Archive for November 2011
On February 19, you’re fucking out and Kenny Powers is fucking in as HBO’s Eastbound & Down returns for its 8-episode third season at 10:00PM. It will be paired with the newest Ricky Gervais comedy series, Life’s Too Short, starring Gervais and Warwick Davis of Willow fame. Sounds like a good hour of alt-comedy. “Don’t be a pussy and watch the fucking show.” That’s what Kenny Powers would say. Probably.
With the recent news that NBC removed Community from its midseason schedule and that ABC omitted cult favorite but lowly rated Cougar Town from its own early-2012 slate, it’s good to hear that there will be at least two more quality options returning to the air to fill the void once the calendar shifts to January. FX announced today that Justified and Archer will each air their third seasons beginning on Tuesday, January 17 at 10:00PM for Justified and Thursday, January 19 at 10:00PM for Archer. Both of these shows were in the top ten of my most recent TV Power Rankings. Justified had a near-perfect sophomore campaign that featured Emmy-level performances from series lead Timothy Olyphant and c0-star Margo Martindale (who, in fact, actually won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress In A Drama Series and rightfully so), and it occupied the top spot in the rankings for a good chunk of the year, while Archer continued to prove that it was not only one of the funniest but also was one of the smartest shows on television in its own second year. Archer will also lead into a new animated series on FX called Unsupervised from part of the creative team from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Unsupervised follows a couple of teens operating without parental supervision (thus, the title) and will feature the voices of Justin Long (Live Free Or Die Hard), David Hornsby (series co-creator and It’s Always Sunny‘s Rickety Cricket), Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny‘s Dee), and my beloved Kristen Bell (of Veronica Mars and Showtime’s upcoming House Of Lies). Looks like a solid pedigree and I’m already a whore for FX, so you can be sure I’ll be checking in on it. Mark your calendars.
(Disclaimer: Breaking Bad is such a richly developed show that there is much more to discuss than there is in your average television drama. As such, this review is going to be formatted a little differently than normal and will be a little longer than usual, but I feel that’s necessary for a show like this. It will also be a discussion of major plot points in the episode so here’s your giant SPOILER ALERT. Don’t read this until you’ve seen the episode. It also assumes that you are a viewer of the show and have a basic familiarity with characters and plots. Onto the review.)
Yeah… I realize that this episode aired a month and a half ago but, better late than never right? And wow. With a very literal bang, the fourth season of Breaking Bad comes to an end. Let’s ring the bell and take a closer look at “Face Off.”
“Did you just bring a bomb into a hospital?!”
We open with the now standard kinetic score that’s been used to such great effect this season as Walter rushes from his perch across the street from the hospital and into the parking garage to remove the incriminating bomb from beneath Gus’s car. Smash cut to Walter walking through the hospital carrying the bomb in what appears to be… a women’s handbag?!  He finds Jesse and, sitting down next to him, tells him that Gus is on to them and demands to know whether Jesse slipped and let Gus know anything he wasn’t supposed to while Jesse is much more interested in what Walter is carrying. “Did you just bring a bomb into a hospital?!” he asks incredulously. Walter wants to know where Gus is going next, relying on Jesse’s knowledge of the Chicken Man. “If you can’t tell me, we’re dead,” he warns. As Jesse struggles to think of anything, a couple of Albuquerque’s finest arrive to take Jesse in for questioning due to his unique knowledge relating to Brock’s poisoning. Walter sits, helplessly, watching them take Jesse – and perhaps his own life – away. And the title card hits…
 Inspired choice, Mr. Gilligan.
“Hey… he’s a wordsmith.”
