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Thursday, December 22, 2011

American Horror Story - Afterbirth

Constance has been babysitting the new baby for Ben while Ben gets his affairs in order and prepares to move out of the Murder House. She cautions Ben to keep himself and the baby out of the house, because the house’s “forces” want to hurt the baby. Ben sees a picture of Tate and blames Constance for all of his family’s woes, tells her off, and peaces out.

Vivian and Moira are getting along as dead people. Moira tells Viv that Ben can’t see them unless Viv wants him to. Viv explains that this would be bad, because Ben would want to stay in the house with them, when he should really get out. Ben sits on the couch, in the house, that night and puts a gun to his head. Viv appears to Ben and tells him to live on and raise the baby. Even though it’s not his, it is Vivian’s (and Tate's), after all. Ben reconciles with Violet and makes out with Viv. The two disappear and Ben grabs the baby and walks toward the front door.

Sadly, and surprisingly, Hayden kills him, making it look like a suicide. Constance ends up with the baby, hiding him. Marcy sells the house to a new family, the Ramoses, who have one son, Gabe. He skateboards and he utters the words, “I don’t believe in ghosts,” so we are really surprised he lived. The Ramos family gets driven away by the Harmons and the rest of the good ghosts, who realize that the family shouldn’t stay in the house, especially since they are trying to have a baby. It’s sweet, in a morbid way. The good ghosts get their scary on and drive the family out, screaming.

Tate tries to apologize to Ben and own up to his sins. Ben counters with, “Therapy doesn’t really work. It’s just for people who can’t own up to their own problems.” We groaned, because we know plenty of people who NEED therapy who think this is the case. It’s not. It’s only if you see a crappy therapist like Ben that therapy is useless. If you’re not getting better, getting good tools, or getting good feedback in a reasonable amount of time, onto the next therapist. We don’t hate Ben, like lots of this show’s fans. We feel bad for him. He had demons and he was trying to fight them. But then he got a stalker and a haunted house. The guy couldn’t win.

Viv’s other baby took one breath outside the womb, so now he will live in the Murder House as a one-day-old infant forever. Wow, that’s really hard luck. Nora gives Viv the baby after realizing that she doesn’t have the patience for motherhood. Moira becomes the baby’s godmother and the Harmons decorate a Christmas tree. It’s a happy ending, while Tate and Hayden sulk outside, rejected. The Harmons have realized the importance of family and died loved. Tate and Hayden are being punished for being jerks. Three years later, Constance has a toddler (Vivian and Tate's demon spawn) who killed his babysitter.

We thought the finale was satisfying, conclusive, and set up a second season really well. We like this show. Ern still has the gripe that this show has never effectively scared, shocked, or creeped her out. They are going to have to try a little subtlety if they want to do that. However, the ratings are great, the show is a hit, and we were both entertained all season. We were glad that Constance didn’t die. We will absolutely be back for next season. This is an easy show to watch, and we want to see how Ryan Murphy thinks he can top this, content-wise.

Those curious about season two MUST read this: One of us is pretty upset.

Episode grade: A-
Season grade: B+

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TV That Made an Impression This Year

 Memorable TV of 2011

The newbies
Once Upon a Time - Arguably the best new network show of the fall season. It brought our beloved LOST writers back to TV and, once again, gave them two worlds to juggle. While we were stunned by the midseason finale, we have to admit it was ballsy and a good episode. Just about everyone loves a good fairy tale, and while critics thought this one was going to be too weird for audiences, the show proved them wrong. This year, this show taught us that viewers want something different and something that the whole family can watch. But not something that infantilizes the audience, like Terra Nova (which one of us likes).

Homeland - Arguably the best new cable show of the fall season. The tension, the characters, the acting, and the writing were all top notch. This show proved that people will be engrossed by complicated characters over flash.

