Matt's TV Week in Review: A Wedding, A Farewell, and More!
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
This is delightful history." So declared TV's reigning queen of news, Barbara Walters, as the newly wed Catherine, now Duchess of Cambridge, emerged from Westminster Abbey alongside her prince Friday morning to pealing bells, cheering crowds and a gawking worldwide TV audience estimated in the billions, soaking up a jubilant moment in the often rocky life of the British royals. In shared media moments like this, we are all uncommonly privileged commoners, granted a front-row seat to rubberneck at will at a lavish ceremony, festooned with wacky hats, that seemingly went off without a hitch. Watching in high-def (a first for a British royal wedding), I was struck by both the intimacy and grandeur of what the cameras captured: best man Harry's sly look backward at Kate's long approach down the aisle while his brother faced forward — he apparently whispered, "Wait till you see her" — the sideways amused glances between Kate and William revealing that they were keeping it real amidst the pomp, the prince's struggle to place the ring on her finger, all set against sweeping long shots, including staggeringly beautiful aerials of the entire abbey, like something out of a classic movie romance.
There is of course something a bit silly about the spectacle of waiting breathlessly for the reveal of any bride's dress, but let's face it: This is the ultimate red carpet. And the gown, with its veil and tiara (borrowed from the Queen) and lace, was likened by many as more reminiscent of Princess Grace than Princess Diana (whose specter hung poignantly over the entire ceremony). The dress turned out to be as simply elegant and unfussy as the media coverage tended to be tiresomely overblown and banal. Once everyone shut up for the main event, Kate's confident poise and William's dignified delight delivered the goods. Those who cared got the storybook wedding they sacrificed sleep to witness live. And Barbara was right: It was delightful, a refreshingly upbeat and hopeful respite from the less happy headlines of the day. Back to reality, everyone.
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EXIT STRATEGY: It was enough to make a grown man cry. As a moist-eyed Jim Halpert said to "the best boss I ever had," choking back his own tears, "Sometimes goodbyes are a bitch." And sometimes they're a blessing, when as effectively and warmly rendered as The Office's swan song for Steve Carell. Capping seven seasons as Dunder Mifflin's exasperatingly clueless yet ultimately endearing leader, Michael Scott's camouflaged exit — everyone thought the next day would be his last day — hit just the right bittersweet note, finding plenty of snarky giggles amid the many authentic lumps in the throat, as a tremulously emotional Michael said his goodbyes while bestowing some memorable parting gifts, including a glowing recommendation letter for Dwight that left him (for once) humbled and speechless, a moment leavened by a last slapstick game of paintball. Memo to Mr. Carell: Job well done.
From Michael's euphoric waterlogged proposal to Holly through the entire crew serenading him with a rewritten Rent chorus, The Office's obvious affection for this character and this actor reminds us what a different animal the show has become from the bleaker British original (which lasted but a fraction of this show's time). And yet there were plenty of moments to undercut the sentimentality. My favorite: Michael in tears — of hysterical laughter — after giving the condescending Oscar ("I think of you as my scarecrow, because you gave me a brain") a ridiculous poppet that Oscar pretends to admire. "He has the lowest opinion of me of anybody!" Michael shrieks in self-aware glee. Lots of good moments for those left behind: Creed ending up with the "World's Best Boss" mug that Michael trashed in favor of his Dundie, Phyllis revealing a familiarity with erotic cakes and an adolescent secret she feared Michael would spill ("I thought he knew about the baby I gave away"), Toby unveiling through Skype an equally hangdog brother (Rory) in Boulder who Michael most certainly will never look up. And how about those shout-outs to the never-seen documentarians: Jim's resigned "You guys are filming people when they go to the bathroom now?" and Michael unclipping his body mic at the airport: "Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?"
In his voice-over upon leaving the office, trading in his "very best friends" for his new family, Michael muses: "They say on your deathbed you never wish you spent more time at the office. But I will." No doubt. The question now becomes whether The Office sans Carell will be seen to be on its own deathbed. Not the best sign that Will Ferrell's interim-manager character is such a sour, unfunny turnoff. (At least he won't be around much longer.) In the unfortunate coda that closed an otherwise winning episode, Deangelo literally took the cake — and destroyed it with his hands — causing even Dwight to go "Uh oh." More like an uh, no.
JUST THE BEST: If you thought it couldn't get better than Mags Bennett's whoop-dee-doo on FX's Justified, think again. FX's best and ballsiest drama hit another intense high in the next-to-last episode of a fantastically entertaining second season. Timothy Olyphant, who generally excels at underplaying the part of laconic but lethal U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, comes to the forefront, fueled by grief and rage as he seeks to avenge the senseless murder of his beloved Aunt Helen ("that woman saved my life") at the hands of the degenerate Dickie Bennett (scene-stealer Jeremy Davies). This is Olyphant's best work in the series to date, seething as his crooked dad Arlo (the terrific Raymond J. Barry) tries to pin the blame on Raylan, when it's really his own antics — robbing Dickie's pot stash with Boyd Crowder — that triggered Dickie's murderous payback.
