Thursday, March 22, 2012

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

TV Talk for Thursday, March 22nd 2012

Community (NBC, 8pm) - S3, Ep12: "Contemporary Impressionists" - This is the episode with which the series should have returned from hiatus. Not just because of the chronology (the study group welcomed each other back from break and Shirley wasn't yet wearing her new wedding ring), but also because it so perfectly punctuated the wacky, wonderful weirdness of this show and this group. Sure, it's actual return episode was a bit more welcoming to those who may have seen the grumblings about the hiatus and tuned in for the first time, wanting to know what the fuss was about, but this-- well, this is just what makes Community great. Also, this episode featured so many fantastic callbacks to the reasons we long-term fans have fallen so deeply in love with the show: intervention, students being used as safety officers, acting with prop guns, Brown Jamie Lee Curtis, another dig at Seacrest... I will say, though "Both versions of Michael Jackson" absolutely killed me, I never drew that comparison before, but I certainly will now! I never thought we'd see a worse therapist than Britta (Gillian Jacobs) herself, but whoever was prescribing Jeff (Joel McHale)-- certainly worse. Though, it did give us the gift of a shirtless meltdown, and that was pretty perfect. Also, the cameo (J.P. Manoux and Jim Rash were the same person in my mind for much of the early 2000s, I'm kind of ashamed to say these days) and the fake Bono (better than the original!) and the guest star (Workaholics' Blake Anderson) were cool, but what was cool cool cool was the hint of a major thread to come in the "Chang Rises" tag. Usually the tags are reserved for something fun but just a bonus to what we have already seen. This one ensured you stuck around because if you missed it, you'd miss the set-up for what's to come. Also cool cool cool was seeing Evil Abed again and having him be the one to nod at the fans and the show's meta-ness. I'll admit, the concept for tonight's episode was enjoyable, but I didn't really understand why Abed needed this new hobby at all-- when did the Dreamatorium stop being enough for him!? His imagination is like a drug, and now he is chasing a rush he may never find again. Wow, maybe I'm the darkest timeline...

The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8pm) - S3, Ep17: "Break On Through" - Was it just me or when Alaric (Matt Davis) was lying in the MRI machine did he look notoriously like Taylor Kitsch? It instantly made me like him a lot more-- just in time to see him lose his mind, kill people, and potentially get killed off the show. But that's just my timing. Elena (Nina Dobrev) really annoyed me in this episode. It's always all about her and her problems. Okay, this time she wanted Bonnie's (Kat Graham) help for her family member, Ric, but it was still an issue with her family member. She stalked Caroline (Candice Accola) because Bonnie wasn't returning her calls, but um, hello? Bonnie has problems of her own right now-- and every right to be mad at Elena for a little while. Elena's selfishness to call upon her for more witch magic just got on my nerves. I think it's something that's been building for awhile; she often seems so self-righteous, especially after seeing Stefan (Paul Wesley) drinking human blood. Of course she had a right to be upset at that revelation, but her reaction was more of a slight towards her, as if he wronged her personally. He let her down, but she wasn't mature enough to see past her own personal disappointment to how bad things must be for him if he took such a step. All she saw was how it affected her. And she still used him for his information. So tonight I was happy to get a little bit of a break and spend some alone time with characters like Bonnie, Caroline, Ric, Sage (guest star Cassidy Freeman)-- weird dancing threesome and all-- and even Dr. Fell (Torrey DeVitto) and that new "not related to Bonnie" guy (Robert Ri'Card). I mean, Elena sent Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) away to be safe in Denver, but she knows he has a ring of his own, and she doesn't make sure he's okay? Calling is the minimal effort-- well, next to texting, I guess. Sure, he's going to say he was fine. Ric said he was fine! You can't take him at his word; you have to check in with those he's staying with or see for yourself. Worst. Sister. EVER. Though I was kind of tickled that this episode answered a problem of another show's by explaining there is a spell to reverse witches' magic when they become obsessed with the dark stuff. Are you listening, Cassie Blake? It might bring to an end of The Secret Circle, but so be it. And on the subject of Sage, if she's as important to Damon (Ian Somerhalder) as Lexi (Arielle Kebbel) was to Stefan, then we get to see her stick around awhile, right? I like her; she's sassy!

