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TV Rants and Raves 04.06.13: Full of Terrors
Posted by Dimitri Dorlis on 04.06.2013



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Welcome to TV Rants and Raves. I am your host, Dimitri Dorlis.

First off, thanks to Ben Piper for covering me in February. I ended up on a last minute business trip, and Ben was kind enough to step in. Ben really had no reason to say yes, considering it was Oscar week and he heads up that coverage, so I guess I owe him at this point. Except he won't let me near TV/Movies Fact or Fiction because all of my questions would be about Superhero cartoons and no one would read that.

As for the rest of my absence, I've been without a computer for the past month. My computer's logic board went out, but luckily I was still under my manufacturer's warranty. I just haven't had a computer to do things on.

Anyway, I'm back, and as promised, we're changing the style of the column again. It's not super drastic, but it makes more sense in my head, and I'm the one writing it. I'll explain below.

Let's get to it.

TV Rants and Raves

Like I said, the column is changing, but not by much. It's still all about TV, but it's how I talk about it that is changing.

The long-form review section will remain, but you're going to see less of them. Long-form will also become about more than just TV reviews; it will also look at current trends in TV. I'll explain why I'm doing this in the next section.

You see, right below the long-form section will be the 2 Minute Drill. I'm creating the 2 Minute Drill for a few reasons. First is that I want to write about more shows, and talk about them more regularly. This section will also be used to point out things from specific episodes of television that don't necessarily warrant a longer piece. Plus, for readers, it breaks the column up a bit, as the 2 Minute Drill is designed so that each segment can be read in 2 minutes and less, giving you the gist without any fluff.

This flows into the final section, which will continue to be named Strange Thoughts. Strange Thoughts will now be relegated to any TV-based news I want to talk about, or usually make a joke about. Good Idea/Bad Idea will remain as a periodic segment, as will MANDATORY SPORTS MINUTE.

Now, with that out of the way, let's get into it.

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I've mentioned that I wanted to give the new Community some time before I passed judgement. 6 episodes seems like a good amount, so here goes:

It's ok.

Now, that wouldn't be a good review if I left it at that, so I'll explain.

First of all, the new season isn't bad by any means. Certainly there are better comedies on TV right now (I am staring at you so very hard, Archer), but Community is still a solid series. The show is just different now, and I don't know how much of that has to do with, not the fact that Dan Harmon is gone, but the idea that I know of Harmon's departure and am subconsciously giving the new season a harder time because of it. And to be fair to new producers David Guarascio and Moses Port, they seem to understand what made Community, well, not popular, but at least so beloved by fans.

Like I said, maybe I'm just projecting my own ideas onto the show, but it still feels off, and it's agonizing to write about, because I have liked a good deal of the season. The Halloween episode in particular felt the most like an older episode of Community, taking the concept of a haunted house mystery and turning it into a solid bit of character development (and, as an aside, how weird was it to see a Halloween episode in February? I hate NBC so much). On that same note, the past two episodes have been fairly good as well, with some solid character beats for Jeff, including the final reveal of who his father is.

The problem has been those other episodes. Often, the new season of Community seems to make pop culture references just because that's a thing that Community is supposed to do. I didn't mind the Hunger Games sections of the season premiere, but they didn't add much to the story beyond JEFF IS DOING A THING AND IT'S LIKE THE HUNGER GAMES. I had similar reservations about Alternative History of the German Invasion, which had a good idea (that the study group really monopolizes the one good study room on campus) but got lost in a dumb Hogan's Heroes plot. Even episodes I liked have had this issues, like Shawshank Redemption/Prison Break segments of Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations (also, Thanksgiving episode in March….).

I had a conversation with a few friends prior to the beginning of the season about what we wanted from new Community. I argued that the show needed to forge a new path instead of relying on old jokes and references, and in many ways, that's been the problem with the new season. Inspector Spacetime was originally a good background joke, but turning it into an entire episode was the wrong decision. Instead of making new jokes that could be referenced to, Community seems more than intent on coasting by with references to previous seasons, and an overreliance on these jokes could hurt the show in the long run.

