Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts on Wilfred & Louie

I caught the final 30 seconds of the Anger Management premiere and wondered why Charlie Sheen even bothered to return to TV. Of course, I know why he's back: the outrageous paycheck he'll receive. The 30 seconds weren't enjoyable. Anyway, I have some thoughts about Wilfred, Louie, and other TV news on this scorching Friday.

-Wilfred is tremendous television. The series premiered last June and didn't stand out very much. Each episode improved, though. By the season finale, I was invested in the characters. Now, it's a show I look forward to on a weekly basis. Last week's "special preview" was nutty and surreal. This week's was more grounded and better overall. The choice to turn Wilfred into a diehard Green Bay Packers fan was great. The choice to have him run a dog obstacle course on the beach was brilliant. Jason Gann's interactions with the actual dogs were inspired. Wilfred won't appeal to all of America. It's a niche show with a strange sense of humor and an ability to migrate into dark storytelling. Elijah Wood and Gann are great together. Fiona Gubelman's so pretty I want to take her to Sandals Negril for authentic jerk chicken. Chris Klein's fantastic as the douche-bag boyfriend. I don't know where the second season heading, but I know Allison Mack will be involved. Ryan stopped being selfish in "Letting Go." I doubt it'll stick, but it should change Wilfred a bit.

-Louie's back for its third season. TV critics and fans on message boards love this show. Love is possibly too weak a word to describe people's affinity for Louie. The show is terrific; certainly, it's one of the most original shows on TV because of the freedom FX gives Louie. The premiere is typical Louie, i.e. horrible stuff happens to him. He ate what looked like New York City's greatest pie. I read On The Road several months ago and developed a desire for pie with ice cream after Sal Paradise's description of the pie and how he ate only pie and ice cream for three weeks. Unfortunately, I got invested in Louie eating the pie and ice cream during the break-up scene with his girlfriend and missed most of what she said, though I got the gist of it. Perhaps I'll need to stop by Hudson Diner when I make my return to NYC. My favorite part of the episode was when Louie's car was blocked in by construction work. The construction worker didn't know what work was being done, and that response taps into what people think when they see construction crews lined for a mile on a highway, taking up a lane, forcing traffic to stop as people merge into the one lane because they think they'll get ahead of everyone when in fact they're actually creating the traffic by being selfish so and sos. Louie's car is soon smashed in.

-Networks are rolling out their premiere dates. The CW returns in October this season, which means I have plenty of time left to write those ever popular Everwood reviews. Grimm will return August 13, which pleases me, because Grimm is awesome, and I like writing about current TV. I won't write about fall schedules and dates until late August when I write the two-week long Fall TV Preview.

-I'm still watching Lost Girl on Syfy. I wrote about season one. I didn't care to continue writing about season two. Soon, I will write about a season two episode. I quite regret not writing about the body-switching episode, which was the highlight of season two. In other Syfy news, Alphas returns on July 23, which is a series I enjoyed last summer. Lost Girl will move to Fridays after WWE Smackdown. I, of course, watch Smackdown weekly.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "Unhappy Holidays" Review

A scene in "Unhappy Holidays" crystallizes the episode's message, or theme, for the viewer. Andy treated a teenage boy who burned his feet walking on coals. The boy, Charlie, lives on an Indian Reservation and wanted to train for the rite of passage that marks a boy becoming a man. His father, after the boy successfully walks across the hot coals, explains to Andy that the father's tested more than the son. The father learns how to be a father to a man instead of a boy. The episode's about the Everwood parents watching helplessly as their children actively decide to make mistakes. The Abbots and Andy Brown try to intervene and control their respective child's decision-making, to treat them like the little kids they used to be, but the technique doesn't work. Amy and Ephram are teenagers and eager to make little and big mistakes.

Amy Abbott's descent into a Lifetime Movie of the Week plot reaches bottom. After weeks and weeks of sadness and Abbott domestic discord, the family reaches rock bottom over Thanksgiving dinner. Tommy Callahan is the catalyst for the fall, but he's inconsequential, an easy target to blame. Amy's issues are deeper than a bad buy employed by the local drug store. James Joyce said he wanted his literature to be a good looking-glass for which his countrymen could peer into and see themselves in. Harold and Rose avoid the looking-glass constantly, unable to admit their culpability in Amy's descent from town princess to depressed, sad and manipulative girl. Harold looked the other way. Rose saw what she wanted, interpreted instances of smiles and light in her daughter's eyes as confirmation that the worst passed, just like when a severe thunderstorm passes in summer and leaves behind some bent branches but a beautiful day. Harold learned about Tommy's reputation from Bright and accused Amy of hiding the boy's identity because she's become a manipulative and hurtful person. Pudding pie isn't even served before Tommy politely leaves the house after aggressive interrogation from Harold. Amy and Harold yell at one another. The next morning, Harold and Rose found out their daughter ran away in the night, not to Tommy, to who knows where. The last words she spoke to her parents were filled with hate, hate for them, hate for herself, and she wished for death finally, because she can't feel anymore.

The Abbotts make a choice in next week's episode that Andy makes in "Unhappy Holidays." Before the morning comes, Harold took refuge in a local bar, where Andy sat drinking as well, both deflated by fights with their children. Harold wonders when a dive bar on Thanksgiving night became preferable to sitting in his home, enjoying his family. Andy realizes their setting is too depressing, so they head over to the local casino, which is where Andy has the enlightening chat with Charlie's father. Harold goes home $7,000 poorer, receives a scolding from his wife and mother-in-law, and feels as low as a husband and provider and father can feel. Rose defends him against her mother by admitting the loss of money is a rare mistake for an otherwise exemplary father and husband. Several hours later, they must deal with their missing child.
The choice Andy makes involves Ephram's relationship with Madison. Andy loses his cool when he finds them kissing on the family room couch. The reasons for frowning upon the relationship include the law and the ethics of the situation. Ephram pouts and accuses his father of being jealous he has someone and Andy doesn't. The moments were rare when Ephram acted like a complete Dawson Leery but when they come they're unpleasant. I should note the line's written so that Andy finds the courage to kiss Linda on the mouth and tell her he wants to be with her, to forget about the roses and the balloons and just be there for her, disease or no disease. Andy's adamant about the mistake the Ephram-Madison relationship and I couldn't agree more because it's my second least favorite arc in the series. The forced break-up causes a ripple effect in the Brown household. Delia's most affected. Her brother is miserable; her baby-sitter and best friend can't handle being around the boy who makes her 'undone.' It's miserable to watch. I mean, it's actually miserable to watch. I briefly detailed my issues with the relationship last week and those issues remain: I can't buy into what the writers wanted us to buy. I would've preferred the writers told the same story but without a 20 year old babysitter and all of the drama that comes along with it. From scene #1, there's been zero sense of passionate romantic feelings between Ephram and Madison. The relationship is a massive misfire.

Andy's actually most concerned with Ephram's heart being broken for the first time. None of the characters consider what actually happens in the season finale when weighing the pros and cons of this courtship. The innocence of the concern is part of the charm of Everwood. The innocence extends to Ephram, who perceives himself as a man because he cleans the fireplace and brings wood into the house from the backyard, but he wants to have a girlfriend finally and is willing to fight for this chance. Madison listens to Andy list this concern about first heart-break. When Andy tells Ephram he won't stop the relationship, it's because he needs to let his child make mistakes and learn from them. Loving someone is an act of growing-up.

The happy moments are few and far between in "Unhappy Holidays." The episode was the last before a long hiatus on TheWB. Andy gets the girl before the episode fades to black, though. Linda and Andy kiss at a Christmas Tree lot while the first snow of the season falls. More importantly, The Chief told Andy about the ancient tribes using the time before the first snow fall to allow the gods to guide them to their winter encampment--it's the time of the Sojourn. The Chief's words reverberate throughout the episode. The next run of episodes will be the time of Sojourn for the characters. Everyone's on a new journey. It'll be interesting to watch where everyone ends up, whether one makes it to a safe encampment or is buried in the snow.

Other Thoughts:

-Delia looks like she wants to power bomb her father and Linda through a table when they kiss. Poor Delia's always getting sent off to get something or look at something while the Brown men dance around for the women they want. I also think Madison's inability to stay for Thanksgiving dinner because of feelings for Ephram was disappointing.

-Betty White guest starred as Rose's mother-in-law, eight years before signing Betty White to a guest stint became the trendy thing on the internet. Betty's great as the irritating mother-in-law, though I would've liked to see Amandes and her get more material besides 'mother-in-law emasculates Harold.' This Betty's only appearance on Everwood, though she might be seen in "Family Dynamics" briefly.

-The snow effect on TV is nice except when it hits an actor or actress' hair. It looks like pieces of paper blowing around.

-John Pogue wrote the script. Jason Moore directed.

UP NEXT: "Family Dynamics"--The Abbott family is in turmoil; Andy takes Delia on a special bonding trip to regain her trust. Watch it on


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Whedonverse Classic #5: ANGEL's "Guise Will Be Guise"

Credit: Buffyworld

Originally, I planned to conclude Whedonverse Classic with the Pylean episodes. The Pylean adventure is much maligned in the Buffyverse because Joss, Greenwalt and company chose to 'drop' the Darla storyline and focus instead on a romp in another dimension. The Pylea episodes aren't ignored or overlooked. My goal's been to spotlight the episodes fans don't think about when they think about ANGEL and/or Buffy or when they tell their friends about these awesome shows. I scrapped plans for the Pylean post at Classic's end and thought about the other episodes in season two. My mind immediately thought of "The Trial," "Happy Anniversary," "Blood Money," "The Thin Dead Line," but I kept returning to the sixth episode of the season, "Guise Will Be Guise." 

