Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glee - Hell-o, or Irony Overdrive

It's baaaccckkk!

So, this is how much I love Glee - I actually sat down and watched the episode on the TV as it aired. Normally, I'm a Hulu devotee, preferring the freedom of the pause and the rewind, especially for a show like Glee with such delicious one-liners. But I made this sacrifice, and what did I get in return?

Irony. So much irony.

I loved the subtle snark of the first 13 episodes, but the writers were laying it on especially thick this episode, with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge every other minute. Finn announced an impending musical number with, "Oh, so that's why the band's here. Do you think I could find myself and do my glee assignment at the same time?"

Yes, Finn, you can. What happened to the segue-less musical numbers of the first half? We really don't need an excuse to sing here, folks, just give us the goods. That being said, there was a huge uptick in musical numbers, as promised. And two new delightful characters to boot!

I was especially charmed by the debonair Jesse St. James, whose initial critique/flirtation with Rachel bordered on the absurd. "I've got a full ride to a little school called the University of California in Los Angeles. Maybe you've heard of it. It's in Los Angeles." Perfect!

But, of course, Rachel can't get a frickin' break, and everyone accuses her of being a Benedict Arnold just because of the teensy fact that Jesse happens to be the lead singer of Vocal Adrenaline, New Directions' main competitor in sectionals. Man, can that girl get a break?

So, she has to pretend to break it off all while starting a secret romance (yay) with Jesse - BUT, he might be just getting close to her to sabotage New Directions from within, ala Sue Sylvester. So many layers.

But you know what? I have hope for my girl Rachel. I know that Jesse will truly love her for the wack-a-doo she is with no ulterior motives. Why? Because she deserves it. She really, really deserves a break.

Also, Idina Menzel is there! She's the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, and I swear, if she doesn't sing a number, it will be the biggest waste of talent in all of television history. Don't let me down, Glee.

Idina and our boy Will Shuster end up making out randomly, which is super awkward, since he's dating Emma now! Oh no, you didn't, Will! But Emma ends up breaking things off with him anyway, because she's convinced he's not over Terri, which is probably true. P.S. - Emma's a virgin, we find out (not a huge surprise, and not that there's anything wrong with that), which sets up very nicely for the Madonna episode next week. "Like a Virgin"? Yes, indeed.

There's also a weird subplot about Finn and his vacillating emotions about both Quinn and Rachel. He also manages to go on a date with Santana and Brittany (yes, both), which is totally worthless except for the line, "Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?" Oh, Brittany, how I've missed you.

Let's talk songs: kind of unimpressed. Most of the problem was that, since they're trying to shove in so many more numbers, we see about half of each song. We heard snippets of "Hello Goodbye" by The Beatles, which should have been a full show-stopper, let's be honest, and about a verse of "Highway to Hell". Although I'm okay with the abbreviated version of that one, since I was sincerely concerned about Jesse St. James' vocal chords. We got full earfuls of "Hello" by Lionel Richie and "Gives you Hell" by The All-American Rejects. Really, Glee? You're going to shorten The Beatles and AC/DC in favor of Lionel and The Weepy Boys (yes, that's my pet name for them)? Really? It's a good thing you're ramping up to the Madonna episode, and those best be full versions, because that's what we're coming to see.

As a little teaser, Chevy sponsored a music video of Sue singing "Vogue" and a recreation of the iconic music video. Man, she is not a good dancer. But it was cute, and I'm sure everyone will watch it on Hulu and get excited for next week.

Let's cut the overt irony by half and up the musical quality by the same, and Glee, you'll be back in the saddle.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

V - Welcome to the War, or Let's Break it Down - Quote Wise

Hey guys, so remember that show about aliens who were lizard people and trying to do something bad to humans?

Yeah, me neither.

But guess what? It's back!

Luckily, V started off with a heavy dose of "last time on...", which promptly reminded me just how ridiculous this program is, and how, on its best days, it crosses the valley between bad, and so bad it's good. This episode, folks, was one of the latter. Let's break it down based on some of my favorite quotes:

"He can only have one family..."

So, Tyler is trying to mack on the blond girl, and is chilling on the mothership. His mom is mad, because, well, V's are terrible lizard people who are trying to rule the world. Anna responds by crafting a plan to separate Tyler and his mother with the aforementioned line. See, it's great because we instantly realize that the V's are his family now, not his mom! But it's so subtle! Uh oh, what are those ellipses doing there?


DAMMIT, V. We all know you meant yourself! Why do you have to insert unnecessary explanations?!

Anyway, so Tyler is fine, but Erica, his mom, freaks out. Eventually, they hook Tyler up to some sort of memory machine that allows to V's to access all his emotions and feelings. Creepy, but he seems okay with it. They're harvesting something from his brain, but it's unclear what it is. It looks pretty empty to me, frankly. Hey-o! They suggest that Tyler make amends with mom and come clean about being a Peace Ambassador. He does, and Erica freaks out, but on the inside, since with his new fancy uniforms, the V's can see and hear everything Erica says.

"They told us we could not procreate with humans."

But they were WRONG. Ryan's girlfriend is pregnant, and man, is this a doozy. She has crazy, intense cravings for weird things, like dead mouse (disgusting) and thinks she feels the baby kick. Mind you, she's only six weeks pregnant. Well, guys, it looks like we have a Jack (Man, that was a good movie) situation here. Look for that baby to be born in a convenient two weeks and grow to full size in another three weeks.

Ryan's freaking out and consults a V doctor friend of his, who's all like, "Well, this is unexpected. Good luck with that." She's slightly more helpful on the question of the mysterious R6, a compound the V's were putting in the flu supply. Turns out it's a tracking device that will number all the humans who receive like cattle. Oh no!

"I'll make my own army."

When Anna and Co. realize that the Fifth Column is acting starting to mess with their shit, they decide to kick it up a notch. But what will they do? All their fighters are back at the home world? Not to worry, Anna is going to...wait for it...make her OWN army! But how? I am SO GLAD you asked. There's a big line of burly dudes all lined up with Anna inspecting them while wearing this floaty, kimono thing. She picks one, and then we're transported to a giant silver room with fog totally obscuring the floor. It's like an 80's video. Then, we see the burly guy she chose reclining in a basin of sorts. Anna arrives, sheds her Kimono, and slowly, with no preamble mounts him. All the while, there's this zen, Enya-like music playing in the background. She emotionlessly thrusts about four times, then dismounts again.

BUT THEN, she pulls a black widow and is all like, “My eggs need nourishment” then giant, horrible fangs grow out of her mouth sort of like that scene in the woods in Jennifer’s Body (don’t judge me, it was good) and SHE EATS HIM. End of episode. Oh lizard people, you are growing less and less likeable with each passing hour! It's almost like you're the villains, or something!

Whew. So, those are the highlights. Other random stuff happens, but it's all peripheral to terrible, mate-eating Anna. I find myself having suddenly high hopes for future installments, if only we get to see more of this crazy, whacked out fever dream.

The Office - New Leads, or How My Parents Are Like Michael Scott

So, this episode has gotten some flack for the characters being unusually mean-spirited and nasty, which isn't believable. I, on the other hand, am happy that these poor, beleaguered souls are finally lashing out at their colossally inept boss. Honestly, why didn't this happen earlier?

The inciting incident for all this anger has to do with the new commission rates under Sabre, which have a much higher cap. The sales stuff has suddenly become motivated, and Michael doesn't know what to do with it. The non-sales employees are about to mutiny, due to being treated like second-class citizens. Everything comes to a head when Michael reveals that he's received new sales leads from Sabre, and instead of distributing them to sales, he hides them around the office, leaving clues, and also giving them to non-sales staff.

