There’s Always Comedy in the Bluths – My review of Arrested Development Season 4

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So it finally came – the long-awaited season 4 of Arrested Development, the show that FOX cancelled 7 years ago. And to a lifelong fan (well, the “lifespan” of the show – I watched the pilot when it aired and followed the show religiously during it’s FOX run) the revival season on Netflix did not disappoint. I’m not an in-depth TV reviewer that took notes during every episode I watched, so I’ll stick with my general thoughts and bullet points on things I enjoyed about the run of 15 half-hour (plus) on-demand episodes.

First off, let’s talk about the new format. As a student of television, and television writing in particular, I had a strong curiosity about this new format. How will it work? Will it be confusing as a viewer? Will it work at all? To me, focusing each episode on one character is a very novel/book-like approach. And it’s not unheard of in TV land – it is essentially what Game of Thrones does, since it is adapted from the books, although they will include a handful of character scenes/chapters to fill out each episode. I think what gets a lot of people confused, or at least what I’ve read from reviewers and from friends in social media, is that it takes a while to get used to. It took me about 3 episodes until I was starting to enjoy and look for hints and setups/jokes for other episodes. That added to my enjoyment during my first viewing of these episodes. I haven’t re-watched any of them yet, but I am sure knowing the full range of story arcs and jokes will give me an added dimension on second viewing. But that’s something that had always been the case with this show. The writing, production and editing was always so dense that each episode was filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes and gags – references to previous episodes or hints at major plot points (think all the “hand” jokes hinting at Buster’s impending doom). The new format throws us as viewers for a loop because the narrative isn’t laid out for us on a sliver platter like we’re used to. But I think if you accepted that what you were currently watching may have jokes that won’t land until later, and trust Mitch Hurwitz and the writers’ vision, the whole character-based/pulp-fiction-esque chronology was worth it.

Okay, now let’s get into story. I guess here I can do the all-important *SPOILERS AHEAD* warning.

Looking back on the season as a whole, I was very engaged and pleased with the major story lines. A lot of them at first felt dark and depressing, seeing how far some of our favorite characters had fallen in the last 7 years, however I can appreciate some good dark humor. It’s something the show originally had a hint of, especially with the later episodes. In season 4, GOB’s and Tobias’ story lines come to mind as the more depressing ones – Tobias falling into drug issues (methadone, or should I say Method One) and GOB falling in with a Hollywood posse, never understanding his true role. I found both scenarios hilarious, especially Tobias’. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have comedic genius Maria Bamford assisting. Great to see two incredible stand-ups working together as actors in such a dysfunctional and ridiculous way. Throwing Tobias into constant health, and this time, legal peril is something the AD writers have always loved doing with the character, and the stakes get even higher in Season 4. Jailed numerous times while attempting to illegally impersonate Fantastic 4 characters out on Hollywood Blvd (a smart “in-joke” reference to struggling actors in this industry) and eventually having him arrested as a sex-offender whilst mistakingly attempting to meet with his daughter at the old model home. He’s not coloring himself blue anymore, but is still just as clueless and eager to both pursue an acting career and reconnect (or connect at all) with his daughter. I guess it was inevitable Tobias would end up as a registered sex offender. The scene at Cinco de Quatro where he repeats “I’m a registered sex offender” to passing children was great. And everything about the Fantastic 4 musical was great. One of my favorite new characters (at least in name) was Lucille Austero’s brother, Argyle Austero (whom we first meet wearing an argyle sweater, naturally). And the storyline culminating in Tobias once again getting on the wrong boat, a nod to the very first episode of the series. I loved how Tobias and Lindsay’s storylines followed each other and were interconnected. The whole conversations throughout the huge house scenes were among my favorite of the new season. And Tobias following Lindsay to India reminds us of season 2 when he was following her attempts to see other people. And ironically, in season 4 they both “successfully” find other people, only to find more trying circumstances. And more hilarity. Also, I’m trying really hard not to mention Portia de Rossi’s new “look” (commonly the only complaint I heard from friends in the past couple weeks.)

Onto GOB. First off, loved the Entourage parody of his episode, all the way through their favorite club – “And Jeremy Piven.” We got a new recurring/repeating GOB ringtone in his “Getaway Getaway” song, GOB’s bees are back, and the new motif of GOB’s slow-motion thousand-mile stares while Simon and Garfunkel play. Not to mention another epic, elaborate, failed “illusion” disguised as an ingenius way to avoid another marriage. Glad they didn’t forget about Ann (her?) although I will admit, still odd to actually see and hear her speak (felt that way as her original storyline progressed through seasons 2 and 3). His later “gay” bromance storyline with Tony Wonder was also great – both men pretending to be gay in order to get back at each other, but simultaneously struggling with feelings sparked for each other during the budding friendship. Also great to see Wonder with Sally Sitwell – obviously the two actors are married in real life (sadly unlike GOB’s original significant other both on the show and in real life, Amy Poehler and her seal-training wife character). Tony over-explaining his intentions as a cheap ploy to give backstory was also great, calling himself out on doing it. And the reveal that HE is the “sort of famous” person GOB was dating, tying in with the Michael storyline of finding out who the “other guy” in Rebel’s life is.

