“it always looks so gray before the fall…”

We are half-way through the TV season – most shows just went on their winter break. Come, join me on a ramble about the state 2009-2010 TV season.

Well, at least for the shows I watch.

The Office
This has been a wildly uneven season – perhaps  more uneven than season five (though I would argue, after watching the season on DVD that season five holds up better in one go). There have been some very good,  perhaps even great, – episodes like “Gossip” and “Murder” – and the writers handled the wedding of Jim and Pam as well as can be expected but much of this season has fell flat. “Scott’s Tots” was one of the worst episodes they have come up with – the show has always walked a fine line between cruelty and comedy and in that episode they really, really crossed the line. The “Dunder Mifflin going out of business” arc seemed to go nowhere and lacked tension, remarkably enough. It also seems that the writer’s are backpedaling on some of the character growth in previous seasons – namely with Dwight. Dwight had grown some soft edges over the course of the fourth and fifth seasons and really started to grow as a character – he basically became less of a dick. That is all gone now and very disappointing and annoying. It is clear that the writers didn’t know where to take the character anymore so they went backwards. This is not saw that the season has been bad – there a lot of great things about The Office. The writers have been using Ed Helms to great effect this season and thus the Andy/Erin romance plot is easily the thing to look forward to in each episode. The story of Jim and Pam remains as compelling as ever. But it sometimes seems that The Office is coasting on the strength of its great characters and not pushing itself enough.

30 Rock
My love for this show has been noted before. Alyssa Rosenberg believes that this season of 30 Rock has been weak. I have to disagree – not that there haven’t been problems. The plotting has been really weak this season and much of the supporting cast has been shunted aside – there are streaks of episodes where we barely see any of Jenna or Pete. This is a trend continuing from season three. And, yes, jokes about how “ugly” Tina Fey are laughable – not in the good way. Yet despite that this has been a strong season. First and foremost Alec Baldwin has brought his A game. He has delievered the sides and one liners – “Weird…in a good way. Like going to the gym drunk”- Fey and her writers have fed him each episode with great aplomb. Baldwin’s characterization of Jack has perfectly walks the line between ironic, wry detachment and honest emotion – as episodes like “Dealbreakers Talk Show No. 0001” and “Secret Santa” show. Tracy Morgan has also been great this season. How Morgan is able to deliever lines like “Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Fridays? I’ll tell you why: it’s because the Pope owns Long John Silver’s” in a way that makes you both laugh and take him serious is beyond me. But he does and really makes Tracey Jordan work as a character and a source of humor. 30 Rock is easily the best comedy on TV at the moment and that’s a crown I don’t think it’ll lose.

Season six had tough shoes to fill since season five was (mostly) brilliant – the final arc of episodes was truly heartrending. To to be honest this season hasn’t lived up to that legacy and has shown both the strengths and weaknesses of House. The season premier was truly ridiculous and sappy – when you are too sappy for me you know there’s trouble – and would have been unwatchable but for Hugh Laurie’s fantastic performance (as always). But what the ridiculous premier gave us was “healthy” House. House 2.0 is even more interesting, conflicted, and fucked up than “sick” House – as episodes like “Teamwork” show. Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, and Lisa Edelstein have been outstanding this season – no surprise there. But what season six of House has really brought out is how I could not give two shits and a fuck about the younger generation of doctors on this show. I constantly want to punch Foreman in the face, 13 is one of the more annoying and exploitative characters on TV (hot bisexual makeouts anybody?), and they had to screw up Chase’s character to make me even (very) remotely care about him. The only younger doctor I even sort of cared about was Cameron and part of me was very glad to see her go. Thus episodes that focus on the drama between Sexteen and Foreman or Chase murdering Darth Vader just fall flat. But really who watches House for its ER aspects? No, what caused me to download the first five season of this show on iTunes in a matter of weeks was Hugh Laurie. And in that department House is as excellent as ever.

How I Met Your Mother
My enjoyment How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) was always been contingent. There was so much for me to dislike about this show – its sexism, the weakness of the female characters, the laugh track, the jock-humor, the catch phrases, the contempt for veganism, the sexism, the fact that Ted is the most boring main character since the dude on Scrubs, etc. – I could go on. But HIMYM has some things going for it – namely Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel. I could seriously watch those two in pretty much anything.  My love for NPH and Segal along with the writers’ willingness to shake things up carried me through the show’s first four seasons. But season five has pretty much broke my what affection I had for this show. The fact that the writers’ aborted the Robin and Barney storyline – after three seasons of build up! – was truly stupid. But the worst is their treatment of Marshal and Lilly. What I always liked about this show is the fact that they were able to treat characters is a serious, committed relationship as neither a joke or fodder for drama. Oh sure HIMYM, being a comedy, made plenty of jokes at their expense – but you were always laugh with them and not at them. That changed in this season. Every arc in which they are featured this season has pretty much been at their expense – “Duel Citizenship” I’m looking at you. With Marshall and Lily’s treatment this season, the Barney/Robin clusterfuck, and Ted’s constant statements about how great the single life is (wasn’t this show supposed to be about him meeting his wife?) I am convinced that someone on the writing staff went through a bad divorce. And it has broke my (limited) affection for the show.

