New SOP beginning this week. As some shows are just hard to talk about without getting into spoiler territory, and some shows are just way more fun to discuss when spoilers are involved, the weekly quick reviews will now frequently have two sections. The first will be a standard spoiler-free review, just as you’ve been seeing to this point. But the second section will be “Spoiler-ific Details,” where I’ll elaborate on a hodgepodge of pertinent items for those who are watching these shows and may want to engage in a conversation about them. Don’t worry, those of you who don’t want to see the spoilers by accident. I’ll be posting those parts in white, so you’ll have to highlight the area in order to see them.

It doesn’t look like you can manipulate text color in the comments, so I ask anyone posting there to clearly mark if your comment contains spoilers. Thanks.

Oh, and Survivor reviews will be unaffected by this change, as I’m already talking about episode specifics there.

30 Rock – Next Episode Airs 11/15

See you next week for my inaugural 30 Rock review. I really enjoyed catching up on this show, and I can’t wait to see what’s cooking for the remainder of its final season!

Community – Premiers 2/7/13

Go On – Next Episode Airs 11/13

No new episode due to the election.

How I Met Your Mother – “The Autumn of Break-Ups” – 1 out of 5

Aside from all the horrible dramatic missteps, you want to know what was wrong with this episode? I didn’t laugh once.

That’s right, zero funny in an entire episode. Well, I take that back – Robin made some nice wordplay about farming lesbians that in retrospect was very clever. But the rest of the episode stunk so bad that even that didn’t raise so much as a smile.

Most of the stuff pertinent to this episode will be found in the spoilers section below, but here are a couple things I can talk about here:

This episode was cut really weird. I think it may have been going on for a while, but this is the first time I really noticed it. HIMYM has always had a habit of jumping around, but typically this has to do with flashes back or forward for comic effect. This episode instead cut frequently between two scenes in progress rather than letting each scene play out. Really bad move. I can’t figure out if this was just a bad editing decision, or if they were forced to do it because the scenes just don’t have the legs to carry through on their own (in which case writing, and to a lesser extent acting and directing, are to blame). In either case, the jump cuts rob the scenes of tension, kill any emotion they’ve built up, and rob them of any feelings of significance.

Next, among the various not-funny things, Marshall’s quest to channel his inner woman was easily the worst. I mean what the hell? This has nothing to do with Marshall’s character and is just plain stupid. I hated it. Some of those moments in the past where Lily and Marshall have come at an issue from different angles but quickly arrive at exactly the same solution show what a great couple they are. They can be their own characters and still agree and do goofy high five stuff. Marshall doesn’t need to be Lily’s lesbian lover.

Finally, Robin and Nick are not interesting at all. This is the first time we’ve seen Nick featured prominently, but they have zero chemistry as a couple. It’s bizarre.

SPOILERIFIC DETAILS

Oh, goodness. This is the episode I’ve been dreading. I’m on record as saying that telling us in advance that Ted and Victoria were going to break up soon was a terrible idea, and all the more so when WE HAVEN’T SEEN THEM INTERACT AT ALL!!!!! IT’S BLOODY INFURIATING!!!!!

As you can maybe tell, I’m frustrated nearly to screaming about how this whole mess has been so severely mishandled. 

For most of this show we’ve had a pretty good idea of what’s going on in Ted’s head. That’s what the older Ted narrator is there for, and it’s essential to the success of the show. But lately, we have no clue. How DOES Ted feel about his relationship with Victoria? What are its successes? What are its tricky points? We want to see them interact and hear Ted talk about it, not just be fed wooden lines that try to catch us up in an instant on things that have been brewing for months. Asinine!

So when Ted does propose, it’s out of nowhere. Hell, so are Victoria’s not so subtle (nor funny) hints that she wants to get married. Does she? I guess so. WE HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T SEEN HER AND TED DO HARDLY ANYTHING TOGETHER!

And the proposal, of course, leads to bridging a river I was pretty sure we’d crossed already: Victoria’s fixation on Ted’s relationship with Robin. Ok, so she was right last season that Ted had unresolved issues with Robin (although we never really saw older Ted’s assertion that him, Robin, and Barney hanging out every night was a problem). But surely we’ve passed that? Victoria and Robin have been friendly since Ted and Victoria got back together. And surely Ted’s talked to her about his issues with Robin from the end of last season. I can’t imagine that this is an issue they’re coming at so fresh. 

