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November 1, 2011 / mandalaymai

…happily ever after, part 1

ABC's 'Once Upon A Time'

Last week we got not one, but two fairytale and folklore themed shows.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  I mean it was Halloween.  But, to have two go head to head on different networks seemed to me to aggressively try to corner the market on whimsy, or something.  I was kind of ambivalent because if it was Whimsy we wanted, we never EVER should have cancelled Pushing Daisies (you hear me, ABC?  The facts were those!).  But, I Tivo’d both shows mostly to see why, or if, we needed two.  What was the difference?  Was this like Coke vs. Pepsi and would wind up as a matter of personal preference?  (For the record, don’t even think about putting Pepsi anywhere near me.)  And will that preference “split the vote” in a way and make the ratings-scared networks pull the plug on both, prematurely?

All fairytales begin “Once Upon A Time” so we will too.  Right off the bat, the best thing this show has going for it is that it is on ABC and has carte blanche with all its animated characters and stories.  For a country who cannot have escaped Snow White, the Dwarves and (best of all) the Evil Queen, this actually makes the storytelling a lot easier for show.  In the first scene when we see a chick in a glass coffin brought back to life with a kiss, we are already all on the same page.  When the Queen’s counterpart in Storybrooke, Mayor Regina, walks around with a basket of the most beautiful, shiny red apples you have ever seen, we all know that our heroine Emma should just say, “No thanks.”

They also get to call the characters Grumpy and Bashful, which were Walt Disney inventions, since they are nameless in the original version (according to a Trivial Pursuit question I got wrong once).  The Evil Queen’s BFFrenemey (also acceptable: pretenemy and palhole) is Maleficent, of Sleeping Beauty fame.  They bond over the fact that the Evil Queen has it out for Snow White and Maleficent got screwed over by Aurora, known to all of us as Sleeping Beauty. 

The premise is also intriguing.  The Evil Queen in Fairytale Land (or Fairytale Dimension) wants to exact her revenge on Snow White and by extension everyone who sided with her and wanted her to be happy.  She puts a curse on the whole land, transporting them Storybrooke, Maine where not only does time stand still, but all the creatures, save the evil ones, natch, have no idea who they are or what’s happening.   But, of course there is one who can break the curse: Snow and Charming’s daughter, Emma.

The best parts are Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin.  The Fairyland parts of the show are very overdone, with clunky melodramatic language and sometimes less than stellar effects.  But, he is the best part of that world and one of the few who isn’t easily placed on one or the other side of the impending conflict.  I also really liked Ginnifer Goodwin and (surprisingly) Jennifer Morrison as Snow White / Mary Blanchard and Emma Swan, respectively.

The bad parts are the clunky dialogue, especially in the Fairyland scenes and the slow pace that runs the risk of relying too heavily on the audience to fill in the story because of what they already know.  Also, my big concern is the fact that this is brought to us by the creators of ‘Lost.’  I worry that they will not be able to sustain the premise and that the pace of the action will invariably slow down to stretch the show for ratings, bringing it to a point where it is beyond ridiculous and totally unwatchable.  Then they will announce a final season that will become a pop culture punchline, like that last season of ‘Lost.’  Satisfying for the network? Sure!  Profitable for all involved?  Check!  Kind of a letdown for loyal viewers?  Well, yeah, but so what?  I, personally, hate that attitude of making TV and wish beyond wish that shows would go out on top before all the creativity has been sucked out of it and it’s a shell of its former self.  Even as I was watching, I was thinking to myself, “If they knew, right now, when the finale of this thing would be, I would sign on to watch this every week, because I would be sure of a satisfying resolution.”

Click here for part 2 of “…happily ever after” and my review of ‘Grimm.’

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October 25, 2011 / mandalaymai

Marthas and Caitlins

My initial reaction on viewing last night’s The Good Wife was, “Why isn’t there more Kalinda?”  It’s a totally valid question, because Kalinda is the bomb and, IMO, waaay more interesting than watching Lisa Edelstein do this female version of House that you can tell she’s kind of been dying to do for YEARS.  My second reaction was to wonder about the episode title, ‘Marthas and Caitlins.’  The title refers to the C plot in last night’s episode, a minor storyline that might have even been a pointless time-waster and kind of an odd place for Alicia to spend a good chunk of this episode.  Martha and Caitlin are the two finalists for a first-year Associate position at Lockhart Gardner and Alicia is a little too excited at the opportunity to hire and then mentor the winner.

Alicia or Celeste? or Martha and Caitlin?

But, after the episode was over, I realized why the episode was titled that way. See, Martha and Caitlin are two very different types. Presumably, they are in all academic respects equal, otherwise they wouldn’t be neck and neck for the coveted job. As we see snippets of their interviews, we get to the heart of the matter: the real difference is one of personality and style.
Martha is a veritable Good Wife 2.0. She looks professional and sober, serious and put together in an understated way. Her hobbies are foreign film (Fellini, anyone?) and her answers were all interview-proof and perfect. She can work on her own, but is happy to be part of a team. The perfectly balanced answer to show a prospective employer that you can take initiative, but you do work well with others and you are not a credit-hog, glory-hound.

