Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peripheral Vision Man goes to the mall

Spoilers for "HIMYM" and "Studio 60" just as soon as I call all of my Canadian cousins to ask them whether, in fact, 1986 didn't arrive in Canada until 1993...

Vis a vis "How I Met Your Mother," turns out Robin and I share both a Canadian heritage and a refusal to go to the Willowbrook Mall -- though, unlike Robin, I was never a pop star. I just have too many bad memories of what a bad, generic mall Willowbrook was. But it was the nearest mall growing up, dammit.

Another hilarious episode, and one that has me increasingly convinced that this is the show CBS needs to air after the Super Bowl. That timeslot's not the ratings magnet it use to, but it still has the potential to expose the show to 15-20 million people who have never seen it, and if there's a show on CBS that needs non-CBS viewers to know it exists, it's this one.

On any other show, the video no doubt would have been the highlight, but here it had to compete with both of Marshall's slaps of Barney. Is there anyone, anywhere, who doesn't think Barney made the wrong choice with the 5 vs. 10?

And just as it took America's 1987 six years to get across the border, "Studio 60" is showing that it's taking 2001 five years to enter Aaron Sorkin's consciousness. Sure, Fox scheduled "The Tick" in a much different comedy climate, but would any network bother with "Peripheral Vision Man" today, let alone give Beavis and Hackboy the budget to hire the huge, untalented writing staff we've seen in the two or three scenes set in The Room? And Matt's brief attempt to hold the two under contract after humiliating and marginalizing them since his return didn't make him seem noble; it made him seem like a bully.

I suppose this was an improvement over the Pahrump episodes, in that the lecturing about how Hollywood and fundamentalist Christianity relate to each other was limited to one subplot. But when the show's not being simple-minded and preachy and obnoxious, then it's just dull. Maybe if I liked the characters more, I would enjoy a straightforward inside-baseball episode like this, but nine episodes in, the only ones I still have affection for are Jack, Cal and Jeannie, and they exist on the series' fringes (or, in Jack's case, disappear for entire episodes at a time).

As for the Harriet storyline, there were so many things wrong with it that I don't even care about Aaron's ongoing therapy about his break-up with Kristin Chenoweth. First, if this takes place on the same day as the Nevada trip, Harriet got this offer, agreed to it and let the word spread all within a few hours? Woman works fast. Second, she can't possibly be so naive that she doesn't understand either the lad mag's desire to put her in a photo shoot or one of the reasons she's so valuable to "Studio 60." It would be one thing if she felt offended because Tom and Simon were making it sound like that was the only reason they kept her on the show (i.e., belittling her talent), but she reacted like this had never ocurred to her before. Every time Harriet opens her mouth, I like her less.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I have been watching this show since the first episode, and I think I am seriously coming to the end of our relationship. Harriett gets on my last nerve. She's shrill and unlikeable, I think it's partly the actress and partly just the character.

Alan, does it get any better? I know it was just picked up for more episodes, so ideally it does get better. But I just can't see that happening based on what they've already shown.

Anonymous said...

the first half or so wasn't all that bad, i thought. then, boredom set in. Just let go of the "culture wars", Aaron. I just hope we will see more of lucy davis in the future. Aside from jack (of course) she's about the only character i'm interested in, although I do wonder when they're going to address Peet's pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I watched HIMYM all last season and, while it was enjoyable, I didn't really find it laugh out loud funny, so I decided to drop it this year. I did think this episode sounded really funny, though, so I tuned back in. I'm glad I did. It was hysterical! It's too bad every episode isn't this funny.

This was also the first week that I haven't watched Studio 60. I can watch a mediocre show if I at least care about the characters, but I don't care about anyone at NBS. I really wanted to give the show a chance, but if it didn't grab me afte 8 episodes, I think it's a lost cause.

Anonymous said...

I tend to put the Harriet sequences on mute, they're much more tolerable that way. I honestly couldn't figure out what the deal was with that plot. Simon and Tom came off as creepy and controlling and Harriet should have told them to get bent.

