Friday, April 29, 2011

The Office says "Goodbye, Michael"

     Last night, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) did his final episode of NBC's The Office, appropriately titled "Goodbye, Michael." Michael tells everyone his last day is a day after his real one, to avoid drama and tears. He subtely make sure he spends a moment with each member of the staff so they have a goodbye they can remember, and gives many gifts. Jim (John Krasinski) is the only one who picks up on the deception, as Michael keeps asking for Pam (Jenna Fischer), who is out of the office during his last afternoon, but Jim plays along with a scene that has both men in tears. At the end of the day, Michael slips out, and the staff doesn't realize until the next day, as they wait at a goodbye party they have planned, that Michael is not coming back. Pam does find Michael, though, and get her own goodbye at the airport.

     The Office will not be the same without Steve Carell, and no one will ever replace him. Sure, the company will get a new manager, and someone else will sit behind Michael's desk, but the series will change in ways both big and small without its main man. Current replacement, Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell) has a mere one episode left, and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) is still lobbying for the position. Plus, The Office is bringing in a ton of guest stars to interview for the job in their season finale in three weeks, including Jim Carrey, Ray Romono, James Spader, Will Arnett, and series creator Ricky Gervais, but none are likely to stick.

     The thing about Michael is, despite his many mistakes and uncooth approach, he got the job done. Apparently he is a heck of a salesman, though that competence rarely translated on screen. His employees would grow frustrated with him for insulting and politically incorrect things he said. But in the end, they all realize that he realy cares about them. The job has never just been about paper to Michael. It's always been about the people. Jim sums it up best when he tells Michael that he is the best boss Jim has ever had, a pay off, considering how often Jim disagreed with the way Michael runs things.

     Perhaps most likely to take over the manager position, if the job stays in house, as it should, with the large and talented cast is Dwight. Dwight has had a chip on his shoulder ever since finding out Michael did not recommend him as a replacement. In Michael's opinion, he never felt like he had the authority to choose his successor. As he tells Dwight in his final episode, he doesn't own the company. Yet, Michael does leave Dwight with a glowing, to put it mildly, letter of recommendation, and the two make up over paintball. It is a necessayr resolution, considering they were once so close, and it would be painful to part ways on such bitter terms.
     Personally, I believe that Darryl (Craig Robinson) should be the new boss. Despite not being one of the original cast, Darrell has risen through the ranks from the warehouse, and now has an office up on the business floor. While Dwight is combatative, Darrell is universally liked, and seems to have good business sense. The owener of the company has already placed a great deal of faith and trust in him. It seems logical to expect that if anyone currently working at the paper company were to be promoted, it would be Darrell.

     This could be a longer article, but like Michael believes, goodbyes work better when they are short and don't dwell too much on the loss. No matter how things shake down, The Office will continue. The Office airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

South Park builds a "HUMANCENTiPAD"

     Trey Parker and Matt Stone, fresh from Broadway success, return to their animated comedy, South Park with a new episode called "HUMANCENTiPAD." In it, Kyle is kidnapped by Apple after agreeing to iTunes's new terms and conditions without reading them. Kyle has given his permission to be part of a surgical experiment; Kyle's father, Stan, and the others try to rescue him. Meanwhile, Cartman begins telling everyone that his mother f***ed him when she refuses to buy him an iPad. He even goes on Dr. Phil, sparking national outrage at his perceived pedophile parent.

     Many parts of the episode are quite hilarious. In fact, sections of "HUMANCENTiPAD" are among the funniest South Park moments ever, and that is saying something. Seeing Steve Jobs and Apple as a company bent on world domination, and feeling free to do whatever they want to their consumers is timely and amusing. Apple is ripe for parody, and sometimes it does seems like they are trying to take over the planet. Their iron control of any content for their devices supports that theory. As such, that conceit works very well here. As a stubborn PC user, I fully support this view.

     Kyle's father goes to the Apple store Geniuses for help, and they use their superpowers to counsel and come up with a solution to save the day. Considering the reverence many people hold for the Geniuses, as well as a reputation of high intelligence, this is great! In this way, the series only attacks the company and its creator, rather than the individual employees whose job it is to help the public. Not everyone that works for Apple is demonized, and Apple employees save the day. It's not exactly a nuance, but keep it in mind when judging Parker and Stone for this episode.

     Even Cartman telling everyone his mother f***ed him is more funny than wrong. The phrase is something totally in line with what the character says in daily life. It also points out how many casual cursers, including children, don't stop to think about the meaning of the words they are saying. While Cartman is simply using profanity to express his displeasure, the adults in the show take him at his literal meaning, and he never understands enough to correct them.

     Justice is served, however, when Cartman turns his complaints to God, who strikes him with lightning. It's a rare moment where Cartman actually gets what he deserves. He may only be a child, but he is a very bratty one.

     Unfortunately, besides the funny, South Park opted to cross lines of decency. Spoofing a recent, growing-popular film, Jobs's nefarious plot involves sewing Kyle and two others lips to anus in a human centipede. One mouth takes in nourishment, and he passes waste directly into the others. Just hearing the description sparks nausea, let alone seeing it depicted. And the show goes a step further by introducing food that makes the situation even more disgusting.

     Yes, South Park is known for crossing lines, but is this a step too far? This reviewer thinks so, and wishes Apple's scheme was not so offensive. Sound off in the comments below with your opinion. 

     South Park airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Article first published as TV Review: South Park - "HUMANCENTiPAD" on Blogcritics.

Glee is "Born This Way"

     FOX's Glee presented a special hour-and-a-half-long episode last night. Among the big events are the return of Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Emma (Jayma Mays) finally seeing a medical professional (Kathleen Quinlan, Prison Break, Family Law) about her problems. The Warblers may also have given their last performance. Besides these, Santana (Naya Rivera) forms an alliance with a chastised Dave Karofsky (Max Adler), and Brittany (Heather Morris) encourages Santana to embrace who she is. All of the New Directions try to convince Rachel (Lea Michele) not to get a nose job, and Santana, Quinn (Dianna Agron), and Lauren (Ashley Fink) begin their battle for prom queen. All of this, with no sign of the scheming Honey Badger, a.k.a. Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), in sight!

