By Chauncey Telese
Hello everyone, it’s been another big week in the world and I’ve had a lot of good news float my way. First of all, NBC announced “Community” is coming back March 15th (same day as the NBA trade deadline), the Rams have begun discussing trading their number two pick and fulfill my dream of landing Cleveland’s number four pick (and taking Blackmon) and also getting their 22nd pick as well (and getting whoever they can on defense).
With Maya Rudolph along with Justin Timberlake (and his killer Bon Iver impression), Amy Poehler, Kate Upton, and even Bill O’Reilly, SNL had its strongest episode of 2012. The only downside is that the next show is hosted by Lindsey Lohan (with musical guest Jack White). At first I thought this was a 2006 rerun, but it’s a new one, so I’m intrigued but not excited. I don’t want to harp on her personal issues clouding the show because the internet will do that for me but I will say the odds of her turning in a 1997 Chris Farley hosting performance are fairly high.
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Also, in the good news department, I’ve scored tickets to the Sons of Anarchy panel at Paley Fest 2012 on March 7th. I attended Lakers-Blazers on Monday and while it was good news that the Lakers came out strong (especially Steve Blake and Gasol) it worried me that it was more of a product of Portland being terrible that night. It’s still good though that Gasol seems to be slightly shedding his “soft” reputation or at the very least showing management why they shouldn’t trade him. I still want the Lakers to trade Bynum though, and I realize he’s playing well right now but my buddy Bryan and I were watching him jump rope during warm ups and we were both terrified that he’d injure himself (Laker fans can now nod glumly). It’s still agonizing to watch Meta World Peace (or as they refer him on the starting line up Artest) shoot the ball, My favorite part of the game aside from when the starters are in is when they put in Walton because that’s when I know the last two minutes are meaningless and my friends and I can bide time before we get our free tacos (and I also think Walton’s job on the bench is to tell the starters about all the crowd antics while they get coached up). The last thing though is that Anthony Kiedis needs Flea or someone else to sit him down and tell him that he looks like Hitler (Google him, its jarring).
Stephen Colbert returned Monday, and Rick Santorum managed to out-crazy himself yet again by claiming that the devil is responsible for all of the troubles in America. This isn’t necessarily good news but, as a fan of comedy (and Jason Sudekis’s Devil on “Weekend Update”), I was amused. The last bit of good news is that “Archer” got renewed but sadly, “Good Vibes” did not.
Let’s get to the week in TV. As always we have “Shameless”, “Justified”, “Luck,” and new to our rotation is “Eastbound and Down” which began its third and final season this past Sunday. Also, congratulations to “The Simpsons” for making it to 500. Let’s start with the newest member of our rotation “Eastbound and Down”
“Eastbound and Down: Chapter 14”
Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and David Gordon Green won’t be recognized in any way by the Emmys for creating one of the most unique and risky characters on TV. Kenny Powers is a foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic, womanizing, idiot man-child in denial about his fall from grace and still thinks he’s god’s gift to the world. It’s difficult to have a lead character be this polarizing and not grow as a person to this point and not turn off its fans. Granted, this is a cult show (and its biggest member is Marilyn Manson) but its hardcore and loyal fans clamor every week to find out what Kenny will say and do next. I personally can’t wait for the book of Kenny Powersisms that will eventually be released, containing such classics as “Fundamentals are a crutch for the untalented,” “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s losing. If there’s two things I hate, its losing and getting cancer.” And “Sure I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is I’m not. I just think America is the best country and other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism.” There are many more I’d love to cite, but they aren’t family friendly. The point is, Kenny Powers is a vile human being, but the way McBride writes and plays him makes the audience connect with him at some level or at the very least compels them to see what he’ll say or do next.
At the end of last season’s odyssey in Mexico where Kenny pitched for the Charros, found his dad, and allowed Stevie to find a wife, Kenny returned home to claim April and she drops a bomb on him. She tells Kenny that she’s having a baby and that it’s his. The season ended with them going to get food and talk about the next step. That next step is here and it’s in Myrtle Beach where Kenny is pitching for the Mermen. He and his catcher. Shane (played by Jason Sudekis) view themselves as Maverick and Goose though neither of them will own to being Goose (Shane’s argument is that Goose had a family, thus Kenny is Goose). They pick up high school chicks in Shane’s lifted American Flag truck with Lamborghini doors. Kenny tries to fit in with the surfers despite rocking a boogie board with a Confederate Flag and pot leaf design. He also is in total denial that he has a son and at his kid’s one year birthday party, Kenny gets wasted so he doesn’t have to own up to his responsibility. He refuses to hold the baby and in a great display of physical comedy, avoids it at all costs. Kenny embarrasses April (for what seems like the millionth time) by discussing why they aren’t together and essentially blaming it on her, classic Kenny.
