Monday, January 16, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'HIMYM', 'Alcatraz', 'Gossip Girl', 'The Lying Game', 'Castle', and 'Hawaii Five-0'...

TV Talk for Monday, January 16th 2012 - Now that TCA has come to a close yet again for a few months, I can resume my regular TV watching schedule. Admittedly, there may still be a night or two off here and there-- for reruns, covering evening events, or simply my sanity-- but for the most part, let the reviews begin!

How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8pm) - S7, Ep14: "46 Minutes" - Why was this episode called "46 Minutes?" And why was Kevin (Kal Penn) so terrible? Usually I love it when shows call back to elements I loved, but this time "alt-Lily" just felt like a cheap ploy to get me to come back to a tired gang. This episode may have showed Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) what they were missing by living out in the 'burbs away from all their immature friends, but it just solidified for me that I have matured past the gang completely. I wanted to run into that big, Long Island house and lock the door behind me. If the house symbolized maturity, they weren't ready to come inside yet anyway. Not to use a zombie metaphor, but let's face it, I've been playing a lot of "Plants vs Zombies" lately, and the imagery that came to mind was of the HIMYM gang stumbling across a front yard towards adulthood. Lily was out in front, with just a tiny little bite on her arm that actually looked like it would heal soon so I could welcome her in but the about-to-become-a-mother sunk down to daddy's little girl, unconscionably unable to stand up to the man she barely had any contact with for the majority of her life. I know intellectually if she said something right away, there'd be no story, but the story felt lazy and false because of that. Now, Marshall was trailing not too far behind her, though being so focused on "the booth" made me roll my eyes a bit. He was about to become a dad-- something he has claimed to want for a long, long time-- and he kept harping on not being able to drink with your friends every night. He shouldn't have wanted to drink with your friends every night at your age anyway.. The rest of the lugs were zigzagging miles away. Seriously, Robin (Cobie Smulders)? She barely likes Kevin-- she certainly didn't care about him enough to bring him up to speed with her whole "I can't have kids" thing-- so why was she tiptoeing around stupid shit in the relationship? If she didn't want to go to a strip club, she should have been a grown-up and said so. The fact that Kevin had to be the first one to put his foot down really irked me. Kevin's the worst! But by him being mature enough to (admittedly belatedly) make that decision, he's inherently not as bad as some of the others have become. Also, did the writers just forget that Robin and Kevin supposedly hadn't had sex? Because tonight there was a line about them sleeping together. I feel like it was just the lazy insertion (no pun intended) of assumption. It wasn't warranted; it wasn't addressed, and it really should have been. After all, she barely likes him; does she have such low self-esteem that she thinks she has to be with him? I have lost so much respect for a character I once saw so much of myself in! Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has always been the playboy, so there was no surprise that he regressed back to it-- and honestly, he almost deserved a pass for those alternate opening credits sequences anyway. But I have to give him third place because he was the one willing to slap out of it and stand up to point out how ridiculous the rest of them were acting. Even if it started at his behest. And then Ted (Josh Radnor). Poor, dumb, perpetual man-child Ted. All I can say is: at least he got a couple of funny lines in-- mostly about Party of Five. Then again, it was eerily reminiscent of Chandler Bing's "Ah, screw it; I miss Melrose Place!" and I don't take kindly to copying off my Friends! Also, I don't take kindly to dressing smart, funny, and pregnant women up like strippers.

Alcatraz (FOX, 8pm) - S1, Ep1 & 2: "Pilot/Ernest Cobb" -
I pretty much said all I needed to say in my advance review of the pilot, which you can find here, if you have not already read it. However, the one note I want to add now that I couldn't then because it was too much of a spoiler was that it was super odd to me how Rebecca (Sarah Jones)'s grandfather appeared to recognize her right after he killed her partner. I don't want to believe, with this team of writers and producers behind the show, that it could have been coincidence or something they threw in to heighten the mood for the audience. I feel like those who have come back know more than Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) let on. Or maybe they even know more than Jack Sylvane in general. After all, we saw Jack's journey from waking up in his cell to leaving the island to being put back in another cell all in a really short period of time. If other, more hardened criminals have been flying under the radar in the real world longer, they have had more time to figure things out-- or maybe they were just more trusted with the "big picture" stuff.

