Tuesday, 25 November 2008

That Week in TV Year II (Week 9)

Of course, this was the week Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America, a week spent fretting, then rejoicing, then fretting again (I did the last bit on my own, I think). Not much aired, but there were still some highpoints, including, of course, The Shield.

Week 9 (3 - 9 Nov):

The Shield 3:10 - Party Line
Friday Night Lights 3:06 - It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy
America's Next Top Model 11:11 - The Final Five
CSI 9:05 - Leave Out All the Rest
The Office 5:06 - Customer Survey
30 Rock 3:02 - Believe in the Stars
Ugly Betty 3:07 - Crush'd

Non-Shield Highlight of Week 8:

For several seasons CSI would feature the occasional episode written by edgy former drug addict Jerry Stahl, writer of the addiction memoir Permanent Midnight, subsequently made into a movie starring Ben Stiller. In the book Stahl freely admits to megalomaniacal behaviour when crazed by drugs, hijacking Twin Peaks writers' meetings with zany behaviour that ended up costing him his job.

Luckily for him he got cleaned up and ended up on the most successful show on US TV, where his scripts stood out like a sore thumb by repeatedly exploring the extremes of sexual experimentation and drug abuse, ostentatiously flying his freak flag as high as possible. That's not to say his work was bad. While Canyon is more sceptical of his episodes, they struck me as cleverer and funnier than regular episodes. He also created the fan-favourite character Lady Heather (played by the ever-excellent Melinda Clarke), dominatrix, therapist, and muse to Gil.

Stahl's moved on from CSI now, but this superb installment, written by Jacqueline Hoyt, echoed his repeatedly used themes while offering a more downbeat and morbid story than he maybe would have approached. Following a murder that looks to have been committed during bondage play, Gil takes that opportunity to visit Lady Heather (last seen brutally whipping a thug), ostensibly to gather information about the BDSM culture, but secretly to find comfort following his breakup with Sara, who dumps him via laptop.

Not cool! Hoyt does a splendid job of weaving the complex murder plot with Gil and Heather's confessional conversations, delivering exposition about the crimes in beautifully paced montages, and giving William Petersen plenty to sink his teeth into. Even better was the inconclusive verdict, with the team up-ending several lives to get to the truth only to find they had gone in completely the wrong direction, which echoed the episode from last season when Catherine let her emotions get in the way of her forensic mind, causing her to cast judgement on an innocent man.

It helps that the episode was directed by the ever-reliable Kenneth Fink, again providing a visual feast (with Nelson Cragg on DoP duties). Fingers crossed Jerry Bruckheimer gets hold of a low-key crime film script and hands it over to Fink to direct. If Gregory Hoblit could make the jump to the big screen with Primal Fear, Fink could do the same.

Shocking Assault of the Week:

The Shield has often horrified the audience with totally out-of-the-blue violence: Aceveda's horrifying rape, the almost deadly attack on Danny at the start of season 7, and of course the soul-numbing awfulness of the season 5 finale. In this episode Aceveda, seemingly cowed by the deals between Vic, Pezuela, and the ICE team, instead explodes into startling violence, raining down such a flurry of blows on Pezuela that even Vic and cartel head Beltran stand by in incomprehending shock. Of course, Aceveda is doing it to try to sabotage Vic's plan and keep himself in the loop, not caring that he has made Pezeula look so weak in the eyes of the cartel that he has effectively signed his death warrant. In a series full of staggering moments, this was yet another stand-out, made all the more powerful by the fact that, as Noel Murray said in his excellent AV Club review, Aceveda has been walking towards that confrontation for years. Fans should have seen this coming, but as ever the magnificent Shield writing team kept us focused on Vic so much that the moment Aceveda snaps is still a huge, gut-churning surprise.

Fashion Faux-Pas of the Week:

Did a Great Eatlon take a big mystical dump on Tyra's top?

And why is it held up with straps from a backpack?

Question of the Week:

Did they or didn't they? Julie and Matt (in another stellar episode of Friday Night Lights) finally get back together after a day spent frolicking in a lake, spending the night together under the stars next to a big bonfire, which is such romantic overkill it positively screams OMG they totally did it. The next morning they're utterly unafraid to be as soppy as possible, and Canyon and I spent the whole scene debating whether they did, but it was this naughty exchange of looks...

...that convinced me. They totally did it! After their previous failed attempt in season one it makes sense the show would be tactful about it, having already shown the conflict between Tami and Julie. Of course, if it turns out they didn't do it, I'm coming back here to erase this part of the post.

Dear God Shut Up Already! Moment of the Week:

I don't think anything on America's Next Top Model has inspired me to such an explosion of splenetic rage as Marjorie's endless self-loathing and inability to accomplish anything.

I already hate go-sees (they make me very anxious), but her nervy race through Amsterdam made it an even more excruciating experience. Her signature hunchback photo style is not so impressive once you realise she only uses it so much because she has no backbone.

Funniest Scene of the Week:

In a classic Office scene, Michael makes Dwight role-play a conversation with a customer (played by Jim) in order to assess his ability to interact with clients, all because evil Kelly faked some customer reports to ruin their chances of a bonus.

What made it so entertaining is that it was possibly the perfect example of the running joke of Michael and Dwight's inability to distinguish reality from fantasy.

Least Funny Scene of the Week:

Jim listening to Pam, via teeny tiny handsfree, as she discusses her possible future in New York with a classmate (played by Mad Men's Rich Sommer) was excruciating stuff, with Krasinski selling his subdued anguish brilliantly.

