Thursday, May 28, 2009

Season Wrap Up: One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill is nothing if not a gutsy show. With recent casting news indicating the exit of central couple Lucas and Peyton (Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton) from the show, the perpetual shark-jumping CW series will head into its 7th season without its main stars. A risky move indeed, but I have a feeling it might just work for One Tree Hill, a series that's already done everything that you shouldn't do (marry off your characters, introduce kids, redeem villains, time jump, etc...).

The reason I think it might work week in and week out without Lucas and Peyton is that it hasn't been Lucas and Peyton that I've been tuning in for. Sure, this season was finally devoid of their usual "will they or won't they" drama, making them far more tolerable, even to the point of making them somewhat likable. And sure, the season's low points had nothing to do with the corny blond lovebirds (that honour is reserved, once again, for the infamous nanny Carrie). But the fact is that I couldn't care less about Lucas and Peyton and their self-proclaimed "destiny"; in fact, I was sort of rooting for Peyton to die in the finale so the couple'd have a smooth transition out of the lives of their friends and family in Tree Hill.

It's that friends and family part, that's what makes me tune in, especially this season. The best decision Mark Schwahn and his team ever made was to skip ahead in time and let their characters grow up. Yes it let them avoid the problematic college years, gave the characters a bit more wisdom to guide them and allowed for them to leave the drama of high school far behind them, but mostly it gave Jamie some time to learn to walk and talk. The single greatest thing about these last two years in Tree Hill has been a little boy named Jamie Lucas Scott, son to actually interesting couple Nathan and Haley. Born on graduation day, the time leap made Jamie into a full-fledged little man, complete with gifted IQ, a passion for basketball, a penchant for stand-up comedy and a winning attitude. Whether he's celebrating his father's dreams, setting his uncle Skills up with his teacher, or wearing a cape to school, Jamie is the coolest kid in Tree Hill- and that includes his basketball star father, recording artist mother and best-selling author uncle.

Jamie's parents Nathan and Haley are one of TV's most watchable couples: more fun than dramatic; Skills is the smoothest operator ever to spend 90% of his time babysitting (his walky-talky code names for him and Jamie were Macaulay and Denzel); Brooke remains the most endearing "it" girl around (and she was around long before Serena and Blair came onto the scene), her new love interest, Julian, is promising too; Mia is a great addition to the show, and provides for a great sound track; and even Mouth and Millie are tolerable in small doses.

This season we said a very sad "goodbye" to Quentin, a tumultuous, and at times lovely, "hello AND goodbye" to Sam, "I love you" to Julian, "I do" to Lucas and "you can do it" to Nathan.

The finale saw every character realize their dreams (Nathan makes it to the NBA, Peyton survives her pregnancy and her and Lucas have a baby girl named Sawyer, Millie moves back to Tree Hill to be with Mouth, Mia's record comes out and Chase says he'll wait for her and Brooke confesses her love to Julian and gets her company back). It also saw the return of Lucas' mom Karen and retired Ravens basketball coach Whitey. And villainous parents Dan Scott and Victoria Davis found redemption, whether it was in a second chance from an old mentor or forgiveness and understanding from a daughter.

So after a great season (hilarious as a whole, touching at moments and plagued with only a few massive issues- hello nanny Carrie, Skills' affair with Deb, Brooke's attack and Dan's heart being eaten by a dog), One Tree Hill stands to get even better with the loss of their more tedious characters.

Now that everyone has achieved their goals, fallen in love and carved out a little place for themselves in the world, I can't wait to see how the writers tear them down for another season of Tree Hill drama. I'm hoping for more of the Nathan Scott Family, the return of Sam, a record release for Haley and more screen time for Skills!

FINALE GRADE: B
SEASON GRADE: B

The Dancing Season 5: The Return of the Favourites

So You Think You Can Dance season 5 is off with a bang with returning favourites. In the grand tradition of Hok and Twitch (who made the top 20 as fan favourites after being cut the previous season), a favourite of mine from last season, Evan Kasprzak is back this year with his brother Ryan to jazz up the competition (literally). Here's hoping they make it all the way this time.

Other returning favourites include the outrageously good contemporary dancers who both just barely missed the season 4 top 20 cut: Brandon Bryant and Natalie Reid (who you may remember from last year as Katee's supportive friend who almost went through in her place).

The season is looking up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"For The Fun of It" -Amelia Earhart

I'm just going to go ahead right now and declare Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (along with Star Trek) my favourite of the year so far.

Full of fun, life, a stellar cast, good effects and flat-out good writing, both movies soared beyond my wildest expectations.

But Night at the Museum, which I just saw this afternoon, was the big surprise. Not usually a huge fan of cutesy kid movies (other than the ones from when I was kid of course, which I still love), I didn't even see the first one. But the Smithsonian holds an appeal that the museum of natural history just doesn't have, the reviews were coming in full of praise and I'll go see Bill Hader in almost anything. So I went. And it was AWESOME.

Not only did the film cement my affection for Bill Hader and Ben Stiller, remind me that Hank Azaria is one of the funniest men in the world and solidify Amy Adams' role on my favourite actress list, it provided me with a parade of my favourite television stars and pop culture artifacts to giggle at: "Whoever this Archie Bunker was, he had an extraordinarily comfortable throne".

Clever, self-referential, and diverse in comic tone, Night at the Museum was all sorts of things I didn't think it possibly could be. It even featured Abe Lincoln commenting on the optimistically promising current state of the union, just in case you were searching for some sort of deep social commentary buried inside an incredibly amusing fantastical romp.

From Amy Adam's feisty and quirky performance to Hank Azaria's hilarious accent, to the obligatory kid movie heartwarming moments, Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is totally worth seeing, just "for the fun of it", as Amelia would say.

Now here's where I justify writing about a movie on a TV blog:

- Shawn Levy (director), a Quebec native, directed many an episode of brilliant kids TV like Animorphs, Alex Mack and Lassie.

-Hank Azaria (head villain Kahmunrah and the voices of The Thinker and Abe Lincoln) is the man behind almost every voice in Springfield (The Simpsons).

- the best person in the film, Amy Adams (Amelia Earhart) was a guest star on The Office in season 2, playing Jim's girlfriend.

-speaking of The Office, Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Daryl (Craig Robinson) both showed up as a museum docent and an Airman come to life, respectively. And Ricky Gervais, the creator and star of the original BBC Office was in it too!

- Toofer (Keith Powell) showed up, representing 30 Rock as Craig Robinson's co-pilot.

- Jay Baruchel, former star of Popular Machanics for Kids, Are You Afraid of the Dark and Undeclared, played a sailor come to life in a painting/future technology genius.

- Oscar the Grouch was played by the actual voice of Oscar the Grouch (and Big Bird), Caroll Spinney.

- Jon Bernthal from the short-lived but beloved The Class (Duncan) played Al Capone, completely in black and white (very cool).

- and last, but not least, my favourite SNL player Bill Hader put on a good show as the absurd yet strangely heroic (or at least well-intentioned) General Custer.

FAVOURITE QUOTES:

Einstein Bobblehead: [to monkeys Dexter and Able who are attacking Al Capone] You slap, you kick, you slap, you kick, you slap, you kick, team work, wonderbar!

Security Guard (Jonah Hill): It's the United States of "Don't Touch That Thing Right in Front of You."

Kahmunrah: [to Darth Vader] Is that you breathing? Because I can't hear myself think! There's too much going on here; you're asthmatic, you're a robot. And why the cape? Are we going to the opera? I don't think so.

The Thinker: Hey baby, check out the gun show goin' on over here. BOOM BOOM! Firepower!

Tukegee Airman: [thanking Amelia Earhart] A lot of people didn't think we could fly, either. Thanks for clearing the runway.

Jon and Kate Plus Eight Pounds of Uncomfortable Emotional Baggage

When The Real World first premiered on MTV, the cast members' voices reminded us during the credits that this was what happened when people "stopped being polite and starting being real." And for the past almost-twenty years of the reality craze, show after show has offered us some sort of glimpse into the real lives of Z-list celebrities, aging rockers, fake millionaires, survivors, drunken co-eds, dumb blonds, midgets, clothing designers, models, and thousands of other people. In a way, watching a reality show makes you feel a sense of ownership over the people you're watching. We feel for our stars. We care when Tori gets jealous of Dean's diving instructor, or the single mom gets a make over that makes her feel alive again, or one of the models breaks down because of how ugly she's felt her whole life*. You feel personally offended when Chris beats Adam, or Jason dumps Melissa, or JT turns out to be kind of a douche in the last few episodes of Survivor. It's a more intimate experience than fiction, even when we can see the thin veil of "reality" along the edges of the show. Even though as rational individuals we know that this footage is HIGHLY edited, and these people are always constantly aware of the cameras in their faces, and that reality is not something that can be served up in neat thirty minute packages, there is something inherently comforting about the experiences of real people within the world we live in.

