The Wife:

So far, I like Community. I’m watching it because I like Joel McHale, and the smarminess of his Soup persona translates nicely to Jeff, the lawyer who returns to community college rather than face disbarment, who is just as much of a lovably smarmy asshole as McHale is on the The Soup.

The setting allows of a typically zany supporting cast, each one of them desperate for some kind of validation in their lives (as that’s kind of what community college is for). There’s the popular high school girl trying to make a fresh start, the jock who can’t let go of his high school pride, the mother trying to reclaim the education she never got, the hipper-than-thou girl who’s trying to do something with her life for a change, the kid who clearly learned more about pop culture over the course of his school life and therefore didn’t meet any expected learning results and the senior citizen trying to reclaim his youth.

This is probably why I never attended study groups.

This is probably why I never attended study groups.

I like all of them, but so far my favorite character is pop-culture obsessed Abed, who spent the entirety of the first episode misunderstanding subtlety and comparing Jeff’s plight to Michael Douglas roles.

“I thought you were like Bill Murray in any of his films, but now you’re more like Michael Douglas in any of his films.”

or

“I’m sorry I called you Michael Douglas and I see your value now.”

Another highlight of the pilot was John Oliver’s role as an anthropology professor trying to blackmail Jeff into getting his BMW in exchange for a year’s worth of answers to every test Jeff will ever take. Oliver plays the role with a Maxwell Smart-esque edge: the smart guy who makes too many idiot mistakes for you to actually think he’s smart. Case in point: “Con-4-s-8-tion” is his version of an abbreviated text.

With Jeff’s plans to cheat his way through community college falling apart before his eyes, he actually has to socialize with these losers from his Spanish class in the form of a study group and form some sort of community if they are all to survive and graduate, which sort of works out in his favor as, at the very least, it means he gets to spend time with love interest Britta.

In the next episode, Jeff switches assignment cards with Abed so that he can work with Britta on a Spanish project, but she has switched cards with Chevy Chase’s aging hipster Pierce simply so she won’t have to work with him. Rather than take the necessary 10-20 minutes to complete the simple assignment of creating a conversation using five stock phrases the class has learned from Senor Chung, Pierce goes balls-out and creates an epic, multi-page conversation that means very little and contains several anti-Israeli diatribes and a bunch of other vaguely racist shit.

Jeff tells Pierce off about the project and refuses to work with him, but Pierce wants to do the presentation as he wrote it. When Britta tells Jeff that she switched cards with Pierce because he paid her $100 just so he could work with Jeff, his Grinchian heart melts a little bit and he volunteers to do the project with Pierce as written. What follows is a hilarious, silent montage of each segment of the performance, which involves puppets, near minstrelsy, flag waving and silly-string wars. As triumphant as the finish is, Jeff and Pierce both earn Fs from Senor Chang. Jeff actually earns an F-minus.

But Jeff learns to be selfless, and that’s a more worthwhile lesson than anything in the B-plot, which sees Shirley and Annie hearing about one horrible global atrocity from Britta and deciding to become globally aware by setting up a protest rally about the death of a Guatemalan journalist. It tastelessly includes a piñata effigy of the dead man . . . who was beaten to death, as Britta points out, which Annie feels is part of why the piñata is poignant.

My problem with the B-plot isn’t its purpose, which is to mock collegiate organizations that rally around every cause without really understanding what that cause is and to demonstrate that “raising awareness” isn’t really doing anything, but its lack of growth for Shirley and Annie. Yes, through their actions Britta realizes that she is also one of those people who is all talk and no action and that she should actually do something other than being cool and bitchy, but Shirley and Annie don’t grow by this. I hope they do. Britta, Jeff and Pierce are all people. I’d like to see the rest of the ensemble become more than a source for jokes.

Stray thoughts and funny things:

  • Abed’s text misunderstanding in the first episode was funny.
  • I, too, question the validity of the library PA system.
  • Did anyone else notice that all of the flag cards in Mr. Chang’s Spanish class were Italian flags?
  • “In Spanish, my nickname is El Tigre Chino, because my knowledge will bite her face off!” — Senor Chang
  • Pierce: To the empowerage of words!
    Jeff: To the irony of that sentence.
  • “And this isn’t a school newspaper, it’s a real paper! There’s a Marmaduke in there.” — Shirley
  • Joel McHale is pretty well-built in the chest and arm area, is he not, ladies? I think Abed for coveting his dress shirt.
  • I would like to see Joel McHale and Lou wear those mini sombreros on The Soup one week.

The Husband:

So far I very much dig the wry humor and laid-back energy (oxymoronic, I know) of Community, but it’s still stuck in a Bill-Murray-in-the-70s type humor which results in smirks and knowing nods instead of outright laughs. There have, of course, been big laughs (Abed’s Breakfast Club outburst, for one), but I feel like I’m forcing myself to laugh at certain points. And I don’t want to force myself to do anything.

