Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jordan's Review: Dollhouse, Season 2, Episode 13: Epitaph Two: The Return

Well, its all over. After the mad rush toward the end we've made over the past few months, we've finally reached the finish line. And, appropriately for the ending of Dollhouse, technology destroyed the first draft of this review, which was (of course) far more awesome than anything I'll write this time. Reaching the end of the show, it came to me that while Firefly is on one level about Confederate sympathizers after the Civil War, Dollhouse is on its own level about a terrorist cell doing battle against a gluttonous, power hungry corporation. And it is fitting, then, that the show ended with a suicide bombing that saved the world.

And what a bombing it was. Topher, who has had likely the most interesting character arc in the series, was able to reverse all the damage he had done to the world, and lay himself to rest in the process. It was a nice additional touch that a video of Bennett was the key to his salvation, but there was probably no better way to end the story of a tortured genius who developed his morality far too late than with his beautiful sacrifice to save the world. Tohper discovering the "To Remember" wall seconds before being blown to bits to save the world was just a wonderful moment, especially as it allowed one of the show's most tortured characters to find a modicum of peace.

"Epitaph Two: The Return" showed yet again how adept the writers are at bringing us up to speed with incredibly complex relationships within the span of a scene. We quickly learn of the totally understandable fractures between Sierra/Priya and Victor/Tony. Tony, a lifelong soldier would of course think the only possible course to follow would be to protect the love of his life and their child by going to war against the enemy, even if that means becoming a techhead who could wipe and imprint himself with any needed skills. And Ballard and Echo's on again, off again relationship, troubled by her isolationist tendencies made perfect sense. From the Return of the Jedi-esque opening rescue from Neuropolis to the return to the Dollhouse required to save the world, the episode shoved as much plot and action as it could into an hour, and still managed to end with a resolution that provided some hope for every character.

That Victor and Sierra managed to brave all the dangers in front of them and overcome their issues to end up together was like the whipped cream on top of the sundae that was this episode. Killing off the most virtuous, pure (and yes, corny) character in Ballard was classic Whedon, but the romantic (and a little wierd) resolution that allowed Ballard to become a part of Echo and let them live on together was really very sweet and pretty much the perfect way to end that relationship. Topher finally found peace by sacrificing himself to set the world right again. Alpha managed to find a bit of tranquility amid his dangerous psychosis. And Adelle gets to continue her redemption by leading a new batch of Dolls out into the world where they can resume their original lives again. That the bleakest show on network televison managed to wrap up with a bit of happiness and a hint of hope is quite an accomplishment. That it did it with subtlety, philosophical and moral implications, and some excellent action turns it into something more like an out and out triumph.

Grade: A


-Apologies if this is abbreviated. Re-writing a review somehow takes the joy out of it.

-Harding got fat. An excellent prediciton of what would happen if people were able to switch bodies at will.

-"I can bring back the world." A line like that will always get me.

-"We just left that party. That party was on fire."

-"I'll fix what we did to their heads. You fix what we did to the rest of the world. Your job is way harder." A really sweet moment between Topher and Adelle, handled excellently by both actors.

-An Olivia Williams is an awful thing to waste, Fox. More importantly, if Enver Gjokaj doesn't go on to ridiculous success, there is no justice in the world.

-Its been a real pleasure to cover Dollhouse these past two seasons. I can't wait to see what Whedon comes up with next.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jordan's Review: 24, Season 8, Episode 5: 8:00p.m.-9:00p.m.

After a fairly standard premiere last week, 24 seems to have settled onto a pretty rote pathway for the coming season. Every plotline is moving forward exactly as any fan of the show owuld expect, from the agent in the field going arguably too far to get results, to the CTU operative forced into compromising herself, to the President being worried about something and receiving conflicting advice from the wisened old confidant who is always right and the younger hotshot who is too busy looking at political implications to get a good handle on right and wrong. If I just described pretty much every season of 24 over the last few years, its only because the show has become somewhat indistinguishable from season to season.

What kept the other seasons so interesting is that, while they did tend to be a bit repetitive after the first few, they quickly established a sense of urgency and at least one truly suspenseful storyline to hook in the viewers and keep us interested. I suspect Renee's walk on the dark side is supposed to do that for us this year, but it all feels a little bit done. There's nothing Agent Walker can do at this point that we haven't seen Jack do before, and while its a good performance, Annie Wersching is no Keifer Sutherland, and pushing him into the background this week clearly displayed how much the show needs Jack Bauer front and center to survive. Watching Renee stare down death didn't provide the suspense it was supposed to because there was really no doubt she would survive at least through this hour.

While the main plot lagged a little bit, it was still markedly better than the array of very standard subplots we've been offerred as yet. Easily the worst is Dana Walsh and her corruptive ex who is blackmailing her into infiltrating CTU so he can get a six figure pay-off. This may provide some limited suspense once she actually tries to pull it off, but more likely than not she will just glance sideways a lot until Chloe catches onto her suspicious behavior (or sideways glances) and pulls the plug on her, likely also ruining her relationship with Cole, who will be hurt, and possibly have turmoil to work out on some suspects later in the season.

