Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Office - The Lover, or Pam Goes Crazy

As much as it pains me to say it, I think I'm actually on Michael's side of this week's argument. I know.

This week, Jim and Pam returned from Costa Rica, full of in-jokes - "Frank and Beans!" - and Puerto Rican candy for their office mates. Shortly upon their return, Michael makes a shocking disclosure to Jim - he's dating Pam's recently divorced mother. Jim advises him to never, ever tell Pam, but after Erin accidentally reveals that Michael is going on a date that night, Pam begs to know who his new girlfriend is. After trying to hedge, he finally reveals the truth.

Pam then proceeds to go off the deep end, running to the parking lot screaming, calling and berating her mother, and generally being kind of a jerk to Michael and everyone else in the office. The real reason that Pam is upset is never really made clear - it mostly hinges on the "Ew!" factor (understandable) and how awkward it makes things for her.

But really, she's the one making it super awkward for everyone, openly criticizing Michael for non-Mom dating crimes. The rest of the office is split, some taking Pam's side that Michael crossed the line by even considering dating a co-worker's parent, while others say that Pam's mom is an adult, able to make her own decisions.

As the episode progressed and Pam refused to get less angry, Michael became more and more sympathetic, even comforting Pam's mother after Pam harshly berates her. At the end of the episode, Pam seems slightly mollified, but still pretty irate.

The sub plot this week is that Dwight gives Jim a wooden mallard with a listening device implanted in it, so he can "surveil" Jim. Jim figures this out, and pulls some pranks on Dwight. Finally, he reveals that he knows the duck (mallard!) is a listening device, and makes Dwight wash and buff Pam's car.

BUT, at the end we see that the real surveillance device is installed in the tip of one of Jim's pens, and the mallard was only a decoy. Oh Dwight, so wily. The episode ends with him listening intently as Jim yammers about different types of paper to a customer. Who knows what damning secrets Dwight may hear?

Moving forward, I don't know how they're going to make it work with Michael and Pam's mom. It is, admittedly, pretty sketchy, but Michael seems truly happy with her, and Pam's mom clearly likes him too. Will Pam get over it? Will they double date? It was nice to see Pam stretch her character a little, rather than the same old "nice, and slightly awkward" thing she's had going thus far. I'm all for a full range of emotion, but let's try to make it a little more relatable next time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

30 Rock - Into the Crevasse, or You'll Never Believe Who Plays Liz

This week, we saw the return of Dealbreakers, a plot point I readily admit to have forgotten all about. Well, Liz has a book now, and all her male friends and co-workers are incensed.

Turns out that Liz cribbed heavily from her less than ideal male acquaintances, much to the detriment of their love lives. The best deal breaker: "If your man owns a diamond necklace that says 'Open Marriage' that's a deal breaker." Well, you can guess who that piece of bling belongs to - one Tracy Jordan. After Angie kicks Tracy out, he forcibly inserts himself into Liz's apartment for the foreseeable future.

Jenna's also mad at Liz these days, although not for Dealbreakers. She's still fuming over the still non-existent new cast member, so has decided to star in a student film in Iceland about werewolves called "Moonstalkers". Unfortunately, because Iceland is so far north, it receives about a minute of darkness each night this time of year. So, it looks like Jenna will be gone for a long time, considering the entire film takes place at night.

Also, where is this new castmember?? 30 Rock writers, you continue to tease me with the promise of a new actor, but fail to deliver!

Meanwhile, Jack makes a daytrip to DC (woot!) to testify before the new industry task force on microwaves and small appliances. Jack is convinced that he'll wow the panel and be back to NYC before dinner. But, when he sits down with his GE cronies, the man staring at him from across the table is none other than DEVON BANKS! Bum, bum, buuumm!

In fact, 30 Rock indulges in not one but two "Bum, bum, buuumm"s, one uttered by Devon, and the next intoned by ominous trombones immediately after. It's the small details like this, 30 Rock, that make me love you so.

ANYWAY, after Devon drills into Jack about negligent company spending, he leaks the testimony to the papers, dooming GE to a government shutdown. It turns out that Devon spent the entire fall worming his way into the Obama's inner circle, mainly by being BFF's with Sasha and Malia. He took control of the task force specifically to destroy Jack, and now it looks like he'll have his way.

Back at Liz's apartment, Tracy continues to punish Liz, adopting 20 dogs (rescued by Kenneth from an animal shelter right before they were about to be put down) and buying porn left and right.

To save the company, Jack tries improving upon the basic design of the microwave, but ends up accidentally inventing the modern American automobile - obscenely huge and shoddily made. Liz goes to Jack for help with the Tracy problem, and he, in a King Solomon decision, decrees that since Liz used Tracy's life for gain, Tracy will have the same opportunity. Jack says that Tracy will receive ownership of Liz's life rights, to do with what he will.

Jack then imparts a tale from his past, chronicling the importance of "climbing down" - doing what seems the opposite of intuitive in order to get yourself out of an impossible situation.

Of course, this will then come into play for the resolutions of both their tales. Liz makes a deal that Tracy to help him do the most humiliating thing possible with her life story: make a porn out of it. She agrees to write it, and he will film it.

On Jack's end, he appeals to Devon's insatiable urge for power, and tells him that, instead of destroying GE, Devon can make Jack take government bailout money, effectively making Devon his boss. This sates his desire for revenge, but now Jack will again be an underling to Banks.

We're privileged enough to see a few of the shots of the porn that Tracy films, which take verbatim dialogue from earlier scenes in the episode and pornify them. As I was watching, I was convinced that the actress playing Liz in the porn was the same adult film star who played "Serra Paylin" in that adult film classic "Who's Nailin' Paylin?" I thought it was a beautiful moment of ultra meta-casting, but it turns out my excitement was for naught. The woman playing Liz was not in "Who's Nailin' Paylin?", and is Savanna Samson, also an adult movie actress.

Fun fact: Savanna broke into the pornography business because her then-fiance's fantasy had always been to see her have sex with another woman, so, as a wedding gift, she filmed a porn with an adult movie producer. The movie took off, she had clear...talents, and thus, an adult film star was born. I'm not kidding.

Overall, a well-crafted episode. It featured the kinds of unnecessary flashbacks (Do the Microwave!) and delicious non-sequitors (Lazer Shield...) that make 30 Rock a joy for vigilant watchers.

P.S. Did anyone else notice that they cut the opening sequence in favor of just the title flashing across the screen with a black background? Weird. I hope they aren't going the way of Lost. As long as you keep the ominous, crescendoing horn music out of it, I guess it'll be okay.

House - Instant Karma, or The Ghost of Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital

This week's opening was so prosaically shot that I honestly thought it was an opening Hulu commercial for an anti-depressant. It featured a middle-aged guy with a sad looking dog sitting at the end of a tree-lined road. But, it turned out Mr. Sad is really some sort of energy tycoon with a seriously ill son. So, he demands the prowess of Dr. House to find out what's killing his boy. Cuddy tries to persuade him that Foreman is a suitable replacement, but unless Dr. House is "dead, comatose, or crazy", Mr. Sad will have him!

So, now House is making the calls while Foreman is the front man. To complicate matters, they have to give a presentation at the Morbidity and Mortality Conference (doesn't that sound like fun?) on the recently deceased president from last week's episode. In case you missed it, Chase injected the genocidal tyrant with the blood of a cadaver to fake test results into showing a different disease. The treatment for that false disease ended up killing the tyrant, of which Chase was well aware. And now they have to do a presentation about it without revealing that they intentionally killed him. Whoops!

House and the gang run through the gamut of diagnoses for the little boy: brain cancer, stomach dancer, abdominal epilepsy, and finally realize that it's an incurable, obscure disease. The boy has little more than a day left to live. After House makes this reveal, Mr. Sad signs some papers that somehow bankrupt his vast fortune. I didn't even know you could do that. He's convinced that his good fortune in business has created bad karma for his family life, killing his son.

