Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Treme ends at "Tipitina"

The third season of Treme comes to a close this week in "Tipitina," and with only an abbreviated run next year left before the series bows out forever, there is a lot of closure. It's been some time since the storm now, and everyone is trying to resume a normal life. This means that there are ups and downs, as most people experience, but the catastrophe figures less and less into the residents' every day lives.

Many of the characters are at great peaks, doing very well, having persevered, despite the odds. Toni (Melissa Leo) is probably the happiest. It has take her a long time to get over her husband, who killed himself in season one, but now she has a new romance with Terry Colson (David Morse), one of the few good cops in New Orleans, and even her daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga) can't complain about that. Add to this, Toni is close to getting movement on the case she's been working since just after Katrina, and she is in a great place.

Antoine (Wendell Pierce) is also doing well, but not in the way that he had expected. He has truly found teaching to be a rewarding experience, and through that, he has reconnected with music in ways that he didn't even consider before. He gets to devote himself to the craft, share it with others, and expand his own knowledge. He may not have made it professionally, but he is moving in that direction with a different bend.

That's not all. Sonny (Michiel Huisman) marries Linh (Hong Chau), Annie (Lucia Micarelli) puts out a hit record, Desiree (Phyllis Montana LeBlanc) brings attention to an important cause, and Davis (Steve Zahn) becomes a viral sensation, thanks to his friends.

All of this is inspiring. Hurricane Katrina was so devastating, it's a wonder that so many characters are doing so well only a few years later. This is the kind of stuff viewers hunger to see, triumphs over the worst that life has to offer, people managing to move on, and make something worthwhile of themselves. They probably won't stay on top forever, but seeing them reach these heights proves that working hard and diligently pays off. Some spirits cannot be broken.

Even LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) sort of belongs in the positive column. Her bar has been burned down, and the guy who wronged her goes free because of a hung jury. But the community rallies around her. She has supporters and people who care about her, as evidenced by the benefit concert conducted in her honor. She can't help but be a bit upbeat in "Tipitina," no matter what else is going on.

Actually, "Tipitina" brings together most of the main characters at LaDonna's party. Usually, their paths cross only rarely, and while Treme tells the stories of lots of individuals, their separate paths are not closely intertwined. Yet, choosing this particular occurrence to bring them all together is really cool, and I would definitely like to see more scenes like this before the series ends.

Now, that's not to say that everything is perfect, by any means. Albert (Clarke Peters) has cancer. Janette (Kim Dickens) thought she had her dream job, only to be railroaded by her business partner, who has different ideas about the restaurant. Davis' smash success comes because his pals wanted to help after seeing just how frustrated he had become with the music industry, and his inability to accomplish what he set out to do. Terry's department is hostile towards him because he stood up for justice, as several fellow officers' expense. None of these can be dismissed lightly.

However, the sun always comes out. Each of these characters have had good days and bad. They continue from those points, and they will have more ups and downs. Hopefully, with the final season looming, the last handful of episodes will see even more positive changes. But not everyone can live happily ever after; that only happens in fairy tales. Instead, Treme remains the story of a strong-willed population that doesn't lose hope. If we take that message to heart, it has done its job.

One quick concern: I am digging the vibe that has sprung up between LaDonna and Albert, but LaDonna's husband, Larry (Lance E. Nichols), is a good man. He does not deserve to be cheated on. I find myself hoping that LaDonna is only interested in Albert platonically, but that really doesn't seem to be the case. True, Larry doesn't always seem to understand LaDonna's suffering, while Albert can relate, but is that a good enough reason to break up a marriage?

Treme will return to HBO next year for a fourth, shortened, final season.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! First published on TheTVKing

Covert Affairs features a "Lady Stardust"

USA's Covert Affairs just keeps getting better and better. So much happens in the recent season finale, "Lady Stardust," that it will be difficult to cover it all in one, standard-length review. Instead, I am going to focus on a few key points, and feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below.

I love, love, love Eyal (Oded Fehr), and it has been such a pleasure to see him week after week this fall. Now that Annie (Piper Perabo) has repaid the debt of a saved life, disobeying her agency to rescue the friend that saved her when no one else could or would, it may be time for him to fade away again, until returning at some future date, as he is clearly a character that won't permanently go away until he's dead or the show ends. Then again, it may not be time for him to leave. Having quit his own government's agency, why not make Eyal a series regular, whether working for the CIA, or as a freelance consultant that Annie frequently goes to for help?

Annie has had a huge, dramatic arc this fall. She has faced every demon possible to throw at her, and been in far more than her share of tough spots. At times, she seemed completely alone, and one gets the impression that that has become her standard mode. With Danielle (Anne Dudek) gone, the transfers earlier in the season, and, later, Annie's tension with Joan (Kari Matchett), much effort was made to isolate the hero and see how she fared by herself.

The good news is, Annie came through with flying colors. Not only does she continue to save the day, complete her missions, and rescue her friends, she has a renewed confidence in her own judgment and abilities. She makes mistakes, but these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. She is well past the days where she simply follows orders. She gets to make decisions on her own, such as when she tells Eyal and Auggie (Christopher Gorham) that the CIA wants her to kill the terrorist Khalid (Haaz Sleiman, Nurse Jackie) in "Lady Stardust." They protest, so she runs off without them, but then has a better idea than killing, and so implements that. She's clever, calculating, and can play the long game better than anyone else, so she deserves her autonomy.

But now that we've seen her alone, why not see how she behaves as part of a couple, with a man who is always around? One thing Covert Affairs has avoided is giving Annie true romance. In season one, she had an absentee guy who played her, and it is flirted with earlier this season when she beds an asset, but ultimately, that ends in tragedy after a short time together, hardening her soul. Now, Auggie is laying his heart on the line, someone Annie already cares deeply about. Fans surely want her to give him a try, and with Auggie, it has to be more than a mere test. She must commit completely, or else it will fail. This could be a whole new frontier for Annie, one that requires bravery of a sort she hasn't yet had to exhibit.

While some have pondered what an Eyal / Annie pairing might be like, I think Auggie is better for her, and not just because their names start with the same vowel. Auggie is loyal and capable of assisting, and his strengths complement Annie's, whereas Eyal shares most of the same skills as Annie. What's more, even when Auggie disagrees with her, he trusts her decisions, and doesn't hold them against her later, while we've seen Eyal grow very frustrated with Annie's independent spirit. I mean, Auggie gets annoyed with her, too, but he handles it better. Auggie is the one she needs to be with.

Unfortunately, these happy connections may not extend from Annie to Joan and Peter (Arthur Campbell). She maintains allegiance to them seemingly more out of duty than affection, especially recently. It might be argued that Annie's superior instincts have picked up on Joan's problems, and this is why she doesn't trust her boss like she once did, but that seems too simple an explanation. People grow apart. That has definitely happened here.

Which could be why, when Henry (Gregory Itzin) shows Annie a file, she agrees to work with him. Did Henry reveal something bad about Joan or Peter, killing Annie's good will towards them? Or is she playing Henry, enticed by whatever he has offered, at least in the sense that she must get involved to stop him? Good cliffhanger, and a promise to bring back a fantastic, slimy bad guy more next year.

There is little doubt that Henry is a villain. He may be Jai's father, but the two share little in common. Even when Henry does something that might appear a little noble, like declassifying Jai's star or taking out a threat long believed by most to be dead, he has ulterior, less than laudable, motives behind it. Whatever he has offered Annie, there are obviously layers to it, and she would do well not to trust him, which she probably won't.

