Thursday, November 13, 2008

mid-season TV review: part I

As promised... my totally awesome opinions of the TV season thus far.

The Office: This show used to be my favorite show on television, but in all honesty, it's lacking something. It's lacking change. I appreciate that they're going forward with Pam and Jim (aka Jam, aka PB&J), and I think the writers are handling their relationship quite intelligently (see above clip for squeal-worthy perfection), but I don't understand why Angela, the uptight Christian, is cheating on Andy and stringing him along with false wedding plans. Also, where are spotlights on the other supporting characters -- Creed, Stanley, and Oscar? Meredith and Phyllis have had their moments to shine, but this season has been dominated by Holly Flax (the fantastic Amy Ryan, who should be brought back to the show at any cost). The goods: Michael's humanization, Holly's Yoda and beatbox impressions, Kelly's tapeworm (from "Weight Loss"), and the proposal, of course. The bads: The show is too episodic, and the storylines aren't paced out as well. The storylines are too divided -- Jam over here, Dwight and Andy and Angela (Dwangelandy?) over there, and Michael and Holly somewhere else. It's like Season 1 but without the freshness and innovation.

Chuck: I don't know if you've heard, but Fox is looking to add House to the Monday at 8pm lineup -- yes, opposite Chuck, Gossip Girl, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and CBS's Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. As much as I enjoy these other shows (and I've watched House since the beginning -- minus the David Morse episodes), Chuck wins out. It is the smartest, funniest, and best written show on TV. It would be easy to dismiss this gem as light fluff (easy to do because it's hyperreal spy spoof comedy), but the characters are extremely well written and there are more jokes than you know what to do with. In fact, some of the best jokes are THROW AWAYS. Case in point, last week Lester says, "I was born ready," to which Jeff responds in the most brilliant deadpan, "I was born premature." The goods: This show does an excellent job of having Chuck's Buy More life mirror that of Chuck's spy world life. The smartest thing this show did was around episode 3 or 4, Chuck realizes he can't have a relationship with Sarah, his handler, and so he needs to stop pining after her. Of course, viewers are well aware that Sarah has feelings for him as well, but she also knows that he's correct. So now there's a sadness to Chuck and Sarah's relationship, but this show allows for 5 minutes (tops!) of sentimentality, and the rest is all fast-paced comedy. Also, the writers have been able to incorporate guest stars without their storylines undermining the show (ahem, I'm looking at you, 30 Rock). And lastly, Captain Awesome is completely deserving of his nickname. I love that guy. He could've been a one-note joke, but he really is just awesome. The bads: More John Casey (Adam Baldwin), please. Although, the Casey-Chuck kiss was just as fantastic as the Oscar-Michael Scott kiss.

Grey's Anatomy: This show is certainly back on track -- minus the surprise firing of Brooke Smith (can ABC be homophobic if their parent company Disney is pro-gay?) -- and the writing is much sharper. I absolutely loved the episode where Richard, the Chief, was upset that his hospital was ranked at #12 and vowed to get it (and his surgeons) back to #1 -- an obvious analogy for the way Grey's itself used to be #1 and then slipped to roughly the #10 spot. Luckily, after the first few episodes, Cristina finally told Meredith what everyone's being wanting to say ("Shut up about Derek already!"), and everything that annoyed me about last season is gone. No more Gizzie -- but without a physical relationship, can't these two still be friends? No more Derek's-a-good-guy -- because, let's be honest, he's sort of a jerk. No more Alex-the-softie. But I do find it odd that Izzie is JUST NOW coming to terms with Denny's death. She spent an entire episode crying on the bathroom floor, then had flings with both Alex and George, and THEN starts seeing Denny's ghost? I think the writers are pretending like Season 4 never happened. The goods: The writing is better. The storylines are more interesting. Bernedette Peters was involved in one of the most heartbreaking storylines: She and her two friends were in a car accident, but one friend suffered trauma and only has a 30 second memory break. She kept asking for her husband, who actually had died in the next ER. Her friends had to keep telling their friend that her husband had died... until Izzie finally smiled with tears in her eyes and said, "Yes, he's on his way. He's just around the corner." Such a good episode. The bads: Although I was not a fan of Callie and Erica together -- I didn't like the way the writers handled Callie's sexual fluidity, although I do understand the necessary juxtaposition to Erica's character -- I don't like how her character was dismissed. Also, I absolutely do not like Melissa George, who joins the show for a multi-episode arc as Meredith's old friend. (Also, Mary McDonnell of BSG fame is joining as a doctor with Asperger's... though, from what I've seen in the previews, I have a real problem with people taking her seriously as a surgeon. She looks completely spaced out.)