President Taylor took on her standard role as concerned statesman as she tried to talk Hassan out of human rights violations in his fictitious Middle Eastern country, but he is not entirely the saint he appeared and knows he must round up those involved in the conspiracy to overthrow him to keep his power. He is also having a conflict with his wife, who knows her marriage is a sham and wants to leave New York. At the end of the day though, Dahlia is no Sherry Palmer, and the show really needs one right about now.

The most promising subplot of the evening involved David Anders' (Sark from Alias!) Josef taking his brother to a doctor who he then holds hostage and demands treatment from. This could create some interesting moments next week, mostly involving me yelling "Hey, its Sark!" to myself while watching, but even at its peak, this episode offerred nothing remotely new or suspenseful. In fact, this hour passed as the least eventful or important episode of the series in recent memory. Here's hoping it was just a build-up to some excellent twists and action up ahead, but I prepare for next week's episode with seriously lowered expectations after this week.

Grade: C


-I took literally no notes during this episode. That's how uneventful everything was.

-The people on 24 should watch 24. They'd be able to catch the traitors and wrap things up quite a lot quicker that way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jordan's Review: 30 Rock, Season 4, Episode 11: Winter Madness

Over the course of this season so far, 30 Rock has proven that this is a show that should not be taken on the road. The show is at its best in New York City, with all of the cynicism and wackiness that implies, but when it leaves there, everything tends to fall a little flat. That fact isn't helped by Jack's non-starter of a storyline with Julianne Moore's Nancy, whose only joke is that she has a Boston accent. But in general, I want this show to stay close to its home.

The trip this time takes the whole show to Boston after Liz and Pete's scheme to get a paid vacation to Miami as a morale booster backfires when Jack changes plans and forces them to go to Boston instead. There was theoretical fun to be had when the entire cast turned on each other, but for the most part, their anger felt forced rather than hilarious. Further, the show squandered its plotline with potential in favor of a much duller subplot where Jack is further frusterated romantically and nothing is resolved. Last season we were annoyed by Selma Hayek, and Julianne Moore has pretty solidly proven that the interest in Jack's romantic escapades only goes so far as their presence adds something comedic to the show.

Emblematic of this episodes mediocrity is the fact that there is not much to say about it. I thin kthe A-plot had potential it never realized, and the B-plot was always doomed to be boring and so should have been minimized. There were excellent jokes at some points, but this is 30 Rock and that is to be expected. Overall though, I hope this episode rid us of Nancy Donovan for a long time coming, and that TGS stays off the road for the foreseeable future.

Grade: B-


-"You can do some serious subway flirting before you realize the guy is homeless."

-"That stupid Irish piece of... oh boy, Boston is not going to go well."

-"They are all named Shawn, they are mean, and I hate it here."

-The spot the differences in Jack's office gag was nice.

-"Trying to have it all...its wicked hard."

-"Purrfect, like a cat birthday!"

-"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on Mars." A Cole Porter joke. Even when its pretty meh, this show is still one of the smartest on TV.

-Tracy's "Impeach George W. Ashington" shirt was awesome.

-"My wife and I have disparate levels of attractiveness because I'm an accomplished inventor."

-"Run, Crispus! He's onto us!"

Jordan's Review: Community, Season 1, Episode 14: Interpretive Dance

After spending far too many words arguing for the glories of Community during its first season, and watching as many other reviewers bash it in comparison to Modern Family (a show that I think is a very solid retreat of territory that's been done a million times before, and is therefore below Community on any list of great new shows I might make), it was comforting to me to see how much I enjoyed "Interpretive Dance" just for being there. On the scale of Community episodes this week's was decidedly mediocre, yet I had a good time just hanging out with the characters that populate this world. When I can enjoy such a mediocre episode of the show as much as I enjoyed this one, it bodes well for my overall enjoyment of the series.

At its core, this was the "silly dancing" episode of the show, which is a pretty standard sitcom trope that somehow never bothers me that much. Troy and Britta discover that they both take dancing classes secretly, and decide to admit their secret shame to the gang. Meanwhile, Jeff is involved in a secret relationship with a former professor, and is forced to admit it to the gang when they all see the two making out. While I still dislike the idea of Jeff and Britta being pushed together (I preferred his chemistry with Allison Brie's Annie, but the show seems determined not to allow that pairing), I appreciate that the Statistics professor is a very good way of doing this. Her ambivalence toward Jeff, and the way she manages to disarm him without trying are both pretty fun to watch, and I actually believe that she is the type of woman that would get Jeff over his commitment phobia. Also, the romantic and me loved that Jeff did in fact get Britta flowers, even though deep down I still don't want them together (especially not for quite some time).