Speaking of Jai, call me crazy, but I am still not convinced that he is dead. I will continue to look for him to pop up until Covert Affairs bows out for good. The way things went down just seemed slightly off. I could be wrong, but I hope I'm not. I miss him.

"Lady Stardust" is an awesome season finale for a series that started good, but has become great! Covert Affairs will return next summer to USA.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published on TheTVKing

Monday, November 26, 2012

What happens "After Hours" for Castle?

ABC's Castle has had a very satisfying and varied last few episodes. First, there was the geek-centric installment, wherein we learned of Beckett's (Stana Katic) cult obsession. Then, a documentary crew showed us what happens when the staff gets in front of cameras, throwing off their game. Finally, this past week, "After Hours" explores the romance between Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett, which has finally been allowed to flourish this season, under scary circumstances.

It used to be, series were too scared of the Moonlighting curse to put their leads together until the end of the run. Lately, shows such as Bones and Chuck have disproven that this should not be done; it just needs to be dealt with correctly. Castle's own stab at things, in the currently airing fifth season, seems to be following the successful path, rather than killing the series.

You see, what does a show in is if you lose the dynamic tension between the main characters. Castle and Beckett still have that tension. It comes to the forefront in "After Hours," when they are on the run from mobsters together. They must trust one another, working together to try to get their witness to safety. It's not an easy thing to do; as well as their partnership works, they have to balance their worry for one another with a confidence in each other's abilities. This is explored terrifically in this episode.

The other thing keeping the tension up is the worry that Captain Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) will find out about the pair. Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) are already in on the secret, as is Castle's family, but none of these people, who love Castle and Beckett, would rat them out, even though their relationship is against department rules. (Castle may not officially be a cop, but his work with the department would realistically make the rules apply to him.) Once Gates learns the truth, it will present an obstacle that will have to be overcome, unfortunately, probably too conveniently.

Add to that, Castle and Beckett are still early in their romance, and so are unsure themselves how things might work, long-term. They worry that they are too different after a dinner with Castle's mother, Martha (Susan Sullivan), and Beckett's father, Jim (Scott Paulin), gets rocky. Of course, they are not their parents, but it's easy to see how such a scenario could scare them a bit. Even if the real purpose of such a scene seems to be to add some lightheartedness to the episode, which happens when Jim and Martha bond over their concern for their children.

"After Hours" sets this dysfunction in a high intensity story, with twists and great guest stars including Bonita Friedericy (Chuck), Tony Denison (The Closer), and especially Patrick Fischler (Lost, Mad Men). Is it still a formulaic procedural? Yes, but in season five, the aversion to taking risks is ebbing, and Castle is finally stepping it up as it's own unique entity. More of this, and it could grow beyond the strict conceits that have held it back thus far.

It also helps that Fillion and Katic are absolutely phenomenal, no matter the situation.

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Read more Castle reviews.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episode I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published by TheTVKing

"Dinner Takes All" for Go On

NBC's Go On has been one of the few pleasant surprises in a lackluster slate of new broadcast shows this fall. Buoyed by a strong lead actor and a very talented ensemble, it continues to be entertaining, funny, and heartwarming week in and week out. This week's Thanksgiving episode, "Dinner Takes All," is no exception.

The set up to get the whole group together is slightly convoluted. Ryan (Matthew Perry) has feelings for his college chum, Amy (Lauren Graham, Parenthood, Gilmore Girls), but isn't ready to act on them, since he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Janie (Christine Woods). Steven (John Cho), on the other hand, is interested in starting something with Amy right now, taking away Ryan's future possibility. So Ryan selfishly invites his support group to the station for Thanksgiving, where he can keep an eye on things, and try to thwart any budding romance.

Ryan is slow to grow as a person. Steven is his best friend, and Ryan is OK sabotaging Steven's happiness for some vague idea of something Ryan might want sometime way down the road. This is not the action of a good friend or a kind man. Yet, somehow Ryan does this with enough charm to keep from being detestable, as usual. How a man exists, who can be so thoughtless towards those he cares about, yet still evokes sympathy from the audience, is hard to fathom. But Go On makes it work.

The resolution is very cool. Amy says no to Ryan because she doesn't want to compete with Janie. Amy says that he must date several other women first, and only then would she consider going out with him. There is no clue as to whether Amy might consider dating Steven, though if she's waited this long for Ryan, it's unlikely that she'd be interested in another friend. It keeps the door open for Amy to return (if Parenthood is canceled, as it is often in danger of being), and it also stops Ryan from ruining a great friendship by jumping into something he isn't ready for.

The rest of the characters are used very effectively. Anne (Julie White) has to deal with her children falling under the Ryan spell, which she herself often fights off. Owen (Tyler James Williams) gets a fantastic subplot in speaking openly with his mother. Mr. K (Brett Gelman) is creepy. The others are along for the ride, and they all have a hilarious, Brady Bunch-style opening.

I did miss George (Bill Cobbs), though. It's understandable that a freshman network sitcom cannot afford to employ all of these actors full-time, meaning that some group members will have to take weeks off, as George does in "Dinner Takes All." George also would have made one too many people for the Brady Brunch gag. But each person contributes to the overall dynamic, with gels so well, that anytime someone sits out, it's sad. Hopefully, the series will prove popular enough to expand the main cast by season two, mostly preventing such absences.

Another casualty of such a large number of actors involved in a sitcom is that many are often underused for weeks at a time. So far, Carrie (Allison Miller) seems to be the most effected, living in a separate world from the rest. In "Dinner Take All," she provides the laughs when forced to cook dinner for Ryan's gathering, but her reaction to this isn't fully explored, sadly.

The group, along with Steven and Carrie, are Ryan's window into being a fully developed person. The only chance he has of improving himself is through learning to care about these other people. He might often consider himself better than them, but what he is slowly realizing is that he isn't, and others have feelings, too, a fact most adults acknowledge. This is helped along when other characters have their own stories, with resolutions that don't concern Ryan, such as Owen's mother thanking Lauren (Laura Benanti) this week for helping her son.

The humor mixed with the touching moments are what makes Go On special, and oh so worth watching. That, and the fact that the series is taking its time with Ryan's growth, not forcing him to unnaturally speed through any drastic changes.

Watch Go On Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episode I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published on TheTVKing

"Dynamic Duets" do battle on Glee

Just about the only series to air a brand new episode on Thanksgiving, Glee avoided the holiday completely in the uneven "Dynamic Duets." Instead, the "Thanksgiving" episode is scheduled for next week. Did presidential politics screw up the schedule? And, if so, why not just air two episodes on Thanksgiving, getting things back on track, and filling the holiday void, especially since there were no other new episodes of anything else airing to compete with? Weird move, guys.

Sectionals is only a week away, so new interim director Finn (Cory Monteith) tries to figure out a theme for the New Directions. His Foreigner idea sucks. Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) advises Finn to pay attention to the new superhero club that many of the students, and she, have gotten involved in. Finn does, asking the singers for "Dynamic Duets," and he finds acceptance as their leader.

Finn's plot is really well done this week. He is coming into his own, and Glee finally addresses the recent grads-acting-like-seasoned-adults problem. He also gets a really touching moment with Bieste, which, when combined with his sweater vest combo at the beginning of the episode, makes it feel a lot like Will (Matthew Morrison) has never gone. And yet, by the end of the episode, Finn realizes that he needs to be himself, in a subtle plot point. When he does, he begins to soar.