Double that on shows that deal with normal situations, rather than intense competitions. Jon and Kate Plus 8 started as the escapades of a married couple suddenly blessed with eight children dealing with all the child rearing difficulties that people around the world have dealt with since the first baby popped out and started wanting attention. It was at once familiar and fantastic, normal and extreme.

There's a principal in science called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which says basically (and pardon my science, since I'm a film major, not a physics major) that when we start to observe the innermost workings of an atom we inherently change the atom. I think it applies to reality shows as well. Who knows what the life of Jon and Kate and their eight superhumanly adorable children would have been like if Kate hadn't published a book and the family hadn't become a weekly staple on The Discovery Channel and then TLC? But it's undeniably changed their lives. Last season, it often felt like it changed for the better. The kids got to sit front row center at Globetrotters games, and meet Phillies all stars, and the whole family moved into a bigger home with the kind of woods middle class families dream about.

And then the season ended, but their lives didn't. Because outside of cute escapades captured and lovingly edited for broadcast is the unrelenting pressure of being a part of that many people's lives. Having that many people think they not only deserve to see your show, but deserve to know and understand what goes on in between shots. Half of America feels like it owns John and Kate, and inherently wants to dissect them and what makes them work.

This isn't to say it's all our fault and John and Kate are innocent bystanders. They've capitalized on their children and their fame for money and opportunities that most Americans can't even dream of, and there is a price for that sort of luck. But by the time we see Kate unable to take the kids to the store without having to avoid the paparazzi, I'm forced to wonder how big a price this family should have to pay. This scene in particular is absurd. Kate is already being followed by TLC's omnipresent cameras. She's not out at a club, or in a sleazy motel with a bodyguard. She's going to the Party Supplies store. WITH A CAMERA ALREADY FOLLOWING HER. What do the paparazzi hope to capture that isn't already being captured? The invasion of her privacy, therefore, starts to feel like the purpose, rather than an unfortunate side-effect, of their stalking her.

The premier of Jon and Kate Plus 8 is unfathomably colored by the allegations all over the tabloids about the two's disintegrating relationship. "I'm just really, really angry," says Kate blankly to the camera, looking every bit defeated. I was actually shocked by how straight forwardly both John and Kate dealt with the issues. Both deny any allegations of their own infidelity, although Kate seemed pretty convinced that John cheated. But that's hardly my point. Whether or not John cheated, whether or not Kate has been overbearing, whether or not they deserve what they're getting for serving their lives up to the television public in the first place, it's still damn sad to watch two people who once loved each other unable to face each other. And it's even sadder to think of the true tragedy of their adorable eight children scampering around underfoot, unaware for the moment of just how deeply in it they are.

In a way, it feels like John and Kate are held up as a sacrifice on the altar of our morbid obsession into the deconstruction of truth. And believe me, I'm an avid participant. How else would I know things like that the brother of John's supposed mistress is the one who first reported that story, or that Kate is alleged to have gotten a tummy tuck? But at a certain point watching the season premier, I just started to feel indescribably sad. Because this show is being broadcast in something pretty damn close to real time (the season starts on the sextuplets' birthday, May 10th, a mere three week turn around), we're literally watching all this awfulness pour down on the family. It's like watching the snuff film of a marriage. And I wish that the atom of their lives, once observed, could return to its normal rotation, but I know full and well that's probably impossible.

*Sure, the feeling I normally have about this is amusement, but it's a feeling none the less.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Really, Hollywood?! REALLY?!!!


There are few things I hold sacred in this world. I pretty much take most things lightly. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be the closest thing I have to a religion. Think about it. You've got it all. Moral Code? Check. Heroes? Check. A strong respect for life and souls? Check. Witty puns? Double check.

So not to fan the internet flame of outrage, but the news that Hollywood wants to remake Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a show that ended a mere six years ago) sans the original cast and, most importantly, sans JOSS THE MAN WHEDON makes my blood boil. It's not just stupid, it's sacrilegious. Why do we need a remake of Buffy so soon after the series ended, and while the comic books are still going strong? And more importantly, why would I want something so brilliantly handled and explored by a talented, inventive man to be remade by the same person who helped to butcher the original cinematic venture?!

I hope this is one of those stupid rumors that never comes to anything but is always flirted with, because let me just go on record: A BTVS movie without Joss Whedon is one I WILL NOT SEE.

Love and Hate: The Men of The Bachelorette

CLICK ON THE SCALE TO SEE A CLEARER VERSION


Monday, May 25, 2009

Adieu to the Bakers and the Newlys


Amidst a storm of good news at the recent network upfronts, the sadness of harsh cancellations went unfelt.

Now, with our joy over the renewals of Dollhouse, Chuck, Better Off Ted and Scrubs fully felt, it is time to turn our attention to the heartbreaking cancellations of two of TV's most uplifting shows: Privileged and Samantha Who.

A CW freshman series that suffered from lack of shock factor, lack of network support and lack of an add campaign, Privileged was a critical darling, popular among those searching for something to fill the Gilmore void and a favourite of all of us here at My TV. The adorable antics of Megan, Rose, Sage, Marco, Will and Charlie will be greatly missed. I'm desperate for the season 1 DVD so I can relive all the great moments, whether they got a proper resolution or not.

As for the second hurtful cancellation, the innocent victims are Samantha Newly (Christina Applegate) and her hilarious comrades (Jennifer Esposito and Melissa McCarthy) from Samantha Who? Instead of renewing the Emmy-winning comedy for a third season and pairing it with renewed favourites Scrubs and Better off Ted to make a comedy night almost as strong as the renowned NBC Thursday or CBS Monday, ABC instead decided to axe the sweet little sitcom. So now, not only are some of television's best actors jobless (Applegate, Esposito, McCarthy, Barry Watson, Jean Smart, Kevin Dunn and Tim Russ are all flawless comedians), but now we'll never know how the epic romance between Sam and Todd turns out; we won't get to watch Sam get her memory back and we'll miss Andrea's arc into a brand new, good-ish Andrea.

Damn you upfronts! You're always such a roller coaster of emotions!

Rest in Peace sweet and optimistic television (that doesn't involve singing). It was great while it lasted.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Season Wrap Up: Gossip Girl

Rachael already covered the finale in her trademark depth in the post "What If" so I'll try and keep it brief on this one.

Gossip Girl's sophomore season was a bumpy one. There were low points at which it seemed like the worst of teenage television (Blair and Nate's early season entanglements with the duchess and her kin, Kaitlyn Cooper's guest stint, the entire Rachel storyline, etc...), but this was also the year that the audience really fell in love with Chuck and Blair.

This season, the show's 2 most interesting characters were put front and center, and they didn't let the spotlight down once. This was also the year that Lily and Rufus finally found each other, (the most engaging "adult" story to grace the teenage drama genre since the days of Keith Mars).

Now that the main characters have all graduated, is it safe to assume that the drama will switch mostly to the NYU campus (where Blair, Georgina, Vanessa and Dan are all conveniently enrolled)? How will Serena be magically transported from Brown to a New York City school? Does Chuck have any college plans? How will Nate tie in since he's all the way across town at Columbia? And how much time will we still spend at Constance, where Jenny is all set up to be Queen Bee? And what about St. Jude's, where Eric and Jonathan can serve as interesting character anchors? And with very few kids left at home, what happens to Lily and Rufus's share of the screen time? What about Eleanor and Cyrus?
This is as good a time as any for me to thank gossip girl herself for finally saying something that's bothered me for 2 years now: Dan Humphrey makes a big show about being an outsider when in fact he is, more than anyone else, "the ultimate insider". It was about time he was called on it.

With their characters having been cunningly shuffled into schools that are close together, and with gossip girl's promise to follow them into the future, there's no telling where or how long this show could go. And after a promising finale like that, it's safe to say that we here at My TV are enthusiastically on board for the rest of the ride.
FINALE GRADE: B+
SEASON GRADE: B

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dancing with the Pros

This season I picked up Dancing with the Stars as what can, at best, be described as a "casual viewer". I watched a couple episodes here and there, mostly just cheering for Melissa (who'd won my heart on The Bachelor only a week earlier). But after last night's finale (and the previous night's competition show) I realized that it wasn't her that I was watching anymore. I wasn't watching for the dancing (which is mediocre at best), the choreography (which is understandably simple), the judges (who aren't complaint-worthy but are also nothing to write home about), or even Gilles Marini's abs. I was watching the pros.

You see, as endearing as Melissa is, as much as Ty's improvement is admirable, as much as Shawn is adorably inspiring and as sweet as the Woz was, this show is made by the professional dancers who choreograph, teach and perform with the stars every week. Sexy Gilles would have been unremarkable if not for the constant pushing of his amazing professional partner Cheryl Burke. Derek Hough managed to tame the wild Lil'Kim and bring out an elegance that I certainly didn't know she had. Likewise, his sister Julianne Hough took blah country singer Chuck Wicks (also her boyfriend) and used their emotional connection to bring out the enticing performer in him. So You Think You Can Dance alums Chelsie Hightower and Lacey Schwimmer managed to teach rhythm to a cowboy and a jackass (literally, it was Steve-O); Chelsie turned out to be such a surprisingly good teacher that her partner Ty Murray made the final 4. And even though he was unfortunately partnered with a potato head with big boobs, Dmitry Chaplin still proved that he's a remarkable choreographer (even by the higher So You Think You Can Dance standards).

