Best and Worst of Last Week’s TV: 4/5/15 – 4/11/15

Good:
Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 10

I wish I could pull scams like this

Where: AMC
When: Mondays at 10:00 PM
Why:
Because Breaking Bad (aside from the title) wasn’t just a great show about someone losing total control over their sanity and actively ruining the lives of those around him.  Better Call Saul, for the moment, is about a man who is actively trying to do the right thing but keeps getting put back into a life that he wanted to escape.  It is like when an ice cream shop opens up between a Planet Fitness and a Weight Watchers, but with more sibling rivalry and less people saying things about a “no judgment zone”.

I would watch anything the lead writer/creator (Vince Gilligan) came up with at this point.  If they announced that they were doing an adaptation of the white pages, the yellow pages boring little brother, I would watch it.  He would find a way to make it about sex, guilt, high stakes something or another, and ending up on the wrong side of the law when all you want to do is find out why so many people have S starting their last name.

Bad:
Olympus: Season 1, Episode 2

Acting is hard

Where: SyFy
When: Thursdays at 10:00 PM
Why:
Not everything that the SyFy channel puts out is pure gold, or even Sharknado 2: The Chronicles of Sugar Ray.  Most of the time the things that they produce end up being less like Battlestar Galaticta, or even Zombie Nation if we are being honest, and more like watching a Sliders marathon where it only shows the second to last episode in the series over and over again.  Olympus leans more towards the later seasons of Eureka (like a normal Sliders marathon, but with everything in reverse order and not from the same season), in that it will probably have devoted fans but manage to be successfully—and rightfully—hated by everyone else, than really expecting it to be good or not constantly on a green screen.  It even has the weird, “none of this will ever matter” feel that was well established as a foothold when SyFy decided that if anything lasted more than three seasons they were completely allowed to reboot their universe, once a season.  Towards the end Eureka managed two reboots in one season, say what you want; not caring that hard what your fans think takes effort.

Take everything you saw in an HBO preview of Rome, or The Tudors or old timey show like that, not watch the show proper, and then make it about Greek Mythology, which you also know almost nothing about—you would get the pilot episode here. If I had to guess I would say that Olympus was cast at a Comicon based only on what people where wearing, then expected to bring that custom as they had no budget to supply anything addition–aside from bedsheets.  The main character’s (Tom York) weapon is a rope, not Michelangelo’s grappling hook from the latter seasons of TMNT, a rope with nothing on the end of it. Not even a knot. No one makes fun of him for this. He also doesn’t have a name.  Not in even a cool way, like he was abandoned traumatically or something else Batman worthy,  it literally sounds like they just couldn’t think up a good one in time for filming, made an B.S. excuse, and went with it.  Things like this really make me wonder if I could just walk into their SyFy headquarters and just pitch whatever and have it picked up for two seasons.  It is like they are in some kind of strange Brewster’s Millions gamble with all their Galaticta money.

Good:
Mad Men

It is like they are having a Scooby Doo off

Where: AMC
When: Sundays at 10:00 PM
Why:
It isn’t that Mad Men tries to outline what manly men should be, or even that it has what an acceptable life in the 60s probably resembled.  I am not even sure about how much of the stuff that they depict on the show is historically accurate after a certain point.  What I am sure about is that the show is just riveting; each of the characters in it are self-absorbed in such a specific way that they have created a little world that only exists for themselves, a place that others only ever really visit.  It is great to see, though, as these people fumble through their own issues while trying to deal with whatever is thrown at them.  Oddly the key to the best writing in the show is that no one ever really seems to know what someone else is doing until they either see it or it is explained to them, because story telling.

There are two shows on TV that are able to take yearlong breaks, mid-season, while not losing viewer ship or even changing the number in front of that series.  That said it is also the most annoying thing to ever have been done, it has only ever been done on AMC, and even the box sets for Breaking Bad refer to each part of that season differently.  It takes Don Draper (Jon Hamm) sized testicles to pull a stunt like that and think that it is “for the best.”  That would be like me trying to explain to my dog that it would be beneficial for it to learn to brew beer for me, because I am not sure which one of us would get less out of that conversation.

