Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review of this past Thursday in TV

Originally, this was gonna be the whole past week in television but time constraints prevented that. The five grades are all very high but last week they would have been significantly lower (The Office and Community last week both dissapointed me, for example). Also, every other show I saw this week (Running Wilde, Castle, No Ordinary Family and Modern Family) was a lower grade and I just didn't have time to get to those shows.

30 Rock “Reaganism” A
A-Plot: Jack is having a perfect day and comes up with some ninth-inning challenges he needs to fix (mainly in the form of Liz’s love life) to be able to keep his hot streak rolling
B-Plot: Jenna convinces Kenneth to assist in scamming a Caravel Ice Cream shop and creates a monster in the process (Kelsey Grammar guests here in a wonderful role)
C-Plot: Tracy can’t do a commercial to save his life

The difference between a great 30 Rock episode and the kind of episode that makes you mourn the old days of 30 Rock isn’t much at all. This wasn’t a big gimmicky week like last week’s live show, but they had a pair of solid storylines to start out with and infused them with great anarchic fun. The C-plot of Tracy Jordan messing up a TV commercial was Tracy being unleashed in a way that we haven’t seen him in a while.
Fun fact: Tracy is what calls a Cloud Cuckoolander

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia “Mac’s Mom Burns the House Down” A-
A-Plot: Charlie and Mac (along with Dennis) try to get their mothers to live together
B-Plot: Dee gets sick. Fearing she won’t take care of him when he gets older, Frank tries to be a good dad and tend to her
Best episode I’ve seen in a while and that was solely on the strength of an exceptionally well-executed A-plot (the B-plot was pretty forgettable). The episode really had some great misdirection. The opening title and the fact that 98% of the show’s episodes don’t end happily led me away from believing that Mrs. Mac and Mrs. Kelly would be able to coexist and that’s where the storyline would end up. You know what? An occasional happy ending not only doesn’t hurt, it was actually very sweet. And as an added bonus, the dog miraculously survived. Just when I thought the show couldn't bring me any more joy. The best part was that they didn’t have to sacrifice the show’s trademark nastiness to accomplish this. I also loved how Charlie and Mac were trying to fit their moms into an episode of Golden Girls.

Community: A-
Plot: Shirley decides to make a Christian film for anthropology class. Abed, the always-entrancing film student decides to one-up her by making an extravagant meta-film on Jesus’ life that’s ridiculously complex, sacreligious on many levels and self-serving (the film’s name is “Abed”). Shirley is infurated

If you’re one of those reviewers that likes using the word “meta” (as in meta-textual or self-referencing) then you are going to have a field day with this episode. It is probably the most “meta” thing ever put on film. It references Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” so that automatically makes it one meta-level above that. This episode was definitely a thinking man’s episode but in reality it probably didn’t make any sense. It was just complete anarchy. The show ended up just getting profoundly silly in the best of ways because that silliness was built out of this façade of grandeur that was the Abed film. Abed is usually relegated to the sidelines as a sort of zany wild card character who delivers golden little nuggets. When an episode is centered around Abed, it’s always been a more typical sitcomy episode (i.e. Abed’s dad is displeased with his career choice, girl has crush on Abed but maybe he’s too weird to approach her) and the plot tones Abed’s quirkiness down considerably and fortunately, that wasn’t the case here. It was also a good episode for Shirley who I think is the most limited character of the gang. The minus on the A is because the ending seemed like a cop-out.

The Office: “The Sting” B+
Plot: Dunder-Mufflin sets up a surveillance operation to try to learn the secrets of a suave salesman who’s stolen a lot of their clients
B-Plot: Andy decides to form a band. Creative disagreements ensue with Andy and bandmates Kevin and Darryl.
Overarching Plot/Long-Term implications: Dunder-Mifflin hires a new traveling salesman

It was nice to see Jim and Dwight working together like they did in “Traveling Salesman” although they didn’t show much of it. I think, on a larger note, my main problem with the episode came down to timing. They should have ended the episode with the introduction of the new salesman and left the quarrels between Danny and his coworkers for another episode to keep the suspense. It would have also given more time for the hijinks that this episode really thrived on. This episode had a set piece that turned into one of the most memorable scenes “The Office” has done in years: Meredith poses as a manger and as Oscar and Ryan try to intercept her she thwarts each of their plans brilliantly. The show works so well (or at least used to work so well) on awkward tension and that segment of the episode had you glued to your seat. The band subplot was a little cliché and the payoffs weren’t that great but I did like the Andy-Darryl chemistry. In the past, Darryl has been somewhat aggressive (he was downright intimidating and villainous to Michael in the first season’s basketball episode) so I'm glad to see an improvement there.

Outsourced: B+
Plot: Todd is accused of sexual harassment but he doesn’t know by whom

The sexual harassment episode is a staple (and if it isn’t, it should be one) because we’ve all seen that sexual harassment video and giggled at the lame acting. In India, as would be expected, the results were far different. It was pretty admirable to take that shared awkwardness we get when we watch the sexual harassment video and make a pretty solid episode out of it. The episode reminded me of how “Outsourced” isn’t getting the credit it deserves. Todd’s efforts to single out his accuser made for hilarious results that reminded me of actors improvising in an Adam McKay movie. The show’s good characters got better: Rajiv’s passive-aggressiveness was sprinkled in at the right places to punch up the tension with humor and Asha and Todd had some good moments. It’s becoming easy to see why Todd would mistakenly fall for Asha: She’s smart and relatable and to this guy who’s lost in this foreign land, she feels less foreign than anyone else. The lesser characters also had their moments: Gupta was used as a punch line as usual (the joke Manmeet made towards Gupta about him bringing shame to his family was awkward, but I might accept at as a cultural difference) but it ended with Manmeet making a nice gesture which shows that there’s hope for Gupta (at least for the other characters) and the shy girl (Madhuri) was used very well.

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