I guess that means that getting Finn to be the director that the New Directions is what it needed to prepare the group for Sectionals. They are days away, and they still haven't chosen their music. Yes, cohesiveness of the ensemble and having a defined dynamic are very important, but so are the songs themselves. In reality, groups spend months rehearsing the same pieces, not choosing their numbers at the last minute. This has been an ongoing issue with the series that continues to bug me here, even in the midst of a pretty good plot.

What gives me great hope for Sectionals is the final song of "Dynamic Duets," "Some Nights." It's an energetic, inspiring number that makes use of most of the members of the group. Rather than having a stand out star, like Rachel (Lea Michele) is for the first three seasons, the new New Directions rely on everyone to pull their weight. If "Some Nights" is any indication, they have really come together as a group, and have a great shot at the competition.

Except, where is Unique (Alex Newell) this week? I understand that recurring characters won't appear in every episode. And s/he didn't need to do the costume thing because his would have been a female, and that story would have felt like a retread of last week. But in an installment about embracing one's self, and the integration of everyone as one, having one of the most stand out members of the glee club MIA is an extremely glaring omission. Bad move, Glee.

What is really hokey about "Dynamic Duets" is the superhero theme. For viewers, it's great fun to see the characters in costumes, and the editing of the episode in the campy hero style, a la Adam West's version of Batman, is amusing. However, it would be extremely rare for a single high school student to have the guts to wear a cape and tights to school, let alone a whole group of them. It feels like a cheap gimmick, rather than a well developed arc. Not to mention, it will surely be shown only in this one installment, with no mention in episodes before or after it, making it completely ridiculous.

Luckily, "Dynamic Duets" is saved by the character development. First, there's Blaine (Darren Criss). The new captain of the Warblers, Hunter Clarington (Nolan Gerard Funk, Warehouse 13), tries to entice Blaine back into the fold with a blazer and a song, "Dark Side." Somehow, Blaine is tempted, even though it's one of the least memorable numbers the Warblers have ever performed, and his former arch-nemesis, Sebastian (Grant Gustin), is still a part of the group, albeit, less evil now.

Music aside, the real reason Blaine considers leaving is because he is down on himself. After cheating on Kurt (Chris Colfer), and never really allowing himself to feel accepted by the others, it makes sense for him to leave. It's part punishment, to help ease his guilt, and part melancholy. Thank goodness Sam (Chord Overstreet) is paying attention, though, because as soon as he steps in, Blaine not only begins to feel better, thanks in part to hokey good deeds that come out of nowhere, but it also leads to a terrific duet of "Heroes." Blaine is finally a full-fledged member of the ensemble in this episode, in a way he hasn't been all season, in the eyes of both viewers and the character himself.

It would be a crying shame to lose Blaine. He did a bad thing, but at the time, Kurt was driving him away. Plus, he has punished himself enough. At some point, Blaine has to begin to forgive. I think a large part of his alienation at McKinley this season stems from his negative view of himself because of the cheating, and it's nice to see him start to heal. Blaine is not a bad guy, and hopefully he will get a reunion with Kurt soon enough.

Speaking of Kurt, "Dynamic Duets" stays away from the New York setting entirely. It's the second episode this season so far to do so, and I have to admit, this is really working for Glee. I love seeing Rachel and Kurt's adventures in the Big Apple, but these scenes feel tonally like a completely different show.

I understand the hesitance to commit to a spin-off, putting two hours of Glee on television every week. And yet, whether the episodes take turns going back and forth (maybe with a higher season order of, like, 30 installments), or whether FOX can give Kurt and Rachel their own half hour in addition to the McKinley hour, or whether they come up with some other solution, I'd really like to see even more distance between them. It just flows better.

Back to McKinley, with the influence of Finn, and a little advice from Puck (Mark Salling), Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist) manage to bury the hatchet. This not only makes Jake more likable, as he pretty much stops straddling the line between good and bad, but it also gives Ryder a chance for some decent focus, proving Jenner can do better than he did in the previous two episodes. After a weak introduction, he warms up to the role more this week, and his chemistry with Jake is really great. Their duet, "Superman," is quite nice.

Jake and Ryder could easily become the new bromance of the show, and I hope that their friendship is pursued and deepens to the point where Marley (Melissa Benoist) won't come between them, whether she dates one of them or not. They are like Finn and Puck, but without the history, and less to build from. They may be different people, with different interests, but their hearts provide enough in common to start something sweet (and platonic).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kitty (Becca Tobin) is an absolute nightmare. Poor Marley thinks that Kitty is befriending her, and inadvertently, Kitty does help Marley. But the bulimia plot, handled better this week than last, continues to show Kitty's true colors. Even a hot version of "Holding Out for a Hero" cannot save her. Watch out Marley, because Kitty may be the most villainous student yet!

Which is a shame. Kitty has given a few hints already that she is not a completely terrible person. Such malicious acts as urging Marley to throw up her food ruin that. While minor characters on Glee are frequently cartoonish and over the top, the main ones tend to be relatively well developed. Kitty has the potential to be a central figure moving forward. To do this, we need to see what is behind her pain and hate, and begin to deal with it.

Speaking of discord, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is feeling shafted again in "Dynamic Duets," as evidenced by her biting comment about Santana (Naya Rivera). I've never much cared for Tina, but it's easy to see why she doesn't think that she's considered a valuable member of the group. She hasn't shown the talent to deserve the status that she wants to be held up to, and, at the same time, her hard work over the years means that she deserves better than what she's getting. I actually do hope this boils over into a great Tina story, the first time I've ever wanted to see more of her in the four seasons Glee has done.

One last complaint; I do not like how Kitty and Ryder are inducted instantly into the New Directions, with no auditions and no discussion between the current members. Ryder definitely has an in, and could easily have joined the club in a short scene that makes sense. Kitty, on the other hand, really should have been better explained. Yes, she participates in the musical, but she acts like a jerk for most of it. Where is her campaign to convince the others that she deserves to be a part of what they have, and the secret reasons she would even want to be included? Finn claims they are added to get enough students to compete, but couldn't they have just brought in a couple of the second glee club from last season that seems to have disappeared?

The takeaway from "Dynamic Duets" is that it is a highly enjoyable episode while watching it, but it doesn't take much to find lots to complain about when looking even a tiny bit below the surface. The characters are great, but the writing needs work, with more connections shown getting from point A to point B, rather than making unsubstantiated leaps. I still think this is a good season, but, as usual, a few tweaks could make it so much more than good, if only they'd take the time to make them.

Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episode I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! Article first published as TV review: Glee - "Dynamic Duets" on Blogcritics.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mindy Project celebrates "Thanksgiving"

One conceit of television that sort of goes against reality is that Thanksgiving is a time for families, but usually casts of characters gather with friends instead. Sure, we get the occasional relative stopping by as a guest star. But it's not the same as the main characters each returning to their homes every year for the holiday, which is what most of us do in real life. I was surprised, then, that while The Mindy Project did not exactly divide up everyone, there were distinct groups who split up.

The most realistic thread involved Betsy (Zoe Jarman) visiting her clan, with Jeremy (Ed Weeks), who isn't native to America, tagging along. Too bad Betsy is also the least interesting character on the series. Jeremy gets along splendidly with her relations, as he almost always does with whoever he happens to be in the presence of, while Betsy reverts to childlike behavior. Sadly, it didn't seem all that interesting or novel for Betsy to act like this, and Jeremy is just along for the ride.

