Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Of Us

Over at A Bright Wall in a Dark Room, we're having Halloween Week!  You should go check out all our essays on scary movies.  Today my essay about Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) went up.  Give it a read!


by Katherine Spada

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A quick one

It's the week after October sweeps, so a lot of shows have been airing reruns, making this a great week to catch up on Netflix Instant.  I don't have a whole lot to say about last night's episode of Modern Family, but I thought there were a lot of great jokes throughout which I wanted to highlight.

The premise of parents struggling to get their child into an elite elementary school is inherently amusing to me as a Los Angeles native, and as someone who was once one of those children.  However I have to call out ModFam for stealing a major bit from The L Word, when Mitchell and Cam feel that their diversity credibility is threatened when they see a lesbian couple, with one partner in a wheelchair, and an adopted baby, applying to the same school as they are.  Swap the genders and we've seen this exact scene before.

That said, Mitchell's line about feeling inadequate in the preschool race, "Leave it to the gays to raise the only underachieving Asian in the country," was pure Mitchell, and tied in nicely to one of the show's funniest and most uncomfortable running gags, which is how uncomfortable Cam acts around minorities.  There was an episode last season in which he struggled with Gloria, because while he is not a racist, his yen to be as politically correct as possible often manifests in excruciatingly awkward actions and misunderstandings.  So when he pretended to be a Native American in order to give Lily a better chance at getting into the school, I was horrified and could not stop laughing.  He described his daughter as having skin the color of "maize."  Unreal.

The Jay/Gloria storyline did nothing for me, but at the Dunphy household, Claire implored her family to compete to see who could go the longest without using cell phones, video games, and internet.  Phil described the challenge as an experiment in being Amish, whose lifestyle includes "witnessing murders."  Amazing.  Luke finally had an opportunity to use his imagination, which involved building miniature cities and destroying them.  I have to admit that I loved when he acted out, "There's no fire escape; they cut corners!"  "I'll cut your corners!"

Finally, when Claire herself broke the no-internet rule, she was discovered when Phil heard the computer call out, "You've got mail!"  Because of course Claire still uses AOL!

Modern Family, 9pm Wednesdays on ABC

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday night reality

The Amazing Race, 8pm on CBS
It was a very good move for the producers to have kept father/son team Michael & Kevin in the race last week, and within short order, they were leading the race in its Lapland leg.  Since Michael is unable to handle many of the show's physical challenges, it was fun to watch how good of a time he was having in the dogsled challenge, and his adorable cheers of "Go doggy!  I'm enjoying!" made up for how hard it was to watch his disappointment in himself for letting his son down last week.  It was also good to see them working together with the other father/child team of Gary & Mallory to get ahead.  I am seriously tired of annoying couple Chad & Stephanie, but definitely relieved that nerds Connor & Jonathan took their a capella butts home (on their Princeton graduation day, no less, reminding me of ANTM Cycle 7's Brooke).  Yes, yes, it's nice to see that they had a positive attitude, and I know I would have done as poorly in the sledding challenge, but still.  I was not a fan.  Doctors Nat & Kat made it from 2nd-to-last place to come in first this week, which I was pleased by.

Undercover Boss, 9pm on CBS
This week, the CEO of small, struggling regional airline Frontier went undercover to see how his employees and company are doing after a three-way merger and a company-wide 10% pay cut.  CEO Bryan Bedford tried out roles in airplane sanitation and airline hospitality, and learned a lot about how hard many of his dedicated employees have it.  As a devout Catholic, he was also inspired by how many of the people he worked with found comfort in God, and resolved to help serve others using the lessons he'd learned.  It was a very sweet episode; almost as good as the 7-11 one.

Sister Wives, 10pm on TLC
Kody is supremely terrible, and has the intellect and maturity of a preteen.  The wives express some jealousy over time Kody spends with Robyn before she is officially married to him, which she resents as she moved her whole life and family to be with him.  As the wedding planning goes on, Kody shows how little he respects his wives' feelings, and seriously upsets them when he usurps their plans about the cake and wedding dress.  In another moment where he is shown to be the worst, he looks so unamused when Robyn intimates that strangers observing them as a group may have no clue that they are a polygamist family, because "for all they know, Kody's just our gay friend."  If these women want to share a husband, that's great, but did they have to pick such an awful one?

"No one is on your side, Betty."

She had style, she had flair...she was there!  That's how she became the nanny Mrs. Draper!*

Ohh, Don.  Don, Don, Don.  Well, let's get back to him in a moment.

All week I had been thinking that previous seasons of Mad Men all ramped up towards a dizzying climax, and that while this season had opened up a lot of loose ends, there didn't seem to be anything monumental to expect from the season finale, except perhaps Bert Cooper leaving SCDP and the new company folding, sending all our beloved coworkers into the ether, to be welcomed by the ghost of Sal Romano.  So we're treated to a couple of brief scenes in which we learn that Joan is picking up the slack after the massive layoffs, Don has gotten SCDP (SDP?) closer to getting Cancer, and Peggy and Ken Cosgrove have gotten the first new account since the fallout.  It was great to see Peggy on her game, and to see Ken get a win after Pete misguidedly trying to make him feel like a failure for not being like him.  But who would want to do anything to jeopardize the happiness of Alex Mack?  Not me.

At the Francis home, Betty's black hole of sadness is all-consuming.  She has decided to move the family twenty miles away simply to escape Sally's creepy friend Glenn, and when Carla decides to allow the children to say a quick goodbye, Betty fires her.  This has to be the worst thing Betty has ever done, and really makes me wonder where the writers want her awful character to go.  Personally, I suspect Henry will leave her, and she'll run off to Rome or kill herself or something.

On the Joan front, it seems she did take Roger's advice to keep the child and pass it off as her rapist husband's.  This was not a surprise, but now I am just curious if they'll kill off Dr. Harris while Joan's pregnant, forcing her to seek help from Roger, or if they'll carry on the charade with him thinking that the silver-haired baby who keeps vomiting up oysters and vermouth is his own.

Okay, so back to Don.  He super-inappropriately asks his secretary Meghan to accompany him to California as a babysitter, and while there, he sleeps with her twice and then proposes to her using the ring he inherited from Anna Draper.  My brain reacted with something between a record scratch and a facepalm.  I mean, it's not like Don has ever shown himself to be a responsible adult when it comes to his personal life (remember when he wanted to run off with Rachel Menken?), but this was just another frustrating moment of his bad behavior being rewarded.  I always think of how Roger described Don and Betty as looking like a wedding cake topper, and it seems a perfect symbol for how they are both such petulant children.