New Girl - This show put quirky, “adorkable,” and weird front-and-center and thus garnered lots of young fans. While this show is groan-inducing because Jess SINGS HER OWN THEME SONG and the character is basically an exaggerated version of the already-existing Zooey Deschanel, we don’t care. We love it. She’s bringing femininity back with her clothes and innocence back with her optimistic attitude. Best of all, the show is funny and the supporting cast is good too. Leeard loves this show so much, that she let's Ern know "I love this show" every time she watches it. Ern knows, dammit.

Happy Endings - This was the only Friends copycat in the recent year that survived, and thank God, because the others were terrible. This one has funny writing with lines that are sometimes said too fast. However, you know a comedy is bringing funny back when it redeems Elisha Cuthbert for a 24 fan.

American Horror Story - We didn’t think a TV show that relied on a shock a minute would work. We thought this would be too much. And yeah, we were right. But we were also entertained for weeks. There’s never been a TV show like this, for better or worse. We don’t want to give anything away for people who haven’t seen it, but this show is not afraid to kill. And it’s not afraid to go to the most messed-up place possible in order to make us s*** our pants in fear.

Revenge - We’ve talked to multiple guys who say that this show hooked them. Stephen King even likes it. It’s rare that a soap aimed at girls can grab just about everyone, but this one did it. It has few (if any) haters, redeemed a so-so actress, and brought us Nolan. The lead is likeable, even though she is bent on revenge. We understand her, but we can’t predict her. It’s one of the better primetime soaps in a while. At first, we thought it was going to be a predictable revenge procedural, but then they brought out the real Emily and things started getting crazy good.

The Playboy Club - This show sucked, and the American audience let everyone know that Hugh Hefner and Playboy are gross, not things that we can emotionally invest in. Thank you, American public, for once. Besides, the show was too tame for the people who would be edgy and liberal enough to embrace it. We will remember this show for being lame and being over very quickly. It wasn’t smart enough to be Mad Men.

Charlie’s Angels - This was one of the worst shows we have ever seen, and that’s saying something. It wasn’t even bad in a fun way. It was just unwatchable. We will remember this for ruining Charlie’s Angels for us forever.

Enlightened - Apparently, this show got good after we dropped out and has been renewed. It made an impression as an off-the-wall, female-driven comedy, and we can respect that. The pilot almost worked, so we can see that it might be worthwhile if it got better, which apparently it has. We’ll be checking it out.

The Killing - We were never under the impression that the mystery would be solved at the end of the first season anyway, so we don’t share everyone else’s rage that we didn’t find out who murdered Rosie. And we don’t care what anyone else says: We think that acting was good. But this show provided a warning to showrunners everywhere: Give us answers, or you will become a joke.

The Chicago Code - A good show that got axed too soon.  Good acting, good villain (especially in the first few episodes, when you weren't 100% sure he was bad), and a satisfying finale, for a show that really could have (and should have) gone on longer.

Game of Thrones - Arguably the best new show of the year, Ern even thought it surpassed the book in enjoyability. Shut up, that’s a word. It stayed true to the book, down to lots of the dialogue, and didn’t hesitate to pull off the book’s infuriating, shocking twists. Nerds have been suffering without intelligent science fiction and fantasy on TV these days, and HBO jumped to fill the void. The details and visuals of the world HBO created was admirable. They didn’t half-ass this. And no one will forget the episode “Baelor” that shocked all the show’s fans who hadn’t read the book.

Off the Map - We will remember this show for being decent and for delivering one of the most unsatisfying conclusions to a series of all time. We still miss this show. It had a pretty and talented cast that needs to get hired again by other shows, ASAP. They deserved better. It was just as good as some seasons of Grey’s and Private Practice! Why didn’t those fans jump on this show? Maybe too much of a popular thing is just too much.

Shameless - This show redeemed Emmy Rossum for us after she came out with that hideous music that didn’t show off her classical voice. Seeing her slumming it in this show and taking care of her siblings was a good trainwreck. We loved everyone in this twisted family, and we will be returning for another visit when the show starts up again. This show was very easy to watch and proved once again that remaking British shows works a lot of the time. Unless it’s Skins. That was a bad idea. People don’t like shows that only exist to shock and stir up controversy. There has to be more to it than that. With Shameless, there was.