I thought the Ricky/Ronnie plot was much better, and I got the sense we were supposed to see Matt as a bully, because for all his talent, that's what he is- an egomaniacal jerk. Ricky dressed him down well, and gave him the fuckyou he deserved, even though Matt was probably right on the money that PVM would crash and burn. Some really nice acting from Handler and Jacott and Perry there.

Anonymous said...

HIMYM is quickly becoming my second favorite comedy on tv right now (behind The Office, natch). I laughed out loud a LOT at last night's episode. As someone who just moved away from Bloomfield, NJ to South Carolina, I cheered when Barney cried "Willowbrook Mall!" I paused my Tivo and asked my husband, "Did they just cheer for Willowbrook Mall?" A quick rewind confirmed that they did (which made me laugh out loud again). I love this show.

Elayne said...

A) Re: "would any network bother with 'Peripheral Vision Man' today," I think you need to bear in mind that Sorkin isn't writing reality here, he's writing fiction disguised as reality. His stuff has always been springboard fantasy - nobody talks as rapid-fire as the Sports Nite people, no real White House operates like West Wing... but darn, don'tcha wish on some level that they did?

B) Of course Matt was being a bully. His attempt to try and get the Hacky Twins to stay was chiefly motivated by a desire to save his own rep from being associated with PVM. What I would have liked to see happen was an attempt to break up Frick and Frack by giving the bald guy the heave-ho and catering to the other one, who wasn't so much Danny to Bald Guy's Matt as he was 1776's Judge James Wilson to John Dickinson.

C) That said, I think I have a lot more affection for the characters than you do. Overall I'm still enjoying the heck out of Studio 60. The main problem I had with this episode was that it's still the Same Damn Day three weeks in a row now, and as you mention that may work okay for us as the audience but the time frame doesn't work as well for the narrative regarding Harriet. The escape clause for that is to surmise that the tour offer, the lingerie shoot offer and Harriet's remarks all occurred at some indeterminate time (and not simultaneously) before The Longest Day ever started.

I wish I could volunteer to live-blog this show for you, but as I say, I like it a lot more than you do, and my computer is in a different room from my televisions.

Elayne said...

Oops, that last paragraph should read "live blog for Lance Mannion." :)

Joel said...

Willowbrook Mall was my "home mall" too, Alan. Yeah, it was pretty generic -- it sure as hell wasn't as nice as Garden State Plaza -- but at least it was better than some other malls out there. Just asked anyone who worked in that depressing Fortunoff/JC Penny mall next door...

That was the funniest HIMYM episode ever. It was so good that I almost never referred to my notes when I was writing up my TV Squad review of it. It's one of those episodes that makes you smile for days and weeks afterwards and makes you laugh every time it's rerun. It almost makes me hope the show makes it to syndication so I get a chance to see that episode over and over for years (and not have to buy the DVD, of course).

Anonymous said...

As amazing as the video was, the bit that had me laughing so hard that I actually had to pause the tape was Barney's description of Canadian pornography.

I know HIMYM usually doesn't refer back to comedy bits from previous episodes, but I really hope this stuff comes up again (both the random slaps and Robin's notorious history.)

Anonymous said...

I now call Studio 60 "the show I love to hate." There is just so much cheese there, that it amuses me immensely.

I agree totally with your assessment, the characters are becoming increasingly unbearable. I really only like Jack.

I seriously cannot understand how anyone finds Sorkin's lectures brilliant. He's heavy-handed and pretentious. If the characters weren't constantly moving, I think more people would realize that their dialogue is annoying, fake, and bloated.

Still, it's my guilty pleasure. It's so bad -- it's good. It makes me howl in laughter. So I guess I should thank Sorkin for entertaining me with his ego-trick. At least he isn't boring.

Anonymous said...

"I know HIMYM usually doesn't refer back to comedy bits from previous episodes, but I really hope this stuff comes up again (both the random slaps and Robin's notorious history.)"