By contrast, Caitlin is bubbly and seemingly immature. Her interview answers were good, and she was also put together very well, attractive and professional. But, her persona was a little chipper and over-friendly. Her hobby was something involving skateboards without wheels and
trampolines. She used vernacular phrases like, “cool” and said that litigation “turned her on.” You can practically see Alicia thinking, “Really? THAT’S how you wanted to say that?” in the stilted way she then asks Caitlin, “The University of Chicago – what ‘turned you on’ there?” Trust me, the quotes were there in the way Alicia said it.You can see where this is going right? Alicia wants Martha, only to realize that some nepotism is at play and the decision was never really hers to make. Enter Caitlin.

What’s interesting is that the Caitlin and Martha dynamic to an extent pervades the other female-female relationships in this episode. Diane
and Celeste (the aforementioned Lisa Edelstein), and Alicia and Celeste are both set up to show Diana and Alicia as the Marthas, while the irreverent Celeste is meant to be the eccentric and odd Caitlin. It does seem a little forced, especially in the way that she tries to be cool and maverick-like. I particularly rolled my eyes when Celeste went off on one of her rants about not being able to be friends with girls (I was half waiting for her to say, “Because, like, all other girls are so JEALOUS of me!”) and boldly announcing her desire to interfere in Will and Alicia’s relationship.

But, the Martha and Caitlin dynamic shows up in another place as well. It shows up in the relationship between Alicia’s daughter Grace and her
tutor, Jennifer. Jennifer is way more of an odd duck than any other character that I am talking about here. A college student whose hobby is making Youtube videos where she basically assaults people with her dancing…I don’t even know what it’s called. But eventually, over the past few episodes, Grace has warmed up to her. Alicia doesn’t care for it when Grace shows up in one of the Youtube videos and asks Jennifer to stick to tutoring Grace and leave it at that. The parallels between the two conversations is apparent as Alicia carries the exact same look on her face, as if wondering WHY anyone would choose to spend their time dancing on Youtube or skateboarding on a trampoline. She only gets to ask Jennifer that question aloud, and Jennifer doesn’t really have an answer.

All this is pretty straightforward until the turn at the end. Alicia confronts Will about why he chose to go over her head and hire Caitlin, along with the rest of the hiring committee. Will owns up to the fact that he owed someone his vote because, “There was also a Martha when we hired you,
Alicia.” In that instance, he was the one pressuring his people to go with the more eccentric candidate, the less obvious choice. It’s a nice turnaround, because throughout the episode, we have been set up to believe that Alicia is the Martha. She is the straight down the middle, proper and appropriate choice and instead we are made more aware that a determination like that is almost always based on your point of view. And, as Will says, “The Caitlins often surprise you.”

P.S. – I also figured why there was no more Kalinda in this episode. Because this episode was about Caitlins and Marthas. Kalinda is always, only ever Kalinda. Thank god and the makers of leather knee boots!

October 18, 2011 / mandalaymai

2 Broke Laugh Tracks

You 2 Girls only get ONE. Choose wisely...

I know I am with most folks who complained ad nauseum about the
laugh track on 2 Broke Girls. But, on another site today, a comment from a
person who was…let’s just say not
a fan of 2 Broke Girls commented that they didn’t mind it. After all, there is
a laugh track on The Big Bang Theory and that doesn’t seem intrusive because
(and I am just imagining the snarky tone) Big Bang is actually funny. So, that
got me to thinking. Being a huge fan of Sheldon and the Shel-bots, I had to admit
to myself that I really don’t mind the laugh track on the Big Bang Theory
either. In fact, we might as well acknowledge that CBS ain’t gonna ever let
that go….a pretty sizeable chunk of their demographic would be lost without
it. How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, they all have it. I think Two
and a Half Men has a live audience, but How I Met Your Mother isn’t.

But I do find the laugh track obtrusive on 2 Broke Girls. So, why
this show and not the others? I think the reason comes down to my real
complaint with the show…the supporting cast of characters. First of all,
there are three (or four, if you count Kat’s other boss, the Manhattan
Socialite with twins named Brad and Angelina) and each is separate from the
others, despite a common setting (the diner). They trot each one out in turn to
interact with one of the leads and then they go back into the background. There
is Oleg, the Russian short order cook. He is the one I would be happiest to see
go. He has one ‘joke’ and it’s not funny. Like, at all. There is Earl, the
cashier. He is the most ‘blah.’ I don’t much care if he’s there or not. Han,
the diner owner, is the one I like the best, even though he is portrayed as the
most William Hung stereotype of Asian ever. He is at least cute and a little
endearing. These characters are more caricatures and their “jokes”
fall so flat that the laugh track that accompanies them really feels jarring by
comparison.

