Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reviews 5/22/12 - 5/28/12

Hatfields & McCoys is a lengthy, boring slog of nothingness. There are these two families, the Hatfields and McCoys, two family names synonymous with feuding, and History thought they should try dramatize their conflict (it's better than aliens at least!). But who knew feuding could be so lifeless? There is nothing about the miniseries that is memorable, no moments that stick up as exemplars of good television. The characters are blank, random people who go through the motions as one would expect. The only thing different about them is that they are explicitly called Hatfields or McCoys, Otherwise they are all the same, Southern men with these time-bound notions of honor and family. As far as the plot goes, the feud is equally lifeless as the characters. One side does something, the other retaliates, some try to stem the fighting, but it continues on through generations. Then there is this cliched Romeo and Juliet story which is unresolved as the first of three parts ends on a cliffhanger. I wouldn't have so much problems with H&C if it weren't so damn long. Two hours! Two hours for 5 relevant plot points!

Last week's episode of Girls focused solely on Hannah and this week's episode focused on a single location with all the characters. It was very cool to see how all the characters get in one place, when they typically are in many different places. The episode more or less follows the path of previous episodes, with serious flaws in each character and what they're doing. But it always turns out okay, sort of, with acceptance of what they have.

Veep took a big turn when it's revealed that Selina is pregnant. This would be a large change, even if the marriage proposal lies are believed. Part of me doesn't think the pregnancy will actually be true or come to completion. Previous public embarrassments are forgotten by the next episode, but an actual pregnancy, big belly and all, could change things. We'll see.

Continuum is a show which premiered in Canada only this Sunday. Luckily the internet is out there, so anyone is out there. A lot of it is what you would expect of Canadian sci-fi. The ideas are good, which are probably enough to carry the show far, the acting is solid but not great, many actors are familiar faces, and the scripts could use more logic. All in all, it has some good ideas with time travel and future tech, making it worthwhile to watch. I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up on the Syfy channel one day, as it fits the sci-fi lite billing well.

Mad Men has had really skeevy situations from time to time, but I'm not sure if it has ever had something like Joan pimped out by the partners to land Jaguar. Appalling behavior from the characters, especially from Lane and Pete. And Don, yes Don, turns out to be the only good guy left. Sadly, he talked to Joan too late to make a difference. The little fake out the writers did was funky, but it worked. In the end Joan gets a 5% share, but she's lost her dignity, and can only stare at Peggy leaving the firm she is ever more entwined with. Ginsburg once again proves to be an advertising king, coming up with the Jaguar slogan while Don pitched it. With two episodes left in the season, we could see plenty of changes, with Megan potentially going away and Peggy already out the door. With most of this season finished, it's pretty clear Mad Men's yearlong hiatus did nothing to slow its narrative power.

Game of Thrones doesn't have the budget of Lord of the Rings, but that doesn't mean a large-scale battle doesn't have to be spectacular. After a season of war drums, Stannis finally arrived at King's Landing in the battle of his life and what a battle it was. The camera stays at ground level so the viewer gets an up close view of everything, limbs getting severed, heads getting sliced, and everything in between. It's a brutal battle with thousands, not hundreds, of deaths, as Stannis says, and even the Hound runs off with his tail between his legs. At the same, Cersei hides with the rest of the women and all she can do is lament what's happened, unable to take up a sword and fight. There is a bit of drama with Shae, but the scenes are mostly for Cersei to show the women's role in Westeros. The fighting is over when Tywin and the Tyrells save the day and Stannis is driven off, leaving King's Landing with plenty of bodies and tears, but no new king.

Book spoilers: The entire episode focused on the battle, so on some level there weren't many deviations. I do have a complaint with regards to how the wildfire/Davos parts were handled. In the book, we see Tyrion, many chapters before the battle, telling the blacksmiths to stop making weapons and armor and instead build links. This leads to the eventual battle, Stannis's fleet with Davos sailing up the river where eventually another ship rams a Lannister ship filled with wildfire. Then, Tyrion orders the chain raised and a wall of wildfire blocks off all channels of escape and Stannis's ships have no choice but to land. The way the show portrays the battle undercuts the intelligence of Tyrion and Davos. Book Tyrion had the immense foresight to forgo all weapons and armor production just to build the chain, a risky and correct move. Book Davos was not in charge of the fleet so he didn't have any extra responsibility, and was smart enough to steer clear of the ship laden with wildfire while the arrogant lords were not. This speaks to the strengths and weaknesses of the books vs. television. George R.R. Martin is a master of the grand scheme, weaving together countless people into a seamless tale and the length of a novel allows him to do that. On the other hand, television can get to the nitty gritty of battle, showing the visceral impact of battle on a ground level that words simply can't show.

Awake ended with plenty of unanswered questions leftover, although not in the normal way a show would. I greatly appreciate Kyle Killen's vision for the show and television in general. Yes, he's failed twice with Lone Star and now Awake, but boy does he have a knack for making things work. The mysteries of Awake were always about the mind, never a human conspiracy. It was not like Lost where people's behavior couldn't be explained through any rational thought. The human brain is as complex as it gets, and no one knows the limits to it. Awake explores these ideas with the red and green (seriously, it looks blue to me, but Killen keeps saying green) worlds and the two shrinks who provided competing arguments over which reality was real. At the same time, importantly, Awake was a human drama about a man dealing with the deaths of his son and wife while living with him in alternate worlds, and Jason Isaacs really brought the emotional heft needed for the role. In the end, the everything in the red world falls apart, as Britten is caught and jailed halfway through the episode. This leads to a trippy sequence of events in which viewers can decided whatever they want to believe. Either the red world has been a coping mechanism and the blue world is real, or vice versa. It's hard to say which one is more plausible. Maybe the red one is real, but his brain convinced himself that the blue is real as a way to deal with being jailed. And then he wakes up in this yellow world--Rex and Hannah are still alive. For finality's sake, I'll choose to believe this world is real and the other two were just bad nightmares, but it's pretty clear the show would have a lot more to explore in the future.

As for why the show failed, it's hard to point at any one thing that failed it. The acting was top-notch all around, even Dylan Minnette who stands in stark contrast to the painful acting by teens in television. Awake didn't have the flashy draw of Alcatraz or the star power of Touch. Sadly these are the two things that would have made the show worse. Awake was a show about humans, not an island, and certainly Kiefer Sutherland would not be able to convey subtlety Jason Isaacs did. It was a solid show through in through, but network television is a tough bitch to crack and it didn't work out.

Revenge: Plan as Emily did, things just didn't go right for her. She was fighting for her father this whole time, and her father's words all those years ago turn out to be her undoing. She doesn't carry through with killing the white haired man and he goes on to ruin everything. Funny how these things work. Despite all her efforts, Emily was human in the end, affected by the feelings normal people have and she couldn't pull through. Looking ahead to the next season, there is plenty still going on. The organization the white haired man is working for is now the main target (hopefully this doesn't turn into Burn Notice where nothing ever gets resolved), fakeAmanda/realEmily is pregnant, and we still have to find out what happened to Victoria, Lydia, and Charlotte. I would be surprised if the writers killed off Victoria, considering how delightfully evil she is.

Modern Family has been relegated to the pleasant comedies section my mind, alongside TBBT and others. I don't look forward to watching a new episode each week. While I normally don't have anything negative to say about the show, the whole telenovela subplot in the season finale baffled me. I mean, I get that it's trying to draw a weird parallel between that situation and Haley moving in with Dylan, but the situation is so far out there that the consequences, Mitch and Cam not getting the baby, feels unearned.

