The TV Obsessed Week in Review: Game of Thrones, Veep, Mad Men, Girls, Glee, Smash, House, NCIS, Magic City, The Good Wife, The Killing, Supernatural, Revenge, Awake, Community, The Secret Circle, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Grimm

I complain all the time about Glee and how terrible it has become, but if there’s one thing it has over Smash, it’s the ability to make the viewer have an opinion, good or bad. With Smash, everything kind of just passes by. Eileen and her boyfriend, boring rehash. Ellis being evil, boring rehash. Leo not being a teenage boy, boring rehash. Karen being overly enthusiastic, boring rehash.

House ended with a major bombshell, Wilson having cancer. We get it, Wilson is the only one House has left after Dominika found out the truth, and this is supposed to signal big changes. The problem is, the show is ending soon and it’s not like this twist will do much in terms of character development. What would be funny is if this turned out to be a big joke, like Wilson getting back at House for faking his son. The rest of the episode was of stuff we’ve already seen- plenty of times before-debate over relgion–and more of this weird obsession over Park and sex. Park and Chase are actually pretty funny, but the writers have pigeonholed her character badly.

I forgot to say anything about Girls in the rush last week, so I have some thoughts this week. First off, there is some negative buzz surrounding the show regarding nepotism. Well of course there is some nepotism–this is Hollywood, the one place that makes Washington D.C. look saintly. Maybe there could have been better actresses, maybe not–I don’t see serious flaws in the casting. Second, there is backlash over the lack of minorities. Again, this is Hollywood and they don’t add minorities unless they serve an explicit purpose. (Glee has minority characters but has never focused on minority culture, which seems to be in opposition to the super-liberal, accept everything theme. Instead, minorities are used in a generic sense, like Asian guy and Asian girl–diversity! And when there was a semblance of Asian culture, Mike’s father wanting him to go to a good school, Glee essentially tossed that under the bus, emphasizing how much better Glee culture is.) I think these two themes about Hollywood–consciously or not–are perfectly reflected by the show. The characters are direct and we as the audience get to see everything they do. They rarely interact with minorities and they’re spoiled rich girls. That’s Hollywood in a nutshell. So when people want to complain about Girls, they should appreciate that Girls is upfront about things, not deviously exploitative like Glee.

Now that that’s over with, I think the show is great. It’s an amusing show with amusing characters who say amusing things. It isn’t laugh out loud funny, nor is it trying to be. We follow around the characters to random places and hear the things they have to say, and if the writing is good enough as it has been, the show will be good.

Veep doesn’t exactly feel like an HBO show, but it’s a decent satire. I didn’t find it particularly funny or as endearing as Girls, but I’ll check the show out again if I have time.

This week’s episode of Game of Thrones moved the plot, and the characters, quite a bit. There is Dany in front of the gates of Qarth, Arya moved to Harrenhal, and Robb fighting in the west. At King’s Landing, Tyrion continues to get a leg up over his sister while Joffrey goes off the deep end. The episode, juggling many characters, manages to put characters in new situations and give us a little insight into how far they’ve come.

Book spoilers ahead: Again, major deviations from the book. I like how the show focuses on characters who don’t get their own chapters in the book. It’s necessary to keep tabs on all characters so we can see them change. It sure would be awkward if we never saw Robb again until the third season when he comes back with a wife. One thing I’m confused about is the shadow in Renly. The chronology in the book is that Catelyn and Brienne are there when the shadow kills Renly. Then, after Stannis takes over Renly’s army, he splits his forces and joins the siege of Storm’s End. When that doesn’t work quickly enough, then Davos takes Melisandre under the castle to kill the guy in charge. My assumption is that, in the show, Renly is in Storm’s End, and the birthed shadow will kill them inside while Catelyn and Brienne are also there. Another change is how Joffrey acts, showing his real sadistic side. My impression from the Tyrion chapters is that he’s not super-evil but a puppet. Here, we see him going crazy with power.

