The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

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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.

The Husband:

While we, the children of Saint Clare, have found the time to write about many of the biggest shows on television (and even some small ones), there is only so much time and energy we can spend on this site. The truth is, we watch a whole lot more than what ends up on the site, and since I watch most of these on my own and yet never find the ability to write about them, their absence is mostly my fault. But no matter. For those that fall through the cracks, I have here a grab bag of the 30+ shows I watch in addition to whatever ends up on the site. These are the ones that slipped through the cracks. And hell, I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (and also not even bothering writing about, which tend to fall under instructional/educational stuff like anything on Discovery), so if you think I’ve forgotten something, please let me know. (And no, I don’t watch any CSI or L&O shows, so don’t even try to get all up in my grill.) Here they are, the missing shows of the 2008-2009 television season, in alphabetical order.

24

I really should have written at least some criticism on this season, but work piled up and I simply didn’t have the time. It started off as the most intelligent season with some of the most compelling political questions being thrown around (welcome to the show finally, “debate on torture”), but by the fourth time Tony twisted his alliance and Jack was infected with the disease, I kind of stopped caring. Great first half of the season, though, and I think Renee is the best new character in a very long time.

Adult Swim (Xavier: Renegade Angel / Superjail! / Squidbillies / The Drinky Crow Show / Metalocalypse / Delocated / Robot Chicken / Etc.)

Thank you, young people of Adult Swim (who I have spent some time with, don’t forget) for freaking my mind week after week, and giving alternative comedy a major boost in America. And for freaking out my wife.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

Better Off Ted

It took me a couple episodes to latch onto the tone, but once I did I simply couldn’t get enough from this latest product of the mad mind of Victor Fresco. Check out some episodes online, then watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe (his previous show), and I guarantee you some of the oddest network comedy in a very long time. I still think Portia DeRossi is trying to hard, though, and should take a page from the book of Fresco mainstay Jonathan Slavin.

Castle

Bring it on, Nathan Fillion. Hypnotize me with your nostrils and your addictive but borderline-stupid mystery writer-cum-detective series. (Although how weird was that Judy Reyes episode? What the hell, Carla Turk?)

The Celebrity Apprentice 2

So sue me, I liked Joan Rivers. And the addition of the phrase “Whore Pit Vipers” to the television lexicon.

Celebrity Rehab (Sober House) with Dr. Drew

So help me, I can’t stop watching. It’s just a disaster. I will say, though, that I like the drama in the rehab far more than the sober house, as the latter seems to exist simply to destroy any progress the celebrities made in rehab. And now having seen all three of his seasons of Taxi, Jeff Conaway’s fall from grace is fishbowl television at its finest.

Dating in the Dark

Really fun, actually. I hope it gets a second season. I also hope that more matches will be made, and that people stop being massive failures.

Dirty Sexy Money

Everything I needed to say about the failure of the second season of this show can be found on this blog, and it ended its truncated run by turning itself inside-out by revealing that the show’s central mystery, who killed Peter Krause’s father, was a bust since he wasn’t dead after all. What the hell, Dirty Sexy Money? Oh well, your cancellation made room in Krause’s schedule for the much anticipated (by me) adaptation of Parenthood coming to NBC mid-season.

The Goode Family

It took a few episodes to find its footing, but by the end of its sped-up summer run, I was a major fan of the latest Mike Judge effort. (R.I.P. King of the Hill.) Vastly misunderstood by viewers who only watched the first episode, it, just like KOTH, found a middle ground between conservative America and liberal America and found the ability to make fun of both without drawing blood, choosing to love instead of hate. Some of the voice cast was misused (why was my beloved Linda Cardellini in the cast?), but as a Berkeley native, I had a blast relishing in mocking the stereotypes of my own people while rediscovering what it is I love so much about them. The bull dykes were also two of the most original characters of the season.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

The Great American Road Trip

Any show that has two contestants debating over which is more correct, “y’all” or “youse,” gets major points in my book. A nice and forgettable summer trifle after a long, way-too-hot day. Silly, yes, but I can’t say it was bad. And it was a definite improvement over the similar family-based season of The Amazing Race. (I’m sure The Soup is really grateful for this show, too.)