I can't believe Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23's first season is already over after 7 episodes. I know we'll be able to watch the show next season, but there are already 6 finished episodes ready to be watched! I'm not entirely sure James Van Der Beek should have his own plots away from June and Chloe, but the rest of the episode with the Japanese comic book of Chloe was the zany plots we've come to know. Krysten Ritter brought the spunk and indifference while Dreama Walker had the innocence, and together they make an likable team.

Okay, I'll say it: the Glee season finale was good. As it progressed from the first season, Glee became more of a fantasy, events flying by with no regard for consequences (remember the Quinn debacle earlier in the season when she was a total psycho?), and almost everything that happened to the characters was positive. Rarely did they have to confront reality for more than two consecutive episodes. However, the finale finally did what was necessary and injected some much needed reality into the show. Not everyone is a winner, and not everyone gets what they want. Everyone has dreams--only some reach them. Perhaps the writers played the long con, building up towards the season finale by having everything good happen to trick us into believing the season would end on a positive note as the characters graduated--though that's rather unlikely. Perhaps the writers realized they needed to continue with these characters so they could reap more money from albums, etc, as the cynic would say.

In any case, the final fourth of the episode is realistic and sad, and Lea Michele sells her scenes very well. Rachel gets into NYADA, but everything else goes wrong. Kurt doesn't get in, and not only is Finn not going with her, he's going to the army. Considering that they were going to get married before Quinn's car crash, this is a major game changer. As Rachel breaks down crying, we realize that three seasons of high school aren't going to end happily, that for everything Rachel and Finn have been through, things just aren't going to work out for them--until season four.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/23/12

How Did Women Pilot Writers Fare For 2012? [Deadline]
- This "analysis" is bad, cherry picking a few choice statistics and drawing the big picture from there. A few problems with her line of thought. 1) What are the percentages of scripts sent to the networks from men and women? If only 1% of the scripts were sent by women, then obviously very few scripts from women would be picked up. Shouldn't this be important information to know? And before anyone still says there should be a 50-50 split, it's pretty obvious that the more scripts sent, the more likely there will be a good script in there. Now if 80% of the scripts were sent by women, then the statistics cited would be a problematic. Without them, however, they're useless. 2) The networks' goals are to maximize profits. To say that all these networks are conspiring against women in lieu of making money is stupid. Yes, it's likely that most male network executives will have biases towards male writers, but that means they're missing out more deserving scripts written by women and not making as much money as they could be. Another possibility is that perhaps men just have better scripts, again because more men are writing scripts, so there are more good scripts written by men out there. Interestingly, her comment about the CW, "CW continues to be a leader, both in the quality of their pilots and how many are written by women (holding steady at 50% for the last three years)" would seem to suggest this, if we attribute viewership purely to script quality (something I don't believe). In the end, these numbers don't prove anything. As for her comment about writers of color, how about she, a white person, give me, a person of color, her job. That would be nice.

A bunch of people are leaving Smash [EW]
- I think the only people who really needed to leave the show were Ellis and Michael. They were simply too creepy and outlandish to serve any purpose. Dev and Frank, while boring for the most part, were suitable on the show.

Seth Gabel not returning for Fringe's final season [TV Line]
- This makes sense for a story standpoint, as long as bridge can never be reopened.

Dan Harmon was fired from Community and it ain't pretty [Paste Magazine]
- Yes, Dan Harmon seems to be a hard guy to work with, given what we know went down between him and Chevy Chase. But he's also a brilliant writer who shepherded Community through three amazing seasons with plenty of fresh ideas. It looks like the show is headed in a new direction, with a new slate of producers and no Dan Harmon to even lay out the next season. There was a trade off between having to deal with Dan Harmon and having his ideas, but in the end it was simply too much to keep well. What's weird, though, is that Robert  Greenblatt would chose to lie about the situation just to calm the fans, when Dan Harmon, as he eventually did, could easily tell the truth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reviews 5/16/12 - 5/22/12

I watched every episode of House, all 177 episodes, so I wanted this finale to be good. For all the criticism of the show I've had over the years, Hugh Laurie remained steadfastly dedicated to the character and to his acting. Every wince, every movement,  every limp was owned by him, and he's the main reason why I stayed around. But beyond that, I always thought the show had potential as a drama, as the first two seasons and the fourth season finale showed. There were exciting stories in those seasons, when things actually seemed to be on the line, before the later seasons came and the show descended into gimmicks

Even though this final eight season hasn't been particularly good, I held out hope that the writers would pull out something in the final episode worthy of Hugh Laurie. They didn't. The first forty minutes of the episode are a flat out embarrassment, with a framing device that would make Glee look subtle. House is hallucinating in this burning building and past characters are showing up to talk to him and guide him through the story of how he got there. It's blatant fan service at its worst, bringing back random characters to talk to him. So there's Kutner, Amber, Stacy, then Cameron, and they're all trying to talk to him and explore his psyche. I'm not sure if it would be possible for any writer to make something successful out of this, but the writing is rubbish, the characters weaseling their way into House's head with pure sophistry. Do we really need people to lay out, word for word, who House is? While it's painfully blunt, I wouldn't have so much problems with this had it not taken up so much time. I kept checking the clock, incredulous that the writers would drag this on for so long, but they did. Then, House somehow comes to a revelation that he should live, fakes his death, listens in on his funeral, rides off with Wilson, and the series is over.

As for the other characters, the patient, and the medicine, those were glossed over as they usually are. The returning characters have about a line each and they don't even talk to other people. The patient is part of the framing device, so he's kind of just there to guide House's flashbacks/storytelling. In the end, House was always a show about House and all attempts to give extra dimensions to the other characters fell to the wayside. The writers got so caught up in exploring House with pure dialogue that there wasn't anything left in the episode, no meat to backup what was going on.

Am I surprised the finale turned out this way? Kind of. I thought the writers would come up with something meaningful and not stilted. This was there time to shine and prove everyone wrong about the past seasons, but it seems like they either didn't care or were just lucky in the past.

Girls tried something a bit different this week, focusing on Hannah alone. It's a nice episode of television, showing us Hannah's past while comparing it to her present, and how it may be better if she returned to a familiar home where rent, among other things, is not a problem.

Mad Men is a thoroughly entertaining show. I know, it's obvious to anyone who watches, but seriously, I amazed each week how fun it is. This week's episode featured the return of Paul Kinsey who we haven't seen since season 3, I believe. And boy was it a return. He's in full Hare Krishna garb, with a wacko girlfriend, and has written a Star Trek script for an episode titled "The Negron Complex." Hilarious stuff all around, including Harry's reaction. The show can also turn around and crank up the heat, as Don and Joan's conversation at the bar was beyond smoldering. Megan and Don have a huge fight in the episode and it looks like their marriage is in trouble. Don's going to be done and Megan still thinks t

With the big battle looming next week, Game of Thrones tries to get everything settled before bodies go flying. Part of me feels like the episode was a throwaway since nothing crucially important happened that couldn't have happened in the season finale. The biggest developments are Cat letting Jaime go, Halfhand getting captured, Robb hooking up with Talisa, and Arya escaping, which have great implications for the future. What I liked the most, however, was Stannis's conversation with Davos, who In my opinion, we haven't seen enough this season. Stannis draws parallels between himself and Davos, two men who performed admirably when it mattered most. In Stannis's case, he was given little reward, while in Davos's case, Stannis made him a knight.

