Friday, December 30, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: Live Blogging "Chuck vs The Baby"...

TV Talk for Friday, December 30th 2011

Chuck (NBC, 8pm) - S5, Ep8: "Chuck vs The Baby"

- Stupid Shaw. I know that "what you missed" happens before every episode, but I didn't need to see his stupid face again. Ruined my Christmas and almost my New Year's!

- Mothers. Always leaving needy voicemails at the worst possible time, amIright?

- Man, I almost forgot how bad-ass Sarah was before Chuck. Her handler's not even back-up at this point. He's just the get-away driver, and yet she's able to take out all eleven guys. The element of surprise certainly helps, but there's a lot to be said for being so independent because you've only ever been able to rely on yourself. When you have a crutch, you'll use it, and ultimately, it will weaken you to the point where you have to use it.

- I could not be more glad that Chuck didn't go the Nikita route with the baby, but at the same time, technically it's still in Sarah's life if it's in her mother's life (I assume as much from the promos), so I worry a bit about how she's been able to just shut off her emotions for the past five years and not even be triggered by Ellie's baby or her own wedding and husband's interest in someday having a family. Sarah's come a long way, but it feels a little like cheating that we (or at least she) didn't have this backstory to draw on and seed in her performance in previous episodes.

- Ha, Chuck shops at Anthropologie. That's worse than Pottery Barn.

- I am a little worried about Chuck these days. He gets super panicky and desperate, almost pleading, any time he wants information from Sarah. It's not like she's being suddenly secretive; she's always kept things close to her chest. And desperate and pleading is not a good color on any man, let alone her husband or fellow spy. It's the kind of behavior that, if on-going, would be grounds for divorce in my household. Nut up, bud!


- No, Sarah, unfortunately the less "John" knows, the better chance he has of getting hit. But nice touch on pulling rank on him by using his first name. Way to cut off his cajones.

- Maybe it's because Tim DeKay is currently on White Collar with Bryce Larkin, aka Matt Bomer, but I don't trust his character already, handler or not. Government officials are always corrupt. He just looks like a guy who would want to sell a baby on the black market for selfish gain.

- Really, are you going to shoot a baby, Tim DeKay?

- You're not over-reacting, Chuck; you just need to react in a lower register.

- Aw, and those two guys bought her flimsy excuse? Man, Sarah really has been the brains of their team this whole time.

- So...where's the Awesomes' baby?

- This is the most awkward not-double date ever.

- I think Casey is coming a bit unhinged, but it just seems fitting. Before he knew he had a daughter, Sarah was like his daughter, so of course he's going to do whatever he can to protect her.

- What is that? It's a recording, Sarah; same as you duped him with years earlier. Duh. It's been five years; did you really think the baby wouldn't grow up?

- Wait, Sarah's mom knows what she really does for a living? Then isn't she already in danger? Regardless of dumping this kid on her or not?

- Okay, it's kind of hard to call Sarah the brains of any operation after falling for the baby doll and tape recorder fake-out. I would say it's because emotions got involved that her judgement faltered, but really...I think they just needed to go into the break with her in danger and couldn't think of anything sensical and complex.

- If I were you, Tim DeKay, I would have done my research on Sarah before taking her hostage. You already got one major thing wrong about her past, and you didn't even bother to check into her present? That's just sloppy. I feel like these villains are getting worse and worse, which makes sense because it makes it more believable that non-intersect Chuck can take them down so easily, but it makes it more implausible and ridiculous for the scope of the show.

- Okay, Ellie and Awesome need a web spin-off. Like now.

- Sorry, I love Morgan, and I know he wasn't "himself," but breaking up via text? Really a dick move and not something I would feel good about advising anyone to forgive and forget.

- I really felt like there was still going to be a "but" coming at the end of Sarah's "I want to tell you everything" to Chuck. But since the show slammed into a flashback, I guess not. I also appreciate that we're actually allowed to see what she's sharing with him, rather than just watching her tell him. Though I do hope we get to come out of the flashback to see some of Chuck's reactions. It's that kind of emotional work that layers a show like this.

- I know it's completely impossible, but I wish this baby stuff happened fifteen years ago so we could see her getting prom and soccer and whatever normal stuff now.

- How do you not know you have a bug in your hair!? I felt a fly get stuck in my ponytail while working in the desert once and freaked out. I didn't stop shaking my hair out until I was sure I had pushed it out, and then I still squished it to make sure it couldn't fly back in. And an electronic mug is thicker and heavier.

- Aw, that kid is cute. Too bad she's about to have her life uprooted.

- I was kind of hoping Cheryl Ladd would have been on the other end of holding that gun. It's been awhile since we've gotten to see her kick some ass. Though the music seemed oddly reminiscent...

- Wow, is that house made of paper? Maybe it's not a bad thing to uproot that kid.

- I am really glad that Sarah got to finish this one alone, even though she still has a team to help her. This was her fight, and if Chuck had rushed in at the last minute to save her, it would have felt a little like cheating. She has buried so much emotionally, and she has given up so much, in part because of this guy, that she really needs this closure. I'm sure having it doesn't solve all of the problems, but it's satisfying nonetheless.

- Is it just me or did anyone else feel/fear Rex was bugged, too?

- It seriously bums me out how hard this episode has been on Sarah's independence. It's not good to close yourself off if you don't have to, but being in the CIA, you kind of have to. And being independent in general is not something we should worry about but rather something we should hope our daughters grow up to be. She didn't get soccer games or prom, but she got something a whole lot more meaningful: self-confidence and self-esteem. She was a leader, never a joiner. I hope the same for her little "sister." Just maybe without all the guns and stuff.

- You really don't know him at all, Mama Walker; Sarah gave Chuck this. Not the other way around.

- I will never not laugh out-loud when I see that photo from Chuck's CIA file.

- This house keeps coming back. If they don't own it by the end of the series, I'm going to be pissed about a lack of pay-off. Especially now that they carved their names so damn big in the wall. And I want it to be filled with kids, even if they're of the canine kind for the time being. In fact, I'm going to put it out there now that I want the series to end with a flash into the future, maybe five years or so (because ten might not be super believable), to see that they're still somewhat involved in the spy life but that they have their family, too. If anyone can have it all, I believe it's these two. Also, Mr. & Mrs. Smith made it work so...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Vampire Diaries' & 'The Secret Circle' Return Episodes' Spoilers...

"PHOTO PREVIEW: The Secret Circle dives into "Darkness" + submit YOUR episode Qs"

The Secret Circle will be returning with all new episodes in just a week, but today we have a special sneak peek for you. Photos from the first episode of 2012, "Darkness," have been released, and an advance copy of the episode has been sent to LA TV Insider Examiner for review. But rather than just offer our take, we want to know what YOU, The Secret Circle fans, want to know. You know, above and beyond the official episode summary... [MORE]

"Danielle Dishes: The Vampire Diaries “The New Deal” spoilers"

If you thought the power had truly shifted in The Vampire Diaries when Stefan (Paul Wesley) kidnapped Klaus (Joseph Morgan)’s family and their coffins, then you may be underestimating the show, let alone Klaus himself. Strip a man-- or a vampire, or a hybrid, whatever-- of the ones he loves, and he spirals. What that looks like depends on the individual involved, and in the case of “The New Deal” and Klaus, it looks like sticking around Mystic Falls to torment and threaten, and yes, brood, until he gets what he wants. But he isn’t the only one spiraling when The Vampire Diaries returns. Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is hurting, too, with the final straw being Bonnie (Kat Graham)’s break-up. Because of both of those things, relationships are being tested in new and more complicated ways, creating new pairings and therefore new drama. Here is what you wanted to know about “The New Deal,” and what we can reveal prior to The Vampire Diaries’ return... [MORE]

"Danielle Dishes: The Secret Circle “Darkness” spoilers"

It’s a new year, and for The Secret Circle, that means a new turn: to the dark side. It only took half a season, but the kid sister to The Vampire Diaries is stepping up its own sinister tone as it dabbles in black magic, potential poisonings, and strangers with knowledge of dangerous spells. It’s a big return, though not as physically explosive as the previous episode, and you had lots of questions. Here’s what we want you to know going into “Darkness"... [MORE]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm Excited For In 2012...

