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WEEKLY ROUNDUP: Jan 9-15, 2011

Every week, The Signal will be offering up a Weekly Roundup: a collection of mini-reviews, TV news, interesting links and varying television-related thoughts that weren’t big enough to merit a full post on their own.

Reviews, Thoughts and Other
Ruminations

Cougar Town 2.09-2.11: Cougar Town is an odd show, wherein my enjoyment of each episode can veer wildly depending on a few key elements. Usually that element is the lead, Jules Cobb (Courtney Cox). Some weeks, she’s a sweet-yet-neurotic mother with a cute sense of humour, and sometimes she’s a narcissistic control freak whose grasp on all of these lovely people is inexplicable. The episodes preceding these three had a lot of the more obnoxious form of Jules, peppered with relateable moments like Jules talking to her father.

After taking a bit of a break from the show, I watched three episodes tonight, and was surprised that Jules didn’t grate on me nearly so much here. This is shocking, because the Thanksgiving story and the Angel of Death story are both the kinds of stories where Jules could easily be at her worst; and yet, the writers treated her with a light touch and some sympathy, and she was an awful lot of fun to watch. The key here was also that she blended into the fantastic ensemble the show has created. Sadly for Jules, I doubt she’s ever amused me as much as everything Laurie did in these three episodes, from trying to beat Katy Perry’s number of costume changes for one event (and stopping after nine thanks to a shortage of “boob tape”), to her dozens of apps, to the sweet and enjoyable moment where she and Travis (Dan Byrd) finally acknowledge the potential between them. Lest I seem like I prefer Laurie to the rest of the cast… Well, I very well may, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that these episodes serviced every castmember wonderfully. Brian van Holt got to have some spotlight when the gang tried to motivate him in “The Same Old You” (2.10), and also had great bits in realising nobody can understand him when he talks, then getting a download of all the real tragedy in the world and getting knocked for a loop. And Christa Miller and Ian Gomez have plenty of fun as mean/innocent couple Ellie and Andy. These three were some of the most consistently amusing episodes the show’s done, and its a treat I got to see them all in a row.

Grey’s Anatomy 7.12: Grey’s Anatomy is at its best when it builds stories, piece by piece, until they create something big and beautiful. This episode told sotires at the episodic level, yes, but it also developed on what was established before in interesting ways. For example, the gleaming review of Alex in the documentary episode sets up his med student idolising him here, which sets him as frontrunner for Chief Resident. There were other running plots that came to a head, too: Teddy was reminded that her ‘deal’ with her by-law-only husband was complicated by his medical issues when she was forced to make a decision mid-surgery that would leave him a diabetic, and Bailey enters a sex-only relationship with the nurse she flirted with a few episodes back. All of these stories felt natural and appealed nicely to how we know the characters. As did the big one:

Callie and Arizona. This story, oddly enough, has been over a year in the making. Because that final moment, where Arizona begs to be let in only to learn that Callie’s pregnant with Mark’s baby, would not be as powerful if we didn’t see the two agonise over their opinions last season. If we didn’t know that Callie desperately wants a child and Arizona doesn’t. It wouldn’t be as compelling if we weren’t exposed to a long arc last season in which we learned that Mark actually wants to be a father, craves it in fact, and almost adopted his grandchild with Callie. It wouldn’t be as tense if we hadn’t seen Mark andLexie rekindle recently, knowing that his urge to be a father destroyed them last time around. This story has been building for a long time, and carries a lot of potential for future weeks.

The big thing for me in this episode, though, wasn’t Callie and Arizona: it was that final moment for Alex. Because it was always assumed, by everyone, that Cristina would be the ideal Chief Resident, and it was only after Alex pulled in ahead at the end that I began to seriously question that. Cristina Yang is brilliant, but selfish. That’s the truth. Alex is, too, but they both have been effected by teaching in different ways, because Cristina has always had faith in her abilities and Alex hasn’t. When Cristina is praised, she smiles the smile of one who knows it to be true. Whenever Alex is praised, however, he is excited, surprised, blown away, because he’s long had self-esteem issues. One of the most vivid memories I have of the character is in 5.17, when he’s been called ‘the future of this hospital’ by an attending, and he practically becomes an excited child over it. So teaching has meant more to him than to Cristina – he gained more from Addison and Arizona than she did from Burke or Teddy, because he needed them in a way Cristina’s never needed to be taught, because all she needs it to move forward. He may be trying to get into the med student’s pants in this episode, but he legitimately teaches her throughout it. So Karev, nobody’s choice for the position, might actually be perfect for it. I’ll be keeping en eye on this storyline, because Alex deserves something for all the hard work he’s done throughout the show, and it would be nice for his to earn some success, rather than merely praise.

News

I am Spartacus! Wait, Who are You?: Starz is pursuing a second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Deadline.com, 07/01/2011), despite Andy Whitfield exiting the role in order to focus on treatment for his cancer. No final recasts have been made for the lead role.

More Mad Men Coming: Although negotiations aren’t done, AMC Vice President assures press that “‘Mad Men’ is definitely coming back for season 5” (What’s Alan Watching, 07/01/2011).

See You Next Year!: This week, early pickuos got handed out to a bunch of well-performing shows. ABC handed out six renewals (Hollywood Reporter, 10/01/2011), including Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, Private Practice, The Middle, Cougar Town and Castle. Fox renewed the first new show for a second season – and, unsurprisingly, it’s also the first show to get its back nine, Raising Hope (Deadline.com, 11/01/2011), and cable network Showtime gave Californication a fifth season renewal (Deadline.com, 14/01/2011) after just one episode aired.

Making a Bang: Unlike the above, with their tiny one-year renewals, The Big Bang Theory has made waves by securing an unusual three-year renewal (Ohio.com, 12/01/2011).

Interesting Links


Glee and Disability in Pop Culture (The Largest Minority): A transcript of a radio show in which a number of disability activists discuss Glee‘s effect on the narrative of disability in pop culture. Those involved included s.e.  smith of this ain’t livin’; Alice Sheppard, a dancer with AXIS wheelchair dance company; TK Small, lawyer and
disability rights activist; Christine Bruno, of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, and Maysoon Zayidd, an actor and comedienne with Cerebral Palsy.

Community Picspams (bright enough to shine in your spaces): These amazing, and utterly addictive, ‘picspams’ (a collection of episode screencaps) from Community also provide thoughtful and engaging commentary, and the author’s created one for every single episode. I’ve lost hours reading these. You’d best get started, so you can catch up before the show returns on January 20th!

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