Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life, "Black Friday": Let's go to the mall (today)

Spoilers for last night's "Life" coming up just as soon as I note that the two other shows to have shared a timeslot with the show this year -- "My Own Worst Enemy" and "Lipstick Jungle" -- have apparently been canceled, while Charlie Crews and company are sitting relatively pretty with a full-season order...

"Black Friday" was a definite improvement over the last few episodes. The humor was really strong -- as with "House," the leading man's comedy chops become a useful crutch when other things aren't working -- and I especially enjoyed Charlie going all Crocodile Dundee(*) with the fruitcake.

(*) Hi, I'm old. Is there a more contemporary reference for a hero taking out a fleeing bad guy by throwing produce at him than a 22-year-old movie starring a walking tourism ad?

I also thought the world of the mall and the terrifying culture of Black Friday created fit the off-kilter sensibilities of "Life" very well, but as with the Stanford Prison Experiment episode, I feel like the episode dropped its main hook after about 10 or 15 minutes. Once we cut from Crews and Reese frantically searching for the body to Crews looking into another Wall of Blame candidate (played by legendary '80s movie sleazeball William Atherton!), all the tension of having to work a case on a day like this fell out. By the time we got back to the mall, the pace was far too leisurely.

Also, I could really do without either Crews romancing his ex or, as I've said, Reese contemplating a Tidwell hook-up. I suppose I should be grateful that the creative team has been wise enough to never so much as hint at a Crews/Reese romance, and so these storylines serve a purpose in making sure we understand the show isn't going to Go There, but they do little for me beyond that.

Still, it was an overall strong episode, and yet another entry in guest star Kyle Gallner's clip reel to make sure he monopolizes every homicidal teenager role on television.

What did everybody else think?

37 comments:

Clevelle said...

Yeah, casting KYLE GALLNER pretty much spoils "whodunit." So far I'm up to 3 times he's had that role (VERONICA MARS, THE SHIELD and LIFE) and I'm sure there are more. Good thing I don't watch this show for the "murder of the week."

Rachel said...

Kyle Gallner definitely gave it away, but like the first commenter, I don't watch this show for its mystery. Still liking the show, though it's still not quite as electric as the end of last season.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I watch and enjoy Lipstick Jungle so I'm a bummed though not surprised. It wasn't anything amazing, but I liked having a female-driven show in my weekly line-up. And the clothes (and Kirby's abs) were fabulous.

shara says said...

Kyle Gallner, if I remember correctly, was also a psycho kid in Medium, maybe in an episode where Allison was flashing back to her childhood? I'm pretty sure, but too lazy for an IMDB confirmation. I do really like the kid, though (he plays Psycho Kid very well, I must say) and hope that he can get past the typecasting because he seems really talented in general.

amysa said...

Poor Beaver. In addition to Gallner being the go to homicidal kid, most of the time he's the *victimized* homicidal kid. He's got his niche and he's playing it well, I guess.

I'm okay with both conspiracy (William Atherton is always welcome to be the bad guy on anything I watch)and romance when they fit, but I agree that it killed the pace last night. Plus, even though it was very clear when I thought about it, I lost track of time with everything that they tried to cram into the span of a couple of days.

Even though it's uncomfortable to watch, I am enjoying that they've made Tidwell sympathetic instead of just gross. I've been okay watching him be douchey at times, but the two times I've liked him most were when he was sitting on that bucket in the doorway of his office and last night when he pulled the fish out. I'm sappy.

shara says said...

I definitely enjoy his portrayal of The Flash on Smallville - although that's still sort of a troubled kid role. . .

dez said...

^I think they call him Impulse on Smallville :-)

Quick OT: Alan, did you see this? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27685225/ (scroll down to part about Pushing Daisies, which is not canceled, for now, THANK GOD!).

JR said...

Funny, I watched an episode of Monk this week in which the captain throws an FBI agent's gadget at a perp in just the same manner. Monk, of course, is also a show about a quirky detective genius.

But am I wrong in remembering that last week's episode of Life featured Charlie Crews throwing an apple the same way?

Alan Sepinwall said...

But am I wrong in remembering that last week's episode of Life featured Charlie Crews throwing an apple the same way?

There, he wasn't using it to stop a fleeing bad guy, but to prove that the "bodyguard" was really the bad guy. (A real bodyguard would have reacted better to something being tossed at him.)

Rachel said...

Oh, I missed your hilarious post title the first time around.

Feeling the urge to YouTube Robin Sparkles...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, I missed your hilarious post title the first time around.

You didn't miss it; I changed it, after realizing I had missed a golden Robin Sparkles opportunity.

Lance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lance said...

I'll be honest, I found this one just flat-out awful. The pacing was indeed off (most of the episode apparently took place over a day or two maximum, but everything was very relaxed), but I couldn't even make sense of the plot. Why were all the mall people working together? They acted like a cult, but apparently werne't? Why weren't security cameras used to look for suspects, or even addressed (unless they were and I missed it)? Why was Gallner's store closed on Black Friday? How did he have cash/resources for a store but not for a place to live? I can live with a weak/predictable plot from time to time on a show with an entertaining cast, but this just felt like a huge mess from start to finish.

Anonymous said...

My daughter, who usually doesn't watch the show said,"That kid did it, he always does." I like the Charlie/Jen scenes because IMO he seems to become a different person with her, giving insight into the old Charlie who was less guarded and relentlessly Zen. His posture relaxes when he talks to her. It is one of those subtle characterization choices that I love to see. I do however, hate, hate, hate the Reese/Tidwell pairing if for no other reason than I do not want to be forced to consider her coming in any kind of physical contact with that unshaven, greasy haired, skeevy dude. EWWW The employer/employee aspect doesn't even bother me as much as the squick factor!

amysa said...

I think I have less of a problem with it than I might had another actor be cast in the Tidwell role because Donal Logue manages to bring a sense of decency to his greasy and unwashed characters. There's a nice guy in there somewhere. He brings that out a little bit. I do wish he'd wash his damn hair, though.

Pamela Jaye said...

it took *that* long for Lipstick Jungle to be cancelled?

Last year I was surprised to be told it was still on the air. (I can't remember if was that one I saw one scene of, or the other one)

Courtney Anthony said...

Love the HIMYM reference

Anonymous said...

Is Tidwell using the Tao of Steve? How else could he out punt his coverage like that with Reese (assuming they end up dating)?

Nicole said...

When I saw Beaver I was confused and thought perhaps that I was watching another show by mistake. He really needs to stop with the killer roles because the five seconds it took me to figure out that it was still Life was enough for me to know who the killer was.

Damian Lewis was great as usual, but I don't like his ex-wife. They need to bring back Christina Hendricks. The only point to hooking up with the ex wife would be if she is somehow involved in the conspiracy.

shara says said...

@Dez - i had forgotten about that - it was Impulse, good catch :)

POSSIBLE SPOILERS ALERT (although apparantly not as much of a spoiler as the simple act of casting him in something is):

Coincidentally, he was in an episode of L&O SVU called "impulsive", apparantly playing a possible serial rapist.

I did some quick research and also noticed that he was also a psycho kid in Cold Case (Rampage, where he shot up a school). He was a messed up kid (although I don't think the killer) in The Closer ("homewrecker"), a creepy-ish kid (although not the killer) in Bones ("The girl with the curl"). The Medium episode where he played a psycho kid was called "The Boy Next Door".

Anonymous said...

I'm normally very grinchy and anti-Christmas, but the scene with Charlie pulling the gun on the elf in front of the kids and then Santa racing up and tackling him had me cracking up.

There's something about Kyle Gallner's face that just let him play that victimized nutjob perfectly. He does hangdog really, really well. It'd be interesting to see him in something more upbeat -- I didn't catch Impulse on "Smallville," so the closest I've gotten is his role on "Big Love." (Speaking of which, his "sister" looked like she could be a younger version of Daveigh "Rhonda" Chase.)

Chaddogg said...

Seriously, what happened to Charlie's lawyer???? She was SOOO much more interesting/better for him than Jen...I'd really like to see Charlie wage a Zen-like battle between his past life with Jen and a post-jail life with his lawyer.

Tante Lolo said...

The best instance where a fleeing suspect was stopped by something flung had to be Eugene Levy's turn as the clog-wearing dick "Klagg" on SCTV many years ago. ("Stop, or I'll SHOE!")

Alan, I'm old too.

Anthony Foglia said...

Alan wrote: I especially enjoyed Charlie going all Crocodile Dundee(*) with the fruitcake.

(*) Hi, I'm old. Is there a more contemporary reference for a hero taking out a fleeing bad guy by throwing produce at him than a 22-year-old movie starring a walking tourism ad?


I don't know. I'm a little younger than you, but I haven't seen "Crocodile Dundee", so I by "Charlie going all Crocodile Dundee with the fruitcake." I thought you meant when he was eating it with his knife and realized it was nothing like fruit nor cake. ("You call that a knife? This is a knife" is all I remember of that movie.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

There's a scene where Dundee hurls a can of produce (corn, I think) at a fleeing purse snatcher and gets applauded for his efforts.

Charlie said...

At 25, I thought of it as Croc Dundee move.

T said...

I enjoyed all of Crews's/DL's character moments. The fruitcake gag--not fruit, not cake--was funny. I, too, immediately went to Crocodile Dundee with the lobbed produce. The FRUITy gum was a nice touch. Once more, DL pulls out a gun (behave!) better than anyone.

I lost a bit of hope in both the ex-wife subplot and in the Reese/Tidwell pairing. Crews was onscreen for most of the ep's running time, and, though absent today, Arkin is great, but I wouldn't want the show to deflate, as _Dexter_ does, whenever the protagonist isn't directly in the spotlight. There was a flatness to tonight's episode, I felt, rescued immediately whenever DL did anything, but still there. Anyway, I don't want to be a downer; still loving the show and glad it's outlasted its competition.

Buster's Asthma Inhaler said...

I'm surprised I was disappointed in this ep, too. For one, why didn't they wait another week to show a T-giving ep? Does it mean they've already run out of eps already shot? Anyway, to stick Charlie in the antiseptic and soul-deadening world of a mall just felt out of place, and there wasn't nearly enough action for my liking.

I like Charlie pursuing Jennifer, even though I suspect she's a skank for divorcing him when she thought he killed a family, now suddenly coming onto him when he has $50M. As a sex scene afficionado, though, it fell far short. Like those romance novel scenes where they go for it, then suddenly "The next day..." They just closed the door on it, after all the sexual tension and build-up. Sheesh, there's more sex on soaps.

Having just glommed all of Season 1, I'm watching everything out of order, so am confused by the Rachel/Jack Reese conspiracy thing.
I'm glad they didn't drag out Charlie finding the real killer, and I know they have to keep the conspiracy thing going, but I'm confused as to why he doesn't have enough to just arrest Jack Reese. Course, I'm easily confused.

Loved at the end when Charlie talked to the kid, and "suggested" that perhaps the dead guy merely slipped and fell.

Re: Charlie not interested in Reese, what about trying to give her those panties (with the airy panel or whatever it was)?

When the FBI guy whipped out the gum, I expected:
"Gum?"
"Yes, it is."

monic said...

I pretty much loved this all around because of the character interactions because that's really what I'm about. Also I'm so happy that there was more Dani Reese to be had all season long she felt like a background character but this episode finally had its focus back on her.

And, honestly really, the joy for watching this episode is seeing Dani and Charlie's partnership. The mystery and the conspiracies are just icing for the cake for me.

Tidwell... I'm sort of liking, not fully yet because I'm never going to like the Tidwell-Dani relationship because I really dislike that he's her boss. Like, a lot. I like him better when he's being a hardass boss towards the detectives.

Although, it's been pretty clear from me from the get go that Dani and Charlie hardly respect Tidwell as their CO. They don't accord him with the same respect they showed Davis. They respected Davis a lot despite their cross purposes and really, when the chips were down Davis was willing to go on long screaming matches with the IAD for Charlie's sake.

J.J. said...

I might be wrong, but I seem to recall a scene in that Nicholas Cage lottery movie from the mid-'90s, where he breaks up a robbery by throwing a can of vegetables. Or something. I dunno. It makes me sad that I even half-remember something like that.

At any rate, it's probably not any more relevant than a Crocodile Dundee reference.

Ryan said...

I agree the pacing felt off once they found the sister. I wonder if with the day jumping if they are airing the eps out of sequence. So while the main story played out fine, the back story had to be spliced into this episode to keep continuity. Usually the a and b stories flow, this episode had a very rough edit.

T said...

Oh, I like Ryan's theory.

And many seconds into it I was convinced that Crews's rendezvous with his ex was some ill-considered (from a production standpoint) dream sequence. That it ended up being reality didn't improve it much.

Ryan said...

@t I can totally see this being one of those fun holiday episodes. But they have skipped at least one ep (did they miss one for the Obama thing too?). So with the Rosie special on Wed it was play it a week or two before T-Day or after. The complaint has been the flow and fun has been missing from the first season. And the first 10 minutes nailed it. I was watching with my old roomie and I had to rewind to verify that we didn't miss some sort of transition.

T said...

Whether they made some drastic editing or not, I've started to think of the episode as a spring-cleaning sort of affair: now we are free to move on to whatever is next. Crews finally had sex again with his ex-wife; fine, what's next. Reese and Tidwell hit awkwardness bottom (I hope so anyway); fine, what's next. I'm kinda looking forward to it all.

Also looking forward to this new character, the FBI guy, who with the fruit thing might be being set up as Crews-like, a worthy foil. (Who, in the three seconds he was onscreen, already displayed more charisma than frakking Tritter in _House_ during that whole unfortunate thermometer-afflicted arc. And no need to even mention Yuki from _Dexter_, right. This is a list of feds and such who get in the way of our characters, I guess.)

Always looking forward to more Arkin (Crews's housemate Ted) and Hendricks (Olivia, Ted's forbidden love interest--ooh!).

Ryan said...

Was the FBI guy in a previous episode? Crews said his name before he was given the card, but I don't remember him at all.

T said...

IIRC, _we_ hadn't seen him before.

Anthony Foglia said...

No, I checked IMDB after the episode aired, and the Fed was in a previous episode. I think IMDB said it was the one with the dead "angel", but I could be wrong.

T said...

If this is the guy, you're right. Even after reading the ep's summary (and I've watched all the episodes) I have zero recollection of this character:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0356101/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1036153/plotsummary