Monthly Archives: November 2010

Glee, “Furt”: I popped the question in my building’s common-use hot tub. Boo-yah!

Were you tuning in with bated breath like me? Wondering if last week’s great Glee episode was an anomaly or the beginning of an upward swing? Does two not-bad episodes make for a hot streak? I don’t know, but I can say that this episode was a comedic and emotional success. Was it any more responsible in its message than the past few weeks? Not really, but I’ll save the boring proselytizing for the end.

Let’s talk about the fun stuff. The news anchor marrying his co-anchor and telling Sue, “You can’t tame the tiger – you’ve read my tattoos.” Good. Sue’s online dating profile, which lists, among her interests, “poking the elderly with pins.” Great. Finn questioning Kurt’s decision to release live doves at their parents’ wedding, and Kurt’s response – “That’s why we feed them glitter!” Excellent.

We had three main storylines going on here. First, Kurt’s dad and Finn’s mom are getting married, which means Finn is going to have to come to terms with Kurt’s homosexuality and having him as a brother. The second storyline – Kurt’s ongoing bullying at the hands of Karofsky,  feeds into this because the Glee gals decide to have their football team boyfriends go on the offensive in Kurt’s honor. Finn declines, citing his precarious position on the football team, and rival Sam gets all the glory.

Fun stuff first – that wedding was covered in gooey, dripping cheese, but dammit if I didn’t shed a tear… or two. It was fun and ridiculous and just right for the core of the Glee audience. And Schu’s performance of “Sway with Me” got me thinking…. Wouldn’t it be great if his performances were a treat? A rarity that only happened when the situation really called for it – like here? I’d like that so much better than feeling awkward every week as he steals the spotlight from the kids to serve his own selfish purposes.

Storyline three is Sue marrying… herself… in a weird, convoluted plot twist that really didn’t do it for me. Remember when Carrie did it in Sex and the City? Don’t scoff, guys, if you watch Glee, I’ll bet you’ve also watched at least a few episodes of SatC.  Anyway, it worked there. It didn’t here. And more than that, it didn’t seem all that necessary as a device to get her absentee Nazi-hunter mom (Carol Burnett) into town, so I’m still not sure what the point of the storyline was. Was it to resolve her mother issues? Or was it a self-affirming all-you-need-is-to-love-yourself self-wedding? I couldn’t tell you.

I’d be tarred and feathered if I so much as breathed a word against the legend Carol Burnett (especially by those guys who watch Glee and Sex and the City, ifyouknowwhatimean), so I’ll just tell you my favorite lines. “…the other mothers used to tell me that you’d never find anybody, but I said, no, no, no, no… she’s a perfectly okay child. She’ll grow into her looks. And you know what? I believe you still might.” “I was going to send you to Israel for your honeymoon – they love me there.”

Now on to the boring proselytizing. There’s too much wrong with the bullying storyline for it to be taken as seriously as it should be, and it honestly just reeks of Ryan Murphy (or one of the other writers) playing out some childhood trauma on screen.  I don’t understand how Karofsky gets away with bullying because no one saw it, but so do the Glee kids, who beat him up with an entire locker room watching. I don’t understand how Kurt’s dad gets away with threatening and assaulting a student. I don’t understand how he (and everyone else) seems to blame Finn for not sticking up for Kurt. I agree – Finn should’ve said something to Karofsky, but it’s not like he’s known about this for ages. He’s not the one responsible, and while it would’ve been the right thing to do for him to confront Karofsky, it wasn’t WRONG of him to have not done anything yet – especially given their relationship on the field.

I don’t understand how Sue gets away with what is – yes, you’re right, Kurt – bullying by calling him “lady” or any other nickname (whether he chooses it from a list of derogatory terms or not). I definitely don’t get why Kurt’s parents put up with it. I was thrilled that he finally reported the bullying and eventually the death threat because it did show, at least in the short term, that action would be taken. And finally, we get a real reason why Kurt should be apprehensive – when the school board reversed Karofsky’s expulsion, Kurt has a legitimate claim to say that the school is soft on bullying and to want to transfer to Dalton.

Which he does. All I can say is – CALLED IT! For now, Kurt is a Warbler, and I’m betting that while he might find his new digs and his new crew nice for awhile, he’s going to miss his Glee gang more than ever and find a reason to come back soon.

I hope this is the culmination of the Kurt-is-misunderstood-and-disadvantaged-because-of-his-sexuality, because Finn’s “You’re Amazing” performance at the wedding was just a little over the top for my tastes, and I’m tired of seeing Kurt portrayed as a victim. As long as we back away from this storyline and tone it down for a few episodes, I think we’ll be golden.

