Top 5 Community Concept Episodes

by Amy Yen

Community Concept Episodes

I am not sure if casual TV watchers can ever truly understand what it was like to be a fan of NBC’s Community last year. People who still watch How I Met Your Mother or Homeland would. These are all examples of shows that have experienced what Slate Magazine recently referred to as Total Quality Collapse (in reference to Downton Abbey, which I agree about to a lesser extent). Community’s season 4 downfall post the forced ousting of volatile, controversial creator Dan Harmon, however, is my most painful example—not just because the show became bad, but because it became generic.

Community in seasons 1-3 was at times one of the most creatively brave shows on the air. Who else would dare to do an entire episode in the style of a Ken Burns documentary or as an 8-bit video game? The season 4 showrunners meant well, but made the mistake of trying to imitate the most flashy parts of Community, the concept episodes, while forgetting that, in the middle of all the musical, zombie & bottle episodes, Harmon had been building a core group of characters that had backstories & relationships, who cared about each other, who were relatable & who were real.

The most disappointing thing about season 4 wasn’t that Guarascio & Port failed to do a truly great Hunger Games parody or a fourth paintball episode, it was that Annie spent an episode indulgently pretending to be Jeff’s wife, when Annie as a character outgrew that kind of thing two seasons ago. Or that Troy & Britta got together, but not in any sort of meaningful way, but rather only as a contrivance to have hilarious (spoiler alert: they were not hilarious) sitcom-y scenarios like Britta having to sneak out so Abed wouldn’t see her. Or that Jeff ended every episode with a heartwarming speech about how much he loved everyone, when Jeff was always reluctant at best to ever admit even to himself, let alone out loud, that he had feelings of any kind for these people.

Looking back on it, it would have been a borderline miracle for a show whose creative vision was so intrinsically tied to its showrunner to be able to continue like nothing had changed, but I truly believe there was a way for season 4 to be different, but still Community. Instead, it became the very worst version of itself that it could possibly be, so much so that at upfronts last year, I was actively rooting for NBC to put it out of its misery.

But then something amazing happened. Not only did NBC order a season 5, it brought Dan Harmon back. And the early reviews of the first three episodes are, despite considerable odds, pretty great. So, in honor of this delightful & unlikely turn of events, I wanted to look back on my top 5 Community concept episodes. There are many, many great ones—it truly pains me to leave out the fake clip show episode, made up entirely of new clips…I mean, who thinks of that?—but there a few tentpoles here too significant not to include.

Honorable Mentions: Digital Exploration of Interior Design / Pillows and Blankets (3.13 /14, The Ken Burns Documentary Episode), Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design (2.9, The Conspiracy Theory Episode), Digital Estate Planning (3.20, The 8-Bit Video Game Episode), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2.14, The Dungeons & Dragons Episode), Regional Holiday Music (3.10, The Musical Episode), Paradigms of Human Memory (2.21, The [Fake] Clip Show Episode)

5) Basic Lupine Urology (3.17)
AKA: The Law & Order Episode
Perhaps the most successful execution of a beginning-to-end concept parody Community’s ever done, this Law & Order send-up really could not be more perfect. From the cold open, in which unsuspecting janitors come across our crime-of-the week (in this case, the study group’s smashed yams), to the witnesses who refuse to stop doing their jobs even while being questioned by “detectives,” to the post-verdict drink the “lawyers” have in the “judge’s chambers,” every detail is exactly like every Law & Order episode you’ve ever seen, down to the “chung chung!” sounders setting each scene, the dialogue & the camera angles. But unlike season 4’s parodies, amazingly, even as our characters operate within the structure of a different show, they remain true to who we know them to be. Even the title is amazing, “Lupine Urology”…Dick Wolf. Get it?

4) Cooperative Calligraphy (2.8)
AKA: The Bottle Episode
Community’s version of a bottle episode (for those of you non-TV nerds, that’s an episode limited to just the core cast & set entirely on one of the show’s existing pre-built sets in order to save budget) does what all great bottle episodes do: without the crutch of guest stars, different locations or big ideas to parody, the show puts its core group of characters in their most familiar setting, the study room, & have them do nothing but banter & delve into each other’s psyches. This results in some surprisingly personal insights (like some of the group’s judgement over Shirley’s relationship with her ex-husband following the revelation of her pregnancy) & even more interesting than usual group dynamics. It’s another episode about the group becoming a family…the idea that if they can’t find Annie’s pen, they may never be able to fully trust one another because they’ll always suspect one of them allowed them to have to go through all of this (& miss the puppy parade!) is an absurd one. But as Annie says, “It’s not just a pen, it’s a principle!”

