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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Archives from author » nick

Mad Men – “The Doorway (Parts 1 and 2)”

“Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t your bag.”

Megan and Don toast the new year.

And cent’anni to you, you Italian slut.

Returning to the kind of pacing to this show is always a little different. After watching a year of shows paced like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Bunheads makes watching Mad Men a little interesting.

I feel like I say that every year with the first episode. It’s the slow burn of that show combined with the major plot twists masquerading as trivialities, that Downton Abbey syndrome for a show. Trying explaining Mad Men to your parents and dare to make it sound interesting. Do you talk about a man’s slow decline hidden by genius? Ad agencies in the 1960s? Or do you focus on the soapier aspects of the show, even though those are really symptoms of the show’s true premise?

This isn’t to distract from how good the show is. I wouldn’t say it’s a plodding show like The Killing felt to me in the first few episodes. It just takes some time to get back in the saddle.

But then it didn’t take long for me to get on that horse and ride when you start the season with a Dante quote. Oh, Matt Weiner, you devil. I’m going to apologize to you upfront, reader, for the inevitable focus of this review on that quote. I’ll try tell you my thoughts on this, if not all the words in my head, at least their meaning.

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Negative Track – March 11-18

As we divide our time across several television-themed blogs (approximately, Noel has cofounded or runs about 29 blogs), sometimes we don’t get a chance to properly address the issues that come up in the comments sections of the shows we review. We could but no one would read five paragraphs of comments (Nick is fairly certain people only skim his reviews as it is). So here we have a place for us to address the questions left out of the reviews or new issues that commenters have brought up.

Nick’s calling this the Negative Track for now (like those interludes between tracks on a CD that counted down and could only be found once you played through song — wait, do you remember what a CD is?) but, because the title might be a little esoteric, he’s pretty sure the Monsters will conclave to give it a better title.

This week: Ezra Fitz and the “rapist” label (from Pretty Little Liars, “I’m Your Puppet”), the real serial killer on The Following (from The Following, “Welcome Home”), and “The Farm” backdoor pilot being the bridge between The Office and Parks and Recreation (from The Office, “The Farm”). Noel will likely join next week, when he’s caught up on those other blogs. And maybe this one. GOOD GRIEF, HAS HE NOT WRITTEN A GOOD WIFE REVIEW IN WEEKS? DAMN HIM. (In his defense, the episodes have been pretty just okay.)

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In Prosecution of Guys Named Fitz

Ezra Fitz and Aria Montgomery | President Fitzgerald Grant with Olivia Pope

This is a completely unbiased image.

Guys named Fitz, you’re getting a reputation from your television representatives. And it’s not a good one.

On one show, you have a guy operating in an ethical gray area of sexual law and professional standards, whose development is arrested but not in a cute way. In that abused-child sort of way. The one you would feel sorry for if you had any evidence that it was true.

Then you have another man who is leader of the free world, who everyone insists is a great man and great for the country going forward but seems only to vacillate between dipping his wick and being a jackass to everyone else. If he’d do one thing that was presidential, he might absolve himself but he struggles to do that. He’s a pawn, a schmuck, and a self-serving pansy that hides behind a commanding voice.

These are certainly two different men in different stations of life (even different phases of their lives). But what these jerks share is a common flaw in how their characters are presented. What connects a distracted world leader and a child-touching teacher is mostly in execution: they’ve never done anything to deserve our empathy.

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Psych – “Juliet Takes a Luvvah”

“I walked into my divorced parents having sex and then my dad sat me down and told me my body was a wonderland.”

Henry, Shawn, and Madeline watch an old movie together.

So wholesome. So weird.

There are few things this show can do anymore that haven’t already been done. They’ve laid out shows based on a myriad of pop culture references, brought in several different ways to expose Shawn including a federal psychic, and invited Gus to take several lovers who may possibly be evil (more on how Psych avoids jumping the shark later). But they still have some surprises up their sleeve.

One of the things they’ve never really focused on were the pitfalls of Shawn’s ability. They’ve demonstrated how demoralizing it is to him when he gets the yips but never the downside to having an extensive and photographic memory. He files things away in the great archives of his mind (probably the same vault from which he’s able to pull records of 80s movies about boys who could fly) and is able to pull them up with little to no effort.

That means of the numerous dead bodies and horrific things to happen to him, presumably, he’s able to pull these things up at will or have them be dredged up by some sort of trigger. We’ve never seen him suffer this at all, however, and that’s mostly because that would bring a lot more gravity to his being than his character would allow. If he constantly recalled horrific corpses all the time, would he still be the same witty and positive character he is now?

So if they were going to address this, one of the final frontiers of a series that’s explored just about every other facet of Shawn’s maturation process, it would have to be something comedic. But what’s traumatizing that’s also hilarious?

Oh, I know: middle-aged people doing it.

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Psych – “Santabarbaratown 2”

“How about a raccoon with a discarded malaria sample?”

Shawn hitches a ride with Lassie to go after the man who shot his father.

Who loves you, baby?

How far we’ve come. In anticipation for the return of Psych for Season 7, I watched the pilot in all it’s low-grade glory.

Oh, it looked terrible and James Roday: so very, very thin. But the comedy, the timing, everything that makes the show great was there and all the jokes that about this being a one day thing makes you chuckle with the rich history of cases in the show. Yeah, Gus. You’ll be back at your pharmaceutical sales job in no time.

I watched it with a friend of mine who’d never seen the show before (!!!) and got to see it with new eyes. It’s amazing how consistent the show has been over the years, even with its different theme-episodes, dalliances with serious material, and contending with keeping Shawn’s arrested development fresh for six seasons. The show is never exhausting (except maybe that pilot — at a true hour instead of forty-two minutes, it feels like a TV movie with ten endings) and the characters are endearing from the start. Even Lassie. Maybe especially Lassie.

I ellipsed time to watch “Santabarbaratown 2” and so much was familiar but there are some stark contrasts we’ve gotten used to over the years. And I’m not just talking about James Roday’s habit of covering his gut with a pillow whenever he sits down.

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Bunheads – “I’ll Be Your Meyer Lansky”

“They’re, like, two really hot unicorns.”

Ginny, Melanie, and Sasha tell Michelle that Godot's back in town.

“Girls, you seriously don’t want to live vicariously through me.”

Understanding every reference that flies out of the mouths of the characters on Bunheads isn’t necessary to enjoy the show, which is a relief since it would require a heady amount of homework to catch every single one. But I think it’s funny to imagine Michelle with a bowl of popcorn watching the first season of The Wire or, even better, Madame Fannie getting in deep with Breaking Bad. There’s something hilarious and awesome about needing to watch television and movies about gritty urban existence and drug-dealing empires to get all the jokes on a show about dancers and dancing on a cable channel called “family.”

The other continuous reference is one I hope that I don’t feel compelled to point out every episode, especially because it seems to upset people (something I learned when writing up the winter premiere episode of Bunheads on But you can’t have your lead character, who is already drawing comparisons to Lorelai, aim to take a business class and expect fans of both shows not to draw a comparison or two. I mean, what happens to Michelle when she does sign up for a business class is exactly what makes the difference between go-getter Lorelai and put-upon Michelle.

At least her and Fannie’s idea for what to do with their land wasn’t to create an inn.

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Bunheads – “Channing Tatum is a Fine Actor”

“I am all knowing. I am Michelle.”

Boo, Sasha, Melanie, and Ginny watch Cosette dance out of her mind.

These are four mad girls in tights.

Lingering from the January 2013 issue of Glamour and Zooey Deschanel’s cover issue interview is a quote about how being “feminine” and being a “feminist” aren’t mutually exclusive. Her words: “I want to be a f–king feminist and wear a f–king Peter Pan collar. So f–king what?” Speaking as a person with no personal vagina, I tend to agree. A woman should not be questioned on her dedication to the empowerment of females because she identifies with things that could subjectively be categorized under the heading, “Things that Subjugate Women.” Not that I think anything with a Peter Pan collar has the capacity for any kind of violence, physical or cultural.

The quote has been scrutinized a few times for its denouncement of anyone that would assume she is hurting the cause by making herself her own vision of pretty. To me, the only thing that really stuck out was the “Peter Pan collar.” Fine, whatever, she’s standing up for her right to not have her whims examined by the Fundamentalist-Feminist Thought Police but — a Peter Pan collar? I had to look that up because it just sounds so — it sounds like something that Zooey Deschanel should wear, if in name only. And, after looking at what that is, I was so right.