If I don’t try to make sense of the bullying storyline and just allow myself to get stupid on the pretty people and fun songs, this wasn’t a bad episode, but I’m not calling it a hot streak yet.  Next week’s sectionals competition should be interesting, though, so I’ll be staying tuned.

P.S. Something to think about – there was a subtle look during the wedding preparation conversation with Finn that built on her exclusion from the Glee-girls-with-football-boyfriends-meeting. Is Santana looking for love?

The Office, “WUPHF.com”: Bigboobz

I could relate to a lot in this episode. For starters, I frequently run my space heater and fan at the same time, at top speed. Don’ t judge me. What can I say? I’m hot-headed, and I’ve got cold feet! Ba-dum-bum-shhhh. Also, I’m not naming any names or companies, but let’s just say I have personally witnessed social media bandwagonry and what we’ll call “marketing without substance.” But the part about lacking motivation to work and the boss trying to convince you that you don’t do it just for the money? Nope. Don’t know anything about that. Definitely not.

/whistles nonchalantly and walks away with hands in pockets

Aaaaaannnnyyyhoo, so, Ryan has come up with WUPHF.com, a service that harasses you at all communication points when someone wants to send you a message – so, basically, what Facebook will be in about six months. He’s convinced most of his Dunder Mifflin coworkers to invest, and now he’s got enough cash for nine days and a strategy that amounts to “throw WUPHF-branded condoms out of a helicopter during spring break.” Michael is the prime patsy, of course, and is starting to plan for an investor ski weekend before he finds out that the company is broke and everyone wants their money back.

Meanwhile, Dwight has opened “HayPlace” in the parking lot, where he is rectifying a childhood injustice of not being named “Hay King” while Angela finds a new man right under his nose (Hey HRG! Good to see you on another floundering NBC show!) Other than finally seeing the Dwight/Angela storyline go somewhere, this plotline was pretty uneventful. Meanwhile, back in the Dunder Mifflin offices, Michael begins his sales pitch to the office

Michael: “SEX! Now that I have your attention….”
Stanley: “You don’t have our attention.”
Michael: “MONEY!”
Stanley, perking up: “I’m listening.”
Kevin: “You had me at sex.”

In early seasons, this would’ve been a pretty standard, high-humor exchange, but given where The Office is these days, this was downright milk-out-of-your-nose funny. It turns out, Stanley is already an investor, because he has a dream to live isolated at the top of an abandoned lighthouse (yet another thing I can relate to in this episode) that will then go into space (you lost me there).

Blah blah blah – Ryan’s a douche, Dwight’s a psychopath. Michaels’ an idiot. Blah blah blah. The investors meet and decide they want to sell, and Andy turns out to be surprisingly business savvy – maybe it’s that college degree (Where did he go to school again?) But as the majority investor, Michael refuses to sell, saying, “I’d rather go broke betting on my people.” It’s another one of those great, albeit brief, redemptive glimpses into Michael’s psyche.
In any event, it made me want to see something good happen to Michael – and I was even secretly hoping that WUPHF would be come a huge success, even if it meant success for weasely Ryan, if only to see Michael’s faith in people rewarded. Sadly, no. They sell, but Michael leaves us with a great, classic Office monologue:

The world sends people your way. Ryan came to me through a temp agency. Andy was transferred here. No idea where Creed came from. The point is you just have to play with the cards that you’re dealt. Jim – that guy is an ace. Dwight is my king up my sleeve. Phyllis is my old maid. Oscar is my queen. That’s easy. Give me a hard one – that’s what Oscar said. Toby is the instruction card you throw away. Pam is a solid seven. And yeah, you know what? Ryan is probably, like, a two. But sometimes twos can be wild, so watch out. And I am obviously the joker.

I thought we were going to see another callback to The Office’s good old days with an awesome Jim prank at the end – he had been cutting dialogue from Jo Bennett’s biography-on-tape, and I thought he was going to find a way to get his hard-earned commission from Gabe and Sabre. Disappointingly, it was just a prank on Gabe, and a pretty mild one at that, though I guess I can’t fault the writers for not wanting to turn Jim into an embezzler. I do wonder though if Jim might’ve found in Gabe a new target for his pranks … it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as sticking it to Dwight (that’s what she said?), and Gabe’s a pretty sympathetic (but still annoying) character, so it might not work. But, Office writers? A change (a change) would do you… would do you good (A change would do you good)

Friday Night Lights, “On the Outside Looking In”: Babies smoke in Texas.

