January 5, 2012. Evan Bleiweiss wrote the episode. Joshua Butler directed it.


Monday, November 7, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "Disaster Averted" Review

I experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irene in the last weekend of August. This review won't turn into a multi-paragraph remembrance of the storm like last week's Halloween nostalgia trip. I merely would like to state that Hurricane Irene might've been the most overrated storm of all-time--a product of bored weather men and women not used to a significant tropical event. The good people of Vermont and Northern Jersey would disagree with me because both areas experienced significant damage and flooding, so I'll amend the sweeping declaration by saying the hurricane wasn't significant enough to build two significant events around in How I Met Your Mother.

Future Ted told his children story of the hurricane to convey the importance of friendship in potentially disastrous situations. The tropical storm brought the friends together in a special way. The company one keeps is enough for anyone to survive any situation, according to Future Ted. That's all well and good if the friends weren't together every single week. The hurricane, of course, carried a threat. The circumstances were more dire for the friends. They believed their lives were in danger. I'd describe the five characters as stupid because they were located in Manhattan, away from the water and large trees which eliminates the threat of tree damage and flooding. Now, if Ted and the gang were trapped in Westchester for the weekend, where large trees exist, then the euphoria of the group would've made more sense; however, they remained in Manhattan. The only thing the storm caused was a power outage.

The strength of the episode were the scenes post-Irene, as Ted told Kevin the story of the boogie-boarding rule. Marshall and Barney were involved in intense negotiations over the yellow ducky tie. "Disaster Averted" opened with an action sequence that ended with a bird stealing the ducky tie. Barney crafted the elaborate lie because he was desperate to rid himself of the tie. The over-the-top intensity and seriousness of the scenes were made them great, as well as NPH and Jason Segal's commitment to the material. The ducky tie negotiations ended with a deal that Barney would lose the tie in exchange for three more slaps (two of which were used immediately after the deal was made). Marshall and Lily felt obligated to pay Barney back because they made a baby in his bathroom during the hurricane. Barney needed to rid himself of the tie because he and Nora will spend an evening with her parents, and Barney wanted to make a good impression. The growth of Barney Stinson continued. His relationship with Nora's in a good place and he even worries about the opinion her parents will have of him.

Of course, Barney jumped through the hoops with the ducky tie then promptly engaged in a makeout session with Robin in the back of the car. You see, baby making wasn't the only surprising development during the weekend of the hurricane. Robin and Barney nearly kissed as the last remnants of Irene soaked their skin and hair. A phone call from her father ruined the moment. Barney soon re-connected with Nora. Robin soon met Kevin in therapy. Robin used the words "disaster averted" when recalling the near kiss. Barney joked that the kiss would've been all tongue and saliva--a complete mess. The old couple kissed in the back of the cab with more passion in those few seconds than we've seen between the characters and their respective significant others. I didn't expect the series to return to Barney and Robin so quickly. The kiss doesn't mean they're bound for a romantic reunion. The kiss doesn't mean the wedding where Ted meets his wife is any closer. I feel that the kiss is a product of sweeps, to be dealt with before the hiatus, and then returned to in the spring.

Overall, "Disaster Averted" succeeded. I've enjoyed the recent string of HIMYM episodes. The stories are working. The jokes are landing. I liked Ted's hurricane outfit. Robin's opinion of the storm delighted me because I enjoy Canadian Robin. It's a shame that Kal Penn's contract is nearly up because the addition of Kevin to the group's been fun.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Once Upon A Time "Snow Falls" Review

The Evil Queen wanted Snow White's heart.

The punishment for ruining her life was death, and the heart would prove that Snow White no longer walked the mystical grounds of fairy tale land. The Queen's pursuit of Snow White transformed the girl into an outlaw capable of stealing from royalty. Once Upon a Time's Snow White isn't the one from the 1937 Disney classic. The woman possesses a backbone, an attitude, a fighting spirit, and the ability to protect herself. Snow White's portrayal is one for the progressive 21st century.

The flashbacks and the present were reversals of one another. The flashback told the story of how Snow White and Prince Charming met and fell in love. The flashback contained the familiar tropes of their story. Charming saved her life more than once. In the present, the roles were reversed. Mary Margaret stirred him from the coma with a rendition of the story we were witnessing in the flashbacks. John Doe left the hospital in a delirious state, searching for the woman who read to him. Doe was weak from months in a coma, and Mary found him lying in a stream. When she put her mouth to his, he choked the water out from within his body and opened his eyes to look into the eyes of the one he loved in another life. Except he didn't remember her. You see, that's the curse.

