Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: The Entire ABC Wednesday Night Line-Up...

TV Talk for Wednesday, January 4th 2012

The Middle (ABC, 8pm) - S3, Ep12: "Year of the Hecks" - I loved Frankie (Patricia Heaton)'s enthusiasm for New Years Eve resolutions, even at this stage in her family's life, but I have to say, picking resolutions for each other just means you end up having to do a bunch of new things, when usually you only pick one or two when you resolve things for yourself. But of course Secret Santa style limited it down to fun size (half-hour) while all of the additions still made for opportunities to see new sides to characters who seem to have remained pretty stagnant. I especially got a kick out of angry Brick (Atticus Shaffer) while he was in "detox" from not reading. I imagined he was a shred of how I would be if I ever cut sugar out (like I always threaten to do every New Years). Of course, Sue (Eden Sher) deciding to "create her own opportunities" was just fitting for the holiday, but she really is creative, even if not fully fabulous (yet). Though I don't understand why Frankie couldn't see that Brick didn't write the resolution asking for more time to be spent with him. Knowing her kids as well as I do (and hoping she would know them almost as well, too), they would always just set each other up like that. Well, one of them would... Also, I have to wonder: just to whom is Frankie telling these stories every week!? I feel like maybe she's the mother on How I Met Your Mother in some weird twist of fate and explaining to her kids how she traded one family for Ted. You'd have to be really "tired" to think Ted was a catch!

Suburgatory (ABC, 8:30pm) - S1, Ep10: "Driving Miss Dalia" - There's something about Dalia (Carly Chaikin) that worries me. I mean, above and beyond the too-tight ponytail and gooped-on eyelids. I feel like she should have the Jaws music behind her when she walks around, and tonight just proved me right. She may not be too much smarter than she looks, but she is certainly more calculating. And apparently much more desperate. And delusional. And when she puts her mind to something, even if it's stalking, she's going to get the job done. Yea? I was so hoping that hiring Tessa (Jane Levy) to drive her around would allow her to use that power for good-- even if only briefly. But nope. And from what Chaikin told me, not anytime soon at all. Equally, something about Noah (Alan Tudyk) worries me. Not just how his teeth are so white, and actually so are the whites of his eyes, and also not only because he has an unhealthy insecure side of him for a man his age. But because he, too, seems calculating. What's in the water in Chatswin!? Why must even the simplest seem shady? Is it because we're still seeing the show through the outsiders' eyes? Don't get me wrong, I am loving watching the crazy unfold, but this is about the time in a series when I expect to understand and relate to characters more, and I can certainly say I understand Dalia a lot better now, but...I don't necessarily "get" her. Or her attraction to Scott Strauss (Thomas McDonnell). But when she makes quips like she did about Tyler Perry, I don't have to get her to love her.

Modern Family (ABC, 9pm) - S3, Ep11: "Lifetime Supply" - Aw, the show gave Jesse Tyler Ferguson an awards because the Emmy Foundation refuses to acknowledge him. That's kind of cute. What wasn't nearly as cute? Phil (Ty Burrell) thinking he was dying and the hot firemen not even getting to come back! Also, Benjamin Bratt just popping up again. Sure, it's great for the audience when guest stars return (in fact, between him and Luke's elderly neighbor friend, the show addressed one of my big criticisms of the season so far), but ultimately it's not good for Manny (Rico Rodriguez) because once again his father was going to make promises he never intended to keep and then ultimately crush the kid. And it's bad for Jay (Ed O'Neill) because he's reminded of a bond he can't compete with. And, he, too, is left out the curb waiting when Javier (Bratt) disappears again. And that is my second criticism of the show right now: these characters don't evolve. In some cases, their standing still can be seen as a step backwards, but at least in the case of Javier, he actually has taken a step backwards. When we first met him, he was passionate and irresponsible but alive in his own way. Tonight he seemed like a buffoon. All that hippie-dippy stuff about "seeing into the eyes of a horse" felt a little, dare I say it, racist? I love Sofia Vergara, but all she is allowed to do as Gloria is pronounce words funny or talk about things in Colombia that Jay will mock. That, too, feels a little uncomfortable, like sometimes the show wants you to laugh at her, not with her. Come on, the cultures are not that different! What the show used to focus on, and what I think it should return to, are how the individuals in relationships are different from each other in personality, and that's why they compliment each other. That's real. That's heartfelt. I guess the bottom line is, I feel like the heart has been stripped out of this show. The flashback to Phil's younger days? Not consistent in tone at all. Cam (Eric Stonestreet)'s quirks are becoming more hick-y and less realistic to me (and now he's opening ogling other guys in front of Mitch), and they cause Mitchell (Ferguson) to get aggravated and short with him like Archie Bunker. Or Angie Harmon in Rizzoli & Isles. I'm okay with this show being about small slices of life, everyday moments and interactions, rather than big events or occurrences all of the time, but I need the characters to give me more than just surface-silly lines. When the kids do it, it's cute, but when the adult characters do it, it just feels petty. Or, as Cam would say, "Tom Petty."