Granted this is only my second review of Friday Night Lights, but it’s just getting tough recognizing each week what a solid show this is and that this will be its last season. Even more tough looking at the ‘this new show looks so terrible, I can’t stop from groaning every single time I see its ridiculous previews” replacements that surely won’t fill the FNL void. But this episode (expectedly) seemed to have more meat to it than the first, now that we’ve gotten through the off-season catching up. While there weren’t any crazy revelations, scandals or football sparkle reels, we did see some dimension and conflict added to a few of our newer, less familiar characters. Conflict like, perhaps, being the outsider…looking in [/callback].

Anywho. To borrow from Superman, East Dillon is starting to look a bit like bizzarro Dillon, where opposite…is opposite. Mrs. Coach Tami Taylor is mega unpopular. Jess is fighting in the girls room and binge drinking. No one knows the name of star running back Luke Cafferty.  Mrs. Billy Riggins is actually acting like a parent. Becky is keeping her emotions in check and acting like an adult (besides missing curfew). And the freshly top-of-the-world East Dillon Lions aren’t even ranked. Normally I’d write off this much change to a show just getting desperate to keep things fresh, keep the ratings up. But the writers have kept the changes close enough to the realm of possibility to make it really interesting. And while I’ve never particularly cared for the Jess and Mindy characters, I was a little surprised to find myself identifying—or at least commiserating—with them through this episode. I’ll be curious to see how the writers play out both of their identity question marks.

The one move that wasn’t so uncharacteristic, unfortunately, was with Vince. Not to delve into the whole race issue—especially race in sports…in Texas—but please, please tell me we’re not being set up for another Smash-type fall from greatness. Back in—what was it, Season 1? Season 2?—Smash was at the top of his game, football had helped him stay off the streets and work toward a better life, letters of interest were coming in. Then he starts juicing. Downhill from there. And with Vince now in a similar situation—East Dillon had a great season, he’s getting some recognition as QB, his relationship with Jess is pretty solid, he’s also getting some collegiate interest—are we really going to see another black kid from the poor side of town get the rug pulled out from under him? Because if they’re busting Luke for rough tackles, does anyone believe they’ll get away with Vince’s mom’s new wink-wink-under-the-table job? Please, for the love, let just one kid keep his head on straight, get the college scholarship and go on to have a successfully football career.

But on a similar note, I continue to appreciate how realistic the scenarios and dialog are in this show. For those who aren’t familiar with Texas football, especially high school football, these same issues of eligibility, drugs, rabid parents/boosters and lawsuits are pulled right out of the local headlines. It makes the show feel real, rather than just pulling from the same old tired football clichés of learning to work together, homecoming rivalries, stealing the QB’s girlfriend, or whatever. And beyond football, kudos to whoever wrote the scene that introduces us to Epic. That snotty, teenage, defeatist attitude and the helplessness of Tami as she watches Epic just walk off campus makes me grind my teeth, flashing back to my time as a substitute teacher. If they’re going to keep this one realistic, though, it had better take the better part of the season, not an episode or two, for Tami to win over Epic.

Questions for pondering:

  • What’s up with Tami’s co-worker enemy all of a sudden turning on a dime to help her out? Ulterior motive?
  • Is it just me or is Julie’s TA kind of a creep? (And by creep I partly mean not a great actor.) He’s got to be married or something, right? I just don’t understand why she can’t get back together with Matt—you can make it work!!!
  • How cute was Coach Taylor relaying the message to his wife that their creepy-looking baby would like mac and cheese for breakfast.
  • Are there any other Parenthood/FNL watchers out there who are kind of getting Vince’s character on Parenthood and his character on FNL mixed up a little? Because I have to sometimes remind myself that he’s not cheating on Jess with Haddie. At least on Parenthood he’s got the evil-Spock goatee to help us tell the two apart.

Hair-ppy Birthday!

We’re three years old! That’s right. Another year, another birthday remembered a day late. Anyway, thanks for making this blog a runaway success that still generates zero revenue. You, gentle reader, can thank my wife for the pun, and me for this hot piece of man veal!

Community, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”: And That’s Why You Always Leave a Note!

I’d started to think that maybe writing about TV had made me (more) cynical, because while there have been some solid episodes of Glee, The Office and Community in the past few weeks, it had started to seem like I no longer felt excited and energized and wholly enthusiastic about certain episodes the way I used to. But I realized after watching this week’s Community that it wasn’t me – it was them.

