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The Great Reality Escape September 14, 2017

Posted by Ted in : 24, 24: Legacy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CW, Designated Survivor, FOX, General, Ghosted, Heroes, Inspirational, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Kevin Can Wait, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Smallville, Supergirl, Supernatural, The Exorcist, The Gifted, The Good Place, The Office, The Orville, The X-Files, Will and Grace , add a comment

Well, it’s my favorite time of year again, late summer. The kids are starting a new year of school, football has returned, baseball is approaching it’s wondrous post-season, and the first hint of autumn is in the air. All of this signals the best thing of all, the start of the new television line-up. It’s a time for us to forget the divisive politics, monster hurricanes, and impending doom of our dystopian age and completely escape from reality. Care to join me?

Returning Favorites

The good news, for starters, is that my two favorite shows from last season, The Good Place and The Exorcist are back. These two shows, one about heaven and the other about demons, are the yin-yang of the current broadcast TV landscape. Dark and light. Oceans and deserts. Sneakers and shoelaces. Donuts and coffee. You can’t have one without the other, as the learned among us will tell you. One show is dark but cheesy, the other lighthearted and campy. Questions abound. Will Eleanor and Chidi figure out the heaven they live in is just a twisted version of hell? Will Angela Rance, played with finesse by Geena Davis, return to her semi-peaceful family life or be plagued further by the dark forces of the underworld? Will Fathers Ortega and Keane start charging a fee for their exorcisms in order to support themselves or find side jobs delivering pizzas or something. Tune in and be enlightened.

 

Somehow, you made it to the good place.

 

My research of the upcoming season has surprised and delighted me in several ways. First of all, I was stunned to learn that one of my all time favorites, Supernatural, is still airing with new episodes on the CW. I had assumed, for some reason, that it ended around season 10 or so and never bothered to check back. Turns out it is alive and well and entering lucky season 13. I’ll definitely be checking in on Sam and Dean this fall, but I’m a little nervous about what state they’ll be in after having faced every conceivable non-human creature and entity in existence for 12 years. I’m guessing at this phase they have permanently jumped the shark into the waters of self-parody, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At its best, the show managed to channel Buffy’s vibe of irreverent humor infused with metaphorical and metaphysical storytelling.

I was also unaware that Sleepy Hollow, although cancelled in May of this year, had lasted four seasons. I watched a couple of episodes of this in the first season and it was not the greatest, but still kind of lighthearted and fun. This series may be a candidate for future DVD viewings here in the crawlspace. Kudos, as usual, to FOX for sticking by their shows and giving them a chance. One thing that made me an enemy of NBC was their fondness for killing great shows like Siberia and 666 Park Avenue before the first seasons were even finished. I understand that you NBC executives want to see big money fast so you can continue to provide your mistresses with sports cars and luxury vacations, but that’s not a great way to treat your viewers.

 

 

Every basement-dweller’s favorite show, The X-files, is returning yet again this fall to bring joy to our hearts with all things supernatural, extraterrestrial, and conspiratorial. This time we’re getting 10 episodes instead of 6, which means they’ve been giving the aging David Duchovny power smoothies or something for breakfast. He had been somewhat ambivalent in interviews toward doing full seasons of the show again. But this is only half a season, so he and Gillian are probably safe and won’t be expiring of exhaustion any time soon. The truth is still out there!

Probably the biggest news of the season is that the classic sitcom Will and Grace, perhaps emboldened by the resurrection of The X-files, is returning with its original cast to Thursday nights on NBC. This was one of the first sitcoms to feature openly gay characters when it debuted back in 1998. Even though I’m a straight guy, the first several seasons of Will and Grace made me laugh like a drunk hyena. In later years, the humor got to be a little predictable, but I’m still looking forward to seeing this old bunch again.

Two new shows from last season that I thought I would like until I watched them are also returning. After viewing half of the first episode of 24: Legacy, I lost interest, probably because of the absence of Kiefer Sutherland, who played my close personal friend Jack Bauer in the original 24 series. Kiefer moved on to a new show, Designated Survivor, which is a 24 meets The West Wing kind of thing. Instead of working for the president, this time Sutherland gets to be the president. The premiere episode that I watched last year seemed like a promotional video for the Washington political establishment, and was somewhat lacking in the cloak-and-dagger edginess that made 24 so great. It just honestly left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’ll probably give both of these shows another shot because you can’t always judge a show by the pilot episode.

New Shows

With all the great returning shows, there’s not much room in my schedule for watching new ones. Thankfully, there’s only a small handful of newbies that interest me this time around, including:

The Orville – The first episode of this live action sci-fi parody is about what you would expect from producer Seth McFarlane (who also plays the lead role of starship captain), except that he holds his bawdy tendencies in check a little more than in his cartoon shows, making The Orville almost appropriate viewing for the whole family. But not quite. As always, McFarlane’s saving grace is the merciless socio-political commentary that he blends into all of his shows.

Ghosted – Another FOX comedy about two paranormal investigators, played by Craig Robinson (of The Office) and Adam Scott (of  Parks and Recreation). Hopefully the greatness of their former sitcoms will be transfused into this new show. Ghosts and humor sounds like a winning formula to me. It certainly worked for the Ghostbusters movies.

The Gifted – As you can see, FOX seems to have all the shows I want to watch these days. This one, loosely connected to Marvel’s X-Men franchise, is about a family of mutants with superpowers. The premise seems derivative of Heroes, but then again the X-Men came first, so this is kind of like if Rick James made a comeback rap album after MC Hammer sampled his classic tune “Superfreak.” Except in this case Rick James is a huge media corporation.

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World – Last season gave us Kevin Can Wait, the new sitcom with Kevin James (from King of Queens) that I still intend to watch when I get a chance. Now he is joined in TV-land by this other Kevin who is on a mission from God to save the world in this ABC dramedy. What does this duplicity of Kevins signify, exactly? Is it an omen of some kind? Most importantly, will he save the world or wait until later? Consult your astrologer.

 

Wall-to-Wall Happy Endings on The Office July 6, 2013

Posted by Ted in : Reviews, The Office , add a comment

After several months of tough negotiating and yard work, I have finally managed to get my computer back from my mother, under the condition that I never mention her in my blog posts again. Therefore, I can’t respond to her denials about what transpired last year at a local Applebee’s or her claims that I’m delusional and can’t tell fantasy from reality. That’s alright, I will honor your wishes, Mom. I never should have posted information about your personal life on my blog, and I apologize. Please don’t lock my computer in your closet again.

Anyway, enough about that. This is the blog where I’m supposed to be writing about television, which I haven’t done for a while, and one TV topic above all others has been clamoring for my attention lately — the final season of The Office. The show concluded in May with an ambitious hour-long episode which tied up all the loose ends and seemed tailored for the fans. Personally, I couldn’t have been much happier with it.

