Monthly Archives: March 2010

Justified, “Fixer”: Far be it from me to second-guess your neck hair.

After the tone set by last week’s episode — which was decidedly different from the pilot — and the jump in quality in tonight’s, I think Justified is beginning to find its own rhythm. And if that rhythm ends up being not too unlike “Fixer,” I don’t think the show would be doing too bad for itself. Tonight’s episode saw Raylan being handed one of the marshals’ “confidential” informants.

If Raylan hates Kentucky as much as Arnold Pinter does (David Eigenberg), he’s doing a real good job of hiding it. The two characters, Raylan, who’s always floating a little beneath the surface, and Pinter, who’s in your face without realizing it, stood in nice contrast to each other tonight. Obviously Raylan is a principled man, so while we see that Pinter barely holding onto his sanity, Raylan chooses instead to suffer in silence.

If “Fixer” and last week’s “Riverbrook,” are any indication, it looks like the show’s guest stars are going to be given just as much screentime as Raylan and the marshals. As long as those guest stars are as good as they were tonight, it’s fine by me. What I liked most about Pinter, Curtis and Travis Travers was that none of them came off as stereotypes. Especially with a goofy, stranger in a strange land sort of character like Pinter, they really could have screwed the pooch. But even though he definitely comes off as a little eccentric, he never felt like he was over the top, even while he’s slurping chocolate egg cremes with his laptops spread over the restaurant table. And I really enjoyed Page Kennedy, who definitely came off as the episode’s standout. You may remember Kennedy from his stint as U-Turn on Weeds.

While the bulk of the episode didn’t really do much to advance Raylan the man, we did get that one scene at the very end with finally giving in and throwing himself into Ava’s wide-stretched arms. Maybe getting shot in the chest was what finally pushed him over the edge, but Raylan seems like the kind of person who needs a reason to so blatantly fly in the face of authority like that. It’s obvious that he dispenses his own unique brand of justice, but he’s not Mel Gibson and this isn’t Lethal Weapon, so you’ve got to think there’s something else at play here.

At the beginning of tonight’s episode, we learned a little more about Raylan’s dad. He worked as both a legbreaker and a grifter, and served time for both. And I doubt it comes as a surprise that Raylan has his him to thank for his temper. Eventually the show will quit dropping hints and we’ll be able to see how father and son operate around each other.

I’ll say that Justified isn’t the show I expected it to be. If I say I mean that in a good way, then it sounds like I thought the show was going to be bad. If I say I mean that in a bad way, then it sounds like I don’t like the show now. So I’ll just say that I’m happy with how it’s shaping up. I would still like to see some storylines carried over several episodes, rather than leaving things alone to revisit later, ala Boyd and his conversion. But as a procedural the show is quickly finding its footing, and is probably more true to how Elmore Leonard originally envisioned the character, not to mention the sorts of books he writes.

Stuff I liked:

  • “I ain’t never seen a Lexington cop dressed up like the Marlboro Man.”
  • I liked the reference to Raylan Wild Bill-ing the guy down in Miami. A call-back to our dearly departed Deadwood.
  • Stuff I didn’t like. Raylan rocking the denim jacket at the end of the episode. Boo.

Breaking Bad, “Caballo Sin Nombre”: I can’t be the bad guy.

There was a moment in last night’s episode of Breaking Bad where Walter tells Saul, “I can’t be the bad guy.” At first it seems like Walt’s saying that this is a role he can’t allow himself to fall into. He knows he’s close, but doesn’t believe he’s quite there yet. But for a split second it looks like, in his heart, Walt realizes what he is. He’s just in denial about the whole thing.

This is only made worse later in the episode when Flynn, who’s gone back to being called Walt Jr., packs his bags and heads over to Walt’s apartment complex. As they’re talking he asks his dad how he could let Skyler treat him like this. How could he let her kick him out of his own house. He hasn’t even done anything wrong. This only feeds into Walt’s delusion that he’s the good guy in all of this, and convinces him that patching things up with his wife might not be more difficult than a splash of cologne and some dippin’ sticks. We saw him with his bags packed, so it’s clear he’s coming back home to stay. It’ll be interesting to see how his tune changes once Skyler gets home from work.