Awake (NBC, 10pm) - S1, Ep4: "Kate is Enough" - I know Kyle Killen has said he's not going to do the thing where it turns out Michael Britten (Jason Isaac) is the one who died in the car crash, now stuck in purgatory, watching half-lives play out, not fully present in either. Or that Michael is still stuck in the moments of the car crash, trying to decide which person to save by watching his life play out without one of them, in both equations. But I'm going on record saying that I think he's in a different level of consciousness right now. And I believe the world where his son (Dylan Minnette) is still alive is the one that isn't quite a dream but still isn't quite "real." Here's why: in a regular procedural on today's television landscape, it would have been the successful Kate (Brianna Brown) who was the murderer. The one who was the investment banker and wore a sleek dress and was just too happy to pull the "Rex' babysitter" card at the boat. That should have been a red flag that she wanted special treatment to sneak out. Also a red flag? The mysterious red stain on her dress. In a regular procedural, it would have turned out to be blood, and Michael's previous connection to her wouldn't have wanted him to see it, but eventually he wouldn't have been able to ignore the evidence. In real life, people are complicated, and on procedurals even more so. The "coincidence" of running into someone like that with no other significance just doesn't happen in this genre. Just because she pulled herself together professionally was not a deterrent from crime, it was the perfect motive. If her firm had money at stake in this company, and there were things going on to jeopardize that, of course she'd want to take out the whistleblower. But that's not what happened. Instead, the show used the two versions of Kate to teach Michael a lesson about parenting (convenient and schmaltzy, no?). It was just too "easy" that the screwed up Kate who lost her sister and didn't have parents to help her get through it would be the one who was the murderer. It was what Michael's subconscious needed him to believe so that he'd step up and step in with his son. Again, I say, for the procedural part: "too easy." This show can't have it both ways: it can't try to be so smart in concept and then so lackluster with the genre elements that it uses to execute its concept.

Archer (FX, 10pm) - S3, Ep13: "Space Race, Part II" - ISIS in space sounded like an out-there concept even from conception-- even for this show. And I hate to say it, but that kind of fantastical setting made this season finale feel lackluster to me-- or at least not quite like the Archer episodes I have come to know and love. Yes, it still featured all of the same characters and humor-- the racism over the space slaves was certainly on par with their usual sensibility-- but there's just something to be said for a good old-fashioned car chase or shoot out, and it's the typical spy stuff that Sterling (H. Jon Benjamin) screws up so atypically that makes this show fun. The "cliffhanger" over Ray's (Adam Reed) potential paralysis was a nice throwback to last season, but it made me stop and think about just how much changed in the episodes in between because really we were put back in the same place with his character, and it made me stop and think how little growth there may have been in other areas. Yes, it's a cartoon, but yes, I expect character growth. Not for Archer himself (I don't dream that big, and honestly, would I love the show the same if he wasn't such a terrible human being?), but maybe those around him. The over-the-top or overtly cool adventures aren't enough, perhaps especially because it's a cartoon, so the imagery isn't even something to behold. I can't help but wonder if the series will come back to space-- or at least see a return of Drake (Bryan Cranston) down the line since he had such grand plans to colonize another country, but we didn't get a whole lot insight into the hows or the whys past "space psychotic break." Um, hello? He spent the most of the episode just yelling "MARS!" Though the "Mars Forever" made me smile in a Riggins nostalgia sort of way. Everything was left unresolved; everything felt unfinished. Will next season pick up with a part three? That might help things because right now I'm still waiting for more, and to not get it next week feels weird. But aside from the fact that this episode felt like an odd choice for the finale, it did have some of the best lines and Archer/Lana (Aisha Tyler) arguments, namely over "Animal Farm." Cheryl (Judy Greer)'s "Martian Queen" get-up and negotiations, as well as Pam's (Amber Nash) teaming up with Malory (Jessica Walter), Cyril's (Chris Parnell) constant ineptitude, the return of Maggie Wheeler in a new role, and the all-too-convenient return of Barry (Dave Willis) were strong, show-defining moments, as well. It may not have moved the characters, or even the plot, forward, but it certainly reminded me why I laugh at these "agents" every week. If Drake wasn't so baby-obsessed, he probably would have fit in as a part of their team nicely.

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