When he breaks the news to his coworkers, even Roger is incredulous.  Roger Sterling.  The most enigmatic reaction was easily Peggy's.  She's the Mona Lisa smile (not the Mona Lisa Smile) of this show, and there are a million reasons why she could have been so glassy-eyed.  Was she jealous, a little hurt to be shut out of Don's future love life?  Offended because of Don's pat acknowledgment of how much respect he and Meghan have for her?  Jealous because once again, Don gets everything - a career and a marriage?  Or is she just disappointed?  I think it's that last one, that she does not respect Don's decision, and she wants so badly for him to just be better, be a better man, but he always comes up short.

I wish I could have spent a whole day commiserating with Joan and Peggy.  Their shared acknowledgment that Don is just as ridiculous as every other manchild they know was great.  And to have Peggy acknowledge that she knows Joan is just as much of a workaholic as she is, was a nice coda to what they've been through together over the years.  Just think of the parallels in their unplanned pregnancies, too.
(Gif borrowed from a Videogum commenter)

Oh, Betty.  As terrible as she is, I definitely felt for her when she was touching up her lipstick in anticipation of sneaking up on Don at their old house.  Thinking about when they were young, and starting life together.  And then learning that he is moving on, with tears in her eyes.  It was believable, and human in a way unlike her typical terrible self.  I think it is hard as audience members to deal with really unlikeable characters because they are too real, and remind us too much of our own flaws, but January Jones does sadness better than any other emotion (see The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), so it was a great scene for her.

And oh, Dr. Faye.  I really did expect Don to marry her, much like how his real-life inspiration Draper Daniels married a business associate who was more of an equal to him, but I guess she was just not enough of a poolside diversion for him now that they could have their relationship out in the open.

So what was this season about?  The first episode opened with the question, "Who is Don Draper?"  Surely a lot has changed.  Don is curbing his alcoholism and his womanizing, but not quitting either.  He is swimming, and trying to enjoy life outside of work a little bit more.  He is opening up a bit about his secret past, but not enough to be able to own up to a possible background check.  He went from being unable to talk candidly to a journalist about himself, to buying full-page ad space in The New York Times for his essays, and bringing his children to Anna Draper's California home.  But what does it all mean?

*Actually the more I think of it, the lyrics of The Nanny's theme song are really chillingly appropriate to this Don/Meghan situation.  "Now the father finds her beguiling (watch out C. C. Dr. Faye!), and the kids are actually smiling (such joie de vivre!)..."  Get it?  Because they have a terrible birth mother, and Meghan is French Canadian?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vote for me!

So, a shameless plug today:

I have entered into a contest to get a job blogging for the Nature Made supplement company.  I am avid about fitness and staying in shape, and think I could do a really good job for them blogging about wellness and having a positive attitude.  Please do me a favor and cast a vote for me!  You can vote every day, if you'd like!

Sitcoms Part 2...and some other stuff

Community, 8pm on NBC
I seem to be the odd man out compared to the rest of the internet this morning, but I did not think this was among the strongest episodes of this series.  I always love scenes where Abed tries to make everyone live life like a movie, so the slow-motion march to the space shuttle made me laugh, but there were only a couple of other big moments in the episode for me.  The best was probably Troy threatening to kill Annie, which was delivered with the same tone as the choloform scene from a couple of episodes, which was a series highlight.  And of course, the self-aware KFC advertising was pretty great, and well-established in NBC's wheelhouse.

30 Rock, 8:30pm on NBC
All I want to do is refer to last night's live episodes of 30 Rock as "much ballyhooed," but that is lame, and I am cool.  I was really impressed with the fact that the cast performed two live versions of the show, for the East Coast and West Coast broadcasts, and I have to say that watching the episode made me feel like I was part of a television event, which is not a mood that's easy to create in this post-TiVo world.  The pacing and camera work was weird, but this was a live staging of a show that we are not used to watching with an audience's laugh track, so no big deal there.  Chris Parnell seemed the most comfortable of the main cast members, but the highlight was definitely Jon Hamm, whose amorous hand (West Coast feed) had me laughing for a solid five minutes.  That he is so good at this kind of comedy, but is also Don Draper, makes me love him even more.  It was a very smartly written episode, and the live show within a live show added protection from any number of mishaps Tracy Morgan outbursts.  The way that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was used was perfect and clever (remember Tina Fey's Emmy speech?), and any reference to young hot Alec Baldwin is great.

The Office, 9pm on NBC
Just like the 'lip dub' cold open that kicked off the season, this episode was a great contribution to send off Steve Carrell.  Melora Hardin's brief scene made me desperately miss the time when she was a series regular, but I am definitely looking forward to Amy Ryan's upcoming guest-starring run.  While the Michael storyline was definitely the heart of the episode, I absolutely loved Andy getting to use his Cornell RA skills to teach his officemates about sexual health and acceptance.  He is so clearly someone whose happiness and power peaked in college, and it is so sad to watch that play out.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 10pm on FX
This was a great episode.  I love the battle between Team Dee/Dennis and Team Mac/Charlie, and it was great to finally have that battle distilled down to a class war.  Everything about Charlie thinking his jean cutoffs were not white trash, and Dee/Dennis/Frank at the public pool was hilarious.  The more absurd of a character Frank becomes, the more he adds to the mix.

Jersey Shore, 10pm on MTV
Well, it's happened.  Jersey Shore fatigue.  I will watch the season finale next week, but I can't see caring about these awful people for one more season.  "The Situation" in particular makes me want to jump off a cliff, but DJ Pauly D, Vinny, Ronni, and Sammi are only marginally better.  Now, if Snooki and J-WOWW were to get their own show, I could see watching that.

Grey's Anatomy, 9pm on ABC
This episode had actual admirable character development, which was a nice surprise.  And Dr. Altman was rapidly becoming one of my least favorite characters on the show, but at least she finally told off Dr. Avery for flirting with her.  Oh, Dr. Avery - or as I remember him, the Hotness Monster from Greek - so glad he finally had his shirt off.  Though really when do new doctors have the time to get so ripped?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sitcoms Part 1

Raising Hope, 9pm Tuesdays on Fox
This show has so far retained the sweetness it initially impressed me with, but I just wish that they could manage to expand on more than one joke per episode.  This week's episode was very Martha Plimpton -centric, which I thought was great, because she is so much more interesting than the actors who play her son or her son's love interest.  I loved how she chastised her son in front of the girl that he likes for being too much of a "Ross."  Her crazed determination to stage a perfect family portrait year after year was extremely relatable, and in the end, very touching when she admitted that as a housekeeper, she wants a family portrait to feel like the people whose homes she cleans.

