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, 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.