After being transported to the police station, Jesse asks the detectives whether he’s been placed under arrest, but they tell him that they just want to have a discussion about Brock. They’re especially curious about Jesse’s mention of the possibility of ricin poisoning, a fact that Jesse tries to paint as overblown by saying that he was just trying to look at all possible angles. When the detectives  (understandably) wonder why he went straight to something as exotic as ricin, Jesse tries to toss it away. “I must have seen it on House… or The Discovery Channel,” he says. He then throws out the threat of calling a lawyer, which the detectives try to steer him away from to no avail. “Saul Goodman. That’s my guy. So… do I gotta call him or do you?” he asks. Over at Saul’s office, the slimy Goodman isn’t there but his assistant HT  is shredding piles upon piles of (presumably) incriminating documents when all of a sudden someone begins loudly banging on the door, eventually breaking a window to gain entry. It turns out to be a desperate Walter, of course. He’s dead-set on getting in touch with Saul and is frustratingly dismissive of HT, which she adds to the lengthy list of gripes that she has against Walter. “You’re the reason I have to go on unemployment for God knows how long,” she throws at him, giving as good as she’s getting. When she complains about having to stick around the office until someone comes to fix the broken window, Walter tries to pay her off with $1,700 for repairs but HT has learned from her boss – for better or for worse – and instead shakes Walter down for much more. $18,300 more, to be exact. Walter becomes incredulous when he realizes what is happening (even more so when she ups it another $5K when he complains) but in his desperation agrees to go get the money. As he pulls up towards his house, he notices a strange vehicle occupying the driveway and grabs his binoculars for a closer look. Not wanting to go into the house himself, he calls a neighbor under the guise of Junior thinking he left the stove on and asks her to go in to check for him. We’re moving into a whole new ethical minefield with Walter here as he’s now showing that he’s not above putting an innocent in danger in order to protect himself . As the elderly female neighbor enters the White home, I’m expecting a gunshot any second. Instead, two men are seen moving through the backyard and out a side gate, walking down the street and confirming Walter’s suspicions. His phone rings, and the neighbor is fine as she informs him that everything is OK in the house. Walter then goes through the back and down to the crawl space to retrieve HT’s blackmail money, but as he’s grabbing the stacks of cash the intruders return causing Walter to close the door and weasel his way out the back not a moment too soon as the intruders realize that someone else is present. Meanwhile, back at the police station, Jesse is trying to get some information about Brock out of the detectives and isn’t having much luck (“So how’s he doing? Yo, you could at least say instead of being a couple of dicks about it.”) when Saul finally arrives. After tactfully (or not so tactfully) getting the detectives to leave, Saul lets Jesse know that, “All I can say is that if I ever get anal polyps, I’ll know what to name them.” He also informs him that, despite the inconvenience, Jesse is actually safer in jail than he would be on the outside since Gus just tried to have Walter taken out in his own home . In scouring for useful information, Jesse mentions Gus’s visits to Tio Salamanca at the retirement home and tells him to pass that nugget along to Walter. When Saul meets with Walter, Walter’s not sure how that helps him because he says he can’t just wait until Gus shows up at Casa Tranquillo again, but things change when Saul informs him that Gus and Tio have an adversarial relationship. Eventually showing up to pay Tio a visit, Walter tells him, “I know you despise me, and I know how badly you want to see me dead. But I’m willing to bet I know a man you hate even more. I’m offering you an opportunity for revenge.” Your move, Gus.
 Both of the detectives are realistically portrayed by guest stars Gonzalo Melendez and Jason Douglas. They could have taken their performances to a much more antagonistic place but instead they impressively kept their interactions conversational with Jesse. A much, much more effective choice.
 Not entirely sure what this character’s name is but since Saul has referred to her as HT (Honey Tits) let’s just go with it.
 Oh, hello foreshadowing.
 Saul’s oh-so-very-Saul warning? “Hey… you guys wanna go stick your wangs in a hornet’s nest, it’s a free country. But how come I always gotta get sloppy seconds?”
“Well… at least this time he didn’t shit himself. That’s progress.”
