Archive for September, 2010

No Ordinary Family – 1.01: Pilot

September 30, 2010

“What every secret crime-fighter needs: a lair…with wi-fi” – George

Hot off the heels of the cancellation of Heroes, another show tries to make a name for itself in the superhero genre.  Taking a cue from The Incredibles, No Ordinary Family is about a family whose plane crashes while vacationing in South America.  When they get back, they slowly but surely come to the realization that they all have super powers.  Perhaps not the most convincing origin story (the only explanation given is that the lake they crash landed in was full of “sparks” or “shines” or whatever), but nonetheless, super powers afterward.  Jim, the patriarch, discovers he has some weird combination of super strength, relative invulnerability, and the ability to jump really high and really far.  The mom, Stephanie, can run real fast, the daughter, Daphne, can read minds, and previously learning disabled son JJ now has super intelligence.

It sounds like it could be an interesting premise, and the show gets some points for having a very lighthearted and introspective feel to it (as opposed to the poorly executed foreboding doom and gloom feel of the later seasons of Heroes), but overall, I don’t get a sense that the producers really knows where the show is going.  By the end of the first episode, we’ve discovered some neat applications for everybody’s new super powers (Mom can now spend more time with the family since she can get anywhere instantly), but I wasn’t left with any kind of curiosity as to how the show would proceed from there, which is not the most promising sign.  Jim’s always wanted to make a difference, and with his newfound powers, he can now fight crime on the street.  Yay?  Admirable, but it’s just not very exciting and doesn’t do a good job of filling up an hour of television.  Also, the problems of the family seem to be the same problems that every family goes through:  it’s tough to balance time for everything in everyone’s lives, kids and parents are drifting apart as everyone grows up, parents feel not completely fulfilled, etc etc etc.  I feel bad for the family, but honestly, your problems are just the same as everybody else’s.  Also, I just don’t see how superpowers are supposed to fix them.

At the end of the episode, they attempt to up the ante by revealing that there are others out there with similar powers, and there even seems to be something akin to an evil organization.  Worse, one of the evil conspirators just happens to be the family’s marriage counselor!  The problem is, the bit at the end felt way too tacked on, almost like an afterthought.  I appreciate the notice that yes, there is something deeper going and there are more mysteries to uncover, but there’s really not that much to get excited over, since no indication of any of their insidious plans are given.  Much like the premiere of The Event, there just isn’t a lot that happens in this hour of television.  There are some interesting and likable characters, but I’m just wasn’t very compelled by their story in the premiere.  At the end of the day, I feel like this is an interesting premise, but that there’s not much more to it then that.  It is by far the most disappointing of the new shows I’ve tried to pick up this year.  I’m willing to give it at least one more shot, but it better pick up the pace like The Event did, or I’m going to be dropping this one.

The Event – 1.02: To Keep Us Safe

September 29, 2010

“They have a hidden agenda, sir.  I know it in my bones.” – Sterling

See, The Event? Was that so hard?  Just show a few things actually happening, and you’re suddenly a million times more interesting!  After spending an hour with the show last week and pretty much only seeing a vanishing plane, I was ready to give up on this show if it didn’t get more interesting fast.  Truth be told, I was sorta looking forward to getting the time back, or at least being able to invest it in a different show.  Instead, The Event decided that it finally wants to peel back a few more layers and actually show us a few things.  The plane reappears and crash lands in Arizona, some weird black helicopters descend on the plane and basically kill everyone dead, and Sean manages to get away from the crash site, only to wind up in a hospital and under the custody of the police.  Seems he is wanted for the murder of Greg, one of the two new friends that he and his girlfriend met on the cruise ship a week ago.  Sean is innocent, of course, but the people who did murder Greg also are holding Sean’s missing girlfriend, Leila, hostage.  Oh yeah, and that other new friend they met on the cruise ship, Vicky?  Yeah, she’s in cahoots with the kidnappers/murderers, who were also the ones that convinced Leila’s dad to hijack the plane and attempt to kill the president with it.