Because this episode rocked my socks. Amazing writing, amazing story, amazing performances – more fun than a giant blanket fort. I love when Community acknowledges those secret childish desires that we all still have to do things like make dioramas and build blanket forts and walk around on moon shoes (just me?) How much FUN was that blanket fort? The answer is so much. SO MUCH FUN. Britta is a bitch, and anyone who is too good for a blanket fort is no friend of mine.

There are episodes where I have a lot to say because there were good points and bad, and there are episodes that are so terrible, they require a manifesto, but this episode of Community doesn’t require much because it was just fun.

The Annie/Jeff/Dean Pelton/Professor Professorson back-and-forth, twist-and-turn storyline kept getting more and more hilariously ridiculous, and I found myself laughing out loud as the shots rang out. I was glad to see the writers finally acknowledge the Annie/Jeff cliffhanger from last year, and Jeff’s line “You are going to Nancy Screw me out of my free credit!” was terrific. The whole episode was terrific. It was reminiscent not only of the greatness of last season’s paintball episode, but I hope we all thought of J. Walter Weatherman and the perils of teaching lessons, a la the “Pier Pressure” episode in season one of Arrested Development. And if we didn’t all think of that, then we all need to be watching a little less CBS and a little more IFC.

Anything that calls back to arrested Development is bound to be good, but Community is making a name for itself all on its own. It’s a smart, funny, relatable comedy with a great cast (minus Britta), and great writing. Episodes like these remind me why I love TV.

Glee, “The Substitute”: She’s an XBox, and I’m more an Atari.

Last time on ‘Glee,’ the writers took a vacation and let a bunch of monkeys and/or kids try their hand at writing an episode, I got violently ill at the result and verbally vomited all over this blog, and Kurt got a boyfriend! And that’s what you missed on… Glee!

Fear shouldn’t be the feeling with which you approach a popular primetime television show… unless maybe it’s The Walking Dead, but when I sat down to watch this week’s episode of Glee, I was nervous. Because if I was subjected to another episode like last week’s, I was done with this show, and I didn’t want to break it off, but I knew it would be best or both of us in the long run.

I peeked through my hands during the opening, and I even smiled when Sue nonchalantly said that being allies with Schu had gotten boring. And THEN… the kids. Why were the Muppet babies funnier than the regular Muppets? I don’t know, but they were, and when little Santana told little Puckerman he was lookin’ good and had been eating his Wheaties, little Rachel talked about exploring the oeuvre of Bernadette Peters and little Mercedes said Schu looked green, I was confident that the Glee I used to know and love was back… I just hope it stays.

That scene with the kids just goes to show you – if done right, something silly and absurd can be different and clever enough to make it okay. So, Schu gets sick, and the Glee club gets a substitute – Dame Gwyneth Paltrow, aka Holly Holliday. She’s fun and cool and hip and all the kids love her because she’s breakin’ the rules, but we all knew that her carefree ways were bound to be proven unsustainable.

She shows them just how cool she is by singing a Cee Lo song with *giggle* cuss words!! *giggle* Who am I kidding, though? I freaking love that song, and even with the “F*ck you” changed to “Forget you,” it was still a fun performance.

In fact, this episode was filled with fun performances that were well-integrated into the plot, at least by Glee standards. We also had Schu’s dream sequence where he and Mike Chang sang and danced their way through a performance of “Make Them Laugh.” It was dumb, but it was cute… kind of like Finn, and it was good to see Mike Chang used a little more.

It was a running theme that the kids didn’t get to choose their own songs for performances, and that’s what fun sub Holly would let them do, so peppered throughout the episode were flashbacks to Schu’s talking about Journey songs. It was a sparsely used, and therefore effective, device.

With her new freedom, Rachel chose to do a Broadway classic. Strict show tunes aren’t really my thing… Holly and Rachel’s “All That Jazz” dance number was fine, but nothing extraordinary. Mostly, it just proved my point from a few weeks ago. Rachel doing duets is a good, good move. She’s too much on her own.

And the final number – a mash up of Singing in the Rain and Umbrella was really nice visually and above average musically, so it left the episode on a high note. It was good to see Glee back to where it should be. Which, of course, is where the battle between Holly Holliday and Will Schuester for the kids’ affections and the Glee club job ended as well – right back where it should be. Although it seems Sue Sylvester is the principal for the time being… that could be very, very interesting.

The only other storyline centered on Mercedes and Kurt. Mercedes is feeling left out of Kurt’s new relationship and takes up the cause of having tater tots returned to the school cafeteria. The tots piece of it was pretty throwaway – it really just gave us the plot turn to demonstrate Holly’s inadequacies as a teacher and mentor.