If Walt’s in denial about who he’s become, Jesse is the complete opposite. When he finds out that his dad is selling his aunt’s house, he immediately goes to see Saul Goodman — Bob Odenkirk’s first appearance this season — with a plan to get the house and stick it to his parents at the same time. The scene of Saul meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman was priceless. Jesse may be the reluctant bad guy in all of this, but Saul eats it up.

Speaking of Saul, he certainly seems to have transformed somewhat since we saw him last season. While his appearance in season 2 had him as the textbook definition of a shyster lawyer, he’s looking a little better in season 3. But apart from that, when we saw him leaving from his visit with Walt, you could almost see genuine concern for his client and maybe friend. Granted, whatever concern Saul may have for Walt’s well-being has to be looked at through dollar bill-colored glasses, but you can see the beginnings of a relationship starting to form, so we’ll see where the entire things goes.

Hot on the heels of Walt, and by extension Jesse and Saul, are the cartel twins we were introduced to last week. You knew that they would eventually track Walt down, but who knew it would happen in only two episodes. The last ten minutes of last night’s episode had to be the most tense the series has given us thus far. When I saw they got the “POLLOS” text message, it had me wondering exactly who is connected to who. I’m guessing they were being summoned by Gus Frings, owner and manager of Pollos de Hermanos. So if Gus is offering Walt work, will he be able to call the twins off their hunt? I don’t think it’ll be that anticlimactic, but who knows? Maybe by the end of the season we’ll see them all hanging out, eating dippin’ sticks and drinking mimosas. Stranger things have happened in TV Land. Remember St. Elsewhere?

Stuff I liked:

  • Saul’s license plate: LWYRUP. Hilarious!
  • I guess he was asking for it, but it was hard not to feel bad for Walt when we saw him pepper-sprayed and shoved into the back of the police car. And didn’t he look gross with his swollen eyes and snotty nose? Until last night, movies and TV had been telling me a horrible lie.
  • “How ’bout it Counselor? Do you concur?” It still makes me laugh.
  • Come on. The pizza flying up and landing on the roof in one piece was pretty impressive.
  • You look at Walt, Jesse, Saul, Gus, the Twins and the Cleaner, and all of the comparisons between Breaking Bad and a Coen Brothers film look to be pretty well-founded.

Things We Like #12: Stewroids

30 Rock, “Floyd”: I had another freaky Ken-mare.

The Office wasn’t the only show that came back strong this week. “Floyd” turned out to be a somewhat lopsided episode — if necessarily so — in terms of the different storylines. But overall I thought it provided a good balance between the seriousness of Liz’s relationship with Floyd and the levity of the Pranksmen vs. Silver Panthers shenanigans.

Jason Sudeikis only occasionally guest stars on 30 Rock, so there was never any real chance that he and Liz would end up together. So I was appreciative of the fact that the show brought some closure that story. But man, they really drove the point home. More than 70 episodes and this is the first one that actually made me feel some sympathy for Liz. And that’s real sympathy, not the kind that’s tamped down because of all the ridiculous things she does. It started when Floyd told her that he and his fiance were hoping to find job opportunities in the city and Liz realized that Floyd was willing to move to New York for Cindy, but not for her.

When Floyd responded to this by telling her that of course he was willing to move for her, because one, she’s blonde, and two, she’s alive, like a deer, was kind of heartbreaking. In the end they both apologized and Liz ended up in their wedding party, but still. There’s a kernel of truth inside every joke, so I doubt Floyd would have said any of what he said if he didn’t believe at least some of it. One thing I will complain about. Tina Fey isn’t a frumpy, disgusting woman. I understand that Liz Lemon and Tina Fey are two different women, but eventually the show is going to have to give us a guy who will be as excited to be with Liz as we would be…or I would be…I love you, Tina Fey.

