Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Simpsons "Every Man's Dream" Review

“Marge and Homer break-up in the premiere” was the lone tidbit I found about the 27th season while researching the season. I should clarify. It was the lone tidbit I found about an episode’s content. I knew the cast of Girls leant their voices to the role of Homer’s new girlfriend and the girlfriend’s group of friends. Marge and Homer breaking up has happened three dozen times in the series? I’m an annoying fan of The Simpsons. I don’t regularly follow the show. I haven’t regularly followed it since 2000. I watched a handful of episodes in the last 15 years. I remember previous break-ups between Homer and Marge. Homer referred to past break-up episodes, reminding himself and Lenny and Carl that he needn’t feel sad because him and Marge always end up together in the end. Homer’s right, though. The writers spoke of the newest break-up as final, for presumably no other reason other than a publicity boost. I wondered why Homer’s and Marge’s break-up will bring back fans to the series, why major entertainment news sites would run the news in big bold print, but in this year of the Kermit and Miss Piggy breakup, I know people deeply care for the romantic happiness of fictional characters made of felt and animated cartoons.

The reason? People deeply care about fiction. Fiction connects us with us. The wide world’s littered with social interactions, personal and professional, wherein people become the best version of themselves for the specific interaction. All the world’s a stage and we each play our parts, said a deranged, delusional, power hungry monarch once, and the mad king spoke correctly. Fiction doesn’t require playacting. Fiction lets me and you and everyone we know bring only ourselves to the occasion. I don’t need anyone else around me. I don’t need to modify my personality for the social situation. It’s only me and the page, or the episode, the movie, and the longer one spends with a fiction the more one becomes attached to it. Why do most writers want to write novels and not short stories? Readers live with novels longer. Short stories act as a passing thing. TV’s become more popular than movies for the same reasons (and also for quality).

People lived with Homer and Marge as a couple for a long time. Homer and Marge represent a faithful marriage. They’ve been through grime and muck, but they’ve been through happiness, births, and they always have each other. They show viewers loyalty and love. People feel the same connection to Kermit and Miss Piggy. For a lot of people, fiction lets people escape, experience worlds unknown to them, relationships, too, and it forms a connection. Perhaps part of the reason Marge and Homer apart would bring fans back involves taking away something they always knew existed and lasted because nothing in life lasts forever or always exists. Prince Andrei will always fall in love with Natasha Rostova when he hears her tell Sonia her desire to fly into the night sky. The Vane sisters will always that French literature professor a day perfect for him, and he’ll always be unable to perceive it.

Homer and Marge don’t break-up. “Every Man’s Dream” has four separate dreams shared between Homer and Marge. Homer and Marge meet new loves. Homer’s in love with a Girls offshoot, which gives the writers a chance to poke fun at millenials (they complain about problems they don’t have; they ironically like things). The dream structure makes possible one thing, the only thing that matters for the episode: sustaining the idea that Homer and Marge won’t reunite at the end. Homer dreams a dream about dreaming, which ultimately is a dream of Marge’s . Until Marge wakes-up, the viewer doesn’t know they haven’t broken up; however, it’s obvious the two won’t marry different people. “Every Man’s Dream” happens mostly while Homer’s asleep at a marriage counselor. The counselor, at the end of the episode, before she provides a clear and concise solution to marriages says she can’t really reduce marriage to a clear and concise answer. Marriage is complicated. Sure, Homer and Marge dream about their lives separate from each other. Homer’s subconscious, voiced by Lena Dunham, reminded him he married his first girlfriend—his first everything. I liked that even they don’t know why they together, but they do. No, the ending doesn’t repeat past endings in which they remembered their love for each other (I’m thinking of the movie). They endure. There’s nobility in endurance, too.

Other Thoughts:

-I meant to write about the last five premieres of the series. I didn’t, for various reasons. I finally wrote about a Simpsons season premiere. I really liked “Every Man’s Dream.” I dig multi-narratives happening on top of the story.