Meanwhile, Thirteen has decided to leave the country and head to Thailand for an unspecified amount of time. But on her way to the airport, it turns out her airline ticket has been mysteriously canceled! Who could it be? She confronts House, Foreman, House again, and no one has any idea who it could have been. Ooooh, spooky.

Finally, she finds out that the cancellation came from Wilson's computer's IP address, and confronts him. He fesses up to it, but then turns around and tells House that it actually wasn't him! OooOOOOoohhhh.

While making a Grinch reference during this discussion with Wilson (something about a heart three sizes too small), House realizes that his previous diagnosis was wrong, and the little boy has a treatable heart condition. He changes the course of treatment, and the boy makes a miraculous recovery. The father is convinced that the son's health is a byproduct of selling off his vast assets, to which House rolls his eyes dramatically.

And then, another mystery! Foreman has discovered that they can't cover up the president's true cause of death after a wild fluctuation of cholesterol (caused by the introduction of a cadaver's blood into his body) is obvious in his charts. With no other alternative, Foreman decides he'll come clean and tell the truth about what happened. Chase is very nervous.

But then! Someone has mysteriously placed an old prescription for high doses of cholesterol drugs in the president's file, as his old doctor had been trying to raise the president's HDL. Now, his murder will successfully be covered up! But who found the old prescription and put it in the file? OoooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhhhh.

Well, turns out it was House on both counts. He hacked into Wilson's computer and deleted Thirteen's reservation, as well as found out about Chase killing the president and how to conveniently cover it up. Oh, House, you old ghoul!

Glee - Mash Ups, or So Much Will Shuster

The tables have turned at William McKinley High School! Quinn and Finn are no longer A-list, Puck and Rachel have a fling, and Sue Sylvester is nice!

Turns out that, since Finn is part of glee club, his football buddies have turned on him and now slosh him with Slushee's every time he walks by. Since Finn has been incapacitated by corn syrup in the eye, he can't take the lead on a new song that Will has proposed be the base of the mash up (get it?) for their sectional diddy. The answer? Will himself must sing and dance his way through it.

In fact, this entire episode was pretty much a vehicle for Will to get in some singing and dancing time. Not only did he rap through "Bust a Move", he also sang and danced to "The Thong Song", had a duet with Sue to "Sing, Sing, Sing", and danced with Emma to "I Could Have Danced All Night". Of course, all these seemingly spontaneous dance numbers were totally necessary and explained in the course of the plot.

"The Thong Song" occurred when Emma and Ken ask Will to help them create a (wait for it) mash up of their two favorite songs, and teach them how to dance. Ken's song of choice is, of course, "The Thong Song", so there's a great sequence with Emma in a Princess Diana-style wedding dress and Will singing and dancing all around her, while she stands prone.

Ken walks in on their merry-making and has finally reached the last straw of the Emma-Will flirtation. To punish Will, he makes all the guys on both football team and glee club choose which extracurricular to pursue, once and for all.

Meanwhile, we get a glimpse into Puck's home life. Turns out his real name is Noah Puckerman, and his mother compares him to the Nazis while berating him for not dating any nice Jewish girls. Well, turns out Puck does know a nice Jewish girl: Rachel!

The two start dating, much to the chagrin of both Quinn and Finn, due to their crushes on Puck and Rachel, respectively. I'm truly glad that the writers have figured out that Rachel Berry is totally hot, and also that Puck sang an awesome rendition of "Sweet Caroline" as a tribute to a great Jewish American song writer.

Abruptly, we find ourselves watching a swing dance sequence with Will and Sue. After their dance, Sue explains that she's letting Quinn stay on the cheerleading squad out of pity (which explains that she's still wearing that ridiculous outfit all the time) and she's given up her hate of glee club. Why? Turns out she's started dating the TV anchor of the evening news, on which she sometimes contributes for a segment called Sue's Corner. Apparently, love makes Sue into a new, generous person, who is also an awesome swing dancer.

Will confronts Ken about making the kids choose between glee and football, which reveals that Ken knows all about Emma's obsession with Will. Will admits that he hasn't done anything to quell Emma's love, and promises that Ken won't have to worry about Will anymore. But, Ken still keeps up the dueling clubs, holding a mandatory football practice during glee's rehearsal time. Jerk!

The next dance number is Emma and Will dancing to "I Could Have Danced All Night" with Emma taking the lead! I don't know why I was surprised that she could sing as well, as I should have realized that singing and dancing skills were probably a prerequisite to audition. Anyway, they dance (with her in a much better dress) and it's beautiful. Will can't stay long, though, as he has to determine which of the football guys will choose glee at 3:30.

After much anticipation, all the football guys choose glee, except Finn! Now, they don't have enough members for sectionals, and the club must disband. To add insult to injury, the football team forces Finn to hurl a Slushee at Kurt, or face a beatdown. Finn Hamlets it up, being wishy washy while waving the Slurpee in Kurt's face. Finally, Kurt forcibly takes the Slushee from him and showers himself. Why? Because he's taking one for the team. "Now get out of here," Kurt says, grape slush dripping from his face, "and take some time to think about whether any of your friends on the football team would have done that for you."

Oh, Kurt! Apparently, Finn really did take some time and think about it, because he pleads with Coach Ken to let all the kids participate in both clubs, and Ken relents.

So, is everything now back to normal? Well, not exactly. After walking in on her new beau making out with his co-anchor, Sue is devastated, and takes her anger out on the kids. She's back to demanding set lists from Will and impulsively kicks Quinn off the Cheerios. In the final scene, we see Quinn donning normal human apparel, about which she is devastated, for some reason. The episode closes with all the glee members sloshing Will with a Slushee, for unclear reasons. But it was cute.

One lingering question, and I don't know if I've raised it before, but the writers really have to get on this soon. How on earth is Tracy going to make a baby swap if she's already "showing" (quotation marks because it's all padding) and Quinn's belly is flat as a board? Will she have to tell Will that he can't see the baby for however many months until Quinn actually gives birth? And please, Glee writers, don't do the thing where Quinn suddenly sprouts a belly overnight.

That aside, this episode was pretty fantastic. It's everything we want from Glee: singing, dancing, making out, breaking up, and hilarious one-liners. My favorite from this week came from Ken Tanaka: "I had a monster case of Athlete's Foot a couple years back and I got all my toenails removed, so if she steps on my feet during the dance I might pass out." Brilliant.

Dexter - Dex Takes a Vacation, or Cheating = Death

This week, Dexter reminded us what it was like when Dex was a loner - on his own schedule, able to play wicked cool mind games with killers, and being generally awesome. But at the end, we saw that Dexter really has changed, and is fully committed to his family.

The frame of the episode is that Rita and the kids are off to a vague relative's wedding, leaving Dexter alone for a precious 72 hours. He uses this time to stalk a female cop who killed her husband and young daughter. She set up the crime scene like a drug dealer had invaded her home looking for retribution, even shooting herself to make it seem more realistic. But, when Dexter uncovers the blue gloves she wore in her garbage disposal, he's convinced it was her.

But a twist! Zoe, the cop, realizes that Dexter is stalking her, and takes matters into her own hands. At first, Dexter is nervous, but then realizes that he can use her zeal for killing against her, luring her to his own house, then bringing the kill. While wrapped in cellophane, Zoe makes the standard plea that she's innocent, and then tries to rationalize her killing spree by saying that Dexter is just like her. He realizes in that moment that he truly does love his family, that they're more than a cover for his dark deeds, then stabs her. Beautiful.

