Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"We Are Freaks"... and your point is?

EVERYONE IS WEIRD. Everyone is an outsider. No one feels comfortable in their skin. Everyone has someone who puts them down, beats them up or generally makes them feel small. EVERYONE. What Glee needs to realize is that being weird does not make their characters interesting or in any way deserving of an audience's love. Being gay does not give Kurt a free pass to be selfish and inconsiderate, he has to earn our respect just like everyone else.

In tonight's not terrible episode, Kurt spewed the quotable line "I'm different, it's the best thing about me". It's a cute line, sweet really. It's something I could see wonderful people putting on their facebook pages and observing as a personal motto. But it's not really true. Everyone's different. Even those undeveloped football caricatures who were determined to beat him up, they're different. They're certainly different from Kurt. They're different from me, from everyone I know. They're different from one another and from (better developed) jock characters on teen-oriented TV. There is no such thing as normal, therefore "different" is a moot point.

And for the record, the best thing about Kurt is NOT that he's "different". So he's a little more glittery than the other guys at his highschool. So what? The best thing about Kurt is his passion. It's his sense of style, his sass, his determination and his dynamite vocal range. It's certainly not being different- that's not an achievement at all. And it's not that he's brave enough to show that he's different (he changed who he was just to fit in like 2 weeks ago).

I'm actually just going to put it out there, and I know all you readers are evolved enough to know that this is not a reflection on my appreciation of the gay community or my lack of empathy or even my low tolerance for the overly dramatic. I don't like Kurt all that much. I think he's a mishandled character who has all the potential in the world but spends most his time being, frankly, antagonistic.

Finn's an essentially good guy, not a smart one or one who's particularly steady-footed when it comes to his convictions, but a good guy, well intentioned and whatnot. Kurt may be right in his refusal to dilute who he is but he's certainly not considerate of Finn's feelings when it comes to the move and his personal hangups (which are legit, by the way. If Finn was having this reaction assuming Kurt was checking him out just because he's gay, that would be wrong. But Kurt is watching Finn's every move and Finn has every right to be uncomfortable with it). Kurt is selfish and insecure and flat out inconsiderate of others, including his dad and Finn. It really says something when I am defending one of my least favourite characters even after he used the "f" word, but Finn wasn't altogether in the wrong this week. He was definitely in the wrong, but not as much as he was framed to be.

Now Kurt's dad, there's a heroic character. His speech tonight was beautiful. A bit redundant since it basically said everything that an intelligent viewer had to know the guy was about in the first place, but it served to drive that point home to thick-headed Kurt, something that really needed to happen. His father's heroics just HAD to wipe out that ridiculous complex Kurt's been whining about for weeks, this delusional idea that his father doesn't love him as much as he would if he were straight.

So sure, the episode made its point. And it certainly had it's moments of greatness (POKER FACE!!! They CANNOT let Idina Menzel go! That was such a plot cop-out). But its whole "being different makes you better" attitude was just plain backwards. Instead of saying "we're great BECAUSE we're weird" can't the show just admit that we're all weird and greatness has nothing to do with it? These characters are great because they're fun, talented, determined and (sometimes) clever, not because they're any more weird than those strange neanderthals who wear the same jackets every day and beat up complete strangers. It's not about being weird, different or some kind of "freak", it's about all that other stuff that Glee keeps forgetting they've got.

Where I Stand

I realize I have fallen behind on the many many things happening in the TV world right now. It's finale time, which means it's My TV Season Wrap-Up time so my plate is quite full of writing to be done. In the mean time, in case you haven't been following @mytvblog on twitter (which you all should), I thought I'd get you caught up briefly on where I stand on the TV issues of the moment:

The Survivor and Amazing Race Finales:
in both cases the wrong person won and the most deserving competitor took second. As much as I would have liked to see Caite win the race and throw it in the face of all the snobby pseudo-intellectuals who teased her, the title should have belonged to the cowboys, who ran the most consistently impressive race. As for Survivor, the finale was fun because Jeff was super snarky with bitter Russell but the only reason Sandra should have won was if she had actually succeeded in taking Russell out when she tried. This was Parvati's season, she played the best game and really should have had it.

The Lost Finale: I'm generally pro, though I understand why the mythology-oriented fans are left disappointed. It was an emotional, character-driven, spirituality-heavy farewell and if that's not your Lostian focus then you couldn't have been happy. As for me, a super sap who's all about character over plot, I loved that it got me emotionally reacting to Lost again. Despite solid writing, excellent effects and superb acting, the MVP award goes to composer Michael Giacchino for creating iteration after iteration of his iconic "important emotional moment" music for the episode's record breaking number of important emotional moments.