Heroes

Oh god, kill me now. Volume 4 was a marked improvement over #3, for sure, but I just don’t care about anybody anymore. And yet I feel that I need to keep watching. It’s too late to give up now. There was one great episode this season, though, and that was the flashback one surrounding Angela Petrelli’s stint at a mutant internment camp. Why can’t they all be this good?

Howie Do It

Yeah, I watched it. Shut the fuck up. About one-third of it was funny, and as I watched it on Hulu at work, it’s not like I wasted any of my own time. Howie Mandel is savvier than you think, but I wish he would return to his wilder roots.

How’s Your News

This Parker-Stone produced MTV show revolving around reporters who are developmentally delayed confused the hell out of me initially, but once I realized there wasn’t a mean bone in its body it became a warm bit of fun. I want a second season, dammit. These are some of the most joyful television subjects I’ve ever seen.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

Better than the first season, but I’m still glad I only watch this online while doing something else.

In the Motherhood

Worst opening credit sequence of the year. Some pretty funny material hidden underneath unfunny slapstick. Horatio Sanz got thin. Megan Mullally couldn’t find a rhythm. I still think Cheryl Hines is oddly hot.

Lie to Me

I unfortunately didn’t start watching this until July, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. While gimmicky to a fault and not nearly as intelligent as it pretends it is, this Tim Roth vehicle about an FBI specialist who studies the subtleties of the face (OF THE FACE) is clever, compelling and well drawn. I’m not sure about the addition of Mekhi Phifer’s character, but we’ll see how it works out next season, especially with Shield creator Shawn Ryan at the helm of season two.

Life

This cancellation reallllly hurts. One of the unsung gems from the 2007-2008 television, this, the smartest network cop show in recent memory, took its great season one energy and hit the second season with all it had and came up with a compelling, hilarious, devilishly clever and gleefully violent run that was only marred by a major cast shift during the final few episodes. (I’m looking at you, Gabrielle Union. Your presence was what I like to call a massive failure.) A Zen-obsessed cop recently released from prison after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, this show had the best cases of them all. It also gave me one of my favorite hours of television of the year in an episode that revolved around a seductive assassin, fertilizer and pigeon aficionados. And at least the major serialized storyline (who framed Damien Lewis and why) got paid off in a major way thanks to the ever-reliable Garret Dillahunt.

lifeshot

My Boys

Putting PJ and Bobby together was a great idea, but your nine-episode seasons are too short to gain any momentum, and the spring training season finale was a bust.

Nitro Circus

Moronic glee.

Numb3rs

Man, did they put Charlie through the ringer. First, he nearly gets his brother killed with a miscalculation on his part, he questions his own validity as a mathematician and then Amita gets kidnapped just as he decides that he wants to marry her. Otherwise, another fine, if somewhat uneventful, of this show that never captured the glory of its über-nerdy first season. Also, thanks for all the great guest star work, but sometimes it gets laid on a little too thick, such as in “Sneakerhead” which brought together Bruno Campos, Patrick Bauchau, Dr. Edison from Bones and Eve. (And points for making the Liz Warner character actually bearable. I fucking hated her in season 4.

Privileged

So apparently the CW thought that their best idea ever was to get rid of this show, the smartest show on the UPN/WB merger since the Buffyverse, one that was technically pulling in bigger numbers than 90210, one that was a delight to watch and deeply addictive, and make room for what is sure to be one of 2009-2010’s worst new offerings, Melrose Place. I gotta tell ya, this cancellation hurts. While I wrote recaps and reviews of the episodes way into its freshman (and only) season, the looming axe, as well as a more heavily serialized structure, turned me off from writing on the final stretch of episodes, and I told myself that I’d only recap them if the show came back. Lo and behold, another Joanna Garcia vehicle has gone down the tubes. I’ll miss you oh so dearly, Ms. Too-Smart-For-The-CW Palm Beach satirical melodrama known as Privileged.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

Rescue Me

I thought it was a great season, and thanks to an extended number of episodes (it didn’t air in 2008 thanks to the writer’s strike), the show was able to focus much of its energy on pages-long dialogue-happy battle-of-wits in nearly episode, which to be is melodrama heaven. Gone is the maudlin tone, returned is all the comic energy, and the stories seem to actually progress instead of just flopping around like a dying fish. Leary and Tolan deserve major praise for bringing the show back up to snuff. And now having seen all of Newsradio, I love any chance I get to watch Maura Tierney, although I’m still not going to watch ER. (I am proud to have only seen three episodes of that show ever, being a Chicago Hope fan.) Special shot-out to the Sean cancer storyline, if only to allow Broadway actor Steven Pasquale (husband of Tony winner Laura Benanti) the opportunity to belt out some songs in a handful of hallucination scenes.