By contrast, while The Big Bang centers around Sheldon, Leonard
and Penny, the supporting cast has always fit in seamlessly, while adding
layers and dimension to the show. If you’re a fan of The Big Bang, you know
that each of these supporting characters has come into their own in a way that
shines. Howard and his mother, Raj and his parents and sister…the addition of
Bernadette and Amy Farrah-Fowler have rounded out this cast so that it’s clear
that The Big Bang has a lot of depth on the bench. And that doesn’t even take
into account the great recurring characters like Kripke (with the speech
impediment where he cannot pronounce ‘R’s’), Stewart, the comic book store
owner and Wil Wheaton who is always good for a couple of episodes per season.

2 Broke Girls really needs to get some depth of their own otherwise
the two leads, Caroline and Max, will quickly run out of steam. I feel like
they should pick one of the existing three and move on. If I were to judge by
last’s night’s episode, it seems that the powers that be are kind of coming to
the same conclusion. While the A plot revolved around the Girls and their latest
money making attempt (throwing a 90’s theme party), the B plot revolved around
Han and his attempt to hook up with a willing girl. It was fairly predictable
and one-dimensional, but Matthew Moy is kind of adorable and he made it work.

Also? They totally need to bring Brad and Angelina’s mom back. She
was vapid, but funny in her self absorption.

October 11, 2011 / mandalaymai

“Totes”…when did this become a thing?

You know, I am as guilty as everyone else of using embarassing slang that I am too old to use.  I am also guilty of hypocritically using slang (“as if!”) which I once decried as lame (or possibly “grotty to the max” – wow, really showing my age with that one, huh?)  You know what I mean, you start off saying “bro” or “down with my peeps” ironically and then it stops being ironic and you are just talking like that for real.  What’s even worse is that I have been known to actually say “Bee Tee Dub” instead of “By The Way” even though they have the exact same number of syllables.  Same with “Eye Dee Kay” instead of “I Don’t Know.”  I won’t include WTF in this group, because sometimes that just makes sense.  It’s a smart way of sort of cleaning up your language in front of some people. 

But, lately I have been noticing this “totes” business.  It means “totally” and it’s STUPID.  I saw it first on 2 Broke Girls, but I had to admit I laughed at it there.  Mostly Kat Dennings’ delivery saved it, as it was clear she was using it ironically, mocking a type of personality she didn’t have.  And she did it again on 2 Broke Girls last week, and likewise it was OK.  But tonight, it cropped up on How I met Your Mother.  At this point I say, “No!”  One, because it was Robin who said it and she said it straight.  Not making fun of or mocking people who WOULD say that.  She was just saying it.  Two, she said it to her therapist.  Now, I know that the slang (and the attendant high five) was meant to illlustrate a casual, less than fully professional relationship between Robin and her therapist (played by Kal Penn, who I really like) but it still felt like it was trying WAAAAY too hard.  Three, Robin is supposed to be a grown-ass woman.  Now, I know this is a comedy and that all these people are absurd in their own ways but Robin is the character that was a fifty year old Canadian Man in the mold of her father when this show started.  She drank Scotch and smoked cigars and was very unsentimental.  Now, she’s 25 with a Mom haircut and saying ‘totes?’  Wow, has she gone off the rails or what?  Nevermind that she ends the ep with actually dating her therapist…

OK, now that I am done ranting about that part of the show, I will say that even though Barney’s storyline was a retread of Ted’s storyline from a few seasons ago where he decides that he can’t marry Stella unless she likes Star Wars, I did kind of think it was funny.  In this case, the twist was that Barney thinks Nora is lying about her age because of her cynical attitude about Ewoks (and for the record, I think there is merit to ‘The Ewok Line’ theory) and he has to come to terms with dating a woman a whole thirty-seven years old.  

But, of course, Nora wasn’t lying.  It turned out that there is a loophole to the Ewok Line theory. Or maybe it was just mis-stated.  It should have been, “if you are over ten years old when you first saw the Ewoks, then you will think they are lame and you will be cynical about them.”  Nora DID see them for the first time when she was over ten years old, BUT, she wasn’t over ten years old when Jedi first came out.  She only saw them last year.  I did wonder why Ted wouldn’t have offered this solution as a possibility to Barney, given that his fiance had never seen Star Wars at all until a few years ago.  Stella was a different case, though.  That bitch had the nerve to be cynical about Chewbacca.   Ted should have dumped her right then and there….

Anyway, it was at least entertaining.  But, again not great.  I find myself most interested in seeing what will become of the Ducky Tie.  I want all manner of things to spill on it.  I want it to get caught in a shredder, get lit on fire, dropped in a toilet or urinal and be basically rags before Barney gives up the ghost and tries to get out of wearing it.  Possibly he will get caught cheating on the bet.  Maybe, he will have his taylor negotiate with textile manufacturers and design a more subtle duckie pattern that will be less offensive.  This is Barney, so nothing is too elaborate.  That would be fun….

