The 'Fringe' crew look to find another piece of the puzzle.

The 'Fringe' crew look to find another piece of the puzzle.

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'Black Blotter'

Heading towards the finish line, the show indulges in its best and worst instincts side-by-side.

“Fringe” positioned tonight’s ninth episode “Black Blotter” as its final edition of “the nineteenth episode”. That’s been the slot for past episodes such as “Brown Betty”, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”, and “Letters of Transit”. I don’t like the idea of arbitrarily assigning a slot in each season as “the completely off-the-wall trippy installment,” since that goes against what should be the organic process of telling a long-form narrative on the small screen. But that quibble isn’t a particularly big one, especially since I tend to like when the show gets even weirder than usual. “Black Botter” wasn’t particularly strange by the show’s standards (except for the Monty Python sequence, which made ME feel like I’d just taken a whole buncha drugs), and it wasn’t up to the standards of the three episodes just mentioned. But it was a solid, if wildly inconsistent, hour of television that gave us both the best AND worst of “Fringe” in sixty minutes.

 
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Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Glee, Actually'

'Glee's' third attempt at a Christmas episode is not quite a charm

Holiday episodes should be a cinch for "Glee." It's the perfect time of year to get all sentimental and romantic and musical.

But "Glee" never needs an excuse to celebrate great songs, the bonds of friendship and family, and warm and fuzzy feelings, and maybe that's why the show has paradoxically never produced a great Christmas episode. How do you make something seem special when it's what you do all the time?

"Glee, Actually" represents the third stab at a Christmas episode following Season 2's "A Very Glee Christmas" (with the sweet revelation that Brittany still believes in Santa and the infamous Sue Sylvester as the Grinch parody) and Season 3's "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (which had some clever moments lost amidst an overall mess of an episode).

"Actually" is a definite improvement on "Extraordinary," if not quite a match for "Very." But I liked the idea and wish someone had thought of it back when the show was still working, and the characters were still worth caring about.

Since the episode was divided into five non-overlapping segments, it didn't feel so much like its supposed inspiration, "Love, Actually," than it did like a collection of short stories from the "Glee" universe. And that approach oddly made for one of "Glee's" more cohesive and consistent hours in quite some time.

Artie's "It's a Wonderful Life"-style dream sequence imagining what would've happened if the glee club never existed was the most fun the show has had since the whole cast swapped characters when Tina knocked herself out in "Props." I never thought we'd see Jessalyn Gilsig again, but there she was, nailing her cameo and clutching a fake baby as Terri Schuester. And Damian McGinty's return as Rory was an even more welcome sight -- he's an actor and singer with greater natural charm than anyone "Glee" has added to the show since.

It's too bad that director Adam Shankman couldn't figure out a way to give Kevin McHale's "Feliz Navidad" solo at least half the creativity and energy of Artie's unforgettable "Safety Dance" from Season 1, but at least we got to see McHale perform *something* on his own for the first time this season. And let's just skip over the fact that this sequence totally ignored Santana ever existed (was Naya Rivera busy this week?) and totally went *there* with Quinn (you know if the writers knew Dianna Agron was never coming back they'd love to kill Quinn off for real, just to put a period on an endlessly tortured character arc).

Meanwhile, in New York, Rachel made a brief appearance in a ridiculous outfit to say a few lines and then disappear for the rest of the hour. (Remember when Rachel and Finn were the stars of "Glee," and some fans complained about how much screen time they had even though Lea Michele and Cory Monteith were never less than completely reliable and interesting to watch?)

The real focus in New York was on Kurt and his relationships with Burt and Blaine. This is the second time Mike O'Malley has appeared this season, and the second time the show has used him to try to manufacture the sort of tear-jerking emotion that used to flow naturally from Kurt and Burt's touching father-son bond.

Burt has cancer now! Sad! But he invited Blaine to see Kurt in New York! Sweet!

The only reason the silly storyline works at all is because O'Malley, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss play it completely real. Even in its best days, "Glee" often relied on talented actors to overcome sloppy writing, and this segment stayed true to that spirit. Colfer was especially good at silently conveying Kurt's mixed emotions at seeing Blaine again, and the conflicted feelings Kurt still has about their relationship. Colfer and Criss' "White Christmas" duet was a'ight, I guess, but there was nothing in the episode that came anywhere close to Rachel's "O Holy Night" in last week's not-Christmas episode.

What else?

