Archive for January, 2010

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TV Thoughts: Dollhouse – “Epitaph Two: Return”

January 31, 2010

I was into Dollhouse from the get go, it didn’t take “Man on the Street” or the accelerated pace of season 2 to make me love this series, I was already there.  The reason that I liked season 1 is because of the way that Joss Whedon and company played with the color gray.  Who was the bad guy, who was the good guy, who was doing bad things for good motives, and visa versa, the entirety of the show was in this gray area that was a very bold stroke to me.  Several of the shows critics in the early stage criticized the show for this, but I relished it.  It takes guts to make a TV show without clearly defined lines and Whedon was certainly not holding the audiences hand on this show.  I also enjoyed the season 1 Topher as much as the season 2 Topher because I felt that he was the tonal lynchpin of the show.  Things could have dipped into the dark and depressing way too early on without his wisecracks and moral ambiguity.  As a result of the audience getting to know the Topher in season 1, it made all of his season 2 decisions and moments just that much more powerful and heartbreaking.

That is not to say that Dollhouse hasn’t had some duds along the way, I’m looking at you “True Believer” and “Instinct”, but everything else has been in the really good to absolute best of TV category, with “Man on the Street”, “A Spy in the House of Love”, “Epitaph One”, and “The Attic” coming to mind here.  My favorite TV series of 2009 was Dollhouse, no if ands or buts about it.  What made me love this show so much was the huge questions that it was willing to ask in every episode.  Questions like “Just because technology exists, does that mean we should use it?” “What is ‘true love’ and what can it endure?” “Is everlasting life on Earth even a good thing?” and “What in our lives is real and what can be programmed?”.  Powerful stuff from a sci-fi show about programming humans to perform tasks for rich clientele.  On top of that this show had the signature Whedon flair in its dialogue.  His poetic style really excites me much in the way that Brian Fuller did by creating plays on words in Pushing Daisies.

That brings us to the series finale of Dollhouse titled “Epitaph Two: Return”, which picks up right after the unaired episode “Epitaph One” on the season 1 DVD. (Huge spoilers in this paragraph)  After the slightly cheesy penultimate episode a couple weeks ago, “The Hollow Men”, this episode kicked things back up to the normal Dollhouse level of excellence.  And it did this without having any real conflict in the last half of the episode.  After rescuing Mag, Zone, and little Caroline from Neuropolis and the firefight in L.A., there wasn’t really a whole lot of conflict, just a quiet conclusion with the main characters.  You know what, that is exactly what the show needed.  Sure some people were left out, Laurence Dominic and Ivy come to mind, but I felt very satisfied with the place that everyone else ended up.  I found both of the deaths fairly heartbreaking given the characters that Paul Ballard and Topher Brink had become.  TV Shows very rarely get the chance to show what their characters are like 10 years down the line and Dollhouse did the most with this scenario showing what wedges had been driven in certain relationships and which characters flourished under the pressure of the end of the world.  In my mind, Dollhouse will surely be missed, but I am glad that Whedon got to make the show in the first place and then end it on his own terms.  Cool moments:

-“I could see over the dash”

-“…Safehaven was parked right next door to the fricken Death Star!”

-“I guess I do”

-“Same place you did”

-Well I guess Topher really did go crazy like “Epitaph One” showed

-“Reflection, like an echo”

-“Maybe they’re getting tired of me killing them all the time”

-Adelle defending Topher, I like the mother complex that she has grown

-“Cool”

-“Oh come on!”

-“The world still needs heroes’ kid”

-“I got your message…how can we help?”

-Anthony was a little too Road Warrior for me

-“…during which, I yell”

-“She’s a tech head Mag…she’s a girl Mag”

-Not every active can be Echo, that’s good to know.  Take something out to put something in.

-“How ironic,” that was the wedge in the Pria/Anthony relationship

-“Man you’re gonna be hilarious stuck in the ground for a year”

-“…you’re the loneliest person I know” Paul the therapist

-“…well, not technically”  That made the cliché line totally worth it.