If you haven’t seen the final season yet and were planning to watch it at some point, this post will be like one big SPOILER, so read on at your own risk.

First of all, I’m applauding the producers of The Office for delivering one of the most unexpected moments in the show’s history: a dramatic fight scene between usually-happy couple Jim and Pam. Very well done, guys. I’m guessing this scene resulted in plenty of indignant fuming on message boards by the Jim-and-Pam-forever shippers, and probably others who thought the scene was too serious for their favorite light-hearted sitcom. Personally, I loved the realness of it, but I’m glad the two patched it up in the end. It would have been pretty heart-breaking to see them part ways — there would have been fan riots in the streets of Scranton.

Another final-season scene I liked a lot depicted Darryl struggling to overcome his self-doubts while interviewing for a job at Athlead, Jim’s sports marketing company in Philadelphia. The awkwardness of the job search has rarely been portrayed with such believability. As somebody who’s been stuck in a convenience store job for several years, I’ve been hoping to summon that kind of courage in my own life sooner or later.

An additional window into reality appeared in the episode where Pam stood up to the mischievous warehouse worker, Frank, who defaced her wall mural with little butt-shaped squiggles. When confronted about his deed, the guy fessed up, and offered only “butts are funny” as his justification. Pam, with Dwight’s help, responded with a little touch-up work on the culprit’s truck. This provoked a furious response from Frank and for a moment it seemed Pam might get attacked until a member of the documentary film crew literally lowered the boom on the guy’s head. It was a nice, unpleasant side trip into the subject of conflicts with co-workers — we’ve all been there, but most of us don’t talk about it much.

Andy “Nard-Dog” Bernard spent the final season sinking into the quicksand of his own stupidity and self-induced misfortune. After getting his job back as manager at the end of the previous season, he immediately disappeared for three months, leaving his workers behind to self-regulate, along with his bewildered girlfriend. When he returned he narrowly escaped losing his job when the CEO discovered his absentee status, and was stunned and dismayed when he discovered Erin had a new boyfriend. Then he decided to quit the paper company again so he could pursue his dream of being a star, ignoring his co-worker’s pleas for him to keep his day job so he wouldn’t end up homeless. It was all way over the top and frustrating to witness.

Here at the Crawlspace, we’ve decided to put together a task force to figure out why Andy was such a clueless idiot in the last season. So far, we think the breakup with Erin and Packer’s drug-laced cupcakes were the main drivers of his erratic behavior. “But what explains the three-month yacht excursion which occurred before those events,” you’re probably asking. That’s a good question, and we’ll give you an answer as soon as we have one. Could it be that he was, I don’t know, hung over or something?

Creed, the enigmatic fan favorite, was always the dark horse of the show. We never knew much about him, and he could have turned out to be a mad scientist or a secret agent or maybe even the second coming of Jesus. The viewers finally learned more about him in the final episode, when it was revealed that he was a member of the real-life band The Grass Roots, who had a couple of big hits back in the sixties. Office fans got to hear Creed play acoustic guitar and sing in the finale, before he was taken away by the police for various charges.

 

 

The final season seemed like several different shows taking place within one show, which is not necessarily a bad result, artistically speaking, but probably not one intended by the producers. It was like being in a giant house with many different rooms. As in previous seasons, some characters seemed more real than others. The minor players like Meredith, Stanley, and Phyllis stayed true to their standard personae. Dwight and Andy remained wildly unpredictable. We finally got to see a more vulnerable side of Angela and a compassionate side of the usually cynical Oscar. Angela could barely make ends meet after her split with her senator husband, so Oscar offered his home as temporary shelter for the cat-obsessed accountant and her baby, an offer which she accepted. After years of seemingly cold relations, it turns out they were not such enemies after all. In my opinion, this type of character development is what sets the The Office above most other sitcoms.

In my first post about The Office, back in 2008, I discussed four workplace love triangles that existed at the time. Yes, there was a lot of office hanky panky going on back in the fourth season, and it’s surprising that any paper was sold at all during that time. Strangely, these four triangles were resolved to some extent in the final episode, five years after I made note of their existence. During the final hour of the show, Jim and Pam re-affirmed their love for each other and decided to move to Austin, so Jim could pursue his business venture. Dwight and Angela had their long-awaited wedding during the same episode, and in attendance was former manager Michael Scott. He had married Holly Flax after leaving Scranton, and at the wedding he showed Pam photos of their kids. Also present at the wedding were Ryan and Kelly, who ended up leaving together after a long separation. This four-way de-triangulation resulted in Andy, Toby, Darryl, and Jan being hypothetically left out in the cold, although most of them had long since moved on to other relationships with varying degrees of success.

Toby’s romantic bad luck was not improved by his awkward advances on Nellie earlier in the season. He seemed to be one of the few men alive who didn’t light her fire. Well, at least he got to dance with Pam at Dwight and Angela’s wedding. I have to say, in all honesty, that Toby is the Office character that I identify with the most. He always seemed to view the goings-on at the Scranton branch as more of an outsider than a participant, and he’s probably the only one on the show who would have written a blog like mine (although Ryan had a photography blog — check it out here). I would rather be Jim, living his all-American fairy tale, and sometimes I try to be funny and outgoing like Michael Scott, but at the end of the day I’m basically just Toby. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

 

toby

 

The final episode wrapped it all up with class and gave the fans what they wanted, avoiding any kind of dark or dramatic developments, which was probably for the best. I think, in hindsight, the quality of the The Office did not suffer much after the departure of Steve Carrell. The show did seem a little less focused, and a couple of erratic episodes here and there were real stinkers, especially the one about the lice. Overall, however, the show was solid from the first season to the last. The only other long-running sitcom I can think of that maintained that quality level was Seinfeld.

And so, the curtain closes on the Dunder-Mifflin paper company, and as with other great TV shows, I’m guessing that I will continue to inhabit the world of The Office long after the filming has stopped. I’ll sit there at Jim’s desk and pretend to make sales calls, throw paper balls at Dwight, get into arguments with Stanley, trade recipes with Phyllis, and talk about the meaning of life with Creed. How long will I stay there? Who knows. Maybe a new show will eventually come along to capture my imagination and aid me in my never-ending quest to escape from “reality,” whatever that is.

 

Comments on My Son’s Previous Post November 10, 2012

Posted by Mary in : CW, Fringe, General, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Revolution, Sci-Fi, Skeet Ulrich, Smallville, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Mentalist, The Office, The River, Uncategorized , 2comments

Hi. Mary here, Ted’s mother, and owner of the spacious basement that my son refers to as his “crawlspace.” I would imagine that if you have read his previous post, you probably have a lot of questions about me. You’re probably wondering, “Did Mary’s Skeet Ulrich Fan Club really get piss-faced drunk at Appleby’s, and have a six hour stand-off with the police?” and, “Is her fan club a terrorist group?” and, “Who bailed her and her friends out of jail?” You might also be wondering what my boss, co-workers, and friends had to say about those developments.