     First up, this episode is practically a PSA to combat the bullying of homosexual teens, in a purely good way. Santana gets the ball rolling by realizing Dave is gay when she sees him check out Sam's (Chord Overstreet) butt. Immediately formulating an evil scheme, which she is uber-good at, Santana blackmails Dave into helping her. Threatening to out him, she forces Dave to apologize to Kurt and the New Directions, setting the stage for her to take credit for taming the beast, and be launched into serious prom queen candidate territory. Plus, just like that, the days of slushie face may be gone for the beloved glee clubbers.

     Santana is a seriously force to be reckoned with, and she's come so far in a mere two seasons. "The only straight I am is straight-up bitch" may be Santana's new motto, but at least she uses her powers to encourage tolerance and acceptance. She's only mean to those who deserve it anymore, other than some blunt, but honest, comments to her friends from time to time. Now that she's in good with her fellow singers, all the remains is for her to embrace her own homosexuality, which will be made easier when Brittany finally dumps Artie and comes around to Santana. It's bound to happen, possibly by season's end.

     Adler, for his part, kills with nuance. During Dave's apology to Kurt, he does go off on a tangent, citing teen suicides and YouTube videos. But it is believable that he is starting to change, as Dave's dad (Daniel Roebuck) claims to be witnessing. Dave may be forced to start an anti-bullying group and PFLAG chapter, but he does do it, and with little complaint. His apology to the New Directions and Kurt sounds sincere, and there is even a hint that Dave might be grateful to Santana for forcing this change. It's way too early to start lobbying for Dave to come out of the closet, and he will probably never be a member of the glee club, but every step is a welcome one.

     How long will the Dave / Santana beard relationship last? Will anyone buy it for very long? Neither is out, but each secret is known by a couple of people. Even if friends, and Kurt, stay faithful to their promise to keep their mouths shut, surely someone will start to notice. After all, Dave is doing a sudden 360 with his attitude in public. Someone is bound to question his motivations.

     McKinley's most-missed student, Kurt, returns to much fanfare this week. Appearing on the outside steps of the high school, he is left with a farewell musical number, "Somewhere Only We Know," from his former group, The Warblers, as he rejoins his friends.

     The only disappointment in Kurt's transfer back to the public high school is that he leaves behind boy toy Blaine (Darren Criss). Blaine's popularity has been huge, but rather than joining Kurt at McKinley during this triumphant moment, Blaine hangs back and says goodbye. Rumors are already swirling that Blaine may hang up the tie and jacket by fall, and considering how much fans would love that, and Criss's willingness to commit to the series, it looks likely Blaine will only stay on the outside a short while longer.

     Kurt is deeply missed by his former classmates and viewers alike. Just after he once more graces the halls, almost an entire act, commercial to commercial, is devoted to Kurt singing "As If We Never Said Goodbye." It is a high point of the season, a song much more extended than most of Glee's numbers, showcasing Colfer's incredible range. It's hard not to be moved as he nails the high notes in his unique falsetto. Kurt makes his mark immediately, and thankfully, his absence has at last come to an end.

      Also back where she belongs is Emma, finally rid of Carl (John Stamos), and flirting with Will (Matthew Morrison) again. But Will is no longer content to stand by and watch Emma be paralyzed by her OCD, so he pushes her to get help. She resists, even claiming "Ginger" as her biggest flaw to overcome, rather than her real issue. It's a big step to take for someone who doesn't even admit they need help. Emma acknowledges she has a problem, but declines to seek to correct it, even though she admits she wasn't born this way.

     Mental illness is a tough stigma in modern society. At the time when mankind is finally starting to understand these types of diseases and find ways to treat them, many still consider it supreme weakness to admit to suffering from them. Emma is no different. But her willingness to eventually seek help, in the form of therapy and medication, sends a positive message to viewers that it's OK to embrace who you are, and to ask for help as needed. Far from looking vulnerable, it's a testament to her strength that she can get past pride and shame to find relief.

     Glee is strongest when tackling the serious dramatic issues of its characters, but often, it has to get past the silly to get to them. While comedy is an essential element of the show, there is a fine line between funny and goofy. This week's closest dance to that line is Rachel getting her nose broken by Finn's (Cory Monteith) bad dancing. Poor Finn just can't move gracefully, though he seeks help from Mike Chang, shown with their performance of "I Gotta Be Me."

     Finn's bad footwork leads him to unintentionally bop Rachel in the face, causing her nose to look like Jan's from The Brady Bunch after its unfortunate meeting with the infamous football. Further comments, such as the doctor saying that a nose job is a right of passage for Jewish girls, only make the scene less realistic. The final nail in the coffin is that neither of Rachel's dads even show up for the consultation or at the doctor's office. True, they have not been cast, but if there's any time Rachel needed them, it's now.

     Instead, Rachel's friends have to convince her that surgery would be a mistake. Many speak out, and things come to a head as Kurt, Puck (Mark Salling), and others lead a flash mob to Duck Sauce's "Barbara Streisand." Believe it or not, though, the singing and dancing through the mall has real emotional impact, and turns a ridiculous plot into something real to contend with.

     Quinn also faces her dissatisfaction with herself when Lauren, in a bid to lead Quinn in the prom queen polls, digs up pictures of Quinn from middle school, pre-nose job, pre-hair dye, pre-weight loss. It's a startling contrast, but those who care about Quinn, including eventually Lauren, are supportive. The move backfires, and Quinn gains fans all over the school, upsetting Lauren's plot. Luckily, Lauren is classy enough to apologize, and the two form some mutual respect.

     Rachel and Quinn's stories converge with the two dueting to "Unpretty"/"I Feel Pretty." It's a sweet summation of what is going through Rachel's mind as she contemplates getting Quinn's nose, as well as a bittersweet look back, in retrospect, to Quinn's past. Lauren doesn't join in because she is already comfortable with who she is. But these three girls really find out something about themselves this week.

     The whole message of "Born This Way" echoes both the song by the same title, which the New Directions perform spectacularly at the end of the episode, and the theme of the entire series. Glee is all about overcoming whatever life throws at you, and accepting who you are. The show has dealt with this message directly before, and does so here again. Perhaps this is why Lady Gaga is their unofficial mascot, as she preaches the same.

     A quick look at some of the "flaw" t-shirts the club made, which they wore during the closing number:

Will - "Butt-Chin" Seriously? This is the best the writers can come up with? Are we supposed to believe Will is perfect, save for his face dimple? No.

Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) - "Brown Eyes" Why is she upset about having brown eyes? When she laments about the lack of pretty, female Asian role models, she is clearly forgetting Olivia Munn, Lucy Liu, etc.

