'Cougar Town' closes out 2010 with a sweet and silly episode
Really funny sitcoms are made, not born. It usually takes a few episodes for a group of people to settle into their characters and start having fun with each other and the audience. It definitely took Cougar Town a while to get into the groove last year, but right now it's developed into the one of most consistent laugh-getters on network TV.
Tonight's episode told the usual interlocking A/B/C plots; one a touch deeper (Jules trying to restore Bobby's confidence by fixing up his houseboat Jealous Much?), one that will have welcome developments down the line (Travis and Laurie's growing attraction to each other) and one a throwaway (Ellie and Grayson locked in ever-escalating competition to dig up the most embarrassing dirt on each other). The first one worked because the connection between Jules and Bobby is palpable and tender, the second because of the insane chemistry between Busy Philipps and Dan Byrd, and the third mostly due to Christa Miller's awesome 80's unibrow.
- "Laugh!" Horsey or no, I really want Laurie's "Laugh!" to be my ringtone.
- No one talks about work because all of their jobs are lame - got it. Now we just need to figure out Stan's location.
- Which do you prefer: "Purple Tooth Crew" or "Drink Tank Think Tank"?
- Confidence dance!
- "I just ate a whole tub of uncooked biscuit dough, and I think it's rising in my stomach."
- "My wife was EEZAY!"
- "We had to go buy our fake ratty boat fixing outfits."
- All I Want For Christmas Is a New Title
But 'return to normalcy' isn't possible
Boardwalk Empire wrapped up a generally satisfying debut season last Sunday by giving us a large amount of previously hinted-at background on our characters and setting up some interesting alliances and situations for next year. If that sounds a bit like an accountant’s totting up of an end of the year ledger…well, that’s appropriate. This is television that I admire more than love. But I do admire it quite a lot.
Nucky Thompson is described as “a machine, clean, fast, totally devoid of every emotion” and that goes to the heart of a number of the complaints about the show. For me, it’s fine to have a rather bloodless old-school boss as the “lead” when he is put up against someone like Jimmy Darmody, who operates almost entirely on his violent emotions. Michael Pitt’s performance has grown along with the character to the point where a once callow and directionless boy has becoming a menacing but still wounded young man. His psychological wounds go deep and they aren’t going away. Of course, Nucky has his own darkness, as evidenced by the harrowing story of his child’s death and his wife’s suicide. Personally, I’m much more intrigued with what can happen with a New Jersey conflict between these two damaged men (not to mention Nucky’s long-suffering brother Eli) than any more trumped-up conflicts with actual real-life mobsters.
It’s tricky to have historical characters like Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone operating next to fictional (or semi-fictionalized) people. Certainly, there was no suspense about whether anybody from Atlantic City was going to kill Rothstein or Lucky Luciano (history as spoiler – they don’t!), and this creates the kind of build-up to an ending that can only be clever and not explosive. But this kind of story telling has its own pleasures.
The real enjoyment of Boardwalk Empire comes from watching sweeping changes in American society affect people in ways both large (suffrage, Prohibition leading to rise in organized crime) and small (election results on the radio – from Pittsburgh!). Personally, I’m a sucker for this type of thing – it’s part of why I adored Deadwood. But David Milch and Terrence Winter are two very different creative personalities, and there are times when I prefer Milch’s passion to Winter’s precision.
- Both Angela and Gillian get their final shots alone in two different kitchens – cut off from the power confabs going on between the men in their lives.
- Speaking of Angela, she goes for a flapper bob right after hearing about Jimmy’s ardent memories of her long hair while he was in the trenches of France. Passive-aggressive, much?
- Good job Tim Van Patten. Who knew back in the 1980’s that “Salami” would become such an amazing TV director? (“The White Shadow” – kids, ask your parents.)
- Haven’t mentioned Van Alden, and that’s just because I’m too grossed out by what his spawn with Lucy Danziger would sound like.
With the focus on Holly and Michael, the rest of the cast takes a backseat
This week's episode, Michael's thrilled about the return of the one who got away. He thinks this is their chance to revisit and rekindle their romance. It's meant to be. One glitch: Holly's living with new beau AJ, and she's planning to give him an ultimatum by New Year's, thanks to some not so wise advice from frequently love-lorn Kelly Kapoor. So there's plenty of room for a tense triangle here -- and plenty of time to develop it, given that Ryan's signed on for at least eight episodes.