When it came to the second episode, though, I began to worry more for the show overall. You have Doc (Jorge Garcia) who is supposed to be a lighter fare type character but ended up doing that cliche "I can't tell you/Now I'm going to tell you" thing with his employee, which really, should have repercussions of their own. But furthermore, he got thrown right into his first crime scene, and let's be honest: he stood out. Way out. Not because he's a big dude but because he was dressed too nicely-- especially for a cop on the job, dealing with blood and stuff. He never saw a dead body before (I assume), so he really should have been a liability for Rebecca. But the show skipped over all that, kind of brushing them off as things that don't matter. I guess if you're already suspending your disbelief to believe people can disappear and then reappear decades later, unaged, what's a little protocol inaccuracy, right? And what's a little sloppiness in attention to detail, like when Rebecca said "not that many hotels use those kinds of room markers anymore" when what she should have pointed out was not that many hotels use actual keys these days. But honestly, Doc and Rebecca as a team are just eerily reminiscent of Beckett and Castle on ABC's own crime procedural, but they're not as interesting a dynamic. And in this case, since Doc is not a trained professional, the show talks down to him, and by association, the audience. Rebecca was slow with him tonight, like she was talking to a five year-old figuring out his first math problem, not an educated historian trying to recall facts he knew so well he literally wrote the book on them. If they make him slower than modern audiences, we can expect a lot more over-explanation and exposition to come. So once again, the most interesting man in the room, so to speak, was the titular Ernest Cobb (guest star Joe Egender). You should have expected that from the title, sure, but also from the way the pilot set up the player of the week to really pop. This guy was especially intriguing, from being able to create spy gear in prison, to his ticks with numbers, to his sinister snipings but inability to kill the inmate that drove him nuts inside his own cell because he would have had to use his bare hands. On one hand, it's a good thing the pilot was such a clear indicator of episodes to come. But mostly, it just reminded me that I wish I was watching a show that followed the inmates (especially back to that weird copycat prison of Hauser's) instead. Too bad FOX refuses to think outside the box.

Gossip Girl (The CW, 8pm) - S5, Ep11: "The End of the Affair?" - This is what's wrong with Serena (Blake Lively): it takes Gossip Girl "disappearing" for her to realize she should have been taking control of her public image this whole time. She just started blogging? In 2012? For someone who seems to live on the cutting edge of so much in New York City, she is so behind with normal things! But on a much bigger, broader scale, I believe what was wrong with this episode was that the jump forward in time quite a few weeks simply so the world of glitz and glam wouldn't have to be given way to Grey's Anatomy while both Blair (Leighton Meester) and Chuck (Ed Westwick) healed in the hospital set up the need for a ton of exposition that was still not complete at the ten minute mark. With having to account for so many characters' whereabouts and where-with-alls for such a lengthy amount of time, the return to the fabulous world of the Upper East Side was not-so fabulous after all. Yet, it seems somehow fitting that the tone would be muddied and bogged down when that is exactly how Blair has been feeling. It's fascinating for me to watch this young woman who should be able to have anything she want struggle with committing to a life in which she feels trapped and unhappy. She has the money, the access, the powerful friends; she is not the typical picture of a woman stuck by situation. And yet her mind is so messed up, it kept her in darkness with Chuck once and now resigned to repression. This has truly become the Blair Waldorf show, and I kind of love it.

Though, I'm 99% sure you can't block your number when you send text messages.

