Thursday, April 20, 2006

Two colleges and a digestive block

Lots and lots to get to, and while few of them are thematically related, I don't have time for many, many posts. Actually, the best thing I watched all night was a review screener of "The Office" episode airing May 4, which is the funniest damn thing I've seen in a long time, but I can't write more about that now. In order: "The O.C.," "Survivor," "South Park" and "Alias."

"The O.C." is really frustrating me lately, because parts of it are just good enough that I want to keep watching, while others are at the same baffling, cringe-inducing level that's typified most of seasons two and three. If the show would just be bad all the time, I could walk away, but it keeps teasing me with these reminders of what it used to be like.

The good: The return of Anna, even if she was there as Seth's fairy godmother/plot device, and even if I'm puzzled by how Samaire Armstrong now looks like she's using Drea de Matteo's stylist and sounds like a cross between Drew Barrymore and Kellie Pickler, neither of which were true as recently as her time on "Entourage." Wha happen? Also good: Ryan happy. I feared we were going to get back on that cosmic treadmill where, just as he's breaking out the smile, someone slips a flaming sack of karmic crap next to the pool house door. On the other hand, given Theresa's history with honesty and this baby, shouldn't he ask to see a copy of the paternity test?

The bad: I hate, hate, hate plots that only can continue if the characters involved won't sit down and talk honestly for, oh, three minutes. All Seth friggin' had to do was blurt out the phrase "I didn't get in!" during that walking tour, and we could move on. This is all just dumb and protracted.

The unknown: because it was late and because I just don't care anymore about certain characters and subplots that have been on this show for far too long, I fast-forwarded through every Marissa scene that didn't feature Ryan or Summer, and every Sandy and Kirsten scene whenever it became obvious that it was about the hospital storyline, so I have no idea what happened with any of it. Did Ryan's freshman buddy turn out to be a jackass?

You watch "Survivor" long enough, and you can pretty much tell by the pacing when there's not going to be a Tribal Council for some reason. With the way the episode was moving, plus Bruce's intestinal distress, plus that long-ago teased footage of someone being med-evac'ed out of the game, I think we all knew where this was going. I'm assuming he's going to be well enough to return to the jury at some point, if not in the very next episode, then before the end (and they can show him the raw footage of Tribal Council at the hospital in the meantime to keep him as informed as the rest). Otherwise, what's the option? Bring Nick back? Have an even-numbered jury pool and risk a tie vote for the million bucks?

Not an especially satisfying ending, but one of the most entertaining iterations of the chopping challenge to date. Because Terry was the only obvious target, once he went out, it got ugly in a hurry. Loved seeing Courtney and Shane wig out over the answers, loved that Cirie knew everyone would have picked her as the least likely to survive on her own (and Aras picking Terry? WTF? He may be a sucky strategerist, but in terms of survival ability, I'll pick Top Gun over the leaf-phobic, the nicotine junkie, the hippie who wants to hold a sacred burial ceremony for every dead creature and plant on the island, the Boston chick who hasn't done squat from day one, the 57-year-old man with the rock garden, and even the yoga dude who loves to sleep in the teepee in his daddy's backyard).

Loved pretty much all of it, even though I'm not sure how much it changed anything. Shane's a tool, but I do believe he was playing Aras and Cirie -- as we all know by now, he's a sometimes actor, and that interview he gave about what he did was one of the few times since the season began where he didn't seem like this character he'd invented to go fame-whoring with Johnny Fairplay for the next five years. Bruce was the only one who would have had his feelings hurt by being targeted quickly, and that's moot. So the only real fallout is Courtney's flakiness -- and if Shane thinks she's his best final two partner, he'll have to screw over his two strongest allies to bring her there. He's not that dumb, even if he believes they could be the first alliance to survive the post-merge game intact. (Um, Tagi? Porno Brian's group? Team Tom?)

Now, where does this week's "South Park" rank among the show's freakiest? Above or below Lemmiwinks? In case you didn't see it -- and, if not, you'd better hurry, as this may join "Trapped in the Closet" on the Never To Be Re-Aired list very soon -- what started as a parody of the James Frey/Oprah controversy turned into a surreal hostage drama involving two of... um... Oprah's orifices, each of which spoke with a different British dialect. ("Gary," and you know what that is if you saw it, sounded a bit like Terry Jones playing the mom in "Life of Brian.") I really don't know what else to say about it, except that I think Trey and Matt may have been smoking Towelie for the entire writing period.