Anyway, not everyone's Team Holly. Michael's assistant Erin -- usually sweet and airy as cotton candy -- just doesn't get it. "I’d help you, but I’m waiting for my boss’s pretty friend to arrive," she tells Holly when she first arrives. And later, when the girls are advising the new arrival on her boyfriend situation, Erin suggests, helpfully, that "maybe Holly’s not in a position to be shooing guys away." Ouch.
The story starts off on a weird note, though, when Michael oversteps to the extreme and takes out his angst by trashing Holly's beloved Woody doll, a gift from her beau. Michael's truly smarting because he's come to the realization that there are some men worth the long distance -- like this new boyfriend AJ -- and some not. Like him. But Michael realizes that he's done something truly hurtful, and tries to clean Woody up. Good thing, too, because then AJ shows up to surprise Holly. But she tells him that she's the one who accidentally dumped Woody, protecting Michael from looking like the idiot he is. And eventually, Pam reveals to Michael that he does still have a chance, since the whole ultimatum thing will no doubt put the kibosh on Holly's strained-by-distance-and-Michael relationship.
Meanwhile, there's a cute storyline about Darryl, who's all excited about spending Christmas with his daughter. But then he finds out his kid doesn't want to spend the holiday with him because she thinks he's boring. Ouch. So Pam and Andy help him come up with ways to entertain the girl, like a visit from Santa and a scavenger hunt -- and the opportunity to clean out the vending machine. Who wouldn't have fun doing that.
Pam also walks around showing off her present for Jim -- a comic book called "The Adventures of Jim Halpert." She thinks it's a genius gift, but gets disheartened when nobody else gets it. Except for Jim. It's really cool to see how his eyes light up when he sees what Pam created just for him. It's a sweet moment that reminds us just how much these cubicle-mates turned soul mates really get each other.
But the kicker this episode was the extended snowball fight -- er, war -- between Jim and Dwight. Jim started, but for sure Dwight finished it. It was funny, but after the eighth or so nosebleed for Jim, it because a bit painful to watch. The classic moment, though, is when Dwight, having set up a scary parking lot filled with menacing snow men, watches from above, mocking Jim as he goes a little nuts, bashing in the snow men's heads. "In the end the greatest snowball isn’t the snowball at all — it's fear." Yup, that's the Dwight take on Christmas.
New Judges Stephen Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are the stars of this one
Check it out:
Do you think J.Lo and Aerosmith icon Tyler will make good judges? Or do you still want "Idol" producers to bring Paula back?
Mrs. Ellen DeGeneres says no to teaming up as part of the first same-sex couple on 'Dancing With the Stars'
But now, the actress, who last appeared on "Better Off Ted" and is slated for the upcoming "Arrested Development" movie, has decided that she'll only be dancing with her better half -- and who can blame her, given Ellen's signature moves?
"She was asked, but declined," a rep for the former ballet dancer told E! today. Which might mean, according to Entertainment Weekly, that "DWTS" producers may bag the same sex pairing idea all together.
But just in case they don't, here are a few other prime contenders:
Rosie O'Donnell: She may not have Portia's grace, but she sure knows how to make a splash. And she'd definitely be willing to step up and take the lead. Too bad the chatterbox already has another talk show lined up for next year.
Ricky Martin: Now that he's officially out proud, it's time to step up and shake his bonbon. We already know he's got the chops. After all, he spent a long time "Livin' the Vida Loca" -- and could probably dust off some of those old school Menudo moves.
Meredith Baxter: The mom icon -- who's best known as hippie mama Elise Keaton on "Family Ties" -- needs a major career revamp to go with her newly-out status. Plus, the best reality break-outs are the older stars, the dark horses of "DWTS."
Which gay celebs would you like to see on a same-sex "Dancing With the Stars" pairing?
The TV goddess returns to acting, post 'Oprah' show wrap-up
You certainly haven't seen the last of the media megastar -- what with the OWN network and all. But she's also set to return to the small screen in the upcoming HBO adaptation of the play "Ruined," a Pulitzer-winner by Lynn Nottage. The show, which had a stellar off-Broadway run in 2009, centers on life of Mama Nadi, a madam at a brothel in war-torn Congo who finds herself caught between government and rebel allegiances. The playwright Nottage is writing the script for the TV movie, and Winfrey will produce with her HARPO shingle, along with frequent partner Kate Forte, with whom she's already set up several projects, including "America: In the King Years," a Taylor Branch trilogy which will be made into a seven-hour mini-series. Producing-wise, she's also got an adaptation of Oprah Book Club bestseller "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" in the works.
