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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

United States of Tara says "...youwillnotwin..."

     Lots of changes are occurring as United States of Tara begins its third season on Showtime. Season two ended a number of subplots pretty completely, so it's time to move on, though some of the new directions may take some getting used to. The biggest change may be the abandonment of the theme song, at least in the season premiere. It needs an update if they're going to continue to use it, anyway. Also, it appears that several minor characters are gone, quite possibly for good, while others are entrenching themselves even more firmly into the cast. As such, new dynamics are solidifying. Unlike other shows, I often feel United States of Tara is still finding its way, even three seasons in. However, that's part of the fun, as the series's story is as up and down a roller coaster ride as the character of Tara (Toni Collette) is, so it's not a bad thing, as it would be elsewhere.

      Tara has decided to go back to college, always having regretted dropping out just a few courses shy of a degree. Neighbor Ted (Michael Hitchcock) makes a call and gets her accepted into the right program, but she soon hits a snag when a class she needs is full. Appealing to the grumpy Professor Harris (Eddie Izzard) is partially successful, as he agrees to let her in - if he's impressed with an essay she writes. Unfortunately, as Tara sits down to write, she discovers it is much harder than she expected it to be.

     Meanwhile, Tara's husband Max (John Corbett) isn't very happy with her decision. It's not that he wants to hold her back, but she dropped out the first time, years ago, because she tried to kill herself. Max is worried Tara's current stresses, including recently finding out about childhood abuse, will drive her to do something dangerous again. He's not wrong, as Tara soon puts a knife to her wrist while struggling with the assigned essay.

     But this time, Tara's four main alter personalities - Buck, Alice, T, and Shoshana (all also played by Collette) - arrive to help her, convincing her to put down the weapon. Shoshana offers to come up with the prose, while Tara types, Alice pours Tara tea, Buck rubs Tara's shoulders, and T, well, tries not to get in the way. This is an unexpected turn; quite a surprise. Up until now, Tara's personalities have appeared to cause her problem after problem. Obviously, they hold they key to Tara getting better and overcoming her disorder, but they have gone about their business in a chaotic way, never in one that is blatantly useful.

     Has Tara finally accepted them enough to embrace them as a part of her? Or perhaps there are less secrets that need revealed now, so they can act in a manner not so obtuse? I'm not so sure this will be a permanent change, as Buck does take over Tara's body at the beginning of the episode to look for Tara's missing brother. Perhaps a balance can be found?

     Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) is left at the altar last season, and is now determined to be an independent woman. As long as that independence allows her to rely almost entirely on Neil (Patton Oswalt), who buys her groceries, pays her bills, and paints her toenails. Oh, did I mention that Charmaine is pregnant with Neil's baby, and he is not the one who left her during the wedding? Neil wants to make things more official, and proposes, but Charmaine turns him down. Neil continues caring for her, even as she fails to appreciate him. However, Neil does eventually get more forceful after not being there during Charmaine's false labor, and insists on moving in. She relents to that, at least.

     These two have been in a delicate dance for years, and it's nice to see some forward momentum. Charmaine is damaged, like her sister Tara, but has different ways of coping. One way is clearly to push Neil away verbally, even while depending on him heavily. Neil is much more patient than most men would be, and the two share genuine affection. At first, I assumed Charmaine didn't want Neil because she is shallow. Now, I think the situation is much more complicated than that. I hope that Charmaine will eventually marry Neil, but what it will take to get her to that point is unknown at this time.

     Tara's daughter, Kate (Brie Larson), is learning a valuable lesson many young people are probably repeating all over the country. She seeks employment, but is haunted by her past, namely, sitting on a cake in a sexual manner, something readily searchable on the internet. There is some debate as to how a whole generation of internet exhibitionists will be affected in the long-term by their lack of discerning judgment. I personally feel like so many people post their whole lives that it will matter less and less as time goes on. The writers have chosen the more immediate option, though, and Kate will have a very hard time getting a job in any industry but one where morals are loose.

     Kate's brother, Marshall (Keir Gilchrist), is also dealing with contemporary issues. He is in a relationship with Lionel (Michael J. Willett). Lionel doesn't like labels like "boyfriend," though Marshall is more traditional. Well, as traditional as a homosexual can be, considering gayness is not usually thought of as traditional. I know marriage is trending towards later in life, if at all, and many couples rebel against convention. I find myself in Marshall's camp, however, it's hard to know what the new norm will be in a couple of decades. Is this a cycle, that will someday swing back more conservatively? Or is this a new trend that may lead to the end of marriage as we know it?

     See? United States of Tara is educational and thought provoking, as well as entertaining. You should watch it when it airs Monday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.


Article first published as TV Review: United States of Tara - "...youwillnotwin..." on Blogcritics.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.

My Other United States of Tara Reviews:
United States of Tara is held together by love
United States of Crazy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nurse Jackie declares "Game On"

     There are some shows so freakin' awesome that you await their new seasons with anxious anticipation. Showtime's Nurse Jackie is one of those shows. Though I am usually getting ready to go to sleep around the time that Nurse Jackie comes on, I was too excited for the third season premiere last night, "Game On," to slumber without watching it. Am I glad I did! The episode did justice to the high expectations I hold for the show as it kicked off a whole new season.

     It's hard to think of other half-hour shows that pack as much into their limited time as Nurse Jackie does. In the premiere, besides Jackie's (Edie Falco) personal drama with her husband and best friend, who each get their own scenes, there are two patients, new shoes, Zoey (Merritt Wever) glowing from post-coital bliss, and a series of de-facings done to a simple sign that had me rolling in laughter. I think the poster may have been my favorite part, just because it was so random and unexpected. What starts as a warning to not kiss the statues in the chapel because they may have lead paint, ends up being a caution not to feed Nurse Thor (Stephen Wallem). Hehe.

     As for Zoey, I'm glad she got laid, but I share her co-workers' revulsion at her trying to slip in details. No one needs to know. It's a private act. Zoey has boundary issues, and she always has had them. It's perfectly in character. You forgive her, though, because Wever exudes innocence and sweetness in the role.

     In fact, it's the little, funny bits like that that make Nurse Jackie one of my favorite shows. The aformentioned sign is posted by Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), probably my favorite character. Akalitus got several noteworthy moments in the premiere. Besides the signs, and telling all the nurses they had better be on their game, because they could easily be replaced with nurses recently let go from shut down hospitals, she also masters the art of facial expressions. Let me explain.