Rachel - "Nose" Big noses are beautiful. I'm not Jewish, and I've always believed that. Why can't girls with big noses realize it?

Sam - "Trouty Mouth" So I guess Sam and Santana are just done then, with no break up? Yet he wears a shirt with her "pet name" for him, so...

Santana - "Lebanese" Far more appropriate than the one she made, this is the latest in a long line of Brittany mistakes, which elicit serious laughs.

Brittany - "I'm With Stoopid" (arrow pointing up) and Puck - "I'm With Stupid" (arrow pointing down) Puck often thinks with the wrong head, and Brittany knows she isn't the most educated. While both are purely for fun, they score as hilarious, and the best of the bunch!

Mike - "I Can't Sing" and Finn - "I Can't Dance" Yep on both counts. Mike's bad voice has been referenced before, most notably in "Duets", which begs the question, why is he even in the club? Except, every glee club needs an awesome dancer, and between Mike and Brittany, New Directions has two.

Kurt - "Likes Boys" Not a flaw. Come on, Glee! You spend a whole season telling us there's nothing wrong with being gay, and then Kurt puts it on his shirt here?

     Bottom Line: Funny is good. The others didn't work so well.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

     Glee airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

Article first published as TV Review: Glee - "Born This Way" on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Voice stinks up NBC

     NBC launched its answer to FOX's American Idol last night The Voice. The Voice is a singing competition where four "coaches" listen to singers with their backs turned, then chose who they would like on their team. If more than one coach chooses the singer, then the performer gets to pick which coach they would like to work with. The Voice's coaches are all professional musicians, and the freshman run's lineup consists of "F*** You"'s Cee Lo Green, pop princess Christina Aguilera, country crooner Blake Shelton, and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. The show is hosted by late night talker Carson Daly.  Like Idol and many American competition shows, this series is adapted from a foreign television program.

     The Voice's format for this first round is to introduce a singer, giving viewers a back story, and then let them perform. This is a direct knockoff of American Idol, who does roughly the same thing. As such, the back story segment is stale and unoriginal, bogging down the pacing of the singing competition. While audiences do like to know a bit about the people they watch, showing these stories in the early episodes, before fans have chosen who to support, is unnecessary. The bits shown now will be forgotten as the season goes on. It would be smarter to save the looks at the singers' lives for later rounds. This is something Idol does not do, so it would further distinguish the two programs.

     Another element similar to Idol is how nice the coaches are to the contestants that they do not like. Simon Cowell alone is truthful and blunt, while other Idol judges are not. This is a serious weakness for Idol. Even though it has maintained ratings this year, that will not last. It is dreadfully boring to only hear sweet comments. If a coach does not like a singer, they should just say so. Further mistakes were made by showing coaches' tweets during last night's televised airing, certain ones of which gave encouragement for ousted singers. If not one of the four coaches chose the singer because of their voice. it is not likely the public will hear from them again, so don't lie and say so.

     The coaches themselves can see each other, both when backs are turned, and when some have spun around. As such, it is not really a blind judging, as it claims to be. All four coaches show that they are taking each others' opinions into account by pushing or not pushing their button while glancing at their peers. For this show to truly work, it would be better if the coaches were in isolation. Simple dividers between the chairs could easily be put up and lowered at will. It would not impede the show, but actually bolster its conceit.

     Finally, the home audience is cheated by seeing the singers as they perform. The entire point of The Voice is that the competitors are judged on singing ability alone. Yet, while the coaches cannot see what the contestants look like, the viewers can. To truly experience that voice-only aspect, cameras should stay on the coaches, at least until one coach turns around and sees the singer. Little effort would be needed for this small and very beneficial change.

     Without some tweaks, The Voice is as not worth watching as this season of American Idol. Should you decide to watch, tune in to NBC Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

American Dad! Volume 6 out on DVD

     FOX has just released Volume 6 of their popular animated series American Dad! on DVD. Included in this three disc set are all eighteen episodes from season six, which aired from September 2009 until May 2010. One of the longest seasons to date, season six is also the one where American Dad! replaced Family Guy as Seth MacFarlane's most consistently funny series on television. While not every episode is fantastic, American Dad! is having a resurgence creatively, and is funnier now than it was in early years. If you have not been watching the show, Volume 6 is a good place to jump in and become a fan.

     Among the episodes on this DVD release are "In Country... Club," in which Stan (MacFarlane) takes son Steve (Scott Grimes) along on a Vietnam War reenactment that turns deadly real, and "Moon Over Isla Island," where Roger (MacFarlane) becomes dictator of a Caribbean island as a favor to Stan. In "Shallow Vows," Francine (Wendy Schaal) goes ugly, and somehow it's sweet when her husband has his eyes removed so that he can stand to stay married to her. "Rapture's Delight" finds Stan and Francine, devoted Christians, left behind after Jesus raptures his followers. In the season finale, "The Great Space Roaster," Roger tries to kill the family.

     Steve, the CIA agent patriarch, and Roger, the alien that lives with the Smiths, are usually the focus of the episodes, and provide the most antics. This is the season where Stan pulls pranks like a teenager, follows a rock band on tour, opens a stripper dry cleaning business, buys a racehorse, becomes a crack addict, builds a cyborg of himself, bullies Steve to toughen him up, and turns to President Obama for help after humiliating himself in front of the neighbors. Roger, meanwhile, temporarily moves out, remakes an 80's movie, kisses Francine, reveals himself to be a steroid-using Olympic athlete, becomes a corrupt cop, and studies crime scene photography. If that sounds like a lot to cover in only eighteen half-hour episodes, wait until you watch! There's even more!

     Season six is the last season in which Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane) is single. While all of MacFarlane's series do show some degree of character development over the years, in living situation, if not personality, it is rare that a main character would get hitched, making their spouse an important part of the show from then on. Hayley spends much of volume six interested in a koala bear named Reginald (Erik Durbin), but her stoner ex, Jeff (Jeff Fischer), does eventually return to win her back, sowing the seeds for their marriage early in season seven.

     Interestingly, season six is also when the show went from digital to high definition. This DVD set gives you the ability to compare directly, as the first half of the season is still full frame and low quality, while the second set of nine episodes goes widescreen and enhances clarity. Also, episodes are uncensored, so bleeps and black boxes are removed. Viewers have been warned.

