Happy Friday! We’ve reached the end of the work week, and that means it’s time to take a look at the best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we watch all the TV they’ll let us have, and then we pick the best television shows. We tell you why they’re great, and we all understand one another better by the time we’re done.
This week, well, it was a light week. Lots of repeats. So while we don’t have lot to talk about, we’re still enthusiastic about it. We’ve already recapped the stabbiest episode of Mad Men ever, but we’ve got some more favorites to deal with. And if your ears are jealous of your eyes, go get the new episode of Secret Lover. EJ visited Lenny and Katie to talk about TV vampires. Since EJ doesn’t watch Buffy or True Blood, he mostly just wanted to talk about the vampire landlord on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but it’s something! Also, it turns out that Big Wolf on Campus is a real thing.
Arrested Development – Well, we’ve absorbed all fifteen episodes of the Netflix semi-original series, and we’re pleased to report that the Bluths haven’t missed a step in the seven years since we last saw them. Season Four is an absolute delight!
The new season jumps around in time, from immediately after the Season Three finale to the present and back again. Each episode focuses on a single Bluth, though they weave in an out of one another’s storylines. Prior to release, we’d heard that you could watch the episodes in any order, but the Netflix running order is really the way to go. It’s definitely a modular approach, but the payoffs are much better if you just follow their sequence. (For example, Episode Thirteen sheds a completely new light on the events of Episode One, and it’s a lot more fun if you know Michael’s perspective before finding out what was actually going on.)
In a way, it’s a shame to separate the Bluths for most of the series, but there’s still enough interaction to be satisfying. (Jason Bateman and Will Arnett will never not be absolute treasures.) There are plenty of callbacks and continuity links to the original series, but the new episodes build an elaborate story of their own. We don’t want to spoil anything for anybody who didn’t spend the weekend freebasing the entire season, but some of the plot points include George teaming up with his brother for shady corporate retreats, the possible Bluth windfall generated by a wall between the US and Mexico, Michael trying to get the family to sign off on their movie rights, Tobias’ all-rehab musical Fantastic Four presentation, George Michael’s mysterious new software, GOB’s “Christian magician” act, Lindsay’s search for spirituality, and more.
Disturbingly, Michael’s acting like the more disreputable members of his family. Imposing on his son, deeply in debt, trying to use sex to get out of trouble – he’s no longer the good influence, he’s part of the problem. In fact, almost everybody’s worse off. Lucille is in a minimum-security prison (when she’s not under house arrest), Maebe is still in high school, Lindsay and Tobias have a house that’s totally beyond their income level, and everybody’s a squatter at one time or another.
The connections between episodes are really clever. Sometimes there’s a major reveal (like the nature of George Michael’s FakeBlock), and sometimes it’s a small thing like learning seven episodes later that it wasn’t a vulture that Michael heard. And while Arrested Development reveled in continuity in its original incarnation, these interlocking episodes take it to a new level. But beyond that, the humor of the original is certainly intact. The twin vote, face blindness, the fake moon landing, George Michael’s incredible internal clock – these episodes are really funny, even apart from the nostalgia.
Starting next week, we’ll be annotating and discussing the episodes individually, so we’ll get into more detail then. As much as we’d like to talk about Michael’s ridiculously complicated voting strategy or GOB’s botched illusion, that’ll have to wait until later. Suffice it to say, it was must-see viewing for any Arrested Development fan. It’s hard to imagine that somebody could jump in with Season Four, but hey, the entire original run is also on Netflix. Watch some stuff and get back to us.
And if you’re a fan of the original, chances are your favorite supporting character is back. Lucille 2 (who’s a major part of the series), Barry Zuckercorn, Bob Loblaw, Steve Holt, Annyong, Mort Meyers, Warden Gentles, John Beard, Carl Weathers, Tony Wonder, Ann Veal (Her?), Gene Parmesan – they all show up to one extent or another. The guest-stars include Ron Howard (of course), Isla Fisher, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Terry Crews (as a Herman Cain-style congressional candidate), Garcelle Beauvais, Lennon Parham, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter (as Andy, Rocky, Donnie, and Emmett),Maria Bamford, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Ben Schwartz, Bruce McCullough and Mad Men’s John Slattery all show up. And as a real treat, spunkyfave Maria Thayer appears as Michael’s never-before-seen wife. It’s almost too much… they… they should have sent a poet….
