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Culture... meh! 24/4/11 - 30/4/11

Posted May 1st, 2011 at 1:04 PM by Mr Cat Dog

TREME S02E01 (A-) Slightly too expositiony in places, but by god have I missed this show. Dannie FTW, and Antoine has groupies!

As soon as the Treme theme song erupted from the double bass, I could just feel all the New Orleans energy just rush back through the screen and into my body. This show, like no other on TV, has the ability to make you want to just BE with all of its characters and live in the New Orleans it portrays so expertly. Picking up 14 months after Katrina, the beautiful opening montage finds everyone dealing with death in their own way on All Saints’ Day, all set to the tune of a beginner trumpeter playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. In lesser hands, it would have been a clunky metaphor, but, by god, does Treme know how to pull off stuff like this with real aplomb.

The one thing it’s still not great at is the moralizing. Now that Sophie’s a regular character this season, I just hope we don’t get a re-tread of her dad’s storyline from last year. Things don’t look good at the moment, but I have faith that something bigger will come of these YouTube rants and general teenage angst.

But everything else was bang on the money. Annie and Davis make such a cute couple; Antoine’s dealing with the possibility of having to find a real job; Janette’s toughing it out in a New York Kitchen with a Ramsay-ish head chef; Toni’s having to deal with the death of her husband and its effect on her teenage daughter; LaDonna’s under increasing pressure to sell her Treme bar and move to Baton Rouge; Albert has money issues, which’ll probably become another crusade, down the line; even Sonny and Del are becoming interesting in their own ways! Jon Seda and David Morse’s new characters are the only ones with uncertainty at this point, but that’s to be expected to a certain extent: the season’s only one hour in! The most glacially-paced show on television can’t be expected to lay out all of its cards in the first hour; where’d be the fun in that?

So… all in all, off to a very good start, down in the Treme!

GLEE S02E18 (B+): Didn't need to be 90 minutes, but it kinda works. Mike Chang's dancing improves all numbers and lack of Sue is refreshing.

The best episodes of Glee this season have all aired without Sue Sylvester – ‘Duets’, ‘Silly Little Love Songs’ and now ‘Born This Way’. Sense a pattern?

Designed with the sole intention of trying to cripple NBC’s The Voice – of which it failed miserably, according to ratings – this padded episode turned out to be refreshing. Teenage self-esteem issues have been done to death on television, and this show, but the ‘Unpretty/I Feel Pretty’ montage was a really good way to characterize both Quinn and Rachel and an excellent way to shed light on the issue. Also, major props to the show for not hammering home Ryan Murphy’s viewpoint, by actually presenting a cogent argument for the other side of the plastic surgery coin in Quinn’s past. By hopefully allowing the audience to make up its own mind and not have Murphy’s law rammed down their throats, Glee is a lot more tolerable this way.

Everyone else was mostly on good form. Kurt was his fabulous self, even when being forced to sing overwrought Andrew Lloyd Webber ballads; Blaine will be back, but he’d better leave his piano at home; Santana’s scheme is kinda ridiculous, but I imagine it’ll pay dividends in the future; Emma finally got a storyline that didn’t make her a forced to be ridiculed; Will’s still weird, but I think that ship has sailed, to be honest. And Mike Chang can improve really boring Finn numbers by the power of his feet. Oh happy days!

SOUTH PARK S15E01 (C-): Trying to be relevant; just comes across as repetitive and disgusting without satire. Same goes for Cartman's plot.

There are good and bad South Park message episodes. The good ones manage to transcend their immediacy and actually offer satire that lasts forever, with episodes like ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Passion of the Jew’. The bad ones simply say ‘look at this modern thing we’re making fun of’ and offer humour that lasts less than a week e.g. ‘Poor and Stupid’ and ‘You Have 0 Friends’. This one fell into the latter camp, and hard!

It’s not even the relative irrelevancy of both the iPad and The Human Centipede that annoyed me: it was Parker and Stone substituting wit and satire for elongated fart jokes (or crap jokes). The best South Park episodes combine the two; the worst ones replace the first with the second and hope no one will notice. Even the Cartman plot, while not as outright disgusting as the Kyle one just became the same joke repeated over and over. It’s a lazy device to keep going back to, and I hope Parker and Stone manage to improve throughout the season.

PINA (B+): Sometimes indulgent, mostly extraordinary. Ace 3D usage. Interviews & dances great, but best use of hippos and veal in same film.

One scene in Pina features a German woman yelling ‘This is veal’ before proceeding to perform experimental dance in an abandoned dock. Another scene features a man in a hippo costume dancing with a scantily clad woman in the middle of a flowing river. And this is all in 3D! If that isn’t enough to get you to go and see it, I don’t know what is!

A documentary about the work of choreographer Pina Bausch, the film is split between showcasing her extraordinary work as a choreographer and interviews with some of her pupils. The dancing is magnificent. I knew nothing about experimental dance, and yet could follow with the majority of the scenes in question; even when they became slightly too long, it was still an amazing experience to watch. More extraordinary was when the dancers were taken out of the confines of the studio and were just let loose on the streets and forests of Germany. To see such emotional dance in such an unusual setting was exhilarating to watch.

COMMUNITY S02E22 (A-): Lovely, sweet conclusion to Shirley's arc, with good Britta and Abed action. Pierce stuff meh, but nice callbacks!

Last week my first draft of this went over the 13,000 character limit by about 5,000 words. In an ideal world, I could probably write about 13,000 characters on this episode tonight, as SO. MUCH. HAPPENED! (See also: Doctor Who.) However, I’m going to concentrate on Dean Pelton and Troy: while certainly not the focus of the episode, they were definitely its MVPs.

