Monthly Archives: September 2011

New Fall 2011 Comedies

The litmus test for a comedy is simple: does it make you laugh? This fall I’ve tried out 5 new comedies: Free Agents, 2 Broke Girls, Suburgatory, How to Be a Gentleman, and New Girl. Here’s a quick rundown on what the shows are like and whether they’re worth watching.

 

New Girl

Laugh rating: A smirk here and there

Fox’s ultra-cutesy comedy about a clueless young woman (Zooey Deschanel) who moves in with three guys after she finds her boyfriend cheating on her. I almost didn’t watch a second episode after I cringed through most of the pilot. Deschanel’s usual quirkiness is pushed way over the top, and her character’s habit of randomly singing quickly became the most annoying thing about the show. Fortunately Jess dials back the singing a bit in episode 2, which was more enjoyable but didn’t put the show on my “will watch” list. I may try a third episode if I’m in the mood for something lighthearted, but the Hallmark movie moments at the end of the episodes tip the scales toward likely not. But if you’re into silly, heartwarming comedies, you might want to give New Girl a try. The three roommates (one who previously played Leo on Veronica Mars) and their frustration with and big brother attitudes toward Jess, are easily the best part of the show.

 

Free Agents

Laugh rating: Laughing out loud

This isn’t the type of show that would normally catch my interest, but I checked it out solely because of Anthony Stewart Head (Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and King Uther on Merlin). I’m so glad I did! The pilot was more raunchy than I would have liked, but the second episode toned it down some, and the third episode was just about perfect. The acting on this show is just superb. The two leads (Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn) say more with their faces in one scene than many shows do in entire episodes (Person of Interest – I’m looking at you!). I’ve heard complaints that the writing in the pilot isn’t so great, but the following episodes stepped things up. (Besides, I think this cast could make reading a cereal box funny.) The side characters are a bit stereotypical, but the show knows that and has fun with it.

The third episode, “Dr. Hu,” made me laugh more than this season’s first 3 episodes of The Big Bang Theory (which I previously considered my favorite currently-airing network comedy) combined. First, they made a lovely Doctor Who joke out of the therapist’s name. Second, watching the irrepressible Emma take over the umbrella ad campaign was hilarious, and I loved her going crazy at the idea of having to pitch. Third, Tony Head made a joke about American sports (which made me flash back to Giles making fun of football – “strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby”). Fourth, Alex and Helen’s individual arguments with Dr. Hu were fun, but nothing compared to their joint meltdown in front of him at the restaurant. And I love that they went from yelling at each other to blaming him, and then settled down to a normal “date.” Fifth, the security guard demonstrating how dangerous an umbrella can be added the perfect closing note to the episode.

 

How to Be a Gentleman

Laugh rating: A few smiles

Unlike the previous shows, I’ve only gotten to see the pilot of this show, most of which was spoiled by the promos. So I may change my mind about it. This show works best when contrasting the two main characters, uptight etiquette columnist Andrew, and gym rat and former bully Bert. I hope Bert’s efforts to bring Andrew into modern times doesn’t ruin their Odd Couple charm. My favorite part of the show is Andrew’s voiceovers about how a gentleman should behave. I’m not too fond of Bert, or sold on Andrew’s family, and the jokes got a little raunchy for my taste, but I’m going to give it at least another episode.

Wow, while checking names for this post I just realized the actor who plays Andrew, David Hornsby, is married to Emily Deschanel (Bones). But seriously, Henry Hornsby? How could they do that to a kid?

 

Suburgatory

Laugh rating: Some snickering

Like Free Agents (with which it shares a time slot), I checked out this “out of my normal type” of show because of a Whedonverse alum, this time Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Dollhouse). He plays a friend of the dad, and I’ve only seen the pilot of this as well, so I’m not sure how much of a role he’ll have in the show. The premise of the show is fun – a motherless teenager from the heart of the city moves to the suburbs with her dad, and enters a world of overly cheerful, plastic, stay-at-home moms and their mall-trotting daughters. At the end of the pilot she seems to be more okay with her new life, but I hope the show doesn’t lose its fish-out-of-water edge. I’ll definitely be watching the next episode, but most likely online. (Though if I want to help out Free Agents, whose ratings are low, it’s probably better that I watch on Hulu where they can track my viewing than on TV, where they won’t.)

 

2 Broke Girls

Laugh rating: Chuckling

Just as How to Be a Gentleman brings reminders of The Odd Couple, 2 Broke Girls seems to reimagine another classic show about two working girls who share an apartment – Laverne and Shirley. While Shirley was never rich, her prim and proper ways match Caroline’s very well, and Max’s no-nonsense ways seem very Laverne-esque. The show isn’t all that unique, and neither are the characters and the setting, but for some reason the over-the-top acting just works, and the show manages to feel fresh and relatable at the same time. Caroline may be ditzy, and Max may have a tough exterior, but they both have enough heart to make their unlikely friendship believable. I also love the gimmick of having their earnings toward the cupcake shop add up at the end of each episode.

 

My verdict: I’m definitely going to keep watching Free Agents and 2 Broke Girls. It’s highly likely that Suburgatory will make it on my list too, but I have to see more than one episode to know for sure. I”ll probably give New Girl and How to Be a Gentleman one more episode to prove themselves to me, but I’m quite likely to drop them as I run out of time to watch shows.

Superhero TV Episodes

Yesterday’s episode of Castle was chock-full of geeky comic book superheroness. So today I thought I’d blog about those costume-clad episodes of TV shows we love. If I missed any, be sure to let me know in the comments!

