Category Archives: TV

Community Season 4 review

Disclaimer: This review could mention anything from any of the season 4 episodes of Community. If you haven’t seen the episodes yet and plan to, be warned; spoilers ahoy.

A little while back, I posted about how I still have hope for Community. It has changed quite a bit from its first three seasons, and a lot of people I know and don’t know have to varying degrees given up on it or have become frustrated with it or are just downright bored with it now. I’m not sure where I stand with it. I certainly don’t feel the intense love for it now than I did when I really felt like “a part of the fandom.”

But that isn’t to say I’ve hated the season. I’ve been following reviews of Community very closely on the Onion A.V. Club written by Todd VanDerWerff and have more or less been on the same page with his views. I got the sense that he was being pretty patient with the series and accepting of the fact that, to use his words, it’s basically a different show now.

Except last night that changed. The final episode, “Advanced Introduction to Finality” got a D grade, the lowest grade that an episode of this series has ever gotten. I was with VanDerWerff up until partway through, when his writing began to sound more and more like a temper tantrum and less like a critic. To a degree, I understand the reaction. He’s been with the series since the beginning, as have I, and I’m guessing that we both really love the series, so he was disappointed to see an episode far from the series’ best finishing off what could be Community‘s last season.

As I said, the episode was not a stellar one, but I still stand by my belief that most Community episodes, even bad ones, are still better than many other sitcoms. I’d rather watch a horrible episode of this show than watch The Big Bang Theory, Two And a Half Men, although comparing the show to those two seems a little unfair. There are a few comedies on TV I do like watching or have recently started to like watching, including Bob’s Burgers, New Girl and Parks & Recreation.

Overall, season four of Community has been a little hit and miss. I did enjoy the opening episode, “History 101,” even if “The Hunger Deans” was a little bit uninspired. Jim Rash is a consistent high point of the series, though, and nearly every scene he’s involved in has been slayingly funny. In last week’s episode “Heroic Origins” I loved the callback to the first season when he picks up a piece of lingerie and says “I hope this doesn’t awaken something in me.”

There were a few episodes that fell flat for me. One was “Alternative History of the German Invasion” which, for some reason, reintroduced the German guys from season three’s excellent “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” but without Nick Kroll. The episode relied far too heavily on German stereotypes to fill out the episode, whereas “Foosball” last season packed in probably the best Shirley storyline the show has ever done.

I was also not a huge fan of “Intro to Knots” which was almost a bottle episode, but not quite as funny.

That being said, I liked “Paranormal Parentage” which had a bit of a Scooby-Doo vibe to it, particularly with Gilbert making an appearance at the end of the episode. “Herstory of Dance” was also great, because it was nice seeing “Britta’d” become something a little more positive.

And despite the hate that a lot of people had for this one, “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” was a lot of fun for me. I loved the weird puppets, the random Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander and the general Muppets feel to it. Oh yes, and “Basic Human Anatomy” was written by Jim Rash and was quite good, Body switching has been done before but Rash managed to work some heart into it.

I don’t buy into the criticism this season that the characters have reverted back or changed way too much. Jeff has changed a lot since his season one beginnings, Abed has become an anchor for the group as opposed to a weird side character and Shirley has stopped self-pitying and become quite the strong woman. Britta changed in season three, and I do believe that Dan Harmon made her stupider, although her tendency to “Britta” things is a trait that has been established since season one (see “The Science of Illusion” from season one).

So I think I’ll say it again: I still have faith in Community. One thing that I do agree with VanDerWerff about is that it would be horrible for NBC to cancel the series after an episode that wasn’t the series’ best. The show has almost brought me to tears before and I feel like the series finale should probably do that again.

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Thoughts on the Mad Men Season 6 premiere

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers from the two-hour Mad Men premiere from last night on AMC. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this.

The premiere of Mad Men’s sixth season was one that got me really excited before I even saw it. Not because of what I expected to happen (Matthew Weiner keeps the plot of the show under a very tight lid) but because, for the first time, I was caught up with the series and could watch the new episodes without spoiling anything.

I spent last summer plowing through seasons one through four, then got season five shortly after it came out on DVD.

Anyways, season five ended on a lot of cliffhangers. Megan finally got a role in a commercial, beginning her dream of being an actress. Roger was high as a kite on LSD and the final shot we see of him is standing naked in front of a huge window. Joan has become a partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the cost of sleeping with a real pig of an automobile bigwig, and then, of course, there was the scene with Don alone in a bar, with a woman coming up to him and asking “Are you alone?”

The premiere opens with a scream and someone being resuscitated. After that, though, we join Don and Megan in Hawaii. Jon Hamm and Jessica Paré are on screen for some time at the beginning, but Hamm doesn’t actually say anything until about eight minutes in.

We soon join a few other subplots. Peggy is annoyed that she’ll have to change up a Superbowl ad because of a spot on the Johnny Carson show, and her boss is kind of an idiot. Betty Draper continues to be fucking insane after suggesting jokingly that her husband Henry go and rape a fifteen-year-old girl that was staying with the Francis family (I still have no idea who that girl is; a friend of Sally’s?).

There’s also an interesting centrepiece with Roger Sterling when he finds out that his mother has passed away. At first he isn’t surprised at all and reacts very well. He arranges for a funeral in his mother’s home, but as someone is giving a speech he sees that his ex-wife has brought her new husband (I think) and Roger flips out, telling everyone to get out before he decides to just leave himself. Later in his office he breaks down and cries.

This season seems to show characters going off the rails. Peggy has certainly grown a lot of backbone in her new position, although she’s definitely had that professionalism for a while now. The way she layed into those two younger ad guys was pretty fun to watch. And there’s the slightest hint that she may be having an affair with Ted Chaough, which would be pretty messy what with both parties’ relationships. Then again, that’s never stopped all the other countless affairs in this show from happening.

But it seems like Don is poised to suffer a lot this season. During the pivotal funeral scene, Don shows up, drink in hand, and actually vomits while a speech is being made. Pete and co. get him out of the way. And then, at the end, there’s a big reveal, which I will not mention, but suffice to say I had myself thinking goddamnit, Don!

There are still lots of characters to check up on. I want to know if Pete does actually have an apartment in the city now, and how Trudy’s doing by herself. I want to know how Joan is dealing with her awful mother and if she’s still feeling guilty about Lane’s death.

And then of course I want to see how much more Betty is going to change (hint: Bobby said in the episode “I hate it! You’re ugly” and then ran off in fear). And I want to know if Megan and Don are truly still happy in their marriage.

There seemed to be quite a bit of criticism of this episode, but we’ll see how it all plays out. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Game of Thrones Season 2 review (SPOILERS AHOY)

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: If you haven’t seen the entire second season of Game of Thrones, DON’T READ THIS ARTICLE.

I’ve just finished watching the second season of Game of Thrones, which is a series set in an alternate-world Middle Ages setting. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this is a series that people look forward to fervently every season, both new fans and book readers alike.

I was amazed by the scope of season one of the show. It followed the book so, so closely, better than most book adaptations do. I could, of course, point out every single scene that didn’t happen in the book, but such is TV. Too literal an adaptation can also be a bad thing.

I had heard from people who were far ahead of me in the series that this one deviates from the books a little more, and that’s certainly the case. There was never a point in A Clash of Kings where Daenerys had her dragons stolen, nor did Jon Snow side with the wildlings before killing Qhorin Halfhand.

Gripes aside, this was another pretty great retelling of the series. It’s great to finally be able to visualize some of the world’s characters including the super-creepy warlock Pyat Pree, the Lord of Bones himself, Rattleshirt, and the biggest dick in Pyke, Balon Greyjoy. Joffrey continues to be the most hate-able character in the Seven Kingdoms, and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is an absolute joy.

To expand on Tyrion for a second, I’m glad that the series emphasized him as much as they did. The dude won an Emmy, for god’s sake, and A Clash of Kings truly is the book where Tyrion shines. Seeing him outwit Petyr Baelish and Grand Maester Pycelle is so much fun to watch.

