Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12/19/11 - 12/27/11 Reviews

Agonizingly, The Closer ended the first half of its final season without revealing who Goldman’s leak was. At this point, it’s almost impossible to know who it is. The ones who “shouldn’t” be  are Sanchez, Tao, and Provenza (and maybe Flynn too), while the ones who “could” be are Gabriel, Taylor, and Pope. My money’s on Gabriel, for what it’s worth. Although we didn’t learn who the mole was, Goldman got put in his place several times, which was a plus.

This week’s Leverage was very simplistic, the con barely entailing more than 3 steps, and even then, the job probably could have been done with even less effort. Without any advanced security system or dangerous enemies, it was easy pickings for the crew.

This is the kind of thing Sanctuary has been building towards since the beginning—the rest of the world knowing about abnormals—but the writing for the episode was painfully weak. Most notable, Magnus wants Will to join Baldouche, telling him he can feed her information. In the very next scene, Will is sitting at his new desk, and then all hell breaks loose and Will has no clue what’s going on. Qhat the hell? Will doesn’t know what Magnus is doing and neither does the viewer.

Last week’s Chuck episode got tons of hype—in my memory the most since the second season—but I was disappointed with it. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good episode, which it was, just my expectations were high and it didn’t live up to them. The problem with the episode is the same with all other Chuck episodes, and especially those of the final season—it doesn’t make sense. Without a stable, fully understandable plot, the episode is shaky, as the plot creaks forward and it soon dawns that the writers either made it up as they were going or have no idea how to create a season-long story where the ongoing story isn’t linked solely by the beginning and ends of each episode. Instead of a single, cohesive story, the story is tediously strung together by cliffhangers. A problem arises at the end of each episode, often sprouting out of nowhere, it’s fixed in the next episode, and then the new problem arises. This kind of plotting, when the writers want to make it seem like a big conspiracy is afoot, is awkward for the viewer who tries to piece things together. And when the viewer does piece things together, the idea that there is a long chain of villains and events leading up to the climax is pretty dumb. The Omen virus turned out to be a massive plot device which was hazily defined by the writers and served its purpose to get rid of Shaw’s Intersect.

But I can understand why this episode would stick out. First, it’s a Christmas episode and it’s a perfect holiday for a show that emphasizes family. Secondly, Shaw makes a better villain than the grab bag villain of the week, with his history and recognizable personality. There’s real danger in the episode several cool fights. In the end, however, plot is a critical part of television. It’s probably less important than in movies, but still something everyone pays attention to. No matter how great the characters are, there has to be a feasible plot to be a top episode.

The first season of American Horror Story was bizarre to say the least, and the season finale was no exception. There were little frights in the season finale, the majority taking place in the first half of the episode when the Harmons were chasing the new family away. The rest of the episode was rather mellow, with Christmas and the oddly soothing idea that they are happier dead than alive. So everyone ends up dead while Constance raises the Antichrist who is already killing people. Thus ends a truly batshit season of television. American Horror Story, for the most part, was terrible. The underpinning of the show is that anything messed up that’s sex or death related should happen, regardless of how that point is reach. Random crap happened and then, “Oh, they’re having sex. Oh, she’s killing him.” It’s not particularly imaginative.

If Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck were providing commentary on the current state of American horror movies, which are mostly mindless scares, then I’d probably be more lenient. This was no parody or commentary, only rehashed content revolving around sex and killing. It is this tone-deafness which has turned Glee into a farce and will likely continue.

The good news, announced the next day, is that the second season will not be a continuation but rather something completely different with some of the same actors playing different characters. Hopefully the writers will try out new things and less of the sex and murder. Ryan Murphy also said there was a hint in the last three episodes where the second season would take place. The obvious guess would be Roanoke, which would be very cool since the best parts of the season were the flashbacks with the Montgomerys.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The unambitious Terra Nova

With all its resources, Terra Nova should have been amazing. Big budgets, big sets, big names, big expectations. But no, Terra Nova turned out to be a unvarnished turd, neither engaging the audience with plots or nor creating distinguishable characters. I would attribute this to a lack of ambition on the writers part--a general agreement not to exit a tight, comfortable box.

This is immediately evident in the heart of the show, the Shannons. Jim was jailed for several years, then illegally crossed into Terra Nova. Surely this would cause problems. His kids would hardly know him, his wife wouldn't have seen him for a long time and they'd likely be more distant, and the Terra Nova authorities would hold something against him. There could have been plenty of conflict and drama with Jim. Instead, after a few episodes, Jim is great with his kids, wife, and Taylor. Problems solved! From there it gets worse. Elisabeth is a doctor and does doctor duties. That's it. In the third episode, the writers introduced Malcolm as a potential rival with Jim for Elisabeth, but that was resolved instantly, and he became the pointless lab monkey. The kids, while doing stuff on occasion, are actually worse than Elisabeth--they're actively annoying with bad dialogue and unlikable traits. Josh is a douche who cares about this 2149 girlfriend we met for two seconds in the pilot, Maddy is a generic girl who likes this guy, and Zoe says five-year old things.

The rest of the characters follow roughly the same trajectory. Taylor is the hard ass commander who has problems with his son, but really has a heart of gold. Washington is the generic second in the command who we never get to learn about. She dies and it's supposed to be sad, but what has she done besides do her job? She's even replaced by another female soldier soon afterwards. Lucas got the plot rolling, but it's not like he amounted to much. He was more crazy than scary, and then died after stabbing Taylor who survives. The "best" character is probably Skye, oddly enough. The stuff with her mother wasn't actually bad, with her allegiances being pulled in different direction. That's more than you can say for every other character. Unfortunately, the writers treated her mother like a plot device and abandoned her in the final two episodes. You'd think Skye would be concerned about her amidst all the chaos.

Aside from momentary conflicts in the middle of random episodes, the characters never fought, rarely disagreed and always ended up happy at the end of the episode. So they travel from 2149 to the distant past and now they're happy. Basically, the conflict lies in the setting of 2149, not the characters. And since the show isn't set in 2149, they're perpetually happy.

You can see why the writers would want it this way. Believable drama is hard, and some shows that really try fall flat and seem worse than if they didn't do any drama at all. Stringing together character dynamics from one episode to the next, with varying plots, while balancing the characters is probably the hardest part of television. Though there is great difficulty, we've seen it accomplished, sometimes spectacularly, in the past. However, the Terra Nova writers took the easy way out. If everyone is happy at the end of the episode and nothing changes between the characters, writing the next episode is easy. They start with the same slate of generic characters and start again. For all the money spent on the show, the writers decided they didn't want to deal with character difficulties and bailed out on any attempt to give them nuance or shade them any differently. Trying would at least earn my respect, but not trying at all is just pathetic.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on shows 12/12/11 - 12/18/11

This week, I'm bolding shows' names for reading convenience.

After not watching Boardwalk Empire since the seventh episode, I finally caught up last week. It's really a show that gets better as you keep watching episode after episode. The first couple episodes felt sluggish and I was just waiting to get the episodes done, but by the season finale, I was disappointed there were no episodes left.

Of course, I also have a bunch of criticism. First, the show is somewhat inapproachable in that none of the characters are likable and it feels as though the viewer is always at arm's length from the show. Nucky is a cold, deceitful gangster, and the other characters mostly fit into the mold. Cold and deceitful isn't always a losing combination, but Nucky isn't charming or menacing either. He's just mean. Probably the most expressive character, Jimmy, always has something on his lingering in his mind that he's distant most of the time. The only character who seems like a good person is Margaret, but she's only one character out of many. These characters being unlikable is hard to swallow when the plot isn't exactly moving fast.

Second, the decision to kill off Jimmy seemed a bit much. While I understand how this is a huge step for Nucky, killing off his adopted son as a signal to those watching, Jimmy was a great character. He'd inject life into the show, when other characters were being their calm selves, and Michael Pitt was a clear stand out. Without Jimmy, the show will be very different.

Homeland's excellent season finale capped a terrific first season, paralleled by few shows. There are actually some criticisms out there, so I wanted to make some points.

1) Homeland is a character-driven show. The show isn't about unlocking Abu Nazir's web of conspiracies, finding his lair, and killing him. The show isn't about gun fights and explosions. It's about characters dealing with the unique situations given to them. It doesn't matter how Abu Nazir formed his plan, how long he's been planning the specific plot. Yeah, it seems a tad far fetched, but we don't know the details. In place of plot machinations, we got an intimate glimpse into the War on Terror, Saul, Brody's family, Brody, and Carrie.

2) Brody must live. The writers don't want Homeland to be 24. There aren't moles in every corner, or an evil, white villain glaring from atop a skyscraper. Think what happens if Brody does die. A new villain? That's... original. By keeping Brody alive, the writers can continue to push the Carrie-Brody plot--something that has as much potential now as it did in the middle of the season--in addition to the billion other unexplored things about Brody. And who doesn't want to watch Damian Lewis for another season?

3) The vest malfunctioning was a big plot device, yes, but a plausible one. The vest wasn't exactly an expensive, machine-manufactured suicide vest--as there are none. It was built by hand in a basement and has exposed wires all over the place. Obviously, while Brody was jostled around, the wires got loose.

4) The season finale of The Killing is much different than Homeland's. Does it matter who killed Rosie Larson? The answer, emphatically, is no. There was literally a suspect a week and by the end, after all the tedious runarounds, anyone could have been the murderer. In Homeland, we know the linchpin of the plot is Brody. He was ready to kill himself, actually flipped the switch, but later decided to save himself, ready to take the political mantle in the second season. Things will definitely change, in line with the idea that a second season should be different than the first. On the other hand, the second season premiere of The Killing could well serve as the next episode of the first season.

I was surprised to learn in Hell on Wheel's preview that there are only three episodes left this season. Is that it? This piece of information compounds everything wrong with the show. Nothing's really happened. Troubles randomly pop up, troubles are solved, and it's all good. The drama, conflict, and backstory feel so manufactured, I'd argue they're worse than in Dexter.

