27 September 2011

What Did I Watch Today: Baldwins and Horses and Bears, oh Sigh

Saturday Night Live s37e01 – hm

This and the All My Children sketch were funny I guess.

Annually, I go through the same debate: should I watch SNL this year? I usually make it about halfway through the season before giving up (last season the Dana Carvey episode was just too painful (he used to be so good!)), but when fall rolls around, I trick myself using the same warped optimism: Maybe it'll be good this year! (It isn't.)

This year is so far not proving my hopefulness wise, with a season premiere full of long, mediocre sketches and lots of pee jokes. Fortunately, there was only one recurring sketch (that I know of) -- Top Gun's 25th anniversary DVD release, in no way as funny (or unexpected) as its Back to the Future counterpart -- and host Alec Baldwin's performance was thankfully a few pegs above phoning it in, with only a few cue-card goofs. Weirdly, most of the roles alongside Baldwin were being filled in by featured players, and there were minimal sketches with the main cast; hopefully they've taken the week to channel their comedic talents into something more deserving.

2 Broke Girls s01e02 ("And the Break-Up Scene") – bleh

This is the only picture CBS had on their website... and I'm not doing a rewatch for screencaps.

Ugh. More racist caricatures at the diner; more over-the-top hipster patrons; more cartoony characterizations. The cupcake store plot at last seems to be vaguely going somewhere, which gives it some seasonal-arc points above a lot of sitcoms, but the snarky "quips" got to be way too much for me:
-"I'm afraid I'm going to be late... every month."
-"If I were going to be a lesbian, she's the last les I'd be in."
-"What are you, the relationship ghost?"
-"I wasn't crying... I was masturbating."
Every conversation an abuse of wordplay... this is the type of "crass comedy" that takes any humour out of profanity (like The Whitest Kids U'Know) by having straight up lewdness stand in for innuendo, which will just never be as funny. Also: constant reminders that they're keeping a horse in Brooklyn ("I forgot again that we have a horse.") -- a horse that creates a lot of bodily waste that a person could slip in. And does. This is the last episode for me.

Ballykissangel s04e05 ("The Odd Couple") - blergh

If only they were in this episode...

Oh, the requisite "wild animal" episode. I was hoping Ballyk was above that stock sitcom plot, but it's become a different sort of program after its two protagonists departed at the end of the third series. I mean, it's traded in its agnosticism for mysticism -- I would put hardly anything past it at this point, but at least the animal in question wasn't a monkey.

So basically, by some unclear means, Donal acquires an ex-circus bear named Susie. Liam (who's feeling neglected and lonely, drinking pints by himself at Fitzgerald's) convinces Donal to participate in some sort of scheme to get money out of Quigley -- which involves scaring poor, innocent Eamon, and making it appear as though Susie is threat enough for Quigley to pay them to capture her. Blah blah blah, also Brendon wants to be more of a father to his daughter, but Siobhan is being kind of a bitch... Kevin hangs out with Sean Dillon in a thankfully non-creepy capacity, until his dad gets mad... Fathers, and babies, and bears, oh geeze.

A weak, unengaging episode, brightened only by opportunity to finally see the inside of Donal and Eamon's houses. This expansion in sets, the fancy camerawork, and the new score are indicative of a higher budget this series -- but you're too late! Your money won't save this show now that its thematic heart has been ripped out! It's bleeding all over the place! Go call Doctor Ryan!

Clearly, I wasn't impressed by this episode. But at least Colin Farrell didn't make an appearance, or his budding teen romance. Which, in retrospect, makes it easier to "bear" this episode's plot.

-Guessing the identity of the "Odd Couple" before the start of the episode: "Sean Dillan and his daughter?" "Ewww." "No, not like that! I meant 'odd couple' like the teevee show!"

What Movies I've Been Watching Lately: The Gos and Some Poop

Bridesmaids (2011)

Bridesmaids is not a "female Hangover," but a film of complex characterization about a woman, Annie (Kristen Wiig), who feels that she's regressing further and further away from the adult ideal, while her best childhood friend (Maya Rudolph) has somehow become a real grown up and is getting married. The film does have its share of scenes dealing with bodily functions, but those are just box office dressing on a really sweet, subdued story about friendship and growing up.

What friendship looks like.