Like most episodes of “Eastbound and Down,” this one isn’t entirely plot-heavy but that’s because the show has always been essentially one long movie. The main action outside of setting up Kenny’s world is the date between Kenny and April. One of the big questions of the show is why April would ever be attracted to a guy like Kenny, even in high school. The truth is April was a wild child and loved to get high and loved to watch Kenny pitch even more. Kenny never really left high school but April did and even though she’s bettered herself by becoming a teacher. April’s problem is that whenever she’s in Kenny’s orbit, she gets sucked in to her old lifestyle. That’s very much apparent when they go out on a booze cruise where they shotgun some beers then go to play mini golf. Kenny and April are holding up a family from playing and when they argue at first, it’s Kenny and the dad going at it but when the mom accuses April of being a bad parent, she loses it and a cat fight breaks out. The date goes back to Kenny’s apartment where Shane is in charge of the baby. In a moment the show does well, the lunacy fades away as April watches in wonderment at her son, though Kenny isn’t impressed. He does allow a glimmer of reality (though a cynic would claim he knew what to say to April at that moment) by telling her “I’ve been lost without you.” They hook up and Kenny wakes up and she’s gone. This makes sense, given that Kenny is only good in small doses but then, Kenny gets hit with an atom bomb. April leaves a note saying that she hasn’t been herself and leaves Kenny. That would make sense but as Kenny reads the note he hears his son crying and now he has to take care of the baby.
God only knows what Kenny will do with an infant to look after. I’m sure the show won’t get soft in the slightest and I’m sure the kid is looking at some dangerous situations that will have child services involved. I do know that the show was funny and with only eight chapters, left the insanity can only increase especially when Stevie comes back (by the way after watching him on “30 Rock” I think he can play Bill Simmons in the ESPN movie). Next up we go to Santa Anita for the fourth episode of “Luck” and I’m not going to lie, I’m still hazy on what’s going on but it was still a thrilling hour of TV.
“Luck: Episode Four”
I had heard that the fourth episode of “Luck” would finally start telling us what the hell is going on, but it just brought upon more questions. I don’t know if Alan Sepinwall is a genius or knows what’s coming via screeners but he said the show comes together in this installment. I’ve watched it a few times and it makes more sense then the previous three, but still isn’t quite there. This week there was an article on The Onion TV Club about how “The Sopranos” novelistic style of storytelling has stunted the growth of HBO shows because they all want to become these slow burn prestige shows (and to a degree that’s true) that don’t really make stand alone episodes (i.e. “Justified”). This sentiment was corroborated on the B.S. Report by Chuck Klosterman who said that HBO’s goal is to be the television equivalent to reading in the way “Hill Street Blues” was in the ’70s (which makes sense considering that’s where David Milch got his start). He did go on to say that the season as a whole was very good and thus far, I agree. Unlike the previous two episodes this was more plot-focused then the previous two.
The main theme of the show thus far seems to be that everyone gets their fair share of luck and it’s what they do with it that makes the difference. The two embodiments of this theme were female jockey Rosie and America’s favorite degenerate gambler Jerry. Walter fights to get Rosie a shot at racing and she gets her break due to her boyfriend (fellow jockey Leon) fails to make weight and isn’t allowed to race. Rosie gets taken to the female jockey locker room which has had to double as a storage room due to a lack of female jockeys (the names are written on duct tape) but she makes the best of it. In the episode’s best sequence, Rosie’s horse doesn’t really let her control him and they are in dead last. She perseveres and comes from way back to win the race (and the gamblers won a lot of money on her, as did Walter). Her victory was almost like the horse racing version of Linsanity as she came out of nowhere and captivated the horse racing community. It’s not awkward between her and Leon yet but I think it will be at some point.
The other side of this though is Jerry. He still plays poker at the Hustler casino until dawn because the Leo Chan is in his head despite Jerry beating him in episode two. Jerry’s luck at the track encourages him to play cards and he doesn’t know when to quit. He finally starts to walk away when Leo offers him a spot in a poker game in the back of his restaurant (which goes back to one of life’s rules, never do anything gambling related in the back of a restaurant, nothing good can come of it). Marcus, Lonnie, and Renzo get increasingly worried as Jerry looks more and more sleep deprived and through some detective work, figure out where he is. They are very concerned as they should be because again, nothing good can come from playing an illegal poker game in the back of a restaurant. Leo keeps getting into Jerry’s skull (think Jordan and Drexler) and Jerry keeps losing and reaching deeper and deeper into his duffel bag of money. His friends make up a story about Marcus needing medical attention (though to be fair, that’s technically not a lie) and Jerry is able to leave (and possibly get some sleep).