2011 went fast. I mean really, really fast. Sometimes I wake up and feel like the summer is right around the corner because it certainly doesn't feel like I already experienced it. Yet as much as I find myself trying to look backwards-- to remember and at least recall-- I can't help but look ahead, to all of the good things to come in the new year.

Smash. Though I've already seen the pilot (closing in on five times, but by February I may have broken my previous record for pre-air screenings, which Once Upon A Time currently holds), every time I see that same old "Beautiful" promo, I get chills. This series promises to be everything I hoped glee would be, without the nuisance of having teenage protagonists. This was my favorite pilot to come out of upfronts this year, and though I was bummed to learn I'd have to wait until mid-season to get to see it, I think it will prove to be a smart move for the show. They've had the time to pour into their stories, their musical numbers, and their production value. No making it up on the spot for them! Prepare for an award-worthy story arc every week. Good things really do come to those who wait...

The Hunger Games. I've never been excited for a movie franchise; I've never done the whole tent city thing to make sure I not only have first show tickets but also prime seats. I very rarely even do the whole midnight screening thing. But this is one movie that I am more than willing to stand in line in the dark of night to see, even if simply to see if it lives up to the hype. I very rarely enjoy movies made from books I've loved, preferring, instead, the images my imagination could conjure up, but also disliking the liberties filmmakers often take in order to make the project "theirs" and work within the confines of budget and technology. So there's a lot riding on this one come March 23 2012!

The return of 30 Rock. Some of you may be surprised I didn't add Cougar Town to this list, seeing as how much of a cul-de-sac crew kick I was on in the spring, but in truth I fear it's over-hype will let me down. Between sticking its cast in cameo roles on just about every other ABC show, and its creators going on and on on Twitter about still hating their title and now also hating the waiting game, not to mention the fact that the references they infused into scripts while shooting this fall may have an air of yesterday's news by the time the episodes actually make it to my television screen, well, I think I might be disappointed by season three. I hope not, but in its absence, some of the luster has worn off as I've only been able to watch behind-the-scenes antics instead of new episodes. 30 Rock has given us none of that, so I imagine the extra time they've had to focus on the show has been to make it even better and brighter than before. I know I have certainly missed Tina Fey's commentary on what is going on in the world of entertainment, and with her pal Donald Glover's show being benched, not to mention the change in green lighting trends, I know she will give us something snarky and awesome.

The Bourne Legacy. I really, really loved the trilogy, and I'm curious to see if another chapter, with a new guy in the director's chair, and a new guy at the center, can capture the same genius both in stunts an story. Plus I like Jeremy Renner (The Unusuals 4eva!!), and I'm thrilled, even if still a little surprised, to see just how big his star has blown up.

Whatever Stephen King writes next. He has a habit (at least in the last few years) of releasing a book in the fourth quarter of the year, the perfect stocking stuffer I give to myself and a way to end the year (at least creatively) on a high. I've come to depend on it, to anticipate it, to get lost in it. His books are all about the journey, not the destination, which is a lesson that works best at that time of year, but really, is something we should remember all throughout the year.

The end of the world. Look, after countless movies and television shows dealing with apocalypses (apocalypi?), I'm curious. And I have a pretty cool aftermath plan. You know, assuming I'm one of the lone survivors, and if those movies or television shows have taught me anything, it has taught me I most likely will be. I am, after all, the star of my own story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From LA Examiner: Advance Reviews of 'Switched At Birth', 'Jane By Design', and 'Work It'...

"Switched At Birth came so far and now slows down to enjoy the ride"

Switched at Birth was one of the more pleasant surprises when it came to new dramas in 2011, so it was one who’s mid-season return we were most anticipating. But this time around, the mini hiatus taken between the first and second halves of the first season served as a distraction, a distancing from our love of the show. Week after week, we would be swept away in the angst, the turmoil, the love triangles, but coming back after all of this time, the spark has fizzled, the flame cooled. “Starry Night” dropped us back into the Kennish/Vasquez conflict immediately after we left off, but the same ole, same ole isn’t enough anymore... [MORE]

"Mid-Season Preview: ABC Family’s Jane By Design"

When the premise for ABC Family’s newest original one-hour drama, Jane By Design, was first released, we couldn’t help but draw a comparison to a modern classic film from our childhood. A teenage girl ends up with a high-powered assistant position at a fashion agency, all while dealing with a teenage crush, a snooty work rival, and the inability to tell anyone she is living two lives. But where it sounds similar on paper to Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, Jane By Design is totally different in execution. Instead Jane By Design more closely mimics the other ABC Family dramas that came before it, settling into a comfortable formula and hoping the added imagery of sleek fashion styles will intrigue anew... [MORE]

"Mid-Season Preview: ABC’s Work It"

Disclaimer: We attempted to watch the Work It pilot a few separate times before we sat down to write this review. Each time we had to shut it off well before the end of its twenty-two minutes. At most, we got about fourteen minutes in. We just couldn’t take it. Read on (and watch) at your own risk... [MORE]

Monday, December 26, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'The Lying Game' Returns with Charisma Carpenter; 'Community' Fans Plan A Flash Mob; Zac Levi & Yvonne Strahovski Talk 'Chuck'...

"The Lying Game’ returns with a new Annie, new threats, and even more trouble"

Say what you will about The Lying Game, but it makes bold decisions. At the end of the first half of the first season just a few short months ago, when Emma (Alexandra Chando) ran out on her own birthday speech expecting to run into her twin sister Sutton (Chando, as well), instead we heard a greeting most audiences might not have expected to until season two or three. The Lying Game doesn’t want you to get too comfortable, assuming you can anticipate too much to come, but it doesn’t want to blow its biggest surprises immediately, either. That’s why its mid-season premiere “O Twin, Where Art Thou?” sends “the Annie of it all” down a whole different rabbit hole, making it feel almost like a completely different show. If we weren’t already so darn invested in sweet Emma’s life and well being, we’d blow it off, feeling a bit tricked. But in truth, you know what they say about assuming, so we’ll give The Lying Game the benefit of the doubt this time... [MORE]

Community flash mob to “occupy” Universal Citywalk in L.A."