Tio Salamanca sits alone in his room, ringing the bell that’s his lone form of audible communication. A nurse soon arrives, humiliatingly asking him, “Do you need to go poopy? Did you go poopy already?” Such an emasculating (yet poetically just) fate for an asshole like Salamanca. It soon becomes clear that the nursing staff has developed a communication system with Salamanca whereby he uses his bell to indicate letters on a chart, spelling out what he’s trying to say. When the nurse determines that he’s spelled out “NEED DEA,” she doesn’t get what he’s trying to tell her but Walter’s plan begins to come into focus. Walter himself is waiting in the retirement home’s parking lot when he gets a call from Junior asking when he’s finally going to arrive at Hank’s house. Walter stresses that no one is after him and there’s nothing to worry about, but Marie then gets on the phone and completely lays into Walter about his lack of concern for himself and, by extension, his family. We’re seeing that both Walter and Skyler are preoccupied with their own shit and that Marie is pissed at both of them. Meanwhile, Gomez shows up at the Schrader house and lets Hank know that Salamanca wants to speak, but he’ll only do so if Hank is present. Hank is intrigued by this, but is just as interested in why the laundry seems to need as much electrical service as they do . Marie is against the idea of Hank speaking with Salamanca (as are Skyler and Junior) and puts her foot down on it. “It’s a ridiculous idea and there’s no way that you are going to do it.” Smash cut to Hank arriving at the DEA office . The meeting with Salamanca is as tense as you would expect, as Mark Margolis as Salamanca is very impressive in conveying the silent agitation that Tio has for his enemies. Ultimately, he’s only there to take the piss out of Hank, spelling out “SUCK MY…” and “FUC…” before Hank dismissively tells him, “Yeah… we get it.” Salamanca leaves without spilling anything while Hank notes that he had been reluctant to talk in the past so no one should have expected anything different now. This begs the question though – what’s Walter’s play here? Turns out that Tyrus has been sitting outside monitoring the goings-on and he calls Gus to let him know that they may have a problem. Ah… genius. THIS is how Walter is going to draw Gus out of his metaphorical bunker.
 Hank’s also been trolling some electricians’ message boards online. “Freakin’ Internet… you can find anything on it these days,” he says.
 Brilliant transition by Gilligan.
“What kind of man talks to the DEA? No man. No man at all.”
After stonewalling Hank and the rest of the DEA, Salamanca returns home to Casa Tranquillo with his nurse, who’s disgusted with his behavior. “You just sit there and think about how far that type of behavior’s going to take you. Not far, I tell you,” she warns. As she takes her leave, Walter emerges from the bathroom to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Tyrus pulls back into the parking lot and enters the building. It’s clear that he’s there to do some recon and, in a nice touch, he politely smiles at a female resident in the hallway on his way to Salamanca’s room so as to not invite suspicion. He enters Salamanca’s room, raising the question of whether he’s actually there to eliminate Tio permanently. Tyrus starts a sweep for bugs in the room, finding nothing. Suddenly, the resident in the next room starts saying hello to someone or something and we see that Walter is outside hiding from Tyrus alongside the building. Tyrus looks out but doesn’t spot Walter as the tension is cranked up to eleven. Back at the police station, Jesse is released from the holding cell after the tox screen on Brock comes back and there’s no trace of ricin in his system. “Surprised, aren’t you?” one of the detectives asks Jesse on his way out. After exiting the building, Jesse tries to get into contact with Andrea to check on Brock’s condition but he only gets her voicemail before being grabbed, tazed, and shoved into a van by an unknown party. The mystery doesn’t last long as Tyrus places a call to Gus to let him know that they have Jesse and that, in addition, the coast is clear at Casa Tranquillo. Although he says that he’s willing to kill Salamanca himself, Gus forcefully says, “No. I do this.” In his office, Gus begins changing his clothes in the now patented methodical Gus manner. He arrives at the retirement home, Gilligan shooting the action with a wide shot and accenting it with Latin-flavored music, like the kind you’d expect to hear in a Western standoff. Gus, completely steel-eyed, waits in the car for the go signal and shows once again just how downright scary he is. After getting the OK from Tyrus, Gus exits the car and makes his way toward the building’s entrance . He makes his way to Salamanca’s room and Tyrus positions Salamanca so that he’s facing Gus. Gus slides a chair over – the feet of the chair scraping against the tile floor as it moves – and mutters, “What kind of man talks to the DEA? No man. No man at all,” showing his disgust at the thought that Salamanca has turned rat. He sits while Tyrus prepares some sort of syringe, all the while twisting the knife even further into Salamanca. “A crippled little rata. What a reputation to leave behind.” He takes the vial from Tyrus’s hands while asking Tio, “Is this how you want to be remembered? Last chance to look at me Hector.” And look at him he does, his face contorted into a hellish look of determination and hatred while he rings his bell. This time, however, the bell doesn’t ding but instead lets out a deadened sound and Gus realizes too late what’s happening as the room explodes. The blast flows out into the hallway and no one immediately emerges. After a few seconds, Gus walks out and adjusts his tie. The camera pans to his right side and it’s revealed that HALF OF HIS FUCKING FACE IS GONE and he collapses. FUCKING WOW! And although I’m saddened to see Esposito go, what an exit . You couldn’t have asked for anything more as an actor and staying true to the Gus character – adjusting his tie even as most of his face was gone – was a beautiful last touch. We close with Walter waiting in his car in the parking lot of an airport hearing on a radio news bulletin about the explosion, the report stating that as many as three people were killed in the blast. Walter smiles and lets out a sigh of relief.
