Here’s this week’s installment of everyone’s favorite feature: “The Obsessive Viewer’s Week in TV!” This week was a big one. As far as new episodes, we had the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, a plot building episode of Boardwalk Empire, plus the premieres of How I Met Your Mother, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Mindy Project.
In the Rewatches, Catch Ups and Independent Viewings category, I finally finished up season 2 of The Newsroom, made some great progress on the recently added to Netflix 2nd season of New Girl and an intensely timed rewatch of How I Met Your Mother’s 8th season.
I also decided against watching the Emmys and let my ridiculous new habit of weekly HBO blu-ray purchases get the better of me. Read on and let me know what you think.
This section covers the episodes I watched of shows that aired a new episode this week.
Airdate: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Watch Date: Monday, September 23, 2013
I love that this season seems to be all about parallels. The scene where Skylar is being questioned mirrors the scene in the pilot where Walt is first told he has cancer almost exactly. Closer in the chronology, though, the heartbreaking scene where Jesse watches Todd murder Andrea while bound in the back of a car mirrors Walt’s pleas to Jack not to fire on Hank and Gomez while cuffed in the back of a car a couple episodes ago. It’s these little connections that really help make Breaking Bad more than just a TV show for a lot of people.
I loved Robert Forster’s role as Saul’s guy with the vacuum repair shop. Forster is a great character actor and it’s really a joy to see him work, especially in such an artistically gratifying series as Breaking Bad.
The scene where Walt asks Forster to stay with him for a couple hours for an extra $10,000 was hard to watch. It was heartbreaking. Walt has been on his path of destruction for a while now. He’s become Heisenberg and done horrible things to innocent people to get what he wants. But in this moment, we don’t see Heisenberg. We see the last vestige of Walter White as the man slowly fades and is (by the end of the episode) all but killed and replaced by Heisenberg.
The inclusion of the full theme song to end the episode as Walt vacates the bar and runs off to Heisenberg’s final act sent cold shivers down my spine. I both can’t wait for tonight’s finale and don’t want this series to be gone forever. We will remember his name.
Sidenote, I want to nerd out slightly. I have big plans for my viewing of the finale. Some friends are having a finale viewing party that I, sadly, won’t be able to make since my work schedule makes it hard to have any kind of social life. So what I’m planning is to work tonight, then come home and watch the five episodes of Talking Bad I have accumulated while I eat my dinner. Then I’ll watch the episode of Conan featuring everyone from the show. Once that’s done, I’ll watch the finale. I’m excited.
Boardwalk Empire – 403 – Acres of Diamonds
Airdate: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Watch Date: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Before I get started here, I just want to say how happy I am to see that HBO has renewed Boardwalk Empire for a 5th season! That announcement was a highlight of my week. Seriously.
Acres of Diamonds is a great example of the way Boardwalk Empire can take what other shows treat as bridge, or filler, episodes and turns it into a very engaging, entertaining and tense hour of television.
The best thing about Boardwalk Empire is the way it slowly builds throughout the season toward a memorable and hectic finale that ties together threads that we’ve been immersed in for the last few months. This episode was all about building the foundation of the story we’re being told and it was done in a highly satisfactory fashion.
Jeffrey Wright is killing it as Dr. Narcisse. Every scene he’s in plays out like we’re watching a master chess player making his first moves in a game he’s confident he’s going to win. It’s really great to see him work. The scene where he and Rothstein were negotiating their heroin deal was played very well. Both actors carry such a strong presence while delivering their lines with such precisely calculated calmness that it’s fascinating to watch them simply talk business.
On the other side of the coin, Nucky’s business dealings in Florida were interesting. It was refreshing to see a somewhat relaxed Nucky. It hasn’t hit the fan yet and he knows August isn’t a real threat to him. I wonder what kind of ramifications are going to come from the episode’s end. I loved the way the scream transitioned into the end credits.
Patricia Arquette was an interesting casting choice. She was really good in her later scene. I’m sure she’ll return at some point, however Nucky is returning to Atlantic City, it seems. So I’m curious when and how she’ll pop back up.