Samantha Who?

One of the biggest upsets of the last two years was the rise and fall of this light-hearted, occasionally gut-busting amnesia sitcom that started off the talk of the town, only to waste away its final episodes after the conclusion of the actual television season. Ending on a shitty cliffhanger (Sam’s parents are getting divorced, so Mom is going to live with you and your formerly-estranged-but-now-love-of-your-life lover), we nevertheless found out who caused the accident that brought about Sam’s amnesia, Jennifer Esposito finally made it with the towel boy, and Melissa McCarthy continued to be one of the brightest stars of the year.

Scrubs

Like Privileged, I hesitated to continue writing due to the threat of its cancellation, but now it’s continuing on into yet another season (albeit with some major changes), so I really have no reason to stop writing about it. But let’s just say that while the hurry-up to conclude its many disparate storylines often felt rushed (those two Bahama episodes felt especially odd), the conclusion to J.D.’s years-in-the-telling tale was a lovely way to conclude the season. (No props for the awful awful Peter Gabriel song that accompanied his final walk down the hallway, as laughably bad as it was when I heard it in the remake of Shall We Dance?)

The Shield

I don’t have to tell you how amazing the final season was. Watch it. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the hardest hitting cop shows of all time. Like The Wire, a Greek tragedy hammered into modern-day policework with some of the most finely drawn characters around. And oh man, did those final three episodes pack a major punch. Ouch, indeed.

Southland

Quite a bit like The Shield, really, had it followed Michael Jace’s beat cop instead of the Strike Team. A little too dour at times for me to really give a crap, and the sprawling ensemble needs to be cut down (which is what I hear it’s doing for the second season), but this L.A.-centered procedural has a lot going for it, not least of which its pitch-perfect direction. (I especially dig the long shots, including my favorite, which involved a cabin and a K9 unit bringing down a perp.)

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Surviving Suburbia

A sitcom in serious need of finding one tone and sticking with it, this sometimes-sweet-sometimes-brutally-cruel suburban comedy worked as well as it did because of Saget as well as G. Hannelius’ performance as the precocious daughter. Still, all the jokes about disabled people, pregnant teenagers and strip clubs really didn’t mesh together with the clichés of the genre.

Survivor: Tocantins

I love Survivor, but this was one of the most boring seasons in its ten-year run. I don’t think I gave a shit about one person, and I simply couldn’t find anything compelling to write about. A waste of a good location.

True Beauty

The right person won, the losers got (mostly) schooled in this trick show designed to expose the douchery involved in modeling, Ashton Kutcher made another heroin-like show, and I concern myself for months with how they can pull the trick off a second time in the next season.

The Unusuals

When grading a cop show, I tend to focus on three things — the tone, the characters and the cases. A bizarre, pessimistic yet comedic take on all those wacky cops we’ve seen throughout the years all thrown together (one is deathly afraid of…death, one has a brain tumor, one talks in the third person, one is a closeted socialite, etc.) pushed into some remarkably dark territory, The Unusuals had tone and characters down pat, but suffered at the hands of some DOA storylines. But oh man, did the tone ever make up for most of the show’s shortcomings. Great ensemble cast, too, although I would have recast Eddie Alvarez.

Rather unusual.

Rather unusual.

Worst Week

A breezy and often hilarious slapstick comedy based off of a British hit, it could never regain its momentum after moving away from the initial “week” of the title. Kyle Bornheimer is a true find and made the more unbearable misunderstandings and embarrassing moments of the show (of which there were many) all the more palatable. I’m not the biggest fan of comedy based around humiliations, but this show found a likeable ability to have its characters not completely despise each other at every moment. This was, to say the least, very refreshing. Big points for giving me the biggest network TV laugh of the year (when Bornheimer wakes up his brother-in-law only to be thought a murderer) but major negative points for pushing back a major character-based episode into a weekend spot months after the show had already ended its run.