Meanwhile, we learn a bit more about the 97 prisoners kept in Russia that the president had just found out about in the last episode (he was planning on holding a press conference announcing their existence and freeing them from captivity).  It turns out, they were discovered nearly 70 years ago, and are aliens!  Or rather, they’re humanoids that are similar to us, but possess significant differences in their DNA sequence.  Everyone involved in this particular conspiracy seems to believe that this means that they are extraterrestrial, but I’m more inclined to believe that this might mean they are a highly evolved version of the human.  I’d put my money on an upcoming revelation that the 97 prisoners were actually time travelers, and not aliens.  Either way, we learn a few things about them this episode: there’s more than just the 97 in captivity (some of the original group discovered by the government managed to avoid capture), they are responsible for what happened to that plane, and the director of National Intelligence, Sterling, believes they’re hiding something.  They go really out of the way to make it seem like this Sterling guy is obsessed with proving that the aliens are hostile.  We don’t know anything about the aliens.  For all we know, they might as well be trying to enslave all of humanity.  Yet based on Sterling’s creep factor and the fact that he described knowing something because he “feels it in his bones,” I’m inclined to side with the aliens.  That Sterling guy is just bad news, and there’s going to be some upcoming twist involving that is going to further paint his character in a bad light.  I know it in my bones.

One thing about the show that is getting very distracting, though, is its need to constantly give us some backstory on the current scene by showing a lengthy flashback sequence, complete with “_____ YEARS AGO” caption.  I understand that there are a lot of details they’re trying to fill in along the way, but literally having one per act is going overboard.  The rate at which the show jumps us back in time the wide ranges of times in which we flash back to make the show feel very unfocused, a bit like we’re getting the story told by someone who has severe ADD.  We start out simple and reasonable enough with “TEN DAYS AGO”, then 10 minutes later, we’ve escalated to “ELEVEN YEARS AGO.”  By the time we hit “NOVEMBER 2ND, 1944”, I had to laugh.  It was getting absolutely ridiculous, almost to the point of self-parody.  I get that they’re trying to keep us on our toes by bouncing us around the storyline, but it’s honestly much more distracting at this point than it is exciting.  I would have much preferred a smaller number of flashbacks, all limited to relatively the same timeframe.

So we’ve got a lot of different factions at work here: there’s the aliens, the government that has the aliens captive, the extremist group trying to kill the president for some reason, the non-captive aliens that may or may not be trying to free the captives (they even have a mole on the inside, Agent Lee), and the people caught in the middle of it all, like Sean or his kidnapped girlfriend.  Last week was a very uneven and unexciting introduction to the series, and it would have gone a long way to incorporate some of the scenes from this second episode into the first.  I wasn’t sure if I would be keeping this show on my TV schedule (apparently so did a lot of other people, ratings are down from last week), but I’m glad I at least stuck it out through this week, as things look much more promising for the show.  Unlike last time, I’m actually looking forward to seeing how some of the new developments will be addressed or resolved.  We’ll see how long The Event can keep this pace and momentum.

Premieres coming to an end…

September 28, 2010

With season and series premieres coming to an end, I will likely not be commenting on every single episode of every show I watch going forward, due to a combination of lack of time and the fact that  there is not always something noteworthy to say about each episode.  I’ll write an entry if I feel I have something worth writing down.

The Amazing Race – 17.01: They Don’t Call It The Amazing Race For Nothin’!

September 27, 2010

“This is the first time I’ve ever even heard of Stonehenge, and then I found out that it was a bunch of rocks.” – Vicki

Continuing my streak of talking about my favorite shows, the seventeenth season of The Amazing Race premieres.  We talked about my favorite show of last year and my favorite show of a few years ago.  This show is a very serious candidate for my favorite show of all time.  A simple idea but a very complex concept to execute: follow teams of 2 as they compete to do tasks in countries spanning the entire globe.  Along the way, teams that lollygag get eliminated.  It’s The Travel Channel on crack.  The very nature of a race keeps the show moving at a very fast and exciting pace, but it’s the moments where they slow down and explore the beauty of the areas of the world we rarely get the chance to see that is the defining and irresistible part of the show.  I went into the first season of the show some 10 years ago somewhat skeptical of whether the concept could really work.  15 minutes in to the first hour of the series, the 11 teams have already transported themselves from New York to Africa.  The fantastic shot of teams running down a narrow walkway in front of massive Victoria Falls is unforgettable and one that is burned into my head.  “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed a breathless Kevin, one of the team of best buds and former frat bros.  I was instantly in love with the show.

