Episode 206

TV Power Rankings for the week of 2/6/2012 – 2/12/2012

Apologies for lateness, but my TV and work schedule are really butting heads. I’ve decided to make Sunday the beginning of the TV week as opposed to the end. There is just simply too much great TV on Sunday and it’s too crowded for me to catch up on it all in a night. It’ll get even more crowded when Eastbound and Down and Life’s Too Short Premiere this coming Sunday.
1. Justified – “The Devil You Know”: Even a “regular” Justified episode is great.
2. Shameless – “Can I Have a Mother?”: Frank has been much improved this season.
3. New Girl – “The Landlord”: No Lizzy Caplan, sadly, but Schmidt really shined as always.

4. The Office – “Special Project”: Perfectenschlag. Best episode this season. Simple and easy.
5. Spartacus: Vengeance – “The Greater Good”: Spartacus needs an enemy. Poor Crixus. Where’s Gannicus?

6. The River – “Magus”: Found footage supernatural Amazonian horror TV show? I’m in.
7. House of Lies – “Our Descent Into Los Angeles”: I liked that they stayed at home one week.
8. Luck – “Episode Three”: Starting to get a clearer ideas of the story now.
9. Californication – “Love Song”: Reinvigorated the “forever couple.” Song was nice.
10. The Voice – “Blind Auditions, Part 2”: Lindsey Pavao was my favorite.
11. Suburgatory – “Sex and the Suburbs”: Played out expectedly. Great episode for Dallas.
12. 30 Rock – “Hey, Baby, What’s Wrong”: An hour was too long, but so many solid jokes.
13. The River – “Marbeley”: The images are the star. Characters are just ok.
14. The Walking Dead – “Nebraska”: THEY”RE STILL ON THE FARM?!?!?! UGH….
15. Smash – “Pilot”: Only care about the musical creation. Not the domestic stuff.
16. Alcatraz – “Guy Hastings”: Better story telling by adding guard, Tommy, Ray connection.
17. Modern Family – “Me? Jealous?”: Phil is endless comedy. I’m tired of Cam and Manny.
18. American Idol – “Hollywood Round #1 and 2”: Songless group round with a cliffhanger? What a time waste.
19. Glee – “The Spanish Teacher”: Ricky Martin? Ugh. The show’s badness now knows no bounds.

Justified Harlan Roulette

TV Power Rankings for the week of 1/30/2012 – 2/5/2012

In the interest of freshness, I’ve decided to review each show in ten words or less. It forces me to focus my thoughts and prevents needless rambling. I think it’ll be easier and more enjoyable for you to read as well.

1. Justified – “Harlan Roulette”: Another tense standoff? Yes! Raylan is clicking.

2. Shameless – “Father’s Day”: Lip is giving one of the best performanes on TV.

3. Parks and Recreation – “Operation Ann”: I guess we haven’t tried Ann and Tom yet.

4. New Girl – “Jess and Julia”: Lizzy Caplan is the perfect compliment to Zooey Deschanel.

5. Spartacus: Vengeance – “A Place in this World”: Liam captured the part better. Dottore still amazing.

6. Californication – “The Ride-Along”: Nothing wrong with Hank, Runkle and RZA in a car!

7. House of Lies – “Utah”: Doses of humility for Marty are good for the show.

8. 30 Rock – “Today You Are a Man”: Liz versus Jack: Good. Kenneth: still annoying.