Oh yeah, Sam and Brittany got married. In the episode's goofiest thread, the dim-witted "soulmates" decided to make the most of the few days they had left before the inevitable 2012 apocalypse and got hitched (by Coach Bieste!). Sadly, it turned out to be a ruse. No apocalypse. No wedding.

I have to admit, I was disappointed. Since "Glee" insists on forcing these two together -- and I can't complain about any screen time for Chord Overstreet and/or Heather Morris -- why not just go totally cuckoo in classic "Glee" style and get them involved in some kind of "What Happens in Vegas" rom-com mix-up where they get married first and fall in love later? At least it would give them a believable excuse to spend time together.

Also, there was another terrible subplot for Sue (I'm really losing patience waiting for the announcement that Jane Lynch is ditching this sinking ship for good) and believable enough bonding between the Puckerman half-brothers, which ended with the promise we'll be seeing more of Mark Salling in the future. (Yay? I guess? I've always liked Salling, and the show has generally done right by Puck, even when he's involved in stupid things like sleeping with Shelby, but is he really the character most in need of extra screen time at this point?)

We also met Aisha Tyler as Jake's mom and saw more of Puck's mom (Gina Hecht) than in her previous two appearances ("Mash-Up" and "Goodbye") combined. Both actresses were perfectly fine. Maybe we'll see them again. Maybe they'll vanish. You never know with "Glee."

But I do know this: This is my last "Glee" recap for HitFix. If you've been following along with me this season, I appreciate it and I feel your pain. I didn't want to take on the task of writing about "Glee" on a weekly basis just to complain about how terrible it is. The Internet has enough of that. But I had no idea what was in store for me this season. I've lost my connection with the show, and I need to reclaim the recapping time for other endeavors. I'm thrilled I had this opportunity, and I'm sure HitFix will have someone great to pick it up in 2013.

Assuming the world doesn't end next week.

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Terry McDermott of "The Voice".

Terry McDermott of "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 4 Results

Which three will still be standing for the Finals?

Reality shows should get more dramatic as they approach the finish, not less. And yet, here we are in the penultimate week of “The Voice”. I’m not sure this is entirely the show’s fault. I think we could look back and see certain decisions that ultimately affected the final month of this season. (I still miss De’Borah and think she might still be around were it not for Christina Aguilera’s crazy decision during the Live Playoffs to save Adriana Louise instead.) But given the Final Four as presently constituted, and given the song selections this week, and given the chart placements of those songs overnight, it’s almost unfathomable that Trevin Hunte will make it past tonight.

CeeLo Green called Trevin “that dude” during the Blind Auditions, identifying him as a possible contender to win the entire thing. And even though it looks like he’ll come up short, the future seems fairly bright for him. With the exception of one or two numbers (“Vision Of Love”, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”), we never saw Hunte’s true potential realized, but rather blinding promise on display on a weekly basis. Part of that has to do with his age, part of it has to do with his experience, and part of that has to do with Green’s tutelage. But no matter. Even if Hunte has the strongest pure voice left in the competition, I’m not remotely convinced that will be enough tonight.
 
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The final four on "The Voice".

The final four on "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 4 Perform

Who will stand out in the semifinal performances?
Four contestants. Four hours. That’s all that remains on this cycle of “The Voice”, which will see one-hour installments over the next two Mondays and Tuesdays. After that, NBC will quietly weep, hoping viewers stick around for programming that doesn’t involve spinning red chairs. In the meantime, we need to eliminate two contestants this week before getting to next week’s finals. Tonight’s episode may solidify current fan bases, or they might see a breakout performance that makes voters break for a new artist late in the game.
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Jason Sudeikis and Jamie Foxx.

Jason Sudeikis and Jamie Foxx.

Credit: SNL

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo

The "Django Unchained" star graces the "SNL" stage.

After a three-week break, “Saturday Night Live” is back with host Jamie Foxx. He’s here promoting his upcoming film “Django Unchained,” which pretty much makes me what to refer to him as “Djamie” throughout tonight’s recap. (In both cases, the “D” is silent.) Foxx initially shot to stardom through small-screen sketch comedy “In Living Color”, so it will hopefully be fun to see him in Studio 8H tonight. Along for the ride will be musical guest Ne-Yo, who has been all over television this week. He appeared on both “The Voice” as well as CBS’s Grammys Nomination special, so I’m super stoked to hear the “Let Me Love You” trifecta tonight.

