Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Random Thoughts on TV: March 2009 March 24, 2009

Lately, I can’t seem to find the time to write a detailed post on anything other than episodes of Lost. Since I’m short on time, I’ve decided to compile my thoughts on various tv show happenings into one random post. First up, American Idol.

  • American Idol – I’m not missing this show at all this season. Althought last season I cheered for David Cook and was amazed when America actually chose him as the winner, I didn’t feel compelled to watch again this year. How could this season live up to last? What were the chances that my favorite contestant would actually win again (I’m still bitter about Jennifer Hudson’s too early ouster all those years ago)? Despite my decision not to keep up with the show this year, I’ve seen an episode here and there, since some of my friends and family are watching. From what I’ve seen, I think I made the right choice to steer clear. The talent pool seems to be extremely lacking. There are some good voices, some pretty faces, but not much star power. Of course, my assessment might have been somewhat colored by the fact that I sampled the Top 11 on country music week (I can’t stand this genre!). I’ll continue to hear updates on this season through the grapevine, but meanwhile I’ll be eagerly awaiting the superior So You Think You Can Dance.
  • Battlestar Galactica – “So Say We All!” So say we all that we don’t want this show to be over. šŸ˜¦Ā Ā  The series finale aired last Friday, but we haven’t watched yet, partly because I haven’t had a good two hour window in which to watch the finale in its entirety, but mainly because my husband and I feel like if we don’t watch it, then the show isn’t over yet. Warped logic, I know, but it will just be so sad to see the credits roll for the last time. On the other hand, we are anxious to see how it all ends, so I have a feeling we’ll watch in the next few days. This season has been excellent, from the surprising revelation of the fifth Cylon’s identity, to Roslin and Adama’s understated yet enduring relationship, to the changing dynamic between the Cylons and humans. I am seriously considering purchasing the entire series on DVD once it’s available, and forcing my skeptical friends and family (you know who you are!) to watch it. Plus, I want to watch it from beginning to end to clear up all the confusion about the mythology that the breaks between seasons caused.
  • 24 – This has been an excellent season! President Taylor is a vast improvement over the past couple of characters to inhabit the show’s fictional oval office. I hope we see more of her husband as well, because he is a very likable character. In fact, I have enjoyed all the new characters (except maybe for FBI traitor Sean, who seems to be out of the picture now), particularly Agent Walker, Agent Moss (can’t help but love Jeffrey Nordling from his days on Once and Again), and Janis the brooding computer whiz. And the show has managed to shift gears from the face-off with Sangalan warlords to an American-led national threat without grasping at straws. Hats off to the writers for reinventing 24 this season! The move from L.A. to D.C. was a smart one.
  • Life on Mars – Boo to ABC for cancelling this excellent show, but kudos to the network for at least giving the showrunners enough notice to provide viewers with answers and give the show a proper send-off. I hate it when shows are cancelled last minute, and viewers are left forever wondering what happened next. (One example of this is Invasion, from a few years ago, which was flawed but intriguing, and never got a chance to tell its story in full.) I love the characters on Life on Mars. Jason O’Mara is my new tv crush – I hope he finds a successful follow-up role to Sam Tyler. I’ve even grown to like the annoyingly sexist Ray Carling (played by the terrific Michael Imperioli). But most impressive is the fact that I like Harvey Keitel as Lt. Hunt. He is brazen, insensitive, but unwaveringly loyal to his co-workers. Before this show, I had never been able to move past Harvey Keitel’s blatant display of nudity in The Piano. Harvey Keitel’s completely naked body isn’t something that I ever wanted to see, and it wasn’t an easy image to shake from my memory. Thanks to Life on Mars and Lt. Hunt, I have a much more pleasant (and fully clothed!) image to associate with the actor.Ā  I’ll certainly miss the characters, the fantastic music, the quirky tone, and everything else about this show, but hopefully we’ll get some answers and Sam Tyler will have some kind of happy ending. (If I were him I’d rather stay with Annie than go back to Lisa Bonet.)
  • The Office – I haven’t enjoyed The Office as much this season. Certainly there have been some outstanding episodes, but the quality has been inconsistent. Take, for instance, last week’s episode, in which Michael made a fool of himself because he didn’t like having the new VP calling the shots in his office. (This episode also had Jim in the unfamiliar role of the stupid guy, when he wore a tux to the office on the day he should have been impressing the new VP.) Michael has come across as the annoying idiot far too often this season – on every phone call with David Wallace, when he tried to blame Dwight for the golden ticket idea then tried to take it back, when he traveled with Pam to give some presentations at other branches, etc. We haven’t seen much of Toby and Ryan this season. Where are they? Then there’s the awkwardness of the Angela/Dwight/Andy love triangle, the dissolution of which has left Andy with little purpose on the show. How about less of the dynamic idiot due of Michael and Dwight, and more of the awkward office politicsĀ  and interaction among the quirky characters (how great was it when Oscar and Andy befriended one another on the trip to Canada?).
  • 30 Rock – While The Office has lost points with me, 30 Rock’s stock is rising. It is consistently funny and smart, even when it’s absurd. I love that Jenna is always getting one-upped by Tracy, that Liz can’t find a stable relationship, that Jack isn’t really as together as he’d have everyone believe (and I love how his relationship with Salma Hayek’s character has developed), etc. Earlier this season I applauded the show for its hilarious tribute to Night Court. The writers outdid themselves again recently with a Harry and the Henderson’s themed episode. I guess I grew up watching the same tv and movies as the 30 Rock writers, because I love their retro pop culture references. Not only did they show the ridiculously sentimental clip of John Lithgow telling Harry to go away and live in the woods, but they wove this idea into the very fabric of the episode, by having Jack use a similar tactic to convince Frank he should give up on law school, and by having a young father witness this debacle between two fatherless men, thus convincing him to stay with his girlfriend and raise their baby together. Not to mention having John Lithgow himself running into Liz Lemon on the elevator. Brilliant!