McHale is a great personality, and the second episode showed that it won’t be long before I can actually relate to Jeff as a character, but the snark might be, in my opinion, laid on a little too thick. It distances us viewers from the other characters, because he distances himself from them. I mean, even buffoonish Michael Scott has a heart. True, it took him a couple seasons to really find it, but as Community doesn’t have a big pedigree to its name, I’m not sure if viewers will wait that long.

Basically, there is a way to have your snark and eat it, too.

I do very much like the study room in the library, though. Every good sitcom needs its main room for the characters to congregate, like Sunshine Cab Company on Taxi, the newsroom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the hallway on Saved by the Bell (and yes, these are three of the shows I recently watched in my chronological journey through American sitcoms thanks to my workplace, Hulu and Netflix), as well as every single family sitcom that revolves entirely around the living room. It gives a nice air of familiarity.

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The Wife:

We don’t usually do news here, but since I’m trying to decide what shows I can and can’t watch next year (thus, can and can’t cover) because of grad school, I figured I’d help you all out by sharing my handy-dandy season schedules for the major networks here at Children of St. Clare.

I’ve listed everything by hour, as most networks are running hour-long shows these days, so two half-hour shows are listed in the same box with the time the latter show starts in between them. If a show runs longer than one hour, I’ve indicated the length and listed it in the hour in which it starts. Asterisks (*) indicate new shows, and I’ll have some snap judgments on those shows following these graphics:

falllineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend schedule for the fall, which, as you can see, is largely blank:

FallineupSS

In January, the networks will change to their midseason schedules:

midseasonlineupMTWRF

And here’s the weekend midseason schedule

midseasonlineupSS

Now, on the midseason schedule, you may notice some funny little symbols after the network names. Here are those footnotes:

  • # ABC has not yet announced its midseason lineup. The have, however, three new shows on deck: V, Happy Town and The Deep End, as well as returning shows Lost, Wife Swap, True Beauty, The Bachelor, Better Off Ted and Scrubs. Timeslots all to be determined.
  • + CBS has not yet announced its midseason lineup, but has the following shows for midseason replacements: Miami Trauma*, The Bridge*, Undercover Boss*, Arranged Marriage*, Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint
  • = CW’s midseason debut is Parental Discretion Advised, timeslot to be determined.
  • Additionally, Fox has Hell’s Kitchen scheduled for Summer 2010, and has Kitchen Nightmares on deck to fill holes in the schedule.

Now, for my snap judgments . . .

NBC: While we all know by now how I feel about Jay Leno, I can honestly tell you that the only one of their new shows I will definitely watch is Joel McHale’s comedy pilot Community, joining the NBC Thursday comedy block in 30 Rock‘s spot until it returns at midseason. Community has a good premise (McHale finds his college degree is invalid and must go back to community college to make up the credits), and has both McHale and Chevy Chase, who turned in a good performance as the villain at the end of Chuck season 2. I am overjoyed that Chuck is returning at midseason, as I think a 13-episode run will give us only the most super-concentrated awesomeness Chuck has to offer. I do not need another medical show in my life, so I’m declining Trauma and Michelle Trachtenberg’s nursing show, Mercy. 100 Questions looks so much like Friends that it is entirely out of the question for me. But then there’s Day One, which has a nice pedigree of coming from the people who work on Lost, Heroes and Fringe. It could be awesome, or it could be hokey, but I think it’s the only other promising thing NBC has to offer us.

ABC: I am delighted that ABC has given a permanent slot to Castle, allowing Nathan Fillion to prove he is charming, rakish and shouldn’t be a showkiller! He and Adam Baldwin have broken their own curse! Other than that, though, I am extremely concerned at how unimpressive the new shows debuting for fall seem, compared to the stuff ABC has on deck for midseason. Not a single one of the Wednesday night comedy block shows looks palatable. Hank looks downright abysmal, The Middle looks, well, middling, Modern Family falls flat and Cougar Town is trying way too hard. I might DVR Eastwick because I like Rebecca Romjin and Lindsay Price, but I have no emotional ties to either the previous film or the novel upon which it’s based to grab my immediate attention. I watched a clip from The Forgotten and I can tell you right now that I think it’s going to be the most dour procedural on television, and I certainly don’t need that in my life. I am, however, intrigued by Flash Forward because I like both time travel and Joseph Fiennes. But what sounds really interesting are the midseason shows. The Deep End is about law students and, out of all the ABC clips I watched, it certainly has the most character, pizzazz and joy. It also has Tina Majorino, looking the prettiest she’s ever looked. I will give that a shot when it premeires. I will also give hardcore sci-fi reboot V a shot, as we certainly don’t have any shows on network TV currently dealing with alien invasion, and I’m really jazzed on the trailer for Happy Town, which seems like its going to be a slightly more normal Twin Peaks (in that its a small town mystery), only this time, with Amy Acker!