More significant was Kurt’s budding relationship with Blaine. It was GREAT to see Kurt happy – he is so much more fun as a character when he’s not being emo. It is perfectly reasonable for Mercedes to feel shut out and overwhelmed by Kurt’s “gay talk” with Blaine, but I’m giving Kurt a pass on it for awhile – he clearly needed that in his life, and it’s a great thing to watch.

That said… KURT! YOU GOT A DEATH THREAT FROM A STUDENT. For the love of all things, please, please, please tell me he’s going to report this. Ugh. I get that he’s the good guy for not telling everyone that his bully is closeted, but friend – if the recent rash of anti-gay bullying incidents has taught us anything, it’s that these situations can spiral out of control quickly and MUST be reported.

For a show that has done so much for the gay community, I have to agree with Kelly Kapoor that it’s irresponsible to show Kurt taking that kind of abuse and not doing or saying anything about it. That is NOT the message that needs to be sent… Ryan Murphy is essentially saying that you can’t do anything about the bullies, but find yourself a boyfriend, and you’ll feel better.

Oh, there was also Schu’s relationship with Terri. She came back into his life to take care of him when he was weak and vulnerable, and we saw flashes of what might have made the two of them fall in love and stay together for so long. It also reminded me of what a purely “good” character Will was back in the beginning… it seems the disillusionment and fallout from his divorce has had a bigger impact on him – in subtle ways – than one would’ve thought.

Closing thoughts – good episode. Not the best ever, but solidly good and miles above last week’s. Keep it up, Glee.

The Office, “Viewing Party”: I wanted to eat a pig in a blanket… in a blanket.

I felt like this episode had more highlights than some of the recent episodes, but The Office is still on life support. We may see shadows of its former spark, but it’s gone, people. I can only hope that NBC lets it fade away in peace at the end of this season.

So, what’s good? Erin. Her innocent and naive act is a little annoying at times, but most of the time, it’s just the kind of un-self-aware goofiness that made this show’s best characters memorable. When she very seriously told Gabe that Waco was pronounced wacko in the cold open, it’s hard not to find her well-intentioned ignorance a little endearing. GayMike, best friends?

But for every cute moment (not particularly funny, but cute), there’s also Michael’s grandpa/space station fantasy which is just awkward and makes the audience feel guilty for thinking that Michael is such an idiot. I get that it’s supposed to make his character sympathetic, but you just feel bad that this guy is so socially maladjusted that these dreams are probably never going to come true for him. Womp womp.

As usual, Dwight comes out with a few amusing lines – “Of all feelings to base a show around? Glee? Thirst – now that’s a show I’d watch.” And of course, the line I’ll be co-opting for my own nefarious purposes: “Join the real world. Sex contracts exist!”  I hope his “situation” with Angela is going somewhere – I’ve got to believe it is because it’s starting to drag, and I’m anxious to see what the writers have been building to.

It’s so strange that The Office can be so good about building some storylines for entire seasons – Dwight and Angela’s relationship, Andy pining for Erin, and Michael’s growing dissatisfaction with his work – and with others, they seem to come from nowhere and go nowhere. What was Michael doing in the first scene (not the cold open) when he was running around pretending to be busy and important? If he was imitating something from pop culture or trying to pull off an elaborate and ill-conceived joke, there would’ve been some context, but instead, he does it for no apparent reason and the “pay-off” is him telling Erin, “I was just kidding. I was kidding. I wasn’t mad.” Um, okay.

And the exchange between Michael and Erin? The daughter/father thing? Awkward and horrifying and completely without set-up or pay-off. Are we supposed to read into that strange silence, after Michael says “I am not your father” that Erin has some kind of father issues? That’s a pretty big leap or the audience to make on their own.

Michael bringing the old “that’s what she said” back was fun and familiar, but even that lacked the enthusiasm of previous seasons. I feel like I’m saying the same thing every week – it’s not bad, but it’s not good. The bar was set too high – both by this show in previous seasons and by other shows in the same time block – and now The Office just falls flat. When the best part of the episode is the small piece of 30 Rock I caught on my DVR, that’s not a good sign. But seriously, how hysterical was John Slattery on 30 Rock? Absolutely brilliant.

P.S. God bless Kelly and her spot-on Glee analysis. It’s hysterical to hear those kinds of insights coming from someone as vapid as her. But it works because if she’s going to have valid insights on anything, it’s going to be a pop culture phenomenon.