I haven't done too many multi-show entries this season, since some people complain about them and they generally draw fewer comments than the posts for single shows. But every now and then, I just don't have enough time or energy to devote multiple paragraphs to a show, or I come to it so late after it airs that it feels like the conversation's already come and gone. It's why I haven't blogged about "Grey's Anatomy" in weeks, for instance; I don't get to them until Saturday or Sunday, and by then, nobody cares.
Still, every now and then I want to touch quickly on some shows I've missed, or make room for a show I wouldn't have time to write about otherwise. So before I get back to writing my post-Thanksgiving columns, some brief thoughts on, in order, "Journeyman," "The Simpsons," "Grey's Anatomy" and, of all things, "ER," after the jump...
Things continue to get interesting on "Journeyman," as Dan decides to defy the "rules" by going after the pedophile kidnapper -- and, for whatever reason, the time travel gods decide, after a while, to let him do it instead of zapping him back to the present whenever he starts to go off-mission -- we get our first major instance of Dan rewriting the timeline in a way that directly affects him (by erasing all the progress he'd made with Jack), and Father Phil of the FBI gets the very bright idea to study the search history on Dan's iPhone. And after being a willing, almost enthusiastic accomplice the last few episodes, Katie is (rightly) back to thinking Dan's new side job is a tremendous imposition on their family. Looking forward to seeing where all this goes -- and, given the time travel milieu, a scenario where Dan gets to hit the cosmic reset button so the FBI stops looking for him wouldn't be such an annoying thing.
For the first act of this week's "Simpsons," I was in comic book geek heaven. A "Death of Aquaman" joke? A "Watchmen Babies" joke? Alan Moore, Daniel Clowes and Art Spiegelman (in Maus mask!) showing off super physiques and powers? Jack Black as an awesomely stereotypical hipster geek (complete with CD of ironic Korean Tom Jones covers)? All of it splendid... and then the episode made a sharp right turn and forgot about the comic book story altogether.
The "Simpsons" writers have been using the first act as a kind of self-contained red herring story for almost a decade, but this felt like one of the most abrupt shifts they've done. Usually Lisa or someone makes a meta comment late in the episode about how weird it was that they started out buying a funeral plot for Grandpa and instead wound up playing tennis against the Williams sisters, but here the fate of Comic Book Guy was left up in the air -- as was, for the matter, the status of Marge's super-successful chain of women's gyms.
And yet, despite being a strange, completely disjointed episode without even the usual token nods to continuity (say, a throwaway line at the end about how the gym chain went bust), this was a really funny episode even when the nerds went away. It's the second or third time now that Marge has gone on a fitness kick (I loved the steroid episode), but I got a big kick out of her shame at working in a gym for cool people -- complete with O.K. Go treadmill parody -- and especially at the Oprah spoof. ("When are you and Straightman getting married?" "You get a German cuckoo clock! And you get a German cuckoo clock! Everybody's getting a German cuckoo clock!") By the time they got to all of Homer's weird plastic surgeries, the episode went off a cliff, but even there there was a nice recovery with a fairly heartfelt discussion of why Marge is still with Homer. We've had the same conversation a few dozen times over the years, but when you're on this long, what are you gonna do?
"Grey's Anatomy" has been finding its groove again of late. The Lexie/Meredith relationship has added an interesting color to the show without stacking the deck in either character's favor. The Callie/Bailey chief resident switch should hopefully restore the dignity of both. Justin Chambers has convincingly begun to assert himself as a leading man type now that the writers are giving Karev more to do. Brooke Smith is welcomely bitchy in a way that evokes early Addison without directly copying her. Best of all, the current developments in the George and Izzie romance, while not redeeming either character, suggests that the writers have finally recognized what a dumb idea this was. (And if this was the plan all along, boy did they need a third-party character -- Cristina -- to point out early and often how they didn't seem like they'd work as a couple.)
This latest episode hit on Shonda's pet theme of how her characters (and/or their creator) have never really escaped high school. On the one hand, I'm tired of this worldview and wish that at least one of the regulars could let go of their adolescence. On the other, it's what "Grey's Anatomy" has really always been about, and Shonda's a lot better at, say, showing Bailey fawn over her high school crush than she is at writing big disaster episodes. (Of course, that's what it looks like the next two episodes will be. Sigh...) I really like what they've done with Thatcher Grey and how Lexie's situation mirrors Meredith's own, not that Meredith can see it, and I enjoyed that girl from "The Nanny" much better here as a teen outcast than I did when she was shoving her boobs in David Duchovny's face on "Californication."
Finally, "ER." Hey, remember "ER"? Every now and then, I get a compulsion to check back in on the gang at County General before giving up a few weeks later because I've seen all these stories a million times before with characters I had greater attachments to. With the show approaching 300 episodes (which will probably merit a column of some kind), it's been once more unto the breach the last few episodes, and... I haven't hated it. Really like parts of it, in fact.
The focus has been on Abby, who's the longest-running character and someone who, back when I was watching more steadily, vascillated between my favorite character and someone whose scenes I reflexively fast-forwarded through. (Oddly appropriate, given her family's history of bi-polar disorder, though I don't think the writers intend for me to have that reaction to her.) Maura Tierney has been acting the hell out of this story arc, in which Abby fell off the wagon and -- in a moment that felt exra-shocking because of how casually it was presented -- into the bed of the new ER chief. (Played by Stanley Tucci as if no one ever told him "3 lbs." had been canceled.) Alcoholic characters hitting bottom is a TV cliche, but it's being handled here in a matter-of-fact, quietly devastating manner.
A lot of the newer characters go by in a blur for me (though I'm glad Linda Cardellini went back to being a brunette; a much better look for her), but that may be part of the point. There was a funny meta joke a couple of episodes ago where Chuny, one of the few characters who've been with the show since the beginning, notes how much the ER has changed since the days Mark Greene and Doug Ross ran the place, and one of the newer nurses asked, "Who?" The show's been on so long that I'm sure a good chunk of the audience had the same reaction to that line. As with "The Simpsons," it's hard not to keep repeating old stories, but because there's been so much turnover in both the cast and the audience, they're still getting away with it. Whether this is the last season or not (John Wells was negotiating for one more before the strike began), I may have been sucked back in unti the end -- or at least through the upcoming Jeannie Boulet guest arc.
What did everybody else think?