As disconnected as the Harrow farm storyline was from the rest of the season, I’m sad to see Richard leave his sister. I’m curious where he’s going next. He seems to be searching for peace and, knowing he can’t have it with his sister, I wonder if he’s going to continue searching or return to the bloody life he’s been entrenched in for so long. Regardless, he’s still a fascinating character and I’m excited to see what’s next for him.
Eli’s son got quite a bit of screen time this week. I liked it but I’m curious where it’ll lead. I feel like he’ll run back to Mickey and try to get into the business that way, since Nucky and Eli are so adamant about keeping him away. I can’t see Mickey actually letting him in, though. They hinted at it when Mickey gave him the booze, but I don’t know that he would go that far against his bosses’ wishes.
Speaking of, I really enjoyed Mickey in this episode. I don’t know if his behavior toward Eli’s son is an indicator of his growth as a character and his growth in the business, or if it’s simply an illustration of how his character treats those he (for lack of a better term) outranks. Either way, the scene played great.
Airdate: Monday, September 23, 2013
Watch Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
In the next section, you’ll see that I wrote about my experience rewatching last season of HIMYM. I got my rewatch completed under the wire and was able to watch the final season premiere a handful of hours after it aired.
And I loved it. I really did. Both episodes were a fantastic introduction to the new storytelling structure of the series. The plan to tell the story of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend over the course of an entire season gives the writers a very fresh and unique canvas with which to draw their characters and storylines to the best possible conclusions.
For years I’ve championed the show’s use of “romcom-esque” plots for episodes. Sprinkled throughout the series are several episodes with romantic comedy plots that are befitting of their own full-length movie. I feel like HIMYM is doing their “romcom” thing again, only this time they are using it for a season-long story. The elements are there for a spectacular final season.
I have a couple scenes of note to mention. First of all, the final scene with Ted sitting at the table in the lounge doing the crossword while “One Year Later” Ted and the Mother sit in the same spot was one of my new favorite moments of the series. I absolutely love that Ted’s first onscreen words to the Mother were “Hey Beautiful” (given that that is the title of the show’s theme song). I just thought it was a very touching scene and the two of them have really strong chemistry.
The final thing I want to mention about the premiere is Lily and the Mother’s meeting on the train to Farhampton. It’s funny, for years I’ve been comparing HIMYM to Friends. I believe HIMYM is the Friends of this decade. It’s not a stretch by any means. Both shows are about a group of young people in New York City, dating and getting into various hijinks.
A big difference between the shows, though, is that Friends had 6 characters, while HIMYM has 5. It’s a strange thing to focus on, sure. But I’ve always thought that the Mother was the “6th member” of the gang. I’ve thought that for years and always wanted the series to end with Ted meeting her.
What I didn’t realize until Lily met her in the premiere was that if the Mother is the 6th member of the gang, that means she’s close to the rest of the gang. When Lily met her on the train, she was meeting one of her future best friends. It blew my mind slightly and made me even more excited for the season.
I hope there’s an emphasis this season on the flashforwards and flashbacks that will help flesh out the character of the Mother and show us a ton of snippets of her relationship with Ted. That’s my only real hope for the end of the show. They are on their way to a very memorable conclusion. That’s for sure.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 101 – Pilot
Airdate: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Watch Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I asked my podcast co-hosts if they watched the pilot ep of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To my surprise they hadn’t. Even more, they weren’t terribly interested in it. That I can understand. I wasn’t terribly interested in it either when I started it. I didn’t approach the series with the excitement that I take with me to the latest Marvel movie. I approached Agents of SHIELD (tired of typing the full title and acronym) strictly as a source of “light entertainment” that will hold me over until Thor: The Dark World comes out.
I was impressed. The show has a very Whedon-esque quality to it and it’s never a bad thing to see Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson on a screen. The wit and expensive sets in the pilot really sold me on the show. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, though. I would expect a drop in quality in the episodes to come, assuming Whedon’s influence on the scripts decreases throughout the season’s run. But, for now, they have “assembled” me to the team of viewers who will be watching this series. See what I did there?
