Matt's TV Week in Review
Matt Bomer and Darren Criss
I'm trying to come to grips with the knowledge that Steven Tyler and I have something in common. Namely, a mini-obsession with Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," a song that after this week in TV I can't get out of my head. After Phillip and Elise's duet on American Idol Wednesday night — being a PhillPhill-o-phyle, I felt it was a draw, but the judges gave higher marks to Elise — Tyler said the song has been looping on his iPod for some time. For me, the epiphany (which has become a "me and my nano" thing during my daily commute through midtown Manhattan) came one night earlier during Glee, when Blaine and his older brother Cooper Anderson (great pun, and a role giving Matt Bomer a chance to show off some awesome musical and comedic chops) worked out their issues during a passionate rendition of the song.
True, they came off more like disgruntled lovers than estranged sibs, but whatever. Loved it. Even better was Cooper's hilarious acting "master class" for the glee club, where Bomer hams it up with the charm of a "Disney prince" (Sue's words) as he gives ridiculous career advice along with side-splitting pointers in pointing and "SCREAMING ALL MY LINES" to prove he's an intense actor. (For another demonstration, check out Cooper's "audition tape" for Michael Bay.) This is the funniest and most satisfying thing Glee has done in ages — and took some of the sting out of the soporific After-High School Musical-Special subplot about Quinn surviving the driving-while-texting car crash. She's in a wheelchair (though in her mind, only temporarily) but otherwise didn't even seem to suffer a split end. As for Sue's problem pregnancy: I think I'll do my own version of "senior ditch day" and stay in denial they're even telling this story.
Regarding TV "it guy" Matt Bomer, now that he's conquered Glee, maybe Smash can sign him up during his White Collar off time (both film in New York). Here's an idea: Next year they scrap the "Marilyn" project in favor of tackling a Montgomery Clift musical. (Or have him be the Monty confidant to Liz Taylor — who would make a much better and more relevant subject than Marilyn.)
Even Smash was improved this week — in part because it was mostly focusing on the show-within-a-show again (albeit with occasional flashes of dead-air characters like Ellis, Dev and Julia's troglodyte son), and they happily gave the terrific Christian Borle a big number, filling in for whoever's supposed to be playing studio boss Darryl Zanuck. Maybe Borle can do Gotye next time. (Sidebar: If you are anywhere near Broadway in the next few months, you must try to see Borle chew the scenery as a pre-Captain Hook in the delightful Peter and the Starcatcher.) Of course this is also the episode that tiresomely teases the delayed arrival of movie-star diva Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman), who in a hokey twist that only the awful Ellis probably didn't see coming doesn't show up until the last minute of the episode.
(Broadway sidebar #2: In the scene where Tom and his soon-to-flee lawyer boyfriend go to check out the new musical End of Daze at the St. James because it's said to be a "train wreck," you can still see remnants of the signage outside the theater for this winter's flop-ola On a Clear Day You Can See Forever revival starring Harry Connick Jr. Which I saw on one of its last matinees because, um, "train wreck." And so it goes. When Smash is on its game, it knows its stuff.)
Back to Idol: Finally, some drama! Twas actually shocking to see two of the presumed front-runners (big-voiced Joshua and Jessica) in the bottom three, and then for Jessica Sanchez to be put on the spot to sing for her life. Which she wasn't doing very convincingly before Jennifer Lopez put her out of her misery, grabbing her mike and screeching, "This is crazy! (Or, as Cooper Anderson might say, "Cray-cray.") You're not going home! Go sit down!" A shell-shocked Jessica staggered over to her fellow contestants while the judges stormed the stage, preening over their "save" — Idol's one-time-only version of the immunity idol — while everyone else came to grips that maybe the winner hasn't already been decided.
Meanwhile, over on The Voice, in an ugly incident we like to think of as "Of Mice and Divas," Christina Aguilera calls out her former Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeer co-star Tony Lucca (a member of Team Adam) as "one-dimensional," seeming to resent the celebrity backing he's getting (from "Justin [Timberlake] in particular") and concluding, "I think there are just better voices on the show, rather than a celebrity sway kind of thing." In response, Adam Levine bristles, "That was honest." Which on this show would be a nice change, because sending the ridiculous Erin "My voice is an acquired taste" Martin off with faint praise instead of ridicule was as ludicrous as her performance of "Walk Like an Egyptian." (More like, "Sings Like a Hieroglyphic.") While Tony Lucca didn't wow me, I'm glad in retrospect he advanced to the next round. But like most everyone else on this show, which has begun to stall in the live-performance rounds, he'd better step it up.
Back to Gotye: I discovered one of the Voice singers had attempted his song last week, but when I played it back, it was so overproduced, mannered and mangled no wonder I didn't recognize it. And final note: The artist himself is appearing on Saturday Night Live this weekend as musical guest. Guess this song will be looping in my head for a while to come.
