Happy Friday! It’s the end of the week, which means we’re sitting down to take a look at the Best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we watch as much TV as we can. Sort of like Ozymandias in Watchmen. We sort through it all and find the best television shows of the week, then we tell you why we loved them. It’s exactly what our high school guidance counselors said we’d end up doing if we didn’t get those Trigonometry grades up.
Hey, before we head into this week’s best shows on TV, we’ve got a link to check out. Spunkbean’s own Lenny Burnham is raising money via Kickstarter to produce her pilot, Allies. Check out the page and pledge her some money.
We’ve already talked a lot about the season premiere of Breaking Bad, which was seriously so good, but that still leaves us with a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it!
Whodunnit? – There was actually an interesting element to the competition this week. Melina’s alliance had been wiped out, and since each person only gets to visit one location to gather clues and nobody was sharing information with her, she was in a bad position. This turned into some drama when it came time for everybody to select their locations. Since Melina was not willing to give any ground and the other three were determined to be terrible to her, they actually had to pick location cards at random. Giles does not have time to mediate disputes, folks! Anyway, this gave us a bizarre scene of Melina trying to taunt the other alliance in a way that really just made them think she’d lost her mind.
Now, this week’s murder was based on the idea that Ronnie went to the library (Melina: “I happen to know that Ronnie doesn’t read”.) to write Giles a letter. This alarmed the killer, who made Ronnie the next victim. Keep in mind that last week Ronnie pinned the murder on a trained monkey. You can probably let him write down his theories in peace. So he was poisoned with ricin (maybe not a great idea to remind people that you’re on opposite Breaking Bad…), and then the hot tub that he was using exploded because of liquid nitrogen in the water. So the killer poisoned Ronnie and then blew him up. That is a lot of effort! Was the poison not fast enough for you? And then, everybody seemingly survived the episode, leaving the house for a limo ride which ended with a U-Turn and a speedy ride back. At the end, the room filled with smoke and nobody could find Melina, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. (What does mean something are the promos clearly showing the final three. Sigh.) It’s the finale next week, and just maybe a murderous trained monkey will show up and Ronnie will be vindicated.
Talking Bad – After the success of Talking Dead, it seemed inevitable that AMC would try something similar for Breaking Bad – a live discussion, hosted by Chris Hardwick, of the episode that just aired. (Unlike Dead, they actually wait an hour for Bad.) The first episode was a lot of fun, with creator Vince Gilligan and Modern Family’s Julie Bowen sitting down for a chat. Gilligan had to choose his words carefully so as not to spoil anything, but Bowen pretty much just went nuts. Turns out, she’s a huge Breaking Bad fan and she geeked out all over Vince. (Including demanding to know how many people that ricin cigarette could kill.) We didn’t walk away with much in the way of additional insight, since Bowen and Hardwick were freaking out and Gilligan wasn’t going to spill, but it was fun to watch. It’s a neat addition to the schedule, and we hope to see more celebrity Bad fans losing their minds over plot twists.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – So much good stuff this week! The main premise this week had Reggie Watts participating in a reality show called Cop Swap, in which a regular person trades jobs with a cop. So while Reggie was out cleaning up the streets, Officer Ned Dooley (who does not play any instruments) served as bandleader. Dooley was played by John Carroll Lynch, who is great. If you have a TV set, you’ve seen him. While Dooley deadpanned his way through the show, Reggie quickly became corrupt and went from police brutality to an outright murder spree. The climactic scene that had him in a warehouse gunfight while Dooley sang a traditional Irish song (that was about Bono) was just amazing.
In the actual talk show portion, Zoe Saldana was the lead guest and Scott talked her into spoiling the entire plot of her new movie as well as the eventual extermination of the sun. Like Anna Kendrick, she’s not really a part of the CBB world, but she did such a good job of playing off of Scott and Officer Dooley. And then, just to make things perfect, Paul F. Tompkins appeared, playing TV legend Garry Marshall. He pitched his plans to bring back Happy Days, including the news that Henry Winkler has to repair any pair of shoes that you throw at him. AND Scott hosted a prank show which became increasingly convoluted until he just ended up recreating the opening credits of Friends. Let’s be honest – Cop Swap would have been enough for most shows, but CBB is the gift that keeps on giving.
