Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday Night Comedy: Community and Parks and Rec

There are so many shows on Thursday nights, it's always a challenge deciding what to watch and what to save for later. Thanks to the continuing brilliance of "Community" and "Parks and Recreation," lately my primetime viewing has been going to NBC's comedy lineup.

While I also usually enjoy "The Office" and "30 Rock," it's these two younger shows that really have my attention. With a few rare exceptions they are consistently brilliant, delivering sharp and often unexpected humor and offering some fantastic comedic performances. Last night's episodes were both excellent additions to already stellar seasons.

On "Community," the Dean decides that Greendale CC needs a student body president, since Joe Biden is coming to visit and is expecting to meet the head of the non-existent student government. Really, this is just an excuse for Annie to jump into perky overachiever mode and for Jeff to show off his lawyer skills as he tries to take her down. While funny moments abounded in the election, as usual it was Troy and Abed who really made the episode for me. Abed's side plot involved a Secret Service agent who kept trying to find ways to make him a terrorist threat so she could spend more time with him, and their coverage of the election was hilarious and spot-on:

While Abed's plot was cute and took up much more time, Donald Glover's line delivery here as Troy was one of my favorite moments of the night. Glover is always hilarious, but more and more I've been noticing how perfect his comedic timing and delivery of seemingly simple lines really make him a standout.

Over on "Parks and Rec," Leslie and Ron headed to Indianapolis for a ceremony, and Tom threw a party at the Snakehole Lounge to try to shop his horrible perfume. The best parts of this episode for me were the focus on Leslie and Ann's friendship, which is always cute and funny, Ron's freakout over his inability to get a steak at his favorite restaurant, and Adam Scott as Ben, who is working himself very nicely into the cast and proving to be an excellent addition. As funny as Rob Lowe's character is, Adam Scott has really brought his much less flashy character to the forefront beautifully, and I can't wait for the inevitable moment when he and Leslie hook up. It was also nice to finally see April and Andy together, as they adorably tried to figure out who could get the most free stuff since they both have no money.

There were a ton of hilarious moments in this episode, but I especially appreciated Leslie trying to cheer Ann up by telling her about all the times she's been dumped, and Ron trying to find himself a decent steak:

And yes, I ignored "Perfect Couples" and "Outsourced" here. Because I don't watch them. What I've seen of both has not impressed me enough to give them much of a shot. I'd rather spend that 30 minutes watching old episodes of "Parks and Rec" on Hulu.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Case for "The Vampire Diaries"

"Where is Mason?"
"He's right beside me. Although, his heart's across the room."

When I first heard about "The Vampire Diaries," I was resistant. I'd read some L.J. Smith books as a teenager, and loved them in that way that only dramatic teenagers can, but I hadn't read the series this show is based on, and it sounded like Twilight TV. I decided to check out the pilot anyway, and while there were a few moments of surprising fun, I still wasn't convinced. 

Months later, I started hearing about how great this little CW vampire show was, and I decided to give it another shot. Episode 2 was a little better than the pilot, and the next few episodes were a little better than that. As I continued through season 1, I felt myself getting more and more involved, and before I knew it I was totally drawn in. By the time season 2 rolled around I was an addict. 

When I tried to explain to my brother and sister over the holidays exactly why this show is worth watching, I was told I sounded like a 15-year-old girl. Maybe I do. But the fact remains, this is one of the most overlooked shows on television right now. Far from being Twilight TV, the characters are compelling, the stories move at breakneck speed, and week after week I find myself getting excited as I get ready to watch a new episode.

So why is this show so good? There are a few reasons that are especially key. 

1. It's way more "Buffy" than "Twilight." 

Some of the vampires are good. Kinda. A lot of them are killing machines who value human life much less than their own pleasure. The Angel of the show, Stefan, is mostly a good guy, but when he is bad, he is very, very bad. And it is awesome. His brother Damon (the Spike of the show, for sure) has a penchant for ripping peoples' hearts directly out of their chests, literally. They both love Elena, who is no Buffy by any means, but over the course of the show has shown that she is a lot stronger and more compelling than any Bella. And while Stefan mostly drinks animal blood, he would definitely never sparkle in the sun. 

