Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tim's TV Talk Podcast, Episode 9: Reign of the Legend of Sleepy Parenthorror Story

We got a real smorgasbord on this here Tim's TV Talk. From medieval tween soaps to future M. Night Shyamalan source material to the joyful butchery of Washington Irving to the Braverman clan to witches and voodoo and minotaurs, this hour-plus podcast's got it all. We even take brief sidebars for reviews of The Michael J. Fox Show and the Carrie remake, a move so bold and ballsy no other podcast would even dare attempt it. Go forth, brave listeners, and hear opinions about TV shows!

Podcast timecodes:

Reign - 0:00 - 7:30 (spoilers through episode 2)

The Legend of Korra - 7:30 - 19:50 (spoilers through season 2 episode 8)

Sleepy Hollow - 19:50 - 26:10 (spoilers through episode 5)

Parenthood - 26:10 - 48:05 (spoilers through season 5 episode 5)

The Michael J. Fox Show - 48:05 - 50:08

American Horror Story: Coven - 50:08 - 1:02:20 (spoilers through episode 3)

Carrie (2013) - 1:02:20 - 1:09:07 (spoilers)

End - 1:09:07 - end

Tim's TV Talk Podcast, Episode 9: Reign of the Legend of Sleepy Parenthorror Story

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Best TV Episodes, September 2013

10. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. / Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 1 Episode(s) 1 – "Pilot"

Respectively the strongest drama and comedy pilots of this new fall TV season, neither Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which are both, frankly, kind of annoying to type!) came exploding out of the gate on fire, but both show promise. A runner-up to the list could be Fox's Sleepy Hollow, which has a bit of a fun Fringe-y, Supernatural-y vibe to it, but unlike S.H.I.E.L.D. lacks a pilot written and directed by Joss Whedon. Stay tuned for more thoughts on fall's new lineup later in the year, once I've gotten more of a feel for everything.

9. Parks and Recreation, Season 6 Episodes 1 & 2 – "London" (two-parter)

I've been vocally down on Parks and Recreation over the last year or so – increasingly, I feel like the show hit a peak in the nine-episode stretch between "Media Blitz" and "The Fight" back in season 3 that it's never been able to remotely match again – so, unlike with most critics, it actually means something when I say that "London" was a great season premiere. Better than any episode of season 5, in fact. It's the first episode in a long time to put a legitimately delightful new spin on Ron's uber-manliness, and the way it temporarily wrote out Andy to accommodate Guardians of the Galaxy's shooting schedule was actually damn clever. And unlike Friends' trip to London the photography was beautiful too, both of the city and in the countryside with Ron.

8. Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 12 – "Rabid Dog"

Having now seen all of Breaking Bad season 5 1/2, I feel comfortable declaring "Rabid Dog" the weakest of its eight episodes. Which is to say it was merely very good instead of one of the best TV episodes of the last several years. It was clear even while watching the episode the first time that this was an hour dedicated to shuffling the pieces into place for the insanity soon to come – did anyone really think anything crazy was going to go down in that public square at the end? – but the bizarre, burgeoning relationship between Jesse and the Schrader family was just the right brand of strange and funny. I only wish we could see more of Jesse's confession tape!

7. Parenthood, Season 5 Episode 1 – "It Has to Be Now"

When it comes to Parenthood, the difference between an average, good or great episode often comes down to the absence or presence of one moment that reduces me from manly man to big dumb weepy baby. In the case of the show's fifth season premiere, said moment was found in the episode's final minute, where returning Afghanistan veteran Ryan York proposed to Amber, the preferred Braverman of all people with hearts, scored to Joshua Radin's "My My Love." No showrunner has ever used music as perfectly as Jason Katims, and that's as true in Parenthood season 5 as it was back in Friday Night Lights season 1.

6. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season 9 Episode 3 – "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award"

Surreally and against all the rules of television, Always Sunny is, nine years in, just getting more and more ambitious. Once, it commented on how terrible these specific people were; now it turns its sights on the entire medium of television, as the gang finds themselves trapped in a shitty ABC-style sitcom as they visit another award-winning (i.e. Emmy-winning) bar, where the people are "likable" and the colors are bright and the banter is phony and the will-they-or-won't-they romance is gag-inducing. Unlike Community's semi-takedown of Glee, there didn't appear to be much winking or loving about this parody: It was downright scornful of the shitty comedies Emmy voters throw gold at. And it was glorious. One of my favorite Sunny episodes in years.

5. Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 15 – "Granite State"

"Granite State" was something of a schizophrenic episode: On the one hand, up in New Hampshire with Walt's story, Breaking Bad became as moody, quiet, introspective and methodical in its pacing (and snowy!) as we've just about ever seen the show. Even compared to similarly stationary episodes like "Fly" and "4 Days Out," Walt's story here lacked a goal or a purpose; he was just trapped, deteriorating. Rotting. Until he saw a certain TV interview, that is.

Meanwhile, back in the ABQ, with Jesse and all the rest, things went fucking horrifyingly nuts, with dead-eyed Landry Todd Alquist stepping up to join King Joffrey on the short list of contemporary TV's sickest, most unpredictably violent and terrifying villains. The two contrasting halves of the episode created an enjoyably odd mix, propelling events into the finale and ending with the show's first-ever onscreen use of the Breaking Bad theme song outside of the title card, which was just thrilling.

4. Futurama, Season 7 Episode 26 – "Meanwhile"

Futurama's last couple years may not have been what the show was at its peak – and, let's be honest here, a really freaking small handful of shows in TV history are what Futurama was at its peak – but "Meanwhile" was nevertheless just about all you could have asked for from its series finale. It was funny, it was emotional, it had crazy sci-fi time-warping shenanigans baked into its plot, and it wrapped up the series-spanning Fry/Leela arc in a way that was wonderful, joyful and just a touch bittersweet. It's one of the goriest episodes in the show's history and it leaves you with a smile on your lips and a tear in your eye. Classic Futurama right there.

It's also the first one of these long-lived animated sitcoms to have a true series finale that really feels like a series finale, wrapping up characters and story arcs in a manner that gives the impression of a finished story. The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy and American Dad live on and King of the Hill ended with a fairly non-eventful, non-climactic "life goes on" episode. But one day, those first four series will end, and "Meanwhile" gives them a good model for what kind of tone they might aim for in their final 22-minute slices.

3. Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 13 – "To'hajiilee"

(Spoilers follow!) The final ten minutes of "To'hajiilee" are, without question, among the most stomach-churningly suspenseful I've ever witnessed in television or film. I'm talking about everything after Uncle Jack's gang descends on Hank and Gomie, of course, but arguably even more importantly I'm talking about the minutes before they arrive. I mean, they're coming. You know they're coming. Hitchcock's bomb under the table is primed at ticking loudly when Hank is on the phone with Marie, delivering classic "I'm about to die" dialogue about how it's finally over and he loves her, and you just fucking know the Albuquerque desert is about to turn into Naziville, population Hank.

But all my years of 24 watching conditioned me to expect motherfucking SHOCK! moments (and Breaking Bad, too, has delivered a couple over the years), so I watched this on edge, every nerve ending alert, adrenaline pumping in a way no TV show should logically induce, ready for a gunshot to blow out Hank's brains out of nowhere. It turned out Vince Gilligan and company had something a bit different in mind, but still, holy fucking shit, what a sequence. What a set piece. I would be very interested to see what this episode's director Michelle MacLaren could bring to an action/thriller/suspense feature film once she's done with her work on Game of Thrones.

2. Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 16 – "Felina"

(Spoilers follow!) Part of what makes Breaking Bad great (and what makes it stand out in contrast to most attempts at "quality television" that have followed) is that, for all its darkness and misery and its focus on consequences and its character arcs of supreme, literary power, it's a really, really fun show with thick veins of pulp running through it. Always has been, from Walt destroying Tuco's office with magic bomb crystals to several instances of cool guys not looking at explosions to the half-Terminator/half-Anton Chigurh Salamanca twins to Two-Face Gus Fring fixing his tie before dying. And it's in that spirit that one of dramatic television's great narratives ends with its protagonist building and deploying a Nazi-killing robot. Awesome.

1. Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 14 – "Ozymandias"

However, the flip side of Breaking Bad's deliciously pulpy essence is all that other stuff I mentioned: The darkness, the misery, the consequences, and it's all on full display in "Ozymandias," which Vince Gilligan himself has declared his masterpiece and the best episode of the series. I'm not 100% sure I'm ready to go that far – I need to rewatch the entire series and see "One Minute" and "Full Measure" and "Crawl Space" and "Face Off" and "Dead Freight" again first – but it is as intense, brutal and harrowing an hour of television as I've ever seen. If "Felina" is the climax to Breaking Bad, the entertaining crime/thriller saga, "Ozymandias" is the climax to Breaking Bad, the intensely bleak tale of a man losing his soul and the horrors he rains upon everyone around him. Beginning to end, "Ozymandias" is an episode about consequences, and karma brought its full fury against Walter White and his family in service of just that.

Breaking Bad was brutal, fantastic, glorious brilliance. It is unequivocally one of the greatest TV series of all time. Now, internet, let's please try to maintain my love for it and frankly my sanity by shutting up about it for at least a year.