Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Archive for June 2012

NBC Fail

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Amidst rumors that NBC is in the process of replacing Ann Curry as co-host of the slumping Today, this was perhaps not the best use of chyron. But… it’s NBC. We probably shouldn’t expect anything less.

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Written by jeremylikestv

June 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Site News

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As you’ve probably noticed, the site has been a little devoid of content lately. My bad. It’s a combination of laziness and the fact that I’ve taken a new job that’s impacted the amount of time that I have available to write. I suck, and I apologize for the lack of new content of late. To that end, I’m going to be implementing a few changes over the next few weeks that I hope will fix some of these problems. First, TV Diary’s going to be going away for the time being. Unfortunately, episode-by-episode reviews are just too time-intensive and impractical right now. But… my hope is that freeing myself from the episodic review structure will allow me to provide you with some different features since, for the past few months, it’s been solely TV Diary and nothing else. It’s been far too long since the TV Power Rankings have made an appearance, there are a whole bunch of fall pilots to preview, and there are some other ideas I’ve been kicking around that I’d like to try out over the next few months. So… kindly bear with me as we work our way through the transition and, as always, constructive criticism is always welcomed. Thanks for reading.

Written by jeremylikestv

June 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

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TV Diary | Mad Men – “Lady Lazarus”

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TV Diary | Mad Men – Episode 5.08 – “Lady Lazarus” – Original Airdate: 5/6/12

Episode Grade: A

By the time this season of Mad Men is complete [1], I think there’s a very real chance that we view “Lady Lazarus” with the type of reverence usually reserved for episodes like “The Suitcase” and “The Wheel.” It was clearly the best installment in this fifth season of the show and deserves a place on any list of the series’ best. Also? IT ENDED WITH THE BEATLES’ “TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS” FOR CHRIST’S SAKE [2] !! “Lady Lazarus” was essentially bifurcated into a concentrated look on two characters, two men who the show has ostensibly compared for its entire run and who currently stand in stark contrast with one another: Don Draper and Pete Campbell.

  • Don – The show’s been telegraphing Megan’s exit from SCDP for a couple of episodes now, but I didn’t fully expect it to happen this quickly. It seemed, conventionally, like something a show would save in its back pocket for one of its final story arcs of the season, but since when has Mad Men ever done anything conventionally? I’d also speculated that Megan’s desire to leave the agency would drive a wedge between she and Don so you can imagine my surprise when she confronts him with her desire to ditch copywriting to give acting another shot and he’s… as supportive as one could possibly be in that situation. As Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall theorizes, perhaps Don’s making an attempt to learn from the mistakes he made with Betty this time around. With the former Mrs. Draper, he left her to essentially rot on her own in that house in Ossining, stifling her almost to death. Now, Betty’s a horrible person to begin with [3] but being essentially caged like a bird while your husband is out drinking and whoring it up in Manhattan will damage any woman. So, perhaps this time around Don’s taking a different tack with Megan by encouraging her to go for what she wants, telling her that he doesn’t want to keep her from her dreams. However, with that self-actualization comes the realization that his wife is 15 years younger than he is and that she’s part of (and comfortable in) a world that he doesn’t quite understand. Witness the final montage of the episode that’s set to the aforementioned “Tomorrow Never Knows” [4] – his reaction suggests that he doesn’t understand the Beatles one iota, adding more fuel to the “Megan’s world is passing him by” theory. There are also the beginnings of cracks in his work environment due to Megan’s exit as well. After gaining an in with Cool Whip on the basis of a chemistry-laden bit with Megan, Don’s instead forced to use Peggy as a surrogate during a pitch to Cool Whip execs and – in a moment of uncomfortable awkwardness – they blow it horribly. The pitch eventually devolves into a name-calling and blame-pointing scene where Don blames Peggy for Megan’s decision to leave, saying that she never made Megan feel welcome and Peggy retorting with, “You know what? You’re not mad at me so just shut up.” She – and the audience – can see that Don is projecting his frustrations that he’s unable to voice with his wife onto Peggy. Either way, despite the pretty face that they each attempt to put on the situation, Don and Megan are on a precipice and the only question left is when they are going to fall.
  • Pete – One of the more intriguing things that season five has examined is how Pete has now, in many ways, morphed into the Don Draper we met back in season one. He’s in a prominent position at the firm. He has a beautiful wife. He has a child. He’s got a house in the suburbs. But, just as Don displayed a restlessness through his dalliances with both Midge and Rachel Menken, Pete finds himself in the throes [5] of an affair with the wife of his train buddy Howard. As an aside, it’s kind of striking to see Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls fame playing the wife here. I’m not used to seeing Rory Gilmore in such a grown-up situation [6] so it took a little recalibration to see Bledel in the way that we were supposed to view her character, Beth. And in a shift from what’s generally portrayed on television, PETE is the one who’s pushing for the affair and a deeper – sort of – relationship, while Beth is the one trying to keep him at arm’s length. After having future advances rebuffed, Pete worms his way into an invite to Howard and Beth’s home for dinner where Beth ultimately begs off by telling Howard that she’s suffering from a migraine. I’d be surprised if this was a one-off appearance for Bledel because you generally don’t cast an actress this recognizable to only use her once, and I have a [7] hope that eventually Beth goes batty and forces a confrontation with Trudy, which would then lead to a catfight between Bledel and Alison Brie. A guy can dream. But back to the plotline, the parallels between Don circa-season one and Pete now are striking. Now the question becomes, does Pete and Trudy’s relationship disintegrate like Don and Betty’s did? Or does Pete learn from his quasi-mentor/rival’s mistakes?

