an awesome way to watch TV

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parenthood & Reality

No Glee recap this week - it was a pretty terrible episode, but not in the funny-terrible way, in the this-is-boring-and-makes-no-sense-like-Season-2 kind of way. Even though Puck is the most adorable and I could listen to him sing Melissa Etheridge and tell Quinn off any day, the rest of the episode was a return to the Season 2 strategy of shoehorning characters' actions in to fit the plot and I won't even talk about the Santana thing because it just didn't make enough sense to really care about.

Anyway, I was just watching last night's Parenthood and thinking again about how much I like that show! It really is just super-excellent. Well-acted, well-written, emotional without being's just great. And in last night's episode in particular I was struck by how realistic the characters are. There is absolutely NONE of that Glee bullshit (and bullshit used by countless other shows) where complex characterizations are thrown out the window in favor of some exciting plot. These are people with REAL reactions to REAL situations, and even though they're not always what we, as an audience, might hope for from the characters that we love, because we love them we are able to understand why they have those reactions. Take Crosby and Jasmine. Oh man I would love for Crosby and Jasmine to get together and be together forever and make more beautiful babies, but I also absolutely understand why that might not be the right thing for them right now. On a lesser show, their dalliance would have had huge dramatic repercussions, but on Parenthood, it is simply an opportunity to demonstrate the ways in which Crosby continues to mature.

I have two big issues with many television characters: (1) that they don't communicate in a normal, helpful way; and (2) that they often seem to have no capacity for forgiveness. TV can often be a world of black and white, where a thing is just WRONG and totally unforgivable. But that's not how the world works! People change, people have great capacity for contrition AND for forgiveness, and I really love that Parenthood shows this. It doesn't demonize characters simply because they make a wrong decision; in fact, almost all of the many characters on the show have made awful mistakes in the past. But the Bravermans, like a real family, are able to communicate and apologize and forgive and try to move forward from a better place. Watching Parenthood is like watching a reality show where the stars don't know they're being filmed - making it greatly superior, at least where authenticity is concerned, than those often boring, fake, narcissistic day-in-a-life reality shows.

If you're looking for a show that has drama but also humor and nuanced, relatable characters, than I can't recommend Parenthood highly enough. Plus, the cast really is phenomenal. How adorable was that scene with Mark and Sarah? SO ADORABLE. I hope that Parenthood has found a strong enough audience to be renewed for another year, because I can't think of another network drama that is as good as this one. Good watching for the holiday season if you need to be reminded that other families are just as crazy as your own. Go forth and watch!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"It tastes like feet!"

Happy Thanksgiving! I am celebrating by watching all the T-Day episodes of Friends, and by reading this excellent article by Emily Nussbaum about Whitney Cummings and the two atrocious shows she has on television right now. Oh, and by eating a ton of food. And by cracking open a bottle of wine once the National Dog Show starts at noon. And by watching this, over and over again:

I am thankful for all of you, and for everyone who reads, or has read, or laughed once at this blog. I am also thankful for Community. #sixseasonsandamovie

Enjoy your days of gluttony, however they might be spent!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Lights, Camera, Dean!"

So I know that Dan Harmon totally acknowledged the obscure nature and unmarketability of last week's episode of Community. Coming on the heels of Almost The Worst News Ever, that Community will be going on hiatus in January (I'm still in denial about it), Documentary Filmmaking: Redux aptly demonstrated both what an incredible, brilliant show Community is and also how it is too smart for its own good. The shows that make it really big (your Two And A Half Mens, your Family Guys, your Big Bang Theories, your Modern Families) are shows that don't require thought or evaluation; shows that don't challenge the way the audience views television. Community, on the other hand, is all about challenging and evaluating the way the audience views (and thinks about, and writes about) television. One of the reasons it's such an internet darling is that there is so much to dig in to and dissect and really write about. Yes, it's a hilarious show. But it's also intelligent and subversive and character-driven and very, very meta and so the comedy doesn't always come from one-liners. Usually an episode of Community has more jokes than I can put in my Notes & Quotes section, but Documentary Filmmaking: Redux didn't really have very many of those at all. The comedy was either visual (I could watch Jeff be The Dean ALL DAY LONG), a delicately-handled long-term payoff (seeing Luis Guzman wandering the halls of Greendale and standing next to his own statue), or whatever The Dean's descent into insanity was (um, awesome?). Episodes like these are definite third season episodes, where all of the characters and their different capabilities for growth have been established, so they're all just let loose in a crazy situation and we get to see what happens. Episodes like these are proof that television CAN be an art form when given the time and support to explore new realms. TV doesn't just have to be 19 minutes of jokes about celebrities and reinforced gender roles. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux was one of the weirdest episodes of Community yet, and that's why I loved it so much. I know this show has an audience, somewhere out there in the ether - NBC just needs to figure out how to draw in more obsessive, television-loving weirdos like me.

