September: The Television Enthusiasts Purgatory

Now that September’s here and I’m back at school “studying,” I face a sort of “atheist’s dilemma,” only you have to replace “atheist” with “television enthusiast” and it kind of makes sense. While I am super grateful that Breaking Bad has been delivering Sunday after Sunday (and while Dexter has become a chore to watch), I am not fulling satisfied. I need everything back.

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I need Homeland and Modern Family.

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I need Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.

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If I pray hard enough, maybe this fall will see new seasons of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Or maybe that would be pushing the envelope a tad.

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Be on the look out for posts on these shows and more (including, but not limited to, Parks and Recreation, The MiddleCommunityNew GirlThe Mindy Project, American Horror Story: Coven, and Girls. I might try to get into some new shows, but they all just look so bad this season. The ones I’ll test are The Masters of SexSleepy HollowAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Dads. If you have any suggestions, let me know ASAP. Well, not, like, super ASAP, just whenever you feel like it. Cool. Good talk.

And shout out to tumblr for having these TV cross-over images. I’m glad to know my Internet folk are keeping busy and paying their bills.

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Pop-Pop and Circumstance: The COMMUNITY Season Finale

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The gang at Greendale bids farewell to their graduate, Jeff (Joel McHale), in typical Community fashion: by revisiting the Darkest Timeline.

In case you have forgotten, the Darkest Timeline was created in Season 3 when Abed initiated a dice rolling in order to determine who would go to the door to pay the pizza delivery man. Each of the six members were assigned a number and the episode followed the various situations the group could get itself into if the die had landed on all six sides. One of the timelines created from this is called the darkest timeline, in which Pierce is killed, Jeff loses an arm, and all of the characters become villains.

In last week’s Season Finale, Jeff – who knows his time with the study group is waning due to his fulfillment of Greendale’s curriculum – decides to rekindle the Darkest Timeline by rolling a die one last time. In doing so, Evil Jeff comes through the portal to make sure that Jeff does not consider staying at Greendale with his friends and urges him to take his old job back at the law firm.

Wow. I’m re-reading this as I type and it sounds so nerdy.

Ok. Moving on. So as Evil Jeff is assembling the rest of the Evils, Abed gets transported to the Darkest Timeline, where he stumbles upon Evil Abed, who explains the situation to him. My favorite part of the episode comes when Evil Abed tries to make Abed stay in the Darkest Timeline because NBC’s failed superhero drama, The Capehas become wildly successful in the alternate universe. A reluctant Abed refuses the gesture, but I could tell he was really torn.

Abed is able to return to the regular timeline with the special paintball guns that transport you between timelines and, with the help of his pals, he is able to send all of the Evils back to the Darkest Timeline.

The episode ends with a sad study group bidding farewell to their leader, Jeff, who promises to come back and visit next semester – which leads me to wonder whether or not McHale will be a series regular or a guest star next season. Also, Pierce graduates along side Jeff, but I think Chevy Chase has had enough with the show – granted he was left out of almost half of this season’s episodes.

With the season over, we are left guessing about the whole “Changnesia” thing. Who was Chang working with? Will that be brought up next season? Will there be another season? In the background of Jeff’s graduation ceremony, “Six Seasons and a Movie” is written on the chalkboard, which I hope is an indicator of the show’s longevity.

With 30 Rock’s departure in March, Parks and Rec‘s two weeks ago, and Community‘s last week, NBC Thursday has one last hurrah: The Office. Be sure to tune in to the hour long The Office: Retrospective, a look at the nine-year journey that the cast and crew took in creating the beloved and innovative television series. Following the special will be the last episode, entitled “Finale.” Slated to appear are Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and Joan Cusack. Unless NBC has been able to keep Steve Carrell’s return to the show under wraps, it seems unlikely that we will see Michael Scott in the office for the show’s final episode.

PARKS AND REC Season or Series Finale?

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It was to my surprise that I tuned in to tonight’s episode of Parks and Recreation to discover that it would be its last for the season. Usually, shows end in mid-May, but with Community mid-mid-season start of sorts, it only seems fair/profitable for NBC to air all of their produced episodes. However, Leslie Knope and the gang in the Parks Department go out with a bang.

The time has come for Pawnee’s annual Founders’ Week Parade, which ironically has never occurred in the show’s five-season run.

