Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'The Biggest Loser', 'Switched At Birth', & 'Parenthood'...

TV Talk for Tuesday, January 3rd 2012

The Biggest Loser (NBC, 8pm) - S13, Ep1 - A brand new cycle already, and honestly? Though I don't think there is anything that can truly be a twist on the format, I don't think this is one reality show that needs to revamp cycle after cycle, just for ratings. What makes it so powerful is how emotional everyone gets-- from the contestants to the audience. And I'm sorry, but there is one kid on this season that seriously looks like he's still in high school, and that just breaks my heart. I absolutely loved that they created a team of strangers again; it's always remarkable to see what people can accomplish in such a short amount of time, but I hate that they brought so many people there, only to deny one team entrance at the door. That just seems unnecessarily cruel, regardless of whether or not they'll have another chance to win a spot. They don't know how to do it on their own; that's why they came here in the first place. So sending them back out in the world, now with a little extra anger and sadness, and maybe even resentment, is going to send them right into a binge of their bad habits. I'd be elbow-deep in mac and cheese before I even got on the plane to go home! Just out of spite to the show that ripped the rug right out from under me. Seriously, messing with emotions messes with weight, too. The same could probably be said for the fact that those who did walk in did so as partners, but there was no real intention of this season being a true Couples edition, and so they were split apart almost immediately. They may not have a partner to use as a crutch, but each person still had a support system in the house, and one person he or she knew would never vote against them, so they have it better than many other seasons! In truth, though, it's kind of too early to get attached to anyone in particular on this show, and I know that who got sent home tonight won't even be a blip on my radar by the end of the season. It's sad to say that, but it's true. It would have been much more eventful had he begged everyone to send him home, they didn't listen, and then he had to deal with his trainer's wrath over his plea. Sure, this far into the series, the players are savvy enough to do what they can to stand out from the start-- I'll never forget the lady who said she had thirteen kids, for example, or the guy who looked like Santa Claus (maybe we should leave carrots out for more than just the reindeer next year, huh?), or the kid who looked barely legal. But really, when it all boils down, it's always the same ole, same ole: people who desperately need to get healthy baring their journey in front of millions of people. People who don't seem to have ever watched the show before because they're always so surprised with how intense the trainers are and how much work they actually have to put in. It's sickening and inspiring all at the same time, and I feel badly when we have to watch them fall and cry through their initial workouts. I felt even worse tonight watching that one guy on the gray team who didn't even know how to run properly. I even took to watching this one on mute to ignore the grunting and panting and puking and instead focus on pretty, pretty Bob and Dolvett. Dolvett has really come out of his shell since season one. I mean, he was outgoing and energetic then, but it was still his freshman year, and I feel like he was holding back a little bit to get the audience to fall in love with him. Tonight he really unleashed the animal. He really is the new Jillian. Finally! I've been waiting for that! I'm so glad both trainers are back-- especially with the little friendly rivalry that it seemed to take Bob and Jillian a handful of seasons to cultivate-- and though the contestants' stories are always interesting, even if just variations on previous contestants' stories, it is the way the trainers go about bringing out the stories and breaking down the barriers that gets to me. Every single time. There's no downside to picking either of them-- like the younger yellow team member said, it's a win-win with both-- but there was so much drama around the teams splitting up and picking their trainers, when really, that was the easiest thing they had to do. And the show doesn't need such forced drama when it has so much true emotional out-pouring-- like when Bob broke down the Olympic weight-lifter. I love this show. It helps me feel things, too.