NBC Thursday Finales:
Community offered its weakest episode yet (read Rachael's Season Wrap-Up for more, all of which I agree with), 30 Rock's finale was awesome after a really rocky season (again, see Rachael's Wrap-Up) and The Office was hardly noteworthy at all (hence, Wrap-Up still pending) except for the promise of Holly's return.

The Grey's Anatomy Finale: Amazing. A couple minor flaws but generally the best episode they've done possibly ever (after an altogether strong season). I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, even though I knew who would perish/survive because of contract news.

The Dancing with the Stars Finale:
The right person won and managed to remind me that even if I despise her current band, I loved her first one and she was my favourite when she got her big break on Popstars back when I was a kid who watched Popstars. Also, Derek Hough is a god of choreography and dance and energy. Also, I love Evan Lysacek, he reminds me so much of my friend Chris.

Tomorrow's American Idol Finale:
Team Bowersox!

The Bachelorette: I'm still not on board with Ali (she was just WAY too mean to Vienna, who danced on the DwtS finale btw and was beautiful!) but I do love The Bachelorette. I'd watch Chris Harrison do anything and there are already some really promising bachelors (including a cutie from Vancouver who caught my eye early).

Friday Night Lights:
It's back and I'm still OBSESSED. I love very few things as much as I love this show.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ten Things I Definitely Don't Hate

I was joking recently that the only thing I feel qualified to blog about lately is shows on ABC family. But here's the thing... I REALLY like ABC Family shows. Every time I start off liking one semi-ironically, it ends with... well, long indulgent blog posts on why the show is so amazing.

So, slightly more-on-the-nose than I normally like, here's the top ten reasons why I Love Ten Things I Hate About You's TV incarnation despite my natural inclination, and the incorporated ten reasons why the CW could learn a thing or two from its less scandalous cousin.

10. The witty one liners: whether it's Kat and Patrick's banter, the hilariously inane chatter of Bianca and Joey, or the touching emotional moments that keep it going, Ten Things (and my other ABC family obsession, Greek) is consistently a well-written wunderkind.

9. The fact that all the characters, even the bitchy ones, turn out to be awesome: even Chastity, the evil head cheerleader, has turned out to be a fascinating individual for whom you actually end up rooting. Joey, the vacuous boy toy keeping Bianca away from Cameron, is an adorable aspiring model of the Zoolander strain.

8. Don't even get me started on how awesome these incarnations of Bianca, Kat, Cameron and Patrick are.

7. Okay, get me started... they're amazing.

6. The fact that Cameron and Bianca don't end up together, or at least haven't yet: It's far too often assumed that if the pilot starts with X pining away for Z, X and Z therefore belong together, whether or not as the show progresses that coupling makes any sense. In the case of 10 Things, Cameron and Bianca never really did (even if Joseph Gordon Levitt was totally the better man in the movie version). Therefore, the fact that the show has done a fairly convincing job of moving them from clueless-and-in-love to friends is sort of astonishing.

5. The way they deal with alcohol and drugs. It seems like shows that feature teens tend to fall into two camps on this: either they overly dramatize alcohol and drugs into being life-or-death and good-kids-don't-touch-them (think After School Specials or Full House) or they completely underplay the issues associated with their use and/or glamorize their use (think Gossip Girl, the OC). I don't really have an issue with that. But I love that in the ABC Family world, it's not after-school-specialy, but it's also rooted in a truth that admits that it's not cool to let your parents down and lie to them, nor is it a good idea to get hammered all the time before you even have a license to get taken away with the DUI.

4. Gay characters. It's not just that there are gay characters. But, after last week's coming out episode of Ten Things, it's that these shows feature gay characters in a realistic, sympathetic, and most importantly post-whatever kind of way. What do I mean? I mean the fact that Calvin is an awesome dude who happens to date guys (often) on Greek and that Cameron (on Ten Things) was more freaked out by the idea that Alex wasn't a level 8 wizard than he was by his homosexuality. And while the characters are mostly chill, realistic portrayals of gay guys, it's also not like the shows sweep their sexuality under the rug. Instead, they actually feature these guys going through issues that gay guys have to deal with because our world still isn't perfectly post-homophobia. There's literally no other shows dealing as sincerely, movingly, and most importantly funnily with these issues than those on ABC Family.

3. Sex. This is kind of a corollary to the Drugs one, but Greek and Ten Things (although kind of brought down by the sexual horror story that is The Secret Life of The American Teenager)deal with sex in a genuine, fascinating and unique way. Characters both accept the importance of sex (and not just of losing your virginity, but of continued sexual activity) and accept that good kids are doing it (pun definitely intended) too.