-Moe escaping via the side-door after Homer’s hipster girlfriend asked for a hipster drink was great. I love Moe. The episode featured a good chunk of Lenny and Carl. Carl noted that Homer’s still late to work despite sleeping in his office.

-When did Mr. Burns lose his edge and menace? I read the uncertainty about Harry Shearer’s future with the show reduced the role of Burns. Homer nearly murdered Burns by pushing him out the window using his domino chair arrangement, and, later, Burns meekly accepts Homer’s narcolepsy diagnosis as Homer’s reason for not wearing shoes to work.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Random Thoughts about Hawaii Five-0's Season 6 Premiere

I dramatically reunited with Heroes Thursday night. Friday night, I dramatically reunited with Hawaii Five-0. I watched the beginning of season five last year, but I fell away from the show. I checked in with the show during the spring and remember nothing of it. McGarrett and Danny bantered? They banter in every episode. I’m reminded of many shows when I put together my fall TV preview. I maintain a slight interest in Hawaii Five-0, even though it does not differ from the rest of CBS procedurals. CBS procedurals, in general, bum me out with the rote formula, the fixedness of the series, the fact that none change. The same things repeat over and over, season to season, to the delight of millions of viewers. CBS boasts it’s the most-watched network. Hawaii Five-0’s the exception to my procedural malaise, but only barely.

Last night’s episode had an A and B story. The A story involved pirates. The B story involved marriage, torture, near death, and the damn Yakuza. Adam, the dramatically least interesting character in the series, still hasn’t freed himself from the Yazuka. Two seasons ago, Kono and Adam were on the run from them. Gabriel, a character I vaguely recall, held Kono and Adam up for bank codes. Kono escaped, confronted Gabriel at the bank (where Adam led Gabriel because he wanted to protect his wife), and Gabriel shot Adam. Adam’s left in a struggle to live in ICU. Kono drops the cliff-hanger bomb about Gabriel taking the money that would’ve bought Adam his freedom from his old, dangerous life. The cliffhanger worked. I want to watch next week to see what happens. Lenkov, that old card, knows effective procedural storytelling. I don’t like any of Adam’s backstory, his character’s as bland as original Greek yogurt, and Kono the character’s been more harmed than benefitted from her involvement with the character.

I lost interest in the case-of-the-week involving pirates, buried treasure, and brutally violent criminals. The beautiful women the producers cast into villainous roles have the violent streak of a mafia member or a cartel member. The gang found the location of the buried treasure. The girl immediately opened fire on an uzi, shooting everything in sight, before McGarrett took her down. Now, for a quibble: McGarrett’s an expert former Navy Seals officer. Every criminal he confronts can evenly fight him. McGarrett wins, but because of the inherent drama needed in hero vs. villain fights, he needs to look like a goon all the time for half the fight. He’s like a WWE babyface that gets his ass beat for seven minutes before he triumphs. The case ended as many of the cases do. The criminals destroyed, murdered, beat others for nothing of material value. They senselessly wasted someone’s life and their own in pursuit of something that wasn’t what they thought. The buried treasure was without worth. McGarrett killed the criminals, leaving the viewer without a righteous McGarrett telling them they wasted their lives for nothing.

The premiere began with the wedding reception for Adam and Kono. Steve and Catherine kissed and danced. Catherine, who stunned fans with her return in the season five finale, doesn’t appear again after Steve leaves her to investigate the pirate-related murder. He told her he wanted to talk. Danny asked him why they didn’t talk, they being Steve and Catherine, and Steve swears they’ll talk but they didn’t have time to talk. The detectives used talk as often as I used ‘plan’ in my Heroes: Reborn review. McGarrett and Catherie do not talk, but they will talk. Producers told media sites the early episodes of season six will resolve the McGarrett/Catherine arc. Catherine decided to stay in Afghanistan to help a little boy remain free of the Taliban in season four. I predict that she’ll leave Steve. Steve’s one true love is Danny, as Danny’s one true love is Steve. Her return must mean more than starting anew her romance with him. She probably returned with news impactful to his family, mother, or sister, or zombie Wo Fat.

