December 11, 2011

TV Report Card: Week of December 4, 2011

Now that the Thanksgiving hiatus is over, most shows were back with new episodes right before the end of the year break takes over. Here's this week's TV Report Card:

Leverage: "The Office Job"
I think that I need to re-evaluate how I watch Leverage which is not to say that I'm unhappy with the show because so far Season 4 has been pretty entertaining. The thing is, the more serialized elements that have been introduced over the years have been toned down, and we've been getting more and more stand alone episodes like "The Office Job." This week, we didn't get any hints at any larger story arcs, but instead we got a funny episode that highlighted the relationships between some of the Leverage Crew. Again, this isn't a bad approach for the show to take, I'm all for strong characters and how they relate to one another, but I also want some consistent plot threads that connect everything. We've been given samplings of this kind of storytelling from Leverage before, but it feels like the writers are backing away and taking a more episodic stance, which is fine but that means I need to lower my expectations when it comes to a bigger picture. That's just a long-winded way for me to say that "The Office Job" was a good one-off episode.


Homeland: "Representative Brody"
Well, the plots definitely thickening now that Brody's agreed to run for Congress which was the sign Nazir was looking for, so now we get to find out where things go from here. The thing is, Brody's decision was not the most captivating part of the episode, but watching him manipulate his friends and family was genius and an example of what this show does so well. The same can be said about Carrie's interrogation of the Saudi diplomat, and I am continually surprised by the lengths that she's willing to go to in order to get the information that she wants. "Representative Brody" also continued to add to the mole subplot, and I know that some out there are still unsure about that angle, and while I don't watch the show for that aspect alone, I am interested to see how that storyline will pan out.


How I Met Your Mother: "Symphony of Illumination"
I don't know what else to say about How I Met Your Mother at this point. I keep coming back week after week with hopes that it will get its stuff together and become good again, but I continue to be let down. This week was no different. I get what HIMYM is trying to do. It's trying to tell the familiar story of growing up and becoming an adult in a unique way, but the thing is it tries too hard to be different that everything starts feeling the same. For example, this show loves to pull fast ones on its audience because the writers think it makes their show smarter than every other sitcom, and this used to be true. Unfortunately, HIMYM has used this trick too many times and have exhausted any good will I had for this show. If Robin's story about not being able to have children hadn't been underlined with another "gotcha" moment, then it would've been a stronger episode in my opinion. Instead, we got more of the same non-sense which made me care less about what Robin was going through. Rug-pulling aside, and Marshall's throw away B-plot, "Symphony of Illumination" could've been one of the better episodes of the season, but HIMYM continued to be too clever for its own good which was too bad.


2 Broke Girls: "And the Reality Check"
You know it's a bad sign when a throw-away joke about Oleg taking a picture of his junk was the biggest laugh of the night, and yet I powered through "And the Reality Check." At some point, I'm going to have to figure out why I watch 2 Broke Girls because it's still a show that is both full of potential but also very underwhelming. I can see why it's a popular show, and I can respect that to a certain extent, but I can also see it becoming so much more. I just don't think it ever will, but I keep coming back with hopes that things will change. This is all a long-winded way to say that "And the Reality Check" was an OK episode of television. There were some chuckles here and there, but everything about the horse and the emotions involved with giving it away felt forced to me. I don't know why, but I just wasn't buying it.


Castle: "Cuffed"
You would think that an episode that had Castle and Beckett handcuffed together for the majority of the time would be one of the greatest Castles ever, but instead "Cuffed" was merely OK. I'll admit that most of the scenes between the two were good because of their trademark banter, and I like how the show continues to poke fun at its own absurd "will they, won't they" device, but it's starting to get old, and I hope that we're headed towards some form of resolution in the near future. Even the set-up of them being captured had a lot of potential, but where "Cuffed" started to come undone was when they introduced the tiger because that was wacky even by Castle standards. I also felt that this episode was too relationship heavy as they brought back the Esplaine drama and Ryan's pending marriage, and both felt shoe-horned in, so I wasn't really feeling them. "Cuffed" wasn't a bad episode, but it could've been a little bit better since it was the last one before the break. Oh well.


