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Culture... meh! 17/4/11 - 23/4/11

Posted April 24th, 2011 at 12:30 PM by Mr Cat Dog

AMERICAN DAD S06E16 (A-): Don't know why I keep avoiding this show! Less politicized and more funny eps, like this one, always really good!

I LOVED this episode. Roger was always my favourite character whenever I watched this show, but he completely shot up in my estimations this week in his attempts to find his greatest character ever: ‘Jenny Fromdabloc’. Pretty much everything about this storyline was a success, from the stress ball that was used for so many purposes (most of which were kind of disgusting) to the revelation that Roger can fake his own death simply by moving really, really fast, to the same inflections Hayley and Steve would give to Snot’s overwrought declarations of love (whether to Hayley or ‘Jenny’). Even the Stan-and-Francine subplot involving Bewitched was a nice turn up for the books: too much Stan trying to get his way can get old quickly, but it was kept in check for the majority of this episode to serve as a nice counterpoint to the Steve goings-on.

HIMYM S06E21 (A-): That's more like it. Custom theme song! Bar name word comedy! Awesome Barney and secret identities! HIMYM's back, baby!

The highlight of the episode was easily the bar name comedy: this is one of HIMYM’s hallmarks and, by god, did they come up with a good’un in this episode. The comic timing for all involved was extraordinary and it yielded the biggest laughs of the episode, at least where I was watching. The little things, like the theme song that was actually sung by the cast and at least gave off the pretence that they were playing their own instruments, were also much appreciated for a show that has felt in recent years like it has been wheel-spinning, for lack of a better word. On top of this, another old-school feature was the introduction of secret identities for the rest of the group, in order to make them more appealing and ‘cool’ to Barney’s dad. I liked all of them, but my personal favourite was Marshall: the playwright in an open marriage whose plays are about “the bourgeois… and ennui… and one rock opera about a frozen yogurt shop.”

And I haven’t even mentioned John Lithgow yet! Is there anything this man can’t do? Whether it’s killing people with a smile on Dexter or trying to regain a relationship with is long-lost song here on HIMYM, he always manages to bring out the best in everything. Even his drunk acting is sublime, which is saying something as acting drunk is HARD to do. All in all, a very good episode on a par with some of the really good episodes of yore.

GLEE S02E17 (B): Ridiculous, but highly entertaining. Charice and Mercedes the highlights; Gwyneth's swansong not so much. League or Legion?

With hind sight, this episode probably didn’t deserve a B, but as I review these as soon as I finished watching them, there’s definitely a tendency to get caught up in the moment of the final song and forget about a LOT of the shortcomings the rest of the episode had.

Sue’s crusade to bring down the glee club – ring any bells, anyone? – seemed endearing upon a first viewing but, looking back on it now, just strikes me of the same level of ridiculousness that the writers have given Sue all season. The reintroduction of Terri must surely have been a sign that things were going to go awry and even the return of Cheyenne Jackson and Stephen Toblowsky couldn’t really help the storyline emerge from its toxic roots. Added to that, that the eventual ‘evil plan’ turned out to be a complete bust, and the whole thing just stunk of failure. It’s at times like these that I wish Sue would just get written out of the show, as much as I love Jane Lynch. She’s a poisonous atmosphere and she tends to make the episode revolve around her in a very unhealthy way. But, of course this isn’t going to happen.

In slightly less horrible storyline news, Mercedes finally got a storyline that wasn’t about Tater Tots or misguided love but… it was about trying to be a diva? This storyline also brought the tone down, and it increasingly appears that the writers have no idea what to do with Amber Riley. At this stage of the show, even Mike Chang has had more character development than Mercedes, and he spoke four words last year! It’s a shame, as her song was the highlight of the episode.

Apart from these glaring errors, most of the episode was fine, if unspectacular. Gywneth Paltrow did her thing for the third time, and while she was good at acting, her version of Adele’s ‘Turning Tables’ should be forced into countries wishing to torture people but not under the Geneva Convention. Will was subdued and appeared vaguely human in this episode – which is a rarity these days. Even the revelation that Brittany is a secret savant was handled relatively well. But this episode still didn’t deserve a B. Not in the slightest. Revised grade: C+

MODERN FAMILY S02E20 (A-): Who'd have thought parents worrying about their kids could bring comedy gold? Now, if only Mitch and Cam die...

Can this show just be renamed ‘Luke and his crazy extended family’? The twin revelations that Claire thinks that Luke may need therapy and that believes this’ll prevent him from turning into Phil were not unexpected, but definitely mined for laughs, what with Phil’s incessant pouting upon leaving the psychologist’s office to Luke’s abandonment and eventual recovery thanks to the wedding limo. It made Claire’s neuroses seem tolerable, Phil’s child-like tendencies bearable and Luke’s eccentricities wonderful.

The B-plot was also all kinds of wonderful, mainly for Sofia Vergara’s delight upon hearing she’d take care of Lily upon the Pritchett-Tucker family’s demise. Such wide-eyed glee from her face! The rest of this storyline was still good, from Jay’s letting go of Cam, to the eventual heart-to-heart between Manny and Jay about his ‘shower issues’ at camp.

Indeed, the weakest of the storylines was the Alex-Hayley one, and that’s mainly because Ariel Winter is easily the weakest link in the cast. It was nice that they were starting to develop her somewhat, but it felt slightly ham-fisted the way they were doing it. But even this story got a few laughs (mainly thanks to Sarah Hyland, who’s slowly turning into one of my favourite characters on the show).

