March 21, 2014

Hart of Dixie is back! But on Fridays...

Not exactly a love triangle, but this is Bluebell after all.
Well, The CW is moving Hart of Dixie to the wasteland of television that is Friday night. Needless to say, I'm disappointed. Even though some shows can thrive on Fridays (like Grimm) and it doesn't always signal the end of the line (Chuck did ok there for awhile), it's a bummer to see the network throw it's best-written and best-acted show to the last night of the workweek.

Regardless, I'll be watching tonight. Now, where did the show leave off? Well, Bluebell, Alabama no longer needed fear hostile takeover by their rival neighboring town, but unfortunately, we hadn't seen the last of Scooter McGreevey. He was back with a vengeance. Well, without much vengeance, actually, which only endeared him to Tansy, much to George's chagrin. All of this is dismaying for a fan of George and Tansy. Of course, I'm even conflicted about that, as I was a fan of George and Zoe, and heck, even came to have a soft spot for George and Lynly. Zoe is moving in with the adorable Joel, who despite my love for the Zoe/Wade relationship, has won me over. (I'll admit it. Joel just might be as close as Zoe Hart's going to get to Seth Cohen.) And Wade's seeing Zoe's cousin Vivian. Shelby moved to Montgomery with her baby daddy, which makes me sad because Laura Bell Bundy absolutely killed in that role. Then there's AB and Lavon, who are both in recovery from their breakup.

It's hard to say, but this might be my
favorite Bluebell couple.
Whew! Exhausted? All this to say, one of the Hart of Dixie's greatest strengths, if you ask me, is the overabundance of couples that seem to pair up in Bluebell. There's so many I can't even decide which one to 'ship.

Let's recap: when Hart of Dixie began its first season, it gave us a straightforward love triangle. Zoe must choose between bad boy Wade and golden boy George. I suppose there was that other triangle, also featuring George, but with the addition of Lemon and Lavon. But in season two, things got a little more complicated. The introduction of minor characters played by great, under-appreciated actors added life and love to the little Bluebell. In romantic dramas like this one, villains are usually just the characters who break up the favorite couple. But in Bluebell, the villains are few.

Tonight, we'll also enjoy our Dixie with "a twist of Lemon" - a pun I absolutely love. For awhile, Lemon was the closest thing Bluebell had to a villain, but then her humanity shone through. And as much as I've missed her, I'll be the first to admit that the attempts to hide actress Jaime King's baby bump were becoming a little bit ridiculous. And the promo indicated we'll also be treated to the return of Magnolia. These blonde sisters never fail to bring the funny, just in case you needed another reason to tune in on a Friday night. And I'm betting Annabeth's breaking up with Lavon wasn't a simple plot point, but purposefully timed to Lemon's return. In the end though, it won't matter who ends up with whom. With a cast as great as Hart of Dixie's, the chemistry abounds, and that's why the antics and afflictions and lives and loves of all those who call Bluebell home feels like home for the viewer, even on Friday night.

March 8, 2014

Reign: "The Consummation" Review

Remember when I wrote that The CW's new show Reign sounded perfect for the network - just without the vampires? It seems I may have spoken too soon, because its first season has been full of supernatural visions, prophecies, druid-like curses, good luck charms hidden inside decorative tchotchkes, and now, zombies?!? Ok, not really. I'm sure Clarissa, the creepy bastard child/ghost who lived in the shadows until she kidnapped her half brothers only to be bludgeoned by her only friend was never actually dead. Wow, I guess this show does belong on The CW after all.

If I were going to fault Reign for a single point that's weakened the show's entire first season, though, it wouldn't be the inclusion of the fantastical. I'd fault Reign for overplaying its hand, both in the development of storyline, and in the way it pushes the envelope with what's allowed on network TV. Case in point, this past week's episode, "The Consummation" (with a creepiness factor adeptly and amusingly described by Lily Sparks over on, which featured Mary's choice of a husband, her wedding, and their subsequent, well, you read the title, should have been a finale - both to the season, and to a carefully crafted love-triangle story. Instead it was a missable midseason yawn that only served to highlight just how unimaginative and hastily-crafted the Francis-Mary-Bash triangle really was.

I would have liked to see Mary and Francis and/or Mary and Bash develop a believable relationship, perhaps giving the viewers a reason (more significant than muscle tone) to cheer for one brother or the other. Instead the plot got sidetracked by an overbearing Portuguese prince, that ridiculous affair between Kenna and the King, who looks like he's old enough to be her grandfather, Francis's uber-blonde ex-girlfriend with the indecipherable accent, and Bash's pregnant cousin. It's like the writers tried to cram every possible subplot into 13 episodes, burying the main selling point of the show in the process.

And if they really wanted to hurt the viewer - or Mary - by pairing Francis with Lola in a moment of infidelity, or at least indiscretion, they should have given us reason to care for or trust Francis to begin with. He was always a bit of a scoundrel, and Mary knows that. So when the Lola/Francis rendezvous truth comes out (and it will, because Kenna is malicious), Mary shouldn't be the least bit surprised.

In the end, I guess we have to believe that Mary chose Francis simply because she loved him more. And I'll buy that, if only because Queen Catherine finally used one of her psychological mind games for good, forcing Mary to make up her mind through a fake papal letter. Catherine remains my favorite character on the show because Megan Follows's acting skills tower so far above the rest of the cast. I want to re-watch her plan her own beheading. It was elegant. Seriously, if her suicide in "Royal Blood" hadn't been a ruse to escape captivity, and she was actually gone, I'd have stopped watching.

