56: The Royal Slap

Peter Dinklage, a short white man with blonde hair, has recently slapped hus nephew, a teenager with blonde hair and a red leather shirt. There is also a tall, dark-haired man in the background.

Game of Thrones: “The Kingsroad”

Paul: I meant to comment on the first episode of Game of Thrones, but I forgot. So here are my thoughts so far:

I want to love this show, but it’s obvious to me that it’s going to be an extended series of awful things happening to the few decent people, while many terrible people go about their terrible business with impunity. I want to like Game of Thrones, but I have a limited stomach for character torture.

That said, man, this show looks amazing. The set and costume design is spectacular, and I hope the constant stream of despair doesn’t put me off it.

So far my favorite subplot is Daenerys Targaryen’s marriage to Khal Drogo, which is doing a thing I’m vaguely ashamed to admit I like (e.g. “the marriage of convenience that blossoms into genuine affection), although it’s going about it in a really unpleasant way. Basically what I’m saying, HBO, is that I could do with less softcore porn. I have to watch this show in a room with other people, y’know? It’s just awkward.

So at this point I’m basically watching in anticipation of the moment when Daenerys winds up being far more politically powerful than her asshole brother intended her to be, and visits payback for his assholery upon his head tenfold. Also watching Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister be snarky is guiltily enjoyable, although I pretty much want all Lannisters to die, forever.

Zoe: I was never a huge fantasy or sci-fi nerd, but given my love of vampire TV shows and the movie Reign of Fire, I probably err more to the fantasy end of things than anything. I never read any George R. R. Martin books (I was a Calling on Dragons, etc., gal), but my younger brother is a huge fan and I had heard good things about the show so I decided to check it out.

So far I am loving all the parts that are Peter Dinklage and with “pale enough to be a LoTR elf” lady. And while I am liking and enjoying everything else, I’m not sure how much I will be able to enjoy the few better than average people getting screwed a lot in the show. That, the T&A, and the racist-overtones of Khal Drago (something apparently missing from the book), give me pause for how long I will be able to watch this show before driving myself crazy.

And yet, it’s a bit addictive. Because it throws so any characters at you so fast, it’s hard to keep track without Wikipedia–which led me down the rabbit-hole of spoilers and new characters and so on. I have to admit I’m liking it enough to consider reading the books when this season ends. That and, well, I mentioned Peter Dinklage, right? He could be doing every single character as a monologue and that would be enough for me to tune in every week. Well, that and him slapping asshole princes.

Nikita: “Glass Houses”

Rawles: Alas, poor Jaden, we knew- well, actually no. We didn’t know her because the show perpetually fell down on offering insight into or adding depth to her character, despite an extremely fertile setup, before ignominiously killing her off. Moving along to things that don’t make me furious: at long last, after many episodes of clearly being suspicious of Alex, Amanda finding her out is both exciting and legitimately satisfying. The show has done a fairly good job of making Amanda seem like the truly formidable villain at Division. Percy is there, and dirty, and always up to something awful, certainly, and he’s the focus of our hero’s attentions, but they just hate him; they don’t fear him. Conversely, the moment way back in “All the Way” when Percy announces to a captured Nikita that they’re bringing in Amanda, it’s one of the only times we’ve ever seen her visibly frightened. Percy is the one who brings them in and who sends them out, but Amanda is the one who breaks them. She’s the one who controls them and she’s the one who understands best how to hurt them. The A-plot this episode wasn’t exactly dull, but a bit of a retread. Given the frequency with which Division agents seem to defect once being let outside, you’d think Percy would start trying something new. Though, to be fair, I guess the point was that he had realized that his Guardians aren’t especially secure. Due the retread nature of this particular Guardian’s dilemma, she mostly served as a narrative device to frame Nikita and Michael’s issues, which left it difficult to really connect with her. Though, her killing four agents in five seconds flat was pretty sweet. All and all, a middle of the road offering.

Community: “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts”

Paul: It was barely even a B-plot, but the Indecent Proposal section of this episode just made me hate Pierce even more, which is impressive, because I already really hate that guy. That said, relegating him to background antagonist position was the right idea here, since I don’t think I could’ve stood listening to his abhorrent racist logorrhea while Shirley was giving birth in the Anthropology classroom.

Which is to say, yes, Shirley’s baby has been born! And although I wish the baby had in fact been Chang’s, his part in this episode was nonetheless touching, as was Shirley’s and Andre’s gesture. Britta was perfectly awkward, and her conversation with Jeff (“OMG baby!” “Wait, we’re too cool to care about babies”) was another great moment. And Troy and Abed got their handshake back. Miracles all around! Now: It’s time for some paintball.

The Office: “Goodbye, Michael”

Zoe: When I was a kid, my older brother would always accuse me of doing things because I had seen people on TV do them. This infuriated me, but was also usually right. Sometimes the best way I knew how to express an emotion was to act how Stephanie on Full House did–and sometimes the way I learned about emotions was to do that.

I don’t think this is that uncommon in kids, though we all are able to grow out of it (some more than others). Michael Scott is what happens when you don’t. His send off tonight was both sweet and unearned. The show had been building up to a touching send off for him–and his writing this season has earned this goodbye–but the idea of Michael is also the idea of the kid who has never had friends and is a jerk in groups. I believe you can grow to like that kid, but I’m not sure so many would grow to love him or think of him fondly.

I see Community‘s Pierce as the other part of the Michael Scott coin. He’s also friendless man child with petty, jerkish tendencies who wants to be the center of attention to. The difference is that Pierce is more aware of how much people dislike him and that Pierce didn’t grow up thinking he should act like a character on a sitcom. But there’s some Pierce in Michael Scott as many episodes will show you. Being aware of the different Michael’s and how terrible he had been, is what kept me from totally buying into the touching goodbyes. As much as the show has used Holly to force his redemption–and as good of a storyline as I think that has been–he’s also the guy who’s been unbelievable cruel to some of these people and humans just don’t forget that easily.

No matter. Now that Carrell is gone, and with him the heart of the show, there’s not really a reason to watch. In the meantime, I can appreciate the fine work that The Office has done growing his character this season into someone who someone else would want to marry, into less of a petty manchild, and who deserves the sweet farewell Pam gave him. And I’ll get ready to ditch the show at the season’s end because if D’Angelo is any indication, it’ll rough sailing for The Office from here on.

55: O! What a City

The cast of Community is a white, windowless room, wearing body restraints.

Community: “Paradigms of Human Memory”

Scott: After an unbelievably strong first half this fall, Community‘s second season has struggled to regain its footing since it came back in January. This is mostly for two reasons; 1) It largely dropped the genre parodies that served as a framework for each episode’s dense and hilarious riffing, and 2) we spent a lot of time with Chevy Chase’s Pierce in an attempt to redeem that character that ended up alienating most of the audience (myself included). This week’s “Paradigms of Human Memory” was easily the best episode the show has delivered in 2011 thus far, and a return to form both figuratively and literally. We got another parody, mocking the “remember that time when…” clip shows that filled out so many 80’s sitcom seasons, mostly with clips from episodes that never happened, including a western episode, an insane asylum episode, and a robot attack episode (actually, a western episode would probably be pretty awesome). As someone who usually hates parodies, I’m not sure why I’m only head over heels for Community when they’re spoofing something. Maybe it’s because I’m like Abed, and I can only communicate with pop culture references. Maybe it’s because genre trappings provide the cast with a perfect platform from which to explore their unexpectedly lovable characters. Or maybe it’s just because the people who make Community are some of the funniest people who ever lived and have a knack for crafting something fresh and unique from cliches.

Zoe: The secret truth of friendship–and hello, maturity–is realizing you’re never going to like everything about the people you love. There are always going to be things about them that annoy you or you wish weren’t there or whatever. Recognizing this truth and learning to love them anyways is what makes bonds strong. It’s also what TV has a hard time with–characters on TV consistently need friendships, groups, and relationships to fit some idea of perfection. Maybe this is because characters on TV are doomed to spend all their time with each other. Maybe because realistic strife is hard to write. Either way, TV friendships are either bounding along or facing issues because a person dared to buck the established protocol/change/what have you.

Enter this week’s Community in an episode that’s all about the difficulty of friendships. While I love the show and think some of the relationships portrayed on it are fabulous, I have to admit that sometimes the group’s dynamic seems too…easy. Too unrealistic. Pierce’s behavior this season has been a good example, but there’s also something about TV friendships where characters are always yelling faults at each other, but then hanging out all the time anyways. Having the group fight (combined with hilarious flashbacks to adventures we have never seen) was a great way to address this issue, even if the ultimate solution was “let’s try and move on”. And while it wasn’t a revelation  per se (I mean, we saw them hooking up on Troy’s birthday), I liked the reveal of Jeff and Britta hooking up. I’ve said it before, but their relationship is hyper-realistic, especially in a group dynamic. It’s logical and just a little bit immature and works well for both of them. Of course, the best part is it happening without their relationship becoming any sort of focal point for the show. Probably because of Jeff’s crush on the dean.

How I Met Your Mother: “Hopeless”

Ellen: Ironically, my most regular viewing of CBS’ Friendsy Monday night sitcom coincided with my move to the city in which it takes place, New York City. As a good student of signs and simulacra, I can’t escape the irony of this: I didn’t have a “regular” bar or a constant steady group of friends yet, and I was too broke to be out drinking every night anyway, but I could afford Wifi so I could sit at home eating cereal and hanging out with Marshall, Lily, Robin, Ted and Barney. I craved their routinized camaraderie, honed over years (as shown in flashback).

I fell right back into HIMYM on Monday night from wherever I had left its plot — No mother yet? Okay, good — and I might even pick it up again. The A-plot of Barney imploring his friends to create elaborate personalities to cover the good working kids they are to impress his dad (John Lithgow, always a valuable addition) was just kooky enough and allowed the banter to flow, while Robin’s encounter with her old crush, the Bad Shirt Guy, played to its format although it ended in disappointment. (Robin was always my favorite character, even when the show seemed to bend over backwards to indulge her ‘guy’s girl’ tendencies.) The extended verbal sparring about which hot club to hit — a “Who’s on First?” takeoff complete with Abbott and Costello callback furnished by a confused Lithgow — was a personal high point, proving what I already knew: Silly things like “plot” don’t matter when you’re among friends.

Happy Endings: “Your Couples Friends & Neighbors” and “Mein Coming Out”

Dennis: I think ABC has officially eclipsed NBC as the network comedy leader (sorry CBS, as long as you employ David Spade, William Shatner, and a whole lot of laughtracks, you’re not even a contender). Besides the already established sophomore series The MiddleModern Family, and Cougar Town, there’s Mr. Sunshine and Happy Endings. While neither of this week’s Endings episodes were as uproariously funny as last week’s “The Quicksand Girlfriend,” this week did feature Max burning through beards in front of his confused parents, Penny flirting with a guy named Doug Hitler, and the awkward laughs associated therein. So, much as I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of pilots, I still hope there’s room for both this and Mr. Sunshine come fall.

