Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Community', 'The Vampire Diaries', 'The Big Bang Theory', and 'Touch'...

TV Talk for Thursday, March 29th 2012

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8pm) - S5, Ep20: "The Transporter Malfunction" - I'll be really honest: though I watch this show every week, I very rarely choose to write about it because just about every other week I flip-flop on my opinion on the series as a whole as spurred on by the current week's episode. Some weeks I laugh a lot and am delighted to see such a unique and quirky group of people on television. But more and more I find myself distracted by the stereotypes and actually thinking this show is mocking nerds more than it is celebrating them. Which is ridiculous because in today's climate, the nerds are the cool kids, and people like Penny are shunned as the oddballs out. On one hand, you have an episode such as tonight's bring on one of the most beloved, and biggest name, stars in nerd culture. But on the other hand, the story surrounding the special guest star is so socially awkward you have to wonder if deep down they're not just playing to said guest star's inner Shatner. Now, I don't really know anything about Leonard Nimoy, so I can't assume he ever would pull a Shatner, but still. I didn't quite know what to make of things. It's season five, and though this is a traditional sitcom, it's season five, and there should be some character growth. I guess I got it with Raj (Kunal Nayyar) on his double date, even if it still required alcohol first so he could talk to the surprisingly pretty and seemingly sane woman with whom his parents set him up, but honestly all the gay jokes were just off-putting and somewhat immature. If nerds are the new cool kids, metrosexuals are even farther along in the "accepted" characteristics. So this old-fashioned in style sitcom actually matched in tone tonight. The story itself was a very real-- and touching-- one. Raj wondering if fake-marrying someone was the best he would ever get could have been poignant and emotional but since it was so punctuated with stabs at him, it just went nowhere. Though anyone embracing life with a little dog deserves SOME props. And Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), so obsessive over keeping their "collectibles" in their boxes (and then freaked out over a broken toy) seemed like a season one plot point at best. The only salvageable part of that story was the fun the show had with the Spock action figure. Someone on that staff likes miniatures as much as I to put him in fun poses while he "spoke" to Sheldon!

Community (NBC, 8pm) - S3, Ep13: "Digital Exploration of Interior Design" - Oh Subway, how your placement in the Greendale cafeteria is indicative of what creative, unique artistry has to do in order to get a place in the world of entertainment today. But hey, it kept Chuck around, so I'm not going to complain too much! Same goes with the lockers. It's the little changes that jar me the most, and I'm glad Jeff (Joel McHale) addressed it because it was seriously distracting me. Mostly because it made him and Annie (Alison Brie) look like they were in a CW drama for a minute there. Anyway, going back to Travis Schuldt as Subway for a minute, I just need to comment on the fate that I happened to re-read "1984" last week. It's like Dan Harmon knew and this was my reward! If the last time I had read it was in high school, then I probably wouldn't have picked up on all of the little similarities between Subway and Britta's (Gillian Jacobs) clandestine meetings and the ones between Winston and Julia in the actual book. Though, there is something to be said for the amount of times she hooks up in a fort of some kind. This episode had a dark undertone that took the show to a different level in my mind. It was the kind of episode I would have expected at the end of a season-- or the end of the semester-- when everyone is burnt out and getting on each others' nerves. Annie was on edge and being passive aggressive about her life lessons to Jeff; Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) were fighting over something ridiculous; Pierce (Chevy Chase) was the "voice of reason" Party narc; no one could see that a blanket AND pillow fort would be the real record-setter; and then there was just John Goodman "going through some things" in a way that put me on edge because he should never be in charge! He's only the Vice Dean, after all! At first it seemed he wanted to manipulate Troy to get him to join his air conditioner repair annex, but then he advised Abed to also stand up for himself. Normally that would create friction because the two guys would both refuse to back down, but they had already gotten themselves to that point, so I felt like the scene with him in the fort making clear his motives was mis-edited-- or at least redundant. Though, I have to say, I was super curious to see what a self-implosion of a pillow fort would look like. The blanket fort last time was so perfectly orchestrated, but pillows seem more like dominoes and therefore more of a wild card. It just takes one slightly off-kilter placement to stop the whole thing in its tracks. How's that for a production nightmare? I have great faith that "Kim" is not the death McHale let slip recently, but I can't help but wonder if it's Pierce even though all current signs point to Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen)-- with their "save him" campaigns and rallies. See, Pierce has been utilized quite well in the episodes since the show's return. Chase has been allowed to tap into his old-fashioned physical comedy (the chair pants, the soft serve bit, the ink in the mouth). It's as if the show is misdirecting by showing us we can, in fact, love the old kook before BAM! it rips the rug right out from under us.

The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8pm) - S3, Ep18: "Murder of One" - So here's the thing: I love Klaus (Joseph Morgan). I don't care what kind of dark, twisted human being that makes me. He is my favorite vampire. On this show and maybe ever. So from the minute the binding spell "took," I was hoping that maybe something went wrong, and he wasn't actually tethered after all. Because here's the other thing: I know this show well by now, and I know Julie Plec likes to kill her characters! I would not stand for Klaus dying, let alone all of the Originals dying (um, where would the show conflict be then!?). So Bonnie (Kat Graham) never proved her usefulness more than when she overturned that spell tonight so one of them could perish. Sorry Finn (Caspar Zafer), we hardly knew ye, and we hardly care. Well, Sage (Cassidy Freeman) cared, but Sage is incidental, anyway. And I don't just mean because she died because of who she was sired to. I just mean in the overall story. She came, she reminded Damon
(Ian Somerhalder) of simpler times, she left, but she left her mark on him nonetheless. But regardless of the emotional turmoil for Bonnie, or the physical torture for Damon, or the mental aerobics for Elena (Nina Dobrev), the hands down best part of tonight was considering just which Original turned which beloved vampire. Because you all know the vampire rules: when the Original dies, so do all of the vampires the Original and any of its spawn turned. Admittedly, I thought it would be a little quicker, even if just as gruesome, as we saw with Sage, but still. Pretty cool to consider. Because Damon and Stefan (Paul Wesley) want to take out Klaus, but what if Klaus was responsible for turning the vamps who ended up turning them? MENTAL AEROBICS! But Tyler (Michael Trevino)? The show barely cares about Tyler; he's written out every spring! So I kind of don't care about Tyler. So I don't really care if he dies, but considering the only real way he would is if the plan to kill Klaus is successful-- well, he should just be thankful he is connected to Klaus. Because The CW is far too invested in Morgan to allow Stefan to kill Klaus. I loved that Caroline (Candice Accola) thought Sage just died of sadness (how cute is she!?), but when you think about it: that's exactly what Elena will go through. What would her life be if all of these vampires who came in and turned it upside down when she was just a schoolgirl three short years ago suddenly ceased to exist? And can she afford to play so fast and lose going after Klaus if they're just not sure of the bloodline? Can they definitively trace the bloodline? Can one of the fans? I sense a detour into looking into Jeremy's (Steven R. McQueen) well-being! I mean, as a good sister, she should have been doing that all along, but it seems like she's going to need to shift her focus as a distraction. And in other news: Damon forcing Alaric (Matt Davis) to wear his ring annoyed me. Not because it would turn Alaric further into a psycho who would steal daggers to take out Damon later but because when he wears the ring he can't be killed. I'd like Alaric to come close to death one more time-- and this time his family (cough, Elena) just lets him die for real, rather than risking the side effects of the ring. Because Davis has booked The CW's new pilot, Cult, and I think I'll really like him in that. MUCH more than I like Alaric.

Touch (FOX, 9pm) - S1, Ep3: "Safety In Numbers" - I'll admit it: I got all I needed to get out of this series in the pilot episode. Knowing that week to week every character we met was going to be intertwined in some cosmic way, and having Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) feel obligated to find that way because it was a pattern his son saw and his only assumed way of connecting to his kid-- or at least, you know, making his kid smile and feel like he was paid attention to even though he had been shipped off to be "studied" by a social worker, I kind of couldn't get too emotionally invested. These players were people we'd be immersed so deeply in for only an hour. The show wanted us to make a strong connection to them only to rip them away at the end of the episode, so I kind of felt like my hormones, let alone my heart (hypertension, you know), couldn't take that. But tonight Rob Benedict guest starred as an "invisible" man who was pretty much Martin's glimpse into the future for his son. Benedict absolutely killed as a guy who saw the same numbers and patterns as Jake (David Mazouz). What are the odds of those two coming in such close proximity to each other when so few people in the world have the ability they do? Well, if you believe this show, the odds are great because guys like them can see the details that others miss that would lead them to each other. But Benedict was homeless, years of obsession with the numbers, and presumably no parental indulgence, keeping him from being a traditionally productive member of society. Yet, he was productive in his own way-- like a scruffy Shaman. He hinted at deeper affliction, though: telling Martin following the patterns helped keep away the pain in a way that, to me-- someone who doesn't believe in the magic behind all of this-- screamed mental illness, not magic anyway. Yes, Jake is special. Yes, he is helping people right now. But Martin shouldn't be chasing him down a rabbit hole, grasping at childish ways to get the kid to like him enough to maybe, just maybe say his first word to him. Instead, he should be a man and a father and consider the harm Jake could be doing to himself by focusing so much on these external events rather than on himself. They need to keep Benedict around as that constant reminder but also as a way for Jake to actually connect. Something tells me he'd take an inherent, almost unconscious shine to this guy. They'd just "get" each other. Maybe I'm just too cynical for this show, though. Maybe, as much as I'd love to always see the good in humanity or positivity in television, let alone the world, it's just not a realistic look for me. For one thing, I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to believe that the internet connection in a remote African village would allow those kids to connect to the dance competition at a, well, competitive speed. Even if I would have let them win simply because their ingenuity and spirit deserved it. I may be the only one to focus on such details, but it's those details that make well-intentioned stories like this feel sloppy and too fantastical.

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