It’s worth mentioning that the series premiere got huge ratings. That doesn’t really surprise me, given how much of a juggernaut Avengers was. I feel like Marvel and Disney viewed SHIELD solely as a low risk investment. They made a boatload of money off the Avengers movies so why not create a TV series? If it fails, it won’t be any big deal in the grand scheme of things. For now, I’m glad it’s a success. I’m hopeful it will be a fun series.
Rewatches, Catch Ups and Independent Viewings
I’m nearly always rewatching a series, catching up on a show I’m behind on or going through a show I’ve never watched before from the beginning. This section is devoted to those viewings.
I have been known to call HIMYM the most consistently funny sitcom on TV. Some people would disagree with that but all I can use as a defense for my opinion is that throughout all 8 seasons I haven’t felt like I wasted my time watching or rewatching an episode.
A lot of people have a problem with season 6, and I understand their criticisms. However, season 8 was the season that I struggled with the most. Still, I laughed and connected with the characters. At this point in an aging sitcom, that’s probably the best you can hope for. Still, some of the situations presented problems for me.
Most notably the blatant ripoff of Friends when Victoria gives Ted an ultimatum. She’ll marry him if he stops hanging out with Robin. He chooses Robin. It’s very clearly ripped off from the Ross/Emily plot of Friends.
There’s also the strange first half of season 8. The season 7 finale reintroduced Victoria and then showed Barney’s proposal to Quinn just before we’re shown that his future bride is Robin. I feel like this presented a problem for the writers and they spent the first batch of season 8 writing themselves out of some holes.
The entire Autumn of Breakups arc seemed designed to move the plot forward lightning fast. It felt inorganic, mostly on the part of Robin’s relationship with Michael Trucco’s character, Nick. The character was introduced in season 6 and I understand he was intended to be Robin’s love interest in season 7 but Trucco was unavailable (so they got Kal Penn instead). But when they finally reintroduced him in season 8, it was wholly unceremonious and not in keeping with the series’ usual propensity for big callbacks and plot pickups. This felt solely like they were tying a loose end.
When the season originally aired, I had mixed feelings about the finale. I didn’t know what they planned for the show’s final season and felt like they left too much open. I wrote that I was disappointed in the finale and that it felt more like a setup for a final episode rather than a final season.
Then I read about the storytelling structure in season 9. You can read my thoughts on the premiere itself in the “New Episodes” section above. What I’ll say here is that upon rewatching the season 8 finale, after knowing the plans for season 9 and the “longest wedding weekend ever”, I was very satisfied with the show’s penultimate season’s finale. Knowing the weekend would be epic and meticulous enough to span an entire season just gave the threads they were laying down so much more weight and importance.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I rewatched the latter part of season 8. It may come across as me being an apologist or a bit of fanboy loyalty. I don’t think there is much I can say to dispel that opinion other than I genuinely had a better time rewatching last season’s finale than I did when it aired and I’m excited that the show’s final season is underway.
Airdate: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Watch Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Hmm. I thought season 1 of The Mindy Project was okay. Ike Barinholtz was really the standout of the season. If it weren’t for him (and Chris Messina, to a slightly lesser extent), I probably wouldn’t bother with the second season. The season premiere, though, left something to be desired.
I think the problem with the premiere (and the latter part of season 1) was Anders Holm’s portrayal of Mindy’s beau Casey. He plays the role as a cool, hip guy and every time he’s on screen it fills me with rage. I can’t really describe it. Holm’s plays up the cool/hip aspect of the character to the point where it’s distracting. It really makes me cringe.
I was disappointed when the premiere had Mindy and Casey getting engaged in Haiti. I hope that Casey staying in Haiti will keep him off the show for a while. If I have to watch his shtick every episode, I would strongly consider dumping the show.