In the meanwhile, I will take this “light” version of How I Met Your Mother. What else am I going to do until 2 Broke Girls comes on?  If I miss THAT I really will be “totes bummed.”  From the previews it seems that tonight’s ep features a closet that I would “totes” Repin, were it on Pinterest.

October 2, 2011 / mandalaymai

Here Comes Treble and other A Capella groups you should know

So, This is going to be a video-intensive blog.  Because some things have to be seen and not just talked about.  But, first you should know that I went to Vassar,  a small liberal arts college where there were LOTS of a capella groups and I was a geek and I loved watching them perform.  I remember at Vassar especially the Vassar Devils, which were awesome and not only because my awesome friend Eileen killed her rendition of ‘Walkin On Sunshine,’ and the Night Owls (in true Vassar tradition they were an all girls group and I still think of them when I hear ‘Bei Mir Bist du Schon’)  and Measure for Measure.  So, I was totally predisposed to loving a capella music.  Here Comes Treble was NOT at Vassar; ot was at Cornell and was fictional.  If you don’t watch ‘The Office’ that won’t make sense to you, but it made me laugh… 

Two years ago, I was thrilled at the holiday special ‘The Sing Off,’ a short five episode competition for a capella music.  Since it was a short run, it seemed to bypass all the filler and politics that seemed to accompany the bigger more well-known singing competitions.  Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman (Boys II Men) and Nicole Scherzinger were the judges who brought really good critique and constructive criticism to the process.  It really seemed like everyone was just thrilled to find a group of like minded individuals who enjoyed what they enjoyed.  The best critique of the show I have found is here at Television Without Pity.  It perfectly wncapsulates why I am so enamored of this show.  But, even more than any argument I could write out, I thought I would just show you some performances from past and present seasons that for one reason or another provoked an emotional response in me and made me think, “Man!  More folks should WATCH this.  THIS IS AWESOME!”  So, here it goes:

\’Grenade\’ performed by Delilah from this season’s premier.  These chicks are hard core!

Waving Flag performed by The Yellow Jackets from this season’s premier

One of my favorites from Season One form the evential winners Nota:

Nota performing \’Down\’

The Season One runner-up, the Beelzebubs performing ‘Come Sail Away’ by Styx.  Always makes me think of the line in Big Daddy, “Styx is an awesome band; they’re just underrated because people are cynical assholes.

The Season Two winners, Committed performing ‘This Love’ by Maroon 5.

And Season Two Runner-up, Street Corner Symphony (who I voted for, not gonna lie) performing ‘Creep’ and ‘Hey Soul Sister’

September 29, 2011 / mandalaymai

Persons (and Shows) of Interest

If you read my last post, you might think that while I was pretty happy to have all my old favorite shows back, I really didn’t care for the newbies that cropped up on my DVR.  And the truth is that aside from 2 Broke Girls, none of the new shows I saw really made me want to set the DVR for another go around.  But, I saw several shows this week that absolutely made me want to tune in again and in some cases … now get ready, ’cause this is shocking … reprioritize my DVR settings.

Person of Interest

OK, there were lots of commercials leading up to the main premiere week that sort of looked the same.  And it happens every year…I call them “procedurals with a twist.”  Invariably one will be about cops, one will be about doctors, one will be about lawyers…you all know what I mean.  So, the only way I could tell them apart was that one was about a lady cop who remembers everything and one was about a lady cop who flashed her gun at cab drivers (which seemed a little aggressive  to me, but whatever).  One was about a doctor who sees ghosts and becomes a better man and one had the creepy guy from Lost and the guy who was Jesus in that Mel Gibson movie.

Person of Interest is that last one.  I will admit up front that I didn’t watch Lost and that I didn’t see The Passion of the Christ.  I remembered Jim Caviezel from the movie Frequency with Dennis Quaid and (don’t judge me) Angel Eyes with Jennifer Lopez.  In the first three minutes of Person of Interest I was very scared that this was going fast in an Angel Eyes direction as it was quickly established that Jim Caviezel’s character had suffered a trauma involving a wife or girlfriend that had caused him to check out on his life, abandon all sense of hygeine and sobriety and basically be one step away from being a fully homeless guy.  I am very glad, however, that I stuck it out to minute four of this show.  It very quickly picked up the pace and the hour was up very quickly.  The premise – the ‘twist’ – on this show is that Caviezel’s character, Reese, does have a tragic past which is only alluded to in flashbacks and a past career as someone in Special Forces (though the show’s imdb.com write-up says he is ex-CIA) is approached by a mysterious, wealthy and curiously well-informed man called Finch.  Finch can identify someone who will be involved in a violent crime and wants Reese to help him stop it.  He can’t say how the Person is involved, or what will happen.  his information is confined to a Social Security Number only.  

