Community – Premier TBA

Go On – Airs 10/23

No new episode this week due to the 2nd Presidential Debate

How I Met Your Mother – “Who Wants To Be A Godparent?” – 2 out of 5

I feel like this score might even be generous. While this week’s edition of HIMYM didn’t quite reach the depths that were the worst episodes of last season, it wasn’t good by any reckoning. As I said last week, I think it was an absolutely terrible idea to tell us that Ted’s relationship with Victoria will be over within the month. Or Robin’s with what’s-his-face for that matter, but Ted’s is the bigger deal. But even though, and perhaps especially because, we know that, we should fit as much of the two of them in as possible. And what happened? We got ONE SCENE with Victoria. What’s worse, she seemed like a completely different character in that one moment! I repeat, we should be spending nearly every second with Ted and Victoria. If they were playing poker, they went all in on this relationship. The fact that we’re not seeing it is baffling to me.

Something occurred to me this last week. HIMYM has always walked chronologically through the story of how Ted comes to meet his wife (the show’s trademark flashback style beside the point), but it rarely seemed as though we were seeing every moment that happened. It was as though older Ted was recalling the incidents of particular importance as we were passing through. Summarizing, hitting highlights. Over time a broader story emerged, but it wasn’t as though he was trying to account for everything that happened in his life. That’s changed over the last season or so. We’re seeing more stuff that’s incidental, stuff that doesn’t stick out in scene and is better summarized or mentioned as background context.

Take this week, for example. The story of who would be Marvin’s guardian should Lily and Marshall die is not something that is a big, important moment. That sort of thing would be very peripheral to Ted. What matters to him is that Lily and Marshall do name someone, and while he hopes it’s him, the bigger issue is spending time with his friends. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) The end of the episode, the reconciliation, that’s what would’ve stuck out. It would be so easy to make this a “B” or “C” storyline, something in the background to explain why Marshall and Lily aren’t around so we can focus on Ted and Victoria. I repeat, TED AND VICTORIA SHOULD BE THE FOCUS! We want to see them doing stuff together. You can throw in a couple of funny moments with Marshall and Lily having trouble deciding who to name guardian (incidentally, when did Marcus get married? And why wasn’t Marshall’s oldest brother considered? We actually knew he had a family already, whereas we’d always seen Marcus as someone in arrested development). Ted can keep wondering about Marshall and Lily and get upset that he’s not seen them. Heck, it might even make the whole macro plot stronger. Ted’s more worried about seeing Marshall and Lily than Victoria, something like that. We get everything we need to for Marshall and Lily, hopefully (an more likely than in this episode) without making them seem like cardboard cutouts of characters we once knew, and we get to focus on Ted.

This whole episode just felt really cheap to me. Everything came off as a farce, from Ted’s lame sock puppet to Barney’s insistence on his lifestyle, to Lily’s incessant crying about death. Let’s not forget that she’s done stuff like this before. When she and Marshall got married they went through a number of things of the “in case my spouse dies” variety. I get that it’s a little different with a baby, but come on.

Oh, and sort of more spoilers: the ending was a total cop out.

Come on, HIMYM, we know you can do better!

Modern Family – “The Butler’s Escape” – 3 out of 5

What’s funny is that this was a weak episode for Modern Family and it was still better than a lot of shows out there. This was a “3” episode for me, but it was a strong 3.

The weaknesses came chiefly in the plot lines with Cam and Mitch and with Jay and Gloria. Neither of them were really all that funny. They were true to life, and the character progression was decent, but the laughs just weren’t there. The funniest moment in either one actually came from a small part Luke and Manny played in Cam’s plot. Again, not the worst thing ever, just not up to Modern Family standards.

More interesting (though still not up to the heights of, say, last week) were the bits with the Dunphy family. Alex clearly is getting used to being the top dog kid in the house. She comes on perhaps a little too strong, but I think it’s ultimately a good direction for her character. Luke, likewise, is fitting into a new phase of life. He and Manny are entering their teenage years, and while I think it’ll eventually be an important change for Manny as well, he’s already a little adult. Luke and Phil get the biggest heart moment of the episode, which I really enjoyed. Their relationship has always been very strong, and I think it’s important that it is challenged (as in this episode) but I think it’s ultimately strong enough to withstand those challenges. Phil loves his daughters, but his relationship with Luke is special, and that’s always a pleasure to watch.

If you’re a Modern Family fan, watching this week’s episode is a no-brainer. If you’re trying to show your friends why this show is so special, on the other hand, you’d do best to start with another episode.

