Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Photos courtesy of ABC

While I don’t really consider myself a TV snob, I do have a soft spot in my heart for smartly written comedies. The shows that really get me going are those with wit, fare like Arrested Development (canceled), Better Off Ted (canceled), Breaking In (nearly canceled, but revived for one more shot) and Community (desperately clinging to life). With that in mind, friends keep telling me I should be watching Cougar Town, which made its grand return to television earlier this month to abysmal ratings. Industry friends whose opinions I respect immensely (among them Cougar Town uberfan Jeff Cannata) keep telling me to look past the title and watch what they swear is the most well-written comedy on TV. In spite of the raves I just can’t do it, and here’s why.

Middle-Aged White People Drinking Wine and Being Snarky? No Thanks

Pretty much every advertisement I’ve seen for Cougar Town has showcased series star Courtney Cox (more on her later) and friends drinking wine and bitching about their idyllic suburban lives. In an era when lots of families are struggling just to make ends meet, why on earth should I care about the non-problems of a bunch of fortysomething yuppies who are beginning to wonder if life has passed them by? Basically every ad I’ve seen for the show portrays it as a comedic version of Desperate Housewives, and I have no interest in setting foot in that world. It may just be that ABC is doing a bad job portraying the soul of the show in 30 second chunks, but so it’s been enough to keep me away.

The Courtney Cox Factor

I wasn’t a big fan of Friends back in the day and consequently have no real connection to that show’s stars and their current projects. For the same reason that old fans of Monica may be apt to check out the show to see what she’s up to now (yes, I mean Monica and not Courtney), I’m inclined to skip the show because I have no connection to either the character or the actress. From what I’ve seen of Courtney Cox in other work she’s a capable actress, but not outstanding, and I don’t know if I could ever see her carrying a show on her shoulders. From the looks of things it seems the majority of viewers tend to agree with me.

I’ll Admit It, I Can’t Get Past the Title

Really, at the end of the day I still just can’t bring myself to watch a show called Cougar Town. If it’s really as smartly written as folks claim then I’m sure the title is some sort of self-aware joke that has been picked over multiple times on the show itself, but for outsiders like me I can only assume this is a program about a city full of middle-aged women who want nothing more than to sleep with their sons’ football team and bang their daughters’ boyfriends. If this were a show that was about a town full of actual cougars then yes, sign me up. I know show fans automatically assume that all of my criticisms are now rendered moot because I admit that the title has done me in, but they have to understand that it’s probably the primary reason most folks aren’t watching.

I cop to the fact that I come to this discussion from a place of ignorance, as I’ve never watched a single episode. I also believe that if I tried Cougar Town I’d probably like it, but I just can’t get there. There are too many roadblocks in the way to get me to set the DVR, and too many other shows I’m already watching to make room for another. As much as I hate to see smart shows go down the drain, not even I can get myself worked up for Cougar Town‘s imminent demise. Sorry to Jeff and Abed, I just can’t do it.

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Photos courtesy of ABC

I’m still not sure how I started watching Happy Endings, I think one week my DVR was set to record something else and because of a schedule switch I got this show about twentysomethings living in Chicago instead. It doesn’t matter though, because ever since that first episode I’ve been absolutely smitten with this group and consistently hail it as a bright spot on the TV comedy landscape. Sure, it’s basically just a Friends clone but the show is so well-written and acted that most of the time you can overlook the somewhat dull premise. “The St Valenties Day Maxssacre” proved this theory with gusto, providing a memorable holiday episode which provided ample laughs, to misappropriate a quote from the episode, “from tip to taint.”

This week finds the members of the gang preparing for the most romantic of holidays in various ways as only they can. Power couple Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) plan the ultimate in upper-middle class romance, only to be foiled by an ill-timed trip to the dentist. Meanwhile, Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Penny (Casey Wilson) both find themselves trapped in “the Breakup Window” where relationships are strung along until just after a major holiday or life event, while Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) spends the evening riding around with Max (Adam Pally) trying to bring true love to at least one couple. With so much for each character to do it would have been easy for the episode to collapse under the weight of the concurrent and interlacing stories, but kudos to the writing staff for expertly weaves the adventures together and maximizing each character’s laughs-to-screen-time ratio.

While there was no clear lead plot this week the greatest moments easily came from Brad and Jane. The consumate gentleman set up a pre-date dental checkup, which of course went horribly awry. Brad has always had perfect teeth (he even got a “no plaque” plaque from his dentist), but on this particular visit finds he has a cavity. His aversion to pain leads to severe overmedication, and the lingering effects ruin his night with Jane in all the most hilarious ways. The highlights involved him “dipping” a strawberry into a fondue pot by shoving his whole hand in, then searching for his lost fruit by bobbing for it face-first. The sight gag alone was enough to elicit guffaws, as was the subsequent faceplant onto a pure white rug and his licking of his watch to see what time it was. Say what you will about his father and uncles, Damon Wayans Jr. is proving himself to be an incredible comedic actor with the balls to go for it all in every scene. For further evidence, try and find video of Brad dancing into the dentist’s office to the strains of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”

Photos courtesy of ABC

The rest of the gang had some fine moments too, including Alex getting arrested for prostitution (wacky misunderstanding alert!), Max attempting to profit off the holiday with his limo’s “Spa Package” (a hot tub on a trailer) and Dave completely misreading his date’s intentions and completely losing out on his dream Valentine’s Day gift. I won’t spoil it for you, but you should know that Dave’s very first email address was threesomechaser@blaskiehillsmiddleschool.org. With so much going on there really wasn’t enough time for any one character to outright steal the episode (though Brad came close), but the material for each one of them was so strong the show may have actually benefitted from not having a clear lead. The only quasi-weak spot was Penny’s date with a serial winker, but that miss was completely overshadowed by everything else that was happening.

It’s also noteworthy that in the midst of all the hijinks and missteps the episode managed to find a little heart by the end, letting love blossom in the place we least expect it. The sappy stuff was kept to a minimum but a show like this can’t very well do a Valentine’s episode without at least one overly complex romantic gesture. If you’ve never watched an episode of Happy Endings then please, hop online and check this one out, I guarantee you’ll be hooked on the show for life. Oh, and if you hate this show then we can’t be friends, just putting that out there.

Score: 95 out of 100

Courtesy of Fox

One of the things I was most excited about in starting up this site was reaching beyond just the realm of gaming and offering thoughts on some of my other favorite bits of pop culture as well. I’m borderline obsessed with television, and consequently decided that my very first TV review would be for one of my new favorite shows, New Girl. It seems my decision caused some performance anxiety from the cast of the show though, as last night’s Landlord episode was one of the weaker entries of the series. While there were still a few funny gags and punchy one-liners, the episode itself seemed to tread overly familiar territory and offered a rather wimpy payoff.

The conceit of the episode finds Jess (Zooey Deschannel), the sunny optimist, squaring off against Nick (Jake M. Johnson), sourpuss incarnate. Jess is determined to get some of the apartment’s problems fixed for good by the landlord, while Nick and the rest of the guys warn her to stay far away from the building manager. Perhaps the funniest moment of the entire episode came when Jess slipped up and mentioned that four people were living in an apartment intended for three, and we got to see the guys execute the “Landlord Drill.” The exercise consisted of dumping all of Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) belongings out the window, including his bed, furniture and beloved chinos. We also got to see Schmidt transform into some sort of vaguely European backpacker named Jimmy as the crew tried to fool Remy the landlord. It was this scene which had me laughing the hardest during the entire half-hour, it’s just too bad things were all downhill from there.

Thanks to Jess’s sunniness Remy agreed to take care of some of the apartment’s issues, which our leading lady took as vindication for her cheerful disposition. Nick was skeptical, arguing that Remy’s pleasantness was directly related to his desire to get in Jess’s pants. And just like that New Girl slipped straight into the waiting arms of one of the biggest sitcom cliches ever.

Throughout the series’ run we’ve seen Nick and Jess playfully spar with one another as his curmudgeonly ways but up against her personality, but up until now the writers have managed to handle it with flair and originality. In the past, whenever Jess has gotten too bubbly Nick has been able to bring her back to earth with a quick line or biting observation, but dragging it out to an entire episode is such a retread of what every other show has done that it was bound to be a letdown. It didn’t help matters that the foil for Jess and Nick’s spar was a sexually frustrated landlord who looked vaguely like Gary Busey.

Surprisingly, the stronger bit of comedy in this week’s episode was tied up in Schmidt’s B-story and his office flirting with his boss. Max Greenfield does a great job as presenting Schmidt as the ultimate poseur, a man who longs for a real connection to women but with no idea how to read their signals or pursue a relationship. He spent the entire episode trying to figure out if his boss’s commands to “sort her files” and “dial her into the Tokyo call” were actual tasks or just euphemisms for dirty, dirty sex. Watching Schmidt fumble his way through the affair was easily the strongest bit of the episode, as was his list of New Year’s Resolutions from 2007 (sample resolution: “Find out where Winston gets his sparkle, then steal it”). I feel like if they had switched the A and B plots this week I’d be talking about what a classic this episode was, instead of what a letdown it turned out to be.

I’m willing to give New Girl as a series a pass for having a bad episode every once in a while, I understand they can’t all be gold. Let’s just hope that Landlord was the only dud in what will turn out to be an otherwise great season. I still can’t recommend this show highly enough for those looking for solid scripted comedy, but if you’re new to the series please don’t start with this episode, because it stunk.

Score: 50 out of 100