The Returning Shows
Breaking Bad - This season perfected the slow burn. Just when we thought this show couldn’t get any better, it masterfully crafted a fustercluck for the ages with Tarantino-like crazy moments. The acting, of course, remained incredible. It was probably the most quality TV this year. Sons of Anarchy lost that award with its snooze-inducing finale. Breaking Bad’s finale left us gasping.

The Office - This was the year that we said goodbye to Michael Scott, which is memorable in itself. His exit was perfect. We also think that the show found a way to be decent again, even without him. It certainly isn’t as bad as The Office’s horrific season six, which had no funny episodes even with Michael. We thought this show was dead, but it may still have life.

Two and a Half Men - This show was already bad and creepy. How many jokes about whores and poop can they do? Those seem to be limitless. Now, the show has betrayed even its most ardent fans by ruining John Cryer’s character. We were told that Alan contemplated STEALING from Ashton Kutcher’s character. Now, fans of this show are stupid. But they don’t deserve to have the character they loved for being a stand up guy turn into Charlie Sheen. The show could have thought of a better way to introduce Ashton’s character. The ratings are still good, but we know the fans are disappointed.

Glee - Made an impression by taking a sweet, believable show and turning it into what we saw this year. A hot and cold, uneven pile of crazy with exactly no likeable characters and mostly bad music.

Parks and Recreation - This year in Parks and Recreation was perfect, especially Lil Sebastian’s funeral. This comedy proves that you don’t have to be mean or sarcastic to be funny. In fact, the characters can be sweet and all love each other. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Friday Night Lights - A solid season ended with a perfect, bittersweet finale. We miss that show.

Big Love - A weird season that ended with a finale we really didn’t like. We know the show ended up being about the family, and that whoever didn’t get that just missed the point. But somewhere around season three, it looked like the show was going to be about Nicki’s awakening to love and real independence. Then she backslid and became first wife. Then Bill died and it just felt like they killed him just so that they would have something to do for an ending. We guess the finale scene with the women was sweet though. And we miss this show too. Also, what happened to Joey? Why did this show waste our lives with him and then just have him just disappear?

Community - The Dungeons and Dragons episode and the one with the multiple timelines were two of the most perfect comedy episodes we’ve encountered. Ever. This show stumbled a little in the beginning of its third season, but for the year overall, it produced creative, funny episodes. Oh oh! Also there was the one where Pierce was “dying” and bequeathed gifts to his study group. Classic. Then the Christmas episode happened, and we just had no words. This show is the best, and if it leaves us forever, at least it went out like that. But it better not leave us forever.

The Good Wife - This is the year that it finally grabbed us. It was always good and watchable, but in 2011, we saw Will and Alicia finally hook up, the cases seemed to get better, we got more Eli Gold, and everything just seemed to get more fast-paced and entertaining. Bravo, show.

Are there any shows that you think made a splash this year? Probably Boardwalk Empire. Yep. We spoiled ourselves there, so we know what happened. Wowser. Should the Grey's Anatomy musical episode have made this list?

Dexter Season Six Discussion

Dexter had its finale on Sunday night, so now it’s time for us to look back on the entire season and tell you what we think worked and didn’t work. We think this was Dexter’s weakest season. We don’t think it was terrible TV, because we watched and enjoyed it, for the most part, but last season was better and season four was DEFINITELY better. This season just seemed unnecessary in terms of the show’s growth and the characters’ journeys. At least season five, the Lumen season, stretched Deb and Dexter, even though it was muted compared to the Trinity killer stuff that came before it.

What worked: Debra Morgan as Lieutenant
It’s nice when Deb grows AND has something to do. We liked seeing her in charge, because she always acted like she was anyway. The job fit her and she deserved it. She did a good job. Watching her curse people out while she was in charge made her seem authoritative, rather than whiny.