By the way, we loved this week’s episode of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. One of our favorite recurring characters on the show is intern Marissa Wompler (Jessica St. Clair), and this week’s episode was a live remote from her 17th birthday party. Lennon Parham, Jason Mantzoukas, Melissa Rauch, and Childrens Hospital’s Brian Huskey all got involved in the Womptacular, and it was the best. Listen to it on iTunes! Or other places that have podcasts, probably.
Futurama – It is impossible to do an episode of this show set in 1999 without making us tear up. This was probably the show’s last trip to the past, which makes it extra sad. This week, a mysterious alien ship was destroying planets using a stranger four-note tone. When the ship headed for Earth, Fry thought he recognized the tone from his past, so the Professor developed a way to put Fry’s consciousness inside his dreams of the last day before he fell into the cryogenic chamber. But Fry got sidetracked by being able to spend one more day with his family (or a simulated version at least). With time running short, everybody (including the head of Richard Nixon and the headless body of Spiro Agnew) entered Fry’s dreams to keep him on task.
As it went on, parts of the dream world just disappeared. Since Fry left his house at 10 that day, the inside of the house stopped existing at that point. Fry opening the door into an empty void was a neat visual and also totally heartbreaking. Of course, Fry also got to use the dream world to his advantage – instead of saying good-bye to Seymour the dog, he just had Seymour shrink down and get in his pocket. The actual reveal of the nature of the tone was a little flat, but also adorable. It also added somebody else to the mix on December 31, 1999 alongside Nibbler and all of the multiple versions of Fry and Bender. The end of the episode gave Fry another chance to spend some time in his mother, and it was a really lovely moment. Hard to believe there are only three episodes to go…
Childrens Hospital / NTSF:SD:SUV:: – Diablo Cody wrote this week’s Hospital episode, which had Owen believing he was trapped in a Groundhog Day-style time loop, on the basis of surprisingly little evidence. Meanwhile, Glenn was putting on a show for the troops but the hologram performers all died in a plane crash. While Owen was pretty sure he could learn to play the trumpet by repeating the same day over and over, that still left the show a little short. Plus, he definitely wasn’t in a time loop. (Glenn: “I can tell from your reaction that nobody’s said that to you before.”) Luckily, the manager of a Bieber-style teen idol (You guys, McKeever Fever is real and deadly.) pulled some strings and delivered Madonna, Rihanna, Louis C.K., Freddy Mercury, and Kate Upton – all of whom were played by James Adomian. (His Louis C.K. impression is pretty fantastic.) Also, props to the Newsreaders short that let Lake Bell plug her movie In a World. (Which is supposed to be great, but it hasn’t come to your neck of the woods yet. Go see it and tell us about it!) It was a pretty funny promo piece that had Lake training women not to talk like sexy babies.
On NTSF, Trent’s nephew befriended an alien. Trent was pretty sure the alien was a terrorist, since it’s inherently foreign. (Also, although he claims not to trust foreigners, it seems like he specifically hates the Dutch. Ruining our streets with their wooden shoes.) The E.T. parody, including a flying Segway, was pretty funny; but the best parts of the episode came from Trent and Human Sam on Halloween patrol (both dressed as ketchup bottles), and Daisy’s abusive relationship with an alien of her own. Karen Gillan is really funny, and seeing her as a crazy lady who’s torturing an alien with misplaced love is kind of amazing. We stand by our previous assertion that she should be on every show.
Beware the Batman – We live in a world where Tobias Whale (best known as a Black Lightning villain) has appeared on two different television shows. Just think about that for a minute. This episode was a nice return to form after last week, forcing Batman and Gordon to team up to bring down Humpty Dumpty. (In this continuity, the two of them are not friends yet.) Humpty, a legitimately weird choice to bring to TV, didn’t have much in common with the comic book version. Here he’s played as sort of a Toyman knockoff with a penchant for entombing living people inside weaponized marionettes, as opposed to a misunderstood mental patient who’s really good at assembling things. (You can see why they jazzed him up for animation.) It made for a fun episode with some neat interactions. And I’m not a huge fan of sarcastic talking computers (when Batman: The Animated Series discarded that device in its early episode, it was the happiest day), it was legitimately funny when Batman asked the terminal in the Batmobile for “Humpty Dumpty’s last known address”, and the reply was “a wall”.