FOX: I’m wary of a fall edition of SYTYCD, but I do see the benefit of it giving FOX a consistent schedule so that things don’t get shitfucked when Idol rolls around at midseason. Perhaps, if this is a success, going forward we’ll have to find a new totally awesome summer reality competition . . . maybe one for actors? OR MAYBE WE CAN MAKE A TRIPLE THREAT SHOW BECAUSE I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THAT????? (Please, FOX?!!!!) Fox is actually my favorite of the networks so far, actually. I’m happy to see they’ve renewed Dollhouse and paired Bones with Fringe, which makes for a really rockin’ Thursday. Also excited to see Sons of Tucson with Tyler Labine as it looks pretty funny from the promo.  Human Target looks pretty fun, too. And you best fucking bet I will be watching Glee. The only thing I think I’d really pass on, here, is Past Life, and that’s just because I’m not really interested in seeing a show that solves crimes using past life regression (although one of my favorite X-Files episodes has exactly that conceit). So, rock on, FOX. You are my winner for next season.

CBS: I will be skipping pretty much every new show on CBS this year as they continue to build their police procedural empire. However, I will give a try to the new Monday comedy Accidentally on Purpose, even though it’s based on the memoirs of a film critic I don’t like very much, the Contra Costa Times‘ Mary F. Pols, who can’t seem to see the good in anything at all. The show is set in San Francisco, though Pols lives somewhere in the Walnut Creek area in reality, I assume, and Jenna Elfman plays the fictional version of Pols’ film critic who accidentally gets pregnant by a younger, one-night stand and decides to keep the baby, and it’s daddy. I generally like Jenna Elfman and, of course, adore Grant Show, who will be playing her boss. I will also give Three Rivers a shot, because it stars Moonlight‘s Alex O’Laughlin and its about organ donation, so there’s a chance I could see him repeat at least part of his horrifying performance in Feed, a film in which he kidnaps obese women and feeds them their own fat until they die. (How he would repeat part of that performance, I don’t know, but I’d like to see CBS try.)

CW: Will I watch a show produced by Ashton Kutcher about teenage models called The Beautiful Life? Yes, I will. Will I watch a show about teenage vampires called The Vampire Diaries? Indeed, I would probably watch something like that, as long as it sucked in a good way and not a bad way. Melrose Place? I have even less of a connection to that show than to 90210, so I’m not inclined to watch the reboot — especially since Ashlee Simpson’s on it. But, hey, I might need some mind-numbing crap to counterbalance all my grad school reading, so perhaps. I’ll give Melrose Place a perhaps, a perhaps perhaps, even, if I choose to continue watching 90210, making my Tuesday nights just like 1992. I am, however, surprised that CW axed the Gossip Girl spin-off, as even though I didn’t like the backdoor pilot, I did think the show had potential. I’m also surprised they axed Jason Dohring and Minka Kelly’s legal show, Body Politic, if only because I was hoping both former Moonlight vampires would have jobs come fall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for Josef Kostan nee Logan Echolls.

So, as the curtain on this TV season falls, you can look forward to me actually writing about Mad Men this summer, as well as many, many articles on SYTYCD. After that, I’m going to have to see what my fall schedule is like and compare it to the above fall schedules to see what I can really watch and what I can, in turn, cover.

I’ll make you guys a chart of all that later.

The Wife:

I’m a fan of this episode, one of GG‘s better ones in terms of plot clusterfucks, but I still have one burning question about this whole Serena-Gabriel faux marriage thing: why? Apparently, that faux marriage has nothing at all to do with the Ponzi scheme Gabriel and Poppy were running, as he could have seduced her and earned her trust without fake marrying her. So why do that at all? That was a completely inane and unnecessary plot point, and this whole plot thread would have been better off without it.

So about that scheme! Realizing that Gabriel has run off with lots of people’s money, Serena tries to do the good thing and get everyone’s money back without them ever having known it was a scam. She lures Gabriel into meeting her by telling him she’s pregnant, but Dan overhears her post-call discussion with Chuck, Nate and Blair and immediately wants to tell his dad (in Happy Rufus mode because he thinks he’ll have a sudden windfall that will allow him to propose to Lily and send both his chilluns to the colleges of their choice), but Serena begs him to give her a chance to make things right. When Gabriel and Serena meet, she gives him a chance to give back all the money and walk away scot free, but he says he can’t, at which point Chuck and his goons step in to threaten him with being turned over to the authorities if he doesn’t come clean. Gabriel names Poppy as the mastermind in their plan, and so the gang has to form a new plan to entrap Poppy and get her arrested.

Good to know Gabriels the kind of guy who would show up to discuss an unplanned pregnancy, even if he steals all your money.

Good to know Gabriel's the kind of guy who would show up to discuss an unplanned pregnancy, even if he steals all your money.

