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WEEKLY ROUNDUP: Jan 16-22, 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

The Cape 1.02: The show is still utterly bonkers, like someone telling you a ‘hilarious’ joke in complete deadpan, and it still has that wonderful nineties-in-the-2010’s charm. Vince Faraday has shown himself to be dumb as a brick, which is… ‘interesting’ for a prominent detective, but I’ll allow it. The show is actually really in line with Chuck in terms of tone, even as that show does a much better job respecting its characters while allowing them to be hilarious. His family are still a black hole of interest, though, and they featured pretty prominently in this one. Summer Glau and Keith David need to be onscreen more, but other than that, solid second episode.

Big Love 5.01: Going into this season knowing it’s the end is a good thing, because it offers the potential of closure to the arcs these characters have been moving down for five seasons. Bill Henrickson is finally beginning to see that actions have consequences, and his arrogant bumbling around has actually seriously damaged every single person he loves. Meanwhile, Barb is flirting with the idea that she wants to break all of the tight religious restrictions she’s always lived by, trying to understand how to relate to her husband in the light of her own independence. Nicki is also coming into her own independence, leaving behind her compound garb for a modern style and lashing out at Barb, jealous that she has to share her husband now that she realises she wants him to herself. Margene, meanwhile, has lost everything that gave her strength in recent years: her newfound career, destroyed by the family’s public coming-out, and her relationship with Ana and Goren. Things are on the horizon.

Its always felt inevitable that, as Bill’s wives began to figure out that they have worthwhile voices, they would begin to question what this marriage means to them. For Margene, it once meant having a big family who will all love you, and now it means a wall between her and the life she wants, and the people she wants in it. For Barb, it was once true love, and now that love is in question as she begins to realise that their dynamic, of him constantly speaking over her, is not something she feels comfortable with. And for Nicki, it began as a bargain of her father’s to gain influence over Bill, but has blossomed into love, a love that wants to be monogamous. And so, every relationship in this marriage is in crisis, which is only exacerbated by the strain of coming out as polygamists. I’ve felt for years that Bill would lose at least one of his wives by the end of the show, and now its looking like he might lose all of them. It will be interesting to see what happens with these characters moving forward.

Fringe 3.10: “The Firefly” was an interesting entry to kick off their Friday run, though it follows Observer-centric stories like “The Arrival” (1.04) and “August” (2.08) that feel like they’re only telling us half of the story in play. The scene that really worked for me was the moment where John Noble realised he was inadvertantly responsible for his hero’s son’s death, all because Peter wasn’t where he was supposed to be. (Though, I would blame Firefly Girl’s reckless father more than Walter in this particular instance.) The rest was a mildly interesting story that mostly frustrated me; I love Fringe at its best telling stories that I can follow, and though I understood what the script told us, it still wasn’t enough to make this story properly enjoyable for me. Still, I’m heartened by its strong Friday sowing, and look forward to the coming weeks, especially as the show’s prospects for a fourth season seem much brighter.

Parks and Recreation 3.01: “Go Big or Go Home” was a really fun episode, playing off the great dynamic between Ann (Rashida Jones) and new series regular Chris (Rob Lowe), as well as another fun duo in Leslie (Amy Poehler) and newbie Ben (Adam Scott). Both characters worked well with the group last season, so to see their promotion is heartening. They’ve slipped in very well, much like how Chris Pratt earned a promotion in season two after doing wonderful work in what was slated to be a one-season role. Parks and Recreation competed with Community for my favourite show on TV last season, and Parks and Rec is putting up one hell of a fight one week into midseason.

Community 2.12: “Asian Population Studies” was an odd duck. Community often goes for drama and comedy, and typically mixes them very well. Though there were some standout scenes, and I liked how each plot played out, “Studies” was a pretty uneven viewing experience, which was a bit of a shame. Particularly was the final scene, which felt much more like a riff on comedic comedies than a character moment, when Community is at its best when scenes work on both levels. That said, there was some gold here, particularly in the always-golden rivalry between Jeff and Rich (Greg Cromer). Back when Rich was introduced in “Beginner Pottery” (1.16), I never expected him to become one of Community‘s regular recurring players, but was gleeful to see him return in “Epidemiology” (2.06) all the same. Hoping to see these plots flow a bit more even once they’re in the complications stage.

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