Monday, January 2, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'How I Met Your Mother', 'The Lying Game', & 'Hawaii Five-0'...

TV Talk for Monday, January 2nd 2012 - After a brief holiday hiatus, this column is popping up for a week before taking another, slightly longer, TCA-induced hiatus. Once the new shows begin premiering mid-month, though, there will be lots more to talk about and a shift in coverage. If there are any shows you want to see discussed, feel free to leave me a comment below or Tweet me the suggestion!

How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8pm) - S7, Ep13: "Tailgate" - After grading the first half of the season without actually having seen the entire first half of the season, I decided to give the show the benefit of the doubt (and listen to the handful of my friends-- critics or otherwise-- who still swear by this show) and tune back in for that "one more chance" moment to win me back. It's a new year, even if not a new season, so why not offer it a chance at a clean slate, right? After all, it's sticking around for awhile, and I once loved it. A lot. Admittedly I didn't pick the episode most indicative of the series as a whole for that, as this one played heavily on the deep emotions of Marshall (Jason Segel)'s on-going grief about losing his father, but that alone should have been enough to hit me in a personal spot and soften the winter ice around my own heart to grant the show another viewing, right? In theory, absolutely, but after the lackluster storylines they have been giving Marshall, I didn't have high hopes. Thankfully, they really did seem to turn it around for him-- even if some other elements of the episode (cough, Kevin's still around!?) fell short. I was glad to see Robin (Cobie Smulders) finally take charge of her life again and get some control of it. For a number of reasons, she was always a character I identified with, but so many of her behaviors of late seemed to spiral her out of the character I knew so well (and yes, still loved); she was a sadder, almost cautionary tale without the writers intending her to be, I felt. Sure, it was a spot of dumb luck that she was given her second chance, but when she was given it, she was smart and alert enough to snap out of her funk and not squander it. If only she could have woken fully up to realize just how dull Kevin is so she could have really started 2012 on top. All in all, it was a perfectly fine episode-- nothing severely pissed me off, but nothing completely won me over, either. Not even NPH's singing (though that would have had a better shot if Ted-- and/or Kevin-- wasn't involved). Not even the return to Puzzles, a tidbit from a previous season that I really enjoyed. Ted trying to be all studious during his "party" didn't help that storyline. Neither did Will Sasso's cartoon of a character. And so, I guess I am back to being indifferent about this show. I no longer think it's consistently sloppy (but inconsistency is never a positive, regardless), but I have nothing invested in who the mother is, and I have no confidence that I'll get a Barney/Robin permanent return anytime soon. Lily and Marshall share such little screen time, and when they do, it's with "wackadoo" antics to get to a "very important message," so...that's getting old fast. The best part of this episode for me was when Marshall was talking to his dad. It was so simple, so expositional, but I didn't care about the stories he was telling. The truth is, it doesn't really matter what stories he was telling (though it was puzzling that he cared so much to include his friends', as well), just that he was still sharing them at all. The more time goes on, the more susceptible we are to getting distracted and getting away from what really matters. That's how I'll choose to look at this show from now on. But it better pay off soon.

