Fall Television So Far…

Now that the first few weeks of fall television are under our belts and we’ve bid adieu to Breaking Bad and Dexter (on gravely different terms…spoiler pun intended) it’s time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working with my line up.

What’s working:

New Girl

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I’ve gone “all in” with the third season of New Girl, and the cast has never been stronger. Between Jess and Nick’s honeymoon phase, Schmidt’s juggling of CeCe and Elizabeth (played by the hilarious Emmy winner Merritt Wever), and Winston’s obscenities, the laughs keep coming. The latest episode hit home with a broad range of emotions, when Schmidt is finally caught in his double life. Both Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone change the tone of the quirky show in a tear-inducing break-up, but Merritt Wever perks us up again with her devil-may-care attitude, giving Schmidt a pie to the face. Now, he vows to split up the seemingly innocent couple, Jess and Nick. Will he succeed? Will Winston be able to take care of Ferguson the cat? So many questions!

The Mindy Project

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The OB/GYNs are back for a take two, after Fox barely renewed the show for its second season. Mindy is back with a host of guest stars like James Franco and Beth Grant. So far, the season is fast paced, well-written, and generally funny. However, the plot line of Dr. Reed being fat just isn’t working out and Mindy Kaling needs to pen in some more lines for Betsy Putch, the more naïve version of Pam Beasley.

Modern Family

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What’s there to say about Modern Family? As much as I ragged on them for winning their fourth consecutive Emmy just last month, the first few episodes of this season have reminded me why it is one of the greatest shows on television. It’s managed to stay topical, tackling the legalization of gay marriage by having Mitch and Cam get engaged – but not before a comedy of errors. Elsewhere, Gloria is convinced that Fulgencio is possessed by the Devil and Phil has found a new niche of real estate customers – divorced wives.

Parks and Recreation

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Pawnee’s Parks Department crossed the pond in the season opener of Parks and Recreation to accept Leslie’s award for women’s achievement in government. With the town still against her, Leslie learns to come to terms with her constituent’s ignorance with the help of April. Meanwhile, Tom has a new competitor in the clothing rental business: Jean-Ralphio’s father. Retta is still doing her thing (thang?) in the office, as Chris and Ann Perkins break the news to their co-workers about their pregnancy. I’m expecting big things from this season of Parks and Rec, even though Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are slated to bow out halfway through the season.

Downton Abbey

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Over in the UK, the upstairs/downstairs drama Downton Abbey is back in full swing, but the mourning of Mister Matthew has put a damper on their lives in the past six months. Also, O’Brien skipped town in the middle of the night (little explanation here), making Anna the head Lady’s Maid for Cora. Edith is off gallivanting in London with the publisher, while Mary mourns in her room, until Carson and the Dowager pushes her to her brink and she choses life – for her and her child. I’m loving the introduction of the electric mixer in the kitchen, finally giving Daisy something she’s good at. However, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, she’s left with a fake letter from Mrs. Patmore, while Olive gets one from Alfred, but she thinks it’s from Jimmy. It’s so middle school and I love it. All the while, Thomas has had a slight change of heart, and wants to be more of a part of baby George’s and baby Sybil’s life – much like Carson was a part of Sybil, Mary, and Edith’s life. I have a feeling the first two episodes were catch-up/set-up episodes, and hopefully they keep the drama coming.

What’s not working:

Homeland

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What was going on with the Homeland premiere? I understand that Brody’s confession must have destroyed his household, but by seeing the season three premiere, you’d think Dana is our main character. And don’t get me wrong, I think Dana is a very interesting, dynamic character, played by the very talented, Morgan Saylor. We saw very little of Claire Danes freaking out, which upset me, and too much of her having sex, which also upset me. Also, I know Brody is supposed to be MIA, but at least let us know what he’s up to, right? And Saul’s wife is back? Why? That part didn’t make sense. Let’s pray that this was just a bad set-up episode and that Carrie Mathison will go ham on some terrorists.

The Middle

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Just make a Sue Heck spin-off and I’ll be happy.

Looking Forward with BREAKING BAD

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What more can I say about Sunday night’s antepenultimate (fancy word meaning third to last; sports fans may know this as the quarter finals) episode?
Between Hank’s death and Walter’s now infamously misconstrued phone call to his wife, the episode exceeded my expectations and has been attracting a lot of attention. Since the episode aired, employees at AMC’s headquarters have been stuck in a continuous Sue Heck dance-loop.
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While other blogs have given you a play-by-play of the full forty-two minute masterpiece, I thought I’d spend this time contemplating a few matters at hand as we prepare ourselves for the final two episodes of this great series.
Before I make a prediction of the White family’s fate, let me lay out what we know:

1. Walter White skipped town, presumably with the help of Saul’s vacuum repairman, after knowingly victimizing his wife and family with his police-tapped phone.
2. Jesse Pinkman is being held prisoner by Todd and his Nazi-branded uncle. Using the picture of his ex-girlfriend Andrea and her son Brock, they blackmail Jesse into cooking meth again. We assume that he will be forced to continue as a part of Lydia’s global meth operation.
3. In the Season Five Part 1 premiere, we saw a flash-forward of Walt returning to Albuquerque. By the way he places the bacon on his plate at the local Denny’s, we know that it is his birthday – one of Skyler’s tradition we see in the episode “51.” In the same scene, he has a full head of hair, a New Hampshire license plate, and a pretty hefty gun.
4. In the Season Five Part 2 premiere, we see Walter drive from the Denny’s to his now-abandoned and dilapidated home. The living room appears charred and “Heisenberg” is spray painted on the wall. Walter goes into his room to retrieve the ricin, which has been stored in his handy-dandy wall outlet.
5. On his way out, his neighbor Carol appears petrified. It is obvious that the world now knows the truth about Walter White.

