Monday, September 28, 2009

Jordan's Review: How I Met Your Mother, Season 5, Episode 2: Double Date

When setting out on a first date, there is a sense of anticipation. The person you’re about to go out with could very well be the one that you spend the rest of your life with. But more likely, they’ll just be another first date that never leads to a second, and years down the road, encountering them again, you may pause to say “What if?” This is the question tonight’s How I Met Your Mother posits when Ted goes on a blind date with Jen, who he also dated back in 2002. More than a study on how dates can go south quickly, “Double Date” is a look at how people change over time, and at what things about ourselves we aren’t willing to lose at any cost.

Ted in 2002 was every bit the pretentious douche bag we have seen in flashbacks. He is still sporting the goatee, thinks he’s poised to forever alter the skyline of Manhattan with his architecture, and likes to point out the errors on the menu (as Marshall puts it, “it’s a lot cheaper than buying a condom.”). The Jen of 2002 (who just lost her job after the internet bubble burst then and has just lost her job in the banking industry in the present) doesn’t find Ted’s puns clever and spends a bit too much time talking about her cats (“Tabigail Adams, the jester of the group.”). She also doesn’t do the check dance (reaching for the check even though she knows Ted will pay), which makes ted angry.

Ted and Jen spend their present date trying to make up for sins of the past. Ted explains that he wasn’t checking out other girls on their date, he just noticed one of the gang’s notorious doppelgangers (a joke I can only hope will be brought back…I can’t wait to see Ted and Barney’s doubles) Mustache Marshall at the bar. Jen learns not to talk about her ex boyfriend, unless it’s to mention his sexual inadequacies. And Ted finds out that he didn’t call her after their last encounter (“I have been so busy!” he quips). The two hit it off better this time, but ultimately realize that the things they do that irk each other are central to the people that they are. Ted loves pretentiously correcting menus and making bad puns, and Jen loves to talk about her cats. Rather than try to get over the annoyances that stand in their way, the two know they’re better off trying to find someone who is actually endeared by their quirks.

Meanwhile, Barney has tricked Marshall into going to a strip club with him (Telling him it’s the Origins of Chewbacca exhibit, which everyone knows is in Houston this year) where they discover Stripper Lily, another of the gang’s doppelgangers. This presents a potential solution to Marshall’s inability to fantasize about other women, as this woman looks identical to his wife. In an inspired and incredibly extended gag we learn that generally, in order to fantasize about another woman, Marshall must kill fantasy Lily off with a rare hiccup disorder (verified by a doctor who claims, “It says so right here on this doctor clipboard that doctor’s have.”) After struggling to find a cure, fantasy Lily passes, but not before instructing Marshall to wait an appropriate number of years, then find a woman and “plow her like a cornfield.” After the advice to plow a girl like a cornfield is reiterated by a priest at fantasy Lily’s funeral, Marshall waits an appropriate number of years before banging whatever girl he currently wants to fantasize about. The fantasy sequence is hilariously long and complicated, and at the end of it all, Lily is just upset Marshall kills her before fantasizing about anyone (Marshall points out “I even set up a foundation in your name. We’re this close to a cure!”).

While Lily enjoys the prospect of a stripper version of herself, Robin is less than thrilled that Barney is frequenting strip clubs. Considering last week she claimed they were just pretending to be in a relationship her reaction seems a little harsh, but the truth has clearly become obvious to her—she is dating Barney, and as a result, he shouldn’t be in strip clubs. He remains humorously aloof about her issues, however as Marshall gets a party room with his wife and her doppelganger.

This episode hit all the marks of an excellent How I Met Your Mother. It played with time, established an in-joke, was heavy on the humor and even gave long term fans a taste of master plot (even if it is only confirmation that The Mother laughs at Ted’s shellfish joke, and its only “30% pity”). It also established an often overlooked point about continuity of self—we do change over time, often in dramatic ways, but there are some things about ourselves that we are unwilling to sacrifice, even if that sacrifice means a long term relationship or a marriage.

Grade: A


-I love the doppelgangers! So far we know Lesbian Robin, Stripper Lily, and my personal favorite Mustache Marshall. Here’s hoping for future sightings of those and other doppelgangers.

-“It’s a little brisk out tonight.” “Not really.” “I can’t feel my fingers.” “I’m pretty impervious to that stuff.”

-I love that when Jen dresses up her cats as Batman villains, she forgets Cat-woman. She is clearly not the mother.

-“I get confused about death and sex. It’s gotten to the point that anytime I drive past the cemetery I’m sporting a partial.”

Jordan's Review: Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 7: Seven Twenty Three

This week’s episode is constructed in a very ethereal way. It opens with a shot of Don lying bloodied on the floor of a cheap motel room, looking pretty defeated. We then see Betty looking angelic as ever, lying on an antique couch, and Peggy lying in bed with an unknown companion. These visions of things to come are reverted to repeatedly throughout the episode, as if to remind us that No matter how far removed these characters seem from those images, by hour’s end we’ll find them there.

Betty is decorating her living room in the highest style for the early ‘60s (which makes this a perfect time for me to ooze about how great the furniture and the costume designs are on Mad Men. Betty’s flower print dress tonight was awesome, and Don’s shirt at the eclipse was something I’d kill to have in my closet). At her decorator’s behest, she leaves the hearth empty, as that is the place where people gather. This feels wrong to her, but she does it anyway, and is soon meeting with the Junior League in her new living room. The ladies want to stop a reservoir from being turned into a water tank, and they call on Betty’s connection with politician and aide to the Governor Henry Francis (Chris Stanley) because she is clearly the cute one in the group (as a friend tells her, “it’s not adorable to pretend you’re not adorable.”). Betty and Francis arrange for a one-on-one exchange (both pretending this was an accident of scheduling) where they discuss, briefly, the water tank, then focus on the skills we all have but don’t make use of. Francis gives off a creepy energy toward Betty, but it leaves me wondering if this odd vibe isn’t similar to the one I felt Gene giving Sally earlier in the season. Francis is an older man, and his strange, occasionally very off-putting interest in Betty comes hot on the heels of her father’s demise. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Henry, but for now he leaves Betty with a couch, and some food for thought. By episode’s end, the hearth has been filled by this fainting couch, and Betty lays on it, the center of the room as she hopes everyone will gather around her.

Meanwhile, Peggy is still contemplating Duck’s offer, and the deal is sweetened when he sends her a beautiful scarf. Peggy is not used to being lavished with attention, and it makes her a little uncomfortable. She decides, more as a way to prove her usefulness to herself than to display it to others, that she will pursue Don’s newly acquired Hilton account (more on that in a minute) but is gruffly and soundly rebuked by Don, who tells her that she may be good, but she needs to get better and stop asking for things. This sends her running off to Duck for the approval she so desperately seeks, and, none too surprisingly into his arms and his bed when he offers her even a whiff of respect and admiration.

Don, on the other hand is faced with a crisis when he discovers that the lucrative new account he’s being offered by his new friend and confidant Conrad Hilton comes with a catch—in order to sign the account, Don must sign a contract. Don’s lack of contract is the very thing that saved him during the PPL buyout last season, and it gives him the power and the freedom he craves. Don has business smarts and knows that being un-contracted gives him power, but to him, this is much more important than that. To Don this is an existential question—he is being asked to tie himself down, to surrender the freedom that he prizes above all else and agree to be tethered to Sterling-Cooper. Not even the offer that his name may someday be on the door can make Don happy about this. Recall in Season 1 when Don asked Rachel Mencken (my favorite of his many dalliances, and likely his as well) to run away with him. She was too tethered, but he loved the idea that he could leave his life behind. In Season 2, he pretty much disappeared for weeks on a sojourn of self-discovery under the California sun, partly because he needed it, but mostly because he could. And let’s not forget his ultimate escape, when he left Dick Whitman behind once and for all in favor of becoming Don Draper, the man of his dreams. It is of central importance to Don that he be able to escape at any given time, yet by episode’s end, he has signed the contract that will remove his freedom.

The shots that open the episode not only make for an intriguing way to frame this story, they also symbolize the important progression each character makes throughout the episode. Don lies bloodied on the floor, utterly defeated and without his freedom. Peggy lies in bed with Duck, the only man willing to give her the approval and respect she feels entitled to. And Betty lies at the center of the room, just as she desires to be the center of attention, though she clearly isn’t. Don didn’t tell her about his contractual disputes (she learned from Roger, in an under-handed move that has alienated him from Don with more finality), and even when Don storms out of the house, she is left with the crying baby, who symbolizes now more than ever just how trapped she is. Betty wants, perhaps naively, to be lavished with love and attention, and instead she is met with indifference and scorn, even pushed to the margins of her empty house by her crying child. Peggy wants to be respected and appreciated for a job she does very well, and when her mentor shuts her down, she goes to someone who can give her what she needs.

And Don wants his freedom, yet is confronted only moments after walking out of his house with exactly what total freedom can mean. The hitchhikers he picks up (besides being yet another reference to the growing conflict in Vietnam) represent the life he could have, if he really wanted it. They are unmoored by anything, free to do what they like, and they do, mugging Don and heading off to find their next adventure. As Don is swept up into their rush of freedom, he comes face to face with a drug induced hallucination of his father (his adopted father of course) who tells him an interesting hillbilly joke (the greater meaning of which I have yet to grasp) and then points out “what do you do? What do you make? You grow bullshit.” Don knows that all he does with his days is create an illusion to sell people on products, and that all he’s done with his life is create an illusion about who he is as a person. He is a shadow of a man peddling shadows to the unwitting masses, and damn his introspection, he knows it. Don signs away his freedom on “7/23” the date which gives the episode its title. This is the day Don Draper loses his freedom, the day Peggy Olsen finds some satisfaction (or at least some solace) and the day that Betty makes a move toward staking out a position of relevancy in her life. These three characters all had large turning points this week. What’s to come is as unknown to them as it is to us, but this episode laid bare the existential angst beneath the surface of these people and showed them what their lives may become, have become, and possible should become. What comes next is ultimately up to them.

Grade: A


-“Maybe I’m late because I was spending time with my family reading the bible.”

-I didn’t get a chance to dissect Conrad Hilton as much as I would have liked to tonight, but he is a very interesting character and I’m sure the weeks to come will afford me with the opportunity.