Meanwhile, Deb and Lundy continue their awkward flirtation, all while poor, sweet Anton looks on sadly. Lundy actually has an encounter with Trinity, and Lundy takes note that he's sort of a weird dude. Deb and Lundy end up reigniting their affair, but as Deb makes her way to her car after the whoopie-making, an unknown assailant shoots them and takes Lundy's wallet, probably killing Lundy but leaving Deb seriously wounded.

End of episode.

Wow. So, first off, I realized this episode the folly of having the season's serial killer be a dude who only kills three people at a time. They're going to have to space this out a ton, especially after having the first two be killed within the first three episodes. Trinity has clearly staked out his next victim, which we saw this week, but how long can they have him wait to kill him before it gets boring? Then what - we just see the police trying to find him? Based on his MO, it looks like Trinity just skips down after the third kill, just to repeat it in a different city. Does this mean that we'll see Dex and the gang take the show on the road? Dexter: Tulsa? I'm pretty curious to see how they'll make this work for the rest of the season.

And seriously, Lundy is dead now?! Does this mean that Deb will pick up his mantle and take over the Trinity investigation? Also, Dexter writers gave us a pretty clear message on their view of cheating this week, that can be summed up as cheating = death. But if Lundy is actually dead, Deb may never have to fess up to her diversion and reconnect with Anton. We'll see, dear readers, we'll see.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Results of the Poll, and an Update

Hey gang,

So, Liz Lemon, eh? Good choice. Side note: I've never understood 30's Rock characterization of Liz as an ugly duckling that can never get a date. I mean, come on.

But then, I looked at some vintage Tina, and found, well, these.

I think there's a lesson in there somewhere about the power of makeup and lighting, but I choose to believe that Tina's sheer talent willed her body to hotness.

Anyway, I'm getting close to being a full week behind, but have no fear, I'm not doing much this weekend, so it will be catch up time.

I hope you're all enjoying the autumnal weather!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mad Men - The Color Blue, or Peggy and Paul's Excellent Adventure

Memo to Don: get a safe deposit box!

But before we get to that big reveal, I want to talk about the fractured morality tale that went on between Paul Kinsey and Peggy Olson. It was great to see Peggy in her element, without the shadow of Pete lurking over her. However, we caught a deeply depressing glimpse into Peggy's psyche when she replied, "He hates me," after an accusation that she was Don's favorite. He doesn't hate you, Peggy! You remind him of himself! Someday you'll platonically run away together and start your own ad agency!

We saw Pete's absurd jealousy that Peggy developed one of his ideas into a usable format, and then it became perfectly clear why Paul needs a little help in the idea department. Although he pictures himself an avant garde intellectual, Paul is secretly an icky, procrastinating layabout who does things in offices that no person should ever do in any office no matter what time of the day it is. Throughout this montage of disgusting, we saw clips of Peggy, also working late, though diligently and politely. She even excused herself for a burp in an empty room. Adorable!

In the morning, the industrious ant succeeded again after Peggy struck gold on an off-hand comment of Paul's. That'll teach you, Mr. Tiger Tones!

When Don wasn't at the office, critiquing ads (like it was his job or something), he continued his absurd affair with Little Miss Sunshine, Susan Farell. Ugh. Susan's epileptic brother was in town, and Don took a strange liking to the little schemer, and essentially helped him con his sister out of $300. I'm not sure that if the message of their whole interlude was that, like women, African Americans, Jews, and pretty much everyone that wasn't Don Draper, epileptics had it tough in the 60's, so they had to scrape by however they could, or if this guy was just another con artist who managed to scam Don. Regardless, Miss Farell continues to be cloyingly sweet and annoying. She's also taken a shine to the classic stoner philosophical question of, "Dude, what if, like, the color that I see as blue, isn't what you see as blue. What if it's, like, yellow, or something. Whooooaaaa." Give me a break.

Back at the Draper household, where Don spends less and less time, we added another name to the privileged few who know about Don's secret identity - one Elizabeth Draper. Betty was still recovering from the malaise left in the aftermath of the Rome trip when Don's secret drawer key was found spinning round and round in the tumble cycle. Another good reason to do your own laundry.

First off, I've always had trouble with the "Betty doesn't know" conceit on which this whole thing is based. Sure, everyone was repressed in the 60's, but not asking where your husband's family was? Not being suspicious that you never met a single member of them? I can only imagine that conversation:

"And where are your parents now, Don?"

"They're dead. All dead. Everyone. No use asking any more questions about them, as they all died in a horrible fire and their remains were unidentifiable."

"Oh, okay, then."

Anyhow, Bets chose not to confront Don about his former life (including a Californian first wife - what will the neighbors say!), and instead, passively aggressively almost make him late for his big celebratory dinner.

But, he arrives in time, and the credits roll as Don gives what I'm sure was an rousing (Churchill rousing, not Hitler rousing, of course) speech on the past, present, and future of the ad agency.

P.S. Turns out Lois still works at Sterling Cooper, although she's been demoted to Paul's desk! So, just to recap: not giving in to coerced gay sex: fired. Run over a dude's foot with a John Deere: not fired. Damn.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Office - Mafia, or Meh-fia

Well, Oscar said it best: "Pam and Jim are on their honeymoon, so there's not the usual balance between sane and others."

This week, "the others" reigned supreme in the office, convincing Michael that an Italian-American insurance salesman was a mob enforcer come to shake down their little empire. Despite Oscar's best efforts, neither Pam nor Jim came to the rescue with rationalism, so wacky antics ensued. After deciding that they're being hit up by the mob, Michael, Dwight, and Andy go out to lunch (at an Italian restaurant, of course) with Mr. Grotti to determine his intentions. Michael becomes so scared of Mr. Grotti's perceived threats that he folds, and signs an expensive insurance plan so that the mob doesn't burn his warehouse down or drive one of his trucks off the road.

Michael is so upset about the new insurance plan, he calls Jim on his honeymoon in Puerto Rico for advice. In the only funny part of this episode, Jim pulls off the classic phone trick of pretending the phone is static-y and cutting out during the most important part of what he has to say. "All you're gonna need to-" Jim says, " then go to you'll be saved." Call ended. Brilliant. Even when Jim isn't there, he's still fantastic.

After a severe round of buyer's remorse, Dwight and Andy feel bad that they convinced Michael that Mr. "Grotti" was, in fact, a thin cover for a certain other infamous Italian name, and tell Michael that, after extensive research, they've determined he isn't a mobster, but a harmless salesman. Michael then rudely cancels his insurance, and makes some veiled threats of his own. Dwight and Andy reveal that they think Mr. Grotti is still a member of organized crime, so Michael is sure to be killed.

Also in the office, Kevin has discovered the joys of Jim's new office, and taken it as his own during Jim's vacation. When Jim's credit card company calls to verify his identity (because his card is being used in Central America), Kevin accidentally impersonates Jim and has the credit card cancelled.

So, with any hope, this will mean our heroes will be back soon, so they can level out the crazy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

30 Rock - Season 4, or Jay Leno Smackdown

30 Rock has always straddled the line between fiction and reality, taking place at a real TV channel, but with fake shows, a real parent company, but fake employees, etc., etc. At the start of this season, 30 Rock continues to bend reality, mixing fact and fiction.

The episode opens with Jack breaking the fourth wall and welcoming us all to Season 4...the restaurant! Turns out that TGS has lost touch with "real" America, so Jack takes them to Season 4 for a sampling of real American cuisine - namely, Cheesy Blasters, some god-awful hybrid of Hot Pockets and Pizza Rolls. Jack says they need to get back to their roots. So, Jenna goes country and sings a diddy about NBC Tennis coverage. That always helps. Jack also tells Liz to hire a new cast member, presumably someone more "real".