-the music during the shootout was really good

-“No, you’ll have to keep digging if that’s where you want to end up”

-Um…a nice Alpha, yeah I guess that is what I would expect the end of the world to do to him

-“Psycho”…”Lapsed”

-“Some things aren’t on the Cartesian plane”

-“Well okay, maybe I am”

-“…but Adelle, she’s a class act all the way”

-“Did he just call me a Luddite?”

-Topher’s crazy bed was real, check

-“It was like this when I bought the place”

-“…well, both of them actually”

-“Her face has a look about her”

-“Thank you”

-“Is now a bad time to ask for a favor?”

-“Can I help you burn stuff?” The guys way of getting to know each other right there.

-“Landscape architect”

-“People are such a mystery”

-“Funny that the last fantasy the Dollhouse should fulfill would be yours”

-“…childhood stuff”

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TV Thoughts: Burn Notice – “Friendly Fire”

January 30, 2010

Burn Notice and Chuck are shows on completely opposite ends of the TV spectrum, but I think both are great for the same reason.  As I mentioned in my Chuck review earlier this week, that reason is tone control.  While Chuck is more about the cheesy TV spy thing with a focus on its relationships and overall story, Burn Notice is about immersing the viewer in the reality of the spy world and tearing down the definition of what spies have been according to Hollywood.  Burn Notice, while still caring about the relationships, is more about the individual episode than the overall storyline.  If I sit down and spend an hour watching Michael Westen and company help someone out by taking down a criminal organization, I am a happy camper.  Even if there is no movement in the whole figuring out who burned Michael storyline, it is worth it for the individual scenario set up by the writers and the great tips about the reality of the spy world given by Michael’s voiceovers.  And I do love the relationships that Michael has with the members of his team, Fiona and Sam, and the one with his Mom.  But, how the individual episodes affect those relationships I feel is more important that how the Michael wanting to get unburned storyline affects those relationships.

Case in point, last week’s episode “A Dark Road”.  I think that was a brilliant example of what this show has to offer.  The individual scenario was engrossing with the insurance scammers, the car chases were well filmed, Michael’s voiceovers were informative and enjoyable, and best of all, the relationship between Michael and his Mom was tested in a real way.  I thought the juxtaposition of Michael helping out the lady by taking on the case and his Mom not being able to help her new friend because Michael took on the case was very well played and highlighted the deep emotion and interpersonal relationships of the show by staying try to the premise of the episode.  It’s nice when everything in the episode comes together well and doesn’t play out as its own separate dish.

This week’s episode was a little weaker, but still showed me why Burn Notice is one of the most fun shows on television.  The humor that ran through this episode with Omar and his crew thinking that Michael was supernatural was well played and very Burn Noticey in its style.  The repelling down the building was a great action sequence, although I’m a bit confused on how Michael got out of the building.  Like always, Michael’s voiceovers were fun to know and added something to that situation in the show.  We’ll see where they are headed with the Gilroy situation, but I think that could really stretch Michael as a person and showing what line he is willing to cross.  Cool moments:

-“This man is a freelance psychopath”

-Sam’s former friend

-“Hey…”

-Michael’s voiceover about neighborhood watch

-“…time to find a child predator” Well worded Fiona, exactly what would hook Michael

-“I’ll have to be extra convincing”

-“I’ll be waiting for Omar in there”

-Michael in intimidation mode (the Devil’s helper) is really cool, what a great suit

-“The Devil just wants Riccone’s soul, I want the man”

-“He’s not drinking is what I’m saying”

-Michael’s voiceover about warehouses and getting in through the roof

-Finger snap, “That one”

-“…to complement me on my suit, and ask stupid questions”

-“Apparently I am”

-Michael’s voiceover about entrances

-Michael’s voiceover about repelling

-“I had ice cream when it last happened to me”

-“Wait, wait, wait, wait…”

-Michael’s voiceover about camouflage

-Michael’s voiceover about checking handcuffs

-“Who could?”