     Like most MacFarlane releases, there are tons of extras on the discs. A number of episodes have commentary, though MacFarlane himself does not participate. Luckily, Matt Weitzman, Mike Barker, Matt Fusfeld, Jordan Blum, Wendy Schall, and lots of others are more than knowledgeable enough to take his place. Two commentaries feature The Interdisciplinary Collective for American Dad Studies, which rather than spoil what that is, I'll let you find the treat on your own. Most episodes have deleted scenes, even if they are brief.

     "Rapture's Delight" gets special treatment, with a "Making Of" special and the broadcast script. This is a favorite episode of the staff, as well as viewers, and not just because religious people may consider it blasphemous. Rounding out the extras is a tribute short honoring all of the various animals that have met their end on the series. It's darkly hilarious, so if you're not easily offended, check it out.

     American Dad Volume 6 is already in stores, so please go pick up a copy at your earlier convenience.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Article first published as DVD Review: American Dad! Volume 6 on Blogcritics.

Treme likes to "Accentuate the Positive"

     HBO's Treme begins its second season with "Accentuate the Positive." This episode is set fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and about seven months after the end of season one. The sprawling cast of characters continue to try to rebuild their city and lives, while new people arrive in town. Other New Orleans residents, who have left the city for various reasons, try to forge new identities outside of their beloved home, but find themselves unable to escape its haunting cry. And of course, the authentic New Orldeans music, certainly one of the best elements of the series, is back!

     Toni (Academy Award Winner Melissa Leo) has not told her daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga), that Sofia's father Creighton (John Goodman) committed suicide. Instead, Toni insists that his death is an accident. It is impossible to tell if Sofia believes her mother or not, but their relationship is certainly strained, be it by lie or blame placement. Toni cannot get Sofia to open up about anything, only to respond angrily. Yet, Sofia does have feelings, as she takes to the web to continue Creighton's rants against the things continuing to go wrong in New Orleans.

     Goodman's presence is missed. Creighton is a larger than life character, and dominates much of the first season. While his death is not a tragedy on the scale of the hurricane that devastated the city, it does have a very large impact on his family. Both wife and daughter deal with the loss in very different ways, but that could be because of the differing information they have been given. Toni is beginning to recover, but Sofia still has a long way to go.

     Toni is helped along with her recovery because of the many battles she still has to wage. Her latest cause is fighting the city to reverse the enormous fees they have put against parades. Citing the high crime rate and costs associated with protecting citizens during any events, New Orleans is now asking far more than its residents can afford to carry on its rich cultural traditions. Toni is fighting for a way of life. It's a David versus Goliath story, and so she is supremely sympathetic.

     Also becoming sympathetic is Lieutenant Colson (David Morse, now a series regular), tasked with stopping the growing peril criminals have brought to the neighborhoods. In this first episode alone, there is a shootout at a bar and a woman is murdered for her purse in the street, not to mention the events only discussed, but never seen. New Orleans has suffered enough, and yet, some people can't help but take advantage of the situation. Colson is doing everything he can, but to no avail. The struggle calls into question basic human nature, and whether man is inherently good or evil.

     Pressure mounts on both Antoine (Wendell Pierce) and Ladonna (Khandi Alexander) to give up their way of life. Desiree (Phyllis Montana LeBlanc) wants Antoine to get a "real" job, but considering that playing his trombone is his greatest joy, it would be unthinkable for him to trade in the instrument for a desk. He might as well leave the city if he does that, because its biggest draw will have been taken from him. Larry (Lance E. Nichols) tries to talk Ladonna into following her family north, but she refuses to give up her bar or her home. It is a wonder that Ladonna and Antoine can't reconnect, as surely they would be able to relate about love ones not understanding their basic needs.

     Another similar pair are Janette (Kim Dickens) and Delmond (Rob Brown), who have traded in new Orleans for New York City. Janette works for a verbally-abusive chef, while Delmond has stuck with his music career, having just released a new album. A couple of guys tell Delmond he has "transcended" New Orleans, earning his ire. Delmond is allowed to criticize New Orleans, but doesn't want anyone else doing it. While Delmond does not live in Louisiana in season one, he still cares a great deal for it. Janette just does not seem happy at all, and while not explicitly stated, it is certain she longs to returns home. It is likely both characters will be back in the South sometime later this season.

     Albert (Clarke Peters) is forced out of the building he has called home since the storm ended when its rightful owner returns. This echoes a problem among many New Orleans residents. Property owners didn't immediately return, but when they have, they want their belongings returned. Albert, on the other hand, never left, and feels like he has more right to the place than the man who abandoned it. While Albert leaves without much of a fight, knowing it's one he cannot win, there are ill feelings that will not be resvoled anytime soon.

     When Albert took over the place, it was in sorry shape. He has worked hard to rebuild it, and find a suitable living space within the ravaged city. Doesn't that give him some claim to the building? After all, not only did the owner not come back for it until over a year has passed, but he did nothing to start to restore his property. While the legal terms must be taken into account, there is something to say for survivors who stuck it out in their home, and it makes the question of who deserves the land more of a sticky question, morally speaking,

     The love triangle between Davis (Steve Zahn), Annie (Lucia Micarelli), and Sonny (Michiel Huisman) is far from over. Davis and Annie have gotten pretty serious over the hiatus, but Sonny is back, looking cleaned up and sane. In fact, Sonny gets to perform with Annie in a local club, and is nothing but gracious to both her and Davis. Sonny and Annie feel more right than Annie and Davis, so it's quite possible that the new relationship will be short lived. Which is fine, as long as Janette comes back to Davis.

     Poor Davis is the nice guy who can't ever win. He loves music, but is much more an admirer than a performer. He is currently working once more as a radio DJ, but clashes with his boss, per uual. Davis deserves a steady job he is passionate about and a nice woman in the same vein. While Annie is into music and Janette is more about cooking, both are artists authentic to the city, making either a suitable mate for Davis. With everything Davis and the place he loves have gone through, it's time that he is happy, whether that is completely realistic or not.

     There is a new man in town in the form of Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda, The Pacific, Close to Home). At first, it appears that Nelson has come to New Orleans from Dallas, Texas just to make money, having been assured by his cousin there is plenty of opportunity here. But Nelson quickly falls in love with the city, its people, its cuisine, and its music. It's not just an act, as Nelson drags his reluctant cousin, who is more concerned with working than enjoying himself, anywhere he can soak up the culture. Granted, this is a new experience for Nelson, but it looks like love at first sight.