And if you’re watching for appearances of established Batman characters like we are, besides Tobias Whale (who’s only barely Batman-related), District Attorney Marion Grange made an appearance. She was Gotham’s Mayor at one point in the comics, as well as in The Batman from the early 2000s. (Though she was a he in that particular series.)
Drunk History – Come on, how are we not going to love an episode focusing on Michigan? Especially when Paget Brewster is one of the narrators. Sadly, she doesn’t talk exactly like Thrilling Adventure Hour‘s Sadie Doyle when she’s drunk, but she’s still an absolute delight. She told the story of the Kellogg brothers, as played by Owen and Luke Wilson. Also, she made Derek Waters wear her grandmother’s dress. She showed off her hat collection and used the phrase “solid, ropey poops”. If you don’t think Paget Brewster is the best, you are wrong and crazy. (“I’m not talking right altogether. But close enough!”)
We also got Metalocalypse‘s Tommy Blacha (who was worried that he was over the legal limit despite being at home) discussing Ralph Nader, as played by Jason Schwartzmann. And then there was the story of the rivalry between Arthur Conan Doyle (Alfred Molina) and Harry Houdini (Ken Marino). Marino was especially great as a surprisingly angry Houdini – his reenactment of Houdini’s final performance is one for the Drunk History time capsule.
Low Winter Sun – It seems like following Breaking Bad would be a blessing and a curse. Sure, you’ve got a powerhouse lead-in, but it’s people who are muting the TV and discussing what they just saw. You’ve got to think that a significant chunk of their audience are people who aren’t really paying attention. The first episode of this Detroit-based crime drama was promising, but it didn’t explode out of the gate the way AMC’s Mad Men and, yes, Breaking Bad did. (Note to TV directors: Feel free to not start your pilot in the dark. We don’t know these people yet, and now we can’t even see them properly. Feel free to get all atmospheric when we know who we’re looking at. But take a cue from The Sopranos, The Wire, the aforementioned AMC shows, and most of the great dramas of the last few years – set that first scene during the day or in a well-lit room.)
What we’ve got here are a couple of morally ambiguous cops, Agnew and Geddes, who are planning to kill an out-and-out bad cop. But then Internal Affairs (fronted by the great David Costabile, who is on every TV show) investigates their precinct, and there’s also a possible serial killer. The basic set-up is interesting with its varying shades of gray. And there are some excellent performances here, but the characters are not very well defined. The only distinguishing characteristics is the degree to which they’re morally compromised. There’s clearly an attempt here to emulate The Wire and The Shield, but if you look at those pilots, we had a handle on Jimmy McNulty and Vic Mackey after the first hour. Yes, they revealed more depth over the years, but at least we knew who they were. Low Winter Sun spent the first hour giving us the premise and the setting, and we don’t know anything about these people. It’s intriguing, and it’s definitely well-made, but the first episode didn’t give us a reason to care. They’re going to have to remedy that as soon as possible, or else it’ll end up as an interesting intellectual exercise like AMC’s one-and-done Rubicon. We really want this to be good!
The Daily Show – It’s been a long week. Treat yourself by watching John Oliver explain Australia’s electoral process. We promise, it will delight you.
Broadchurch – Like Low Winter Sun, this BBC America show is another serial police drama. But Broadchurch hit its premiere right out of the park. Starring Doctor Who’s David Tennant (With Arthur “Rory Williams” Darvill in a supporting role. Actually, the show is created by occasional Who writer Chris Chibnall. You know, it’s just possible that the killer will turn out to be a Cyberman.) It focuses on the investigation into the suspected murder of a young boy in Dorset. The first episode did a great job of introducing the characters while still leaving a little bit of mystery (Why does everybody have it in for Alec? What’s this scandal that he can’t live down?). Alec, Olivia (the woman he beat out for a promotion), Beth (the mother of the murdered boy) are all well-defined and immediately involving. Excellent performances really drew us in, and the premiere really nailed the emotional notes. It’s off to a great start without relying on any cheap exploitative tricks. Watch it now, because FOX has already optioned it for an American version. Clearly, you need to be ahead of the game.