3) Epidemiology (2.6)
AKA: The Zombie Apocalypse Episode
As tends to happen in a Halloween episode, the costumes provide an endless source of hilarity, from Pierce’s Captain Kirk outfit reaching new levels of authenticity to Troy’s sexy Dracula to Chang’s Peggy Flemming (“You’ve just been proven racist, by the racist prover!”). Even the extras are great (“You punched a lady bee!”). Meanwhile, Troy and Abed’s mini bromance crisis creates some genuine character moments. This is the best possible example of just how fun it is to see our characters go through a situation outside of what the premise of the show should allow…as a viewer, I know they aren’t going to kill off all of the characters, but as I was watching this episode for the first time, there’s some actual suspense as to how they were going to get out of this. That’s pretty neat storytelling for a silly cult comedy set at a community college. As a bonus, the entire zombie apocalypse is set to ABBA music.

2) Remedial Chaos Theory (3.3)
AKA: The Parallel Timelines Episode
Often considered the best episode of Community ever, we see seven different versions of Troy & Abed’s housewarming party, each with one member of the group missing. Both hilarious (this episode also introduces us to the Darkest Timeline, where Pierce is killed & Jeff loses an arm & Evil Abed is born) & heartwarming, this episode is a fascinating examination of each character’s part of the group’s dynamic. It’s endlessly interesting that the timeline where Jeff is gone is the best version of events, where the group can have fun & be free (this isn’t the first time where he is cut out of the group, but unlike the chicken finger/Godfather episode, the group does not come crawling back to him…they’ve grown from that). It’s also interesting to think about which is actually the darkest timeline—when Troy is gone & the apartment burns? Or when Abed is gone & everyone devolves into hating each other? The story also somehow has time to explore a couple of other character themes, like Jeff & Annie’s slightly icky relationship, Troy & Britta’s genuine, yet not quite grown-up connection, Pierce’s loneliness & Troy’s desire to earn Jeff’s respect.

1) Modern Warfare (1.23)
AKA: The Paintball Episode (Action movies)
What else could be number 1 but the original paintball episode…the one that put Community’s concept episodes on the map. With references from everything from Terminator (“Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes.”) to John Woo, this is true commitment to the bit. They even got a big time action director (Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious franchise) to create some legitimately impressive set pieces. From the not-so-subtle pokes at Glee (“I’m all for winning, but let’s not resort to cheap plots,” says Jeff, immediately before removing his shirt) to the absurdity of the prize the school tears itself apart fighting over (priority registration!), Modern Warfare is not only one of the most fun & funny episodes of a comedy that year, but one of the best half hours of television in recent history.

Community season 5 returns tonight, January 2 at 9/8 central on NBC. #sixseasonsandamovie

Thoughts on Fringe’s Final Season Premiere: Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11

by Amy Yen

There are a lot of ways you could describe what kind of show Fringe is. It’s really well acted. It has a rich & terribly complex mythology. It’s got a lot of ludicrous science that doesn’t make any sense. It can be, in the same hour, terrifying, thrilling, hilarious & heartbreaking.

It’s incredibly brave.

Whether you thought the Peter disappearing arc really paid off or not, or whether you think they really told all the story there was to tell in the red-verse before closing it off, or whether you think it’s the best choice to set the final 13 episodes in 2036, you have to admit, Fringe doesn’t do safe storytelling. That may mean it can go off the rails a little, but you have to admire it for trying it in the first place.

Fortunately, based off of “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11,” this final leap may pay off yet. I found 2036 this time around completely engaging. It was smart to bring the entire core team forward, so that we haven’t actually missed very much of their story. And Etta — perfectly cast Etta (who, looking at her now, I can’t believe we went through “Letters of Transit” without knowing who she was, because it is so very obvious) — Etta is exactly right, exactly who a daughter of Peter & Olivia would be. A wonderful performance from Georgina Haig, highlighted by the scene reuniting her with Olivia. 