9. The Voice – “Blind Auditions, Part 1”: Best singing competition and group of judges on TV.

10. Luck – “Episode Two”: Two straight boring episodes. I still trust David “Deadwood” Milch.

11. Alcatraz – “Cal Sweeny”: Still enjoyable, but redundant. Each episode still repeating the pilot.

12. The Office – “Jury Duty”: Jim proves he can still carry an episode.

13. American Idol – “Portand and St. Louis”: Auditions are boring on Idol. Bring on Hollywood!

14. Glee – “Michael”: Beautiful train wreck. Lost all relevance. Simply not good.


TV Power Rankings for the week of 1/16/2012 – 1/22/2012

TV season is picking up quite a bit. Some really great stuff is on and more is on the way. HBO debuts Luck and Spartacus comes back on Starz!
1. Justified – “The Gunfighter”: Welcome back! It’s been way too long. Justified came back swinging! I never wanted the episode to end. Graham Yost has just really nailed down the feeling of the show. From the snappy prose in the first scene between Boyd and Raylan to the look of the new bad guy in Fletcher Nicks. Each detail is just on point. The world of Harlan and Lexington still remain small but we’re starting to uncover more layers. After dealing with Mags it was hard to imagine how they were going to improve. They answer? Make the bad guys bigger and badder. Make Raylan meet his match. Oh and Boyd Crowder is still floating around being awesome and trying to run Harlan now that Mags is gone. This show is just everything I want right now and I don’t anticipate a show more.
2. Shameless – “I’ll Light a Candle For You Every Day”: Well Frank Gallagher is a despicable human being. Not like that’s any revelation but this just took it to a whole new level. He kept Dotty from getting a heart just to try and get her pension. Then he banged her to death. They really pushed it. At least he seemed shaken up about it. Fiona finally sleeps with a married man and it drives her to Steve. I’m for that. I’m also for Kevin buying the door. I’m also for Lip to get with Karen, but I don’t want it to be easy.
3. Parks and Recreation – “Campaign Ad”: Hey look it’s Paul Rudd! That’s a great get for Parks. Leslie’s campaign is moving briskly along as expected and her and Ben find a good compromise. Nothing too amazing there. The gold in this episode was with April and Andy as they found out about insurance and decided to visit a bunch of doctors for “free.” I know it’s a tad juvenile but I laughed really hard when he tried to dine and dash the hospital and ran right into the ambulance. Another solid episode.
4. Suburgatory – “The Casino Trip”: Really nice job of the show developing its supporting characters outside of their normal relationships. George got to spend time with the guys in Atlantic City which gave a chance to see more of Chris Parnell, Alan Tudyk and Jay Mohr. We got less Dallas and Dalia, but that’s ok. Really nice moment at the end when George discovers Lisa’s “Love Box.” George moved Tessa to the burbs after he found condoms in her room in NYC. Curious where they go with  this bit of info. The obvious route is for George to eventually blame and confront Tessa without all the details and kind of burn the trust he built up with her. Maybe it goes another unexpected and hilarious way. Not sure. But it was a good quiet moment from Jeremy Sisto.
5. New Girl – “Story of the 50”: I’d like to go on a party school bus with Schmidt and company. Perhaps some of my greatest joy in this episode was seeing how accepting and curious Schmidt was about the male stripper. Also, bringing back the douchebag jar was great. There were just so many great gags about it.
6. Modern Family – “Little Bo Bleep”: First of all it’s really strange that we never who’s wedding that was. Second of all, the Claire story was a tremendous story for Modern Family. They all sort of admitted that Claire can be a bit of a pill and then used it for comedy. An episode where everyone played their part and it worked out really well.
7. Up All Night – “Rivals”: Really glad to see that they’ve basically just let the show be about relationships rather than a workplace comedy. True some comedy happens at work but for the most part it’s all about how Regan interacts with everyone. Everyone has been in this position with their significant others. Having to wait watch to a TV show because it’s “your” show. Solid episode and Megan Mullaly was predictably good.
8. 30 Rock – “Idiots are People Two!”: Seemed a little less topical since the Tracy Morgan story has been dead for a while now, but I do like the way the show handled it. Basically they just called Tracy an idiot and moved on. Jack’s getting into Liz’s head about her boyfriend and that’s always good for some laughs. Still can’t stand Kenneth. Like at all.
9. House of Lies – “Microphallus”: The crying about Marty’s mom at the beginning seemed very out of place. I don’t quite know how I feel about Marty’s domestic stuff. I’m pretty disinterested. I’d like to learn more about Clyde and Doug than Roscoe.
10. Californication – “Boys & Girls”: If Evan Handler is going to masturbate every episode count me right out! But seriously, I mean, nothing earth shattering going on here. Hank is a bit self destructive while trying to keep his family in tact and happy. Still loving Megan Good and RZA.
11. Alcatraz – “Pilot/Ernest Cob”: JJ Abrams 101. This show is simple and effective. Every inmate on Alcatraz disappeared from The Rock just before it was shut down. Now they’re all coming back one by one, killing again. Sam Neil, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia’s characters are trying to figure out where they’re coming from from and why. It’s got a killer of the week procedural element along with the on going questions about the bigger thing that’s happening. Like what kind of beings can keep these inmates who are supposed to be 85 looking like they did the day they were abducted. What’s their agenda? This show can go off the rails really quickly or it’s going to be wildly repetitive. Hopefully it lies somewhere in between.
12. The Finder – “Bullets”: I’m sure I’m supposed to know who Dr. Sweets is, but I don’t watch Bones. Otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have thought his cameo was pretty cool. He’s cool as is but it would have been more compelling. The case wasn’t that interesting but that wasn’t really the point. We were just supposed to see if Walter is crazy or not. Answer? He’s both. The show is harmless and it’s good to have in the background.
13. The Office – “Pool Party”: Um…this was a sort of weird surreal thing. I’ve never seen Caligula, but this felt like a PG network television version of it. That was a strange Bacchanalia. The point was to push the relationship of Erin and Andy. That’s the only bullet the show has left at this point. I didn’t always find myself laughing but rather staring uncomfortably.
14. America Idol – “Auditions 1 and 2: Savannah and Pittsburgh”: There was a random third episode of Idol that aired after those two long football games. I didn’t watch it. However, the only thing I want to mention about Idol is that it finally looks like the producers have caught up with the rest of America and realized that showing all the bad auditions is not entertaining. Rather than crappy montage after crappy montage, we’re getting to meet a lot of the contestants early. Nicely done Nigel Lythgoe and company!
15. Glee – “Yes/No”: Well, uh, most of this episode was pretty bad. I think they purposefully put us all in a wildly uncomfortable place with the Becky story line. Sam and Mercedes is so forced. The Summer Loving number? Predictable and uninspired. Everything to do with the synchronized swimming was dumb. Finn’s army thoughts and the mother crushing his idea of his father was done so poorly. Let’s not forget that Coach Bieste randomly eloped. I hope to forget Mr. Schuster’s awkward dancing during “Moves Like Jagger.” And how absurd is it that Mr. Schuster would ask Finn to be his best man?!?!? That’s a teacher asking his student to be his best man. That’s creepy and probably illegal. However, despite all that, there were still some good moments. Rachel’s version of “Without You” was tremendous. Emma’s take me or leave me monologue was very well done. Even Finn’s proposal was well acted even though I don’t think the relationship has earned the respect of the audience enough for us to believe that.