For space, I’m not going to focus on the shows that are all about superheroes – whether reimaged comic classics (Smallville), new characters in ordinary clothes with various powers (No Ordinary Family, Alphas, Heroes), or masked vigilantes (The Cape). And I wasn’t going to mention Halloween episodes – but I couldn’t resist the few ones that popped into my head: Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard all dressing up as Flash (The Big Bang Theory). Abed becoming Batman (Community). And Brennan as Wonder Woman (Bones).

Castle – “Heroes and Villains”

A man attacking a woman gets sliced in half by a sword, and the team soon discovers it’s the work of a costumed vigilante. They’re a bit reluctant to go after someone who’s administering justice throughout the city, but things are not as they seem. The costume is from a character in a popular online-only comic (which I thought was a nice plug for a newer medium for comic books). Castle gets plenty of opportunities to geek out during the episode, and even Beckett shares what superhero she would be (Electra, to Castle’s Bruce Wayne), mentions the first comic book she bought, and is embarrassed to have revealed that she pre-ordered Castle’s Derrick Storm graphic novel. (Wow, this is the fourth season, and I just now made the connection that Rick Castle named his character DerRICK.)

Warehouse 13 – “Mild Mannered”

Sean Maher and Jewel Staite (Simon and Kaylee from Firefly) star in this episode where an artifact gives its wearer superpowers. Pete recognizes the costume as mimicking the Iron Shadow, one of his favorite superheroes, and generally revels in the comic-book aspect of this mission. He’s still waiting to receive his comic book collection from home, which may have gotten lost during shipping, but Myka surprises him with the rare Iron Shadow issue he’s missing.

Bones – “The Superhero in the Alley”

For some reason, when I heard about the Castle superhero episode, I thought they’d already done one. I think it was this episode I was remembering instead. Booth and Brennan try to figure out how a costumed teenager died, and Angela reconstructs the unfinished comic book found with him. Despite his geekish tendencies, Zack had never read comic books before, but he makes up for it in this episode. It’s interesting that several scenes from this season take place in a bowling alley, and the last episode that has aired to date was mostly set in a bowling alley as well.

Psych – “Shawn vs. the Red Phantom”

This episode goes beyond comic books to a full-blown convention. Shawn and Gus track a missing teenage boy there only to find he has disappeared as well. Clues point them to website reviews of superhero movies and eventually a villainous plot ripped right from the pages of a comic book. My favorite part of the episode is when Shawn turns his fake psychic powers in a show to get attendees’ attention, complete with help from Gus’s “magic head.”

Any other shows you can think of that have a superhero episode?

Nikita – Game Change

My favorite new show from the 2010-2011 season has returned! Yes, Nikita beat out the renewed Blue Bloods and the North American version of Being Human, plus the cancelled Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, Outsourced, and The Cape as my most exciting discovery of the regular season. The CW kept me on pins and needles, finally renewing Nikita in mid-May, well after I’d learned the fate of the other shows I watched.

Spoilers ahead!

Last season ended with a huge blow-out episode. Percy (Xander Berkeley) found out Michael was working with Nikita (Maggie Q). Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) was reeling after finding out Nikita killed her parents. Amanda took over Division from Percy with the help of Oversight. Birkhoff helped Michael escape with a decrypted black box.

As this season opens, Nikita and Michael are on the run and trying to set right the wrongs listed on the black box – without “starting World War III.” They’re unaware that Amanda is now in charge of Division, Percy is locked up, and Alex is working with Amanda as an independent contractor. But they know they have to now bring down Oversight (a group of six highly-connected individuals who are responsible for Division) as well as Division.

Oversight sends in a liaison to keep tabs on Division, Sean, played by Dillon Casey (I’m only familiar with the actor from his appearance on the Warehouse 13 pilot). He butts heads with Alex immediately, but you can tell that the sparks between them aren’t just angry ones. With Thom and Jaden dead, Nathan out of the picture, and recruitment on hold, the show really needed someone else for Alex to interact with her own age, and Sean fits that slot. Whether he’ll end up being a good guy or a bad guy remains to be seen.

At the beginning of the episode, Alex doesn’t really seem out to get Nikita. At least intellectually, she understands that Nikita was only following orders, and the real villain is the man who ordered her parents’ deaths. But to get to him, she has to help out Division, so she’s out to retrieve the black box.

Nikita and Michael both get a chance to show off their fighting skills in this episode – Nikita with taking out Russians who laundered money for Division (her tease about breaking up with her boyfriend was so mean – but it made it all that much cooler when Shane West came barging in on his motorcycle), and Michael with helping a prisoner unwillingly escape from jail.

The prisoner had been investigating a Division money heist, so Percy had him framed and then threatened his son if he ever spoke up. Nikita and Michael are about to go get the son when Alex calls Nikita, claiming to be in trouble and back on drugs. But Alex’s ploy to get Nikita out of the way fails when a Division team zooms in. Badly outgunned, all looks lost for Michael and Nikita when fighter drones fly in, take out the Division team, and knock out the two and the prisoner. They wake up in a lavish house to discover the brains behind their rescue – Birkhoff!

I absolutely love that they brought Birkhoff back for season two. And apparently, this season is going to have more humor than the previous one (that and some awesome guest stars were really the only things that were lacking in season one), and Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) will be a huge part of that. It was hilarious when, after instructing Michael to tell Division they’re not working together (and thus get Division off his back), he steps in front of Michael during a video chat with Division to taunt their techs. Afterwards, Michael deadpans, “By the way, Birkhoff is not working with us.”

I mentioned in my first post about this show, that despite many similarities to Dollhouse, the only significant (meaning more than Shane West’s few lines in one Buffy episode) Whedonverse connection was Melinda Clarke (Amanda), but I’ve found another since then. Marc David Alpert worked on many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even getting his name in several cemetery scenes, and he also produces Nikita.