2. The episode of Ten Things where Kat and Patrick decide to have sex starts with her saying, "Let's get tested." This is what I'm talking about. Rather than turning the whole thing into a public service announcement about waiting until you are ready (which is obviously once you are married), Ten Things shows a path whereby responsible teenagers can be honest with themselves about what's going on and what they desire, and therefore make good choices. They even talk in depth about protection. When's the last time a CW show had a character reaching for condoms before engaging in ill conceived coitus?

1. The fact that the characters mess up in totally kid believable ways. They're mean to their parents and they're secretive, despite the fact that they love their dad and want to do the right thing for him. they're conflicted between their desire for a social life and their desire to do the right thing. Especially Kat, whose a bad ass post-feminist genius, but still occasionally a judgmental blow hard who makes the wrong decisions and jumps on the back of a motorcycle to impress a guy.

Convinced you yet?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Top 3 Reasons You Should Be Excited About Tonight's Lost Series Finale

3) Death. We've been promised blood and I have no doubt we'll get plenty tonight. Lost has never been afraid of killing off people audiences care about and breaking our hearts along the way. Some of the most poignant moments of TV in the past 6 years have been accompanied by Lost's signature "dum da dum da di da dum di dum" death sadness song. Here's hoping for even more redemption and tragedy-laden demises tonight.

2) Trust in Darlton. Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse may have pissed off some viewers along the way (hey, I didn't mind Nicki and Paolo that much) but I think they've proven themselves trustworthy showrunners in whose hands I'm happy to trust the fate of these beloved characters.


1) Answers! Tonight it will all make sense. 6 years of mind-bending, head-turning, speech-robbing mythology will finally be explained (or, at least some of it will be) and we'll finally understand what it's all been about all these years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pascal's Triangle Revisited - Or The Season Finale Problem (Season Wrap Up: Community)

On a show as meta as Community, the season finale was bound to be semi-tongue-in-cheek dramatic. So in theory I shouldn't have minded when all the romantic drama usurped what was otherwise an episode about dalmatian fetishes and John Oliver's penis. But I did.

The season finale was probably my least favorite episode of Community this season. Now, that's a bit like saying it was the least cute golden retriever puppy in the litter (for evidence, click here), but it's still not a puppy that I want to take home with me.

The essential problem is that, while the episode was very good with the one-liners and the absurdity, it truly didn't need the usual finale shenanigans of rushed declarations of love and threatened show-altering moves. It just needed to be funny. And although I'm fine with an exploration of Britta and Jeff or Annie and Jeff, I don't think that this show needs a love triangle between its principal actors to fuel the plot. It doesn't need the plot fueled at all, to be honest. It makes it seem like the show is running out of ideas, when I'm fairly certain its not.

Having the episode close on a Jeff and Annie make-out session, although hot, felt... premature. And having Britta publicly declare her love for Jeff? DEFINITELY premature. And that's okay, if when the show returns in fall they label it as such and have everyone feel really awkward about it, but as far as a finale goes, it left me semi-blah. Still chuckling and enjoying myself, but blah.

Season Finale Grade: C+*
Season Grade: A

*This grade might be a bit like when a High School English teacher gives her star student a C because she feels like she didn't try her hardest, so even though most other kids would get a B on that paper, she got a C to tell her to shape up.

Astronaut Matt Damon (Season Wrap Up: 30 Rock)

This week on 30 Rock, perennially single gal Liz Lemon met the perfect man. And as we've all known since way before he first figured out "it's not [his] fault" thanks to Robin Williams , the perfect man is Matt Damon.

This is guest casting at its finest, like Brad Pitt playing the charter member of the I-Hate-Rachel-Green-Club or Michael J. Fox playing an obsessive compulsive doctor on Scrubs, where the fact that the character is played by a movie star adds to the already awesome fun of the episode and where their considerable personal charisma adds to the show rather than distracting. And who doesn't occasionally need to see pilot Matt Damon goofy dance to a gospel choir?

Plus the episode was pretty top notch. Everything from the fun little meta-humor at the wedding with the melodramatic music playing during Avery and Jack's final confrontation to the excellent one liners were classic 30 Rock. All in all, an excellent season capper to an uneven, if underrated, season of a still excellent show.

Quotable Quotes:

"Yeah I'm a doorman, to the sky." (Astronaut Matt Damon*)

"Sky law, it's when I turn on the fasten seat belt light and nobody's allowed to talk until I get ten minutes of silence. I made it up, but people are stupid."

"You know what a good pilot would have done, not hit the birds. That's what I do every day, not hit birds. Where's my grammy invitation?"

"I hate people too." (Liz, explaining how perfect the two are for each other)

Season Grade: B-
Season Finale Grade: A

*I'm aware he was a pilot, not an astronaut.

**On a personal note, as a Boston girl replanted in Baltimore, I sort of loved that Jack's two lady loves represented the excellent Bawlmer accent contrasted with the beautiful drunken stumbling of the Bah-ston accent.