Most of the big comedic sequences stem from a rivalry between Wiig and one of the other bridesmaids (Rose Byrne) at the various pre-wedding gatherings. These other bridesmaid characters are not developed much beyond a sentence of back-story, but regardless of the title, this isn't a movie about Rudolph's wedding party. This is Annie's film, and Kristen Wiig carries it beautifully. She's not afraid to go broad during the "comedy moments," but otherwise Wiig plays Annie very subtly; excluding those fecal scenes, Bridesmaids is really very heartbreaking. Wiig has romantic interests in Jon Hamm and Chris O'Dowd, but this isn't a romantic comedy, either, and Annie, though flawed in her relationships with men, thankfully exists independently of them.

So just ignore the poop or embrace it, because wrapped up inside this big Hollywood romp is actually a rather touching film.

Drive (2011)

Drive has been compared to film noir, but is more reminiscent of a cheesy action movie as filmed by a Danish auteur.

Ryan Gosling is ruining my indie-crush cred.

Ryan Gosling plays Drive's stoic, unnamed protagonist, a daytime Hollywood stunt-driver, and get-away car man for hire. After exchanging rides home for longing looks with his harried waitress neighbor (Carey Mulligan), Gosling takes a job driving for this woman's ex-con husband, and becomes entangled in a bloody, messy world, of which he may or may not have previously been a part. The characterization does not extend much beyond these vague outlines of people—Gosling is good at driving and always wears a Scorpion jacket; Mulligan wants her son to be safe—but this seems intentional, as though director Nicolas Winding Refn is acknowledging that action film roles tend to be underdeveloped. Instead, Refn wisely focuses on mood, manufacturing intense, wordless scenes with 80's pop songs in place of dialogue; the center point always Gosling driving, tightly gripping the steering wheel and gazing ahead silently. When there is dialogue, especially that between the mob boss antagonists, it often feels clumsy and reiterates the faults of this genre Refn is seemingly subverting, but still not able to transcend.

Drive is a poetic film, but very violent and ultimately pointless. It's pretty to look at, but not any more impacting than most summer popcorn fare.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Ryan Gosling is quiet loner Lars Lindstrom, for whom being touched burns and social interaction is a chore. Lars' neighbors—his brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer)—are elated when Lars not only comes over on his own accord, but gleefully shares that he has a female visitor named Bianca whom he met on the internet. Except she's an anatomically-correct sex doll. But Lars seemingly doesn't realize this, and expects everyone else to consider her as real as he does.


Lars and the Real Girl could easily turn either very twee or crass, but is instead a sweet, sincere story of family and acceptance. Bianca is rarely used as a joke—more so the townspeople's reactions to her—and neither is Lars, who has Bianca stay in his brother's spare room, and does nothing dirtier with this sex doll than whisper that she looks pretty at breakfast. The small Midwestern town's positive reaction is a bit unbelievable, but Gosling sells it as Lars, making a compelling character out of this socially- and sexually-inept man, and keeping this strange, but endearing film from veering into preciousness.

50/50 (2011)

Interestingly, my friend officially stopped fancying J G-L after seeing this.

Early in 50/50, Adam Learner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), recently-diagnosed with spinal cancer, is advised by his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) to use his medical condition as a pick-up line. It works for Adam, but doesn't for 50/50, which employs its cancer tag to attract viewers to an ultimately uncompelling film about another twenty-something urban professional. Though Joseph Gordon-Levitt does his best with the role—and the rest of the superb cast with theirs—it is hard to feel anything for Adam: he's upper-middle class; has a good job at Seattle Public Radio; has supportive friends and family. The one sympathetic thing about this character is that he has cancer; his only other external struggles are that he can't drive and pushes people away.

Cancer is a shrewd plot choice to lure viewership, but like someone using a pick-up line, 50/50 routinely eschews any opportunities to make an emotional connection in favor of wooing the audience with one-liners and awkwardly-placed romance.

24 September 2011

BUFFY TIME: Too Much Drama and Not Enough Dancing

I'm slowly-but-surely working my way through Buffy (and now Angel) whenever my sister comes over.

Angel s02e02 ("Are You Now or Have You Ever Been") – hm

Here's a dodgy edit that someone made for your displeasure.