-“Honestly Omar, don’t try”

-Omar snapping

-“Um…I’m not dead yet”

-The look on Michael’s face during Fiona’s intervention

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TV Thoughts: Better Off Ted – “Mess of a Salesman”

January 29, 2010

I could wax poetically on just why I love this show, but seeing as how this might possibly be the last episode ever to air on TV, I’ll refrain from sucking you into a black hole (of hilarity).  ABC ordered 13 episodes of the show for this season and this was number 11, but with Lost coming back there are currently no plans to air the last 2.  We’ll see what happens, but I bet we’ll get them sometime over the summer like all of the shows that ABC burned off last summer.  With that said, I really liked this episode of Better Off Ted, but then again I really like every episode of what was probably my favorite comedy on TV period during it’s brief 2 month run this winter.  The Ted cleaning up messes, Ted and his bother chemistry, Veronica and Linda collecting for a cause, and Phil and Lem dealing with it were all funny scenarios.  They didn’t weave together perfectly to make this one of the all time greats, but I laughed more than a lot.  Thank you for the great 24 episodes (with hopefully 2 still to come) Better Off Ted!  Cool moments:

-“Bang zoom, I’m getting a muffin”

-“Yes you’re a master, it’s like watching a chess game”

-The protective picture frame

-“I love you bro, but not like in a brotherly way…”

-“I did all of that research when I dressed up as Ted for Halloween last year”

-“That’s just how they process emotion”

-“It was crazy how slightly bigger it was than we needed”

-“…we’re not Somali pirates”

-Lem and Phil afraid of the fist bump

-“And when you mockingly insist you’re not mocking mocking me”

-“…but tough like a faun in the woods with a machine gun”

-“Fine, we’ll go over, give him one salute and leave”

-“Can we take our pants off in here?”

-“We bought a cadaver from your brother Ted, deal with it.” “Yeah, deal with it”

-“Yeah, everybody’s dealing with things now Ted”

-“These pants make my legs feel so cool”

-“And I wouldn’t have rolled 10 cubes of cheese into a ball and eatin’ it like an apple”

-“…in fact I find that part deeply funny”

-“Good one, only your hatred can destroy him”

-“And a large wind tunnel”

-Pretty much every time Phil says “Deal with it” and Lem repeats him, it is solid gold

-“His head made a boop sound” *BOOP*

-“Which by the way is impossible because they just play dead and you end up dragging them down the street”

-“…because girls don’t like getting hissed at by a jealous possum?”

-“Crazy or really on to something?”

-“…he went all floppy like ‘oh no, don’t put me in there’”

-“We’ll all be having fun with that”

-“Oh, then what was I thinking of…oh a monster, I always confuse those two”

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TV Thoughts: Human Target – “Embassy Row”

January 28, 2010

The biggest thing about this episode was that Chance was not a bodyguard for anyone.  It was more of a posthumous taking revenge and trying to save his own life and the life of a friend’s relative.  I really didn’t have a problem with this because as I stated before it is the moments in the episode which carry the show, not the plot itself.  We’ll see if the writers take the Emma from the FBI character anywhere, something like Paul Ballard from Dollhouse maybe, but I kind of like the all boys club that is the regular cast of the show.  Great stunts again this week maintaining the thrill ride nature of the show.  I look forward to the next exciting installment.  Cool moments:

-Simon from Firefly, wow it has been a while since I’ve seen him

-“You both like the girl in the jumpsuit on Buck Rogers

-“Code?  Cool.”

-“Hopefully he’s not still holdin’ a grudge after what you did to his boat…and his house…oh gawd that poor horse…or maybe that horse wasn’t your fault”

-“Great!?”

-Tap and point, way to go Chi McBride

-“I’m sorry, you think I’m a prostitute…a 40 dollar prostitute?”