Everything about this episode is evidence of why Jim Rash and Donald Glover deserve so many Emmys. Dean Pelton’s bewilderment at everything, coupled with his whiny yelling and hyperventilating after experiencing the race ‘kerfuffle’ were brilliant, and it’s nice to see him get more screentime. As for Troy, is there anything that boy can’t do? Getting Donald Glover to cry is always a surefire comedic hit, but just watching his face move is a joy to behold in itself.

The Shirley and Britta stuff was nice, but it really didn’t hold a candle to the exasperation and desperation in the faces of Troy and Dean Pelton.

PARKS & REC S03E11 (A-): Can I just give the rest of the season this grade? Nice focus on Jerry, and Andy/Ben/April make a really good trio.

Sigh… let’s get this over with. Everyone was really good; the plots were all nice and worked well together; I don’t care about the will-they-won’t-they Ben/Leslie plot; Ron’s speech was awesome; this is what I’m going to say every week because the show is so consistent but doesn’t take risks…

30 ROCK S05E22 (C+): Oh look, there's Avery... oh, wait there she goes again. Liz plot too cartoonish whereas Tracy plot too serious. Weird!

…unlike 30 Rock! Unfortunately, this show’s success rate with risks is roughly 50%, and this wasn’t one of the good ones. Instead of being really wacky, like the ‘Live Show’ or ‘100’, it ended up being kinda boring, despite having Avery kidnapped by North Korea and Liz fighting an evil plastic bag.

None of the plots really seemed to coalesce together, and fragmentation of storylines is the worst thing a show like this can do (see also: Modern Family). Coupled with none of them being tremendously funny, but not really terrible, and you have a ho-hum half-hour of television. One of the epitomes of C+.

BIG BANG S04E21 (C+): Ladies, bar Priya, on form. Sheldon schizophrenic. Leonard blander than usual. At least Howard/Raj barely present.

My favourite film critic is a man called Nick Davis. He’s a professor of Film and English at Northwestern University and has a really good, if slightly dated, website. A few months ago, he updated it with an explanation of what each of his letter grades mean, and the C+ is my favourite: “Either a bland "pass" or a schizo mix of good and bad”. 30 Rock was the first epitome of C+, where as BBT was definitely the epitome of the second.

I’d watch a show starring Penny, Bernadette and Amy any day of the week. I’d probably watch it only six days of the week if Sheldon and Leonard were recurring characters, and probably only four days of the week if Howard and Raj were also part of this hypothetical show. The best parts of this episode – like any recent BBT ep – are when the three of them get together and just hang out. You have Penny’s relative normality, Amy’s ‘female Sheldon’-type thing, and Bernadette’s kooky mix of the two. For the most part, it’s comedy gold. Add Sheldon to the mix and it becomes slightly odd, due to the show’s need to focus EVERYTHING around him for fear of losing audience interest. Sometimes it works – the waltzing with Amy – and sometimes it crashes and burns – the group convo in the bar – but the writers are always trying to push the boundaries of the show, which is a good thing in my eyes.

The rest of the time, however, the show just turns to mean, spiteful durge. Priya doesn’t help matters, acting all lawyery when negotiating the roommate agreement with Sheldon. Rather than being a comedic character in her own right, she’s been shunted off as simply ‘Leonard’s girlfriend’ and as such, we don’t identify with, or care about, her the way we do about the other female characters. It’s a shame, as she has potential to be just as entertaining as the other ladies, but because she’s probably going to disappear by the end of the season, the writers have obviously given up trying to give her a discernable personality. Oh well…

DOCTOR WHO S06E02 (A): THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKIN' 'BOUT! So much action, creepiness, timey-wimey, and none of the problems from last week. Ace!

This would have received an A+ if about three lines of Nixon dialogue were taken out. It was THAT good. Everything Doctor Who is good at – fast-paced dialogue, intriguing, overarching stories, an inherent creepiness without resorting to shock tactics – as well as some new stuff – ZOMGTHEREWASASHOOTOUTANDAREGENERATIONATTHEEND! – all combined to make a thrilling episode.

Gone was the whiny, whimpering Amy of last week, and in her place was the girl so many fanboys fell in love with last season; gone was most of the on-the-nose dialogue that plagued the White House scenes last week – Nixon became strangely tolerable, which was certainly something I never thought I’d type; gone was the hyper-kooky Matt Smith Doctor – in with the contemplative and action-oriented Doctor who could still have a bit of fun.

And then there was the ending! So many questions! This season-long arc that they’re building towards already has me hooked, which is rare for me as I normally don’t give a crap about them until the season’s end. Presumably, the little girl is Amy’s daughter, but who’s the father? Who shoots the Doctor when he’s 200 years older? Who was the mysterious woman that Amy saw in the children’s home? For the first time in a long while, I’m really, really excited for a Doctor Who episode… and it’s a good feeling!


Next week: I’m going to review Thor before it comes out in the US. It’s been about two weeks since its UK release, but I haven’t gotten round to seeing it yet. Nothing new on TV, so same-old, same-old!
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  1. Old Comment
    You gave Glee a B+? :(

    Glee was terrible. Absolutely terrible!
    Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:09 PM by
  2. Old Comment
    Mr Cat Dog's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Patchisou Yutohru View Comment
    You gave Glee a B+?

    Glee was terrible. Absolutely terrible!
    I'm a very atypical Glee fan. I hate most of the stuff that Gleeks love and like it immensely when the show is dealing with all the depression inherent in the core cast, as in this episode. My grade would have been even higher if the songs were better and it was normal length episode, to be honest! Sowwee!
    Posted May 1st, 2011 at 2:43 PM by Mr Cat Dog Mr Cat Dog is offline

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