What I liked about the show is that while it’s clear that the twist will eventually be an overarching mythology for the show, as will the backstories of the two main leads, the episode simply gave us the premise and then let everyone accept it and get on with the mystery of the week.  A lot of shows like this spend too much time ham-handedly hinting and foreshadowing and slow motioning and flashbacking around the Big Mystery.  Its an attempt to stretch a premise that won’t really hold up in the long run.  Flashbacks to last year’s FlashForward anyone?  But they gave just enough of the twist to be tantalizing and then spent the rest of the episode giving us a tighly paced and engaging story involving a woman that Reese is tasked with protecting without her knowledge while simultaneously figuring out why she is in danger and from whom.  Caviezel plays Reese as a lethal and efficient opponent who seems to make an advantage of having been out of society for a while, as it helps him think outside of the box.   In weird way (and I don’t mean this as an insult) it seemed a better fit for Fox than CBS.  It felt more like 24 than anything else.  Or like 24 did back in the day, when it was fresh. 

Prime Suspect

This is the cop procedural about the lady cop (played by Maria Bello) who flashes her gun to a cab driver to get him to put out a cigarette.  I wasn’t really looking forward to it, based on the previews.  That shot just seemed like it was trying way too hard to be “badass girl cop.”  While I did not like it near as much as I did Person of Interest, I was pleasantly surprised.  Maria Bello gives her character layers.  It’s clear from her current romantic life and her character’s backstory that she is flawed and vulnerable.  She is also very committed to her job but not immune from workplace politics and quite a few missteps.  The show has promise and it’s likely that I will watch this one again.

The New Girl

You either like Zooey Deschanel or you don’t.  I like her.  I like the weird quirks and socially incompetant dorkiness of her character.  Her desire to provide a soundtrack to her own life, her total lack of boundaries and her vulnerability make kind of adorable.  As one of her roomates said to the new guy, “You get used to it…”  And you do.  The show is written well and the supporting characters are being nicely fleshed out and I feel like this will trend to more of an ensemble, which will be good.  I laughed out loud at the scene in last week’s episode where she is working up the nerve to get her stuff back from her ex and even powered with her roommate’s pre-game jam mix of heavy and testosterone-filled music she can’t do it.  Instead, she keeps circling the block.  Until, unexplicably, Vanessa Williams ‘Save the Best For Last’ makes its appearance on the mix.  That’s what gives her the nerve to pull over, much to every else’s puzzlement.  It was bizarre, but funny.

Suburgatory

OK, this breakdown of Suburgatory says it way better than I could, but this show was a surprise.  I knew nohing about it beforehand.  Somehow I missed all the ads and the hype.  It was odd to see Jeremy Sisto as the dad (because in my head he will always be the guy who threw Cher out of his car right before she gets mugged and ruins her dress in Clueless), but his dynamic with his daughter was great.  Cheryl Hines and Alan Tudyk were icing on the cake.  The show gets so many bizarro things right.  I saw a LOT of people I knew in the suburbia montage of velour track suits, mani-pedis and the lily white lady jamming to the rap music in her car.  I agreed with reviews I read that put this show in the same vein as Awkward, which I love.  The assertion that Jane Levy as Tessa is reminiscent of Emma Stone in Easy A is spot on.  It’s a nice pairing with Modern Family and of all the shows, this one is the one I know I won’t miss next week.

So, there you go.  The best of the new.  According to me, anyway….

September 27, 2011 / mandalaymai

How I Met Your Mother – AGAIN?

Ok, I know I said it in my earlier post, but I saw tonight’s HIMYM and while I was entertained and thought it was funny I couldn’t help but think are we really going HERE? AGAIN? Victoria gets away and TELLS Ted he is in love with Robin? AGAIN? Reduce, Reuse Recycle….

September 26, 2011 / mandalaymai

The Old, The New and the Slightly Disappointing

"It's not what you think."

OK, we have week one done.  And it took me a while to get through both DVR’s.  To go through my first tier of shows, then the second, then the filler and then the new stuff.  I’m not gonna lie; there are still some things on my DVR that I haven’t gotten to and some things that I haven’t gotten through.  But, here I go anyway with the Old, the New, the Good, the Bad and the Slightly Disappointing.  Fair warning – spoilers lie ahead.

THE OLD

My favorite returning shows are back!  Including The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Modern Family and most importantly, Parks and Recreation.  I was worried that Big Bang was going to go into a whole awkward shark-jumping downward spiral when Raj and Penny woke up in bed together at the end of last season.  But, I was surprised at how quickly the show seemed to move past it.  There really wasn’t a whole lot of mooning by Leonard (which I was particularly NOT looking forward too) Instead we got a great bit of comedy where Leonard has to try to get Sheldon to understand that despite what Penny may have said, she and Raj did actually sleep together.  Because I am a Penny-Leonard  ‘shipper at heart, I am kind of glad that they didn’t actually sleep together and I thought what actually happened was pretty hysterical.  The show was also fairly balanced, using all the members of the ensemble to great effect.  It was nice to be with our nerd buddies engaging in new shenanigans.  The thing with Raj and Howard virtual kissing was so bizarre.  I have no words.  Plus a new spin on *Knock! Knock! Knock!* “Penny!”  I loved her responses, “What’s the word, hummingbird?  What’s up, buttercup? What’s the gist, physicist?”