     Jackie talks to Akalitus, concerned that Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best) will tattle on her about her pill problem. Jackie makes it seem like it isn't really a problem, but a misunderstanding. O'Hara does come in to speak with Akalitus, immediately following Jackie's meeting, but dances around the issue, rather than ratting Jackie out. Akalitus is stone faced for much of both meetings, but you can see the gears turning in her head. She is taking it all in, and she will act when necessary. She values her employees, but also has the hospital to worry about. Adding comedy to what otherwise would have been a tense scene, the phone keeps ringing, and Akalitus gets increasingly frustrated with it, rather than with the women in her office. Smith handles it all brilliantly, both the broad and the subtle equally, with massive talent.

     At the beginning of the episode, Jackie tries to explain away the pharmacy charges to her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa). He doesn't buy her excuses, which ring hollow when the secret post office box Jackie gets her credit card bills in is taken into account, and storms off in anger. Is there any hope of rebuilding trust in their marriage? I don't know. I assume they will be staying together, at least for the time being, but I can't see them having easy fun ahead. She fundamentally betrayed him, on a deep level. There is nothing she can say to make things right, because what she has done is so wrong.

     Kevin seems concerned about something besides the pills, too. He knows Jackie doesn't think he makes enough money, as she is willing to accept funds from O'Hara for their children's tuition, and that hurts his pride. So he has the school fees put on various credit cards, and still can only manage a half payment. Kevin's pride is a huge obstacle that will also need to be overcome for the couple to reconnect. He needs to accept that he can't do everything alone, and that sometimes it is all right to accept help. While his flaws are not as serious as Jackie's he does have them.

     Jackie handles things with O'Hara, her best friend, completely differently. She wants O'Hara to forgive her, as evidenced by her moving closer in the chapel, but doesn't offer excuses. She knows she doesn't stand a chance at fooling O'Hara, a smart surgeon, as opposed to her husband, a dumb bartender, who didn't even believe Jackie. O'Hara shows no signs of even wanting to make up with her friend, so I wonder how much groveling it will take Jackie to get back in her good graces. If she ever can. It's really sad, because the two of them have such magical chemistry together.
 
     The biggest development in the episode is that Kevin shows up at the hospital. No one, except O'Hara and Eddie (Paul Schulze), Jackie's former lover, even know that she is married, and so Zoey's first introduction goes a little awkwardly. She asks for Kevin's ID. Her face falling as she realizes Jackie is indeed married and Zoey just made a fool of herself, is priceless. Kevin's visit is brief, but it will have lasting effects, as suddenly Jackie is exposed in one huge secret, bordering on a lie, to the staff. What this will do to her relationships with various co-workers, especially Zoey, who will be hurt that Jackie never shared something so big, is hard to tell.
 
     The ensemble dramedy also stars Peter Facinelli (Twilight) as Cooper, a stuck up doctor who just bought new, fancy shoes that he wears to work and worries about scuffing, and Arjun Gupta as Sam, a nurse who Jackie has blackmail on, both wonderful elements in the cast. Nurse Jackie airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.


Article first published as TV Review: Nurse Jackie - "Game On" on Blogcritics.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.

My Other Nurse Jackie Reviews:
Nurse Jackie Falls Apart
Nurse Jackie is Back

Shameless ends with "Father Frank, Full of Grace"

     What an exciting season finale that Showtime's Shameless gave us Sunday night! So much development, and some nice endings to a few plots. Unlike other shows, Shameless doesn't so much have little stories or mysteries that must be summed up in an episode, or even a couple of weeks. It's more a series of events in the lives of the Gallagher family. As such, the finale doesn't feel too much different than a regular episode, not feeling obligated to do the big stunts that most shows do. But Shameless has been enjoyable since the pilot, and continued that run with the talent viewers have grown accustomed to.

     Last week, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) are arrested while driving a stolen car for Steve (Justin Chatwin). Rather than this being an extended legal battle, for which the family could never realistically pay, family friend (and cop) Tony (Tyler Jacob Moore) convinces the investigating officer to drop the charges. After all, Tony is after Steve, not the brothers. No needless drama or strung-out hype forced upon us. But the sequence of events does go in Tony's favor, as it scares Steve enough to leave town, after signing over his house to Tony in exchange for getting the charges dropped. Steve doesn't know Tony has already had this done, and Tony doesn't correct him, taking the house.

     The house happens to be next door to Fiona (Emmy Rossum), who is the whole reason for the feud between Tony and Steve. Even with Steve's secrets, and his "profession" as a car thief, I like him better for Fiona than Tony. Steve will have to go straight in the long-run to be good enough for Fiona, she certainly doesn't need the headaches and threats of illicit activities, but he understands her more. Tony is too straight-laced. Fiona and Steve have passion. Sure, passion may burn out, and Tony is the more stable guy. But for Fiona, being with Tony would be settling, and not love.

     Steve asks Fiona to leave town with him, and she considers it. She even packs a bag and heads to the train station, but just can't bring herself to go to the airport. I never expected her to. I'm surprised she even toyed with the idea. I guess it can be excused because Lip and Veronica (Shanola Hampton) were assuring her that everything at home would be just fine without her, and encouraging her to go. But I found this the one weak part of the episode. If there's anything Fiona would never leave, it's her family. And she's right when she says that the children do not need abandoned again. It would be fine for her to go in a few years, but not now.


     The closest thing to a cliffhanger we get is the effect of Debbie (Emma Kenney) telling Jimmy's mom that her son is living in Chicago under the name Steve. I assume that this is a set up for next season, which gives me hope that Steve will return, something I wasn't sure about at the end of the episode. Surely, his mother will be looking for him now, and run into the Gallaghers, learning about the life 'Steve' was living. Perhaps he won't remain a main character, but we'll have to see him again. I don't blame Debbie for spilling the beans, but it did spoil Steve's clean get away.

     In a lovely, understated scene, Ian reveals himself as gay to Fiona. She already knows, of course; what attentive parent wouldn't? But it's nice to hear him say it. The fact that she has never brought it up, but has waited until he is ready to tell her, speaks volumes about their relationship. Sometimes I forget that Fiona is taking care of the older children as well as the three younguns. But she is. The moment the two of them share, full of love, and absent of judgment, is one of the sweetest scenes in the entire first season. It beautifully demonstrates who Fiona and Ian each are, and how they feel about each other. Kudos, indeed.