Other than the fantastic locations, it’s also the selection of cast that defines the show.  Over 16 seasons and 10 years, the casts have naturally had their ups and downs, with teams of funny and downright pleasant people and teams of insufferable egomaniacs (with some seasons featuring more of one than the other).  The first episode invariably features a 5-10 minute quick review of all the teams, and it’s usually then that you can more or less immediately tell who’s going to be fun and who’s going to be annoying (red flags are teams that use the words “competitive”, “intense” and “underestimated”).   Surprisingly, this season there were very very few red flags raised, both in the introductory segment and in almost the entire 80-85 minutes that followed.  One notable things about the cast this year is the relatively large number of woman/woman teams.  In 16 seasons of the race, there has never been a team of two women to win the whole thing, so the producers were clearly looking to tip the odds in their favor.  Even more notable is the fact that there are no teams of cheerleaders or models or those who make their living solely off the fact that they look good (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with teams like that, but it’s just nice to see that we’re not relying on them this season like we normally do).  Instead, we have all woman teams of doctors (intelligence!), home shopping channel hosts (interesting!), birth mother and daughter given away for adoption (fascinating twist on the family team!), and beach volleyball players (athletes!).  Also of note is the team of Michael and Kevin.  Kevin is kevjumba of Youtube “fame”, but the casting I find more notable is of his father, Michael, a first-generation Chinese immigrant who speaks with a very thick accent and an imperfect grasp of English grammar.  Due to my own ethnicity, I do have a natural inclination towards Asian casting in television, and this is the first time I’ve seem a cast member who will probably require subtitles to understand most of what he says.  With the culture gap, it’s going to be very interesting to see both his own reactions and attitudes in running the race and the  way the two’s relationship will develop along the race.

The first episode featured some pretty amazing setpieces as the teams visited Stonehenge, staged an “assault” on an English castle, and completed tasks next to a jousting tournament in the English countryside.  Some teams flourished while others struggled.  The home shopping network hosts Brook/Claire suffered a mild setback, as a watermelon catapult malfunctioned on Claire, causing the watermelon to slam right back in her face.  She showed her worth by not only picking herself and completing the task, but managing to still finish in 4th.  Few standouts teams emerged in this first episode, but it was nice to see everyone for the most just getting along and having fun.  It seems like a good group this year with a mostly positive energy.  Mallory of the father/daughter team Gary/Mallory was full of spunk and vigor and seemed willing to take on almost any task.  Interestingly enough, I actually managed to predict the first team to be eliminated solely on the introductory packages.  They shut me up in the first few minutes by managing to be the first team to get on the early plane out of the US and to England, but managed to not only squander their trivial lead (only 30 minutes, bad move on the producers’ part) but get completely lost in searching for almost all of their destinations.  Nothing in particular tipped me off that they would be first to be eliminated; I think they just seemed the least interesting team from the introductions and maybe I just wanted them to be the first to leave.  Farewell, Ron/Tony.  You may well have been interesting people, but you were not good racers.

Who I’m rooting for: At this point, the easier question is who am I not rooting for. There are a lot of very likable people on the race this year (although as layers are peeled back, I’m sure we’ll very soon start rooting against more and more teams).  So who am I not rooting for?  Young, dating teams are usually boring and a dime a dozen, but it’s especially easy to root against them when they’re “competitive” douchebags.  So yeah, I’m not rooting for Chad/Stephanie. Also, Nick/Vicki seem nice enough, but bumble around too much.  There are more interesting and capable people to be rooting for (like, uh, almost everyone else at this point).

Who will win: As I mentioned, they seemed to really stack the deck with strong woman/woman teams this year.  It just might be the time for one to finally take the checkered flag.  Of the woman/woman teams in the race, I’d put my money behind female doctors Nat/Kat. They seem able to handle the more athletic tasks of the race, and the fact that they are doctors means they have the ability to focus on the task at hand.

