Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Week's TV Power Rankings

Monday Oct. 19th - Sun. Oct. 26th

1. Mad Men (Last Week #1) (And what are you supposed to be? Just oh so good as Betty confronts Don over his hidden past. But in typical Mad Men fashion, this confrontation occurs as Don's fling in sitting in the car on the street, waiting to run off on a trip with him. Not only is the audience left waiting for the other shoe to drop (which it never does), but arguably the greater sin of Don's continual infidelity is kept hidden.)

2. 30 Rock (Last Week, #2) (Will Arnett's Devin Banks is every bit the comedic equal of every regular on 30 Rock. If I had to make a minor complaint it would be that last week's installment ended rather abruptly and for a show that thrives on actual storytelling, I'm a bit unclear as to whether or not Jack intended to accept Devin's offer of a Washington bailout. If he did accept the bailout that sort of cuts against my argument of Jack as a Randian superman, doesn't it?)

3. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Last Week #3) (Bonus points for relatability in the form of baseball and parking ticket court. I loved Mac's letter to Chase Utley, Mac's first instinct of scaling building, and Green Man versus the Philly Frenetic.)

4. Fringe (Last Week #4) (Off for the week, but nothing has surpassed it.)

5. Californication (Last Week #5) (Ahhh Hank Moody. Californication works because amidst all the sex and raunchiness a healthy layer of love anchors the show. And as this week's episode shows, there is a big, big difference a man who loves sex and loves women and a man who only loves sex.)

6. Parks and Rec (Last Week #6) (Kaboom! Parks and Rec continues to soar, bolstered this week by a Kaboom! appearance by the same guy who played Kenneth's page nemesis on 30 Rock.)

7. South Park (Last week, #8) (That's not Wrastling! Great return of "they took are jobs!," one of my favorite South Park jokes ever and clever utilization of the same sort of humor in having the boys wrestling matches morph bit by bit into actual theater. The past few weeks have been good, but this was finally one of those South Parks that works on several different levels.)

8. Flash Forward (Last week #7) (I desperately want Flash Forward to be Lost and each week I think the writers are trying to tell me they want the show to be more like 24, as last week's episode started an ended with an explosion and gunfight far more reminiscent of 24 than Lost. That the show wants to be more action than character drama is my own problem, but the continued mediocre writing falls solely on the shoulders of the show's writers and creators. It's not that I'm not enjoying it, but right now Flash Forward seems stuck on brilliant premise, mediocre execution. Case-in-point from last week, everything about the Janis-girlfriend plot was just so bleh, almost as if the writers had started with two chicks kissing and worked their way back from that point. The dialogue from their dinner date was painful, as if the only thought was, "let's write a quick scene to show some chemistry." What sucks- and what keeps me watching- is that there's such weighty material just hanging out in the background. Thus far, the flash forwards have been dealt with primarily through the question of whether or not they are true and our characters acceptance of those truths. But about fate and the nature of time and of the universe, the show has been almost silent. Lost spent an entire season with an incredible mindfuck about time and fate and we get nothing here. Somehow the real weighty question about our existence- do we have choice or free will- has been glossed over.)

9. House (Last week, not ranked) (Finally back in the top 10 where it belongs, House seems to finally have put the plot heavy baggage of the James Earl Jones African dictator episode behind it. Last week also featured a presumably dead man coming back to life and a confrontation between House and Wilson over their individual demons. Clearly, what had been missing over the last few weeks was Wilson, the one character on the show weighty enough to counterbalance House.)

10. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Last Week, #9) (Some funny moments, but a fairly uneven episodes with some atypical jokes that fell sort of flat. The interactions between Jerry and Larry were interesting, but not particularly funny or enlightening and the jokes centering on the assistant's inappropriate attire strained credibility. To top it all off, the Jesus drips and the entire subplot with the assistant's mother and the literal collision with the Richard Lewis subplot seemed forced. That the ending was terrible was painfully evident with so many other good comedies on the air.)

Not On The List:

# The Office (Last Week, Not Ranked) (Michael dating Pam's mother is potentially a jump the shark type moment. That being said, not such a bad episode, but the Office still has a lot of work to do to work it's way back into the top 10.)


Blogger McMc said...

Flash Forward - To defend it again, LOST has had plenty of gun fights, explosions and the like and as you mention, it has touched on fate vs. free will a lot. Why would Flash Forward want to replicate that? The Flashes are interesting and I believe they will be explored more and more, but when you have a glimpse of 6 months into the future and you're just a few weeks after those glimpses, what can materialize out of the fate argument? LOST was different because we had already seen what had happened in the future when they went in the past. Flash Forward gave us a small window of the future and some people are skeptical. The mystery really is figuring out why it happened. And keep in mind, this wasn't natural, it was clearly man made and because we've been given that information, it kind of relieves us from thinking about fate.