     I am really surprised to see how quickly the friendship is growing between Fiona and Jasmine (Amy Smart). Veronica obviously feels threatened, and I expect it will become a plot pursued next season. Jasmine doesn't ring quite right. She seems to have an attraction to Fiona that is more than friendship. She also pushes Fiona to do things she really doesn't want to do. Jasmine is good because she is pulling Fiona into a more secure middle class, especially after helping her get a job, but I don't think they have the elements needed for a long-term, sustained relationship. Veronica need not worry. It's only a phase.

     Speaking of Veronica, though, I am sad that we haven't gotten any development between Veronica, Kevin (Steve Howey), and Ethel (Madison Davenport). It's such an interesting story, though I admit I may just be missing Big Love. I know the series is more about the Gallaghers than their friends, but I wanted to see more of the trio settling in together. Clearly, Veronica hasn't kicked the girl out after a week, as she had planned to do. What's next? Did they get Ethel's baby, too? Definitely great writing was shown previously in this case, as I am extremely interested in what we didn't see.

     I am very worried about Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins). She has gone off the deep end, for sure. I mean, I can't imagine how it would feel to have your own father think you are a whore, let alone say it out loud to a whole group of people. Of course she is now even more damaged than before. I think it is a crying shame that she pushes Lip away; he wants to help her, and she needs him. Her mother Sheila (Joan Cusack) also tries to get through to her. I guess it's more realistic that Karen must act out and sort through her own feelings before allowing others in, but she acts in such destructive ways! Now that Lip and her have made up, hopefully she will begin to heal, but it won't be a quick, easy road. She is the truly tragic story thus far.

     Eddie (Joel Murray) is not a bad guy. In fact, while he was at first portrayed as mean and overly strict, he has done everything he can to try to win his family back. His outburst and name calling of his daughter is inexcusable, but also, it has to be hard to sit and listen to your daughter's sexual exploits. I really wish they would have had time to work things out. Eddie's decision to end his life, I think, stems more from embarrassment in front of his co-workers and anyone who saw the video, than the actual act. He could get over it, where his daughter is concerned anyway, had he not been publicly humiliated. Now it's too late to work anything out.

     Luckily, it's not too late for Frank (William H. Macy) and Lip. We have never seen Frank have much humility before he stands in the yard and yells up to Lip's window, begging for forgiveness and taking responsibility for his actions. In truth, Frank was drunk and drugged, so at most, the blame should be minimally his. He even said stop, and was in no condition to physically make Karen not have sex with him. But Frank's ability to suck it up and be truly sorry actually endeared me to him. It doesn't make up for all of the bad things Frank has done, but it does reveal heart, and an actual man who does care somewhat about his children. Unexpected, but great.

     The big question left is, will Sheila ever find out that Karen and Frank had sex? Now that Eddie is dead, it is unlikely to come out anytime soon. Sheila still can only go a dozen steps from her front door, so she won't hear it from the neighbors, and Lip and Karen certainly will have no motivation to tell her. Lip seems to have somewhat forgiven Frank, with the slight smile after the golden shower, and Karen likes Frank, who has been kind to her. I do not know how Sheila will learn the truth, but I expect it will be at least late into next season before she does, if not much longer than that. The fall out will certainly mean the end of Frank and Sheila permanently, and I don't know that the show is ready to go there. I have little doubt that it will someday, but not now.
     The show also stars Ethan Cutkosky as Carl Gallagher. Shameless has been renewed for a second season to air next year on Showtime, and I greatly look forward to it.

Article first published as TV Review: Shameless (US) - "Father Frank, Full of Grace" on Blogcritics.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.

JWTV Quickie: Mildred Pierce - "Part One and Part Two"


     Sunday night, we got to see the first two hours of the new HBO's five hour miniseries, Mildred Pierce. Rather than writing out paragraphs of detailed review, which I will reserve for after the entire run is complete in three weeks, I want to list ten things, both good and bad, of note within the first two hours, in no particular order. Please feel free to add to the list if you think I missed something important, or debate why something is included.

1. Kate Winslet, who plays the title character, will win the Emmy. She just will, sorry, no contest. She is doing a fantastic job in a miniseries that is attracting attention and praise. There will be other actresses as good this year, but you would be hard pressed to find one better, and she will win.

2. I thought Mildred was supposed to be unlikable. Why hasn't she been unlikable yet? Am I under a false impression? She has been shown with pluck and determinating, struggling to support her family, with only a trace of enabling her bratty daughter. Speaking of...

3. Young Veda (Morgan Turner) and the older Veda that will be showing up later (Evan Rachel Wood) are a perfectly cast pair. While Wood has not yet made an appearance, just thinking back to her run on True Blood last year will point to the fact that people are about to be blown away by just how similar the two are in looks and mannerisms. PERFECT!

4. Why is Melissa Leo talking in that annoying voice as Lucy? She just won an Oscar, and she already blew away HBO audiences with her fantastic turn in Treme. All she has been on MP is annoying.

5. Other than cheating on his wife, Bert (Brian F. O'Byrne) seems to be the perfect father, and he's become a fine friend to Mildred post-split. I am having trouble reconciling those two different aspects. Which is kind of neat, because life is complicated, and this way he's presented as a full man, rather than a charicature.

6. The scenes between Mildred and Monty (Guy Pearce) are hot. They'd be even hotter with better looking performers, but the chemistry between the two is very sexy. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with Pearce other than that terrible hair piece and moustache, which is in period, but Winslet has never been all that attractive, in my opinion. I'm sure others may disagree.

7. The new restaurant Mildred is opening is gorgeous! How can it not succeed? Plus, location, location, location. Why don't more businesses open randomly in the middle of neighborhoods instead of in strips with other businesses? It may be harder to find for the general populace, but the people living within walking distance will surely become loyal patrons.

8. Why doesn't Mildred move into the restaurant? It's a house, right? Persumably, she is only using the main living areas. There will still be bedrooms free. If she will be spending most of her time there anyway, it just makes sense.

9. Why doesn't Mildred hire Ida (Mare Winningham) as her waitress? Mildred will be doing all the cooking, so she's going to need at least one server. I can see why Ida may want to wait and see how the new restaurant goes before deciding, but Mildred should at least offer Ida the first and top spot.

10. Ray's (Quinn McColgan) death - heartbreaking. Simply heartbreaking. She was such a cute little kid! Add to that the unwarranted guilt Mildred will feel by not being there the one time her daughter needed her, and you have some real pathos going on.

Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Californication delivers "And Justice For All"

     Showtime's Californication season four finale: It starts with a surreal courtroom scene. Hank (David Duchovny) is read the verdict after being charged with statutory rape, a plot arc that started way back in the pilot, more than four years ago.

     For a startling few moments, it appears that Hank is going to prison to be locked up and kept away from friends and family. Hank is not a bad man, and it seems gigantically unfair. After all, he had been tricked, believing the young girl seducing him was a college student, with no idea she is actually the daughter of Hank's ex-wife's fiance. However, that becomes open for debate once it is revealed that Hank has met her once before that night, albeit when he was plastered.

     Luckily for Hank, and for us, Hank had simply fainted before hearing a key word - probation. A hefty fine and large amount of community service is something Hank can handle as we go into season five.

     Prison, however, would have left him a changed man, one likely unrecognizable to longtime fans. It's not a place that would suit Hank. And so it is with a sigh of relief, and copious sex with his attorney, Abby (Carla Gugino), that Hank is let off the hook. Has he learned a lesson? I don't know. He does need to clean up a few things, but most of Hank's problems are circumstantial. He drinks too much, but only engages in consensual behavior after open dialogue, nothing shady or malicious. Things just keep happening to him.

     The large middle section of this episode takes place at a dinner party that is just pure fun, plain and simple. It's a launch party thrown by Stu (Stephen Tobolowky) to celebrate the start of production on the movie Fucking and Punching. Hank goes with Abby, while Karen (Natascha McElhone) brings Ben (Michael Ealy). Marcy (Pamela Aldon) is living with Stu, and Charlie's (Evan Handler) plus one is his psycho realtor, Peggy (Melissa Stephens). Sasha (Addison Timlin) and Eddie (Rob Lowe) are there, too, of course, as the stars of the movie. Such an eclectic mix of personalities, many with shared romantic history, is just asking for trouble. So, of course, there is plenty of that, mostly instigated by Eddie, who asks probing, intrusive questions.

     I am most excited that Charlie now knows Marcy's baby is his. While Hank and Karen cannot commit themselves fully back to each other until their story is over, and the series is leaving the air for good, Marcy and Charlie need to work things out sooner. Their separation has been hard on both of them. While they are from from perfect, they have a chemistry that is unique and special. At times, Marcy's pulling away has felt uneven and insincere. I keep waiting for Charlie to wake up and do whatever it is she is waiting for him to do. I don't think either one will be happy without the other. Surely Charlie will not, as he admitted to the gathered assembly.


     I love Abby, and hope we have not seen the last of her. As things stand, she has not closed herself off to Hank, but she does ask him to make a choice. While this could be a chance to start anew for the troubled writer, he will never be able to move on from Karen. He has had opportunities to build a future with any number of wonderful women; Abby is just the latest, and possibly the best. But Hank never even appears to consider serious monogamy with anyone but Karen. It's not that he's a cheater, but rather he is having fun and biding time until he can end up in the arms of his one true love. Why must Hank stumble through life so lost? Why can't he just settle for someone else? I would actually support that choice, at this point, and it would not preclude him eventually wandering back to Karen in the long-term.

     This episode is not only a fitting ending for a terrific season, one in which Hank faces his past far more than at any time before, but it could also have made a fitting ending for the series. Hank can finally put the whole incident with Mia (Madeline Zima) behind him, though he still has the therapy of making a movie about the experience. As the episode draws to a close, Hank is walking the sets, seeing the real life people he knows in place of the actors standing in for them. Making a decision, Hank takes to the road, presumably to find his love, Karen, and daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin), who have left for a road trip with Karen's new boyfriend, Ben. They, too, are thinking of him.

     Should this have been the way Hank went out? Having lost the two girls he cares more about than anyone in the world, but having found professional success, he heads off into the world to find them? I, for one, am gratified that there is more story left to tell about the characters. Yet, it is a moment so perfect, it makes me a little sad to see it come so early. One can only hope that Hank's journey will end on as uplifting a note as this season did.

     One question I am left with: why did the writers choose to have Ben save Hank? At first, I thought it is so Hank will like Ben and back off. But by the end of the episode, he is yearning for Karen again. The scene has the feeling of more than mere coincidence. I guess we shall see.

     Since there will be a season five, what will it involve? I am really hoping that Fucking and Punching will still be filming, for one. While each season has its own mix of fun characters, I am not done with Eddie, Sasha, or especially Stu. They need to stick around a bit longer. I can see where Eddie, especially, may be problematic, as Rob Lowe is already a series regular on NBC's Parks and Recreation. Any way we can keep these people coming back, I'm good. I also really like the possibility of Hank dating the actress playing Karen in the movie. I think perhaps Hank should turn around and go home, unsuccessful in his search, and then Karen can return to find him dating essentially her double. That would be interesting indeed!

Article first published as TV Review: Californication - "And Justice For All" on Blogcritics.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.

JWTV Quickie: Fringe - "Bloodline"

     The Observer (Michael Cerveris) is back! That means something big is stirring on FOX's Fringe. Of course, that is no surprise, considering that Faulivia (Anna Torv) just gave birth to Peter Bishop's (Joshua Jackson) baby. The fate of both universes hang in the balance, supposedly the decision resting in Peter's hands. While Peter is in love with Olivia (also Torv), not of his universe, learning that Fauxlivia has had his (age accelerated) baby just may shift the balance. A showdown seems imminent, as the season finale will be called "The Day We Died", and chances are, one universe of the other may be dead for good soon.

     What will that mean for characters we've come to love? Sure, Olivia, Peter, Walter (John Noble), and the like are much cherished. But I have also gotten attached to alt-universe counterparts, especially seeing Charlie (Kirk Acevedo) back from the dead, and alt-Fringe leader Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel). While we have now seen Lincoln (Gabel) on our side, I don't want alt-Lincoln to die either. Could we possibly stage a little rescue before a universe implodes? You know, let a few people immigrate over from one side to the other? Peter did it. Let's have a few more. Or everyone. Can you imagine the possibilities if there was an en-masse evacuation?! It could fuel three more seasons, easily!

