Friday, July 18, 2008

Burn Notice & My Boys: All about the Benjamins

Haven't reviewed more than one show in the same post in a while, but it's press tour and my time is limited. Spoilers for, in order, "Burn Notice" and then "My Boys," coming up just as soon as I buy both five drinks and a new coffee maker...

I continue to be pleased with "Burn Notice" season two. Though I'll admit to losing the plot a few times with the Sophia/Raul story (why exactly did a DEA agent need a mercenary to help pull off an undercover op?), I was glad to see that the writers intend to have Michael keep doing work independently of whatever scavenger hunts Carla sends him on. (Plus, it offered us Bruce Campbell's marvelous line reading of "I didn't know he had a Mac-10. I thought it was, like, a regular gun.")

Carla herself turns out to be quite the compelling villain, as Tricia Helfer finds a way to play a smug and sexy character in a way that's not remotely evocative of the smug and sexy Head Six from "Battlestar Galactica." And while I usually have little use for Michael's mom, I thought the writers did a good job with her here. The lookalike therapist gag was really funny, and on occasion Mom can be used to give us a little psychological insight into a guy who usually refuses to let himself appear vulnerable.

I really liked last night's "My Boys" as well. Usually it's just a light and goofy show, but they did some interesting, slightly darker things here with Andy blowing off PJ's attempt to protect his marriage, and with PJ confessing the truth about the Italy trip to Bobby, in a way that didn't feel tonally inappropriate. Setting PJ up with another guy -- and Bobby's brother, to boot -- at the exact moment where he's found out how she feels about him is sort of a classic Unresolved Sexual Tension sitcom trope, but they've been playing the whole thing so low-key that I think it can work.

I also liked the running gags like Kenny being uber-prepared for the party and Brendan complaining about the cost of everything. Every bachelor party I've been to seems to have one of each guy, and the last one I was at featured a noticeable divide between those who could afford to go eat at the meat-on-swords place and those who either went home or hit up one of the other guys for a loan. Mike was a little over-the-top, but not as bad as he's been in a lot of other episodes this season.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

What's bothering me about My BOys is that they're making Mike so ridiculous as to make me wonder why the hell any of them would tolerate him. IT's not like NPH on HIMYM - I totally understand why they keep Barney around, odious as he can be. Mike has no redeeming qualities at this point.

That said, I really like the whole admission to Bobby/meeting Bobby's brother thing. I think Bobby really is madly in love with Elsa, and really doesnt' have feelings for PJ, but they're setting up a really nice "I don't want her but you can't have her, and don't mess up my friendship with her" dynamic that is very realistic.

Kenny is rapidly becoming my favorite character, and I would like to see the Bobby friend that clearly will be hiring Brendan as a recurring character.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling good about My Boys again. Last night's show really advanced a lot of plotlines, though I do wish they would tone down Mike's newfound douchiness.

Grunt said...

I'm a bit disturbed because Alan watches everything I watch (trust me, I only discovered his blog a few months ago. It is not the other way around).

I dislike Michael's mother in general but I adore the conversation they had last night about the groceries and WHY Michael's mother REALLY didn't acknowledge that he stole the groceries. I liked it for several reasons:

1) It turned her into a human being and not a characuture for a little bit.

2) It was lovely to point out that, on occasion, Michael is not always right.

3) On a more general level it was also lovely to see a show that points out that actions and events are often perspective based.

And I'm really looking forward to next week -- the trailer for that looked fun.

As for My Boys, as usual, I find P.J. the least compelling character on the show (next to Mike, they need to fix that) but I liked the interactions she had about being forced into sex-roles, her admission to Bobby in a completely non-threatening way, and I'm really pleased about the Bobby's brother hook-up. Week by week the show is getting better, which I'm pleased about because I did not enjoy the first couple of episodes at all.

Anonymous said...

While this week's My Boys was a distinct upswing from some of the previous mis-steps, I keep feeling like the directing of the episodes is missing the mark. At the risk of sounding like a film school d-bag, here goes:

I felt like, in the past, the show did a lot of two shots and group shots, where someone would say something, and the person next to him, in the same frame, would respond with a joke or insult or something. It made you feel like you were a part of the group, and these funny, likeable people were all within your eye-line.

Now they have switched to single shots followed by cuts to the other guy responding/insulting/being creepy (in Mike's case). While comedically this is an improvement, as it creates more of a surprise since you can't tell who is going to make the comment, you lose the intimacy and familiarity you had with the two shots and group shots.

It feels a great deal more like a standard sitcom now, trying to milk every moment for extra laughter. Part of the charm of this show last year was the ease and comfort of these people. That feels like it has been lost.