Thankfully, Ted has allowed me to co-author this blog post in order to set the record straight about my alleged recent arrest, which is kind of him, considering that I have taken away his computer. His Acer desktop is currently locked in the upstairs closet, where it will remain until Ted understands that he shouldn’t spread malicious lies about his mom. Now, that may seem like an extreme measure for a mother to take with her 38-year-old son, but my goal is not to punish him. I just think Ted needs a break from his internet fantasy world. He needs to get out into the real world for a while and do things like find a better job and spend more time with his girlfriend Sierra, who I think is adorable, by the way.

That being said, I need to clear up the questions Ted raised about me and my friends in his last post. First of all, nobody bailed us out of jail because we didn’t go to jail. We didn’t go to jail because we were never arrested, and we weren’t arrested because that whole “fan club” incident at Applebee’s never took place. That’s right. Ted made it all up. And for the record, I don’t go out binge drinking with my friends on the weekends. I just turned 60, for crying out loud! If you thought I was a little too old to be behaving that way, you’re absolutely right! Because I don’t! I didn’t even party like that in my college days. I’ll admit that I have a glass of wine every now and then, but that’s the extent of my alcohol consumption. Even doctors say a little wine is healthy for you, so get off my case, Ted! You were pretty hung over last New Year’s Day, if I remember correctly.

And last but not least, THERE IS NO SKEET ULRICH FAN CLUB! My friends and I don’t sit around screaming about some television star like teenage girls! How stupid can you get? All of these things were fabricated in Ted’s imagination. I would say that 90% what he has written about me on his blog is a complete and total lie. I also don’t have a bookcase full of crime drama DVDs as he suggested. Maybe 10 at the most. I never even liked Law and Order, where did he get that idea from? What an awful show that is.

As you may have guessed by now, Ted has always had a hard time discerning fantasy from reality. This is why I try to cut him some slack and not take these things personally. It gets to be almost debilitating for him at times. For example, when he was seven he dressed like Luke Skywalker for Halloween. I made him a costume to wear and got him one of those glowing light sabers. He had a great time trick-or-treating with some other kids in the neighborhood, but then after Halloween something weird happened. He started to believe he was Luke Skywalker. He kept wearing his costume all the time, even to school, and demanded that people call him Luke. On Thanksgiving, when his grandmother asked him for a hug, he yelled, “I’ll never join the dark side!” and jabbed her with his plastic light saber. This went on for several weeks until his costume got “accidentally” thrown into the laundry with a load of brights and turned pink. The shock of seeing his costume like that seemed to snap him back out of his fantasy and, thankfully, he became Ted again.

And, of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that his blog posts about visiting Lost Island and playing video games with 24‘s Jack Bauer are also products of his overactive imagination. I’m not sure if he really believes all these things are real. I just know that the line separating fantasy and reality for him is not as distinct and clear as it is for most people. Sometimes it seems pretty solid, sometimes it’s blurry, and other times it disappears altogether.

Well, I think that sets the record straight. I have asked my son to stop posting things about me on his blog in the future, and hopefully he will comply with my wishes. He has handed me a yellow legal pad with his handwritten comments about the 2012 television season, which I will include as the second part of this post.

————————————————————-

Well, my fellow TV fans, Fall 2012 has turned out to be a pretty bleak and dreary television season. Old shows I liked are disappearing and there are very few good new shows to replace them. Three of my favorite new programs from last year, The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer, were axed by their respective networks after only one season. In addition to that, two of my long-time favorites, Fringe and The Office are in their final year. In trying times like these, all a devoted couch dweller like myself can do is try to have faith that the TV circle of life will eventually produce some better shows to replace the classics that are leaving. Based on the new offerings this season, however, the circle of life has a lot of catching up to do.

Revolution – I was looking forward to this show, with its premise of a future without any electricity, but it appears that NBC has delivered yet another stinker. Aside from the bland characters and the paint-by-numbers plot (righteous rebels versus an evil ruling militia), there are weird political undertones that didn’t sit well with my left-of-center ideological tilt. Revolution could be a sort of dystopic tea party vision of what the world will look like after the 2nd Obama term. People in this oppressed future aren’t allowed by the evil militia to have guns or American flags. One scene in the first episode depicts a group of people who are pulling a large piece of machinery through the woods with ropes — no easy task, to be sure. They are former citizens of the US who have been taken prisoner by the militia. One character reveals that “their only crime was not paying their taxes.” The extended fight scenes, the ridiculous amount of alcohol consumption, and the hostility of the characters toward each other seem like pretty obvious stylistic footprints of producer Eric Kripke, creator of the CW hit show Supernatural. Unfortunately, Revolution lacks the cleverness and wit of Supernatural, and plays as more of a grim post-apocalyptic adventure in the tradition of Mad Max. The dialogue is unconvincing; the characters are painfully serious and humorless. NBC’s recent promos for the show have claimed that Revolution is the “most watched new show on television,” which, I suppose, proves once again how out of touch I am with the pulse of the nation.

666 Park Avenue – I rediscovered the ABC network last year, and lately they seem to have a knack for coming up with imaginative shows in the fantasy genre. The supernatural-themed thriller The River was my favorite new show last year, but they inexplicably pulled the plug on it after one go-round. The network has redeemed itself this year with the surprisingly good 666 Park Avenue. For me, this serial drama, which documents the spooky goings-on in an upscale Manhattan apartment building, is really the only bright spot in the 2012 television season. It has a great cast, including Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams, and a surreal atmosphere which is hard to put into words. In addition to the plush surroundings, your stay at the Drake will include such things as precognitive pickpockets, ghosts that live in old suitcases, and elevators that eat people. Top that off with Faustian bargains aplenty wherein characters experience the consequences of getting the things they think they want. If Mr. Doran makes you an offer you can’t refuse, you might want to head for the exit. That is, if you can find your way out of that never-ending hallway.

Fringe – In its fifth season, Fringe has taken a bold leap into a future where the Earth has been taken over by the Observers and the Fringe team are desperately seeking video tapes which contain Walter’s plan for defeating them. The writers smartly choose to focus on the relationship between Peter and Olivia, which gives us an emotional anchor amid all the sci-fi wackiness. I also like the more coherent and functional version of Walter. This final season will consist of only 13 episodes, ending in January. It’s been a fun ride.