But Dan can’t keep quiet and tells Lily about Gabriel’s investment scheme. Fearing for her reputation and her daughter’s, she instructs Dan never to bring it up again and that she will take care of it. With her financial advisor, she devises a plan to pay back everyone’s investments out of her own pocketbook, telling them all that the investment fell though – no harm, no foul. Except, of course, for Rufus. She doesn’t want to hurt his pride of denying him his expected windfall, so she sets up a mutual fund for him that will pay monthly dividends of $5,000. Then, only a short time after bestowing great grandma Rhodes’ diamond tennis bracelet on the Serena she’s starting to see as a responsible adult woman, Lily confronts her daughter and tells her to call off whatever scheme she has going to get back at Poppy or Gabriel. Lily plans to let Poppy quietly escape with everyone’s money so that no scandal arises regarding how Serena Van Der Woodsen helped her boyfriend scam her family and friends.

Blair, however, has already gone through the trouble of convincing newly-Christian Georgina to play the innocent pawn in order to entrap Poppy and get her talking about the investment on tape. It takes some wheedling from Blair to get good ol’ Georgie to realize that she’d by lying in God’s service if she helped get a bad person arrested. Georgina plays the role brilliantly, pretending to be the daughter of a Canadian oil baron trying to make her name as a socialite in the big city. Her new found Jesus freakiness plays well into the role of the wide-eyed innocent, but when pressured for a down payment in the wireless Internet service to Africa investment, Georgina has to give up her camp’s bible money (so that’s how she got out of the Catskills so easily . . .), only to see Poppy run off the investment when the waiting policemen arrest Serena outside of the Russian Tea Room instead of Poppy. You see, Serena’s mother had her arrested in order to stop her from getting Poppy in trouble and ruining all the good face Lily had been making – so she accused her daughter of stealing the heirloom bracelet! Le scandal! But Blair thinks Georgina had something to do with Serena’s arrest, and declares that she will never forgive her for this! Never!

Note to Georgina: do not give away your camps bible money to an uppity socialite scam artist.

Note to Georgina: do not give away your camp's bible money to an uppity socialite scam artist.

Meanwhile, Rufus has been busy trying to set up the perfect proposal for Lily, preparing all of her favorite foods and adorning her house with lilies (because her favorite flower . . . is her name . . .). But while Jenny stalls so he can get the table set up, he discovers the investment papers chillin’ in an open kitchen drawer and confronts Lily about why his payments are different than everyone else’s. When she says she was trying to do right by him, helping him get his kids to college, etc, he calls her patronizing and says that he doesn’t need her help. The police call to tell her about Serena’s arrest, and when Rufus questions why she isn’t running to her daughter’s aid, she tells him that she called it in to prevent Serena from causing a giant horrible scandal and ruining the Van Der Woodsen name. To which Rufus replies, “You’re starting to sound just like your mother.” Burn! No woman wants to hear that! Ever! Sufficient to say, proposal called off. And Lily sits around her apartment drinking wine, letting Serena get booked, while Rufus returns home and tells his children to return the ring they bought.

And, by way of tying up some lose ends, while waiting for Poppy’s un-arrest, Blair asks Chuck if he loves her and he chooses to let her go, but she still decides not to move in with Nate. Not because she doesn’t love him, but because it’s not right for them. Chuck does, of course, still love Blair, but he knows he can’t make her happy, and thus ends his bitter battle with Nate, at least for the time being. And as for Georgina, she decides to take Poppy’s punishment into her own hands, returning to the wild side with a call to Blair: “You can tell Jesus the bitch is back.”

This is the kind of Gossip Girl I’ve come to know and love – the kind with scandals and entrapment and the follies of the wealthy, not so much the getting-into-college-or-not drama. I hope every subsequent season ends with a Georgina arc, by the way. It should just be a thing.

The Husband:

Yes, this did have old school GG drama, “the kind with scandals and entrapment and the follies of the wealthy,” but I still think that it’s been missing some of the silliness that really got me hooked in the first place, as well as some of the teenage emotion that connected me to Dan last season. Now, we’re just kind of being told that people are in love with each other without actually feeling it for ourselves, while last year I truly believed that Lonely Boy pined after S over the years, and that his battle with Lily to prove himself as worthy of her family and her daughter held a great storybook quality.

But this is still a very proper plot to end the show’s second season, and while I agree that the fake marriage thing ultimately led nowhere, it’s fun watching Gabriel and Poppy bounce off of these characters, one-upping each other every moment they could get. I also appreciate the way the lives of the teenagers is making major waves in the “adult world” of the Humphreys and the Van Der Woodsens, even if I think the show works better when it’s teenagers vs. adults.

But, then again, The O.C. worked so well, when it did work, when the parents’ stories were completely reliant upon the stories of the youths, telling us that not only is it hard to distant yourself from your children’s problems no matter how hard you try, but it’s equally clear that the adults, in a lot of ways, never grew up in the first place. The final scene between Rufus and Lilly is a pretty perfect example of this, as they both make rash, unfortunate decisions.

You know what, adults of Gossip Girl? Just let Chuck handle it. He seems to have everything covered. As Joel McHale would say, he’s the most intense high school senior ever.