-Guerrero puts on the gas mask in front of the old lady

-“Did the hooker just punch you in the face”

-The dancesque fight scene, well choreographed

“…don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m having a little trouble breathing”

-“I’m so happy you’re impressed”

-The kissing gag, it worked for me

-I like Chance and Emma tethered together like in The 39 Steps

-“No one special…nice dress”

-“That did hurt”

-“And if I call, pick up the phone…it might be important”, that’s the Christopher Chance mantra right there

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TV Thoughts: Castle – “The Third Man”

January 27, 2010

I think Castle is one of the best examples of a performance elevating the material.  By all accounts, Castle is a generic police procedural with just a little bit of quirk added into some of the cases.  The direction is clear without being spectacular, but the cases suffer from the same things as other procedural.  You know that the good guys don’t have the killer yet if there is still 10 minutes left in the show and side characters withhold information for no reason other than to draw out the plot.

Despite its generality, the reason that I watch Castle is because of the great Nathan Fillion.  The man adds so much life to the show because of his portrayal of Richard Castle.  And it is more than just his quick one liners and good delivery that make the performance.  It is the sweet way he interacts with his mother and daughter, the way that Fillion can communicate a variety of emotions with just his facial expressions, the chemistry Fillion has with Stana Katic, and the way that he can add both gravity and a sense of fun to even the most mundane aspects of the procedural.

On top of that, I really like the dynamic of the Castle family.  It is refreshing to see a TV family that isn’t overly peppy or conversely at each others throats.  The Castle family is a pretty happy medium edging a little towards the rosy, which is very uncommon for most procedurals.  I also buy the whole professional courtesy that keeps Castle and Beckett from being together.  I assume it will eventually happen, but I understand the complexities of such a relationship for both of them and that makes the whole situation more believable.

For this weeks episode specifically, there is no way that I could entirely be satisfied by an episode of this title simply because of how much I love The Third Man. But there were enough moments for Castle to be Castle and I liked the “date” that Castle and Beckett went on at the end.  It was touching and didn’t strain their professional boundaries as I mentioned above.  The whole ignoring their dates gag went on a bit too long for my tastes, but the rest of it worked.  Additionally, Ryan and Esposito contributed their typical and enjoyable side commentary.  All in all a solid episode of a show that is very easy for people unfamiliar with the show to easily jump into.

-“I don’t know, but he must be president of the really good looking club”

-“What what?”

-“Mad doctors and B-movie Nazis”

-Ryan and Esposito trying to get Beckett to read the paper

-Awkwardness when Beckett walks into the room

-“In his defense, he did delete these”

-“He’s the gentleman squatter”

-“I’m on your team here”

-“Good use of irony”

-“Sweet, or savory actually”

-“Oh you hate me right now don’t you”

-“I was gonna…eat that”

-“Puppies, gets em every time”

-“You’re such a metrosexual”

-“Not one to waste his ominous scar”

-“You’re gonna cancel on a guy who saved a bunch of puppies”

-I should have known that Castle would eat at the same restraint as Beckett, but the joke still worked for me initially

-“Why do you care about some motherfreakin snakes on a motherfreakin plane”

-“Do they know they’re finishing each others sentences”

-Castle’s grimace after his realization about the spider

-“Oh why not”

-Castle’s swagger walking out with Beckett

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TV Thoughts: Chuck – “Chuck Versus First Class”

January 26, 2010

I feel that Chuck works as a show because of tone control.  If the audience is ever supposed to take the spy part seriously, it wouldn’t work.  That is not to say that the missions are unimportant, but the spy nature of the show is very TV spy cliché with obvious bad guys and ridiculous devices/technology and plot holes and simplifications.  I like Chuck though because it is more about the overall story and change in its characters.  I enjoy watching Chuck learn and grow and relate to Sarah even if the writers are drawing that relationship out a bit too long.  The writers do add a solid amount of humor into every episode and are good at writing guest spots for Chuck’s many guest actors.