Book spoilers: So much was changed from the book that it's pointless to talk about differences. What was interesting, though, is how far the show dipped into the third book, A Storm of Swords,  8 episodes into the seasons with Jaime and Brienne leaving together.

Despite improving through the season, Grimm was never able to bring together the various pieces floating around like Renard and the Wessen world, and the season finale did nothing to resolve any issues. It even brought back the plot device coins. At the end of the day, Nick's mother is back, Juliette may or may not be the same, and the viewers are none the wiser about the mythology of the show.

Many times, it's good to take a step back when evaluating serialized shows like Supernatural, maybe even wait until the end of the season to cast judgment on certain parts. Now that the season is over, I will declare the Bobby ghost story, which I was mostly ambivalent about, to be garbage from beginning to end. When he died the first time, he was given a good, proper send-off fitting for his character. Then the writers decided to make him stick around as a ghost, and for what? To make him die again? Yeah, okay, we saw how ghosts lived and all, but it wasn't crucial to the larger storyline. That brings me to the Leviathan plot. It started off fine, as Leviathans were freaky villains, but it just became disorganized and random without any central point except that Dick Roman is trying to take over the world. In the end, Dick is dead and Dean is in alone in Purgatory with Cas possibly still in Purgatory. The ending is cool and sets up good possibilities for the next season, but given how shoddy the plotting for this season has been, I'm not holding my breath.

While the other season finales on Friday were disappointing, Nikita had that kick-assery we tune in to see, and significantly altered the state of the show. Percy and Roan is dead, the old parts of Division gone, and Nikita is now in charge. This is actually where the original La Femme Nikita series ended after five seasons, with Nikita taking over, only this time Michael is staying. Looking ahead, there doesn't seem to be any immediate threats other than Amanda and Ari. In fact, everything seems fine for all the characters. Alex is filthy rich and Sean is still alive, Nikita has Division and Michael is still there, and their main enemies are gone. My guess is that Amanda and Ari will leverage the black box to gain power and then oppose Nikita and Co.

The Mentalist doesn't seem to have a plan to reveal Red John's identity any time soon, but that doesn't mean the episodes are bad. It's fun to see Jane try to defeat Red John with his trickery, and then seeing the plan fail due to Red John's seemingly mystical powers. The fourth season finale wasn't as good as the previous season's, which had Jane killing who he believed to be Red John, but there were enough twists to make the episode worth watching.

In its penultimate episode, Awake pulled out all the stops in an exhilarating episode that propelled the plot further in both realities and had Britten again questioning everything he knows. We probably won't get all the answers we need in the season finale, but this ride has been pretty incredible regardless of the outcome.

Three new episodes of Community was like a dream come true, and these final episodes may be important now that Dan Harmon is out as showrunner. Next season's episodes may not be the same without him. The three episodes are vastly different from each other--the first a video game episode, the second a heist episode, and the finale a character driven episode where everything is on the table before getting resolved.

Criminal Minds is a wildly inconsistent show, but when the writers put some effort into their scripts, they can turn out something decent. The episode included the characters into the plot much more than they usually are, and the bank robbery was fairly interesting. The main thing people will remember is Paget Brewster leaving a season after she was booted off the show and then returned. Honestly, most Criminal Minds actors deserve better than what the writers can give them, so I'm fine with her leaving.

Suburgatory took a direction towards drama for the season finale and itk gave the show a little extra. There have always been heartwarming moments on the show or frustration from the various characters, but never the drama shown in the season finale when Tessa realizes what she's been missing. The comedy was still in episode and we got a glimpse of what we might see in the next season.

NCIS: This whole Watcher Fleet thing has been pretty bad, but the season finale at least made up for it by making Dearing a crazy guy who's fine blowing up the NCIS HQ.

Glee: New Directions winning Nationals was a foregone conclusion. It's a show that preaches "Follow your dreams, because they'll come true!" so of course they win in the end. Narratively, this doesn't mean it has to be boring and uneventful, even in the lead-up. Unfortunately, this is Glee, which wouldn't know a coherent plot if it got shot out of a cannon at it. Nationals was never a big theme through the season, and the club seemed to be doing fine. There were no ups and downs, at least with regards to their performance, so winning Nationals was par for the course. I liked the body swapping parts at the beginning of the first episode since it gave Tina more than 10 lines of dialogue, but the rest of the two episodes were otherwise empty. The worst moment came when Will was given an award for best teacher. This teacher didn't even know the subject he was supposed to be teaching for years, and he's being glorified? No wonder public schools suck.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

CW its 2012 fall schedule [Deadline]
- The notable are Supernatural moving to Wednesday and of course the new shows premiering in October, not September as usual. Not exactly sure about female MD Tuesdays, but at least the settings are different. It's cool to see the network try out different dates for releasing new shows. It might make a difference, though the big worry is that other news shows will get so much buzz that CW's shows will be afterthoughts by October. CW's offerings seem pretty good this year, although execution is always the biggest problem for the network.

Breakout Kings canceled [Deadline]
- BK's ratings were quite a bit lower in the second season than the first. A&E can't seem to find a solution to scripted programming other than The Glades.

Unforgettable to cable? [Deadline]
- TNT seems like a much better fit for the show than Lifetime. Maybe moving to cable would mean a reduction in cost and usage of the ridiculous camera gimmicks.

Variety grades the upfronts [Variety]
- My impression is that NBC is trying to be as strategic as possible, knowing viewers don't tend to go to the network regardless of what's airing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/16/12

CBS releases its 2012 fall schedule [Deadline]
- A few small, but significant, moves from CBS. Two and a Half Men move to 8:30 after TBBT and 2 Broke Girls takes Two and a Half Men's old slot at 9. Looks like CBS doesn't really care about The Mentalist anymore, sending it off after The Good Wife on Sundays.

Bill Lawrence not returning as Cougar Town's showrunner next season [Vulture]
- Cougar Town got a fourth season on TBS and now Bill Lawrence is departing, at least from his current position, as he'll probably still have input.

Newest Ask Ausiello [TV Line]
- He says there will be two deaths on Nikita, one significant and the other less so. My guesses: Sean and Roan. The Glee one is pretty funny. The first half of the slide reads, "Kurt and Rachel head to NYADA, where they live in a musically rich freshman dorm filled with spontaneous sing-offs and cutthroat competition for lead roles and solos."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/15/12

ABC releases its 2012 fall schedule [Deadline]
- Revenge moves to Sunday after Once Upon a Time. The oddest thing is Last Resort before Grey's Anatomy. Yeah, the trailer is awesome and Shawn Ryan is a great writer, but I'm not sure if it will work there.

Syfy announces dates for Eureka series finale, Warehouse 13 and Alphas premieres [TV Line]
- It looks like Syfy will be doing that split season stuff with Warehouse 13, airing 10 episodes during the summer and then 10 episodes some time later. Interestingly, there's no Haven which aired during the summer in its first two seasons, which may indicate it'll move to the fall when Sanctuary used to air. By now, I think it's safe to say Sanctuary won't be coming back for a fifth season.

Rules of Engagement talks coming down to the wire, The Mentalist moving to another night [Deadline]
- This story is mostly speculation, but it's good information nonetheless. If CBS produced RoE, it'd be renewed already, but since Sony owns it, we'll have to wait and see what happens. The Mentalist moving to Sundays would not surprise me.