But it was Mark Ballas (partner of winner Shawn Johnson) who was the real treat of the season. Not only was he a standout dancer, Mark was the endearing personality of the competition. Paired with the youngest contestant in the show's history (Johnson, 17), Mark created the perfect dynamic with his student/partner, supported her through her multiple breakdowns, choreographed fantastic routines tailored just for her, carried her through to the finale and even threw her a prom when he found out she'd be missing her real one to be on the show.

So my foray into Dancing with the Stars fandom worked out well for the show, because even though I tuned in to see one dancer from this season in particular, it's the multi-season professionals who caught my attention.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Apologize Profusely...

... for making you watch Glee.

All I wanted was for someone to make a show I understood. Not one where the emotional arcs of the characters made them human enough that I could relate to upper east side fashionistas, stylish demon slayers, Texan high school footballers or polygamists from Utah, just a show about people doing things that I actually did in high school. I wanted the impromptu sing-alongs and the dorky obsession with whatever your extra-curricular of choice was, I wanted characters who were happy doing what they were doing and weren't always on a quest to be the cool kids. And I thought Fox was finally giving me that with Glee.

Sadly, though it pretends to be all these things, Glee turns out to be nothing more than High School Musical with stronger lungs.

Let's start with the good news, the one thing that really got me through this horrifying hour-long display of cheese: Lea Michele. The outrageously talented Spring Awakening ingenue plays a vapidly narcissistic spotlight hog who we're somehow not supposed to hate, but she does it well. The saving grace of the character is her similarity to Logan from The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee, a girl who's 2 fathers gave her so many opportunities that she feels indebted to them, always striving for more than perfection. The great news? Michele's voice is so epic that her character can be parallel to Narcissus himself and I will still smile every time she opens her mouth.
The only other good thing about this show is the music, which is inarguably awesome (whether it's from Guys & Dolls or Journey).

Now for the bad news; and please remember, I was convinced this would be the greatest show ever. I embrace cheese, adore musical theatre and had a pre-existing love for more than half the cast... but I hated this show. The dialogue was so cliched that the muscles that control eye-rolling actually began to tire by the end of the hour. There wasn't a single character that I really felt for, everyone was a) a stereotype and b) kind of icky. Particularly, the main character's wife seems to have walked straight out of The Judd Apatow Guide to Shrewish Women. Our protagonist (Hairspray's Matthew Morrison) is charming but wishy-washy and the golden boy (Cory Monteith) is a poor man's Zac Efron (that's right, I said it), even if he is cuter.

In fact, the whole shooting match is scarily similar to the already tired High School Musical format. The comparison was inevitable; everyone who doesn't know anything about musicals will tell you that they're the same just because they're about high schoolers singing and dancing. But genre aside, the two are, in fact, sadly similar for a different reason all together: they both participate in (and reinforce) the delusion that high school is a caste system in which doing something different (in both cases it's performing) is equal to social suicide.

Glee exists in a world where you can both look and sound like Lea Michele and no one will notice; it's a world in which you can't wear a football uniform unless you're a class-A jerk, and where you are inherently considered unsympathetic unless you're an underdog (even the golden boy has a difficult past and trying peer pressure). Let me first say that this is a serious disservice to not only members of what Jane Lynch's character would call the lowest caste, but also to the higher-ups. First of all, not everyone who sings is weird; they're not all starved for attention, bad dressers or people who would actually put up with having eggs thrown at them. All one has to do is look at the current season of American Idol (Glee's lead-in tonight) to see that singers can not only be attractive, successful and suave (Kris) but they can also ooze confidence, so secure in their talent that they don't feel the need to bring it up all the time(Adam). As for the upper-caste caricatures, I've got to say (as a bonified "outsider", theatre nerd and general anti-cheerleader) that uniforms and consciences are really not mutually exclusive accessories. There are non-evil cheerleaders, football players who've never shoved anyone in a locker and even a few jocks who *gasp* feel like outsiders too. High school has enough drama as it really is, isn't forcing characters into unfair and largely inaccurate boxes based on interests just serving to minimize what makes those characters interesting in the first place?

Just once, I'd like to see a musical (though, by technical standards, Glee isn't considered a musical) hit the mainstream media that isn't about some cool kid discovering how freeing it can be to join the uncool kids. I'd like to see something where the cool kids ARE the free ones (whatever it is they're doing with that freedom: sports, music, debate,...), something that makes Hollywood finally realize that what they think is "cool" is actually lukewarm.

Maybe Glee can someday be that show; I'll be tuning in in the fall just in case that's true. But for now please do know that I really am sorry about what you just had to sit through.

What If...










What if your two favorite, bubble-stuck shows both got renewed?

And what if your other two favorite shows had finales that restored your faith in them AND made you incredibly excited for next season just at the moment when you thought there was nowhere left for them to go?

Yeah. That's right. That's the world I'm living in.

The finales of Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother (both of which I've had issues with this season, although GG more so than HIMYM) were on tonight. And despite somewhat rocky moments, both delivered what I needed.

Let's start with Gossip Girl. About halfway through, I literally shouted "UGH!" It was around the ten millionth time Leeighton Meester had to make her way tearily through a declaration of love to an unrelenting Chuck Bass. The moment felt repetitive and manipulative, but most damning of all, it had me bored. I am one hundred and forty percent in favor of a Blair/Chuck hook up, and I found myself tired of all the antics and let down by the writers. Add to that the seeming impossibility of what the show was offering us (Gossip Girl's identity for one, and continued new and interesting antics for two) and I certainly was thinking this finale might be better served as a series finale, if only so that the characters could truly make movements in their character archs.

And then Lily and Rufus got high, and reflected on their long and storied past, and realized just how stupid they were both being. And Georgina got into NYU and decided to try and live with Blair (who would have thought I would one day be happy to have Michelle Trachtenberg invade my favorite show? But god love me, I think I've fallen for G.). And Nate, Vanessa, and Dan had an adorable, witty, well written interaction at the coffee shop that made me think that at least one of these three might have a compelling storyline next year. And most importantly, just after I checked the time on my DVR to make sure there was sufficient space left for this, Blair started walking down the street straight into the arms of a gift-laden Chuck Bass, back from Europe with gifts a plenty to make up for his constant verbal constipation and stupidity, and (TWICE) saying those magical three little words, making Blair squeel with joy. Big props to both Leeighton Meester and Ed Westwick for this one; not only did Ed Westwick early on make Chuck's 1,000 "I don't love you" speech seem at least somewhat different from the 999 before it, but when the time came for the romantic ending, the palpable joy they both expressed here helped to make this moment feel every bit as epic and climatic as it needed to be. Between this, Georgina, and the ticking time bomb of brother boy (who is a total hottie, btb) for Lily and Rufus, I suddenly felt refreshed and energized for a new season of text messaging goodness.

I had a similar moment during this ultimate episode of HIMYM. After last week's severely disappointing episode (which made me feel like all of the week's before hugging-montage, flashback-heavy, Lily-less episode was all a big dupe), about halfway through I was still pissed. Ted was spending all episode trying to draw a hat. Marshall was trying to jump off a roof*. And Barney and Robin? At first, Barney freaking out after Robin said she loved him (and basically negating all the character development we've invested in all damn season) made me unbelievably angry. How dare they take the cheapest way possible out of this story? Even when it was revealed that Robin was just trying to "Mosby" Barney (basically, she told him she loved him so that he would stop loving her because he was so freaked out), I was still pissed.

And then I realized: it's just Gossip Girl again! One of the problem with lovable-bad-boys-who-would-probably-be-awful-to-date-in- real-life-but-who-are-so-damn-endearing-on-television is that it takes them awhile to make the right decision. And as it turned out, giving in to the lust that sits on top of the deeper feelings they're developing during a shouting match in which Robin continually tries to Mosby Barney and Barney keeps having to fight his desire to respond to "Let's get married." with "Let's just be friends", was actually the perfect way for me to (FINALLY) see Barney try on that suit again. It stayed true to Robin, too, which was really the most important part to me. I've been kind of worried all season that we hadn't seen any real development of feelings on Robin's part for Barney (other than occasionally of the lustful variety, such as in "the fight," and I would argue that they did a good job of laying the groundwork for why she would love Barney, just not why she did). So at first when Robin told Barney she was in love with him, I was the bad kind of floored. It makes much more sense that Robin, smart as she is, doesn't really harbor crushes the way that Barney could because she just doesn't really deal with her feelings.