-“Why can’t you stare into the eclipse? What’s it going to do really? I stare into the sun every day.” A hilarious line, laden with meaning as moments later, Don does stare directly into the eclipse, with only his sunglasses as a shield.

-Ms. Farrell is another character who got ignored in my article. She seems a subtly sad character as most on this show are, open to and experienced with wanton affairs among the father’s of her students, but Don is not as easy to read as most men.

-“Didn’t we give you an office?” I still love Roger’s biting wit, but tonight’s underhanded betrayal definitely knocked him down a few points on the awesome scale (and up a few points on the interesting scale). I hope we get a deeper look at what is currently driving him before the season is over.

-Another Sal free episode. It’s impossible to judge the show’s arc on a week to week basis, so this statement may later prove false, but it seems like his storyline has been dropped over the last few weeks.

Jordan's Review: Dexter, Season 4, Episode 1: Living the Dream

The cliché of the quiet, lone wolf serial killer has never been more alive in the mind of Dexter Morgan. Gone are the days when he had his own apartment, a sense of privacy, or the time to sleep. With his newborn son Harrison (clearly named after his dearly departed father) keeping him up all night in his new suburban home, Dexter is feeling a little distracted. All of this leads to him bringing the wrong notes to court, and his screw-up lets the defendant, Benito Gomez, walk. Worry not, denizens of Miami, Dexter Morgan, resident killer of killers is here to clean up his own mess…if he doesn’t fall asleep first.

Dexter is sleep deprived throughout this premiere, as many new father’s are, yet it almost feels tacked on to a pretty rote story for the series—Dexter knows he has to kill someone to feed his “Dark Passenger”, he kinds a killer and tracks him until he can catch and kill him. Something has to get in the way to spice up an idea that would grow old otherwise, and this year it seems like that something is little Harrison. I have no problem with the idea of the show examining Dexter the father—quite the contrary, I think the idea of Dexter, a man with serious father issues, as well as serious psychological problems (and, let’s face it, a pretty large bevy of felonies under his belt) trying to parent a child and not traumatize him is the stuff of compelling television. The premiere, however, used the storyline as if it was just another hoop for Dexter to jump through.

This episode showed a lot of the problems that can and do plague Dexter as a series. The plot of each season can be pretty easily summed up as “Dexter wants to kill people. Things get in his way and he almost gets caught. Annoying subplots are thrown in for other characters. Dexter lives to kill another day.” In addition to that, I’m starting to think that Miami is the most dangerous place on the planet, with something like 5 serial killers living and working there in the last 4 seasons (Ice Truck Killer, Dexter “Bay Harbor Butcher” Morgan, The Skinner, and Trinity, and that’s if you don’t count Lila and Miguel Prada as potential serial killers). Plus, every subplot this season seems ripped from the book of boredom and cliché. Deb is going to have relationship troubles, Quinn is going to bang that reporter (which, God willing, will have some relevance to the plot at large), and Bautista is banging La Guerta (I’m willing to offer a cash reward to whichever of Miami’s multitude of killers can get rid of La Guerta before she annoys me for another 12 episodes) which makes him a whole lot less interesting as a character.

To be fair, the show occasionally takes time to build its plot and may begin using all of the disparate and intriguing threads they have thrown out in some very cool ways in weeks to come. John Lithgow’s Trinity already scares the bejesus out of me, so that plot is likely to be worth its weight. And the supporting player’s on the show have never been anything more than filler between Dexter scenes. This is Michael C. Hall’s show, and he is still one of the most incredible, compelling actors on television. There was a lot of negativity in this review, but most of it came from a place of love. I hope to see Dexter tackle the complexities of its central character and his new challenges in some multifaceted, interesting ways in the season to come. But even if we are left with a pretty rote story and some pretty solid cliffhangers like this episode’s car crash, I’ll still be along for the ride, and enjoying every Michael C. Hall filled minute of it.

Grade: B


-Keith Carradine’s Lundy is back! Considering he is the only character on this show to ever come near Dexter in my mind, I am very excited for his return.

-I loved the riff on the opening theme tonight. Dexter’s mornings don’t go as smoothly now.

-“Talk about your blood bath.” Masuka continues to make me laugh hysterically.

-“I’m killing for two now.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jordan's Review: Dollhouse, Season 2, Episode 1: Vows

Things have changed since we last entered the Dollhouse. Dr. Saunders knows that she is a construct created by Topher and imprinted into the body of Whiskey. Ballard is working with Dollhouse to bring down a gunrunner (Jamie Bamber) who has evaded capture by the bureau for years. And DeWitt has a new haircut. Yes, a new season of Dollhouse has arrived, with more questions to ask, and more complex and fully realized characters at the ready to answer them.

Tonight’s imprint has Echo believing she is an undercover agent working with Ballard to bring down the gunrunner. She has entered his life as a romantic interest, and has just married him, thus bringing her very close to taking him down. Ballard clearly still has feelings for Caroline (feelings which, thanks to “Epitaph One” we know she will eventually return) and is forced to listen as she consummates her sham of a marriage and satisfy himself with a few pushups in return. DeWitt wants Ballard to become Echo’s handler, but he thinks she’s working an angle and is unaware of her motivations (DeWitt’s response to his accusation of ulterior motives is classic for the character. “Have you ever met anyone who wasn’t special or in a coma who didn’t?”). Everything is fine and dandy on the Echo front until her faux-hubby gets wise to her deceit when he discovers a picture of her and Ballard (my first thought: is Alpha up to his old picture sending tricks again? He does love to toy with Echo and those around her…) and slams her head against a desk. The concussion causes Echo to glitch, shifting from one personality to another at the drop of a hat. Dushku can’t handle it with the manic glee that Alan Tudyk’s Alpha does, but she holds her own as she changes from moment to moment. Fortunately Ballard understands what is happening and manages to force Echo into a former imprint with a lot of martial arts training (for those who don’t recall, its her would-be assassin who fought Ballard then tipped him off about Dollhouse during last year’s “Man on the Streets.”) and she manages to save the day. This is all pretty run of the mill, but the real fun is in what’s going on in the Dollhouse.

Dr. Saunders has become a little unhinged since discovering that she is in fact a doll named Whiskey, imprinted as the resident physician after she was scarred by Alpha (who was bumping her off so that Echo would be the most requested doll). She has taken to tormenting Topher, who she sees as her God and Creator. Dr. Saunders has some difficult issues to deal with—she knows she isn’t real, but she can’t allow herself to die so that the person she was will emerge. She hates Topher, and so assumes he made her to eventually fall in love with him. In a heart-wrenching scene that steals the episode, Topher explains that he created her as to be smart, capable, caring, and superior to him and that in fact, she chose to hate him. This clearly hurts Topher deeply—he made an intelligent, moral, kind woman and she is revolted by what she sees in him. The crushing weight of the fact that while she may not be real, she still has the ability to choose hits Saunders and she collapses, sobbing at the weight of her existence. She may not have been born, or had any real choice about who she has become, but she still has the ability to choose who she will be in the future. She sees this, and with a little guidance from Boyd (who has admitted his feelings for her, putting them on the path toward the relationship we know they will have before the events depicted in “Epitaph One” as well) she leaves the Dollhouse, because she has run out of excuses.

No other show on television currently could tackle questions of free will and moral responsibility as deftly, nor as fully as this episode of the show could in a subplot, which is just one of the many reasons I love it. I also enjoy the promise of Echo and Ballard’s quest to “find” the people who used to inhabit the doll’s—as “Epitaph One” showed us, these people will eventually have to take responsibility for abandoning their lives and throwing themselves into something bigger than they could understand, but for now, Echo is taking the responsibility of getting these people back. Bonus points go to Dushku for the subtly changes to her Echo we see tonight—she is no longer the Tabula Rasa she once was. She is now cracked, damaged, and comparatively much wiser, for better or worse.

While watching Topher deal with the revulsion of a better person and watching Saunders discover her own freedom are fascinating, and watching Echo and Ballard kick ass is always a good time, this episode also gave us another primer on things to come this year. It seems that Senator Perrin (Alexis Denisof, formerly Wesley Wyndham-Pryce of Buffy and Angel fame, and currently real life husband to How I Met Your Mother’s Alyson Hannigan) has taken up a crusade against the improper practices of the Rossum Corporation, and may become a problem for the Dollhouse. DeWitt thinks Ballard may have tipped him off, and Ballard believes Boyd might be behind it (After all, Ballard knows why he’s here, which brings up the interesting point that we still do not know what lead Boyd to the Dollhouse and what motivates him on a daily basis). Personally, my bets are on the as-yet unidentified mole (I am of the theory that Lawrence Dominic, while a spy, was clearly not the mole who was helping Paul bring down the Dollhouse last season, and whoever that is must be looking for a new man on the outside). In any case, this first episode gives us much to look forward to as the new season of Dollhouse unfolds, while reminding us of what we loved about it to begin with.

Grade: B+


-“My entire existence was constructed by a sociopath in a sweater vest, what do you suggest I do?”

-“You want to study the rat before you slice it up?” “Well that is how science works.”

-“How do I live? How do I go through every day knowing that my every thought comes from something I can’t abide?” Amazing questions from the always stellar Amy Acker.
-Excellent use of Elliott Smith Joss. I can always tell when you’re behind the wheel.

“I’m not even real. I’m in someone else’s body and I’m afraid to give it up. I’m not better than you, I’m just a series of excuses.” “You’re human.” “Don’t flatter yourself.”

Jordan's Review: Community, Season 1, Episode 2: Spanish 101

Last week’s pilot did a good job at establishing the characters in Community, and gave me plenty of incentive to come back this week. Thank god for that because this week’s “Spanish 101” is easily the funniest episode yet in this still young television season (even beating out How I Met Your Mother’s premiere for sheer laughs). This week finds the gang paired off to write a Spanish Conversation for their class. Their teacher Senor Chang (the always hilarious Ken Jeong) is hilariously aware of how his heritage might not mix with his chosen profession (though he manages to milk the classes suspected racism for all its worth, suggesting that perhaps he should teach photography or martial arts), and of course Jeff spends the class trying to get Abed to switch cards with him when he discovers that Abed is partnered with his beloved (or be-sort-of-liked) Britta. Abed agrees in exchange for Jeff’s shirt, which provides a hilarious sight gag.