Let's pause for a moment and talk about hiding things and giving clues to where to find them. This is a time-honored tradition in my house, and pretty much defines the Easter tradition. My parents would set out one plastic egg for each child in an easily findable place, with a written clue to where to find the next egg. This continued for, oh, about 7-8 eggs, resulting in the discovery of your awesome Easter basket. Hence, I have some pretty strongly positive feelings about Michael's strategy here, and I just wanted to let you know that it's totally and completely based in personal bias.

ANYWAY, Jim immediately figures out Michael's thin logic and finds the leads. Others are not so lucky. After Kevin accidentally throw the leads in the garbage, which is then taken to the dump, Michael and Dwight go on an adventure to find them, during the course of which, they make some pretty deep discoveries about each other...and themselves.

Turns out Dwight resents Michael, Michael resents Dwight, they have a garbage fight (it's like a food fight, but with garbage. Yes, disgusting), then all their differences are worked out in the end.

Back at the office, Jim has to navigate a mutiny from the non-sales staff, who are refusing to work with the sales people. To be fair, they had it coming - they were being jerks. Jim proposes to the sales staff that they will give everyone in the office a 2% cut of all their commissions each month, to spread the wealth around. They buy pastries and spread them out in the conference room, ready to make the big announce. But, the non-sales folks are duped into believing that it's the pastries that are the gift, and sales doesn't even get into the 2% kickback. Oh, Jim and sales, you are a wily bunch.

So, I thought this whole thing was great. I was really glad that they were showing some human emotions and frustrations, rather than the sighing, silently contemptuous looks we're used to from this bunch. It makes sense that they would get pissed and have confrontations. Also, the bonus at the end of the episode was Andy and Erin looking for the leads in the dump and sharing their first kiss. A-rig-a-dig-doo, indeed, Andy.

30 Rock - Floyd, or Whither Art Thou, Jason Sudeikis?

First off, let me just say that I, like Liz Lemon, have always harbored a deep and secret hope that they will get back together and be happy forever. Sadly, both our dreams were crushed with the revelation that Floyd is marrying a blond bimbo and moving back to New York.

Liz passive-agressively makes Floyd regress into alcoholism and annoy Kathie Lee on the Today show when she hears the news, which is definitely the appropriate reaction. But, she feels bad about it later, and agrees to read a Bible passage at their wedding. Oh, Liz, will your trials and tribulations never end?

Meanwhile, we learn that Jack was a member of the secret society Twigs and Berries (hee-hee) during his college days, and that whenever someone says the name of the society, the member has to leave the room immediately, citing a ridiculous reason. Frank finds this out and sets about torturing Jack (and also Danny, because they're jealous of his good looks - duh), so the handsome men of The Girly Show decide to strike back at the foul writers. They concoct an elaborate ruse that results in them stripping down naked and being laughed at by attractive women. So, all's fair in love and sketch comedy.

Overall, a meh episode. I'm just so distraught that Liz and Floyd won't ever get back together! I really fell in love with Jason Sudeikis during the 2008 campaign when he showcased a mean Joe Biden impression. And it looks like Michael Sheen as Wesley Snipes is over for the moment as well. Ah well. Such is life. Let's hope that a new, equally alluring prospect is in Liz's future.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Office - St. Patrick's Day, or More Meredith!

I was so hoping for a Meredith-centric episode this week, as there is no more Irish person in the office than our fair Meredith. And, I think the last episode where she did stuff was the Christmas intervention episode. Or was it the Casual Friday? Hmm, further investigation is needed. Regardless, it's been awhile, and what better way to show the awesomeness of Meredith than St. Patrick's day?

Well, apparently the writers and I disagree on this point, as we only briefly glimpsed Meredith in her St. Patrick's Day finery. Instead, we focused on a long standoff between Jo and Michael concerning how late the staff had to stay. Michael is apparently of the school that each employee has to stay as late as the boss, which is folly, in my opinion. But, Michael didn't ask me.

The one good piece of good news is that our friend Daryl got promoted to Jim's old office after impressing Jo with a new transportation strategy that will save money. Movin' on up, indeed, Daryl. (It's okay - he sung it in the episode)

Jim is feeling conflicted about being at work with a wee baby at home, and is worried that he's missing out. I imagine things will be okay.

Eventually, Michael stands up to Jo (like four hours late) and releases the staff to have a merry St. Patrick's Day. They convene at a pub nearby and everyone has green drinks.

EXCEPT: Andy and Erin, who were scheduled to have their first date! Sadly, Erin fell ill and Jo forced her to go home. Andy, being the sweet and be-kilted man that he is, brought her some chicken soup. What he wasn't expecting was her foster brother, who is now her roommate. They are, to say the least, a bit too close for comfort. But, the night ends semi-successfully, with Andy receiving a peck on the cheek. Awwhhh.

The only thing I could have asked for is more Meredith, and since I did ask for it, so I suppose my job is complete.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

30 Rock - Don Geiss, America, and Hope, or Porn for Women

Hey, Wesley's back! And he and Liz continue to aggressively not get along. After several more random run-ins and failed dates, Wesley takes the bold step of suggesting they get married. Why? Because their of them will do any better. Womp, womp.

But that's not really the story here. The story is that the main revenue source of Kabletown (Comcast) is their wide variety of "adult entertainment" channels that account for 91% of their profits! With nothing new to design and sell, Jack faces a severe existential crisis.

Okay, so knowing that Kabletown is the multiverse version of Comcast, I decided to do a little Googling. Does Comcast really make its money in porn? Turns out it does. Well, that's awkward and eye-opening.

Anyway, back to the "story". Jack mopes about, then realizes that there's a huge, untapped market for porn that Kabletown can exploit: women. But women hate porn! a Kabletown exec says. But no, this is a new kind of porn. Just handsome women nodding supportively while women yammer on and on about their problems. Genius.

Also, Tracey is having a P.R. problem. A tell-all book has just been published that proclaims Tracey has never once cheated on his wife! Scandal! Now, Tracey's in danger of losing all his endorsements with various adultery affiliated businesses. It's supposed to be about Tiger Woods, in case you couldn't tell.

Meanwhile, Liz thinks over Wesley's offer and decides not to take it. She confronts him at a white wine from Scotland tasting, and says she can find someone better. Wesley doesn't buy it, and gives Liz two months to give in. "See you at sweeps!" he cries. "That's what we call spring cleaning in England!" See you at sweeps, indeed, Michael Sheen. It's a date.

Friday, March 19, 2010

House - Private Lives, or The Dangers of Blogging

Well, this is awkward. This week's House catastrophe began with a blogger who's revealing too much of her life online, and pissing off her boyfriend. Suddenly, she develops huge bruises on her face and her gums start bleeding. And bonus! The blogger is Donna from That 70's Show! Groovy! Although she's cuter as a redhead.

Soooo....will this turn into a cautionary tale? Should I step away from the laptop?

But wait - a lead! While scouring the apartment for clues, Thirteen and Talb find out that our blogger is also a lover of animals and the environment. After a neighbor puts down rat poison to scare away the new neighbors after the blogger lets trash sit for composting, the blogger freaked out, and now routinely handles the poison.

Scratch that - they were wrong about the rat poison. One of these days, the first thing they think is wrong with the patient is going to stick, and the episode will be, like, 15 minutes long. It'll be great.

The blogger gives her whole outlook on life, and how it's so important to share things with the world because there's no more accountability anymore, and she's always watching and recording and it builds a sense of community and yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, so they figure out it might be a heart issue, and she'll need a replacement mitral valve, which can be either plastic or from a pig. It's an important decision, and each choice has pros and cons. So, what does the blogger decide to do? Blog about it, of course, and ask for advice from the interwebs.