Happy Endings (ABC, 9:30pm) - S2, Ep10: "The Shrink, the Dare, Her Date and Her Brother" - I'm just going to list my favorite moments from this episode. It's the only thing I can do these days when people ask me what I love so much about the show. It's hard to put into words why I feel like I'm hanging out with friends while watching without resorting to an example of their own interactions. Sometimes you just have to see it for yourself, and I highly recommend everyone watch this show! And tonight, I loved that they went outside their usual format and gave us repetitive motifs and a surprise at the end. It just felt like a cleaner, more thoughtful episode than usual because it set up things to come and didn't just live in the "neat package" of the half-hour. The fun started with the new competition between Max (Adam Pally) and Jane (Eliza Coupe)-- all over a sweater. Ah-mah-zing. And of course if they are fighting over clothes, their fight included clothes when they dressed each other in ridiculous outfits to see who could stand it the longer. I don't know; it shouldn't have been an even close call considering how high strung Jane is and how Max doesn't really have a job, so his "white party" outfit, fuzzy fedora, and Princess Diana photo screenprinted tee could have been a 365 day staple. It kind of strangely worked for him anyway. Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) really is Joey from Friends with how much she eats, in addition to the dumb things she says. I know the show is just trying to prove she can be funny after a season of having her play the straight person (and you know, a couple of seasons on a terrorist drama), but they don't have to try so hard. She has a place in this group even if she's not the punchline. Honestly, if her love of romantic comedies storyline with Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) didn't have a parallel to another storyline, it would have felt kind of like filler, but its payoff was sweet, even if its packaging was a little cheesy. Penny (Casey Wilson) bad-touching the doll in her therapy flashback was my favorite moment from the whole episode, and I really want to see more of her time with "Roz." I feel like Roz is even more screwed up than Penny (isn't that always the case with therapists? It certainly seemed to be with Ken Marino in this episode. He was the second worst TV therapist right now. Kevin from HIMYM is and always will be the worst. And not just the worst therapist. Just the worst) and that can provide for so much material. I shuddered at the thought of Katherine Heigl leading a panel, but the idea of a rom-com con? I want to go to there. And I want this show to headline. They even gave me the hot fireman fake rescue out of which I felt cheated earlier in the evening.

Oh, by the way, Ken Marino guest starring as Dave (Zachary Knighton)'s therapist who dates Penny perhaps inadvertently set up next week's Dave's-dad-dates-Penny's-mom storyline. It seems those two provide for a lot of wacky relationships combinations and events these days. It's always fun to watch the characters pair off in new and different ways and watch the dynamic that unfolds because of it, and these are really the only times Dave and Penny have been thrust together, but oddly, it just seems perfect. Yes, the therapist seemed crazy, and yes, having two people blurt out of the blue that there might be "residual" feelings between the two seems to beg for some showing-- some seeding of that in episodes, rather than just telling us its there and hoping we agree. But I like the idea that there are feelings between the two of them that we may see down the line-- not that they're the Ross and Rachel, but that they try something for a little while, and maybe it doesn't work, so they move on. But it certainly explains a lot about why Dave is going to act so childishly when his dad brings Penny's mom to town next week. Having interest in a potential sister figure? Not sexy. No matter what the Dexter writers are trying to make us think nowadays.

Revenge (ABC, 10pm) - S1, Ep11: "Duress" - When did this show become all about Tyler (Ashton Holmes)? He had to go-- and not just because he posed a threat to Emily (Emily VanCamp)'s own plans against the Graysons but because he was stealing focus. Perhaps that is more a commentary on Holmes' commanding performance than the weekly scripts, but it's true nonetheless, and it was beginning to overshadow the titular point of the series. Besides, Tyler has clearly outstayed his welcome for the characters, but he was creeping in on that for the audience, as well. And if you don't love to hate him, you end up just fast-forwarding through his scenes, right? I hadn't gotten to that point, though I did find myself wishing his stuff, which seems to get longer each week, would just hurry up and go away so we could get back to the business at hand. He was the desperate loose cannon that would end up shooting Daniel (Josh Bowman) if not kicked out of the community with security actually keeping track of his whereabouts, rather than simply disgracing him and hope he'll slink away out of decency. Actually, maybe he'll find a way to sneak back in and shoot him even though he has been detained. Guys like Tyler don't have a sense of decency. This episode started with him putting a gun to Emily's head. Well, we know she's not going anywhere, so if the episode didn't end with him being hauled off, well, let's just say it'd be doing a huge disservice to the almost dozen other colorful characters that have had to take a backseat to Tyler's raving. And once he has been dealt with, we can set our sights on the real Emily (Margarita Levieva). Of course, before we get rid of her, we have to see how her presence is affecting the other Emily. I mean, I can't be the only one who wants to know the internal struggle in Emily's mind whenever she sees her sort of friend respond in a way counter to how she actually would, or how she thinks she should (especially when Tyler started spouting off about David in the public of the birthday party). What can I say? I prefer the internal, emotional work to the waving a gun around or throwing furniture around or ranting like a lunatic. And I have to admit, I was much happier to watch Jack (Nick Wechsler) and Daniel join forces than Tyler's brother show up at the last possible second. Seriously, his brother was useless and a dead end. Unless, of course, he secretly sent Tyler to the Graysons, but then it would be a much different show. I get why Tyler needed a big wrap-up episode to send him on his way, but I'm not completely convinced we've seen the last of him, and that kind of bums me out more.

Also, is anyone else starting to wonder if maybe David didn't really die in prison and Nolan (Gabriel Mann) is keeping that secret for him? It would change so much of Emily's plans if she found out her dad was not lost to her forever, but it would certainly shake things up.

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