Back in the studio, we learn that GE has cut overtime for pages, much to Kenneth's chagrin. He's willing to take one for the team, until he mistakenly receives Jack's paycheck rather than his own. "So many zeros..." he says, before rushing to Jack's office to demand an explanation. If there's no money for overtime, how can he have such an extravagant paycheck? Jack tries to explain, but falls into a trap when he reveals that this check was actually a bonus. Then, there's no stopping Kenneth, who leads the pages in a strike.

Liz and Pete start sneaking around, going to comedy clubs to find the next cast member, while trying to keep it a secret from the cast and crew. This, of course, fails miserably, as they cop to having an affair, rather than revealing the truth. Of course, Pete's wife walks in, tries to start up a weird menage e trois situation, and the truth comes out. Josh quits, and Jenna and Tracy join the page strike. Also joining the page strike are a union of mall Santas, and a federation of bucket drummers.

Now, with most everyone part of the strike, and the efforts of Lenny Wosniak to find dirt on Kenneth amounting to nil, the only choice is for Jack to concede, and write "I am a big ole liar" on a piece of paper for Kenneth, ending the strike. Roll credits.

But wait! If you stick around through the credits, you see a glimpse of Jack and Liz watching Jenna's "Tennis Night in America" video, complete with Confederate flag undies, exploding 18-wheelers, and the lines, "Got my lawn chair in my truck/Not an ocean in sight,/So kiss my ass, New York/'cuz it's Tennis Night!" Liz concedes that she hates that she kind of likes it, to which Jack replies, "There's nothing wrong with being fun and popular and just giving people what they want." Then, Jack, with no pretense of an in-show justification, turns to us and says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Jay Leno."

OH, SNAP. To take an entire episode predicated on elitism, and have it culminate in a pot shot to Jay Leno was a pretty bold move, and a departure from the deftly created "fake" NBC that 30 Rock so rarely parts with. Obviously, the audience of 30 Rock departs so fully from the type of viewers who love Jay Leno and Confederate flags, that they felt safe bringing this smackdown. But dang, Tina Fey, that's pretty cold.

Overall, the episode was a good opener, and introduced some good conflict to deal with in upcoming episodes, presuming that they follow through with finding a new castmember.

I'm interested to see how 30 Rock deals with their precarious real/fake balance in future episodes, considering the imminent takeover of NBC by Comcast. How can Jack be a GE employee if GE no longer owns NBC? Will they pretend the whole thing never happened? Introduce a whole new cast of characters? And how will the new parent company react to being satirized on the Emmy-winning sitcom?

Whatever happens, I'm confident it will be silly, funny, and relevant.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Glee - Throwdown, or Baby Drizzle

What happens when you take militaristic discipline and team it with warm, curly-haired compassion? A pretty wonderful episode of Glee.

Granted, I was on a lot of cold medication at the time, but I was hooked from the slo-mo verbal joust sequence. And the bit about warring voice-overs? Self-referentially priceless.

This week, Sue Sylvester became co-chair of New Directions, and, to pit the kids against one another and destroy the club, she chose all the minority students to form a club within the club, called Sue's Kids. Let's just gloss over the fact that she doesn't choose Rachel, who is both Indian and Jewish, to be one of her minions.

In order to get back at her, Will goes into the trenches of psychological warfare and flunks all the Cheerios, with good reason. Best line of the episode, "She misspelled her name!" Sue flips out about the decimation of her cheer squad, and tries to blackmail the principal into firing Will. This does not work, and Sue is really mad.

In the land of teenagers, that creepy guy who's obsessed with Rachel apparently has a blog, and is about to out Quinn's pregnancy. The dude goes to Rachel for confirmation, and, in order for him not to run the story, Rachel gives him a pair of her panties. Gross, and definitely not high school appropriate. She tells Finn about it, and he promises to make it up to her. She swoons.

Finn's mind, however, is on more pressing issues. Specifically, he's taken up his fatherhood role with gusto, going to ultrasounds and suggesting baby names. Well, just one name, actually, but the best baby name of all time: Drizzle. Yep, like when it's only a little raining, but you don't need an umbrella. Oh, Finn. This puts Quinn in a tizzy, and she reiterates that she will be giving the baby up for adoption, and Finn has no say in the matter. Finn is sad.

So, without the minority students, Will is left with Rachel (inexplicably), Quinn, and Finn to sing "No Air". During their meager performance, Sue starts to leave in a huff, and the titular Throwdown begins. Sue accuses Will of having stupid hair, and Will accuses Sue of not caring about the children and being a bad teacher. All members of the club (minority and non) then walk out, refusing to be a part of such dysfunction.

For some unknown reason, this strikes a chord with Sue, who realizes that it's better if she steps down from New Directions, so they will grow, learn, and win at sectionals. "Because when I coach them, and they win, I win," she says, as though that explains everything. Yeah, what? When did her major objective not becoming destroying the glee club just for fun? It's unclear, but I think she still has something up her sleeve.

But, in a parting shot before her final exit from New Directions, Sue reveals that she knows Quinn is pregnant. How? During locker sweeps, she ran across Rachel's underthings in creepy dude's locker, who spilled the beans. Because she was so upset that Quinn hadn't come to her first, Sue told him to run the story.

Oooh, sick burn! So, now Quinn will finally get to wear some clothes other than that dopey cheerleading uniform, and will learn who her real friends are. My bet? The people in New Directions, and no one else.

P.S. There was also a sub-sub plot about Terri continuing her baby charade, and blackmailing her obstetrician to perform a fake ultrasound with Will in the room and reveal that the baby is actually a girl (because that's what Quinn's baby is). Will cried from happiness, and Terri continues to be a terrible person.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

House - The Tyrant, or Nooo, James Earl Jones is a genocidal dictator!

That's right, folks, you heard it here first: this week on House, James Earl Jones is an African warlord bent on the destruction of the Sutibi, a fictional ethnic group in a fictional African dictatorship. When James Earl Jones comes to America to speak at the UN, he's served a subpoena that makes him vomit blood. Yeah, that's what you get when you come to America, bitches!

Anyway, he's taken to the diagnostics team to figure out what's wrong. Foreman has been joined by Cameron and Chase, since Talb quit and Thirteen was fired. House is also back, up to his old tricks. They try all sorts of different procedures, each one not working, while each member of the team realizes just how bad this dude truly is. It becomes a Hippocratic Oath question of whether or not they can, in good conscience, treat someone who will most likely be responsible for the genocide of hundreds of thousands.

NO, you guys, NO. Do NOT treat the genocidal tyrant! Let him die, because he's a bad dude. There. Done. But no, they have to draw it out in this whole existential crisis, what does it mean to be a doctor bull crap for about thirty minutes. Ugh.

Meanwhile, House is having a feud with Wilson's downstairs neighbor because House is too loud, with the cane and all. The neighbor is a cranky old Vietnam war vet who lost his right hand. House goes on an amusing adventure, trying to prove that the guy's a faker, by determining that he has private (not veterans') insurance and proudly displays a Canadian flag on his wall. Turns out he did serve, with Canada, as part of the peace-treaty enforcing group that went over in the late 70's. None of this matters, really, except that House was wrong.

Of course, this cannot stand unrectified, so House pulls a Dexter and sticks the dude with a sedative then ties him up. However, he does not go the full Dexter and brutally murder him, but rather, uses some physical therapy tricks to get the dude to relax his (phantom) right hand, thus solving all the dude's anger issues. Problem solved!

Back at the hospital, they still haven't figured out what's wrong with old Dictator McGee, Foreman is all mopey because Thirteen's still mad at him, then the dude goes and dies. Dies! Without his case being solved! A-jigga-what? How can this be?

Turns out that Chase injected Tyrant McTyrant with someone else's blood to make it look like he had a disease that he really didn't have, so he then died when they carried out that treatment. Ooooh, sick burn! But then they had to ruin it by Chase being all sad and mopey about sort-of killing him. They even had to hammer it home by having Tyrant Jr. (in school at Princeton, conveniently) stop by and cry over poor old papa's dead corpse. Whatever. If you're ever going to medically kill a dude, this was the time. Stop bitching.