The dancing subplot was doomed to be mired in cliche, but Donald Glover is an excellent physical comedian, and watching Troy dance ended up being just as hilarious as it is intended. I think the idea that he was ashamed to admit being a dancer was thrown in for filler, as he has been proven to be reluctantly feminine before and that would stall time, but while it was never hilarious, it did pass the time well enough.

What shocked me most about this episode was that it provided more evidence of the show's desire to be a sitcom with an actual plot and character development, something that most sitcoms try to avoid like the plague. Jeff's progression from callous asshole to decent human being should probably be taking longer, but I'm enjoying watching it so much that I really don't care. All in all, this cast has such great chemistry, and the show has built up such good will in my book, that a pretty weak offering still comes out smelling vaguely like roses.

Grade: B


-"I have a regular class at that time. Its like math or some other regular class..."

-Sneaking does in fact make sex 38% hotter. The things this show can teach the world...

-"I am spending a lot of money on break-away clothing..."

-"As soon as we touch, the blinds will open, and six annoying but lovable misfits will be staring at us." Well phrased, and a nice touch that they were in fact on the other side.

-"You don't get to talk to me like that! You are not Shirley...and Shirley is not my mom!"

-"Girls are supposed to dance. That's why god gave them parts that jiggle."

-"Can I just ask, as a divorced black house wife, what part of being a single white slacker makes you people so jaded?" "Oh you people? What do you mean you people? Cannot believe I got to say that."

-"We've slept together every night for the past three weeks. How would you describe me?" "The best friend ever?"

-I loved all of Pierce's commentary on Britta's routine: "Tea for two? There are FIVE people!" " "Don't you think the flowers are dying from the tea?" "Culturally, its unacceptable, but its theatrical dynamite!"

-The blip where all the answers on the crossword were main characters was pretty awesome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jordan's Review: 24, Season 8, Episodes 3-4: 6:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M.

Its conventional wisdom to say that 24 is at its best where there is enough at stake during a large, looming crisis that everything is moving at breakneck speed and the subplots (or, as the case usually is on this show, the filler plots between Jack scenes) are pushed so far into the background that they almost don't exist. The first (and arguably, best) season took its time building us from a missing daughter and a vague threat to a facedown with a past enemy and a kidnapped family, but the show learned quick that it could skip the preamble and dive right into the suspense. In each subsequent season, the writers have tried to push Jack into the danger zone as quickly as possible, for better or worse.

I tend to have mixed feelings about that plan, since it often leads to a lag about half way through the season when the writers realize they worked through their whole plotline and things are forced to get a little ridiculous to keep us gunning for the back half, but it does make for some excellent television early on. Tonight saw the death of Davros, the assassin/fake NYPD officer, and the revelation that Hassan's brother was the insider (something I think the show could have held off on revealing for a few more hours of suspense). We also saw the return of Renee Walker, who has gone over to the dark side of the Force after her torturing of a suspect at the end of last season, and was apparently suicidal recently. She comes in because Davros' body has trace elements of weapons grade uranium, and she used to work undercover with the Russian mob. She walks back into the life of a contact only minutes later and quickly cuts off his thumb to free him from his parole bracelet. Yes, Renee is a little bit crazy, and that should provide for some good old fashioned fun in the coming hours.

We also got more on each of our competing filler-plots, with Dana's ex causing trouble at her apartment and demanding to see her, and Hassan's relationship with Meredith the reporter being revealed (at least internally, though how long can that last?). The only plot that still hasn't really materialized is the political intrigue that will keep President Taylor involved in the events as the show unfolds, but all in good time I'm sure.

There was more good than bad in this episode, as we got to see Cole swerve his car in front of a bomb, Hastings admit his first mistake to Chloe, and Jack get drawn back in yet again (I guess maybe he won't be leaving the show that he is a star of during the first few episodes...). All in all, there has been some pretty solid piece setting here. Nothing that has happened is all that shocking yet, and we seem to be following the 24 formula so far, but here's hoping the show has some serious tricks up its sleeves in the weeks to come.

Grade: B+


-That was some serious Good Cop/Bad Cop between the two that caught Jack at the house, one of whom (this one's for you, Sam) was on The Wire!

-So with Hastings putting his foot in his mouth and generally seeming ok, which twist are we preparing for: self-sacrifice or secret traitor? My money is on self-sacrifice, mostly because he's running CTU and that job almost invariably kills you (unless you're Jack, of course. Then it kills your wife).

Jordan's Review: How I Met Your Mother, Season 5, Episode 13: Jenkins

Part of becoming a big hit comedy on television is an increase in name recognition. Along with that, a show that reaches a mass audience generaqlly begins to generate enough buzz to grab some higher tier guest stars. Further, the little show that could, when it finally does, often ends up selling out in order to appeal to its mainstream new audience. If all of this is true, How I Met Your Mother may have arrived, ladies and gentlemen. While the last point has yet to be proven true (and I really hope the show hasn't given up on its original claims to awesomeness), Amanda Peet's appearance as the titular character tonight does indicate that this show is big enough to get a get for a guest star.