And oh yeah, there was a Ted story too. And it (kind of) fixed all the problems I had with last week's episode (or at least the overall story problems, the individual episode was still kind of filler). Turns out, that hand under the umbrella was a damn big deal, but not because she was the mother or because Stella introduced him to the mother. And it's not something as lame as "well emotional closure with Stella helped me to move on to your mother." No, in fact, it was Tony who Ted needed to meet up with again. Tony got Ted a teaching position, and as the episode capper revealed, it was that job that led to how he met their mother. Oh! And the goat kicked him in the head during an epic death wrestling match. It was kind of cool, actually.

So this week HIMYM stayed crazy true to continuity and to the characters (even more so than I am, since I was all ready for Barney to drop being true to Barney in order to be with Robin, while the much-smarter-than-me writers knew how to do both). And it left me aching for more, with the new Ted job opening up all new storylines, and the Barney/Robin ridiculousness bound to continue.

OH! The show also did another fun nod to the characters pregnancy, when Lily lies and tells Marshall she's pregnant to stop him from jumping, and has cute payoff when he tells her that "well, I noticed you gained some weight lately..." and she tells him she no longer cares if he dies. All in all, every single character was well served by this finale, even if Lily didn't get much screentime, and it was a bit distracting that Robin mysteriously lost weight in between shots.

*Being the continuity buff that I am, I sort of loved this though. In the episode "Three Days of Snow" in which Ted and Barney discuss owning their own bar, Narrator Ted explains the different sets of "five words" that every man must say at one point in their life, and they're almost always a mistake. What follows is a brief montage of those five words. At one point, it cuts to Marshall, wearing the same shirt, on the roof of their building saying, "I can totally jump that." Oh yeah, they're that good!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Season Wrap Up: How I Met Your Mother

*CAUTION, SPOILERS AHEAD*

Tonight's season finale of How I Met Your Mother was everything the show is and has been for 4 seasons now. It was pretty funny, it was full of heart and it had it's flaws. Sure parts of it were silly and sure it's incredibly frustrating how Ted calls everything that happens to him "a defining moment", but there were elements in this episode that really made it work, like they always do.

HIMYM is one of the most self-referential shows out there. It's full of in-jokes and callbacks to previous episodes. The finale was even more full of them then usual. There was a flashback to the pilot episode, a callback to the season 4 episode "Three Days of Snow", the use of Ted's name as a verb (to "Mosby" someone, see also "Ted out" and "Ted up"), jokes about Lily's established inability to keep a secret, the motif of Ted's birthday, a shoutout to the yearly rooftop Halloween party and even the resolution to the long-awaited goat story.

As for the current most popular storyline, Barney and Robin finally confessed their feelings for one another (sort of), hashed it out (sort of) and decided how they are going to move forward (not really at all, actually). Either way, it's all out on the table, Barney doesn't look like he's running any time soon and Robin just has to sort out has she really feels now. The whole thing resulted in one of the great HIMYM scenes of all time: "marry me...you're smothering me...*kissy time*".
And the mother? Well we've got it lowered down to one of 500 or so co-eds in Ted's architecture class. You see, that "big momentous moment that changed his life" when he ran into Stella on the street, resulted in the man who stole her from Ted offering Ted a job teaching at Columbia. So now we know that the mother is in that class- it shouldn't be long now. That said, unless CBS and the producers reach an agreement on an end date for the show, there's no telling how long they can preposterously drag out the rest of the story. As much as I love this show, I think the central premise only has about another season's worth of story left.

The season as a whole was a mixed bag. There were some great episodes (I particularly loved "Intervention" and "Three Days of Snow"), some annoying storylines (STELLA!), some excellent character stuff (Barney's arc, Lily sabotaging Ted's relationships, everyone's career struggles), and a couple really memorable jokes (Barney's old man makeup, Marshall's charts, Robin's Canadian celebrity sex story, Barney's fake wife, Lily's fake British accent, and so many more). There were some incredibly ludicrous attempts at covering up Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan's pregnancies. But this was also the year when I stopped hating and finally grew to love Robin.

Ultimately, I'd say season 4 was an improvement on season 3 but not as strong as the first 2. How I Met Your Mother is still one of my most anticipated and favourite shows every week and we here at My TV will all be waiting with bated breath for next season.

FINALE GRADE: B+
SEASON GRADE: B+

Fox Wants Everyone to Dance (and Sing) !

NEWS: Fox has made the (questionable) decision to air season 6 of beloved summer smash So You Think You Can Dance right after season 5 ends in the fall. The decision, no doubt, is their attempt to make their Idol-free fall months more Idol-audience friendly and put up a bit of a fight against the ABC dance juggernaut Dancing with the Stars. But SYTYCD is a summer show, it'll tire out if it airs more than 1 season a year and I already have SYTYCD Canada to tackle in the fall. Despite their best intentions, I'm a little mad at FOX; though I will say, this is the first time in history that my problem is that I want to watch TOO MANY things on the famously stupid network.

REMINDER: along the same lines, WATCH THE PILOT OF GLEE!!!!!! The first episode of the incredibly promising (incredibly expensive to produce) new dramedy airs this week after American Idol on Tuesday at 9pm. This type of show is a longshot to survive on any network, not to mention Fox, so it desperately needs viewers to tune in this week. The show is created by the same guy who brought us Popular and Nip/Tuck, and stars Broadway sensations from Spring Awakening and Hairspray (alongside comedy queens Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays) so there's very little chance of it being anything but, well, Glee-full.

My Current Actor Obsession

25-year-old South African actor Adhir Kalyan was the best thing about the best new (and cancelled) show of the 2007-2008 TV season, Aliens in America. As Raja, the Pakistani exchange student who turns the Tolchuk family's life upside down, Kalyan was consistently charming and unparalleledly engaging. Now, as David Spade's deadpan and ambitious assistant Timmy on CBS's Rules of Engagement, Kalyan is once again a joy to watch. Rules is a sweet but unremarkable show as a whole, but the introduction of Timmy has brought it to a new level. With his adorable accent and perfect comic timing, Kalyan is a gem of an actor. Here's hoping Timmy sticks around and there's much more of my beloved Adhir Kalyan to come; this kid should be a superstar.

CHUCK LIVES.... on some conditions

Great news for fans of Josh Schwartz's cult hit/espionage comedy Chuck!

Against all odds, Chuck and friends will be returning to NBC next year. The highly improbable pickup comes on the heel of many a "save our show" campaign (including a clever Subway promotion) and even a shout out on The Daily Show (see our "Quote of the Day" section).

The good news does, however, come with some bad. As with many shows that are being granted unlikely pickups (see Dollhouse), there are serious budget cuts that go along with the new deal.

What does this mean for Chuck?
- Only 13 episodes for season 3 as opposed to the usual 22.

- A smaller per-episode budget that will mostly likely limit some of the awesome special effects and stunt sequences the show is known for.

- The loss of at least 2 employees from the writing staff.

- The possible elimination of a supporting actor.

- Less screen time for supporting players.

What do you think? Will Chuck lose its appeal with the new changes or are the compromises worth it just to see your favourite nerds/spies for another season? And what supporting character can you not bear to live without? Post your comments below.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Season Wrap Up: Grey's Anatomy

*CAUTION, SPOILERS AHEAD*
Liza Weil, Zach Gilford, Debra Mooney- what more can I ask? OK, well that's not exactly fair. As much as I adore me a little Matt Saracen, rejoice at the sight of Paris Geller back on my TV screen and smile whenever I remember Edna Harper, it takes a lot more than a stellar guest star lineup to impress me with a series finale.

Luckily for the folks over at Grey's, they pulled this one out. By utilizing their actors in better ways than they have in years and embracing their lighter side in conjunction with their dark, the Grey's team surprised me this week with a commendable finale to an unremarkable season.

Though still plagued with some of the series' more persistent issues (hello annoying new character #437, Izzie's oncologist), the finale also played to the series' strengths.

One of those strengths, though they're often not remembered for it, is their humour.

- Giddy Bailey with the surgery robot, making light saber noises was priceless and wonderful.

- The Arizona scene in which she cries and challenges the chief on trying to steal Bailey from pediatrics was kept light and funny. The effect was to lower the melodrama of every other disaster surrounding the characters.

And there's a reason that the best supporting actress category at the Emmys is always a Grey's party, they have one of the best casts around. In this episode they got to strut their stuff like they haven't since their heyday in season 2.
- Justin Chambers (the consistent highlight of the roster) delivered another varied and human performance in the finale. Though, in all fairness, if there's one actor who's been given great material this year it's him.
- Katherine Heigl, who's had the weight of the world on her shoulders drama-wise this season as retribution for her self-important comments about the material she got last year, was nothing less than lovely in what could be (but shouldn't be) her final scenes on the show.
- Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd laid it all out on the table and I love them for it.
- Eric Dane and Chyler Leigh charmed me into thinking they're not a gross couple.
- Jessica Capshaw convinced me to love Arizona despite my issues with new Seattle Grace doctors with a stirring and self-deprecating performance. And Sara Ramirez is so great that she deserves a love interest as convincingly authentic as Capshaw.
- and Chandra Wilson is a goddess who under no circumstances deserves to not have won an Emmy yet.

