October 21, 2012

TV Report Card: Week of October 14, 2012

OK, hopefully this edition of the TV Report Card will be more substantial than the previous ones, but I ask that you pardon the mess in advance. Without further ado, here is this week's TV Report Card:

The Walking Dead: "Seed"
What Worked: It's not a secret that Season 2 of The Walking Dead had some issues, but "Seed" did a lot to help viewers forget them. Turning TWD into a zombie, shoot 'em up style video game and a reliance on classic horror tropes was a good move, and while I don't expect the show to rest on its laurels, it was a strong opener that emphasized gore over mindless chatter.

What Didn't Work: Some of the characters are still insufferable, namely Lori. To be fair, she wasn't highlighted too much, and she wasn't as annoying as she was last year, but I still don't care about her and am actually rooting for her zombie baby. That said, she has helped make Rick more interesting.


Homeland: "State of Independence"
What Worked: Most of the emotional beats were spot on like Carrie finding out that she was right, Brody's reactions to what he had to do for Abu Nazir and Jessica's disappointment in her husband. Speaking of Jessica, this was probably Morena Baccarin's best outing yet due to her character actually having something to do.

What Didn't Work: I can harp on the contrivances that muddied up Brody's story, but I just went along with the implausibilities and didn't let them effect my enjoyment of the episode. Sure, it was all silly but I'm confident that the writers will explain why he was asked to take the tailor to the safe house, but I doubt it will appease those who had issues with it the plot detail to begin with.


How I Met Your Mother: "Who Wants to Be a Godparent?"
What Worked: I guess the idea of Marshall putting together a game show to figure out which member of the gang should be named godparent was a funny idea in theory, but it felt too broad even by this show's standards.

What Didn't Work: Maybe it's because I don't have direct experience with what the characters are going through, but I thought that Ted, Robin and Barney's reactions to Marshall and Lily not having as much time for them was childish and self-centered. Again, this storyline may have had some truth baked into it, but I couldn't have cared less about it and was annoyed by it all. The lack of laughs didn't help either.


Castle: "Murder, He Wrote"
What Worked: It was nice seeing Rick and Kate away from the precinct for a little bit, and the boys trying their darndest to figure out who Beckett was dating was cute in its own odd way. Kudos to Ryan for keeping their secret for now, but I do hope he tortures them a little bit more before revealing what he knows. And of course there were too many great Caskett (nice fan service BTW) moments to count.

What Didn't Work: The cast itself was only OK and was too silly for my liking but that's not really a problem because Castle works best when its not taking itself too seriously, and yet there was something about this one that was harder to go along with.


Revolution: "Soul Train"
What Worked: "Soul Train" kind of had a Firefly vibe to it because of the train and people dressed up in color-coded coats, and for the first time I found myself interested in the brewing civil war. It was also a good episode for Giancarlo Esposito's character due to some effective flashbacks.

What Didn't Work: The reveal that Nate was really Tom's son was a bit clunky, and I'm not in love with the whole Rachel and Monroe plot, but once again Charlie was the show's weakest link. Tracy Spiridako's acting was woefully bad, and I didn't buy Charlie's change in character for one second. Heck, there was a moment when I wondered if the show would be bold enough to kill her off and let Billy Burke take the lead. I don't think it'd suffer without her at this point.


Hart of Dixie: "If It Makes You Happy"
What Worked: Ultimately, "If It Make You Happy" was a cute episode but far from a great one. Out of everything that happened, I suppose I really enjoyed the Zoe and Wade moments (of course) and the dust up between George and Brick but that had more to do with Lavon's assistance.

What Didn't Work: Honestly, I didn't love most of the stories during this one. Zoe trying to impress her alumni magazine was a bit shallow (I know that was the point), I don't care about Lavon's rivalry with what's her face or Lemon's juvenile reaction to George's date (although I like how the two were combined to give her some direction).


Ben and Kate: "21st Birthday"
What Worked: I liked how the show shook up the pairings this time around. While Ben and BJ had some plain odd moments, I liked the underlying sweetness of the Kate and Tommy moments (and I really dug his final fit of confusion). The twist ending where we learned that Kate's past birthdays were not spent sad and alone because she had Maddie was the right amount of sweetness to cap off the episode.

What Didn't Work: I wanted a little more from Molly since she was purely an example of Kate's past life and there to cause tension. Maybe we'll get to see more of her down the road, but introducing a character purely for plot is a tricky proposition and B&K didn't quite pull it off. BJ's jealousy was also a bit on the nose.


Sons of Anarchy: "Small World"
What Worked: Well, at least Opie's death finally had some ramifications. So at least there was that.

What Didn't Work: Other than Jax killing someone with a snowglobe, I didn't care for this episode. I'm so tired of Gemma at this point, and Clay's involvement with the home invasion smacked of this show trying too hard. Seriously, how stupid was Nero's old lady (and half-sister?) showing up and forcing them to get it on? And Otto's demands of Tara while she was trying to convince him to help out the club was just gross and off-putting.


Arrow: "Honor Thy Father"
What Worked: This episode highlighted some decent action sequences, and if the show can maintain this current level then it could be a wildly entertaining show even if there are other problematic areas like acting and story. That said, I liked some of the quieter moments like the one between Oliver and Laurel, and I appreciated getting more of his backstory.

What Didn't Work: Stephen Arnell has not convinced me that he's a believable lead or an action star, and his performance really lacks when he's asked to do anything other than brood. His spoiled playboy facade has suffered the most, and it's by far one of the more annoying aspects of the show. Also, still not loving the Revenge-iness of it all.


Modern Family: "The Butler's Escape"
What Worked: It was one of those rare occasions when I didn't even care for the Dunphy side of the episode. Phil being upset over Luke's lack of interest in magic was OK, but it felt a little out of character, but it was salvaged by the heart-to-heart between the two of them.

What Didn't Work: I hated everything else. Gloria's snoring was a non-story, and while I get Claire's joy in her step-mothers imperfection, it just made her even more detestable. She wasn't helped by the fact that she was shrewish after she got upset that Mitchell took credit for her handy work. Cam's sub-plot smacked of trying too hard and it all fell flat. I think I might be done with this show once and for all.


Nashville: "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)"
What Worked: I'm still enjoying the music side of things, and watching Juliette write that song with Deacon was entertaining even though I could've done without all of the seduction. I even liked the two young, up-and comers' story despite the fact that I cannot remember their names.

What Didn't Work: I'm already bored with the whole political angle, and Rayna's issues with her father are just an added layer of melodrama that bogs down the rest of the show rather than enhances it. And I don't know how to feel about this impending love quadrangle because it's all stuff we've seen before. In my opinion, Nashville needs to amp up the music business and leave the soapy stuff to the rest of ABC's line-up, but oh how I doubt that'll ever happen.


The Vampire Diaries: "Memorial"
What Worked: This was pretty much a perfect hour of television. Everything worked from the introduction of a new hunter, to Elena's hunger, to the continued tension between the brothers, to Tyler's sacrifice for the team, to the shootout in the church, and of course that final scene involving Damon at the cemetery. What's the common denominator? No Originals. That and it was just non-stop craziness from the get go, but it all landed.

What Didn't Work: If I had to be nit-picky, I'd have to say that I didn't love the lantern memorial because it was a bit hokey. And what if one of those lanterns got stuck in a tree and started a wildfire?


Elementary: "Child Predator"
What Worked: Jonny Lee Miller continued to be the draw for me as he once again put on a pretty entertaining performance. I'm still impressed by Miller's take on the character, I'm happy that he didn't try to turn his Holmes into a carbon copy of anyone else's. Oh, and I'm still liking the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, and I hope the show doesn't muck with it.

What Didn't Work: I didn't love the case of the week, but that's OK since these kind of shows don't really need captivating plot devices if the characters and their relationships are clicking. The main reason I didn't care for this one was because the victim becoming the perpetrator's been done a million times before, and even a creepy teenager couldn't liven it up. I just wish he doesn't somehow become Moriarty by season's end.


Grimm: "The Other Side"
What Worked: Unfortunately, not as much as I would've liked. The Jekyll and Hyde aspect of this week's Wesen should've been easy pickings for Grimm, but it never quite gelled. That said, I liked how it was applied to a high school student and not some random meek person. I'll also throw David Giuntoli a bone and admit that his performance was better this time around. On top of that, Renard and Juliette's new subplot was more tolerable than expected.

What Didn't Work: Aside from the aforementioned, the addition of Renard's brother and Adalind's meeting was one plot device too many and it ended up making the episode feel too busy in spite of the fact that it progressed the season arc along. I would've preferred if it was included in a less jam-packed episode.


Nikita: "3.0"
What Worked: For the most part, the Season 3 premiere was a solid hour of action. Having Nikita and the rest of the New Division take out one of its former agents was a decent enough set up, and the show once again impressed with a limited amount of resources. Plus, television's always better when Maggie Q's on the screen.

What Didn't Work: I have a feeling that the show has lost its way when it comes to Alex. Her posing as a crazy socialite could work for the short-term, but it's going to be a challenge to keep her plugged into the spy world. At least the show's aware of this problem, but I'm not sure I trust it to make it all run smoothly. Also, I really didn't care for Michael's proposal because I don't watch Nikita for gooey moments, and that one was too over the top for me. I did like the way she answered though.


So, another TV Report Card is in the books and it looks like my viewing rotation is firming up. There are a few shows still on the bubble (Nashville and Modern Family to name a few), but they can easily be replaced by the returning Happy Endings and Apt. 23. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


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