Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Diamonds are for Mondays

Spoilers for "Chuck" and "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I rip apart this headboard...

Interesting approach for "Chuck" episode four, which was fairly light on the laughs -- minimal Casey and almost no time spent with Captain Awesome or at the Buy More -- while working to give some emotional heft to Sarah and the inevitable Chuck/Sarah 'ship. I missed the Nerd Herd and Harry Tang, but, as with episode two, I'm glad Schwartz and Fedak want us to genuinely understand and care about these characters. Chuck needed to find out about Sarah and Bryce sooner or later, but I like that the bigger obstacle to their cover becoming an actual relationship was the matter of Sarah's secrets. (Dammit, there's that word again! Sorry.) Yvonne Strahovski could probably still use a good fight trainer -- though with the outfits they keep having her fight in, I'm not sure how much of the audience even notices -- but she and Levi have great chemistry and she did a really nice job with "My middle name is Lisa."

Other things I liked: Casey falling for the same stunt that got him in trouble in Prague, and Casey -- who somehow got his pants on even with his hands in that position -- trying to make nice with the mom and daughter in the elevator; Chuck seeking refuge in the hotel business center and showing off his mad label-printing skills to protect the diamond; and Carina with her remote-controlled jet ski. If I were in a letter grade-giving mood, I'd say, B, B+ episode...

... which is just a shade better than what I'd give the latest "How I Met Your Mother." I'm still concerned, as we're four weeks into the season and there hasn't been a really strong episode yet, but this one didn't bug me nearly as much as the last two. I liked Robin's breakfast encounter with the little kid (and remain amused as always that Brad Rowe, as the dad, continues to get work entirely on the basis of his vague resemblance to Brad Pitt, rather than any identifiable talent of his own), and I really liked Ted and Barney belittling all of Marshall's attempts to assert his own game.

Still, Ted and Robin remain the show's weakest links, comedy-wise, so this pattern of one getting the A-story and one the B-story isn't a good one; when they were dating last year, we were guaranteed to have one plot or the other devoted to some combo or Barney, Marshall and Lily. These two stories had some funnier moments than the last couple of episodes and I understand the writers' desire to start the season focusing on how each of Ted and Robin is moving on from their relationship. I just don't want it to go on much longer.

Unfortunately, I have a nagging suspicion that it will. When I interviewed Thomas and Bays back at press tour, they were rattling off a bunch of upcoming stories they had planned for the characters this season, and one of them mentioned that Marshall and Lily would begin looking for their own place. I asked what else they had in mind for those two, and both guys metaphorically scratched their heads and said that, at the moment, that was kind of it. I know we have Marshall's next slap coming up sometime in October, and at some point I guess we'll get to see the apartment hunt, but unless we go heavy on Barney storylines soon, this could wind up being a lost season.

What did everybody else think?


Matt said...

On Chuck--Yvonne Strahovski, I know Jennifer Garner. I enjoyed "Alias." You are no Jennifer Garner (either as an actress or as a fight performer). She's the weak link, in what's otherwise an enjoyable show.

On HIMYM--Kinda blah, I agree, but the "mini-Barney"/"mini-Ted" and the time bending nature of that plot were good. Also, continuity points--apparently (TWOP says) the kid was the same one who harassed Marshall about the Super Bowl.

Anonymous said...

Yvonne Strahovski could probably still use a good fight trainer -- though with the outfits they keep having her fight in, I'm not sure how much of the audience even notices

Dude, in one shot, it was almost like you could totally see her ass, man! Seriously, I do spend more time wondering how she fights in those outfits than whether she's exhibiting any real skill. And how can you diss Casey? There can never be too much Casey. More Casey, less Sarah! :-D

HIMYM was a little off, but still funny in places and worth staying up past my bedtime so I could watch it on my DVR after Heroes ended.

Taleena said...

I agree that there was not nearly enough Casey in this episode. "Eyes Front" was great though. I am glad to see that Sarah is not the only Weinerlicious employee.

Dear Show: do not try and give Morgan depth,

Thank You, Me

afoglia said...

Chuck's fourth episode (yes fourth Alan, unless you're counting the first two weeks as an extra-long pilot) was very good. Nothing special, but they can easily maintain this level of consistency for a while, and not fall into a rut like "Reaper."

I'm still not buying Sarah's feelings towards Chuck. He hasn't done much on camera than being a neurotic wreck. Good for comedy, but not very endearing to the ladies.

Points off for not using Casey much. Also points off for not knowing the correct spelling of Wookiee. :-)

Definitely a weak "How I Met Your Mother." And they could have dropped the sentimental child drawing montage at the end. Hmmm... this and two weeks ago they redid plots Seinfeld did better. Next week, the group sees who can keep from masturbating the longest.

Riana said...