     As for this week's episode itself, it was hell-a-citing! Fauxlivia is kidnapped and medical procedures are done to her. While we think she is in danger, Walternate (Noble) is actually saving mother and baby. Why did he do it so secretly? If there is a way to save the baby, surely Faulivia would be on board. Losing her sister to the condition that now threatens her, the threat is more than hypothetical to her. I'm glad everyone is all right. Walternate is showing more and more to like, rather than just being a flat villain, but sneaking around is not going to help his case. Especially odd considering the secrets that Walternate did let out of the bag.

     Also of note, adored Lincoln, Charlie, Henry (Andre Royo), and weird alt-Astrid (Jasika Nicole) (what is up with her, anyway?) teaming up and sharing Walternate's secrets. It was great fun, and wonderful for so many reasons. They could be their own spin-off! Or a Fringe B-Team if they come over to stay. Now that we're getting to know them through a few separate adventures, I'm liking them more and more. Please don't take them away.

     Fringe airs Friday nights at 9 p.m ET on FOX.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Community has a Cougar Town love fest in "Critical Film Studies"

     Someone over at NBC's Community must love ABC's Cougar Town. Or more likely, lots of someones. I was looking forward to the Pulp Fiction homage in last night's episode celebrating Abed's (Danny Pudi) birthday, but what I didn't expect was a love fest for the sometimes-struggling, though already-renewed, Cougar Town. As Cougar Town is also one of my favorite sitcoms, and the cast and writers have the best Twitter feeds of anyone (follow @VDOOZER @ChristaBMiller @CougarTownRoom @kbiegel @BusyPhillips25 and @MrJoshHopkins), I was excited for the support. I already love Community, but it earned even deeper admiration and respect this week.

     The premise seems simple enough. Abed asks Jeff (Joel McHale) to attend a private birthday dinner, just the two of them. Knowing Abed's love of the film Pulp Fiction, and how pop culture-obsessed Abed is, Jeff organizes a surprise themed birthday party at the retro diner where Britta (Gillian Jacobs) works. But Abed resists leaving the fancy, not-his-style restaurant, and tells Jeff a life-changing tale about a visit to the set of his beloved series Cougar Town. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) Jeff becomes taken up in the story, and tells some embarrassing moments of his own, only to later find out that Abed is actually reliving the film My Dinner With Andre, and isn't sincere. This should be no surprise, as Abed is never sincere, and lives in a fantasy land. Yet, it is because of Abed's efforts to connect, despite his inability, that the whole thing seems so moving.

     Jeff is angry, and I can see why. He is not a man who opens up easily, though he's great at pretending to, and he feels he has been tricked. The thing is, Abed is trying to trick him, in a way, but only with the best of intentions. Abed feels their friendship has grown apart and wants to renew it. Can you blame him? (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) While most people may just open up about those feelings, Abed is only able to relate through television and movies. He is trying what he knows best. Abed has a good point when he admits to Jeff that he doesn't grow and change, as others do, which makes it hard to maintain relationships. Everyone keeps moving forward, except Abed. It's a blunt, heart breaking insight that pushes this episode up to the top tiers of the series.

    If you are not familiar with My Dinner With Andre and how this connects, as I was not, here's the scoop. It's a 1981 movie starring and written by Andre Gregory, a theater lover and experimenter, and the great Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Toy Story, WATCH COUGAR TOWN!, etc.). In it, Andre tells of his travels, which led to reshaping his life and worldview, as Abed does when he decides to give up pop culture. The character played by Shawn counters with pieces of his own that demonstrate most people cannot do what Andre has done, as Jeff does. It's a movie built on a debate between two men that is never resolved. I have not seen it, but would very much like to now, and based on the synopsis, I believe Community likely did it justice.

     While Jeff and Abed engage in their battle of words, the rest of the study group grows impatient waiting in the diner, fully dressed as Pulp Fiction characters. Chang (Ken Jeong) plays on Troy's (Donald Glover) insecurities, implying that Troy has been replaced as Abed's best friend by Jeff. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) At the taunting, Troy opens up Jeff's gift to Abed, a suitcase supposedly used in the actual movie Pulp Fiction. But the suitcase catches on fire, and Troy and Chang fight, destroying parts of the diner, and getting Britta fired. Pierce (Chevy Chase) goes and finds the missing pair, and Abed ends up turning the surprise party around on Jeff, bringing it to the fancy place.

     This episode defied expectations. Those wanting Tarantino, action, and profanity instead get a deep probing of who we are as human beings, as well as demonstrations of the real bonds several characters share. The PF costumes were elaborate and spectacular, but they were overshadowed by the plot, something I didn't think possible. It goes to show you just how good the series's writers are that they managed to accomplish such a feat. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) While not every character gets focus, singling out Jeff, Abed, and Troy allowed more expansive exploration than often accomplished in an episode. This is definitely going down in my book as one of the best episodes of the series.

     I freely admit now, I was not a fan of Community when it first premiered. In articles talking about sitcoms that I wrote last year, I would sometimes single it out as being the show not worthy of airtime. Yet, a friend of mine convinced me to watch the entire first season DVD as soon as it came out, and I have become a convert. The series is witty, smart, layered, and has zany situations that are just plain fun. While often actions become over the top, it is done tongue in cheek. The characters know they are crazy characters, and Abed is often the window to that realization. As such, the show has a sense of humor about itself, pushing its quality higher than expected at first glance. Let in on the joke, I now argue that Community is one of the best things airing right now (along with Cougar Town).

     Community also stars Yvette Nicole Brown and Alison Brie. Watch it Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

     And now, a note about subliminal messages. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) It is not cool to hide secret phrases within other things, such as a paragraphs or TV shows. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) Even with the best of intentions, it comes across as annoying and self serving. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) Unless, said promotion is in support of a fantastic television series that is not getting the attention or viewers that it deserves. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) Maybe a show with a terrible title that started as a not-so-good premise, but evolved into one of the best friends-as-family entries in the TV landscape. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) Amazingly funny writing, a talented cast, and the willingness to poke fun at itself in the title cards, Cougar Town is that show. (WATCH COUGAR TOWN!) So please watch Cougar Town. The writers of Community and myself cannot both be wrong.  :)

      Cougar Town airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC, after Mr. Sunshine completes its run in a couple of weeks.



Article first published as TV Review: Community - "Critical Film Studies" on Blogcritics.

For an alphabetical list of all of Jerome Wetzel's Current Season Reviews, please click here.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Office holds a "Garage Sale"

WARNING! SEVERE SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ UNTIL AFTER WATCHING THE OFFICE EPISODE "GARAGE SALE"!

