Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: '30 Rock', 'Parks and Recreation', 'The Office', 'Up All Night', and 'Awake'...

TV Talk for Thursday, March 1st 2012

30 Rock (NBC, 8pm) - S6, Ep10: "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky" - OMG Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) as a S&P goon? Why didn't they think of that sooner? I think they finally found his calling! But they may have to get a new Script Coordinator; I don't think this one has found his or her calling because in the beginning of the episode they were looking for Pete (Scott Adsit)'s scotch and then it switched to whisky mid-way through. Or I missed a joke about booze that I clearly didn't get since I don't drink. I don't know; the only part of that story that I enjoyed were the scenes from the terrible "Good Looking" procedural pilot Jenna (Jane Krakowski) did that (for obvious reasons) didn't go. I could have watched a half-hour of her use dialogue from a canned crime script rather than the parade of superstars that guest starred tonight. While Patti Lupone and Susan Sarandon were helpful if you wanted to get insight into Frank (Judah Friedlander)'s life, well, do you really want to get insight into Frank's life!? I kind of preferred it when they were one-off guest stars. They were certainly funnier when they were surprises. And if Lynn (Sarandon) doesn't understand that "meatballs" is Liz (Tina Fey)'s highest form of compliment, then she doesn't deserve to be in these people's lives permanently anyway. Best part of the episode for sure? The toss-away jab at Nikki Finke from Jack (Alec Baldwin). It may have been the only time I laughed tonight. Gotta love Alec Baldwin!

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30pm) - S4, Ep17: "Campaign Shake-Up" - Oddly, last season when this show announced a nemesis for Leslie (Amy Poehler), I pictured Kathryn Hahn in the role. But then they went and cast Parker Posey, and it was hilarious. So when I heard Hahn was actually coming on the show in another nemesis role, I was thrilled. She was a wee bit overshadowed by Carl Reiner's guest starring role-- and by Paul Rudd's glaring absence-- but she made her mark nonetheless as the perfect politician: telling everyone what they want to hear in order to get her client ahead. I loved how she didn't care about anything-- to the point where she called Perd "Perm" and didn't even realize nerds are the new cool kids now. But mostly I loved how she was only challenged when competing against herself. I've had those moments, always on a smaller scale, and I always get just as wrapped up in my own head as Leslie did with the "she thinks we think" stuff. I also always solve it with a three course meal where each course is made of dessert. She's my favorite (fake) person. But moving on to talk about the water fountains for a, and I the only one who thought the response would be to make the new spout look like a phallus? That would stop the guys from putting their mouths anywhere near it. And it would probably stop most of the women, too-- at leas the publicly decent ones. But, you know, NBC at 8:30pm... Watching Andy (Chris Pratt) test drive all of the options, though, was pretty funny. Watching it devolve into a water balloon fight during which Tom (Aziz Ansari) is covered in suede? Oh, I cannot wait for those extended scenes! And utilizing the most famous extra in comedies right now? Also a good call. This show is on trend and on point. Though its characters are slackers and screw-ups a lot of the time, I'm glad they're allowing advancement and maturity, even for April (Aubrey Plaza). I'm more glad she came around to things in her own way and took initiative on her own terms, rather than just waited around until someone handed her another opportunity.

The Office
(NBC, 9pm) - S8, Ep17: "Test The Store" - Mindy Kaling Tweeted today that she wrote this episode and that Zachary Levi lent himself to it, so naturally I was intrigued enough to tune back in after having not watched for just about a year. Three minutes in they're making cracks at bloggers being gross and lazy and pimply and whatever. Look, I love Levi, but not enough to put up with old-fashioned insults like that. I don't care that Dwight (Rainn Wilson) was proven to be more clueless than the bloggers that were still depicted as stereotypes. The stereotypes are still offensive. Not simply because I'm a blogger (I'm actually all for self-deprecating meta jabs...when they're clever. See: "Toldja" and 30 Rock) but because it's 2012. And this is this show's eighth season. Stereotypes shouldn't cut it anymore. How lazy are YOUR writers? It was a shame, especially considering Kaling's book got so much buzz thanks to bloggers. I want to believe she's better than that, that maybe she's just burnt out, but I admit I will be harsher on her new pilot because of this. And I'm sure she won't care because I'm "just a blogger." Way to bite the hand that feeds you, show that no one but bloggers who "have to" watch anymore! Good thing they canceled their PaleyFest panel or they'd actually have to answer to these people. Also, half the staff suddenly works in a retail store? What happened to this show!? Georgia Engel's shock gray hair might have been a wig, but it would make sense if her hair just turned that color from working on this nightmare. I'm out. Again. And NBC should be out, too.