The Office – 7.01: Nepotism

September 27, 2010

“I said I don’t want to be on the internet!” – Angela

My favorite episodes of The Office involve relatively simple plots that seem like they could naturally develop in an office setting.  Episodes like the wedding and birth episodes from last season were big in scale and offered a lot of good and genuine laughs, but I would always be taken out of the moment by thinking of the improbability of getting the entire office involved in attending the wedding (especially since it was a destination wedding) or to be present at the birth of Jim and Pam’s baby, or moments like Andy disguising himself as a car mechanic or the entire situation in “Scott’s Tots”.  I much prefer episodes like “Koi Pond” that tell a relatively simple story and rely more on awkward character traits than huge setpiece-based comedy.  There are better shows for that kind of comedy, like 30 Rock or How I Met Your Mother.  Quieter, subtler comedy suits The Office better.

Thus, I was pretty happy when the plot of the premiere episode unfolded and it indeed turned out to be a relatively simple story: everyone hates the new hire, but Michael wants to keep him around because he’s family.  Despite displaying mass incompetence and a general lack of concern for anything even remotely related to the job, Michael refuses to do so much as give him any indication that he’s doing a bad job.  The other plot involved Pam trying to make it up to Jim after she causes a prank to go wrong.  Yet another simple story about a loving and devoted wife trying to make her loved one happy (even though Jim was being kind of a jerk about the whole thing).  Of course, the writers couldn’t help themselves entirely and still snuck in several over-the-top jokes, like Dwight immediately establishing a “peeing corner” after getting stuck in an elevator with Pam (a result of the make-up-prank itself gone wrong).  Still, I enjoyed both the humor and the spirit of the premiere.  After a relatively disappointing sixth season, this episode gave me hope for a fond farewell season for Steve Carell.

Despite my confessed preference for subtler, more realistic moments, I did enjoy the cold open of the office staging a “lip dub” viral video to “Nobody But Me”.  My own office stages a talent show every year, and one of the more popular options is to create a video of some kind.  I can totally imagine people in our office organizing something like this and everyone getting a kick out of it.  I mean, they’ve got these expensive and nice cameras following them around almost 24/7 for the last 6 years, why wouldn’t they do something like this?

30 Rock – 5.01: The Fabian Strategy

September 27, 2010

“No, Tom Jones! No!” – Liz

So I just got done professing my undying love for Community.  If this had been 3 or 4 years ago, the show I would have been tongue bathing would be this show instead.  After a small number of only mildly funny episodes, 30 Rock quickly became the gold standard of absurdist and satirical humor and was my favorite comedy on air.  Cue forward to the premiere of season 5, and while I don’t think it’s as funny as it used to be (the 5 episodes of post-writer’s-strike Season 2 is just about the funniest streak of episodes ever), it remains among the funniest sitcoms still airing, due in no small part to the impeccable writing and the amazing talents of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin (as well as the best utilization of Tracy Morgan ever).  I went into this episode well aware of the fact that my once-favorite show had likely already reached its peak and was on a slow but steady decent of quality until it was eventually canceled or ended.  To my surprise, I found the premiere to be one of the strongest episodes I’ve seen in a while; I enjoyed it more than most episodes from the fourth season.  The episode dealt with Liz and Jack dealing with the aftermath of the end of season 4, where they both had turned a new chapter in their romantic lives: Liz with a new boyfriend (of sorts) and Jack agreeing to help father the child of his pregnant girlfriend.  Still, in this episode, they both found themselves overcoming obstacles with their newfound loves.  Jack, not wanting to give into his girlfriend’s desire to redecorate his apartment, employed a military tactic in his negotiations and began to view her as his adversary.  Meanwhile, Liz found herself unwilling to move past the pattern in her relationship of only seeing her boyfriend once every few weeks (he’s a pilot).  Of course, no one on this show is allowed to be content with the way things are, and both are forced to address the issues in their respective relationships.  Liz’s pathetic attempt to console her boyfriend who wants more out of their relationship was particularly hilarious (“No! It OK! Don’t be cry!”)