 Goddamn it… Giancarlo Esposito is straight KILLING it in this role.
 Pantheon moment in the series’ history for certain. And the makeup/CGI job on Esposito’s face looks not just a little reminiscent of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey “Two Face” Dent in The Dark Knight.
Gus was behind the abduction of Jesse as a way to get him back to the lab, where Jesse is now cooking under duress while being watched by one of Gus’s goons . The buzzer rings and, before going to check the door, the goon makes Jesse handcuff himself to one of the vats. Suddenly, Walter appears holding another one of Gus’s men at gunpoint, killing both guards. Jesse has a terrified look on his face, owing to his current status as a sitting duck and due to not knowing who’s behind the chaos. He soon realizes that it’s Walter that’s behind it all as Walter drops his gun on the floor and says, “Gus is dead. We’ve got work to do.” They proceed to systematically destroy the lab and, thus, any trace of their involvement in it . They leave through the laundry and Jesse pulls a fire alarm while Walter warns the workers to leave as the lab goes up in flames. After departing the laundry (presumably for the last time), both men return to the hospital where Walter waits by his car on the building’s roof when Jesse arrives to let him know that Brock is going to pull through. A strange sense of relief comes over Walter, much more than you would expect in this situation and HOLYSHITWALTERPOISONEDBROCK. Jesse tells him that the doctors are still saying that it wasn’t the ricin but, instead, a flower known as the lily-of-the-valley whose berries are poisonous yet enticing to youngsters was the culprit. In light of this revelation, Jesse questions whether their just-executed plan was a necessary one. “So, Gus didn’t poison him after all. Still… he had to go, right?” he asks, looking for validation . Walter’s response? “Damn right. Gus had to go.” Jesse excuses himself to retire back to Andrea and Brock but not before the two newly free men share a handshake. Left alone on the roof, Walter rubs his eyes beneath his glasses and takes out his phone to call Skyler. When she asks how he’s doing he says, “I’m doing quite well. I’m good.” She relays to him the news of Gus’s death, prompting this exchange:
“Do you know about this? Walt?”
“It’s over. We’re safe.”
“Was this you? What happened?”
Once those chilling words are spoken, Skyler looks simultaneously relieved and terrified. As “Black” from Danger Mouse’s excellent Rome album plays, Walter gets into his car and drives away, passing Gus’s car in the parking garage with a self-satisfied, smug look on his face. The camera moves back outside Walter’s house, taking its time and eventually focusing on a lily-of-the-valley plant sitting in Walter’s backyard . Oh, it’s on now. It’s ON now.
 Sample threat: “You wanna try to cook with a broken arm?”
 The shot of the chemicals they dump washing over the dead bodies of Gus’s men on the floor is a nice touch.
 And showing yet again that Jesse isn’t nearly as cavalier when it comes to murder as Walter is.
 Alan Sepinwall points out that in “End Times” when Walter is sitting in his backyard spinning his revolver on the table, its muzzle eventually ends up pointing at the plant. That’s some damn subtle and awesome foreshadowing.