Maybe it's because I'm not as familiar with them (I started watching House only last season), but Cameron and Chase sort of bore me. They're all blond and happy, and have deep talks all the time. Blech. I really want Talb and Thirteen back, but that's looking like more and more of a long shot. Perhaps I will grow to love the blond twins, but in the interim, the only course of action is to mock them mercilessly.

Mad Men - Wee Small Hours, or Booooring!

Don and the gang were equal parts obscure and boring this week, and the episode seemed to linger on the most obvious and trite parts of the series, while flitting past the interesting characters and plot points.

First off, the dual affairs with Henry Francis and Miss Farell (Betty and Don, respectively) were played out weeks ago. I am ready to move on from these two bit guest stars. I really wanted Betty to just use and lose old Henry Francis, but no, she has to start an awkward flirtation/correspondence that fizzles just when things start to get interesting. What do you want, Betty? To just talk to the guy?

Speaking of just talking, the extended wordplay between Don and Miss Farell was headed to such an obvious place - why did we need to spend all that time getting there? The scene where Don gives her a ride (dude, she's running, hence exercise? oh, nevermind) on his way to work could have been half as long and twice as effective. We get that she's progressive - we don't need to hear tripe like, "I think [the children] already know," about Martin Luther King and the struggle for integration. No, they don't - they're seven. At least with her earlier banter, there was a question of whether or not she would give in. She clearly sees right through Don and his shenanigans, but was content to fall into his arms at the end of the episode. Boring!

While wasting time on these bits of fluff, the episode ignored both the formation of the Hilton ad campaign and Sal's emerging identity as a homosexual. I've been aching for the writers to show us more of the actual ad agency, not the domestic bits that surround it. We finally get a chance to glimpse into the mind of a brilliant ad exec, but all the writers of Mad Men throw us are an early scene where Don shoots everything down, then the final presentation. But how did we get from there to here, guys? That's what I want to know! And what is the deal with Connie Hilton? He wanted the moon? Really? And because Don doesn't give it to him on the first go around, he's going to walk out of Sterling Coop in a huff? Man, you guys don't need that drama. Focus on Lucky Strike, or something. Oh, wait...

The other big Sterling cash cow is also about to hoof it out the door, after Sal rejects the advances of Lee Garner Jr. Before we get to anything else, I have to say that gaydar in the 60's must have been a powerful thing, but I caught no whiff of homosexuality in any of Sal's actions the entire episode, and yet Lee is forward enough to give him a pectoral massage without so much as a "Hello, sailor"? I guess I'll just have to trust Mad Men on that one.

Anyway, then Sal got fired because he rejected Lee's advances. I was shocked that Don was so dismissive of Sal, considering that he knew about Sal's tendencies before, and swept any suggestion of judgment under the rug. Couldn't Don have kept Sal's secret safe like he did Peggy's in the first/second season? Don, your managerial skills are going down the drain.

So, first Joan, now Sal. My two favorite Sterling Coop employees are employees no more. And what's left? Pete? Ugh. Although Ken Cosgrove somehow still has a job after enabling a foot mow-down (to which Roger made a nice homage this week).

I'll allow one off-week, Mad Men, but I expect better next time. You best bring your A game.

Results of the Poll!

Thanks to all who voted! It looks like Vampire Bill reigns supreme this week. Who can resist flashback hair? I submit: no one.

I'll set to work crafting a new poll for the upcoming week, and I expect everyone to participate!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dexter - Blinded by the Light, or Batman Dexter!

Man, that Trinity Killer, huh? I always knew John Lithgow was a tricky one.

This week, Dexter's plate was a little less full, focusing mainly on finding that darned vandal in his neighborhood and tracking down the Trinity Killer. Apparently, the dark passenger has had his fill for right now.

First off, vandalism. After the community has banded together against broken windows, spray painted fences, and a car rolled into someone's yard, they form a neighborhood watch committee. This, of course, is highly inconvenient for Dexter, who relies on the cover of night to go about his dark business. He doesn't really care about the vandal, but he needs to find him so the neighbors will dismantle their neighborhood watch and high-beamed motion sensing lights. The obvious suspect is the no-good drum playing adolescent down the street, that Aster conveniently also has a crush on. This dude gives drummers a bad name, banging on anything he can get his hands on, all while using poor form. If nothing else, that guy deserve a Dexter beat down for that alone.

After Dexter ties the deadbeat's fingerprints on a discarded spray paint can to an empty soda can, it seems the case is closed. To convince him never to vandalize again, Dexter decides he'll dress up as a cat burglar and scare the living daylights out of him. Really, Dexter? You're not just going to use the hard evidence you gathered and tell your neighbors, so appropriate channels will be taken and justice served? You're going vigilante on this one? Well, okay.

Back at the station, everyone is still tracking the vacation murderer, as well as trying to solve the Lisa Bell case, and the new Trinity killing. Batista and LaGuerta concoct some wacky story to continue their forbidden liaison on company time, but end up almost getting shot by the suspect! Now they have to account for the lost time on their report. A flat tire, eh? We'll see how far that gets them.

With Lundy back, Debra is going through some weird angsty stuff about her relationship with Anton. Lundy's flirting with her, she's flirting back. This will not end well! Plus, don't you guys have a serial killer to catch?

Quinn also gives some attitude about stealing some money from a crime scene, saying he's not crooked, and Dexter doesn't understand, blah, blah, blah. He's also leaking information to that reporter he's seeing, which I'm sure will come back to bite him in the ass. Come to think of it, why is this guy not fired?

In Dexter world, after almost being mistaken as the vandal himself by the neighborhood watch (oops!), Dexter strikes out a different night, and takes it to the supposed vandal's house. But when Dexter breaks in to his room, the kid is asleep. Who could it be? Turns out it was his dad, Andy! You see, Andy's wife just died, he was laid off from his job, his son's a jerk, and the bank is about to take his house. So, Andy retaliated by harming his innocent neighbors' property. Dexter confronts him in Andy's garage and puts on an awesome Batman growly voice and tells him never to vandalize the neighborhood again. While Batman would never threaten to cut Andy's head off and stick it in a bag - "I already have the bag," Dexter says ominously - it's pretty effective. So, Andy and son will move out of town and the vandalism will stop.

But, in a final act of rage against the invasion of his privacy, Dexter breaks the high-beam security lights his next door neighbor has installed. Unbeknownst to Dex, Rita is standing behind him on their stoop watching him destroy his neighbor's property. It'll fun watching you talk your way out of this one, Dexter!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Parks and Recreation - Practice Date, or oh God, I'm so glad I'm not single

This week, Parks and Recreation finally got off their high horse and provided us with some down home comedy fun. Of course, it still poked some topical fun at political sex scandals in its secondary story.

The main event was Leslie getting ready for her first date with Policeman Dave. After her litany of terrible past first date incidents (sleeve fire, attempted tooth-pulling, him showing up with another woman), I was reminded why I am so glad to not be on the dating scene. My own experience combined with friends' hilariously bad first dates really made this episode resonate for me. Who hasn't worried that they'll accidentally pop Ambien instead of a Tic Tac and have to spend the night punching their own leg to stay awake? Okay, maybe not, but I think we've all had some wacky anxieties when it comes to dates.

Anyway, to get over her paralyzing fear, Leslie goes out on a practice date with Ann. After Ann realizes how terribly nervous Leslie is, she pulls out a psychological trick to show her that even if it goes as bad as you think it will, it still won't be that bad. Well, it works, and Leslie and Ann go out to a bar confident that the date will be a hit. Leslie is so self-assured that she shows up at Policeman Dave's house in the middle of the night completely wasted. For unclear reasons, Policeman Dave is cool with this, and still agrees to go out with her. Except, now that they've shared weird drunken time together, the dinner on Friday will now be their second date! Crisis averted by Leslie's bumbling! Hilarious.