I will say the one good thing about Ted and Victoria being over is that there’s some mystery again. Where does Ted go from here? Unfortunately we’re probably going to have to wait at least a week to find out – it’s almost a done deal that Robin and Nick are breaking up on Monday, and I’m sure Barney will be in the midst of it all. So that’ll monopolize the next episode.

I just hope it doesn’t take up too much of what is STILL TED’S STORY!!!

Modern Family – “Arrested” – 5 out of 5

This episode got going with a bang and never let up. I was quite literally laughing out loud almost the entire way through.

The premise of the episode is that Haley gets arrested at college. The call comes in the middle of the night and sets everyone out in different directions. Obviously this is a very serious deal, but in the context of the show it’s pretty funny because it’s almost expected. Haley isn’t a good kid, and she was bound to get into trouble at some point. So while there’s a meaningful dramatic backbone to the episode, it’s the humor that takes the cake.

Literally every character is funny. Mitchell, Clair, Luke, Phil, Jay, Gloria, Cam (although his running joke was the least naturally occurring of all those int he episode. Still funny, though). Alex was amusing with a nice little Patch Adams homage. Lily had a joke. Even Didi, Jay’s ex-wife and the mother of Claire and Mitchell, made an appearance and got in on the humor action.

This was a tremendously hilarious episode with a solid dramatic skeleton, and a prime example of Modern Family at its finest.

SPOILER-IFIC DETAILS:

A friend of mine said he’d expected Haley to be kicked out of college, but honestly I didn’t expect it. And to me, having Haley move back in feels like backwards progress. It’s not that she shouldn’t move back in; she’s in a phase of her life where that’s expected. And maybe she lounges around for three episodes, but I want to see what she does next. Also – I wonder if this means renewing plans to move in with Dylan?

The Office – “The Boat” – 3 out of 5

This episode suffered the indignity of being at once hilarious and irrelevant. Well, perhaps irrelevant is to strong a word; there were concrete advances to season long plots. The trouble was I just didn’t care.

Andy, along with Erin, continues to be the focus of The Office nowadays, and while he has his moments he’s never as much fun as Jim was. Part of it is that he’s just too random; anything goes with Andy. We’re losing all sense of his character because he’s too much everywhere at once. It’s kind of infuriating, actually.

So the dramatic side of the episode wasn’t strong. But the comic side? Very entertaining.

As we learned last week, Oscar is having an affair with Senator Lipton, Angela’s husband. And in typical Oscar fashion he pulls the camera crew aside to deal with it quietly. The only problem is that Kevin overhears. Kevin. The one who couldn’t stop giggling when he found out Oscar was gay. So despite Kevin promising he’ll try not to spill the beans, we’re treated to awkward interruptions and unintended innuendos all episode.

Add to that a really fantastic prank. I’m not sure it quite ranks with the best ever, but excepting when the entire office convinced Michael it was five o’clock when it was really early afternoon, I think this is the prank that’s involved the most people. Dwight volunteers to be interviewed on a local radio show, but is out of the room when the call comes that the interview is cancelled. So Jim, Pam, Nelly, Darryl, and Phyllis stage a fake call and put Dwight through all kinds of shenanigans. Good stuff.

SPOILER-IFIC DETAILS:

I guess I’ll talk about Erin and Andy a little, even though (as I said) I don’t really care that much. I liked the in-charge Andy reacting to his family’s financial mess, but at the same time (as I also said above) I’m not sure it’s good for his character. At the end, the Andy that sets sail without bringing Erin feels like an earlier version of him – not the committed lover who risked his job to drive to Florida to get her just a season ago. I’m pretty sure Andy and Erin are headed for a breakup while he’s gone – but again, I don’t care. And I don’t care that the new kid is swooping in on her either.

What wouldn’t surprise me is to see Andy leave the show before the end of the series. I’m not sure if there will be a mass exodus from Dunder Mifflin, but I do expect that several characters will leave. Jim and Pam will certainly make plans to go, and I think there’s a good chance that an hour-long series finale jumps forward a year to show where everyone has ended up (much like the ending of the British version of the show). And while I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Andy just yet, with a cast so large you figure they have to stagger conclusions a little bit just to give at least a modicum of closure to all the characters. We’ll see.

