Watching “Glee” on a weekly basis is like playing a high-stakes poker game in a Vegas casino. The show is the house, and the house almost always wins. “Winning” in this case means that the show takes not only your chips, but also your heart and soul as well. But every once in a while, the player beats the house, and their efforts are rewarded. After one of the worst episodes in the show’s history, “Glee” bounced back something fierce with “The First Time,” an episode that should have gone completely off the rails but managed to stay on the tracks and build confidence throughout the hour.
Look: it wasn’t perfect. No episode of “Glee” ever was nor ever will be. You could pick nits in nearly every scene. But the episodes of the show make you stop looking at the flaws and appreciate the emotional responses it can elicit when everything aligns correctly. No more ginger supremacists, leprechauns, or student/teacher trysts. (Unless you count that awful number inside Dalton Academy which, like the second season of “Friday Night Lights,” we’ll all agree never happened.) Instead, we got two things that generally make for a stellar episode of “Glee”: thematic resonance between various storylines, and musical performances that actually comment upon those resonances. This sounds like an easy thing to do. The sum total of “Glee” to date suggests the opposite. So let’s celebrate when it gets things right.
I’ve been plenty hard on “Terra Nova” these past few months. I don’t regret it, but I’m running out of finding new ways to tell you the same reasons it doesn’t work. Because by and large, each episode is a variation on one of the systemic problems that keep this show from at least being entertaining. (I’m not sure it will ever get to “good,” but the masochist in me keeps hope alive.) No show with time travel, dinosaurs, and conspiracies that cross both centuries and realities should be this pedestrian. Yet, here we are. “Nightfall” was probably the best episode since the pilot, but saying that is damning it with faint praise.
We learned last week that The Observers are probably St. Louis Cardinals fans. How else to explain the machinations that led to the delay of this week’s “Fringe”? Maybe the return of Peter Bishop to the show prompted them to realize that they needed to interfere more, not less, with the course of human history. Who knows? In any case, we’re back tonight with “Novation,” an episode that re-inserted Peter Bishop into the mix but didn’t really solve any of the problems that his absence created. If that sentence makes your blood boil, don’t bother to read on. I promise I won’t take it personally. For the rest of you? Let’s continue.
It’s only fitting that the title of the episode comes from the legal system. Novation refers to the replacement of one obligation with a new one, or replacing a party involved in said obligation with a new member. Given the shapeshifting nature of tonight’s plot, the title is clearly meant to be ironic. But the tortured definition offers a few sentences ago speaks volumes about the insane narrative weight under which the show is currently operating. If the title of the episode meant to evoke the ways in which the new breed of shapeshifters can weave their way even more insidiously into our world, it also evoked the reality that Peter’s presence only leads to a new set of conundrums to replace the old ones.
You may have heard that we're in for a very special musical episode of "America's Next Top Model." This promises to be classy as hell.
I mean, where to even begin, people? It’s been weeks since last we saw “Glee,” and its return had me wishing that the baseball playoffs had lasted another three rounds. At gunpoint, I’d still rank the “Rocky Horror”-inspired episode of this show as its worse, but Lord, did tonight’s “Pot of Luck” give that hot mess a run for its money. Even by the show’s own less-than-lofty standards, this was a mishmash of disparate elements that confused “stringing together forty minutes of material” with “actually producing an episode of television.” We saw some hopes for this show’s future before its sports-induced hiatus, but this episode pretty much washed all of those away in a flood of stupidity.
Let’s state this up front: telling a long-form narrative is incredibly, incredibly hard. When it’s done well, it represents a monumental achievement. So saying “Terra Nova” is pretty terrible at it isn’t quite the slam it might seem. It just means the show is just as bad as the majority of other television shows currently on right now. By now, it’s abundantly clear that the show barely thought past the pilot in terms of creating a far-reaching story that would sustain a single season, never mind a multitude of them. But that need not be a deal breaker for the show, so long as it recognizes its own limitations. But as long as it fails to do so, this will be an expensive misfire for FOX.