One liners. Grey's has always been good at crucial and memorable moments and the witty and poignant dialogue that goes with them, assuming they can stay out of cheese territory. Last night's highlights include:
- the 'new, happy' Meredith tells her best friend "I love you Christina Yang"
- true love is Karev telling Izzie to "suck it up" so he doesn't have to live without her
- Meredith and Derek's vow to "love each other even when [they] hate each other" perfectly sums up my relationship with the show: I hate it sometimes but I will always love it.

And, the single most important thing in making Grey's Anatomy's fifth season finale a success: it's own notoriety. You see, for more than a year now, drama queens Katherine Heigl and TR Knight have been all over the media as publicly unhappy with the show. Claiming that they haven't been given any good material to work with, the two actors have made moves to be let out of their contracts. But showrunner Shonda Rhimes is notoriously hush-hush, reminding Grey's fans that the power's all in her corner to decide whether George or Izzie or both lives or dies. So what do Shonda and her team do? They leave the audience, the media and the actors suspended with both characters' lives hanging in the balance. The decision to use the highly public contract disputes to heighten the tension of an otherwise melodramatic cliff-hanger was pure genius (a rare adjective in Shondaland). If you've got the attention at the water cooler, it's a sin not to run with it.

Last but not least we have to give kudos to a Grey's Anatomy standard, a golden oldie trick: the big reveal. I've got to hand it to them, I didn't see Addison coming in season 1 and I certainly didn't see the George reveal coming at the end of this one. In the current TV climate it takes a lot to surprise me, but with the help of TR Knight and some really impressive makeup people, the Grey's team did it.

But it wasn't just George's fate that threw me through a loop. It wasn't the earth-shattering performance from Chandra Wilson or the sucker punching chemistry between Christina and Owen. I was shocked by the simple fact that Grey's Anatomy might have just given us one of the better finales of the season... straight from the blah world of Shondaland.
Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: B-

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Season Wrap Up: Lost

*CAUTION, SPOILERS AHEAD*

Going into this week's fifth season finale, the producers of Lost promised the audience a death that would shake us to the core the way the loss of Charlie did. And, just like almost every promise of grandeur handed down by the Darlton that be, once again this proved to be a bit of a stretch.

Let's jump in right away with the big death, the heartfelt emotional centre of the episode. After Sayid was shot (a clear cut indicator that he won't be the one to perish, the first one to fall never stays down for good) I spent way too much of the episode running over possible scenarios in my head. "Damon and Carlton said it would be someone we love, someone who would affect us greatly with their death. So that leaves me with Sawyer, Kate and Jack. It has to be one of the clear-cut good guys, can't be Ben or Locke. Sayid, Hurley, Sun, Jin and Miles weren't central enough to kill this season. Then there are the non-castaways: Juliet, Desmond and Penny, all of whom I love dearly but the show could easily live without... but the main three are too essential, too popular, too important to the forward momentum of the show...": this was seriously my thought process through all the shootouts and showdowns. And then they killed Juliet in a big self-sacrificial (pale echoes of Charlie) and self-pitying "Sawyer will always be in love with the girl he is actually not in love with" kind of way, and all I could do was roll my eyes, curse the producers for talking it up and then thank them for not killing someone more crucial. I'll miss Juliet but seriously, that was nothing compared to Charlie's death (which I still consider the greatest moment in Lost history and one of TV's most tragic scenes).

And while we're on the subject of the love quadrangle and Juliet's bizarre abandoning of Sawyer out of random fear of rejection, let's talk about Kate and her absurd power over men. Jack completely defines his life worth by his proximity to Kate and a single glance in her direction undermines Sawyer's three year relationship with Juliet? I don't care how hot she is, that's overkill.
In other news:
-Apparently Locke really is dead and Darlton wasn't kidding about that zombie season they keep teasing on the podcast.

-The illusive Jacob is played by a villain from Dexter, or at least he was until two old men managed to annihilate him with very little effort.

-It seems the Dharma van is a the thematic rescue vehicle of season finales.

- Phil is impaled: third coolest death ever (just after Frogurt's flaming arrow to the heart)
- Jacob is consumed in flames: actual coolest death ever.
-I could not have been happier to see the old campsite and Charlie's DriveShaft ring again, it was reminiscent of the golden age of Lost.
- Way to be awesome Rose and Bernard.
- Hi Vincent! We missed you.

-Please do let me know if there is anyone out there who does not yet hate Ilana- I want to know why not.

-Oh, and Jack tried to blow up the island to set the past (future? present?) back to the way it should have been. Possible disasterous results.

My best guess for next season: the events of season 1 play out all over again after Jack resets time.

Overall, the finale was mediocre at worst and overrated at best, a substandard cap to a decent, if uneven, penultimate season.

Finale Grade: B-
Season Grade: B

More Happy PickUp News

I haven't been this proud of the networks in a really long time.

Not only does the notorious FOX seem determined to undercut its reputation as the least supportive network for intelligent programming (see their miraculous second season pickup for Dollhouse and the intense promotional power they're putting behind Glee), but the alphabet network (ABC) has granted clemency to some ratings-challenged gems that seemed to be on death row. My favourite pickup so far? The delightfully clever comedy Better Off Ted! Also picked up for another season are Nathan Fillion procedural Castle and the sweet surviving sitcom Scrubs. Scrubs is set to return for a 9th season with Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke appearing for 6 episode arcs to pass the story on to the young up-and-coming interns (I'm particularly fond of both the sunny and the cynical one) while Dr. Turk, Dr. Cox and the Janitor should stick around full time for all the fun of the old days.

It's a good time for TV; I may even begin to recover from the holes the cancellations of Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone left in my heart.

And Speaking of Joy...

God, I hope I'm not jumping the gun on this, because being told the following and then having it taken away from me might be too much to bear, but...

DOLLHOUSE IS RENEWED! That's right, the terminally lowly-viewed, network-interfered, high-concept, twisty drama about what makes a human being is going to be back, boys and girls, to fill up your Friday night TIVO (actually, now that I type that, I hope not my Friday night TIVO. If Dollhouse is ever going to come out of the lowly-rated dulldrums then it needs a lead in like Fringe). Not only does this mean AWESOME for getting to see a conclusion to the Alpha storyline, Whiskey storyline, Ballard-in-the-house storyline, but it means that hopefully the show will get a chance to grow into what I know it can be. And it means I'm much more likely to post that final review.

The only "catch" according to Michael Aussielo is that Whedon agreed to a drastically reduced budget, but let's be honest, Buffy was made on a shoestring, and despite the cheesy special effects, we came back for the interpersonal relationships, excellent dialogue, and absurdly engaging storytelling.

Anyway, here's the source article: http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/05/random-scooplet.html

We should know by the end of this week about all our favorite shows, and in the meantime Ausiello also has a list going of what each show's chances are, but considering just four days ago he switched Dollhouse to a longshot, take them with a grain of salt.

The Office: Company Picnic

This week's season finale of The Office was pure, unadulterated joy. From Andy's crush on Erin, to Dwight and Angela's mini-reconciliation, to Stanley's drunken glee, it had happiness and hope for nearly every character. But most importantly, it brought the three most important characters to beautiful places. Michael met up with (the almost mythical at this point) Holly, and I immediately remembered why Amy Ryan was one of the best things to ever happen to this show. She was goofy and adorable and endearing, and more than that, she brings out the best in Michael. Around Holly, Michael is a human being, awkward and stupid and prone to ridiculous gaffes, sure, but capable of nearly astounding grace. His ending monologue about theirs being a "long term" love was at turns heartbreaking and hopeful. Please, please, NBC, whatever you have to do, bring back Holly next season.

And speaking of long term love, Jim and Pam. Pam had a great episode to begin with, getting super competitive in volleyball and deciding to stay at the company picnic despite her and Jim's desire to just make the rounds and then escape. But the episode capper, where Pam, attempting to find out about her volleyball injury, instead finds out she's pregnant, was poetry on screen. Kudos, a million times over kudos, to John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer for bringing so much exuberance and joy. Specifically Krasinski, who in a five second phone call to Dwight managed to radiate so much love it was nearly overwhelming. We've spent so long with these two characters, watched them go from awkward flirting to blatant longing to the art-school-phase and now they're one of the most believably happy couples on television (I've said it before, but they're Monica and Chandler where they once seemed like Ross and Rachel, and I argue this makes them all the more epic). This is romantic arcs done right.

All in all, a beautiful capper to an occasionally really sad season.

And check out that moment between Jim and Pam, and the incredibly fine, emmy-worthy acting that accompanied it:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Well, Now. That Was Dissapointing.

**If I could have written a worse case scenario for how the writers of Bones would deal with all they promised us for this finale, it might go something like this: extended dream sequence for 55 minutes, cut to the hospital room, Booth has amnesia. It was like every lame plot device, every overly goofy sequence, every believability-straining quirk rolled up into one episode.

