Friday, April 29, 2011

"Goodbye, Michael"

Tonight was the farewell episode of one of television's most beloved characters. Like Michael J Fox's farewell from Spin City, Steve Carell's departure from The Office will probably be remembered as the series' true finale, no matter how many years it continues on from here.

Michael's final arc had its ups and downs, as did his final episode. Deangelo (Will Ferrell), Michael's (most likely temporary) replacement is both unlikable and unfunny, making some of these final episodes (and especially the tag of this week's) hard to watch.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Better With Guest Stars

Never was a more unexpected duo of guest stars than this week's Better With You combo of Derek Hough and Larry King.

The young, impossibly cool professional dancer appeared as an instructor trying to help Casey and Mia prepare for the first dance at their wedding. The fun story about Casey hiding all his best "girl things" talents from his fiancee hit its highpoint in a showy tango wherein Casey (Jake Lacy) whirled Hough around the floor, reminding ABC viewers just what they've been missing in Hough's absence from Dancing with the Stars this season.

King showed up as a celebrity guest in Ben's hotel. The clever show capitalized on the prehistoric talk show host's persona, framing him as a wise elder with an uncanny ability to read people and a disturbing need for extra hotel towels. The take home message: ask Larry King, he'll know what to do.

It was a weird combination but a strangely awesome one. This show really has grown on me, wouldn't it be nice if it made it to a second season?

The Power of Song Selection

If there's one thing you learn from American Idol it's that song selection is everything (and that Steven Tyler is a god). That rule has never been more true than for this week's episode of Glee. "Born This Way" had some meaningful moments (here's looking at you Santana!) and some trite ones (sorry Quinn, when was the last time you had a good storyline?), some perfect character points (Lauren for the win!) and some wastes of time (flash mob? really?!). From Tina's wonderful monologue that prompted a cute/hilarious Mike Chang makeout session through Karofsky's heartfelt apology (good guest actor alert- let's make him a regular, shall we?) to Rachel's self-indulgent nose job story (inevitable, really), there was one thing that was consistently awesome this week: song selection.

It pains me to think that Blaine will be scaled back and we might never seen much of my beloved Warblers again, but their farewell number of "Somewhere Only We Know" was tremendous, triumphant and layered with just enough acapella sweetness and Darren Criss dreaminess (and, you know, good acting/vocals and stuff) to prompt many many re-watchings. It was sad and sweet and generally just awesome.

Then there was the awesome and unexpected "Unpretty"/"I Feel Pretty" mashup (which actually came earlier in the episode but was slightly less epic so is being mentioned second). Rachel and Quinn are far from my favourites but the emotional notes hit in that inspired mashup were really pretty great (not to mention the songs flowed together beautifully).

Finn's "I've Gotta Be Me" was a surprisingly strong vocal from the worst singer in the cast on what was supposed to be a mostly dance number, and the title number was fun if only for the shirts (because the song is offensively derivative *I'd never heard it before and honestly thought it was "Express Yourself"*- seriously, when are people going to realize that Lady Gaga is really boring?!)

But the best song selection in the episode? Easily "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard. Not only was every word perfect for Kurt's return to Kennedy High but its very Sunset Boulevard-ness was character perfect and fit with the themes of self-acceptance this week. And, most importantly, Chris Colfer nailed it. Chris Colfer almost always nails the acting side of his songs (kid can emote: "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" or  "Blackbird" anyone?!), but his vocals sometimes leave something to be desired. But on this hard piece made famous by a host of spectacular altos, Colfer hit every note perfectly (including the impossible falsetto on the last "bye" and the lower tenuto on the final syllable).

This was one of those Glee weeks that really made iTunes some money.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Farewell to Awesome

After falling behind at the worst possible time (in a U turn leg right after a non-elimination leg), one of the best teams in Amazing Race history was eliminated tonight leaving a final group of unexpected racers. There was no way, going into this season, I would have expected a final grouping that didn't include the epic cowboy brothers Jet and Cord. But somehow they were passed by likable (except when they be crazy) but inconsistent racers like the Globetrotters and the Goths, and by people I like only half the time (Zev/Justin, Jen/Kisha). Dark horse team Gary/Mallory is my new pick to win, if only because I think she's the most adorable person on the planet.

Once again the true best of the best doesn't win all-stars; isn't that always the case? With the exception of the most recent season of Top Chef (I love you Blais!), I can't recall an all-star season with the appropriate winner. It's often the sidekick of the true genius who takes home the prize (Survivor's Amber over her future husband Rob or Big Brother's Boogie over best friend/chilltown compatriot Will). Sometimes it's just a random winner altogether (Sandra? Really?!) In this case, tonight's result cinched another all-star season without the perfect winner (although starting the season without some of the all-time great teams did set them back from the start- it's a shame Brook and Claire couldn't run). But the door has not yet shut on a truly lovable team taking home the prize- there are still a couple options, so here's hoping for them.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Good vs. Great: a Survivor faceoff

Until this week I've been watching the 22nd season of Survivor rather casually. I'd pay attention to the first fifteen minutes or so, just to make sure Matt won the duel, then I'd casually watch, just to ensure Rob was still in control- both these things in tact, I wouldn't care who was voted out or why. It turns out I may be returning to this system in coming weeks, but last night's episode had me on the hook as Matt returned to the game and threatened to unseat Rob when the tribes merged.

Here's the trouble with this matchup: I really really want to root for Matt. I have been rooting for Matt, from the moment he won his first redemption island duel. He's a great hero- a smart, attractive, impressive young man whose golden hair and unwavering faith, though annoying with too much airtime, make him the perfect force of good on the island (ooh, Jacob reference anyone?) Matt is the very definition of a good guy. And if he'd gone along with his plan (to secretly team up with Mike and Andrea, wait 2 weeks while they collectively eliminated Steve and Phil, then flip on Rob), he'd have officially become as good a strategist as he is a challenge player. That plan was awesome (though much of the credit does go to Mike- my second favourite player in the game, though his opposition of my first favourite is not helpful), the fact that Matt didn't go for it makes me think he's a little crazy, but it did solidify is "good" status as he was hopelessly and selflessly loyal to his team.

But the problem with liking the good guy this season is that he's playing with Rob Mariano, who has not only proved to be a decently good guy himself, when it comes to the game of Survivor he is one of a very small handful of those who are truly great (it's pretty much just him and Parvati who are tried and true). Sure, Rob could have benefited from Matt's strangely motivated loyalty, but he had no real way of being sure that it was going to stick. In voting him right back out, Rob solidified his team and earned the respect of David- undoubtedly the first Zapatera who will flip. I think the trick to kicking Matt of redemption island will lie in voting out Grant the greek god of an athlete (who's one of my picks for the win).

For story purposes I'll be rooting for Matt to once again remain alive as a symbol of goodness on redemption island. But the mistake this week that stopped him from flipping the game but retained his "goodness" may be unforgivable. As for the great Rob, I'll always love him. Even if the jury refuses to let him win if he makes it to the end, Rob is running this game, playing this naive group of people who think they're smart like a fiddle. The moment he named the new tribe after an inside joke he shares with his wife, convincing the others that it's a Spanish word about the sea, eliminated any doubt that had somehow managed to survive the moment when he threw an idol clue into a volcano.

Matt's good, in the person sense, but leaving aside the personal, it's Rob who's inarguably great.