What do we want from a TV finale? [AV Club]
- The Shield, I think, had the best season finale possible. Plots came together in roaring fashion, the roller coaster kept going up and down, then straight down, and the characters got what they deserved. It was truly an inspired episode of television, living up to the seven seasons before it. Of the controversial finales, I would give The Sopranos the biggest pass. It was never a plot-driven show by the series finale, all the pertinent plot developments being resolved. When the screen goes black, you can interpret it however you want. Some people think Tony gets wacked, others don't. The greater point is that the future, especially from the Sopranos, is uncertain, as we saw from the numerous characters who got blindsided over the years. However, these shows have a key difference with shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and Fringe in that the latter three were science fiction and tried to create an elaborate universe where other higher powers were at work. The ambiguity of higher powers is nothing like the ambiguity of Tony's fate. People wanted definite answers: WTF are the angels doing in BSG and why would God care? What was the point of ____ on Lost? Unfortunately, these shows took trajectories that made these questions either unanswerable or undesirable to answer. While we're still waiting for Fringe's final, it's clear the show has taken a path different than originally imagined, leaving many questions of the earlier seasons unanswered.

Reviews 5/8/12 - 5/14/12

Smash's season finale wraps up an absurd season with more absurdity. The height of this comes when Ellis announces to Eileen that he was the one who put the peanut in Rebecca's drink. He gets fired, smiles, strolls off, and we don't see him for the rest of the episode. ???????? Do the writers even know what they want Ellis to be? Normally, bad television characters get disappeared. Smash writers, oblivious to everything, continued to write Ellis until there was nothing left to write. He was evil and was scheming, but he didn't accomplish anything and Eileen should be calling the cops on him. The rest of the episode was the same 'ol silliness like Derek hallucinating Karen was Marilyn. The next twist after Julia's pregnancy should be Derek's brain tumor, to explain why he sees thing no one, including the TV audience, sees.

House's series finale will undoubtedly be an unhappy affair, with House going back to prison and Wilson dying. The way House violated his parole was contrived, but it's pointless to complain when the show is over. At this point, I think everyone would agree that the writers missed out on almost every opportunity to do something with the characters beyond the mundane. Now with one final episode, we'll see the writers throw in the towel and make the characters unhappy.

How I Met Your Mother: Robin describes how Ted chooses to get involved with women he knows aren't suitable, and Ted realizes what she says is true. The same can be said about the way the writers dole out the plot. They simply refuse to commit to anything that the viewers would find truly engaging. Robin and Barney? I guess that could be okay, but the wedding twists was completely expected. And Victoria? The clues old Ted already stated seem to rule her out.

Well, that's the seventh season of Bones. The big problem with the season finale is that Palent isn't a good villain. Although he is a bland guy personally, he can literally do magic. Anything he wants to happen happens, and this leaves zero choices for the characters, which leads to Bones running off. The Palent characters feels more like a tool for Bones to run off and get that emotional impact at the end than a serious villain.

Even though soldiers are marching and ships are massing, Game of Thrones steps away from the war and really looks inward towards the characters with several personal conversations. We get Cersei lamenting what Joffrey has become, Tywin discussing legacies and his own, Jon explaining the Night's Watch to Ygritte, Robb and the nurse, and Jaime and his cousin Alton talking about their squiring experiences. It shows us that these characters are not just pawns on a battlefield, even if that's who they will become. They are living people with lifetimes of experiences and desires, and with war bearing down on them, there's nothing to do but think about what could have been. As far as major plot developments, there wasn't too much except for more trouble in Qarth and the Karstarks wanting to kill Jaime for trying to escape.

Book spoilers: Game of Thrones deviates more heavily from the book every week. This week jumbled everything around, tilting things towards the end of the season. In the book, Jaime doesn't proactively try to escape; rather, Tyrion hatches a scheme which almost succeeds. The changes in the show do two things: 1) It makes Tyrion seem less competent, which seems to be the general pattern this season. 2) It makes Jaime seem more bloodthirsty than he should be. Dany's story in the book is pretty boring, as nothing really comes of it in the end, but the show tries to spice things up with some internal politics. Jon gets captured before rejoining Qhorin and the others, which is a big change. In the book, it's Jon and Qhorin alone, fighting off wildings, until they are captured. Prior, Qhorin tells Jon to anything in order to spy on the wildings, leading to Jon killing Qhorin. I believe this will happen more or less once Qhorin is captured alongside Jon, but there won't be the big fight which I was looking forward to.

Betty has been the most problematic character of Mad Men, and is even more problematic in the fifth season when she's not in every episode, not married to Don, and January Jones is pregnant. Betty comes into the episode like a gust of wind, stirring everything up and causing trouble. After everything settles down, you can't help but think, "Well, that's Betty." She's an empty character, lacking the magnetic charms of the other women on the show, or even the patheticness Peter currently embodies. She's just Betty. The rest of the episode was a bit weird because it Ginsberg is set up to be Don's adversary this season. When did Ginsberg get so prissy about his work that he'd directly confront Don?

Fringe's fourth season finale is a test of how much "making up bullshit" you can stand. Objectively speaking, a vast majority of the episode comes from nowhere, with explanations and motivations flying from nowhere. William Bell, following his magical reappearance last week, turns out to be insane, but already not a very good criminal, so his plans go to waste. Walter, Peter, and Olivia save the day and everything turns out great--except for August's warning, referring to the coming invasion, again something not backed up by prior evidence.

Supernatural: I'm willing to buy the reappearance of the Alpha, I'm willing to buy the eventually Leviathan vs. Winchesters vs. Angels vs. Crowley battle, even if nothing has been developed particularly well. What I'm not willing to accept is how poorly the ghost Bobby story has been written. I just don't get it. It's been going on, and I can't grasp what the writers are doing. Okay, he's dead, he's a ghost, he sometimes helps the Winchesters, and now he's becoming a vengeful spirit. What's the point? I guess this question could be applied to the rest of the show. The writers have done a horrible job with the overall plot of the season, meandering from one idea to the next. While the first five seasons focused on demons and Hell, eventually leading to Lucifer and the Apocalypse, this season has gone nowhere. Yeah, Dick Roman is a Leviathan and taking everything over, and there are other factions who oppose him, but there doesn't seem to be a greater point to all this other than God being a bigger dick than Dick.

Common Law gives off this vibe that it's trying a little too hard to make Travis and Wes dislike each other. I mean, the underlying theme behind their partnership is that they are meant for each other. Besides that, the pilot has the spunk you'd except from a USA pilot. It's fast moving, presents the characters decently, and a crime gets solved. But there's nothing about the show that really makes it necessary.

In the penultimate episode of the season, Grimm sets up a situation where Hank and Juliette are poised to learn Nick's secrets. Hank sees the Wildermann change forms in front of him and Juliette discovers that the DNA of Wildermann isn't human or animal. Will the show actually pull the trigger, though?

Awake was canceled as expected, but as the show moves towards the season finale, it's clear the show is leaving before its time. Lots of twisty things in last week's episode, showcasing the potential of the dual reality format and the psychological effects.

Well, there's the last of The Finder, canceled as expected on Thursday. I, for one, am sad to see it go. The acting was solid and the writing was quirky enough to differentiate it from the multitude of generic police procedurals out there. If there had to be one thing that sunk the show, I would point to the Gypsy story. I think Willa as a personality is fine, but the random Gypsy stuff never really came together. It was always hanging on the sides of episodes and never made an impact on the show, other than when it explicitly affected Willa.  FOX's failures to spin-off Bones follows CBS failure to spin-off Criminal Minds.