What didn’t work: That the religion wasn’t edgy enough
The show tried to tackle religion and didn’t say anything new. It didn’t even say something old in a new way. We expected Dexter to push buttons a little more, but the season was just lightly religion-themed, rather than something that could make anyone think. We guess that’s fine if you just want to be entertained rather than be made uncomfortable. We always want people to bring on the discomfort.

What worked: Mos Def
Mos Def’s touching, courageous character and his portrayal added to the show, because it showed the good side of faith. We had the crazy side of faith with DDK, but with Brother Sam, we saw how faith can change lives for the better. It is one of the things, if not the only thing, that can take a hardened criminal or killer and give his heart a 180. We would argue that after Mos Def died, the season took a turn for the sucky. He was keeping the season good. Without him, we were lost.

What didn’t work: Masuka’s first intern
The first one was so stupid. The second one just hasn’t paid off yet. We’re annoyed that we have to wait until the next season to see what his deal was. This season, it just felt like he was wasting our time.

What worked: DDK at the beginning
In the beginning of the season, DDK went all Se7en with their killings, making them both creative and meaningful. Putting the snakes in the man’s belly and recreating the four horsemen was nasty fun. If only all of their killings had been that disgusting and jarring.

What didn’t work: DDK at the end
Neither of those actors are remotely scary or charismatic. They don’t command the screen, and that’s something you need in a Big Bad. Then they had that ridiculous twist that we all saw coming. Ok, some people didn’t, but they obviously haven’t seen enough TV yet. Can we all just put the “HE WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME” and “it was all in his head THE WHOLE TIME” twists to bed? It was great (and pretty surprising) when The Sixth Sense did the dead thing. That’s still one of our favorite movies for the jolts, the acting, the emotional depth, and the twist. But it’s over, people. And Fight Club had the best “he was crazy the whole time” twist. If you can’t beat it, leave it alone.

What worked: Debra Morgan finding out that Dexter is a killer
That last scene was incredible and so was Deb’s face. After the Lumen season, we knew that Deb was going to find out Dexter’s secret eventually, but we didn’t see it coming in the last seconds of the finale. What a cliffhanger! We’ve really been waiting for this, so we’re elated that the show finally delivered it unto its fans. Granted, it should have happened at the very end of the Lumen season. We felt like we were treading water through this whole DDK season. Here’s hoping Dexter’s secret will kill off that pesky crush. Speaking of…

What didn’t work: Debra loves Dexter
UGH. We’ve been over this, but as people with siblings, IF OUR SIBLINGS TOLD US THEY LOVED US, WE WOULD FREAK THE F OUT. Gross gross gross. And it wouldn’t matter if it somehow came out that we weren’t blood related. Just growing up as siblings ruins it. Deb should know this, the skanky, twisted ho. The icing on the worst cake ever was when Deb screamed overdramatically to her therapist, “I finally told my brother that I love him and he said he loves me back!… I’m in love with him!” This just doesn’t fit the show. They already had a neat sibling relationship, and now that’s ruined. This whole plotline would have to have been handled perfectly for it to work, and it wasn’t. It came out of nowhere and wasn’t hinted at in previous years (or even in the first half of THIS season). We could have gotten behind it if the writers had the sense to make it believable. But they didn’t. And we are just disturbed.

What worked: Keeping the side characters on the side
Hey, guess what this season didn’t waste our time with? Batista’s love life. We felt like all the characters we didn’t care about didn’t get huge plots this year, and that’s awesome.

What didn’t work: The psychology
This never works on Dexter, but watching Dex about to sacrifice himself for his son in the finale had us rolling our eyes. What makes psychopaths what they are is that they are unable to really love another person. Dexter often pushes this. He’s like a guy with Aspergers who kills, not a real sociopath. It’s just…such a fantasy. Obviously we don’t know what psychopaths can feel or whether they can care about another person to a significant level, but we are pretty sure that Dexter Morgan crosses a line of reality. In the first season, it was believable. Maybe the future seasons, procreation, and marriage to Rita/dating Lumen stretched him? Meh. We’re not fully buying it, and that’s a problem.