Right before the holidays a group of strangers from all walks of life with only one common thread-- they all attend Greendale Community College sessions on NBC, Thursday nights at 8pm-- gathered in New York City to strap on “evil goatees” and sing carols for the corporate bigwigs at the network. The event was peaceful enough, but the mindset behind it was one of determination: to #SaveCommunity and get the show back on-air as soon as possible. And now another flash mob will be springing up right here in Los Angeles... [MORE]

"Zachary Levi & Yvonne Strahovski preview "Chuck vs The Baby”

So you may have heard Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh) mention a little something about a baby at the end of last week’s Chuck. Is it an actual baby, a metaphorical baby, a baby that never even lived? Those are all things we’ll find out in the next new episode, “Chuck vs The Baby,” and don’t fear, whatever it turns out to be won’t be wreaking havoc with the Bartowskis, regardless of Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) keeping it a secret from her husband and spy partner all this time... [MORE]

Television's Mid-Season 2011 Report Card: Comedy Edition...

It's report card time yet again! Last you saw my vodcast with my friend Marisa Roffman from, we were grading a few of this season's dramas, and we had so much to say about those we had to cut it short before we even got to the comedies. So here we are again, in our final vodcast of 2011.

(Also, I must apologize now: I was tired while filming, and when I get tired, my accent comes out. I never wanted you all to hear it so thickly, and I'm sorry.)

Split into five separate "mini vodcasts" below are our report cards for five separate television comedies we've watched and reported on this fall. Again, we graded the shows in secret (and again, considering only the current season episodes for each show alone, not comparing them to each other or any others) and then came together to justify our grades. Check out our discussions and see if you think we were being too nice (or not!) about any of the shows:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011 from Made Possible by Pop Culture!...

"Made Possible by Pop Culture" is taking a bit of an extended break. Not really because of the holidays (so don't you start blaming Santa!) but because there isn't a whole lot on television during this time of year, and when the new year kicks in and the new episodes start up again, I will be knee-deep in TCAs. The content generated on this blog will be auto-fed from LA Examiner for a while until I can get back to my regular schedule of On Writing, Tonight's TV Talk, Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry, Vodcasting, and such. Feel free to leave your ideas for new columns in the comments below, but mostly, just have a very happy, healthy, and safe holiday of your own!

Happy Holidays 2011!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: Live-Blogging "Chuck vs The Santa Suit"...

TV Talk for Friday, December 23rd 2011

Chuck (NBC, 8pm) - S5, Ep7: "Chuck vs The Santa Suit"

- Oh Rebecca Romijn, you are just a piece of the plan! And a small, expendable one at that (thankfully).

- I love that the Buy More holiday costumes are basically Buddy the Elf.

- Poor Lester underestimates the Piranha's hacking skills, too. Nobody knows how to stop The Omen? I bet Chuck could figure it out! Post haste!

- I love that Sarah has been sucked into the Christmas spirit because of the baby. She does have a soft side! And apparently a whole Toys R Us in Castle with her. Seriously? That baby is going to care way more about the wrapping paper than the fancy dolls.

- Aww, Casey has a soft side, too. Look at how far they've come, you guys!

- Stupid Shaw. I was seriously so mad when I learned he was returning. I was hoping we were rid of him forever the last time. To know he is some kind of mastermind hurts me a little. This is so NOT a Merry Christmas for me!

- Also, Shaw, that is *exactly* the way to treat an old boyfriend. And you are *not* the Intersect. Seriously. Bah humbug.

- I'm sorry, but I don't buy that Shaw has been smart enough to mastermind this entire thing. Not on his own. He's the guy who tells his enemy his entire plan. No one that dumb can also be that smart. But I do believe he's dastardly enough to take credit for someone else's genius.

- I'm going to start answering my phone "Hello, nerd" when certain people call. Only when I say it, it's a term of endearment, and there will be no condescension in my tone. Nerd is not a four letter word!

- Hey, according to Chris Fedak, Shaw's cell was a twelve-by-twelve. That's Shaw, though; always trying to compensate and seem even cooler. You sit on a throne of lies!

- I'm not going to lie, I was seriously hoping Chuck would choose to re-upload the Intersect, even for just a few minutes in this episode, to take down Shaw. But I know that technically that would be cheating. Or if not full-on cheating, certainly regressing. And the truth is, nowadays, he doesn't need the Intersect; he has skills and smarts unlike any other without it. His team is his strongest weapon.

- Oops, sorry, General Beckman, I mean your team is the strongest.

- Oh Lester, you need to learn to aim higher. But I am glad that Jeffster gets brought in on a mission, in their own way, even if (or perhaps especially because) they remain completely ignorant of their true importance.

- I need to find a real Buy More in my area because I couldn't find one non-white department store Santa. I appreciate the Buy More embracing diversity.

- Oh Chuck, you could never ruin Christmas. Not looking like that. The line to sit on your lap would be around the corner.

- It's cold in Castle, Sarah, because Shaw's icy, icy heart is cold.

- Hey, I know that voice changer! It had a featured role in Scream 3. Who's a better villain: Brandon Routh or Scott Foley? Informal poll time!

- Stan Lee playing himself playing a spy is kind of awesome, but I can't help but wonder who some of the other "Los Angeles spies" may be. I hope includes that as their next slideshow extra from the series.

- Oh, Mo Collins, always playing sloppy drunk and doing so hilariously. I'm surprised she doesn't have mistletoe glued under her jacket. Or actually, maybe she does. Thankfully we won't have to get that far and find out, though.

- I'm not sure why Shaw thinks reminding Sarah how much he knows about her-- all of her secrets-- will be a threat if he really believes he can win here. He won't need to hold secrets over her if he frames Chuck and kills Sarah, right? But the show knows Shaw can't win, so clearly it's more of a threat for the fans. Something is coming. Something that is bigger than anything originating in Shaw's feeble little mind.

- Casey, Casey, Casey; so big, so tough, and yet one bullet just took you down. Sadly, I fear this is a foreshadowing of events to come. This gunshot may be a flesh-wound; it may only put you out of commission temporarily, but you have become much more human of late, and therefore you are vulnerable. If someone is, in fact, not going to make it out of this series alive, my money is on you, big guy.

- Woo! General Beckman, you go, girl!

This is going to sound terrible, but I'm glad that Chuck respects Yvonne Strahovski as much as they do. A number of other shows wouldn't have put their female lead in a bra under that white tank top when the story called for it to get cold in there. Sorry, but it had to be pointed out.

- Oh, Shaw, a second call? You just got cocky. And cocky people make big mistakes. "Dear?" Do they live in the fifties? That's like a code word Sarah would use when things are going wrong. Way to seal your own ice-grave, buddy. (I'm not being sarcastic; I'm actually super happy about your idiocy. In case you can't tell; I hate you.)

- Aw, Morgan, this would be so touching if there wasn't a ticking clock lighting your fire. If there was no danger in the Buy More, you'd never be making the plea of family time and such. And where is your family? You don't seem to care nearly as much about your mom as Chuck cares about his sister.

- As fun as last week's Date Night mission with Ellie and Awesome was, I feel like this is the mission Ellie should have been brought in on. Shaw is personal for her, too, and I'd like to see her get her revenge. Even if her revenge is just one slap in the face after Chuck brings him down.

- I think the delirium has set in for Sarah...

- No, Jeff, a computer can't hold that information. But a brain can! ... ?

- Oh, Chuck, I just said that. We'd make such a good team!

- But seriously, why would anyone think a brain could hold more information than a computer? That's just stupid. Everyone knows our brains dump old memories/useless information when new stuff comes up. We have limited space in there, and once again Shaw is proving why he's actually not the best mastermind or villain in this show's history, simply by believing it. I can't wait to watch his head explode. Or at least his mind melt. Hopefully this will end not with a bullet but him being hauled off to the loony bin.

