Follow Monsters of Television on Twitter

Sunday, 26 of May of 2019

Category » Review

Mad Men – “The Collaborators”

“You want to feel shitty right up until I take your dress off.”

Sylvia and Megan have a talk.

Oh, wait. You were? When did you stop smoking/boozing/having a settled stomach? How else was I as a TV character supposed to know?

I didn’t think about Don’s season of contrition actually following the Inferno closely, particularly since it’s the longest canticle of the Comedy, “The Doorway” didn’t really do much in the way of ferrying Don across any hellish rivers, and Dante spends several cantos in the Malebolge (Circle 8: Simple Fraud) but the show made it easy to view “The Collaborators” in light of the whirlwind second circle.

Lust is a constant on the show as Don tries to fill that hole of validation in his life and everyone else is either trying to mimic Don’s example of success or is uncontrollable when descending from an era of unabashed patriarchal dominance, especially when sick with money and power. Mad Men is almost synonymous with adultery, more so than advertising and Don’s continuous identity crisis.

And while I think the analogy falls apart if you try to compare the first couple of episodes to the first five cantos of Inferno, the depiction of lust here is different than the pedestrian brand we’re used to seeing on the show and has a feeling of intentionally connecting to the second circle. It’s particularly evident at the end of the episode, there’s a key moment that seals the inspiration from the whirlwind punishment of Paolo and Francesca. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Read more »


Anime Round-Up: April 21, 2013

Sorry for the delay on getting the post up this week. First was that I had a review for Defiance to file for TV.com for tomorrow (it’s not a bad show so far, you should check it out), and that took more time to write than I was anticipating.  The second reason for the delay is that Gargantia‘s new episode airs on Sundays, so I decided to pause so I could not quite be on a delay with that show. So, this week, Gargantia gets two episodes discussed (fitting, since they sort of form a two-parter of sorts). (I suppose I could wait until Monday to incorporate Flowers of Evil, but with Defiance on Monday nights, and me without screeners after the third episode, it’s probably not going to happen.

Don't fuck with Nakamura Flowers of Evil, Episode 2

One of the charms (if we can call it a charm)/horrors of Flowers of Evil is how stuck we are in Kasuga’s psyche. It’s not that we’re not exposed to other people in the series — there’s a whole school of them plus his family around him — it’s that we’re always experiencing and responding to them through Kasuga’s perspective. As a result, the overwhelming guilt and fear of being found out as the thief has real weight to it, perhaps more than I honestly expected the show to convey.

Surprisingly, Kasuga is prepared to come clean, at least to Saeki (no need for all that public shaming that would undoubtedly result). Sure, he’s doing it out of guilt and not a desire to actually do the right thing, though perhaps we’re splitting hairs here. And, in any case, it hardly matters since Nakamura binds him to a contract of black mail of who knows what. At first, it just seems like long bike rides through the mountains, but after pushing Kasuga into Saeki’s breasts as he attempts to apologize, she wants an essay on how he felt at that moment. Welcome to the circle of perversion that is Flowers of Evil. No clear why she wants it, but the glee with which she asks for it implies a decidedly sadistic streak, one that I’m willing to bet Nakamura may not be fully aware of it, or even happy with. Perhaps her loneliness will be solved by completing Kasuga’s corruption.

Read more »


Psych – “Deez Nups”

“I’m sober now.”

Yeah. They're stunned, too.

Yeah. They’re stunned, too.

Really?

There’s a certain allowance you have to give a show after it’s been on for so many seasons. By around season 5, characters, particularly comedic ones, have become such parodies of their original casting that the only thing recognizable about them is the actor’s name flashing across the screen (and sometimes even that’s not the case, Second Becky).

It’s no one’s fault. Or at least it wouldn’t be fair to blame any one person. People get into a groove, things become second nature, you push the boundaries of the character a little bit, or what they can or would do, and, suddenly, you have catch phrase like “EAGLE” or you’ve gone from simpleton accountant to functionally retarded. As shows exhaust resources and things turn over or actors get bored and start to expand thing, the show turns into something — different.

Psych has done well to keep its basic premise and feel in tact for seven seasons though with a dulled sharpness. The writers try to make things interesting by somehow finding new territory for them to traverse each week (Santa Barbara has to have had more murders the Cabot Cove by now) and the characters find new ways to express themselves. But every once in a while you’ll get an episode that’s such a mess that it reminds you how old the show is.

And they use that episode to break the biggest arc in the series.

Read more »


Anime Round-Up: April 13, 2013

Flowers of Evil, “A Fateful Encounter” (Episode 1)

Nakamura retrieves her test

Likely to be the most controversial of the new shows in the spring season, Flowers of Evil is based on a manga series of the same name in which an isolated teen, Kasuga, ends up in some sort of blackmail scheme after an even more isolated classmate, Nakamura (at right), spots him grabbing the gym bag of their beautiful peer Sakei. I haven’t read the manga (though I have read a couple of reviews of the first volume — hence my basic understanding of the premise), so this isn’t one of those cases where I know how it’s all going to play out in advance.

However, the first episode is just a damn fine piece of work on its own, regardless of how things play out. The use of rotoscoping — yes, rotoscoping! — is the source of much of the controversy around the series. It departs from the style of manga in a pretty significant and obvious way, and the characters look decidedly unfinished and move in jerky ways that seems to somewhat defeat the point of the attempt at a realistic depiction of the series’s characters.

I call shenanigans on this perspective though. I have no ill will toward rotoscoping, and I find that it adds to the show’s aesthetic in a really delightful way. The town these teens live in is decaying and falling apart. Signs are broken, paint is peeling, plants have either died or growing unchecked in alleys, and rust abounds. It’s animated beautifully in stark contrast to the rotoscoped characters, and their unfinished animated nature feels, to me, to be a part of this degradation that surrounds them. Factor in that these characters are still trying to figure out their own identities and what love means (Kasuga refers to Sakei as both a “muse” and a “femme fatale” — someone who both inspires and destroys), and their rotoscoped “ugliness” feels fitting.

Sonically, the episode’s soundtrack adds to the unsettling nature of the episode with long, low volume tones underlying dialog. It creates, along with the episode’s slow pace, an odd sense of tension that is doesn’t actually feel resolved, unless we count the falling of Sakei’s bag from the shelf as the climax of that tension, and I certainly would. Even if the narrative doesn’t end up delivering anything worthwhile, aesthetically, I there’s a lot to engage with in the show.

After the jump, two mecha series are discussed.

Read more »


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.

Read more »


Justified – “Decoy”

“Holy shit. They circled the wagons.”

Justified TitlecardLES: It was a highly anticipated episode of Justified this week, with many of our fellow critics who’d seen the episode in advance – Alan Sepinwall, Ryan McGee and James Poniewozik to name a few – excitedly trumpeting “Decoy” as the best installment of the season, if not the series. And for the most part, I would say that this was an episode that delivered what it promised, with the U.S. Marshals and the Detroit Mafia turning Harlan County into their playground for an hour in the race to claim Drew Thompson as their prize. This was yet another episode that played to my appreciation of the show’s ability to deliver scenes where a conversation takes place and at any moment, somebody could decide to draw a weapon and it all goes to hell. There’s the glorious state of limbo as the marshal caravan is trapped by Colton’s explosives, the emotional needling Drew sends Raylan’s way all episode, and the ruthless stream of dick-sucking references Nicky Augustine throws at Ava. So many good scenes, I could have watched an entire bottle/vignette episode set at any one of them.

Read more »


Justified – “Get Drew”

Justified TitlecardSo, yeah, it’s been sort of insane for two of our regular Justified roundtable contributors, so much so that some folks are weeks behind (it wasn’t Noel, Noel stays on top of Harlan County, guys). In any case, Les managed to catch up and Greg Boyd offered to fill in for that slacker Cory this week to discuss the fact that, well, Drew Thompson has been on Justified for a while.

And it wasn’t, as Noel predicted, an older Raylan trying to close a time loop. Read more »


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.

Read more »


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.

Read more »


The Good Wife – “Red Team / Blue Team”

“I think I was just mugged.”

The Good Wife Title Card s3Maybe I’m just feeling off, but this episode certainly felt a bit messy. But then maybe it was that out out of left field kiss and the Elsbeth and Eli subplot that ended up distracting me from the otherwise solid core of the episode.

Which I feel bad about because the on-going L-G stuff was not only interesting but pushed characters in new directions, and the case of the week, while having a couple of missteps, allows the L-G stuff to have a bit more room to breathe than it might otherwise have had.

And the episode continued CBS shows not only having Kyle MacLachlan show up, but a show including the phrase “Red Team” in an episode title. Read more »