 
I know better than to have high or low hopes based on host alone at this point. So let’s let the episode unfold and see what happens. As always, I’ll be recapping each sketch in order as they unfold. As always, you will read those grades, shake your fist to the heavens, and then attempt to place an objective grade upon a subjective medium. It’s all I want for Christmas, really. (Well, that and for you to subscribe to my weekly “SNL” podcast that I host every week with The Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan. I’d like that as well, please.)
 
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Anna Torv of "Fringe".

Anna Torv of "Fringe".

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'The Human Kind'

The final five 'Fringe' Fridays kicks off with the end of one arc and the start of another.

There are times in which shows inadvertently demonstrate their own shortcomings onscreen. And there are other times in which those shortcomings are in fact part of the show’s design, meant to highlight intentional faults in order to reveal truths. For most of tonight’s “Fringe”, I worried the former was the case on display in “The Human Kind”. But by the final scene, those worries were dissipated. That doesn’t mean the episode as a whole worked. But tonight served to close off the second act of this final season and reset things for the final overall act of the series. Meet the new Peter. Same as the old Peter. And with all his hair intact, to boot.

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Lea Michele on 'Glee'

Lea Michele on 'Glee'

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Swan Song'

New challenges for New Directions

"Let's just enjoy this week and look forward to our big comeback next year." - Finn

I've reached a point with "Glee" where even when I enjoy a lot of things about an episode -- as I did with "Swan Song" -- it doesn't matter. The recent string of unbearable episodes has completely severed my connection to the show (a connection that survived through Season 2 and Season 3), possibly for good.

It'll take a lot more than a halfway decent episode to bring it back, and I just don't see that happening given the current state of the show.

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Charlie Hunnam and Rockmond Dunbar on 'Sons of Anarchy'

Jax (Charlie Hunnam) helps Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) work toward a "common goal" on the season finale of "Sons of Anarchy."

Credit: FX

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 5 finale recap: Jax's revenge in 'J'ai Obtenu Cette'

Jax may be victorious, but is it worth it?

Kurt Sutter really wrecked the curve for "Sons of Anarchy" season finales with last season's disastrous "To Be, Act 2." So anything would probably have been an improvement over that. But there was still a chance that "J'ai Obtenu Cette" (French for Opie's final words, "I got this") would go completely off the rails after what's been a solid enough (not great, not awful) season.

It didn't go off the rails. But it also didn't do much to really change the repetitive game we've been watching for five seasons now.

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Trevin Hunte of "The Voice"

Trevin Hunte of "The Voice"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 6 Results

Who made it to the semi-finals?

It’s only one part of the overall voting process, but if iTunes results are any indication of larger trends, then the results tonight will be perfunctory rather than truly surprising. Last night I predicted that the audience watching “The Voice” wouldn’t vote for a classic rock singer into the Final Four. But there sits Terry McDermott at Number Two on the charts, so I vastly underestimated American’s hunger for Foreigner. Cassadee Pope had an even stronger overall showing, placing both of her songs inside the Top 10. Nicholas David’s cover of “Over The Rainbow” also made it into the coveted Top 10, as did Trevin Hunte with “And I Am Telling You I am Not Going”. Only Melanie Martinez and Amanda Brown failed to crack the all-important threshold. Brown’s showing was expected, but Martinez has been surprisingly strong on the charts over the last three weeks, which is why I picked McDermott over her to leave tonight.

 
But hey, anything’s possible. (Except Cassadee Pope. She’s going NOWHERE but into the Final Four.) So let’s watch the antepenultimate Results Show and see just how awkward Carson Daly can make things for the six remaining hopefuls.
 
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Cassadee Pope of NBC's "The Voice".

Cassadee Pope of NBC's "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 6 Perform

Each contestant performs twice for the right to make it to the Final Four.

We’re down to the final six contestants on “The Voice”, and we’re at the point at which overall fan bases might start determining who stays and who goes from this point on. Those still in the competition have had ample time by now to establish a body of work by which to be judged, and there’s little stylistic overlap between the remaining competitors at this point. Unless a certain singer really goes out of his or her way to show something new tonight, we can make some strong assumptions about who will be in the Final Four.

 
But I’ll share those assumptions at the end of tonight’s final two-hour installment of the season. (The next two Mondays will be one-hour affairs.) With only six left, look for those still standing to make multiple appearances onstage tonight. I’d imagine we’ll see a combination of solo and group numbers to ensure we don’t witness 120 minutes of Christina Milian reading tweets.
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