Running Wilde, 9:30pm Tuesdays on Fox
I think this has been the best episode of the series so far.  With luck, this show will transcend a weak first season, à la The Office (US) and Parks and Recreation.  There was a classic blend of miscommunication and Will Arnett playing a sexual pawn in his own game (see Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development again).  It was so clear that Keri Russell would get the preteen boy to fall in love with her, and Will Arnett would get Andy Richter in a mustache to fall in love with him, but a lot of fun to watch those storylines play out.  The extended scene of Arnett washing a car Paris Hilton -style pulled the trick where it carries on way past being funny, and then swings back to being funny again.  I swear I saw Arnett and Richter scissoring at one point.  Once again, Peter Serafinowicz stood out as Fa'ad pretending to be a New York mobster as trained by Alan Alda.  Weird and hilarious.

Modern Family, 9pm Wednesdays on ABC
I always like scenes when Claire and Mitchell get to interact with each other, and them teasing each other during a workout was a great brother-sister scene.  When they tried to break bad news to each other's partners, Strangers on a Train style, Mitch couldn't bring himself to tell Phil how awful he is at telling jokes, but Claire was able to tell Cam that his too-tight bike shorts are inappropriate.  Cam and Mitchell loving each other so much but never being able to be on the same page was great, with a back-and-forth about who is luckier to be with whom that was very believable.  It was momentarily upsetting to see how Claire felt the only way to save Phil from himself was to steal his notecards, but perfectly redeemed when his lame humor was perfect for the realtor dinner, and also for Claire.  Is there a sweeter married couple on television today (suck it, Jim and Pam)?  Also, the shot of her laughing without her eyes was creepy and amazing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This show is pretty offensive (am I only just now realizing this? I can't even tell anymore.)

There was a super cute and sexy scene in last night's episode of Glee, where Santana and Brittany are having a kissing session at Brittany's house.  It's been referenced in past episodes that their friendship is sexual in nature, but it's clear they're not dating, and that they freely date other people (seemingly exclusively boys).  When Santana stopped the session abruptly, annoyed at Brittany for talking too much, she spat out that the only reason she was wasting her time with Brittany is because her preferred FWB Puck is not available.  This was the first of a couple of scenes which made me really sad for Brittany, and made me think about how differently the show treats queer women and queer men.  I might not agree totally with After Ellen's Lux Alptraum, who wrote that "Brittany and Santana are [her] queer icons," but they are definitely more than just straight girls who make out in order to please their male partners.

While of course this is not to say that this show has shown the utmost sensitivity when ever discussing gay culture or homophobia, it has taken a lot more effort to respect the struggles of gay teen boys through the character of Kurt.  Now, when Kurt announced that he would be singing a song from Victor Victoria, I audibly cheered, "Yes!"  Actor Chris Colfer has displayed some great range, and I knew he'd do a great job with the number "Le Jazz Hot."  That said, it was a little weird to show that as a gay boy, the character is some hijra blend of masculine and feminine.

Another element of this complicated situation is the new character Sam, who is found equally appealing by Kurt and Quinn (and Finn), and who everyone wants to play on their team.  Most importantly, though, this nerd speaks Na'vi and thought that he needed to impress everyone at his new school by dumping a bottle of Sun-In on his head instead of just showing off his abs, guitar and singing skills, and cute smile.  What a weirdo.

Back in Santana land, she and Mercedes belted out a duet of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High" that is so on fire that it made me sweat.  If only they didn't make Santana say every line with a sprinkle of ebonics for no reason.

Meanwhile, things are getting confusing for poor Brittany.  Since Santana won't duet with her, she asks Artie to be her partner because she knows he has a good voice.  He is surprised because she has never given him the time of day, and she admits that she used to think he was a robot.  She flirts with him, and he goes along with it, hoping to get over Tina, even though he's not really that interested in Brittany.  In a way, it was cute when Brittany lifted Artie out of his chair and laid him down on her bed, saying that their hook up would have been inevitable since he's on the football team now.  Artie seems nervously excited to lose his virginity, and Brittany never seems to have any ulterior motives or pity in mind.

So the next day, Artie slut-shames and dumps her, and it is completely uncalled for.  He gets mad at her for having sex with him because he wanted his first time to be important, and he doesn't believe that it was important for her.  Let me know if you picked up on any coercion or forcing in the previous scene, because I did not get the impression that he was anything but on board.  I don't know that it would have come off any differently if the genders had been reversed, either.  Brittany genuinely likes Artie, and hoped they could have a nice date together at Breadsticks (I forgot to mention that the glee club is competing for a free dinner there).  She wants to share spaghetti, Lady and the Tramp style.  This scene was really difficult for me.

Our other glee clubbers are just along for the ride.  Rachel pulls a Katherine Heigl and realizes that she is completely unlikeable, and she and Finn sing a couple of boring duets.  Mike Chang, who should spend more time shirtless and less time having a mullet, finally gets lines, and duets with Tina on "Sing!" from A Chorus Line.  This song is not fun but I guess they did their best with it.  I just don't understand how Tina is "introducing us to the amazing voice of Mike Chang" if he's been in the Glee Club for over a year.  Was he just the dance contingent, like Kurt is the Cheerios' singing element, and Artie is the football team's human battering ram?  What is this school?

Finally, there was at least one Olive Garden commercial aired during this episode, which made me laugh because of the show's parody with a place called "Breadsticks," but when we see Brittany alone at the restaurant pushing a meatball across her plate with her nose, it was way sadder to me than when Rachel wanted to find her birth mom or whatever.  LEAVE BRITTANY ALONE!  (I apologize for that.)  In two weeks the show will be taking on the Rocky Horror Show, which, as a former cast member, I am biased towards, but hopefully they let the episode stew in the play's campy awfulness.  If only I could shout callbacks at the television without freaking out my housemates.

Glee, Tuesdays at 8pm on Fox

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In the interest of full disclosure, I fell asleep somewhere around the last couple of scenes during Gossip Girl last night.  What do you want me to tell you - this episode was boring, and I get up early.  I guess there was some good stuff going on in the show, but I really hate when they try to make us care what hijinks they're getting up to at college.  Okay, I guess I don't know what I want.  I want it to seem believable that these kids are actually at Columbia, but when there is drama about profs and deans I just can't bring myself to care.

The best part about the episode is that everyone was shocked and outraged about a rumor that Serena has an STD, and Serena says Gossip Girl is usually too "classy" for this kind of filth.  Um, where has she been for the past four seasons, no it's not.  Statistically, Serena and the other UESiders all should have at least one strain of HPV.  Do you see Lily rousing herself from her heroin den long enough to get her kids vaccinated with Gardasil?  Plus Chuck and Nate at least have a history with sex workers, and I suspect, each other.  Now, I'm not saying that having X amount of sexual partners guarantees that a person will have a venereal disease, it's just that these characters are always swapping partners and never talking about condoms, so I assume they are exposing themselves to risk.  Especially since Dan and Nate seem to only have considered the notion of getting tested just now.  Heads up: you are supposed to get tested every time you are with a new partner, kids.