Angel definitely received a bigger budget along with its renewal, and I spent the second season's first two episodes being consistently impressed by stylistic improvements: its slick new camerawork (transitions without looking schlocky! a widescreen aspect ratio! a drastic quality upgrade in film stock!); its high production design (especially with those period sets). Herbert Davis and Stuart Blatt have definitely upped their game.

However, Angel continues to have issues in taking its dramatic stories way too seriously while simultaneously making its comedy over-the-top campy. It's unsettling to be forced to frequently travel between these two television extremes in forty minutes, and Angel has trouble establishing any sort of tone without immediately destroying it at the start of the next scene. The writers still know how to script some Buffy banter, but the comedy flings up so unexpectedly that it's hard to know how to react. This isn't aided by the weird pauses that often occur after jokes, which it took me until the second season's premiere to realize replicate the spaces during which there would be a laughtrack. And the dramatic moments usually relate to the Mystery of the Week, which means the audience has no emotional investment with the characters involved. The most egregious example of this is season one's "She" -- we have both the tortuously preachy story about female circumcision, and Angel dancing.

"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" suffers especially from the latter of Angel's two recurring tonal problems, with the introduction of a woman erstwhile Angel condemned to a life of suffering, but this story plays out clumsily with too many "lessons" about racial tolerance and mob psychology that bore us out of caring before its emotional conclusion. The period sets look very nice, and I'm glad this hotel looks like it'll be a recurring location, because otherwise I'd say that money was wasted on an attempt at a glimpse into Angel's past that quickly becomes just another excuse for moralizing. (Also with the mysterious set-up, my sister and I actually rewound and watched the first scene again because we couldn't tell whether we weren't supposed to know why they were investigating the hotel, or whether the scripters were just failing at exposition.) It looks like Angel's setting on some sort of path to avenge his past wrongs or live life while he can or something, so hopefully that'll give this season a sense of direction that was sorely lacking in the last. Also: less Lindsay please!

-"It's cinnamon."
-I was really (pleasantly) surprised at the Faith tag in "Judgment," and the fact that they're addressing this previously-unconcluded plot bodes well for the season

Buffy s05e03 ("The Replacement") – good

TOO MANY XANDERS! Just kidding: not enough Xanders!

I started watching this episode with very low expectations after the two that came before it. First we had the Monster of the Week Dracula plot (okay, you're trying to hook in new viewers, I get it), and then the terrible Michelle Trachtenberg retcon (which I knew was going to happen due to accidental spoilage, but was still could never be prepared for) and the Harmony story that felt leftover from one of the weaker episodes of season one. So I had no idea that "The Replacement" would be so good!

Like season three's "The Zeppo," we get to see a usual Buffy story (a random demon wants to kill the Buffs), but from a Xander perspective -- and he's seein' double. Though quite a few Buffy episodes have dealt with identity and doppelgangers, they are often my favourites, and "The Replacement" is no exception. The "two Xanders" was bursting with goofy moments that made me laugh (the Snoopy dance!), and had a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion -- both the happy revelation that Xander's suave twin was just his better half (he's not so bungling after all!), and Riley's somber confession that he knows Buffy will never be in love with him. I still am not adjusted to the retcon (so they're seriously playing it off like she's lived there all along and wasn't just with Buffy's dad or something? will this at least be revealed as a "Superstar"-like alternate reality? and why is Buffy living at home again?), but throw me a Xander episode every once in a while, and I can get through anything.

Well, maybe not a "double Dawn" plot, at least not yet.

-"I've got it covered from A to Z -- from axe to... zee other axe."
-I didn't even realize Debonair Xander was played by Kelly Donovan and that Nicholas Brendon has an identical twin until RIGHT NOW when I was looking up the name of this episode! I formally retract my awe at their mad greenscreen skills.

What Did I Watch Today: Quick Thoughts on Returning for Third Seasons and Second Episodes

Community s03e01 ("Biology 101") – good

Trannies, Monkeys, and Toys, oh my! What current actor does this refer to?