Season 2 is a series-defining season for the show. Anyone I recommend ANGEL to always receives something along the lines of me telling them they need to watch season one first and make it through the very up-and-down season full of misses and few hits but once they reach the end of season one, season two awaits them, and it is a tremendous season of television. "Guise Will Be Guise" is a terrific stand-alone in a season full of terrific episodes, both stand-alones and non-stand-alones. Jane Espenson's scripts touch on the most important themes of the season while carefully developing the characters and their personal arcs. The episode is a microcosm of the story so far as five episodes into the season, but on re-watch, it's a microcosm of the season and begins what's finished in the Pylean arc.

Wesley Wyndham-Price is still the screw-up of ANGEL Investigations in #206. He hasn't shed the nerdy watcher reputation from his Sunnydale High days. Wesley stumbled around and broke stuff throughout season one. Slowly and surely Wesley became more competent and more of an actual rogue demon hunter than a pretend rogue demon hunter. Wesley trips alot in "Guise Will Be Guise." Not only does he trip, he accidentally removes an entire filing cabinet, scattering the contents around the lobby of the hotel. A miserable looking tough guy comes into the Hyperion looking for Angel and scoffs when Wesley offers to help him. Wesley needs to be the hero, the leader, for just one episode.

Meanwhile, Angel's still obsessed with Darla They're loaded conversation in "Dear Boy" stuck with the brooding vampire with a soul. Angel and Gunn infiltrate Wolfram & Hart with a plan to run away really fast when caught by security. Cordelia and Wesley intervene, send Angel to The Host, and hope the green demon with a heart the size of Russia will help his one track Darla mind. The Host sends Angel to a Swami in rural California for spiritual guidance. Angel's retreat leaves a hole to be filled in Angel Investigations, which Wesley fills when henchman forces him at gunpoint to a new client who needs to protect his daughter from abductors.

The T'ish Magev, who's actually an imposter tasked with keeping Angel away from Los Angeles for the weekend, probes Angel's very soul to cut to the core of him and figure out what makes the man tick. The T'ish harps on Angel's car and wardrobe. For an undead creature of the night, Angel seems preoccupied with appearance. The car is a convertible, which isn't the ideal vehicle for a creature of the night, and he wears black at all times. Angel explains he got a deal on the car, and he has no body temperature and has no reflection so he simply wears black for simplicity. Imposter T'ish Magev offers a pearl of wisdom to Angel by telling him he's reflected all the time by the people around him who care about him and their perceptions and feelings about him.

Wesley adopts the Angel persona and reflects his boss in his playacting. The subtext rapidly becomes text in "Guise Will Be Guise." Wesley wonders how it'd feel to be the hero. Angel wonders how he's reflected in his friends. Wesley's role as Angel is fun and illuminating. We learn how Wesley perceives his boss. Wesley's Angel is brave, respectful, honest, and authoritative, commands respect from the room, and most importantly, cares about his clients. TV's employed the trope of the mistake identity for many years. The trope allows a character to learn something about his or herself that would've eluded him or her had he or she remained himself or herself. Wesley's presence as Angel is commanding and authoritative because of the meaning attached to Angel. In other words, it's about the name. Wesley's still Wesley, though. During a tour of a museum exhibit, Wesley enthuses over the items displayed and teaches Virginia, the daughter he's paid to protect, about them. Wes beats up two guards who try to abduct Virginia. Two other men attempt to steal her away but a strongly worded message to the thugs scares them off. The bad guys don't want to contend with the vampire with a soul, but bad guys shouldn't want to mess with Wesley either once he's accepted himself as a formidable leader and hero in his own way.

Wesley breaks out of his shell, gets the girl, loses the girl and then saves the girl. Wesley loses the girl when he's found out as an imposter of Angel, but he wins the girl back as Wesley Wyndham-Price. The moment is triumphant for the beaten down Wes. Wes takes the lead when Angel returns from the countryside. Angel follows along. Role-reversal indeed. Wesley figured out that the father meant to sacrifice his daughter for more power, because the family made their fortune in wizardry, and other people wanted to abduct Virginia to stop Magnus from becoming too-powerful. Wes is the coolest dude in "Guise Will Be Guise." Wes evolves even more as a hero/leader as the season progresses, culminating in a shining arc in the Pylea journey. "Guise Will Be Guise' establishes Wesley's personal arc.

Angel's duality is a major 'thing' in season two. The demon and the man conflict, blend, bleed into the other, etc, to the point his friends can't tell Angel from Angelus. The fake Swami helps Angel confront the demon in him. Of course, the fake Swami attempts to convince the demon is part of Angel, not separate. Angel's trying to figure out his obsession with Darla. Why does he feel this way about her? Is it because she sired him? Is it the demon? The fake Swami advises Angel to find a cute, little blond, hook up with her, treat her like garbage, and leave town. Angel sits and lets out an 'Uh.." because of, you know, Buffy Summers. The immediate question concerns Angel's true nature: is his current self only a guise to disguise the demon? The question isn't answered until the end of the season, but it's brought up because of how the story would unfold in the next run of episodes; after all, "Darla" follows "Guise Will Be Guise" followed by a little filler and then the insane run from "The Trial" to "Redefinition."

This episode's an example of the quality of ANGEL during its second season. Beyond the character and story business with Wes and Angel, it's simply a really funny and entertaining episode. The sight gags with Wesley are inspired. Alexis Denisof has a gift for physical comedy. The dialogue is amazing. Espenson's excels with language and broad-yet-specific comedy, like the scene when Angel's called a eunuch and Cordelia's amazed Wes got some after one day as Angel. But it's not only Jane. A similar scene pops in late in the season after Angel fights a Pylean warrior. All of ANGEL's best qualities are evident in "Guise Will Be Guise"--the terrific characterization, the action, the heart, the dialogue, etc. When every aspect of the show worked, ANGEL is the best show I've ever watched.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Franklin & Bash "For Those About to Rock" Review

Ever wonder what a random blogger thinks about your favorite show? Well, wonder no more. During the slow summer months, I'll tune into random shows and write about them. This continues with tonight's episode of Franklin & Bash, a TNT show about two fun-loving lawyers that stars the guy from Dead Man on Campus (and Saved By The Bell) and the guy from Road Trip.

I'll be honest; I fell asleep for maybe six minutes during Franklin & Bash. I've no idea where the sudden onslaught of sleep came from. I rewound and didn't miss a beat. Franklin & Bash didn't require too much mental energy to follow. It wasn't like jumping into the Fringe midway through the fourth season to randomly write about it. I needed to keep track of the dynamics between Bash and Franklin, the supporting characters, and figure out who the hell Biff Tannen was supposed to be and why he upset Pindar so much.

Franklin & Bash premiered to decent numbers last summer and performed consistently enough to merit a second season. The series received significant promotion leading up to its premiere. I may or not remember seeing an ad for the premiere while waiting for The Avengers to begin. TNT bought space on various entertainment websites to promote its bro-lawyer show featuring two bros. Whether or not the advertising push helped the show is beyond my knowledge in part because I'm not interested in knowing such information, and because I don't read daily ratings reports. The AV Club dismissed the premiere. I can't imagine any other website pushing the show.

The series works well as a summer series. The inclusion of Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselher as the two leads was a terrific choice. The two actors alone cause a 90s nostalgia. In the case of MPG, it's nostalgia for the early 90s when clothing trends were trapped in the 80s. In the case of Meyer, it's nostalgia for the mid-to-late 90s when he charmed women everywhere as the stoner-skater guy in Clueless, and in Road Trip when he was so irresistible Amy Smart took her top off for him. Meyer's girlfriend in Road Trip is portrayed by the girl who portrayed the Cher character in the TV version of Clueless. Franklin and Bash are fun-loving dudes who party in their off-hours and lawyer in their on-hours. They live in a magnificent property somewhere in California. The women who party in their abode are gorgeous. Five seconds into the episode, I remarked, 'This is better than The Secret Life of the American Teenager.' They want to have fun and feel good and the way to feel good is to win cases for the good guys (or girls).

"For Those About to Rock" follows the fallout of Jared's one-day sub job as a small-claims judge. Jared closes down one of the cities most famous rock n' roll venues because his hands are tied by the law. The local alternative weekly publications attack Jared for killing rock n' roll. Even Bash, the musician of the two who wants to shred, feels disappointed in the ruling. Jared plans to rectify his mistake by winning the venue back for the man he ruled against. The ruled-against man is cautious initially but pledges to fight for rock n' roll.

The show caters well to the first time viewer. Each act increases one's understanding of the dynamics of the characters. Jared works in the same profession as his father. The Franklins have a bad relationship. Franklin the senior usually opposes his son in cases. There are issues between the two that extends beyond the courtroom. Jared gives his father a gift he bought for him years ago for Fathers Day. The gesture implies Franklin the senior doesn't know his son at all. Bash is the funner guy of the partnership. This episode revealed nothing about him except for his fondness for playing music. Their assistant, Hilda, takes initiative in cases, going and getting anywhere she needs to help her bosses. Pindar, the neurotic germaphobe of the law firm, had a therapist who's been arrested for defrauding clients. His boss, Malcom McDowell, defends the therapist to help Pindar overcome his anxieties. The firm is indifferent to the guilty ruling against their client. Throughout the episode is the sense of altruism in the firm, of their willingness to travel to the ends of the earth for each other and for their clients. It's a fantasy, of course, but a good summer fantasy.