- If Shaw was smart, he'd try to strap those glasses on Chuck. That's how you incapacitate your enemy; you overload them. But Shaw is greedy and wants to be the superhero (heh). There has to be a name for this kind of complex. All I can think of is penis envy.

- If I didn't know for sure that Casey is in later episodes, I would think this good-bye to his daughter would be his final scene. But Chuck is never so cruel, even if they do like to try to surprise you when they can. Bleeding out and/or freezing to death in Castle is not the way to go out for this mentor and father-figure, though.

- Oh, man, don't hurt the teddy!

- "Practically" catching a bullet in your teeth is not doing so, Shaw. But nice one on the push-ups jab.

- A virus is a virus no matter what platform it attacks. I have no doubt that computer viruses are the wave of future for terrorism. I just want you all to know that now so that when it happens, I can say "I told you so." Though I'll have no proof since this website will undoubtedly be wiped out with said virus.

- Morgan, you're adorable. I don't believe you can lift Sarah, let alone a metal chair frozen solid to the ground.

- I hope Chuck has a good insurance policy for the Buy More so he can blame all this item damage on "looters."

- Yea, Ellie's back!! I like that I got my wish, but I like that she got her revenge even more.

- Every time I hear a character remind that Papa Bartowski is dead, I keep waiting for the "No, he's not" that never comes but certainly feels like it will follow. I keep hoping that his death was faked for protection or something. It feels weird to keep hearing about it otherwise. Scott Bakula has been freed up this whole fall after Men of a Certain Age was cancelled; it would have been nice to slip him back into the show one last time. I would even settle for it to be via flashback. But unless the gang at Chuck are really, really good liars, that, sadly, didn't happen. I guess it's a story best left for fan fiction anyway, where jumping the shark doesn't matter much...

- Oh yeah, Chuck, the CIA has nothing better to do than plan a party for one small family. Look, I know you and Beckman got close recently, but that's pushing your luck, don't you think?

- No mention of Mama Bartowski? It's the damn holidays!

- It's a good thing Alex liked that bear for sentimental reasons, not to collect a vintage toy. Because that thing has been through the ringer and is no longer worth anything out of the box, torn up, and probably speckled with her dad's blood.

- Oh's a Christmas miracle if Casey is endorsing Morgan!

- Come on, Jeff, take Lester back and take over the mic and perform a medley of Jeffster's favorite holiday hits! Pretty please? As a present to ME this holiday season?

- I'm sorry, but I don't remember the significance of that bracelet. I know I should. I'm terrible. But I'm imagining that Sarah's real present is that house with the red door, and that they'll move into it at the end of the series to fill it with two-point-five kids and a dog.

- The honesty between Sarah and Chuck is super poignant with the kissing, but those secrets Shaw teased earlier? I doubt she'll be as forthcoming with him about what those are. Especially considering she has kept them, well, secret this whole time... But with only a few episodes left, there is no time for trouble in paradise, so something tells me the places my imagination is going right now are only the worst case scenarios that could (maybe) play out if there were more seasons coming.

- I do not like that Shaw is, once again, "just" behind bars. He managed to escape from there just earlier this episode; have they learned nothing!? This is why the death penalty is a necessity, you guys, UGH! Then again, with only six episodes left, at least I can breathe easy knowing I'll never have to see him again. Right, Chris Fedak, RIGHT??

- My first thought when Shaw said "baby?" Sarah could have, at one point, been pregnant with Shaw's kid. And then I promptly followed up with "Well, I'd abort his baby, too." Then I immediately thought it was just code for something else-- something that Sarah did and Shaw knows about and can use to harm her standing with her new husband, her new friends, maybe even the CIA. But seeing the "next on" promo proves neither of those things are right. Still, I don't believe that is her baby (though it is cute!). I don't believe there can be a Sarah Walker off-spring floating out there in the world and not have dire consequences too big to wrap up as quickly as this series will require. Even if Chuck is the best guy in the world and doesn't care about the baby daddy or the lie, it would drastically change the way their lives moves going forward. Nikita is already doing that anyway. I also don't believe Sarah could have had a kid years ago, even if it died back then, and still had the same reactions she has had to domestic situations we've seen play out in her present-- getting together with Chuck, his own love of family, Baby Clara being born, etc. So as of right now, I honestly can't figure out how they're going to tell this "baby" story satisfactorily. But I shouldn't stress too much about it now, right? After all, there's a whole week to go before I'll get my answers, and it is the holidays, a time for relaxation.

... Maybe I should just go re-listen to the interviews I did on the set during the finale to try to get more clues, though. Happy freakin' holidays!

** I do have to admit, though, I feel a little bad for those fans going into this episode having seen all of the NBC promos for it. When I received my screener for the episode, I had no idea what was going to happen or which special guest stars were going to pop up. And that made the viewing experience immensely enjoyable. I'm curious to find out if knowing too much took some of the impact out. Weigh in in the comments below!

2011: A Year In (Lists) Review...

'Tis the season of reruns, so I should have a lot of time on my hands, right? Wrong! 'Tis (also) the season of reminiscing, and that is exactly what I've been doing this week...taking you down the short memory lane that was 2011!

Over on my Examiner page I spent the week looking back at some of the most memorable elements of television from this past year. It was quite a task to go back through 300+ days of television shows, actors, episodes, and moments and to remember just how much happened this year. In case you missed any of my round-up pieces, here they all are, with some highlights pulled out to suck you right in!

(Click on the titles for the full feature link)

Best Returning TV of 2011 - Some of my picks for 2011 mirrored those of 2010, but some really struck out, shooting up to the front of the pack after teetering along for a few years, and a few seasons, while others launched to the top of my faves with only its second year on at all. This list was supposed to be an even match of comedy (from Community to Parks and Recreation) and drama (Friday Night Lights, of course!), but somehow the dramas edged out my usual comedy kings to take the most slots. So many, in fact, that I had to extend this past just the Top 5 to include "one for good luck."

Best New Television Series of 2011 - Thanks to mid-season being a viable source of exciting new programming, Happy Endings almost snuck in here twice. It launched in 2011, and it started it's second season in 2011, so really I could have made a case for it to be included in both "new" and "returning" favorites' lists. But I decided not to bend the rules like that just for this one show. Even though if anyone deserved it, it would be them. Surprisingly, they were the only comedy to make the cut here. Drama, when new, was what seems to hit me hardest this year!

Best Guilty Pleasure TV of 2011 - A number of other entertainment outlets may put Revenge or American Horror Story or Awkward. simply on their "best of" list and call it a day. But while I can cop to enjoying them, I haven't had any corporate Kool Aid to drink, so I always take them with a grain of salt. These are not shows that are out to reinvent television, or even a genre (and if they are, well, they shouldn't be), but they are shows that grab you and force you to have a reaction to what's going on on-screen. They're not always the best written, nor best acted, let alone most consistent, and they may be targeted at quite the niche demographic, but they are enjoyable nonetheless, and therefore, need to be noted for being entertainment in its purest.

Best Finds/Underrated Performers of 2011 - From younger stars on the rise like Emma Kenney and Nolan Gould to seasoned performers who just never get their due (like Mark Pellegrino and Max Greenfield), these ten TV actors may not be the stars of their own show, but they stand out every time I see them, and I hope to see more of them next year.