It's hard to get over my exuberant joy that Community is back! and actually analyze this episode, but that seems intended in its construction. It has some stylistic allusions (the opening musical number; the 2001 bit) but nothing that's really commenting on the story on a deeper level (like the My Dinner with Andre/Pulp Fiction episode) beyond just a pastiche. The story, too, does not really "go" anywhere — the group has a little tiff with Jeff but resolves it by the end; Pierce may or may not have been accepted back; Chang is living in the vents and the Dean needs money. The really only "plot" development is that Chang becomes a campus cop, and this lack of lasting story is actually sort of perfect for the first episode back: we're all too excited to analyze any deeply symbolic references, and just seeing the characters again is enough without introducing any big story arcs. So I'm glad to see you back, Community, and can't wait to watch what new innovative use of television airs next week.
-Cougarton Abbey! (Though of course Abed would have already heard of this.)
-"If I wanted to run a monkey hotel, I’d install a banana buffet. I’d use vines as elevators, I’d put tailholes in all the bathrobes, and I’d lower all the shower heads."

Up All Night s01e02 ("Cool Neighbors") – good

I should really get around to seeing Bridesmaids.

The ending verged on sappy in its requisite moment of reflection on being a parent (and with the Ava holding the baby scene), and the "trying to impress the new, cool neighbors" plot has been done before, but there were enough funny lines throughout to keep me interested, especially the musings on hipsterdom and doing things "ironically." I'm definitely adding this show to my weekly lineup.
-"Back from the hospital, turned out great."

23 September 2011

What Did I Watch Today: Quick Thoughts on the Difference Between Averageness and Mediocrity

This is not a formal review, but quick thoughts immediately upon watching.

The Office s08e01 ("The List") – okay-good

Hulu! Wuhu!

The episode started out with me thinking it would be quite a disappointment — the "planking" tag (The Office has never been so good at being au courant (remember all the viral video dances?) (and except for a few 4Chan people, no one actually does this!)); but then proceeded to become, even without Michael Scott, the sort of epitome of an Office episode: the office becomes divided (this time literally) over some non-issue (once again: literally a conflict about nothing, just semantics as to who is in an arbitrary column, later revealed to be the useless designations "winners" and "losers"), and then harmony is regained after some sort of speech in the conference room; this was a nice, comfortable first episode after all the tumultuous changes at the end of last season; felt very The Office, when the show hasn't felt like itself in a while.
-I do like Stanley's "new thing" (though Alan Sepinwall's right that it's out of character)
-"I can always unframe."
-Myles McNutt's review of this episode is as analytically brilliant as ever

Whitney pilot – ugh

She's so tall!! These characters are so bland that I actually got ginger and black-hair confused, and then was unsure as to why in the next scene Whitney was wearing a wig.

How did this get picked up?? I don't even know what the premise is... "like all those shows about middle-aged married couples who hate each other... except this time they're a young, unmarried couple who hates each other!"; these are just the worst people, whose dialogue consists of bad jokes ("If the cave men had been monogamous, there'd be like six people.") and telling each other what other is doing ("You date that photographer girl who's really loud." "You can't wear pants to a wedding."); this episode is the most overused, trite plot (they haven't had sex in a while and so start to be afraid they'll get divorced... except they can't get divorced cos they aren't married!! so hip!!) that I can see this show being on for seasons and seasons, because everyone just assumes it already has been on forever; terrible fake-looking, restrictive sets; the lowest possible form of boring mediocrity, with a few jokes that would have been "edgy" maybe ten years ago, but still told in the corniest possible way ("What're you closing with, blackface?"); I would say I wish I could unsee this, but it's so mediocre that it's pretty much already been forgotten.
-weird that the laughtrack started after the opening montage
-what twenty-something couple has a landline?
-only someone very drunk would think of and think it's amusing to have a "hammer in the underwear drawer" gag
-I didn't post a video so as not to encourage anyone to self-harm by watching

Parks and Recreation, "I'm Leslie Knope": Glad to Have It Back, But Not the Strongest It's Been

In a smart move, Parks and Recreation picks up right where it concluded its very strong third season: at Li'l Sebastian's memorial service, where Leslie Knope has been scouted as a potential Pawnee political candidate. The fourth season begins with Leslie telling Ann the news, and Ron (his hair still charred from a fluke funeral fireball) fleeing from his evil ex Tammy the first.

Hulu's got you on this.