Overall Thoughts: Wow. What a season. Living up to the standard set by the revelatory third season was a near impossible task but damned if Vince Gilligan and everyone involved in Breaking Bad didn’t nail it. Let’s assess where the show sits right now. We have sixteen episodes left until the series ends. Whether AMC decides to split the remaining installments up into two mini-seasons or air them as a complete block has not yet been announced, but it’s clearer than ever that the showdown between Walter and Jesse in “Bug” was merely the appetizer for what’s to come. Gus is dead, but long live Gus. This is twice now that Walter has leveraged people that Jesse cares about (watching and doing nothing as Jane died in season two and now poisoning Brock with the lily-of-the-valley plant) as a means to get what he wanted. Between those incidents and putting his neighbor in harm’s way as a recon strategy in this episode, Walter has shown that he isn’t beneath using innocents with a willful disregard for their well-being to achieve his goals. In many ways, Walter has become Gus. He’s not as methodical and calm in his dealings but he’s just as evil, if not more so. And there’s still the Mike loose end to be tied up. We haven’t seen him since Gus and Jesse returned from Mexico but he’s still lurking out there and we know he hates Walter. Could he be Jesse’s ace-in-the-hole in the coming war with Walter and, believe me — there’s gonna be a war. I don’t see any way that the series doesn’t end with Jesse getting a definitive upper hand on Walter, but time will tell and the wait for season five next summer will certainly be a long one. However, if the past two seasons of Breaking Bad have taught us anything it’s that the wait will be well, well worth it.
On Monday afternoon, NBC announced their midseason schedule and critical/cult favorite Community was not among the shows granted a spot on the slate. The news of its absence was met with no small amount of anger and fear from its rather vocal online fanbase (of which I consider myself a part of). We wondered, how can a network that’s languishing in fourth place in the ratings among the Big Four networks , a network that’s renewed shows like Chuck repeatedly in recent years  solely because they can’t do much better and a small loyal audience is still a loyal audience, cancel a show like Community which brings NBC buckets of critical goodwill and a fiercely loyal (if small) audience? But there’s the rub – has Community actually been cancelled?
Note first that NBC mentioned nothing about shutting down production on the show, which is a good sign . Sure, it’s alarming that the network still hasn’t revealed when the show will be returning to the schedule (summer, perhaps?) but similar circumstances have occurred with both Parks And Recreation and 30 Rock in recent years, and both of those shows eventually found their way back onto NBC’s air.
Secondly, while Community is one of NBC’s lowest rated shows while occupying a critical Thursday night slot (it’s averaged barely over 3.5 million viewers per week leading off NBC’s Thursday night slate), NBC has always tasked the show with taking on heavyweights on other networks, from Survivor and The Big Bang Theory on CBS, to Bones and The X-Factor on FOX, to even genre hit The Vampire Diaries on The CW. It’s done yeoman’s work for the network in no-win situations, all the while keeping its creative bar set very, very high, never dumbing itself down when doing so could potentially pad its Nielsen rating. And kudos to series creator Dan Harmon and his writing staff for not taking the easy way out in that regard.
Finally, it’s in its third season and, but the time that all of this season’s episodes have aired, Community will have produced 71 episodes which is very, very close to the “magic number” of 80 episodes needed for a studio to sell a show into syndication. While there isn’t much incentive for NBC to continue airing the show due to its low ratings, Sony Television (which produces the show) could conceivably cut NBC a very nice deal to continue granting the show a spot on its schedule in order to reach the 80-episode plateau. It’s done so in the past, so why not now? Even if Community aired in the summertime (which could be a benefit due to the lower ratings expectations that the summer months bring), it could provide NBC with some inexpensive original programming during the more lightly scheduled summer. The network has used this strategy in recent years with Friday Night Lights in a sharing arrangement with DirecTV that kept that show alive for three additional seasons. As Community and Friday Night Lights both share small but fiercely loyal fanbases, this could be a viable option for NBC.
