"Bang Bang, What's the Hang?" The 10 Best Television Episodes of the Week
Episodes Watched This Week: 28
28. “Terra Nova,” 27. Whitney,” “26. “The Amazing Race,” 25. “American Horror Show,” 24. “The Middle,” 23. “Survivor,” 22. “Hart of Dixie,” 21. “Saturday Night Live,” 20. “How I Met Your Mother,” 19. “Modern Family,” 18. “Raising Hope,” 17. “Up All Night,” 16. “Revenge,” 15. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” 14. “Prime Suspect,” 13. “The Office,” 12. “The Good Wife,” and 11. “Suburgatory.”
The 10 Best Episodes of the Week
10. “Sons of Anarchy”: The season’s fifth episode finally stopped introducing new pieces long enough to begin to put a few in place. Clay has developed into the undeniable villain, and now I’m wondering who is going to get whacked first: Piney or Juice? But you know what was the best thing about this week’s episode? There was very little Tara.
9. “Dexter”: I like the plotline with Mos “It’s Just ‘Mos’ Now, Motherfucker” Def, but I do not care at all for the Colin Hanks subplot, or the fact that they’re piling on the religious themes. One religious thread is enough; three religious threads is heavy-handed. On another note, Michael C. Hall is such a brilliant actor that the voice-over narration feels annoyingly redundant, especially in episodes like this one where it dominates all the moments that, in a better show like “Breaking Bad,” tension would brew in the quiet.
8. “The New Girl”: I had liked the first few episodes of “The New Girl,” but the “Groovy Kind of Love” wedding slow-dance sequence finally pushed the show over the line from amusingly watchable to incredibly endearing.
7. “Parks and Recreation”: Hey, look! They did something useful with Ann finally. If they find a way to partner her with Ron Swanson in every episode, that character may find a way to redeem itself after all. Is anyone else concerned that, by mid-season, Greg Daniels will find a way to create romantic tension between Ann and Ben? There’s a small universe of romantic possibilities in this show, so it seems almost inevitable that it will at least surface briefly, maybe while the two are working late one night on Leslie’s city council campaign.
6. “Homeland”: The second episode built on the fantastic pilot, opening up some new plot lines and deepening Claire Danes’ crazy. She really is a wackjob. I’m not sure yet how I feel about Damien Lewis’ character, except that I know he’s creepy.
5. “Community”: A bounce-back week for “Community,” after opening the season with two weaker episodes. I don’t love Chang, either, but no show genre-riffs better than “Community.” On the flip side, I do worry that it’ll fall prey to the same problems that ruined “Psych,” which is to say: It becomes so eager to genre-spoof that it brings in a WWE wrestler. At least “Community” still has a “Twin Peaks” episode to exhaust before it runs off the rails.
4. “Happy Endings”: Not enough television sitcoms work rape vans into their plotlines,and that’s why “Happy Endings” is one of the best comedies on TV right now.
3. “The League”: The third season of “The League” kicked off this week, and introduced Seth Rogen’s Dirty Randy. The show works a lot like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in that an episode is basically a 22-minute setup culminating in a punchline, and week to week, the quality of the episode depends on the punchline. Missing the draft because a porn movie is being made qualifies as a stellar “The League” punchline.
2. “Parenthood”: Do you remember those high-school break-ups? How you could deny having your heart smashed for a few hours or a few days, but once you told your parents, it finally felt real? And how sad and weepy and embarrassed and ashamed you felt, but the good parents … the good parents didn’t try to make you feel better. They let you have that moment. That moment of anguish that we need in order to let go.
Jason Katims hit on two very identifying moments this week, first with Alex breaking up with Haddie and that realization that he wasn’t just losing Haddie, he was losing the Bravermans, the closest thing to an actual family he’s ever had. And then, with Haddie finally relenting, letting Mrs. Braverman know what she already knew, that Alex had broken up with her. Of course, Katims always blends ache with sweetness, so he had to end the episode with Adam air-drumming with Crosby, a moment of elation perfectly following one of heartbreak.
Yes, “Breaking Bad” is the best show on television by a wide margin. But “Parenthood” is often the most emotionally cathartic.
1. “Breaking Bad”: The best episode of the week needed that separation from the other nine to show how far beyond normal television “Breaking Bad” is. It’s on a different level, on a level with maybe only one other show, “The Wire.” Dan’s recap sums it up perfectly.
Season Pass Deleted from my DVR This Week: “Pan Am” and “How to Be a Gentlemen.” “Pan Am” is an OK show, but on Sunday nights, OK doesn’t cut it, not with “Breaking Bad,” and next week, “The Walking Dead,” in addition to “Dexter,” “Homeland” and “The Good Wife.” Four dramas in one night is enough, and “Pan Am” doesn’t compare. Meanwhile, I was going to give “How to Be a Gentlemen” a second shot, but then CBS moved it to Saturdays and shortened the order, basically signalling its demise. There’s not much point now.
Season Pass Previously Deleted from My DVR: “2 Broke Girls,” “The Gifted Man,” “Person of Interest,” and “Fringe.” “The Ringer,” “Free Agents,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Unforgettable,” “The Playboy Club,” “Castle,” and “Whitney” (which I gave a second shot to this week. It’s still awful).
Network Cancellations: “The Playboy Club” and “H8R.”
On My Season Pass Bubble: “Hart of Dixie” and “American Horror Story.”
“Hart of Dixie” actually improved in its second episode; it’s no damn good, but it’s kind of cute in a Sweet Home Alabama meets Doc Hollywood kind of way, and I like the cast (especially Jason Street) enough to stick around a little longer. As for “American Horror Story”? I hated it (see my review), but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to look away for a few more weeks.