Notes & Quotes

"Stop saying I'm different!"

"Some flies are too awesome for the wall."

"Will your story be yet another sad one about yet another man who just wanted to be happy, or will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that just sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?"
I want that on a poster on my wall, next to a big picture of Abed.

OMG Troy and Britta! I love how their relationship has been quietly, subtly building for almost a year now, and I can't wait to see how it pays off. I hate you, NBC.

Image via TVLine

Monday, November 14, 2011

Worse Than That Time On Cougarton Abbey

This is the worst news of all time. Today NBC announced that Community is being pulled from Thursdays with no set time to return. It is being replaced by 30 Rock, proud owners of one of the most disappointing and uneven seasons of comedy ever, whose star Tracy Morgan still remains an individual who believes it's ok to murder people as long as they are gay and also your children. Whitney, OF COURSE, remains safe for the time being, as it's being switched with Up All Night, which was always the obvious better match up for the Thursday night lineup. And why Community is being smothered when the death-rattling The Office remains in the prime timeslot is absolutely infuriating. Fuck it, this whole thing is infuriating. KEEP LIFE AWESOME! SAVE COMMUNITY!

And now I'm going to go sob into my washcloth, Tobias Funke-style.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Because of the layers?"

Per usual, we're gonna start with the musical numbers. One of the worst nights for music on Glee, y/y? Even if you actually enjoy West Side Story (and are able to ignore all the weird issues of race that the show creates) you have to admit that "America" was butchered all to hell. We'll get to that more in a minute, but first...I think I might have reached my full quota of Lea Michelle singing. As soon as she started with "Tonight, Tonight" I was reminded of back in first season where Tina was singing it and even though she effed up the high note it still sounded better than in this episode. As the episode wore on, I got more and more sick of just hearing her voice. It's not that she's not a technically great singer, obviously she is or we would not be in season 3 of this show, and it's not that I don't enjoy her singing SOMETIMES - but these West Side Story episodes have been very full of both musical theater numbers (which, unless they involve Gershwin or Grease, can often be ugh-inducing for me) and especially musical theater numbers sung by Lea Michelle. It's just boring. But the problem isn't even all with Michelle, it's with the song selection. For the record, The Warblers have never sung a song that I like, but the gag-inducing slaughter they did of "Uptown Girl" was one of the worst. You know who sung that song better? The Chipmunks. There have been five episodes so far and the only worthwhile songs have been Brittany's "Rule The World" and The Troubletone's "Candyman", and guess what, neither of those involved Lea Michelle. Even if you are one of the many, many people who watch this show and like musical theater more than me, you have to admit that the song selection so far this season has been pretty atrocious.


So last year, I posted a few posts about how disappointing How I Met Your Mother had gotten and how it had moved away from the edgy, interesting comedy that I had initially fallen in love with and more towards a traditional CBS sitcom style. There is this one post (you can read it here) in particular that for some reason people have been commenting on for months. Months! And they still are all irate that I said that a show that I love has been declining in quality. Mind you, I never said I hated the show - it's actually a very balanced post, and I am continually flabbergasted that people (a) care enough to comment on a post from MARCH and (b) obviously don't actually read the post because if they did they would know that I really love this show and these characters and what makes me sad is when it feels like they're not given enough to do or that they're not being written well. Ah, well, such is the internet. (Also, (c) I think it's hilarious that somebody commented to defend Ted's dumb house. Sorry, dude, even the other characters think that Ted buying a house was dumb and totally crazy. That is part of the joke.)

Anyway, as I've been watching this season, my thoughts on HIMYM change with every episode. Sometimes Barney makes two really cheap, pretty gross fat-girls-are-ugly-and-sexless jokes before the intro. Sometimes there is Nora (ugh). Last week's Slutty Pumpkin episode was remarkably disappointing (Katie Holmes should not ever try to do comedy). But the addition of Kal Penn has been wonderful, Marshall and Lily have been given more to do this season, and even Ted is more bearable for whatever reason (maybe because he's not the main character most of the time anymore?). And then sometimes there are episodes like "The Ducky Tie" that are so great (let's hear it for bottle episodes!) that it renews my hope for the series. "Disaster Averted" was one of those episodes.