In the end, while it’s more than a little infuriating that NBC can find room for an hour of back-to-back sitcoms featuring such, ahem, comedians  as Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler, as well as hour upon hour of worthless and empty reality programming such as The Voice, The Sing Off, The Biggest Loser, and Fear Factor yet can’t afford even a 30 minute slot for one of the most original and funny comedies on television, the fact is that Community isn’t dead yet. So, thankfully, we have yet to reach the darkest timeline. Don’t break out the felt goatees yet, but maybe keep ‘em handy just in case.
 It’s kinda cute that The CW still considers themselves a network. I mean, I watch a lot more CW programming than I care to admit but, come on. They’re barely hanging on.
 And no offense to Chuck. I still watch that, too, but there’s a reason why this is finally its last season.
 Not so lucky was Prime Suspect, another show absent from the midseason schedule. NBC announced Tuesday that production will end after the 13th episode has been completed so, for all intents and purposes, Prime Suspect is dead.
 I mean, I guess technically you could call them comedians. But, by rule, aren’t comedians supposed to be, you know… funny?
Public Service: If you’ve never watched the show, why not start now by watching one of the best episodes the show has ever produced, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” handily embedded below. You can thank me later.
Quick Reaction: FX’s American Horror Story is an utter train wreck of a show and series creator Ryan Murphy is likely laughing at you for making it a hit.
(Note: This review was based on American Horror Story’s first three episodes, “Pilot,” “Home Invasion,” and “Murder House.”)
Ryan Murphy (along with longtime writing partner Brad Falchuk) might be television’s most insufferable showrunner. His shows have demonstrated the propensity over the years to not only fall off the rails but to fall off the rails in spectacular fashion. His first effort (back in the days of The WB) was the teen soap Popular, a show that had its moments to be sure, before devolving rather quickly into nonsense. Next came Nip/Tuck, which became one of the fledgling FX network’s flagship series and was a show whose cable setting allowed Murphy to indulge in some of his baser instincts . I mean, for fuck’s sake, one prominent plotline featured a male rapist who was born without a penis. I repeat: Born. Without. A. Penis. Somehow, this bit of unpleasantness was forgiven with mainstream TV audiences once he created Glee, with Murphy somehow becoming America’s darling in the process. Largely on the cachet of his Glee success, he landed a deal with FX (again) in February 2011 and American Horror Story was born. And oh… what a crazy goddamn baby this one turned out to be.
 Namely, showing Julian McMahon’s ass. Repeatedly.
For those unfamiliar with AHS: Dylan McDermott (The Practice) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) play Ben and Vivian Harmon, Boston transplants who attempt to make a new life in Los Angeles with their moody teenage daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), in tow as a response to no small amount of turmoil within their marriage (he cheated and she miscarried). They purchase an old mansion in LA – the type that only exists in television shows – for a steal since it was the site of a grisly murder/suicide and thus, presumably, no one else wants it. After moving in, their lives begin to go to shit and unexplainable  things start happening. Ben, as a therapist, runs his practice out of his home and begins seeing a troubled teenager named Tate (Evan Peters, Invasion) who seems to have some kind of strange connection to the house. Also, Jessica Lange turns up as Constance, a neighbor who leaves big chomping teeth marks on the scenery every time she appears on screen, and Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) plays Moira, a housekeeper who seems to be yet another character with a mysterious tie to the house.
 Read: batshit crazy.
Really, I could try to explain more of the plot to you but it would be a futile pursuit. In the history of train-wrecky shows, AHS might be the most train-wreckiest. This makes it watchable to a point – mainly because it’s fun to tear shows like this apart – but it’s still a gigantic eyesore of a television series. For one, there are so many characters in this series that exist only on television shows. Example #1: Denis O’Hare’s Larry Harvey, a badly burned former resident of the home who alternately warns Ben about the house, while extorting him at the same time. He may be an apparition that only Ben can see. Who can be sure with this show? The third episode, “Murder House,” ends with Harvey bashing Ben’s mistress  in the face with a shovel, killing her. Because, why not? Lange, a talented actress in the past, is playing the overacting wannabe star who’s bitter from having to care for her daughter Addy, a young woman with Down syndrome who, in one of the show’s most cringeworthy elements, seems to exist only to be “creepy.” Apparently to Murphy, disabled people are scary. In 2011, that’s more than a little offensive. Actually, that’s a lot offensive and Murphy should know better. From a technical standpoint, the camerawork and music attempt to create a horror atmosphere and, while they do succeed at times, more often than not it comes off as showy and as AHS trying too hard. The show’s casting doesn’t fare much better.
