Recapping Television's Hottest Shows with Monkeys as Critics
Eli's got more Super Bowl rings, but could he top Peyton on 'SNL'?
Rihanna and Eli Manning of "SNL"
Athletes and “Saturday Night Live
.” They don’t go together exactly like oil and water, but they don’t exactly mix, either. And while Eli Manning
has proven himself on the field (as much as it pains this Patriots fan to acknowledge that), there’s no proof he has the ability to even perform competently in a pre-recorded piece, nevermind live onstage. But who knows? Maybe tonight will be as improbable the Helmet Catch that has haunted my dreams for the past five years. More likely? Rihanna
will look amazing and perform the third act of the “Shy Ronnie” trilogy. That will be something. But will it be enough? Only one way to find out!
The show reveals the man behind the curtain...but didn't they already do that two episodes ago?
Walter Bishop (John Noble) goes to work on "Fringe."
I’m not going to go into a tremendous amount of speculation about tonight’s “Fringe
,” since the first hour of two-part finales are tricky ones to really analyze. Everything truly important will go down next week, with this installment serving primarily as set-up for the major shakeups coming down the pipe in the season (not series) finale seven days hence. My biggest instant reaction to the first part of “Brave New World”? I want that second hour NOW. Not because I need answers this second, although that wouldn’t be awful. Rather, this felt like an unbalanced installment of the series, one that was holding its cards back for future play rather than creating a satisfying hour unto itself.
The show attempts to address an important topic, but ends up doing it a major disservice
"Glee" had a storyline involving domestic abuse tonight. FOX had no pictures from that storyline.
How much reality can “Glee” actually handle?
It’s a legitimate question, and one the show has never really gotten a handle on. Remember way back when Terri was faking her pregnancy, and it was really freaking terrible and stupid and soapy, but then Will found out, and then sh$t got REALLY REAL for about thirty seconds? Those were thirty seconds of menace, with violence dripping in the air, and Matthew Morrison and Jessalyn Gilsig sold the living hell out of that half-minute. But it was a half-minute rolled up inside the greater context of “Glee,” which made that scene more problematic as a part of a whole. Ryan Murphy seems to not care about the whole so long as things work in the moment, but television isn’t a series of independent moments strung together sequentially. It works as the sum of its parts, and for three seasons, the various parts of “Glee” have been at war with each other.
Such a conflict is problematic but normally nothing to get actually truly mad about. The frustration that comes from a show which pinballs between characters, motives, motifs, and moods is fuel for Twitter snark and animated GIFs. We can laugh off Will desperately wanting his students to be at his wedding while Quinn simultaneously wonders if she can ever walk again as Teen Jesus sports an erection while helping her with physical therapy. Those things don’t really have a place in the same episode, season, or even universe, but the uneasily coexist all the same on a weekly basis on “Glee”. Still, the show creates pockets of unexpectedly powerful or funny moments on a semi-regular basis, with only the weakest episodes devoid of either. Honestly, the worst crime an episode of “Glee” can commit is being boring.
Or so I thought.
The show will get a fifth season, but will it be losing a major component in the process?
” fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing tonight wasn’t the antepenultimate episode of the series. Instead, “Worlds Apart” served as a stepping stone to the two-part season
finale, which will appease both those that simply want more “Fringe” and those who hope the final season can correct some of the missteps from this year. While last week’s “Letters of Transit” felt like a show confident in its ability to pay off the speculative fiction inherent in its premise way down the line, “Worlds” felt like a show starting to tie off some loose ends before heading into the sunset. That’s not me assigning any particular psychology into the writers’ room, but it’s striking to see how different both episodes seemed to approach the long-term stability of the show’s future.
Houston? We have a problem. Again.
Naya Rivera and Lea Michele of "Glee"
Well, those good times lasted exactly a week. So, par for the course with “Glee
After scoring its second strong episode based around an album, not an artist, with “Saturday Night Glee-ver” (a spiritual sequel to last season’s excellent “Rumours”), the show went back to less successful areas with its Whitney Houston tribute installment “Dance With Somebody
.” It’s not that these “concept” episodes, for lack of a better term, are inherently a bad idea. In stronger, more capable hands, delving into the back catalog of a single artist is a perfectly good way to structure an episode of a musical. But “Glee” almost never understands the difference between “using those songs to bring out actual emotional notes in its characters” and “simply restaging the music videos just for the hell of it.”