Speaking of Dexter, the season finale fit with the rest of the season. It was bad. Travis was more goofball than villain, and the plot was tepid. The season did end with a good twist, though, with Deb spying Dexter killing Travis. But that couldn't make up for a season of missteps and continued mistakes from previous seasons like the terrible supporting characters. This interview with showrunner Scott Buck just about summarizes how clueless he is. Worst of all he says this of Deb-Dex: "I’m not aware that there’s an ick factor, but that’s certainly not going to affect where we go with that story." Really? Really?? Really??? Really???? Dexter and Deb have been brother and sister since they were kids. They're not biologically related, but obviously there is a social stigma related to incest regardless of blood. Maybe he's saying that to absolve something from his own life... or Professor Gellar is in his mind too.

The counterpart to last week's Leverage episode was the male-centric episode and while the main plot wasn't as good, I liked seeing how everything fit together. It's a cool way of telling stories, a two-parter of sorts where the pieces intersect occasionally.

Chuck had a plot-heavy episode and like previous of the type, it wasn't good. It was exactly bad, but I don't watch Chuck for plot and there weren't that many character interactions in the episode.

Grimm had a poorly-constructed episode which was out of character for the show. The girl in the woods with the long hair, the Grimm version of Rapunzel, could have had potential, but led to an episode where there were way too many extra characters and parts that were never dealt with.

My memory with regards to when I last commented on The Mentalist is hazy, but I have some general comments on this season since the show won't be back until January. The fourth season isn't as strong as the third season, which started with a heavy emphasis on Red John, and has generally stayed with the standalone cases. That said, Jane is must less of a dick than he was in the second season. Last week's Mentalist episode was about Jane being a dick after losing his memory. His roughish behavior hasn't exactly changed, but the end result--which for him is usually positive--is very mean towards the Lisbon, Cho, Rigsby, and Van Pelt who were trying to help him. The sad thing is that he needed his family to die for him to be a good person and productive member of society. I'm curious to see whether Jane will remain the way he is, without memories, for a few more episodes, or whether seeing the Red John face brings him back to normal.

I guess Viven dying on American Horror Story was something worth talking about. Other than that, it was more or less the same. The writers don't specify the rules by which the house operates, so they make up whatever shit they want as they go, under the guise that the house is haunted.

Glee's Christmas episode was..... crap. There was zero plot other than random references to things and the whole thing stunk of indulgence. The characters became dolls to participate in a generic medley of computer generated Christmas music.

Enlightened ended its first season without much fanfare in the media, but I'll admit that I was enlightened. When the series first began, I remember not knowing what the show was or what would happen beyond the introductory pilot. Even after watching 10 episodes, I don't know another show like it, with little plot movement but so many somber moments.

Terra Nova remains shockingly boring. Between "I need to do homework!!!!" and Skye being caught and given a slap on her wrist, there's hardly anything worth watching anymore. From the outset, the writers made a couple critical mistakes. None of the characters ever went beyond their stereotypes and nothing surprising ever happened. There was always a happy ending, no matter what happened. From there, when things did get rough, there were still no consequences for the notable characters. Everyone's still fine, doing their boring things.

I got around to watching the Bag of Bones miniseries and it was better than I expected, though my expectations were pretty low. The novel didn't have a strong plot anyway, relying more on imagery than tangible things happening, and while the adaptation tried to put more meat on the story, it didn't really work. Four hours was just too long for what paltry plot was there to be sustainable.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12/5/11 - 12/11/11 Reviews

Weekly reviews again! Again, I'll go backwards in the week and I'm not covering everything I watched--just whatever comes to my mind (and, yes, that means shows later in the week will have a greater chance of being remembered). No, I still haven't caught up on Boardwalk Empire or watched Luck, but I will have a post on them when I do, hopefully later this week.

Homeland: Claire Danes has been very impressive thus far, but I suspect last night's episode will be her Emmy submission. It begins with her going right off the edge of the cliff--after being on the edge for most of the season--before she mellows out during the middle part of the episode. It is at this point when everything hangs in the balance, and then she calls Brody, which leads into everything going into ruin and the brilliant final scene where everything explodes. If Carrie had just been manic in the way she was the first minutes of the episode, Claire Danes probably wouldn't have gotten as much praise from me. But as the episode progresses, so does her behavior once she starts coming to grips with herself and the medication kicks in. One of my favorite parts of the episode is how people react to her: they treat her like a normal adult, not someone who needs to be locked up, despite her erratic behavior. The sad thing about all this is that Carrie is right--Abu Nazir has a huge plan brewing.

Hell on Wheels continues to be weird and infuriating. This week it featured a bunch of cookie cutter Native Americans and religious people, while sidelining Bohannon, easily the most interesting character on the cast who isn't cut from the same stereotype cloth most other characters are. Worst is these awkward spectacles in each episode. Last week, it was the fight lasting half the episode and this week was the John Henry moment where the Native American on a horse races the train. What is that supposed to tell us? That trains are faster than horses? That machine prevails over nature? Duh?

Dexter: I think most people would agree how horrible Travis is. But take a moment a think about the other plots potentially worse than Travis. Deb in love with Dexter, video game/hand guy, LaGuerta being a bitch for the 100000 time.

I liked how Leverage let the girls have an episode for a change and brought back Tara. Fun stuff as usual.

The Good Wife has had some interesting cases as of late, and last night's episode was no exception, with the plot about potential jury tampering. On top of that, Wendy Scott Carr using her position as special prosecutor--appointed by Peter--to investigate Peter played out nicely.

I haven't said anything about Once Upon a Time on the blog, so I'll repeat what I said about it on Twitter last night. I like the tone of the show--the grand, majestic sweeping fairy tale kind versus the humerus fairy tale. There isn't anything overtly funny, but it has enough charm not to be depressing. Each episode moves along quickly, and is enjoyable to watched, granted you don't think too carefully. My biggest problem with the show is the lack of nuance with the characters. Sure, these characters' origin stories are different than the ones we know them by, but that's all that's different. Their characterizations are generic and what they do is as expected.

I haven't said anything about Grimm, the other fairy tale show, so here are some thoughts as well. The twists on fairy tale characters combined with the police work is turning out pretty good. What stands out on the show is its use of darkness and shadows, which provides a tone the show wouldn't otherwise have. I'd say Grimm gets the most value added from its lighting than almost any show out there. The Pied Piper violin episode was good as was Friday's episode, but I have a small quibble about it. It seemed like Nick was more lenient towards Angelina than the pig.

Boss's first season ended, and while it has already been renewed for a second season, I'm not exactly holding my breath for it. It seems like producers and directors were far more interesting in a distinctive visual style than telling a good story. Kane's wife was barely developed--at least not enough to explain her devotion to Kane--and his daughter, a plot device.

I like this season of Chuck so far. Sure, the plot still makes zero sense, but that's been the case since day one. What has changed, though, is that Chuck and Sarah are firmly together and it doesn't diminish how likable they are, as individuals and as a couple. Quite impressive, considering how painful Bones has handled Booth and Brennan.ly

The Office's Christmas episode wasn't as painful as previous weeks' episodes, because Robert California seemed almost normal in the episode. That said, it was as aimless as ever, with Andy being a dufus and other people do what they usually do.

Now on to the good Christmas episodes! Both Community and Parks and Recreation, while vastly differing in styles, were awesome. Community had the musical episode poking fun at Glee, and Parks had a very heartwarming episode with all our favorite characters pitching in for Leslie's Christmas present.

American Horror Story continued with the "a bunch of crap happens each week" format, but I actually liked the way they revealed Violet's death, making it overwhelmingly meaningful to Violet, even if viewers had already figured it out.

Suburgatory's Christmas episode was another strong episode, compared to Modern Family which was again pretty bland. Suburgatory has rather simple formula--put likable, recognizable characters in awkward, semi-realistic situations--and it works well.

Sectionals on Glee wasn't that bad, but it's clear that some moves, like bringing back Mr. Trouty Mouth, was purely to placate the fans. Okay, fine, I'll admit it. It was crap, especially Mike Chang's resolution. I've actually thought of some ratios Glee sticks by. 1) Every conflict must be resolved in three scenes or less. 2) For every good episode, there must be seven bad ones.

I think Syfy should stop doing these holiday episodes. The ratings were below what the shows would normally get and the episodes aren't that good themselves.

I've been watching Covert Affairs, but nothing has really stood out about its second season. I really liked the first season, which had Annie stepping into a huge, unknown world and trying to make her way in it. The second just had Annie doing her spy thing, with some boring office subplots thrown in.

The biggest disappointment--and I think everyone else's too--was the season finale of Sons of Anarchy. It started badly with the hilariously bad deux ex CIA, and promptly plunged into Plotdeviceville, where Potter saves Charming through sex toys.The episode ends with Jax taking over, the implication that Tara is becoming Gemma, and Clay alive and kicking.

Castle and Beckett handcuffed together made for a fun episode. The writers could have turned this into another one of those episodes where they almost kiss in the face of imminent death, but instead made it funny.

Enlightened took a delightful turn when it focused on Amy's mother, Helen, in the same way an episode would focus on Amy. We get to learn about her backstory and her reflections on her daughter.

How I Met Your Mother was widely talked about on Tuesday, and for good reason. The episode was heartbreaking in many ways, as we learned Robin would never have children. It was, however, a very uneven episode. It fluctuated wildly, from "wow, this is really sad and Cobie Smulders is a great actress," to "fuck you, writers, for playing around with us again." There was the sex twist, then the pregnancy twist, to the no kids twist, and many in between. How long until there's a new twist, destroying the one before it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on shows from 11/28/11 - 12/4/11

I'm going backwards in the week like I did last week. And no, I still haven't caught up on Boardwalk Empire.

The Good Wife was rolling along just fine, with a case about a professor fired, possibly, for religious reasons, the return of Michael J. Fox, and the investigation into Will getting a little deeper. But the episode takes a wild turn past halfway into the episode, as it's possible that Grace has been abducted or something like that. As one could expect, all hell breaks loose and everyone scrambles to find Grace. Only, nothing happens in the end. Grace is fine--more than fine, actually. She's being baptized! While this brief but tense episode provides Alicia perspective on her parental role, I can't help but feel cheated--that the writers would gin up this situation only to have it resolve so easily.