Really, every performance was pretty much amazing in this episode, although it would be a crime, which should be punishable by horrible Observer mind-probing, to post this without saying that John Noble was, for the millionth time, incredible. And although I found the scene between Peter & Olivia, where they explain to us, but mostly to each other for some reason, what happened to them after they lost Etta, clunky & unnecessary, I did think Joshua Jackson did an admirable job selling it. I just don’t really see why it was necessary to break them up again. (It reminds me of Amy & Rory’s break-up in this year’s Doctor Who premiere. Is it just that the writers think it’s more interesting when they’re a little star-crossed? In both cases, I just feel like the characters have developed beyond that.)

Anyway, overall, I found the whole thing reason to hope, like a single dandelion growing on scorched earth, that this final season, which we are lucky to have regardless of what it turns out being, is going to give this story the ending it deserves.

More random thoughts on “Transilience Thought Unifer Model-11”:

  • I thought the callbacks to the some of the familiar little things we know about these characters, like Walter trying to eat egg sticks like licorice (“What a miserable future.”) and calling Astrid “Afro,” were used really well. Not only did it bring a little humor, but it was kind of subtly sad, calling back on something that was lost in this future.
  • “You seem much more interesting as a human being than a vegetable. But, all things being equal, I don’t mind which one you end up.” They’ve done a great job of making the Observers straight-up terrifying.
  • If Peter & Olivia lost Etta when the Observers invaded when she was three, how does she know who she is? And what exactly happened to her?
  • The carbon monoxide thing was a nice touch. If you think about it, the air is only going to get more polluted in the future, where the Observers came from, so it makes sense they’d adapted to it. And ironically, by polluting the air on purpose now, they may be speeding up the ruining of the world that eventually leads them to go back in time in the first place.
  • I did think during the scenes at the resistance headquarters that those bits would have been so much more interesting with Simon still around. Stupid Scandal, ruining everything. (I don’t mean that, I actually quite like Scandal.) Now that Henry Ian Cusick’s available, I really hope they find a way to bring him back. With the way the bit of dialogue referencing Simon was written, I have to assume we will.
  • I wonder what happened to Ella, Olivia’s niece, in this version of the future. If you remember, in the “The Day We Died” future, she ended up a Fringe agent.
  • It’s kind of nice to see Markham again, even if him using amber-ized Olivia as a coffee table is really messed up. I have the feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of familiar faces on the farewell tour this year.

Thoughts on Fringe Season 4 Premiere Neither Here Nor There

by Amy Yen

More than almost any other show on TV, it’s wonderful to have Fringe back, just in terms of my almost complete certainty that I will get an enjoyable hour of television. The only other show I would put in its class would be Parks and Recreation (whose premiere was excellent, btw). Fringe is wonderful because even when it’s not quite what you want it to be, it has so many layers & interesting things to think about, it will still almost always be better than 95% of everything else on TV.

So, the season 4 premiere, “Neither Here Nor There,” wasn’t quite the epic mythology piece we were all not-so-secretly hoping for. Instead, the producers (or more likely, the network) decided to backtrack on last year’s (wise, I thought) decision to abandon all notion that they were going to attract any new viewers & just went neck-deep into the mythology. Maybe it’s that the sudden surge in genre-friendly Friday programming re-opens up the possibility of people discovering the show…but I have to say, as much as I thought this episode (& from what I understand the first part of this season) was trying to be as accessible as possible, I can’t imagine someone tuning in for the first time & the first scene being Olivia Dunham arguing with an alternate version of herself.

So, maybe I don’t know so much about this new direction, but I did think this episode did do a good job of setting up the new dynamics of the season, at least for the blueverse, & also introducing a lot of very interesting questions about how characters are affected by Peter Bishop’s being erased from the timeline. It did a particularly good job of re-introducing the blueverse version of Lincoln Lee, who in this timeline, never investigated the “Stowaway” case with Peter & Bellivia last year.

I loved the first scene with Lincoln at his partner’s house. What a remarkable little scene. Think about it, it’s the only scene with the partner & it makes you care about him in about three minutes. And it makes you care about, understand, this Lincoln we barely know, with the combed-down hair & the dorky glasses & buttoned-up suit & tie. (Again, such a simple & elegant job of contrasting him with the cocky, wild-haired Lincoln we know from the redverse.) But in three minutes, you get him.

As dorktastic as this Lincoln is, he is both completely capable on handling himself & also shows himself to be as naturally brilliant of an investigator as he is on the other side. It’s again smart writing because this Lincoln is totally different from the one we know, but you can see that they’re still the same person, the same way Walter & Walternate and Olivia & Fauxlivia are.