I thought that Shaw pushing Chuck to go on a solo mission this episode worked for advancing Chuck’s character and I look forward to Chuck becoming more of a spy, but still solving things in his own Chuck-style geeky way.  I am enjoying the addition of Brandon Routh to the cast and not just because I love Superman Returns.  I like the stakes that his character brings with him and how he shakes up the old familiar team.  Speaking of that, the Morgan and John Casey pairing this episode was really fun with the whole Manchurian Candidate thing and hints at Casey’s other interactions with people at the Buy More.  Kristin Kreuk will add an interesting dynamic to both the Buy More and the Chuck/Sarah tension.  I’m not on board with keeping Chuck and Sarah apart still, but at least the writer’s diversions are interesting and add something to Chuck as a person.  We’ll see where they go with this, but I’m betting Hannah isn’t pure nice and her presence will have a direct connection to the spy stuff.  Cool moments:

-“Call me old fashioned, but I prefer creamer over laxative”

-“Sometimes the guy acts like Bond and other times it’s like a Jerry Lewis movie.”

-“The Russians”

-Shaw wearing glasses…Clark Kent in disguise

-John Casey chewing food and shaking his head

-“Just a little human to human…noid interaction”

-“That is…probably what you do for everybody”

-Morgan in the stuffed animal claw machine

-“You command respect”, “No I take it”

-“L.A. to Paris…Paris to L.A.”

-“…and by the way I’m quite looking forward to that”

-“Insurgents…I hate insurgents”

-“I’m right, I’m always right…annoying, but true”

-Steve Austin does the John Casey grunt

-Why does Chuck need to call people when he gets in trouble?  It’s not like they can really do anything when he’s on a plane.

-Chuck’s little girlie scream

-“I sincerely hope that was not your father”

-Chuck slapped Steve Austin, zing!

-“From the volleyball incident at last years employee picnic”

-Good actual cover Chuck

-John Casey hypnotism

-“You shot a gun on a plane are you crazy”

-Nun chuck skills…oh well

-Lester’s The Manchurian Candidate speech

-Shaw’s Annapolis shirt

-“Bored now”

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TV Thoughts: NBC Thursday Comedies

January 24, 2010

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about talking about the NBC Thursday comedies, but instead of a separate post for each I think I’ll mash them all together here.  For each one I’ll say a few initial thoughts on the whole episode and then just list favorite moments or jokes.

Community – “Interpretive Dance”

No Senor Chang this episode, but I would love it if Lauren Stamile’s Professor Slater would stick around and be a regular member of the cast.  We’ll see what the writers have in store for the Jeff/Slater relationship.  Also we haven’t seen John Oliver’s Professor Duncan in a while which is a bummer.  I really liked the episode though and I think that Community with its faced paced jokes and tender character moments just might be my favorite of the NBC comedies right now.  Cool moments:

-“Prelimawow”

-“That sounds like a porno with Kate Winslet”

-“I have a regular class at that time…it’s like math…”

-“Ohh, the last thing I said to him was suck it”

-“I did”

-“Can’t I be the friend in the group whose trademark is his discreet boundaries”

-Abed’s head nod to “We’ve agreed to keep it low key”

-“Like midterms and whatever”, “Chalk”

-Donald Glover is really good at physical comedy; I think the show has figured out how to use him really well

-“…and I fell in love with it in a VERY straight way”

-“That’s because you don’t play football, or have fun”

-“I am spending a lot of money on breakaway clothing”

-I enjoyed the where-are-your-eyes role reversal

-The look on everyone faces after the kiss

-“So emotionally it’s like being told you are our new mom.”

-“Macaroni’s my favorite”

-“Salt and peppercorn cheese”

-“If you have to explain it, it’s not just like that”

-Abed’s gasp

“…and Shirley’s not my mom”

-Troy’s excuse me twirl

-“Ohh, you people…what do you mean, you people?”

-That whole define the relationship talk was great, funny with some good points

-“That’s guys really taking a pounding in this conversation.”

