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WEEKLY ROUNDUP: Jan 23-29, 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. R. Lackie takes point for this week’s roundup…

Reviews, Thoughts and Other
Ruminations

Fringe 3.11: “Reciprocity” reminds me a bit of “The Firefly” (3.10), in that it purportedly has a standalone weekly story, but in actuality is utterly serial. Both told an episodic story that was left completely open-ended, which makes me think that Friday Fringe will be a completely serialised series, rather than the lumbering half-X-Files monster it was in its first two years. I’m not sure how I feel about this new format yet, but am liking the larger narrative. That said, it’s nice to see the show servicing Joshua Jackson; his castmates all got to play two different versions of themselves, so now that’s over, Jackson gets to be a kind of ‘Alter-Peter’, in that he’s now a badass assassin with something of a machine about his personality. Fun.

Parks and Recreation 3.02: “Flu Season” was classic Parks and Recreation, and as Community is having a bit of a rough go of it after the hiatus, that’s all the more pleasing. Amy Poehler was brilliant as Leslie in all of her incarnations, from sick to hallucinatory, but one can’t forget to praise the rest of this cast for their wonderful work here. Every plot worked; I laughed at least once per scene, without ever betraying or mocking its characters. Even Tom (Aziz Ansari), whose buffoonery is usually the target of the writers as an example of the not-so-noble civil servant, gets the last laugh as his spa day turns out to be exactly what they needed: his form of greasing the system got the Harvest Festival a slate of trucks to use. And you can never go wrong putting Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman in the same room.

Community 2.13: “Celebrity Pharmacology” is the first real dud of the season. Other episodes have been weird, like “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples” (2.05), really weird, like “Aerodynamics of Gender” (2.07), or just kind of boring, like “Asian Population Studies” (2.12), but this was the first I flat-out didn’t enjoy. I’ve long wondered why Pierce and Annie were never put together for a plot, and maybe this is the show’s twenty-minute answer why; the dynamic between these two is occasionally sweet, but also maddening. Pierce is best when either in small doses, or when his buffoonery is contrasted with his sharpness, like in “The Politics of Human Sexuality” (1.11) or “Beginner Pottery” 1.19), where even at his worst there’s a kind of sweetness to him. Meanwhile, Annie is usually adorable, but here she just… wasn’t. And the less that’s said about the Jeff/Britta subplot, in which he accidentally stokes her nephew’s lust for her via text, the better. This kind of feels like a freelancer script from someone who doesn’t quite ‘get’ the show. What really kills me is that this is a script from Hilary Winston, who wrote both of the above examples of how to get Pierce right – as well as my favourite episode, “Football, Feminism and You” (1.06). Let’s hope that things pick up from here, because this season has seen both the series’ highs, and its lows.

Chuck 3.12: Chuck suffers a bit here from having to compress this seasonal arc into thirteen episodes, as we burn through a lot of story this week, only some of which packs the punch its supposed to. Specifically, the questions surrounding Sarah’s loyalty; she walks into Volkov’s empire and within one episode Chuck is put into a place to doubt her loyalties. With room to play this arc through, this episode could have been a nice culmination to Sarah’s development and set-up to the arc finale; here, though it works well as an episode, it still feels like things are moving a tad quick. That said, it was very impressive to force Sarah to almost-kill Casey without knowing he’d survive; Chuck puts its characters in these types of positions plenty, but it rarely forces them to pull the trigger. Though I can’t see them ever offing Casey, it was still a powerful moment to see everyone around his bedside, knowing that Sarah could have easily killed him. Now, for the midseason finale!

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