December 12, 2010

TV Report Card: Week of December 5, 2010

Since most of the networks are on hiatus next week, with the exception of CBS, this will be the last TV Report Card of 2010.

The Walking Dead: "TS-19"
AMC's smash hit wrapped up its first season, and while "TS-19" addressed some of the larger questions brought up by the zombie apocalypse, it's main achievement was to create even more. The episode itself was bittersweet because we had a glimpse of the survivors in a happy place, but it quickly shifted gears as they learned that the CDC would be self-destructing to prevent massive outbreaks. The latter part of the episode was the group trying to escape their short-lived sanctuary. Overall, "TS-19" was entertaining, but everything felt rushed. Many point that the show's short episode order didn't allow The Walking Dead to gain momentum, and it's hard not to see their point. Hitfix's Alan Sepinwall probably summed up Season 1 of the show best by calling it a prologue rather than a full season. Sounds about right to me.


How I Met Your Mother: "The Mermaid Theory"
HIMYM is at its worst when it's trying too hard to make its mark on pop culture, and this week's "The Mermaid Theory" was a prime example of this fault. The entire episode felt like a plea to add the term "Mermaid Theory" to the pop culture vernacular (much like "GCWOK", the Chain of Screaming, and other weak Barney-isms). The bit quickly ran out of steam, along with the whole Captain picture gag, but when the HIMYM writers think a joke is funny they will continually beat the audience over the head with it regardless of how amusing it really is. The stupid manatee costumes didn't help either. Even the episode's attempt at meta-humor (Barney and Lily pausing during the story, and Future Ted's inability to keep his yarns in order) fell short of their marks. Over the last couple of seasons I've thrown out, "Worst HIMYM Episode Ever" a few times, but this time I feel "The Mermaid Theory" rightfully earned the distinction.


Castle: "Last Call"
When it comes to Castle I'm only looking for a handful of elements: witty one-liners from Rick, Kate Beckett's dismissive yet flirty looks, some good bromantic moments from any combination of the boys (extra points if it's between Ryan and Esposito), heartfelt family scenes, and fun Caskett banter. The one thing I could careless about is the actual murder mystery. Luckily, "Last Call" gave me almost everything I want from an episode of Castle, and a case that was entertaining to watch unfold. The Case of the Week involving a bar owner, expensive Scotch, and a auctioneer was decent, but it was merely a McGuffin that allowed Rick to geek out about history, writing, and booze. Fillion has a cult following for a reason, and "Last Call" was proof of why he's beloved by many. The ending may have been a little too cutesy, but it was a nice way to send the 12th Precinct off to their holiday break.


Glee: "A Very Glee Christmas"
Glee's Christmas episode could have been lackluster like its Halloween episode, and while it wasn't the show's best outing, "A Very Glee Christmas" had enough funny and sweet moments to be successful. Maybe it's because of the Christmas spirit, or the fact that I went in with zero expectations, but it was easy to overlook "Glee Christmas"'s shortcomings in favor of what it did really well. Most of the praise should go to Heather Morris who has really turned Brittany from a one-note punchline to a fairly fleshed out character, and her innocence and belief in Santa was what made the episode special. It's hard to argue with those who think this week's ep was an hour-long commercial for Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, but at least it was an entertaining one.


Modern Family: "Dance Dance Revelation"
Every week I write about how only a third of Modern Family amuses me, usually the Dunphys, and I was hoping that I'd enjoy this episode more than other since they decided to switch up some of the grown up pairings. Unfortunately, only a third of "Dance Dance Revelation" worked in my opinion. The Jay-Phil manhood story was the highlight because it rang true and the actors work well together. Once again, Cam and Mitchell came in second because watching them bicker can be fun but it also gets old fast. For once, I didn't care for Claire but I blame it on Gloria. The latter is by far my least favorite character (scratch that, see below) on all of the shows I watch because she's more of a one-note character than Sue Sylvester. "DDR" had some genuinely funny moments (mostly thanks to Ty Burrell), but most of the episode faltered.


Cougar Town: "The Same Old You"
I'm still watching Cougar Town despite my loathing of Jules. Her selfish, needy routine is so unlikable that I can't get past the fact that she's still able to make it all about her even when she does something nice like fixing up Bobby's boat. The Grayson/Ellie storyline had some funny moments, but it only reinforced the fact that she's even worse than Jules. Maybe it's because I'm new to the show, but the idea of Travis and Laurie together felt icky. Sure, they have chemistry, but I've always seen it as a sibling type dynamic. While I like their moments together, coupling up Travis and Laurie might make me stop watching the show. I may not be able to stand Jules and Ellie, but I LOVE watching Andy and Bobby together (really any combination of the boys is aces in my book), and the Dynamic Duo saved this episode.