What worked: The devil on Dexter’s shoulder and passing light to Trinity’s son
One of the effects of Brother Sam and Dexter’s brush with the light of faith was that he was able to help Trinity’s son and tell him to forgive himself. We also liked the brother coming back to push Dexter further toward the dark side. It was a nice contrast to the angel on Dexter’s shoulder, Harry. Now we are glad it only lasted for one episode, but it was a good idea for the season’s theme. The religion thing also reaffirmed for Dexter that he has a purpose in the world and that he brings light to it, in his own way. Dexter giving some grace to Trinity’s son was great for us to see, because that’s what Christian faith is all about.

What didn’t work: The rest of that Trinity episode
It sounds like a revisit to the Trinity stuff would be great, but it really wasn’t. That episode, overall, was one of the series’ worst. We liked about two scenes and felt like they needed to happen (the things described above), but the rest of the stuff needed to be more interesting. That whole episode just needed to be retooled.

What worked: Crazy Quinn
Quinn going all drinky and crazy in the aftermath of his breakup gave him something to do and made us feel bad for him. Clearly, he is still part of the show even though he is not linked to Deb anymore. For all you Quinn haters, don’t you wish he had ended up with Deb now? Anything is better than Deb and Dexter.

What didn’t work: Batista didn’t die
We hate Batista. He’s just a waste of time.

What worked: Some of Dexter’s lines to Travis before Travis’ death
“You used God. It’s not the other way around.” Can someone please say this to Rick Perry?

What didn’t work: Most of that exchange
Before Dexter killed Travis, they had a hokey theological discussion that was too preachy, too cheesy, too weird, and about three minutes too long. At some point, we thought, “Are they STILL talking?” Pithy this was not. “I am a father, a son, a serial killer.” That was the ever-loving WORST.

We will still be watching next season, because we don't give up on a show that we've watched for six years easily. But we hope that next season is better. After all, season two annoyed us and what happened to Doakes was just SO WRONG, but we kept watching, and eventually we got the Trinity season. Hopefully the show learns that the strengths of Dexter lie in its main characters and its Big Bads and casts accordingly.

Finale grade: B-
Season grade: C

Monday, December 19, 2011

Homeland - Marine One

The finale starts with Brody recording a video for the media to play after he suicide bombs himself. It very helpfully elaborates on his motivations for terrorism. He thinks that the politicians in America are enemies of America, because they are corrupt, and he really loves his country. We really can’t argue with that… Mixed with the killing of Issa, we are really buying Brody’s defection from sanity. The night before the big bombing extravaganza that Brody and Nazir have planned, Dana catches her dad praying to Allah in the garage. Dana tells her dad that this is a little freaky and that he’s been acting hella weird. Brody and Dana have a nice little talk and agree to keep the Islam a secret. Oh, that’s healthy (sarcasm).

Carrie is going through the depression phase of her breakdown and is on “administrative leave” from work. Saul informs us that this means Carrie is effectively, permanently fired, but no one is going to press criminal charges. Although Carrie would probably handle prison well. She’d cut one bitch and none of the other bitches would ever mess with her again. She’s so smart, she’d be running the place, crazily, in mere weeks. Carrie hitches a ride with her dad and goes to the rally were the vice president is set to announce that he’s running for president.

Maybe you remember this from previous episodes, but we totally missed that the Vice President is Brody’s biggest nemesis and the main culprit in the whole Issa thing. So, yeah, Brody is at the rally, ready to bomb. Walker is there too, ready to kill Elizabeth Gaines so that Brody and all the politicians will be herded down into a bunker for safety. Because of all the chaos, the metal detectors were going crazy from everyone just rushing through them, and Brody’s bomb went undetected. This was a pretty smooth plan from Abu Nazir, but we still don’t like him, because he’s a manipulative terrorist.