The Jeselnik Offensive – You guys, if you want to see a show just hop the rails and go careening into a river, this is the episode to watch. The panel (always the best part of the show) tends to get kind of crazy, regardless of who the guests are. And this week, we got T.J. Miller and Eric Andre. T.J. did most of the show wearing an Anthony Jeselnik mask, which was deeply unsettling. And in a callback to the last time he appeared on the panel, he also brought his Wolverine claws. And then Eric took off his pants so T.J. could cut off his genitals and sell them on the black market. Apparently, he exposed himself enough that Comedy Central had to blur his… area. They only barely got through the prepared topics and up to “Defending Your Tweet”. At that point, Eric Andre lit a string of firecrackers under the desk and ran away. That happened. Anthony wasn’t expecting that. Neither was the poor crew guy who rushed into the shot looking panicked. (T.J. just sat there while the firecrackers exploded around his legs.) It’s always hard to get a read on Jeselnik, but he seemed pissed. We’re willing to bet Eric Andre doesn’t turn up on Comedy Central anytime soon. But man, it was nuts. It seemed like they shot the episode like ten minutes before it aired and they didn’t have time to clean it up or edit it into something resembling a professional TV show. Also, now we know that Eric Andre has firecrackers on him at all times.
Project Runway – Remember how so many episodes of Alias opened with an exciting scene and then suddenly it would be “36 Hours Earlier”. Well, Runway did the J.J. Abrams bit by opening on a post-judging fight between Sandro, Ken, and Helen that ended with Sandro storming out and screaming at the production crew.
Knowing that was in our future made it hard to focus on the episode, but it was a fun challenge incorporating bow ties (provided by Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family, who announced “I vomited bow ties upon you”). Sandro had a chip on his shoulder the whole time – since he’s always been in the “safe” group, he hasn’t heard a critique from the judges. Never mind that Tim Gunn gives them feedback multiple times in every episode. Oh, also Sue spent twice her recommended budget, which will probably turn into a problem a few tasks down the line. But this is all prelude to the judging portion. Sandro found himself safe again, and demanded a critique then and there. (Heidi Klum: “You are safe today. You know that, right?”) Zac Posen obliged by telling him the construction was good but it was too referential and didn’t exhibit any real taste. Sandro argued before being dismissed, and then we saw that fight from earlier while they awaited the results. He walked out, apparently shoved a cameraman, and left the building, shouting the entire time.
Bradon won the challenge, and then proposed to his boyfriend (who wasn’t there) right on the runway. Later, he was able to get a Skype call from that boyfriend, who announced that Prop 8 had been overturned and proposed himself. Double proposal! And since Sandro left, nobody else had to be eliminated. There really wasn’t any indication of what happened after Sandro left the building, and he might still be walking the streets of New York screaming obscenities and shoving people.
Wipeout – We are big fans of Wipeout over here, but it’s hard to really talk about it every week since it’s so visual. It just sounds mean when we talk about people falling in hilarious ways, you know? Still, we have to note that this week’s episode pitted beauty queens against the obstacle course. If you watch as much reality TV as we do, you’ll grow to fear and mistrust all pageant people (see: GinaMarie on the current Big Brother; most of the worst contestants on every CBS reality show; The Bachelor; etc.) so it was really fun to see a whole bunch of them willing to come face-to-face with a sweeper bar. (And some of them were really awesome on the obstacles.) And as long as we’re on the topic, Wipeout co-host Jill Wagner is raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. Head over to her fundraising page and make a donation for a good cause. And tell her spunkybean sent you so she’ll think we’re cool!
That’s it for this week! If you need something to watch this weekend, remember to check out spunkybuddy Jessica’s great What to Watch site for recommendations. Because, you know, we’re seven weeks away from a world without Breaking Bad, and we’re going to need a new obsession. See you Monday!