The Husband:

And lo, Holly re-entered Michael Scott’s life, and the world of The Office was complete again. For this season finale, several stories came crashing in on each other, and what better place for that than the company-wide picnic, full of food, games and seeeeeecrets

Aside from learning, for instance, that all Human Resources leads talk with the same joylessness and boring tact as Toby, the biggest event of the day is not the competitive volleyball game (more on that later), but Michael and Holly finally reuniting after her relocation to New Hampshire after it was discovered that she and Michael were fraternizing (boss + employee + sex = no good). Still with boyfriend and coworker Rob Huebel, she and Michael nevertheless still have major chemistry, but they must put that aside in order to do a comedy sketch for the picnic. After going through several bad ideas (a Jaws parody that would have them muttering “Dun-der, dun-der, dun-der”), they settle on a deliriously weird take-off of Slumdog Millionaire, complete with the torture scenes. The questions are based around the origins and history of Dunder-Mifflin (it seems Dunder and Mifflin met on a campus tour of Dartmouth, and one of them shot himself in the head), the sketch finally makes waves when one of the Millionaire questions reveals that the Buffalo branch is about to be closed, a piece of info David shared secretly with Michael.

Why David told Michael I’ll never understand (what were you expecting from someone who recently defected and battled your company), but I think the revelation might have done a very good job in revealing some of Corporate’s misdoings, and that Michael has become the kind of person to not go down without a fight.

Having a moment.

Having a moment.

Post-sketch, Michael and Holly have another moment, but alas, it cannot be, as she and Rob Huebel exit, leaving Michael to understand, in a stunning bit of maturity, that he is willing to wait for her and not force his hand too much.


“I think that today was just about having today.” – Michael


Meanwhile, on the field, Dunder-Mifflin is rising up in the ranks of the intramural volleyball tournament, thanks mostly to Pam rocking the ball hardcore. (She never revealed to anybody that she played in middle school, high school and some college, as well as attended volleyball summer camp frequently.) But when they go up against the Corporate team, led by Charles Minor, the game gets nasty.

On the sidelines, one of Dwight’s newest friends, Rolph, is relentlessly haranguing Angela for breaking his friend’s heart.


“What does one fiancée plus one lover equal? Answer: a whore!” – Rolph


Finally, Rolph goes too far, Dwight forcibly tells him to back off, and Angela realizes that she and Dwight may not be a lost cause after all.

(I don’t know if this was intentional, but I find it extra funny that Dwight says he met Rolph at a shoe store. The actor playing Rolph, James Urbaniak, is a wonder at playing terrible creeps, from being R. Crumb in American Splendor to voicing Dr. Venture on The Venture Brothers, but he will always be the foot fetishist shoe salesman on Sex and the City.)

But back to the volleyball game. During a particularly aggressive defense, Pam trips and busts her ankle, prompting Jim to take her to a nearby hospital (ever the paranoid naturalist, Dwight knows exactly how many miles away it is) and Dwight to stall the game as much as possible. But at the hospital, a busted ankle becomes something else, and in a scene respectable not just for its emotion but for the fact that it’s done in silence, Jim and Pam find out that they are having a baby, prompting Jim to call Dwight back and uttering the best line of the week:


“Hey Dwight, send in the subs.” – Jim


I realize I’m in the minority, but as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I think this is the best season of The Office yet. No longer insistent on simply telling a bunch of goofy office stories, the world has opened up even bigger than before, willing more than ever to turn up the drama when it’s necessary. Jim and Pam may seem irrelevant to some, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as we see this beautiful flower emerge from the cracks within the concrete that is Dunder-Mifflin. Michael and Holly’s relationship was top-notch, helping turn Michael, finally, into an actual human being and not just a caricature who would sometimes change personalities just to service each week’s plot. Ryan’s return was handled well. Pam’s failed attempt at art school was realistic and understandable. The entire Michael Scott Paper Company arc worked better than I would have expected. How is this not a great season?