The Finale in the BONES (Season Wrap Up: Bones)

In a season that was often uneven, and that came after a season that was so over-the-top gimmicky that its emotional epiphanies often felted tainted by the ridiculousness, Bones actually somehow managed to make a re-believer out of me. It felt like, especially in the second half of the season, the show was aiming to start dealing with the characters' emotions in a much more real way.

Let's start with the season finale and the many HUGE changes it brought with it. Or, more accurately, let's start with what it didn't give us: much like The Rolling Stones, Bones viewers can't get no satisfaction. If, after the fantastically frustrating 100th episode, we thought that season's end would finally make Brennan wisen up and return Booth's feelings... well we were half right. I do think that her admitting that she worries all the time about Booth's safety and what her relationship with him means is a pretty big step forward for her, so that in a weird way her decision to head to Maluku Islands is actually her accepting that she needs to change something substantial in her life to be happy because she can't just stay in limbo with Booth forever.

The case of a crazy hoarder was slightly more on the nose, metaphor-wise, than Bones normally plays it (in fact, it was down right Grey's Anatomy-esque in its case-to-personal-life-connections). Still, it was interesting, and asked for a lot from all our principal characters (including Angela, whose computer-gadgetry is quickly replacing Sweets' psychology as the go to magical crime solver when all normal means have been exhausted). In terms of a season finale that was much more over-arching than single episode criminal-of-the-week, it was serviceable.

But you can't discuss this finale without dealing immediately with the ramifications. It ends with Booth off to Afghanistan (and was I the only one who thought it was a little over-the-top to have Parker say that he was responsible "for all those people dying" if Booth didn't go?) and Brennan off to Indonesia for a year. Given that next season is set to begin right after that year, I sort of think this was a brilliant ploy. Rather than making the audience sit through another year of hemming and hawwing, it's allowing our characters to grow and change and then come back, ready to deal with what all that growing and changing means. In a lot of ways, it's the best possible ending/beginning. Plus it allowed Hodgins and Angela to take off romantically to Paris for a year, and Sweets to finally "grow the hell up."

In fact, the finale in a lot of ways reaffirmed my faith in Bones. Despite appearances by ZZ Top frontmen and a sidestory that included stealing a classic car from a biker gang, this episode and the ones that preceded it were deeply grounded in the truth of the characters, their legitimate growth and affection for each other, and the ramifications of the intensity of those relationships. For the first time in a while, I feel like the people in charge of Bones REALLY get these characters and REALLY care that they get where they're legitimately going.

That episode ending moment full of longing and regret was beautiful. Brennan in particular has really blossomed at the tail end of this season, dealing with the fact that because of who she is and how she sees the world, she can't have what she wants, which we all now know is Booth. But she's not there yet, not ready to be hurt and put herself through this yet, so it's easier to head off to a jungle and send Booth off to a warzone than it is to give herself over to him.

More importantly, the show has done a great job of making me BELIEVE that these two aren't ready to be together yet. As a somewhat-too-ardent Booth and Brennan supporter, I found the obstacles thrown in their path... annoying to say the least (when Booth woke up from his coma last season with no recollection of Brennan, I legitimately considered throwing my TV out the window in protest). But this season, they've done a much better job of making those obstacles more than just TV-created speed bumps, but legitimate character arch stuff that works on thematic, personal levels.

The season was uneven, that's for sure, and sometimes frustrating, but overall it's left my incredibly optimistic as to what the show runners are going to be able to do with their year-in-the-future return.

Some quotable highlights:

"the pyramids are better at change than you are. It's a joke. I was being affectionate." (Booth to Brennan)

"Mr. Adventure's here, ready to kick some biker ass." (how freaking cute was sweets?)

"I hope you find something that just changes the entire notion of what it means to be human." (Angela to Brennan, but also a good summing up of the show's game plan going into next season)

Season Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: A-

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Horrifying Irony

That man. The one who put me on edge for 2 straight hours tonight. The guy, with the mustache and the barely human instincts. That person who threatened the life of so many characters I care about, filled the screen with cold hatred and spilled more blood than I'd seen in entire seasons of Grey's Anatomy before this episode.

That was Ron Butterfield (Michael O'Neill), the head of President Bartlett's secret service (The West Wing). That was the same guy who protected our guys at Rosslyn, got the president in the car and laughed off a bullet to the hand. He's the guy who brought Zoe home safe, never took a spec of credit and, in every possible way, stood in front of the bullet.