House: “The Last Temptation”

Zoe: As my sophomore year of college paper on Joan of Arcadia can prove, I’m a fan of Amber Tamblyn. In fitting with the “change is interesting” way of watching House it was nice to see her on the show and I think she played an extremely thinly characterized character well, plus it was nice to see someone actually stick up to House, so to speak.

Alas, last week 13 returns and since the idea of two female doctors on the team would clearly be anarchy, Tamblyn has to go. Of course, she has to go in an extremely convoluted way, involving sailing records and amputation and finally giving up her morals, but at least her going does show a certain standing up to House. Frankly, as someone who is horrified by non-consensual operations/medical procedures, it sucks not to be able to root for Tamblyn at the end. Moreover, this is an issue House has gone over time and time again and it usually ends with the doctor ignoring the patients will. Terrifying, but also sort of boring. Fortunately, in a B-plot there were chickens! And also a fun joke about Tamblyn’s clothes. It was nice knowing you Amber, sorry only one lady is allowed in the club house.

30 Rock “100th Episode”

Dennis: Who would’ve thought, 100 episodes ago that we’d reach this point? I was so fearful that 30 Rock would be eclipsed by its seemingly superior dramatic sister show Studio 60. Hah! Congrats Lemon and friends! There were some pretty good chuckles (and, with Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton, a mini-Beetlejuice reunion!) in this (arguably, a little over-stuffed) episode. It’s a true testament to a show, when I can tolerate, (and better yet enjoy) a partial clipshow and thanks to Liz, Jack, Jenna, Tracy, and (the one who holds a special place in my heart, for obvious reasons) Dennis, I tolerated the hell out of this episode. To one hundred  – nay, one MILLION more!

The Celebrity Apprentice: “Raising The Steaks”

Scott: I’ve been an infrequent viewer of The Apprentice; I watched the first three seasons, the misbegotten Martha Stewart season, then just an episode here and there. I hadn’t watched a single episode of The Celebrity Apprentice before 3 weeks ago, laughing it off as a pathetic Dancing With The Stars rip off, except with capitalism. But then I heard scattered reports of things I simply had to see. Things like Dionne Warwick mocking Marlee Matlin’s deafness, then Marlee shrugging off Warwick’s work because she’s deaf. Things like Jose Canseco sending secret messages in Morse code by blinking and starring in homophobic TV commercials. Things like Meat Loaf threatening Gary Busey’s life over sponges and creating Jackson Pollock-esque paintings by dropping paint-covered basketballs on blank canvases. How could I — how could anyone? — resist such a show? I quickly caught up, and though I can’t speak for seasons 1 and 2, season 3 of Celebrity Apprentice is the crown jewel of reality TV, a program so completely bonkers that it defies description. I mean, there’s an actual competition involved, but that’s pretty much meaningless because Star Jones (a scheming spider woman who is nonetheless eminently capable at any task that comes her way) will clearly win. One watches the Celebrity Apprentice for the journey, not the destination. And what a mindbending journey it has been, this week bringing us to the land of Omaha Steaks, a reprehensible right wing organization that nonetheless produces a fine piece of meat. Playmate of the Year Hope Dworaczyk, who spent the first 6 episodes uttering maybe three words and serving as the unhinged Dionne Warwick’s babysitter, served as team leader for the women and delivered a cooking presentation for Omaha Steaks in which they referred to the company only as “Omaha” and didn’t actually cook anything. Still, they won, mostly because Gary Busey, who is despised by his teammates because he’s mentally ill and suffered a brain injury, led the men to a presentation derailed by long stream of consciousness ramblings about flying kites on Fathers’ Day. Busey was mercifully sent home by Trump, the biggest villain in America right now, and the power trio of John Rich, Lil’ Jon and Meat Loaf are now free to wreak havoc on the women’s team, which consists of Jones, the delightful Marlee Matlin and a bunch of crybabies

90210 “The Enchanted Donkey”

Dennis: It’s a shame 90210 is on the precipice of another showrunner change (and still generally on the bubble), as it seems to have really finally found its footing. Silver and Adrianna’s Navin-fueled feud is pretty fascinating. Annie and Liam are quite cute (whodathunk?). And Teddy’s still on his big gay journey to self-discovery (which this week, meant getting rebuffed for a hook-up with Marco, actually hooking up with an old prep school roommate, awkwardly meeting said guy’s quasi-boyfriend, and then scoring a date with Marco. Not too shabby!). Here’s hoping this show gets a fourth season, and a new showrunner who can keep everything on track (and maybe bring back Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth? Please?).

Nikita: “Girl’s Best Friend”

Rawles: I’ve been ceaselessly clamoring for an episode really featuring Jaden since literally the day Nikita premiered and now, at long last, it has arrived. It’s a mixed bag. I definitely enjoyed the 400% more Jaden, and the episode did provide much-needed insight into both her past and her inner life. Her and Alex making some small peace and agreeing to work together — even if for completely different reasons, at first — was something for which I’d also been desperate since their perfunctory (and gender essentialist) rivalry was always lacking both layers and interest. Alex choosing to rescue Jaden instead of taking her chance to get out of Division and be free was basically the stuff of my dreams. Even better than that though was the moment she listened in as Jaden spoke to Kalume, and it was made clear that, at long last, Alex confronted the fact that Jaden isn’t just some bad seed who irritates her, but a person who has also experienced pain and endured. Their fighting side-by-side, saving-each-other battle scene was a great way to cap it off. It’s only in the denouement that I run into problems.

While I don’t expect Alex to be the type to start gushing her emotions everywhere, the lack of Alex/Jaden follow-up scene makes her saying that she chose to go back out of a desire to emulate Nikita and because she felt that she was doing good with the mission seem completely at odds with the rest of the episode. While it was true that Nikita would very likely have made the same choice to save Jaden, there was absolutely nothing to indicate that Alex was considering Nikita at all at that moment. Plus, the idea that she wanted to complete the mission makes no sense because blowing the lab would have done that. If she wanted to stay with Division she could even have said she got out. In the moment, as it played on screen, she clearly went back entirely out of a desire to save Jaden from death.

On top of that, while I appreciate that a twist ending is, once again, Classic Nikita, not only was there no perceivable chance for Jaden to have acquired the nerve toxin to give to Percy, but if I’m supposed to, once again, feel like Jaden’s a bad seed for this then it’s a failure. What was made clear about Jaden is that she’s a survivor and she’s fighting her life. She recognizes that Division and the people in charge of it control her fate and if she wants to live, she has to do as they ask. That’s inherently sympathetic and it’s made even more so by the fact that when she was in the lab, she deliberately asked Alex to blow it. She was explicitly willing to die there to complete the mission to destroy the toxin, despite how much she clearly values her own life. In short, the final scene is a mess of ominous music and confused authorial intent that seems to have very little to do with the rest of Jaden’s arc in the episode.

Obviously, there are also a ton of issues I’m not even ready to start trying to unpack involved in the fact that the first mission we ever see Jaden on is fighting corrupt Nigerian politicians. The episode was still okay. The subplot of Nikita and Michael essentially arguing over what their kid — Alex — was going to do with her life was generally fine and a good way to maintain conflict now that they’re on the same side, but I still feel like I’m waiting for them to do right by Jaden. It was so close, but they veered off somewhere weird at the end.

54: The Vampire Is the Boss

Aiden, a vampire with black hair, is shirtless on a table receiving a bloog transfusion. Josh, a blonde werewolf, is holding his hand.

Being Human: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Me Killing You”

Zoe: Though I have had made my issues with Being Human fairly clear in the reviews here, I have to admit, I did like this first season. And while there are many (many) things I would like to se changed or improved upon in the next season, I’ll be tuning into it. That said, this finale was a bit underwhelming. It’s not as if I went into it with grand ideas, but the execution was pretty meh. Plots were rushed forward in a confusing and erratic matter and a flashback was tacked on to explain stuff that audience (or maybe just me) had already assumed.

Despite that, the show managed to work the things I enjoy: the roommate interaction, the homosocial relationship between Aiden and Josh, getting rid of a useless baby, even a relatively good cliffhanger. But the things that were supposed to be thrilling, weren’t. Aiden’s fight was fine, but not intense like one would want from the situation, though that may be my love of Bishop talking. Josh continues to be the worst boyfriend ever that we’re supposed to root for. Sally is going to hang around for no reason, still. Etc. Being Human is a fine show, but I prefer it erring on the side of light drama, then trying the heavy stuff. When it’s serious but fun it works for me. When it gets pulled under by “dark”, complicated plots it loses it’s way. I’m not saying it should be a sitcom, but I would prefer it tackle the more directly human issue of relating to the world than trying to be a supernatural thriller. Maybe next season. Really, I’d just be happy with better episode titles.

American Idol: “8 Finalists Compete (Music From The Movies)”

Scott: I was as shocked as anyone that American Idol‘s Tyler/Lopez/Jackson reboot was not only watchable early on, but better than the past 3 or 4 years of the show. Everything felt more energetic: the judges were into it, the auditions were packed with really talented and unique singers, the editing was tighter, the running time was mercifully shorter. Then we moved from Phase 1 of the show (auditions) to Phase 2 (the actual competition), and everything’s gotten worse and worse week by week. So, nice try, AI reboot, but time for more rebooting. Number one, the judges need to stop liking everything. The new panel seemed to love discovering talent in the auditions but don’t provide any guidance to the contestants or the audience now that the actual show’s underway. You don’t have to be a cartoon villain like Simon to tell Paul this week that he sucked (and accordingly went home). Secondly, this voting system’s got to go. Maybe returning producer Nigel Lythgoe was right that Pia’s controversial departure last week was a forgone conclusion as far as the audience’s votes were concerned, but the people who vote for American Idol are drooling morons who shouldn’t control the show. I’d be happy with getting rid of audience voting altogether, but the show needs to at least go to the So You Think You Can Dance system of voters selecting a bottom three and the judges sending one of the three home. Third, the new Jimmy Iovine segments of the show were great; I loved seeing a seasoned industry veteran guiding impressionable young artists and pairing them with well-known producers to create new, modern versions of songs we’ve heard a thousand times before. Now those have been dropped, and Iovine is forced to sit with noted cultural garbage bag Will.I.Am as he spouts stream-of-consciousness ramblings and combines names of musical genres. Get rid of this fool, and while you’re at it, can the shittiest band on TV, led by the guy who crosses his hands and mouths “namaste” to Ryan Seacrest at the end of every episode. Pretty much any bar band in Pittsburgh would blow these clowns off the stage.

You’re welcome, Rupert Murdoch.

Community: “Competitive Wine Tasting”

Paul: This episode was all over the map. There seems to be some setup occurring for a Troy/Britta storyline, which I can’t say I’m a huge fan of, mostly because I don’t find Troy and Britta’s interactions to be nearly as interesting as Troy and Abed’s, and while I have no time for “bros before hos” zero-sum relationship theorizing, when you’ve only got 22 minutes of episode, relationships do become zero-sum, with time spent on one taking away from time spent on another. Anyway.

Abed’s rivalry with and triumph over his professor was great—so great, in fact, that I wish it had been the focus of the episode. Finally, I find Pierce weirdly less insufferable when he’s paired with a woman roughly as awful as he is. I doubt the show will go anywhere with that relationship, but I hope they do.

The Vampire Diaries: “The Last Dance”

Rawles: Every once in a while, The Vampire Diaries and I need some time apart. Be it from a little too much of Damon’s tortured soul and miscellaneous other douchepires and/or weretools or just needing a break from some more unfortunate PoC and female guest stars deaths, I step back for a bit before returning to its embrace. Usually, it’s happy to see me. This time, it was evidently ecstatic since it gave me an entire episode about Bonnie and Elena. Bonnie and Elena, their relationship, foremost, but their relationships with the other characters as well. Bonnie Bennett is, more than anyone else, the hero of Mystic Falls. Damon is 98% self-interested, Elena and Stefan mostly do damage control, but Bonnie is the one who accepts — in straight-up Peter Parker style — that with her great power comes great responsibility. And she sees her responsibility as defeating evil that threatens the innocent. While the current story arc revolves around everyone’s quest to save Elena, Bonnie’s heroic nature heavily informs all of her actions. She’s willing to die for Elena because she loves her, because they’re best friends, because Elena would do it for her, but it’s not out of character for her, it’s not above and beyond. It’s a heroic sacrifice only befitting who she is. Now, if Bonnie had actually died, this reaction would be entirely different, but as it stands this episode was basically a tribute to how Bonnie Bennett is #1 the biggest BAMF in Mystic Falls, and #2 incredibly important to everyone around her — even if some of them aren’t willing to admit it. Aces all around.

Parks and Recreation: “Fancy Party”

Scott: We’re really at a point now where you if don’t like Parks and Recreation, I don’t like you. At a point when almost all of my favorite shows started incredibly strong this season only to limp across the finish line (FringeCommunityAmerican Idol), Parks and Recreation is just gets better and better. Take a character like April, for instance. There’s really no reason that a selfish, lazy teenager who’s unimpressed by literally everything the world has to offer should become lovable and sweet. And yet that’s exactly what P&R gave us this week with Andy and April’s thrown-together wedding in an unexpectedly heartwarming episode that began with a tooth being pulled without the benefit of anesthesia (or was it?!) and ended with love in the air for nearly every character. It’s pretty impressive that Aubrey Plaza, a very talented comedian who’s never really broken out of playing a certain type of character, has squeezed so much out of April this year, allowing her character to express love, anger, happiness, and so on with just a slightly different eye movement or tone inflection. In conclusion, I plan on being Ron Swanson for Halloween.

Nikita: “Covenant” and “Into the Dark”

Rawles: After leaving us hanging in an unconscionable manner during the hiatus, these first few episodes of Nikita have been good, if not up to that same OMG standard. A show can only totally change up its paradigm so many times in a short period, so it’s be expected. Michael’s immediate reaction to finding out the truth about Nikita and Alex defied expectation, however. It was also harsh and brutal, thus perfect for Nikita. They didn’t hold back on how betrayed Michael has been feeling since Nikita stopped him from killing Kasim and it doesn’t it really let up until he’s finally faced with an even bigger betrayal. When talking to my friends who never watched the original La Femme Nikita TV show, I often refer to certain twisty-turny plot machinations as “classic Nikita.” Kasim being a Division double agent who was specifically ordered by Percy to destroy Michael so that Percy could recruit him is 100% classic Nikita. I think it’s an interesting choice to have Michael’s final turning on Percy be rooted in something so personal as opposed to the fact that Percy is just generally the worst. Personal pain is pretty much everyone’s main motive on Nikita, but with the pains they’ve often gone to in order to present Michael as an idealist at heart, a person who believes in the greater good, I assumed the thing that pushed him over would be a little more lofty. Not that it doesn’t work and, of course, it also assists Michael and Nikita in finally making out. I’m all for Nikita getting action of every sort.

Then, we jump right back to Owen, Nikita’s other dude — I’m not even counting the highly boring and, thankfully absent, Ryan — who I will admit, I have at times secretly preferred the idea of her with over the idea of her with Michael. That said, I do like their relationship as is. His admiration and respect for her is a bit more adorable than anything a deadly assassin does should be. He feels almost like an audience insert at times, pondering how exactly Nikita is so amazing always. I actually wish he would become a regular, but him departing again wasn’t surprising. The episode was engaging anyway. Owen and Michael’s sniping at each other wasn’t even as annoying as it could have been due to Nikita’s shutting it down constantly. One complaint is that Alex hasn’t had much to do in these episodes. Well, besides something I was barely paying attention to with her new boring boyfriend (can we kill this one too?) and be harassed by Amanda again. Though, the latter is much more interesting than the former. Now if only Jaden could ever do more than appear in one scene every few episodes as a plot tool. I’ll keep dreaming.

House: “The Dig”

Zoe: I think Zack Handlen hit the nail on the head when he says that, at this point, change in House is inherently exciting, even if it’s just surface changes. To wit: despite never really getting on board with 13, I found myself enjoying her a lot this episode. It was different. It only sort of involved her Huntington’s. Maybe it’s just that she wasn’t in the hospital. But it felt like new life for a show that so often trudges around in the same, tired stuff. To further wit: if I never see Taub and his wife again it’ll be too soon. I thought we were free of that plot monster, but it keeps rearing it’s ugly head. Is anyone on the planet invested in Taub’s relationship besides his fictional roommate? No? Oh well, at least there’s Chase being a skirt chaser in the background and, not coincidentally, more fun than he’s been in years.

53: It Was My Birthday

The Rock is throwing John Cena onto the mat.

WWE: “Wrestlemania 27″

Zoe: It may surprise no one that, growing up with two brothers who didn’t care about it and parents who didn’t want to pay for TV, I have never actually seen wrestling before. Going in knowing only the vaguest information and famous wrestlers meant I got to annoy my friends with questions and cynicism throughout the entire show. They had a great time!

It also meant that, until the final match, I had no idea that The Miz was actually the Real World’s Mike. While I’m always pleasantly surprised to find a Real World cast member who’s made something of their life (what up, Judd Winnick!) Mike wasn’t exactly a cast member I was a fan of. However, that changed when I became annoyed with John Cena’s overly wrought entrance, which included a massive gospel choir and an extremely long prayer. Then I wanted sweet blood. Which, it turns out, wrestling doesn’t have that much of. Sure, there’s the thrill of a concussion and the drama of multiple back and knee injuries (pre-determined winner or not, those guys actually get hit with things), but I wanted limbs flying everywhere.

Fortunately, my movie boyfriend The Rock stepped in and half fixed the match, half beat up Cena in his jorts. Suck it, guy I just learned about!

As for the rest of the show? Eh. I mean, some matches were a lot of fun or intense, like the Undertaker v. Triple H, but the rest required a love of jingoism and grrrrr-faces masculinity that I find appealing, or a lot of boring shots of guys lying on the ground breathing a lot. I think action movies have ruined professional wrestling for me, even as I appreciate I could never, ever do it. Well, since Snooki could, maybe I could too.

Armando: Confession: I am an incredibly huge mark/geek for “Pro” Wrestling. It’s my guilty pleasure. And while yes, I am fully aware that it is a mass pandering, nonsensical hysteria of excess, circus of lowest common denominator hullabaloo, I LOVE IT.

Why you ask? I love the hype. The art of whipping the crowd into a frenzy and then holding them there and then taking them for ride via the storytelling that happens in the squared circle. To me it’s like primal ballet. It encompasses every aspect of entertainment. Showmanship. Athleticism. Comedy. Action. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. And it does what I look for sometimes with my entertainment, takes me away. It takes itself so seriously but at the same time, it doesn’t. It’s the ultimate scripted reality show.

And when it comes to Wrestling, there is no bigger show than Wrestlemania! The entire year of WWE “story lines” and “rivalries” lead up to this circus. Even when I wasn’t watching the WWE on a consistent basis, I would order the PPV madness that is Wrestlemania.

This year’s edition was one of the best in years. My favorite match of the show was “The Game” Triple H vs. “The Dead Man” The Undertaker. (See? How ridiculous does that sound?) The Undertaker is undefeated at Wrestlemania, 18 years in a row. Triple H has accomplished everything in the WWE. Won every championship. Headlined on every show and PPV. He’s even married the bosses wife. (This was an instance of art imitating life) And a after a year long hiatus from a real life injury that was worked into his show storyline, the only thing left for him to conquer in the business, The Undertaker’s Streak at Wrestlemania! He would be the one to end “The Dead Man’s” dominance at this year’s biggest show on Earth.

Sitting there watching these two athletes, the pageantry of their long super produced introductions, the way they were able to tell a story in the ring and be able to captivate and entertain a live audience of over 70,000 and millions via PPV was fascinating and reminded why I love wrestling so much.

It truly is “take me away”‘ entertainment. Sure I love smart thought provoking entertainment. Things that are the complete and total opposite of wrestling. But sometimes, after a long day at work, battling the man, fighting the system, just trying to hang on and keep your sanity you, ok I, need wrestling.


Come On! What more could you ask for? Because I know you are dying to know

The Killing: “Pilot”/”The Cage”

Scott: Most critics and TV nerds agree that AMC is the best channel on TV right now (I’d make that argument for FX, but I digress). They’ve got a pretty fantastic track record so far with two unqualified masterpieces with middling ratings in Mad Men and Breaking Bad, one gigantic hit of middling quality in The Walking Dead, one critical hit with no ratings in Rubicon, and only one total flop in The Prisonerremake. They occupy the same space as HBO in the early 2000’s: about a half dozen buzz-worthy shows winning Emmys left and right, with more emphasis on making quality product than getting huge numbers. Now that The Walking Dead proved the big audiences are willing to tune in to the channel, though, will that corporate ethos hold up? The Killing arrives at a time that may tell the tale, as its first two episodes reveal it to be an odd beast of a show that pairs the artsy atmospherics and sometimes glacial pace of AMC’s less watched series with an accessible, standard issue genre premise like The Walking Dead.

For me, I’m not that impressed yet. From the plot to the characters to the acting to the writing to the direction, there’s very little in The Killing you haven’t seen four billion times before in filmed media. There’s lots of staring into the distance, ruminating on the evil in the world. There’s a glowering adolescent who doesn’t like his mom’s new boyfriend and snaps, “He’s not my dad!” There are cuts to high school hallways synchronized with bells ringing, and the kids in the high school are either shy and silent or raging junkie assholes. The murder victim’s parents collapse at the scene of the crime screaming “NOOOOO!” into the sky, and cry in the doorway of their child’s bedroom just the way they left it. Apart from the muted cinematography, there’s no difference between The Killing and whatever’s on CBS on Tuesday night.

I’ve watched all of AMC’s shows, though, and I’m sticking with The Killing for a little bit longer for two reasons. Number one, I really liked Frans Bak’s music, which is full of anachronistic synth fills reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s classic score for Twin Peaks. We also get some nice, primal percussion near the end of each episode that reminded me of Bear McCreary’s work on Battlestar Galactica. But really, all the great music in the world isn’t going to keep me watching CSI: Seattle. The real MVP on The Killing so far is Joel Kinnaman as a truly strange rookie homicide detective who’s a bit like an overstretched piece of taffy with a druggy past and an accent that sounds like he’s the long lost white Alabaman member of the Wu-Tang Clan (complicated all the more by the fact that Kinnaman’s from Sweden). At first, Kinnaman’s Stephen Holder seems like the traditional hothead newcomer on the force, but by episode two he’s such a shifty rogue that he’s impossible to pin down. And AMC, you’re welcome to use the description “an overstretched piece of taffy with a druggy past and an accent that sounds like he’s the long lost white Alabaman member of the Wu-Tang Clan” in your ads for the show.

Camelot: “The Sword and the Crown”

Robert: The highly-rated April 1 premiere of Camelot began with a repeat of the first episode (see my write-up here) and concluded with this second episode that sees Arthur laying his mother to rest, encountering the mysterious blond from the sea and facing the challenge of a certain sword lodged in stone high atop a towering waterfall. It’s all traditional Camelot territory, sure, but it’s presented in a way that’s grounded in the sometimes odd ways that the real world can present itself. When Arthur frees the sword and asks Merlin about the legend and whether it’s all a ruse, the rationale is seems solid, hokey mysticism be damned.

Meanwhile, Morgan grows frustrated with King Lot and his rambunctious approach to the throne. She’s more concerned with being a legitimate ruler while he is, quite frankly, simply interested in the perks of the job. He’s clearly underestimated Arthur, but she knows better, and when Arthur frees the sword from the stone, their alliance is pushed to the limit. Lot tries to take charge by removing her from the picture and hastily planning an attack on Camelot, but she won’t stand for it, instead choosing to warn Merlin. The resulting melee works out just as she planned when Ector takes Lot down with him, but when Arthur and Merlin try to appeal to her better senses, Morgan’s insistence on ruling without the help of any man turns her toward darker forces for direction. Dark forces that require a nude Eva Green sauntering through the forest, natch.

The Good Wife: “Wrongful Termination”

It breaks my heart that this show is still on the bubble for renewal, even though it’s on the bubble for the same reason it breaks my heart in the first place — this show is actually good. Unlike most of CBS’ mindless procedurals, The Good Wife actually rewards we the viewers who watches this from week to week. We know Denis O’Hare’s judge is a big softy, and that Michael J. Fox’s Canning is also compellingly cunning. We know that Andrew Wiley is a good PI, even while humorously doting on his kids, and we mourn the passing of erstwhile patient Jonas Stern and aren’t surprised when Will finally finds out Stern had Alzheimer’s  (and that Alicia knew about it but couldn’t tell anyone due to attorney-client privilege). And we appreciate the ever-growing closeness between Cary and Kalinda, and fear what the reveal of the Kalinda/Peter dalliance will do to both Alicia and Peter’s relationship and Alicia and Kalinda’s friendship. God I love this show. (Well, except for Elizabeth Reaser’s still thankless role as Tammy. I was really hoping Josh would let her leave for London). But seriously, can more people watch this so it’ll see another season? Pretty please?

Bob’s Burgers: “Spaghetti Western and Meatballs”

Ellen: Bob’s Burgers is one of those shows everyone on my Twitter feed seems to watch except me. (Also in that category: Mildred Pierce, but I understand it’s because I’m too cheap to shell out for HBO even for my girl Kate Winslet.) The gentle wave of pleasant feeling that swept that feed yesterday when Fox announced the quirky Sunday-night cartoon had been renewed wasn’t the first time I had thought about watching the show. This is actually last week’s episode, because there wasn’t a new one this week, but I’m hoping Editor Zoë will just glaze over the exposition and let me get to the opinionizin’.

Bob’s Burgers is an at best mildly entertaining family comedy featuring Simpsonsy art and Family Guy-style humor with a slightly offbeat style. Bob (voice: H. Jon Benjamin) owns a struggling restaurant and wife Linda (voice: John Roberts) looks after their three children, sulky Tina (voice: Dan Mintz), goofy Gene (voice: Eugene Mirman) and hyperactive Louise (voice: Kristen Schaal). In “Spaghetti Western and Meatballs,” Linda attempts to score major points with the other PTA Moms by signing Bob up to cater a school function, and Bob and Gene become obsessed with a classic Western movie series about a rebel named Banjo who shoots bullets from his instrument.

The plot line of a father sharing a beloved pop cultural artifact with the next generation — even if part of the next generation (Louise) thinks it’s extremely dumb — was tailormade for me, and I enjoyed the knocks on Western cliches, but the unintended consequences of Gene’s wanting to emulate Banjo the cowboy were extremely predictable and dull. My biggest laugh was hearing that one of Banjo’s onscreen rivals was named “Ceviche.” The perpetually shouting Louise would be grating if anyone other than Kristen Schaal was voicing her — the only voice I recognized right away (despite having seen Mirman perform in person). Neither a Family Guy-style cutaway nor a solid 30 seconds of fart-joke progression (which felt INTERMINABLE in a 22-minute comedy) landed their targets.

The difference between Bob’s Burgers and its companions in the Sunday-night block is that their defenders can fall back on “Well, it used to be better, and occasionally still gets in a few jabs.” Bob’s Burgers got a vote of confidence this week but will have to build on what it does have in order to not be in jeopardy next season.

Top Chef “Reunion Special”

Dennis: This reunion episode was less terrible than recent seasons, and that’s actually greater praise than it seems like coming from me. I’m on record as saying that these reunions are often painful hours of clipshows someone thought was funny, and yet another hour of a Bravo day given over to Andy Cohen’s shameless mugging. And yes, there was still clipshows and Cohen galore, but at least some important questions were quasi-answered (Will Blais really give Mike a cut of his winnings? Maybe. Was Jaime even trying? It’s debatable, but she doesn’t regret coming on the show. Were the Sesame Street judges as delightful as they seemed? You betcha), and there was even some (admittedly, Andy-instigated) drama between Tom and Elia. Apparently, Elia loves grass fed-beef and hates high fructose corn syrup, but Tom’s ok with corn-fed beef, and really likes Coca Cola. Yeah, that’s as dramatic of a revelation as there’s ever going to be on one of these reunions. Now everyone needs to rest up until whenever Top Chef: Original Recipe gets put back on the menu (What? You really thought I wasn’t getting one more food pun in?)

52: America’s Got Mobbing Talent

A large group of people jumping in the air.

Mobbed: “Series Premiere”

Ellen: This week in Shows I Don’t Watch: A series premiere! I was sitting with my roommates after dinner trying to explain who Will.I.Am is when we saw a preview for the new Howie Mandel-hosted reality show Mobbed. It’s a flash mob… reality show. Hey, remember when flash mobs were a thing that wasn’t on TV? I feel old, but I was both intrigued and lazy enough to take it in.

The premise of Mobbed is is Punk’d in reverse, meets Glee: Mandel finds people who have big news to impart — in this episode, dutiful boyfriend Justin who wants to make his marriage proposal to Nikki the Best Ever — finds volunteers to learn dance moves to be performed around them, and surprises them with a spectacle. (In the opening he suggests with an eyebrow-waggle that someone might use a flash mob to come out of the closet — truly, a step backward for everyone involved.) Mandel’s function to the show is to constantly push the envelope; if they have 200 dancers recruited (“via social media,” shadily), why not 400? If Justin and Nikki are getting engaged in the open-air courtyard of a mall, why not get MARRIED there? THAT NIGHT?

I’m of two minds on Mobbed. The first is that this is a wholesale ripoff of the genuine shenanigans of Improv Everywhere (working with 1/100th of the budget, and 100 times the heart, of Mr. Mandel), and also, that you shouldn’t be able to refer to it as a “flash mob” if the people involved are rehearsing for days and weeks up to the event. A further twist — hiring an actress to throw a drink in Justin’s face over dinner in some kind of “crazy ex-girlfriend” behavior — wanders into mean-spirited prank territory. (Also, stereotypes! All your boyfriend’s exes wear short dresses and act rudely! SO IT HATH BEEN DECREED!) The other is that I would kind of like to live in a movie musical, and I bet a lot of people would too. I may have been cringeing on the outside but somewhere in my dark, cold heart, I heard a whisper of “Well, no one really got hurt in the end.” I might watch this again, if the weekly “reveal” looked either funny or terrifying.

Justified: “The Spoil”

Scott: It just occurred to me this week, with only a third of its episodes left to go, that Justified’s second season is almost completely different from the first one; it’s just so subtly written and well-plotted that I hadn’t even noticed. Season 1 was great, but was structured as a traditional TV cop show: case of the week, with maybe a little bit of a season arc sprinkled here and there. Season 2 has done that great thing that only The Shield and Fringe have pulled off successfully, which is a case of the week that directly feeds into a season long arc. It’s a best of both worlds approach that gives our lizard brains the closure and satisfaction we expect from an episode of TV while developing the dramatic heft of long-form, epic storytelling. This week’s “The Spoil” was pure perfection, tightly pulling season (and series)-long plot threads together that we didn’t even realize were there, and doing it with brilliant dialogue, tense plotting and characters so richly developed that the only thing I can do is kiss my fingers like I just had a delicious spicy marinara sauce and say “Muua! Magnifique!” It’s only the second episode with input from the legendary Elmore Leonard, and his masterful character work looms large over the hour. The murderous drug runner Mags Bennett is given an impassioned speech that makes her out like a hillbilly Al Gore, our hero Raylan is defeated by an ethical lapse in the name of love, and the bad even when he’s trying to be good Boyd finds himself in the employ of thieves who aren’t even breaking the law. I couldn’t hope for a better episode on the week we learned Justified will be returning for Season 3 next spring.

Top Chef: “Finale”

Dennis: Oh, Top Chef. I was so psyched for this season, and while it was thrilling to see all our favorites (well most of our favorites, I’m still compiling my list of cheftestants for my Fringe-esque alternate universe edition of these “all-stars”), unfortunately (yep, here come the food puns) this season felt a little overcooked a bunch of episodes before. There was that week that no one got kicked off, and the following week where 5 people went to the “finals” in the Bahamas. Then three grueling weeks where 3 of those people did get eliminated, the last of which seemed like it was trying to trick people into thinking it was the finale (it was called “The Last Supper,” dammit).

Now, finally, the final final final finale! I’m just happy after an hour of “both contestants’ food was so good” proclamations, that the judges even managed to name a winner. And, I’m happy it was Richard. Well, not happy as I would’ve been if it were Carla or some of the other more beloved personalities. But if it had to be between sometimes cocky, sometimes confidence-less Richard, and all cocky, all the cock-a-doodle-clock Mike, I’ll gladly take Richard. I’ll also be gladly taking a much needed break from this show (I say no thanks to Top Chef Masters, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Top Chef: Special Victims Unit, etc) ASAP. And by ASAP I mean after next week’s Top Chef: The Season That Wouldn’t Die — Zombie Cheftestants (plus a Richer Richard) Reunite!

Parenthood: “Taking The Leap”

Scott: After a triumphant February sweeps period which found Parenthood getting its highest ratings ever for its best episodes ever, the show slumped back this week with a typical entry finding the Bravermans basically just hangin’ out. The biggest development was the introduction of Richard Dreyfuss as someone named “Gilliam”, the most effete Vietnam veteran this side of Oliver Stone. “Gilliam” is a Broadway producer known for shows with titles like “Pickle Juice” and Zeke wants him to stage Sarah’s play. Who knows how this will play out over the remaining three episodes of the season, but for now it’s played in that annoying vein this show can get into where it’s cutesy and silly and pulls us out of the family reality the show can generate really well in its more affecting moments. For example, Zeke apparently harbors a long dormant desire to act that we’ve never seen or heard mention of previously, and reads Sarah’s play on the toilet. I also hate how the Braverman kids talk to their parents, with everything in a breathless “Ugh, Daaaad” tone that might be realistic (I don’t have kids, so I don’t know), but is certainly annoying and makes mostly great kids like Amber come across as snotty little jerks. Also, Julia and Joel found out they can’t have another kid, a development that found me breathing a sigh of relief for Joel, who justifiably never wanted another one anyway.

Being Human: “Going Dutch”

Zoe: Hey guys, did you know that women can have babies? Because that’s all TV writers know! Apparently we’re going to do a baby plot on this show before we do a “Josh actually grows and matures as a person” plot line. Because I would really hate to not be constantly annoyed by 1/3 of the show! Instead we get to have a baby, or a lot of melodrama about a baby that may die. On the plus side, this at least got the two main characters to interact with each other. And as much as Josh can annoy me (because his writing is bad), what annoys me can become a lot more fun around Aiden. So at least there’s that.

Another positive thing: Rebecca is totally dead!DEAD, DEAD, DEAD! I don’t know anyone who watches this show at all, but I also don’t know anyone who cares about her. She was a boring, annoying character who had all potentially interesting plots killed in favor of an unbelievable love storyline. So not only do we get Bishop being a badass (I love Bishop and will be sad if he dies), but we also get Rebecca’s death. You win this week, vampire storyline! Especially since while Sally’s plot was interesting (for her), I couldn’t help but yell at the psychic. You saw this man kill a woman and yet you don’t tell his girlfriend that? That’s awfully callous. But hey. Baby!!!!

51: At The Movies on TV

Troy, a young black man in a brightly colored shirt, chokes Chang, a middle-aged Chinese man in a bathroom and bald cap.

Community: “Critical Film Studies”

Zoe: I don’t think much about Abed’s probable Asperger’s syndrome and I really appreciate that the show doesn’t want to claim it for him and force him into some sense of diagnostic criteria. That said, I think this was a wonderful exploration of Abed’s more obvious diagnostic criteria, his pop cultural echolalia. This was an episode sort of about Jeff having many issues, sort of about Jeff trying to deal with Abed’s many issues, and sort of about Pulp Fiction (which, having never seen it, I assume was accurate). It was mostly, though, about Abed trying to make a connection with a friend the best way he knew how, by doing what he had seen. And while they lean heavy on the Abed relating to the world through TV, I deeply appreciate episodes like this, that show us why he does. Despite many funny gags and jokes, my biggest laughs were when Jeff started barring his soul and Abed’s facial expressions. It was a look of terror on a guy who doesn’t like the bottle he’s opened and doesn’t know how to handle it. And it was very funny.

Paul: A less-aware show would’ve made its Tarantino homage full of gangsters, guns, and sudden acts of violence. Community, of course, is smarter, and as such its take on Quentin’s style is to have talking. Lots and lots of talking. We get lengthy monologues from both Jeff and Abed, which despite not maintaining Community‘s standard gag-per-second count, are both funny and telling on a deeper level. I have to agree with the internet consensus: Normal Abed is deeply, intensely creepy. Finally, any episode that takes Jeff down a peg is fine with me. “THL, got it.”

Being Human: “Dog Eat Dog”

Zoe: When my older brother and I talk about TV, he talks about how dislikes shows like, well, this one. Shows that aren’t necessarily that good by the standards of HBO, but that have enough characterization and intrigue to hook in viewers like, well, me. If really bad shows are potato chips for the mind, then this are organic veggie sticks: still not that great for you to eat a whole bag of, but much easier to justify.

Which isn’t to say there wasn’t stuff to like about this week’s episode. For starters, I’m a sucker for vampire flashbacks, a requisite of any show with immortals in the cast. I’m also, admittedly, a sucker for Bishop. I think of the few things this show has does really well, it’s his journey as a villain and I like the light that this flashback shed on him. It doesn’t made his bad actions good or his good actions bad–it adds complexity to what was already a complex villain character. Since evil, especially the desire to make evil black and white, is something shows like this succumb to a lot (that and making evil sexy), I truly appreciate that Bishop is neither.

Also, in another news, is there some rule on TV shows that people can’t ever just have conversations about problems? It seems like the housemates (particularly Aiden and Josh) could ease a lot of tension and problems by a simple explanation of the facts. But I guess that wouldn’t be vaguely dramatic. Oh well! Maybe next week.

The Office: “Garage Sale”

Zoe: My interest in The Office is basically non-existent at this point and it’s unlikely I’ll watch the show past this season–I figure Carrell’s departure is a good enough time for my own. But even though the show isn’t really on my “Must Watch” list anymore, it still turns out wonderful gems like this week’s Was it a hilarious episode that had me crying with laughter? No, but it pulled off very funny (the proposal in fire joke) with genuinely sweet. Holly and Michael will never be my favorite characters on TV, but this episode highlighted the best of them, as well as setting up for Michael’s departure well. Throw in some funny B and C plots and the whole thing was sewn up very nicely. Well done, The Office.

50: One Must Die So That Another Can Live

V: “Devil in a Blue Dress” and “Mother’s Day”

Rawles: Well, that was mostly silly. It beggars belief to suppose that it never occurred to anyone in the Fifth Column that trying to disrupt an energy reactor made with technology that they can barely comprehend might lead to, you know, an explosion of some sort. It’s even more baffling that Lisa seemed to also have no idea that playing around with blue energy might not be the wisest course of action, but that can possibly be excused by the fact that Anna doesn’t seem the sort to give Lisa a particularly thorough education. Of course, nothing can compare to the absurdity of everyone deciding that the best plan of action to assassinate Anna would be to leave it entirely up to her daughter who’s only working with them in the first place because she’s fallen prey to human emotion. Though having Chad Dekker be one of the people on the ransom video comes close. Anna manipulating Lisa into sparing her was pretty excellent, as was… well pretty much everything else she did. There’s a certain threshold one reaches where the side of good has become so incompetent that you have no choice but to root for evil and I think V‘s coming up on it pretty fast. Of course, this is the season (and possibly series) finale so we won’t be able to further test that theory for some time, if at all. At the very least TYLER’S DEAD TYLER’S DEAD TYLER’S DEAD. Even if there is never a single episode of V produced again, I will have that glorious moment to make me smile forevermore.

Robert: It’s been an odd roller-coaster ride with this series. One disproportionately full of few highs and far more lows, and not surprisingly, I’m thinking this will be the last time any of us will have to sit through it ever again. Looking back at the pilot episode, I remember thinking the show felt rushed and forced, but after this second season, it could not have possibly dragged any slower. When an all-out invasion seemed imminent at the end of the first season, the stage was set for some magnificent conflict, but instead, we got a prime-time soap opera that, for all its devilish glares and tersely-spoken dialogue, left us nearly where we started in the first place. Even the stunt casting from the original miniseries (Jane Badler earlier this season and Marc Singer for mere seconds in the finale episode), while great for TV geeks, ultimately did little to affect the course of the show—or rather, nothing that couldn’t be undone by the show’s writers.

The best moments of “Mother’s Day” were both perplexing and amusing, mostly because they were overly contrived and cliched, but also because they felt like a build-up to something we’ll never see. Stephanie tries to kill Anna but lets her emotions get the best of her; Anna tries to kill Diana and succeeds because, well, emotions got the best of her too. Anna creates a fake-Lisa to finally get Tyler in the sack, but this only reduces the real Lisa to a bigger emotional mess (the Fifth Column really hinged all their plans on this chick?). And Ryan, well, I’d like to think there was some sort of commentary on fathers abandoning their children or some other trope, but his departure was simply long overdue. I got the message early on that this would be a big departure from the ‘80s series, and that final step of having a human/Visitor hybrid unleash her brainwashing mojo on all of humanity—save for those few in the super-secret underground bunkers—was a pretty bold move when you think about it. The ramifications of an event of that magnitude would be a game-changer on any other show, but if the level of un-sophistication seen so far on V is any sign, I have little faith that it’d be handled in any sort of spectacular way.

Of all the hurdles that sci-fi on TV must overcome in order for us to look past the obvious shortcomings like cheesy visual effects or mediocre acting, plotting and characters should be the first and foremost. Unfortunately, aside from establishing its core characters, V never quite managed to hash out believable motivations for them and more importantly, never got its arms around a logical or intriguing story. That’s a shame too, because I really wanted to like this show and would’ve been content just to see the themes in the original series merely updated or expanded upon for the 21st century.

Being Human: “I Want You Back (From the Dead)”

Zoe: I’m trying to think of a vampire I ever saw cry as much as we see Aiden cry. And while Angel was prone to some weepiness, I think we can say Aiden is the most in touch with his feelings. Guess that puts that soul question to rest. Aiden wins the storyline of the week, with his neighborhood boy friend Bernie being turned by Rebecca (who I’d be really OK with the show offing) and then having to kill Bernie, after he appears to kill two bullies. Aiden’s earned those tears, is what I am saying–and he’ll probably have some more when he finds out that Bishop set Bernie up. Dun dun dun duuuuun.

Meanwhile, in the boring plots, Sally starts dating another ghost who she had a crush on in real life. This ghost is perfect except he has a “death echo” where he relives his drowning every day. Even though she actually gets to make out with someone and enjoy herself, this is a show that likes to resolve everything in an episode, so Sally has to dump ghostie. Too bad, because Sally doing something other than intensely staring at Danny and whining was the most interesting plot she had yet.

In other death echo news, remember how Josh likes Nora, but is also very cautious? Well, that songs plays again. Which would be alright is Josh was less of an asshole or if Nora had more of a spine (he’s not worth it honey, but he has this roommate…) Instead it’s last week’s and the week before’s plot, with different lines. Maybe that explains why Josh is a grumpy gus with Aiden–at least it gives him something to do.

The Bachelor: “Finale”/ “After The Final Rose”

Ellen: This is the end of my long hiatus from Remote Uncontrolled, as TV and I have gloriously reunited again. I thought I should get back to what I used to do for this column, which was cover shows that I usually would never watch to either confirm my suspicions or discover something I actually liked. The Bachelor falls squarely into the former category: As a tabloid reader I haven’t been able to stay out of the highbeam of “news” surrounding the show’s various seasons, but Monday’s finale was the first time I ever watched a full episode by choice. Each season finale has featured the artificial “happy ending” of the Bachelor proposing to one of the two finalists, while gently letting down the other; the wrinkle this season was that Brad Womack had already appeared the show in 2007 and decided in that season finale not to propose. Was he really ready to fall in love again? Uh…

Listen, I was strapped in for artificiality in this heavily montaged and scored vacation real, featuring the sweeping hills of South Africa and, for the “After The Final Rose” live special, a cheering studio audience who may have nothing better to do with their lives (or couldn’t get tickets to American Idol). But all I could think as I listened to Brad intoning “I’ve picked a woman for me. It’s different this time” and other platitudes was, “Man! What a terrible actor!” Looking miserable and sounding as if he were reading from invisible cue cards, Brad did indeed go through with his choice, picking blonde Emily over brunette Chantal, with all the sweetness one uses to check mistakes in a spreadsheet. If this were a scripted show and Brad were a leading man, it would have been canceled. Can we not demand more of our fake reality TV? Spencer Pratt could act circles around this guy, and he’s not the brightest crayon in the box.

(Speaking of the brightest crayons in the box, some high school students are apparently miffed that last weekend’s version of the SAT contained an essay question on reality TV. This is a great story because it provides equal opportunity for highbrow and lowbrow to get upset about the state of the country, but I can’t comment because I’m still upset that my SAT score now looks like garbage on the 2400-point scale. You kids take your test prep and get off my lawn!)

I finally shut off the live postshow analysis when Brad and Emily blamed tabloid speculation for their “difficulties” in maintaining their relationship through distance (Emily and her daughter live in Charlotte), instead of just throwing their hands up and saying, “This show has a 0 for 14 track record; you should be happy we’re still speaking.” Verdict: Would not watch again.

Community: “Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy”

Zoe: As a nerdy, curly haired brunette living in New York City, I’m going to come across some Liz Lemon comparisons. It’s guaranteed. And yet, while Lemon and I aren’t totally dissimilar, I think my kindred TV spirit is, sadly, Britta. This it home last night, starting with her awkward “white people” joke in the opening and ending with her not understanding the rules of how to be friends with Troy and Abed. Sure, I’m less self-righteous and sure, I’m less likely to make out with someone referred to as Tall Kyle (or tell my friends the details), but the awkwardness and insecurity? Oi. I’ve never been someone who hated Britta, but she’s not my favorite character either. I have to wonder if some of that is like my friend who has an unofficial, never started beef with Donald Glover: when you have a limited palette of characters to choose from, the ones who hit close to home and the ones you like the least.

In other news, I still don’t get Chang, but I do love saw-related humor. Go figure. And more importantly, congrats to Community for a renewed third season!

49: All Fears Have Come True

The cast of Glee around a bright blue dumpster. Three cast members are in the dumpster.

Glee: “Sexy”

Scott: With 2/3 of Glee’s second season in the can (“can” meaning “toilet”), it’s impossible to overlook the painful truth: everything we worried might go wrong with the show’s meteoric rise from barely on the air to top scripted show on TV has gone wrong. Remember worrying that Ryan Murphy would turn up the wackiness until the show’s characters had no connection to reality? Remember worrying that the musical numbers would be shoehorned in with no thematic relevance? Remember worrying that the main characters were one dimensional shells that could barely sustain themselves over the course of the pilot? I don’t know anyone who’s still watching it, and I work for a musical theatre company.

Somebody’s still watching it though, because the huge dip in quality from season 1 to season 2 has resulted in ratings that basically doubled and stayed there. I suspect that a lot of us who loved the freshness of Glee’s early days are hanging in there, waiting for more of the stuff that hooked us in the first place. In that way, “Sexy” is a perfect example of the season as a whole in that it’s a complete mess. There’s a guest star (Gwyneth Paltrow again) who adds nothing, fantasy land writing that pretends John Stamos would marry a woman he’s never had sex with and then not have sex with her for months after their wedding day (this year’s equivalent of a high school football star believing he’ll be a father when he’s a virgin), a handful of musical numbers with no connective tissue seemingly chosen by putting an iPod on shuffle (although this may be the only time you’ll ever hear Garry Glitter next to Fleetwood Mac in a show pitched to 15 year olds), and a leading cast that the show has zero idea how to use (do Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele and Cory Monteith raise hell about their treatment on the show or are they happy just to be on TV?).

But then in the margins, we get some really wonderful, honest moments. Of course the Kurt/Burt stuff is great, it always is. But the big surprise is Santana’s coming out story, which goes a completely different and far more complicated direction than TV logic would usually dictate. Along with Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer and Mark Salling, Naya Rivera and Heather Morris are tremendously appealing performers who even the Glee writers can’t make suck, and this is their finest moment yet. So yeah, I’m still watching. And I’ll keep doing so. Dammit.

Greek: “Legacy”

Dennis: So apparently Greek‘s over? I barely even realized that we had reached the series finale of the show. ABC Family, having moved on to cashier cash cows like Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Life of Why the Hell is Everyone on That Teenager Show Pregnant? kind of skimped on the promotion. And, it certainly felt like the show’s writers were hoping against hope for more episodes in between last week’s penultimate and the finale, as things felt a little rushed. All of a sudden Casey and Evan are research students? Cappy’s graduating? Characters like Wade and Jen K. were suddenly back? Ashley and Rusty, and Dale and Laura’s simmering romances were suddenly boiling over? Well, ok. Still, I was happy with the way things concluded with most all of the characters, except perhaps Calvin and Heath (who were happy, but about to be presumably separated by Calvin’s studying abroad), and Rebecca and Evan (who were separated by Evan’s law school, but still exchanging the occasional lingering glance). I understand the show’s reluctance to end this show withevery single couple ending up together like this was something of a Shakespearean comedy, but with every couple but these two couples (hell, even Catherine and Beaver found each other) perfectly content, I just felt bad for them. Clearly there’s reason for a spin-off! ABC Family are you listening? No? Well, fine. Much like college, Greek was great fun while it lasted, I’ll always have my memories, and in a few years I’ll start rambling about how these days were “the best days of my life.”

House: Bombshells

Zoe: Look, having never been an addict or in a relationship with an addict, I can’t say what it’s like. Nor can I say that Cuddy’s line in the sane was the wrong tack to take–everyone needs lines and boundaries. But it did seem to come from a place of not understanding that recovery isn’t a smooth process you finish at one–relapses (or struggles with it) are a part of recovery. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have dumped him–her reasons are good–but to not call his therapist, Wilson, or even one of the House team members? Not give him any support when he is obviously going to be tempted to use again? That’s cold.

Not that I’m elated over Cuddy dumping House. While I was never a huge fan of that pairing, it was at least a new direction (sorta) to take both characters and while the breakup arc is a good one, I have no faith that any of the meaty, complicated storylines will be dealt with and frankly, House as a grumpy addict bores me. But the dream sequences this week were both surprisingly fun (I’m a zombie fan AND a sucker for Butch Cassidy), but also a good chance for Hugh Laurie to show his chops. Because this show can be so bland from week to week, one can forget that Laurie was once a comedian and remains a very talented. It’s nice to be reminded of that and get to see an ax cane. As for the breakup? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Raising Hope “Cultish Personality”

Dennis: Considering he seemed like an integral character in the pilot, I’m happy Raising Hope didn’t treat Cousin MIke like the gay housekeeper on The Golden Girls (seriously, watch the pilot) and finally brought him back. And in bringing back Mike, we were treated to TV all-stars like Oz‘s J.K. Simmons, Best Week Ever‘s Paul F. Tompkins, 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub, and even Glee‘s tertiary player Kent Avenido! I would watch an entire show with Mike, his father, his wife, and his reverse-Big Love “brother husbands.” I’d say I smell a spin-off, but I’m really just going from show to show this week, demanding spinoffs all around.

Being Human: “Children Shouldn’t Play with Undead Things”

Zoe: I hate that I dislike Sally. It’s not her fault, really. The actress is perfectly serviceable and ghosts, being rarely show on TV, offer something interesting. But her character arc on the show is sadly limited. She’s obviously going to figure out a way to deal with the “murdered” situation and frankly, the sooner at plot gets over the better. It’s already been dragged out enough for me. And after that…what’s left? What would tie her to Earth? Nothing interesting, I imagine.

Which is a shame, because as a roommate, she’s sort of fun. She teases, she can be a bit annoying, but she’s helpful when you need it. I would have no problem hand-waving away the whole “afterlife” issue and focusing on other aspects of ghost stuff, if it meant less badly acted, uninteresting angst and more awkward roommate nudity and intrusion.

In other news, Aiden still wishes he were a dad. And while they keep teasing it like we’re going to find out something terrible happened to his family I think it’s pretty obviously that the terrible is either 1) he ate them or 2) some other vampire ate them. The guy’s a vampire: his family’s death isn’t a riddle to tease out; it’s a plot to open up and move on. I’m more interested in why the entirety of hid parenting seemed to be running around in a field with his kid and why he despite being alive for 257 years he’s a really, really bad liar. Also, Josh has sex! But he was sort of a werewolf while doing it, so awkward. And….that’s basically it. The show is fun, but man, not a lot happens in it, does it?

