Monday, December 13, 2010

The Week in TV

Community (12/9)
Ugh. I just don't know. I liked the idea of a stop-motion, Rankin-Bass style episode of this show. I genuinely enjoy this show's willingness to play with form and to stretch the boundaries, it's just the execution that's been spotty. I've seen false generalities thrown around about how certain Community fans only like the high-concept episodes and certain fans like the character episodes and certain fans like the sad episodes. I don't think there's a hard and fast rule, at least not for me. I think part of my problem has been that the episodes this season have been so either/or. Either it's all-out genre parody (zombie Halloween) or completely stripped down (the "bottle episode"). Or it's like last week's "Troy gets sad on his birthday episode," which decided it would just bum us out for 30 minutes. kind of what the Christmas episode did too. I like it that the shows takes these characters seriously and lets them have emotions and problems and depth. But the comedy needs to be the driving force of the show, and these past two episodes, you've felt the gears grind to a halt and they shifted from regular, funny Community to sad, serious Community. I think I'm still waiting for the Community episode that makes me forget all these genre/format questions for a half-hour and makes me laugh again.

30 Rock (12/9)
The Jenna stuff was mostly a miss (though it led to the very funny moment of Liz being repeatedly confused for a drag queen), and the Tracy stuff was one joke carried out for a while episode. But I really liked the Jack/Avery/Colleen/Milton stuff. Elizabeth Banks really delivers when she stops by, and Alan Alda is a great foil for Jack.

Real World/Road Rules Challenge (12/8)
So much to love! Starting with CT carrying Johnny Bananas like he's a papoose and then dropping his ass on a trash can for funsies. No one person on this show deserved that treatment more, though I will give Bananas credit for having some self-awareness in his interviews. You know who comes across worse than Johnny this season? Brad. BRAAAAD. When did he become such a bitch? Hiding behind alliances, shirking his alpha-male duties and generally scheming Paula-style to make it to the end? That's beneath you, B-Rad. Looking forward to next week, when hopefully Emily puts Paula out of her misery, and somebody finds a way to get Laurel to just STOP. ALL OF IT.

Top Chef All-Stars (12/8)
Man, I loved Jen on her season and I love her now, but I can't decide if that was Jen going out in a blaze of scorched-earth glory or if she just had a breakdown on national TV. I have to say, while I can't find fault with Jen's ouster (Casey herself said Jen's pork belly was awful). But I do think that Team Meat was really set up for failure in that task. Classic case of The Advantage That's Not. That said, thrilled to see some of my favorites really shining (Tiffani, Dale), even if I have to sneer at Blais and Marcel and their stupid-ass hair winding up in the winner's circle.

Survivor (12/8)
This has been a bad season, I'm not going to front. But I guess it says a lot about how much I enjoy the ins and outs of the game that I am still very interested to see how it all shakes out. The latter half of this season has gotten us down to some characters I'm rooting for (Holly), some I'm rooting against (Sash, Dan), and someone like Jane, who is either wonderful or crazy or both. This past episode went a long way towards clarifying why I hate Sash (so chronically insincere!) and made a decent case for Chase as a genuinely good guy who is mostly aware of how he can sometimes be a dumbass. Like I said, the season hasn't been good, but it still stands a shot at a decent finish.

Raising Hope (12/7)
Best Christmas episode of the season so far! And not just because they featured the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" cover, a Top 10 Christmas song of mine. It adhered to the Raising Hope forumula fairly well (Jimmy wants a better Christmas for Hope than he got; Virginia goes overboard trying to prove herself), but I find comfort in this show's rhythms, and Martha Plimpton was alternately crazed and endearing. And the undercurrent of Burt contemplating letting Maw Maw die by natural causes (and/or misadventure) was a nice darkly funny note to add to all the holiday themes. If I had one complaint, it would be the under-use of Jonathan Slavin, so beloved by me from his Better Off Ted days. Stop fucking around, Hollywood, and get this guy a show again.