Californication The Way of the Fist Charlie

Showtime’s Slate of Sunday Shows: Shameless, House of Lies and Californication 1/15/2012 – Let’s Talk About Sex

I stopped drinking.” -Butterface
“Why?” -Frank
“I kept waking up next to you.” -Butterface

I’m still toying with the best format for talking about three different shows at once. Last week I sort of talked about each one independently. That seemed to work ok, but this week I’m going to kind of explore common themes that popped up between all three or at least two of the three shows. And what theme is that? Why child masturbation of course!

I felt it was weird that both Shameless and Californication each had a plot line that dealt with whether or not an infant child could actually masturbate or not. There was way too much discussion on the matter. Somehow Shameless did the discussion better but still, let’s let that be the last time we discuss infant masturbation.

So why actually do I bring this issue up? Well I thought it appropriate we discuss the Showtime brand a little bit and why they choose to make shows the way they do. Showtime often tells some pretty compelling stories and has compelling leads but they feel this need to prove to us that they’re a pay cable network week in and week out. Stories with sex!

Not that I have a problem with sex inside of shows. Not at all. Sex is something that drives almost every human being. People love sex. People do crazy things for sex. But it’s the actual sex itself that is the issue. And by issue, I don’t mean I have a problem but more I wish they’d do more or less with it.