The whole storyline of Chuck plotting to take Columbia away from Blair, while Jailbird tries to take it away from Serena, and there are professors who can be bribed with dates made by 20-year-olds, and you can ask your friends to register you for classes...ugh, this was too much to handle.  It was funny seeing Chuck on campus, clearly disgusted but willing to do what it takes to bring down Blair, at least.  But why are Dan and Vanessa hanging out at Columbia so much?  Don't they go to NYU, the land of movie star threesomes and Lady GaGa performance art (same thing)?  Whatever.

I am so over Nate's mystery bitch.  Why does everyone trust her?  Vanessa, with her dead eyes, telling her "i am so glad u are with nate u make a gud couple REBOOT."  Isn't she constantly being outed as a seekret baddy?  I hope they don't drag out gaol guy all season, because it is so painful trying to care if bad stuff happens to Serena, when all I want is for bad stuff to happen to Serena.  So when she was almost expelled for sexting her professor, I kinda thought that was pretty great, especially at the fancy secret society party where the professors and the Dean and the NYU students get to attend.

I loved Rufus asking Vanessa to open up to him about his son's bad behavior.  Remember when Rufus (hot) and Vanessa (ugh) ran a coffee shop / art gallery together (the place where Dan lost his V-card to his now-sister Serena)?  I hope they hook up this season, as they've clearly been doing off-camera for the past two.

Joan's rapist husband the Vietnam doctor is on Gossip Girl now (I guess that means spoiler alert for Mad Men), as like, parallel-universe Chuck.  A well-dressed guy sending off a different girl in a cab every morning, and using it as an excuse to hit on a drugged-out homewrecker.  Serena is so terrible, I hope she and this guy date and then he recruits her into a pyramid scheme.  Gossip Girl season 5: Caged Heat: White Collar.  Or something.

Also, Chuck using a "pie" reference was as lame as Blair saying "hundys" last week.  You're better than that, Chuck.

Then I fell asleep.

Gossip Girl, Mondays at 9pm on The CW

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's trailer time!

Red, October 15

Silly action movie with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich.  This is like, the thinking man's The Expendables or some such.  I don't know.

127 Hours, November 5

One of my high school teachers used to date Aron Ralston, the crazy guy who went hiking alone and got trapped by a boulder, only to be freed after he sawed through his elbow using the cheap multi-use knife that came with his flashlight.  Perfect casting with James Franco, and kind of excited to see the direction this story will take with Danny Boyle at the helm instead of someone like Sean Penn.

Black Swan, December 3

While I am on board for a Darren Aronofsky ballet movie starring Natalie Portman, the trailer for this is so weird that I have no idea what to expect, but I know I'll be watching.

The Tempest, December 10

Helen Mirren as Prospera in an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's weirder plays (if you ask me), directed by Julie Taymor with all the flourishes she brought to Across the Universe.  I loved The Tempest for how creepy it was (in high school we read it with John Fowles' The Collector - good idea), and Helen Mirren is automatically awesome.

True Grit, December 25

I shouldn't have to tell you why this looks awesome.

Sunday night blitz

(I'm two weeks behind on Boardwalk Empire, but having seen the second episode, I definitely am more interested than I was after watching just the pilot.)

The Amazing Race, 8pm on CBS
I was legitimately bummed out that Michael & Kevin, and Nat & Kat came in as the last two teams.  It can happen to anyone, but the doctors kept getting waylaid by bad taxi drivers or car trouble, and I got empathetically frustrated on their behalf.  Michael & Kevin are just so likable, which explains why they ended up not being eliminated, but I hope that after this round they learned the lesson that they should persevere more when they have the option of a non-physical challenge, as they would not have come in last had they been more determined with the word search challenge.  I really liked the challenges that were set at the school, even if the a capella nerds came in first.  Annoying.

Undercover Boss, 9pm on CBS
It says something about how much I've come to expect from do-gooder reality TV that when DirectTV CEO Mike White offered his employees a few thousand dollars' worth of services at the end of last night's episode, I was disappointed by his stinginess.  I will keep watching this show, hoping for each episode to be as heartwarming as the one about 7-11, but this one did not come close.

Dexter, 9pm on Showtime
I hope that Astor and Cody haven't been so neatly written out of this show, as I think their added drama will enrich this show, and Harrison is a pretty easy obstacle to write around.  It was good to have Dexter back in his element, goading and dominating serial killer Boyd Fowler (great job by guest star Shawn Hatosy), and the final scene introduction of Julia Stiles got me very excited about where this season is going.  Quinn & Deb, Angel & LaGuerta, and Masuka, are all in top form.  Desmond Harrington got really hot all of a sudden, and I think it's his new haircut.  Yum.  Incidentally, I miss Doakes.

Sister Wives, 10pm on TLC
I am officially creeped out.  While at the hospital awaiting the birth of his thirteenth child, Kody (urgh) asks his third wife's doctor about his first wife's infertility.  Gross.  When celebrating his 20th anniversary with first wife Meri, he tells her that his gift to her will be a costly round of IVF.  She's clearly sad about the fact that she's struggled with fertility for so long, but when she says "no thanks," Kody is kind of upset.  When Meri tries to talk honestly with her husband about her jealousy issues, she asks him how he would feel if her attentions were split between him and another man.  I believe his exact response is that "the vulgarity of that idea is so against God and nature" that he refuses to even think about it.  Why weren't they having this conversation 17 years ago when Kody was getting married to a second wife?  With the addition of third wife Christine's baby Truely, and the upcoming addition of Robyn's three children, the wives were throwing around a lot of language making it seem like the best upside of being a woman in a polygamist family is the abundance of nannies around.  Finally, Kody and Meri's daughter Mariah tells her father that she wants to go to Annapolis, and he has to break it to her that a) polygamist private school is not accredited, and b) she will probably not get a gubernatorial recommendation based on her parents' lifestyle.  The first of many disappointments for this poor girl.

Put out the light, and then put out the light.

Matt Sax & Eric Rosen's new musical Venice, on at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through November 14, is one of the best new musicals I have seen in the past couple of years.  In brief, it is a post-apocalyptic hip hopera transposing Othello to the not-too-distant future.  In practice it is a wonderful modern play that provides a commentary on current sociopolitical issues, invoking Shakespearean tragedy while taking on enough of a life of its own to make the audience forget about the links to the Bard's original.

