Other TV 7 - 13 March
Spartacus Blood and Sand - 107 - Great and Unfortunate Things
Another solid episode of developments. On the one hand Spartacus is in mourning for his wife and accepts that he is now a slave and his destiny lies ahead and not behind him. But on the other Doctore takes on the detective role of unraveling Batiatus' deception surrounding Barca and eventually Sura's murder. It was good to see Doctore's anger at Spartacus' deception tempered by his understanding for the bereaved.
What was potentially very interesting was the development of Varro's character. We hear again Crixus explaining the "correct" behavior for a gladiator to Spartacus. But Varro, a Roman, also explains how the master and slave relationship should work. Varro is not a slave in the same way that Spartacus and company are because his family and life await him immediately once he leaves the ludus. It would be fascinating to see him speak or fight against an uprising because as a Roman he believes in the society which Spartacus will rebel against. In this episode we see the darker side of Varro, his debts were apparently not incurred simply by the rigid class structure of ancient Rome but because he is a gambler. An addiction he seems to continue with inside the ludus.
Two complaints arose for me during this episode though. One was the death of Gnaeus, who Spartacus launches off the side of the ludus onto rocks below. It made the idea of a ludus built on the side of a sheer cliff face pretty implausible. The other was a conversation Batiatus had with the man who tracked down Sura. He claimed that he had been searching for her for almost a year. The impression of time passing is often a tricky issue for a TV show. I have no problem with the idea that that much time has passed but it hasn't felt like it. The last few episodes have centered around a long drought which might have lasted a couple of months but the character interactions haven't implied nine or ten months have passed since Spartacus arrived.
Modern Family - 117 - Truth Be Told
This episode asked some uncomfortable questions about the documentary format of the show. I could play along and ignore the obvious weirdness of cameras being present if the characters didn't look directly at it. For example, how could you expect Jay and Gloria to go to sleep when a camera is filming them in bed? Well I don't mind because they ignore its presence and we can forget that this is shot this way.
But when there are cameras at a private law firm you question why they would ever let cameras in to film this kind of discussion. Worse though is when Phil's ex Denise is fondling him behind Claire's back and he looks directly at the camera. So she is planning on continuing an affair despite the camera man who presumably gets on well with Claire is standing there filming her? Bottom line on all this is that when I watch a TV show I don't want to be reminded of how it was made and forced to think of awkward questions like this.
Otherwise the episode was fine. The show specializes in telling old fashioned sit com plots but making them fresh once more. As long as they keep the laughs coming they should be successful for a long time to come. I really laughed at Denise asking Phil how many women he is also leading on and in panic but honestly he replies "Now I don't know!" I also laughed at Shel Turtlestein's funeral picture which lovingly said "Nov - March" on it.
How to Make It in America - 104 - Unhappy Birthday
I'm losing interest in the show quick. This episode was built strongly around Ben and Rachel's past relationship. But I have no reason to care about that. They aren't Ross and Rachel. The show is almost too like real life at this stage; the characters have no interesting conflict or attributes.
Community - 118 - Basic Genealogy
This was a rare disappointment on several levels. Jeff's relationship with Professor Slater ended so suddenly that it made me wonder what the point of it was. Seeing Jeff cry over it felt like a waste of an important development in his life. Similarly I felt there were beats missing from Pierce's story. He didn't do anything particularly endearing to "earn" viewers sympathy. It made Jeff's desire to help him and Annie's concern seem arbitrary rather than part of the natural bonding of the group. Jeff called him a "racist, homophobic old goof" and then Jeff slept with his step daughter anyway before deciding to seek the moral solution. It didn't seem to hang together very well.
Parks and Recreation - 218 - The Possum
The possum story was fine. It gave Andy another chance to be the good guy and Leslie a chance to take something silly, very seriously. But I was less pleased with Ron's workshop. It felt like a character archetype being weakly exploited. Ron likes making things and doesn't care about government regulation so let's put him in his workshop and have him explain his intransigence over and over again. I was not happy at all to see Tom give Ann a teddy bear with a camera in it. That crosses a line of open creepiness which she could take legal action over. Some jokes are better in theory than practice.