The other story this week stemmed from a local politician who had a fourway in a cave in Brazil (I wish real life was that cool). The gang then decides to find out who has the most dirt in their past by doing recon on each other. Some hilarious tidbits come to life, especially that Tom's hot wife married him for a greencard, and the boss is secretly a jazz saxaphonist. One office worker, Greg, desperately does not want to play the game. Of course, all his secrets come out: he had plastic surgery, was arrested for public peeing, and is adopted (that one was a surprise to him as well).

I'm glad that the writers are lightening up on the "serious issues" episodes, and focusing more on the great characters they've crafted. Overall, I've been impressed this season, and I look forward to more shenanigans!

Parks and Recreation - Beauty Pageant, or Female Empowerment

Sorry I'm behind, dudes! I was going to combine the this with the latest episode, but I was too full of commentary not to let it stand alone.

Parks and Recreation
continues their string of issues episodes, this week tackling female empowerment. Usually, I'm not wild about TV that's about things, as I'm more interested in the characters and good jokes. I felt that Parks and Recreation got away with it in the last two episodes because they were subtle and funny, but this week may have been a bit heavy handed. Let me explain:

We start the episode with Policeman Dave asking Leslie out on a date. She's enthusiastic...until Dave mistakes the picture of Madeleine Albright by her desk with her grandmother. She also doesn't recognize Condoleeza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, or Michelle Obama. Needless to say, Leslie becomes more vague about their romantic prospects after this little revelation.

Then, Leslie judges a beauty pageant, that old stand by for showcasing how far women still have to come for equality. Leslie advocates for Susan, an accomplished and average looking young woman, as the next Miss Pawnee, but Tom and the other judges are strongly in favor of Trish, the Megan Fox lookalike who's talent at "batons" is a glorified strip tease. Trish wins the competition, much to Leslie's chagrin.

But then, Policeman Dave shows up to the beauty pageant, re-asking Leslie out. Again, she hedges, but gives Leslie her number. It's only after he mistakes Trish for a man that Leslie puts on a wry smile. Leslie schedules the date for next Friday, and Dave rattles off some Wikipedia knowledge on Nancy Pelosi.

The message is painfully obvious this week, and not all that funny, if you don't find hot women stripping hilarious. Leslie's consternation at everyone's insistence on Trish's supremacy is slightly funny, in that you know how futile it is, but overall, it's depressing in its truthfulness.

It was a well-crafted episode, but Parks and Recreations writers, can we please stop learning about very important issues for awhile and get back to the funny?

The Office - Niagara, Parts 1 and 2, or Forever

Well, it's finally over - the one thing that kept me interested in The Office. No, I'm kidding, but it's a bold sitcom move to actually relent and have the two main love interests tie the knot. It usually signals the end of a series, as writers love to pull out the "will they or won't them" ad infinitum. But good for The Office, for actually following a semi-plausible love story to its foreseeable conclusion.

This week, we saw the whole office take a road trip up to Niagara to celebrate the nuptials of Pam and Jim. There were antics, of course, including Michael not having a room, Kevin wearing a hairpiece and losing his shoes, and Andy puncturing his scrotum. It was a maelstrom of stress for the happy couple, and everything culminated when Pam accidentally tore her veil. They'd had enough, and left the ceremony waiting for an hour until they returned. Then, the bridal party (and some of the guests) recreated the YouTube sensation of the summer.

Now, onto the specifics. First off, Pam's sister is played by none other than Ms. Sarah Newlin of True Blood. Delightful. Also, Oscar's indignation at the assumption that Kevin was Gil, his boyfriend, was hilarious for Oscar's over the top indignation. Andy's futile flirtation with Erin still continues, though they had a tender moment when Erin offered Andy her shawl to cushion his damaged scrotum.

Although there were moments of goofiness, the overall theme stuck with last week's insistence on lovey-dovey, ooey-gooey sappiness, especially Jim's rehearsal dinner speech. We all know you've loved Pam since you met her, Jim. Wouldn't it have been more interesting to show a few moments of doubt? Some true anxiety? Oh well. The most interesting part of the rehearsal dinner was Jim's spilling of the pregnancy beans in front of Pam's ultra-conservative Memaw. I was certain that the writers would go with the obvious choice of Michael blurting out something inappropriate (well, some else inappropriate, I should say), but I like that it was Jim's fault. Also, Michael's convincing Memaw to still come to the ceremony was equal parts adorable and manipulative. Let's see if they really name the baby Sylvia, or Sylvio.

I want to address the rip off of Jill and Kevin's wedding dance entrance. I can imagine the writers watching it over the summer and asking, "Will it be too soon? Will people be sick of this already? You know what, Michael wouldn't care, and neither do we." Although it didn't appear that Michael organized it, you know it's something he really loved. Finally, I was slightly confused by the closing montage. Did Jim and Pam go on the boat and get married before the ceremony or after? Why did they need to have two ceremonies at all, since I assume that after the dancing, they completed the wedding in the church? Oh well.

The obvious question throughout all of this is: what's next for Jim and Pam? Sure, The Office has had them living in domestic bliss for about a season, but marriage is a whole new ball game. Will Pam become shrewish? Will Jim become lazy? Will we even care? I submit that the last question will prove the most difficult for the writers, so let's see how they rise to the challenge.

P.S. Just so you all don't think I'm a heartless wench, yes, I did tear up a little bit during the dancing/Niagara Falls montage. They're just so beautiful! Jim and Pam forever!

House - Epic Fail, know what, you get to keep that title, because it's pretty badass

We're back to the old format this week, catching a glimpse of a soon to be released video games and its developers taking it for a test drive. When the boss, a software engineer, comes down with searing hot pains in his hands, it's off to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital for some good old diagnostic fun with Dr. House.

But wait! House has quit (yet again), and Foreman has replaced him as head of diagnostics. House says he needs to quit because the hospital reminds him of his old life and old habits, so he needs to break free and do something else. Although we all really know that House will be back eventually, because what's the point if he's not? Anyway, I guess I can play along with the charade.

It turns out software engineer guy is one of those "diagnose yourself" people in the WebMD vein and insists he has mercury poisoning. He doesn't of course, nor does he have a whole host of other diagnoses insisted upon by Foreman. The patient then posts his symptoms online and promises a $25,000 reward to anyone who can diagnose him. The internet suggests some random disease (you don't really care about its name, and I can't spell it), but that too turns out to be wrong.

By the way, throughout this whole thing, Foreman and Thirteen are dealing with Foreman's new promotion and how it changes the dynamic in their relationship. Thirteen is mad because Foreman is being bossy, and Foreman is mad because he's taking her medical critiques personally. It's a recipe for disaster.

Foreman has the magical music thing that happens when House solves a case, and rushes to the hospital to dramatically stop his earlier, incorrect course of treatment. Thirteen, however, has already figured out the same diagnosis. How? Turns out she checked some of the online diagnoses and someone had posted the correct one. Well, Foreman was pretty mad, and fired Thirteen so that they could save their relationship.

Meanwhile, House is adjusting to life at home. He tries cooking, at which he excels beautifully, but it doesn't take his mind off the leg pain long enough. Then, he goes back to his old apartment and stares meaningfully at an old bottle of Vicodin. Does he take them?

We then cut to Wilson and Cuddy being convinced that he did, since he's no longer bothered by leg pain, and making him pee into a cup. The test is negative for narcotics, so why has he made this miraculous discovery? Turns out he went online and solved his own case, which he views as a failure to remake his life. His therapist decides that maybe it's best for him to return to diagnostics, since that's the only thing that makes him feel better. Ta-da! Everything back to normal.