#601, though, is all about fake buried treasure, sad Chin, tortured Adam and Kono, and Jerry asking for his own office. It’s similar to every episode prior and every episode after. (Okay, I exaggerated. The Danny flashback episodes and the North Korean episode diverted from the formula). I liked the premiere. I may’ve read two chapters from a book during the pirate story. It lacked a delightful scene at the shrimp place, but half the reason to watch an episode of Hawaii Five-0 is for the Hawaiian scenery.


-Fall TV’s one week in. The Player and Heroes: Reborn performed well for NBC. I lost interest in The Player after watching the trailer for my fall TV preview. Yahoo reported ratings were down. Boy were they. NCIS recorded its lowest premiere rating ever. Ah, ratings. More shows premiere next week and throughout October and even into November.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Heroes: Reborn "Brave New World"/"Odessa" Review

Critical response to Heroes and Heroes: Reborn made mention of LOST. Heroes’ series premiere drew comparisons with LOST. Many preferred Heroes. Heroes “knew where it was going” whereas LOST put characters in polar bear cages and spun wheels. Heroes, of course, was a show without a plan. Plans matter more than anything to TV critics, bloggers, and fans. A show without a plan will spawn Twitter hot takes. Heroes conned the majority of its weekly viewers. The first season produced 14 decent episodes, a few them momentous (in the crazy opening four episodes of the season), but the rest of the season faded. Season two destroyed any good-will, and the writer’s strike destroyed any infinitesimal salvage job for that season. Season three happened. Season four happened, too, at a carnival, and then Claire revealed her powers to the world. NBC mercifully cancelled the series afterwards. The finale aired in February, so far removed from the massive positive reception and fandom that met four years prior.

NBC’s executives decided to bring Heroes back amidst a wave of nostalgia renewals. Coach, Twin Peaks, The X Files, 24, plus movie re-makes, contributed to NBC’s decision that gives Tim Kring another go at it. The post-show narrative was about the plan. I already mentioned the word plan. Plans are like oxygen for TV watchers. No show may live without a plan. LOST’s showrunners had a plan by the time critics anointed Tim Kring the television messiah, unaware Kring winged it. Heroes devolved. LOST’s writers enjoyed a wonderful creative stretch through to the end of the series. The majority of LOST fans and critics hated the finale, thought the writers planned the finale three years prior. Barely any folks bothered with Heroes at the end. Anyway, the point: the plan doesn’t matter, but the plan’s what Bob Greenblatt and Tim Kring probably sold to critics during the pre-premiere promotional run. Writers—artists—cannot plan out a story anymore than a weather person can forecast a storm. Writers will refer to a flash of inspiration, a great knowledge of where the story begins and ends, but so much of the story happens in the act of writing.

Heroes: Reborn runs thirteen episodes this season. It’s a fine number of episodes for a TV show. Tim Kring couldn’t sustain the narrative over twenty-two episodes. Kring probably mapped the season out, which will matter more than it should to folks. Plan or no plan, it won’t matter if the fans or critics don’t like it. The first two episodes of Heroes: Reborn—“Brave New World” & “Odessa”—is the same old Heroes. Amnesia, nefarious, shadowy corporations, a large number of characters, mystery, except now the world knows about super-powered people, dubbed evos, and bad people want to eliminate evos from the earth. Early in “Brave New World,” two villains, possessed of a softer edge and identifiable human relatable traits, take out a room full of evos. Quick scenes of fleeing evos from murdermous mobs follow. The scope scales back somewhat even though more and more characters are introduced as the episode goes by. The Heroes writers never struggled writing for an ensemble. The nonsense around the characters was the problem and remains the problem.