     I admit it. I cried like a baby while watching this week's episode of NBC's The Office. It started when Michael (Steve Carell) begins taking Holly (Amy Ryan) on a tour of all the places that played an important role in their relationship in the Dundler-Mifflin building. That place is Michael's life, and it only makes sense that his true love would share his fondest memories there. It got worse as Michael opens the door and reveals the staff, all of whom have shown up to support him. Truly, his family, there to shower the two with love and share in their special moment. Of course she says yes! She has to! Though I knew the announcement would eventually come, but didn't expect it to come right then, Michael tells his co-workers he is leaving the company, leaving them, and they all stare back, speechless and stunned.

     It is necessary to walk through those moments again, certainly among the most powerful The Office has yet produced, to get just how great this is. For all the squabbles and antics the staff of Dundler-Mifflin goes through, they are a tight-knit group. When it was announced long ago that this would be Steve Carell's final season with the show, it was a sad day indeed. But it didn't really sink in to me until Michael broke the news to the other characters. Their looks tell it all. I'm tearing up just remembering it. Their boss, leader of the gang of misfits, is going away. They are just beginning to cope, and now it's time for us, the fans, to do the same.

     The fact that the writers chose to bundle that news with Michael's proposal to Holly make the emotional impact a double punch. One second, it is tears of joy pouring forth, the next, tears of sorrow. A better time could not have been chosen to make the biggest possible impact. When Michael is fondest in our hearts, they rip him away. I am not complaining; it's the gripping intensity that made the scene so good. Michael still has a few episodes left (Holly will be leaving sooner), but now there's an end in sight. A ticking clock, if you will. Evey moment that Michael Scott is on screen from now until the end will be infused with sadness at his imminent departure. Keep the tissues handy.

     Now who will be the new boss? Rumors abound, as everyone has an opinion. Will Ferrell (Saturday Night Live) will begin a several episode arc next week. Recent reports that Will Arnett (Arrested Development) will be in this May's season finale have also sparked speculation. After all, series creator Ricky Gervais, who starred in the British version, has said Arnett would be 'amazing', and nominated him for the job to NBC. Gervais himself will appear in the finale, too, I assume to reprise his British character for a second time (he had a cameo in an opening this past January), but I find it highly unlikely he could be drawn to the show on a permanent basis. He has too many other things going on, and as much as I enjoy David Brent, he doesn't match the American tone well enough for an extended stay.

     Myself, knowing three new staff members will soon be added, am in favor of internal promotion. There is no need to take away any more screen time than necessary from the central cast, and plenty of staffers could take the baton. My top suggestions are Darryl (Craig Robinson), Stanley (Leslie David Baker), and Toby (Paul Lieberstein), each of whom would bring something very different to the table. Pam (Jenna Fischer) could also work. I am not in favor of either of the obvious choices, Jim (John Krasinski) or Dwight (Rainn Wilson) because both have temporarily taken control before, and neither went very well.

"Michael, you've had two ideas today. And one of them was great. And the other one was terrible." ~ Pam
"I am not in the mood for riddles, Pam." ~ Michael
     Those lines are spoken as Pam catches Michael in the middle of executing his first proposal idea, spelling out his question in gasoline in the parking lot, dangerously near everyone's cars. Of course, the road to asking Holly is quite bumpy. Michael only pulls off his great success (even the sprinklers going off didn't detract) with the help of Pam, Jim, Oscar (Oscar Nunez) and Ryan (B.J. Novak). It is those people who care about Michael most that help him with the biggest task of his life.

     I think the writers knew it would be folly to make this episode anything but touching. While there are some funny bits, the B stories focus on relationships, too. Andy (Ed Helms), Darryl and Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) engage in a round of Dallas: The Board Game, making up their own rules as they go. Andy and Darryl have been hanging out more and more, and their buddy-buddiness is a highlight. Two wonderful actors, brought into the series as their careers were taking off. Both do movies (The Hangover, Hot Tub Time Machine), but both still have time to have fun on a brilliant sitcom.

     The second subplot involves Jim tricking Dwight. A good prank between the pair has been a staple of The Office from its earliest days. Getting back to that chemistry is always a good time, and this is no exception. Jim convinces Dwight he has magic beans, so to speak, and Dwight, while continually insisting he won't fall for it, can't bring himself to pass up the possibility. He trades Jim a telescope with a $150 price tag for the legumes. The final teaser shows Jim replacing the soil-filled pots Dwight has planted with large stalks. Talk about commitment to the joke!

     Relationships don't have to be all nice and romanticized to work. I think Jim and Dwight are a great pairing. We have seen that they are willing to come through for each other when the chips are really down, but most of the time, mild animosity rules. It is perfectly realistic to believe you can be friends, of a sort, without liking each other. They may not hang out much in their off-work hours, but there is a certain level of respect and trust between them, and I do not see either one ever getting malicious. It's more of a sibling vibe. I definitely think Jim would not put up with someone else being seriously mean spirited towards Dwight, and vice versa.

     I will likely be covering The Office again soon, as the rest of this season has some big changes ahead! Make sure you do not miss out. The Office airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Article first published as TV Review: The Office - "Garage Sale" on Blogcritics.

For an alphabetical list of all of Jerome Wetzel's Current Season Reviews, please click here.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

JWTV Quickie: Grey's Anatomy - "This Is How We Do It"

     All in all, we got a pretty average episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy this week. The most moving plot is probably Chief Webber's (James Pickens Jr.) crusade to get his wife, Adele (Loretta Devine) into the Alzheimer's trial that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is doing. It's hard to watch Adele, struggling with her disease, not even wanting to admit out loud that she is sick. Richard was in denial for awhile, but now that's he's on board and full supportive, his wife is resistant. Derek agrees to break the rules, following Weber's example, but when Adele misses qualification for the trial by one point, Derek's wife, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), tells him it's over. We'll see if Derek follows through on that or not.

     Poor Cristina (Sandra Oh). It totally isn't fair for Richard to put Owen (Kevin McKidd) in charge of picking Chief Resident. Owen is going to have to have inarguable proof that Cristina is better than every single one of the other doctors if he is going to name her to the position. I know Richard doesn't care about the politics, he is just placing his trust in a highly qualified doctor. Unfortunately, Cristina is kind of sunk now. I can't see Owen maintaining much credibility if he gives the title to her, so he probably won't.