The flashbacks were beautifully shot. The forests of Vancouver are lush and rich in color. Last week's flashbacks were weakened by weak green screen effects. The Evil Queen came from a cartoonish world with pixilated objects whereas Snow White inhabited an actual forest. I'd like to write more about the layers of Snow White but Liz Tigelaar's script provided very little about her life before we met her. In LOST tradition, her details were left out, to be filled in later in another episode. Like I wrote already, she's a strong-willed and determined heroine. The girl doesn't quiver in fear when ensnared in a net by Prince Charming. Instead, she quips and shows no fear. Charming respects her. While she wouldn't last a day in Westeros, she's perfectly fine in fairy tale world. Snow White only agrees to help Charming recover lost jewels because he threatened to turn her into the queen (where she's wanted for murder, treason and treachery). Together, they traverse the woods, fight a couple of bridge trolls, and fall in love on that troll bridge. Charming endears himself to her when he saves her from queen's men just as they're about to cut her heart out.

The Storybrooke narrative had a different energy and excitement. Henry persuaded Mary to read the fairy tale book to John Doe because he felt confident that she'd be the one to wake him up. First, though, some Mary Margaret history. Mary's a loving and dutiful teacher but she's lonely. Blind dates disappoint her because she's disappointing to men. Men look at other women instead of the one sitting in front of them, speaking to them. Henry's insistence that John's her true love makes Mary curious, so she reads to him. When he touches her hand, Mary feels a connection that surprises her. Once John disappeared from the hospital, she searched for him with help from Henry and Emma. And, of course she found him, and breathed life into him again. Mary felt happiness until Regina introduced everyone to David's wife--Katherine. Emma later confronted Regina about the "coincidence." Regina told her the security tapes revealed the woman; that she's being accused of something she didn't do.

However, the Evil Queen wanted Snow White's heart for whatever she did to ruin her life. The desire for Snow White's heart and soul is the reason for the curse, after all. Regina told Emma that being alone is the worst curse of all. Storybrooke's a place where Mary's heart is gone. Henry and Emma will help her in whatever way they can but Regina possesses the power and shares a friendship with Mr. Gold, so Mary's heart remains in the queen's hands. I liked how the queen does, in fact, get Snow White's heart--just in a way Snow White wouldn't expect.

Mary won't live a lonely life anymore, either. Emma accepted Mary's offer to stay in the spare room. I liked how tightly written the family traits were written. For example, Mary, Emma and Henry possess an ability to find people. All three are lonely without each other; now, none of them will be lonely as long as they're together. Of course, Mary's unaware that Emma's her daughter; that Henry's her grandson. 'Tis only episode three though, plenty of time for that discovery.

The episode succeeded because I'm invested in Snow White and Prince Charming. The pilot suggested they were a boring couple. Thankfully, there wasn't anything boring about their origin story. "Snow Falls" was well done. Each character was written with confidence. The series has a confidence that's not common in new shows. Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz deserve a pat on the back for a job well done thus far. I look forward to more episodes.

Liz Tigelaar wrote the episode. Dean Smith directed it.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grimm "Bears Will Be Bears" Review

Will anyone notice if I write one paragraph about Grimm instead of a full review? I don't think so, but that's what I plan to do because I was half-asleep during "Bears Will Be Bears."

Do not misinterpret my half-asleep comment as an insult to the series. I was short on sleep as well as energy after truncated sleep and a fairly active morning of street hockey. I watched the episode on demand, then had trouble keeping my eyes open; however, I rule myself qualified to write about the episode. I liked quite a bit about "Bears Will Be Bears." Certainly, the early Mutant Enemy tone of the episode pleased me. The show's adaptation of the famous Goldilocks and the Three Bears was one done. The tone of the series has been consistent through two episodes. Fairy tales were conceived to keep children from walking into the woods, or anywhere, alone and at night. The three bears story doesn't resemble a children's story at all. The family of blutbad bears weren't happy when two humans broke into the house and entered, eating their food and fornicating on their beds. The family, led by Mama Bear, needed to ritualistically murder the young couple to allow the sons to tap into their blutbad-ness. The father remembered his heart and soul and helped Nick, despite the history between blutbads and Grimms. I appreciated the unlikely partnership because I'm interested in the exploration of the nature of people. Eddie protected Aunt Marie from an army of assassins, and even ripped a guy's arm off. Unfortunately, Marie died, leaving Nick as the lone Grimm to fight and kill the bad beasts hiding in human form. Nick realized how little he understood about the world he's entering, which is why he asked Eddie to protect his aunt while he investigated the case-of-the-week. After he laid flowers over her grave, his girlfriend wondered if he'd be okay. Nick said he would be, in time, as he stood and looked like a man ready to kick some bad blutbad ass. It was a second straight solid episode of Grimm.