Unfortunately, Britta has also switched cards, anticipating Jeff’s move and leaving Jeff teamed with Pierce, who has some seriously epic ideas and plans on spending the evening with his good friend Jeff and a bottle of booze (which he calls “Hemingway’s lemonade”). Meanwhile, Britta has unwittingly given rise to two new “socially aware” protesters in the form of Shirley and Annie who want to bake brownie’s and get out the word about censorship and the murder of Guatemalan journalists (with such idea as a banner that reads “340 Guatemalan Murders!” and a pinata of one of the victims, inspired by the fact that he was beaten to death). This also gave rise to some nice character development for Britta, who realizes she may care deeply about many causes, but she doesn’t actually do much to improve them, which may make her an even more perfect match for Jeff, who does a lot of things and manages to care about none of them (case in point, his departure from Pierce’s planning session by saying, “The woman that I kind of like is out there in the moonlight caring about something stupid. And I need to show her that I care enough to pretend to care about it too.”).

Most of the episodes heart, and a good portion of its hilarity, lies with Pierce, however. He is clearly a man who has spent his whole life selfishly building wealth, only to discover what he really wants is a family. He hopes to ingratiate himself with Jeff to gain acceptance among the rest of the group, but his epic Spanish idea only results in him alienating Jeff and (in a funny turn) setting himself on fire in the middle of the protest. However, when push comes to shove, Jeff is willing to take one for the team and stand up next to Pierce to deliver their patently ridiculous presentation. Seen in montage while Aimee Mann’s “Wise up” plays, their presentation is one of the most uproarious scenes in recent memory, involving mini sombrero’s, flag waving, robots, afro wigs, and sparklers. Sure they fail the assignment, but Jeff has proven that he can on occasion be selfless and Pierce has found a way into the group. Plus, as Abed, our resident meta commentator points out, “Its conflicts like these that will help us to form an unlikely family.”

Grade: A-


-“What we have so far. Well, we have something incredibly long and very confusing and a little homophobic and really, really specifically, surprisingly and gratuitously critical of Israel. It’s called ‘Two Conquistadors.’ It should probably be ‘Dos’, I mean, it is a Spanish class.”

-Jeff’s entrance at the opening was a great meta joke on the beloved character entrance.

-I like that Abed comments on everything in a very meta sense, but I wonder if it will get old. For now, lines like “Its moments like this that make me feel like we’re on TV, but then someone always comes along and says ‘they would never say that on TV and the moment is ruined” still make me laugh.

-“You’re bailing on our first sausage fest?” I think Pierce’s ignorance can be mined for years to come, on the other hand.

-Ken Jeong was Fantastic. “My knowledge will bite her face off!”

-“Defy oppression. Have a brownie.”

-Jeff’s attempts to make unrelated cards relevant, including, “If you think of grandsons as metaphors for friendship, I think you’ll agree with this transformer here that its time for ours to become a man. By reading the Torah.”

-“We can have a candlelight vigil like those lesbians on the news!”

-Though I didn’t find this relevant to the review, I think the show needs to expand beyond a romance between Britta and Jeff, as this is a pretty predictable will they won’t they that is below the show’s ever growing potential.

Jordan's Review: Glee, Season 1, Episode 4: Preggers

When this week’s episode opened with “Single Ladies” I was prepared to roll my eyes, grin and bear it through the song (which annoys me to know end). Then the camera panned up to reveal Kurt, and all was right in the world. “Preggers” is all about being who you want to be, regardless of what stands in your way, and Kurt is an excellent example of this. Though the girl’s he is practicing with are quick to cover for him when his Dad walks in and finds Kurt in a unitard (which he claims is sweat resistant and perfect for practice), Kurt isn’t happy lying about who he is. And that happens to be a gay high school student who is a member of both the Glee Club and the football team.

Kurt’s decision to go out for the football team may be motivated by his attempts to prove his masculinity to his father, but it also gives him a chance to assert who he is. He is quite the field goal kicker, but only when Beyonce is backing him up (as he puts it “My body is like a rum chocolate soufflé. If I don’t warm it up right, it doesn’t rise.”). His foray into football also does the master plot a service as it recruits three players to the club, rounding them out at the minimum number to qualify for regionals.

Among them is Puck, who we learn a lot about this week. It seems he slept with Quinn, his best friend’s girl, and now she’s pregnant. Quinn doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with Puck, however, and so she claims that Finn impregnated her during an unfortunate accident in a hot tub (“Think of the mail! Think of the mail!” Quinn urges in an excellent callback). Finn, panicked about becoming another high school father who pumps gas, recruits Will to teach the football team how to dance, in order to limber them up, in a strategy he learned from a book he checked out of the library (“I got this at the school library. Do you know you can just borrow books from there? All of them! Except the Encyclopedia.”). Will has already developed quite the rapport with the students. He actually cares about their problems and respects them in a way that deeply connects him to them.

In another subplot, Sue Sylvester has become a local news contributor, which of course leads to much hilarity. It also leads to her renewed desire to win nationals (because, as she’s told, her segment is for champions) which leads her to recruit Sandy into a plan to destroy Glee Club by stealing Rachel. Sandy, who is brought back into the school via an extortion of the Principal, begins casting Cabaret, and Rachel, disenchanted after losing out on a solo to Tina, decides to try out (with a version of Celine Dion’s “What do you say?” that is absolutely outstanding).
At first glance, I thought the idea of Rachel quitting the club was another example of a rushed plot point, but as the episode delved into her reasoning, it made perfect sense. Rachel, while exuding the most confidence, is easily the most desperate for approval. In her own mind, she’s a star and deserves all of the praise, popularity, and boyfriends that should go along with that. And while Will’s efforts have brought out the best in most of the other kids, and enriched their lives, Rachel has stayed the same—immensely talented and incredibly under-appreciated. When at the end of the episode she quits to work on Cabaret full time, it feels like a plot point that has been earned, even if it did arrive more quickly than I would have expected.

The use of Sue’s segment as an actual affirmation to “act like everyone is cheering for you and some day they will be” turns what has before been sheer fodder for laughter into something more meaningful. Each of these kids is learning that difficult lesson this season, and watching them do it is increasingly riveting.

Grade: A-


-“Yes we cane.”

-“I have a date to the prom, but I’m flattered. I know how important dances are to teen gays.”

-“I will not rest until every inch of our fair state is covered in garbage.”

-“I know that I can be a little abrasive, bossy and conceited. I’m just hurt that you chose to judge me on that rather than my talent.”

-“Boy, the only thing missing from this place is a couple dozen bodies limed and rotting in shallow graves under the floorboards.”

-“We gave up our pride when we lost to that school for the deaf.”

-“Here. Take these three times a day or your baby will be ugly.”

-“Kick this, and you die a legend.” “Can I pee first?”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jordan's Review: How I Met Your Mother, Season 5, Episode 1: Definitions

It’s been a long summer since we last saw the gang, as Ted prepared to become a college professor and Barney, Marshall took the gang on a leap, and Barney and Robin made out and started an undefined quest into a potential relationship. A relationship, we find early in the episode, they have been secretly continuing throughout the summer. As the gang presents Ted with a fedora and whip (“I’m Indiana Jones!”) to commemorate his new job as a professor, they also discover the still undefined tryst between Barney and Robin. Every time the pair think about having “the conversation” about what their relationship means, they find themselves just having sex instead (they both find elaborate lies erotic it seems).

Lily, ever the meddler, decides to force the two into having the talk by locking the min Robin’s bedroom, bringing Marshall along for moral support, and to play with Ted’s whip (every single whip crack was hilarious). Robin and Barney don’t know how to have the talk and spend the whole day locked away trying to avoid putting meaning or a title onto their interactions. Ted, ever the over-thinker, is too busy riddling his every action with meaning to notice much of the drama going on in the A plot as he prepares for his first day teaching. The cliffhanger from last season—that the mother is in the class with Ted—is of course clever misdirection. Turns out the mother is in that classroom, but Ted is in the wrong one. He has wandered into Economics 305, which gives him the chance to work out all of his warring notions on how to teach (“I’m Professor Mosby. But you guys can call me Ted. However, I am Professor Mosby. It’s cool if you call me T-Dog. Do NOT call me T-Dog.”) before actually unleashing them on his real class. We did see a hint of the douche-y ted that was mined for comedic gold last season this eve, and I hope that the classroom becomes a venting place for Ted’s pretentious side so we can see more of the romantic in him as he goes about his daily activities.

And speaking of romantic, the Barney and Robin plotline carried all the emotional punch I could’ve dreamed and more. This show has learned exactly how to handle these two characters and how they would handle each other. Both have feelings for the other, and both are terrified to express them. Neither wants to be with anyone else, but neither wants to commit to a relationship either. Instead of surrendering ther characters they’ve built to an unrealistic relationship as a lesser show might, How I Met Your Mother has shown that Barney and Robin can be together and still be themselves. The two decide to get out of the room by doing what they’re best at—lying to Lily and claiming they are boyfriend and girlfriend. As they explain, he looks good in his suit, she can hold her scotch, and they much prefer the idea of being together than a charade of being apart. As the two walk to brunch (the most important meal in the HIMYM-verse) they hold hands, and Ted points out, “You know they were lying, right?” Lily, on the other hand, has a better understanding of the situation. “No, Ted. They don’t know they weren’t.”

Grade: A-


-I find that this show garners a lot of adorability points with me. I was so happy with Barney and Robin, it couldn’t get less than an A-.

-“Tell him to whip the habit Ted. I’ve got whip fever. Don’t even point it Ted just whip him!”

-Barney stealing Ted’s condoms was awesome.

-Brad came back! Yay! But what happened to Cara?

-I like that Ted’s students in his dream don’t believe he’s a professor because “where’s your whip and hat?”

-Flugelhorn is Robin and Barney’s safe-word. Its simultaneously hilarious and adorable, just like their relationship.

-“We can’t fight like this all night, we both got some good shots in, let’s call it a truce!”-Barney, after landing a single punch, in vintage NPH form.

-“I wish just ONCE you guys would call me on Tuxedo night!”

-Barnman and Robin. Awesome.

-“Doorfive! Were you there?”

