Archive for NBC

Chuck (S02E04): “Chuck Versus the Cougars”

Posted in Chuck, TV with tags , , , , on October 21, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: B+

This week’s Chuck is all about flashing back on Sarah’s past, when she was still a nerdy girl named Jenny, and forward to her current life, which is interrupted when her past catches up with it. It’s an hour filled up by a soundtrack that makes the 90’s kid in me both want to get up and dance (To Chumbawamba’s “Tubmthumper”) and cringe (to The Backstreet Boys), but also an hour for nerds across America to believe they too can share cheeseburgers with impossibly gorgeous women with pasts more normal than they’d like anyone to know.

In “Chuck Versus the Cougars” we get the season’s biggest twist yet: Nicole Richie can act. While it’s not a performance worthy of any awards, she plays the part of the stuck-up, popular cheerleader well, maybe only because it’s not much of a stretch personality wise. Heather (Richie) and her nerd husband (Ben Savage) run across their former high school classmate, Jenny, and secrets Sarah does not want coming to the surface start tunelling back into the light. Chuck’s loving the information overload, but Sarah’s visibly frustrated and kicking the crap out of a punching bag to try and channel her anger (lest anyone made of flesh and blood get hurt instead). Sarah’s past turns out to be shockingly average (Nerdy girl gets picked on, dad gets arrested to protect him from shady characters he was doing business with, and she gets pulled into the CIA), but it makes her seem more real and, for Chuck, not so cosmically distant from a nerd like him.

Heather has married a man much like Chuck–a guy who’s a little geeky, considers math a fun hobby, and likes ties–and Chuck and her hubby get a chance to have a little nerd pow-wow at Sarah’s high school reunion. But to him, Chuck “Mad Dog” Bartowski is the epitome of cool, while Chuck on the other hand sees himself as just as much a nerd and just as incredibly lucky to have a woman like Sarah at his side. Except the problem is neither Sarah or Heather are truly with these guys. Heather turns out to be the one blackmailing her husband into turning over his top-secret fighter jet plans (though if he ever finds this out, the episode doesn’t show it) and only got with him with dollar-signs in her eyes, and Sarah has genuine feelings for Chuck, but last week already made clear the line that must be drawn between them.

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The Office (S05E03): “Baby Shower”

Posted in The Office, TV with tags , , , , on October 21, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: B

Due to a crazy series of unexpected events this past week, my reviews are way behind. In order to catch up I’m going to be writing a lot less. So here are just some of my mostly unorganized thoughts on this week’s episode of The Office, which I enjoyed less than last week. But while I wasn’t laughing as much, I think this episode did a good job of adding some depth to some of the series’ characters.

Jan resurfacing in this episode is a reminder of just how bad she and Michael are together; a fact made more painfully obvious by the addition of Holly and the oozing amounts of chemistry they share. While the entire office realizes in a very matter of fact way that Jan’s baby is not Michael’s to begin with, it takes the potential daddy to be the longest to come to terms with these facts (well, right after Dwight, who plays in his own little world as usual). Michael gets to act a little immature here by feigning hatred toward Holly, but it’s only because his fear of Jan is back.

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Heroes (S03E05): “Angels and Monsters”

Posted in Heroes, TV with tags , , , on October 15, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: C

A few weeks ago, I made the resolution to lower my expectations for Heroes, hoping it would help me to better enjoy the show from a standpoint of pure fun with no analytical strings attached. Four weeks and five long hours later, though, and I’m forcing myself to sit through an entire hour’s worth of eye rolling, stifled yawns, and the repeated reminder that this show, for me, will probably never return to being the Heroes I used to enjoy so much. “Angels and Monsters” offers a few noteworthy moments, but those continue to be lost in the rubble of a rapidly crumbling foundation, barely held up by the many broken characters and an annoying habit of using plot twists as a replacement for good storytelling.

The theme of the season is villains, and Heroes really wants to let everyone know it, and essentially everyone gets to act a little bit evil in “Angels and Monsters”, even when it makes little to no sense. Peter tries to slice open his mom’s head, Sylar style, and gives a fine example of overacting when he shouts in her face “Tell me all your secrets!, Claire decides to enact taser justice on the escaped criminals of Level 5, Suresh is killing drug dealers and cocooning people, including Maya, on the walls of his apartment, and even Hiro has an unexpected evil itch to scratch. I appreciate the concept of an overarching theme that ties stories together under a cozy umbrella, but this just feels suffocating.