In order to prepare for the celebrations, the gang heads up to Ron’s cabin house in the woods to brainstorm what makes Pawnee so special to its residents. The morning after, however, Andy makes a discovery that lets the Bert Macklin inside of him come out – a positive pregnancy test. Throughout the episode, he makes it his (and Ann’s) mission to discover who’s it is.

Meanwhile, Tom is approached by a lawyer whose anonymous client wishes to buy out Rent-a-Swag, leaving him with the difficult decision on whether or not to sell his blooming business.

In City Hall, members of the community congregate to declare their grievances over the excessive amounts of regulations that have been wrought upon them since Leslie has taken office. Amongst the crowd is Brandie Maxx, who praises Leslie for making Pawnee more porn-friendly.

At the Founders’ Week Parade, Chris is named Pawnee’s Nipple King while the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope halts the procession with chants of “Recall Knope!”

Meanwhile, Andy interrogates Leslie and Donna and comes up empty. Tom about the pregnancy test, worrying that it could be Mona Lisa’s. When he realizes that the brand is “Womb There It Is!” his suspicions are confirmed – only for Mona Lisa to “Psych!” him yet again.

Quickly, Andy realizes that the only woman he has yet to question is his wife, April, who we see receive a mysterious phone call at the beginning of the episode. When asked if she’s pregnant, she is disgusted and responds with the greatest line of episode:

“I want to wait until we’re fifty and then we can adopt a set of adult twins from Armenia.”

She does reveal to Andy that the phone call she received was vet school in Bloomington accepting her application and the two of them rejoice.

The episode ends with a discouraged Andy still unsure of whose pregnancy test it is….and in walks Ron’s girlfriend Diane who needs to talk in private. Andy’s face? Priceless.

As you may or may not be aware (or if you didn’t read my title), this could have been the last episode of Parks and Rec – they have yet to be renewed for a sixth season. That being said, this episode reminded me of the Seinfeld series finale in that Leslie was revisited by members of the community that have taken issue with her policy changes, much like how the characters from Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George’s past come to testify against them in court.

So what am I supposed to think? Should I be looking forward to another season or should I not give my hopes up? My life is such a struggle.

MAD MEN Talks About Sex

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In last night’s  episode of AMC’s hit drama Mad Men, we got a peek into the sex culture of the late 1960s, while they also tried to make a statement about African American culture.

First, Don and Pete meet up with the executives from Heinz Ketchup, a move that violated their agreement with Ken’s account with Heinz Baked Beans. It was trouble from the start.

Then Joan’s older, but younger looking, sister Kate stopped by the city, expecting a crazy night on the town. Joan helps her pick up a waiter and the three of them take a cab to a club where Joan lets loose for the first time after prostituting herself in pursuit of her partnership.

Meanwhile, Don and Megan are indirectly invited to participate in an orgy of sorts with one of Megan’s superiors on her show. The two respectfully decline, but the sex talk doesn’t stop there.

Megan, who has suddenly become a household name in between seasons, has been asked to do a love scene for her daytime soap opera, but doesn’t think Don will approve – and he doesn’t. However, he comes to realize that he’d be a hypocrite if he were to say no to his wife so he promises to condone her wishes.

In the office, Harry’s secretary Scarlet asks Dawn to punch her out because she needs to get a birthday gift for one of the other secretaries. Dawn agrees, but the next day Joan interrogates both of them. She proceeds to fire Scarlet and punish Dawn with extra work. However, Harry is not too keen on Joan’s assertion of authority.

Earlier that day, Harry wins a big account with Dow Chemicals, giving the company another stable form of income. Harry, who has questioned Joan’s role as a partner, is outraged by her decision to fire his secretary so he storms into the partner’s meeting to set the matter straight. In demanding a partnership, he delivers the best, most biting comments of the night: “I’m sorry my accomplishments come in broad daylight!” alluding to Joan’s “work” as a prostitute at the end of last season.

Before leaving town, Joan’s sister Kate confesses that she is jealous of her sister’s accomplishments, causing Joan to look at what they have truly amounted to – drawing back memories of her sexual escapades – both with Jaguar and Roger Sterling.

Over at Heinz headquarters, Don, Pete, and Stan deliver their pitch for ketchup, only to be greeted by Peggy and her team who are vying for the same account. Don eavesdrops on Peggy’s pitch, and hears her recite his go-to line: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation,” and knows that she’s won the account.

Both groups have an awkward encounter at a bar following the presentations – just to give Elizabeth Moss more air time as the shows number two billed star.