Sax, who wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics, stars as the Clown MC, a Greek chorus of a man who has grown up in a city called Venice, having been born after the war which isolated Venice as a city on lockdown, under constant threat of terrorism.  A politician by the name of Venice (who, coincidentally, preaches a message of "Hope" and "Change") is seeking to save his city from a bleak future, and plans to do so by marrying Willow, who like Venice, is the child of a slain figure from the war of twenty years ago.  Unlike Venice, she grew up in the safe zone outside of the city.  So did Michael Victor, the young soldier whom Venice has recently promoted to be his second in command, incurring the jealousy of Markos, Venice's half-brother.  Markos and Venice share the same mother, a freedom fighter who died in a terrorist bombing, but Markos cannot let go of the fact that Venice is the product of a rape perpetrated by members of the enemy forces.

What follows is a tumultuous tale with all the dread of Hamlet, but with modern flourishes referencing the 24-hour news cycle and other specifically contemporary experiences.  The adaptation is faithful down to characters analogous to Roderigo and Emilia, though it takes liberties in how the story concludes.  Markos' and Venice's mother plays a role as important and affecting as a Shakespearean ghost.  The music, lyrics, and choreography are as compelling and exciting as the music in In the Heights, if more consistently dramatic in tone.  I was hooked from beginning to end while watching Venice, and I definitely think it is going to be a hit on Broadway when it makes it there.

If you can make it to a showing sometime in the next month, I highly recommend getting to Venice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Midweek comedy revue

Raising Hope, Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox
This show has so far not managed to exceed the precedent it set up in its pilot.  It is a serviceably funny and cute show, and probably fills the role of being today's Married...With Children or Malcolm in the Middle.  There are usually one and a half big laughs per episode, and I wish that number were higher, but it remains a very sweet sitcom that shows a family of people who really do love each other and want to work together, so I just like seeing that on TV.  I love puns way more than I should, so when a character mentions that he plans to name his boat "Cirrhosis of the River," I got a big guffaw out of that.

Running Wilde, Tuesdays at 9:30pm on Fox
I've read that Mitch Hurwitz is trying to balance network demands with what he and Will Arnett want to do with this show.  Haven't we learned this lesson before?  And always with Fox?  This week's episode in particular was a terrible rip-off of the Arrested Development episodes "S.O.B.s" and "Afternoon Delight," and even had David Cross referring to his genitals as his "blue man group."  Come on!  Yes, AD fans are hoping that this show will fulfill our post-cancellation needs, but our needs for a smart good comedy, not our needs for callbacks.  So far the character of Fa'ad is the only consistently funny thing on the show, and I am disappointed that everyone else seems to not be getting used at all.

Modern Family, Wednesdays at 9pm on ABC
This has been the weakest episode I can remember on this show.  When an earthquake hit Los Angeles, what followed was Cam and Mitchell interacting with their friend (a cameo by Nathan Lane), Jay not wanting to go to church and sending Manny mixed messages about religion, and Phil trying to trick Claire.  I liked all of these things better when done on Sex and the City, The Simpsons, and earlier episodes of Modern Family, respectively.

Home video review: Hot Tub Time Machine

John Cusack, Rob Corrdry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke try for a lost weekend at the ski resort where they had so much fun when they were in their early 20s.  Broken down and shabby, the resort is nothing like how they remember it, personified by the surly one-armed bellman (Crispin Glover).  A mishap with energy drink, a squirrel, and Chevy Chase turns their hot tub into a time machine, and they are sent back to relive a weekend they spent at the resort in 1986, even looking like their younger selves to outsiders.  Duke plays Cusack's nephew, and he knows that if he allows his companions to change the way they did things, that it may jeopardize his entire existence.

This is a wonderfully silly movie, and probably the only reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would is that it's best watched with a group of friends, not in bed alone at 10pm like a big lame.  Rob Corrdry is excellent as the most obnoxious guy that no one would ever want to have in their group of friends, and Cusack, Duke, and Robinson all hit their characters' single notes just fine.  The music was fun and the supporting cast made for a better dumb "bro" comedy than what we usually see.

The three musketeers struggle with trying to balance righting the wrongs they lived through in 1986, and trying not to change anything so drastically that their young friend ceases to be.  In the end, Rob Corrdry's character decides to stay behind and change the future for the better (having just conceived Duke's character with Cusack's character's sister), so when the rest of the guys make it back to 2010, they see how their friend has given them all better lives...and invented Google along the way.

For a split second I wanted to think critically about how terrible it would end up if you woke up with a totally different life than the one you knew, and never got to experience the past 20+ years, even if you're told how great they were.  But then I realized that this is not a movie that I should think too hard about, and it really just makes me want to watch Better Off Dead (something about John Cusack and skiing, I guess).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviewing the FarmVille movie

I got to read Aaron Sorkin's script for The Social Network a few months back after it was on the Black List, and I found it to be pretty boring.  But then it's a story about nerds chattering at each other at depositions mostly, so no wonder it came across as so flat on the page.  Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing director David Fincher's take on the biggest cultural juggernaut of my generation.

When I started as a college freshman in Fall of 2004, I had never heard of Facebook.  It wasn't until a couple of months later that it opened up to the consortium of 5 undergraduate and 2 graduate schools where I was a student, and I'd say that within two days, nearly everyone I knew had a profile.  Those who didn't were being rebellious.  Facebook was still, at that time, an exclusive online network where I was linked to students at my school, and only people in other schools if I knew them from high school.

By the time I graduated in 2008, it was a completely different beast.  I remember being dismayed when Facebook opened to high school students, and then to the general public.  Then apps happened.  Facebook is now a frustrating assault of privacy invasion, and I can't help but check it multiple times a day.  I hate when my friends are lazy in uploading photos.  I have debates about the etiquette of unfriending and detagging.  These words are being highlighted as misspellings as I type, but they are standard in the lexicon of my peers.

The Social Network tells the story of Facebook in the days when it was still cool, new, and exciting.  Mark Zuckerberg is seen sitting in dual deposition rooms, being challenged by former best friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin in one lawsuit, and in another by Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins who feel that Zuckerberg stole their idea for a school-exclusive networking site.  In flashbacks we see how "The Facebook" came into existence, and how Saverin, Narendra, and "the Winklevi" came to be collateral damage.