We’ll go into more detail later, but for now just be aware that Season Four of Arrested Development has taught us how to love again.
Kitchen Nightmares – We didn’t get into this last week, but the season finale was absolutely nuts. Gordon closed out the year by going to Amy’s Baking Company. It was clear that this was going to be a weird episode when it opened with the owners complaining about an organized campaign of “online haters” writing fake Yelp reviews to make them look bad. And then we saw them yelling at actual customers who had complaints. There was talk of a conspiracy, but mostly they just kicked people out of the restaurant.
Once Gordon got there, it just got worse. Amy herself was more than a little high-strung, and she yelled at Gordon for not liking their menu. And for questioning why they served frozen food. Remember, you have to apply to be on this show. So you go into in knowing there’s a problem that you think Gordon Ramsay could fix. He doesn’t surprise anybody, you know? Production crews come in and install cameras. If somebody freaks out on Gordon for suggesting changes, either they have a serious personality issue, or they honest believe that he’ll tell them they’re perfect and people are wrong for not coming to their restaurant. In the case of Amy’s Baking Company, either one is sort of believable. Anyway, when Gordon sat down the owners to talk about changes, Amy got mad at him and told him to leave. And so Gordon called their bluff – for the first time in either the USor UKversions of Kitchen Nightmares, he and the production crew just packed up and left. That was the episode! It’s crazy to end a season with “Well, they kicked me out. So that’s that.” Almost every episode has somebody telling Gordon they don’t want his help, but this is the first time he ever decided it wasn’t worth it. After approximately one million episodes, Gordon can still surprise us.
The Nerdist – Chris Hardwick’s BBC America talk show continues to be a must-watch for us. They’ve had a great lineup of guests all season, and they’re not all there to promote something. This week’s guests were director Guillermo Del Toro (who has Pacific Rim coming out) and Katee Sackhoff (who wasn’t talking about any projects but seemed to be having a lot of fun). For the most part, the guests seem to be people that Chris, Matt, and Jonah really like and that makes for more interesting conversation than on more publicist-driven shows. And we can always count on them to talk to the Doctor Who cast, which is the kind of thing that we’re interested in around here.
They also close out every episode with a comedian, and so far this season we’ve seen really funny sets from Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, and Kumail Nanjiani, among others. Ron Funches appeared this week, and he was really a standout. He might not be as familiar as some of the other comics who’ve appeared, but he’s great. (Best joke: “Taking care of this child is like taking care of your very best friend after they’ve done way too many ‘shrooms, while you yourself are on a moderate amount of ‘shrooms. I’m not confident in all the decisions I’m making, but I know you should not be eating a mousepad right now.”) The Nerdist is consistently fun and features more discussion of giant robots than any network talk show.
Graham Norton–Speaking of great talk shows that air on the BBC, this import is a fun one we sometimes forget is available, but always enjoy when we tune in. The following video quickly went viral after its debut last Friday, but we figured we’d post it here in case you somehow missed it. It features Will Smith and some very special guests. Don’t let son Jaden’s presence scare you off, either.
MasterChef – What? Another Gordon Ramsay show? His summer show started last week, and it’s probably the best of his many FOX shows. Amateur chefs compete in challenges to win a prize at the end of the season – they aren’t professionals, and generally they don’t simulate actual restaurant conditions like Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon is one of three judges (the others are Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliott), and it’s a lot less confrontational than his other shows. There’s still yelling, but you’ll also see more nurturing.
The season premiere had auditions, and these are always great. Every year you get at least one contestant with crazy murder eyes, and this year did not disappoint. There was a contestant who brought in a robot, and another who Gordon might or might not have forced to propose to his girlfriend after being eliminated. And unlike many shows’ audition episodes, they’re pretty good at not telegraphing who’s going to make it. Most of the breaks in the first episode teased the former NFL player who’d be appearing later. He did not make it past the first round. This week’s episode revealed the 19 people who made it past auditions, and they immediately started developing irrational hatred for one another. Toss a bunch of people who hate one another into a room stocked with knives and fire, and nothing can possibly go wrong!
That’s it for this week! Things pick up a bit next week, including the season premiere of Venture Bros. on Sunday night. That sounds like the kind of thing we’d talk about!