The Lying Game (ABC Family, 9pm) - S1, Ep11: "O Twin, Where Art Thou?" - I'm going to come out and admit it: I was just dead sure that Annie Hobbs (Stacy Edwards) was in the back seat of Sutton (Alexandra Chando)'s car at the end of the mid-season finale, her presence so startling it was what caused the crash into the lake. I feel a little cheated not knowing for sure if that is the truth, especially since the books went balls to the wall right off the bat and committed to killing one of the girls, but this "welcome back" episode was still extremely strong. It held up as a season premiere, even though it was simply a mid-season return. I'm kind of relieved to have Emma (Alexandra Chando) be the focus more fully going forward; she was always the twin we were more attached to, and sometimes Sutton's screen-time were scenes I would fast-forward wanting to get back to Emma. It's how I feel about Bridget vs Siobhan on Ringer, yet those showrunners don't seem to care at all about what their audience wants, let alone expects. The Lying Game, on the other hand, seems extremely in-tune with what we're thinking and desiring and trying to stay ahead of us with new twists. The addition of Charisma Carpenter as the "other Annie" was certainly a way for them to keep that mystery in the air. We really have no idea what happened to Annie Hobbs after she left the mental institution, but we know for sure that she didn't present herself in front of Ted (Andy Buckley) and his family for a reunion. Instead, the other Annie did-- a woman whose physical resemblance to Emma and Sutton is so uncanny I have to imagine she is the real birth mother. To use her in any less of a storyline would be a travesty and a waste of the physicality. From her and Ted's uncomfortable encounter, I feel like it stemmed from a bad, bad high school night (maybe he forced himself on her; maybe she was just too drunk to really say no but still felt weird after, whatever). She got pregnant, clearly didn't tell her sister the whole story, and then allowed the guys to give the babies away, using Annie Hobbs as the "cover." The show did set up the fact that "Annie Hobbs" might have just been hired to pose as the birth mother because the real one had "problems." But before we can even dream of getting to that, we have so many other mysteries to unfold! Where is Annie Hobbs, for example? Is Sutton really dead, or is she just being held hostage somewhere? Has "A" crossed over to blackmail on a whole new show!? And just what is that blond homeless golfer's deal?!? I thought this show was going to be just summer fodder for me-- something to fill my evenings when "nothing better was on," but honestly? It's the show I anticipate the most on Monday nights; it is stronger than almost everything on network TV tonight. I can't wait to see where it goes next.

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, 10pm) - S2, Ep13: "Ka Ho'oponopono" - This is one of those rare shows I can't take my eyes off of. The blues and greens are so vibrant. And then, you know, there is Alex O'Loughlin. But I'm happy to say that the weekly action holds up. This is one procedural that does a great job at seeding the season long arc (not quite a "big bad" but something along those lines) in each episode while not losing focus on the case of the week, this time being one that seemed a little too "Romeo & Juliet" for my taste. At least at first. A kid took a bunch of pills, admitted to trying to off himself, and then asked if his girlfriend is really dead? That seemed like a loose plot hole-- like, why would you try to off yourself if you didn't know she was dead? Or were you just trying to cover for the fact that you knew she was dead? But then there was the question of the missing money-- the dead girl stole a couple thousand for "a friend," way more than one would need for an abortion, about the amount for a boob job-- and the creepy surveillance being done on these kids. Add in a really overprotective dad in an episode filled with only male role models, and things just got...ickier. Maybe it's just me, but these dudes' responses to the death felt suspicious right from the jump. It seemed all-too logical that at least one of them would be sleeping with a teenager (though I was surprised this was the first time they managed to work the age of consent into the series) because unlike what the hacker kid said, I am not surprised to learn how many sex-crazed drug addicts populate his school. It's high school; I just assume everyone is sex-crazed and addicted to something or other. In fact, it would have made much more sense to me that someone with actual direct contact with the girl was who caused her to end up dead. Using her to get to her father was just unnecessarily complicated and cold. However, the father figure stuff in the case of the week was a nice parallel to the Joe (Terry O'Quinn)'s own on-going shady doings; he has been McGarrett (O'Loughlin)'s father figure for years, and he's not so clean, either, but McGarrett doesn't want to deal with it. He's going to have to sooner rather than later, and this episode was a nice swift kick in the ass thematically for him to do so. Sometimes those we are supposed to be able to count on to have our best interest in mind do some shady things. But if the dead girl's dad wasn't actually the really bad guy (i.e. the murderer) here, then maybe Joe will turn out to have another ace up his sleeve, too. Because right now he is mysterious, but not in the "eleventh hour twist" sort of way that Jean Smart was last season, and I don't entirely believe he helped Hiro fake his own death, but I do believe that his actions then and McGarrett's in tonight's episode are about to start a war with Hiro's son (guest star Ian Anthony Dale). And honestly? I'd like him to be able to stick around!

Also, is it just me or was it a huge waste of Sam Anderson's talent to have him first pop up in the episode at minute 43 and only in a photo? I guess it's Hawaii Five-0's way of working around the big name guest star theory. If we don't seem him early on, we can't immediately suspect him. Even if it's always going to be him.

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