Though the main plot was funny enough, I particularly enjoyed the Jenna storyline of the episode.  Through the enactment of a clause in her contract requiring that she receive an executive producer credit by the 5th season of TGS, she quickly discovers that she not only enjoys being involved with the business of running the show, but actually is a natural at it.  The character of Jenna has gone through some interesting changes over the season, going slowly from egocentric diva actress to crazy and somewhat disturbed individual.  While it has provided some genuinely hilarious lines (“Drinking contest? What am I, 12 years old and at my boyfriend’s frat party?”), I always felt like the over-the-top crazy aspect of Jenna wasn’t nearly as convincing as over-the-top crazy Tracy and wished they would dial it back a notch with her.  Thus, I really enjoyed the direction they took with Jenna in this episode, making her cold, effective, and efficient as a co-producer of the show (leaving Pete time to lounge around and talk about some…rather disturbing things he does with his wife).  I was even somewhat disappointed at the end when they reset the slate by having her resign her post as executive producer, even though I knew that it had to come.  It was a lot of fun to watch Jenna do something a little different than play to the overreacting drama queen, and it gave me hope that the writers will find interesting things for the characters to do this season.  After all, we’re past the season premiere, and Kenneth still hasn’t gotten his old job back!  Looking forward to seeing how that one gets resolved too!

Community – 2.01: Anthropology 101

September 26, 2010

“I can tell life from TV, Jeff.  TV makes sense; it has structure, logic, rules, and likable leading men.  In life, we have this.  We have you.” – Abed

OK, here we go.  If you’ve spent any time at all around me in the last year, you probably already know:  I love Community. It was my favorite sitcom, favorite new show, and favorite show period on TV last season.  It started off simple and funny enough, but over the course of a year, it steadily got better and better and transformed into a comedic beast full of snappy, sarcastic dialogue, amazing pop-culture references, relatable and ridiculous characters, scenes of unbelievable awkwardness, and a good helping of heart and soul.  It would have been so easy for this show to become “Joel McHale And Hot Blonde, plus some other one-dimensional people.”  Instead, almost right away, the show began exploring the many different aspects of each of the characters, as well as the different relationships they discover with each other.  Main jerkwad character Jeff and deeply religious mother-of-two Shirley discover that they both have a natural love of gossip.  Sarcastic cynical Britta and former high-school jock Troy bond when they discover they’re both taking dance classes.  The entire study group gets together to help awkward introverted Abed talk to a girl that might have a crush on him.  The list goes on and on.  Naturally, there are some pairings that are more prominent than others (just take one look at the closing bumpers, usually featuring Troy and Abed), but as everyone begins to open up to each other, you really get the feeling that the study group is really becoming a genuine group of friends that both care for and rag on each other.  Add to that some of the best writing on TV and the weirdest cast of background characters (Sr. Chang, StarBurns, Moby-lookalike Dean Pelton), and you’ve got an absolute winner of a show that makes you laugh your ass off and feel a tinge of warm-fuzzy-gooeyness too.

So after a year of Spanish classes, holiday parties, a debate competition, shooting naked pool (or at least in really short gym shorts), an epic paintball battle (that is essentially one big action movie parody), and a healthy dose of sexual tension between Jeff and Britta, the season ends with Jeff and Annie making out with each other.  Clearly the focus of the season 2 premiere would be the resolution of this particular story thread, but part of me thought that after making such a blatant cliffhanger, it would be funny if they had started season 2 with everyone just accepting Jeff and Annie as a couple and nobody making a big deal about it at all.  But no, address the cliffhanger we shall.  There is a small amount of tension in the group due to unresolved feelings (Jeff attempts to convince Annie that it was a mistake and they should sweep it under the rug) and the lingering humiliation from the embarrassment of Britta publicly confessing her love to Jeff at a school dance (which she quickly explains was only the result of getting hyper-competitive with Jeff’s ex-girlfriend).  The latter soon gets turned on its head as Britta finds herself popular amongst the women on campus (who see her as a symbol of fearlessness) and Jeff develops a reputation for being heartless.  In an attempt to diffuse this new turn of events (and almost certainly partly to turn the tables again on Britta), Jeff decides that his only recourse is to publicly “confess” his “love” for Britta, forcing the two to keep up a charade of being in love with each other.  As their egos collide and their stubbornness and competitive nature kicks in, they attempt to outdo each other in fake displays of affection.

