Recapping Television's Hottest Shows with Monkeys as Critics
The show takes a step back as the rebels seek to take a step forward
After a strong second outing, this week’s “Fringe” faltered as it set out on the first of what promises to be several outings dedicated to the scavenger hunt established in “In Absentia”. Well, if all outings are as poorly executed as this one, I think we might be second-guessing the show’s decision to go down this route. It’s more likely that “The Recordist” will be an outlier rather than standard operating procedure over the final ten episodes of the series. But who knows? I didn’t expect last week to knock my socks off, and I didn’t expect this episode to bore me to near tears. Surprises are fun. Until they aren’t.
Tonight’s episode opens on Astrid lasering the wall of amber in Walter’s former laboratory. Inside they find the third of a still-unknown number of tapes, since Walter went so far as to leave the video evidence of his plan against The Observers out-of-sequence. The tape reveals coordinates in a wooded area of Northern Pennsylvania. What do our heroes have to do there? No one knows, but the Bishop Boys, Olivia, and Etta head out anyways and leave Astrid behind to slowly piece together the rest of the damaged message. Had the episode been stronger overall, I wouldn’t have constantly wondered, “Why didn’t they simply wait until they had the tape deciphered before leaving in the first place?” I understand that time is nominally of the essence, but it certainly seemed like the five of them had full run of the place without fear of Observer detection.
From a very special guest star to a violent attack, just another week in Charming
Gemma: "Not a lot of grey in this life sweetheart. Extremes become average."
Tara: "I'm not sure I find that comforting."
Gemma: "You're not supposed to."
"Sons of Anarchy" certainly went to extremes this week. From a jaw-dropping bit of stunt casting so ridiculous you had to love it, to a tragic burst of violence too predictable by half, "Orca Shrugged" wasn't lacking in big events. But the problem of making a show that lives on extremes is that those extremes can become average. And while this episode was an improvement over last week, it still wasn't anything special.
Several showcase Battles mark the second night of singing conflict
Last night saw the first series of Battle Rounds that involved “The Steal,” and it certainly made this phase of “The Voice” more enjoyable than in past seasons. If that twist does nothing except set up a potential finale involving Trevin Hunte and Amanda Brown, then this addition has done its job. Without that twist, we’d have a sour taste in our mouths after CeeLo Green chose Hunte. Instead? We have a ready-made storyline that can potentially carry into the final moments of the season. If you think producers won’t do everything humanly possible to keep those two around, you’re crazy. That’s not to say the show will be rigged. But keeping these two as far apart as long as possible will only create buzz around the possible rematch down the line.
But for now, we must continue through the Battle Rounds themselves. We have only seen six of the thirty-two battles that will unfold over the next few weeks, and six steals are still in play. Let’s see what Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine have planned for their teams in tonight’s one-hour installment. Let’s get tonight’s live blog going. As always, I’ll be jotting down my thoughts in real time.
How would the Steal impact the revamped Battle Round?
With blind auditions finally over, it’s time to move onto the next phase of “The Voice”: the Battle Rounds. This phase of the time will see this season’s big twist in the form of “The Steal.” (No, I don’t know if the show will have some anonymous woman croon “This is The Steal!” after each commercial break.) Each coach will get two steals, which should theoretically alter how each coach will pair up his or her team members during this phase of the game. I say “theoretically” because it’s just as likely that Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green, and Adam Levine will inadvertently screw themselves over during this part of “The Voice” as help themselves. Another new feature, “Knockout Rounds”, will eventually shrink this current field of 64 down before the start of the live broadcasts. When will those broadcasts start? Sometime before the next Olympics, ostensibly.
Would James Bond and the recent debate give 'SNL' good material?
The brief, two-week run of “Saturday Night Live” Thursday specials ended rather ignominiously last week, with the second and finale installment lacking any apparent need to exist outside NBC’s desire to push back the return of “30 Rock”. If NBC wanted to air those “Weekend Update” specials as a way to capitalize on the current election season, surely they would have opted to air one on the night immediately after the first debate. It wasn’t a bad half-hour, but it was incredibly unnecessary. And given how necessary “SNL” has historically been during the peak of the presidential races, that seems like a shame.