The better story involves Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) attending Gwen's (Anna Camp) large party. True, this isn't a family affair, but it does give Mindy the chance to pine over Josh (Tommy Dewey), while also bumping into her ex, Dennis (Ed Helms). Ex may be too strong a word, considering they only shared one date (in the first episode of the series), but Dennis functions here as if they'd been in a relationship. Mindy's antics, while over-the-top, as expected, are amusing. It's just too bad there isn't more for Morgan to do.

Meanwhile, Shauna (Amanda Setton) goes minibar hopping with her girlfriends. If any character would blow off their family on Thanksgiving, it would be Shuana, so this actually makes sense, even though she is barely seen and doesn't actually get plot in the episode. This is typical for her, which is probably why her character will soon be departing the show. Too bad, because her personality isn't matched by any other character, and she shifts the group dynamics in an interesting way.

While I am slowly warming up to The Mindy Project, I do feel like the best characters sometimes get shafted in favor of less intriguing people. I'm not complaining about Mindy, the star of the show, who is doing just fine with her arcs. But I really like Morgan and Shauna, and they take back seats to Jeremy and Betsy, who aren't nearly as compelling. A few tweaks to the formula would be nice.

The best part of The Mindy Project, week in and week out, is Danny (Chris Messina). In "Thanksgiving," he hangs out alone in the empty office. This totally gels with his character, and he seems happy while doing it. Other shows might force him to eventually show up at a gathering, regretting his decision to fly solo. Not The Mindy Project. This is who Danny is, and while he may want to be with Mindy, he is patient enough to wait for her to want to be with him, and he's not going to show up at some party he doesn't want to be at to speed things along. He kind of already does that with the dance club a few weeks ago, and so now he has learned his lesson and stays true to himself.

Of course, The Mindy Project doesn't abandon the friends-getting-together trope entirely. At the end of "Thanksgiving," they all send each other pictures with their camera phones. This shows that they do think of each other as family, and it will not be surprising if the main cast gathers together in some future holiday episode. Let's hope not, though, because if Mindy just sticks to the things about it that set it apart from the rest of the fodder out there, this could be a really good series.

The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episode I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter! This article was first posted on TheTVKing

Bob's Burgers gets "An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal"

Unlike the Halloween special, which aired almost a month before the holiday, FOX let Bob's Burgers put out their Thanksgiving episode at an appropriate time, the Sunday before. Of all the animated comedies the network has on this night, Bob's Burgers is my current favorite. To see the family celebrate a holiday that is so much about family is heartwarming. And, this being Bob's Burgers, also funny.

The story, "An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal," begins with the landlord, Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), bribing Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) to cook a meal for himself and a lady friend, and also hiring Bob's family to pose as his own. See, Mr. Fischoeder's love interest only goes for married guys, so he plans on using Linda (John Roberts) and the kids to hook her in.

Bob is very resistant. Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, and he has traditions with each child. To him, preserving these rituals is more important than money. Unfortunately, the children don't feel the same, and are excited to escape their father's corniness to get involved in a scheme. This is not only a typical portrait of a clan, painting Bob as the family man he truly is at heart, but also illustrative of the generational divide, parents being more sentimental than their offspring.

This, in of itself, would be a good enough tale. Bob grows ever jealous in the kitchen, while his kids compete for Mr. Fischoeder's affections, and Linda horribly overdoes things, as she is wont to do. But "An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal" adds in a twist when Bob finds a bottle of absinthe in the kitchen. Suddenly, he is hallucinating and talking to the turkey, whom he has named, which makes things spiral even quicker out of control, and in very humorous ways.

Bob's Burgers works because of so many elements. One, it has a unique sense of humor that isn't found in practically any other series I can think of. Two, the characters are incredibly well defined, and are always played to their strengths. A fine balance is walked between repeating already known character traits, and overusing the same jokes, and it is pulled off expertly. Third, the show and its vocal cast can really land a joke, over and over again. Like when the family is naming holidays in the order of importance and Gene (Eugene Mirman) says the season premiere of Game of Thrones, though quickly admits to never having seen the show. Fantastic!

Louise (Kristen Schaal) remains the best part of Bob's Burgers. The fiendish young girl with her pink bunny ears is as clever as she is ornery. She will do whatever she must to meet her goals, and her brain just thinks on a different wave length than everyone else. And yet, when combined with her siblings, Gene and Tina (Dan Mintz), as she so often is in many a story, she works well in the group, too, without stealing too much focus.

"An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal" has a happy ending for the family, of course. Like The Simpsons, no matter what happens during the episode, they can all come together in the end, and there is deep love between them. Bob's Burgers may be a little quicker to show it than The Simpsons, though, and only three seasons in, it still feels fresh and original, definitely designed for the modern sensibility.

Bob's Burgers airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Doctor Who back for more

For those who missed the scant five episode of Doctor Who that aired this fall, you're in luck. The BBC has just been released on a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD set, Doctor Who Series Seven, Part OneAnd for those who didn't miss the season, you already know that these are five fantastic installments, so you might be interested as well. It will be something to tide fans over until the series returns for a longer run next year.

As series seven begins, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are getting a divorce. That's right; the man who waited two thousand years for his love has been tossed out of the house. The Doctor (Matt Smith) is concerned when he notices, but he has other concerns, as the three have been swept up by the Daleks, who are asking for the trio's help with their prison planet.

"Asylum of the Daleks," the season opener, is one of the best hours of Who ever made. Not only do we get to see the Doctor's archnemesis in a slightly different light, and get a glimpse of another aspect of their society, but we also have the Amy/Rory breakup mystery to sustain us. Toss in the introduction of Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman, Captain America: The First Avenger, Emmerdale), who will take over as the Doctor's companion beginning this Christmas, and some wonderful twists, progress on a major arc involving the Doctor's identity, and action sequences, and the season begins with a bang!

From there we move to "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," which is a truly fun romp. There is some danger, with a space pirate (David Bradley, the Harry Potter films) having hijacked a ship full of dinosaurs, which a future version of UNIT is ready to blow out of the sky. But the meat of this episode lies in the humor created when the Doctor brings together not only Rory and Amy for the outing, but also Rory's father, Brian Williams (Mark Williams, also Harry Potter), Queen Nefertiti (Riann Steele, Holby City) from ancient Egypt, and John Riddell (Rupert Graves, borrowed from Steven Moffat's other series, Sherlock), a big game hunter from the early twentieth century. It's these clashing personalities set among such fantastical creatures that really make this episode memorable. Plus, the most adorable triceratops ever!

Then there's " A Town Called Mercy," an interesting little morality tale, that happens to be set in the Old West, and involves a cyborg. This one is arguably the least of the five episode in the set, and yet, the care with which the town is designed, and the Western genre influence, combine to make it worthy of the collection. As the Doctor would say, Stetsons are cool.

In "The Power of Three," Brian is back (yay!). Taking place over a very long span of time, the world is slowly invaded by cubes, while Amy and Rory try to build a more normal life on Earth, and the Doctor struggles with letting them go. The highlights of this episode include seeing how much the Doctor cares for his companions, and how well he does not adapt to the type of lifestyle that they the married couple are considering. It's a "take stock" episode, and it's narration makes it a departure from the norm, if Doctor Who has a norm.

Finally, in "The Angels Take Manhattan," the central trio is drawn to a noir version of New York City, and River Song (Alex Kingston) makes her, sadly, only appearance in this batch. The Angels, Doctor Who's scariest villains, have built themselves a farm in the middle of the metropolis, and catch Rory in their trap. Can the Doctor change time to save him, or will he lose both of his best friends in one swoop? It's a moving love story with high stakes danger and some huge developments.