Up All Night (NBC, 9:30pm) - S1, Ep18: "New Boss" - I'm not going to lie: I'm glad Kevin (Jason Lee) is gone. I just don't buy him as a romantic anything. He was hardly a lead here, but he was distracting enough. I like Ava (Maya Rudolph) when she's high strung and at work, not making kissy faces or potentially becoming a step-mom. Who is she? Running around in an over-sized shirt and pouring out liquor for her ex. Ava, have some self-respect! You can do better! I mean, I'd rather she hooked up with special guest star Will Forte. He had the same amount of facial scruff and flannel shirt as Lee... Reagan (Christina Applegate), on the other hand, was perfection. As was her jacket. Does anyone know what brand that is or where I could get me one? Her believing she might be a genius, her idea of "filler fruit," her ridiculous desire for Eve Best's mentorship. Why, Reagan? You're strong and powerful and deserving of being a mentor yourself. You shouldn't still be seeking out guidance; you should be guiding the impressionable minds of tomorrow! In fact, I'll take you up on some tutelage. Once upon a time I worked in daytime TV and thought I might end up producing and directing there. I fell off-track. Help me back on. It's what you know. Because you (or your husband) certainly don't know motorcycles or proper threats or even how to deal with new surprise authorities in their lives. Also, can this show keep Steven Pasquale? He's adorable, and I want to keep having an excuse to look at him. Even if he seems to be the Jack Donaghy of this show-- you know, the guy that gets put in charge that really has no creative reason to be-- and that would change dynamics in an unnecessary copycat sort of way.

Awake (NBC, 10pm) - S1, Ep1: "Pilot" - I'm going to come out and say it: this pilot may be too smart for NBC (or any major network)'s audience. It's not that it's such a high-concept no one can follow it. This isn't LOST. There aren't mysterious polar bears or time travel involved. Yet, it's a show that demands you actually pay attention to every scene because there are two universes, and the players are (almost) the same in both, so if you're only half-watching-- or simply listening-- you may get confused. Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is a man who lost his son in a car accident. Until he wakes up the next day, and his son is still alive but his wife is not. That's how it goes for him every time he wakes up now: he alternates between these two "sliding doors" universes, not wanting to believe that either one is "not real" or "just an elaborate coping mechanism dream state" because he is happy in both but for different reasons. When you put the two universes together, his life is complete again. But the problem is that each universe is moving on its own course separately, pulling Michael farther and farther away from his old life-- one that he seems to be clinging so desperately to. Personally, it appears that it is Michael who is on the cusp of death-- his life is hanging in the balance, not literally of course, but he is in purgatory in his mind, heart, and soul. Subconsciously or not, he clearly doesn't want to move on and accept a loss-- any loss. It's almost as if everything he is experiencing now is all in his own mind-- as if in the actual reality he's still stuck in that car, realizing he can only pull out one of his loved ones and imagining what life would be like with and without each one. His dueling therapists are the two different parts of his inner monologue that come into conflict with what he knows, what he fears, and what he wants to believe. This show was my third favorite of upfronts last year for this premise and this execution. I just love the "I don't care if it's real or not; I want to stay" mentality that is usually only relegated to an episode of a genre program. This show has built a whole series (well, at least a whole season) around the idea. What I worry about, though, after seeing this episode, is that in order to fit NBC's general audience, the show will head down a much more procedural path, focusing more on how Michael can solve cases from both realities using cross-over clues. While that is interesting, it is just one very small, narrow-minded piece of the puzzle. And the least unique one at that.

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