That brings me to Michael – one thing I think Season 4 did awell was revealing to us is that Michael, always deemed the “best” Bluth, is actually no better than the rest of them. And when you think back on the first 3 seasons, that still rings true to a point. Season 4 shows us that even he couldn’t manage to make Sudden Valley a success, (although it certainly was a perfect living situation for Tobias and the other sex offenders) he overstays his welcome with his son at college, and eventually resorts to pulling favors from the family to get a movie about them made ALL to impress a girl. Oh and the kicker – withholds the knowledge that he and George Michael are dating the same girl in an attempt to drive Rebel away from his son, so he can win her. I mean, Isla Fischer is attractive – but pulling the rug out from your son’s seemingly happy relationship so you can reap the benefits? (Her!) Shameful. But if you’ll remember, It’s a character trait we’ve seen from him before when it was brother vs. brother for the same girl – Marta. GOB and Michael always had a healthy(?) competition with the same women, and the red herring of Season 4 was that history was repeating itself. But to Michael’s surprise, it was George Michael (or should I say George Maharis) who was sharing the same woman. I found the drastic change in GM and Michael’s relationship was a very compelling part of Season 4. This was a relationship that always had a strong, wholesome core that was the emotional foundation for the show (and why we still rooted for this family). And now as their lives move in different ways, the relationship gets strained, and one party hurts the other (anonymous eviction vote that goes awry) and then the other party tries to distance himself, only to seek his emotional revenge once they begin to reconnect. I think it was brilliant storytelling, and if you watched the first 3 seasons (over and over and over and over like I did) this change in relationship affects us as viewers the most, since it had always been the moral fabric of the show. We’re left with a relationship that’s more like the one George Michael had with GOB, after stealing Ann from him (and hitting him in response to learning about it). And it sets up a potential major plotline for the upcoming movie (or more Netflix episodes? Hey, I know as little as the rest of us do about what’s really happening). If the Bluth mantra of “family first” was the glue that held the family together in seasons 1-3, 7 years of wear and tear has started to rip a hole through that philosophy. Clearly, we’re not done yet.

Apart from the George Michael conflict, Michael’s episodes brought some great comedy involving his attempt to “produce” the movie about his family. We got the “B Team,” consisting of Andy Richter, Warden Gentles (James Lipton and his iPad) and of course Carl Weathers. Great cameo by Conan in that episode, with the dig on Andy’s failed TV career and the joke about how he treats his women “writers.” Also the season-long recurring joke of the returning Richter “quintuplets,” all being mistaken for each other and all having important roles in various points in the season. One of the better ones being Andy’s brother Rocky(?) getting “Andy’s biggest laugh of his career” while impersonating Andy on Conan’s show. We got the recurring jokes about Ron Howard and Imagine – Ron’s moon-lander prop from the fake moon landing, the rivalry with cross-the-street Bruckheimer productions, the various Opie/Andy Griffith references, how Ron never recognized Michael whenever he ran into him. Then of course, we are left with the scene of Ron and Brian Glazer watching the news report of Lucille 2’s murder and Buster being the prime suspect – excited by the fact that Buster was the only remaining Bluth family member who’s contract Michael hadn’t ripped up (“you’re OUT OF THE MOVIE!”) Another jumping off point for the next chapter(s) of this revival.

All in all, I was very please with my first viewing of Season 4. While at time it felt odd or out-of-place watching these familiar characters in unfamiliar situations (one scene in particular – when Tobias goes with Michael to Ron Howard’s office, screamed “Funny or Die” video to me. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing.) I enjoyed the watching experience and look forward to re-watching these episodes to find the easter eggs and additional setups/punchlines I missed on first viewing. And at the end, I am very eager to see where they go next – be it a movie, another Netflix season, or the combination of both. I’m just glad we get to see more of this crazy family, and I’m glad they didn’t “ruin” the franchise I’ve always considered my favorite comedy of all time.

Some additional thoughts/favorite bits during the season (to steal a formatting choice made by EVERY OTHER TV REVIEWER ON THE INTERNET) :

  • Michael’s Google “Something” street-view car “The Ostrich”
  • TV news anchor John Beard’s career arc – he was the news anchor during the first 3 seasons on FOX, as he was (still is?) the actual local FOX news anchor for Orange County. This season, since they were making an effort (all shrouded in jokes) to distance themselves from FOX – his TV career takes him to different venues up until the newly-minted “Imagine News,” a great way to get him on a production company-named entity again. That’s one thing I’ll be looking closely at when I rewatch – if he is in fact on a different network every time we see him on TV.
  • George Michael and Michael’s voicemail phone-tag bit – pretending they were in the same traffic jam, but both coming up with reasons why they couldn’t prove to the other that they were in fact, in traffic. It eventually becomes a veiled allegory for their strained relationship.
  • Michael’s trouble with technology, specifically his iPhone calendar being stuck in 2006. (When the show went off the air! Get it??!?!?)
  • Buster dancing on the security cameras. More Buster dancing, please.
  • Jeff Garlin getting stuck through a window with the “Curb your Enthusiasm” music playing.
  • All those cameos – John Slattery! John Krasinski! Mary Lynn Rajskub! Lennon Parham! Ben Schwartz! Zach Woods! (UCB ftw!) And great casting for young Barry Zuckerkorn by getting Henry Winkler’s actual son, Max! “Take to the sea!”
  • Maritime Law being a real thing, and Lucille’s trial being held in a clam shack before happy hour.
  • The eventual reveal that NONE of the Bluth’s made it to the trial, except for too-late-arriving Buster, who gets one last earful of motherly love from Lucille.
  • I did remember enjoying the George episode, but aside from the Slattery/Rajskub cameos, can’t pick out any good bullet point from it. But after the 1-episode new format baptism of the first episode, George’s provided some much-needed laughs for me, helping me realize that everything was going to be okay. I just needed some lemonade.