Fortunately the rest of the episode was balanced out by some stuff that we really don’t see enough on the show these days: Pete and the writers. I thought there was plenty to like here. The writers ripping their clothes off may have seemed a little juvenile, but Jack and Danny walking into the room with the TGS Dancers taking pictures of them made it all worth it. Things lost a little steam after Frank discovered that Jack was a member of the Twig and Plums society. Jack having to walk out of the room over and over again wasn’t particularly funny to start off with and the show seemed set on hitting us over the head with the joke over and over again. It ended on a high note, with Jack sending Frank a tape threatening to have sex with mom if he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Although I’m not sure the thought of Jack and Danny double-teaming Frank’s mom can really be considered revenge. Hmm.

Last night’s team-up between Jenna and Tracy worked much better than it has in recent weeks. After being forced to listen to a full twelve hours of Kenneth’s pointless, Grandpa-Simpsonesque stories, they’re now having disturbingly sexual dreams about him. I thought the dreams themselves were funny, but the best part was watching Jenna and Tracy trying to “Elm-Street” things by killing Kenneth in their dreams, especially when they tried flying away at the very end. A few missteps last night, but overall I think the show reminded us why it keeps winning Emmys.

Stuff I liked:

  • Dick Cheney’s website,
  • “Now how did the very first person catch Old Gus? Well, that’s a story for another time. Right now!
  • Jack asking Liz to see her weakness files on Frank, Toofer and Lutz.
  • “I haven’t even had my first cup of wine today.”

The Office, “Happy Hour”: Her you-know-whats fill up with you-know-what.

“Happy Hour” was one of those rare (very, very rare) episodes of The Office that had a little bit of everything in it. Parts were funny, parts were unfunny. Michael lost one, Michael won one. People hooked up, people broke up. Add these things together and you get a highpoint in a season rife (RIFE!) with duds.

Leave it to The Office to name this episode “Happy Hour,” have Oscar go to Darryl in the very beginning and say, “Hey, why don’t we all go out for happy hour?” and then send him off to take his place in the background and pay as little attention as possible to him for the rest of the episode. Just what sort of big, gay agenda is the show trying to push on us? But seriously, Oscar just can’t seem to catch a break. And because going out for happy hour was his idea, you’d think he would get a little more screentime than he did. Oh well. I have a feeling that Oscar will live to fight again another day. Or the show will continue to build things up and pull the rug from under us in the follow-through. Yeah. It’ll probably be that one.

Oscar and his two minutes aside, a lot happened in this episode. Andy and Erin went public with their relationship. We saw the return of Isabelle, who still has her sights set on Dwight, and we were introduced to a possible new love interest for Michael. Looking back on things, all of these stories came together really well. As Jim might say, it left me smiling and satisfied.

It looked like Andy and Erin were taking a page from Jim and Pam’s playbook and keeping their relationship under wraps. When you look at how the show has handled these two characters, you realize there was about zero percent chance that they could continue keeping it a secret. Andy’s the sort of guy who couldn’t keep from bragging about a girlfriend for more than a couple of hours, if that, and Erin’s just so goofy that eventually she’d slip, or sit on Andy’s lap, and the entire thing would be blown. I liked the way Andy finally came out and said it and I think the funny thing is that everyone was so absorbed doing their own thing that I doubt many people noticed it. It’ll be interesting to see how the two proceed now that they’ve outed themselves. And I like the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of pressure for the two of them to deliver the way there was for Jim and Pam. I mean, now that that’s taken care of, what else are we expecting? It would be nice to see Michael end up with someone by the time the series ends, but I won’t be pissed off if it just never happens.