Leslie, now a political candidate with a reputation at stake, needs to tell Ben (her boss and secret lover) about her candidacy and then break up with him, so as to avoid any scandals. However, when we cut to three weeks later, Leslie still hasn't confided in Ben, too happy with their relationship (he got her an éclair shaped like an L!), and proceeds to run away whenever faced with the confrontation. Except for some hiatus haircuts, Parks and Rec's characters are satisfyingly consistent, but it seems a bit unlike Leslie Knope to deliberately avoid checking off a task she needs to accomplish. This plotline provides most of the tension in the episode, as Leslie ducks out of chances to break the bad news. This is done in the very low-stakes way of Parks and Rec: we know Ben will understand the need for them to stop seeing each other, but the conflict comes in realizing that means both he and the audience will no longer get to experience them together. In a nice scripting move, Ben has already deduced Leslie's secret, and is already willing to sacrifice his relationship-contentment for her success. This reinforces why Leslie would want to date Ben in the first place, and is a nice contrast to frequently over-the-top, unrealistic sitcom break-ups (reiterated by Ben's recitation of cliché break-up lines, in an attempt to shift blame from Leslie). However, the realism of the break-up scene just further underlines to supreme goofiness of Leslie's avoidance tactics ("Anchors away, ladies."), though that at least paid-off in Ron's epic toe speech.

Leslie's A-plot is not the strongest, and excitement that Parks and Rec has returned distracts from the fact that the other plotlines, too, do not play out as solidly as they could have. Joe from Sewage emails a picture of his "drainpipe" to all the female staff (and Jerry), and after an offhand diagnosis about the size of the piping's "ears," Ann is flooded with other blurred-out photos to diagnose. This penis gag was likely much more pertinent when the episode was written, and has not exactly aged well. The exchanges between Ben and Joe (who went to Sarah Lawrence) and Ann and Chris comprise some funny dialogue, but the plot's conclusion in a male health screening does not amount to much (except the revelation of Jerry's well-endowment), which — typical Jerry — is a bit disappointing. This email story ties into the A-plot when Leslie gives a publicity appearance that appeals to the recruiters, but it still does not feel quite justified. Similarly, Andy's wishy-washiness about whether to work for Entertainment 7twenty is openly a non-conflict. This thread seemingly progresses to nowhere until Andy is given a position as Leslie's new assistant. It is a bit unbelievable that Leslie would agree to hire "not even that good at shoeshining" shoeshine Andy, but this lateral move likely won't affect the office dynamic, and will keep the Parks and Rec family small without unnecessary additions (like The Office's pointless new executive assistant Jordan).

Tom immediately coming back to his government job in this episode also ensures the status quo, but his easy return voids any stakes there were in his leaving, which was one of the third season's cliffhangers. In the last episode's tag, Entertainment 7twenty seemed on the verge of collapse, but is now made a non-conflict. It is a startup company even Andy knows is likely doomed to fail, but that has no effect in this episode except to provide funny sight gags as Tom hands out ridiculous merchandise and business cards. Hopefully, upcoming episodes will deal with what a waste of time and capital this company is, but "I'm Leslie Knope" regretfully squelches any of the anxiety this plotline provided last season, instead ironically favoring Leslie's avoidance tactics.

As Leslie Knope gives her candidacy speech at the episode's end, the season premiere finally gains a sense of focus and real drive. With the character consistency and plentiful jokes, this episode is not unenjoyable, but as most of the running time is spent shuffling in circles around non-conflicts, it is hopefully just the springboard for another awesome Parks and Rec season, and not the blueprint for all fourth season episodes to come.

-"Anne, you beautiful, naïve, sophisticated newborn baby."
-"If I could go back in time and cut your eyeballs out, I would."
-Tom's leopard print shoes!
-"I always carry emergency S'more rations in my car."
-"...granted, it was a hilarious prank."
-"I have the toes I have."
-"Then why is your moustache trembling?"

21 September 2011

What Did I Watch Today: Quick Thoughts on Baby Makin'

This is not a formal review, but quick thoughts immediately upon watching.

Up All Night pilot – good

It's on hulu right now... go for it.