Glee: "Hold on to Sixteen"
The competition episodes of Glee can be hit or miss. "Sectionals" was probably one of the show's best while "Special Education" suffered from way too much plot and not enough time. Don't even get me started on "New York." Thankfully, "Hold on to Sixteen" was somewhere in the middle. This episode started to wrap up some of this season's less successful storylines (everything involving Quinn, Puck, and/or Shelby) while continuing the theme of growing up and moving on. It even had some good musical numbers (I was a sucker for the Jackson medley), and it didn't veer too much into the ridiculous zone. To me, it felt like a smaller episode that brought the show back to earth by focusing on the kids and not the craziness going on around them. It was by no means a great episode of Glee, but it was just entertaining enough to win me over. It was even nice seeing Trouty Mouth again.


New Girl: "Bad in Bed"
Full Disclosure: I'm not a fan of awkward, uncomfortable humor. When I watch characters in cringe-worhty scenarios, I don't find it funny because I can't help but feel bad for them. This aversion was probably the reason why I didn't really care for "Bad in Bed." I'm not one of those who's put off by Jess' lack of experience or how she becomes exceedingly quirky while talking about sex due to her uncomfortableness with the subject because I think Zooey sells it, but watching her trying to seduce Paul stopped being funny fairly early on into the bit, and it made me never to want to see them as a couple ever again (but Justin Long's character probably also had something to do with that). I didn't find it cute, just odd and off-putting. The ensemble didn't help "Bad in Bed" either because Winston and CeCe went back to being underused while Nick was put into a unfunny story about his hair. Even Schmidt fell a little flat this time around. With that being said, the episode could have been good if it had just focused on Jess and the guys talking about sex instead of forcing that scene in the bedroom. New Girl's still funny, but its flaws are starting to show week after week.


Sons of Anarchy: "To Be, Part 2"
Depending on who you listen to, "To Be, Part 2" was either a subtle ending to a wild season of Sons of Anarchy, or it was the biggest travesty since the non-denominational church on Lost. I for one, wasn't all that riled up by the direction Kurt Sutter took his show because I didn't trick myself into believing that Clay had to die for the show to make sense. Did we get some outlandish deus ex machina moments? Heck yeah we did. Did they make me want to swear off SAMCRO for good? Nope. Am I interested to see where Season 5 goes from here? Yup. All and all, I think that makes "To Be, Part 2" a serviceable but not earth-shattering finale, and I'm fine with that. At least Lincoln Potter wasn't a figment of Juice's imagination who was there to signify what his life could have been. Now, that would've felt like a cheat.


Up All Night: "First Christmas"
I'm close to taking Up All Night out of the rotation because it's losing steam, and I find myself being bored rather than entertained while watching it. "First Christmas" didn't do anything that wowed me, and it felt like your run-of-the-mill Christmas episode of a sitcom. There were a few times where Chris and Ava made me laugh, but they weren't enough to keep me fully engaged in the episode. Also, I didn't quite understand where Reagan's change of attitude came from, and her obsession with decorating the house seemed odd. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention, but the shift in character didn't ring true and felt like a cheap ploy to bring in Blythe Danner. Speaking of Reagan's mom, I didn't love her introduction a few episodes ago, so I wasn't not looking forward to seeing her again, and I'm not enjoying their relationship. With Up All Night's move to Thursdays, I don't see myself keeping up with this show for much longer, which is a shame since it was NBC's most promising new comedy.


Modern Family: "Express Christmas"
Since Season 2, it's been easy for Modern Family to break the characters into three natural groups and have the various plots focus on the different families, but I've always appreciated it when the writers either brought everyone together or split them up into new combinations. So, I will give Modern Family credit for mixing up the pairings this week and giving the audience some new dynamics. Unfortunately, I didn't find the episode to be all that funny because it felt like the same old thing. "Express Christmas" was just another episode where everyone bickered at one another but learned a lesson by the end of it, and everyone was happy. Pretty much like "Punkin Chunkin," which is one of the drawbacks of having Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together. I did like seeing Mitchell and Alex spend time together though, and that's a pairing I hope we see more of. Though Gloria and Luke, not so much.