The Secret Circle was canceled on Friday, and I don't particularly mind. I probably would have watched the second season, but the writing never improved through the season and the finale contained many of the serious flaws seen throughout the season. The plotting is lax with characters running around the place to follow magical leads, which became the ultimate plot device, and the enemies were never that scary. On the character side, I'd say the biggest failure was in Dawn and Charles. The writers clearly had no idea how to use them, making them absent from most episodes and present only when they're needed, despite the glaring fact that the series began with Charles killing Cassie's mother.

The Vampire Diaries season finale, on the other hand, was all sorts of awesome. Twists came rapidly--Klaus dying, Klaus taking over Tyler's body, Damon meeting Elena before the beginning of the series, and finally Elena dying and becoming a vampire--mixed in with character moments--all the vampires preparing to die, Elena making a choice between the brothers, Caroline and Tyler.

The Mentalist: Red John poked a prodded Jane, showing him how little control he has, and Jane finally snapped. He's out of the CBI and it looks like he'll go even further in the season finale.

There was no chance in my mind that Parks and Recreation would not end the season with Leslie not winning the city council seat. She does win in the end, despite the writers trying to string us along for most of the episode. The decision to make her win was sitting on the table, an opportunity to advanced the show in new direction that simply could not be passed. With the very skilled way the writers have and continue to handle the show, I'm not worried at all where everything will go.

At the end of The Office's season finale, I wondered if that really was the season finale and checked Wikipedia to confirm. That's the kind of season it was. You can't really believe how ineffectual the show is at everything--the humor, drama, even basic plot structure. The season ends with Andy back as manager, Nellie possibly staying, and Robert California thankfully gone, and the show is where it was a season ago. The Robert California experience turned out to be a continuation of the DeAngelo Vickers story, a big name star playing an unscrupulous weirdo while the rest of the characters remained stagnant, save a few random twists along the way, which didn't amount to much.

Community again did the cool twist on the clip show idea, showing clips of things we've never seen before. It also did something that wasn't in the clip show last year, with clips of things we have seen, only reflected in the psych ward style. The characters being in Greendale Asylum actually makes plenty of sense, as the trampoline and paintball fight are too good to be true if this was real life. In the end, it was part of Chang's larger scheme, and the group, fine with what neuroses they have, is prepared to fight him.

I don't remember saying anything about The Big Bang Theory for a very long time, so I thought I'd say something about the season finale. We can expect by now that the show is static; nothing major will change, even if Howard and Bernadette are married. The show works as long as the plots aren't too ludicrous and the characters don't become too unlikable. In this sense, the fifth season was pretty good, with plenty of amusing moments and little cringeworthy moments.

Revenge: An episode consistently entirely of flashbacks needs to show something the viewers would not be able to construct on their own. There has to be something that is actually shocking, changing something viewers know in the present. Otherwise, there's no point and it's a waste of time. Revenge, unfortunately, spent an entire hour in the past telling us essentially nothing. We see the origins of Emily's quest, but there is nothing that's particularly unexpected. When we go back to the present, we see the symmetry that lies in New Year's Eve, but the flashbacks still weren't necessary.

New Girl turned out to be a good show that grew beyond the initial draw of the adorkable. The other characters became better known and by the end of the season, I looked forward to seeing what every character would do each week. The season finale sets it up so that Nick is going to leave their apartment, but it's a light-hearted comedy in its first season so of course he says in the end.

Remember when Glee made domestic violence a big issue in the previous week? I do, but not Glee writers. Once again, they show the world how dumb they are, diminishing an important issue by completely ignoring it. (Remember Karofsky?) The plot machinations to the prom plot were as bad as it gets, with the ridiculous lead-up to the anti-prom, Quinn needlessly becoming a psycho again, and then Quinn and Santana making Rachel prom queen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/14/12

FOX releases its fall schedule [Deadline]
- Very standard schedule from FOX, moving Glee to Thursday, Touch to Friday, and filling in the rest. Notably, no sci-fi, after Terra Nova and Alcatraz flopping this season.

Next season of 30 Rock will be the last [E! Online]
- Everyone saw that coming.

FOX gets Britney Spears and Demi Lovato for The X-Factor [Deadline]
- I normally don't comment on reality shows, but this move is hilarious. The X-Factor definitely underperformed this season, so Simon is trying to make up for that by bringing in notable celebrities regardless of credentials. At least with American Idol, you could say that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have been in the music business for a long time. You argue the same for Britney, I guess, but Demi Lovato? Seriously?

Harry's Law executive producer apparently thinks TV By the Numbers is powerful enough to influence ratings. [TVBTN]
- Obviously this is untrue, but given the absurd things producers, actors, etc say about ratings, he might actually believe this and isn't saying that out of frustration.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/13/12

Another big day of television news!

CBS cancels CSI: Miami, Unforgettable, Rob, A Gifted Man, NYC 22, renews CSI: New York [Deadline]
- CBS proves once again that absolute ratings don't matter. NBC would love to get what those shows got, but that isn't enough for CBS. CBS went ahead and canned CSI: Miami, which I thought does really well internationally. Perhaps CBS feels it will get more profits airing reruns rather than new episodes. The other cancellations were mostly expected, although Rob did put up decent numbers. The sharp decline each week definitely did not help, however.

NBC releases its 2012-2013 fall schedule [Deadline]
- Immediately evident from their schedule is that NBC is going comedy-heavy. It already has a stable of comedies, so they're trying to build from those successes. We also see that NBC isn't bothering to launch anything new on Thursday, indication they are settling for what they have right now without risking too much. But NBC does believe its comedies, backed by The Voice, can battle FOX's comedies. I'm not sure what's going on with Friday, with Grimm, a dedicated horror show, following two comedies in Whitney and Community. Whitney seems destined to fail in the time slot.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/12/12 - 12 AM version

Another big day of renewals and cancellations. CBS is the last network left which hasn't made important decisions, and it certainly has ones we'll look for--CSI: NY/Miami.

CW renews Gossip Girl for a shortened season, Hart of Dixie, and Nikita, cancels The Secret Circle, The Ringer [Deadline]
- Nothing spectacularly unexpected--like canceling GG or HoD--but I didn't expect it to go this way either. So what lessons did we learn from this? Either we can say that Nikita being on Friday helped or, as Deadline says, Nikita is a big international seller. Without specific numbers, it's hard to say anything.

NBC cancels Harry's Law, Awake, Bent, Are You There, Chelsea?, and Best Friends Forever [Deadline]
- Nothing unexpected here. I guess Harry's Law more so than the others since it was miraculously renewed last year (still not sure what all that was about), but the writing was clearly on the wall.

NBC renews Parks and Recreation, Up All Night, and Whitney [Deadline]
- Up All Night only gets 13 episodes.

ABC renews a bunch of shows, cancels GCB [Deadline]
- It looks like ABC is trying to push Body of Proof to syndication even if its ratings are the same as GCB's.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/10/12

Today was the biggest day yet for renewals, so here are the stories from Deadline since it has other interesting tidbits embedded in the stories.