Best TV Moments of 2011 - So many of my favorite moments usually revolve on the relationships between characters, so I worked really hard to look a little more specifically towards events or happenings that had a greater effect on the show as a whole, rather than just a few of the characters. But really, I ended up choosing moments that made me react aloud when watching them unfold. I also included some of my readers' favorite moments in a separate, Twitter-created post.

Favorite Articles of 2011 - There were so many great moments for me in my career this year that I actually split this into two parts: reviews and features first, then Q&As and interviews.

Childish Gambino Confuses David Letterman...

He may not have gotten on to talk about Community (seriously, why doesn't that show get more talk show press!?), but Donald Glover still killed it as Childish Gambino on Letterman last night. Even if (and maybe especially because) Letterman is such a typical old white guy he couldn't figure out what was going on. He called him Donald, at one point, couldn't figure out how to properly display the album (which was old-fashioned actual album style, straight from his era, so I really don't know what the problem was), and then said "good job," which came off a bit more condescending, like an out-of-touch dad patronizing his "weird" kid. Letterman is the new Regis, isn't he!? Oh well, those of us in Childish Gambino's demo loved it! And we're all that matter, right? ;)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'The Challenge' Is Back (And Thankfully, So Is CT)!...

"Pack your bags; you have no idea where we're going to take you."


Just when we thought MTV must be running out of ideas for The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, they throw the best one yet at us. And honestly, I am left wondering what took them so long to get here. Because the new season is called "The Exes," and yes, that's exactly what you think it is. People sleep with each other left and right on these challenges, and now those "relationships" are coming back to bite them when they are thrown back together with someone who has proven to be explosive or volatile for them in the past. Who could forget how CT crumbled when he was no longer with Diem or the giggling mess Paula became around Dunbar? They won't all be so serious (Sarah's partnership with Vinny stems from a one-night stand, while Johnny sleeps with everyone, probably just so he ensures himself a slot in a competition like this), but regardless, it's round two for them and a handful of other couples, some of whom we feel like we've never met before at all-- either together or apart. In The Exes, they must work through their problems and work together to get to the end, and the money. We can hardly wait!

Full list of teams include: Abram and Cara Maria; Dunbar and Paula; Dustin and Heather; Johnny and Camila; Leroy and Naomi; Mark and Robin; Nate and Priscilla; Rachel and Aneesa; Ty and Emily; Tyrie and Jasmine; Vinny and Sarah; and Wes and Mandi.

Come on, that sounds pretty classic already, right?

The new season of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Exes premieres on MTV on January 25th at 10pm.

Merry [Puppy] Christmas!...

This is why everyone deserves a dog for the holidays.

Doug Clark & Carol Bundy, Still Perfect 'American Horror Story' Fodder-- Now With The Right Platform!...

Today on a conference call with reporters to discuss the future of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy shared that season two will focus on a whole new house and new cast of characters, perhaps even drawing from some more true crime than season one (which took a stab, no pun intended, at the Black Dahlia). You can read more about what to expect in season two here, but the idea of driving down the true crime road got my fire blazing anew. In high school, true crime books were really all I read recreationally-- so much so that for my senior thesis, I chose to write a suspense thriller script instead of a standard research paper. Then when I was at USC's film school, my final student film for the introductory production class I took was a trailer for what I hoped I could someday write and produce as an independent feature. It was a modern-day interpretation of the real "Sunset Strip Killers," the team killers of Douglas Clark and Carol M. Bundy. Needless to say, for many reasons, I never obtained the rights to the story, nor made the feature film come to fruition. But maybe things really do (or don't) happen for a reason, because now looking at the platform that is American Horror Story, I can't imagine a better place to tell the Clark/Bundy story. And so I offer that story up to Murphy now, another gem from the dark, twisted history of Los Angeles, perfect for his "murder tour" of the city in season two.

Look, I'm going to miss Constance, Tate, and Vivien Harmon more than the average viewer, but what's done is done, and we can't bury ourselves in the past. As much as I may want to this time around. I'll lick my wounds in private, though, if it means new types of television are being given a chance. Onward and upward is the phrase, right? So I'm looking ahead to what could make the second season-- the new anthology chapter-- of American Horror Story the best possible for me, and this is it.


Douglas Clark and Carol M. Bundy picked up women (mainly prostitutes) in Southern California, usually luring them in out of a false sense of security or safety since it wasn't a woman getting into a van with some strange guy-- another woman was there, too. Sometimes the women were blatantly hired to perform sex acts. They mostly found these women in Hollywood, so I'm going to guess that the latter was the majority of the time. They would then kill the women, and sometimes Clark would still have sex with the bodies. On occasion, he would cut the woman's head off and keep it in the freezer to perform additional sex acts with it later. When they were arrested, Bundy played the victim card at first, saying she didn't know any better and that she didn't actually help Clark commit any of the crimes but that she did know about them. As time went on, the story changed, and Clark even claimed she committed at least one of the murders-- the only one that didn't fit the usual pattern, a guy who Bundy actually knew quite well. This was Robert "Jack" Murray, who it appears Bundy killed to prove to Clark she could be just as bad as him. She was acting out, looking for attention, and she certainly got it. There never seemed to be any question, though, that regardless of motive, they each had their part in these crimes, and they each went into them more than willingly.

What was always most fascinating to me was not the actual crimes but the mindset of the woman who helped see them through. She was not "just" an abused woman with Stockholm Syndrome. At one point she even called the police to admit her boyfriend had killed a woman. But still, she stayed. Did she think she couldn't do better-- didn't deserve better-- than him? Did she fear what would happen to her if she left him? Or did she simply like the excitement, the thrill she finally felt, even if it was while committing a heinous act? I always estimated it was the latter, and when I wrote my own fictionalized film version, that was the angle I took. I found it much more interesting, and yes, much more intense. For today's audience, though, it just feels like you can't tell the tale any other way. Bundy was a nurse; she was a single mother; she was a seemingly normal woman. Until Clark came into her life. Then something switched in her; the light went on-- or was snuffed out, depending on your point of view, I guess. These two may have been the real life, code-less Dexter Morgan and Lumen Pierce.

Clark and Bundy have been profiled in a number of books, including "The Need to Kill," "Team Killers," and "The Serial Killer Letters," as well as a special on truTV, but those were always very clinical "he said/she said" scenarios that presented the facts as the public knew them to be true. And because of the team nature of the crimes, the truth probably lies somewhere in between anyway. I think Murphy's mind is made for filling in the blanks and creating an even more complex back story than the snippets we have been given. What I could gather when I was doing research to write the feature script, though, Bundy's sons don't want this story told again and again, splashing their family into the headlines. And for that, I can't blame them. But it's been years now, and perhaps the simple fact that it would be portrayed on a fictional show, not as an expose, would be enough for them. Besides, Murphy wants to keep some of his original cast, and come on? A woman as complicated as Bundy just screams for Connie Britton!

I would like to close this post with the actual trailer to my version of this story because in my version, it wasn't just about the killers but the (female) detective who was tracking them-- a woman who was just as beaten down by life and her situation and perhaps could understand Carol's point of view, if not her complete motives, because of it. The two women were supposed to run parallel to each other, with each of them ending up in very different places. I said I would like to close this post that way because I can't actually figure out how to rip the trailer from my DVD and put it on YouTube. If any of you are better with video technology than me and do know how to do such a thing, please shoot me an email using the "Contact" tab at the top of this website. It's sophomoric, but I still think it's worth seeing. Abby Miller gave a fantastic performance as twisted Carol, and to this day, the music by Alchemist is one of my favorite instrumental tracks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: Live-Blogging The 'American Horror Story' Season Finale...