“Lady Lazarus” was easily the best episode of the fifth season to date (and likely stands among the series’ best), so it will be interesting to see if Matthew Weiner and company can sustain the momentum created by this installment and carry it forward into the season’s home stretch.

[1] Only five episodes to go. I has a sad.
[2] In all seriousness, how often are the Beatles licensed/heard on any television show?
[3] Seriously… does ANYONE miss her?
[4] Thanks to Megan gifting him with Revolver, otherwise known as THE GREATEST BEATLES ALBUM EVER.
[5] Or, more accurately, WANTS to find himself in the throes.
[6] Although Rory did totally sleep with Dean when he was married on Gilmore Girls in one of the show’s better later-season plotlines.
[7] Not entirely appropriate.

Miscellany:
*One of the only blemishes on “Lady Lazarus”? Needs more Alison Brie. I literally booed the television when her name did not appear in the opening credits.
*It bears repeating: The final montage that was set to “Tomorrow Never Knows” was really excellent.
*The scene where Megan informs her team that she’s leaving the firm is nicely played by all parties, showing that Peggy has some of the strongest clout at SCDP and Ginsburg and Stan, with their odd reactions to the news, are very true to their characters.
*And really… Pete and Howard are a couple of fucking morons for cheating on wives who look like Brie and Bledel. I mean… Jesus.
*Roger mentions Mona yet again. Are we setting the stage for a reconciliation?
* Mr. Belding! Saved By The Bell’s Dennis Haskins has now guested on Mad Men. Maybe the Mayans were right about 2012.
*Whoa… Ginsburg dropped a (bleeped) F-bomb.
*Roger Sterling Line Of The Week: “I sure as hell didn’t get to do what I wanted to do. My father told me.”
*”You know what a new tie means? It means I have a new side piece in the city. Strawberry blonde with huge tits.”
*”Usually, you have to go to one of your finer men’s rooms to find a guy like Rick.”
*”Do they explode or something?”
*”Head of desserts? Please tell me he’s 200 pounds.”
*”I don’t know where she is. Do you know where Abe is?”
*”I was raised in the thirties. My dream was indoor plumbing.”
*”Sweetheart, sometimes we don’t get to choose where our talents lay.”
*”I’ve had men paying attention to me before it was appropriate, and they didn’t care what I said.”
*”You work your butt off for months for what? Heinz. Baked. Beans.”
*”Have you seen those pictures of Earth from space? Do they make you feel small and insignificant?” “No. Jennifer does that. And I’m not small, Pete. Don’t know if you ever heard that about me.” “Save it for your convention whores.”
*”Do you think the actors can remember to say, ‘Just taste it’?”

TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor”

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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – Episode 2.07 – “A Man Without Honor” – Original Airdate: 5/13/12

Episode Grade: B

As much as it pains me to say this, at essentially the three-quarter pole mark of Game Of Thrones’ second season it might be time to face the fact that this sophomore set of episodes has been a bit of a disappointment. After the zeitgeist-grabbing nature of its offseason where it essentially became the face of HBO and was front-and-center with HBO’s efforts to brand its HBO GO service as a Netflix competitor, it probably hasn’t reached my (and I’m sure some other viewers’)  expectations. Sure, it’s still better than most of what’s on television or has been on television in 2012. But unless it pulls out something mind-blowing in its final three episodes of the season, it’s gonna fall short of what I know it’s capable of. And that’s the mark of a disappointment, even if a slight one. The season has been progressing along in fits and starts, something evidenced by its last three episodes. “The Ghost Of Harrenhal,” as I’ve said, was the worst episode in the show’s run yet, but then it bounced back with “The Old Gods And The New.” That’s why it’s disheartening to see it follow up a relatively strong installment like that with “A Man Without Honor.” Let’s dive a little deeper into why this one left me a little cold:

  • Qarth. Probably my number one problem with this second set of ten episodes is whatever the hell is going on in Daenerys’ orbit this season, and this Qarth nonsense is literally the worst. I care about none of it. Zero. It’s officially become pee-break time whenever this crap comes on screen. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s so far removed from everything else this season that it’s utterly unclear what purpose it serves in the overall narrative of the show. One of Daenerys’ servants is killed. Whatever. The character wasn’t developed at all so I don’t care at all. Daenerys is broken up over leading her people to slaughter, saying, “I led my people out of the red waste and into the slaughterhouse.” Again, I don’t care about any of these people so I don’t care about their fates. She also upbraids Jorah for being “too familiar” but then enlists his help when one (of the many) Qarthian weirdoes kidnaps her dragons. Oh… and there’s some weird lady with a tiled face painting a naked guy [1] who hints at some kind of betrayal by Jorah. Seriously – whatever. I don’t care about any of this in the slightest and it’s a complete drain on the season. Any time spent on this storyline is wasted. It’s really as simple as that.
  • Theon’s gambit at the end of the episode was a little flat. I mean, we’re supposed to feel the impact of Theon’s decision to use Bran and Rickon’s deaths as a warning sign to the rest of Winterfell… only it’s blatantly obvious that it’s not them. We never saw the deaths happen and the bodies are burned beyond recognition, so TV 101 tells us that there’s absolutely no way that those sadly dead kids are the youngest Starks. It’s kind of similar when other shows [2] put one of their lead characters in danger. You know there’s no way that the show’s actually going to off them, so the tension is false. Same applies here. I mean, I dig the work that Alfie Allen is doing as Theon this year because he’s doing a great job of conveying just how over his head Theon is, as well as playing the internal conflict that Theon feels in siding with his biological family over his surrogate one. But this supposed impact of the Starks’ “deaths” just didn’t have the heft that I think the show was hoping for.
  • Talisa’s still hanging around Robb and, while I generally like what both Oona Castilla and Richard Madden are doing with their material here, move things ahead already. We know where this is going. Just get there.
  • No Tyrion on screen until 46 minutes into the episode. Unacceptable.
  • “A Man Without Honor” was also the first time that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been used since the season premiere. Almost as unacceptable.

This may seem to be a bit of unfair criticism because – as I’ll address in the Miscellany – there was still plenty to like in “A Man Without Honor.” It’s just that with a show whose potential is as limitless as GoT is, it’s frustrating to see the show coast at times, while also continuing to waste screentime on things that aren’t working. Three episodes left to right things and prove that season two isn’t going to stand as a disappointment.

[1] Really. This is some American Horror Story-level bullshit.
[2] I’m excepting GoT somewhat from this upcoming example because… “Baelor.”

Miscellany:
*As I mentioned, this is the first time we’ve seen Jaime Lannister since the first episode of the season, “The North Remembers.” And Coster-Waldau shows just how underutilized he is with almost every moment he’s on screen. He uses one of his cousins – a man who hero-worships Jaime in no small measure – as a distraction in order to escape from the Stark camp, killing both the cousin and one of Robb’s soldiers in the process. He’s almost immediately recaptured, but still gets some shots in on Catelyn after she accuses him of being “a man without honor,” while seemingly confirming to her his less-than-toward relationship with his sister, Cersei: “You know, I’ve never been with any woman but Cersei so, in my own way, I have more honor than poor old dead Ned.” Seriously, GIVE THIS MAN MORE TO DO ALREADY.
*While I’ve bashed almost anything involving Daenerys almost all season, I’ve been equally as harsh to anything involving Jon Snow and his compatriots in the Night’s Watch. That’s why it’s nice to see the forward movement in that story thread, and a lot of that has to do with the introduction of Rose Leslie as Ygritte, the wildling woman who Jon’s obviously going to be ending up with in short order. She escapes his capture while giving him crap about the fact that he’s never, er… known a woman in the biblical sense, only to lead him directly into a trap where about a dozen of her compatriots are waiting. While still tethered to Jon and prior to the ambush, she seems to be hinting that she’s hoping to turn him against his brothers in the Watch, especially after he mentions that he’s Ned’s son and that the blood of her people runs through him. “So, why are you fighting us?” she questions. The chemistry between Leslie and Kit Harrington is well-played and this potentially flipping of Jon gives the character more shading than we’ve seen at any point this season. Almost gives me hope for the Dany/Qarth thread. Nah… it really doesn’t.
*Any and all scenes between Tywin and Arya continue to be season’s highlights.
*The Hound tells Sansa that he did what he did in “The Old Gods And The New” simply because he likes killing. So… there’s that.
*Some good stuff going on in King’s Landing as well with Sansa experiencing a seminal moment in her path towards womanhood, while simultaneously fearing that this may now mean that producing an heir for the execrable Joffrey could be on the near horizon. Cersei shows the first hint that she understands what a monster her son is by advising Sansa that the way to deal with Joffrey is to just focus all of her love on her children, as Cersei implies she did during her marriage to Robert Baratheon.
*Also? Shae’s a goddamn badass.
*”Oh, well that’s alright then. You let a half-wit escape with a cripple.”
*”Did you pull a knife on me in the night?”
*”I want the wounded men to be treated well. ALL the wounded men.”
*”There are no women of the Night’s Watch.” “So the lads just do it with each other, then?”
*”You’re too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?”
*”Brave? A dog doesn’t need courage to scare off rats.”
*”The more people you love, the weaker you are.”
*”Shouldn’t I love Joffrey, Your Grace?” “You can try.”
*”It’s hard to put a leash on a dog, once you put a crown on its head.”
*”Sometimes I wonder if this is the price for what we’ve done, for our sins.”
*”I don’t need trust any longer. I don’t want it and I don’t have any room for it.”
*”Hodor.”