The Office – This has been somewhat hit-or-miss without Steve Carell, but I will still miss this classic when it’s gone. Lots of questions to be answered in the final season. Will Jim and Pam finally experience some marital discord? Will Andy and Erin go splitsville? Will we find out who Angela’s baby-daddy is? Will Creed ever get his own storyline? I’m predicting there will be a “very special” episode at some point (probably around Christmas) in which Michael Scott returns with Holly and at least one baby in tow. Hopefully the producers can wrap things up without getting too overly-sentimental and sappy. I would actually prefer an ending that’s a little bit dark and serious and semi-tragic.

Parks and Recreation – I’ve been trying hard to remember why I liked this show lately. They’ve been running on creative fumes this season, and scraping the bottom of the humor barrel on a regular basis. Recent shenanigans include Jerry having a fart attack and Leslie conducting sex education classes for the elderly. Leslie Knope seems shallow and less likable than in previous seasons. Maybe the upcoming Joe Biden episode will help to bring some respectability back to the proceedings.

Supernatural – It will be interesting to see if this show can continue to deliver the goods in its eighth season. After stopping the Apocalypse, going to hell and then purgatory, hanging out with angels, meeting such big cosmic players as God and Death, and fighting all manner of freaks, monsters, and demons, you’ve got to wonder if there could be anything left on the Winchester brothers’ to-do list. I would guess that lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jarod Padalecki are itching for greener pastures. Bobby the Cranky Ghost seems to have dropped out of the picture, and for reasons I can’t explain, watching the show on Wednesday nights hasn’t been as much fun as watching on Friday nights. All of that being said, I will keep watching this show until the end, which hopefully won’t be for at least a couple of more seasons.

Arrow – Do we really need a show about Green Arrow? This DC-comic-based drama is not a Smallville spinoff, as one might have hoped, but a complete reboot with a different actor playing Oliver Queen. I haven’t bothered to watch it yet, so it could possibly be alright. The CW has had me worried for the last few years. I used to love the network, but they haven’t come up with anything I really liked since Supernatural. Hard to believe; that was eight years ago. Come on guys, give me something — anything! The teen soaps and chickafied vampire dramas just aren’t cutting it with yours truly.

The Mentalist – I find this laid-back crime drama to be strangely relaxing, not unlike the tea that lead character Patrick Jane drinks. It doesn’t change much from season to season, and it doesn’t need to. Jane is still not much closer to catching the notorious killer Red John, and his romantic attraction to Agent Lisbon remains vague and unrealized. If the rest of the viewers are like me, those things don’t matter that much anyway.

 

I’m in a TV State of Mind April 25, 2012

Posted by Ted in : 24, Dollhouse, DTV, Fringe, General, Heroes, Inspirational, Lost, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Office, The River, Touch, Whedonverse , add a comment

Spring is here and the concluding 2011-2012 network TV season has turned out to be one of the better ones in memory. Here’s my take on some of the shows of the previous year:

The River

You may remember my rants about the DTV transition, which caused me to miss the last season of Lost because I couldn’t pick up ABC anymore. That was not a good situation for a TV blogger to be in, but luckily my local ABC affiliate has since boosted their signal enough that I can now pick up their nebulous station.

As a result, I discovered The River, which became my favorite show of the season. It’s sort of a cross between Lost, Blair Witch Project, and the Paranormal Activity movies. Set in the exotic locale of the Amazon jungle, The River really delivers the goods in terms of what makes for quality television: evil spirits, monsters, ghosts, conspiracies, native folklore, and even a demonic possession or two for good measure.

Admittedly, the premise of the show — a group of people on a boat navigating their way through a maze of rivers and fighting off various supernatural entities — seems a little too much like a video game. The River generally seeks to entertain without burdening its viewers with symbolism or deeper meanings. It dispenses with reality almost to the point of campiness at times, but that, for me, is usually more of a reason to watch than to change the channel.

I was surprised to read that this show hasn’t done too well in the ratings, and ABC was rumored to be in talks to sell the show to a cable network. In short, the future of this show’s not looking too good for those of us with only over-the-air channels.

Ringer

Sarah Michelle Gellar’s double reincarnation on her native CW network has been better than I expected. Ringer just finished up its first season with a fan-pleasing ending that tied up most of the loose ends, and provides a clean slate for the start of the next season, assuming there is one. The show’s ratings haven’t been the greatest, but they got a big boost for the season finale, which is encouraging news.

Now that the dual murder plots against the twins have been resolved, we will undoubtedly see more of a direct confrontation between the sisters, Bridget and Siobhan (pronounced “shi-bahn”), in future episodes, perhaps battling it out for the allegiance of their mutual husband, Andrew Martin.

This mystery drama gets to be a lot like a soap opera at times, but have I found myself watching every episode in spite of the obviously female target demographic. The show might have fallen flat with a lesser actress in the starring role, but Gellar’s wit and energy has helped to keep this show interesting.

(Checking my notes, scribbled on a little piece of paper.)

Another thing I like about Ringer is the music. CW’s habit of playing snippets of contemporary pop songs during their shows usually annoys me, but song choices on Ringer avoid the usual melodramatic route in favor of alterno-indie fare that has, on more than one occasion, sent me wandering off to the CW website to find out what the heck I was listening to.

Touch

Another interesting new show, which started mid-season, is the highly ambitious sci-fi-esque drama Touch by Heroes creator Tim Kring. The show follows the story of single father Martin Bohm and his mute, seemingly autistic son, Jake. The actor who plays Martin, a Kiefer something, looks a bit like 24‘s Jack Bauer.

The son, Jake, has a habit of writing down pages of repetitive numbers, which seem to manifest themselves as signposts in the lives of random people, who are brought together in various beneficial and tear-jerking ways. “Aha!” you say. “It’s the old numerology-and-clairvoyance-masquerading-as-physics routine.” Apparently, it is Jake’s heavenly-designated task to make sure that these various characters connect with each other for their mutual benefit, resulting in bucketfuls of sunshine and rainbows and happily-ever-afters.

As with Heroes, there are a lot of things I like about this show, and also some things I don’t like. The most annoying of the latter — I hate to say it — is the eleven-year-old son Jake. Not only does he refuse to talk, he throws a fit whenever he is touched by another person. Also, he likes to wander off by himself and doesn’t respond to anything his father says to him. Dad spends most of the show on a wild goose chase, running after his son yelling “Jake! Jake! Where are you going Jake?” Somebody needs to call Nanny 911, and fast.

Even more nerve-grating are the kid’s pompous monologues that start and end the show, meant to impart deep wisdom to us, the unwashed viewers. It is unclear in these moments whether we are hearing Jake’s thoughts or if he periodically sneaks off with a tape recorder while no one’s looking, as if to say, “Ha, ha, the joke’s on you! You thought I was mute, but it turns out I’m just a brat!”