Even more random thoughts:

  • I am growing tired of The Mentalist’s leaps from horrific death scenes to happy music and silly jokes. A notable example is last week’s episode, in which one character went from shooting and killing a suspect to joking with Patrick in a matter of seconds. I’m all for light-hearted crime shows, but sometimes too much lightheartedness can seem insensitive.
  • The episodes of Friday Night Lights are piling up on my DVR. I now have six unwatched episodes. I assume this is the final season, so perhaps this is my way of making the show last longer (as I am attempting with the finale of Battlestar Galactica).
  • I am missing Fringe during its spring break. I look forward to its final fun of new episodes when it returns in April. Surely this show will be renewed for next season. It is the best new show of the year, in my opinion (with Life on Mars as a close second).
  • I didn’t need to say much about Lost here since I’ve devoted individual posts to each episode of the season. All I’ll say is that I think this is the best season yet, or at least as good as season one. I love how the show has reinvented itself time and again. And I love that Sawyer has taken on a more integral role.

I feel better now. It was good to get all of these ideas out of my head and onto the Internet. How are you feeling about tv these days? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

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Eclaire’s Favorite Things: TV Edition January 7, 2009

In a previous post, I sang the praises of my favorite household and food items. Now I’m moving on to a topic near and dear to my heart – and more in keeping with the usual content of this blog: television! All of my picks are from current tv shows.

Favorite Shows

  • Comedy: 30 Rock – 30 Rock has replaced The Office as my favorite comedy because it is consistently funny, and often manages to surprise me, whereas The Office is hit and miss this season
  • Drama: Lost – I am so excited about the return of my very favorite show! It is science fiction, drama, romance, action, and suspense all rolled into one. I deemed it my top pick when I listed my Top Ten All-Time Favorite TV Shows.
  • Science Fiction: Battlestar Galactica – This show may be great science fiction, but it surpasses its genre to be an outstanding drama as well. I can’t wait to find out who is the final Cylon, and what will become of our favorite band of galactic travelers.
  • New Show: Fringe – Fox has produced some great one-hour shows in recent years – House, Bones, 24, and now Fringe. Part X-Files, part CSI, its unusual cases of the week are enhanced by its well-developed characters. I’ve really missed it during its winter break.
  • Premium Channel Show: Dexter – I just love this show! Too bad I have to wait until the summer after it airs on Showtime to watch it, when it is released on DVD. At least it’s always worth the wait.

