Notes on this and that after the jump.
Loved Wednesday's "Modern Family." Not sure it was as good as last week's, but it was still solid. So many characters, so many story threads, and it manages to serve them all. It's not only a funny show but one where the writing is so deliberately economical -- no lingering over a joke or revelations -- that it can fit in even more material. Even the God dialogue, which could have been heavy-handed, was kept light, and the payoff of Jay and Manny at the church was not just a resolution, but one that kept Jay firmly in character. (Big week for God on TV, isn't it, with this and "Glee"?)
"Survivor" is making me a little crazy. So much anger, so much hostility -- and so many people who don't know when to shut up. Shannon talks himself out of the show during tribal council, and Jimmy T did likewise before and during tribal; his biggest uh-oh was probably dropping that "equal opportunity" comment on Tyrone. (I also have to wonder if his lousy challenge performance was a deliberate undermining of Tyrone.) Still, while the anger is considerable and damaging among the oldies (and Marty still looks like a short fuse), the youngsters provide the ongoing, incomprehensible spectacle of NaOnka. Mean, selfish and beyond nasty to Kelly B. -- and there's no discernible reason other than, I guess, NaOnka wants to be the center of attention. Scary how amok she runs. But does this make the show entertaining? As I said, it's making me a little crazy; it's difficult to like people when so much air time is going to the nastiness.
Caught up with the earlier-than-expected season premiere of "Lie to Me," and it was an odd one. I enjoy the show, and especially Tim Roth, but this one tried to fit in a very complicated plot (about the bank robbery) with explanations of retooling (the FBI connection's gone, new assistants are coming in) and the establishing of a lighter tone (the book-deal scenes) along with making Lightman more of an active participant in events. Maybe it was because I was tired, but it seemed as if too much was being squeezed into the episode. And I liked the show when it was a bit darker, so I don't know about the tone and the whole "Lightman saves the day" business.
"The Good Wife" remains enjoyable in its two outings so far, and I liked seeing the law firm wrestle with military justice. But what about the back-to-Afghanistan payoff? Did Cary figure he had a win-win from jump, that either the guy was going to prison or to a war zone? Or was that just his way of salvaging a win from a second embarrassing loss on the same case (not to mention making his military-lawyer friend look bad)? But I thought the serialized elements were opened up too early in the episode to then have been left open-ended, and the whole thing with the video just kind of went into neutral.
Also, I decline to believe that Lou Dobbs would do what the show has him doing. (And Joe Trippi would be much more intriguing as a client with all the politicking in the show.)
To me, the two funniest comedies in prime time right now are "The Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family." "Big Bang" seems funnier than ever, with the Sheldon robot a hilarious touch last week. But this also means that I am not feeling as much love for "Community," "The Office," "30 Rock," "Two and a Half Men" or "How I Met Your Mother."*
"The Office" and "30 Rock" have improved somewhat on their letdowns a season ago, but they're still only moderately amusing; "Community" has been OK, "Men" has tried too hard with the Alan-moving-out story (which at times seems designed to take some of the heavy lifting off Charlie) and "HIMYM" is just meh. I still like the characters on all those shows, but they're not making me laugh much.
Same problem with "Mike & Molly," with two really likable leads (although I have to say that Melissa McCarthy does not rant well) but only so-so humor in this week's episode; and let's face it, the outperformed-boyfriend story goes back to at least Andy Griffith.
One more note for this post: I have wanted to write longer about "Mad Men," and just have not had the time and energy to do it. But I do want to note that I am in awe this year. Jon Hamm is tearing it up with all the different notes he is getting to play, and the stories have been superb. (And I can't forget the scene where Kiernan Shipka, as Sally, not only threw a fit but threw one just the way Betty would have. Fabulous.)
When the year began, it looked as if Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was a fabulous, scrappy little agency, but much of this year has been devoted to the perils of being little, notably the dependence on Lucky Strike and all that has meant for Roger -- but also the way Don's having to dump the aviation contract now seems an even more awful decision. After spending half the season watching Don crumble (and he doesn't seem done with that quite yet), we've spent another half watching the agency crumble. It may all end badly, but it is doing so brilliantly.
More another time.
*Oh, and "HIMYM" has added podcasts. The official word:
CBS.com today announced a new weekly podcast for its hit comedy, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, featuring commentary on the previous night's episode from the show's writers, directors, producers, guest stars and series regulars. The podcasts give fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making one of television's most popular comedies.
In the latest podcast, Executive Producer Carter Bays and Co-Executive Producer Jamie Rhonheimer discuss the third episode of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER's sixth season. The podcast can be found here: http://bit.ly/cWXBGR.