What I love about the show is the attention to detail and the small moments that are almost missable, but still add so much.  For every big moment like Jeff and Britta being forced to awkwardly making out with each other in class in order to keep up the pretense of being in love, there are little things like Abed and Troy sharing a high-five without even looking at each other after someone gets hit with a blow dart, or one of Britta’s fangirls mouthing along as another reenacts the big confession from last season, or the insights into each character during the opening sequence where each character’s bedroom is shown as they wake up for the first day of class (fun fact: Troy wears Spider Man pajamas in reference to a half-jokey Twitter campaign to get the actor, Donald Glover, to play Spider Man in the upcoming movie).  Of course, that’s not to take away from the big moments: the climax of the episode involves turning 9 separate weapons into a single even deadlier weapon wielded by none other than Betty White.  Community’s ability to expertly meld these two extremes is just one of the many reasons why it’s my favorite show on TV.  Along with providing truly side-splitting laughs and genuinely heart-warming moments, the show really rewards you for paying attention.

The bottom line is this: if you’re not watching Community, you’re doing it wrong. This show comes with my highest recommendation, and the second season is already off to a fantastic start.

“Turnin it into the snake!”

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – 6.02: Dennis Gets Divorced

September 24, 2010

“Excuse me, hi, what is the recommended amount of money for one to make it rain?” – mac

There were two scenes in this episode I really liked.  The first took place in a strip club and featured Mac doing dancing in his seat in a fashion that can only be described as holding the handlebars on a motorcycle.  Charlie tries to copy the dance, leading to some arguing between the guys over how best to do the dance.  It’s a simple scene that only lasts a few seconds and doesn’t become too heated, but I love the natural back-and-forth between the guys while they argue over who’s doing the dance better and why it doesn’t matter if it’s not the right way to drive a motorcycle.  It really plays into the natural traits of each of the characters, and even though Mac gets annoyed, it’s a nice reminder that the four of them are at heart friends, even if they would screw each other over in a heartbeat for some personal gain.  For a show as chaotic as this, it’s nice to see the small moments every now and then.

The other scene I liked involved Dee coming home and discovering the married man she’s been sleeping with waiting in the hallway, along with a couple suitcases.  The man proceeds to describe his predicament (“I decided to come clean to my wife”), only to have a completely clueless Dee just laugh it off (“Ouch…bet you wish you could take that one back, huh?”), not even realizing the reason why he is at her door.  It’s another small moment, but Kaitlin Olson really sells both the obliviousness of why the man is at her door and the sudden unpleasant realization when he asks if he can crash on her couch for a while.

Other than that, it was a pretty normal and hilarious episode of It’s Always Sunny:  kidnapped children, messy divorces, and a creepy lawyer who has a weird obsession with hands, children, and keeps taking pictures “for the website.”  It’s hilarious because it’s completely bizarre and very little attempt at explanation is made.

Modern Family – 2.01: The Old Wagon

September 24, 2010

“If an accident does happen, I hope he kills me, because I don’t think I’d be a very inspiring disabled person.” – Cameron

Modern Family was one of the very pleasant surprise hits of the last season.  The pilot episode was one of the funniest and freshest 30 minutes of television I’d seen in a long time.  It was clever and witty, while at the still time maintaining a healthy dose of heart and on-screen love.  This is, after all, a show about a family (and not one of those dysfunctional ones).  The reveal of Lily to the rest of the family still remains one of, if not the funniest moment on television of last season (and seriously, if you didn’t find it funny, you basically have no soul.  Not because you don’t have a sense of humor, but because it means you haven’t seen The Lion King, and seeing that movie is one of the requirements of having a soul).  I was super happy that it won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series, partly because it was the funniest out of the nominated shows (I guess Curb Your Enthusiasm could have been funnier, I don’t know), and partly because I was ecstatic that Glee didn’t win.  If it wasn’t for a certain series that started out not as funny as this show but got steadily and steadily better as the season went on (oh, I’ll be talking about that show soon enough), Modern Family would have been my favorite sitcom and favorite show on TV last season.  Instead, it has been relegated to one of my top 5 shows on TV right now.  I’m sure it will find some way to live with that.

