A Halloween-heavy batch this week thanks to the Monday holiday. Also, I'll be out of town most of this week for work, and thus unable to watch much TV, so next week's post will probably be rather short.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXII
Even in weak seasons, the annual "Treehouse" episodes tend to be pretty good, but this one was just average. Not even bad, just very by-the-numbers and unremarkable. As has been the case of late, all three of the stories were more or less just parodies of movies or TV shows will no real connection to Halloween, other than the opening sequence (which contained a huge gaffe: Homer introduces the Switch Witch to the kids and tells them its Marge; the next morning, he doesn't know Marge was the Switch Witch) and a greater presence of cartoon gore. Of the three, the final Avatar spoof was probably the strongest. It generated the biggest laugh of the night (when Chalmers in his mech suit climbed into an even bigger mech suit, then proceeded to knock himself off the cliff) and by replacing the Avatar aliens with the Rigellians from past "Treehouse" episodes, it connected the story at least slightly to Halloween. But still, Avatar? You're not exactly hitting these phenomenon at the peaks of their relevance, Simpsons...
Homer: Okay, I’m on the floor. I can’t move. So far, a normal Sunday morning.
Family Guy: Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.
Hey you guys, remember when Family Guy was funny?
(Okay, there were two lines that made me chuckle:)
Brenda: It only hurts when I see.
Peter: So you like getting beaten? Well why don’t you smoke a whole carton of cigarettes!
The Walking Dead: Save the Last One
As an episode, this was pretty good. The scene with Rick arguing for his son's life, pointing out that of everything, Carl rememberd the deer, was probably Andrew Lincoln's best performance on the show so far. And though it was somewhat predictable, the extent to which Shane dispatched Otis to save his own life (and get back to Carl) was still pretty intense (I figured Shane left Otis behind to get eaten, but I was thinking he shot him in the head, and not that he left him to get eaten alive). Shane walking through the house afterwards, twitching eerily, was downright creepy (and this show knows creepy).
That said, man, is this show decompressed. The three episodes of this season has covered, what, two days and two nights now? This episode alone showed the passing of maybe four hours. At this rate, the actor playing Carl is going to be married and have kids by the time the group gets off the damn highway. This show is never going to have as strong an overarching narrative as I'd probably like it to, but even character development requires some passage of time. Watching Shane deal with the ramifications of what he did to Otis won't have quite the same impact if we're watching him deal with it minutes at a time. Taken as individual episodes, these last three outings have been some of the show's best, but a little narrative urgency wouldn't hurt.
After a strong scene in the season premiere, Laurie is back to being portrayed in a less-than-sympathetic light. I mean, you can make the argument that maybe Carl is better off dying like this instead of living in a zombiepoc (hell, it's pretty much the argument Andrea's been making all season), but having that argument come from the kid's mother does Laurie's character no favors.
More fun from Daryl and Andrea, though I wondered, if the arrow is important, why not cut down the Walker and retrieve it?
I continue to like Maggie, and her scenes with Glenn her very good.
How I Met Your Mother: The Slutty Pumpikin Returns
There are apparently a lot of HIMYM fans out there who have spent the last six years eagerly awaiting the return of the Slutty Pumpkin, who was the focus (albeit unseen) of the show's sixth episode. Those fans were likely disappointed to learn Katie Holmes was cast in the role, and were likely disappointed with the end result in this episode. Personally, I hadn't really given the Slutty Pumpkin much thought until I heard Holmes was cast, at which point I sort of shrugged and said, "sure, why not bring back the character? That seems to fit with some of the examinations of the show's history this season is doing (like the return of Victoria). Also, Katie Holmes? Ugh."
Which is my long-winded way of saying that while I was largely unimpressed with the return of the Slutty Pumpkin and this episode in general, it had little to do with any burning desire I had to see this storyline revisted, and more to do with my general apathy towards Katie Holmes and the sleepwalking performances she tends to give these days. This episode was no exception, as, while the idea of Naomi being as secretly freaked out by Ted as he was by her was a solid one (and very fitting for Ted), Katie Holmes' inability to comes across as crazy as Ted told us she was kinda undersold the whole thing. The story wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very memorable either, and that's frustrating whether you were chomping at the bit for the return of the Slutty Pumpkin or not.
I always love it when Robin's Candian-ness gets exercised, so I more or less enjoyed the whole "Barney is part Canadian" subplot (and I hope Robin continues to periodically bring it up). The Lily/Marshall subplot had the misfortune of airing after the Happy Endings Halloween episode, which also featured a (much funnier) subplot about the two married characters on that show debating moving to the suburbs whilst dealing with trick-or-treaters, so this iteration of the plot lost some of its punch.
That said, I definitely enjoyed Lily talking about where Marshall could put his, ahem, pinball machine.
Aside from seemingly-phoning in all her recent work (and being the worst part of that Kennedys miniseries), Katie Holmes irritates me because back in the day, I thought she was quite attractive, but now when I watch her, despite looking more or less the same, she seems...off, somehow, and I wonder where that hot woman went...
Barney: I want American Scotch! From Scotland!
Lily: Just because my body is growing a fungus (fetus) doesn’t mean that my metal (mental) factories (faculties) are in any way funicular (...).
Glee: Pot Of Gold
Once again, we have an episode that is following up on previous threads, instead of introducing new ones willy nilly. Between Sue's run for office, Quinn and Puck's desire to get Beth back, the school musical, the school president election, and the rival glee club, this has been one of the most serialized stretches of the show's run, to its betterment. I don't know if its the influx of new writers or just a realization that the up-and-down, anything goes plotting of last season wasn't very effective, but I like it. Not all those plots are winners, but at least there's narrative consistency from episode to episode.
It's also refreshing to have a storyline on Glee which frustrates me for the right reasons. Instead of being frustrated by a dropped plot or a character acting out of character, it's nice to be irritated by Mercedes whole diva routine simply because her actions are frustrating. It fits her character that she'd quit New Directions and then recruit for the new club, but it still pisses me off. I mean, how was what Mercedes did during the TroubleTones number different than what she used to do? She sang in an ensemble, then finished off the song with a trailing high note. But because she's not threatened by any of the other talent, it's okay with her. I think Mercedes is being dumb (I really want to see an episode where Shelby gives a solo to someone else and Mercedes storms off to form her own, third, club where she gets every solo), but at least she's acting in character.
I think I realized what bugs me the most about the "Sue running for office" plot: in the end, she's either going to win (which is the most realistic yet frustrating outcome) or the show will come up with some kind of TV-esque way for her to lose, which will be more rewarding but frustrating for the way it doesn't handle the issue realistically. It's really a Catch-22.
That said, having Burt run against her is awesome (more Burt is always a good thing) and it might offer a reasonable out to the storyline that still makes narrative sense while being satisfying.
I was a little unclear as to what Sue's talk about special ed funding was meant to suggest; if her entire campaign has always been about cutting arts funding for the sake of special ed funding, fine. That's at least a defensible position. But she hasn't made that terribly clear, instead just railing against the arts. If the point was that was going to be her platform going forward, fine. Again, that at least makes some political sense.
I really liked Finn throughout this episode, awkwardly lurking behind Brittany and Santana, reaching out to the Irish kid, and going after Sue's heart attack burger.
Quinn continues to be a dumbass re: this whole getting Beth back thing. Even if her "make Shelby look like a bad mother" plan worked, she wouldn't get the baby back. She signed a legally binding contract. Someone should explain this to the poor girl. I'm also not sure if the show realizes this, and if it wants us to feel sorry for Quinn or be rooting for her.
I'm curious how playing second fiddle to Mercedes is a better deal than playing second fiddle to Rachel and Blaine. Isn't Santana's move just a lateral one?
My eyes started rolling as soon as it became clear that the Irish kid was always dressed in green, but then they stopped when it became clear he was simply playing up the leprechaun angle to get with Brittany.
TroubleTones is an awful name. It sounds like they have trouble with their tones.
Puck and Shelby? Blech.
Glee still being Glee: Figgins cutting the musical budget because some woman threw a brick at him is ridiculous. Step 1: Call the cops and file assault charges. Step 2: Tell her funding for the musical has nothing to do with her dumbass kid's inability to read. Problem solved. Also, I love how Will tells Burt he won't run against Sue because he promised to give the club his full attention, then proceeds to offer to be Burt's campaign manager (though this did lead to one of my favorite lines of the episode, about how Kurt already claimed the job but could probably use some adult supervision).
Favorite Song: No real standout this episode (how embarrasingly random was "Last Friday Night"?), so I'll go with Puck's rendition of "Waiting for a Girl Like You)" even though it made little narrative sense.
Sue: Two thousand four dollars, people. That's a year's salary for a public school math teacher.
