January 28, 2014

"How Your Mother Met Me" Review: HIMYM's 200th episode

If you have read my previous posts about How I Met Your Mother,  you might be surprised to see that this one is filled mostly with praise. But if you watched last night's episode, you'll know why.

The show's 200th episode flipped the camera to the mother in an episode aptly titled, "How Your Mother Met Me." The result was phenomenal. It filled in details that committed fans were expecting, and yet did so without being boring. There are three things the episode - and I suppose the writers/directors/producers of the show - did exceptionally well.

Source: cbs.com
1. Cast Cristin Milioti. This amazingly talented actress has done the impossible: exceeded eight-season old expectations. She has brought something fresh to a show who's last season was filled with stale performances by tired actors. Oh, and she can sing like a meadowlark, too.

2. Gave attention to detail and seamlessly edited previously aired scenes with new content. I guess I was most surprised that Ted didn't look disproportionately young in any of the scenes from old episodes. Also, the fact that the show's property masters keep every single prop and costume piece exactly because of this show's dedication to a singular storyline without holes, absolutely astounds me.

3. Ignored all comedic instinct in favor of a real, heartfelt, tragic storyline. This episode is receiving a lot of praise for its emotional beauty, and it's well deserved. In 30 short minutes - minus commercials - the writers added a depth to the title character that I was not expecting. The revelations that her first love died, that she struggled to know what to do with her life, and that she broke up with a man as he proposed the night before she met Ted, deepened her like I would not have imagined. And I am so glad. I couldn't have accepted a happy, whole "Mother" as a match for the careworn, broken Ted. Instead, they will meet as two people with long, complicated stories that their children can tire of hearing years from now.

Yes, How I Met Your Mother gave us an eighth season so disastrous, I honestly considered giving up on the show altogether. But "How Your Mother Met Me" made me glad I didn't. Don't get me wrong, there have been some misses in this, HIMYM's final season. But this episode wasn't among them.

January 3, 2014

Community: "Repilot" and "Introduction to Teaching" Review

Source: facebook.com/nbccommunity
It's not often that a television show has the kind of opportunity to start over that Community has with this, its fifth season. In it's "Repilot," a concept lampshaded by Abed, the gang got the chance to begin again at Greendale. The episode gave us "emotional whiplash" as the characters alternated between deciding to sue or save the school.

Of course, it wouldn't be Community without a TV reference and surprise guest star, in this case Scrubs  and a delightful voiceover courtesy Zach Braff. The only appearance more surprising than that was a holographic Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne. What's even weirder is that it was that appearance that convinced a bitter Jeff Winger to save Greendale. His interaction with Jeff was the only acknowledgment of the character, as Chase left the show after multiple alleged fallings out with creator Dan Harmon. Speaking of which, Harmon is back this fifth season, and in just a few lines, managed to negate the unraveling of the show which took place during his absence (the fourth season.) Jeff notes how far each member of the "study group" has fallen since their arrival at the school.

Source: imdb.com
Truthfully, this setup is somewhat disconcerting. Sure, I'm glad the characters' devolution was finally acknowledged (specifically Britta's meteoric fall from intelligent beauty to stereotypical vapid blonde) and sure, Community has always been a show that's subverted many of the typical television tropes. But without character development, shows can feel relatively stale.

I guess by the end of the "Repilot," Community was back to its former glory as a show full of characters with no moral compasses still attempting to do the right thing. Even if the only morality they can find is what seems to be the "right truth" at the time. And while these certainly aren't characters we'd aspire to be, they are (despite their cartoonish, over the top eccentricities) a lot like the sort of people we meet all the time, and that makes their small victories of good choice worth celebrating.

In the second half-hour of the premiere, "Introduction to Teaching," I think we got a good look at what season 5 will be like. There was  the overarching storyline - the development of a student/professor "Save Greendale" committee - and several minor plots that resulted in temporary character development - Jeff's realization that he likes to teach, Abed's mental break over Nicholas Cage and subsequent recovery, Annie's revolt over an A-. Professor Hickey, played by Jonathan Banks, took over Pierce's chair, and his role as resident old curmudgeon, in this episode.

Basically, it's a whole new start for Greendale, Community, and us, as the viewers. I didn't know how I felt about it until I found myself wishing I could watch the next episode right now.  But I'll have to wait until next Thursday. I'm just glad next Thursday night will also include the return (and 100th episode!) of Parks and Rec. NBC, I'm glad to be blogging about your good side again.