The other developments are Ace having an estranged son, the young broker getting hired to work with Ace. Ace meets with a wealthy British investor (played by Michael Gambon) who may or may not have been involved in sending Ace to prison. Also, older jockey Ronnie goes to Venice Beach to score drugs and hangs out with the junkies on the beach. All in all it was another great hour of horse racing related drama and it now looks like pieces are going to start falling in place. Moving on, we go to Harlan Kentucky for another installment in the life of Raylan Givens.
“Justified: When the Guns Come Out”
It would be ridiculously easy for Graham Yost and company to make Raylan this invincible gunslinger and the show could’ve been a well made version of “Walker Texas Ranger” but that wouldn’t be interesting now, would it? Raylan may be effective in a gunfight but he is very ineffective else where. In the pilot he let his obsession with his work ruin his marriage with Winona the first time and when they reconciled it ruined what he could’ve had with Ava. In season one’s “Hatless” we saw that when Raylan is drunk he can’t fight and that he has a temper beneath his cool exterior. This past episode, we see another example of Raylan not only having an off day but we see more evidence that Raylan isn’t well liked around the office.
Last week left off with Winona seemingly leaving Raylan because she saw the same patterns coming back. This week, her departure was confirmed and Raylan tries to multi-task but he’s no Leslie Knope. Raylan finds out that Winona no longer works for the courthouse (featuring a great cameo by Stephen Root’s Judge Reardon) and that her computer has information on Costa Rica. He visits the evidence locker and notices that the money Winona stole last season and he risked his job to put back is gone. Raylan panics and tries to get time off from Art but Art won’t let him off that easy.
Art sends him into Harlan to figure out who knocked over an oxy clinic set up in his deceased aunt’s house. Raylan is upset and confronts Arlo who threatens Raylan with gunfire despite being armed with boxer shorts. Arlo tells Raylan that he works for Boyd and that the oxy was his. This sends Raylan to visit Boyd in one of the scenes the show does best. Boyd offers to buy Raylan a round but Raylan is too annoyed for Boyd’s antics. He threatens him and Boyd simply listens as he collects information on who robbed him and the wheels spin as they always do. Boyd sends Raylan to visit Ava and sets his plan into motion.
Meanwhile, Winn Duffy goes to visit Quarles and ask him about the robbery of the oxy mill and Quarles denies involvement when Duffy mentions Raylan and how he’s related to Arlo. This leads Quarles to wrongfully assume that Raylan is in Arlo and Boyd’s pocket. The aforementioned robbery has one witness and that is a working girl at Audrey’s and her pimp (played by Tom Cruise’s cousin) wants her to get more oxy, which wouldn’t be a biggie except the people that stole it and killed her friends are the only ones that have some. She’s naturally reluctant causing Delroy to rough her up. Ava wanders into Audrey’s soon after and Delroy tries to spin his game on her and she plays him into letting her look for her friend. Ava finds her in the trailer and Raylan joins her. They try to get information before Delroy figures it out and before things get physical Raylan busts Delroy’s nose (twice). He is not in the mood to argue with people and tries to wrap up the case so he can chase Winona.
The robbery was not committed by Quarles but people working on behalf of one of Limehouse’s associates much to Limehouse’s chagrin. He tells Boyd that it’s his business to know what others don’t and in this case we find out why. He informs his associate that by leading people to Noble’s Holler that it would cause an all-out war, given that their area is a racial powder keg and they need to be hidden. He tells the guy that he won’t kill him but make him watch the chaos that he created. Raylan finds Winona at her sister’s house and she denies taking the cash and instead tells him that she knows he won’t change for her but she agrees to at least be around. The episode ends more or less with the two on a trial run and the missing money is residing in Mexico where the guy in charge of the evidence locker drives off in a red Corvette. It wasn’t the most gripping hour of the show but it was a nice change of pace from last week’s “Crank” remake.
Moving on, we end with the Gallagher clan whose summer is beginning to wind down in an episode that pulls off a Kevin Love-style rebound from last week’s disaster.
“Shameless: A Bottle of Jean Nate”
I didn’t like last week’s midseason because it felt totally contrived and didn’t move the story along in a way that was entertaining. This week though, that awfulness paid off because it gave Frank some humanity and Fiona her strongest moments of the season. Last week, I wasn’t exactly psyched about the return of Peggy Gallagher but this week, that reunion makes sense. She reveals to Frank that she is on a medical furlough from prison because she has stage four pancreatic cancer. Frank and Fiona are trying to find a way to get rid of her and Fiona seems to connect with Frank more this episode. She feels for Frank in a way because whether she likes it or not Frank is sort of her window into the future. Peggy makes herself useful by having Ian and Lip duke it out and their feud is over and she even tries to make up for her failings as a mom in her own way.
Fiona also has to contend with the fact that Steve still wants her because he still cares and that he can’t understand his new fiancé. Steve is still a problem in this episode as we still don’t learn about why he lives a double life and we never get to know his wife. For all intent and purposes, she’s a character worth exploring, because she got tied up with Steve somehow, despite the language barrier (there has to be something because he isn’t that good looking). Steve finally tells Fiona he loves her but instead of her forgiving him she intensely tells him “Don’t.” Ouch! I was hoping she wouldn’t end up with him because she has given a lot more then he has in that relationship and his insistence on her being honest with him is just hypocritical and now she knows it. Steve is gone for now (or I’d like to think so) and now I think the show can flourish again with his absence.
The other development was Karen breaking up with Jody because she got together with him because he actually treated her with love and respect. She never bothered to consider that she just isn’t into him and she goes back to Lip. Also, the show dealt with its other problematic character in Jasmine. It seemed weird that a girl like Jasmine with money and a husband would hang around Fiona without some ulterior motive. At first I thought she was slumming with her or, at the very least, wanted to hang around someone younger then her so she could continue to party despite being married. This was a welcome return to form for “Shameless” and with five episodes, left things should start to come to a head as the Gallagher clan heads to into its winter.
Last on our menu, a report from the “Breaking Bad” panel held at the TV Academy. It was an amazing night and featured all the major cast members including Giancarlo Esposito whose Gus Fring is no longer with us (though they brought out the bust with Gus’s blown-off face).
(The elusive Chauncey -on the right - with Dean Norris)
After a recap of all four seasons, a Q&A followed and I learned that Aaron Paul’s first job was in a Kellogg’s Pops commercial where he received no residuals, Anna Gunn cleaned houses in between auditions before getting a job on a Fox sitcom called “Down the Shore,” Betsy Randle’s was on “Judging Amy,” Giancarlo Esposito was on “Guiding Light,” Dean Norris was in “The Enforcer,” R. J. Mitte’s first gig was “Breaking Bad” and Vince Gilligan did freelance work on “The X-Files.” Oh, and Cranston did a United Way commercial at the age of 7 because his dad was the director and he talked about being in a body cast for it where they used a table saw to get him out (Rj Mitte confirmed that they still use it).
Mitte discussed his triumph over cerebral palsy and is glad the show portrays the disability in a positive light. Betsy Randle discussed the fact that the show is a completely collaborative process and since her character Marie had little about her in the pilot, she decided to make her an x-ray tech and exaggerated her love of purple. She also said that she loved having Dean Norris as a TV husband and hammered home the family aspect of the cast and crew. Also, that she steals spoons from restaurants and fast food places, the prize being a spoon from Air Portugal.
When asked about what character trait that the cast shares with their character, Cranston said he identifies with Walt’s resolve, Gunn cited Skyler’s internal toughness, Giancarlo mentioned Gus’s intensity, Norris shared Hank’s ability to rise above himself, Randle shared Marie’s ability to do anything for her family, and Mittie cited overcoming his disability, Gilligan, by the way, shared Walt’s ability to mask the darkness in him. Gilligan also made a statement I liked when asked about how the show gets around language and nudity. Gilligan talked about how people harp on that stuff but what AMC does that only FX, HBO, and Showtime do and no movie studio is willing to do and that’s allowing them to make a dark story that shines a light on social issues in America. He said since movie studios are all corporate entities now that they all focus on the bottom line and only want tent pole movies. He also said that “All in the Family” couldn’t be made today because the studios wouldn’t want Archie to be Archie, and his show is allowed to be dark and allowed to take risks.
Cranston and Paul talked about the fact that their oil and water characters allow for the dark comedy to come out and that he and Gunn’s relationship is all about fighting for the upper hand. The cast seemed to be as close as they claim and to me that’s what helps the show. I saw this with the cast of “Community” on their panel and when a cast really cares about each other that much and the crew shares that same sentiment, the show is all the better for it. I wish I could write down all of the jokes and stories (furthering my case for getting a podcast down the road). I learned a lot about how this show works and the cast and Vince Gilligan couldn’t have been nicer. I told Aaron Paul that my dad hates Jesse and always wants him to die (which made Paul laugh) and told Cranston that “Malcolm in the Middle” made my childhood and mentioned how my dad would’ve wanted to be Walt at one point.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as we have a recap of the Oscars, more of Kenny Powers, “Luck”, and “Justified.” “Shameless” is off this week due to the other programming on Sunday so hopefully I can fill that slot with “Wanderlust.” I wish you all a happy Leap Day. Remember take a risk because on Leap Day nothing counts and the real world is for March.