I will be the first to admit that this show is bad. Awful, really. It is also the poor man’s Bones. Plus it is a crime show and my days of obsessively watching Law & Order are long past. But I am, it must be said, a Nathan Fillion fanboy. I will watch him in pretty much anything no matter how stupid it is – and after watching “Vampire Weekend” you must admit that Castle is a stupid, stupid show. Here’s how Castle works: when Fillion is talking or doing something the show is interesting but whenever another character is doing anything the show gets bogged down in its own stupidity. At the end of every episode I wish that the two supporting detectives would just go away. But sadly, they don’t. The fact that the plotting on this show is god awful should go without saying. Really, I shouldn’t admit to watching this show but I have to disclose it – for honesty’s sake.

Venture Brothers
The fact that this season is superior to season three should go without saying. Really, it is difficult to quantify just how wonderful this season has been. It is almost impossible to pin down what’s been best. Was it the fact that they actually decided to do something with the boys? Was it that we got just the right amount of the Monarch? Or the introduction Sphinx? Or the kinder, gentler Dr. Venture? Is it Sgt. Hatred as Dr. Venture’s bodyguard? Is it the evolution of 24? In fact that the only thing to complain about was that we did not get enough of certain things. There wasn’t enough Brock, Pete White or Dr. O. And you know I was disappointed by a few things on the margins – I despise that they wrote off Trianna. But the worst thing about season four of the Venture Brothers was that the half-season finale made we want the second half now – the sanity of the creators be damned. There is no other show on TV quite like Venture Brothers and that’s what makes it easily the best show on TV.

Alright, that pretty much does it for what I watched this season, so far. In the New Year we get more Office, 30 Rock, and (maybe) Venture Brothers along with the return of Chuck and, most excitedly of all, Lost.

Feel free to disagree with my thoughts in the comments. What have you guys been watching while Blurred Productions has been gone?


9 Comments on ““it always looks so gray before the fall…””

  1. Kate says:

    It’s a shame about HOUSE b/c I ADORE Hugh Laurie. 😦
    I have LOVED all the Wilson/House stuff though. 🙂

  2. The House/Wilson stuff is the best part of the show!

  3. Tito says:

    Dissenting opinions!

    The Office: I agree with everything you say except for your take on “Scott’s Tots,” which I loved. Far too often in the show’s later seasons, Michael ends up succeeding in spite of himself; the show takes a few too many liberties with plausibility to make us root for him. It was nice seeing him in a squirm-inducing situation with no way out. Plus it was a nice summation of Michael’s character: where good intentions supersede logic with horrible, horrible results.

    30 Rock: I certainly wouldn’t claim the show has somehow fallen from grace, but this season has had its share of mediocre episodes. It probably still has the best one-liners on television, but the only episode I found really genius was “Sun Tea.” I wouldn’t complain about the supporting cast staying in the background. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan make the show… I’m pretty indifferent to everyone else.

    The Venture Brothers: This season has been so good in so many ways, especially now that clone-free Hank and Dean are maturing and becoming more and more distinct. It’s a shame there’s one leaden anchor keeping it from being sublime: Sgt. Hatred. The writers have tried their damnedest, but I really can’t buy him as a main character. He’s a grating one-joke character and it’s time for him to go. I was just starting to begrudgingly accept him until the last two nearly Hatred-free episodes. Then I was reminded of how much better the show is without him.

    In other Adult Swim news, “Metalocalypse” has fit into the new 30-minute format so perfectly that it’s already had its best season five episodes in.

  4. I basically agree with you, Tito. Except that I think that “Scott’s Tots” took it too far. It will be hard for me to feel bad for Michael in the future.

    As for 30 Rock, how can you not be interested in Jenna? She’s hilarious.

    I mostly agree with you about Sgt. Hatred. I liked the *idea* of him as the bodyguard more so than its actually execution. It did lead to some good humor, especially in the earlier episodes.

  5. Tito says:

    I think my favorite Hatred moment so far, at least as an idea, is how uncomfortable he got looking at the androgynous elves in the generic fantasy movie he went to with the boys.

  6. […] this season premier was one of the strongest episodes of Venture Brothers in the 4th season. I was a big fan of the first half of this season, so my bar was set pretty high for this episode – and Jackson Publick easily exceeded my […]

  7. […] September 21, 2010 As I’ve said before, my enjoyment of How I Met Your Mother has (and always will be contingent) and last season broke […]

  8. […] this episode. It was almost too good to review and my love for this show has been stated again and again. So, there’s not much more to […]

  9. […] sort of bothers me that I am always writing mean things on the internet about How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). What rubs me the wrong way about all […]

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