Peet plays Jenkins, a prankster and co-worker of Marshall's who ends up playing an "important" part in a storyline that feels like just so much filler. Marshall discovers that he is the reacher in his marriage, while Lily is the settler, and this unhinges him. Partially because of a recent visit to the college bar where he is king due to his skeeball prowess (he is known as Big Fudge), and partially due to Lily's non-reaction upon finding out that Jenkins is a woman, Marshall sets out to make his wife jealous, and ends up kissing Jenkins. Worry not, however, because really she kissed him, and Lily doesn't believe him anyway. Once Jenkins herself comes clean about the incident, however, Lily goes Miss Piggy all over Jenkins, removing her jewelry and stepping up to kick her ass.

In a B-plot that felt just as filler-tastic, Robin discovers that Ted's students watch her show and becomes fairly arrogant about it, until Ted realizes they watch her as a drinking game. Ted, still desperate to be accepted by his students, joins them for the game, but Robin gets the last laugh when she plays into their shenanigans in order to ensure they are all incredibly hung over (though, frankly, I think Ted gets the real last laugh because Robin has just shown what a terrible journalist and on-screen presence she is).

Nothing about "Jenkins" is at all offensive to my How I Met Your Mother sensibilities. There were no lapses in continuity, nothing insanely out of character and none of the plotlines were duds. In fact, the episode was solidly humorous for most of its run time, even if it rarely made me laugh out loud. Rather, the episode failed me (if it did at all) by playing into my ever-present fears this season that the show I love has past its prime, that its writers have lsot their way, and that it is doomed to drag on until it has squeezed all the money it can out of one of the more original premises for a sitcom in recent memory. All of what I just elaborated has yet to definitively come to fruition, but an episode like "Jenkins," as inoffensively mediocre as it was, does little to convince me that we are not headed down that dark path toward mediocrity.

Grade: B-


-Jenkins peed out of the window of a cab. Impressive.

-Amanda Peet even gets naked on HIMYM. She has quite the track record.

-Lily and Marshall have been playing Risk for 3 years. The winner gets to decide their future pet (Cat or monkey).

-Marshall's reaction to his kiss with Jenkins was the only real laugh out loud moment from the episode, but somehow Jason Segel screaming is never not funny.

-"It happened! Do you have any...split pea left?"

-"I'm going to go get started on Step 2!"

-"...And Oprah tried everything?"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jordan's Review: 24, Season 8, Episodes 1-2: 4:00 P.M-6:00 P.M.

Over the last nine years, Jack Bauer has dealt with some very serious shit on a pretty constant basis, not to mention being sleep deprived at least once every 2 or 3 years as he experieces another very long day. Before diving into the events that occurred during night one of the season premiere, I thought it prudent to give a brief primer on how I feel about 24 as a series (this being the first time I have reviewed it for the blog). I have been following the heroics of Jack Bauer since all the way back on Day One with a furor that nears religiosity. I remember fondly when the time period for the episode was followed with "...on the day of the California Presidential Primary" and when I was trying to convince all of my friends and family members that they needed to watch this show. To a large extent I succeeded, and many people I know have learned to love the show as I do.

This is not to say, however, that I turn a b lind eye towards the show's shortcomings. The series is clearly past its prime, and hasn't really been of the highest quality since at latest Season Four (I would say that Season 3 was the last very solid run, and even that was a bit of a step down from the first two, which were unique and more uniformly stellar). Yet, if one is willing to accept the various obvious contrivances and occasional logical gaps the show takes, 24 still provides one of the best thrill rides on television on a weekly basis. Right out of the gate, Season 8 has shown itself to be the same old 24 we've all become pretty used to over the last (nearly) decade its been on: We have a strong, idealistic political leader, some angry, "by the books" beauraucrats who somehow still haven't learned the valuable lesson that JACK BAUER IS NEVER WRONG, the smart-ass tech guy, the up-and-comer who hasn't lost his (or, as in last season, her) soul yet like Jack has, and the CTU worker who has personal issues that are raring their heads at this clearly very inconvenient time.

It is true that 24 has become one thing it tried very hard to avoid during its early seasons: fairly formulaic. You can expect pretty much the same plotlines to unfold in any given season, and with a few exceptions (if the writers are especially on their ball, which they usually are at least once or twice a season) the experienced viewer can see most of the twists coming at this point. That isn't to say that the show isn't fun to watch, it is still a very solid piece of entertainment; it just isn't the pulse-pounding twist machine of its heyday.

So at the end of the first two hours, a lot of good piece moving has taken place, Jack is already back on the road with Chloe as his back-up, and the major storylines we'll be focusing on this season are in place. It isn't the most original show on television at this point (by a long shot), but there is something comforting in knowing that Jack Bauer is back in business, and 24 has another rollercoaster ride set up for us, if only we are willing to grant it some of its contrivances.