     Anyone else see Star Trek: The Next Generation's Counselor Deanna Troi, Marina Sirtis, stop by? Yes, that was her in the bed with the accent, playing the clinical trial patient who leaves the hospital to allow her gay son to stay with his boyfriend. She is almost unrecognizable from her TNG days, but it is great to see her again.

     Should Teddy (Kim Raver) be with Henry (Scott Foley)? Debate in the comments below. I could go either way on this one. I loved Raver on 24, in spite of the haters, and I thought the had good chemistry with both Owen and Mark (Eric Dane), as well as Andrew (James Tupper), who will soon be returning to the show. All these men! What is a girl to do?

     I am kind of liking the vibe between April (Sarah Drew) and Stark (Peter MacNicol). I know she says she wants to be friends, but I can see it growing into something more. She definitely has a fondness for him. I think she only distances herself because Alex (Justin Chambers) is giving her crap. Alex, meanwhile, is also stirring things up with Fields (Rachael Taylor), who is playing hard to get until Meredith vouches for Alex and she starts to turn around. These are fun new relationships. In spite of myself, I'm also kind of liking Lexie (Chyler Leigh) with Avery (Jesse Williams) even though I'm a big supporter of Lexie and Mark. Ah, well. Find happiness wherever, right?

     It may be unpopular to say, but I am already tired of the Mark / Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) animosity. Get over it already! Don't even get me started on the 'surprise' ending, when Arizona and Callie (Sara Ramirez) got into a car accident! Look, I can see why Callie took off, and left off, her seatbelt. In fact, I didn't even notice at first that's what had happened. But Arizona constantly looking away from the road while she was driving drove me crazy! No freakin' way! Especially with her pregnant girlfriend in the car. You could see disaster coming from a mile away. Come on Grey's! You can do better!

     Next week, the musical episode! I am super excited! Expect a longer, more detailed review for that one. Grey's Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

For frequent mini-reviews and occasional TV news, follow Jerome on Twitter.

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Justified will "Save My Love"

     I should review FX's Justified more often, as it is one of the best shows currently running. Quite arguably, the best. I don't, though, because it is so, so good, and I like to just relax and enjoy it, without sparing to effort to analyze too much. And how much fun is it to read a review that keeps repeating, 'perfect!'? But we're halfway through season two, so it is time for some sort of update, so time to put on my thinking cap and do my best to lend some insight. I can tell you, this review will be sort of a love fest. I can't think of anything negative to say about the series, one of the few shows on the air that holds that special status.

     This week's episode, "Save My Love", involves almost a comedy of errors, though without any obvious comedy. Winona (Natalie Zea) admits to Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) that she has stolen not just one hundred dollar bill, as she told him last week, but a whole bag full. He helps her sneak the cash back into the courthouse, but a series of events keeps the noose tightening around both of their necks, as they are delayed time and again from returning the money. Raylan's marshal co-workers and some federal agencies become aware of, and curious about, the money, making the urgency more desperate, and culminating in a finale that leaves open the possibility that the story is not yet over. Though it may be finished. I just don't know. Art's (Nick Searcy) face is inscrutable!

     The chemistry between Olyphant and Zea is flawless. I think they make a better pair than Ava (Joelle Carter), whom Raylan was with for much of last season. Ava represents Raylan's past, as she knew him when he was much younger. Raylan was married to Winona in the past, yet Winona gets who Raylan currently is better. Raylan went way back to childhood in romancing Ava, and now is moving up to his young adult life with Winona. Is it a cycle he is trapped in, or will they move forward? Winona's bad deeds further helps the pairing, as up until now, she sometimes seems too good for Raylan, who crosses legal lines frequently. Now, Raylan is almost too good for her, as he would never steal money. Only Winona's regret saves her, and her want to put the money back, and not just so she stays out of trouble.

     This is also an enjoyable outing because Tim (Jacob Pitts), Rachel (Erica Tazel), and Art all get involved in the missing cash caper. Oftentimes, one or more of Raylan's fellow marshals are not featured in any episode. To have all three, and to see them interact so much with Raylan, even being his opponents in this instance, though they don't know it, is a special treat. Each brings something unique to the table, and they are not interchangeable. It's almost a shame to waste such talent on characters not present every week, except they really inform a complete world for the series, even when they are not on screen.

     Adding to the good times, Judge Mike Reardon (the great Stephen Root), who was in one episode of season one, is the one stealing away Winona's opportunities. Raylan's co-workers are main characters, but to keep the other half of the couple busy, the series chose to use a truly fantastic actor, playing a somewhat eccentric judge. Any chance to see Root is a pleasure, and he does not disappoint here. In fact, I cannot think of anyone better to bring in. He is comic relief, but also a driving force. I hope to see Root pop back up more often.

     Boyd (Walton Goggins) is added to the mix when he arrives at the courthouse, too, now serving as a security guard for Ms. Jones (Rebecca Creskoff, Hung), after having lost his job at the mine. Apparently, Ms. Jones intends to use Boyd to help her take down the Big Bads of this season, the Bennett family. This means Boyd and Jones will likely soon be in conflict with Raylan, who is keeping his own eye on the Bennetts. Please, please don't let this ruin Raylan and Boyd's sort-of friendship, which is my favorite relationship on Justified, showing serious growth and change constantly. But until then, Boyd gets to escort her to court. Jones asks Raylan if Boyd is trustworthy, and his answer will be a high point of the season, if not the series. It certainly is a memorable segment of this episode, attempting to vocalize Raylan's murky feelings for the former con.

     Boyd and Jones happen to be in Judge Reardon's court, where Winona is serving as court reporter, and Raylan's co-workers lurk just down the hall, bringing all the characters in the same vicinity. A bomb scare has the marshals protecting Reardon, and looking for his would-be killers. The twists to get every single one of the featured players into the same story would seem unrealistic and unnecessarily acrobatic in most shows. Somehow, Justified accomplishes this effortlessly, every bit falling into place completely naturally.

     There is not even the slightest urge to call anyone involved on any trickery here. Brilliant writing, backed up by amazing actors who bring to life such specific, well defined characters keep all the moving parts running smoothly. It's why there is nothing negative to write about in this review. Everything is so top notch, that try as I might, I can't even find one little fault to pick at. If that's not a glowing enough recommendation to get you to tune in, I have failed as a TV reviewer.

     Watch Justified Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Article first published as TV Review: Justified - "Save My Love" on Blogcritics.