Naturally, the procedural element trumps all other elements in the show. The majority of the episode is spent on the case. Franklin and Bash seem buried by the end of the penultimate act until they uncover crucial evidence guaranteed to save their client's venue. The evidence forces them to implore the elder venue owner to testify; this character is a hermit who barely speaks and who carries around a rifle like it's a stuffed animal and he's six years old. Their ability to persuade people and charm the jury pays off well by the end of "For Those About to Rock." The wealthy former partner of the venue is revealed to be harboring a grudge against the elder venue owner which involves a woman. The wealthy man wants to kill the venue because he lost his beloved to his former partner, and he intentionally sabotaged the younger owner's ability to pay the rent. Franklin and Bash win. The client gets the venue back. The wealthy dude lands property somewhere else to build a mall complex. Jared bests his father in the court room. The end is clean and satisfying, which is what procedural viewers want by episode's end.

Franklin & Bash uses one of my favorite procedural devices. Every procedural opens and ends with character stuff. This episode begins and ends with a party. Bash botches a song in the beginning but nails one in the end. Pindar kisses a girl. Jared smiles. All in all, this TNT procedural law comedy is good fun for the summer. Anyone can jump in at any point in the season if one's been interested in the series but afraid the mythology of Franklin & Bash will be too complicated to overcome to appreciate the show in the same way die-hard fans appreciate it. There is no mythology. Just jump in and enjoy yourself.


The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Uncharted Waters" Review

Father and sons stories are as old as time itself. Now that's an unfounded claim I made. I haven't spent the last 13 hours hunched in library researching the first 'father and son' story. Dawson's researching various classic movies in the teaser of "Uncharted Waters" because he wants to make his characters more deep and memorable. Among them is a movie depicting a turbulent father and son story. Usually, any movie Dawson points out in his bedroom in the teaser becomes the 'theme' of an episode. Indeed, the relationship between a father and a son is important in "Unchartered Waters." But back to fathers and sons as a whole for a moment. Damon Lindelof once said he'd be surprised if he met someone who had a good relationship with his dad. Lindelof created LOST, a show in which every character had deep issues with their father. Lindelof should meet me for I had the best relationship with my dad. I realize I was blessed. I know many men don't have positive relationships with their fathers; if TV taught me anything, it is that fact. I also understand writers don't need to have firsthand experience of a lousy relationship with his dad to depict a bad father-son relationship. Fiction is named such for a very good reason.

Three teenage boys embark on a fishing trip with two fathers. Mr. Witter and Mr. Leery are the resident fathers of the boat. Dawson and Pacey are their sons. Jack is the outcast, the loner, and only received an invite because Andie worried about him not having any friends. The episode gets its name from the fact that the show never dealt with father-son relationships in the way the episode does. Pacey's family has been absent because their absent from his life. The only things we know about the Witters is through Pacey, and none of his stories are flattering. Dawson, the best friend, doubts the Witter family treats Pacey as badly as he reports they do. Dawson's Creek is comfortable with storylines between teenagers who are in love, not in showing how a character's been shaped by sixteen years of bad relations with his father.

Dawson Leery loves to draw parallels between his life and other lives. His parallels never hold firm. Each episode of the series seems to shatter a piece of Dawson's world-view. The series begin through his eyes: he had the perfect life with the perfect parents. The perfect life shattered when his mom cheated on his dad. Dawson's idea of the romance of the world bent when he heard about Jen's New York past, and his idea of the world nearly broke when Joey left him for, in his head, Jack McPhee. Pacey repeats his dread of the fishing trip, citing past instances of bad times between him and his father. Dawson smiles and assures his friend it can't be all that bad, but Dawson views his relationship with Mitch as worse than Pacey's with his own father. No one is allowed to experience something worse than Dawson nor something better.

The fishing trip gets worse and worse with each nautical mile. A fishing line breaks and Mr. Witter blames his son. The fish keep swimming right on by the boat. Once, Mr. Witter decides to have Jack help him catch fish and tasks Pacey with the menial tasks of running a boat. Pacey can't catch a break. The boat docks. The men go to a bar and grill to eat food and play darts and billiards. Dawson criticizes his father. Before the docking, Dawson had a conversation in which he told Mitch to get a job and be someone Gail would be proud of. Mitch apologized for being a disappointment. Pacey hears the criticism and flat out tells Dawson to appreciate Mitch for being a good man and a good father. Dawson tries to argue that his relationship with Mitch is worse than Pacey's with his dad; however, Pacey dismisses it, so Dawson then bitches about not being consulted about Jack's presence on the boat. Pacey replies, "Screw you, man." Pacey's dejected and alone on the trip; as always, Dawson, his best friend, is nowhere to be found.

The tensions between father and son explode on a beach outside of the bar. Tensions reached a fever point inside of the bar when Mr. Witter bullied his son into throwing a game of darts. Pacey throws the game in hopes his father will like him for one second. Pacey tries to carry him to the boat, but he's drunk and unstable and too much of a weight for Pacey to carry. The weight is both literal and metaphorical. Father and son drop on a beach. Pacey imagines a conversation in which his dad asks about his life and Pacey responds with all of the positivity of his life. He lashes out and wonders when his dad gave up on him because he's just sixteen years old: how could he give up on him so soon? No magic reconciliation happens afterwards. Mr. Witter didn't hear his son's pleas to be loved as he lay on the beach. The next day, Pacey catches a huge fish, but his father reminds him to appreciate the moment, because he won't experience many more. Pacey's the ultimate underdog in Dawson's Creek: he's in the shadow of his brother and in the shadow of Dawson. Andie's made him a better man, someone who likes himself when he wakes up, but he'll need to learn to love himself without anyone else around.

Dawson witnesses what Mr. Witter says to his son after the presentation of the fish and decides to assure his father that he's proud of him. Dawson was mad because Mitch left. Stupid teenagers hold onto grudges. It still hurts when Mitch drops Dawson off and drives off. Jack McPhee helped Dawson gain perspective, too. One night, sick to the stomach, Jack opened up to Dawson about his father; he left his family to live in Providence, wanting to disappear and not deal with the fallout of Tim's death. For anyone wondering how compelling characters are without romance, "Uncharted Waters" shows who these characters are without women. Dawson's the same; Pacey and Jack, though, have depth.

I don't have many thoughts on the story involving the women of Dawson's Creek. Gail gathered the teenage girls together for a report on what actual teenage girls think about stuff. I dislike the story for employing one of the laziest devices in TV. The TV platform allows the girls to communicate openly in ways they wouldn't normally. Joey's able to admit why she's resentful towards Jen; Jen's able to understand Joey's not a bitch. Abby, in one of the stranger monologues I remember hearing, admits she creates drama because her life's so boring and undramatic. An episode about fathers and sons is book-ended by a little moment between mother and surrogate daughter. Joey feared Jen took her place in the Leery's life. Gail assures Joey of her place by admitting she always felt like Joey was a surrogate daughter.

Other Thoughts:

-Dawson's reaction to a sick Jack is typical: he cracks a smirk at the dude's misery.

-Abby's fantastic throughout the girls-only party. The insults she throws about made me laugh out loud.

-Dana Baratta and Mike White co-wrote the episode. Scott Paulin directed.

UP NEXT: "His Leading Lady"--Rachel Leigh Cooke finally appears, which is the only incentive one needs to watch the episode. Watch it on Netflix or Streampix or YouTube.


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Secret Life of the American Teenager "I Do and I Don't" Review

Ever wonder what a random dude thinks about your favorite show? Well, wonder no more. During the slow summer months, I'll tune into random shows and write about them. This begins with tonight's episode of The Secret Life of An American Teenager, a series I've only seen clips of while watching The Soup.

So, Brenda Hampton and I meet again after a long six years. I still remember the day The CW renewed the shitstorm that was 7th Heaven over Everwood. 7th Heaven had just aired its series finale. The WB promoted the heck out of the 10th and final season every week. The sets were torn down. Meanwhile, Everwood returned from an epic three month hiatus with its best run of episodes in quite some time. The TV business is driven by money, though. 7th Heaven could make The CW a guaranteed buck where Everwood couldn't. The Everwood internet fanbase went insane, perplexed by how 7th Heaven could live on while Everwood went to the big storage room in the sky.

7th Heaven performed horribly for The CW. The series ended. Soon, the folks at ABC Family swooped in to woo Brenda Hampton into making a show for their network. Why?!? Why hand Hampton the keys to another TV show? Now, I know the answer, meaning I understand the business reasons for wanting to be in business with Brenda Hampton. 7th Heaven ran ten goddamn seasons, and Secret Life is on its fifth. The woman makes absolutely horrible television, but people watch her shows week after week. Advertisers pay for time during her shows. Somehow and someway she breaks the rules of screenwriting and gets away with it. Hand one of her scripts over to Carson at Scriptshadow with a fake name and he'll rip it shreds, and then the comment section will rip the script some more.

Lucky for me, tonight's episode of The Secret Life of an American Teenager was penned by the creator/show runner, thee Brenda Hampton. I didn't need to see her name in the credits to figure out who wrote the episode. From minute one until the first commercial break, every line of dialogue had the Brenda Hampton side, and I wanted to concuss myself. Hampton's dialogue is atrocious. Characters stand around and repeat the same information twenty thousand times before the scene ends. One character will say something; the other character will repeat what that character said and add his or her own thoughts on what that character just aid; the first character will repeat what the character said about what he or she said first in addition to the additional thoughts of the other character and then comment on the thoughts of that character, and on and on and on until you want to The Rock to bludgeon you about the head with a steel chair fifteen times in a row.

I knew three things before I watched "I Do and I Don't," courtesy of the wonderful people who produce and write The Soup: I knew Shailene Woodley's character was a lesbian for a span of episodes; I knew a blonde and brunette kissed; I knew Woodley's character married a fellow named Ricky or, rather, might have married a fellow named Ricky. Thanks to Hampton's clunky dialogue, I knew just about everything I needed by episode's end. The whole school treated Amy and Ricky's marriage like the royal wedding. I don't know why. The student body was incredibly supportive of the marriage. The parents of the betrothed were also supportive, so proud of these crazy kids who went out and ELOPED. Oh yeah, friends and well-wishers, don't sleep on the word 'elope' in the 21st century. Brenda Hampton falls in love with certain words. I can't recall specific examples of this from 7th Heaven, thank goodness, but characters will repeat a certain word throughout an episode for no reason. Remember when Eric Matthews used whatever word he discovered was the word of the day? This repetition is like Eric Matthews poor usage. So, anyway, characters used the word elope in nearly every scene. "Heard you eloped last night;" "It's so magical Amy and Ricky eloped;" and blah blah elope blah blah.