The Wife:

This episode of Reaper was all about doing things in service of others, whether that means throwing a fight with the son of Satan, killing off a fake employee or simply not telling your friends that you’re dating a demon. My main issue with this episode was that the biggest thematic element (Sam capturing the soul; a boxer who went to hell for throwing a fight back in the 50s) was completely lost amid the two stronger comic subplots. As in, I was so uninterested by it until its final third that I didn’t even think it was going to add up to anything at all.

Sam’s plot is framed with a funny gag about The Devil tempting alcoholics by running AlAnon meetings and asking participants to test their strength by going to their favorite bar and ordering their favorite drink, knowing full well that they won’t be able to resist. The Devil tells him about the soul of the week, Red Sabotini, a boxer who needs to be sent back to hell with one good punch to the chin – his signature move. Sam’s first attempt to fight the boxer back to hell goes terribly, and his second doesn’t go all that much better (he accidentally knocks himself out), even though he is more prepared to goad Red into fighting poorly by constantly bringing up the bribe he took that made him take a fall at the championships in his heyday. But after their second bout, Red tells Sam that he’ll go back to hell willingly, if only he can stay a couple more days in the mortal realm so that he can fight in the championships in Vegas and win. Sam takes this proposition to The Devil, who tells Sam that there’s no chance in hell of making that arrangement with Red. Souls do not get a chance to make good on their mistakes.

Sam feels some pity for Red, a man whose one mistake, taking that bribe and throwing that fight, sent him straight to hell. He can sympathize, as someone doomed to hellfire for the greedy mistakes of others, and he suggests that the soul run to somewhere Sam can’t find him, begging him to not waste his escape from the Devil’s clutches on achieving something he couldn’t in life. But Red won’t do it, claiming that he needs that championship title to absolve him of ruining his career, and The Devil catches up with them, threatening that the two men must fight and it can only end one of two ways: one of them gets sent back to hell, or the other will die. Red relives the moment where he threw the championship fight, pulling Sam close to his face and begging him to make it look good when he knocks him out. And so Red gets sent back to Hell, to save Sam.

Andi got some really excellent material this week as she was, inevitably, promoted to manager of The Work Bench. In an effort to not be like Ted and earn the respect and love of her employees, she offers a gift card drawing which is won by an employee that no one seems to have ever met named Les Nessman. It’s pretty clear to me that Andi’s going to give the guys some leeway in managing their Work Bench duties with their demon-fighting, soul-catching duties, but she also goes out of her way to make it look like she’s not playing favorites with them, especially when she deduces through a series of small inquiries that Sock is Les Nessman and has been taking home Les’ extra paycheck for two years. Andi tries to level with Sock and asks him to resign Les, or else she’ll have to fire Les. Sock, in retaliation, calls corporate and files a sexual harassment claim against Andi on Les’ behalf. This infuriates Andi, and Sam encourages her to do something equally low to Sock, as the only way to best him is to sink to his level  . . . or possibly far below it. So Andi, in a stroke of brilliance, calls in some grief counselors from corporate and announces in front of all of her employees the untimely passing of one Les Nessman, who died, tragically, on the toilet, not doing something cool as a grief-stricken (and extra money-less) Sock cries out during the announcement.

As amusing as that was, the best part of this week’s episode was Ben’s new girlfriend. From an actor’s perspective, I think Nina is probably one of the most fun female characters that I’ve seen in a long time. She’s sexy and awkward and somehow really adorable, even as she constantly reminds you that she’s actually a demon. I really enjoyed the writing for this character and thought that Jenny Wade’s performance demonstrated both a mastery of comic timing and a thorough sense of character. I’ve only seen this girl in a brief role on Pushing Daisies as one of Joel McHale’s many dog-training wives in “Bitches” and in John Gulager’s Feast, but I hope her role on Reaper catapults her to greater things. Jenny Wade is definitely the best actress this show has employed, and that’s saying something coming from an admitted lover of one Jessica Stroup such as myself. I am officially a fan of you, Jenny Wade. And I will watch anything you’re ever in from now on.

What? I enjoy a good feast . . . dont you judge me!

What? I enjoy a good feast . . . don't you judge me!

Ben decides to introduce Nina to his friends, but isn’t yet sure he wants to tell them that she’s a demon – especially that she’s the demon who tried to kill Sam last week. The gang proceeds to have one of the most awkward dinners ever, with Nina filling in an approximation of humanness as best she can, but failing adorably. There were so many great things about that scene in particular, but I particularly loved her answer to Andi’s simple inquiry into where she’s from: “I’m from the Kansas.” And how could anyone not find her quick response to Sam’s offer of half a hamburger hilarious, as she jumps up and stabs his burger with a steak knife, giddily taking the burger into her hands and then keeping it close to her mouth like a squirrel that really doesn’t want to share? That shit was hilarious. Also hilarious:


“I wanted to eat his meat before those guys got it.” – Nina


Seeing Nina launch a knife in Sam’s direction, however, is not funny to Ben, who worries that his demon girlfriend might only be dating him to get close enough to Sam to kill him. Nina assures Ben that she isn’t out to get Sam, giving him a pretty Hell-geode as a sign of her affection and good faith. Hell-geodes sure have a lot of restrictions for use, though. You can’t sleep next to them or they’ll give you nightmares, can’t put them near nuclear reactors, and so on. But even with that assurance on the table, that doesn’t stop Ben from growing even more suspicious when Nina nearly runs over Sam with her car. She insists that it was an accident, as even though the DMV is run by demons, it doesn’t preclude that they can actually drive cars. Ben gets a little too agitated by this event, which results with Nina blurting out to Sam that she is a demon. Outraged, Sam declares that he cannot be friends with Ben unless he breaks up with Nina because with her around, his life is in constant danger.

Realizing that Sam might be right, Ben takes Nina out to a nice restaurant and breaks the news, but not before hiding all flatware items from his and other surrounding tables just in case she gets a little crazy. Nina, however, is heartbroken.


“You’re crying . . . and your tears are made of acid.” – Ben


She tells Ben that she really did like him, but that she understands that he’s scared of her and that he friends are scared of her. And so she tearfully leaves Ben with a goodbye kiss. After his experience with Red and Red’s sacrifice for him, Sam tells Ben that he should get back together with Nina, admitting that it was selfish to not trust Ben’s instincts. So Ben gets his demon back, and everyone’s happy, except Sock who, in fairness to the rest of the employees at The Work Bench is out an extra paycheck, and The Devil, who is very, very uncomfortable with the knowledge that Red threw his last fight to save Sam, making The Devil himself into an inadvertent good-doer.

Again, although the soul of the week was not my favorite part of this episode, this was one of the most enjoyable episodes in awhile. And it didn’t have the Kristen-and-Sock plot at all! I’ll take more Nina over that any day.

One more funny one from Nina:


“I like to get up in there and feel the heart beating before I squish it with my hands.”

The Husband:

Here’s what’s extra funny about Sock’s plot – “Les Nessman,” the name of his fake alter ego, was the name of the nerdy news director on from WKRP In Cincinnati.

Now, usually, I know much of this TV trivia immediately upon hearing or seeing a reference, and usually shift over to Wikipedia to double-check. But this week, I have a confession to make – I had no idea that Les Nessman was a character from anything. While I am in the midst of a TV-on-DVD experiment that allows me to expand my knowledge of older 30-minute shows, and that WKRP In Cincinnati is near the top of my list for “classics to watch at some point over the next five years,” I know nothing about this revered show other than it’s about a television station, it takes place in Cincinnati, and that Loni Anderson was in the cast.

I wouldn’t have even bothered to look up the name “Les Nessman,” as it sounds like such a silly, made-up name that I thought it was just a construct of Reaper going into Sock’s addled brain. But last night, as I was reading music critic (and VH1 personality) Rob Sheffield’s wonderful-so-far memoir Love Is A Mix Tape, I came across the following passage in his chapter about the mix tape he made for his school dance when he was 13:

I had never made out, smoked, drank, broken a law, set fire to a car, vandalized a cemetery, or worn socks that matched. But I had the passion for rock and roll; I was a regular Dr. Johnny Fever in the body of a Les Nessman.

Wait, what? In one night, I hear a name used in an episode of a CW supernatural action comedy and just happen to read the same name only hours later, which in turn prodded me to look up the name? Coincidence? I think it was the TV gods helping me in writing this blog.

So yes, through a bit of fate, I have thus brought to you the fact that Sock, while clever enough to create a fake person and receive two paychecks, can’t even come up with an original name, and had their former manager been a bit more of a television viewer, Sock could have been in big trouble.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make you feel good. This is one of them.

The Husband:

Even mooooooooooooore notes from my American Idol viewing. This week we go to Jacksonville, FL. Now, I try not to go out of my way to offend anybody, and I usually try to keep people’s feelings intact, but I have to say this: Jacksonville is the worst city I’ve ever been to.

I think I should clarify. I’m sure I’ve driven through worse towns in America, but Jacksonville is certainly the worst in which I’ve spend an extended amount of time. I was there for about 1.5 weeks during being on the road four months with a traveling film festival, and I was asked by my boss to leave the lovely people, nice, warm weather and lakeside awesomeness at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (where Mr. Rogers went!) to drive 140 miles north with a co-worker I despise to launch the week-long filming session at Jacksonville University, or JU. (You have to say each letter on its own, otherwise people will think you are obsessed with Semites.) I was bored at the campus. The students had no spirit. (At many colleges/universities, we received more than 100 short films, but at JU we only got 15, one less than the minimum amount to put on the actual show on the final night.) I was bored at the hotel. I was bored in the city. Even when I left early to drive the equipment all the way up I-95 from Jacksonville to Boston, I hated every moment of my time there.