But to be fair to Community, one of its problems stems from before Dan Harmon left the show: Abed. I like the character of Abed, but the show has had a hard time pinning down what he really is. He's fluxuated so much in the past four seasons (season 3 in particular) that his characterization has suffered. Abed was originally the socially-awkward guy who got through life by making pop culture references. Now? There are obvious signs of autism, but then we'll get moments where Abed admits that he's making references just because everyone expects him to. It's unsettling and a bit of bi-polar characterization, but what makes me depressed is that the show won't just come out and diagnose Abed. It'd probably help the show and Abed more if they decided how to portray Abed going forward.

I've been trying to become more conversational with my writing, so here's what I really wanted to say: yes, Community is different, but it's not bad. If anything, the beginning of the season has been true to Community's form – poor episodes at the beginning before the show finds its voice around episode 5/6. A lot of the great Community episodes that people continually point at aired later in their respective seasons, and at least nothing season 4 has shown thus far has been outright offensive (ok, the German episode might have come close). I think the problem was that it's hard to disassociate the show from the behind-the-scenes drama, and so many viewers look at the show through rose-colored glasses, rather than judging the show on its own terms.

But time will tell if I'm right or wrong. #6seasonandamovie

Two Minute Drill

 photo WalkingDead_zps50ccd5a4.png

- The Walking Dead - It feels hard to analyze The Walking Dead in any meaningful way. Maybe it's because the show is rarely subtle, but then again, I don't expect a show featuring zombies to be great in the subtlety department.

Actually, it might be that, because this season was about two men seemingly set on the same path of leadership in Rick and the Governor. We've seen them slowly lose their tenuous grip on reality over the course of the season, and their leadership styles have similarly become more despotic. And yet, in the finale, we finally see the break: Rick is finally willing to kill a man to save the group, but he's also decided that his way of hyper-inclusiveness might not be that great. Meanwhile the Governor guns down a bunch of people, just because they started complaining.

And while we see new life and a chance at a new beginning for the group at the prison, we also have an end with Andrea and Milton. Honestly, I'm pretty ok with Andrea finally dying. Her character arc this season was incredibly frustrating throughout, and her death felt like the only logical conclusion. Still, it was good to see her gain a bit of sympathy in these last few episodes. And as for Milton, he was an interesting idea for a character, but ended up being such a non-player throughout the season that his death didn't resonate with me like it probably was meant to.

The big question is: where do we go from here? Yeah, the Governor is still running around, but he's been stripped of power. In the interim, Rick and the group now find themselves with a larger group than ever. There's optimism for the first time since we were at Hershel's farm, which probably means bad things are on the horizon.

After all, it wouldn't be the Walking Dead if the characters weren't constantly suffering.

- Game of Thrones - We had two major returns last week (with a third coming this Sunday) so we might as well talk about them. First up is GAME OF FUCKING THRONES.

Sidenote: for those of you keeping track at home, that's the first time I've dropped an F-bomb in this column. I know. I checked.

So Game of Thrones started back up, and as usual, it's hard to get a gauge on the season from the first episode, which isn't all that surprising considering the books are much the same way. The first episode is usually nothing more than table-setting, letting us check in with all the characters before we're launched into the story. And as it is, we're getting into A Storm of Swords. After season 2, I went out and got the books (currently on book 5) but Storm of Swords is probably my favorite so far. A ton of stuff goes down, which makes me kinda glad that the production crew decided to split the book into two seasons.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to seeing what the overall theme of this season will be. Last season was all about power, and what makes someone fit to rule. If I had to take a guess, this season may look into a fall from grace, and how things like hubris can cause a perfect world to slip away. Or maybe they just fill it with 10 episodes of Tyrion slapping Joffery. I'd be down for that as well.

Quick note before I go on: there's a nice reference in the episode title, "Valar Dohaeris". Combining it with the season 2 finale, "Valar Morghulis", and you have a traditional call and response in High Valaryian.

- Doctor Who - The other big return from last week, Doctor Who was a rather important episode, as we're finally introduced to the Doctor's new companion who totally didn't die at the end of the episode like the other two times, Clara "Oswin" Oswald.

