Monday, January 23, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Gossip Girl', 'Hart of Dixie', 'The Lying Game', and 'Castle'...

TV Talk for Monday, January 23rd 2012

Gossip Girl (The CW, 8pm) - S5, Ep12: "Father And the Bride" - I have never been more convinced that Dan (Penn Badgley) is gossip girl. That is the main thing that stands out from this episode. The way he is always around, paying attention and writing, flying under the radar. His first book took his friends completely by surprise, but that is just because they underestimate him. Or maybe I just needed some kind of added mystery to hang onto lest I got bored. After all, with Nate (Chace Crawford) thinking it was his cousin who set him up for a car crash, that's pretty much one and done right now. The French fake Ashley Greene and hottie priest coming in at the eleventh hour to ruin Blair (Leighton Meester)'s wedding was a lame and unnecessary plot development, especially considering Blair's own emotions, Chuck (Ed Westwick)'s constant presence, and even some random chick outside the bar was more effective. Blair was the most fun drunk I've seen on TV in a while, but this episode was really all about Dan for me. Maybe it's simply because I've been re-evaluating some of what I write lately, too, but that scene in his publisher's office about writing what he knows was poignant for a number of reasons. There is something to be said for wanting to challenge yourself, but there is something to be said for being honest and truthful, too. All of Dan's other novel ideas were, um, not so novel. A modern western? A futuristic look at life? Those are gimmicks, and he led with them, rather than actually saying anything of substance. Regardless of whether or not his next story is set on the Upper East Side, the characters that surround him are the ones that inspire him-- whether he likes it or not. And it seemed more and more that he didn't like it-- it seemed more and more that he was settling into the sense of entitlement that I always associated with everyone else on this show but not the tortured artist. So maybe I underestimated him, too.

Hart of Dixie (The CW, 9pm): S1, Ep11: "Hell's Belles" - This was what every post-hiatus-return episode should be. If you were growing frustrated with the lengthy amount of time away from your new favorite show, as I was, you may have been thinking 'Oh, how great can it even be when it finally does come back?' And that's simply because, in its absence, you forgot about the things (and characters!) you fell in love with in the first place. This episode was like coming home and being greeted by warm, familiar faces you didn't even realize how much you missed until you saw them again. But more than that, it proved the show has hit its stride, knows exactly who all of its characters are, and is okay with humor right alongside the heart. I loved that Zoe (Rachel Bilson) didn't look into who her dad was right away but that a certain amount of time in Bluebell has softened her enough to want to know, to want to give in to slowing down and opening up. I loved that Wade (Wilson Bethel)'s own dad was back and that we got to see a more serious side to their contentious relationship than when Wade was "simply" singing him off a roof. I loved that George (Scott Porter) and Wade's own relationship was showed to be more serious, too; they may like to goof around together, but they're there for each other when it really matters-- to talk sense into each other, too. But mostly I just loved watching Zoe try to fit in with a group of sorority-minded girls with whom I knew she really had no interest in socializing. It was one of those "stop analyzing and just have fun on the ride" situations, and I found myself transported back to the debutant days of young Rory Gilmore-- it didn't hurt that Bluebell is set in the same pocket of the WB lot-- and wondering just who off to the side was pulling Zoe's strings. It's one thing to want to honor a family legacy when they're watching you do it-- and you're a teenager. But if she wasn't going to come to her senses on her own, I was going to smack some into her!

The Lying Game (ABC Family, 9pm) - S1, Ep14: "Black and White and Green All Over" - Oh, show, how you lied to me. I believed/was hoping Justin (Randy Wayne) would be out of the picture now that his "secret" has been exposed. Whether Laurel (Allie Gonino) sided with her dad, as I expected her to do or not, I fully expected Ted (Andy Buckley) to force him out of town. He seems to have a knack with such things, after all. But no, there Justin was again tonight, sucking the fun out of even the weird Black and White coming out ball. And we already have one fun-sucker now that Sutton (Alexandra Chando) is back in town; the energy in this show has seriously shifted, and it makes me sad. If I'm not watching Emma/Ethan (Blair Redford) or Alec (Adrian Pasdar), I'm growing less and less interested by the week. It's not that the show is no longer delivering the way it used to; it's just that it's on during a time when it is a virtual embarrassment of riches on primetime television, so I'm more inclined to notice the little imperfections-- or not even imperfections, just annoyances. Thankfully the show answered my number one complaint tonight by bringing back Annie Hobbs (Stacy Edwards). When a mentally unstable person goes missing, it can't be long before someone takes notice of her, and I enjoyed the race to get to her in the hospital, so she could see both twins standing side by side and hopefully provide some answers. Or at least a good meltdown. Honestly, I expected the latter, so I was immensely glad to see she was clear-headed enough to give us the former. And now that we know Annie Hobbs is not their biological mother, can we all just agree that Rebecca (Charisma Carpenter) absolutely is? The show doesn't even need to explicitly say it for me to know that. I don't even need that reveal-- unless of course it comes on the business end of Kristen (Helen Slater) uncovering it. Because she's getting saucy, and I love it.

(ABC, 10pm) - S4, Ep13: "An Embarrassment of Bitches" - I'm sorry, but ABC really buried the lead. Yeah, yeah, Hilarie Burton guest starred (and she was hilarious, even if I did think I saw Lyndsy Fonseca every time I looked up at her on screen), big deal. But so did Justin Hartley! And did I get that in the episode summary? No, no, I did not. Hot men and adorable puppies? I had a soft-spot for this episode that would forgive even Atlantic City plot-level badness. You might argue that one CW star is as good as another, but the "biggest guest star" theory alarm bells were ringing in my head the second I saw Hartley. Why would he take the role if it was going to be as nothing as just the dickish manager-slash-boyfriend in one quick scene and an even quicker shot? Yes, his Chuck guest spot was overshadowed by another guy of the week, but still. The dogs weren't going to end up being the killers (come on), and the dogs were the ones most worth watching. Anyway, it's rare that I'll watch a procedural and actually root for the killer, but that's exactly what I did tonight. And it was entirely the show's fault with one red herring after another. The promos led me to believe this guy was using his dogs as drug smugglers; then the show itself went another way and said he was a guy trying to breed a new designer dog. A guy who claimed to love animals but kept them in cages, not actually to mix and mingle them only when it suited him but because that's how he felt easier to train them. I'm here to attest dogs do not have to be put in cages in order to be obedient or able to learn weird tricks. I didn't like this fictional trainer, and I don't like the real ones that say that. Ahem. He sucked. It put reality stars who paint tiny dogs' nails to match their own in a whole new light! Also, how hard up is Beckett (Stana Katic) for being unable to control her emotions when Castle (Nathan Fillion) rubbed dog circles on her hand!? Maybe she really should get a dog; at least then she won't be so starved for attention and affection. But obviously she couldn't have Royal. Because if he really wanted to go home with either her or Castle, he never would have sat so perfectly still in the center of the room; he would have followed his new best friend the minute he or she stood up. However, I was really intrigued by the commentary that Burton's reality show character provided. She really had nothing to do with the case, and yet, her mere presence was major distraction enough to overwhelm your senses and almost make you forget what was really important in this episode. It's true of reality stars in general; they distort everything with which they come into contact.

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