No offense to those people from Jacksonville, but your city, from what I experienced, basically sucks. And I love Florida. I love how various and nutty and crazy and humid it all is, and I love how you could drive ten miles away from you are and be in a completely different kind of town, slingshotting from liberal to republican, metropolis to swamps, quiet bordertowns to loud and bright beach cities. It’s completely bonkers, and I love it.

But not Jacksonville. My favorite bit of trivia that I gained from that trip is that outside the major downtown tall-buildings area of Jacksonville, the city has one of the lowest crime rates in America, but step inside the downtown area and it’s one of the highest. That’s Florida for you.

Now, onto the actual notes:

  • Thanks for the sweet footage of Randy’s stint as the bassist in Journey. I’ve only seen pictures so far. Any excuse to play “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a-okay in my book.
  • There’s a Beverly Hills, FL? Is it as sweet yet utterly obnoxious as the one in SoCal?
  • Simon actually very much likes puppies. I don’t know how I remember that, though. Maybe it was from his autobiography, which I read in just one night. (Go me! I waste time well!)
  • I want Dana Moreno’s audition of Chaka Kahn as my ringtone. [I still have last year’s “I Am Your Brother” for my friends and “Let My People Go” for my family.]
  • I would usually say to never bring the parent of any contestant into the audition room, but this time it didn’t go as poorly as it usually does. It was more just sad than anything else.
  • I would usually say to never audition with a Whitney Houston song, but Julissa Lopez worked it out, to use a Randyism.
  • I would usually say to never audition with Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You,” but…nope, I’m still right.
  • Jasmine Murray, the absolutely gorgeous 16-year-old African-American girl, will go very far, especially if she rises above and makes us forget about her age. [Other than Jordin Sparks, I can’t name one minor that I truly loved and wanted to win. They all end up annoying me with their naïveté.]

    Jasmine Murray -- gorgeous girl with a gorgeous voice.

    Jasmine Murray -- gorgeous girl with a gorgeous voice.

  • I love physicist George Ramirez, especially when asked where he sees himself in 11 years, in his wildest dreams. “A simple house, with nice floors.”
  • I tend to like people who’ve auditioned in previous seasons, as they show that they truly care about the competition, but I did not like T.K. doing David Archuleta’s version of “Imagine” note-for-note in his audition.
  • Anne Marie Boskovich is very nice for this competition. She’s laid-back and not too cocky, and that’s something I respect…up to a point. (coughjasoncastrocough)
  • 16 Golden Tickets for Jacksonville, leaving only 46 left for the remaining three locations.
The Wife:
  • First of all, I’d like to note that somewhere on that Florida trip my husband was talking about, he purchased for me a gator paw backscratcher. That’s right. I own a backscratcher, made from the dismembered hand of an alligator. I love it. I hang it in my kitchen, which confuses and bewilders guests, especially because I’m a vegetarian.
  • Julissa is the worst name I have ever heard. I hate this girl. She sings really well, but she is definitely one of the most genuinely dumb people I’ve seen in a long time.
  • How uncomfortable did Seacrest look when Kara made him sit on her lap? He looked so scared! Joel McHale is so going to have a field day with that clip over on The Soup.
  • I think physicist George Ramirez needs to get back to that mysterious island in the pacific and help Sawyer find his shirt . . .
  • It is highly unfair that Jasmine Murray and her three sisters are some of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. That family has some amazing genes, to produce such beautiful girls.
Listen, if you were stuck on a time-traveling island for several months, you'd dream of hardwood floors too, okay?

Listen, if you were stuck on a time-traveling island for several months, you'd dream of hardwood floors too, okay?

The Wife:

I can honestly say that I didn’t think a show as original as Pushing Daises and as inventive in its murder mysteries (taffy murders, rent-a-friend murders, scratch-n-sniff murders) would ever stoop to the cliché of a Chinese restaurant gambling murder. The show managed to do something interesting with it, but I was, as a whole, a lot less interested in this episode than I have been in others from the season.

The facts about the murder were these: the chef and owner of Dim Sum, Emerson Cod’s favorite Chinese restaurant below his office from which he places a specific order every Sunday at noon, was killed in a pressure cooker accident, but his wife suspects foul play. When Ned reanimates the chef, Bao, he keeps talking about making a bad bet, which leads the gang to discover that the Dim Sum is actually running an illegal gambling operation that substitutes cards for delicious appetizers. Bao, who had run into some hard times recently, gambled away his restaurant to the ringleader of the illegal Dim Sum poker game. In an effort to gain the restaurant back, Shrimp Boy let Bao play one more hand. If he won, he would get the restaurant. If he lost, Bao’s daughter Mae would have to marry Shimp Boy’s socially retarded cousin and Dim Sum maitre d’, Robbie.

tough, not buttery.

Shrimp Boy: tough, not buttery.