I remember Jesse Eisenberg as being more of a likable, bumbling fool in the other roles I've seen him in, but his portrayal of noted douche Mark Zuckerberg is so uncomfortably cold and detached that I think I have to chalk it up to Eisenberg researching every jerk he knows and doing an awesome job of capturing that dearth of empathy.  Andrew Garfleld stood out, doing a great job as the film's most relatable character, and it seems like he will be a great fit as the new Spiderman.  Armie Hammer and Max Minghella were very funny in their scenes together (and kudos to the filmmakers - I had no idea the twins were being played by one actor), and the Gossip Girl fan in me giggled at how silly the world of Harvard final clubs seems to my West Coast party school sensibilities.  Justin Timberlake seems very happy wearing his acting hat these days, and it suits him fine.  Though the character of Sean Parker is so self-important that it was sometimes hard to tell if JT was letting himself shine through too much, or if he was doing a great job at embodying the guy who invented Napster.  I'd also like to note that cast member Joseph Mazzello, recently of HBO's The Pacific, is Timmy from Jurassic Park.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about the movie was the amazing score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  It worked so perfectly with Fincher's storytelling style, and drew out the darkness of the growing tensions between Mark and every one of his friends, and had a sound quality that matched the computer-centric MacGuffin at the story's core.  There is an arrestingly beautiful scene of a crew race shot with tilt-shift (my absolute favorite photography technique; it never gets old for me), to the tune of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with a demented twist.  I was stunned by how cool this little interlude was.

It's difficult to comment on the actual proceedings the movie is based on.  The court settlements are real and Zuckerberg really is the world's youngest billionaire, thanks to a product that most of us use like addicts.  It's easy to feel indignant on Saverin's behalf, while the question of just how much Zuckerberg stole his idea from Winklevoss, Winklevoss, and Narendra, is a little less clear.  It's definitely disappointing how there is not a single female character with any substance in the movie, and while perhaps the main players of the actual events were all men, I would think that there would be a few interesting women at Harvard, or working in the tech world.  Yes, Sorkin, I know that Rashida Jones has a few lines.  Doesn't really count.

So, see The Social Network.  Because you don't want to be like the only person not on Facebook.

A Bright Wall in a Dark Room

Please head over to A Bright Wall in a Dark Room, which today posted my essay on the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple (1984) and Zhang Yimou's A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop (2009), as a contribution to the site's "Infidelity Week" theme.


by Katherine Spada

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz...

Last night's long-awaited Joan Osborne themed episode was one of the better overall episodes of Glee in a long time.  (Just kidding about the Joan Osborne thing.)  If you're already on board for the cheesiness, the often awkward placement of musical numbers, and the forced theme, then this episode tackling the question of faith was a high point in quality given how tacked-together this show has been feeling lately.

When Kurt's dad suffers from a heart attack and is hospitalized with a coma, some members of New Directions feel it is their duty to pray for him, but Kurt feels uncomfortable about being asked to participate in this as he is an atheist.  While Schue is happy to let Kurt dictate his own terms, most of the glee clubbers, and guidance counselor Emma, feel that Kurt is being harmed by not having religion in his life.  Only Sue Sylvester is on board with Kurt's "God is just Santa Claus for adults" perspective, and wants everyone to back off.  Her conversation with Emma is a great portrayal of the condescension that I think a lot of people on both sides of the issue have encountered, and it was a refreshingly honest moment for this show.

The episode's musical numbers emerged more organically than they usually do, with the exception of Finn's "Losing My Religion" fantasy.  I got the impression that the whole reason they contrived the whole Grilled Cheesus storyline was to facilitate this number, and I hope they never work that hard ever again to give this kid a solo to shout at us.  Mercedes got two wonderful solos which showed a lot of her range, and Rachel's "Papa Can You Hear Me" was very pretty, if awkward.  Kurt's slowed-down "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was a wonderful way to show flashbacks of Kurt's childhood moments with his father, though I liked this arrangement better when T.V. Carpio sang it in Across the Universe.

It is refreshing to have a gay atheist character on television go through something relatable and be portrayed in a positive and honest light.  I was worried that in the end he would accept religion unnaturally and that alone would be shown to bring his dad out of the coma, but instead it seemed like everyone came to respect each other's beliefs just a little.  I also loved this exchange:
          Kurt: "You can't prove there isn't a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs, but it seems pretty unlikely, doesn't it?"
          Brittany: "Is God an evil dwarf?"

On to the more superficial treasures of this episode, I am happy any time Mark Salling is shown crooning with his guitar, but I do miss Puck's mohawk so much.  Without it, Salling looks too much like the 28-year-old that he is (television actors looking too old to believably be in high school shockah).  When the glee clubbers complained that they are being criticized for being too sexy one week and too religious the next, Brittany's "Now I know what Miley feels like" made me laugh.  It was also great that Kurt gave a shout-out to the "great spaghetti monster in the sky."

Rachel is still being written as an impossible-to-like character, and I don't know why they're doing that.  Finn praying to Grilled Cheesus to get to 2nd base with her felt really out of place in this otherwise more weighty episode.  Then again, touching Rachel's sideboob over her clothes is probably the 2nd hottest thing Finn's ever done after ejaculating in the hot tub next to Quinn, and sharing a harem den with Kurt.  I don't think anything he ever did with Brittany and Santana really registered for him.

So what's next for Glee?  More silliness and stunts?  Or more earnest storytelling.  Let's hope for the latter.

Glee, Tuesdays at 8pm on Fox

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This post has no purpose.

I'm just really thrilled with the haircut I got this weekend, finally returning to the close-cropped 'do I've been going back to regularly over the past five or so years, so I wanted to share photos of gorgeous-looking ladies who've had the same awesome hairstyle.

Mia Farrow
Halle Berry
Victoria Beckham
Michelle Williams
Emma Watson
Natalie Portman
Annette Bening
Neapolitan Carey Mulligan
Jean Seberg
Alyssa Milano
Jane Lynch
Audrey Hepburn
Winona Ryder
Mariska Hargitay
Maura Tierney
Audrey Tautou
Ashley Judd
Jamie Lee Curtis
Selma Blair x2
Kate Moss
Julie Andrews
Rachel Maddow
Morena Baccarin

Big Mistake. Huge.

Last night's Gossip Girl was a pretty good one.  There wasn't too much of the dumb storyline with Nate's new girlfriend, and the Chuck/Eva storyline faded out nicely into a rebirth of the show's best hand: Chuck and Blair feuding once more.  I liked that Blair assumed that Chuck would shun Eva upon learning that she was a former sex worker.  It's like, have you ever met Chuck?  Anyway I think I'll just share with you the notes I made while I was watching the episode last night, as they don't really need much context:

- Every time Ed Westwick acts real hard it just makes me giggle.
- What's with this weird shaky cam they're using to film S and B in their shared bathroom?  Is this supposed to mimic a Gossip Girl livestream?
- Blair Waldorf would never refer to money as a "stack of hundys."
- Dan's new hairdo makes him look like Brandon Walsh after an unfortunate experiment with Soul Glo.
- I can't believe this is the first time GG has had a Hooker With a Heart of Gold storyline.
- "We have lots of skeletons in our closets... and we have mansions full of closets." thx n8
- I love that Blair is willing to let Serena take one for the team by slumming it with Dan in order to "save the world from an Abrams-Humphrey spawn."
- "That dress is just unfair" is the gayest thing for a man to say to a woman, shy of any Usher lyrics.
- Thank god that the climax of this episode includes a line from Chuck's manservant about shining Chuck's shoes.  It makes me think that they have the kind of relationship where Chuck is always reminding him, "When I get home in the middle of the night after my gala/benefit, you'd BETTER have my pointy-toed ankle boots shined!"

