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Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
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Catching up on January TV

Posted by The TV Critic on 19 January 2010 | 0 Comments

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Community - 113 - Investigative Journalism

I shouldn’t like Community as much as I do. It’s almost as self referential as 30 Rock but it gets away with it. That’s not an arbitrary bit of favouritism; Community is committed to character development, comedy and consequence in a way which 30 Rock isn’t. Annie talking about wanting to transfer out of Greendale to go to a real college was an excellent piece of writing. I’m sure the group will stay together but considering her ability and ambition, she ought to be looking to rise up.

Jack Black (Buddy) was annoying to watch but he was meant to be. He did an effective job of making me not want him to join the group. I suppose for a show with such excellent casting, this piece of stunt casting felt unnecessary. But celebrity appearances imply the show is taking off and so good for them.  Despite talking about M*A*S*H for the whole episode, the ending was pure Cheers, we are the losers but we love each other. With a few nice laughs throughout and a solid “welcome back” feeling to the episode, I was satisfied.

Parks and Recreation - 213 - The Set Up

There are two halves to the Parks coin right now. Ron, Tom and April are all excellent. It’s that magical synthesis between writing and acting. I always want to know how casting directors can visualise what a character will look like. But whether through vision, fortune or just good acting all three are clicking right now. Ron and April both play their apathy with government beautifully and show that underplaying scenes can be much funnier than overplaying them. As for Tom, when the writing gives him something to be in charge of he really shines. His character is all about misplaced enthusiasm and I loved his idea of when to contact a girl whose number he got “I wait eight weeks and I text her ‘What’s cracking?’” His confidence in things which don’t really work is easy comedy but it also leaves him open to so much character development going forward.

The other side of the coin is Leslie, Mark and Ann. Here Leslie ends up on a date with a guy weirder than her (Will Arnett, her real life husband). Can you imagine Michael Scott on a date with a woman weirder than him? Leslie is so likeable that the writing has veered around this season, seemingly not sure whether to present her as hapless or competent. I think they strike a better balance when she is the weird one but her heart of gold wins people over. As for Ann and Mark, they both need some serious characterisation now. In season Mark had an edge to him, he was a former ladies man who clearly liked a few drinks. Being with Ann has sucked much of that intrigue out of him and turned him into Jim-lite. Where as Ann still doesn’t have a character in my mind. She is pleasant and practical but apart from that there isn’t a lot more we know. As a couple they have a real lack of chemistry and the show would probably be more fun if they split up for a bit and developed on their own.

Modern Family - 111 - Up All Night

This was superb television. It’s episodes like these that make me wish I had the time to write full reviews for all these shows.

The casting and performance by Javier was perfect. Instead of being the classic deadbeat Dad from other sit coms, he seduced Jay the way he seduces everyone. He seemed entirely plausible in the role, living life to the full and being a nice guy. He played Jay so beautifully, pointing out that it was he who felt insecure around Jay’s wealth, then pushing his buttons about getting old and giving up on his dreams. In the end Jay was left like Manny, waiting for Javier to show up even though Javier had already moved on to the next thing. It achieved the classic sit com message (that Jay is going to be there as Manny’s real Dad) without ever being preachy and was far more effective as a result.

Once more Cameron delivered the laughs and the ferberizing plot was both original and brilliant. Again, a great plot because it made you sympathise with both men, one wanting what was best for Lily in the short term and the other in the long term. Even Phil wasn’t too grating here, as he tempered his exaggerated cries of pain with his childish need for his children to give him sympathy.


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