     The question is, how will Nelson's arc develop? Will he be a heartless speculator who puts the almighty dollar first? Sure, he plans on staying because of the aforementioned attraction, but that doesn't mean he is loyal to anyone who gets in the way of his profit. Or he may be, as he witnesses the hardships the locals have gone through and begins to feel sorry for them. One episode in, with only scant minutes of screen time because of so many characters he must share the show with, it is impossible to know what kind of man Nelson really is. Inevitable, we will find out.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

     Treme airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET. Do yourself a favor and be sure to tune in.

Article first published as TV Review: Treme - "Accentuate the Positive" on Blogcritics.

Cinema Verite and the birth of reality TV

     HBO's latest TV movie is Cinema Verite. It's a look at the making of An American Family, which is widely considered to be the first reality television show. In An American Family, camera crews follow around the Louds of Santa Barbara, California in 1971, though it did not air until the beginning of 1973. The Louds went on to appear on the cover of Newsweek and on various talk shows as they combated the negative image the series showed of their family. In Cinema Verite, HBO attempts to recreate events going on behind the camera, not just those shown on PBS nearly three decades ago.

     This movie, in between scenes with the new actors, shows clips from the original series. Great care has been taken to match the current stars looks with the people they are playing, and visually, it seems like the two are extremely similar. Snippets of personality and voice from the past also make it look like the actors in HBO's film are doing a fantastic job. Without having see the old documentary though, it's hard to tell for sure if the Louds are being done justice.

     Diane Lane stars as Pat Loud, the matriarch and central character of this movie. Pat is shown to be open, and trapped in a bad marriage with Bill (Tim Robbins), who cheats on her constantly. Lane and Robbins have some very natural chemistry, so that even when they are fighting and their marriage is coming apart, they still appear to have the natural comfortableness that comes with shared history. Pat comes across as the victim in this movie, but she is also a strong woman that is willing to take charge of her life and improve things. Yet, she admits to have been aware of Bill's infidelities for a long time, and she spends an inordinate amount of time cozying up the producer of An American Family, Craig (James Gandolfini), so how much of a victim can she really be? Is is just an act for the cameras?

     The question of reality versus facade is the biggest issue raised by this fictional account of a pseudo documentary. Like much of today's reality television, it's difficult to say how much of the "documentary" is authentic and how much is somewhat scripted. The character of Craig stirs this pot when he purposely sets up scenes to force dramatic confrontation. Bill is seen saying a line several times to get the perfect visual. Son Lance (Thomas Dekker, brilliantly breaking any pigeonholing that may follow him from his days on Sarah Connor: The Terminator Chronicles) makes a show of not having noticed the camera, then "suddenly realizing" the crew is there. While some scenes may be completely real, others definitely are not.

     The climax occurs as Pat makes Bill move out, and the uncomfortable film crew follows the husband out into the driveway. As Bill struggles to react calmly and maturely to this unexpected (for him, not viewers) turn of events, a real man is revealed. Here, Bill is shown when he'd rather be hidden. Emotion blossoms in his eyes, but he can't react the way that he wants to without the risk of damaging his already-crippled image. So he does the best he can and gets away from the house quickly. Today, cameras would have caught his raw emotion from the backseat as he flees the confrontation. In this more primitive time, viewers must imagine how Bill will soon be emoting as his car fades from view.

     The Louds, especially Lance, who is credited with being the first openly homosexual character on TV, embrace the publicity that comes with the series, at least at first. Pat later has reservations when things go south. But they want the attention they will get from the show, and after it airs, their publicity tour cements their desire for fame. This makes them typical of modern day reality stars, who delight in strutting around for everyone else to see. They are exhibitionists, even if their skin is kept covered up. As such, these types of reality shows will only ever show a certain kind of person, rather than a "typical" American.

     The Loud family's story does have its share of tragedy. Long after the cameras left, Lance contracted HIV, and died at the age of 50 in 2001. His dying wish was that his parents reunite, and sure enough, Pat and Bill are currently back together. Yet, they remain mostly under the radar, as they have been for some time. Which shows that there are real emotions within the family, and everything that has been done is not just for show.

     The question remains whether Craig should be vilified for inventing the reality genre, or if its inception would have come about anyway. The real Craig seems to have been torn, and Gandolfini's version is shown to have true affection for Pat, but goes ahead an instigates ratings-bait drama anyway. The reality of a Craig / Pat pairing has been debated, but it makes sense, considering that after this project, Craig hung up his directing hat forever. If he did not feel guilt for what he did to the family, and possibly Pat in particular, it's hard to fathom why he would quit at the height of his success.

     It is too late to stuff reality television back in the bottle, though some critics, including this one, very much wish it was so. Something in human nature makes people crave this type of false authenticity. Mankind enjoys watching others make fools of themselves, and even watches while knowing what they are seeing isn't nearly as real as it pretends to be. For better or for worse, the Louds were the first in a long line of publicity hounds, who are famous just for the sake of fame, not because of their own accomplishments. And the practice they sparked shows no signs of abating.

     The characters that best capture this conflict are Alan (Patrick Fugit) and Susan Raymond (Shanna Collins), who are tasked with filming the project. While they do feel disdain for the part of their job that is exploitation, they continue the work. Is it for the money? To protect the family from camera crews with fewer scruples? To find a sense of completion? Or are they just, despite reservations, as fascinated as everyone else with what is happening? Draw your own conclusion.

     One benefit can be attributed to the reality genre: it inspired this HBO film, which is a fun, not not always light-hearted, delight. If you missed the premiere, it will be rerunning throughout this week. Be sure to catch it.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Article first published as TV Review: Cinema Verite on Blogcritics.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Preview: Gossip Girl is all new tonight with "Petty in Pink"

     The following contains minor spoilers about tonight's episode of Gossip Girl, but will not ruin any major twists.

     The CW's Gossip Girl has a new episode on tonight. Titled "Petty in Pink," the episode continues arcs from previous episodes. Lily (Kelly Rutherford) is sentenced to nine months house arrest, not unexpected, considering she is a main character. Chances are, with good behavior, she will be released by early fall. Because she cannot leave the loft, she is cut out of her charity work. Her family attempts to save her face by (what else?) blackmail. But is that ever a good solution?