Ability to give the stink eye must be genetic.
The real reason Mary chose Francis is, of course, that that's what really happened, although with costumes as anachronistic as Reign's, I wouldn't exactly have been surprised by a revisionist history that led Mary Stuart to marry King Henry's bastard son. So does this mean Bash is gone for good? And just how long can this show survive now that what should have been the ultimate moment, the big decision, the grand finale of this first season has past without much fanfare?

What Reign doesn't seem to be lacking is a fan base. The show has one loud enough that Adelaide Kane had to take to twitter to prevent them from boycotting when several episodes didn't include Francis. So if I were to bet, I'd say this show gets renewed, especially since the best shows on the network don't seem to. But I wouldn't bet that it gets any more interesting, even if Clarissa does reappear undead.

March 6, 2014

What happens now? Character departures on my two favorite NBC sitcoms

Call me unpatriotic, but I was excited to see the Olympics come to a close, if only because it meant I got my Thursday night NBC lineup back.

Community and Parks and Rec both returned last week, but neither is exactly what it was - mostly because of goodbyes we recently said to some of our favorite characters. Before the events in Sochi, Community's Troy headed out to sea, and Ann and Chris left Pawnee, Indiana. Now, television shows have survived massive character departures in the past, (Season 9 of The Office was one of its best, long after Dunder Mifflin lost Michael Scott), but I must admit I was concerned to see what would happen to  these last remaining remnants of what used to be a great night of comedy on NBC. After all, when Rob Lowe leaves a show, who knows what's gonna happen? We can at least agree that The West Wing didn't go uphill after Sam Seaborne left the White House.

So yeah, I wondered what would happen to Abed without his best buddy Troy. I'm happy to report that in the two episodes since the Childish Tycoon set sail, the writers haven't coddled the character. Instead, Abed was harassed by Britta, betrayed by a  new love interest, and handcuffed to a filing cabinet by the study group's new resident old guy, Professor Buzz Hickey.

I imagine that Abed's a tricky character to write and to play. How do you keep a neurotic, anti-social, media-obsessed community college student from becoming a caricature? Despite claymation, muppetization, and a season without Dan Harmon, Abed has remained a solid, yet growing, character. In the latest episode, I was particularly impressed by his emotion. He clearly missed his friend, but in a very Abed way - compensating by doing alone what they used to do together, cosplay for going to the movies. But the best part of the episode was when Abed didn't get his way, and how that led to his bonding with an unlikely new friend. I get the sense that Community is still finding its sea legs this season, but nonetheless, it's a fun ride.

On Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope lost her best friend, too. Sure, Rashida Jones always played it straight on this comedy, but as she's been with the show since its inception, she'll clearly be missed, and not just by Leslie. And Pawnee will never be the same without the perpetual good mood of Chris Traeger. This comes right on the heels of another loss for Leslie, loss of her place on the City Council, her dream job. Hasn't exactly been a red letter year for everyone's favorite public servant. If you ask me, that explains why this season has seen the show suffer a bit. (Excepting, of course, the episode "The Cones of Dunshire" which an especially funny Adam Scott made one of the best episodes ever.) Parks and Rec thrives on joy - the little happy moments that lift the spirits of the viewer. When things begin to turn around for Leslie, they'll also turn around for the show.

Parks and Rec will be fine, though, with guest stars like John Hodgman and great one-liners from Tom and April. And the new faces in the Parks Department, most notably Craig, played by Billy Eichner, may not fill the void left by the Perkins-Treager's, but they'll bring the funny.

So what happens next? I'll be tuning in tonight to see. It sure looks like we're in for a good time.

PS: In what I think was the best subplot of this season of Community so far, Chang believes he may be a ghost. If you haven't watched "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," it's worth your time for a single shot of a photograph near the end.

March 4, 2014

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Tactical Village" Review

After Brooklyn Nine-Nine won multiple Golden Globes (including, unexpectedly, Best Actor), I realized I needed to get on that (somewhat sparsely populated) bandwagon and start watching the Andy Samberg fronted show. I am so glad I did! Despite airing on the network station I least frequently watch, Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine delivers a solid, quirky workplace comedy. I caught up a bit on Hulu, and now consider myself a fan of the show.

Tonight's episode, "Tactical Village," pitted the members of the 99th precinct against their fellow NYC cops in a sort of obstacle-course of hypothetical in-the-field police scenarios. An interesting set-up, to be sure, and ripe for the kind of character-pairing I always appreciate.


While watching this episode, I finally figured out what Samberg's Detective Jake Peralta has got that makes the character so special - he's simultaneously a nerd, and the coolest, smoothest character on the show. I suppose this dichotomy makes him relatable. It was his nerdier side that rose to the surface in this episode. Maybe it was his fierce defense of Luke Skywalker or his childish eagerness to win a trophy. More likely, though, is the possibility that in his efforts to show up fellow detective Amy Santiago's suitor Teddy, we got a glimpse of a jealous, vulnerable Jake. It made him adorable in a whole new way. I can only hope that Jake's interest in Amy doesn't lead to any actual character pairing just yet. When it comes to TV, the audience really does prefer the tension over the romantic resolution.

Andre Braugher was also particularly strong in "Tactical Village." His character, the precinct's captain, became addicted to a game app called "Cwazy Cupcakes." And who would he turn to for help breaking this addiction if not his lackadaisical assistant Gina, played by the hilarious Chelsea Peretti? As the Captain himself acknowledged, it's hard to say "cwazy" in anger, which made for a great moment. It also resulted in many tweets from fans disappointed that the app is, in fact, not real.  Peretti, I should mention, is the most consistently funny part of the show in the episodes I've seen. That said, the rest of the cast seems to be jelling nicely, and I'm confident that Brooklyn Nine-Nine will find its place as one of the best sitcoms on network TV. Who knows? Come August, the cast and crew might even have some more awards to set on the mantel next to those Globes.