Winfrey hasn't taken to stage or screen as an actress since her much-lauded turn in Jonathan Demme's 1998 film "Beloved" -- although she has done voice work on "Charlotte's Web, "The Bee Movie," and "The Princess and the Frog" -- but it seems she's set to make a major comeback soon. She's also signed on to star in a yet-untitled comedy with Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock, written and directed by "Sex And The City" creator Michael Patrick King.
Here are three other former teen stars we'd like to see make a comeback
It seems like a smart move for "Silver Spoons" heartthrob Schroder, who's been busy on the film front, too, costarring in "Get Him to the Greek" and directing the 2008 TV film "Hellhounds" for SyFy.
Since Schroder's the latest former teen stud to make a TV comeback, we thought we'd offer up a few more forgotten-but-familiar faces for Tinseltown's casting consideration.
Adam Brody: The affable "O.C." star has been keeping busy with film work, including 2011's "The Oranges" and "Scream 4," but he's ripe for a TV resurgence, sort of like Colin Hanks on "The Good Guys." May we suggest he give old buddy Josh Schwartz a call about a gig on "Chuck," perhaps as Zachary Levi's unassuming-but-secretly evil long-lost brother, since mama's made a return recently.
Jason Behr: With former "Roswell" costars Shiri Appleby and Katherine Heigl back in the spotlight, Behr, who played handsome but moody alien Max on the high school drama, is ripe for a comeback. The actor did the horror circuit for a minute with "The Grudge," "Skinwalkers" and "Senseless," but it seems his calendar is currently clear should the CW come a-calling. And with his petulant pout and subdued demeanor. Maybe he could cause some drama on the "Vampire Diaries," as an unsuspecting new love interest for Elena, who no doubt gets on Damon and Stefan's bad side.
Wilson Cruz: Beloved by millions as Angela Chase's gay boyfriend Rickie on "My So-Called Life," Wilson Cruz was a gay icon before it was cool. Cruz has since focused on Broadway, starring in "Rent" and "Tick, Tick....Boom," but he's also had TV stints on "Party of Five," "NCIS" and "Pushing Daisies," along with the Logo cable series "Noah's Arc." The perfect comeback? He could bring some real edge to "True Blood" next season, giving Lafayette a run for his money, maybe, as his latest love interest? After all, Jesus is getting just a bit freaky with all that warlock wackiness.
Rainn Wilson steals the show this week, far and away
No need this week. Sure, there are some fun bits between Oscar and Michael about China and who the smartest guy in the office is, and with Andy and Darryl and texting. But really, this week, it was all about Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute. In this episode, we got to see many shades of Dwight -- from the insufferable to the sweet. Although the romantic tension with Angela was missing here, it was definitely "The Dwight Show" this week.
The opening gag, in which Dwight is practicing his "ten minutes a day" of using his feet as, uh, hands, is essentially classic "Office." Because he wants to be "pedidexterous." He takes the joke to it's ridiculous and inevitable conclusion, going as far as trying to pick up a coffee that Jim brings him as a final challenge. It's great cold open that really let's Wilson show off his physical comedy chops.
Then Dwight takes on "Office" manager Pam, who's sick of his skimping on everything soap (watered down) to toilet paper (half-plied) and electricity (energy-saving sensors -- which, believe it or not, we actually had more than five years ago when I worked at People magazine). Pam tells Dwight that if he doesn't take the building back to it's former standards, Dunder-Mifflin is simply moving out into posh-yet-affordable new digs.
Flummoxed, Dwight decides to do some reconnaissance. Naturally, he finds out there is no new building and that Pam's been bluffing all along. But just when he's about to call her bluff, he overhears her complaining to Jim that she doesn't want to fail at office managing. She needs this, because she's already failed at art and at sales. And who knew, Dwight has a heart, though he'll deny it till the day he dies. So he sends his little minion along to secretly tell Pam that the building currently isn't meeting the codes set by the city for heat, electric, etc. Then Pam takes the city rulebook and shoves it in Dwight's face, declaring the win, he simply lets her. And while he justifies the means, saying the ends are that he gets to reap profits off of Dunder-Mifflin years to come, we can't really buy it. Dwight, we see right through you. And that's a good thing.