Sam's Review: HIMYM-Definitions

This week’s How I Met Your Mother picked up right now instead of where we left off at the end of last season. And what a place we are! The main focus of this week’s episode is the relationship between Robin and Barney, a match made in tv heaven. I don’t think there’s a couple on TV that deserve each other more than these two. We find out that they have been sleeping together while keeping it a secret from the rest of the gang.

When Lily catches wind of the fact that they are in fact still sleeping together she pleads them to have “The Talk” about where the relationship is going. Of course NPH and Colby Smulders find hilarious ways of avoiding having the talk about whether the two are in fact boyfriend and girlfriend.

Lily locks the pair in a room until the have the dreaded talk and won’t let them leave until they figure out where their relationship is going, if anywhere at all. This gives way to probably the funniest recurring gag in the episode as Marshall whips the door with an Indiana Jones style whip with hat (for professor Mosby) and shouts “Not good enough!” with every failing attempt at convincing Lily that the talk has happened. Robin and Barney eventually have the talk after being tempted by pancakes and bacon. They decide to lie (The only thing they are both good at and willing to do) and tell Marshall and Lily that they are officially boyfriend and girlfriend.

As Barney and Robin leave the apartment thinking they’ve pulled a fast one on Marshall and Lily, it’s revealed that Lily and Marshall both knew they were lying (so does the audience) and that they don’t realize the really are together, even if they can’t admit it. A great capper to a funny and plot advancing episode.
Something that irked me a bit about many episodes from last year were that many episodes did not advance the plot on the show. The story is part of what makes this one of the best shows on TV. Apparently they needed stand alone episodes to draw more fans in. All it takes is season one to get anyone hooked to this show.
This episode gave everything a HIMYM fan could want, Robin and Barney being adorable, Ted being a bit clueless yet still charming (in a plotline I will sum up in notes, this review belongs to Robin and Barney), and Lily and Marshall being the married couple that like to fuck like there’s no tomorrow. Oh yeah, there’s an Indiana Jones reference and Jason Segal with a whip. It doesn’t get better than this. I hope the rest of the season can keep up with this amazing start.



-Meanwhile, the newly employed Professor Ted Mosby is freaking out about his first day of school. He has a hilarious, albeit typical, first day of class nightmare where he has no pants. No pants is always funny. There—that’s the Ted bit, funny but no where near Robin and Barney territory tonight.

-I want to be Marshall’s friend

-The way they said “What?!” tonight was hilarious

-No one ever seems to tell Marshall about tuxedo night

Jordan's Review: Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 6: Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

After two episodes in a row with large parenting themes, “Guy walks into and advertising agency” opens with Don comforting Sally, who is suddenly afraid of the dark. As the episode reveals (none too surprisingly) it isn’t the dark that scares poor young Sally it’s the idea that there’s a new Gene living in old Gene’s room, and that the baby is some sort of reincarnation of her beloved grandfather. Even if this is true, Sally is unwilling to accept this paltry replacement for the man she loved and bonded with.

On a similar front, Joan is being confronted with the subpar replacement of her dream husband she ended up marrying. Greg has discovered he will not be promoted to Chief Resident as he thought, and in fact cannot even be a surgeon. Joan, perfect woman that she is, informs him that “I married you for your heart, not your hands” which sounds sweet until we recall that this is the man who raped Joan last season, and his heart isn’t all that worthy either. Tonight highlighted for me the similarities between Joan and Sally in terms of their character development. Joan has spent her whole life working towards finding the right man, marrying him and living happily ever after, and the likelihood of her settling for her less than perfect current arrangement is slim. Sally, on the other hand, finally found herself appreciated and understood by someone, and now that she understands what that feels like, she is unlikely to allow herself to be pigeonholed by her mother (who, by giving her a Barbie doll clearly shows that she believes Sally to be a smaller version of herself. In reality I think we will find Sally to be a smaller version of Don, which may shock him or may make him very proud as the series continues).

In the episodes main plot, the British are coming to Sterling Cooper, in the form of the superiors from PPL, the company that has owned Sterling-Cooper since last season’s finale (and continues to be, in my eyes, an excellent riff on the British invasion that was sweeping America during this time). Bert Cooper convinces Don they are coming to get a look at what makes him so successful, and plants the idea that Don may soon be working out of both London and New York. Don, usually entirely unflappable, is actually excited by this prospect, so much so that he actually shares information about his job with his wife (a rare occurrence in the Draper household). Cooper also forces Roger and Don to reconcile before the arrival. Roger tells Don, “I don’t like to be judged” which could very easily be a major theme of this show. Most characters here hide what they don’t want others to know to avoid the judgment of outside eyes. Roger, as always, is just the most upfront about it. And while it seems clear to me that Don has lost a lot of respect for Roger and isn’t really ready to reconcile, he is willing to pretend things are ok to move forward.

When the men from PPL arrive, they bring with them the titular Guy McKendrick, who seems to be England’s answer to Don Draper. He’s smooth, he’s sophisticated, and he’s also wearing a gray suit. Guy manages to flatter nearly everyone in the office before it is revealed that he is actually there to replace Lane Price (who is getting a “promotion” by being sent to Bombay), and that Don, Bert, Ken, Harry, and Pete all now report directly to him (Roger is tellingly left entirely off the chart, he claims “for making my job look easy.”). Once again, Harry’s decision to pursue a promotion to head of Television last season continues to pay off, as he is the only one in the room to clearly be promoted under the new regime. As Pete puts it to Ken, “one more promotion and we’re going to be answering phones.”

As the office jumps into party mode, celebrating Joan’s last day, Joan breaks down into tears, knowing she can’t stop working since her husband did not get his promotion, yet too prideful to admit that she needs to stay at S-C. Don is called out of the office for a meeting with Conrad Hilton, the man he met at Roger’s Garden Party, who wants some advice on a new campaign. Don informs him that no one wants to think of a mouse in a hotel, and Conrad wisely asks him what he wants. When Don responds his business, Conrad tells him “Next time someone asks you a question like that, you need to think bigger.” He has intrigued and earned the respect of a very powerful man, which has to be reassuring in the face of his lack of promotion.

Meanwhile, back at S-C a discussion of the Vietnam war is being held, in which it is pointed out that hardly anyone is being drafted and the smart people will be able to stay behind desks without shooting anyone. It is telling to me that directly following a discussion of what a small issue the Vietnam War will be, a John Deere tractor piloted by Don’s dimwitted secretary goes out of control and slices of Guy’s foot, spraying the office in his blood. What seemed like a minor inconvenience, a small but unimportant bad decision quickly exploded into the biggest bloodbath we’ve yet seen on Mad Men, just as the war will explode in ways none of these characters yet see.

Guy walked into an advertising agency, yet due to the cruel punch line of the title’s joke, he won’t be walking out of it. He has lost his foot, and with it, his heretofore promising career at S-C (it’s the ‘60s after all, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is another 30 years away. Also, he’s English). Fortunately, this means that Lane gets to stick around for a while longer, but he is all to familiar with how close he came to the chopping block this week. In another excellent exchange between Don and Lane, our favorite Brit likens himself to Tom Sawyer and says, “I feel like I just went to my own funeral, and I didn’t like the eulogy.” This is the fear of every character on the show, all of them so desperate not to be fully known, not to be judged by those around them, and Lane has had this fully realized. He has been judged, and thankfully, spared for the moment. Guy was judged quickly and coldly by his superior’s and losing his foot laid all too bare how harshly judgment can affect a person’s life.

The episode wraps up the themes of judgment and of accepting who you really are (even though none of these characters accepts themselves enough to show it yet) when Don takes Sally into baby Gene’s room to quell her fears. He explains to her, “This is your brother. And we don’t know who he is yet, and we don’t know who he’s going to be. And that’s a wonderful thing.” While Don is almost jealous of his son’s ability to literally start from scratch, he also knows that he, and everyone around him, still has plenty of time. He may be calming Sally’s fears about the baby on the surface, but beneath that, he is also telling her, and himself, that it’s never too late to become who you want to be.

Grade: A-


-“Mr. Kinsey, you might want to shave your beard.” “What? Who are you people?”

-Roger’s hilariously callous twofer of “He lost his foot.” “Right after he got it in the door.” And “Jesus, it’s like Iwo Jima out there.”

-Sal was pretty absent this week, a shame as he would’ve fit perfectly with the themes explored tonight. Then again, so would any character, and these are major themes of the show, so I think we’ll have time to address his character later.

Jordan's Review: Community: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Better late than never...

To say that Community is taking a walk down some very well worn comedic roads is pretty obvious. Its main character Jeff (Joel McHale) is an asshole who’s also charming and might get a chance at redemption, either through the ragtag band of misfits around him, or through the love of a woman (Gillian Jacobs). The show also features an awkward character, a confident character, an eccentric older guy, and a middle aged black woman. None of this sounds at all original. In fact, add in the fact that most of the pilot is set in the library, and its not too far off from The Breakfast Club.

What, if anything, sets this show apart in its first episode is that, like Glee and unlike most other television shows, it knows that its trading in clichés. That alone doesn’t necessarily make a show good, but that level of self-awareness this early inspires a little confidence. That being said, the pilot is far from riotous. Jeff gets in a few good barbs (“If I wanted to learn something, I wouldn’t have come to community college”) and a few Meta jokes (“I was raised on TV and I was conditioned to believe that every black woman over 50 is a cosmic mentor”) but some of his shtick feels overly done. Each of the characters teeters between annoyingly overdone and winningly offbeat. The fact that John Oliver is around as Duncan, a psychology professor and friend of Jeff’s also inspires confidence.

But if anything warrants a second look at this show in the weeks to come, it would be its deft handling of the topic of moral relativism. As Jeff puts it, “I learned very young that I can convince people that anything is right or wrong. Either I’m God, or truth is relative. Either way, Booyah!” I have seen shows try to redeem their caddish main characters a thousand times before, but rarely if ever have I seen a sitcom tackle the issue in such an interesting way right out of the gate. I hope to see the show take this idea, and the characters its created in interesting and funny directions in the weeks to come, and while this episode isn’t overly hilarious, it does show potential.

The Golden Rule of Pilots is that a show rarely gets to put its best foot forward in week one. Some shows have awful first episodes and go on to be excellent shows (30 Rock anyone?). Others have excellent pilots and then fail to live up to their potential (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for example). The point is it’s impossible to judge the entirety of a show based on the pilot, especially when the pilot is so middling. When the jokes are good, they are original and funny enough to get me excited about what’s to come. And when they aren’t? Oh well, it’s only the pilot.