How I Met Your Mother was by contrast, kind of disappointing.  I didn’t think the story was all that interesting, and the jokes were kind of tired.  Barney trying increasingly bizarre stratagems to lure out of town women? AGAIN?  (Though I did like the idea that he workshops his material out of town…)  Robin likes him? AGAIN?  Lily is the one who sees through everyone and knows what Robin is feeling? AGAIN?  I liked the parallel of both husbands in the story “drinking for two” to cover for their pregnant (but not out about it yet) wives.  Plus, I know it was meant to be funny, but I got kind of irritated with the voiceover’s wink-wink nudge-nudge joke about being nowhere near the end of the story.  Also, the show has pretty much taken all the mileage they can out of the limited footage they have of those kids staring blankly at their dad.  A funnier thing would have been getting those two actors back because they are so much older now and just having them on the couch.  And I kind of knew it would be like this.  I sort of groaned when the show got renewed through next season.  Because all they can do now is SLOW DOWN and RECYCLE until we get the run-up to the end. 

Modern Family had a great start to the third season.  I like that however the Emmys turned out (and Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell really deserved their wins) they knew that the show works best when you throw all the nuts together and see what happens.  So taking them to a dude ranch was a great device and gave them lots of fodder.  I like that we saw a different side of Phil Dunphy and a somewhat insecure Jay.  I loved that Dylan was back, and his storyline was great, too.  For Cam and Mitchell, I loved the second half much better.  It was them at their best, with Cam being over the top (the pop up book was ridiculous) and Mitchell jumping from premature conclusions into a river of self-blame.  I’m kinda freaked out that Lily is talking now.  She had some good lines though.

The Office kind of surprised me.  I had read that James Spader was joining The Office so I thought, “OK, he’s the new boss.”  Then I kept seeing those commercials about James Spader joining The Office AND we would find out who the new boss was.  I thought, “why are they putting it like that?  Who are they fooling?”  So, to me at least, it was kind of surprising when the office hierarchy turned out the way that it did.  I kind of like Andy in that spot.  His natural inclination is to be accomodating and supportive and you can see that in this episode, especially when he sticks up for his staff.  Andy has always been a kiss-ass, so what happens when he’s at the top of the food chain?  Is James Spader going to be in every episode to give Andy an authority figure to curry praise from?  or will his absense make Andy despotic?  It will be interesting to see how the politics of this shake out, because I am more than sure that different factions in the office will try to manipulate him.  I am especially looking forward to Ryan’s next move.  That surprises me because Ryan has been a fringe character of late and now with Michael gone, no one especially cares that he sticks around.  Angela and Dwight will also try to manipulate Andy.  Hmmm…..this could be interesting.  And while I wasn’t overwhelmed with laughter at this first episode there were lots of things I did find funny and like I said above, lots of things set up for the future.  Plus, once again I found myself saying, “I need a Jim Halpert of my very own,” when Pam picked up that list he made.  SIGH……

Parks and Recreation was easily the show to which I was most looking forward.  And I was so happy to have it back that I would have

"You always make campaign speeches in your sleep. They just got really specific."

taken anything and loved it.  I am happy to say that I didn’t have to work hard to love it.  I might want a Ben almost as much as I want a Jim Halpert.  He is too freakin’ cute.  I loved the penis storyline with Ann and Chris and the guy from Sewage (“Your Inbox is LIT’RALLY filled with penises.”)  I hope that the Sewage guy isn’t gone forever.  It’s Pawnee though, so I know he won’t be.  The April, Andy and Tom stuff was funny, mostly the scene where Andy is getting advice from April.  And I liked April’s posturing in Ron’s absence.  Basically she stood in the doorway sipping coffee from a mug (seriously look at how may times she is drinking coffee from a mug, not an iced coffee through a straw or a latte with a sippy top, but even the paper coffee cup has handles that make it a mug so that it’s more Ron-like) and seemed to radiate Ron-like authority.  April is scary, in a good way.  I do want them to find better ways of bringing Tom into the mix.  And if they are keeping him outside the mix, at least bring back Jean-Ralphio to play with him.  All in all, I loved the ep and am very excited to see how the things they set up pan out over the season.  But, as a stand-alone, I worry that it wasn’t an out of the ballpark episode.  For a show that seems always on the verge of getting the ax, that makes me nervous.

