Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Yes, and... S&M?

Round-up time, with spoilers for, in order, "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," "In Plain Sight" and "My Boys" coming up just as soon as I take a suggestion from the audience...

Nobody seemed too put out by my lack of blogging on last week's "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," and based on the early reactions and the declining ratings (it's now drawing about half of the "Weeds" audience, despite debuting at the same level), I doubt anybody cares at this point. But I watched all the episodes and thought this was one of the better ones, so blog it I shall.

Despite the general sauciness of Billie Piper, I find Hannah/Belle to be quite a bland, empty character, and so when the show focuses on her and her various existential crises, I don't much care. But when it focuses on the minutiae of life as a call girl, it can be entertaining in the same way that "Burn Notice" is whenever Michael's explaining how to kill a man using nothing but duct tape and a melon baller. So while Hannah's schism with Ben, and her eventual decision to come out of the ho closet for him, wasn't very interesting, Belle walking us through her fitness/grooming routine and then getting a crash course in dominatrix work was amusing.

That's two "In Plain Sight" episodes in a row now where I spent the entire time staring through the holes in the plot. So it's bad for someone in WitSec to have their picture appear in a wedding announcement in the local paper, but it's totally fine for someone else in the program to be the star player on a successful college basketball team, even if it's in Division-II? Huh? And is there any circumstance in which a player got caught up in fixing games -- even though he was doing it under duress, it was his own gambling problem that put him in this situation -- would only get a one-year suspension that wouldn't derail his NBA prospects? (And, again, shouldn't Mary be shutting down any talk of going pro, vis a vis the whole anonymity thing? I get that he was just a kid when he went into the program and looks different, but it still makes no sense.) The stuff about Mary's dad the gambler, and about Marshall hooking up with his old prof weren't bad, keeping with the tradition of the character work being much better than the plots, but next week's episode is going to seem like it takes place in a completely different universe from the last two.

Finally, the latest "My Boys" made me want to retract the previous week's statement about Brendan being the least relevant character on the show, because the Dr. Brendo running gag was the funniest part of this episode. (I had a stomachache over the weekend and wandered around the house declaring my intention to place ice on my belly.) Unfortunately, it was really the only funny part. Mike being terrible at improv and using it to blatantly and unsuccessfully hit on women was both labored and a pale imitation of Michael Scott's improv classes from "The Office," plus it continues the transformation of Mike from abrasive goofball to possibly brain-damaged loser. I'm assuming the bit about Nia Vardalos being Andy's new best friend will be some kind of ongoing storyline, which doesn't exactly excite me, and the writers are going to have to be very careful with the PJ/Bobby/Elsa triangle to avoid making their heroine look bad.

What did everybody else think?


Bobman said...

God I really want to like In Plain Sight. I need a mindless but still OK summer show, I like Mary McCormack and Fred Weller and their witty banter... they just really need to tighten up the storylines as you've mentioned. Even if there weren't huge plotholes, the plots aren't even that compelling, and the way they wrapped up this week's was just way too easy and glossed over.

Amy said...

My suggestion for Bobman, I too was looking forward to In Plain Sight, but it just didn't work out for me. I'm still saving it on the dvr in hopes the reviews start coming in better or that i have a rainy afternoon to kill, but I feel I will more like deleted them for space.

ANYWAY the suggestion, Psych starts next week, I think you will get more of what you want there.

As for my boys...well my dvr cuts out the last 20 seconds every week no matter how I think I set it.

What did PJ say to Bobby?

dez said...

^Yeah, that ending was a little too pat, even for light summer entertainment. Still, I love Mary and Marshall's interactions, so I'll keep watching. Especially with The Bunk on deck for next week!

Bill said...

The anonymity issue in IPS was so distracting that I actually thought I had missed something or that the other shoe was going to drop -- whatever that shoe was. When the episode ended, I just felt ... unsatisfied, but in that way you are when you thought you were watching one thing, and once it's ended you realized you were watching something else. I still thought I had missed something. It's not a minor plot hole, after all, though it is one that would be smaller if this were the only episode you saw.

I like Mary McCormack, but I don't watch many of these case-of-the-week shows, and I wouldn't be watching this one if it weren't summer.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What did PJ say to Bobby?

"Yes, and... Geronimo!"

Whether that means she's going to tell him her feelings five seconds later, or that she means he should go all-in with the Elsa idea, I have no clue.

BGF said...

To use a cliche, IPS felt exactly like an after-school special. The basketball scenes were INTERMINABLE. I cannot believe how much basketball padded out the episode. And the resolution of the plot is that the hero realizes that people believe in him? With a dismissal of the complication that the bookie knows he's in protection? Yikes that was bad.

Bobman said...

ANYWAY the suggestion, Psych starts next week, I think you will get more of what you want there.

Thanks for the suggestion Amy. I've never seen Psych, is it something that requires knowledge of previous seasons?

R.A. Porter said...

Hmm. I'm a geek, so let me do some IPS math.

- Mary Mac > Ken Howard ('cause she looks better in a skirt)
- Protectee of the Week < Curtis Jackson

Looks like it's a tie with The White Shadow.

No, wait! I forgot the bonus points
-Salami > Marshall!!!

Just edged out by a Van Patten!

R.A. Porter said...

@bobman, it wouldn't hurt to have seen prior seasons of Psych, but it pretty much stands on its own. It's a light-hearted procedural like Monk with (depending on your perspective) great chemistry between the leads or an annoying star.

I'm in the former camp and think it's one of the funnier and more fun shows on the air.

If I recall, Alan only watches 'cause the theme song sucks him in. :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

If I recall, Alan only watches 'cause the theme song sucks him in. :)

That's basically it. I find the hero to be an insufferable D-bag, and yet I like the show around him (the theme song especially).

Anonymous said...

That's pretty much how I felt about both IPS and MB, though I do think I like IPS slightly more than most. The character stuff was strong enough to make me ignore the ridiculous WitSec part of the story. Are we to hope that the previews for next week's show which pointed out how they can't be in the same job they had in their previous life will allow us to fanwank away these last two episodes? Still love the Marshall and Mary personal lives, so it's not like I'm going anywhere anyway, but it would be nice to have a plot that works better than half of the ones we've gotten.

As for MB: I was just talking to someone about how Brendan is the least interesting of them all and then, boom, he becomes the funniest guy in the room. I'm still enjoying Kenny as ladies man and I liked everything that didn't directly involve improv, but the actual improv scenes were just painful. Painful improv played for laughs is fine by me, but it was just so bleh. If the joke was that these are actors who are good at improv (at least Kaler is, I don't know about Gaffigan) playing guys who suck at improv then I can at least acknowledge that that's a cute joke on paper, but it's also pretty inside and didn't really work on any level. The best result of the improv show, imo, was Stephanie's "I can't believe I watched a 20 minute scene about it" line.

I don't really get the whole Nia Vardalos thing, though it's been clear from the start that Jo was a woman. She's cute enough in small doses, but she and Andy were obnoxious together. I hope that whole storyline gets wrapped up this week.

Anonymous said...

I've liked most of In Plain Sight so far, but this was awful. The basketball plot was boring, plus very hard to even follow with too much talking rather than showing(they somehow figured out the older brother was kidnapped, made a big deal out of it being why he's throwing the game rather than his gambling problem, and the resolution of the kidnapping is offscreen?). Marshall's relationship with the professor didn't go anywhere or enlighten anyone in any way, and the less said about the after-school special nature of the GA support group and Mary's out of character crying, the better. Add in the aforementioned inconsistency in the witness rules, and it's just a bad hour. A few more of these and I may drop the show.

That being said, the single redeeming moment in the show for me was Mary's rage at time travel movies. It's a funny enough character beat to begin with, but made even better since McCormick played it as exasperation from all the time she's spent arguing with people over them.


Anonymous said...

The only part I disagree on is the crying being OOC. I think it was set up in the Foley episode that Mary's capable of breaking when it's in relation to someone she loves. First Marshall then the long lost Dad. If she kept breaking down each week over everything from the toast burning to phone company commercials then I'd have a problem, but Marshall and Dad seem worthy of crying over. It's a bit cliche, but she's a hard ass on the job but vulnerable with regards to bad things happening to (or being done by) the people she loves.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not surprisingly, not a single comment on Secret Diary. Even though I watched the whole season, I suspect I won't be blogging about it down the road, especially during press tour.

Anonymous said...

Lol, Alan. I was actually checking the comments to see if anyone had written about Secret Diary. I like the show and will gladly read anything you write about it, but I have to admit it's pretty inconsequential and not a great source for blogging.

Maxwell Q said...

I too am watching Secret Diary, and appreciate Alan's thoughts but can't argue with the thought that there is not too much to discuss there.

As for IPS, while I agree this was a weak, formulaic episode that particularly suffered from having a story that was seemingly too big for its budget, I have to note that they at least tried to explain away the big plot holes (which they didn't really the week before) by noting that these were Mary's first witnesses and therefore had been in the program for a long time, meaning the program was less concerned about them and their activites. I thought that was at least a credible, if not convincing, attempt to explain how a witness was playing college basketball.

Undercover Asian Man said...

In Plain Sight -

As a guy who likes to put a bet down on occasion, I couldn't bring myself to sympathize with Chris at all. The bookie didn't force him to bet, didn't give him bad betting lines (not these days with the Internet), and actually provided him a service. If the bookie did anything wrong, it was not cutting Chris off earlier and demanding payment at around ~$5000 if that was what he could pay.

Trying to make Chris the victim left me with a real sour taste. What if Chris would have won $15000? If the bookie goes to Mary about it, does he get the 15K back? No! So essentially, Chris either wins a ton of money (not that unlikely - sports betting is usually a 53% to 47% underdog proposition, not outrageous (i.e. State lotteries)), or loses but doesn't have to pay because he goes to the law instead. How is that honorable or fair? The bookie took significant risks in taking those bets. Just because he is a slight favorite to win doesn't mean losers shouldn't have to pay. Chris is the scumbag because he played over his head and then not only welched, but took out a bookie for others who don't mind playing by the rules.

Also, another poorly researched / written segment. Marshall tells Mary that Chris' team is a "half point favorite" for that night's game. This is an impossible line for a basketball game, because basketball NEVER ENDS IN A TIE. That half point will never come into play, so the line would be a "PK" (Pick'em), or a one point favorite. Note tha 1.5 or 5.5 or other 'half point' spreads are fine, but not the half point by itself in basketball.

Anonymous said...

I'm also still watching Diary... but then again, I must be a whack job... I'm still watching Weeds too.

Kensington said...

Secret Diary of a Call Girl is generally little more than a chance for Billie Piper to be sexy, and that's fine, but there's not much need to talk about it afterward, sort of like an actual appointment with a prostitute, I would imagine.

That said, there were some comment-worth aspects to this week's episode. I liked very much the relationship between Belle and her Tax guy, particularly the genuine affection they seem to have for each other. The little quiet moment they shared after Belle went too far with the discipline was quite lovely, I thought.

And I do like the asides where Belle explains the nuts and bolts of things, like the fact that so much of the S&M session was pre-scripted and agreed upon in advance via email, down to the specific insults that would be allowed. It's not a lifestyle that appeals to me, but the sensitivity with which it was presented was interesting.

Finally, I have to say that I find it a bit depressing that Billie left Dr Who to do this instead. Dr Who was a much better showcase for her talents.

Anonymous said...

I am glad I wasn't the only one who had a White Shadow flashback during those basketball scenes in IPS...only difference I could tell was in the length of the shorts (longer) and the socks (shorter) than the ones worn by ol' Carver High.
Can't wait to see the Bunk next week...will Jimmy or Kima make an appearance at all? :)