-Now, the TV shows I write about weekly are bound for an extended hiatus. The writers, directors, and crew need time to make these episodes we love so much. It's a fools errand to ask my silent readership about what they'd like to read, so I'll opt to write to myself about shows I'll possibly re-watch for the Winter Re-Watch. Perhaps, I'll dive back into the world of Everwood for the rest of its second season. Maybe I'll write about a select group of terrible season five episodes from Dawson's Creek. I do not know. Maybe I'll write original fiction instead of writing my thoughts about episodes that are old.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Secret Circle "Beneath" Review

The members of the circle took a road trip to the Chamberlain lake house to find Jane. A massive storm hit as they approached the lake house. Torrents of rain fell to the earth and drenched the teenagers as they raced inside. The circle found an empty house. Instead of immediately leaving, the gang decided to stay the night to wait out the severe storm. What ensued were personal attacks, dramatic confrontations, attempted intercourse AND actual intercourse, and the discovery of Henry's corpse in the lake. Meanwhile, Dawn and Charles worked together to cover their tracks whilst Jake continued to scout for the witch hunter's group. All in all, a fairly action-packed and worthwhile hour of The Secret Circle.

The balance between supernatural drama and teenage drama was equal in "Beneath." The majority of the drama stemmed from the various romantic entanglements and envy within the circle. Jake's brought nothing but v-neck shirts and controversy since his return to Chance Harbor. A game of truth or dare went terribly, as it always does on CW or WB shows. I recall the "Detention" episode of Dawson's Creek, specifically, because I just wrote about in the summer. The wacky teenagers in Capeside played a game of truth or dare that led to hurt feelings and life-altering kisses. The circle's game of truth or dare unfolded in exactly the same way, except for Diana removing her shirt as part of a dare. The mood was light enough for alcohol and an ill-advised game of truth or dare because Cassie received a text from her grandmother, ensuring her granddaughter of her safety (it shouldn't surprise anyone that Charles sent the text to cover his tracks).

Tempers flared as the game of truth or dare progressed. Faye and Diana ganged up on Cassie. Adam interrogated Jake about why the witch hunters left him out of the circle. Cassie established her walls of self-defense. Faye felt jealous because of how close Jake and Cassie have been. Diana's envious because Adam and Cassie are destined to be with one another in the stars. The catty side of the girls emerged as they accused Cassie of stealing boyfriends and ex-boyfriends. Cassie's in a vulnerable place emotionally. The relationship between feelings and magic is quite close. The emergence of dark magic turned Cassie into a slightly unwieldy girl. She wore her emotions more openly. Her eyes watered more quickly, her mouth twisted in anger and annoyance. Cassie's confession about her role in torching their classmate last week bothered none of her friends, thus the catty comments.

Cassie tried to sleep with Jake after the treatment she received during the game; however, Jake rejected her advances. Jake's more interested in her magic than her. The dark magic is a game-changer and he needs to know where the weakness is so he can kill her along with the rest of the circle. Also, there's the matter of the mysterious scroll inscribed with Jane's initials. Cassie feels instinctive about her individual powers. Jake instructed her to imagine the fire instead of chanting for the fire, and then the fire sparked and burned. Later, Cassie followed the image of young Faye to the end of the docks where she put her hands into the water to pull the body from its depths. As she explained later, "I just knew what to do."

Dawn and Charles seem unaware of Cassie's additional power. The adults continue to make mind-boggling decisions. Obviously, they desire power again. Their plan involves a growing body count now. The discovery of Henry in a lake will rouse more suspicion than the original plan of a heart attack. Charles altered Jane's mind (so HEROES). The pieces should come together next week. At least, I hope they do. I appreciate the dramatic irony but I want the series to move forward, to enter a world where the circle knows about the acts Dawn and Charles committed. I'm more interested in a series in which the biggest threat isn't a bland group of witch hunters but, rather, parents. If the mid-season finale wraps up the witch-hunter arc for a major arc in the middle of the season centered on Dawn and Charles then I'll be pleased. Something needs to give though.