Speaking of Michael, I thought it was surprising that Pam would try fixing him up with another one of her friends. I was even more surprised when Michael and Julie hit it off. The entire thing made a lot more sense when you realize that Michael doesn’t know he’s being set up, so he had no reason to lose the tie and flip his Kangol around backwards. When he does find out is where his story began losing some its steam for me. How many times have we seen Michael get into these situations? And until he barely kept himself from being thrown out of the bar, it looked like we were only going to get more of the same. That Michael may be falling into a relationship without even trying — I thought — saved his entire story tonight. Although I have to say that I felt a pang of sadness when Julie finally threw in the towel and went home. She seemed like such a nice girl. Amy Pietz, who played the bar manager, has been brought in for several episodes this season, so this one still has a while to play out. I fear it won’t end well, but I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.

Tonight’s other big development was Dwight finally moving on from Angela. I’m sure the fact that he had Isabelle hanging on his shoulder for almost the entire episode played no small role in this. I think it was a little unexpected to have Angela throw her contract with Dwight in his face once she realized she was losing him. And now that I think about, it seems a little strange that the show would go through the trouble of setting that up at all if Dwight was just going to end up with another woman. I assume it’ll be paid off later, but I guess you never know. Still, the conflict between the two women is enough to carry the whole thing a ways on its own. Angela moving in on the game of whack-a-mole, and Isabelle whacking her on the head at the end of the night was priceless. More of that, please.

On tonight’s episode we also discovered that Kevin is a disgusting pervert, who spent most of his time making baby noises at Pam’s chest so her you-know-whats would you-know-what. At first it was funny (question mark?), but quickly turned disturbing, mostly because I can’t get the sound of him laughing out of my head. That and his face. Take a good look at it, America. Take a good look, and you remember it.

Stuff I liked:

  • Dwight blurting out a curse word when Angela sneaks up on him.
  • Somehow I Manage by Michael Scott.
  • “I kill Yakuza Boss on purpose. I good surgeon!” Hill. Air. Eee. Us.
  • It was good to see Pam back, and to see her excited to be back.

Modern Family, “Starry Night”: I feel like I ate the sun!

“Starry Night” mixed things up a bit between the three families, which after these past few episodes was a welcome change of pace. I didn’t realize what a smart pairing Cameron and Gloria were until I saw the commercials for tonight’s episode, and I’m kind of surprised it’s taken the show this long to get the together. I mean, it’s kind of obvious, right? I thought Cameron was pitch perfect throughout the entire episode, especially after seeing his faux pas with Gloria at the beginning of the episode. The look on her and Manny’s face when Cameron made his comment about heading back to Colombia and taking her little “Brown” friend with her was priceless. My only problem with the story was that I wished we could have seen more of it. This is a problem that’s just not going to go away if the show wants to give every family a little face time in each episode and still have them split up into three different groups. So far, I think this format has worked fairly well for the show, but when they hit on something that particularly good, it’s going to suffer a little.

While there was no mix and match with the Dunphy clan, their story came together well, with both parents helping Haley and Luke with school projects. Claire was probably going against her better judgment by putting Phil in charge of Luke and his van Gogh project, ut in the end, Luke came through when Phil didn’t and finished things without his help. I think some of the biggest laughs came when we realized that Phil’s own problems (re: ADD) outweighed Luke’s. Phil climbing over the car to get at a pair of sunglasses on a top shelf was hilarious. I have to agree with Donna Bowman over at the AV Club when she said that the key to selling a scene like this is to do something stupid very, very carefully.

One beat I particularly liked was Claire going through the trouble to make Haley’s cupcakes for her while her daughter texted with friends, only to throw them away when she was finished with them. Stuff like that has a place close to my heart because I’ve spent enough time in the public school system to know that kids can’t find enough kind words to throw at you when they’re trying to get you to do their work for them. Seriously, they’re horrible, horrible people.

I thought the Jay/Manny/Mitch story mostly fell flat, which was a disappointment because so far, Manny’s been funny in almost everything he’s done this season. For me, his need to form a brotherly bond with Mitch by making fun of him the entire night seemed a little out of character, although I can appreciate the writers’ willingness to try something new with the character. I really didn’t find anything funny about Mitch’s consternation at the whole thing, or his getting sprayed by a skunk, or having to change into a dress. This one was a little weird because there’s a part of me that’s saying all of this should have been funny, it just wasn’t.