"What's Tron?"

Ok, I know, I KNOW that it is now Wednesday and I promised this post forever ago but hey, sorry I can't be perfect at everything and instead of writing this post I did real-life-adult things like go to a bar and meet someone and then the next night I went to (gasp!) two bars, only one of which was cool and then I spent the next day resting so that I could get my swerve on on Monday. And now I am on the verge of being sick but am double-fisting fluids because damn this guy is hot and kind of looks like young Clint Eastwood crossed with Matthew Mcconaughey and I would like to tap that again right quick alright alright alright. So you're in luck, because this morning I am resting and am hoping to get at least three posts done before work, so here goes!

I really enjoyed "Advanced Gay", but that doesn't mean it didn't have its issues. Queerness has often been the Achille's Heel of my favorite show; it's like they want to be pro-gay but don't really know how to do that and still be funny. I did really enjoy the episode with Britta's lesbian confusion, but other than that the most visible gay character is the Dean, and he has always been presented as more of "pansexual imp" than as a traditional gay man. Which I like! Sexuality is weird and funny, and I do really like that they haven't put Dean Pelton into a stodgy, stereotypical box. There have been some criticisms of this episode that there weren't any "serious" gay characters represented, to which I say, are there any serious characters of any type represented on this show? No. Also, no, there weren't any lesbians, but that's because lesbians have no urgent need for the cleanliness brought about by Hawthorne Pride Wipes - that was the storyline, and it flowed with about as much sense as this show can manage. I also like that Abed, the most rational and least crazy of all, is neither grossed out by gay sex or weirded out by gay dudes (remember when Paul F. Tompkins was on? "I just really really like talking about Farscape" is one of my favorite lines ever. Substitute 'Community' for 'Farscape' and you could put that on my tombstone.). In fact, it's always been a matter of contrast to show the disconnect between Pierce and the others in the group when Pierce calls them all gay all the time. But I didn't think that this episode was Advanced Gay at all...more like Remedial Gay, I'd say. And it wasn't even Pierce's behavior that bothered me - it makes perfect sense that his narcissism and greed would help allow him to move beyond decades of entrenched homophobia, at least superficially - it was Shirley's. The Christian thing gets harder and harder to swallow (remember when her horror story was about THE RAPTURE? How can I relate or even like a character who believes in The Rapture? UGH.), and when she says things like "choose to be gay" or "They may live in defiance of the lord but I'll die before I let a woman touch my hair" it is just plain bothersome. I know it's part of the joke that she believes these stupid things, but I just don't like them being given any credence at all. I hope that one (or both!) of her sons turns out to be gay, and then Malcom Jamal Warner can come on the show and maybe Shirley can actually learn something for a goddamn change.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Where's all the faces?"

Ben Wyatt, stop breaking my heart.

Both Community and Parks & Recreation showed spectacular episodes last night, but we're going to start with Parks & Rec for the arbitrary reason that I had a dream last night that Leslie Knope kidnapped me and took me to a party where Britta was trying to make out with me but only so she could impress Jeff. It was a weird dream.

A few times every season in both Community and Parks & Rec, there will be an episode that is still hilarious, yes, but that also transcends hilarity to bring real emotional depth to the characters and serves to draw the audience deeper into the story purely on the basis of the connection the characters are making. "End Of The World" was one of those episodes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Glee

Glee is back! This season has been really interesting so far, because it has gotten both better and worse at the same time. Better because there are actual character arcs and storylines that carry through from week to week instead of plots just shoehorned in to whatever that episode's theme is; and worse because some of those storylines are kind of dull and the music selection has been mostly bleh. Sometimes it's not even the selection, but the execution - "It's Not Easy Being Green" is actually a beautiful, poignant song that I love, but putting the Irish kid in a bunch of ugly green shirts and then having him warble (not particularly well, I might add) along to a tinny backing track and totally, gruesomely murder my favorite line ("And green can be cool and friendly-like") is not the way to win me back after three weeks of an excess of musical theater numbers. In fact, I might as well be upfront and say that the only song worth anything (and the first song this season I've thought about downloading) was the Troubletones' "Candyman". That shit was fantastic, and I really like where that storyline is going. But I'm getting ahead of myself.