Favorite Characters

Eric and Tami from Friday Night Lights

  • TV Dad: Coach Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights – He’s a good dad to Julie, a good husband to Tami, and a good father figure to many of his players, including Riggins, Saracen, and Smash.
  • TV Mom: Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights – I liked how the show developed her character during season two (I will be watching season three on NBC starting this month) – the postpartum depression, balancing her responsibilities as a mom and a guidance counselor, taking on the role of volleyball coach, etc. I can’t think of a more realistic female character on tv, or a more likable one.
  • Unsung Hero: Sawyer on Lost – Jack usually gets all the glory, but these days I prefer Sawyer. And while he started off more of a con artist, not to be trusted, he now goes out of his way to help other people. I wonder what he whispered to Kate before jumping out of the helicopter.
  • Incompetent Boss: Michael Scott on The Office – One redeeming quality about this character, who sometimes seems like a hopeless case, is that he really does care about his employees. So while he often messes everything up or makes everyone feel awkward, he usually means well. This is the reason I keep rooting for him. Now if only Holly could be transferred back to Scranton. They were such a good match!

  • Keen observer: Patrick Jane on The Mentalist – This show has grown on me a lot, after a lackluster start (only because I was always able to spot the killer right away). I wonder if the casting director listened to similar complaints, because now the murderer of the week isn’t always played by a familiar guest actor. Despite this complaint, one thing that I’ve always loved about the show is its star, Simon Baker. He is great in the role of Patrick Jane, a widower who is trying to find the man who murdered his wife and daughter, and who also happens to have great powers of observation, to the point of seeming psychic. Patrick is charming, witty, and doesn’t always play by the California Bureau of Investigation’s rules as he assists the agents in solving violent crimes.

  • Morally/Ethically Questionable Character: Dexter Morgan on Dexter, Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica – Maybe it’s strange to choose a serial killer and a former president/current spiritual leader for this category. But when you take a deeper look at Dexter and Gaius, the serial killer seems to have a better value system. I mean, at least Dexter has a system for sorting out good and bad people, and he believes in punishing those who do horrible things. He also (as of season two) has a loving, if strained, relationship with Rita and her two kids. Gaius, on the other hand, can be best described as wishy-washy. He is a complete egotist and self-preservationist. He lies, manipulates, and charms his way into or out of situations, depending on what’s best for him. It’s difficult to know when, if ever, he is showing genuine compassion or interest in someone. His relationships have been equally self-serving. So why do I like Gaius? I guess because despite everything he has done, I feel sorry for him. Plus, he’s a very entertaining character. Dexter, on the other hand, I love because he is such an interesting character, and because he is played by the amazing Michael C. Hall.

  • Crazy Person: Walter Bishop on Fringe – I mentioned above that I love all the characters on Fringe. I am particularly impressed by John Noble as Dr. Bishop. This character is so far removed from his role on 24 as Anatoly Markov that I hardly recognized him. While Noble’s acting is top notch, credit must also go to the writers for creating such a quirky character.
  • Genius: Peter Bishop on Fringe – Taking on the role of Peter, Walter’s son, has given Joshua Jackson a chance to move beyond Pacey Witter in my mind. He was well cast here, and is as charming as ever. In fact, I like him more on this show than I did way back when on Dawson’s Creek.
  • Sidekick: Barney on How I Met Your Mother – I could have put Barney in the morally questionable category with Dexter and Gaius, given his unapologetic player’s mentality. Somehow, though, it is only amusing when he lies, manipulates, and charms his way into women’s beds. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a good friend that allows me to overlook his less pristine qualities. And I’ve enjoyed the revelation that he’s in love with Robin. It’s given us a chance to see a softer side of his character.

  • Troubled Teen: Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights – He’s an outsider, misunderstood, abandoned by his parents, but has a heart of gold. Kind of. Riggins is one of those characters who is good for comic relief, but who also demonstrates how good Friday Night Lights is at developing its characters. He could have just been the token slacker on the football team, but instead we’ve been offered glimpses into why he’s the way he is. Yes, he’s a slacker, but he’d like to be more than that, which is why we always cheer him on.

