Other TV 9 - 15 May
Breaking Bad - 308 - I See You
What every drama show can learn from Breaking Bad is how to write the consequences of people's actions. Despite this being a slow episode in certain ways, with lots of waiting around, the drama was still ever present. When Walt realizes why Hank was attacked we can see the guilt descend ever further onto his soul. And what an awesome scene that was when the now legless cousin sees Heisenberg and crawls bleeding out of bed determined to continue his quest for vengeance.
What the episode did too was bring Gus Frings out of the shadow and into clearer view as a real threat to Walt. Somehow he has removed his Cartel enemies and now made it clear to Walt that he knows where he lives (as it were). The question now is surely whether Walt realizes that his new boss will one day becomes his enemy. The Pablo Escobar conversation between Walt and Walt Jr was a really nice touch. It was a very direct reminder that Walt is not the hero of this story.
I began to fully understand Dan Fienberg's point that Breaking Bad is more of a black comedy than a drama in this episode. With Walt gabbing on at the hospital and Jesse fooling around in the lab I could see the comedy trying to carry the drama. I really did laugh at Jesse inflating his suit. I think the humour does take the edge off the drama sometimes, which can be very valuable at keeping the show entertaining where it might otherwise become too depressing. But in general I don't think the show could possibly be described as comedy and stick to my argument that I don't laugh when the show does such a good job of showing ruined lives and ever deepening misery.
Seeing Jesse enter the lab in high spirits did make me question one thing though. I'm always on the look out for shows that can break from TVs very fixed mould. The tendency in every drama show is to have a group of people split up at the end of a season and then slowly bring them back together in the next one. The underlying motive is that viewers like the original dynamics that they got to see and don't like changed circumstances as much. I am someone who wants to see TV shows break free from the mould. I want to see romances that don't pay off, characters that don't survive near death experiences and bands which don't get back together. Not just for the sake of it of course. But I have seen TVs formula play out so often that I crave a drama which isn't afraid of breaking free. Breaking Bad has been really good at this. As I have said before the breakdown of Walt and Skyler's marriage has been so refreshing and tragic. But here with Jesse and Walt teaming up again I got a whiff of the "band getting back together" syndrome. If they manage to take down Gus Frings and move on to another bad guy I think the show will have made a mistake. They would then end up where Dexter has where the overall story is still intriguing but each season follows the predictable TV formula.
Modern Family - 123 - Hawaii
Sadly I don't have time to write much about another enjoyable episode of Modern Family. But needless to say Cam, Manny and Phil made me chuckle. I was struck once again how good the ensemble is and how many different permutations of characters that there are left to explore.
Community - 124 - English as a Second Language
I wasn't too sure about this episode. The idea that Senor Chang wasn't really teaching them much Spanish was difficult to accept. You would think someone like Annie might have noticed their snails-pace progress and figured something was wrong. Then after cramming for the exam they suddenly had a much better grasp of it before finally being given an easy test by another corrupt Spanish teacher. This mess of plotting rather crosses a line. It's easy to enjoy Greendale when viewed as an incompetently run but pleasant enough college. When you start implying that every teacher is corrupt and the students aren't learning anything then it begins to destroy the sense that these characters really are going through serious personal development.
Troy's Good Will Hunting plumber plot didn't seem to go anywhere either. This seemed much more like a traditional TV parody which I am not fond of. Instead of Community's recent all-out no expenses spared parodies, this was half hearted and relied entirely on you finding the idea that plumbing was a noble calling inherently funny. I wasn't sure what to think of a plot about a relatively dumb black guy being advised to become a plumber. Is that good realistic writing or lazy mildly offensive stereotyping? It may have been there to plant seeds for a future career that Troy will find satisfying, which is fine if that's the gist of it.
Parks and Recreation - 223 - The Master Plan
A mish mash of stuff, plenty of it good. Tom's story was brief but he played it well and managed to convey something very sweet with his look of excitement when getting the barmaid's number. Similarly April and Andy play their affection for each other really well. It's amazing to think two people playing exaggerated characters can still have such good chemistry together. Although having said that the actual story of them getting together is being dragged out without much plot to back it up. The only reason they aren't together is because Andy is slow and it does feel like we are just waiting around for them to get together.
Adam Scott and Rob Lowe fit in just fine in different ways. It was funny (in a bad way) to see Mark and Ann having a calm and friendly conversation about how their relationship failed. Not only did we not see them break up but it made Mark out to be such a bland guy. If he really wanted to marry her you would think he would look far more upset than that! Ron's delight at the budget cutting measures was funny but it did verge on becoming cartoony. And as for Ann, it remained difficult to care about her stories because I don't really know who she is.
Party Down - 204 - James Ellison Funeral
No time for a more thorough summary I'm afraid but I did chuckle a couple of times. James' mistress played her tears and her role in general in a pantomime way which spoiled that subplot for me.