Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Um. . .something about fur trapping.": Some things I've been watching

Man, I don't know about you, but it's just great to have Alan Thicke back on our TV screens, doncha think?

Thoughts on various things I've been watching after the jump.

How I Met Your Mother wasn't as great as it can be, and, like Slapsgiving, it paled in comparison to Slap Bet (the episode that spawned the plot at the center of the episode), but it was still a solid episode, and the closing "twist" was one I've been waiting for for a while (and I liked the way they eased into that pairing). As always, the best stuff in the episode was just the gang hanging out and coining new words (I did like how "revertigo" never caught on) and reminiscing. James VanderBeek was surprisingly willing to go for the comedy and to be portrayed as a gigantic super putz, even if his accent left. . .something to be desired.

So, hey, how about this season of South Park? It's not bad, exactly, but I've been catching up on, and I'm surprised at just how meh the show has become. It's not bad, and it has great moments in every episode (I was fond of Cartman and Butters having to hold hands in the episode that aired tonight), but overall, it's just starting to feel a little been-there, done-that. It's reached that point at roughly the same point The Simpsons did, and while I think the show will probably be defended by fans for longer (simply because its outrageous nature demands greater fealty for some reason), even the political satire is lacking in snap. The Britney episode was pretty good (the creators always do well with the pitfalls of fame), but the writers strike episode, despite having some funny lines, made fun of Family Guy for its random references, then filled a whole act with. . .references to YouTube acts that were strictly of the "Hey! I've heard of that!" variety. What's more, the political satire, which used to seem sort of daring for mocking both sides, now just seems tired BECAUSE it doesn't take a side. This is not to say the show SHOULD take a side, but the times are so polarized and so stark, that being too cool for school just doesn't seem that cool anymore.

I know a lot of people didn't like that 30 Rock because of Tim Conway or somesuch, but I laughed a lot at it, even if Conway was shoved off to the side in an irrelevant subplot. The Dennis and Liz pairing was one of the things that really convinced me the show was finding its way during those weird times in the early part of season one, and I hope the Beeper King comes back for more at some point. Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan have a strange energy when they work together, and I'm glad the show isn't trying to overplay that, as well. The show isn't quite to the point that it was at in that wonderful string of episodes from before the strike, but this week, I was really glad to have it back.

Hey, Scrubs, do more episodes like that. Kelso is one of your best, most under-used characters, and I'd rather see stories about him than stories where you push J.D. and Elliot together, especially when you're going to be doing another season and will have lots more episodes to push those two together. One of the things that I'm resisting is that the pushage of those two has been so sudden, especially when it seemed pretty definitely over between them back in season three. If you built it organically, I might go along for the ride.

Libby insists that wasn't a new Bones, but that episode highlighted everything I do and don't like about the show. The banter and character interaction was pretty terrific, while the mystery itself was a little yawn-worthy. Still, I just wanted to share that watching cheerleaders in blue lipstick in HD is a little disconcerting. I probably won't sleep for months.

Having finally caught up with the rest of the world, I have to admit I'm really impressed by John Adams. There's stuff in it that doesn't work, but Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are always terrific, and the show manages to make the Revolutionary War era new and relevant, and it doesn't make the history stultifying. I'd rather that Benjamin Franklin not talk like Poor Richard's Almanack, and I do think the show has too much of a tendency to underline some things that don't need underlining, but most of the time it's really terrific. It's well worth a DVD purchase if you have some time.

Finally, I quite liked that episode of The Office. It took a second time through it to really unpack all of its pleasures, but it was sweetly funny while still being emotionally resonant. The Jim/Pam impending engagement makes me wince, but I trust them to find a way to make it funny and interesting. I've always wanted to see a show take its central couple from flirty to dating to engaged to married, but something about this doesn't feel earned yet -- I'm guessing it has something to do with the strike break and not really anything to do with the show's actual attempts to portray the relationship.

So what are you watching? And what should I be watching?


Megan D. said...

Travis won't watch The Office with me anymore since the first episode after the strike. Sure, he laughed out loud, but he says it's just too uncomfortable.

Of course it is -- that's what I love about it.

And what I'm watching that I really wish I wasn't - Greek and Men in Trees. I can't stand the acting or the plotlines. But I can't stop watching. Is there a support group for morons like me?

And about John Adams - love LOVE LOVE the guy playing Thomas Jefferson. Where can I get more of that? He's genious. Even if I can't spell it, that doesn't make it not true.

Myles said...

Megan, I'll join you on the Greek side of things - I realized after writing a ridiculously long blog post about the character development of the latest episode that I was giving the show way more credit than it ever deserved. However, I was desperate for something light and fluffy to get me through a weekend of exams, and it did the trick - but stopping is now not an option.

Disappointed with the song, enjoyed the episode for HIMYM, thought Office was a nice "Regular" episode for the series, certainly felt 30 Rock was funny even with the oddly placed Tim Conway C-Story, and also liked Scrubs except for everything involving J.D. Ever.

Wally said...

I loved that 'Office' episode, and dug this week's 'Galactica' as much as you did, Todd, but at this point I'm basically unable to think about any television shows other than the one I've been revisiting in small doses on DVD: 'John From Cincinnati.'

We had something truly extraordinary last year and it seems - as usual - that most of the world, indeed most of the TV audience, missed it altogether. 'Deadwood' was as good as 'The Wire' in its way, I don't mind comparing them directly, but I hardly even know how to compare 'JFC' to anything else; it's just this other universe, and it feels so personal that I can't stand it. I watched the second episode this afternoon; I cried for basically its entire second half. It's just so, so, so intense and precise and idiosyncratic and yet welcoming - how can a show at times so inscrutable be so open-hearted? - and watching it makes me want to believe in Milch's vision of giving oneself to God.

It makes new things possible. I can't think of another television show that makes me feel this way.

Carrie said...

Megan & Myles, I really like Greek. For a teen/post-teen drama, it has a surprising amount of subtle character development. No one person is wholly good or wholly bad and it makes them seem more human. For a show of this sort, that's darn near revolutionary. I do agree that it's rather frothy and slight, but it's fun, and at least for something frothy, light and fun it's rather well done.