Brenda Hampton's characters have the habit of latching onto the most trivial bullshit. I remember this trait in the 7th Heaven characters. If a neighbor didn't wave to someone else in church, the insult became the center of the episode's action. It was mind-numbing to watch. The elopement between Amy and Ricky was the talk of the hall ways. The teaser included a song-and-dance in which two students personified Ricky and sang a song about not being able to wait to marry Amy. I had a feeling the well-dressed female students were about to sing; it was more of a premonition of something horrifying being moments away from revealing itself. I started to yell out loud, "For the love of god no!" as the number began. The number kept going and going. I experienced flash backs of the torturous "this is the song that never ends and it goes on and on my friends" song from my childhood. Shailene Woodley, the poor girl, had to express feelings of happiness as she watched the student celebrate her and Ricky's holy union. And the song would never end. The dancing continued. I started to focus on the corners of the frame and on the extras faces. The extras collectively wore the face of Broadway dancers who smile all the time during their song-and-dance. It reminded me of the South Park residents during one of the musical numbers in which they, too, smile and I can't help but think Trey and Matt are poking fun at this habit of background singers and dancers. The song finally ends. Amy's interactions with any other character will center on her marriage. The dialogue has no more to offer than a regurgitation of information: "You are married." Yes, I am." "I am happy for you."

The worst scene in the episode involves four girls conversing after a character named Ben called a character named Omar a 'pervert.' Omar is a 22 year old grad student who is student teaching in order to complete his Master's degree. The reason Ben called Omar a pervert involves a girl named Adrienne who happens to be Omar's current girlfriend and Ben's ex-wife. (It seems half of the characters are formerly married and none are even twenty). The name-calling turns into an accusation. Omar reports Ben. The four girls then converse for nearly 4 minutes about what the viewer watched in the previous scene. They alternately defend Ben and Omar, using what they know about both characters to defend their claims of defense. Mind you, Ben explicated the reason why he used the word 'pervert,' but nothing is said on Secret Life without serious consequences. Lucy Camden, the actress portrays the school guidance counselor, drones on about the gravity of the word 'pervert,' especially when used against a teacher. I feel sorry for the poor souls who will watch the entire season and be subjected to week-after-week of 'Omar isn't a pervert but because he's a school teacher he will be investigated.' Some TV shows move as fast a SEPTA regional rail train, but others move like a goddamn sloth.

Hampton wastes her 42 minutes of TV time. The word 'structure' does not exist in her world. I'm convinced it doesn't. There are K stories in "I Do and I don't." Scenes pop up from out of nowhere. A young girl guilts her boyfriend into dropping everything to move to Italy with her. Molly Ringwald converses with her mother who seems to have dementia about how she's a homosexual. The mother, though, interprets Ringwald's use of gay to mean the city of Paris. What the hell? A newly married couple make out in front of their children while their daughter piously says grace and continues to rail against sex outside of marriage. Ben and Ricky are engaged in rivalry because they love the same woman. Amy mentors a pregnant freshmen girl. The lone semblance of a story is the marriage question between Amy and Ricky. The rest is filler. I don't doubt the storylines will continue in the season. Usually, though, episodes are held together by a theme and stories and wild stuff like that. The Secret Life of the American Teenager is a collection of scenes. A fine example of another one of these random out-of-the-blue scenes happens halfway through the episode on a football field.
Another 7th Heaven alum shows up. The coach and his assistant note that their QB is a Christian. The Christian QB happens to be 'tebowing' as they establish that he's a Christian. Suddenly, the key to the team's season is presenting the QB as high school's Tim Tebow. The real Tim Tebow craze was awful to watch. Hampton's version of Tebow will be unwatchable.

Shailene Woodley needs to get out of her contract. The young actress broke out in The Descendents. The script won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Imagine what it must be like for her to return to the world of Brenda Hampton fiction. Woodley has nothing to work with. A dog with paint on its paws that accidentally walks across a piece of paper and leaves traces of paint on the paper will give the girl more to work with than one of the scripts. Allow me to compliment Woodley on her perfect hair. She is an actual glowing presence on the show. Besides her, The Secret Life of the American Teenager sucks; it's as bad as the 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats.

If you want to know what actually happened, i.e. a detailed recap of the episode, you came to the wrong place. Read the title, "I Do and I Don't," and that's your episode. Literally. Amy and Ricky wanted to marry but didn't. That's it. Nothing else to see. Go take a run. Watch an episode of Pawn Stars. Read a book. Do anything else but watch the show.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "Just Like in the Movies" Review

Everwood had a way of pulling the rug from under the characters' feet. The "Pilot" teases a courtship between Amy and Ephram. She's flirty and playful with him when she introduces herself and even compliments his purple hair. Ephram dreams about her. Ephram seems to have struck blind luck meeting her on the first day of school. Before the "Pilot" ends, Amy introduces Ephram to her comatose boyfriend, Colin Hart, which changes everything about Ephram's expectations and thoughts. Similarly, Colin Hart was a miracle boy after surgery, but he got sick again and soon died. Those are two examples. "Just Like in the Movies" builds to a similarly effective rug-pulling scene between Andy and Linda. The viewer knows what's coming, but Andy doesn't. The heartfelt gestures of 300 hundred roses and balloons become almost tragic. Greg Berlanti loved to make the viewer cry.

Before the final scene of the episode, "Just Like in the Movies" is a light-hearted episode about romance. Andy's coaching a stutterer to overcome the stutter. The patient, Justin, wants to tell his best friend how he feels about her before she leaves for Texas. Andy relates. Since the near-kiss in "The Burden of Truth," Andy wants Linda to be part of his life. The woman is resistant. 300 hundred roses and a bunch of balloons can't break her icy resolve. Justin becomes a symbol of hope for the bearded doctor. If he can't overcome the stuttering in three days, well, he'll just have to sing how he feels to his best friend. Andy's undeniably stunned when Justin receives a big NO from his best friend. Andy, the brilliant neurosurgeon, never heard of the friend zone. Andy looks he got rejected once Justin receives his rejection. Linda, previously, directly told Andy that all the flowers and balloons on planet Earth wouldn't change her mind about a relationship with him. So, Andy's witnessing the deteoriation of American romance in a short period of time. As an aside, I'd like to commend Linda for her direct communication about how she felt. Ignoring male folk isn't the best plan, ladies, and you can assure a male will leave you alone if you simply say, 'No, I'm not interested." We're not daft, we get the intent of silence, but still, be a little decent and have some respect for a dude. Anyway, Andy feels like a big fat zero.

The next day when Justin's in Andy's office, Andy apologizes to Justin for failing him. Justin's not mad, though. The song to his best friend represented a new chapter in his life. The way he spoke made him the outcast in school. Years of being teased caused him to be self-conscious about his voice, so he never told any girl he liked about his feelings. Yes, the woman he wanted to be with didn't want to be with him, but he'll move on with the confidence of the experience, of being able to be honest with someone about the way he feels. If the ladies say no, he knows the reason isn't limited to the way he speaks. Andy's encouraged by Justin's words. In the evening, Andy plays a song on his acoustic guitar outside of Linda's home. Linda comes out, sits on the ground, and smiles as Andy croons a little ditty about love. Harold implored his sister to tell Andy the reason why she's resistant to a relationship because Andy's a grown man who deserves the opportunity to make a choice about whether he's prepared to date Linda. (Harold connected the dots of her resistance after a discussion about his wife about why she'd ignore all of Andy's gestures. After several phone calls, Harold learned about the HIV.) Linda tells a heartbreaking story about the day she became infected with the disease, and Andy doesn't have words, and so they sit in silence.
The Linda storyline has several layers to it. It affects all of Everwood, but currently it's confined to the Linda-Andy storyline. Harold's very calm when he approaches his sister about the disease. The effect on the practice and the patients isn't brought up. I understand why the effect of the disease is confined to one area of the show. The WB didn't want the storytelling to become too complex. The Linda-Andy dynamic is changed now. They've moved beyond beautiful roses and fun balloons. Andy will need to weigh Linda in relation to his children. Does he want to bring another woman into his life who could pass away? Does he want to expose his children to the possibility they'd lose a new mother figure? We'll see how Andy deals with it next episode.

The rug isn't pulled out of any of the other characters' feet in the episode. Amy meets Tommy Callahan, a troubled youth who recently was released from rehab. And Ephram wonders how to proceed with Madison post-kiss. Tommy's the kind of bad boy Lifetime movies popularized. Amy's struggle with depression lessens as she's now on anti-depressants, but now she moves into a less interesting story. Amy's night with Tommy is the beginning of a tiresome arc about a rebellious teenage daughter. Ephram and Madison never worked. Sarah Lancaster and Greg Smith didn't have any chemistry. I watched their second big kiss scene twice in hopes of understanding it. Madison explains her feelings for Ephram in an overly-long monologue which ends on her line about 'becoming undone' when she kissed him. The writers never showed Madison's desire for Ephram; heck, Ephram's desire for her was random, too, more of a product of Amy hurting his feelings than any attractive quality he found in the babysitter. Both teenage romances are problematic. I'll write more about each as the weeks go by.

