Sunday, September 27, 2009

Glee - Preggers, or Baby Swap!

First off, a huge thank you to everyone who recommended I tune in to this fabulous piece of television. I was skeptical, mostly because it was airing on FOX, but it is truly amazing. It's so well put together that I am completely without snark, if you can believe it. Anyway, let's get down to business at old William McKinley High School.

So, Quinn is pregnant. I'm embarrassed to say that I fully bought the hot tub necking explanation until Mohawk Guy broke it down for us viewers. On other shows, it would seem trite that this bombshell followed directly on the heels of Rachel's "celibacy doesn't work" speech, but that's the best thing about Glee - it takes very stereotypical characters and high school situations, but layers them with the depth and inherent flaws of real life. It brings me back to my high school days so much, it can sometimes be painful to watch.

I'm confused that the two options presented to Quinn and Finn are either abortion or raising the child. Why not give the baby up for adoption? The storyline of Terri taking Quinn's baby could have been much less creepy if the idea of adoption was put forth before. Maybe Ohio still holds a Mad Men-style enmity toward adoption I'm unaware of.

But that brings us to Terri. The most despicable character on Glee, Terri reminds us of the boom times of the early 2000's, where we could put anything and everything on those Pottery Barn credit cards, without a care in the world. She wants everything, and she wants it now, and her grotesque consumerism puts a painfully accurate mirror up to our own culture, just a short time ago. I have no idea how she's going to pull off this false pregnancy, but she seems damned determined. One of my favorite production details is the ominous a capella music that plays whenever Terri schemes, by the way.

I'm having a tough time buying that Rachel will quit New Directions to be Sally Bowles just because Tina got the West Side Story solo. I'm sure she'll realize the error of her ways after slogging through a rehearsal or two with Sandy. Everyone will grow and learn, and it will be great. On a side note, the fact that Tina doesn't stutter when she sings is actually true. Most stutterers have a temporary reprieve when they sing. Isn't that interesting?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Parks and Recreation - The Stakeout, or Marijuana Carrots

So many questions to be answered! Will Ann and Mark have a second date? Will Leslie and Policeman Dave go out? Will Tom change back to his birth name? Do the tops of carrots really look like marijuana?

After tackling gay (penguin) marriage last week, Parks and Recreation took on an equally controversial subject this time around: marijuana. Specifically, someone decided to start growing the fragrant weed in the community park located in The Pit. In order to avoid bad publicity, Leslie wants to take care of it in-house. And what better way to get to the bottom of it without creating a fuss than by having a stakeout? I'll forgive the Parks and Recreation writers for this artificial little construct, if only because Leslie came so prepared. Mixed CD, candy necklaces, GORP, a shovel, and manure. Oh, and a camera and a black hoodie for Tom.

Leslie did have an ulterior motive in the stakeout. After clearing it with Leslie, Ann decided to go out to a movie with Mark. Conveniently, Ann's house is right next to The Pit, in prime stalking location. It was quite the party out there, with Andy, Ann's ex-boyfriend, living in The Pit, and having a run-in with the whole gang before passing out from either sugar saturation or shock that Ann has moved on from his slacker self. The stakeout showcased Leslie's naive exuberance about the world around her. Perhaps the best example is after Andy asked her about her huge plastic bag full of candy necklaces: "It's a necklace! Made out of candy! Want one?" As if no one knew the wonder of jewelry that will give you a sugar rush, there's Leslie Knope, ready to share her magic with everyone.

To make a long story short, Mark calls the cops on Tom after Tom locks himself out of the stakeout van. Tom makes matters infinitely worse after telling the cop, "I'll step out of your momma's van," which lands him a trip downtown. Of course, when trying to bargain Tom out of jail, Leslie drops the bomb about the marijuana. They go to check it out, but the marijuana is gone! Someone's taken it! Or, it was carrots all along.

I'm unclear if there really was marijuana, and it was stolen (leaving room for further investigation into the disappearance), or if both Leslie and Tom mistook harmless carrots for something more sinister. For the record, though, carrots and marijuana do look kind of similar.

The plus side of the situation was an excellent cameo by Louis C.K. Let's hope he continues as a love interest for Leslie in coming episodes.

There was a throwaway storyline about Leslie's boss having a hernia, and judging by the fact that I had to Google "Parks and Recreation characters" to find out what his name was, it wasn't the best use of our time. I would have loved to see more of Mark and Ann's date - Ann was definitely bringing the snark at the beginning, but had seemed to relent at the end, allowing Mark to kiss her - on the cheek! What a gentleman! For those of you unaware, check out Paul Schneider's best work in Drunk History, Volume 4. You'll never look at Paul, or our ninth President, William Henry Harrison, the same way.


The Office - The Meeting, or Secrets

"Secrets, secrets, are no fun" was the lesson this week on The Office. Don't have secret meetings, don't keep secret the real reason you hurt yourself at work, and especially, don't keep secret whether or not you're coming to Jim and Pam's wedding.

This week, we learned that Jim is both up for a promotion, and has another job offer. Naturally, he kept this information secret from Michael, understandably. But when he flaunted it by having a meeting with David Wallace under Michael's nose, he should have known that antics would ensue. And ensue they did. An unexpected moment of hilarity: Andy's strangely elegant discussion on the types of cheese served on his ad-hoc cheese platter. You're right, Andy, it is a lot of fun to let the Goldfish take a swim in the blue cheese. Bon appetit, indeed!

Then, this episode took an interesting detour into the psyche of Michael Scott. He threw Jim under the bus, but was actually telling the truth. Jim is not going to be a good manager. Does anyone remember what happened when Jim was faced with the tough managerial decision of birthday cake? All of Toby's critiques are real - Jim is a distraction, and does (well, did, I suppose) spend way too much time at reception. Which brings us to the biggest shocker of the episode: Michael is wiling to align himself with Toby? TOBY? If anything shows how serious Michael is about this, it has to be that he cited Toby's notes.

But, of course, when confronted, Michael tried to slither back into Jim's good graces. And, it goes without saying, insulted Toby in the process. Michael considers Jim his best friend, and wants him around, but doesn't want to lose his power. At the end of the episode, friendship triumphs over better reasoning, and Michael unwittingly gives up most of his day-to-day responsibilities to keep Jim, Pam, and the baby in the office.

The other great secret this week was what really happened to Darryl's ankle. Dwight and Toby (Toby is getting SO much play this episode - excellent) go on a detective adventure to find out what really happened. Dwight turned out to be right, and Darryl really was scamming Dunder Mifflin into paying his worker's comp. So, Dwight wins? Well, Dwight also sexually harassed Darryl's sister, so Darryl filed a complaint to corporate. In the end, everyone wins except Toby, who has to fill out mountains of paperwork. Dwight and Toby have some excellently awkward chemistry together, and they should team up more often.

Finally, Pam tries to reveal the secret of who's coming to her wedding. Is a long weekend in Niagara Falls better than working? Turns out most of the office is deciding yes. But a question: didn't Ryan get fired? I'm pretty sure the last we heard from him was when there were only enough clients for either Pam or Ryan, and Pam reigned supreme. Then, he's just hanging out in the break room (though with his hair back to its original shade, thank goodness). Am I missing something, dear readers? Although, I wouldn't put it past B. J. Novak to re-insert himself with no explanation just so he could screw with Kelly's head a little bit more.

Overall, a good episode. Everybody's scheming, and it will be a treat to watch Jim flounder, and perhaps succeed, in his new role as co-manager. Plus, Dwight's machinations to destroy Jim will only get funnier and funnier. You can count on it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

True Blood Season 2 - A Retrospective

True Blood has, in my opinion, some of the most engaging, funny, and tragic characters currently on TV. So, to do justice to the season, I want to break down the best and worst moments for each character, as well as a possible glimpse into their futures. In no particular order…

Sookie Stackhouse
As always, Sookie spend the season either standing around watching other people do stuff, or fulfilling the whims of those around her. Waltz into what is clearly a trap? Sure! Suck Eric’s blood? Of course! The best moments for Sookie this season happened in Dallas, when she met her psychic best friend Barry and was also confronted with the possibility of becoming a vampire. Both of these shook up her fundamental beliefs about the world, and you can be that they’ll both be themes next year. Oh, that and trying to find Vampire Bill. More on that later. Bonus best moment: magic maenad lightning! Worst moment: anytime she just stands there and screams. Ugh, do something for once, Sookie!

Jason Stackhouse
Oh, Jason! Pretty much his entire tenure at the Fellowship of the Sun commune was golden. Aside from his amazing quotes, like “Evil is the premedicated decision to be a dick,” Jason suffered through many of the spiritual questions people face when thinking about their faith. Do I trust every tenet of my faith, or can I pick and choose what to believe? Can I trust my leadership? Do we hold the monopoly on truth, or is there room to compromise? In the end, the Newlins were charlatans who exploited a new and scary group, which is a pretty bleak message for the rest of us. But thank God for that paramilitary training – it really came in handy against the black-eyed zombies. NOT. Jason’s worst moment was that handjob in the tub. So awkward. What’s next for our favorite all state QB? Frankly, he’s an enigma. Within the reset button pushed on Bon Temps, he could easily go back to his drinking and philandering. Or maybe he’ll team up with Sook to find Vampire Bill?

Vampire Bill Compton
Bill didn’t do a whole lot this season. He defended Sookie, as always, and was a conduit for important expository information. For example: did you know that all beings wished themselves into existence? I didn’t, and neither did Vampire Bill. But now we both do. Still, I love him. Mostly for the flashbacks. Best moment: “Oh, I’ve read about maenads before.” Cue flashback book, flashback costume, flashback set, and flashback hair. Total time spent on that scene? Maybe two seconds. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Worst moment: the refrain: “Sucky is maaahne!” which occurred about once an episode. What’s next for Bill? The inside of a canvas bag, apparently. Badum-dum! But seriously, folks, I’m fairly certain that Eric stole him. “I’ll take care of him personally,” were Eric’s words. Yeah, he did, all right. There’s also a theory that it was Fellowship of the Sun. We’ll see!

Jessica and Hoyt
Best couple ever! I’ve been waiting for a juicy storyline for poor Hoyt after he was relegated to playing third fiddle behind Jason and Rene last season. He’s such a sweet boy, and Jessica turned out to be much better than her initial characterization in Season 1. But then everything was ruined was Jessica drank Mrs. Fortenberry’s blood. If I had a dime for every time that situation has ended a relationship…oh well. I predict that next season, Hoyt will try to win Jessica back from her slutty, trucker-drinking ways. Will he succeed, or will he be drained for his efforts? Stay tuned!

Shapeshifter Sam Merlotte
I haven’t cared about Sam since it became apparent that Sookie will always choose Vampire Bill over Shapeshifter Sam. But Alan Ball seems determined to make me care that he was abandoned by his parents, and track his adventures for self-discovery. Best moment: his heart-to-heart with Andy Belfleur in the meat locker, when it looked like it was the end of the road for them both. Worst moment: Daphne. I mean, I know Sam is good-hearted and na├»ve, but really? She had huge claw marks on her back, and it took him three episodes to ask about it. What’s next? Find his parents, learn about himself, blah, blah, blah. My bet is that they’re werewolves.

Eric Northman
After losing his mentor/lover? Godric, we saw the human side of Viking McViking this season. He cries! He laughs! He smiles! I will still always root for Vampire Bill for Sookie’s heart (figuratively and literally – hey-oh!), but I now see the appeal. I really hope Sookie doesn’t give it to the attraction that resulted from drinking his blood - sexual attraction, as Bill laboriously pointed out. We'll see if Sookie and Eric team up to rescue Vampire Bill, assuming he isn't the kidnapper. OR, he is the kidnapper, but pretends to help Sookie to lure her into his clutches.

As you can see, I could talk about True Blood all day, so post your favorite moments, character developments, and predictions for next season. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Open Letter to Joel McHale, on the Occasion of the Premiere of his New Sitcom

Dear Joel McHale,

You are an attractive and talented man. You are the host of one of the funniest shows on TV (though vastly underappreciated, poorly scheduled, and has the misfortune to be broadcast on E!). So, why, Joel, did you decide to betray your fans with a mediocre sitcom for NBC?

While the premise of Community is intriguing - a slick lawyer is about to be disbarred for not having an undergraduate degree, unless he attends a local community college - the pilot relied on wacky costars rather than focusing on you, Joel, the hilarious and witty man that you are. Your one moment to shine was an inspired monologue on what separates humans from the animals: our ability to connect to and forgive anything around us, as exemplified by our love of Shark Week and the generosity of bestowing a screenwriting Oscar on Ben Affleck.

But who’s surprised that you can sharply deliver media criticism? If they are, they shouldn’t be. That’s your job! That’s what you do – and we love you for it! No one cares about your budding relationship with a cynical high-school dropout who bears a remarkable resemblance to Elizabeth Shue, nor your abusive friendship with an Asberger’s addled half-Arab (not my words, Joel). And Chevy Chase? Really? I mean, really?

