SOUTH PARK--"Cash For Gold"--Written & Directed By Trey Parker
"Cash For Gold" may be a controversial pick for one of the best episodes of 2012 since it may or may not behind other episodes in the latest South Park season. South Park's going strong after sixteen seasons. Last year's "You're Getting Old" inspired folk to sound the death knell for the creative energy of Trey and Matt. Trey and Matt responded by saying that wasn't the case. "Cash For Gold" is the second episode of season sixteen. It takes aim at home shopping networks for robbing the elderly. In South Park tradition, the cash for gold scheme that home shopping networks is revealed through a terrific montage. Trey's voice for the home shopping network is the reason I love "Cash For Gold." Trey's various voices are always hilarious, but the way he inflected words, like when he got any purchase from an elderly person, absolutely delighted me. Stan's disapproval of the host and his job responsibilities was another highlight.
GRIMM--"The Hour of Death"--Written By Sean Calder; Directed By Peter Werner
Hey, look, it's an episode of a show I write about regularly! Grimm's glaring weakness isn't really a weakness. NBC wants a procedural show with genre elements, and that's what David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf write. "The Hour of Death" is one of the best procedural episodes of the series because it's grounded in the premise of the series. What happens when a Bad Grimm shows up and starts killing all of the nice, innocent Wesen? The question leads to other questions about Nick's purpose as Grimm; but it highlights the change he's enacted, and it shows the necessity of progress. "The Hour of Death" is also a bad ass episode with a tight story that digs into the history of Grimm and that makes Nick more heroic.
MAD MEN--"Far Away Places"--Written By Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner; Directed By Scott Hornbacher
Mad Men returned in March after a near two year hiatus due to negotiation troubles between AMC and Matthew Weiner. The fifth season was beloved by critics. Mad Men tops the list of nearly every critics' top ten. Mad Men's a great show, but I don't share the same love for the series as many people do. Hitfix's Dan Fienberg remarked that Mad Men topping end-of-year Best Of lists might cause people to roll their eyes because Mad Men always receives critical praise and awards, but it's because Mad Men's that good every year. Is there a better series on television? It depends on your tastes and interests. I prefer Game of Thrones to Mad Men; however, there's no TV show on quite like Mad Men, structurally. "Far Away Places" is an example of Mad Men's unique structure and style.
Matt Weiner said the structure of the episode was inspired by French films that told three short stories in one film. "Far Away Places" consists of three short stories thematically connected by the desire to escape. For Peggy, she wants to escape from the stress of work, specifically the failure of a pitch, and so she goes to the movies, smokes pot, and performs a sex act on a stranger. She returns to the office and then hears a story from Ginsberg in which he calls himself a Martian. Roger and Jane attend a party and drop LSD, and then engage in a conversation long overdue about their marriage and the truth that it doesn't work. Don and Megan go away for the weekend to experience a Howard Johnsons. They get into a fight. Megan disappears. Don freaks. Don's unsettling violent side comes out. Roger's the only happy person at episode's end. It's the kind of episode that sticks with you, like a terrific short story.
TREME--"Promised Land"--Story By David Simon & Chris Rose/Teleplay By Chris Rose & Micah Kibodeux; Directed By Tim Robbins
Fans of The Wire never flocked to David Simon's series about post-Katrina New Orleans. The common reason is that Treme's boring, slow, lacks plot, and is basically a chore to get through. Many, many fans of The Wire watched The Wire after HBO ended the series because of poor ratings. Treme's ending even earlier than The Wire. After its five episode fourth season, the story of Treme will be complete. Of course, it's not the worst thing, because David Simon planned to tell the story in four seasons. Still, it's disappointing Treme's brushed off because of its style and how it's so not The Wire. Leo Tolstoy was never going to write a story as epic, amazing, and stunning as War & Peace, but Resurrection is very good, and Anna Karenina is great. The Wire happened, it will never happen again, but Treme is a great show that found its footing in the second season and then soared in the third.
"Carnival Time" in season two is my favorite episode of Treme. "Promised Land" comes close to matching the second season's Mardi Gras episode. The traditional Mardi Gras episode takes a break in plot and turns attention towards experiential postcards, though "Promised Land" has more plot in it. We still follow all the characters through the many aspects of Mardi Gras. Annie attends a memorial for Harley just like Toni attended one for Creighton. I love the details of Treme, e.g. the shot of Sofia watching Harley's memorial in the distance because she missed her father's last year in act of teenage rebellion. The still photo of Delmond, Chief, and family sitting around a TV watching a documentary on Katrina while knitting for Mardi Gras gives me chills, so you can figure how powerful the scene is. "Promised Land" builds on the past and the knowledge fans have of the characters. Also, it really makes me want to head to New Orleans to experience a Mardi Gras.
SHERLOCK--"The Hounds of Baskerville"--Written By Mark Gatiss; Directed By Paul McGuigan
"The Hounds of Baskerville" is one of the best adaptations of a story I've seen. Mark Gatiss modernizes Sir Arthur Conan's old story in a hauntingly chaotic way. The opening 30-35 minutes remind me of how Christopher Nolan shot and edited The Scarecrow's attacks of fear in Batman Begins. The storytelling of Sherlock is sometimes confusing. Gatiss' script doesn't hold the viewers hand; it runs with the speed of gazelle and expects the viewer to be as fast. "The Hounds of Baskerville" isn't even the best of the three episode second series. To use Future Ted's favorite phrase on HIMYM, I'll get to that.
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