Monday, 19 November 2007

This Week in TV (Week 8)

Let's do this quick style!

Highlight of the Week:

30 Rock again conquered all with satire of the war on terror that was actually funny and integrated into the plot without being heavy-handed even for a second. It also had a hilarious guest appearance by Edie Falco as CC, a Democrat love interest for Jack, which led to much soul-searching for both of them, and a magnificent scene in which Tracy feeds Jack exclamations of love a la Cyrano De Bergerac.

Which leads me to...

Lines of the Week:

"Tell her your privates wanna give her privates a high-five!"

"Tell her her butt look like an apple and you wanna take a bite!"

"Tell her she's got tig ol' bitties like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders!"

"Tell her you want her to donate her body to science and you science! Tell her, Jack!"

Scene of the Week:

As wonderful as that scene was, I might have laughed more at the Lifetime movie based on Falco's life, called A Dog Took My Face And Gave Me A Better Face To Change The World: The Celeste Cunningham Story, starring Kristen Wiig as CC.

It was pretty accurate, but the thing that sold it was Jack's reaction as he watches it, exhorting everyone on screen to get the gun away from the dog and getting more and more exasperated as the tragic accident occurs. The capper is Wiig sliding out of shot and saying, "I'm going to get into politics!" I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I could not love this show more. That's before I realised that CC is going to be a semi-recurring character from now on, which would be brilliant news if it wasn't for that darned strike.

Stupidest Scene of the Week:

I've expressed my extreme displeasure with Chuck in the past, but I have to say, last week's episode was the strongest yet, and featured guest appearances by actors I have been very fond of in the past; Rachel Bilson, who was The O.C.'s Summer Roberts (and has still not conquered her enunciation problems), and Kevin Weisman who played lovable technological wizard Marshall in Alias. So I like Chuck now, right?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Even at the height of its powers, I had a miserable time watching it. Truth serums and poison and antidotes? Really? This is the best on offer? I noticed that the episode was written by show producer Anne Cofell Saunders, who has spent years on 24. Now, that show, at its worst, features some hilariously convoluted and bad plotting, and strained dialogue devoid of jokes. At its best, it has riveting and exciting plots featuring excellent timing and suspense, and strained dialogue devoid of jokes. That dialogue never improves. As a result, this episode of Chuck featured much stronger plotting than usual, with something finally being done about Chuck and Sarah's absurd romance, but lumbered on with zero wit and horribly contrived comic sequences featuring the criminally unfunny Buy More staff. When I say criminally, I'm not exaggerating. They should all be hogtied or keelhauled or something. Isn't there a punishment where people are sewn into sleeping bags full of vipers? Can we do that one, please? Especially in the case of Joshua Gomez as multiverse-Gupta Morgan? I nominate him as worst character on TV. Oh God, he makes my teeth ache! Oh God! Oh God!!! ::has nervous breakdown::

::recovers from nervous breakdown:: Still, the stupidest moment of the week came when Weisman's evil baddie character poisons Chuck's sister, Ellie, with a deadly enhanced truth serum, which starts making her tell the truth lots and lots, but only a few hours after her exposure. As a bargaining chip, he offers an antidote to Chuck and co. in exchange for a MacGuffin of some sort. He holds up the antidote to prove it exists, and everyone sees it.

Through various hilarious shenanigans, Chuck saves Ellie but gets him and Sarah and Casey poisoned. Through the magic of contrivance, the truthiness kicks in almost instantly, leading to even more hilarious shenanigans! But they will die soon, which just ruins the humour entirely. You're bumming me out, Cofell Saunders. Chuck is smart enough to figure out where Weisman is hiding, and our heroic avengers rush to his hideout. When there, he offers them the antidote, and they take it. Here is a screencap of this moment.

Now, unless you're colour-blind, you might be able to spot a slight discrepancy. Here's a hint; check out the colour of the vials. Our heroes are about to drink the liquid, but thank God! Chuck realises the vials contain something other than the antidote, and throws it away! How did he figure this out? Because the previous vial that he not only held in his hand but administered to his dying sister was green and this one os piss-yellow? No! Because villains like to offer heroes bottles of poison instead of antidotes in, and I quote, "comic books". Okay, sorry about this, but it's pet peeve time. In the pilot, Chuck asks Morgan if he wants to play "video games". I don't know any gamer who refers to them as anything other than games, just as I don't know any comic fans who refer to them as "comic books". Graphic novels, yes, occasionally, but never "comic books". Yet more proof that this show is targeted at geeks and nerds but written by people who have no concept of nerd culture. Painful stuff. Oh, and they cast the immensely likeable Weisman as a nasty bad guy, thus wasting his talents.

I really have no idea why I'm still watching this.

ETA: Canyon, who was kind enough to get these Chuck screencaps for me, pointed out that Weisman's forehead appears to have become larger, not unlike some kind of large-craniumed psychic villain out of a comic "book". [It's not just larger; it has Frankenstein stitches down the center and bulges out at either side. Something in there is growing, and I'm worried it's not his brain. -- Canyon]

Edit again, many many months later: Upon rewatching this episode for our Caruso Awards of 2007-2008, I found out that it wasn't actually written by Anne Cofell Saunders, but by Allison Adler. Many apologies to everyone involved for the error. What did Adler previously work on? Family Guy and Commander In Chief. Perfect pedigree for Chuck, then.