The biggest offender might be the whole Mohinder story, where a boring character has been taken and made evil with the hope that would, in turn, make him more interesting. Not so much. His character has taken a 180 degree turn, killing people, making animal love to women, and performing strange experiments with people held captive in larva looking pods, but it’s all just a little too weird and hard to swallow. My suggestion would have been to write the character out, but making him a hybrid of The Lizard, The Beast, and The Fly was probably not the right way to make this character more likable amongst fans.

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Chuck (S02E03): “Chuck Versus the Break-Up”

Posted in Chuck, TV with tags , , , on October 14, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: B+

As if Chuck believed it was unable to woo me any further, episode three opened with a song by The National and closed with one of my favorite tracks from Bon Iver’s brilliant album. Right, so an episode of TV isn’t made by its song selection, but it gets serious cool points nonetheless. As far as the actual episode, “Chuck Versus the Break Up” is probably my least favorite of the season, but it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable time spent with TVs most huggable character.

I didn’t get around to writing about last week’s “Chuck Versus the Seduction”, but Chuck’s moves are considerably less smooth this week, thanks to the reappearance of Sarah’s ex-partner and continuous thorn in Chuck’s side, Bryce Larkin. His return puts the stops on Chuck and Sarah’s romance and makes them both begin to question the costs their feelings might have. Sarah is making choices based around Chuck and possibly compromising her ability as a spy while Chuck is pouring drinks in the laps of the rich and dangerous and dropping whole bottles of $1000 wine.

Chuck is not your average spy, with smooth moves and crazy gadgets, and he doesn’t introduce himself last name first (Bartowski. Chuck Bartowski), but he still proves he has the potential to be a spy of his own defining; one that’s a whole lot more amusing to watch. While he isn’t a real spy, he’s also not your typical bumbling one, with skills hidden beneath a layer of ineptness and social awkwardness. Instead, he’s a very normal guy that uses some quick thinking and parts of his own personality to get himself out of tricky situations. In the premiere it was the Call of Duty gag, where he convinced a group of seasoned killers that an elaborate online game strategy was actually a real one.Then last week he managed to seduce a deadly killer, at least partly, using a sprinkling of advice from a seasoned playboy spy and a lot of his own brand of sweet talk. However, in the newest case he’s assigned to pose as a waiter while Bryce and Sarah pretend to be a married couple, and watching them dance and lock lips and generally feel each other up proves to be just a little too much for him to handle.

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Friday Night Lights (S03E02): “Tami Knows Best”

Posted in Friday Night Lights, TV with tags , , , on October 11, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: A

It almost seems as if season two of Friday Night Lights was the product of network pressures and of a show trying too hard to bring up the ratings and prove its worth in order to be renewed by going out of its comfort zone and, thus, straying from what it did best. This feeling comes two episodes into the third season, where the show many of us fell hard for is back in its prime and not letting outside anxieties rule the show’s direction. The crazy drama of last year did not feel like the next step forward for FNL, but last weeks premier and tonight’s “Tami Knows Best” feel like the next stage in evolution for this show. Perhaps the writers and producers examined their own mantra, because this episode is full of heart, though my eyes were definitely not always clear.

It’s Tami vs. football again this week,  which boils down to pretty much everyone except her family. Buddy and the rest of the Booster club go on the offense to get their jumbo tron, but give Tami a chance to admit she made a big mistake by reallocating the funds. She won’t budge and chooses instead to stick it to them all in one of the episode’s best moments. However, as awesome as her tirade against the religion of football was and how education should come first, there’s still the question of whether it’s right of her to take money that was raised for a specific thing only to have it taken away and used in a different way. Personally, I’m taking Tami’s side, but I do appreciate the shades of gray they’ve plopped into this story. Unfortunately, the people of Dillon aren’t seeing her decision in such a positive way. Last episode, everyone was squawking about needing new text books and more teachers, but this week they’ve gotten that and are instead causing a ruckus over not getting their over sized football TV. Tami’s feeling pretty lost right about now, and even her husband can’t give much comfort as he tries to stick to middle ground to avoid the whole stink causing a strain on their relationship (perhaps sparked by a nasty article in the paper that turned what Tami said into a story about her new job causing marital strife). What’s most interesting is that the mayor and other influential members of the community seem to put so much more passion into football than the needs of the community and its youth, and whether Tami’s decision was right or wrong, you can’t fault her for what she’s done. She’s coming from a pure place, whereas the rest of the angered people play off as totally selfish. Guess the town really is a bit of a devil town, as the song suggests, where football is clearly the religion of choice. And god certainly comes before education, I suppose, only it’s a pigskin being bowed down to.

