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WEEKLY ROUNDUP: March 6-12, 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

Raising Hope 1.16: A fun episode, as Jimmy’s cousin Mike returns as part of a ‘reverse polygamist’ (or polyandrist) marriage. Of course, the moment he’s dropped off, his new wife and brother-husbands break it to him that they’re just not that into him. A timely plot, with the recent advent of Sister Wives and the ending of Big Love coming up. The show doesn’t particularly pass judgement on the lifestyle; it wrings it for comedy, yes, but it also spends some time exploring exactly why the situation might be alright for a ‘brother-husband’ within the group. It also offers J.K. Simmons, never a bad thing, as Burt’s (Garrett Dillahunt) estranged brother. Also of interest to anyone who followed the development of the pilot: Mike was originally a series regular role, briefly turned into a lady (with Kate Micucci, who now recurs as Hope’s babysitter, in the role), and then dumped from the regular cast after the pilot. This turned out to be a good idea, as the cast chemistry as is works perfectly. And I’ll always be charmed by Sabrina’s (Shannon Woodward) fascination with the weirdness that comes to the Chance family, here expressed as she’s another witness to Mike’s ‘situation’.

Off the Map 1.07: After it was hinted early on that Martin Henderson‘s Dr. Keeton and Caroline Dhavernas‘s Dr. Brenner would be ‘the couple’, I sighed and prepared myself for yet another will-they-won’t-they, TV’s favourite overtread trope. Well, the show has recently surprised me pleasantly by instead keeping their relationship platonic, and maximising Henderson‘s chemistry with Rachelle Lefevre, which was a good move. The two offer a strong anchor to the show’s romantic side, keeping Brenner’s (ostensible) lead to focus on the medicine and her occasionally-recurring love interests. NBC agrees about Henderson and Lefevre‘s chemistry, as they were cast as the male and female leads of its pilot Reconstruction (in second position to Off the Map, which wrapped production a while back and is firmly on the bubble). They keep me in even when the good-not-great episodic storylines or the good-but-not-great characters don’t. This show is well-cast, which is the only reason I care about Otis Cole (Jason George), Mina Minard (Mamie Gummer), and especially Lily Brenner, who if not anchored by a largely-wasted Caroline Dhaernas would be rocking the name Mary Sue. The show’s still finding its feet, but it’s reliably entertaining, even if it doesn’t feel deep enough to blow me away. Still, I’m definitely hoping for a season two; I feel like this might be a slow burner. “There’s Nothing to Fix” (1.07) was a pretty good story, giving Zach Gilford‘s Tommy a rare moment of competence, offering a very strong moment for Brenner when she has to let a 16-year-old boy go in a current to survive, and offering some well-earned time to Keeton and Lefevre‘s Clark. The episode’s key story was pretty enjoyable too; Jason George and Valerie Cruz have great chemistry as friends, but I can’t buy them romantically, so it laid on the guests to offer something enjoyable from that thread. And it worked, as the show marinated on the question of parenthood: is a child better off with parents who want it, or is it up to the parents to sacrifice in order to provide? At what point is a relationship unsaveable when it comes to the decision regarding children? The questions, and the lack of easy answers, made the plot into something more than a time-filler.

Glee 2.15: I reviewed “Sexy” briefly via Twitter after it aired, and the gist of that was: Naya Rivera and Mike O’Malley continue to be awesome, anchoring their own QUILTBAG*-centric plots: Santana and Brittany (Heather Morris) question their sex-only relationship after Brittany confesses that she’s unsure about it, which leads to Santana confessing her feelings for Brittany… only for Brittany to requite, but refuse her based on her current relationship with boyfriend Artie (Kevin McHale). Meanwhile, a plot to make the Warblers ‘sexy’ leads to Blaine discussing sexuality with Kurt, and when Kurt shows his ignorance and reticence to explore, Blaine asks Kurt’s dad to sit down with him and talk through things. These two plots are the two best parts of the episode, anchoring it in heart and giving it some meaning. Yes, Glee started out mocking ‘after school specials’ and then became the 21st century of one, but I think, sometimes, we need them. Because a show that offers a realistic position on drinking and a story representing the gay community so truthfully, even if its satire edge is dulled, is important. The show, despite its very-real and undernoticed failings on disability and race, is offering a real and powerful message to the world about gay people: they’re real, have feelings, and are struggling just the same, and in many of the same ways, as straight teens. There’s never been a scene on popular television wherein a story like Santana’s or Kurt’s has played out with quite so much focus, and that means the show is doing something strong few others would even consider touching.

This is just one element of how the show has evolved since its inception. It began as a paper-thin parody of high school in media while being grounded in some very-real ideals, and slowly evolved into something more aimed to inform as well as entertain. This is the key reason why Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), one of the best comedic characters to show up on television in recent times, just doesn’t fit any more: trying to complicate her just confuses her purpose in the narrative, while keeping her at her best makes her feel alien in the show’s new landscape. That has never been as obvious as in her scene with Kurt and Blaine, where the show very clearly comments on that divide: Blaine, a product of Glee 2.0, is funny-yet-realistic and portrayed with attempts at an honest human being; when faced with the monstrous and over-the-top Sue, he can only gawk and blink in confusion, because Glee no longer lives in the world of satire. I’ve said it before, and I’ve felt it every time a Sue-less episode felt stronger without her: Sue doesn’t really belong here any more, and how the producers deal with this conundrum will be very interesting as the show moves forward.

* QUILTBAG: An acronym I’ve found more enlightening than the restrictive, but more popularised, LGBT. Basically, stands for Queer Undecided Intersex Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Asexual Gay. Plus, easier to say than Ell-Gee-Bee-Tee.

Shameless (US) 1.09: I’ve neglected to review the show individually since 1.02, hoping I’d find the time to catch up, but it’s very easy to see that’s not going to happen. I’d like to offer a few brief thoughts here: Debbie is awesome. Never have I wanted to punch a character in the face, male or female, as much as the Gallagher’s real-life-kind-of-awful mother. William H. Macy his actually fitting into the role well now. I have at least fondness for every castmate now, even the evil Carl. Possibly my favourite show currently on air.

News and Notable Links

Terra Nova Loses the Glee Treatment: After plans were announced to offer a glimpse of the big new show coming in the fall, Fox have announced that Terra Nova‘s elaborate special effects have led to the preview being cancelled (LA Times, 11/03/2010). That leaves us waiting until September to see what this show looks like – and whether the writing can keep it from being, like the ambitious The Event and Flashforward before it, an expensive flop.

How I Took Forever to Meet Your Mother: The CBS sitcom has been renewed for two more years (Deadline, 07/03/2010). As for The Signal‘s reviews of the episodes? You’ll just have to see…

One and a Half Men?: Charlie Sheen has been fired from Two and a Half Men (TMZ, 07/03/2010). Meh.

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