Bad:
The Comedians: Season 1, Episode 1

It would have been funnier if Pussy Riot wasn't a real band

Where: FX
When: Thursdays at 10:00 PM
Why:
I don’t even dislike this show that much, but man Billy Crystal got super old.  It is like someone found the least attractive statue made out of miscellaneous gum pieces, of him, and motorized it to act. It is a toss-up on the last thing I saw Billy Crystal in, either City Slicker 2 or some random walk on roll that Robin Williams got him.  If those references make me seem old, just remember that he was in his 40s when he was doing those, and that was probably a good 20 years ago.  It still creeps me out that Hollywood seems to keep people in a Hyperbolic Time Chamber and only allow them to have two set ages ever:  Age introduced and super creepy “what the hell happened to your face and mind Clint Eastwood” old.

Crystal plays himself across from Josh Glad, who before this I think I had a super vague idea of who that was (and am still unsure if I am thinking of him or Jonah Hill). The show is dry, awkward, and about making a series of poor life choices that end up making you committed to a project you hate.  There are also all these subtle nods to the way that the world works inside of “the business”, which I am sure would be way funnier if I was part of that circle; which is oddly a new trend that seems to be emerging in more niche comedies and only makes me want to stop watch to discourage people from doing it more.

Best:
China, IL: Season 3, Episode 1

Everyone loves you baby cakes

Where: Cartoon Network
When:  Sundays at 12:00 AM
Why:
I love China, IL.  It is hard to explain to pretty much anyone my depths of love for this show in any manner that doesn’t just seem to be completely insane.  It is a show that is about a public college that has stopped caring so long ago that the only thing that can make most of the professors even feel emotion is belittling and demoralizing every student in their class.  Within the first 60 seconds of the show (intro included) one of the pupil has the nickname “flip flops” forced on them, and while the current week is only the second episode, they have refused to refer to them as anything else since that moment forward.  In my mind that is how roll call is done in the class.  I want to go there.  In my dream they hire me to teach English.  We would only watch subtitle anime.

Did I mention that Hulk Hogan is The Dean, and 95% of the time I don’t know if he is acting or if someone just hung out in the bushes around his house and recorded random things that he randomly states—kind of like what they did for the last couple of years for Ebert.  Side note, I would love to have a computer program that I could make Hogan say anything I wanted.  We would be best friends.

Worst:
The Big Bang Theory: Season 8, Episode 20

Everyone hates you, WIl Wheaton

Where: CBS
When: Thursdays at 8:00 PM
Why:
I don’t even hate The Big Bang Theory for the same reasons that everyone else does; I could care less about them making nerd culture more accessible to the masses, I don’t think that the forced insertion of marketable catch-phrases is either annoying or draws away from the characters, and screw everyone that says it wouldn’t be funny without the laugh track.  Watch 10 minutes of M*A*S*H without the laugh track; it was the greatest show on television and still needed to remind you it was a comedy about tragedy. No, the problem is that the show the people writing it have forgotten what it was about to begin with, becoming so lost that even if they had a map to get back they would probably end up at a Donkey Show with a robotic version of a racist Jerry Seinfeld.

Recently the actress that “played”, I guess, the voice of Howard’s (Simon Helberg) mother (Carol Ann Susi) passed away in real life and the show managed to –for all intents and purposes—respectfully kill off the character so no one else would play her.  The issue is that I think that the people who write the show might be sociopaths who learned emotions from watching monkeys fight over abandoned children at the zoo.  It isn’t situation that is wrong or messed up, but the way that everything is written around it that feels stilted and dumb, as if the showrunner (Chuck Lorre) was hoping an episode of That 70’s Show might break out instead.  Then recently Howard had an unknown half-brother (Matt Bennett) show up for, and this is understating it, very close to no reason.  That doesn’t matter though, since they only share half a genetic code, were raised by two polar opposing people, and had the exactly opposite gendered role models they were clearly destined to end up almost exactly the same.