Knowing how much money he owed, Bao took out an insanely high life insurance policy the day before his death, hoping to insure his daughter a future and, also, to insure that her new husband would have Bao’s debts paid to his family in time. Robbie had initially agreed to this arrangement, but then decided he’d prefer the money sooner rather than later to go along with the girl, so he rigged the pressure cooker to explode and send a copper pipe straight through his future father-in-law’s head. When Shrimp Boy finds out about Robbie’s act, he makes sure that Mae and her mother get Bao’s life insurance policy and that she is freed from her obligation to marry Robbie as, in Shrimp Boy’s world, “a bet is sacred.”

This plot allowed Emerson to rekindle his love affair with obedience trainer Simone Hundee, wife of the late Harold Hundin (The Soup’s Joel McHale) whose murder was solved in season one. I’m glad that the PD writers have not entirely disposed of certain interesting characters we met in season one. Maybe if Kath & Kim bites it, we can see the return of Molly Shannon taffy maven Dilly Balsam. (Also, I demand another appearance of Paul Reubens’ Oscar Verbinius.)

demanding Emersons obedience.

Simone Hundin: demanding Emerson's obedience.

I was also happy to see her because her sexual tension with Emerson (which gets released in this episode) adds another layer to our quippy, knitting, pop-up book designing gumshoe. Speaking of Emerson and layers of development, another gem from this week’s episode comes in the form of Emerson’s love of Chinese food:

“Ma’am, may I just say that your husband’s pork buns make me happy to be alive.”

I think that this actually speaks to a larger theme I like about the show: the idea that food is a connecting point for people, one that can evoke a memory and illicit a response, not just something you eat for sustenance. In a culture that’s rapidly become a slave to fast food, foods from boxes and other substances that pretend to be foods but are not, in fact, foods (Hot Pockets, anyone?), it’s become difficult to see the importance of real food. Two things that will correct that false ideology are Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) and Pushing Daises.

“He invested his life savings in a bakery at a time when carbohydrates had fallen out of fashion.” – The Narrator, on Ned

Ned feels connected to pies and chooses to become a piemaker because pies evoke the memory of the mother he accidentally killed. Emerson and Simone feel similarly about Bao’s pork buns:

“His steamed buns blur the lines between eating and sex.”

This clearly speaks to Simone’s dialectic between control and sensory pleasure, and her desire to find a balance between the two. (Which results in her tryst with Emerson.) Chuck’s aunts love cheeses, and Chuck too loves to bake special pies for them with cheeses in the crust so that they will remember the times she spent cataloging and organizing their cheeses when she was alive. Then there are the white truffles that make Swiss Chef fall for a nun in “Bad Habits.” Food is a powerful motivator for all of the characters in the Pushing Daisies universe, and it’s important to note that all of the foods they deal with and admire reflect the artistry of those who prepare them and the nourishment of body and soul that comes from eating a food prepared by hand. You might argue that for Ned and Chuck, when she ingests a slice of his pie is the only way he can ever physically touch her.

Oh yes, and these disguises happened. Lee Paces mustachioed cowboy made me instantly flashback to seeing Tarsems The Fall. That was not a fun time at the movies, despite Lee Pace.

Oh yes, and these disguises happened. Lee Pace's mustachioed cowboy made me instantly flashback to seeing Tarsem's The Fall. That was not a fun time at the movies, despite Lee Pace.

Food love aside, this episode had one final plot of note involving Ned’s attempt to get back in touch with his father. Stephen Root shows up at the Pie Hole baiting Ned with information about his parents, insisting that he wants to go see Ned’s father, with whom he was buddies when they were in the service. Olive and Chuck find out that Ned has had his father’s address ever since the day at boarding school when Ned received news that his father have moved on without him. Chuck gives Stephen Root the address, and she and Olive decide to go there too and talk to Ned’s father on his behalf. At the house, they find two twin magicians who share Ned’s distinctive eyebrows. Chuck realizes that these boys are Ned’s half-brothers, which she later tells him and convinces him to go and meet them lest he never truly be able to reconnect with his father. When she takes him there, the brothers are excited to welcome their long-lost half sibling, but Stephen Root sits across the street in his car, fingering a gun, waiting to kill someone.

At first I thought Root was Ned’s actual father, but Ned would have recognized the man who bore him away to boarding school and scarred him so deeply. Apparently, Stephen Root wants someone in that house dead, but is it Ned’s brothers or Ned’s father? I can’t even hazard a guess, but its good bait to lead us in to sweeps.

For the second time this week, I really want to make a Gilbert and Sullivan joke. And Im going to! Two little maids from school are we! Filled to the brim with girlish glee!

For the second time this week, I really want to make a Gilbert and Sullivan joke. And I'm going to! "Two little maids from school are we! Filled to the brim with girlish glee!"

And the Cute Shit Chuck Wears list for this episode:

1. I certainly don’t need her china doll wig, but I do want to note that when Anna Friel wears that black bobbed wig, she looks exactly like Ellen Green. I’ve never noticed how good that casting was before. I miss Ellen Green. Please let Aunt Vivian sing this season!

2. J’adore that yellow linen coat with the Peter Pan collar. J’must haves it!

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