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Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 Weekly TV Recap (May 4 - May 10)


Sunday May 4

Game of Thrones (HBO), Episode 5 "First of His Name"

Brief Description: Hands down, the three best Game of Thrones episodes have been "Baelor", "Blackwater", and "The Rains of Castamere". Those three episodes were the penultimate episodes of Seasons 1, 2, & 3 respectively. The second to last episode of every season of Game of Thrones is the explosion to what the season has built up towards. I have no doubt that the same will hold true for Season 4 of the show. But in order to build up to this big event, we need to have episodes like "First of His Name" to move chess pieces on the board. And like the middle of the past few seasons, "First of His Name" is pretty dull. The show has done a great job building up Dany, and this week it gave her an out to go fight for the Iron Throne in Westeros, but instead, she's going to go back and mull around in Essos. Last week we got a glimpse of the White Walkers threat, but they've been mulling around in the North for so long and get so little screen time, that they barely seem like a credible threat at this point in the series as well. For all the talks of the threat to the Lannister's power, that's all they have been: "talk". Now, I said the same thing at this time last year, and the season turned out quite alright, so I'm confident I'll enjoy the show by season's end. I'll power through these "pawn mover" episodes because I know it'll eventually lead to a check mate. Plus, no Tyrion and almost no Jamie this episode, so a dull episode feels even duller. 

Mad Men (AMC), Episode 4 "The Monolith"

Brief Description: The title of this week's Mad Men is purposefully meant to evoke thoughts of Stanley Kubrick's classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" which every reviewer of course has to bring up in their review. The only reason I'm even bringing it up is because I think both Mad Men right now and the Kubrick film have this in common: they are genius works of art that are quite frankly boring to watch. I had the "luxury" of watching "2001" for the first time only a few years ago, so admittedly my perspective on the film is tainted. But even still, the entire movie is not enjoyable to watch, and the end just goes off the rails. Mad Men feels like it's going off the rails in its later years. Not so much for being as out there and as symbolic and dramatic as "2001" was, but I think its glory days are behind it. I have constantly critiqued this show for feeling like a high school English assignment and I think "The Monolith" is a great representation of why. There's so much symbolism and things to analyze, that it's easy to fill up an entire online review even though nothing happened on the show. Yet at the same time, watching is starting to feel like homework. I think a lot of why I liked "Field Trip" so much was because it reminded me of the days where Mad Men would actually *do* something while also having characters we love to hate. As much as I hate Betty Draper and the old, weasely Pete Campbell, I needed them to balance out the show. Since Season 5 of the show, nothing really has happened, which just makes the show dull with the appearance of bright lights.

Silicon Valley (HBO), Episode 5 "Signaling Risk"

Brief Description: It's no coincidence that the best episode of Silicon Valley's rookie season is the episode where you see the least amount of the show's main character Richard. Plus, what little you see of Richard, you at least see him being authoritative and taking charge. There's humor in T.J. Miller's Erlich and others bossing Richard around, but it's mostly annoying. Instead, what "Signaling Risk" does is create a low risk story line that not only allows its characters to just be funny, it also advances the plot. The A story line of this episode is Erlich paying a local graffiti artist (who initially wants to be paid in stock options) to create a logo for Pied Piper, while the B story line is of Peter Gregory demanding Richard and his company to present at the TechCrunch Disrupt. I imagine the season finale will be Pied Piper's presentation at the conference, and hopefully we'll get a better sense of just how rewarding it will be of Richard to start his own company. But until then, we'll get little funny moments like Gilfoyle and Dinesh arguing with each other, which is really what makes this show. Kumail Nanjiani's face at the end of the episode when he couldn't go outside to see the logo because he was in competition with Gulfoyle was laugh out loud amazing.

Lastly, on a more somber note, "Signaling Risk" will be the last episode in which we'll see Christopher Evan Welch's Peter Gregory because the actor died while in production. While Peter didn't have a lot to do in this episode, his awkward conversation with Gavin Belson was fantastic. I also imagine Welch's death will bring the show's only female star, Amanda Crew's Monica, more into prominence- which will be a refreshing change of pace.