 Who’s just shown up in LA, pregnant, and telling Ben that she’s moving there and that he’s going to need to provide for the baby. Naturally, like mistresses are wont to do.
When casting AHS, Murphy and his team must have decided that nuanced acting (Britton excepted), need not apply here. The histrionics that pockmarked both the pilot and the later seasons of Nip/Tuck are present in spades. I’ve already hit on Lange’s shortcomings but as the ostensible lead, McDermott’s character is such a douchebag that it’s tough to find any reason why the audience should feel for him. He cheated on his wife after she had a miscarriage, packed his family up and moved them across the country into a haunted house, all the while being one of the most self-involved characters currently on television. He’s the kind of asshole that you watch and root for death to befall him. After Vivien becomes pregnant in the pilot , Ben tells her, “This baby is why we moved here. It’s our salvation.” While in the hands of a better actor, a cheeseball line like that could potentially be salvaged, here it just proves that McDermott is exposed and out of his element. Farmiga, in her second role ever, does show potential as the daughter who begins to appreciate what the house has to offer but, mostly, I just feel sorry that Britton was somehow dragged into this mess. After spending the last five years working on what I consider my favorite television series of all-time, Friday Night Lights, she’s now subjected to Murphy’s histrionic fever dreams and is lowered to being unwittingly raped and impregnated by some mysterious being in a gimp outfit . The last half-decade of her career was spent creating the most realistic portrayal of a marriage that’s been seen on television, maybe ever, with Kyle Chandler and now she’s wasting away alongside McDermott. And McDermott is most certainly no Kyle Chandler. None of this even begins to answer the question central on anyone who watches this show’s minds: Why in holy hell would anyone stay in this house? I mean, other than that Murphy and FX want to stretch this out as a series. After largely avoiding the topic for the first two episodes, in “Murder House” Murphy and his writing team go the exact opposite route and throw any and every reason at the audience, telling them, “Hey… assholes! Pick one!” They can’t leave because Ben tells Vivien that all of their money is tied up in the house and The Economy  won’t allow them to! Vivien experiences pregnancy complications that mysteriously disappear once she’s back in the house! Violet has grown so attached to the house that she threatens to run away and never be seen from again if she’s forced to move! All in the space of a single episode. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the storytelling, does it?
 Don’t ask for specifics. Just… don’t.
 Those would be the specifics. Unfortunately.
 Capitalized because it’s seemingly the villain on every television show this season.
Through all of the missteps in casting, storytelling, and presentation, the voice that shines through is unmistakably that of Murphy. You can almost make up a game called Ryan Murphy Show Bingo throughout because it quickly becomes obvious that the success of Glee and the cable setting for AHS have only served to add up to Murphy at his worst. McDermott walking around bare-assed and shirtless on multiple occasions? Murphy’d! Gimp outfit hanging in the attic? Murphy’d! McDermott jerking off and crying at the same time, while spotting the grotesquely burned Harvey hanging out in his lawn for the first time?  Murphy’d! AHS is like the manifestation of every wet dream that Ryan Murphy has ever had, and FX has chosen for some inexplicable reason to present it to their audience. Lucky us. It almost feels like a put-on, like this can’t be an actual show that an actual for real network has willingly put on the air. Ultimately, AHS seems like the biggest joke that Ryan Murphy has ever pulled on his audience. He’s sitting back, saying, “Look what I can make you fools watch.” And we have, because not only did it end up as the #1 series premiere in FX’s history, but it’s already been renewed for a second season. That sound you hear is Murphy, laughing at you while he makes his way to the bank. Again.
 Yeah… I’m pretty sure I actually just typed that. And that it actually happened in this show.
God bless Connie Britton. She’s doing her best to rise above the garbage that she’s surrounded by and while she’s one of television’s best actresses, she can only do so much.
