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?
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.”
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
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.
Could 'SNL' make use of the 'Modern Family' star's particular gifts?
Welcome back, “Saturday Night Live” fans. When last we met, the show had put forth a subpar effort involving Jonah Hill. If “SNL” couldn’t produce a funny program with Hill as the lead, then it was probably time to take a good, long break. And lo and behold, here we are nearly a month later with the first new show since that debacle. Sofia Vergara makes her debut hosting appearance tonight, and I’m sure not once will her ample…talents be the focus of most of the sketches. Nope. No way. Just like there’s no way “The Manuel Ortiz Show” won’t make an appearance tonight, either. What WILL make an appearance? Musical guest One Direction, Myles McNutt’s favorite band, and the reason I imagine 80% of you will be reading this recap in the first place.
Let’s see if the time off did the show any good. As always, I’ll be grading each sketch in real time. Let’s see how many fun ways my word-processing program can auto-correct “Vergara.” This should be fun. Onto the recap!
Why tonight's episode was the best of the season, and why that is such a tragedy
Olivia Dunham has recently found herself unable to remember the events of her life since David Robert Jones’ cortiphexan injections helped awaken her to her past reality. In semi-related news, I found myself in the curious position tonight of no longer really remembering what happened on “Fringe” before Peter fused the two worlds together. And honestly? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. On one level it was almost definitely a good thing: “Everything In Its Right Place” had problems but definitely stood out as one of the season’s strongest entries. But it’s also one of the strongest entries precisely because I no longer find myself wondering when things will return to normal. While that might be music to some of your ears, it sounds like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” to mine.
A few unfortunate narrative developments cloud some of the season's strongest emotional work
The first fifteen minutes of “Fringe” sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t believe they were finally going to tell a “Lost” Sideways tale in this fourth season. Given the conceit of this year, it’s hard to believe it’s taken them this long. But while I was semi-intrigued about how that type of story might play out, the show seemed to be restaging one of the first season’s least exciting episodes. However, most of my worries washed away when the show unleashed its best scene of the season: Walter giving Peter all the gifts he bought for his thought-dead son. I don’t like the overall structure of this season, but Lord in heaven that was a simple, powerful, evocative moment.
The show gives some answers, but also provides a sub-par case of the week
Well, now we've got two of our real characters back. So that’s a start.
I’m accentuating the positive because I know if you’re still around, you still like “Fringe” and have little interest in reading anything negative. I don’t see a way in which this wasn’t the start of the show’s final stretch, but I really and truly hope there’s a fifth season of this show. Why? Well, for starters, it beats the hell out of another Gordon Ramsey-hosted cooking show populating the airwaves. Second? It might give the show a chance to go out on something besides a 22-episode recovery from a fundamental narrative mistake.