Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blew him up real good!

(In today's exciting installment, in order: "Veronica Mars," "American Idol," "South Park")

Oh, "Veronica Mars"... just when I was getting really worried about this season, you throw out back-to-back episodes like last week's college preview and now this... this... I don't want to say "masterpiece," because it wasn't, but it was bursting with chocolately, chippity goodness in a way that the show used to pull off routinely in season one. Let's count:
  • A Dirty Sanchez reference, which may be the greatest thing they've ever slipped under the nose of the censors (what's next? space-docking?);
  • More Logan/Veronica banter in one episode than we had in all of the first half of the season (though their slow dance seemed more like a bone thrown to the 'shippers than something Veronica would actually want to do);
  • Wallace getting a storyline that allowed him to be less than perfect, along with Jackie continuing to convincingly transform from bitch to good girl (though they stole the bit about her Sadie Hawkins date from the "Freaks & Geeks" pilot);
  • Closure to the Felix storyline, which will hopefully allow Rob and company to focus so much on the bus crash in the last handful of episodes that we start to care about it again;
  • And best of all, that ending! Weevil ignores Veronica's advice to stick to the straight and narrow on this and arranges to have Thumper killed... and in a bit of poetic justice that I should have seen coming but didn't (at least not until we saw the inspector find the motorcycle chained up), Logan inadvertently becomes Thumper's killer.
That, my friends, is some real film noir shenanigans. Those last few minutes have bought the show at least a year and a half's worth of goodwill from me, it was that clever and evil.

A few other quick thoughts and questions: What was the significance of the little kid poking his face out the van window as Weevil doped Thumper? So Woody and Beaver are both gay, right? Woody has now become so obviously creepy that I desperately want him to be a red herring -- but if he is, who the hell was responsible for the bus crash? I'm sure the Fitzpatricks were involved in some way (right before they stuffed the gag in Thumper's mouth, he mentioned having something big to hold over them), but they seem to have been the hired help for whatever this was about.

Meanwhile, "American Idol" delivered one of those "shocking" exits that really shouldn't be to anyone who's been watching this show for the last four years. On nights when nobody's really good and nobody's really awful, it comes down to fanbases. We already can assume from Simon's not-so-subtle "predictions" about the top 3 that Chris, Taylor and Pickler are way ahead of the pack in each week's voting. If they weren't, Taylor would have been ripe for a bottom three scare, since he went first and wasn't that great. Mandisa, meanwhile, has always struck me as one of those performers like Amy Adams whose fate depends entirely on kicking ass every time out and getting votes from people who aren't obsessed with a particular contestant. She went early on Tuesday and gave a very mediocre performance: kiss of death. I'm annoyed that Ace, Kellie and Bucky are still there ahead of her, but we're in the fifth season, and I'm used to it.

Finally, what a weird "South Park." When they did their "Simpsons Did It!" episode, it was with affection, but you can tell that Trey and Matt share Cartman's feelings about "Family Guy." A pretty spot-on parody of that show's reliance on random pop culture jokes that are, as Cartman put it, "all interchangeable and irrelevant to the plot." (In fairness, the "Family Guy" episodes that are good dig a little deeper than that.) They're a little late to the Muhammad cartoon controversy, but my favorite part of the episode was the monologue about defending free speech, followed by Stan's dad declaring that he'd rather go with the head in the sand idea.

Anyone want to place odds on whether there actually is a part two? It would be a very Matt and Trey thing to do a fake teaser to a show that'll never exist.


Anonymous said...

Was that an amazing episode or WHAT?? Re: the slow dance -- I think you are probably right about throwing a bone to the shippers, which kind of irritates me, but on the other hand, Bell and Dohring have chemistry out the wazoo and that was a very hot scene! The scene with Woody and Logan in the weight room, on the other hand, was -- well, ICK. And at this point I really hope that Rob Thomas and co. have something up their collective sleeve and that Woody is not responsible for the bus crash. I have no idea who else it could be, but I have to admit that last year I did not suspect that Aaron was the killer until they hit me over the head with it, so...

On another note -- my husband and I have a bet going as to whether you will be writing Monday morning reviews of every remaining episode of The Sopranos. Any comments?

Anonymous said...

Alan, do you foresee a fiasco next week with the Queen theme on "AI"? I don't own any Queen albums, so I know nothing of their lesser-known tunes, but their hits were so idiosyncratic and campy, they're totally ill-suited to a competition like this. (Though I think Kevin Covais could've pulled off "Bicycle Ride.")

"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" already got murdered on the show this season. What could we possibly have to look forward to? Ace Young doing "We Are the Champions"?

Anonymous said...

Dude -- did you see LOST last night? It was jump the shark, completely embarrassing, tipping point bad last night. Forget that so many of the scenes were so poorly done as to border on the SNL version of the show (if SNL were funny). But the end is so head scratching, so audience-jerking, so completely nonsensical as to throw the entire show off kilter and into some dustbin of history. In short - it was bad.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Queen Night is going to be a disaster of episode proportions, which is exactly what this season needs. The last two weeks have been worse than bad -- they've been boring. Some of the most memorable nights in the show's history have been the fiasco theme nights where almost everyone had no clue how to sing, say, Burt Bacharach songs.