Most Inventive Plot of the Week:

Pushing Daisies returned with another strong episode, though for most of it I remained hung up on the tweeness, and the over-direction (not Sonnenfeld-bad, but annoying nonetheless), and the peculiar cleavage overload, and my anxiousness whenever Chuck gets near Ned. At the end, however, I realised how much I'd enjoyed the plot, which revolved around a polygamist dog trainer, his four wives, their perfect dog, and an evil breeder with a get-rich-quick cloning scheme.

It was so off the wall but so creative and coherent that I couldn't help but love it. The fact that the perfect dog is a cross between four breeds, and the dog trainer had four wives, lent a pleasant symmetry to the episode. The first murder plot (featuring a dandelion powered car) was perhaps too quirky, and I was concerned that there would be similar annoying details cluttering straightforward plots in the future episodes, but this was inventive and silly and yet never implausible, in that yes, cloning dogs and killing people with poisoned coffee is outlandish but nothing was as gratuitous as a car powered by dandelions, which was too too precious. It was a joy to watch, and yet again made me kick myself for doubting the show. Even though the flaws remain, it would be a grave mistake to diss some of the cleverest writing on TV.

Most Pissed-Off Reaction of the Week:

An overworked Tami Taylor asks Tyra and Lila (whose names will confuse me until the end of time) to help organise Pantherama, the annual rally for the Dillon Pathers, and with notable imagination, they get the team to strip off in front of the whole town. This is how she and her husband react.

For some reason Lila thinks it hilarious, though we thought she'd have to rush out and do some hardcore praying. Still funny, though.

Runner-Up Most Pissed-Off Reaction of the Week:

The documentary crew following House around the hospital edit together his misanthropic quips and turn him into a lovable hero that makes Doug Ross look like Peter Benton. (Sorry, I once loved E.R. Is that a crime?)

Having his carefully constructed nastiness ruined by a bunch of filmmakers really pisses on his chips. Oh, and remember I said Michael Michele was brought in as a snarky love interest? Turns out I was wrong again. This happens a lot. Get used to it!

Question of the Week:

Which was the best love scene? Pushing Daisies' Ned and Chuck?

FNL's Matt Saracen and Magical Latina Maid Carlotta?

Ugly Betty's Henry and L'Amanda?

Or Reaper's Sock and Gladys?

Clumsiest and Most Delayed Exposition of the Week:

From the thrilling opening of the latest Heroes:

Peter Petrelli: You gotta let me go, Nathan.
Nathan Petrelli: You go, I go!
Peter: No, I'll be okay. You can fly, I can't.
Nathan: Whaddaya mean?
Peter: It's taking everything within me, all my power not to explode! Let me go!
Nathan: Peter!
Peter: Raaaaaaargh! ::big 'splodey::

Yes, it was great that the writers acknowledged the gaping plot hole in the season one finale, albeit it with the subtlety of Niki's fist to the groin, but it would have worked better several months ago. We'll take a couple of lines of exposition at the right moment over "emotional truth" based on contrivance and ignorance of the laws of your own universe, thank you Mr. Kring. Mind you...

Most Exciting FX Sequence of the Week / Season So Far:

...Nathan saving Peter, getting burnt to a crisp, and then saved by Peter made me want to do a circuit of the living room in its honour.

That's the Heroes I love! Which makes it all the more painful that...

Worst, Stupidest, Most Contrived and Insulting Death of the Week:

...making sure DL doesn't die as a result of Linderman's bullets, but lives on, becoming an actual, honest-to-God inspirational hero, and then dying off camera to a punk with a gun just so that Niki can come to her senses and seek help is just absolute bullshit. Even Ali Larter seems to be pissed about it.

DL was one of my favourite characters, and having him die in the finale would have been bad enough, but let's be honest here. The writers had four months of backstory to explain, and they didn't have enough for Niki to do, so they brought back DL from the dead just so she had someone to interact with during this episode. How else were they gonna fill the 45 minutes up? Sylar was out of commission, Nathan was in a coma, Peter was in a Company cell hanging out with "Adam Monroe", and Hiro was in Feudal Japan. Problem is, DL was supposed to be dead, so he just gets hurriedly pushed out of the story in the lamest of ways. Imagine if Daredevil was run over by a car driven by Stilt-Man's cousin, or if Animal Man slipped in the shower. This is how stupid DL's death is. I know it's just a show, and I am usually able to not get too worked up about these things, but that was appallingly bad writing and a disservice to the fans. Heroes gives with one hand, and it takes away with the other. I'm not a happy bunny!

Most Intriguing Character of the Week:

Yes, we now luff Journeyman. Other than being a little humourless, we love everything about it, and this week featured a superb plot twist, where we find out that Dan Vassar's time-travelling companion Livia is leaping forward from 1948 instead of back from 2007! Turns out their love affair was conducted during a particularly lengthy leap on her part, which begs the question, how much of their moments together were actually spent during her leaps, with her popping out of the present when his back was turned? And if Dan is leaping because of an experiment in the present, how does that affect her 59 years ago? I love that the show is full of little questions and mysteries. It's making the loss of Lost almost bearable. Oh, did I mention that Livia is played by internet favourite Moon Bloodgood? No? Whoops!

Moon Bloodgood, ladies and gentlemen.

Most Underwritten Character of the Week:

Rather than continue with the griping about Andi and her pointlessness, it's perhaps time to start worrying about the other main female character, Josie, played by Valarie Rae Miller. For weeks now she's been not much more than a walking plot device, an ex-girlfriend who just happens to work in the DA's office, allowing the Soulbusters to find out information about the criminal pasts of their foes. Until now, the most interesting thing about her is that I was sure she looked familiar, and I thought I'd gone mad and started thinking she was the black Eve Myles.

Turns out she she was in Dark Angel, as the token black lesbian (James Cameron's randomly activating liberalism at work, I'll wager), where she just talked about her relationships and gave off waves of dismissive "attitude". Despite her non-lesbianness in Reaper, she's pretty much the same woman. Prior to this week all she has done is spar with Sock, but even then her perpetually annoyed responses fare not too well in the face of Tyler Labine's off-kilter line readings and method quirkiness. Sock desperately needed a comic foil who was more than a match for him, and if it was meant to be her, it wasn't established strongly enough and Miller was left with little to work with. Instead, Gladys the DMV demon has become the unlikely foil, much to our delight.

That leaves the problem of what to do with Miller. This week she actually got to interact with Missy Peregrym instead of get hassled by Labine, but to my disappointment, in contravention of Bechdel's Law,all they could do was talk about boys. With the growing viewer frustration over the lack of variety or season arcs, the showrunners would do well to spend some time fleshing out these characters (especially Josie), perhaps give them an adventure of their own, one that doesn't involve them talking non-stop about boys.

It could be the thing that vaults the always entertaining but unadventurous show up to the next level. Oh, and I know I said I wasn't going to go on about Andi, but right now the show is wasting Missy Peregrym even more than Miller. I've got Stick It on right now, and while it's painful to see Jeff Bridges playing a tough gymnastics instructor instead of winning the Oscars he should be getting on a regular basis, it's amazing to see how lively Peregrym is. She's not the best actress, but she's funny and engaging and is willing to take a beating for the film. A montage of her hitting the ground over and over again was painful to see. Why is she not being used to greater effect? Damnit, my love of Reaper is getting sorely tested over its lack of commitment to giving the female characters something interesting to do. Consider this a black mark against the show that must be addressed (I'm sure the showrunners will hop to it right now).

The "What The Hell Is He Doing On This Show" Moment of the Week:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, FNL introduced a new character, played by Surfing Jesus!

I honestly thought that John From Cincinnati's Austin Nichols was a surfer who got given an acting gig because showrunners David Milch and Kem Nunn thought it would be easier to train surfers to act than to do it the other way around, but it seems he's actually an actor first and a water-skiier second. The watersports world's loss is our loss too. Actually, that's unfair. His performance as John was infinitely better than Rebecca DeMornay's and she's meant to be good at that shit. He was fine in FNL with what must have been a frustrating role to play (Julie's new crush), and at least now he doesn't have to keep saying "I don't know Butchie instead" fifteen times an episode. (Seems he's actually from Austin, which explains why he's in FNL, though not why his parents felt it necessary to name him after the town he was raised in. Did they move there because of his name? Or name him that because they wanted to live there? Actually, I don't care really. I'm just killing time.)

Pratfall of the Week:

Betty gets haunted by her kindhearted former self this week, and is reminded of the toll her job has taken on her, a cloying plot device wonderfully usurped first by having Dream Betty walk into a door, followed by Real Betty sitting on the wrong part of a chair.

As usual, the sentimentality of the show is undercut, allowing the subsequent genuinely shocking death of Bradford to hit hard without being dulled by contrived emotion earlier. Bravo showrunners, once more!

Grin of the Week:

Not just Ray Wise, but Ray Wise while getting repeatedly smacked in the head with a baseball bat!

Runner-Up Grin of the Week:

Buddy Garity trying to charm Tami Taylor with yet another of his harebrained schemes.

Brad Leland is the king of oily charm and thwarted optimism, and is always a joy to watch, but Buddy's decision to look after the homeless Santiago meant we could see him question his own wisdom and face up to potentially troublesome responsibility. He was even more awesome than usual, but as I've said before, this is the best acted drama on TV, and it's something we take for granted by now.

1 comment:

Jaredan said...

Damn I forgot Joel McHale was in Pushing Daisies this week and I missed it. Mind you I have been missing just about everything as I have a beautiful computer that has me in its clutches.
That Warcraft has me whipped again, sigh.
And how I wish i had a 360 with both Rock Band and Mass Effect out here this week. Curses!