A bit of a note on my scoring system: I score out of five because reviews are so subjective that I think dividing into tenths of a point or something like that is a generally ridiculous practice. I occasionally work on an effective ten point scale by awarding half points, but I think a five point scale forces an evaluation that’s easy to identify with; you want to know if something’s worth your time, and a five point scale communicates that information pretty effectively. This is generally what my scores mean:
1 out of 5 = Poor. Probably not worth your time no matter who you. You won’t see many of these.
2 out of 5 = For the committed fan. Not a lot to redeem it, but if you like the show you’ll find its moments.
3 out of 5 = This is where I start encouraging you to actually watch something. Think of it this was: a 3 is passing. It’s got some issues, but the good outweighs the bad. Not anything that will hook you on the show if you’re not a hooked already.
4 out of 5 = There are some notable things that hold it back, but it’s must-watch for fans and probably worth a tune in for others just looking for something fun to watch.
5 out of 5 = This is not the score of perfection, but the score of high quality. It may have its minor flaws, but there’s so much that’s so right you’re going to have a good time with it.
And with that, here are this weeks quick reviews:
Community – Premier TBD
Yup, the premier has been stalled indefinitely. While that certainly doesn’t sound like a good thing to me, there is some cause to hope this is a good thing, as Community may move off of Friday nights. IGN lays it out better than I will, and make sure you read the full article.
Go On – “Big League Chew” – 3 out of 5
This week continued our tour through the support group with Danny while Ryan battled grief eating and the group inserted themselves into Lauren’s love life. Oh, and George, who last week I feared had disappeared from the show, was back in action like he’d never been gone. The episode, much like those that have come before it, was charming and amusing and well worth your time IF you’re looking for a show to choose to invest in and/or just really like Matthew Perry. Go On is a good show that’s competently executed, but it’s not going to be for everyone and it’s not anything ground-breakingly special. I believe the potential is still there, but it hasn’t reached it yet.
The show does do a good job of covering a lot of ground in a hurry without seeming too rushed, as we visited multiple support group sessions, Ryan’s home, work, and a few other locations. It’s part of why I’m hopeful for greater heights in the future – the writers are apparently a pretty talented bunch. Hopefully they’re just looking for their stride.
One thing I am worried about is that the show might be pushing Ryan and Lauren’s relationship a bit hard. I think it’s very likely that they’ll eventually move romantically, but I hope they don’t go there until at least season three. Ryan has a lot of issues relating to his wife’s fairly recent death, and I hope he has plenty of time to work through that before we start moving into heftier issues of re-entering the dating world.
A bit of a flier before I wrap up: what’s up with the commitment to cursing? In nearly every episode (and I think it’s always been Anna, actually) someone drops a word that has to be bleeped and fuzzed out. It’s not like it’s uncommon to see stuff bleeped out on TV, but it’s not something you often see in scripted television. The reason is that it breaks the engagement of the audience. We enter into the world of the story, but as soon as we hear that beep we’re torn right out.
With that, let’s close this puppy out.
The reason I like Go On is that it’s both genuinely funny and isn’t afraid to engage some difficult and emotionally resonant issues. It’s a combination that almost any successful show must have to some degree. Some people are looking for straight comedy, and that’s fine. Six episodes in I can pretty confidently say Go On won’t be their show, despite some great comic moments. Perry’s, as well as his character Ryan’s, sarcastic brand of humor plays more to amusement mixed with emotion, which is what the show is going for. Go On is worth you’re look, but you’re more likely to enjoy it if you know what you’re signing up for.
How I Met Your Mother – “Nannies” – 4 out of 5
Warning: mild spoilers throughout this quick review. I’m discussing particulars of what happens in the episode, including the conclusion, but there shouldn’t be anything that spoils long story arcs.
Finally, some really good material for Lily and Marshall. Their search for a nanny was funny and connected well with Barney’s line for the episode. Mickey, Lily’s father, shows up again as well. The first couple episodes that introduced him (I think it was back in season five) were good, but I soured on him pretty bad last season. He was more annoying than anything and just seemed to take up space. So I groaned a little when he showed up out of nowhere again. But you know what? He actually worked really well, and it sort of summed up a long running line of Mickey being redeemed in Lily’s eyes. Quality “A” storyline for the episode.
Ted and Robin constituted the “B” line, and unfortunately this was considerably weaker. They have a bit of a showdown about whose relationship is going better before discovering some things that aren’t so good. The early bits where they are trying to top each other is perhaps a tad overdone, but funny. It’s the later part that doesn’t work for me.
Ted and Victoria shouldn’t be relegated to a “B” storyline, especially when it has to do with issues in their relationship. Victoria ran out on her wedding for Ted. They’re planning on this going very long term, if not probably to marriage, from the get-go. Any little friction is a very big deal. When Ted is annoyed because Victoria’s a bit of a slob, that’s not filler that gets thrown in for two little bits. That’s something that they’re going to have to deal with. Whether or not they can work something like that out is a big test for their relationship. And I hate – HATE! – that they give away that Ted and Victoria will break up soon. Come on, HIMYM writers, leave us with a little mystery! All of the above is true for Robin and her boyfriend as well, although to a lesser extent (i.e. it doesn’t have to be a main storyline, but if it’s serious tension is should be more than a couple throwaway moments).
Which brings us to Barney. Barney’s role was essentially filler comedy, but it was really good filler material with the added benefit that it linked with both the Marshall/Lily and the Ted/Robin storylines, unifying the episode. It wasn’t as singular as, say, last weeks, but it didn’t need to be either. Barney worked because he was old Barney, trying cheap scams to hook up with susceptible women. In fact, despite the good wrinkle that he held himself to a higher standard of pick up lines, he was almost too much old Barney. His relationships with Quinn and Nora matured him a lot, and I wanted to see a little more internal conflict come out. The tag with Mrs. Buckminster (one of the nannies Marshall and Lily interviewed) was good, though I think it would have been better had she comforted him rather than sleeping with him.
Major gripe about Ted’s storyline aside, this was a good, funny episode. Here’s hoping the strong streak continues!
Modern Family – “Schooled” and “Snip” – 5 out of 5
Oh, this show is fantastic. It’s got such an incredible mixture of laugh-out-loud comedy and genuine heart. In this first episode of the evening, Claire and Phil move Haley in at college, Cam and Mitch deal get in trouble on Lily’s first day of kindergarten, and Jay and Gloria take a parenting class. And it’s in that final story that I’ll start.
Jay and Gloria are perennially the odd couple. Their age difference gives them a unique set of issues, and though it’s been reinforced time and again that they have a fantastic, love-centered relationship it’s always fun to see them clicking. As veteran parents, they go into the class (which Manny is making them take) very sure of themselves – as a couple over and above as individuals. I’m so glad that the writers went with that angle rather than having them play whose-the-better-parent (though I wouldn’t be surprised if that came eventually), as it delivered the funniest moment of the night (if you disagree, that’s fine – there were plenty to pick from).
With Haley going off to college, you knew that this was going to be an episode that leaned heavily on sentimentality, but they’ve built the characters so well that it never felt melodramatic. Some of the jokes involved in moving Haley in were predictable, and others just not as funny to me, but the emotional payoff at the end of the episode was huge. And I want to know where I can get my very own Phil’s-osophy book! (Doubtless it will be for sale somewhere very, very soon).
Cam and Mitch’s storyline wasn’t bad, delivering some good laughs and a great moment for Lily, but it was easily the weakest of the three storylines. There’s really not more to say about it without going into lots of episode specifics other than this: What parent gives their 5-year-old a locking door?
“Snip” gave us our first taste of an evolving Modern Family. Althought the kids have been growing each season, Haley is the first one to actually leave the house. She’s still very present in the episode, however, calling in on the phone and video chat a handfull of times, including a very heartfelt conversation with Alex near the end. It worked for the episode, but I wonder how much she’ll be around moving forward. Too much video chat is going to feel very gimmicky, I’m afraid. No, I think Haley will be phased out a bit, probably showing up prominently from time to time (fall break, Christmas, etc.), but taking a back seat in favor of Luke’s development.