Newly added (sorry): Mad Men once again proved it can be a innovative, diverse show, presenting the characters in different way than usual. It’s one of those episodes where we see three different characters–Peggy, Roger, and Don–through the course of a day, and since this is Mad Men, the episode turns out to be utterly fascinating. The writers, never being ones for hand holding, approach this in a manner you wouldn’t see on network television, immediately starting with Peggy’s day and jumping right into Roger’s day afterwards. What’s weird about the whole thing is that each story fastforwards a bit towards the end from the afternoon to nighttime, making the experience a bit uncomfortable The three go in vastly different directions–Peggy staying in the office, Roger to an LSD party, Don to Howard Johnson’s–but the common theme is that their days sucked. It’s a testament to how great these characters are, when you can split them up into three completely separate parts and let them do their thing, it turns out great. The punchline of the episode is that these characters are in flux, unsure of what their futures hold. Their struggles through the episode are not transient events but something more structural about them as people. It’s summed up at the end of the episode with Bert verbally pimp slapping Don, and the audience comes to the realization, as the office continues to bustle, that Don might not be the advertising guy he used to be.

The Killing proved, definitively, that it is the same show as it was last season. The writers tried, they really did, but in the end, they couldn’t drag out the inevitable truth: they suck at writing. The potential red herring turned into a red herring, and now the new potential red herring points to Mitch. And really, who the fuck cares anymore?

It doesn’t really feel like The Good Wife is heading towards the season finale next week, as there doesn’t seem to be any particularly urgent storylines, but there are big things happening around the office. It seems like the show has branched out a bit too much to make anything seem like a big deal. In particular, Kalinda’s plot about Lemond Bishop killing her feels rushed. It surely didn’t feel like anything would really happen, unless a massive twist happened to fall on top of the show. It was used as an excuse for Kalinda and Lana to kiss, once again making Kalinda’s only purpose to be the foxy lady.

I keep forgetting to comment on Magic City, but not this week! You can tell from Magic City and Boss that Starz wants to be an edgier HBO, with the same artistic qualities, acting, and writing, only juiced up a bit. While this is an admirable goal, something beyond Showtime’s aspirations to churn out similar shows featuring well-known actresses, the network still has a ways to go. It looks beautiful and the setting is done nicely, but writing deficiencies are evident. The weakest link lies in an odd distribution of screen time for the characters, mainly Stevie. Why, exactly, is he so prominent? I get it, he’s having sex with Ben Diamond’s wife, but that’s about the only thing we see him do. Why is he more important than Danny? Another enigma is Ben Diamond. He’s supposed to be super powerful, but from what we’ve seen of him so far, he’s awfully dense, unable to notice something is up with Lily and Stevie, who is far too jumpy for his own good. On the plus side, Ike is still the main character and he’s a far more interesting character than the rest of the them. His relationship with Vera, in particular, is something we rarely see on television.

Fringe has been rolling along this ambiguous path this season, weaving stories of two altered worlds, Peter, and new developments, all of which seem rather pointless on a large scale. Does Fringe even have a large scale? Nothing really fits together so it’s hard to say what’s going on. It’s pretty obvious the writers make things up as they go along, so I guess the last episode wasn’t too surprising. Apparently, we got the punchline of the whole show: the Observers, in the future, will travel from the further future to take over, and Peter and Olivia’s daughter is a Fringe agent. Now, there was never any indication that the Observers would do this and how any of this relates to DRJ, but it’s about par for the course of making stuff up. That isn’t to say the show isn’t interesting and enjoyable, just the plot isn’t coherent.

The episode serves up the usual dystopia tropes–emotionless occupiers, no liquid coffee, etc–and, like all dystopia stories, sets up a compelling world where the audience can root for the characters. It’s always fun to enter a new world (one of the reasons why I like TV pilots) and there enough connections to the Fringe we know to make it relatable. While this storyline might not be relevant and will probably never be fully realized, it stood on its own as a standalone episode.

After almost a whole season of ungracefully dancing around the fact that it doesn’t want the audience to know jack until the actual reveal, Grimm finally told us the deal with the creatures and their power structure. There are these royal families and a resistance, and the fight has come to America. The “mystery dialogue” hinted that Grimms were helping the royals, though, awkwardly, this was never discussed afterward. Now we’re getting somewhere!!!!!!!!

I really don’t know what to do with Supernatural anymore. I don’t like the Bobby as a ghost or Leviathan story. As such, a lot of these episodes are okay, but has a portion which really bothers me. The problem with Bobby as a ghost is a serious lack of clarity and direction. He’s a ghost, he’s following the Winchesters, now Dean is pissed, and… ? The best thing to come out of this story is that we actually got to see how ghosts live.

Once again I am forced to lament the end of Awake in the wake of yet another good, albeit different, episode. This time, instead of the breakneck pace of previous episodes, it focused on the Brittons and their relationship. With the solid acting by Jason Isaacs and Laura Allen, the episode felt really nice, before the storm that is sure to come once they move to Oregon.

Community sometimes goes for those weird episodes where it focuses on certain characters in an odd place. Last week, the episode used the dreamatorium to put a spotlight on Abed and Annie. It wasn’t the funniest episode, but the use of the dreamatorium was clever and the character emphasis was great as it always is.

One thing The Secret Circle handled poorly through the season (among others) was the parents. They’d be in one episode, scheming and doing really bad things, then gone in the next, as if they weren’t threats. The lack of consistency slowed the momentum down (similarly to the Originals on The Vampire Diairies) and they never seemed to fit in. Now, it seems like their role is to provide a bridge between Blackwell and the kids.

The Vampire Diaries went off the rails as soon as Klaus was no longer a villain, and the show seemed more about creating reasons to keep him alive than anything else. Last week’s episode brought things back to basics, with focus on characters instead of plot. Not much happened, but there were plenty of those character moments that resonate far more than the recent plot machinations.

As far as Elena and Damon go, io9 sums it up nicely. Let’s face it. Damon has done innumerable bad things in the recent past, like rape bad, and no I’m not trying to be controversial. If you use your powers on women and compel them to sleep with you, that’s pretty similar to rape. Now, I know the writers aren’t condoning rape. Instead, they’re following the characterizations they’ve always had, characters ignoring everything else for the one’s they love. In this case Elena is in love with Damon so she’ll excuse his behavior and her earlier proclamations never to associate herself with him again. So blame Elena if you want, she’s not exactly the sharpest person.

Revenge: I’m having a hard time believing is Daniel in serious trouble. Didn’t Tyler have a gun on him at some point? Wasn’t he declared by a doctor to be medically unstable? As long as we accept that, though, the rest of the show flows nicely. Bringing Mason Treadwell back was a good move as well as showing us the darker side of Emily. One thing that was a bit out there was Victoria and this artist. We’ll see where the story leads.

Glee actually tackled the problem of what various characters will do after high school, so last week’s episode wasn’t completely bad and it was a bit unexpected. On the other hand, the show did go the expected route with the message that everyone should follow their dreams. Unfortunately, you can see how that turns out for a lot of people, looking at signs that many OWS protesters have.

NCIS: It seems like my deal as of late has been to criticize overarching plots and I’m beginning to bored even myself… but NCIS’s latest attempt with the Watcher Fleet stuff continues to bug me. The biggest problem is that the show doesn’t need the story. It’s a procedural with plenty of good characters, each with their own personal demons. External problems do little to help with the synergy of the show. What’s wrong with solving crimes like they usually do? The second thing is that the Watcher Fleet makes little sense. The writers dole out  small morsels of information, cloaked in the all too abundant “mystery dialogue.” There’s some nonsense about rogue agents and these chips, but it’s all pretty lame when the characters go back to their usual routine after the episode. So is the biggest threat to national security ever or just another thing to fix in an instant? That brings us to last week’s episode in which the rogue agents exploited bad wiring to cause fires. Why…?

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