I really liked Olivia’s slow acceptance of Lincoln throughout the episode, how difficult it was, despite the fact we knew it was going to happen. Lincoln has to prove several times that he is a good investigator & a worthy partner for this Olivia, who has been alone for so long (“There is no one else. There is only me”). It is because Seth Gabel is so compelling in portraying this version of him (essentially a brand new character) that I didn’t miss Peter’s presence much at all this episode.

Not to say I wasn’t constantly thinking about how Peter’s absence affected things (more about this in the bullets), it’s just that Lincoln being there makes it less urgent to me that they bring him back immediately. I think they can take their time & let the story play out. Of course, I have no idea how it will. I’m still confused about September the Observer & his increasingly bizarre actions. Wasn’t Peter being erased from the timeline what he predicted (& presumably caused somehow)? Why is he suddenly so queasy about finishing the job?

So, overall, I’m still not convinced on whether this whole Peter storyline is a good one or not, but Fringe is one of those shows that has earned itself a lot of blind trust on my part. It’s not like I won’t be tuning in. And you should too.

Other random thoughts about “Neither Here Nor There”:

  • Orange (oh as EW pointed out, amber!) credits. Among the new phrases listed: Viral therapy, quantum entanglement, time paradox, psychic surgery, gravitons, existence. As vague as usual, except for quantum entanglement, which we’ve already dealt with. And existence, which seems…ominous.
  • “He just never had anything to tether him to the world.” The subtle & not-so-subtle differences in all the characters, the Peter-shaped hole in their lives, are all pretty fascinating. Olivia & Walter are pretty obvious, but the brief bits we get with Fauxlivia seem telling too. She’s definitely not quite as likable as she had grown to be last year. She’s back to who she was in Over There Part 2, when she first made the switch & infiltrated our side. Except in this timeline, she didn’t fall for Peter, didn’t change & start to care, didn’t ever come to want to stop Walternate.
  • I wonder if that also means that redverse Lincoln & Charlie never came to suspect Walternate’s evil ways, since Fauxlivia’s non-pregnancy means they probably never found out about the switch. Can’t wait to see how things are changed in the redverse.
  • Interesting that the blueverse Fringe division is both more official (& has seemingly more resources) & more secret in this timeline. Wonder why that would change, based on Peter not being there.
  • The translucent people/pseudo-shape-shifters quite deliberately called back to John Scott’s condition in the pilot. I even thought for a second this might turn out to be the same case…a situation in which Olivia & John never caught up to the bad guy from that episode, so he never exploded his lab or John.
  • “Just so you know, I know what it’s like.” So in this timeline, John Scott never recovered at all? Is that because Peter never forced the suspect to talk using completely illegal interrogation techniques?
  • “There’s more than one.” Oh, we know. We know.
  • One glaring thing that does still need to be explained regarding the new timeline: if Peter never existed or died as a child, how did the chain of events leading up to the universes merging even happen? Because we know in the original timeline, it all started when Walter ripped a hole between universes to try to save the Peter from over there. If he never did that, what caused all the damage on both sides that is referenced by the Olivias in this episode?
  • “What I do know is that this tech isn’t from here.” “Not from here? You mean like, from China?” “No. Not China.” Heh.
  • The red room scan totally gave me Alias flashbacks.
  • Love the grin on Fauxlivia’s face when she spots Lincoln. Seriously can’t wait for the Lincolns to meet each other.
  • After seeing Ringer, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of just how good the Fringe cast, particularly Anna Torv & John Noble, is at playing against themselves.
  • “Sometimes answers lead to more questions.” I would say, almost always, in a JJ-verse.

Ad Post: CW The Secret Circle Entertainment Weekly Insert

by Amy Yen

The CW: The Secret Circle print insert
Agency: CW promotions department

Check out this elaborate print insert from the CW in the September 9th issue of Entertainment Weekly promoting their new fall show,The Secret Circle. The two-page insert opens up to an interactive ad of the show’s witch characters holding a candle, which the reader can light up by touching metal disks embedded in the ad. Touching the disks also activates an audio commercial for the show. The instructions on the ad tell the reader to blow out the candle to “protect [their] secret.” Sure enough, blowing on the ad activates a wind sensor in the ad & turns off the lighted candle.