Oh, the horrifying irony of Hollywood. It's the abusive husband from Dexter becoming the god-like guardian of the Lost island. It's The OC's bad boy showing up as a rookie cop in Southland. It's the golden-hearted/socially awkward David Fisher turning around to be Dexter's charismatic serial killer or Aaron Paul simultaneously playing a devout Mormon and a drug dealer. It's the horrifying irony of careers that do not end with series finales. Sometimes the guy who stood in front of the bullet becomes the guy who fired it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Dissenting and somewhat More Gleefull Opinion

Maybe it's the rosy Joss Whedon glow (and I need to go back to watch previous episodes to tell if the directing really was that much better this episode, or if I was just more inclined to notice it), but I kind of loved this week's Glee. I think this was the show I was signing up for, the melancholy, pessimistically-hopeful musical that ends, not in "Don't Stop Believing" but in a bittersweet, darkly lit, and brilliantly acted rendition of "Dream A Little Dream of Me."

Not every bit worked (I can certainly see what Kelly's saying about the dialogue and theme-bludgeoning, even if they don't distract/detract the way they do for Kelly), but I really connected with the characters this week. Glee is never going to be a show that shocks me or brings me to transcendent levels of understanding the human consciousness (I'll leave that for true Joss Whedon shows, not just the ones he's guest directing), but it is a show that shows me a little slice of life, spices it up with jazz hands, and occasionally is just absurd enough to make me forget the melancholy core beating at the heart of the show.

But it's the melancholy core (something that actually IS incredibly prevalent in Joss's work) that keeps me coming back, that sustains me through the joyful ridiculousness of Madonna themed episodes (which for the record I love too, just in a different way), and that makes me invest so deeply in these characters. Sure, Will is all sorts of inspiring, Robin-William-esque mentor guy, but he's also a dude who has a failed marriage and a stalled career. Artie will never walk again. Rachel will probably never be a star. Kurt will never have the relationship he wants with his father. Finn will marry some townie and Quinn is giving birth to a baby sure to be born with a mohawk and a bad attitude. But I think what Glee does well is not just make us forget about their obvious tragedies, but actually make us understand that life is still worth it despite the tragedy.

The title, then, becomes both ironic half-smile and the true "dream" of the entire Glee cast of characters. They're chasing those moments of Glee, and, for me at least, this week the show found them.

Of course NPH and Sue Sylvester angry sex doesn't hurt either.

The Dream I Dreamed

This week's Glee sucked. I don't know why I had myself convinced that it wouldn't. Well, no, it's easy to understand how I did that: Joss Whedon directing Neil Patrick Harris and Idina Menzel... that's all kinds of good.

But TV is a writerly medium. A brilliant director cannot rescue a terrible script, neither can a standout performer. And that's what Glee is: brilliant performers suffering at the hands of TERRIBLE writing week in and week out.

This week had some beautiful shots that aren't usually there (thank you Joss), a fun new character (I love you Neil), some well-needed musical theatre (Les Mis is ALWAYS a good idea), an unexpected/great dance number (innovatively incorporating real footage from Glee's famous impromptu mall promo dances) and the resolution of a long-speculated mystery (in the most obvious reveal in the world: Idina Menzel is Rachel's bio mom!) but it still sucked. It sucked because no matter how many good elements it had, the characters still said obnoxiously stupid things, the theme was pounded into viewers' brains with a sledge hammer and plot was driven forward by nothing more than plot devices: no character motivation or organic development to speak of. And I'm not saying Glee should be perfect. I'm not saying that it should under any circumstances give up it's fluffiness. I love fluff! I just ask that it be good fluff, the fun kind that doesn't make me want to throw things.

In related yet opposite news, tonight's soon-to-be-iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" duet that paired yesterday's Broadway legend, Idina Menzel, and tomorrow's, Lea Michele, was as close to perfection as this show's ever gotten. For those 2 minutes I was sure I watching greatness. But again, let me stress, ONLY for those 2 minutes. But boy, that pairing, I want them to sing together forever and ever and ever (and Michele HAS to play Menzel's role of Elphaba when movie execs finally clue in on Wicked).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Oughta Know Better

I was so ready to post a happy happy article about tonight's One Tree Hill finale. I was planning a tribute to my favourite cheesy quotes of the episode ("It's just a hill, we'll climb it together" and "the best part of the movie is when you get a sense that they're all going to live happily ever after"). I was going to talk about how the episode made every bit of me happy, from the giggly 14 year old girl who loved season one to my inner pretentious 45-year-old who mined every episode of season seven for the greater meaning that may or may not have been there. I was going to say that the finale did everything I wanted it to, focused on all the right characters, infused the melodrama with plenty of zippy one-liners, was true to its schmultzy music-montagey self and generally made me feel good (a special treat as I make my way through my Sopranos box set and find myself perpetually depressed). I was totally on board, loving the episode and sad that I'd have to wait almost a year to get more One Tree Hill goodness (if I get any at all- but sources say that it looks good for OTH to get a half season pickup when The CW announces their fall season on Thursday). I was reminded just how much I love, and have loved for longer than I've loved any other show currently airing, One Tree Hill.