The Lying Game (ABC Family, 9pm) - S1, Ep13: "Pleased To Meet Me" - I think Sutton (Alexandra Chando) might be bipolar. Or maybe just a better liar than we ever imagined. One minute (last week) she's all "Look who's back, bitches!" And then the next (tonight), she's scared and shaky and actually letting Emma (Chando) walk in her shoes longer-- even if she did squee back into her old room like she had never seen designer clothes and jewelry before. It was weird. Sutton doesn't care that much; in that moment it was like watching Emma see her new life all over again. I do believe her story about Annie Hobbs (Stacy Edwards) being in the water with her, and later in the hotel room. In fact, the most sane thing Sutton said was that Annie "freaked out" when Sutton wanted to leave. She's unstable. That's why she was a pawn in the game of giving up the girls to begin with. If people thought she was their birthmother, they'd easily say the girls were better off not being raised by her. Personally, I think we're better off as an audience without Sutton, and I can't help but hope she actually does meet a terrible fate so Emma can keep her life forever. And stay on our screens. What? The books have it that way, so I'm not completely twisted on my own! Anyway, I'm glad Justin (Randy Wayne) finally came clean with what we all knew would be the answer to his great mystery, even if it makes just another tale of revenge play out on our screens. I can handle him lurking in the background now because it means seeing him only in small drips and droves, and honestly, "lurking" is how he seems to fit best. Something about him just screams "serial killer!" to me. And not in the good way. I don't care much about the Laurel (Allie Gonino)-as-a-singer story arc, nor do I care about Maddie (Alice Greczyn)'s new flirtation-- mainly because their problems are such high school problems and those types don't really hold my interest. Especially when not on the backdrop of such a more important, intriguing story. I can't help but feel they are wasting valuable screentime and drawing out the opportunity for me to finally have my answers about Sutton and Emma! Oddly, though, I find myself entirely endeared by the new woman on the block (Charisma Carpenter) and the way she seems to bring out a much better side to Alec (Adrian Pasdar). He started the series as a suspicious bastard, but the tide has certainly turned, shining the line on Ted (Andy Buckley)'s true inner dick. I can't help but wonder how much each guy knew at the start of the series about how far they'd come-- and how far they have yet to go. But mostly I can't help but wonder now how Emma can stay around with no money, no roof over her head, no way to go back to school, and no chance at getting a job in town when she's running around with a rich girl's face.

Castle (ABC, 10pm) - S4, Ep12: "Dial M For Mayor" - First of all, I just need to say that I feel terrible that Ryan (Seamus Dever) didn't seem to get any time off for his honeymoon! Second of all, I always hate it when a character is recast. Instantaneously it distracts me-- takes me out of the story. In this case, a murder mystery storyline, it made me raise my eyebrow more suspiciously toward the mayor simple because he's shifted into someone else. Plus that whole "it's a conspiracy" thing? It made the show look nutty. Add in a tie to Beckett (Stana Katic)'s mother and stir. It was an absolutely interesting point that if the mayor had gone down for a crime (guilty or not), Castle (Nathan Fillion) would be pulled from the precinct, and you know, we'd have no show. But saying that at the eleventh hour didn't help to ensure faith the mayor was actually innocent versus some elaborate set-up where one of his staffers became a patsy. I don't know; I guess I just wanted more from the episode-- especially more Castle and Beckett interaction-- and I'm not talking personal or romantic interaction but simple contention from such heated times. When they are on opposite ends of a case, the tension is palpable. Because they are so close personally, there is much more at stake than just catching a criminal if one of them has an equally personal tie to the case. Crazy, convoluted cases are not necessary. Just give us interesting character turns, and we'll be back on track, Castle.

Hawaii Five-0
(CBS, 10pm) - S2, Ep14: "Pu'olo" - Starting this episode with a flashback to young McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) was a great way to explain why the old pro, so to speak, had such a huge blind spot when it came to Joe (Terry O'Quinn)-- or "Uncle Joe," as it were. It brought the good-bye at the end to a more emotional turn because it became clear that no matter how gruff and tough McGarrett carries himself, he is still a hurt little kid inside at some times. And he still needs a father figure in his life, despite kind of being a father figure himself, to his team. I loved having O'Quinn around on the show and personally hope he'll return sooner than they're leading us to believe, but I'm thrilled that whether or not he does, they didn't write him out with a big "bad" reveal the way they did the first time Larisa Oleynik took a break from the show. Or, you know, how Jean Smart went out. But WTF was up with the worse-than-Chuck Subway product integration? Oh good lord, they wrote a whole scene just for some cash. That's not creative, nor artistic. And CBS doesn't need the money, so it seriously put a damper on the strength of the episode for me. I'm glad we got a lot of Kamekona (Taylor Wily) screen time tonight but not like that! By the time Danny (Scott Caan) delivered his ex-wife's-who-I'm-still-convinced-is-actually-also-his baby I was expecting it to come out already in Huggies simply for more in-show ads. Those moments were already awkward enough (seriously, Danny is the nicest, but perhaps most emasculated, guy ever not only to do such a colossal favor but also to never correct anyone when they called him her husband), what would have been a little bit more??

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