Hell on Wheels is starting to lose me. This week, Bohannon and Elam have a fight lasting the entire second half the episode. So what? One the Irish brothers cheated to win lots of money? Meanwhile the main dramatic force seems to be the Indians, basically the generic outsiders who speak funny and are there to disrupt things.

Leverage's Office was a good bit of fun. There were some parts of the episode where it looked identical to the place where Jim and Dwight sit in Dunder Mifflin.

It's increasingly clear that Dexter has nothing left. The bad guys are boring--and even laughable--the side characters are still boring and laughable, and Dexter is becoming boring.

Boss is seemingly written in the "fictional but possibly realistic" style, but this week's episode clearly strayed from that. Kane turned into the Devil himself, crawling from the asehs and busting out all sorts of information that saves him. He destroys his daughters life and magically has incriminating pictures Zajac. Just like that he's back in business.

Is Bobby really gone on Supernatural? After Jim Beaver put up a great performance, it'd be a shame to see him gone for good like other great characters in the past, namely Cas.

Nikita's midseason finale ended with a big shocker, Alex's mother still alive. On a show where family bonds are fraught with many complications, it'll be interesting to see where this all goes.

I still don't understand Robert California on The Office. He shows up in the office, yells at Andy not to hire his wife, then spends the rest of the episode trying to get his wife hired. He makes no sense.

Parks and Recreation was a little sappy, but as a Leslie and Ben fan, I liked how the episode played out.

It's a shame no one watches Community, because it had another top-tier episode, with both the Dark Knight DVD and foosball plots.

American Horror Story is a bad show. It's like the writers never sat down for more than two minutes to actually discuss what the show is about. But that's part of the allure of the show--that there's a certainty random crap will happen each week. The episode ended with a hilarious revelation about the Pope and the Antichrist. Horrible? Yes. Horrible enough to be interesting? You betcha.

Psych had another good episode in this very strong season with the arrival of Juliet's father. Once again, though, the show's central premise of Shawn lying about psychic abilities is troubling. Juliet's father is a conman, someone who consistently let down his father. What about Shawn and his constant lies? Surely this subject has to be touched on eventually.

All the secrets got revealed on Sons of Anarchy, setting up what is sure to be a doozy of a season finale. Jax will have to kill Clay, right?

Sanctuary continues to have bad ideas, featuring a virtual world where Adam Worth's avatar resides. That makes perfect sense.......

New Girl finally gave Winston something to do!

Glee continues to burn off its goodwill from "The First Time" with yet another horrible episode. Can't say I'm surprised.

One episode away from the season finale, Terra Nova serves up an episode as boring as the ones at the beginning of the season. It's truly awe-inspiring to see the writers bumbling around such fertile ground.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoughts on shows from 11/18/11 to 11/27/11

I guess I'll make this a weekly thing, commenting on various shows that come to mind. As always, I have more to say on Twitter, so check that out. Last week I started from Sunday and went forward, but this week I'll start from yesterday (Sunday) and go backwards.

Dexter was awful. There is a problem with the twist and these "identity twists" in general. When 24 did these twists, everyone was surprised, and for good reason. These twists came out of the blue, with zero indication of something amiss. This is problematic, because you'd assume a mole would exhibit mole-like characteristics prior to the viewers finding out. Then there's the way Dexter did it, showing viewers large hints, but never explicitly telling us until now. Those of use who caught the hints were not only unsurprised but disappointed. Even master-sycophant Michael Ausiello was disappointed.

Neither of these options--popping it on the viewers randomly and genuinely surprising them, or giving viewers hints and not surprising them--are particularly good. Both have their flaws and few remedies. I will say, though, that the first option would probably be a better choice. 24's earlier identity twists were pretty good, shocking and fitting with the "anything goes" attitude of the show. Their weaknesses came in the later seasons, when viewers could already expect such twists.

For Scott Buck to treat the viewers with such impunity is a shame. Did he really think it'd be a good twist, 9 episodes into the season, after showing us hint after hint in each episode?

I don't get Hell on Wheels. Bohannon has a shoot out with Harper, then returns, while the rest of the characters continue to mill around doing nothing.

Once Upon a Time has been quite enjoyable, but its format is troubling. Each week's episode has a familiar pattern, the fairy tale story filling in the background of a character while the modern plot moves very slowly. Some deviation would be nice.

I don't want to sound all negative, but, yes, I have complaints about Homeland as well. A good part of Homeland was built upon this abstract idea that Brody was in Iraq and somehow turned. While there have been some twists here and there, this remains true--up until the last episode. Everything was peeled back, as we learned Brody's exact motivations, revenge for Abu Nazir's son. Is it compelling? Kind of. Is it hammy? I'd say so. The biggest problem is that Brody is now far, far less mysterious. I guess this is the natural progression of a show, but it shattered one of the illusions surrounding him.

The first half of The Walking Dead's second season hasn't been great, and has largely been hindered by the characters staying at the farm for so long, but the final scene was perfect. There's Shane, yelling like a crazed man--except he makes sense. They're living in a horrible world, with horrible conditions, with horrible zombies trying to eat them. What's left? So he opens the barn, letting out the zombies and everyone is forced to slaughter them all. Meanwhile, we can imagine how Herschel is feeling, as he clearly expressed his thoughts on zombies earlier. After they're done killing the zombies, out comes Sophia. The girl they're been looking for for weeks is not only dead but a zombie, feral, slowly walking towards them. The characters are stunned as should be every viewer. While Rick has been hanging back the whole time, wishing to respect Herschel, he finally gives in, blowing out Sophia's brains.

The Sanctuary musical episode was really bad. The writers have never been particularly skilled and it definitely showed. They don't have the creativity or finesse to pull off a musical episode that is both plausible and fun.

Suburgatory's Thanksgiving episode was fun and crazy, and remains a great pleasure to watch.

Opie finally snapped on Sons of Anarchy, putting a couple bullets into Clay. Whether he dies is something to be seen later, but there's no doubt that things will change.

Castle had the kind of serious episode is needs to have more often--not the trumped up, "will everyone die???" kind but the psychological one. The episode was by no means perfect, but it was better relative to the previous serious episodes. Excellent acting by Stana Katic in the scenes that demanded it, which is saying something, because she's usually very wooden.

Hawaii Five-0 was crazy and incredibly entertainly. Rebels in North Korea, taking a helicopter to North Korea, Jenna being a total idiot? What part of the episode made sense? But the episode had a plenty of action and amazing cinematography, so it was all good, in true Hawaii Five-0 spirit.

Terra Nova was more interesting than usual since it touched on Taylor's son and the mystery, but it's still not that interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on last week's shows

While I'm not doing reviews anymore, I still want to provide some thoughts on the shows of the week, some of which I've already said on Twitter. Basically, I'll write a sentence or two about the show that comes to mind, so I may not cover all shows if I don't have anything good to say. Also, I haven't watched the past three episodes of Boss or Boardwalk Empire. The episodes discussed, unless otherwise specified, will be from last week only. I'll try to keep the order in which they were aired.

Homeland remains the best new show on television and one of the best shows period. Each week the show is flipped on its head, all while the characters are richly developed to the fullest extent. Last week, Carrie hung out with Brody and we got all the explanations for his odd behavior, then learned of Walker still being alive. This week, Walker escapes and we see that Brody knows more than he's telling.

Dexter continues to be very boring. It seems like the only thing the writers have left is the eventual reveal that Gellar isn't actually there, something that's constantly been hinted at.

The Good Wife having less focus on Alicia is good. It allows for interesting plots like Will being the center of a big corruption investigation.

Hell on Wheels is visually gorgeous, but is otherwise lacking. It's never bad, as I would occasionally describe The Walking Dead or Dexter, but it's certainly awkward. The episodes are choppy and don't flow well, both plot-wise and thematically. A couple things I noted on Twitter earlier about last night's episode: Weird music at times, Bohannon randomly stumbling on Lily on his way to find Harper, acting on Johnson's tip a whole episode after getting the information, super explicit dialogue that would make Dexter blush.

The Walking Dead has gotten better since the opening episodes of the season. It's clear the writers are holding back the plot, but the farm setting has improved the viability of character development.

Terra Nova remains the most underwhelming show, using generic plot after generic plot, with the worst sci-fi tropes around. I wish someone would stand up in the writers room, toss all the papers to the ground, and tell everyone the truth: it's not just crap, but boring crap.

NCIS's two-parter ended with a whimper. There was hardly any plot and Gibbs's flashbacks were completely random.

After a great episodes two weeks ago--which was rightly touted, for once--Glee came back with an awful episode, reminding us why we shouldn't trust the show. Half the characters were crazy bitches in the episode and the other half was just crazy.

Sons of Anarchy has been great as it heads towards the end of the season. The lines are being drawn and it looks like a monumental shift will happen some time soon. It's funny that Kenneth Johnson got blown up again by Kurt Sutter.

Covert Affairs tried to do this big emotional episode with Annie and Eyal, but it was more cheesy than anything else. It stems from the fact that Eyal's role in the previous episodes was to be the smooth, foreign spy. Here, the writers try to make him something he isn't, with far too much fake emotion compared to who he is.

The Ava from Up All Night's pilot return and it wasn't pretty. Too screechy, too in your face, too much.

Psych had Shawn in a psych ward, which obviously had funny results.

American Horror Story still makes no sense, but I watch it each week because there are the occasional interesting flashback or something really freaky.

The identity mixing on Revenge is pretty fun.

Sadly, another awesome Community episode was predicated on the fact that it isn't on NBC's midseasons schedule. The episode works so well because we know these character intimately. The documentary format following Dean Pelton's madness is genius.

Parks and Recreation is on the midseason schedule, so that's something. Andy going to college with Ron was funny, and Amy Poehler showed her versatility in the episode.

Bones last week was better than the previous two episodes of the season, with less emphasis on Brennan doing something obviously objectionable and a better investigation. Hopefully the season will pick up from here.