Switched At Birth (ABC Family, 8pm) - S1, Ep11: "Starry Night" - Something-- well, actually, a lot-- about this episode just made me a bit uncomfortable while watching it. First there was Bay (Vanessa Marano)’s instance on getting to know her dad (Gilles Marini), which should be sweet and innocent, but nothing about either of those characters screams that. And the age difference, or rather the lack thereof, really doesn’t help. Watching Bay get ready for a night out at a jazz club (!?) with her dad was just…icky. Come on, we all remember Marano hitting on Michael C. Hall in season four of Dexter, right? So we wouldn’t put it past Bay to go for an older guy now that Emmett (Sean Berdy) is being pulled and pushed by Daphne (Katie Leclerc), too. They may be blood-related, but had they met in the jazz club (!?) as strangers, an attraction could have formed, neither one of them knowing the truth about who the other one really is to them. Ew. And then there is the way Bay acted around Emmett-- the mere fact that she was so threatened by Daphne that she raced on up to the music festival, painted "I'm With The Drummer" across her boobs, and draped herself around his neck like a human hipster scarf. She made me sad. And to think, in the first half of the season, I thought she was a strong girl-- or at least that she was coming a long way from bratty. But no, this episode made me dislike her-- the character-- all anew. And I worry that she has a greater impact on these families because everyone is going to be fretting over her getting close to Angelo, and they won't notice Regina (Constance Marie)'s picking back up of the bottle, which quite frankly, just seems kind of a "when" not an "if" at this point. Daphne, on the other hand, who had been bratty in the mid-season finale, turned a corner-- first to stalker (which thankfully the show itself called out, which means the writers are savvy enough to know what we're thinking and are taking steps to show they really do have a plan in mind), then to the free spirit we barely remembered but once loved. Thanks to Austin Butler for pushing her in a dirty, dirty lake and bringing that out in her again. Now let's hope it sticks. I want her to be the cool, down-to-Earth, easygoing guy's girl she always has been, and I really want to explore how similar she and John (D.W. Moffett) are. I felt a strong father/daughter connection before, and even just the way they're responding to Angelo proves they have a lot in common. I think they're good for each other. Certainly much better than Kathryn (Lea Thompson), who bless her heart, tries her damnest but only knows how to reach out in cliche ways. She's such a bored rich housewife, I kind of want her to develop a pill problem or have an affair or something to make her less vanilla. I figured the only option we'd have is if she uncovered a truth about the nurse coming forward for the lawsuit, and admittedly for a moment when the two women sat in the car, I thought we had: the nurse recounted the story about Toby's cleft palette that Kathryn said she had never actually told anyone, and I thought it was going to come out that the nurse had read medical papers to get the information to make it seem like they had actually met sixteen years ago. But no, Kathryn let it go. For someone who seems to need to latch onto something-- anything-- so badly, she certainly let this go easy enough. I guess the bottom line is, for at least one moment for each of the women in this episode, I wanted to yell "Have some self-respect!" at the screen. I only hope they take a good, hard look at themselves in the mirror before trying to pass that kind of nonsense over me again.

Parenthood (NBC, 10pm) - S3, Ep12: "Road Trip" - "Come home to Parenthood." Even the damn promos had me tearing up. I missed this show so much, they could have just sat on-screen silently for an hour, and I would have been happy to see the Bravermans. Each and every single one. Nothing made me sadder than to go through the holidays without my surrogate TV family, but no matter how long they were away, the minute they were back in my life, it was like they had never left. Perhaps that was because I was thrown back into such close quarters with them when they packed up the family car(s) and headed out to visit a much less seen member of the clan-- though admittedly, I was hoping for more time in the car (clearly I don't have kids of my own yet)! Perhaps it was because they're the great, big, crazy family I never had. Perhaps it was because it was the night Work It was premiering, and I was so fearful for the fate of television that I latched on for extra comfort. But this episode felt like perfection. It truly did feel like "coming home"-- as I always wanted that to be. Normally I would say that Kristina (Monica Potter) banning Max (Max Burkholder) from the trip as punishment would actually be a present for the kid, but with this family? You really do miss out if you're left behind. I mean, come on, Walkie Talkies!? Wait, AND maps and menus for super preparation? That's too cute. Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), in this day of cell phones, is so sweet and simple and innocent. And also clearly panicked about all he has to say to his mother that he has put off for all of these years but knows he may be running out of time on saying. He said he just wanted to get the whole family together, because that's all it's really about, but it was obvious he wanted to show them off-- to show off the reason he is special and the thing he did right that his mother didn't and didn't think he could, either. I don't even know how to write about this episode (certainly not concisely anyway-- this is a show I should just live-blog) other than to just show you a giant smile. It was my expression throughout the whole episode, though I know "grinning like an idiot" reaction videos don't go viral. Parenthood is my happy place. All of the talk the various kids did about their grandmother before seeing her had me hoping that when they finally get there she would resort to the same exact behavior-- cutting Crosby (Dax Shepard)'s hair, forcing bad lasagnas on Adam (Peter Krause), making fun of the modern clothing. Memories may be skewed, but people don't change, and even embellishments do not create completely false ideas of a person. Also, I can't say how much I love that Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Amber (Mae Whitman) are little co-conspirators now. I just love how their relationship has evolved so much. Actually, I love how Sarah has evolved so much. I feel like early season(s) Sarah wouldn't have forced Drew (Miles Heizer) to talk about him walking in on her having sex. I love how Max is really learning to be better, even if he still can't quite grasp why a positive action now doesn't completely erase or reset the negative actions of the not-so-distant past. I love how Crosby turns into a big kid when surrounded by his older siblings, sitting in the backseat and singing along to dumb music, not noticing that the big, ugly chair was being stolen, and cracking jokes during more serious moments. Honestly, they all let their hair down around each other, and there's something so comforting in that-- that no matter what may be going on, they feel so secure with their family around them that they can be goofy or glib or contradictory. They can have their "moments" and always know that they'll come back around and be there for each other in the end. In a weird way, this really was the perfect holiday episode, even if it was a few weeks too late and there was nary a Santa hat in sight. It had all the right elements: a determined family member who wanted everyone together for the occasion, some squabbling about it, an awkward family encounter, a family member who surprisingly shows up at the eleventh hour, a family who comes together no matter the differences, and of course, an important life message to take away. And I don't know what Kristina's backstory is or why she never feels the need to split time with her own family, but I've never questioned it. Because with the Bravermans as an option, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, either.

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