This is a show in dire need of a villain. My suggestion would be this: since the kid has already assumed the role of villain in my life, why not let him be Officially Evil on the show too? Give him telekinetic powers in addition to his clairvoyant ability, and maybe he could use his knack with numbers to create chaos and confusion instead of Hallmark card moments. Then bring back a few super-powered characters from Heroes to teach the wayward tyke some important life lessons.

The whole Touch experience feels a little bit like Josh Whedon’s Dollhouse, another show that I tried hard to like and stuck with for the duration of its short life. Except with smiley faces instead of brooding post-apocalyptic irony. When I contemplate the future of this show, the cosmic number receiver in my gourde keeps saying 86. That’s not good, unless it refers to the number of episodes that will be aired.

Fringe

Fringe is still hanging in there after four years on FOX, but the ratings this season have hit rock bottom. Still somewhat of a confusing mess with the alternate timelines and what not, it remains one of the better shows on television.

I think I’ve finally put my finger on what’s holding this series back: it relies too much on the stand-alone stories and has become too predictable, too much like a police procedural drama. I would like to see Fringe as a true serial drama with one long never-ending story arc. Then, instead of staying bogged down in the lab, let the setting change on a regular basis and don’t anchor the show to any specific location. I know that’s a lot to ask, but there it is. A new direction for the series might be just what it needs to boost its viewership again.

Terra Nova

I started out making fun of this show, but ended up liking it a lot. Having an army of executive producers turned out to be an effective strategy. The dinosaurs, thankfully, were not the central focus of the series, but more like part of the scenery. The real theme of the show was the power struggle that goes on in a small developing community and the ways people learn to co-operate for their common good. Like so many great network sci-fi shows of the past, it now appears that Terra Nova has been cancelled after one season.

Supernatural

This old standby of the CW network was less interesting without the Cass and Bobby characters this season. Luckily, both have rematerialized in the later episodes in slightly altered forms — Bobby as a ghost, and Cass unable to remember that he’s an angel. I have a feeling this show has yet another slam-bang season finale in store for us.

The Office

I checked out this show’s Facebook page early in the season and found a lot of predictable “This show sucks without Steve Carell” type comments. Personally, I think the quality of the show has stayed pretty high this season, except for a couple of weak episodes like the one where Andy gets a butt tattoo as a gimmick to boost the morale of the sales team. That episode was so bad I went online to find out who wrote it. Turned out that it was Paul Lieberstein, the guy who plays Toby. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t be letting the actors write the show? Just a thought.

Otherwise, The Office has stayed entertaining and has not yet devolved into the kind of unbridled childish stupidness that afflicts certain other NBC sitcoms. This is probably due to the continued involvement of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the producers of the original British version of the show.

Parks and Recreation

Another excellent sitcom that NBC has still not found a way to screw up. Leslie Knope has taken leave from the Parks and Rec Board to run for Mayor of Pawnee, and it will be interesting to see what happens now that Mr. Swanson had appointed the icy April as a Knope’s unlikely temporary replacement. Undoubtedly, many enquiries into P&R issues will be met with a cold stare and a distant, apathetic attitude.

Well, that wraps up my review of shows I watched last season. To be honest, I’m kind of glad that summertime is approaching so I can ease up on the television and get out and see the sun and maybe read a couple of books.

There is never a shortage of people in my life to remind me that all this watching of TV is a waste of time. They say that life is short, and should be spent doing things like climbing mountains, attending wine tastings, or memorizing the value of pi to a hundred decimals. What they don’t understand is that television is more than a time-wasting device for me. After putting in almost 50 hours a week at the local convenience store, I need a way to relax. When I get home in the morning after one of my grueling all-night shifts spent ringing up people’s cigarettes and energy drinks, nothing helps relieve the stress better than popping in a videotape of one of my favorite shows.

The TV world, in my opinion, is far superior to the real one. Everything there is interesting and nicely scripted — well, at least in the good shows. The people are quick-witted, sharply dressed, and usually know the right thing to do in every situation. There are no problems that can’t be resolved, no scenarios that are too far-fetched, no laws of physics that can’t be broken. That’s the universe I want to live in.

Recently it occurred to me that I might somehow live to be pretty old. Hopefully by then I won’t be living in Mom’s basement anymore. Not that it bothers me to be living here at age 38. I happened to have been blessed with a cool Mom. Times have been tough and she understands that, plus I’m sure she appreciates the yard work I do in addition to the $150 in rent I pay her every month. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, I was saying that one day I would be old and hobbling around with a cane and I would think back on what I had achieved in my life. Would I regret the fact that I had spent all of my years on the couch in front of the tube and writing a blog about it? Would I think that my life had been wasted? No way, people. This is what I was born for and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

Ted’s Fall TV Preview 2011 August 14, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, Dollhouse, FOX, Fringe, General, Grimm, NBC, nikita, Parks and Recreation, Person of Interest, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Event, The Office, Whedonverse , 5comments

If you believe the ancient Mayans, or the latest news reports on the economy for that matter, this could be the last full season of television before the world ends. I can’t think of a better excuse to kick back, let my calls go to voicemail, and renew my commitment to lethargically gazing for hours into the idiot box. Yes, the fall premiere season is almost upon us, and we can be grateful that the networks have once again managed to cook up a handful of new shows that might be good, and are bringing back some favorite established programs for a new season.

Here are some new shows I’ll be watching:

Ringer

Featuring the long-awaited return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to her native network (The CW, formerly The WB), where she not only stars as a pair of identical twins, but also executive co-produces the show. Ringer is described as a drama-thriller about a woman, Bridget, who is on the run from the mob, and takes over her twin sister’s life after the sister disappears. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ringer turned out to be better than Joss Whedon’s recent two-season flop Dollhouse? Then we might realize that all that time we were worshipping Whedon, Gellar was the real power behind the Buffy throne. That’s probably a stretch, but this show is first on my must-watch list this season, if only for nostalgia’s sake.

 

 

Grimm

Maybe this is NBC’s consolation prize for those of us who were hoping that last season’s sci-fi thriller, The Event, would be worth a crap and would not get the ax after one season. Grimm is described on Wikipedia as a “dark fantasy,” and has a premise eerily similar to a certain CW show: “A homicide detective learns that he is a descendant of a group of hunters known as ‘Grimms,’ who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world.” Maybe NBC has finally realized that supernatural-themed shows are — gasp! — profitable. The prospects for Grimm are more than a little iffy, however, given NBC’s record on these kinds of outings, but there’s one clear sign that it might be more than a blatant Supernatural rip-off: David Greenwalt, who was executive producer of the Buffy spin-off Angel, as well as the short-lived but excellent paranormal show called Miracles, is an executive producer for Grimm. Cross your fingers out there, fans of things that go bump in the night.