Heroes: Reborn goes for the epic. An epic terrorist attack’s the inciting incident of the reboot. Suresh claims responsibility for the attack. Yes, he of the many monologues from the original run. Suresh claimed responsibility for another attack. The question is why. The question is why for the rest of the episode. Why did Noah ask the Haitian to erase his memory and then kill him? Why Molly Walker? Why? Why? Why? Why do this all over again, NBC? The story darts between locations: Midwestern America, Texas, southern California, Tokyo, Japan, the Arctic, and the Deep South. Noah’s joined by a do-gooder disguised as truther who wants to find his sister, which makes him a spiritual bro of Noah, because he wants to find Claire (presumed dead in the attack, but revealed missing when Noah investigates the crumbled ruins of Primatech and another shadowy organization that brings Noah into Molly’s story. Molly wasn’t introduced until the second episode). Every beat of the first two episodes were predictable. Every single beat. Well, not every single beat. I didn’t expect the jock high school kid’s step father to fall victim to the penny man, because I didn’t expect the jock kid to be anymore than the antagonistic boyfriend of the high school evo kid’s crush. The important revelations about Molly Walker, the truth about Claire, the Kanatana Girl video game story, The Haitian dying before he could restore Noah’s memory, all of it reminded me of what I didn’t like about Heroes, of the narrative frustrations, the long drawn-out mysteries, the promise of epic change, because instead of “save the cheerleader, save the world,” it’s “forget the past, protect the future” and what they, whoever they are, need to protect is the northern lights.

HRG’s the strongest character of the bunch because of the history of the character. His arc begins where his wife’s began in the “Pilot.” He’s without memory, oblivious to the larger nefarious machinations, tracking down clues, killing old friends because he can’t remember a gosh darn thing about Odessa. Noah Bennett represents the best and worst of Heroes. “Company Man” is the best episode of Heroes; however, the character’s integral to the worst aspects of the show. He tied into a lot of nonsense gibberish. The heart of his arc’s promising. His love for Claire is his most humanizing trait. New characters have similar humanizing trait. Luke lost a son; Tommy doesn’t feel he fits anywhere; Miko wants to avenge her father, and Ren wants to help her; Quentin wants to find his sister. Fitting in, avenging loved ones, finding them means passing through the muck of the mythology.

I’ll reiterate that characters weren’t the problem. The mucky mythology was and is. I debated all day whether or not to watch and review the premiere of Reborn tonight.  Obviously, I did. I was curious about the series. My curiosity was sated. I don’t need more Heroes.

Other Thoughts:

-The Suresh monologue returned at the close of “Brave New World.” The show belongs to the new characters, with Noah as the exception. The original characters seemingly will appear every now and then. Matt Parkman’s inevitably disappointing return will not draw me back.

-The visual style of Heroes always rocked. The show still looks great.

-The butterfly was symbolic, eh?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Muppets "Pig Girls Don't Cry" Review

The Office popularized the mockumentary format of sitcoms. The British Office, that is. The American adaptation of The Office used the same format and unknowingly started a plague of mock-documentary sitcoms. Community made the best three mockumentary episodes. The Community mockumentary episodes parodied the existing mockumentaries, most notably Modern Family. Dan Harmon, the creator of Community, doesn’t like mockumentaries, because it’s an inherently easier story to tell when characters tell the audience how they feel, when the joke’s punchline is punched further in the one-on-one interview. The Muppets former series revolved around show business. The Muppets always comment, satirize, and parody popular entertainment. The Muppets Christmas Carol lovingly parodied the Dickens classic with a meta-textual awareness about the tropes of novels and movies, and let’s not forget the meta-reality roles of Gonzo and Rizzo (who had read the book they narrated, who took on the role of the creator, who had the sinister gift of the novelist who knows exactly what will happen to every character without the characters knowing themselves). The newest Muppets TV show doesn’t differ from the spirit of the previous offerings. Sure, the new Muppets has more adult humor, most of which a child won’t understand, but the Muppets are the Muppets. The faux-documentary style’s an unfortunate choice, but it’s an easier way to send up the industry while showing a different side of The Muppets.