In any case, we’re back tonight with host Daniel Craig and musical guest Muse. James Bond-inspired humor will undoubtedly be on the plate, but I hope I’m not alone in yearning for some sort of “Layer Cake” parody tonight. Because that movie is AWESOME. It’s a long shot, but still not as long as all of you completely agreeing with my grades for tonight’s sketches. As always, I’ll be assessing them in real time. Let’s get down to (British) business, shall we?
The show finds its future stride by slowing things down
A funny thing happened on the way to the “Fringe” forum: the show turned in one of its strongest episodes in recent memory.
Last week, I worried about the way the show was exchanging its internal focus for an external one. “Fight The Future” just doesn’t have quite the same personal ring as “Fight For Loved Ones”, which was the show’s previous standard MO. But if last week’s premiere saw our heroes lost in the shuffle of a new world order and an avalanche of exposition, “In Absentia” brought things down to a far more human-scaled affair. When “Fringe” gets small, the rewards are often big.
The question isn't who broke up, it's who didn't?
"Glee" has pushed all sorts of emotional buttons for me in the past, so why did "The Break-Up" leave me dry-eyed and irritated? Am I grumpy? Heartless? Horrible?
I'm also frustrated by the feeling that we've seen this all before, that it won't mean much in the long run, that the powers that be are only messing with fans who have invested a lot of time in and developed affection for relationships that didn't need to be simultaneously blown apart in an hour long episode of break-up porn.
Sometimes break-ups are necessary, and that hurts. But "The Break-Up" wasn't necessary, it was nonsensical.
Keep your grief to a minimum, we've got things to do here
After last week's stunning, brutal and divisive installment, it would've been a surprise to see "Sons of Anarchy" deliver a follow-up quite as memorable. But I wasn't expecting an episode that felt so... hollow.
There were two major things that needed to be achieved in "Stolen Huffy": send off Opie in a fitting way and keep the story moving forward. While the hour attempted both, the results were merely OK.
Is this really the end of Blind Auditions? Yes!!!
We’re here at the end of the blind auditions for “The Voice”, ladies and gentleman. Tomorrow night’s one-hour slot will be a recap of the entire audition process, so expect a 60-minute mega-mix of “The Cupid Shuffle”. In the meantime, all four teams have fourteen members, leaving eight remaining slots in total.
Still, after tonight we’ll get Battle Rounds, which will feature a twist in which each coach can steal two contestants from other teams should they be eliminated in that round. Ostensibly, this should produce some chess-like strategy between the coaches. But I’m not sure we’ll get even “Connect Four” levels of gamesmanship between the four of them. But who knows? Maybe Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and CeeLo Green worship at the altar of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov when not offering up sacrifices to the musical muses to produce a hit single. We’ll just have to see. For now? We need eight more contestants. Eight more sob stories. And eight more chances for me to rewrite those stories should I see fit. Let’s do this.
'Fringe' starts its final season via a time jump that is alternately thrilling yet perplexing.
It’s only fitting that Yaz’s “Only You” closes out the final season premiere of “Fringe”. Written by Vince Clarke, who many will know from his work in Depeche Mode and Erasure, “Only You” is a synthesizer-based ballad. In other words, it creates beauty from inside the cold confines of technology. That’s always been the greatest strength of “Fringe” as well. It has taken the sometimes-cold world of science fiction and imbued the genre with enough heart and emotion to fill a half-dozen other television programs. Even if the fourth season never quite generated those some emotional highs as previous years, it has still aimed to tell very personal stories within a vast universe. This makes tonight’s episode, “Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11", so perplexing.
Before you jump to the comments and chew me out, let me explain. I’m not convinced tonight’s episode is bad by any stretch (especially since this season’s narrative gamble needs to play out in full before final judgment is rendered), but it certainly demands some adjustments from the viewer. Even with Season Four’s “Letter Of Transit” serving as out introduction to the “Fringe” future world of 2036, it’s still difficult to properly process everything that’s going on through a first pass. What makes this difficult? Glad you asked!