It’s been a few months, but now that the US television season has started again and there’s more to watch on TV than the Olympic Games or Euro 2012, Stuart’s Week In Entertainment is back! Huzzah.
The premise is simple; I’ll do a quick review of the forms of entertainment I’ve enjoyed or endured over the past week. People like it, I like doing it, so let’s begin with TV.
Be aware that there are spoilers ahead. I can’t discuss some of these shows without revealing aspects of them that may surprise you if you haven’t seen them. Just don’t look and skip ahead to the next one if that’s the case.
Television – The Comedies
Ok, let’s start with the comedies that have begun again over the past couple of weeks.
It’s fair to say that there have been some hits and some – well one – miss here.
Of the shows that I regularly watch, I was happy to see that the Big Bang Theory remains a brilliant watch, with a level of consistency in both the scripts and plot as it moves into its sixth season. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Stewart character (the guy who runs the comic book store) as he’s pretty one-dimensional. Hopefully he doesn’t get used in every episode. There were some great lines though, and again they mostly came from the Sheldon/Amy double act. Good to see that it retains its flavour after all this time.
Slightly hit and miss was the return of Parks & Recreation, which began with a terrific first episode but only had a merely average second one. I’ll take that as a blip, and would put it down to a lack of Ron Swanson, and I’m expecting that soon enough the whole cast (currently split between Pawnee and Washington DC) will be reunited quite soon.
Surprisingly decent was the return of Modern Family. It’s a vastly overrated show of course, because it absolutely does not deserve to win all the awards that come its way (they swept up at the Emmys last week), but it was still a better episode than they served up for most of the last season. It occurred to me while watching it that I never even bothered to finish the Season 3 as I didn’t know Gloria was pregnant; that’s how bad it got. That episode in Disneyland was brutal. As I say though, it improved and provided more laughs than the second episode of P&R.
Meanwhile the show that got off to a bad start was How I Met Your Mother. Three of us watched it, and all three of us came away thinking ‘Oh for fuck’s sake just get on with it’. As they draaaaaaaag out the mystery of who the mother is, the eighth season begins with the reveal that Ted meets her at a railway station. It doesn’t say who she is, but simply that he meets her there at the end of the current season. It’s glacial in its pace now and the episode just wasn’t that funny. There was one joke the whole episode – that Lily & Marshall are so tired looking after their newborn baby that they can’t focus – and they flog that horse long past the point of death. The actual focus is on Mad Mosby and his latest stunt to find eternal happiness in the form of a wife. Here, he’s hijacked an ex’s wedding because ‘She Might Be The One’. So he’s run off with her, only to find that her fiancée had also run off because he couldn’t go through with the wedding either. So he asks him why, and he says that he couldn’t marry her because he knew she wasn’t the one. And so it appears as though Ted thinks she’s not the one either based on the fact someone else thinks she’s not the one for him. Fucking sociopath.
The one impressive thing about the episode was that Barney manages to recap the plot of the entire seven previous seasons in under a minute without stopping. What was less impressive about it though was that it showed up the face that HIMYM uses canned laughter, because if it was filmed in front of a live studio audience, they’d have given him a round of applause.
The Dramas (spoilers for anyone who watches Dexter, Grey’s Anatomy or Revenge)
It’s not just the comedies that are back this week; the dramas are back too.
The big one for me is Dexter, which is back with a bang. The cliffhanger of the last season saw Deb catching Dexter ‘in the act’. Superb, and some might say overdue.
Well they threatened a few things in the episode, like starting with a prolepsis that looked like it might be the end of the season (something that really pisses me off in TV because it’s so overdone) and then hinting that Dexter might manage to convince Deb it was a one time act of insanity, but no. They’ve blown the whole dynamic of the show out of the water with the cliffhanger at the end of the episode where Deb confronts him with all the evidence that she’s found of him being a serial killer. And he admits to it! Superb.
Predictions for the season ahead? LaGuerta will be murdered when she susses out that Dexter was the Bay Harbour Butcher; only I reckon that it’ll be Deb that does the deed. That – along with the bloke who has a bee in his bonnet about Dexter – will be the main thrust of the season while the stuff with the Ukrainian mob will simply be padding to give him a weekly victim.
Excellent stuff though.
Also returning to our screens is Grey’s Anatomy, which takes the interesting decision of starting off months after the plane crash that stranded our heroes in the last season, rather than following up straight after it. I understand they’ll go back to that in the
next episode, but this first one is to show the fallout of what happened.
And hot on the heels of Lexi Gray being killed off, the best character in the show by a distance – Mark Sloan – is killed off as well. I’m disappointed by that, not only because it’s another good cast member gone, but rather because the only way Shonda Rhimes seems to be able to write a character out is by killing them. Everyone seems to die in Grey’s Anatomy rather than simply leave to get a job elsewhere; it’s ridiculous and it’s overplayed.