So what does this all mean? Here’s what I think/hope is going to happen.

1. Skyler, Flynn, Holly, and Marie will be put under Witness Protection. Walter will never see them again.
2. Walter will return to Albuquerque to kill Todd and his uncle’s crew, thereby liberating Jesse of servitude. This is what the gun is for.
3. Walt will then give the ricin back to Jesse – this will be a symbolic gesture, as if he is giving Jesse the power to kill him, just as Walter had the power to kill Jesse many times before.
4. Walter and Jesse will drive through downtown Albuquerque and pick up Wendy for old time’s sake.

So these are my (edited) predictions for the final two episodes of Breaking Bad, which will forever be one of the most realistic, dramatic, eye-opening, genre-shattering, mind-bending show on television. In addition to its amazing writing, the cast is brilliant – especially noting the often hated on Anna Gunn. Let me just say, her New York Times article perfectly narrates her life’s struggle over the course of the show’s production. Let’s just say I got chills when this happened.

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While I will be watching the Emmy Awards next Sunday night, I expect ratings to dip a bit for Breaking Bad‘s upcoming episode, but the finale on September 29th should hit record numbers. Maybe surpass The Walking Dead? One can dream.

Flashback: My “Red Wedding” Reaction

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Before I had my wisdom teeth surgery, I binged on Game of Thrones like so many Americans do on the daily. However, before embarking on my journey to the medieval lands of Westeros and Essos, Twitter spoiled something that I would come to know (and hate) as “The Red Wedding,” from Season 3, Episode 9’s now-imfamous episode, “The Rains of Castamere.” Knowing the spoiler, I thought I was ready for the brutal massacre of some of our beloved characters, but, alas, I was still caught off guard. Here is the series of events that transpired, reenacted by my friends…

First, I realized that I was about to watch “The Red Wedding” episode. Clearly, I was excited.

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Then, the scene came. I noticed a guard in the background close and lock the hall doors. What’s gonna happen?

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Then, the killing started.

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Followed by more killing.

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By the end of it, I didn’t know how to express my emotions. The result looked a little like this:

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But, when I finally finished my tantrum and calmed down, I realized how great of an episode it truly was.

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A Graduation and a Funeral: THE MIDDLE & MODERN FAMILY Season Finales

ABC wrapped up its 2012-2013 programming last night with the finales of The Middle and Modern Family, two comedies that are continuing to define comedic television with each progressive season.

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Over at the Heck household, Axl is gearing up for graduation, but is remaining distant from his nagging mother, Frankie (Patricia Heaton).  Meanwhile, Sue announces to her classmates that it will be her last week riding the bus because she plans to pass her driver’s test. Sixth times the charm, right? As the school year ends, Brick is reminded of his duty as class historian to create a picture slideshow of his grade’s elementary school memories – needless to say, he’s got nothing.

After a disastrous road test, Sue is awarded her license for braving all the elements, and she, once again, breaks out her accomplishment dance.

The episode ends with Axl walking across the stage, as Frankie, who has already declared she would not miss her son when he departs for college, turns into a sobbing mess. This, in turn, translated into my own mom breaking out in tears.

In the final scene of the season, Axl and Sue, both with their licenses, go off to see their friends, and Frankie clutches onto Brick, comically pleading for him to never leave.

The Hecks will be back for a fifth season in September, and recent Critics’ Choice nominations should give them a well-deserved boost in ratings. The show was nominated for Best Comedy over their glorified rival, Modern Family, and Eden Sher is finally getting the recognition she deserves with a nod for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy.

The Critics’ Choice Awards take place on June 10th and will be hosted by fan-favorite, Retta, who plays Donna on Parks and Recreation.

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On Modern Family’s season finale, the clan heads down to Florida for Phil’s mom’s funeral. Again, another somber scenario for ABC Comedy Wednesday.

While Mitchell clears up Gloria’s alleged prostitution charges in a Florida court, Cam is out making friends with the elderly women in the retirement community – stirring up gossip amongst the ladies.

Jay bumps into his “first,” a woman thirteen years his senior, and he is discouraged to find out that what he thought was a special night between the two of them was just another one-night stand for her.

The Dunphy kids each receive a gift from the deceased grandmother, and Alex contemplates the meaning of hers: a lighter. Soon, she discovers an accompanying note, which informs her that Paul Newman had left behind the lighter in her restaurant and that she had taken it without attempting to return it to him. The one customer who saw her steal it turned out to be her future husband and Alex’s grandfather. She reminds the straight-edged Alex to break the rules every now and again, so Alex uses the lighter to set off a beautiful fireworks display during the funeral, giving the perfect backdrop for the season’s close.

The Dunphy/Pritchett/Tucker gang will also be returning to ABC in the fall. Oddly, the Critics’ Choice decided to nominate Sarah Hyland, who plays the dim-witted, but good-intentioned oldest daughter Haley. Hyland’s nod is the only for nomination the show received, who could be a testament to the show’s waning dominance in the comedy world. Don’t get me wrong, the show’s consistency and originality is almost unparalleled to anything else on television, but new niches being created by premium cable shows like Girls and Veep, are changing the game completely.