When Don leaves the bar, he heads over to Megan’s studio to see her sex scene – which the producers call “steamy,” but isn’t anything more than what we would see on Disney Channel today.

Megan is mortified that Don would come today of all days and she sends him away. Don being Don goes right back to his mistress, who he reprimands for wearing a golden cross around her neck. She retorts that she wears her cross to pray. “I pray for you to find peace,” she declares, which goes back to my whole “Don Draper is actually dead and is living in purgatory like Lost season 6” theory. A soul trapped in purgatory is never at rest – and neither is Don. He is haunted by the ghosts of his past and feels the weight of New York City on his shoulders. I’m interested in seeing how this all pans out.

For an episode all about sex, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get a glimpse into the Francis household. Sally, who we saw last season “become a woman,” would have been an interesting focus for this episode, as would her neglectful mother, Betty.

Also, I was a little peeved that the opening credits announced that the episode would be guest starring Alison Brie, but she didn’t show up! Not cool, AMC. Not cool.

‘The Kings of Summer’ trailer: Nick Offerman is just your average suburban dad

Here’s a look at a new indie film with Alison Brie (Mad Men/Community), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24/Safety Not Guaranteed), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), and Megan Mullally (Will and Grace).

Mad Women on MAD MEN

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On the most recent episode of AMC’s hit drama Mad Men, the women took the front seat. And surprisingly, the episode didn’t even feature two of its most prominent female characters, Betty Francis and her daughter Sally Draper.

However, we saw enough of Betty doing nothing and Sally being rebellious in the season premiere, so this was a nice break.

Over at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price, the gang was revisited by a physical and symbolic demon from their past – Herb Rennet, the scummy account executive from Jaguar cars who considered SCDP’s advertising bid in exchange for a night with Joan. Joan, in turn, saw this sexual escapade as a way to secure her position as a partner within the firm.

Joan, who remained idle in the previous episode, showed her claws when Rennet entered her office, and Don finished him off by standing up for the firm’s values over his wishes.

In the Campbell household, Peter and Trudy entertained their new neighbors, one of whom was a young blonde that flirted with Peter. With his new Manhattan apartment he purchased in between seasons, he was able to bring his new beau, Brenda, into the city and start an affair with her.

We assume that her husband had found out about her affair as she came knocking on the Campbell’s door in the middle of the night, covered in blood. After cleaning her up, Trudy, played by Alison Brie, puts the pieces together and makes a powerful statement to Peter that she will not have a divorce, but instead he will have to remain out of the house for good. This dramatic declaration comes just days after she whimsically played with puppets in her other role as Annie on NBC’s Community. Her versatility as an actress is impeccable and I commend her for her talent.

On the other side of Madison Avenue, Peggy tried to be nice and it hurt to watch. After scolding her employees, she tried to make up for it by reminding them how she valued their work – interjecting that her standards are high for them, as she was once in their position. But her attempt was rather fruitless. As a viewer, I tried to remember moments when Peggy was genuinely nice, but then I remembered that face she made after giving birth to a child she refused to look at. Its moments like that when I remember why Peggy Olson is one of the greatest characters on television.

At the Draper residence, Don is going on with yet another affair – this time with Sylvia, the wife of the heart surgeon who lives on the floor below his flat. However, the most intimate scene of the episode came when she comforts a sorrowful Megan, who reveals that she had a miscarriage three days before. The heartless Sylvia consoles her, but then goes on to sleep with her husband. This makes me wonder who the viewer should see fault in – Don or Sylvia?

I think this question is answered in Don’s flashback, in which we see the brothel that an adolescent Don grows up in. This experience clearly corrupted him into becoming the womanizing man he is. So he has a reason for his affair (although unjust), but does Sylvia? Most of Don’s mistresses aren’t fully explored and developed by the writers, but I’m confident that Sylvia, who lent Don the copy of Dante’s Inferno last episode, will become a central figure in this season.

COMMUNITY Plays with Puppets, PARKS AND REC Controls Animals, and THE OFFICE Takes the Stairs

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NBC’s Thursday night line-up, while not appreciated in terms of ratings, delivered big laughs yet again tonight with Community, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

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At Greendale, the gang turned to puppet therapy in this Avenue Q inspired episode as the gang tries to cope with their traumatic hot air balloon accident.

