Sunday, February 18, 2007

The one word you still can't say on television

Brief, belated spoilers for, in order, "30 Rock," "Knights of Propserity," "My Name Is Earl," "Scrubs" and "Survivor" coming right up...

A very strong "30 Rock" this week, particularly the montage of Liz the runt-y boss and Pete hitting her up for cash for the strip club. This was also one of the few times I liked a subplot where Tracy was relatively sane, and not just because they brought in Rip Torn as some kind of GE/NBC/Universal/KMart bigwig. Liz being a rare female boss in an agressively male profession and Tracy being a has-been who's oblivious to being a has-been are both good comedy fodder, and they haven't exhausted either one yet.

The "Knights of Prosperity" guys appear to have written a series finale without even realizing it. In case you didn't see the episode, the guys saved Esperanza from her evil Colombian drug lord ex-boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale, and is he too young and/or well-known to qualify for Hey It's That Guy! status?) by trading him all of their intel and resources on Mick Jagger's apartment in exchange for her freedom. On paper, it allows them to work around Mick's lack of interest in coming back, but I also think it gives ABC an excuse to pull the plug, immediately, because the ratings have been awful, losing huge chunks of the lead-in from "George Lopez" -- "George Lopez" -- every week. Considering the struggles of "In Case of Emergency" and ABC's belief that the best lead-in for "Lost" is "Lost," I wouldn't be stunned to see "Lopez" and "According to Jim" airing from 8 to 9 as soon as this week.

After a few back-to-formula episodes, "My Name Is Earl" presents another treat for Bad Earl fans like me, with an entire episode of Bad Earl's greatest hits. My favorite: the montage of Earl making fat jokes about pregnant Joy, as there was a level of glee to Jason Lee's delivery that reminded me of Banky and/or Brodie.

I'm really not feeling "Scrubs" at the moment, unfortunately. This episode didn't have any jarringly bad decisions like Kim faking a miscarriage, but it just feels like the writers are forcing the wackiness. And at the same time, the show's been so hardcore wacky for a while that the emotional moments don't work. J.D.'s realization that he needs to grow up and stop leaning on his friends to solve every problem should have been an important milestone for the character, but he's become such a cartoon in the last year and a half that I don't expect the development to stick. For most of last season, the more ridiculous tone was fine because the show was so funny; lately, I'm not laughing very much, and that hurts everything.

Also not feeling "Survivor" yet. Still too many contestants, and they're no longer even trying to be subtle about who's going to Tribal Council, as it felt like we spent about 30 seconds at the fancy camp. I think my problem with the feast-or-famine twist is that it hasn't been earned. In "Pearl Islands," Sandra's team had such a kick-ass camp because she did an amazing job of bartering in town, while the opponents ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, foreshadowing how badly they would do in most challenges. In "Palau," Tom's team won an amazing camp little by little through pure challenge dominance. Here, one team won a relatively tight Immunity Challenge, and now they get to live high on the hog at least until the next twist? Meh. Aside from Earl and the snakes coming to an understanding, the entire hour was flat.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

In terms of comic appeal, has Rip Torn aged much since The Larry Sanders Show days?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really thought 30 Rock was Dudsville, this week. Torn was completely wasted; HIMYM did the Grinch/Runt thing already, if not a whole lot better.

The bit with the VCR was painful, the Designing Women thing was lost on me. I was hoping "Grace Park" would pay off; maybe later. But really, this is the first one I thought was mostly a waste.

Baldwin's reading of "The Dude from your checks" was golden.

Or are shows less funny when you watch them online?

Anonymous said...

I'm a bigtime Scrubs fan, but this season feels like the show's on autopilot. I'm seeing it from the writing, acting, directing, everything. Are they running on fumes or buying time til Zach Braff leaves? It's sad.

Anonymous said...

I thought the 30 Rock take on "runt" was all right -- done much more directly than HIMYM (where people debated what "grinch" stood for). No ambiguity with 30 Rock. The gold standard, however, remains Curb Your Enthusiam's "Beloved Aunt" bit.

The Liz "mean boss" flashback was hilarious (especially the New Year's Eve bit). As was the "pleasure to meet you / yes, I'm delightful" exchange, the Kenneth / gay executive bit and the Kenneth / Grace Park exchange where they mangled the lines from Jerry Maguire.

I agree on Knights of Prosperity. In fact, I went to IMDB to check if there were more episodes to come. The show's OK but I don't think I'll miss it if, when, it gets canceled. I'd miss 30 Rock though.

Anonymous said...

"Knights of Prosperity" is uneven, and I think the writers haven't quite yet hit their stride, but it's still one of the few shows that makes me laugh out loud at least two or three times an episode. For that reason alone, I hope it can survive -- although I'm guessing it won't.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The bit with the VCR was painful,

That was actually one of my favorite parts of the episode, because nobody in TV or movies ever has problems with AV equipment when they need to show an important video.

Abbie said...

I loved the video bit in 30 Rock.

I don't watch Knights of Prosperity, but I was a big fan of the NBC miniseries Kingpin a couple of years back. Was that a shoutout? Bobby Cannavale was on that show, starring as a Mexican drug lord's crazy brother. I won't tell you how very, very hot he was.

Anonymous said...

I believe someone on Studio 60 had a problem earlier in the season, however it was a bit more complicated, involving using the wrong kind of tape/machine.
It would have been funny if it were not for the fact that "normal people" can use VCRs.

Once upon a time there was a little problem between the scriptwriters and the prop department of Mr & Mrs Smith (the TV show, with Scott Bakula, in 96) which resulted in the characters being told to presss F10 (on their Mac) and having to press F, 1 and 0. (which led most of the audience online to ask "don't Macs have function keys?")


Alan Sepinwall said...

Pam, in the Studio 60 pilot, Jack needs to watch a recording of Wes' on-air meltdown, but someone gives him the wrong format of videocassette to watch on a consumer VCR.

Anonymous said...

I recently started watching Knights of Prosperity on ABC's website, and it just... I WANT to like it, I really do, and Kevin Michael Richardson is wonderful, as is Sofia Vergara. It doesn't come together, though. I think centering on Mick Jagger was a mistake, and they just should have tried robbing a bunch of people or something.

I also have difficulty liking a lead character who's been a janitor for 20 years. It may be class snobbery, but why should I feel sorry the dude? He made his own lot in life.

Once again, I do like Richardson and Vergara, though. And in Vergara's case, I actually like her acting instead of just thinking, "wow, she's pretty."

Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying "Knights" and I hope it sticks around. I do agree that "Scrubs" has been off this season, but it sill makes me laugh, so I'm sticking with it.

Anonymous said...

"Hey look everybody! It's Sherlock Homo come to solve the case of the gay sweater."

30 Rock is so good, I look forward to it more than The Office. With The Office, I smile a lot, but with 30 Rock I burst out laughing more than I expect.

TL said...

I recently started watching Knights of Prosperity on ABC's website, and it just... I WANT to like it....

I want to like it too (although I wanted to like it more when it was called "Let's Rob Mick Jagger"), but the show hasn't delivered. A lot of people have addressed it's main flaw -- it's not funny enough. But I see a secondary flaw that's just as critical: It's not angry enough. A character who cleans toilets for a living only to come home and watch Mick Jagger and his houseboy prepare a hot yogart bath should be seething with class resentment. It should be season 2 of "The Wire" played as comedy. Instead, he's just another shlub with a wacky get-rich-quick plan. I guess we really can't expect a class warfare call to arms from self-satisfied Hollywood writers, but I'll always think of this as a missed opportunity.