Sunday, November 12, 2006

That's how I Roland

Hey, it's me DAVID! You've probably forgotten, but I'm back from whatever hiatus I may or may not have been on. Here are a few episodes I really dug over the past week:

After a few episodes of a fairly standard (though nonetheless solid) formula where Dexter tracks the ice truck killer and also finds time to slice up some other weirdo, Showtime's cheerfully demented newbie show had possibly its best episode yet on Sunday with "Return to Sender". As Dexter feared that his double life was about to be uncovered, he made a fair point--"Eventually most serial killers get caught. There's really not much of a retirement plan". I was shocked to realize that I had basically forgotten to think of Dexter as a 'serial killer', an archetype as tired as the day is long. Dexter is no opera-loving sophisticate in the Hannibal Lecter mode, and he's nothing like the by-the-numbers psychopaths we see on Law & Order or Criminal Minds with specific reasons for their mental deviance. He's merely someone who is fully aware of the breach between him and normal society and his potential for dangerous behavior, someone who acts on his desires in the most acceptable way possible. This show's achievement is that it's putting an interesting spin on the idea of the serial killer for the first time in years by giving us someone who is believably insane, but is nonetheless someone we can root for. If Dexter was an inflated, egotistical avenging angel who preached about the morality of his killing code, he would be a complete bore, but his character takes a much more interesting tack. Of course, the problem with a show with such a fascinating lead character is that it's tough to be as interested by the rest of the ensemble, but the show's cast is good enough to keep it afloat for now, especially the feisty Jennifer Carpenter as Dex's sister, and they're clearly doing the best they can to flesh out the others without boring us too much. Todd, catch up on this already!

Next is my super-favorite How I Met Your Mother, which concluded the first third of the season with "Crazy Eyes", reuniting Marshall and Lily in a nicely low-key, but still touching, fashion. In fact, the show has handled its two big relationships with exceptional deftness this year. After Ted's grandstanding antics in the first season finale, I feared Ross-and-Rachel-esque turbulence once he got with Robin. While I have no doubt there's trouble ahead for the pair (and soon), the writers haven't been afraid to keep them in the background for whole episodes at a time, and so far they're entirely believable together--it helps that Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders have a great laid-back chemistry. It's great that I can praise such a goofy show for its attention to realism, considering nearly every episode attempts to subvert its sitcom formula by chopping up the timelines or messing with character identities. "Crazy Eyes" was no exception, its best conceit being Barney's infuriation at his new nickname 'Swarley'. Plus, Andrew from Buffy and Inara from Firefly were in it! Still my favorite show on TV.

I meant to post last week and hype up the return of The O.C., which aired its third episode (clearly Fox are looking to burn this likely final season off quickly) on Thursday. I'll hype it now: this show is good again! Promise! As a fond admirer of the show's freshman year, I am still cautious considering that season 3 also started fairly well before going into a major tailspin. But there's a maturity here (after what I felt was the fairly immature decision of dispatching Marissa) that has taken me by surprise. "The Cold Turkey" really wrapped up the emotional shellshock Ryan, Summer and Julie had been suffering through after Marissa's death and never really struck a false or ridiculously over-the-top note. I fear what may happen once Seth, Ryan and Taylor leave for college (they have to eventually, surely?) and the writers will have to juggle many plot strands in many different locations, but here's hoping they don't veer off into anything too dull (i.e. whatever Sandy did last year), implausible (i.e. Seth's life being devastated by a couple ounces of pot) or ridiculous (well, Marissa's gone, so that part should be easier!). Also, here's hoping that Fox doesn't whisk the show away early due to its rather abysmal there any chance of that happening?

Finally, several things struck me as I watched Everybody Hates Chris this week. First off, Chris has the by far the best soundtrack on television. There's no fighting that. I've never watched a show that's had me tapping my feet throughout an episode. That sounds really cheesy, but damn if it isn't true. Secondly, Chris is building up a fantastic repertoire of guest stars. This year we've had obvious standouts like Whoopi Goldberg and Jason Alexander, but also the excellent Jackee Harry and particularly Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear!) as Chris's sharp employer Doc. What I really like is that Chris never really forces any of these actors down your throat, a trait Will & Grace and Friends could be so guilty of, but actually builds proper characters and just lets the actors do something with them. Finally, this week's episode "Everybody Hates the Buddy System", a loose parody of 'The Defiant Ones', packed a far more realistic punch in its depiction of Chris' racially-motivated bully Caruso than anything Studio 60 has been able to muster up (sorry--I hate picking on Studio 60, I think it's just too easy, but that episode with the black comedians really bugged me). Anyway, like Todd has said, Chris is one of the standard-bearers for a great crop of comedy that's currently on the air. Do keep up!

I wanted to post on Lost's mini-finale too, but I don't want to make this post any longer. So I'll be back soon with thoughts on the six episodes as a whole. Ain't life grand!

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