SPOILER LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and then the crazy chick from Center Stage showed up and shot two of the main characters and we were left on a stupid, overdramatic, unnecessary cliffhanger that came out of nowhere from a storyline that should have been dropped ages ago. I know, I know, that kind of crap is intrinsically a part of the fluffy show I love so much but it would be so much better without it and sometimes I find myself thinking that they'd grown out of it. With highschool over and Dan gone, it seemed like maybe the drama didn't have to be shootings and car wrecks any more. Maybe it really could be about an insecure kid's struggle to come out, a new artist finding his legs, and a young couple balancing their life with a kid and another on the way (also a finale revelation). Sure there'd be movie stars, multi-platinum recording artists, NBA pros and fashion icons in the mix but they'd get human stories too. Oh well, I suppose I've got to accept the crazy that comes with my love of One Tree Hill because to ask it to change now would be even more absurd than the last couple minutes of that otherwise lovely finale.


Mr. Romantic is at it again.

And what does Mr. Romantic deserve as the perfect accompaniment to his grand gesture of the week (in some wonderfully timed, self-referential scenes)?

A little Love Actually of course.

In this week's romantic comedy-skewering yet still knowingly cheesy How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby got the perfect backup: the beautiful (and easily identifiable) score from one of the most famous romantic comedies of the decade.

Marshall's tiny B story was fun, Robin's "also, a bit cheesy" one liners were great and the whole baggage metaphor was really pretty sweet. Oh, and Judy Greer: always fantastic.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NBC's 2010 Upfront Announcements

NBC did their upfront presentation today and there were very few surprises after all the pickup/cancellation news that's been leaked this week. I do have to say though, the new season looks very promising from my end. The peacock network is working overtime to fill all those 10pm spots they gave away last season and I like the effect of more scripted drama in the lineup. There are a few too many shows I was excited for bumped to midseason (Perfect Couples, The Cape) but I couldn't be more excited for Love Bites (Yay Jordana Spiro and Becki Newton!).

Here's the schedule (with helpful links to articles about the new series):

8-9 p.m: Chuck (13 episode order- can I get a woot, woot!?!)
9-10 p.m: The Event (new)
10-11 p.m.: Chase (new)

8-10 p.m.: The Biggest Loser (Boo)
10-11 p.m.: Parenthood (glad it's back, I'll be watching season 1 over the summer to prepare)

8-9 p.m.: Undercovers (new)
9-10 p.m.: Law & Order: SVU
10-11 p.m.: Law & Order: Los Angeles (new) (what was the point in cancelling the groundbreaking institution to create another copycat? STUPID)

8- 8:30 p.m.: Community (BEST NEWS EVER!!!!!!!!! not that it's news, but still!!!!)
8:30-9 p.m.: 30 Rock (yay)
9-9:30 p.m.: The Office (less yay but still good)
9:30-10 p.m.: Outsourced (new)
10-11 p.m.: Love Bites (new) (most anticipated new NBC show of the season!)

8-9 p.m.: Who Do You Think You Are?/School Pride (new) (reality. blah)
9-10 p.m.: Dateline
10-11 p.m.: Outlaw (new)

7- 11:30 Football

SUNDAY (midseason)
8-9 p.m. – Minute to Win It (Don't Sundays demand better than this? There's such a Sunday TV legacy!!!)
9-11 p.m. – The Celebrity Apprentice (Point proved).

Held to midseason:
Parks and Recreation
, Friends With Benefits (new), The Paul Reiser Show (new), Perfect Couples (new), The Cape (new) and Harry’s Law (new).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NBC Next Season... so far

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the end of an era. A welcome end, in my procedural-averse opinion but the end of one nonetheless. After 20 seasons and 453 episodes, TV's second longest-running drama of all time will finally end this year; Law & Order is no more.

NBC will be announcing its full fall schedule, sans L&O, at their upfront presentation on May 17th but here's what we know already:

- Thursday night comedy will return 100% in tact with full season pickups for next year already doled out to The Office, 30 Rock, Park & Recreation and (most excitingly) My TV's favourite new comedy Community. That said, reports say that Office star Steve Carrell is looking to move on after his contract is up at the end of season 7 (next year), which leaves the show in tricky "do we retool or cut and run" territory.

- Hour-longs Chuck, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights will all be making another appearance next season. Chuck just got a 13 episode season 4 pickup this afternoon to the cheers of avid fans everywhere. The "we desperately want to be Brothers & Sisters" ensemble family drama Parenthood will also be back next year for its second season, so I suppose I should actually watch more than the pilot. And the tiny-but-brilliant Direct TV gem Friday Night Lights was picked up last year for its final season (#5), which will air on NBC next spring.