Friday Night Lights: "Swerve"
When it comes to tone, Friday Night Lights can turn on a dime which can muddle up the story. For example, last week's "Kingdom" was peppered with some great intimate moments involving Coach and his team which made it one of the best FNL episodes in a long time. On the other end of the spectrum is "Swerve" which every character faced a major problem. Julie ran home after being called out for being a hussy, the Taylors had to deal with their daughter's life spiraling out of control, Luke found out TMU's true intentions, and Vince's past caught up with him. All of the drama made for a tense, but not as enjoyable episode. I did like when Luke officially became Tim Riggins 2.0, not because we need the same character but he does fill the void left by Taylor Kitsch. Plus, seeing Billy take Luke under his wing was a nice moment. What I did not care for was how Julie has become nothing more than a tired cliche (like it was mentioned during "Kingdom"), and her attitude and actions were groan inducing. Can't wait for them to drop this storyline like they did with Landry's murder plot.


Community: "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"
I was afraid that Community's gimmick episode about Christmas would end up being more like "Basic Rocket Science" and less like "Modern Warfare". Luckily, it had more in common with the latter. "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" was the second of the big Christmas themed episodes this week, and when it's all said and done it had a lot in common with "A Very Glee Christmas". Both shows looked at the holiday season through melancholy lenses, addressed the meaning of Christmas, and focused on the importance of a surrogate family. Plus, they both riffed on classic Christmas specials, but they were able to put their own spins on them. "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" was more personal and rooted in character development, which gave it a slight edge when it was all said and done.


The Vampire Diaries: "By the Light of the Moon"
This week's VD introduced us to yet another baddie for the Salvatores to deal with, this time in the form of Jules (yet another werewolf). While I've never really liked how the show just had to bring in werewolves into the Mystic Falls mythology, it has created some interesting dynamics, but I'm not sold that Jules is one of them. The only positive that came from her introduction was watching Damon and Alaric team up. The Tyler transformation subplot worked better than I anticipated, and it generated some really moving scenes between him and Caroline. I still don't want them as a couple, but I'm liking the bonds they're forming. The Elena stuff was kind of boring, but that has more to do with the character than anything, although I'm interested to learn more about the deal she struck with Elijah. "By the Light of the Moon" had its moments, but wasn't a great episode of The Vampire Diaries, and it feels like the show is losing some momentum prior to the winter break. Hopefully, it'll come back with a vengeance this January.


Nikita: "All the Way"
The Vampire Diaries may have stumbled prior to its break, but the same cannot be said about Nikita. My new favorite action, spy thriller pretty much turned everything on its head by the end of "All the Way". Alex had her second mission, Division found out about the communications breach, Nikita allowed herself to be turned in to save her partner's cover, we saw how evil Amanda can be, and a somewhat important character died. Craziness. I was a little surprised that the show would introduce a game changing plot twist this early in the season, but they did and I'm hooked. Not only was "All the Way" a good plot-driven episode, but it also had some pretty sweet action sequences. Overall, I'm happy with the first half of Nikita's freshman season, and can't wait for the back 11.


Supernatural: "Appointment in Samarra"
This week's episode of Supernatural had an strong premise but a mediocre follow-through. Dean's subbing in for Death could have been really interesting, but it was brought down by the Dean himself. He use to be this sexy, cool rebel but his whole self-righteous and arrogant routine has grown tiresome because all he does is pick fights with Sam and act like he knows everything. You'd think that all of the stuff he's gone through would teach him some humility, but you'd be wrong. Oddly enough, Sam's mission to kill Bobby in order to keep Dean from re-souling him was the more griping of the two stories. I still think Soul-less Sam is by far a better character, and I do have to admit that I'm interested in seeing the fallout now that he's got it back.


I'll see everyone back here in 2011.


Anonymous said...

I think you're being a bit nit-picky with some of these shows. That FNL episode was the best of the season. Sure, before this week Julie's storyline was cringe-inducing. But here, when brought back home, it was handled in an honest, powerful way that showcased all three actors.

No way was that lame episode of Glee as good as or better than this week's FNL, Cougar Town, or The Vampire Diaries.

Marcos said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion. I'll admit that I may have been a little harsher on FNL than needed, but since I thought last week's ep was the best of the season, I was a little let down by all of the drama in "Swerve".

As for Cougar Town and The Vampire Diaries, I stand by my original thoughts.

Again, thanks for your comment.

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