I'm definitely getting more laughs from Aliens in America, but HIMYM was better than it's been in episodes past this season.

And though, I didn't enjoy Chuck half as much as last week's episode, I still remain entertained.

Anonymous said...

HIMYM also gets continuity points for remembering that Robin doesn't like "Field of Dreams."

All four episodes thus far have had a B-plot about Robin dating. That, to me, is not a good sign -- I'm worried that the writers don't have other ideas about what to do with Robin now that she and Ted have broken up. But I did enjoy this episode, probably because Barney played such a big role in the A plot. I think the show needs to pair Ted and Robin with the other regulars more instead of sending them out on dates every episode. The show is working way too hard to prove to us that Ted and Robin are over each other, when I think it might be funnier and more realistic if they weren't.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And how can you diss Casey? There can never be too much Casey. More Casey, less Sarah!

Wasn't dissing Casey; I was noting that his minimal presence (along with that of Capt. Awesome and the Nerd Herd and the complete absence of Harry Tang) meant that the episode wasn't as funny as the last one.

Also, seems only fair that people got a glimpse of both Strahovski and Baldwin's undies this week, no?

Alan Sepinwall said...

(yes fourth Alan, unless you're counting the first two weeks as an extra-long pilot)

Typo. Fixed. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Alan: did you notice that Sarah used the word "Shit" when changing in the back of the car after Chuck gave the diamond to Carina? I had to rewind on the Tivo just to make sure I heard it correctly. I've seen "shit" on The Shield, but that was cable - haven't seen it uttered on network TV before, never mind at the 8pm hour...

greebs said...

As for How I Met Your Mother, I find it interesting that Ted is...sort of a dick this season. He's been more of the loveable buddy, but a few episodes ago, his snobbish "New Jersey is not New York" came off as mean instead of funny (which it could have been), and suggesting he has more game than Barney (and belittling Marshall in the process) was also on the mean side of the coin.

We're supposed to LIKE Ted, right?

Anonymous said...

He hasn't done much on camera than being a neurotic wreck. Good for comedy, but not very endearing to the ladies.

Hey, Woody Allen's been getting the hot chicks on screen for what, four decades now? He plays a neurotic wreck and he doesn't look anything like Zach Levi. If I can buy it from the Woodman, I can buy it from Chuck.

Alan, do you know anything about the ratings for "Chuck" and how NBC's feeling about it? On TWoP there were mumblings about it not doing so well, but I couldn't tell if that was based in anything real or just the solipsistic panic of "No one's posting here, therefore no one's watching out there!" that can sometimes take hold on those boards. I would think with baseball on the ratings for all the other networks would be somewhat skewed, but I honestly don't know. I wondered if the upswing in visible female skin was a ploy to get more viewers.

Also, can you use your critic-fu to get those of us outside the US access to episodes on network websites? (Probably not, but it's worth asking.) I'd promise to click on every Nissan Versa ad on the NBC site if I could watch these shows online.

As regards the ep itself, too much Morgan, too little Casey. I know they're building the Chuck/Sarah thing for the (in my unspoiled opinon) inevitable return of Bryce, but I don't want to see Casey relegated to just chauffering the two of them around and uttering the occasional "Hey mouse, say cheese!"-type one-liner.

Anonymous said...

I actually really liked this episode, maybe more cause I am (and so is the show) settling into the rhythms of the show and the exposition is out of the way.

I like that the show isnt up for just goofy comedy (though the previews for next week showed quite a bit) but is willing to slow it down and make us care. The show is called CHUCK and yet the episode is about Sarah. Maybe things got re-ordered (since you always hear about reshuffling of episodes) but either way it was unexpected to start investing in her so soon and I liked it. I think in the long term, caring about these characters more makes you laugh more down the line.

It will also allow you to forgive silly spy plots, which by now seem de rigeur for this show. But I'm okay with that, cause its not why I watch the show. The first 5 minutes gave me a very FRIENDS vibe and the last 5 gave me a very OC vibe, but in the best sense of both shows. I thought the last scene was really nice.

I think this show will keep growing as people discover and get used to it, and as it allows its exposition to take a back seat to good comedy, and hot chicks.

Anonymous said...

From the Hollywood Reporter:

NBC's 'Chuck,' ABC's 'Samantha' start strong
By Paul J. Gough
Oct 17, 2007

NEW YORK -- NBC's freshman "Chuck" bucked a download trend for new shows, jumping 19% week-to-week while ABC's "Samantha Who" debuted strongly out of "Dancing with the Stars."

The Christina Applegate sitcom averaged 14.9 million viewers and a 4.5 rating/12 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, according to preliminary estimates released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. It held a lot of the demo from a 90-minute "Dancing with the Stars" (19.2 million, 4.6/12), and settled into second place at 9:30 p.m. in the demo. and first place among viewers.