The Office hasn't exactly been appointment TV for a while, but this season is embarrassing. Occasional, over the top silliness is fine, but every plot every week is the characters being buffoons.

The Mentalist had on okay case and some Cho scenes we always like, but I wish there was more follow-up on Red John. Lisbon wants to talk about it, but that's all the discussion there is.

Chuck, in the fourth episode of its final season, finally hit that familiar balance we've come to love.

Grimm is getting more interesting and the tone of the show is good, but Nick could use a big dose of charisma.

Fringe had another solid episode with an interesting, touching plot. Peter is still off on the sidelines--invisible, like the "bad guy" in the episode--which was fitting for the episode, but not necessarily conducive to the overall narrative.

Supernatural had the best plot in a long time, with plenty of icky shots and funny moments. The Leviathan twist was expected, though, and they aren't good enemies.

Blue Bloods is well-acted and well-made, but it's too damn perfect. There's zero flaws with the Reagans. Every problem they have is mostly resolved at the end of the episode, even if the episode begins with something major. With nothing on the line in every episode, it's hard to care what happens to the characters.

Sanctuary is quickly becoming something not worth watching. The Hollow Earth arc in season three--from episode to 7 to 10--was truly great, filled with wonderment, action, and a grittiness we rarely see on the show. After that petered out, the show went back to the lame, cutesy plots. Laughably, last week's episode tried to make us care about some characters we saw about one time total, and was a rehash of the 5th episode of the series. And the week before that featured the two flying abnormals--characters that were either introduced awkwardly or I'd forgotten about them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thoughts on Fringe Season 4 Episode 6 And Those We've Left Behind

I've officially stopped blogging regularly, so I'm just going to point something on last night's Fringe episode.

What's most interesting to me is Peter basically admitting that he doesn't belong and will try to get back to his own world. Are the writers considering sending him back to a perfect world, where Walter and Olivia know him? If not, there are still enough episodes left in this season, probably the final, for Peter to get reacquainted with everyone.

The End is Nigh

I don't know how else to begin, so I'll start off with a statement: I'm going to stop blogging regularly.

When I first blogging, I envisioned writing long recaps from the shows I watched, TWoP-style, with quips to go along with summaries. You can easily tell how sloppy the writing was and how I was trying to spit out words as fast as possible with some dumb jabs littered through the reviews.

But I had a mandate which, I think, has served me well: I'd only review shows I'd watched every episode of and I'd review every show I watched. While the second part of the mandate changed and I don't review everything I watch these days, the first has held true. The underlying principle is that I wanted to fully know about the show I was reviewing. So, yes, I've watched around 200 episodes of NCIS and hundreds, if not thousands, of episodes of the other procedurals I review. (Next time you find a typo, remember to blame the procedurals which rotted out my brain.)

Back to the story, after a few months of review, I realized I didn't have enough time for recaps and instead did more reviewing and less recapping. Good reviews should be about as long as good recaps, covering each part of the episode with some critical thought. Since my constraint was length, I was fine doing short reviews because the alternative would be short recaps. I got a much better understanding of television as I blogged, able to put a bunch of random thoughts into tangible words.

Flashforward to today. I don't have time to write reviews anymore. I'm having a hard time watching all the shows I've been watching let along write reviews. I haven't read the comments on this blog for a very long time (in part because I can imagine all the mean comments and spam) and I don't really check my email anymore either. As one can tell, the reviews for a number of months have been pretty poor, either too short or just plot summary. The time, effort, and concentration isn't there.

The television landscape is growing, with more basic cable and premium cable networks vying for a piece of the scripted show audience. If I could watch only 10 shows, review them, and be fine, that would be great. However, I don't want to half ass things. One can't critically say Breaking Bad is the best show on television when watching a couple shows regularly and random episodes here and there. There is a lot of comparison going on--albeit much of it subjective--and there must be established points of reference. I think it's a disservice when people review shows and make sweeping comments about them without knowing much of other shows. (I'd generally say this applies to Dexter fans, no offense.)

At the end of the day, I'd say I feel good about what I've done, if only for the sheer volume of reviews. According to the tags, I've written over 2000 reviews, which is pretty crazy. Yes, there are tons of misspellings, typos, omitted words, grammar errors, but I also think there are some good reviews somewhere in those 2000, however few there may be. I watch between 50 and 60 shows (which are still not canceled, though not necessarily airing right now), so I feel like I watched enough to give informed opinions.

If anyone is saddened for my departure, I'll probably be tweeting on Twitter more often, giving one or two line assessments for the shows I watch. (Recent sample:  "See, Glee, this is why you don't have a string of bad episodes. This week's episode was very solid, but I said I'd stop reviewing Glee.") Those who still haven't hopped on the Twitter train should really consider it. It's less personal than Facebook and more oriented towards information, which, as they say, is power.

Have fun, everyone, and remember to watch as much television as you can!

Review - Chuck Season 5 Episode 3 Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips

The way the writers handled the plot was impressive, considering how dumb the ending of last week's ending was. They managed to bring everything together, resolving Morgan's Intersect problem, creating an explanation for it, and ending the episode on a solid, if implausible, cliffhanger. That and the hilarious subplot where Awesome brings Jeff back to normalcy were enough to make the episode enjoyable.

However, the character stuff with Morgan didn't work. We're supposed to believe that Morgan acted the way he did in part because he was a little douchey himself, not just because the modified Intersect made him that way. This is problematic, because there aren't any well-defined lines on how the Intersect works on his brain. When the Intersect kick in and take over Morgan? The hazy ideas behind how the Intersect works makes the character development also hazy, as we don't know anything concrete.

As an aside, Chuck's ratings have been horrible, even for NBC standards. Do not expect a save like in previous years.

Score: 8.7/10

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review - The Secret Circle Season 1 Episode 9 Balcoin

By its ninth episode, The Vampire Diaires had turned the corner and departed from the boring teen angst for batshit crazy vampire adventures. The Secret Circle, unfortunately, has not reached that point yet--far from it. The majority of "Balcoin" is spent on Jake and Cassie and their doomed romance. While Jake continues to be suspicious, Cassie remains oblivious and silly. Then, Jake reveals who he is and floats away on the boat at the end of the episode. Great...

Score: 7.6/10

Review - The Vampire Diaries Season 3 Episode 9 Homecoming

I'm ready for Klaus to be killed. He survived Elijah's plan last season and now he's killed Mikael as well. It's getting a bit tiring to see these big, planned schemes fail. In "Homecoming," there's this huge plan involving all the characters and then it blows up in their faces. There's no "so what?" moment when the writers justify what they went through the motions to reach this point.

Mikael is dead, but what more did we learn about him? Nothing. Katherine loves Damon? Okay. Now freed Stefan is taking revenge on Klaus? Alright... All of this feels like wheels. We'll see what happens when the show returns in January.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Bones Season 7 Episode 2 The Hot Dog in the Competition

The characters of Bones are generally fun and well-meaning, but boy were some of them mean. The new intern Finn might have a distinctly Texas accent and a juvenile record, but Hodgins and Caroline really overreacted. Maybe that was the drama the writers were looking for, but good drama does not come from likable characters being dicks. Likewise, Brennan being inhuman for the thousandth time without any character growth or understanding gets old. Of course Booth wanted to be there when she saw the sex of the baby.

The rest of the episode was about what one would expect. Everyone becomes friendly under the backdrop of a case involving competitive eating. After a rough start, people accept Finn and all is well.

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Parks and Recreation Season 4 Episode 7 The Treaty

"The Treaty" is a good reminder that Parks and Recreation has a heck of a lot more continuity and overall story than The Office these days. The episode continues from last week's episode with plenty of Leslie and Ben drama as well as Tom getting his old job back after the crash of Entertainment 720. I like Tom in a more serious role, being semi-useful, in contrast to constant Entertainment 720 hyping.

The main thing I wanted to comment on was Chris. He's the most problematic character on the show--oblivious yet not as heartwarming as Andy, visible yet not contributing to the main stories. In "The Treaty," he feels more complete. He's able to notice sarcasm and, for once, is able to sit down and have a meaningful conversation. As a plus, the person he sits down with is Ann, who was in a relationship with him and is still troubled.

Score: 8.9/10

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 5 Episode 9 The Ornithophobia Diffusion

Episodes like "The Ornithophobia Diffusion" feel like tests. In the case of this week's episode, the writers are testing the boundaries of how antagonistic Penny and Leonard can be with each other and how nonsensical, illogical, and silly Sheldon can be. If you usually like these things, then the episode was probably fine. If not, the episode is painful.

The Leonard and Penny stuff I could live with. Though on the mean side, the plot did explore their relationship which was sorely unexplored when they were actually together. From the way they were acting, they probably won't be getting back together anytime soon.

The Sheldon plot, however, was pretty dumb. Sheldon's supposed to be neurotic genius whose intelligence is often overshadowed by his social awkwardness. Here, he's just neurotic, devoid of any character besides his phobia.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Community Season 3 Episode 7 Studies in Modern Movement

"Studies in Modern Movement" is a funky episode that didn't really feel like a Community episode. The characters are out of their normal school setting, and there are three separate plots versus the two which have been the norm this season. Though this kind of episode might have seemed less palatable earlier in the show's run, we come to know and love these characters so much that it's funny regardless of what's actually going on.

The three plots have little to do with character growth or anything, but give us a charming look at their lives. Abed and Troy act very weird and a little rude to Annie when she moves in, so she finally snaps, understandably, and gives them a piece of her mind. Dean is a creeper as usual and drags Jeff into a music video. Britta and Shirley ride together, arguing about religion before they pick up a hitchhiker who believes he's Jesus. The central theme is that these character can live with each other even when they're not part of the bigger group. It doesn't work as well as episodes where they're all together, but it works fine for its purpose.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Psych Season 6 Episode 5 Dead Man's Curve Ball

I think I've been suffering from Psych withdrawal, because I really liked the first five episodes of this season more than I usually do. "Dead Man's Curve Ball" is an episode where Shawn and Gus are just doing silly, ridiculous things while the plot flounders. But Psych isn't a plot-oriented show anyway, and the episode turns into a big laugh riot with lots of physical humor.

