ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE How to waste your time this IAP
The Tech weighs in on the best and the worst of television this year
2 Broke Girls
TV networks have picked up on the altogether too-close-to-home fears and problems of the recession period. While the idyllic life of Carrie Bradshaw may be glamorous during normal economic times, in times of layoffs and high unemployment, it’s a grand joke. 2 Broke Girls centers around the eponymous characters who work at a Brooklyn diner and aspire towards a shared dream of opening a bakery. The contrast of Max (Kat Dennings), a sharp-tongued scrappy Brooklynite, against Caroline (Beth Behrs), an ex-socialite who’s reduced to rags because of a Bernie Madoff-like father, provides for much whiplash humor and one-liners. Imagine Gilmore Girls meeting college-girl raunchiness and a laugh track.
Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie is akin to angel food cake: fluffy, light, but lacking substance. Many viewers may find Zoey (Rachel Bilson) irritating with her initial narrow-mindedness and Upper East Side tendencies. Her character’s flaws are compensated by multiple outfit changes per episode, a slew of cute boys, and lovely Southern drawls. The plot revolves around a New York surgeon who ends up inheriting a clinic in Alabama. Aside from having to win over people of the small town of Blue Bell, Zoey finds herself in boy tangles, learning to be a people doctor, and adapting to Slower Lower.
In less than 10 episodes, New Girl has managed to trade actors for one of its main characters, exhaust its resource of outrageous predicaments, and ruin Zooey Deschanel’s charming personality. The pilot showed a lot of potential with jokes like “the douche jar,” but soon enough, Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield’s) douchebaggery grew old, as did Nick’s (Jake Johnson’s) grumpiness and Jess’ (Deschanel’s) need to sing or dance every three minutes. The show is well written and some of the jokes are surprisingly funny, but the characters’ eccentricities become more and more stale with each episode, especially Deschanel’s.
“Whitney is taped in front of a live studio audience. You heard me.” Those words are the opening credits with no theme song or showcase of actors, which is only one of the many refreshingly unique things Whitney has to offer. The storyline may seem stagnant because the two main characters are in a committed relationship that is not marriage and every episode revolves around that idea, but relatable situations, fresh faces, and just the right dosage of romantic comedy mushiness adds up to a very entertaining show. Although some of the actors and guest stars are less than par, there are plenty of hilarious moments to make up for it.
Community is a great show to catch up on if you’ve missed out on the past two seasons of the completely wacky students of Greendale Community College. The second season is especially worth watching, even more so if you’re a film buff who enjoys Pulp Fiction homages or paintball-themed nods to spaghetti westerns like A Fistful of Dollars. The show definitely does work when it comes to piling on the references. The show recently delivered a joke that spanned three seasons, with someone saying the name “Beetlejuice” once each season (does that mean Michael Keaton will be guest-starring soon?). The show is currently in its third season and although it leaves something to be desired after such a fantastic sophomore performance, Community is still doing what it does best — showcasing it’s amazingly weird characters. Be sure to look out for John Goodman’s guest role as Vice Dean of Air Conditioning Repair. Unfortunately, NBC recently announced Community will be on indefinite hiatus.
How I Met Your Mother (spoiler alert!)
Season seven of How I Met Your Mother is satisfying and intensifying. While a lot of things happens, a lot of hints are also revealed about the past and the future. We find out that Barney is a quarter Canadian — what? Lily conceived the baby during a hurricane. Meanwhile, spoiler-free, Robin dates her therapist, Barney wears a ducky tie for most of the episode, Ted meets Slutty Pumpkin again, Barney cheats on Nora, Robin cheats on her boyfriend, Barney and Ted become Bro-parents. Lily and Marshall moves to the suburb. Funny, like always. Crazier, than ever.
Game of Thrones
Swords? Scandal? Explicit sex? The HBO series Game of Thrones has it all. Based on George R. R. Martin’s ongoing fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, the first season has found a warm place in the hearts of both those who have read the books and those who haven’t — or at least haven’t yet. Regardless, all fans can appreciate the stunning sets, witty humour, and talent of the actors. Martin’s intricately detailed prose is faithfully translated to the screen in a way that does not disappoint. Protip: Don’t underestimate the dwarf, and if you like a character they will probably die later. Unfortunately, “winter is coming” and fans will have to wait until spring comes again to see the second season. Meanwhile, get your fix on at www.makinggameofthrones.com.
Project Runway has picked back up this fall with an exciting season of new designers and multiple spin-offs on the popular Lifetime show. Season 9 brought a diverse group of designers with plenty of sass and snarky attitudes. There were clear leaders from the beginning, with standouts including former Miss Universe contestant Anya and flamboyant fashionista Joshua M. Project Runway wouldn’t be the same without the catfights and drama, and boy, did they bring it this season. In the end, they took the often much-needed advice from Tim Gunn and made it work, keeping most of the models covered on the runway (besides the occasional boob popping). Next up for Project Runway is the much-anticipated Project Runway All-Stars. Lifetime is bringing back the favorites from Project Runway history, including the fabulous Mondo Guerra, season one’s Austin Scarlett, season five drama queen Kenley Collins, and season eight’s Michael Costello. It will be an exciting season, full of extreme talent and fierce fights. Don’t forget to tune in to Lifetime on Jan. 5 to watch the designers hit the runway for their second chance at winning Project Runway.