The CGI seems to be a little hit and miss, with the Starks’ direwolves not looking all too realistic or menacing. Daenerys’ dragons are kind of cool-looking, I guess. But the wildfire scene from “Blackwater” was absolutely beautiful to watch, even if it did mean seeing Stannis’ fleet all but obliterated.

The makeup for some of these characters is fantastic as well. The best example is right at the season’s end as Grenn, Edd and Sam hear the three horn blasts, signalling an attack by the Others. Sam is left by himself as a huge horde of white walkers, led by a truly terrifying-looking older guy on a dead horse, charges toward the Wall.

If there’s one trope the show relies on a little too heavily, it’s the monologues. There are several instances per episode where a character reveals his or her character a little more through a speech. After a while I did really tire of hearing all this (especially because I knew most of this stuff already) though I admit the monologue Yara (Asha in the books) gave to Theon before she left Winterfell was actually pretty touching.

No matter how much I might grumble about the show straying away from the books (um, Xaro Xhoan Daxos doesn’t get stuffed in a vault, especially because he actually visits Daenerys in book five) the show is still a huge treat to watch, even if I can’t watch it as it’s premiering.

So whenever I get the chance to watch season three I’ll be pretty happy again.

Series review: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually picked up an anime series that has held my interest from start to finish. I’ve largely tired of anime as I find that there are only so many good ideas it has produced, but I decided to give Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood a try.

Admittedly, the reason I chose to pick the series up was for two main reasons. First, I had access to Hulu, which streams for free all 64 episodes of this series. Second, I watched the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime when I was a little younger and it aired dubbed on YTV, back when it used to devote its Friday nights to anime.

Brotherhood is the second adaptation of the manga. The first series had to sort of make itself up as it went along, because there wasn’t enough manga to support the story. The second series follows the manga much more closely, and is thus a very different adventure, despite starting out somewhat similarly.

The series follows two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric as they embark on a journey to regain their original bodies back. The series fuses a lot of different elements into it; a bit of historical drama (the series is set in the early 1900s, though in an alternate world. The country in focus is called Amestris, with numerous other countries like Drachma and Xing bordering it); some political conspiracy, philosophy, and of course, as many anime try and show, the power of the bonds of love and friendship. Alchemists, in this series, are people who can change things based on the law of equivalent exchange: to obtain something, something of equal value must be lost.

While the first series tended to drag things out a little bit, Brotherhood starts out with a bang and introduces Edward and Alphonse in a much more dynamic way. A lot of action happens in the first few episodes. But as the series moves on a bit, around episode eight, it stalls for several episodes to set up other important plot points. The series does get itself out of this rut, though, and it eventually mixes a good blend of contemplative scenes with scenes of amazing alchemical recreations.

The storytelling device here works well, particularly in the back story of Hohenheim, Edward and Alphonse’s father. He appears near the beginning as a largely enigmatic figure, but slowly and surely little bits of his story are revealed, enough for interested viewers to want more and more.

The story also builds a great cast of supporting and main characters. Some are given a little more personality than others, but many will attach themselves to viewers who get easily invested in characters. Some of these characters will die, fair warning, but after a particularly tragic death within the first fifteen episodes of the series, the creators seemed determined to not let anything like that happen again.

The one main drawback to this series is that, despite its intensity and ability to slowly siphon out details, it does suffer from the occasional overused anime trope. A prime example is something like the following, which happens a lot in this series:

Character A: [Says something unexpected]

Character B: [Surprised gasp]

There are also lots of emotional, dramatic speeches proclaimed in a loud voice, something that never really happens in real life.

But the storyline is engaging enough to somewhat alleviate the problem that these tropes pose. There’s quite a bit of comedy in the first few tens of episodes, and the animation used in these scenes makes things pretty funny.

The last ten or so episodes are really action-heavy as all of the disparate plot lines weave closer and closer together. Lots of battles will be had, lots of intrigue will happen. The series ends with an entire episode that feels like a monologue. While it is a little stereotypical, there’s one scene near the end that will make shippers (internet term for people who like to imagine characters in a relationship) really happy.

Series rating: 4/5