Best and Worst of Last Week’s TV: 6/23/13 – 6/29/13 (Late)

Although cigar jerk is kind of a funny name

Because of last week’s holiday causing a lack of new shows and my general attempt to drink through most of the week there was no article.  I will talk about the shows from the week before, because I feel like I should start doing this article again and that this is a dead time to fill with TV talk.

Good
Venture Brothers: Season 5: Episode 4

When was the last time you saw him smile, ever

Where: Adult Swim/Cartoon Network
When: Sundays at Midnight
Why:
Sometimes years go by without an episode of The Venture Brothers seeing the light of day, those are dark times for man.  2013, despite what the Mayans seemed to have thought, has proven to be a good time for everyone due to the return of the series.  The main theme of the show is failure, and in many ways it is hard to argue.  I love the flash backs to Rusty’s (James Urbaniak) old days as a child when everything was supposed to be perfect and work out to be wonderfully for an older him, only to end up being pretty much the same only more dilapidated and less adventure heavy.  It is almost like the show wants to always remind us that it isn’t just us that failed, the world failed us as well—which is good because I do like blaming others.

Speaking of the aforementioned younger Rusty, this episode took place on a Greek island where he was once treated to Spanakopita—not the pie food thing but instead a local festival that serves to both rob tourists of their money and distract young people from the fact that they were accidentally kidnapped.  Considering that the finer points of describing a Venture Brothers plot is more like talking about a fever dream than it is writing something up I will forgo pretty much the rest here.  For serious though, go out of your way and watch this entire series up until this point.  It is amazing.

Bad
Futurama: Season 7: Episode 16

Because it is poop in his mouth, get it?!?

Where: Comedy Central
When: Wednesdays at 10 PM
Why:
This is the last season of a cult classic.  That announcement was made about a month before this season started airing, they promoted this season as such. They did everything besides directly saying that every stop would be pulled out, thrown away, forgotten about, and higher scores of people for some of the best script writing that mankind has ever seen.  This should have made, “Into the Wild Green Yonder” look like a pile of vomit that vomits Kardashians.  If there was ever a season that you make people regret a show ending it the one that is announced months before hand that it is over, the one that you take all of the scripts that you never used for various reasons that make better and put on the air.  So far this seasons high points have been math jokes.

Lrrr (Maurice LaMarche) takes his child on a trip to take over Earth to earn a merit badge, because I guess that is a thing that happens in 1000 years.  This, of course results in the TV being cut off from the planet and Fry (Billy West) being stranded there.  I could sum this entire episode up perfectly when I say that the best joke involves Fry being unable to stop eating rainbow colored poop; because it isn’t a Mad Lib quality episode of this show without Fry being unable to stop eating something disgusting.  It isn’t even like I am angry at Futurama, I am just really all kinds of disappointed.

Good
Falling Skies: Season 3: Episode 4

Something exciting.  I don't know.  This show is hard to talk about

Where: TNT
When: Sundays at 10 PM
Why:
There really aren’t that many good science fiction television shows out there anymore.  Sure, you could come up with a list as long as my arm of shows that certain terribly named channels will try and run from time to time—some with even a mild degree of success.  The problem is that most of those shows end up not being that wonderful, were only ever thought of as a mini-series, or were put together by less than experienced show runners that simply don’t know how to hold the connective tissue together.  Falling Skies has thus far managed to avoid all of these pit falls, even if there are random pacing issues towards the middle of most seasons.

You know when a new season of a very plot driven show starts and you feel like you missed a couple huge pivotal points of information; that is basically what is happening this season.  There is rumors going around about a mole inside of the human resistance fighters, and it is looking more and more like it is Hal (Drew Roy) being controlled by the alien invaders.  My problem with that is that he is sort of aware that this kind of thing might happen, with most other people, so instead of turning himself in and dealing with it in a timely and effective manner he decides to just let it go to such a point that he clearly loses control over it.  That is like someone being too busy eating ice cream to get a heart transplant due to excessive ice cream eating.

Bad
Burn Notice: Season 7: Episode 4

He used to be a spy, until....