Filled with musical numbers, the gang recalls (through their puppets) how they crashed and landed in the middle of the wilderness.

The show continues with their theme of random guest stars, bringing in Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander into this episode (Sophie B. Hawkins was a musical guest last episode).

When the group crashes, Abed, who’s quick to make pop culture references, says, “We need to split into two groups: the survivors and the others,” a clear homage to Lost. Soon the gang stumbles upon Jason Alexander in the woods and they all indulge in wild hallucinogenic berries, causing them each to reveal a secret about themselves.

The guilt-stricken Shirley confesses after the fact that she didn’t mean to leave her children in the grocery store, causing the show to take a very dramatic, human turn. The rest of the study group reveals that they had forgotten all the secrets that were told that night, so Shirley’s declaration caught them by surprise.

In typical sitcom-fashion, they each tell their secret – in the form of a song (Avenue Q themed, remember?) and they range from the political activist Britta never having casted a vote, to book-nerd, straight-edged Annie cheating on her history exam.

The fourth season of Community had originally been delayed from September to October due to a lack of ratings, but was then pushed again to premiere in February, causing the untimely Halloween and Thanksgiving episodes. My guess is Christmas is next!

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Over in Pawnee, the Animal Control Department is out of…well, control. Chris, Leslie, and April take on the task of hiring the new deputy to take over the town’s department, only to face an unsatisfying round of applicants.

On the other side of the office, Ron Swanson catches a cold, sparking residential nurse Ann Perkins to take him to the hospital. In typical Libertarian fashion, Ron refuses to divulge specific medical information, which lead to my favorite line of the night:

Ann: For date of birth, you put “spring time.”

Ron: It’s true…

Meanwhile, Ben enlists the help of Tom and Andy to pick up a sponsor for his new job at Sweetums. The client, a cigar-smoking, perfume and fragrance salesman, does not live up to Ben’s expectations, or Andy’s for that matter. After a few mishaps, they lose his bid and Tom decides that portion of his Rent-a-Swag sales can be used for the charity.

At the end of the episode, a hopeless Leslie realizes the perfect person to take over as deputy for Animal Control: April Ludgate. The cynical April then comes up with an idea of her own for the Parks Department to absorb the Animal Control office, thus saving money and ending the crisis. After a brief, but warranted, heart-to-heart, April is named Deputy Officer with a plaque that Leslie had been keeping since her first week on the job.

With Ron discharged from the hospital, Ann advises him to eat well and take care of his body. In the hysterical last clip of the show, he contemplates ways of eating a banana and ultimately decides to stuff pieces in between a Paunch burger. Ron (and Parks and Rec) Swanson can do no wrong.

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The night ended in Scranton, PA, where The Office is gearing up for the release of their documentary that has been ten years in the making. I really like the approach the show is going for in its self-proclaimed “Farewell Season,” and argue that it’s even funnier than the Michael Scott days.

The elevators are broken at Dunder Mifflin, so Andy challenges his employees to prepare for Stairmaggedon (an obvious and irrelevant play on Armageddon) by taking the stairs and getting fit.

Andy receives the first reviews from the documentary, commenting that it will reveal the homosexuality of a public figure, causing an assured Erin to exclaim, “I bet it’s Katie Couric. I’ve been saying this for years.”

Following the trend of the past few episodes, Jim and Pam each seek marriage advice from the office’s most unexpected people: Jim from Toby, and Pam from Nelly. As deemed by my current Facebook cover photo, which is a snapshot of Pam crying and Brian the boom operator comforting her, I want their marriage to end. While others are ardent about living their lives vicariously through Jim and Pam, I feel as though the ending would be best for them to go their separate ways – and for Pam to take the kids.

In a nationally televised press conference, the Senator comes out with a surprised Angela by his side, causing a giddy Kevin to reveal that he knew the whole time.

Meanwhile, the new dynamic duo of Dwight and Clark tranquilize Stanley to bring him to a sales meeting. However, they didn’t factor in the broken elevator shaft or his hefty weight, so they settle by sending him down the staircase cocooned with bubble wrap.

The show ends the night of guest stars with Roseanne Barr playing a talent agent who recruits Andy in a conspicuous scheme, taking $5,000 for a start-up fee.

The Office, while way past its glory, should not be taken out of contention for September’s Emmys, which love to honor exiting comedies. It’s likely to see at least one nod for either this show or the already departed 30 Rock, which ended its six year run back in March.