Tuesday May 7

New Girl (FOX), Episode 23 "Cruise"
GRADE (Episode): C+
GRADE (Season): B-

Brief Description: The Season 3 finale to New Girl was just dreadful. There's no way to sugarcoat it. After a solid rookie season and an excellent Season 2, Season 3 of New Girl just fell apart. I don't blame the fact that Nick and Jess got together as the reason the season was awful, in fact, their relationship was probably the best part of Season 3. It's just that the writers didn't know what to do with themselves once Nick and Jess were together. They turned their back on everything they worked towards and everything that made them successful. They flat out ignored basic character traits and story lines from previous seasons, and the addition of Damon Wayans Jr.'s Coach only made things worse because he was just another character the show didn't know what to do with. The 2014 version of New Girl was much better than the 2013 version of it, but I'm almost happy this entire season is now over so the writers can hopefully come back strong for Season 4. New Girl has nowhere to go but up.

The Mindy Project (FOX), Episode 22 "Danny and Mindy"
GRADE (Episode): B
GRADE (Season): B

Brief Description: The Mindy Project's biggest problem is that, even after two seasons, it still doesn't know what it is. It tries to be both a workplace comedy as well as a romantic fairy tale, and it fails on both accounts. From the getgo, Mindy Kaling told us this is her version of a romantic comedy. The very first episode stated that Mindy (the character) just wants to be Meg Ryan in Sleepless In Seattle / You've Got Mail / every other crappy Meg Ryan rom com. That's fine, but that's not what the show has delivered. The problem lies with the show's execution. Even in "Danny and Mindy" when the show tries to parody romantic comedies, it just comes across as cliche. Hopefully The Mindy Project will be more focused in its third season when it will solely be around Danny and Mindy's relationship, but really, if Adam Pally can have his own spin off show, I'd rather just watch that instead. 


Friday Night Lights (NBC), Episodes 2-9 of Season 1
Service Available to Stream: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Brief Description: Clearly I've been binge watching FNL this week. I wasn't the biggest fan of the pilot, but I really enjoy the fall out of dealing with what happened to Jason Street in the show's first episode. Every non-love related story line dealing with Jason Street is fantastic. Also, I can see why everyone loves Coach and Mrs. Coach. However, my favorite part of the show is the actual games themselves. The drama it creates is wonderfully electric. I can imagine the realism of filming football scenes is difficult, which is why we probably only see 4th quarters of the games, but the more the better in my opinion.

One of my biggest problems with the show, besides all the love triangle stuff dealing with Riggins and Layla, is that they don't show enough defense and/or defensive players. The entire game of football rests solely on Matt Saracen's and Smash Williams's shoulders?! Plus, early on, the Dillon Panthers lose their star defensive player, but we don't see any on-the-field fall out from that? I think I'm even more frustrated with that point because the show spent so much time dealing with how different characters reacted to the Jason Street injury, yet failed to spend enough time dealing with other salient points. Maybe because Friday Night Lights was so poorly rated early on, that Jason Katims and crew decided to exhaust as many plot lines as possible before getting cancelled as opposed to just letting natural moments work themselves out.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix), Episodes 1-3 of Season 1
Service Available to Stream: Netflix

Brief Description: I love this show. My wife and I are re-watching this season (this is now my 3rd time through, once on my own and a 2nd so my wife could watch it for the first time) in preparation for the upcoming Second Season. (Netflix is releasing the entire season June 6). I probably won't have too much to say going forward, because what really makes OITNB so excellent is that creator Jenji Kohan creates a rich world full of so many damn wonderful characters. The Netflix prison drama manages to keep in line with many of the prison cliches while at the same time creating new ones. The way Piper solves her problem of Red trying to starve her out in Episode 2's "Tit Punch" is a refreshing resolution to a played out trope.

America in Primetime (PBS), 4 Episode Mini-Series
Service Available to Stream: Netflix

Brief Description: There are a handful of documentaries and reality shows that discuss television, but easily the best one I found is this PBS mini series. The show discusses the history of television shows and how things have changed from the 1950's to now. The mini series takes four topics, Men of the House, Independent Women, Misfits, and The Crusader, and has the stars and creators of almost every show ever in existence discuss their show and how TV has evolved over time. The only reason I didn't give America in Primetime an even higher grade is because I wish it spent MORE time discussing the shows. I know this request is ludicrous considering just how much material the documentaries have to, and do get it into. But that's just my opinion. If you enjoy this, then I strongly recommend you check out Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution Was Televised.

I missed this week's Fargo and I just didn't have time to catch up on it. I also started watching Friday Night Lights and completely neglected Arrow. I'll do my best to rectify both mistakes for next week.



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