Recapping Television's Hottest Shows with Monkeys as Critics
Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters and other guests close the 'SNL' season
Here we are at the end of another season of “Saturday Night Live,” aka “the latest season that just proved for most people the show isn’t what it used to be, even though that particular version of the show only lives in selective, imperfect memory in the first place.” Pulling double duty tonight is host/musical guest Mick Jagger. Accompanying Jagger musically will be Jeff Beck, The Foo Fighters and Arcade Fire. That’s like “The Avengers” of guitar-based rock. And yes, I just saw “The Avengers” tonight for the second time, so I might accuse a lot of sketches tonight of lacking conviction. Just thought I’d preface that up front.
Once more unto the recapping breach!
Tina bumps her head, and then the show bumps into an inevitable result at Nationals
There’s a shot halfway through the second hour of tonight’s two-episode “Glee” gauntlet in which the camera zooms in tight around Finn Hudson’s face. He and the rest of New Directions have just finished their set at Nationals, ending in a lengthy performance of Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. His face is triumphant, but more importantly, his brow is sweaty. For the first time I can remember in the show, performing seemed like actual hard work. It’s an easy thing to forget in “Glee,” a program in which flawless numbers seem to fall out of the sky only to disappear into the ether.
Which old friends would join the 'SNL' veteran?
We’re here near the end of another season of “Saturday Night Live.” Can you feel the warm breeze, hear the sounds of birds, and fear the prospects of months of reruns? Me too! Tonight’s host is no stranger to the show. Will Ferrell will probably go down as one of the show’s all-time best players, and seeing him back in Studio 8H should make for some fun sketch comedy. While a lot of his characters were famous as part of a pair, he also had plenty of solo characters that will undoubtedly make an appearance tonight. (Also probably making appearances? Some of those old cast mates with whom he created so many memorable moments.) Along for the ride is musical guest Usher. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! OK! (Sorry, he probably won’t perform that tonight.)
My hopes are high for this one. Let’s get to it!
Let it never be said the show took the safe path this season...but where has it led us?
So, yeah, that happened.
By “that” I mean a few things. Primarily, I mean the second half of the two-part finale “Brave New World.” But I also mean the fourth season of “Fringe” in general, which I think will go down as a case study in how following one’s muse sometimes allows you to lose your way. I’ve been watching a lot of the reaction online the past few days to announcements of renewals, pick-ups, and cancellations of various television shows. And it strikes me just how much people feel invested in those programs. Sure, I’ve always known about that investment, but it’s felt particularly acute over the past 48 hours. But there’s a difference in feeling invested in them and actually owning them. None of us watching these programs own them. It might feel that way at times, but it’s just not true. So when I say that “Fringe” bitterly disappointed me for nearly an entire year, I want it clear that I respected the decision of the show to go this route even as they took it further and further away from what I used to love. They had no obligation to make any show other than the one they wanted, and they absolutely achieved that goal.
The show forgets about last week, and suddenly remembers about four other plots instead.
It’s not surprising that “Glee” dropped the Coach Beiste storyline like a hot potato, at least for this week. After all, who has time to deal with the serious issue of domestic abuse when there’s a dinosaur-themed prom that needs attention? “Prom-asaurus” is another unfortunately hyphenated title, but unlike “Saturday Night Glee-ver,” this one didn’t soar so much as lurch along. It wasn’t offensive, it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t coherent, it was just…there. It existed. This episode of television absolutely, positively existed.
Eli's got more Super Bowl rings, but could he top Peyton on '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?
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
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?
“Fringe” 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.
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.”