-“Showtime”

-Pierce’s whole commentary

-“Water it”

-Troy’s breakaway jeans

-“…it’s theatrical dynamite”

-The Shakespeare poster

-“I’d never heard of that before”

-“They’re all things you can see on TV, except for Pierce, that’s a misdirect”

-“I love The Big Lebowski

Parks and Recreation – “Leslie’s House”

This has always been the show that I appreciate and chuckle at more than I laugh at.  Certain things are great, like Ron Swanson, and I enjoy watching Paul Schneider and Aziz Ansari even if they don’t completely knock everything out of the park.  Also, I must say that I have never been a huge Amy Pohler fan, but this show has gone a long way towards making me enjoy her style of comedy.  It could just be the character as written, but I like what she does with it.  With this episode specifically, I like the escalation of the craziness at Leslie’s house.  I miss Louie C.K. on the show, but Justin Theroux plays a good love interest for Leslie and I would like to see where the writers take it even if it isn’t something that I really emotionally connect with.  Cool moments:

-“It’s called a think tank Ann”

-“If I wanted to bring a large plate of devilled eggs…”

-“…when we were walking on the Berlin wall together.”

-“People in this town are just getting into Nirvana”

-“…and one day solve a murder on a train”

-“The southern part is the best part of anything”

-Tom looking facts about India up online

-They have a bartending class and a belly dancing class in Pawnee?

-“…his mouth melted”

-Ron’s quick walk towards the food

-“He’ll wrap her up in his mustache”

-“This is how you eat it”  Well sung.

-Ron’s smile during his talk to the camera

-All of Ron’s questions during the interview

-“That doesn’t sound gay at all”

The Office – “The Banker”

First off, I didn’t like this week’s episode at all.  I certainly didn’t need it and I think the clips killed some good moments for me by having them out of context.  In my mind, there is no question that The Office has been going down hill for a while.  The wonderful characters that they created and stayed true to in the first 3 seasons have become caricatures where all we see every week is each character’s quirk magnified into everything that they do.  I loved The Office back in the day because it didn’t betray its characters from episode to episode, they were well drawn and had conflict and quirks and a sense of fun.  Now they are all really one note, which only really works for Creed.  All of that being said, The Office can still deliver a good half hour of comedy.  It is still funny, it is just a hollow funny where I laugh for a half hour and don’t really care about anything after that.  Cool moments:

-“…or any number of drag queens”

-“Although I get it”

-“…and the creator of Computron”

30 Rock – “Winter Madness”

I love the zany over-the-top satiric energy of this show.  Jokes fly by so fast that it is hard to keep track of just what made me laugh.  I really enjoy every play on words or reference or slam of NBC and the TV system in general.  The best episodes are the ones where every joke crescendos and escalates together into a ridiculous ending, such as this past episode with Dale Snitterman.  Even if things don’t come together perfectly in every episode, I can pretty much guarantee that I laugh more at a half hour of 30 Rock than any other half hour in the week.  Cool moments:

-“You can do some serious flirting before you realize the guy’s homeless”

-The whole elevator talk really left me gasping for air.

-“I’m tired of waking up to a porch of dead squirrels”

-“Nutmeg…”

-“…you can complain about the heat with elderly people”

-The Liz and Pete presentation

-“The poet Robert Lowe…”

-Is that foreshadowing with Lutz?

-Grizz and Dotcom argue about sharing a room

-Tracy’s shirt with a gold chain on it

-Jonathan’s scream

-An office replication service

-7 things

-“…of the CBS sitcoms they’re forced to watch.”

-Wow, everyone is wearing Bruin’s shirts

-Katrina joke…too soon?

-“…and jump on the Saints bandwagon”

-“Purrfect like a cat birthday”

-“…for a dude that has the most hilarious last name I know”

-“…and the ghost”

-Frank’s delete hat

-“Sounds like one of King George’s hated tax collectors”

-Tracy Jordan the history major this episode was funny

-Impeach George W. Ashington shirt

-“…down in New York”

-“Your neighbor named their daughter Belichick”