The Office – “Work Bus” – 3 out of 5

Purely viewed as a comedy, this episode does not deserve this high a score. There were a few good laughs over the course of the episode, but it was much heavier on the drama. Specifically, it focused on Jim’s attempts to be really nice to Pam as a quasi-apology for not telling her about the sports marketing business venture he started with his friend. And to be frank, it’s a little weird. Jim never feels inauthentic, but he’s not fun either. And much like how Jim feels with Pam, the audience feels a little detached from the show.  And that wasn’t the only dramatic angle working this week. Nellie, Andy, and Dwight were also dealing with relatively heavy stuff.

If you view a season or a series of TV sort of like a novel, it’s going to have a few episodes like this, places where its protagonists are really down in the dumps and things are dreary for a little while. Sometimes, it’s what needs to happen. But this is a TV show, not a novel, and a comedy show to boot. We expect the show to do what’s difficult: to mix comedy and heavy drama seamlessly. This felt like an episode that needed to happen, but I’ll be happier when we get back to some more laughs.

Some minor spoilers may creep into the rest of the discussion from this point forward. You’ve been warned.

Although Andy gets the mea culpa moment at the end of the episode, I wonder if he didn’t get too mean first. Obviously Andy has been a changed character this season. He’s been more self-assure, and it’s brought back some of the early-Andy anger, cockiness, and attitude. I guess it was needed to push Nelly and Erin over the emotional precipice, but it came off a bit strong.

Oh, and Kevin’s magical calculation abilities when pie is at stake was the highlight comic moment of the episode for me. The cold open was decent, but not nearly as strong as many that have come before it, and Darryl’s ambivalence at getting left behind from the work bus was amusing but not really laugh-inducing.

I guess that’s really all I have to say without getting into too many details. This was sort of a weird episode. I liked it, but it’s certainly not what you expect when you sit down to watch The Office.

Revolution – “Soul Train” – 2 out of 5

I’ll hold on to at least the mid-season break, but I’m slowly losing faith in this show. I’ve been waiting for people to actually make use of mechanical devices that aren’t reliant on electricity, and they finally did this week with a train. But much like the rest of the series, the basic concept is pretty cool, but there’s nothing to support it. I still don’t really care about any of the characters. I don’t feel emotionally invested in what they’re doing. We keep getting these flashbacks of various characters that let us into their heads a little bit, but there’s nothing complex in the present. The flashbacks humanize the characters to some extent and explain their motivations, but in the present the characters remain singularly motivated. There aren’t things within each character that challenge them, make their decisions difficult.

Nora actually appears as the most complex character in this regard. She has an allegiance to the rebellion as well as the little group. This leads to the most interesting part of the episode in terms of conflict, although ultimately it’s just about her strongest driver putting her at odds with the group rather than her having any meaningful internal struggle.  Her conflict with Charlie, Miles, and the others never amounts to much, but for a moment it has promise.

That’s the thing about Revolution. The plot is interesting  because we’re curious what happens next. The problem is that we don’t really care one way or the other. We just want to know what. Or (to an extent) I do. I wouldn’t fault anyone else for not caring a whit. The entire thing is very linear. I don’t feel as though there are a million different plot paths that could have happened in this world but didn’t because of the strong motivations of the characters. It feels like there’s really only one thing that could ever have happened, and all the characters are just strung along by it.

There are a number of questions/gripes I have in the details of this episode, but none of it is really all that pertinent, so I’ll just leave it alone outside of this: I found it quite funny that a printer was in the middle of pressing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Survivor – 4 out of 5

A good week for Survivor, chiefly due to a pair of good challenges. I’m sad to see the demise of three tribe competition, but I admit is would have been a difficult proposition to maintain at this point. Just for kicks, though, let’s imagine a couple of scenarios:

  1. Proposition: They maintained three tribes one more week. The only way this really breaks down is if the blue tribe (i.e. Malcom and Denise) lose immunity again. But then, assuming Dana hadn’t gone out of the game for medical reasons, you get to do something really cool. You have two tribes of equal numbers plus one. You make that one person part of the next reward. Whoever wins the next reward challenge gets something in addition to that last remaining member of the third tribe.
  2. Proposition: Maintain the three tribes at least for the reward challenge. It was a good challenge as it was, but can you imagine how crazy it would have been if you’d had three people in the ring at once?

But like I said, a good week of Survivor. I was really sorry to see Dana go. She was a very interesting player that I enjoyed watching her (what little we’d seen of her and her tribe to this point). I think she would have been a fun player going forward, and I’m sorry we won’t get to see that.

Dawson being voted out was fine with me. I like Denise, and watching her analyze everything going on around her is always interesting. Granted, we never really got a chance to get to know Dawson, but other standout players remain such as Jeff and Penner.

Finally, RC is funny to watch, and just a little sad. For just a moment about six days in, it seemed as though she was in control of her own tribe. But she made the mistake of aligning herself with a crazy person in Abi Maria. Now, I think it’ll fun to watch Pete and Malcom run that tribe  (which I believe they will).