Person of Interest

I generally avoid crime dramas like the plague — except when Mom forces me to watch one of her horrible Law and Order DVDs — but Person of Interest has a science-fiction twist and is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Fringe fame, which is just enough of an alteration of the standard formula to push the show onto my “must-watch” list — for a couple of episodes, anyway. According to my sources, the plot involves “a mysterious billionaire who has developed a computer program that predicts future crime victims.” Could be interesting, I suppose. You gotta love those mysterious billionaires, putting all that money and free time to such good use and keeping America safe. I’m just wondering what kind of crimes the computer program predicts. Shoplifting, jaywalking, and that kind of thing? Entering a restaurant without shoes and a shirt, maybe?

Terra Nova

This is Fox’s latest sci-fi effort, in which a group of people in the year 2149 time travel back to the era of the dinosaurs to escape the end of the world. Hey, sounds like a good plan to me. I mean, why bother trying to fix your problems when you can just jump in a time machine and go hang out with the Flintstones? To be honest, Terra Nova sounds like a train wreck, but as a self-professed connoisseur of all things sci-fi and fantasy, I feel obligated to watch. Time travel, in general, has gotten to be the most over-used premise in sci-fi television for the last few years. Personally, I have never believed that time travel is even possible. I look at it like this: The past and the future don’t really exist — they’re just abstract concepts that help us understand our lives. How can you travel to a place that doesn’t exist? You can’t. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Getting back to my topic, Terra Nova sounds an awful lot like the old Saturday-morning show Land of the Lost. It remains to be seen if a prime-time audience will love the dinosaurs as much as kids in the 1970s did. Steven Spielberg is listed as one of 10 “executive producers.” His actual level of involvement with the show, I’m guessing, is somewhere between slim and none. They probably just called him up and offered him some money, and when he replied “uh…,” that was enough input to slap his name in the credits. Steven, your check for 10 million is in the mail…not that you’ll be looking for it.

I know what you’re saying: “Those sound like great new shows, Ted, but what about returning old shows? Tell me about those! More specifically, which ones will you be watching?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

Nikita

After avoiding this for a long time, I finally watched an episode and found it fairly entertaining. It’s about a rogue government agent, who generally kicks butt, rights wrongs and sneaks around in tight spandex. Starring the Hawaiian-born model Maggie Q, Nikita is sort of a cross between 24 and Dollhouse that takes itself less seriously than either. It will be taking Smallville’s old slot before Supernatural on Friday nights, which means I probably won’t miss an episode.

Supernatural

Somehow, over the years, this has become my favorite show. It seems to fulfill the same psychological need as Buffy or Angel, which might be something along the lines of “the struggle for personal power and sanity in a hostile world.” Also, the low-class, gritty vibe of the thing makes me feel a lot cooler than I actually am.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec has been steadily closing in on The Office as NBC’s best sitcom. Sometimes it gets a little close to chick territory, with the various romantic entanglements, but otherwise, it’s consistently intelligent, funny, and original. In other words, the anti-30 Rock.

The Office (Mini-spoiler ahead!)

Steve Carrell has set sail for the land of bad romantic comedies. It will be interesting to see whether the show withers or blossoms without him (I’m hoping for the later — Michael Scott was never one of my favorite characters). Also, Pam will be carrying Halpert baby number two at the start of the season.

Fringe

Peter never existed, according to those bald guys in fedoras and suits. I assumed this was an elaborate way of writing Joshua Jackson out of the show, but according to the show’s producers, he’s still on the payroll.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been kind of frustrated with this show lately. Time travel and alternate universe doppelgangers and blah blah blah. I’m just not buying it. I’m also going risk the wrath of Fringedom and say that I find Walter to be incredibly annoying. Sure, he was amusing for the first couple of seasons, but there’s only so much drug-induced babbling in a Shakespearian accent that a person can take. Forget all those exotic diseases — Walter needs to find an antidote to himself.

 

 

How to improve Fringe? The same way any show could be improved: Forget the complex plot gimmicks and special effects and focus more on the characters. Bring them to life. Make me care about them. That’s all there is to it.

That wraps up my fall preview for 2011. Hopefully, some of the shows mentioned above will spiritually prepare you to meet your maker if those end-of-the-world rumors turn out to be true, or will at least drown out the screams while the earth is overrun with four-headed dragons, scary bat-like creatures, giant lions with pharaoh heads, machine-gun toting gorillas on skateboards, and vacuum cleaners that come on and vacuum by themselves.

 

The Office Enters a New Era June 16, 2011

Posted by Ted in : NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, The Office , 1 comment so far

I should probably have something insightful to say about Steve Carell’s departure from The Office, but the inspiration hotline in my brain only gives me a dialtone, followed by “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Honestly, I don’t care about this show like I used to, but I guess it still beats the other sitcoms in NBC’s smug little Thursday night line-up, with the possible exception of Parks and Recreation, which is pretty awesome most of the time.

In the last episodes of the season, Carell’s character Michael Scott decided to move to Colorado to be with his true love, Holly Flax. I made it clear in a previous post that I thought these two were a mismatch. You have to wonder how long a relationship can last that’s based solely on a mutual love of doing Yoda and ET impersonations. A man-child like Michael Scott needs a level-headed woman like Jan to keep him out of trouble, not a fellow child. If Michael and Holly were real live people, I’d bet my money that their romance would end with lots of blood, broken glass, and used syringes. However, conventional wisdom among Office fans not only begs to differ, it screams that these two are soul mates. So, I’ll leave it at that.

With Michael Scott gone, it seems certain there will be more focus on Jim and Pam than we’ve seen in recent seasons. In a post a couple of years ago, I falsely predicted that Jim and Pam’s relationship was headed straight off a cliff. My reason for saying this was based on my perception that happy relationships on television are as elusive as the Road Runner, always leaving the hard-broken participants laying at the bottom of the canyon wondering what happened before the anvils drop on their heads.

What I didn’t see at the time was that Jim and Pam are no ordinary characters. They are the perfect people, sent down from heaven to slum in the quaint setting of Scranton, PA. Such individuals are not subject to the regular laws of television relationships. A normal TV couple pursues activities such as arguing, sleeping around, staying drunk, and vandalizing each other’s property. Jim and Pam seem impervious to any such turmoil. They remain calm and cool at all times. To expect anything to disrupt their world is futile, because their whole reason for existence is to make the rest of us feel insignificant.

That being said, I should admit that I actually like Jim and Pam, and wish them all the best, and hope that one day I’ll be invited to one of their barbeques. Or maybe at least I’ll get a Christmas card or something. Nah, who am I kidding? I’m a thirty-seven-year-old college dropout who works at a convenience store. I sort of missed the boat on the whole yuppie lifestyle.

