Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday night recap

So, last night was a big one in the world of TV: three HBO series concluded their seasons (or, in at least one case, possibly concluded for good) and a much-hyped death on "Desperate Housewives" finally took place (I think -- more on that later).
Below is a brief summary of my thoughts on last night's episodes of "Big Love," "Flight of the Conchords," "Eastbound and Down" and "Desperate Housewives." Don't read any further if you haven't seen the episodes.
* Big Love: The recently concluded third season of this absorbing drama about a polygamous family living in Utah was perhaps the show's best yet. There were a lot of amazing twists, such as Sarah's pregnancy and miscarriage, Kathy's death, and the Nicki's betrayal and banishment. Last night's finale wasn't quite as good as some of the episodes leading up to it, but it was still a solid offering. We learned that, not only did Nicki have a daughter from her previous marriage, but that abandoning that child might have been the root cause of a lot of her emotional problems. Chloe Sevigny has had a knockout season, but last night she delivered some of her best work, both when finally seeing her now-teenaged daughter, and when confessing her sin to Barb. It's hard to find the tenderness and decency in a character like Nicki, but Sevigny does it week after week. Give her an Emmy, now.
Also noteworthy was the death of Roman Grant. Yes, I know the show has faked us out with supposed character "deaths" before, but Roman looked pretty dead to me. While I'll miss Harry Dean Stanton's work, his character's death will surely set in motion a delicious power struggle at Juniper Creek. Also, Joey's decision to kill him illustrated the difference between him and Bill. Bill's biggest problem is that he makes things too complicated, attempting to juggle too many things at once: wives, business ventures, diabolical schemes. He, of course, set in motion an elaborate plan to bust Roman for Kathy's murder (it did seem to be successful, but just barely). Joey's approach to dealing with Roman was more direct: he simply killed the man. What will happen next? I don't know, but I'm dying to find out.
* Flight of the Conchords: While the songs in the second season of HBO's whimsical musical comedy weren't as good as those in the first season, the show was still consistently funny. Last night's finale was no exception. We finally got a closer look at the Mel-Doug marriage; Murray wrote a musical and Dave dressed as the statue of liberty. Oh, and we saw Bret and Jemaine tending sheep back home in their native land after being deported. It definitely felt like a series finale and, indeed, HBO hasn't yet renewed the show for a third season. But I hope it continues. It's one of the few really pleasurable shows on TV, and, if Bret and Jemaine were to depart my life, I'd sorely miss them. At the very least, could we get a spin-off about Doug and Murray's consulate co-worker Greg? It could be called "The Saddest Men in the World," and feature a harp-based theme song.
* Eastbound and Down: Let me say this: if nothing else, this broad, raunchy sitcom about Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) a disgraced former ballplayer had the good sense to revive the deliciously cheesy Kenny Rogers ballad "Love will Turn You Around," using it in not one, but two episodes. Still, I'm really conflicted about it. On the one hand, every single episode made me laugh out loud at least once. On the other, it had a tendency to go overboard too often. For instance, Kenny hitting his former rival in the face with a ball during a pitching contest was funny. The fact that the pitch knocked the guy's eye out, and that we saw his pulsing, disembodied eyeball on the ground? Not so funny. I also couldn't get my head around the fact that Kenny was hired to teach kids. He's so vulgar that, in real life, a mob of angry parents would have called for his head after one day. But, vulgarity aside, the show did one thing right: it made me like Kenny. Yes, he was an obnoxious jerk but he showed enough moments of genuine affection -- toward his family, his former girlfriend and even his goofy boss/romantic rival Principal Cutler -- that I bought him as a human being. The big reason behind Kenny's humanity is McBride, who has proven not just that he's funny, but also that he's a pretty good actor. He lets us see glimpses the wounded pride behind Kenny's bravado, never more so that in the final scene in last night's finale, as Kenny drove toward Tampa and a major league job that never existed, burning with shame.
Like "Conchords," "Eastbound" hasn't yet been picked up for another season, but I'd kind of like to see more of it, and of Kenny Powers.
* Desperate Housewives: Oh my God, Edie -- just die already!
Look, I love Nicolette Sheridan's sassy, smart and slutty "Housewives" character as much as anyone, but the wait for Edie's departure has been interminable. First, let me say that I find it RIDICULOUS that the show went so public about Sheridan's departure. So many publications have reported that Edie will die, the season has turned into a death march for the poor girl. And what was with the multiple deaths last night? First, she's strangled by Dave. Then she runs off and gets in an accident. THEN she's electrocuted...or so it seems, until we see her fingers wriggle. GRRR! Could we draw this out any more? At first, I thought the show was going to pull a fast one and kill Orson instead, which would have been great. But no. Sigh. This season started off so well, but this storyline (the whole Dave storyline, in fact) is making me nuts. Stop dragging us along! Just give Edie the graceful exit she deserves and be done with it.

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