Parks and Recreation: “End of the World”
Zoë: If it’s hard for shows to get characters together, it’s even harder for them to have characters break up–especially when both actors will be remaining on the show. Instead they tend to cycle coupled through a get together break up and reconciliation pattern. Heck, even shows like HIMYM, which told us in the first episode who would break up, end up doing this.
So it’s to it’s credit that Parks and Rec has done multiple break ups very well and thus far avoided any sort of pointless getting back together. And while some of these break ups were done for cast reasons, for the most part people have broken up and stayed on the same show, fumbling through the post break up awkwardness like we all do. Unfortunately for people like me, this means that this is one of the few shows on TV where the couple you really want to see together remains broken up and fumbling through it. This weeks episode featured a lot of fumbling: whether the kind that means celebrating hour business loss with the best party ever, or failing to predict the end of the world (again), or seeing your ex flirt with someone else. And while the plots were all funny, the shows kindness and heart shown through. At the end of the day, this may be the kind of show that keeps Leslie and Ben broken up, but it seems that like some exes, they might at least find a way to be friends.
Dennis: I think I’ve come to the decision that after Breakfast Club-inspired episodes (which Dawson’s Creek, ER, Greek, and a bunch of others have done in the past), my second favorite “type” of episode is the “End of the World” one, which Mad Men, Greek (again… it’s way hip like that), and Parks and Recreation have now busted out. It’s great. Everyone always acts all zany when the world’s going to end on TV shows, even though they usually know it’s not really going to end. Here, Tom and Jean-Ralphio throw a crazy party, and April and Andy start doing things on his bucket end, which ends in a Mount Rushmore-free trip to the Grand Canyon, and we’re treated to more poignant Ben and Leslie scenes (and more cute mentor/mentee scenes between Leslie and Ron). It may not have been (beware, the REM-inspired pun!) the end of the world in Pawnee, but after this really good episode, I still feel fine.
Community: “Advanced Gay”
Dennis: It seems the portrayal of gay characters in this episode got creator Dan Harmon in some hot water, and I can certainly understand the argument. From this episode, it appears every gay male at Greendale is flamboyantly gay (though the show seems aware that’s not actually the case in the world, since a character played by the decidedly non-flamboyant Paul F. Tompkins hit on an ambiguous Abed last season). I suppose the characterization (and generalization) here was supposed to all be a means for Pierce to confront his own (and his father’s) phobias on the matter, and in that regard it was successful (even if we’ve written in the past that Pierce’s character can change on the drop of a dime). I much more enjoyed the return of John Goodman, as the show’s shady Vice Dean. It’s just nice to see theRoseanne star doing comedy again, after swinging towards drama (West Wing, Studio 60, Treme) as of late. So in the future, more Goodman please, less gay stereotypes (unless they involve RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s Shangela. As Chang can apparently attest, she’s always a good time).
Zoë: I am a terrible word pronouncer. I say pasta with a short a, ketchup wrong, and have been mocked for how I said Yahoo! once. If a word can be said multiple ways, I nearly always say it the wrong way. Unfortunately this means that the more Britta becomes “the worst”, the more I am forced to identify with her. Fortunately, this episode was a rare moment for her to be right (despite her mispronunciations). And while Jeff literally killing Pierce’s dad seemed a little extreme, it’s a Jeff/Pierce are the same connection that I could get behind. I was less able to get behind the catty gay characters who, while serving their purpose as some sort of gay greek chorus, definitely felt like a bit much, but fortunately they were a minor presence and their massively gay party created the perfect backdrop for Abed/Troy pretending to be each other. In any case, I am going to work on saying the word oedipal, just in case.
Enlightened: “The Weekend”
Dennis: I didn’t realize that all of the episodes of this show thus far were supposed to have taken place in the same week. For someone who just came out of a mental facility, Amy sure has had a productive week! I’m glad it’s finally the weekend (hence the episode title) because it gave Enlightened a chance to stray from the workplace antics its been immersed in in recent weeks (or “days” in the eyes of the show), and it gave us a chance to see more of Luke Wilson’s Levi. Previously, it seemed like Levi was going to be this unlikable character, but this episode was able to pull back and reveal him to be a lot more sympathetic. Sure, he’s still a druggie screw-up, but he knows it. It’s just nice to see Luke Wilson get good work here, so he doesn’t have to resort to AT&T ads anymore.
Downton Abbey: “Episode 8″
Zoë: The second season of Downton Abbey ended this week in England and it’s been driving me crazy that I have such a limited number of friends to talk to about it. In fact, I’ve become something of a Downton Abbey pusher the last month in order to increase the number of people who can be shocked by what’s going on each week. Part of that pushing has had me rewatching bits and pieces of the first season, which has allowed me to appreciate just how much better the second series is. Nothing was wrong with the first, obviously, but the war has been an incredible backdrop for character growth, development, and drama. I sell friends on the show by talking about how it’s a fancy soap opera–and it is–but it’s also truly quality television and I think that shines through even more this past season. It’s been hard not to spoil everything for friends and family waiting until January, but the fact is no one would believe the spoilers anyway: that’s how crazy the season is. People said watching now would ruin January, but for me it just makes me more excited to talk about all the things that have been happening in Fake Yorkshire.
Top Chef: “Everything’s Bigger in Texas”
Dennis: Get it!? The episode is called “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” because it’s set in Texas, and they have the most contestants (29) ever! Ah, wit! But, what was the point of introducing almost thirty cheftestants, if they’re just going to pick them off quickly over this and next week’s episode. We already said goodbye to a cocky guy with weird eyebrows (or lack of eyebrows) who butchered poorly, a vegan chef (can’t a vegan/vegetarian chef ever make it to the second episode?), some guy with a lot of tattoos (or, at least more tattoos then all the other inked up folk on this season) and some other girl for some other reason. See, I can’t even bother to remember these people’s names right now (and in one case, anything vital about her) because they’re being cut so furiously. If the mission is to get the cast down to a normal number by episode three, why not just start with episode three? My Lone Star State-based Sodapop brethren might get mad, but with the weird nature of this episode, they should maybe retitle this episode ‘Nothing Makes Sense in Texas.” I figure eventually, things will right themselves, but this season of Top Chef, has definitely started off the season on the wrong foot.
Glee: “Pot O’ Gold”
Dennis: Well, per the new deal that I made with myself about this show I’m allowed to check this week in since one of The Glee Projectwinners showed up. I enjoyed seeing Damian McGinty mix it up with the cast, but otherwise this episode was pretty predictable. I’ve had a feeling since Shelby showed back up this season with Quinn and Puck’s baby in toe, that a Shelby/Puck pairing might be in the cards (Puck’s portrayer is twenty-nine in real life, so he looks more compatible with an adult then a high schooler at this point any way), and what, with all this sudden talk of Puck’s love of cougars (ugh, that word’s still around) it was easy to guess it was going to happen in this episode fairly early on. Also, did anyone have any doubt that Brittany’s fake leprechaun would find his way into the glee club by episode’s end? I just wish Finn, who was accosted for calling Brittany an idiot, had mentioned to Brittany that Santana treats Brittany like she’s an idiot behind her back too, since he overherad Santana’s conversation earlier in the episode. But, I learned a long time ago that expecting characters on Glee to act rationally is a losing battle.
Dennis: While Community might’ve been a little less gay-friendly this week, Revenge picked up the slack, actually allowing its homoerotic con man character Tyler to go full gay, and with Nolan (who’s apparently “a 3 on the Kinsey scale”), no less! Who knew? I like how we’re starting to see more of where the non-Amanda characters’ loyalties lie. Besides Tyler and Nolan, we’ve now discovered Ashley’s a little less altruistic, a little more money-hungry (and all the more interesting because of it). And, Declan was more than happy to grow a pair and berate Amanda/fauxEmily at the Graysons’ dinner table about her playing with her brother’s heartstrings. It was also great to meet the violent stripper also known as the real Emily Thorne (slash Fake Amanda Clarke, wow I love how confusing this show is). Was it me or did Amanda/faux Emily and Emily/faux Amanda seem to have some sapphic tension there? I guess it could’ve just been residual cues from the Tyler/Nolan tryst, but overall, you go on with your sexuality-fluctuating selves, Revenge!
American Horror Story: “Halloween: Part 2″
Dennis: When is someone in the Harmon family finally going to get a clue? I just wish one of the three of them would notice that almost all (seriously, almost all: Moira, Hayden, Tate, Chad, Patrick, Nora, Rubber Man, those useless twins, the school shooting kids, maybe Larry) the people around them are ghosts. Also, why is Constance asking Violet not to tell Tate that Addy died? Won’t Addy just show up as a ghost like everyone else? And why do I keep trying to make sense of Ryan Murphy shows?