An impressive, no doubt hugely expensive placement, it’s certainly attention-grabbing, with the insert bulking up the issue & the hardstock paper and various interactive components difficult to miss while flipping through the magazine. The CW is clearly putting a lot of promotion behind The Secret Circle, which is debuting behind their biggest hit, The Vampire Diaries, also from creator Kevin Williamson & also based on LJ Smith novels. I’ll definitely be giving it a shot, because of the good will Williamson buys, although honestly, despite the fact that the CW has successfully gotten my attention with its promotion, I don’t find the previews themselves to be particularly compelling. Watch a 6-minute preview here.

Instructions on the CW's interactive print insert for The Secret Circle (click to enlarge)

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6.5 Premiere Let’s Kill Hitler

by Amy Yen

“No, she will be amazing.”

Oh, the twisty-turny, timey-wimey, crazy, tragic, brilliant, impossible life of River Song. How do we even begin to talk about River Song?

So it turns out, everything about the River Song we know is a paradox. Her TARDIS blue diary, the “spoilers” she always warns about, “Rule 1: The Doctor Lies,” all of it came from the Doctor himself, who got it from River. Even her name, both of her names, are paradoxes. Amy names her baby after Mel, who is her baby. River takes her name from the Doctor, after the Doctor knows her as River. It’s impossible. She‘s impossible.

So we finally meet River at the start of her story, so long after meeting her at the end. She’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. “You got to raise me after all,” she tells Amy & Rory, & it’s an awesome idea, the girl who grew up with Amy & her imaginary friend. It’s such an awesome idea, I only wish there had been a few more plants for it. As it is, it does seem odd their best friend isn’t at their wedding or in any of the many scenes of their life in Leadworth, particularly in “The Eleventh Hour.”

So “Mel” regenerates into the future River & man, does Alex Kingston so clearly have a blast with Regeneration Cycle River, who is as spazzy & insane & fantastic as Eleven was when he first appeared. And she uses all of her remaining regenerations in one go, which doesn’t make sense on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it was established in the Sarah Jane Adventures last year that time lords can most likely continue regenerating indefinitely. But it does conveniently explain why River doesn’t renegerate in the Library, so I guess that’s a plot hole we’ll ignore.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” was full of answers, sometimes almost to a surreal degree (particularly when the Doctor accesses the Justice Department robot’s records on the Silence). But there are still plenty more left. The Silence is a movement based around the oldest question in the universe, hiding in plain sight (a familiar Moffat theme). Which is what? The Doctor now knows of his impending death, which we knew was going to happen since he has to set up the blue envelopes. But we still don’t know the goal of that exercise, since it still can’t be to save him, because we know now the Doctor’s death is apparently a fixed point in time. So how are they going to get out of this now?

More random thoughts on “Let’s Kill Hitler“:

  • Love Amy & Rory’s crop circle signal to the Doctor. It’s interesting that this is the first I think we’ve seen companions getting extended breaks on Earth in the middle of their adventures & getting the Doctor’s attention this way. If I remember right, before the Doctor had Martha’s phone, companions on Earth never had a way of contacting him again. Or I guess they did, but they just weren’t as clever as Amy & Rory.
  • “Permission?” “Granted.” I do love Rory & the Doctor’s revolving mutual perception of each other. The Doctor respecting Rory more & more, Rory accepting the Doctor’s role in Amy’s (& his) life.
  • The Justice Department robot thing is really cool, such a neat idea. Executed wonderfully, like Mystique in the X-Men movies. And for another comparison, the inside control room was totally Enterprise all the way.
  • Rory was extra awesome this episode & I can’t tell you how nice it is to see him taking a more active part in all these adventures. “Shut up, Hitler!” “Right, putting Hitler in the cupboard. In you go!”
  • “Time can be rewritten. Remember Kennedy?” Wait, what?
  • Guiltalso guiltmore guilt!” Man, Ten’s companions were emotionally scarring for him. Also, interesting moment when he rejects the image of himself, “No, give me someone I like!” The Dream Lord was right after all.
  • The TARDIS tells the Doctor regeneration has been disabled. Why? How? This is never explained & it’s a troublesome plot hole.
  • “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.” HA! Also, Robot Amy? Exceptionally creepy. And nice job with the dead eyes, Karen Gillan.
  • Sonic cane!
  • River is the child of the TARDIS…so the TARDIS teaches her how to fly. It’s lovely & makes perfect sense.
  • This was Matt Smith’s best performance yet. He’s just so brilliant.
  • “As far as first dates go, I’d say that was mixed signals.” I can’t even put into words how fantastic the dialogue Steven Moffat writes is sometimes.