I leave this season with two more good quotes from the episode, the first just goofy, the second a cheap, easy joke for Dwight, but a funny one nonetheless.


“Yeah, you don’t grab these for balance.” – Pam


“I have an appointment with a horse doctor. How that horse became a doctor, I’ll never know. I’m just kidding. He’s just a regular doctor who shoots your horse in the head when his leg is broken.” – Dwight

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 Husband:

Among many other reasons, I waited to do this write up on last Thursday’s NBC comedies because the fate of My Name Is Earl hadn’t been decided yet. As of yesterday, it has been dropped completely from the NBC schedule, and unless it is granted a last-minute pick-up by FOX (which is unlikely), this was the last Earl of all time. For weeks now, I’ve been raging against those who pick on the show for, you know, having a personality and being a very specific kind of funny and actually having a message while not cramming it down your throats. While never breaking the Top 40 (no comedy on NBC’s comedy block can claim that, actually), Earl was a big deal for a couple seasons until it took a turn that people didn’t like (I’m not included in those “people”) and really started to ease into itself.

At the same time, however, I understand that this season wasn’t spectacular (no one season was, not even the first), and as it has been on for four full years, it’s okay for it to go away. I am all for good new shows, but as it is with any year and with any show, that’s always a crap shoot. And with Leno taking up five hours of prime-time NBC television a week out of sheer greed and douchiness, there are fewer spots than ever before to impress me with new programming. So as saddened as I am to see Earl go, I will look back fondly on the hundred episodes and be grateful that such a strange, nutty and sweet show was allowed to live this long.

And with this final episode, we get both a reminder of how goddamn funny the show is, but also a cliffhanger that seems like a desperate renewal ploy, something the show had never done before. (Even when Earl went to jail at the end of season 2, it felt like a solid ending, as his sacrifice for Joy was a huge karmic plus, for some reason reminding me of the ending of the otherwise shitty Brokedown Palace.) But yes, as Earl takes on #174 (“ruined Dodge’s career day”), he and Darnell learn that Joy has been lying all along about who is Dodge’s father. Before, she had no idea, but after being caught in a lie, she admits that it was Little Chubby, a.k.a. Norm MacDonald doing a Burt Reynolds impersonation, or, more appropriately, an impersonation of Burt Reynolds’ son, as the mustachioed man himself played Big Chubby.

Where are my Hulk hands?

Where are my Hulk hands?

When we last checked in on Little Chubby, he had taken a baseball in the nuts in order to cure his asshole nature (when he has testicles, he’s a jerk just like his father, but without them, he’s a philanthropist), but now he’s back to his old ways, as he simply couldn’t run a strip club without having a discerning eye. (e.g. He allows an octogenarian to become a stripper, which ends badly when her vagina falls off.) So now he has giant fake animal balls and is acting like a major jerk. He’s even running a bizarre SAT Tutorial at Club Chubby.


“Little Chubby Tutorial is to SAT prep as Club Chubby is to erections.” – Little Chubby


Because of his jerkiness, he will not allow Earl to take some of his DNA to prove that Dodge is his son, and after failing to grab Big Chubby’s DNA from his coffin by accidentally setting it on fire (which is to be expected, as the funeral involved people pouring massive amounts of booze on the body), Darnell uses his skills (having worked at the CIA, a circus, and is a member of the plumber’s union) to reach from below Little Chubby’s toilet in order to steal a pubic hair.

(See? This show is way too bizarre for network television.)

But when the results come back, Earl learns that Little Chubby isn’t the father. How can this be? Joy was quite drunk at a Halloween party at the Crab Shack, so she wasn’t very choosy by the end of the night. But she mistook Little Chubby, who was dressed as a skeleton, as somebody else dressed in the same outfit.


“Was that the Halloween party where Fat Steve dressed up like the Kool Aid man and broke his nose trying to run through a wall?” – Earl


And so, Earl actually is Dodge’s biological father, and when a pregnant Joy had tricked a hammered Earl to marry her so many years ago, it wasn’t as sketchy as it seemed.