- The network already has 6 new shows on the roster for next season: The Event, a conspiracy thriller starring Jason Ritter (a My TV favourite actor); something called Outsourced which is apparently about a call-center in India and a charming-looking sitcom called Perfect Couples (I'm going to predict that neither of these will go far); JJ Abrams' spy comedy Undercovers, which I'm sure will do pretty well; a new Jerry Bruckheimer vehicle about US Marshals called Chase, which I don't think I'll like very much; and one of My TV's most anticipated shows of the new season, Love Bites starring My TV obsessions Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Jordana Spiro (My Boys).

- The Dermot Mulroney reboot of The Rockford Files, produced by Steve Carrell and House's David Shore is off to a shaky start with an ill-received pilot, according to NY magazine but still seems poised for a possible pickup.

- Things aren't looking good for ratings-challenged current series Heroes, Trauma and Mercy either, so I wouldn't expect them back. But I'm sure you can place a safe bet or two on the return of The Biggest Loser and The Apprentice, though no announcements about any of these 5 series have been made yet.

Check back throughout the week as the 2010 upfronts roll around.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Modern Warfare

As an unabashed fan of both bad action films and Joel McHale's biceps, this week's episode of Community was always going to be a hit with me. However, the show really knocked it out of the park by anchoring it in the kind of plot-moving emotional relevance that few shows can pull off with this sort of gimmick (in fact, only "Once More With Feeling" springs to mind).

The gimmick this week pushed by the always meta-writing staff at Community was that the campus of Greendale devolves into an action movie when the Dean sets up a spirit building paintball game and offers "priority registration" as a prize. As a girl who had to sit through her fair share of annoying 100 lectures because she had a last name that guaranteed her a shitty registration time, I can relate. It was just on the right side of absurd to see the whole campus go gaga for it.

The parody was spot on, the direction of the episode so good it truly could have been an action movie, and the comedy was subtly infused in every scene. It worked even if you didn't understand that the roller blading badasses shooting at Jeff, Shirley, Britta and Abed were a reference to 1980s feel-good film The Warriors.

As for the Jeff and Britta stuff, it felt so good, unforced, and funny that while I still think they should avoid making them a couple for fear of Community becoming the Jeff-and-Britta show, I'm totally okay with the idea of them just having casual sex in the study group room. They're both the kind of slutty romantics who would do something like that before realizing that they are nowhere near ready for it to continue. Although it may just be that anything that gets Jeff into his boxer-briefs (and was it just me, or were those the same ones he was wearing in the pool episode?) is a-okay by me.

All in all, not only the best episode so far of Community, but probably the best half hour of television this season, period.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ain't No Rest for the Wicked

Oh my goodness. Just when I thought Damon Salvatore's whole bad-boy-with-just-enough-good-to-make-you-think-maybe-we-shouldn't-stake-him thing was the hottest act since Logan Echolls first punched out an FBI man and Spike started singing about letting him rest in peace, they upped the awesome factor.

This week's episode of The Vampire Diaries featured the return of vampire-mama, Isabelle. And boy was it a return. The highlight of a fairly spectacular episode, however, had to be within the first twenty minutes, just when you thought Damon in a spectacularly steamy scene, was taking moral ambiguity to a whole new level by boinking mama-vamp right after she told him of her evil plans (set sexily to "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked", no less) , he slams her down on the ground and gives her this speech:

"Now that I've got your attention, listen up. You do not come into My town and threaten the people I care about. Threatening Elena? BAD MOVE. You leave her alone or I will rip you to bits because I do believe in killing the messenger. You know why? Because it sends a message. Katherine wants something from me? You tell that little bitch to come get it herself."

Given that Damon has literally spent the entirety of this season in pathetic supplication to the mere idea of Katherine, this was a ginormous, hugemongous and fantastic step forward for his characters development. Plus he was half shirtless at the time.

Now while I loved all the character development stuff, I have a few problems with the direction the show is going that, while currently not overwhelming the awesome, threaten to overshadow the best stuff:

  1. Stefan. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hater of the brooding supermodel. In fact, back when he was dealing with his human blood addiction and dancing around in a drunken stupor, I kind of loved the guy. But this episode asked Paul Wesley to do nothing more than glower and make glances at Elena and Damon's ridiculously close bond at this point. Even his episode ending confrontation with Damon, while a showcase for Somerhalder's ill skills as Damon at his most manipulative and defense mechanism-y, felt almost perfunctory. It was like he's the guy the girl is with at the beginning of the TV show (think Luke on The OC or that floppy haired dude on Smallville, or even to an extent Duncan on Veronica Mars) who you just know she's going to dump for the more alluring badboyishness. But... that's not supposed to be his role. He's Stefan... he's Angel... he's Edward... he's Bill. He's not Luke.