I have never had a baby and do not remember much from my own infancy, so thus all of my experience with this kind of parenting comes from film and television — in this regard, Up All Night's premise is not exactly "fresh" (first time parents who yearn for their former craziness but also love their baby and would feel way too guilty if they still acted that way; also a working mom and a stay-at-home dad (which is not new either, and which I've seen a lot of lately on Parenthood)), but it's funny – there were times when I felt throwaway lines could have been a lot quippier (I didn't have to do any rewinding a la 30 Rock's joke-a-second pace (and Lorne Michaels exec produces UAN as well)), but there were enough really funny sequences to keep me watching (like Will Arnett's character not being able to find the cheese at the grocery store (why is there not more grocery store humor??), or the little snippet of deep conversation we hear him having with his new online gaming pal before Christina Applegate comes home, or the "brought to you by Nordic track"); Maya Rudolph's crazy diva boss character Ava, sort of the Jenna/Tracy of 30 Rock, I could see either being a consistently funny presence, or bringing scenes down, as my favourite bits were definitely little jokes with a more realistic bent ("I ate a personal pizza... from the freezer... I ate an entire twelve-inch pizza."; "At least you don't have to work." "Yeah, cos raising a human's not work at all."); a lot of Up All Night was funnier than it could have been due the actors having such a comedic presence (the drunken karaoke, particularly, could have been interminable, but was actually very amusing), and the pilot's conclusion masterfully avoided sappiness (by having Christina Applegate fill their "family" time with a prediction of her daughter's life after her father will inevitably die), but I don't really see much possibly story beyond episode-to-episode sitcom plots (about raising baby Amy, and taking care of diva Ava) — this could be really funny, once again, like 30 Rock, but if it doesn't work (or relies too much just on having funny actors and not such funny material — like the old lady in the grocery store, that really shouldn't have worked, except for Will Arnett, or the television talking to Christina Applegate,) or becomes too cartoonish and loses that realistic grounding, there's nothing except the actors to put it above a lot of shows on television right now

MTV's Awkward pilot: I don't buy it, but I'll watch it

The premise for MTV's Awkward is thus: basically, Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards)—self-professed "invisible girl"—has one bad day. She takes some Aspirin for a headache, and while choking on a pill, Rube Goldberg's the bathroom into an accidental suicide scene. As she had just received an anonymous poison-pen letter, and herself written an angst-riddled blog post, no one believes that the event was unintentional. Oh yeah, she also just lost her Big V at summer camp, to a guy who totally blew her off.

Get More:
Awkward., MTV Shows

MTV wants you to watch the Awkward pilot.

This is high-concept, but the accidental suicide is believably done (and funny), and the remainder of the pilot is surprisingly low key, chronicling Jenna's first day of sophomore year and her sudden push into the high school spotlight. Jenna was previously "unpopular" in the vein of Emma Stone in Easy A, also a self-labeled "invisible" girl who accidentally starts a scandalous lie about herself. Both of these roles are played by gorgeous actresses, so that self-evaluation is a bit beyond belief, and the characters are given romantic interests and close friends, so as to appeal to a wider demographic than a genuine high school outcast would. However, though Jenna is perhaps not a protagonist truly deserving the show's title, the Awkward pilot has some nice, realistic high school details—Jenna's very unglamorous Target outfit (though disappointingly giant bedroom and rich house); oddly real-looking extras (and a "full-figured" cheerleader character); a crush who has gross teenage boy habits (but that Jenna justifies to herself as part of his charm); even Jenna's all-American name choice. Stylistically, Awkward is closely reminiscent of Mean Girls, with cutaways to student talking heads and Jenna supplying voiceover narration. The show provides itself with a potential overarching story in the malicious letter Jenna receives—cleverly, its entire contents are not revealed to the viewer, and by this episode's end, Jenna is able to cross off one of the "faults" with which it maligns her. However, one of the other framing devices likely to be used in future episodes—Jenna's blog—is a bit too sappy and Doogie Howser-esque, and will hopefully be phased out, as its structural duties are already fulfilled by the straight narration.

Though Jenna is not the completely "awkward" protagonist she could be, if an MTV high school show is going to rip off any films about so-called loser girls, Mean Girls and Easy A are pretty respectable choices. And at least it's preferable for a teenager to choose to watch something decently-funny and -constructed like Awkward than most of the television aimed at that demographic.

20 September 2011

What Did I Watch Today: Quick Thoughts on Fall Premieres and Pilot Season

I watch a lot of television. For the past year and a half, I've been jotting down my immediate opinions about each episode I watch in a word document — as I work my lazy way up to writing actual formal reviews, I'll be posting those quick thoughts here.