But oh, there’s another twist. It turns out that Earl, Jr. (a.k.a. the “non-white” one) isn’t Darnell’s child either, and that Joy has another secret. But as she’s about to tell, the episode ends, and the viewers are left with a now-depressing “To Be Continued…”

Oy. Definitely desperate. But also interesting. It’s a neat way to turn the show upside-down for its assumed fifth season, but as that is no longer happening, it’s a lost trick. Especially since Randy wasn’t featured in the episode at all.

Two other funny lines:

  • “I’m the only reason you kids aren’t speaking Russian right now.” – Darnell at Career Day
  • “Where did you find that sweater? JaCrew?!” – Joy mocking Earl’s choice of wardrobe

I will miss you, Earl, your misunderstood ways, your over-insistence on guest stars and your creepy relation to Scientologists. But Jason Lee is a damn good actor, and his future continues to be nothing but wide open. And now Eddie Steeples and Nadine Velazquez can finally go forth into the world of comedy and character acting. They’re both that good.

The Wife:

Parks & Recreation 1.6 “Rock Show”

All I can say is that I hope Ann and Andy never break up because Chris Pratt is the best part about this show. I completely understand Ann’s anger upon finding out that Andy had lied to her about when his casts could be removed just to get another two weeks of complete servitude out of her, but I also get how nice it is to be taken care of the way Ann had taken care of Andy. Let me give you a list of how funny Chris Pratt’s Andy is:

  • His songs about things that are physically near him: “Sandwich! Are you turkey or ham?” (To which Ann responds, “Ham.”)
  • The sundry items that fell into one of his casts, including some gummi bears and Ann’s iPod.
  • His long list of band names which appear to change frequently: Scare Crow Boat, Mouse Rat, Fourskin, Threeskin, Teddy Bear Suicide . . . many other suicidal inanimate objects included there.
  • The Pit song.
  • His genius plot to get back in Ann’s good graces, which I infer entirely from the look on his face when he sees the pit outside his door after she kicks him out: fall into the pit again and get hurt.
  • His reaction to Mark falling drunkenly into the pit, which is basically just an excuse to get back in Ann’s house and watch TV while Mark suffers.


Until she finds out that he lied to her, Ann spends her time flyering for Scare Crow Boat’s first concert on Andy’s newly healed legs, which she still attends that night because everyone else on Leslie’s subcommittee has agreed to go . . .except for Leslie, who attends what she thinks is a business meeting but turns out to be a date with a 62-year-old man, set up for her by her mother. Mark spends the evening at the rock show realizing that he has somehow become the third wheel to everyone in the Parks department: Ron Swanson attends with his new girlfriend, his ex-wife’s sister, who hates his ex as much as he does; Tom Haverford attends with his wife, a hot doctor who, he reminds Mark, makes, like, a ton of money; and even Intern April shows up with a gay guy she makes out with sometimes when she’s drunk. Mark tries to get Ann to see the light about being with Andy, but she rejects him outright, knowing that he’s not any better at relationships than Andy is.

Pleasedonteverbreakup!

Pleasedon'teverbreakup!

Leslie and her date show up right as Mouse Rat (formerly Scare Crow Boat) finishes its set, but Leslie’s date is too old and he falls asleep, so she spends the rest of the night drinking with Mark until last call. After which, they go to the pit and have, actually, a really sweet conversation about Leslie’s hopes to turn the pit into a park in which Mark proves to her its already a park. (“Ring Around the Diaper” and “Duck, Duck, Glass” are two games he imagines children playing there.) And then he falls in.

I’m still not 100% sure about Parks & Rec, but I think it’s starting to settle into its own groove, and I was very surprised at the sweetness and realness of this episode. Often, Leslie’s idealism and naïveté make her incredibly unrelatable, almost like she’s actually mentally insane instead of a misguided go-getter. But here, especially in her scene at the pit with Mark, she seemed the most real to me that she’s been all season, and I’d like to see more of that Leslie.

[Husband Note: I very much like the show and am 95% certain it can find a great groove next season. In addition, it might be my favorite new opening theme music of the year, but I can’t really explain why.]