Glee (12/7)
This is one of those Glee episodes that shouldn't work ... and kind of doesn't work, but the one or two beats that did work make me think of the episode fondly. I was frankly worried about "Baby It's Cold Outside," mostly because Kurt has yet to really sell me on his romantic side. But I thought it worked. The Dalton scenes have bothered a lot of people, but for me, Dalton has been presented as such a through-the-looking glass place, it tends to accomodate the weird "Hot Toddies at the Snow Lodge, 1967" vibe that song needs. You know I don't care for Artie, so his bionic legs were probably not going to move me much BUT Quinn once again saves the day. I know I'm like a broken record with this stuff but honestly, that whole treacly storyline couldn't accomplish as much emotion as Diana Agron's face from the background of that scene. GIVE HER SHIT TO DO.

Gossip Girl (12/6)
Once again, Katie Cassidy has been KILLING IT this season, and I hope she sticks around now that this secret-vengeance plot has been (mostly) solved. In other news, while I'm used to this show essentially spinning a wheel to determine which character will be the designated villain of the moment, it really feels like the show was stretching this week to turn Lily into a cold-hearted schemer. It's better than yet another Serena/Blair fight (or another Deus Ex Georgina), but it also doesn't feel right.


Bernice Clifton said...

I totally agree about Survivor. It has the potential to be interesting here at the end. Also, has anyone ever gone from total loony to likable frontrunner as seamlessly as Holly?

And, you did not discriminate which Dale you love on Top Chef, and I can only assume you mean the Wonderfully Adorable Dale L. and not the total asshole Dale T. What is his deal?

Ben said...

Yes! Diana Agron remains the single most impressive thing about Glee. She can sell even the most hackneyed storyline as sincere. Why has she been given nothing to do yet?

Roommate Mark said...

I liked this more-serious "Community" episode that you did---just like last week---but I totally agree with you that it would be nice if I could just enjoy an episode of the show because it was funny. I feel like this entire season has been about making intellectual decisions about whether I like a particular episode, whereas least season was much more about just liking the show on a gut level and then sorting out later why that was so.

Marshall1 said...

Thought 30 Rock's episode was great and the show is on fire this season (except a couple episodes). You didn't even mention the Black Swan stuff? I guess I'm a hardcore 30 Rock fans, but I really believe the two best comedy shows on TV now is Cougartown and 30 Rock, with Raising Hope a pleasant surprise. Modern Family is really below-par for me this season.

Joe Reid said...

Oh yes! I did like that "Black Swan" callout, I forgot about that.

Ellie said...

I tend to like the more serious episodes of Community; I liked a lot (but not all) of Troy's birthday, for example. And I don't think it's a total departure from their first season (I'm thinking of the one where Abed makes the video for his dad to watch).

But this year's Christmas one just left me really, really cold. I was SO EXCITED when I saw the show would be doing Claymation, thinking they'd do something really great with the form, and they ended up telling the wrong kind of story. There needed to be way more whimsy, whether straight or used to pervert the twee-ness of the form. But what they did was so bland. What they did was overshadowed by what they could have done and did not take advantage of the opportunity to do. It was an odd misstep for a show that usually nails genre pastiche so accurately. I couldn't get into it at all.

Though it's not like it was going to live up to last year's Christmas episode, which is one of my favoritest things ever.

Kirk Hamilton said...

Ya, I didn't love the Community Christmas episode as much as the internet did, either. Hmm, I dunno. I'd theorize that the more serious dramedy thing works better for me on hour-long shows than it does on half-hours, but I'm not so sure, since I can think of plenty of hour-long dramedies that don't really do it for me either.

At least they had a lot of fun with the stop-motion; the chase along the top of the train was pretty impressive! I hope the cast members got to keep their stop-motion models.

Also yes, I thought that the Black Swan thing in 30 rock was pretty hilare. That whole Jenna subplot hasn't been that funny, but it's given some good individual moments.