January 9, 2011

TV Report Card: Week of January 2, 2011

The second half of the 2010-2011 TV season started back slowly but surely, and the TV Report Card is back from hiatus as well.

How I Met Your Mother: "Bad News"
HIMYM started 2011 off with one of its most solemn episode yet, but that didn't mean that "Bad News" was lacking in the laugh department. Barney and Ted were the real heroes with their supporting roles because they supplied most of the lighter moments, especially the former. Robin's Greatest Hits plotline was a dud, and the Marshall-Lily A-plot was sputtering along until the big twist ending. While "Bad News" was all over the place tonally, but it was also one of the better episodes of the last couple of seasons and a major improvement after the horrible "Mermaid Theory" and the ho-hum "False Positive".


Greek: "Defending Your Honor"
The fact that Season 4 is going to be Greek's last season may be a blessing in disguise because it kicked things off with a lackluster episode. "Defending Your Honor" wasn't necessarily a bad outing, but it really didn't give us anything special. Even though most of the main characters graduated, it didn't feel like anything had changed, and the fact that Casey miraculously ended up staying at CRU was a major (albeit not a shocking) bummer. That being said, the Season 4 premiere did pose some interesting questions about Calvin's presidency, Cappie's growth, Rusty's role in Kappa Tau, and Evan's financial woes. It's just too bad that Casey, Rebecca, and more than likely Ashleigh (I can't wait for the half-assed excuse they come up with to bring her back to Cyprus) will be back to their old selves by series end. "Defending Your Honor" didn't wow me, but I do have to admit that it was good having the CRU gang back.


Castle: "Nikki Heat"
My favorite police procedural was back and it didn't miss a beat. As always, the Case of the Week wasn't important, I think it had something to do with a famous matchmaker, but we got some big laughs and interesting Caskett moments. The appearance of Natalie Rhodes, the actress playing Nikki Heat, had the 12th Precinct all in a tizzy, and it was fun watching her irk Castle and stroke Kate's ego at first, but it was even better when the script was flipped half-way through. Of course Natalie wanted to sleep with Castle for the sake of research, and we got the inevitable scene where she called Kate out for not being with Rick. Sure, it's classic WTWT fare, but it worked this time around. On top of all the Castle/Beckett/Rhodes drama, Ryan pulled off one of the sweetest proposals ever and it even made Esposito tear up. "Nikki Heat" was by no means gritty, suspenseful, or even realistic, but it was a lot of fun and that's enough for me.


Hawaii Five-0: "Ke Kinohi"
Somewhere in between Castle and say The Shield is CBS' Hawaii Five-0 reboot. It's more mainstream than the latter, and more police-y than the former, and it came back from the winter break with a glitzy but clunky episode. On the positive side, "Ke Kinohi" finally started to shed some light on the season long arc involving McGarrett's family as well as getting another glimpse of Wo Fat. The world of Five-0 was also fleshed out with the introduction of the Yacuza and its possible connection to the death of McGarrett's parents. One the negative side of things, this episode had some weak lines and even weaker deliveries that had me shaking my head, and McGarrett's sister was pigion holed into the episode to remind us that she existed. Overall, "Ke Kinohi" was still entertaining enough to warrant a passing grade, but its flaws were too pronounced to ignore.


Modern Family: "Slow Down Your Neighbors"
It's becoming clear that Modern Family only works when either the three families are all together or they're mixed up because "Slow Down Your Neighbors" kept them separated and it wasn't one of the show's best episodes. The Claire/Phil/neighbor story had some laughs, but it was too reliant on the misunderstanding trope that it felt stale. The Cam/Mitchell/Barry stuff had its moments, but was really just an excuse to bring in James Marsden. Once again, the Jay/Gloria/Manny bike riding plot was a complete waste of time. Coincidently, the funniest moment came when Luke helped Gloria get over her bike-riding fears, which only proved my first point. I won't be surprised if Modern Family wins another Emmy for its second season, but it may not deserve it based these first eleven episodes. It just feels like Season 2 has had more misses than hits.


Cougar Town: "No Reason to Cry"
"No Reason to Cry" was odd even by Cougar Town's standards, but it really had nothing to do with the actual plot. For some reason, CT decided to blatantly incorporated Diet Dr. Pepper into Bobby's storyline, and it immediately reminded me of Chuck's use of Subway. Part of me wonders if Cougar Town will get a third season if every fan buys a 12-pack of DDP. Elsewhere, Jules and Grayson dealt with killing animals and how they're symbolic of their relationship, which really didn't make much sense until the very end. Happily, Grayson had to remind Jules that they work because of their differences, and he finally declared his love for her much to the delight of the Peanut Gallery. Maybe it's because the shilling for Diet Dr. Pepper was a distraction, but I didn't think "No Reason to Cry" was a strong outing. Thankfully, the Andy/Ellie subplot, the Cul-De-Sac Crew's swarming on Kirsten, and Laurie's side antics made up for the wonkiness of the rest of the episode.


Friday Night Lights: "Fracture"
The East Dillion Lions continued to win on the field while the drama kept unfolding off of it. In "Fracture", Coach Taylor's home and at work lives are as crazy as ever as he had to deal with Julie's TA lover showing up at his front door while also handling Vince's ego which has threatened not only the kid's future but the team's well-being. I was happy to see Julie's ill-fated tryst finally come to an end, but it was the football/personal drama involving Vince, Luke, Ornette, and Eric that had me captivated because it's rooted in real life issues that face athletes at this age. Becky's incorporation into the Riggins' family, and her roadtrip with Mindy and her co-workers to a beauty pageant was both bittersweet and moving. The only real low point of the episode was the Tami and Epyckk's bonding moments, not because they weren't well-acted, but because they felt tacked on in order to give Tami something to do. I'm sure if we had a longer season, we'd be given a reason to care about Epyckk, but all I can say is she's no Tyra Collette. "Fracture" was another strong installment of a great fifth season, and I'm really going to miss this show once it's gone.


The Big Bang Theory: "The Bus Pants Utilization"
I was debating if I should include Big Bang's new episode in the Report Card because it wasn't a particularly good one, but I needed to add something since so many shows have yet to return. "The Bus Pants Utilization" was another disappointing effort from BBT because it was pretty much like every other episode. The boys cannot work with Sheldon on a physics based smartphone app, and Penny ended up babysitting him. You'd think the fact that we got some Penny/Sheldon moments would have been a good thing, but for the most part the jokes were either tired or not that funny. I don't know where BBT went wrong this season, but it's been misfiring too much for my liking. I'm not going to abandon it just yet, and I'll give it a few more episodes to recapture its groove.


As you can see it was a pretty slow week back, and next week is shaping up to be the same, but TV will be firing on all cylinders starting January 16. I can't wait!


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