Tuesday, February 10, 2009

my television worlds: "I want to go there"

Because my brain is spending so much time thinking about Lost and Battlestar Galactica (I'm either the coolest chick you know or the dorkiest), I have fallen behind on my episode reflections. Instead of going back and looking at individual episodes, I've offered some general thoughts on my favorite (and least favorite) shows below. In no particular order...

The Office: The post-Super Bowl hour-long episode (above) is honestly one of the funniest episodes of any television. The cold open alone is worth the price of gold. It also had an extended title sequence with the other secondary characters (Creed, Kevin, Meredith, etc.), but it seems like they've gone back to the shorter titles with the half-hour episodes. At any rate, "Stress Relief" has some gut-busting moments, like Dwight channeling Hannibal Lecter, Creed's declarative statement "I saw you in the parking lot! That's how I know you!", Dwight's "You don't have any land" insult, and one of the sweetest Jim-Pam interactions ever. And Ed Helms was nicely spotlighted with how unperceptive he is. Noting that he could never be a movie critic because he doesn't read into them that deeply: "I could be a food critic. That food is bad. I could be an art critic. That painting is bad." Last week's episode, "Lecture Circuit, Part I," brought closure to the Pam-Jim-Karen triangle (Karen is pregnant -- and married to a guy who looks like Jim!), and it ended on a note that suggested Holly (from HR, the one with the perfect breasts) might be coming back. I didn't care for Andy's storyline this week -- although, someone talking in third person is annoying, but Andy referring to himself as the Nard-Dog in third person is hilarious. This season has really been hit or miss with me, but when the show is strong, it's stronger than anything else out there.

House: This is one of my "passive" shows, a show that I watch with little consideration or care. I don't care for Thirteen or her relationship with Foreman (they have the worst chemistry ever!), but it is interesting to me that Thirteen was given the placebo drug for her Huntington's treatment. I just wish Foreman hadn't switched the placebo to the real treatment in the same episode that he discovered this. He should have wrestled more internally -- going to every other doctor is a dumb idea because any of them could, and should, turn him in for even thinking about switching the drugs -- for more than thirty minutes of one episode. Cuddy's baby storyline is RIDICULOUS and poorly constructed. She wants a baby but adoption's harder than she thought... she finds a crack baby and becomes its foster mom... then she struggles between work and home and doesn't know if she wants a kid... I'm sorry, but it really aggravates that shows keep representing this struggle between motherhood and a career. I'm not saying that this struggle doesn't exist -- because it does -- but every show dealing with a baby storyline uses this plot. And besides, Cuddy has resources to not be burnt out. She may have to be at the hospital a lot, but I'm sure should could take a lot her work home, and she could hire a live-in nanny if she needed to. It's a stupid obstacle to put between her and House. As for that couple's pairing... they're actually a nauseating couple to me. Verbal foreplay does not mean they would be good as a couple. This isn't the 1930s, folks. No self-respecting woman would be attracted to House's childish antics, and it certainly wouldn't be Cuddy. Maybe it's because I don't like her character (her clothes are two sizes too tight and she's poorly developed, especially in how she deals with House), but I don't consider Cuddy to be House's equal. Bring back Stacy. Bring back his ex-wife. That pairing was amazing.

Chuck: Last Monday was their first episode back after a long hiatus, and they came back with a 3D episode, no doubt trying to pull in new viewers. I won't go into the episode because, although funny at times, it didn't move the plot anywhere and acted as a reintroduction to the show and its characters. I love this show and am glad it's back. Monday is the new Thursday with its lineup of high-profile shows at the 8pm timeslot -- HIMYM, Gossip Girl, House, Chuck -- and I would choose Chuck every time. Besides the fact that I'm in love with Zachary Levi and Adam Baldwin is the biggest untapped comedic talent ever, the show is extremely well written and there's always something/someone to laugh at. Sadly, tonight's episode was preempted because of Obama's address, but it should be back next Monday and I will go back to posting episode commentaries on them. I'm looking forward to Scott Bakula's upcoming stint as Chuck's dad. (When did Bakula get old enough to play a 30-year-old man's father?)

On Sunday, Alan Sepinwall moderated the Chuck panel at NYC's ComicCon, and he shared this wonderful exchange between creator Josh Schwartz and a fan:
Kid: "In the Christmas episode, when Casey's toe got shot off, did he get a robotic toe?"
Schwartz: "He does now, as of today."
Fedak: "It's actually a toe and a missile."
Kid: "Does that mean he's like Darth Vader?"