Grade: B


-Apologies I didn't realy focus on the details of this episode; I felt it more prudent to discuss the state of the series as a whole at the beginning of my reviewing of it. A more episode-focused review for the next part of the premiere is a promise.

-Another promise is a discussion of the show's politics and its position on torture, but that can wait until Jack starts electrocuting people with lamp cords.

-I like that this season opened with a happy, satisfied Jack. Too bad that means he has things to lose again.

-There were some very solid action setpieces tonight.

-Anil Kapoor, of Slumdog Millionaire fame is playing President Hasan. Cool, I guess...

-"I'll see you in an hour." Famous last words on 24 and something I failed to mention above: after 8 seasons, everything still happens in "about an hour." Somewhat annoying, yet also fairly endearing at this point.

-Everyone knows to clam up until they get immunity. Its almost like they've been watching 24 for 8 years.

-The new CTU looks really spiffy, and hey! Bubba from Forrest Gump is in charge!

-"Who is Jakc Bauer?" Oh, new guy...

-Jack killed a guy with an axe! Awesome!

-There is someone on the inside. Drink every time that happens on this show...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jordan's Review: Dollhouse, Season 2, Episode 12: The Hollow Men

After rocketing through the back half of this season, we finally arrived at the penultimate episode, and were treated to an hour literally jam packed with action and revelations. While I have heard many complaints that the show has felt rushed in the last few weeks, I have for the most part disagreed. "The Hollow Men" did show a little bit of strain, however, as it basically wrapped up the entire present day timeline and set us up for "Epitaph Two" in two weeks. It isn't the fault of the writers that the five season plan laid out for the show had to be condensed into two abbreviated runs, and to this point they have done an excellent job at making it work, but there was a bit of a rushed quality to tonight.

One of the pleasures of "The Hollow Men" was watching Harry Lennix deepen Boyd's character while remaining totally believable. We have watched this man deceive us for the majority of the series, yet his transformation into a megalomaniacal croporate honcho is utterly believable, mostly because Lennix adds a layer of misplaced affection to the role. Boyd is evil, that much is obvious, but he truly loves his colleagues from the L.A. Dollhouse, and wishes the best for them. Sure, he's willing to torture Echo to retrieve her spinal fluid, hold them all at gunpoint and even use their faith in him to try and bring about the downfall of humanity, but on some level he thinks he is doing all of this for them. He even believes that he is on some level responsible for all of the growth they have exhibited over the series' run, and to some extent, he may be right. He pushed Adelle towards her level of cold conviction, he guided Topher through the development of his morality, and protected Echo while she developed into a human being. The fact that the villain of the piece is arguably instrumental in the development of the heroes makes Dollhouse that much more morally complicated and fascinating.

Another joy was the return of Enver Gjokaj's uncanny Fran Kranz impression, as Anthony/Victor was imprinted by Topher to help Priya/Sierra understand why the bodies of a Rossum army lay around her and what the group's next move would be. Afterwards "Topher" imprints Anthony with some brand-spanking-new ninja skills and sends the two on their merry way to join the gang in Tuscon (As Topher adorably enthuses, "Go team!"). Meanwhile, the rest of the gang just walks in the front door of Rossum's headquarters, using Adelle's bravado as a cover for an attempt to shut down the Rossum mainframe. This brings about the return of the always excellent Amy Acker, who is now Clyde, the other head of Rossum. The Boyd twist has taken all of the romantic tragedy out of Whiskey's doomed waiting in "Epitaph One" but its also allowed Acker to show off her acting chops and kick a little ass as well, so at the end of the day I approve of the choice.

While Echo does battle with "Clyde," ballard and Mellie try to shut down the mainframe by turning off the cooling system. Unfortunately, Boyd forces Adelle to activate November, who in classic Whedon style kills herself in order to save Ballard. Two women who were loved by primary characters have been shot in the head in the last two weeks, leaving their interests traumatized and covered in their blood, and each time it was as effective as it was intended to be. Also very solid was Boyd's transformation into a doll, who Echo coldly used to blow up the mainframe, seemingly saving the day. Of course this is a Joss Whedon show, and so the glimmer of hope that is the gang's victory here is short-lived. We immediately flash forward 10 years to see Echo and Ballard battling their way through the post-apocalyptic wasteland that will still arrive. How the show wraps up in two weeks will shed a lot of light on this episode, and likely make the entire series viewable in a new light, but for now I think the wrap up was at worst solid.