Revolution – “The Children’s Crusade” – 3 out of 5

Let’s start with what I really didn’t like: the premise of the episode. For one, it seems like the characters keep taking these strange detours in their quest to find and save Danny. Charlie rationalizes it a bit in this episode, but it feels as though the writers are just saying, “Oh, what about this? That’d be cool!” and running with it. The show has a strong premise to begin with. It’s enough to carry the characters without trying to introduce a new premise every episode. I get that some of this is just world exploration, but it feels kind of overkill at the moment.

Which brings us to this week’s particular premise. Basically, Charlie and co. stumble onto the Lost Boys. And that didn’t work for me at all. The idea that a bunch of arrow-slinging kids are surviving together is kind of fun, but it’s that very element of whimsy that makes this not work. Revolution has tried to be (and mostly succeeded) a gritty show. A main character died from a simple stab wound because it happened to hit a major artery, for goodness sake. Just last week Nora’s cut got infected. The idea that small children, even led by teens, could survive in the wild when many adults are struggling to get by seems a little ridiculous to me. The premise of the episode is too fantastical for such a hard-nosed show.

Some good does come of it, however. Aaron delivers the funniest line of the series so far in describing the kids, quipping, “Awesome. It’s like a pack of hairless Ewoks.” And really, if you can get over that initial hurdle, this episode is pretty good. Some very important pieces of the back story are revealed, and the episode sets up a couple new storylines/points of conflict, at least one of which I expect to be the focus of the next episode or two.

In terms of characterization, I’m sorry to see Nora take a back seat again, but watching Aaron is fun and both Miles and Charlie are beginning to show glimmers of complexity. On the other hand, Captain Neville seems to be making negative progress. We got this really humanizing look at his background a few weeks ago, but since then he’s seemed to take a sort of perverse pleasure in cruelty.

You know what I’m wondering, though? Where is Charlie’s group getting food? I don’t think I’ve seen them hunt the entire run of the show so far.

SPOILER-IFIC DETAILS:

Ok, so the important plot/conflict bits moving forward – the big one is obviously Miles discovering the pendant Aaron has. I know Miles has thrived in this new world order, but it seems a little odd to me that his immediate first reaction would be to destroy the pendant. It seems he was unaware that it would ever be possible to turn the lights back on. Such a revelation would surely cause him to stop and think for a minute about the ramifications of such a device. He may still come to the conclusion that, much like the One Ring, it must be destroyed (But how? *best Elrond impression* “You must go to the fires of Mount…Helena…and cast it into the abyss!” But I digress…), but at least it’s a measured conclusion worthy of this weighty news.

Nevertheless, seeing Aaron and Miles fight with one another will likely be interesting in the episodes to come, especially with Charlie mediating. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Nora spring into the middle of the action, lobbying that the pendant ought to be brought to the rebels. 

Charlie’s branding is the other element that I’m sure will crop up again, though I think the show will slow play that hand, and I hope they do. To the neutral observer, she looks militia now. I can very easily see Nora leading them into a rebel stronghold and them all getting into trouble on account of Charlie’s brand. 

Survivor – 4 out of 5

This was a winning episode of Survivor. The challenges were fun, and I liked seeing Penner win his first ever individual immunity, but let’s be serious: this episode was all about the tribal council.

Penner winning immunity was actually a really big deal. He was going to be the next to go, but the inability to vote him out threw the whole combined tribe into chaos. At various times in the lead up to tribal council, I’m pretty sure there were numbers who agreed to vote for Skupin, Jeff, Pete, and Malcom. Malcom’s ability to convince Pete he didn’t have a hidden immunity idol when Lisa started telling people he did was remarkable, but I wonder if he made enemies by revealing the idol at tribal council. Or by not playing it when he said he was going to.

Man, was this a crazy tribal. With no one seeming to know who was voting for whom, this was a tribal like none other. The members talked openly about who they were going to vote out, both immunity idols were revealed (though neither played), and it came down to the last vote.

Good Survivor strategy is predicated on numbers alliances, but votes are so much more fun when the tribe members cast their vote mostly blind. If you’ve ever been a Survivor fan, even if you haven’t been watching this season, this may be an episode you want to check out just for the fun of it. 

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