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SO MUCH DRAMA: You can read my thoughts on the sensational finale of FX's Justified here. But one moment I neglected to rave about: Raylan muttering, "That's cute," when first exposed to Quarles' wrist gun (before said wrist and arm is lopped off by Limehouse in the slaughterhouse, which is pretty much the opposite of cute.) Other highlights from the week in TV drama:
How weird was Don Draper's delirious and murderous fever dream on Mad Men, in which he imagines offing a former fling (Twin Peaks' Madchen Amick) whose elevator come-on makes Megan jealous. A mash-up of guilt over his past and self-loathing that he might someday stray again — even with a midlife trophy wife at his side — this fever-fueled porn fantasy out of a Polanski movie (Repulsion was released in 1965) is the stuff of nightmares. But I found myself relating more to little Sally, trapped in the mausoleum of the Francis home with only the ogre-like Grandma Pauline to keep her company, drooling over the grisly details of the Richard Speck rape-murders while sitting up with Bugles and a butcher knife at her side. ("Open the door for your Mystery Date," indeed.) Sally reading the newspaper under the covers with a flashlight reminds me of when I was roughly her age, a few years later, obsessing on the Manson murders and having nightmares of my own — though never falling asleep under the sofa, to my recollection. (Which when Sally does it is a creepy throwback to Don stuffing his victim under his bed, one shoe off like a perverted Cinderella.)
Mad Men observation No. 2: Kudos to the ladies: Joan for finally dumping that creep of a rapist-husband, although it took his arrogant act of re-enlisting without telling her to force her hand. Good riddance. Now get back to work. And I'm still smiling about Peggy lording it over hapless Roger when he gives her a last-minute assignment to cover his lax handling of Pete's Mohawk Airlines account. "The work is $10. The lie is extra," a tipsy Peggy says, extorting him for an extra $400. When she brings black secretary Dawn home after finding her sleeping in the office, it all seems very progressive until Peggy, several beers later, does a visible double-take over leaving her purse within Dawn's reach. Still got a long ways to go, baby.
Grey's Anatomy's Oh factor: Sandra Oh kills it as usual, forcing poor Owen to walk Cristina (and us) through his drunken one-night adulterous stand that she's still not ready to forgive him for. They call in sick to play out this psychodrama, but this sickness is more of a broken heart, as Oh wails, weeps and shrieks with hysterical laughter as Kevin McKidd helplessly frets, fidgets and waits for the next move. Which, when Cristina finally realizes "You wanted to hurt me back" (for the abortion, if not for the emotional vacuum that ensued), means a move out of the house. His parting shot is a mournful declaration, "I'll always be in love with you," that is met with stony sorrowful silence. Cristina instead cries silently on the phone to her BFF Meredith, and picking up the pieces (for now), soon joins her study group for the upcoming boards exam. This week, she aced the acting test, that's for sure. I just wish more of the episode had focused on the Owen-Cristina showdown. (The "ladies' night" subplot in particular sapped away much of the hour's dramatic tension.)
I'm still on board with NBC's Awake, ratings be damned, though I'm not so keen on the conspiracy involving Captain Harper (Laura Innes) and the mysteriously sinister Carl, who's none too thrilled with Michael (Jason Isaacs) snooping into the empty Westfield warehouse of secrets. Our hero's merely acting on hallucinatory orders from the taco joint's drive-through loudspeaker — and like with last week's penguins, we appreciate the reminder that maybe none of this is real and we shouldn't take any of it literally. The fusion of procedural and fantasy makes Awake something special, and I'm willing for now to go with the shrink played by B.D. Wong when he suggests, "You've manufactured a mystery that does not exist and can never be solved, so that you never have to face the thing that you're afraid of — which is letting yourself move to Portland." Or, in the bigger picture, moving on from the tragedy of the mysterious car accident that broke Michael's world into two. I still have no idea where this is going, but I'll hang on for as long as NBC lets me.
With the actual return of Revenge (recaps don't count) still a week away, we had to settle for Andrea Roth's madwoman-with-a-gun meltdown on the penultimate episode of The CW's much less satisfying melodrama Ringer. As the miserably greedy ex of the stone-faced Andrew, who Bridget-as-Shiv now professes to love, Roth's Catherine has been revealed as the Big Bad who ordered the hit on Shiv (not knowing it was her twin Bridget in disguise), and we also learn Catherine has been acting in lesbian cahoots with Andrew's business partner Olivia (a slumming Jaime Murray). When Andrew comes home before a drugged Bridge-as-Shiv fully drowns in the bathtub, Catherine ends up holding them all, including daughter Juliet, hostage in a scenario that's as ludicrous as it is lurid. Meanwhile, the real Siobhan goes into labor (don't ask) while hiding in the closet (don't ask) of the Russian hooker/hotel maid who OD's (don't ask) before she can officially ID Henry as Tyler's killer (double don't ask). Mega loose end: So Shiv gives birth in the hospital, under which registered name exactly? I wish Ringer was a humdinger. Instead it's more of a silly hmmm ...