The climax of the episode is the big fight scene between Nikita and Alex. Nikita tried to talk Alex out of fighting her several times, even dropping her weapon while Alex still has her gun pointed at her, but Alex stubbornly keeps attacking. In the end, Nikita breaks her arm and shoots her in the leg, saying. “I’m doing this because I care” and “Get out while you’re still alive.”

I’d be more worried about this making them mortal enemies forever if Nikita hadn’t shot Michael in the shoulder last season – look where he is now. But its certain to fuel Alex’s anger in the short-term, at least. Looking forward to the next episode!

Community – Biology 101

I fell in love with this unlikely comedy from episode one, and I’m looking forward to an amazing third season – even if they “have more fun and be less weird than the first two years combined.” (Though, wouldn’t that mean they could be more weird than either of the previous years, just not as much as both of them put together?)

Side note: I might have blogged about The Big Bang Theory instead today, especially since it had two episodes airing last night compared to Community’s one, but I just wasn’t impressed with its episodes. Too much raunchy stuff, reminding me that the show came from the same mind as Two and a Half Men. I really hope the rest of the season isn’t like that.

“Biology 101” offered two weird glimpses in to the mind of Jeff Winger, beginning with the crazy music opening quoted above. Hilarious to think that Jeff daydreams in musicals. The second is a monkey-gas-induced trip into the power of the study group table – but more on that later.

And yes, there shall be spoilers!

Dean Pelton steps into his new role as regular cast member with a new adversary, his vice-dean, played by John Goodman. I’m not all that fond of the dean, so I hope he doesn’t take over the show, but he’s tolerable and even funny in small doses, like Senor Chang. I loved it when Chang emerged from the air vent and said, “Don’t tell the monkey I live here.”

And Pierce is back! For good it seems, thanks to the events of this episode. For a bit it seemed like he was back to his nefarious ways, but no, he seems to have improved over the summer. The fight over the spot in the biology class was fun, though, even with Jeff’s weird vision of himself eating his cell phone and Pierce on his deathbed, still reaching for the study group table.

I like the new teacher. It’s nice that it seems the group will be actually learning something this year, as opposed to the craziness of having Chang, Betty White, and Duncan as teachers in the past. He even got Jeff’s attention, though admittedly, the reason Jeff paid attention is because he didn’t want to lose his study group.

It’s interesting, though – if the group needs the cohesiveness of taking the same class, does that make a fifth year of the show completely out of the picture? I just hope the ratings are good enough this year to at least get a fourth year and bring the series to a natural close.

A highlight of the episode is when Abed freaks out when he hears that Cougar Town won’t come back until mid-season. Britta hopes to comfort him with the British version, Cougarton Abbey, but fails to mention it’s only six episodes long. When the sixth episode of his “new favorite show” ends with everyone drinking hemlock, Abed becomes nearly catatonic. He finally snaps out of it when Britta introduces him to another British show that’s been airing since the 1960s, Inspector Spacetime (a clear parody of Doctor Who).

And Chang gets a new job as a security guard for the college. I love Jeff’s response to that: “Interesting. And this is the year we all die.”

The Office – The List

An Office without Michael Scott? I actually wasn’t too fond of his character (he tended to make me cringe rather than laugh), but I wondered how the show would get by in his absence. The last few episodes of season 7 convinced me that The Office could survive and even thrive with him gone, so I looked forward to what the show would do with season 8.

Spoilers ahead!

I’d read that Robert California (James Spader), my least favorite candidate for the new boss, was coming back to the show, not as the new regional manager, but as the new CEO, replacing Jo (Kathy Bates, who I assume is busy enough with her own show, Harry’s Law). They managed to keep the new boss a secret right up until the season premiere, and they went with – Andy!

I think Andy was the perfect choice for the new regional manager. He has a bit of that delightful cluelessness that made watching Michael Scott try to run a company so much fun, without taking it to Steve Carell’s extremes. He cares about the company and the people in it. His efforts at trying to win Erin’s heart won his audience’s heart instead.

And while he does lack some backbone, this episode showed that he’s willing to stand up for his employees (though it feels so weird to be typing that, since they’ve been simply his coworkers for so long) and that he plays fair, except perhaps where Gabe is concerned.

I hope California won’t be in too many episodes this season, though if he spends half his time in the conference room, I’m guessing he’s going to end up in at least half of the episodes (plus he’s in the new credits, too). But I guess it makes sense to have someone around that makes everyone in the office a little nervous – which they can take to fun extremes like they did in this episode.

So Pam’s expecting again! I knew that coming into the episode, with Jenna Fischer’s pregnancy influencing the storyline (as Emily Deschanel’s did on Bones). Her weepiness was a little over the top in this episode, but I loved her reaction to Jim’s list.

And Angela’s expecting too! I did not see that coming at all, nor that she and the (state) senator would already be married. I wonder when his secret will come out, and I can’t fathom the effect that will have on Angela. But for now, she’s going to make a far different mother-to-be than Pam did.

In all, good start to the season on a show that’s still going strong.

NCIS – Nature of the Beast

While NCIS didn’t end on much of a cliffhanger last year, it’s one of my favorite shows and I was really looking forward to spending time with the team again. Much like the season 7 opener, season 9 premieres with a Tony DiNozzo-centered episode in which he narrates what has happened over the intervening months.

Castle ended its first episode of the season with Beckett saying, “I remember everything.” NCIS starts off this episode with Tony saying, “I can’t remember any of it.”

Spoilers below!

Tony was knocked unconscious with a bullet to the vest. His weapon had been discharged twice, and there was blood at the scene, but no body. What was left behind was a bloody NCIS badge that wasn’t Tony’s.