Professional critics learned about the break-up of Miss Piggy and Kermit during the TCAs. The news was all over social media. I never liked Kermit and Miss Piggy as a couple. Unfortunately for me, the series follows the close personal lives of Kermit and Miss Piggy. "Pig Girls Don't Cry" revolved around their break-up. The majority of the show is set on the set of Miss Piggy’s late night talk show. Kermit’s conflict is managing passive-aggression, which he doesn’t notice until Miss Piggy’s more overt about it. Miss Piggy’s first guest is Elizabeth Banks. Miss Piggy doesn’t want her. Why? Her picture on the poster of Pitch Perfect 2 was by Miss Piggy and Kermit when Kermit ended their relationship. Why did Kermit end the relationship? Miss Piggy stopped to indulge fans’ selfies. Elizabeth Banks reminded Miss Piggy of the worst night of her life.

The late news about show concerned its late production. Critics didn’t receive screeners until late last week. Oh, the horror. The reason for Miss Piggy not wanting Elizabeth Banks on the show reveals that, indeed, the show had a late start on production. The decision to break apart Miss Piggy and Kermit seemed to depend more on viral publicity than the creative good of the show. Kermit acted like a dick in the breakup. He had passive-aggression. Not once did he tell Miss Piggy his dissatisfaction with never-ending fan selfies. Evidently, the frog and the pig never communicated. Kermit and Miss Piggy represent the collective heart of The Muppets, but those characters were the worst part of the “Pilot.”

The writers introduced Kermit’s new girlfriend, a vaguely southern pig, and the head of marketing for the network. Obviously, the new girlfriend’s the unwanted new girlfriend in every romantic comedy story. She’ll further the rift between the exes as Kermit and Miss Piggy slowly rekindle the love they once felt for each other. The overall presentation of the show will be in the style of more recent sitcoms, but its central storyline will follow the tried and true formula of the romantic comedy.

I enjoyed other storylines way more than Kermit and Miss Piggy. The Fozzie bear storyline in which he met his girlfriend’s parents trailed off at the end. His girlfriend declared she loved him regardless of her parents’ opinion, but Fozzie blew her off. Fozzie had a few sneaky risqué lines for an 8pm family comedy. The storyline could’ve been a satire of folks that don’t tolerate any relationships they perceive as ‘other.’ Fozzie initially tried all he could to impress the parents. By the end, he didn’t care.

The rest of the episode lightly sketched the role of the other muppets. Some have yet to appear. Gonzo had the winky meta line about the lazy device of characters telling the camera what they think before the other footage contradicts what the character said a moment ago. Gonzo’s usually the audience proxy. Gonzo-as-Dickens is one of my favorite cinematic characters, but Gonzo barely appeared afterwards. The funniest line in the trailer, given to Gonzo, about Gonzo and Miss Piggy starring in six movies together after she doesn’t recognize him was cut or will appear in a later episode. (Miss Piggy also barely recognizes Fozzie). I’d watch more episodes to see how the writers use the other characters. The Muppets are a great ensemble. Each Muppets plays an integral part in making up the whole. I’d like the show to be more than Kermit and Miss Piggy, though I know it primarily is.

The Muppets are The Muppets. I like The Muppets. They’re not Jim Henson’s Muppets, but Jason Segel captured the spirit of The Muppets. Bill Prady worked for Henson. The most what can ask of a Muppets show or series is simple: a smile, a chuckle, a healthy, full laugh, and to like spending them with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rizzo, and the rest. The series, more likely than not, will provide those things for people every week. The adult humor’s sneaky. I noticed tonight and last night the more overt adult jokes in the 8-9PM timeslot. Overall, it’s a fine show. It won’t blow you away, but it’ll do a little of what I listed above. And that’s not a bad thing.  

Other Notes:

-Riki Lindholm’s the Hollywood It girl. She played Fozzie’s girlfriend. She guest starred in Fresh Off The Boat. Her Comedy Central series, Another Period, is the best new comedy of 2015.