Five Intriguing Pilot Previews From Upfronts (and One Catastrophic One)

by Amy Yen

Upfronts are over & the five major networks (I’m feeling generous to the CW today) have released previews to all their new fall projects. I’m not going to lie to you. There are some seriously horrible-looking TV shows in there. Like, there were literally some where, based on the premise, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the two-minute preview. There’s one so offensive, I’m going to share it here with you today, just to prove that somebody who works for a major TV network actually thought it was a good idea that people would be psyched to watch.

But before I do, here are five pilots that actually look pretty great:

1) Awake (NBC, Midseason)

The single most fascinating thing on the entire NBC programming slate, obviously, it got banished to midseason. (Falmpalm, NBC.) Awake (formerly known as REM) has a great dual-reality premise & hopefully it can execute on that potential. I think it would be interesting for it to do an every-other-episode format, like Fringe did with its alternate universes early this season. Additionally, the idea that his realities cross over, with his cases-of-the-week on one side affecting the other, is a really interesting one. I really hope this show is as good as it looks, because it looks really, really good.

2) Person of Interest (CBS, Thursdays at 9pm ET)

It should come as no surprise that my list will include not one but two JJ Abrams mystery dramas. The surprise for me is that Person of Interest, his CBS procedural collaboration with Jonathan Nolan, actually looks a little more interesting to me than Alcatraz, his FOX island-centric time travel mystery. There’s a lot to like about the POI preview, the most obvious being Michael Emerson being his brilliant, morally-ambiguous self. The action looks really solid & the premise has both the obligatory case-of-the-week aspect that should satisfy the CBS audience & the foundation for a really interesting JJ Abrams mythology. What more can you ask for?

3) Alcatraz (FOX, Mondays at 9pm ET – Midseason)

Alcatraz also looks interesting enough, altogether this trailer kind of reminds me of the first Fringe trailer in that in it of itself, it doesn’t particularly make me salivate to see more. It’s more that it has some elements that are somewhat interesting: good casting, good pedigree, good production values, a sci-fi-skewing premise. Let’s face it, it’s JJ Abrams. I will be watching. Like POI, it sounds like they are going to try to make Alcatraz more standalone than serial, but then, they said the same thing about Fringe & look how good that got. Plus, you have to trust FOX to let JJ be JJ more than you can trust CBS.

4) Terra Nova (FOX, Mondays at 8pm ET)

The reports about how hard it’s been getting this show going are kind of worrisome, but the trailer looks fun. It’s got that Jurassic Park Spielberg vibe & I like Jason O’Mara as a lead. Funny enough, one of the most interesting parts of the trailer IMO is one that’s most likely not going to be part of the show at all, which is the vision of the dystopic future, where everyone is wearing masks to breathe & apparently trying to escape a dying world. That’s a future I would have like to see more of. But, it is an inherently interesting premise, the idea of sending people to the past to escape the future & who doesn’t like a good dinosaur chase? Could be fun.

5) Ringer (CW, Tuesdays at 9pm ET)

I kind of wanted to include a CW show & the two most promising ones are Ringer, which was rejected by sister network CBS (for which it would have been completely inappropriate for), and Secret Circle, the latest from Kevin Williamson, which, like Vampire Diaries, was also adapted from an LJ Smith series of novels. Because of the good will Williamson has built up with Vampire Diaries, which rises above its premise to actually be a very good drama, and the casting of Thomas Dekker, who was very good in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I will definitely at least give Secret Circle a shot. But Ringer definitely looks like a better bet for a good story & it’s nice to see Sarah Michelle Gellar back on TV.

On the not-so-great side, there were many, many horrendous-looking comedies, including Free Agents, Whitney, Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Last Man Standing,  (seriously, haven’t we, as a society, moved past laugh tracks?), but the worst, the WORST, is this:

Work It (ABC, Midseason)

The fact that this was thought up by somebody & somebody else thought enough of it to order it as a pilot & somebody else thought enough of it to order it to series is unfathomable to me. Apparently delusion runs rampant during pilot season among network execs because this show? Appeals to nobody. I am actually offended by this is being offered to us as entertainment & I am telling advertisers right now, I will think less of your brand if you show a commercial during this show.