Grey's Anatomy: My biggest problem with this show is that I would never let any of them be my doctor. Cristina is the most competent, and Meredith can spout off ridiculous medical terms, but the former has horrible bedside manner and whenever the latter's in surgery, she's preoccupied by her own unwillingness to be happy. The others are all idiots, and the new interns lack any credibility. They are caricatures of middle-schoolers; they're either sheepish or giggle like school girls at an embarrassing surgery. I'm supposed to believe these people are adults? But... I do enjoy the show. It's another one of my "passive" shows (that I used to be die-hard about, but no longer am after that unfortunate Gizzie mishap), but I'm almost guaranteed to cry during one of the episodes. This season specifically, the episode with Bernadette Peters broke my heart. (A woman with a 30-second memory window had to be retold over and over that her husband died.) I didn't mind the Izzie-Denny storyline because I do like Denny. I feel like, and I hope this was intentional, the Denny-apparition is not the same as real-world-Denny. They talk to and treat Izzie differently; Denny-apparition's repetition of "I'm here for you" was creepy from the beginning, and it seems like Izzie is heading towards a brain cancer storyline. I'm thrilled that Meredith and Derek are finally settling down and past their obsessive behavior, and I do like the development of Cristina/Hunt and Lexie/Sloan. I still find Lexie to be incredibly whiney and annoying, but she's bringing out the best in Sloan and I'm glad he's no longer a two-dimensional sex-obsessed jerk. And... George? Is he leaving the show? He's all but disappeared this season, which, honestly, I'm okay with because I've never cared about George. Speaking of George... Melissa George's stint needs to be over soon.

One last thing: I really, really love the addition of Dr. Arizona... Something, but her interaction and kiss with Callie in the bar restaurant was very poorly done. First of all, we've never seen these two interact with each other, and the writers think they can mask this or overlook this by adding a line like "People talk, and there are people who care about you"? There are rumors and so this adult doctor (really one of the only adult characters on the show) puts the moves on someone she doesn't know? This was just a quick-fix to get past the firing of Brooke Smith as Dr. Erika Hahn, and it made me lose all respect for this new character that I initially enjoyed. Her interactions with Bailey were phenomenal, and they work well together. Speaking of Bailey... would somebody give Chandra Wilson an Emmy already? It is well past due.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Another "passive" show. I really need to stop watching this. Even with the addition of Callum Blue (The Tudors, Dead Like Me) as Hannah's boyfriend Alex, she's a boring character. Why does he want to be with her? Because she's sexually explicit? What about her dodgy behavior and her inability to put down her defenses is appealing to him? She's not just guarded; she's absent. She dodges him and his questions. Hannah is a very strange character; she's not fleshed out at all. And as I've mentioned before, I don't think Billie Piper is particularly attractive, but whoever is doing her makeup is not helping. Since Piper was five months pregnant while filming this, we get a lot of close-ups on her face, so why paint her face like she's a clown? And why isn't her friend Ben in these episodes more? Grrr. Season one ended on such an interesting note; why is season two dragging its feet?

United States of Tara: I just can't get into this show. It's not personal. It's not enlightening. The storylines aren't very interesting (in fact, they're quite boring). The actors don't have chemistry together, and the family dynamic is awkward. The actors seem to exist separate of one another, at least until a scene calls for them to be in the same room with one another. I just don't buy them as a family. Not in the way they act or talk to each other. I love Toni Collette, but she just doesn't have strong material here. And her character's son isn't just gay or stereotypically gay; he's "hip gay." As in, his maturity is too advanced for his high-school age (his in-class comments on films are entirely unbelievable -- I should know, I teach film to college students), and it's like his sexuality is idealized in this bizarro version of what it means to be the "perfect homosexual." Bah. I just don't like any of the characters. I gave up on this show three episodes in.

30 Rock: I'm just not feeling this season at all. I think the biggest problem I have with this show is that the situations themselves aren't funny. The situations are mediocre -- like Jenna auditioning for the Janis Joplin biopic or Liz going on a date with Peter Dinklage or Jack dating Salma Hayek -- and then they try to cover this up with one-line jokes. Most of the time these jokes are fantastic (though nothing as quotable as "Son of a married couple!" or "Live every week like it's Shark Week!"), but because they comprise most of the comedy, the episodes don't seem very cohesive. I know I'm in the majority, but bring back Will Arnett. He brought the right amount of ridiculousness to the show. Tracy is sort of the child, and Jenna is the idiot, but Arnett's character was the man-child, and he plays those characters so well (see Arrested Development). I'm also a bit annoyed by all of the guest stars because I don't feel like they're incorporated very well into the scripts, though I am enjoying Jon Hamm's guest spot as Liz's hunky neighbor. I may be biased, but his first episode was last week and we rarely saw much of him. Again, the situation wasn't very funny -- the entire episode was set up so that he'd be accidentally roofied -- and I felt like he wasn't given strong material. But I think this Thursday's episode shows promise. We'll see. I'm just disappointed overall this season. Liz is becoming as silly as the secondary characters, as is Jack, and I don't know if there are enough "adults" on the show to make me believe that they are actually able to produce TGS every week.

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