Score: 8.7/10

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 11/8/11

CBS won with NCIS (4.1), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.4), and Unforgettable (2.4).

FOX was second with Glee (3.1), New Girl (3.5), and Raising Hope (2.1). Glee continues to go up and down, but it's almost certain that it's nowhere where it used to be.

NBC was third with The Biggest Loser (2.4) and Parenthood (2.0).

ABC was last with Last Man Standing (2.6), Man Up! (1.7), Dancing With the Stars (2.8), and In the Spotlight with Robin Robert (1.7). Man Up continues to slide towards cancellation, and Last Man Standing

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 11/7/11

CBS won with How I Met Your Mother (4.4), 2 Broke Girls (4.6), Two and a Half Men (5.2), Mike & Molly (4.2), and Hawaii Five-0 (3.1).

ABC was second with Dancing with the Stars (3.4) and Castle (2.4).

FOX was third with Terra Nova (2.6) and House (2.8). Terra Nova's ratings, while underwhelming, should be enough for renewal. House's, on the other hand, may not be enough after 8 seasons.

NBC was last with The Sing-Off (1.5) and Rock Center with Brian Williams (1.0).

Review - NCIS Season 8 Episode 9 Engaged (Part I)

NCIS is generally a light, fun show, but it knows how to do serious as well. When it does serious, it doesn't do the played up false tension that's so prevalent on Castle. And when it does do the tension, people actually get hurt as we've seen numerous times in the past. The trade-off is that the seriousness comes out of a certain melodrama or darkness.

"Engaged" is one of those melodramatic episodes, playing up the military aspect of the show as much as possible. Given that it is a two-parter, the plot moves slowly and sets up for next week's episode. Other than that, a bit too much pandering and not enough of the normal stuff NCIS needs.

Score: 8.5/10

Review - Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 12 Uberlin

I didn't review last week's fall premiere because the episode contained the worst parts of the show, basically anything to do with Jai. Normally, a show might retool things that didn't work in the first season, cutting them out entirely or radically changing them. Covert Affairs, however, doubles down: more Jai, this time with a different job within the CIA.

"Uberlin" places Jai off to the side and instead focus on Arthur's past. He and Joan have been underdeveloped, so it was good that we got lots of backstory on him as well as seeing him doing spy world. While this will certainly not be a normal occurrence, Arthur was a lot cooler than he's been and worked well with Annie.

For the second week in a row, Covert Affairs was partially shot on location. There's really a marked difference seeing the real Venice and real Berlin compared to the lame green screen we usually have to see. Unfortunately, the show doesn't have the budget to fly all around the world, so we probably won't get another episode like this for a while.

Score: 8.8/10

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Episode 10 Hands

Wow. So much happens in "Hands" that it's impossible to turn back. Looking back at the previous 9 episodes, the cartel business was reversible to a degree. The Sons could have backed out before things got too deep or maybe shot their way out. We'll never know if it would be possible since they don't even try, but now it's too late. The cartel does things their way, despite Clay's urgings to call off the hit, and that's that.

Clay beats the shit out of Gemma and Tara gets her hand crushed by Clay's hired hitman. If Clay shooting Piney wasn't enough, those two evens were the nails in the coffin. Clay's not going to make it out alive, and if he is, he'll be very marginalized. With four episodes left in the season (an extra added earlier this week), Jax has plenty of time to deal with Clay.

The most powerful part of the episode is Tara getting her hand crushed. Being a surgeon is the one thing she has which keep her tethered to the outside world, the one skill interchangeable in Charming and anywhere else in the world. Her hand, crushed, represents any hope Tara has of leaving Charming. She has nothing now but Jax, the kids, Charming, and the club which doomed her career. After 9 episodes of not getting much to do, Maggie Siff is simply amazing in the episode, in her calm and anger.

And what can Jax do? Apologize, say sorry? He's out of luck, with nowhere to turn, and he still doesn't know the half of what Clay has done.

Score: 9.5/10

Review - New Girl Season 1 Episode 5 Cece Crashes

The possibility of Jess and Nick hooking up has been floating out there since the first episode, but not explicitly addressed until tonight's episode. Them getting together could lead to lots of easy plots for the writers, but it would also mean submitting to an obvious sitcom trope. Nothing happens in the episode and we don't know how often the writers will press the issue, so I'm in wait and see mode.

The episode title, "Cece Crashes," really hits the point. Cece crashes into the show, disrupting everything about it. She's nice to look at, but is otherwise a big, annoying nuisance without any positive qualities. We can accept Jess's quirkier traits because we know she means well. With Cece, she's kind of just doing whatever she wants.

Score: 8.3/10

Review - House Season 8 Episode 5 The Confession

It's safe to say the writers have accepted that House is a silly show and aren't interested anymore in realism. The return of Chase and Taub isn't anything spectacular, but it introduces some more fun dynamics--new team and old team, old team plus Foreman as boss, and old team dealing with House. They work well in "The Confession," an episode without a good medical mystery, but has significantly more joking than in previous episodes.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 7 Episode 8 Disaster Averted

HIMYM has built up so many gags over the years that it can pull them out from time to time with great effect. Ducky tie, slap bet, Barney and Robin--lots of old favorites in one episode. "Disaster Averted" moves very fast, as Ted tries to tell a story about boogie boarding which wanders off into Hurricane Irene, with the majority of the story spent showing how fun the group is together. Between Ted telling the story, Barney wants to get rid of his tie, because he'll be meeting Nora's parents. Barney trades three more slaps on top of the one Marshall already had--and promptly receives two slaps. This leads to Barney and Robin kissing in the cab, something that should drastically alter what's been going on this season, in particular with Nora.

The episode is odd because it's almost entirely comprised of a flashback. It's some time in the past, probably near the beginning of the season, but we not know exactly how it fits exactly into the show's timeline. Once the episode starts rolling, however, it's more of an afterthought when the events occurred.

Score: 9.1/10

Review - Terra Nova Season 1 Episode 7 Nightfall

Trying to ignore expectations for Terra Nova is a near impossible task. The characters are millions of years in the past, surrounded by dinosaurs, and there hasn't been one interesting plot yet. I think part of the problem is that their living conditions and way of life is actually really good and their lives unchallenging. We can't help but want more from the show, given its premise.

Even with dumbed down expectations that the writers have no good ideas, "Nightfall" isn't a particularly good episode. At this point, I'd say that the random, cutesy subplots are actually better than the A plot, as unbelievable as  that may sound. The episode starts with the plot device, a meteor hitting the atmosphere and creating an EM pulse, which knocks everything out. Why it knocks everything out is a mystery. The archives actually has shielding against the pulse and Alicia even describes how the Russo-Chinese used it in Somalia, so it's not like they don't know about the threat. In any case, it leads to a series of misadventures until the box is stolen. The plot is better than the generic ones that began the season and had a cool sequence where Mira uses a dinosaur to attack Terra Nova, so I guess that's something.

The revelation of what's in the box isn't much. It has pretty colors, but is otherwise unimpressive. The writers don't even give us a clue what it's for, unless you want to speculate what the various diagrams and shapes are. On the plus side of the plot, it seems like Mira follows Lucas, Taylor's son. That's a new development at least.

Worse than the main plot, though, is the tale of the worm. Just a bunch of horse shit with Skye and a random roomie who confesses his love to her. Could someone please teach the writers how to write serialized television?

Score: 8.1/10

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review - Dexter Season 6 Episode 6 Just Let Go

Okay, I think I'm done reviewing this season. I remember previous seasons being mediocre and I even didn't watch the end of the third season, but I don't remember a season with this many boring ideas. Maybe Brian showing up and Dexter going full-on serial killer will change things, but I'm not confident about that.

I don't even want to comment on the rest of the episode, but I have a question. Did the writers include Ryan's theft of the Ice Truck Killer's hand earlier in the season solely so we'd remember who Brian was when he did pop up? I actually wouldn't be surprised if they did, given their continuing incompetence.

Score: 7.5/10

Review - Hell on Wheels Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot

Well, that wasn't what I expected. The pilot of Hell on Wheels is well-shot and looks great, but it's missing something every good Western needs--good characters. Aside from the main character Cullen, who's harboring lots of darkness, the other characters are drawn very poorly.

There's Elam played by faded rapper Common, who acts as a major plot device. Right as Cullen is about to learn from Daniel the name of the sergeant who killed his wife and, conveniently, is in the same exact camp, Elam kills him. With that, Daniel is made into a plot device--the necessary impetus for Cullen to continue his search to exact revenge--and Elam is turned into the guy who has ridiculously bad timing.

Colm Meaney is good, but his scenes are just bizarre. He spouts off these long monologues with flowery speech to no one in particular, with no goal in mind. While the other characters have conversations and walk around, Thomas Durant sits and talks about making money and railroads. Really unnatural and baffling.

Oddly packed into the episode is Lily and her husband drawing maps for the railroad company. There is an Indian attack leaving everyone but Lily dead and she's left wandering out there. It seems to me like it'd be better to place her story in the second episode, so there'd be better focus on both ends.

Although there is little to like of Hell on Wheels so far, there are distinct reminders of Deadwood. Yes, there's almost no chance it'll ever be as good, but one can hope.

Score: 8.3/10

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review - The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 4 Cherokee Rose

I actually like the style of "Cherokee Rose," a relatively laid-back episode without much of a central plot and a lot of quiet moments for the characters. There's no overbearing sense of false urgency, just people doing what's required of them and nothing more.