Her persona (so lastingly coined by FOX as “adorkable”) is comprised of these kinds of dalliances and affectations, something that’s both put on display and lampooned by her show. I never like to assume anything about celebrities since there’s generally, even behind the most honest and down-to-earth-seeming ones, a grand machine dedicated solely to producing a public image, but she projects everything that is twee and hipster and quirky. Big glasses. Exclusively in dresses from another era. Most likely a very active knitting circle. Wait, is my nanna a hipster?

What I’m saying is that she’s a beacon of quirkiness, both a lightning rod and a broadcaster (from HelloGiggles). Even though the movement would hate her since she’s the mainstream of something that’s supposed to be alternative, there is no questioning her authority and reign.

But Bunheads tried to take it from her this week.

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Revolution – “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”

“Miles, you’re like a bad penny, man.”

Miles keeps his rifle after Monroe puts down his weapon.

“What? What’d I do?”

Leave it to Mark Pellegrino to make that line work.

The guard of the Monroe Republic, officers and soldiers alike, have been fed a lot of terrible things over the season but, with casting like Pellegrino, Giancarlo Esposito, and David Lyons masking some terribly cheesy dialogue all season, the swing from the cast of the bad guys to the cast of the good guys is like watching a play on Broadway and stepping out to watch 6th graders act out Book of Mormon.

Maybe that’s a little hyperbolic but you can see what I mean watching this show. It seems unfair of the acting power they have in Philadelphia while Billy Burke Han Solos his way across the countryside, being towed along by Tracy Spiridakos (who has totally mastered that frightful sideglance), Daniella Alonso (honestly, how do you deliver that “Maybe because he tried to kill him line” and not sound like the worst?), Zak Orth (who’s doing okay playing a part that’s perfect for Bad Robot player Greg Gruneberg). It’s not that these people are especially terrible but they’re parts are so cornball and overdramatic that the people playing the whisper-growling, stoic villains get the better end of the weak-writing stick, particularly with their unbalanced strength of cast.

I think that was especially true for this final episode until Sargent Strausser opened his dang, pervy mouth.

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Revolution – “Kashmir”

“Now you need me.”

Charlie, Nora, and Aaron try to break the door down.

Is this Revolution or Legends of the Hidden Temple?

If there’s one thing I hate about an episode of television, it’s when the episode goes out of its way to tell us something we already know.

I don’t mean the “Previously On” or whatever mysteries we’ve managed to sort out before it’s revealed. I mean spending time in the episode like we’re idiots telling us information we already have because either the show underestimates the audience’s attention or is filling time. We’re talking about awkward soliloquies and, my most reviled breed of television episode, the clip show.

You’ll recognize this tendency mostly in sitcoms when characters rehash a storyline in ten seconds or less when the show comes back from commercial to remind us of what happened. After a lifetime of television, I’ve become particularly numb to that brand of insult, especially since it’s basically one cog in a formula by now. Having a character not awkwardly review what happened two minutes ago would make the show seem incomplete. A network exec might send revisions back just based on that alone.

The more insulting ones are part of the serialized drama. Chuck was guilty of this all the time. As a tool to make a show more attractive to syndication (to lessen the learning curve when stripping the show either out of order or for an audience that isn’t necessarily going to watch 5 times a week) so new, casual, or senile viewers, the plot-thus-far of any of the ongoing story arcs would be reviewed in the first few minutes of the episode. Chuck would rattle off a series of clumsily assembled words to make sure the audience remembers what’s at stake.

What does this have to do with Revolution? Consider that 70% of this episode to be those clumsily assembled words.

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Parenthood – “One More Weekend With You”

“There are no secrets in parenting.”

Adam watches Kristina smoke a joint to help with the post-chemotherapy pain.

Kristina’s getting all potted up!

(Note: Usually, these Parenthood reviews would go up on (you can see the rest of them for this season) but I missed a deadline. Apparently I have stuffing on the brain. So enjoy it here this week.)

I think we’ve been ignoring Sydney for so long that we missed her growing up. She looks like she’s about six months for a driver’s permit now.

It’s a good representation of the shift in balance for the show. Over the past few episodes, Parenthood has turned from being comprised of post-modern parenting morality tales couched in well-developed narratives and portrayed by nuanced characters (think back to “The Talk” which was a hair away from being a sit-com A story) to focusing heavily on characters rather than the Braverman family unit. Julia and Joel struggling with Victor and putting Sydney not just on a backburner but completely out of the picture is just an example of how the togetherness of the family is starting to pull apart just slightly.

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