Dr. Rachel Cranston (Kate Todd’s sister) urges him to go back to the beginning and try to put the pieces together, starting with his top-secret assignment from the new Secretary of the Navy. Tony wanted to bring the rest of the team in on the case, but Jarvis refused. Gibbs and the others gradually found out about the assignment, and Gibbs started bothering Jarvis about it and the microchips cut out of the arms of both Levin and Captain Wright. Tony’s assignment also leads him directly to E.J.

In present day, an FBI agent comes to the hospital and tries to talk to Tony. Agent Stratton is played by Scott Wolf, who played Chad Decker on V.

This was one of my favorite lines of the episode:

Tony DiNozzo: Who doesn’t like hot girls who carry guns?

I also loved Gibbs imitating Mike Franks’ voice. It’s nice to know he won’t be forgotten by the team. And Tony quoting three of Gibbs’ rules at Secretary Jarvis was amazing!

While the episode itself was a bit slow, the final twist sets things up nicely for a longer case that should occupy the next half season or more. Looking forward to a “real” episode next week, though!

Castle – Rise

Castle is back! This was definitely one of my top five, if not my most, anticipated season premieres this fall. (Though the Castle makeover my site got may have clued you in, and don’t forget the giveaway! Ten days left.) And I was not disappointed.

Spoilers, as usual, abound in this episode review, so come back later if you haven’t yet seen “Rise”!

Of course we knew Beckett wasn’t dead. The episode opened (after a quick “previously on”) just minutes after the shooting, with Lanie trying to keep Kate alive. In an interesting twist, Josh is the one who has to start operating on her until another doctor gets there. It’s kind of nice that we got a little bit of closure on him before Beckett breaks up with him somewhere in the three-month hiatus.

Yes, after Castle visits Kate in the hospital for two minutes, in which she tells him that she doesn’t remember what happened (including his profession of love) and that she needs space, they don’t talk for three entire months. And while I hate how terrible that was for Castle, I think it was a great move for the episode and this season. It helps the two get back to their camaraderie without negating what Castle told her – it instead tempers it with time and silence. It clues the viewers in that it’s still going to be a while until these characters get together.

The three months gave Ryan and Esposito time to figure out Gates, the new captain, while still making her new to Beckett. I love how they’re sneaking around Gates’ back, and I like the twist that they have to be extra careful that Gates doesn’t investigate Montgomery.

While Beckett recovered, Castle kept himself busy, finishing his book (though less than three months from finishing first draft to published novel is a bit of a fantasy) and helping Ryan and Esposito hunt the killer. I absolutely love how Beckett approaches him at the book signing.

The case in this episode is understandably non-twisty, given that there are far weightier matters to take up screen time. It simply gave us the opportunity to see that Castle’s out-of-the-box thinking is still a valuable asset to the team, and Beckett’s emotional scars are going to take a little longer to heal.

I assumed that Montgomery sent the files to Castle, but instead they went to someone else, as insurance to protect Beckett and the others (too bad they hadn’t arrived before the shooting at the funeral). And now Castle has to keep Beckett from pursuing the case. I love that Castle confided in his mom about it, and how concerned Alexis was for her father, not only with him being in danger physically, but emotionally as well. They were the two who had to pick up his pieces during those three months of silence.

And the final twist of the episode, where Kate admits the truth to her psychiatrist, I definitely saw coming. It was obvious in the way she reacted in the hospital that she remembered Castle’s “I love you.” Now the big question is, when will she tell Castle the truth?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Helpless

Many shows return or premiere this week, so my blogging schedule should get quite full! I still haven’t decided whether I’ll be keeping up with blogging about Buffy every other post or not, but most likely I’ll take a break for at least a week or two.

“Helpless” is full of the amazing father/daughter moments between Giles and Buffy that I love so much. I hate it that the Council makes Giles betray her for the 18th birthday Cruciamentum test – but it does an excellent job of painting the Council as the bad guys (or at least the out-of-touch authority figure, now that Joyce knows what’s going on and Snyder only has half a season left).

Having already been let down by her real father, who can’t even make it to their traditional birthday date, Buffy turns to the person who has stepped into that role in her life:

Buffy:  You know, it’s usually something that families do together.
Giles:  Now, look very carefully for the tiny flaw at its core.
Buffy:  I-if someone were free, they’d take their daughters or their student… or their Slayer.

Sadly, it’s at that very minute that Giles is drugging her to suppress her Slayer powers for the test. When the insane captive vampire Kralik escapes, it’s Giles who rescues her, and then tells her the truth.

When Kralik takes Joyce, Buffy goes to fight him in her weakened state, and creates a new way to kill a vampire – tricking one into ingesting holy water. Giles arrives just in time to dispatch the second one and start to regain Buffy’s trust.

The episode ends with Giles choosing a side – and Buffy as well:

Quentin:  Congratulations, you passed. You exhibited extraordinary courage and clearheadedness in battle. The Council is very pleased.
Buffy:  Do I get a gold star?
Quentin:  I understand that you’re upset…
Buffy:  You understand nothing. You set that monster loose, and he came after my mother.
Quentin:  You think the test was unfair?
Buffy:  I think you better leave town before I get my strength back.
Quentin:  We’re not in the business of fair, Miss Summers, we’re fighting a war.
Giles:  You’re *waging* a war. She’s fighting it. There is a difference.
Quentin:  Mr. Giles, if you don’t mind…
Giles:  The test is done. We’re finished.
Quentin:  Not quite. She passed. You didn’t. The Slayer is not the only one who must perform in this situation. I’ve recommended to the Council, and they’ve agreed, that you be relieved of your duties as Watcher immediately. You’re fired.
Giles:  On what grounds?
Quentin:  Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father’s love for the child, and that is useless to the cause. It would be best if you had no further contact with the Slayer.
Giles:  I’m not going anywhere.
Quentin:  No, well, I didn’t expect you would adhere to that. However, if you interfere with the new Watcher, or countermand his authority in any way, you will be dealt with. Are we clear?
Giles:  Oh, we’re very clear.
Quentin:  Congratulations again.
Buffy:  Bite me.
Quentin:  Yes, well, colorful girl.