ABC renews the obvious choices, Body of Proof safe? [Deadline]
- Despite Body of Proof's bad ratings in the US, it seems like the international broadcasting rights gets ABC enough money. Another thing to point out is that BoP's ratings took a major dip halfway through the season, falling to just 1.4 on March 13, but subsequently get either 2.0 or 1.9, which are not terrible.

NBC renews Parenthood, 30 Rock, and Community, but gives the latter two shorter orders [Deadline]
- Nothing too surprising here. If NBC implodes next season as it always does, we'll probably be seeing more episodes of Community.

Cougar Town moves to TBS [Deadline]
- This is pretty interesting. TBS's in-house productions haven't gotten much critical attention, but getting Cougar Town could bring in the cred it needs.

Unforgettable gets a reprieve(?), A Gifted Man canceled, CSI: Miami not looking good, Body of Proof looking good for return [Variety]
- Unforgettable being renewed would surprised me, but with its stock of aging dramas, CBS probably wants to keep something fresh around (even if the writing is piss-poor). Variety confirms Deadline's Body of Proof comments.

Not looking good for Nikita, supposedly [TV By the Numbers]
- It's hard to gauge the CW. It's a ratings joke, and will likely stay that way, especially if advertisers continue to put higher weight on television advertising (since CW's target audience is the group that is switching away from television the fastest). Objectively speaking, Nikita is sitting a tad above Ringer due to Friday discounting, a tiny bit below The Secret Circle, but not ahead of Hart of Dixie. Looking forward, though, The Secret Circle is a newer show and probably has a lot more content to work with. Nikita, comparatively, ran out of narrative steam a month ago and is now coasting along with the worst CW-isms you can imagine. Still, last week  Deadline seemed to think it would get renewed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TV News and Tidbits 5/9/12 - non 12 AM version

FOX renews Touch, cans Alcatraz and The Finder [Deadline]
- There's nothing too unexpected about this. Touch performs decently and Kiefer Sutherland helps, while the other two were just doing awfully.

FOX orders a bunch of shows [TV Line]
- Noteworthy are the number of comedies. My guess is a 2-hour comedy block on Tuesday, and moving Glee to Thursday.

NBC renews Law & Order: SVU, picks up Chicago Fire and Guys With Kids [TV Line]
- You can't blame NBC for not trying. It's going the hot girls/hot girls route with Chicago Fire and maybe Guys With Kids to pair with Up All Night.

List of 31 rotten parts in pop culture[AV Club]
- This was published a few days ago, but I just read it today. It's a fun list, as all lists are, but I have some quibbles. The biggest problem I have is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's first season. First seasons can be good if the showrunner has a clear idea in his/her mind beforehand, but more often than not, first seasons turn into sketchbooks where writers can work on things before really digging into the meat of the show. I'd agree that the first season is weak, but so are large parts of the sixth and seventh seasons. And even if we were going with the very weak first season criteria set for Buffy, there is one obvious choice that comes to mind, Star Trek: The Next Generation. While first season of Buffy is very watchable--cheesy but definitely watchable, TNG's first season is painful, lacking the intelligence or intensity of later episodes and Buffy's innate humor.

New feature: TV News and Tidbits 5/9/12

I'm trying to get in more regular posts, rather than just once per week, without having to spend too much extra time or brain power while allowing me to put in a small comment, so I've decided to have a post once per day with links to various news stories or other TV-related things I find interesting. Disclaimer: I'll likely write these posts while watching TV, so try not to make too many mistakes, but you know me...

TV by the Numbers has its final guesses for renewals and cancellations [NBC FOX CW CBS ABC]
- Nothing out of the ordinary. They're quite split on GCB relative to the other shows, and I am as well. On the other hand, its ratings have been bad especially on Sunday nights, when OUAT regularly gets 3-ish ratings. But the 1.8 it got in the season finale is respectable. Of the CW bunch, GG definitely has the greatest chance of renewal while The Secret Circle has the second slot. Ringer is at the bottom, but from there it's a toss up for Nikita and HoD.. Per Deadline (see next story), NBC isn't doing anything about Whitney, indication it might not be picked up.

NBC likely renewing a slew of comedies, with caveats [Deadline]
- Interesting note, Deadline says all comedy orders will get short orders. Considering how badly anything new on NBC does, I wouldn't be surprised if all get full seasons midway through the next season.

Newest Ask Ausiello (with the usual CW catfights in the comment section) [TV Line]
- There's not much here other than a few trivial spoilers and the hidden items he loves to dangle.

First look at JJ Abrams-Eric Kripke's show Revolution [io9]
- NBC is again plunking down big money for a sci-fi show. I don't know if this will work. Perhaps Eric Kripke laying out a long-term plan will be enough to combat the JJ Abrams super-mysterious-make-stuff-up style.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reviews 4/30/12 - 5/7/12

I've fallen way behind on television for the 20th time, so there are lots of shows left out that I wanted to comment on but didn't have time or shows I haven't watched yet--Breakout Kings season finale, Fairly Legal, Magic City, Bones, and maybe even some more in the backlog. As a general rule, though, the shows I left out are shows I don't have anything pressing to discuss--mostly comedies and other shows which aren't really good or really bad (though I liked Veep and Girls enough that I would have said something had I enough time).

Castle: If Andrew Marlowe hadn't gotten Castle and Beckett together at the end of this season, he would have had a revolt on this hands that would make Hart Hanson hate look tame. So he did the smart thing and did what everyone was asking for and finally pulled the trigger. Now, I won't give him much credit for such an easy decision, because he's bungled the show incredibly, but maybe the show is moving in the right direction. Maybe... but probably not. The whole SERIOUS episode tone made a return along with the conspiracy, so the plot was predictably the running around in circles stuff we've gotten to know.

Towards the end of House's seventh season, there was a planned arc where House would be on the road which was ultimately scrapped. I suspect the remnants of that story found its way into last night's episode, in which House and Wilson take a road trip, possibly their last, and have a good time doing various funny things. It was different than the usual episode, much like last week's episode in which Wilson went through serious treatment, and it had the needed somberness that lay behind the plot. Still, this plot feels forced, created only because of the hard deadline of a series finale. Imagine what could have happened had this plot been done 3 seasons ago and the possibilities that could stem from it. The rest of the episode focuses on Chase and he comes to the realization that he should go off on his own. Coupled with none of the series finale promo photos containing Chase, we're being led to believe he'll actually leave. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. He left in the past but came back later. Again, this is the series finale and the writers can do whatever they want without consequences.

I don't get why the central of Smash is cheating. It's happened so many times that either it's the only drama the writers know how to write or that they're telling us it's something inherent in theater. Now, since a lot of these people are working in theater, are they really telling us that infidelity is this prevalent in theater? And WTF is going on with Michael? Do the writers want us to dislike him more than Ellis? Also, Julia is an idiot. She's the one who got into the mess with Michael in the first place and now she think it's Tom's fault for saving the show. Are the writers actively trying to make us hate as many characters as possible?

I haven't said much about 2 Broke Girls for a very long time, and even after the season is over, I don't think much needs to be said about the show--it hasn't changed. The stereotyped characters are still there, the corny jokes are still there, and the plots are still the same. Well, it's a CBS comedy and the ratings are fine as is. The show certainly had potential to do cool things with the cupcake business, maybe turn it into a real plot instead of a plot device, but the writers were more comfortable regurgitating the same stuff over and over again than actually making progress. The season finale, like the pilot, pushes the cupcake plot one step forward. Now they have a semi-endorsement from Martha Stewart, which should be a big deal.