Actually, they refer back to old shows all the time. The continuity on this show is one of the main reasons it is so great. Two examples from the top of my head: Marshall being the only one to understand Barney's gambling game with the Chinese, just like Barney was the only one to understand Marshgammon and Marshall being excited about the robot in the video. There are so many more that I can't remember right now. I really wouldn't be surprised if there were a few random slaps in upcoming episodes.

Entertainment Weekly spoiled me a bit for that pop star reveal, but it was still hilarious. Best episode of HIMYM yet, hands down.

Anonymous said...

re: HIMYM - I'm just sad no one referred to Barney as "Swarley" in last night's episode.

The other comment that had me doing a spit take last night was after Marshall's first slap when Barney mentioned how large Marshall's hands were...Marshall's response had me on the floor because it was SO unexpected and hilarious.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian, I couldn't help but be reminded of Alanis Morisette in her early '90s "Alanis" days when watching the Robin video. Her hair and outfit were a little closer to 1989 though.

Another benefit of living north of the border is that we can watch Studio 60 on Sunday night after Desperate Housewives. Studio 60 doesn't seem as crappy when it follows DH as opposed to the still fresh Heroes. Even so, I would watch something else if there were better options. Sorkin and his characters are so full of themselves that I couldn't help but cheer when Handler told Perry off. More of that needs to happen.

Anonymous said...

But you know, Sorkin -- er, I mean, Matt -- can spell descent. So he's better than all of us put together.

Anyone else put off by Lucy Davis' completely odd inflections in how she speaks on this show? It's completely bizarre. It's as if she went to a vocal/dialect coach who told her to wheeze pretentiously between each syllable.

yeah, HIMYM was awesome. My only regret is that I let my 4 year old watch it, and I fear he will be describing Canadian porn next week in preschool.

Oh, and I can't get that damn mall song out of my head.

Marshall's reaction to Barney's slaps had me on the floor. Jason Segel just kills me.

Overall, the ep was legen

-wait for it-


Anonymous said...

Robin Sparkles was actually inspired by Alanis. The producers said all we really knew about Robin was that she was Canadian and they thought it would be funny if she was like Alanis during her teen pop years, but her career ended after that.

Btw, have you seen the myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/robinsparkles

Anonymous said...

One of the many things that bothered me with this week's Studio 60 was the -extended- discussion of product placement issues. This may be because I watch shows out of order on the TIVO, but this week I watched two shows do a great job with product placement/making fun of product placement (The Office, 30 Rock) without preaching to me about it, but rather making me laugh. I don't know--just one of many things this episode that rang false. I mean, some product placement just stinks, but you're seriously going to spend 1/2 the episode telling me about it, and how bad it is, and how good you are for not using it? When other shows assume I know about product placement and choose to deal with it intelligently?

Anyway, thanks for the blog.

Anonymous said...

Watch HIMYM last night and am still laughing at the video, the slap bet and the Willowbrook Mall shout out. Called my Mom this morning to see if, in fact, Sharper Image made its way to that poor, pathetic excuse of a mall.

I've watched the video three or four time already. I love the when the Prime Minister comes out to boogy. And I saw Tiffany live in a mall once, so it brings back awesome memories.

Let's go to the mall - Today!

Kellie Huffman said...

hey, I just caught HIMYM-Robyn Sparkles for the first time last night(Apr.23,'07). I had heard nothing about it so it was a delightful surprise. We're Canadian and my husband and I almost fell over laughing through the whole thing. The show did a great job poking fun at American stereo types of what they think of Canadians, if they think of them at all, for example "aboot" (i don't hear it) and thinking the 80's didn't arrive here until the 90's. For one thing most of the media we see and hear is from the US so our pop culture is almost the same. This also feeds the american idea that the US leads in music, fashion, etc and the rest of the world follows along like good little wantta-be's (ok, it does in some respects). that came out a little catty-er than I had anticipated. "Whatever"

The writers definitely did their research, putting in references to Gretzky and Mulroney and that video! Brings back frightening memories with titles like "did we really dress like that?"

Too funny.