So how was the premiere?  It’s like we never left; with no loose ends to resolve, the show picks up immediately where it left off with just another day with the Dunphys, Pritchetts, and…the other Pritchetts (Delgados?)  The Dunphys try to sell an old car, Cam and Mitchell try to build a play-castle for their daughter, and Gloria sees Manny slipping away from her in the pursuit for wooing women.  I would have liked the families to have interacted a bit more with each other, since this is the first episode back (the only thing we get is Jay helping out Cam and Mitchell), but as usual, the show has a nice way of tying up all three separate stories with an overarching message: that sometimes we need to let things go and move forward from the past.  This is a show that could fall into one of two traps: being way too schmaltzy or being too caught up in trying to make the audience laugh and forgetting that the families involved are still normal, loving families.  Luckily, the writers know exactly what they’re doing and manage strike a great balance between the two.  By the end, the car is ruined, egos are crushed during the building of the castle, and Manny is still trying to woo the ladies.  And yet, despite everything that goes fubar, the families are all brought closer together through the experience, laughing at how stupidly everyone was acting throughout it all.  Good times.  We really can look back at it all and laugh.

Welcome back, families.  I didn’t realize how much I actually missed you guys.  (But you’re still not really the best sitcom on TV right now :P)

Survivor: Nicaragua – 21.02: Fatigue Makes Cowards Of Us All

September 23, 2010

“Can we vote?” – Fabio

Well, that certainly was a lot of crazy we were just exposed to.  Holly on the Espada tribe gets worked up over some overheard comments and decides to essentially ruin an expensive pair of shoes by filling them with sand and throwing them in the ocean.  Then, feeling the stinging pains of guilt, she decides to call a tribe meeting to confess her crimes and manages to come off looking like a complete lunatic.  Yikes.  Meanwhile, the La Flor tribe get beaten at the immunity challenge and are sent to tribal council, where Shannon proceed to completely go off to everyone about everything, calling Chase unloyal, Brenda untrustworthy, and for some reason, Sash gay.  At the same time, Naonka spends the entire episode being self-centered and judgmental after thinking someone stole her socks and decides for some reason that she just doesn’t like Fabio (Jud…ugh, I hate that they officially made his name Fabio) and takes that attitude all the way to tribal, mouthing off the entire time.  Jesus.  Usually it takes a few weeks to get to this point of openly yelling at each other during tribal council, or even outside of tribal council for that matter.  The first few episodes are supposed to be just about getting rid of the weak tribemates who can’t contribute to challenges well enough.  And yet, here we are on episode 2 and we’ve already got people running their mouths off at tribal council.  Shannon especially dug himself into an even deeper hole with his ranting and raving about loyalty and trustworthiness and basically taking an accusatory stance the entire time.  It’s not quite clear what the voting spread was to be going into tribal council, but I would not be surprised if some people changed their minds right then and there about who they were going to vote off.  Looks like there’s going to be quite a bit of drama on La Flor in the upcoming weeks.

I guess more stuff happened in the episode.  Some scattered thoughts:

-I was appreciative that Naonka at least admitted that she was dead wrong about Kelly B and her prosthetic leg.
-Pretty surprised that Brenda was identified as a threat this early on and was on the chopping block.  I’m glad that it shows the youngun’s are thinking long and hard about the game, but I hope she sticks around for at least a little longer.  She’s entertaining and good eye candy.
-Nice job finding the immunity idol, Marty, but dammit Jill, don’t just give someone else the answer to the clue and then walk away expecting them to find it and share it with you.  You want to be in control of the thing, not leave it up to someone else!

Who I’m rooting for: I still like Marty.  He’s got that car salesman look in his eyes, but he seems pretty intelligent.  I’m also going to add Brenda to my rooting list, for reasons listed above.

Who will win: Brenda’s already been identified as a thread, so I doubt she’ll make it all the way to the end.  At this point, I’m going to say Marty. He’s shown himself to have some smarts, identifying the wisdom of letting Jimmy Johnson take the leadership role and not being seen as a target.  Plus, he has the idol.  I still get good vibes from Yve, but until she says more, I’m going to have to hold off on predicting her as the winner.