Friday, March 24, 2006

More this and more that

Comments about the last post reminded me of a bunch of other things I watched this week, including:

"24": A friend tried to kill my rediscovered buzz for "24" by pointing out that it's a show that plays much better in DVD-style marathons than on a weekly basis. This is the first time I had to wait more than a few hours to watch a new episode this season, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. The thing is, I've been watching "24" for so long that I feel like a magician's assistant who knows how all the tricks work. It's really hard for the show to surprise me, so the entertainment comes from the presentation and the forward momentum of the story. So when they dropped that big twist about Audrey allegedly selling the blueprints to the French hottie, it wasn't exactly a shocker. Nina turning traitor-- that was a shocker. This was more of a mild "Huh? Wonder where they're going with this?" But I enjoyed the rest of the episode, particularly Jack finding a method other than kneecapping someone to get the info he needed. Plus, the presence of Desmond from "Lost" as the German spy guy had my mind wandering to all kinds of potential Jack lines on Craphole Island: "TELL ME WHERE THE BALLOON IS!" "TELL ME WHERE THE GUNS ARE!" "TELL ME WHAT THE POINT IS!"

"Everybody Hates Chris": Not the funniest episode they've done (even the montage of Rochelle yelling at everyone up to and including herself wasn't that hot), but the inherent sweetness and honesty of the show buys it a lot of points from me even when I'm not laughing. Plus, who doesn't love to see Jimmy Walker die while eating porkchops?

(Speaking of Jimmy, a pointless biographical anecdote you can skip if all you care about are the TV reviews: During one Social Studies class late in 12th grade, our teacher Mr. Lucibello was explaining the LeCompton Compromise or some other kind of historical pact, and, as it often does, my mind started to wander from one vaguely-connected subject to another, until finally, for reasons I can't remember, I was thinking about Jimmy Walker. I started to laugh, and Mr. Lucibello asked me to tell the rest of the class what was so funny. "You don't want to know," I said, which he took as a sign that it was something that would really embarrass me, and since we'd been trading sarcastic barbs all year, he insisted I tell him and the class what was making me laugh. So I told him, in exhaustive detail, how I got from the lesson to Jimmy Walker, and by the end of it, his face was buried in his hands and he said, "You're right; I didn't want to know that." So now, whenever Marian or I start laughing at something only tangentially connected to what we're talking about, we just say "Jimmy Walker" to explain it. Anyway, back to TV...)

"The Loop": Is it bad that the funniest parts of the show tend to be the made-up profanity ("Jack-rammers!")? And why did all the commercials promote an entirely different episode (with Thesis dressed in some dorky cowboy outfit) instead of this one? And is it possible for Philip Baker Hall to swing a samurai sword around and grunt in every episode? Please? And why am I still asking questions? I don't know, do I? .... ahem... Sorry. I think I still like what the show's trying to do -- the fast pace, the use of music, the work vs. play theme -- more than I like the show itself. Brett Harrison, Mimi Rogers and Hall are all great, but the non-work scenes are really hit or miss. The sandwich storyline never really clicked until they found a way to tie it into the Hong Kong plot.

"The O.C.": After forgetting to record it last week, I figured we were quits for good; I had only been watching out of habit and old loyalty, and once the run got interrupted, I had an excuse to stop. But since I was taping "The Loop" in another room already, it was easy to let the VCR keep going for an extra hour and watch "O.C." in the background while I was doing something else. As multi-tasking wallpaper, this episode wasn't too bad, I suppose: Kirsten and Ryan actually interacting like family, Seth doing sand-floor to block Summer's punches, Ryan figuring out that he needs to stop playing white knight, and, especially, Marissa stuck in her own subplot that none of the other characters wanted any part of (which meant I could fastforward through all those scenes without worry of missing a good Summer one-liner). Maybe this'll turn out like me and the later years of "NYPD Blue," where I'm watching to be a completist and grading on a big curve.

"Saturday Night Live" repeats on E!: They've been showing the later parts of the Hartman/Carvey/Myers years, so I've gotten to see classic sketches like Chris Farley auditioning for Chippendale's and Michael Jordan doing advertisements for his own brand of hardcore porn and something to help girls with that not-so-fresh feeling. My only complaint: due to music rights, they had to remove Van Halen's "Beautiful Girls" from the immortal Schmitt's Gay commercial parody, and it's not nearly as funny with generic Van Halen-sounding guitar riffs. It's an outrage. An outrage!