Though in its fifth season Mad Men still feels like a very fresh show, in large part due to Megan. She's a new character, far more developed than in the fourth season, and it allows us to have a new perspective on the old characters. Her decision to leave the firm for acting is the catalyst for exploration in her and other characters. For Don, it's a chance to get things right with a marriage and while he's unhappy, he takes it out on Peggy instead. His glances into the distance tell a different story than what he says to Megan, and the empty elevator shaft was ominous enough. Peggy, at first, does not understand why Megan is leaving, especially since her Heinz idea was so successful. Peggy reflects on her own experiences, how hard she worked to get into the door and then come up with good ideas, and can't understand why Megan would leave something like this. But in her conversation with Joan, who views Megan through a second-wife lens, Peggy states that Megan is good at everything. And maybe she is--maybe she'll succeed at acting like she did acting. Pete continues to flounder and finds himself in the arms of Beth, played by Alexis Bledel, whose unaffected acting style reminded me of January Jones. Once again, Pete finds himself following the footsteps of Don, but he's simply not Don. As hard as he tries, Pete can't make this thing with Beth permanent or even a multiple times fling.

Game of Thrones exposed major weaknesses in the characters. Most obvious is Theon, whose rein over Winterfell is as ineffectual as his beheading of Rodrick Cassel. While Ned knocked off heads in one blow, it takes Theon several chops, and then Osha completely fools him. Daenerys has even less is work with than Theon, who at least has some soldiers. All she has are a dubious claim to the throne and her dragons, which are stolen at the end of the episode, brought to the warlocks' place. Robb finds himself attracted to the nurse, but Catelyn reminds him of the deal with the Freys. Of course, were he to renege, that would mean drama, which is what GoT is all about. At King's Landing, the residents turn on Joffrey, the guards, and the other royalty, and Joffrey unable to retaliate, getting slapped by Tyrion once more. Jon is tasked to execute the wildling woman Ygritte but can't do it and finds himself huddling with her at first (love interest alert!). It's the peripheral characters who are the strongest--the Hound, Jaquen, Osha--and yet, they're not the ones in charge.

Book spoilers: The show continues to detach itself from the books as the season proceeds, and I'd say last night's episode had the largest departure, with Catelyn meeting with Robb, the dragons being taken, the extension with Ygritte the Theon plot retooled with no mention of Reek. The Reek twist is really cool in the book, as Ramsay Bolton is assumed dead. But I assume Ramsay is still around since Roose Bolton says his bastard will take care of Theon. It's increasingly likely that Talisa is Jeyne who Robb brings back to Riverrun in A Storm of Swords.

I think I'm done commenting on Once Upon a Time unless the season finale is notable. It's too stupid to warrant any meaningful thought.

Fringe: Yes, yes, everyone knows what I'll say first... the plot doesn't make sense and there are plot devices everywhere. Well, that's true, and I'll also say that the plot doesn't really matter at this point, given how much random stuff was make up on the spot through the years. So yeah, the return of William Bell, despite its plot deviceshness, makes for exciting television. He's supposed to be dead, he knows Walter well, and he's been behind DRJ the whole time. Why? Who cares, Olivia is cortexiphaning it up, Walter is sciencing it up--it's all quite fun.

Supernatural: Like with Fringe, I don't think the plot matters at this point. Maybe in the fifth season or even the sixth, but not anymore, what with Crowley, Lucifer, angels, demons, Leviathans all mashed into one unconceivable blob of general Winchester enemies. Last week's episode kind of just threw everything against the wall and almost all of it stuck. There was the return of Cas with Mischa Collins spitting great one-liners every minute, poor Kevin Tran who becomes a prophet overnight, a couple of Cas's old angel buddies, some demons, and finally Oscar the Leviathan who snatches Kevin.

Grimm usually has a twist on a fairy tale story, like the Rapunzel episode all the way back, but it basically did the full Cinderella story, only making Cinderella into a bat-like wessen. It made for an okay episode, bolstered by the cool screeching ability, with some development on Nick's parents front.

The Secret Circle peeled back the last layers to the Blackwell mystery and the show suddenly became a lot more interesting. It turns out that he's the ultimate bad guy, tricking everyone and using magic to get everyone pregnant. His plan has been years in the making, and will culminate when the crystal skull is assembled. This is serious business!

The Vampire Diaries: Finally, finally, finally(!!!!) Klaus is gotten rid of. Yes, I've been vocal about his uselessness, so I was of course pleased when he was spelled. He'll surely be back, but hopefully the situation in Mystic Falls will be different enough that his role is different. The rest of the episode was classic VD with hunter Alaric on the loose and all the characters running around the place doing their thing.

Midway through the season Awake appeared headed towards something big for Michael, with the hallucinations and whatnot, but it changed course and we're not bad in normal territory. While it's a bit different, as Rex's pregnant girlfriend is there, it's nowhere as urgent as prior indicators were. At this point, with anemic ratings, it's almost pointless to talk about the show as a whole, but it's worthwhile to say that Awake, as a procedural, is very solid, balancing the different characters wonderfully. We really get to know Michael, Rex, and Hannah. It was good to learn that the conspiracy turned out to be nothing more than a dirty cop, not something spanning both worlds. This is all a bit odd, considering Howard Gordon is the showrunner. Perhaps Kyle Killen has more control of the show than the titles would indicate.

I haven't said much about The Mentalist, but my impression of the second half of the season is that the writers decided to turn back and keep everything calm instead of doing anything too dramatic. At one point it seemed like Van Pelt would be shooting people up at any moment and she's fine now. The rest of the personal stories--Rigsby having a baby, and Cho and Summer--have felt awfully subdued. Even though the Cho and Summer story got pretty heated, it's over now and the subplot never felt like a big deal anyway.

Revenge turned things up a notch by giving Daniel full knowledge of his family's horrid past, and Emily knowing about this. Daniel's been the hapless guy, not too bright, and in the dark about most things. But by learning these things and continuing to defend his family, there are no excuses. Now the question is, does Emily care about him that much, to keep him alive even when he flies against the face of Emily's purported goals?

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 is quickly becoming my favorite new comedy of the season, over New Girl and Suburgatory. The show moves quickly, from one development to another, and it's all very fun and energized. June turning the tables on Chloe was great stuff, and continued to peel back the layers on Chloe, making her a more understandable character.

The strength of previous NCIS arcs was that the characters were not only involved but completely immersed in the arc. Tony and Jeanne--that actually matter to Tony. Ziva and Ari and Rivkin--again it deeply mattered. This Watcher Fleet plot, though, is trivial. Supposedly this is a major national security issue, but from the safety of a familiar NCIS office, it sure doesn't feel like it. The characters investigate as they usually do, as if nothing is wrong. And, really, from the audience's perspective this is nothing more than an extended case, nothing more than another bout of interrogations and computer magic.