30 Rock 3.22 “Kidney Now!”

Jack prepares to give his father a kidney, until Dr. Spaceman reveals that they’re not a match at all, leaving Jack to resort to the very thing the liberal media is best at: putting together fundraising telethons and gala concert events to solicit money for causes. So he pulls out all of his favors with various celebrities to get them to record a “We Are the World”-esque diddy coercing the entire nation to donate just one kidney (just one!) to Milton Green, because he really needs it. I think the plea for a kidney was best summarized by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine: “And while you don’t have two beards, you do have two kidneys. Let’s put it this way, if you had two dollars, you’d give me one, right?”

I think Cyndi Lauper might need a new liver soon . . .

I think Cyndi Lauper might need a new liver soon . . .

And how did Jack acquire some of these celebrities? It was easy to get Clay Aiken, because his cousin Kenneth promised he’d do it. Mary J. Blige owed Jack a favor because he got her out of a 20-year concert contract at Seaworld. And as for Elvis Costello? It is best that no one ever finds out that he’s actually an international art thief. Sheryl Crow ended up being the only one to get paid for it. Cyndi Lauper did it for the free booze. (I think that’s also why she was in The Threepenny Opera and on Gossip Girl.) I have no idea why Adam Levine was there, but he got the funniest lines in the whole show. In addition to his kidney appeal above, there was also him pretending he wasn’t a celebrity in front of Jenna (whom Jack didn’t want in the concert) by acting like he was from Europe (“Pleased to meet!”) and his intense desire to harm Elvis Costello in some manner: “When he isn’t looking, I’m going to punch Elvis in the back of the head.” Oh, Adam Levine. I love you. So much.

Clearly, Jack’s insanely overkill kidney drive was the crux of the episode, but there were also two other silly plots. Liz gets dragged onto the Vontella show with Jenna to promote the Dealbreaker sketch by doling out relationship advice (although, Jenna’s usual appearances on that show involve intense catfights with women pretending to be her half-sister). While Jenna is unable to answer any of the questions the audience poses to her, Liz becomes surprisingly adept at dishing out bon mots about fruit blindness (when you’re fiancé is gay and you don’t know it) and other such dealbreakers. My favorite: “Only one snake in the bed. Dealbreaker.” Eventually, because her appearance on Vontella was so popular, the women of 30 Rock start asking her for advice. Angie wants to know what to do when she finds out that Tracy rents a hotel room twice a week for two hours. Likewise, Pete’s wife wonders why Pete doesn’t want to attend their family vacation. Tripping on the power of fake advice, Liz tells both women to “S that D: shut it down,” incurring the wrath of both of her coworkers. You see, Tracy only rents a hotel room so he can shit in peace. (Angie should instead be worried that he only poops twice a week.) And Pete doesn’t want to go on his family vacation because they’re going to work on a farm, and he’s the only one with hands dexterous enough to steer the bull during mating season. But Liz refuses to stop, especially with a book deal in the works and Jack encourages her: Liz is finally getting hers.

As for Tracy, he’s invited to speak at his old high school’s commencement. He refuses because he vowed never to go back there after he left school for crying over being forced to dissect a frog in science class. He also vowed never to cry again, a fact he admits to over a montage of all the times we’ve seen Tracy cry about something. Kenneth convinces him that he should go, though, to prove to himself that he isn’t that kid anymore. When he does give his speech, he is awarded with an honorary high school diploma, which he cries about. Tracy’s plot was the weakest in this whole episode, but because Jack and Liz’s stories were so funny, this all adds up to be a pretty good, silly and weird season finale.

Other funny:

  • “Science was my most favorite subject – especially the Old Testament.” – Kenneth
  • “My Mary J. Blige Foundation is celebrating its 10th year of searching for the Loch Ness Monster.” – Mary J. Blige
  • “We called him Mean Steve. But his real name was Steve Killer.” – Tracy
  • Jack and Milton playing catch.
  • Liz and Sheryl Crow played Kidneys in the 5th grade school play. And Sheryl does not like Liz at all.

[Husband Note: In case you didn’t catch all the celebrities, a commenter on AV Club listed (I think) everybody else. That would include The Beastie Boys, Michael McDonald, Rhett Miller, Robert Randolph, Sarah Bareilles, Norah Jones, Moby, Wyclef, Talib Kweli and Rachael Yamagata.]