So it goes said...

why exactly did a DEA agent need a mercenary to help pull off an undercover op?

I don't know if you missed it or just didn't buy the given answer (in which case feel free to ignore the rest of this paragraph) but Micheal asked Sophia the above question directly. Sophia replied that she feared super stalker Raul might kill her and didn't want to alert her superiors because she would get pulled out and was too close to wrapping up the case to let that happen.

Another Bruce Campbell moment I loved was when he was pretending to be the customer that was scaring Sophia and at the end of her call to Raul he just let out an AHHHHHHH and groped the buttons on her cellphone. It reminded me of Bubba Ho-tep for some reason.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't know if you missed it or just didn't buy the given answer (in which case feel free to ignore the rest of this paragraph)

Must've just missed it. I tend to zone out during some of the show's more expository passages.

Toby O'B said...

One thing that's always a concern for me is casting family members so that there's at least a hint that there could be some genetic link between the two actors.

So I think Billy Burke as Jack was a fantastic choice as Bobby's brother. I can totally buy that they could be related.

And I think we've seen the opening salvo for a future plot-line in which Stephanie's new-found fame bites her in the ass - her version of the Midas Touch. Either that or she may even be in need of a douchebag intervention before the season's out.

Unknown said...

Mike is getting a little bit out of control, but the delivery of "Hey! I'm an Ike too!" was hilarious.

PJ's reveal to Bobby was almost reminiscent of Chandler/Rachel/"Crystal Duck", but because it was so low-key (as Alan noted), it ended up working for me.

And I was 100% sure Brendo was talking his way into a sweet Mgr gig at Neon, until that uncomfortable long man-hug, which even Mike could see was a little too needy.

Nicole said...

I enjoyed this episode a lot. First, because I completely sympathize with PJ on the whole shower/bachelor party thing. I'm amazed at how many supposedly modern women still want those things.

I also liked the introduction of Bobby's brother. He is incredibly cute and PJ deserves a break after suffering through planning Bobby's wedding and attending a horrible shower.

Mike is grating, but maybe they are going somewhere with this. I was surprised by Andy's reaction to PJ trying to help, but he has turned to the dark side I suppose and this is one way to show it.

Anonymous said...


Is the meat on swords place you were referring to Fogo de Chao?
If it is, great choice for a party, the food there is incredibly good (but yeah it is very expensive)!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dolphin Fan, it was this place.

Toby O'B said...

Hoo boy! Plataforma Churrascaria! I've gone there a few times - we call it the meat furnace. You can walk out of there without your overcoats in the dead of winter after getting your fill of the meat on swords!

The place must have been used by now for some 'L&O' episode!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed last night's MB. It's as back on track as it's going to get, I think. I know I've said it before, but dropping so many things at once just made it very awkward for me, so while I don't necessarily miss the metaphors or the locker room or even all the various viewing of sporting events, with *all* of that gone, it was just too much of a change at once. And the Mike is a douchebag thing is wearing thin because whenever he has a great line or a great moment, all it does is remind me of how much I miss season one Mike and how rare good Mike moments are this season.

@the first andrew:

Totally. The single shots are starting to irritate me too. I love the bits in season one where someone would make a joke or say something ridiculous and someone would respond realitically instead of the director cutting to them for their well timed reaction shot. Even though I can't remember the exact joke (it was one of the many Kenny/Mike "this is why you're bad at dating" scenes) but I remember Mike commenting on something and PJ laughing as she was taking a drink. It was real. A lot of this season has felt like we're one step away from a spit take.

Ignoring that, I really did like last night's episode a lot. I enjoyed the failed bachelor party and Brando and John's moments of bonding (and John's reactions to Mike's douchiness), I *really* like Billy Burke as Jack and I love anything Mike Bunin does, no matter what it is. And the semi-dramatic Andy/PJ scene was very well done. It didn't kill the flow of the show at all and it was about time. I was glad she called him out on it.

Amy said...

Late to comment as I was out of town, so no one will probably see this....

My take on My Boys for a while (and as I have mentioned here) is that there is one too many members of the group. I think it's hard to write for a group that large and make them all strong characters. Up until a few episodes I always though Brenden was the "weakest link" but just as quickly as he got interesting Mike got cartoonish and I guess in a way it proves my theory that they just have one too many members of this ensemble if they can't keep up writing for MIke while also giving Brenden an interesting story line for once.

If I was the boss of my boys I would assign one writer to each character and make them be responsible for making sure each one is represented in the writing process.

Otherwise, good episode.