Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Community', 'The Vampire Diaries', and 'Awake'...




TV Talk for Thursday, March 15th 2012


Community (NBC, 8pm) - S3, Ep11: "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" - If I were the fourth guy from Boyz II Men, I would have wanted to reunite with my old group for the very special occasion of back-up doo-wop for Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) during his proposal. Okay, I know that wasn't the real Boyz II Men, but it might as well have been! I expected the proposal from Andre, but I didn't expect the wedding to occur so quickly-- nor in Greendale's harrowed halls itself. It was a nice statement that after all they've been through, simplicity and normalcy should be to what they strive, but I'll admit the minute Andre started talking about going back to work at what is clearly an antiquated business venture, leaving Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) home with the kids, I thought she was going to take a page from Britta's book and slap some feminist sense into him. In a way I wish she had, and in a way, I'm glad it resolved itself the way it did, though. It was certainly fitting for her character, and how far she's come, that she would soften toward Andre but not just kowtow to him. The fact that I personally think he can't change and will grow increasingly resentful of her newfound independence clearly says more about me than it does about what this show has set up for the two of them. The added touch that Andre finds Shirley's "Miss Piggy" voice to be her sexy voice seemed to tell me a lot about their relationship, though. Cheating aside, they may actually be made for each other. She uses that voice on everyone-- the girls in the study group, her kids, Chang-- and no one takes her seriously when she does. Yet it gets Andre to sit up at attention. Those two really have something. Britta (Gillian Jacobs) finding her calling as a wedding planner was all kinds of wonderful, and her second game of emotional chicken with Jeff (Joel McHale), drunk and at the altar, was something of which I could watch a whole half-hour at a time. I was bummed to not be able to experience inside the Dreamatorium with Abed (Danny Pudi) and Troy (Donald Glover), and I'm holding out hope that their time in that special, special room ends up on the DVD as a deleted scene. Was it just me or did you also expect, once Troy convinced Abed to go back to his normal again, that the two would scamper through the duct to find Annie's Boobs again? Ah, well, maybe next week... This episode even made Pierce (Chevy Chase) enjoyable, perhaps because he was just being vintage Chase, with his knack for pratfalls and prop humor. Usually the show takes any chance it can get to poke fun at Chase, but tonight I think that was turned to McHale. That tight, tight button-up at Shirley's wedding was ridiculous. Even for Jeff Winger. And the brown on brown with the tie? Too matchy-matchy. I couldn't help but feel like "Subway" taking over Shirley's sandwich spot may have been a not-so-subtle plea for a new advertising deal, ala the Chuck campaign, and once I heard that I started to wonder if Jeff's outfit was some kind of designer homage. I'm sure I'm reading too much into it, but he's been in some crazy get-ups before (um, the shorts, hello?), and this is the one that was the most distracting to me. As a whole, though, I think this was the perfect way for the show to make its triumphant return. It set up very clearly, once again, who everyone is, just in case some new people finally want to jump on board, and it had some truly laugh-out-loud moments but also some very heartfelt ones, proving the show can provide a wide range of viewing emotions and is not "just" a situation comedy.

The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8pm) - S3, Ep16: "1912" - You all know how much I criticize Ringer for being the "home of the red herring," but I honestly hope that tonight's twist of Alaric (Matt Davis) losing time may be because he's going mad and killing people while he does is not the whole story. It makes perfect sense, the way things are unfolding now, that Elena (Nina Dobrev) and even Dr. Fell (Torrey DeVitto) think Alaric may be befalling the Gilbert family curse, his ring having brought him back to life a couple of times but maybe not bringing him all back each time. But personally, I would much prefer it to be Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) who is the one skulking around town killing people, his ring working against him. For one thing, I just want McQueen to have more to do! And for another, I don't really believe he can be off in Denver somewhere, seemingly safe and sound, and be brought back into this world in an organic way. Elena sent him away because she wanted him to have a normal life, right? So what could possibly make her revoke that? I think all of McQueen's bulking up and crossbow training earlier in the season is going to come back to have real importance-- or at least I hope so. I must admit, I'm much more intrigued by this turn of events than by Sage (Cassidy Freeman) as the woman who "turned" Damon (Ian Somerhalder) into the cad we always knew him to be. Oddly, I feel like it cheapens the emotional impact a little bit to know he was simply seduced by her. In my head, he was always somewhat tortured, and that's what led him to build up his snarky wall. I feel like Sage may be undoing some of that. Also, the Matt (Zach Roerig) of it all. I wasn't going to comment at first because between the puppy dog looks and pining for his high school sweetheart, I just find him the most tragic of them all, and now that he mumbled about feeling invisible in the town, that clinched it. He's a frustrating character. He lost everyone he loved, and he isn't a vampire, nor a vampire hunter. I just don't understand why this kid still stays in Mystic Falls. I know Roering loves being a part of such a phenomenon in any way, but I think it may be time to pack it in. Matt should go find himself or just plain start over somewhere "normal" (hey, Denver is apparently a good place for that!) where he can actually thrive and be loved, not just noticed.

Awake (NBC, 10pm) – S1, Ep3: “Guilty” – It’s a shame this story took such a detour. I don’t want to watch a show where criminals track the cops who put them away obsessively, stalking and kidnapping and otherwise harming their families. Those are external conflicts that, in this case, distract from the main issue at hand. Michael (Jason Isaac)’s son had a breakthrough-- albeit it with a woman (Michaela McManus) who is really expendable to the story (as long as Michael wakes up in one world and finds his wife smiling back at him, he should never consider any attraction to this young athlete, let alone give into it). I want to explore more of the whys and the hows of the obviously troubled father/son relationship. With Rex (Dylan Minnette) ultimately being saved by his father, though, despite first hearing there sins he is paying for, I can’t imagine they will come back to the conflict between the two males. As it was, here the conflict was Michael not wanting to fall asleep because every minute he wastes-- especially in another world-- digs his son in deeper. Obviously, the conflict becomes not only the race against time to find the hints in the other world that will lead to the answers for his son, but additionally there was the layer of disappointing his wife (Laura Allen) the way he had apparently disappointed his son. In the pilot, it was clear he confided in his wife about what he was experiencing, and while the desire not to worry her now when there is nothing she could do to fix things was admirable, it was also kind of unnecessarily soapy. As was the “twist” with Michael’s old partner (William Russ). I want significantly less of the standard “on the job” cop show and more exploration into Michael-- his home life, his psyche, his ability to function or crumble under the weight he has on him now. I don’t care so much about these “cases of the week” that he manages to solve with his newfound “special situation.” That’s every procedural-- including quite a few that failed on NBC before. Hell, each episode is even starting with a murder-- Law & Order style. Michael needs to work on writing the wrongs to those in his actual life, not just to those he encountered once upon a time. Awake needs to embrace what makes this one unique and richer than all of those: the duality of Michael’s life itself. Every scene can be compelling-- tightly written and beautifully crafted—but though this show is remarkably better done than Ringer, my problem with it remains the same: I just want something from it that it doesn’t want to give me. Oh, and there’s only room for one John Cooper on my TV and it’s Michael Cudlitz. Sorry, Awake.

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