Some elements of the episode revealed how rushed the writer's were at this point, like Ballard's surprising amount of knowledge about the Rossum building, the mainframe, and how to bring it down. Also a bit of a stretch was the dearth of security in the headquarters of a nefarious corporation bent on world domination. With the influence and power Rossum has, you'd expect the place to be the most secure building around, yet our entire cast wanders virtually unomolested through the compound. All this is nitpicking, however, as the show reached a satisfying semi-conclusion tonight. Would I have liked to watch Lennix develop Boyd's villainous side over a few more episodes (or potentially a whole season)? Of course. Would I have loved more of Adelle's Army and theur sruggle to bring down Rossum? Definitely (and had we seen more of their war on Rossum, the rush to Tuscon this week would have seemed a whole lot less...rushed). Would I have liked more on basically every character, subplot, and major issue the series has teased out? Absolutely. But as we head into the series finale, I am pretty satisfied with what we were given, and very excited about the ending that lies ahead.

Grade: B+


-"This world is for people who can evolve." "And does that include us?" "Isn't that what you're here to find out?

-"You're here because you're my family. I love you guys!"

-"There's always one relative you don't want at the party."

-"You are spectacularly insane."

-"Is Brainpocalypse better? I figure if I'm responsible for the end of the world, I get to name it." For the record, I prefer Thoughtpocalypse.

-"Are you still me? Because I could use someone to help shoulder the guilt."

-Can't wait for Epitaph Two: The Return.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jordan's Review: 30 Rock, Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10: Klaus and Greta/Black Light Attack

Over the early part of its fourth season, 30 Rock has been having some trouble staying at the heights it built to over its first three seasons, but the very solid back-to-back that was "Klaus and Greta" and "Black Light Attack" reminded me that the show hasn't lost what made it great. Since the two were seperate episodes with separate strengths and weaknesses, I'll address them in two shorter reviews.

Klaus and Greta:

This was almost doubtlessly the best episode the show has done in its fourth season, and one of the funnier ones in its entire run. The A-plot centered around a perfectly used James Franco who enters into a fake relationship with Jenna to dodge rumors that he's in love with a Japanese body pillow named Kimiko. Having watched the Simpsons episode where Troy McClure loves fish earlier this year, I know this isn't the most original idea 30 Rock has ever tackled, but they went for it so fully it ended up being hysterical and giving Jenna one of her better storylines ever. That the episode had the balls to end with Liz having a three-way with James and Kimiko makes it flat-out legendary in my mind.

The sub-plots in the episode focused on Tracy's desire to have a daughter and Jack's ongoing feelings for Nancy Donovan. That Jack would take Kenneth over Jonathan was an obvious joke, but still played hilariously, and while I have complained before that Kenneth should stay out of the limelight as much as possible, I think he was used perfectly here to liven up Jack's otherwise sort of dull snooping scenes by constantly leaving evidence of their break-in (specifically several pictures with him making very weird expressions).

Overall, this episode restored any of the faith I had lost that 30 Rock can at its best be the funniest show on television and reminded me how insanely quotable this show is when its firing on all cylinders.

Grade: A


-Beach sex is the third best sex after elevator sex and White House sex.

-"i know its a girl because I yelled Susan B. Anthony at the moment of conception!"

-"We just need to look for clues to her answering machine. It'll be like The Da Vinci Code. Look, an albino monk!" "Kenneth, that's a mirror."

-"Your hand feels like a pillow that's been in the microwave."

-"Ok, I do appreciate the irony that I am the one stuck in the closet now."

-"Ok, the sun is up and we are still in these people's house. God can see us now!"

-"I don't mean to swear, sir, but I am irritated right now!"

-Matt Lauer gives shitty travel tips.

-"Is every woman someone's daughter?"

Black Light Attack:

Almost any episode of 30 Rock would look a little less awesome in the shadow of "Klaus and Greta," so its almost unfair to bash "Black Light Attack" after such a hysterical lead-in. And the episode as a whole had more laugh out loud moments than most television shows manage, but there were weaknesses in the plotlines. For one thing, Danny as a character never quite seems to gel with the rest of the cast. It isn't the fault of the acting, which is solid, but his character always seems a little too happy-go-lucky for TGS, and we already have that from Kenneth in spades. So having him at the center of the episode was bound to cause a few problems.

Beyond that, both of the sub-plots were pretty weak. Tracy bringing that one female writer into his entourage was basically a one-joke idea stretched into a B-plot, but it was almost made up for with the "Forever Young" montage at the end of the episode. And Jenna being shocked to be offerred a mother role was ridiculous, but not in that good way the show often pulls off. It just felt like an instance of the writers realizing they needed something for Jenna to do and throwing it in.

While I did have complaints about "Black Light Attack" it was still a very funny episode that Kept me entertained throughout, and its flaws were mostly glazed over by the fact that most of the jokes landed. On the whole, this was one of the better nights of 30 Rock in recent memory, and it was an absolute treat to watch.

Grade: B+


-"If the Snitch is worth 150 points, why does anyone bother with the Quaffle?"

-"How drunk are you?" "A lot to very."

- "Oh Pete, that's later. Maybe we'll be dead by then." "That'd be great." I love how horribly depressing Pete has become. Its a constant well for laughter.

-"Is it that chick lawyer who does the sexual harassment presentation? Because she's totally asking for it."