Honestly, I like Clara. Part of that might be the gigantic crush I have on Jenna Louis-Coleman, but the other part might be the fact that Clara is more than willing to flirt with the Doctor, almost like a coping mechanism. Ok, so I basically described every other female lead in Doctor Who, but for some reason I'm a bit more lenient when Clara does it.

The other part is that this episode is your typical companion introduction episode. These episodes seem to stick to the same formula, and there's a reason for it. With new companions, the first step is introducing them to the Doctor, and explaining why they should travel with him beyond the fact that the script says they do. To do that, you show just how cool and awesome this 1000 year old alien is, and contrast it to how boring life currently is for the companions. The alien threat is always secondary to explaining why anyone would choose to travel with a possible madman (with a box).

But overall, it's hard to judge this first episode because (in much the same way as Game of Thrones) this is just a part of a much larger story. The "Who is Clara Oswald?" mystery should take up the remaining episodes this season, and for now, just introducing a version of Clara that will last more than one episode is good enough.

Strange Thoughts

- And no, I didn't forget about Survivor. I just wanted to wait till next week to talk about it.

- In Archer news, besides getting a 5th season, it was announced that Jon Hamm would be guest-starring in the season finale as Captain Murphy, the deranged captain of an undersea laboratory. Archer/Sealab 2021 crossover confirmed!

- HBO cancelled Enlightened, which was critically-loved but low-rated. I'll probably do a post-mortem on the show in a few weeks, but suffice to say this was a great show that, unfortunately, no one watched.

- History Channel's The Bible got into some hot water recently when people decided that the actor who played the Devil looked a lot like Barack Obama. But are you really surprised white people couldn't tell two black guys apart?

- Alternate joke: It's about time someone said that Obama was the Devil!

- Alternate alternate joke: The real point to make is that this is the first time the History Channel aired something based on fact.

- Ok, one more: I'm not saying it was aliens that made the connection between Obama and the Devil, but I'm saying it probably was aliens.

- Poor Smash will be moved to Saturdays starting April 6th. At least NBC didn't sink a ton of their advertising budget into the show….oh wait.

- Benedict Cumberbatch recently said that Sherlock was locked in for a fourth and possibly fifth series, and that co-star Bilbo Baggins Martin Freeman would be joining him. No word on whether Andy Serkis would play the villain, or just stand in the background and act menacing.

And now, it's time for a segment we like to call Good Idea, Bad Idea.

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Veronica Mars returns - Ok, this is pretty cool. Recently, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and star Kristin Bell launched a Kickstarter aimed at raising funds to create a Veronica Mars movie. The Kickstarter has been an unqualified success, meeting its fundraising goal in less than 11 hours , and is currently sitting on over $3.7 million dollars (the original goal was $2 million). This whole Kickstarter has been crazy on so many levels, the least of which is the fact that A VERONICA MARS MOVIE IS BEING MADE. This also opens the door for other cult shows to try and find a new avenue for rebirth, as Pushing Daisies has already been mentioned as possibly getting a Kickstarter. And no, Firefly will not be getting a Kickstarter. It already got a movie, and Joss Whedon is a bit busy with another, superpowered project.

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Poor JVDB - I mean, I guess I'm happy that Dawson was able to get a new job so quickly after Don't Trust the B- got cancelled, but getting hired as a lead in CBS's Friends With Better Lives isn't that great. Van Der Beek will be playing the role of a gynecologist (insert joke about this being JVDB's real job here) alongside Kevin Connolly, who will be playing his best friend AND ALSO a gynecologist. Because this will just be the funniest show ever. Said no one.

The real reason I wrote this is that I wanted someone to hire Dreama Walker. She seems like a nice lady.

MANDATORY SPORTS MINUTE

***

The Non TV Segment Of The Week

To get you even more pumped about the new season of Game of Thrones, here's George R.R. Martin reading some children's stories.



But seriously guys, Game of Thrones!



Game of Thrones!



I love everything about Game of Thrones.



Ok, I'll stop.



Ahhhhhhh.

Enjoy.


***

That's all for this week, and god it feels good to be back. Leave a comment, and I'll see you all next week.


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