Maybe it's the budding fever that hit me last night, but "Under Pressure" may have been my favorite episode so far this season. I credit that not to the onslaught of guest stars, but more to the super-fast pacing that really just had this episode moving right along with quick laughs and away from stuff that wasn't as amusing. Here are the moments, from worst to best.
New Girl writers, you sneaky little devils, you. In the midst of a slump you figured out a way to get the show back in its late Season 2 groove: instigate sexual tension between Nick and Jess again. Genius. When New Girl hit its creative stride in the second half of Season 2, it was when Nick and Jess were at their will-they-won't-they greatest and since they've settled down, that magic spark has pretty much fizzled. That is, until last night's episode "Basketball," which found the two flirtatiously teasing each other just like the good old days…and dammit, it worked. "Basketball," not only put the wheels in motion for Schmidt and Winston story lines involving their respective careers, but it was the most fun I've had watching Nick and Jess all season. They still don't quite know what to do with Coach, but with this show, there always seems to be an odd man out. Here are the do's and don'ts we learned from "Basketball":
It's been a number of years before we had anything remotely kind to say about American Idol, and when we got a full screener of this season's premiere, we definitely rolled our eyes. It seemed like a sign of desperation because the show usually just sends critics teasers for each season, not full episodes. So out of sheer curiosity (and boredom during that off week during the holidays), we decided to check it out. And, well, it was surprisingly decent. We'd go so far as to even say watchable, almost to the point of enjoyable. And if the premiere is any indication of the direction the show is taking this year, maybe we'll grouch less about having to sit through yet another competitive reality singing show. This is not to say that it's blow-your-mind DVR-worthy but it is definitely leaps and bounds above the last few Simon-less seasons. So why the dramatic improvement? Here's our take on the big changes:
This new imported SyFy series is based on a series of popular fantasy novels that look like that they should be classified as YA, so maybe we should grade on a curve. But Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries have proved that books popular with teen readers can make for engaging television, while even Teen Wolf has demonstrated that you can take a light goofy movie and turn it into a dark and twisty TV show that can be watchable for audiences of many ages instead of just the younger demo. But this new show lacks the emotional resonance of any of those shows. It takes itself far too seriously to be any fun, like Teen Wolf and seems really low on the soapy drama and over the top antics that make PLL and Vampire Diaries tick. Instead we just get a show about a female werewolf who is trying to run away from her pack, and gets called back home when a "mutt" starts killing. We actually laughed out loud at one of the scenes of someone being attacked by a terribly CGI'd wolf, and that was only one of the most ridiculous things about the premiere of this show.
The first two seasons of Girls were divisive ones among viewers, to say the least, and that's because it's an either-or show. You either chuckle or cringe at the self-absorbed antics of Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her pack of equally misguided twenty-something friends Adam, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa (Adam Driver, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, and Jemima Kirke, respectively.) You either love and defend Girls (even when it makes you squirm), or you hate it and attempt to will it out of existence (especially when it makes you squirm.)
It's almost too ironic that Fox's new comedy Enlisted (you know, the one you've seen roughly 79,282,084 commercials for) is about being outstanding in your field and getting stuck in a position that's beneath you. Because that's exactly what Fox has done to this very funny and heartwarming series by sticking it in the dead zone time slot that is 9:30 PM on a Friday. (It's also ironic that the title Enlisted looks a whole lot like the title Enlightened, another show that never got a fair shake.)
It's no accident that IFC announced its rebranding as… IFC on the same day it debuted The Spoils of Babylon. After all, this star-studded spoof of old-school television miniseries (made in conjunction with Will Ferrell and his Funny or Die outfit) has next to nothing to do with the channel's original identity as the "Independent Film Channel" and everything to do with its burgeoning line-up of alt-comedy shows like Maron and Portlandia. So, going forward, IFC simply stands for IFC and if Spoils works ratings magic, you can expect to see more stunts like it in the future.
The show is back to its regularly scheduled timeslot without the chaos of double episodes and long hiatuses that we endured last fall. And "Second Chunce" was just about adorably perfect, with a Kristen Bell appearance, just enough Jean-Ralphio, a super romantic gesture, Tom finally getting his act together and Andy back in town. Here are the best pairings of the episode:
You know it's a heavy episode of Parenthood when All-American Rejects front man Tyson Ritter singing an original song called "Jasmine All the Time" is the least traumatizing thing to happen. "Stay a Little Longer" not only had us say goodbye to Ryan and Amber, presumably forever, but it also gave us a crumbling Joel declaring that he didn't want to work on his marriage with Julia. Just in case that didn't twist the knife enough, they also had Adam struggling with the realization that his son Max might go through life alone. Oh, and Sarah was there bellyaching to Hank and Hank was there bellyaching to Sarah and they both sucked up a whole lot of the show's precious hour with their "drama." I mean, couldn't the show, like, check in on Haddie during those times? She's gotta be up to something these days. The Bravermans seemed to have phased her out completely. Until then, here's the best and worst Braverman pairings from "Stay a Little Longer":
Since you are reading Television Without Pity, there's a strong likelihood that you are familiar with a little show called Chuck that we talked about obsessively for a few years. Chuck was a nerdy guy who got his life flipped upside down when his brain got filled with a high-tech government computer, and then he got a super attractive handler, a secret identity and had a lot of adventures. This new CBS procedural has a remarkably similar premise, with a little bit of Six Million Dollar Man thrown in for good measure. The main difference between Intelligence and Chuck (aside from the obviously larger budget) is that they got rid of all the nerd factor and the quirkiness and increased the hotness. Here, Gabriel (Josh Holloway of Lost fame) is all clean-cut, former military and sporting cable-knit sweaters. He's got a lovely handler (hey there, Little Red Riding Hood) and still has the computer in his brain that makes him an asset and a weapon.
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