Not that the episode wasn’t good, but it just felt very ‘same old same old’. Interesting to see Arizona has lost a leg though. How will they deal with that? My guess: depression, followed by an inspirational tale of recovery and by late in the season she won’t even be walking with a limp anymore. A bit like Paul Robinson then.
Then we have the return of Revenge. Now it was a fairly straight forward episode that followed on from the events of the last season, but two things stood out for me. The first is that it was obvious Victoria wasn’t dead but considering they went to the trouble of leaving the actress’s name out of the opening credits, having her turn up after 15 minutes with no fanfare whatsoever seemed pretty stupid.
The other item of note was possibly the worst bit of recasting I’ve ever seen. Clearly working from the belief that ‘They All Look The Same’, the casting director of the show has recast a Japanese businessman from a bloke in his 40s with a full head of hair to a guy who looks like he’s about 70 with a bald head. It’s the equivalent of recasting Patrick Dempsey with Patrick Stewart because they are both called Patrick.
Not all shows have been good though. I tried a new one – Revolution – about a world where electricity has gone off for good. It intrigued me as it seemed like the US was finally tackling the Survivors type angle. But despite having a decent cliffhanger, the show was pish. They seem to have come up with the idea of showing what the world would look like in 15 years without any electricity and forgotten about writing scripts. I’ll wait and see if it survives and maybe watch it all again once the season is over.
Other Stuff I’ve Been Watching Lately
I’ve got a little bit of a backlog of other stuff that I’ve watched over the past few weeks too.
Pointless: I’ve got right into Pointless lately, but I’ve found the stupidity and ignorance of some of the people who go on the show to be staggering. Now, I don’t consider myself some sort of intellectual snob; I just feel I have a decent grasp of general knowledge. I find people who consider knowing only about ‘sophisticated’ things like philosophers and classical musicians to be just as intolerable as the sorts who think that knowing about Sex and the City is more worthy than knowing who the Shadow Chancellor is. General knowledge is just general. Yet some of the people on the show just don’t have it.
I mean, you’ve people claiming that films made before 1993 are ‘before her time’ (well nobody is missing out other than her) or people who can’t name a single Michael Jackson song from the 1980s. Worst though was the round on political parties where everyone involved declared that they knew nothing about politics as if it were some form of badge of honour. It’s general knowledge people.
As an aside, I found the amount of Pointless answers in the Dr Who round to be staggering. The question was ‘Name a character or alien that has appeared in both Classic and New Dr Who’. Obviously my instant answer was ‘Macra’ and that was Pointless, but even the likes of the Silurians were coming up. I suppose that’s slightly more specialised knowledge, but still…
Andrew Marr’s History of the World: I’m finding this to be a very informative and interesting programme that really does make the early days of human civilisation seem like a game of Civ 5. I’d highly recommend the show, but I do wonder why the BBC think that it’s acceptable to waste money sending Andrew Marr – dressed in massively inappropriate clothing – to all corners of the globe to simply walk up a street that he’s narrating about. They could have saved their money there.
QI: A show that’s always worthy of a viewing, but I was especially interested in the Phantom Time Hypothesis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_time_hypothesis. Coincidentally I’d only been discussing that nothing seemed to happen around that time earlier that day. Spooky.
Castle: Started watching Castle on recommendation from a few friends. An entertaining and modern take on the murder mystery format, in the vein of Diagnosis Murder. A bit formulaic but the cast is good and they work well together.
Family Guy: I stopped watching Fanily Guy during the 8th season because it had turned into turgid unfunny shite, but I gave the new season a go and was pleased to see it’s back to form somewhat. Probably because they aren’t just doing the same old same old with the paedo guy and how everyone hates Meg. In particular, I enjoyed the episode Back to the Pilot, which has Stewie and Brian going back in time to the first episode.
WWE: All I have to say is this…“I’m the Tag Team Champions”. Daniel Bryan and Kane are pretty much the only thing worth watching these days.
Gaming – FIFA 13
It’s October, so that means it’s FIFA time again.
I’ve had a quick go of the new game and so far I’m enjoying it greatly. Attacking seems far more fluid compared to previous FIFAs where scoring a goal depended upon engineering specific scenarios like the ‘Exploit Goal’. In earlier editions you could just shoot from outside the box without it going nowhere near the goal 95% of the time. Now, if you get in position, you’ll score.
Mind you, this has led to some fairly high scoring games.
The only issue I’ve had so far is that online gaming is still a bit sketchy, with EA clearly needing to release a patch to sort it out.
Oh, and the research for the game is terrible. Being that I’m in charge of research for the far more authentic Football Manager series, I can say with authority and track record that whoever does the Dundee United data needs a slap. I can understand that they maybe had the starting team based around who played that weekend for the team, but there are basic issues like Keith Watson being a centre back and Mark Millar (who hadn’t played for us before this past Tuesday) being our best midfielder.
Tut tut FIFA, tut tut.