Season 2 isn't on the level of season 1. "Just Like in the Movies" is an example of why season two can't measure up. The 'rug-pulling' at episode's end doesn't even pack the punch of any season one Colin Hart stuff. The Linda-Andy dynamic evolved naturally enough, any one's interest in other person would've been raised after the harrowing adventure in the mines, but Andy's romantic urgency with Linda doesn't track. Madison-Ephram and Amy-Tommy will be a huge headache. Indeed, I might be more critical of the show going forward as I get deeper into the season.

Other Thoughts:

-Paul Wesley portrays Tommy. Wesley's performed well on TVD. Tommy's a rather limited character. There isn't much Wesley can do with the character because of the lazy writing. The man's gotten to work with two gorgeous women in his career. Lucky dude.

-Harold's great in any scene revolving around Andy's romantic gestures. Of course, Tom Amandes knocks the serious material out of the park in the same episode.

-Delia had a slumber party. Bright attended to help Ephram with Madison. The highlight of the episode is Bright leading the little girls in song to Beyonce. Chris Pratt did everything exceptionally well that Everwood's EPs asked of him.

-Rina Mimoun wrote the episode. Matt Shakman directed.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baby Daddy "Pilot" Review

My freshmen year theology class included a project in which students were paired up to figure out why we shouldn't have babies as teenagers. The theology teacher, a woman who would later love me along with the rest of the faculty, did not seem to like me nor my friend so much in theology. My friend and I sat in the back, near a giant map of the world, and made jokes before class officially begun. Naturally, we were going to team up to nail this project. Each group presented their reasons for not wanting to have sex and make a baby. The reasons were boring, the kind of answers you'd expect from dopey freshmen in a theology class. My fellow classmates spoke about waiting for marriage when they'd be in holy matrimony. Smith, my friend, and I weren't interested in listing the same damn things every other group listed. Smith and I aimed for honesty.

We presented our list of reasons for not engaging in premarital sex. None of the reasons seemed to please our teacher. I remember we emphasized the expenses of babies, i.e. babies are very expensive, and we were teenagers who couldn't even talk to the girls we liked. Our reasons barely dealt with religion. For fifteen year olds, we were quite practical and economical about the matter. I think we passed the project. Shortly thereafter, my desk mysteriously disappeared, forcing me to the other side of the room, away from Smith. I failed third quarter theology. I still stand by our project, though. Babies are really expensive. None of this really connects with my thoughts on Baby Daddy.

Baby Daddy on ABC Family deals with a twenty-something year old dude named Ben who finds himself in care of a 3 month old baby. The baby's mother dropped her off. Ben and his roommates have no idea how to raise a baby. His best friend, Tucker, cares about food more than anything else in the world. Ben's brother, Danny, seems to be a professional hockey player who's just been traded to the New York Rangers. The boys are well-adjusted and respectful. They're the kind of twenty-something year olds you'd expect on ABC Family. The token attractive girl of the series is Riley, a life-long friend of Ben's and Danny's who harbors a crush on Ben but can't shake the days when she was called fatpants. Riley saves their asses in act one with her knowledge of diaper-changing and what not.

Baby Daddy is simple and straight-forward. Ben's a directionless dude who's waited tables, worked construction, and now tends bars. Danny's a professional hockey player who's just been traded to the New York Rangers. Tucker wants to eat food. None are ideal to care for a baby. The baby, Emma, has a diaper held together with duct tape. The gags surrounding the baby are worth a chuckle or two. Twice, Ben and Tucker run out of the apartment to avoid caring for the baby alone. Both times, Danny's left with Emma.
Each time, Danny becomes more adept with the baby; he figures out how to hold her, and he even carries the baby around in one of those pouches. Danny sort of rolls with the punches; he's a harmless fun-loving brother who wants to do what he can for Ben. Tucker, too, wants to be there for Ben. In fact, all of his friends want to be there for Ben, but no one thinks Ben can take care of the baby by himself.

The "Pilot" has heart. Ben's mother tells him to sign his paternity away because she still buys his pants, which means, to him and his friends that he's not capable of making the sacrifices one needs to care for a baby. Danny, Tucker and Riley believe in Ben, though. When he frantically texts and calls the three of them to help him when he's alone with Emma, they don't come to his aid, because he needs to know he can care for the baby, and that he doesn't need to give up his little girl if he doesn't want to. The sweetest moments in the "Pilot" occur when the action's centered on Emma. Ben cries when she eats for him. His friends instantly drop everything to help with Emma.

The lack of cynicism in Baby Daddy is breath of fresh air. Emma's never treated as a burden. Ben never thinks about how Emma will prevent him from living the life he wants to. His mother laments the dreams she had that passed her by when she became pregnant with Danny. Ben accepts Emma instantly; he only worries about being unable to care for her, being unable to be a good father to his daughter. The moment at the end when Emma eats is about Ben realizing he has the stuff to be what his daughter needs. In the little scenes when he's alone, he refers to himself as daddy; he embraces his role as parent. Ben doesn't harbor any animosity towards the mother either. Ben's a good man, a good character for young girls to watch on a weekly basis.

Since the show airs on ABC Family, an innocence pervades the story. Riley likes Ben but she's afraid to tell him. Danny teases her about the crush like how schoolchildren would tease one another on the playground. This storytelling doesn't reflect the dating world of twenty-something year olds. I doubt a woman who's in law school would punch someone each time that someone threatened to tell the one who's crushed on about the girl who's crushing on him. Danny happens to be in love with Riley. The professional hockey player who's just been traded to the Rangers can't muster the courage to let the girl know how he feels. I understand why their feelings are elementary, though: this is ABC Family, not HBO's Girls.

Tahj Mowry portrays Tucker. Mowry, of course, is Smart Guy. He doesn't look any different from the last time I watched him in Smart Guy. His comedic timing is still very good. There were funny scenes, mainly any scene involving Tucker and Danny with Emma. The baby, of course, will make your heart melt.
I'd recommend the series to families and preteens, though anyone could watch and enjoy the show. There's no way I will write about the show on a weekly basis, unless I spend each review speculating endlessly about Danny's career with the New York Rangers. I really just wrote about it because I need to write about more current stuff during the summer. I also wanted to see how Mowry performed a decade plus after Smart Guy ended. Man, Smart Guy was awesome. All in all, Baby Daddy is a harmless half-hour of comedy.


Whedonverse Classic #4: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer's "Him"

"Him" is one of the most enjoyable stand-alone episodes in the final two seasons of Buffy. The final two seasons are, arguably, a gigantic mess. There's little to enjoy overall. Season 6 is a mind-numbing and depressive run of episodes, full of rough sex and masochistic sensibilities. Season 7 is less mind-numbing but no less of a mess. The addition of the Potentials was a miserable mistake. "Him" is part of a nice run of episodes early in the seventh season. Joss promised the fans that season seven would mark a return to the roots of Buffy. The darkness of season six was part of the past. "Him" is a throwback to the simpler days of Buffy when the supernatural threats were one-off characters. Dawn wears Buffy's old cheerleading outfit for an audition; the girls are hit by a love spell of some sort; the dialogue is light, witty and fun. The episode's a treat.

As the years go by, I become more of a fan of "Him." I first watched the episode on a Saturday afternoon in the early aughts. FOX used to air repeats of Buffy and ANGEL at 3pm or 4pm. Sometimes, FOX aired Buffy in the wee hours, like 4AM, which was when I first watched "Lover's Walk." I looked forward to those random Saturday airings. FOX seemed to run season seven on a constant loop. I think the show just ended in May during the time period I watched "Him" for the first time. I seem to remember Spike dangling from the ceiling as Bringers drained blood from his body, or I remember the scene when NotDru teased and taunted Spike. I digress. I didn't think much of "Him" initially. 17 year old Chris didn't mind sexy Dawn in The Bronze nor sexy Buffy in the classroom. Besides the Summer girls, "Him" did nothing for me.

My opinion started to change once I watched the seventh season two times. Season seven is bad. After "Conversations with Dead People," there are rarely any enjoyable episodes of the show. By the end of the season, I'm about as flat in spirit as Joss Whedon is on the audio commentary for "Chosen." The season wore me down. Rare exceptional episodes of the season like "Selfless" and "Conversations with Dead People" are dim memories. I missed the earlier seasons when every single episode was a blast. Every aspect of the series was rocking and rolling during those earlier seasons. The final two seasons are a departure from the show I loved. "Him" is like a puddle of fresh water in the desert; hell, it could even be labeled a mirage. Don't misunderstand me: I'm not comparing "Him" to "Selfless" or "Conversations with Dead People." The episode's harmless and fun, like the earlier stand-alones in seasons one through three, and even season four.

The episodes works in part because the writers made a conscious decision to return to the roots of those early seasons. Dawn's unable to grasp why Buffy would protect Spike after the awful things he did to her, soul or no soul. Xander left Anya on the altar with a soul, which makes Dawn question why the existence of a soul should change Buffy's opinion about Spike. The whole love business confounds Dawn. People act strangely when they're in love and they act mad when their love for another isn't reciprocated. Nothing about it makes sense to her. Buffy smiles, listens to her sister, and essentially tells her she'll understand when she experiences it for the first time. Lo and behold, Sunnydale High's high school quarterback, RJ, catches Dawn's eye and she falls off her seat.

Joss loved to deal with the problems of teenagers through a supernatural metaphor. The characters grew up and graduated. The stories and metaphors became heavier. Joss and the writers couldn't tell a story about young Willow finding love on a computer anymore. Dawn and new Sunnydale allowed for the opportunity to return to this kind of storytelling. Dawn becomes obsessed with RJ. She follows him around, tries to impress him, and even hurts his competition on the football team. Dawn is a crazy person because of her love for RJ. Xander and Buffy try to talk her down from the RJ tree, but she's perched up with no intention on climbing down. By the fourth act, Buffy, Willow, and Anya, are in love with RJ. The jacket has the power. The Hellmouth even influences outer-wear, as Xander puts it. Each woman attempts to prove they love RJ the most. Buffy intends to kill Principal Wood; Willow plans to use magic to turn RJ into a woman; Anya robs a bank; Dawn plans to kill herself so that RJ will remember the one girl who loved him enough to give sacrifice her life for him.