I think some people are going to do just fine with this: whichever of Chris or Bucky snags "We Will Rock You" will have an easy time of it, Katharine could rock the hell out of "Don't Stop Me Now," and I'm sure someone will try to succeed where Katharine failed with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

But there are going to be some absolute catastrophes, and Ace fulfilling his destiny by singing "Bohemain Rhapsody" (one of the highlights of last season as sung by his spiritual ancestor Constantine) in all-falsetto will probably be one of the lowlights/highlights.

It's a shame Mandisa's gone. I think she had the sass and sense of self-deprecation to rip the holy hell out of my favorite Queen song, "Fat Bottom Girls."

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'll be getting to Lost in about an hour. It used to get first position in that timeslot, while I would watch Veronica Mars the next day, but the show's been so stultifying this season that I bumped it over to one of the upstairs VCRs, and I watch Veronica plausibly live.

Anonymous said...

It's so satisfying to see Veronica Mars get as good as it should have been all season. That ending was just stunning in its twisted poetic-ness. And Veronica and Logan showed more chemistry in their scenes than we're seen all season. I'm glad Ron Thomas et al finally realized that this relationship is not something they should waste.

As for Beaver being gay, I'm wondering if he wasn't abused as a child, maybe even by the Woodman himself. It's hard to imagine that they would go there, because wow. That's DARK. But, that would indeed be some film noir.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Page, the plan is to keep doing the "Sopranos" reviews every week, though I can't speak to the quality of the future ones, since it doesn't look like I'll be getting the episodes in advance.

Todd said...

I actually really liked Lost last night (and I continue to firmly believe that season two is only a couple of steps behind season one). I liked that they didn't try too hard to keep the lid on their first putative twist (if there's someone who didn't get it within 10 minutes of the show's start, well. . .they haven't seen ANYthing pop culture-wise since AT LEAST 1999) so the ACTUAL twist that came at the end, even though it's been widely suspected since, oh, February, was able to throw you for a bit of a (small) loop.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't know what the deal was with that face peering out of the window - was that maybe Weevil's niece who appeared a few episodes ago?

And similarly, what was the children's laughter that played during Weevil confession supposed to mean?

I don't think Beaver's gay - that's such an obvious answer that if it were true I think it would be revealed immediately, not left hanging.

Anonymous said...

Also, the very fact that there were "Scenes From Next Week's South Park" says to me that there is no Part 2. I can only remember one 2-parter before, and I'm pretty sure it just says "To be continued..."

Anonymous said...

Thinking about it more, I think there's definitely no Part 2. South Park has had repeats pulled recently (the Scientology episode and the episode with the Pope and the Virgin Mary), so the "Will Comedy Central pussy out and not air Part 2?" seems like it's setting up that there's no Part 2.

And for the record, there are 2 2-parters: Cartman's Father, and the episode where the kids start their own evangelical church.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And don't forget that the conclusion of the Cartman's father two-parter was delayed by that Terence & Philip episode practical joke.

Tosy And Cosh said...

From my blog, my picks for them. Not what they will sing, but what I think they SHOULD. No one should try “Bohemian Rhapsody,” if for no other reason than they won’t give them the time to do it right.

Ace Young - Thin, boy-bandish voice with an affection for falsetto? Try “You Take My Breath Away,” a softer, lighter, airy early ballad from “A Day at the Races.”

Bucky Covington - A middling country voice? Give us a slightly (please only slightly) countrified “Keep Yourself Alive.”

Chris Daughtry - Aggressive rock voice? Try to give us a harder-edged “Tie Your Mother Down.”

Elliott Yamin - Faux-funky, sub-Guarini pop voice? You might be able to pull off a more modern take on “Radio Ga Ga.”

Katherine McPhee - Relatively well-controlled, strong-enough, bland “pretty” voice? Give us a strong, disciplined “Who Wants to Live Forever?”

Kellie Pickler - Sub-Underwood country-pop voice? A schmaltzy “You’re My Best Friend” might fit the bill.

Paris Bennett - Aretha-sized powerhouse voice? Give us a knock-down, drag-out, holy roller, tear-the-roof-off-the-place “Somebody to Love.” Beware that high note at the end.

Taylor Hicks–Semi-soulful Ray Charles/Joe Cocker voice? Try to give us an honestly felt “Those Were the Days of Our Lives.”

If any of them are feeling particularly brave, the song to tackle is “Show Must Go On,” a powerhouse of a serious ballad. The danger is that Freddie Mercury’s original is beyond definitive, given that he recorded it late in his career, when he already knew he was dying. His resultant desperate, defiant, angry explosion of emotion at death is pretty much impossible to beat. That being said, it’s a great, underheard song, and allows for some showing off, both in terms of vocal virtuosity and emotional singing. Very risky, but with real potential for greatness.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, that means I lose the bet. I figured you were going to quit after the first 4 (which I knew you had received in advance), but my husband was banking on you keepin' on keepin' on. On the plus side, I love reading them, so I guess I win anyway!