Not only are these episode incredible, but the special features are pretty great, too. There's the hour-long special, "The Science of Doctor Who," which recently aired on BBC America. "Ayslum of the Daleks" gets a prequel, "A Town Called Mercy" has a bit of back story, and a series of minisodes called "Pond Life" seem to set up the series as a whole. Plus, there's a feature following the cast as they visit Comic Con earlier this year. It may fall slightly short of a "Making Of," but all the additional scenes included on this set, not appearing in the episodes, are very satisfying.

The Blu-ray itself is amazing. There are rich colors in every landscape, whether characters are on a dark spaceship, the dusty Old West, or the grey of the city. Each setting is vibrant and life-like. This isn't even including the special effects, which are often pretty darn neat, and showcased brilliantly in HD. Sound is high quality, with the base stepping in exactly where you want it to, and overall providing an immersive experience, without pops or static that will ruin the moment.

Fantastic episodes, great extras, and a stunning visual and auditory experience, I have no complaints at all about Doctor Who Season Seven, Part One other than that I wish it went on longer. The Blu-ray and DVD are available now.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Doctor Who Series Seven, Part One on Blogcritics.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bones frees "The Patriot in Purgatory"

This week's installment of FOX's Bones is one of the best stand-alone episodes the series has ever made. I do not say this lightly, as despite it's procedural format, I highly enjoy the show most weeks. It may be the only procedural I hold in such esteem. The credit goes to a truly fantastic ensemble cast, and the quirkiness of the various characters. In "The Patriot in Purgatory," these people are taken to new levels of emotion.

The hour begins with Dr. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) bringing together her five best interns so that she can try out some coaching skills she learned from reading Phil Jackson's book. Yes, Brennan is finally into some small aspects of pop culture, most likely thanks to her ever-deepening relationship with Booth (David Boreanaz). She assigns these five to examine old bones with new technology in the hopes of identifying many remains that have never been named.

At first, the squad humorously argues and gets competitive, each trying to outdo the other ones. This is to be expected, as Brennan has, until now, created a fiercely competitive environment. Each jockeys for Brennan's favor, and tries to prove they are better than the others. Had this been the way the rest of the episode played out, it still would have been good, because seeing these personalities clash is entertaining.

Yet, "The Patriot in Purgatory" soon deepens when Vaziri (Pej Vahdat) becomes obsessed with a homeless man. Taking the ignored case to heart, as the police clearly didn't do a thorough investigation the first time around, Vaziri becomes obsessed with figuring out who this man is, even if he neglects the other bodies in the process.

It isn't long before his fellow interns are also drawn in by the mystery. Wendell (Michael Grant Terry), Clark (Eugene Byrd), Finn (Luke Kleintank), and even, eventually, Fisher (Joel David Moore) each lend their strengths, which differ from person to person, to the case. Only together, can they solve the puzzle. This is not only a display of what a great team the Jeffersonian has, and more proof that Brennan picks the right interns, but also an inspiring tale about a quest for justice.

Before long, the guys decide that their bones belong to a man who died shortly after 9/11 due to injuries suffered on that fateful day. Not only that, he is a soldier. This quickly draws Booth into the mix, becoming just as determined to solve the case as the squinterns, and everyone else helps, too. Thankfully, this time murder isn't involved, but there is a huge disservice being done to a guy who should be a national hero, and Booth will not rest until the truth comes out, and the body is honorably buried.

"The Patriot in Purgatory" is a holiday episode. Not many shows tackle a Veteran's Day theme, but Bones shows that an inspiring tale can be told at this time of year. It took such a series, with a character like Booth, who is devoted to the military, to do it right. While not based on anyone that actually lived, at least, not that I know of, it is a spotlight on the sad tragedy of what happens to many soldiers who return from war, and the neglected heroes living among us.

This also provides an opportunity for each of the squinterns to share their 9/11 story. Wendell's, in particular is sad, but Vaziri also gets to give voice to many an American Muslim who suffered on that day because of the actions of extremists. He reminds us that we should not hate the religion, which isn't really to blame, but the people who take it and twist it into something ugly. Christian history has plenty of similar examples. Let's not forget that.

In the end, tears flow, and viewers are left feeling deeply moved. There is some serious drama and character development here, all perfectly executed. This is why "The Patriot in Purgatory" deserves to be watched and remembered. And maybe, like the best of Christmas-themed specials, dusted off every few years to be rewatched and enjoyed again on the holiday it celebrates.

Bones airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Glease is the word

 "Glease" is the word this week on FOX's Glee. Which is funny because it isn't actually a word. Nor does it deserve to be. In an entire episode that serves as a mashup between Glee and Grease, the music from the musical remains as classic as ever, but some of the performances are an inferior echo of the original, not because of lack of talent, but because it's such a blatant copy. It's a good thing that there's some actual Glee character development plot included, too.

"Glease" works best when the cast isn't trying to recreate scenes from the movie. Sure, Finn (Cory Monteith) taking the guys to a mechanic shop to practice "Greased Lightin'" and Kitty's (Becca Tobin) girls' sleepover "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" bit may enact scenes that look just like the John Travolta / Olivia Newton John film, but they stretch the plot a little too much towards the cheesy side. Similarly, the set design in McKinley's production is way too advanced for a high school budget, though it makes "Beauty School Dropout" and "You're the One That I Want," the former a favorite moment from this episode, look nearly identical to the inspiration.

This continues a trend in season four of things that seem like a good idea on the surface, but don't quite work right when they are played out. I am referring to the way that alumni keep returning to McKinley and acting like they are adults, while still socializing with their younger student pals. Most high schoolers can't wait to move on after graduation, and those that don't are not generally regarded so highly as the ones on Glee. Letting Finn serve as Will's (Matthew Morrison) temporary glee club replacement actually does all right by the character, but Mercedes (Amber Riley), Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.), and Santana (Naya Rivera) really need to find some new friends and activities to get involved in.

That's what Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) are doing. They do come back to watch their friends do the musical, but they are also beginning to break ties and look towards their futures. Things have changed, their chums have moved on, and the duo feel it. It's hard to imagine them flying home again for the next minor event. And that's a good thing. Whether Glee opts to shift even more into a post-high school focus next season, or drop a large number of original cast members, this balancing act often feels forced, and cannot continue indefinitely.

The continued presence of the older crowd also steals focus from the newbies. Marley (Melissa Benoist) and Ryder (Blake Jenner) barely open "You're the One That I Want" before being replaced by Rachel and Finn, and soon Kurt and the others are imagined into the scene, too. Yes, it's nice to see some more resolution will all of the recently dissolved couples, but not at the expense of some characters that are just beginning to grow on us.

Unique (Alex Newell) gets the biggest shaft in "Glease." His parents (including Chuck's Mark Christopher Lawrence) pull him from the show because they are worried about bullying, since he has a female part, even though they do accept their son for who he is. This seems a step backwards from the Kurt days, with Unique having to re-fight some of the same battles. It also means that s/he only gets a few lines of "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," a crying shame, no matter how good Rivera can handle the number.

Also, I don't care how dumb Brittany (Heather Morris) is, we cannot honestly be expected to believe that she thinks Mercedes and Unique are the same person.

Quick side note, Jenner is just not doing it for me as Ryder. I felt let down at his take on Danny Zuko, and his acting just isn't up to par with his cast mates. He may grow into the role, as others have done, but it seems like he got a little too much focus, a little too quickly.