In this week’s episode of Shameless, “Summer Lovin” we didn’t need the graphic questions on what it takes to make masturbation masturbation. It added nothing. But I thought the way they handled Frank’s pursuit of Butterface, Ian and Mickey’s exploration of their homosexuality and Lip’s desire for Karen were very well done.

Lip is trying to hang on to Karen with everything he’s got. The only thing he has left is this sexual relationship. But as he learns from Kevin, the sex might be what’s keeping him from Karen. To me, this is where the emotional center of the show is right now and it’s all about sex. Sex in a good way.

Sex in a “bad way.” The rough sex Marty and his ex wife in this week episode of House of Lies, “Amsterdam.” I get that they’re trying to show that she and Marty have a severely messed up relationship but the thing is, no one cares about that relationship. There’s only been two episodes so far and Marty and his ex have had a strange and heartless sex encounter twice. It has added precisely zero to the show. We know Marty is self destructive and is tortured we don’t need the crazy ex wife to tell us that. That time would be better suited for developing the members of his team who are at this point very one dimensional.

Or they could make the procedural element of the show more interesting. The two most important elements of the case of the week happened off screen. They got Bridget to go along with plan in a private conversation and Doug miraculously found the 100 million dollars in the middle of the night. Less worthless sex, more development.

As for Californication, the sex is part of the title, CaliFORNICATION. Sex is sort of what the whole show is built on. Sex is what drives the characters and sex is what screws everything up. Sex is the conflict. Only in this season so far, sex isn’t a problem. Sex just happens and it has no effect on anything. Hank appears to be resigned to Karen being with Bates so their sexual relationship doesn’t exist. Charlie and Marcy are happily divorced so it’s not like anyone cares who they sleep with. I don’t think they’re going to use the Becca sex problem bullet yet so really why is there sex? Just because it’s on Showtime. Maybe we try and get back to some compelling character work?

Hank appears to be happy and to have shed some of the darkness that made him, him. Perhaps the writers aren’t quite so sure how to write for their lead like this. Usually it’s Hank who makes a binch of self destructive decisions but at this point they let stuff just happen around him. It’s a dangerous thing when writers start letting the action happen around the lead without them being a part of the doing. The consequences still exist for them but there’s nothing that they can do about it. It’s weird to ask of the show, but Hank needs to sex something up and cause some conflict!