2. The characters are great.

It took a little time for me to warm up to this cast. Ian Somerhalder was pretty immediately a standout as Damon, the snarky and often violent "bad" brother, but the rest of the cast seemed to be pretty standard CW fare, pretty people with wooden personalities. Now it's obvious that couldn't be further from the truth. Elena is an imperfect heroine and occasionally annoyingly good, but she has had some excellent badass moments, and her lookalike ancestor, evil vampire Katherine, shows off a pretty impressive acting range from actress Nina Dobrev. Despite looking exactly the same, Elena and Katherine are very different, and Nina does an excellent job of showing those differences, even when Katherine is trying to impersonate Elena. And Stefan, far from being just a pansy romantic lead, has also shown that he can be a total badass when Elena or anyone he loves is threatened. 

In addition to the leads, the supporting cast contains Caroline, who has gone from annoying dumb blonde friend to a fan favorite over the course of these two seasons; Bonnie, whose witchy powers have grown and blossomed until she is a verified BAMF; and Tyler, who also started out as a caricature of a high school bully but has become so much more (especially when it's a full moon). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

3. The stories move like lightning. 

There is never a dull moment on this show. In one episode, you might have someone's fingers getting chopped off, one major character snapping another major character's neck, someone getting turned into a vampire, unexpected bad guys showing up, important new characters being introduced, other important characters leaving and, of course, some very steamy makeouts. (Note: This is an actual episode.) One recent episode featured no less than half a dozen hearts getting ripped out. Several plotlines will be resolved and several more introduced over the course of 40 minutes. This is not really a show you can just jump into, but even if you've been paying attention, the pace can sometimes be dizzying. No dragging out of stories here. It's refreshing. 

4. It's hot. 


I could say more (a lot more, probably), but if you're not convinced by all that, this is probably not the show for you. I won't go so far as to say this is the next "Buffy," which I still think is one of the most brilliant and influential shows ever, but at moments, it is damn good. For anyone who likes horror, gore, romance, thrills, drama or just plain enjoyable entertainment, this is a great choice. Don't let the "teen vampire show on the CW" stigma fool you. "Vampire Diaries" rocks.  


Spazzing on "Parenthood"

"Parenthood" is one of those great shows that I always forget when I'm listing my favorites. It has a kind of quiet dependability, showcasing the many extremely talented actors who populate it and framing relatable issues in raw, sometimes uncomfortable emotion.

Last night's episode, the brilliantly named "Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew's Therapist," was an absolute roller coaster of emotional upheaval and real-to-life drama. Mae Whitman was a real highlight in her small time on screen, but Lauren Graham was equally tear-inducing as her mother, and while there may not have been quite as much crying in other parts of the family, there was drama (and a few touches of comedy) to spare.

This article from NY Mag sums up some of the most emotional moments well (plus, clips!):

The Seven Best Spazzes on Last Night’s Parenthood

If you haven't been watching "Parenthood," now is a good time to start. It's not perfect by any means, but there are enough heartrending moments to satisfy any emotional junkie, and touches of comedy that feel natural and true to real life. There is also a brilliant cast of actors quietly creating lovable, hateable and ultimately relatable characters. If you're a fan of shows like "Friday Night Lights" (also a Jason Katims project), this is exactly the show for you.


My name is Sarah, and I'm a TV addict.

Since I am constantly boring my friends, family and Facebook acquaintances with that TV addiction, I figured why not put it in writing? When I actually remember this blog exists and update it, it will be a spot for me to spill out my feelings about recent TV episodes, post funny or brilliant clips, and share my nerdy excitement over the latest Doctor Who spoilers.

Without further ado, I give you a clip from last week's episode of one of my current absolute favorites, "Community," to break this blog in: