Saturday, May 28, 2011

TV Episode Review: The Chicago Code “Greylord and Gambat” and “Mike Royko’s Revenge”

My delayed reviews are bad enough, but unfortunately they’ve come during a time window in which Code itself has been snatched from us all too soon.  For those who haven’t heard (if I’m your only pop culture internet stop, you should really surf the internet more...) Fox has officially killed the show without any chance of a second season.  I’ll be honest, I don’t understand how TV ratings work—Code ranks about even with most of the other shows that Fox runs, the difference being that it had a pedigree of creator/showrunner and actors which put it a cut above most of the material Fox traffics in.  Long story short, they had an opportunity to be the network bringing something to television that’s noteworthy (they seem to ignore all of the glowing reviews they get for Fringe as well) and acclaimed for reasons other than billions of mouth breathing pre-teens tune in for it three times every week.  I’m not going to launch into that rant, but just keep in mind:  If you’re a regular American Idol viewer, you’re helping send the message that America’s ideal night of television is manufactured celebrity and manipulative “reality” programming.  It’s your right, but just remember that ratings come from somewhere.

At any rate, given the tardiness of my review of “Greylord and Gambat”, I’m going to be reviewing that episode and the finale within the same space here.  They’ll still be treated as separate entities, but if they’re the last two episodes of this show we get, we might as well celebrate them collectively. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TV Episode Review: Chicago Code “Black Sox”

This episode played way too much like a “socially conscious” episode of a bad police procedural to be very likeable for the crime of the week.  It’s nice and all that everyone in the episode is so casual about talk of being openly gay—by golly, there’s even an old buddy of Jarek’s on the force who’s gay, and Jarek is totally cool with that; he even asks how the relationship is going—but ultimately it feels like a stale attempt to be modern and edgy while ironically drawing on pretty clichéd (and arguably offensive) storylines.  A really successful homosexual man is killed while trolling through Boys Town for tail, and the immediate suspect is, big surprise, a pair of brothers who must commute a LONG ways to work in the morning, because they certainly don’t seem like Chicago natives with their redneck tattoos and lynch-mob attitudes.  Forgive me for feeling like nuance and realism are somewhat lacking in an episode which can’t be bothered to go beyond the simplistic notions that minority groups still suffer hate crimes against them and the perpetrators are usually one-dimensional, hateful, undereducated country bumpkin types.  Dull. On top of that, the writers feel the need to cram Colvin’s mouth with an awful little speech about bigots and how horrible they are, just in case you weren’t keeping up with how atrocious hate crimes are.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

TV Episode Review: Community “For a Few Paintballs More”

Well, I guess I completely underestimated the writers last week in casually remarking that the second part of this paintball opus would be another homage to action movies in general.  I realized when “Pistol Peggy” emerged from the smoke of a paintball battle a-la Darth Vader’s entrance to the rebel blockade runner in the original film just what we were in for tonight, and I have to admit to a twinge of excitement in spite of having grown fairly sick of all things “Star Wars” in the past few years.  By and large, the episode followed through with some really fun scenes and playful character moments (how great is it that Abed-as-Solo gets Annie as hot/bothered as we’ve ever seen her on this show?) built around the well-known mythology of the original trilogy.  It didn’t quite live up to last week’s outstanding Spaghetti Western motif, but it managed to come through as a fairly energetic and amusing resolution to the most high stakes story we’ve seen on Community (if Greendale loses, it seems the college will be financially doomed) while putting some closure on that pesky Pierce problem that’s been hanging over the entire season.  I’m not sure how you do a “Star Wars” themed episode, though, and fail to put either Britta or Annie in the metal bikini.  Just saying, who was asleep at the wheel on that one? 

TV Episode Review: Fringe “The Day We Died”

Is it blasphemous if I admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by the Fringe finale?  I’m having trouble coming to terms with it myself, so amped was I after last week to discover what exactly had happened to Peter and what world it was he had been suddenly plopped into the middle of.  The answers to those questions weren’t entirely surprising, nor were they unsatisfying.  In fact, I’m quite intrigued by the cruel twist of fate involved—Peter’s activation of the machine on our side led to the destabilization of things on the other side which resulted in that Earth’s complete destruction.  It’s a twist we didn’t see coming, but it’s compounded by the fact that the worlds were never meant to be in competition with one another in the first place—they are linked together in some Fringe-sciencey way which makes certain that the destruction of the one means the imminent (and painfully slow, apparently) doom of the other.  This would probably also be a fitting place to note that the show’s opening has changed again (the last time representing the introduction of Earth 2 as a setting for complete episodes) suggesting a shift in the show’s fundamental premise.  Among the new pseudo-science phrases floating around were concepts like “biosuspension” and “dual maternity”.  Intriguing. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TV Episode Review: Community “A Fist Full of Paintballs”

I can’t decide whether I was surprised to see Community go back to the paintball well this week; it made a ton of sense based on the high praise that episode drew last year, but it was a bit surprising given that Community has found so many other forms of parody, satire and silliness to fill episodes with.  In retrospect, I should have known that a revisiting of the general premise of paintball wouldn’t involve any laziness or repetition by the writers.  Instead they’ve taken their original premise and given it a couple of fantastic tweaks (namely the strange mystery of the $100,000 prize from the ambiguous Pistol Patty’s Cowboy Creamery, allowing for the “Fistful of Dollars” parody, and the flashback-centric subplot wherein we discover that Annie either cast the only vote to keep Pierce in the group, or the only vote to kick him out, putting them at odds during the battle). 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