Shameless Frank and Carl Summer Lovin

TV Power Rankings for the week of 1/9/2012 – 1/15/2012

I didn’t LOVE any episode this week. So the rankings are going to be sort of closer than they might be on other weeks. Alcatraz debuts next week. Glee and New Girl come back. So there’s that.
1. Shameless – “Summer Lovin”: For me, this was way too much Frank. I know that they tried to work on him being a human that we can appreciate but I just don’t find him compelling. His rant to Carl about being grateful was just plain mean. And normally when people on screen do incredibly mean things you can say, well at least the acting was good. Part of my problem with Frank is that I don’t love William H Macy in the role. Aside from that, I didn’t mind the rest. I kind of wish I just got a whole episode of Kevin and Lip in the van selling drugs.
2. Parks and Recreation – “The Comeback Kid”: Not my favorite Parks episode because it just felt like a little bit of filler. Essentially they needed to get Ben to be Leslie’s campaign manager by episode’s end. I didn’t so much love Anne’s failures as manager but more watching Ben be depressed. Those scenes with Chris about Claymation and Calzones were on point. “Stand in the place where you live!”
3. Suburgatory – “Out in the Burbs”: I thought the episode was perfectly decent except I just hate the sitcom convention of “someone thinks they’re talking about one thing and the other person thinks they’re talking about their secret.” In this case Tessa thought the cop was gay and the cop thought she had found her out. It led to some pretty funny moments from Allie Grant but sometimes those situations are just too obvious and it’s hard to believe the two parties would go on with thinking the wrong thing for so long. I like what they’re doing with Dallas and George. They’re both sort of see-sawing for power in the relationship.
4. House of Lies – “Amsterdam”: Amsterdam. The safe word between Marty and his wife during rough sex. That was a bit of an uncomfortable scene. This was basically the pilot all over again. Marty and his team got a job and they did it. What set this episode apart for me obviously was the presence of So You Think You Can Dance’s host, Cat Deeley. I thought she did a great job playing against Doug who is probably my favorite at this point. There was one moment that gave me a glimmer of hope for some more characterization in the future. It was at the end when Roscoe asks Marty what a “fudge packer” is and he looks at him very concerned and says, “Did someone really call you that?”
5. Modern Family – “Egg Drop”: Another episode that I found perfectly acceptable. Maybe I just needed that hiatus during the holidays to sort of hit reset in my brain. I was really glad to see the human side of Phil. He’s always one of my favorite characters because of how silly he is but it was really nice to see him get angry when the girls let him down. Also, seeing him work was a good change of pace. We normally just hear about his work but in this case it was good to see his passions. I’m also glad to see they’re not rushing in to giving Cam and Mitchell another baby. It’s going to take some work.
6.  The Office – “Trivia”: I’m always in favor when The Office sort of flips the script on status in the office. It was good to see characters like Jim, Darryl, Andy and Dwight get a helping of humble pie. A great built in joke machine in this episode was that each trivia question was the set up for a joke for somebody. The tag at the end of the episode was perfect when it showed Kevin and his team just getting every single question wrong.
7. Up All Night – “New Year’s Eve”: Aside from airing a New Year’s episode on January 12th I thought the episode to be very funny. It looks like they’re really starting to figure out how to keep it from being two separate shows. Jason Lee is a good addition to the cast because he helps ground Ava and I’m always in favor of when Missy is on screen.
8. 30 Rock – “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”: I haven’t watched 30 Rock in about three years I’d say so it was nice to see that the show can still make me laugh. Liz as a WNBA dancer seemed like a great idea. The show brings laughs but I still just can’t stand Kenneth. Like at all.
9. Hell on Wheels – “God of Chaos”: After a really strong penultimate episode I thought the finale kind of ended with a whimper. There wasn’t a whole lot of tension and a lot of things played out exactly like we thought they would. Seemed like they were caught in between on whether they wanted to wrap up season one nicely or leave these same stories open for season two. They sort of did the latter. Either way Mr. Bohannon is on the run for murder with the Swede on his case. Still seems like they’re going to focus too much on the railroad in the future.
10. Californication – “The Way of the Fist”: Have all the supporting characters seemed this marginalized before? It’s possible, but it’s as if Charlie, Marcy and Karen aren’t even a driving force in the show anymore. Becca still has only kind of been because of her boyfriend. Her boyfriend that’s now in the hospital because Sam Apoc jumped him in an effort for Hank to write his movie. Seems as though Hank is going to write the movie but along the way has to battle for his daughters affections and will try not to sleep with his boss’s girl. Sounds familiar.
11. The Finder – “An Orphan Walks into a Bar”: I’m not always into police procedurals like this but I thought since it looked like it had a quirky lead with some heart I thought I’d give it a go. It is pretty much exactly what you would expect. It’s fun and easy to watch. Walter plays well with Michael Clarke Duncan and they solve a case in the episode. It’s fun but I’m not sure I’ll keep up with it religiously. It’s from the creator of Bones so if you like Bones you’ll probably like this show.

Hank Moody Californication JFK-->LAX

Showtime’s Sunday Slate of Shows: Shameless, House of Lies and Californication Thoughts 1/8/2012

***We’re going to try a little something new here at ApeDonkey. We do a lot of TV reviews on the site and sometimes we feel like doing a review on every episode of every show we watch can get a bit tiresome on both the writer and reader. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil for TV criticism but we’re going to attempt a slight shift.

Instead of a post dedicated solely to one show we’re going to start doing a few “rock blocks” so to speak. The first of these is Showtime’s Sunday night lineup of Shameless, House of Lies and Californication. It’ll give us a chance to talk about flow and how and why shows are paired together. It’ll be like a mixture of the reviews and the power rankings. Look for an NBC Thursday Night Comedy block review as well.***

You’re a teenager. All teenagers are sex addicts.” – Lip, from Shameless

Showtime airs a pretty interesting set of shows on Sunday night. They’re three seemingly similar shows that are in three very different places in their lives.

