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Hooch IS Crazy: Notes on "The Killing" and Season Finales of "Cougar Town," "Happy Endings," "Modern Family," and "Chicago Code"

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 31, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 31, 2011 |

Last week was the final of the network television season, and there weren’t enough episodes to justify a full Power Rankings. “Doctor Who” recaps will be back next week, after BBC America screwed over its American viewers by interrupting its run for Memorial Day, putting us a week behind the Brits (and Torrent users). The only other show of note not included below was “Game of Thrones.” You can read TK’s recap here.

The Killing: I don’t begrudge the writers of “The Killing” the Bennet Ahmed storyline. It’s important to the overall series; it creates tension on the political campaign and it put Mr. Larsen in the clink for nearly murdering the teacher. What I begrudge is that it took so long to resolve. Ahmed was introduced as a potential suspect early on — the seed was planted as early as the pilot episode. It’s taken 10 episodes to fully dismiss him as a suspect and move on to the more exciting prospect of a murderer closer to home. What’s more remarkable is that the original Danish series, a huge hit on the BBC as well, was actually 20 episodes instead of the 13 on AMC. The investigation dragged on for seven more days? How many days did the investigation of the Ahmed equivalent last on that series? And how was it not completely exhausting for the viewers?

All the same, the investigation has finally found some momentum. The drama’s biggest red herring, Belko, was more or less dismissed as a suspect this week. He felt, from the beginning, like the too-obvious culprit. Anytime Brendan Sexton III is cast, you feel like there’s the potential that he could be up to no good. I wonder what it’s like for him in real life? Do people go around pinning murders on him because he’s Brendan Sexton III?

As far as my predicted murderer goes, that leaves the aunt, Terry Marek, as the chief suspect. Right now, the clues are trending either in that direction or in the direction of Darren Richmond, or an associate of his. What we do know is that someone emptied the Larsen bank account. Did Rosie know about and did someone kill her to cover it up? Or did Rosie empty it? Or, as JRo just reminded me, was the money removed to pay for the house that Stanley bought before the murder (almost certainly). And how does the casino play into the investigation. It’s heady stuff, folks. Right now, my money is still on either Terry or, a potential dark horse candidate, the current mayor, who may have murdered Rosie to derail Richmond’s campaign. If it’s the latter, I will be disappointed. If it’s Richmond, I will be outraged because the show will have successfully hoodwinked me.

Cougar Town: “Cougar Town” wrapped up its remarkably consistent second season this week with an hour-long finale, and it didn’t take showrunner Bill Lawrence long to take to the Twitter to flog himself for the show’s title again. The third season won’t return until November, and in a less cushy time slot. Though Lawrence is pleased that the show is returning at all, you can definitely sense some tension in his Twitter remarks about the show, which hasn’t gained the audience it possibly could have because the title itself is so alienating. Lawrence considered changing the name last season, and is again tossing around ideas. Hopefully, it’s not too late for the show to gain some audience momentum on DVD or Hulu going into its third season, with or without a title change

Viewers have been slow to come around because of the title and because early episodes played into that premise. It has since found its groove as one of the best sitcoms on television. For those still under the misconception, “Cougar Town” is not about older women trying to bed younger men (at least, not after its fourth or fifth episode). It can be best described as “Friends” with alcohol, and it has a very similar vibe to Lawrence’s last show, “Scrubs.” Lawrence is probably hoping that a similar fate doesn’t befall “Cougar Town”: A marginally rated show with a strong cult audience that bounces around the schedule for years. On the bright side, “Cougar Town” may find a second audience on Comedy Central, as “Scrubs” has in recent years. The eventual residuals will undoubtedly put Lawrence in a good mood.

The finale itself brilliantly called back to an earlier episode of “Community,” as Danny Pudi’s Abed appeared as a background character drinking a fountain soda from Subway, as he had described in his birthday/My Dinner with Andre episode of “Community.” And speaking of “Scrubs,” Ted Buckland also made an appearance in this episode, which was filmed on the same set that the “Scrubs” Hawaii-set seventh season finale was filmed. It was great to see Ted again, and he even brought his musical talents along, turning fast-beat pop songs into ballads (notably, “Love Shack”). It was dispiriting, however, to discover that Gooch had left him for Hooch. But seldom has a line in a sitcom elicited as big a fist bump as did Ted’s, “Hooch is crazy.”

Hooch is crazy.

Modern Family: “Modern Family” ended its second season on a down note, celebrating the birthday of Jay, the family patriarch. The episode fell into a similar pattern as most of this second season. The characters are broadening, losing their emotional identities, and the sweet moments no longer feel as sweet as they once did. It’s a consistent performer, but the yuks have been harder to come by. While it has the highest ratings among network comedies, the buzz isn’t nearly as loud as it is for lower-rated shows with more passionate fanbases, like “Parks and Recreation,” “Community,” and even “Cougar Town” and the upstart, “Happy Endings.” But like “The Office,” “Modern Family” has found a broader audience at the expense of its characters and quality.

Happy Endings: Speaking of “Happy Endings,” that sitcom ended its first half-season on a high note, recovering from the two chronologically misplaced episodes last week. It came full circle, ending the season as it began, with a wedding. Alex, who began the season ditching Dave at the altar, started romantically inching her way back to him, but the show’s star couple continues to be Adam Pally’s bro-gay Max and Casey Wilson’ slapstick spinster, Penny, although Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Couple) are not too far behind. Typically sitcoms hit their peaks during their second and third seasons, and if “Happy Endings” manages to improve on its first season, it may compete with “Parks and Recreation” next year for the networks’ best comedy.

Chicago Code: Shawn Ryan’s excellent cop drama on Fox also ended its season and, most likely, its series run, although Ryan has mentioned shopping the show around to other networks. For twelve and a half episodes, “Chicago Code” was one of the better dramas on network television, but I thought it faltered in the end. I understand the episode was in the can before news of the show’s cancellation came down, but the finale felt rushed. The documents that ultimately put away Alderman Gibbons away seemed tacked on, a quick and all-too-convenient way to wrap up a season that had been smoldering. The show did, however, cap its run with a poignant musical montage, a recurring device that Shawn Ryan has used in other shows.

I don’t give the show much hope in landing on another network, despite ratings on Fox that would make it one of the higher rated cable shows, but I do hope to see Jason Clarke land on his feet, hopefully even in another cop show. Matt Lauria, I understand, has already booked another role as recurring and potentially series regular on “Burn Notice.”

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.