The episode concluded with the head witch hunter stating the group's intentions to finally murder the teenage circle. Head witch hunter wants to deal with the teenage witches before investigating who murdered elder Henry. I doubt the group succeeds. I feel confident that the episode will be good, though. If you care about the love nonsense, I suppose the episode will have some of that as well.

I'd be remiss if I ignored the circumstances around the vision of young Faye. The elders possess so much power that they'll continue to use it in death if not killed properly. Henry used magic to lead Cassie and Faye to his body. Again, the theme of discovery continues. One wonders where this discovery will take an already fragile and vulnerable Faye.

Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson wrote "Beneath." John Fawcett directed it.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "Ordinary People" Review

The info dumps in Vampire Diaries are never boring or a chore to get through. Earlier this season, in episode three, the info dump was full of action and mayhem whereas "Ordinary People" achieved a more quiet tone, somber and mournful. There were stretches when the episode dragged but, as a whole, "Ordinary People" is a nice rebound from last week's underwhelming ghost adventure.

The theme of the episode was familial bonds. The original vampire family defied the laws of nature to remain a family until the end of time. Stefan and Damon haven't turned their backs on one another, despite their colorful history. Love bonds these vampires regardless of their behavior throughout the centuries. Rebekah told Elena over 1,000 years of back story. Through Rebekah's story, we learned about the origin of vampires. Vampires were created by the original witch, Rebekah's mother, to protect them all from the ravenous werewolves who stalked the forests during full moons. The story of the original vampire family is written in blood and betrayal, in pain and suffering, but also in love and devotion. They're complicated characters with complex emotions, and that's how it should be.

Rebekah and her siblings learned about the limits of vampiric life gradually. A walk in the sun resulted in burns, a touch of flower burned the hands, the tree of life became the tree of death, friendly neighbors held power to keep them out of their homes. Blood lust came from nowhere and then Rebekah was at someone's throat, feeding and becoming predatory--creatures damned in the eyes of God and men. Most importantly, emotions were heightened. Rebekah loves recklessly; Klaus cannot control his rage; Elijah was a moralist to the end. Mikael, their father, was a harsh and strict disciplinarian as a human, and more so as an immortal vampire.

Rebekah told Elena the long and involved history of her family because Elena wanted a good reason not to wake Mikael from his tomb. It didn't matter because Mikael's been up for some time now. When Elena heard about the savage murder of Rebekah's mother, she returned to the wall of symbols to figure out the actual story. The truth wasn't hard to decipher. Klaus harbored resentment for the original witch because of the hybrid curse. Thus, the revelation that he murdered his mother didn't surprise me; however, Rebekah's extreme grief moved me. In fact, the last five minutes of "Ordinary People" were quite moving. I digress. Klaus spun a web of lies and manipulation to keep Rebekah and Elijah with him. When they disappointed him, he kept them locked in coffins for an extended period of time. Klaus' sadistic side isn't anything new. His siblings’ devotion towards him is somewhat surprising. Blood lines are everything in TVD, though.

The Salvatore brothers experienced a rare chance to hang out and bond. Damon freed Stefan from Lexi's rehabilitation cell. The brothers bar-hopped and chatted. They played drinking games whilst Stefan waited for the catch. Damon had no catch. The vampire's just invested in his brother's redemption. Stefan lost his humanity because he decided to save Damon's life using Klaus' blood. Damon wants to return the favor. Despite the loss of humanity and the d-bag behavior, Stefan still loves his brother. Mikael crashed their party by threatening to rip Damon's heart out of his chest. Stefan needed to tell him where his bastard son's been hiding. The compulsion didn't allow Stefan to divulge such secrets, so he offered to lure him back to Mystic Falls. Satisified, Mikael removed his hand from Damon's chest.

Damon's sometimes slow when it comes to feeling things. He took great offense when Stefan mockingly complimented him on his humanity. By great offense, I mean he punched Stefan in the face and kicked him in the ribs for good measure. Stefan vowed to flee Mystic Falls when his humanity returned to him; that he'd use the kindness of the people who love him to abandon them--that's what pissed Damon off. Elena, though, knows Damon better than he knows himself. Damon's the brother while she's just the girlfriend. Stefan's love for Damon will be what saves him, and that's a nice thought.