The final act is over-the-top but so enjoyable. The highlight is when Spike stops Buffy from using the rocket-launcher because our perspective of the fight is through Wood's office, which creates a silent film kind of atmosphere, as Spike tackles Buffy out of frame, and then they appear in frame as Buffy chases Spike back and forth. Principal Wood looks out the window after the vampire and the slayer disappeared. Dawn's in the most danger because she's most affected by RJ. Buffy saves her from being run over by a train, and Spike and Xander successfully steal RJ's magical jacket and burn it. The spell lifts. The girls return to normal.
Dawn feels stupid by the end. Buffy says she's off the hook because she can't help what a spell did to her. Dawn will feel really stupid when she's acting the way she did when it's not a spell, when it's just a genuine crush. Hopefully, Dawn wouldn't try to kill herself for a boy's love without a spell. "Him" is simple and effective because it takes the viewer back to a time in high school when he or she was head-over-heels for someone who probably didn't know them. We all acted stupidly when crushing on someone in high school. Buffy reminds her sister that acting stupid when in love isn't limited to high school; this kind of thing lasts well after high school.

Story-wise, Dawn needed the RJ experience to understand her sister's reasons for moving Spike into Xander's apartment to protect him from the voices in the basement. "Him" is a learning experience for Dawnie. The character doesn't get much else to do for the rest of the season, except for thinking she's a potential in "Potential," which features one of the best scenes in Buffy's history. "Him" could've been produced during the early seasons. I saw young Buffy in Dawn and I saw Giles in Buffy in their final scene. The dialogue is terrific. The actors were energized. There isn't any First or Potential Slayers or Spike killing folk yet. It's just 42 enjoyable minutes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "High Risk Behavior" & "Sex, She Wrote" Review

Which Capeside couple had sex? The question permeates throughout the last five minutes of "High Risk Behavior" and continues until fourteen minutes or so remain in the second parter, "Sex, She Wrote." It's astonishing the two episodes are part of a two-parter. But leave it to Dawson's Creek to make a huge show of teenage fornication. No act happens without a substantial amount of analysis post-act. Hell, just listen to the dialogue in Dawson's screenplay. The characters talk like their Ivy League Ph.D students about whether one likes the other or not. "High Risk Behavior" and "Sex, She Wrote" are two episodes about the characters becoming sexual with each other. The sex is important, but more important is the consequences of the sex. Don't expect post-coital glowing from any of the Creekers. By the fourth act of "Sex, She Wrote" every teenage character is miserable, except for Chris Wolf, who is never miserable, because his house is palatial and he's rich and has sex without caring about his sexual partner.

Long before the dramatic denouement in an empty classroom at the ripe hour of 7PM on a school night, Pacey and Andie plan a special night together, and Joey and Jack plan a night of artistic creation once Jack spills chocolate milk over Joey's portrait of a naked man, and Dawson and Jen continue to plan out Dawson's next film--they need to cast folk. Sex sort of comes out of nowhere in each storyline. Andie runs into Pacey in a pharmacy. She's just picked up her prescription medication, and Pacey makes a joke about condoms. Suddenly, they're having a heavy discussion about whether or not they should have sex and what it'd mean for both if they had sex. The rest of their storyline in "High Risk Behavior" is a collection of scenes in which Pacey charms Andie. Andie, more than once, tells Pacey she wants to 'do it' with him and opens up about her fantasy of making love for the first time with the boy she loves in a bed and breakfast. Their romance is definitely the product of male and female writers in their 30s. Pacey takes Andie to a bed and breakfast, and they talk more about sex and what it'd mean and how Pacey wants to respect Andie but how Andie badly wants to do it with Pacey.

Jack ends up naked on Joey's couch because he volunteered to pose for her after he accidentally destroyed her painting assignment. Jack-Joey were an odd coupling. Kevin Williamson knew what he wanted to do with Jack later in the season, which would explain why the writing for these two, together, has always been stiff and forced. Katie Holmes is excellent when she plays awkward and uncomfortable, and Kerr Smith excels at being uncomfortable on screen. Together, their chemistry is non-existent. I wonder if that was the intent during #210-11. Probably not. I don't know, though. Dawson's Creek's tone is inconsistent sometimes. Of course it'd be uncomfortable for a 15 year old girl to paint her 15 year old sort of boyfriend naked, especially if she's barely been exposed to the naked male body. Joey-Jack is the most believable story then of the three sex-centric storylines. Joey's afraid to look at Jack. Jack's afraid to take the towel off. Joey actually talks about how she feels. Jack opens up about losing his virginity. Joey then asks what it felt like, which leads to a weird piece of acting in which Jack's story basically brings Joey to near-orgasm. Once the painting is finished, they stand around awkwardly, unsure of what to say after such an intimate evening. Joey continues to talk about how sex scares her. Sex scares Jack, too. The beats led to this moment between the characters where they can navigate this scary terrain together and not be so scared, plus, since Jack's had sex once, he can help Joey. So they make out.

Dawson and Jen make out in her bed near the end of "High Risk Behavior." The Dawson-Jen storyline isn't interesting. The whole thing hinges on Dawson's script and what he needs to do to improve the script. Dawson's an autobiographical writer; he turns the people he knows into characters. Dawson rarely invents stories. Jen wants the fictional couple to have sex. Dawson resists this choice because it's not risky; the risky choice is keeping the couple virgins. Jen theorizes Dawson resists the change because he never experienced it. Yet again Jen teaches Dawson about being a teenager. Dawson deletes large portions of his script and then he sneaks in Jen's window to get experience. I understand what the writers wanted to accomplish, but it's hard to muster sympathy for Dawson because he lacks sexual experience at 15 and thus cannot write a sex scene.

"Sex, She Wrote" is all about which one of these couples had sex. The mean-spirited literature teacher, Mr. Peterson, assigned each student to break down a literary convention. Abby Morgan didn't complete the assignment. Instead of whipping something up over night, she uses a letter Chris finds as an impetus to find out which couple had sex. Abby considers it a real-life mystery that would captivate the 20 or so classmates of her. Through Abby's insane search for the author of a letter written, which states the author's desire to take a moment to breathe after having sex with his or her partner, because sex changes everything.

Three acts depend on the audience wondering which couple had sex. Each couple interacts in these three acts, but the dynamic changed. Joey and Jack experience difficulty communicating with each other. Pacey is cold and distant with Andie. Dawson and Jen are actually exactly the same, which, of course, bothers Jen, because someone needs to be bothered. As the mystery builds, Dawson sees the naked picture of Jack that Joey painted; Joey reads the revised screenplay which depicts the Dawson character sleeping with the Jen character from across the grass, rather than the girl across the creek; Andie's increasingly worried by Pacey's taciturnity. When Abby brings the six teenagers into an empty classroom at 7PM, she doesn't know the truth, but she plans on using their feelings to get the truth.

The emotions are complicated and twisty. Dawson admits to having sex with Jen just to hurt Joey and Joey admits to having sex with Jack for the same reasons. The Dawson-Joey breakup hasn't been addressed since "The All-Nighter." Both characters entered their own storylines. "Sex, She Wrote" shows how neither stopped thinking about the other. All of Joey's independent activities doesn't make her forget about Dawson. Dawson's film prep and budding friendship with Jen also doesn't help him to forget Joey. Neither had sex that night. Jen's hurt by Dawson's lie. Jack's stung by the lie as well. The lie wakes Jack up to the reality that he'll always be second to Dawson. Jen, after "The Reluctant Hero," is hurt Dawson would lie about her, but she understands why Dawson lied in the moment. In fact, Jack and Jen confess these feelings to one another after the fun in the class room. Jen, amazingly, still reveres Dawson Leery. Dawson, for her, is the apex of the male species, a titan of masculinity and sexuality, a man she'd love to sleep with if his head was in it, if he was all about her. Neither want to be second in the lives of the people they admire. Soon enough, they'll be number one for each other.

Pacey wrote the letter to Andie. Andie leaves upset. Pacey is soon the villain, Capeside's evil sex fiend so to speak, as Dawson labeled him last season, but not in those words. The letter seems terrible when read aloud. Everyone interprets it as Pacey saying, "thanks for the sex and goodbye now." Pacey's just scared. Andie's the first person in his life to give a damn about him. Ms. Jacobs was a passing thought, as intangible as the wind. Andie's transforming Pacey into a better man: someone who aces quizzes and who doesn't feel like a failure. Pacey uses a lot of words to tell Andie what really scares him the most, that world known to all men, which is, love. Pacey's falling in love with Andie, and their intimate evening actualized his feelings.

Dawson's Creek didn't use the lazy route in "Sex, She Wrote." None of the characters use sex to make themselves popular. Sex is treated really seriously. We see sex depicted as scary, hurtful, and loving. Abby tries to ruin her classmates with sex. Dawson and Joey try to hurt each other with it. The episode ends with love and reconciliation, though. Sex, in this instance, is a communion of souls. The DC writers put effort into showing how one can get quite hurt, but the perfect person will make one feel like the most special person in the entire universe. So, the episode ends with a first "I love you" between Pacey and Andie, and Dawson and Joey decide to try being friends again. After all of the drama, it's nice to see Dawson and Joey walk through the rain, Katie Holmes showing off her best sideways smile as she says, "I like how you see me."

