Just as a reminder, this post goes live every Monday or Tuesday and is updated as the week goes along (and as I have time to watch the shows – I do have stuff to do other than watch TV, after all)

Community – Premiers 10/19

Go On – “Do You Believe In Ghosts… Yes!” – 3 out of 5

I think it was for the first time we had a full blown scene that did not include Matthew Perry. Sure, there may have been a few moments at his office before he waltzed in. But a whole scene! Not sure we’ve had that until now.

But I suppose that’s a horizon that needed to be crossed eventually, and starting to figure it out now is probably a good idea. Perry, as I have said, carries this show, but he won’t be able to do that indefinitely. This episode, however, was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked all of Perry’s bits, but the parts where the rest of the group were on their own were just a little forced. Mostly because it was the entire support group together…except Ryan. It’s a little excusable because he’s at most the outsider of the group – there’s even a great half-self-aware joke about him being “the special one.” Oh, and by the by: I do believe the group has shrunk by one. The blind old black man, George, I think, has disappeared, and thinking back I think he last appeared a couple episodes ago.

The other big part of this episode is, of course, the ghost of Janie, Ryan’s wife, showing up, and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. At the risk of spoiling some of the episode, it seems as though she’s being set up as a returning character, and I don’t think that’s the right call. Time will tell, but I think we will have preferred Janie remaining an enigma.

All in all, it’s a very full episode. Over-full, in fact, and it doesn’t do a great job of balancing all its parts. There are three important storylines going on (sort of four, as Ryan shopping and Janie appearing are kind of separate) and that’s just too much for a half hour comedy. Still a fun episode, just not as good as the others have been so far.

How I Met Your Mother – “The Pre-Nup” – 4 out of 5

There are some issues with this episode, and I admit that in part this score might be a reflection of how much I like the series as a whole. But this was a good episode that was much tighter as a whole than anything we’ve seen from HIMYM in a while, and it’s setting up some very interesting movement in the series storyline that I hope they give enough time to play out well.

For the first time in a long time all the storylines worked together in this episode. Rather than having a single main story and a separate “B” line to give the other characters something to do, the whole group was drawn into the main conflict. Yes, they had smaller and more specific branches off of that, but it all related back. And this is really something because the episode also introduces a bit of a new dynamic. For most of the run of the series, the show’s always been about the core five people (Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney, and Robin). Usually there’d be a rotating sixth (some girl Ted was dating, more often than not), but few of those sixth characters really integrated with the core five and changed that group dynamic. But as we begin this episode, every one of the five is in a relationship, Lily and Marshall of course still being married to each other. It makes a group of four girls and four guys. It changes the dynamic. We haven’t lost sight of our core characters, but the peripheral ones are making their presence known. It makes the show significantly more Friends-ish, but HIMYM has a very different vibe from Friends, and I think the change is very healthy for the show.

Warning: for the rest of this review there will be some spoilers as I talk about a couple of episode specifics and where I hope the season is headed.

My biggest worry with the season is that the show won’t play everything out at a good pace. I have hope that they will (they did it pretty well for six seasons) but last season was a bit of a debacle in terms of pacing. And in this case, Barney and Quinn are my barometer for pacing.

As Old Ted narrates at the beginning of the episode, we’re headed into the season of breakups in the group, and Barney and Quinn are the first to fall. It actually makes sense that they don’t trust each other and that they’re both smart enough to realize that before they go through with a wedding (I really like the last shot of them sitting side by side, separated by their massive pre-nup, a document that epitomizes mistrust); however, they’ve been forced to cover a lot of ground very quickly. Which is, I suppose, how their entire relationship has played out, but it feels like they’ve been together longer. Thus, it seems like their breakup would be a bit more protracted. I thought Quinn’s blow-up last week when she found out Barney used to date Robin was a little over-dramatic, and moving them all the way to broken up in this episode is just a bit quick.

On the other hand, seeing everything fall apart could be a great through-line for the season. I just don’t want it to happen too quickly. Ted and Victoria’s relationship, in particular, I think has to be drawn out for a very long time. They think that they’ll end up with each other. That’s not something that’s going to change overnight, especially for Ted.

Anyways, all that is to say that I really enjoyed this episode, and it has me excited for where the season might go.

Modern Family – Next Episode 10/10

There’s no new episode for Modern Family this week due to the first presidential debate. The good news is that we get two episodes next week!