      Nate (Chace Crawford) decides to help Raina (Tika Sumpter) look for her mother, whom her father has always told her ran off with another man. But he has told Chuck (Ed Westwick) a different story, and although Raina seems to have moved on from Chuck to be completely devoted to Nate, a good choice, Chuck still has worries about what she may find. Will it bring Chuck and Raina closer to know that her father covered up Chuck's dad being responsible for Raina's mother's death? Or did he lie to Chuck, and Raina's mom is still out there somewhere? Both Chuck and Raina will be looking to learn the truth.

      Meanwhile, Serena (Blake Lively) finally takes notice of the inordinate amount of time Dan (Penn Badgley) and Blair (Leighton Meester) have been spending together, so she sits them down and confronts them calmly like an adult, to which they respond openly and honestly and all three become closer from the experience. Just kidding! That would be far too easy. Instead, Serena has her cousin Charlie (Kaylee DeFer) spy on her erstwhile friends, and Charlie uncovers what is really going on. But not before a bit of mixup and mud slinging.

     To make matters more complicated, a former suitor of Blair's, one whom she considers very much worthy of her time and station, has returned and would like to be with her. Unfortunately, his family is against it, and with Charlie and Serena getting involved, it's hard for him to know if Blair is even available. You'll have to tune in to find out what happens.

     Finally, Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) makes yet another attempt to make amends with Dan. Will he be ready to listen, or is she too far gone?

     Watch Gossip Girl tonight at 10 p.m. on the CW.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Smallville: Clark meets "Booster"

     The CW's Smallville is drawing to a close. The most recent episode, “Booster,” furthers the Superman mythology, bringing Clark Kent (Tom Welling) closer to his destiny.  Advertisements for this episode make it seem like a goofy side adventure, a weird way to go with only a few hours left in the series. That is not the case, as not only are both Booster Gold and Blue Beetle foils for Clark in different ways, but Clark gets even closer to becoming Superman. He changes in a phone booth for the first time (who even knew any still exist?), and refines the geeky demeanor he will use as his secret identity. Booster recommends Clark choose a cooler name that incorporates his "S" symbol, preferably something "super." These important touches make this episode better than the average one, and show it is worthy to be included this close to the end.

     In the episode, Lois (Erica Durance) helps Clark further build his geeky demeanor so that he can come out publically as a hero. Cat (Keri Lynn Pratt) is still not a supporter of The Blur, but she is taken in by a new hero in town: Booster Gold (Eric Martsolf), claiming his "openness" as the source of her attraction. Booster arrives to try to take The Blur’s place in Metropolis, but unlike Clark, he uses flashy commercials and events to get attention. Meanwhile, Booster’s presence has unexpected consequences when, during a rescue, an alien scarab is released, and it latches onto nerdy Jaime Reyes (Jaren Brandt Bartlett), turning him into the Blue Beetle.

     A major development that may be a tad unexpected: Clark's biggest worry about assuming his new persona is not about himself, but how it will reflect on Lois, who still plans on marrying him. He argues this will seems out of place, since she is now so successful, and he is... well, not. He basically gives her a pass, which she chooses not to use, because she doesn't care how it looks. She loves him. Score another point for the gumption of Lois Lane, a character trait found in virtually all versions of the character.

     In other Superman incarnations, Lois falls for the nerdy Clark before she realizes that he has super powers, though she also often has a thing for Superman. While Smallville did toy with a Lois / Clark / The Blur love triangle, before Clark even becomes Superman, this Lois alone knows all of his secrets. She knows the real him, not the made up persona. Because of this, this Superman is being shaped and grown with Lois's help. It gives her even more influence and praise for her role in him as a the superhero than before. She helps make him who he is. If anything, that makes this particular Lois among the greatest.

     Now, the question is, how soon until bumbling Clark can make it upstairs in the Daily Planet with Lois? She earns a promotion, but he stays in the basement. The Lois and Clark famous duo share many an important byline. Perhaps it makes sense that Clark's time to shine as a newsman will have to wait. His new faux personality lends itself to a slow climb rather than a quick blast off, unlike Lois. This also works better with the traditional tale, where Lois has already established herself an an anchor of the paper before Clark joins her.

     Clark has a very different encounter with Booster Gold than he has with other superheroes. Up until now, Clark has defeated many an enemy, but typically, the other superheroes he has encountered have been more put together than he is. Even as serveral begin to form a League, he stays on the sidelines for quite awhile longer, waiting to join them until after they've been established for awhile. Clark's evolution to Superman is a slow one, and at first, he doesn't want to get involved.

     But with Booster, Clark is able to serve as a mentor and inspiration. Admittedly, Booster already knows who Clark is ahead of time, so future Clark likely means as much to him as the present day one. Booster draws strength from knowing the effects Superman has had on his world. While he initially thinks he can replace him, as soon as he meets Clark, and stops to think about who he is by comparison, he begins to clean up his act. This is the first encounter a mature Clark has with someone in that regard, but those familiar with the Superman tale know it will not be the last.

     By extension, Booster decides to help Jaime become a good, just Blue Beetle. Knowing he cannot save everyone, as Clark will soon be doing, Booster focuses his efforts on one person he can positively influence. As Clark used to keep his activities small scale, so now does Booster, who is really just starting out. If his path to greatness is anything like Clark's, he will become much better than he is over time, with lots of hard work. As such, Booster Gold is able to put foolishness behind him and have a lasting positive affect on the world.

     Sadly, Tess (Cassidy Freeman) and Oliver (Justin Hartley) sit this episode out, as they have frequently done this season. Surely, they will be back before the finale, though it does look like the final episodes will be mostly about Clark. Which is appropriate enough, considering he is the main character and the only original full-time cast member left. Side characters have been invaluable on the series, but only Clark can become Superman.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

     Smallville airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Article first published as TV Review: Smallville - "Booster" on Blogcritics.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Archer ends second season with matrimony

     FX's Archer completed its second season last night the titular character, super spy and ladies' man Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) looking to turn in his bachelor card for a wedding band. Last week, Archer was rescued from the KGB by the beautiful Katya. Malory (Jessica Walter) and Lana (Aisha Tyler) suspect Katya is a double agent, sent to steal Krieger's (Lucky Yates) secret project. Their theory is backed up when they hack the Russian network and find a file listing Katya as a double. But she has been in love with Archer for years, and convinces him of such, the file being a trick. Sterling and Katya decide to run off together, and Malory brings a team to try to stop them. A shootout ends with a wedding, but Archer's special day is interrupted when Barry (Dave Willis) arrives to take his revenge.