What started out as a hilarious and intriguing show is now nothing more than procrastination material. Psych seems to be running out of new things to offer. If you try hard to dig for new things, recent episodes raised the questions of whether Shawn (James Roday) might actually be insane and whether he might actually believe that he’s legitimately psychic. Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) might actually have a not-so-bitter heart, and the newly prominent Woody the Coroner (Kurt Fuller) might actually be stranger than Shawn himself. Otherwise, Psych’s extremely bland predictability and woeful lack of an overarching storyline make it so that viewers have very little inclination to actually pay attention to the plot. Instead, it’s more efficient only to resurface from zoning out for the isolated incidences of antics, which, admittedly, are quite amusing, but mostly because of Gus (Dule Hill). Season Six of Psych isn’t a must-watch, but rather a might-as-well-watch-while-washing-dishes. If you finish before the episode is done, no worries — you can probably guess the ending anyway.
After four seasons, Chuck has managed to continue producing fresh entertainment where many other shows hinging on completing a mission or solving a mystery per episode fail to do so. Season five premiered in mid-October with even more flair than before, as Chuck (Zachary Levi), Sarah (Yvonne Strahovsky), Morgan (Joshua Gomez), and Casey (Adam Baldwin) veer off in a different direction to start their own spy consultant firm. With Chuck freed from the Intersect, Morgan appears to come into his own as more of a serious character rather than a mere comic foil — until he becomes so arrogant viewers might want to treat him to a taste of his own new-found Intersect kungfu. However, the writers find a way to allow loyal fans to excuse Morgan’s actions, and Season five promises a somewhat parallel development of lifelong best friends Chuck and Morgan’s maturing characters as they both grow more comfortable with their innate abilities. In its final season, Chuck has morphed from a spy-drama into more of a family show, as Sarah, Chuck, Morgan, Casey, Alex, Ellie, and Devon slowly find a sense of family and home with each other. One can’t help but fervently hope that they will get the stable family and business they so well deserve — or as stable as a spy’s life can be. Oh, and don’t think for a second that the jesters of Jeffster were neglected in all the serious soul-searching.
Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Revenge is this season’s new guilty pleasure. Starring Emily VanCamp as Emily Thorne who is really Amanda Clarke, the show could very well be the new, cultured, and sophisticated Gossip Girl. Revenge centers around Emily moving back to the Hamptons to take revenge on the large network of rich, influential people who framed her father, destroyed her family, and locked her in juvenile detention for a decade. The pilot taunts viewers with an in media res approach, but ensuing episodes provide satisfaction in incremental morsels as Emily steadily takes down those who took down her father while in a constant battle of wits and social politics with the woman who utterly betrayed him, “Queen of the Hamptons” Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe). VanCamp’s acting is captivating, and her nuanced facial expressions from sweetly innocent to chillingly manipulative are enough to send chills up your spine. You can’t shake the feeling that Emily is coldly sadistic, even when she’s at her most angelic. Perhaps most unnerving, however, is that you don’t quite know whose side to take among all the vindictive pretty people in pretty clothes.
Sorry, Gleeks, but season 3 has been a disappointment. Much of the plot revolves around a mutiny from the New Directions: The Troubletones, headed by Mercedes and coached by Rachel Berry’s birth mother, Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel), present some not-so-friendly competition and plenty of romantic complications. But drama, drama, drama, has done nothing to hide the irregular storylines and jarring transitions. Glee Project winner Damian McGinty appears with a bang as Irish exchange student Rory in “Pot o’ Gold” and then fades into the background for the next four episodes. Just as abruptly, Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) returns to McKinley High to help out the Glee Club at sectionals. Glee’s only redeeming feature seems to be its choice of music. My advice? Buy the Adele mash-up of “Rumour Has It/Someone Like You” and bypass the rest of all that high school angst.
Will they/won’t they couple Booth and Brennan are finally together, but not-quite-marital bliss hasn’t gotten in the way of their chemistry. Unlike the disappointment of Huddy from season 7 of House, this relationship has been surprisingly functional and entertaining. The two must adjust to life living together and prepare for the arrival of their baby, but Booth’s overprotectiveness and Brennan’s often-clueless obstinance keep the repartee flowing. Meanwhile, the Jeffersonian is as bustling as ever as Angela and Hodgins deal with parenthood and a gun-carrying Dr. Sweets tries to become more involved in crime investigations.
Hugh Laurie’s consistent performance continues to keep this medical drama somewhat fresh, but House doesn’t have a whole lot else going for it anymore. Each episode is as formulaic as ever (Hint: the first guess is never right, and it’s never lupus), though House’s brief interlude in prison gave the first episode an interesting twist. Dr. Adams (Odette Annable) and Dr. Park (Charlyne Yi), this season’s newcomers, deliver nice performances but are given little to work with — just like all of House’s team at any point in the series, their characters are often obnoxious, manipulative, and miserable (like their boss!). Still, for medical freaks out there — or folks just looking for some of Laurie’s wit — House may still have you coming back for more, eight seasons in.
—Ethan A. Solomon