TV Episode Review: Justified “Bloody Harlan”

Last week I set aside space at the end of my review to take some guesses at who would come out of the season finale alive, and re-reading them I was amazed to discover I batted 1.000, if you don’t get picky about how people actually went down or hold it over my head that a couple situations are left up in the air, which, you know, don’t be a jerk about it.  Let’s not pretend I’m a genius for knowing that Doyle was going to get put down for a season’s worth of unforgivable assholery, nor is it really an act of extra-sensory perception to predict that Mags would have to pay some price as the season’s villain.  Dickie always seemed too pitiable to pay with his life when, truthfully, he’s right in pointing out to Raylan tonight that he owes Raylan about 7,000 steps a day, times 20 years of days, on a gimp leg thanks to Raylan’s home run swing.  Loretta got a wonderful wrap-up to one of the more painful stories of the season—she gets to put a bullet in Mags without carrying with her the burden of killing for the rest of her life.  I had said that she might provide one of this week’s surprises, and I’m not sure if that’s really true or not in retrospect.  It seems inevitable in hindsight that seeking to rectify her father’s unavenged murder would be her final act of the season, given her feistiness and quiet resolve in pretty much every moment of screen time.  I will claim at least partial credit for seeing Ava’s chest wound coming, but since I had a feeling she’d die and now I get the impression she’ll pull through to annoy us more with her poor decision making skills and make up for it with the way she wears a pair of jeans, I can’t really say I guessed it entirely. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TV Episode Review: The Chicago Code “Bathhouse and Hinky Dink”

Tonight started off with another one of those trademark openings wherein a character narrates a bit of Chicago history to us, this time regarding public officials on the take (including those in the episode’s title).  It continues to serve as a nice grounding element for the show’s master story—they don’t do enough to link history with the show’s fiction, but I appreciate that the writers are making efforts to embed the characters of the show not just in the locations of the city but in its history, which is something of a glacial force pushing ever-forwards despite the best efforts of Colvin and others.  Thus do the proceedings tonight begin with a city official named Darren Wall getting off on a slam dunk embezzlement case (in the waste management department—those guys are always involved with the mob, if TV teaches us anything).  Jury tampering is the obvious conclusion, but the show at least offers a clever twist in how the tampering is accomplished.  More importantly, we get to see Irish mobster Killian in action again, and by “in action” I mean “infuriating and incriminating Gibbons and splattering Liam’s face with juror blood”. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TV Episode Review: Fringe “The Last Sam Weiss”

I think I’ve been pretty good during the course of writing about this and other shows about focusing on the episode at hand and minimizing or avoiding the distractions of “next week on” type previews.  I’m going to break that unspoken rule tonight for just a moment in order to observe that it looks like Fringe is about to go crazy.  That’s partially an observation embedded in tonight’s final moments where we discover that the machine transports Peter’s consciousness into a future version of himself, who is possibly involved in the Machine Wars of the original “Terminator” film.  He certainly seems to have borrowed his hairstyle from the soldiers in those films.  It seems an apocalypse has occurred sometime between the moment he enters the machine and 2021 (where a beautiful new building has replaced the Twin Towers, along with a 20 year memorial plaque).  Whether this “is” our Peter or simply a future version of him which is now controlled by the consciousness of the one we know (probably a safer bet considering the machine doesn’t seem to physically send his body anywhere) is an important question which I’m sure we’ll have answered next week.  What seems pretty clear is that he is in full control of Future Peter (good luck with that nickname—Feter? Futer?  Fu-Pete?  I kind of like that last one) and he has no clue what’s happening, and he’s wounded.    

Monday, May 2, 2011

TV Episode Review: Community “Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts”

There’s so much to distract our attention on Community that it’s easy to forget fairly major incidents (which may be their way of escaping from some of the quagmires I felt they wrote themselves into with certain characters earlier this season).  I, for one, hadn’t even considered the fact that they would probably want to deal with Shirley’s delivery prior to season’s end.  Had I thought about it, I would have guessed it to be a good season finale topic given the rather interesting controversy at its center.  I much preferred the use of it tonight, though, as a straightforward premise to bounce pretty much every character on the show off of one another as they gather in the Anthropology room for the arrival of Shirley’s (and possibly Chang’s) baby.  It made for some great self-aware moments regarding this small study group taking over everything that happens at Greendale (the birth disrupts a non-existent final exam and puts the dean’s big article in Dean Magazine at risk) as well as some really clever pop culture riffing, and of course it all managed to wrap up with a sugary moment between mother and father and baby…and Chang.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

TV Episode Review: Justified “Reckoning”

There’s a great moment in the sadly maligned and little-known (at least to modern film lovers) Clint Eastwood musical (you read correctly) “Paint Your Wagon” where a town built on all of man’s vices begins to literally implode on itself due to the fact that greedy gold miners have literally gutted the ground beneath the town looking for gold.  As the streets and buildings sink into this man-made pit, the inhabitants of the city sing “No Name City, your reckoning day is here!”  As the church sinks a miner says to the preacher “Welcome to hell, parson.”  Minus the musical number, the scene contains a lot of parallels to tonight’s excellent and troubling episode.  “Reckoning” lives up to its name as pretty much everyone answers, or prepares to answer, for everything they’ve done this season.  The result, as the preview for next week’s episode makes clear, is a “war com(ing) to Harlan”.  Indeed, it seems that the county itself will be sinking into its own sort of self-created hell as the history of violence, corruption and crime finally comes to a head.  The ground seems to open up beneath several characters tonight, and you can see the cracking fault lines under the footing of others.