TV Talk for Wednesday, December 21st 2011

American Horror Story (FX, 10pm) - S1, Ep12: "Afterbirth"

- Switched over to FX a minute early out of excitement. Caught the end of Twilight in doing so. Not cool, FX; not cool.

- The Harmons' Boston house looks like one Phil was trying to sell on Modern Family...

- Ben just said the smartest thing he has ever said: "Therapy isn't trying." Well, you're a psychiatrist, Ben, so you're pretty much admitting you're useless personally *and* professionally.

- You're a pusher, Ben, and no good comes from pushers. I hope the house eats you and then spits you out across the street so you don't get to live with Vivien and Violet forever. It's kind of a shame because I really like Dylan McDermott and was looking forward to seeing him week after week. Having him take off his lawyer clothes was welcome, too. But his character has just proven to be nothing but the worst. He's the Will Schuester of American Horror Story. I don't know why Ryan Murphy has such a hard time writing guys like this.

- I won't miss this opening credits sequence.

- Oh, another adorable TV baby. I can't take the cuteness. And I can't take the fact that we don't know if this is the devil baby or not. Let's see a flicker behind the eyes or something! If the effects team could make Jessica Lange look almost thirty years younger, they surely can add a glow to a baby's pupils.

- I know Constance has an agenda with the baby, but she's not completely wrong about the house wanting to claim the baby. I just feel like at this point it would behoove her to team up with Vivien to keep the baby from Ben, regardless of if it's in the new house or the Murder House. They need to keep
the baby-- the baby who already looks too big to be a newborn, by the way. Look at how so many modern shows have embraced babies these days. They're not the scariest things to work with anymore.

- Moira's eye is looking less wonky tonight.

- I know we won't learn what this "end game" is tonight. I don't really believe that the writers know what the "end game" is yet. But like some of my other new favorite shows of this season, I don't think the destination is what is going to matter. It's the journey, all the weird, wacky sh*t we see along the way.

- Omigod Ben, this is so not about you! Tami Taylor shouldn't have to give you a high school counseling session right now.

- Also, I can't tell if Ben is seriously not listening to Vivien's wishes right now or if the show just feels the need to repeat everything three times tonight.

- Wait, the guy who hung Ben-- have we seen him before? Maybe it was because we were only getting flashes, or because I refuse to wear my glasses in my own home, but I didn't recognize him.

- So, Christine Estabrook is going to tell these new potential owners that the dog comes with the house, right? Though, I do have to say I like the idea of this new teenager creating a second season love triangle with Violet and Tate. That's bound to unleash a whole new level of Tate's crazy and aggression.

- Okay, the economy sucks, and the Harmons had the house on the market for months with no bites. How much time are we pretending has passed between when Ben died and these new people moving in? And should we just assume the sister came and picked the baby up? And can we see their side of the story as the baby grows devil horns and skins cats or whatever as he grows up? He's the only living family member left; you better believe I'm in invested!

- Poor Tami Taylor. She didn't want to be stuck with Ben forever. He cheated on her. And her wishes were that he leave and raise the baby anyway. She should have walked down those stairs and slapped him in the face, not embraced him in a hug. That's sloppy character consistency.

- Can someone please just ask Hayden to go away? No need to slash the dead's throat. Just yell. The rule says she has to obey.

- Violet doesn't seem like the type to play the game. Forget the fact that the audience is all caught up to what's going on in the story and don't need episodes to reveal the truth about life and death, but she doesn't bullshit, so I don't expect her to concoct some lie for why she's in the house all of the time. The new kid may not think he believes in ghosts, but she can prove it. And if she does? Then what? Constance has her baby; the house does not; but he doesn't fit into that part of the story. The house has no use for him.

- Oh Vivien, technically you lost three babies in the house. One may still be with you now, but you lost her to the house first.

- Moira, we don't need your exposition; after eleven and a half episodes, we more than "get" who the good and bad ghosts are. Thanks. But I really appreciate it's Frances Conroy Moira and not dead-stripper eyes Alexandra Breckenridge Moira.

- So...wait...are we looking at two different times in the evening or is someone else in the Rubber Man suit? Someone like Ben, maybe? Ben, trying to take charge of the situation in the completely wrong way?

- Is Morris Chestnut no longer on retainer now that the Harmons are not the owners of the house? Because that would be a big shame.

- Oh wow, this new family is getting a crash course. Congrats, Vivien; when you put your mind to something, you can rally the troops fast.

- Tate must really be mentally ill. Why would he want this kid to be stuck in the house forever? Then he'll never be rid of the competition for Violet. She may have asked Tate to go away once, but she still sees him; she's not really alone if she doesn't want to be. And even if she was, she doesn't like this kid's taste in music. Tate, you can do better; you can find her a better match!

- YES, Tami Taylor! Can someone please make a GIF out of 10:46 please??

- Aw, Tate is so broken. I seriously love him the most. Though in death Vivien is finally becoming the character I always wanted her to be from the beginning. She really is liberated and confident in a way she never was when she was living in the shadow of her husband's failings.

- I hope this "Murder House" tour guide has photos of Vivien on his tour. I bet that would boost sales like crazy.

- I take it back, this "therapy doesn't work" speech is the smartest thing Ben has ever said. I like Ben way more in death, too. If the message of this story is that we can't really be free to be our smart, spirited selves until we die, well, the suicide rate may spike. But really, let's let this inspire us to live this way in our daily lives, because really, why not? Life's too short. Clearly.

- I really don't think Tate is a psychopath. I think that would be too easy. Of course, I want to see the good in him so that I can justify him staying around. Violet said her good-bye, but apparently we did learn something new tonight; we learned that when you say "Go away, good-bye" to a ghost, they only disappear from you. They are still bound to the house, to be seen by others-- dead and alive alike. Wouldn't it be too easy any other way?

- So...are we absolutely sure this second baby is dead? If it starts growing-- teething, crawling, whatever, I wouldn't be entirely surprised. I don't trust Nora's judgement about anything, especially when a baby is involved. And good freakin' luck trying to co-parent with all of these nut jobs. Once they smell the new blood, so to speak, they should descend. Shouldn't they? Or do they only want live babies? I guess the rules are fuzzy on that...

- I love twisted Christmas!! I guess not that much time passed at all since last episode and this one. Also, I kind of wish this is how the episode ended: with the happy family around the tree and the dark outsiders looking in and plotting. It wouldn't fit the tone of the rest of the season, but it would be quirky and weird the way so much else has.

- Meredith!!

- What is all this talk about Constance and youth? Is she sucking the baby's life force? That's the one thing this show is lacking. I wouldn't put it past them/her... But let's all congratulate Ms. Lange now; she just won the Golden Globe. And probably the subsequent Emmy.

- I guess the murder gene doesn't dissipate with the next generation. Holy hell. Also, I was convinced this scene with Constance and the little boy was a flashback to baby Tate when I saw the photos prior to screening. But at least there's no question about who the father of the living boy is. The real question is how far Constance will go to cover this one's crimes the way she couldn't for her elder. Maybe she could teach him a code or something. I'd be happy to have a new Dexter Morgan in my life and on my TV, and I never wanted that to be Harrison, but this little boy (Michael, right? Because that's just...ironic) is the spitting image of Harrison and the spitting killer instinct of Dexter. So let's do this.