My main complaints with the previous episodes were that the tension didn't match the eventual plot outcome, very small increments. This week's episode is completely different, with individual groups off doing their own thing. Everyone convenes to get the zombie out of the well, which ends in a glorious splatter, before going of to do their own thing. Maggie and Glenn get supplies from a pharmacy and hook up. Shane talks to Andrea about shooting. Rick wants Hershel to let them stay. Darryl tries to comfort Carol about Sophia. Lori confirms her pregnancy. There's nothing spectacular, and the dialogue could still use lots of work, but for its purposes, the episode worked.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Homeland Season 1 Episode 6 The Good Soldier

The usage of the polygraph in "The Good Soldier" is very unsettling and leaves a multitude of questions that need to be answered. The first major, and perhaps most important, polygraph incident is Saul flubbing the first test when asked whether he slipped razor. This could indicate a lot of things. The most obvious would be Saul as the mole. But if he were truly this good of a mole, would he have failed so easily the first time and passed the second? Then again, if he was the mole, he did get away unscathed. Another thought is that the writers used Saul as a benchmark before Brody's test, to show that the test can go in any which direction depending on the disposition of the subject. If Saul can have different answers at different times with different results, then so can Brody.

Carrie and Brody hook up in the episode, and it's fairly interesting. They seem completely at ease with each other, and Brody certainly has no problem performing with Carrie as he does with Jessica. Carrie's behavior stays consistent, though. She's able to instantly disconnect from the sex, using it as a tool. It seems like she blew her cover at the end of the episode, asking about Brody cheating on his wife, leading to Brody telling her to get in his car at the end of the episode. Will he know?

Despite Brody passing the test, all signs still point to him being a sleeper. We're reminded during the service for Walker that Brody, in fact, beat Walker to death. Then, Brody gets through the polygraph--including the question about cheating on his wife which he obviously just did with Carrie.

The people outside of Carie's immediate life continue to have short lifespans. Faisel and Aileen have barely been introduced and now Faisel is dead, killed by their handlers. We get to see how scared Faisel is and how Aileen was the original terrorist, but not enough time was spent on them to really build anything. Still, I'm not sure I would like more time spent on these other plots. Carrie being the central pillar of the show works very, very well, and disruption to that may not beneficial.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - The Good Wife Season 3 Episode 7 Executive Order 13224

"Executive Order 13224" is about as packed as an episode can get without going overboard. There are so many things flying around during the episode that the episode could have gotten out of hand under less capable writers. However, the episode is tightly plotted, so the episode more dense than anything else.

Put under personal threat, Alicia hires her own lawyer, Elsbeth Tascioni, Peter's old lawyer played by the very impressive Carrie Preston, who is nothing short of delightful in her attitude and tricks. The case of the week was probably the strongest of the season, with hilarious redacted reenactments (which, I presume, were going on in Caitlin's head), and thorny issues regarding the post-9/11 world.

In another strong plot, Peter tries to go after Lamont Bishop through information on Will provided by Blake. It leads to a confrontation between Peter and Will which almost reached an apex before calming down. It looks like Dana will stay on the show, as the law firm was just using her to lure the person they really wanted.

For the n-th time, Grace had a subplot and it was awful. The writers have been so off-base with the children since the first season that we shouldn't expect more. Grace is back to her idiotic ways, learning about religion through the internet. I understand that teenagers can be dense at times, but it's pathetic how dumb Grace is. She hears that Jesus never said anything about gays but spoke against divorce on numerous occasion, and her thinking changes instantly as she tells her father getting divorced would be bad. As bad as the plot was, it became an afterthought in an otherwise strong episode.

Score: 9.2/10

Review - Once Upon a Time Season 1 Episode 3 Snow Falls

Three episodes in and Once Upon a Time is still in the table-setting phase. Each episode switches back and forth between the two worlds--the fairy tale part explaining backstory while the modern part moves at one slow step at time. While the tone of the show remains solid along with the great CGI (which put Grimm's to shame), the premise of the show has stagnated.

Everything is one-dimensional to the point where we can expect almost everything that happens next. Snow White and Prince Charming had love at first sight, despite Snow saying the opposite. The one-time use spell in a bottle is used to save the prince instead of killing the Queen. See how much she cares about him already?

In the modern world, it isn't much different. Comatose John Doe responds to Mary's touch and snaps out of it eventually. But John Doe has a wife! Mary cries afterwards, seeing her true love with someone else. Henry continues to blather on about the fairy tale while Emma and Mary indulge his ideas for the time being. When will the story pick up?

Score: 8.2/10

Review - Nikita Season 2 Episode 7 Clawback

I'm beginning to get worried that Nikita is overextending itself. There are already several major conflicts going on between the various factions we know, with interests colliding and crossing at every turn. "Clawback" introduces yet another one without resolving any of the previous conflicts: Division vs. Oversight. Now, it may turn out that all the conflicts get resolved in one fell swoop, so it doesn't matter in the long run, but it's worrisome that so much is piling up without anything be dealt with first.

At the same time, with Ryan presumed dead and working for Amanda, there will be plenty of plots available in the future. There are definitely more moving pieces this season than in the first, so pretty much anything could happen.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Grimm Season 1 Episode 2 Bears Will Be Bears

The second episode of Grimm exposes some glaring holes in the show. The most obvious is the CGI. There are a few scant glimpses of bear faces (which could have been anything), some hazy, brown blobs going through the forest, and a half-second of a whole bear. If the show doesn't have enough budget for solid CGI already, it's troubling to think whether the show can ever be more without showing the monsters in full for an extended period of time.

Then there are the structural problems. Nick's girlfriend is living plot device, intended to show the things Nick may have to give up. Hopefully the writers do something interesting if her character--either give her something to do or get rid of her entirely. The trailer is also a big plot device. It conveniently provides all the answers if Nick just looks--and quite quickly, I may add. It's parked right outside his house, but his evil boss still has no clue about it.

Score: 8.0/10

Review - The Mentalist Season 4 Episode 7 Blinking Red Light

The Mentalist always becomes a different show when Red John is in the picture, because the kill is revealed at the beginning or middle of the episode. "Blinking Red Light," however, goes along like a regular episode for the vast majority of episode. First, there's the obvious suspect who isn't the serial killer, followed by Jane narrowing his scope to the reporter. The timing of Jane's trap comes earlier than usual, and his plan is quickly foiled.

Instead of using another scheme, Jane comes up with an even more devious way to get rid of Panzer. He baits him into insulting Red John and, lo and behold, Red John kills Panzer. With one move, Jane deals with the current serial killer and gets the proof that Red John is still out there. It's a disturbing that Jane would do this--that he'd take a calculated move like this--but The Mentalist has never shied away from the darkness inside Jane and it's very fitting.

Score: 8.8/10

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review - Supernatural Season 7 Episode 7 The Mentalists

I don't know if it's just me being tired with Supernatural, because "The Mentalists," a typical monster of the week, left me wishing for more--not necessarily Leviathan more, but something the season can really grip on. It's nice that we get a funky ghost story, which had plenty of funny lines and the most solid plot in a long time, but the Sam and Dean conflict, running underneath this episode and season, was again not very inspiring.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Fringe Season 4 Episode 5 Novation

After four episodes sans Peter, "Novation" is a pretty low-key episode considering the circumstances. Peter is off to the side for majority of the episode, interrogated a couple times but in his cell the entire time. The characters' response to him is actually realistic; they have no clue who he is, but he's not an imminent threat, so they don't make a big deal out of him. It's also good that Peter is a smart guy and figures the situation out almost instantly, and does cause a big raucous trying to convince everyone they know him.

The problem with the episode, though, is that the new shape-shifters don't really make good enemies. I like that Peter helped on the case, but the conclusion of the episode is rather tepid: now they can't know who's a shape-shifter unless they perform surgery on them. I'm sure they'll come up with a solution sooner or later. The larger problem is that they're part of the larger mythology of the show--something that's always been nebulous at best, changing at the writers' whims. It's pretty obvious the writers make stuff up as they go--evidenced by the random forays into the pattern, the Bible, etc--so it's hard to gauge anything about the plot.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Chuck Season 5 Episode 2 Chuck Versus the Bearded Bandit

Seriously? "Chuck Versus the Bearded Bandit" sets up Morgan as the worst person version of himself--wildly overconfident, annoying, and bone-headed. The episode ends in a horrible, unforgivable place, Morgan going to Gertrude Verbanski. Then, "surprise!!" Morgan doesn't remember who Skywalker is--there's a problem with his brain, not a simple problem of character.

The problem would have worked much better if Morgan had been toned down a notch or two and the cockiness resolved by the end of the episode. Another solution would be to build up Morgan's new attitude slower, stretching it out over two episodes, and focus more on the case. There are elements of the episode that work, like Chuck tasked to become Morgan's handler. But with Morgan going crazy, there wasn't any exploration into that.

The spy mission usually doesn't make sense, but I found this week's to be more incoherent than usual. The writers make it a point to verify the story of the brother being kidnapped, but the story is completely wrong. All Morgan had to "zoom" on was that he's in witness protection. Does Carmichael Industries not have the capability to find out something as simple as that?

Score: 8.1/10

Friday, November 4, 2011

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Thursday 11/3/11

FOX won with The X Factor (3.7) and Bones (3.3). Strong return for the delayed season premiere of Bones.

CBS was second with The Big Bang Theory (5.4),  Rules of Engagement (3.7), Person Of Interest (2.7), and The Mentalist (2.9).

ABC was third with Charlie's Angels (1.2), Grey's Anatomy (3.6), and Private Practice (2.6).

NBC was last with Community (1.7), Parks & Recreation (2.1), The Office (3.2), Whitney (2.1), and Prime Suspect (1.2). Prime Suspect hasn't been canceled yet, but I can't see it lasting much longer.

Review - The Secret Circle Season 1 Episode 8 Beneath

"Beneath" lays off on the plot-heavy aspect of the show and allows the characters to be themselves. This leads to one of the most tightly woven episodes so far. It pulls together Henry's death, the theft of Jane's crystal, and the various feelings that have been floating around as Cassie kisses Jake twice.

Faye has been the most exciting character (though the other characters are pretty boring so it's not a huge complement) and she gets more emotional content this week, reminded of her childhood by the girl running around in the darkness. Like in her more playful scenes, Faye expresses more than the other characters and breaks down over the girl--before seeing her grandfather dead.