I also did not care for Marley's bulimia plot. She is a gorgeous, thin girl, and while Kitty's ability to trick her into puking makes sense, it also ventures a little too far into after-school-special territory. It will be awfully hard to make Kitty sympathetic after she goes to such depths, and Marley's "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)" ends up being heart wrenching at a time when she should be enjoying her chance to shine as the musical lead. It works for the story, but I wish that the writers chose to take her in a happier direction.

Speaking of terribly evil villains, in "Glease" Cassandra July (Kate Hudson) tricks Rachel into skipping town, then seizes the opportunity to seduce Brody (Dean Geyer). It would not be surprising to learn that things didn't quite go down as Ms. July describes them. But seeing her act all sleazy, then picking up Brody's phone when Rachel calls to rub it in her face is absolutely awful. Sue (Jane Lynch) can be a bit of a monster, but even she has more humanity than Rachel's new teacher.

Not that "Glease" is a bad episode, by any means. All six of the musical numbers are very well done, no matter what my complaints are, plot wise. Blaine (Darren Criss) and Sugar (Vanessa Lengies), in particular, are perfectly cast in Grease. Newell and Benoist, and, to a lesser extent, Tobin, are solidifying their roles as the new stars of Glee, and they definitely have the chops to do so. It's awesome to see Santana and Brittany together again. Almost every actor gives a fine performance, and most of the story choices make sense, even if a few are regrettable. As such, despite my nit picking, I liked the episode a lot overall. There just needs to be some tweaks to the larger arcs to make the season gel a little better.

Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com!  Article first published as TV Review: Glee - "Glease" on Blogcritics.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ruby Sparks light a fire

Recently released from FOX, Ruby Sparks is the story of a boy and a girl. But it's oh so much more than that. The boy, Calvin (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine), is a young, best selling author who is struggling to find inspiration to repeat his success. At the advice of his therapist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould, MASH), he writes about a girl that can accept him as he is. And then the girl, Ruby (Zoe Kazan, Dano's real life girlfriend and the writer of this film), appears in his apartment.

Now, Calvin is not going crazy. At least, he doesn't appear to be. His brother, Harry (Chris Messina, The Mindy Project, Damages), can see her, too, as can everyone else. Once viewers are able to suspend that disbelief, one can really get invested in the tale of this couple, who are made for each other, on one side, quite literally.

But no one is perfect. As much as Ruby is the girl that Calvin imagines he wants to be with, she is also a fully developed person, not just a two dimensional figure on paper. Which means, she has a mind of her own, and can do things that bug Calvin, or make him feel down on himself. Calvin has the power to change Ruby at any time just by whipping his type writer back out. It isn't too long before he gives in to temptation and does just that.

One can tell that Ruby Sparks is written by a woman. Rather than rewriting Ruby for sexual purposes, an option brought up by Harry, but quickly dismissed by the more sensitive Calvin, he just tweaks her personality so that she is devoted to him, and he gets rids of things about her he finds annoying. However, when Calvin begins to remove layers, even with the best of intentions, because, after all, she is his creation, and so it could be argued that he has a right to make adjustments, he also erases the essence that makes Ruby Ruby. She no longer has free will, nor is she the person he wanted to be with. This is a case of over-thinking things.

Ruby Sparks really makes the audience think, too. Surely, many people have dreamed up a scenario such as this, but how many have taken time to really explore what being in this situation would mean? How many consider all the implications and nuanced rules that would go hand in hand with the occurrence? Kazan proves her talents as a writer quite handily, really fleshing out everything in a very believable way.

And does anyone truly want what they consider to be the perfect girl? Not only would this be boring, but how would Calvin ever be challenged to grow? If all he wants is an idea of a woman, the internet and blowup dolls exist. No, he wants a companion, and that means he must take the good with that bad. Those are the facts of life.

All television them song references aside, Ruby Sparks is a fascinating, smart movie that is very enjoyable, but also so much more than mindless entertainment. Buoyed by an excellent supporting cast, each with wonderful featured moments, that includes Toni Trucks (Made in Jersey), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show), Annette Benning (The Kids Are All Right), and an amazing turn by Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), this is a movie that begs repeat viewings.

In fact, if one stops the film about two minutes before the end, I would consider it a near-perfect movie. There's a tag I'm not a fan of; I'd prefer if the next to last scene served as the ending. Others may disagree.

The special features, on the other hand, at least the ones included on the review copy I got, leave much to be desired. There are three featurettes of only a few minutes each in length that are pretty repetitive, just praising those involved. It is pointed out that not only are Dano and Kazan a couple, but so are the directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (both Little Miss Sunshine). But that's about the only thing interesting gleaned from the scant extras. Hopefully, there will be another release in the future that packages a bit more, because, the impression I get is, the story behind the story is probably pretty neat, as well.

Ruby Sparks is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Article first published as DVD Review: Ruby Sparks on Blogcritics.

The Office lands "The Whale"

NBC's The Office continues its great final season this week with "The Whale." Dwight (Rainn Wilson) is given the opportunity to double Dundler Mifflin's growth when a new potential client asks for a meeting. Learning the meeting is with a woman, and knowing how bad Dwight is with relating to women, several of his female co-workers try to intervene and improve upon his manners. But no one is prepared when they learn who Dwight is actually being sent to talk with, and it will take everything Dwight has to land this impossible account.

Yep, Jan (Melora Hardin) is back! Jan is one of those character who is a delight every time she arrives on screen, mostly because she makes everyone squirm. This is the type of humor that The Office frequently lands, so it hits the perfect tone when it is returned to. We haven't seen Jan in awhile, so it's a great surprise (if you avoided NBC spoiler-filled promos), and the way it's played as a horror film moment when it slowly dawns on Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Dwight just whose office they are in is priceless.

This being the final season, we are likely to see a good many familiar faces in the coming weeks. Even former boss Michael (Steve Carell) is rumored to be making an appearance by series end. It's a well deserved victory lap, nine years in, to revisit these past people.

But it's not just done for nostalgia's sake. Jan's reemergence allows for a really good Dwight story. He may not be best at dealing with girls, but he is an expert salesman for a reason. Even Jan, who has absolutely no intention of dealing with her former employer, and is just taunting them, comes around to Dwight's skills when he uses what he knows about her to change her mind. Meaning, he dangles Clark (Clark Duke) as a sex object. And Dwight and Pam get a very nice friendship moment.

This continues the trend of giving the characters nice payoffs this year. While last season floundered as the company searched for a new manager, this year is back to the basics, exploring the main characters, reminding us who they are, allowing them to make some big decisions, and hopefully sending them on their way with sweet, satisfying endings.

There is drama. Jim (John Krasinski) is trying to start a business on the side. Andy (Ed Helms) is taking advantage of Erin (Ellie Kemper), driving her away. Angela (Angela Kinsey) seems to have realized that her husband, the Senator (Jack Coleman), is sleeping with Oscar (Oscar Nunez) and other men. But all this should be resolved, probably with happy results, by the end of the year. So rather than sweating it, as might have been done in earlier seasons, there's a sense that all of this is just the last few bumps in the road.

If you drifted away from The Office, as many have done, now might be a nice time to catch up. However it ends, it should be memorable.

The Office airs at 9 p.m. ET Thursdays on NBC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Doctor Who fights The Claws of Axos

This month, perhaps due to the release of a modern-day Doctor Who set, only one of the classic serials gets the DVD treatment, instead of the usual two. But it's a pretty good one, and a Special Edition, at that.