  • Leader: Laura Roslin, William Adama on Battlestar Galactica – I’ve loved watching Roslin and Adama’s relationship evolve from hostile to cordial to friendly to loving. It’s been heartbreaking to watch her struggle again with cancer, and Adama right there with her. It is rare to see such a deep, well-developed relationship between an older couple in today’s television landscape. All the more reason to love these characters.
  • Possibly Evil Mastermind: Ben on Lost – Oh, Benjamin Linus and his shifty eyes. You can never tell if he’s telling the truth or simply manipulating the situation to his advantage. But after he had to watch his daughter die (how heartbreaking was that?!), I feel more empathy for him. And now that we know that he is following someone else’s orders, he doesn’t seem so evil. I liked the direction the show took his character at the end of last season: Benjamin Linus, secret agent.
  • Tag Team: Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock – What a fun, comic duo they are! Goofy, sarcastic Liz and serious, even-tempered Jack. They are the best reason to watch 30 Rock.
  • New Character on a Returning Show: Holly on The Office – I am always skeptical of new characters on shows that have an established cast, so I was surprised by how much and how quickly I loved Holly. Too bad she was transferred out of Scranton so quickly. Perhaps we haven’t seen the last of her? (fingers crossed!)

  • Secondary Character on a Comedy: Toby on The Office, Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock – Poor Toby. He tries to move to Costa Rica and ends up having a horrible experience. He comes back to Scranton and has to put up with Michael’s constant insults of him. What did Toby do to incur so much of Michael’s hatred? Is it just that he’s the HR guy? It’s sad, but in a funny way. Kenneth, on the other hand, is an absurd character. He is so full of life and enthusiasm that you just can’t help but laugh. He’s had some stand-out moments this season, such as his success as an elevator jokester, and his frozen fist pump to celebrate the Night Court reunion.
  • Secondary Character on a Drama: Sun on Lost, Annie on Life on Mars – Sun has always been my favorite female character on Lost, and perhaps the most interesting one as well. I am still in denial that Jin died in the boat explosion – I’ve loved their relationship. The episode about Sun having their baby (flash forward) and Jin rushing to the hospital (flashback) was sneaky and almost cruel to viewers, but it succeeded at giving his death more emotional impact. Annie on Life on Mars is a sunnier character, with her golden hair and a smile on her face. It’s nice to have a little sunshine in the otherwise testosterone heavy police department.
  • Cute couple: Jim and Pam on The Office – Jim and Pam have been a lovable couple from season one, and now that they are together, they are even more so. I’ve enjoyed seeing their ups and downs this season and hope that the writers don’t force a break-up. Since the show doesn’t revolve around just their relationship, I don’t think it’s necessary to mess with a good thing.

  • Destined for each other couple: Penny and Desmond on Lost – What an epic love story these two have! In the season four episode The Constant, viewers had the satisfaction of witnessing their reunion. How perfect was it that Penny answered the phone?! (Now that I think of it, I can’t remember if all that happened in one episode – I need to rewatch that season!) I fear that it might not be all smooth sailing for these two in the future, since Ben has vowed to find Penny and kill her to take revenge on Charles Widmore, who he blames for Alex’s death.

  • Couple with issues: Apollo (Lee) and Starbuck (Kara) on Battlestar Galactica – Issues, for sure, but these two have great chemistry. The first strike against them is that Starbuck used to be involved with Lee’s brother. Strike two is that Kara went and got married right after she proclaimed her undying love for Lee. That’s messed up! Now, from what I remember of last season, they are back to being friends. Let’s see these two crazy kids get back together before the show ends!

  • Good-Guy Cop: Sam Tyler on Life on Mars – Sam is a lovable character for many reasons. He’s attractive (always important on a tv show, am I right?), he cares about people, he’s fun, and he’s making the most of a weird situation. What would you do if you woke up in 1973? I would probably curl into a ball and stay in bed, hoping I’d wake up soon. Instead, he just goes on with his life, solving crimes, and trying to put together the pieces to explain what happened to him.
  • Villain who died an untimely death: Adam on Heroes – Once David Anders was gone, I had no reason left to continue watching the show. In fact, Adam was about the only reason I watched Season Two, much less Season Three.

  • Good Guy who died an untimely death: Warrick Brown on CSI – I’ve heard about his personal issues, and I know that his contract was up and he was getting expensive to keep around. But, he was my favorite character, and his presence is missed this season. It was fun to watch him and Nick interact, and he was always so super cool. He exuded coolness even while walking across a room. That being said, the episodes revolving around his death were well done, so at least he got a proper send-off.