After the gunshot and the bunkering of the politicians, Carrie realized that Brody really is a terrorist and that this is all an elaborate plan to help Brody kill big cheeses. She calls Saul, but Saul just sends some goons out to subdue her. Carrie escapes and goes to the Brody house. She gets Dana to let her in, tells Dana that her father is about to blow the Vice President up, and tries to convince Dana to call her father and talk him down. Needless to say, this was a splendid scene. We were shaking our heads at Carrie, but at the same time, we were thinking, “Great idea! This kid is close to her father and has been noticing weirdness.”

Dana is the coolest teenager on TV (well, this week anyway). She doesn’t swallow Carrie’s story and calls the police instead. Carrie is arrested on the front lawn in front of an hysterical, useless Jessica. Meanwhile, Brody is in the bunker, nervous as heck, getting up the courage to flip the switch. It takes him forever, and it’s pretty intense. He pushes it and we are shocked that he actually did it! But the vest malfunctions. Brody goes to the bathroom, sweating balls, and fixes the bomb. He goes out again, and just as he is about to set the bomb off, he gets a call from Dana. Dana tells Brody that she is freaked out over Carrie coming to their house and saying that he was a terrorist, but Dana assures him that she knows it’s not true.

Then Dana starts to make Brody promise to come home. It’s emotional and it totally works. We have Dana, who really intuits that there is a problem here, and Brody, who actually listens to this kid. He doesn’t push the trigger. Very soon after that, the bunker is opened and the Vice President leaves, with the parting line to Brody that Brody “looks like crap.” He didn’t really say it in a nice or joking way either. Gosh, we kind of wish Brody had killed that guy. How rude. Brody was locked up before and doesn’t like it. That was his explanation as to why he was so nervous and sweaty. You’d think people would be nice about that, but nooooo. Wait. Why are we defending a terrorist and his feelings? Because this show is so good that it makes us want to.

The Vice President uses his wife’s death as a catalyst to announce his candidacy. Saul comes to the VP later and blackmails the VP into telling Saul why Nazir started getting all revenge-y. Then Saul goes to David Estes, who was in the room when the order was given to bomb, and confronts him. Saul threatens to tell the New York Times, but Estes tells Saul that would do more harm than good. It would also help the terrorists recruit. Brody meets with Tom Walker in, like, a culvert or something. It’s at night, and Walker has Nazir on the phone. Brody tells Walker and Nazir that the bomb malfunctioned. Then Brody lets Nazir know that he will be able to do more damage as a congressman.

Nazir buys this, but tells Brody to kill Walker in a show of loyalty. Brody does, and we are glad, because Walker needed to be put out of his crazy-eyed misery. We don’t see why it was a show of faith for Brody to do that though. If he was against Nazir, he would have no problem killing one of Nazir’s terrorists. But whatever. It looks like Nazir was just sick of Walker. Brody goes to meet Carrie when she gets out of jail. Carrie has changed her mind about Brody being a terrorist again, since no bomb went off, and she apologizes and promises to leave him alone. Brody is all, “I’ve heard that before” but accepts it at the end.

Carrie checks herself into the hospital and agrees to have electroshock treatment, which is something that actually works a lot of the time and isn’t the torture it’s portrayed as in the movies. It CAN cause some memory loss though, so we have that to look forward to next season. Ugh. Saul comes to visit and tells Carrie about the death of Issa. Man, he could totally get fired for that. Carrie gets sedatives before the electroshock and goes into a stupor where she remembers her good times with Brody. You know, those two days that made her fall in love with him, even though she thought he was evil during those two days. She remembers Brody murmuring Issa’s name in his sleep.

But she won’t remember the Issa thing when she wakes up next season, probably, and we will have to watch her put it all together again. Lame. We don’t like when we know something, but we have to sit and wait too long for the characters on shows to figure it out. However, these characters are so interesting that we are willing to give the next season a chance. It was an eventful and satisfying finale that left enough loose ends open for us to start season two in pretty much the same place we started in season one. Only Brody will be in Congress and having sex with Jessica. And Carrie will have to find some way to be working in Homeland Security again.

Episode grade: A-
Season grade: A-