And that sets up the introduction of Wesley, a character you’re predisposed to hate, but end up loving (especially on Angel).

What Do You Want to Read About TV?

Most of the posts I’ve written so far for TV Breakroom have been things I’ve wanted to share – great shows I’d discovered, surprising actor connections, and speculations on why certain show failed to grab my attention. It’s been fun, and I’ve needed an outlet for that, but now I want to focus on my readers as well.

What do you want to read on this blog?

More specifically, what would cause you to stop by every day there’s a new post? What would make you decide to add this blog to your feed reader, or get posts by email? What would push you to share posts with your friends?

Now, I’m not going to change the general focus of this blog (TV shows), or widen the scope (no discussing reality TV, competition shows, or informative shows). But within the site’s parameters – generally scripted weekly shows and web series – there are many directions I could take.

Episode reviews. I’ve been moving the blog in this direction since I started running out of shows to do general overviews of. The main problem is that to review an episode, you usually have to spoil it, so people tend to only want to read them after they’ve watched the episode. Good if people want to discuss the episode, bad if people just want to find out more about the show before watching it.

TV news. I’ve started a new Twitter account to share news that crops up about favorite shows, but would you prefer I posted it here? Most news would lead to very short blog posts (which is why I started tweeting it), but I could also compile all the recent news about a show into a longer post.

Interviews. I’m taking the first steps toward building contacts in the TV industry via Twitter, and I hope to reach the point where I can interview TV writers, guest actors, and maybe even someday regular cast members. Initially this would be a slow, difficult process, so would interviews be something you’d like to read?

Recommending shows. For example, I could write a post, “If you like Supernatural, you might want to try . . .” and mention several shows and why fans of Supernatural would be likely to watch them. I wouldn’t be able to make every post about this, but I could write about it perhaps up to once a week.

Actor spotlights. Looking into a specific actor’s career, focusing on their TV roles.

Character spotlights. An in-depth look at one character from a show.

Polls and competitions. This could be as simple as adding them to the end of other posts to a huge March Madness bracket.

Online show roundups. Some of the best websites for a particular show, actors’ and writers’ Twitter handles, and more.

Top 10 lists. The ten best friendships on TV, the ten best non-human characters, the ten worst villains, you name it.

Music videos. Youtube has tons of fan-made videos that focus on TV shows. I could embed the best of the best into a post.

Comparing shows. A post seeing how two (similar or widely different) shows stack up against each other.

Fan fiction. Either pointing to some of the best fan fiction out their for a particular show, or following some of my own “what if?” ponderings (including dumping two shows into the same universe) and seeing what happens.

TV tropes. Following a specific trope through several TV shows.

As you can see, there are a ton of options! Which ones would you enjoy reading? Do you have any additional ideas for posts?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Gingerbread

My 100th post! I don’t think I’ve ever had a hundred posts written within one year on a blog before. Just nine months ago I was almost embarrassed to link to this site since I had so little content up. Now I have well over 50,000 words spread throughout the site.

“Gingerbread” is Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s witch hunt episode. Now for all the things I love about Buffy, one of the things I dislike most about the show is the witchcraft in it. I know it’s mostly used in the mythology of the show as a story device, but it covers a huge spectrum from light spells to summoning dark powers, and even the show itself varies on how it is portrayed morally. In the end it’s seen as a force for good, evil, and many shades of gray in between, but this episode lacks that complexity.

Side note: I found it rather interesting that the first major spell Willow did (to restore Angel’s soul), if you look at the translation of the words she uses, she’s not begging some evil spirit. She’s beseeching God. Fitting, since the whole soul thing fits best in His realm anyway.

The broad strokes of this episode turn it into a battle cry for tolerance and accepting differences. The entire town gets into an uproar over the deaths of two children, and begins to target those suspected of witchcraft and anyone else different. The episode’s saving grace is that it senses the ridiculousness of the fervor and exaggerates it, throwing in some humor along the way.

Buffy:  What is this?
Willow:  A doodle. I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too.

Xander:  Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m still spinning on this whole fairy tales are real thing.
Oz:  So what do we do?
Xander:  I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go trade my cow in for some beans. (Gets a look.) No one else is seeing the funny here.

It’s interesting – this fall there are two whole shows premiering based on the premise that fairy tales are real. In Once Upon a Time, the fairy tale world is separate from this one, and the characters trapped in this world have forgotten who they are. In Grimm, the fairy tale creatures look like humans to all but a select few.

I love Buffy’s conversation with Angel in this episode:

Angel:  Buffy, you know, I’m still figuring things out. There’s a lot I don’t understand. But I do know it’s important to keep fighting. I learned that from you.
Buffy:  But we never…
Angel:  We never win.
Buffy:  Not completely.
Angel:  We never will. That’s not why we fight. We do it ’cause there’s things worth fighting for.

And I think it’s awesome that Cordelia, who has been acting like a bitca for the past several episodes, comes in to save the day in her own unique way.

Cordelia:  Wake up! (Slaps Giles repeatedly.)
Giles:  Cordelia?
Cordelia:  Took you long enough to wake up. My hand hurts.
Giles:  Pity. Oh… Why are you here?
Cordelia:  Things are way out of control, Giles. First the thing at school, and then my mom confiscates all of my black clothes and scented candles. I came over here to tell Buffy to stop this craziness and found you all unconscious… again. How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you’re gonna wake up in a coma.
Giles:  Wake up in a… Oh, never mind.

