Category Archives: TV

Television series and specials

The Office: Garage Sale

by Za’chary Westbrook

5 out of 5

GARAGE SALE

Well, shine on, you crazy diamond and shove a crowbar up my nose! We’ve known it was all coming for a while. Of course, it’s been old news that Steve Carrell is leaving the show and we’ve kind of just been sitting around waiting to find out how Michael leaves. With Holly’s return, their engagement was pretty much inevitable; after all, you’ve gotta give a character like Michael closure. Saying good-bye to Jim and Pam is easy, really. They’re married to the love of their lives, they have a kid, they still manage to effortlessly outwit Dwight; they’ve got it all! Season finale, Jim gets a phone call, new job, moving truck, teary hugs good-bye. Done. Michael is not that simple. Continue reading

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Community: Critical Film Studies

by Za’chary Westbrook

3 out of 5

CRITICAL FILM STUDIES

We love Community for the quirky characters for the same reason we love Mad Men for its stoicism; we see a magnified version of ourselves in it. Which, I know, is one of those ridiculously pretentious things film people say when they want to sound deep while talking about a George Clooney movie. In this case, at least, it is genuinely true. The characters in Mad Men are so repressed it hurts and it’s safe to say that everyone is a bit repressed. After all, we live in a world where we have to accept everyone’s opinion and not argue with it; it’s true for them, my opinion is true for me and ironic-pseudo-deity forbid that one should dare to say the other is wrong. Of course, believing A is right and B is wrong is the definition of an opinion, which means that we are no more allowed to have unique opinions in 2011 than we were in 1961. It’s the same thing in reverse. Hence the repression. Community too is the same thing in reverse. These characters are the people we allow ourselves to be in the bathroom mirror.

So, what we love about Community is getting to see those insanely neurotic other selves we have run wild. Many of us wish we had the mad combination of fear and courage to live every day spouting our thoughts and to hell if people don’t like us. I’d say a lot of us wish we could be so passionately consumed by one thing that it dominates our thoughts night and day. And who hasn’t, at some point in life, wanted to be ridiculously vain, yet dearly loved? It’s good times, Mr. Winger! Good times.

This week’s episode was a bit of a kick in the head because it was precisely a play on the opposite of that. The grand joke of the episode was that Abed was breaking from his usual gimmick which was weird, unsettling and kind of annoying. Sort of like the first twelve minutes of this episode. Or absolutely any episode of Cougar Town. Seriously, who is watching that show?

The greatest of Community episodes is one that lets the quirks take over and run wild. That was “Modern Warfare” and “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”. Even when the show comes down to real feelings, it’s the mad quirks making it work (see: the bottle episode). Tonight was an exploration of what happens when those quirks get reined in and people get down to real feelings. Abed’s attempt at “real” conversation gets him an earful of Jeff’s insecurities and childhood trauma. We all have insecurities and Jeff’s calling a phone sex line claiming to be morbidly obese is pretty damn plausible. But that’s why we have quirks. We know that most of our insecurities are irrational, so we embrace somewhat irrational behaviors as a coping mechanism.

Just laying it out there not only makes us vulnerable, it makes us actually crazy. I think the point of tonight’s episode is that, while it’s great to be open and honest about yourself, there are some things about you that absolutely no one ever needs to hear. Again, kind of like this episode.

I think the dark horse here, though, is Britta. That no one really likes her has been a running gag since the beginning, but the bit in the diner felt like the writers seeding an important idea for later. So, be on the look out for Britta getting real about her unlikability, isolation, feelings of rejection and compulsion to care about everything all the time.

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House: Fall From Grace

by Za’chary Westbrook

4 out of 5

FALL FROM GRACE

We all bemoan the well-worn House formula to some extent. Two perfectly happy kids launching a rocket. One of them is going to sudden start seizing, right? Oh, they started a fire! One kids will get burned, the other starts running and sudden starts seizing, right? Oh, they lit a hobo on fire. Bazino Bazino, The Kid Whose Hair Is On Fire is going to turn out to be a genius fleeing his own fame or something, right?

This week is further proof that House is on its last leg. Not because its formula has reached pathetic, but because the writers are going nuts with it. Continue reading

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House: Out of the Chute

by Za’chary Westbrook

5 out of 5

OUT OF THE CHUTE

Make no mistake, I really hope this is the last season of House. The medical cases have become so predictable that even the writers don’t care anymore. We’ve exhausted the relationship interest in Taub, Foreman and Chase. The House/Cuddy relationship is running the course we all kind of knew it had to, but desperately didn’t want it to. No relationship could possibly be as dynamically engrossing as House/Cuddy in this series. Yes, they’re bringing back Olivia Wilde (who has had zero screen time this season and is still billed above Amber Tamblyn), but that’s going to be fun for maybe three episodes. And Masters isn’t a strong enough character to carry any kind of an arc. Continue reading

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House: Recession Proof

by Za’chary Westbrook

4 out of 5

RECESSION PROOF

After many weeks of feet dragging, it seems House is finally pulling itself together and has delivered what is probably the best episode of the season. What is simultaneously both sad and awesome is that best-ness is all in the last ten minutes. I think we can all stop pretending that the medical mystery matters anymore. What drives the show is that the characters, particularly the patient of the week & friends, live in these patterns. Something in their normal lives is unhealthy, literally and figuratively. What we are tuning in for is seeing how disease disrupts their normal and brings the figurative unhealth into the light. That’s what fueled the first three seasons. Of course, this is most exciting when it’s the doctors we know and love, but they’ve been fairly well exhausted at this point (why do you think we’re looking to House for that, these days?). Continue reading

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Fringe: Subject 13

by Za’chary Westbrook

3 out of 5

SUBJECT 13

I love the 80s opening credits. Something about them makes me all nostalgic for Quantum Leap. No, the QL credits looked nothing like that, but still. I can’t explain my nostalgia, sorry. Part of me wondered if this was the beginning of a Lost-esque trend and that next season we’d be seeing rotations of the three opening sequences more and more. However, tonight’s fairly dry, plot-hole-spackle episode leaves me with little hope for that. Continue reading

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The Office: Todd Packer

by Za’chary Westbrook

4 out of 5

TODD PACKER

Things have been rough on The Office since the mid-season return. Most of that roughness has had to do with trying to shoe minor characters into story leads and they just can’t keep it going. This all in preparation for Carrell’s departure which will likely mean this is the final season or that next season, we’ll be treated to a half season parade of the worst sitcom cliches in history. Continue reading

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