Shameless is a show on the rise. It narrowly missed out on a lot of people’s top ten lists last year due largely to William H Macy’s character, Frank. Frank is the patriarch of the highly dysfunctional family of the Gallaghers. The Gallagher family is quite a unique one in that the kids raise and provide for themselves. That’s the part of the show I enjoy the most. Just watching all the kids scrape by and provide for themselves all while remaining perfectly happy.

Season Two picks up in the summer where the Gallaghers are sort of storing up money for the winter. Every kid is doing their part. Debbie and Carl are running an illegal daycare out of the living room. Ian still works at the Kash and Grab. Veronica and Fiona are working at a bar in town and Lip and Kevin are selling weed out of an ice cream truck to kids.

This is the beautiful thing about the show. The people do pretty deplorable things but we love them any way because the show has spent time letting us get to know why they are the way they are. They’ve had it extremely rough but they never make any excuses or accept pity from people.

In the premiere Fiona tells the man Frank owes ten grand, “Gallagher’s always pay their debts.” Maybe they’re distant relatives of the Lannisters from Game of Thrones? Regardless, family is paramount for them and it’s really nice to see these characters work together each episode to provide for each other.

Californication, however, is a show that is sort of stuck in neutral (like all Showtime shows are wont to do). It’s another show full of deplorable people that we’ve grown to love but there’s not a lot of story left to tell. In fact, there was so little story to tell that they jump ahead two and a half years and everything is EXACTLY the same. No one is different. No one has changed.

Karen summed up the show best when she was talking about Becca’s douche of a boyfriend, “It works until it doesn’t.” Californication still works. I’m okay with Hank taking a season long project each year that comes with various complications. I hope they take off a year from trying to push Hank and Karen on us. I sort of like the dynamic they have said up with Bates. He’s like Hank, only more awesome.

I do look forward to the addition of Megan Good and RZA to the cast this year. Normally shows have a “Big Bad,” but Californication has sort of a “Hank’s Conquest” each season. Somehow he’ll get involved with the girl and will take on the writing project of Samurai Apocalypse. I don’t know how much life is left in the show, but I think we’ll have a really good idea after this season because of the time jump.

House of Lies is a new show that pairs rather nicely with Californication. It stars Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan who’s a mad genius of management consulting. He and his team composed of Ben Schwartz(Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and Josh Lawson (of really nothing I’m familiar with) try to just make boats loads of money by kind of scamming the one percenters out of money.

It goes nicely with Californication because all of the characters are sort of morally ambiguous. They just want to go get that money. Don Cheadle’s lead character is also wildly self destructive much like Hank Moody. In fact, if you combined House M.D. and Californication this would be the show.

Marty is a House/Hank mash up and his team is just like House’s team. They always seem to be down and out but at the last second they pull out a brilliant plan! One thing (a rather big thing actually) I don’t like is that everyone keeps telling me that Marty and his team are geniuses but we never see the genius. They spent more time with Marty’s fake stripper wife than with the process. I suppose that’s ok but it just makes the management consulting stuff feel very distant.

Oh, also Marty has a cross dressing son back home. His father, played by Glynn Turman (Mayor Royce from The Wire) is a retired shrink who is trying to make sense of the whole family. The boy’s mother is Marty’s ex wife who also happens to work for the number one management consultant team. She and Marty are both pretty unfit parents but I suppose we’ll see how they cope throughout the series.

The show really needs to develop the rest of Marty’s team if we are to care about anything. Right now they’re just there for punch lines. Also, a half hour doesn’t seem like enough time to fit all of Marty’s domestic problems and management problems in one episode. An average pilot with a lot of promise I’d say.

So that wrap’s up my thoughts on Showtime’s morally ambiguous Sunday slate of shows. I’d say it’s a pretty remarkable pairing of shows. They really know their demographic.

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