First of all, A FRAKKING DREAM SEQUENCE? THE UBER HYPED SEX SCENE IS A FREAKING DREAMMM?>!!! THIS ISN'T BUFFY* YOU CAN'T JUST SHOW US AN ALTERNATE REALITY AND THINK IT'S ENOUGH. I don't just want to work out the audience's collective Booth/Brennan lust through alternate realities, I've invested four years in these characters and I think they deserve each other and deserve happiness. There was a brief moment at the end, before the big amnesia blah blah blah, that I thought, "Maybe I can forgive this whole episode if it ends with Brennan finally coming to grips with her feelings for Booth and kissing him, promising us that they'll deal with their relationship next season." AND THEN. WOW. It turned absolutely any redeeming value to the rest of the episode into nothing.

The actual storyline, which is revealed to be Brennan's new book that she's reading to Booth as he sits all coma-fied, follows most of those we know and love as a cast of characters within the Night Club Murder Mystery. There's parts where this is kind of cute. Specifically, it really utilized all the crazy interns, who I've suddenly noticed I love. It also made a lot of cute references to the four seasons we've had thus far of the show, such as the bar being named "The Lab" and Sweet's band being Gormogon (and Sweets, in an internet-shout-out, says "Some people think I'm Gormogon. But I'm not.). Also, John Francis Daley was pretty adorable, freed from the confines of Sweet the psychiatrist, and switching over to Sweets the bartender. He giggled so cutely while playing in his band that for a brief moment I got sad that this was such an awful episode.

This episode felt like they just wanted to use the whole cast and didn't know how else to glue everything together, so they threw it all into a ridiculous storyline that definitely didn't belong on a reality-based show like Bones, and then added Motley Crue at the end. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, they went where Cordelia went on Angel (although hers made, sort of, more sense) and Jack's wife went on 24, and soap opera after soap opera has gone throughout the ages, and gave Booth amnesia just at the moment when Brennan had realized her intense longing for him. AND. WORST OF ALL. THEY SPENT THE WHOLE EPISODE WITH DAVID BOREANAZ DRESSED REALLY, REALLY STUPID. He's way too hot to look that dumb.

I said in one of my reviews of Dollhouse (and the finale episode review is coming, I swear, once I've had time to process) that the thing I love best about watching Joss Whedon shows is knowing, wholeheartedly, that while I don't always agree with the decision he makes, that he's making them for story reasons and that they will eventually come to a satisfying conclusion. But Hart Hanson, the Bones show runner, is a perennial tease, who for the past two seasons has managed to majorly drop the ball on the finales. It's not just that their conclusions are unsatisfying, it's that these episodes barely even feel connected to the procedural every days that are so brilliantly done by Bones. It's hard for me to maintain loyalty to a show that doesn't maintain loyalty to itself.

*Buffy/Angel is one of the only shows in history that I think has successfully done the "satisfaction through alternate reality" plot, a) because it works within the plot devices and b) because they normally have control over the themes that they used in these episodes (think of the beautiful, wonderful Season 2 episode "I Only Have Eyes For You" where all of Buffy and Angels issues worked out over surrogates that also showed our lovers/enemies smooching again). The inside story, besides showing how much Brennan loves her some Booth, didn't really work all that well thematically. Jared's not in love with Brennan, Max isn't trying to kill Booth, etc.

**This photo isn't from last night's episode. I decided to use a better example of the writers actually understanding what to do with their characters to make me happier.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Justin Timberlake Rules The Universe (or at least he should!)

In an SNL season that has been wildly uneven post-election, where even the best hosts seemed poor served by bad material (Alec Baldwin's underwhelming hosting gig comes to mind, as does the very up-and-down turn served by Neil Patrick Harris; in both cases, the hosts themselves were fine, but the material just didnt live up to the awesomeness they were supplying), it turns out two men can save us all: First, we had Dawyne "The Rock" Johnson, chewing up scenery and doing by far the best Obama impression seen on the show as The Rock Obama (Barack's Hulk-like alter ego). And it was great, because Johnson has exactly the zany sort of charisma that works as a host. But it was nothing compared to this week's saviour:

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. One of the best things about SNL's hosts is getting to see performers you like turn into performers you love thanks to their flexibility and range and intense comedic timing, and there's no case stronger for that than JTim. Thanks to SNL's capacity for showcasing his considerable talent and charisma, he went from being my favorite *NSync'er to one of my all time favorite performers. He's an all singing, all dancing, all hilarious one man spectacular, and this week's hosting gig was no exception. From his opening musical number, that saw him effortlessly ad-libbing with the crowd while parodying himself, to the new Digital Short destined for glory, "Motherlover," Justin Timberlake once again proved why he's the King of Popular Culture today, and why people should really give Southland Tales another shot. Not only does he effortlessly fill out skits and characters already created (often making me forget he's the same teen idol my schoolmates used to have all over their rooms with big fake lipstick kisses on him), but he's steadily building up a repertoire of Justin Timberlake characters that are wholly his and wholly awesome.

The Amazing Race: Losers and Winners

THE LOSERS
Well, stereotypes certainly took a beating this year as the nerdy Asian brains took the prize, the deaf kid made the finals, the short guys triumphed at every physical challenge and the cheerleaders and flight attendants made fewer mental mistakes than the Harvard elite. That said, I'm going to call every school but Harvard a loser on this one since the only racers who knew who Chekhov was were Harvard Law alum Tammy and Victor. But no one seemed to know how to swim, regardless of where they were taught to do everything else, so everybody loses on that front. Despite their moments of inspiration, the finale put Margie and Luke in the loser category as well, revealing them to be patience-less stress balls who may have had terrible challenges to overcome but also had no qualms about reminding everyone of that fact. The spirit of fairness and equality was lost a little in the penultimate leg when Tammy and Victor had an inexcusably big advantage with the Chinese food detour in Beijing, but the equally annoying equalizer of infrequent flights once again took away any lead they had built up, so their win can't really be undermined by that production planning glitch in China. Impatient and rude Jaime and crazy catty Jen were also losers, not looking too pretty after bad behaviour on the race.

THE WINNERS
Firstly, obviously, Tammy and Victor who won a million dollars and a lot of bragging rights. Next there were the producers, who managed to make the show's 14th season one of their best with interesting contestants, fun challenges and well-produced episodes. Women were also big winners this year, representing 75% of those still in the race for the final 2 legs and making for some of the season's most memorable personalities and toughest competitors, (it's also worth noting that 50% of the same group of final racers was made up of racial minorities). Family ties scored some serious points on the race too this year: the winners were siblings, third place went to a mother/son team, fourth place went to sisters, fifth to a pair of brothers and sixth to father and son. I'd also like to give winning props to Cara, who kept her head and calmly navigated her way to a second place finish, despite being dragged down by a negative and semi-abusive partner. And it has to be said that last night's season finale marks a big win for my clairvoyancy skills, seeing as Tammy and Victor were my picks to win from week 1 (seriously, you can go check the archive, it's there). But mostly, the viewers were the winners this season, because it really was quite a race.

Obsessions

Emma Stone- She was the saving grace of the underwhelming Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a highlight of The House Bunny and played one of the only relatable characters in Superbad. The girl is a serious talent and she's here to stay.



Dubbed Disney- the mad editing skills of "Fantachan" make the Random Disney Crap YouTube videos a scream.

Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)- I'm obsessed.

Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy)- I've been obsessed for a while.

Re-watching Alias- It really did have one of the strongest premiere seasons of all time.

MLB Fantasy Baseball League- I'm leading my division with a 4-0 record!

Rules of Engagement- funnier than you think it is.

Understanding why everyone's always loved Sawyer (Lost)- it took me 4.5 seasons but I'm finally on board.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

She's Why I Watch


Grey's Anatomy has had its spectacular moments, characters, and story lines. This show, also, has had its dull moments. However, through it all there is one character that keeps me tuning back. She is strong. She is frank. She is caring. She knows what she is doing. This character is Dr. Miranda Bailey. I absolutely love her. She, somehow, manages to ignore all the melodrama that takes place in Seattle Grace to do her job. And, she does her job well. Throughout all of the tedious moments (George and Izzie's hookup), characters (Sadie), and story lines (Denny's ghost) Dr. Bailey stands tall. She keeps me coming back!

99, 100

This week, Grey's Anatomy turned 100... in style. They celebrated with big drama, big trauma, balloons, flowers, sex and wedding cake. But something was burried in all the hoopla, my favourite stuff in fact.

The episode previous, episode 99, was small. It was about family and forgiveness and some flimsy metaphor about "saying you're sorry". But beneath its contrived exterior, episode 99 was full of heart. In small ways it spoke to who the characters really are, and in the process it brought me to tears. Izzie's mother, Owen's struggle, Bailey's brave face and even Callie's confusion (and, of course a guest stint from former TV first daughter Ellie Bartlett) were remarkable.