Slowly but surely, and severely, HBO's triumphant Game of Thrones continues to expand its world, this week sending Stark ward Theon Greyjoy back to the Iron Islands and Pyke for a most unwelcoming reunion with his hard-as-stone father, who rejects the treaty with Robb's army while making it clear he favors his warrior daughter Yara to lead his charge. At Dragonstone, the equally humorless Stannis Baratheon continues to plot his attack, but first ravages the fire priestess Melisandre on the battleground map — metaphor much? And while we're always happy to catch up with little Arya, who's in hiding with Robert's bastard Gendry en route to The Wall, the episode is stolen (as usual) by Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, who cleverly deposes the King's Watch commander after carrying out Joffrey's baby slaughter and later spars memorably with the wicked Cersei.
More drama, in brief: An unusually dark twist to end the season on Psych, as Gus's dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen) no sooner decides to retire for good, after smoking out corruption among his former partners, than he confronts another of his buddies (Max Gail) who turns out to be dirty as well, and plugs Henry with a bullet at point-blank range. Cliffhanger! ... From last Friday: There's one less Lincoln Lee on Fringe now, and Our Lincoln (the sympathetic Seth Gabel) has decided to stick around for a while in his new home on the other side, "home" being the theme of the week — not only for the third-wheel Agent Lee, who's got a better chance to bond with the more free-spirited red-haired FauxLivia, but for the forlorn shape-shifter cast adrift by David Robert Jones who's looking for his own place in the universe(s) as well. ... Gotta love anyone who can put a smile on Jethro Gibbs' usual dour face, so here's to keeping Jamie Lee Curtis around on NCIS a while longer, even if she can't resist playing mind games. Loved her asking for morning-after coffee and being told, "I stop for it." ...
REALITY CHECK: The guys have to be kicking themselves on Survivor — well, maybe not the clueless Tarzan — having allowed the women to take control of the game, especially the steely Kim, who lies with a smile as she pulls the wool over Jay's eyes. (In a critical immunity challenge, he's so sure of himself he steps down for a plate of now-very-pricey chicken wings.) Jay is so deluded he even spills to the enemy when made aware of Troyzan's immunity idol — which Troyzan wisely uses at tribal council, though it's not enough to keep Jay in the game. The only real tension in the hour was watching Chelsea fight her conscience, at least until she woke up: "To turn this quick on 'em, I hate to be that person, but I love money, so ..." ... And what's with all the crying on Dancing With the Stars? I thought this was supposed to be the fun show.
PUNCH LINES: Highlight of Saturday Night Live: Taran Killam's merciless send-up of Bravo über-gay Andy Cohen in a Watch What Happens Live parody, as the host continually upstages his guests: "Look, now I'm wearing floaties! How cute am I? Text 'very" to ..." But why did they wait until the very end of the show to do their Hunger Games sketch? I'll never figure this show out. ... How great to have TV's best night of comedy back, with all-new episodes of ABC's Wednesday lineup, including a Bryan Cranston-directed episode of Modern Family with an election theme, as Claire loses her front tooth — yay, physical comedy — before ultimately losing the city council race. (She does get her stop sign, though, which won't stop her from crusading until it comes with speed bumps.) Luke and Gloria manning the phone bank, Cam and Mitchell abusing the power of their automotive megaphone, Phil chauffeuring curmudgeonly Walt Kleezak to the polls ... everyone feels they let her down. Leave it to Haley to bring a note of ambivalent cheer with her announcement that she's been waitlisted at her last-choice college. "We will take it!" high-fives Claire. ... Best cameo of the week: James Lipton as Dalia's sonorous shrink on Suburgatory, barking at her dog: "Now you sit and you listen." Also enjoyed seeing Better Off Ted's Jonathan Slavin as a fussy mattress salesman, as George spoons with Dallas to cheer her up post-divorce, while Dalia gets "Uncle Noah" to buy her a Kangaroo Jack, just like in the movie. (Better than a Hangover monkey, I'm not so sure.) ... As usual, The Middle keeps it the most real, reflecting the role of religion in Midwest family life, even if the sermons are so boring you risk getting a pew mark on your forehead. ... Everyone's a bully on an anti-bullying episode of South Park: Butters' secretly sadistic granny, the anti-bullying shyster who resents Stan's home-grown music video (sample lyric: "Let's all get together and make bullying kill itself"), even Jesus, who takes down a smarmy movie exec and taunts: "Oh, what are you gonna do, cwy now?" ... Speaking of bullies, Nancy Grace does a fine job spoofing her own bulldog tabloid style on the first part of Raising Hope's two-part finale, hosting an Inside Probe report about the Chance family's encounter with the serial killer (Lucy) who gave birth to Hope. "Even when the story says 'No,' we probe deeper — until the story likes it," boasts Grace, who has a surprise up her sleeve: Lucy survived her execution. "Bam! How you like them apples?" Lucy crows from the TV as Jimmy passes out. To be continued. ... As will the show, since Fox thankfully renewed Hope for next season, along with (no brainers) New Girl and Glee this week. Let the laughter continue.
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