"Chuck" (8.2 million, 3.2/8) began to show some ratings promise with a 19% increase compared to last week (2.7/7). CBS's "Big Bang Theory" (8.1 million, 3.2/8) dropped slightly from last week, as did "How I Met Your Mother" (7.9 million, 3.1/9).

Chris Littmann said...

Was I the only one hoping HIMYM ended with another form letter from Barney, claiming he was a ghost? I thought that would've been great for the faithful viewers. Mini-Ted was funny, but that's what I was REALLY hoping for.

Todd said...

I was quite disappointed in HIMYM, which never seemed to get off the ground to me, despite some amusing moments.

That said, next week's episode is Marshall-centric, as per CBS, so I have high hopes.

Anonymous said...

This was the first episode of Chuck I didn't like and it centered around Karina the DEA agent. She was a bad actress, pushed the T&A level to uncomfortably high levels, and the way they used her as an antagonist resulted in nonsensical scenes like the initial fight between her and Sarah. I am completely on board with the kind of show Chuck wants to be, but within its conceit it still has to respect basic logic and not do things just because it would be cool have to have another action sequence.

I did like a lot of the moments that Alan and other commenters have mentioned. I also love that Sarah gets all of the glamorous disguises and is at the center of every scene they infiltrate, while Casey is always a limo driver or waiter hanging out in the background. The ending with Sarah whispering her middle name was powerful and the whole scene was well done by both actors.

anonymous -- I believe Sarah said shift, not shit, as in she had to work another shift at Wienerlicious.

filmcricket -- Chuck's ratings plunged from week 1 to 2 and 2 to 3, but this week they actually went up, which is a good sign. I, too, am curious how NBC views Chuck's performance, but I imagine it's good enough to at least leave on the air for now.

R.A. Porter said...

Agree with greebs' comment: Ted has been a dick this season. I'm a little worried that Josh Raynor's limitations as an actor are hurting the show. He's not playing hopeful/earnest/love-struck, so all he's got left it d-bag?

I thought last night's was better than last week, but not by too much. Honestly, I don't care if Roberta (it's Robin!) *ever* dates on the show. In season one it made sense and was important to the show - after all, Ted was pining for her - now it makes none at all. Unless Robin turns out to be bi and starts dating women who might turn out to be the mother, it's just not important.

I'm now very disappointed to report that my HIMYM spec script kicks the crap out of the entire third season. That shouldn't be the case at all, but Carter and Bays are wasting time with Robin's dating life and Ted-as-dick. I want better pairings. I want a Ted/Robin/Marshall A-story with a Barney/Lily B-story, or TBM vs. RL or TL vs RMB. Something new and fun that breaks this trend.

The Pale Writer said...

agree on ted being a dick - he's always been the show's weakest link (what? hey, robin's at least attractive); now he's an unlikable weakest link.

and i've said before, will say again: he's gone from desperately seeking love (telling robin he loves her on their first date) to nearly finagling a tricycle and (temporarily) out-gaming barney? that’s a total disconnect foe me.

Anonymous said...

Also, seems only fair that people got a glimpse of both Strahovski and Baldwin's undies this week, no?

Well, we have seen plenty of Sarah's undies already. More Casey!

Sorry I misread ya earlier. Been sick the past couple of days with a wicked headache (the barfy kind, whee!).

Anonymous said...

HIMYM is in trouble. Mark my words. One more blah ep and I am outta here! I am beginning to agree with that guy who posted last week about now wishing they had cancelled it after last season, allowing all of us to place it up high. It won't get a 4th year.

Eric Fingerhut said...

To paraphrase Dennis Green, HIMYM is what I always thought it was--I'm not sure why Alan and others on this blog place it on such a high pedestal. It's a show that plays a bit with the typical sitcom form (interesting) and has about four or five very funny enjoyable episodes a season (which keeps me around.) The other 17 or 18 episodes range anywhere from OK to "funny premise, but seems like it should have been a lot funnier" to not good at all.

And the Ted character has always been kind of a dick--it's not new this season.

Anonymous said...

I think Ted's basically a good guy who has some dickish moments--sort of the bizarro version of Larry on CYE, heh. Plus, up against Barney's version of dicketry, Ted's a piker.

Unknown said...

I didn't like HIMYM when it started, begrudgingly came around last season and now, after this week's episode, have taken it off the DVR. The scene where Ted and Barney repeatedly referred to a woman as nothing more than a compendium of her body parts was the final straw. Not to be a big feminist wet blanket or anything, but where's the comedy? Seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Read a newspaper. From the '60s." Casey is the man.

Anonymous said...

i thought morgan shaking his head along with the penguin was a pretty hilarioustouch in that last episode