THE NEW

I gotta say I tried, I really tried.  I could not actually get through Whitney or Up All Night.  The Up All Night thing really bummed me out because I like Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph.  I am going to finish that episode and try to watch this week’s also.  We’ll see.  Fingers crossed.  I don’t think I am going to make another attempt with Whitney.  Just…no.  I watched Free Agents and I am sad to say that it didn’t blow me out of the water.  Maybe all these will get their footing, but these days shows don’t get a lot of time to get it right.  I really did enjoy Two Broke Girls.  I was worried from the previews that it would be a little too cutesy for me.  I like Kat Dennings, but if all you have her doing is being Darlene from Roseanne, 2.0 then it could get old.  And if it’s a constant barrage of picking on the entitled princess who is a fish out of water, then that will get old also.  But they actually gave these girls some layers, some shading so there is a lot to take from in the future.  The princess’s backstory as the disgraced daughter of a Bernie Madoff type of crook is interesting, as is her assertion that she actually has business smarts (but Wharton?  Seriously?  Was she on the Elle Woods track there?).  Also, seeing Kat Dennings flaws and blind spots makes her a more likeable character.  This is one I am looking forward to watching again.

OK, that’s enough for now.  I will be back with the hour-long shows shortly.  Plus, I haven’t watched The New Girl with Zooey Deschanel or Community yet.  Now, let me go.  The Good Wife is on….

September 15, 2011 / mandalaymai

“I’m Shawn Spencer and this is my partner, MC Clap Yo Handz.” “With a Z.”

I know I should be prepping hardcore for the fall season.  I should be getting into midseason form.  And believe me I have.  I am like a dedicated Fantasy Footbal leaguer.  I have looked at the schedule.  I have chosen my starters, based both on past knowledge and hype assigned to the newbies.  I have accounted for trades (The Good Wife is on Sundays which threw off my whole gameplan.  But not as much as others, as they are cagily trying to steal the Desperate Housewives demographic before it has breathed its last and I don’t watch Desperate Housewives).  And I have carefully planned the pecking order on my main DVR AND my backup DVR.  I have shaken my head at the foolishness of TV execs who give us impossible choices and unlikely pairings. 

But, even as all this is going on, a not-so-secret part of my brain has been fixated on October and the premiere of Psych.  I mean, I know I have written of the USA Network and Summer TV, but oh, those clever bastards!  They pushed my FAVORITE of these shows to the fall.  To the BIG TIME.  To air during the Sweeps Month.  And color me crazy, but these guys may take the lead in my DVR wars this October.  I can’t remember if Community ever did any kind of Mentalist spoof.  If they did, it would have been redundant, because Psych is the MORE awesome and hilarious spoof that  (if I am remembering correctly) actually PRE-DATED The Mentalist. 

The premise of the show is that a guy with observational skills right out of Sherlock Holmes and Simon Baker (though, once again, I really think they were first) is too Peter Pan, irresponsible and lazy to play by the rules.  But he can’t stop himself from helping.  So, how does he get around the rules?  He pretends to be psychic, natch.  James Roday(Shawn)  is SO brilliant at this deadpan Peter Pan (Peter DeadPan?) that he is always laugh out loud hilarious.  I mostly remember Dule Hill (Gus) as the inspiring, awesome and beautiful Charlie Young from the West Wing, but he is SO good in this role, so fully committed and so funny  that I NEVER ONCE think of Charlie when I am watching Gus.  And that is the best compliment I can give. 

I brought up Community before for a reason.  I think people my age are lucky when shows have showrunners and writers our age, because that means that all the pop culture references and inside jokes are of our generation and are ‘inside’ to us.  Psych can totally give Community a run for its money, pop culture reference-wise.  It is so dense with both obvious and obscure references that it takes multiple watchings to get it all.  They get awesome guest stars – one needs to only see Carl Weathers’ turn as a retired cop and the fact that these guys GOT AWAY with saying, “Gus, ring the bell.”  “Ding, Ding!”  To see how far they will go for the awesome.  And yet the story itself always makes sense and is entertaining.   In this past season especially, there were more dramatic than dramedic moments and these guys totally brought their A-game to that also.

My favorite parts?  Besides the fact that I just learned to play the theme song on the guitar?  Well, I have 2 and they are the same 2 as every Psych fan.  Shawn routinely gives Gus an absurd alias when introducing him to people.  And when Shawn tells Gus not to “be” a a certain way or a certain thing.  The more out there and random the better.  I am really, really, really hoping that the writers take my suggestion and do a ‘Fight Club’ themed episode so Shawn can say, “Gus, don’t be Jack’s raging bile duct.”

I can’t help myself, so see a list of the Gus aliases below!