"Ordinary People" is a fitting title. Nothing outrageous or insane occurred during the episode. Its focus was on the essence of the vampires, and their essence is tied to their humanity no matter how inhumane they can be. Ordinary people need love. Klaus became a monster when his parents rejected him. Stefan lost his ability to feel things, which makes him monster. Love is the greatest weapon of all (and, also, magic because magic explains everything in this show).

Next week's the mid-season finale, which means I need to find other shows to write about until January after next week's episode. Julie Plec and Caroline Dries wrote the script. Nick Wauters got the story credit. J. Miller Tobin directed.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Revenge "Charade" Review

"Charade" opened with a quotation from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. If I was mid-drink, I would've done a spit-take. Leave it to Revenge to reduce an exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia to mere drivel. Emily went on and on about the concept of duality--how people have two halves, defined in terms of light and darkness, good and evil. I wonder, did Mike Kelley and his writers need to emphasize the duality inherent in the series' narrative? Remember, the series follows a woman's quest for revenge; a woman who, literally, has two identities. The previous episodes have established the other characters in the same way--there's their public life and their secret life. The themes aren't impossible to grasp. Does Mike Kelly think he's writing Ulysses?

ABC advertised the episode as a game-changer for the last week. No doubt the beginning of November sweeps motivated the advertising department at the network to promote "Charade" as if it was the most important episode in the 2010-2011 television season. Well, "Charade" isn't the best hour of the TV season, nor will it be, because Game of Thrones is going to win that award during their second season (which begins in April). I don't begrudge ABC for lying to the audience about the grandeur of the episode. I understand that TV is a business and yada yada. I'll admit that I had more expectations for the episode. Unfortunately, the episode didn't match my expectations. In theory, I should be interested by the escalating drama in the Hamptons. I mean, the real Emily Thorne murdered Frank and found the woman whom she swapped identities with. Lydia awoke from her coma along with her memories of what she learned about Emily. Conrad and Victoria separated. Declan insulted the rich people to their faces. Nolan and Tyler fornicated for some reason.

My favorite scene in the episode was between Emily and Nolan. For the first time in the series, someone asked Emily about whether her plans for revenge were really worth it. Nolan's been an odd source of reason. The incident with Frank spooked the rich sociopath into hiring a body guard and scouting Emily's house to find where people could break in most easily. Nolan seemed perplexed by Emily's icy resolve. The woman barely reacts to anything, much less the possible disruption of her carefully laid plans. So, Nolan wonders why she'd bother with her vengeance-filled lifestyle when she could relax, with her millions, in a nice place, far away from the Hamptons. Nolan also asked her about her feelings for Daniel vs. her feelings for Jack. Emily didn't have interest in discussing the matter with Nolan, nor do I have interest in writing about it.

The episode beat the viewers over the head with its duality theme, especially in the A story. The Graysons were celebrating 25 years of marriage. The New York Times sent a reporter to write a feature about the most perfect couple in the Hamptons. On paper, the Graysons are the quintessence of love and fidelity. In reality, their disdain for one another's begun to poison the family. Charlotte acts out against her mother by inviting blue collar Declan to the anniversary dinner while Daniel debased himself by actually working in a bar, Victoria and Conrad commented on the difference between reality and the flowery NYT write-up. Conrad went for blood when he brought up his wife's affections for David Clarke, which meant we were given flashbacks to the days before Clarke's trial. Victoria was the key to ruining her lover's life. The reasons remain unclear. Their relationship, though, is broken.

Tyler, too, has dual identities--one half is the son of a financially broken family while the other aims to steal Daniel Grayson's life. Nolan defined him as a "gay hustler" when he was given the task to take Tyler down. Tyler used his homoeroticism to seduce Nolan. Nolan allowed it to happen because he's collecting evidence to destroy the man's image within the Grayson household--a homosexual sex tape is one way to wield power. Tyler doesn't seem particularly dangerous; however, Mike Kelley told EW that the Tyler arc is just beginning. I doubt the character just wants an entry level job in Conrad's company.

We learned more about Emily's connections in "Charade." For instance, she's developed a close relationship with the warden. Their interactions suggest Emily learned a great deal about how to live her revenge-fueled life. The original Emily Thorne's invested enough in her double life to murder a guy just to keep secrets. If nothing else, the characters in Revenge are incredibly committed people. They won't stray from their purpose or goals until they are accomplished.

Revenge takes it first break of the season, which means a new episode won't air until November 16.


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.