Other Thoughts:

-Abby never presents the project to the class. Jen Lindley went early 20th century Irish Catholic Jesuit on the girl. Abby actually smiles when Andie thanks her for not ruining her reputation. I'll argue that Abby's behavior in the election is more reprehensible than her behavior in "Sex, She Wrote." No one remembers the election, though. Abby and Chris were also cast in Dawson's film.

-Speaking of Chris, once KW left the show, each show runner tried to create a new Chris Wolf. Drue Valentine in season four is Chris Wolf with a different name and portrayed by a different actor. The bland generic rich bad boy from season three who gets the principal fired is basically Chris Wolf. Chad Michael Murray and Jensen Ackles' characters from season five and six, respectively, are also Chris Wolf-lite. I assume the show wanted to keep the character around but couldn't because Jason Dohring became the lead in Roswell. Chris helps Abby in her project because Abby promised he'd get to second base.

-Jack reveals why he didn't have sex with Joey to Jen. Jen's sympathetic. I suppose this is foreshadowing, though I'm not sure, because Kerr Smith had no idea Jack would be a gay teenager until he got the script, if I remember correctly. The writers seemed to be planning it.

-Jenny Bicks wrote "High Risk Behavior." James Whitmore, Jr. directed it. Mike White & Greg Berlanti co-wrote "Sex, She Wrote." Nick Marck directed it.

UP NEXT: "Uncharted Waters"--Dawson, Pacey and Jack go on a boat trip with Mitch and Mr. Witter. Tensions rise when Mr. Witter calls Pacey 'useless' and Jack tries to make amends with Dawson. Meanwhile, Gail and the girls spend time together, but Abby causes trouble. Watch the episode on Netflix or Streampix or YouTube.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Bunheads "For Fanny" Review

So, summer is a weird time for television. 'Weird' is probably the wrong word to describe the summer TV season. I mean, I don't want to sound like Peter King. There are many new programs throughout the summer months. Reality TV and Canadian shows populate the TV landscape. I, however, don't care to write about reality television nor Canadian TV shows. Anyway, to cut to the chase, I'm going to write about an episode of a random TV show for the next two months, hopefully. People are more apt to read about current TV shows than shows that aired 10-14 years ago.

Bunheads, on ABC Family, premiered a week ago to great reviews. Fans of the Gilmore Girls were rather vocal about their love for the show. Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino co-created this series about a Las Vegas show girl who moves to a sleepy California town with her new husband, Hubble. The Las Vegas show girl, Michelle, doesn't fit in to the town. No one trusts her, least of all his mother, Fanny, played by Gilmore Girls' own Kelly Bishop. Michelle begins to carve out a niche for herself, though. Fanny is a ballerina teacher. One night, during the wedding reception, Michelle teaches the girls about what to expect in an audition. For one dance-student, Boo, Michelle gives her confidence to pursue dance furiously, body and other peoples opinions be damned.

The "Pilot" was a charming episode. Paradise is the kind of quirky small town any TV viewer could get sucked into on a weekly basis. The characters are harmless. The meanest character is a petite dancer named Sasha, who's just mean because she has issues with her parents. Fanny and Michelle were the obvious main characters. Sasha and her friends are important characters, too. Think of the teenage foursome in Now And Then because these teenage girls are the 21st century version of them. The show is sort of turned on its head when Hubble dies. The death happens in the last scene, where Fanny and Michelle finally bonded, until the aforementioned death turns everything upside down in Paradise.

Bunheads isn't my kind of TV show. I didn't watch a single Gilmore Girls episode during its run, and I was a notorious consumer of The WB during GG's heyday. Amy Sherman-Palladino's voice is very distinct. Michelle is the classic Palladino heroine. She's quick-witted, fast on her feet, independent, but she's layered with depth; her luck is horrible; she left Las Vegas because she wore herself out, and she had enough disappointment. Paradise, which is a town by the Pacific ocean, with a magnificent view of the ocean, is just what Michelle needs. Plus, Hubble is kind and loving to her. Hubble's introduced as her stalker, someone who brings her flowers after every show; but, of course, Hubble isn't an actual stalker. The women around the dressing room refer to him as such because he's ready with flowers and a smile after every performance. One night, he gives Michelle an expensive necklace, so she accepts dinner, and then she opens up about her lousy day and how she feels worthless and alone. Hubble picks her up with a kind speech, and they marry soon after, followed by a move to sleepy Paradise in California.

Michelle's drawn to his kindness, and she event thinks she could love him someday. Someday won't come, obviously, as he dies. It would've been easy for the character if Hubble remained around. Bunheads is about this woman and her path. Michelle's absolutely lost in "For Fanny." There's a delightful scene in which Michelle is speaking with her Las Vegas friend and states she's lost, like, literally lost. The town has its own rhythms, intricacies, histories, and Michelle's not part of any of it. The townspeople don't trust her. The only people who do are the foursome of teenage girls. Throughout "For Fanny" she's without a place to rest her head. Fanny plans the memorial for her son. Michelle just sits around, feeling sorry for herself. Everyone sits around because it's hard to do much else after a loved one dies.

The tonal differences between "Pilot" and "For Fanny" aren't vast. The tone in the latter is understandably more somber. The beats of the story are obvious. Fanny's a Buddhist, so she believes in celebrating her son's life; the things she orders for the memorial are ridiculous and impossible to attain in a timely fashion. Fanny attempts to meditate for sixteen hours. Fanny's simply (but there's actually nothing simple about it) trying to put the fact that her son's no longer alive out of her head, attempting to forget how broken her heart is and will forever be. Sasha, the talented but mean ballerina student, is the one to rouse Michelle. Sasha just wants to do something. Michelle arranges a memorial in the dance studio. The students perform a dance for their teacher, which is just what Fanny needs.

The memorial scene seems to represent Bunheads well. The scene is meaningful and light yet a product of serious emotions and an instance of what the town will do for someone who's in pain. The scene connects Michelle and Fanny, and it connects Fanny with her students. The scene connects the students with Michelle. The harmony between Michelle and Fanny is short-lived. An old friend of Hubble reveals he left everything to his new wife; and I'll bet the students gravitate more towards Michelle than Fanny in the coming weeks.

I think many people will enjoy Bunheads. The charm of the series is addictive. Sutton Foster is terrific as is Kelly Bishop. The young actresses who portray the girls in the teenage foursome are quite good, too. There are random small-town quirks that are great and too numerous to detail, but my favorite one was the old man who saw Michelle walking and asked her to take his dog along for the walk. Bunheads is a good show for the beginning of one's week, especially if one had a particularly bad Monday. Bunheads, in a few words, will cheer you up.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The 2012 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "The Burden of Truth" Review

The most important class I took in college was Philosophy I at a community college, which was taught by a chain-smoking ex-seminarian who wore two pairs of classes, pajama bottoms, and sweaters. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for four months, he challenged people's views and perceptions. He challenged them in a way that made people really think about what they believed in. I specifically remember a heated exchange between my classmates and the professor where the word 'truth' became an integral part of the conversation. Many times, heated exchanges revolved around what the bible said about something or someone. There were many passionate Christians in the class, and my professor studied for years in a seminary. The reason he left was, in his words, because he read the forbidden books. Anyway, the back-and-forth about some Christian issue was going on and some one in the class stated that the bible is the Truth, and my professor practically blew the ceiling off when he yelled, "OH, THE TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T!" The Prof. lowered his register and added, "See, I'm interested in truth with the tiny t's--that's the truth I'm after."

So, yes, my philosophy professor with the hard to remember last name (actually, hard to remember how to spell his last name) had an impact on nineteen year old Chris. The class taught me the value of critical thinking, of opening my mind to a world of different ideas and perspectives and avoiding the tendency to get trapped in a strict belief system. I could go on and on about other things he said throughout the semester, but I'm writing about Everwood, not a memoir on my community college years. Truth is a major part of "The Burden of Truth." But I specifically recall my professor pointing out the exchange between Jesus and Pilate when Pilate asks, "What is Truth?" which just absolutely struck me as a young student, because I never thought about the exchange in that way, as a legitimate and probing question, as a question that reflects an age of strict ideologies, as a question that basically says truth is relative. Jesus' silence was doubly striking, and it changed a great deal for me as a spiritual young man.

The residents of Everwood are all in search of some sort of truth about themselves. This truth can be seen by the town 'seer.' The 'seer' is Phil, a mechanic, who happens to possess a gift that tells him about the future. When Phil correctly diagnoses a young boy with meningitis, it creates fervor in the town. His car shop is full of people who want to know what the future holds for them. Phil tells the Brown men things about the women they love. For Ephram, who just got a used car from 1988 and is bummed about the car, Phil decides let him know that the girl he likes, and who likes him, will think the cool's car. Andy's going to get a kiss and he's going to break a promise, according to Phil. Phil's not a con-artist or anything; he's a simple mechanic who makes the mistake of preventing an epidemic and pays dearly by dealing with annoying neighbors and townies. No one actually likes what Phil tells him. People either scold him or race towards a doctor's office. Andy's pissed when he tries to force what Phil saw and it fails; Phil tells the bearded doctor to wait and let fate run its course. Harold's enraged that his practice has been bombarded by hypochondriacs emboldened by Phil's sight, and then he's really enraged when Phil tells him that someone he's close to is sick, because how dare he talk about his little girl, his dear little girl, except only, the sick person isn't Amy. You see, it's not that clear.