So the big question now is: What does the future hold for The Office? Will it die after a couple of seasons or will it go on for seven more? That’s a long time for any show to be around, but I’m not giving up on it just yet. We’ve still got Andy and his bright colored pants, and whatever romantic blunders the future has in store for him. We’ve still got Erin’s lovable ditsiness. We’ve still got Dwight the sullen schemer with his unchanging ugly suit. We also need to stick around to see if Angela finds out what’s up with her reportedly gay senator boyfriend. And of course, a lot of us will be tuning in to see who the new boss will be. Based on the parade of big names who appeared on the show as Mr. Scott’s potential replacement — including Will Ferrell, Ricky Gervais, Ray Romano, Will Arnett, and Jim Carrey — it’s clear that NBC plans to keep this show around for a while.

Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch Annual Report May 11, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Reviews, The Office , 1 comment so far

  NUP_109729_0259

 After five seasons, the Office remains in rock solid condition, and continues to raise the bar on what can be achieved within the sitcom format. It combines edgy slapstick comedy with intelligent, meaningful writing. The characters are complex, and I can relate to every one of them on some level. Aside from a few minor flaws, the show remains on track toward profitability.

The writers seemed to have put Jim and Pam on autopilot, with their relationship in a presumably happy but uneventful state. They are shacked up in Jim’s parents’ old house and the date of their wedding remains uncertain. One episode seemed to experiment with the possibility of having them become enemies (new copier vs. office chairs), which I found to be delightful, but the producers seem reluctant to pursue this avenue any further. Hopefully things will get stirred up a little bit next season for our self-satisfied love birds.

Andy has somehow gone from being my least favorite to favorite character on the show. The guy is a just a bottomless pit of good cheer and merriment. In a recent episode he uttered his second best line of all time, “I’m not going to step on your funk, bro,” referring to Dwight’s unimpeded pursuit of the new receptionist. That was almost as funny as “Steer clear, big tuna. Head for open waters.”

Dwight’s character has been all over the map in recent seasons. He’s the equivalent of particle board, comprised of any comedic scraps that might be lying around on the writing room floor at the end of the day. Giving birth to a watermelon? Carrying on with Angela in the supply closet? Tying Jan’s stroller to the back of his car? What happened to the hard-nosed, by-the-book conservative from season one? Some consistency in the writing would be nice.

Speaking of Jan, Michael’s neurotic but lovable ex-boss and ex-girlfriend, why does she only appear in two episodes or so per season? She asked Michael to stay away from Holly, and then there was no follow-up on this storyline whatsoever. I guess the show’s 82 writers were not all on the same page that time around. Then, in the episode where Michael climbed into the train boxcar to escape his debts, we seemed to get a glimpse of a warmer, more caring Jan. I thought she was a much better match for Michael than Holly. If you’re going to bring one of his ex’s back, bring back Jan. Holly can stay gone forever, as far as this chief financial officer is concerned.

The sub-plot involving Dwight, Andy, and Angela (or Dwangelandy), in my opinion, resulted in an unnecessarily harsh portrayal of Angela. She was already considered the office witch, but I thought she had some likable qualities in spite of her iciness. Why was it necessary to demonize her to the point of making her a caricature? I have started to worry about this show’s consistently negative portrayal of women.

It was refreshing to see boss Michael Scott get his ass handed back to him for being an annoying, incompetent doofus. Let’s get real here. There’s no way people can party all day at work under the capitalist system we are blessed with, at least not at a paper company. Maybe at AIG, Fannie Mae, or Enron, and we all know what happened to those companies. Yes, I know the show is not meant to be an accurate portrayal of the workplace, but let’s not treat Michael like some kind of hero because he wants to turn it into romper room. The third world slave laborers who produce the merchandise we buy at the local big box stores might watch this show and wonder if this is typical white collar behavior. “Do they really party all day while we work ourselves to death?” The answer is obviously no; things are tough all over except at the multi-millionaire tippy top. The writers could show a little more decency in this regard. The people living large are not at your local paper company. OK, that’s my rant. Call me a capitalist pig or a commie or whatever else you like.

Forward looking statements by the management: we’re all looking forward to the next season of The Office.

Midseason 2009 TV Explosion! January 6, 2009

Posted by Ted in : 24, 30 Rock, Amazing Race, American Idol, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Fringe, General, Hell's Kitchen, Heroes, Holiday Posts, Kath & Kim, Lost, Midseason, My Name is Earl, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Smallville, Terminator: tSCC, The Office , 8comments

 January is here. The festivities and laziness of the holiday season are behind us. It’s time for everyone to once again get serious about things, get back to work, and face up to the hard cold reality of life. Right?

Wrong! January is the time of year we TV watchers plunge head first into some serious escapist entertainment, and here at TV Crawlspace the only reality we’ll be facing is reality television. In just a few days, a massive wave of midseason premieres will hit like a tsunami, carrying us helplessly out into the television ocean, hopefully never to return again.

For TV Guide’s complete schedule of midseason premieres, click here.

Here’s a rundown of shows I’m looking forward to (and a couple I’m not looking forward to) in chronological order:

13 Fear is Real – (starts Wed., Jan. 7 on CW 8/7c)
This is a spooky themed reality show that might be amusing, something along the lines of Survivor meets Blair Witch Project. I hope there’s something more going on here than guys in masks jumping out and scaring contestants.

NBC comedy night done (halfway) right – (all four shows resume on Thur., Jan. 8 on NBC 8/7c)
My Name is Earl – This has been a little bit better this season, with a half hearted attempt to return to the theme of redemption (Earl’s list) that made the show so appealing in the first season.
Kath & Kim – I watched this show just to see how bad it was, and to my surprise I liked it. Slightly demented but well written, it’s sort of a kinder, gentler version of John Waters. Everybody on this show apparently works in a mall. How cool is that?
The Office – This has been brilliant as usual. I especially liked the episode where Jim and Pam had their first disagreement. I hope this is a foreshadowing of things to come. I think I like them better as enemies than lovers. Is it just me, or are all the female characters on this show mean and vindictive?
30 Rock – As a fan of Tina Fey during her SNL days, I wanted to like this overhyped show, but the cutesy self-satisfied tone of it left me cold. The jokes aren’t funny, and the endless parade of guest stars can’t make up for the show’s lack of direction. The emperor has no clothes!

Howie Do It – (starts Fri. Jan. 9 on ABC 8/7c)
This appears to be a hidden camera prank type show with Howie Mandel. I may watch the one episode that is aired before the show is cancelled.

24 – (starts Sun. Jan. 11 on FOX 8/7c)
What I always liked about 24 was its sci-fi elements, like the spacey soundtrack, and the high tech gadgetry. This season Janeane Garofalo plays the new computer guru, Janis Gold. According to TV Guide, “Mid-season run-ins with Chloe should make for hot geek-on-geek action.”