Todd said...

I haven't seen Ms. Mars yet (my wife gets home from work so late on Wednesdays), but isn't Beaver the one who's dating Mac?

If so, he best not be gay. I can take only so much Tina Majorino heartbreak.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Todd, yes, Beaver's Mac's boyfriend. And we don't know for sure that he's gay, but something is definitely hinky 'twixt him and his special lady friend in this episode.

tosy and cosh, I bow to your superior knowledge of the Mercury ouevre. That said, picking songs the audience won't recognize (not to mention the ignoramus judges, and why the hell is Randy there if he doesn't know about contemporary music?) is a double-edged sword. Unless you absolutely nail it, ala Kelly with "Stuff Like That There" or Fantasia with "Summertime," you're going to get penalized by both the judges and the voters for confusing them. Half of the way people judge these performers is by seeing how their version of a song stacks up to the one they know from the radio.

Last year, Vonzell went much further than her singing abilities probably warranted. Part of that was the bubbly personality, but I think the other part was that every week, without fail, her song choice was the most recognizable one of the bunch.

I believe the producers have a policy against anyone on the show giving the contestants advice on song selection -- I think the closest the vocal coach can come is suggesting that something isn't in a singers' range -- because it would open the show up to charges of being rigged. But there has to be a way to get these people to pick better songs -- either more well-known stuff, or just more interesting stuff -- than they've been doing this year, or that they did last year.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Alan - very good point. The one I'd single out as most worthy of the risk is "Someone to Love" for Paris (although, alas, it would have been even better for Mandisa). And it's not quite obscure, even if it's not a huge hit. The sad part is that many of the biggest US hits aren't really singer's showcases that show off the voice (Crazy Little Thing, We Will Rock You), while some of the minor hits are.

Adam said...

Okay, so I want someone to sing the "Flash Gordon" thing. Does that make me a bad human being?

At this point, I'm trying to figure out whether to axe American Idol on Tuesdays or the Race on Wednesdays to be able to watch Top Model . . .

velvetcannibal said...

I'm also wondering about the children who witnessed Weevil's act from inside the white van. I saw two faces, did you?

To answer the question about the children's laughter at the very end: the laughter is actually part of the song that played over that whole final sequence. Makes the song choice even cooler, I think.

You and your fellow writers are right about Logan and Veronica. Interaction between them really can make or break the show. The homme fatale has got to dance/snark with the heroine more often. And I enjoyed the reveal that Logan once again knew more about the witness than he told Veronica. It backs up the idea that he didn't truly know if he had killed Felix. He knew that Veronica could track down the witness in a heartbeat, but only told her after he was definitely cleared by Weevil. Nice.

I did enjoy Wallace's storyline, but I was bothered by Percy's acting at certain points. It seemed like he was phoning it in a little.

And that final shot of Weevil in the confessional was pretty epic.

Alan Sepinwall said...

This and that:

-Rob told me today that the kids in the back of the van, whoever they were, will come up again. Maybe Weevil goes to jail at the end of the season? Dunno. I'm not sure he has a future on the show, even if Veronica is at a local college.

-dirtgirl, the hints about Woody being gay were in this episode -- specifically, the scene where he was lifting weights with Logan, where he was way too friendly and touchy-feely. Could be nothing -- hell, it could be the limitations of the Gutte's abilities -- but something is hinky.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, as bad a guy as Thumper is (was), it's hard for Weevil to remain a somewhat sympathetic character after he just basically murdered Thumper.

Anonymous said...

Not only did they get a "Dirty Sanchez" reference in, but Veronica (almost) flashed the shocker. That one bowled me over even more.

I don't think Beaver's gay, but I'm not sure what was up with his hinky behavior either. Maybe Kendall gave him something that can't be wiped off with a washrag? The molestation theory sounds good, and it would thematically echo the goings-on in Meg's house.

And while the slow dance might have been a bit of a bone-toss to the shippers, Doherty and Bell's subtle acting totally sold me on it. I'm not the kind of shipper who thinks that Veronica's love will redeem Logan. Instead, I dig the fact that they're soulmates who can never have each other.

Anonymous said...

I had to do some mad searching to find out what "flash the shocker" means. I feel so old.

Alan Sepinwall said...

You and me both, Undercover Black Man. You and me both. I'm terrified that by the time my daughter's a teenager, she'll be able to flip me off and I won't even know it.

velvetcannibal said...

They did actually flash the shocker in the first ep of Season 2. Logan did it. The writers really seem to enjoy torturing the censors. My favorite is still "you got a trophy for a rim job?"

Anonymous said...

There's flashing the shocker, and then there's flashing the shocker. Check this girl out:

Anonymous said...

Well, I did that incompetently.

Never mind.