Titled The Claws of Axos, these four episodes aired in the middle of season eight, way back in 1971. The most interesting thing about this, that will set it apart from many of the other old releases, is that season eight has a large arc, spanning multiple serials. As such, The Claws of Axos exists as a stand alone story, but also as part of something much bigger. Allow me to explain.

As the episode opens, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is trapped on Earth, the Time Lords having taken away the memories he needs to fix the TARDIS. He is growing weary of UNIT and the other military-minded humans, wishing he didn't have to bear witness to their violent streak. When something crashes near a power plant in Britain, the tension between the Doctor and UNIT comes to a head, as UNIT wants to fire missiles, and the Doctor thinks that they need to figure out what the aliens' intentions are first. The Doctor scores a point when he decrypts a distress call from the ship.

At first, the aliens seem friendly enough. They need fuel, and are willing to trade Axonite, a rare material that can replicate, for it. This would end hunger and starvation for the entire world. But then, a friend is captured by the Axons, and finds the Master (Roger Delgado), whom they thought had left Earth, within the bowels of the ship. Clearly, there is more going on here than first glimpsed.

I really like the clash between the Doctor and the humans in this episode. Being played by a human, of course, and looking like one, it's sometimes easy to forget that the Doctor is an alien, and not like everyone else on Earth. This is not the case in this serial, where he very obviously considers himself apart, and better. While UNIT has to remain somewhat sympathetic, as Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and Benton (John Levene) recur on Doctor Who often, Chinn (Peter Bathurst), who tries to cut the UN out of any deals with the Axons, hoping to win rewards solely for Britain, has no such constraints. The Doctor does still love humans, but this is exactly why he can't live and work among their government, at least not in the present. We are just too flawed a species.

The Doctor usually seems more evolved than mere mankind. Obviously, he travels through time and space, and so has seen a lot. But he also often has a stronger sense of right and wrong than most species, or, at least he believes that he does. The Claws of Axos actually tests this mettle, and see him making what appear to be some questionable choices in the service of escaping our planet. Not only is this more relatable, allowing chinks in the armor of the character, but it also knocks him down off his high horse, even while allowing him to be right and save the day.

The visual effects in The Claws of Axos are attempted too early in film history. In the special features, you will hear about how the people making Doctor Who just couldn't wait to use the latest technology! And yet, while the result may have been impressive in the day, it seems incredibly hokey now. The disappearing effect is OK, considering, but some of the aliens get just a bit too laughable, like piles of spaghetti, or someone rolling around in a colored blanket. It's a good thing that there's a strong story here, with wonderful moments for several characters, especially the Doctor, so this can be overlooked.

The special features on the Special Edition two-disc DVD include an audio commentary with Barry Letts and actors Katy Manning and Richard Franklin, far less crowded than the normal large group. There are almost a half hour of deleted and extended scenes, some PDF materials, and a photo gallery. Something cool for die-hard fans who wish they could be on set is seventy three minutes of studio recording that survives, which includes things like background conversation and recording breaks.

Among the featurettes are a "Making Of" and an interview with Michael Ferguson, who directed the serial. Katy Manning narrates a look at the locations that were used in shooting. But the best inclusion is "Living with Levene," in which frequent Doctor Who DVD contributor Toby Hadoke spends some time in the recent past with John Levene. Levene puts on a bit of a show, as Hadoke notes, and tells some stories that not all of his former co-stars might appreciate! It's really a fascinating thirty-five minutes, for the personality showcased, as well as the tidbits from the past.

The Claws of Axos Special Edition is definitely worth a look, even if you checked it out back in 2005, when it was originally released on DVD. The writing holds up beautifully, and the extras make it a pretty cool find.

Doctor Who The Claws of Axos Special Edition is available now on DVD from the BBC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Article first published as DVD Review: Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos Special Edition on Blogcritics.

Welcome back Whitney

NBC's Whitney may not be the most popular show out there, but gosh darn it, it has some serious heart, no matter how much it might want to make you believe that it doesn't. This is the attitude of the titular character, Whitney (Whitney Cummings), as we see in the season two premiere, "Bawl and Chain." She may be married to Alex (Chris D'Elia) now, but giving into those feelings of stability aren't really in Whitney's nature.

For many shows, seeing the two lead characters married off to each other would be a late development. Or it would happen before the series begins. It's rare that, not only are Whitney and Alex just dating when Whitney begins, but they tie the knot at the end of the freshman season. Doesn't this destroy the will they-won't they drama?

No. Whitney doesn't buy into that malarkey. For her, it's a journey towards finding something permanent. She has abandonment issues, and it's easy to see why, when her mom (Jane Kaczmarek) pops back in to congratulate the new married couple, only to run off as soon as she learns their marriage isn't officially legal. This is a great reminder of the damage that has been done to Whitney, and why she is the way she is. She needs someone to be with for the long haul, not to jump back and forth between men.

The good news is, Alex is loving and understanding and patient. He may have already been committed to Whitney for years now, but by deciding that they are now married, even if they don't get the piece of paper that proves it, he is telling her that he is sticking around. He also verbally reiterates this a number of times in "Bawl and Chain." It doesn't instantly calm Whitney's fears, but it does show her that she has chosen a good guy who plans on staying with her, and she doesn't have to panic that her marriage will end up like her parents'.

Whitney is relatable because there are plenty of young women out there now like Whitney. Every person under thirty knows someone like her, or is like her themselves. They sometimes come from broken home, sometimes not. But they take a cynical view of the world, and have trouble relying on others. Whether they've been hurt, or they're just afraid of being hurt, they are scared to get too close to someone. Whitney is a message to those types of people that they can find love and happiness, too. And they don't have to take the traditional route, that they lack the desire to follow, to get to it.

Whitney will not be one hundred percent comfortable with Alex anytime soon. That will take a number of seasons, assuming the network will allow it.

Which is good, because the series is funny, and the chemistry between Cummings and D'Elia is fantastic. I know this show doesn't get a lot of love from critics or viewers, but as long as it keeps the focus on the central pair, and doesn't try too hard to make it an ensemble piece, I really enjoy it. "Bawl and Chain" has a little bit of a B story in it, and it's a sweet addition, but the meat of it is Whitney and Alex, so over all, a good return.

Whitney airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How I Met Your Mother draws closer to conclusion

CBS's How I Met Your Mother, whether it does a ninth season next year or not, is undeniably drawing closer to the series finale. As such, it has been callously ending all of the non-final relationships of the main characters during a so-called "autumn of breakups," and setting up everyone for who they will be with in the end. This trend continues last night in "Splitsville."

After Ted (Josh Radnor) dumps Victoria (Ashley Williams) last week, and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Quinn (Becki Newton) end things a few episodes ago, that leaves only Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Nick (Michael Trucco). This is the pair that most obviously should break up, as despite Nick's hot bod and the awesome sex, he is dumb, and Robin has no interest in anything long-term with him.

Actually ending things with Nick proves hard to Robin. Not because she doesn't want to hurt him, though that plays a small role in delaying the inevitable, but because she just wants to keep having fun. After a couple of serious relationships, it's not a surprise that Robin likes to blow off some steam. But Nick isn't the man she will marry, and considering her wedding to Barney has to happen before the show ends, and that could be this spring, the plot must move forward.

Barney's grand declaration of love, which he claims is fake in order to get Robin off the hook with Nick, is easy to see through for viewers and Robin alike. I thought How I Met Your Mother might try to drag it out, a la most sitcoms, by having Robin believe Barney's insistence that he isn't being sincere. Thankfully, this is not the case, and Robin calls him on his stuff, even if Barney remains cagey at the end of "Splitsville."