     Archer has always had a bit of a sweet side. Despite all the different women he beds, he has shown genuine affection before. He may not be able to stay faithful, but he would give it a shot. But perhaps Katya is different, as evidenced by Archer's quick proposal, something he doesn't usually end his affairs with. Would Archer have been able to live in matrimonial bliss, or would he have strayed before long?

     We will never know the answer to that because Katya sacrifices herself to stop Barry. As the now part cyborg foe attempts to strange Archer, Katya wrestles him off the roof where she dies on the street below. This negates any doubts anyone still may have that Katya's love for Archer is true. It also brings an end to an interesting story. It is regrettable that this avenue is not pursued for a few episodes. While long term it likely would not have worked, it would have added a fresh element for a few adventures. Sadly, that will not be happening, though, since the relationship flourished in a season finale, it couldn't really be expected to.

     Barry survives the fall because he is now bionic. Will next season pick up right where this one left off, with Barry heading back to the roof to kill Archer? One can hope so, because it's hard to believe Barry would give up so easily. True, Archer has a bit of protection on the balcony, surrounded by allies. But their guns were empty of ammunition. It's a pickle. It's also a bit of a cliffhanger because there is no way to know if that immediate threat will continue, or whether the characters will move on and Barry will return later.

     Archer airs on FX, and will return for a third season next year.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Smallville episode "Booster" airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET

     Only a handful of episodes remain for the CW’s Smallville. Tonight’s entry, “Booster”, will further the Superman mythology, bringing Clark Kent (Tom Welling) to meet his destiny. In it, Lois (Erica Durance) helps Clark further build his geeky demeanor so that he can come out publically as a hero. Cat (Keri Lynn Pratt) is still not a supporter of The Blur, but she is taken in with a new hero in town: Booster Gold (Eric Martsolf). Booster arrives to try to take The Blur’s place in Metropolis, but unlike Clark, he uses flashy commericals and events to get attention. Meanwhile, Booster’s presence has unexpected consequences when, during a rescue, an alien scarab is released, and it latches onto nerdy Jaime Reyes (Jaren Brandt Bartlett), turning him into the Blue Beetle.

     The following contains light spoilers, meant to get fans excited about tonight’s episode, but refrains from revealing any big twists. If you’d rather go into the hour without knowing anything, please do not read it.

     Which advertisements for the episode make it appear that Clark will be encountering yet another superhero, like many before him, Booster helps Clark learn something about himself. Booster has a few secrets, such as where he came from, and which exactly he chose now, when Clark is on the verge of going public himself, to come to town. Booster actually serves a foil or cautionary tale, rather than just being a distraction. He also gives Clark the chance to demonstrate his saving power, and not in action sequences.

     Jaime / Blue Beetle is the other extreme from Booster. He does not have a secret agenda, but plays more to the other side of Clark, the persona Clark is creating as his secret identity. As such, Jaime also has something that Clark can learn from.

     Besides the main plot, several Superman staples are touched on, strengthening the mythology, and reminding us that the series is coming to an end, and Clark will soon be Superman. In this episode, for the first time, the Clark Kent known and beloved by comic book and movie fans makes an appearance. For anyone doubting that the Clark we’ve watched for ten years can be the traditional image, watch and be amazed. Also, a phone booth makes a quick cameo.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

     Check back tomorrow for a full review of the episode and to discuss what you saw. Smallville airs Friday nights, including tonight, at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Modern Family chooses "Someone to Watch Over Lily"

     ABC’s Modern Family was new last night, presenting the episode “Someone to Watch Over Lily”. In it, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) disagree over who to name guaradian of their baby daughter, Lily, in the event that tragdedy should strike them both. Mitchell nominates someone from his family, whom live nearby, while Cam would rather send Lily to his parents on a farm in a state farm away. While Mitchell and Cam do surprise drop by visits to judge the readiness of Mitch’s relatives, Cam also speaks to his mother, who is dealing with frozen cows during a billzard.

     Naming a guardian is a huge decision in any parent’s life, and it is natural for the guys to disagree over who it should be. Turning it into a contest, however, and looking at isolated incidences, instead of an overall picture from years of knowing the people, is deeply flawed. Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) are having a bad day, after accidentally leaving their son, Luke (Nolan Gould), at a mall, both assuming he is with the other parent. It’s a forgivable mistake, except for the fact that they don’t realize it for several hours, even though they both drive to the same place after. But looking at the larger picture of how Claire and Phil’s kids have turned out, they seem to be very capable.

     Cam balks at Jay (Ed O’Neill) because of his rough exterior. Cam should remember that lately Jay has been very accepting of his son and son-in-law, recently spending an evening drinking and chatting with their other gay friends. Yet, it takes a ringing endorsement from Manny (Rico Rodriguez) to sway Cam. Granted, Jay has been shown to be very good to Manny, and the scene in the car this week as Jay tells his step son he will support him no matter what decision he makes is extremely moving. But Cam doesn’t need that information to know who Jay is. They’ve been family for years.

     Jay’s wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), at first appears to be the most suitable. Then a misunderstanding, made possible by Gloria’s heavy accent and Mitchell’s inattentiveness, leads to Gloria piercing baby Lily’s ears with what she thinks is parental consent, but is not. This is enough to tick off Mitchell to the point where he does’t want her raising Lily. Why not? She has a done a fine job with Manny, and he knows that Gloria is loving. Perhaps she made a decision that he didn’t like, but it’s not like she hurt Lily or anything. It just doesn’t make sense that he would turn on her so quickly.

     Overall, it is a very funny episode of Modern Family. The only problem is that the writers let jokes get in the way of realism. But what sitcom doesn’t from time to time? It remains one of the most solid on television. Like choosing guaradians, please look at the overall picture Modern Family presents, rather than a few isolated mistakes. Modern Family airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

Parenthood ends season two

     NBC's Parenthood kicked off season early last night as its second season came to an end with "Hard Times Comes Again No More." The episode picks up with Sarah (Lauren Graham) getting a late night phone call telling her that her daughter, Amber (Mae Whitman), has been in a car wreck, as seen at the end of last week's episode. The entire Braverman clan gathers at the hospital to support each other in a scene reminiscent of the movie with the same title. But that resolves quickly, and Amber goes home, mostly fine. A number of other threads tie themselves up over the next hour, leaving only a handful of unanswered questions for viewers awaiting a fall return.

