Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The stuff that dreams are made of

The non-"Idol" portion of my viewing evening had an odd dream thread running through it. Obviously, "Scrubs" always has dream/fantasy sequences, but "Gilmore Girls" and the relocated "Veronica Mars" generally don't. I haven't gotten to "House" yet, but for all I know, House spends half the episode imagining he's in a bar in Costa Mesa listening to some optics salesman complain about losing his briefcase.

And speaking of "House," it took the "Scrubs" writers longer than it took me, but they finally acknowledged the timeslot elephant in the room with Kelso's, "Oh, Perry, you're so edgy and cantankerous. You're like House without the limp." So here's today's question(s) for people who watch both shows: Who gives the funnier performance on a weekly basis, McGinley or Laurie? And who gives the more interesting dramatic performance? For my money, Laurie gets a very tiny edge on the comedy side, but McGinley actually gives a much richer serious side of Cox, mainly because his writers let him do it in a way that Laurie only occasionally gets to do on "House." (Again, for all I know, Laurie did some Emmy-caliber garment-rending last night, but until I see it, I'm going with the Jersey boy over the Englishman.)

Good episode beyond that. Loved Angie the Butt Hamster, loved that Keith was psyching himself up for the three-way, loved the Help Name Turk and Carla's Baby chyron just as they were throwing out Angie and George (quite possibly the first time ever that one of those mid-show billboards hasn't pissed me off), loved Ted's staring contest and Turk's pink-belly power, loved Ken Jenkins's ability to once again show Kelso's gooey center without defanging the man. Was weirded out by The Janitor's desire to make "a hamster vest for one of my squirrels," but overall the weirdness quotient was lower than usual.

The one thing I didn't love was this week's moral. Every time Tom Cavanagh pops up (and how the hell am I supposed to watch the unaired "Love Monkey" episodes starting next week when VH1 insists on showing them in the busiest timeslot of the week?), the writers try to pound home the idea that Dan's a big loser who needs to move out of his mom's house, get a suit and tie job and get a wife and 2.5 kids, and it always annoys me. Up until the Fred Savage Moment, Dan always seems like a guy who enjoys his life, and who's to say that everybody has to follow J.D.'s idea (or Bill Lawrence's) of how you need to live?

Over on "Gilmore Girls," another Daniel episode, which generally means twice as much talk to generate half the laughs. Aside from the horror that is the post-plastic surgery Paul Anka (which already skeeved me out when he tried to stick his tongue in Clay Aiken's ear in "Idol" season two), the Anka/Anka dream felt like a waste of all that set-up about the dog's name. Once again, I found myself wanting to throw rotten fruit at Rory for all her passive-agressive bullshit with Logan. Though the episode did accomplish something the show has been failing to do for two seasons: it made me empathize with Logan (not to mention Jess, even though Milo Ventimiglia's "Bedford Diaries" haircut looked wrong here).

Good on Emily for attempting to slap some sense into Lorelai (not to mention referring to Luke's non-daughter as "It" upon realizing who she wasn't), on Lane for quoting "Lazy Sunday," on Luke's little smile after April called him "Dad," and on any appearance by Mrs. Kim. But the only scene in the episode that felt like 100% unfiltered "Gilmore Girls" was the coffee-throwing bit at the very end. Anybody recognize the song so I can buy it?

And finally, "Veronica Mars" gets around to some business that should have been dealt with months ago: giving faces and personalities to the non-Meg bus crash victims. Had this been the season's fourth or fifth episode, it would have been fine. As the fifth-to-last episode, it felt like exactly what it was: a belated correction for a season-long problem.

Aside from the show's usual game of Fool the Censor (which gave us such lines as "Just because you wiggle your finger doesn't mean Dick's gonna come." and "Wallace, have you met my fluffer?"), the highlight was another bit of long-overdue business: interaction between Logan and Wallace. To be honest, I had forgotten Wallace was even in that scene in the pilot where Logan smashed up Veronica's car and at first thought they had never spoken to each other before this. It's always been weird the way the show holds Wallace apart from any of Veronica's other friends (like I said in the fall, when Jackie was complaining about Wallace having a female best friend, where was the counter scene where we dealt with Duncan's opinion of Veronica's male sidekick?), and this worlds colliding subplot was refreshing.

I watched most of the episode through a bout of insomnia, so I may not have been as sharp as usual, but I feel like the Keith subplot was missing a scene or two. I kept waiting for some big genius payoff to all those awful computer dating scenes, but by the time we got it, I just shrugged. On the other hand, very cute moment when Veronica gets her Stanford letter; Kristen Bell doesn't get many chances to play giddy, but she does it well.

What did everybody else think?


Matt said...

I'm wondering if the whole McGinley growing a beard thing was just a set-up for that one joke last night. And I want to have a cross-over episode where Drs. Dorian, House, and Cox all attend a medical conference.

Anonymous said...

Gilmore was uneven, to be sure, but they have my undying love and affectio for, if nothing else, having a bus full of geeky kids sing Tom Lehrer's "The Elements." I sang along, and can now die happy.

I too give the edge to Cox, although I'm only half-a-season into watching House. McGinley is brilliant at heing a bastard, hilariously funny, and multi-dimensionally human all at once. House, so far, is missing a little bit of the humanity.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of watching HOUSE anymore? It's well done, but it's formula. It's basically the 2000s version of Murder, She Wrote. It's well produced, well acted and completely safe and therefore dull.

SCRUBS wins every contest hands down.

Anonymous said...

I thought Veronica Mars was great. Yes, they should have done something like this AGES ago, but in my opinion it was better late than never. Lately the bus crash clues (and misdirections) have been coming fast and furious. It is finally reminding me of what the end of Season One felt like -- a rollercoaster ride where every episode told you new information, enough to keep you curious but not enough to really let you solve the mystery. I love that.

I also love that we are (finally) getting interesting character moments again, like Veronica's acceptance into Stanford, the Logan/Wallace interaction, and to an extent the Logan/Veronica interaction. For most of the season they had so many things going on that it just seemend like they had to race to get through all of the plots, and the characters seemed like a secondary concern. Now they are allowing more character defining moments, and that is what has made the last few episodes so good for me.

Anonymous said...

Scrubs was great again last night.

A question for you Alan. Are you going to be able to see Sunday's "The West Wing" before it airs?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, I won't be seeing the new "West Wing" in advance, unless it shows up in my office mail today or tomorrow. In general, if a network is sending you more than one episode, they put them both on the same disc/tape in the same mailing.

dark tyler said...

Try Sparks' "Angst in my Pants" from the album with the same title, circa 1982.

That's the song from the brilliant ending of this week's Gilmore Girls. For the record, I loved the episode. If I remember correctly, Sparks are also set to appear on the season finale, alongside Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo...

Alan Sepinwall said...

That's the one, dark tyler. Danke.