How quickly will things progress between them now? I think there is a clue in last week's installment, where Victoria insisted to Ted that a renewed relationship picks up where it left off, not restarting back at zero. Barney and Robin grew pretty heavy before. A quick engagement is not out of the question.

And then, once we get the second pair of supporting players out of the way, we will finally get to how Ted meets the titular mother. I hope.

"Splitsville" does bring a slightly better than average plot for Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel). With romance playing such a pivotal role this year, the old married couple with the baby have been reduced mainly to goofy bits that don't add much to the series overall. But in this episode, they are sex-deprived because of said infant until Ted can rescue them, and that is a little amusing and rings of realism.

How I Met Your Mother continues to fall short of the heights it hit in early seasons, but if the current trends are any indication, we might still be in for a heck of a series finale. The only question is, will that occur six months from now, or eighteen months?

How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Play for me, Wedding Band!

TBS premiered a new hour-long dramedy series this past Saturday night called Wedding Band. Yep, the network known for Tyler Perry sitcoms and stale comedies, both new and in syndication, began a show of a different format on a night where virtually no one airs any new television episodes. It has to suck, right?

Actually, quite the opposite. It's compelling! The characters are well thought out, the cast is terrific, fantastic music with interesting arrangements adds to the fun, and the first story is both entertaining and moving. Let's hope, with virtually no competition on Saturdays, save BBC America, Wedding Band can find an audience. Let's also help, with Wedding Band and the-soon-to-launch fourth season of Cougar Town, TBS has finally become a network worth watching! Sure, it's only two shows, but it's a start!

Wedding Band follows four guys who play have their own band that performs at weddings and various other functions. There's Tommy (Brian Austin Green, Desperate Housewives, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), the lead singer, who is somewhat of a player, but only until he finds the right woman; Eddie (Peter Cambor, NCIS: Los Angeles, Notes from the Underbelly), who has to balance fatherhood with his passion; Barry (Derek Miller, Secret Girlfriend), the goofy drummer with a knack for pyrotechnics; and Stevie (Harold Perrineau, Lost, Sons of Anarchy), the new guy who is tired of being a studio musician and wants to hit it big as a real part of a band. He thinks that he has found his chance in this group.

Stevie may be right. I don't know if the actors are doing their own singing or playing, but if it's fake, it isn't obviously so. They perform arrangements of popular songs, both new and old, crossing genres, and they sound really, really good. They take what they're doing very seriously, which shows. It's no wonder that, by the end of the "Pilot," they are being sought out by Rutherford (Melora Hardin, The Office, Monk), Seattle's top wedding organizer, who previously had hired their arch-nemesis group, led by a real douche (Ken Marino, Childrens Hospital).

In the "Pilot," the gig that gets them Rutherford's attention is one in which they are playing for Tommy's ex, Sara (Bree Turner, Grimm). Yet, as hokey as the sounds as a premise, it is executed with the utmost sincerity. Sure, Tommy still has feelings for Sarah; she's the one that got away. But he also loves his buddies, and he's not about to (intentionally) do anything to jeopardize the band. This isn't just a weekend hobby for the guys. it's something they want to devote their life to. Rutherford can help that.

Which doesn't mean there aren't any shenanigans. One of the group does hook up with Rutherford, and the boss's adorable assistant, Rachel (Jenny Wade, The Good Guys, Reaper), who happens to be engaged, catches Tommy's eye. Yet, all of the main characters are upstanding citizens who seemingly would not cheat on their significant others, which actually makes them all the more charming and easy to root for.

The non-band and non-romance scenes are also great. There's a birthday party that lets everyone show off a bit of their personalities, and an hour does not seem too long a format, given the way it plays out in the first hour. There's some drama, to be sure, especially when Sara makes a play for Tommy, which results in a boob mishap, and as Eddie lies to his wife, Ingrid (Kathryn Fiore). But none of it plays out in a completely predictable or boring way.

This band needs to find success. I'm not just talking about within the story, because I want the show itself to get some attention. It's a special series that could easily slide onto a broadcast network and not look out of place. It deserves to do well. It's doing it's part, making quality, now the audience just needs to find it.

There's nothing else on TV Saturday night. What have you got to loose by checking out Wedding Band, which airs at 10 p.m. ET on TBS?

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

Monday, November 12, 2012

Burn Notice gets desperate

USA's Burn Notice returned this week with two hours of new episodes. The first, "Desperate Measures," is a follow up to the summer finale, "Desperate Times," centering on the team trapped in a foreign land. The second mostly moved on to another story, but kept some of the serial elements surrounding Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) this season as he seeks to get justice for his brother's death.

"Desperate Measures" is an exciting, action-packed episode as the team attempts to get out of Panama. Having captured Tyler Gray (Kenny Johnson), the man who actually shot Nate, it is soon clear to both Michael and Tyler, after some inconveniences that delay a return home, that their beef isn't with each other. Tyler has been lied to by Card (John C. McGinley) about the threat that Michael poses, and Tyler was simply following Card's orders when the tragedy occurred.

Donovan really handles the emotion swelling within Michael well in this episode. As a mostly collected guy, it's rare that we see Michael really loose it. His brother's death sparked some heavy grief, and because of that, Michael is definitely a danger to Tyler and himself. But, in the end, Michael's hero goodness wins out, and he spares Tyler, knowing that they are both somewhat in the same boat.

But then, in the second hour, "Means & Ends," Michael gets to confront Card, and he gets dangerous again. Michael has kept it together when dealing with people who don't deserve his rage, and he has above average abilities to empathize with others, and to try to help them. However, when he finally gets in a room with Card, his friends not around to even try to calm him down, it ends with Michael putting a bullet in Card's head.

I can't recall ever seeing Michael quite like this. It's clear that a line has been crossed for him. We know that Michael is a spy, and has probably killed people before. But after watching six seasons of him go out of his way to avoid getting lethal, it's chilling to see the lead character murder someone like Card, especially when Card is not posing an immediate threat. In this one instance, Michael moves beyond justice and goes for revenge. Sam (Bruce Campbell) or Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), or even, to a lesser extent, Jesse (Coby Bell), might have been able to talk him out of it, but without his moral compasses in the room, Michael takes that big, irreversible step.

How will this change Michael, going forward? Will this mean that he's going to be colder, with a sharper edge? Fi and Sam are still around, so there will be influences to draw him back to the light, if he can let himself be happy with them. But will that be enough? What does it do to one's soul to commit such an act? I hope that Burn Notices gives Michael the time to fully explore the ramifications of his actions.

One thing does seem certain, and that's that Michael's mother, Maddie (Sharon Gless), will not be around to help. Unable to forgive Michael for letting Nate get killed, and disgusted with her living son's inability to be honest with her, no matter how good his intentions might be, she decides to leave town. Will this be the end of Maddie on the series? Let's hope not. Her sorrow is completely understandable, as are her negative feelings about Michael. But he is her son, the family she has left, and hopefully that will be enough to let her move past it.

There are other things going on, too. In "Means & Ends," Fiona's old prison friend needs the team's help. But at this point, these side missions take a backseat to the main arc, which is finally being given the attention it deserves. Burn Notice will probably continue to deliver some case of the week type stories, but the more it shifts focus to the big stuff, the better it becomes.

Burn Notice airs 9 p.m. on Thursdays on USA.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing