Friday, January 13, 2006

There's such a fine line between stupid and clever...

...and "The O.C." has been on the wrong side of it all season. Two years ago, last night's episode would have been filled with meta references and gags -- at the very least, this should have been the show where Summer wore the "Donna Martin Graduates" t-shirt -- but here the silly Marissa plot was played straight. And for anyone who's actually watched the show for more than a few minutes knows what a bad idea that was.

Everytime the episode tried to firmly clamp itself to Marissa's ass, I found myself calling bullshit. Marissa was incredibly popular before Taylor's mom got her kicked out of school? No; she's been a Harbor School laughingstock ever since she OD'ed in Mexico. She was "a model student"? Um, isn't this the girl who basically stopped going to school for most of season two while she bunked with Alex?

Meanwhile, in the craptacular tradition of Evil Dean, we get another cartoon villain in Taylor's mom, who hates Marissa because... why? I get that once upon a time, it may have been a calculated move to increase her daughter's social standing and get her some friends, but now Taylor actually has friends, and mama Townsend is still waging vendetta against Marissa? Huh? Even before Julie had her occasional heart of gold moment, there was a little nuance to the awful things she did, most of which she thought were for the good of her family.

Between this episode and those skeevy commercials with that 14-year-old girl doing a Lolita impression as the long-lost Kaitlin, I think I may be out. The only reason I watched this one live was because I'd already seen last night's "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" in advance. And speaking of which...

I thought last week's "Earl" (written by an ex-"Arrested Development" guy) was one of the stronger so far, but this was a bit of a backslide. Some jokes worked, like retainer girl's crush on Earl (cheap but effective), but Favreau's karma-free life wasn't ridiculous enough for it to work. At the very least, would it have killed them to put in a mug that reads "Who's the big winner?"

"Office," on the other hand, was brilliant. I didn't think they could get broader or slapstickier than the martial arts episode, but somehow, they did. The bizarre cause of the injury, Dwight's frenzied attempt to get to Michael even after crashing his car, Ryan's constant look of anguish at realizing Michael is about to ask him to do something horrible, Michael trying to stick his foot in the CT machine... I was in pain for all of it, and not the usual kind of pain associated with watching this show (that kind popped up during the staff meeting with the wheelchair-bound building manager). Originally, the episode last night was supposed to be a follow-up to Jim telling Michael about his thing for Pam, but I guess NBC wanted to go with the stronger show early in the new timeslot.

Morning links: Matt reviewed AMC's first original drama, "Hustle," in today's column. The press tour blog hasn't been updated as of this morning, which means either a slow day (nothing to blog about) or a busy one (no time to do it) at the tour.

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