Favorite Music


  • Theme Song: The Office, Dexter – Both of these shows’ theme songs perfectly fit their tone. The Office music is goofy and fun, and Dexter’s opening has a Miami flair while also being slightly disturbing. I love them both!
  • Creepy Atmospheric Music: Fringe – From the opening credits to the ending scene, the music on Fringe is appropriately creepy and intense, and is another one of the reasons I love the show.
  • Era-Defining Music: Life on Mars – Where else can you hear Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel, and other 70s icons in one place, besides a personal playlist? The music is what sealed the deal to keep me watching this show. It adds just the right tone to make me feel like I’m watching a show from another time. Plus, it has reminded me of some really great music from the 70s that I’d otherwise never think to listen to.

Related Post

Stay tuned for my favorite movie and music-related things.

 

TV Season Midterm Review December 4, 2008

It’s that time of year again. And I’m not talking about presents, cookies, and Salvation Army bell ringers. I’m referring to the absence of new tv to watch. About the time many of us put up a Christmas tree and hang some garland, the world of television takes a winter break. As a college professor, I am used to giving my students a midterm assessment of how they are doing in my class, so I’d like to take this opportunity to evaluate my tv shows as they reach the mid-season mark. I’ve done my best to list these shows in order from most disappointing to most satisfying:

  • Heroes – What a disappointment Heroes was this season, and I’m not alone in feeling this way, based on other people’s comments. I had been a cautious viewer since last season, but I decided to jump ship around the time that they killed off Adam, Mohinder was climbing up walls like Spider Man, and everyone else was speaking in cryptic language when they weren’t jumping back and forth between the present and future. I haven’t missed it one tiny bit since I stopped watching. Grade: D
  • CSI – I spent the last six months watching every episode of CSI in syndication, including those from the last three seasons that I had never seen (I quit watching when other shows I watched started airing at the same time). So I was excited that I would be watching this season’s episodes in first run. But now the luster of this smoothly produced show has worn off. Maybe I miss Warrick, who was one of my favorite characters, or maybe the gloominess that his death left in the lab is too much of a downer. Whatever it is, the episodes are piling up on my DVR, and I’m in no hurry to watch them. I’ve deleted a couple without even watching them. Maybe after so many seasons, this show has simply run out of new ideas. They are really grasping at straws some weeks. For example, what was the deal with the hypno-therapist that supposedly killed one of her patients? That story didn’t even make sense, and there was no resolution. I wonder if Lawrence Fishburne will have a positive or negative effect on this waning show. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Grade: C
  • My Own Worst Enemy – I’m not so much disappointed in the show as I am in NBC’s decision to cancel it. There was a time, a few weeks ago, when I would have called this my favorite show of the moment. That’s about the time I heard about its cancellation, and just like that I lost interest. This show had a fascinating premise, which kept it afloat even when the execution wasn’t the best. I guess Christian Slater will have to go back to making movies, but please no more video game adaptations or campy B movies! Grade: B-
  • How I Met Your Mother – This “best comedy on CBS” has vastly improved this season compared to last. I hated seeing Ted as a Barney wannabe last year, so it was nice to see him in a somewhat stable relationship with Stella the first part of this season. Marshall and Lily’s subplots haven’t been very interesting, though. The best thing about this season has been Barney’s newfound love for Robin. I like Robin so much better when she’s not with Ted, and it has been nice to see a softer side of the normally self-centered Barney. However, this show has never been appointment television for me. These days I watch it over dinner, while feeding my 9 month old sweet potatoes and rice cereal, so it hardly has my undivided attention. Grade: B-
  • The Mentalist – I’m never too excited about this CBS procedural, but Simon Baker keeps drawing me back week after week. The show always features a “where have you seen them before” guest star. A couple of weeks ago it was Terri Bauer from 24 as a psychic, and Chrissy from Growing Pains as the suspect daughter of a murdered woman. There are two things that make this show stand out from its CBS procedural brethren: Patrick Jane’s powers of observation, and the mostly light-hearted tone. I can only handle so much doom and gloom, so I find this show refreshing. Grade: B
