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Watch Portlandia – Late in Life Drug Use Online S04E08

Portlandia - Late in Life Drug Use
Portlandia‘s latest episode, “Late in Life Drug Use” features a number of returning guest stars, including Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum and Vanessa Bayer, but they’re all upstaged by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who channels his inner dudeness-with a twist.

Homme plays Carrie’s brother, also named Josh, who’s only recently come out to his family. He’s bringing new boyfriend Nick (Swardson) with him to Portland for a visit. Carrie and Fred look forward to home decorating tips and fashion advice from their house guests, but as soon as Josh and Nick arrive on their doorstep, it’s obvious that Carrie’s bro is a bro. And Nick is, too. They’re X-box playing slobs who met during a bar fight at an ESPN Zone. Forget about French press or espresso shots in the morning; they’re just fine with Jaeger bombs for breakfast.

The titular sketch about drug use takes us to one of Portlandia’s less prolific couples, well-meaning but overreaching parents Brendan and Michelle. After a guest at their dinner party tells them the story of a weekend drug experience (a disappointingly superfluous use of Jeff Goldblum), he plants the question in their heads of whether or not they’re too old to do drugs for the first time. They decide they’re not, and pour a lot of effort into making the most carefully planned unexpected event. (“I want to approach this like we would buy a car.”) As always, it’s reliably funny for Portlandia to walk through how much its residents overthink activities that are supposed to be fun and simple, and Brownstein gets good mileage out of trying to plan a drug experience around dentist trips and meetings.

One of the more creative and humorous sketches involves iris and bicycle boy Spike (who’s growing on us this season). They decide to eat at a Thai restaurant with a “Best of Portland 2013″ sticker on the door, bestowed by Bridgetown Weekly. The food’s inedible, and Spike and Iris decide-as the restaurant workers sneak out the door-to go to Bridgetown Weekly to lodge a complaint about their “awards.” At the alt-weekly’s offices, they’re greeted by the same staff, who try and convince the two that they’re legit and not just operating to give themselves good reviews.


Watch The Big Bang Theory – The Closet Reconfiguration Online S06E19

The Big Bang Theory - The Closet Reconfiguration
It’s not often that The Big Bang Theory gang is together for most of an episode. “The Closet Reconfiguration” was a pleasant surprise with laughs, but also serious moments when everyone was there to help Howard through an emotional situation.

I doubt there is a single person out there, even the most organized, who hasn’t thrown stuff in the closet ahead of having guests over to their house. Howard’s method of picking up in preparation for the dinner party was a universal, non-geek exclusive situation. Though, Sheldon’s love of organizing was not a punishment for bringing his own food, though at least Bernie got reparation for his wrong.

Anyone who has been watching The Big Bang Theory knows that the group cannot keep secrets. They are horrible gossips and Sheldon is the worst. At least, he didn’t just blurt of the letter’s contents and even after Penny approached him it took a bit of manipulation for him to squeal.

After years of not opening the letter, Howard was rightfully upset that all his friends knew the contents when he didn’t want that out in the world. The resolution was touching to see. Yes, the show is a sitcom, but sometimes in order to enjoy the laughs there needs to be some seriousness too. The gang’s decision to tell him truths and lies was the perfect way to give Howard resolution to his troubled relationship with his father.


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Watch The Vampire Diaries – Bring It On Online S04E16

The Vampire Diaries - Bring It On
This season of The Vampire Diaries is teaching me an interesting lesson: Sometimes there are arcs that you can appreciate from a storytelling perspective, but if they make you not like the central character of a show — the one everyone is fighting to save and you’ve always related to — you may not enjoy those arcs, however clever, as much as you thought you would as a viewer. It happened with Elena’s sire bond to Damon, which, when you think about it, is a great way to complicate that love triangle — Elena can leave Stefan for Damon, but it’s not entirely her own doing, so the Stelena fans can’t hate her.

The Delena fans get what they want, but they still have something to root for because the question remains whether she would ever have allowed herself to act on her feelings to that degree without the sire bond. I can see how poetic it is: Stefan used to let Elena make her own calls, while Damon always assumed he knew what was best for her. The rub: Knowing she was being manipulated took some of the enjoyment out of watching her have sex with Damon and made her seem weak.