Raylan's rogue crusade for revenge takes him first to Mags, and the look on Margo Martindale's face as the marshal puts a hand on her is beyond bone-chilling. But she does eventually give up her son (only after Arlo threatens to renege on the Black Pike deal), and when Raylan takes a sniveling, whimpering Dickie into the woods for what looks like an execution, things get primal. "This is who we are, Dickie, this is who we've always been," snarls Raylan. "And this is how it ends." But conjuring up the spirit of the woman who put him on a higher path than his backwoods brethren, Raylan instead clocks his pathetic prey and puts him in the system. Naturally, Mags isn't beaten yet. She arranges for Dickie's release — who's the crone she sent into the cell of Dickie's accomplice to get him to confess? — and comforts the boy she earlier slugged for his incompetence: "We'll take care of everything." War on. Wednesday's season finale is going to rock.
CRY WOLF: More like, crying over a dead wolf. The brutality of HBO's excellent Game of Thrones claims an innocent canine victim, further revealing the heartless villainy of the Lannister clan. En route to Kings Landing, Stark tomboy Arya and the odious Prince Joffrey (whose mother the Queen is a Lannister) come to blows when she defends the butcher's boy from Joffrey's bullying, and in the melee, Arya's wolf attacks the bratty royal. As payback for this injurious insult, the cold Queen Cersei demands the execution of Lady, the direwolf belonging to Arya's sister Sansa (whose refusal to back up her sister has severe consequences). Ned Stark once again refuses to let another do his dirty work: "She deserves better than a butcher," he says of Lady, and as he puts the wolf down, her scattered sibs howl — including the beast left behind at Winterfell who helped save bed-ridden Bran from an assassin. Now that Bran's awake, what more danger awaits our heroic Starks?
THE COUNTDOWN (My weekly reality-competition survey): Casey's growling ways get him sent home from American Idol, proving right Jimmy Iovine's contention that "the family dog does not vote on this show." Further evidence that as talented Casey is as a musician, he was on the wrong show: His call-out to the esoteric Oscar Peterson when asked what musician, living or dead, he'd most like to jam with. Oh well. And Jacob lives to sing another day. Sigh. ... Turns out America does have a big enough appetite to support two simultaneous singing contests. NBC's The Voice got off to a strong start, in the ratings and creatively. Continuing this year's trend toward kinder, gentler talent nurturing, the celebrity panel has only praise for the contestants, even those they choose to ignore with their "I Want You" swiveling chairs. (Nice suspense as some singers get almost to the end of their routines before anyone turns around.) The bland — er, blind — audition rounds thankfully spare us from Idol-style delusional freak shows, and the results so far are thankfully way less cheesy than NBC's summer sideshow America's Got Talent. The Voice judges are distinct, engaging and entertaining, and I'm curious to see how the next stages play out. ... This all-star season of CBS' The Amazing Race is not measuring up. Too many feeble challenges and non-eliminations followed by negligible "speed bumps," and now teams are giving rivals the answers to help them skate past an arduous task (here, pedaling the length of Lichtenstein)? I hated seeing the cowboys go, but especially under these circumstances. ... Poor Matt, forever stranded on Survivor's Redemption Island, lives to fight another day, while Rob's band of puppets extinguish the last remaining members of the rival tribe. If God wills it for Matt to return to the game again, and he makes it to the finals, that's the only way Boston Rob is likely to lose. God, make it so! ... Turns out serving "a lecture on a plate" is no way to win Top Chef Masters. Which is why Suvir Saran fails the Biggest Loser crossover challenge, after refusing to serve red meat ("a direct enemy of our hearts and arteries") in his bacon-cheeseburger makeover. The veggie equivalent wouldn't have cut it with me, either. ... Dancing With the Stars was pulling our leg (and nixing the suspense) by putting Ralph Macchio at the bottom with Chris Jericho, right? Ralph's chivalrous rescue of the fallen Karina was the dance move of the week — despite others getting higher scores. And Idol's Pia Toscano singing on the Dancing results show? She's the lucky one, not having to participate in Idol's rancid and ragged Carole King medley Thursday night.
HONOR ROLL: Emmy alert: The grieving Larsens, played by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes, remain the heart and tortured soul of AMC's remarkable The Killing. As the circumstantial evidence continues to pile up around skeevy teacher Bennet Ahmed (who wed a former student, now pregnant), Rosie's father Stan (Sexton) finally loses his grip after taking his daughter's dress to the funeral home. Collapsing in wrenching sobs in a men's room, he's now ready to hear from his co-worker who the cops are leaning on at Rosie's school. (Watch your back, Mr. Ahmed.) Meanwhile, wife Mitch (Forbes) freaks out when she sees her little boy's hair dripping out over the bathtub. (The water imagery recalls Rosie's awful death.) No wonder the Larsen boys are such a mess, one wetting his bed and trying to hide the evidence in his dad's workplace trash bins. Heartbreaking. ... From the so-sad-it's-funny file: Peter Facinelli nails it on Nurse Jackie, as the obnoxious Coop is sandbagged by the news that his beloved lesbian moms (Swoosie Kurtz and Judith Light, replacing Blythe Danner) are splitting. "And there goes the chin ..." Light cracks as Coop collapses from cocky doc to crushed little boy. Naturally, back at the hospital, he tries to hug it out with Jackie, crying on her shoulder. Poor silly Coop.
THE "BORN" IDENTITY: The "Born This Way" episode of Glee is even more AfterSchool Special than usual, a sporadically enjoyable seminar in self-acceptance with a chaser of Nip/Tuck, as Rachel considers altering her schnozz after Finn busts it in rehearsal, prompting Mr. Schue to urge the entire glee club — and OCD gal pal Emma — to embrace their metaphorical warts. Best part: Kurt's back, thanks to Santana ("closet lesbian and a judgmental bitch") using her "gaydar" on Kurt tormentor Dave Karofsky to maneuver Kurt's return to school to further her campaign for prom queen. Toodles, Warblers, though not without an over-the-top serenade (led by Blaine, natch) on the school steps that somehow isn't interrupted by a flurry of Slushees. Kurt's comeback solo at McKinley High is pure Norma Desmond without irony: a full-on-diva rendition of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" (from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard) that occupies an entire act of the super-sized episode. Brava! Worst part: A tie between the weepy reveal (courtesy of the toxic Lauren) that Quinn used to be a fat-girl nicknamed "Lucy Caboosie," and the flash-mob "Barbra-vention" at the mall, convincing Rachel to mimic her idol Barbra Streisand and leave the nose alone. Inevitable part: The climactic Lady Gaga "Born This Way" track, everyone wearing their insecurities on their chest via customized T-shirts. (Mr. Shue is "Butt Chin," Sam is "Trouty Mouth," Mercedes is "No Weave," and so on.)
THE LAUGH TRACK: Best new Twitter feed of the week: @TheLarmy, from Cougar Town's irrepressible (and fictional) Laurie Keller. (Recent tweet: "Must ... pound ... grape.") ... Loved hearing April rattle off to an appalled Ben her house rules as he boards with her and a slovenly Andy on Parks and Recreation. Sample rules: "No electricity after 6 o'clock. No TV after breakfast." As if. ... Best sight gag: Amy Farrah Fowler's nicotine-crazed lab monkey on The Big Bang Theory, blowing smoke (via CGI) into Sheldon's face. (Chuck Lorre's title card joked that the actual monkey never really smoked, but "had a monkey on its back," a heroin addiction, and is now in Bonzo Center rehab after an intervention from the Geico lizard. A Charlie Sheen analogy here?) ... Runner-up sight gag: Britta's aghast POV as she dives under Shirley's skirts to help deliver a very Community baby. (It wasn't Chang's, but she named it after him anyway.) ... Tina Fey's hot-pregnant-lady SNL promo earned bigger laughs than anything in this week's 30 Rock — including Condoleezza Rice's painfully flat cameo as Jack's resentful ex. "Is she funnier than I am?" she asks about kidnapped baby mama Avery. Dr. Rice, anyone would have to be. Stick to the keyboard, Madam Secretary. (Loved the gag with John Boehner crying over the phone to Jack, though.)
AS HEARD ON TV: "You may have gone to Cambridge, but I'm an honorary graduate of Starfleet Academy." — Big Bang's Sheldon, besting Leonard's "mean Indian lady" Priya with a blackmail scheme out of the Capt. Kirk playbook. And so the legendary "roommate agreement" survives. ... "If Raja dies of old age, then maybe I'll get the crown." — RuPaul's Drag Race runner-up Manila Luzon, 25, stewing over her second-place finish to the 36-year-old veteran drag queen Raja. ... "Conrad Bain once slapped me in a men's room." — More perverse name-dropping from 30 Rock's Jenna. ... "The more you gyrated, the more I palpitated." — Dancing judge Len Goodman, admiring Kendra's samba atop the judges' table. ... "We came close to having one class that wasn't all about them." — Fat Neil's girlfriend, after Shirley's emergency childbirth upstages the anthropology non-exam on Community. ... "For me, it's when the penis goes in." How porn star Brandi Maxxxx defines pornography, when asked on the Ya Heard? With Perd show-within-a-show on Parks and Recreation. ... "You messed with my stash." — Nurse Jackie flushing the rat that fell from the ceiling (onto Zoey's lunch, yuck) after contaminating her latest drug drop. You do not want to get between Jackie and her pills.
That's all for now. What did you think about this week in TV? Send questions and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the comments below. And in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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