  • Die Harder
  • Matt
  • Bighead Burton
  • Fingers
  • Home Skillet
  • Big Baby Burton
  • Burt The Billowy Bear
  • Blackstar
  • Chocolate Columbo
  • Magic Head
  • Slicks
  • Peter Panic
  • Gus “T.T” Showbiz (The extra T is for extra talent)
  • Ovaltine Jenkins
  • François
  • Schoonie “U-Turn” Singleton
  • Vernest Lambert Watkins
  • Bud
  • Nick Nack
  • Bruton Gaster
  • Lavender Gooms
  • Lemongrass Gogulope
  • Squirts Macintosh
  • Weepyboy Santos
  • Stewart Lee
  • Dr. Mc (clucking noises) Took.
  • Galileo Humpkins
  • Gus “Silly Pants” Jackson
  • Shmuel Cohen
  • Shutterfly Simmons
  • Methuselah Honeysuckle
  • Patty Simcox
  • Felicia Fancybottom
  • Ernesto Agapito Garces Con Y A De Abelar
  • Longbranhe Pennywhistle
  • Scrooge Jones
  • D’Andre Pride
  • Wally Ali
  • Art Vanderlay
  • Dequan “Smallpox” Randolph
  • Trapezius Milkington
  • Sterling Cooper
  • Burton “Oil Can” Guster
  • Hollabackatcha
  • Jazz Hands
  • Doughnut Holstein
  • Black Magic
  • Magic Eight Ball Head
  • Ghee Buttersnaps
  • Pinky Tuscadero
  • MC Clap yo Handz (with a ‘Z’)
  • (said by Shawn, who is white) My name is Black. His name is Tan. I can’t believe you just made that assumption. You should be ashamed of yourself and your family
  • Imhotep, or ‘He Cometh in Peace.’  Go on, show her your ‘Cometh in Peace’ face.
  • Control Alt Delete
August 31, 2011 / mandalaymai

Netflix, I wish I knew how to quit you…

You know, like a lot of people, I was super pissed when Netflix came out with its brand new pricing scheme that separated it’s streaming content from the actual getting DVD’s in the mail plan. I ran through lots of ‘screw you, Netflix’ scenarios in my mind. (check out this http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/15be7bfd8f/netflix-relief-fund-with-jason-alexander Jason Alexnder Funny or Die clip on the subject ) And while I am still considering ditching the DVDs in the mail plan, I know that it will be a cold day in May before I give up the streaming. I love it too much. It has allowed me to go “couch-marathon” in splendid fashion. I mean, even when you get a DVD box set you have to get up to change DVDs. How archaic!
But even more awesomely than that is the discovery of new shows that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Here are some of my Netflix streaming picks for you. Pick one and let it tide you over until the fall season gets underway. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the dog days of summer!

 
“The Office” (UK version)

I am cheating a little with this one: I had seen it before. I am a huge fan of the US version, but the Ricky Gervais’s original is a masterpiece. A totally different animal. I got the DVD’s from Netflix a long time ago back when they didn’t have this newfangled streaming business and I loved them. I guess I just assumed that the most rabid and devoted fans of the US version would have made an effort to check out the original. But, I have been surprised to find that some of the most die-hard fans I know have never checked this out. Come on, people! It’s only 14 episodes and you have to see it. And once you love it, may I recommend the following link? These analyses / recaps of the show are spot-on and there is an article that also addresses the pilot episodes of several of the international versions that were spawned by the original. http://www.avclub.com/articles/downsizework-experience,58263/

 
“Sherlock”

 
Ok, yes, this is another British show and coincidentally also stars Martin Freeman who plays Tim on The Office as one of literature’s most famous sidekicks, Dr. Watson. But this take on Sherlock Holmes does actually bring something new to the table. It’s set in present-day London, and is consequently more high tech, while still retaining the ‘Sherlockian’ coolness and adventure of it all. Sherlock Holmes is so iconic that he has inspired countless other characters (on your TV right now Gregory House, Shawn Spencer on ‘Psych’ and the Mentalist, for example). But this version takes the original character and manages to make it fresh and relevant in a modern setting.  One of the best things about this version is Freeman’s take on John Watson. The writers give his character a reason, a motivation of his own for why he follows Holmes around aside from boredom and worshipful fascination (as it sometimes seemed to me in the books) or exasperated caving in (the way Jude Law did in Guy Ritchie’s version which I also loved).  Also, I really like the device of Watson’s blog being the vehicle for Holmes’s growing noteriety.  It’s a nice take on the original stories where Watson’s case studies are published in The Strand.

 
“The League”

 
I just discovered this one this past weekend and it makes me pissed off at Netflix all over again that they only have the first season. (I looked it up and Season 2 comes out on DVD in October. I am hoping that it will be streaming also.) This is not a British show. It’s about five guys in a Fantasy Football League in Chicago. You actually cannot get more American than that. This show is hilarious and you don’t have to be a football fan to think so. It’s the interaction between the characters and the easy way that they riff off each other that makes this show. One of my favorite scenes in the pilot is where two of the characters who are lawyers on opposite sides of a plea bargain, manage to wrap draft pick trades into their negotiation, to the befuddlement of the accused criminal. Also, the whole Mr. McGibblets episode rocks.
They so totally better have season two available on streaming.

Maybe, I will keep the DVDs in the mail plan, too. Damn it! I reiterate, “I wish knew how to quit you, Netflix!”  What recommendations do y’all have for me? Help me kill time until the September premieres of the fall season…