The sire bond has grown on me because it both divided the Salvatore brothers and forced them to work together, and it gave Damon the power to have Elena turn off her humanity (which we know she definitely wouldn’t have done on her own). Those plot points have produced some of the season’s best moments. But now, the flipping of Elena’s switch comes with its own poetic twist: You want Elena to get her free will back and own being a vampire in a way that didn’t involve a cheesy motorcycle shot? You got it, but now she’ll do whatever she damn well pleases — and that includes trying to kill Caroline.

You can see what it’s all building to: Now Elena doesn’t care how bad Damon is, so he’ll have to decide if he does like her best this way. (I think not: He wants to know she really loves him, and “I don’t care how bad you are” is different from “I accept you for who you are.”) Moments like Elena letting Caroline fall during the cheerleading stunt and trying to stake Caroline in the woods are cool, but it’s tough to watch our Elena being a Mean Girl. Bottom line: No Humanity Elena may just want to have fun, but really, the stuff she’s doing is serious. I should be sitting right next to Caroline when Stefan says we have to remember this isn’t the real Elena and we can’t give up on her. (Or maybe I need to stop thinking about the old Elena entirely so I can enjoy the new one properly?)


Watch American Dad – For Black Eyes Only Online S08E13

American Dad - For Black Eyes Only
The trouble with American Dad reviving the episode-length James Bond homage is that it immediately invites comparisons to “Tearjerker” the season three episode that did it first. There is certainly enough fodder for parody in the litany of Bond films, but “For Black Eyes Only” feels disappointingly devoid of that material. I liked “Tearjerker” a lot when it first aired, even if it was an overly easy homage transition to make for a show centered on a CIA agent.

If one Bond parody is easy, then a second one is supremely facile. But I was willing to give another pastiche of the series a shot considering the reasonable success of the first attempt. But returning to the well turns out to be as successful as The Spy Who Shagged Me, not completely wiping out the merits of the first installment, but obliterating the demand for a third down the line.

Family Guy had a clear template to work with over three Star Wars parody episodes, but while American Dad doesn’t use a particular Bond movie structure, it has over 20 Bond films to mine for jokes, and still largely comes up empty. When Roger’s turn as supervillain turned reluctant partner turned supervillain Tearjerker is the best part of the episode in a diminished role, that’s not a good sign.

Picking up right where “Tearjerker” left off, Stan and his new bride, Sexpun T’Come, are off on their honeymoon, only to be interrupted by Principal Brian Lewis as Black Villain. Roger’s side plot as Tearjerker was unequivocally the best part of the first Bond send-up, and Black Villain doesn’t measure up in any way. He’s not as inherently funny, and his actions don’t subvert expectations of the character like Tearjerker’s constant complaints about the contractor who built him a shoddy lair.


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Watch Family Guy – Call Girl Online S11E14

Family Guy - Call Girl
Chris builds a birdhouse, and Peter hangs it up, and they happily watch as lots of little birds move into it, until an falcon swoops down and eats them all. They are horrified.

That night, Peter reveals to the family that he has become a falconer, and introduces his falcon Xerxes.

He shows it to Quagmire, and Xerxes quickly attacks him. Peter says that Xerxes mainly eats rodents, and that’s probably why he was after Quagmire. Xerxes knocked him to the ground and dug into his pants, eager to get at the rodents that Quagmire was hiding. However, as he was screaming, the rodent escaped “out the front”, and fled from his mouth.

Inside the house, Xerxes lands on Stewie’s head, and he panics, asking Brian what to do. Brian says there’s nothing he can, and just hope he doesn’t stand on his soft spot. He does, and Stewie’s skull sinks in.


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Watch Californication – Everybodys A Fucking Critic Online S06E09

Californication - Everybodys A Fucking Critic
The current season of Californication has been on a roll. The decision to pair Hank Moody (David Duchovny) with Tim Minchin’s lewd asshole rock star Atticus Fetch has rejuvenated the show in new ways.

I mean, at its heart, Californication has always been a show about what happens when you live the rock and roll dream and get everything you want. I’ve never been completely convinced that Hank’s as good a writer as we’re led to believe. After all, he seems to have hit it lucky with his first shot, God Hates Us All, and he’s been dining out on the experience ever since. His literary output is hardly prolific, is it?