The team heads to the year 2036
FOX has been pushing tonight’s episode “Letters of Transit” as “yet another mind-blowing nineteenth episode” over the past seven days. I didn’t quite know what the heck they were talking about, until realizing that “Lysergic Acid Diethelamide” and “Brown Betty” also aired in this slot. (Complicating my research: “Brown Betty” was actually the twentieth episode of that season, due to FOX randomly airing an episode intended for Season One in the middle of that year. Ah, the good old days.) While the previous two seasons featured stylistically adventurous episodes in this particular slot, both also fit into the overall story arc of that season. “Letters of Transit” intentionally disorients the viewer from the first second, slowly revealing its context over the course of the house. “Transit” is a pretty sweet episode of “The Twilight Zone.” But was it a good episode of “Fringe
Unlike previous theme episodes, this one actually packs a punch
There have been a lot of words, many written by yours truly, about pushing past the constraints of regular weekly criticism and attack television from a different angle. It’s not that the format itself is somehow evil, but man, it can be limiting sometimes. So every once in a while it’s interesting to try and push past the norm and try something different. And since tonight’s “Glee
” was all about overcoming internal fears and facing a brave new world order, what better time to try and stretch things out a bit? Way back when, I used to write up “Terra Nova” reviews from the perspective of one of the dinosaurs in the show. And while the idea of a singing dinosaur coming in and writing “LUNCH” on Will’s white board sounds appealing, let’s do a little FAQ about this episode, and the show as whole.
'Men in Black III' star toplines a strong 'SNL' installment
Credit: Alex Gallardo/AP
The last time Josh Brolin hosted “Saturday Night Live” was October 18, 2008. Sarah Palin was still a candidate for Vice President. That night’s musical act, Adele, was still a barely known commodity. Suffice it to say, a lot has happened in the interim. If memory serves, Brolin acquitted himself well as a host, falling firmly between the genius of Jon Hamm and the “whatever the hell that was” of Michael Phelps. While Brolin’s career hasn’t exactly flourished in those interim years, he’s poised for a potential comeback with this summer’s sequel “Men In Black III.” Will that mean a potential parody with Jay Pharaoh? If that gives Pharaoh something to do other that appear wordlessly in the final sketch of the night, I’m all for it. Joining the festivities tonight is Gotye, who will probably play “Somebody That I Used To Know” in both of his allotted slots tonight. And honestly, who would object?
As always, I’ll be grading each sketch live as they happen. Why mess with a working the formula? “SNL” sure doesn’t. Oh wait. That’s a potentially bad example.
The show ramps up to its season/series endgame, but it's the small moments that really shine.
As we approach the end of this season of “Fringe
”, it’s time for the show to start showing its hand about what it’s been up to all season. What seemed at first like a temporary detour has instead been a season-long journey inside this alternate reality. “The Consultant
” aimed to shed light on what’s been happening all season, but the Jones plot has always felt tacked onto the mystery of Peter’s disappearance than directly related to it. Now, that’s not necessarily a knock on the show: I would rather have things come together organically (and often messily) than be beholden to an overly rigidly structure from the outset. Still, even if I don’t care much about another threat of the two universes collapsing upon each other, the smaller moments in tonight’s episode often worked like gangbusters.
A strong guest appearance by Matthew Bomer hides the show's usual problems
We’re back, “Glee
” fans, for eight consecutive episodes to round out this third season. And with a fourth season confirmed this week, we don’t have to spend the next two months wondering if the show will be pushing towards its final Nationals or not. Instead, we can focus all of our attention on what we always do: trying to make sense of the here and now. And Lord knows that takes up enough mental energy in and of itself. “Big Brother
” was pretty run-of-the-mill “Glee,” with only Matthew Bomer’s pretty fantastic guest appearance lifting this up as anything particularly memorable.