  2. Elena. I actually dislike her a lot less than I did back in the day, but at the same time, I don't buy that she's Damon's epic love. The thing that makes these relationships so engaging is feeling like the back and forth is worth it. Veronica and Logan's sparkle, Spike and Buffy's sexy wrongness, Phoebe and Cole's* demonic tet-a-tets. Although I can totally see why Elena finds it all so alluring, I find it hard to fully understand why Damon finds her undeniable outside of the rules of television that say that he should. I also didn't need the words, "He's in love with you." Said so early into the television show.

  3. Katherine. Can she ever really live up to what we've heard of her? Especially with Nina Dobrev playing her? I don't think she's awesome, but I just don't know if she has the sparkle to pull of what Katherine should be outside of her petticoats.

However, moments when Ian Somerhalder says shit like, "Me too. She's a very good friend. In fact, she might qualify as my only friend," in a way that makes it seem simultaneously manipulative, sincere, and like the idea just hit him makes me think that the show can navigate these waters well, if it does so carefully. As for all the bombshells the show dropped in its last five (the device is still 100% vampire-killing-goodness, John is Elena's father) could hardly top the Damon-osity. In fact, this show is in danger of becoming too Damon-reliant, like the way a bad episode of Gossip Girl is only saved by how amazing Blair and Chuck are on an ordinary basis.

*yeah that's right, I name dropped Charmed.

Thoughts on the Real Celebrity Jeopardy

- The questions are significantly easier, I could answer most of them (something that's just not true about the regular episodes of Jeopardy).

- Though I'm mad at him for beating the adorable (and apparently incredibly competitive) Neil Patrick Harris, I have to say that Cheech Marin is absurdly good at Jeopardy. Which surprised me, because he's mostly famous for being stoned, not being smart, not that the two are at all mutually exclusive.

- Jane Kaczmarek is entertaining. I like her, even if she is divorced from one of my favourite actors out there (Bradley Whitford).

- Just goes to show: comedians really are the smartest guys around. SNL's Michael McKean rocked his semi-final round against fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and British actor Charles Shaughnessy and tonight's superb showdown featured 3 comedians toe to toe: Neil, Jane and Cheech (a strange mix of awesome).

- I'm sad to see you go Neil, you were surprisingly intense about the whole thing, but man Cheech is worth the watch.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I just watched last night's Lost, the episode entitled "The Candidate" and I know I want to write about it. But I can't for the life of me think what I want to say. I mean,... wow.

You read this blog, you know I'm not a Lost fan the way most Lost fans are Lost fans. I've loved the show's high points and resented its low ones but never really gave two hoots about it. I cried when Charlie died, I cheered when Hurley reconnected with Libby, I believe that Desmond and Jack will save these people in more ways than one. But I'm not sure Lost has ever left me speechless, at least not since Charlie, that one hurt.

But this week's episode,... wow.

The ticking clock is showing on Lost like never before. They're moving mythology left and right, pushing these characters at break neck speeds towards their fates. We're caught up in two parrallel realities and for every triumph we can celebrate in one, tragedy lies in the other. I'm left not knowing quite how to feel. There is always a surviving version of oneself; the audience doesn't know who to mourn. There's redemption where we thought there could be none (Sayid); where we thought heroism had forever taken over, a spec of former destructive pride shows through (Sawyer); and when people come together in one reality, they turn their backs on each other in the next (Claire).

All I can say is this week's episode toyed with my notions of mortality and network TV heroes in ways that Lost hasn't since the unexpected demise of Boone and the tragically foretold death of Charlie. I saw performances this week from Terry O'Quinn, Daniel Day Kim, Matthew Fox and Yun Jin Kim the likes of which I'd never seen before. And for the first time in a long time I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the man in black does next.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Welcome Back HIMYM

This week's How I Met Your Mother was the best since its season premiere. Maybe that's because it got back to the important story of Barney and Robin that the premiere so aptly navigated. Or maybe it was the delightful callbacks to previous episodes that always make loyal fans happy (college Ted, post-Natalie Ted, post-Stella Ted). Maybe it was that the sweet, relationship-centered Marshall and Lily story was much more than their goofy-to-the-point-of-flimsy norm. Or maybe it was that it moved the characters forward. But this week's episode "Twin Beds" was sweet, incredibly funny and poignant. From Ted's "For My Biographer" box to Barney's writing off his desire for Robin as boob-motivated, even the broadest comedy in the episode was character-consistent. Robin's decision at the end threatens to change the show forever (or at least significantly for a little while) and Barney and Ted's stories bring up consequences of nonchalant breakups that I've been waiting for for quite some time now. The episode was enjoyable in itself, was a callback to former hilarity and sweetness and holds the promise of interesting territory to come. You can't get much better than that.