For an alphabetical list of all of Jerome Wetzel's Current Season Reviews, please click here.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Modern Family has a "Boys' Night"

     Who knew that Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) would enjoy hanging out with a bunch of gay guys so darn much? In this week's episode of ABC's Modern Family, that's exactly what is revealed, as Jay ditches his wife, Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and the symphony, for a bar. He happens to pick the bar where his son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Mitchell's partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), and their friends are enjoying cocktails. Jay gets a frilly drink and joins in the fun, having probably the best time we, the audience, has ever seen him have.

     I very much enjoyed Jay's drinking experience, but there is something that nags me just a bit. In the past, we have seen Jay be accepting of Mitchell, but never embrace the homosexual lifestyle as much as he suddenly does. The next day, nursing a hangover, Jay is disturbed and put off when Mitchell and Cam's friend, Pepper (Nathan Lane), shows up to take him on a day outing. Jay blames his commitment to the plan on alcohol. Sure, Jay may have been inebriated when he agreed to hang out with Pepper, but Jay bonded with all of Mitchell's friends the moment he sat down at their table, before he started drinking. That's why the plot rings hollow, if only slightly.

     How many movies have been made where a young boy befriends an old man? OK, so not that many, but enough that it's a familiar setup. Yet, it feels fresh as Luke (Nolan Gould), in all his ignorant naivety, warms up to scary Mr. Kleezak (Philip Baker Hall), even while Luke's parents cower in terror. This time. Luke gets away with it because he has always been portrayed as dumb. I question how much longer that can go on. Perhaps it's because I know the actor playing Luke is incredibly smart, well above average, but after two seasons, it's starting to feel a little fake when Luke says things like "I'm still growing into my tongue", even as I laugh. I'm not saying Luke should change fundamentally, but it's time to start growing him up.

     And those are my only complaints about last night's Modern Family. In general, it is a very funny show. While at times it borders on unbelievability, for the most part, the humor is good enough to whitewash any flaws. In fact, had I not waited half a day and let my feelings on the episode simmer, it is likely I would not have found even those couple of criticisms above to complain about. Great main cast, fun guest stars, zany situations, and a real heart make Modern Family far better than most sitcom offerings.

     For instance, last night, I absolutely loved the way Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) are terrified of Mr. Kleezak, though they have no logical reason to be. Even better, I think they realize how silly their fear is, but stick with it anyway because they are more comfortable with the status quo than risking an upset. Cam's reluctance to let niece Haley (Sarah Hyland) babysit his infant daughter was highly relatable. When do you trust family just because they're family, and where do you draw the line? Those are just two examples, off the top of my head, that prove just how well this show works in context.

     Watch Modern Family Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Article first published as TV Review: Modern Family - "Boys' Night" on Blogcritics.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hawaii Five-0 - "Ne Me'e Laua Na Paio"

     On this week's episode CBS's Hawaii Five-0, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) gets another piece of the mystery concerning his father's death when he learns Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) may have ordered the hit. McGarrett is now being aided by C.I.A. analyst Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik), who has a personal vendetta against Wo Fat, and after finding his location, takes a leave from the agency to track him. Steve isn't fooled as Kaye claims to be on an active mission, but soon the two team up and work together.

     I hope it doesn't take 12 years for Steve to catch Wo Fat. I am aware, though I never saw the show, that Wo Fat was a character in the original Hawaii Five-O that messed with the team from the pilot all the way through to the series finale after a dozen seasons. While the first half of this new show's first season has done little to deal with this overall arc, the past few episodes have been very good at furthering the larger story. As such, Steve may not take down Wo Fat this year, but two or three years from now, it'll definitely be time to find a new bad guy.

     As for the rest of the episode, it is fun, but not anything special. Like most procedurals, even though Hawaii Five-0 has a spectacular cast, things drag a little as the team pursues the case of the week. This week's murder is convoluted, making the team work through a number of twists before solving the case. That leads to some fun moments, such as Steve and Danno (Scott Caan) at a costumed convention, Kono (Grace Park) channeling her inner stripper to send a text, and the team talking to eccentric medical examiner Max (Masi Oka). But it did get boring in parts.

     One complaint, and I know this is being picky, but at the convention, a black man in a Star Trek uniform corrects Danno when he calls him Captain Kirk, claiming to be Commander Sisko, instead. The man, if he were really a Star Trek fan, would know that he is dressed as Captain Sisko from the later seasons of Deep Space 9. Four pips on the collar represents Captain, not Commander. Sisko began the show as a Commander, but was promoted about halfway through. The uniform in the episode is also the uniform design worn later, after the promotion, rather than the completely different design from when Sisko was a commander. Look up Commander Sisko and Captain Sisko on google images, and you will see a startling difference in appearance, though it is still the same actor, so I'm complaining about a lot more than just a button on the collar. The casual viewer would not catch such a mistake, but Deep Space 9 is one of my favorite shows of all time, and certainly the best Star Trek series. The man in the costume would definitely know the difference.
     I know this is the most popular new show of the season, and I will anger people with my criticisms, but it is the truth. Watching the same thing over and over again gets boring. I have watched all 19 episodes thus far, and have really enjoyed only about a third of them. Thus, the series joins the ranks of other popular shows that are really not very good. I'm looking at you CSIs, Law and Orders, NCISs, The Mentalist, etc. It's not a coincidence that most of those air on CBS. I won't even get into the plethora of reality shows like Dancing With the Stars and American Idol. The biggest difference with Hawaii Five-0 from those other shows is that this one has the potential to be really great, and sometimes is, rather than staying mediocre and rote.
    To make a consistently better show, I recommend they give more screen time to the larger arcs, and less to the case of the week. Sometimes, get rid of the case of the week all together. Have more interaction between team members. Sure, the group is often together in various combinations, but much of that together time is spend examining evidence. Steve and Danno's one on one conversations in the car are ALWAYS a high point of any episode. So why not have two or three, or even four, every week? And give a little more to Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), who has had fewer fun bits than anyone else. Making Kamekona (Taylor Wily) a series regular, also not a bad idea. Embrace the humorous elements, and play them up more. Lastly, an English translation of the episode titles at the beginning of each episode would be nice.

     I am rooting for Hawaii Five-0 to succeed, and the winter has been better than the fall. If the spring can improve even more, we'll be in business.

     Hawaii Five-0 airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Article first published as TV Review: Hawaii Five-0 - "Ne Me'e Laua Na Paio" on Blogcritics.

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Click here for an alphabetical list of all of Jerome's Current Season Reviews.