Anonymous said...


I love "24," but I think you're pretty much on the ball with the fact that there's not much one can be really surprised about with this show anymore. So these days it's basically all in the delivery, and I think the delivery's been pretty good so far this season. I personally was genuinely surprised by the revelation at the end of the episode, although, since there is plenty more season left to go, I'm holding out hope that it's not what it looks like, that Audrey's being set up in some way or something. (We'll see next episode.) Also agree with you about the fact that it was nice to see Jack Bauer use a tactic to get information other than shooting someone in the leg or squeezing someone's painful wound. One of the things that bothered me about Season 4 was that torture began to be used to rather ridiculous extremes in order to get information out of people (obviously, the writers justify it with the useful information that the people provide, but still...), so it's been refreshing to see methods of physical torture used to a bare minimum so far this season. (Jack, of course, is still as crazily inventive as ever, though.)

Laura said...

I agree that it would be very redundant if Audrey is actually guilty of selling secrets to terrorists, but I have a feeling that last week's ending was a tease. I feel like Audrey being a terrorist is simply not believable considering she experienced terrorism first hand and she has enough experience in counterterrorism to know that people who are bribed into selling secrets rarely make it out alive. Plus, I'm not sure what the financial motive could season 4, her husband said he was involved in over 30 companies and he obviously had a lot of money...since they were still legally married she probably inherited that.

The main reason I think it is a tease is because for the past five seasons, whenever they have exposed a mole, countermole (Gael), or unintentional mole (Spencer), they have exposed the mole by showing this person communicating with terrorists, and we know that he or she is a mole long before Jack does. Keep in mind that we have not seen Audrey communicate with a terrorist except when she was contacted unexpectedly by Nathanson, nor have we seen her doing anything else suspicious. When they showed her at the end of last week's episode she was just walking around CTU...they could have at least had her on the phone or something that looked a little more suspicious.

I think she was involved with someone who was part of the plot and set her up. At least, that's how I am writing it in my new fanfic.

Anonymous said...


I know you've been bitter to the show -- and its had its ups and downs -- but the last couple episodes have been really good and funny. Do you not love Taylor Townsend? And, you have hormones right? How did you not love the ending? Sexamania running wild. I think the show is funny, and emotional, and fun again. May never be season1 glory, and definitely isn't consistent, but when it's good, it's still smart and cool and entertaining.

Adam said...

As soon as I saw "Patrick Swayze (1990)" when scanning via TiVo for the next batch of reruns, I knew I had to grab this one. The Chippendales sketch is pantheon.

But there's one other reason the episode is still fun: musical guest Mariah Carey, because, hey!, who's that with the bad flattop playing bass with an ultra-serious expression on his face? Yes, it's Randy Jackson.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That was the D-A-double-G on bass? I really hope I didn't delete it off the TiVo yet.

As for O.C., Taylor is one of the few characters the writers introduced after the first season who actually fits in with the original gang. And I always appreciate a show that can feature teenagers having sex without pregnancy or STD scares immediately to follow.

But I still have to use the "NYPD Blue" analogy for it. That was a show I worshipped for the first three or four years, and then they started repeating themselves, introducing stories that never went anywhere, adding characters who were always less interesting than the people they replaced, etc., etc., etc. Yet I kept watching out of memory for the good times. And even when there would sometimes be good episodes in the Schroder and Gosselaar years, they were never in the ballpark of the Caruso/Smits seasons. This week's "O.C." was pretty good by the standards of seasons two and three, but the only season one episodes it would have outclassed were the ones with Oliver.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's a fair analogy for the OC. NYPD Blue is a cop show and has a built in franchise to it. It's comparing apples and oranges to compare it to a relationship teen drama/soap. On those terms, you have to compare it to Dawson's, 90210, One Tree Hill etc. and by those standards it's still superior. I also believe the second half of season 2 - from the rain episode to the finale - was very good. And that this season has had some very bright moments (Taylor especially) so perhaps it will end strong as well. The OC probably would have been better off being cancelled after its first season -- seems the untarnished teen dramas were those that were short lived - My So Called Life, Freaks and Geeks. And even in their short runs they had inconsistincies that would have pointed toward a rocky future. If the OC can be accused of anything, its at times (as demonstrated by Oliver in Season 1) allowing the soapier side of things to override the more emotional aspects. But then again, the OC is on FOX and has managed to be the only non-WB teen drama to launch in a decade. So there is clearly a master to serve.