     A synopsis of the episode may make the car wreck seem trivial, as Amber is deemed fine fairly quickly. However, just because she survives the event does not mean it will not have lasting effects. Sarah tries to get through to Amber, but her daughter is unreceptive, far from rock bottom. Luckily, grandfather Zeke (Craig T. Nelson) steps up, chewing Amber out, but also letting her know that his concern comes from a place of love. Tough grandpa makes Amber realize what her mother cannot, and she pledges to behave from here on out.

     It's an age old story that children just will not listen to their parents. For whatever reason, even though parents have the most influence and control over kids as they grow up, a life lesson coming from another respected source, such as a grandfather, just hits home a lot more than from a parent. Perhaps this is because parents teach so much that kids grow numb to the lessons, while, when someone else steps up, it's a unique occurrence, and they take more notice. Either way, it's nice that the Amber problem is dealt with, and not left hanging for next season. By the time the episode ends, it appears Amber will be returning to the good girl she has been for most of the year.

     Somehow, Sarah still handles her play, despite what is happening with her daughter. Sarah attends rehearsal, where she snaps at actors during a read through, and then before you know it, the show opens up. The actors apologize, by the way, because Blount (Richard Dreyfuss) tells them Sarah's daughter has died and they feel bad. None mention that they see her daughter at the show and are angry at being lied to. That would only have taken a few seconds, and should have happened.

     The play is the most out of place part of the episode. While it is understandable that the writers would want to wrap up Sarah's play plot by the season finale, a full performance does not happen days after a read through. It seems inconsistent, and time frame is confusing. Sarah can be forgiven for not dropping out of the program, because Amber is all right, but it still feels like too much happened too soon. This should have carried into next year.

     The actors playing the family members are brilliantly cast, each looking quite a bit like the characters they represent. The father figure is the most similar, of course, because Zeke plays a version of himself. Yet, the other five people on stage look remarkably like their counterparts. Did looks factor more into casting than talent? Because that has not been my experience with theater.

     Max (Max Burkholder) has a very hard time dealing with the Amber situation because of his Asperger's, so he cannot show empathy. His father, Adam (Peter Krause), tries talking to him about it, but like many things, it is unclear if the words hit home with Max or not. He obviously has some small grasp, as he does apologize to Sarah for his insensitivity, albeit blaming his syndrome. She takes the apology with the grace of an understanding aunt, even though Graham's expression and demeanor uncharacteristically do not back up the words. Strange.

     While it is laudable that Adam is working with Max on connecting with people, it should also be noted that letting Max blame his Asperger's is not a good way to go about it. If Max lets himself believe in his limitations, he will not grow. If he uses the disorder as an excuse, he will not learn to behave. Since his knowing about the syndrome is new, and this is his first lesson with such a serious event, it can be overlooked, as long as it does not become a pattern in season three. Given the excellent writing shown thus far, it likely won't.

     At the same time, Adam is also dealing with his other child, Haddie (Sarah Ramos), who recently started having sex with her boyfriend, Alex (Michael B. Jordan). Things between Adam and Haddie have been strained, but are recovering. Adam's wife, Kristina (Monica Potter), handles communicating about this tricky issue a bit better. Kristina tells Haddie she will be visiting the doctor and going on birth control, and then makes her an appointment. Adam tells Alex to wear a condom. It's awkward, but then, what parent isn't awkward when dealing with their children becoming sexually active?

     A small subplot where Adam searches for Max's lost retainer feels out of place and forced. While it is an expensive item, Adam obsessing over it, as he does, feels out of character. The pressures Adam is dealing with in the episode make it a bit more understandable, but the whole thing feels concocted when Adam discovers the positive pregnancy test in the trash. Given that that twist is spoiled in previews for the episode, the whole story feels contrived and false, which is not the norm for the series. Thank goodness the baby isn't Haddie's, or it would deserve even more derision.

     Kristina being pregnant comes out of the blue, but is not entirely unrealistic. The question is, what does this mean for Adam and Kristina? Their kids are pretty far apart, age wise. Just as one will soon be leaving the house, a new one will be entering it. There actually are no complaints about this, because Potter handles the revelation so well. The question now is, will the baby be like Max?

     Things will surely be complicated because Adam no longer has a job. It isn't surprise, as once his new boss came into the picture, it seemed like only a matter of time before Adam would have to find other employment. In this economy, he could be out of work for quite awhile, but because this is TV, his family will not suffer any undue hardship because of it. The writers should go the opposite way, and really make it a serious struggle for at least the next year. It would be a very relatable plot, and while some people use television as escapism, others would appreciate the realism.

     It's a shame Kristina gets pregnant without even trying, since Julia (Erika Christensen) has been trying so hard and failing. Julia's plot is the weirdest this week, as she comforts her daughter's former teacher through labor. It's a totally random happenstance, bringing back a forgotten guest star, who only did one episode over a year ago. The story is there just for Julia to try to come to terms with not being able to have a baby, and then decide to adopt one.

     Crosby (Dax Shepard) is finally giving up trying to win Jasmine (Joy Bryant) back when Joel (Sam Jaeger) brings her to him at the end of the episode. Poor Crosby! He works so hard to get her attention, and she keeps dissing him, but then Joel is able to talk her into coming, a scene that should have not been cut, or if it was never filmed, should have been. If Bryant was not a main character, she would likely disappear after this episode, perhaps to pop up again briefly down the road. Since she's in the theme song, despite her numerous rejections, there is never any real doubt they won't be trying to work things out next year.

     This is a very odd episode of Parenthood because the overall arcs are wonderful, and some scenes are very emotionally moving. Yet, there are lots of odd details that don't quite add up when looked at too closely. The most logical conclusion that can be drawn, from an overall truly delightful series, is that the finale is rushed, and should have been given another hour to play out.

     One last note: the exterior of the hospital featured in the show Scrubs is extremely recognizable, no matter how different series have lately tried to redress it, as Parenthood does this week. It's time to retire that particular location, as it will always invoke Scrubs for a lot of people, and takes viewers out of the moment when it is tried to be passed off as something else.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here for all of my Current Season Reviews.

     Parenthood has not yet been renewed, but its season finale ratings were great, and it's very likely it will be picked up soon for another season on NBC.

Article first published as TV Review: Parenthood - "Hard Times Come Again No More" on Blogcritics.