I am pretty pumped to see Chuck and Blair antagonizing each other again, so that gives me hope for the season, even if we have to put up with some useless machinations by prison dude and his bland sister.  My eyes completely glaze over when Vanessa's on screen, so she may or may not still being dating Dan, but whatever.

Gossip Girl, Mondays at 9pm on The CW

Monday, October 4, 2010

Home video review: A Single Man

This weekend I saw Tom Ford's beautiful debut A Single Man, the story of George, a professor in the early '60s who plans his last day of life after struggling with the loss of his partner.  This film brings excellent performances by Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, indulgently pretty cinematography, and the introduction of my new boyfriend, Jon Kortajarena.

It's not a total stretch of a surprise to see that an accomplished fashion designer could do such a good job at film directing.  Ford's experience working with color, composition, and just plain style show through in the carefully constructed shots that make the movie look like page after page of glossy editorials.  That is not to say that Ford was not heavy-handed with certain flourishes that he must have pounced upon as great signatures, but which grow tired quickly.  Too many extreme close-ups of people's eyes, and the moments of sudden color saturation which would have had more impact if used less frequently.

Firth and Moore hit all the right notes of a thoughtful melancholic, and a lonely drunk, respectively.  As the film only takes place over the course of one day, with flashbacks, there is not much of a journey to watch, but the changes that Firth's character undergoes are profound and touching.  There were more scenes than seemed necessary of George eyeing young hot men, and while at first it seemed like an overly articulated way to isolate him as a gay man in a non-receptive society, I later thought of it as an example of how he wanted to dwell upon the finer things in life on his last day living it.

While I enjoyed watching the movie, I felt it had more indelible style than substance.  But the balance of sadness and light made for a beautiful movie-watching experience.  Though how we're supposed to believe that Colin Firth would ever spend time with Nicholas Hoult when he'd been with Matthew Goode for 16 years, I don't know.  A Single Man also has cameos from Lee Pace and Ginnifer Goodwin.

Home video review: 2012

This weekend I caught Roland Emmerich's apocalypse epic 2012, which is definitely one of those movies that might have been a fun spectacle to catch on the big screen, but is certainly not worth your time on the small one.

I guess my biggest question is how did Emmerich, who brought us the incomparably amazing Independence Day 14 years ago (14 years ago!) (I love Independence Day), manage to make such a boring disaster movie with today's effects technology?  For the first five hours of 2012, I could not wait for something to happen.  Way too much time was spent on setting up Woody Harrelson as a crazy man, John Cusack as a tortured writer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mister Conscience.  There was so much unnecessary character development used as a way to shoehorn plot points into a story that didn't make any sense to begin with.

See, the conceit is that world leaders have known of an impending natural catastrophe for years, and have built impenetrable arks in China that a few thousand world elites can wait in to ride out the apocalypse.  So how does the average family of John Cusack, his ex-wife Amanda Peet, their two kids, and her boyfriend make it to the ark?  Well they have ties to some random family of Russian weirdo mobsters/politicians, of course!  Also the boyfriend is a plastic surgeon / pilot.  So I kinda yawned my way through the part of the movie where they drive cars away from earthquake fault lines and road collapses that follow them down the road for some reason, and where they fly airplanes underneath collapsing buildings, and manage to get limousines and RVs to soar over crevasses in the earth.  This is the part that would have been really cool to see on the big screen, probably.

Then we get to the arks.  Oliver Platt (who is just the perfect casting in any role where you don't want the character to be likable; see Lake Placid, Please Give, Huff, The Big C) (No really, see Lake Placid) is Government Dude who becomes the de facto leader of the U.S. contingent of ark-bound elites when President Danny Glover dies.  Of course he is kind of a douche, and Scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor Who Has No Rank Or Power keeps calling him out on being callous to the deaths of billions and being willing to sacrifice some lives in order to save others.  Um, welcome to the difficult decisions that people have to make in the face of apocalypse, guy.  I found myself agreeing with everything Oliver Platt the Sorta Antagonist was saying, and when Ejiofor makes an impassioned plea to The Entire Human Race I was just like "ugh, this never would have happened."  See, the thing is just that I am willing to suspend my disbelief on this stuff when a movie is at all interesting, and 2012 did not incur that kind of trust.

The final unbelievable thing was just too outrageous (in a movie about the end of the world), and has been bothering me for days.  There's a whole Poseidon Adventure -style set piece where the doors of one of the arks won't close because something is interfering with the gears.  So some of the characters are trapped in an area of the ark with floodwaters rising, and John Cusack has to go swim to the gears and fix it in order to save everyone onboard (thus fulfilling his contractual proviso that he be drenched in every movie; see Say Anything..., Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, 1408, The Contract, Being John Malkovich, and like, every John Cusack movie except America's Sweethearts).  So here's the problem.  It is unclear to me where the megatsunami is coming from.  The East China Sea?  The Bay of Bengal?  I have no idea what those water temperatures would be like.  But it's established that the ark is positioned near Mt. Everest at this time, so the outside temperature could well be 100º below freezing.  Look all I'm trying to say is that everyone probably would have frozen to death in the water anyway.  Also everyone was able to see everyone else all the time because of the most conveniently placed hi-def security cameras ever.

In conclusion, this movie would have been better if Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton had spent more of it making out and talking in sexy British accents, and less other stuff was happening.

Sunday night reality

Unfortunately I missed Dexter and am 2 weeks behind on Boardwalk Empire, and can only catch premium stations on weekends, so my Sunday night shows were limited last night.

The Amazing Race, 9pm on CBS
Not much to say about last night's episode.  The challenges were not very exciting, and everyone being on the same flight from England to Ghana meant everyone was in the same boat.  The spectacle of the contestants endeavoring to sell sunglasses to Ghanaians at the market was a little uncomfortable to watch.  It's one thing for the contestants to have to take on a task that a local person does for a living, and showing them struggle with it, because that's just like a cross-cultural Dirty Jobs.  But haggling and trying to get money out of them was touchier.  In the end, "Gilmore Girls" Andie and Jenna were sent home, which means no more of their awkwardness to deal with.

Undercover Boss, 10pm on CBS
I'm a sucker for anything that tries to warm my heart, so shows like this and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition are perfect for when I manage to catch them.  When the CEO of a waterpark resort chain went undercover at some of her company's establishments, she had to scoop baby poo out of a swimming pool, wait tables, and check in guests at registration.  Fairly boring in terms of watching her try to adjust to the demands of these jobs, but in the end she was extremely generous to the employees she encountered, offering them college tuition, flight school, paid time-off, and promotions aplenty.  It was extremely affecting to see just how drastically people reacted to just getting a few extra hours off a week.