A shining element of the season premiere, though, was James Franco. I don’t know how much he’ll be in the season but he did a good job playing Mindy’s replacement. He’s essentially “James Franco” in the show but his charm paired with the show’s above average writing makes for an entertaining display in the season premiere. I look forward to seeing where they go with the character.
Airdate: Sunday, September 8 & Sunday, September 15, 2013
Watch Date: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Coming off the heels of a very strong pair of episodes that really brought together the entire season, The Newsroom’s second season finished strong with two episodes featuring the News Night team covering the 2012 Presidential election.
It was a strong enough end to a season that took a few episodes to really get going for me. It was clear that Charlie, Mac and Will were never going to resign or get fired, so the suspense of that storyline was lost on me. It kind of reminded me of Maggie’s episode in Africa, in that respect. I liked it, sure, but they didn’t really present it in a way that made me fear for what was going to happen next.
I think Sloane and Don are becoming my favorite characters in the show. Their chemistry is worth singling out but, honestly, their characters are individually good enough that it seems cheap to talk about them together like that. I find it especially interesting considering we were kind of, sort of, meant to root against Don in early season one. But now I feel like Sorkin and company have realized his potential as a character.
I have a ridiculous crush on Olivia Munn, so anything I say in her favor could potentially be construed as bias. But I’m confident there are plenty of viewers with uncompromised opinions who would agree that Olivia Munn plays the “intelligent but socially inept kid sister type” role very well. Her scenes with Will earlier in the season were particularly of note.
The finale was satisfying overall. I think Sorkin and his team made it a little hard on themselves by keeping the fallout of Genoa and the attempt to gain back trust separate. But I guess for storytelling purposes it was a necessity. I’m excited for season 3, assuming there’s going to be one. As of this writing, HBO is working out the scheduling with Sorkin. Hopefully an official announcement will come soon.
Airdate: Nov. 2012 – Jan. 2013
I’m making my way through season two of New Girl and enjoying it quite a bit. At times it can be a bit derivative of past sitcoms but the charm of the main characters makes it forgivable. Max Greenfield is the standout as Schmidt but Jake Johnson, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris are all worth mentioning.
Zooey Deschanel is fitting into her role in the show. All in all, things are clicking for New Girl in season 2. I’m excited to get into the new episodes once I’m all caught up.
Here’s where I throw in anything TV-related that happened this week that doesn’t fit in the sections above and/or isn’t big enough to call for its own blog post throughout the week.
Purchase Date: Saturday, September 27, 2013
I wasn’t planning on buying season 3 so soon after buying the first two seasons. In fact, I told myself that it could wait until after season 4 concludes, when I’m rewatching the series. But I splurged when I saw it at Target for $5 less than what Best Buy was selling it for last week. At least now I have the complete collection.
I looked through some of the special features. There’s a really good 24 minute featurette with directors Tim Van Patten and Allen Coulter. They spend a few minutes going through their process directing certain episodes throughout the season. It was very informative and a great look at not only the production of the show but also the intelligence of the people creating it.
There’s also another comprehensive interactive feature detailing the history depicted in the show. Unlike season 2’s feature, this doesn’t have any videos and is broken up by location. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting, though. I only thumbed through it and came away learning a lot of new information.
There are 24 featurettes (2 per episode) that goes into detail about the history in the series. These 3-4 minute segments are called “Newsreels” on the disc and come out to a little over an hour total. There’s a great “Play All” feature for it.
There are some more special features I didn’t get around to but the last one I did check out was the “Boardwalk Chronicle” enhanced viewing option that accompanies every episode. I love this kind of feature as it runs through the episode with you, offering information as the story is being told. This feature doesn’t look as comprehensive and fun as the season 1 set’s feature did, but it’s a good option to have in order keep characters and locations straight.
The Primetime Emmy Awards
Airdate: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Watch Date: N/A
I didn’t bother watching the Emmys this year. I had some thoughts on the winners/losers thought. You can read my half-assed Emmy breakdown here.
That about covers it for this week in TV for me. What did you watch, buy or avoid? Let me know and follow me around the various corners of the internet with the links below.