Top Chef “Fit for a King”

Dennis: Another week in The Season That Just Won’t End. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying this season more than the last few, but sweet lord can we speed this process up a little? After last week’s wimp out, elimination-less episode, we’re treated to what seems to be the first of about 100 weeks of “finals” in the Bahamas, including winners from previous seasons (some of which really just reminded me that I hardly ever like who wins this competition). And worse yet, fan (and more importantly my) favorite Carla was eliminated! With Tiffany seemingly DOA (though just middling enough to stick around, a surprisingly good skill to have!), it’s likely down to Antonia, Mike I, and Richard for the title? Well, that sure is a recipe (almost got through this whole week without a food pun!) for underwhelming.

48: In Like a Hiatus, Out Like a Lamb

In the foreground, a blonde white lady wearing a fur is weeping into a man with short hair and a black cloak.

Camelot: “Homecoming”

Robert: Riding in hot on the heels of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is Starz’ new adaptation of King Arthur and his exploits, Camelot. Yes, Arthurian legend has been told time and time again, but Starz, perhaps due to the surprise success of Spartacus, is aiming to show us a weightier, more adult version of it than we’ve ever seen before. That said, there’s less over-the-top violence, anachronistic swearing and conspicuous visual effects; instead, the focus is on the complicated maneuvering of family and political relationships, which, handled well, should make for a more solid hour of television.

When King Uther of England is poisoned, loyal sorcerer Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) seeks out young Arthur (Jamie Campell Bower)—long ago whisked away into hiding from his royal parents—to restore order to the kingdom as rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile, his half-sister Morgan (Eva Green) angles to claim the throne for herself, and after their first confrontation, proves that she’ll do anything in her power, no matter how brutal, to keep it that way. It’s a brisk first hour, and if this “preview” episode is any indication of the series as a whole (set to debut April 1), Starz may just hit that lofty target.

Parenthood: “Qualities And Difficulties”

Scott: Parenthood went from good to great this sweeps month, and at a great time, too. Jason Katims’ masterpiece Friday Night Lightsis over, and I wonder if he strategically upped his game with Parenthood at the same time to grab FNL‘s insanely devoted fans and re-program them for the pleasant diversion that is Parenthood (or as I like to call it, “Hangin’ With The Bravermans”). Parenthood‘s always been watchable, but its problem has always been that there are absolutely no stakes. FNL always felt like life depended on its events – health, college, financial stability, pregnancy – whereas we always know the Bravermans will come back together, do the right thing, blah blah blah. That’s why this month has been different. The injection of Sarah’s ex-husband Seth and Crosby and Jasmine’s potential breakup have added tons of moral ambiguity to the show and made it appointment viewing for the first time ever. Both situations are real-life complicated in the best possible ways: Seth is a selfish addict, but he also sincerely wants to atone for his sins as a father, but he also has a violent streak, but he also lovingly restores guitars for his kids. The Crosby and Jasmine troubles aren’t quite as compelling, but they have a lot more resonance than I think fans are giving the show credit for. The fact is that Jasmine is ridiculously controlling, and doesn’tgive Crosby any of the trust a fiancée must give their intended spouse, and couldn’t care less about his plans for their family. The show is now trying to paint Crosby as a flat-out villain who must win his woman back, but the show’s depiction of issues that separate otherwise good people who are in love is as real as TV gets. This week’s episode was more of a epilogue to what’s happened over this arc than a main event, and it lapsed yet again into one of Parenthood‘s biggest problems, though, which is falling into the TV stereotype of fathers being dumbasses and mothers being sublime beings who simply must pull their neanderthal sperm donors kicking and screaming into enlightenment. I’ve already discussed the treatment of Crosby, Zeke is basically an insane person, and then there’s the sickening treatment of Joel, who’s had to completely put aside his life’s work for the better part of a decade to raise one child, and then caves to Julia who decides on a whim that she wants another child that Joel will raise and she’ll rarely see. This week it’s Adam, who thinks that telling a child with autism that “autism is awesome” might not be the way to go, but then realizes that would make him a hateful monster who’s scarred his son for life. Parenthood, you’re a great show now. Let’s dispense with the conventional TV wisdom that dads are shitty.

Greek: “Agents of Change”

Dennis: If I’ve been unusually silent on Greek this season, fret not, it’s not because I’m any less enamored with this show than previous seasons. I just fell behind due to a particularly busy schedule with non-TV-related things.  This episode specifically featured the triumphant return of Frannie, who of all people helped teach a still sorority-emersed Casey a valuable lesson about branching out.

In what is more than likely the series’ final season, I’m happy to see the gang get closer and closer to adulthood, but I’m still sad, just like Casey with her sorority sisters (yeah, that’s right, I just compared myself to a sorority sister, I lack shame) I won’t be able to check in on their lives anymore.

Being Human: “I See Your True Colors… And That’s Why I Hate You”

Zoe: Despite being someone who is currently enjoying a show where a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost are roommates, I’m a stickler for things making sense. Which is why it drives me up the wall when TV insist that things that never would be, would be. To wit: Josh is a guy in his late 20s/early 30s. Even if his family did embrace him as a werewolf, why would he have to live with them? Don’t most people stop living with their parents at a certain points–even one with life-altering conditions? It strikes me as wrong that Josh’s reconciliation with his family is apparently diametrically opposed to Josh being an independent adult. Wrong enough that it pulled me out of an otherwise highly enjoyable episode.

But I’m not here to whine or hate–let’s talk about what was awesome. Specifically: comedy Aiden. I’m a sucker for uptight vampires trying to be loose and casual and so the whole dinner scene, especially because pretend eating was involved, was a delight. Likewise, the pacing of this episode was a lot better: more happened, and when it didn’t, it was still engaging. I’m still not very interested in Sally’s drama about her death, mostly because being murdered is something she seems to treat on the same level as being told her boyfriend broke up with her. Sally could be really badass if they toned done they whining and upped the rage, but I appreciated how evil Danny is becoming. Likewise, the emergence of Marcus as a villain–not matter how many logical issues I have with vampire “families”–is a step in the right direction, especially if it means people actually get to fight and Amish vampires are involved.

V: “Uneasy Lies the Head”

Rawles: I can certainly say that now I feel substantially less ridiculous in my continued desire for Erica and Jack to make out. While it’s true the (wholly un-compelling) inevitable Erica/Hobbes hook-up is upon us, the entire episode also framed Erica and Jack in a pretty traditional star-crossed fashion. He’s the angel on her shoulder and Hobbes is the devil. She resists and resists and denies Jack’s position until she finally convinces him that the Erica he knew is gone, all to ensure that when she is ready to reach out to him again in a moment of vulnerability, he’s unwilling to listen. Then: enter convenient Hobbes, who Jack even threw jealous looks at earlier when Erica got a little close. He shows up at Erica’s house (in what have been the least stealthy action ever for the Fifth Column and that’s saying something) so that they can have sex on top of a picture of Joe and plunge us into what is sure to be one of the most awkward love triangles ever televised. Caught between two men (and the ghost of a third)! One is her dead ex-husband! The other is the one who killed him! The last: a priest!

At any rate, a lot of things I’ve been waiting for also managed to happen in this episode, Ryan actually had interesting interactions with other characters! I very much enjoyed all of his scenes with Lisa, Joshua, and Diana and though he’s still singing the same old song about saving his daughter, for the most part, the various ways he related to them — particularly his reverence for Diana and his compassion for Joshua — served to remind you that he does actually have a character and a history outside of his normal schtick. The show continues to taunt me by having people who could so easily be Tyler die in gruesome ways as Tyler just keeps on trundling about being the worst, but I expect that by now. Diana’s surety that Marcus is loyal to her was a great way to end the episode and unlike pretty much every other show I watch, I can find out what happens in a timely fashion sinceV will actually be back next week instead of on an interminable hiatus.

90210: “Blue Naomi”

Dennis: Just when nu90210 seems to finally be finding its footing, it goes and churns out a lame episode like this right before taking a month and a half hiatus. The show had been setting up long-lost Wilson cousin Emily (not to be confused with original 90210‘s Emily Valentine, who can never be duplicated) as the crazy new villain of the show, not unlike old 90210‘s later seasons’ Tiffani Thiessen addition. And just as nuEmily’s starting to really ruin Annie’s life, her character is abruptly declawed and sent packing to Arizona. Not cool! And while some may have tuned into this episode for Na’vi Naomi (as the title suggests), they would’ve been quickly disuaded from sticking around by Snoop Dogg shamelessly mugging it as himself, driving around in a car listening to his new tunes with Dixon riding shotgun, in the latest shameless promotion-weakly-diguised-as-subplot this show has brought us yet. Maybe even worse than Dixon’s Dr. Pepper-sponsored road trip from season one. Wow. Poor Tristan Wilds. He went from starring on The Wire, to being whored out on The CW for a plethora of product placement.

House: “Recession Proof”

Zoe: Unlike a lot of critical fans, I’m actually ok with House having a relationship with Cuddy. I mean, do I find it needless and incredibly boring at times? Heck yea. But I’m not opposed to House growing as a character (even though the writers squander that) and I’m a fan of the soap opera elements that have taken over late-period House. What I have never been a fan of, and what the show insists on doing is the moment where House says he’s going to do a normal thing and Wilson/Cuddy immediately launches into psychoanalyzing and guessing about how he will mess the thing up. For starters, this is boring and lazy. For second, it’s…well, that’s most of it. It’s just really dull to watch and makes Wilson/Cuddy seem as petty and mean as House can be, which also detracts from the main point of that character.

Look, I’ve accepted that House is what it is at this point. But that doesn’t mean in the shedding of other needless things, they couldn’t drop the above as well.

Raising Hope: “Snip Snip”

Dennis: Tuning in this week, we find Jimmy having to shave his drugged up father’s nether-regions, Sabrina and Virginia bonding over shared pregnancy scares, lucid Maw-Maw’s surprising knowledge of current wars, and an appearance from My Name is Earl’s Crab Man, Eddie Steeples as Tyler the Gas Man (the similar names make sense since both shows are from the same creator). If those plot points don’t sound delightfully hilarious, then I’m definitely doing this episode a disservice.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena: “The Bitter End”

Robert: Whoo, boy. Forget The Walking Dead. This is how you put on a compelling six-episode season! Introducing new characters, revisiting established ones and building intriguing arcs around all of them—all the while setting the stage for what will happen in both the previous and upcoming seasons of Blood and Sand—is no easy task, but show creator Steven S. DeKnight and company seem to be up to the challenge. We learn how Solonius went from being a comrade to a nemesis and finally, we see how treachery delivers Naevia, Crixus and Ashur into their roles as we previously knew them. In fact, there’s so much that goes down in “The Bitter End” that by the time we get to the climactic fiery battle to the death between the houses of Batiatus and Solonius, the resulting outcome for Gannicus is a much-welcomed breather. For anyone thinking that it would be wise to watch this prequel series before watching the first season of Blood and Sand: think again. I won’t spoil, but the final shot of this series is a bittersweet moment that, although entirely warranted in its brutality, still feels poignant and haunting.

Top Chef: “Give Me Your Huddled Masses”

Dennis: I always get mad at Top Chef episodes where the judges wimp out and don’t vote anyone off, and this episode that did this was particularly aggravating. Sure, it was nice to see everyone cook well-received dishes (especially Tiffany, who’s languished toward the bottom more than I’d like this season) for their respective families, but now there are five people in the “finale”? (Let’s face it, said finale is probably going to take a week or three to resolve, and that’s not even including the usual reunion episode). And did this exercise in excess have to go an extra 16 minutes long to get to that point? Couldn’t the judges just have called the five cheftestants in, told them they all made it to the finals and been done with it? Why did we have to endure 15 minutes of American Idol-style theatrics? And why am I asking so many questions? Oh, because this was a filler episode if I ever saw one, way too late in the season for there to be one. Well, at least I have an answer to something.

How I Met Your Mother: “A Change of Heart”

Zoe: I’m going to admit upfront that a lot of what I liked about this episode is that the plot involved a holter monitor (that device Barney wore). As someone who has worn countless holters in my lifetime, I was way, way too excited to see one on TV–and on NPH no less!

Fortunately, the episode was good on other merits too. Barney’s growth as a character is the true drive of the show and it’s nice to see them stretch that further. Was it a bit too cheesy with the literal heart skipping a beat? Yes, yes it was. But did the rest work? Yes, yes it did. And in the B-plot, we had some mildly amusing stoner antics that didn’t detract from the main story. In a show that is going to be increasingly wheel-spinning by the nature of being in a late season, this was a pretty good HIMYM episode.

47: To Be Concluded in 20 Days


V: “Birth Pangs”

Rawles: I feel as though I am enjoying V enough at this point that it is doomed to either spin off into a vortex of terribleness or get canceled. That tends to be my luck anyway. This week didn’t let down the potential set up last week for the most part. Erica is magnificently angry without it seeming like a massive character overhaul. She’s always had the ability to seize control of situations and command with confidence and ease, but there’s an edge now that — obviously as intended — fits with her wrestling the global Fifth Column under her command. We also finally got some actual screen time with Lisa that was only about 5% her calling Tyler’s name. He, unfortunately, persists in being alive and the worst, but Lisa’s connecting with her grandmother (who clearly has some ulterior motives) and openly rebelling against Anna is enough to distract from it. I can’t profess to care much about Ryan’s storyline at this point as I mostly just agree with Jack that he should have just told them what was going on. Though, I am interested in what alliances he might strike up in his attempts to get his daughter off of the ship. Aging her up to a more manageable, slightly less tiny and squirmy, age as part of one of Anna’s plots was so ludicrous as to almost swing back around to brilliant. I am, however, ambivalent on the Moment between Erica and Hobbes. Clearly it was inevitable what with him now hiding the fact that he’s responsible for her ex-husband’s death — drama! — but I’m just not really compelled. At all. Of course, I still want her to make out with a (former) priest, so maybe no one should listen to me anyway.

Being Human: “It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Wrong”

Zoe: This was more like it for me. I get that this episode was, by some standards, sort of boring. But I started to watch this show because I wanted stuff like this more than I want stuff like…well, anything involving complicated vampire clan groups (I will never, ever understand why we’re supposed to believe a vampire would care about another, unless Bishop and Aiden had a very different relationship than the show has let on). I really just wanted a vampire/werewolf/ghost sitcom with some drama thrown in (OK, I wanted a soap opera) and scenes like the ones where Josh’s sister shows up at their place delivered perfectly. I want more of that but with enough of the angst thrown in. Maybe what I should be watching is Vampire Dairies. But let’s take a moment to talk about Aiden, who I think really shone in this episode. His character has a lot of potential one dimensionality in it–and also the greatest potential to bore me (see: vampire clans). But I think the actor is doing a superb job of getting into the smaller, more complicated quirks. Like the fact that Aiden has to pretend he doesn’t like vampire snuff porn, even to the two people he can share that stuff with. Like that he really doesn’t know as much as he lets on. Like that he wants to avoid things that are entirely his problems, even as he knows he should face them. It’s hints of Josh realizing how hard Aiden has to struggle every day, compared to his few times a month sojourns. And since I like Bishop, who knows, maybe vampire clan drama will compel me, if I can start getting real reasons for why they exist other than the fact that they always exist. And less cheesy episode titles while we’re at it!

The Simpsons “Angry Dad: The Movie”

Dennis: I couldn’t resist watching this award show-lampooning episode, and it’s nice to know The Simpsons still occasionally brings the funny. Much as I liked his viscous but accurate Globes-hosting, I could’ve done without the Ricky Gervais’ 9000th self-deprecating moment, but  bravo to Halle Berry for not taking herself seriously here. And the The Triplets of Belleville-esque parody had me laughing until I almost was in tears.

Nikita: “Alexandra” and “Echoes”

Rawles: I remember watching the Nikita winter finale “All the Way” with my mouth hanging open in (totally enthralled) shock the entire time. The choices made during that episode, the ways in which they shifted the show’s paradigm without hesitation or beating around the bush was invigorating since usually, even when it would make perfect sense, shows don’t overthrow key parts of the basic plot of their show within the first eleven episodes. Now, in the course of two episodes — a whole sixteen in at this point — Nikita has done it yet again. It seemed for a moment like they’d take the easy way out. Granted, it’s hard to call anything easy after two grueling episodes completely psychologically deconstructing Alex and forcing her to deal with her past in particularly brutal ways. But when Amanda doesn’t find out the absolute truth about who Alex is, you are automatically trained as an audience to think, “Oh, good then she’s safe again for now.” Except: Amanda still recommends Alex for cancellation, because maybe she doesn’t know that Alex is a traitor, but it’s equally obvious that Alex has no interest in being there and doesn’t have the heart of a killer. Similarly, after Michael clearly got an inkling that something was going on with Alex as regards Nikita, you don’t expect him to actually figure it out. Get close? Sure. But then, in order to maintain the almighty status quo, he has to be misled at the finish line right? Instead: he legitimately figures it out. Let me repeat that. He sits down, sixteen episodes into the first season of the show, and he figures out the massive deception that is at the center of the show’s fundamental premise. There’s a lot else that could be said. About how Nikita’s desire to protect Alex at any cost might play into her continued goal of bringing down Division. About what exactly Alex is going to do about her father’s lost empire and how that could hurt or help her goals or Nikita’s and to what extent those goals are the same. About how Alex can possibly maintain her position at Division given that on one end she’s perceived as too much of a risk to keep alive and on another it is known for a fact that she’s working with Nikita. But really. The episode ends with Michael showing up at Nikita’s loft. And there isn’t another new episode until April. April! As such, I’m too busy flipping tables to start combing through the details. Perhaps sometime in the next MONTH AND A HALF, I’ll get back to you. April! (At her loft.)

Gossip Girl “While You Weren’t Sleeping”

Dennis: Like Robin and Barney on How I Met Your Mother, a pairing of Dan and Blair seems in theory like it could be either really hot or really not, and should therefore be treated with great caution. But so far so good! OK, so all we’ve seen so far is Dan and Blair finally admitting they don’t hate each other, and Blair falling asleep on Dan in his Brooklyn loft but that’s still more intriguing and precious than anything else in this episode. Seriously, I have no idea what the hell was going on in the rest of this episode. There were lots of crossing, double-crossing, and triple-crossing going on between lots of characters (Russell, Ben, Damien, even poor, perpetually recurring birthday boy Eric) that aren’t even regulars, so why should I be motivated to care? Bring me more Dan and Blair!

30 Rock: “TGS Hates Women”

Zoë: If you don’t dip your toes into the feminist blog world on occasion, this episode was maybe about making fun of Sarah Silverman/Lady Gaga and more Hit Girl becoming Jack’s rival. And if you do follow the lady blogs, than this episode was a response to the “Tina Fey backlash” and also mostly about Hit Girl becoming Jack’s rival. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see 30 Rock respond to the critique and do it in a relatively tasteful way–the show isn’t shying away from the real points, but does explore the complexity of the issues regarding gender and women in comedy, which is more than, say, the Daily Show did when faced with some of the same. However, I just didn’t find the plot all the engaging. It had it’s funny moments, but I guess when you spend a lot of your time reading about the complexity of lady issues, you don’t need to see them in a reduced form on TV. And the “reason” for the baby voice was so paper thin that I lost interest. I mean, can’t the reason be that people change? I suppose that would have had less humor than domestic violence? But Hit Girl vs. Jack! So, really, who cares about the rest of the episode?

Dennis: Does anyone else feel like sometimes 30 Rock can be really brilliant but not even remotely funny at the same time? That’s how I felt about this episode. As someone who actually reads Jezebel, I understood what this episode was doing with its Sarah Silverman/Abby Elliot/Olivia Munn/Chelsea Handler-parodying plot, but couldn’t there have been at least laugh-evoking moment in here? Also, is it me or have we spent way too much time in the writers’ room this season? As someone who writes things (clearly?), I feel guilty typing that, but if the writers’ room means having to endure Lutz and that girl with the ridiculous accent, I want none of it!

RuPaul’s Drag Race “The Snatch Game”

Dennis: Remember last season when The Match Game-inspired challenge was filled with hilarious celebrity impressions? Well, not this year. A frenetic Tyra Banks bleeding from the nose from smiling with her eyes too much? Nah, I’m good. An Alecia Keys impression which was just a bunch of creepy lesbian stereotypes? Just plain offensive. Logo should set its standards higher than this.

Community: “Intro to Political Science“

Zoë: I love Community, but I think they did this episode before. In fact, I think every Jeff/Annie-based episode has been this episode. Does that mean it sucked? No, because there was hardly any Pierce! But also because this show rarely sucks, but that doesn’t mean every week is greatness. It was a solid episode with plenty of good gags, but I just can’t get invested in the “Jeff is a jerk, Annie is sad, Jeff recants” cycle again. Either have them make out or discover new storylines they could do. That said, I appreciate the subtle paralleling of why Pierce joined the race (to get back at a young women for a minor wrong) with why Jeff joined (to get back at a young woman for a minor wrong). For all the complaining I did about Pierce last week, he does work well like this—as a background, Leonard-like character, the specter of Jeff to come. I appreciate that the show doesn’t push that theme, but it’s there, and no amount of hugs will get rid of it unless Jeff stops taking the bait every time. On the other hand, Abed flirting and a fake new show and an awesome burn at The Real World. You shouldn’t have, show.