NCIS – “Recovery” – 2.5 out of 5

You know what’s funny? This episode was probably more formulaic than last week’s solely on the virtue that it was a standard episode rather than a season premier, but it actually felt fresher. Yeah, we’ve seen this thing before. Some bits were comically familiar, like the suspect running when Tony and Ziva try to talk to him. But the whole episode wasn’t trying to maintain such a high tension either.

Part of the reason NCIS has had such a long run is that it always has character arcs moving alongside whatever case is being investigated each week. This week, it’s Abby. And sort of Ducky. And they both sort of get somewhere, but it’s not really clear where that is. The dynamic between Ducky and Palmer is kind of interesting, but Abby’s thing with her brother just feels random.

That’s sort of how this whole episode is. It’s almost good…but then falls just a bit short. I want to give it a three, but then it really is something only a committed fan is going to find a lot in. So maybe it’s a two.

Thus, the elusive half-point score.

The Office – “Andy’s Ancestry” – 5 out of 5

I have to be honest, I never expected to give an Office episode from this season a five. Hell, I barely expected to give out some fours. But for the first time since Michael left there’s a through storyline that’s actually interesting. Sure it’s a bit contrived – but only a little bit. You can see where the conflict between Jim and Pam comes out of their characters. They are and always have been the heart of the series. They can be funny, but as the least “out there” characters around, they are the ones we connect to emotionally.

This was just a really well rounded episode. It still suffered slightly from characters being slighted because the cast is so massive (Dwight I don’t think shows up at all for the second half of the episode), but it’s not something that we really pay attention to because the episode is so cohesive. There’s a ton going on when you think about it, but somehow it all works together, from Andy to Darrel to Dwight to Erin to the new guys. Hell, even Nelly proved an interesting character, if only to draw out Pam a little.

So throw the heart, the drama, and the spot-on execution on top of the fact that this episode was legitimately funny, and The Office is making a case for its final season to be relevant, not just the final gasps of a show that’s spent the last two seasons slowly dying.

Revolution – “No Quarter” – 4 out of 5

Despite this score I’m still not sold on this show. But it is beginning to fill its world out in some interesting ways, and this episode was definitively better than the last couple.

Although this is a show with multiple characters on multiple independent storylines, the main character has shifted somewhat. For the first two episodes it was Charlie. But this episode focused much more on Miles. Through some really clever use of flashback we begin to see his past and understand his motivations, complex and conflicting though they are.

I really don’t know what to say about this show, though. I can’t decide if I really like it or not, if it’s worth my time or not. I believe in its premise, that if the electricity were to shut off suddenly the world would go to seed. On the other hand, complex governments and nations functioned for millennia prior to the general use of electricity, and there are a lot of details that don’t quite add up for me. Sure, those governments take a while, probably longer than fifteen years, to get established, and sure, they were often quite brutal. But the Roman Empire, for instance, was quite large and functioned fine. The people in the show still had bicycles and such. There would have been ways to survive despite the sudden return to agrarianism. And where did the militia in this episode get all the muzzle loading rifles? So they can find guns and cartridges that haven’t been used in 150 years, but ammunition is scarce?

I don’t know. This was a better episode, and one that actually dug into a couple of the characters (Miles, and to some extent the guy with the beard and glasses who used to work at Google), but I still can’t tell if this is going to be worth sinking my teeth into long term.

Survivor – 3 out of 5

Oh, goodness, Matsing. They lost again because two of their players were inexplicably inept. The challenge was not hard, that much was very clear. I think Malcom and Denise have a very good chance of going deep in the game if they can just hit a good situation in the merger. I think they’re unlikely to flip on one another, and the tribes are small enough that outliers are easy to find. If they can just make it to a merger they might have a very good chance.

As for the other tribes, I think Abi-Maria is certifiably nuts. It’s kind of funny to watch though. She and RC were so tight, but then RC realized she’d hitched a ride on the crazy train. There was that one interview early in the episode where you could just see her try to justify the alliance to herself. Hilarious.

It’s the red tribe that I’m still most interested in and yet know the least about. Jeff and Penner are both supremely intriguing figures, and if they can make it through without killing each other it’s going to be very interesting watching them try to maneuver with and/or against one another. But along with that, there are some people that I’m sure are interesting, we just haven’t had a chance to see them yet.

This was a good episode, but I’m still missing the separate reward challenge, so for that reason this episode gets a 3 instead of a 4.

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