  • Bones – I feel slightly better about this show than The Mentalist. It isn’t as predictable, the characters are more developed, and it actually makes me laugh in addition to being light-hearted. I haven’t been crazy about the decision to break up Angela and Hodgins, nor the revelation that Angela is bisexual and is now in a relationship with her college flame. The writers really wanted to keep her and Hodgins apart, I guess! This whole story has been very forced and unbelievable. But, there are many positives to make up for this. Brennan and Booth’s interaction continues to be a good balance of flirting and friendship, Sweets has been a great addition to the team, and Dr. Saroyan doesn’t even annoy me anymore. Grade: B+
  • The Office – This season The Office has had its ups and downs. Some episodes fall flat (the one where Michael and Holly broke up was hard to watch), while others are hilarious (the one where Oscar and Andy hang out together in Canada comes to mind). I’ve mostly enjoyed the sweet moments, like when Jim showed Pam the house he bought for her, or when Phyllis’ hug was the most popular auction item when they were raising money to replace stolen office items. The continuing saga of Dwight, Angela, and Andy is also amusing. The show doesn’t have me laughing constantly every week, but it never fails to put a smile on my face. Grade: A-
  • Life on Mars – I am loving this show so much, that I was angry when I found out there would be no new episodes until the end of January. They left it on quite a cliffhanger, with Sam listening to a creepy voice on a telephone in an abandoned house telling him to go down to the basement. And as if that weren’t enough, he found this house by deciphering codes at the bottom corner of all the files of cases he’s been working on since waking up in 1973. I like a little sci-fi in my tv, so I am more than willing to go along for this bizarre ride through time. This show’s best feature is, no surprise, its 1970s cultural touches. The clothes, the hair, the music, the cars, the references to movies and tv shows of that era. Also entertaining are the modern day cultural references that Sam makes without thinking, such as “high fives” or his impromptu performance of “Ice Ice Baby.” Sam Tyler is a very likable character. He’s cute, he’s determined to figure out what’s going on in his life and the cases he’s working, and he sometimes has a childlike wonder for the things he experiences in 1973, since he was only 5 the first time around in that year. This show seems like the type that needs to be wrapped up in two or three seasons, but I hope it can survive long enough to provide resolution. I’ll miss seeing it for the next several weeks. Grade: A
  • Fringe – This is my favorite new show of the season. I have been very impressed by every aspect of it: the casting, the acting, the writing, the character development, the strange plots, the special effects, etc. Kudos to Fox for developing this and a handful of other top notch one-hour shows. No one can say they put all their eggs in the American Idol basket anymore. My one concern at the beginning of the season was about whether or not Anna Torv would be convincing in the role of Agent Olivia Dunham, and whether her character would be likable. Well, Torv has done an excellent job, and the writers have given her rich material to work with. I now care about Dunham, as she deals with her disturbing visions of John Scott, and feel sorry for her, as she can’t find time for a personal life due to her demanding job investigating The Pattern. My favorite aspect of the show remains the interaction between borderline crazy Dr. Walter Bishop and his intelligent but troubled son Peter. This show’s premise goes a long way in making it entertaining to watch, but without its distinct characters and the ways they are being developed, I wouldn’t be so excited about watching it every week. This is the one show that I always watch the night that it airs. Grade: A+
  • 30 Rock – While How I Met Your Mother only makes me chuckle occasionally, and The Office keeps me smiling, 30 Rock has me laughing out loud constantly. I love its quirky characters, its ridiculous storylines, and all the little details that hold it all together (the music, the props, the fast-paced camera work, etc.). My favorite episode this season has been the one with the Night Court reunion. How random and fantastic was that? Not only did we see Harry, Christine, and Mac back together again, hear the familiar Night Court music, and end the episode with the freeze frame editing, but this episode brought us Jenna’s Were-Lawyer, Kenneth’s frozen fist pump, and Jack’s colleague Mi Au (pronounced Meow). It’s satisfying the Jennifer Aniston’s guest starring role wasn’t the only reason to watch. But I thought she did a great job as Crazy Claire. The guest stars are never gimmicky on 30 Rock. The writers always give them something funny to work with. Just one more reason that I love this show. Grade: A+

Now that most of these shows are going into holiday hibernation, it’s time for me to dust off my Netflix queue and catch up with my reading. It won’t be long until we welcome back 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Friday Night Lights. I may let go of a few more shows to make room for those favorites.

What shows have impressed or disappointed you this season?