Their conversations always make me laugh. And it’s nice to see Cordy doing more than just dropping snide remarks at the gang.

The heartbreaking part of this episode is how Joyce slowly turns against her daughter. I actually cringed when she lumped monsters, witches, and slayers in the same group, right in front of Buffy (and half the town). And what Joyce almost did isn’t discussed between them at the end of the episode, though the following one works toward re-establishing their bond.

In all, this is one of my least favorite episodes of season three, but it was still a fun watch the second time around.

Ringer – Pilot

Sarah Michelle Gellar is back! That was really the only tagline needed for the new noir drama on the CW. But the premise is intriguing by itself. Bridget runs away the night before her testimony in a criminal trial and goes to visit her estranged twin sister Siobhan. When Siobhan apparently kills herself, Bridget sees a way out and assumes her sister’s life. But she soon learns that Siobhan has secrets of her own, and someone wants her dead, too.

I watched a lot of the Comicon coverage for Ringer, and several trailers, so almost all of the secrets revealed in the pilot (and even a few that weren’t) had been spoiled for me. So I didn’t expect to be wowed by it, and I wasn’t. I’m looking for the next episodes too, though.

So for those of you who didn’t see all the previews, or didn’t watch the premiere episode, beware of spoilers!

This is the first thing I’ve seen Gellar in since Buffy, so I was a little surprised at how much older she looked, but it was more her clothes and mannerisms than her actual face. I noticed a few Buffy references in the first segment of the episode, but my guess is they were more imagined than actual hat tips to the show. The gargoyles on the penthouse roof gave a cemetery-link feel to the first moments of the episode, so that was probably deliberate. I probably only noticed the word “amends” in a conversation since that was the last Buffy episode I watched, and the word cookie because the cookie dough conversation was in the final Buffy episode. And when Bridget mentioned waitressing, I could only think about how that paralleled with the final issue of the Buffy season 8 comics (season 9 starts today!).

One of the “surprises” that got ruined was when Kristoffer Polaha seems to be following/stalking Bridget. I already knew he wasn’t a hitman out to get her, but Siobhan’s best friend’s husband Henry with whom Siobhan was having an affair. The show did manage to keep the surprise of Siobhan’s pregnancy, and that Siobhan blames Bridget for her (apparent) son’s death.

It’s easy to see Bridget as the hero in this story, as she tries to right Siobhan’s wrongs – breaking off the affair, trying to mend things with Andrew (Siobhan’s husband), reaching out to his daughter Juliet. I also like the setup of Bridget’s relationship with her sponsor, Malcolm, as the one person she can be “real” with.

One preview showed an extended clip of the final scene, of Siobhan’s phone conversation in Paris (yeah, we knew she wasn’t really dead). Only when I saw the clip, I thought it was Bridget. So that was a bit of a surprise.

So who sent the attacker in the climax? Was it Gemma, the best friend who’d summoned her to the loft? Andrew, whose mysterious phone conversation seemed like he was trying to call off a hit after he’d learned of Siobhan’s pregnancy? Or Siobhan, wanting to put the final nail in the coffin of her fake suicide and get revenge on her sister in one move?

I guess I’ll find out next week.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Amends

I wondered why the seventh episode of this season wasn’t quite as good as other sevenths, but that was only because Joss Whedon saved his writing and directing talents for this gem of an episode.

After half a dozen episodes of waiting, we finally get a reason for Angel’s return to Earth. The First brought him back to kill Buffy. A notably evil plan, but why Buffy? Was this an earlier indication of things not being right with two Slayers in the world? Wouldn’t another Slayer be called when she died (though there’s no mention that it happens when she does die)? And why Angel? He loves her, so he’ll do whatever he has to to keep her safe. True, he’s one of the few people who would have a chance to beat her in a fight, and he could get close to her, but I think the First would have been better off going with Faith. She could even have her dead Watcher haunting her and urging her on.

The dream flashbacks gave another glimpse of how truly evil Angel was. And how truly awful his hairstyles were. Spike makes fun of his current hairstyle, but those were much, much worse.

This is the first time I’ve rewatched this episode, so I saw the First and the Bringers in a whole new light after season 7. It was also interesting comparing the First driving Angel crazy in this episode to the First driving Spike crazy in season 7. But the First didn’t use vivid dreams and connected dreams in season 7, though. The only dreams were Buffy’s regular prophetic and historic Slayer dreams.

Mixed in with the story are Christmasy bits – shopping, school break, lights, decorating the tree. Buffy reaches out to Faith. Willow makes up with Oz:

Oz:  Well, I don’t know. I don’t know that it… ever will be between you two.
Willow:  Oz, please believe me.
Oz:  This is what I do know: I miss you. Like, every second. Almost like I lost an arm, or worse, a torso. So, I think I’d be willing to… give it a shot.
Willow:  Really?
Oz:  Yeah.

I just love the sweetness of that. And yes, I know I do go a little Oz-crazy on this blog, but that’s just because I know how soon he’ll be gone from the show.

And the end of the episode, the Christmas miracle, is perfect. Most of the time, snow just brings a cute “aww” moment in a holiday episode of a show. This time, it brings much more:

Angel:  Am I a thing worth saving, huh? Am I a righteous man? The world wants me gone!
Buffy:  What about me? I love you so much… And I tried to make you go away… I killed you and it didn’t help. And I hate it! I hate that it’s so hard… and that you can hurt me so much. I know everything that you did, because you did it to me. Oh, God! I wish that I wished you dead. I don’t. I can’t.
Angel:  Buffy, please. Just this once… let me be strong.
Buffy:  Strong is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together. But if you’re too much of a coward for that, then burn. If I can’t convince you that you belong in this world, then I don’t know what can. But do *not* expect me to watch. And don’t expect me to mourn for you, because…

And it begins to snow. The sun isn’t coming out. Soft flakes of forgiveness fall, sparing Angel’s life and convince him that he can make amends for the evil he’s done in his past.

