Archive for the ‘TV Review’ Category

Admittedly, I think there’s something charming about dark humor. Opportunities to laugh at death, disease, and hopelessness are obviously rare and a bit taboo, but these occasions aren’t meant to disrespect our grievances. They are meant to alleviate our despairs. This brand of comedy is ironic and satirical, and I personally admire it. As a person who takes things too personally, I’m in constant need of a kick in the pants to remind me that life is too short. Now, since such a kick would be excruciatingly painful, I’d rather take an alternative: just watch Louis CK’s latest comedy series on FX, Louie.

Louie isn’t really a sitcom. It’s a collection of semi-autobiographical short films about Louis CK’s life as a newly divorced single father in New York City. Acting as bookends to these short films are segments of stand-up from the comedian himself, and the material could not be any more morbid. Yet, laughs are given in return and the show remains light on its feet.

This new series is surprisingly comforting. Yes, there’s something deeply sad about putting your dog to sleep, vaginal infection, homophobia, and death, but it is these misfortunes that Louie bravely confronts in order to connect us together as imperfect, lonely people. After watching an episode, it’s surprisingly hard to feel that bad about the misery that surrounds us in life. I guess that’s just how irony works.


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Nothing is more delightful than seeing someone else succeed. Through their accomplishments, you feel proud, ecstatic, and extremely inspired. After watching Full Measure, the finale of Breaking Bad’s third season, I harbor those exact sentiments. The cast and crew have come a very long way since their first season-a strong yet short string of only seven episodes-and now, they are responsible for creating some of the best television ever.

So what do we have here? Well, after last week’s tragic Half Measures, our two protagonists, Walt and Jesse, once again find themselves in the deep end of the pool. This time, they have no one to save them-no more divine intervention, no more Deus ex Machina-and what’s causing them to sink rapidly is their own psychological trauma. Beyond that, their boss, Gus, is no longer the friendly manager but the tactically vicious kingpin we’ve seen bits and pieces of throughout this season.

One step ahead is Walt, now in full Heisenberg mode, who seems to have erased any memory of killing one of Gus’ meth dealers in cold blood to save his partner. Jesse, who began this season with the notion that he was the bad guy, has slowly come to realize that he isn’t so evil after all. Sure, he’s done some bad things, but his heart has ultimately been in the right place. We, the audience, have made note of his sincerity since the very beginning, and because of that, we’ve rooted for him; so seeing him slowly come to this peaceful conclusion on his own these past few episodes has been a cathartic and intense joy.

And so, when Jesse unwillingly loses his last bit of innocence, the tragedy cannot be more painful. Seeing him tear up as he pulls the trigger on Gale, an ambiguously innocent character, is unforgettably sad. Walt, whose immoral actions in the past two seasons were triggered by the selfless will to support his family, now engineers decisions with selfishness and desperation. Sometimes, these decisions mean having to bring others down to his level.

Surprisingly, the effects of Walt’s decisions haven’t typically put him in a position of power, but at the end of Full Measure, he gains a staggering amount of leverage. Seeing him yank the rug from underneath Mike, the show’s most seemingly poised character, is one of the most terrifying and discomforting moments of the entire series. In fact, the composure of characters such as Gus and now Mike, slowly started cracking during last week’s Half Measures, and by the end of the finale, everyone is in the deep end. Everyone’s playing almost entirely submerged in high stakes, anxiety, and uncertainty.

No one is in complete control, and everyone’s breaking bad.

Once again, Breaking Bad has produced a beautifully unpredictable season. The show’s characters have evolved in unexpected ways, and the direction has become more panoramic, thus raising the stakes. We were blessed with insane episodes such as Sunset and One Minute, and we were glad to see the return of slower, more ponderous “bottle” episodes such as Fly. Overall, season three was near perfect, and Full Measure was a fantastic and devastating way to cap it off.

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That long awaited final image of LOST…Would it be a sunken island? The death of our beloved LOSTies? The demise of the Man in Black? The reveal of something completely mysterious?

Well, it was none of those…

Instead we got an eye. It was that same eye that first captivated us 120 episodes ago. It was an eye that eloquently symbolized farewell and acceptance, poetically giving magnitude and contrast to that visual motif we’ve been familiar with all series long. With emotion and tactfulness, the series finally proclaimed the ultimate point of its very existence. LOST is about a core of individuals engaging against an adversary that isn’t defined by black smoke, polar bears, or other hostile island inhabitants. Instead, this adversary is the all pervasive past that belongs to each and every one of our haunted protagonists.