Grade: B-

-Hey! Its Allison Brie, Pete’s wife on Mad Men!

-“A six-year-old girl could talk to you like that.” “Yes, because that would be adorable.” “No, because you’re a five-year-old girl and there’s a pecking order.”

-“Keg FLIP! It’s very hard to pull off.”

-“You know what makes humans different from any other animal?” “Feet!” “No, come on, bears have feet!”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jordan and Sam Liveblog the Emmy's

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jordan's Review: Big Fan

Exactly how far will we go to maintain our views of the world? What do we want out of life, and is that really any different than what we “should” want? After watching The Wrestler, a gripping look at some of these questions, it’s no surprise that Robert Siegel (who wrote The Wrestler and both wrote and directed Big Fan) would follow it up with another movie that asks big questions in the way every person does: slowly over time, while they continue living their lives.

Paul (Patton Oswalt) is a parking garage attendant by day and a frequent caller to a New York Giants radio program at night. Paul is the titular big fan, so much so that he scripts out all of his diatribes before delivering them, and even rehearses how he’ll deliver each barb. He may not be as successful as his siblings, and he may have to yell quietly into the phone so as not to wake his mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz), but Paul is perfectly satisfied to spend his days concocting rants, and his nights delivering them. That is, until he sees his favorite player Quantrell Bishop (John Hamm, though slightly different that the one playing Don Draper over on Mad Men) at a gas station. Paul and his always supportive sidekick Sal (Kevin Corrigan) tail Bishop into the city and into a strip club, where they get up the nerve to go over and say hi. They’re fandom quickly elevates to slightly creepy, and Bishop reacts by kicking Paul’s ass, hospitalizing him and potentially causing brain damage. As Paul deals with the potential legal, financial, and personal fallout of his encounter with his hero, the movie gets into serious moral and ethical territory. Patton is tremendous as a man with a tenuous grip on everything he loves, divided between his faith and the reality that keeps being imposed on him, first by the fists of his idol, and later by everyone from his mother, to his overbearing brother, to an Eagle’s fan (Michael Rapaport) who is just as voracious in his support.

Big Fan is a meditation on how far faith can drive us, of what we are willing to do to cling to the things that make us feel comfortable. It’s an examination of a man pushed as far as he can be in a test of his faith, and forced to question everything he holds dear. As such, religious imagery permeates the film, unsurprisingly mostly in Paul’s car. It’s no shock that a man intensely devoted to his team has a cross hanging on his rearview mirror and the Virgin Mary sitting on his dashboard. In a telling scene near the film’s mid-point, Paul’s mother reorganizes her bags of Chinese food sauce packets, which she saves because “it’s a sin to throw away food.” The only spoken reference to religion in the entire film (if memory serves) says quite a lot about the movie as a whole. Logic and common sense have nothing to do with her actions. She is entirely driven by faith. Paul mocks her for this, only vaguely cognizant of the fact that his nightly ritual (which, by the way, is not unlike prayer) has no meaning to anyone but him, that the life he has chosen is just as empty as his mother reorganizing her endless packets of soy sauce. It’s a heart wrenching scene, yet empty as his life may seem from the outside, it brings him happiness, whether or not he’s ever approved of by anyone, including his hero Quantrell Bishop.

The movie asks us what matters more, the things we are told to want, or the things we come to desire ourselves? It also wonders how important faith is in our lives, be it faith in God or in the New York Giants. Finally, it asks us whether we care more about happiness or truth. These are important questions, and the answers Big Fan offers may not always be expected, but they are always honest in a way that tells us (as the best movies do) something about our lives and the way we live them, for better or worse. Glaringly honest, sometimes blisteringly hilarious and occasionally desperately bleak, the movie shows unfalteringly a man looking into his own abyss, and wondering whether he is satisfied with what he sees.

Grade: A

Sam's Review: Big Fan

Robert Siegel, after writing an amazing script in The Wrestler, has come back in equally great form with Big Fan. Of course, this time Siegel does not have the directorial talents of Darren Aronofsky so instead, he decided to get his hands dirty and do it himself.

Big Fan is centered around Paul Aufiero (or Paul from Staten Island on the radio) played by Patton Oswalt, who is a huge, and I mean huge New York Giants fan. He eats, sleeps and breathes Giants football. He worships at the feet of one player in player in particular—Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm, no not Jon Hamm).
On one fateful evening, Paul and his best buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan) see Quantrell Bishop across the street and decide to follow him to maybe get the chance to meet him. They follow Bishop to a club and when Paul finally musters up the courage to introduce himself and meet his icon, Bishop freaks thinking Paul’s some sort of a stalker. Bishop beats Paul to a pulp, placing him in a coma.

Paul wakes up to a crisis, does he throw Bishop under the bus and take the big cash payout or does he stay true to his Giants and not hurt the team by getting Bishop put in jail. I won’t spoil it for you, but the internal struggle is gripping and Oswalt plays it perfectly.

Touching and at times depressing, we get a glimpse into the life of someone most of us would pity. Unmarried and living at home with his mother, Paul is the idea of what most people would think is a miserable life. But is it? Paul’s discovery of who he is and what he wants out of his life is an incredibly entertaining and emotional journey to take as a viewer and that’s a credit to Siegel who has penned an excellent script.

Visually the film is pretty minimalistic, appropriate to the film, but I cannot help but wonder how the film would have looked in the hands of another director. Siegel did a more than capable job with the film but I still left asking that question. Really the only problem with the direction was at times pacing was a bit of an issue at times.

The star here is Oswalt obviously and after this he will likely sink back into character actor and comedy nerd oblivion. Though his star is on the rise don’t look for him to be the leading man in many upcoming films yet he proved he can do it here. Big Fan is emotionally wrenching, as watching someone struggle with losing the only thing they hold dear in their life, the only thing that makes them happy. This is one viewer who is looking forward to the next tortured soul Robert Siegel plans on bringing to the big screen.


-Getting to see Patton Oswalt run is worth the price of admission alone.

-Can’t wait for the next Siegel flick, I think I can call myself a Big Fan (sorry).

Jordan's Review: Glee, Season 1, Episode 3: The Acafellas

After our review of last week’s episode, I gave some thought to another reason I graded the episode a B, and realized it was because the show had a lot of potential, but it had yet to strike gold in my eyes. I feel that Glee is a show that will get much better after it’s had some time to work out its kinks and figure out its identity as a show (much as its characters will get deeper as they accept themselves for who they are). That being said, this episode makes some serious strides toward determining what this show will be, yet it also displays many of the things I worry the show might become. Every television series has to have a few shaky episodes near the start as it finds its bearings, and this was one of Glee’s.

One of the negatives I found in this episode was just how quickly the show is paced. I often praise a show for deft pacing, but this one has been flying through storylines like its getting cancelled next week (it is on Fox, but something tells me these guys can breathe for a while). This week had Will leaving Glee to strike out on his own with a middle aged boy-band, the titular Acafellas. The show has barely given us time to adjust to his role as the head of the club, and last episode had him overcoming insecurities and getting comfortable in the role, only to have the show throw him out this episode as if he’d been growing frustrated by under-appreciation over the last ten or fifteen episodes. I think the idea of Will having aspirations to become a singer makes perfect sense for his character, I just wish the show would give us some time to see those aspirations building before he chases them, then abandons them all within 45 minutes.

To be clear, while I did find this episode very flawed in some ways, it was still a blast along the way. For one thing, it introduced Victor “I’m such a great actor I made Jordan watch 5 seasons of Alias” Garber as Will’s father, a role I hope will become recurring (I especially loved his line “I spent six months in the Hanoi Hilton, never said a word!” and the moment when he tells Will his foray into performance has inspired him to go to law school). Will’s parents are perfectly goofy, and fit directly into the picture of Will’s life that is beginning to form. Even Will’s wife Terri had a good moment in this episode where she stopped acting like a heartless bitch for 30 seconds to congratulate her husband. The highlights of this plotline, though had to be Sandy’s (Stephen Tobolowksy) return and the appearance of Josh Groban who stopped by for just long enough to hand over a restraining order and hit on Will’s mom.

In other news, Mercedes spent this week discovering feelings for Kurt, and being shocked and hurt to discover he’s gay (“Just because he wears nice clothes doesn’t mean he’s on the down low…” “He wore a corset to second period!”). The storyline was the kind of gleeful absurdity I love about this show. Any girl who has seen Kurt crawl across the floor during “Push It” has to know she’s barking up the wrong tree, but Mercedes obliviousness was great fodder for comedy and an excellent set up for a real moment of connection between the two when Kurt came out to her (a fact I was shocked to discover he had never told anyone else). I’m very happy that the show has already elevated Mercedes above “stereotypical sassy black girl” and given her a real story and some real depth. This plotline gave me extra hope that the show is going to the right place, it just may hit a few bumps along the way.

On the Finn and Rachel front, we find Rachel siding with Quinn on the decision to bring in Dakota Stanley, whose name is already hilarious to me, because she’s angry at Finn for refusing to discuss their moment from last week. While I again worry that the “will-they-won’t-they” relationships this show has set up are too obviously “when will they’s” for this early in the run, I still love the chemistry between the characters, and I love that Rachel has the self confidence and the backbone to let Finn know when he’s being a tool (maybe I’m just too endeared to her character though. I’m sure Sam will let me know if that’s the case). And Will and Emma are free to talk about their problems now that they’re both in relationships, which allows them to have plenty of cute banter disguised as not forwarding their romance.

Overall this show is still a blast, and has a higher quotability average than any other show around right now (there is a one liner I want to remember about once every two minutes in any given episode), but it still has some things to work out. While I am gaining confidence that it will work them out, this episode stands easily as the weakest yet.

Grade: B-

-Jane Lynch’s Sue wasn’t around as much tonight (again, this show’s ensemble is too big to fit everyone in nightly) but her line “You know ladies, I learned a lot in special forces” her penchant for getting her fog machine back, and her punishment of Quinn by restricting her tanning privileges were all home runs.

-“Sandy, we voted. When you’re in the group, its creepy.” The Tobolowsky character is likely to wear thin if he’s used too often, but I thought he was very funny tonight.