COMMUNITY S02E21 (A): Maybe the funniest ep the show's ever done; fake clip show format works wonders, but show still has lots of heart.

There’s no real point in doing a review of this episode as it was essentially a sketch show: to do it justice would require a breakdown of each individual sketch. However, in saying that it was probably one of the best ‘sketch shows’ I’ve ever seen is one of the highest compliments I can give this show. Community’s spin on the clip-show format encompasses it in the way that only Community knows how: fake clips! (Hence, the tone and pacing of a sketch show, essentially.)

There was a vague narrative about how the group is kinda toxic and its been a bad year but they all need to stick together… blah blah blah. The main point of that was to provide a skeleton for the most number of jokes they could tell in an episode, and it worked wonders! Favourites included the ‘Jeff and Britta are endangering the group montage’, anything to do with Abed and The Cape (‘Six seasons and a movie!’) and the Dean’s many costumes, coupled with a cartoon of him at the end (Gone with the Windows was my fave).

PARKS & REC (S03E10) (A-): Mmm... of course cow beats turkey in the burger contest. Silly Chris. Tom at his douchiest, but makes it work.

Writing about Parks and Rec is kind of a chore in that it never really does anything wrong. At the same time, however, it never seems to score over an A- in my estimations. It’s a very good, ‘nice’ show, but sometimes I want it to take a few more risks à la Community and even 30 Rock, to a lesser extent.

Take this episode: it’s become completely obvious that Ben and Leslie are going to get together. It has been this way for some time, and the writers are trying to make it into a Jim/Pam type deal. Nothing wrong with that at all. However, part of my expectations regarding this show lead me to believe that there should be more to this than just the simple will-they-won’t-they that’s been done many-a-time on television. And yet, probably nothing amazing will happen, but it’ll be very good nonetheless. Even with Tom – who’s description above I don’t really want to add to – it still felt a bit too conventional.

The burger plot was a nice change of pace, though. Ron and April always work wonders together: his complete apathy towards government combined with her complete apathy towards everything is always a match made in heaven. Chris and Andy just come together so wonderfully as well what with Chris’ boundless optimism towards everything and Andy’s childlike glee towards everything. At the end of the day though, a hamburger was always going to win a burger contest: especially when judged against a turkey burger, no matter how much saffron was in it.

30 ROCK S05E20/21 (B): Extended ep brings pros and cons; most plots kinda meh but each have standout parts. Hanks' cameo sublime.

Two-part episodes smushed together to make one big, ‘epic’ episode almost always have trouble with pacing, and this one was no exception. If it had tried to focus in on just the Liz and Jack plots, it may have been more successful, but bringing in Tracy and Jenna as well as guest stars galore meant it became stretched very thinly, very quickly. None of them really worked in and of themselves, and I guess Tina Fey and company just hoped that by bringing MORE of 30 Rock’s manic pace would dazzle its audience into thinking that it was getting more than it actually was.

Still, I did laugh a fair bit, which is saying something. And though none of the plots did really ‘work’ for me, individual moments like Liz in the strip club, or all three gas-leak Jacks wanting to have sex with each other, or Pam: The Overly-Confident Morbidly Obese Woman being performed for the 107th time in 100 episodes did stand out, as well as the Tom Hanks’ cameo. I never realised the A-List was an actual list!

DOCTOR WHO S06E01 (B-): A bit too set-uppy, with on the nose dialogue/US characterisation, but still lots of fun, nonetheless, sweeties.

(Doctor Who reviews by me should be taken with a huuuuuuge pinch of salt, given my general distaste for both British television as well as science-fiction stuff in general. An ‘A’ for this show will probably be equivalent to about an A+++ for any other show. Just so all the Whovians don’t kill me.)

I liked this episode, on the whole. I just didn’t feel any admiration or any other sense of love that everyone else seems to be feeling, for one reason or another. I liked the return of River Song; I liked the general story arc of the apparent ‘death’ of the Doctor (I don’t believe he’s actually dead); I liked the mystery of the kid in the spacesuit, on the whole; I like Rory, who filled a different sort of sidekick role to ones we’ve seen before; I really liked the Silence – very creepy and understated at the same time; I even liked the twin cliffhangers, to a certain extent.

However, I really did not like Amy in this episode. Like, at all. I understand that the whole point of sidekicks are to get into trouble so that the Doctor could save them, but did she have to be so whiny and boring in this episode? Yes, it was shocking when the Doctor ‘died’ but she’s been with him long enough to realise that there was surely a plan going on. As well as this, I didn’t like the set-uppy nature of this episode. All two-parters have them, to a certain extent, but the really good ones make you feel like you’re watching an individual episode of television in its own right, and not just build-up, which it felt like a lot of this was. I also didn’t like the anti-American jokes, and the general depiction of America in general. Making a quick remark about Americans and guns is one of the cheapest remarks a British series can do, and the Oval Office just seemed cheap looking. (I know this show doesn’t have the biggest budget in the world, but this was just an issue of set decoration: not fancy CGI or anything. I do expect better). While other people seem to like the portrayal of Nixon, I found it incredible off-putting and distracting every time he was onscreen. On top of this, some of the dialogue did feel incredibly on-the-nose: especially River’s speech to Rory about her and the Doctor and how he’s going to see her for the first time and it’ll kill her (lolz, because that’s what happened… AMIRITE?).


Apologies if this seemed a bit choppy in places: I went over the 13000 word limit. Like, 5000 words over!
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