Why, in God’s name, is Alby from Big Love sewing bat’s wings on a pig in one of these three episodes?
McDermott didn’t actually build a gazebo in one day at the end of “Murder House,” right?
More than anything, AHS borrows liberally from The Shining. The house has special powers that makes its inhabitants go slowly mad. Creepy twins. Ghosts. O’Hare seems to be playing the part of the bartender from the film. Let’s hope there are no creepy naked old ladies later on but, knowing Murphy, I wouldn’t put it past him.
Lange: “My womb is cursed.” Wonderful.
Quick note about the power rankings: This is a quick glance at what I consider to be the twenty best shows that have aired in the calendar year 2011 thus far. Also? I just really like lists. I’m only one man and, while I watch an obscene amount of television, I haven’t watched everything (yet). I may burn through a month’s worth of a particular show in one week and the results can fluctuate as a result. These ratings are dynamic, thus, subpar episodes of a show on the list may cause it to drop the rankings just as an exceptional episode can boost it. I’ll post these on a semi-weekly basis (except when I don’t) and you can find last time’s rankings in parentheses.
- (3) Louie (FX) – Season 2
- (2) Breaking Bad (AMC) – Season 4
- (1) Friday Night Lights (NBC) – Season 5
- (4) Justified (FX) – Season 2
- (-) Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – Season 2
- (5) Parks And Recreation (NBC) – Season 3/Season 4 (1st Half)
- (7) The Vampire Diaries (CW) – Season 2 (2nd Half)/Season 3 (1st Half)
- (6) Game Of Thrones (HBO) – Season 1
- (8) Community (NBC) – Season 2 (2nd Half)/Season 3 (1st Half)
- (9) Archer (FX) – Season 2
- (-) Homeland (SHO) – Season 1
- (10) Treme (HBO) – Season 2
- (-) Sons Of Anarchy (FX) – Season 4
- (11) The Chicago Code (FOX) – Season 1
- (12) Cougar Town (ABC) – Season 2 (2nd Half)
- (-) It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX) – Season 7
- (18) Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) – Season 8
- (-) New Girl (FOX) – Season 1
- (13) Bob’s Burgers (FOX) – Season 1
- (19) Awkward (MTV) – Season 1
Dropped Out: Childrens Hospital, Parenthood, The Good Wife, Lights Out, ThunderCats
- After close to a three-month break, the power rankings make their (not so) triumphant return with a new show atop the list. FX’s Louie‘s second season was a revelation. Series creator/star/director/writer/caterer Louis CK operated on another level from everyone and everything else on television this year and his show is well deserving of the top spot. Never afraid to take risks, almost every single one that CK attempted this year landed and landed with gusto. The stretch of episodes that ranged from “Country Drive” through “Eddie” was a historic streak of classic episodes unlike any other that I can remember in recent television history. The wait until next summer’s new episodes is already proving painful, but if the show’s second season is any indication, it will be well worth it.
- Because of the lengthy gap between now and the last time we published the rankings, there’s been a lot of turnover as Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, Sons Of Anarchy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and New Girl all make their first appearances on our list. I expected Boardwalk Empire to end up here based on its top five finish in 2010 for its debut season, but its sophomore set is arguably better with the conflict between Nucky Thompson and Jimmy Darmody shaping up quite nicely. Sons Of Anarchy is a having a solid bounce-back season after a dud of a third year, and It’s Always Sunny is its reliable, bawdily hilarious self in its seventh (seventh!) season. Homeland and New Girl stand as the fall’s best new cable and network shows, respectively.
- Yes, I have The Vampire Diaries ahead of Game Of Thrones right now. What of it? Reason: I look forward to new episodes of TVD more than I looked forward to new Game Of Thrones installments. Simple as that.
- A show conspicuous by its absence that I expect to be here before too long? The Walking Dead. Three episodes of the show’s second season have aired as I post this, but I’ve been taking the time to catch up on the first season via Netflix Streaming before watching the new year as I’ve mentioned. Really looking forward to diving into the new episodes later this week.
- As always, your opinions matter so feel free to chime in on the comments with your thoughts on what you think may be too high or too low in the rankings.