This week, amidst the sequins and sorrow of number 100, there were very few moments of truth that found their way to the screen.


Sure, knowing that nothing but death can tear Karev and Izzie apart makes me incredibly happy (and, for the record, I don't think she'll die. That would be bad story telling AND bad business) but the plot was so obvious and the writing so full of grandeur that I didn't believe what they were saying (a problem usually never associated with the ever-genuine Alex Karev). Alex's plagiarized wedding vows, Owen's speech about teamwork and Denny's "I'm here for you Iz" read like nothing more than melodrama. It wasn't until George took Izzie's arm to walk her down the isle (George, of course, being the perfect person for that job, on so many levels) that I started to buy into the episode.


I didn't gasp at how beautiful Izzie looked in her gown (although, in what world are Ellen Pompeo and Katherine Heigl exactly the same size?) or weep at the sight of the several dead students from the trauma of the week and I certainly didn't get caught up in the wonder of that montage during Izzie's brain scan. It wasn't that sort of show stopping scene that moved me.


Rather, the moment of this grand episode that rang truest, most complex, most bittersweet and most affecting? Alex Karev, speaking in his own words for the first time all episode, saying "my wife is hot" as he kissed Izzie's bald head and the series' landmark episode cut to black.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"The Critic in the Cabernet" or Bones: Sex Watch '09

I'm as loyal a Bones viewer as any, having watched it since it's premier four years ago, and loved nearly every minute of it, but I'll be the first to admit the show is flawed. The quality of the writing vacillates wildly between episodes. Take this season. We have some truly brilliantly written episodes, subtly playing with the themes that will come to define this season, like "Mayhem on a Cross." That final moment, with Booth gentle touching his pocket, was like the most romantic television poetry, gently weaving together the feelings these two characters have for each other and articulating them in a way that is at once infinitely clear and infinitely subtle.

And then, sometimes, we have talking cartoon babies. So much of last night's episode, "The Critic in the Cabernet," annoyed the hell out of me. The mystery of the week was fairly standard (in fact, for the first time in recent memory we don't get an actual confirmation of who the killer was) because this episode was not about the mystery, even in so much as any Bones episodes are about the mystery. This was about Booth and Brennan.

In the beginning, the show continued its habit of treating psychology like a magical drug that brings out the truth. That's mostly okay: I can believe that someone like Brennan would only be able to admit the truth to herself when she thinks she's being tricked into it. But this week took this stretch a little far, with Brennan wildly shouting out during a free association exercise that she wanted a baby and she wanted Booth to father it.

Still, I could have easily forgiven that. Brennan is prone to flights of fancy and absurd declarations. But then it took Booth all episode to realize that he couldn't just father Brennan's child and then divorce himself from the operation. It was completely out of character for a man who's made his stand so often on the importance of fatherhood and responsibility, and who, just 9 episodes in "The Salt in the Wound," ended the episode with a long speech to a teenage boy about the importance of, you guessed it, taking responsibility for one's sperm. He didn't need a talking Stewie-baby to tell him that he wanted to be involved.

And let's talk about that all important guest star, Stewie from Family Guy. I've known about this truly idiotic cross over idea for a while, and I guess that the actual cameo wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was unnecessary. Oh, sure, Booth was having anxiety hallucinations about fathering Brennan's child, and Stewie's a baby, but aside from this tenuous connection with the issue at hand (yes, pun very much so intended), there was no real justification for the inter-network synergy that results in a freaking cartoon character getting to define Booth's emotional arch. It was sloppy, weak writing, made all the worse by the blatant FOX-ification of it.

So yeah, by the time Booth started seeing Stewie in the interrogation room, I was pretty annoyed. There'd been moments I liked during the episode (depressed intern is always a hoot, and everyone's reactions to Booth/Brennan craziness almost made it worth it), but all in all I started pantomiming a shark and Bones jumping over it. They weren't letting the storylines breath. It felt like every big moment was being crammed into this one episode, whereas a well plotted show would have it unfold naturally over a couple of episodes. From Brennan's baby lust to Booth's disease, it felt like they were just dumping all their left over plotlines into the soup of this episode and hoping it came out delicious.

And then, Booth told Brennan what he was hallucinating, and I'm reminded why, even when the writing falls short, I still love Bones. The acting is always freaking fantastic. The look of abject terror and concern that Brennan gave Booth as she insisted she get him to the hospital; the adorable way Booth looked around his hospital room, desperate until he saw Brennan; Sweets freaking out in the hospital room as Angela and Hodgins reconsidered their own relationship. This is the stuff that Bones is made of. It's continually demonstrated its commitment to its characters, and it's that reason why we should invest in the show.

At its heart, Bones is a screwball romantic comedy, and in that vein (and that vein alone) the end of this episode was a rousing success.

*All this being said, I literally tossed a pillow at the television when I saw the preview for next week's episode. Anything advertised as "the wackiest Bones yet!" clearly doesn't get what makes this show so fantastic, and was anyone exactly clamoring for a guest spot from the Motley Crue? On top of that, obsessively advertising B&B's horizontal shenanigans just makes the network a pimp, peddling its leads' flesh, which I suppose is always true, but at least they're normally subtler about it. I hope I'm wrong. I'm hoping that next week's episode manages to deal with B&B in a way that is both true to their character arch and satisfying. The only thing that would annoy me more than the show making too big a deal out of their having sex is the show failing to realize the importance of it; the show having mislead us this far with its promises of B&B sex? I guess that would depend how it's done.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Really?!

It's a big week for reveals here in Rachael-TV land. First the Alpha-ocity of this week's Dollhouse, and now a big reveal on How I Met Your Mother regarding the show's eponymous mother. Or was it?

The structure of this week's HIMYM (where Ted tells us the one thousand things leading up to the moment when a female hand reaches under his stolen Yellow umbrella*) was almost exactly like last year's "The Platinum Rule**" in that nothing really happened, and we got mostly flashbacks and fantasy sequences. And normally I like these episodes, but this week's seemed especially set-up-without-pay-off-y.

There major thread left hanging after this episode is the end of episode reveal of who the woman under the umbrella is. Ted spends all episode telling his kids how important this moment is, and how many little things had to go into the process of this moment happening. So when the woman reaches over, and it's none other than (SPOILER ALERT) Stella, it feels kind of - UGH!

I mean, come on. By the end of the Stella-arch, I hated her. Viscerally. She was often one of the worst stereotypes of female flightiness, on top of which, it seemed pretty damn obvious she wasn't the mother. And I'm fairly certain she still isn't. For one thing, in the episode "Shelter Island," Ted had us flash forward to what kids with Stella would have looked like, and they didn't look anything like the kids in future Ted scenes. For another, it seems like the kids would point out "hey, it must be mom in these scenes, since we have that much older half-sister." Plus, telling the story of mommy leaving you at the altar? Not a real "aww" kind of a moment. Plus Stella was lame. And didn't like Star Wars.

So all that means is that we watched a whole episode that started with my heart literally speeding up when Ted grabbed that yellow umbrella all significantly in the beginning with a reveal that we're going to get to see Stella again. Whoopee. I hope this pays off, and I'm inclined to believe it will. I've recently marathoned season one, two and most of three, and am really excited to rewatch the groundwork laid into the mother story, and am hoping that all of it comes to pass. This is a show that intensely believes in fate and destiny, and I hope that all the disparate mother related threads (from the dating service that tried to hook Ted up with the perfect woman, to the woman he bumped in to at the bar on St. Paddy's Day, straight through to Stella) come together nicely, and that we aren't subjected to a rehash of Ted/Stella gate '08.

That being said, there's another lingering plot thread that I'd like to comment on from this episode. After Robin throws up on air, she jokingly tells Ted and Barney that she's pregnant (which was a cute little nod to the fact that Colbie Smulders, despite still having annoyingly chiseled facial features, is about ready to pop). Ted immediately proposes, although he wants to still have sex with other women, which was a cute throw away to Ted's desire to have kids and yet to how far Robin and Ted have come that he doesn't just want Robin forever. Barney, on the other hand, runs away. I'm fairly certain, because I have faith in the HIMYM showrunners, that this is going to come back. In fact, I pictured him proposing like he did in the background of the episode where Robin was losing her work VISA. If this does come back, it's exactly why I love this show so much. They're capable of implanting a seemingly throw away scene in a seemingly throw away joke that in the future will pay off much bigger than we could have imagined (see also: the really old penny in Season Two, the butterfly tatoo in Season Three, the Slap Bet in all the seasons). If it doesn't pay off, well it was kind of lame. But I think it will pay off, because even the laugh track didn't find Barney's running away funny, and therefore I'm inclined to believe this is going to be the catalyst for the Robin/Barneyness I'm expecting from the finale.

So all in all, not my favorite half hour of HIMYM of all time, and mostly just a place holder for the finale, but assuming the team knows what they're doing, this could all be setting up some pretty fantastic stuff for the finale. Also, all that being said, Marshall's chart obsession could be one of my favorite jokes of all time, and watching Barney struggle to reach 200 with a supermodel was pretty cool, especially as it served to put a possible cap on his previous efforts to just sleep with everything that will have him. And yes, he should probably get tested.