In short, it’s about moving on and letting go. It’s not about the destination but about the journey. It’s about the realization that, “The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people.” And that’s essentially it. The island, the time travel, the Dharma Initiative, the smoke monster, and the numbers…None of it really matters.

A thesis such as that is, yes, poetic and poignant, but it sure is problematic. In some ways, it is a cop out. The mythology that has uniquely enriched the show these past six years is now inconsequential. The End‘s ostensible disregard for the island’s mystery was rather unfair since the island, itself, has always been a pivotal character. Giving all of our human characters the most sentimental and happy of endings was uneven without a proper salutation to the island, the sole entity that brought these characters together. Of course, tying every single loose end would have been impossible, but seeing several components of the show’s mythos go unnoticed in the finale made the overall narrative less complete.

Now I don’t mean to discredit the finale; high expectations could only be derived out of deep admiration and respect for such a great show. As a singular episode, The End was entertaining, well paced, and highly epic. Michael Giacchino’s masterful score percolated perfectly into each action sequence, each nostalgic flash, and each warm embrace. All emotions were superlatively expressed by the clear direction of Jack Bender, LOST’s most trustworthy director. By the end, The End subtly transformed into a sort of “Best Of” epilogue, but it never became tedious. Due to our love for these characters, seeing Lapidus and Richard survive, Sawyer and Juliet reunite, Vincent prop himself next to a dying Jack, Locke forgive Ben, Hurley become the new Jacob, Jack finally square off against Locke, and all of those reminiscing flashbacks only brought joy. Genuine joy. This was the happiest finale we could ever receive.

The finale clearly attempted to be a fair retelling of everyone’s stories, and thus, some concluding character arcs were narrowed. For instance, Desmond and Ben had great development during What They Died For that led me to assume they’d be key figures in the finale’s events. However, their roles became pedestrian halfway through the The End. Even Jack’s plan to kill Locke was tenuous when he, himself, ha no clue of what to do with Desmond, the supposed ultimate weapon.

As is every episode in LOST, I am etched with duality. I am happy for those who thought the finale was perfect, and I sympathize with those who still desire a lot more. For now, I’ve come to accept it for what it was. The End was unexpectedly straightforward and simple. Its final revelation that the flashsideways was not an alternate reality but a purgatory didn’t raise eyebrows because every event that ever held any meaning to our characters already happened. The only thing left for them to do was to move on and to live happily together in an afterlife. In The End, they did.

And we, too, must move on. Yes, the finale was a cop out that disregarded several elements from the later seasons (time travel, the origin of the Island, Jacob and the Man in Black), but it was still the most elegant and heartfelt cop out- one that resembled the earlier seasons’ emotional storytelling (not the cop out part). It was an unbalanced finale to a typically balanced show, and for that, one part of me says, “Son of a bitch,” while the other part of me says, “That’s alright, brotha.”

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Sometimes, Community makes odd decisions. What normally makes these decisions inoffensive, though, is the strong conviction that comes from the show’s writing and acting. Fashionably, the first season ends with an odd choice, but this time, it lacks courage to make any impact.

For the entirety of Pascal’s Triangle Revisited, Jeff is confronted with the love triangle that has entangled him for the last few episodes, and he solves it by opting for neither of his two pursuers, Britta or Professor Slater. Instead, he concludes the finale by sharing a tender, albeit unexpected moment with Annie, a third love interest who has been the proverbial dark horse in the race for Jeff’s heart all season long.

I’m still unsure of what to make from Community’s finale. The love triangle’s intriguing setup for complexity is overly simplified by Britta’s uncharacteristic proclamation of love and by Professor Slater’s immature nature. Furthermore, Jeff’s resulting silence towards the two is both a lazy and ambiguous way to sidestep an interesting arc. Having him eventually go with an outsider, Annie, is not completely out of the blue in the context of the season as a whole, but their chemistry and development in this particular episode are neglected by the writers.

I don’t want my cynicism to get in the way of my sentiments towards Jeff and Annie because I do love the two of them together. Their relationship simply deserves a much better constructed setup.

And so, an excellent first season unexpectedly ends without any clear resolution. The show, once again, strives for something unordinary, but that something mostly feels questionable and, therefore, a tad bit underwhelming.

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Season finales can be difficult for sitcoms such as Modern Family. I say this because the show lacks an overarching narrative, and it must be forced to achieve a sense of finality out of nowhere. Season one was given the great opportunity to end with its perfect and surreal two-part family vacation (Airport 2010 and Hawaii), but writers chose to end more appropriately-with chaos, frustration, and a little bit of love.

Although Family Portrait is a weaker episode than Hawaii, it more realistically depicts this television family as one that we can call our very own. From Claire and that problematic step to Mitchell and the frightful pigeon, the finale includes relatable situations that further illustrate the neuroses (and admirable selflessness) that’s not only prevalent in fictional families, but also in real ones such as my own.

The episode’s biggest gags are nowhere near the cleverest we’ve seen from Modern Family; Phil’s guilty dilemma and Mitchell’s yelling aren’t too unique, but they still produce heartfelt laughs. Furthermore, the conclusion to the finale is a bit more manufactured than usual; it’s immediately clear that the family portrait will end with dirt somehow getting on their clothes, and Claire’s transformation from anger to acceptance is too quick. However, the buildup to the entire mess is worthwhile. Big family moments such as portraits are meant to be perfect and transcendent, but, of course, they are always ridiculed by acts of nature that only make them stressful. Yet, at the end of the tiresome day, the payoff includes a realization that being part of a family is one incredible concept.

That’s why Modern Family works. It provokes reflection upon our own lives that usually concludes with a “That’s exactly like my family” or a “How embarrassing” or even a “Man, I love my family.” There are highs, lows, fights, and group hugs, and the show captures all of them-sometimes with finesse, and other times with clumsiness. It’s all part of the process that goes into developing a premier season, and I think Modern Family will only blossom from here.

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Television’s comedy underdog returns for a second season, premiering in unconventionally sedate fashion. The antics of Party Down are typically boisterous, but the newest episode reserves its signature humor in order to catch us up with our beloved characters.

Nine months have passed since Ron (Ken Marino) was fired, Henry (Adam Scott) was promoted to team leader, and Casey (Lizzy Caplan) was offered a stand-up comedy gig on a cruise ship, but season two seamlessly brings everyone back together. Awkwardness ensues between Henry and Casey, who were romantically involved throughout season one, and only pathetic inadequacy continues to define Ron’s life.

Clever exposition is used to bring everyone back to speed, and the rest of the episode is filled with passable humor. The premise is unfortunately more appealing than its actual execution, and only a decent premiere is produced.

The underwhelming delivery of Jackal Onassis Backstage Party isn’t necessarily a disappointment. It’s a necessity that illustrates what’s to come for our heroes stuck in drudgery and mundaneness. It’s a light that alludes to the promising amusement we will get from watching our heroes deal with the proverbial bullshit that comes with working in food services.

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After a year on hiatus, the highly anticipated United States of Tara begins its sophomore season with a disappointing step. The episode meanders for twenty three minutes until it reaches a climactic reveal that is as predictable as it is miscalculated. Additionally, the subplots barely attempt to add resonance to the rest of our familiar characters, ultimately creating an underwhelming thematic base for this week.

The reason that this episode is a disappointment is because the show does have heart. Despite the haters that rip on the show primarily because of Diablo Cody’s involvement, the series is quite strong.

Its characters are some of Cody’s most well-defined; Tara, a mother who has dissociative identity disorder, isn’t just an outlet for Cody to imbue one-dimensional, hipster wit, but rather an interestingly damaged person. At times the show does suffer in strengthening its background characters, but rarely does this become an annoying problem. Yes, however, easily alludes to these hindrances with almost meaningless subplots for Tara’s kids, Marshall, a sexually confused teenager, and Kate, a rebellious teen who decides to graduate from high school a few months early.

All the while, Tara becomes traumatized by a neighbor’s suicide, a tenuous Deus ex machina that’s implemented to bring Tara back to face off against her multiple personalities. What makes Tara’s transition from normalcy to inevitable abnormality is the great acting from Toni Colette. The show balances drama and comedy so well, and Colette rises to the occasion every time. Her surprising yet completely deserving award of Best Actress in a Comedy at the Emmys last year is bolstered by her portrayal in Yes. She isn’t given much to do, but she manages to provide a superb performance.

I’m glad to have United States of Tara back on television. Despite the premiere’s misstep, season two has the potential to provide the show’s most endearing moments. Our characters are already established, and I wholeheartedly believe in and love them as a family. The second half of season one is particularly compelling, and I was hoping for that momentum to carry over to season two. So a minor stumble in the premiere is an obvious disappointment. But hey, there’s always next week.

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