As far as the overall mystery goes, all the factions are in the same place but missing each other. It's kind of funny, actually. Each faction knows specifically about only one of the other factions. Jake being ordered to kill Cassie should shake things up. My guess is that he'll become a good guy and spill the beans, but the writers could kill off another character.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - The Vampire Diaries Season 3 Episode 8 Ordinary People

It's times like these when I wish The Vampire Diaries had a larger budget. While the flashbacks are nice and give some perspective, Rebekah having to narrate a majority of the story showed the clear limitations of what they could do. Imagine if, at the end of the episode, we see Klaus ripping the heart out of his mother's chest. Now that would be crazy. Furthermore, there wasn't even enough money to hire a language person, so we had to listen to Vikings speak English.

Even so, "Ordinary People" fills in the blanks of the vampires' origins--how they'd become vampires to fight off the werewolves, how Klaus's mother had an affair with a werewolf which resulted in his hybridation, her shunning of him which led to him killing her, and finally Klaus's deception, which, when revealed, leaves Rebekah in tears.

The only other plot in the episode was Stefan and Damon hanging out at a bar before Mikael talks to them about luring Klaus back to Mystic Falls. The episode ends with a sentiment that pushes Elena out of the picture: Stefan will saved himself not because of his love for Elena, but for Damon

Score: 8.8/10

History lesson of the week: Vikings had Hebrew names and drew cave paintings!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review - Bones Season 7 Episode 1 The Memories in the Shallow Grave

Six season of will-they-won't-they, the final three marred by Hart Hansen's bad decision making. Six seasons of Bones being distant and cold, the last seasons filled with Booth pining for Bones. Then at the end of last season, bam!, it all changes. Bones is pregnant, she and Booth are together, the pining is over. It's a bit sudden.

Honestly, I'm not sure the writers had a better choice, what with Emily Deschanel getting getting pregnant. Her pregnancy already delayed filming the show, and hiding her pregnancy, or avoiding it completely, would delay the show even more or create an unnatural situation where the director is constantly trying to hide the baby bump. There are very few options.

That said, the handling of the pregnancy thus far hasn't been good, though this is only the first episode of the season. The jump from last season--when the relationship was going nowhere fast--to this season--Booth and Bones living together--is way too sudden. While the relationship of the past few seasons was stagnant, at least it was consistent. All the problems of the past are washed away, stricken from the record.

And the relationship problems haven't really gotten better with the pregnancy. The prime squabble of the season premiere? Booth wants a permanent residence for his family, but Bones is unwilling. On top of that, Booth, idiotically, wants to split their money 50-50 for the house. Booth, do you want to split 50-05 and have a tiny house because you have no money, or don't split and have a massive house paid by a small portion of Bones's wealth?

Another problem is that the pregnancy focus took away from the case. The pacing is languid, the suspects minimal, and the case is tossed around until it's solved.

I like Bones a lot--the characters, the cases, the bodies. But Booth and Bones, who are the heart of the show, have been very problematic characters when the writers focus on their relationship. Normally, there relationship episodes and normal episodes, with normal episodes as the majority. I worry, however, that the pregnancy will convert every episode into a relationship episode.

Score: 8.1/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Wednesday 11/2/11

FOX won with The X Factor (4.0).

ABC was second with The Middle (3.0), Suburgatory (3.1), Modern Family (5.7), Happy Endings (3.4), and Revenge (3.0). All 3.0+ for ABC!

CBS was third with Survivor (3.6), Criminal Minds (3.7), and CSI (2.7).

NBC was last with Up All Night (1.8), a repeat of Up All Night (1.2), Harry's Law (1.1), Law & Order: SVU (2.0). Up All Night continues to slip and Harry's Law continues to do poorly. It's NBC...

Review - The Big Bang Theory Season 5 Episode 8 The Isolation Permutation

While things rarely change on The Big Bang Theory, and even less for the male characters, the addition of Amy to the show has been great. She can be equally annoying as Sheldon, but she has girly qualities which make her seem more human and likable.

"The Isolation Permutation" puts her on full display when she's left out of trying on bridesmaid dresses. She cries, cuddles with Sheldon, and gets drunk outside a liquor store. It's all very funny, yet cute, behavior. At the end of the episode, she gets to be maid of honor, so we actually get a good indication the wedding is coming sooner.

Score: 8.7/10

Review - Community Season 3 Episode 6 Advanced Gay

I don't like Pierce, so a lot of my enjoyment of "Advanced Gay" came mostly from the other characters. Jeff and Britta were on point the entire episode, with Britta talking about the "Edible Complex" the entire episode, and the use of the gay community was pretty clever. On the other hand, the episode did little to change my opinion about Pierce. The introduction of his father shifts part of his personality problems away from him, but it also makes Pierce seem very weak. Then, the episode gives an easy out once his father dies--problem solved!

Troy choosing between air conditioning and plumbing was hilarious stuff, the best side-parody this season. The bizarreness is certainly there and the plot actually moves, as Troy decides not to join the easy life of air conditionering. Hopefully John Goodman will stick around on the show long enough so we can revisit the plot.

Community episode titles always (like 90%) have something to do with education and learning, so the title for tonight's episode, "Advanced Gay," caught my eye. Advanced Gay what? As it turns out, the missing word didn't matter much.

Score: 8.9/10

Review - Parks and Recreation Season 4 Episode 6 End of the World

An episode about end times probably would have been more fitting back in May when Harold Camping was getting more attention relative to how much he got two weeks ago, but "End of the World" is still a fun episode, mixing the kookiness of the people with some great character beats--Ron profiting from them, Chris discussing reincarnation, and Leslie trying to deal with her feelings for Ben.

Entertainment 720 goes out with a bang as Tom and Jean-Ralphio blow the rest of the their money on a lavish party. I'm pretty sure they spent more than the 10K they actually had, so their finances are in even worse shape than they think. Generally, Entertainment 720 added nothing of value to the show and was there only to show Tom and his lavish parties. It didn't really affect anything going on in the Parks Department. Now that Tom will presumably be back with the rest of the characters, hopefully he'll be better integrated into the show.

April and Andy are off in their own end of the world events as they try do as many items on Andy's bucket list. Most of the stuff is funny and April's involvement beyond her usual passive self is very sweet.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Revenge Season 1 Episode 7 Charade

Revenge now has had two non revenge of the week episodes after beginning the show with five. Mainly, these two episodes have dealt with Frank and his investigation in Emily. At the end of the episode, Frank is dealt with and no specific knowledge is leaked, though Victoria will surely be more suspicious than ever.

We learn how the real Emily Thorne swapped places with the real Amanda Clarke (the Emily we've been following), and now the real Emily is at fake Emily's house. Yeah, this is going to be more than awkward. Undoubtedly, it'll be very hard to keep things under wrap, especially with Victoria poking around.

Of all the characters on Revenge, Declan is easily the most unlikable. The writers want to make it so that Declan's the only honest guy and that may be true, but being honest doesn't mean he has to be a prick. He doesn't need to that outraged, offensive tone whenever he opens his mouth. How would he like it if everyone told him the truth every time they see him that he's an idiot?

Finally, we learn explicitly what's going on with Tyler. He's gay and Nolan is as well. While Tyler believes he can quell Nolan with sex, Nolan instead tapes it, giving him plenty of future control over Tyler.

Score: 8.8/10

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review - Up All Night Season 1 Episode 7 Parents

Despite all my impulses telling me that the relationship between Reagan and her mother was too dysfunctional for so long for a quick resolution, the ending got me. It felt completely earnest and heartfelt. In retrospect, it probably shouldn't have been that easy--her mother picking up Amy to let Reagan sleep--but I really bought it.

Ava in the backdrop worked fine this week, as she wasn't obnoxious and the plot fit in with Chris worrying about dying. I hope the show continues to use Ava this way.

Score: 8.8/10

Review - Suburgatory Season 1 Episode 6 Charity Case

Every show, even a satire like Suburgatory, needs reasonable characters, people who have brains and are somewhere in the ballpark of real life people. "Charity Case" goes waaaaaaay overboard in making the supporting characters dumb, and gets lame quick. The school is clueless and ignorant to no end while Tessa, clearly the only sane person, tries to teach them something. The episode is filled with these silly, stupid moments, topped off with Tessa sort of understanding where they are coming from when she doesn't want to stuff people give her.

Plenty of sitcoms feature exaggerated characters and worlds, but the good ones manage to dial it back just a bit to let the human elements shine through, making one dimensional characters more than they are. Suburgatory, however, still has a long ways to go if "Charity Case" is not an aberration.

Score: 7.7/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Tuesday 11/1/11

CBS won with NCIS (3.9), NCIS: Los Angeles (3.4), and Unforgettable (2.3). Not good numbers for Unforgettable. We'll see if it can get higher ratings later in the year, as it was given a full season.

FOX was second with Glee (3.0) and New Girl (3.6). Glee continues to get nowhere near where it got last season and the huge break for New Girl didn't help. Still, despite the risky move not to air any new episodes of New Girl for a month, it got healthy ratings last night.

ABC was third with Last Man Standing (2.7), Man Up (1.8), Dancing With the Stars (2.8), and Body of Proof (1.9). Man Up! continues to slip while Body of Proof still isn't doing well.

NBC was last with The Biggest Loser (2.3).

Review - Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Episode 9 Kiss

Given that Kurt Sutter has stated he wants SOA to have 7 seasons and the ratings for the show continue to climb, it's hard to believe that Jax would really walk away from the club, despite his own declarations. Likewise, it's hard to believe that the club won't get out of bed with Galindo. So all the movement in the episode--Jax realizing how bad the situation is and wanting to leave with Tara, the reappearance of the Niners as partners with LS, Potter going to Otto--is conditional on how this season actually turns out. We'll have to see if there really is a big payoff at the end of the season which stays faithful to the characters and extricates them from the cartel.

I don't believe Tara will be killed, but if she does, I don't think it'll be too big of a loss. Tara hasn't had much to do since last season, so her impact on the show if she dies will be how others react to her death, not a loss of what she was doing (which was essentially raising kids and reading letters).

On the other hand, I can envision Clay being killed or severely marginalized by the end of the season. Gemma and Uncer pretty much conclude that Clay can't be saved, and all Gemma can do is keep Clay close to try to sway his mind. Then, Clay immediately defies Gemma and calls the hitman. With this, Clay is past the point of no return, if he hadn't been already. If she is so forgone, what kind of character growth will he have? Probably none. And if so, why would remain on the show, if not for being a plot device?

Score: 8.8/10

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review - New Girl Season 1 Episode 4 Naked

The plots of "Naked" don't have much substance--one revolving around the "p word" and the other around American pop culture--but the show proves that it has enough charm regardless of the plot. Zooey Deschanel's high-energy acting meshes well with the other actors and the show moves on quickly without dwelling too much on how oblivious Jess can be.

While I've liked the other characters more as the show has progressed, I want Winston to get a more solid plot, preferably one which has him talking with another adult beyond his roommates. All he did in the previous episode was have a dance off with a kid and this week he catches up on American pop culture (because Latvia apparently doesn't have internet or something like that). Both Nick and Schmidt have done things with people outside their group, and it's about time for Winston.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Glee Season 3 Episode 4 Pot O' Gold

I think I'm done reviewing Glee, and possibly done with the show entirely. Each episode is increasingly filled with random horseshit that the good moments are harder to find; in "Pot O' Gold," there are literally none to be found. Because of all the terribleness, I want to dissect the episode and point out each piece of crap. The problem is, I don't have the time. So I'm probably going to continue to watch the show, but not bother saying anything about it.

In general, a review of any random Glee episode will consist of the following: There are a bunch of stories and most don't work. The songs are generic pop songs and add nothing to the episode other than adding a song. A couple characters are batshit insane and inhuman, but the writers keep writing them like that. There are multiple lapses of continuity, leading to questions about character motivations.

"Pot O' Gold" somehow combines the very worst of everything Glee does, and rolls it up into one stinking episode. From what we've seen in the past, Glee could be a very good show, combining humor and drama effectively. The writers, however, are far too lazy to do that on a consistent basis.

Score: 5.0/10

Review - NCIS Season 9 Episode 7 Devil's Triangle

Gibbs and Fornell are always a fun duo, especially when their love lives come into focus. They're dysfunctional people, perfectly fit for each other, but beneath the humor is a melancholy feeling. Things get weird when their shared ex-wife wants their help finding her current husband. Old feelings are brought back--she having cheated on Fornell, and Gibbs being her Shannon--which probably won't matter in the long run, but add additional information to the characters.

The investigation ends on an ambiguous note, with the "beware the Military-Industrial Complex" line said after it's surmised that someone opposed to the military draw down targeted officials at the football game. Hopefully the investigation will be closed in a future episode and not obliquely referenced in the middle of a random episode.

Score: 8.7/10

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Thursday 10/27/11

FOX won with game 6 of the World Series (6.5).

CBS was second with The Big Bang Theory (4.6), Rules of Engagement (3.3), Person Of Interest (2.7), and The Mentalist (2.5). Person of Interest was given a full season pickup. Whether it gets a second season is shaky, however.

ABC was third with It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (2.3), Grey's Anatomy (3.7), and Private Practice (2.4). Charlie Brown pummels Charlie's Angels.

NBC was last with Community (1.4), Parks and Recreation (1.8), The Office (2.9), and Prime Suspect (1.1). Community continues to struggles, Parks and Rec isn't doing great, The Office is getting sub-2.0 and Prime Suspect is surely dead.

Numbers of Interest - Television Ratings for Monday 11/1/11

CBS won with How I Met Your Mother (4.2), 2 Broke Girls (4.3), Two and a Half Men (4.7), Mike & Molly (3.7), and Hawaii Five-0 (3.0).

ABC was second with a repeat of Scared Shrekless (1.7), Dancing with the Stars (2.8), and Castle (2.7). DWTS still way down from last year but Castle holds up.

FOX was third with Terra Nova (2.1) and House (2.5). Soft return for Terra Nova and House after baseball. We'll see if they rebound next week.

NBC was last with The Sing-Off (1.4) and Rock Center with Brian Williams (1.0). Nothing unexpected here.

Review - Enlightened Season 1 Episode 4 The Weekend

Wow, that was a very good and unexpected episode from a show which has only coasted along thus far. On a show that's billed as a comedy, its best episode is also the most serious. "The Weekend" is a sad episode--shockingly sad the more you think about it--and yet it never gets into depressing territory. Amy's eternal optimism shines through even when her words at expressing the exact opposite.

We intimately see and hear Amy regarding Levi, and she really cares about her. It may be nostalgia, but it doesn't make her feelings any less valid. And Levi, as we see, is perhaps an unwinnable case, which he states himself. Amy, however, remembers those times with him and continues to believe he can be better.

Score: 9.0/10

Review - Castle Season 4 Episode 7 Cops & Robbers

An easy way to create drama on television is to subvert the viewers' expectations. After so many episodes, most people have a good idea what's coming, especially when it comes to Castle. Creating a completely unexpected event can be cheap, but none cheaper than what happened on Castle. Unfortunately, the writers still have not figured this out. When they have a gun pointed at Castle's head, everyone knows nothing will happen, but the writers linger on this forever, trying to get any tension out of the moment. But from the beginning, without the possibility of Castle getting shot or something weird happening, there was no tension. The explosion was probably the only thing that was unexpected, because it happened in the midst of other events and wasn't telegraphed completely.

I liked that the plot went beyond the normal "take the cash" scheme, but the eventual conclusion--the mastermind using the heist to find his ex-wife and son--seemed awfully elaborate. I guess some people will go to super crazy lengths to get their children back. With that kind of planning, though, you'd think he could hatch a plan that wouldn't require drawing so much attention.

Score: 7.7/10

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review - House Season 8 Episode 4 Risky Business

It's not surprising that House's eighth season serves up another middle of the road episode. Expectations of a new and improved show are gone, replaced by expectations of the same stuff, represented by Chase and Taub coming back next week.

"Risky Business" has a boring medical case with the CEO of a company sending jobs to China, which Dr. Adams expectedly objects to. (Dr. Park's point about her cousin echoes a point Paul Krugman made a long time ago before he became a left-wing crank.) House solves the mystery and also the solvency problem, buying shares of the company knowing he'll save the CEO and raise the price.

Park's disciplinary hearings aren't exactly interesting, but Park is a fun, quirky character who is different than the other characters, especially Adams, who remains very boring.

Score: 8.1/10

Review - How I Met Your Mother Season 7 Episode 8 The Slutty Pumpkin Returns

Katie Holmes hops into the ranks of other famous women to guest star on How I Met Your Mother and she fits along with them: she doesn't really belong, but the writers don't give her anything demanding. The slutty pumpkin from all the way back from the first season is revealed, and after 10 years of waiting, it's a disappointment for both parties. They both want to make it work after so much longing, but in the end they know it isn't right. Thus, ends another chapter in Ted Mosby's never-ending quest to find the Mother.

Barney turning out to be Canadian was kind of pointless, but the writers laid it on thick and Robin pokes fun enough times to make it worthwhile. I'm a big fan of the Canada jokes, so it had me very amused. Likewise, Lily being crazed won't have any affect on the future, but she eventually realizes the suburbs aren't where she belongs, and the show returns to equilibrium.

Score: 8.6/10

Review - Terra Nova Season 1 Episode 6 Bylaw

I'm continually astounded by all the mundane things that happen on Terra Nova. Here are these characters, millions of years in the past, surrounded by dinosaurs, and what do we get? A sci-fi'd Hawaii Five-0 plot with a generic love story backdrop. Really, that's it?

Meanwhile, Skye, for reasons unknown, really wants Josh to get Kara back, and Josh is his douchiest yet. His big mission to talk to Mira turns out to be nothing, as she says two things to him and sets him loose. So what was the point of that again? Malcolm continues to put the moves on Elisabeth while she saves the dinosaur, but things are so fluffy with her family that the flirting is rather pointless (until the writers realize the show isn't interesting and throw in a twist).

Score: 8.0/10

Review - Pan Am Season 1 Episode 6 The Genuine Article

So Maggie's a weasel? Huh... that doesn't jive with her behavior in the previous five episodes when she was a hippie in the pilot and fawning over Kennedy in the third episode. She lied to take a college class, she lied about speaking Portuguese, and now she rats out Dean. Maggie's spunk was fun for a while, but she has to be held accountable for her actions. None of the other characters have done anything as devious as she did, even if they are dicks on occasion.

While Maggie as a person has been taken down several pegs, I do appreciate the increased stakes versus last week's episode in which nothing important happened. Kate's spy story was a bit more interesting than usual, with something beyond the task Kate is given. I thought Niko was going to be on three episodes, but it seems like he left for good.

I'm guessing Pan Am will be canceled. The ratings have been below 2 for a while, which is not enough for Sunday nights.

Score: 8.4/10

Review - Dexter Season 6 Episode 5 The Angel of Death

I was going to begin  my review by stating that Brother Sam was wearing thin, but then he got shot and I'm waiting to see what happens with him. While Mos Def has been great, the only bright light in an otherwise bland new characters, the writers didn't give him anything to do other than repeat religious platitudes. It was the doomsday end of the world stuff from Gellar, but the generic statements everyone knows by heart. Maybe Sam getting shot will improve his character--or maybe he'll die and that's the last we see of him.

Generally, Dexter is the smartest character and doesn't do anything stupid other than think the most obvious things during his voiceovers. In this episode, though, it seemed like he was competing with Quinn for dummy of the week. First, Dexter finds it necessary to compare Travis's Bible pages to the rectangle cutouts, when it would be plainly obvious to anyone that they were the same. Even then, all Dexter does is look at the rectangles without even taking them to try to fit into the cutouts. So why look at them in the first place? But Dexter decides to be even more stupid, letting Travis go after he says Gellar's been killing. While that may be true, how about some extra digging. Dexter always gets the truth when he's on the hunt--except when it comes to main villain. Come on, writers.

Score: 7.8/10
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