And like any non-procedural (as we are witnessing to a much more painful degree with Desperate Housewives) it is difficult to sustain the quality and the hype after the huge first season. But I still feel the OC doesn't get enough credit for what it does well. A lot of hipster critics feel betrayed that the show bowed to soapier conventions (and by the way, look at the soaps FOX has launched around it - North Shore, Point Pleasant etc to get a feel for their real taste.)

It's almost like Season 1 of the OC was an accident where FOX didn't realize what it was dealing with. And then they got the chance to sink their claws into the show and it's like a fascinating struggle where you get episodes and characters that are true to the OC soul and then those that are out of FOX's central casting. I also feel Josh Schwartz et al never really were comfortable committing to doing a nighttime soap, and their ironic stance they took to the show distanced it from the audience at times, and rang as smug and too self aware to the critics. You have to commit to your world, and if you comment on it too much, you can disconnect from your audience (like LOST is doing now.)

Nonetheless, an episode like this Thursday's reminds me of what the show is still capable of, and what some people should focus on.

Eventually people will tire of Grey's Anatomy and the "juju on my cococa" overly cute writing and move on to the next new new thing too, I suppose. Thanks for commenting back, I look forward to your thoughts.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wasn't comparing the content of O.C. to NYPD Blue so much as I was comparing my relationship with them. With NYPD Blue, I was so obsessed at first that I started the website that made my career. With The O.C., I was a big enough fan that I wound up writing a book about it. And I stuck with both shows long past their sell-by date out of loyalty to what they once were.

I don't know that I'd pin the blame for the dip in the later seasons on Fox. What made year one so good is what made the show stink in the long run. Basically, Josh was new to the TV business and didn't know what he was doing. He didn't know anything about "protecting the franchise," so he basically did every story he could possibly think of about these characters as quickly as he could. What made The O.C. so brilliant at first is the same thing that's making The Shield so brilliant right now: its creator doesn't know or care about future seasons, so there's no stalling, no ideas held back, no sitting on the pot for months or years. A soap run by a more seasoned producer would have waited two, maybe even three seasons to hook up Seth and Summer, using something like the Anna triangle to put off the inevitable as long as possible; Seth dated Anna for, like, three weeks and was with Summer for good midway through season one.

Problem is, by the end of season one, they had run through every iteration of Seth/Summer and Ryan/Marissa break-ups and get-togethers, had instigated so many fights at black-tie charity events, etc., etc., etc., that there was nothing left to do with these characters when they came back for year two. Hence wave after wave of boring new characters. Hence pointless career changes and marital discord for Sandy and Kirsten. Hence The Bait Shop. (Well, that also had to do with Josh's love of music and reveling in his new status as indie rock kingmaker.)

Anonymous said...

interesting. so did seasoned producers get in there and take over the show? or was josh forced to listen to others because of hs inexperience? is it similar to what's happening on Housewives - even though at its best that show was nowhere near OC season 1. what else could the OC have done after Season1 or was there nothing left to do? And is Josh working on any more tv shows? Do you think he could succeed again? sorry for all the questions. been thining about it a lot since thursday's episode (the fact the show can be great or awful on any given week...)

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, Josh is still in charge. There's just nothing left to do (which, as you point out, is the same problem hitting Desperate Housewives this year). These last two years have just been a lot of wheel-spinning, reshuffling of deck chairs on a sinking ship, or whatever cliche you want to use.

Anonymous said...

Was there anything else to do in Season 2? I guess one great Season 1 where they blow it out is better than doing a mediocre show for 5 years. Thanks to the power of DVDs we'll always have Season 1. And a half dozen or so good episodes a season afterwards. And it's still better than other teen dramas. What show is next in line for this OC/Housewvies syndrome? Prison Break?