-"Black Light Attack!" If I had a black light, that would be a thing.

-"Women are allowed to be angrier than men about double standards."

-Kenneth is effected by the over 40 sound, continuing my favorite absurdist running joke.

Jordan's Review: Community, Season 1, Episode 13: Investigative Journalism

After roaring out of the gate in the opening half of its debut season, Community returned tonight to do what it does best: mock sitcom tropes its playing with and deliver more laughs than just about any other show currently on TV. Tonight's episode was about the time lapse syndrome that occurs on most shows between seasons (or after the winter hiatus), but it was more about the way that sitcoms generally use guest stars. Jack Black (as Buddy, a classmate yearning to join the group) is a definite get for this show, but they downplayed the importance of his role by shoehorning him in through a classic retcon and his desperation to join the group.

Over the break Pierce discovered ironic tshirts (including one which just makes the group think he's now a grandfather) and Jeff faux-reverted to the cynical jackass he was 12 episodes ago. I give the show major credit for its commentary on how sitcoms often have characters revert to older modes once they've made progress as a way of stalling the show, and while the episode in a lot of ways was doing just that, it earned my good will (as it often does) by knowing exactly what it was doing.

Another great recurring bit throughout the episode was Abed's M*A*S*H references and how they too accomplished the feat of mocking sitcom tropes while simultaneously indulging in them. Community has found a way to have its cake and eat it too by allowing self-referentiality to give them the appearance of superiority over even the cliches they do end up using, and Abed's character basically exists to facillitate this idea. The subplot in which Jeff becomes the editor of Greendale's paper was sort of a non-starter, but it managed to support the episode's theme and play into Jeff's realization that he may be the Hawk-eye, but that means being a leader too.

That Buddy's storyline ended with Owen Wilson appearing as the leader of the "cool group" was also hysterical and meta, but honestly the best part of the joke for me was that Star Burns (maybe my favorite recurring character) is in the cool group himself. Writing off Buddy by introducing a sort of doppelganger group was a nice touch in a deftly handled episode. Community has quickly become a reliable laugh generator that manages to cram in heart and cliche all while somehow staying above the "Standard sitcom" fray. And that is quite the accomplishment for a freshman sitcom.

Grade: B+

-"I know you're worried about having a new person throw off your groups normal..." Cut to theme song "Rythms..."

-"They've got me editing the crossword because I'm a girl, and I love crosswords!"

-"I hope you have an army of raisins because I've got a major scoop!"

-"Annie's pretty young. We try not to sexualize her." I really hope this doesn't mean my dreams of an Annie-Jeff pairing are dashed...

-"His ratio of girth to hip flexibility is mesmerizing."

-"Gary is off the table. He's a buzzkill." "He grew up in a land without sun!"

-"My best friend when I was six years old was a black man!"

-"Britta, relax. I didn't pick you as a decoy because your breasts are so old."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jordan's Review: How I Met Your Mother, Season 5, Episode 12: Girls vs. Suits

The 100th episode of How I Met Your Mother has been advertised for weeks as an exuberant celebration of everything there is to love about this show: mythology, romance, narration jokes and, of course, suits. And to a certain extent, "Girls vs. Suits" lives up to that promise; its just unfortunate that it seems to be doing so because it promised to rather than because it really has anything substantial to offer in any of those categories. Stated less obtusely, the episode does in fact deal with the mythology, have romance, use narration for jokes and pay tribute to suits, but it doesn't do anything new or exciting with any of the above. What the audience is left with is more of a retread of the things that have previously made HIMYM great than a new great episode to be excited about.

First, a look at the much-touted mythology that this episode deals with. Does it bring Ted closer to meeting the mother? Perhaps technically, but really it brings him physically closer to the mother without making him even slightly more likely to meet her. I am not one who is desperate for Ted to meet the mother and get it over with already, but I am only willing to deal with the show's stall-tactics when they feel a little less desperate. There is a clear argument to how Ted's arc with Robin and his subsequent recovery, or his engagement to Stella and subsequent recovery are all essential to understnading how Ted became who he was when he met the mother of his children. There is less of an argument to why any of this season has been necessary from a mythology standpoint, and tonight is no less trivial. Ted courts Cindy (guest star Rachel Bilson) who has a complex about how cool her roommate is. Turns out, said roommate is the mother, and we do find out some fun and titillating facts about her (she plays bass, likes to draw robots playing sports, and her rendition of an English Muffin singing "Memories" is the most hauntingly beautiful thing Ted has ever heard) but stepping back for a moment it becomes painfully clear that we have really learned nothing about when Ted will meet the mother or how it will happen. A further step back and its obvious we didn't even learn a single way that this episode put Ted closer to meeting her. Had any of these details been furnished, the episode would have been much more satisfying.