Even bringing Dwight in at the end of the scene couldn't make it funny. Just horrible to watch, but then The Office has always been very good at yanking the audience from happiness to sadness, which possibly accounts for my occasional reticence to watch it even though I think it's wonderful. This scene was also way more effective and convincing than the rushed denouement to Michael and Holly's relationship in the previous episode, Employee Transfer.

Visual Gag of the Week(s):

The third season of 30 Rock may have opened with a weak episode, even with a customarily welcome appearance by Will Arnett as Devon Banks, but the second episode was a huge improvement. Of the many great gags on offer, Octuples Tennis might have made me laugh the most.

Synchronised Running worked well too.

Irksome New Character of the Week:

With Tyra (Collette from Friday Night Lights, not America's Next Top Model) all loved-up with her new fella (whose apparent drug addiction seems sure to wreck the relationship and doom Tyra to remain in Dillon forever), Landry attempts to cope with the fallout by listening to love ballads in his car and focusing his energies on Crucifictorious. After a bust-up with his bass player, a tryout for a replacement leads to the arrival of Devin, yet another cute hipster for Landry to fall for (considering how square Dillon is meant to be, it seems to be a more of a mecca for Flaming Lips-loving nerd-hotties than nearby Austin). Of course, she instantly joins the band, changing it from a prospective death metal Nirvana into Blake Babies or something.

Our initial misgivings about this new character were partially motivated by the unimaginatively convenient timing of her introduction, providing Landry with someone at exactly the right moment in his post-Tyra downward spiral to put him in a happy enough mindset to forgive Tyra and make them friends again. Luckily, Devin turns out to be gay, which pushed the plot in a much more satisfying direction, with Landry's confidence shaken and Tami stepping in to give him some reassurance in a beautifully performed scene. Our other misgivings, however, were not allayed. Devin's just kind of annoying. Purely subjective, I know, but having her around makes me especially unhappy about the absence of Jean, played by Brea Grant. Written with a peculiar lack of subtlety for a show that is the acme of subtlety, Jean was obviously meant to be Landry's soulmate, in stark contrast to his relationship with Tyra, born of murderous necessity. In a perfect world that character would return to love up our hero, but instead she's racing around the Heroesverse and getting macked on by some turtle-totemed guy old enough to be her dad. It's depressing on a number of levels.

Spoiler of the Week:

When I started writing these posts I had no idea who ultimately won America's Next Top Model, but of course it's impossible to avoid spoilers these days. Canyon managed about twelve hours after the finale aired before being spoiled by a huge photo on the front page of Yahoo News, and I did okay, until yesterday. All I know is, when I see this photo at the start of this week's go-sees...

...there is one goofy looking woman there who really should not be in the competition, and four others who all have promise. Except Elina and her Face of Stone. And yet McKey wins? This model wins?

Maybe when I finally see the finale I will get it, but by this point, the only thing that can get her to the top is some artificial and bullshit arc. I'm curious to see what it was that robbed Analeigh so completely. I am very very upset about this! It's even more upsetting than Cycle 4 when Kahlen lost to proficient but boring Naima, but in that case at least Naima was an excellent model, though Kahlen had a much greater improvement curve and, you know, a personality. This is why I don't watch reality shows very often. They create an unquenchable pain in my heart.

Background Music of the Week:

Top Gear returned with a splash of testosterone strong enough to turn our cats into human males, and even thought it's not been long since the last mini-season it was still good to have it back, not-faked-at-all-wink-wink stunts and all. A particularly good one came when Jeremy Clarkson drove a lorry into a brick wall at high speed and nearly killed himself. His panicked grab for his chest was genuinely worrying. Best thing about it, though, is the astute choice of music. In the first week we got Panda Bear, the week after we got a burst of Wendy Carlos' soundtrack to Tron, and this week was covered in Kings of Leon-y goodness. I love the ladies and gents who sort this stuff out, and even though I can imagine it's horribly expensive to clear these tunes, it's really worth it. I mean, Panda Bear! I couldn't get over that. And it worked perfectly with the shot too.

Your Familiar Face Is In a New And Confusing Context And Is Therefore Rendered Alien Moment of the Week:

The awesome BDSM episode of CSI gave me terrible deja vu, with the snooty club owner Michelle Tournay giving me real problems.

A quick check of IMDb later, and it turns out she's Peyton List, aka Jane the conniving secretary from Mad Men, and yes, it's okay for me to say secretary as I'm just following the customs of the time period. Also familiar was the scarily dominatrixy Kumari, who had more red hair than five Debra Messings put together.

To be honest, I don't know where I've seen Rachelle Lefevre before, but I do know she is going to be in Twilight, which I was ready to assume was going to be a big pile of nonsensical gloopy shite about sparkling vampires, but having seen how rabid (and willing to provide me with lovely hits) the fans are, I will accept is actually the most profoundly romantic and moving exploration of vamp-slash immortal and beautiful dedication and love ever made. Good for her and her mane of crimson hair for getting into this year's hottest and biggest hit movie about lame vampires.

ETA: That picture, showing her sticking needles into some guy's nipple in a scene that made me want to barf, doesn't do justice to her incredible hair.

If Marvel are smart, they'll start work on an Inhumans movie, and cast her as Medusa. And get David Beckham as Black Bolt. All he needs to do is look gorgeous/impassive and not speak. Perfect!

More to come. Seriously. I was really way behind on this mini-project. Blame Obama.

1 comment:

Masticator said...

I've seen Rachelle Lefevre in a mediocre episode of the mediocre third season of Veronica Mars, and a mediocre film called The River King (with Ed Burns!). She was also cast as Annie Cartwright in the US remake of Life On Mars, before being replaced after the original pilot (by Gretchen Mol!). Safe to say, she and her disarming reddishness have not had the career they deserve.