Friday, March 2, 2012

Hodgepodge #2 - American Idol, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey

Here we are at Hodgepodge #2. So much awesome TV to talk about...

American Idol/ The Voice

Let's start here, since the Top 13 were announced just last night. I've been watching American Idol since Nikki McGibbon ridiculously outlasted Tamyra Gray. Oh, memories. Since then, AI has had it's share of ups and downs and has evolved into quite a legit singing competition. I have never been a fan of the whole spectacle of making fun at these poor people who can't sing a note. If you think about it, they probably had to sing for at least 10 judges before getting their shot in front of JLoTylerJack©, and were therefore validated in that process. So, I am the happy viewer that has seen AI getting further away from these in the past 2 seasons. Also, I think JLo is a fantastic addition to this team. While we do see her struggle sometimes to be truly critical (see: Brielle feedback last night), I think she delivers her feedback with poise and assurance and is even able to give pretty solid advice. Okay, I'm slightly biased because I wanted to kick Paula in the face every time she said anything. But truly, sitting between Steven and Randy, sometimes JLo appears to be the smartest one there, if not the most grounded.  In any case, way to go America for voting in probably the BEST TOP 10 in the history of the show. Yup, I said it. Every single one is a strong singer and there's some real showmanship (the good kind, not the kind that kinda makes me wanna puke. I'm looking at you Reed Grimm) and artistry represented, not to mention personality plus. I think I'm pulling for Heejun, Philip and Joshua Ledet, and I love that Gentle Giant, but I am so happy with this crop of contestants, I'm just looking forward to watching the show.

I have a feeling the success of The Voice has a lot to do with this recent evolution of AI drifting away from gawking at the poor bad singers and also with America voting in the best of the Top 24 into the Top 10. The Voice is a terrific concept and so enjoyable to watch. I love the way everyone is invested in the outcome on this show. While judges on AI are definitely rooting for their faves, on The Voice, the judges are just as involved with the competition as the contestants. The success of the contestants, once chosen, reflects on the judges ability to coach as much as anything else. The blind auditions make for some of the best TV around. In direct contrast with AI, the voice is the singular defining ingredient of success on The Voice. Although I do suppose the judges take their cues from the live audience as much as their ears, you still watch artists going through that you would definitely not see on AI.

The Shields Brothers wouldn't be getting on no American Idol 

P.S. Here is probably my favorite scene from AI this season and I now use "get down" as my standard response to everything, especially really emotional situations.

get down

The Walking Dead

I am telling you something... I am more and more impressed with how the writers are deviating from the GNs and this whole Rick v. Shane business is riveting. Riveting! Thanks to Lady Macbeth (who I guess had to drive off by herself, flip her car and *almost* get chomped by walkers only to survive with barely a scratch in order to tell Rick that Shane is no good), Rick is actually laying down the law, especially for Shane. At a literal crossroads almost 18 miles out, Rick tells Shane how it's gonna be. He also tells Shane he will kill for his family... anyone. We also find out that Rick knew about Shane and Lori way before Lori told him. Interesting. I thought the fight scene that came later between these two, generated by the question of what to do about Tied Up Kid, was epic. Brilliant story telling here, when the kid says he knows Maggie, now not only is it kind of personal, but this means he knows the farm and thus, Plan A of leaving him behind doesn't work anymore. Triggerfinger Shane wants to shoot him on the spot, Rick needs time to think, which Shane views as weak. Parts of this fight were hard to watch, truthfully. The genius of The Walking Dead is demonstrating how it's not necessarily 'how are these people going to survive the walkers,' but more 'how are these people going to survive with each other.' If Survivor has taught us anything, people are jerks. In any case, after bashing each others faces in for awhile, Shane awakens a pack of walkers and in the end, Rick and the kid save Shane and Rick says "you're just gonna have to trust me." Get down.

Other Thoughts:
  • One of the most very interesting observations in the show was practically buried. Shane and Rick discussing a pile of dead peeps: no bites... maybe scratches? Take note! This will come up again.
  • The Walker in the Field... is what this ep should have been called. Cool visual, but what does it represent? Just a reminder that they are everywhere? Is it symbolic of Shane feeling alone when he was once tethered to Lori and Carl? Or, I think I saw Shane instinctively reach for his gun upon seeing the walker way off in the field. Shane's level thinking about minimizing use of guns seems to register, as Shane ultimately doesn't shoot at the walker... or is it that Shane is seeing himself?
Shane? Is that you?
  • Shane seeing his image in the broken glass of the building (after he threw a pipe at Shane and woke up all the walkers in the building and gave them a way to get out - way to go!) was another arresting visual. This very closely parallels when Shane is looking in the mirror when he shaves his head. This is what Shane is now... this is what he has become.
  • Beth/Andrea/Maggie/Lori: so is all of this Beth suicide biz basically to remind us of hope vs. hopelessness? A lot less time could have been spent on this. The Lori v. Andrea showdown in the kitchen prior to the Beth suicide drama was pretty great: again, the brilliance of showing all sides. Andrea's "you have it all, Lori" speech was spot on. Sure Lori is saying someone has to cook and clean, etc. but Andrea is kinda right in saying why does it have to be all the women? This harkens back to one of my fave scenes from Season 1 where Andrea stands up to Carol's dickhead hubby Ed about "women's work" and then Shane beats the crap out of him (even though we know he's hitting Ed out of frustration over Lori having just told him off as much as dude's an asshole). 
  • The kid in the trunk is doing everything he can to survive, and his very presence represents both sides to the Shane v. Rick conundrum. But the kid sure took way too much pleasure in stabbing that walker. I think he's some no good trouble right there.
  • *Kinda Spoiler* I'm having a heart attack over casting for TG (new character to the TV show). It doesn't matter who they cast for this part, I am not looking forward to this story line. 
  • *Spoiler* Don't read this if you're not into spoilers, but AMC accidentally let this one slip yesterday: major spoiler 
Downton Abbey

The season finale a couple of weeks ago did not disappoint. I have, however, been disappointed to read several reviews and reactions to the episode (such as this one) and Season 2 in general as contrived and not up to par with Season 1. Perhaps it's because I watched Downton starting with the end of Season 1 and all of Season 2 before going back and watching all of Season 1 from the beginning, but I saw no difference between the seasons and certainly thought the Season 2 finale was as good as Downton gets.  It does kind of make me smile when I hear people calling a scripted show such as Downton "contrived." To me, the whole appeal of the show lies the unseen twists and turns, the quicker paced resolutions to some story lines as well as the more drawn out plots. Otherwise, it would just be so boring. I think one of the greatest episodes of any season was when a badly scarred soldier comes to Downton to convalesce and reveals himself to Edith to be long lost Cousin Patrick. Then he DISAPPEARS. All in one episode. Fantastic! Others saw this as clear evidence that Downton had lost its way in pace and storytelling. I thought it was refreshing and interesting and clear evidence of poor Edith.

I just love the way they pack so much into each and every episode, and the drama of the twists and turns cannot be denied: Lord Grantham and the maid! Cora almost dies! Valinia conveniently does die. Branson and Sybil! Poor Mr. Bates and (now) Mrs. Anna Bates.

I will say this, however: I was getting on board with the whole idea of Mary going to New York. Imagine the adventures and suitors and dresses this girl would have! The dresses, people! Alas, just when you think Downton will zig, it zags and actually fulfills on the promise of Matthew and Mary together rather abruptly but awesomely.


I look forward to seeing what drama will unfold in the next season, especially the fallout of Richard exposing Mary's secret. And I can't believe I am saying this, but are we rooting for an Edith love triangle with Cousin Patrick and Sir Strallan? (pause) Yes. Yes we are.

Other Stuff:
  • After approximately a millenium off of TV, Mad Men is back Sunday, March 25. I.Can't.Wait. 
  • The Killing is coming back April 1st.  God, I love this show. I am preparing my soul for its weekly crushing. 
  • I have officially given up on The River. To sum up, just a few too creepy dolls on the tree for me. Oh, and it's not smart at all.
  • One of these days I will dedicate an entire entry to the brilliance of Modern Family. This show gets life. Or, my life anyway.
Comment away on anything you want to chat about!

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