Look, I love TV & I just want it to be good, that’s all. It makes me sad when I see trash like this being introduced when quality shows like Parks & Recreation (which, btw, had a brilliant season finale) have to fight to stay on the air every year. So what I’m trying to say, networks, is try harder.

For a full breakdown of the fall TV schedule, go here.

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 2 Day of the Moon

by Amy Yen

The second part of the Doctor Who series 6 premiere, “Day of the Moon,” was simultaneously incredibly fun to watch & unbelievably unsatisfying. This is because, even though since new Who began, they’ve always introduced series-long story arcs, they’ve never been quite this open-ended. “Day of the Moon” completely failed in any way to answer all the questions presented in “The Impossible Astronaut.” That wouldn’t really be a problem if one didn’t also get the impression that they’re not going to address any of those questions until, say, the mid-series finale.

Unfortunately, the end of the episode & the preview for episode 3 definitely suggest that Doctor Who will go on their usual path of adventures-of-the-week with only tiny steps forward in the overall arc until the last couple of episodes. That’s not such a big deal when the overall arc is something as innocuous as “Bad Wolf” or Torchwood, but it is when the arc is Amy being possibly or possibly not pregnant, the little girl in the spacesuit possibly or possibly not being a time lord and, you know, the death of the Doctor. If they seriously don’t address any of this for like three or four more episodes, it’s going to be a very frustrating season.

This is again not to say “Day of the Moon” was a bad episode, because it wasn’t, although it was a little scattered for a Moffat episode. There were a lot of bits where I didn’t understand at all why people were doing what they were doing. Like, besides setting up for a really fun pay-off, why was it necessary to have the whole thing at the beginning of the episode with Canton pretending to lock the Doctor up & hunt down the TARDIS crew? Why were they split up & where they were (& in River’s case, wearing what they were wearing) to begin with? Also, how the hell did Canton & the Area 51 team get zero-balance dwarf star alloy?

That being said, the entire idea of the Silence’s invasion, that they’d been planting ideas & controlling the actions of the human race for thousands of years, is as terrifying as the Doctor’s solution, using their own post-hypnotic suggestion against them, is brilliant. “How fast can you run,” indeed.

More thoughts on “Day of the Moon”:

  • “Welcome to America.” Again, much love for Canton. Shades of Will Smith in Independence Day in that scene. Mark Sheppard also makes a great villian, even when he’s just pretending to be one.
  • Loved the recording device hand implants, especially the Doctor’s demonstration of how it works to Canton on the TARDIS & Amy’s completely terrifying (how many times have I used that word describing the Silence? well, they are) scene at the orphanage with the sleeping Silences on the ceiling.
  • Another awesome River escape scene, although it’s very similar to her scene from “Time of Angels,” if less clever (one assumes she would have left a message with her coordinates for the Doctor somewhere in time & space if she had needed to) but more funny (another reference to the TARDIS swimming pool!).
  • “Tricky Dickie. They’re never going to forget you.” A lot of random & gratuitous use of Nixon in this episode, although I enjoyed how he always just immediately started giving whoever it was he was presented to pep talks on patriotism. I also liked that the Doctor tells him he has to always tape what’s going on in the Oval Office & then tells him to say hi to David Frost.
  • River Song & The Doctor share their first (hilariously awkward) kiss after yet another outrageous display of flirting in the final showdown scene with the Silence (“Stop it.” “Make me.” “Yeah, well, maybe I will.”). He certainly isn’t acting like he doesn’t trust her now. He even gives her a formal invitation to come with them. I can’t wait to find out who she is already.
  • I like Rory. I just don’t like that they’re still going there with the Amy & the Doctor ridiculousness. We’re past that point, aren’t we? I did like their make-up at the end. “It’s a figure of speech, moron.”
  • “Rome fell.” “I know, I was there.” “So was I.” Is it significant that Rory sometimes can’t remember his 2,000 years as an Auton?
  • “Incredibly strong & running away. I like her.” Yes, but who is she? Who is that little girl & OMG, is she regenerating?! WHAT?!
  • “This is my friend, River. Nice hair, clever, has her own gun. And unlike me, she really doesn’t mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that. Kind of do, a bit.” Yes, let’s talk about that. Here’s the Doctor, who abhors violence, who would yell at Jack for drawing his gun. Now he doesn’t bat an eyelash at River Song killing eight Silences (or at Canton wounding one, or for that matter, at the entire human race killing the Silence on sight). It really is a whole new Doctor.