Monday, January 30, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Gossip Girl', 'Alcatraz', and 'Hart of Dixie'...

TV Talk for Monday, January 30th 2012

Gossip Girl (The CW, 8pm) - S5, Ep13: "G.G." - Okay, look, I have to start with the reveal at the end here simply because if you title your episode this way-- an episode that everyone assumes is going to be focused heavily on a wedding-- suspicions are already raised. I know last week I said I was thinking Dan (Penn Badgley) was behind Gossip Girl, and I was half kidding when I said it, but I honestly never (until she showed up tonight) even considered Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg). Maybe I'm short-sighted; maybe I underestimated her; maybe I just didn't think outside of the box enough. Whatever. I would like to put it out there now that I'm not convinced she has been Gossip Girl the whole time (um, five years ago she would have been what, sixteen? I can't imagine she was wielding so much power while cramming for trig or whatever). I believe she seized the opportunity when Gossip Girl went silent and decided to take over. I guess only time will tell, though... Okay, so now getting back to the episode in chronological order, I would be remiss if I didn't express my hatred for the opening dream sequence. Blake Lively did a fine job of lip-syncing and learning the original Marilyn choreography (though there is only one Marilyn on my TV, and it's Kat McPhee!!!), but I generally don't like dream sequences when they are random, out of context, and serve as elaborate fantasies where production can go over the top or think outside their own box and do something they've never done before. It simply wasn't necessary. Especially considering to everyone but Serena (Lively) it was obvious Dan was going to choose Blair (Leighton Meester) over her anyway. It was a fun four minutes, but it was four minutes that could have been plucked from the show with no consequences. Anyway, I digress. I have never been quiet about my hatred of Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and my even bigger disdain for Chuck and Blair. Say what you want about "tempestuous" relationships, but Chuck has been abusive toward Blair in the past, and she has let him. Now to see her mother was letting him, too? Reformed for the moment or not, I literally could not believe my eyes when she showed up in Chuck's apartment. And not just because when you are so rich you have an elevator that opens directly in your apartment, you also have a doorman downstairs who has to confirm with you the arrival of every guest. I'm glad she could see her daughter wasn't happy and didn't truly want to get married, and I'm glad she thought she should do something about it. But the problem with these Upper Whatever Side mothers is that they never do the right thing; they never start a dialogue. Whether those two things are mutually exclusive... She basically sealed Blair's fate by bringing Chuck there, though I did appreciate the "twist" at the end where he stood in the back of the church and waited for Blair to stand up for herself. Because it really was Blair who had to make the decision and make the move (Gossip Girl didn't need to point it out; it was evident on everyone's faces; I wish this show would trust their actors to deliver more, rather than relying on exposition to drive home a point). She's a true battered woman. She's too passive. She stays in relationships long after they sour, even though she acknowledges what she is giving up and the pain she may be in. I just want to shake some sense into her. She is young; she is pretty; she has money. There is no reason she should resign herself to be trapped in some ways. And no, I do not think running off with Dan at the last possible second was a way to get out of that trap. She said "I do." By law, she has signed the contract. And Louis (Hugo Becker) is not going to let her back out now, though he may have had no say if she never re-entered that church. He grew half-balls tonight, you guys. He took control of one aspect of his life-- it's a start-- and he finally, finally became interesting. I'm sick of seeing Blair treated so crappily by guys, but I certainly do like when these too-good-to-be-true-CW guys go dark!