The interwebs tell her to go with the plastic valve, and her boyfriend gets all mad about her blogging and threatens to walk out. Just as she's about to go into surgery, her appendix bursts, and they find out it was full of cancer cells. Uh-oh. They give her a year to live, unless they try an experimental procedures that will somehow help.

But, the experiment doesn't go so well, and she breaks out into a terrible fever. They figure out it's not actually cancer, but liver failure. They tell her that, unless they figure out what's causing the failure, she only has three of four days to live.

Wait, what? Why can't they just do a liver transplant? Those exist nowadays, right? But it's more dramatic if Donna the blogger is faced with certain death.

Miraculously, at the last second, House realizes that her new semi-vegetarian diet is to blame (thank goodness it wasn't incessant blogging) and prescribes something to clear her gastrointestinal infection. Donna's going to be okay, everyone!

Throughout the episode, there was this bizarre subplot with Wilson accidentally being in a porn movie. How does that happen, you ask? Good question. Apparently, he acted in a friend's college art film that was later transformed into a porno using different actors. So, Wilson's the plot guy, then someone else takes over for the...you know. House manages to get a hold of a copy and gives it to everyone in the hospital, makes huge posters of Wilson in this crazy get-up, and generally is a jerk. Wilson, of course, is desperate to get back at him, and finds out House is secretly reading a book of sermons. So, he distributes that to everyone in the hospital, and the tables are turned. But, later Wilson finds out that the author of the sermons is House's biological father, so he feels bad. Pretty unnecessary, frankly.

Oh, and Chase has also just realized he's hot and is having an identity crisis. Blah, blah, blah.

The Office - The Delivery Parts 1 and 2, or BABIES!

Oh man, I am so glad Pam didn't have that baby in the office. I was so worried they were going to pull that stunt, especially after her contractions starting coming every two minutes. Having a baby born in the main set of a sitcom is pretty much the oldest '80's sitcom trick in the book. So, good work guys, for avoiding that.

Also, Dwight and Angela are going to have a baby? And why did she acquiesce to weaning it at 6 months in favor of vegetable mash? I guess Dwight's baby clock isn't the only one that's ticking.

But, little Cecelia made her way into the world in a hospital, thank goodness. I'm equally glad they didn't indulge in any delivery scenes, preferring to let the magic be portrayed through Pam's screams and Jim's supportive noises. Much classier that way, The Office.

I am shocked, shocked, though, that Jim and Pam let Michael hold that baby. Have they not been around these last, what, 5 years? But, again, the writers did not indulge, and Cecelia emerged from Michael's arms unscathed.

After some mishaps, including a very friendly lactation specialist and a brief baby mix-up, the 3 Halperts were ready to get home.

What awaited them, however, was their kitchen in the middle of a surprise makeover, courtesy of Dwight. After discovering mold while looking for Pam's iPod (don't ask), he decided to gut it and start over. Interestingly, he was also using it to broker the final deal between he and Angela on their own baby-making adventure.

Meanwhile, Michael's attempts to spark more office love almost derailed the blooming Andy/Erin relationship, but he FINALLY asked her out, via fax, which is kind of adorable, I must admit.

Wow. So they had the baby. Now, we have an army of revolving child actors to look forward to, as they play the part of Cecelia. I also think the hand-off to Andy and Erin as the new "it" couple in the office is appropriate, but I am far less interested in if they make it or not. Oh well, we'll see. And what will happen with a possible Dwight/Angela baby? That whole thing sort of seemed to come out of nowhere.

But for now, let's all bask in the glorious glow of a new baby and make our best cooing noises.

30 Rock - Future Husband, or Kabletown, It's a Fine and Generous Company

Well, they finally did it. Kabletown (Comcast) has taken over NBC (NBC) in the parallel universe of 30 Rock. Jack finds out through Avery, his girl of the week, that it's all downhill from here for ol' NBC. Jack protests, and vows to stand by his old friend and mentor Don Guise, who's always been against the merger. But, bad news, Jackie boy, Don is dead, and the deal is going through.

Hold on! No more Rip Torn guest spots on 30 Rock! Where else will I get my weekly crotchety old scratchy-voiced man allowance?

Anyway, Liz does her trademark breaking of the 4th wall to call Kabletown "...a fine and generous company," and concluded with a pleading smile at the camera. Of course, no brand names were used, but it's abundantly clear that we're all talking about the real-life Comcast/NBC deal. Which makes me wonder, did 30 Rock have to get the OK from their new overloads on this script? This is the type of thing that almost, almost makes a person want to study patent law.

The future looks grim for Jack, but then, Avery saves him from executive oblivion by quoting various "sources" saying he's the only person being considered to head up the new conglomerate. Ohhhh.

Meanwhile, Liz has recovered from her root canal for the most part, but with a little lingering problem. Her phone now holds an entry titled "Future Husband", and the owner is a mystery. She's ready to write it off and delete the number, but Kenneth, convinced that he's got to be the one for her, persuades her to deceive in the name of love and impersonate her dentist's nurse to get them back in the same room. Then, to show his commitment to the idea of destiny, he throws his wallet out the window! It made sense at the time.

Liz goes to the dentist's office, and lo and behold, "Future Husband" is there. Turns out that not only does his phone say "Future Wife" when Liz calls, he's also Welsh dreamboat Michael Sheen! Swoon!

Sadly, their coffee date goes awry, all the way into the land of severe awkwardness and Liz loses faith in Kenneth's aggressive optimism. Just then - Michael Sheen shows up to return Kenneth's wallet, and they agree to give it another shot! Hooray!

Also, Tracey gets the Will Ferrell bug and decides to do a one-man show to win the T of his EGOT. Yeah, I was surprised they're sticking with this storyline too, but we'll see. The first show is a huge hit, and Tracey's ready to pack it in and wait for the Tony to roll in when Jenna tells him there's an 8 performance minimum to be in the running. She tries to teach him acting, it doesn't work, but the show still kills. Ta-da!

I'm glad Liz and the gang confronted the Comcast takeover head-on, and it will be interesting to see how they portray it going forward. It was also good to see Michael Sheen as someone other than Tony Blair, so there's that too. But let's get real for a second: is it just me, or is 30 Rock getting blander? It used to be there were so many plot points and twists that I couldn't even describe it to a friend, and now it's falling into the sitcom trap of two to three stories per week, and everyone laughs at the end. I would imagine it'd be difficult to keep up the absurdist pace of seasons past, but I'd hate to see 30 Rock go the way of a safe, boring sitcom. Maybe they're just having a rough arc, and things will perk up. Or maybe I'm totally off-base. Let's hope for one or the other.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mid-Season Replacement Roundup - The Marriage Ref

I'm about as big a Seinfeld fan as you're likely to find, spontaneously blurting "The Moops!" when a friend discusses an upcoming production of Othello, so I was hesitantly excited about Jerry Seinfeld's return to TV as The Marriage Ref. But, on that first account, I was wrong. You see, Jerry isn't the marriage ref at all! In a weirdly retro opening cartoon segment (you read that right), we're introduced to how the show came about, with Jerry and his wife having an argument, and a friend of theirs serving as the ref. This mystical referee comes with the name Tom Papa, who is also a comedian, or so I hear. He'll be the official in these marital games, with Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Jerry serving as his...deputy referees? Apparently, they'll make arguments for one side or the other, then Tom Papa will make the final call. Thankfully, they preface all this nonsense with the disclaimer that this is not a perfect system. Let's meet our first feuding couple!

Kevin and Danielle have been married for 14 years, and every day is an adventure! It was love at first sight! The only problem? The Fonz, Kevin's beloved Boston terrier. The Fonz is no longer with us, having gone to that country farm in the sky, but still remains. Literally, his remains are the issue. Kevin had The Fonz stuffed, and wants to display him in their house. He's built a shrine (!) for The Fonz, and describes having him in their house forever as "his dream come true".