American Idol – (starts Tue. Jan. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
It is what it is.

Smallville – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 8/7c)
I’ve gotten hooked on this show again after sitting out for a couple of seasons. It seems unfair that Smallville’s best season ever may be its last, although I don’t know if that’s been made official yet.

Supernatural – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 9/8c)
Another CW show that I’ve rediscovered. It seems to have improved a lot since its first season. CW deserves credit for giving shows like this and Smallville a chance, and not axing them at the drop of a hat.

Fringe – (returns Tue. Jan. 20 on FOX 9/8c)
This sci-fi drama from the co-creator of Lost is my favorite new show of the year. Run and tell your friends.

Lost – (starts Wed. Jan. 21 on ABC 9/8c)
There are few television pleasures that compare with getting lost in Lost. It’s pretty amazing that a show this weird could stay on the air for five years, but it’s been reported that season 6 in 2010 will be the last.

Hell’s Kitchen – (starts Thur. Jan. 29 on FOX 9/8c)
Not a great time slot for Chef Ramsey this time around. He’s going up against The Office and the ratings powerhouse Supernatural.

Heroes – (returns Mon. Feb. 2 on NBC 9/8c)
This quality of this show has fallen faster than Nathan Petrelli during an eclipse. The storylines seem to be wandering aimlessly. Too many characters to keep up with is part of the problem. Some have suggested it could be the show’s last season if the ratings don’t improve.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – (returns Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
FOX is moving this to Fridays, where it will be paired up with Dollhouse.

Dollhouse – (starts Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 9/8c)
This is the one that everyone’s waiting for, the new show from Buffy/Angel mastermind Joss Whedon, but there have reportedly been problems in production and FOX has now relegated the show to the dreaded Friday night time slot (set to debut on Friday the 13th, no less). Of course, the X-files thrived on Fridays, so there’s still hope.

The Amazing Race – (starts Sun. Feb. 15 on CBS 8/7c)
My favorite reality show will feature less airports this season, according to TV Guide.

Spooky Times at The Office November 3, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Holiday Posts, Reviews, The Office , 2comments

 

 

Rather than resorting to the kind of Halloween silliness usually seen on sitcoms, The Office mostly dispensed with the comedy on October 30th and gave us an emotionally dark rollercoaster ride worthy of the haunted season. The unsettling scene with Jim and Pam in the restaurant with Jim’s brothers continued to build the tension in the couple’s tested relationship. Pam’s collaboration with the brothers to play a prank on her long distance boyfriend seemed like a strangely misguided decision. Their once happy affair now feels like a slow motion car crash. You know the impact is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Two other characters struggling with issues of geographic seperation, even less successfully, were office boss Michael Scott and human resources rep turned girlfriend Holly Flax. After the CFO of Dunder Mifflin spotted the two kissing at work last episode, she was transferred to a branch in New Hampshire. The Holly character quickly became a fan favorite last season with her goofy fun loving attitude, and was thought by many to be Michael’s perfect match. At the end of the “Employee Transfer” episode, Holly announced that the distance of several hundred miles would be too far for them to maintain their relationship. It seemed like a sudden and pointlessly cruel turn of events for not just Michael, but for the viewers as well.

Meanwhile, Dwight antagonized his romantic rival Andy by wearing a Cornell University sweatshirt and threatening to enroll there. Andy, portrayed as a stereotypical dumb jerk in previous seasons, seemed lost and helpless as Dwight made light of his beloved alma mater. I felt sorry for Andy, given his history of rage attacks (putting his fist through the wall after Jim hid his cellphone), and wondered if Dwight’s antics would result in another such meltdown. It is a testament to the writers’ skill that they could transform a seemingly one-dimensional character into a flawed but likable person worthy of our sympathy. At the end of last season I was firmly in the Dwight-Angela camp, but I’m starting to waver now that we’ve seen a more personal side of Andy. He seems more like an innocent bystander with his duplicitous fiancée Angela behaving lewdly with her ex in the supply closet.

This episode was a great illustration of why TV Crawlspace thinks The Office is a top notch show. In addition to having great comedy, there are deeper themes and more serious developments. The characters are realistic and complex, and they each have their own virtues and imperfections. As in real life they strive to find the balance between friendship and the pursuit of their own self interests. The outcome is sometimes funny, sometimes scary.

Weird Geometries at Amorous Dunder Mifflin May 17, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Reviews, The Office , 3comments

 

 

In the recent hour long 4th season finale of The Office, the workplace romances were raging out of control. With the writers having to pack many developments into a shortened season, the episode was replete with much merriment, mayhem, and a parking lot carnival in honor of Toby’s last day. Jim (pictured above) saw the occasion as an opportunity to pop the question to Pam, but our collective jaws dropped as the blunderous Andy stole Jim’s thunder, jumping up on the band riser, grabbing the microphone, and proposing to his ice-queen girlfriend Angela, who conceded with a reluctant “ok”. Stunned at the horror of this development, we gasped as Jim-n-Pam’s perfect moment was ruined, and a seeming death blow was simultaneously dealt to the Dwight-Angela Romantic Axis (hereafter known as “Dwangela”). In the final moment of the show, however, Phyllis discovered that Dwangela still burns bright when she entered the office after hours and found the conservative couple acting in a very non-conservative manner.

After the last minute derailment of Jim-n-Pam’s story book engagement, their future together remains uncertain. Pam commented (to the omnipresent mockumentary camera) that she had anticipated Jim’s proposal and was disappointed when he didn’t deliver the goods. During this episode, she also showed affection for Toby (she said he was cute), and it was revealed that she will be leaving for 3 months to attend art school in New York. These things taken together would seem to indicate that there is turmoil in store for our self-satisfied love birds next season. Personally I find this possibility disappointing, but I guess we should be grateful to the producers for allowing J&P to have one season of happiness together. That’s probably all we can expect in the world of television, where long and happy relationships are as hard to find as tasteful humor on My Name is Earl.

Jim, Pam, and Toby aren’t the only Office characters aggressively pursuing the ill-advised practice of romance in the workplace. As of now there are four love triangles between current or former Dunder Mifflin employees, most of them based at the Scranton branch:

1. Jim, Pam, and Toby (or “Jamoby”)

2. Dwight, Angela, and Andy (“Dwangelandy”)

3. Micheal, Jan, and Holly (“Mijolly”)

4. Kelly, Ryan, and Darryl (the currently dormant “Rykeldar”)

I’m not going to speculate on the masonic significance of the four triangles, and whether they for-tell the coming of the apocalypse, and so forth. I will only conclude by saying that I hope, for our sakes, that the season 4 finale of The Office was not a realistic portrayal of life in the American workplace.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...