Alcatraz (FOX, 9pm) - S1, Ep4: "Cal Sweeney" - I'm sorry, but it would have been so much more fitting if Cal Sweeney tried to rob a bank by visiting his safety deposit box and was told that it's 2012 and those are obsolete. Because it is 2012, and I really don't understand why anyone would choose to keep their valuables away from them anyway-- not when home safes and security systems are as advanced as they are. Anyway, four episodes in, and I've finally put my finger on just what it is about Alcatraz that feels a bit off. In procedurals, there are usually two central investigator/officer type characters flanked by three or four barely supporting players to fill out scenes, provide back-up and occasionally lighten the mood. In Alcatraz, each of its three "main" cast feels like those supporting players, with the inmate of the week being the primary, though rotating, person of importance. And the actually surrounding "extras?" Just laughable. The woman who came home to find her husband had been murdered? Her over-the-top screaming reaction wasn't even something I'd expect in a C-level slasher flick! Four episodes in, and Rebecca (Sarah Jones), Emerson (Sam Neill), and even Doc (Jorge Garcia) would be considered underused if their characters weren't so dull and almost unnecessary. Sure, they need to hunt down these inmates, but it feels like they're just going through the motions, not really believing they're a match for the worst of the bad guys that have returned, and the fact that the guy always gets locked up at the end of the hour, well, that just feels like a bit of movie magic. I don't want to say the performances are being phoned in, but I definitely feel like the character development is, and the actors aren't going above and beyond what's on the page to seed their roles with more interesting flavor or indicators of what's to come. Probably because they have no idea what's to come because the show has been changed so many times, they're just trying to fly under the radar now. Which is unfortunate because where the show excels is with the bad guys that it doesn't necessarily create but simply appropriates from history. Those tales are fascinating, complex, and darker than anything we've seen on a network procedural in a long time. Sweeney finding that tiny pressure point at the base of the brain to silently kill the tellers? So smart and done as just the tip of the iceberg, whereas so many other procedurals would build the whole episode around that tiny, simple plot point. They speak directly to my love of true crime, but since the story is not theirs, and since it is obvious my time with each bad guy will be so limited, all Alcatraz makes me want to do is pick up a history book instead of tune back in next week.

Hart of Dixie (The CW, 9pm) -S1, Ep12: "Mistresses & Misunderstandings" - I'm just going to say it: I don't know which night sounded more fun: hanging with Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) during girls' night or Wade (Wilson Bethel) and Lavon (Cress Williams) during their weird private investigating! On one hand, she loves smart comedies; she knows what defines "good" pizza; and of course, the girl talk. But on the other hand, two hot dudes in soft cashmere sweaters... The only evening that didn't look fun at all was George (Scott Porter) and Lemon (Jaime King)'s Pictionary game. No offense to George, whose victory dance was quite amusing, but they are an old married couple before they even walked down the aisle. And their communication really is lacking if George really had no idea that Lemon tried to lose on purpose to avoid his victory dance. Can I be honest? George's victory dance was the happiest I've seen him with Lemon; why would she want to take that away from him!? He never gets to let loose with her; she is just so rigid. It's really a wonder the mistress in this title wasn't his. Though it was adorable that Zoe was the real mistress in question. Everything she was doing sneaking around with AnnaBeth (Kaitlyn Black) was so mundane and yet so scandalous to this little town of gossips. It was interesting commentary. Just imagine how their heads would have exploded if they had been carrying on some kind of secret affair. Personally I think she's a better catch than Judson (Wes Brown). Mostly because his name is Judson. But mostly, I was just glad Zoe has a friend and is settling in. There has been so much talk over which guy is right for her, but that's kind of narrow-minded. A woman is not nothing without a man, but without friends...well, that's when she may certainly lack. And Zoe and AnnaBeth make a good pair; the former inspires the latter to stand up for herself and be herself, while the latter inspires the former to be less of a hard-ass. Could you have ever imagined her Lemon impression otherwise? But Zoe's meant to be a lone wolf, I guess-- something that wasn't really surprising but still disappointing nonetheless. AnnaBeth was right: people will talk, and she's still Bluebell born and raised to the point of caring that people talk. She was right; they couldn't be public friends just yet, but as much as I never advocate for hiding who you really are, I hoped they would at least hang out in secret some more, especially after Zoe took one for the team for her. Just like how I think Wade and George have the best relationship on the show, this could have been a nice female counterpart. And Zoe was right, too, though: Wade was being an infant. He's a grown man, and he's playing "make the girl who doesn't notice me jealous" game like a sixth grader. Bless his heart, he's a little bit broken, isn't he? Oh man, I SO have a type... And he was wrong: sometimes you do need a good girl friend to talk about the things you don't want to say to the guys who are your friends but who you still don't want to embarrass yourself in front of or be judged by. And he was also wrong when he took Lavon's advice and tried to "clean" up. His hair looked weird. And his shirt was too white. And also, he was wearing a shirt.

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