I’m sure there’s stuff I missed. I’ll maybe add more tidbits on my second viewing. Let me know what you thought, if you so choose, in the comments! That’s still a thing!

If this post inspired you to watch some Arrested Development, be it the new ones or old, and you’re too lazy to make the extra effort yourself – here’s a quick Netflix link.

Hi! Remember Me?

Nothing real to post, just wanted to say Hi again, because I haven’t touched this blog in awhile.

Every now and then I check my stats to see how little people come to the site when I don’t post anything, and every now and then there’s some weird anomalies of search terms that bring a significant (by my standards) amount of people to the site.

Tuesday I see it was the term “Lubbock, TX” home of Texas Tech (and not much else). So welcome Lubbock’ers. Hope you enjoyed my retrospective post on visiting your town a few years ago when I drove cross-country. Your movie theater was nice, and I had a good BBQ sandwich I recall. The Buddy Holly museum was closed, that was a bummer though.

Till next time,

Josh

Best of 2010: TV Episodes

This one is  tough one, there was a lot of great TV this year, and since I’m including episodes from two seasons of TV, it was tough to limit myself to just one episode per show. Here goes.

Mad Men “The Suitcase”

In an ensemble show, it’s tough to take a full episode to just focus on two characters. Mad Men nailed it with “The Suitcase,” written by the show’s creator and runner, Matthew Weiner, the majority of the action takes place on a late night in Don Draper’s office, as he and Peggy Olsen work all night on a campaign for suitcase-maker Samsonite (get the title now?) What I loved so much about this episode, was that it played like a two-character play. Don and Peggy are the real leads of the show, as they both showcase strong desires to do succeed without worrying about how it affects their personal lives. Peggy, being the protegé, looks up to Don, and takes pride in the fact that she quickly became a copy-writer as a woman, under Don’s guidance, and strives to be seen as one of the guys, or at least wants her work to speak for herself and not her gender. Don understands this and appreciates Peggy’s determination, and the two garner an unspoken respect for one another. In season 4, not much had been touched on with this relationship until this episode, and that’s why the episode was so great – both characters had kind of coasted on their own without much personal interaction throughout the season, and it was about time they put the two together again. Through their night-long work session, they get into each other’s personal lives, something that neither character really allows any other character in the office to do. Peggy, in a relationship for the first time in a while, manages to still put her work before her personal life, even on her birthday. Don on the other hand, is dealing with the impending news of his friend Anna’s death from cancer. He is too scared to call her niece and hear the news out loud, so he’s surrounding himself in work to get his mind off it. After the episode’s events take place, Don finally makes the call, and the two characters fall asleep on his couch after emotionally draining nights. Not only was this a great episode for these two characters, and of course extremely well-written in that sense, but the performances by Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss was also incredible, and perhaps Hamm may find himself with an Emmy for it at the end of the year. For a show that continually puts out incredible episodes, this one in particular really shows how great the Mad Men crew is.

CommunityModern Warfare

Stepping into comedy, Community hit one out of the park with this episode, affectionately known as the “Paintball Episode.” Greendale is overtaken by a school-wide paintball fight, as students pine for first dibs on creating their schedule for the next semester. In the madness that ensues, we see our main characters turning on each other, even in the form of Jeff and Britta having sex finally, after a season’s worth of sexual tension between the two. The episode was my favorite from season 1, and was as action-packed as the movies they were paying homage to (with enough laughs to match it).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Community (again) “Epidemiology”

From Season 2, another homage to a film-genre, this time in the form of a zombie-apocalypse (not unlike The Walking Dead, see my notes on one of my favorite new shows of 2010 here). Using an actually well-believable premise that the punch at the school’s Halloween party is spiked, but not with alcohol. The semi-poisonous concoction turns students into feverish, zombie-like beings, who infect those that they bite (you know the deal with zombies). Our main characters are quarantined into the study room to survive the apocalypse until help can arrive. As they figure out the problem, they determine that if they lower the temperature in the building, maybe the fevers will be broken. After the study room is compromised and some characters attacked, the remaining survivors attempt to get to the thermostat and lower the temperature. The entire episode was great, and like “Modern Warfare,” took a genre and paid homage to it without making fun of it, in the vain of Sean of the Dead. Despite this, the best moment was when Troy, Abed and Jeff find themselves in the basement, and a flying, attack cat screeches across the screen. Not having to do with anything zombie-related, Jeff aims to find out what is making that cat fly the way it is “Is someone throwing it?” Moments like that show how well the show can achieve comedic moments even outside of their episodic homages.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Community (one more) “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

The Christmas episode, shot in stop-motion, a-la Frosty the Snowman, the episode follows Abed’s imaginary journey to find the meaning of Christmas. The other characters, sympathetic to his emotional duress, play along, some more enthusiastic about it than others. What we find out is that Abed is upset about not being able to spend Christmas with his mother, a tradition that has never been broken. Stop-motion animation aside, the episode was great because it told an emotional story without sacrificing any comedy, which is something the show is good at when it wants to be. Bonus points for the “Lost” season one lack of payoff joke, and the remote-controlled Christmas pterodactyl. Not one who has any strong emotional ties to Christmas, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and understood Abed’s emotional journey. I also commonly wish my life were animated in some sort of cartoon-ish state, instead of this boring live action world.

Terriers “Hail Mary” (Watch)

The season/series finale, I talked a bit about it in my Best New TV Shows of 2010 post, the show came to an end in a way that both concluded up the story arc that had continued to reveal more twists and turns, including one big one in the finale, and left the viewers satisfied with how the main characters play out their role as detectives, and remain optimistic about their rough personal lives. Brit, as I noted in the other post, was on his way to prison after being arrested for assaulting Katie’s classmate, whom he mistakenly thought was her lover. Hank on the other hand, had just dealt with the death of Gretchen’s new husband Jason, a situation in which Hank was indirectly responsible for, as Jason was brought in on the detectives’ theories on the land-grab conspiracy. Brit has prison to look forward to in the immediate future, but the promise of a new start with Katie after he gets out. That is, if he doesn’t decide to flee to Mexico with Hank. The season’s mystery arc was finished satisfyingly, although with a surprising new character thrown into the mix as the brains behind the land-grab. A little sudden, but not entirely unbelievable. Bad Guy Lawyer Zeitland proved not to be the main man behind the conspiracy, and of course, if you think about it, a corrupt lawyer would be likely to take orders from a more corrupt business man, and not be the brains behind the outfit himself. It was sad to see the show go, but a well-done finale that can strongly serve as a series finale.

The Walking Dead “Days Gone By” (Pilot)

The first episode of The Walking Dead was a great one, and it played out exactly like a full zombie film. Rick Grimes wakes up in the hospital to find the world is now surging with human-flesh-craving zombies. His first instinct is to go home and find his family, but instead he finds and empty house with signs of them leaving peacefully (the photo albums are missing). He runs into a father (Morgan) and son (Duane) who are hiding out in Rick’s neighbor’s house, waiting it out. Their hesitancy to move on is capped by their wife/mother’s zombie body walking the streets of the neighborhood. The emotion that is still ripe in both these characters is very prevalent when the zombie wife approaches the house’s doorsteps and attempts to open the door – Duane gets scared and hides under the covers. In another sequence, toward the end after Rick leaves the two with some well-need artillery from the police station, Morgan sets up a sniper spot upstairs to knock out the walkers outside, and when he gets his wife in his sights, he still can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. While Rick starts out on his journey toward Atlanta to find safe haven, we find out that his wife Lori and son Carl are with a group of survivors, lead by Rick’s old partner Shane, who is now sleeping with Lori. As Rick gets trapped in an abandoned tank in the streets of now zombie-infested Atlanta, the episode ends on him getting a call on the walkie inside the tank, asking if he needs help. The episode perfectly sets up the situation and characters we’ll spend the next 5 episodes observing, and turns out to be the most prominently zombie-filled episode of the season.

Lost “Ab Aeterno”

Decided not to use the finale, because while I enjoyed it when it aired, it still remains a slight disappointment as far as a culmination of the series, and while season 6 was also a disappointment and confusion-filled season, one remaining great episode that most fans can agree on is, “Ab Aeterno,” an entirely Richard Alpert-centric flashback episode, that finally explains why this mystery character has been around so long in the island, and how he got there in the first place. First off, kudos to Nestor Carbonell, who really got to show his range as an actor, as mid 19th-century Spanish man as opposed to his normal, mysterious, English-speaking island veteran. The episode gave detailed backstory on Richard and his plight that lead him to the island – a dying wife, a murderous mistake, a prison sentence and disastrous shipwreck that culminated in him being the only survivor, thanks to the smoke monster. Through a series of tricks from the Man in Black, Richard is thrown into the brotherly feud between “good” and “evil” forces on the Island, and eventually sides with Jacob, who gives him eternal life (and also kind of explains what the island is – a cork that aims to keep “evil” from getting out – still not sure about that one.) In a season where most were expecting answers to long-awaited questions, Ab Aeterno actually provided a big one – “who the hell is this Richard guy?”

24 Series Finale

Can’t believe I almost forgot to add this, it’s probably because I was mostly thinking of shows that aired during the summer and through this current season. Anyways, I covered it in a long 1,721-word review of the series and its final episode. While there were some great “oh shit!” moments on the show in the episodes leading up to the finale, which could very well had taken the cake had the finale not been the show’s last episode, (I’m thinking specifically of Body-Armored Jack single-handedly attacking Logan’s caravan, to Logan’s terrified “That’s Jack Bauer!” revelation. The episode served a season finale content-wise, because really how can a show like “24” sum up a whole series worth of television in a real-time hour of a day? It’s not an emotional montage type show. “24” was able to capture the emotion of a show ending simply within the last few minutes, as Jack and Chloe, the series’ two longest-running characters (who hadn’t ever got caught in cougar traps), speaking to each other on the phone for one last time. Jack reveals to her that at the beginning, he never thought she’d be the only one to have his back this entire time, a sentiment that echoed the audiences’ from Chloe’s early season on the show. In a sense, having Chloe be Jack’s most trusted ally throughout her seasons on the show was one of the show’s big twists, however slowly it developed. Jack’s heartfelt goodbye brought them both to tears, rare occurrences for both characters. Chloe closes out the show’s dialogue with three words “shut it down,” as she and Jack have a brief moment via video screen, Jack looking up at the drone in the sky and Chloe looking at the feed, right before he rushes off to uncertain destiny, and she walks out of CTU as the lights turn off. The countdown clock reaches 00:00:00, and 24 fans wait to see if we’ll get to witness our favorite bad-ass character in some sort of movie version.

Honorable mention – Conan’s last two weeks on “The Tonight Show” (NBC). After making what could only be one of the toughest decisions of his career, and more-than-likely life, and stepping away from a job he strove for for 15 years, Conan’s last two weeks on NBC brought back the carefree Conan we came to love after his 15 years at 12:35. He didn’t care about alienating viewers, or upsetting the network since he was in a bigger spotlight at 11:35. He openly made fun of his employers, and just let loose in general about the unfortunate situation he found himself in. Conan has always been great a self-deprecating humor, and coupled with seething nightly attacks at NBC, Jay Leno and the entire situation, he was on fire for those two weeks. Luckily, he was able to keep that momentum going through his stage tour and now his TBS show, “Conan.” Special note goes to his final episode, where he signed off with another heartfelt goodbye, as he did the year before after signing off on “Late Night.” And he ended his NBC run jamming out on guitar to “Free Bird.” Come on, who wouldn’t love to do that?

Best of 2010: New TV Shows

2010 was actually a decent year for new television shows. Unfortunately, some of my favorite ones weren’t seen by many and have been canceled, but nonetheless they’re on this list. Here we go. *Descriptions contain SPOILERS

Terriers (FX)

Has to be top on my list, mostly because I’m one of under 1 million viewers that actually caught the show on a regular basis. Ted Griffin, writer of Ocean’s 11, created a buddy cop/detective show that was both somewhat a procedural but mostly a character drama that featured two scrappy, down-on-their-luck detectives with a combination of personal issues that by no means took a side note to their episodic cases. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James brought an incredible chemistry to Hank and Brit’s relationship – a former cop in Logue and a former criminal in James, finding each other in times of strife and establishing a great partnership, solving crimes that the cops can’t always achieve. The show’s sole season also involved a season-long arc involving a corrupt lawyer and a detrimental land-grab going on in the show’s setting of Ocean Beach, California. What I enjoyed about the show was never the episodic cases themselves, but how well the show showcased the emotion and drama of these characters and their loved ones. This dynamic was solidified when Brit’s girlfriend Katie has a drunken one-night-stand with her professor, and is instructed by Hank to keep it under wraps, for fear of ruining a growingly serious and permanent relationship (Brit had been anticipating proposing to Katie in the episodes leading up to this infidelity). A few episodes later, after Brit had proposed and Katie accepted, the truth comes out as Katie reveals her secret with Brit, and to the chagrin of both characters, and the (small) audience who had been pulling for them to figure out the issue, Brit breaks off the relationship, leaving both characters in tears. Hank on the other hand had been dealing with his own issues – his ex-wife Gretchen had just remarried, and trying to hold onto their former life, started the series off by purchasing their old house from Maggie. Jealous and still in love with her, Hank had a buddy do a background check on Gretchen’s fiance, which after Gretchen finds out, gets him uninvited from the nuptials. All in all, the show did a great job of creating sympathetic characters with huge flaws, and followed them through this strong partnership as they tried and often failed to help each other out in their times of crises. The series ended on a question mark, but not one that left the few viewers guessing and upset about the show’s demise. Hank was driving Brit back to the police station after Brit had been arrested for beating up Katie’s classmate, who he mistakenly thought was her cheating lover. As the series came to an end, Hank comments to Brit as they sit at a traffic light – he can continue to go straight toward the police station, and Brit goes to prison. Or he can turn left and they can book it down to Mexico, hide out together. Which will Brit choose? The episode fades to black leaving the question unanswered. As viewers and Griffin mostly agree, Brit decided to take the prison sentence, as he had begun patching things up with Katie, and has the promise of her waiting for him after he gets out. We know that he’s in love with this girl and would wait in prison so he can have her back. We don’t need Griffin to tell us this in post-series interviews.

Louie (FX)

FX really hit it out of the park this year, and I promise the next few descriptions won’t be as long as the first one. Louis CK, a highly respected and well-disciplined genius of comedy in the past few years (although he had been doing standup for around 20 years, as if often the case), was given a six-figure-per-episode budget and carte-blanche slate to create literally whatever he wanted as his TV show. What resulted was a combination of 13 short films featuring a self-deprecating, semi-depressed, divorced father of two young girls who also happened to be a hilarious comedian. Most of the episodes focused around one particular bit of his, from his relationship with his two daughters, to his foibles and follies on the dating scene. But every few weeks there came across an episode with little-to-no comedic moments, save from the Seinfeld-ian bits of Louis doing standup at the Comedy Cellar in New York. One episode in particular that struck viewers was his episode simply titled “God,” which featured a young Louis CK in catholic school, learning about Jesus and how he died for our sins. Stepping outside of the familiar bounds of a comedy-through-awkwardness, “God” provided a fearful insight into the mind of a child learning about the graphic demise of Christianity’s Lord and Savior. This episode proved not only that Louis wasn’t afraid to take risks with this show, but show that a comedian doesn’t always have to be ha-ha funny all the time. Looking forward to the show’s second season in 2011.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

So many zombie-movies, but never an episodic show about them? Walking Dead filled that gap, and while there were only six episodes in the first season, it showed that yeah, it’s about a zombie apocalypse. But they’re not the focus of the series. Rick Grimes, a southern police officer wakes up after being in a coma caused by a gunfight to find that a disease has taken over the world and “woken up” those who have died from it, as they now walk the world, hungry for human flesh (You know the deal with zombies). Rick, like many other characters from zombie films, aims to find his family and make sure they are safe. He hears that Atlanta has a safe zone, but to his surprise when he arrives there, it has already been overturned by walkers. Saved by a young kid in a group of fellow survivors, Rick helps them get out of dodge and meet back up with their crew, hiding out safely by the side of the highway, camped out near the woods and a conveniently placed lake. The Walking Dead focused on the relationships between these survivors, most notably how Rick’s former partner Shane, was now sleeping with and caring for Rick’s wife Lori and son Carl. The show did a great job of balancing the character drama it focused on, while keeping up the excitement and horror of impending zombie attacks on the characters, as they were run out of their camp after a few episodes. Just six episodes, the show had some issues creating a strong season arc, but with a full season 2 order on the books, next season hopes to have more of a prominent storyline.

Conan (TBS)

Not exactly what you’d expect to be on this kind of list, but I can’t cut him out of a Best of Television list (and you’ll see he’ll feature on my Best Episodes list). After 9 months of being off television after a highly publicized and polarizing exit from his longtime employer NBC, Conan came back with a vengeance in a risky move, jumping onto a well-established but image-less basic cable channel. So far, the marriage has been successful, as much as they can expect, and as a viewer and longtime fan of his, I have been pleased with the content they’ve put out over the past couple months. Conan and crew seem to have back the confidence to do whatever they want, no matter how ridiculous the premise, which they often appeared to lack on his version of The Tonight Show. Whereas his move to 11:35 at NBC came with an iffy “we’re not that sure about this” sentiment from NBC, wanting to keep Jay Leno on the network and moving him to 10pm, which may have been a burden on Conan’s confidence going into the job, TBS now seems to have given him their complete confidence and support, letting him do what he does best and hoping that it puts them on the Late Night map. As a full-fledged member of Team Coco, I hope and fully expect this to be a solid success for both parties.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Almost forgot about this one (thank Andrew), but to be honest, I was into the show in the beginning, then thought it fell off a bit toward the middle. I believe it ended strong, and think it’s too well done and well-acted not to put it on the list. With a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese, and a concept well within his grasp, a period gangster crime drama, Boardwalk focuses on the prohibition era of Atlantic City, a town run by Treasurer Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi. While I like Buscemi, I had a tough time believing him as a bigger-than-life crime boss, considering his historically quiet demeanor and shorter stature. However, he did the best he could and was helped by a great ensemble of actors, including Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Shroeder, a young Irish mother, widowed after the first episode, and subsequently taken care of by Nucky himself (who ordered the hit on her late husband). Also filling out a strong cast is Michael Pitt, who plays James Darmandy, a thug of Nucky’s until he takes it upon himself to attack a caravan smuggling booze back to New York. He gets run out of time because of the incident, leaving his wife and kid alone with his mother. The main plot of the season followed Nucky’s crime gang as they continually get attacked by rival gangs. The small details are too much to get into here, but what I enjoyed was the look and feel of the show, plus the inter-character relationships. The season finale summed up a season’s worth of character development and strife, especially between Margaret and Nucky, but didn’t necessarily leave much in question. We’ll see how the second season picks up, I think the first season gave us a good basis for these characters and the era.

Honorable mention – Rubicon (AMC) – another short-lived show, this time a slow-moving spy drama featuring 24 alum James Badge Dale (Damnit Chase!) as a data analyst for a fictional government spy agency. The show focused on conspiracies surrounding the leader of this agency and his childhood buddies/colleagues/powerful business executives. Will Travers is promoted to department head after the unfortunate but suspicious death of his father-in-law and mentor David Hadas. Will spends the entire series trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and understand why David died and what he had learned about their boss, Truxton Spangler. At the same time, Will’s analyst team attempts to find a middle-eastern terrorist in order to prevent another attack on American soil. The season’s climax resulted in a failure to capture this terrorist before the attack, which took form of an explosion on an oil tanker in the gulf, well-timed with the rel life oil crisis over the summer (well, a couple months after that disaster, but still a relevant topic to capture). The show doesn’t make the proper list, because it was slow-moving and didn’t take off until the last few episodes, and I was a bit unsatisfied with the ending. Will confronts Spangler on the rooftop of their building, but the climax seemed to have already passed, and nothing solid is really embedded into the viewers minds. Perhaps if a second season had happened, we’d get more of a conclusion to this dramatic tension.

That was fun, coming up really soon (like, I’m going to write it after I post this) will be my list of best episodes of 2010. This will feature episodes from both the current season (fall 2010) and end of the previous (Spring 2010). So expect multiple entries from some shows.

Best of 2010: Movies

As always during this time of the year, bloggers, critics, reviewers, and the general entertainment-loving public reflect on their favorite of the past year. I did it last year, and am attempting to quickly do it again for this year.

First up on my list is my favorite movies of the year. I’m not going to put a number or ranking on them, this is just a spattering of movies I enjoyed from the past year, and why I liked them. Simple enough.

The Social Network David Fincher

I reviewed it after it came out, or at least blogged about how I felt about the movie itself, and how Facebook has changed over the years I’ve been using it, and how much a part of my generation’s online life it holds. The movie itself was well-written, directed, shot and of course, acted. Jesse Eisenberg uses his strength as a fast-talking, nerdy-looking lead and put on his jerk-face to create a character that while not necessarily true to the real Mark Zuckerberg, carried the movie with a headstrong passion. Eisenberg really captured Zuckerberg’s drive to create a revolutionary enterprise in Facebook, and helped solidify the movie’s non-stance on the creation and subsequent litigation surrounding Facebook. The cinematography was also great, in particular the tilt-shift focused crew race sequence. I found myself glued to the screen, mesmerized by the sights and sounds projecting from above. We’ll see how the movie fares as we inch closer to the imminent award season, but if I were a voter, it would definitely be on my list.

Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich

The emotional and cathartic conclusion of Pixar’s amazing franchise, Toy Story 3 was timed perfectly with the generational change occurring in both the film’s main human character Andy, and it’s audiences. When the first Toy Story came out, aside from being wowed by the technological prowess that Pixar provided with an entirely computer-generated film, the idea of having toys come to life and experience real human emotion with their owners was something every kid wished for. Now, 15 years later, my generation, like Andy in the film, is growing up and no longer play with those childhood toys we all loved so much. The movie captures the emotion that comes from growing up and letting go of your childhood, and while many of us painfully let our parents give away our favorite toys, and left it at that, Toy Story 3 gives us as sympathetic viewers, closure as Andy plays with Woody and friends one last time before giving them away to a young girl. It simultaneous gave us closure with the franchise’s end, and also with our own childhoods, and I applaud Pixar for achieving that near-impossible task.

Inception Christopher Nolan

I also blogged/reviewed this when it came out, and I was in the “wow that was amazing” state coming right off the movie. In the months since it came out, there has been a good deal of criticism of the movie, mostly calling out the logic flaws and lack of original plot, some going as far as saying the only real value of the movie was its visual effects. While all of these criticisms have their strong points, I simply go back to how I felt about the movie right after I saw it, and know that I enjoyed myself during it, and it left me thinking – whether it be specifically about the top spinning at the end and if it drops or not, or even just about the concepts of , and the rabbit hole that brings me through. It was exciting throughout, and like many of Christopher Nolan‘s films, leaves you guessing. I bought into it, and perhaps after another couple viewings it may lose its luster, but I still believe it belongs on this list.

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky

Just saw this, and was mesmerized by it throughout, especially watching Natalie Portman‘s psychological transformation. I always liked her as an actress, but I think this movie especially allowed her to show some real range as a sweet, innocent and driven ballerina, into an aggressive, sexually experimenting, paranoid, hallucinating ballet star, striving for perfection. Shot very intimately, the film-making allowed the viewer to watch this transformation, and Portman makes us believe every bit of it, even the horror-esque sequences. A real cross between Darren Aronofsky‘s “The Wrestler,” and “Requiem For a Dream,” both director and lead actress take us through a thrilling and emotional psychological journey. All in a movie about ballet.

The Fighter David O. Russel

Also just saw this, so it too is fresh in my mind, but I really enjoyed the gritty look at a struggling boxer caught between his career aspirations and his family. While everyone was great in it, I think that Christian Bale took the film, having lost 20 pounds and starving himself to portray a scrawny, crack-addicted has been boxer, trying to make a comeback by training his brother. A notorious method actor, Bale nailed the performance down to the last dropped r, (or should I say “ahh”), and this was especially evident after seeing the real life Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, giving a sign off to the crew after having been a part of the production process. The movie was half a boxing movie and half a family drama, and the boxing didn’t really show itself until the third act, where Micky is finally getting his shot and fighting toward a title shot. One of the more emotional parts of the movie occurs when the HBO documentary about crack-addiction airs, and the entire cast of characters huddles around their respective TVs, even Dicky in a large viewing in prison, hamming it up for the crowd of convicts. When they realize it is more of a tragic story than a triumph, the emotion of the family, and especially Dicky himself, brings down the excitement, and I think David O. Russel and the cast did a great job of capturing this quick emotional turnaround. Dicky says it best when he yells at his co-habitants to stop laughing, “my kid is crying and wants to be with his father, but he can’t because I’m in here with you all!” *may have gotten some of that quote wrong. As a coda, living in LA, across the country from my hometown, I love any movie that is spoken primarily in Boston accents. It’s a full-proof reminder of home. You may find me subconsciously dropping my r’s after seeing a movie like that.

*Honorable Mention – The Town Ben Affleck – Another Boston movie, this one showed Affleck’s ability to direct an action flick with some great sequences, including a European-style car chase through the narrow streets of the North End, and also a huge climactic shootout in Fenway Park. Great performances by Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively, both nailing a tough accent to grasp.

Feel free to comment on what you agree, disagree, or would like to add to this list. Stay internet-dialed to Josh Glass Online for more Best Of 2010 lists in the next day or two.

If I were reviewing the character Hurley, this would be an easier job – My Review of Weezer’s “Hurley”

Another year, another Weezer album as it were (these past 3 years they’ve turned into Woody Allen in terms of being prolific and consistency). Unfortunately, it seems the trend from 2008’s Red to 2009’s Raditude to 2010’s Hurley has gone slightly downhill, after coming back up from 2005’s Make Believe. The three-year hiatus did River’s and crew good as they found their Pop Rock roots and returned more to form with Red. Raditude wasn’t as strong an effort, but I for one did enjoy the album as a whole.

With Hurley, while there are some good songs I do enjoy – “Trainwrecks,” “Hang On” and “Brave New World,” I was and still am quite disappointed with the album’s first single “Memories,” as I am with the slower, softer songs on the album; I’ve primarily enjoyed River’s softer forays – from the classic “Butterfly” to Raditude’s “Put Me Back Together” and “I Don’t Want to Let You Go.” Hurley’s “Time Flies,” and “Unspoken,” are a little boring for my taste.

As a whole, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed in Hurley, especially after how excited I was to hear about the album title. There are some good tracks on there, but where Red and Raditude had a more classic Weezer album feel, even if the songs themselves weren’t as good as Blue through Maladroit (yes, I’m including Maladroit). I’ve defended both Red and Raditude by saying that River’s stuck with what he was really good at – writing a perfectly crafted pop rock song, and after trying and failing to step away from that with Make Believe, did a good job returning to form with those two. Hurley almost seems like he coasted through the process, because he was back in his song-writing wheelhouse.

That being said, I do feel obligated to support the band, as they have been among my favorite ever since I got into music. I even got the deluxe edition, with the bonus tracks, including a pretty decent live cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” which is a song I (and probably a good deal of America) got tired of when it was a big single, but enjoyed hearing from another big act. Not as cool a cover as their “Kids/Poker Face” from Raditude, but I’ll take it. Also, the short-but-sweet “All My Friends Are Insects,” seems to me, at least on the basis of bugs being in the title, a little tribute or homage, or even just a call back to the aforementioned “Butterfly,” an unappreciated favorite of mine, which starts out with a nice piano introduction – a change of pace to the always guitar-heavy hooks of the previous songs on the album, then tells a little story of a guy who enjoys Earth’s little creatures. I can’t say that I relate – I refuse to befriend insects. Also in the bonus tracks, their Unofficial U.S. World Cup Team Anthem – “Represent,” which didn’t get much notice during the tournament, but I enjoyed nonetheless.

I’m not much for grades or ratings, because if I like something I’ll usually just give it my non-patented Thumb-Up-Of-Approval, but in this case I’m going to stick with a 5 star scale, of which I’ll give Hurley 3 stars. For reference and comparison, Blue and Pinkerton get 5 stars, Maladroit and Green get 4.5 stars, and Red and Raditude get 4. Make Believe gets a 2.

P.S. I give the Album Artwork 5 stars. Hurley’s the Man.

Hurley

He's such a happy guy, how can you not smile when you see this?

The Many Answers for “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I’ve moved out to Los Angeles to pursue the ever-mocked and questioned career in entertainment, and yet I still find myself having to explain “why?” to friends and family. Nothing against any of them who are asking those questions – it is a tough thing for people to grasp, especially when the decision and subsequent move snuck up on a lot of them.

Let’s shift back in time a few years, to when I’m entering college. I decided upon Boston University because they had a great Communications school, and I was looking to study Journalism, because I enjoyed writing. However, the beginning classes in Journalism, and the articles I took it upon myself to write for two school papers quickly made me realize that writing was really the only thing I liked about journalism – not the reporting, not newspaper deadlines and formats. Just writing. I saw columnists like Dave Barry, or in later years Bill Simmons, and saw that they pretty much had carte blanche to write whatever they wanted, and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. However, you can’t just become a national syndicated columnist with the green light to write about 90210 or Silly Putty. They had to come up from somewhere, learn the ropes of the industry and work their way up to the top, where they wanted to be.

Again, nothing wrong with that career path, but I realized that I liked writing, and just wanted to write about whatever – my first bouts in writing all were personal memoir-type journal entries and stories, I never had the burning desire to report on school funding and where exactly our large Undergraduate Student Fees really went to. I figured since I was at this great Communications school, which aside from a great Journalism program, had a great Film and TV program, I should focus my writing desires into television, where I could not only write from a more personal level, but I’d have more creativity with it and it was a medium I always enjoyed, and found it incredible that I could study it as a major.

And so, I ventured into the world of entertainment, looking to write for television, and as I took classes at BU, really enjoyed them and knew this is what I wanted to do. Once I found out about BU’s Los Angeles Internship Program, I knew that it would be something I’d benefit from, and it would also give me a taste of what Los Angeles and the real Entertainment Industry would be like. I did the program, liked it, and that pretty much cemented my decision to move out here.

Now, during this time,  I may have only discussed school-related things with friends and family on rare occasions; whether it be family functions or short catch-up sessions during school breaks where we’d talk about how school was going for about 15 minutes, then go back to making dick and fart jokes and reminiscing about high school, realizing that the drama we thought we left at home still existed whenever we came back. We never really delved into what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. Plus, especially with friends, and I’m guilty of this too, college and the work involved is so self-involved that there’s not much time to concern yourself with how your friends are doing in their individual endeavors – you have a big midterm to study for.

This sounds a bit cynical, and I don’t mean for it to be. I’m just commenting on the inherent personal pressures we all face in college, and especially toward the end, when we’re trying to finish school and figure out what’s next, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget about the other people in your life.

Anyways, back to present time, where I find that every time I go home and hang out with friends, or see a family member, I have to update them on how things are going, which inevitably means rationalizing the decision to move to LA. Yes, this year has gone a lot better – I’ve found more consistent work at a reputable production company, and have also been getting consistent freelance editing work on the side, but it’s still nowhere near the financial security that a lot of my friends have. Right now, I have jobs lined up for the future, but I am still technically out of work and struggling between jobs. But I am happy, and the work I do is very helpful in learning new things about editing and the post production process, which will definitely help me later on in my career. But despite this, there are still parts of my life I have to rationalize to them – I’ve worked but there are always periods in the industry where work dies down and people have lulls in projects – it’s just the nature of the beast. I’m not going to start out as a CEO of a Production Company or an Agent – I won’t have job security for a few years at least. But I can take this time off to write, to pursue other interests like comedy or photography (which will come once I have money to buy a nice camera). When you just have a desire to create and entertain, everything you do toward that goal is considered progress.

Every now and then I have to think back and ask myself if I could have done anything else with college or my life after college, and I really can’t find a solid answer to that – which probably means I’m either not qualified for anything else, or I picked the right place and industry to be in. In a way, it’s an industry full of ambitious and creative people, who often did not have other options or qualifications; something compelled them to create and focus their ambitions toward entertaining the masses of people who chose more stable and realistic careers – many of whom are the same friends and family who ask “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

That’s my long answer to the question, but I guess it can be answered in a short way too – “Why Not? What Else should I do?”