So, I found it strange when Hank started laying into his daughter Becca’s first attempt at a novel instead of supporting her and giving her constructive criticism. But how satisfying it was when Hank swaggers into a meeting with Atticus, Stew and Runkle and they all insult his latest work. It’s about time. And to add insult to injury, Fetch admits that he lied when he said he was a big fan of Hank’s work ? he’d never even read it!

There are subtle upsides to Hank having his ego knocked hard: first, there’s a charming visit to his new muse Faith where the duo sing Joni Mitchell songs and ?inspire’ each other. I’m starting to warm to the character now. She genuinely seems to have a sweet disposition, and I’d happily warm to the idea of her and Hank getting romantic properly with each other. The show has trod stagnant water with the Hank/Karen relationship, and I’d love for them to kill that relationship off once and for all.


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Watch The Big Bang Theory – The Contractual Obligation Implementation Online S06E18

The Big Bang Theory - The Contractual Obligation Implementation
Who knew that a roomful of teenage girls could bring such hilarity to The Big Bang Theory? The girls themselves didn’t even have to actually DO anything, such is the terrifying truth about their cruel nature. I wasn’t even a COOL middle-schooler and I was STILL an asshole and once Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard entered the locker-lined arena of Howard’s old middle school, their awareness of just how awful middle school was and is stole their lunch money and gave their contractually obligated women-in-science program a swirlie.

Meanwhile, Bernadette, Amy, and Penny played hooky to go to Disneyland and Raj’s library date with Lucy actually wasn’t a disaster. In fact, Raj wins this episode of TBBT, if only because he was the only one who wasn’t completely miserable by the end of the episode. He came up with an unorthodox but ultimately successful date-night idea to accommodate both his inability to talk to women without being drunk and Lucy’s crippling social anxiety, and it was great and everyone was happy and he ALMOST got a kiss out of it. YAY RAJ!

The contractual obligation in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” forced Leonard, Howard, and Sheldon to create a program that would help draw women into science careers, but The Big Bang Theory took the opportunity to point out (and poke fun at) female inequalities all across geekdom-from grotesquely proportioned video game warriors in barely there armor to the fact that, for as advanced and civilized as the society in the original Star Trek series was meant to be, the show still featured a black lady (in a mini skirt) answering the space telephone. Even Sheldon-who was initially apprehensive to the point of being antagonistic in his reluctance to devote time to a female-oriented program-conceded to the often-overlooked practice of women using their initials rather than their full names to take credit for work in order to avoid being dismissed before a superior even bothered to look at the content.

And so The Big Bang Theory tackled a fairly serious issue in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” and while its commentary was far from being the definitive statement on the matter, it WAS a very good, and more importantly for TBBT, very FUNNY. It’s honestly not hard to make me laugh, but sometimes it’s hard for The Big Bang Theory to make me laugh because so much of its humor relies on overcooked stereotypes (apologies). Yet the one-liners in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” just kept coming-and they were excellent.


Watch Criminal Minds – Carbon Copy Online S08E16

Criminal Minds - Carbon Copy
Criminal Minds season 8 has just teased the recurring unsub, the Replicator, until now, until episode 16, “Carbon Copy” which saw the team take a more active role in the case.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

JJ received flowers and the card read “Zugzwang.” The phone call Reid received hadn’t been about Maeve. It had been the Replicator; he was watching their every move. Garcia did determine that the flowers had been bought with a stolen credit card and a prepaid phone traced to Philadelphia, where the fourth victim was found exsanguinated and with her eyelids removed. Unlike the other copycat murders (the mouth sewn shut, transplanted leg, and a human marionette), this one wasn’t found in the same area as the original kills.

The Replicator was a narcissist, patient, and had the time and money to travel. But then a second victim was found, and the local detective, Rizzo, didn’t hide the fact that he was unhappy to see the FBI there (but later revealed that his partner was killed while they were working a federal case). And then a third victim was found, with Hotch’s photo, which the unsub had trimmed and added to a pile of photos for the team, on her


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Watch Modern Family – Bad Hair Day Online S04E16

Modern Family - Bad Hair Day
Claire’s college reunion is coming up, and she doesn’t really want Phil to come with her. Luckily for her, Phil has a bowling tournament with Jay and his friends and can’t make it. At the reunion, Claire reconnects with an old classmate she used call ‘Tater’ (guest star David Faustino) and an old professor she used to date.