Luke is going to be Luke, but he’s beginning to move into his teenage years and it’s showing. When Claire shows up at school to bring him his science project he gets embarassed by her. It’s a little moment, but it shows a commitment to continuing to grow the characters.
Alex’s role in this episode was pretty noncommittal, but I think we’re likely to see more of her trying to figure out who she is, and even if that takes the background most of the time I think it’s the right emphasis.
The funny thing is that the above doesn’t really get into any of the main storylines of the episode, at least not directly. You’d think that would make the episode overfull, but it’s a testament to the keen writing that it doesn’t. All that character development is nicely tucked into the overarching story of Phil and Claire’s “Five Year Plan,” which starts with Phil getting a vasectomy. Other storylines included Gloria coping with the fact that she’s getting big as she gets pregnant, which didn’t really go further than that but provided it’s share of good humor, and Mitch trying to convince Cam to get a job now that Lily’s in school.
Look, there were some flaws with these episodes, but they were really minor. It’s my habit to be stingy with top scores, but I also want to reward shows that you should watch right now, whether you’re a longtime fan or not. That’s what a five out of five score ought to mean, and that’s why these episodes collectively get that score.
Oh, and I’m really excited for Jay and Gloria’s baby!
NCIS – “Phoenix”
After watching about half this episode I’ve decided to drop NCIS from my watch list unless I get overwhelming demands in the comments (which I think unlikely). It’s not that it’s been bad, exactly, but I’m tired already of thinking of different ways to say “stale” and “formulaic” and I’m pretty sure you’re already tired of hearing me say it. If you’re an NCIS fan still sticking with the show, you go for it. But I’ve got better stuff to do with my time.
The Office – Airs 10/18
No episode this week due to the Vice-Presidential debate.
Revolution – “The Plague Dogs” – 2 out of 5
Lighting a torch when people are looking for you. Running from dogs. It’s hard to believe how stupid that is. These people are supposed to be experienced survivalists! They aren’t going to outrun any dogs, but they do have swords and there’s a lot of them to look big, make noise, and scare the dogs away. The dogs have no reason to chase them when there’s already a large deer to feast on.
Oh, and then there’s more stupidity. When Danny manages quite a smart escape from the militia, he hangs out in sight of the the militia instead of sprinting away for as long as he possibly can and is promptly recaptured.
Needless to say, I was not particularly impressed with Revolution this week. Maggie had some great character development but (SPOILERS!) that went all for naught. The most we got out of it was some real, deep-seeded motivation for Miles to be helpful to Charlie.
Honestly, the best part of the episode was the sneak preview to next week. People got along just fine for hundreds of years without electricity. Now I realize that for a civilization that was so dependent on electricity that takes some time to get back to, but I’ve been wondering when we were going to see some mechanical stuff. Next week – trains.
Survivor – 3 out of 5
Russell annoys me. I applaud his commitment to faith, but man, does his theology need some work. But that’s all I’ll say about that because Russell will have no effect on the rest of this game.
We’ve seen Matsing so much, I’m bored of them. Luckily, we got to see the other tribes some, and there’s good stuff brewing. Jeff and Penner are an alliance to watch, although they haven’t actually had to deal with whipping votes yet. Additionally, their alliance has seemed to split their tribe in half, which I think will come back to bite them eventually. But even more interesting is the way Pete has manipulated the tensions that were already present in the Yellow tribe. Abi Maria and RC are a running soap opera/comedy. That will absolutely be worth watching moving forward. Pete’s challenge will be to navigate complex alliances going forward and making sure he has numbers once the tribes become one.
Socially, this was an interesting episode, and the challenge was a lot of fun. But again, this was only one challenge, and I want to see more. I hope they hold off on a merge for another couple episodes just to make things interesting, but I will be happy to see separate reward challenges when they inevitably come.