Phil the mechanic is a simple plot device at the end of the day. I won't harp on Phil. As a sixteen year old, I thought "The Burden of Truth" was a magnificent episode. I patiently waited for Amy to tell Ephram how cool the car is, refusing to recognize that Phil meant Madison when he told Ephram about a girl. The Abbotts, namely, deal with very uncomfortable truths, unsettling even. The sick woman Phil heard about in his head is Linda, but it's also Amy, too. Both are sick, but in different ways, and I think the writers meant for Phil to refer to Linda because her scene with Edna follows shortly thereafter. Amy's still emotionally sick, stuck in her grief, looking more despondent each episode. The girl drives to Wyoming randomly. Desperate to get anti-depressants, she forges her aunt's name on a prescription. Harold and Rose yell at their daughter, unable to grasp what would make her take such actions. Amy plainly tells them that she had asked but they said no. The scene doesn't end in domestic harmony. No, Harold loses his temper, writes the prescription for an Amy Abbott, but this Amy isn't his daughter. Indeed no, he doesn't know what's happened to his daughter.

The Abbott storyline slowly made its way to this place throughout the season. I wrote about this weeks ago. Harold and Rose have an idea of their children, especially Amy, who they perceived to be someone destined for absolute greatness. Their unable to deal with the situation because of the ideas they had for Amy. Now, she's so far from the girl they thought she knew. She's terribly sad. Just opining that someone is sad doesn't get to the heart of the matter. I think the word sad is too simplistic a term, too easy to use, because it doesn't convey the depth of the sadness, of the overwhelming sadness that will cripple a person. The Abbotts were a portrait of the idyllic suburban family in season one; now, they're a family in crisis. So it's interesting to watch how the writers portray this shift in their family dynamics. Sadness is one of the most difficult things to write about and get right, and Everwood had the ability to get sadness and grief right. The Amy storyline isn't the greatest depiction of sadness on TV. In fact, a long digression is about to happen, but the storyline ends well (that of course is weeks away). The Abbotts don't hit bottom with Amy, but Amy's as alone as she'll ever be in "The Burden of Truth."

Linda, the other sick Abbott, reveals that she contracted HIV in Africa. She tells her mom the truth after Edna annoys about the reason she won't pursue a relationship with Andy. Again, it's an unsettling truth, a burden even, as the episode title suggests truth can be. I admire the plotting of Linda in this episode. Television writing can be very simple sometimes. Andy hears he'll get a kiss he's been waiting for; he actively tries to get the kiss; Linda rejects him; the rejection leads to Linda bearing the truth to her mom. Phil is definitely a plot device. Edna urges Linda tell others. Linda won't. "But you're sick," Edna says. Linda feels confident she'll never be symptomatic. The importance of the scene is Linda's confession that she's able to tell someone about what happened in Africa. Linda wants to protect Andy from it. Edna feels she shouldn't let the disease keep her from being with someone she considers special. Linda's story is far from over and at least it started.

So, by the end of the episode, Phil's thinking about moving to Arizona because the town burned him out. Andy actually confronted him for giving him bad advice, but Phil doesn't give advice. Andy then helps the mechanic solve the problem of everyone thinking he has the Truth about them. Phil cynically observes how people long for the truth but, really, all they want is good news. The truth has a way of bumming people out. Phil just wants to fix cars, not people. Andy helps him think of a lie to tell everyone to make them think he's a fake. But a lie can't wipe away what the characters learned in "The Burden of Truth." The episode ends on a montage set to a version of "O Child." Edna cries into Irv's arms; Amy stares into space. Things will get easier. It just takes time.

Other Thoughts:

-The Ephram-Madison relationship sucks but it's not going away anytime soon. Anyway, they kiss again. Madison means the kiss this time. Ephram nearly destroyed his chance by telling Madison her band sucks. Of course, the band DOES suck. Madison's an awful vocalist. If Sarah Lancaster actually sang then, uh, sorry. Jay, the band's douchebag, says their band sounds like every alt-rock group from Everwood to Boulder. I'd love to know what that scene was actually like in late 2003. I still don't know what Ephram saw in her. The best guess is to ascribe it to the Desert Island theory. But, yeah, the relationship is ON.

-Great scene between Harold, Thurman and Nelson. Thurman and Nelson are my favorite secondary characters in Everwood. Tom Amandes plays comically annoyed fantastically.

-J.K. Simmons portrayed Phil. The show never found a way to bring Simmons back. Maybe he didn't want to return to the show. I always thought Phil's words would have a grand payoff down the line, not realizing at the time that Phil's words had payoff in this very episode.

-The entire town completely moved on after last week's mining heroics. Similarly, the mass exodus after the avalanche prediction isn't brought up again. Everwood episodes move through days or weeks. I never followed the timeline. Perhaps I should be paying attention to the timeline of the show. Perhaps not. Not much time passes though. The season began during Labor Day weekend. The holidays are nigh. So, the town seems mighty forgetful.

-Vanessa Taylor wrote the episode. Michael Schultz directed it.

UP NEXT: "Just Like in the Movies"--Andy continues to pursue Linda; Amy meets Paul Wesley. Watch it here:


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Whedonverse Classic #3: ANGEL's "The House Always Wins"

Season 4 of ANGEL has one stand-alone episode, which is "The House Always Wins." David Fury points this out in the commentary track of the episode. I paused, as I thought deeply about other season 4 stand-alone episodes. Couldn't "Players" be considered a stand-alone episode? But no, one would've needed to see "Ground State" to understand the A story. I chose to write about "The House Always Wins" for the third post of the Whedonverse Classic because of the big green demon, Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan.

"The House Always Wins" is a very average episode of television. Gunn, Fred and Angel hit the road for a brief vacation in Las Vegas and, also, to meet up with Lorne, who left the Hyperion in "Tomorrow" to pursue his show business dreams. There's a brief exchange between Gunn and Angel about Lorne 'reading' him, but Angel just wants to getaway from the nonsense of Los Angeles. The vampire with a soul recently emerged from months trapped under the sea, kicked his son out of the hotel, tried and failed to find Cordelia; and his former friend and trusted colleague, Wesley, is in bed with the enemy. Literally. Las Vegas is an opportunity for Angel to return to a simpler time when he hung out with the Rat Pack and Bugsy Siegel. The vamp with a soul thinks he and his friends will take in a show, catch up with their friend, and return to Los Angeles in better spirits.

Angel can't enjoy a brisk walk around the block let alone enjoy an uninterrupted stay in the City that Never Sleeps. Lorne possesses a wonderful ability to help people shape their destinies. He's an empath demon who can see into one's soul when one sings a song to him. Angel met him in the season two premiere, and he's become a vital member of the team ever since. Lorne is the heart of ANGEL. Someone wrote a terrific essay about the character in The Five Seasons of ANGEL book. Winifred Burkle once told him, over a sinful amount of Chinese and in lieu of absolutely nothing, that she thought most people would prefer to be green, Lorne's shade if they had the choice. The line connotes the feelings of love and friendship the team, not just Fred, felt towards their Pylean friend. The character helps in a myriad of ways throughout the series. Aside from his empath ability, he knows practically every demon in Los Angeles thanks to his years of running Caritas, a demon karaoke bar that mystically prevented violence from happening; it was a spiritual sanctuary for any demon looking for peace, quiet, song, and their path of destiny. Lorne constantly hit the streets for a tip, a cure, anything really, that would help his friends.

Lorne's exit in "Tomorrow" was a big blow to Gunn and Fred. Everything went to hell after Wesley tried taking Connor away from LA. Cordelia and Angel were supposed to meet at a beach, but Cordy ascended to a higher plane, and Connor trapped Angel in a water coffin. Groo left. When Lorne left, it felt like ANGEL Investigations would cease to be; all who remained were Gunn, Fred, and the woefully raised Connor Angel. Things are slightly better several months later. Lorne found success in Las Vegas. Angel is back and happy with Gunn and Fred. So when they watch Lorne entertain an audience in Las Vegas, they're beaming for their friend. He's singing songs, engaging the audience, meeting packs of fans backstage, but he ignores them. Lorne acts like he doesn't even know them. But why?

It's surprising that the ANGEL writers didn't turn Lorne's ability around on him in seasons two or three. I mean, it's not like Lorne didn't get beat up occasionally by someone who wanted access to his gift, but no one tried to control him in order to control other people's lives and futures. Lee DeMarco, a seedy Las Vegas casino owner, of the Tropicana, used Lorne's ability for evil. The one time Lorne said no to Lee, Lee blew a girl's brains out. His free-will disappeared, and he was literally caged-in by DeMarco. Each night, Lorne read people who sang along with him, fed their destinies to Lee DeMarco, who used the information to steal their destinies for profit via mystical magic. So, yeah, Lorne needs some saving, which is a rarity.

Gunn and Fred eventually save Lorne, and Angel (when he loses his destiny to the casino). Lorne being saved is a foregone conclusion; but saving Lorne and Angel isn't enough, he needs to save the people who's lives he helped steal. Lorne has the triumphant moment of any character who's been held captive and forced to do bad things against his will: he destroys Lee and the magic ball in one fell swoop. The destruction of Lee isn't physical. One doesn't need to literally kill a man to kill a man, as Aquinas once opined.

Lorne returns to Los Angeles with his friends. Angel's confused about how he could've saved his friends lives if he had no purpose. Lorne tells him, "Well, even without a flight plan, bucko, you're still a stealth bomber. You were fighting for your friends' futures. The people you love are part of your destiny. Nobody can take that away, not even you." The line is a microcosm of the aspects of Lorne that make him great. This isn't the first nor last time he'll impart helpful words to his friends. He understood people, considered people as individuals, each and every one special and unique, and he didn't judge. Lorne doesn't need a gypsy or anyone yelling at him to help him realize he needs to atone, regardless of the circumstances of what he needs to atone for. Lorne just Gets It.

"The House Always Wins" isn't the greatest showcase for Lorne, though it is a great showcase for the late Andy Hallett. There were better episodes with Lorne, like "Happy Anniversary" and "The Life of the Party." The best Lorne moments happen within episodes that don't have anything to do with him. This episode's notable for its enduring message: "the people you love are part of your destiny." Yes, indeedy.

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.