Where: USA
When: Thursdays at 9 PM
Why:
Burn Notice is the story of James Bond having all of his special toys taken away and being forced to out MacGyver MacGyver.  The show is on basic cable so Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) has a problem killing people and a heart plated in some kind of magical spy gold; it also has been running for seven years and is very quickly starting to run out of ideas of what to do to push things forward regarding plot.  The show is called Burn Notice but I am pretty sure that the cast of characters has already gone through the process of either killing for destroying every organization responsible, as well as the businesses backing them, for Michael’s burning, and several other secret-er spy type networks backing  everything to begin with.   It has gotten to the point that I really don’t have any idea why anyone is mad at anyone anymore aside from I guess everyone being an active spy again, so… kind of nothing has happened.

This season started with Michael going in for a “deep cover” operation and has proceeded to be the slowest and possibly least interesting series of four episodes I have seen since the show started.  I get that the entire theory for this arch is to take the crew and place them out of their comfort zone while working with people who make that discomfort look like they were getting a Hand Jibber from super models at the beach.  That was a great idea, for two episode that wrapped up quickly at the start of the third.  This is now approaching a fifth with both no end in sight and a promise of even more to be boringly revealed at a leisurely pace that seems like this could have been a special “movie” episode instead of an entire last season.  If it wasn’t for Bruce Campbell (playing Sam Axe) I don’t even know why I would be watching, aside from the fact that I have this thing in my head that tells me I need to finish TV series.

Best:
Mad Men: Season 6: Episode 13

Don Draper rule #80, always leave everyone in the board room confused and angry

Where: AMC
When: Sundays at 10 PM
Why:
I was thinking about doing an article on this season Mad Men, and truth be told I still might.  I think that as a whole it might have been one of the most well-constructed examples of writing that has hit the small screen in a really long time.  I don’t know if I can really stress enough just how wonderful it feels to come home from work and go into a fictional land where every single person is as completely and utterly screwed up as a real human, and I can forget about all the failures of life and just judge other people for being completely terrible while I don’t blame myself because I am totally not cheating on my wife at all.

The season has kind of been leading to this road of destruction as Don (Jon Hamm) has taken his agency down a road of success but pretty much driven his personal life into a ditch, lit it on fire, then walked away in slow motion while continuing to have affairs with other people’s wives. Honestly, if half the stuff he did wasn’t so completely slimy and terribly I would want to start a slow clap for him getting away with it for so long.  The season pretty much ended with Don’s very public, very messed up, very terrible and awful break down in front of a rather huge client.  The only complaint about this episode that could really be leveled against it is that the show has been running for six years and I am pretty sure that people were just expecting this to happen roughly eight years ago.

Worst:
Paranormal Witness: Season 3: Episode 4

Not sure if lying or wrong subs

Where: SYFY
When: Wednesdays at 10 PM
Why:
Every single sane person in the world has a ghost story.  Half of them are things that could probably have been easily explained if the person hadn’t been scared to death, half asleep, or both at the time of the event.  Of the remaining half most of them aren’t worth telling.  That leaves you with a handful of tales that are legitimately spooky when told correctly.  Most of those happened in the first season.  At this point the show has just started taking the spooky stories and hoping that people can’t read between the lines too much.  One episode this season a woman claimed that the devil appeared in front of her.  Not a devil, The Devil.  That is a lie.  This show also doesn’t have very good special effects. It was hysterical.

This week’s episode quickly fell from “that is kind of weird and spooky,” to “that just didn’t happen”, basically meaning that while it was one of the better episodes it was still the worst episode of the week.  It was about a haunted restaurant with scores of employees, most of whom did not natively speak English.  Now I am not saying that the people from Mexico lied about the sightings or anything, but the owners of the establishment seemed to have much more believable sightings and “oddities” than the Spanish speakers who claimed to have a poltergeist repeatedly try to kill them.  I am not saying that the staff members made that stuff up, but since I don’t understand a word that the people they are interviewing are saying and the resolution of the problem came down to using a “local psychic” I am going to learn more towards attempt at odd local ghost attraction and the producers lying.