Happy Endings: "Grinches Be Crazy"
The Christmas episode of Happy Endings wasn't the show's best, which was kind of a letdown since I had high expectations for it (mostly because of the title). "Grinches Be Crazy" wasn't a horrible half-hour of television, but it wasn't as sharp as previous episodes mostly because we spent way too much time with another over-the-top supporting character in the housekeeper. Now, I'm all for the main six being excessive, but when the writers try to incorporate these wacky one-off characters, it feels like too much. Brad and Jane's story about the mix-up over their vacation money was bogged down by Gita, and unfortunately Max and Penny weren't on fire like they needed to be. Thankfully, the Dave and Alex plot about her homemade coupons worked because Elisha Cuthbert's commitment to the bit. I'm not afraid that Happy Endings has hit its peak, but I'm ready for the show to come back with a vengeance in 2012.


Community: "Regional Holiday Music"
As a devoted Gleek, I should have taken offense to Community's holiday episode since it went out of its way to take shots at the FOX dramedy, except it was too funny to be mad at. Also, in some ways it was a better episode of Glee than most of what Glee's given us over the past two seasons. By far the highlights for me were the original songs (Troy's Jehovah's Witness rap and Annie's "Santa Baby"-esque routine were tops) even though some of them were predictable and lazy (Shirley singing gospel). "Regional Holiday Music" also explored how a time of joy can also be a time of sadness, and while it was not as strong as last year's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," it was still successful at conveying the message without being too much of a downer. In the end, "Regional Holiday Music" was just a funny and smart episode of Community, and hopefully we'll have the show back on our screens sooner rather than later.


Grimm: "Danse Macabre"
Due to Prime Suspect's dismal ratings and eventual cancellation, NBC decided to give fellow newbie, Grimm, a shot on Thursday night. It's just too bad that "Danse Macabre" wasn't one of the show's better offerings, but it was still creepy enough to entertain. This time around, Nick and Hank had to solve the murder of a music teacher who was devoured by rats. As it turned out, it was a spin on the Pied Piper who was a teenage music prodigy and rat-like creature which was a nice little surprise. Some of the scenes with the kid were too angsty for my liking, David Giuntoli's acting continued to be problematic, and there was not enough Monore, but overall it was a decent enough episode.


Chuck: "Chuck vs. The Hack Off"
"Chuck vs. The Hack Off" had an almost old-school feel to it as Carmichael Industries had to track down a super computer virus, and it was one of the better episodes of Season 5. For me, the best part of the episode had to do with Chuck and his past life as a infamous computer hacker. Even though this show's been on for five seasons, there's still a lot we don't know about these characters, so having the opportunity to learn more about them is always appreciated. I do wish we had learned more about his hacking a few seasons earlier so the show could have built off of it, but I'll take what I can get. Second favorite moments: the cameos from the Community cast members. My only minor quibble had to do with Sarah's hesitations about her future with Chuck because it feels a little forced at this point in the show's run.


Grimm: "The Three Bad Wolves"
It's not a coincidence that the first real Monroe-centric episode of Grimm was also the best to date. He's by far the best character on the show, and while I get why they keep Hank around, the partnership between Monroe and Nick needs to be the central pairing sooner than later. Getting a glimpse of his past life and relationships was interesting to watch, and I loved how they took the "Three Little Pigs" and turned it on its head. I was also glad that they didn't write out the feud between Orson and Angelina because it helped build the show's world, and I hope that they bring that storyline back so we can get to learn even more about Monroe and the grudge between the pigs and the wolves. Grimm could have easily missed the mark by using this particular fairy tale as the basis of the entire episode, but I thought that it brought the right amount of fantasy, creepiness, and humor which made it the best outing of the very young season.


This upcoming week will be dominated by reruns and holiday specials, so next week's TV Report Card may be lighter than usual, but check back anyway.


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