-“Who is Josh Groban? Kill yourself!” is a perfect example.

-“We started doing it once a week! It was like she was trying to make a twin!” Hilarious way to say that, and added irony points since Terri isn’t actually pregnant and is trying to knock herself up.

-“My dad bought it for my sweet 16 when I promised to stop wearing form-fitting sweaters that stop at the knee. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Kurt had a great night.

-“My dad took my baby away when he found my tiara collection in my hope chest.” Hilarious, and possible evidence that we’ll have to deal with Kurt’s father’s lack of acceptance later in the series (or, at this pace, next week when Kurt turns 30 and has a coming out party).

-“Artie you’re cut. You aren’t trying hard enough.” “At what?” “At walking.” Dakota Stanley made up for the lack of Sue tonight. Also to love, his line “What’s wrong with me is that you’re freakishly tall. I feel like a woodland creature!”

-“You’re breaking up with me? Why?” “You’re credit score is terrible! I need financial security!”

Sam's Review: Glee - "Acafellas"

This week’s episode of Glee had a tough act to follow with the first two episodes of the series being pretty strong. Unfortunately it bended to that strong start and gave us something a bit weaker. That’s not to say it was a bad episode.
The episode picks up after the cheerleaders have joined up with the Glee kids and they are hard at work as per usual. As Will is giving them some pretty shitty dance moves to be working on, one of the kids points out how truly awful they are. The kids agree that Will is no choreographer and this offends him to his core. In an effort to get his groove back he throws together a boy band of sorts made up of some staff at school.

A rag tag group of guys including the gym teacher dating the future Mrs. Will Schuester (I think anyways) form the appropriately schmaltzy a capella group, the Acafellas. Cute.

This leads to some pretty strong reimagining of tunes from boy bands of yesteryear (‘I Wanna Sex You Up’ –that still means nothing). The Acafellas was fine and led to some sweet Josh Groban jokes. But what really stuck me at the heart of this episode was the appearance of Mercedes being an actual human being. It seems she’s developed a bit of a crush for Kurt, the boy that makes Sal from Mad Men look straight as an arrow.

Later in the episode, after hanging out with Kurt a couple of times, she asks him if they are dating. Sadly she is completely oblivious to what everyone else on the face of the earth knows. I feel bad for Mercedes but it allows us to have a nice moment with real characters for once as Kurt comes out to her (and apparently only her). I hope to have more character driven storlines in the future but I’m starting to just let the wackiness wash over me and not let me become consumed with how archetypical just about everyone is on this show. It’s clearly aware and they use it to their advantage.

Despite the great Mercedes/Kurt storyline, the episode did not deliver the funny as much as the previous to shows. Perhaps I’ve become spoiled but I didn’t find my self laughing out loud as I did before. Perhaps it’s because Jane Lynch played a much smaller role in this week’s show. Though when she was on the screen, she was fantastic. The music choices in this week’s show were fine but nothing to write home about. But I’m starting to cozy up to Glee and have a bit more faith, I think I’ll be in for the long haul with this one.



-Once again Jordan was taking notes on some memorable lines so check his review for those.

-Thank god this episode took it easy with how much of the wife they used. The less of her I see the happier I am.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sam's Review: Mad Men Episode 5

This week’s Mad Men was most impressive due to some particularly ambitious directing. From the opening, a scene where Don and betty are called into Sally’s school to discuss with the teacher her bad behavior. There’s a quick cut of wiping blood (or dirt, let’s say blood for fun) from her face. It’s quick and if you were looking away from the screen for more than two seconds you may have missed it. This was just the precursor to an episode where the setting wasn’t confined to Matt Weiner’s ‘60’s.

Most of the episode deals with Betty finally having that baby. The separation of Don and Betty sets up perfect opportunities for them to divulge in some information about themselves and their significant other. These moments really only happen when they’re around strangers (or drugged like Betty) because no one on this show is capable of opening up to anyone else. It’s so rare it marked the climax of season 2 where Peggy confronted Pete.

In the waiting room, Don meets another expectant father who is waiting to find out how his wife and new baby are doing. He’s assured by a nurse (YEARDLY FUCKING SMITH) that everything will be fine. As worried people do they spill all of their shit to anyone that’s around them. We are able to learn a good deal about Don as the expectant father talks about wanting to change with the baby. He tells Don that he is going to be a better man, the man Don didn’t become after having Sally and Bobby.
In the delivery room we get the much more interesting bit with a doped up Betty. She imagines herself walking down the street looking pristine. It’s a perfect world where an inchworm lands on her hand for some reason. It’s completely surreal. It gets stranger when she walks into her kitchen while in this hallucination and speaks to her dead father who’s a janitor (she thinks she sees him mopping the floor when she’s wheeled in the hospital). Betty is still emotionally a child. She talks to her parents like a little kid would.

As she’s giving birth the Draper’s third child, she screams for Don but of course he isn’t coming, he’s a man for god’s sake, he waits in the waiting room. Delirious from the pain, Betty asks one of the nurses if she’s slept with Don and talks about how he’s never around. Betty knows how fucked up her and Don’s lives are, it just takes drugs to get it out of her.

Around the office, in a much less interesting plotline, Pete and Peggy are both offered a job with Duck Phillips (COME BACK CHAUNCEY!). Pete, in a fit of SC loyalty, declines the offer right out. Peggy meditates on it for a bit, as she should, leading her to question her role at Sterling Cooper. She asks Don for a raise and he declines, but they are clearly much more on the same plane when it comes to their rapport. How Peggy handles getting paid less for doing the same job as some other men will be interesting to see how it plays out in the remainder of the season.

This episode brought something new to the table in terms of style, which surprised me in the best way. We are an episode away from being at the halfway point in the season (oh time flies when you’re having fun) and things are starting to shift into high gear, this episode has got me incredibly excited for the coming weeks.


-Question not raised in the review: Don gonna bang that teacher? They do have a bit in common after all.

-Hope for more Joan next week

-Naming the new baby Eugene isn’t going to help Sally cope with his death.

-Yeardly Smith (Lisa Simpson if you couldn’t tell by her voice) is clearly a fan of the show as she’s not doing a walk on roll for money here. Good to see she likes the things that I like.

-I am pro-dream sequences especially if they are all as cool as the one’s this season.

-Fuck new Bobby.

-Liked Don’s baseball joke about the Yankees and prisoners both wearing stripes when they played in ’29, also Don references how he’s seen just about every movie.

-Also totally forgot to mention the Admiral Television thing with Pete. He says that black people love them so Admiral should try to target their advertising towards them, but it’s the early ‘60’s and everyone’s racist. Not so much to do with characters (maybe Pete’s a bit of a racist) but advertising at the time.

Jordan's Review: Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 5: The Fog

I find it particularly fitting that last week’s meditation on parenting is followed this week with the birth of a brand new Draper. As this episode opens, we see that Sterling-Cooper is trying to cut back on its spending. Lane wants every dollar accounted for, yet it’s clear how deeply he respects Don when Don argues that the Creative Department needs time to be creative.

Pete spends a good portion of tonight’s episode trying to figure out how to sell Admiral TVs to people who want them. Unfortunately, since those people are black, he makes little headway with Admiral and gets himself in hot water with his superiors (why would Admiral want to be associated with the “unseemly” clientele Pete is after?). Yet the more important moment that highlights the time these characters live in is the scene in which Pete tries to converse with Hollis on the elevator. The Civil Rights movement is heating up, with Medgar Evers murder all over the news, and it seems that our second class characters on Mad Men are joining the struggle, be it through an open conversation on an elevator (as Hollis has with Pete) or through a desertion of a long-held post (as Carla departs to “spend some time with family”). As always, this show seems to have a perfect handle on a huge historical moment, and watching things slowly build toward where they will end up is one of the highlights of any episode.

Meanwhile, former head of accounts Duck Phillips is back with a vengeance, headhunting Pete and Peggy as potential employees at Grey, the advertising firm where he now works. To Peggy, the offer brings the promise of more money and more respect. To Pete all it shows is that Peggy has more leverage back at Sterling Cooper than he does (which leads him to quip, “If you want to woo me, you’ll have to buy me my own lunch). Pete may just be annoyed at the position he is in, but Peggy is finally realizing she has opportunities, which leads her to an awkward conversation with Don where she is denied a raise.

Finally, outside the walls of S-C, Betty gives birth to Eugene Scott Draper (anyone else thing naming the baby after recently departed Gene might mess with Sally’s mind?) in easily the most surreal sequence the show has ever had. Rather than foreshadow what’s to come, this dream sequence seems to exist solely to examine Betty as she is right now. Not only did the sequence give me the overall feeling that Betty did not want to be a mother again (especially, as she proves while delivering, because she still doesn’t trust Don to be faithful), it also showed her deep seated fear of fighting for what she wants in life. As her dead mother tells her (while standing over a man I can only assume was supposed to be Medgar Evers), “You see what happens to people who speak up?” Betty’s fear of death, and her anxiety over exerting herself as an autonomous person has never been so starkly clear (especially as her father tell her, “You’re a housecat. You’re very important and you have little to do”). Betty pauses, as the episode ends, before rushing to care for her crying baby. Perhaps that baby represents, rather than a new chance with Don, a problem that she knows will never go away.

That problem rears its ugly head tonight as Don begins a flirtation with Sally’s teacher. Brunette, soulful, and a little wounded, she is exactly Dick Whitman’s type, and I’m sure more will come of their flirtation, especially since Don already lied about the phone call he received. The life Don chooses to lead is brought into question tonight when Dennis (Matt Bushell), another father-in-waiting and a prison guard, makes a confession to Don that he needs to be a better man now that he has a child. Don looks at him with knowing eyes—he’s made that promise before and failed to live up to it each time, and when we see Dennis walking by later in the episode, he can’t meet Don’s eyes. It looks like Dennis too talks big talk, but its harder to become a better person than either of these men thinks.

Mad Men is notorious for having titles that tie into every aspect of the episode, which is why the name of each episode holds particular importance to an analysis of it. This week, “The Fog” refers not simply to Betty’s drug-laden labor, but also to a feeling present in all the characters that they are trapped between who they have been and who they want to become. Peggy wants to be Don Draper, but is still making little money and wonders if she might fare better over at Grey. Pete wants to be head of accounts, but sees himself marginalized by what is nothing but good business, due to the racism of the day. Don wants to be the moral exemplar both Peggy and Dennis see him as (Dennis tells him, “You’re an honest guy. Believe me, I’m an expert.”), yet he is still beginning another affair and has failed to become a better man for either of his children. Even the nice moment he has with Sally as they share a late night snack seems all too fleeting. Don Draper wants to be the consummate family man, the perfect career man, and all around the best guy in the room. But he isn’t and this week showed us he’s not likely to be anytime soon.

Grade: A-


-“Our worst fear lies in anticipation.” Amen Don. Amen.

-“We do it together. Integrated.” “I don’t think that’s legal.” Oh the ‘60s. People were so much dumber then.

-“Third time. It must be old hat.” The look Don gives Peggy is perfect and heartbreaking. She too has a child out there, but she didn’t get any celebration for its birth.

-“Are you aware of the number of hand jobs I’m going to have to give?” Roger knocks them all out of the park.

-I know that in an ensemble this big its perfectly normal to not have every character in every episode, but I’ve been picking up on it more as I watch this show live. This was the second slow Roger week in a row, and Joan didn’t appear at all last night…

Jordan's Review: 9

The world is ending. The machines we created (because apparently humanity never watches science fiction, and so doesn’t learn that maybe creating self-aware machines will lead inevitably to the apocalypse) are destroying mankind. And one scientist decides to imbue nine tiny creatures with the spark of life. Such is the plot of 9, the debut film by director Shane Acker. The film opens with a starkly deistic and deeply unnerving scene in which 9 (Elijah Wood) literally wakes up to find his God dead at his feet. 9 explores and finds himself in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, all alone and faced with a world that has stopped living. The movie’s first scenes are disturbing, inventive, and downright cool. Unfortunately its all downhill from there.

To be fair, this is easily one of the most visually stunning movies in recent memory, and it shows a burgeoning talent from a new director that I think is likely to grow as he makes more movies. The problem in this movie is the storytelling. From the moment 9 realizes he is not alone in this wasteland, and is in fact one of (you guessed it!) nine creations made by the scientist, and that the wasteland around him is populated with vicious robots who want to kill them, the plot drops off. Each of the creatures is so thinly drawn as to be one-dimensional in their efforts. 9 is the idealist, 1 (Christpoher Plummer( believes they should hide from the robots and let humanities sins die out before they create a society, 7 (Jennifer Connelly) thinks they should fight the machines. The other creatures (including John C. Reilly’s 5 and Martin Landau’s 2) just want to be really nice to each other. Why do any of these characters hold these views? What makes them tick or even motivates them to live? This movie doesn’t so much care about trivial issues like “why?” it just wants to pit its heroes against a series of robotic killers and watch them fight, fight, fight!

There is great potential in the set up for 9 as well as in the basic character of each of the creatures. The basic opposition between 1 and 9 could easily be transformed into an ideological debate for the ages, and the question of the point of their existence is one of stunning and startling depth. Yet when I say that this is a movie that likes questions more than answers, I do not mean that it is thought provoking in the way it should be. Instead, it seems that the writer, Pamela Pettler, is too lazy to come up with the answers, and so leaves us with a thinly drawn, ultimately shallow story to be told in bold, beautiful visuals.
And, to emphasize again, the visuals we are left with are stupendous. The world looks bleak, dusty and destroyed, our heroes look frail, weary, and hand woven, and the villainous robots arrayed against them are all kinds of terrifying. The action throughout the movie occasionally feels a bit rote, but its never boring and is always scintillating to watch unfold. Acker directed the movie incredibly well, and he also came up with the story, which as I’ve said is very good. It seems his biggest problem was leaving the actual screenwriting duties in the hands of Pettler, who turned great material into a series of important and lazily unanswered questions, culminating in an end that feels a combination of heavy-handed and pointless that I never thought existed.

Grade: C+

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pilot Season Scehdule

Last time we made a schedule, we departed from it by 75%. But we don't have to pay to watch TV, so we're going to try again! Here's the planned schedule of new TV shows (and returning favorites) we plan to cover (conveniently placed in the order of their premiere!), including some shitty looking ones we think will suck. Why? Because we have nothing better to do:

-Mad Men* (reviews already in progress)

-Glee * (our first review is up already. READ MORE CLOSELY!)

-The Jay Leno Show (premieres September 14th..we're afraid, we're very afraid, but we're willing to go there for you, loyal reader!)

-Community (premieres September 17th)

The Office *$ (premieres September 17th)

-Bored to Death (premieres Sepetmber 20th)

-Accidentally on Purpose (premieres September 21st, and promises to be a shittier, Elfman-ier, cleaner version of Knocked Up...yay?

-How I Met Your Mother* (premieres September 21st...and we're actually excited. YAY!)

-Modern Family (premieres september 23rd)

-Dollhouse* + (premieres September 25th)

-Dexter * (premieres September 27th)

-30 Rock* (premieres October 15th)

-V (premieres November 3)

Clearly, this is a lot of television programming to cover, but this is pilot season. An * denotes a show we plan to cover on a weekly basis at this point, while all unasterisked shows are new and will be evaluated after we review their premieres.

$ denotes a show Sam will be covering stag
+ Denotes a show Jordan will be covering alone.

Glee, Episode 2 Discussion

sam liked the episode more than Jordan! Maybe he hates nonesixtent shrews less, or maybe that musical class is just wearing off on him. Let's find out!

Sam's Review: Glee Episode 2

After viewers were treated to a very entertaining pilot for Fox’s new musical show, Glee, there was a definite buzz created. This week’s premiere (or is it?) episode of Glee was a continuation of what made the show work and what made the show questionable.

The plot of the episode is pretty standard as the Glee club is getting ready for a performance in front of the entire school. The students are terrified when its revealed they will b e singing ‘Freak Out’. Why, why would Will choose disco? The members of Glee recognize this and decide to capitalize on the school’s humorously archaic views of sex by singing push it, much to the joy of the class body.
One thing that has impressed me early on with Glee is how much story they can pack into one episode. Besides the actual performance storyline there is Jane Lynch trying to sabotage Glee club in hilarious fashion, Will dealing with his impossibly loathsome wife (I’ll get to her in a bit), Rachel has got the hots for Finn, etc. etc. What matters about this show is that it’s funny and self aware, I hope.

Glee has so far been able to keep me enthralled with their well placed jokes interrupting the bullshit high school stuff going on around it. Here’s where the show will be made. I say this because I’m worried I will grow to dislike this show, mostly because the characters are all walking archetypes (gay kid, black girl, athlete, mean cheerleader, etc.). While I’m fine with the characters now (because they are funny) I want to see them become more developed people or they will become to feel one note, but I guess it’s early so we’ll see.

Another major problem that really made this episode less enjoyable than it could have been was Terri Schuster the non-existant in the real world wife of the shows central character, Will. She’s shrew, selfish and just basically unbearable. I understand creating a villain but I want more depth, she married Will for Christ sake! Why would he marry such a raving bitch? She is basically Snidely Whiplash and I mean that in the worst way possible. She’s not fun to hate, she’s gives TV villains a bad name. Oh and the pregnancy that has kept the couple together? Well, she’s not really pregnant, so at least there may be a way out of her shitty character somewhere so Will could hook up with guidance counselor, Emma.

Emma and Will are the obvious main love interest on the show. I wonder how it could be interesting since there is no chance in hell they don’t end up getting together and having a million babies unless Joss Whedon starts writing for the show and murders her. If the outcome is so obvious, I’m wondering where any of the conflict will arise.

The second episode of Glee was quite entertaining but left me with many questions as to how the show’s writers will handle its characters and predictable story arcs. Jane Lynch reminded me of how she is one of the funniest actresses out there as she had a plethora of great one liners especially one suggesting students be hobbled. For now, I need to put my worries aside and just try to enjoy the show that’s in front of me now, next week’s episode is for future Sam to worry about.


-This episode was an easy A- but the fucking wife character bumped it down for me. Jordan and I discussed how she affected the grade and I thought it would just be unfair to really hobble the episode due to that one character’s shittiness.

-I will be using “hobbled” more.

-I sure am swearing more than usual in this review. Shit.

-For this episode’s one-liners, Jordan had a running tally and there are some gems in there

Jordan's Review: Glee, Season 1, Episode 2: Showmance

When Glee premiered last May to a flurry of promotion, I was unsure where to stand going into episode one. The previews (which were played ad nauseum during the last season of 24) left me divided: on the one hand, they sang “Don’t Stop Believing” a cliché that I think is so awesome as to be un-killable, and Lea Michelle’s Rachel endeared herself to me from the first line, but on the other, I felt there was a lot of overdone high school tropes to shift through before this show could find success. However, the pilot completely won me over, and I have been excited for episode two ever since.

As this is the first episode we’re officially reviewing, I’d like to go through the things I like and don’t like about the show as a whole, focusing less on the issues of the episode itself. For starters, some things to like: All of the performances on the show are especially earnest and winning (the award for best goes clearly and continuously to the always hilarious Jane Lynch), they work within the genre of musical and the genre of high school story while leaving the feeling that they could go further, they seem to have coherently created their own universe and the show is exceedingly funny, often in very surprising way.

Some issues I take with the show right off the bat: While I think they have set up some excellent character archetypes to work in (and I realize that every high school show must start there to some extent), I also feel there are some characters that come off as still to clichéd and tedious. For starters, Mercedes (Amber Riley) is the “Sassy black girl” character that seems to pop up everywhere and very rarely comes across as original or even particularly funny (though the girl has some pipes on her). Also, Will’s wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) is a character that I have ranted about on this blog before: She is a totally unsympathetic evil shrew of a woman. In short, her character is completely unrealistic. No woman is that one dimensionally shallow and evil, and if one such woman were to exist, no man (much less a sensitive, charming man like Will) would marry her.

That being said I was relieved to discover her pregnancy is hysterical, then once again underwhelmed when she predictably failed to inform Will that she is in fact not having his child. The main focus of this episode revolved around the discovery that the Glee club will need to double its numbers in order to qualify for regional’s, and if the team doesn’t make it there, they will be shut down to return their funding to the cheer team (the hilariously named Cheerios, who can no longer send their uniforms to be dry cleaned in Europe because the Glee Club needs new uniforms). In order to recruit new members, Will (Matthew Morrison) decides to put on an assembly, at which the kids are to perform “Freakout”—the song that took his team to nationals in 1993 (because “people love disco!”). To save the club from humiliation at the hands of a cruel, unfeeling teenage mass, Rachel steps in and the gang performs “Push it” instead.

Unfortunately, the act is too sexually explicit, and now the kids are limited to performing only songs approved by the Principal’s pastor (which leads to Rachel’s winning question, “what’s a luftballoon?”). In other news, Rachel joins the Celibacy group to get closer to Finn, only to discover the boys and the girls are separated for the first half, during which the girls talk about “teasing, not pleasing” and the boys discuss how far they can get with their girls (a subtle and hilarious shot of one of the boys sniffing his fingers feels a bit edgy for network TV, but I’m happy it escaped the censors). Meanwhile, Will has taken a job as the night janitor, which leads to more flirting between him and Emma (Jayma Mays). The potential couples of Will and Emma (who get huge adorability points for the scene in the classroom when he wipes chalk off her nose) and Rachel and Finn (who get huge hilarity points when an abortive make out ends in Finn’s premature ejaculation, despite his attempt to think about a car accident to delay it) are enough to keep me interested in this show for now—they are cute, theyre interactions are filled with tension, and the people keeping them apart are generally so annoying I want to scream.

As for the musical portion of the show (which, considering the show is billed as a musical, must be discussed), the songs tonight were all handled incredibly well. The cover of “Gold digger” by Kanye was excellently executed, and Quinn and her cheerleader’s rendition of “Say a little prayer” was an excellent reveal that yes, we are in a musical and because of this everyone has an excellent singing voice.
I feel some reservations about this show after its first two episodes. Some of the events tonight felt like they might have fit better as mid-season occurrences (like Will and Emma’s classroom scene) and one even felt to me like a season finale worthy moment (the whole school is giving these outsiders a standing ovation after two episodes?), but I’m hoping this just means the writers are getting the cliché out of the way early to move on to the good stuff. The show is also occasionally cheesy and its efforts to be quirky often show, yet I find that every moment is played with such earnestness by the cast and such gleeful exuberance by the writers that I find myself hopelessly endeared even when I would normally be cringing. With some trepidation, but mostly flat out excitement, I look forward to the coming weeks and the chance to review the show that, if nothing else, leaves me smiling at the end of each episode.

Grade: B


-Watching the "popular music" featured in tonight's episode reminded me just how unhip I am. Sam had to remind me that "Gold Digger" was by Kanye (also, the last two songs to play on my ipod were David Bowie covering The Beach Boys, and...Kermit the Frog singing "The Rainbow Connection"). These new fangled artists and their popular songs!

-This show has literally too many hilarious one liners to recount, so I’ll pick just a few of my favorites:

-“Last time I looked, you only had five and a half. Cripple in the wheelchair.” Not only does she only count him as half a kid, Sue actually explains the joke after. Jane Lynch is brilliant.

-“I don’t have a gag reflex.” “One day when you’re older that’ll come in handy.” –Rachel and Emma, in another joke I’m surprised they got by the censors.

-“Gay parents encourage rebellion. There are studies on this.” Jane Lynch, again being the highlight of the show

-Terri, Will's wife, literally reduced the grade I gave this episode by at least one notch, maybe more. I HATE that type of character.

-More on the Jane lynch love: She suggests hobbling the children for using her copy machine, and has seen an elementary school production of Hair.

-The pamphlets behind Emma in her office, including “Wow! There’s hair down there!”

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mad Men Discussion: The Arrangements

Jordan and Sam talk shitty parenting, big gay Sal, and how the writer's can break our hearts through Sally in the coming weeks...

Sam's Review: Mad Men Episode 4

In the fourth episode of Mad Men, there was a lot more going on than seen at first glance. The episode begins with a young rich man who is making his pitch to SC about the up and coming sport of Jai Alai. Haven’t heard of it? It’s because this guy had no fucking clue as to how boring this sport would be, though he does predict it would be bigger than baseball by 1970.

While this storyline was mostly just entertaining in how enjoyable it is to look back and laugh at stupid ‘60’s stuff, it also revealed a good deal about how Sterling Cooper operates—people pay to make things work, that’s their job. Also something I’ve been thinking about came out when the client said that if Jai Alai fails it’s their SC’s fault, which is true even with such an ill-conceived idea such as this one.

In other SC news, big gay Sal finished working on the (doomed) Patio project, copying shot for shot the opening from Bye Bye Birdie. In a scene where Sal and his wife are discussing the shoot it looks as if Sal’s homosexuality may have dawned on his wife after he perfectly recreates the scene. Unfortunately the Patio people don’t like the ad but Don, who knows Sal’s secret and is clearly in his corner, says that he’s got a job directing commercials. I’m glad to see Sal so happy and Don giving the guy credit after doing exactly what the clients wanted him to do. The Sal-Don relationship is one of the storylines of this season I’m most excited to see how it develops and manifests itself in this crazy mixed up world that is the early 60’s.

Outside the office, Peggy is planning on moving into the city in another step towards changing her character. I think it’s cool to see how different a person Peggy has become since she was first introduced in the premier. She’s probably changed more than any other character on the show and her move is just the next logical step character-wise, and career-wise. Joan was there to help in her bid to find a roommate (that ended with her finding a bit of a slut but who cares I want more Joan). This all led to a pretty sad scene where Peggy explains to her mother that she’s moving out and her mother basically is unbelievably cruel to her (I think saying you will be raped in the city is a bit harsh).

In the Draper residence, Sad Sally is finally connecting with someone in her family, her senile grandfather who shares with her some nice moments that, at the time, seemed kind of creepy but maybe the writers were trying to throw us. The death of Sally’s grandfather could be seen from a mile away, it was just a matter of when it would happen in the episode. Sally is the most upset of anyone in the family and her desire to mourn and be angry is stifled by her parents. Looks like Sally is just going to get sadder, and if the “Next week on Mad Men” preview was any indication, she’s going to start acting out. Poor Sally, poor everyone on this show. This episode was just another indication of how everyone is working through their shitty lives one day at a time while still having to put a happy face on it all because it’s the early fucking ‘60’s and such things weren’t discussed.



-Interesting touch with Sally watching the newscast of the Monks burning themselves, there’s a storm comin’

-The look on Sal’s face when Don gave him props bumped the episode grade up a notch

-I feel like Betty is just making a mini version of herself with Sally, Bobby is just fucking there. Why did they get rid of the old Bobby when the new one has had one line in four episodes?

-Roger only needs one line to be worth the price of admission “She’s not Ann-Margret”

-Sorry about skipping last week :( <-----Sad Sally

Jordan's Review: Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 4: The Arrangements

"The Arrangements" opens with Betty’s father Gene forcing her to discuss his plans for after his death, and ends with the family discussing those very plans after Gene dies in line at a convenience store. Between these two occurrences is likely the most head on treatment of parenting in the ‘60s this show has yet done.
We get to see Don and Betty shrugging off their children like they’re an unpleasant chore often enough, and that happens again tonight (most heartbreakingly when Sally, mourning her grandfather’s death, is told by Betty to “go watch television”, but I’ll return to that in a moment), yet we also get to see Don actually take an interest in his children, and we get an insight into how he would like to raise them, if not for his whole “cool detachment” persona. Telling Bobby that “it’s a dead man’s hat. Take it off” certainly shows off his more honorable side, but more than that, it sheds light on just how desperately he doesn’t want his son to end up like him. Dick Whitman spends his life wearing another man’s name because he had no compunctions about taking a dead man’s dog tags, and with it his identity. Yet he truly does want his son to have a better life. Additionally, as the episode ends, Don actually checks in on Sally, as if secretly hoping she’ll be awake and he can comfort her and have a heart to heart. Sadly she is not, so he instead packs away the evidence that Gene ever lived in the house.

The true tragedy of this episode lies (as it so often does) with Sally, who finally found someone she could connect with and who had faith in her, only to lose him and be left, once again, alone. The scene when Betty escorts the police officer inside, slamming the door and leaving Sally alone on the other side of it perfectly symbolizes how much Sally lost with Gene’s death. Before he went, though, he had a chance to tell her she could go places in life, and do anything she wanted. I hope Sally gets a chance to take his advice.

In another look at parenting, Peggy (who, by the way, does even less parenting than the Draper’s when it comes to the baby she threw her sister’s way and now pretends doesn’t exist) decides to move to Manhattan, and gets a startling scolding from her mother as a result. The relationship between Peggy and her mother, and to a lesser extent between Betty and Gene, shows the larger disconnect between parents and their children on this show: Peggy’s mother will never understand the potentially wonderful way Peggy’s life is going, and feels that Peggy thinks she’s stupid for trying to stop her; Gene was disappointed by Betty choosing a safe, naïve life for herself and marrying Don, but he was wise enough to realize it was his own fault for sheltering her (and was kind enough to try and parent Sally in the little time they had together).

For all the time I’ve spent discussing parenting this week, most of this happened behind the scenes of an otherwise sort of flippant episode centered on a failed ad campaign for Patio (looks like Peggy was right, but hey at least Sal gets to be a commercial director now) and a doomed ad campaign for Jai Alai (spoiler alert: it doesn’t become bigger than baseball). And Sal, while enjoying success (and a chance to let his gay side out while directing a musical commercial) at work, is watching his marriage slowly unravel at home. Kitty needs “tending” and as she watches Sal act out the commercial he’s directing, there’s a knowing look in her eyes that shows she’s a whole lot less naïve than when we saw her last year. She may need to get a little every once in a while, but she’s discovering that Sal will never be able to truly give her what she wants.

And, as all of this goes on in our small little world of Sterling Cooper, the storm clouds are gathering in the country at large. A monk setting himself on fire may seem like a small news event, but those of us here in the future know that Vietnam is heating up, and every mention of Jack Kennedy is a small reminder that we draw closer and closer to that fateful November day.

Grade: A


New Bobby spoke!

“It’s not Ann Margaret.” Roger only needs one line an episode to establish how much of a badass he is.

Joan also barely appeared tonight, but when she did she taught Peggy an important lesson about how advertising can apply to her personal life. I can’t help but think that Joan would make one hell of a Mad Man…