Top Chef: Everything's Bigger in Texas (season premiere)
Give the Top Chef producers credit: they knew going back to the norm following the generally well-received and exciting All Star season would make the norm come off lackluster by comparison, so they made an effort to shake things up a little bit. It's unclear just how familiar the territory will be once the top 16 is settled, but in terms of initial surprise, this whole "qualifying round" is a clever way to makes things different without venturing too far from what they know works. Spur-of-them-moment eliminations are definitely fun to watch.
That said, I wonder how much sense this selection process makes. I mean, after the end of the first two rounds, there's only five spots for the final ten remaining, plus the bubble folks. That seems to put the group three people at a disadvantage born of nothing more than the (seemingly) random fate that put them in the third group. And the whole "taste their food, decide if they're good enough" selection process is a bit dicey too. It would have made more sense to taste all thirty contestants' food then determine the top sixteen. I mean, what happens if they love the first five people in group three? Do the last five just not serve? How do they know that #8 in that group isn't better than #2? It seems like a flawed premise, even if it does help shake things up.
The clear highlight of this episode was when Tom sent the snooty chef for celebrities who couldn't butcher a pig home without even tasting his food. It was clearly designed to emphasize the "no one is safe" feel of the round, but I still love it whenever Tom is hardcore.
I've never been a big fan of Emeril as a TV personality, but he should be an interesting presence as a judge. I don't know much about the other new judge (other than the fact that he needs an eyebrow wax) but my wife (who watched Top Chef: Masters) was excited to see him.
Of all the regional/state cultures out there, I have the least tolerance for Texas' (or maybe Boston's), so I will have little patience this season for all the inevitable "everything's bigger in Texas"/Lone Star State/spirit of Texas BS/
Not much on the contestants themselves this time out (not surprisingly) but I already like the former drug dealer with the magnificent beard (mainly cuz of the magnificent beard) and Ty-Lor's name makes me think he's a Masters of the Universe character. I wonder if He-Man, Tri-Klops, and Sy-Clone will be making appearances this season...
Community: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps
This episode did itself no favors airing a week after "Remedial Chaos Theory", featuring, as it does, a similar structure of seven different tales. That this episode is only a minor step down from the excellent "Chaos Theory" is a testament to just how great this show can be. Where the seven stories in "Chaos Theory" were, aside from being ridiculously funny, showcases for how each character can impact the group dynamic, the seven stories in this episode were more about how each of the characters saw themselves within the group and their relationship with the others. But moreso than "Chaos Theory", the stories in "Horror Fiction" are principally hilarious parodies of the conventions of various horror movies set against a Halloween backdrop. As a result, it suffers in comparison to "Chaos Theory", but very much felt like an overstuffed classic "Treehouse of Horror" episode, and that's definitely not a bad thing.
Of the seven stories, my favorites were Abed's (for his uber-sensible but narratively boring take on horror), Annie's (for her lampooning of Gothic Horror/Twilight and, well, that outfit) and Troy's (for general awesomeness).
Britta's name is now a verb. I love it when nouns get verbed.
Troy and Abed: Troy and Abed sewn together!
Parks and Recreation: Meet N Greet
We all knew Entertainment 720's demise was long in coming, what with its handing out of free iPads and seeming lack of any actual revenue, but it was still nice to see that demise used to setup a strong Leslie/Tom story, something we haven't gotten yet this season (I recently re-watched the episode from last season where Leslie gets matched with Tom by an online dating service (because Tom has 26 different profiles designed to match every possible woman) on an airplane and was reminded of how great the two of them are together). Leslie's transition from indignation to pity was well-handled and believable, given their friendship, and her reaction to his campaign video was priceless.
The other main plot, Ben's frustration with April and Andy's failure to run things by their roommate, set during their Halloween party, was equally strong (I love that Ben actually broke Andy's nose with pacifism) and provided a nice backdrop for a surprisingly funny Ron/Ann pairing. After a slightly down episode last week, it's nice to Parks and Rec frying on all cylinders again.
If the end of Entertainment 720 does mean Tom is coming back to the parks department, I hope we get at least one good story out of Andy being Leslie's assistant before he does (Andy helping retrieve her birth certificate, while hilarious, wasn't exactly a full story).
Loved Orin once again hanging out in the background of April and Andy's house.
The Chris/Jerry/Jerry's daughter subplot still isn't doing much for me; Chris is capable of being a very funny character (see: "Stop. Pooping.") and his whole "texting without breaking eye contact" was hilarious, but overall, I feel like he's being wasted in this plot (it did, however, lead to the great gag of April turning Jerry's Potato Head smile upside down, so props for that).
I would love to see one (or more) of Andy's brothers at some point.
Tom: Entertainment 720 has been a fixture of the community since June.