 

TV Week in Review: October 13-17 October 18, 2008

Like last week, this week supplied plenty of new episodic television to watch. Read on for my thoughts, posted in chronological order, about the shows I tuned in to. Scroll down for the first ever poll on Eclaire Fare, and look for more to come. (This is a new feature that WordPress just added.)

  • How I Met Your Mother – I thought last week’s episode (in which the gang went to see Stella in New Jersey) was one of the best in awhile, so this one was mediocre by comparison. The variety of interventions that Ted, Lily, Marshall, et al have staged over the years was slightly amusing, but I was left a little confused by the end of the episode about what everyone had decided to do. Maybe that was the point. Based on the “one year later” ending, it looks like Robin didn’t take the job in Japan, and Ted didn’t move to New Jersey. Barney dressing up as “old man Barney” to pick up girls was pretty funny, only because Neil Patrick Harris is so great at portraying his character’s shameless manipulation and seeming lack of a conscious. (In real life people like that make me sad, so I wonder why it is funny on this show.)
  • Heroes – After last week’s lackluster episode, I was about ready to cancel my Season Pass to this show. However, I must say that this week’s installment has compelled me to keep watching. It was, by far, the best episode of the season. We didn’t have any of that nonsense with Peter jumping around in the future, or Matt wandering around in the desert. I found both of those stories, with Matt’s visions and Peter’s experiences in the future, very distracting, and felt that they convoluted the plot too much (i.e., at what point does the future change when something else happens in the present, and then what happens to the future versions of the characters). I am intrigued by the revelation that Daphne and Nathan’s spirit guide is not Linderman, but is in fact Matt Parkman’s father. (If you don’t remember, Mr. Parkman’s ability is that he can make people experience things that aren’t really there, as well as read their minds.) And I was further intrigued by the twist that followed – that Mr. Parkman is working for Mr. Petrelli, Nathan and Peter’s supposedly deceased father. He doesn’t look like he is in very good health, judging from his inability to speak (verbally at least) and his being bedridden. But he must be of sound mind since he is rounding up an army of formidable heroes, including Daphne, Matt, Hiro, and Adam (yay!). To what end? And who will they be fighting against? Perhaps Mr. Petrelli isn’t too happy with the way things ended between him and Mrs. Petrelli, or maybe he wants to regain control of The Company. That’s what her vision of the future suggested. I could say more, but suffice to say there is suddenly plenty of rich material for the writers to develop, and even better, it’s starting to make sense! Now if we could just bypass the silly puppet man story. I’d imagine that will only serve as a time filler next week, when we could be learning more information about the more interesting characters: Mohinder going all “Dr. Frankenstein meets mutant spider man,” Hiro stabbing Ando with a sword (I’m guessing he’ll teleport back in time to right that wrong), and Sylar trying to rehabilitate.
  • My Own Worst Enemy – I’ve already devote a separate post to this new show. To read my (mostly) positive review of it, click here.
  • The Mentalist – This was only the second episode of this show that I have seen. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the pilot. Mostly my waning interest was due to the clan of teenage suspects in the murder investigation of a surfer girl who washed ashore. (Didn’t that happen on Bones just a couple of weeks ago?) I tend to roll my eyes whenever television writers decide to make honor roll, Ivy League bound teenagers into (surprise!) remorseless killers. There is usually very little explanation for why the kids turn suddenly violent and psychotic. In this case, “she was gonna tell it” doesn’t cut it for me. So, my problem was with the particular case of the week, but I was still interested in Simon Baker’s character and his powers of observation. Patrick Jane is a quirky, very likable character. It was fun to watch him hang around the beach and draw everyone’s attention with his elaborate sand castle. What appeared to some to be him avoiding work was actually his way of collecting evidence. His trick of finding his co-worker’s hidden car keys was also entertaining. Is Baker enough reason to watch the show? For now he is. I’m interested to see if the supporting characters will be developed anymore. This week we learned that Teresa (Robin Tunney) dealt with her mother’s death and her father’s alcoholism as a child, and she had to deal with her emotions when the case they were working on involved a similar situation. So far, though, the other characters are little more than one-dimensional stereotypes whose sole purpose is to give Patrick Jane someone to impress and, at times, annoy. I’ll reserve my verdict until the show has had a chance to establish itself.