Final thoughts: Ryan Murphy, you are one cocky bastard, and right now, I'm kind of loving it. I feel like this entire first season of American Horror Story was one giant audition for all of his actors. If he liked them, he killed them off (in the house) so he could keep them for season two. If he didn't like them, he wouldn't have done so. I think the only question mark was really McDermott and whether or not he'd make the cut, not only because in the story he and Vivien were estranged, but also because Murphy was clearly much more inspired by his strong female cast, and when McDermott was front and center in the story, they were often relegated to supporting, somewhat weaker characters. But I'm kind of glad it all worked out, even if I don't believe she's over everything already. She can get her residual anger out by slicing and dicing him every time a new family moves in, saying it's just to scare them out, but really slowly but surely starting to feel better, too.

This season finale wasn't the strongest piece of television I've ever seen, but I do think it was one of the strongest episodes of the season, and I really appreciate the fact that this is one show for which I can't anticipate every twist and turn. Sure, some things (like the identity of the Rubber Man) certainly felt "too easy" or "too obvious" at the time of the reveal, but I certainly couldn't have predicted the season would end where it did, and in fact there were a couple of points in this episode, let alone last, that could and would have served as stopping points for other shows. But this one thinks bigger than that, even if sometimes the thoughts are wild. I've had my ups and downs with the show, but I truly believe this was a solid close-out, and it only leaves me anticipating what's to come even more without angering me that we didn't get any particular key question answered. To me, that's a job well done right there. To me, not being able to exactly pinpoint where the show is going to go next also means they're doing something right.

Here's a hope for season two
: In order for this show to pick up momentum, it can't wimp out on us and introduce a brand new family and a brand new house. Though so much of the Harmons' story, as well as Constance's, felt "wrapped up" by the end of "Afterbirth," it would be a huge cop-out to just send us off on our merry way to meet some new victims. In fact, it would be quite assumptive to do so; I, personally, wouldn't want to go along for a ride with brand new characters when ones I am invested in are still floating out there. I want season two to remain at the Murder House, but I want less of a focus on any new family in the house and more focus on the Harmons adjusting to their new undead lives, as well as their still struggle to gain control of the house. Yes, that means I want to jump back in time to see what went on in those three years that Tate's off-spring was finding his true calling in life. Not only are we already invested in their characters, but we know how it's going to go with the new family: disbelief at the weird things around them, little reveals here and there that their brains rationalize, been there, and done that. Even if Vivien gets her scares in during the first night every time, it's the same stuff on a loop. We'd be as bound as the dead themselves. The same would be true if we jumped ship with Murder House and ended up at a new location with all new people-- dead and alive alike; we'd be going through the same types of scares and revelations as we did in season one, and even if those motives were different, the actions would be the same. That would be a giant step backward-- there'd be nothing unique about it and there'd be no room for growth-- and no television warrants that. Similarly, if we stay in the future, we will lose a lot of sure to be important character moments that would only be told out through the occasional flashback later. As we saw in season one, flashbacks can be a creative device to explain relationships between inhabitants of the house, but they only worked when the characters involved were the ones on the periphery. And to push Vivien and Ben and even Violet to the periphery would be a huge loss. I don't care who they might bring in; Tami Taylor is the heart of any show. Besides, the idea that we can see what goes on behind-the-scenes of the house, so to speak, is truly something new. We've gotten glimpses at the players and their seeming motives, but there are still a lot of things left unanswered.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From LA Examiner: 'Archer' Season Two Comes to DVD; HBO Renews 'Enlightened', Cancels 3; 'One Tree Hill' Event; 'Chuck' Justifies Daniel Shaw's Return

"Archer Season Two shoots up DVD shelves"

Still looking for that last minute, perfect stocking stuffer for the TV lover in your life? It seems FX may have been counting on that! They are releasing the second season of their animated spy comedy Archer on DVD on January 27th, and it makes the perfect gift for anyone who likes smart humor, an abundance of double entendres, or a chance to live vicariously in the world of expensive suits and even more expensive shoot-outs... [MORE]

"HBO renews Enlightened, cancels three"

Bah humbug, HBO! With the holiday season officially upon us, HBO has announced this morning only one spot of bright news for the TV lovers out there. They have renewed the freshman dark comedy Enlightened from the mind of Mike White-- but they have countered that gift with three big lumps of coal in canceling Hung, Bored to Death, and How to Make It In America... [MORE]

"Say good-bye to One Tree Hill with the cast in Los Angeles"

Calling all One Tree Hill fans! The show is about to enter its final season on The CW in January 2012, and to kick off the bittersweet celebration, the network is hosting a special advance screening of the season premiere... [MORE]

"Chuck’s Chris Fedak and Zachary Levi discuss Christmas and Daniel Shaw"

Daniel, Daniel, Daniel Shaw. You were the most hated villain in Chuck history. Sorry, Brandon Routh, but it’s true. It’s not really personal. Shaw just showed fans how easily a man could be corrupted, and that scared those who were rooting for Chuck himself (Zachary Levi). But also he posed a threat to the epic love that was evident from the start in Chuck and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski). So he had to go. But he never truly died, and now in the fifth and final season, we will see why: he had to come back one last time to throw a monkey wrench into the Bartowskis lives anew. Both personally and professionally... [MORE]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Television's Mid-Season 2011 Report Card: Drama Edition...

Fall finales kind of already feel like a thing of the past. Mid-season premieres are about to be upon us in just a few short (hey, it is winter!) days. So Marisa Roffman from and I wanted to check in with some of the shows to see how they've held up this season so far.

Split into five separate "mini vodcasts" below are our report cards for five separate television dramas we've watched and reported on this fall. We graded the shows in secret (considering only the current season episodes for each show alone, not comparing them to each other or any others) and then came together to justify our grades. Check out our discussions and see if you think we were being too nice (or not!) about any of the shows:




Hart of Dixie

(*recorded prior to screening the season finale)

What's your take? Leave some comments below or Tweet me!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Dexter' & 'Homeland' Season Finales...

TV Talk for Sunday, December 18th 2011 - Perhaps I should have live-blogged these. Not only were they huge episodes for the series, but they are some of the last new original programming I will get to watch until the new year. I should have taken my time and relished the moments, right? Well, that's exactly what I did, and for me, that means sitting back and watching intently rather than splitting my attention by writing as I watch.