And, finally, "Alias." I had basically given up on it a couple of years ago, stopping back in every now and then to see if it made any more sense or if the producers had just introduced another Everything You Thought You Knew Was Wrong evil conspiracy to distract the audience from the fact that they had no idea where the plot was going. (I'm thinking that, at the end of this season of "Lost," Kate is going to wake up in an alley behind the hatch with a scar on her belly and a few missing years in her life.) But I figured I'd stick around for this five-week curtain call and... I just think I've outgrown it. Lena Olin and Victor Garber are awesome, but my mind kept wandering and wandering and wandering. What's the name of the new evil group? The Fifth Pope? The Seventh Seal? Shark Sandwich? Whatever it is, anytime anyone mentioned their name, I zoned out. Out of nostalgia for what I used to like about the show, I'm going to stick around till the end, but if the remaining time commitment were more than a month, I don't think even Jennifer Garner in another rubber dress would keep me around.


Johanna said...

What a great column. I completely agree with everything you said about "The O.C." (I, too, wish it would just be bad all the time), "Survivor," and "Alias." In a weird way, I think having Bruce drop out will hurt Top Gun in the end. True, he'll make it to the Final 5 no matter what. But if there had been a tribal council following the Shane/Cirie fallout, it might have benefited Terry.

Also, I'm hating "Alias" now. That makes me sad. I used to love it so much, couldn't get enough of it, and now it leaves me bored. It's like they're spinning their wheels, refusing to give us any real answers. Which is exactly where I fear "Lost" is headed.

Adam said...

I blogged about Survivor already back at ALOTT5MA, and I agree with everything Alan said. I just have a hard time believing that Shane's being a total crybaby over his placement in the reward challenge was a complete and total act.

On South Park: just a weird f*cking episode. I will not watch it again. When was the last time that they had an episode with no Stan/Kyle/Eric/Kenny, and was their absence supposed to be some further slam at the network?

Anonymous said...

the OC was awesome tonight. really funny. you may not like the seth story but i think its pretty hilarious (Kumar Zimmerman the Hin-Jew?). I am loving the 2nd half of this season. Don't fight it, Sepinwall!

Anonymous said...

The "Great Expectations" episode of South Park didn't have any of the usual characters (except Pip). "Not Without My Anus" didn't have any of them. "The Butters Show" has the main gang, but only at the very end.

Alan Sepinwall said...

anonymous (and, by the way, can people start clicking the Other option and punch in either their real name or a pseudonym so I can keep track of who's saying what?), Hin-Jew was funny. In general, when the show tries to be funny, it's still good (see any scene with Taylor Townsend from about one-third of the way into the season on). But the more serious part of the story -- Summer being heart-broken and Seth trying to win her back -- is one of those Idiot Plots, where it only works if everyone involved acts like an idiot. I hate it for the same reason I won't watch shit like "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, Cheesesteak. The finale is on May 11. But I can't imagine the finale being any funnier than this one.

velvetcannibal said...

I have missed The Office and am pretty annoyed with the level of reruns. At least there's something to look forward to there.

I checked out the first half of Alias, but abandoned the second half for Veronica Mars. Since ABC shows run on their own special time, I did catch the Vaughn look after VM had ended. The hell? I feel like I'll catch the episodes in pieces, but I share your boredom. The first and second scenes were too fun for me not to be disappointed with show now. Even though I can't tear my eyes off Lena Olin.

As for The O.C., I bailed midway through the second season. I watched the finale that year, but I have only caught bits and pieces of the third. I can't stand it. It's a shell. Instead of coming up with interesting storylines, it's all contrived, crappy conflict that makes no sense. And will someone please kill off Marissa? Please? If Schwartz kills her off, I will probably give the show one more chance.

Mac said...