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The Office (S05E02): “Business Ethics”

Posted in The Office, TV with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: A+

This week The Office returned to its half hour format, which is a good thing considering I don’t think I could have handled thirty more minutes of laughing as much as I did during “Business Ethics”, an episode automatically ranking as one of the best Office episodes to date.

There isn’t a weak scene to be found during “Business Ethics”, landing one knock after another to the funny bone. Considering there weren’t many quiet spots, there were a whole lot of highlights. Michael and Holly’s rendition of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”, changed to Let’s Get Ethical, leads right into Ryan’s candid talk about what got him demoted, which involved hooking up with a girl whom he describes as looking like a chick off the sixth season of Survivor (a TV reference Dwight totally gets), which then jumps to Dwight’s veiled jab toward Andy when he answers a hypothetical question regarding stealing bread to feed your family with the absurd and oh so very Dwight answer of “False, it’s a trick question. The bread is poison and it’s not you’re real family: You’ve been cuckolded by a stronger, smarter male.” The whole episode is relentless with its comic pacing, and provides a perfect example of how to take the ensemble of a fairly long running show and use all their quirks, histories, and relationships with each other to craft a nearly flawless twenty plus minutes of comic gold.

Possibly the funniest scene of the episode, and maybe the most laugh out loud worthy one in seasons, was between Jim and Dwight. The setup for it begins in the ethics meeting, where Holly lets everyone know that wasting time is a form of stealing, just as bad as taking money. Well, Jim sets out to prove Dwight wastes time just like everyone else, so he gets out his stopwatch and goes to town. He times Dwight’s yawns, his sneezes and when things get boring he incites Dwight into talking and then times that as well. Then, the main event: Jim goes to Andy and starts talking about Battlestar Galactica, a well known passion of Dwight’s that is so good anyone not watching is, in his own words, an idiot. Jim calls the aliens on the show Klingons rather than Cylons, says it’s a shot-for-shot remake, and calls the main character Dumbledore Callrizzion, all while Dwight is gnashing his teeth and wanting oh so badly to stand up and set the record straight. But every time he flinches, Jim flashes the stopwatch. You can almost hear the nerdish fanboy rant he would have given if he had the chance, but he restrains himself and manages not to stop working for the rest of the day–even resorting to peeing in an empty soda bottle rather than waste time going to the bathroom. He finally slips up for 19 minutes and change when he meets Angela for some afternoon delight, proving to Jim he’s at least a little bit human.

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Heroes (S03E04): “I Am Become Death”

Posted in Heroes, TV with tags , , on October 7, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: C-

It turns out last week’s Heroes was a fluke; an accidental slip back into the realm of goodness. This week launches us into one of Heroes overused fetishes–alternate future stories–and what a mess it is.

If Heroes hadn’t used the future gone terribly awry device multiple times now, what happens four years later in a vision Parkman has out in the African desert might be interesting. The problem is that in the past these alternate timelines never merge with the real ones because our heroes always save the day/the future so that they can envision another terrible future and save it as well. So you know every second of what you’re seeing is meaningless fluff meant for purposes of shock and awe and to drive the story forward. Tonight, the badass Claire from the premiere returned to kill both Peters and we got to see a domesticated Sylar, living in the Bennet’s home with his son, Matt married to the speedster Daphne, and Nathan as, bum bum bum, Mr. President! These would all be pretty drastic revelations if, you know, they actually came to pass, but they won’t. Claire won’t become heartless, Sylar won’t become daddy dearest, and while the other stories might happen, it’s doubtful. The only likely scenario would be Nathan as president, but they’ve been driving at that since season one.

I will say, the writer’s are good at posing interesting questions. The gap of unknown time between how these characters went from who they were to what they’ve become is filled with possibilities. The problem really rises when you realize this gap will never be filled because this future will never be realized. It’s the  writer’s  fanfiction of their own universe, living comfortably alongside what’s really happening and vaguely shaping peoples actions and reactions to events yet-to-be, so they can make sure they stay permanently in that realm.

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