Flash Forward isn't perfect but the mystery is compelling and there's no sense in comparing it to Lost.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Worst episode ever on Sunday. Really, really, really stupid and just totally unrealistic. Curb was in it's wheelhouse when you could relate to the stories. There is nothing relatable to getting arrested for taking complimentary napkins. The awkwardness of the midriff was a good start but when someone is defending an employee for dressing inappropriately and acting like Larry is wrong, you're completely off base.

Furthermore, Larry and Jerry together was awful. Larry needs a foil, not someone who agrees with everything he says. Jerry kind of explains how Larry got to be so inconsiderate, but it made for terrible television. I just hope the rest of the reunion is better than this.

5:55 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Here's the thing with Flash Forward. Ultimately, the flash forwards have to be true, or the show's going to feel like one big cheat. Now, my theory is that we're missing plenty of context on the flash forwards, so what we've seen is only a small piece of the story. But clearly the trend we see is that the flash forwards are true and our characters are all struggling to accept them and cope with what they mean. But you can't just ignore the issue of fate that's right in our faces. If those flash forwards are true, this means, like Lost, that the future is already written and like Eloise Hawking said, even if you can change a small piece of the future, the universe will course correct.

Someone on another blogged posed a simple question: If you saw yourself in the future with all your limbs and fingers intact, you wonder what would happen if someone tried to chop off a finger to see what would happen.

And I guess that's my biggest problem with the show (aside from some of my writing complaints which are much more easily corrected): that the characters only dance around the truth of these flash forwards. They read what they want in to them, hope that they're either true or not true, and in the case of our major continuing plot line, act as though they are true, but there's no focus on what this all means. The scene with the priest from last week, was a real missed opportunity: Judeo-Christian thought centers around the concept of free will and God's gift to man of the ability to make our own choices, so the idea that our paths are already laid out to us is, well, confusing to say the least. I'm not saying this is what the show needs to be about, but to miss out on all the great thematic opportunities your premise has offered is another example of bad writing. And maybe that's the big problem too, the complete and utter lack of subtlety. Every theme, every plot point, is hammered home through mediocre and at times lousy dialogue.

2:07 PM  
Blogger McMc said...

I really disagree with what your saying and I think you're really just trying to rush everything. Please stop comparing the show to LOST, it will do you absolutely no good and it's just not a fair comparison when LOST has one season to go and we're just five? episodes into Flash Forward.

You mention cutting off a finger to see what would happen and that's not really the right example. Think about South Park when Stan pretended to cut off his hand to prove his future self wasn't himself. Stan could try that because his future was literally standing right next to him and this experiment would either prove or disprove his point. In terms of Flash Forward, if you cut off your finger, you still have to wait 6 months to get to exact time and moment you supposedly saw yourself.

Now, Flash has already had two "finger cut" moments: Mark burning the friendship bracelet he was wearing in his vision and Janis getting shot and being told pregnancy would be near impossible. You ignore those, so let me tie them into my point:

Since the future has yet to be experienced and since we are still 6 months away from these supposed futures, why would there be such a desire to test fate/free will? Things are just starting to materialize and all the characters have thought about what their flashes mean and depending on what they saw they are either ignoring them or tentatively trusting them. Other than the ER doctor who was about to commit suicide, who else has taken their glimpse as pure fact? You could argue Mark, but now he has no intention of drinking, he burned the bracelet and really he's just following leads that were on his board. Olivia has openly ignored her flash forward and has gone out of the way to ignore Lloyd. The AA Sponsor, Aaron, exhumed his dead daughter and has seemingly been proved wrong about his flash. Janis not only "can't" get pregnant, but she was with a woman very recently and had no intention of switching to men. Much like LOST, the tests of fate and free will are going to happen later, not right now. And much like LOST, we're being teased with fate/free will ever so slightly as the episodes move on. But like I said, given what these characters saw, why would there be such an immediate need to discuss what they mean?

Now, wouldn't the more pressing question be why this happened? Millions of people died, not everyone blacked out and science is suggesting this has happened before and that it might be man made. Combine that with a complete mixed bag of visions that include sitting on the toilet and I think it's fair to excuse people from getting too sucked into the philosophical side of things right away.

You questioned Demetri for his actions but he's another one you're just not getting. The man simultaneously has nothing to lose and everything to lose. He has been getting mixed messages of what is actually going to happen to him and instead of just sitting around talking about what it all means, he's just taking action to figure something, anything out. Is is really that unreasonable that he'd be acting out in such a way? He has the most incentive to find out what it means and in finding out what it means, he's trying to figure out why. After all, if you can figure out why it happened, you'll be able to what it means in much better context.

I'm just going to preach to you to relax. I know the show has it's flaws but that's to be expected. If you want to compare it to LOST, do so by comparing season one to season one, not season one to season five. LOST evolved to where it is now, Flash Forward is in the very early stages of evolving to what you probably want it to be.

11:17 PM  

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