Okay, so I'm going to go ahead and say this isn't much of a contest. There's no way this panel can side with Kevin on this freak show. If they're all this clear-cut, why do we need a ref?

Our judges clearly see this as well, and waste some time hemming and hawing about the relative merits of different positions the dog could have been stuffed in (attacking, barking, standing valiantly, etc.), just to stall.

As if that wasn't enough wasted time (Danielle! Danielle is the winner, people!), Tom tosses to their "Just the Facts" reporter, who will give us such valuable information as how often people stuff their deceased pets and put them on display. How is this helping? I don't need to know how many people are freaks out there - just because more people do it doesn't mean it's any less weird!

So, Natalie from NBC news tell us that, last year, roughly 1,000 people stuffed their pets.


Unsurprisingly, all the panelists side with the wife, and Tom Papa goes that way as well. He delivers the news to the couples, who then fade off into the satellite feed sunset.

Next up: a husband who wants a stripper pole installed in the house. And you thought it couldn't get any worse.

The husband makes a case that it's not really a stripper bole, but an "exercise poll" and Natalie confirms that there are, in fact, erotic dance classes that people take.

Alec makes some arguments for the pole, but then relents and votes for the wife. Kelly agrees, and Jerry, in a surprise move, votes for the husband and his pole. Why? It's unclear.

Tom Papa brings the couple on, and makes the call for the wife. Not because she's right, but because "who wants to see a resentful, sulking pole dancer?" Well, that is a good point.

So, yeah. That's the show. Needless to say, I'm not sold. I have a terrible feeling it's just going to be ridiculous husband requests on parade, and really, don't we all get enough of that in real life? Ladies? On this one, I'm going to have to side with...not watching this show.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

House - 5 to 9, or Three "Bitch" Limit, Please

Man, it's tough out there for a successful, independent lady hospital administrator. That's the message this week, as we follow A Day in the Life of Cuddy. See, it's 5 to 9, which is just like 9 to 5, only harder, because it's so hard out there! Get it? GET IT?!

Anyway, we see Cuddy doing yoga, taking care of her sick baby, dealing with a horny Luke, you know, the regulars, and that's all before 8:00 AM! She gets the office, where all hell breaks loose. There's a scheming, stealing, sociopathic pharmacy employee, tough negotiations with an insurance conglomerate, and, of course, House. What this episode accomplishes best is showing us what a true pain in the ass House is to everyone around him, and how completely absurd he and his team are in this otherwise normal hospital environment. You don't really see that when you follow his story day to day, but man, is it apparent when you're walking in Cuddy's high heels.

First off, there's the pharmacy worker who's been stealing medications, and who swears it's just so she can lose those few last pounds so her husband won't divorce her. She cries, but Cuddy still has to fire her anyway. She's tough like that. Then, it turns out the employee had been stealing crates and crates of drugs and funneling them to a meth lab! Oh, no!

Then, Cuddy has to negotiate a contract renewal with a New Jersey insurance megacompany, and issues an ultimatum. If they don't increase doctor reimbursement by 12%, they're cutting the contract. Pretty big words, considering that, if she does, about 80% of their patients will have to pay cash, effectively closing the hospital. But Cuddy doesn't back down - it's about the little guy versus the big guy, good versus bad.

Finally, Cuddy deals with an impending lawsuit, as a patient asked for only half of his thumb to be reconnected to his hand after a terrible carpentry accident. He only wanted some of the thumb reconnected because his insurance would only pay for 60%, or some crazy number. But, Chase decided to pull the old "do something different after the patient's under anesthesia" and reattach the whole thumb. Now, the dude is facing medical bankruptcy and is suing the hospital.

So, we get a pretty clear sense from our friends the House writers that insurance companies really suck, and we should all have government sponsored health care. Where were you before the Conference Committee negotiations on health care reform spectacularly crashed and burned, House? Could have used some support there!

Oh, well. Cuddy, in her ultra efficient way, manages to solve all the problems of the day, by getting the guy to drop the case, getting the insurance agency to agree to a 12% reimbursement bump, and secretly taping (with a fake flower!) the sociopath employee while she confesses to all her crimes. She doesn't give in to House's ridiculous request to treat a cancer patient by inducing malaria, and she's still home by 9:00!

Well, now I know how hard it is to be a successful, independent lady hospital administrator. Also, it's worth mentioning that Cuddy is called a bitch at least FOUR times in this episode, once by House, once by the negotiator for the insurance company, once by a patient, and once by her boyfriend! Okay, so her boyfriend says it as a joke, but still! Cuddy never once reacts to the epithet, and I'm not sure I like the message this is sending. "Sure, girls, be strong and resilient. Solve all the problems of the day. But because you do all these things in an efficient and non-emotional way, you'll be a bitch, and you'll be okay with it." I don't think I am okay with it, actually, House. They weren't necessarily going for feminism with the episode, but there's a line. And I think that line is at three "bitches".

House - Moving the Chains, or Family Schmamily

It's all about family ties this week on House, with two patients and a Foreman dealing with familial relationships. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain awkward. Let's take a look.

First off, Foreman's brother (Orlando Jones - delightful) just got out of jail, and instead of going to drive him home, Foreman decides to put in a day's work at old Plainsboro. This, for some reason, really irks House, who decides that they should be closer. So, he takes the completely reasonable step of hiring Foreman's brother as his personal assistant, annoying Foreman to no end, which was the point in the first place. In between getting his dry cleaning and fetching him frappucinos, Foreman's brother also reveals embarrassing secrets about Foreman's youth, which House deploys to the amusement of the rest of the team. Ha, ha, ha!

Meanwhile, the patient this week is a college football player with unexplained and unremembered rage issues. At first, the team is convinced it's steroids, but the player protests that he's never taken them. The tests show he's not lying, so the team goes round and round on several diagnoses that, of course, are all proven wrong.

The secondary patient is a clinic walk-in who insists on meeting with House. Turns out he's about to be stop-lossed to the Middle East, but desperately doesn't want to go, since he has a heavily pregnant wife to take care of. House has no sympathy for him, and is offended when the soldier assumes that House's limp is from Vietnam. He suggests the soldier move to Canada or shoot his foot.

While these shenanigans are going on at the hospital, almost equally crazy things are happening at the new Casa de Wilson and House. Someone left a possum in their bathtub, loosening the grip bar by House's tub, and turned on the sprinklers in the middle of the night! Who could be behind such foul behavior? House assumes it's Foreman, getting him back for hiring his brother. In response, House rachets up Foreman's humiliation.

Once again, House's words come back to bite him in the ass, as the soldier returns, having shot his foot. House gets ready to amputate a toe, which, unfortunately, will not preclude his military duty, since he will still be able to run. The military man decides to let the infection spread to his entire foot, necessitating amputation, rather than be deployed.

Seeing the importance of family unity, House decides to completely sabotage Foreman and his brother's relationship, by revealing that the brother told House about Foreman's mother's death, something that happened only three months ago, but that he didn't share with anyone at the hospital. Foreman is pissed, and the brother is super pissed that House told, so Foreman walks out, and the brother quits. House is unfazed.

Back to the football dude. His symptoms have improved, and he's desperate to play in the big game, where all the pro scouts will be watching. Why does he feel the need to possibly die, just for a shot at the pros? Turns out he's doing it all for his mom, who gave up everything so he could play. He wants to pay her back by being able to take care of her for the rest of her life. They finally let him go, after he promises to return for treatment after the game. Foreman goes with him to make sure he's okay during the match. But, just as he's about to walk on the field, he's struck temporarily blind, and agrees to go back to the hospital and miss the game, and his shot at the big time.

Turns out that Foreman slipped him a drug in his Gatorade that caused temporary blindness, just so he'd go back with them. Oh, that Foreman! After dropping off Mr. Football at the hospital, Foreman then goes to his brother's halfway house, makes amends, and offers to let the brother move in with him. Awww, relationship mended!

They find the cause of the football player's maladies - melanoma, which no one originally diagnosed because the player is African American - and Wilson realizes that House caused the rift between the Foreman brothers only to create a common enemy (him) and ultimately bring them closer together. Awwww, House loves family! But what about the pranks at their new house? They continue, and know now that it isn't Foreman. Turns out it's Luke, Cuddy's new boyfriend, paying them back for stealing the house of her dreams. Well, they deserved it.

Yet again, House has learned an Important Lesson this episode. I'm not sure I know where this is going - if he learns how to interact with humans, where will the fun be? WHERE?

The Office - The Manager and the Salesman, or Reset Button

It's a race to the bottom at Dunder Mifflin/Sabre today! Making a special trip in from sunny Florida, Kathy Bates (I can't remember her character name, just deal with it) realizes that there are two people doing one job, and that just won't do. Either Michael or Jim have to go back to sales. At first, Michael of course wants to keep his managerial position, while Jim argues that he deserves it. Pretty typical. Then, that thinker Pam realizes that there's no cap on commissions in the world of Sabre, so Jim would actually be making more in sales. So, Jim goes to Kathy Bates and gracefully resigns from the co-manager position.

But wait! Michael's also realized that salesmen can make a lot more, thanks to an offhand comment from our friend Oscar, and bursts in the room just as Jim is resigning. Now, he's trying to resign too! Kathy Bates has understandably had just about enough of this nonsense, so defers to Michael to make the decision, since he has the most experience. Jim is now the one and only manager of the Scranton branch.

So, Jim moves into the office (turns out Michael has been marking his height on a piece of wood next to the window) and Michael transitions to Jim's old desk in sales, making sure all his toys will fit. But, the grass isn't always greener on the sales side. After having to deal with the hassles of shared desk life, namely Phyllis's unfortunately odor, Michael is begging for his desk and old position back. Jim, of course, is only happy to oblige, and everything is as it once was.

Meanwhile, Andy distributed Valentine's Day cards to all his co-workers ("and my bro-workers") because he is both a nice guy and still trying to woo Erin. Unfortunately, he doesn't read the contents of any of these cards too closely, and ends up sending an extremely romantic love poem to Kelly, who then immediately falls head over heels in crush with Andy. Then, Erin gets upset, Andy doesn't know why...oh, it's such a romantic comedy! Andy finally realizes about the card for Kelly, and sends out an email to everyone clarifying that he just because he sent everyone a Valentine's Day card does not, in fact, mean he has romantic feelings for them. He does not, however, reveal his feelings for Erin, although everyone pretty much knows anyway.

So, that's what happened in Scranton - not a lot, and everything pretty much restored to its original settings. Sounds like just another day at the office.

Monday, February 15, 2010

30 Rock - Anna Howard Shaw Day, or The Best Valentine's Day Ever!

And who says you don't learn anything from TV? I had no idea that February 14th was suffragist Anna Howard Shaw's birthday! What a good lesson for the kids.

It's Valentine's Day around the TGS offices, and Liz is determined to do away with lonely longing by scheduling her route canal for the 14th, spending the first half of the day in twilight sleep and the second half in front of the TV. Sounds like a good plan, until the dastardly dentist's office reveals that she has to have someone come pick her up after the procedure. She scrambles, looking for someone to come get her, but comes up short.

Jack, meanwhile, has an overabundance of Valentine's Day plans. On top of scheduling dates with three different women, he becomes enchanted with a sexy news anchor for a faux FOX News show called "The Hot Box", deftly played by Elizabeth Banks. Oh, Jack.

At a VIP after party for TGS, orchestrated by Liz solely to impress Jack's new news anchor lady friend, Liz meets Jon Bon Jovi (NBC Artist in Residence), who convinces her not to sign the release allowing her to drive herself home and be labeled a crazy, spinster, cat lady. Instead, she'll pretend that her boyfriend (Astronaut Mike Dexter, of course, who is rapidly becoming this season's Dr. Spaceman in terms of references per episode) will be picking her up.

Of course, things don't work out as planned. After her surgery, Liz is so wonky from the anesthesia that she hallucinates Dennis, her deadbeat ex-boyfriend, Floyd, the man she almost followed to Cleveland, and Dr. Drew, the devastatingly handsome but equally stupid Jon Hamm. It was wonderful to see these fine actors make a too-brief return to Liz Lemon's life, and especially as a vehicle for her to shout that she does want love in her life! Now, the fact that she makes this declaration to the annoyed nurses at her dentist's office makes it a little sadder, but no less hilarious.

The nurses decide to call people in Liz's phone until someone answers, and they reach Jack, just in the middle of a breakup with Elizabeth Banks. She wants a family, you see, a husband, and while Jack was fun for one weekend, he's not in it for the long run. Jack protests, and receives the call. He begs Elizabeth (ok, her character's name is Avery Jessup, but she's always Elizabeth Banks to me) to come with him to see that he's not lying. She does, and they take Liz home. Before falling dead asleep, Liz tells Elizabeth that Jack is a wonderful man, and she doesn't know what she'd do without him. Awwwwhhhh. I think this spells a character arc for Ms. Banks!

Although the episode was hilarious, I'm a little uncertain of the message we're left with. I was really excited that Liz was taking a stand against Valentine's Day and all that it represents. She's an independent woman, and she can do things on her own! Except she can't, and that's when she needs Jack's help. Not exactly a feminist victory. Oh well. Tina Fey and company make no claims about championing women's rights - it's just a TV show. And oh, what a TV show it is. I'll let it slide this once, 30 Rock, but only because you gave me a glimpse of Jon Hamm.


30 Rock - Verna, or Jenna's Origin Story

I'd never wondered where Jenna came from, but after this episode, I'm so glad I know. Verna, Jenna's mom, makes a surprise visit to the TGS studios, in what should be a joyous family reunion. Instead, Jenna dreads her arrival, since their past is plagued with continual disappointments and overdoses. For strategies on dealing with impossible mothers, Jenna goes to Jack, who clearly has some experience. He has a Power Point presentation (of course) to help Jenna deal with her mom, but, strangely, she doesn't end up needing it. Verna's turned over a new leaf, and wants to pay Jenna back for all the help through the years. The celebrations culminate in a surprise birthday party where Verna and Jenna perform a rousing duet of "Do That To Me One More Time".

Meanwhile, Frank's apartment has burned down under mysterious, Star Wars related circumstances, so Liz lets him move into her extraneous apartment. She is shocked and appalled to find that Frank is a smoker! She lectures him, but he lectures her right back on her copious consumption of junk food. So, they decide to make a pact that they'll both quit their vices. Frank succeeds wonderfully, much to Liz's chagrin, as she's dealing with classic withdrawal symptoms. Liz can't believe that he can quit junk food so easily, so she crafts a plan to find him in the act of sneaking cigarettes.

Back in Verna land, it turns out her motives aren't quite as pure as Jenna had hoped, just as Jack always suspected. She's really trying to pitch a reality TV show to Jack about Verna and Jenna, complete with screaming, fighting, and drama. Jack says no, but has a counter-offer. He'll pay her to be a good mom to Jenna, visiting her 4 times a year, and not asking her for money. She agrees, and Jenna is none the wiser. But, now she has a supportive mom, so hooray!

Back at Liz's apartment, it turns out that Frank isn't sneaking cigarettes, but what he's doing is almost as bad. Using a nanny-cam one night, Liz catches Frank consorting with a heavy-set prostitute, but that's not all the camera catches! Turns out that Liz has been sleep eating, downing cheesy puffs, pizza, and even eating cigarettes, all without knowing. The lesson here is: everyone needs stress relief, and to take that away is a dangerous thing. Lesson learned.

Overall, a meh episode. I'm not crazy about Jenna, although the origin story really makes sense (a white trash Floridian with a crazy mom). It was also nice to see Jack do something purely out of the goodness of his heart.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Office - Sabre, or The Evil Overlords Have Arrived, and They Are...Christian Slater?

So, the new company has come to take over what was once Dunder Mifflin, and their face is a tall, lanky, dark haired boy who looks to be about the age of 17. Turns out his name is Gabe and he's there to oversee the transition, which mostly entails handing out metal water bottles and showing an informational "So, you've been taken over by the corporate conglomerate, Sabre" video, starring none other than Christian Slater, doing his best Troy McClure impression. We don't actually learn anything about Sabre from this video, but Christian Slater really convinces us that it's an awesome place to work. At the end, we see Kathy Bates giving another enthusiastic endorsement of the company, and I thought, "Oh, cool, Kathy Bates is their celebrity spokesperson too!" Turns out she's playing the president of Sabre (pronounced Saber, by the way).

But, not everyone seems to agree. Michael freaks out at all the changes in protocol (mostly having to do with increased efficiency) and decides to have a little chat with Kathy Bates about the way they do things in Scranton. She gets Darwinian on his ass and tells him to adapt or die. In response, Michael flees to David Wallace's house for advice.

When Michael arrives, he finds that David has descended into unemployment fantasy land, thinking up elaborate and unappealing children's toys. Michael realizes that Darwin was right, and he really should adapt. So, he goes back and gives an awkward toast (with orange juice) about how much he's going to love his new evil overlords.

Let's see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

House - Remorse, or you GUYS, it's about feeling bad about stuff!

This week, we see a young, successful businesswoman overcome with splitting headaches that progresses into heart failure, liver failure, esophagus failure...pretty much all the failure you can have. The twist? She's also a sociopath! She has no feelings, people!

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that this woman is pretty much terrible. She uses all her friends and acquaintances for her own benefit and has no remorse. She even tries to coerce the medical board into taking away Thirteen's license by fabricating a sexual harassment claim!

So, of course, the whole point is to draw a parallel between this woman and House. There's even a scene where he asks her how it is to be a sociopath, and she's all like, "Meh, it's cool. Why you askin'?" And then House gets quiet and leaves.

But he's not a sociopath, you guys! He's just a misanthrope. The subplot this week is House contacting an old med school buddy. If by buddy, you mean, plagiarized on their final paper in a class House didn't like. Ruh-roh! So, they have an awkward lunch, and the dude (his name is Weatherby - how great is that?) reveals that, because he failed that test, he never got his medical license and is now a bag boy at the local grocery store. As if that weren't bad enough, Mr. Weatherby is also about to lose his house because he got an adjustable rate mortgage. Sucks to be you!

So, House gets all sad-like and gives Weatherby a ton of money for his mortgage. It's only then that Weatherby reveals he was just fibbing about all that stuff, and he actually got an A+ on the paper. Oh, and he was a successful orthopedic surgeon until he developed a gambling problem and lost both his license and his house. He just told House all that other stuff to guilt him. But now, House has this check for all this money, and is still trying to foist it on Weatherby. That must mean he has feelings, right? Because he can forgive this dude for lying and still want to bestow great riches upon him? Maybe?

Let's just say the message in all this was not exactly subtle. I'll give you a hint: it has to do with remorse.

But back to Mrs. Sociopath! They finally diagnose her with Wilson's Disease, which can cause sociopathic tendencies, and treat her for it. In addition to her liver/heart/etc. rapidly improving, she also gets her emotions back! Hooray! But now she's been a bitch to everyone in her life for the past 20 years, so most of those emotions are sad ones. Womp, womp.

Will the self-realization that he is not a sociopath make House a better guy? Methinks not, but I'm not concerned. As long as we have more exciting and less predictable patients in the future, Dr. House, I'm along for the ride no matter how badly you treat your friends and coworkers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

House - The Down Low, or Criminals Have Diseases Too!

House delves into the world of drug dealing this week, when a second-rate lackey in a smuggling operation finds himself passing out every time he hears a loud noise, which is really inconvenient when you're surrounded by gunfire. Dr. House finds the case irresistibly vexing, so foists it onto his merry band of diagnosticians.

Bonus: the guy who plays the drug dealing patient is Ethan Embry, who was also the star of the short-lived, way ahead of its time FreakyLinks, which I, as an adolescent who loved The X Files, devoured.

Anyway, first they thought that drug dealer had some sort of inner-ear imbalance or brain tumor, but after both those hypotheses turn out to be null, they let him go with the idea that they'll follow him to his secret drug lair and test the environment for toxins. This didn't work, because he managed to lose the tail composed of Thirteen and Cameron. Luckily for the gang, he was right back in the hospital with worsening symptoms the next day.

Isn't it convenient how that always works out?

Also, there's an ongoing "practical joke" everyone on the team is playing on Foreman, pretending they get paid more than him. Apparently, this was mean to "bring him down a few notches"? Yes, doctors, pay discrepancy, especially for the only minority person on a team of equals, is HILARIOUS.

Eventually, we find out that drug dealer has been taking beta blockers to deal with all the stress of, you know, dealing drugs, which caused one of his original symptoms. With that off the table, the team is able to come with a new potential diagnosis, and start testing.

While all this is going on, Wilson and House have moved into their new apartment. While meeting the new neighbors, Wilson found someone he'd like to date. After she makes the mistake of thinking he and House are more than just roommates (hence the title), he enlists House's help to convince her that they're not gay. He decides to act really gay, in the hopes of eventually seducing her. The plan is very convoluted.

After making use of his amazing powers of deduction, House figures out that drug dealer is actually a cop, which is why he's been taking beta blockers - to hide shaky hands, sweating, trembling voice. All would be symptoms if you had to be a bad guy when you were really a good guy.

The cop gets worse and worse, and all the while, it becomes clear that the drug dealer guys are actually pretty nice, helping him out, risking their own hide by letting Thirteen go to the storage facility (a dry cleaners!) to look for environmental toxins. We find out that there's a big police bust coming that night, which is why the cop didn't want to tell anything about the operation, so it wouldn't be compromised. To make matters more confusing for Ethan Embry, his drug dealer buddy makes a heartfelt speech about what close friends they are. Oh Ethan, I bet you're feeling pretty conflicted right about now!

On the unequal pay distribution front, Foreman reveals to the team that he asked Cuddy for a raise, and after she refused, he decided to leave the hospital in search of greener pastures. The other three freak out, and rush to Cuddy to try and make amends. They offer to each take a pay cut so Cuddy can give Foreman a raise so he'll stay. After they make the agreement, it turns out that there was no other job, Foreman didn't really talk to Cuddy, and managed to manipulate them into giving him part of their paychecks. Haha - payback is delicious! I definitely did not see it coming, and this was about the only good way this storyline could have resolved itself. Well played, House.

Sadly for the cop, it turns out he has a rare and aggressive auto-immune disease that will kill him within the next 48 hours. He finally calls his wife, whom he hasn't seen in 16 months, and she's there as he draws his last breath. The bust goes as planned in the drug den, and all the bad guys, including the cop's buddy, gets taken in. Oh, and House reveals to the lady that he's not really gay, and she's mad at both of them.

The lesson in all this? Don't prank your friends about money, don't pretend to be gay to win the ladies, and don't go undercover with hardened criminals. Three solid pieces of advice, House.

The Office - The Banker, or Memory Lane

Hey, guys, remember all that fun stuff that's happened on The Office over the years? Well, have I got a deal for you...


But I have to hand it to The Office for concocting a fairly plausible storyline to cover the gratuitous showing of times past. Turns out that, as part of the sale of Dunder Mifflin, a dude has to come and make sure that everything's ship shape in Scranton. He sits down with Toby and asks difficult questions about productivity, office accidents, sexual harassment (That's what she said montage!) and - wait for it - office relationships!

Oh yes, JAM fans, there's a montage of beautiful Jim and Pam relationships. Finally, something that the internet has been providing for years is now available in a The Office sanctioned format. Although, I must say, the internet has a better soundtrack.

But let's not be completely cynical. I don't know what it is about those two, but no matter how many times I see the exact same clips of classic Jim and Pam being adorable, it still tugs on my heartstrings. I guess I'm not made of stone after all.

Pretty fair overall, but I'm concerned about the tone that says, "Hey viewers, we're wrapping things up here." Has there been any chatter about The Office ending that I'm unaware of? With the sale of Dunder Mifflin, and now this, I'm pretty concerned that Michael and the gang are throwing in the towel. Although I certainly wouldn't blame them. But I need to be emotionally prepared for the end of this gang of misfits - that's not something that NBC can just foist on a person. Readers - keep your ears open!

30 Rock - Black Light Attack!, or You Win This Round, 30 Rock

Well, 30 Rock finally got me. After years of vehemently denying the show trope that Liz is unattractive, they finally caught me in their web of lies. You see, this week Liz finally finds some man-loving, in the form of fresh meat, new castmember Danny. Danny is incredibly attractive, and Jack spends the entire episode trying to persuade Danny to dump Liz so they can hang out and be man-friends.

So, what's the problem? Here's the problem. Danny starts describing Liz to Jack, using veiled terms (because he's too much of a gentleman to kiss and tell - swoon!) and it becomes more and more clear that the lady-friend is Liz. Midway through his explanation, I thought to myself: "Oh, it's Liz! Wait, no, he would never go for a girl like her."

I know - what am I thinking?! Of course he would go for her - she's sexy, smart, and hilarious! But that moment of doubt, without my even realizing it, means that the smart writing and impressive characterization of Liz Lemon has overridden the visual part of my brain, telling me that Liz is, in fact, unattractive. This may be a failure for my eyes, but it's a triumph for the writing of 30 Rock. All I can say is: well played.

Anyway, Jack convinces Danny to dump Liz by pretending to be in love with Liz himself! Danny, naive fool that he is, believes this, and chivalrously ends his relationship with Liz so the man who loves her can find her. Man - when will this guy be any less than perfect?

There was also a weird subplot with Jenna learning to accept that she's getting older, and age gracefully, and a nonsensical bet wherein Jenna reveals her true age only if Liz reveals her secret, which goes by the code name "Tom Selleck". Shocker - it's a mustache.

You may have gotten me this week, 30 Rock, but look out - this active viewer doesn't accept defeat that easily!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 67th Golden Globes, or Rematch: Oscars

I don't know if you guys knew this, but...it was raining in LA.

Riddle me this: has there ever been an award pre-show where the weather was discussed with more vigor? I swear, if it hadn't been raining, Billy Bush would have had nothing to awkwardly banter about. Although the one up-side of the torrential downpour was seeing silly little Bush scramble around the red carpet invading the personal space of A-list celebs to grab some umbrella time.

Best weather joke from Tom Hanks: "NBC said it was going to rain at 10:00, but then they moved it to 11:30!" Zing! And speaking of the Late Night debacle, Julia Roberts greeted Billy Bush with the salutation: "NBC's in the toilet right now!" She may have been drunk.

NBC also instituted something called the "Fashion Cam" for the pre-show, which is an obscene knock-off of E!'s "360 Glam Cam". Though I didn't see the E! version, the Fashion Cam must have employed everyone's uncle who thinks he's an amateur photographer, but who can't NOT take pictures of people with their eyes half-closed and mouths open.

Revelation of the pre-show: JASON STACKHOUSE IS AUSTRALIAN. What?! My mind has been blown.

Onto the actual broadcast, Ricky Gervais spent the first three minutes of his monologue ripping on Steve Carell and promoting the original, British The Office. He followed that strong opener up with...penis jokes, followed by a weak Angelina-Julie-adopts-a-lot-of-babies jokes that I saw coming a mile away. Then, thankfully, the monologue was over. Disappointing, Mr. Gervais, I must say.

Oh, and they gave out awards, too! Here are some of the highlights, broken down into these helpful categories:

Foregone Conclusions:

Best Supporting Actress (Movie) - Mo'Nique for Precious
I think the awards buzz for Mo'Nique began while the book on which the movie was based was still being written.

Best Animated Film - Up
I really need to see this movie, apparently. Who knew crotchety old men were such a draw?

Best Song from a Movie - The Weary Kind for Crazy Heart
Another movie I should see? But Jeff Bridges as anyone other than The Dude or Obidiah Stane makes me suspicious.

Best Actress (Movie) - Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
She always seems so surprised, not only when she wins, but even during that little montage where they show all the nominees. I can't tell if it's a put-on, or if she's just that good of an actress. She's probably just that good. Wouldn't it have been funny if she started thanking people from the other movie she was nominated for? Sadly, that did not happen.

Best Actor in a Comedy (TV) - Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
Jack Donaghy was so cool, he didn't even come to the ceremony and still managed to win.

Best Supporting Actor (Movie) - Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds
Dude speaks four languages. And managed to make a Nazi slightly likeable. It would have been a national emergency if he hadn't won.

Best Actor (Movie) - Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
It's The Dude's night, apparently. He even got a standing ovation, which means I guess I do have to see this movie now. Sigh. Just another thing on the to-do list.

Really? I Mean, Really?:

Best Actress in a Drama (TV) - Julianna Margolies for The Good Wife
Okay, so I haven't watched this show, so this isn't necessarily unbiased, but to pass up Glenn Friggin' Close for any award takes some serious cohones. On the other hand, I'm kind of glad that Anna Paquin didn't win, because she she's got the award for Best Vacant Stares and Heaving Bosom in the bag.

Best Screenplay (Movie) - Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
Again, not totally un-partisan because I didn't see it, but I'm fairly certain that Quentin Tarantino + Nazis = Better than Indie Ennui. Yeah, I said it.

Best Supporting Actress (TV) - Chloe Sevigny for Big Love
I love Big Love, but Jane Lynch of Glee was ROBBED! ROBBED, I say!

Best Director - James Cameron for Avatar
COME OOONNN!!! They're blue aliens! Kathryn Bigelow was so much better, and I was aching, just aching for the sweet ex-spouse schadenfreude I was about to experience on Kathryn's behalf. At least he didn't claim to be king of the world, but he did deliver part of his speech in Na'vi. Uuuggghhhh.

Best Drama (Movie) - Avatar
BLLAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!! DANCES WITH SMURFS?! You are killing me, Hollywood Foreign Press. Now I'm left with this bitter taste in my mouth for the rest of the night. I demand a rematch! See you at the Oscars, Cameron!

Well Played:

Best Supporting Actor (TV) - John Lithgow for Dexter
I think I've covered how delightful I found Arthur Miller this season. Also, I don't watch any of the other shows the other nominees were from.

Best Actor in a Drama (TV) - Michael C. Hall for Dexter
DEXTER! This was a way tough category, with MCH going head to head with Hugh Laurie from House, Jon Hamm from Mad Men, Bill Paxson from Big Love, and a dude from a show I've never heard of. Nice work, Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Best Drama (TV) - Mad Men
Sure, things got a little swidgy near the middle of the season, but the Kennedy assassination and the end of the season was so great, they really deserve it. Another very tough category, but ultimately, good call.

Best Comedy (TV) - Glee
YYEEESSSS. In the acceptance speech, the producer said that this show was about "the importance of arts education," which is kind of true. But it's mostly about awesome musical numbers, double entendres, and the kind of high school drama we all thought we wanted to leave behind forever, but secretly love reliving.

Best Comedy (Movie) - The Hangover
Since this was the only movie of the nominees I saw, I was naturally rooting for it, but that is not to take away from its awesomeness. Zach Galifianakis also deserves every award for awkward sidekick there ever was. Also, I have to give some love to fellow Hoya Alum Bradley Cooper.

Best Actor (Movie) - Robert Downey Jr. for Sherlock Holmes
Wow, I guess I didn't see as many movies this year as I thought I did, because I didn't know these other movies. But RDJ gave the best acceptance speech of the night with a sweet line of non-thank yous to all his collaborators: "I don't need these people - they needed me!" and "I especially don't want to thank my wife, because if it wasn't for her, I'd be waiting tables at the Daily Grill right now!" Win.

Friday, January 15, 2010

30 Rock - Klaus and Greta, or Lemoning the Situation with James Franco

On its triumphant return from the winter break, 30 Rock pulled out the big guns with special guest star James Franco, as...famous actor James Franco! Now, this interesting casting choice combined with the uber-meta storyline really raised some interesting questions about the nature of TV and stardom in general. You didn't think 30 Rock could do that, did you?

First off, a little background. For you non-celebrity watchers out there, James Franco has been appearing on the soap opera General Hospital as a serial killer named...wait for it...Franco. Just...Franco. Franco (the real one) then described his guest spot on the venerable soap as "performance art". And no, your eyes do not deceive you - that hyperlink goes to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by...JAMES FRANCO. No wonder newspapers are going bankrupt.

ANYWAY. With that in mind, let's lay out the story of Franco as Franco on 30 Rock. James Franco, the handsome and popular movie star (the fake one) starts up a manufactured tabloid relationship with Jenna in order to dispel rumors that he's in love with a Japanese body pillow. And yes, this too is a real thing.

So, if I'm reading this right, James Franco, who is garnering hype for playing a serial killer on a soap opera that has the same name as him, is concurrently guest-starring on a popular sitcom as an actor with the same name, who, in addition to loving an inanimate object, concocts an elaborate tabloid ruse for fame. My question is: how much of this was intentional meta-ness? What is 30 Rock telling us here? Is James Franco (the real one) telling us that his "performance art" is really a ruse? Is this guest spot another form of "performance art" for the fancy-schmancy Franco? Does James Franco really love Japanese body pillows?

These are questions to which there are no answers, readers. What I can tell you is that James Franco overacts horribly throughout the entire episode. But is he overacting because that's what fake Franco acts, or is James Franco actually a terrible actor? So many questions.

So, while this whole business happened, other characters existed too! Jack drunk dialed Nancy, his lost high-school love, on New Year's Eve and undoubtedly left a ridiculous message. So, he coerces Kenneth to go up to Boston with him, break into Nancy's house, and erase the message. Let's just say things don't go as planned, and the relationship with Nancy may be back on. More Julianne Moore! Hooray!

Other takeaways from this episode include the delightful phrase "Lemoned the situation", which is shorthand for: made awkward, ruined, destroyed. I plan on incorporating it at every turn, and if people don't get the reference, well, then I'll know who my true friends are.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Glee - Sectionals, or What's Next?

Oh, Rachel!

Well, the cat's out of the bag on the paternity of the newest Fabray, thanks to Rachel's misguided sense of morality. She ferreted out the truth with a well-placed suggestion of Tay-Sachs Disease, and Puck continued his sort-of-trying-to-be-a-dad thing by agreeing to have the screening, but not that night, because he has to go to Fight Club. Puck! Remember the first rule of Fight Club! Duh!

Anyway, Quinn finds out after Rachel blabs, and with the lead male out of the gang, the hill to Sectionals glory just got a lot steeper. Way to go, Rach.

On the up side, Emma has stepped up to chauffeur the kids to Sectionals, much to Ken's chagrin. Just another instance of Emma choosing Will over him. After recruiting Journalist Jacob to be the 12th member of the club, the team arrives at Sectionals and re-meet up with the reform school ladies and the Haverbrook folks. But there'll be no John Lennon singalongs this time, as the schools and their faculty advisors are in it to win it. While watching the other two schools perform, they realize that the other two schools have stolen their set list, and freak out (understandably). They can't perform all the same numbers the judges just saw, so what will they do?

Emma alerts Will to the situation - "Artie keeps ramming himself against the wall!" - and he takes the reins. After having an impotent run-in with Sue, Will persuades Finn to step up and show some leadership. Finn steals/borrows Will's car and races to Sectionals. There, he miraculously re-forms the set list and leads the team to glory with "You Can't Always Get What you Want" (unsubtly suggested by Will) and Rachel's rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade". Magical.

After a tense judge deliberation with a sweet cameo from the girl that played Sarah on True Blood, they come to the obvious conclusion that the McKinley High belters are the best. Hooray! More New Directions!

So, everyone's a winner now, and Will looks to celebrate by attending Emma's nuptials with Ken. On the way, Terri makes one last ditch effort to wile Will back, but he shoots her down. Bam!

Speaking of being shot down, it looks like Terri isn't the only one. Ken left Emma at the aisle, leaving her stranded at the most depressing VFW reception ever. Emma confesses her feelings for Will, tells him she's resigning, and he is completely awkward and unhelpful about it. Way to go, Will.

Will also informs Principal Figgins about Sue's bad behavior, and he makes the surprise choice of suspending her! Shock! Sue takes in stride, promising to exact retribution on all those who have done her wrong. But mostly Will.

Just when you think that'll be the end to this half-season, the kids surprise Will with a Kelly Clarkson tribute, "My Life Would Suck Without You". Okay, I had a few issues with this number. Let's talk about it:

First off, the choice of song was a bit strange. I've always found the message of this particular number a little mixed. It's basically a description of some guy who really treats this girl badly, but she keeps taking him back. Why? Because they "belong together". I don't know about this. Also, there have been constant criticisms of Glee's over-autotuning of its performers, who have naturally wonderful voices all on their own. It's never bothered me, but the chorus especially seemed almost entirely computer generated. Next, the choreography. Specifically, the little interlude where the girls crouched down and slapped their inner thighs. What?! Inappropriate, especially considering they were all wearing miniskirts, and that they're, what, 16? I don't know about this, Glee. Finally, there was the big finale where Will slow-mo races to find Emma, finally realizing that she's awesome, and plants a sloppy one right on her kisser. I actually kind of loved that part.

So, now we have to wait until April (I think?) to see what happens with these crazy kids. I just want to point out that it was a huge oversight to have Eve guest star for not one, but two, episodes, and not make use of her fantastic voice. Maybe she'll be back for Regionals? And now that Terri is newly single, will she still want little baby Fabray-Puckerman? My gut says no, which makes things more complicated for the still-homeless Quinn. Also, I imagine Finn will be kicking her out, leaving her where? To shack up with Puck? Something tells me that the mother who thought Puck was just as bad as the Nazis for not dating a Jewish girl won't put up with a shiksa intruder into her home. But who knows? Maybe she'll be really cool about it? And what about Quinn? Finally single, will he start up with Rachel? Will her neuroses drive him to the hills? So many questions, and now we have 4 months to sit and brood about the answers! Let me know your thoughts on the upcoming second half of the season. Until then, I'll be repeatedly listening to Glee, Volumes 1 and 2 on my iPod in anticipation.