One final thought - the video game that the patient was designing, and that we see multiple shots of looks kind of amazing, and I really want to play it now.

Mad Men - Souvenir, or Kisses from Rome

This week's episode was a case study in two relatively minor characters: Betty and Pete. While Betty saves the town reservoir and flits around Rome looking fabulous, Pete coerces a German au pair into sex, then feels really bad about it.

Let's start with Betty. This episode, she was all about using her lady powers, which is something I've always strongly endorsed, especially on Mad Men. After Harry from the governor's office helps her exacerbate government bureaucracy, she rewards him with a lingering kiss. But Betty was so uncomfortably during the whole thing, you could almost hear her counting out the seconds until it was safe to pull away. She gives him the cold shoulder, and drives home to her newly loving husband and increasingly disobedient kids. What to do? Fly to Rome, of course! There, Betty has a fabulously mod makeover, complete with bouffant, and her and Don play the "first date" game. For those of you not in long term relationships, it's sometimes fun to pretend to be strangers in a public place and relive the ritual of hooking up for the first time. What? Don't judge me.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Trudy is out of town for the August vacation (which, apparently, was a given in the 60's? Ah, nostalgia) and Pete is living the bachelor life. While this mostly consists of watching cartoons and falling asleep on the couch, Pete then picks up the German au pair next door by offering to replace a stained dress that the au pair borrowed from the lady of the house. At the department store, Pete runs into Mrs. Joan Harris (hooray!), who is just as fabulous and well-coiffed. Joan knows that the dress isn't Trudy's, and Pete knows that Joan doesn't want anyone from Sterling to find out she's downgraded to dress sales manager, so they reach a detente of mutual silence.

Pete then uses the favor he's done for the au pair to coerce her into sex. This scene was creepily parallel to the premiere, where Pete pulled the almost exact same moves on Ms. Peggy Olson. But, for some reason, after this new dalliance, Pete feels awful and confesses to Trudy. Well, not a real confession, but a 60's confession, where they both know and stare awkwardly at each other.

Even though Peggy wasn't in this episode, I found myself thinking a lot about the relationship of Pete and Peggy. I've never bought her interest in the slimy bastard, but he's always been smitten with her. I suppose it's easier for Pete to admit to a stupid one-night stand that resulted from loneliness than a full-blown love (and love child!) for another woman. I'm interested to see if Pete has learned his lesson and will stick to his own pastures, or if he'll follow Don's mold of temporary repentance, only to sin again.

Back to the Roman holiday. Like all other good and sexy things, the vacation ends, and the two find themselves trapped back in Ossining, facing the same crap they did before they left. Don handles this by distancing himself from the house, both physically and emotionally. Betty, however, must pick up the pieces and deal with her humdrum life, especially Sally's new aggressive behavior toward the little boys in the neighborhood, and I don't mean her penchant for punching.

In a rare moment of earnest parenting, Betty sits Sally down and explains, in her way, the importance of chastity. First kisses are important, she says, but you'll have a lot of them. Save them for someone who's worth it, because each subsequent kiss is a shadow of the first. Pretty heady stuff for someone under ten, but a worthwhile lesson. Betty is revitalized by reenacting her first kiss with Don, and Pete is punished for a highly inappropriate first, and hopefully last, kiss. The lesson? Use those kisses wisely, folks.

Bonus: Bert Cooper is vacationing in Montana! Who doesn't want to see a clip of that next week? He seems like the kind of guy who'd go to Bozeman, but we'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Glee - Vitamin D, or The Terri Invasion

This week's Glee episode followed the tried and true high-school dramady format of the "very special episode". The topic: stimulant abuse. Unlike the classic scare tactics of Saved by the Bell, the message of this week's episode was more along the lines of, "eh, you'll sing really well, and your mentally delayed supplier might be thrown in jail." Not exactly a cautionary tale for the ages, but it's fine.

Will strove to inject some excitement into New Directions by orchestrating a friendly competition between the boys and the girls to see who would decide the opening number at sectionals. Meanwhile, Terri caught wind of Will and Emma's flirtation (care of the despicable and amazing Sue Sylvester) and decided to fill the newly vacated school nurse position. When Finn complained of fatigue, Terri's answer is pseudophedrine. Before we get into the havoc this causes, I want to take a small moment to fawn over the Glee writers for why Finn is so sleepy. Basically, he's stressed: pregnant girlfriend, crush on someone else, captain of the football team, "glee stud", and, to top it all off, school! On any other show, sure, these would all be cause for some serious adolescent stress, but Glee undermines Finn's complaints by having him monologue this whole diatribe over a long shot of Finn playing video games. In Finn's words, "My mom said I was stretched too thin, so I gave up homework, but that didn't help." Glee sharply mocks the common theme of "life is hard for teenagers!" by showing that really, if he wasn't such a layabout slacker, he would probably be fine.

ANYWAY, Terri gave Finn an upper, who then shared it with the other dudes in New Directions so they could perform an awesome mashup of "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi and "Confessions" by Usher. They were pretty great.

Rachel caught on that they were using performance enhancing substances, so got in on the game with a prescription by Nurse Terri, then performed a slightly less exciting mashup about sunshine. Vitamin D, get it! Like the name of the episode!

After the two performances, and Will being totally clueless as to why everyone was so energetic all of a sudden, the principal catches on to the prescription abuse (after poor Howard Bamboo gets taken down by the Feds), and fires Terri. That wouldn't be so bad, but the shocker is that he decides the whole thing was Will's fault for instilling too much competitive spirit into the glee clubbers! Principal's solution? Make the one and only Sue Sylvester co-chair of New Directions.

Basically, I felt like this episode was both an endearing send up of the "after school" special format, as well as a big build up to New Directions under the coaching of Sue. You can tell that Glee is really excited about Sue co-chairing the club, since Hulu interrupted the usually scheduled commercial to show me a "next week on" clip, which they have never done.

Oh, and Emma is going to marry Ken Tanaka, because Terri intimidated her and gave probably the most rational reasoning she's exhibited thus far. The talk boiled down to, "Hey, Will's married. To me. So lay off, and marry the dude who wants to marry you, rather than chasing my dude. Capiche?" Emma did, in fact, capiche, though there were some seriously meaningful glances between Emma and Will after the proposal was accepted.

I'm looking forward to the reign of Coach Sylvester next week!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Office - The Promotion, or Two Managers

I got these two managers…

As someone who’s recently navigated the minefield of raises for a large staff, I am feeling Michael and Jim’s pain this week. But Jim and Michael, sweethearts, the key to HR is always secrecy, especially with money.

But, unfortunately, nobody offered this lesson in Management 101, so Jim and Michael bumbled through a reduced COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment, to all you non-office drones) for the staff. Should it be an across the board infinitesimal raise? Only for sales staff? Merit-based? All of these are good options, but in true The Office fashion, it was horribly, horribly mangled. After a standard 1.5% raise was shot down for no real reason, Jim presented the idea of a raise for only sales staff. Predictably, everyone was pretty upset, especially the non-sales folks.

In a fun twist, Dwight, who stood to profit from the biased raise, created the most uproar. Dwight’s ire stemmed from the fact that he believes he deserved Jim's promotion. He led a little revolt against his new manager with a William Wallace-style call to arms. The result? Mild mumbling and Dwight sadly slinking back to his desk.

The episode ended with Michael and Jim barricaded in Jim’s new office (which, by the way, I’m fairly certain the set dressers created out of nothing and want us to believe was there all along) with Jim’s brand new “World’s Best Boss” mug. Say it with me now – awwwwwww. Michael had a beautiful speech about how sharing the burden of tough office decisions made him overcome his anger at having to share the job. Well, when he said it, it was more emotional. Trust me.