“Starry Night” wasn’t one of the show’s best episodes, but it was mostly solid and the scenes with Cameron and Gloria were worth the price of admission alone. Hopefully they’ll make good on their promise and we’ll see some of that shoe shopping in the future.

Stuff I liked:

  • Luke wearing Phil’s noise-canceling headphones. “Everybody is stupid except me!”
  • Cameron pouring sweat and yelling, “I feel like I ate the sun!”
  • Jay telling Mitch that, if he were “that sort of gay,” his legs would probably work out for him.

Justified, “Riverbrook”: You understand how I see your people?

You may have felt a little letdown by Justified’s second episode, which lacked a lot of the flavor and punch of last week’s pilot. Still, it looks like the show is shaping up to be one of the better hours on television right now, regardless of how serialized or procedural it turns out to be.

Every show takes a few episodes before it finally settles into its groove and decides what kind of show it’s going to be, and right now we’re seeing Justified go through its own paces. In the beginning of “Riverbrook,” we saw Raylan picking up Dewey Crowe at the Lexington Federal Detention Center, as well as taking some time to visit Boyd Crowder, who’s still in recovery after last week’s pilot. Boyd feeds him a line about being reborn in the eyes of the Lord and set on a new path, and it’s all thanks to Raylan shooting him in the chest. Whether he’s sincere or not — and I’m guessing he’s not (maybe I should be a cop!) — the show is definitely setting something up that will pay off further on down the road.

Most of tonight’s episode was spent with Raylan chasing down Cooper, who’s searching for some stashed loot he got off a robbery ten years before. Overall, I thought this was a mixed bag. Now, the writers aren’t directly adapting any of Elmore Leonard’s work, so they’re left to develop Raylan’s voice and character, not to mention the tone of the entire show, on their own. So far, I think they’ve done well creating something in the same league as Leonard’s work, if not something that’s exceeded it. They’ll still need to watch themselves to make sure what they create doesn’t turn into a cheap parody, as well as be able to stand on its own, apart from what Leonard’s written. There’s that scene in the convenience store, before Cooper locks Raylan in the back. Raylan makes a joke about Cooper’s cohort, who’s just been run out of the store. “How can you tell there’s a bad drummer at your door? Knock speeds up.” I thought it was a funny beat, if a little out of place. But when Raylan made another joke at the motel that night with Ava, I have to say I groaned a little. I hope the show doesn’t sacrifice any of Raylan’s badassery by making him the one who’s always got a funny joke in his pocket. It won’t, but still, these are the things I think about.

I didn’t mind that the episode spent so much time with Cooper, his ex-stripper ex-wife, or her not-first-cousin Dupree. This is another example of the writers (more specifically Graham Yost, who’s penned the first two episodes) being able to imitate Leonard’s style. I thought the bad guys were able to hold their side of the episode. They weren’t able to hold it the way Olyphant holds his own scenes, but really, is anyone expecting them too? That may be something the show has to work on in the future. I think that in the end, the serialized portions of Justified are going to be much more interesting than the procedural portions, so the bad-guys-of-the-week are probably going to have to step up their game.

I had read Alan Sepinwall’s review, in which he said that of the first four episodes he’s seen, “Riverbrook” was the weakest. But even though there was a noticeable dip in quality, I thought tonight’s episode held up pretty well. The promo for next week’s episode looks even better than tonight’s, so we’ll see where it all takes us.

Stuff I liked:

  • “Put it like this, if you was in the first grade and you bit somebody every week, they’d start to think of you as a biter.”
  • I like the going-through-the-motions dance Raylan and Ava are going through with each other. “I can’t sleep with you.” I wonder how long that’s going to last.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing more of Jacob Pitts, who plays Tim Gutterson. I want to see the sniper in Afghanistan angle explored more.