Sister Wives, 10pm on TLC
Kody and his klan clan are back, and it looks like fourth-wife-to-be Robyn is here to stay.  Kody's whole family helps move her and her three kids five hours to a home one block away from the Browns, where she'll live until she marries into the family.  We learned that Robyn is from a polygamist background, but that she is divorced from a husband who did not have any other wives.  While her young children seem to be very excited about all the activity, they don't clearly grasp what is going on.  Kody's teenage daughters do, however, and they all seem tepid about the notion that their dad is marrying a 30-year-old, even if they like Robyn herself just fine.  14-year-old Madison (who has dyed black hair and will hopefully flee Utah after high school) is quite frank about how little the polygamist lifestyle appeals to her.  Kody's wives all display some discomfort with what's going on, whether it's related to Kody's time away spent visiting Robyn, her youth and attractiveness, or just the appeal she has as a new face when they've all been with Kody for 16+ years.  Robyn herself seems like a very sad woman who may have had a traumatic past, and who clearly idealizes the possibilities that a future in the Brown family holds.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Advise me

So, I still haven't seen Inception.  I know, I'm like the last one.  It's playing at the 2nd run movie theater near my work at 9:10 tonight.  The 2nd run theater smells like feet and has a crackly screen.  Should I wait around and entertain myself but go see this movie on the big (crackly) screen, or should I wait a couple of months and rent it on BluRay so I can watch it in high definition on the small screen?

If I knew I could make it to the 7:10 showing of Jack Goes Boating at the 2nd run theater I'd probably do a double feature, but that's not guaranteed.

Should I break up with this show again?

Goodness me, Grey's Anatomy picks up the pace for one strong season, and suddenly they're back to their old tricks.  When Kim Raver joined the show as Iraq War veteran and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Teddy Altman, she was a cool new addition.  Now she's just as histrionic and pattering as all the other characters on this show.

The one thing I consistently get pleasure out of from this show is the portrayal of Cristina and Meredith's relationship.  Their bond is wholly believable, and it's so nice to see a great female friendship that is supportive, loving, and understanding.  No matter what happens in these characters' lives, what men they get involved with or what surgeries they get to attend, they have each other as soul mates.  To a lesser extent, the friendship between Mark and Callie is satisfying in the same way.

In any event, I am completely ambivalent about this show right now and am wondering if it was worth going back to in the first place.

Grey's Anatomy, Thursdays at 9pm on ABC

People try to put us down...

So now that I have watched two episodes, I can recognize that My Generation, which had my favorite pilot of the season, is a pretty flawed show.  That said, I like the sentimentality of it enough to want to keep watching.  Each episode reveals only a tiny bit more about each character, but it's just enough to make me curious about what is going to pan out for them as the season goes on.

There was a lot of focus on pregnant former-punk Dawn (Kelli Garner), who is struggling with the wrong turns her life has taken, and the pressure of expecting a baby while her husband Rolly (Mehcad Brooks - Eggs from True Blood) fights a war in the Middle East.  I am looking forward to the introduction of her younger brother, whom she raised since she was a teenager.

The storyline of Steven and Caroline and their prom-night-conceived son is both interesting and infuriating.  She didn't tell him about their son for ten years, but when he awkwardly struggles to adjust to his new role as a father, somehow he is portrayed as a bad guy.  I'd like to see this storyline take a positive turn.

So, I can see why a lot of people don't like this show.  It moves a bit slowly and relies on some heavy-handed insertion of real events to force relatability on the audience.  But I think if it takes a half-step back from the documentary format and just lets the characters breathe and interact as they would in a typical drama, this could turn into a memorable time capsule of a show.

My Generation, Thursdays at 8pm on ABC

Thursday night comedy rundown

Community, 8pm on NBC
This show was completely uninteresting to me when it began, but as I let the jokes wash over me it has grown into one of the funniest and most surprising shows on TV.  I could watch Troy and Abed for hours, and their scene where they got caught breaking into Rob Corddry's office was amazing.  One after another, I could not stop laughing when Annie chloroformed the bartender from Grey's Anatomy, Troy skipped over his body while in distress, they decided to pretend to have been chloroformed, Annie chloroformed him again, and then Troy stumbled over him while they ran away.  What a ridiculous and amazing scene.

30 Rock, 8:30pm on NBC
Taking a big step up in comedy from last week's season premiere, there were three majorly awesome running gags and a cameo by Paul Giamatti, so it was definitely an episode to remember.  While Liz's newfound attractiveness following from her being in a happy relationship led to great moments of Tina Fey acting the hyper-confident nerd in a KISS FM cowboy hat, I was a little surprised by how the character reacted to all the male attention.  Tracy on Cash Cab was the most perfect Slumdog Millionaire send-up, and followed from a great line: "He had two very good reasons for missing the births of his children: baking a french bread pizza, and forgot."  But Alec Baldwin's taped advice videos for his unborn son were the episode highlight, and I hope that more are released on the DVD.  "In school I was voted 'Most.'"

The Office, 9pm on NBC
The episode's cold open had me chuckling my face off for about ten minutes straight.  Any time Dwight's cousin Mose is on hand, it is usually awesome, and the supply closet daycare offered by the Schrute men was perfectly off-the-wall.  The ICP poster as decoration, with "Insane" and "Posse" crossed out was the best.  I didn't care for Pam's promotion stunt, but the Dwight Pretty Woman makeover was a fun diversion.  Scenes with Michael and Toby were excellent, and could have been played out more to add a little more weight to the relationship, and the upcoming departure of Michael Scott.  He's such an angry, sad man, and I'd like to see a little bit more of David Brent in him, even still.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 10pm on FX
Episodes where the gang does something completely stupid and unrelated to Paddy's tend to be my favorites, so them buying a decrepit houseboat with the intention of racing, shrimp fishing, and throwing P. Diddy -style parties, was perfect.  I loved the scenes of Dee dancing along with the inflatable green man, and Charlie going on about a "horse massacre from the revolution times" was pure Charlie.  Given the lingering disappointment about last week's rape joke on 30 Rock, it was particularly amazing for Dennis and Mac to repeatedly argue about implied consent on Always Sunny.  Mac is a terrible person, but even he recognizes that Dennis planning to force women to have sex with him because they're afraid of saying no is monstrous, and it was so satisfying to watch that conversation play out.

Jersey Shore, 10pm on MTV
This episode was lame and I'm glad Angelina's gone or whatever.

(Borrowed from a Videogum commenter)