Bones: I was really irritated by the whole Zach's-the-apprentice-but-psych!-he-didn't-kill-anyone storyline, but now that that's wrapped up, I can focus on Booth and Bones. Cameron is also really growing on me, and there is a small part that wants her and Booth to sleep together again. Can't you picture them as casual sex partners? I sometimes have trouble with how separated from reality they write Bones to be -- she doesn't know the difference between saying "put them on bail" and "bail them out"?? -- and I'm also wary of the episodes where Bones and Booth are the comical characters, but tonight's episode, "The Con Man in the Meth Lab," was so pitch-perfect that I'm willing to excuse the other episodes. Booth is guarded and protective of his brother... Bones doesn't understand the psychology of guardedness and passes it off as a hierarchical alpha male thing... then Bones learns a little more about Booth (through evidence, of course), and at the very end, the episode closes on Booth's line: "My father drank." No justification. No opening about it. No story. Just a matter of fact statement. So perfect. Although I love me some PB&J, Booth and Bones are my favorite TV couple -- the actors are naturalistic around one another, and their dialogue is completely believable. The goods: I'm especially enjoying the inclusion of Dr. Sweets this season, and the fact that Booth and Bones don't listen to his profiling advice is just hilarious. I'm also enjoying the rotation of graduate assistants, though I do prefer the guy who rolls his eye whenever anyone talks about anything personal. The bads: I hated the episode where Bones dated two men. Seriously, a grown woman couldn't rationalize on her own why dating two men wouldn't work? I also thought Hodge and Angela's breakup was artificial -- I even forget why they broke up -- though I do enjoy their post-relationship attempts at working together.

House: I loved the way the season started because I really needed to understand why in the world Wilson was friends with House. He's a misanthropic jerk who always put his entertainment before the betterment of others, including Wilson, so I needed the funeral episode in order to appreciate their friendship and how they work together. I also loved the private eye, Lucas, and would love to have him back on the show. He was like House's conscience, but much hornier and funnier. I still can't stand Thirteen and feel like she's more of a gimmick than an actual character, which is a shame because I like the actress, Olivia Wilde. I didn't care about Cameron or Chase -- until this Tuesday's episode where I realized how well Cameron's incessant goodness was a perfect recurring obstacle for House's amoral methods. His new peons are just boring and don't stand up to House. And shouldn't Foreman be doing more? But yes, the kiss between House and Cuddy... it was a long time coming, and I'm one of the few people who really loved how it unfolded. House would never kiss Cuddy. Cuddy would never kiss House. It had to happen when both of them were vulnerable. It had to be awkward and uncomfortable. Were people really hoping for a romantic kiss? And the writers developed the post-kiss reactions very realistically. House would never ring Cuddy's doorbell and admit his feelings. (Though I feel bad for Wilson -- he was serious when he talked about always having feelings for Cuddy, wasn't he?) And Cuddy would shrug it off and assume that House & Wilson would be playing games with her (she wasn't entirely wrong). The goods: House is developing as a character. He's not necessarily progressing to being a better human being -- as he was with his ex-wife Stacey -- but he is developing into a three-dimensional misanthrope. I like Wilson more now, especially post-Amber. I do miss Amber. She was an interesting antagonist for House. The bads: Seriously, I can do without Chase, Cameron, Foreman, Taub, Thirteen, and... Kal Penn's character. What's his name? Doesn't matter. They're boring. They're all boring.

The Mentalist: The episodes are still not as perfect as the premiere, but dang, I love Simon Baker and Robin Tunney on this show. This last Tuesday's episode was particularly amusing. Patrick bought everyone gifts with money he won at Black Jack (where he counted cards), and even though the girls gave back their jewelry and the guys noted how ugly their watches were, the guys wore those watches the entire episode. Yay, continuity! I also like this show because the red herrings are actually good, and everyone's suspicious of committing the crime for different reasons. Sometimes they look at Patrick weird, and he knows they did it. Other times, they do or say something, and Patrick knows. So as the audience, we never know what he picks up on. I do try to figure out the ending, but not too hard because I do like for the narrative to unfold before me. (I ruined The Prestige for myself by figuring most of it out by the end. That's what I get for being an active audience member...) The goods: Simon Baker and Robin Tunney? Yes? Also, the episodes have enough heart and humor to help me through. I tend not to like procedural shows (other than House and Bones, and even then I have difficulty with them sometimes) because they're so formulaic. And The Mentalist is definitely formulaic, but Baker is so hypnotic that you completely believe that he is a psychic and a master of psychology. Also, the supporting characters have just enough to do to keep me interested in them. I don't think any of them should be spotlighted any time soon; I definitely appreciate the one-line quips they provide. They support the structure of how their group is organized. The bads: The other female character (don't remember her name) irks me a bit, but I can't pinpoint why. And the episodes are uneven in their storytelling. I don't think that the show casts the killers very well...

More tomorrow...

1 comment:

Goddessdster said...

So, if you had asked me four weeks ago, I would have told you I was almost almost ready to chuck Chuck. I was so sick of seeing Sarah doing her reverse strip-tease, and the episode with Nicole Ritchie pissed me off something stupid. At that point, I was only watching for Chuck, Casey, and the supporting cast (most especially the Buy More crew stealing the spotlight for a couple of episodes). However: Rush? won me back. Because that was a work of pure genius. And Sarah has managed to keep her clothes on and not be too annoying. You are right about it being the smartest and funniest show on TV right now. Now let's just keep Sarah's clothes on.

The episode of Bones to which you are referring made me cry buckets for Booth. That may make me sound wimpy. I don't care. Boreanaz has won me over as Booth in ways he never did as Angel (and I loved Angel). He is understated without being broody, silly without seeming childish - except when he's being childish. Angela's description of the Booth brothers as Booth and Booth-Lite made me laugh, because it is so evidently true. I think with that final line in last Wednesday's episode, Booth may have stolen my man-love from Mal. And I like that Sweets is making Angela face that her commitment issues may be that and not just free-spiritedness.