Who made it snow in Sunnydale that day? The Powers That Be would best fit in the mythology of the show, though the part they play in the series seems but a dim reflection of the Power Who Is.

Fall 2011 TV Shows Anticipations

Fall TV is about to start for 2011! Here are some things I’m anticipating about the shows I plan to watch, in the order of their season premiere dates.

September 13

“Ringer”

I’m hoping this show will be as in-depth and multi-layered as Veronica Mars. I don’t think  the show will make me laugh, but as skilled as many of the cast are with dramatic moments, it may make me cry. Previews gave away maybe a little too much of the pilot, but with 3 seasons planned of twists and turns, I expect to be surprised quite often. It has stiff competition in its Tuesday 9PM slot, but I foresee an early renewal.

September 14

“Free Agents”

Previews show this to lean toward the bawdy type of workplace comedy I usually avoid, but I love Anthony Stewart Head’s acting, so I’ll probably give this show at least two episodes to prove itself to me. And since The Office has flourished with its UK to US transfer, I’d say the odds for renewal are slightly greater than 50/50.

September 19

“How I Met Your Mother”

A great cast and hilarious hijinks make a few off episodes bearable, and I’m pretty content with not having met the mother yet, since that means the show can continue longer. The twist of another wedding should add interest for long-time viewers and keep them watching.

“2 Broke Girls”

As the only half hour show in its time slot, and paired with the popular “HIMYM,” this show should do well by default. I’m not expecting much from it, just a few laughs, but I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

“Castle”

I’m positive Beckett’s not dead, as the premise of this show would fall apart without her, but I hope the events of the final moments of last season will have far-reaching effects on this one. I am not looking forward to the new chief. The absence of station politics is one thing I enjoyed about the show, so rumors I’ve heard worry me. But it would take a lot more than that to make me stop watching this show. Hoping for some more Whedonverse guest stars and Firefly references this season.

September 20

“NCIS”

Can’t wait to hang out with the gang again. With the start of season nine, this show is the longest-running one I watch, and it’s stronger than ever. Starting out with emotional turmoil for DiNozzo sounds like a great way to begin the season.

“NCIS: Los Angeles”

Unlike its sister show, NCIS: LA is picking up right when the last season ended. The only thing I ask for season 3? Don’t get rid of Hetty. If I had one other wish, I’d love to see Nate back as a regular part of the team.

“The New Girl”

With two shows already competing for my Tuesday 9PM viewing, I wasn’t even going to look at this show, but with the other Deschanel sister not coming back until November, I probably will check out at least the pilot online. But with strong competition on every other broadcast channel, the ratings will probably be terrible enough to make a renewal unlikely. It’s one saving grace is that it’s the only comedy in its timeslot.

September 22

“The Big Bang Theory”

This show makes me laugh more than any other. And it’s one of those shows that while you know the two of the characters belong together, you don’t really care how many detours they take along the way, because it adds new dimensions to the show.

“Community”

I’m still mad at the networks for making this and the previous show compete. It’s a little sad to think that cast will be juniors this year, so the show is most likely halfway over. It was left up in the air whether Chevy Chase would return to the group, but if any of the main 7 characters had to go, I’d prefer him.

“The Office”

The show proved it could survive without Michael Scott at the end of last season, so I plan to keep watching. While not every episode tickles my funny bone, I love (some of) the characters enough to tuning into their workdays for as long as they’ll let me.

“Person of Interest”

An intriguing premise and Jim Caviezel are enough to put this show on my to-watch list for at least the first several episodes. With Bones starting late, this show has the potential to grab a few extra viewers. Most of my action shows tend to be summer ones, so I’m hoping this will be good. Need to know more before predicting renewal, though.

September 23

“Nikita”

The new season brings a twist to the dynamics of this show, with characters switching sides, but I’m confident Nikita will make it work. My one fear is Lyndsy Fonseca looking like a powder-puff villain next to Melinda Clarke. And the show has a month to establish some viewers before Chuck comes in to try and woo them away.

“Blue Bloods”

This show has a great cast and interesting episodes, but doesn’t have the compulsive watching quality many other crime dramas do. I hope the second season starts off with a bang and adds a layer of intrigue.

September 28

“Suburgatory”

Alan Tudyk is the only reason I’m checking this show out. The fact that it’s unlike most of the other shows I watch may help it stay on my list. But it’s kind of funny that the only Wednesday night shows I’m interested in air at the same time and pit Whedonverse actors against each other.

September 29

“How to Be a Gentleman”

I hated the first preview for this show, but the second was a little better, so I’ll still watch the pilot. I have my doubts about this one being a keeper, though.

October 2

“Homeland”

This will be the first Showtime TV show I’ve ever tried out. But with Damian Lewis (Life), Claire Danes, and Morena Baccarin (Firefly), how could I resist?

October 3

“House”

I’m curious who the show will bring in to replace Cuddy, and how House will get his job back. I almost feel like the show’s starting to wind down, which is a shame, but it’s had a good run. Of course, this next season could surprise me and pick up momentum again.

October 12

“Psych”

It’s been way too long of a hiatus for Shawn and Gus, so I’m really looking forward to the return of my favorite fake psychic, and the boatload of special episodes he brings with him.

October 21

“Chuck”

Back for a truncated 5th season, it’s nice that the show will have the chance to say goodbye. I’m looking forward to a hilarious season with Morgan’s new role.