Dexter (SHO, 9pm) - S6, Ep12: "This is the Way the World Ends" - Can one really tight episode make up for the previous, in this case, eleven sloppy, redundant, off-character ones? That seems to be the question reviewers and fans alike are left with after Dexter came to an end, at least for the time being, tonight. Tonight was by far the best episode from this series that we've seen in a long time, but that isn't really saying much lately, unfortunately. You could call it commentary on Dexter (Michael C. Hall)'s mental state or level of distractions that this time around it took him as long to come to the truth about Travis (Colin Hanks), let alone actually getting to him, as long as he did, but to me it just felt like lazy writing this whole season. An arc that should have been explained and wrapped up by episode five or six was dragged out all season. Travis, not as written but thanks to Hanks' chilling performance, was certainly one of the best super villains this show has ever seen, yet there was never any sense of urgency in Dexter about actually capturing him. Getting tossed into the lake of fire was a nice wake-up call for him in remembering what really mattered at the end of the day-- not his Dark Passenger after all but the one light in his life, baby Harrison, but again, it was too little too late. Motivations didn't match the speed of action. By the time Travis ended up on the table, I was bored. I knew it was going to happen and felt like I could have done it faster-- better-- at this point, simply being a student of Dexter. His seemingly complacency worries me. Also, the size of the cast of characters assembled weren't justified. Why bring in Billy Brown to basically bench him as a featured background extra? Why promote LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) if it means a bump to business off-screen? Why turn Quinn (Desmond Harrington) into a buffoon or relegate Masuka (C.S. Lee) back to just comic relief commentary? And why drag them back in for the season finale to scoop up screen time that really needed to be devoted to Dexter "taking care of business"? As much as I don't want the show to continuously be a cat-and-mouse between Dexter and his next victim, always ultimately having his family at risk because he shows himself before the guy is on his table, I won't lie: I was happy to see Harrison featured as promentantly as he was in this episode. That little boy has become my only light in this increasingly spotty show. But as tightly written as the action and reasoning in this episode were, the religion was wrong. There are supposed to be two witnesses. That only worked when Dexter showed up on the rooftop, a fact Travis never thought could be. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) assumes the officer was a sacrifice? Absolutely nothing about police say innocent or lamb-like. It's the little details, the little holes, that are sinking this ship faster than the Slice of Life. It's unfortunate that in an hour of amazing performances, filled with emotional nuances that proved each of these seasoned veterans pushed themselves to show us something new for their equally veteran characters, what will be remembered are those extremely distracting pitfalls. Of course, Dexter is always known for amazingly powerful endings, and this one was surely one that will be remembered, discussed, and dissected ad nauseum until the series returns next year. After all, it took the show six seasons to get to a place the first book explored. So let me put my thoughts about it out there now: I believe Dexter truly does love his sister, but as a sister, and therefore he won't be able to kill her. But I believe Deb, as much as she cares for him-- enough to not turn him in and not even try to connect him to cases of the past-- is going to learn that even if she has feelings for her brother, it's not true love after all because true love wouldn't look at him the way she did in those final few seconds.

If all we could look forward to next season was the exploration and evolution of Deb and Dexter, admittedly, I wouldn't be back for more after Sara Colleton's romantic curve ball, but the show did throw us a thin little bone in Louis (Josh Cooke). He wants to stick around Miami Metro, certainly to keep an eye on, and perhaps even taunt or get some kind of twisted revenge on, Dexter for crushing his geek-boy dreams. He's been the most interesting one to watch all season-- he's the freshest and most exciting-- and whether it's merely with a bigger arc next year or an eventual spin-off, I will tune in for him.

(SHO, 10pm) - S1, Ep12: "Marine One" - I went into this episode scared to death that Brody (Damian Lewis) wasn't going to have any breath left at the end of it. Lewis kept making jokes, even to me, that he might not be around in season two, and the episodes leading up to this finale certainly seemed to show him planning to be a good little soldier and follow through with his plan. Certainly I was hoping for him to find time and a way to manipulate the plan so he didn't have to be a casualty in it, but this is not the kind of show that does cheap tricks like that. When you're uncomfortable, the show is doing its job. I wasn't uncomfortable watching Brody's explanatory video-- a video I am sure the CIA would never let get out. I was cheering along with him. His Vice President is fictional; his Isa is fictional; his whole military experience is fictional. But his sentiment is true. There are parts of our government, conspiracy theories about 9/11 being an inside job aside, that are tearing apart this country from within. Our threats are not just those we don't know, but those of whom we have been given a false image. Honestly, I know most of the buzz has been for Claire Danes, and don't get me wrong, she is amazing; her work playing "pushing through the depression for the bigger picture" was unparalleled tonight. But for me, this show has been all about Lewis, and watching him spend what he assumed to be his final moments with his family, praying for their safety, lingering on a look, a touch, a smell, my heart completely broke. I also saw the potential that it was Lewis saying good-bye to the show, and in all honesty, that made me even sadder. Why a vest, Brody? Use a drone! You know first-hand how effective those can be! I was seriously so conflicted; I wanted Brody to do it, but I didn't want him to die. Naturally, the vest has to malfunction, but that in itself causes its own conflict. For Brody-- sure, with the what to do next aspect-- but also for me. Because I seriously can't figure out what the show will be when it comes back from this. And that is what is so brilliant.

Those a-holes in the government should have been much more attentive, or at least aware, of Brody's situation. Of course he looks like shit; he should have been having POW flashbacks in that stupid basement bunker! I loved that the show used Brody's kids (even if I was bummed it had to be the kid I liked least, if barely at all) to get him to rethink this plan but not for the obvious "they would be in the line of fire" reasoning. He was deeply, emotionally attached to Isa and that is what spurred everything, but Isa was really just a substitute, a replacement for his own that were lost to him. Now, he has his back, and he needs them more than they need him. But he still has to follow out his mission or there will be consequences-- probably for those kids, too. I cannot express how glad I am that after he had been "talked down," someone didn't jostle him on the way out of the bunker to allow it to "accidentally" detonate. That's something cheap movies do when they want to make the bad guy a martyr in the end. He was changed, but he still had hate in his heart, so though he had to die, he had to be killed, not to be the one responsible for killing. But that's an easy out. You know what is complex-- complex enough to be worthy of this show? Using Brody as an inside man. I thought that was Nazir's plan all along. I even asked Lewis as much. He wouldn't confirm, and I'm glad to see that it was Brody's idea after all. Brody is the true brains here-- the big picture guy. I hate to say it, but that's the benefit of being an American sometimes, raised among so much excess.

Brody can still deny, deny, deny and blame crazy Carrie if you have to. He can only say he's not what Carrie thinks he is so many times before his tape is shown (even if just to a few who will bury it from the masses). Because then it won't just be Carrie who thinks it. As crazy as Carrie is, there was something equally desperate in his attempt to get a truth told. There is something just so beautiful in Carrie's mind, though, and it broke my heart to see her turn her back on it. I don't care what year this is, that surgery would never be a safe or viable option, and her sister is a doctor and allowing her to go through with it? She's the real terrorist! What I loved about Carrie was how she trusted her instinct above everything, even to a fault, even when she was in her disease, some might say, and now she suddenly questioned all she knew. But even if all she knew was only her reality, that didn't make it less real. For her. And all that matters in the end is what's real for you. Suddenly the issue of no longer having clearance seemed kind of trivial. Being a rogue renegade out in a shack on her own, perhaps even presumed to be the new, real terrorist threat, is nothing when facing down not even being yourself.
Prepare for a major power shift in season two.

An interesting detail: Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) cut a hole in the silver tape across his hostage's mouth. I have never seen a kidnapper on any show (or heard of any real life one) do that. To me that indicated immediately that he, too, is much more complicated than we have been led to believe; he isn't just a heartless bastard, brainwashed into believing it's okay to kill the innocent. He could have let her suffer way more if he was. Somehow, it was comforting to know he had others' backs besides the terrorists within whom he is aligned. I had hoped it was going to turn out that he was supposed to work in tandem with Brody, even if unbeknownst to Brody at the time. I'd like to believe he could have his friend back-- he's been through a lot in that regard-- but I understand why he had to finish the job Nazir gave him years earlier. A good soldier always does. And a good show's attention to detail does as well. Homeland is so on-point it's making every other one on-air pale in comparison.