  • Fringe – This episode began with a frightening scene of a falling elevator (hmmm, that happened on Bones recently, too), caused by the electromagnetically charged guy who was riding on it. Agent Dunham and team commenced figuring out who was responsible and finding him before mad scientist Dr. Fisher could do more painful experiments on him. I felt sorry for this guy. He only responded to the ad because he needed more self confidence (that was certainly true), and he ended up unconsciously controlling all the electronics around him. I loved that we heard R.E.O. Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” not once, but twice, in this episode. Great ’80s song, and very appropriate for setting the tone here. We also received some answers about why Agent Dunham keeps seeing the presumed dead John Scott. According to Walter, during their previous experimental procedure, part of John’s consciousness crossed over into her’s, and the visions are her mind’s way of making sense of the “intruder,” since there is only room for one set of thoughts in her brain. Like all the “explanations” on this show, this one is a little hokie, but I’ll take it. I must say that I like Dunham more after this episode. Her interactions with John, her discovery of the engagement ring he had planned to give her, and her working through her grief and confusion all humanized her – something that had been lacking in previous episodes, in which she seemed too mechanical and stoic. I continue to be impressed by this show’s unique mix of humor, horror, conspiracy, and suspense. I loved the scene in which Walter rubbed his wool slippers on the carpet so he could shock Peter. At first I thought he was dancing to some music in his head, so when I saw that he was revving up for a demonstration of electromagnetic charge, I was surprised and amused. I only wish we had seen more of Peter in this episode. Maybe next week.
  • The Office – This was one of those downer episodes for me, with its focus on Michael’s sad personal life. (He wants to be a father, but Jan keeps pushing him away from his involvement with her child, and meanwhile his attachment to Jan is a deterrent to him moving on with a new relationship). But it did have its moments. Let me break it down a little. Funny: Andy mistakingly pegging Phyllis’ baby picture as Angela’s, and then telling Angela she was “being mean” (thinking she was being sarcastic) when she pointed out the funny looking picture that was actually hers. Awkward: Jan showing up for the baby shower with Astrid, when Michael had assumed she would call him to attend the birth. This was classic Michael/Jan dysfunction. Not funny: The “Dwight tests the $1200 stroller” story. It was too over the top, even by this show’s standards. Maybe it just pains me to see someone destroying brand new baby gear since it wasn’t too long ago that I went through that stressful buying process. Realistic: Jim and Pam having an “off day.” Of course this couple would have some hard times while they are doing the long distance thing. It was sweet to see their voice mail conversation at the end, though, when they might as well have been chatting with each other, they were so in sync. Sweet: The big hug that Michael gave Holly after Jan left. Holly’s tears were understandable, after how mean Michael was to her so as “to not offend” Jan. Good for him, though, for ignoring Jan’s out of place request that he not date Holly, and asking her out anyway.
  • Life on Mars – I am loving this show, particularly the clothing, the music, and the whimsical tone. Maybe not whimsical like Pushing Daisies, but it definitely has a more carefree, cheerful feel than other cop shows. Instead of everything being edgy and grimy, we get a suspect running out of a swimming club in a speedo, with Sam Tyler and his colleages chasing him down while decked out in similar swim gear, while fun and funky 70s music plays in the background. My favorite song this week was Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock,” which is both era-appropriate and thematically relevant, since Sam is trying to process everything on his own while everyone he knows is far away in another time and place. So it was nice to see him befriended by his hippie neighbor, who brought him lasagna sprinkled with her special ingredient (a little mary jane), and insisted that he dance with her. I am also surprised that I like Harvey Keitel in this show, since I have been disturbed by the very sight of him ever since I saw him in The Piano (picture him polishing a piano, completely naked – enough said). His character is a nice blend of political incorrectness, father figure in the department, and wise cracking tough guy. I’m not sure what to think of the little robot gizmo that kept showing up and giving Sam flashes of his life in 2008. That’s pretty bizarre, but I like that about this show.

The only show I haven’t watched yet this week is CSI. Well, I am also three episodes behind on Pushing Daisies. I’m not sure if I’ll ever catch up with it.

* If you answer the poll question below and choose “other,” please post which show was your favorite in the comments section so I’ll know what else I should be watching.

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TV Week in Review: October 6-10 October 12, 2008

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.