When Phil gets kicked off the bowling team, he decides to surprise Claire at the reunion. They end up going for drinks at her professor’s house, and a small part of Claire can’t help wondering how her life would have turned out if she had stayed with Professor Cooke (guest star Maxwell Caulfield). But when his depressed, unbalanced wife shows up, Claire remembers how lucky she is to have Phil.

Meanwhile, Mitch and Cameron are getting ready to host an Oscar party. Cameron wants to take pictures of Lily dressed up as different Hollywood starlets, but six hours into the photo shoot, she gets cranky, and they decide to replace her with baby Joe. Lily ‘helps’ by gluing Joe’s headdress to his hair, and Cam and Mitch have to find a way to fix it before Gloria finds out. Their Oscar party goes well—a little too well, maybe, because they wake up and discover that they somehow promised Dylan, Haley’s delinquent on-and-off boyfriend, that he could move in with them.

The series Modern Family reminds me most of in this regard is The Cosby Show. Like that earlier show, Modern Family had a surprisingly big breakout season, for which it won the Emmy and critical plaudits for being groundbreaking in depicting a minority group as just another part of the big, American tapestry. After that, it declined slightly and went through some bumpy times, before settling onto a rough plateau where it more or less sat for several seasons. Modern Family very rarely produces A or A- episodes anymore, but this season in particular, it rarely produces episodes that fall beneath a B- either. It knows exactly what it does well, and it performs at that level almost ruthlessly. Just as Cosby had its go-to jokes-and always left a little time for Bill to riff-so, too, does Modern Family have its stable of gags-and it always leaves time for Ty Burrell to perform some pratfalls. Modern Family gets shit all the time for playing it safe, but I think it’s important to note just how hard it is to create a show that plays it safe but is still mostly satisfying. Hell, this show had a lot of trouble with just that in its third season, but its fourth season has been an improvement in most ways.


Watch American Dad – Naked to the Limit, One More Time Online S08E12

American Dad - Naked to the Limit, One More Time
American Dad flouts continuity more often than I’d like in an episodic animated comedy. Sure, at the beginning of any episode, the same stable of characters is at the writers’ disposal. But the show has worked itself into a place where it frequently juts out on a tangent away from normal continuity or canon, and feels no need to bring an episode back to status quo by the end. Do this once, and it undercuts expectation in intriguing fashion. Do it repeatedly, and it loses its charm, and starts to feel like either the writers construct plots incapable of resolution, or that they don’t want to.

The attitude seems to be, “This is the eighth season, the characters are established, so it’s okay for Roger to shove Jeff into the tractor beam of a spaceship returning to Roger’s home planet, have the episode end a minute later, and do nothing about it because it starts over again next week.” Call me old fashioned, but I’m disappointed with the frequency of these plots, and how many of them feature Roger being an incorrigible jackass to get what he wants. He can’t walk around naked because Jeff doesn’t know he’s an alien, so he poses as Jeff’s new invisible friend. At that point, it’s not even so he can walk around naked, it’s so he can act as obnoxious as possible to Stan and Francine.

The eighth season premiere went through these same motions, with a conflict that ended in Roger skinning Jeff alive, one of the more disturbing moments of the season. That’s also the episode that throws Roger’s callous, repeated dismissals of Hayley into question. He loves her as a lounge singer, and even mutilates her husband, but now he shoves Jeff into a tractor beam and barely registers any memory of anything about Hayley. These continuity slips make it harder to laugh at the jokes, because it makes the characters so malleable that they aren’t reliable.

It’s more difficult to actually solve the problem at hand: either Jeff needs to address his inability to keep a secret, or Roger actually need to figure out another solution besides returning to a freezing, booze-less home planet with only consensual sex. A lot of viewers like Roger-and I do too, when the disguise is right-but indulging and celebrating this side of him isn’t funny to me. The extended montage of Roger highlights fell flat, and went on for so long that I didn’t really care if they were made up or all actually recycled from previous episodes. There’s a light E.T. vibe to the final scene, but I felt nothing but disappointment for the way the episode ended.


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