It took me until Saturday night, but I managed to catch up on all my tv viewing before the week ended. To celebrate this accomplishment, I’ve decided to rank the shows I watched (the individual episodes, not the show overall) in order from best to worst, followed by my assessment of the episodes.
1. The Office – Best show of the week. This was another great episode of my second favorite comedy (only 30 Rock can beat it), and I was glad to welcome back the half hour time frame. Best moments: Jim recording Dwight’s personal time with a stop watch, Jim taunting Dwight with a horribly ill-informed discussion of Battlestar Galactica with Andy, Dwight looking knowingly at the camera when Jim concluded that Dwight does take personal time during office hours (as the audience and Phyllis know too well, Dwight steals company time with Angela in the supply room). I also enjoyed the staff’s confessions of ethically questionable workday activities, and Michael’s continued awkward flirtation with Holly. Could anything have been more uncomfortable than when he was trying to talk to her about chastity belts during their lobster lunch? She handles his social faux pas better than anyone else.
2. Life on Mars – I was pleasantly surprised by this new show. The music, the acting, the cultural markers, the story. All of it was very well done. I’m not sure how long this show can continue its “trapped in a time warp/trapped in my head” motif, but for now I am happy to go along for the ride. I am also unfamiliar with the British version from two years ago. A brief summary: Detective Sam Tyler is on his way to rescue his girlfriend from a serial killer when he gets hit by a car. When he wakes up, he is in the same neighborhood, but it is 35 years earlier, in 1973. His clothes, his car, and his surroundings are all 70s style. He doesn’t know if he has time traveled or if this is all in his head, but he decides to play along and solve crimes as long as he is there. It was refreshing to see this new, “old” spin on a crime show. The show runners have done an excellent job invoking the 70s through music, hair, clothing, furniture, etc. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the time difference is the treatment of women. Annie Norris, of the female police squad, is ostracized and not taken seriously by the rest of the police force, despite having a psychology degree and a keen sense of observation. I am interested to see how the show will evolve, or if it will even be given the chance to finish out its season. Based on what I’ve seen, I hope so!
3. CSI – This episode played out as a “requiem for Warrick,” as well as a hunt for his killer. I would have preferred for it to take longer than one episode for the team to discover that the undersheriff was the guilty higher up mole in the department who murdered Warrick to protect himself, but instead they solved the case and tracked him down in a tidy 45 minutes. Stretching the investigation and/or manhunt out over two or three episodes would have given Warrick’s sudden death more impact. As it is now, I feel like “what was the point” since the case was solved so quickly. Perhaps, though, it would have been too painful to watch his teammates mourn his loss and search for justice for more than one episode. Warrick was always one of my favorite characters, and I must admit I teared up (along with Nick, my other favorite) a bit as Grissom eulogized him at the funeral. In this episode we learned that Grissom was like the father that Warrick never had, and that Warrick was fighting for custody of his son, so his son could have someone to look up to the way he looked up to Grissom. It was all strangely touching for a show that’s normally about guns, guts, and guilt. I’d imagine we’ll continue to feel the ramifications of Warrick’s death in the coming weeks, but we’ll also see the team move forward without him. I wonder how Lawrence Fishburne will be introduced onto the show. Maybe Grissom will turn his back on this dark and difficult job and join Sarah in a happier, less stressful life. I’ll be watching to find out.
4. Bones – While I was still entertained, this was my least favorite Bones episode of the season so far. The lab tech of the week was not very interesting (there are already plenty of characters with an overabundance of trivial knowledge on tv, most notably Grissom on CSI). As for the case of the week, I didn’t even recognize the “prodigal son/turned suspect/turned following in his father’s he-she footsteps” until I read it somewhere else. That was David Gallagher, little Simon Camden from that “thank goodness it’s not on anymore” show, 7th Heaven. He was convincing here as the minister to misfits who became part of the investigation into his father’s death. The he/she gender reassignment angle of the episode made for an intriguing mystery as Brennan and Booth put the pieces together. All that to say, there wasn’t anything wrong with this episode – it just wasn’t as outstanding as some of this season has been. I will miss this show very much until it returns later in November. It is my Wednesday night escape!
5. How I Met Your Mother – The “New York is so much better than New Jersey” bit has been done so much on tv that I rolled my eyes when it became clear that was where this episode was going, with the gang throwing a fit about having to go to New Jersey to hang out with Ted’s fiancee Stella. However, the writers did the running joke justice in this case. Marshall’s rant about how he’s a giant man in a city full of small spaces, and how New Jersey is full of mega stores and cup holders and dog t-shirts, was pretty classic. And despite being a suburb dweller myself, I can appreciate the humor in a New Yorker’s distaste for manicured lawns and discount store membership cards. However, it was nice that the episode ended with Ted reading a story to Stella’s daughter in the comfort of her suburban home. There are different benefits for different people to living in the city vs. the suburb. The subplots of Barney begging for a fist bump and Robin quitting her job/riding a bike to get it back/quitting for real were entertaining as well. So overall, this was one of the better episodes of this show lately.
6. Heroes – I’m still not seeing much that makes me want to continue tuning in. The best part of the episode came at the very end when Hiro and Ando freed Adam (David Anders) from the coffin where he had been trapped since the end of last season. How refreshing it was to see David Anders’ beautiful face – not even tainted by his underground captivity – after an episode full of ludicrous developments. Too bad his appearance only lasted a few seconds. Sadly, these few seconds will have me returning next week to see him again.
7. Kath and Kim – It wasn’t like I was awaiting the premiere of this show with fevered anticipation or great expectations, but what an utter disappointment! One word I could use to sum it up: AWKWARD. And not in the good Office way. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair are well cast in their roles as Kath and Kim, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that there are no likable characters on this show, save for perhaps Kim’s on again, off again husband. Kath and Kim are a materialistic, celebrity gossip-obsessed, self-centered mother and daughter. What’s to love there? Kath’s boyfriend, played by mockumentary favorite John Michael Higgins, is funny at times, but mostly – here’s that word again – awkward. I don’t find humor in Kim giving up on her marriage so flippantly, over having to microwave dinner instead of eating out. I’m not expecting a comedy to be a social commentary, but with the disintegration of marriage in American society, it’s not humorous to have Kim’s broken relationship be a running gag. The scenes at the mall were a nice change of pace from a studio lot set, but mall scenes have been done better by a much better comedy: Arrested Development. I don’t think there’s enough story here to keep this mother/daughter duo afloat for very long. Perhaps this type of humor played better for an Australian audience (the current version is a remake of one from that country that lasted for four seasons). Some may find similarities between the type of humor found in Kath and Kim, and that of The Office. The difference: the audience cares about most of the characters on The Office. We want Jim and Pam to get engaged. We want Phyllis to feel good about herself. We want Michael to finally fulfill his dream of being a father. I just don’t care about Kath, Kim, and their men. I don’t plan to watch this one again.
Next week, I look forward to the return of Fringe. So far it is my favorite new show this fall.