*From last season's episode "No Tomorrow" where a St. Patrick's Day inspired Ted lived a whole night according to the theory that when you do bad things, good things happen, and wakes up embarrassed and hung over and phoneless, only to trek over to the bar he visited the night before (where we learn through narration the mother was also attending) to find said phone and finding instead a lonely, lost, yellow umbrella, which the narration also tells us plays a huge role in the meeting the mother aspect of this story.

** In almost the exact same structure, we spend almost the entire episode in the build up to Ted going on his first date to Stella, while Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney narrate flashbacks. It's also a structure used in "Lucky Penny," which was all about the events that led up to Ted missing an important flight to Chicago to interview for a new job. Both of these episodes were sort of place holders in between major plot developments, although of the three, I think "Lucky Penny" is probably my favorite, because it referenced a lot of other storylines as it tied it all together.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dollhouse: "Briar Rose"

Please. Please. Please. Please. Don't read this if somehow magically you don't know the huge Dollhouse spoiler that involves Alpha. I've warned you. Here, I'll warn you again. Don't Read this if you haven't seen this week's episode and/or if you have mercifully avoided spoilers until this point. There, you've been adequately warned.

In this week's episode ("Briar Rose"), Dollhouse finally revealed its true colors and purpose. Dollhouse is about nothing more or less than the essence of humanity and our future as a civilization. All the epic, dark themes that have been presented in the past ten episodes are starting to completely crystallize.

We start with Echo, this week imprinted with a grown up version of a troubled young girl in an attempt to help save said girl from her haunted past. I spent the first half of the episode wondering who the hell would pay for this, but it turns out it's something even bigger than that. We've heard the people who work at the Dollhouse say, repeatedly, that they believe they're helping people. This week, Topher approached something like "pride" thanks to his pro-bono work trying to save this girl. It's a sweet example of how they justify their lives of pimpage and whoreage, but it turns out to be something much, much more: a near perfect metaphor for the undercurrent of the semi-misogynistic saviour complex exhibited by Ballard (and to a perverted extent, Alpha) towards Caroline.

But the story with Echo is really just a metaphorical framing device for the rest of the episode. Ballard, using those old fashioned detective skills, tracks down Stephen Kepler, played by Alan Tudyk!!!!!! as the most typical Whedon-verse creation of all time, complete with intense Buffy-esque speak and nervous mannerisms. Kepler apparently at one point designed the eco-system of the literally underground Dollhouse and is now a "medicinal carrot" growing paranoid genius living by himself in LA. Ballard, with Kepler's help, breaks into the Dollhouse, and the two of them actually get so far as to open up the Doll's sleeping pods, injuring Victor in the process. Where we see Ballard flat out leave Mellie in his quest to get to Caroline- but more on that later. Caroline is awoken, and Ballard, Prince-like, takes her by the arm and starts to try and leave the castle. But as we well know by now, the people who run the dollhouse are not idiots, and if you spent the first half of this story wondering why the hell Dollhouse security is so poor (especially with a stand up gent like Boyd running the show now), you were justified. Turns out Boyd could have turned the hounds of hell upon Ballard as soon as he entered, but wanted instead to talk Ballard out of attacking. Then, after a minor verbal confrontation, Boyd and Ballard start making with the punches, and I noticed an interesting thing -- I was on Boyd's side. Whenever Ballard hit Boyd, I got all angrified. Maybe it's because Ballard's been in a super dark place of late (hating on Mellie, not shaving, threatening people with uber-violence) whereas Boyd has been pretty stalwart, but it was still a really interesting reinforcement of just how morally ambiguous this show is.

After the fisticuffs, Boyd and Ballard end up back in Dewitt's office. Dewitt seems to prove everything Ballard thinks is wrong with the Dollhouse by threatening to mind wipe him, while Boyd remains his moral self and says that the punishment does not even sort of fit the crime. While they're debating these moral issues, all freaking hell breaks loose.

Okay, I lied. I'm not done warning you. Please. Please. Please. Stop reading right here if you don't know how this episode ended. STOPPPPP.

So Victor, who was injured during the doll-freeing portion of tonight's episode, is found by Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker, for those of you who don't pay attention to character names like me!) and brought into her exam room for fixing up. This leads to one of the semi-patented Victor-in-blank-state line reads of "People were fighting on me." Victor really is the best blank-stater of all the dolls.

Just as Saunders is going all motherly on Victor, Kepler shows up and begins slashing the hell out of Victor's (beautiful) face. Yep, that's right boys and girls, that ain't Kepler we're seeing, and there's a reason why he looks so good in a Doll's t-shirt and why he keeps hiding his face whenever Ballard has to fight his way through Dollhouse staff. Turns out, Tudyk is ALPHA, Dollhouse's boogey man in the closet, who killed the real Kepler and dumped him in Tuscon so that Ballard would help him break into the Dollhouse and set Echo free. He'd previously made somewhat more moderate attempts to break Echo out, including deprogramming her while she's on mission to help her learn to cope while in her blank state and sending a man out to kill her while she's on mission so that she would develop more self-sufficiency. It turns out, Alpha's been training Echo for what's to come.

But why the hell would he do that? Alpha's a self-sufficient psychopath with a killer instinct. Why is he so fixated on little old Echo? Is it the kewpie doll eyes and fantastic butt?

No. We've spent most of this episode thinking about the nature of humanity and salvation. Alpha-as-Kepler has even given us a lot of insight into his fatalistic view of where the human race is heading. If the future of humanity is just like these dolls, to be nothing more or less than a compilation of memories that are interchangeable and can be programmed in to be other things (as reinforced by the creepy subplot this week whereby Dewitt downloaded Dominic inside Victor to help get information out of him), than we're doomed. Or at least that seems to be the logic. But Alpha wasn't just interchangeable; no matter what science did to him, he compiled memories, transcended his programming, proved there's something more than just circuitry going on up there. And that makes him (almost) unique.

Except for Echo. I've purposely referred to the woman who Ballard wants to save as Caroline and the woman who Alpha wants to save as Echo, because I think Paul Ballard would be perfectly happy to download the tree-hugging Caroline back into her pretty old body and send her back out into the streets. Alpha wants to understand the (far more interesting, in my opinion) Echo, with all her compositing, self-protecting, glitching glory. As we can see in the previews for next week, he wants to understand what that means for humanity, to dissect the relationship between memories and personhood. And if along the way, he happens to download some badass chick into Echo (who is that girl!?) and have hot monkey sex with her, so be it.

So where does this leave us? Echo and Alpha escape, Victor's bleeding on the ground, and Dewitt, Boyd and Ballard are going to have to team up to bring down Alpha. Jigga what? Next week brings us the possible last ever episode of Dollhouse, and a whole bunch of questions that need answering. But that's the thing about Joss Whedon shows, I am 100% certain that the answers to those questions will be fulfilling. With nearly every other show I've ever watched, the finding out was almost always a let down. Just see my review of the BSG finale, or that moment on Bones when we find out about Zach or the Serena-killed-someone reveal on Gossip Girl. All shows I loved, but the plotting on a Joss Whedon show is simply without parallel on television. The man knows good story and satisfying conclusions, and although I hope next week's episode is just the conclusion of this particular season, I know it will be a satisfying ending.

Random thoughts/greatness:
  • I didn't even really get to talk about how hateful Ballard has become, scorning Mellie to the point of suicide and wanting to leave her unconscious doll self in that pod for all eternity. It's as if the prince from the fairy tale showed up and said, "meh, bitch shouldn't have touched that spindle if she didn't want to end up sleeping for one hundred years."
  • Ballard: Eden wasn't a prison.
    Kepler/Alpha: Are you kidding? The APPLES were monitored.
  • Boyd: Sorry agent, Ballard. You don't get the girl. (and therefore summing up the entire saviour complex of Ballard in one perfectly delivered line)
  • Kepler/Alpha: This is like some buddy cop movie where you're the hard nosed FBI agent and I'm a guy who doesn't like buddy cop movies.
  • I also didn't really get a chance to get into how intense the Victor/Dominic scene was, and how great Enver Gjokaj (the actor who plays Victor) was in it, or how terrifying/dehumanizing/amazing it was to see Dewitt's response to it.
  • Nor did I get to talk about how Topher is officially becoming a character I can root for, and how impressed I am by the slow roll out of it.
  • Or how much this week's imprint played into Dushku's skills as an actress. She was guarded, wounded, but ultimately a noble creature. Sound anything like Season 7 Faith to you?
  • I've only got one complaint, really, about this week's episode. STOP. HURTING. VICTOR. NOW. I know this is a Joss Whedon show, and that therefore the people I love will probably die in a hazy storm of bullets or debris or sword slashing, but NO. STOP IT RIGHT NOW, JOSS.