The subplot this week was Pam asking for cold hard cash rather than wedding gifts. She had limited success, but experienced the joy of seeing “Mrs. Pam Halpert” written out for the first time. Again, folks – awwwwwww.

It was an oddly heart-warming episode, considering the subject matter and the ending. Pam was mad at Jim for not choosing her to receive a merit-based raise, no decision was reached for the COLAs, and Dwight is still out for Jim’s job, as well as his blood.

The ensuing saga of Michael and Jim working together will continue to be both hilarious and slightly gruesome to watch (if you’ve ever worked under an inept manager), but the general theme is that they’ll both help each other grow as leaders. And I’m really looking forward to that destination wedding in the romantic hot spot of Niagara Falls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dexter – Remains to be Seen, or Case of the Missing Jerk

So much has happened to our friend Dexter since we saw him last! A new baby, a (relatively) loving marriage, and still, the old dark passenger along for the ride. Can Dexter have it all?

NO. It turns out that sleep deprivation and family stress make you a terrible serial killer. Even though I was dismayed by Dex’s sloppiness this week, (in the punching bag? Really?) I still find myself drawn to the intrigue. It’s not unlike the car crash from this week – it’s going to be gruesome, but I can’t look away.

Dexter, not unlike that other cable serial (get it – serial?) True Blood, occupies a precarious situation because of its history as a novel series. Why is it that they don’t deal with the rabid fans of other books like Harry Potter and Twilight? Well, I don’t want to get too off-topic, but after perusing the first few pages of the first book on which True Blood is based, I can tell you it’s not because of the writing quality. I’m always tempted to pick up a Dexter novel, if only to find out what happens next, but then don’t want to spoil the excitement of upcoming episodes and seasons. I also don’t want to be disappointed to find out that a TV series is of higher quality than a novel, because that just makes me sad for humanity. Granted, I haven’t researched this fully, so I have no idea how closely the two forms parallel each other.

ANYWAY, diversion over.

After his horrific car accident last week, Dexter emerges relatively unscathed but still fearing for his life because he can’t seem to find the recently dismembered body that was in his trunk. Or was it? After an exhaustive search, Dexter can’t seem to find that body anywhere! What a wacky predicament!

Along the way, co-workers, other dead bodies, and his family divert Dexter from the all-important task of recovering and properly disposing of his most recent kill. Special Agent Lundy is back in town tracking a new killer (SPOILER ALERT: I think it might be John Lithgow!), there’s been a spate of tourist murders in Ye Olde Miami, and Rita is turning into a harpy. Dexter, your life is so hard!

Miraculously, Dexter finds his missing body, collaborates with Lundy, solves the tourist murders, and spins a convincing yarn for Rita. At the end of the day, all he wants to do is get a good night’s sleep, but little Harrison sees to it that Daddy Dexter is in for yet another sleepless night.

I’m not sure how I feel about the “all-American Dad” theme they’re cultivating this season – I don’t care about Dexter because he reflects reality, I care about him because he’s an awesome serial killer. I’m also unhappy that poor Rita is being cast as a nagging drag on Dexter’s fun. I truly believe that, in his twisted way, Dexter loves Rita as much as he can love anyone. Let’s let him show it, okay, Dexter writers?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Glee - The Rhodes Not Taken, or I Hate Kristin Chenoweth

Really, the title says it all. I don't know if it's her abrasive voice, pixie-like stature, or gratingly upbeat demeanor, but I can't stand most things that involve Kristin Chenoweth. However, she did redeem herself during the "bad choices" montage, where she taught boozing, shoplifting, and the wonders of casual sex to her fellow glee-clubbers, mostly because the montage music was "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall and Oates. It's a personal favorite, so really, the Chenoweth had little to do with it.

ANYWAY, this week, we saw Finn come out of his one-dimensional, "Hey, guys, I'm a really nice, good looking person," mold and do some old school manipulation. While I was horrified, I was also glad that Finn gets to do things beside look pretty. Finn used his man-powers to lure Rachel back into New Directions, but was foiled when everyone found out Quinn is pregnant, and Rachel found out she was being manipulated. But, she came back anyway, after figuring out that being a star isn't as important or fulfilling as being a good friend. Meh, unconvincing, but they did an awesome rendition of "Somebody to Love", so all is forgiven.

I'm obviously biased against the Chenoweth, but this was an okay episode. The plot line was thin (Will brings back an old high school flame to replace Rachel's voice in the Glee club? Even though she's a boozing, pill popping loser? Doubtful), and was purely a showcase for Chenoweth to sing everyone else off the stage, so that got old after a bit. But it will be interesting to see what happens now that the truth (well, part of it) is out about Quinn.

Mad Men - Seven Twenty Three, or Betty Gets a Life

Betty Draper - social activist?

Probably not, but it was nice to see ole Bets get out of the house for once. It's hard to look back into the pre-Feminine Mystique mist, but it seems painfully obvious that most of Betty's problem stems from the fact that she has nothing to do. I'm hoping her involvement with the Junior League will lead to some semblance of a storyline for her that doesn't revolve around her constantly reacting to the other players on the show. Even Sally gets more interesting story lines! Call me crazy, but I'd love to see Betty put that undergrad degree to use and sashay onto an archaeological dig. Can you imagine the outfits? Sublime.

Speaking of outfits, both of our shining Sterling Cooper stars found themselves in the same clothes as yesterday at the end of the episode. Maybe this will be a good opportunity to make up for their little spat the day before?

I'm glad to see Peggy taking Joan's advice about using her lady-powers. (Speaking of which, where is that ruby-haired goddess?!) Peggy tends to sexually lash out after being criticized by Don - remember the college boy romp post Patio dressing-down - which is mildly disturbing, but at least this time it stands to help her career. Peggy's game is tough to decipher here: is she having a "go-around" with Duck to make sure she gets copy chief status before jumping the Sterling ship, or is she serious about sticking around, so just having some extracurricular fun? Regardless, I doubt we've seen the last of Duck. No recovering alcoholic who whispers "I love the smell of liquor on your breath" during the act can be disposed of by the Mad Men writers. They do love their neuroses.

Unfortunately, Don's night was a lot less fun. The anachronistic draft-dodgers was quite a stretch just to get us to a Dick Whitman flashback. I submit that the real reason Don didn't want to sign the contract is not because he wants to keep the upper hand at work, but because signing his (adopted) name to the contract admits to himself and his father that advertising is truly his career. In Papa Whitman's words, Don "grows bullshit". We saw the outside world's view of advertising, and it is not pretty. He's an ad man, which is to say, he's a con man. Maybe even Don Draper's last shreds of dignity can register embarrassment that his profession is all smoke and mirrors.

But, sign the contract he does, after a deft bit of blackmail by Mr. Cooper himself, one of two series regulars who knows his secret. Although I doubt the lawyers will honor that rider about never having contact with Roger Sterling again. Roger is another one of those characters that we'll never get rid of, if only because we're all waiting on baited breath to see what will happen at Margaret's wedding. For those of you unaware, November 23, 1963 will be an auspicious date for the youngest Sterling and her beau to celebrate their marital happiness.

I'm fairly confused that we didn't hear anything about the tractor incident from last week. Is Ken Cosgrove still employed by Sterling Coop? Or, is vehicular foot-slaughter not a problem at this ad agency? In some ways, I enjoy Mad Men's nod to non-sequential TV viewing that they drop such an important plot point, seemingly never to be seen again, while simultaneously rewarding obsessive viewers with Easter eggs of continuity, even between seasons. For example, anyone watching only this season would have no idea that Bert Cooper was in on the Dick Whitman/Don Draper secret. Can Mad Men successfully straddle the line? I guess we'll find out.