“Grimm”

I love the idea of this show. But with cult favorites Supernatual and Fringe vying for the same slot with a month-long lead, the ratings will likely be terrible. (Whose bright idea was it to stack three speculative shows against each other?) The reviews for the pilot haven’t been great. No big-name actors or even geek favorites. And Friday nights are usually the death slot. The plus side is that it’s created by some guys responsible for much of Angel, and has a great lead-in show with Chuck. Since I didn’t catch up on Supernatural and Fringe this summer like I wanted to, I’ll definitely be watching this. I just hope the studio will focus on day+7 and online views when deciding how long to let it run.

October 23

“Once Upon a Time”

I’ve watched the preview for this show more than any other. I just hope it lives up to the beauty and intrigue that glimpse conveyed, and there are enough twists and turns to spawn multiple seasons.

November 3

“Bones”

Having caught up on this show, I’m excited to be finally watching it in “real” time, without spoilers to mess up my expectations. I’m hoping the baby mania won’t overtake the show, but I trust that it will be an awesome season.

 

November also brings the return of split season shows like Covert Affairs, Burn Notice, and Leverage.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Wish

Immediately following Spike’s short visit, Anya enters the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This was only my second time watching “The Wish,” so it was neat to see all of the hints at future episodes. The two that really stuck out to me were Vampire Willow’s “Bored now” and the fact that Buffy was in Cleveland, which we’ll later find out has a Hellmouth of its own.

But the episode begins typically enough, with Buffy fighting a demon (who reminds me a bit of Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean), assisted by Willow and Xander. The three are still dealing with the fallout from “Lovers Walk.”

Buffy:  No luck reaching Cordelia?
Xander:  I’ve left a few messages. Sixty… Seventy… But you know what really bugs me? Okay, we kissed. It was a mistake. But I know that was positively the last time we were ever gonna kiss.
Willow:  Darn tootin’!
Xander:  And they burst in, rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean, this is really all their fault.
Buffy:  Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.
Xander:  Mine is much more advanced.

Oz needs time to think things through, but Cordelia is cutting up and burning photos and trying to pretend Xander doesn’t exist. Her old friends aren’t welcoming her back, and Cordy soon comes to the conclusion that Buffy being in town is what started the downward trend in her life. The new girl in school is the one bright spot in her week.

Cordelia:  Go ahead. Dazzle me with your oh-so-brilliant insults. Just join the club.
Anya:  Hardly. Uh, actually, I’ve been looking for you. Ever since we met this morning, I was, like, thank God there’s one other person in this town who actually reads W.
Cordelia:  But Harmony…
Anya:  Oh, she follows me around. If that girl had an original thought, her head would explode.

But Anya is really the vengeance demon Anyanka, so when Cordelia wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, Anyanka grants her wish. Cordy is immediately transported into an alternate reality where vampires rule the town. Willow and Xander are both vampires and the Master’s top henchmen; Giles, Oz, and a few others drive around trying to save who they can; and Angel lives chained up and tortured. After Willow and Xander kill Cordelia, it’s up to Giles to figure out what’s going on.

I’m always surprised when I read about people not liking Anya, because I love her! Emma Caulfield does an amazing job playing Anya’s hilarious facets – her cheerful literalness, her fear of bunnies, her delight in money – but adds depth to her character whether the moment is humorous or somber. I’m looking forward to Emma’s new project, “Ripped” as well as her upcoming guest appearance in Leverage. I also just caught up on her mockumentary web series, Bandwagon. It’s finishing up its second season (Oops, which is now it’s first season. The years-ago “first season” is now the movie – which makes sense, with the time gap.) , which boasts the addition of Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley on Community), and I plan to do a full post on it soon.

It’s neat getting to see the changes in the characters in this episode, all of them still being themselves, but under far different circumstances. Vampire Willow brings out the mad-with-power side of her character, which we’ve seen glimpses of before, but Vampire Xander doesn’t seem to have kept much of his old personality. Giles lacks confidence, Buffy’s jaded, and Angel’s hanging onto the last thread of hope. It’s also pretty interesting watching who kills who in the final battle.

V – Saga Cut Short

I never watched the original V, but ABC’s two-season remake captured my attention and held it. I tuned in to the show because it starred Morena Baccarin, best known as Inara from Firefly. Having loved her on Firefly, it was eerie to see her as the villain, Anna, in this show. You can almost see the lizard-like creature underneath her skin.

Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) also showed up in the first few episodes as Erica’s partner. Erica Evans, an FBI agent, is the main character of the show, but it took me a while to warm up to her. (I primarily knew the actor, Elizabeth Mitchell, from the Santa Clause movies, so it took a while for that image to fade.)

The premise of the show is that aliens invade the earth as peaceful Visitors (or Vs), claiming to want peace and sharing their technology. But they have a hidden agenda, buried as their lizard appearance is buried under human skin. And they haven’t just arrived – sleeper agents have been in place for decades.

Erica gradually gathers a small band of people who know what the Vs are truly like, and they work to set back their devious plans however they can. But she’s keeping the aliens’ true identity from her son, who’s fascinated by the Vs and eventually begins dating Anna’s daughter Lisa.

The show was excellent – great plot, stunning visuals, and with the exception of a few characters, an awesome cast. But it was canceled after only two short seasons (22 episodes total), so it never had a chance to grow into its true potential. I was especially looking forward to season 3, since they’d just gotten rid of my (and judging from reviews, many others’) least favorite character.

One of my favorite characters was the mercenary Kyle Hobbs, played by Charles Mesure. I’m looking forward to where the actor will go in the future.

While ABC put the first season on Hulu, they didn’t with the second season, which made it hard for viewers to catch up with the closely-connected episodes. I think that’s one significant reason why ratings declined.

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