Glee: Yes, it was a piece of utter, godawful crap. The domestic violence PSA plot ranks in the top 5 of worst things I've ever seen on television, out of thousands of episodes watched. Full stop. I don't want to insult Marti Noxon, but seriously, WTF? It's not that domestic violence isn't a big issue--it is. But you have to go about it the right way. The dialogue reads like a stupid, condescending guides to domestic violence, like one of the pamphlets Emma has. Worst of all this is Glee, which has little continuity. We barely know anything about Cooter, so the domestic violence seems more like an external problem that magically comes from nowhere. It'd be far better if someone we've know the whole time, say, Will, had been doing this to Emma for a while. That way, it would explain his patheticness and his ass would be thrown in prison and we'd never have to see him again. And like all Glee PSA's, it won't be revisited, which diminishes the issue again. Obligatory praise: Rachel botching her audition was incredibly powerful, not that it was unexpected, but because we've been following her and her dreams since the first episodes (hence the various callbacks to the Rachel quirks introduced in the pilot), and now we see them destroyed. So the lesson is: more continuity, better plot, less continuity, worse plot. It ain't that hard to understand, Glee writers.

Hawaii Five-0/NCIS: LA crossover: The Hawaii segment of the two-parter was about one might expect, running around the island looking for the smallpox. I haven't watched NCIS: LA regularly since the first season, but it felt the same to me. The comedic beats aren't quite right in the way NCIS's always are, and the entire show slows to revolve around these canned jokes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reviews 4/24/12 - 5/1/12

I'm not done watching everything yet and I probably won't have more time next week to fill in the gaps, so sorry if any show is left out.

As House winds down towards the end with a mostly new cast, the one thing that remains constant is House and Wilson, who now has cancer. This flips the show on its side, and the episode shows House and Wilson and their best, in sickness and in health. We're reminded, once again, that these characters don't have great lives, they'll end up without families, but they'll have each other... if Wilson survives.

I'm relieved Castle's season finale is next week, because I'm getting worn out. The zombie theme was okay while it lasted, but the crime part of the show bored me out of my mind. Stock characters, stock twists, and little else. The two Alexis scenes were great, for what it's worth.

If it wasn't clear enough, last night's episode of Game of Thrones, the midway point of the season, made it abundantly known that there will be a big battle soon and maybe more than one. A large portion of the episode is spent developing the plots directly regarding the war. Renly is killed by Melisandre's shadow, Tyrion catches up on the alchemists making wildfire, the Night's Watch waiting at the Fist of the First Men while Jon and others scout ahead, and Tywin scheming at Harenhal. There's a lot going on, so nothing really stuck out to me like certain events in the book did.

Book spoilers: It seems like the writers are giving Bran less to do by taking out the Freys and the Reeds, so it'll just be Bran, Osha, and Hodor. I'm sure many people were waiting to see the traditional Qarthean garb with a single breast exposed, but I guess they decided not to go with it.

After the previous week's trippy episode, Mad Men return back to normal--sort of. Although it didn't have any LSD or 3 stories of a single day, the episode had a clear focus on parents. There are tons of good things in the episode--Megan's brilliant idea, her seemingly disinterest in taking credit, her parents, Roger and Sally, Peggy and Loan--and it makes for an interesting episode that's lighter than the previous episode yet still with drama.

I think I'm done with The Killing. Part of me wants to find out what happens in the end, but it's taking far too much out of me to slog through the mess. At the end of the last episode, the music builds during the montage, as we see the various evildoers waiting in the wings. It's supposed to be dramatic stuff, tense for Linden, sad for Mitch, but I was half asleep by then and just wanted it to be over with. In the episode, we learn some more facts with the return of Jasper and his father, some evidence pointing towards them. But in the end, we're no better off than we were an episode ago or 10 episodes ago. This is a big reason why the character stuff for Linden and Holder doesn't work. The only motivating factor for them to change their behavior is time and frustration, not because of anything that actually happens. So when Holder recognizes Linden's attachment to the case because of her previous case, it's pretty arbitrary.

The third season of The Good Wife is probably the weakest of the three seasons from a plotting standpoint. The previous seasons had complete stories from beginning to end. It feels like the writers started too many plot threads this season, then decided to resolve some of them earlier, while leaving nothing towards the end. So, while the season finale had thematic coherence with the various things that have gone on, there isn't one strong story it really latched on to. Beyond the plot, though, the episode had lots of great moments--the elevator scenes, the dream team--and the trademark snappy pacing. One thing that bothered me is Kalinda's plot, and her mysterious husband. It's just hanging out there, unrelated to anything else.

The main thing that bothers me about  Once Upon a Time's plot is how arbitrary it is and the random magic rules that are explicitly stated. It would be better if the magic were shrouded in mystery, but the writers go out of their way to make characters state the exact constraints of the magic, for no reason other than for plot convenience. That said, the twist of August being Pinocchio was damn good, and make even better because he was tasked to make Emma believe.

Fringe: I want to get the plot issues out of the way first. Yes, the whole DRJ problem, the Cortexiphan kids, and solution was one big plot device with little build up or explanation--that's the outcome of making stuff up on the fly. But I don't think anyone still watching has really cared too much about the plot since the second season (though, considering the drop in viewership, maybe some people did care). What "Worlds Apart" does is what the best Fringe episodes do, bring the characters together and really show who they've become. The episode excellently parallels the characters and their counterparts, and gives them a send off with the weight we've come to know. The writers have explored both worlds so much this season that, even though it is different world than the previous seasons, enough has happened so that we know and feel how important closing the bridge is.

Supernatural: Yes, I'm a fan of Felicia Day so of course I had to like the episode even thought I don't like the Leviathan storyline. I still don't get what the point of ghost Bobby is.

The end of last week's Grimm episode seemed to suggest a dark side to Nick. He shipped two Reaper heads to Germany, no easy task for a regular person. Now Nick is going outside of the law to not only kill people/creatures but to also intimidate.

The Secret Circle works pretty well as a horror show, with characters running around in the dark amidst bodies and blood. The final twist of Nick being alive was mostly unexpected and it signals that the plot will have to move forward.

Last week's episode of The Vampire Diaries featured a lot of the good and the bad of this season. The good was the characters and the way Alaric's near-certain death was handled. The show pulls back and looks at the big picture of his life and it is indeed very bleak, as Ester prepares to transform him. Meanwhile, Elena realizes she and Jeremy have no one left, another devastating view of a character's life. The bad, as has been the case this season, was the plot. Esther, after being absent for a number of episodes, returns with yet another plot and it's pretty random with no build up. But the plot does get moving and at the end of the episode at least we know something has to budge in the next episode.

Parks and Recreation: Leslie!!! After an up and down campaign, Leslie finally got a chance to debate Bobby Newport, and the debate resembled the campaign--mostly downs but some ups. When all seems hopeless, Leslie lets rip a speech for the ages. It's a Leslie speech, full of hope and the can-do spirit she embodies, and everyone, Bobby included, is wowed. At that point, I thought to myself that Leslie would win the election. The writers wouldn't have her come this far just so she doesn't win, wouldn't they?

I'm a big fan of Community theme episodes, and the Law & Order episode was no exception. With the characters filling in the roles of the lawyers/detectives and the plot actually having some complexity, allowing for multiple suspects, the episode played out nicely.

The events on Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 are pretty outlandish, like June dating Chloe in the previous episodes and the shenanigans in the followed, but it's something that could conceivably happen in a general sense. Last week's episode took a big turn, however, when Chloe somehow adopts a girl. It's explained in a flashback, but it's still far from realistic. From there, the episode continued along this weird path until the end.

The cynic in me says Glee did a Whitney episode so it could sell another album. Maybe this would be less likely in the first season, when the plot seemed to matter, but the show has become so glitzy, so decentralized, so devoid of heart, that I wouldn't be too surprised. The vast majority of the episode was bad, Will's pathetic scenes especially so. The one bright spot was Kurt's scene with his father.
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