We care about you, Joel. Your smirky smile, your endearing gangliness, and most of all, your intelligent, dead-pan humor.

And that script. I’m embarrassed for both of us. You receive a manila envelope with all the answers to all your exams for the semester, only to find out they’re blank pages? I can only imagine that pitch: “Don’t you get it? He thinks he has all the answers, but he doesn’t! He doesn’t have any of the answers! It’s a parallel to his life! You get it?”

Yes, we get it, anonymous junior writer. And your ham-handedness is not appreciated here.

Joel, I’ll be honest. This is not a show I’m going to continue to watch. Unless, of course, it’s just you and your musings on today’s culture.

But wait – that show already exists.

Best of luck,

Marissa


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Return of Must See TV Thursday

This Thursday was the return of both The Office and Parks and Recreation from their summer hiatuses. I've spent the whole summer wondering what was next for The Office, especially Jim and Pam's wedding, and pretty much anything involving Oscar, Kevin, Stanley, or Creed. Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, left me cold last season, and I had the clear impression that Amy Poehler was riding the last wave of her 15 minutes, before fading into elastic-faced obscurity.

Well, I was wrong.

I should preface this by explaining that I can't stand The Office episodes where Michael is an irredeemable boor. Some viewers find this endearing and comical, but I liken it to watching Jackass, that other paragon of TV dignity. You can only watch a man getting his balls kicked so many times before it just isn't funny.

ANYWAY, this episode revolved around Michael stumbling upon a very juicy piece of gossip (hence the title: Gossip) and subsequently, ruining lives left and right. In fact, there were two mentions of Michael ruining a coworker's life with his ridiculous and unfunny antics. In a nutshell, Michael finds out that Stanley is having an affair. After Michael confronts him and Stanley admits to it, Michael creates a bevy of other outrageous lies about his coworkers to cover the only real one. In doing so, he also reveals that Pam is pregnant (a lucky guess on his part, of course). When everyone finds out about Michael's rumormongoring, Jim and Pam admit they're expecting, but Michael still blows Stanley's cover for...unclear reasons.

First off, I didn't buy for a second that Stanley would ever tell Michael about his affair. Of all the characters on The Office, Stanley is the only who seems to truly understand what an unreliable, childish, and weak person Michael is. (This is, of course, exemplified in the amazing episode, Did I Stutter?, also home to the best Kevin line of the series.) So why would he turn around and trust him with such a devastating secret?

To create a vehicle for Michael to create vaguely true rumors about everyone else, of course! Kelli's anorexic, Oscar is the voice of the Taco Bell spokesdog, Kevin has someone inside him controlling him like a robot, etc., etc. The only truly funny moment of this episode was when Oscar refused to reassure Andy that he wasn't gay. "What exactly is my responsibility here? To comfort insecure heterosexual men? That can't possibly fall to me." Oh, Oscar.

Turning from this episode to Parks and Recreation, I was happily surprised to find Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope as refreshing as a mojito on a hot day (God, I miss summer). She was charming, earnest, yet completely incompetent - everything that Michael Scott tries to be, but for me, has been falling far into the abyss of painful stupidity.

Leslie unwittingly marries two gay penguins at the Pawnee Zoo, then finds herself in the middle of a firestorm of scandal (a Pawnee-sized firestorm, of course, which means it is very small). I could really see Leslie fighting to keep her public facade while being cheered by the denizens of The Bulge, a local gay bar, and finally giving in to the adoration of the crowd, against her better instincts. She's stupid and sometimes hurts people, just like Michael Scott, but always does something to fix it, or, alternately, is appropriately and hilariously punished. I think my main problem with Michael's highjinks on The Office is that he never faces any real retribution for his actions, whereas Park and Recreation's Leslie Knope always has to own up, and fast.

Plus, Rashida Jones has an amazing scene where she makes fun of her deadbeat boyfriend for pronouncing mature "ma-tuuur". And maybe it's only because I secretly think everyone who pronounces it that way is stuck up, but she definitely scored one in my book. Maybe someday I'll forgive her for dating Jim.

But that's another story.

Overall, a disappointing start for The Office, but this week gave me more hope for upcoming Parks and Recreation episodes.

Until next time!

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