Aras chose Terry because he knew perfectly well Terry wasn't the choice. Note his statement that the challenge was meant to divide his team. Bad answers are absolutely the way to go in that challenge, because nobody gets mad at you if you don't chop/break them. Aras (who impresses me more and more each week) is the first contestant I've seen who realized that, at least the first who put it into practice.

Anonymous said...

velvetcannibal -- it's a teen soap on FOX. Don't know what you're expecting (Dawson's Creek?) They have to do big dumb contrived drama. That said, I agree with Alan - when it's funny it's still really funny. And if they got rid of Marissa (please God! there are rumors...) I think the show could be much funnier all the time. She provides too much melodrama. And not in the fun way.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"And will someone please kill off Marissa? Please? If Schwartz kills her off, I will probably give the show one more chance."

Josh gave an interview with Michael Ausiello at TV Guide where he hinted that one of the four main characters could be killed off by the end of the season. It ain't gonna be Ryan and it ain't gonna be Seth, and there would be a riot if it was Summer, and Mischa Barton's the alleged off-camera diva, so... happy happy joy joy?

Anonymous said...

I read that interview and didn't think Shwartz meant killed off -- just leaving. But that would be good enough. I don't think they have the cojones to do it (they only kill peeps like Caleb or shudder-to-say-his-name Surf Rat Johnny). A show like this would never kill off someone like that. But if they did... wow. Happy happy joy joy indeed. And ballsy.

Anonymous said...

so, here's what you, uh, missed by fast-forwarding: Ryan's freshman buddy = not a jackass. But, he was a former fuckup in his second go-round as a frosh, which somehow made Marissa want to go back to the Surf Nazi, who had rented "The Sound of Music" after Marissa told him about how when she was little she wanted to be like Liesl (awww -- or rather, bleah).

On the Sandy-Kirsten front, they go to a dinner with a bunch of doctors where Sandy talks up the hospital. Kirsten gives an oh-snap little toast, then walks out, downing a glass of wine along the way.

I know a soap needs drama and strife to thrive, but I'm even more annoyed by this plot thread than by Seth's idiocy, which is saying something. The current Sandy is so completely out of whack with what he was that it really doesn't even make sense anymore.

But hey, prom next week! And, it looked like more Anna. So that could be good.

Anonymous said...

I think I might have missed a few Alias episodes back when ABC had it day-jumping because I honestly know nothing about Prophet Five (or even that Sydney was kidnapped). And everything with Rachel and Tom I skip because I find them way too boring. And I really wish the writers would decide if Sloane is evil or not. Just pick one and stick to it, really

Anonymous said...

Even Amy Acker shooting down a helicopter and then discarding the rocket launcher like an empty Starbucks cup as the flaming wreck plummeted behind her couldn't make up for the rest of that snoozefest. "Oh, blonde girl, can you delete these files before the character actor who always plays a jerky boss finds it?" It's too late to be 24, guys.

LawNut said...

Did anyone notice that Anna had like THE worst hair extensions EVER?? Is the O.C. really that hard-up that they can't afford a decent stylist for this girl?

Overall, I have been a die hard O.C. fan since its humble beginnings, but I was so terribly disappointed with this week's episode. I'm kind of glad Kirsten fell off the wagon though - she really has been a stick in the mud lately with this whole Sandy bit. I mean, really - cut Eyebrows Man some slack! The man is WORKING (something she might consider), so that she can keep living in her marble palace doing nothing all day but drinking tea and deciding where to get take-out from!

Daniel said...

I finally got to the past two weeks of "The O.C." on DVR last night and I'm not convinced that we're being pushed toward a Marissa death, but it's fairly clear that they're pushing her in the direction of being written off the show dead or alive. Ryan's freshman buddy was mostly there to explain to Marissa that sometimes just because you can get into college doesn't mean that you're ready to be there.

I don't think killing Marissa would accomplish anything to push the drama forward this season. However, they could just send her off in the finale on a motorcycle to travel the country and find herself. That way, she could be brought back for the series finale next season (I figure "The O.C." has one more season left in it, but not two). That that point, *then* you can kill her. Or maybe they could pull a Dawson's Creek and have the finale take place five or ten years in the future and let all the characters come play tribute to Marissa as she dies of some unfortunate wasting disease.

Or something like that.