The episode's romance was off, and was supposed to be, because Ted is never going to end up with Cindy. A little bantering aside, these two were just passing as ships in the night, because Ted will end up with her roommate. We saw Ted's irrationally romantic side, but we never really got a glimpse of the sweeping glee that comes along with any real romantic feelings being developed. In terms of narration, however, I must give credit where it's due. The show did some of the best narration jokes in its history tonight, my personal favorite being when Ted asks "What's she like?" and older Ted narrates, "And that was the first description of your mother I ever heard" only to have Cindy say "She's a whore. Or possibly a dominatrix."

In terms of suits, anyone who knows that Barney loves suits and says "suit up" a lot knows everything you need to about that plotline, which really seemed entirely engineered to get NPH to sing. I never mind watching the man, ever the consummate entertainer, belt out a tune with his classic bravado, but the song felt mostly half-assed. A lot of phrases rhymed with suit, but there were only a few laugh lines throughout (Marshall delivering his "pot o' gold" line and Barney telling Lily to get her head out of her ass being the two that come straight to mind), but the plotline that lead us there was fairly amusing. Watching Barney de-suit to win a hot bartender (with a detour into Lily's bisexuality as she exclaimed, "And that ass? I would wear that thing for a hat!") was good fun, and allowed for a great Pulp Fiction joke as Barney secretly suited up in the bathroom while the shooting up music from the movie played and we were treated to a similar montage.

At the end of the day, "Girls vs. Suits" was one of the better episodes of How I Met Your Mother this season, but failed to live up to the huge hype it built up, largely for the same reasons this whole season has been underwhelming: the writer's seem to have forgotten how to take risks and seem content to deliver the same pre-packaged entertainment as most other sitcoms, colored with the qualities that have previously made the show great. I hope this "myth-heavy" episode leads to some actual myth-lifting later in the season, and I still remain optimistic that the show will kick it into gear for the back nine of this season.

Grade: B


-I loved Marshall's retort to Lily, "Heck yeah I'm gay. Gay for you!"

-Tim Gunn's cameo was fun, as was Barney's decision to donate his suits buttons to save the life of a sick jacket from the upper east side.

-"Those...I mean that...I mean she!"

-I loved Barney saying, "I'm going to give up...wait for it..." and then Robin annoyingly interjecting, "we know you're going to say suits" Before Barney pauses dramatically only to say "suits." The best part of that exchange, though, were the horrified gasps from Marshall and Lily after Barney said suits.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jordan's Review: Dollhouse, Season 2, Episode 11: Getting Closer

Well holy shit. After the three weeks of unrelenting awesomeness that was Dollhouse's marathon December run, the show didn't slow for a second as we enter the home stretch. Revealing that Boyd, the Giles to Echo's Buffy in my Whdeon ensemble match-up, is really the head of Rossum was not only a wonderful twist, it also fills in his past in a way I worried the show wouldn't have the chance to and makes everything a whole lot more complicated than I even expected. The second twist of the episode was one I really shoud have seen coming, as its a classic Whedon move, but it never the less made my jaw hit the floor. Having Saunders dispassionately execute Bennett was a shocker like no other, and fit into the frusterating trend of Whedon refusing to let his characters be happy together. As I marveled over the adorable interactions between Topher and Bennett, I should have known my happiness, like theirs, would be shortlived, but my optimism left me blindsided by her death.

The episode opens three years earlier, and spends much of its run answering questions that have plagued us since day one: who was Caroline Farrell, what turned Bennett against her, and how did Caroline end up in the Dollhouse? Of course, it also left us with many more: Why is Boyd pretending to be a head of security? Why was Caroline special? And what in God's name is going to happen now?

As Adelle makes like a badass and prepares her house for battle, Echo grapples with the idea of letting her real self back into her head. She also discovers that Ballard lost his love for her when Topher re-mapped him. There's no question that this show is headed for an end-game, and with the quality of the last seven episodes, I have no doubt its going to be an epic one. We saw another scene from Epitaph One as Boyd fled the Dollhouse and left the heartbroken Saunders behind. We watched Adelle make tough decisions without blinking as she closed the Dollhouse, ordered the execution of Clive Ambrose and other Rossum higher-ups, and fled to protect the rebellion when Rossum's goons breached her sanctuary.

I'm still trying to make sense of what has happened and what is coming, but for now all I can say is that Dollhouse may not have lasted long, but it has made the best out of the little time it had, showing us a bleak look at the dangers of corporations, science and a lack of morals that has seeped through our society. And I can't wait to see how this masterpiece comes to an end.

Grade: A


-"Relax, I'm not a thief, I'm a terrorist."

-"Actually, if anyone asks, don't say I got beat up by a one-armed girl."

-"More of that if we prevent the end of the world?" God I loved Topher and Bennett...on that note, "you know I always had a crush on you, even when I thought you were a dude....this is better."

-"Ivy, don't become me!" Topher finally shows his respect for her while simultaneously dismissing her. He cares about her enough to keep her from developing into the dismissive, amoral man that allowed the deterioration of the world around him, and in fact was responsible for a good deal of it. Excellent moment.