-The Swedish Chef previously appeared in an ABC LOST webisode. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse strolled through the cafeteria for lunch. Damon couldn’t get service. Carlton could because he spoke the Chef’s language. I thought it delightful then, and now. Ah, Darlton.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life In Pieces "Pilot" Review

These slices of life that flash by,” says James Brolin’s character near the end of the “Pilot,” which summarizes Life In Pieces. Life In Pieces tells four short stories in an episode, every week, and each story concerns members of the same family. Early reviews compared the series to Modern Family. The Daily Beast wondered, “Is it the next Modern Family?” No, it’s not. Life In Pieces compares better with NBC’s recently ended Parenthood if Parenthood went for the tears from laughter instead of the tears from sadness. The four short stories represent the slices of life that flash by and which remain with the family forever. Brolin’s short monologue’s played over shots of scenes earlier in the episode. The premise, as all pilots do, came together in the final act.

Life In Pieces follows the formula of every network sitcom from the past year. Goofiness, comic gags, silliness, a touch of the absurd, awkwardness turned into humor, only for the moment of heartwarming sentimentality to come in the last act of the series. The audience laughed (maybe). By the third act, the audience wants to feel the feels, as my peers and young millennial folk tend to say whenever they feel emotion—whether it be a napping cat or Dianne Wiest to utilize her Oscar winning chops when the absurd funeral-birthday celebration becomes grave and morbid for the wife married to her husband for the last 49 years. Yes, one day they will die. The scene of starting mortality precedes the scene in which James Brolin’s John asks to make love to his wife in the coffin. The reader may never believe me, but the coffin shut when Joan tried to climb in for sex in a coffin. That’s high concept comedy.

The “Pilot” probably played better to those who did not see a single preview. CBS, and every other network, gives away the entire first episode in the teaser. Prior to the start, CBS ran a final preview that showed every gag and every essential character beat. The first story—“First Date—introduces a sad sack ex-fiance character (played by Jordan Peele). Matt and his date search for a place to have sex. They further scar his date’s ex-fiance. They try to have sex at his parent’s house, but they’re home. John doesn’t know how to pause the TV due to the endless number of remote controls. Their evening ends with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, sex, and an instance of mistaken prostitution. The next scene for Matt is at the mock funeral. His father won’t let him finish his mock eulogy. Two essential things about Matt: he values sex more than human decency, and his father sort of thinks little of him.

The second story, which concerns the delivery of a baby, has a solid two laughs. The new parents feel unprepared to take their baby home to raise. They wondered why the hospital would let them, two individuals without parenting experience, take the baby home so soon. The rest of the story is full of post-labor vagina jokes. If you watched but one preview you heard the comparison to the predator joke. Colin Hank’s Greg bemoans the new direction his baby-filled, suddenly sexless marriage took. Justin Adler and the writers have a ready-made couple weeks of new baby comic fun that’s likely all trope and cliché.

I liked the third story. Adler established a family’s dynamics, the broad, essential beats of the individual family members, the dynamics of the married couple, while telling a story about a mother’s struggle with the truth about her kids growing and maturing. Her son gets drunk during his college tour. Her youngest daughter learned Santa Claus doesn’t exist. The middle child had her first period. The mother, played by Betsy Brandt, instinctively tries to breed with her self-aware free husband. The husband character’s my kind of stock sitcom character: aloof, terrible at advice, without depth, unable to recognize social and verbal cues, and a near buffoon. He blows his chance at sex after commenting about the age of his wife and the possibility of her infertility.

The final story puts a button on the episode, brings the stories together under the umbrella of capturing the slices of life flashing by. Will the finale reveal the stories as the memories of each member on their deathbed? These snippets of their life meant the most to them. No way that’s the way the end of series. Maybe the series ends in two weeks because no one watched. Life In Pieces has a great lead-in. I think it’ll get a full season, but what the heck do I know?

Will I watch for a full season? I’m curious about the short story format. Life In Pieces tells the full story of a particular character within the act. It may change. Stories may begin in the first act and end in the last act. Writers, executives, and studio heads want to stand out however they can. Life In Pieces’ structure separates it from Modern Family, The Middle, Fresh Off The Boat, etc. Overall, it’s an average sitcom.

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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.