How I Met Your Mother s07e01 ("The Best Man") – hm
I mean, of course it will take some time to get into this season, and at least it's good, I guess, that they're at least vaguely going somewhere with the plot (revealing that it's Barney's wedding, and we know Ted meets the Mother at the wedding), but... this really just wasn't a very funny episode; it was a clever-ish device to remind us of Ted's past accomplishments and failures via a montage of "Schmosby" wedding toasts, but that was a bit of an irritating retcon, making it seem as though Ted keeps in contact with all of these high school friends, when before it seemed Punchy was the only one he ever talked to (and due to Punchy's motivation) – makes Ted seem a bit more a commodity than he actually is, this lonely guy with four friends; the plot about Marshall ruining the wedding was just a bit irritating in its fakes and red-herrings, and the final reason (because he drunkenly told about Lily being pregnant, and everyone mistook him taking about the bride, which led to a fathers-in-law fight) was not really enough to make that plot seem worthwhile; Robin still liking Barney is very dragged out, and it was actually rather nice that he had called Norah, and his excitement at talking to her... that dance scene, though? ummmm, sure, I guess it must have been fun to choreograph, but I have no idea whether it was supposed to be a dream sequence of Robin's, and the cinematography was very mockumentary (I would've preferred something even more stylized than usual, as opposed to something that distressingly reminiscent of Dancer in the Dark) and that break of the fourth wall — was this an allusion to something? ; the Lily/Marshall baby bit was good for reminding us of their pregnancy, and at least there were no mushy speeches between them; the cutaways (really only Robin's "truth-voice") was not really funny enough, though chuckle-worthy, I suppose.

How I Met Your Mother s07e02 ("The Naked Truth") – okay
Lolz at Victoria (I did like the music cue) – I totes predicted her coming back!; I did enjoy McPoyle, though his tag being a surgeon was a little racy, as was the "no, the snake is your penis" joke (none of those double-entendres were really all that funny; Martin Short all campy here is such a contrast to his surprisingly toned-down lawyer on Weeds); Ted "choosing between two girls" was a non-conflict that got him back to where he was in, literally, square — or, rather, season — one (wanting to fall in love) (and Victoria is another step backwards; she's obv not going to be the mom; are they yearning for the time when she was on that show? (or the quality of the show at that time? trying to ameliorate any uncertainties we have about the past few seasons with this association?)); Barney at the diner with Norah was cute, I guess; Robin and Lily did not really do anything but cheer Ted and Marshall on; what were they all doing at that diner, anyway? what is this, a sitcom?

2 Broke Girls pilot – hm
It is hard for me to like anything with a laugh track, but some of the one-liners here were undoubtedly snappy (though that old man cashier seemed to have a lot of trouble delivering them, and there is a line between just crass and funny), and Kat Dennings (I love that she has an actually realistic body type) made a likeable, crotchety broke waitress; cliché cliché the plot seems to be (and there wasn't much here), and the sitcom sets are so stifling and fake, but even the former-rich new coworker was not as irritating as she should have been; the sickly sweet ending was a bit too much (and that horse??), but I liked the introduction of an actual goal for this series (for them to make $250,000) — one that leaves room for each episode to be its own individual sitcom plot, but with an overarching focus to the series (sort of like the premise of My Name is Earl, which ended up having a most surprising amount of continuity — is it foolish to hope for something similar here?) (and will this new coworker steal that money once they earn it? is she trustworthy? who knows); the jokes were often a little too pop culture and so will likely not age well (hipters, Jersey Shore, ponzi schemes, Branjelina, twitter), especially in that nannying scene; but nevertheless, I did, for reasons I don't even know, find myself wanting to watch more... I'll give it at least one more episode.

Weeds s07e12 ("Qualitative Spatial Reasoning") – good
I didn't think it would work, but I did end up liking the split-screening, especially the last scene, how even though he was not in the middle frame or really the focus of the episode, it ended up being about Silas, and how he, now being the moral epicenter (I guess), has realized he has done the wrong thing in ratting out this mother; it's nice that they're bringing it back to Stevie and seemingly finally finally finally having Nancy's shit called on her jesus christ how long has this taken; with the funeral inspiring Andy to break away from either side of this conflict (if this ends up having any impact on the show), then this season may have actually been building to something after all; "...all of that was subsumed by the momentum created by finally putting at least some of the pieces together" (Myles McNutt))